The seuenth discourse.
That our ouer small consideration of the good things that we haue, and our ouer eager couetise of the good things which we haue not, do multiplie our miseries.
I Will not extend this proposition to all sorts of men * as I well might: for my pen beeing wearie cannot run into so many places. It shall therfore suffice me to frame it to those of mine owne profession whom I wish to reforme, because herein they faile more than any others. Neither do I thinke that I shall need to bring in anie greate proofes: for the disquietuesse of their mindes, which force their bodies hether and thether, vp & downe, in right and wrong, are testimonies sufficient.
Now I thinke our nobilitie haue small cause of discontent, conside∣ring how God hath lodged them in one of the goodliest gardens in Page 86 the world (more temperate than the fortunate Ilands so famous a∣mong the the ancients) wherein nature dooth most abundantly shed forth her pleasures and delights. So as although shee hath not so much wealth as Spaine, who sucketh the golden paps of both the Indies: though she haue not so many Priuiledges as Pologne, which choseth princes, & beareth lordly dominion ouer her vassals: and although she be not so ingenious as Italy which knoweth much dexteritie and curtesie, yet al this notwithstanding, she wanteth not wit inough to guide her, force inough to defēd her, or welth inough to maintaine her. If wee beholde the infinite number of goodlie houses, well contriued and prouided of all thinges requisite, which she possesseth: likewise her honorable exercises both of we∣pons and learning, the toles seruing to make the bodies more nim∣ble: her pleasures as of hunting and musick, with her secret conuer∣sation: finally, a thousand goodly rewards of vertue wherewith shee doth oft see her selfe crowned: we shal be forced to say that she ought many times to lift vp her eies to heauen and to yeld thanks to God for so good a share: but it falleth out that few do enter into these ge∣nerall considerations, & fewer into the particular. To the end also the better to perceiue how the most part do ordinarily beare them∣selues. * I will propound this example, namely of a Gentleman of 3 or 4000. frankes rent, already well entered into his youthful age, and formed according to our customes, which are but too easily lar∣ned. If he be in his own house, nothing will please him, neither can he euer be quiet vntill he hath set feather in the winde to go see the world, which desire, if it be moderated, I do not blame: but I mi∣slike his tast of yt which he should tast better of. If he light vppon any court, where after he hath a while trotted vp & downe, he hath attained a litle fame & knowledge, hee thinketh it a smal matter, in respect of other stings that pricke him & still make him to loke for∣ward, but neuer behind him. Then comming to learn the vse of his weepon, he still thinketh his estate ouer base, and so aimeth at ye vn∣certaine. If he chance to returne & play the good husband at home, & that he haue laied the foundation of a compleat family, he wil not make so much account of his wife, children & reuenues of his house as he ought, as taking the first goods to be ouer common, & the se∣cond ouer small. Hauing attained to olde age, wherin hee shoulde after the tediousnesse of so long a iourney, take his rest and reioyce that he hath gotten so neere to his ende, then is the time that most cares, anguishes, and feares doe greatly torment him: Page 97 so as few things delight him though many displease him, and thus doth he liue miserably vntill be come to hide his head in his graue. Thus do we briefly see a smal portraiture of many mens liues, who because they cannot well know the good they haue therein, doe in∣ioy such a benefit but coldly and without commoditie. Truly if eue∣rie one would often waigh the good wherof he may make account, he should find the same as waightie as he thinketh them to be light. But when he casteth it at his heels, like vnto forgotten sinnes (as the prouerbe goeth) it yeeldeth but small profite. The Philosopher *Plato sayd, that he thanked God for three things: That he made him to be borne a Grecian & not a Barbarian: an Athenian rather than the citizen of anie other towne: & in the time of Socrates: but for how many things more yt he speaketh not of, did he giue thanks? And in thus recording his felicities, his soule grew the more quiet & satisfied. The like ought we to do & that often, to the end to banish our insatiabilitie & ingratitude, which without misery doe make vs miserable. And whereas some do think that after some sort they do acquit themselues hereof, yet if they looke wel, they shall find great difference between yt which they do & that which they ought to do. For they imitate not so much as Plato, in noting that which is cō∣mon & generall, but do still addresse themselues to some perticular thing that pleaseth them. He that is skilfull in the arte of war; will thinke onely vpon that benefit whereby he atchieueth praise. The lawier will likewise dwell within the boundes of his knowledge, through the which he filleth his coffers. Neither wil the Marchant esteeme of any other thing in himself, then his dexteritie & diligēce which make his trafick to flourish. Al which considerations are not vtterly to be reproued. But euen as a banquet is not made with bread only without any other thing therto adioyned: so likewise to ye end the rather to satisfie euery man with his owne estate, we are to set before our eies all whatsoeuer we can gather together, either the great or small blessings that God hath bellowed vpon vs. And the more plentifull that we shall find them to be, the greater are we to account our felicitie. When we loke ouer our rentals, we find writ∣ten great rents due vnto vs, asalso a number of smal of a halfepeny and a farthing, which how small so euer, we neuerthelesse blot not out: because that gathered together, they help to make perfect ye bo∣die of our reuenues: no more are we likewise to race out of our re∣mēbrance the least benefite that we inioy, because the thinking ther vpō maketh our life the more sweet & pleasant. The meanes there∣fore Page 98 well to graue in minde both great & small, is to steale frō our selues, & to bestow one onely halfe houre of the daie in the meditatiō of the same. For still we shall find so much new matter, that ye same will inuite vs cheerefully to labour in such abundance.
