William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

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ment than could be made with a hatchet and
a saw : and their furniture was like their
houses. This course disbanded many trades;
no merchant, no cook, no lawyer, no flatterer,
no divine, no astrologer, was to be found in
Lacedsemonia. Injustice was banished from
their society, having cut up the root of it, which
is avarice, by introducing a community, and
making gold and silver useless. To prevent
the luxury of tables as well as of apparel, he
ordained public places of eating, where all
should publicly be served ; those who refused
to come thither were reputed voluptuous, and
reproved, if not corrected. He would have
virgins labour, as well as young men, that
their bodies being used to exercise might be
the stronger and healthier. He forbade that
they should have any portions, to the end that
none might make suit to them for their wealth,
but for their worth ; by which means the
poor went off as well as the rich : and that
their virtue might prefer them, they were de-
nied to use any ornaments. Chastity was so
general, and so much in request, that no law
was made against adultery ; believing, that
where luxury and the arts leading to it, were so
severely forbidden, it was needless. He forbade
costly offerings in the temple, that they might
offer often ; for that God regardeth the heart,
not the offering. These, and some more,
were the laws he instituted ; and whilst the
Spartans kept them, it is certain they were
the first state of Greece, which lasted about
five hundred years. It is remarkable that he
would never suffer the laws to be written, to
avoid barratry, and that the judges might not
be tied religiously to the letter of the law, but
left to the circumstances of fact ; from which
no inconvenience was observed to follow.

II. The Romans also yield us instances to
our point in hand.

33. Cato, that sage Roman, seeing a luxu-
rious man laden with flesh. Of what service,
saith he, can that man be, either to himself,
or to the commonwealth ? One day beholding
the statues of several persons erecting whom
he thought little worthy of remembrance, that
he might despise the pride of it; said he, I had
rather they should ask, why they set not up
a statue to Cato, than why they do. He was
a man of severity of life, both in example and
as a judge. His competitors in the govern-
ment, hoping to be preferred, took the contrary
humour and flattered the people : this good
man despised their arts, and with an unusual
fervency cried out. That the distempers of the
commonwealth did not require flatterers to de-
VoL. I.— No. 8.

ceive them, but physicians to cure them :
which struck so great an awe upon the peo-
ple, that he was first chosen of them all. The
fine dames of Rome became governors to their
husbands ; he lamented the change, saying, It
is strange that those who command the world
should yet be subject to women. He thought
those judges, who would not impartially pun-
ish malefactors, greater criminals than the
malefactors themselves : a good lesson for
judges of the world. He would say, That it
was better to lose a gift than a correction ;
for says he, the one corrupts, but the other
instructs us. That we ought not to separate
honour from virtue ; for then there would be
few virtuous. No man is fit to command an-
other, who cannot command himself. Great
men should be temperate in their power, that
they may keep it. For men to be too long in
office in a government, is to have too little
regard to others, or the dignity of the state.
They who do nothing will learn to do evil.
Those who have raised themselves by their
vices should gain to themselves credit by vii'-
tue. He repented that ever he passed one
day without doing good. That there is no
witness any man ought to fear, but that of
his own conscience. Nor did his practice
fall much short of his principles.

34. SciPio Africanus, though a great
general, loaded with honours and triumphs,
preferred retirement to them all ; being used
to say. That he was never less alone than
when he was alone: implying, that the most
busy men in the world are the most destitute
of themselves ; and that external solitariness
gives the best company within. After he had
taken Carthage, his soldiers brought him a
most beautiful prisoner ; he answered, " I am
your general ;" refusing to debase himself, or
dishonour her.

35. Augustus, eating at the table of one
of his friends, where a poor slave breaking a
crystal vessel fell upon his knees, begging
him that his master might not fling him to
the lampreys for food, as he had used to do
with such of them as offended him ; A ugustus,
hating his friend's cruelty, broke all his crystal
vessels, reproving both his luxury and his se-
verity. He never recommended any of his
own children, but he always added. If they
deserve it. He reproved his daughter for her
excess in apparel, and both rebuked and im-
prisoned her for her immodest latitudes. The
people of Rome complaining that wine was
dear, he sent them to the fountains, telling
them. They were cheap.

