« AnkstesnisTęsti »
frequently compare it to sleep, and it is indeed the most natural resemblance that can be given. While we are asleep, we neither see nor hear: all our senses are locked up: we enjoy none of the delights of life; no comfort in our friends, in our riches or estates: all those things are cancelled out of our memories. And what more than this can death do to a believer? and, therefore, they are said to sleep in Jesus : 1 Thess. iv. 14. It is a sleep, which gives them rest from their labours: a sleep, which opens their eyes, before benighted with ignorance and error: a sleep, which deprives them of the dim and muddy light of this world; but brings them to the vision of that radiant source and fountain of all lights, in, whose beams angels do for ever rejoice and are for ever cherished.
Why should we then be so terrified at the apprehensions of death? We'may truly say, the bitterness of it is past: its sting is taken out. We may safely take this serpent into our bosoms : though it hiss against us, it cannot wound us: yea, instead of wounding us, it is reconciled to us, and become one of our party. And, therefore, when the Apostle is drawing op a Christian's inventory, he reckons death as part of his goods : whether....life or death, or things present or things to come, all are yours : 1 Cor. iii. 22: and, so, Phil. i. 21. To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. And well may a Christian count death among his gains, since it is the hand of death, which draws the curtain of the great tabernacle, and lets us in to see God face to face in that palace of inestimable majesty, where we shall have the strong rays of his glory beat full upon us, and be ourselves made strong enough to bear them. Yea, these bodies of ours, which are the only part that can suffer damage, shall have it abundantly recompensed at the resurrection: they are sown in weakness, but shall be raised in power : they are sown in dishonour, but raised in glory: 1 Cor. xv. 43: these frail and dull clods shall then become impassible as angels, subtle as a ray of light, bright as the sun, and nimble as the wings of lightning
IV. Having thus exhorted you to prepare for death, I know not how farther to enforce it upon you with greater advantage, than by propounding to you THE EXAMPLE OF THIS NOBLE PERSON DECEASED, whose whole life was a more serious preparation for death, than most men's dying thoughts.
He well knew that the Nobility of his extraction would be ng
excuse to him from the peremptory summons of death. Neither did he make it any excuse to him from an industrious and strict preparation for it. This he testified by the series of his whole life; in which there evidently appeared such an awe of God, and a real sense of true piety and religion, as clearly evinced that he had strong and habituated meditations of that great levelling day, wherein the highest shall stand upon no higher ground than the meanest.
He did not think religion any stain to his Honour, nor minding heaven to be the employment of those only who have nothing on earth.
Indeed, irreligion and atheism are now reckoned as a piece of good breeding, among the great ones of the world: it is now counted as a sign of a degenerous and low-sunk spirit, to acknowledge even God himself for their superior. Those are cried up as the wits of the time, who can daringly dispute it against whatsoever is sacred in Christianity; yea, against the being of God himself. It is now become an argument of a judicious and gallant mind, to call into question the most fundamental maxims of our faith; and the authority too of those Holy Oracles, which confirm them. Reason alone is extolled as the best and most sufficient guide, both in matters of belief and practice; and they appeal to that for their judge, which commonly, by their. debauches and intemperancies, they either so corrupt that it will not discern the truth, or else so sot and stupify that it cannot. And, thus, as the moon shines brightest when it is at the greatest opposition to the sun, these think their reason then shines brightest, when it stands at the greatest opposition to God.
This Noble Person, whose Reason had as fleet a wing and could soar as high a pitch as any of theirs who pretend to nothing above it, yet saw it reason to give his faith the precedency; and always found more acquiescence in a Thus saith the Lord, than in the most critical researches, and positive conclusions of his
So reverend an esteem had he for those sacred dictates of Scripture, that, though his wit and parts shone forth to admiration in whatsoever he pleased to employ them about, yet he never presumed to exercise them on that common-place of abusing divine verities : he was not ambitious to commence a wit, by blasphemy; nor did he pretend to ingenuity, by being impious. But, whereas too many use their wit in jesting at them, he shewed his holy wisdom in believing and obeying. Other books he made the ornament of his mind: this, the
guide of his life. He knew what others, but did what God spake.
