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quicksand? Or what safety wouldest thou hope for in a ship bored with holes? Certainly thou oughtest to give no more esteem unto the things of this world, since they are founded upon a thing so unstable as this life. What can all human things be, since life, which sustains it, hath, according to David, no more consistence than smoke; or, according to Aquinas, than a little vapour, which in a moment vanisheth? Although it should endure a thousand years, yet, coming to an end, it were equal to that which lasted but a day; for as well the felicity of a long, as a short life, is but smoke and vanity, since they both pass away, and conclude in death.
Guerricus, a most famous divine, hearing the fifth chapter of Genesis read, wherein are recounted the sons and descendants of Adam, in these terms: "The whole life of Adam was nine hundred and thirty years, and he died; the life of his son, Seth, was nine hundred and twelve years, and he died;" and so of the rest; began to think with himself, that if such and so great men, after so long time, ended in death, it was not safe to lose more time in this world, but so to secure his life, that, losing it here, he might find it hereafter. What can the delights of man be, since his life is but a dream, a shadow, and as the twinkling of an eye! If the most long life be short, what can be the pleasures of that moment, by which is lost eternal happiness? O, how vain are men, who, seeing life so short, endeavour to live long, and not to live well! Since it is a thing most certain, that every man may live well; but no man, what age soever he attains unto, can live long; every day we die, and every day we lose some part of life; and in our growth, our life decreases and grows less; and this very day wherein we live, we divide with death; our life, in the book of wisdom, is compared unto the passing of a shadow, which as it may be said to be a kind of night, so life may be called a kind of death; for, as the shadow hath some part of light, some of darkness; so our life hath some part of death, and some of life, until it comes to end in a pure death; and since it is to end in a not being, it is very hittle to be regarded; especially compared with eternity, which hath a being constant and for ever. The shadow, wheresoever it passes, leaves no track behind it; and of the greatest personages in the world, when they are once dead, then there remains no more than if they had never lived.
How many preceding emperors in the Assyrian monarchy were lords of the world, as well as Alexander? And now we remain not only ignorant of their monuments, but know not so much as their names: and of the same great Alexander, what have we at this day, except the vain noise of his fame? There is nothing constant in this life; the moon hath every month her changes; but the life of man hath them every day, every hour; now he is sick, now in health, now sorrowful, now merry, now fearful. With what imaginations is he afflicted? With how many labours and toils does he daily wrestle? With what thoughts and apprehensions doth he torment himself? What dangers of soul and body doth he run into? What vanity is he forced to behold? What injuries to suffer? What necessities and afflictions? Nay, such is our whole life, that it seems unto me little less evil than that of hell, but only for the hope we have of heaven; our infancy is full of ignorance and fears, our youth of sin, our age of sorrow, and our whole life of dangers. There is none content with his condition, but he who will die whilst he lives; insomuch as life cannot be good, unless it most resemble death. Since, therefore, the whole time of this life is so short, and we know not how long it will last, let us resolve not to lose the opportunity of gaining eternity. Although we were certain to live yet a hundred years longer, we ought not to spare one minute from the gaining of eternity; but being uncertain how long we are to live, and perhaps shall die to-morrow, how can we be so careless, as to let the securing of our glory pass, which hereafter will never be offered? Consider what an eternal repentance will follow thee, if thou makest not use of the occasion of time for the purchasing of the kingdom of heaven; especially when thou shalt see, that, with so little ado, thou mightest have gained that everlasting glory, which, to satisfy a short pleasure, thou hast lost for ever.
O eternal God, who dwellest in eternity, whose power is eternal, and whose kingdom is the kingdom of all ages! Take me by thy right hand, O Lord; conduct me to thy eternal glory: let me esteem all things as nothing, in
respect of eternity. Grant, O Lord, that I may so pass through things temporal, that I do not finally lose the things eternal. Amen.
All Things on this Side Heaven are inconstant and transitory.
