« PreviousContinue »
ered with an adorned coffin and monument, to deceive such spectators as see but outsides); the change is not so great of corruptible flesh, replete with such fotid excrements, into corrupted flesh, as some fools imagine.
7. Yet more: to depart from such a body is but to be loosed from the bondage of corruption, and from a clog and prison of the soul. I say not that God put a pre-existent soul into this prison penally, for former faults; I must say no more than I can prove, or than I know; but that body which was an apt servant to innocent man's soul, is become as a prison to him now; what alteration sin made upon the nature of the body, as whether it be more terrene and gross than else it would have been, I have no reason to assert; of earth or dust it was at first, and to dust it is sentenced to return. But no doubt but it hath its part in that dispositive deprivation which is the fruit of sin. We find that the soul, as sensitive, is so imprisoned, or shut up, in flesh, that sometimes it is more than one door that must be opened before the object and the faculty can meet. In the eye, indeed, the soul seemeth to have a window to look out at, and to be almost itself visible to others; and yet there are many interposing tunicles, and a suffusion, or winking, can make the clearest sight to be as useless for the time as if it were none; and if sense be thus shut up from its object, no wonder if reason also be under difficulties from corporeal impediments; and if the soul that is yoked with such a body can go no faster than its heavy pace.
8. Yet further : to depart from such a body, is but to be separated from an accidental enemy, and one of our greatest and most hurtful enemies; though still we say, that it is not by any default in the work of our Creator, but by the effects of sin, that it is such ; what could Satan, or any other enemy of our souls, have done against us without our flesh? What is it but the interest of this body, that standeth in competition against the interest of our souls and God? What else do the profane sell their heavenly inheritance for, as Esau his birthright? No man loveth evil, as evil, but as some way a real or seeming good; and what good is it but that which seemeth good for the body? What else is the bait of ambition, covetousness, and sensuality, but the interest and pleasure of this nesh? What taketh
up the thoughts and care which we should lay out upon things spiritual and heavenly, but this body and its life? What pleasures are they that steal away men's hearts from the heavenly pleasures of faith, hope, and love, but the pleasures of this flesh? This draweth us to sin; this hindereth us from and in our duty. This body hath its interest which must be minded, and its inordinate appetite which must be pleased; or else what murmurings and disquiet must we expect. Were it not for bodily interest, and its temptations, how much more innocently and holily might I live! I should have nothing to care for, but to please God, and to be pleased in him, were it not for the care of this bodily life. What employment should my will and love have, but to delight in God, and love him and his interest, were it not for the love of the body, and its concerns? By this the mind is darkened, and the thoughts diverted : by this our wills are perverted and corrupted, and, by loving things corporeal, contract a strangeness and aversion from things spiritual; by this, heart and time are alienated from God; our guilt is increased, and our heavenly desire and hopes destroyed; life made unholy and uncomfortable, and death made terrible; God and our souls separated, and life eternal set by, and in danger of being utterly lost. I know that it is the sinful soul that is in all this the chief cause and agent; but what is it but bodily interest that is its temptation, bait, and end? What but the body, and its life, and its pleasure, is the chief, objective, alluring cause of all this sin and misery? And shall I take such a body to be better than heaven, or be loth to be loosed from so troublesome a yoke-fellow, or to be separated from so burdensome and dangerous a companion.
Sect. 3. Obj. But I know this habitation, but the next I know not. I have long been acquainted with this body, and this world, but the next I am unacquainted with.
Ans. 1. If you know it, you know all that of it which I have mentioned before; you know it to be a burden and snare; I am sure I know, by long experience, that this flesh hath been a painful lodging to my soul, and this world as a tumultuous ocean, or like the uncertain and stormy region of the air. And well he deserveth bondage, pain, and enmity, who will love them because he is acquainted with them, and is loth to leave them because he hath had them long, and is afraid of being well because he hath been long sick.
2. And do you not know the next and better habitation? Is faith no knowledge? If you believe God's promise, you know that such a state there is; and you know, in general, that it is better than this world ; and you know that we shall be in holiness and glorious happiness with Christ : and is this no knowledge? 3. And what we know not, Christ, that prepareth and promiseth it, doth know; and is that nothing to us, if really we trust our souls to him? He that knoweth not more good by heaven than by earth is yet so earthly and unbelieving, that it is no wonder if he be afraid and unwilling to depart.
Sect. 4. II. In departing from this body and life, I must depart from all its ancient pleasures : I must taste no more sweetness in meat, or drink, or rest, or sport, or any such thing, that now delighteth me; house and lands, and goods, and wealth, must all be left; and the place where I live must know me no more.
All my possessions must be no more to me, nor all that I labored for, or took delight in, than if they had never been at all.
