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Persian carpets, and the ingredients of the rich scarlet ; all these, being disproportionate either to the appetite, or to the understanding, could add nothing of content, and might declare the freeness of the presenter, but they upbraid the incapacity of the receiver. And so it does, if God should give the whole world to any man. He knows not what to do with it; he can use no more but according to the capacities of a man; he can use nothing but meat, and drink, and clothes; and infinite riches, that can give him changes of raiment every day, and a full table, do but give him a clean trencher, every bit he eats; it signifies no more but wantonness, and variety to the same, not to any new purposes.
He to whom the world can be given, to any purpose greater than a private estate can minister, must have new capacities created in him; he needs the understanding of an angel to take the accounts of his estate; he had need have a stomach like fire or the
for else he can eat no more than one of his healthful subjects; and unless he hath an eye like the sun, and a motion like that of a thought, and a bulk as big as one of the orbs of heaven, the pleasure of his eye can be no greater, than to behold the beauty of a little prospect from a hill, or to look upon the heap of gold, packed up in a little room, or to dote upon a cabinet of jewels, better than which, there is no man that sees at all, but sees every day. For, not to name the beauties and sparkling diamonds of heaven, a man's, or a woman's, or a hawk's eye, is more beauteous and excellent than all the jewels of his crown.
And when we remember, that a beast, who hath quicker senses than a man, yet hath not so great delight in the fruition of any object, because he wants understanding, and the power to make reflex acts upon his perception; it will follow, that understanding and knowledge is the greatest instrument of pleasure, and he that is most knowing, hath a capacity to become happy, which a less knowing prince, or a rich person hath not; and in this only, a man's capacity is capable of enlargement. But then, although they only have power to relish any pleasure rightly, who rightly understand the nature, and degrees, and essences, and ends of things; yet they that do so, understand also the vanity, and the unsatisfyingness of the things of this world, so that the relish, which could not be great, but in a great understanding, appears contemptible, because its vanity appears at the same time; the understanding sees all, and sees through it.
Suppose a man lord of all this world, a universal monarch, as some princes have lately designed ; all that cannot minister content to him; not that content which a poor contemplative man, by the strength of Christian philosophy, and the support of a very small fortune, daily does enjoy. All his power and greatness cannot command the sea to overflow his shores, or to stay from retiring to the opposite strand ; it cannot make his children dutiful or wise. And though the world admired at the greatness of Philip the Second's fortune, in the accession of Portugal and the East Indies to his principalities; yet this could not allay the infelicity of his family, and the unhandsomeness of his condition, in having a proud, and indiscreet, and a vicious young prince, likely to inherit all his greatness.
And if nothing appears in the face of such a fortune, to tell all the world that it is spotted and imperfect; yet there is in all conditions of the world such weariness, and tediousness of spirits, that a man is ever more pleased with hopes of going off from the present, than in dwelling upon that condition, which, it may be, others admire and think beauteous, but none knoweth the smart of it, but he that drank off the little pleasure, and felt the ill relish of the appendage. How many kings have groaned under the burthen of their crowns, and have sunk down and died ? How many have quitted their pompous cares, and retired into private lives, there to enjoy the pleasures of philosophy and religion, which their thrones denied ?