Table of Contents

History Improved,
Christian Applications and Improvements of Divers Remarkable Passages in History.

Thomas Wilcox

1. One of the courtiers of King Cyrus, and a great favourite, having but little estate, when he was to marry his daughter, was asked, Sir, where will you have a portion for her? He answered, Cyrus is my friend. Christians have much more reason to say so in the want of things below; I can lack nothing, for the Lord is my friend.

2. It was a sad speech of a dying prince, I must now die before I begin to live. It is the sad condition of many a dying man, that their work is to do when their hour is come, their time is spent, and nothing is laid up for eternity: let us therefore finish the work we have to do, that to die, may be the last work we have to finish.

3. King Artaxerxes being ready to perish for thirst, was constrained to drink puddle-water; and protested, That he never drank wine with half that delight wherewith he now relish'd this filthy water. To the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. In a time of necessity a little seems much, and that which is bad appears very good.

4. When Cyrus gave Artabasus, one of his courtiers, a cup of gold, he gave his favourite Chrysantes at that time nothing but a kiss; whereupon Artabasus said, Sir, the cup you gave me was not so good gold as the kiss you gave Chrysantes. God many times gives wicked men gold, but without kisses; and godly men kisses, but without gold; yet may the righteous say, There's more gold in their kisses, and the love of God, than in others' gold.

5. When the pilot of King Antigonus' gally came and told him that the enemy had a far great number of ships than he, said he, For how many ships dost thou reckon me? How many soever, and how strong soever our enemies be, yet having God on our side, there is more for us than against us, and we have no cause to fear or despair.

6. One attempting to kill Prometheus the Thessalian, run his sword so deep into an imposthume, that he let out the corruption, and saved the life of his enemy: so (saith Plutarch) a reproachful speech delivered in anger, or out of ill will, is sometimes the cause of healing some malady in the soul, which before was hidden or neglected.

7. Cato was so grave and good a man, that none durst commit any sin in his presence; from whence it grew to be a proverbial caveat among the Romans one to another, Take heed what you do, Cato sees you. O how should Christians stand in awe of the all-seeing God! and say to their own hearts, and one to another, Take heed of your ways, for the Lord looks upon you.

8. It was a sad and lamentable expression of King Lysimachus, who was forced to part with his kingdom for one draught of water; O for what a small pleasure have I made myself a slave, who was just now a king! Alas, for what vain and short enjoyments do men run the hazard of losing the kingdom of God, and their own souls?

9. A Roman servant, knowing that his master was sought for to be put to death, clothed himself in his master's garments that he might be taken for him; and so he was, and put to death in his stead; in memory whereof his master caused his statue of brass to be erected, as a monument of his kindness. O what monuments should Christians erect for Jesus Christ, who, when we were to be put to death, died for us! For a good man some would even dare to die, and greater love than this cannot be shewn, than that a man lay down his life for a friend; but behold herein God manifesteth and commendeth his love to us, that while we were yet sinners, yea enemies, Christ died for us.

10. When news came to King Anaxagoras of the death of his son, at which it was thought he would have been much troubled, he only calmly replied, I know that I begat him mortal. Should not Christians much more quiet themselves in the loss of children, which tho' they are begot mortal, yet not without hope of immortality?

11. Antisthenes the philosopher being asked what he got by his learning, answered, That he could talk with himself, he could live alone, and needed not go abroad and be beholding to others for delight. Much more may Christians say this, yea, much more than this, who have learned to know Christ, and the truth as it is in Jesus.

12. When one persuaded Selimus, Emperor of the Turks, to bestow the great wealth he had taken from the Persian merchants, upon some famous hospital for relief of the poor; Nay rather, said he, let it be bestowed on the right owners; and so it was. Ill gotten goods given to the poor, is no charity; restitution is the best advantage that can be made of such gains. It were well if there were more Zaccheus-like Christians in the world; for tho' by restoring they might be poorer in goods, yet they would be richer in goodness. A little good estate is better than a great bad one.