36. Tiberius would not suffer himself to
be called Lord, nor yet His Sacred Majesty :
For, says he, they are divine titles, and belong




not to man. The commissioners of his trea-
sury advising him to increase his taxes upon
the people, he answered, No, it is fit to shear,
but not to flay the sheep.

37. Vespasian was a great and an extra-
ordinary man who maintained something of
the Roman virtue in his time. One day, seeing
a young man finely dressed, and richly per-
fumed, he was displeased with him, saying, I
had rather smell the poor man's garlic, than
thy perfume ; and took his place and govern-
ment from him. A certain person being
brought before him, who had conspii-ed against
him, he reproved him and said. That it was
God who gave and took away empires. An-
other time, conferring favour upon his enemy,
and being asked why he did so? he answered.
That he should remember the right way.

38. Trajan would say, That it became
an emperor to act towards his people, as he
would have his people act towards him. The
governor of Rome having delivered the sword
into his hand, and created him emperor.
Here, saith he, take it again : if I reign well,
use it for me : if ill, use it against me. An
expression which shows great humility and
goodness, making power subservient to virtue.

39. Adrian, also emperor, had several
sayings worthy of notice : one was. That a
good prince did not think the estates of his
subjects belonged to him. Another, That
kings should not always act the king: that is,
should be just, and mix sweetness with great-
ness, and be conversable by good men. That
the treasures of princes ai'e like the spleen,
that never swells but it makes other parts
shrink ; teaching princes thereby to spare
their subjects. Meeting one who was his
enemy before he was emperor, he cried out to
him. Now thou hast no more to fear ; intima-
ting that having power to revenge himself, he
would rather use it to do him good.

40. Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, a good
man (the Christians of his time felt it) com-
mended his son for weeping at his tutor's
death ; answering those who would have ren-
dered it unsuitable to his condition. Let him
alone, says he, it is fit he should show him-
self a man, before he be a prince. He re-
fused to divorce his wife, at the instigation of
his courtiers, though reputed naught; answer-
ing, I must divorce the empi"e too ; for she
brought it. He did nothing in the government
without consulting his friends; and would say,
It is more just that one should follov/ the ad-
vice of many, than many the mind of one.
He was more philosopher than emperor ; for
his dominions were greater within than with-
out: and having commanded his own passions,
by a circumspect conformity to virtuous prin-
ciples, he was fit to rule those of other men.

Some of his excellent sayings, are as follow :
Of my grandfather Verus, I learned to be
gentle and meek, and to refrain from anger
and passion. From the fame and memory of
him that begot me, shame-facedness and man-
like behaviour. I observed his meekness, his
constancy without wavering, in those things,
which, after a due examination and delibera-
tion he had determined ; how free from all
vanity he carried himself in matters of honour
and dignity ; his laboriousness and assiduity ;
his readiness to hear any man who had ought
to say tending to any common good ; how he
abstained from all unchaste love of youth ;
his moderate condescending to other men's
occasions, as an ordinary man. Of my
mother, I learned to be religious and bounti-
ful, and to forbear not only to do, but to in-
tend any evil : to content myself with a spare
diet, and to fly all such excess as is incident
to great wealth. Of my grandfather, both to
frequent public schools and auditories, and to
get me good and able teachers at home ; and
that I ought not to think much, if upon such
occasions I were at excessive charge. I gave
over the study of rhetoric and poetry, and of
elegant, neat language. I did not use to walk
about the house in my senator's robe, nor to
do any such things. I learned to write letters
without any affectation and curiosity ; and to
be easy and ready to be reconciled, and well
pleased again with them that had offended me,
as soon as any of them would be content to
seek unto me again. To observe carefully
the several dispositions of my friends, and not
unreasonably to set upon those who are car-
ried away with the vulgar opinions, with the
theorems and tenets of philosophers. To love
the truth and justice, and to be kind and loving
to all them of my house and family, I learned
from my brother Severus : and it was he who
put me in the first conceit and desire of an
equal commonwealth, administered by justice
and equality ; and of a kingdom, wherein
should be regarded nothing more than the
good and welfare, or liberty, of the subjects.
As for God, and such suggestions, helps
and inspirations, as might be expected, nothing
did hinder but that I might have begun long
before to live according to nature. Or that
even now I was not a partaker, and in present
possession of that life, I myself (in that I did
not observe those inward motions and sugges-
tions ; yea, and almost plain and apparent in-
structions and admonitions of God) was the
only cause of it. I who understand the nature
of that which is good and to be desired ; and
of that which is bad, that it is odious and
shameful ; who know moreover, that this
transgressor, whosoever he be, is my kins-
man, not by the same blood and seed, but by



