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advantage had no place with us in this matter,) the same sense of duty towards our great Creator, which should make us patient of an abode in the body while he will have it so, should also form our spirits to a willing departure when it shall be his pleasure to release us thence. But, that neither a regard to his pleasure, nor our own blessedness, should prevail against our love to the body, is the unaccountable thing I speak of. And to plead only, in the case, the corruption of our natures that sets us at odds with God and ourselves, is to justify the thing by what is itself most unjustifiable; or rather (as some that have affected to be styled philosophers have been wont to expedite difficulties, by resolving the matter into the usual course of nature) to resolve the thing into itself, and say, it is so, because it is so, or is wont to be; and indeed, plainly to confess there is no account to be given of it. This being the very thing about which we expostulate, that reasonable nature should so prevaricate. The commonness whereof doth not take away the wonder, but rather render it more dreadful and astonishing.
The truth is, the incongruity in the present case is only to be solved by redress; by earnest strivings with God, and our own souls, till we find ourselves recovered into a right mind; into the constitution and composure whereof a generous fortitude hath a necessary ingrediency; that usually upon lower motives refuses no change of climate, and will carry a man into unknown countiies, and through greatest hazards in the pursuit of honorable enterprizes, of a much inferior kind. It is reckoned a brave and manly thing, to be in the temper of one's mind a citizen of the world, (meaning it of this lower one:) but why not rather of the universe? And it is accounted mean and base, that one should be so confined by his fear or sloth to that spot of ground where he was born, as not upon just inducement to look abroad, and go for warrantable and worthy purposes (yea, if it were only honest self-advantage) as far as the utmost ends of the earth: but dare we not venture a little farther? These are too narrow bounds for a truly great spirit. Any thing that is tinctured with earth, or savors of mortality, we should reckon too mean for us; and not regret it, that heaven and immortality are not to be attained but by dying; so should the love of our own souls, and the desire of a perpetual state of life, triumph over the fear of death. But it may be alleged by some, that it is only a solicitous love to their souls, that makes them dread this change. They know it will not fare with all alike hereafter, and know not what their own lot shall be. And is this indeed our case? Then, what have we been doing all this while? And how are we concerned to lose no more time? But too often a terrene spirit lurks under this pretence; and men allege their want of assurance of heaven, when the love of Vol. i. 40
THE VANITY OF
this earth, which they cannot endure to think of leaving, holds their hearts.
And, (a little to discuss this matter,) what would we have to assure us? Do we expect a vision or a voice? Or are we not to try ourselves; and search for such characters in our own souls, as may distinguish and note us out for heaven? Among these, what can be more clear and certain than this, that we have our hearts much set upon it? They that have their conversations in heaven, may from thence expect the Saviour, who shall change their vile bodies (the bodies of their humiliation, or low abject state,) and make them like his own glorious body. Phil. 3. 20. 21. God, who will render to every man according to his works, will give them that by patient continuance in well-doing seek honor and glory and immortality, eternal life. Rom. 2. 6. 7. They that set their affections (or minds) on the things above, not those on the earth, when Christ shall appear, who is their life, shall appear with him in glory. Col. 3. 2. 3. 4. Mistake not the notion of heaven, or the blessedness of the other world; render it not to yourselves a composition of sensual enjoyments; understand it (principally) to consist in perfect holiness and communion with God, (as his own word represents it, and as reason hath taught even some pagans to reckon of it;) and you cannot judge of your own right by a surer and plainer rule, than the eternal blessedness shall be theirs, whose hearts are truly bent and directed towards it. Admit we then this principle; and now let us reason with ourselves from it: we have a discovery made to us of a future state of blessedness in God, not as desirable only in itself, but as attainable and possible to be enjoyed, (the Redeemer having opened the way to it by his blood, and given us, at once, both the prospect and the offer of it,) so that it is before us as the object of a reasonable desire. Now either our hearts are so taken with this discovery, that we above all things desire this state, or not. If they be, we desire it more than our earthly stations and enjoyments, are willing to leave the world and the body to enjoy it; and so did falsely accuse ourselves of a prevailing aversion to this change. If they be not, the thing is true, that we are upon no terms willing to die: but the cause is falsely or partially assigned. It is not so much because we are unassured of heaven, but (as was above suspected) because we love this world better, and our hearts centre in it as our most desirable good.
Therefore we see how unreasonable this is often said, we are nnwilling to change states, because we are unassured. The truth is, they are unassured, because they are unwilling; and what then ensues? They are unwilling because they are unwilling. And so they may endlessly dispute themselves round, from unwillingness to unwillingness. But is there no way to get out of this unhappy circle? In order to it, let the case be more fully understood: either this double unwillingness must be referred to the same thing, or to divers: if to the same thing, it is not sense; they say what signifies nothing; for being to assign a cause of their unwillingness to quit the body, to say, because they are unwilling, (namely, of that,) is to assign no cause, for nothing can be the cause of itself: but if they refer to divers things, and say, they are unwilling to go out of the body, because they are unwilling to forsake earth for heaven; the case is then plain, but sad, and not alterable, but with the alteration of the temper of their spirits. Wherefore let us all apply ourselves (since with none this is so fully done, that no more is needful) to the serious endeavor of getting our souls purged from the dross of this world, and enamored of the purity and blessedness of heaven, so the cause and effect will vanish together; we shall find that suitableness and inclination in our spirits to that blessedness as may yield us the ground of a comfortable persuasion that it belongs to us; and then, not be unwilling, though many deaths stood in our way, to break through to attain it.
DR. WILLIAM BATES.
The author of the Discourses on the Four last things, which occupy the remainder of this volume, was Dr. William Bates. Of his general claims to the remembrance both of scholars and of christians we have abundant evidence, not only in his works, but in the very high estimation, in which he was held by the best men of all parties among his contemporaries. Probably no one of the non-conformist divines of his age was so generally popular, or sustained so high a reputation as a writer, especially in regard to his style and manner; and yet the biographical notices preserved respecting him are peculiarly scanty. The following sketch comprises all the important facts, which I have been able to discover.
Dr. Bates was born Nov. 1625, of respectable parents, his father being a physician and an author of some eminence. We have no farther account of him, except that he received a suitable school education, till his entrance at the university. He was sent to Cambridge and admitted first, though the year is not mentioned, of Emanuel College, from which he removed to Kings in 1644. He commenced Bachelor of Arts in 1647 at the age of 22, and applying himself to the study of divinity, soon became a distinguished and popular preacher. From this time he seems to have enjoyed the favor of all parties, as a man of great learning, talents and piety, till after the restoration of Charles II. At some period during this interval he became fixed as a preacher in the metropolis, being made vicar, and receiving the valuable living, of St. Dunstan's in the West. He continued to discharge the duties of his station till 1662, when the celebrated act of uniformity occasioned his removal. Believing that he could not consistently with his duty conform to the requirements of this act, he surrendered his living and preached a farewell sermon to hi§