13. St. Basil persuaded himself, that if he were in the wilderness free from the company of men, he should be happy, and serve God more devoutly; but when he came there he said, I have forsaken all things, but yet I retain my old heart. Lord, I have often searched my heart, and still my heart deceived me in the search. O Jesus! come and fit my heart for every duty, that every duty may be fit for thyself.

14. One rehearsing an elegant oration to Aristotle, in praise of those that were slain in the wars against the Lacedemonians, received this answer from him, If they were such brave men who were killed, what dost thou think that we Greeks are, who conquered and overcame them? What tho' the enemies of a Christian be many and mighty, if God strengthen him, he hath enough to comfort him; for the greater his adversary is, the more glorious is the victory; and the more glorious his victory, the more triumphant his glory.

15. A Persian king had one about him, whose place and office it was to say to him every morning, as he entered his chamber, Arise, my Lord, and have regard to those affairs for which the great God would have you to provide. How ought we Christians to bethink us every night what we have done, and every morning what we have to do for and in obedience to the great God.

16. When King Demetrius had taken and destroy'd the city of Megara to the very foundation, he demanded of Stilpo the philosopher, what losses he had sustained: None at all (said he) for wars and ruins can make no spoil of virtue. And it is said of Bias the philosopher, that his motto was, I carry all my goods about me; that is, his wisdom and goodness: how then should a Christian live above these things, and, like the prophet, rejoice in the Lord, and in the exercises of a gracious spirit and a good conscience, when he hath nothing but want and losses on every side.

17. When the report came to Galienus the Emperor, that Egypt was lost; What then, said he, cannot I live without the flax of Egypt? And when he had notice that a great part of his dominions in Asia were wasted: What then, said he, cannot I live without the delicacies of Asia? It is an excellent thing for Christians to speak thus of their losses, from a principle of true resignation and dependence upon God; when they can truly say with Habakkuk (3:17), Altho' the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labour of the olive shall fail, the fields shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

18. It is said of the Lacedemonians, that they never ask'd how many their enemies were, but where they might meet them. So should Christians fall on and fight the good fight of faith, without considering the number that come against them.

19. It was accounted so great an honour to be a citizen of Rome, that whoever was free of it would not be made free of any other place. Should not Christians then think it honour enough to be free denizens of the city of God? of the heavenly Jerusalem which is above?

20. One of the French kings carried always a crucifix in his hat; and when he had done any ill thing, he would kiss that as sufficient amends. Alas! how many who call themselves Christians, when they have committed any grievous sin, confess it, with a God forgive me, as if confession were satisfaction, and prayer a pardon, and yet like the dog soon return to their vomit again.

21. It was observed, that the Jews never went out at the same gate of the Temple they came in; of which some give this reason, that they might never turn their backs upon the mercy-seat. How can they expect mercy, who go from mercy? How can they think to meet with God, who go backward from his ways?

22. Waldus, a rich merchant at Lyons in France, seeing one drop down dead in the streets, went home and repented, changed his life, and became a preacher, and was the founder of the Protestants called Waldenses, or the poor men of Lyons. It is good to take warning by other men's harms, and by the sight of their death to look after our own life.

23. It was proudly said of Julius Caesar, crossing an unknown sea in a little boat, and a tempestuous storm; when they were ready to be swallowed up of the waves, perceiving the courage of the pilot to fail; Fear not, said he, for thou carriest Caesar and his fortune with thee. How truly may a good Christian say, in the midst of all his afflictions, storms, and tempests of this world, Fear nothing, O my soul! for thou carriest thy dear Saviour Jesus Christ with thee, and art therefore most certain to be landed safely in a blessed eternity.

