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THE English ambassador some years since prevailed so far with the Turkish emperor, as to persuade him to hear some of our English music, from which (as from other liberal sciences) both he and his nation were naturally averse. But it happened that the musicians were so long in tuning their instruments, that the great Turk, distasting their tediousness, went away in discontent before their music began. I am afraid that the differences and dissensions betwixt Christian churches (being so long in reconciling their discords) will breed in pagans such a disrelish of our religion, as they will not be invited to attend thereunto.43
A SIBYL came to Tarquinius Superbus, king of Rome, and offered to sell unto him three tomes of her Oracles:11M. Varro, Solinus, Plinius, Halicar, &c. but he, counting the price too high, refused to buy them. Away she went and burnt one tome of them. Returning, she asketh him, whether he would buy the two remaining at the same rate: he refused again, counting her little better than frantic. Thereupon she burns the second tome; and peremptorily asked him, whether he would give the sum demanded for all the three for the one tome remaining;; otherwise she would burn that also, and he would dearly repent it. Tarquin, admiring at her constant resolution, and conceiving some extraordinary worth contained therein, gave her her demand. There are three volumes of man’s time; youth, man’s estate, and old age; and ministers advise them to redeem this time. [Ephes. v. 16.] But men conceive the rate they must give to be unreasonable, because it will cost them the renouncing of their carnal delights. Hereupon one third part of their life (youth) is consumed in the fire of wantonness. Again, ministers counsel men to redeem the remaining volumes of their life. They are but derided at for their pains. And man’s estate is 44also cast away in the smoke of vanity. But preachers ought to press peremptorily on old people, to redeem, now or never, the last volume of their life. Here is the difference: the sibyl still demanded but the same rate for the remaining book; but aged folk (because of their custom in sinning) will find it harder and dearer to redeem this, the last volume, than if they had been chapmen for all three at the first.
IN Merionethshire in “Wales there be many mountains, whose hanging tops come so close together, that shepherds sitting on several mountains may audibly discourse one with another.22Giraldus Cambrensis, and Camden, in the description of that shire. And yet they must go many miles before their bodies can meet together, by the reason of the vast hollow valleys which are betwixt them. Our sovereign and the members of his Parliament at London seem very near agreed in their general and public professions; both are for the Protestant religion; can they draw nearer? Both are for the privileges of Parliament; can they come closer? Both are for the liberty of the subject; can they meet evener? And yet, alas! there is a great gulf and vast distance betwixt them which our sins have made, and God grant that our sorrow may seasonably make it up again.45
WHEN John, king of France, had communicated the order of the knighthood of the star to some of his guard, men of mean birth and extraction, the nobility ever after disdained to be admitted into that degree, and so that order in France was extinguished. Seeing that now-a-days drinking, and swearing, and wantonness are grown frequent, even with base beggarly people; it is high time for men of honour, who consult with their credit, to desist from such sins. Not that I would have noblemen invent new vices to be in fashion with themselves alone, but forsake old sins, grown common with the meanest of people.
LONG was this land wasted with civil war betwixt the two houses of York and Lancaster, till the red rose became white with the blood it had lost, and the white rose red with the blood it had shed. At last, they were united in a happy marriage, and their joint titles are twisted together in our gracious sovereign. Thus there hath been a great difference betwixt learned men, wherein the dominion over the creature is founded. Some 46putting it in nature, others placing it in grace. But the true servants of God have an unquestioned right thereunto: seeing both nature and grace, the first and second Adam, creation and regeneration, are contained in them. Hence their claim is so clear, their title is so true, ignorance cannot doubt it, impudence dare not deny it.
THE Roman senators conspired against Julius Caesar to kill him:33Plutarch in Julius Caesar. that very next morning Artemidorus, Caesar’s friend, delivered him a paper (desiring him to peruse it) wherein the whole plot was discovered: but Caesar complimented his life away, being so taken up to return the salutations of such people as met him in the way, that he pocketed the paper, among other petitions, as unconcerned therein; and so, going to the senate-house, was slain. The world, flesh, and devil have a design for the destruction of men; we ministers bring our people a letter, God’s word, wherein all the conspiracy is revealed. But who hath believed our report? Most men are so busy about worldly delights, they are not at leisure to listen to us, or read the letter; but thus, alas! run headlong to their own ruin and destruction.47
IT is reported of Philip the Second, king of Spain, that besieging the town of St. Quintin, and being to make a breach, he was forced with his cannon to batter down a small chapel on the wall, dedicated to St. Lawrence. In reparation to which saint, he afterwards built and consecrated unto him that famous chapel in the Escurial in Spain, for workmanship one of the wonders of the world. How many churches and chapels of the God of St. Lawrence have been laid waste in England by this woful war? And, which is more (and more to be lamented), how many living temples of the Holy Ghost, Christian people, have therein been causelessly and cruelly destroyed? How shall our nation be ever able to make recompense for it? God of his goodness forgive us that debt which we of ourselves are not able to satisfy.
