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perish for want of food and clothing for his body; for the misery of the latter will soon be at an end, and in its own nature is not comparable to that of the former, and which will not only last, but grow and increase for ever.
And as for bodily pain and sickness, how exquisite and durable soever, (and the more exquisite the less durable,) yet how inconsiderable, how nothing in comparison with the burnings and scorchings and ragings of a soul overrun with guilt, in dreadful expectation of the wrath to come, and which, when once it is come, will never, never end! And finally, as for bodily death, be it never so lingering, and the pangs of it never so sharp, and the circumstances of it never so aggravating, yet a few days at most will put an end to it, and make all its bitterness and the remembrance of it to cease: but what is this to the death of the soul, first in sin, and then in the torments of hell; where even the extremity of misery shall bring no dissolution, the perpetual gnawings of the never-dying worm make no riddance of the miserable prey, the eternal burnings never destroy, and the most insupportable agonies never quite sink the ever-fainting, dying creatures ; who shall most earnestly desire to die, but death shall for ever flee from them? So that the whole kind of bodily and temporal evils are nothing, as I said, in comparison with those that affect the soul, and should proportionably have a much less share in our fears.
But bodily and temporal evils should likewise be compared with each other, that our notions of them may be right, and none of them feared beyond what it deserves.
Now of these, pain and sickness I take to be the greatest, because most real, and that least of all depend upon the force of imagination and fancy. For when the most sensible parts of the body are affected, as in acute distempers, or the operations of surgery, or the various cruelties that men of a barbarous nature have invented, it is naturally impossible for a man not to have very dolorous sensations; and the tediousness of a languishing sickness is what nature cannot but groan and sink under: whereas, what we call worldly trouble has generally a great mixture in it of opinion, and much of it is owing to the workings of our imagination. And so likewise for disgrace and shame, opinion and fancy, our own, as well as that of the world, go a great way in making it more or less; and very often what some people look upon as shame and disgrace, others esteem as an honour : and if what is really base and vile be not at the bottom, the shame and disgrace is in nothing but opinion; and if things noble and great and good shall bring upon a man what the world calls shame and disgrace, it is so far from it in reality, that it is his glory and his highest honour.
And even poverty is a less evil than sickness and pain; for when a poor man is in health, his labour and industrious diligence, in some way of employment or other, will help him ordinarily to what is needful for his subsistence, and by degrees relieve his poverty and make it less; and if it should continue and grow extreme, even then the worst of it is that it brings diseases and pain, and makes him uncapable of getting proper help. And it is not seldom too that poverty is a remedy for sickness and
pain, and brings a cure along with it for those diseases that were caused by the excesses of a fuller fortune; and the rich are often fain to counterfeit the life of the poor in labour, and a spare, plain diet, to get rid of the evil effects of their former luxuries, or to prevent those acute distempers which are bred by too much ease, and eating and drinking too well.
And as for death, which is counted the greatest of all natural and temporal evils, if we consider it only in itself, without any further relations and respects, it is so far from being so, that it is the great cure of them all, and puts an end to all the miseries of this world at once.
And that which is properly death, the actual separation of the soul from the body, is only the effect of pain, diseases, or violence, and is over in an instant; and therefore, barely considered, is nothing so terrible as those tormenting pains, or the languishments of sickness, which are the causes of it.
So that I cannot but think pain and sickness to be the greatest of natural and temporal evils; and though poverty has been the choice of many wise and good men, and afflictions have been rejoiced in, and the disgrace of the world not valued, and death itself earnestly longed for by them; yet pain and sickness nature could not but shrink from, and complain and sink under, (unless supernaturally supported,) in the holiest persons, the wisest and greatest men that ever lived. And even our blessed Lord himself, who chose not to have of his own where to lay his head, and to subsist upon other people's kindness, and to meet with abundance of trouble and affliction, and opprobrious treatment, despising
the shame, and bearing all with a most heroic greatness of mind; and who likewise feared death so little, that he came into the world on purpose to sacrifice his life, even for those from whom he received such vile and barbarous usage: our blessed Lord, who made all this the object of his choice, had yet so great reluctancy from pain, that he earnestly and thrice besought his heavenly Father to remove, if it were possible, that bitter cup from him, that he might die with less torment than he knew he must endure by being crucified, which he foresaw and foretold would be the manner of his death; though he bore that too with infinite and most exemplary patience and constancy and courage, as we find in the account we have of his last sufferings and death.
Of the due regulation of fear. HAVING thus shewn what is the nature and proper object of this passion of fear; I proceed now to consider the due measures of its regulation.
And first, with respect to bodily and temporal evils. And here the proper object of fear being an approaching evil that is coming on apace, which we have distinctly in view, and apprehend to be not a great way off; those fears must needs be exorbitant and unreasonable that are excited and kept up by remote, far distant evils of this kind; which are but barely possible, or probable at most, and which we have but a darked, confused prospect of, and may as well not be as be, and the small degree of likelihood whereof a thousand turns of providence may put by.
And accordingly our blessed Master, the best instructor in the way to true happiness here upon earth, as well as in his heavenly kingdom, adviseth us, in his admirable sermon on the mount, to take no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought
for the things of itself: and sufficient to the day is the evil thereof a.
As if he had said ; Perplex not your minds with careful solicitude about the futurities of this present life, nor be of doubtful mind, (as it is expressed by St. Luke b) full of fears and distrusts and illboding apprehensions, and anxious thoughts how to prevent those ills you imagine may come upon you hereafter; for when that hereafter comes, God's providence will take care of the circumstances of it, and dispose of your condition in it, as shall seem best to his infinite wisdom and goodness. And very probably, unless you exceedingly provoke him by your wickedness in the mean time, you will find things much better than you think for now; and so all your tormenting cares and fears appear to be without reason, and an unkind, unnatural vexation of yourselves for nothing.
And how foolish is it to do so, when your present evils are enough to exercise all your patience, had you more of it than most of you have! The smoothest condition in this world of briers and thorns will have sufficient every day to discompose it; and you will find it work enough to preserve your souls in tolerable quiet under your present crosses, pressures, and difficulties ; so that you need not add the burdens of the future to them, by antedating them in their anxious, fearful thoughts. a Matt. vi. 34.
b Luke xii. 29.