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Tharsus, because they are circled by sharp mountains; but so also we may be in charity with every unpleasant accident, because, though it taste bitter, it is intended for health and medicine.
If therefore thou fallest from thy employment in public, take sanctuary in an honest retirement, being indifferent to thy gain abroad, or thy safety at home. If thou art out of favor with thy prince, secure the favor of the King of kings, and then there is no harm come to thee. And when Zeno Citiensis lost all his goods in a storm, he retired to the studies of philosophy, to his short cloak and severe life, and gave thanks to fortune for his prosperous mischance. When the north wind blows hard, and it rains sadly, none but fools sit down in it and cry; wise people defend themselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire, and a dry roof; when a storm of a sad mischance beats upon our spirits, turn it into some advantage, by observing where it can serve another end, either of religion or prudence, or more safety or less envy; it will turn into something that is good, if we list to make it so; at least, it may make us weary of the world's vanity, and take off our confidence from uncertain riches, and make our spirits to dwell in those regions where content dwells essentially. If it does any good to our souls, it hath made more than sufficient recompense for all the temporal affliction. He that threw a stone at a dog and hit his cruel stepmother, said, that although he intended it otherwise, yet the stone was not quite lost; and if we fail in the first design, if we bring it home to another equally to content us, or more to profit us, then we have put our conditions past the power of chance; and this was called in the old Greek comedy, a being revenged on fortune by becoming philosophers, and turning the chance into reason or religion; for so a wise man shall overrule his stars, and have a greater influence upon his own content than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.
2. Never compare thy condition with those above thee; but to secure thy content, look upon those thousands with whom thou wouldst not for any interest, change thy fortune and condition. A soldier must not think himself unprosperous, if he be not successful as the son of Philip, or cannot grasp a fortune as big as the Roman empire. Be content that thou art not lessened as was Pyrrhus; or if thou beest, that thou art not routed like Crassus; and when that comes to thee, it is a great prosperity that thou art not caged and mad, a spectacle like Bajazet, or thy eyes were not pulled out like Zedekiah's, or that thou wert pot flayed alive like Valentinian. If thou admirest the greatness of Xerxes, look also on those who digged the mountain Atho, or whose ears and noses were cut off, because the Hellespont carried away the bridge. It is a fine thing, thou thinkest, to be carried on men's shoulders; but give God thanks that thou art not forced to carry a rich fool upon thy shoulders, as those poor men do whom thou beholdest. There are but a few kings in mankind, but many thousands who are very miserable if compared to thee; however, it is a huge folly rather to grieve for the good of others, than to rejoice for that good which God hath given us of our own.
And yet there is no wise or good man that would change persons or conditions entirely with any man in the world. It may be he would have one man's wealth added to himself, or the power of a second, or the learning of a third; but still he would receive these into his own person, because he loves that best, and therefore esteems it best, and therefore overvalues all that which he is, before all that which any other man in the world can be. Would any be Dives to have his wealth, or Judas for his office, or Saul for his kingdom, or Absalom for his beauty, or Ahithophel for his policy? It is likely he would wish all these, and yet he would be the same person still. For every man hath desires of his own, and objects first fitted to them, without which he cannot be, unless he were not himself. And let every man that loves himself so well as to love himself before all the world, consider if he have not some thing for which in the whole he values himself far more than he can value any one else. There is therefore no reason to take the finest feathers from all the winged nation to deck that bird that thinks already she is more valuable than any one of the inhabitants of the air. Either change all
Cease to love yourself best, or be content with that portion of being and blessing, for which you love yourself so well.
THE GRADUAL PROGRESS OF EVIL.
It is a great point of wisdom, to know how to estimate little things. Of those which are evidently great, every one can see the importance; but true wisdom looks at these great objects before they have arrived at their full size. She considers, that it is principally in this earlier state that they come under the power of
man, be arranged, modified, increased, or extinguished, at his pleasure; whereas, in a more advanced stage, they set at defiance all his efforts. On the contrary, it is the part of folly to wait till evils have attained their maturity before they are attacked; for then that which might at first have been easily crushed, becomes irresistible.
Behold a conflagration! With what dreadful fury it rages! The largest houses are devoured by it in a moment. The strongest fall victims to its incontrollable power. Yet this fire, which now resists the united wisdom and power of man, originated from a small spark, and might at first have been extinguished by a child.
Look also at yonder tree, which is now so firmly rooted in the earth, which rears its lofty head so high, and bears its flourishing honors so thick upon it! It was once only a small seed; it was then a tender plant, so slender and so weak, that the foot of accident might have crushed it, the overshadowing of a weed might have suffocated it, or the hand of negligence or wantonness have torn it up. Thus does nature point out to us the growth of the strongest things from weak and almost imperceptible beginnings.
Behold also the traveller. He is at a long distance from the end of his journey. A step seems to be of no consequence to him. For what is a step, compared with the many miles which he has to travel ? But it is by these successive steps he is carried on, till at last he arrives at his desired home. Mountains, vallies, and plains, the prospect of which even fatigues the eye, are all at length surmounted by the constant application of those little steps, which appear at first to bear no proportion to the immeasurable distance.