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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know the statutes of heaven, and the laws of
eternity ; those immutable and eternal laws of
justice and righteousness ! To know the will
and pleasure of the Great Monarch and Uni-
versal King of the world " I have seen an
end of all perfection ; but thy commandments,
O God, are exceeding broad." — Whatever
other knowledge a man may be endued withal,
could he by a vast and imperious mind, and
an heart as large as the sand upon the sea shore,
command all the knowledge of art and natui'e,
of woi'ds and things ; could he attain a mastery
in all languages, and sound the depth of all
arts and sciences ; could he discourse of the
intei'est of all stcites, the intrigues of all courts,
the reason of all civil laws and constitutions,
and give an account of all histories ; " and yet
not know the Author of his being, and the pre-
server of his life, his sovereign and his Judge;
his surest refuge in trouble ; his best friend, or
worst enemy ; the support of his life, and the
hope of his death ; his future happiness, and
his portion for ever ; he doth but with a great
deal of wisdom go down to hell."

14. Francis Bacon, lord high chancellor
of England, some time before his death, con-
fessed, " That to be religious, was to live
strictly and severely : For if the opinion of
another world be false, yet the sweetest life in
this world is piety, virtue, and honesty : If it
be true, there be none so wretched and misera-
ble, as loose, carnal, profane persons."

15. The great duke of Montmorency,
colleague to the duke of Orleans, brother to
the French king Lewis the Thirteenth, in the

Vol. I.— No. 8.

war agitated by them against the ministry of
cardinal Richlieu, being taken and convicted
at Lyons, a little before his beheading, looking
upon himself, then very richly attired; "Ah!
says he, this becomes not a servant of the
crucified Jesus ! What do I with these vanities
about me? He was poor, despised, and naked,
when he went to the Cross to die for my sins :"
And immediately he stript himself of all his
finery, and put on more grave and modest
garments. A serious reflection, at a time when
he best knew what was best.

16. Henry, Prince of Whales, eldest son to
King James the First, of whom others say
many excellent things, hear what accounts he
gives of himself at last : A person whom he
loved, and who had been the companion of his
diversions, being with him in his sickness, and
asking him. How he did? was, amongst many
other sober expressions, answered thus, " Ah
Tom ! I in vain wish for that time I lost with
thee, and others, in vain recreations." So vain
were recreations, and so precious was time to
a Prince, and no ordinai-y one either, upon a
dying-bed. But why wished he, with others,
for more time, but that it might be better em-
ployed ? Thus hath the Just and Holy Spirit
of God in men, throughout all generations,
convinced some of their vanity and folly upon
their dying-beds, who before were too much
taken up to mind cither a dying-bed, or a vast
eternity ; but when their days were almost
numbered, when mortality hastened on them,
when the revelation of the righteous judgment
was at the door, and all their worldly recrea-
tions and enjoyments must be parted with, and
that eye for ever shut, and flesh turned to
worms meat, which took delight therein ; then,
oh, then it was, the Holy Witness had room
to plead with conscience: Then nothing but a
holy, strict, and severe life, was valuable ;
then "All the world for a little time," who be-
fore had given all their time for a little of a
vain world. But if so short a representation
of the inconsistency of the vanities of the
world with ihe Christian life could make so
deep an impression ; oh ! to what a noble stat-
ure, and large proportion, had they been grown
in all pious and heavenly knowledge, and how
much greater had their rewards been, if they
contentedly had forgone those perishing en-
tertainments of the world betimes, and given
the exercise of their minds to the tuition and
guidance of that universal Grace and holy
Spirit of God, which had so long shined in
darkness, uncomprehendcd of it, and was at
last but just perceived to give a sight of what
they had been doing all their days.

17. Philii" III. king of Spain, seriously
reflecting upon the life he had led in the world,
cried out upon his death bed, " Ah how happy




were I, had I spent these twenty-three years
that I have held my kingdom, in a retirement;"
saying to his confessor, " My concei'n is for
my soul, not my body: I lay all that God has
given me, my dominion, power, and my life,
at the feet of Jesus Christ my Saviour."
Would that kings might live as well as die so !

