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if men should call sleep death, wouldst thou be afraid to close thine eyes? What hurt is it, then, if He that sent the first sleep upon man whilst he made him a helper, send this last and soundest sleep upon me, whilst He prepares my soul for a glorious spouse to himself? It is but a parting, which we call death; as two friends, when they have led each other on the way, shake hands till they return from their journey; if either could miscarry, there were cause of sorrow; now they are more sure of a meeting, than of a parting : what folly is it, not to be content to redeem the unspeakable gain of so dear a friend, with a little intermission of enjoying him! He will return laden with the riches of heaven, and will fetch his old partner to the participation of this glorious wealth. Go then, my soul, to this sure and gainful traffic, and leave my other half in a harbour as safe, though not so blessed; yet so shalt thou be separated, that my very dust shall be united to thee still, and to my Saviour in thee.
Wert thou unwilling, at the command of thy Creator, to join thyself at the first with this body of mine? Why art thou then loth to part with that, which thou hast found, though entire, yet troublesome? Dost thou not hear Solomon say, “ The day of death is better than the day of thy birth?” Dost thou not believe him? or art thou in love with the worse, and displeased with the better? If any man could have found a life worthy to be preferred unto death, so great a king must needs have done it; now in his very throne, he commends his coffin. Yea, what wilt thou say to those heathens who mourned at the birth, and feasted at the death of their children? They knew the miseries of living as well as thou, the happiness of dying they could not know; and if they rejoiced, out of a conceit of ceasing to be miserable, how shouldst thou cheer thyself, in an expectation, yea, an assurance of being happy! He that is the Lord of life, and tried what it was to die, hath proclaimed them blessed that die in the Lord. Those are blessed, I know, that live in him, but they rest not from their labours; toil and sorrow is between them, and a perfect enjoying of that blessedness, which they now possess only in hope and inchoation ;*—when death hath added rest, their happiness is finished.
O death, how sweet is that rest wherewith thou refreshest the weary pilgrims of this vale of mortality! How pleasant is thy face to those eyes that have acquainted themselves with the sight of it, which to strangers is grim and ghastly! how worthy art thou to be welcome unto those that know whence thou art, and whither thou tendest! Who that knows thee, can fear thee! Who that is not all nature, would rather hide himself among the baggage of this vile life, than follow thee to a crown! What impartial judge, that should see life painted over with vain semblances of pleasures, attended with troops of sorrows on the one side, and on the other with uncertainty of continuance, and certainty of dissolution ; and then should turn his eyes unto death, and see her black, but comely, attended on the one hand with a momentary pain, with eternity of glory on the other, would not say out of choice, that which the prophet said
out of passion, “ It is better for me to die than to live!”
But, O my soul, what ails thee to be thus suddenly backward and fearful? No heart hath more freely discoursed of death in speculation ; no tongue hath more extolled it in absence. And now that it is come to thy bed's side, and hath drawn thy curtains, and takes thee by the hand, and offers thee service, thou shrinkest inward, and, by the paleness of thy face and wildness of thine eye, bewrayest an amazement at the presence of such a guest. That face which was so familiar to thy thoughts, is now unwelcome to thine eyes. I am ashamed of this weak irresolution. Whither have all thy serious meditations tended ? what hath Christianity done to thee, if thy fears be still heathenish? Is this thine imitation of so many worthy saints of God, whom thou hast seen entertain the most violent deaths with smiles and songs ? is this the fruit of thy long and frequent instruction ? didst thou think death would have been content with words ? didst thou hope it would suffice thee to talk, while all others suffer? Where is thy faith? yea, where art thou thyself, O my soul? Is heaven worthy of no more thanks, no more joy? shall heretics, shall pagans give death a better welcome than thou? hath thy Maker, thy Redeemer, sent for thee, and art thou loth to go? hath he sent for thee, to put thee in possession of that glorious inheritance, which thy wardship hath cheerfully expected, and art thou loth to go? hath God, with this serjeant of his, sent his angels to fetch thee, and art thou loth to go? Rouse up thyself, for shame, O my soul; and if ever thou hast truly believed, shake off this unchristian diffidence, and address thyself joyfully for thy glory?
Yea, O my Lord, it is thou that must raise up this faint and drooping heart of mine; thou only canst rid me of this weak and cowardly distrust; thou that sendest for my soul, canst prepare it for thyself; thou only canst make thy messenger welcome to me. Oh that I could but see thy face through death! Oh that I could see death, not as it was, but as thou hast made it! Oh that I could heartily pledge thee, O my Saviour, in this cup, that so I might drink new wine with thee in thy Father's kingdom!
But, alas, O my God, nature is strong and weak in me at once; I cannot wish to welcome death as it is worthy; when I look for most courage, I find strongest temptations; I see and confess, that when I am myself, thou hast no such coward as I: let me alone, and I shall shame that name of thine, which I have professed; every secure worldling shall laugh at my feebleness. O God, were thy martyrs thus haled to their stakes? might they not have been loosed from their racks, and yet chose to die in those torments ? Let it be no shame for thy servant to take up that complaint which thou madest of thy better attendants; “The spirit is willing, and the flesh is weak.”
O thou God of spirits, who hast coupled these two together, unite them in a desire of their dissolution; weaken this flesh to receive, and encourage this spirit either to desire or to contemn death; and now, as I grow nearer to my home, let me increase in the sense of my joys. I am thine, save me, O Lord: it was thou who didst put such
courage into thine ancient and late witnesses, that they either invited or challenged death ; and held their persecutors their best friends, for letting them loose from these sorrows of flesh. I know thine hand is not shortened ; neither
of them hath received more proofs of thy former mercies. O let thy goodness enable me to reach them, in the comfortable steadiness of my passage.
Do but draw this veil a little, that I may see my glory, and I cannot but be inflamed with the desire of it. It was not I, that either made this body for the earth, or this soul for my body, or this heaven for my soul, or this glory of heaven, or this entrance into glory; all is thine own work. O perfect what thou hast begun, that thy praise and my happiness may be consummate at once.
Yea, O my soul, what needest thou wish the God of mercies to be tender of his own honour ? Art thou not a member of that body whereof thy Saviour is the Head? Canst thou drown when thy Head is above? Was it not for thee that he triumphed over death? Is there any fear in a foiled adversary ? O my Redeemer, I have already overcome in thee; how can I miscarry in myself? O my soul, thou hast marched valiantly! Behold the damsels of that heavenly Jerusalem come forth with timbrels and harps to meet thee, and to applaud thy success : and now there remains nothing for thee but a crown of righteousness, which that righteous Judge shall give thee at that day. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory ?"
Return now unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath been beneficial unto thee. O Lord