« AnteriorContinuar »
see a poor man have a part, unless it be as a chorus, or to fill up the scenes, to dance or to be derided; but the kings and the great generals. First (says he), they begin with joy, OTELαTE dúμara, crown the houses: but about the third or fourth act they cry out, "O Citheron! why didst thou spare my life to reserve me for this more sad calamity?" And this is really true in the great accidents of the world: for a great estate hath great crosses, and a mean fortune hath but small ones. It may be, the poor man loses a cow; for if his child dies, he is quit of his biggest care; but such an accident in a rich and splendid family doubles upon the spirits of the parents. Or, it may be, the poor man is troubled to pay his rent, and that is his biggest trouble: but it is a bigger care to secure a great fortune in a troubled estate, or with equal greatness, or with the circumstances of honour, and the niceness of reputation to defend a law-suit; and that, which will secure a common man's whole estate, is not enough to defend a great man's honour.
And therefore it was not without mystery observed among the ancients, that they, who made gods of gold and silver, of hope and fear, peace and fortune, garlic and onions, beasts and serpents, and a quartan ague, yet never deified money: meaning, that however wealth was admired by common or abused understandings; yet from riches, that is, from that proportion of good things which is beyond the necessities of nature, no moment could be added to a man's real content or happiness. Corn from Sardinia, herds of Calabrian cattle, meadows through which pleasant Liris glides, silks from Tyrus, and golden chalices to drown my health in, are nothing but instruments of vanity or sin, and suppose a disease in the soul of him, that longs for them, or admires them. And this I have otherwhere represented more largely; to which I here add, that riches have very great dangers to their souls, not only who covet them, but to all that have them. For if a great personage undertakes an action passionately and upon great interest, let him manage it indiscreetly, let the whole design be unjust, let it be acted with
funesta Pecunia, templo
Nondum habitas, nullas nummorum ereximus aras,
Ut colitur Pax atque Fides
Chap. iv. Sect. 8. Title of Covetousness.
Juv. i. 113.
all the malice and impotency in the world, he shall have enough to flatter him, but not enough to reprove him. He had need be a bold man, that shall tell his patron, he is going to hell; and that prince had need be a good man, that shall suffer such a monitor; and though it be a strange kind of civility, and an evil dutifulness in friends and relatives to suffer him to perish without reproof or medicine, rather than to seem unmannerly to a great sinner; yet it is none of their least infelicities, that their wealth and greatness shall put them into sin, and yet put them past reproof. I need not instance in the habitual intemperance of rich tables, nor the evil accidents and effects of fulness, pride and lust, wantonness and softness of disposition, huge talking and an imperious spirit, despite of religion and contempt of poor persons; at the best, "it is a great temptation for a man to have in his power, whatsoever he can have in his sensual desires':" and therefore riches is a blessing, like to a present made of a whole vintage to a man in a hectic fever; he will be much tempted to drink of it; and if he does, he is inflamed, and may chance to die with the kindness.
Now besides what hath been already noted in the state of poverty, there is nothing to be accounted for but the fear of wanting necessaries; of which if a man could be secured, that he might live free from care, all the other parts of it might be reckoned amongst the advantages of wise and sober persons, rather than objections against that state of fortune.
But concerning this I consider, that there must needs be great security to all Christians, since Christ not only made express promises, that we should have sufficient for this life: but also took great pains and used many arguments to create confidence in us: and such they were, which by their own strength were sufficient, though you abate the authority of the speaker. The Son of God told us, his Father takes care of us: he that knew all his Father's counsels and his whole kindness towards mankind, told us so. How great is that truth, how certain, how necessary, which Christ himself proved by arguments! The excellent words and most comfortable sentences, which are our bills of exchange, upon the credit of which we lay our cares down, and receive provisions
Jam. ii. 5-7.
for our need, are these; "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you, by taking thought, can add one cubit to his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment ? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they toil not, neither do they spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Therefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed? (for after all these things do the gentiles seek) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself: sufficient to the day is the evil thereof "." The same discourse is repeated by St. Luke": and accordingly our duty is urged, and our confidence abetted, by the disciples of our Lord, in divers places of Holy Scripture. So St. Paul: "Be careful for nothing, but in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God." And again, “Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy P." And yet again, "Let your conversation be without covetousness, and be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee: so that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper." And all this is by St. Peter summed up in our duty, thus: "Cast all your care upon him, for he careth for you." Which words he seems to have borrowed out of the fiftyfifth Psalm, v. 23. where David saith the same thing almost in the same words. To which I only add the observation
Malt. vi 25, &c.