24. The heroic St. Chrysostom, who was banished by Eudoxia the Empress, for the profession of the true Christian faith, may be an example of invincible constancy to all, to continue stedfast in the true religion. When I was driven from the city, saith he, none of these things troubled me, but I said within myself, If the queen will, let her banish me; the earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof: If she will, let her saw me asunder: Isaiah suffered the same: If she will, let her cast me into the sea; I will remember Jonah: If she will, let her throw me into a burning fiery furnace, or among wild beasts; the three children and Daniel were so dealt with: If she will, let her stone me, or cut off my head; I have then St. Stephen and the Baptist my blessed companions: If she will, let her take away all my substance; naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither. The apostle tells me, if I would please men I should not be the servant of Christ; and David encourageth me, saying, I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed.

25. When Alexander the Great came to Diogenes the cynic, a dogged fellow, he demanded whether he wanted any thing, or would have him to do any kindness for him. Diogenes, who was sitting in a tub in the open air, replied, I request nothing of thee, but that thou wouldst stand out of the sun. To a gracious soul, there is nothing comparable to the shining of the Son of Righteousness.

26. When Alexander saw Diogenes so well content with a little, he said to those that scoft at his humour and condition, If I were not Alexander, I would wish to be Diogenes. Many could be almost Christians; were it not for this honour, these riches and pleasures, I would be a Christian.

27. One asking Alexander how he could sleep so soundly and securely in the midst of danger, he replied, I sleep very well, since I know my true friend Parmoni watches. O how securely may that soul sleep, over whom he watches that never slumbers nor sleeps: he may say with David, I will lay me down and sleep, for thou, Lord makest me to dwell in safety.

28. Alexander being asked where he would lay his treasures, replied, Among my friends; being confident that they would there be kept in safety, and returned with interest. What needest thou enlarge thy barns, O Christian! Knowest thou not where to lay thy plenty? Make the friends of Christ thy treasury; let the hands of the widow, and the bowels of the poor, be thy store-house: a temporal gift will be hereby turned into an eternal reward. There is no ground so fruitful as the bosom of the poor, for that will bring forth an hundred-fold.

29. Alexander on a time singing and playing curiously on a harp at a banquet, his father, Philip, King of Macedon, said to him, Art thou not ashamed to have skill in these trifles? Ah! how many Christians, born to better and more noble employments than dancing and playing, have, alas! more skill in such things than in better. But are ye not ashamed? &c.

30. Alexander, when he sat in judgment, would stop one of his ears to hear the other party withal. One tale is good till another is told. We should not condemn one plea, but hear both sides. He that condemns a man before he hears him, doth unjustly, tho' there be a just cause to condemn him.

31. When Alexander saw an apparent great danger near him, Now, says he here's a danger or trial fit for the mind of Alexander. Christians should say of their greatest troubles, Here's a trial for a Christian. As it is said of Ignatius, that gallant Christian martyr, when he felt his flesh and bones began to be ground between the teeth of wild beasts, Now, says he, I begin to be a Christian. For, as Queen Elizabeth said in prison, in her sister Queen Mary's reign; The skill of a pilot is best known in a tempest, the valour of a captain in a battle, and the worth of a Christian in a time of trial.

32. When King Philip would have had Alexander, who was very swift of foot, to run in the Olympic Games; I would willingly do it, quoth he, provided there were kings and princes to run against me. Remember, said Antigonus to his heir, that thou art the son of a king, and that will keep thee from base actions.

33. Ephestion and Craterus, two of Alexander's principal commanders, quarreling, he reproved Ephestion thus; What power hast thou of thyself? what couldest thou do, and where wouldest thou be, if Alexander should be taken from thee? Some men look big and high, who, if not upheld by the power and countenance of others, would soon fall as low as the earth they tread on.

34. Alexander being asked why he did not gather money, and lay it up in a public treasury: For fear, said he, left, being keeper thereof, I should be infected and corrupted thereby. A good caution for them that love to bear the bag.

