Sir Thomas Browne, Christian Morals (1716).
|Back to The Preface||On to Part II|
|TREAD softly and cirumspectly in this funambulatory Track and narrow Path of Goodness: Pursue Virtue virtuously: Leven not good Actions nor render Virtues disputable. Stain not fair Acts with foul Intentions: Maim not Uprightness by halting Concomitances, nor circumstantially deprave substantial Goodness.|
[Funambulatory, from L. fun-is, a rope, + ambulare: rope- walking]
|Consider where about thou art in Cebes's Table, or that old Philosophical Pinax* of the Life of Man: whether thou art yet in the Road of uncertainties; whether thou hast yet entred the narrow Gate, got up the Hill and asperous way, which leadeth unto the House of Sanity, or taken that purifying Potion from the hand of sincere Erudition, which may send Thee clear and pure away unto a virtuous and happy Life.|
*[The Tabulaor Pinax of "Cebes", traditionally identified with Cebes of Thebes. ]
|In this virtuous Voyage of thy Life hull not about like the Ark without the use of Rudder, Mast, or Sail, and bound for no Port. Let not Disappointment cause Despondency, nor difficulty despair. Think not that you are Sailing from Lima to Manillia, when you may fasten up the Rudder, and sleep before the Wind; but expect rougher Seas, Flaws, and contrary Blasts, & 'tis well if by many cross Tacks and Veerings you arrive at the Port; for we sleep in Lyons Skins in our Progress unto Virtue, and we slide not, but climb unto it.|
|Sit not down in the Popular Forms and common Level of Virtues. Offer not only Peace Offerings but Holocausts unto God: where all is due make no reserve, and cut not a Cummin Seed with the Almighty: To serve Him singly to serve our selves were too partial a piece of Piety, not like to place us in the illustrious Mansions of Glory.|
|REST not in an Ovation* but a Triumph over thy Passions. Let Anger walk hanging down the head: Let Malice go Manicled, & Envy fetter'd after thee. Behold within thee the long train of thy Trophies not without thee. Make the quarrelling Lapithytes sleep, and Centaures within lye quiet. Chain up the unruly Legion of thy breast. Lead thine own captivity captive, and be Cæ sar within thy self.||*Ovation a petty and minor Kind of Triumph.|
|HE that is Chast and Continent not to impair his strength, or honest for fear of Contagion, will hardly be Heroically virtuous. Adjourn not this virtue untill that temper, when Cato could lend out his Wife, & impotent Satyrs write Satyrs upon Lust: But be chast in thy flaming Days, when Alexander dar'd not trust his eyes upon the fair Sisters of Darius, and when so many think there is no other way but Origen's*.||*Who is said to have Castrated himself.|
|SHOW thy Art in Honesty, and loose not thy Virtue by the bad Managery of it. Be Temperate & Sober, not to preserve your body in an ability for wanton ends, not to avoid the infamy of common transgressors that way, and thereby to hope to expiate or palliate obscure and closer vices, not to spare your purse, nor simply to enjoy health; but in one word that thereby you may truly serve God, which every sickness will tell you you cannot well do without health. The sick Man's Sacrifice is but a lame Oblation. Pious Treasures lay'd up in healthful days plead for sick nonperformances: without which we must needs look back with anxiety upon the lost opportunities of health, and may have cause rather to envy than pity the ends of penitent publick Sufferers, who go with healthfull prayers unto the last Scene of their lives, and in the Integrity of their faculties return their Spirit unto God that gave it.|
|BE Charitable before wealth make thee covetous, and loose not the glory of the Mite.* If Riches encrease, let thy mind hold pace with them, and think it not enough to be Liberal, but Munificent. Though a Cup of cold water from some hand may not be without its reward, yet stick not thou for Wine and Oyl for the Wounds of the Distressed, & treat the poor, as our Saviour did the Multitude, to the reliques of some baskets. Diffuse thy beneficence early, and while thy Treasures call thee Master: There may be an Atropos of thy Fortunes before that of thy Life, and thy wealth cut off before that hour, when all Men shall be poor; for the Justice of Death looks equally upon the dead, & Charon expects no more from Alexander than from Irus.|
*Mark 12:42 ff.