IN the days of King Edward the Sixth, the lord protector marched with a powerful into Scotland, to demand their young queen Mary in marriage to our king, according to their promises.44Sir John Haywood in the Life of Edward the Sixth. The Scotch refusing 48to do it, were beaten by the English in Musselborough fight. One demanding of a Scottish lord (taken prisoner in the battle), “Now, sir, how do you like our king’s marriage with your queen?” “I always,” quoth he, “did like the marriage, but I do not like the wooing, that you should fetch a bride with fire and sword.” It is not enough for men to propound pious projects to themselves, if they go about by indirect courses to compass them. God’s own work must be done by God’s own ways. Otherwise we can take no comfort in obtaining the end, if we cannot justify the means used thereunto.
A SAGAMORE, or petty king in Virginia, guessing the greatness of other kings by his own, sent a native hither, who understood English: commanding him to score upon a long cane (given him of purpose to be his register) the number of Englishmen, that hereby his master might know the strength of this our nation. Landing at Plymouth, a populous place (and which he mistook for all England), he had no leisure to eat, for notching up the men he met. At Exeter the difficulty of his task was increased; coming at last to London (that forest of people) he broke his 49cane in pieces, perceiving the impossibility of his employment. Some may conceive that they can reckon up the sins they commit in one day. Perchance they may make hard shifts to sum up their notorious ill deeds: more difficult it is to score up their wicked words. But O how infinite are their idle thoughts! High time, then, to leave off counting, and cry out, with David, Who can tell how oft he offendeth? [Psalm xix. 12.] Lord, cleanse me from my secret sins.
MARTIN DE GOLIN, master of the Teutonic order, was taken prisoner by the Prussians, and delivered bound to be beheaded.55Munster’s Cosmography, Book III. p. 878. But he persuaded his executioner (who had him alone) first to take off his costly clothes, which otherwise would be spoiled with the sprinkling of his blood. Now the prisoner, being partly unbound, to be unclothed, and finding his arms somewhat loosened, struck the executioner to the ground, killed him afterwards with his own sword, and so regained both his life and liberty. Christ hath overcome the world, and delivered it to us to destroy it. [John xvi. 33.] But we are all Achaeans by nature, and the Babylonish garment is a bait for our covetousness: whilst, therefore, we seek to take the plunder 50of this world’s wardrobe, we let go the mastery we had formerly of it. And too often that which Christ’s passion made our captive our folly makes our conqueror.
I READ how Pope Pius the Fourth had a great ship, richly laden, landed at Sandwich in Kent, where it suddenly sunk, and so, with the sands, choked up the harbour, that ever since that place hath been deprived of the benefit thereof.66Camd. Britan. in Kent. I see that happiness doth not always attend the adventures of his Holiness. Would he had carried away his ship, and left us our harbour. May his spiritual merchandise never come more into this island, but rather sink in Tiber than sail thus far, bringing so small good and so great annoyance. Sure he is not so happy in opening the doors of heaven, as he is unhappy to obstruct havens on earth.
JEFFRY, Archbishop of York, and base son to King Henry the Second, used proudly to protest by his faith, and the royalty of the king his father.77Gualterus Mappaeus de nugis Curialium. To whom one said, You may sometimes, sir, as well remember what was the honesty 51of your mother. Good men when puffed up with pride, for their heavenly extraction and paternal descent, how they are God’s sons by adoption, may seasonably call to mind the corruption which they carry about them. I have said to the worm, Thou art my mother. [Job xvii. 14.] And this consideration will temper their souls with humility.
