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ever with thee. Let thy holy angels guard them day and night, thy providence defend them, thy word instruct them, thy promises comfort them, and thy Holy Spirit regenerate them, and renew in them thine image. Give them neither poverty nor riches, but their daily and necessary bread; and above all, that bread which came down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world; and make them taste the heavenly gift, and the powers of the world to come. Warm them with thy love, inflame them with thy charity, and adorn them with all Christian virtues. But above all, sanctify them by thy Holy Spirit, and make them new creatures. Confirm them for ever in thy holy covenant, and grant that they may leave it to their posterity, as a precious inheritance; so that thou mayest be glorified in my family from generation to generation, to the end of ages. Grant that neither the world, por hell may be able to pluck them out of thy hand; and that nothing may separate them from the love which thou hast manifested to them in Jesus Christ thy Son. Let not death affright, but rather rejoice and comfort them, seeing it is the entrance into the bouse of their heavenly Father, and the gate of thy paradise. Whatever changes happen to them in this life, grant that they may always keep their eyes fixed upon thee, who art the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. Let then never forget what they owe to thy bounty, from which they have received life and being, they prefer the glory of thy name, the purity of thy service, and the hope of thy kingdom, to all the glory, honours, riches, and pleasures of the world. O God the Creator and Father of their souls, rather let them suffer a thousand deaths, or reduce them to their primitive nothing, than abandon them to vice, errour, and superstition, which give unto the creature the honour and glory that belong to the Creator. O Almighty and ever merciful God! I will not say unto thee, as Esau to Isaac, after he had blessed Jacob, Hast thou but one blessing my father ? For I know that thou hast an ocean of them, an inexhaustible source ; but I beseech thee, with all the earnestness and
zeal whereof I am capable, that thou bless my dearchildren with all the choicest and most excellent blessings of heaven and earth. Lead them in thy hand, bear them upon thy wings, engrave them in the heart, and let them be as dear to thee as the apple of thine eye. Let thy fear be always before their eyes, let them love thee with all their heart, serve thee with all their might, and glorify thee both in prosperity and adversity, in life and in death ; as Jesus Christ thy Son is gain to them, whether they live, or whether they die. Mean time I will leave the world without regret, and my children without distrust in thy providence. I ascend, with an holy joy, unto thee, who art my God and their God, my Father and their Father ; and I trust in thy great and eternal mercies, that we shall one day see each other again in thy bosom, where we shall be admitted to the contemplation of thy face, which is fullness of joy for evermore. Amen.
The first Consolation against the Fears of Death, God
will not forsake us in our dying agonies. MAN is by nature sensible of pain, and abhors suffering. Now, most persons are persuaded, that it is impossible to die without enduring great torment; therefore they are afraid of death, not so much for its own sake as for the evils that accompany it.
To banish out of the mind these ill-grounded fears and panic terrors, let us consider in the first place, that death is not so frightful and full of pain, as is commonly imagined. The Holy Ghost calls it a sleep, and the Heathens themselves have styled sleep, death's cousingerman, and the image of frozen death. Now, sleep steals insensibly upon us ; it gently charms our senses,
and, with invisible fetters, softly binds and puts a stop to our most active faculties; so that, although we fall asleep every night, we know not how this happens to
It is recorded of Socrates, one of the most famous of the ancient Heathens, that having drank poison, in obedience to the decree of the Athenian judges, when he felt the venom benumbing his senses, and death creeping into his veins, he declared, with a pleased and composed countenance, That he had never swallowed any thing more delicious in his life. No sleep can be imagined more sweet than the death of the ancient patriarchs. The holy scripture tells us, That when Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, Gen. xlix. 33. To the same purpose, it is said of king David, that when he had exhorted his son Solomon to fear God, and to do justice, he slept with his fathers, 1 Kings ii. 10. God extends the same mercy to many in these latter days who die in discoursing of him, and calling upon his holy name. Their souls are not plucked from them by violence, but bid a willing adieu to the earth, and fly into heaven with an holy cheerfulness. The separation of such souls happens without pain, grief, or bitterness. They are like a taper, that, without being disturbed by any blast of wind, expires of its own accord, when the wax that kept it alive, and nourished its flame, is totally spent. If you see some racked and tortured
their death-bed, with sharp and exquisite pains, these are not properly the pains of death, but the last struggles and convulsions of life ; for I cannot believe, that the moment of the separation of the soul from the body we feel any pain ; because at that instant the senses are lulled asleep, and our body has no more strength or vigour to oppose the soul's departure.
Death is so far from being so frightful and full of pain as we commonly imagine, that, on the contrary, it is the very thing that puts an end to all our pain, and stops the course of our miseries ; and I am persuaded, that the diseases that usually bring us to our graves, are not so grievous and full of pain, as many others that we endure whilst we live ; such as the gout, for example, the stone in the kidneys, or a cancer in the breast. For these are a rack on which we are hourly tortured, a wild beast that gnaws us continually, and a fire that consumes us without intermission.
But supposing that our death-bed pains should be far more sensible, and that we should have reason to charge them all upon death; yet we have no colour from thence to fly from it, or to abhor its approaches. We might with as much reason curse the hour of our birth, and weep for our victories ; seeing there is no birth without pain, nor victory without contending. The fairest and most flourishing laurels are watered with blood and sweat.
The most excellent things are the most difficult.in their attainment; and as one nail drives out another, to use a vulgar proverb, so one evil is commonly a remedy to many other evils. Nay, we ourselves seek, as some good thing, that evil that frees from any violent pain that we can hardly bear. To be healed of our distempers weswallow bitter potions, that offend our taste, and torment our bowels; to be freed from the stone, we endure a most painful cutting; and to hinder a gangrene from spreading to our heart, we suffer with patience, a leg or an arm to be cut off. Therefore, though death should be a thousand times more bitter, more painful and cruel, than it is commonly represented; yet we ought to em
brace it cheerfully, because it delivers us, not only from one disease, or one particular pain, but in general from all our complaints. Physic is not always effectual to expel the humour that afflicts us. When one stone is extracted from the bladder, many times others grow therein that are worse. The surgeon's hand, let it be ever so skilful, answers not always to the patient's expectation; instead of removing his pain, it sometimes increaseth it. But the operation of death is certain and infallible, and the success always happy to a christian soul.
That I may administer some comfort to thee in the midst of thy sharp pains and afflictions, my brother, or my sister, know that these things happen not to thee by accident, but they are appointed thee by God, whose dispensations are various, according to his wisdom. Ascribe not thy disease to the influence of the stars, or to blind chance ; but lift up thine eyes to him who hath stretched out the heavens, and appointed the seasons, who is the author and disposer of thy life. We need not tempt God, as the Philistines of old, and require from him a miracle, to know if it is his hand that hath smote us, or whether our wounds are a chance that hath happened unto us, 1 Sam. vi. For God assures, That he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth and his hands make whole, Job v. 18. Affliction cometh not forth out of the dust, neither doth trouble spring out of the ground, ver. 6. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not ? Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good ? Lam. jii. 37, 38. Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? Amos iii. 6 ; that is to say, shall there be any sickness, or affliction, which is not overruled and directed by his adorable providence ?