|« Prev||A Fruitful Treatise, and Full of Heavenly…||Next »|
A Fruitful Treatise, and Full of Heavenly Consolation against the Fear of Death
Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall his wrath come, and in the day of vengeance he shall destroy thee. Stand fast in the way of the Lord, be steadfast in thine understanding, and follow the word or peace and righteousness. Ecclesiasticus
Being minded, through the help of God, for my own comfort and the encouraging of others, to speak something of death, at whose door, though I have stood a great while, yet, according to man's judgment, never so near as I do now, I think it most requisite to call and cry for thy help, O blessed Saviour Jesus Christ, who hast destroyed death by thy death, and brought in place thereof life and immortality, as appears by the gospel. Grant to me true and lively faith, whereby men pass from death to eternal life; that of practice, and not of mere speculation, I may write something concerning death, which is dreadful out of thee, and in itself, to the glory of thy holy name, to my own comfort in thee, and to the edifying of all them, to whom this my writing shall come, to be read or heard. Amen.
There are four kinds of death; one which is natural, another which is spiritual, a third which is temporal, and a fourth which is eternal. Concerning the first and the last, what they are I need not declare; but the second and third, perchance, are not so soon espied by the simple (uninstructed, editor), for whose sake especially I write.
By a spiritual death, I mean such a death as when though the body is living the soul is dead. This the apostle mentions in speaking of widows, who living daintily, being alive in body, are dead in soul. (1 Tim. v.) Thus you see what I mean by the spiritual death. Now, by a temporal death, I mean a death whereby the body and the affections thereof are mortified, that the spirit may live: of which kind of death the apostle speaks when exhorting us to kill our members. Col. iii. And thus much concerning the kinds of death, wherein the judgment of the world is not to be approved, for it cares less for spiritual death than for a natural death, it is less apprehensive of eternal death than temporal death, or else men would leave sin, which procures both the one and the other, I mean spiritual and eternal death, and would choose temporally to die, that, by natural death, they might enter into the full fruition of eternal life, which none can enjoy nor enter into, that will not here temporally die, that is, mortify their affections, and crucify their lusts and concupiscences; for by obeying them at the first came death, as we may read, Gen. iii. If Eve had not obeyed her desire in eating the forbidden fruit, whereby she died spiritually, none of these kinds of death had ever come unto man, nor been known by us. Therefore, as I said, here we must needs temporally die, that is, mortify our affections, to escape the spiritual death, and by natural death, not only escape eternal death of soul and body, but also by it, as by a door, enter into eternal life, which Christ Jesus our Saviour has procured and purchased to and for all that are in him, changing eternal death into a deliverance of soul and body from all kind of misery and sin. By reason whereof we may see, that to those who are in Christ, that is, to such as believe, which believers are discerned from others by their not walking after the flesh, but after the Spirit, to those I say, death is no damage, but an advantage; no dreadful thing, but rather desirable, and of all messengers the most joyful, whilst looked upon with the eye of faith in the gospel. But more of this hereafter.
Thus I have briefly showed the kinds of death, what they are, whence they come, and what is the remedy for them. But now, as I purpose to treat only of the first kind of death, that is, of natural death, something to comfort myself and others against the dread and pains of the same, I will speak of it as God shall instruct me, and as I accustom myself to muse on it now and then, the better to be prepared against the hour of trial.
I have shown that this natural death came by spiritual death, that is, by obeying our affections in the transgression of God's precepts. But through the benefit of Christ, it is no destruction to such as are in him and die temporally, that is, to such believers as labour to mortify their affections, but only a plain dissolution, both of soul and body, from all kind of perils, dangers, and miseries; and therefore by such it is not to be dreaded, but to be desired, as we see in the apostle, who desired to be dissolved, (Phil. i.) and in Simeon, who desired to be loosed, saying, Dismiss, or loose me, O Lord. (Luke ii.) By which words he seems plainly to teach, that this life is a bondage, and nothing to be desired, as now I will partly show.
First, consider the pleasures of this life what they are, how long they last, how painfully we come by them, what they leave behind them, and thou shalt even in them see nothing but vanity. As for example: how long lasts the pleasure of licentiousness? How it leaves behind a certain loathsomeness. I will speak nothing of the sting of conscience, if pleasures are come by unlawfully. Who, well seeing this, and forecasting it beforehand, would not desire to forego unlawful pleasures?
