« PreviousContinue »
10 A good man can never be miserable, nor a wicked man happy. There is not in the scale of nature, a more inseparable connexion of cause and effect, than in the case of happiness and virtue; nor any thing that more naturally produces the one, or more necessarily presupposes the other.
11 For what is it to be happy, but for a man to content himself with his lot, in a cheerful and quiet resignation to the appointments of God? All the actions of our lives ought to be governed with respect to good and evil; and it is only reason that distinguishes. It is every man's duty to make himself profitable to mankind: if he can, to many; if not, to fewer; if not to neither, to his neighbor; but, however, to himself.
The due contemplation of Divine Providence is a remedy against all misfortunes.
1 Whoever observes the world, and the order of it, will find all the motions in it, to be only the vicissitudes of falling and rising; nothing extinguished, and even those things which seem to us to perish, are in truth but changed.
2 The seasons go and return, day and night follow in their courses, the heavens roll, and nature goes on with her work: all things succeed in their turns, storms and calms; the law of nature will have it so, which we must follow and obey, accounting all things that are done to be well done: so that what we cannot mend we must suffer, and wait upon Providence without repining.
3 It is the part of a cowardly soldier to follow his commander groaning; but a generous man delivers himself up to God without struggling; and it is only for a narrow mind to condemn the order of the world, and to propound rather the mending of nature than of himself.
4 In the very methods of nature we cannot but observe the regard that Providence had to the good of mankind, even in the disposition of the world, in providing so amply for our maintenance and satisfaction. It is not possible for us to comprehend what the Power is which has made all things; some few sparks of that Divinity are discovered, but infinitely the greater part of it lies hid. We are all of us, however, thus far agreed, first, in the acknowledgment and belief of that Almighty Being; and, secondly, that we are to ascribe to it all majesty and goodness.
5 Fabricius took more pleasure in eating the roots of his
own planting than in all the delicacies of luxury and expense. Prudence and religion are above accidents, and draw good out of every thing; affliction keeps a man in use, and makes him strong, patient, and hardy.
6 Providence treats us like a generous father, and brings us up to labors, toils, and dangers; whereas the indulgence of a fond mother makes us weak and spiritless. No man can be happy that does not stand firm against all contingencies.
Of levity of mind, and other impediments of a happy life.
1 Now, to sum up what is already delivered, we have showed what happiness is, and wherein it consists; that it is founded upon wisdom and virtue; for we must first know what we ought to do, and then live according to that know-. ledge.
2 We have also discoursed the helps of philosophy and precepts towards a happy life; the blessing of a good conscience; that a good man can never be miserable, nor a wicked man happy; nor any man unfortunate, that cheerfully submits to Providence. We shall now examine, how it comes to pass that, when the certain way to happiness lies so fair before us, men will yet steer their course on the other side, which as manifestly leads to ruin.
3 There are some who live without any design at all, and only pass in the world like straws upon a river; they do not go, but they are carried. Some there are that torment themselves afresh with the memory of what is past: "Lord! what did I endure? never was any man in my condition; every body gave me over; my very heart was ready to break,"&c.
4 Others, again, afflict themselves with the apprehension of evils to come; and very ridiculously both: for the one does not now concern us, and the other not yet: beside that, there may be remedies for mischiefs likely to happen.
5 Levity of mind is a great hindrance to repose; it is only philosophy that makes the mind invincible, and places us out of the reach of fortune, so that all her arrows fall short of us. This it is that reclaims the rage of our passions, and sweetens the anxiety of our fears.
6 Place me among princes or among beggars, the one shall not make me proud, nor the other ashamed. I can take as sound a sleep in a barn as in a palace, and a bundle of hay makes me as good a lodging as a bed of down. I will not
transport myself with either pain or pleasure; but yet for all that, I could wish that I had an easier game to play, and that I were put rather to moderate my joys than my sorrows.
7 Never pronounce any man happy that depends upon fortune for his happiness; for nothing can be more preposterous than to place the good of a reasonable creature in unreasonable things. If I have lost any thing, it was adventitious; and the less money, the less trouble; the less favor the less envy.
8 That which we call our own is but lent us; and what we have received gratis we must return without complaint. That which fortune gives us this hour, she may take away the next; and he that trusts to her favor, shall either find himself deceived, or if he be not, he will at least be troubled, because he may be so.
9 But the best of it is, if a man cannot mend his fortune, he may yet mend his manners, and put himself so far out of her reach, that whether she gives or takes, it shall be all one to us; for we are neither the greater for the one, nor the less for the other.
A sensual life is a miserable life.
1 The sensuality that we here treat of, falls naturally under the head of luxury; which extends to all excesses of gluttony, effeminacy of manners; and, in short, to whatsoever concerns the over-great care of the body.
