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11. OF DEATH.
Men fear death as children fear to go into the dark; and as that natural fear in children is in. creased with tales, so is the other. Certainly, the contemplation of death, as the wages of sin and passage to another world, is holy and religious; but the fear of it, as a tribute due unto nature, is weak. Yet in religious meditations there is sometimes mixture of vanity and of superstition. You shall read in some of the friars' books of mortification, that a man should think with himself what the pain is, if he have but his finger's end pressed, or tortured, and thereby imagine what the pains of death are when the whole body is corrupted and dissolved; when many times death passeth with less pain than the torture of a limb; for the most vital parts are not the quickest of sense: and by him that spake only as a philosopher and natural man, it was well said, “ Pompa mortis magis ter. ret, quam mors ipsa." Groans, and convulsions, and a discoloured face, and friends weeping, and blacks and obsequies, and the like, shew death terrible. It is worthy the observing, that there is no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man bath so many attendants about him that can win the combat of him. Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honour aspireth to it; grief flieth to it; fear pre-occupieth it; nay, we read, after Othọ the emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the ten. derest of affections) provoked many to die 'out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as the truest sort of followers. Nay, Seneca adds, niceness and satiety: “Cogita quamdiu eadem feceris; mori velle, non tantum fortis, aut miser, sed etiam fastidiosus potest.” A man would die, though he were neither valiant nor miserable, only upon a weariness to do the same thing so oft over and over. It is no less worthy to observe, how little altera. tion in good spirits the approaches of death make; for they appear to be the same men till the last instant. Augustus Cæsar died in a compliment : “ Livia, conjugii nostri memor, vive et vale.” Ti. berius in dissimulation, as Tacitus saith of him, “ Jam Tiberium vires et corpus, non dissimulatio, deserebaut :” Vespasian in a jest, sitting upon the stool, Ut puto Deus fio :" Galba with a sentence," Feri, si ex re sit populi Romani,” holding forth his neck: Septimus Severus in dispatch, “Adeste, si quid mihi restat agendum," and the like. Certainly, the Stoics bestowed too much cost upon death, and by their great preparations made it appear more fearful. Better, saith he,“ qui finem vitæ extremum inter munera ponat naturæ." It is as natural to die as to be born; and to a little infant, perhaps, the ove is as painful as the other. He that dies in an earnest pursuit, is like one that is wounded in hot blood; who, for the time, scarce feels the hurt; and therefore a mind fixed and bent upon somewhat that is good, doth avert the dolours of death : but, above all, believe it, the sweetest canticle is, “ Nunc dimittis," when a man hath obtained worthy ends and expectations. Death hath this also, that it openeth the gate to good
fame, and extinguisheth envy: “Exstinctus amabitur idem."
Religion being the chief bond of human society, it is a happy thing when itself is well contained within the true bond of unity. The quarrels and divisions about religion were evils unknown to the heathen. The reason was, because the religion of the heathen consisted rather in rites and ceremonies, than in any constant belief: for you may imagine what kind of faith theirs was, when the chief doctors and fathers of their church were the poets. But the true God hath this attribute, that he is a jealous God; and therefore his worship and religion will endure no mixture nor partner. We shall therefore speak a few words concerning the unity of the church ;. what are the fruits thereof; what the bonds; and what the means.
The fruits of unity (next unto the well-pleasing of God, which is all in all) are two; the one towards those that are without the church, the other towards those that are within. For the former, it is certain, that heresies and schisms are of all others the greatest scandals; yea, more than corruption of manners : for as in the natural body a wound or solution of continuity is worse than a corrupt humour, so in the spiritual: so that nothing doth so much keep men out of the church, and drive men out of the church, as breach of unity; and, therefore, whensoever it cometh to that pass that one saith, ecce in deserto," another saith, ecce in penetralibus;" that is, when some men seek Christ in the conventicles of heretics, and others in an outward face of a church, that voice had need continually to sound in men's ears, “ nolite exire,”
go not out." The doctor of the Gentiles (the propriety of whose vocation drew him to have a special care of those without) saith, “ If an heathen come in, and hear you speak with several tongues, will he not say that you are mad?” and, certainly, it is little better: when atheists and profane persons do hear of so many discordant and contrary opinions in religion, it doth avert them from the church, and maketh them “ to sit down in the chair of the scorners." It is but a light thing to be vonched in so serious a matter, but yet it expresseth well the deformity. There is a master of scoffing, that in his catalogue of books of a feigned library, sets down this title of a book, “ The Morris-Dance of Heretics :" for, indeed, every sect of them hath a diverse posture, or cringe, by themselves, which cannot but move derision in worldlings and depraved politics, who are apt to contemn holy things.
As for the fruit towards those that are within, it is peace, which containeth infinite blessings; it establisheth faith; it kindleth charity; the outward peace of the church distilleth into peace of con. science, and it turneth the labours of writing and reading controversies into treatises of mortification and devotion.
Concerning the bonds of unity, the true placing of them importeth exceedingly. There appear to be two extremes: for to certain zealots all speech of pacification is odious. “ Is it peace, Jehu?"
“ What hast thou to do with peace ? turn thee behind me.” Peace is not the matter, but following and party. Contrariwise, certain Laodiceans and lukewarm persons think they may accommodate points of religion by middle ways, and taking part of both, and witty, reconcilements, as if they would make an arbitrement between God and man. Both these extremes are to be avoided; which will be done if the league of Christians, penned by our Saviour himself, were in the two cross clauses thereof soundly and plainly expounded : “ He that is not with us is against us;" and again, “ He that is not against us is with us;' that is, if the points fundamental, and of substance in religion, were truly discerned and distinguished from points not merely of faith, but of opinion, order, or good intention: This is a thing may seem to many a matter trivial, and done already; but if it were done less partially, it would be embraced more generally.
Of this. I may give only this advice, according to my small model. Men ought to take heed of rending God's church by two kinds of controversies; the one is, when the matter of the point controverted is too small and light, not worth the heat and strife about it, kindled only by contradiction; for, as it is noted by one of the fathers, Christ's coat indeed had no seam, but the church's vesture was of divers colours; whereupon he saith, “ in veste varietas sit, scissura non sit," they be, two things, unity and uniformity; the other is, when the matter of the point controverted is great, but it is driven to an over great subtilty and obscurity, so that it becometh a thing rather ingenious than