Imágenes de páginas

light the powder treason, when Providence and rain, and a mighty tempest. So these (as it were) snatched a king and kingdom out accidents, when they first happen, seem but of the very jaws of death, only by the mistake small and contemptible; but by degrees they of a word in the direction of a letter.

branch out, and widen themselves into such a But of all cases, in which little casualties numerous train of mischievous consequences, produce great and strange effects, the chief is one drawing after it another, by a continued war; upon the issues of which hangs the for- dependence and muliplication, that the plague tune of states and kingdoms.

becomes victorious and universal, and personal Cæsar, I am sure, whose great sagacity and miscarriage determines in a national calamity. conduct put his success as much out of the For who, that should view the small, despipower of chance, as human reason could well cable beginnings of some things and persons do; yet upon occasion of a notable experiment at first, could imagine or prognosticate those that had like to have lost him his whole army vast and stupendous increases of fortune that at Dyrrachium, tells

us the power of it in the have afterwards followed them? third book of his Commentaries, De Bello Who, that had looked upon Agathocles first Civili : “Fortuna quæ plurimum potest, cum handling the clay, and making pots under his in aliis rebus, tum præcipue in bello, in parvis father, and afterwards turning robber, could momentis magnas rerum mutationes efficit." have thought, that from such a condition he Nay, and a greater than Cæsar, even the should come to be king of Sicily? Spirit of God himself, (Eccles. vi. 11,) ex Who, that had seen Massaniello, a poor pressly declares, “ that the battle is not always fisherman, with his red cap and his angle, to the strong." So that upon this account could have reckoned it possible to see such a every warrior may in some sense be said to pitiful thing, within a week after, shining in be a soldier of fortune ; and the best com his cloth of gold, and with a word or a nod manders to have a kind of lottery for their absolutely commanding the whole city of work, as, amongst us, they have for their Naples ? reward. For how often have whole armies Ånd who, that had beheld such a bankrupt, been routed by a little mistake, or a sudden beggarly fellow as Cromwell, first entering fear raised in the soldiers' minds, upon some the parliament house with a threadbare torn trivial ground or occasion !

cloak, and a greasy hat, (and perhaps neither Sometimes the misunderstanding of a word of them paid for,) could have suspected that has scattered and destroyed those who have in the space of so few years, he should, by the been even in possession of victory, and wholly niurder of one king, and the banishment of turned the fortune of the day. A spark of another, ascend the throne, be invested in the fire or an unexpected gust of wind may ruin royal robes, and want nothing of the state of a navy: And sometimes a false, senseless a king, but the changing of his hat into a report has spread so far, and sunk so deep crown into the people's minds, as to cause a tumult, It is (as it were) the sport of the Almighty, and that tumult a rebellion, and that rebel thus to baffle and confound the sons of men lion has ended in the subversion of a govern by such events, as both cross the methods of ment.

their actings, and surpass the measure of their And in the late war between the king and expectations. For according to both these, some of his rebel subjects, has it not some men still suppose a gradual natural progress times been at an even cast, whether his army of things; as that from great things and pershould march this way or that way? Where sons should grow greater, till at length, by as had it took that way, which actually it many steps and ascents, they come to be at did not, things afterwards so fell out, that in greatest; not considering, that when Provivery high probability of reason, it must have dence designs strange and mighty changes, it met with such success, as would have put a gives men wings instead of legs; and instead happy issue to that wretched war, and thereby of climbing leisurely, makes them at once fly have continued the crown upon that blessed to the top and height of greatness and power. prince's head, and his head upon his shoulders. So that the world about them (looking up to Upon supposal of which event, most of those those illustrious upstarts) scarce knows who sad and strange alterations that have since or whence they were, nor they themselves happened would have been prevented; the where they are. ruin of many honest men hindered, the It were infinite to insist upon particular punishment of many great villains hastered, instances; histories are full of them, and exand the preferment of greater spoiled. perience seals to the truth of history.