Put the case, that the pleasures of this life were permanent during this life, yet since this life itself is as nothing, and therefore is full well compared to a candlelight, which is soon blown out; to a flower, which fades away; to a smoke, to a shadow, to a sleep, to running water, to a day, to an hour, to a moment, and to vanity itself; who would esteem pleasures and commodities (advantages, editor), which last so little a while? Before they are well begun they are gone and past away. How much of our time was spend in sleeping, in eating, in drinking, and in talking! Infancy is not perceived, youth is shortly overblown, middle age is nothing, old age is not long; and therefore, as I said, this life, even in the consideration of the pleasures and advantages of it, should little move us to love it, but rather to loath it. God open our eyes to see these things, and to weigh them accordingly. Secondly, consider the miseries of this life, so that if the pleasures and commodities in it should move us to love it, yet the miseries might countervail and make us take it as we should do; I mean, rather to desire to be loosed and dismissed hence than otherwise. Look upon your bodies, and see in how many perils and dangers you are. Your eves are in danger of blindness and blear-eyedness; your ears in danger of deafness; your mouth and tongue of cankers, toothache, and dumbness; your head in danger of rheums, and metrics; your throat in danger of hoarseness; your hands in danger of gout, palsies, &se. But who is able to express the number of diseases whereof man's body is in danger, seeing that some have written that more than three hundred diseases may happen unto man? I speak nothing of the hurt that may come to our bodies by poisons, venomous beasts, water, fire, horses, men, &c.
Again, look upon your soul, see how many vices you are in danger of, as heresy, hypocrisy, idolatry, covetousness, idleness, security, envy, ambition, pride, &c. How many temptations may you fall into? But this you shall better see by looking upon your old falls, folly, and temptations; and by looking on other men's faults, for no man has done any thing so evil but you may do the same. Moreover, look upon your name, and see how it is in danger of slanders and false reports. Look upon your goods, see what danger they are in from thieves, from fire, &c. Look upon your wife, children, parents, brethren, sisters kinsfolks, servants, friends, and neighbours, and behold how they also are in danger, both in soul, body, name, and goods, as you are. Look upon the commonweal and country. Look upon the church, upon the ministers and magistrates, and see what great dangers they are in, so that if you love them, you cannot, but for the evil which may come to them, be heavy and sad. You know it is not in your power, nor in the power of any man, to hinder all evil that may come. How many perils is infancy in danger of! What danger is youth subject unto! Man's state is full of cares; age is full of diseases and sores. If thou art rich, thy care is the greater; if thou art in honour, thy perils are the more, if thou art poor, thou art the more in danger from oppression. But, alas! what tongue is able to express the miserableness of this life, which, if considered, should make us little to love it!
I can compare our life to nothing so fitly as to a ship in the midst of the sea. In what danger is the ship and they that are in it! Here are they in danger of tempests, there of quicksands; on this side of pirates, on that side of rocks; now it may leak, now the mast may break, now the master may fall sick, now diseases may come among the mariners, now dissension may arise among themselves. I speak nothing of want of fresh water, meat, drink, and such other necessaries. Even such is this life. Here is the devil, there is the world; on this side is the flesh, on that side is sin; which thoroughly cleaves unto our ribs, and will do so as long as we are in this flesh, and natural life. So that none but blind men can see this life to be much and greatly desired; but rather as sailors are most glad when they approach to the haven, even so should we be most glad when we approach to the haven, that is, to death, which sets us to a land whose commodities no eye has seen, no tongue can tell, no heart can conceive, in any point as it should do. (1 Cor. ii.) Happy, oh! happy were we, if we saw these things accordingly! God open our eyes to see them. Amen.
If any man would desire testimonies of these things, al though experience, a sufficient mistress, is to be credited, yet I will here mark certain places whereunto the reader may resort, and he will find no less than I say, but rather much more, if he read and weigh the places with diligence. Job (x.) calls this life a warfare. In the eighth chapter he paints it out in a lively manner, under divers similitudes. St. James compares it to a vapour. (James iv.) All the book of Ecclesiastes teaches that it is but vanity. St. John says it is altogether put in evil. (1 John viii.) David (or rather Moses, editor) says, the best thing in this life is but vanity, labour, and sorrow. (Ps. xc.) But why go I hereabout, seeing that almost every leaf in the Scripture is full of the brevity and misery of this life, so that I think, as St. Austin writes, that there is no man who has lived so happily in this world, that he would be content, when death comes, to go back again by the same steps whereby he has come into the world and lived, except he is in despair, and looks for nothing after this life but confusion.