|GIVE not only unto seven, but also unto eight*, that is unto more than many. Though to give unto every one that asketh** may seem severe advice, yet give thou also before asking, that is, where want is silently clamorous, and mens Necessities not their Tongues do loudly call for thy Mercies. For though sometimes necessitousness be dumb, or misery speak not out, yet true Charity is sagacious, & will find out hints for beneficence. Acquaint thy self with the Physiognomy of Want, and let the Dead colours and first lines of necessity suffise to tell thee there is an object for thy bounty. Spare not where thou canst not easily be prodigal, and fear not to be undone by mercy. For since he who hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Almighty Rewarder, who observes no Ides*** but every day for his payments; Charity becomes pious Usury, Christian Liberality the most thriving industry, and what we adventure in a Cockboat may return in a Carrack unto us.§ He who thus casts his bread upon the Water shall surely find it again; for though it falleth to the bottom, it sinks but like the Ax of the Prophet, to arise again unto him.§ §|
***[The ides of the month, according to Dr. Johnson (1756 ed.), was the date on which "money lent out at interest was commonly repaid". Compare Milton's Divorce "our enemies expect to see the expectation of the Church tir'd out with dependencies and independencies how they will compound, and in what Calends."]
§ [Cockboat, a ship's boat, hence a type of the smallest vessel; carrack, a galleon.]
§ § [2 Kings 6:5-7.]
|IF Avarice be thy Vice, yet make it not thy Punishment. Miserable men commiserate not themselves, bowelless unto others, and merciless unto their own bowels. Let the fruition of things bless the possession of them, and think it more satisfaction to live richly than dye rich. For since thy good works, not thy goods, will follow thee; since wealth is an appertinance of life, and no dead Man is Rich; to famish in Plenty, & live poorly to dye Rich, were a multiplying improvement in Madness, & use upon use in Folly.|
|TRUST not to the Omnipotency of gold, & say not unto it Thou art my Confidence. Kiss not thy hand to that Terrestrial Sun, nor bore thy ear unto its servitude. A Slave unto Mammon makes no servant unto God. Covetousness cracks the sinews of Faith; nummes the apprehension of any thing above sense, and only affected with the certainty of things present makes a peradventure of things to come; lives but unto one World, nor hopes but fears another; makes their own death sweet unto others, bitter unto themselves; brings formal sadness, scenical mourning, and no wet eyes to the grave.|
|PERSONS lightly dipt, not grain'd in generous Honesty, are but pale in Goodness, and faint hued in Integrity. But be thou what thou vertuously art, and let not the Ocean wash away thy Tincture. Stand magnetically upon that Axis, when prudent simplicity hath fixt there; * and let no attraction invert the Poles of thy Honesty. That Vice may be uneasy & even monstrous unto thee, let iterated good Acts & long confirmed habits make Virtue almost natural, or a second nature in thee. Since virtuous superstructions have commonly generous foundations, dive into thy inclinations, & early discover what nature bids thee to be, or tells thee thou may'st be. They who thus timely descend into themselves, and cultivate the good seeds which nature hath set in them, prove not shrubs but Cedars in their generation. And to be in the form of the best of the Bad, or the worst of the Good**, will be no satisfaction unto them.|
*["where prudent simplicity hath fixt thee": in the text of Letter to a Friend.]
