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heaven with you, and abide there with you to eternity. Oh, whom will it not comfort, to think that death will change his bottle into a spring? Though, here, our water sometimes fails us; yet, in heaven, whither we are going, we shall bathe ourselves in an infinite ocean of delights, lying at the breasts of an infinite fountain of life and sweetness. Whoever hath such an assurance as this, cannot but welcome death; embracing it, not only with contentment, but with delight: and, while the soul is struggling and striving to unclasp itself, and to get loose from the body, it cannot but say, with holy longings and pantings, Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.
AND I HEARD A VOICE FROM HEAVEN, SAYING UNTO ME, WRITE,
BLESSED ARE THE DEAD WHICH DIE IN THE LORD, FROM HENCEFORTH : YEA, SAITH THE SPIRIT, THAT THEY MAY REST FROM
THEIR LABOURS; AND THEIR WORKS DO FOLLOW THEM. N
ATURE hath impressed on us such horrid and dreadful notions of Death, and represented its visage so wan and ghastly, that, though nothing is more certain than that we must all die, yet nothing is more difficult than to persuade men to die willingly.
The philosophers have ransacked the whole magazine of reason; and have put into our hands all the weapons, which may help to embolden us to encounter this King of Terrors: yet, by their great preparations, instead of diminishing its dread, they have made it appear more fearful. And, indeed, whatsoever specious arguments reason can produce, they are rather for pomp than for use: there is not any thing in the sage philosophers for the “ Contempt of Death,” which they offer to the world, but, if rationally examined, will prove no solid ground of peace in a dying hour : all, that is inculcated by them, is either concerning the necessity of dying ; or, freedom by it from the care and trouble of this life; or, lastly, the hope of a future reward. Now what is it to tell us, that death is the common lot of all; and that every compounded being hath those fatal principles in it, which will certainly work its dissolution; and therefore it becomes the reason and spirits of men, to entertain the fate under which they fall, with a constancy un. moveable? Alas! what comfort is this, seeing the inevitableness is a thing which renders it so terrible! whereas that freedom, which it gives us from the cares and troubles of this life, is but
like the change of a fever into a lethargy, that brings such a gloomy quietness, wherein, as there is no sense of torment, neither is there of ease. Indeed, what they speak of a future reward is dry, or mean and sordid, in comparison of that solid joy, which God hath promised to us in his word: yet could reason alone make our right to it certain and evident, it would be · a strong support against the fear of death, and a sovereign antidote against its envenomed sting: but reason hath prepared places of punishment, as well as bliss : and, besides, the consciences of all men have discovered to them that guilt, of which their reason can never discover an expiation; and
instead of arming them against the fear of death, reason redoubleth its terrors, by proving us transgressors of the Law of Nature.
You see, then, that the best support, which reason can give, is not death-proof. The last encounter, that all must maintain against that last enemy, is too rough and boisterous for such arguments as these to make good. If men's consolations are no better, it will fare with them as with cunning fencers in a confused battle, which will soon put by all their artificial designs.
Indeed, that, which can make men meet death with undaunted boldness, must be something below reason ; rashness, or human boldness: and something above reason; as divine grace and revelation.
Therefore our blessed Apostle, seeing the calamities, perseoutions, and martyrdoms which befel the Church; that, as it was planted by the blood of Christ, so it was to be increased by the blood of his own members; that he might encourage them with unshaken resolution to encounter with their
many deaths, he fetcheth not his arguments from the faint and gloomy discourses of reason, but from the infallible testimony of Divine Revelation: I heard a voice from heaven, saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. But, lest this should be challenged by all, and so made a blessing as universal as their mortality, the Apostle enters a caveat against the most part of the world, and limits this blessing to them that die in the Lord: that is, either to those who die for the Lord, (and so the phrase may import suffering martyrdom for the name and profession of Christ) and wade through their own blood to that heaven which the Lord hath opened to them by his; or else they, who die in the true faith of Christ, united to him as members of his body-mystical.