He was not made a Christian out of Old Heathens; nor owed his virtues to the sage precepts of Plutarch or Epictetus. These are now become the penmen and evangelists of our young gentry. Seneca is with them preferred before St. Paul, though his chief credit be that he wrote so well that some have mistakingly thought him Paul's disciple. The virtue of this Noble Person acknowledged a more divine original; being formed in him by the same Spirit, that gave him rules to act it. This taught him to outstrip, in true wisdom, temperance, and fortitude, not only whatsoever those starched moralists did, but whatsoever they wrote; and, whereas they prescribed but the exercise of Virtue, he sublimed it, and made it Grace.
Next to his absolute subjection to God, was his obedience unto his honourable, and now disconsolate Mother: wherein he was to such a degree punctual, that, as her wisdom commanded nothing but what was fit, so his duty disputed not the fitness of things beyond her command. His demeanour toward her was most submissive: and towards all so obliging, that it was but the same thing to know and admire him.
His Converse gave the world a singular pattern of harmless and inoffensive mirth; of a gentility, not made up of fine clothes and hypocritical courtship; a sweetness and familiarity, that, at once, gained love and preserved respect; a grandeur and nobility, safe in its own worth, nor needing to maintain itself by a jealous and morose distance.
Never did vice, in youth, find a more confirmed goodness. So impregnable was he against the Temptations, which gain an easy access to those of his rank and quality, that they could neither insinuate into him by their allurements, nor force him by their importunities.
Nor did he think it enough to secure his mind from the infection of vice, unless also he secured his Fame from the suspicion of it. Some, indeed, owe their innocence to their dulness and stupidity; and are only not vicious, because not witty enough to be takingly and handsomely wicked. His virtue was of choice; and the severest exercise of it mingled with such charms from his parts and ingenuity, that his very seriousness was more alluring, than those light divertisements in others which entice only because they please.
His apprehension was quick and piercing, his memory faithful and retentive, his fancy spriteful and active; and his judgment overruling them all, neither prejudicated by vulgar opinions, nor easily cozened by varnished and plausible error. · After all this, there can be nothing wanting to make up a most complete and absolute person, but only Industry to quicken his parts, and Time to ripen both to perfection.
His Industry was remarkable, in the assiduousness of his studies : where he spent not his hours in plays or romances, those follies of good wits; but in the disquisition of solid and masculine knowledge: in which he outstripped even those, who were to depend upon learning for their livelihood; and had no other revenue, than what arose out of their fruitful and wellcultivated brains.
And, as for that other, I mean Time, to maturate these growing hopes, that sad Providence which hath called us together to this mournful solemnity, hath denied it: by a sudden and surprising stroke cutting off his days, and thereby rendering that virtue, those parts, that industry, useless to us in any thing but the Example; and I should say unprofitable to him too, but only that, which he never had opportunity to employ in this world, hath I doubt not, fitted him for a better.
FROM HEB. ix. 27.
IT IS APPOINTED UNTO MEN ONCE TO DIE; BUT AFTER THIS THI
A sermon of Death hath then a double advantage to make deep impressions upon us, when it is attended with a Spectacle of Mortality.
Were there but the sad pomp of a funeral now presented before you, a dead corpse brought to be interred, a grave digged through into the earth, dry and rotten bones lying scattered about the mouth of it in fearful confusion, a solemn train of mourners tolled along the streets by the doleful moan of a bell; did you see the dead laid down in the dust, the place of darkness and silence, their friends groaning out their last farewell, clods of earth falling in upon them, and striking a horrid murmur upon their coffins; had your affections but such a preparatory as this is, possibly this might more easily work and move upon them: for it must needs make men serious and pensive to think, that this is but the pattern of what must befal themselves; and that all this must shortly be acted upon them, which they now see done unto others.
But, since this day presents us with no such solemnity, some perhaps may wonder that I have chosen this text and subject of mortality to treat upon.
Indeed, custom hath made it almost improper to preach of death, without a funeral ; and to speak to men of their last end and dissolution, without setting before their eyes an example of it. Look well therefore one upon another. What are we all, but, as it were, so many corpses ? so many spectacles of mor