A CHRISTIANS VICTORIE; OR, CONQVEST OVER DEATHS ENMITIE. SERMON XIII.
1 COR. 15. 26.
The last enemie that shall be destroyed, is Death.
IT could bee no Paradox to declare, that every man hath more enemies in the world then friends, both wicked and god∣ly. There is no question of it. But it is true also, that so long as a mans wayes please*God, hee can make his enemies his friends.
Of all the enemies men have, the spiri∣tuall are the worst, for they are
Common enemies I call them, because they are every mans enemies. Others though they bee enemies to some, they are friends to others, these to all.
Continuall, because their warre is never at an end. Other ene∣mies we may have truce with now and then, pauses, and breathing times, leasure given us, when we have done one skirmish to make ready for another: from these there is no intermission nor rest, not for a moment: wheresoever, or whatsoever we are about, it may be said to us, as Dalilah said to Sampson, Up Sampson, thy enemies are upon thee.
The three principall of these (yeeknow) are commonly rec∣koned up to be. The Divell, the World, and the Flesh. But the Apo∣stle telleth us of a fourth, which hee calleth our Last enemie, the Page 264 enemie which shall last of all assault us, the other will leave as∣saulting us, when we are in this world; this, when we are leaving the world, mustereth up his forces against us: sometimes holding us long play, as the house of David did the house of Saul, till our strength be wasted and spent, sometimes dispatching us with a sudden stroke, as Absolom did Amnon, when our hearts are merry within us. This enemie, Death, the very sound of his name, is like the name of Honiades to the Turkes, dreadfull to some: the ve∣ry dreame of it dreadfull, as Nebuchadnezars dreame was to him, it troubled him, and the image of it, made him tremble and quake.
But though the hearing of an enemie may cause disturbance; yet withall to heare that this enemie is overcome and destroyed, the newes of that may cheare us. Behold, this is the newes that the Text bringeth. It telleth us of an enemie indeed, but it telleth us withall of the destruction of this enemie. Death is the common enemie of man-kind; It is our last enemie, we may thinke it none of the least, because it is the last: yet here is the destruction of it, Oh thou enemie, thy destruction shall come to a perpetuall end. It is already * destroying, and as it is the last, so at the last it shall be destroyed.
Those are the two points that I am to treat of; of an Enemie, and of the destruction of this Enemie.*
The Enemie is Death, and the Last Enemie (as the Text calleth it) the last that shall assault us. In that yee may note two things; Its Qualitie, and Its Ranke.
First its nature and qualitie, An Enemie.
Secondly, its order and ranke, in what ranke it is Fyled, not in the Fore-front of the battell, but it commeth behind in the Reare, it commeth in the end of the Armie (when all other enemies have given over) and setteth upon us at the last.
Secondly, here is the destruction of the enemie, that is the Milke and honey of the Text. Death though it bee an Enemie, though it be a killing enemie, it shall not bee a conquering enemie. Hee that subdueth all our Enemies for us, will in time subdue them to us. And who he is, the Apostle telleth you in the verse before the Text, Christ our Lord, Hee shall reigne till hee hath put downe all his enemies under his feet: And as all His, so all ours too; both those that are Enemies to him, and to his death. Among the rest, he will destroy that also; As it is the last, with which we shall be as∣saulted, so it is the last that shall be destroyed.
There are three points of observation wee have here lying be∣fore us.
First, that Death is an Enemie.
Page 265 Secondly, that Death is our last Enemie.
Thirdly, that as Death assaulteth us last, so at last it shall bee destroyed.
I begin with the first of these, That Death is an Enemie. And * an Enemie indeed it is; one of the Divels regiment. The Divell he is the Generall of the Armie: when hee brought sinne into the world, he brought Death into the world. Sinne drawes Death af∣ter it, as the Needle drawes the thread.
First I will shew yee what kind of Enemie it is.
Secondly, wherein it appeareth to be an Enemie.
