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· As soon as the taper of our life begins to burn, Satan sends forth his blast to extinguish it. Death labours to undermine this poor dwelling from the first moment that it is built, besieges it, and on all sides makes its approaches; in time it saps the foundation, it batters us with several diseases and unexpected accidents; every day it opens a breach, and pulls out of this building some stones. But if Death labours to demolish on his part, we on ours labour to repair: and as those who built the walls of Jerusalem held with one hand the trowel, and with the other a sword to fight; so we defend ourselves, as well as we are able, against the assaults of Death. Therefore we do not only endeavour to preserve this earthly lodge that God hath let and set to us for a term, and to mend up the continual delapidations that happen in it: but at the very sight of Death, when it gives us the assault, we do then also advance our spiritual building, and labour to bring it to perfection. So that we may say, as the apostle St. Paul, “ If our outward man decays, the inward man is renewed day by day,” 2 Cor. iv. 16.
To speak right, Death meddles with nothing but the ex. terior part of man: for our principal fort and chief bulwark hath no cause of fear to be undermined or sapped, nor to be won by assault ; for it is raised above the heavens, and built upon the Rock of eternity. It cannot be battered: for as the thunder-bolts, the storms of hail and ill-weather, cannot prejudice the sun-beams, because they are of a spiritual nature ; so all the fury of the world, and all the powers of hell, and the rage of Death, can never wrong the soul, that is of a spiritual and immortal nature : this castle can never be famished, for God furnishes it with manna from heaven; and from the rock upon which it is built there runs a source of living waters, that rises to everlasting life. In a word, as the serpents crawl only upon the dust, Death hath no power but upon the earthly part of man; therefore our
Lord Jesus Christ advised his apostles, “not to fear theme that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul."
At the very instant of our soul's separation from the body, Death seems to have a great advantage upon us ; but when I consider all, I find it hath no cause to boast of the victory. When a valiant captain marches out of a town almost destroyed, to another more secured and better fortified, with his weapons in his hand; we say that he has quitted his staa tion, and not that he is overcome. Thus when the wretched budy decays, and that our souls depart well armed with faith and hope, to lodge in a more secure place in the highest heavens; no body can say, to speak properly, that we have been overcome. And as it happens to such as sail on the ocean, when a violent storm threatens them with shipwreck, they think themselves very happy if they can quit their vessel, leave it to the mercy of the winds and waves, and escape to land with their riches and lives safe : thus it is with us who sail upon the tempestuous sea of this world; when Death raises its most cruel storms, we think ourselves happy if we can leave this miserable body, which seems as a ship to our souls; and if we can secure our spiritual life and our heavenly riches. Therefore we may justly say to the faithful, that are frighted when they see Death threatening to drown them in its deptbs, as St. Paul to the ship’s company, who trembled for fear at the sight of the roaring and swelling waves, “ Take good courage, my brethren; for I assure you, in the name of the living God, that your lives are secure, and that you shall lose nothing but the ship,” Acts xxvii. We may furnish them with stronger comforts; for these good mariners lost their ship without hopes of recovering it again, but we are assured, that God will one day gather up every piece of the broken vessels of our bodies, and will join them together in a more perfect state.
: . . . Therefore
Therefore Death doth not carry away our bodies by violence, but we leave them willingly; we do not stay for its summons, but we do prevent Death, and give it a licence ; when we have, packed up our bag and baggage, we are ready to depart out of this wretched abode, where we endure all manner of calamities; for in this house defluxions fall down, vapours arise, the pillars and foundations trem, ble, the joints open, the windows are darkened, and the burning fevers, like violent fires, consume it.
I must not forget that the faithful name their death not only a removal of their lodging, but a removal from a tabernacle. This teaches us, that we must depart from hence with as much joy and readiness as a soldier doth out of his tabernacle at the end of a laborious and bloody warfare; and with as much pleasure as the children of Israel did out of their camps, in which they had remained in the desert, to enter into the sweet and comfortable dwellings of the land of Canaan.
