THE DESTRVCTION OF THE DESTROYER; OR, THE OVER THROW OF THE LAST ENEMIE. SERMON VII.
1 COR. 15. 16.
The last enemie that shall bee destroyed, is Death.
DEath is a subject that a Christian should have in his thoughts often, and neither the hearing, nor thinking, nor speaking of it can be unseasonable for any place or per∣son. We have heard that the life of Phi∣losophers, is nothing but a meditation of Death: and certainly the life of a Chri∣stian much more should abound in such meditations. No man can live well, till he can die well. Hee that is prepared for Death, is certainly freed from the danger of death: neither is there any so fit a way to bee ready for it, as to be often minded of it. Therefore I have made choice at this time to speake of this verse, wherein (ye see) the Apostle declareth, and leadeth us to treat of foure things.
- First, that there is a Death.*
- Secondly, that this Death is an enemie.
- Thirdly, that this enemie is the last enemie.
- Lastly, that this least enemie shall be destroyed.
A word or two of each of these parts.
First; Death is. Yee know that well enough, your eyes shew it * you daily: our senses declare it so plainly, that no man is so sens∣lesse that knoweth it not: It is agreed upon by all. Only for your Page 136 better furtherance to make use of this point, let us acquaint you with that which nature will teach yee concerning Death. Second∣ly, with that which Scripture will teach you, above, and better then Nature.
Nature sheweth yee concerning Death, first what it is. And then *
Secondly, what Properties it hath.
It telleth us this, That Death is an absence from life, a ceasing * from beeing, when one was beeing, to be thrust (as it were) out of the present world, and be cast some where. This is all that Nature informeth us concerning the Essence and beeing of Death. Death is a dividing of us from this life, and from the things of this life, and sends us abroad we know not where.
Secondly, Nature teacheth us three Properties concerning *Death.
One, that it is universall. It hath tied all to it, high and low, rich and poore. Death knockes at the Princes pallace, as well as at the poore habitation of the meanest man. It is a thing that re∣spects no mans greatnesse, it regardeth no wealth, nor wit, no∣thing; Death takes all before it. That Nature teacheth too.
Secondly; Nature teacheth that Death is inevitable. If a man * would give all the world, he cannot thrust it out of dores. It takes whole Armies aswell as one man. It scorneth to bee resisted by the Phisitians: there is no words, no meanes to escape it. It is such an enemie as we must grapple with, and it will conquer. This Nature teacheth.
Againe, Nature teacheth that death is uncertaine. A man know∣eth not when Death will come to him, or when it will lay hold on * him, or by what meanes it will fetch him out of the world. It may fetch him out of the world at any time, or in any place, and by such occasion, as it is impossible for any wit to thinke of be∣fore. This is in substance all that Nature teacheth. And the knowledge of this, it is for good use, aswell to remember and consider it, as to understand it.
But now I goe on to tell yee, what the Scripture teacheth con∣cerning Death: for that giveth a perfecter and larger information of the thing, then the dimme light of Nature.
The Scripture then (over and above that which Nature sheweth) telleth us concerning Death these things.
First, it sheweth better what it is; and then
It sheweth whence it commeth, and what are the causes of it.
Thirdly, it declareth the consequences what follow upon it.
And lastly, and bestly, it telleth us the remedie against the ill of Death. In all which Nature stumbleth, and can doe little or * nothing.
First, the Scripture telleth us what it is; It letteth us know that Page 137 it is the disolution of a man, not the annihilation; It doth not make him cease to bee, but takes asunder a while the soule from the body: It carrieth the one to the earth, and the other to ano∣ther world: so that both continue to bee, though they be not uni∣ted as before.
The word of God teacheth us, that he hath created the world (as it were) a house of three Stories. The middle is this present life where we be. And there is a lower place, the Dungeon, a place of unhappinesse and destruction. There is a higher place, a pal∣lace of glory. According as men behave themselves in this mid∣dle roome; so Death either leadeth them downe to the place of unhappinesse, or conveyeth them up to the pallace of glory and blessednesse. This, Nature is ignorant of, but the Scripture is plaine in. The rich man dieth, and his soule is carried to Hell; the poore man when he died, his soule was advanced to Heaven. So that Death is nothing but the messenger of God to take the soule out of the body, and to convey it to a place of more happinesse, or more miserie then can be conceived.
