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we may now see fulfilled what was foretold by the prophet Jeremiah ; " The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found," chap. i.
Therefore being befriended with the grace of God, and armed with the virtue of his Holy Spirit, let us shew our courage, and defy Death ; let us look it in the face without fear, laugh at all its threats, and encounter it without dread: for it is now like an insolent soldier without weapons; it is like a bee without its sting; it is like an old lion that roars, but has lost all its claws; it is like a snake that would convey its poison, but has no venomous teeth left, having been pulled out by him who has bruised the serpent's head.
If you consider nothing but Death's exterior, its face and fearful appearance, its frigid eyes, its meagre body, its iron hands; you cannot perceive any difference between the death of God's children, and that of the most wicked varlets. But if you lift up the mask, and examine the death of the one and of the other more exactly, you will meet with as great difference as betwixt heaven and earth, the paradise of God and hell: for as Moses's brazen serpent, which he lifted up in the desart, had the form and appearance of a burning serpent, but nothing of the poison and fire; thus the death of the faithful appears as the death of other men, but hath not the deadly and pernicious consequences ; for it is not only a sign and a testimony of God's grace and favour, but the beginning of our deliverance, and the cure of all diseases. As Moses when he had cast wood into the waters of Marah, they had the same colour, but not the same bitterness and unpleasant taste: thus the death of God's dearest children hath the same tincture and appearance as before; but Christ's cross hath taken away the danger, the trouble, and extracted out its distasteful bitterness, and changed ic jato unspeakable sweetness. As Pharaoh was drowned before all his army in the waters of the Red Sea, but the children of Israel found a secure and pleasant passage into the promised land; when they were arrived upon the other shore of that dreadful sea, they sung unto God songs of triumph and thanksgiving: thus Death opens its jaws to devour the reprobates, it is an abyss where they can find no bottom: but unto the children of God it is a favourable passage into an eternal bliss; as soon as they are gone through, they are arrived at the place of assurance, joy, and rest, where God farnishes them with songs of triumph and thanksgiving to the Lamb, Rev. i. 15.
Balaam the prophet was called to curse the people of God, but he blessed them, contrary to the vain expectation of Balak, king of Moab. Thus Death hath been brought into the world by the devil, to destroy and utterly abolish the whole seed; but by God's infinite goodness and wisdom hath changed it into salvation and blessing. Let us therefore not be any longer puzzled to find out the meaning of Samson's riddle ; “ Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness," Judg. xiv. For the church of God, unto whom Christ bath discovered the most excellent secrets of his kingdom, teaches us to seek the sweetest comforts out of the belly of this old lion.
It is not possible to judge of music by a single note, or of an oration by a period, nor of a comedy by a scene. So we must not judge of a battle by the first assault, nor of a wrestling by the first embraces and efforts of the wrestlers : for some in the beginning of the battle turn their backs, who nevertheless at last often win the victory; and some in wrestling are foiled at the beginning, who nevertheless supplant their enemy, and cast him upon the ground. Therefore, that we may better understand the great and notable advantages we have over Death, we must examine it all along until the end of the encounter; we must take notice of every assault that we give to this irreconcileable enemy.
As soon as the taper of our life begins to burn, Satan sends forth his blast to extinguish it. Death labours to undermine this poor dwelling from the first moment that it is built, besieges it, and on all sides makes its approaches; in time it saps the foundation, it batters us with several diseases and unexpected accidents; every day it opens a breach, and pulls out of this building some stones. But if Death labours to demolish on his part, we on ours labour to repair : and as those who built the walls of Jerusalem held with one hand the trowel, and with the other a sword to fight; so we defend ourselves, as well as we are able, against the assaults of Death. Therefore we do not only endeavour to preserve this earthly lodge that God hath let and set to us for a term, and to mend up the continual delapidations that happen in it: but at the very sight of Death, when it gives us the assault, we do then also advance our spiritual building, and labour to bring it to perfection. So that we may say, as she apostle St. Paul, “ If our outward man decays, the inFard man is renewed day by day,” 2 Cor. iv. 16.