participation of the same reason, and of the
same divine particle or principle : how can I
either be hurt by any of these, since it is not
in their power to make me incur anything that
is reproachful, or be angry and ill-affected to-
wards him, who, by nature, is so near to me ?
for we are all born to be fellow-workers, as
the feet, the hands, and the eye-lids ; as the
rows of upper and under teeth : for such
therefore to be in opposition, is against nature.
He saith, it is high time for thee to under-
stand the true nature, both of the world,
whereof thou art a part, and of that Lord and
Governor of the world, from whom, as a
channel from the spring, thou thyself didst
flow. And that there is but a certain limit of
time appointed unto thee, which if thou shalt
not make use of, to calm and allay the many
distempers of thy soul, it will pass away, and
thou with it, and never after return. Abuse
and contemn thyself yet awhile, and the time
for thee to repent thyself will be at an end !
Every man's happiness depends upon himself;
but behold, thy life is almost at an end, whilst
not regarding thyself as thou oughtest, thou
dost make thy happiness to consist in the souls
and conceits of other men. Thou must also
take heed of another kind of wandering; for
they ai'e idle in their actions who toil and
labour in their life, and have no certain scope
to which to direct all their motions and desires.
As for life and death, honour and dishonour,
labour and pleasure, riches and poverty, all
these things happen unto men indeed, both
good and bad equally, but as things which of
themselves are neither good nor bad, because
of themselves neither shameful nor praise-
worthy. Consider the nature of all worldly
visible things; of those especially, which either
ensnare by pleasure, or for their irksomeness
are dreadful, or for their outward lustre and
show, are in great esteem and request ; how
vile and contemptible, how base and corrupti-
ble, how destitute of all true life and being
they are. There is nothing more wretched
than that soul, which, in a kind of circuit,
compasseth all things ; searching even the
very depths of all the earth, and, by all signs
and conjectures, prying into the very thoughts
of other men's souls ; and yet of this is not
sensible, that it is sufficient for a man to apply
himself wholly, and confine all his thoughts
and cares to the guidance of that spirit which
is within him, and truly and really serve him.
For even the least things ought not to be done
without relation unto the end : and the end of
the reasonable creature is. To follow and obey
him who is the reason, as it were, and the
law, of this great city and most ancient com-
monwealth. Philosophy doth consist in this ;
For a man to preserve that spirit which is