Secondly, the Scripture acquaints us further with the cause of *death. Philosophers wondred since nature desireth a perpetuitie, and continuance of it selfe, that man should be so short a time in the world. The Scripture endeth this wonderment, and tels us that man indeed was made immortall, to continue for ever, and should not have died: but sinne came into the world, and by sin death. Death is the mother of sinne, and of all miserie, that by little and little draweth to death.
I say sinne: the first sinne of our first Parents whereby they transgressed that most easie and equall mandate about eating the forbidden fruit. That transgression that was the treading under foot the covenant of workes, and the disanulling of it, that sinne let in Death at a great Gappe: and now it triumpheth, and beareth rule over all the world.
Nature cannot tell which way in the world a man should die so soone, and that hee that is the Lord of all creatures, should bee inferiour to a great number of them in length of life. But the word of God unridleth this riddle, and telleth us that God made man, that hee might and should have lived for ever, but Sinne com∣ming, and comming in the person of the first man, it brought death, and made all men mortall: and when sinne entred, Gods curse came, and that working upon us poore and miserable crea∣tures, it is the cause that we cannot continue long here.
It was equall that death should follow sinne, for since God made man to obey his will, when man had unfitted himselfe for Gods service, it was reason that he should have a short continance of life, for the longer he endured, the more he would abuse him∣selfe.
Page 138 Yee see then two things that the Scripture teacheth concerning death. The third thing it sheweth is, what followeth after death: * and that is plaine; It is appointed for all men once to die, and after death commeth judgement. Nature never dreamed of judgement after Death, but the Scripture telleth us, there is a Judgement after Death.
Judgement, what is that?
Judgement (yee know) is a calling of a man before Authoritie, a looking into his wayes, a considering of his actions, a finding out whether hee be a sinner, an evill doer: and if hee find him so, to passe sentence according to his evill deeds. When God hath tooke the soule from the body, hee takes the soule first, and after both soule and body, and presents them before his owne Tribu∣nall, and there searcheth into every mans life, ransacks his con∣science, lookes deepe into his conversation, and inquireth into his secrets, openeth his actions, and whole carriage from his infancie to his last breath, and findeth out the things that hee hath done, and passeth sentence according to that he hath done.
This Judgement hath two degrees. First assoone as a man di∣eth. * No sooner is the soule separated from this case (as it were) the bodie, but instantly it is presented before the Lord Jesus Christ, and there he passeth sentence, either that it is a true belee∣ver, a godly liver, a person united to Christ, that walked as be∣commeth the Gospell of Christ, and then it receiveth glory, and joy, and blisse for the present, more then tongue expresse. Or else it findeth against him, that he was a sinfull man, a wicked man, a hypocrite, a dissembler, one that named Christ with his tongue, but did not depart from iniquitie, nor live according to the Gospell of Christ: and then he is delivered up to Sathan, to bee hurried downe to Hell, and there to suffer the wrath of God according to the desert of so great wickednesse. This particular judgement passeth upon every soule assoone as it leaveth the Body.
Then followeth the great universall Judgement, when soule * and body shall be reunited, and stand before God: every particu∣lar man that ever hath beene, is, or shall be, every man shall ap∣peare in their owne persons, their whole lives shall be laied open, all secret things shall bee made knowne, for God (saith the Apo∣stle) shall judge the secrets of all hearts by Iesus Christ according to my Gospell. This is the third thing that the word of God informeth us concerning death, that nature could never doe.
The last, that is the best, the Scripture giveth us a remedie a∣gainst * the ill of Death. It is a pittifull thing to heare of mortalli∣ty and sicknesse, if there were not a good Potion or Phisicke pre∣scribed to escape the ill of it. To heare tell of Death, and so tell, as the Scripture saith, that it is a going to another world of Page 139 weale or woe, and not to heare of a remedie, it is wofull tydings, and would wring teares from a hard heart.
But the Scripture makes report of death, not onely tollera∣ble and easie, but comfortable and gladsome to a Christian heart: for it sheweth by whom, and by what meanes we may infallibly, and certainly, escape all the hurt that Death can doe: Nay, by what meanes we may order our selves so, that Death may be be∣neficiall to us. What is that?
