Page images
PDF
EPUB

with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly, it is heaven upon earth, to have a man's mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth.

To pass from theological and philosophical truth to the truth of civil business ; it will be acknowledged, even by those that practise it not, that clear and round dealing is the honor of man's nature, and that mixture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver, which may make the metal work the better, but it embaseth it. For these winding and crooked courses are the goings of the serpent; which goeth basely upon the belly, and not upon the feet. There is no vice that doth so cover a man with shame, as to be found false and perfidious; and therefore Montaigne saith prettily, when he inquired the reason why the word of the lie should be such a disgrace, and such an odious charge; saith he, “ If it be well weighed, to say that a man lieth, is as much as to say that he is brave towards God and a coward towards men. For a lie faces God, and shrinks from man ;” sure

contests of warfare, arrayed upon the plains, without a share in the danger; but nothing is there more delightful than to occupy the elevated temples of the wise, well fortified by tranquil learning, whence you may be able to look down upon others, and see them straying in every direction, and wandering in search of the path of life."

1 Michael de Montaigne, the celebrated French Essayist. . His Essays embrace a variety of topics, which are treated in a sprightly and entertaining manner, and are replete with remarks indicative of strong native good sense. He died in 1592. The following quotation is from the second book of the Essays, c. 18: “ Lying is a disgraceful vice, and one that Plutarch, an ancient writer, paints in most disgraceful colors, when he says that it is

affording testimony that one first despises God, and then fears men;' it is not possible more happily to describe its horrible, dis gusting, and abandoned nature; for, can we imagine any thing more vile than to be cowards with regard to men, and brave with regard to God ?"

ly, the wickedness of falsehood and breach of faith cannot possibly be so highly expressed, as in that it shall be the last peal to call the judgments of God upon the generations of men: it being foretold, that, when“ Christ cometh," he shall not "find faith upon the earth.” 1

II.-OF DEATH. 2 Men fear death as children fear to go in the dark; and as that natural fear in children is increased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin, and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself, what the pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed or tortured; and thereby imagine what the pains of death are, when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb, for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense. And by him that spake only as a philosopher and natural man, it was well said, “ Pompa mortis magis terret, quam mors ipsa.” 3 Groans and convulsions, and a discolored face, and friends weeping, and blacks and obsequies, and the like, show death terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man hath so many attendants about him that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death ; love slights it; honor aspireth to it; grief fieth to it; fear preoccupateth it; nay, we read, after Otho the emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections) provoked many to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers.2 Nay, Seneca : adds niceness and satiety : “ Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantum fortis, aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest.” 4 A man would die, though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same thing so oft over and over. It is no less worthy to observe, how little alteration in good spirits the approaches of death make: for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment: “ Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale.” 5 Tiberius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him, “ Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, desercbant : 6

1 St. Luke xviii. 8: “Nevertheless, when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith upon the earth ?".

2 A portion of this Essay is borrowed from the writings of Seneca. See his Letters to Lucilius, B. iv. Ep. 24 and 82.

8“ The array of the death-bed has more terrors than death itself.” This quotation is from Seneca.

1 He probably alludes to the custom of hanging the room in black where the body of the deceased lay, a practice much more usual in Bacon's time than at the present day.

2 Tacit. Hist. ii. 49. 8 Ad Lucil. 77.

4 “ Reflect how often you do the same things; a man may wish to die, not only because either he is brave or wretched, but even because he is surfeited with life.”

5 - Livia, mindful of our union, live on, and fare thee well."Suet. Aug. Vit. c. 100.

6" His bodily strength and vitality were now forsaking Tiberius, but not his duplicity.” – Ann. vi. 50.

Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool,' “ Ut puto Deus fio;" 2 Galba with a sentence, “ Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani,” 3 holding forth his neck; Septimus Severus in dispatch, “ Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum,” 4 and the like. Certainly, the Stoicsó bestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great preparations made it appear more fearful. Better, saith he, “qui finem vitæ extremum inter munera ponit naturæ.” 6 It is as natural to die as to be born ; and to a little infant, perhaps, the one is as painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood, who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolors of death; but, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is “ Nunc dimittis,”? when a man hath obtained worthy ends

1 This was said as a reproof to his flatterers, and in spirit is not unlike the rebuke administered by Canute to his retinue. — Suet. Vespas. Vit. c. 23.

2“I am become a Divinity. I suppose." 8" If it be for the advantage of the Roman people, strike." Tac. Hist. i. 41.

4“ If aught remains to be done by me, dispatch. — Dio Cass. 76, ad fin.

5 These were the followers of Zeno, a philosopher of Citium, in Cyprus, who founded the Stoic school, or * School of the Portico," at Athens. The basis of his doctrines was the duty of making virtue the object of all our researches. According to him, the pleasures of the mind were preferable to those of the body, and his disciples were taught to view with indifference health or sickness, riches or poverty, pain or pleasure.

8 “Who reckons the close of his life among the boons of nature.” Lord Bacon here quotes from memory; the passage is in the tenth Satire of Juvenal, and runs thus:

“Fortem posce animum, mortis terrore carentem,

Qui spatium vitæ extremum inter munera ponat

Naturæ" — “Pray for strong resolve, void of the fear of death, that reckons the closing period of life among the boons of nature."

7 He alludes to the song of Simeon, to whom the Holy Ghost

[ocr errors]

and expectations. Death hath this also, that it openeth the gate to good fame, and extinguisheth envy: “ Extinctus amabitur idem.” 1

III.—OF UNITY IN RELIGION. RELIGION being the chief band of human society, it is a happy thing when itself is well contained within the true band of unity. The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen. The reason was, because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremonies, than in any constant belief; for you may imagine what kind of faith theirs was, when the chief doctors and fathers of their church were the poets. But the true God hath this attribute, that he is a jealous God; and therefore his worship and religion will endure no mixture nor partner. We shall therefore speak a few words concerning the unity of the church; what are the fruits thereof; what the bounds; and what the means.

The fruits of unity, (next unto the well-pleasing of God, which is all in all,) are two; the one towards those that are without the church, the other towards those that are within. For the former, it is certain that heresies and schisms are, of all others, the greatest scandals, yea, more than corruption of

had revealed, " that he should not seo death before he had seen the Lord's Christ.” When he beheld the infant Jesus in the temple, he took the child in his arms and burst forth into a song of thanksgiving, commencing, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” — St. Luke ii. 29.

1“ When dead, the same person shall be beloved." - Hor. Ep. ii. 1, 14.

« PreviousContinue »