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hypochondriacal persons, and designs upon the interest of men and their persuasions to evil purposes; then there is no reason, but that we should really desire death, and account it among the good things of God, and the sour and laborious felicities of man. St. Paul understood it well, when he desired to be dissolved: he well enough knew his own advantages, and pursued them accordingly. But it is certain, that he, that is afraid of death, I mean, with a violent and transporting fear, with a fear apt to discompose his duty or his patience, that man either loves this world too much, or dares not trust God for the next.
General Rules and Exercises whereby our Sickness
1. Take care that the cause of thy sickness be such, as may not sour it in the principal and original causes of it. It is a sad calamity to pass into the house of mourning through the gates of intemperance, by a drunken meeting, or the surfeits of a loathed and luxurious table; for then a man suffers the pain of his own folly, and he is like a fool smarting under the whip, which his own viciousness twisted for his back j then a man pays the price of his sin, and hath a pure and an unmingled sorrow in his suffering; and it cannot be alleviated by any circumstances, for the whole affair is a mere process of death and sorrow. Sin is in the head, sickness is in the body, and death and an eternity of pains in the tail; and nothing can make this condition tolerable, unless the miracles of the Divine mercy will be pleased to exchange the eternal anger for the temporal. True it is, that, in all sufferings, the cause of it makes it noble or ignoble, honour or shame, tolerable or intolerableq. For when patience is assaulted by a ruder violence, by a blow from heaven or earth, from a gracious God or an unjust man, patience looks forth to the doors, which way she may escape. And if innocence or a cause of religion keep the first entrance, then, whether she escapes at the gates of life or death, there is a good to be received, greater than the evils of a sickness: but if sin thrust in that sickness, and that hell stands at the door, then patience turns into fury, and seeing it impossible to go forth with safety, rolls up and down with a circular and infinite revolution, makes its motion not from, but upon, its own centre; it doubles the painr, and increases the sorrow, till by its weight it breaks the spirit, and bursts into the agonies of infinite and eternal ages. If we had seen St. Polycarp burning to death, or St. Laurence roasted upon his gridiron, or St. Ignatius exposed to lions, or St. Sebastian pierced with arrows, or St. Attalus carried about the theatre with scorn unto his death for the cause of Jesus, for religion, for God and a holy conscience; we should have been in love with flames, and have thought the gridiron fairer than the spondee, the ribs of a marital bed; and we should have chosen to converse with those beasts, rather than those men, that brought those beasts forth; and estimated the arrows to be the rays of light brighter than the moon; and that disgrace and mistaken pageantry were a solemnity richer and more magnificent than Mordecai's procession upon the king's horse, and in the robes of majesty: for so did these holy men account them; they kissed their stakes, and hugged their deaths, and ran violently to torments, and counted whippings and secular disgraces to be the enamel of their persons, and the ointment of their heads, and the embalming their names, and securing them for immortality. But to see Sejanus torn in pieces by the people, or Nero crying or creeping timorously to his death, when he was condemned to die more majorum; to see Judas pale and trembling, full of anguish, sorrow, and despair; to observe the groanings and intolerable agonies of Herod and Antiochus, will tell and demonstrate the causes of patience and impatience to proceed from the causes of the suffering: and it is sin only, that makes the cup bitter and deadly. When men, by vomiting, measure up the drink they took ins, and sick and 'sad do again taste their meat turned into choler by intemperance, the sin and its punishment are mingled so, that shame covers the face, and sorrow puts a veil of darkness upon the heart: and we scarce pity a vile person, that is haled to execution for murder or for treason, but we say he deserves it, and that every man is concerned in it, that he should die. If lust brought the sickness or the shame, if we truly suffer the rewards of our evil deeds, we must thank ourselves; that is, we are fallen into an evil condition, and are the sacrifice of the Divine justice. But if we live holy lives, and if we enter well in, we are sure to pass on safe, and to go forth with advantage, if we list ourselves.
* Solattum est pro hones to dura tolerare, et ad eausam patientin respicit.— 1 Pet. ii. 19. Heb. xi. 36. Matt. T. 11.
'Magis his quae patitur, vexat causa patiendi.
» Hi quicquid biberint, vomitu remetientur tristes, et bilem suam regus. t antes Seneca.
2. To this relates, that we should not counterfeit sickness: for he, that is to be careful of his passage into a sickness, will think himself concerned, that he fall not into it through a trap-door: for so it hath sometimes happened, that such counterfeiting to light and evil purposes hath ended in a real sufferance. Appian tells of a Roman gentleman, who, to escape the proscription of the triumvirate, fled, and to secure his privacy counterfeited himself blind on one eye, and wore a plaster upon it, till beginning to be free from the malice of the three prevailing princes, he opened his hood, but could not open his eye, but for ever lost the use of it, and with his eye paid for his liberty and hypocrisy. And Caelius counterfeited the gout', and all its circumstances and pains, its dressings and arts of remedy, and complaint, till at last the gout really entered and spoiled the pageantry. His arts of dissimulation were so witty, that they put life and motion into the very image of the disease; he made the very picture to sigh and groan.