In one short word; It is Christ; I am the resurrection, and the life, hee that beleeveth in mee, shall never see death. Hee meaneth to hurt himselfe. Againe, This is the message, that God hath given us life, and this life is in his Sonne. And, Hee that hath the Sonne hath life. Our Saviour Jesus Christ came into the world (as the Apostle tel∣leth us) that hee might destroy him that had the power of death, and so set them at libertie, that all their life-time were in bondage under the feare of death. And Saint Iohn saith; Hee came into the world to destroy the workes of the divell: which are sinne and death. So that now Death hath lost his sting, because Christ overcame it: in dying hee slue Death, and was the death of Death: this man Christ, God and Man, hee offered himselfe to his Father as a Sacrifice for the sinnes of the world, and dying a cursed death upon the Crosse, so satis∣fied the justice of God on the behalfe of all those that are in him, that death can doe them no harme: It is nothing else but a passage to eternall blessednesse.
Oh blessed be the name of God, that hath beene pleased to pro∣vide so perfect a remedie against so mortall an enemie: and to lay it open so clearely and plainly in the Gospell.
Yee have heard of those things that I thought to put yee in mind of concerning Death, and so I have done with the first point.
The second is, That Death is an enemie. Therefore the Apostle *Paul telleth us of a certaine sting it hath, Oh Death where is thy sting? It is an armed enemie, it commeth as a Serpent with a sting that entreth into a mans soule, putteth it to extreame perplexitie, if he takes not order to disarme this enemie.
An enemie yee know is a person that setteth himselfe wilfully to hurt; a man may hurt his neighbour, either through indiscre∣tion, or unadvisednesse against his will, or hee may lay waite to doe him hurt, intending mischiefe, and seeking to performe some∣what that shall bee injurious to him. Wee call not him an enemie that we receive a little hurt from against his will, contrary to his purpose and intention: but he that studieth, and beforehand de∣sireth to be an enemie. Now Death (as we may say) studieth our hurt in all extremitie before-hand.
There is but two sorts of hurt that can come to a man. One Page 140 is, to deprive him of that which is beneficiall and comfortable, * to robbe him of all that is contentfull to him in this life. As when a company of Foes breake into a Nation, they burne their goods, and spoile their houses, and robbe and take away all that is com∣fortable to them, so much as they can. Death is such an enemie: It desireth to bereave a man of that necessarie contentment hee hath. When it meeteth with a learned man, it takes away all his learning at one blow, assoone as he is dead, hee ceaseth to bee a great scholler. It commeth to a rich man, and robbes him of all his goods at one blow too: though he have millions, Death cau∣seth all to be another mans. When it commeth to a King, it pul∣leth him beside his Throne, takes his Crowne off his head, and casteth both him and it into the dust, hee is king no longer when hee is dead. And so in all the benefits of this life, it takes away the pleasure and contentments of a man; it takes away the hus∣band from the wife, and the wife from the husband; it divideth children from Parents, and Parents from children: all the bene∣fits that this life afford, death strippeth a man of them all, and turnes him naked out of the world, just as hee came hee must goe, and carry nothing in his hand: Death will not admit him to take one farthing, or any thing else with him. So he is an enemie, for hee spoileth us of whatsoever is desirable in this life.
But he is an enemie also in inflicting a great deale of ill upon men. So death bringeth torment for the present: It is a terrible * thing to wrestle with; it makes a man bleed, and sweat as it were: No man can incounter with death, but he feeleth anxietie and vex∣ation of body and minde, (unlesse hee have comfort from above to enable him to wrestle with it, but) in his owne proper nature it is so furious an enemie, that it doth not cease till it hath dragged the soule into the presence of God, and after, from his Tribunall to the torment of eternall fire in Hell. That succeedeth death, for naturally of its owne nature it tendeth to the destruction of man, because it is a fruit of sinne, and therefore must needs be the per∣dition, and overthrow of the soule. For sinne bringeth destru∣ction in regard it makes God angrie with us, and separateth from him, and by consequence from all manner of comfort: and in re∣gard it separateth from him, it bringeth all manner of ill, his wrath, his hatred, and ill will the greatest of all. Death (I say) properly, and of it selfe intendeth, and seekes to draw all those that it layes hold on to a state of everlasting unhappinesse, there∣fore it is an enemie. So you see the second point opened.
The third is, that Death is the last enemie, after which there shall bee no more. *
But I must tell you to whom it is the last, not to all. For there * are a generation of men that shall feele death to be the least of ene∣mies, Page 141 and in a manner the first. But to the Saints and those that * are prepared for death, and those that will use the remedie, to these, and these alone, death is the last enemie: after once they have grappled, and fought, and encountred with this enemie, they are at peace and rest; as he saith, Happy are they that die in the Lord, for they rest from their labours. There is no more toyle and miserie to a good man after death. And why? Because, death seperateth sin from his soule, as well as the soule from the body, and so taking away the cause of unrest, it must needs take away miserie and un∣happinesse it selfe.