I COULD both sigh and smile at the simplicity of a native American, sent by a Spaniard, his master, with a basket of figs, and a letter (wherein the figs were mentioned), to carry them both to one of his master’s friends. By the way, this messenger ate up the figs, but delivered the letter, whereby his deed was discovered, and he soundly punished. Being sent a second time on the like message, he first took the letter (which he conceived had eyes as well as a tongue) and hid it in the ground, sitting himself on the place where he put it; and then securely fell to feed on his figs, presuming that that paper which saw nothing could tell nothing. Then, taking it again out of the ground, he delivered it to his master’s friend, whereby his fault was perceived, and he worse beaten than before. Men conceive they can manage 52their sins with secrecy; but they carry about them a letter, or book rather, written by God’s finger, their conscience bearing witness to all their actions. [Rom. ii. 15.] But sinners being often detected and accused, hereby grow wary at last, and, to prevent this speaking paper from telling any tales, do smother, stifle, and suppress it, when they go about the committing of any wickedness. Yet conscience (though buried for a time in silence) hath afterwards a resurrection, and discovers all, to their greater shame and heavier punishment.
JOHN COURCY, Earl of Ulster, in Ireland, endeavoured fifteen several times to sail over thither, and so often was beaten back again with bad weather.88Annal.Hibern. in anno 1204; and Camden’s Brit., p. 797. At last he expostulated his case with God in a vision, complaining of hard measure; that, having built and repaired so many monasteries to God and his saints, he should have so bad success. It was answered him, that this was but his just punishment, because he had formerly put out the image of the Trinity99Lawfully, I presume, to apply a Popish vision to confute a Popish practice. out of the cathedral church of Down, and placed the picture of 53St. Patrick in the room thereof. Surely God will not hold them guiltless who justle him out of his temple, and give to saints that adoration due alone to his divine majesty.
THE Libyans kept all women in common. But when a child was born, they used to send it to that man to maintain (as father thereof) whom the infant most resembled in his complexion. Satan and my sinful nature enter common in my soul in the causing of wicked thoughts. The sons by their faces speak their sires. Proud, wanton, covetous, envious, idle thoughts, I must own to come from myself. God forgive me, it is vain to deny it, those children are so like to their father. But as for some hideous, horrible thoughts, such as I start at the motion of them, being out of the road of my corruption (and yet which way will not that wander?) so that they smell of hell’s brimstone about them: these fall to Satan’s lot to father them. The swarthy blackness of their complexion plainly shows who begot them; not being of mine extraction, but his injection.54
MARCUS MANLIUS deserved exceedingly well of the Roman state, having valiantly defended their Capitol. But afterward, falling into disfavour with the people, he was condemned to death.1010Livius, lib.l vi. cap. 20. However, the people would not be so unthankful as to suffer him to be executed in any place from whence the Capitol might be beheld. For the prospect thereof prompted them with fresh remembrance of his former merits. At last, they found a low place in the Petiline grove, by the river gate, where no pinnacle of the Capitol could be perceived, and there he was put to death. We may admire how men can find in their hearts to sin against God. For we can find no one place in the whole world which is not marked with a signal character of his mercy unto us. It was said properly of the Jews, but is not untrue of all Christians, that they are God’s vineyard. And God fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst thereof; and also digged a wine-press therein; [Mark xii. 1.] which way can men look, and not have their eyes met with the remembrance of God’s favour unto them? Look about the vineyard, it is fenced; look without it, the stones are cast out; look within 55it, it is planted with the choicest vine; look above it, a tower is built in the midst thereof; look beneath it, a wine-press is digged. It is impossible for one to look any way, and to avoid the beholding of God’s bounty. Ungrateful man! And as there is no place, so there is no time for us to sin, without being at that instant beholden to him; we owe to him that we are, even when we are rebellious against him.
A DUEL was to be fought, by consent of both kings,1111Annal. Hibern. in anno 1204; and Camden’s Brit., p. 797. betwixt an English and a French lord. The aforesaid John Courcy, Earl of Ulster, was chosen champion for the English; a man of great stomach and strength, but lately much weakened by long imprisonment. Wherefore, to prepare himself beforehand, the king allowed him what plenty and variety of meat he was pleased to eat. But the monsieur (who was to encounter him) hearing what great quantity of victuals Courcy did daily devour, and thence collecting his unusual strength, out of fear, refused to fight with him. If by the standard of their cups, and measure of their drinking, one might truly infer soldiers’ strength by rules of proportion, most vast and valiant achievements may justly be expected from some gallants of these times.56
I HAVE heard that the brook near Lutterworth, in Leicestershire, into which the ashes of the burnt bones of Wickliffe were cast, never since doth drown the meadow about it. Papists expound this to be, because God was well pleased with the sacrifice of the ashes of such a heretic. Protestants ascribe it rather to proceed from the virtue of the dust of such a reverend martyr. I see it is a case for a friend. Such accidents signify nothing in themselves but according to the pleasure of interpreters. Give me such solid reasons, whereon I may rest and rely. Solomon saith, The words of the wise are like nails, fastened by the masters of the assembly. [Eccles. xii. 11.] A nail is firm, and will hold driving in, and will hold driven in. Send me such arguments. As for these waxen topical devices, I shall never think worse or better of any religion for their sake.
