« PreviousContinue »
ing: When the Eye-Balls ftart with
Covenant of Promife; who have no Interest in the Crofs and Paffion of Christ, but pass from the First Death to the Second Let those be afraid of dying, who were never born of Water and the Spirit, who are doom'd to the Torments of Hell, to those Fires that burn for ever: 'Tis true, to fuch People Life is a Refpite from Torture, and may reasonably be defir'd; but God be thank'd, this is not our Cafe. A great many of the Faithful dye 'tis granted; that is, a great many of them are got clear of an Ill-natur'd World. That which is the Plague to Jews and Pagans, is properly fpeaking a Deliverance to the Servants of God. 'Tis not deny'd, Believers and Infidels are fwept away with the Vifitation; but tho their Death is undiftinguifh'd, their future Condition is not fo. The Righteous are call'd off to Refreshment; the Wicked are dragg'd to Execution: Protection comes fooner to the one, and Punishment to the other.
Beloved, we don't think far enough upon what lies before us; we are really ungrateful to the Divine Bounty; and seem infenfible of the prefent Advantage. Let's look over the different States and Circumftances of thofe in the Church: The Virgins go off with Safety and Ho
nour: The Menaces of Antichrist, Pagan Abufe, and Haling to the Stems, is no more the Object of thefr Fear. Children ftop fhort of Slippery Ground, efcape the Temptations of Youth, and receive the Rewards of Innocence. Now, the Gentlewoman that has been tenderly bred, is no more afraid of Cruelty and Outrage: By this expeditious Difpatch fhe is carry'd out of Danger, and cover'd from a rough Executioner. By the Terror of the Mortali ty the Zeal of the Lukewarm is kindled, the Negligent are better recollected, and the Lazy awaken'd to Action; the Revolters return with Remorfe, and the Heathens take Shelter in the Church the Veteran Christians are discharg'd, and thofe new listed better prepar'd for the Enemy: The Plague has difciplin'd their Limbs, and harden'd their Courage.
Befides, there's one Circumftance in this Vifitation of no Ordinary Significancy, how frightful foever it may appear For does it not examine the Infide effectually, and bring the Mind to the Touch? Are not the Thoughts and Tempers of Men laid open in a great meafure? Is it not eafy now to difcern whether the Healthy are difpos'd to affift the Sick? Whether People have any Ten
derness for their Relations? Whether Masters treat their Servants with Pity, and due Regard? Whether Physicians don't defert their Patients, grow deaf to Importunity, and leave them to struggle with the Disease? Whether the Savage and Quarrelfome will fmooth their Roughness, and temper their Paffion? Whether the Image and Approach of Death can make the Covetous drop his Inclination, loofen his Grafp, and grow cool in his cuftomary Pursuits? Whether the Proud will bend to the Judgment, Knaves fuffer Confcience to revive, and Libertines grow modeft and referv'd? And lastly, whether the Rich will open their Hand, and relieve the Poor, when their Relations are gone, and there's no Heir to weaken their Charity? And waving other Confiderations, Christians may receive great Benefit by the Mortality, from what I'm going to mention For by teaching us an Indifference for Life, we begin to be ambitious of Martyrdom. There's more of Exercife than Funeral in these Calamities; they improve the Vigour of the Mind, lead to a Contempt of Death, and make way to Happiness and Glory.
But I foresee what I now touch on may be turn'd to an Objection: Some
Christian may probably anfwer, I had prepared for Perfecution, and engag'd my Life to the Stake: And now I'm afraid my Refolus tion will come to nothing, and that the Plague may Snatch me from Martyrdom. This is the most Afflicting Confideration.
To this I reply in the firit place, That Martyrdom is an Honour at God's dif pofal, and not in the power of Man ; The Dignity of fucha Death is, it may be, more than you deferv'd, and therefore you can't properly fay you lost it : Befides, God, Who fearches the Reins and the Heart, and looks into the Retirements of the Soul, takes notice of your Fervour, and commends your holy Purpofe, and will reward your Readiness for the Laft Proof. For where Confeffion * is fix'd, and Martyrdom refolv'd, the * Before Intention will be crown'd, tho' the then Magi Matter goes no further For 'tis one trates, thing to want the Will, and another the Opportunity for Martyrdom. 'Tis not our Blood, but our Faith and our Forti tude, which God requires: Neither, Abraham, Ifaac, nor Jacob, loft their Lives for Religion; and yet their Faith and exemplary Probity has given them Fidei & the First Rank among the Patriarchs, jufticia and made them as it were a Stand in Pa- Meritis. radife for Happy Spirits to