Indeed properly, Death doth it not, but the Lord Iesus Christ by death. For it pleaseth him when his servants leave this world, then they are fit to enter into a place of happinesse in another world, which they could not be, except they were freed from sin. Death is the daughter of sinne, and with a happy patricide (as it were) at once it destroyeth it selfe and sin: and therfore it takes a∣way all misery, because it takes away all sinne. Therefore it is the last enemie, because it killeth the worst of our enemies, for when we are dead, there shall be no more enmitie betweene God and us, and so no more enemy. This is the third point.
The last is, that this enemie shall bee destroyed. A thing is destroy∣ed, * abolished, when it selfe ceaseth to be, and is tooke out of the way, and when all the ill effects that it would produce, and effect or hath, are removed. So the Lord Jesus Christ abolisheth Death, he destroyeth it, that it shall never againe be knowne in the world, or felt by his servants: and he preventeth all those evill effects that it would worke in the soule for eternitie, and removeth all the ill effects of it, that it hath wrought on their bodies for the present time. Death takes away a mans goods for the present, Christ abolisheth that, he giveth everlasting substance in heaven. Death takes away friends, Christ abolisheth that, hee sends us to heaven, where we have more friends and better. Death brings the body to rottennesse and corruption, it laieth it in the dust, turnes it to putrifaction, Christ abolisheth that, at the Resurrecti∣on it shall rise againe in glory. How that is done the Apostle tells us in the end of this chapter; The body shall be laid in the dust, a weake and feeble, a mortall and naturall body, but it shall bee clothed with immortalitie; This mortall shall put on immortalitie, this corruptible shall put on incorruption, then shall bee fulfilled that saying, Death is swallowed up in victorie. But this is also limited, it shall bee destroyed, to whom? To those that use the remedie, those that partake of Christ, those that have put on him that is the Resurrection and the life.
Thus I have laid before your eyes briefly these foure things, that the Apostle leadeth us to treate of concerning death. That it Page 142 is; That it is an enemie. That it is the last enemie. And that it shall be destroyed. Now I desire to apply this, and to make use of it.
First, I shall be bold to play the Examiner, to search each con∣science * a little. Brethren, let the word of God enter into your soules. Yee heare that there is a death, and that this death is a sore and bitter enemie: and yee heare that to some sort of men it is the last enemie that ever they shall encounter with, and bee freed from all the hurt of it, it shall be utterly destroyed. Now doe so much as discend every one into himselfe, and inquire what care there hath beene to prepare for death, to make use of the remedie against death: what time and paines hath beene bestowed to seeke to get that that is the only meanes to escape the Dart of this enemie, and that that is the only cause to procure this enfranchisement to the soule, from that that else will destroy all.
A man hath not fitted himselfe to encounter with his enemie, when hee lookes after wealth, and followeth the pleasures and contentments of this life; these things will doe no good, they will be rather a burthen to the heart, and vexe the soule, and in∣crease the mischiefe, laying more sin upon the soule, and giving death darts to pierce the soule with.
But when is a man fit for death? and who may encounter with this enemie with safetie?
I will tell yee; That man that takes the greatest care to disarme *death of his weapons, to arme himselfe with defensive weapons against death. If an enemie come upon a man with good weapons in his hand, and find him altogether unweaponed, it is hard for a naked unarmed man to deale with him: it is hard for a man that never thought of it before, to fight with one that is skilfull at his weapons. Death (I told yee) is an enemie, and an enemie that is skilfull in his weapons: and the weapon of death it is our owne sinne. Death bringeth nothing with it to hurt a man; It findeth with us, and in us, that whereby to hurt us. So many corrupti∣ons as are in thy heart, so many weapons. So many idle words so many bad deedes; so many swords to pierce thy heart. Death maketh use of those weapons it findeth in our selves, and with them hee destroyeth, and killeth, and brings us to perdition.
Now, what have yee done (beloved) to disarme death? what care have yee taken to breake sinne apieces, that it may not be as a sword ready drawne for the hand of death when it commeth? as Arrowes in a Bow, to shoot at you, when Death laieth hold on you?
