Page images
PDF
EPUB

There is no salvation to those that believe not in Christ, that is, say some, since his nativity, and as divinity affirmeth, before also ; which makes me much apprehend the ends of those honest worthies and philosophers which died before his incarnation. It is hard to place those souls in hell whose worthy lives do teach us virtue on earth: methinks amongst those many subdivisions of hell, there might have been one limbo left for these. What a strange vision will it be to see their poetical fictions converted into verities, and their imagined and fancied furies into real devils! How strange to them will sound the history of Adam, when they shall suffer for him they never heard of! When they who derive their genealogy from the gods, shall know they are the unhappy issue of sinful man! It is an insolent part of reason to controvert the works of God, or question the justice of his proceedings. Could humility teach others, as it hath instructed me, to contemplate the infinite and incomprehensible distance betwixt the Creator and the creature; or did we seriously perpend that one simile of St. Paul," Shall the vessel say to the potter, Why hast thou made me thus ?" it would prevent these arrogant disputes of reason, nor would we argue the definitive sentence of God, either to heaven, or hell. Men that live according to the right rule and law of reason, live but in their own kind, as beasts do in theirs; who justly obey the prescript of their natures, and therefore cannot reasonably demand a reward of their actions, as only obeying the natural dictates of their reason. It will therefore,

and must at last appear, that all salvation is through Christ: which verity I fear these great examples of virtue must confirm, and make it good, how the perfectest actions of earth have no title or claim unto heaven.

Nor truly do I think the lives of these, or of any other were ever correspondent, or in all points conformable unto their doctrines. It is evident that Aristotle transgressed the rule of his own ethics. The stoics that condemn passion, and command a man to laugh in Phalaris's bull, could not endure without a groan a fit of the stone or cholic. (109) The sceptics, that affirmed they knew nothing, even in that opinion confute themselves, and thought they knew more than all the world beside. Diogenes, I hold to be the most vain-glorious man of his time, (10) and more ambitious in refusing all honours, than Alexander in rejecting none. Vice and the devil put a fallacy upon our reasons, and provoking us too hastily to run from it, entangle and profound

(109) Shakspeare, who has painted most varieties of human folly, has not omitted this:

[ocr errors]

"Was never yet philosopher

That could endure the tooth-ache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods,

And made a pish of chance and sufferance."-Er.

(110) That he should have been more vain-glorious than Alexander was impossible. The character of Diogenes has remained an enigma to this day, notwithstanding all that has been said and written concerning him. It is not, therefore, to be developed in a note; but they who would comprehend the position and humour of that wild man of genius, should study heedfully what is said of his habits and opinions in the philosophical orations of Dion Chrysostom, particularly in Orat. VI. VIII. IX. X. and conf. t. ii. p, 336. edit. Reiske.-ED.

us deeper in it. The Duke of Venice, that weds himself unto the sea by a ring of gold, I will not argue of prodigality, because it is a solemnity of good use and consequence in the state: but the philosopher that threw his money into the sea to avoid avarice, was a notorious prodigal. There is no road or ready way to virtue; it is not an easy point of art to disentangle ourselves from this riddle or web of sin. To perfect virtue, as to religion, there is required a panoply or complete armour : that whilst we lie at close ward against one vice, we lie not open to the veney of another. And indeed wiser discretions, that have the thread of reason to conduct them, offend without pardon; whereas, under-heads may stumble without dishonour. There go so many circumstances to piece up one good action, that it is a lesson to be good, and we are forced to be virtuous by the book. Again, the practice of men holds not an equal p ace yea, and often runs counter to their theory; we naturally know what is good, but naturally pursue what is evil: (1) the rhetoric wherewith I persuade another cannot persuade myself; there is a depraved appetite in us, that will with patience hear the learned instructions of reason, but yet perform no further than agrees to its own irregular humour. In brief, weall are monsters, that is, a composition of man and beast; wherein we must endeavour to be as the poets fancy that wise man Chiron, that is to have the region of man above that of beast, and sense to sit

(111)

"Video meliora proboque

Deteriora sequor.'

ED.

but at the feet of reason. Lastly, I do desire with God, that all, but yet affirm with men, that few shall know salvation; that the bridge is narrow, the passage strait unto life: yet those who do confine the church of God, either to particular nations, churches, or families, have made it far narrower than our Saviour ever meant it.

The vulgarity of those judgments that wrap the church of God in Strabo's cloak, and restrain it unto Europe, seem to me as bad geographers as Alexander, who thought he had conquered all the world, when he had not subdued the half of any part thereof. For we cannot deny the church of God both in Asia and Africa, if we do not forget the peregrinations of the apostles, the deaths of the martyrs, the sessions of many, and, even in our reformed judgment, lawful councils, held in those parts in the minority and nonage of ours. Nor must a few differences, more remarkable in the eyes of man than perhaps in the judgment of God, excommunicate from heaven one another, much less those Christians who are in a manner all martyrs, maintaining their faith, in the noble way of persecution, and serving God in the fire, whereas we honour him in the sunshine. It is true we all hold there is a number of elect, and many to be saved; yet take our opinions together, and from the confusion thereof there will be no such thing as salvation, nor shall any one be saved. For first, the church of Rome condemneth us, we likewise them; he sub-reformists and sectaries sentence the doctrine of our church as damnable; the

atomist, or familist, reprobates all these; and all these them again. Thus, whilst the mercies of God do promise us heaven, our conceits and opinions exclude us from that place. (2) There must be therefore more than one St. Peter. Particular churches and sects usurp the gates of heaven, and turn the key against each other: and thus we go to heaven against each other's wills, conceits, and opinions, and, with as much uncharity as ignorance, do err, I fear, in points not only of our own, but one another's salvation.

I believe many are saved, who to man seem reprobated; and many are reprobated, who in the opinion and sentence of man stand elected. There will appear at the last day strange and unexpected examples, both of his justice and his mercy; and therefore to define either is folly in man, and insolency even in the devils. Those acute and subtle spirits, in all their sagacity, can hardly divine who shall be saved; which if they could prognosticate, their labour were at an end; nor need they compass the earth, seeking whom they may devour. Those who, upon a rigid application of the law, sentence Solomon unto damnation, condemn not only him but themselves, and the whole world; for by the letter, and written word of God, we are, without exception, in the state of death; but there is a prerogative of God, and an arbitrary pleasure above the letter of his own law, by which alone we can pretend unto salvation, and through which Solo

(2) That is, exclude us in our own conceit; for, of what God shall determine concerning us we know nothing.-ED.

« PreviousContinue »