網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

the radical balsome, or vital sulphur of the parts, determine not why Abel lived not so long as Adam. There is therefore a secret glome or bottome of our days': 'twas His wisdom to determine them, but His perpetual and waking providence that fulfils and . accomplisheth them; wherein the spirits, : ourselves, and all the creatures of Gòd in a secret and disputed way do execute His will. Let them not therefore complain of immaturity that die about thirty; they fall but like the whole World, whose solid and well-composed substance must not expect the duration and period of its constitution: when all things are completed in it, its age is accomplished; and the last and general fever may as naturally destroy it before six thousand, as me before forty. There is therefore some other hand that twines the thread of life than that of Nature: we are not onely ignorant in Antipathies and occult qualities; our ends are as obscure as our beginnings; the line of our days is drawn by night, and the various effects therein by a pensil that is invisible; wherein though we confess our ignorance, I am sure we do not err if we say it is the hand of God.

I am much taken with two verses of Lucan, since I have been able not onely, as we do at School, to construe, but understand:

Victurosque Dei celant, ut vivere durent,
Felix esse mori.
We're all deluded, vainly searching ways
To make us happy by the length of days; .
For cunningly to make's protract this breath,

The Gods conceal the happiness of Death. There be many excellent strains in that Poet, wherewith his Stoical Genius hath liberally supplied him; and truely there are singular pieces in the Philosophy of Zeno, and doctrine of the Stoicks, which I perceive, delivered in a Pulpit, pass, for current Divinity: yet herein are they in extreams, that can allow a man to be his own Assassine, and so highly extol the end and suicide of Cato. This is indeed not to fear death, but

yet to be afraid of life. It is a brave act of valour to y contemn death; but where life is more terrible than

. death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live. And Therein Religion hath taught us a noble example; for all

the valiant acts of Curtius, Scevola, or Codrus, do not

parallel or match that one of Job; and sure there is no ! tortute to the rack of a disease, nor any Ponyards in death it self like those in the way or prologue to it.

Emori nolo, sed me esse mortuum nihil curo.

I would not die, but care not to be dead. Were I of Cæsar's Religion, I should be of his desires, and wish rather to go off at one blow, then to be sawed in pieces by the grating torture of a disease. Men that look no farther than their outsides, think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I, that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that Fabrick hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and, considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank my God that we can die but once, 'Tis not onely the mischief of diseases, and the villany of poysons, that make an end of us; we vainly accuse the fury of Guns, and the new inventions of death; it is in the power of every hand to destroy us, and we are beholding unto every one we meet, he doth not kill us. There is therefore but one comfort left, that, though it be in the power of the weakest arm to take away life, it is not in the strongest to deprive us of death : God would not exempt Himself from that, the misery of immortality in the flesh, He undertook not that was immortal. Certainly there is no happiness within this circle of flesh, nor is it in the Opticks of these eyes to behold felicity. The first day of our Jubilee is Death; the Devil hath therefore failed of his desires: we are

happier with death than we should have been without o it: there is no misery but in himself, where there is no

end of misery; and so indeed, in his own sense, the Stoick is in the right. He forgets that he can dye who

i

complains of misery; we are in the power of no calamity while death is in our own.

Now, besides this literal and positive kind of death, there are others whereof Divines make mention, and those, I think, not meerly Metaphorical, as mortification, dying unto sin and the World. Therefore, I say, every man hath a double Horoscope, one of his humanity, his birth; another of his Christianity, his baptism; and from this do I compute or calculate my Nativity, not reckoning those Hora conibusta and odd days, or esteeming my self any thing, before I was my Saviours, and inrolled in the Register of CHRIST. Whosoever enjoys not this life, I count him but an apparition, though he wear about him the sensible affections of flesh. In these moral acceptions, the way to be immortal is to dye daily: nor can I think I have the true Theory of death, when I contemplate a skull, or behold a Skeleton, with those vulgar imaginations it casts upon us; I have therefore enlarged that common Memento mori, into a more Christian memorandum, Memento quatuor Novissima, those four inevitable points of us all, Death, Judgement, Heaven, and Hell. Neither did the contemplations of the Heathens rest in their graves, without a further thought of Rhadamanth, or some judicial proceeding after death, though in another way, and upon suggestion of their natural reasons. I cannot but marvail from what Sibyl or Oracle they stole the Prophesie of the Worlds destruction by fire, or whence Lucan learned to say,