That man that hath tooke no care to overcome sinne in the power of it, and to get himselfe free from the guilt and punish∣ment Page 143 of it, is unfit for death. If death come upon him, and find his offences unrepented of, unpardoned, unsubdued, he will so order those offences, that he will thrust them into his soule, as so many poisoned Darts, that will bring sorrow, and anguish, and vexati∣on, and destruction to all eternitie.
Ye may see then whether yee have any fitnesse to meet with this Enemie, whether yee be in case to fight that battell; that of necessitie yee must; for Death (as I told yee before) is enevitable.
If yee have not; Get alone betweene God and thy selfe, and there call to mind the corruption of thy nature, the sinnes of thy childhood, of thy body, of thy mind, bring thy soule into his presence, confesse thy sinnes, with an endevour to breake thy heart for them, and to be sorry for them, mightily crying to him in the mediation of that blessed Advocate Jesus Christ, that died on the Crosse, to pardon, and to wash thy soule in his bloud, and to deliver thee from the pollution of thy sinnes. Begge the Spi∣rit of sanctification to beate downe those sinnes, and subdue thy corruptions. Bestow time to performe these exercises daily, care∣fully present thy selfe before God, thus to renew thy repentance and faith in Christ, to make thy peace with God: Labour to purge away the filthinesse of thy sinne, and then whensoever Death commeth, thou shalt find in thy selfe sufficient against it, thou hast disarmed it.
But if yee spend your time in pursuing profits and pleasures, and follow the vanities of this life, and either yee doe not thinke of death, or yee thinke of it no otherwise then a heathen man would have done, to no purpose; yee thinke of it to enjoy the world while yee live, because yee know not how soone death will end the world and you, if you play the Epicures in the thought of Death, to annimate you to enjoy the outward benefits of this life: to thinke of it to no purpose, but only to talke and discourse now and then as occasion serveth: then Death will find your soules la∣den with innumerable sinnes that repentance hath not discharged, and undoubtedly it will bring eternall perdition. Have yee thus disarmed Death?
But againe, a mans selfe must be armed, or else hee cannot in∣counter with his enemie, What is our Armour against Death to * keepe off that blow?
The Apostle in one word sheweth us these Armours, when hee saith, a Breast-plate of faith, and love, and the hope of salvation a Helmet.
If a man have got faith to rest on Christ alone for eternall hap∣pinesse, and his soule filled with the hope of glory, and salvation through him, and then with love to him, and his servants for his sake; These three vertues will secure a man against all the hurt Page 144 that death can doe. Faith, Hope, and Charitie, the Cardinall ver∣tues that Christian religion requires, and commands us to seeke, these are Armour of proofe against all the blowes of death: hee that hath them shall never be hurt of Death, because he shall never taste of the second death: he hath onely to wrestle with the first Death, and there is no terrour, nor terriblenesse in that, if a mans heart be secure by these Graces.
Faith whereby we depend on Christ, and on him alone for grace and salvation, bringing hope whereby we expect and looke for salvation of our soules by his bloud according to his promise, and working charitie whereby we love him for his goodnesse, and his servants for his sake (If it be charitie not onely of the lip to speake well, but that that produceth wel-doing) I say this is that makes us that death cannot separate us from Christ, but the further we are from life, the neerer we are to him, for when this outward taber nacle of our house is dissolved, we have a building with God eternall in the heavens: and death to such a man is nothing but the opening of the dore to let him out of the dungeon of the world, and to place him happily in the Pallace of eternall blisse.
I pray enter into consideration how yee have behaved your selves in the course of your lives, whether as Heathens, or as Christians. A man that takes no care to prepare for death, though he come to the Church from Sunday to Sunday, and partake of all Gods ordinances, yet if the consideration of death bee not so imprinted in him, that it become a motive to him to labour for Faith, and hope, and charitie, and to endeavour to edifie himselfe in these graces, he liveth as a Heathen or an Infidell: and when death commeth to him, it will doe him more hurt, then it will an Infidell, because by how much God hath given him more meanes to escape, and by neglecting those meanes, as his sin is greater, so shall his punishment be.