18. Count GoNDAMOK, ambassador in Eng-
land for that very king, esteemed the ablest
man of his time, took great freedom as to his
religion in his politics, serving his ends by
those ways that would best accomplish them.
Towards his latter end, he grew very thought-
ful of his past life ; and after all his negotia-
tions and successes in business, said to one of
his friends, " I fear nothing in the world more
than sin." Often professing, " He had rather
endure hell than sin." So clear and strong
were his convictions, and so exceeding sinful
did sin appear to him, upon a serious con-
sideration of his ways.

19. Cardinal Richlieu, after having been
first minister of state in Europe, as well as of
France, confessed to old Peter du Moulin, the
famous Protestant of that country, " That be-
ing forced upon many irregularities by what
they call Reasons of State, he could not tell
how to satisfy his conscience for several things ;
and therefore had many temptations to doubt
and disbelieve a God, another world, and the
immortality of the soul, and thereby to relieve
his mind from any disquiet, but in vain ; so
strong, he said, was the notion of God in his
soul, so clear the impression of him upon the
frame of the world, so unanimous the consent
of mankind, so powerful the convictions of his
conscience, that he could not but ' Taste the
power of the world to come, and so live as
one that must die, and so die as one that must
live for ever.' And being asked one day,
* Why he was so sad?' answered, 'The soul
is a serious thing ; it must be either sad here
for a moment, or be sad for ever.' "

20. Cardinal Mazarine, reputed the most
cunning statesman of his time, gave great
proofs of it in the successes of the French
crown under his ministry : his aim was the
grandeur of the world, to which he made all
other considerations submit. But, poor man !
he was of another mind a little before his
death : for being awakened by the smart
lashes of conscience, which represented his
soul's condition to be very dismal, with aston-
ishment and tears he cried out, " O my poor
soul, what will become of thee ! Whither wilt
thou go ?" And one day spoke thus to the
queen mother of France, " Madam, your fa-
vours have undone me : were I to live again,
I would be a capuchin, rather than a courtier."

21. Count OxcisTERN, chancellor of Sweden,
was a person of the first quality, station and

ability in his own country ; and whose share
and success, not only in the chief ministry of
affairs in that kingdom, but in the greatest ne-
gotiations of Europe, during his time, made
him no less considerable abroad. After all
his knowledge and honour, being visited in
his retreat from public business by commis-
sioner Whitlock, ambassador to Queen Chris-
tina, in the conclusion of their discourse, he
said to the ambassador, " I have seen much,
and enjoyed much of this world ; but I never
knew how to live till now. I thank my good
God that has given me time to know Him, and
to know myself. All the comfort I have, and
all the comfort I take, and which is more than
the whole world can give, is feeling the good
spirit of God in my heart, and i-eading in this
good book, holding up the bible, that came
from it. You are now in the prime of your
age and vigour, and in great favour and busi-
ness ; but this will all leave you, and you will
one day better undei'stand and relish what I
say to you ; and then you will find that there
is more wisdom, truth, comfort and pleasure,
in retiring and turning your heart from the
world, to the good spirit of God, and in read-
ing the bible, than in all the courts and favours
of princes." This I had, as near as I am able
to remember, from the ambassador's own
mouth more than once. A very edifying
history, when we consider from whom it
came ; one of the greatest and wisest men of
his age; while his understanding was as sound
and vigorous, as his experience and knowledge
were great.

22. Dr. Donne, a great poet, taking his
farewell of his friends, on his dying-bed, left
this saying behind him, for them to measure
their fancies and their actions by : "I repent
of all my life, but that part of it which I spent
in communion with God, and doing good."

23. Selden, one of the greatest scholars
and antiquaries of his time ; who had taken a
diligent survey of what knowledge was con-
siderable amongst the Jews, heathens and
Christians ; at last professeth this, toward the
end of his days, in his conference with bishop
Usher, "That notwithstanding he had been so
laborious in his inquiries, curious in his col-
lections, and had manuscripts upon all ancient
subjects ; yet he could rest his soul on none,
save the Scriptures :" and above all, that
passage lay most remarkable upon his spirit,
Titus'ii. 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, " For the grace
of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared
unto all men ; teaching us, that denying un-
godhness and worldly lusts, we should live
soberly, righteously, and godly in this present
world ; looking for that blessed hope, and glo-
rious appearing of the great God, and our
Saviour Jesus Christ ; who gave himself for



us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity,
and purify unto himself a peculiar people,
zealous of good works : These things speak
and exhort, and rebuke with all authority."
And indeed it is one of the most comprehen-
sive passages in Scripture ; for it comprises
the end, means and recompense of Christianity.

