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as I have reason to be conscious to myself of disadvantages enough to discourage any undertaking of that kind; so I am more especially sensible, that so cursory and superficial a management of a subject so important (though its private occasion and design at first might render it excusable to those few friends for whom it was meant) cannot but be liable to the hard censure (not to say contempt) of many whom discourses of this kind should more designedly serve. And therefore, though my willingness to be serviceable in keeping alive the apprehension and expectation of another state, my value of your judgments who conceive what is here done may be useful thereto, and my peculiar respects to yourselves, the members and appendants of a family to which (besides some relation) I have many obligations and endearments, do prevail with me not wholly to deny; yet pardon me that I have suspended my consent to this publication, till I should have a copy transmitted to me from some of you, for my necessary review of so hasty a production, that I might not offer to the view of the world, what, after I had penned it, had scarce passed my own. And now, after so long an expectation, those papers are but this last week come to my hands: I here return them with little or no alteration; save, that what did more directly concern the occasion, towards the close is transferred hither; but with the addition of almost all the directive part of the use: which I submit together to your pleasure and disposal.
And I shall now take the liberty to add, my design in consenting to this request of yours (and I hope the same of your making it) is not to erect a monument to the memory of the deceased, (which how little doth it signify !) nor to spread the fame of your family, (though the visible blessing of God upon it, in the fruitfulness, piety, and mutual love, wherein it hath flourished for some generations, do challenge observation, both as to those branches of it which grow in their own more natural soil, and those, as I have now occasion to take further notice, that I find to have been transplanted into another country ;) but that such into whose hands this little treatise shall fall, may be induced to consider the true end of their beings; to examine and discuss the matter more thoroughly with themselves, what it may or can be supposed such a sort of creatures was made and placed on this earth for: that when they shall have reasoned themselves into a settled apprehension of the worthy and important ends they are capable of attaining, and are visibly designed to, they may be seized with a noble disdain of living beneath themselves and the bounty of their Creator.
It is obvious to common observation, how flagrant and intense a zeal men are often wont to express for their personal reputation, the honor of their families, yea, or for the glory of their nation: but how few are acted by that more laudable and enlarged zfeal for the dignity of mankind! How few are they that resent the common and vile depression of their own species? Or that, while in things of lightest consideration they strive with emulous endeavor, that they and their relatives may excel other men, do reckon it a reproach if in matters of the greatest consequence they and all men should not excel beasts? How few that are not contented to confine their utmost designs and expectations within the same narrow limits? through a mean and inglorious self-despiciency confessing in themselves (to the truth's and their own wrong) an incapacity of greater things; and with most injurious falsehood, proclaiming the same oi all mankind besides.
If he, that amidst the hazards of a dubious war betrays the interest and honor of his country be justly infamous, and thought worthy severest punishment; I see not why a debauched sensualist, that lives as if he were created only to indulge his appetite; that so vilifies the notion of man, as if he were made but to eat and drink, and sport, to please only his sense and fancy; that in this time and state of conflict between the powers of this present world, and those of the world to come, quits his party, bids open defiance to humanity, abjures the noble principles and ends, forsakes the laws and society of all that are worthy to be esteemed men, abandons the common and rational hope of mankind concerning a future immortality, and herds himself among brute creatures, 1 say, I see not why such a one should not be scorned and abhorred as a traitor to the whole race and nation of reasonable creatures, as a fugitive from the tents, and deserter of the common interest of men; and that, both for the vileness of his practice, and the danger of his example.
And who, that hath open eyes, beholds not the dreadful instances and increase of this defection? When it hath prevailed to that degree already, that in civilized, yea, in Chiistian countries, (as they yet affect to be called) the practice is become fashionable and in credit, which can square with no other principle than the disbelief of a future state, as if it were but h mere poetic or (at best) a political fiction. And, as if so impudent infidelity would pretend not to a connivance only but a sanction, it is reckoned an odd and uncouth thing for a man to live as if he thought otherwise; and a great presumption to seem to dissent from the profane infidel crew. As if the matter were already formally determined in the behalf of irreligion, and the doctrine of the life to come had been clearly condemned in open council as a detestable heresy. For what tenet was ever more exploded and hooted at, than that practice is which alone agrees with this? Or what series or course of repeated villainies Can ever be more ignominious than (in vulgar estimate) a course of life so transacted as doth become the expectation of a blessed immortality? And what, after so much written and spoken by persons of all times and religions for the immortality of the human soul and so common an acknowledgment thereof by Pagans, Mahometans, Jews, and Christians, is man now at last condemned and doomed to a perpetual death, as it were, by the consent and suffrage even of men; and that too without trial or hearing; and not by the reason of men, but their lusts only? As if (with a loud and violent cry) they would assassinate and stifle this belief and hope, but not judge it. And shall the matter be thus given up as hopeless; and the victory be yielded to prosperous wickedness, and a too successful conspiracy of vile miscreants against both their Maker and their own stock and race?
