Page images
PDF
EPUB

say.

Some, supposed wise men, would not have princes learned : but proud is their wisdom, that will needs be wiser than the Holy Ghost; and such is their wisdom, that would fill their own coffers by the folly of their prince. Therefore, let no good prince be ashamed of good learning, and namely of God's learning, seeing God himself doth will them thereunto, and that by the voice of such a teacher, as a prince, be he never so great, never so wise, may well enough become his scholar. For this teacher was not only a king hinaself, but the best king, and best learned king, that ever God made king upon earth. And he was brought up in that school where the Holy Ghost himself was master; and he such a doer and worker in that school, as his hand and tongue was his master's chiefest pen and style, as he witnesseth in plain words himself, Lingua mea calamus scribæ velociter scribentis. This king was also nighest in authority, and highest in favour with God, King of all kings : for what king, or man else, heard ever so friendly a word from God's own mouth, Inveni virum secundum cor meum? How oft doth God in Scripture, I will do so, and I will not do so, for my servant David's sake? How happy is that prince, of whom God will speak so? But how more happy is that 'prince and all his too, for whom God will do so? And therefore, what a comfort is it to a godly prince, to learn of such a teacher; to follow such a guide; to read his life; to see his acts ; to have his counsel always at hand, not only for the best civil governo ment over his people, but for his own private life betwixt him and God. It is most true that St. Hierom saith : That every

man's own conscience is the best commentary to understand, with most profit, the Psalms of David; for bene to give thanks; for offences to ask pardon ; for misery to seek comfort; for injury to pray aid. For, no man can read David's Psalms attentively, but he shall see all his own faults, all his own necessities, all his outward deeds, all his inward thoughts, set before his

eyes. And yet is it as true, that the thoughts and sayings of Da vid, being a prince, cannot be neither so properly applied, nor so deeply understood, by any other person as by a prince. For, the like state and dignity, the like charge and authority, do breed like thoughts, like purposes, like counsellors, like acts, like events. Private persons feel not commonly the thoughts of princes. Few servants in common families have

like thoughts with the meanest masters. Therefore, such as be likest David in life, affairs, state, and dignity, may have the likest thoughts, and use the likest talk with God, that David had.

A prince, no private person, can run thoroughly out the whole course of David's life: as, to begin his young years in God's fear; to pass through troubles and cares, perils and dangers; by injuries of greatest enemies; by unkindness of nearest friends; by false surmises ; by wrong imprisonments; by daily threats, and fear of death into safety of life, were bea nefits of God to David, being a private man, common also to many other good private men. But, to be carried from such private misery, up to princely state and felicity, is only the dealing of God with such princes, who are specially regarded of God, as David was, and commit themselves wholly and only to God, as David did.

And how did God deal with David when he had made him a king? First, he saw the fall of all his enemies; and all their ungodly race and bloody faction rooted out. And though God put into his hand the life of all those that cruelly before had sought for his death, yet not any his private revenge for private injuries, but God's open punishment, brought them all under his feet. God gave him glorious victories over all outward enemies; and speedy, * meetings with all inward conspiracies; and after blessed him with a quiet government, and gave him requiem circumquaque ab universis inimicis ejus, with happy days, with an obedient people; where common justice was duly executed, and private right to every man defended; all crafty Achitophels removed out of place, and good, wise, and quiet Hushaies bearing greatest authority.

These blessings of God to King David were great, but there followed far greater, both for the comfort of himself and the happiness of his subjects; for he heard of God's own mouth, “ Thine own seed shall sit in thy seat;" which is the greatest comfort can come to a good prince, and the joyfullest felicity that a good prince can leave to his subjects.

And so David, made king by God's goodness, made also not only his present time happy, but his posterity also blessed.

* To meet with, in the language of that age, was to oppose, to counteract, to repress.

N

[ocr errors]

And therefore was David a prince, of himself most worthy, to others most happy; whose duings for his posterity, as thousands unborn were bound to bless, so all that hear of it are driven to praise: the worthiest example for all good princes to follow, that ever God set before princes' eyes.

Most noble Princess, and my best Lady and Mistress, I oft, thinking of this race of David's life; of his former miseries, of his later felicities, of God's dealing with him in all points, to bring happiness to his present time and safety to his posterity; have had, for many like causes, many like thoughts, even of the like life and state of your Majesty.

