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liver your souls from this miserable body, wherein it is imprisoned, dismissing it from the slavish employments of this unhappy age, more grievous and intolerable than that of the gallies, and freeing your souls from those bitter agonies, which are far more painful and racking than the most cruel tortures.
The patriarch Noah, when he went out of the ark that rested upon the inountains of Ararat, had not so much reason to praise God, and to offer up unto him the sacrifice of thanksgiving, as we have, when he is pleased to put an end to this deluge of evils and calamities, and to cause this floating life, or rather this living death, to rest upon Mount Sion.
The children of Israel sang songs of thanksgiving when they came out of Egypt, and saw theinselves delivered from a bitter and cruel bondage, wherein they had been employed in gathering of stubble, and burning of brick, Exod. xv; but we have much more reason to rejoice, and to sing songs of triumph, when death takes us out of the world, where we suffer a kind of bondage, labouring in a thousand vanities, and enduring the scorching heat of ten thousand afflictions that
Thou burnest with indignation, because some of those inconstant people murmured to return again into Egypt, when they were upon the borders of the promised land: but rather burn with indignation against thy own flesh, if it murmurs to return into the world when thou art at the entrance of thy celestial Canaan. Joseph rejoiced when the king of Egypt sent to fetch him out of prison, Gen. xli; and have we not far greater cause to be joy
; fol when God sends for our souls out of the prison of this world, and causeth them to leave the body, which to them is a kind of dungeon?
If, therefore, it be without impatience or murmuring, I conceive we have a much stronger reason than the prophet Jonah to cry out, O Lord, take I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live, Jonah iv. 3; or to say with the prophet Elijah, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, 1 Kings xix. 4. Such a soul may, in an holy transport, safely breathe forth the prayer of David, the man after God's own heart, Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for thou shalt deal bountifully with me, Psal. cxlii. 7,
PRAYER AND MEDITATION,
ration, that death delivers us from all the evils which
O ADORABLE Prince of my salvation! thou hast hitherto strengthened me against all fears of death; and now I heartily beseech thee to afford me such grace, that, instead of terrifying and afflicting me, death may comfort and rejoice me. Let me not follow the example of thy people Israel, who forgetting their former cruel bondage, and minding only the plenty and pleasures of Egypt, murmured to return back from the borders of Canaan. On the contrary, grant that I may banish from my heart the vain pleasures of the world, and all the deceitful lusts of the flesh; and that I may so mind the laboạrs and miseries of this present state, that as a workman gladly sees night put an end to his toil, or as. a traveller, either by sea or land, willingly enters the haven or inn where he is to rest, I may look upon death
, in the same joyful manner: and the rather, because of the horrid disorders that reign in the world, the deluge of vice that overwhelms the earth, the rivers of blood
that flow on every side, and the fire and sword that threaten and devour us. The lamentable state of thy distressed church chiefly affects me : this is like a small boat in the midst of a ten pestuous sea, ready to sink, was it not for thy powerful protection, who commandest the winds and the waves; or like the three children in the ficry furnace, in danger to be consumed, didst thou not restrain the fury of the flames; or like a Daniel in the midst of hungry lions, which would devour him in an iustant, didst thou not stop their mouths. O
O my God! when wilt thou put thy seal upon mine eyes, that I may
I no longer behold such bloody tragedies ? When wilt thou stretch ont thine band from on high, and list me out of this dreadful gulf? When wilt thou send thy holy angels to deliver me from the fire of these afflictions ? And when shall I no longer behold the nations made drunk with the cup of thy fury? When shall I cease from seeing thy church bow down beneath the weight of its cross? And when shall I no longer hear the lamentations of thy Spouse, the cries of thy children, the groans of thy servants and prisoners, and the mourning of thine inheritance? O my heavenly Father, my only Hope! when wilt thou free me from this chain of sorrows ? When wilt thou deliver me from the storms and tempests of this enraged sea ? When shall my soul be delivered from the cares and fears that oppress it? And when shall my body be no longer a prey to the sickness and racking pains that consume it? O Lord! thou knowest all things : thouknowest that I ain in the world as in a prison, and that my soul dwells in this wretched body as in a dungeon. Lift up the light of thy countepance upon thy servant, and smite me with the band of grace, to wake me from my slumber. Cause niy chains to fall off, open the gates of this dark prison, and grant that I may follow jesfully the good angel that shall bring me out of this tedious captivity, into a place where I shall never be exposed to the assaults of Satan and the world, which endeavour to destroy me, that they may triumph in my ruin. Then, when I find myself in the
streets of thy heavenly Jerusalem, I shall know of a surety, that thou hast delivered me, and will for ever magnify thy holy and wonderful works in the assembly and church of the first-born, which triumph in heaven; where past sorrows shall no more be remembered; where there is neither crying, nor pain, nor hunger, nor thirst; and where the heats of affliction shall not light on us; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed us, and shall lead us unto living fountains of waters, and shall wipe away all tears from our eyes: Amen.
The ninth Consolation. Death delivers us from sin,
which we see reigning in the world, and from the res mains of our own corruption.
WHEN God sent his angels from heaven to bring Lot out of Sodom, and secure him from the flames with which he was about to destroy that abominable city, this good man's wife could not forbear looking back; but she was punished the same moment, by being turned into a pillar of salt, the emblem of that holy prudence which this tragical example recommends to posterity, Gen. xix. That which made this unhappy woman break the angel's express command, was her longing after the pleasures and rich abundance of that country from which she was departing, without once reflecting upon the horrid abominations with which it was defiled, and the crying sins, wbich had brought God's anger and just vengeance upon the wicked inhabitants. Thus, when God is pleased to take us out of the world, and to secure us from the feeling of his dreadful judgments, that
which causes us to look back, and hinders us from following the angels that God sends to lead us up to the mountain of our salvation, is our thinking upon nothing but the riches, honours and pleasures, of this miserable world, instead of considering the iniquities that reign here below, and with which we are ourselves defiled, while we continue in this sinful flesh.
Christian souls, will you prepare yourselves with an holy readiness to go to God? Is it your desire that death should comfort and rejoice your hearts, instead of afflicting them ? Cast your eyes upon the dreadful vices that reign in the world, under the burden of which the whole creation groans. O good God! in what an age are we born ? An age like that of Noah; for all flesh hath corrupted his way upon the earth, Gen. vi. 12; and nothing but a deluge of fire is able to purge it. There never was more injustice, perfidiousness, treachery, debauchery, insolence, and envy; never more vanity, luxury, pride, cruelty, blasphemy, impiety, and atheism. We may justly apply to our days, what the prophet Hosea says of the corruption of his time, There is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood, Hos. iv. 1, 2. Therefore we have good cause to prefer David's prayer, Help, Lord, for the godly man ceaseth ; for the faithful fail from among the children of men. They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips, and with a double heart, do they speak, Psal. xii. 1, 2. O wicked world! a world overflowing with iniquity, a sink of uncleanness, a fiery furnace, belching out flames from the bottomless pit, and choked with the smoke of hell. But sin not only reigns