« AnteriorContinuar »
Lucret. iii. 927
duce to our wise and good practice in respect there- s ER M. to, by tempering the sweetness thereof, yea souring its relish to us; minding us of its insufficiency and unserviceableness to the felicity of a mortal creature ; yea, its extremely dangerous consequences to a soul, that must survive the short enjoyment thereof. Some persons indeed, ignorant or incredulous of a future state ; presuming of no sense remaining after death, nor regarding any account to be rendered of this life's actions, have encouraged themselves and others in the free enjoyment of prefent sensualities, upon the score of our life's shortness and uncertainty ; inculcating such maxims as these :
Brevis est bic fructus homullis ;
-post mortem nulla voluptas ; Let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall dié ; be- 1 Cor. xv. cause our life is short, let us make the most advantageous use thereof we can *; because death is uncertain, let us prevent its surprisal, and be beforehand with it, enjoying somewhat, before it snatches all from us.
The author of Wisdom obferveth, and thus represents these men's discourse : Our life is short and Sap. ii. s. tedious ; and in the death of a man there is 10 remedy : neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave.-Come on therefore, let us enjoy the good ibings that are present; let us speedily use the creatures like as iiz youth; let us fill orrselves with costly wine and ointments; and let no flower of the spring pass by us ; let us crown ourselves with rose-buds before they be withered ; let none of us go without his part of voluptuousness—for this is our portion, and our lot is this. Thus, and no wonder, have some men, conceiving themselves beasts, resolved to live as such; renouncing all sober care becoming men, and drowning their reafon in brutiib sensualities; yet no question, the very same reflection, that this life would soon pals
* Quem fors dierum cunque dabit, lucro
SER M.away, and that death might speedily attack them,
did not a little quash their mirth, and damp their pleasure. To think, that this perhaps might be the last banquet they should taste of; that they should themselves shortly become the feast of worms and serpents, could not but somewhat spoil the gust of
their highest delicacies, and disturb the sport of their Job xx. 14. loudest jovialties ; but, in Job's expression, make the
meat in their bowels to turn, and be as the gall of apps within them. Those customary enjoyments did so enamour them of sensual delight, that they could not without pungent regret imagine a necessity of foon for ever parting with them; and so their very plea
sure was by this thought made distasteful and emEccluf. xli. bittered to them. So did the wise man observe: 0
death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man that liveth at rest in his polessions ; into the man that hath nothing to vex him ; and that hath prosperity in all things : Yea, adds he, unto him, that is yet able to receive meat. And how bitter then must the remembrance thereof be to him, who walloweth in all kind of corporal fatisfaction and delight; that placeth all his happiness in sensual enjoyment? However, as to us, who are better instructed and affected; who know and believe a future state ; the consideration,
that the time of enjoying these delights will soon be Eccles. vii. over ; that this world's jollity is but like the crackling
of thorns under a pol (which yields a brisk sound, and à cheerful blaze, but heats little, and incessantly passes away) that they leave no good fruits behind them, but do only corrupt and enervate our minds ; war against, and hurt our souls ; tempt us to fin,
and involve us in guilt ; that therefore Solomon was Ecclef. ii. 2. surely in the right, when he said of laughter, that it is
mad; and of mirth, what doeth it? (that is, that the highest of these delights are very irrational imperti
nences) and of intemperance, that, at the last, it Prov. xxiii. biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder ; with us, I say, who reflect thus, that (wgócxangos állaptías
abraucis) enjoyment of finful pleasure for a season cannot s E r M. obtain much esteem and love ; but will rather, I hope, be despised and 'abhorred by us. I will add only,
Heb, xi, 25. 4. Concerning secular wisdom and knowledge * ; the which men do also commonly with great earnestness and ambition seek after, as the most specious ornament, and pure content of their mind; this consideration doth also detect the just value thereof; so as to allay intemperate ardour toward it, pride and conceitedness upon the having or_seeming to have it, envy and emulation about it. For imagine, if you please, a man accomplished with all varieties of learning commendable, able to recount all the stories that have been ever written, or the deeds acted, since the world's beginning ; to understand, or with the most delightful fluency and elegancy to speak all the languages, that have at any time been in use among the sons of men ; skilful in twisting and untwisting all kinds of subtilties ; versed in all sorts of natural experiments, and ready to assign plausible conjectures about the causes of them ; studied in all books whatever, and in all monuments of antiquity; deeply knowing in all the mysteries of art, or science, or policy, such as have ever been devised by human wit, or study, or observation ; yet all this, such is the pity, he must be forced presently to abandon; all the use he could make of all his notions, the pleasure he might find in them, the reputation accruing to him from them must at that fatal minute vanish ; his breath goeth forth, he returneth to Pl.cxlvi. 4. bis earth, in that very day his thoughts perish. There is Eccl. ix. 10. no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither he goeth. It is seen (faith the Pfalmist, seen indeed every day, and observed by all) that wise men die ; likewise the fool and brutish person perisheth;
Ps. xlix. 10.