Thus I trust you see, that though the commodities of this life were such as could cause us to love it, yet the brevity, vanity, and misery of it is such, as should make us little regard it, who believe and know, death is the end of all miseries to them that are in Christ, as we all ought to take ourselves to be, (being baptised in his name, for our baptism requires this faith under pain of damnation,) although we have not observed our profession as we should have done, if we now repent, and come to amendment. By such I say as are in Christ, death is to be desired, even in this respect, that it delivers us from so miserable a life and so dangerous a state as we are now in. So that I may well say, they are senseless, without understanding, void of love to God, void of all hatred and sense of sin wherewith this life flows, who desire not to depart hence out of all these miseries, rather than still to remain here to their continual grief.
But if these things will not move us, I would yet that we beheld the commodities whereunto death brings us. If we are not moved to leave this life in respect of the miseries whereof it is full, yet we should be moved to leave it in respect of the infinite goodness which the other life, whereto death brings us, has most plentifully. Men, though they love things, yet can be content to forego them for other things which are better; even so we now, for the good things in the life to come, if we consider them, shall and will be content to forego the most commons things in this present life. Here we have great pleasure in the beauty of the world, and of the pleasures, honours, and dignities of the same; also in the company of our friends, parents, wife, children, subjects, also in plenty of riches, cattle, &c.; and yet we know that not one of these is without its discommodity, which God sends, lest we should love them too much, as, if you will weigh things, you shall easily perceive. The sun though it is fair and cheerful, yet it burns sometimes too hot. The air, though it is generally light and pleasant, yet sometimes it is dark and troublous; and so of other things. But be it so, that there were no discommodities mingled with the commodities, yet as I said before, the brevity and short time that we have to use them should assuage their sweetness.
But even if the pleasures of this life were without discommodity, if they were permanent and without peril, whereof they are full, yet are they nothing at all to be compared to the commodities of the life to come. What is this earth, heaven, and shape of the world, wherein beasts have places, and wicked men, God's enemies, have abiding and liberty, in comparison of the new heaven and earth wherein righteousness shall dwell? In comparison of the place where angels and archangels, and all God's people, yea, God himself, has his abiding and dwelling? What is the company of wife children, &c. in comparison to the company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the saints of God? What is the company of any in this world, in comparison to the company of the angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, powers, thrones, dominions, yea, of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost? What are the riches and pleasures of this life, in comparison of the felicity of everlasting life, which is without all discommodities, perpetual, without all peril and jeopardy, without all grief and molestation? Oh, the mirth and melody! oh, the honour and glory! oh, the riches and beauty! oh, the power and majesty! oh, the sweetness and dignity of the life to come! The eye has not seen, the ear has not heard, and the heart of man is not able to conceive in any thing, any part of the eternal felicity and happy state of heaven: therefore the saints of God have desired so earnestly and so heartily to be there. "Oh! how amiable are thy tabernacles!" said David. (Ps. lxxxiv.) "My soul has a desire to enter into the courts of the Lord, my heart and my soul rejoice in the living God. Blessed are those that dwell in thy house, that they may always be praising thee; for one day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness; for the Lord God is a light and defence." And again, (Ps. xlli.,) "As the hart desires the waterbrooks, so longs my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God. When shall I come to appear before the presence of God?" And (Ps. lxiii.,) "My soul thirsts for thee in a barren and dry land, where no water is." They, God's people I mean, (Rom. viii.,) desire the day of their redemption, and they still cry, "Let thy kingdom come;" they cry, (Rev. xxii.,) "Come, Lord Jesus, come;" they lift up their heads looking for his appearing, who will make their vile bodies like to his own glorious and immortal body, (Phil. iii.;) for when he shall appear, they shall be like unto him; the angels will gather them together, and they shall meet him in the clouds, and be always with him; they shall hear this joyful voice, (Matt. xxv.,) "Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning." Then shall they be like unto his angels, (Rev. vii. :) then shall they shine like the sun in the kingdom; then shall they have crowns of glory, and be endued (clothed, editor) with white garments of innocence and righteousness, and palms of victory in their hands. Oh! happy, happy is he who may with them see that immortal and incorruptible inheritance, which then we shall enjoy for ever!