**Optimi malorum pessimi bonorum.
|MAKE not the consequence of Virtue the ends thereof. Be not beneficent for a name or Cymbal of applause, nor exact and just in Commerce for the advantages of Trust and Credit, which attend the reputation of true and punctual dealing. For these Rewards, though unsought for, plain Virtue will bring with her. To have other by-ends in good actions sowers Laudable performances, which must have deeper roots, motives, and instigations, to give them the stamp of Virtues.|
|LET not the Law of thy Country be the non ultra of thy Honesty; nor think that always good enough which the Law will make good. Narrow not the Law of Charity, Equity, Mercy. Joyn Gospel Righteousness with Legal Right. Be not a mere Gamaliel in the Faith, but let the Sermon in the Mount be thy Targum unto the Law of Sinai.|
|LIVE by old Ethicks and the classical Rules of Honesty. Put no new names or notions upon Authentick Virtues & Vices. Think not that Morality is Ambulatory; that Vices in one age are not Vices in another; or that Virtues, which are under the everlasting Seal of right Reason, may be Stamped by Opinion. And therefore though vicious times invert the opinions of things, and set up a new Ethicks against Virtue, yet hold thou unto old Morality; & rather than follow a multitude to do evil, stand like Pompey's Pillar conspicuous by thy self, and single in Integrity. And since the worst of times afford imitable Examples of Virtue; since no Deluge of Vice is like to be so general, but more than eight will escape; Eye well those Heroes who have held their Heads above Water, who have touched Pitch, and not been defiled, and in the common Contagion have remained uncorrupted.|
|LET Age not Envy draw wrinkles on thy cheeks, be content to be envy'd, but envy not. Emulation may be plausible and Indignation allowable, but admit no treaty with that passion which no circumstance can make good. A displacency at the good of others because they enioy it, though not unworthy of it, is an absurd depravity, sticking fast tmto corrupted nature, and often too hard for Humility and Charity, the great Suppressors of Envy. This surely is a Lyon not to be strangled but by Hercules himself, or the highest stress of our minds, and an Atom of that power which subdueth all things unto it self.|
|OWE not thy Humility unto humiliation from adversity, but look humbly down in that State when others look upwards upon thee. Think not thy own shadow longer than that of others, nor delight to take the Altitude of thy self. Be patient in the age of Pride, when Men live by short intervals of Reason under the dominion of Humor & Passion, when it's in the Power of every one to transform thee out of thy self, and run thee into the short madness. If you cannot imitate Job, yet come not short of Socrates, & those patient Pagans who tired the tongues of their Enemies, while they perceived they spit their malice at brazen Walls and Statues.|
|LET not the Sun in Capricorn* go down upon thy wrath, but write thy wrongs in Ashes. Draw the Curtain of night upon inJuries, shut them up in the Tower of Oblivion** and let them be as though they had not been. To forgive our Enemies, yet hope that God will punish them, is not to forgive enough. To forgive them our selves, & not to pray God to forgive them, is a partial piece of Charity. Forgive thine enemies totally, and without any reserve, that however God will revenge thee.||*Even when the Days are shortest.|
**Alluding unto the Tower of Oblivion mentioned by Procopius, which was the name of a Tower of Imprisonment among the Persians; whoever was put therein was as it were buried alive, and it was death for any but to name him.
|WHILE thou so hotly disclaimest the Devil, be not guilty of Diabolism. Fall not into one name with that unclean Spirit, nor act his nature whom thou so much abhorrest; that is to Accuse, Calumniate, Backbite, Whisper, Detract, or sinistrously interpret others. Degenerous depravities, and narrow minded vices ! not only below St. Paul's noble Christian but Aristotle's true Gentleman*. Trust not with some that the Epistle of St. James is Apocryphal, and so read with less fear that Stabbing Truth, that in company with this vice thy Religion is in vain. Moses broke the Tables without breaking of the Law; but where Charity is broke, the Law it self is shattered, which cannot be whole without Love, which is the fulfilling of it. Look humbly upon thy Virtues, & though thou art Rich in some, yet think thy self Poor and Naked without that Crowning Grace, which thinketh no evil, which envieth not, which beareth, hopeth, believeth, endureth all things. With these sure Graces, while busy Tongues are crying out for a drop of cold Water, mutes may be in happiness, & sing the Trisagion** in Heaven.|
*See Aristotie's Ethicks, chapter of Magnanimity.