And what though it must be so ? Consider, O my soul! 1. Thy ancient pleasures are all past already; thou losest none of them by death, for they are all lost before, if immortal grace have not, by sanctifying them, made the benefits of them to become immortal. All the sweet draughts, and morsels, and sports, and laughters; all the sweet thoughts of thy worldly possessions, or thy hopes, that ever thou hadst till this present hour, are passed by, dead, and gone already. All that death doth to such as these is, to prevent such, that on earth thou shalt have no more.
2. And is not that the case of every brute, that hath no comfort from the prospect of another life, to repair his loss; and yet as our dominion diminisheth their pleasure while they live, by our keeping them under fear and labor, so, at our will, their lives must end. To please a gentleman's appetite for half an hour, or less, birds, beasts, and fishes, must lose life itself, and all the pleasure which light might have afforded them for many years; yea, perhaps many of these (birds and fishes at least) must die to become but one feast to a rich man, if not one ordinary meal. And is not their sensual pleasure of the same nature as ours? Meat is as sweet to them, and ease as welcome, and lust as strong (in season); and the pleasure that death
depriveth our flesh of, is such as is common to man with brutes; why then should it seem hard to us to lose that in the course of nature, which our wills deprive them of at our pleasure? When, if we are believers, we can say, that we do but exchange these delights of life for the greater delights of a life with Christ, which is a comfort which our fellow creatures (the brutes) have not.
3. And, indeed, the pleasures of life are usually embittered with so much pain, that to a great part of the world doth seem to exceed them; the vanity and vexation is so great and grevious as the pleasure seldom countervaileth. It is true, that nature desireth life, even under sufferings that are but tolerable, rather than to die; but that is not so much from the sensible pleasure of life, as from mere natural inclination; which God hath laid so deep, that free-will hath no power against it. As before I said, that the body of man is such a thing, that could we see through the skin (as men may look through a glass hive upon the bees) and see all the parts and motion, the filth and excrements, that are in it, the soul would hardly be willing to actuate, love, and cherish such a mass of unclean matter, and to dwell in such a loathsome place, unless God had necessitated it by nature (deeper than reason or sense) to such a love and such a labor, by the pondus or spring of inclination ; even as the cow would not else lick the unclean calf, nor women themselves be at so much labor and trouble with their children, while there is little of them to be pleasing, but uncleanness, and crying, and helpless impatiency, to make them wearisome, had not necessitating inclination done more hereto than
any other sense or reason; even so I now say of the pleasure of living, that the sorrows are so much greater to multitudes than the sensible delight, that life would not be so commonly chosen and endured under so much trouble, were not men determined thereto by natural necessitating inclination ; (or deterred from death by the fears of misery to the separated soul;) and yet all this kept not some, counted the best and wisest of the heathens, from taking it for the valor and wisdom of a man to make away his life in time of extremity, and from making this the great answer to them that grudge at God for making their lives so miserable, "If the misery be greater than the good of life, why dost thou not end it? Thou mayest do that when thou wilt.'
Our meat and drink is pleasant to the healthful, but it costeth poor men so much toil, and labor, and care, and trouble to procure a poor diet for themselves, and their families, that, I think, could they live without eating and drinking, they would thankfully exchange the pleasure of it all, to be eased of their care and toil in getting it. And when sickness cometh, even the pleasantest food is loathsome.
4. And do we not willingly interrupt and lay by these pleasures every night, when we betake ourselves to sleep? It is possible, indeed, a man may then have pleasant dreams; but I think few go to sleep for the pleasure of dreaming; either no dreams, or vain, or troublesome dreams, are much more common. And to say that rest and ease is my pleasure, is but to say, that my daily labor and cares are so much greater than my waking pleasure, that I am glad to lay by both together. For what is ease but delivrance from weariness and pain? For in deep and dreamless sleep there is little positive sense of the pleasure of rest itself. But, indeed, it is more from nature's necessitated inclination to this self-easing and repairing means, than from the positive pleasure of it, that we desire sleep. And if we can thus be contented every night to die, as it were, to all our waking pleasures, why should we be unwilling to die to them at once ?
5. If it be the inordinate pleasures forbidden of God, which you are loth to leave, those must be left before you die, or else it had been better for you never to have been born, yea, every wise and godly man doth cast them off with detestation.
You must be against holiness on that account, as well as against death, and, indeed, the same cause which maketh men unwilling to live a holy life, hath a great hand in making them unwilling to die, even because they are loth to leave the pleasure of sin. If the wicked be converted, he must be gluttonous and drunken no more; he must live in pride, vain-glory, worldliness, and sensual pleasures no more, and therefore he draweth back from a holy life, as if it were from death itself. And so he is the loather to die, because he must have no more of the pleasures of his riches, pomp, and honors, his sports, and lust, and pleased appetite, for ever. But what is this to them that have mortified the flesh, with the affections and lusts thereof?