As time itself is in a perpetual succession, and mutation, being the companion of motion, so it fixes this ill condition. unto most of those things which pass along in it; the which not only have an end, and that a short one, but even, during the shortness of time which they last, have a thousand changes; and before their ends, many ends; and before their deaths, many deaths; each particular change, which our life suffers, being the death of some estate, or part of it. For as death is the total change of life, every change is the death of some part. Sickness is the death of health, sleeping of waking, sorrow of joy, impatience of quiet, youth of infancy, age of youth. The same condition hath the universal world, and all things in it; so that all things which follow time, and even time itself, at last must die. All human things, as well intrinsically, and of their own nature, as by external violences which they suffer, are subject to perish; the fairest flower withers of itself, yet is oftentimes before borne away by the wind, or perishes by some storm of hail. The most exact beauties lose their lustre by age, but are often before blasted by some violent fever. The strongest and most sumptuous palaces decay with continuance, if before not ruined by fire or earthquake. Cast your eyes upon those things which men judge most worthy to endure, and made them to the end they should be eternal: how many changes and deaths have they suffered!
Gregory, of Nazianzen, placed the city of Thebes, in Egypt, as the chiefest of those wonders which the old world admired; most of the houses were of alabaster-marble, spotted with drops of gold, which made them appear most splendid and magnificent; upon the walls were many pleasant
• Nazian. in Monod.- Plin. lib. xxxvi. c. 8.
gardens, the gates no fewer than a hundred, out of which the prince could draw forth numerous armies without noise. Pomponius Mela writes, that out of every port there issued ten thousand armed men, which, in the whole, came to be an army of a million; yet all this huge multitude could not secure it from a small army conducted by a youth, who took and destroyed it.
Marcus Polus writes, that he passed by the city of Quinsay, which contained fourscore millions of souls and Nicholas de Conti, passing not many years after by the same way, found the city wholly destroyed, and begun to be newly built after another form. But yet greater than this was the city of Nineveh, which was of three days' journey; and it is now many ages since, that we know not where it stood. No less stately, but perhaps better fortified, was the city of Babylon and that which was the imperial city of the world, became a desert, an habitation of harpies, satyrs, and monsters; and the walls, which were two hundred feet in height, and fifty in breadth, could not defend it from time.
It is not much that cities have suffered so many changes, since monarchies and empires have done the same; and so often hath the world changed her face, as she hath changed her monarch and master. He who had seen the world as it was in the time of the Assyrians, would not have known it as it was in the time of the Persians; and he who knew it in the time of the Persians, would not have judged it for the same when the Greeks were masters; after, in the time of the Romans, it appeared with a face not known before; and he who knew it then, would not know it now; and some years hence it will put on another form, being in nothing. more like itself than in its perpetual changes. Therefore, nothing does more deserve our scorn and contempt, and more now than ever; since it becomes every day worse, and grows old, and decays with age; neither is the world only grown worse in the natural frame of it, but is also much defaced in the moral; the manners of men have altered it, more than the violences and encounters of the elements.
How many kingdoms were overthrown by the covetousness.
Pomp. Me. lib. i. c. 9. Evag. lib. ii. c. 1.
of Cyrus! The ambition of Alexander did not only destroy a great part of the world, but made it put on a clear other face than it had before. That which time spares, is often snatched away by the covetousness of the thief; and how many lives are cut off by revenge, before they arrive unto old age!
There is no stability in any thing, and least in man; who is not only changeable in himself, but changes all things besides.
One day often makes an end of great riches. Many personages of great honour and esteem, changing their fortune, become infamous. Dionysius was thrust from his throne, from a king of Sicily, to be schoolmaster in Corinth, and taught boys; who could think, that, from a king, he should be necessitated to become a schoolmaster! Who would not wonder at the cozenage of the world, that should see him in his royal palace with a sceptre in his hand, compassed about with his servants, and the great ones of his kingdom; and should after behold him in his school, managing a rod, in the midst of a number of boys! Croesus, the most rich king of Lydia, who, being in hope to overthrow the Persians, not only lost his own kingdom, but fell into the power of his enemies, and failed a little of being burnt alive. Particular persons are not only witnesses that all human things are dreams: but cities, nations, and kingdoms; nothing remains like itself; all things present are more frail and weak than the webs of spiders, and more deceitful than dreams. From this inconstancy of human things, we may extract a constancy for ourselves; first, by despising things so transitory; secondly, by a resolute hope of an end or change in our adversity and afflictions; since nothing here below is constant, but all mutable; and as things sometimes change from good to evil, so they may also from evil unto good.
There is no confidence to be placed in human prosperity; for neither kingdom, empire, nor any greatness whatsoever, can secure their owners from ruin and misfortunes. Behold Andronicus clothed in purple, adored by nations, commanding the east, his temples enriched with a royal diadem, the imperial sceptre in his hands, and his very shoes studded with oriental gems; presently after, he is insulted over by the basest of his people, buffeted by women, and pelted with