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before they be quite closed, and Lazarus be no wonder. When many that feared to die shall groan that they can die but once, the dismal state is the second and living death, when life puts despair on the damned; when men shall wish the coverings of mountains, not of monuments, and annihilation shall be courted.
While some have studied monuments, others have studiously declined them; and some have been so vainly boisterous, that they durst not acknowledge their graves; wherein Alaricus seems more subtle, who had a river turned to hide his bones at the bottom. Even Sylla, who thought himself safe in his urn, could not prevent revenging tongues, and stones thrown at his monument. Happy are they whom privacy makes innocent, who deal so with men in this world, that they are not afraid to meet them in the next; who, when they die, make no commotion among the dead, and are not touched with that poetical taunt of Isaiah.
Pyramids, arches, obelisks, were but the irregularities of vain-glory, and wild enormities of ancient magnanimity; but the most magnanimous resolution rests in the Christian religion, which trampleth upon pride, and sits on the neck of ambition, humbly pursuing that infallible perpetuity, unto which all others must diminish their diameters, and be poorly seen in angles of contingency.
To subsist in lasting monuments, to live in their productions, to exist in their names and predicament of chimeras, was large satisfaction unto old expectations, and made one part of their Elysium. But all this is nothing in the metaphysics of true belief. To live, indeed, is to be again ourselves, which being not only a hope but an evidence in noble believers, it is all one to lie in St Innocent's churchyard,* as in the sands of Egypt: ready to be anything, in the ecstacy of being ever, and as content with six feet as the Moles of Adrianus.
* In Paris, where bodies soon consume.
A Letter to a Friend on the Death of his Entimate
[The moral maxims with which this letter concludes were afterwards expanded into "Christian Morals." They are, therefore, omitted in the edition of Browne's works edited by Mr Wilkin in 1835.]
Avarice, which is not only infidelity but idolatry, either from covetous progeny or questuary education, had no root in his breast who made good works the expression of his faith, and was big with desires unto public and lasting charities; and surely, where good wishes and charitable intentions exceed abilities, theoretical beneficiency may be more than a dream. They build not castles in the air who would build churches on earth; and though they leave no such structures here, may lay good foundations in heaven. In brief, his life and death were such, that I could not blame them who wished the like, and almost to have been himself; almost, I say: for though we may wish the prosperous appurtenances of others, or to be another in his happy accidents, yet so intrinsical is every man unto himself, that some doubt may be made, whether any would exchange his being, or substantially become another
He had wisely seen the world at home and abroad, and thereby observed under what variety men are deluded into the pursuit of that which is not here to be found. And although he had no opinion of reputed felicities below, and apprehended men widely out in the estimate of such happiness; yet his sober contempt of the world wrought no Democratism or Cynicism, no laughing or snarling at it, as well understanding there are not felicities in this world to satisfy a serious mind. And, therefore, to soften the stream of our
THE ISTHMUS BETWEEN TWO LIVES.
lives, we are fain to take in the reputed contentations of this world, to unite with the crowd in their beatitudes, and to make ourselves happy by consortion, opinion, or co-existimation; for strictly to separate from received and customary felicities, and to confine unto the rigour of realities, were to contract the consolation of our beings into too uncomfortable circumscriptions.
Not to fear death, nor desire it, was short of his resolution; to be dissolved, and be with Christ, was his dying ditty. He conceived his thread long, in no long course of years, and when he had scarce, outlived the second life of Lazarus,* esteeming it enough to approach the years of his Saviour, who so ordered His own human state, as not to be old upon earth.
But to be content with death may be better than to desire it; a miserable life may make us wish for death, but a virtuous one to rest in it; which is the advantage of those resolved Christians, who, looking on death not only as the sting, but the period and end of sin, the horizon and isthmus between this life and a better, and the death of this world but as the nativity of another, do contentedly submit unto the common necessity, and envy not Enoch nor Elias.
Not to be content with life, is the unsatisfactory state of those which destroy themselves; who, being afraid to live, run blindly upon their own death, which no man fears by experience. And the Stoics had a notable doctrine to take away the fear thereof; that is, in such extremities to desire that which is not to be avoided, and wish what might be feared; and so made evils voluntary, and to suit with their own desires, which took off the terror of them.
But the ancient martyrs were not encouraged by such fallacies; who, though they feared not death, were afraid to be their own executioners; and, therefore, thought it more wisdom * Which, tradition says, was thirty years.
to crucify their lusts than their bodies, to circumcise than stab their hearts, and to mortify than kill themselves.
His willingness to leave this world about that age, when most men think they may best enjoy it, though paradoxical unto worldly ears, was not strange unto mine, who have so often observed, that many, though old, oft stick fast unto the world, and seem to be drawn like Cacus's oxen, backward, with great struggling and reluctance, into the grave. The long habit of living makes mere men more hardly to part with life, and all to be nothing, but what is to come. To live at the rate of the old world, when some could scarce remember themselves young, may afford no better-digested death than a more moderate period. Many would have thought it a happiness to have had their lot of life in some notable conjuncture of ages past; but the uncertainty of future times hath tempted few to make a part in ages to come. And surely, he that hath taken the true altitude of things, and rightly calculated the degenerate state of this age, is not likely to envy those that shall live in the next, much less three or four hundred years hence, when no man can comfortably imagine what face this world will carry. And, therefore, since every age makes a step unto the end of all things, and the Scripture affords so hard a character of the last times, quiet minds will be content with their generations, and rather bless ages past than be ambitious of those
Though age had set no seal upon his face, yet a dim eye might clearly discover fifty in his actions; and, therefore, since wisdom is the gray hair, and an unspotted life old age, although his years came short, he might have been said to have held up with longer livers, and to have been Solomon's * old man. And surely if we deduct all those days of our life which we might wish unlived, and which abate the comfort of those we now live; if we reckon up only those days which * Wisdom, chap. iv.
God hath accepted of our lives, a life of good years will hardly be a span long: the son, in this sense, may outlive the father, and none be climacterically old. He that early arriveth unto the parts and prudence of age, is happily old without the uncomfortable attendants of it; and 'tis superfluous to live unto gray hairs, when in a precocious temper we anticipate the virtues of them. In brief, he cannot be accounted young who outliveth the old man. He that hath early arrived unto the measure of a perfect stature in Christ, hath already fulfilled the prime and longest intention of his being; and one day lived after the perfect rule of piety, is to be preferred before sinning immortality.
Although he attained not unto the years of his predecessors, yet he wanted not those preserving virtues which confirm the thread of weaker constitutions. Cautelous chastity, and crafty sobriety, were far from him; those jewels were paragon, without flaw, hair, ice, or cloud in him; which affords me a hint to proceed in these good wishes, and few mementoes unto
Tread softly and circumspectly in this funambulous track and narrow path of goodness; pursue virtue virtuously; be sober and temperate, not to preserve your body in a sufficiency to wanton ends; not to spare your purse; not to be free from the infamy of common transgressors that way, and thereby to balance or palliate obscurer and closer vices, nor simply to enjoy health, by all which you may leaven good actions, and render virtues disputable; but, in one word, that 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, laid up in healthful days, excuse the defect of sick non-performances, 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 malefactors, who go with clear parts unto the