35. Alexander said of two of his courtiers, That the one loved the king, but the other loved Alexander. May not our Saviour say of professors, that some love Jesus, but few love Christ. It was St. Austin's saying, That Jesus is scarce loved for his own sake.

36. Alexander commanded his treasurer to give Anatarbus the philosopher whatsoever he demanded; and his treasurer telling him that he required an excessive sum, an hundred talents; The man, said Alexander, does well, knowing, as he doth, that he hath such a friend of me as both can and will bestow so much upon him. We may ask great things of the great God, being assured that he both can and will make good his promises. He will give like a God.

37. When word was brought to Alexander, that at a feast, a person did miscal, revile, and abuse him; It is, said he, a royal and kingly act to suffer blame for well-doing. When ye do well, and suffer for it, and take it patiently, this is acceptable unto God (1 Peter 2:20).

38. A young nobleman waiting on Alexander as he was sacrificing, while he held the censer of incense there fell a coal upon his flesh, and burnt it, so that the smell offended all about him; and yet, because he would not disturb Alexander in his service, he did not stir to throw off the fire from his hand, but still held the censer unmoved. What care ought Christians to take that they attend upon the true and living God without disturbance?

39. Alexander distributing large gifts to his friends, was demanded what he would keep for himself; he readily answered, Hope. The apostle saith, By hope are we saved. He hath a great deal, who hath not so much hope of good as a good hope.

40. Alexander's body was of such an exact and excellent constitution that it was said to give a sweet scent like to a perfume. So should a Christian's conversation be a sweet-smelling savour to God and man.

41. Phocion, a renowned Athenian General, having one day made an oration to a numerous assembly, and hearing that with one voice they all highly approv'd his speech, he was much surprized, and turning towards his friends, said, Surely I have uttered some words which are not very good, that this people speak so well of me. A good man may, in some cases, be jealous of himself, when bad men approve of him. Wo unto you, when all men speak well of you.

42. Phocion said to one that requested an unlawful thing of him, Thou canst not have me for a friend and for a flatterer too. He is the truest friend, that will do nothing but what consists with the truest friendship, and a good conscience.

43. Phocion, after he had done many notable services for the Athenians, was put to death by them: but a little before his death he charged his son never to wish ill to the Athenians for what they had done to him. We ought to wish them well that wish us ill; to love and be a friend to our enemies; to pray for, and not to curse them that despitefully use us.

44. Phocion's wife going to visit a lady, she shew'd her all her jewels; but she, pointing to her husband, said, Madam, all my jewels are there. And Cornelius Gracchas coming with his sons into a lady's chamber full of jewels, said, My children are my only jewels and ornaments. Much more may a Christian say so of his Redeemer, that Christ to him is all in all.

45. Phocion observing one Cenippus, condemned to the same death with him, to discover much fear; What, says he, is it not sufficient comfort to thee that thou art to die with Phocion? Should it not much more comfort Christians in their sufferings, that they die with or for Christ Jesus?

46. Socrates (whom the oracle pronounced to be the wisest man in Greece) said, God will be worshipped with that kind of worship, only which himself hath commanded: and he will not be worshipped, saith Cicero, with superstition, but with piety. Oh that Christians would hear and learn!

47. When Socrates saw one drunk, discomposed, or out of order, he used to say, Am not I such a one? By the sight of other men's sins, men may learn to bewail their own sinfulness, and natural depravedness; as holy Bradford the martyr, when he saw any drunk, or heard any swear, would complain, Lord, I have a drunken head! Lord, I have a swearing heart! And the disciples feared themselves each man rather than another, and therefore said, Lord, is it I? But Judas he alters the Word, being the bag bearer and mere hireling, and he says, Master, is it I?