Thus you see (I hope) sufficiently, that in respect of heaven and eternal bliss, (whereunto by the haven of death we land,) this life, though there were no evil in it, is not to be loved, but rather, we that are pilgrims in it should desire with Paul and Simeon to be loosed and dissolved that we might be with God. Here our bodies, as before is spoken, are in danger of innumerable evils; but there our bodies shall be, not only free from all danger, but also be like the glorious and immortal body of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now our bodies are dark, then shall they be most clear and light, as we see Christ's face did shine in his transfiguration, like to the sun. (Matt. xvii.) Now our bodies are vile, miserable, mortal, and corruptible; but then shall they be glorious, happy, immortal, and incorruptible. (1 Cor. xv.) We shall be like unto Christ our Saviour; even as he is, so shall we be. (1 John iii.) As we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly. Here our souls are in great darkness, and in danger of many evils; but there they shall be in great light, safe security, and secure felicity. We shall see God face to face, where now we see him but as in a glass through a dark speaking, there shall we behold him even as he is, and be satisfied with his presence; yea we shall be endued with most perfect knowledge. Where now we know but partly, there shall we know as we are known. Here our commodities are measurable, short, uncertain, and mingled with many incommodities. But there is bliss without measure, all liberty, all light, all joy, rejoicing, pleasure, health, wealth, riches, glory, power, treasure, honour, triumph, comfort, solace, love, unity, peace, concord, wisdom, virtue, melody, meekness, felicity, beatitude, and all that ever can be wished or desired; and that in the greatest security and perpetuity that may be conceived or thought, not only of men, but also of angels; as he witnesses that saw it, (I mean Paul,) who was carried up into the third heaven. The eye has not seen, (says he,) the ear has not heard, neither has entered into the heart of man the felicity that God has prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor. ii.) There the archangels, angels, powers, thrones, dominions, cherubim, seraphim, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, virgins, confessors, and righteous spirits, cease not to sing night and day, "Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts; honour, majesty, glory, empire, and dominion, be unto thee, O Lord God the Creator, O Lord Jesus the Redeemer, O Holy Spirit the Comforter." (Rev. iv.) For the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold, even as the light of seven days (Isa. lx.) in his blessed kingdom, where and when he will bind up the wounds of his people, and heal their plagues. Oh! that we might have some lively sight hereof, that we might rejoice over the undefiled and immortal inheritance, whereunto God has called us, and which he keeps for us in heaven; that we might hear the sweet song of his saved people, crying, "Salvation be unto Him that sits on the throne of our God, and unto the Lamb." That we might with the elders and angels sing and say, "Praise, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be to thee our God for evermore." That we might be covered with a white stole (robe, editor), and have a palm in our hands, to stand before God's throne night and day, to serve him in his temple, and to have him dwell in us; that we might hear the great voice saying from heaven, "Behold the tabernacle of the Lord is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, their God." Oh! happy were they that now might have a little glimpse of that holy city, New Jerusalem, descending from heaven, prepared of God as a bride decked for her husband, which he showed to his servant John. (Rev. xxi.) Truly this should we see, if we were with him in the Spirit; but this cannot be, so long as we are in the flesh. Alas then, and well away, that we love this life as we do! It is a sign that we have little faith, for else how could we fail night and day to desire the messenger of the Lord, death I mean, to deliver us out of all miseries, that we might enter into the enjoyment of eternal felicity.
