Графични страници
PDF файл

from Dives' dyet to Lazarus' crown; from the service of Satan to the solace of a saint.

But be you well assured, that God is not so penurious of friends, as to hold himself and his kingdom saleable for the refuse and reversions of their lives, who have sacrificed the principal thereof to his enemies, and their own bruitish lust; then only ceasing to offend, when the ability of offending is taken from them.

Wherefore, good sir, make no longer delayes; but being so near the breaking up of your mortal house, take time, before extremity, to pacifie God's anger.

Though you suffered the bud to be blasted, though you permitted the fruits to be perished, and the leaves to dry up; yea, though you let the boughs to wither, and the body of your tree to grow to decay, yet (alas) keep life in the root, for fear least the whole tree become fewel for hell fire; for surely where the tree falleth, there it shall lie, whether towards the south, or to the north, to heaven or to hell; and such sap as it bringeth forth, such fruit shall it ever bear.

Death hath already filed from you the better part of your natural forces, and left you now to be lees and remissals of your wearyish and dying dayes.

The remainder whereof, as it cannot be long, so doth it warn you speedily to ransom your former losses; for what is age but the calends of death? and what importeth your present weakness, but an earnest of your approaching dissolution? You are now imbarked in your final voyage, and not far from the stint and period of your course.

Be not therefore unprovided of such appurtenances as are behooveful in so perplexed and perilous a journey; death itself is very fearful, but much more terrible in respect of the judgment it summoneth us unto.

If you were now laid upon your departing bed, burthened with the heavy load of your former trespasses, and gored with the sting and prick of a festered conscience ; if you felt the cramp of death wresting your heart-strings, and ready to make the rueful divorce between body and soul; if you lay panting for breath, and swimming in a cold and pale sweat, wearied with strugling against your deadly pangs; O what would you give for an hour's repentence ; at what a rate would you value a day's contrition ? Then, worlds would be worthless in respect of a little respite ; a short truce would seem more precious than the treasures of an empire; nothing would be so much esteemed as a short time of truce, which now by days, and months, and years, is most lavishly mis-spent.

It is a strange piece of art, and a very exorbitant course, when the ship is sound, the pilot well, the mariners strong, the gale favourable, and the sea calm, to lye idlely in the road, during so seasonable weather: and when the ship leaketh, the pilot sick, the mariners faint, the storms boisterous, and the seas a turmoil of outragious surges, then to launch forth, hoise up sail, and set out for a long voyage into a far countrey.

Yet such is the skill of these evening repenters, who though in

the soundness of their health, and perfect use of their reason, they cannot resolve to cut the cables, and weigh the anchor that withholds them from God.

Nevertheless they feed themselves with a strong persuasion, that when they are astonied, their wits distracted, the understanding dusked, and the bodies and souls racked and tormented with the throbs and gripes of a mortal sickness; then, forsooth, they will begin to think of their weightiest matters, and become sudden saints, when they are scarce able to behave themselves like reasonable creatures.

No, no; if neither the canon, civil, nor the common law will allow that man (perished in judgment) should make any testament of his temporal substance; how can he, that is animated with inward garboils of an unsetled conscience, distrained with the wringing fits of his dying flesh, maimed in all his ability, and circled in on every side with many and strange incumbrances, be thought of due discretion to dispose of his chiefest jewel, which is his soul ? and to dispatch the whole manage of all eternity, and of the treasures of heaven, in so short a spurt?

No, no; they that will loyter in seed-time, and begin to sow when others reap; they that will riot out their health, and begin to cast their accounts when they are scarce able to speak; they that will slumber out the day, and enter upon their journey when the light doth fail them, let them blame their own folly, if they dye in debt, and be eternal beggars, and fall headlong into the lap of endless perdition."