24. Hugo GrDtius, than whom these latter
ages think they have not had a man of more
universal knowledge, a light, say the states-
men ; a light, say the churchmen too, witness
his " Annals," and his book, " De Jure Belli
et Pacis ;" also his " Christian Religion, and
Elaborate Commentaries." He winds up his
life and choice in this remarkable saying,
which should abate the edge of other men's
inordinate desires after what they falsely call
learning ; namely, " I would give all my
learning and honour for the plain integrity of
Jean Ulrick," who was a religious poor man,
that spent eight hours of his time in prayer,
eight in labour, and but eight in meals, sleep,
and other necessaries. To one who admired
his great industry, he returned this by way of
complaint : " Ah ! I have consumed my life
in laboriously doing nothing." And to another,
that inquired of his wisdom and learning what
course to take ? He solemnly answered, " Be
serious." Such was the sense he had, how
much a serious life excelled, and was of force,
towards a dying hour.

25. To whom I join Salmasitjs, that famous
French scholar, who, after his many volumes
of learning, by which he had acquired great
veneration among men of books, confessed he
had so far mistaken true learning, and that in
which solid happiness consists, that he ex-
claimed thus against himself; " Oh ! I have
lost a world of time ! Time, that most precious
thing in the world ! Whereof, had I but one
year more, it should be spent in David's
Psalms and Paul's Epistles. Oh, said he, to
those about him. Mind the world less, and
God more. The fear of the Lord, is wisdom;
and to depart from evil, that is understand-

26. Francis Junius, an ingenious person,
who has written his own life ; as he was
reading " TuUy de Legibus," fell into a dis-
belief of the Divine Providence, till in a tumult
in Lyons the Lord wonderfully delivered him
from imminent death ; so that he was forced
to acknowledge a Divine hand therein. His
father hearing the dangerous ways his son was
misled into, sent for him home, where he care-
fully and piously instructed him, and caused
him to read over the New Testament ; of
which he himself writes thus : " When I
opened the New Testament, I first lighted
upon John's first chapter, ' In the beginning
was the Word, &c.' I read part of the chap-

ter, and was suddenly convinced, that the Di-
vinity of the argument, and the majesty and
authority of the writing, did exceedingly excel
all eloquence of human writings : My body
trembled, my mind was astonished, and I was
so affected all that day, that I knew not where
and what I was. Thou wast mindful of me,
O my God, according to the multitude of thy
mercies, and calledst home thy lost sheep into
the fold." And as Justin Martyr of old, so
he of late professed, " That the power of god-
liness, in a plain simple Christian, wrought so
upon him, that he could not but take up a
strict and serious life."

27. A. RivETUs, a man of learning, and
much reverenced in the Dutch nation, after a
long life of study, in search of divine know-
ledge, upon his death-bed, being discoursed by
his friend of heavenly things, brake forth in
this manner ; " God has learned me more of
himself in ten days sickness, than I could get
by all my labour and studies." So near a
Avay, so short a cut it is, to the knowledge of
God, when people come into the right way,
which is. To turn their minds and hearts to
the voice of God, and learn of him, who is a
spirit, to be taught of him, and led by him :
" For in righteousness such shall be estab-
lished, and great shall be their peace."

28. A Letter from James Earl of Marlbo-
rough, a little before his death, in battle at
sea, on the coast of Holland.

" I believe the goodness of your nature, and
the friendship you have always borne me, will
receive with kindness the last office of your
friend. I am in health enough of body, and
through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ,
well disposed in mind. This I premise, that
you may be satisfied that what I write pro-
ceeds not from any fantastic terror of mind,
but from a sober resolution of what concerns
myself, and earnest desire to do you more good
after my death, than my example (God of his
mercy pardon the badness of it) in my life-
time may do you harm. I will not speak
aught of the vanity of this world ; your own
age and experience will save that labour: but
there is a certain thing that goeth up and down
the world called religion, dressed and pretend-
ed fantastically, and to purposes bad enough ;
which yet, by such evil dealing, loseth not its
being. The great good God hath not left it
without a witness, more or less, sooner or later,
in every man's bosom, to direct us in the pur-
suit of it; and for avoiding of those inextri-
cable disquisitions and entanglements our own
frail reasons would perplex us withal. God
in his infinite mercy hath given us his Holy
Word ; in which, as there ai'e many things
hard to be understood, so there is enough plain