* Δοκεϊ γεν η σοφία θαυμαράς ηδονάς έχειν καθαριότητι, και το εCaiq. Arift. Etb. x. 7. P 3
SER M. one event happeneth to them both ; there is no remem
brance of the wise more than of the foul for ever ; (both
die alike, both alike are forgotten) as the wifest man Eccl. ii. 14, himself, did (not without fome distaste) observe and
complain. All our subtile conceits, and nice criticisms; all our fine inventions and goodly speculations shall be swallowed up either in the utter darkness, or in the clearer light of the future state. One potion
of that Lethean cup (which we must all take down Pr . lxxxviii, upon our entrance into that land of forgetfulness) will
probably drown the memory, deface the shape of all those ideas, with which we have here stuffed our minds * : however they are not like to be of use to us in that new, so different, ftate ; where none of our languages are spoken; none of our experience will suit; where all things have quite another face unknown, unthought of by us; where Aristotle and Varro shall appear mere idiots; Demosthenes and Cicero shall become very infants; the wisest and eloquentest Greeks will prove senseless and dumb barbarians; where all our authors shall have no authority; where we must all go fresh to school again; mult unlearn perhaps, what in these misty regions we thought ourselves best to know; and begin to learn, what we not once ever dreamed of. Doth therefore, I pray you, so transitory and fruitless a good (for itself I mean and excepting our duty to God, or the reasonable diligence we are bound to use in our calling) deserve such anxious desire, or so restless
so careful attention of mind, or affiduous pain of body about it? doth it become us to contend, or emulate so much about it? Above all, do we not inost unreasonably, and against the nature of the thing itself we pretend to (that is ignorantly and foolishly) if we are proud and conceited, much va
* Την δ' Ισοκράτες διατριβήν επισκόπλων, γηρούν φησι παρ' αύτο τές μαθητάς, ώς εν ώδε χρησομένες ταϊς τέχναις, και δικας έρωντας. Cato Sen. apud Plut. pag. 641. Edit. Stepb.
lue ourselves or contemn others, in respect thereto? S E R M. Solomon, the most experienced in this matter, and best able to judge thereof, (he that gave his heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things, that had been done under heaven, and this with extreme success; even he) paileth the same sentence of vanity, vexation and unprofitableness, upon this, as upon all other subcelestial things. True, he commends wisdom as an excellent and useful thing comparatively ; exceeding folly, so far as light exceedeth Eccl. ii. 13. darkness * ; but since light itself is not permanent, but must give way to darkness, the difference foon vanished, and his opinion thereof abated ; considering, that as it happened to the fool, so it happened to him, he breaks into that expoftulation: And why then was I more wise ? to what purpose was such a distinction made, that signifieth in effect so little ? and indeed the testimony of this great personage may serve for a good epilogue to all this discourse, discovering sufficiently the fender worth of all earthly things : seeing he, that had given himself industriously to experiment the worth of all things here below, to found the depth of their utmost perfection and use ; who had all the advantages imaginable of performing it ; who flourished in the greatest mag. nificences of worldly pomp and power ; who enjoyed an incredible affluence of all riches, who tasted all varieties of most exquisite pleasure ; whose heart was (by God's special gift, and by his own industrious care) enlarged with all kind of knowledge (furnished with notions many as the sand upon the sea shore) 1 Kings iv. above all that were before him ; who had possessed 29. and enjoyed all that fancy could conceive, or heart could wish, and had arrived to the top of secular happiness; yet even he with pathetical reiteration pronounces all to be vanity and vexation of spirit: altogether unprofitable and unsatisfactory to the mind of
* Διπλών ορώσιν οι μαθόντιες γράμματα.