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great length and into times too far off, as if we could bind divine providence by our arrangements; a thing which even among the Heathen was ever held insolent and unlucky. For it has commonly been seen that those who have attributed much to fortune and held themselves alert and vigilant to use occasions as they present themselves, have enjoyed great prosperity; whereas deep schemers who have trusted to have all things cared for and considered, have been unfortunate. The second kind of excess is, when we dwell on our cares longer than is necessary for just deliberation and decision. For which of us is there who cares only so much as is necessary that he may know what to do, or know that he can do nothing: and does not turn the same things over and over in his mind, and hang uselessly in the same circle of cogitations, till he loses himself in them? Which kind of cares is most adverse both to divine and human considerations.
OF EARTHLY HOPE.
Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire.
The sense which takes everything simply as it is makes a better mental condition and estate than those imaginations and wanderings of the mind. For it is the nature of the human mind, even in the gravest wits, the moment it receives an impression of anything, to sally forth and spring forward and expect to find everything else in harmony with it: if it be an impression of good, then it is prone to indefinite hope; if of evil, to fear. Whence it is said,
By her own tales is Hope full oft deceived.
and on the other hand,
In doubtful times Fear still forbodes the worst.
In fear however there is some advantage: it prepares endurance and sharpens industry.
The task can show no face that's strange to me:
Each chance I have pondered, and in thought rehearsed.
But in hope there seems to be no use. avails that anticipation of good? If the good turn out less than you hoped for, good though it be, yet because it is not so good, it seems to you more like a loss than a gain, by reason of the overhope. If neither more nor less, but so; the event being equal and answerable to the hope; yet the flower of it having been by that hope already gathered, you find it a stale thing and almost distasteful. If the good be beyond the hope, then no doubt there is a sense of gain: true: yet had it not been better to gain the whole by hoping not at all, than the difference by hoping too little? And such is the effect of hope in prosperity. But in adversity it enervates the true strength of the mind. For matter of hope cannot always be forthcoming; and if it fail, though but for a moment, the whole strength and support of the mind goes with it. Moreover the mind suffers in dignity, when we endure evil only by self-deception and looking another way, and not by fortitude and judgment. And therefore it was an idle fiction of the poets to make Hope the antidote of human diseases, because it mitigates the pain of them; whereas it is in fact an inflammation and exasperation of them rather, multiplying and making them break out afresh. So it is nevertheless, that most men give themselves up entirely to imaginations of hope and these wanderings of the
mind, and thankless for the past, scarce attending to the present, ever young, hang merely upon the future. I beheld all that walk under the sun with the next youth that shall rise after him; which is a sore disease and a great madness of the mind. You will ask perhaps if it be not better, when a man knows not what to expect, that he should divine well of the future, and rather hope than distrust, seeing that hope makes the mind more tranquil. Certainly in all delay and expectation to keep the mind tranquil and steadfast by the good government and composure of the same, I hold to be the chief firmament of human life; but such tranquillity as depends upon hope I reject, as light and unsure. Not but it is fit to foresee and presuppose upon sound and sober conjecture good things as well as evil, that we may the better fit our actions to the probable event: only this must be the work of the understanding and judgment, with a just inclination of the feeling. But who is there whose hopes are so ordered that when once he has concluded with himself out of a vigilant and steady consideration of probabilities that better things are coming, he has not dwelt upon the very anticipation of good, and indulged in that kind of thought as in a pleasant dream? And this it is which makes the mind light, frothy, unequal, wandering. Therefore all hope is to be employed upon the life to come in heaven: but here on earth, by how much purer is the sense of things present, without infection or tincture of imagination, by so much wiser and better is the soul.
Long hope to cherish in so short a span
Betits not man.
I will have mercy and not sacrifice.
The ostentation of hypocrites is ever confined to the works of the first table of the law, which prescribes our duties to God. The reason is twofold: both because works of this class have a greater pomp of sanctity, and because they interfere less with their desires. The way to convict a hypocrite therefore is to send him from the works of sacrifice, to the works of mercy. Whence the text: Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the orphans and widows in their affliction; and that other, He who loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how shall he love God whom he hath not seen? There are some however of a deeper and more inflated hypocrisy, who deceiving themselves, and fancying themselves worthy of a closer conversation with God, neglect the duties of charity towards their neighbour, as inferior matters. By which error the life monastic was, not indeed originated (for the beginning was good), but carried into excess. For it is rightly said that the office of prayer is a great office in the Church; and it is for the service of the Church that there should be companies of men relieved from cares of the world, who may pray to God without ceasing for the state of the Church. But this institution is a near neighbour to that form of hypocrisy which I speak of: nor is the institution itself meant to be condemned; but only those self-exalting spirits to be restrained. For both Enoch, he who walked with God, prophecied, as we know from Jude, and endowed the Church with the fruit of his proph
ecy; and John the Baptist, whom some would have to be the founder of the life monastic, exercised much ministry both of prophecy and baptism. For it is to those others, who are so officious towards God, that that question is applied: If thou be righteous what givest thou him, or what receiveth he of thine hand? The works of mercy therefore are the works whereby to distinguish hypocrites. With heretics on the contrary it is otherwise for as hypocrites seek by a pretended holiness towards God to cover their injuries towards men; so heretics seek by a certain moral carriage towards men to make a passage for their blasphemies against God.
Whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God; or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.
Here is the true image and true temper of a man who has religion deeply seated in his heart, and is God's faithful workman. His carriage and conversation towards God is full of excess, of zeal, of extasy. Hence groans unspeakable, and exultations, and raptures of spirit, and agonies. His bearing and conversation with men on the contrary is full of mildness and sobriety and appliable demeanour: whence that saying, I am become all things to all men, and the like. Contrary it is with hypocrites and impostors for they in the Church and towards the people set themselves on fire, and are carried as it were out of themselves, and becoming as men inspired with holy furies, they set heaven and earth together. But if a man should look into their times of solitude, and separate meditations,