and easy to quiet our minds, and direct us
concerning our future being. I confess to God
and you, I have been a great neglecter, and I
fear despiser of it; God of his infinite mercy
pardon me the dreadful fault. But when I
retired myself from the noise and deceitful
vanity of the world, 1 found no true comfort
in any other resolution, than what I had from
thence. I commend, from the bottom of my
heart, the same to your, I hope, happy use.
Dear Hugh, let us be more generous than to
believe we die as the beasts that perish ; but
with a Christian, manly, brave resolution,
look to what is eternal. I will not trouble
you farther. The only great and holy God,
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, direct you to
an happy end of your life, and send us a joy-
ful resurrection.

" So prays your true friend,

" Marlborough."

29. The late Sir Henry Vane must be too
fresh in memory to need a character ; but it
is certain his parts were of the first order,
and superior to the generality of men; yet he
would often say, "He owed them to religion."
In his youth he was much addicted to com-
pany, and promised little to business ; but in
reading a book called "The Signs of a Godly
Man," and being convicted in himself that they
were just, but that he had no share in any one
of them, he fell into such extreme anguish and
horror, that for some days and nights he took
little food or rest ; which at once dissolved his
old friendships, and made those impressions
and resolutions to religion, which neither uni-
versity, courts, princes nor parents, nor any
losses or disappointments, that threatened his
new course of life, could weaken or alter.
And though this laid him under some disad-
vantages for a time, his great integrity and
abilities quickly broke through that obscurity ;
so that those of very differing sentiments did
not only admire him, but very often desired
him to accept the most eminent negotiations
of his country ; which he served according to
his own principles, with great success, and
a remarkable self-denial. This great man's
maxim was, " Religion was the best master,
and the best friend; for it made men wise, and
would never leave them who never left it ;"
which he found true in himself: For as it
made him wiser than those who had been his
teachers, so it made him firmer than any hero,
having something more than nature to support
him, which was the judgment as well of for-
eigners as others, who had the curiosity to see
him die; making good some meditations of his
own, viz. " The day of death is the judge of
all our other days ; the very trial and touch-
stone of the actions of our life. It is the end

that crowns the work, and a good death hon-
oureth a man's whole life. The fading cor-
ruption and loss of this life, is the passage into
a better. Death is no less essential to us,
than to live or to be born. In flying death,
thou fliest thyself It is no small reproach to
a Christian, whose faith is in immortality, and
the blessedness of another life, to fear death
much, which is the necessary passage there-

30. Abraham Cowley, to name whom, is
enough with the men of wit of our time and
nation, speaks not less in favour of the tempe-
rance and solitude so much laboured for in
the preceding discourse. Yet that his judg-
ment may have the more force with the reader,
it may be fit that I should say, he was a man
of a sweet and singular wit, great learning
and an even judgment ; who had known what
cities, universities and courts could afford ; and
that not only at home, but in divers nations
abroad. Wearied with the world, he broke
through all the entanglements of it ; and,
which was hardest, great friendship and a
perpetual praise ; and retired to a solitary
cottage near Barn-Elms, where his garden
was his pleasure, and he his own gardener.
He gives us this following doctrine of retire-
ment, which may serve for an account how
well he was pleased in his change. " The
first work, saith he, that a man must do to
make himself capable of the good of solitude,
is the very eradication of all lusts ; for how is
it possible for a man to enjoy himself, while
his affections are tied to things without him-
self The first minister of state hath not so
much business in public, as a wise man hath
in private. If the one have little leisui'e to be
alone, the other hath less leisure to be in com-
pany ; the one hath but part of the affairs of
one nation, the other all the works of God and
nature under his consideration. There is no
saying shocks me so much, as that which I
hear very often, ' That a man doth not know
how to pass his time.' It would have been
but ill spoken of Methuselah, in the nine
hundred sixt3^-ninth year of his life. But that
is not to deceive the world, but to deceive our-
selves, as Quintilian saith, Vifam fallere, To
draw on still, and amuse and deceive our life,
till it be advanced insensibly to the fatal period,
and fall into that pit which nature hath pre-
pared for it. The meaning of all this is no
more, than that most vulgar saying, ' Bene
qui latuit, bene vixit ;' He hath lived well,
who hath lain well hidden. Which, if it be
a truth, the world is sufficiently deceived: For
my part, I think it is ; and that the pleasantest
condition in life is in incognito. What a brave
privilege is it, to be free from all contentions,
from all envying, or being envied, from re-



