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enemy, in the world, is the world * itself, which he must therefore overcome. But, beside the world, he has a thousand treacherous enemies within him, among whom his passion is none of the least; which waits for an occasion to surprise him, and betray him to his lusts. It is God only that can make him choose the path of virtue, and it is God only that can keep him in it to the end, and make him victorious in all his combates. But, alas, how few they are that enter into it! And, of those few, how many that retire again! So that, let a man follow the one way or the other, he must either subject himself to a tyrannical passion, or undertake a weary and continual combate; wilfully throw himself into the arms of destruction, or fetter himself, as it were, in the stocks ; easily carried away with the current of the water, or painfully stemming the impetuous tide.
See here the happiness of the young man !: Who, in his youth, having drunk his full draught of the world's vain and deceivable pleasures, is overtaken by them with such a dull heaviness and astonishment, as drunkards the morrow after a debauch, or gluttons after a plentiful feast; who are so over-pressed with the excesses of the former day, that the very remembrance of it creates their loathing. And even he, that bas made the stoutest resistance, feels himself so weary, and with this continual conflict so bruised and broken, that he is either upon the point to yield, or die. And this is all the good, all the contentment, of this flourishing age, by children so earnestly desired, and, by those who have experienced it, so heartily lamented.
Next cometh that which is called ' perfect age,' in which men have no other thoughts, but to purchase themselves wisdom and rest. It is called perfect, indeed, but is herein only perfect, that all' imperfections of human nature, hidden before under the simplicity of childhood, or the lightness of youth, appear at this age in their perfection. I speak of none in this place, but those that are esteemed the wisest and most happy, in the opinion of the world.
I have already shewed that we played in fear; and that our short pleasures were attended on with long repentance: But now Avarice and Ambition present themselves to us, promising, if we will adore them, to give us a perfect contentment with the goods and honours of this world. And surely none but those, who are restrained by a divine hand, can escape the illusions of the one, or the other, and not cast themselves headlong from the top of the pinacle.
But let us see what this contentment is. The covetous man makes a thousand voyages by sea, and journies by land; runs a thousand hazards, escapes a thousand shipwrecks, and is in perpetual fear and travel; and yet oftentimes either loseth his time, or gains nothing but sickness, gouts, and oppilations. In the purchase of this goodly repose, he bestoweth his true rest; and, to gain wealth, loseth his life. But suppose he hath gained much, and that he hath spoiled the whole East of its pearls, and drawn dry all the mines of the West: Will he then be at quiet, and say, he is content? Nothing less : For, by all his acquisitions, he gains but more disquiet, both of mind and body; from one travel falling into another, never ending, but only changing his miseries. He desired to have them, and now fears to lose them; he got them with burning ardour, and possesses them in trembling cold; he adventured among thieves. to get them, and now fears by thieves and robbers to be deprived of them again; he laboured to dig them out of the earth, and now, to secure them, he hides them therein. In short, coming frona all his voyages, he comes into a prison: and the end of his bodily travels is but the beginning of the endless labour of bis mind. Judge now what this man has gained, after so many miseries! This devil of covetousness persuades him he has some rare and excellent thing; and so it fares with him, as with those poor creatures whom the devil seduceth, under colour of relieving their poverty; who find their hands full of leaves, when they thought to find them full of crowns : he possesseth, or rather is possessed by, a thing wherein is neither power nor vertue, more base and unprofitable, than the least herb of the earth. Yet hath he heaped together this vile excrement, and so brutish is grown, as therewith to crown his head, when be ought to tread it under his feet.
* The corruptions of nature in those that be converseth with, &c.
But, however it be, is he therewith satisfied and contented ? So far from that, that he is now more dissatisfied than ever. We commend most those drinks that breed an alteration, and soonest extinguish thirst; and those meats that in least quantity do longest resist hunger : but now, of this, the more a man drinks, the more he is a-thirst; the more be eats, the more he is an hungry: it is a dropsy, that swells him till he bursts before he can be satisfied. And, which is worse, in some so extravagant is this thirst, that it makes them dig the pits, and carefully draw the water, and, after all, won't suffer them to drink. In the midst of a river, they are dry with thirst; and, on a heap of corn, cry out of famine. They have goods, and dare not use them ; garments, but dare not put them on: and, though they are possessed of that in which they joy, they don't enjoy it. The sum of all which is, that, of all which they have, they have nothing.'
