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change! That pleasant smile, which was so agreeable to the beholders, that rosy blush wbich was wont to adorn the countenance, those lively looks, that cheerful air, which gave such grace to all their behaviour, is all now gone, all faded and withered, and changed into such a dismal spectacle, that the most cheerfully disposed person in the world can scarce behold it without being filled with thoughts of sadness; but all who go near it, after looking upon the corpse for a moment, cover it up again, and immediately withdraw, pale, silent, and pensive, carrying about with them, in their mind, the sad image of this carcase, and incapable of any joy or diversion, till by other objects, they have put it entirely out of their thoughts.
Q. 37. What happens in the body itself after death?
A. The poor carcase, lying in this miserable condition, soon begins to corrupt, and sends forth a stench, capable of infecting the whole house. Scarce two days are passed since the person expired, and already it is impossible to remain in the room along with it; the windows must all be thrown open to let in fresh air, and, as soon as possible, this dead body must be hurried out of the house, carried to a distance, and thrust into the bowels of the earth, lest the air itself should be corrupted by the infection that flows from it. Although his children loved him as the best of parents, though his servants revered him as the most indulgent master, though the affection of his wife went even to excess, though every one that knew him was fond of him to distraction, yet, now, what a wonderful change has death produced! Of all his nearest and dearest friends, not one will now, come near him, nor suffer the nauseous smell that issues from him ; but all of them, wife, children,
friends, relations, neighbours, servants, acquaintances, all conspire together to get him out of the house as soon as possible, and hurry him away to the grave! And what a dismal habitation is this! a place of darkness and obscurity! a place of irksomeness and horror! a strait and narrow babitation! full of ordure and filthiness! hid from the light of the sun! filled with bones and dead men's skulls! with no other company but worins and vermin, to which the poor carcase is left a prey ! Such is the end of all worldly grandeur ! Q. 47.
Wut what happens to the body in the grave?
A, St. Augustine tells us, that, being at Rome, he was invited to go see the body of an Emperor, wbich bad been buried some time before, and was going to be raised and translated to some other place, and he thus describes what he saw upon this occasion: “I saw," says the saint, “ the flesh all black and bluish, falling off by pieces, through rottenness; bis belly was full of worms, which came out and went in by holes they had gnawed there, just like an ant's hill in a summer's day: among others, two had taken up their nest in the holes of the eyes. His hair was all falling off; his lips and nose were already consumed, so that all his teeth appeared ; and I saw up his nostrils, even to the skull.” What a miserable spectacle! What an humbling sight to behold! An Emperor! But the truth is so: scarce is the body of the most beautiful person shut up in the grave, and covered with the earth, when it immediately begins to change its colour; some parts become bluish, others yellow, and in a short time, the whole becomes black from head to foot. In a little time, the flesh on the face, and arms, and breast, becomes soft and moist, and then melts away into a stinking sort
of humour, which flows down in the coflin, and in which the body is soaked for some time. In this humour there is engendered a prodigious quantity of worms, and other vermin, which it is nauseous and shocking even to name. These immediately begin to feast on that flesh out of which they were engendered, and take up their lodging in all the different parts of the body; some devouring the eyes, some gnawing the nostrils, some crawling out and in at the mouth; here a company of them fixes on the breasts, feasting on the paps, and penetrating into the bowels; there another company of them settle in the belly, where they have made a large opening for themselves, to go out and in at pleasure ; here one half of the leg is eaten away, there the palms of the hands are almost consumed. In a word, they seize upon all the different parts of the body by hundreds and by thousands, and feast upon this poor carcase of ours at pleasure. In the mean time the hairs fall away from the head, the flesh melts down through mere rottenness, and dis. covers the bones all black with putrefaction. The whole carcase is no more a body, but a frightful heap of ordure and filth. Finally, the worms, having consumed all they can get, consume themselves at last, and there now remain only the harder parts of the bones, which also rotting away by degrees, crumble into the dust, and are no longer to be distinguished from the earth in which they lie. Thus the sentence is fulfilled, pronounced on man for sin, “ Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return!”
Q. 48. What are the properties of death?
A. Chiefly these three, (i.) It is absolutely certain that all must die : For, “it is appointed for men once to die,” Heb. ix. 27. And, indeed, though the word of God had been silent on this subVOL. II.
ject, experience itself convinces us of it. Hence those unbelievers themselves wbo reject the Scriptures, and laugh at all religion, yet all agree in the firm belief, that we all must die.” The sentence is universal, and comprehends all the seed of Adam without exception, of whatever condition, state, or dignity they be. We have heard of many great heroes, who have conquered nations, and made the world tremble at their frown; but all their might and valour could not conquer death, or even keep him off for a moment, when their hour was come. Many have been remarkable among men for their great learning, penetrating genius, and extensive knowledge in all the wonders of nature, but none, even Solomon himself, could ever find out a remedy to preserve themselves from death. There always are great numbers in the world abounding in riches, and possessing all the wealth and opulence of the earth, but none could ever buy a moment's life when death approached, no more than the poorest beggar. Many have lived to a very great age, as we read in the fifth of Genesis, even to several hundreds of years; but, after all, the Scriptures always add," and he died.” Even sanctity itself cannot preserve from death, nor stave it off for a moment; many holy servants of God have been in the world, many whose souls were most pleasing to the Almighty, many at whose desire he wrought the greatest miracles, and overturned, in a manner, the established laws of nature, but none could ever obtain from him to be delivered from the sentence of death pronounced by the divine justice against all mankind. The Blessed Virgin Mary, the most innocent, the most holy of all pure creatures, underwent this sentence; yea, Jesus Christ himself, the holy of holies, though any suffering of his was sufficient to redeem ten thousand worlds,
yet, as he made himself a man, and took our nature upon him, so he would also undergo the common curse of our nature, and subjected himself to the general sentence, by dying on a cross. So that it remains a most infallible truth, that death is most certain; it is a portion of all mankind; we must all die. (2.) The time, place, manner, and all the circumstances of death are no less uncertain than death itself is most certain. When shall we die ? this day or to-morrow? within a week, or month, or year? or shall we live yet several years? Of all this we are absolutely uncertain and ignorant. How many have gone to bed in seemingly good health, and were a corpse before next morning! How many have risen healthy and well, and before the sun was set have been in eternity! How many are cut off in their childhood, youth, and every stage of life, when they least expect it! When will your time be? As to the place, where shall we die ? at home or abroad ? in the house, or in the fields ? by sea or by land, in town or country, &c. Of all this we are no less. ignorant than of the time, is a mystery to us, wholly hidden from our eyes.
In what manner shall we die ; in our sins, or in favour with our God.? shall we be cut off on a sudden, or have time to prepare ourselves ? shall we have time to call for, and receive the helps of religion, or shall we die without them? shall our death be violent or natural ? easy, or painful ? by sickness, or the sword ? by fire or water? Of these, and a thousand other circumstances, we know nothing at all; we are in a perfect uncertainty about them. Many are every day carried out of the world by some one or other of these means, but which of them will be our fate, is quite hidden from our eyes.
“ None knows of this hour but the Father, and he to whom the father will reveal it;" but this we know, because