Many passages happen in the world, much In the next place, let us consider to what like that little cloud in 1 Kings, xviii. that ap great purposes God directs these little casualpeared at first, to Elijah's servant,“ no bigger ties, with reference to particular persons; and than a man's hand,” but presently after grew those either public or private. and spread, and blackened the face of the whole 1. And first for public persons, as princes. heaven, and then discharged itself in thunder Was it not a mere accident, that Pharaoh's

daughter met with Moses? Yet it was a and addresses entertaining him all the way, means to bring him up in the Egyptian court, kep: him from saving so great a life, but with then the school of all arts and policy, and so one glance of his eye upon the paper ; till he to fit him for that great and arduous employ came to the fatal place where he was stabbed, ment that God designed him to.

For see

and died with the very means of preventiug upon what little hinges that great affair death in his hand. turned; for had either the child been cast out, Henry the Second of France, by a splinter, or Pharaoh's daughter come down to the river unhappily thrust into his eye at a solemn but an hour sooner or later; or had that little justing, was despatched and sent out of the vessel not been cast by the parents, or carried world, by a sad, but very accidental death. by the water, into that very place where it In a word, God has many ways to reap was, in all likelihood the child must have down the grandees of the earth; an arrow, a undergone the common lot of the other bullet, a tile, a stone from an house, is enough Hebrew children, and been either starved or to do it: and besides all these ways, some drowned; or, however, not advanced to such times, when he intends to bereave the world a peculiar height and happiness of condition. of a prince or an illustrious person, he may That Octavius Cæsar should shift his tent cast him upon a bold, self-opinioned physi(which he had never used to do before) just cian, worse than his distemper, who shall dose that very night that it happened to be took and bleed, and kill him secundum artem, and by the enemy, was a mere casualty ; yet such make a shift to cure him into his grave. an one as preserved a person who lived to In the last place, we will consider this establish a total alteration of government in directing influence of God, with reference to the imperial city of the world.

private persons; and that as touching things But we need not go far for a prince pre of nearest concernment to them. As, served by as strange a series of little contin 1. Their lives. gencies, as ever were managed by the art of 2. Their health. Providence to so great a purpose.

3. Their reputation. There was but an hair's breadth between 4. Their friendships. And, him and certain destruction for the space of 5. And lastly, their employments or prefermany days. For had the rebel forces gone ments. one way rather than another, or come but a And first, for men's lives. Though these are little sooner to his hiding-place, or but mis- things for which nature knows no price or trusted something which they passed over, ransom, yet I appeal to universal experience, (all which things might very easily have hap- whether they have not, in many men, hung pened,)-we had not seen this face of things oftentimes upon a very slender thread, and at this day; but rebellion had been still en the distance between them and death been throned, perjury and cruelty had reigned, very nice, and the escape wonderful. There majesty had been proscribed, religion extin- have been some, who upon a slight, and perguished, and both church and state throughly haps groundless occasion, have gone out of a reformed and ruined with confusions, mas ship, or house, and the ship has sunk, and sacres, and a total desolation.

the house has fell immediately after their On the contrary, when Providence designs departure. judgment or destruction to a prince, nobody He that, in a great wind, suspecting the knows by what little, unusual, unregarded strength of his house, betook himself to his means the fatal blow shall reach him. If orchard, and walking there, was knocked on Ahab be designed for death, though a soldier the head by a tree, falling through the fury in the enemy's army draws a bow at a ven of a sudden gust, wanted but the advance of ture; yet the sure, unerring directions of Pro one or two steps, to have put him out of the vidence shall carry it in a direct course to his way of that mortal blow. heart, and there lodge the revenge of heaven. He that being subject to an apoplexy, used

An old woman shall cast down a stone from still to carry his remedy about him; but, upon a wall, and God shall send it to the head of a time, shifting his clothes, and not taking Abimelech, and so sacrifice a king in the very that with him, chanced, upon that very day, head of his army.

to be surprised with a fit, and to die in it, How many warnings had Julius Cæsar of certainly owed his death to a mere accident, the fatal ides of March! Whereupon some to a little inadvertency and failure of memory. times he resolved not to go to the senate, and But not to recount too many particulars, may sometimes again he would go; and when at not every soldier, that comes alive out of the length he did go, in his very passage thither, battle, pass for a living monument of a benign one put into his hand a note of the whole chance, and a happy Providence? For was conspiracy against him, together with all the he not in the nearest neighbourhood to death? names of the conspirators, desiring him to And might not the bullet, that perhaps razed read it forth with, and to remember the giver his cheek, have as easily gone into his head ? of it as long as he lived. But continual salutes. And the sword that glanced upon his aru,

with a little diversion have found the way to yet the wittiest sayings and sentences will be his heart? But the workings of Providence found in a great measure the issues of chance, are marvellous, and the methods secret and and nothing else but so many lucky hits of a untraceable, by which it disposes of the lives roving fancy. of men.

