Page images
[blocks in formation]

The boys, and the pedlars, and the fruiterers, shall tell of this man, when he is carried to his grave, that he lived and died a poor, wretched person. The stags in the Greek epigram, whose knees were clogged with frozen snow upon the mountains, came down to the brooks of the valleys, hoping to thaw their joints with the waters of the stream ; but there the frost overtook them, and bound them fast in ice, till the young herdsmen took them in their stronger snare.

It is the unhappy chance of many men, finding many inconveniences upon the mountains of single life, they descend into the valleys of marriage to refresh their troubles, and there they enter into fetters, and are bound to sorrow by the cords of a man's or woman's peevishness: and the worst of the evil is, they are to thank their own follies; for they fell into the snare by entering an improper way : Christ and the Church were no ingredients in their choice : but as the Indian women enter into folly for the price of an elephant, and think their crime warrantable; so do men and women change their liberty for a rich fortune, (like Eryphile the Argive, "she preferred gold before a good man,”) and shew themselves to be less than money, by overvaluing that to all the content and wise felicity of their lives : and when they have counted the money

and their sorrows together, how willingly would they buy with the loss of all that money, modesty, or sweet nature to their relative ! the odd thousand pounds would gladly be allowed in good nature and fair manners. As very a fool is he that chooses for beauty principally ; "cui sunt eruditi oculi, et stulta mens” (as one said), whose eyes are witty and their souls sensual ; it is an ill bond of affections to tie two hearts together by a little thread of red and white. And they can love no longer but until the next ague comes; and they are fond of each other, but at the chance of fancy, or the small-pox, or child-bearing, or care or time, or anything that can destroy a pretty flower. But it is the basest of all when lust is the

paranymph, and solicits the suit, and makes the contract, and joins the hands; for this is commonly the effect of the former, according to the Greek proverb. At first for his fair cheeks and comely beard, "the beast is taken for a lion, but at last he is turned to a dragon, or a leopard, or a swine.” That which is at first beauty on the face may prove lust in the manners. Said St Clement : “He or she that looks too curiously upon the beauty of the body, looks too low, and hath flesh and corruption in his heart, and is judged sensual and earthly in his affections and desires.” Begin, therefore, with God. Christ is the president of marriage, and the Holy Ghost is the fountain of purities and chaste loves, and he joins the hearts ; and therefore let our first suit be in the court of heaven, and with designs of piety, or safety, or charity ; let no impure spirit defile the virgin purities and “castifications of the soul," (as St Peter's phrase is); let all such contracts begin with religious affections.

Man and wife are equally concerned to avoid all offences of each other in the beginning of their conversation. Every little thing can blast an infant blossom ; and the breath of the south can shake the little rings of the vine, when first they begin to curl like the locks of a new-weaned boy; but when by age and consolidation they stiffen into the hardness of a stem, and have, by the warm embraces of the sun and the kisses of heaven, brought forth their clusters, they can endure the storms of the north, and the loud noises of the tempest, and yet never be broken : so are the early unions of an unfixed marriage; watchful and observant, jealous and busy, inquisitive and careful, and apt to take alarm at every unkind word. For infirmities do not inanifest themselves in the first scenes, but in the succession of a long society; and it is not chance or weakness when it appears at first, but it is want of love or prudence, or it will be so expounded ; and that which appears ill at first, usually affrights the inexperienced man or woman, who makes unequal conjectures, and fancies mighty sorrows by the proportions of

[blocks in formation]

the new and early unkindness. It is a very great passion, or a huge folly, or a certain want of love, that cannot preserve the colours and beauties of kindness, so long as public honesty requires a man to wear their sorrows for the death of a friend. Plutarch compares a new marriage to a vessel before the hoops are on; “everything dissolves their tender compaginations, but when the joints are stiffened and are tied by a firm compliance and proportioned bending, scarcely can it be dissolved without fire or the violence of iron.” After the hearts of the man and the wife are endeared and hardened by a mutual confidence and experience longer than artifice and pretence can last, there are a great many remembrances, and some things present that dash all little unkindnesses in pieces. The little boy in the Greek epigram, that was creeping down a precipice, was invited to his safety by the sight of his mother's pap, when nothing else could entice him to return : and the bond of common children, and the sight of her that nurses what is most dear to him, and the endearments of each other in the course of a long society, and the same relation, is an excellent security to redintegrate and to call that love back which folly and trifling accidents would disturb.