within him from all manner of contumelies
and injuries, and above all pains and pleasures;
never to do anything either rashly or feign-
edly, or hypocritically. He that is such, is
surely indeed a very priest and minister of
God ; well acquainted, and in good corres-
pondence with Him especially, who is seated
and placed within himself: to whom also he
keeps and preserveth himself, neither spotted
by pleasure, nor daunted by pain ; free from
any manner of wrong or contumely. Let thy
God that is in thee, to rule over thee, find
by thee that he hath to do with a man, who
hath ordered his life as one that expecteth
nothing but the sound of the trumpet, sound-
ing a retreat to depart out of this life with
all readiness. Never esteem anything as
profitable, which shall ever constrain thee,
either to break thy faith, or to lose thy
modesty ; to hate any man, to suspect, to
curse, to dissemble, to lust after anything that
requireth the secret of walls or veils. But he
that preferreth, before all things, his rational
part and spirit, and the virtues which issue
from it, shall never want either solitude or
company ; and which is chiefest of all, he
shall live without either desire or fear. If
thou shalt intend that which is present, follow-
ing the rule of right and reason, carefully,
solidly, meekly ; and shalt not intermix any
other business ; but shalt study this, to pre-
serve thy spirit unpolluted and pure ; and as
one that were even now ready to give up the
ghost, shalt cleave unto him, without either
hope or fear of anything, in all things that
thou shalt either do or speak ; contenting
thyself with truth, thou shalt live happily ;
and from this there is no man can hinder thee.
Without relation to God, thou shalt never per-
form aright anything human ; nor on the
other side, anything divine. At what time
soever thou wilt, it is in thy power to retire
into thyself, and be at rest ; for a man cannot
retire any whither to be more at rest, and
freer from all business, than into his own soul.
Afford then thyself this retiring continually,
and thereby refresh and renew thyself: Death
hangeth over thee; whilst yet thou livest, and
whilst thou mayest be good. How much time
and leisure doth he gain, who is not curious
to know what his neighbour hath said, or hath
done, or hath attempted, but only what he doth
himself, that it may be just and holy. Neither
must he use himself to cut off actions only,
but thoughts and imaginations also that are
not necessary; for so will unnecessary conse-
quent actions be better prevented and cut off.
He is poor, that stands in need of another,
and hath not in himself all things needful for
his life. Consider well, whether magnanimity,
and true liberty and true simplicity, and equa-



nimity and holiness, be not most reasonable
and natural. Honour that which is chiefest
and most powerful in the world, and that is it
which makes use of all things, and governs
all things ; so also in thyself, honour that
which is chiefest and most powerful, and is of
one kind and nature with that ; for it is the
very same, which being in thee, turneth all
other things to its own use, and by whom also
thy life is governed. — What is it that thou
dost stay for 1 An extinction or a translation ;
or either of them, with a propitious and con-
tented mind. But till that time come, what
will content thee ? What else, but to worship
and praise God, and to do good unto men?
As he lay dying, his friends being about him,
he spake thus: "Think more of death than of
me, and that you and all men must die as well
as I;" adding, "I recommend my son, to you,
and to God, if he be worthy."

41. Peetinax, also emperor, being advised
to save himself from the fury of the mutineers,
answered. No, what have I done that I should
do so? showing, that innocence is bold, and
should never give ground, where it can show
itself, be heard and have fair play.

42. Pescennius seeing the corruption that
reigned among officers of justice, advised,
That judges should have salaries, that they
might do their duty without any bribes or
perquisites. He said, he would not offend
the living that he might be praised when he
was dead.

43. Alexander Severus, having tasted
both of a private life, and the state of an
emperor, has this censure: Emperors, says he,
are ill managers of the public revenue, to feed
so many unuseful mouths. Wherefore he re-
trenched his family from pompous to servicea-
ble things. He would not employ persons of
quality in his domestic service, thinking it too
mean for them, and too costly for him : adding,
That personal service was the work of the
lowest order of the people. He would never
suffer offices of justice to be sold ; For, saith
he, it is not strange that men should sell what
they buy; meaning justice. He was impartial
in correction : My friends, says he, are dear
to me, but the commonwealth is dearer. Yet
he would say. That sweetening power to the
people made it lasting. That we ought to gain
our enemies, as we keep our friends ; that is,
by kindness. He said, That we ought to de-
sire happiness, and to bear afflictions : that
those things which are desirable may be
pleasant, but the troubles we avoid may have
most profit in the end. He did not like pomp
in religion; for it is not gold that recommends
the sacrifice, but the piety of him that offers it.
An house being in contest between some Chris-
tians and keepers of taverns, the one to per-

form religion, the other to sell drink therein,
he decided the matter thus; That it were much
better it were any way employed to worship
God, than to make a tavern of it. By this
we may see the wisdom and virtue that shone
among heathens.

44. AuRELiANUs, the emperor, having
threatened a certain town which rebelled
against him. That he .would not leave a dog
ahve therein ; and finding the fear he raised
brought them easily to their duty, bid his
soldiers go kill all their dogs, and pardoned
the people.