But here some man will say, " Oh I sir, if I were certain that I should depart from this miserable life into that so great felicity, then could I be right glad and rejoice, as you tell me, and bid death welcome. But I am a sinner, I have grievously transgressed and broken God's will, and therefore I am afraid I shall be sent into eternal woe, perdition, and misery." Here, my brother, thou dost well that thou cost acknowledge thyself a sinner, and to have deserved eternal death; for doubtless, if we say we have no sin, we are liars, and the truth is not in us. (1 John i.) A child of a nights birth is not pure in God's sight. (Job xxv.) In sin we were born, and by birth or nature we are the children of wrath, and firebrands of hell; therefore confess ourselves to be sinners we needs must. For if the Lord will observe any man's iniquities, none shall be able to abide it; yea, we must needs all cry, "Enter not into judgment, O Lord; for in thy sight no flesh nor man living can be saved." (Ps. cxxx. cxliii.) In this point therefore thou hast done well to confess that thou art a sinner.
But now where thou stand in doubt of pardon of thy sins, and thereby art afraid of damnation, my dear brother, I would have thee answer me, whether thou desire pardon or no? Whether thou dost repent or no? Whether thou dost unfeignedly purpose, if thou should live, to amend thy life or no? If thou dost even before God so purpose, and desire his mercy, then hearken, my good brother, to what the Lord says unto thee: "I am he, I am he, that for my own sake will do away thine offences; if thy sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow; for I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner. (Isa. xliii. l.) As surely as I live, I will not thy death, but rather that thou should live, and be converted. (Ezek. xxxiii.) I have so loved the world, that I would not spare my dearly beloved Son, (John iii.,) the image of my substance, and brightness of my glory, by whom all things were given; but gave him for thee, not only to be man, but also to take thy nature, and to purge it from mortality, sin, and all corruption, and to adorn and endue it with immortality and eternal glory not only in his own person, but also in thee and for thee, whereof now by faith I would have thee certain, as in very deed thou shalt at length feel and fully enjoy for ever. (Phil. ii.) This, my Son, I have given to death, and that a most shameful death, even of the cross, for thee, to destroy death, to satisfy my justice for thy sins; therefore believe, and according to thy faith, so be it unto thee. Hearken what my Son himself says unto thee, (Matt. xi.,) Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you. (John iii.) I came not into the world to condemn the world, but to save it. (Luke v.) I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. I pray not (says he) (John xvii.) for these mine apostles only, but also for all them that by their preaching shall believe in me. Now what prayed he for such? Father, (says he,) I will that where I am they also may be, that they may see and enjoy the glory I have, and always had with thee. Father, save them, and keep them in thy truth. Father, (says he,) I sanctify myself, and offer up myself for them. Lo! thus thou hear how my Son prays for thee. Mark now what my apostle Paul says: We know, says he, (Heb. v.) that our Saviour Christ's prayers were heard. (1 Tim. i.) Also this is a true saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Hearken what he said to the jailer, (Acts, xvi.,) Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved. (Heb. ix.) For he by his own self has made purgation for our sins. To him, says Peter, (Acts, x.) all the prophets bear witness, that whosoever believes in his name shall receive remission of their sins. Believe man; pray, (Mark, ix.) Lord, help mine unbelief (Luke xvii.) Lord, increase my faith: ask, and thou shalt have. Hearken what St. John says: If we confess our sins, God is righteous to forgive us all our iniquities, and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shall wash us from all our sins; for if we sin, we have an Advocate (says he) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins. (1 John i. ii.) Hearken what Christ is called, (Matt. i.,) Call his name Jesus, says the angel, for he shall save his people from their sins; so that where abundance of sin is, there is abundance of grace; say therefore, Who shall lay anything to my charge? It is God that absolves me; who then shall condemn me? It is Christ who is dead for my sins, yea, who is risen for my righteousness, and sits on the right hand of the Father, and prays for me. (Rom. viii.) Be certain, therefore, and sure of pardon of thy sins; be certain and sure of everlasting life. Do not now say in thy heart, Who shall descend into the deep? that is, doubt not of pardon of thy sins, for that is to fetch up Christ; neither say thou, Who shall ascend up into heaven? that is, doubt not of eternal bliss, for that is to put Christ out of heaven: but mark what the Lord says unto thee, The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart, and this is the word of faith which we preach: if thou confess with thy mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord. and believe with thy heart, that God raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be safe. (Rom. x.) If thou believe that Jesus Christ died, and rose again, even so shalt thou be assured (says the Lord God) that, dying with Christ, I will bring thee again with him. (1 Thess. iv.)