2 To begin now with the pleasures of the palate, (which deal with us like Egyptian thieves, that strangle those they embrace,) what shall we say of the luxury of Nomentagus and Apicius, that entertained their very souls in the kitchen; they have the choicest music for their ears; the most diverting spectacles for their eyes; the choicest variety of meats and drinks for their palate.
3 What is all this, I say, but a merry madness? It is true they have their delights, but not without heavy and anxious thoughts, even in their very enjoyments; beside that, they are followed with repentance, and their frolics are little more than the laughter of so many people out of their wits.
4 They cross the seas for rarities, and when they have swallowed them, they will not so much as give them time to digest. Wheresoever nature has placed men, she has provided them aliment: but we rather choose to irritate hunger by expense, than to allay it at an easier rate.
5 Our forefathers (by the force of whose virtues we are now supported in our vices) lived every jot as well as we, when they provided and dressed their own meat with their own hands; lodged upon the ground, and were not as yet come to the vanity of gold and gems; when they swore by their earthen gods, and kept their oath, though they died for it.
6 Let any man take a view of our kitchens, the number of our cooks, and the variety of our meats; will he not wonder to see so much provision made for one stomach? We have as many diseases as we have cooks or meats; and the service of the appetite is the study now in vogue.
7 From these compounded dishes arise compounded diseases, which require compounded medicines. It is the same thing with our minds that it is with our tables; simple vices are curable by simple counsels, but a general dissolution of manners is hardly overcome; we are overrun with a public as well as with a private madness.
8 The physicians of old understood little more than the virtue of some herbs to stop blood, or heal a wound; and their firm and healthful bodies needed little more before they were corrupted by luxury and pleasure; and when it came to that once, their business was not to allay hunger, but to provoke it by a thousand inventions and sauces. So long as our bodies were hardened with labor, or tired with exercise or hunting, our food was plain and simple; many dishes have made many diseases.
9 It is an ill thing for a man not to know the measure of his stomach, nor to consider that men do many things in their drink that they are ashamed of sober; drunkenness being nothing else but a voluntary madness, it emboldens men to do all sorts of mischief; it both irritates wickedness and discovers it.
10 It was in a drunken fit that Alexander killed Clytus. It makes him that is insolent prouder, him that is cruel fiercer; it takes away all shame. He that is peevish breaks out presently into all ill words and blows.
11 Luxury steals on us by degrees; first it shows itself in a more than ordinary care of our bodies, it slips next into the furniture of our house; and it gets then into the fabric, curiosity, and expense of the house itself. It appears, lastly, in the fantastical excesses of our tables.
12 The most miserable mortals are they that deliver themselves up to their palates, or to their passions: the pleasure is short, and turns presently nauseous, and the end of it is
either shame or repentance. It is a brutal entertainment, and unworthy of a man, to place his felicity in the service of his
13 What a deal of business is now made about our houses and diet, which were at first of little expense? Luxury led the way, and we have employed our wits in the aid of our vices. First, we desired superfluities, our next step was to wickedness, and, in conclusion, we delivered up our minds to our bodies, and so became slaves to our appetites, which before were our servants, and are now become our masters. What was it that brought us to the extravagance of embroideries, perfumes? &c.
14. We passed the bounds of nature, and lashed out into superfluities; insomuch, that it is now-a-days only for beggars and clowns to content themselves with what is sufficient; our luxury makes us insolent and mad. How long shall we covet and oppress, enlarge our possession, and account that too little for one man which was formerly enough for a nation? And our luxury is as insatiable as our avarice. Where is that lake, that sea, that forest, that spot of land, that is not ransacked to gratify our palate ?
15 The very earth is burdened with our buildings; not a river, not a mountain, escapes us. Oh, that there should be such boundless desires in our little bodies! Would not
fewer lodgings serve us? We lie but in one, and where we are not, that is not properly ours. What with our hooks, snares, nets, dogs, &c. we are at war with all living creatures; and nothing comes amiss but that which is either too cheap, or too common; and all this is to gratify a fantastical palate.
16 Whatsoever is laid upon us by necessity, we should receive generously; for it is foolish to strive with what we cannot avoid. We are born subjects, and to obey God is perfect liberty. He that does this shall be free, safe, and quiet. Deliver me from the superstition of taking those things which are light and vain, for felicities.
Avarice and ambition are insatiable and restless."
1 Neither does avarice make us only unhappy in ourselves, but malevolent also to mankind. The soldier wishes for war; the husbandman would have his corn dear; the lawyer prays for dissension; the physician for a sickly year; he that deals in curiosities, for luxury and excess;