The Sceptic is a piece of ingenious sophistry, which displays the versatility of the author's mind. It is one of those sportive speculations in which men of genius sometimes, by a sort of perversity of intellect, delight to shew their power. Raleigh altempts to prove, from the diversity there is amongst living creatures, and the opposite impressions made by the same thing on different men and animals, that it is impossible to know what the real nature of a thing is, but only what it seems to us. We will quote a part of this amusing essay. . “ If then one and the very same thing to the red eye seem red, to another pale, and white to another: if one and the same thing seem not hot or cold, dry or moist, in the same degree to the several creatures which touch it: if one and the self-same sound seem more shrill to that creature which hath a narrow ear, and more base to him that hath an open ear: if the same thing, at the same time, seem to afford a pleasant and displeasant smell to divers and several creatures : if that seem bitter in taste to one, which to another seemeth sweet, that to one hurtful, which to another seemeth healthful : I may report how these things appear divers to several creatures, and seem to produce divers effects.

But what they are in their own nature, whether red or white, bitter or sweet, healthful or hurtful, I cannot tell. For why should I presume to prefer my conceit and imagination, in affirming that a thing is thus, or thus, in its own nature, because it seemeth to me to be so, before the conceit of other living creatures, who may as well think it to be other

wise in each own ħature, because it appeareth otherwise to them than it doth to me?

They are living creatures as well as I; why then should I condemn their conceit and fantasie, concerning any thing, more than they may mine? they may be in the truth and I in error, as well as I in truth, and they err. If my conceit must be believed before theirs, great reason that it be proved to be truer than theirs. And this proof must be either by demonstration, or without it. Without it none will believe. Certainly, if by demonstration, then this demonstration must seem to be true, or not seem to be true. If it seem to be true, then will it be a question, whether it be so indeed as it seemeth to be; and to alledge that for a certain proof, which is uncertain and questionable, seemeth absurd.

If it be said, that the imagination of man judgeth truer of the outward object, than the imagination of other living creatures doth, and therefore to be credited above others; (besides that which is already said) this is easily refuted by comparing of man with other creatures.

It is confessed the dog excelleth man in smell, and in hearing : and whereas there is said to be a two-fold discourse, one of the mind, another of the tongue, and that of the mind is said to be exercised in chusing that which is convenient, and refusing that which is hurtful in knowledge, justice, and thankfulness : this creature chuseth his food, refuseth the whip, fawneth on his master, defendeth his house, revengeth himself of those strangers that hurt him: and Homer mentioneth Argus, the dog of Ulysses, who knew his master, having been from home so many years, that at his return all the people of his house had forgot him. This creature, saith Chrysippus, is not void of logick: for when, in following any beast, he cometh to three several ways, he smelleth to the one, and then to the second, and if he find that the beast which he pursueth be not fled one of these two ways, he presently, without smelling any further to it, taketh the third way; which, saith the same philosopher, is as if he reasoned thus, the beast must be gone either this, or this, or the other way; but neither this, nor this ; ergo, the third : and so away he runneth.

If we consider his skill in physick, it is sufficient to help himself: if he be wounded with a dart, he useth the help of his teeth to take it out, of his tongue to cleanse the wound from corruption : he seemeth to be well acquainted with the precept of Hipocrates, who saith, That the rest of the foot is the physick of the foot, and therefore if his foot be hurt, he holdeth it up that it may rest : if he be sick, he giveth himself a vomit by eating of grass, and recovereth himself. The dog then we see is plentifully furnished with inward discourse. . Now, outward speech is not needful to make a creature reasonable, else a dumb man were an unreasonable creature.

And do not philosophers themselves reject this as an enemy to knowledge? and therefore they are silent when they are instructed ; and yet, even as barbarous and strange people have speech, but we understand it not, neither do we perceive any great difference in their words : but a difference there seemeth to be, and they do express their thoughts and meanings one to another by those words. Even so those


creatures, which are commonly called unreasonable, do seem to parly one with another; and by their speech do understand one the other. Do not birds by one kind of speech call their young ones, and by another cause them to hide themselves? Do they not by their several voices express their several passions of joy, of grief, of fear, in such manner, that their fellows understand them? Do they not by their voice foreshew things to come? But we will return to that creature we first did instance in. The dog delivereth one kind of voice when he hunteth, another when he howleth, another when he is beaten, and another when he is angry. These creatures then are not void of outward speech.”

