« PreviousContinue »
upor that eternal bliss and glory that hath been prepared for us from the foundation of the world, and into which we shall enter when Christ Jesus shall come from heaven with his holy angels, to judge both the quick and the dead : when he shall re-unite our souls and bodies together for all eternity, that “ he may be glorified in his saints, and wonderful in all the faithful.”
CHAP. VII. The first Remedy against the Fears of Death is, to meditate
often upon it. W E become acquainted with the most dreadful things
V by custom and conversation. Fresh soldiers commonly quiver and shake at the sight of an enemy; they tremble at the vollies of shot, and, half-dead, fall to the ground at the terrible noise of the great ordnance. But when their courage hath been hardened by a long exercise, they can then without fear seek the enemy in his greatest advantages, and can go as merrily to the combat as to a feast or a triumph. The showers of small shot, the lightning and thunder of the camon, cannot make them so much as shut their eyes or stoop their heads; they then laugh at their former apprehensions. Thus the first conceits of Death commonly terrify us: but when we seriously meditate upon it, and look it in the face, we shall not only contemn it, but we shall seek it boidly in its retreats, and with an undaunted countenance, we shall behold Death let fly all its arrows, and casting its thunderbolts, without the least apprehensions. As they who are not wont to see savage beasts dare not draw near to them, and çan scarce look upon tbem without fear; but such as are familiarly acquainted with them can touch them without apprehension, and freely play with them: thus it is with them
who never had any confidence to look Death in the face; they tremble, and are filled with astonishment, as soon as they see its approaches ; but they who often behold Death are familiarly acquainted with it, and therefore they can with confidence thrust their fists into its jaws. Moses fled away. from his rod, when it was first turned into a serpent; but when he began to take it in his hand, and saw that it returned to its former shape and being, he was far from running from it, or entertaining the least apprehension of it: he made a very happy use of it, and by God's command wrought many miracles. Thus it is with Death; it frights us at first, but if we can but take hold of it with hands of a true and lively faith, it will be so far from scaring or frightening us, that it will discover to us a world of delightful wonders.
Death therefore is so far from terrifying such as are accus-, tomed to it, that it fills them with comfort and joy. As a child, that looks upon the father who hath a vizard on his face, is frighted and begins to cry; but if he hath but the con. fidence to pull off the vizard, and take but notice of the loving smiles of his parent hid under that deformity, he will not only cease from weeping, and settle his mind, but he will also leap for joy, and embrace him. Thus, if we look upon Death with a timorous countenance, and behold its hideous appearance, we shall be struck with a sudden horror ; but if we can with any assurance lift uphis vizard, we shall soon discover our heavenly Father, and with tears of joy we shall run to embrace him. As the apostles, when they espied Jesus Christ in the night walking upon the waves of the sea, cried out in a fright, thinking that it had been a spirit; but when he drew near to them, and they heard his voice, they perceived him to be their Saviour ; when therefore they had received him into their ship, the storm ceased immediately. Thus, if we look upon Death at a distance, the blindness and ignorance with which we are possessed will represent to us a
frightful spirit; but if we examine and behold it nearer, by the help of the gospel light, we shall find it to be our salvation, and the accomplishing of our redemption. All our fears will then be calmed, and our souls will return to their former temper. In a word, as he that runs from his enemy increases his couaage, and renders him more earnest and resolved to pursue him; thus, when Death sees us tremble, and decline its approaches, it becomes more proud and imperibus over us. We must therefore think betimes of Death, represent it to ourselves continually, and enter into an acquaintance with it. It was holy Job's practice: for he“ cried unto the pit, Thou art my father ; and to corruption and worms, Ye are my mother and my sisters,” Job xvii. And I imagine that this was the chief reason of Philip of Macedon's commanding a page every morning to rouse bim out of his sleep with, “O king, remember thou art a mortal man.” For by this often-repeated lesson he laboured to humble his lofty mind, and teach his frail nature not to glory so much in the splendour of his crown and sceptre, nor to abuse the power committed to his trust. By this means