First, what kind of Enemie Death is; * A
First a Common Enemie; Common to all mankind. The charge * it hath, is not like that upon the Aramites, fight neither with small nor great, save onely with the King of Israel. Great and small, King and Keisar, all are markes that this aimeth at: one killing weapon or other it hath for them all; like Ishmael, The hand of him is against*every man. The young and the old, the strong, and rich, and no∣ble, and wise, and holy, none can scape, none can keepe out of Deaths reach. What man is hee that liveth, and shall not see death?*
Yee will object to me peradventure. Those that shall live at the comming of our Lord, at the end of the world, shall not see Death.
I had thought (I confesse) to have stood a little upon this points discussion, but I must not. I have many things to say. In * a word therefore; First, these are but a few, and a few make not a generall.
Secondly, though these die not the ordinary naturall death, but as Elijah and Enoch, shall bee translated up to heaven; yet in their translation and assumption, they shall suffer a mutation and change which shall be in stead of Death. Their change is a kind of Death to them, as our death is a kind of change to us.
Therefore wee may account it a common Enemie to man-kind, * for as the Scripture saith, It is the way of all the earth. And the Grave it is the house appointed for all living. It is a common Ene∣mie, * and it is the more dangerous for that.
Secondly, it is A secret Enemie; And it is the more dangerous * for that. Secret Traytours are worse then open enemies: these may be prepared against, because we know them: those may sur∣prize us unawares, because wee see them not, nor suspect them. Page 266 Poore Uriah carrieth Death in his bosome: so wee carry death about us, though like a Moth it lie and fret in the garment, and we see not when it eateth, nor can certainly determine the time when it will grate asunder the thread of our life. What man living can divine when, and how, and where Death will seize upon him? it is not for any to determine such a thing, it lieth so secret, hee cannot find it out.
What a sort of diseases wee are subject to, you may imagine how many. Nay, yee cannot imagine how many, when the very eye (as some Occolists observe) hath above sixtie diseases. What a many casualties there are every moment, when as oft as wee step over the threshold, wee cannot tell whether ever wee shall come home againe. The fire saith, Death is in me; and the Water saith, Death is in mee; the earth we tread on hath Death in it; the Ayre we breath in, that which wee continually take in, and put out at our nosethrils hath death in it: Death dwelleth with us in our hou∣ses; it walketh with us in the streets; It lieth downe with us in our beds; It is wrapped about us in our clothes that sticke to us.
Benhadad is slaine in his Bed. Amnon at his Table. Zachariah in the Temple. Ioab at the Altar. The disobedient Prophet is torne with a Lyon. The unbeleeving Prince is trod to Death in the croude. Abimelech slaine with a Mill-stone; and Pyrrhus with the fall of a Tyle. Adrian is choaked with a flie. Victor is poisoned with Wine. And one of the Emperours with the bread he recived in the Sacrament. Thus Death waiteth every where, and yet wee spie it not. It is a secret Enemie, and therefore the more dan∣gerous.
Thirdly, it is a spirituall Enemie. And it is the more dangerous * for that. Spirituall I call it; First, because it is invisible, for the spirits are invisible, they cannot be seene; Such an enemie is Death, though we must all feele it, yet wee cannot see it: were it any way discernable, we might thinke of some way how wee might shift and shun it: but it is beyond the kenne of our eyes: we are no more able to see that then the Ayre: being therefore out of sight, it is out of our reach, we know not how to grapple with it; we know not with what weapons to encounter it.
And a Spirituall Enemie I call it, because though it seize on the body, it strikes at the soule: By Gods decree the death of the soule is a concommitant of the death of the Body, and were it not by Gods mercy reverst, they would still come like lightning and thunder, and strike both together.
