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scrape and scramble for useless pelf; to hunt after empty shows and shadows of honour, or the vain fancies and dreams of men ? what but to wallow or bask in sordid pleasures, the which soon degenerate into remorse and bitterness? to which sort of employments were a man confined, what a pitiful thing would he be, and how inconsiderable were his life? were a man designed only, like a fly, to buzz about here for a time, sucking in the air and licking the dew, then soon to vanish back into nothing, or to be transformed into worms; how sorry and despicable a thing were he? and such without religion we should be. But it supplieth us with business of a most worthy nature, and lofty importance ; it setteth us upon doing things great and noble as can be ; it engageth us to free our minds from all fond conceits, and cleanse our hearts from all corrupt affections; to curb our brutish appetites, to tame our wild passions, to correct our perverse inclinations, to conform the dispositions of our soul, and the actions of our life to the eternal laws of righteousness and goodness; it putteth us upon the imitation of God, and aiming at the resemblance of his perfections; upon obtaining a friendship, and maintaining a correspondence with the High and Holy One; upon fitting our minds for conversation and society with the wisest and purest spirits above; upon providing for an immortal state; upon the acquist of joy and glory everlasting. It employeth us in the divinest actions of promoting virtue, of performing beneficence, of serving the public, and doing good to all; the being
exercised in which things doth indeed render a man highly considerable, and his life excellently valuable.*
DUTY OF THANKSGIVING.†
WHEREVER we direct our eyes, whether we reflect them inward upon ourselves, we behold his goodness to occupy and penetrate the very root and centre of our beings; or extend them abroad toward the things about us, we may perceive ourselves enclosed wholly, and surrounded with his benefits. At home we find a comely body framed by his curious artifice, various organs fitly proportioned, situated and tempered for strength, ornament, and motion, actuated by a gentle heat, and invigorated with lively spirits, disposed to health, and qualified for a long endurance; subservient to a soul endued with divers senses, faculties, and powers, apt to enquire after, pursue and perceive various delights and contents. Or when we contemplate the wonderful works of nature, and, walking about at our leisure, gaze upon this ample theatre of the world, considering the stately beauty, constant order, and sumptuous furniture thereof; the glorious splendour and uniform motion of the heavens; the pleasant fertility of the earth; the curious figure and fragrant sweetness of plants; the exquisite frame of animals, and all other ama
Serm. iii. p. 25, + Vol. 1, Serm. viii. p. 71, 79.
les zing miracles of nature, wherein the glorious at
tributes of God (especially his transcendent goodness) are most conspicuously displayed ; (so that by them not only large acknowledgments, but even congratulatory hymns, as it were, of praise, have been extorted from the mouths of Aristotle, Pliny, Galen, and such like men, never suspected guilty of an excessive devotion;) then should our hearts be affected with thankful sense, and our lips break forth into his praise.
To the question what the thing we speak of is, or what this facetiousness doth import? I might reply as Democritus did to him that asked the definition of a Man, 'Tis that which we all see and know: any one better apprehends what it is by acquaintance, than I can inform him by description. It is indeed a thing so versatile and multiform, appearing in so many shapes, so many postures, so many garbs, so variously apprehended by several eyes and judgments, that it seemeth no less hard to settle a clear and certain notion thereof, than to make a portrait of Proteus, or to define the figure of a fleeting air. Sometimes it lieth in pat allusion to a known story, or in seasonable application of a trivial saying, or in forging an apposite tale; sometimes it playeth in words and phrases, taking advantage from the ambiguity of their sense, or the affinity of their sound : sometimes it is wrapped
in a dress of humorous expression; sometimes it lurketh under an odd similitude; sometimes it is lodged in a sly question, in a smart answer, in a quirkish reason, in a shrewd intimation, in cunningly diverting, or cleverly retorting an objection: sometimes it is couched in a bold scheme of speech, in a tart irony, in a lusty hyperbole, in a startling metaphor, in a plausible reconciling of contradictions, or in acute nonsense: sometimes a scenical representation of persons or things, a counterfeit speech, a mimical look or gesture passeth for it: sometimes an affected simplicity, sometimes a presumptuous bluntness, giveth it being sometimes it riseth from a lucky hitting upon what is strange, sometimes from a crafty wresting obvious matter to the purpose: often it consisteth in one knows not what, and springeth up one can hardly tell how. Its ways are unaccountable and inexplicable, being answerable to the numberless rovings of fancy and windings of language. It is, in short, a manner of speaking out of the simple and plain way (such as reason teacheth and proveth things by), which by a pretty surprising uncouthness in conceit or expression doth affect and amuse the fancy, stirring in it some wonder, and breeding some delight thereto.*
*Serm. xiv. Against Foolish Talking and Jesting.
Is not all laughter the sign of a sudden agreeable sensation, subject, therefore, to an infinite variety, according as our sources of pleasure vary ?
An honest and charitable mind disposes us, when we see any man endued with good qualities and pursuing a tenour of good practice, to esteem such a person, to commend him, to interpret what he doeth to the best, not to suspect any ill of him, or to seek any exception against him; it inclineth us, when we see any action materially good, to yield it with simple due approbation and praise, without searching for, or surmising any defect in the cause or principle, whence it cometh, in the design or end to which it tendeth, in the way or manner of performing it. A good man would be sorry to have any good thing spoiled : as to find a crack in a fair building, a flaw in a fine jewel, a canker in a goodly flower, is grievous to any indifferent man; so would it be displeasing to him to observe defects in a worthy person, or commendable action ; he therefore will not easily entertain a suspicion of any such, he never will hunt for any. But on the contrary, 'tis the property of a detractor, when he seeth a worthy person, whom he doth not affect, or whom he is concerned to wrong, to survey him thoroughly, and to sift all his actions, with intent to descry some failing, or any semblance of a fault, by which he may disparage him; when he vieweth any good action, he peereth into
* Serm. xix. Against Detraction, p. 191.