48. After Dionysus the tyrant of Syracuse in Sicily, was deposed from his royal dignity, and banished, one asked him what good Plato and all his philosophy had done him; This benefit I have thereby, said he, that I have learnt to bear with patience this sudden change and alteration of my fortune. And when one judged Socrates by his physiognomy and countenance to be of a churlish sullen froward nature, and dogged disposition; the people knowing the contrary to be true, and that he was the meekest and most serene spiritual man upon earth, were ready to beat him; Forbear, said Socrates, for truly my temper is as he hath said, but philosophy (or wisdom) hath reformed me, and made the alteration. Ah! shall heathens speak more of the efficacy of philosophy, than Christians of Christianity? God forbid. O that Christians would make it appear, that they have learned the truth as it is in Jesus; and that the grace of God hath appeared, and by holding forth the Word of Life hath shewed them the virtues of the Lord Jesus Christ, who excels all that have done virtuously.

49. Socrates wittily rebuked the pride of Alcibiades, who vainly boasting how much land he had that lay together, he brought him a map of the whole world, saying, Pray shew me whereabout your land lies. One prick of a pin would have described it all. Alas! why do we boast? The whole world is nothing to heaven; and that which the greatest man possesseth, is nothing to the whole; why should we then be proud only of dust, yea of atoms?

50. Since God, said Socrates, is so careful of mankind, what need they be so disquietingly careful of themselves? How like is this to that of Christ? Take no thought for what you shall eat or drink, &c. for your heavenly Father knows that ye have need of these things. Let your conversation be without care, for God careth for you.

51. When Socrates in disputation fell severely upon one of his familiar acquaintance, Plato told him it had been better to have spoken of these things in private. Socrates replied, Shouldest thou not also to have told me so in private? Reproofs are like to do little good, when in reproving we commit the same evil which we condemn.

52. Echines, a poor scholar, having nothing to give his tutor Socrates for the pains he had taken with him; when others presented gifts, Sir, said he, I have nothing to give you; but if you will take me, I will bestow myself upon you. Wilt thou so? said Socrates; nay then I will give thee thyself better: and so instructed him in philosophy. Jesus Christ hath taken more pains for and about us; and shall we not give ourselves to him, who will give us ourselves better again, and instruct us in divinity, to the saving of our souls?

53. Antisthenes desired nothing of this world to make his life happy but the spirit of Socrates, who was able to bear any wrong or injury with contentment, and to continue in a quiet temper of spirit whatever befell him. Oh! if Christians had the spirit (I will not say of Socrates, but) of Christ Jesus, how happy might they be in all conditions!

54. When the tyrant threatened Socrates with death, he replied, He was willing to die. Nay then, said the tyrant, you shall live against your will. Nay but, said Socrates, whatsoever you do with me, it shall be my will. And a certain Stoic, speaking of God, says, What God will, that I will: what God denies, I will not: if he will that I live, I will live; if it be his pleasure I shall die, I will die. Ah! how should the will of Christians stoop and lie down at the feet of God's will, and say, Not my will, but thy will be done!

55. Socrates had such a vile esteem of sin that he thought it one of the greatest torments of men, in another life, to be bound to commit these sins wherein they most delighted in this life. Seneca said of himself, I am too great, and born to greater things than that I should be a slave to my body. And Tully thought him not worthy the name of a man, that could spend a whole day in carnal pleasures. Oh, Christians! what do you do more than others? Will not you live above the flesh, and the deeds thereof?

56. After Socrates was put to death at Athens, Aristophanes rehearsed a tragedy of his concerning Palamedes, who had been executed by the Grecians long before at the siege of Troy, in which were these verses.

Ye have slain, ye have slain, of Greeks the very best,
Who never any of you did infest.

At the hearing whereof the people were so moved, that they presently fell upon all concerned in the death of Socrates, and brought them forth to punishment. Oh! that we could be as nimble to apprehend and to be avenged of our sins, which put Christ to death, who was without sin, who never did us any hurt, but good all our days.

57. Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor, would never fore-acquaint his soldiers of any set time for removal or battle, that so they might be always in readiness. What saith our Saviour to us Christians? Be ye also ready, for ye know not the time when the Son of Man will come.

