« PreviousContinue »
easier judgment. Dost thou not see it ordinary with our physicians, when they find the body highly distempered, and the blood foul and enflamed, to order the opening of a vein; and the drawing out of so many ounces, as may leave the rest meet for correction ? Why art thou over-troubled, to see the Great Physician of the World take this course with sinful mankind ? Certainly, had not this great body, by mis-dieting and wilful disorder, contracted these spiritual diseases under which we languish ; had it not impured the blood, that runs in these common veins, with riot and surfeits; we had never been so miserable, as to see these torrents of Christian blood running down our channels. Now yet, as it is, could we bewail and abandon our former wickedness, we might live in hope, that, at last, this deadly issue might stop and dry up; and that there might be yet left a possibility of a blessed recovery.
SECT. 7. The woeful miserics of Pestilence, allayed by consideration of the hand
that smites us. Thou art confounded with grief, to see the pestilence raging in our streets ; in so frequent a mortality, as breeds a question con.cerning the number of the living and the dead : that, which is wont to abate other miseries, heightens this; the company of participants :
It was certainly a very hard and sad option, that God gave to King David, after his sin of numbering the people : Choose thee, whether seven years' famine shall come unto thee in thy land, or three months' flight before thine enemies, or three days' pestilence ; 2 Sam. xxiv. 13. We may believe the good King, when we hear him say, I am in a great strait. Doubtless, so he was : but his wise resolutions have soon brought him out; Let us fall now into the hand of the Lord, for his mercies are great ; and let me not fall into the hand of man.
He, that was to send these evils, knew their value; and the difference of their malignity: yet he opposes three days' pestilence, to seven years' famine, and three months' vanquishment : so much odds he knew there was, betwixt the dull activity of man and the quick dispatch of an angel
. It was a favour, that the angel of death, who in one night destroyed a hundred fourscore and five thousand Assyrians (2 Kings xix. 35.), should, in three days, cut off but seventy thousand Israelites : it was a great mercy it was no worse.
We read of one, city shall I call it, or region, of Cairo, wherein eighteen hundred thousand were swept away in one year's pestilence; enow, one would think, to have peopled the whole earth : and, in our own Chronicles, of so general a mortality, that the living were hardly sufficient to bury the dead.
These are dreadful demonstrations of God's heavy displeasure; but yet there is this alleviation of our misery, that we suffer more immediately from a holy, just, merciful God. The Kingly Prophet had never made that distinction in his woeful choice, if he had not known a notable difference, betwixt the sword of an angel and an enemy; betwixt God's more direct and immediate infliction, and that which is derived to us through the malice of men. It was but a poor consolation, that is given by a victorious enemy to dying Lausus, in the Poet; “Comfort thyself in thy death with this, that thou fallest by the hand of great Æneas :" but, surely, we have just reason to raise comfort to our souls, when the pains of a pestilential death compass us about, from the thought and intuition of that holy and gracious hand, under which we suffer; so as we can say, with good Eli, It is the Lord. It is not amiss, that we call those marks of deadly infection “God's Tokens :" such, sure, they are; and ought, therefore, to call up our eyes and hearts to that Almighty power that sends them, with the faithful resolution of holy Job, Though thou kill me, yet will I trust in thee.
It is none of the least miseries of contagious sickness, that it bars us from the comfortable society and attendance of friends; or, if otherwise, repays their love and kind visitation with death. Be not dismayed, my son, with this sad solitude: thou hast company with thee, whom none infection can endanger or exclude: there is an invisible friend, that will be sure to stick by thee so much more closely, by how much thou art more avoided by neighbours; and will make all thy bed in thy sickness; and supply thee with those cordials, which thou shouldest in vain expect from earthly visitants.
Indeed, justly do we style this, “The Sickness;" eminently grievous, both for the deadliness and ġenerality of the dispersion : yet there is a remedy, that can both cure and confine it. "Let but every man look well to the plague of his own heart, and the land is healed. Can we, with David, but see the angel that smites us; and erect an altar; and offer to God the sacrifices of our prayers, penitence, obedience? we shall hear him say, It is enough ; 2 Sam. xxiv. 16. The time was, and that time may not be forgotten, when, in the days of our late Sovereign, our Mother City was almost desolated with this mortal infection ; when thousands fell at our side, and ten thousands at our right-hand; Ps. xci. 7. Upon the public humiliation of our souls, the mercy of the Almighty was pleased to command that raging disease, in the height of its fury, like some headstrong horse in the midst of his career, to stop on the sudden; and to leave us at once, ere we could think of it, both safe and healthful. This was the Lord's doing, and it was marvellous in our eyes. Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save ; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear; Is. lis. 1. The same mercy, is everlasting; the same remedy certain : be we but penitent, and we cannot be miserable.
COMFORTS AGAINST LOSS OF FRIENDS.
The true value of a friend; and the fault of over-prizing him. Thou hast lost thy friend :—The sorrow is just; the earth hath nothing more precious, than that, which thou hast parted with : for what is a friend, but a man's self in another skin ; a soul divided into two bodies, both which are animated by the same spirit ? It is somewhat worse with thee therefore, than with a palsied man, whose one half is stricken with a dead kind of numbness: he hath lost but the use of one side of his body ; thou, the one half of thy soul. Or, may I not with better warrant say, that a true friend hath, as it were, two souls in one body; his own, and his friend's ? Sure I am, so it was with Jonathan and David : The soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David ; and Jonathan loved him as his own soul ; 1 Sam. xviii. 1.
