In all the actions which a man performs, some part of his life passes. We die while doing that, for which alone, our sliding life was granted. Nay, though we do nothing, time keeps his constant pace, and flies as fast in idleness as in employment. Whether we play or labor, or sleep or dance or study, the sun posts on, and the sand runs. An hour of vice is as long as an hour of virtue. But the difference between good and bad actions is infinite. Good actions, though they diminish our time here as well as bad actions, yet they lay up for us a happiness in eternity; and will recompense what they take away, by a plentiful return at last. When we trade with virtue, we do but buy pleasure with the expense of time. So it is not so much a consuming of time as an exchange. As a man sows his corn, he is content to want it a while, that he may at the harvest, receive it with advantage. But the bad deeds that we do here, not only rob us of much time; but also bespeak a torment for here after; and that, in such a life, that the greatest pleasure we could there be crowned with, would be, the very act of dying. The one treasures up pleasure, in a lasting life; the other provides torture, in a death eternal. Why should I wish to pass away this life ill, which, to those that are ill, is the best? If I must daily lessen it, it shall be by that, which shall joy me with a future income. Time is like a ship which never anchors. While I am on board, I had better do those things that may profit me at my landing, than practice such as shall cause my commitment, when I come ashore. Whatsoever I do, I would think what will become of it, when it is done. If good, I will go on to finish it; if bad, I will either leave off where I am, or not undertake it at all. Vice, like an unthrift, sells away the inheritance, while it is but in reversion: but virtue, husbanding all things well, is a purchaser. Hear but the witty Spaniard’ distich;
Ampliut crtatis spatium sibi vir bonus, hoc est Vivere bis, vita posse priorefrui.
He that his former well-led life enjoys, Lives twice; so gives addition to his days.
The time which is contracts into a mathematic point; and even that point perishes a thousand times before we can utter its birth. All is finite in the present; and even that finite is infinite in its velocity of flight towards death.
The fear of death is the occasional cause of the greatest part of...mean dishonorable actions.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.