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men playing at tenniscourt, swooned, and recovered not; Henry the Second was killed running at tilt; Ludovicus Borgia with riding the great horse; and the old Syracusan, Archimedes, was slain by a rude soldier as he was making diagrams in the sand, which was his greatest pleasure. How many men have died laughing, or in the ecstasies of a great joy! Philippides the comedian, and Dionysius, the tyrant of Sicily, died with joy at the news of a victory; Diagoras of Rhodes, and Chilo the philosopher, expired in the embraces of their sons crowned with an Olympic laurel'; Polycrita Naxia, being saluted the saviouress of her country; Marcus Juventius, when the senate decreed him honours; the emperor Conrad the Second, when he triumphed after the conquest of Italy; had a joy bigger than their heart, and their fancy swelled it, till they burst, and died". Death can enter in at any door: Philistion of Nice died with excessive laughter; so did the poet Philemon, being provoked to it only by seeing an ass eat figs. And the number of persons who have been found suddenly dead in their beds is so great, that, as it engages many to a more certain and regular devotion for their compline, so it were well it were pursued to the utmost intention of God; that is, that all the parts of religion should, with zeal and assiduity, be entertained and finished, that, as it becomes wise men, we never be surprised with that we are sure will sometime or other happen. A great general in Italy, at the sudden death of Alfonsus of Ferrara, and Ludovico Corbinelli, at the sight of the sad accident upon Henry the Second of France now mentioned, turned religious, and they did what God intended in those deaths. It concerns us to be curious of single actions, because, even in those shorter periods, we may expire and find our graves. But if the state of life be contradictory to our hopes of heaven, it is like affronting of a cannon before a beleaguered town a month together; it is a contempt of safety, and a rendering all reason useless and unprofitable: but he only is wise, who, having made death familiar to him by expectation and daily apprehension, does at all instants go forth to meet it. The
k Plin. lib. vii. c. 53.
m Plut. et Gel. de Illust. Mulier.
• Lotus nobiscum est, hilaris cœnavit, et idem inventus manè est mortuus Andragoras. Mart. lib. vi.
1 Cicer. 1. Tusc.
wise virgins "went forth to meet the bridegroom," for they "( were ready." Excellent, therefore, is the counsel of the son of Sirach: "Use physic or ever thou be sick. Before judgment examine thyself, and in the day of visitation thou shalt find mercy. Humble thyself before thou be sick, and in the time of sins show repentance. Let nothing hinder thee to pay thy vows in due time, and defer not until death to be justified?."
5. Secondly I consider, that it often happens, that, in those few days of our last visitation, which many men design for their preparation and repentance, God hath expressed by an exterior accident, that those persons have deceived themselves, and neglected their own salvation. St. Gregory reports of Chrysaurius, a gentleman in the province of Va leria, rich, vicious, and witty, lascivious, covetous, and proud, that, being cast upon his death-bed, he fancied he saw evil spirits coming to arrest him and drag him to hell. He fell into great agony and trouble, shrieked out, called for his son, who was a very religious person, flattered him, as willing to have been rescued by any thing: but perceiving his danger increase, and grown desperate, he called loud with repeated clamours, "Give me respite but till the morrow," and with those words he died, there being "no place left for his repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears" and groans. The same was the case of a drunken monk, whom Venerable Bede mentions'. Upon his death-bed he seemed to see hell opened, and a place assigned him near to Caiaphas, and those who crucified our dearest Lord. The religious persons that stood about his bed called on him to repent of his sins, to implore the mercies of God, and to trust in Christ but he answered, with reason enough, "This is no time to change my life, the sentence is passed upon me, and it is too late." And it is very considerable and sad which Petrus Damianus tells of Gunizo, a factious and ambitious person, to whom, it is said, the tempter gave notice of his approaching death: but when any man preached repentance to him, out of a strange incuriousness, or the spirit of reprobation, he seemed like a dead and unconcerned person;
P Eccl. xviii. 19, &c.
Hist, Gent. Anglor. lib. v. c. 15.
Homil. xii. in Evang.
in all other discourses he was awake, and apt to answer. For God had shut up the gates of mercy, that no streams should issue forth to quench the flames of hell; or else had shut up the gates of reception and entertainment, that it should not enter: either God denies to give them pardon when they call, or denies to them a power to call; they either cannot pray, or God will not answer. Now, since these stories are related by men, learned, pious, and eminent in their generations, and because they served no design but the ends of piety, and have in them nothing dissonant from revelation or the frequent events of Providence, we may upon their stock consider, that God's judgments and visible marks being set upon a state of life, although they happen but seldom in the instances, yet they are of universal purpose and signification. Upon all murderers God hath not thrown a thunderbolt, nor broken all sacrilegious persons upon the wheel of an inconstant and ebbing estate, nor spoken to every oppressor from heaven in a voice of thunder, nor cut off all rebels in the first attempts of insurrection: but because he hath done so to some, we are to look upon those judgments as Divine accents, and voices of God; threatening all the same crimes with the like events, and with the ruins of eternity. For though God does not always make the same prologues to death, yet by these few accidents happening to single persons, we are to understand his purposes concerning all in the same condition; it was not the person, so much as the estate, which God then remarked with so visible characters of his displeasure.