P 1 Tim. vi. 17.
n Luke xii. 22. to verse 31.
9 Heb. xiii. 5, 6.
• Phil. iv. 6.
made by him, and the argument of experience; "I have been young and now am old, and yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." And now after all this, a fearless confidence in God, and concerning a provision of necessaries, is so reasonable, that it is become a duty; and he is scarce a Christian, whose faith is so little as to be jealous of God, and suspicious concerning meat and clothes that man hath nothing in him of the nobleness or confidence of charity.
Does not God provide for all the birds, and beasts, and fishes? Do not the sparrows fly from their bush, and every morning find meat, where they laid it not? Do not the young ravens call to God, and he feeds them? And were it reasonable, that the sons of the family should fear, the Father would give meat to the chickens and the servants, his sheep and his dogs, but give none to them? He were a very ill father, that should do so; or he were a very foolish son, that should think so of a good father. But, besides the reasonableness of this faith and this hope, we have infinite experience of it. How innocent, how careless, how secure, is infancy! and yet how certainly provided for! We have lived at God's charges all the days of our life, and have (as the Italian proverb says) set down to meat at the sound of a bell; and hitherto he hath not failed us: we have no reason to suspect him for the future: we do not use to serve men so; and less time of trial creates great confidences in us towards them, who for twenty years together never broke their word with us: and God hath so ordered it, that a man shall have had the experience of many years' provision, before he shall understand how to doubt; that he may be provided for an answer, against the temptation shall come, and the mercies felt in his childhood may make him fearless, when he is a man. Add to this, that God hath given us his Holy Spirit: he hath promised heaven to us: he hath given us his Son; and we are taught from Scripture to make this inference from hence, "How should not he with him give us all things else?"
The Charge of many Children.
We have a title to be provided for, as we are God's creatures, another title as we are his children, another because
God hath promised; and every of our children hath the same title and therefore it is a huge folly and infidelity to be troubled and full of care, because we have many children. Every child we have to feed, is a new revenue, a new title to God's care and providence; so that many children are a great wealth and if it be said, they are chargeable, it is no more than all wealth and great revenues are. For what difference is it? Titius keeps ten ploughs, Cornelia hath ten children: he hath land enough to employ and to feed all his hinds she, blessings and promises, and the provisions and the truth of God, to maintain all her children. His hinds and horses eat up all his corn, and her children are sufficiently maintained with her little. They bring in and eat up; and she indeed eats up, but they also bring in from the storehouses of heaven, and the granaries of God: and my children are not so much mine as they are God's: he feeds them in the womb by ways secret and insensible; and would not work a perpetual miracle to bring them forth, and then to starve them.
But some men are highly tempted, and are brought to a strait; that, without a miracle, they cannot be relieved: what shall they do? It may be, their pride or vanity hath brought the necessity upon them, and it is not a need of God's making; and if it be not, they must cure it themselves, by lessening their desires, and moderating their appetites: and yet, if it be innocent, though unnecessary, God does usually relieve such necessities; and he does not only upon our prayers grant us more than he promised of temporal things, but also he gives many times more than we ask. This is no object for our faith, but ground enough for a temporal and prudent hope; and, if we fail in the particular, God will turn it to a bigger mercy, if we submit to his dispensation, and adore him in the denial. But if it be a matter of necessity, let not any man, by way of impatience, cry out, that God will not work a miracle; for God, by miracle, did give meat and drink to his people in the wilderness, of which he made no particular promise in any covenant: and if all natural means fail, it is certain, that God will rather work a miracle than break his word: he can do that; he