In the chapter of our author's “ Maxims of State” entitled, “Sophisms of the sophistical or subtile tyrant to hold up his state," there is a passage of singular application to himself, which one might fancy to have been written in a prophetic foresight of his own fate.

“ To take heed that no one grow to be over-great, but rather, many equally great, that they may envy and contend one with another; and if he resolve to weaken any of this sort, to do it warily and by degrees; if quite to wreck him, and to have his life, yet to give him a lawful tryal, after the manner of his country; and if he proceed so far with any of great power and estimation, as to do him contumely or disgrace, not to suffer him to escape, because contumely and disgrace are things contrary unto honour, which great spirits do most desire, and so are moved rather to a revenge for their disgrace, than to any thankfulness, or acknowledging the prince's favour for their pardon or dismission."

The following is a magnificent and most royal comparison, conceived and expressed with equal power.

“ They say, that the goodliest cedars, which grow on the high mountains of Libanus, thrust their roots between the clifts of hard rocks, the better to bear themselves against the strong storms that blow there. As nature hath instructed those kings of trees, so hath reason taught the kings of men to root themselves in the hardy hearts of their faithful subjects. And as those kings of trees have large tops, so have the kings of men large crowns, whereof as the first would soon be broken from their bodies, were they not underborne by many branches, so would the other easily totter, were they not fastened on their heads with the strong chains of civil justice and martial discipline."

In the preface to the “ Prerogative of Parliaments," addressed to the King, after stating that, if he complied with the wishes of the people to submit their grievances to Parliament, it might “ be stiled a yielding which seemeth by the sound to brave the regality;" he has this striking paragraph :

“ But (most excellent prince) what other is it to the ears of the wise, but as the sound of a trumpet, having blasted forth a false alarm, becomes the common air? Shall the head yield to the feet ? certainly it ought, when they are grieved, for wisdom will rather regard the commodity, than object the disgrace, seeing, if the feet lie in fetters, the head cannot be freed, and where the feet feel but their own pains, the head doth not only suffer by participation, but withal by consideration of the evil.”

This collection also contains several of Sir Walter Raleigh's Letters, amongst which there are two to his wife, which manifest great kindness and affection. The one written after bis condemnation is so beautiful and affecting, that we shall introduce a portion of it in this place.

“You shall receive (my dear wife) my last words in these my last lines; my love I send you, that you may keep when I am dead, and my counsel, that you may remember it when I am no more. I would not with my will present you sorrows (dear Bess); let them go to the grave with me, and be buried in the dust. And seeing that it is not the will of God that I shall see you any more, bear my destruction patiently, and with a heart like yourself.

First, I send you all the thanks which my heart can conceive, or my words express, for your many travels and cares for me, which though they have not taken effect as you wished, yet my debt to you is not the less; but pay it I never shall in this world.

Secondly, I beseech you, for the love you bear me living, that you do not hide yourself many days, but by your travails seek to help my miserable fortunes, and the right of your poor child; your mourning cannot avail me, that am but dust.

“Paylie oweth me a thousand pounds, and Aryan six hundred; in Jersey, also, I have much owing me. (Dear wife) I beseech you, for my soul's sake, pay all poor men. When I am dead, no doubt you shall be much sought unto; for the world thinks I was very rich; . have a care to the fair pretences of men, for no greater misery can befall you in this life than to become a prey unto the world, and after to be despised. I speak (God knows) not to disswade you from marriage, for it will be best for you, both in respect of God and the world. As for me, I am no more yours, nor you mine, death hath cut us asunder, and God hath divided me from the world, and you from me. Remember your poor child for his father's sake, who loved you in his happiest estate. I sued for my life, but (God knows) it was for you and yours that I desired it: for know it (my dear wife) your child is the child of a true man, who, in his own respect, despiseth death, and his mis-shapen and ugly forms. I cannot write much, (God knows) how hardly Í steal this time when all sleep, and it is also time for me to separate my thoughts from the world. Beg my dead borly, which living was denied you, and either lay it in Sherburn or Exeter church, by my father and mother. I can say no more, time and death calleth me away. The everlasting God, powerful, infinite, and inscrutable God

« ПредишнаНапред »