Againe, it is a spirituall enemie, because it fighteth against us in the strength of sinne. It commeth armed with a Sting, the sting of death is sinne. Some make question whether if Adam had never sinned, he should ever have died. But me-thinkes the Apostle Page 267 Saint Paul putteth it out of qustion; By one mans disobedience sinne*came into the world, and by sinne death. All those Deaths that S. Austin reckoneth up: First when the soule is deprived of God, separated from him. Secondly, when the body is separated from the soule. Thirdly, when the Soule is separated from the body, and from God, and suffereth torments for a time. Lastly, when the soule is separated from God, and rejoyned to the body, to suffer torments eternally. All these are the recompence, and reward of sinne. Therefore Death comming, and being an Enemie thus armed, (whatsoever kind of death it be) we may well say it is a spirituall enemie, and the more spirituall, the more dangerous.
Fourthly and lastly, it is a continuall Enemie. And it is the more * dangerous for that. It laies hold of us in the wombe, and never leaves us, till it hath brought us to the Grave. Beloved, wee doe not only die when we die, but all the time we live, assoone as wee begin to live, we begin to die. As Seneca saith, Every day wee die, because every day some part of our life is gone. As a Candle, it is no sooner lighted, but presently it begins to waste: as an houre∣glasse, it is no sooner turned, but presently the sand begins to runne out. So our life, it is no sooner breathed, but presently it begins to vapour out. As the Sea, what it gaineth in one place, it loseth in another; so our life, what we gaine one way, wee lose it in another: looke what is added to it, so much is tooke from it; the longer a man liveth, the lesse he hath to live. Death doth by us, as Iacob did by Esau, catcheth us in the wombe, and never lea∣veth us.
So wee see it is a Common, a Secret, a Spirituall, a Continu∣all Enemie.
Next we are to consider; How, and wherein Death sheweth it * selfe an Enemie. What Death deserveth at our hands, to bee thus accounted and feared. Fearfull and terrible it is, that is certaine; So Aristotle, It is the most terrible of all terribles. Bildad in Iob, cal∣leth * it the King of terrours. What doth Death bring with it to make it fearfull?
I answer, Death hath sundrie concomitants, and companions * that attend it, that make it a formidable Enemie.
First, the Harbingers that come along with it; Sicknesses, and diseases, infirmities, old age, and difficulties. These are all fear∣full to nature, and through feare of these, Death keepeth men all their life in bondage. They make our lives, as it were a life, rather like a life, then a life indeed. So that howsoever the Apostle said in another place, as it were dying, and Behold wee live. There Death* hath the tanquam, and life the Ecce: yet here we may say, as it were Page 268 living, and behold wee die: here life hath the tanquam, and Death the Ecce. Life is but as it were a life, it is but the shadow of a life that man walketh in: Man walketh in a vaine shadow, and disquieteth him∣selfe*in vaine. It is true, it lighteth not on all alike, some it com∣meth on as a Lyon, and breaking their bones from morning to eve∣ning, it makes an end of them: to others it is as a Moth in the gar∣ment, secretly in their lives, by degrees, insensibly, pining and con∣suming them. Howsoever, what Harbinger soever it bringeth, it visiteth us with many touches, and twitches, before it come: falling pell-mell, thicke and three-fold on us, when they come. In respect of these, it may be said to be an Enemie.
Secondly, the dissolution that Death bringeth. For it dissolveth the frame of nature; It divorceth, and separateth the soule from the * Bodie, those two companions, that have lived so lovingly toge∣ther, and perhaps have lived a long time together. This is ano∣ther thing that makes Death looke like an Enemie. Friends and companions that have lived long together are loth to part: wee see in experience, old folke commonly are more loth to part, when they are old, then when they are young. Now there is none neerer then the soule and bodie: there is none have lived so long, or so loving: it must needs be tedious for these to part, and be an affliction and vexation, when neither the body can longer retaine the fleeting soule, or the soule longer sustaine the drouping body. Therefore in respect of this also, Death being the cause of this, no marvell though nature reluctate, and we looke upon it, as on the face of an Enemie.