also he became acquainted with Death, that it might not seem strange when it should come in earnest and snatch him away. This was also the design of the emperor Meruan, or Meruanes, who caused this motto to be engraved on his seal, « Remember that thou must die.” These words minded him of that which his courtiers were afraid to mention to him. So that this great prince never confirmed with his seal the death of any man, but at the same time he represented to himself, that his own death was not to be avoided. For the same reason the noblemen of China are wont to have their coffins ready made in their chambers, that at every moment they might look Death in the face. And for that intent the Egyptians, in their most sumptuous feasts, commonly placed a dead man's skull in an eminent corner of the room. By this spectacle they intended not only to oblige their guests to moderate their
joys, and to restrain their unruly lusts, but also to bring them · acquainted with, and to accustom them to behold Death, amongst all their delights. They treated it as if their design had been to invite it to their most delicious feast, that they might rejoice together with it, John xvi. I conceive that the Jews for the same cause built their sepulchres in their gardens of pleasure, that they also might have the image of Death continually before them, and that in the midst of all their divertisements, it might be their most pleasant and ordinary entertainment. For us Christians, to oblige us to think upon Death, there is no need that a page should remember us every day that we are mortal, nor that the motto of a ring should call to our mind that we must die ; there is Do need of a coffin to be placed in our chambers ; in such things there is many times more ostentation than piety: nor is it needful that a dead man's skull be put before our eyes, or a sepulchre be built or hewn in our gardens and places of recreation and delight : for as Alexander the Great understood that he was a mortal by the blood that ran out of his wounds; thus the diseases unto which we are subject, and the daily infirmities that we feel, sufficiently instruct and assure us that we are mortals: and as a famous philosopher, when he received the unhappy news of his son's untimely. death, answered the messenger with a settled countenance, "I knew,” said he," that I begat bim a mortal man." Zenoph. Thus will the faithful say, without change of countenance, or appearance of fear, when his death is declared to him, I knew that my mother had conceived me a mortal man; I knew very well that death is the tribute that we must pay to nature, and that upon this condition I-am entered into the world.
If we will make use of any exterior help to imprint this lesson into our fancy, we must practise with care the advice of the wise man; “ It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to that of feasting,” Eccles. vii. “ for that is the end of
all'men, and the living will lay it to his heart.” Never look upon a diseased body stretched upon a bed, or upon a dead corpse in a coffin, but remember that this is an universal law, unto which all mankind must pay obedience; that' it is the broad road of all the earth, and that there thou mayest behold the lively image of thy future state. I conceive this. may be a good expedient, and very successful, to entertain in our minds the continual thoughts of death, to make our last will betimes, and frequently to peruse it : for as, when we meditate upon a farewell that we are to take of our friends, we feel in our souls the same affections and motions as are in us at the moment of our separation ; thus will it be with us when we seriously meditate upon the last farewell that we are to bid to the world. Death will seem to appear upon our lips, or rather we shall think ourselves already in the sweet embraces of the divine Jesus, our glorious Redeemer.
Besides those things that are extraordinary, I find nothing in or out of us, nothing that we feel, taste, or relish ; in sliort, nothing that passeth either in our private or public conversation, but is able to recal to our minds the serious consideration of death. The flesh that thou dost eat, the wool that clothes thy nakedness, the silk that adorns thy body, in general all thy garments and ornaments, are but the spoils of the dead creatures. The sight therefore of allthese things must call to remembrance thy frail and mortal state, and cause chee to meditate upon the Preacher's saying; “The same accident that happens to the beast, the same happens to mankind; as is the the death of the one, so is the death of the other. They have all the same breath, and man hath no a. winrage over a beast : for all is vanity, all go to the same place, all proceed from dust, and shall return to dust again."
Never pull off thy clothes, but remember that thou must shortly quit this miserable body, and lay it down in the