45. Julian, coming to the empire, drove
from his palace troops of cooks, barbers, &c.
His reason was this. That loving simple, plain
meat, he needed no cooks : and he said one
barber would serve a great many. A good
example for the luxurious Christians of our

46. Theodosius the younger was so merci-
ful in his nature, that instead of putting people
to death, he wished it were in his power to call
the dead to life again.

These were the sentiments of the ancient
grandees of the world, to wit, emperors, kings,
princes, captains, statesmen, &c. not unworthy
of the thoughts of persons of the same figure
and quality now in being : and for that end
they are here collected, that such may with
more ease and bi'evity behold the true statues
of the ancients, not lost or lessened by the
decays of time.

III. I will now proceed to report the virtuous
doctrines and sayings of men of more retire-
ment ; such as philosophers and writers, of
both Greeks and Romans, who in their re-
spective times were masters in the civility,
knowledge and virtue that were among the
Gentiles, being most of them many ages before
the coming of Christ.

47. TriALES, an ancient Greek philosopher,
being asked by a person who had committed
adultery, if he might swear? answered. By
no means ; for perjury is not less sinful than
adultery ; and so thou wouldst commit two
sins to cover one. Being asked. What was
the best condition of a government ? he an-
swered. That the people be neither rich nor
poor ; for he placed external happiness in
moderation. He would say. That the hardest
thing in the world was, to know a man's self;
but the best, to avoid those things which we
reprove in others : an excellent and close
saying. That we ought to choose well, and
then to hold fast. That the felicity of the
body consists in health, and health in tempe-
rance ; and the felicity of the soul in wisdom.
He thought that God was without beginning
or end ; that he was the searcher of hearts ;
that he saw thoughts, as well as actions.



Being asked of one, if he could sin, and hide
it from God ? he answered, No, how can I,
when he that thinks evil, cannot 1

48. Pythagoras, a famous and virtuous
philosopher of Italy, being asked, when men
might take the pleasure of their passions? an-
swered. When they have a mind to be worse.
He said, The world was like a comedy, and
the true philosophers the spectators. That he
who taketh too much care of his body, makes
the prison of his soul moi'e insufferable. That
luxury led to debauchery, and debauchery to
violence, and this to bitter I'epentance. That
those who reprove us are our best friends.
That men ought to preserve their bodies from
diseases by temperance ; their souls from igno-
rance by meditation ; their will from vice, by
self-denial ; and their country from civil war,
by justice. That it is better to be loved than
feared. That virtue makes bold ; but there
is nothing so fearful as an evil conscience.
That men should believe of a divinity, that it
is, and that it overlooks them, and neglecteth
them not; there is no being nor place without
God. He told the senators of Crotonia (being
two thousand) praying his advice. That they
received their country as a depositum or trust
from the people ; wherefore they should man-
age it accordingly, since they were to resign
their account, with their trust, to their own
children. That the way to do it, was to be
equal to all the citizens, and to excel them in
nothing more than justice. That every one
of them should so govern his family, that he
might refer himself to his own house, as to a
court of judicature, taking great care to pre-
serve natural affection. That they be exam-
ples of temperance in their own families, and
to the city. That in courts of judicature none
attest God by an oath, but use themselves so
to speak, as they may be believed without an
oath. That the discourse of that philosopher
is vain, by which no passion of man is healed:
for, as there is no benefit of medicine, if it
expel not diseases out of bodies ; so neither of
philosophy, if it expel not evil out of the soul.
Of God, an heavenly life and state, he saith
thus. They mutually exhorted one another,
that they should not tear asunder " God which
is in them." Their study and friendship, by
words and actions, had reference to some
divine temperament; and to union with God.'
That all which they determine to be done aims
and tends to the acknowledgment of Ihe Deity.
This is the principle ; and the whole life of
man consists in this, " That he follow God ;"
and this is the ground of philosophy. He

Hope all things ; for to none belongs despair :
All things to God easy and perfect are.

Pythagoras desired of God, to keep us from

evil, and to show every one the good spirit,
he ought to use. The rational man is more
noble than other creatures, as more divine ;
not content solely with one operation, as all
other things drawn along by nature, which
always acts after the same manner, but en-
dued with various gifts, which he useth ac-

Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 62 of 105)