Thirdly, the horrour of the Grave: The men of Darknesse, as *Iob calleth it: the place of oblivion; the pit of stinch and rotten∣nesse; this is another thing that nature shrinketh and relucts at. For there we must burie out of our sight, that that once was the delight of our eyes, as Ezekiel said by his wife. And though it were * never so lovely before, yet it quickly becommeth loathsome. Our Beds must be made in darknesse, where corruption and wormes, must be the Mattresse and Coverled, to lie under us, and spread over us; Thou shalt say to Corruption, thou art my father, and to the worme, thou art my mother, and my sister. That bodie of thine, that * God in the wombe so wonderfully made, that thou all thy life-time (peradventure) hast delicately cherished, lapped in Silke, in Furre, pampered with sweet wines, Death as a proud Tyrant will set his foot upon it, and throw thee downe to the horrid dungeon, where thy flesh shall putrifie, and thy bones rot, and the beauty of it (though sometime it were as the Rose and the Lilly of the field) shall soone become as loathsome as the dung in the streets. This is another thing that makes the face of Death dreadful and terrible, when we thinke of such privations, and annihilations as these, tha•…Page 269 wee shall come from a beeing to no beeing. These cannot but make Death looke with the face of an Enemie.
Fourthly, The losse and deprivation of all worldly contentments,* and worldly imployments: that is another thing that makes Death terrible and fearfull to us. Looke whatsoever contentment wee tooke in any thing here, we must bid it farewell then. Farewell to all, to profits and pleasures, and honours, we shall carrie none of them away with us; None of our pompe and glory shall descend*after us, as the Psalmist saith. Farewell to all the gold and silver we have gathered together, to all the goodly lands wee have pur∣chased, to all the stately houses we have built, to all the pleasant gardens, and orchards wee have planted, to all the sports and pastimes we have had, to all our merry consorts wee have kept company with, to all our Jewels and wardrope, to our dauncing, and feasting, and musicke: Death pulleth us from all these, and layeth us levell with the Dust; It mingleth shovels and Scepters together; It makes rich and poore, the Prince and the Peasant alike; I shall see man no more. All relations we have now, shall be broken off then, betweene Husband and Wife, Parents and chil∣dren, * Master and servants, neighbour and neighbour, friend and friend: wee shall dwell apart with our selves, and not so much as shake hands one with another.
All the services and imployments wee are tooke up with here, shall cease then: there shall be no frequenting of the Exchange, no ex∣ercising of Trade, no bearing of Office, no working in our Calling. Death is the night that no man can worke in: and Death is the place of silence, where all affaires are cut off: Where there is no worke nor invention, nor wisedome, nor counsell, as Solomon saith in the booke of the Preacher. Oh saith good Hezekiah; I shall see the Lord no more in the land of the living. There is no more service to be done to the Lord, nor no more in the Church, in that manner as it is now: there is no exercise of Religion, no Word, no Sacraments, no Fasting, no Almes, no Preaching, no Prayer, no Confession and thankes-giving. The Corse cannot praise thee, the Grave cannot give thankes, they that goe downe into the pit cannot honour thee.*
Oh (Beloved) how carefull and active, and vigilant, and di∣ligent should this make us to be (when wee consider it) for the well improving of that time that wee have lent unto us, and for the well-discharging of those places, and offices, and duties that are now laid upon us; Considering that Death is an enemie that will cut us off from all affaires, and bereave us of all opportunities of re∣ceiving or doing, or performing any service to God at all, either * in Church or Common-wealth.
Fiftly and lastly, Conscience of sinne, and certaintie of iudgement, and uncertainty of salvation (for brevities sake I put them toge∣ther) Page 270 these things come along with Death, and make the face of Death terrible and fearfull.
Conscience of sinne first of all. For Sinne it is the sting of Death. And which of us is there that doth not arme Death with that sting? Who can reflect on the passages of his life, but he shall find it as full of sinne, as the Leopard of spots. Wee find nothing in sinne now, but oblectation and delight, and therefore wee hide it under our tongue, and hugge it in our bosomes. Oh but when Death com∣meth once, it thrusteth these things out, and oh the horrour and anguish that the poore conscience is tormented, and made to smart with.