When it is come thus far it is hard untwisting the knot : but be careful in its first coalition, that there be no rudeness done ; for, if there be, it will for ever after be apt to start and to be diseased.

Let man and wife be careful to stifle little things, that as fast as they spring, they be cut down and trod upon; for if they be suffered to grow by numbers, they make the spirit peevish, and the society troublesome, and the affections loose and easy by an habitual aversation. Some men are more vexed with a fly than with a wound; and when the gnats disturb our sleep, and the reason is disquieted, but not perfectly awakened, it is often seen that he is fuller of trouble than if in the daylight of his reason he were to contest with a potent VOL. II.


enemy. In the frequent little accidents of a family, a man's reason cannot always be awake; and when his discourses are imperfect, and a trifling trouble makes him yet more restless, he is soon betrayed to the violence of passion. It is certain that the man or woman are in a state of weakness and folly then, when they can be troubled with a trifling accident; and therefore it is not good to tempt their affections, when they are in that state of danger. In this case the caution is to subtract fuel from the sudden flame; for stubble, though it be quickly kindled, yet it is as soon extinguished, if it be not blown by a pertinacious breath, or fed with new materials.

Add no new provocations to the accident, and do not inflame this, and peace will soon return, and the discontent will pass away soon, as the sparks from the collision of a flint; ever remembering, that discontents proceeding from daily little things, do breed a secret undiscernable disease, which is more dangerous than a fever proceeding from a discerned notorious surfeit.

Let them be sure to abstain from all those things, which by experience and observation they find to be contrary to each other. They that govern elephants, never appear before them in white, and the masters of bulls keep from them all garments of blood and scarlet, as knowing that they will be impatient of civil usages and discipline, when their natures are provoked by their proper antipathies. The ancients in their marital hieroglyphics used to depict Mercury standing by Venus, to signify, that by fair language and sweet entreaties, the minds of each other should be united : and hard by them, “Suadam et gratias descripserunt," they would have all deliciousness of manners, compliance and mutual observance to abide.

Rules for Employing Time. [From “ The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living."]

1. In the morning, when you awake, accustom yourself to think first upon God, or something in order to His service;

[blocks in formation]

and at night also let Him close thine eyes, and let your sleep be necessary and healthful, not idle and expensive of time, beyond the needs and conveniences of nature; and sometimes be curious to see the preparation which the sun makes, when he is coming forth from his chambers of the east.

2. Let every man that hath a calling be diligent in pursuance of his employment, so as not lightly or without reasonable occasion to neglect it in any of those times which are usually, and by the custom of prudent persons and good husbands, employed in it.

3. Let all the intervals or void spaces of time be employed in prayers, reading, meditating, works of nature, recreation, charity, friendliness, and neighbourhood, and means of spiritual and corporeal health; ever remembering so to work in our calling as not to neglect the work of our high calling, but to begin and end the day with God, with such forms of devotion as shall be proper to our necessities.

4. The resting-day of Christians, and festivals of the Church, must in no sense be days of idleness; for it is better to plough upon holy-days than to do nothing, or to do viciously; but let them be spent in the works of the day, that is, of religion and charity, according to the rules appointed.

5. Avoid the company of drunkards and busy-bodies, and all such as are apt to talk much to little purpose, for no man can be provident of his time that is not prudent in the choice of his company; and if one of the speakers be vain, tedious, and trifling, he that hears and he that answers in the discourse are equal losers of their time.

6. Never talk with any man, or undertake any trifling employment, merely to pass the time away; for every day wellspent may become a day of salvation, and time rightly employed is an acceptable time. And remember that the time thou triflest away was given thee to repent in, to pray for pardon of sins, to work out thy salvation, to do the work of grace, to lay

« PreviousContinue »