For consult the acutest poets and speakers, In like manner, for men's health, it is no and they will confess that their quickest and less wonderful to consider to what strange most admired conceptions were such as darted casualties many sick persons oftentimes owe into their minds like sudden flashes of lighttheir recovery. Perhaps an unusual draught ning, they knew not how, nor whence; and or morsel, or some accidental violence of mo not by any certain consequence or dependence tion, has removed that malady, that for many of one thought upon another, as it is in matyears has baffled the skill of all physicians. ters of ratiocination. So that, in effect, he is the best physician that Moreover, sometimes a man's reputation has the best luck; he prescribes, but it is rises or falls as his memory serves him in a chance that cures.

performance; and yet there is nothing more That person that (being provoked by exces fickle, slippery, and less under command, than sive pain) thrust his dagger into his body, this faculty. So that many, having used and thereby, instead of reaching his vitals, their utmost diligence to secure a faithful reopened an imposthume, the unknown cause of tention of the things or words committed to all his pain, and so stabbed himself into per it, yet after all cannot certainly know where fect health and ease, surely had great reason it will trip, and fail them. Any sudden diverto acknowledge chance for his chirurgeon, and sion of the spirits, or the justling in of a tranProvidence for the guider of his hand. sient thought, is able to deface those little

And then also for men's reputation; and images of things ; and so breaking the train that either in point of wisdom or of wit. that was laid in the mind, to leave a man in There is liardly any thing which (for the the lurch. And for the other part of memory, most part) falls under a greater chance. If called reminiscence, which is the retrieving of a man succeeds in any attempt, though under a thing, at present forgot, or but confusedly took with never so much folly and rashness, remembered, by setting the mind to hunt his success shall vouch him a politician ; and over all its notions, and to ransack every little good luck shall pass for deep contrivance : for, cell of the brain. While it is thus busied, give any one fortune, and he shall be thought how accidentally oftentimes does the thing a wise man, in spite of his lieart; nay, and sought for offer itself to the mind! And by of his head too. "On the contrary, be a design what small, petit hints, does the mind catch never so artificially laid, and spun in the hold of, and recover a vanishing notion ! finest thread of policy, if it chances to be In short, though wit and learning are cerdefeated by some cross accident, the man is tain and habitual perfections of the mind, yet then run down by an universal vogue; his the declaration of them (which alone brings counsels are derided, his prudence questioned, the repute) is subject to a thousand hazards. and his person despised.

So that every wit runs something the same Ahithopliel was as great an oracle, and gave risk with the astrologer, who, if his predictions as good counsel to Absalom, as ever he had come to pass, is cried up to the stars from given to David; but not having the good luck whence he pretends to draw them ; but if not, to be believed, and thereupon Josing his for the astrologer himself grows more out of date mer repute, he thought it high time to hang than his almanack. himself. And, on the other side, there have And then, in the fourth place, for the friendbeen some, who for several years have been ships or enmities that a man contracts in the fools with tolerable good reputation, and world; than which surely there is nothing never discovered themselves to be so, till at that has a more direct and potent influence length they attempted to be knaves also, but upon the whole course of a man's life, whether wanted art and dexterity.

as to happiness or misery: yet chance has the And as the repute of wisdom, so that of wit ruling stroke in them all. also, is very casual. Sometimes a lucky say A man by mere peradventure lights into ing, or a pertinent. reply, has procured an company, possibly is driven into a house by esteem of wit, to persons otherwise very shal a shower of rain for present shelter, and there low, and no ways accustomed to utter such begins an acquaintance with a person ; which things by any standing ability of mind; so acquaintance and endearment grows and conthat if such an one should have the ill hap at tinues, even when relations fail, and perhaps any time to strike a man dead with a smart proves the support of his mind and of his forsaying, it ought, in all reason and conscience, tunes to his dying day. to be judged but a chance-medley : the poor And the like holds in enmities, which come man (God knows) being no way guilty of much more easily than the other. A word any design of wit.