Communis mundo superest rogus, ossibus astra
Misturus.
There yet remains to th' World one common Fire,

Wherein our bones with stars shall make one Pyre.
I believe the World grows near its end, yet is neither
old nor decayed, nor shall ever perish upon the ruines
of its own Principles. As the work of Creation was
above Nature, so is its adversary, annihilation; with-
out which the World hath not its end, but its mutation.
Now what force should be able to consume it thus far,

without the breath of God, which is the truest consuming flame, my Philosophy cannot inform me. Some believe there went not a minute to the Worlds creation, nor shall there go to its destruction; those six days, so punctually described, make not to them one moment, but rather seem to manifest the method and Idea of the great work of the intellect of God, than the manner how He proceeded in its operation. I cannot dream that there should be at the last day any such Judicial proceeding, or calling to the Bar, as indeed the Scripture seems to imply, and the literal Commentators do conceive: for unspeakable mysteries in the Scriptures are often delivered in a vulgar and illustrative way; and, being written unto man, are delivered, not as they truely are, but as they may be understood; wherein, notwithstanding, the different interpretations according to different capacities may stand firm with our devotion, nor be any way prejudicial to each single edification.

Now to determine the day and year of this inevitable time, is not onely convincible and statute-madness, but also manifest impiety. How shall we interpret Elias six thousand years, or imagine the secret communicated to a Rabbi, which God hath denyed unto His Angels ? It had been an excellent Quære to have posed the Devil of Delphos, and must needs have forced him to some strange amphibology. It hath not onely mocked the predictions of sundry Astrologers in Ages past, but

the prophesies of many melancholy heads in these Ź present; who, neither understanding reasonably things

past or present, pretend a knowledge of things to come; heads ordained onely to manifest the incredible effects of melancholy, and to fulfil old prophecies rather than be the authors of new. In those days there shall come Wars and ruinours of Wars, to me seems no prophecy, but a constant truth, in all times verified since it was pronounced. There shall be signs in the Moon and Stars ; how comes He then like a Thief in the night, when He gives an item of His coming ? That common sign drawn from the revelation of Antichrist, is as obscure as any: in our common compute He hath been come. these many years : but for my own part, (to speak . freely,) I am half of opinion that Antichrist is the Philosopher's stone in Divinity, for the discovery and invention whereof, though there be prescribed rules and probable inductions, yet hath hardly any man attained the perfect discovery thereof. That general opinion that the World grows near its end, hath possessed all ! ages past as nearly as ours. I am afraid that the Souls that now depart, cannot escape that lingring: expostulation of the Saints under the Altar, Quousque, Domine ? How long, O LORD ? and groan in the expectation of that great Jubilee.

This is the day that must make good that great attribute of God, His Justice; that must reconcile " those unanswerable doubts that torment the wisesti understandings; and reduce those seeming inequalities and respective distributions in this world, to an equality and recompensive Justice in the next. This is that one day, that shall include and comprehend all that went before it; wherein, as in the last scene, all the Actors must enter, to compleat and make up the Catastrophe of this great piece. This is the day whose memory hath onely power to make us honest in the dark, and to be vertuous without a witness.

Ipsa sui pretium virtus sibi, that Vertue is her own reward, is but a cold principle, and not able to maintain our variable resolutions in a constant and settled way of goodness. I have practised that honest artifice of Seneca, and in my retired ! and solitary imaginations, to detain me from the foulness of vice, have fancied to my self the presence of my dear and worthiest friends, before whom I should lose my head, rather than be vitious: yet herein I found that there was nought but moral honesty, and 1 this was not to be vertuous for His sake Who must reward us at the last. I have tryed if I could reach ! that great resolution of his, to be honest without a thought of Heaven or Hell: and indeed I found, upon :

vi

« 上一頁繼續 »