And therefore, moved by good will as your true servant, and carried by duty as a faithful subject, and bound by many benefits of your most bountiful goodness towards me, and especially because it pleased your Highness this last year, not only by your letters and commandment to the Court of the Exchequer, but also by your own present talk with my

Lord Archbishop of York, clearly to deliver me, first, from the misery of those long, careful, and costly troubles of the law; and after, from the injury that some would have offered me, in surprising your majesty's benefit from me; I thought good to offer to your highness this book, with this letter, as a true servant doth in Euripides, to a most noble queen, when he gave unto her the like token of good will, for the like delivery out of troubles and care; saying then, for no juster cause, nor with better heart, than I do now to your majesty,

Αλλ', ώ φίλη δέσποινα, ευμενώς δέχoυ,

φίλον φίλου μνημόσυνον εκδικουμένου. . And to offer this book of Scripture unto your Majesty, before any other, good reason, I suppose, doth move me. though all Scripture, as the Apostle saith, is written for all men's teaching, yet some piece is fitter to one person than another, to read, for themselves, by themselves, privately alone. As the Book of Wisdom, the Proverbs of Solomon, Jesus Sirach, for all men both learned and * lewd. Leviticus, Numbers, the Songs of Solomon, Daniel, the Apocalypse, and such like, chiefly for deep learned men, and not for every fond head and curious spirit. The Book of Judges, the Preacher of Solomon, for civil governors in common of

* Lewd is lay, or popular.

For

fices, for masters and fathers in private families. But the Books of Samuel and the rest of the Kings, especially for all good kings and princes.

This volume containeth two books : the first, the life of Saul, the image of an ill prince, the deformed face of a miserable kingdom, where God and his goodness is forgotten, God's voice not heard, right religion perverted, true sacri fices either quite left off or coldly observed, God worshipped, as Saul listed, not as God prescribed, good Samuel despised, his counsel derided, Baal's priests borne withal, and openly authorised, ill altars erected, spiritual fornication with Egypt and Babylon every where occupied. Thus Saul, first halving with God (as when God gave Å malek into his hand), then halting in religion, and at last quite falling from God and religion both, and flying to Baal and devilish sorcery, brought his own state to utter destruction, and his kingdom to extreme misery. For the contempt of God and religion brought his commonwealth to utter ruin, as it hath, and will do, all other kingdoms. And in what order? or rather, by what misorder? Surely, by these steps and degrees all went downward, wilful lust shut up all order of justice; open injury oppressed good men. David was untruly suspected, and cruelly persecuted: vain and ill men bare greatest swing, good Jonathan only excepted, placed in court by God's providence, for David's and other good men's comfort. And thus, lust and vanity secretly within, injustice and mischief openly abroad, went with full tide and wind in Saul's kingdom and court, until the blast of God's wrath overwhelmed all

up

set down: first by all plagues at home, then by a strange nation, their neighbour, the old enemy of Israel; by whose invasion and cruel sword Saul lost his state, lost his life, dispossessed his own seed, undid his posterity, and left his kingdom to a strange family. . This history, for the misery, is dreadful to be heard, but for the example and warning, profitable for all good princes, daily to read, and advisedly to mark.

The second book containeth the life of David, the image of a good prince, a fair picture of a flourishing state and happy time, when God was always in mind, and his former benefits, his former deliveries from danger of death, never utterly forgotten; God's own religion maintained, God's voice only heard; God's own sacrifices, as God himself appointed, earnestly observed ; good Nathan highly reverenced, his advice never refused, his free tongue, his heavy message from God, neither then rebuked with words, nor after revenged with deeds; but, by and by, most humbly answered, with Ego peccari Domino: and therefore David heard joyfully again, Et Dominus transtulit peccatum tuum, non morieris. Baal and Dagon, and all their priests, were utterly banished. All ill altars fully rooted out, all idolatry and superstition of Egypt and Babylon clean forsaken. Thus David, by fearing, serving, and holding himself fast by God and his religion, and though sometimes falling, yet not perversedly cleaving to wilfulness, but meekly acknowledging his own wickedness, not frowardly lying still, but speedily rising up at God's calling, brought his own state to highest dignity, and his people to greatest felicity. And in the end, had this joyful blessing from God's own mouth, by Nathan's message, which all true English hearts daily do pray that God will send the same unto your Majesty: Excitalo semen tuum postea, quod egredietur de utero tuo, et regnum seminis tui perpetuo firmabo. Whereunto, I trust, God, your Majesty, and all good men, will most gladly, with heart and hand, say all, Amen.

The image of these two princes' lives, the one good, the other bad, and God's present dealing with them both, is a marvellous picture for all men to look upon; yea, though they be but private persons, and only standers-by; but most necessary for all princes to mark and muse upon, if either the dreadful fear of God's wrath, or the joyful hope of God's favour, do any thing touch their hearts. And their hearts, of all other, ought chiefly to be touched with both : for though God be Scrutator cordium omnium hominum ; yet it is spoken for the high prerogative of princes, Corda regum in manu Dei sunt : that is to say, God immediately, by himself governeth, and with his present eye beholdeth, the deeds and thoughts of princes. This is no opinion of philosophy, but the truth of God's own doctrine; and that so certain and sensible a truth, as there is no prince, be he never so good, never so bad, but his own conscience doth daily and hourly bear good witness to the same. And truth also it is, that, as their dignity is highest, so is the burthen of their charge heaviest, and therefore the care for their account ought to be greatest; and for this cause too a great deal the greater, because no man, but God only, must be the auditor thereof.

But how dealt God with Saul ? God gave unto Saul, an ill king, great and many blessings; a comely stature of body;

« PreviousContinue »