**Holy, Holy, Holy.
|HOWEVER thy understanding may waver in the theories of True and False, yet fasten the Rudder of thy Will, steer strait unto good and fall not foul on evil. Imagination is apt to rove and conjecture to keep no bounds. Some have run out so far, as to fancy the Stars might be but the light of the Crystalline Heaven shot through perforations on the bodies of the Orbs. Others more Ingeniously doubt whether there hath not been a vast tract of Land in the Atlantick Ocean, which Earthquakes & violent causes have long ago devoured. Speculative Misapprehensions may be innocuous, but immorality pernicious; Theorical mistakes and Physical Deviations may condemn our Judgments, not lead us into Judgment. But perversity of Will, immoral and sinfull enormities walk with Adraste and Nemesis at their Backs, pursue us unto judgment, and leave us viciously miserable.|
|BID early defiance unto those Vices which are of thine inward Family, & having a root in thy Temper plead a right and propriety in thee. Raise timely batteries against those strong holds built upon the Rock of Nature, and make this a great part of the Militia of thy life. Delude not thy self into iniquities from participation or community, which abate the sense but not the obliquity of them. To conceive sins less, or less of sins, because others also Transgress, were MoralIy to commit that natural fallacy of Man, to take comfort from Society, & think adversities less, because others also suffer them. The politick nature of Vice must be opposed by Policy. And therefore wiser Honesties project and plot against it. Wherein notwithstanding we are not to rest in generals, or the trite Stratagems of Art. That may succeed with one which may prove succesless with another: There is no community or commonweal of Virtue: Every man must study his own oeconomy, and adapt such rules unto the figure of himself|
|BE substantially great in thy self, and more than thou appearest unto others; & let the World be deceived in thee, as they are in the Lights of He one of those violent ones which force* the Kingdom of Heaven. If thou must needs Rule, be Zeno's King, & enjoy that Empire which every Man gives himself. He who is thus his own Monarck contentedly sways the Scepter of himself, not envying the Glory of Crowned Heads and Elohims of the Earth. Could the World unite in the practise of that despised train of Virtues, which the Divine Ethicks of other Saviour hath so inculcated unto us, the furious face of things must disappear, Eden would be yet to be found, and the Angels might look down not with pity, but Joy upon us.|
|THOUGH the Quickness of thine Ear were able to reach the noise of the Moon, which some think it maketh in it's rapid revolution; though the number of thy Ears should equal Argus his Eyes; yet stop them all with the wise man's wax, and be deaf unto the suggestions of Talebearers, Calumniators, Pickthank or Malevolent Delators, who while quiet Men sleep, sowing the tares of discord and division, distract the tranquillity of Charity and all friendly Society. These are the Tongues that set the world on fire, cankers of reputation, and, like that of Jonas his Gourd, wither a good name in a night. Evil Spirits may sit still while these Spirits walk about, and perform the business of Hell. To speak more strictly, our corrupted hearts are the Factories of the Devil, which may be at work without his presence. For when that circumventing Spirit hath drawn Malice, Envy, and all unrighteousness unto well rooted habits in his disciples, iniquity then goes on upon its own legs, and if the gate of Hell were shut up for a time, Vice would still be fertile and produce the fruits of Hell. Thus when God forsakes us, Satan also leaves us. For such offenders he looks upon as sure and sealed up, and his temptations then needless unto them.|
|ANNIHILATE not the Mercies of God by the Oblivion of Ingratitude. For Oblivion is a kind of Annihilation, and for things to be as though they had not been is like unto never being. Make not thy Head a Grave, but a Repository of God's mercies. Though thou hadst the Memory of Seneca, or Simonides, & Conscience, the punctual Memorist within us, yet trust not to thy Remembrance in things which need Phylacteries. Register not only strange but merciful occurrences: Let Ephemerides not Olympiads give thee account of his mercies. Let thy Diaries stand thick with dutiful Mementos & Asterisks of acknowledgment. And to be compleat and forget nothing, date not his mercy from thy nativity, Look beyond the World, and before the Æra of Adam.|
