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by taking us from off the brisker relishes of the world, it makes us with more gust to taste the things of the Spirit; and all this, only when God fits the circumstances of the sickness so as to consist with acts of reason, consideration, choice, and a present and reflecting mind; which then God sends, when he means that the sickness of the body should be the cure of the soul. But let no man so rely upon it aa by design, to trust the beginning, the progress, and the consummation, of our piety to such an estate, which for ever leaves it imperfect: and though to some persons it adds degrees, and ministers opportunities, and exercises single acts with great advantage, in passive graces; yet it is never an entire or sufficient instrument for the change of our condition from the state of death to the liberty and life of the sons of God.
3. It were good, if we would transact the affairs of our souls with nobleness and ingenuity, and that we would, by an early and forward religion, prevent the necessary arts of the Divine providence. It is true, that God cures some by incision, by fire and torments; but these are ever the more obstinate and more unrelenting natures. God's providence is not so afflictive and full of troublel, as that it hath placed sickness and infirmity amongst things simply necessary; and, in most persons, it is but a sickly and an effeminate virtue, which is imprinted upon our spirits with fears, and the sorrows of a fever, or a peevish consumption. It is but a miserable remedy to be beholden to a sickness for our health: and though it be better to suffer the loss of a finger, than that the arm and the whole body should putrefy: yet even then also it is a trouble and an evil to lose a finger. He that mends with sickness, pares the nails of the beast, when they have already torn off part of the flesh: but he that would have a sickness become a clear and an entire blessing, a thing indeed to be reckoned among the good things of God, and the evil things of the world, must lead a holy life, and judge himself with an early sentence, and so order the affairs of his soul, that, in the usual method of God's saving us, there may be nothing left to be done, but that such virtues should be exercised, which God intends to crown: and then, as when
1 Neque tam aversa unquam videbitur ab opere suo providentia, ut debilitas inter optima iuventa sit. ..... k Detestabilis erit caecitas, si nemo oculos perdiderit, nisi cui eruendi sunt. 1 Memineris ergo maximos dolores morte finiri, parvos habere multa inter. valla requietis, mediocrium nos esse dominos. — Cicero.
the Athenians upon a day of battle with longing and uncertain souls sitting in their common-hall, expecting what would be the sentence of the day, at last received a messenger, who only had breath enough left him to say, "We are conquerors," and so died; so shall the sick person, who hath "fought a good fight and kept the faith," and only waits for his dissohttion and his sentence, breathe forth his spirit with the accents of a conqueror, and his sickness and his death shall only make the mercy and the virtue more illustrious.
But for the sickness itself; if all the calumnies were true concerning it, with which it is aspersed, yet it is far to be preferred before the most pleasant sin, and before a great secular business and a temporal care: and some men wake as much in the foldings of the softest beds, as others on the cross: and sometimes the very weight of sorrow and the weariness of a sickness press the spirit into slumbers and the images of rest, when the intemperate or the lustful person rolls upon his uneasy thorns, and sleep is departed from his eyes. Certain it is, some sickness is a blessing. Indeed, blindness were a most accursed thingk, if no man were ever blind, but he, whose eyes were pulled out with tortures or burning basins: and if sickness were always a testimony of God's anger, and a violence to a man's whole condition, then it were a huge calamity: but because God sends it to his servants, to his children, to little infants, to apostles and saints, with designs of mercy, to preserve their innocence, to overcome temptation, to try their virtue, to fit them for rewards; it is certain that sickness never is an evil but by our own faults; and if we will do our duty, we shall be sure to turn it into a blessing. If the sickness be great, it may end in death, and the greater it is1, the sooner: and if it be very little, it hath great intervals of rest: if it be between both, we may be masters of it, and by serving the ends of Providence serve also the perfective end of human nature, and enter into the possession of everlasting mercies.
The sum is this: He that is afraid of pain, is afraid of his own nature; and if his fear be violent, it is a sign his patience is none at all; and an impatient person is not readydressed for heaven. None but suffering, humble, and patient persons can go to heaven; and when God hath given us the whole stage of our life to exercise all the active virtues of religion, it is necessary in the state of virtues, that some portion and period of our lives be assigned to passive graces; for patience, for Christian fortitude, for resignation, or conformity-to the Divine will. But as the violent fear of sickness makes us impatient, so it will make our death without comfort and without religion; and we shall go off from our stage of actions and sufferings with an unhandsome exit, because we were willing to receive the kindness of God, when he expressed it as we listed; but we would not suffer him to be kind and gracious to us in his own method, nor were willing to exercise and improve our virtues at the charge of a sharp fever, or a lingering consumption. "Woe be to the man, that hath lost patience; for what will he do, when the Lord shall visit himm?"