58. It is recorded of Julius Caesar, that he never said to his soldiers, Go on; but Come on, and follow me. Jesus Christ gives his people no command to obey, but that he likewise shews them the way; Follow me, is our blessed Lord's Word of command.

59. When Caesar was about 25 years old, he wept that he had lived so long, and yet had performed no worthy exploits; whereas Alexander the Great, at that age, had conquered almost all the world. Alas! how many have lived to 25, yea to 35, it may be 40 and more years, and have not yet done anything toward the conquering of the world, the subduing of sin, or the working out the salvation of their precious and immortal souls.

60. When the Roman Senators had wounded Julius Caesar to death with 45 wounds, Brutus, whom he had a kindness for, gave him also a stab with his dagger; at which Caesar, looking earnestly upon him cried out, Et tu Brute? what thou my son Brutus too? All the wounds that Christ receives in his honour from the wicked and profane world, go not so much to his heart, as when those that pretend to be his children, and to profess his name more strictly, wound him by their iniquities; to whom he may say, What and you my sons and daughters too?

61. Brutus a while before going to visit another noble Roman, named Ligarius, and a king him, What sick Ligarius? No, Brutus, said he; if thou hast any noble enterprize in hand, I am well. So should a soul say for Jesus Christ.

62. Two persons courting the daughter of Themistocles, General of Athens; one was rich and a fool, and the other was wise and not rich: he being ask'd which of them he would choose for his son-in-law, answered, I had rather she should have a man without money, than money without a man. The best part of marriage is in the man or woman, not the means or the money.

63. Themistocles having obtained a victory, accounted it below his dignity to stoop to take up the spoils, tho' chains of gold, which the enemy had scattered in their flight; but said to one of his soldiers, Thou mayest take them up, for thou art not Themistocles. 'Tis only for worldly spirits, and is below the state of heaven-born souls, to stoop to earthly things: worldlings may, they are no Themistocles, they are not real Christians.

64. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, told Mark Anthony the Roman, when he was angling, That it was not for him to fish for gudgeons, but for cities, towns, forts, and castles. 'Tis below Christians to look after low and little things, that are born, that is new-born, to look after the kingdom of heaven.

65. Simonides the poet, making an unreasonable request to Themistocles, he replied, Thou canst not be a good poet, if thou sing contrary to the rule of music; neither can I be a good governor, if I act any thing contrary to the law. Justice must be preferr'd before friendship or courtesy.

66. There having been a long feud and difference between Themistocles and Aristides, who were both employed in the service of their country; at length Aristides thus discours'd Themistocles, If we be wise, it is high time for us to leave off that vain spite and envy we have so long born to each other, and that we should enter into another kind of envy more honourable and profitable; I mean, which of us two shall use his best endeavour for the preservation of Greece. To which Themistocles return'd this answer; I am sorry, Aristides, that herein your wisdom and honesty hath appeared no greater than mine; but since you deserve the preheminence in proposing such a commendable strife between us, I will henceforth endeavour to exceed you in prosecuting the same. Oh that Christians would learn from heathens, to lay aside their particular differences, and mind public unity, peace, and advantage; alas! shall heathens be better at self-denial, than the followers of Jesus?

67. Aristides was so famous for justice, that he was called by the name of Aristides the Just: when two came before him, said he that accursed the other, This man did you such an injury at such a time. Aristides briskly replied, Friend, I do not sit here to hear what he hath done against me, but what he hath done against thee. And it was said of Fabricius the Roman Judge, that he was so just as you might sooner turn the course of the sun, than turn Fabricius from doing justice. Oh that Christians were so famous for uprightness and justice, that it might be said, there is such a one the Humble, such a one the Upright, such a one the Just, such a one the Patient! It might have been said so of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, &c. and why not of us?

