Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

edge, as to think that when it meets with an able nature in the mind it is of great advantage. Any man shall speak the better, when he knows what others have said; and sometimes the consciousness of his inward knowledge gives a confidence to his outward behavior which is, of all other things, the best to grace a man in his carriage.

Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,

Moral, and Political.»

THAT MAN OUGHT TO BE EXTENSIVELY GOOD

The good man's goodness lies not hid in himself alone; he I endeavors to strengthen his weaker brother. Good works

and good instructions are the productive acts of the soul, out of which spring new posterity to the Church and Gospel. And I am persuaded that to be a means of bringing more to heaven is a desire inseparable from a mind which is rightly disposed. Good men wish all whom they converse with to be like themselves. How ungratefully he slinks away out of life who has done nothing to reflect a glory to heaven! What a barren tree he is that lives and spreads and cumbers the ground, and leaves not one seed, not one good work, to generate after him! I know all cannot leave alike; yet all may leave something, answering to their means. They are dead and withered grains of corn, out of which there does not one ear spring. The physician who hath a sovereign receipt, and dies without revealing it, robs the world of many blessings which might multiply after his death; and leaves this as a truth to all survivors, that he did good to others, but to himself a greater. But how contrary is this to Christianity and the nature of expanded love! I appeal to those minds where grace hath sown more charity Virtue is distributive, and had rather benefit many, with injury to itself, than bury benefits that may do good to a multitude. I doubt whether he will ever find the way to heaven, who desires to go thither alone. They are envious favorites, that wish their kings to have no loyal subjects but themselves. A11 heavenly hearts are charitable. Enlightened souls disperse their rays. I will, if I can, do something for others and heaven; not to deserve by it, but to express myself and my thanks. Though I cannot do what I would, I will labor to do what I can.

Complete. From «Resolves, Divine, V-106

Moral, and Political.”

OF JUDGING CHARITABLY

I NEVER yet knew any man so bad, but some have thought him

honest, and afforded him love; nor any one so good, but some

have thought him vile, and hated him. Few are so thoroughly wicked as not to be estimable to some; and few are so just, as not to seem to some unequal: ignorance, envy, and partiality enter much into the opinions that we form of others. Nor can a man, in himself, always appear alike to all. In some, nature has made a disparity; in some, report has blinded judgment; and in others, accident is the cause of disposing us to love or hate; or, if not these, the variation of the body's humors; or, perhaps, not any of these. The soul is often led by secret motions and attachments, she knows not why. There are impulsive instincts, which urge us to a liking; as if there were some hidden beauty of a more magnetic force than what the eye can see; and this, too, is more powerful at one time than at another. The same man that has now welcomed me with a free expression of love and courtesy, at another time has left me unsaluted at all. Yet, knowing him well, I have been certain of his sound affection, and have found it to proceed not from an intended neglect, but from an indisposedness, or a mind seriously busied within. Occasion rules the motions of the stirring mind: Like men who walk in their sleep, we are led about, we neither know whither nor how. I know there are some who vary their behavior out of pride, and in strangers, I confess, I know not how to distinguish; for there is no disposition but has a varnished vizor, as well as an unpenciled face. Some people deceive the world; are bad, but are not thought so; in some, the world is deceived, believing them ill, when they are not. I have known the world at large, to fall into an error. Though report once vented, like a stone cast into a pond, begets circle upon circle, till it meets with the bank that bounds it: yet fame often plays the cur, and opens when she springs no game. Why should I positively condemn any man, whom I know but superficially? as if I were a God, to see the inward soul. Nature, art, report, may all fail; yea, oftentimes even probabilities. There is no certain way to discover man, but by time and conversation. Every man may be said in some sort, to have two souls; one, the internal mind; the other, the outward face, and body's gesture. And how infinitely in some do they differ! I have known a wise look hide a fool, and a merry face conceal a discontented soul. Every man, if it pleases him, can keep his mind in a labyrinth. The heart of man, to man is inscrutable. Again, one man shows himself to me; to another he is shut up. No man can either like all, or be liked of all. God himself doth not please all. Nay, as men are, I think it may stand with Di. vinity to say he cannot. Man is infinitely more impotent. I will speak of every man as I find him; if I hear he has acted ill to others, I will beware of him, but not condemn him, till I hear his own apology.

Qui statuit aliquid, parte inaudita altera,
Æquum licet statuerit, haud æquus est.

- Sen. Med. 2. “Who judgment gives, and will but one side hear,

Though he judge right, is no good justicer.” The nature of many men is abstruse, and not to be found out at once. I will not be too ready to believe the reports of others, nor will I censure any man whom I know not internally, but with sparingness and caution.

Complete. From «Resolves, Divine,

Moral, and Political.”

