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tunes, or become tedious to their friends, or are afflicted with lingering and vexatious diseases, or lived to see their excellent parts buried, and cannot understand the wise discourses and productions of their younger years. In all these cases, and infinite more, do not all the world say, that it had been better this man had died sooner3? But so have I known passionate women to shriek aloud, when their nearest relatives were dying, and that horrid shriek hath stayed the spirit of the man awhile to wonder at the folly, and represent the inconvenience; and the dying person hath lived one day longer full of pain, amazed with an indeterminate spirit, distorted with convulsions, and only come again to act one scene more of a new calamity, and to die with less decency. So also do very many men; with passion and a troubled interest they strive to continue their life longer; and, it may be, they escape this sickness, and live to fall into a disgrace; they escape the storm, and fall into the hands of pirates; and, instead of dying with liberty, they live like slaves, miserable and despised, servants to a little time, and sottish admirers of the breath of their own lungs. Paulus iEmilius did handsomely reprove the cowardice of the king of Macedon, who begged of him, for pity's sake and humanity, that having conquered him and taken his kingdom from him, he would be content with that, and not lead him in triumph a prisoner to Rome. iEmilius told him, he need not be beholden to him for that; himself might prevent that in despite of him. But the timorous king durst not die. But certainly every wise man will easily believe, that it had been better the Macedonian kings should have died in battle, than protract their life so long, till some of them came to be scriveners and joiners at Rome: or that the tyrant of Sicily better had perished in the Adriatic, than to be wafted to Corinth safely, and there turn schoolmaster. It is a sad calamity, that the fear of death shall so imbecile man's courage and understanding, that he dares not suffer the remedy of all his calamities; but that he lives to say, as Laberius did, "I have lived this one day longer than I should'." Either, therefore, let us be willing to die, when God calls, or let us never more complain of the calamities of our life, which we feel so sharp and numerous. And when God sends his angel to us with the scroll of death, let us look on it as an act of mercy, to prevent many sins and many calamities of a longer life, and lay our heads down softly, and go to sleep without wrangling like babies and froward children. For a man (at least) gets this by death, that his calamities are not immortal11.
* Mors illi melius quam tu consuluit quidem: quisquam ne secundis tradeTM be fatis audet nisi morte parata ?—Luc. 1. viii.
1 Nimirum hac die una plus vixi, mihi quam viTendum fuit.
But I do not only consider death by the advantages of comparison; but if we look on it in itself, it is no such formidable thing, if we view it on both sides and handle it, and consider all its appendages.
2. It is necessary, and therefore not intolerable: and nothing is to be esteemed evil, which God and nature have fixed with eternal sanctionsv. It is a law of God, it is a punishment of our sins, and it is the constitution of our nature. Two differing substances were joined together with the breath of God w, and when that breath is taken away, they part asunder, and return to their several principles: the soul to God our Father, the body to the earth our mother: and what in all this is evil? Surely nothing, but that we are men; nothing, but that we were not born immortal: but by declining this change with great passion, or receiving it with a huge natural fear, we accuse the Divine Providence of tyranny, and exclaim against our natural constitution, and are discontent, that we are men.
3. It is a thing, that is no great matter in itself; if we consider, that we die daily, that it meets us in every accident, that every creature carries a dart along with it, and can kill us. And therefore when Lysimachus threatened Theodorus to kill him, he told him, that was no great matter to do, and he could do no more than the cantharides could: a little fly could do as much.
4. It is a thing, that every one suffersx, even persons of the lowest resolution, of the meanest virtue, of no breeding,
u Hoc homomorte lucratur, ne malum esset immortale Naz.
r Nihil in malis ducamus, quod sit a Diis immortalibus vel a Natura parente omnium, constitutum.
w Concretum fuit, discretum est; rediitque unde venerat; terra deorsum, spiritus sursum. Quid ex his omnibus iniquum est ? nihil.—Epichar.
x Natura dedit usuram vitse tanquam pecuniae; quid est ergo quod querare, si repetat cum vult ? eadem enim lege acceperas Seneca.
of no discourse. Take away but the pomps of death, the disguises and solemn bugbears, the tinsel, and the actings by candle-light, and proper and fantastic ceremonies, the minstrels and the noise-makers, the women and the weepers, the swoonings and the shriekings, the nurses and the physicians, the dark room and the ministers, the kindred and the watchers; and then to die is easy, ready and quitted from its troublesome circumstances. It is the same harmless thing, that a poor shepherd suffered yesterday, or a maid-servant to-day; and at the same time in which you die, in that very night a thousand creatures die with you*, some wise men, and many fools; and the wisdom of the first will not quit him, and the folly of the latter does not make him unable to die.
