Obrázky na stránke

therefore failed of his desires; we are happier with death, than we should have been without it. There is no misery but in himself, where there is no end of misery; and so indeed in his own sense, the stoic is in the right. He forgets that he can die who complains of misery; we are in the power of no calamity while death is in our own.

Now, besides the literal and positive kind of death, there are others whereof divines make mention, and those I think, not merely metaphorical, as mortification, dying unto sin and the world; therefore, I say, every man hath a double horoscope, one of his humanity, his birth; another of his Christianity, his baptism, and from this do I compute or calculate my nativity ; not reckoning those horæ combuste and odd days, or esteeming myself anything, before I was my Saviour's, and enrolled in the register of Christ : whosoever enjoys not this life, I count him but an apparition, though he wear about him the sensible affections of flesh. In these moral acceptions, the way to be immortal is to die daily; nor can I think I have the true theory of death, when I contemplate a skull, or behold a skeleton with those vulgar imaginations it casts upon us; I have therefore enlarged that common memento mori, into a more Christian memorandum, memento quatuor novissima, those four inevitable points of us all, death, judgment, heaven, and hell. Neither did the contemplations of the heathens rest in their graves, without further thought of Rhadamanthos, or some judicial proceeding after death, though in another way, and upon suggestion of their natural reasons. I cannot but marvel from what sibyl or oracle they stole the prophesy of the world's destruction by fire, () or whence Lucan learned to say,

Communis mundo superest rogus, ossibus astra

There yet remains to th' world one common fire,
Wherein our bones with stars shall make one pyre.

I believe the world grows near its end, yet is neither old nor decayed, nor shall ever perish upon

the ruins of its own principles. As the work of creation was above nature, so its adversary annihilation; without which the world hath not its end, but its mutation. Now what force should be able to consume it thus far, without the breath of God, which is the truest consuming flame, my philosophy cannot inform me. Some believe there went not a minute to the world's creation, nor shall there go

to its destruction : those six days so punctually de

(10) In what way soever they obtained the idea, the doctrine of the intúpwors, or final conflagration of the universe, was extensively spread over the ancient world. It formed, indeed, part of a system, not unlike that of the Buddhists, which teaches that at certain periods of time, everything is reduced to its elements, and a new creation again effected. Now it is water, now fire, and now vast and mighty winds,

Which sweep the world before them in their way! Of the great deluge, the remembrance never wholly faded from the memory of men: and they believed that the next disorganization would be effected by the agency of fire. (Conf. Numen. ap. Euseb. et Lips. Physiol. Stoic. II. 22. 255.)

scribed, make not to them one moment, but rather seem to manifest the method and idea of the great work of the intellect of God, than the manner how he proceeded in its operation. I cannot dream that there should be at the last day any such judicial proceeding, or calling to the bar, as indeed the Scripture seems to imply, and the literal commentators do conceive. For unspeakable mysteries in the Scriptures are often delivered in a vulgar and illustrative way; and being written unto man, are delivered, not as they truly are, but as they may be understood; wherein, notwithstanding the different interpretations, according to different capacities, may stand firm with our devotion, nor be any way prejudicial to each single edification.

Now, to determine the day and the year of this inevitable time, is not only convincible and statute madness, but also manifest impiety. How shall we interpret Elias's six thousand years, or imagine the secret communicated to a rabbi, which God hath denied unto his angels ? It had been an excellent query to have posed the devil of Delphi, and must needs have forced him to some strange amphibology; it hath not only mocked the predictions of sundry astrologers in ages past, but the prophecies of many melancholy heads in these present, who neither understanding reasonably things past or present, pretend a knowledge of things to come; heads ordained only to manifest the incredible effects of melancholy, and to fulfil old prophecies, rather than

be the authors of new. “In those days there shall come wars, and rumours of wars,” (102) to me seems no prophecy, but a constant truth, in all times verified since it was pronounced. “There shall be signs in the moon and stars ;” how comes he then like a thief in the night, when he gives an item of his coming ? That common sign drawn from the revelation of Antichrist, is as obscure as any; in our common compute he hath been come these many years; but for my own part, to speak freely, I am half of opinion that Antichrist is the philosopher's stone in divinity; for the discovery and invention thereof, though there be prescribed rules, and probable inductions, yet hath hardly any man attained the perfect discovery thereof. That general opinion that the world grows near its end, hath possessed all ages past as nearly as ours; I am afraid that the souls that now depart, cannot escape that lingering expostulation of the saints under the altar, Quousque Domine : How long, O Lord ?" and groan in the expectation of that great jubilee.

This is the day that must make good that great attribute of God, his justice; that must reconcile those unanswerable doubts that torment the wisest understandings, and reduce those seeming inequalities, and respective distributions in this world, to an equality and recompensive justice in the next. This is that one day that shall include and comprehend all that went before it; wherein, as in the last scene, all the actors must enter, to complete and

(102) “In those days there shall come liars and false prophets.” make up the catastrophe of this great piece. This is the day whose memory hath only power to make us honest in the dark, and to be virtuous without a witness. Ipsa sui pretium virtus sibi, that virtue is her own reward, is but a cold principle, and not able to maintain our variable resolutions, in a constant and settled way of goodness. I have practised that honest artifice of Seneca, and in my retired and solitary imaginations, to detain me from the foulness of vice, have fancied to myself the presence of my dear and worthiest friends, before whom I whould lose my head, rather than be vicious; yet herein I found that there was nought but moral honesty, and this was not to be virtuous for His sake, who must reward us at the last. I have tried if I could reach that great resolution of his, to be honest without a thought of heaven or hell; and indeed I found, upon a natural inclination, and inbred loyalty unto virtue, that I could serve her without a livery; yet not in that resolved and venerable way, but that the frailty of my nature, upon easy temptation, might be induced to forget her. The life, therefore, and spirit of all our actions, is the resurrection, and a stable apprehension that our ashes shall enjoy the fruit of our pioùs endeavours; without this, all religion is a fallacy, and those impieties of Lucian, Euripides, and Julian, are no blasphemies, but subtle verities, and atheists have been the only philosophers.

How shall the dead arise is no question of my faith; to believe only possibilities is not faith, but mere philosophy. Many things are true in divi

« PredošláPokračovať »