THAT A WISE MAN MAY GAIN BY ANY COMPANY

AS THERE is no book so poorly furnished, out of which a man A may not gather something for his benefit; so is there no

company so bad, but a wise man may learn from it something to make himself better. Vice is of such a toady complexion, that she naturally teaches the soul to hate her. So admirably hath God disposed of the ways of man, that even the sight of vice in others is like a warning arrow shot to make us take heed. When she thinks by publishing herself to procure a train of followers, God, by his secret working, makes her turn her weapons against herself, and strongly plead for her adversary, Virtue. We are wrought to good by contraries. Foul acts keep virtue from the charms of vice.

I confess I learn by nothing more to correct faults in myself than by seeing how uncomely they appear in others. Who can help thinking what a nasty beast he would be in drunkenness, that hath seen how disgustful it has made another? Who will

not abhor a choleric passion, and saucy pride in himself, who sees how ridiculous and contemptible they render those who are infested with them? Can I be so besottedly blind as to believe others should not spy those vices in me, which I can behold in them? Though the bad man be the worse for having vice before his eyes, yet the good man is the better for it,- for all that he sees is ill. It is certain, neither example nor precept (unless in matters wholly religious), can be absolute guides to the truly wise man. It is only a knowing, and a practical judgment of his own, that can direct him in the maze of life; in the bustle of the world; in the twitches and the twirls of human affairs. Example and precept may help us in generals, but cannot be sufficient in particulars. No man can leave his successor rules for severals, because he knows not how the times will be. He that lives always by book rules shall show himself affected and a fool. I will do that which I see comely (so it be not dishonest), rather than what a grave philosopher commands me to the contrary. I will take what I see is fitting, from any; but I think there was never any one man that lived to be a perfect guide of perfection. We feed not the body with the food of one dish only; nor does the sedulous bee gather from one flower's single virtues. She takes the best from many; and, together, she makes them serve, working that to honey which the putrid spider would convert to poison. Thus should the wise man do. This, however, rather teaches him to love the good than to avoid that which is offensive. Those who are thoroughly skilled in navigation are as well acquainted with the coasts as the ocean; with the flaws, the sands, the shallows, and the rocks, as the secure depths in the safest channel. And those who are perfect men (I speak of perfection since the Fall), must as well know the bad, that they may avoid it, as the good, that they may embrace it. Surely we shall know Virtue the better, by seeing that which she is not. If we could pass the world, without meeting Vice, then, the knowl. edge of virtue would alone be sufficient; but it is not possible to live, and not encounter her. I wish no man to know her either by use, or by intrusion; but being unwittingly thrown in her way, let him observe her warily for his own more safe direction. Thou art happy, when thou can'st make another man's vices steps for thee, to climb to heaven by. The wise physician makes a poison medicinable. Even the mud of the world, by the industrious Hollander, is turned to useful fuel. If I light on good company, it shall either induce me to a new good, or confirm me in my liked old good habits. If I light on bad, I will, by considering their faults, correct those I myself have, or shun those that I might have. As the mariner who hath sea room can make any wind serve, to set him forward in his voyage, so a wise man may take advantage from any company, to set himself forward in the course of virtue. Vice is subtle, and designing, for her own preferment; why should not Virtue be plotting for her's? It requires policy to grow good, as well as great. There is an innocent providence, as well as the slyness of a vulpine craft. There are vices to be displaced, which would stop us in the way of our rise. There are parties to be made on our side, to uphold us when we are declining, through the undue arts of our unjust maligners. There is a king to be pleased, who may protect us against the shock of the envious plebeians, the reign. ing humors of the times which plead custom and not reason. We must have intelligencers abroad, to learn what practices, our enemy, Sin, has on foot against us; and beware what suits we entertain, lest we dishonor ourselves in their grant. Every good man is an embassador here for heaven; and he must be wise and circumspect, to render vain the artful designs of those who would undo him. And, as those who are so for the kingdoms of the earth will gain something from all societies that they may fall into, so those who are so for the higher empire of the other world may gather something beneficial from all whom they shall converse with, either for prevention or confirmation, either to strengthen themselves or confound their opposers.

Complete. From "Resolves, Divine.

Moral, and Political.»

OF SUSPICION

USPICIONS are sometimes founded in judgment. He who knows S the world bad cannot but suspect it will be so still; but sus

picion, for the most part, proceeds from a self-defect, - and then gnaws the mind. He knows he deserves not to be considered ill, why should he imagine that others should speak him so ? We may observe how a man is disposed by gathering what he doubts in others. St. Chrysostom has given the rule: Sicut difficile aliquem suspicatur malum, qui bonus est: sic difficile aliquem

« AnteriorContinuar »