68. Aristides was observed to be never elated or proud of any honour, nor did he ever think himself disgraced by any fall or overthrow; being always of this opinion, that it was the duty of an honest citizen to be ever ready to offer his body and life to do his country service, without respect to, or hope of reward, either money, honour, or glory. It is good for Christians to live both above encouragements and discouragements, and to mind nothing so much as their duty.

69. Dionsiyus the tyrant of Sicily, demanding the daughter of Aristides in marriage; No, said he, I had rather see her burnt than to be married to a tyrant. It is better for Christians not to marry at all, than not to marry in the Lord: it is but poor honour to be married to a wicked man of honour.

70. Scipio the Roman General used to boast, there was not one of his soldiers but that would adventure their lives for him, tho' it were to leap into the sea, or to cast themselves down from an high tower, if he required it. How much more should Christians be at Christ's command, and not love their lives unto the death, especially seeing his commands are holy, just, and good!

71. A philosopher walking abroad, met a woman weeping; and asking her the reason, Alas, said she, I have broken my pitcher. Walking out the next day, he met another woman lamenting; and demanding the cause, she told him her son was dead. He instantly cries out, What did that woman think that an earthen pitcher would not break? and did this woman imagine that a mortal creature would not die? Should we not expect that changeables will change? That the fashion of this world will pass away? Therefore we should so use earthly enjoyments as if we were always taking leave of them. Our moderation of joy and sorrow should be known, because the end of all things is at hand.

72. Mark Anthony, after Julius Caesar was slain in the Senate House, brought forth his robe all bloody, and shewed it to the people, saying, Lo, this is the Emperor's coat; where the people, being enraged, fell upon the murderers and slew them. Should not Christians much more do so by sin, which slew our blessed Lord and Saviour, and would have slain them also?

73. A great man having injured a philosopher, sent his servant to entreat and charge him that he should not write against him. The philosopher returned answer, that he was not at leisure to think of his master?

74. When King Pyrrhus designed war against the Romans, one Cineas said to him, If we overcome the Romans, what benefit shall we have of the victory? We shall then, answered Pyrrhus, overcome all the rest of Italy with ease. But, said Cineas, when we have won Italy, what shall we do then? Why then, said Pyrrhus, we will pass into Africa, and conquer Carthage. Well, said Cineas, but when we have got all into our hands, what shall we do then? Why then, said Pyrrhus, we will be quiet, and take our ease, and make merry. And why, said Cineas, may we not do so now, without any further travel, danger or trouble? Many persons design such and such things, and then resolve to give their souls a Quietus est, and a Writ of Ease. But he that cannot be quiet in his present state, cannot promise himself quiet in a future state. We many times go from quiet for quiet, and from rest for rest, and lose what we have in hopes of more; why cannot we be quiet now?

75. When the tyrant commanded that Anaxarchus the philosopher should be put into a mortar, and beaten to pieces with an iron pestle; he cries out to his persecutors, You do but beat the shell, the husk, the vessel of Anaxarchus; you do not beat me. Let Christians remember, that men may kill the body, but they can do no more.

76. Agrippa, having suffered imprisonment for wishing Caius to be Emperor of Rome, was the first who was preferr'd by Caius when he came to the throne, and had a chain of gold given him as heavy as the chain of iron that was put on him in prison. If we suffer for Christ, we shall reign with him; and if our afflictions abound, our consolations shall abound much more; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Men may suffer for Christ, but they shall never lose by Christ.

77. One presenting Antipater, King of Macedon, with a book which treated of happiness, he refused it, saying, I am not at leisure. How many are there that cannot find leisure to receive the Book and Word of happiness presented by Christ to save their souls?

78. Zenophanes, when one Laesus called him coward because he would not play at dice with him, said, I confess I am a very coward in those things that are evil, for I dare do nothing at all with them. It is better to be reproached for not doing evil, than to do evil and avoid reproach.

