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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Merits of Adversity
By Jeremy Taylor (1613–1667)
 
From ‘Rules and Exercises of Holy Dying’

NO man is more miserable than he that hath no adversity,—that man is not tried whether he be good or bad: and God never crowns those virtues which are only faculties and dispositions; but every act of virtue is an ingredient into reward. And we see many children fairly planted, whose parts of nature were never dressed by art, nor called from the furrows of their first possibilities by discipline and institution, and they dwell forever in ignorance, and converse with beasts; and yet if they had been dressed and exercised, might have stood at the chairs of princes, or spoken parables amongst the rulers of cities. Our virtues are but in the seed when the grace of God comes upon us first; but this grace must be thrown into broken furrows, and must twice feel the cold and twice feel the heat, and be softened with storms and showers, and then it will arise into fruitfulness and harvests. And what is there in the world to distinguish virtues from dishonors, or the valor of Cæsar from the softness of the Egyptian eunuchs, or that can make anything rewardable but the labor and the danger, the pain and the difficulty? Virtue could not be anything but sensuality if it were the entertainment of our senses and fond desires; and Apicius had been the noblest of all the Romans, if feeding and great appetite and despising the severities of temperance had been the work and proper employment of a wise man. But otherwise do fathers and otherwise do mothers handle their children. These soften them with kisses and imperfect noises, with the pap and breast-milk of soft endearments; they rescue them from tutors and snatch them from discipline; they desire to keep them fat and warm, and their feet dry, and their bellies full: and then the children govern, and cry, and prove fools and troublesome, so long as the feminine republic does endure. But fathers—because they design to have their children wise and valiant, apt for counsel or for arms—send them to severe governments, and tie them to study, to hard labor, and afflictive contingencies. They rejoice when the bold boy strikes a lion with his hunting-spear, and shrinks not when the beast comes to affright his early courage. Softness is for slaves and beasts, for minstrels and useless persons, for such who cannot ascend higher than the state of a fair ox or a servant entertained for vainer offices; but the man that designs his son for nobler employments,—to honors and to triumphs, to consular dignities and presidencies of councils,—loves to see him pale with study or panting with labor, hardened with suffrance or eminent by dangers. And so God dresses us for heaven: he loves to see us struggling with a disease, and resisting the Devil, and contesting against the weaknesses of nature, and against hope to believe in hope,—resigning ourselves to God’s will, praying him to choose for us, and dying in all things but faith and its blessed consequents; ut ad officium cum periculo sinus prompti—and the danger and the resistance shall endear the office. For so have I known the boisterous north wind pass through the yielding air, which opened its bosom, and appeased its violence by entertaining it with easy compliance in all the region of its reception; but when the same breath of heaven hath been checked with the stiffness of a tower, or the united strength of a wood, it grew mighty and dwelt there, and made the highest branches stoop and make a smooth path for it on the top of all its glories.  1
 
 
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