Againe, with conscience of sinne, certainty of judgement; that is another dreadfull Arrow in Deaths quiver, After Death commeth judgement. And wee must all appeare before the judgement seat of*Christ, to receive according to what wee have done in our bodies. First, the particular judgement that passeth upon the soule, it shall never be reverst, for as the Tree falleth, so it lieth. And then the Generall judgement, when the Body and Soule shall both bee wrapped up in the same condemnation. Oh who can dwell with devouring fire? with those everlasting burnings?*
And then lastly; The uncertaintie of our future estate. For how ma∣ny thousands bee there that die, that cannot tell what becommeth of them when they die, but they must sing that Farewell to their soules as Adrian to his, My poore wandring soule, whether art thou go∣ing? What will become of thee? Death then being accompanied with such an Armie of Terrours as these, the Apostle might well call it, as it is in the Text; An Enemie. That is the first thing.
Secondly, we are to consider how it is called the last Enemie.
For two reasons; First, because it is the last that shall assault us. So Caietan.
Secondly, because it is the Last that shall bee destroyed. So the * common streame of interpreters.
It is the Last Enemie that shall assault us. And here I have to note two things;
First, that while wee live in the world, we have more Enemies in the world. For when there are some last, there must bee others going before. If Death bee the last Enemie, there are some others beside. I, we have so (God knoweth) Enemies on every side. Without us, within us.
The Divell he is an Enemie to us, and vollies of tentation hee * hath to discharge against us. So many tentations, so many Enemies.
The World is an enemie to us: An enemie when it seemeth a friend; * When it smileth it betrayeth: it kisseth and killeth. On the right hand it hath prosperitie to allure, on the left hand adversitie to Page 271 affright; in every corner, wicked counsell, and company, and ex∣ample to seduce and insnare us.
Lastly, our owne flesh is an enemie. It is a Serpent wee carry in * our bosomes. The Divell is a serpent in Hell: the world is a Ser∣pent in our hand: the flesh is a Serpent in our bosome. Wee carry it with us where ever wee goe: It is a con-naturall, concorporate Enemie. All our other enemies could doe us no hurt, if it were not for that, if this enemie that cohabiteth with us, did not combine against us. Know (who everthou art) there is no Enemie like thy selfe: thy selfe is the worst enemie of all. All the sparkes that flie out of Sathans engines, could never sindge a haire of our heads, if our flesh were not as tinder. All the windes that blow in the foure corners of the world, could not make shipwracke of us, if our flesh were not a treacherous Pilot. Death (that gnaweth the thread of our soule and body asunder) could not separate them, or them from God, if the flesh did not whet the teeth of it, and sharpen it with a sting.
So then we see, we have a great many Enemies more to encoun∣ter us besides Death, some without, some within. Therefore how should this teach us circumspect walking? to behave our selves wise∣ly in every thing, as David when he knew Saul was his Enemie, and had an eye upon him to doe him mischiefe. How should it teach us to pray with David; Lord teach mee thy way, and lead me in the right*path, because of mine enemie? That is one thing I have to note.
Againe, another thing I have to note; If Death be the last ene∣mie,* then in all probabilitie it is like to be the worst. Of the Di∣vels regiment it is (I told yee before) Hee is the Generall of the Armie. And (beloved) beleeve it, the Divell is very politique and subtile, in marshalling his forces, hee will not place his best Souldiers in the forefront of the battell, but keepes them in the Reare, he puts them behind, that when all the rest have wearied and tired us, they should set on us afresh. He is so cunning a dispu∣tant, that he reserveth the best arguments for the last. A cunning Gamester, that plaies his best play at the last; A cunning Archer, that shootes his best shaft at the last. So since Death is the last Ene∣nie, it is like to be the sorest.
