« ForrigeFortsett »
sows his seed upon the sand: upon the former he makes no impression, and from the latter he finds no production. The only voice of ingratitude is, give, give; but when the gift is once received, then, like the swine at his trough, it is silent and insatiable. In a word, the ungrateful person is a monster, which is all throat and belly; a kind of thoroughfare or common shore, for the good things of the world to pass into; and of whom, in respect of all kindnesses conferred on him, may be verified that observation of the lion's den; before which appeared the footsteps of many that had gone in thither, but no prints of any that ever came out thence.
Of covetousness we may truly say, that it makes both the Alpha and Omega in the devil's alphabet, and that it is the first vice in corrupt nature which moves, and the last which dies. For look upon any infant, and as soon as it can but move a hand, we shall see it reaching out after something or other which it should not have; and he who does not know it to be the proper and peculiar sin of old age, seems himself to have the dotage of that age upon him, whether he has the years or no.
The covetous person lives as if the world were made altogether for him, and not he for the world, to take in every thing, and to part with nothing. Charity is accounted no grace with him, nor gratitude any virtue. The cries of the poor never enter into his ears; or if they do, he has always one ear readier to let them out than the other to take them in. In a word, by his rapines and extortions, he is always for making as many poor as he can, but for relieving none, whom he either finds or makes so. So that it is a question, whether his heart be harder, or his fist closer. In a word, he is a pest and a monster: greedier than the sea, and barrenner than the shore.
From the beginning of the world, to this day, there was never any great villany acted by men, but it
the strength of some great fallacy put upon their minds by a false representation of evil for good, or good for evil. Is a man impoverished and undone by the purchase of an estate ? why; it is, because he bought an imposture; payed down his
money for a lie, and by the help of the best and ablest counsel (forsooth) that could be had, took a bad title for a good. Is a man unfortunate in marriage ? still it is, because he was deceived, and put his neck into the snare,
before he put it into the yoke, and so took that for virtue and affection, which was nothing but vice in a disguise, and a devilish humour under a demure look. Is he again unhappy and calamitous in his friendships? why: in this also, it is because he built upon the air and trod upon a quicksand, and took that for kindness and sincerity which was only malice and design.
KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL.
The natural inability of most men to judge exactly of things, makes it very difficult for them to dis-, cern the real good and evil of what comes before them, to consider and weigh circumstances, to scatter and look through the mists of error, and so separate appearances from reality. For the greater part of mankind is but slow and dull of apprehension; and therefore in many cases under a necessity of seeing with other men's eyes, and judging with other men's understandings. To which their want of judging or discerning abilities, we may add also their want of leisure and opportunity to apply their minds to such a serious and attent consideration, as may let them into a full discovery of the true goodness and evil of things, which are qualities which seldom display themselves to the first view : There must be leisure and retirement, solitude and a sequestration of man's self from the noise and toil of the world ; for truth scorns to be seen by eyes too much fixed upon inferior objects. It lies too deep to be fetched up with the plough, and too close to be beaten out with the hammer. It dwells not in shops or workhouses; nor till the late age was it ever known, that any one served seven years to a smith or à tailor, that he might at the end thereof, proceed master of any other arts, but such as those trades taught him: and much less that he should commence doctor or di
vine from the shopboard, or the anvil; or from whistling to a team, come to preach to a congregation. These were the peculiar, extraordinary privileges of the late blessed times of light and inspiration : otherwise nature will still hold on its old course, never doing anything which is considerable without the assistance of its two great helps -art and industry. But above all, the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, what ought and what ought not to be done in the several offices and relations of life, is a thing too large to be compassed, and too hard to be mastered, without brains and study, parts and contemplation.*
Such were the sentiments of South. Shakespeare, in Troilus and Cressida, says,
Paris, and Troilus, you have both said well ;
Of any true decision. Lord Bacon, in stating the objections made by divines to the advancement of learning, says, “ They urge that knowledge is of the nature and number of those things, which are to be accepted with great limitation and caution ; that the aspiring to overmuch knowledge was the original temptation and sin, whereupon ensued the fall of man.” To which Lord Bacon answers, “ the divines do not observe and consider, that it was not that pure and primitive knowledge of nature, by the light whereof man did give names to other
IGNORANCE IN POWER.
We know how great an absurdity our Saviour accounted it for the blind to lead the blind; and to put him that cannot so much as se to discharge the office of a watch. Nothing more exposes to contempt than ignorance. When Samson's eyes were out, of a public magistrate he was made a public sport. And when Eli was blind, we know how well he governed his sons, and how well they
creatures in paradise, as they were brought before him, according to their proprieties, which gave the occasion to the fall; but it was that proud knowledge of good and evil, with an intent to shake off God and to give law unto himself.”
So too, in his tract on education, he says, " Is it not a wise opinion of Aristotle and worthy to be regarded : That young men are no fit auditors of Moral philosophy, because the boiling heat of their affections is not yet settled, nor attempered with time and experience. And to speak truth, doth it not hereof come that those excellent books and discourses of ancient writers, (whereby they have persuaded unto virtue most effectually; representing as well her stately majesty to the eyes of the world, as exposing to scorn popular opinions in disgrace of virtue, attired as it were, in their parasite coats) are of so little effect towards honesty of life and the reformation of corrupt manners; because they use not to be read and revolved by men mature in years and judgment, but are left and confined only to boys and beginners. But is it not true also that young men are much less fit auditors of policy than morality, till they have been thoroughly seasoned with religion and the knowledge of manners and duties; lest their judgments be corrupted and made apt to think that there are no moral differences true and solid of things; but that all is to be valued according to utility and fortune.”
Vol. i. 258.