ceiving and from paying all kind of ceremo-
nies. We are here among the vast and noble
scenes of nature ; we are there among the
pitiful shifts of policy ; we walk here in the
light and open ways of the divine bounty ;
we grope there in the dark and confused laby-
rinths of human malice ; our senses are here
feasted with the clear and genuine taste of
their objects; which are all sophisticated there;
and, for the most part, overwhelmed with their
contraries. Here pleastire looks, methinks,
like a beautiful, constant and modest wife ; it
is there an impudent, fickle and painted harlot.
Here is harmless and cheap plenty ; there,
guilty and expensive luxury. The antiquity
of this art is certainly not to be contested by
any other. The three first men in the world
were a gardener, a ploughman and a grazier :
and if any man object, that the second of
these was a murderer; I desire he would con-
sider, that as soon as he was so, he quitted
our profession, and turned builder. It is for
this reason, I suppose, that the son of Sirach
forbids us to hate husbandry ; because, saith
he, the Most High hath created it. We were
all born to this art, and taught by nature to
nourish our bodies by the same earth out of
which they were made, and to which they
must return, and pay at last for their suste-
nance. Behold the original and primitive no-
bility of all those great persons, who are too
proud now not only to till the ground, but
almost to tread upon it. We may talk what
we please of lilies and lions rampant, and
spread eagles in fields d'or, or d'argent; but if
heraldry were guided by reason, a plough in a
field arable would be the most noble and an-
cient arms."

Blest be the man, and blest is he, whome'er,

Plac'd far out of the roads of hope or fear,

A little field, a little garden, feeds ;

The field gives all that fi-ugal nature needs :

The wealthy garden lib'rally bestows

All he can ask, when she luxurious grows.

The specious inconveniences that wait

Upon a life of business and of state,

He sees, nor doth the sight disturb his rest,

By fools desir'd, by wicked men possest.

Ah wretched, and too solitary, he

Who loves not his own company :
He'll feel the weight oft many a day,
Unless he call in sin or vanity
To help to bear't away.

Out of Martial he gives us this following
epigram, which he makes his by translation
and choice, to tell his own solitude: I place it
here as his.

Would you be free ? 'Tis your chief wish you say :
Come on; I'll show thee, friend, the certain way:
If to no feasts abroad thou lov'st to go.
Whilst bounteous God doth bread at home be-
stow :

If thou the goodness of thy clothes dost prize
By thy own use, and not by others eyes ;
If only safe from weathers, thou canst dwell
In a small house, but a convenient shell ;
If thou without a sigh or golden wish
Canst look upon thy beechen bowl, or dish ;
If in thy mind such power and greatness be.
The Persian king's a slave, compar'd with thee.

Whilst this hard truth I teach, methinks I see
The monster, London, laugli at me ;

I should at thee too, foolish city.
If it were fit to laugh at misery ;

But thy estate I pity.
Let but thy wicked men from out thee go,
And all the fools that crowd thee so ;

Even thou who dost thy millions boast,
A village less than Islington wilt grow ;

A solitude almost.

I shall conclude him with this prayer of
his own.

For the few hours of life allotted me.
Give me, great God, but bread and liberty ;
I'll beg no more; if more thou'rt pleas'd to give,
I'll thankfully that overplus receive.
If beyond this no more be freely sent,
I'll thank for this, and go away content.

Here ends the wit, the praise, the learning,
the city, the court, with Abraham Cowley,
that once knew and had them all.

31. The late earl of Rochester was infe-
rior to nobody in wit, and hardly any body
ever used it worse, if we believe him against

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 69 of 105)