Now the sorer we are like to find him, the carefuller we should be to arme against him: alwayes to put our selves in a readinesse, that whensoever he commeth, hee may find us weaponed: that if it were possible, we might be alwayes doing, as if wee were dy∣ing, it being the height of the perfection, that any soule can at∣taine to (as the heathens themselves well observed) for a man to spend every day, as if it were his last day.
That is one reason why the Apostle here calleth Death the last enemie, because the last is like to be the worst.
Page 272 Againe, another reason. As it is the last by which wee are as∣saulted, * so it is the last that shall bee destroyed. That the Apostle principally meant here (as Interpreters commonly understand it) When he saith the last enemie that shall be destroyed is Death, hee meant that Death is the Enemie that shall be destroied last. And this leadeth me to the last point I propounded to speake of, That Death is an enemie, and the last enemie, and at last shall be destroyed.
It shall be destroyed, that is one thing.
Who undertakes the doing of it? Our selves? In likelihood * Death is more likely to destroy us, then we it. But as it is said of the seven-sealed booke in the Revelation, when there was none in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, that was able to open it, the Lion of the tribe of Iudah, prevailed to open the booke. So the Lion of the tribe of Iudah prevaileth to destroy this enemie, that none in heaven, or in earth, or under the earth, but only he, is able to destroy. Hee saith of him, as David of Goliah, when hee defied the host of Israel, and all men ranne away, Let no mans heart faile him. So saith the * sonne of David, The Lord of David, let no mans heart faile him, I will goe to fight with yonder Philistim. Oh Death I will be thy death, It is spoken in the person of Christ, whom Saint Peter calleth the Lord of*life. Hee subdueth all Enemies, and it is he that will destroy Death, hee will not leave him, till he have trod him under foot.
But when will Christ doe this? Wee see Death playes the Ty∣rant * still, it killeth and spoyleth, as fast as it did; his sickle is in eve∣ry ones harvest; as fast as the corne growes up, hee cuts it downe, he leaveth not an eare standing. How long Lord, how long be∣fore this (that the Apostle tells us of) will be?
At last. His meaning is, at the generall day of the Resurrection: * when the end of the world shall come, then Christ shall destroy him. And he bringeth it in the rather, to assure the Corinths of that, that some of them doubted of; namely, that there should be a Resurrection. For unlesse the dead should arise, how can Death be destroyed? But Death shall be destroyed, therefore it is out of que∣stion that the dead shall rise againe.
But what comfort have we in the meane time, if Death be not destroyed till then? if till then it play the domineering Enemie?
No, not so neither. Wee have comfort enough in that, that * Christ hath already done. Though it bee not already destroyed, yet it is already subdued. It is not only subdued, but disarmed, and not only so, but captivated, and triumphed over. Hee subdued it when he died; in suffering death he overcame Death; hee beat him in his owne ground, at his owne weapons: in his owne hold hee disarmed him. When he rose againe, then he spoyled him of his power, and tooke his weapons away, and triumphed over him in the open field. When he ascended into heaven, then hee carried Page 273 those spoiles with him in token of conquest, as Sampson tooke the Gates of Gaza on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill. Christ by Death tooke the sting of Death away; by his Resurre∣ction hee tooke the strength of Death away; by his Ascension hee tooke away the hope of Death, for ever conquering or prevailing more; finally, at the last Judgement hee will take away the name and beeing of Death, so that it shall never bee more remembred, but mortality shall be swallowed up of life.
I, Christ hath done this for himselfe (perhaps) but what is this to us?
Nay, Christ hath done it, not only for his owne victorie, but he hath given us victorie: hee is not only a conquerour, but hee hath made us conquerours: thankes be unto God, that hath given us*victorie.
In a word, Christ hath, and will doe by Death, as hee doth by our sinnes: he hath subdued them already: at the last hee will ut∣terly destroy them: sinne and Death both of them are already subdued, at last they shall be abolished and destroyed, that they shall be no more. As there shall bee no more sorrow and paine, so there shall be no more death and sinne: All teares shall be wiped from*our eyes: I will ransomethem from the power of the grave, and redeeme them from death.