|PAINT not the Sepulcher of thy self, and strive not to beautify thy corruption. Be not an Advocate for thy Vices, nor call for many Hour-Glasses to Justify thy imperfections. Think not that always good which thou thinkest thou canst always make good, nor that concealed which the Sun doth not behold. That which the Sun doth not now see will be visible when the Sun is out, and the Stars are fallen from Heaven. Mean while there is no darkness unto Conscience, which can see without Light, and in the deepest obscurity give a clear Draught of things, which the Cloud of dissimulation hath conceal'd from all eyes. There is a natural standing Court within us, examining, acquitting, and condemning at the Tribunal of our selves, wherein iniquities have their natural Theta's, and no nocent is absolved by the verdict of himself. And therefore although our transgressions shall be tryed at the last bar, the process need not be long: for the Judge of all knoweth all, and every Man will nakedly know himself. And when so few are like to plead not Guilty, the Assize must soon have an end.|
|COMPLY with some humors, bear with others, but serve none. Civil complacency consists with decent honesty: Flattery is a Juggler, and no Kin unto Sincerity. But while thou maintainest the plain path, and scornest to flatter others, fall not into self Adulation, and become not thine own Parasite. Be deaf unto thy self, & be not betrayed at home. Self-credulity, pride, and levity lead unto self-Idolatry. There is no Damocles like unto self opinion, nor any Siren to our own fawning Conceptions. To magnify our minor things, or hug our selves in our apparitions; to afford a credulous Ear unto the clawing suggestions of fancy; to pass other days in painted mistakes of our selves; and though we behold our own blood, to think our selves the Sons of Jupiter*; are blandishments of self love, worse than outward delusion. By this Imposture Wise Men sometimes are Mistaken in their Elevation, and look above themselves. And Fools, which are Antipodes unto the Wise, conceive them selves to be but their Perioeci, and in the same parallel with them.|
*As Alexander the Great did.
|BE not a Hercules furens abroad, and a Poltron within thy self. To chase other Enemies out of the Field, & be led captive by our Vices; to beat down our Foes, and fall down to other Concupiscences; are Solecisms in Moral Schools, and no Laurel attends them. To well manage our Affections, and wild Horses of Plato, are the highest Circenses; and the noblest Digladiation is in the Theater of our selves: for therein our inward Antagonists, not only like common Gladiators, with ordinary Weapons and down right Blows make at us, but also like Retiary and Laqueary Combatants, with Nets, Frauds, and Entanglements fall upon us. Weapons for such combats are not to be forged at Lipara: Vulcan's Art doth nothing in this internal Militia: wherein not the Armour of Achilles, but the Armature of St. Paul, gives the Glorious day, and Triumphs not Leading up into Capitols, but up into the highest Heavens. And therefore while so many think it the only valour to command & master others, study thou the Dominion of thy self, & quiet thine own Commotions. Let Right Reason be thy Lycurgus, and lift up thy hand unto the Law of it; move by the Intelligences of the superiour Faculties, not by the Rapt of Passion, nor merely by that of Temper and Constitution. They who are merely carried on by the Wheel of such Inclinations, without the Hand and Guidance of Sovereign Reason, are but the Automatous part of mankind, rather lived than living, or at least underliving themselves.|
|LET not Fortune, which hath no name in Scripture, have any in thy Divinity. Let Providence, not Chance, have the honour of thy acknowledgments, and be thy Oedipus in Contingences. Mark well the Paths & winding Ways thereof; but be not too wise in the Construction, or sudden in the Application. The Hand of Providence writes often by Abbreviatures, Hieroglyphicks or short Characters, which, like the Laconism on the Wall, are not to be made out but by a Hint or Key from that Spirit which indited them. Leave future occurrences to their uncertainties, think that which is present thy own; And since 'tis easier to foretell an Eclipse, than a foul Day at some distance, Look for little Regular below. Attend with patience the uncertainty of things, and what lieth yet unexerted in the Chaos of Futurity. The uncertainty and ignorance of Things to come makes the World new unto us by unexpected Emergences, whereby we pass not our days in the trite road of affairs affording no Novity; for the novellizing Spirit of Man lives by variety, and the new Faces of Things.|