It is easy to tell, upon the interest of what virtue such counterfeiting is to be reproved. But it will be harder to snatch the politics of the world from following that, which they call a canonised and authentic precedent: and David's counterfeiting himself mad before the king of Gath, to save his life and liberty, will be sufficient to entice men to serve an end upon the stock and charges of so small an irregularity, not in the matter of manners, but in the rules and decencies of natural or civil deportment. I cannot certainly tell, what degrees of excuse David's action might put on. This only, besides his present necessity, the laws, whose coercive or directive power David lived under, had less of severity, and more of liberty, and towards enemies had so little of restraint and so great a power, that what amongst them was a direct sin, if used to their brethren the sons of Jacob, was lawful and permitted to be acted against enemies. To which also I add this general caution, that the actions of holy persons in Scripture are not always good precedents to us Christians, who are to walk by a rule and a greater strictness, with more simplicity and heartiness of pursuit. And amongst them, sanctity and holy living did, in very many of its instances, increase in new particulars of duty; and the prophets reproved many things, which the law forbad not; and taught many duties, which Moses prescribed not; and as the time of Christ's approach came, so the sermons and revelations too were more evangelical, and like the patterns, which were fully to be exhibited by the Son of God. Amongst which, it is certain, that Christian simplicity and godly sincerity are to be accounted: and counterfeiting of sickness is a huge enemy to this: it is an upbraiding the Divine Providence, a jesting with fire, a playing with a thunderbolt, a making the decrees of God to serve the vicious or secular ends of men; it is a tempting of a judgment, a false accusation of God, a forestalling and antedating his anger; it is a cozening of men by making God a party in the fraud: and therefore, if the cozenage returns upon the man's own head, he enters like a fox into his sickness, and perceives himself catched in a trap, or earthed in the intolerable dangers of the grave.
'Tantum cura potest et ars doloris: desit fingere Coclius podagram. — Mart. 1. vii. ep. 38.
3. Although we must be infinitely careful to prevent it, that sin does not thrust us into a sickness; yet when we are in the house of sorrow, we should do well to take physic against sin, and suppose that it is the cause of the evil; if not by way of natural casualty and proper effect, yet by a moral influence, and by a just demerit. We can easily see, when a man hath got a surfeit; intemperance is as plain as the handwriting upon the wall, and easier to be read; but covetousness may cause a fever as well as drunkenness, and pride can produce a falling-sickness as well as long washings and dilutions of the brain, and intemperate lust: and we find it recorded in Scripture, that the contemptuous and unprepared manner of receiving of the holy sacraments caused sickness and death; and sacrilege and vow-breach in Ananias and Sapphira made them to descend quick into their graves. Therefore, when sickness is upon us, let us cast about; and, if we can, let us find out the cause of God's displeasure; that, it being removed, we may return into the health and securities of God's loving kindness. Thus, in the three years' famine, David inquired of the Lord, what was the matter: and God answered, "It is for Saul and his bloody house:" and then David expiated the guilt, and the people were full again of food and blessing. And when Israel was smitten by the Amorites, Joshua cast about, and found out the accursed thing, and cast it out; and the people, after that, fought prosperously. And what God in that case said to Joshua, he will also verify to us; "I will not be with you any more, unless you destroy the accursed thing from among youu." But in pursuance of this we are to observe, that although, in case of loud and clamorous sins, the discovery is easy, and the remedy not difficult; yet because Christianity is a nice thing, and religion is as pure as the sun, and the soul of man is apt to be troubled from more principles than the intricate and curiously-composed body in its innumerable parts, it will often happen, that if we go to inquire into the particular, we shall never find it out; and we may suspect drunkenness, when it may be also a morose delectation in unclean thoughts, or covetousness, or oppression, or a crafty invasion of my neighbour's rights, or my want of charity, or my judging unjustly in my own cause, or my censuring my neighbours, or a secret pride, or a base hypocrisy, or the pursuance of little ends with violence and passion, that may have procured the present messenger of death. Therefore ask no more after any one, but heartily endeavour to reform all: "sin no more, lest a worse thing happen "v: for a single search or accusation may be the design of an imperfect repentance; but no man does heartily return to God, but he that decrees against every irregularity; and then only we can be restored to health or life, when we have taken away the causes of sickness and a cursed death.