« AnteriorContinuar »
the promise which God hath given, That he will succour us in our distress, and deliver us from all our troubles. Jacob's ladder that reaches up to the heaven may ravish us with admiration ; but it seems very difficult to ascend. Paradise is rich, glorious, and abounds with the sweetest delights ; but the gate to it is strait, and all choaked up with thorns.
8. I also conclude, that one of the chief reasons why we fear death, is, because we look upon God as a most severe judge, inflamed with anger and indignation, and armed with vengeance against us: whereas we should consider him as a merciful Father, full of the bowels of compassion and kindness. Every slave trembles at the sight of his lord ; and there is no malefactor but is afraid when he appears before his judge, to be examined upon the rack. Then how can I, who am polluted with sin, and blackened with crimes, appear before that glorious throne, before which the seraphims cover their faces with their wings ? Is. vi. How shall I, that am but stubble, be able to endure the presence of that great avenging God, who is a consuming fire, Heb. xii. 29.
9. Another visible defect is, we do not embrace with a true and lively faith, the death and passion of our Lord and Saviour. We all talk of Jesus Christ crucified; but we do not comprehend the divine virtue of his passion, nor feel its efficacy. We do not consider that his death hath rent asunder the veil that kept us from the heavenly sanctuary, and that his blood hath marked out for us the way to paradise, and procured us an entrance into it.
10. To avoid the horror which thinking on the grave is apt to give us, we do not reflect, as we ought, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ hath himself lain in the
grave, and that he hath sanctified it with his holy and divine presence. We do not engrave upon our minds, that it is just and reasonable that we should be conform able to Christ in his abasement, if we will have any part with him in his glory and exaltation.
11. Another cause, which nourishes in our souls the fear of death, is this, we look upon it as if it was in its full strength and vigour ; whereas we should remember, that Jesus Christ hath overcome and disarmed it by his resurrection, and that we have nothing to do but to follow the glorious track of his victorious wheels, and fasten that furious beast to his triumphant chariot.
12. We do not consider enough, with a serious and religious attention, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, is not only risen from the grave victorious and triumphant, but that he is also ascended into the highest heavens, as our forerunner, to prepare a place for us; and that by departing out of our miserable bodies, we follow the footsteps of our glorious Redeemer, to go and reap with him, the immortal fruits of his ineffable victories.
13. We confine ourselves too much to the contemplation of our frail, corrupt and mortal nature; and we sel
; dom enter into this most necessary meditation, that by the Holy Spirit we are nearly and inseparably united to Jesus Christ, the Prince of Life, and the Fountain of Light; and that we have already in us the seeds of blessedness, of glory and immortality.
14. As the Children of Israel murmured in the desert against Moses, and longed to be again in Egypt, forgetting the bitter slavery under which they had groaned, their making of bricks, and the heat of the furnaces ; and minding only the pleasures which they had lost,
they dreamed of nothing but the abundance of bread, the flesh-pots, cucumbers, onions, and other dainties, with which they had so often satisfied their hunger ; so we repine at death because we do not reflect
the evils from which it delivers us; we only think upon
the vain delights and seeming advantages of which it deprives us.
15. We foolishly imagine that death destroys and reduces us to nothing ; and do not consider, that, with, out touching our essential part, it only takes from us sin, in which we were entangled, and breaks the rest of the chains of our spiritual bondage ; so that death is rather the death of sin, than of the faithful.
16. Another great error in us is, we do not lift up our minds to contemplate the glory prepared for us as soon as our souls shall have left our languishing bodies.Whatever face we may set upon the matter, we do not heartily believe in the felicities which God hath promised to all those that shall come into his presence. Sometimes, indeed we think upon the joys of paradise ; but then it is a transient thought, that quickly passes through our souls, and takes no root; insomuch, that many, if mere shame did not restrain them, would be apt to cry out with the emperor Adrian, “My dearest soul, my “ little darling, the guest and companion of my body, “whither art thou going?”
17. Add to this, that we fix our attention, and dwell too much, upon the rottenness and corruption that threatens the body; whereas we should, by faith, extend our views to the glorious resurrection that shall soon follow. Charming abode, the delightful host of my soul, must death snatch me from thee with so much violence ? Must I part from thy loved and sweet society ? Must I leave thee upon such hard and lamentable terms? That of so many honours which have been heaped upon thee, not so much as the shadow shall follow thee to the grave ? That of all thy rich furniture and treasures, thou shalt bear away nothing but a winding sheet, a few boards, or at the most some pounds of lead. After thou hast been clothed with so much magnificence, must thy covering at last be the worms ? After thou hast lived so proudly in palaces gilded with gold, and perfumed with the sweetest odours, must thy abode be at last a stinking and loathsome sepulchre ? Must these beautiful eyes lose their lustre? These coral lips become pale. This golden mouth be stopped ? And must this flesh, sustained with so much delicacy, rot, and become an abhorrence in the eyes of the world ?
18. In the last place, we do not meditate as we ought, upon that fulness of bliss and glory which is prepared for us from the foundation of the world, and of which we shall have the full and perfect enjoyment, when Christ Jesus shall come from heaven, with his holy angels, to judge the quick and the dead. He shall then re-upite our souls and bodies, for all eternity, "That he may be
glorified in his saints, and his wonders made manifest “in all the faithful.”
The first remedy against the Fears of Death, is, to medi
tate often upon it. THE most dreadful things are made familiar to us by custom. Soldiers who are raw and unexperienced, commonly tremble at the sight of the enemy, turn pale
at the noise of the muskets, and fall to the ground half dead at the roaring of the cannon ; but when their courage hath been once hardened by a long exercise, they will march to seek the enemy, even up to his intrenchment, and will go to the battle with as much gaiety as to a feast or a triumph. Neither the tempestuous vollies of the small shot, nor the thunder and lightning of the ordnance, can make them wink their eyes, or cover their heads, and they themselves laugh at their former apprehensions. So the first notions of death commonly scare and terrify us; but when we have seriously meditated upon it, and take a nearer view of it, we not only cease to fear it, but boldly march up to its very intrenchments, and with an undaunted countenance behold it lanch all its thunders, and let fly all its arrows. As they who are not accustomed to the sight of savage beasts dare not go near them, and can hardly look upon them without horror; but such as are used to live with, and caress them, can touch them without apprehension, and freely play with them : so they who never had the confidence to look death in the face, tremble, and are dismayed, as soon as they see it approach ; but they who often meditate upon
it, make it familiar to them, and can, without fear, put their hands into its mouth. Moses fled from before his rod, the first time it was turned into a serpent; but wben he had taken courage to lay hold of it, and saw that it returned to its former shape, he was so far from flying from before it, or being afraid of it, that he employed it to a very happy use, and, by God's command, wrought with it many miracles. Thus it is with death, it frightens us at first ; but if we once lay hold of it with the hands of a true and lively faith, it will be so far from frightening us, that it will discover to us a new world of most excellent wonders.