Still the more goodness, the stronger union. Mere nature can never be so fast a cement of souls, as grace: for here the union is wrought by a better spirit than our own; even that Blessed Spirit, who styles himself by the name of Love ; 1 John iv. 16.
By how much greater thine affection was, so much heavier is thy loss.
But, let me tell thee, I fear thou art too much accessary to thine own affliction. Didst thou look for this loss? Did thy heart say, “What if we should part ?” Didst thou not over-enjoy this blessing, whilst thou hadst it? Surely, these are no small disadvantages: as every other evil, so this especially, is aggravated by our unexpectation. Neither hadst thou been so oppressed with this sorrow, if thou hadst foreseen it, and met it on the way. It is our weak inconsideration, if we do so welcome these earthly comforts, not as guests, but as inmates ; and, as some that are importunately hospitable, so entertain our friends, that we cannot abide to give them leave to depart: whereas, we ought, according to the wise advice of our Seneca *, not much abluding from the counsel of that blessed Apostle with whom he is said to have interchanged Letters, so to possess them, as those, that make account to forego them; and so forego them, as if we possessed them still; 1 Cor. vii. 30, 31.
* Sen. Ep. 63
The true ground of an undefeasible enjoying of our friends. Thou art grieved for the loss of a dear friend :-Take heed, lest thy love had too much of the man, and too little of God. All blessings, as they come down from the Father of Mercies, so should be enjoyed in him: and, if we enjoy them as in themselves, our love begins to degenerate into carnal.
It is a sure rule, That all love, that depends upon a thing affected, when that thing ceaseth, then the love ceaseth: as he, that loves a face only for beauty, when that beauty is defaced by deformity, presently cools in his affection: he, that respects a man for his bounty only, disregards him, when he sees him impoverished. Didst thou value thy friend only for his wit, for his ready compliances, for his kind offices all these are now lost, and thy love with them: but if thou didst affect him for eminence of grace, for the sake of that God that dwelt in him; now thy love is not, cannot be lost, because thou still enjoyest that God, in whom thou lovedst him. Comfort thyself, therefore, in that God, in whom he was thine; and yield him cheerfully into those hands, that lent him thee.
The rarity and trial of true friends. Thou hast lost a true friend :—That jewel was worthy to be so much more precious, by how much more rare it is.
The world affords friends enow, such as they are; friends of the purple, as Tertullian calls them; friends of the basket, as the Poet : such as love thy loaves and fishes, and thee for them. Wealth makes many friends, saith the Wise Man; Prov. xiv. 20. xix. 4.
But, where is the man, that loves thee for thyself? that loves thy virtue, and thee for it; divested of all by-respects? While there is honey in thy gallipot, the wasps and Aies will be buzzing about it; but which of them cares to light upon an empty vessel ? Was he so much thine, that he would not be set off by thine adversity ? Did he honour thee, when thou wert despised of the world? Did he follow thee with applause, while thou wert hooted at by the multitude ? Would he have owned thee, if he had found thee stripped and wounded in the wilderness ? Such a friend is worthy of thy tears.
But take heed thy love prove not envious. If thy God hath thought him fitter for the society of Saints and Angels, dost thou repine at his happiness? Thou hast lost his presence: he is ad. vanced to the beatifical presence of the King of Glory: Whether is thy loss, or his gain, the greater?
It is but a parting ; not a loss. Thou hast lost thy friend :-Say, rather, thou hast parted with him. That is properly lost, which is past all recovery, which we are out of hope to see any more. It is not so with this friend thou mournest for: he is but gone home, a little before thee; thou art following him : you two shall meet, in your Father's house; and enjoy each other more bappily, than you could have done here below.
How just is that charge of the blessed Apostle, that we should not mourn, as men without hope, for those, thai do but sleep in Jesus! 1 Thess. iv. 13, 14. Did we think their souls vanished into air, as that Heathen Poet profanely expresseth it; and their bodies resolved into dust, without all possibility of reparation ; we might well cry out our eyes, for the utter extinction of those we loved : but, if they do but sleep, they shall do well ; John xi. 12. Why are we impatient, for their silent reposal in the bed of their grave, when we are assured of their awaking to glory?
The loss of a virtuous wife, mitigated. Thou hast lost a dear wife, the wife of thy youth, the desire of thine eyes ; Prov. v. 18. Is. liv. 6. Ezek. xxiv. 16.–Did ye not take one another upon the terms of re-delivery, when you should be called for? Were you not, in your very knitting, put in mind of your dissolution ? « Till death us do part.”
Was she virtuous ? Knowest thou not that there was a precontract, betwixt thy Saviour and her soul, ere thou couldst lay any claim to her body and canst thou now grudge his just chal. lenge of his own? wilt thou not allow him to call for a consummation of that happy match ? Didst thou so over-love her outside, that thou wouldst not have her soul glorious ? If thou lovedst her not as a man, but as a Christian, envy her not to that better Husband above, who gives her no less dowry than immortality.
SECT. 6. The mitigation of the loss of a dear and hopeful son. Thy son is dead :-What marvel is it, that a mortal father hath begot a mortal son ? Marvel rather, that thyself hath lived to have or to lose a son. We lie open to so many deaths, that our very subsistance is almost miraculous.
Thou hast lost a piece of thy flesh: for, what are our children,