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dirt and stones in his imperial city; and lastly, they hung him up by the heels betwixt two pillars, and there left him to die. This is enough to make us contemn all temporal goods and human felicity, which not only passes away with time, but often changes into greater misfortunes. What esteem can that merit, which stands exposed to so much misery, which is by so much the more sensible to the sufferer, by how much it was less expected.
The emperor Vitellius, whom the east and west acknowledged to be the great monarch of the world, in Rome saluted with so glorious titles, that he seemed to be all he could desire less than a god; but wherein ended all his majesty, but in the greatest infelicity and misery that can be imagined? The people having violently seized upon him, tied a rope about his neck, and his hands behind him, tore his garments from his back, and struck a dagger under his chin; they haled him ignominiously up and down the streets of Rome, cast filth in his face, and reviled him with a thousand injurious speeches, and at last killed him in the marketplace; and threw him down the Gemonies, where they used to fling the corpses of malefactors. Folly is all human greatness, since at last it must end, and perhaps in a disastrous and unhappy conclusion.
Who would have imagined that Valerianus the emperor, who was mounted upon his brave courser, trapped with gold, clad in purple, crowned with the imperial diadem, adored by nations, and commanding over kingdoms, should be taken prisoner by the king of Persia, be kept inclosed in a cage like some wild beast, used as a footstool for the king to get on horseback! But such contrary fortunes happen in human life, let us not therefore trust in it; crowns nor sceptres do not secure us from the inconstancy of changes; and we may better trust unto the wind, or to letters written upon water, than unto human felicity.
The changes of fortune are but exchanges of one condition for another; no man can fall when he is at lowest; and the lowest and basest of all things is human felicity, which when it quits us, we fall not, but change it, and perhaps for the better: the life of man is a lamentable tragedy, wherein we observe such contrary extremes. I know all human greatness is vanity; therefore I will never
grieve for the loss of that which was nothing, that is not worthy of grief; which deserves not love: things below, as they merit not my affections when I enjoy them, so they ought not to vex and afflict me when I lose them.
What are imperial diadems? what are thrones, and majesty? what are ornaments of gold and silver? All are vanity, and vanity of vanities. What were, then, the spectacles of the amphitheatre, the games of the circus, and the seignory of the world, but vanity of vanities, universal vanity? The same would Croesus have preached from the flames; Bajazet from his cage; and Dionysius from his school. If we had the opinion of those persons which are now damned,what would they think of majesty which they enjoyed in this life? Vanity! they will say it is a smoke, a dream, a shadow. Where is now the splendour of the consulate? where the lictors and their fasces? where the crowns and tapestry? where the banquets and revels? All those things are perished ; a boisterous wind hath blown away the leaves, and left the naked trees tottering, and almost plucked up by the roots. Where are the seven wonders of the world? where is Nero's golden palace? where are Diocletian's hot baths? where is Julius's colossus; or Pompey's amphitheatre? They are all gone, there is no print of them remaining. And if we consider the greatness of this world, we shall perceive, that by how much it is more glorious, by so much it is more vain. What greater majesty, than that of the Roman empire? yet scarce was the election of a Roman emperor known, before he was murdered amongst nineteen or twenty emperors which passed betwixt Antoninus the philosopher and Claudius the Second, not one escaped a violent death; so as the greatest felicity of the world was tied to the greatest mishap: therefore Dionysius, to express the miseries and infelicities of the lives of kings, said, "It was like that of condemned persons, which every hour expect death." "O crown!" said king Antigonus, more noble than happy, " if men knew how full thou art of cares and dangers, no man would take thee up, though he should find thee in the streets." And Constantine the Great, who was arrived at the height of human felicity, said, "His life was something more honourable than that of shepherds, but much more troublesome." There is no felicity upon earth, which carries not its counterpoise of
misfortunes; no happiness which mounts so high, which is not depressed by some calamity.
The felicity of this life is but a shadow of true happiness; for the shadow is not a body, but a resemblance of a body: and seeming to be something, is nothing; the inconstancy and speedy change of human things deserves this name, because the shadow is always altering, and ends on a sudden : and as the shadow, when it is at length, and can increase no farther, is nearest to the end; so temporal goods, and human fortunes, when they are mounted up as high as the stars, are then nearest to vanish, and disappear suddenly. Those who work in perspective, will so paint a room, that the light entering only through some little hole, you shall perceive beautiful and perfect figures and shapes; but if you open the windows, and let in a full light, at most you shall see but some imperfect lines and shadows; so things of this world seem great and beautiful unto those who are in darkness, and have but little light in heaven; but those who enjoy the perfect light of truth and faith, find nothing in them of substance.