Thus, dear brother, I thought good to write to thee in the name of the Lord, that thou, fearing death for nothing else but because of thy sins, might be assured of pardon of them, and so embrace death as a dear friend, and insult against his terror, sting, and power, saying, Death, where is thy sting? hell, where is thy victory? (1 Cor. xv.) Nothing in all the world so displeases the Lord as to doubt of his mercy. In the mouth of two or three witnesses, we should be content; therefore, since thou hast heard from so many witnesses, how that in deed desiring mercy with the Lord, thou art not sent empty away, give credit thereto, and say with the good virgin Mary, "Behold thy servant, O Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." (Luke i.) Upon which word, see thou set thine eye only and wholly. For here thou see not God thy Father, except in his word, which is the glass wherein now we behold his grace and fatherly love towards us in Christ; and therefore herewith we should be content, and give more credit to it, than to all our senses, and to all the world besides. The word, says our Saviour, (John xii.) shall judge. According to it therefore, and not according to any exterior or interior show, judge both of thyself and of all other things else, concerning thyself, if thou desire indeed God's mercy, and lament that thou hast offended. Lo! it pronounces that there is mercy with the Lord for thee, and plenteous redemption. (Ps. cxxx.) It tells thee who would have mercy at the Lords hand, that the Lord wills the same, and therefore thou art happy, for he would not thy death. It tells thee, that if thou acknowledge thy faults unto the Lord, he will cover them in his mercy. Again, concerning death, it tells thee, that it is but a sleep, that it is but a passing unto thy Father, that it is but a deliverance out of misery, that it is but a putting off mortality and corruption, that it is a putting on immortality and incorruption; that it is a putting away of an earthly tabernacle, that thou may receive a heavenly house or mansion, (2 Cor. v.;) that this is but a calling of thee home from the watching and standing in the warfare of this miserable life. According to this, (the word I mean,) do thou judge of death, and thou shalt not be afraid of it, but desire it as a most wholesome medicine, and a friendly messenger of the Lord's justice and mercy. Embrace him therefore, make him good cheer, for of all enemies he is the least. An enemy, said I? nay, rather of all friends he is the best; for he brings thee out of all danger of enemies into that most sure and safe place of thy unfeigned Friend for ever.
Let these things be often thought upon. Let death be premeditated, not only because he comes uncertainly, I mean as to the time, for else he is most certain; but also because he helps much to the contempt of this world, out of which, as nothing will go with thee, so can thou take nothing with thee. Because it helps to the mortifying of the flesh, which when thou feed, thou dost nothing else but feed worms. Because it helps to the well disposing and due ordering of the things thou has in this life. Because it helps to repentance, to bring thee unto the knowledge of thyself, that thou art but earth and ashes, and brings thee the better to know God. But who is able to tell the commodities (advantages, editor) that come by the frequent and true consideration of death? Whose time is left unto us uncertain and unknown, (although to God it be certain, and the bounds thereof not only known, but appointed of the Lord, over the which none can passed Job xiv.;) that we should not prolong and put off frowzy day to day the amendment of our life, as the rich man (Luke xii.) did under hope of long life. And seeing it is the ordinance of God, and comes not but by the will of God, even unto a sparrow; much more then unto us, who are incomparably much more dear than many sparrows; and since this will of God is not only just, but also good, for he is our Father, let us, if there were no other cause but this, submit ourselves, our senses, and judgments, unto his pleasure, being content to come out of the room (place or appointed station, editor) of our soldiership, whenever he shall send for us by his pursuivant (messenger, editor), death. Let us render to him, that which he has lent us so long, (I mean life,) lest we be counted unthankful. And since death comes not but by sin, forasmuch as we have sinned so often, and yet the Lord has ceased from exacting this tribute and punishment of us until this present time, let us with thankfulness praise his patience, and pay our debt, not doubting but that he, being our Father and our almighty Father, can and will, if death were evil unto us, as God knows it is a chief benefit unto us by Christ, convert and turn it into good. But death being, as I have before showed, not to be dreaded, but to be desired, let us lift up our heads in thinking on it, and know that our redemption draws nigh. (Luke xxi.) Let our minds be occupied in the consideration, or often contemplation of the four last articles of our belief, that is, the communion of saints or holy catholic church; remission of sins, resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.