Let us then return unto that, that the attaining of all these deceivable goods is nothing else but weariness of body, and the possession, for the most part, weariness of mind; which certainly is so much the greater evil, as the mind is more sensible than the body.
But the complement of all their misery is, when they come to lose them, either by shipwreck, fire, or any other accident, then they cry, weep, and torment themselves; like little children, that have lost their play-game, which yet is nothing worth. One cannot persuade them that mortal men have any other good in this world, but that which is mortal. They are, in their own conceits, not only spoiled, but utterly undone: and forasmuch as in these vain things they have fixed all their hope, having lost them, they fall into despair, out of which they are seldom recovered, many times laying violent hands upon themselves, and bringing their own lives to an unhappy period.
In short, the recompence, that covetousness yields those that have served it all their life, is like that of the devil, who, after a small time, having gratified his votaries, either leaves them to the hangman, or himself breaks their necks.
I will not here discourse of the wickedness to which covetous men subject themselves to attain to these goods, whereby their conscience is filled with a perpetual remorse, which never leaves them in quiet. It is enough that in this immoderate pursuit of riches, wbich busieth and abuseth the greatest part of the world, the body is macerated, the mind debilitated, and the soul is lost, without any pleasure or contentment,
Let us then come to ambition, which, by an over-eager aspiring to honour, takes up the time and thoughts of the greatest persons: and, what! Do we there think to find more content? Alas! 'tis rather less; and this, I am sure, I can witness to my cost: for as the one deceives us, by giving us, for all our travel, but a vile excrement of the earth; so the other repays us but with smoke and wind: the rewards of this being as vain, as those of that were gross. In both we fall into a bottomless pit; but, into this, the fall is by so much the more dangerous, as at the first shew the water is more clear and pleasant.
Of those men that make their court to ambition, some are great about princes, others commanders of armies; both sorts, according to their degree, you see saluted, reverenced, and adored of those that are under them: you see them apparelled in purple, in scarlet, and in cloth of gold; that, at the first sight, one would think there is no content to be found, but amongst them. But, alas ! men know not how heavy an ounce of that vain honour weighs; they know not what those reverences cost them, nor how dearly they pay for an ell of those rich stuffs: they are so over-rated, that he, who knew them well, would never buy them at the price. The one hath attained to this degree, after a long and painful service, hazarding his life, upon every occasion, with loss, oftentimes of a leg or an arm; and that at the pleasure of a prince, that more regards a hundred perches of ground on his neighbour's frontiers, than the lives of a hundred thousand such as he; unfortunate to serve one who loves him not, and foolish to think himself in honour with bim, that makes so little reckoning to lose him for a thing of no worth.
Others there are that aspire to greatness by flattering a prince; which is a life so base and servile, that they can never say their very souls are their own, any longer than their prince is pleased to let them ; for they must always have their hands and tongues ready to do, and say, whatever he would have them; and yet they must be content to suffer a thousand injuries, and receive a thousand disgraces : and, as near as they seem about the prince, they are
nevertheless always like the lion's keeper, who, when by long patience, a thousand feedings, and a thousand clawings, he hath made a fierce lion familiar, yet never gives him meat, but with pulling back his hand, always in fear lest he should catch him; and, if once in year he bites him, he sets it so close, that he is paid for it a long time after. Such generally is the end of the favourites of princes.
When a prince, after long service, hath raised a man to the highest pitch of honour, he sometimes makes it his pastime to cast him down in an instant; and when he hath filled him with heaps of wealth and riches, he squeeses him afterwards like a sponge ; loving none but himself, and thinking every one born but to serve and please him.