unadvisedly spoken on the one side, or misNay, even where there is a real stock of wit, understood on the other; any the least sur



mise of neglect; sometimes a bare gesture; like the ass, to court his master, just as the nay, the very unsuitableness of one man's spaniel had done before him, instead of being aspect to the other man's fancy, has raised stroked and made much of, he is only rated such an aversion to him, as in time has pro- off and cudgelled for all his courtship. duced a perfect hatred of him; and that so The source of men's preferments is most strong and so tenacious, that it has never left commonly the will, humour, and fancy of vexing and troubling him, till perhaps at persons in power ; whereupon, when a prince length it has worried him to his grave; yea, or grandee manifests a liking to such a thing, and after death too, has pursued him in his such an art, or such a pleasure, men generally surviving shadow, exercising the same tyranny set about to make themselves considerable for upon his very name and memory.

such things, and thereby, through his favour, It is hard to please men of some tempers, to advance themselves; and at length, when who indeed hardly know what will please they have spent their whole time in them, themselves ; and yet if a man does not please and so are become fit for nothing else, that them, which it is ten thousand to one if he prince or grandee perhaps dies, and another does, if they can but have power equal to succeeds him, quite of a different disposition, their malice, (as sometimes, to plague the and inclining him to be pleased with quite world, God lets them have,) such an one must different things ; whereupon these men's expect all the mischief that power and spite hopes, studies, and expectations, are wholly lighting upon a base mind, can possibly do at an end. And besides, though the grandee him.

whom they build upon should not die, or quit In the last place. As for men's employ- the stage, yet the same person does not always ments and preferments, every man that sets like the same things. For age may alter his forth into the world, comes into a great lottery, constitution, humour, or appetite; or the cirand draws some one certain profession to act, cumstances of his affairs may put him upon and live by, but knows not the fortune that different courses and counsels; every one of will attend him in it.

which accidents wholly alters the road to preOne man perhaps proves miserable in the ferment. So that those who travel that road study of the law, who might have flourished must be (like highwaymen) very dexterous in that of physic or divinity. Another runs in shifting the way upon every turn; and yet his head against the pulpit, who might have their very doing so sometimes proves the been very serviceable to his country at the means of their being found out, understood, plough. And a third proves a very dull and and abhorred; and for this very cause, that heavy philosopher, who possibly would have they are ready to do any thing, are justly made a good mechanic, and have done well thought fit to be preferred to nothing. enough at the useful philosophy of the spade Cæsar Borgia (base son to Pope Alexander or the anvil.

VI.) used to boast to his friend Machiavel, Now let this man reflect upon the time that he had contrived his affairs and greatness when all these several callings and professions into such a posture of firmness, that whether were equally offered to his choice, and consi- | his holy father lived or died, they could not der how indifferent it was once for him to but be secure. If he lived, there could be have fixed upon any one of them, and what no doubt of them; and if he died, he laid his little accidents and considerations cast the interest so as to overrule the next election as balance of his choice, rather one way than he pleased. But all this while, the politician the other; and he will find how easily chance never thought, or considered, that he might may throw a man upon a profession, which in the meantime fall dangerously sick, and all his diligence cannot make him fit for. that sickness necessitate bis removal from the

And then, for the preferments of the world, court, and during that his absence, his father he that would reckon up all the accidents that die, and so his interest decay, and his mortal they depend upon, may as well undertake to enemy be chosen to the papacy, as indeed it count the sands, or to sum up infinity; so fell out; so that for all his exact plot, down that greatness, as well as an estate, may, upon was he cast from all his greatness, and forced this account, be properly called a man's for to end his days in a mean condition: as it is tune, forasmuch as no man.can state either pity but all such politic opinionators should. the acquisition or preservation of it upon any Upon much the like account, we find it certain rules; every man, as well as the mer once said of an eminent cardinal, by reason chant, being here truly an adventurer. For of his great and apparent likelihood to step the ways by which it is obtained are various, into Saint Peter's chair, that in two conclaves and frequently contrary : one man, by sneak- he went in pope, and came out again cardinal. ing and flattering, comes to riches and honour, So much has chance the casting voice in the (where it is in the power of fools to bestow disposal of all the great things of the world. them,) upon observation whereof, another That which men call merit, is a mere nothing; presently thinks to arrive to the same great for even when persons of the greatest worth ness by the very same means; but striving | and merit are preferred, it is not their merit,