5. Of all the evils of the world which are reproached with an evil character, death is the most innocent of its accusation. For when it is present, it hurts nobodyz; and when it is absent, it is indeed troublesome, but the trouble is owing to our fears, not to the affrighting and mistaken object: and besides this, if it were an evil, it is so transient, that it passes like the instant or undiscerned portion of the present time; and either it is past, or it is not yeta; for just when it is, no man hath reason to complain of so insensible, so sudden, so undiscerned a change.
6. It is so harmless a thing, that no good man was ever thought the more miserable for dying, but much the happier. When men saw the graves of Calatinus, of the Servilii, the Scipios, the Metelli, did ever any man among the wisest Romans think them unhappy? And when St. Paul fell under the sword of Nero, and St. Peter died upon the cross, and St. Stephen from a heap of stones was carried into an easier grave, they that made great lamentation over them, wept for their own interest, and after the manner of men; but the martyrs were accounted happy, and their days kept solemnly, and their memories preserved in never-dying honours. When St. Hilary, bishop of Poictiers in France, went into the East to reprove the Arian heresy, he heard, that a young noble gentleman treated with his daughter Abra for marriage. The bishop wrote to his daughter, that she should not engage her promise, nor do countenance to that request, because he had provided for her a husband fair, rich, wise, and noble, far beyond her present offer. The event of which was this: she obeyed: and when her father returned from his eastern triumph to his western charge, he prayed to God that his daughter might die quickly: and God heard his prayers, and Christ took her into his bosom, entertaining her with antepasts and caresses of holy love, till the day of the marriage-supper of the Lamb shall come. But when the bishop's wife observed this event, and understood of the good man her husband what was done, and why, she never let him alone, till he obtained the same favour for her; and she also, at the prayers of St. Hilary, went into a more early grave and a bed of joys.
y Vitae est avidus, quisquis non vult mundo secum pereunte mori. Seneca,
Par est moriri: neque est melius morte in malis rebus urne-is Plant. Bud.
"Aut fuit, aut veniet; nihil est praesentis in ilia:
7. It is a sottish and an unlearned thing to reckon the time of our life, as it is short or long, to be good or evil fortune; life in itself being neither good nor bad, but just as we make it; and therefore so is death.
8. But when we consider, death is not only better than a miserable life, not only an easy and innocent thing in itself, but also that it is a state of advantage, we shall have reason not to double the sharpnesses of our sickness by our fear of death. Certain it is, death hath some good upon its proper stock; praise, and a fair memory, a reverence and religion towards them so great, that it is counted dishonest to speak evil of the deadb; then they rest in peace, and are quiet from their labours, and are designed to immortality. Cleobis and Biton, Trophonius and Agamedes, had an early death sent them as a reward; to the former, for their piety to their mother; to the latter, for building of a temple. To this all those arguments will minister, which relate the advantages of the state of separation and resurrection.
b Virtutem incolumem odiums,
Sublatam ex oralis quaerimus invidi.— Horat. Et laudas nullos nisi mortuos poetas.—Mart.
1. He that would willingly be fearless of death, must learn to despise the world; he must neither love any thing passionately, nor be proud of any circumstance of his life. "O death, how bitter is the remembrance of thee to a man, that liveth at rest in his possessions, to a man that hath nothing to vex him, and that hath prosperity in all things; yea, unto him that is yet able to receive meat!" said the son of Sirach. But the parts of this exercise help each other. If a man be not incorporated in all his passions to the things of this world, he will less fear to be divorced from them by a supervening death; and yet because he must part with them all in death, it is but reasonable, he should not be passionate for so fugitive and transient interest. But if any man thinks well of himself, for being a handsome person, or if he be stronger and wiser than his neighbours, he must remember o, that what he boasts of, will decline into weakness and dishonour; but that very boasting and complacency will make death keener and more unwelcome, because it comes to take him from his confidences and pleasures, making his beauty equal to those ladies, that have slept some years in charnel-houses, and their strength not so stubborn as the breath of an infant, and their wisdom such, which can be looked for in the land, where all things are forgotten.
2. He that would not fear death, must strengthen his spirits with the proper instruments of Christian fortitude. All men are resolved upon this, that to bear grief honestly and temperately, and to die willingly and nobly, is the duty of a good and valiant mand: and they that are not so, are vicious, and fools, and cowards. All men praise the valiant
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Ka) nXtvrat ocxatrut yav lTttrrifittos. — Pindar. Nem. 10.
Die, homo, vas cinerum, quid confert flos facierum?
Copia quid rerum ? mors ultima meta dierum.
Fortem posce animum mortis terrore carentem,
Qui spatium vitse extremum inter munera ponat.