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upon some unstable, proud, busy spirit, it catcheth instantly, and fires the next capable subject: they two have easily inflamed a third; and now, the more society, the more speed and advantage of a public combustion. When we see the Church on a flame, it is too late to complain of the flint and steel. It is the holy wisdom of superiors, to prevent the dangerous attritions of stubborn and wrangling spirits; or to quench their first sparks, in the tinder. But why should not grace, and truth, be as successful in dilating itself, to the gaining of many hearts? Certainly, these are in themselves more winning, if our corruption had not made us indisposed to good.
O God, out of a holy envy and emulation at the speed of evil, I shall labour to enkindle others with these heavenly flames: it shall not be my fault, if they spread not.
XXVII. On the sight of a humble and patient beggar.
SEE what need can do! This man, who in so lowly a fashion croucheth to that passenger, hath in all likelihood as good a stomach, as he, to whom he thus abaseth himself; and, if their conditions were but altered, would look as high, and speak as big to him, whom he now answers with a plausible and dejected
It is thus betwixt God and us. He sees the way to tame us, is to hold us short of these earthly contentments. Even the savagest beasts are made quiet and docible, with want of food and rest.
O God, thou only knowest what I would do, if I had health, ease, abundance: do thou, in thy wisdom and mercy, so proportion thy gifts and restraints, as thou knowest best for my soul. If I be not humbled enough, let we want; and so order all my estate, that I may want any thing, save thyself.
XXVIII. On the sight of a crow pulling off wool from the back of a sheep.
How well these creatures know, whom they may be bold with! That crow durst not do this to a wolf or a mastiff. The known simplicity of this innocent beast gives advantage to this presumption.
Meekness of spirit commonly draws on injuries. The cruelty of ill natures usually seeks out those, not who deserve worst, but who will bear most. Patience and mildness of spirit is ill bestowed, where it exposes a man to wrong and insultation. Sheepish dispositions are best to others, worst to themselves.
scintillula in animum instabilem, superbum, irrequietum inciderit, afficit illum illico, proximumque capax subjectum statim accendit: illi duo tertium subinde inflammant; jam verò, quanto major societas, tanto major publicæ combustionis et celeritas et intentio. Ubi Ecclesiam Dei videmus flammis miserè correptam, serò quidem de ferro et silice conquerimur. Illud superiorum sanctæ prudentiæ fuerit, periculosam pervicacium contentiosorumque animorum attritionem tempestivè præpedire; et primas quasque scintillulas, ubi exciderint, confestim extinguere. Quorsum verò non æquè prævaleat gratia, ac veritas, suos propagando terminos, ad plurimorum utilitatem ac salutem? Certè quidem, plus habent istæ in se illicii, nisi depravatio nostra nos nimis incapaces boni præstitisset.
O Deus, dum sacrâ quâdam invidiâ percitus æmulabor fœlicem nimis mali successum, dabo quantum potero operam, ut alii cœlestibus hisce flammis accendantur: quæ, si non latissimè se diffuderint, haud meâ profectò culpâ acciderit.
XXVII. Conspecto mendico humili ac mansueto.
ECCE modò quantum possit egestas! Homo iste, qui tam humiliter viatori illi prosternitur, sine dubio non minus habet stomachi, quàm is, cui adeo supplex provolvitur; et, si mutarentur fortè utriusque conditiones, æquè superciliosè despiceret, æquè fastidiosè alloqueretur hunc, quem nunc blandâ quâdam projectâque reverentiâ excipit.
Ita planè se habet inter Deum et nos. Videt ille nempe nullâ nos posse ratione meliùs domari, quàm rerum externarum penuriâ. Etiam bestiæ vel maximè efferæ, carentiâ tamen cibi ac quietis, cicures redduntur et capaces disciplinæ.
Tu solus nôsti, ô Deus, quid ego facerem, si modò mihi valetudo, requies, rerumque omnium copia suppeteret: tu ergò, pro infinità sapientiâ et misericordiâ tuâ, ita justâ quâdam proportione tuas sive largitiones sive coerciones dispensa, prout animæ meæ maximè expedire noveris. Si non adhuc humilier satis, indigeam ulteriùs; et ita dispone res meas, ut nisi te uno, omnibus destituar.
XXVIII. Conspectâ cornice veleris ovini lanam vellicante.
QUAM probè norunt hæ creaturæ, quibuscum tutò ac fidenter agere liceat! Non audet cornix ista hoc facere lupo aut cani. Nota bestiæ hujusce insontis simplicitas ansam porrigit huic audaciæ.
Mitis quædam animi dispositio facilè proritat injurias. Pravorum ingeniorum crudelitas illos vulgò seligit, non qui pessimè merentur, sed qui plurimum pati volunt. Malè locantur patientia et mansuetudo animi, ubi contumeliæ insultationique hominem exponit. Ovinæ dispositiones optimæ aliis, sibi verò
I could be willing to take injuries; but I will not be guilty, of provoking them by lenity: for harmlessness, let me go for a sheep; but, whosoever will be tearing my fleece, let him look to himself.
XXIX. On the sight of two snails.
THERE is much variety, even in creatures of the same kind. See there two snails. One hath a house; the other wants it: yet both are snails; and it is a question whether case is the better. That, which hath a house, hath more shelter; but that, which wants it, hath more freedom. The privilege of that cover is but a burthen: you see if it have but a stone to climb over, with what stress it draws up that beneficial load; and, if the passage prove strait, finds no entrance. Whereas the empty snail makes no difference of way.
Surely, it is always an ease, and sometimes a happiness, to have nothing. No man is so worthy of envy, as he, that can be cheerful in want.