The things of this world are not only a shadow, but are very deceitful; they promise us goods, and give us evils; promise us ease, and give us cares; promise security, and give us danger; promise us great contents, and give us great vexations; there is no felicity upon earth, no happiness which mounts so high, which is not depressed by some low calamity it is not needful to attend the end of life to see the imposture of it, it is enough to see the alterations whilst it lasts; be assured, that vain is all the greatness of the earth, if that of heaven be not gained by it. Since, then, all kingdoms, empires, honours, and greatness whatsoever, are but a shadow, and will presently vanish, and we are here in this world but as in an inn, from whence we are suddenly to depart; let us take care for our journey, and furnish ourselves with provision and a viaticum for eternity; let us clothe ourselves with such garments as we may carry along with us; us; this may be our comfort, that our wealth, whether we will or no, may be taken from us; but eternal happiness, unless by our fault, cannot; we may be deprived of honours against our wills, but not of our virtues except we consent; temporal goods may perish, be stolen, and lost many ways;
but spiritual goods can only be forsaken; and are then only lost, when we leave them by our sins; the roses of glory in heaven do never fade, nor doth custom dull the lively taste of those celestial delights; let us therefore convey our riches here through the hands of the poor in bills of exchange, into the eternity of glory, where such money is current, for our good works will follow us. I will therefore preserve myself in humility, I will not confide in prosperity, nor presume upon my virtues, though never so great, since every man is subject to fall into those misfortunes he little thinks of: I will not trust in life, because it may fail, whilst the goods of it remain; and will as little trust in them, because they may likewise fail, whilst it continues.
Blessed Lord! thou art my salvation, thou art my glory, my aid, and all my hope is in thee: at thy right hand there are riches, greatness, and powers, for ever, without end.
All Sublunary Things are contemptible, and of no Value.
THE things of this world, though their vanity, which swells and blows them up, seems to extend and engreaten them; yet they are in themselves contemptible and little; those things which seem to make the greatest noise, are honour, fame, and renown; we shall see how narrow they are; and hear one who was placed in the highest degree of glory and dignity in the whole world, since he was lord of it, the emperor Marcus Antoninus, who speaks in this manner: Perhaps thou art solicitous of honour; behold how quickly oblivion blots out all things; behold a chaos of eternity both before and after!
How vain is the noise of fame! how great the inconstancy and uncertainty of human judgments and opinions! in how narrow a compass are all things enclosed! The world is but a point; and of it, how small a corner of it is inhabited! and who, and how many, are those in it, who are to praise thee! He who desires fame and honour after death,
thinks not that he who is to remember him, shall shortly die also; and in the same manner he who is to succeed after him, until that all memory, which is to be propagated by mortal men, be blotted out. But suppose that those who are to remember thee, were immortal; what could it import thee being dead? nay, being alive, what could it profit thee to be praised? All that is fair, is fair of itself, and is perfected with itself; and to be praised, is no part of the beauty.
Consider the vanity of those titles, which many have assumed only to make themselves known in the world: let us judge how it will fare with us of Europe, by those who have taken titles upon them in Asia; for if the fame of those in Asia arrive not to the knowledge of us in Europe, no more shall ours in Europe to theirs in Asia.
The name of Echebar was thought by his subjects to be eternal, and that all the world did not only know, but fear him; but ask here in Europe who he was, and no man hath heard of him; demand of the most learned, and few shall resolve you that he reigned in Mogor.
How few have heard of the name of Veneatapadino Ragium! He imagined that there was no man in the world who knew him not; how many can tell me, that he was the king of Narsinga? If, then, these warlike and potent princes are not known in Europe, no more shall Charles the Fifth, and many other excellent men in arms and literature, which have flourished in these parts, be known in Asia and Africa..
If we reflect upon the truth of those titles, which many arrogate unto themselves, we shall perceive them all to be vain. How many are called Highness, and Excellence, who are of base and abject spirit, and continue in mortal sin, which is the meanest and lowest thing in the world! how many are called Serenissimi, who have their understanding darkened, and their will perverted! Others call themselves Most Magnificent, with as much reason as Nero might be called Most Clement. The things wherein we have placed honour, make it most ridiculous; some think they should be valued and esteemed, because they are strong; not remembering, that a bear, a bull, or a sumpter-mule, is stronger than they some, because they are richly clad, become
a Jarric. in Thesau. Indic.