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the eternal, with all its felicities, content us better; and let us not endeavour less for the immortal life in heaven, than we do for this mortal on earth. Let us keep always in mind the years of eternity; so whatsoever adversity or affliction happen, we shall more easily bear it. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glorya."
Therefore, if the world frown upon me; if I meet with many troubles and afflictions; if misfortunes befall me; if they rush upon me like waves, one on the neck of another; if I be tossed up and down; then these shall be my daily thoughts: Well, let the world have its course, I am content to bear it; God's will be done; let the sea be troubled, let the waves thereof roar, let the winds of afflictions blow, let the waters of sorrows rush upon me, let the darkness of grief and heaviness compass me about, yet will I not be afraid: these storms will blow over, these winds will be laid, these waves will fall, this tempest cannot last long, and these clouds shall be dispelled. Whatsoever I suffer here, shall shortly have an end; I shall not suffer eternally; come the worst that can come, death will put an end to all my sorrows and miseries; "Domine, da mihi modo patientiam, et postea indulgentiam; Lord, grant me patience here, and ease hereafter." I will suffer patiently whatsoever can happen, and shall endeavour to do nothing against my conscience, and displeasing unto thee; for all is safe and sure with him, who is certain and sure of blessed eternity.
The End of Temporal Life.
Ir the end of life should fall under our election, and that it were in the power of man to make choice how many years he would continue in life, and after what manner he would have it, and that it might conclude some other way than by death; yet the consideration that it, and all things temporal, were to perish, and at last to have an end, were sufficient to
2 Cor. iv. 17.
make us despise it; and that very thought would drown all the pleasures and contents which it could afford us: for as all things are of greater and lesser esteem, according to the length and shortness of their duration; so life being to end, be it in what manner soever, is much to be disvalued. A fair vessel of crystal, if it were as consistent and durable as gold, were more precious than gold itself; but being frail, and subject to break, it loses its estimation; and although of itself it might last long, yet being capable, by some careless mischance, of being broken, it becomes of much less value. In the same manner, our life, which is much more frail than glass, being subject to perish by a thousand accidents; and though none of them should happen, could not long continue, since it consumes itself; it must needs, together with those temporal goods which attend it, be most contemptible: but, considering that the ending of it is by the way of death, infirmities and misfortunes, which are the harbingers, and prepare the way for death; it is to be admired, that man, who knows he is to die, makes an account of temporal felicity, seeing the misery in which the prosperity of this world, and the majesty of the greatest monarchs, are at last to finish.
Let us consider king Antiochus, lord of so many provinces, in all his pomp and glory, glittering in gold, and dazzling the eyes of the beholders with the splendour of his diamonds and precious jewels; mounted upon a stately courser, commanding over numerous armies, and making the very earth tremble under him. Let us then behold him in his bed, pale and wan, his strength and spirit spent, his loathsome body flowing with worms and corruption; forsaken by his own people, by reason of his poisonous stink, which infected his whole camp; and, finally, dying mad, and in rage. Who, seeing such a death, would wish the felicity of his life? Who, with the condition of his misery, would desire his fortune? See, then, wherein the goods of this life conclude.
Who could have known Cæsar, who had first seen him triumph over the conquered world, and then behold him gasping for a little breath, and weltering in his own blood, which flowed from twenty-three wounds, opened by so many stabs?
Who could believe it was the same Cyrus; he who subdued the Medes, conquered the Assyrians, and Chaldean empire; he who amazed the world with thirty years' success of continued victories, now taken prisoner, and put to an ignominious death by the command of a woman?
Who could think it were the same Alexander, who in so short a time subjugated the Persians, Indians, and the best part of the known world; and should after behold him conquered by a calenture, feeble, exhausted in body, dejected in spirit, dried up, and parched with thirst, without taste in his mouth, or content in his life; his eyes sunk, his nose sharp, his tongue cleaving to his palate, not being able to pronounce one word? What amazement is it, that the heat of a poor fever should consume the mightiest power and fortune of the world; and that the greatest of temporal and human prosperities should be drowned by the overflowing of one irregular and inordinate humour! How great a monster is human life, since it consists of so disproportionable parts; the uncertain felicity of our whole life ending in a most certain misery!
Who would marry a woman, though of a comely and well-proportionate body, who had the head of an ugly dragon? Certainly, although she had a great dowry, none would covet such a bed-fellow. Wherefore do we wed ourselves unto this life, which, although it seems to carry along with it much content and happiness, yet is it in effect no less a monster; since, though the body appear unto us beautiful and pleasant, yet the end of it is horrible and full of misery.
