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SERM. contemptible. Why is gold more precious than glass or crystal? Why prefer we a ruby before a rose or a gilliflower? It is not because those are more serviceable, more beautiful, more grateful to our senses, than these, (it is plainly otherwise;) but because these are brittle and fading, those solid and permanent: these we cannot hope to retain the use or pleasure of long; those we may promise ourselves to enjoy so long as we please. Whence on the other side is it, that we little fear or shun any thing, how painful, how offensive soever, being assured of its soon passing over, the biting of a flea, or the prick in letting blood? The reason is evident; and that in general nothing can on either hand be considerable (either to value or disesteem) which is of a short continuance. Upon this ground, therefore, let us tax the things concerning us, whether good or bad, relating to this life, or to our future state; and first the good things relating to this life; thence we shall be disposed to judge truly concerning them, what their just price is, how much of affection, care, and endeavour they deserve to have expended on them. In general, and in the lump concerning them all, St. 1 Cor. vii. Paul tells us, that τὸ σχῆμα τοῦ κόσμου τούτου παράγει,
the shape or fashion (all that is apparent or sensible) in this present world doth flit, and soon gives us the go-by: we gaze a while upon these things, as in transitu, or intra conspectum, as they pass by us, and keep a while in sight; but they are presently gone from us, or we from them. They are but like objects represented in a glass; which having viewed
· πάντα παρέρχεται ἡμᾶς,
Εἰ δὲ μὴ, ἀλλ ̓ αὐτοὶ πάντα παρερχόμεθα. Gr. Epig. Anthol.
a while, we must shortly turn our backs, or shut our SERM. eyes upon them, then all vanishes, and disappears unto us. Whence he well infers an indifferency of affection toward them; a slackness in the enjoyment of them to be required of us; a using this world, as if we used it not; a buying, as if we were not to possèss; a weeping, as if we wept not; and a rejoicing, as if we rejoiced not; a kind of negligence and unconcernedness about these things. The world, saith 1 John ii. St.John, passeth away, and the desire thereof; what-'E ever seemeth most lovely and desirable in the world is very flitting; however, our desire and our enjoyment thereof must suddenly cease. Imagine a man therefore possessed of all worldly goods, armed with power, flourishing in credit, flowing with plenty, swimming in all delight, (such as were sometime Priamus, Polycrates, Croesus, Pompey;) yet since he is withal supposed a man, and mortal, subject both to fortune and death, none of those things can he reasonably confide or much satisfy himself in; they may be violently divorced from him by fortune, they must naturally be loosed from him by death; the closest union here cannot last longer than till death us depart wherefore no man upon such account can truly call or (if he consider well) heartily esteem himself happy; a man cannot hence (as the most Eccl. i. 3, able judge and trusty voucher of the commodities doth pronounce) receive profit or content from any labour he taketh (upon these transitory things) under the sun. Why then, let me inquire, do we so cumber our heads with care, so rack our hearts with passion, so waste our spirits with incessant toil about these transitory things? Why do we so highly value, so ardently desire, so eagerly pursue, so fondly
BARROW, VOL. III.
SERM. delight in, so impatiently want, or lose, so passionately contend for and emulate one another in regard to these bubbles; forfeiting and foregoing our homebred most precious goods, tranquillity and repose, either of mind or body, for them? Why erect we ra nobis di- such mighty fabrics of expectation and confidence dedit, non upon such unsteady sands? Why dress we up these our inns, as if they were our homes, and are as careCic. de Sen. ful about a few nights' lodging here, as if we de
1 Pet. ii.
II, 1. signed an everlasting abode? we that are but so
11. xi. 15. journers and pilgrims here, and have no fixed habitation upon earth; who come forth like a flower,
Job xiv. 1. and are soon cut down; flee like a shadow, and 39. continue not; are winds passing away, and coming
Jam. iv. 14.
Psal. cii. 3.
Is. Ixiv. 6. not again; who fade all like a leaf; whose life is a vapour appearing for a little time, and then vanishing away; whose days are a handbreadth, and age is nothing; whose days are consumed like Ps. ciii. 15. smoke, and years are spent as a tale; who wither
xc. 5, 9. ciii. 15. xxxix. 5. cxliv. 4.
Js. xl. 6.
like the grass, upon which we feed, and crumble as the dust, of which we are compacted; for thus the scripture by apposite comparisons represents our condition;) yet we build, like the men of Agrigentum, as if we were to dwell here for ever; and hoard up, as if we were to enjoy after many ages; and inquire, as if we would never have done knowing. The citizens of Croton, a town in Italy, had a manner, it is said, of inviting to feasts a year before the time, that the guests in appetite and garb might come well prepared to them. Do we not usually resemble them in this ridiculous solicitude and curiosity; spes inchoando longas, commencing designs, driving on projects, which a longer time than our life would not suffice to accomplish? How
deeply do we concern ourselves in all that is said or SERM. done; when the morrow all will be done away and XLVI. forgotten; when (excepting what our duty to God and charity towards men requires of us, and that which concerns our future eternal state) what is done in the world, who gets or loses, which of the spokes in fortune's wheel is up, and which down, is of very little consequence to us! But the more to abstract our minds from, and temper our affections about these secular matters, let us examine particularly by this standard, whether the most valued things in this world deserve that estimate which they bear in the common market, or which popular opinion assigns them.
1. To begin then with that which takes chief place, which the world most dotes on, which seems most great and eminent among men; secular state and grandeur, might and prowess, honour and reputation, favour and applause of men, all the objects of human pride and ambition: of this kind, St. Peter thus pronounces, пãσα dótα ávoρúπov, All the glory of 1Pet. ii. 24. men is as the flower of the grass; the grass is dried up, and the flower thereof doth fall off; it is as the flower of the grass, how specious soever, yet the most fading and failing part thereof; the grass itself will soon wither, and the flower doth commonly fall off before that. We cannot hold this flower of worldly glory beyond our short time of life; and we may easily much sooner be deprived of it: many tempests of fortune may beat it down, many violent hands may crop it; it is apt of itself to fade upon the stalk; however the sun (the influence of age and time) will assuredly burn and dry it up, with our life that upholds it. Surely, saith Psal. lxii. 9.
SERM. the Psalmist, men of low degree are vanity, and men of high degree are a lie: men of high degree; the mighty princes, the famous captains, the subtile statesmen, the grave senators; they who turn and toss about the world at their pleasure; who, in the Is. xiv. 17. prophet's language, make the earth tremble, and shake kingdoms: even these, they are a lie, (said he, who himself was none of the least considerable among them, and by experience well knew their condition, the greatest and most glorious man of his time, king David.) They are a lie; that is, their state presents something of brave and admirable to the eye of men; but it is only deceptio visus; a show without a substance; it doth but delude the careless spectators with false appearance; it hath nothing under it solid or stable; being laid in the balance, (the royal prophet there subjoins; that is, being weighed in the scales of right judgment, being thoroughly considered,) it will prove lighter than vanity itself; it is less valuable than mere emptiness, and nothing itself. That saying sounds like an hyperbole; but it may be true in a strict sense, seeing that the care and pains in maintaining it, the fear and jealousy of losing it, the envy, obloquy, and danger that surround it, the snares it hath in it, and temptations inclining men to be puffed up with pride, to be insolent and injurious, to be corrupted with pleasure, (with other bad concomitants thereof,) do more than countervail whatever either of imaginary worth or real convenience may be in it. Perhaps, could it, without much care, trouble, and hazard, continue for ever, or for a long time, it might be thought somewhat considerable: but since its duPsal. lxxxii. ration is uncertain and short; since man in honour