Not only the body is like to an hired horse, or to a ta. bernacle transported up and down; but it is by sin become to our soul a woeful prison. Therefore death may be compared to the messengers sent by king Pharaoh, on purpose to take Joseph out of the dungeon, and bring him to his palace. The body that was created to be a noble pavilion of joy and honour, is become to our soul a wretched incommodious prison ; and death is like to the furnace of Babylon, that burnt and consumed the bands of the three children, without prejudicing their garments or attire, Dan. iii. For it destroys the natural bands that detain our souls enslaved to the earth, but meddles not with its ornaments, with its righteousness and sanctification. It is like the skin that incloses the child in its mother's womb, or like the shell where the chick is formed; for of necessity it must be broken before we can enter into immortal life. In short, we may say
that the body, which was given to the soul for its palace, is become by sin its grave and loathsome sepulchre, far more noisome than that of Lazarus ; and that death is like the voice that calls upon us, “ Lazarus, come forth.” Faithful souls, you see then, that as Samson carried away the gates of the city of Gaza, and transported them to the top of the hill, so hath Jesus Christ, our true Samson, transported and carried the gates of death to the highest pitch of glory; therefore, whereas before we looked upon it with horror as the entrance of hell, now we may behold it with confidence and joy, saying, as Jacob did of Bethel, “ This is the gate of . heaven.”
Seeing, therefore, that this is the nature and condition of Death, I find that men give it too much advantage ; for we should not offer to say, that such are dead, whom God hath admitted into eternal life; because the qualification should be derived from the chief and noblest part: as it is in nature, there is no generation without corruption ; and we commonly say, that it is a generation, when the thing engendered is more excellent than the thing corrupted ; on the contrary, that it is a corruption, when the thing corrupted excels the thing that is engendered. For this reason our change and removal out of this world should rather be styled a life than death : though our body dies and rots in the earth, our soul revives and mounts up to heaven; and this mortal life, which we leave with the world, is nothing in comparison of that life which we shall enjoy with Christ and his holy angels. God is named the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob : “ Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” Exod. iv. Matt. xxii. .
I may also without any figure affirm, that death, in respect to the body, is no real death, but a kind of sleep; as it is said in the prophet Daniel, “ Many sleep in the dust of the earth," ch. xi. And in Isaiab, that “ the just sleep in
their beds. Therefore our Saviour, speaking of Jairus's daughter, declared, “ The child is not dead, but sleepeth," Matt. ix. And of Lazarus his friend,“ Lazarus our friend sleepeth, and I go to awake him.” Beloved, if thou art of the number of such as Christ loveth, thy death will be but a kind of sleep of a short continuance, and of a few days; the Lord will raise thee up again : “for the hour cometh, and is already, that the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear, shall revive,” John v. During this life the assaults of Death are no better than light skirmishes; the most sensible and most dangerous blow that it strikes, in appearance, is when it separates the soul from the body; but the last and most final encounter, that will put an end to all disputes, will be at the day of judgment, when Jesus Christ will appear from heaven, with the host of all his immortal angels and saints, to encourage us to the encounter. He will come with the encouraging voice of an archangel, and the last trumpet shall sound. Then Death will endeavour to keep us still in its black prisons, and our bones will be found without life and motion ; but the Spirit of God shall breathe upon these dry bones, and will cause then to revive. As when the prophet Jonas was three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, God commanded the fish to vomit him up again upon the ground; thus, when we shall have made so long our abode in our graves as God bath appointed in his wisdom, Death shall be forced to restore all that it hath swallowed. And as Daniel came out of the lions' den by break of day, those savage beasts baving done him no harm; thus, at the break of the last day, at the rising of the Sun of Righteousness, we shall all go out of Death's deep dens; and, as if God had sent an angel on purpose to shut the mouth of this old lion, we shall then find that it liath done us no barm. Instead of devouring us, it will prove a faithful keeper of our bones. The faithful then may speak to Death in the language of the prophet Micah,