Let no man flatter himself with the vigour of his health, with the abundance of his riches, with the splendour of his authority, with the greatness of his fortune: for by how much he is more fortunate, by so much shall he be more miserable, since his whole life is to end in misery.
Let no man be deceived in beholding the prosperity of a rich man; let him not measure his felicity by what he sees at present, but by the end, wherein he shall conclude; not by the sumptuousness of his palaces, nor by the multitude of his servants, nor by the bravery of his apparel, nor by the lustre of his dignity; but let him expect the end of that which he so much admires; and he shall then perceive him at best to die in his bed, dejected, dismayed, and struggling with the pangs and anxieties of death. If he comes so off, it is well;
otherwise the daggers of his enemy, the teeth of some wild beast, or a tile thrown upon his head by some violent wind, may serve to make an end of him, when he least thinks of it. O how great a madness is it to glory in any thing on this side heaven! The estate of the most powerful is subject to most impetuous storms, whose end is to be sunk and overthrown. O how wavering and uncertain is the height of the greatest honour! False is the hope of man, and vain is all his glory! O uncertain life, due unto perpetual toil and labour! What doth it now profit thee, to have raised so many costly palaces of marble, when thou now must die? O how many things dost thou now think of doing, not knowing the bitterness of their end? Thou beholdest thy friend now dying; and know, that thou also shalt quickly follow him.
Let us forbear to look upon those several kinds of death, which are incident to human nature; let us consider that which is esteemed the most happy; when we die not suddenly, or by violence, but by some infirmity, which leisurely makes. an end of us; or by a pure resolution, which naturally brings death along with it. What greater misery of man's life than this, that death should be accounted happy; not that it is so, but because it is less miserable than others? For what grief and sorrow doth not he pass, who dies in this manner? How do the accidents of his infirmities afflict him? The heat of his fever, which scorches his entrails; the thirst of his mouth, which suffers him not to speak; the pain of his head, which hinders his attention; the sadness of his heart, proceeding from the apprehension that he is to die; besides other grievous accidents, which are usually more in number than a human body hath members to suffer; together with remedies, which are no less painful than the evils themselves. To this, add the uncertainty whither he is to go; to heaven or hell. What news can be more terrible unto a sinner, than that he is to die; to leave all his pleasure in death, and to give an account unto God for his life past? If lots were to be cast, whether one should have his flesh plucked off with burning pincers, or be made a king; with what fear and anxiety of mind would that man expect the issue? How then shall he look, who, in the agony of death, wrestles with eternity, and, within two hours' space, looks for glory or
torments without end? What life can be counted happy, if that be happy which ends with so much misery? If we will not believe this, let us ask him, who is now passing the terrors of death, what his opinion of life is; let us now inquire of him, when he lies with his breast sticking forth, his eyes sunk, his feet dead, his knees cold, his visage pale, his pulses without motion. What will this man say his life was, but by how much more prosperous, by so much more vain; and that all his felicity was false and deceitful, since it came to conclude in such a period? What would he now take for all the honours of this world? Certainly, I believe, he would part with them at an easy rate; nay, if they have been offensive to God Almighty, he would give all in his power he never had enjoyed them.
He who, unto the hour of his death, hath enjoyed all the delights the world can give him, at that hour what remains with him? Nothing; or if any thing, a greater grief. Consider of how little substance all temporal things will appear, when thou shalt be in the light eternal. The honours which they have given thee, shall be no more thine; the pleasures, wherein thou hast delighted, can be no more thine; thy riches are to be another's. See, then, whether the happiness of this life, which is not so long as life itself, be of that value, that for it we should part with eternal felicity.
I beseech thee, ponder what is life, and what is death. Life is the passing of a shadow, short, troublesome, and dangerous; a place which God hath given us in time, for the desiring of eternity.
Consider why God leads us about in the circuit of this life, when he might, at the first instance, have placed us in heaven. Was it that we should spend our time idly, and daily invent new chimeras, of vain and frivolous honours? No, certainly, it was not; but that, by virtuous actions, we might gain heaven, show what we owe unto our Creator, and, in the midst of the troubles and afflictions of this life, discover how loyal and faithful we are unto our God. For this he placed us in the lists, that we should take his part, and defend his honour; for this he entered us into this militia and warfare, (for the life of man is a warfare upon earth,) that here we might fight for him, and, in the midst of his and our enemies, show how true and faithful we are to him.