79. Pericles being requested by a friend to bear false witness on his behalf, and to bind it with an oath, told him, I am your friend as far as the altar; as if he had said, saving my conscience and duty to heaven. When any would tempt us to sin, let us tell them, your friend or your servant usque ad aras, I will do any thing to please and oblige you, without displeasing God and my own conscience.

80. When Agesilaus his own father would have had him give sentence in a cause contrary to the law: Father, quoth he, you yourself have taught me from my very childhood to obey the laws. I will therefore be obedient to your good precepts, and pass no judgment contrary thereunto. In cases of justice we should know no man after the flesh, but be as Levi, who knew not his own father.

81. Aristarchus scoffing at the great number of sophisters in his days, said, That in former ages there could hardly be found seven wise men throughout the world; but in our days, quoth he, we have much ado to find so many fools It is a bad age when men are wise in their own eyes.

82. News being brought to Zeno the philosopher, that his ship, with all the goods and merchandize, were cast away and lost; Thou hast done well, O Fortune, quoth he, to drive us to our studying gown, and our philosopher's life again. Christians should look upon their losses and afflictions as designed by heaven to draw or drive them nearer unto God in piety and holiness of life.

83. After King Antigonus had been long sick of a lingering disease, and was recovered again; Well, said he, I have got no harm by this sickness, for this hath taught me not to be so proud, by putting me in mind that we are mortal. What saith the prophet? It was good for me that I was afflicted.

84. Eudamedes seeing Zenocrates, an old man, studying philosophy among young scholars in an academy, demanded of one what he was; and being told, he was one who sought after virtue, Why, quoth he, if he be still studying, and still seeking after it, when will he have time to use and practise it? Alas! how many are there, that are ever learning, but never come to the knowledge of the truth!

85. Polemon coming into the school of Zeno, with his drunken company crown'd with garlands, purposely to ridicule him and his philosophy, Zeno nevertheless went on with a lecture of temperance, pressing it so far that it wrought much on Polemon, yea so much that he immediately abandon'd his former courses, and became his disciple, proving afterward the strictest of the whole sect. How many have been caught at sermons, and of vile sinners have become sincere converts?

86. Timotheus the Athenian General, giving an account to the Senate of his many victories and exploits, he often intermix'd this proud saying, In this action Fortune (or Heaven) had no hand. After which it was observed, that he never prosper'd in any thing which he undertook. If we give not glory to God, he disowns us.

87. Flaminius, the Roman General, having set the Greeks at liberty, they were so overwhelmed with joy, and cried out so loud and incessantly, Our Saviour! Our Saviour! that it is said the very birds in the air, being astonish'd at the noise, fell down to the earth. O with what shoutings and exultations should Christians cry out much more of Jesus Christ, Our Saviour! Our Saviour! sine he hath set them at liberty from Satan, sin, and the wrath to come?

88. Crates the philosopher threw his gold into the sea, saying, I wild destroy thee, for fear thou destroy me. If men do not put the love of the world to death, the love of the world will bring eternal death unto them.

89. A stranger coming Ambassador to the Senate of Rome, and colouring his grey hairs and pale cheeks of a fresh vermilion hue, a grave Senator espying the deceit, stood up and said, What sincerity can we expect at this man's hands, whose looks and lips do both lie? This is the true picture of a false dissembling hypocrite.

90. When King Philip asked Democritus if he did not fear to lose his head; No, he said, for if you take away this head, the Athenians will give me an immortal one for it: that is, they would set him up a statue in the treasury to his eternal fame. Should not Christians live above the fear of death, and say, with the apostle, For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory?

91. Epaminondas, and King Philip of Macedon, were both observed, after great and unexpected victories, to be, in outward appearance, at least, very sad, rather mourners than triumphers: for no other reason but for fear of some eminent misfortune or disaster; for they held it ominous among the ancients, to have long and high prosperity. One of them had this good saying, tho' ill enough meant by him; God will not endure that any should think well of him, but himself. 'Tis much according to Scripture discovery, that when men glory in their pride, God will stain the pride of their glory.


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