XXX. On the hearing of the street-cries in London.
WHAT a noise do these poor souls make, in proclaiming their commodities! Each tells what he hath, and would have all hearers take notice of it: and yet, God wot, it is but poor stuff that they set out with so much ostentation. I do not hear any of the rich merchants talk of what bags he hath in his chests, or what treasures of rich wares in his storehouse: every man rather desires to hide his wealth; and, when he is urged, is ready to dissemble his ability.
No otherwise is it in the true spiritual riches: he, that is full of grace and good works, affects not to make shew of it to the world; but rests sweetly, in the secret testimony of a good conscience, and the silent applause of God's Spirit witnessing with his own; while, contrarily, the venditation of our own worth or parts, or merits, argues a miserable indigence in them all.
O God, if the confessing of thine own gifts may glorify thee, my modesty shall not be guilty of a niggardly unthankfulness; but, for ought that concerns myself, I cannot be too secret. Let me so hide myself, that I may not wrong thee; and wisely distinguish, betwixt thy praise and my own.
XXXI. On the flies gathering to a galled horse. How these flies swarm to the galled part of this
longè pessimæ sunt. Non illibenter equidem ferrem injurias; nollem tamen committere, ut eas lenitate meâ provocem: quod ad innocentiam, ovis sim videarve; at, si quis vellus meum dilaniare ac deglubere satagit, caveat is sibi.
XXIX. Visis duobus limacibus.
QUANTA quàmque varia est, inter creaturas ejusdem speciei, diversitas! Ecce istic duos limaces. Alter domum suam gestat; domo caret alter: limaces tamen ambo; nec utrius melior fit conditio facilè constat. Qui domum habet, plus habet tutelæ ; qui domo caret, plus habet libertatis. Privilegium tecti illius cum magno onere conjunctum est: objiciatur modò lapis quispiam domiportæ illi necessariò adscendendus, quantâ cum difficultate beneficium illud pondus secum trahit onustus ille viator! quòd si paulò angustior fuerit via, nullus ingressui locus conceditur. Ubi ille alter, vacuus, nulla sentit viarum discrimina.
Certè, semper quietus, aliquando et fælix est, cui nihil suppetit. Nemo hominum invidendus est adeò, ac ille, qui in egestate potest esse alacris.
XXX. Auditis vendacium quorundam clamoribus platearibus.
QUANTO cum strepitu, proclamant hi pauperculi merces suas ! Narrat unusquisque quid sibi sit, vultque hoc auditoribus omnibus palam innotescat: et tamen, vilissima ilicet sunt ista, quæ tanto stridore venditant. Non audio ditiorum mercatorum quenquam publicè fateri quantum sibi in arcâ nummorum sit, aut quantæ rerum pretiosissimarum gazæ in secretis sibi repositoriis recondantur: unusquisque potiùs divitias suas celare cupit; et, ubi urgetur vehementiùs, facultates suas dissimulare studet.
Nec se habet aliter in veris, spiritualibus nimirum, opibus : qui plenus est gratiæ bonorumque operum, parùm curat ista mundo gloriosiùs ostentare; sed in secreto bonæ conscientiæ testimonio, tacitoque applausu Spiritûs Dei sibi attestantis, suaviter acquiescit; ubi, è contrà, propriæ dignitatis, facultatis, meritorumve venditatoria propalatio, miseram arguit horum omnium indigentiam.
O Deus, si donorum tuorum confessio gloriæ tuæ inservire possit, non committam ut modestia mea tenacis cujusdam ingratitudinis rea peragatur; sed, quod ad me ipsum attinet, non possum equidem nimis latere. Ita me fac abscondam, ut tibi parùm injurius sim; et inter laudes tuas meique ipsius, prudenter discam distinguere.
XXXI. De muscis ad equini dorsi recrudescentis scabiem collectis.
QUAM frequentes ad misellæ hujus bestia saniosam plagam convolant muscæ; ibique sedent, purulentâ illâ carne se sa
and there sit, feeding upon that worst piece of his flesh, not meddling with the other sound parts of his skin!
Even thus do malicious tongues of detractors: if a man have any infirmity in his person or actions, that they will be sure to gather unto, and dwell upon; whereas, his commendable parts and well-deservings are passed by, without mention, without regard. It is an envious self-love and base cruelty, that causeth this ill disposition in men: in the mean time, this only they have gained; It must needs be a filthy creature, that feeds upon nothing but corruption.
XXXXII. On the sight of a dark lantern.
THERE is light indeed; but so shut up, as if it were not: and when the side is most open, there is light enough to give direction to him that bears it, none to others: he can discern another man, by that light, which is cast before him; but another man cannot discern him.
Right such is reserved knowledge: no man is the better for it, but the owner. There is no outward difference, betwixt concealed skill and ignorance: and, when such hidden knowledge will look forth, it casts so sparing a light, as may only argue it to have an unprofitable being; to have ability, without will to good; power to censure, none to benefit. The suppression or engrossing of those helps, which God would have us to impart, is but a thief's lantern in a true man's hand.
O God, as all our light is from thee, the Father of Lights; so make me no niggard of that poor rush-candle, thou hast lighted in my soul: make me more happy, in giving light to others, than in receiving it into myself.
XXXIII. On the hearing of a swallow in the chimney.
HERE is music, such as it is; but how long will it hold? When but a cold morning comes in, my guest is gone, without either warning or thanks. This pleasant season hath the least need of cheerful notes: the dead of winter shall want, and wish them in vain.
Thus doth an ungrateful parasite: no man is more ready to applaud and enjoy our prosperity; but, when with the times our condition begins to alter, he is a stranger at least. Give me that bird, which will sing in winter, and seek to my window in the hardest frost. There is no trial of friendship, but adversity. He, that is not ashamed of my bonds, not daunted with my checks, not aliened with my disgrace, is a friend for