|THOUGH a contented Mind enlargeth the dimension of little things, & unto some 'tis Wealth enough not to be Poor, & others are well content, if they be but Rich enough to be Honest, & to give every Man his due: yet fall not into that obsolete Affectation of Bravery to throw away thy Money, and to reject all Honours, or Honourable stations in this courtly and splendid World. Old Generosity is superannuated, and such contempt of the World out of date. No Man is now like to refuse the favour of great ones, or be content to say unto Princes, stand out of my Sun. And if any there be of such antiquated Resolutions, they are not like to be tempted out of them by great ones; & 'tis fair if they escape the name of Hypocondriacks from the Genius of latter times, unto whom contempt of the World is the most contemptible opinion, and to be able, like Bias, to carry all they have about them were to be the eighth Wise-man. However, the old tetrick Philosophers look'd always with Indignation upon such a Face of Things, and observing the unnatural current of Riches, Power, and Honour in the World, and withall the imperfection & demerit of persons often advanced unto them, were tempted unto angry Opinions, that Affairs were ordered more by Stars than Reason, & that things went on rather by Lottery, than Election.|
|IF thy Vessel be but small in the Ocean of this World, if Meanness of Possessions be thy allotment upon Earth, forget not those Virtues which the great disposer of all bids thee to entertain from thy Quality & Condition, that is, Submission, Humility, Content of mind, and Industry. Content may dwell in all Stations. To be low, but above contempt, may be high enough to be Happy. But many of low Degree may be higher than computed, and some Cubits above the common Commensuration; for in all States Virtue gives Qualifications, and Allowances, which make out defects. Rough Diamonds are sometimes mistaken for Pebbles, and Meanness may be Rich in Accomplishments, which Riches in vain desire. If our merits be above our Stations, if our intrinsecal Value be greater than what we go for, or our Value than our Valuation, and if we stand higher in God's, than in the Censor's Book; it may make some equitable balance in the inequalities of this World, and there may be no such vast Chasm or Gulph between disparities as common Measures determine. The Divine Eye looks upon high and low diferently from that of Man. They who seem to stand upon Olympus, and high mounted unto our eyes, may be but in the Valleys, and low Ground unto his; for he looks upon those as highest who nearest approach his Divinity, and upon those as lowest, who are farthest from it.|
|WHEN thou lookest upon the Imperfections of others, allow one Eye for what is Laudable in them, & the balance they have from some excellency, which may render them considerable. While we look with fear or hatred upon the teeth of the Viper, we may behold his Eye with love. In venemous Natures something may be amiable: Poysons afford Antipoysons: no thing is totally, or altogether uselesly bad. Notable Virtues are sometimes dashed with notorious Vices, & in some vicious tempers have been found illustrious Acts of Virtue; which makes such observable worth in some actions of King Demetrius, Antonius, and Ahab, as are not to be found in the same kind in Aristides, Numa, or David. Constancy, Generosity, Clemency, & Liberality have been highly conspicuous in some Persons not markt out in other concerns for Example or Imitation. But since Goodness is exemplary in all, if others have not other Virtues, let us not be wanting in theirs, nor scorning them for their Vices whereof we are free, be condemned by their Virtues, wherein we are deficient. There is Dross Alloy, & Embasement in all human temper, and he flieth without Wings, who thinks to find Ophyr or pure Metal in any. For perfection is not like Light center'd in any one Body, but like the dispersed Seminalities of Vegetables at the Creation scattered through the whole Mass of the Earth, no