Secondly, if yee have beene carelesse for to prepare for this *enemie; Now be ashamed of it, and sorrow for it, let your hearts now smite yee, and ake within you: Oh foolish man or woman (say) I have lived twenty, thirty, forty, fifty yeares, and some more; I have laboured against other enemies, if men had any thing against me, I would be sure to take order; I have laboured for the things of this life, for riches and friends, and given my selfe leave for to enjoy pleasures, and taken paines to doe good to my body: but all this while it never came into my heart seriously to thinke, I must die, and after that commeth judgement, that I must stand before Gods Tribunall, and give account of my wayes, I have not laboured to beware of Death and of sinne, nor to kill my corruptions, I have not laboured to increase in Faith, and hope, and charitie; I have left my selfe unarmed against the last and Page 145 worst enemie. Oh what folly is this, to live in the world many a long day, and never to consider, that there will be an end of all these dayes, and the end of those, the beginning of another life, and a life that will be infinitely more miserable then this.
If this (beloved) have beene any of your faults to be carelesly forgetfull of your latter end, not to consider of your departure hence: if the world have so tempted you, and pleasures have so enamoured you, that you have forgotten your latter end, blame your selves, it is the greatest of all follies.
And that I may disgrace this folly, and make you ashamed of it; Consider a little. That this is to be like children; The Apo∣stle biddeth us not to be like children in understanding: but hee that forgetteth Death, and is carelesse to prepare for it, is a very child. A little one never thinketh hee shall ever bee a man him∣selfe, and maintaine himselfe, and live in the world by his owne labour, or by that he shall have from his friends, he careth for no∣thing but meat, and drinke, and sport, and pastime: wee blame their folly, and laugh at it as rediculous, and therefore by our diligence we prevent that ill that might else come upon them. Is it not thus with many of you? yee live and build houses, and raise your names to be glorious, and to make a faire shew in the world: but to get grace, and to get faith, and hope, and love, and repentance, none of your thoughts almost runne that way, scarce any of your thoughts are so bestowed. Is not this to be children in understanding.
Againe, he is a foolish man that knoweth he shall meet an ene∣mie, and will not prepare. If a man should heare of twenty or thirty thousand souldiers were gathered against the Citie, and be∣sieged it to destroy it; He would not be so foolish, and so simple then, as to bestow himselfe in his trade, and to follow his busi∣nesse, and to give himselfe to merriment, but hee would get his weapons, and he would looke about him, helpe to arme the City, and to make it strong. Why doe yee not consider that your soule is as a Citie? Death will come against it, and batter you with sick∣nesse, with paines, and at last will certainly take it, and if the soule be not prepared will carry it to Hell fire. Why will you be so retchlesse, and senslesse to eate and drinke, and labour to grow rich, to bury your selves in earthly labours, and never thinke how to escape, how Death may be kept out, that will destroy soule and body?
I presume you are ashamed of this folly by this time, I hope yee will goe away with remorse and sorrow, for so carelesly neg∣lecting a thing of so great importance to be provided for.
In the third place therefore I entreate you, begin this great * worke this day. Consider (if you have not begun) the enemie Page 146 lieth in waite for thee, oh man or woman, if thou bee never so young, thou maist meet with him before night, if thou bee old, thou must meet with him ere long. Prepare for him betime; thinke what an enemy may encounter thee in the way. If a man be to travell, though he be not assured to meet with an enemie, yet he will strive to get good company, and weapon himselfe, he will carry his sword, something he will doe, that if a theefe come to robbe him, he may be able to prevent the danger. Beloved, thinke that there is an enemy that way-laies us, as we goe along in the world, one time or other he will be sure to come upon us: there∣fore stirre up your selves, begin this day to prepare for this enemie.
How shall I prepare for Death?
I told you before, it is not amisse in a word to repeat it. Get Faith in Christ, and Hope, and Charitie, and Repentance. These will be meanes to prepare and helpe thee against Death. There∣fore (if hitherto thou have not) lament and bewaile the sinfulnesse of thy nature and life. Assoone as thou art out of this place, get thee into a solitarie roome, fall upon thy knees, lament thy sinnes, the ilnesse of thy nature and carriage, rehearse thy wayes as much as thou canst, condemne thy selfe before God, mightily crie for pardon in the mediation of his Sonne, and never leave sobbing and mourning, till he hath given thee some answer that hee is re∣conciled. And then strive to get faith in Christ, call to mind the perfection of his redemption, the excellencie of his person and merits, that thou maist repose thy soule on him, that thou maist say, though my sinnes be as the Stars, and exceed them, yet the me∣rit of my Saviour, and his satisfaction to the justice of God it is full: in him he is well pleased and reconciled, I will stay on him. Lord Christ, thou hast done and suffered enough to redeeme mee and Man-kind, thou hast suffered for the propitiation of the world, though my sinnes deserve a thousand damnations, yet I trust upon thy mercie, according to the Covenant made in thy Word. Thus when a man laboureth to cast himselfe on Christ, to lay the burthen of his salvation, and to venter his soule on him, now he hath beleeved, this Breast-plate, Death is not able to thrust through.