him say,

but their fortune that prefers them. And signs or traces of them to be found, but only then, for that other so much admired thing in story. When, I say, he shall have well called policy, it is but little better. For when reflected upon all this, let him see what secumen have busied themselves, and beat their rity he can promise himself, in his own little brains never so much, the whole result both personal domestic concerns, which at the best of their counsels and their fortunes is still at have but the protection of the laws, to guard the mercy of an accident. And therefore, and defend them, which, God knows, are far whosoever that man was, that said, that he from being able to defend themselves. had rather have a grain of fortune than a No man can rationally account himself pound of wisdom, as to the things of this life, secure, unless he could command all the spoke nothing but the voice of wisdom and chances of the world. But how should he great experience.

command them when he cannot so much as And now I am far from affirming, that I number them? Possibilities are as infinite as have recounted all, or indeed the hundredth God's power; and whatsoever may come to part of those casualties of human life, that pass, no man can certainly conclude shall not may display the full compass of Diviné Pro come to pass. vidence; but surely, I have reckoned up so People forget how little it is that they many, as sufficiently enforce the necessity of know, and how much less it is that they can our reliance upon it, and that in opposition ! do, when they grow confident upon any preto two extremes, that men are usually apt to sent state of things. fall into.

There is no one enjoyment that a man 1. Too much confidence and presumption in pleases himself in, but is liable to be lost by a prosperous estate. David, after his deliver ten thousand accidents, wholly out of all ances from Saul, and his victories over all his mortal power either to foresee or to prevent. enemies round about him, (Psalm xxx. 7, 8,) Reason allows none to be confident, but Him confesses, that this his prosperity had raised only who governs the world, who knows all him to such a pitch of confidence, as to make things, and can do all things, and therefore

“ that he should never be moved, can neither be surprised nor overpowered. God, of his favour, liad made his hill só 2. The other extreme, which these considerstrong:" but presently he adds, almost in ations should arm the heart of man against, the very same breath, “Thou didst hide thy is, utter despondency of mind in a time of face, and I was troubled.”

pressing adversity. The sun shines in his full brightness but As he who presumes, steps into the throne the very moment before he passes under a of God; so he that despairs, limits an infinite cloud. Who knows what a day, what an power to a finite apprehension, and measures hour, nay, what a minute may bring forth ! Providence by his own little contracted He who builds upon the present, builds upon model. But the contrivances of Heaven are the narrow compass of a point; and where as much above our politics, as beyond our the foundation is so narrow, the superstructure arithmetic. cannot be high, and strong too.

Of those many millions of casualties, which Is a man confident of his present health we are not aware of, there is hardly one, but and strength? Why, an unwholesome blast God can make an instrument of our deliverof air, a cold, or a surfeit took by chance, may

And most men, who are at length shake in pieces his hardy fabric; and (in delivered from any great distress indeed, find spite of all his youth and vigour) send him, in that they are so, by ways that they never the very flower of his years, pining and droop- thought of — ways above or beside their imaing, to his long home. Nay, he cannot with giuation. any assurance, so much as step out of his And therefore let no man, who owns the doors, but (unless God commissions his

pro belief of a Providence, grow desperate or fortecting angel to bear him up in his hands) he lorn under any calamity or strait whatsoever; may dash his foot against a stone, and fall, but compose the anguish of his thoughts, and and in that fall breathe his last.

rest his amazed spirits upon this one consideraOr is a man confident of his estate, wealth, tion, that he knows not which way the lot and power? Why, let him read of those may fall, or what may happen to him; he strange, unexpected dissolutions of the great comprehends not those strange unaccountable monarchies and governments of the world, - methods, by which Providence may dispose of governments that once made such a noise, him. and looked so big in the eyes of mankind, as In a word. To sum up all the foregoing disbeing founded upon the deepest counsels and course : since the interest of governments and the strongest force; and yet, by some slight nations, of princes and private persons, and miscarriage or cross accident, (which let in that both as to life and health, reputation ruin and desolation upon them at first,) are and honour, friendships and enmities, employ: now so utterly extinct, that nothing remains ments and preferments, (notwithstanding all of them but a name, nor are there the least the contrivanco and power that human nature


« AnteriorContinuar »