But in the obseruation of this rule, it may bee there bee some who peraduenture would thinke to deale with God as they doe with men. For they are loth to sift the pleasures that they haue receiued, because so they become debters: likewise that they would imagine, their entrie into such accompts with him, (and these I rather terme small and vnperfect recordations of his benefites, which wee are as well able to number as the stones of a Citie) to be an ouercharging of themselues with obligatiōs & an oppression of their mistaken libertie. In these cases are their imaginations false, and themselues haue but small knowledge of the nature of God, who assuredly at such tyme as we most turne ouer the booke of receipts of his benefites, doth then giue vs most: because that our small preparations to acknowledgement doe mightely moue his liberalitie. It séemeth that I haue somewhat passed the bounds of my first speech: but this digression is not amisse, sith that from Earth wee haue climbed into Heauen, which is the true spring from whence a whole Iliade of goodnesse destilleth vpon vs, of the greatest parte whereof, through our sencelesnesse, wee are vtterly ignorant.
Now will I returne to our Gentrie afore spoken of, who * straye farthest out of the way, whom also I would gladly bring backe to the right path: And this is it that I will say to them. Why doe you thus vexe your soules with a thousand cares throughout the whole course of your life, vpon certaine conceiued phantasies that your state is vnperfect and full of blemishes? Open your eyes and throughly examine it, so shall it vanish and your selues bee better at rest. When you walke vp and downe the Pallace of Paris, and so goe by the Painters shoppes, you can bee content to stay two whole ho∣wers to gaze vpon some goodly peece of worke there set to view, which sometyme mooueth you to commend both the worke and the worke∣man. Much rather ought you so to deale with that goodly portraiture of your selfe, clothed in so many ornaments, for feare least ignorance or inconstancy should cause you to be accused before the soueraigne Pain∣ter, which giueth to euery of his workes the comelinesse that is proper and conuenient to the same. And as it is he that hath formed the Kings and Princes whom the Communaltie adoreth, so hath he with Page 99 the same hand moulded all those whom pouertie oppresseth. All which vnproportionable diuersitie is no let, but that the earthen vessell is as profitable for the base and mechanichall vse thereof, as is that of the finest and best wrought golde for the high and magnificent vse of the same. Let vs now looke whether he hath bene nigardly and not boun∣tifull toward you. Truely you shall finde no: also that you must vtterly abandon those your deceiueable thoughts: for they are the same which the auncient Serpent inuēted to deceiue our first mother. But it is your selues that are to be conuicted of ingratitude, in that you are contrary to the couetous man whose hart and eye are euermore in his coffers, where you neuer enter into the secret closets of your owne harts, to the ende to consider of so many kindes of benefites inclosed: which if you would doe, you should finde your selues not so poore as you weene for.
