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self? In other matches, thou trustest the choice of a skilfuller chapman: when thou seest a goodly horse in the fair, though his shape please thine eye well, yet thou darest not buy him, if a cunning horse-master shall tell thee he is faulty ; and art willing to take a plainer and sounder, on his commendation, against thy fancy. How much more should we, in this case, allow his choice, that cannot deceive us; that cannot be deceived!
But, thou knowest that other thou desirest, to be better than what thou hast : better, perhaps, for him that hath it; not better for thee. Liberty is sweet and profitable, to those, that can use it; but fetters are better for the frantic man. Wine is good nourishment for the healthful, poison to the aguish. It is good for a sound body, to sleep in a whole skin; but he, that complains of swelling sores, cannot sleep till it be broken. Hemlock to the goat, and spiders to the monkey, turn to good sustenance; which, to other creatures, are accounted deadly. As in diets, so in estimation of good and evil, of greater and lesser good, there is much variety. Al! palates commend not one dish; and what one commends for most delicate, another rejects for unsavory. And, if thou know what dish is most pleasant to thee, thy physician knows best which is wholesome. Thou wouldst follow thine appetite too much; and, as the French have in their proverb, wouldst dig thy own grave with thy teeth : thy wise physician oversees and overrules thee. He sees, if thou wert more esteemed, thou wouldst be proud; if more strong, licentious; if richer, covetous; if health, fuller, more secure: but thou thinkest not thus hardly of thyself.
Fond man! what knowest thou future things ? believe thou him, that only knows what would be, what will be. Thou wouidst willingly go to heaven ; what better guide canst thou have, than him that dwells there? If he lead thee through deep sloughs, and braky thickets; know, that he knows this the nearer way, though more cumbersome. Can there be in him any want of wisdom, not to foresee the best? Can there be any want of power, not to effect the best ? any want of love, not to give thee what he knows is best? How canst thou then fail of the best; since, what his power can do, and what his wisdom sees should be done, his love hath done, because all are infinite? He willeth not things, because they are good; but they are good, because he wills them, Yea, if ought had been better, this had not been. God willeth what he doth : and, if thy will accord not with his, whether wilt thou condemn of imperfection?
The Conclusion of the whole, I HAVE chalked out the way of Peace: what remaineth, but that we walk along, in it? I have conducted my reader to the mine, yea, to the mint of happiness; and shewed him those glorious heaps, which may eternally enrich him. If, now, he shall go away with his hands and skirt empty; how is he but worthy of a miserable want? Who shall pity us, while we have no mercy on ourselves? Wilful distress hath neither remedy, nor compassion.
And, to speak freely, I have oft wondered at this painful folly of us men, who, in the open view of our peace, as if we were condemned to a necessary and fatal unquietness, live upon our own rack; finding no more joy, than if we were under no other hands, but our executioners. One droopeth, under a feigned evil; another augments a small sorrow, through impatience; another draws upon himself an uncertain evil, through fear: one seeks true contentment, but not enough; another hath just cause of joy, and perceives it not: one is vexed, for that his grounds of joy are matched with equal grievances; another cannot complain of any present occasion of sorrow, yet lives sullenly, because he finds not any present cause of comfort: one is haunted with his sin; ano, ther distracted with his passion : amongst all which, he is a miracle of all men, that lives not some way discontented. So we live not, while we do live; only for that we want, either wisdom or will, tơ husband our lives to our own best advantage.
Oh, the inequality of our cares! Let riches or honour be in question, we sue to them; we seek for them with importunity, with servile ambition: our pains need no solicitor; yea, there is no way wrong that leads to this end: we abhor the patience to stay till they enquire for us. And, if ever, as it rarely happens, our desert, and worthiness, wins us the favour of this proffer, we meet it with both hands; not daring, with our modest denials, to whet the instance and double the intreaties of so welcome suitors. Yet, lo, here the only true and precious riches, the highest advancement of the soul, peace and happiness, seeks for us, sues to us for acceptation : our answers are coy and overly ; such as we give to those clients, that look to gain by our favours. If our want were through the scarcity of good, we might yet hope for pity to ease us: but, now that it is through negligence, and that we perish with our hands in our bosom, we are rather worthy of stripes for the wrong we do ourselves, than of pity for what we suffer. That we may and will not, in opportunity of hurting others, is noble and Christian; but, in our own benefit sluggish, and savouring of the worst kind of unthriftiness.
Sayest thou then, this peace is good to have, but hard to get? It were a shameful neglect, that hath no pretence. Is difficulty sufficient excuse to hinder thee from the pursuit of riches, of preferment, of learning, of bodily pleasures ? Art thou content to sit shrugging in a base cottage, ragged, famished, because house, clothes, and food will neither be had without money, nor money without labour, nor labour without trouble and painfulness? Who is so merciful, as not to say that a whip is the best alms for so lazy and wilful need? Peace should not be good, if it were not hard. Go, and, by this excuse, shut thyself out of heaven at thy death, and live miserably till thy death; because the good of both worlds is hard to compass. There is nothing, but misery, on earth and in hell below, that thou canst come to without labour: and, if we can be content to cast away such immoderate and upseasonable pains upon these earthly trifles, as to wear our bodies with violence, and to encroach upon the night for time to get them; what madness shall it seem in us, not to afford a less Jabour to that, which is infinitely better, and which only gives worth and goodness to the other?
Wherefore, if we have not vowed enmity with ourselves, if we be not in love with misery and vexation, if we be not obstinately careless of our own good; let us shake off this unthrifty, dangerous, and desperate negligence; and quicken these dull hearts, to a lively and effectual search of what only cau yield them sweet and abiding contentment: which once attained, how shall we insult over evils, and bid them do their worst ! how shall we, under this calm and quiet day, laugh at the rough weather and unsteady motions of the world! how shall heaven and earth smile upon us, and we on them ; commanding the one, aspiring to the other! how pleasant shall our life be, while neither joys nor sorrows can distemper it with excess ! yea, while the matter of joy, that is within us, turns all the most sad occurrences into pleasure, how dear and welcome shall our death be, that shall but lead us from one heaven to another, from peace to glory!
Go now, ye vain and idle Worldlings, and please yourselves in the large extent of your rich manors, or in the homage of those whom baseness of mind hath made slaves to your greatness, or in the price and fashions of your full wardrobe, or in the wanton varieties of your delicate gardens, or in your coffers full of red and white earth; or, if there be any other earthly thing, more al luring, more precious, enjoy it, possess it, and let it possess you : let me have only my Peace; and let me never want it, till I envy you.