place producing all and almost all some. So that 'tis well, if a perfect Man can be made out of many Men, and to the perfect Eye of God even out of Mankind. Time, which perfects some Things, imperfects also others. Could we intimately apprehend the Ideated Man, and as he stood in the intellect of God upon the first exertion by Creation, we might more narrowly comprehend our present Degeneration, and how widely we are fallen from the pure Exemplar and Idea of our Nature: for after this corruptive Elongation from a primitive and pure Creation, we are almost lost in Degeneration; and Adam hath not only fallen from his Creator, but we our selves from Adam, our Tycho and primary Generator.|
|QUARREL not rashly with Adversities not yet understood; and overlook not the Mercies often bound up in them. For we consider not sufficiently the good of Evils, nor fairly compute the Mercies of Providence in things afflictive at first hand. The famous Andreas Doria being invited to a Feast by Aloysio Fieschi with design to Kill him, just the night before, fell mercifully into a fit of the Gout and so escaped that mischief. When Cato intended to Kill himself, from a blow which he gave his servant, who would not reach his Sword unto him, his Hand so swell'd that he had much ado to Effect his design. Hereby any one but a resolved Stoick might have taken a fair hint of consideration, and that some mercifull Genius would have contrived his preservation. To be sagacious in such intercurrences is not Superstition, but wary and pious Discretion, and to contemn such hints were to be deaf unto the speaking hand of God, wherein Socrates & Cardan would hardly have been mistaken.|
|BREAK not open the gate of Destruction, and make no haste or bustle unto Ruin. Post not heedlesly on unto the non ultra of Folly, or precipice of Perdition. Let vicious ways have their Tropicks and Deflexions, and swim in the Waters of Sin but as in the Asphaltick Lake, though smeared and defiled, not to sink to the bottom. If thou hast dipt thy foot in the Brink, yet venture not over Rubicon. Run not into Extremities from whence there is no regression. In the vicious ways of the World it mercifully falleth out that we become not extempore wicked, but it taketh some time and pains to undo our selves. We fall not from Virtue, like Vulcan from Heaven, in a day. Bad Dispositions require some time to grow into bad Habits, bad Habits must undermine good, and often repeated acts make us habitually evil: so that by gradual depravations, and while we are but staggeringly evil, we are not left without Parentheses of considerations, thoughtful rebukes, and merciful interventions, to recal us unto our selves. For the Wisdom of God hath methodiz'd the course of things unto the best advantage of goodness, and thinking Considerators overlook not the tract thereof.|
|SINCE Men & Women have their proper Virtues & Vices, & even Twins of different sexes have not only distinct coverings in the Womb, but differing qualities and Virtuous Habits after; transplace not their Proprieties and confound not their Distinctions. Let Masculine and feminine accomplishments shine in their proper Orbs, and adorn their Respective subjects. However unite not the Vices of both Sexes in one; be not Monstrous in Iniquity, nor Hermaphroditically Vitious.|
|IF generous Honesty, Valour, and plain Dealing, be the Cognisance of thy Family or Characteristick of thy Country, hold fast such inclinations suckt in with thy first Breath, and which lay in the Cradle with thee. Fall not into transforming degenerations, which under the old name create a new Nation. Be not an Alien in thine own Nation; bring not Orontes into Tiber; learn the Virtues not the Vices of thy foreign Neighbours, and make thy imitation by discretion not contagion. Feel something of thy self in the noble Acts of thy Ancestors, and find in thine own Genius that of thy Predecessors. Rest not under the Expired merits of others, shine by those of thy own. Flame not like the central fire which enlightneth no Eyes, which no Man seeth, and most men think there's no such thing to be seen. Add one Ray unto the common Lustre; add not only to the Number but the Note of thy Generation; and prove not a Cloud but an Asterisk in thy Region.|