I will as it were by the way repeat some of those which I sup∣pose * you thinke least vpon. And beginning with ye spirituall which are the principall, I will ende with the lesser, that are more subiect to decay. If I should now aske you vpō your cōsciences how often in a wéeke you think vpon the inestimable benefite of ye knowledge of God wherewith you are endued (for in that you are Christians I cannot doubt thereof) you will peraduenture aunswer me that it * were much if once in a moneth you should earnestly thinke there∣vpon: & yet this knowledge, or rather faith, doth teach and certefie you yt ye are fellow burgeses of heauen, & that by Iesus Christ you haue bene plucked out of the pawes of yt great Pharao the deuill, & the bondage of Egipt which is the figure of Hell How thē can you haue so small mind of so excellent a benefite? whereof Dauid sayd:
For notwithstanding he had among ye treasures yt he had heaped together aboue 100. millions of gould, yet did he accompt those of Gods seruice much more precious & tooke greater felicitie therein. Imitate him therefore, & oftner open the coffer of your vnderstan∣ding and harts, to the end to contemplate such ritches which onely suffice to make you happy. Next will I descend to morall vertues, * of some whereof I thinke you not vtterly vnprouided. And put the case you haue Fortitude, which signifieth Prowesse, which also is of great recommendation among our Nobilitie: also Tem∣perance which is familier with the good: Also I meane that the Page 100 portion which you haue be grauen in your harts, rather then prin∣ted in your faces. Euen with this onely may you bee assured that you shall not bee degraded from your title, notwithstanding you ought stil to labour to obteyne more. You will not accompt a Mar∣chant of silkes poore, because he hath in his coffers none but Crim∣son and white Ueluets, for you should doe him wrong: euen so thinke of your selues that you are not poore in conditions, so long as these two vertues doe fructifie in you, which also may serue to engender more: Yea and the more are you to esteeme of these bene∣fites, because no furie of contrary fortune can bereaue you of them. I will also speake one word of your Health, which me thinkes ye * cherish no more then ye doe adogge, whome ye hazard against all sortes of wilde beastes: for many tymes you giue it for a pray to most mortall diseases, wherein you shewe your small iudgements in seeking to heape together vaine things, and yet cannot preserue those that are necessarie. Remember the prouerbe: There is no treasure to health. And imagine a Prince groning in his bed, who offereth all his wealth for the recouerie of that which you cōtemne. So will you peraduenture confesse that you are more happie then wise. As for your reuenues, your continuall lamenting of your * want doth shew that you are not very well content therewith: And yet is your rent perhaps twelue hundred crownes by yeere, with a goodly house, well furnished, where as your father liued honestly & merely with the one halfe. You will either tell me, or thinke with your selues, that when you haue on your gay garments you are an other maner of man thē your father was. Truely I graunt it, & I thinke your fathers head was fraught with wit that could of so small wealth keepe his house furnished: Whereas contrariwise I suppose that your vnderstanding is troubled with sixe ounces of folly at the least, considering that hauing so many commodities, your house is neuer but emptie, and yet I would wish you not to wéepe, for there bee at the least fower millions of persons in this Realme that haue not the tenth parte so much as you, and yet shed neuer a teare for it. You haue but ouer much if you could vse it. What will you say of so many of your good Parents and Frends▪ And what accompt they make of you where you haue bene con∣uersant? Yea, what will you say of your Libertie? which is a thing comparable to Life, through the which you may take pleasure in the beautie of the seasons, & more in the conuersation of men. You must needes aduowe that the possessions of these onely benefites Page 101 (notwithstanding you possesse much more thē I will note, as wel to auoyde flatterie, as not to bee tedious to the reader) doe suffice to make you blesse the giuer, content your se ues with your estate, and reioyce with other men: to which effects you shall atteyne by often meditation in the same. But if you disdayne this profitable counsaile, and returne to your accustomed neglecting of that which is certaine to the ende to seeke the vncertaine, you will driue me to appropriate vnto you the deploration of the miser and to say of you. Oh miserable man! who in the middest of so much wealth ac∣coumpteth himselfe needie and poore! I haue sayd enough, it is your partes to thinke vpon it.
But I would wish euery man to knowe that this my admoni∣tion tendeth not to puffe vp the naturall pride of any that hath * considered of himselfe, whereto many are easely led: but rather to reclaime those that are too eager in the laboursome pursuite of su∣perfluous goods, as also from their delicate complaints, in which waies I will not denye but my selfe haue heretofore walked as farre as others. But age, learning and sinister experiences hauing stayed mee in the meditation of such things as I haue noted and many more. I haue thereby learned, first that Gods liberalitie a∣boundeth toward vs, which wee neuerthelesse by contempt of his goods do abuse: and secondly that it is not altogether vnprofitable, when in the ende a man by his owne errors doth amend.