The exceeding umbrageousness of this tree he compareth to the dark and shadowed life of man; through which the sun of justice being not able to pierce, we have all remained in the shadow of death till it pleased Christ to climb the tree of the cross for our enlightening and redemption.
Concerning fate or destiny, the opinions of those learned men that have written thereof may be safely received had they not thereunto annexed and fastened an inevitable necessity, and made it more general and universally powerful than it is.
Take care thou be not made a fool by flatterers, for even the wisest men are abused by these. Know, therefore, that flatterers are the worst kind of traitors; for they will strengthen thy imperfections, encourage thee in all evils, correct thee in nothing, but so shadow and paint all thy vices and follies, as thou shalt never, by their will, discern evil from good, or vice from virtue: and because all men are apt to flatter themselves, to entertain the addition of other mens praises is most perilous. Do not, therefore, praise thyself, except thou wilt be counted a vainglorious fool; neither take delight in the praise of other men, except thou deserve it, and receive it from such as are worthy and honest and will withal warn thee of thy faults; for flatterers have never any virtue; they are ever base, creeping, cowardly persons. A flatterer is said to be a beast that biteth smiling; it is said by Isaiah in this manner: My people, they that praise thee seduce thee, and disorder the paths of thy feet: and David desired God to cut out the tongue of a flatterer. But it is hard to know them from friends, they are so obsequious and full of protestation; for as a wolf resembles a dog, so doth a flatterer a friend. A flatterer is compared to an ape, who because she cannot defend the house like a dog, labour as an ox, or bear burdens as a horse, doth therefore yet play tricks and provoke laughter.
We all foreknow that the sun will rise and set; that all men born into the world shall die again; that after winter the spring shall come; after the spring, summer and harvest; yet is not our foreknowledge the cause of any of those.
Thou mayest be sure that he that will in private tell thee of thy faults is thy friend, for he adventures thy dislike, and doth hazard thy hatred; for there are few men that can endure it; every man for the most part delighting in self-praise, which is one of the most universal follies that bewitcheth mankind.
If thy friends be of better quality than thyself, thou mayest be sure of two things: the first, that they will be more careful to keep thy counsel, because they have more to lose than thou hast; the second, they will esteem thee for thyself, and not for that which thou dost possess.
There never was a man of solid understanding, whose apprehensions are sober, and by a pensive inspection advised, but that he hath found by an irresistible necessity one true God and everlasting being.
Those that attribute to the faculty any first or sole power have therein no other understanding than such a one hath who looking into the stern of a ship, and finding it guided by the helm and rudder, doth ascribe some absolute virtue to the piece of wood, without all consideration of the hand that guides it.
Let thy love be to the best, so long as they do well; but take heed that thou love God, thy country, thy prince, and thine own estate, before all others! for the fancies of men change, and he that loves to-day hateth to-morrow; but let reason be thy school-mistress, which shall ever guide thee aright.
The mind of man hath two parts: the one always frequented by the entrance of manifold varieties; the other desolate and overgrown with grass, by which enter our charitable thoughts and divine contemplations.
Prescience or foreknowledge, considered in order and nature, if we may speak of God after the manner of men, goeth before providence; for God foreknew all things before he had created them, or before they had being to be cared for; and prescience is no other than an infallible foreknowledge.
Providence is an intellectual knowledge, both foreseeing, caring for, and ordering all things, and doth not only behold all past, all present, and all to come, but is the cause of their being so provided, which prescience is not.
It hath so pleased God to provide for all living creatures wherewith he hath filled the world, that such inconveniences as we contemplate afar off are found, by the trial and witness of mens travels, to be so qualified as there is no portion of the earth made in vain.
There is no error which hath not some appearance of probability resembling truth, which when men who study to be singular find out, straining reason, they then publish to the world matter of contention and jangling.
That man which prizeth virtue for itself, and cannot endure to hoise and strike his sails as the divers natures of calms and storms require, must cut his sails of mean length and breadth, and content himself with a slow and sure navigation.
What means did the devil find out, or what instruments did his own subtilty present him, as fittest and aptest to work his mischief by? Even the unquiet vanity of the woman; so as by Adams hearkening to the voice of his wife, contrary to the express commandment of the living God, mankind by that her incantation became the subject of labour, sorrow, and death: the woman being given to man for a comforter and companion, but not for a counsellor. It is also to be noted by whom the woman was tempted: even by the most ugly and unworthy of all beasts, into whom the devil entered and persuaded. Secondly, What was the motive of her disobedience? Even a desire to know what was most unfitting her knowledge; an affection which has ever since remained in all the posterity of her sex. Thirdly, What was it that moved the man to yield to her persuasions? Even the same cause which hath moved all men since to the like consent: namely, an unwillingness to grieve her, or make her sad, lest she should pine, and be overcome with sorrow. But if Adam, in the state of perfection, and Solomon the son of David, Gods chosen servant, and himself a man endued with the greatest wisdom, did both of them disobey their Creator by the persuasion and for the love they bare to a woman, it is not so wonderful as lamentable that other men in succeeding ages have been allured to so many inconvenient and wicked practices by the persuasions of their wives, or other beloved darlings, who cover over and shadow many malicious purposes with a counterfeit passion of dissimulate sorrow and unquietness.
O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! whom none could advise, thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised: thou hast drawn together all the far-fetched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of men, and covered all over with these two narrow words, Hic Jacet!
To neglect God all our lives, and know that we neglect him; to offend God voluntarily, and know that we offend him, casting our hopes on the peace which we trust to make at parting, is no other than a rebellious presumption, and even a contemptuous laughing to scorn and deriding of God, his laws and precepts.
And be sure of this, thou shalt never find a friend in thy young years whose conditions and qualities will please thee after thou comest to more discretion and judgment; and then all thou givest is lost, and all wherein thou shalt trust such a one will be discovered.