By faith in Christ, be it ever so faint, little, or cold we are members in very deed of the catholic and holy church of Christ, that is, we have communion or fellowship with all the saints of God that ever were, are, or shall be. Whereby we may receive great comfort; for though our faith be feeble, yet the faith of that church, whereof our Saviour Christ is the head, is mighty enough. Though our repentance be little, yet the repentance of the church, wherewith we have communion, is sufficient. Though our love be languishing, yet the love of the church and of the Spouse of the church is ardent, and so of all other things we want. Not that I mean this, as though any man should think that our faith should be in any, or upon any other, than only upon God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; neither that tat any should think I mean thereby any other merits or means to salvation, than only the merits and name of the Lord Jesus. But I would that the poor Christian conscience, which by baptism is brought into God's church, and made a member of the same through faith, should, not for his sin's sake, or for the want of anything he has not, despair; but rather should know, that he is a member of Christ's church and mystical body; and therefore cannot but have communion and fellowship with both; that is, with Christ himself, being the Lord, husband, and head thereof, and of all that ever have been, are, or shall be members of it, in all good things that ever they have had, have, or shall have. Still does the church pray for us by Christ's commandment. Forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil; yea, Christ himself prays for us, being members of his body, as we are indeed, if we believe, though it is ever so little. God grant this faith unto us all, and increase it in us. Amen. Out of this church no pope nor prelate can cast us, or excommunicate us indeed, although exteriorly they separate us from the society of God's saints. But enough of this.
As I would have us often muse upon the catholic church, or communion of saints, so would I have us to meditate upon the other articles following, that is, remission of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting. It is an article of our faith to believe, that is, to be certain that our sins are pardoned; therefore doubt not thereof, lest thou become an infidel. Though thou hast sinned ever so sorely, yet now despair not, but be certain that God is thy God, that is, that he forgives thee thy sin. Therefore, as I said, doubt not thereof, for in so doing thou put a sallet (a covering, or scull-cap, editor) on the head of thy soul, so that the dew of God's grace cannot drop into it, but slips by as fast as it drops. Therefore be without that sallet or soul-night-cap; be bareheaded; that is, hope still in the mercy of the Lord, and so mercy shall compass thee on every side. (Psalm v.)
In like manner, often have the article of the resurrection of the body in thy mind, being assured thereby that thy body shall be raised up again in the last day, when the Lord shall come to judgment, and that it shall be made incorruptible, immortal, glorious, spiritual, perfect, light, and even like to the glorious body of our Saviour Jesus Christ. (Phil. iii.) For he is the first-fruit of the dead; and as God is all in all, so shall he be unto thee in Christ. Look therefore upon thine own estate; for as he is, so shalt thou be. As thou hast borne the image of the earthly Adam, so shalt thou bear the image of the heavenly, (1 Cor. xv.;) therefore glorify thou God now, both in soul and body. Wait and look for this day of the Lord with groaning and sighing. Gather together testimonies of this, which I omit for time's sake.
Last of all, often have life everlasting in thy mind, whereunto thou art even landing. Death is the haven that carries thee unto this land, where is all that can be wished, yea, above all wishes and desires; for in it we shall see God face to face, which now we can in no wise do, but must cover our faces, with Moses and Elias, till the face or fore-parts of the Lord be gone by. (Exod. xxxiv.) Now must we look on his back-parts, beholding him in his word, and in his creatures, and in the face of Jesus Christ our Mediator; but then we shall see him face to face, and we shall know, even as we are known. (1 Cor. xiii.) Therefore let us often think on these things, that we may have faith lustily (heartily, editor) and cheerfully to arrive at the happy haven of death, which you see is to be desired, and not to be dreaded, by all those that are in Christ: that is, by such as believe indeed, who are discerned (distinguished, editor) from those that only say they do believe, by their dying temporally, that is, by labouring to mortify through God's Spirit the affections of the flesh: not that they should not be in them, but that they should not reign in them, that is, in their mortal bodies, to give themselves over to serve sin, whose servants we are not, but are made servants unto righteousness, (Rom. vi.,) being now under grace, and not under the law, and therefore God has mercifully promised that sin shall not reign in us; the which may be continually grant for his truth, power, and mercy's sake. Amen.
|« Prev||A Fruitful Treatise, and Full of Heavenly…||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version