These blind courtiers make themselves believe that they have friends, and many that honour them; never considering, that, as they, make only a shew to love and honour every body, ‘so others do to them: their superiors disdain them, and never, but with some kind of scorn, so much as salute them. Their inferiors salute them, because they have no need of them, (I mean, of their fortune, their food, their apparel, not their persons.) And for their equals, between whom friendship usually consists, they envy, accuse, and cross each other; being always troubled either at their own harm, or at another's good. Now, what greater torment is there to a man than envy? Which is indeed nothing but a hectick fever of the mind; by which they are utterly deprived of all friendship, which was ever judged, by the wisest, the sovereign good amongst men.
But, to make this more evident, let but fortune turn her back, and every man turns from them; let them but be disrobed of their triumphal garment, and no body will know them any more. And then, suppose the most infamous and vilest miscreant to be cloathed in it, he shall, by vertue of his robe, inherit all the honours of the other, and the same respect shall be paid him; so that it is the fortune which they carry that is honoured, and not themselves.
But you will say, at least so long as that fortune endured, they were at ease, and had content; and he, who has three or four years of happy time, has not been all his life unhappy. True, if it be to be at ease, continually to fear to be cast down from that degree unto which they are raised; and daily covet with great labour to climb higher. But those whom thou lookest upon to be so much at ease, because thou seest them but without, are within far otherwise ; they are fair-built prisons, but full within of deep dungeons, darkness, serpents, and torments. Thou supposest their fortunes very large, but they think them very strait; thou thinkest them very high, but they think themselves very low. Now, he is full as sick, wbo believes himself to be so, as he who indeed is so. Suppose them to be kings, yet, if they think themselves slaves, they are no better; for we are only what opinion makes us. them well followed and attended, and yet even those, whom they have chose for their guard, they distrust. Alone, or in company,
they are ever in fear: alone, they look behind them; in company, they have an eye on every side. They drink in gold and silver; but it is in those, and not in earth or glass, that poison is prepared : they have beds, soft, and well made; yet, when they lie down to sleep, their fears and cares do often keep them waking, and turning from side to side, so that their very rest is restless. And there's no other difference between them and a poor fettered prisoner, but only that the prisoner's fetters are of iron, and the other's are of gold; the one is fettered by the body, the other by the mind; the prisoner draws his fetters after him, the courtier weareth his upon him. The prisoner's mind sometimes comforts the pain of his body, and he sings in the midst of his miseries; the courtier is always troubled in mind, wearying his body, and can never give it rest. And as for the contentment you imagine they have, you are therein more deceived : you esteem them great, because they are raised high; but are therein as much mistaken, as they who should judge a dwarf to be tall, for being set on a tower, or standing on the top of the Monument. You measure (like one unskilled in geometry) the image with its base, which you should measure by itself, if you would know its true height. You imagine them to be great, but, could you look into their minds, you would see they are neither great (true greatness consisting in the contempt of those vain greatnesses unto which they are slaves), nor seem unto themselves to be so; seeing they daily are aspiring higher, and yet never where they would be.
Some there are, that pretend to set bounds to their ambition ; and to say, if I could attain to such a degree, I should be contented, and sit down satisfied; but, alas ! when he has once attained it, he scarce allows himself a breathing time, before be makes advances towards something higher; and all he has attained he esteems as notbing, and still reputes himself low, because there is some one higher; instead of reputing himself bigh, because there are a million lower : and so high he climbs, at last, that either his breath fails him by the way, or he slides from the top to the bottom.
But if he should get up, by all his toil and labour, unto the utmost height of his desires, he would but find himself as on the top of the Alps, not above the clouds, but more obnoxious to the winds and storms; and so a fairer mark for those lightnings and tempests which commonly take pleasure to thunderbolt, and dash to powder, that proud height of their's.
It may be herein you will agree with me, compelled thereto by those many examples that we find in the histories of former ages, and those more modern ones that are still recent in most men's memories; but my own sad experience is, to me, more convincing than a thousand instances; while, aiming at a higher pitch of honour, by a too forward zeal for my prince, I have only brought myself into a prison ; where the greatest preferment, I an hope for, is to mount a scaffold; and, instead of having my head circled