And, indeed, if we consider the terrors of a natural death, but much more the terrors of martyrdom, it is no more than needful, to have the blessing spoken of under such a doleful state, confirmed to us by the testimony of a heavenly voice. Think of the severe preparations of dying and languishing diseases; the reflect tossings, fire in the spirits, incessant groans, and the echoing back again from weeping friends; the quivering limbs, distorted eyes, fallen jaws; the agonies of the soul, and the working of itself from the earth oppressing of it, and darting itself from under the body by which it is fastened to the earth : think what it is, after so many disorders of the soul engaging themselves, being taken from its dearest companion ; the earthly part left by death as a spectacle to its dearest relations, and to be by them delivered up as a prey to the stink of worms and rottenness. Would any one believe, that such a state as this is to be blessed, without a voice from heaven as suring of it? Those, whom God highly honours, every limb of whose body is a scene of a tragedy, upon whom the enraged persecutors have made an experiment of their wit in new-found cruelties, when it lay all mangled and weltering in its own gore, under the most exquisite torments that men could entail; would you think them in a blessed conditiou? Why, as their sufferings were beyond what human nature could bear; so also was their support from those strong consolations of God, (let down into their souls, whereby they tired out their tormentors, despising death, not accepting of deliverance, through the assurance of a heavenly revelation) beyond the apprehensions of human
I. This BLESSING of theirs is branched out in Two particulars :
Rest from their labours.
i. To begin with the first, their REST FROM THEIR LABOURS. 1. They rest from the Turmoils and Vexations of this Life.
This life is nothing but a huddle of business, a swarm of employments; having more of the sting than the honey in it. If we be rich in the world, this makes us spread wider, and stand the fairer mark for trouble. If we are in a high degree in the world, that only satisfies our interest, and gives every cross and affliction an advantage to wound us in many concernments: if we are mean and low, as it exposeth us to the contempt and injury of others, so it engageth us to rescue ourselves from their pressures and power; and, by our sweat and pains, we lose the comforts of life, only to gain the conveniences of it. Even those petty inconsiderable enjoyments, which are but for the bare sustentation of life, cause such care and trouble, such aching hearts and weary heads, that they turn our bread into stones, and our fish into scorpions. If we have much business in the world, our calling becomes a temptation and a burden to us: if we have none, we become burdens to ourselves and others. God hath written vesation upon every condition: if Providence create not trouble for us, our own folly will. We all, like spiders, spend our time and care to weave a web out of our own bowels : and we spend more to get a prey, than that prey, when taken, will again repay us. If any flaw be in our designs, if any cross that intervenes doth break them, then they become vexation and a discontent unto us. Thus hath man made himself a drudge to that, over which God hath made him a lord. The sweat of Adam's brow streams along with us, and the curse with it; and, though we toil in the world, yet it brings forth nothing but thorns and briars, which pierce us through with many sorrows: but death will shortly lay us to bed in our graves, where, as Job speaks, the weary are at rest : Job ii. 17. and all our cares, sorrows, and troubles will vanish as soon as our heads touch that pillow. There is no work, no device..... in the grave, whither thou art going : that is a deep repose and sweet retirement, where we shall have none of the afflictions nor troubles of this life to interrupt us. And the soul, being regardless of the poor concernments here in its passage to heaven, shakes off from its wings that mire and dirt wherewith it was clogged here, in conversing with earthly things; and associates itself with a whole ring of Angels, Patriarchs, Saints, and the spirits of just onen made perfect, and there keeps an eternal festival.
2. They rest from all the Sorrows and Sufferings of this Life.
What is our life, but a bubble ? our sighs are the air, and our tears the water, that make it. The first possession, which we take of the world, is by crying; and there is nothing, which we hold by a surer tenure, than our grief. Tears are the in-. heritance of our eyes : either our sufferings or our sins call for them: and nothing can dry them up, but the dust of the
grave. Sometimes we lose our dear friends and relations: the tribute,