|SINCE thou hast an Alarum in thy Breast, which tells thee thou hast a Living Spirit in thee above two thousand times in an hour; dull not away thy Days in sloathful supinity & the tediousness of doing nothing. To strenuous Minds there is an inquietude in overquietness, and no laboriousness in labour; and to tread a mile after the slow pace of a Snail, or the heavy measures of the Lazy* of Brazilia, were a most tiring Pennance, and worse than a Race of some furlongs at the Olympicks. The rapid courses of the heavenly bodies are rather imitable by our Thoughts than our corporeal Motions; yet the solemn motions of our lives amount unto a greater measure than is commonly apprehended. Some few men have surrounded the Globe of the Earth; yet many in the set Locomotions & movements of their days have measured the circuit of it, and twenty thousand miles have been exceeded by them. Move circumspectly not meticulously, & rather carefully sollicitous than anxiously sollicitudinous. Think not there is a Lyon in the way, nor walk with Leaden Sandals in the paths of Goodness; but in all Virtuous motions let Prudence determine thy measures. Strive not to run like Hercules a furlong in a breath: Festination may prove Precipitation: Deliberating delay may be wise cunctation, and slowness no sloathfulness.|
|SINCE Virtuous Actions have their own Trumpets, and without any noise from thy self will have their resound abroad; busy not thy best Member in the Encomium of thy self. Praise is a debt we owe unto the Virtues of others, & due unto our own from all, whom Malice hath not made Mutes, or Envy struck Dumb. Fall not however into the common prevaricating way of self commendation and boasting, by denoting the imperfections of others. He who discommendeth others obliquely commendeth himself. He who whispers their infirmities proclaims his own Exemption from them, and consequently says, I am not as this Publican, or Hic Niger*, whom I talk of. Open ostentation and loud vainglory is more tolerable than this obliquity, as but containing some Froath, no Ink, as but consisting of a personal piece of folly, nor complicated with uncharitableness. Superfluously we seek a precarious applause abroad: every good Man hath his plaudite within himself; and though his Tongue be silent, is not without loud Cymbals in his Breast. Conscience will become his Panegyrist, and never forget to crown and extol him unto himself.|
*Hic Niger est, hunc tu Romane caveto. Horace.
|BLESS not thy self only that thou wert born in Athens *; but among thy multiplyed acknowledgments lift up one hand unto Heaven, that thou wert born of Honest Parents, that Modesty, Humility, Patience, and Veracity lay in the same Egg, and came into the World with thee. From such foundations thou may'st be Happy in a Virtuous precocity, and make an early and long walk in Goodness; so may'st thou more naturally feel the contrariety of Vice unto Nature, & resist some by the Antidote of thy Temper. As Charity covers, so Modesty preventeth a multitude of sins; withholding from noon day Vices and brazen-brow'd Iniquities, from sinning on the house top, & painting our follies with the rays of the Sun. Where this Virtue reigneth, though Vice may show its Head, it cannot be in its Glory: where shame of sin sets, look not for Virtue to arise; for when Modesty taketh Wing, Astraea** goes soon after.||*As Socrates did. Athens a place of Learning and Civility.|
**Astraea Goddess of Justice and consequently of all Virtue.
|THE Heroical vein of Mankind runs much in the Souldiery, & couragious part of the World; and in that form we oftenest find Men above Men. History is full of the gallantry of that Tribe; and when we read their notable Acts, we easily find what a difference there is between a Life in Plutarck & in Laërtius. Where true Fortitude dwells, Loyalty, Bounty, Friendship, and Fidelity, may be found. A man may confide in persons constituted for noble ends, who dare do and suffer, and who have a Hand to burn for their Country and their Friend. Small and creeping things are the product of petty Souls. He is like to be mistaken, who makes choice of a covetous Man for a Friend, or relieth upon the Reed of narrow & poltron Friendship. Pityful things are only to be fond in the cottages of such Breasts; but bright Thoughts, clear Deeds, Constancy, Fidelity, Bounty, and generous Honesty are the Gems of noble Minds; wherein, to derogate from none, the true Heroick English Gentleman hath no Peer.|
This page is maintained at the University of Chicago by James Eason, who welcomes comments, criticism, and suggestions.