ALEXANDER the Great,1212Plutarch in the Life of Alexander the Great. when a child, was checked by his governor Leonidas for being over-profuse in spending perfumes: because on a day, being to sacrifice to the gods, he took both his hands full of frankincense, and 57cast it into the fire: but afterwards, being a man, he conquered the country of Judaea (the fountain whence such spices did flow), and sent Leonidas a present of five hundred talents’ weight of frankincense, to show him how his former prodigality made him thrive the better in success, and to advise him to be no more niggardly in divine service. Thus they that sow plentifully shall reap plentifully. I see there is no such way to have a large harvest as to have a large heart. The free giving of the branches of our present estate to God, is the readiest means to have the root increased for the future.
THE poets fable, that this was one of the labours imposed on Hercules, to make clean the Augean stable, or stall rather. For therein, they said, were kept three thousand kine, and it had not been cleansed for thirty years together. But Hercules, by letting the river Alpheus into it, did that with ease which before was conceived impossible. This stall is the pure emblem of my impure soul, which hath been defiled with millions of sins for more than thirty years together. O that I might by a lively faith, and unfeigned repentance, let the stream of that fountain into my soul, which is 58opened for Judah and Jerusalem. It is impossible by all my pains to purge out my uncleanness; which is quickly done by the rivulet of the blood of my Saviour.
THE Venetians showed the treasure of their state, being in many great coffers full of gold and silver, to the Spanish ambassador. But the ambassador, peeping under the bottom of those coffers, demanded whether that their treasure did daily grow, and had a root; for such, saith he, my master’s treasure hath: meaning both his Indies. Many men have attained to a great height of piety, to be very abundant and rich therein. But all theirs is but a cistern, not fountain of grace, only God’s goodness hath a spring of itself in itself.
THE Sidonian servants agreed amongst themselves1313Justin, lib. xviii. p. 166. to choose him to be their king who, that morning, should first see the sun. Whilst all others were gazing on the east, one alone looked on the west. Some admired, more mocked him, as if he looked on the feet, there to find the eye of the face. But he first 59of all discovered the light of the sun shining on the tops of houses. God is seen sooner, easier, clearer in his operations than in his essence. Best beheld by reflection in his creatures. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made. [Rom. i. 20.]
AN Italian prince, as much delighted with the person as grieved with the prodigality of his eldest son, commanded his steward to deliver him no more money but what the young prince should tell his own self. The young gallant fretted at his heart, that he must buy money at so dear a rate, as to have it for telling it, but (because there was no remedy) he set himself to task, and being greatly tired with telling a small sum, he broke off in this consideration. Money may speedily be spent, but how tedious and troublesome is it to tell it! And by consequence how much more difficult to get it! Men may commit sin presently, pleasantly, with much mirth, in a moment. But O that they would but seriously consider with themselves how many their offences are, and sadly fall accounting them! And if so hard truly to sum their sins, sure harder sincerely 60to sorrow for them. If to get their number be so difficult, what is it to get their pardon?
I KNOW the village in Cambridgeshire1414Cottenham. where there was a cross full of imagery. Some of the images were such, as that people, not foolishly factious, but judiciously conscientious, took just exception at them: hard by, the youths of the town erected a Maypole, and, to make it of proof against any that should endeavour to cut it down, they armed it with iron as high as any could reach. A violent wind happened to blow it down, which, falling on the cross, dashed it to pieces. It is possible what is counted profaneness may accidentally correct superstition. But I could heartily wish that all pretenders to reformation would first labour to be good themselves, before they go about the amending of others.
I READ that Ægeus, the father of Theseus,1515Plutarch in Theseo. hid a sword and a pair of shoes under a great stone; and left word with his wife (whom he left with child), that when the son she should bear was able to take up that stone, wield that 61sword, and wear those shoes, then she should send him to him: for by these signs he would own him for his own son. Christ hath left in the custody of the Church our mother the sword of the Spirit, and the shoes of a Christian conversation, the same which he once wore himself, and they must fit our feet, yea, and we must take up the weight of many heavy crosses, before we can come at them: but when we shall appear before our Heavenly Father, bringing these tokens with us, then, and not before, he will acknowledge us to be no bastards, but his true-born children.62
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