And then, labour that this faith may worke so strongly, that it may breed Hope, a constant and firme expectation grounded on the promises of the Word, that thou shalt bee saved, and goe to Hea∣ven, and be admitted into the presence of God, when thou shalt be separated from this lower world. Hee that is armed with this hope, hath a Helmet, Death shall never hurt his head; it shall never be able to take away his comfort and peace; He shall smile at the approach of death, because it can doe nothing but helpe him to his kingdome.
Page 147 And then, labour for Charitie, to inflame thee to him againe, that hath shewed himselfe so truly loving to men, as to seeke them when they were lost, to redeeme them when they were captives, and to restore them from that unhappinesse, that they had cast themselves innto. Oh that I could love thee, and thy people for thy sake, thou diddest die for them, shall not I be at a little cost and paines to helpe them out of miserie.
Thus if yee labour to be furnished with these graces, then you are armed against Death; those will doe you more good, then if you had gotten millions of millions of gold and silver. As you have understanding for the outward man, as you have care to provide for that, to preserve and comfort life, while you are here, so have a care for the future world, and that boundlesse con∣tinuance of eternitie. If a man live miserably here, death will end it, if he be prepared for death, he shall live happily for ever; but if a man live happily (as we account it) and die miserably, that misery is endlesse. Yee mistake (beloved) yee account men happy that a∣bound in wealth and honour, that have great estates, I say yee mistake in accounting men happy, that enjoy the good things of this life, that can live in prosperitie to the last time of their age, possessing what they have gotten. If such a man be not prepared for death; Death makes way for a greater unhappinesse after death. For the more sinne he hath committed, the more miserie shall be∣tide him, his life being nothing but a continued chaine of wicked∣nesse one linke upon another, till he settle upon a preparation for Death.
And in the last place, here is a great deale of comfort, to those * that have laboured to prepare for death: though to them Death is an enemie, yet it is an enemie that is utterly destroyed. The Philoso∣pher said, that Death is the terriblest of all terrible things; so it is to nature, because it doth that that no other evill can doe, it separa∣teth from all comfort; and carrieth us we know not whether.
Death is terrible to a man that is unarmed for death; but to the poore Saints that have bestowed their time in humiliation, and supplication, and confession, that have daily endevoured to re∣new their faith, and hope, and repentance, Death hath no manner of terriblenesse in the world: if it bee terrible to a Christian at the first, it is onely because he hath forgot himselfe a little, he doth not bethinke how he is armed.
If God have fitted his servants for death, he hath done most for them: if they have not riches, yet they are fit for death: if they have not an estate amongst men, it mattereth not a whit if they be fit for Death, if they be miserable here, in torments and sicknesse, when others have health, it is no matter, all these increase their repentance, makes them labour for Faith, and Hope, and Chari∣tie, Page 148 whereby they are armed against Death.
Nothing can save us from the hurt of Death, but the Lord Jesus Christ, put on by Faith, and that furnished with Hope and Charitie. If God give a man other things and not these graces, Death is not destroyed to him. But if he deny him other things, and give him these graces, he doth enough for him, Death is destroyed to him. His body indeed falleth under the stroake of Death as other mens, but his soule is not hurt. Death layeth him a rotting as the com∣mon sort, but the soule goeth to the possession of glory, and re∣maineth with Christ; When hee is absent from the body, hee is present with the Lord. Nay, when the last day shall come, Death shall bee utterly swallowed up, then the poore, and fraile, and weake body, that sleepeth in corruption and mortalitie, shall bee raised in ho∣nour, and in immortall beautie and glory, a spirituall body, free from all corporall weaknesses that accompany the naturall body: it shall be made most glorious and blessed, even as if it were a spi∣rit, all the weaknesses that accompany the naturall beeing of the body shall be taken away, and it shall enjoy as much perfection as a body can, and therefore it is called spirituall: Therefore I beseech you rejoyce in the Lord if your soules tell you, that you are armed against this death.