To speak right, Death meddles with nothing but the exterior part of man: for our principal fort and chief bulwark hath no cause of fear to be undermined or sapped, nor to be won by assault ; for it is raised above the heavens, and built upon the Rock of eternity. It cannot be battered: for aś the thunder-bolts, the storms of hail and ill-weather, cannot prejudice the sun-beams, because they are of a spiritual nature ; so all the fury of the world, and all the powers of hell, and the rage of Death, can never wrong the soul, that is of a spiritual and immortal nature : this castle can never be famished, for God furnishes it with manna from heaven; and from the rock upon which it is built there runs a source of living waters, that rises to everlasting life. In a word, as the serpents crawl only upon the dust, Death hath no power but upon the earthly part of man; therefore our
Lord Jesus Christ advised his apostles, “not to fear them that kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.”
At the very instant of our soul's separation from the body, Death seems to have a great advantage upon us; but when I consider all, I find it hath no cause to boast of the victory. When a valiant captain marches out of a town almost destroyed, to another more secured and better fortified, with his weapons in his hand; we say that he has quitted his station, and not that he is overcome. Thus when the wretched body decays, and that our souls depart well armed with faith and hope, to lodge in a more secure place in the highest heavens; no body can say, to speak properly, that we have been overcome. And as it happens to such as sail on the ocean, when a violent storın threatens them with shipwreck, they think themselves very happy if they can quit their vessel, leave it to the mercy of the winds and waves, and escape to land with their riches and lives safe : thus it is with us who sail upon the tempestuous sea of this world; when Death raises its most cruel storms, we think ourselves happy if we can leave this miserable body, which seems as a ship to our souls; and if we can secure our spiritual life and our heavenly riches. Therefore we may justly say to the faithful, that are frighted when they see Death threatening to drown them in its depths, as St. Paul to the ship's company, who trembled for fear at the sight of the roaring and swelling waves, courage, my brethren; for I assure you, in the name of the living God, that your lives are secure, and that you shall lose nothing but the ship,” Acts xxvii. We may furnish tbem with stronger comforts ; for these good mariners lost their ship without hopes of recovering it again, but we are assured, that God will one day gather up every piece of the broken vessels of our bodies, and will join them together in a more perfect state. 8
to Take good Therefore Death doth not carry away our bodies by violence, but we leave them willingly; we do not stay for its summons, but we do prevent Death, and give it a licence; when we have packed up our bag and baggage, we are ready to depart out of this wretched abode, where we endare all manner of calamities; for in this house defluxions fall down, vapours arise, the pillars and foundations tremble, the joints open, the windows are darkened, and the burning fevers, like violent fires, consume it.
I must not forget that the faithful name their death not only a removal of their lodging, but a removal from a tas bernacle. This teaches us, that we must depart from hence with as much joy and readiness as a soldier doth out of his tabernacle at the end of a laborious and bloody warfare ; and with as much pleasure as the children of Israel did out of their camps, in which they had remained in the desert, to enter into the sweet and comfortable dwellings of the land of Canaan.
Not only the body is like to an hired horse, or to a tabernacle transported up and down; but it is by sin become to our soul a woeful prison. Therefore death may be compared to the messengers sent by king Pharaoh, on purpose to take Joseph out of the dungeon, and bring him to his palace. The body that was created to be a noble pavilion of joy and honour, is become to our soul a wretched incommodious prison ; and death is like to the furnace of Babylon, that burnt and consumed the bands of the three children, without prejudiçing their garments or attire, Dan. iii. For it destroys the natural bands that detain our souls enslaved to the earth, but meddles not with its ornaments, with its righteousness and sanctification. It is like the skin that incloses the child in its mother's womb, or like the shell where the chick is formed; for of necessity it must be broken before we can enter into immortal life. In short, we may say 2. H