6. And it seems to me a wonder, that since, from all the records of Scripture', urging the uncertainty of the day of death, the horror of the day of judgment, the severity of God, the dissolution of the world, the certainty of our account; still, from all these premises, the Spirit of God makes no other inference, but that we "watch," and "stand in a readiness;" that we "live in all holy conversation and godliness;" and that there is no one word concerning any other manner of an essentially necessary preparation, none but this; yet that there are doctrines commenced, and rules prescribed, and offices set down, and suppletories invented by curates of
Matt. xxv. 13, and xxiv. 42. Mark, xiii. 38. 2 Pet. iii. 10.
souls, how to prepare a vicious person, and, upon his deathbed, to reconcile him to the hopes and promises of heaven. Concerning which, I desire that every person would but inquire", where any one promise is recorded in Scripture concerning such addresses, and what articles Christ hath drawn up between his Father and us, concerning a preparation begun upon our death-bed: and if he shall find none, (as, most certainly, from Genesis to the Revelation, there is not a word concerning it, but very much against it,) let him first build his hopes upon this proposition, that " a holy life is the only preparation to a happy death;" and then we can, without danger, proceed to some other considerations.
7. When a good man, or a person concerning whom it is not certain he hath lived in habitual vices, comes to die, there are but two general ways of intercourse with him; the one to keep him from new sins, the other to make some emendations of the old; the one to fortify him against special weaknesses and proper temptations of that estate, and the other to trim his lamp; that by excellent actions he may adorn his spirit, making up the omissions of his life, and supplying the imperfections of his estate; that his soul may return into the hands of its Creator as pure as it can, every degree of perfection being an advantage so great, as that the loss of every the least portion of it cannot be recompensed with all the good of this world. Concerning the first; the temptations proper to this estate are, either weakness in fath, despair, or presumption: for whatsoever is besides these, as it is the common infelicity of all the several states of life, so they are oftentimes arguments of an ill condition, of immortification of vicious habits, and that he comes not to this combat well prepared; such as are, covetousness, unwillingness to make restitution, remanent affections to his former vices, an unresigned spirit, and the like.
8. In the ecclesiastical story, we find many dying persons mentioned, who have been very much afflicted with some doubts concerning an article of faith. St. Gregory, in an epistle he wrote to St. Austin, instances, in the temptation
which Eusebius suffered upon his death-bed. And, although sometimes the devil chooses an article that is not proper to that state, knowing that every such doubt is well enough for his purpose, because of the incapacity of the person to suffer long disputes, and of the jealousy and suspicion of a dying and weak man, fearing lest every thing should cozen him; yet it is commonly instanced in the article of the resurrection, or the state of separation or reunion. And it seems to some persons incredible, that, from a bed of sickness, a state of misery, a cloud of ignorance, a load of passions, a man should enter into the condition of a perfect understanding, great joy, and an intellectual life, a conversation with angels, a fruition of God; the change is greater than his reason; and his faith being, in conclusion, tottering like the ark, and ready to fall, seems a pillar as unsafe and unable to rely on, as a bank of turf in an earthquake. Against this, a general remedy is prescribed by spiritual persons; that the sick man should apprehend all changes of persuasion, which happened to him in his sickness, contradictory to those assents, which in his clearest use of reason he had, to be temptations and arts of the devil. And he hath reason so to think, when he remembers how many comforts of the Spirit of God, what joys of religion, what support, what assistances, what strengths he had, in the whole course of his former life, upon the stock of faith, and interest of the doctrine of Christianity. And since the disbelieving the promises evangelical, at that time, can have no end of advantage, and that all wise men tell him it may have an end to make him lose the title to them, and do him infinite disadvantage; upon the stock of interest and prudencé, he must reject such fears, which cannot help him, but may ruin him. For all the works of grace which he did, upon the hopes of God, and the stock of the Divine revelations, (if he fails in his hold upon them,) are all rendered unprofitable. And it is certain, if there be no such thing as
y In hunc ferè modum moribundus disseruit Socrates, apud Platonem in Phædone suo : Ει μὲν τυγχάνει ἀληθῆ ὄντα ἃ ἐγὼ λέγω, καλῶς δὴ ἔχει τὸ πεισθῆναι· εἰ δὲ μηδέν ἐστι τελευτήσαντι, ἀλλ ̓ οὖν τοῦτόν γε τὸν χρόνον ἀυτὸν πρὸ τοῦ θανάτου ἧττον τοῖς παροῦσιν ἀηδὴς ἔσομαι ὀδυρόμενος. ἡ δὲ ἄγνοιά μοι ἅυτη οὐ ξυνδιατελεῖ, (κακὸν γὰρ ἦν) ἀλλ ̓ ὀλίγον ὕστερον ἀπολεῖται. Non abs re ergo erit ut moribundus, si non de articulis fidei disserat et sentiat de fiducia compertæ veritatis, at saltem (quod de Socrate dixit Tertullianus) de industria consultæ æquanimitatis.