One would think whosoever have remaining in them any conscience of obligation and duty to the common parent and Author of our beings, and remembrance of our divine original, any breathings of our ancient hope, any sense of human honor, any resentments of so vile an indignity to the nature of man, any spark of a just and generous indignation for so opprobrious a contumely to their own kind and order in the creation, should oppose themselves with an heroic vigor to this treacherous and unnatural combination. And let us (my worthy friends) be provoked, in our several capacities, to do our parts herein; and, at least, so to live and converse in this world, that the course and tenor of our lives may import an open asserting of our hopes in another; and may let men see we are not ashamed to own the belief of a life to come. Let us by a patient continuance in well-doing (how low designs soever others content themselves to pursue) seek honor, glory and immortality to ourselves; and by our avowed, warrantable ambition in this pursuit, justify our great and bountiful Creator, who hath made us not in vain, but for so high and great things; and glorify our blessed Redeemer, who amidst the gloomy and disconsolate darkness of this wretched world, when it was overspread with the shadow of death, hath brought life and immortality to light in the gospel. Let us labor both to feel and express the power of that religion which hath the inchoation of the (participated) divine life for its principle, and the perfection and eternal perpetuation thereof for its scope and end.
Nor let the time that hath since elapsed be found to have worn out with you the useful impressions which this monitory surprising instance of our mortality did at first make. But give me leave to inculcate from it what was said to you when the occasion was fresh and new: that we labor more deeply to apprehend God's dominion over his creatures; and that he made us principally for himself, and for ends that are to be compassed in the future state; and not for the temporary satisfaction and pleasure of one another in this world. Otherwise providence had never been guilty of such a solecism, to take out from a family long famous for so exemplary mutual love, and dispose him into* Vol. j. 34
THE EPISTLE DEDICATORY.
so remote a part, not permitting to most of his nearest relations the enjoyment of him for almost thirty years (and therein all the flower) of his age, and at last, when you were expecting the man, send you home the breathless frame wherein he lived. Yet it was not contemptible that you had that, and that dying (as Joseph) in a strange land, he gave, also, commandment concerning his bones; that though in his life he was (mostly) separated from his brethren, he might in death be gathered to his fathers. It was some evidence (though you wanted not better) that amidst the traffic of Spain, he more esteemed the religion of England, and therefore would rather his dust should associate with theirs, with whom also he would rather his spirit should. But whatever it did evidence, it occasioned so much, that you had that so general meeting with one another, which otherwise probably you would not have had, nor are likely again to have, (so hath providence scattered you) in this world; and that it proved a more serious meeting than otherwise it might: for however it might blamelessly have been designed to have met together at a cheerful table, God saw it fitter to order the meeting at a mournful grave; and to make the house that received you (the native place to many of you) the house of mourning rather than of feasting. The one would have had more quick relishes of a present pleasure, but the other was likely to yield the more lasting sense of an after-profit. Nor was it an ill errand to come together (though from afar for divers of you) to learn to die. As you might, by being so sensibly put in mind of it, though you did not see that very part acted itself. And accept this endeavor, to further you in your preparations for that change, as some testimony of the remembrance I retain of your most obliging respects and love, and of my still continuing Your affectionate and respectful kinsman, and servant in our common Lord, J. HOWE. Antrim, April 12, 1671.
VANITY OF MAN
Psal. 89. 47, 48.
Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?
What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.
We are not concerned to be particular and curious in the inquiry, touching the special reference or occasion of the foregoing complaints, from the 37 verse. It is enough to take notice, for our present purpose, that besides the evil which had already befallen the plaintiff, a farther danger nearly threatened him, that carried death in the face of it, and suggested somewhat frightful apprehensions of his mortal state, which drew from him this quick and sensible petition in reference to his own private concern, remember how short my time is, and did presently direct his eye with a sudden glance from the view of his own, to reflect on the common condition of man, whereof he expresses his resentment, first, in a hasty expostulation with God, "Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain ?"—Then, secondly, in a pathetic discourse with himself, representing the reason of that rough charge, "What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver," &c. As though he had said; When I add to the consideration of my short time, that of dying mankind, and behold a dark and deadly shade universally overspreading the world, the whole species of human creatures vanishing, quitting the stage round about me, and disappearing almost as soon as they shew themselves: have I not a fair and plausible ground for that (seemingly rude) challenge? Why is there so unaccountable a phenomenon, such a creature made to no purpose? the noblest part of this inferior creation brought forth into being without any imaginable design? I know not how to untie the knot, upon this only view of the case, or avoid the ab