The second Temptation proper to the State of Sickness, Fear of Death, with its Remedies.
There is nothing, which can make sickness unsanctified, but the same also will give us cause to fear death. If, therefore, we so order our affairs and spirits that we do not fear death, our sickness may easily become our advantage; and we can then receive counsel, and consider, and do those acts of virtue, which are, in that state, the proper services of God; and such which men in bondage and fear are not capable of doing, or of advices how they should, when they come to the appointed days of mourning. And indeed, if men would but place their design of being happy in the nobleness, courage, and perfect resolutions of doing handsome things, and passing through our unavoidable necessities, in the contempt and despite of the things of this world, and in holy living, and the perfective desires of our natures, the longings and pursuances after heaven; it is
"Ecdus. ii. 15.
certain, they could not be made miserable by chance and change, by sickness and death. But we are so softened, and made effeminate with delicate thoughts, and meditations of ease, and brutish satisfactions, that, if our death come, before we have seized upon a great fortune, or enjoy the promises of the fortune-tellers, we esteem ourselves to be, robbed of our goods, to be mocked, and miserable. Hence it-comes, that men are impatient of the thoughts of death: hence come those arts of protraction and delaying the significations of old age: thinking to deceive the world, men cozen themselves11, and by representing themselves youthful, they certainly continue their vanity, till Proserpina pull the peruke from their heads. We cannot deceive God and nature: for a coffin is a coffin, though it be covered with a pompous veil; and the minutes of our time strike on, and are counted by angels, till the period comes, which must cause the passing bell to give warning to all the neighbours, that thou art dead, and they must be so: and nothing can excuse or retard this. And if our death could be put off a little longer, what advantage can it be, in thy accounts of nature or felicity? They that, three hundred years agone, died unwillingly, and stopped death two days, or stayed it a week, what is their gain? where is that week? And poor-spirited men use arts of protraction0, and make their persons pitiable, but their condition contemptible; being like the poor sinners at Noah's flood: the waters drove them out of their lower rooms; then they crept up to the roof, having lasted half a day longer, and then they knew not how to get down: some crept upon the top-branch of a tree, and some climbed up to a mountain, and stayed, it may be, three days longer; but all that while they endured a worse torment than death: they
lived with amazement, and were distracted with the ruins of mankind, and the horror of a universal deluge.
Remedies against the Fear of Death by Way of Consideration.
1. God having in this world placed us in a sea, and troubled the sea with a continual storm, hath appointed the church for a ship, and religion to be the stern; but there is no haven or port but death. Death is that harbour, whither God hath designed every one, that there he may find rest from the troubles of the world. How many of the noblest Romans have taken death for sanctuary, and have esteemed it less than shame or a mean dishonour! and Cresar was cruel to Domitius, captain of Corfinium, when he had taken the town from him, that he refused to sign his petition of death. Death would have hid his head with honour, but that cruel mercy reserved him to the shame of surviving his disgracep. The holy Scripture, giving an account of the reasons of the Divine Providence taking godly men from this world, and shutting them up in a hasty grave, says, "that they are taken from the evils to come:" and concerning ourselves it is certain, if we had ten years agone taken seizure of our portion of dust, death had not taken us from good things, but from infinite evils, such which the sun hath seldom seen. Did not Priamus weep oftener than Troilusq? and happy had he been, if he had died, when his sons were living, and his kingdom safe, and houses full, and his city unburnt. It was a long life that made him miserable, and an early death only could have secured his fortune. And it hath happened many times, that persons of a fair life and a clear reputation, of a good fortune and an honourable name, have been tempted in their age to folly and vanityr, have fallen under the disgrace of dotage, or into an unfortunate marriage, or have besotted themselves with drinking, or outlived their for
* Heu, quanto melius vel caede peracta
Parcere Romano potuit fortuna pudori !—Lucanus. q Har. omnia vidit inflammari, Jovis aram sanguine turpari.
'—— Sic longius aevum