More then this; This yet addeth to our comfort, Christ will so destroy Death, as hee will not only subdue him for us, but also reconcile him to us: not only foile him as an Enemie, but propiti∣ate, and make him our friend. Wee have all our enemies subdued to us, but some are so subdued, that they are reconciled: Death is one of them, it is a reconciled, as well as a subdued enemie. In stead of bringing forth children for bondage, it becommeth a pur∣chaser of our freedome: it is so farre from plucking us from Christ, as rather it letteth us into Christ: so farre from being a losse, as it bringeth gaine: so farre from being a dammage, that it is part of our Dowrie: therefore the Apostle reckoneth it as a prerogative, as hee saith, that the world, and life, and Christ is ours, so Death is ours.* Indeed if Death were not ours, life were not ours; for our only way to life now is by Death. Such a friend is this Enemie become, that it is a Bridge to passe to heaven: the Chariot that wee are tooke up to heaven in. What we get of life toward life, we lose in death, but what we get in death toward life, we never lose.
Now for the Application, and conclusion of all. Something I have to say by way of comfort, and something by way of counsell.
First, by way of comfort; Against the feare of Death, or a∣gainst * over-much sorrow for those that Death takesaway.
It is true, Death is an Enemie. But to whom? only to the wicked *Page 274 that are out of Christ, to those that have no benefit at all by his Death and Resurrection, and ascension. When Death commeth and findeth out these, they may say as Ahab did to Eliah, and more truly a great deale, hast thou found me, oh mine Enemie? It is the worst Enemie they have in the world. It is a cruell Sergeant, that * catcheth them by the throat, and arresteth them for a debt that they are never able to pay: It dragges them to the Jayle, casteth them into the Dungeon, to the chaines of Darknesse. I have not a word of comfort to say to them. They have no more comfort in Death, then they have in Hell, where though they shall lie in torments and paine, they shall not have a drop of water to coole their tongue.
But to the faithfull in Christ, there is comfort upon comfort. * For though Death be an Enemie, yet remember, first it is a subdu∣ed Enemie.
Secondly, a reconciled Enemie.
Thirdly and lastly, an Enemie that one day shall not be at all.
It is a subdued Enemie, that is one comfort. The strength and * sting of it is gone. When a Bee hath lost his sting, and is a Droane, it can hurt no more. So Death is a Droane to a Christian, it hums and buzzeth, it doth no hurt, it cannot sting, the sting is gone.
Against all those Enemies that I formerly told yee of, that are attendants on Death, here is comfort.
First it is true: Death commeth with ill Harbingers, it bringeth sicknesses, and aches, and paine, but there is comfort against this. For when God sendeth paine, remember hee promiseth to send patience too: that he will put his hand under to helpe, His left hand shall bee under us, and his right hand over us, to catch us: hee hath * promised comfort upon our sicke beds, to make our bed in our sick∣nesse.* Wee need not make such an Allegorie as Ambrose doth: this sweet flesh of ours, the Bed of our soule, it is under infirmities and weaknesses: God helpeth us, he makes our bed: hee saith to the sicke of the Palsey, Take up thy bed: hee turneth our bed in our sicknesse, ei∣ther he sends us health, (so some expounds it) hee turnes the bed of sicknesse, into a bed of health: or God turneth our bed for us in our sicknesse; that is, he refresheth us, giveth us ease, when we lie upon our sicke beds. It is a Metaphor borrowed from those that attend sicke persons, that helpe to make their Beds easie and soft, and turne them, that they may lie at ease: So God hath pro∣mised his children in the painfull time of sicknesse, to make their Beds easie and soft, to cause them to lie at ease by the Patience that he will give them.
Secondly, it is true, Death bringeth dissolution, and dissolveth the frame of nature, it separateth and divorceth those two loving companions, the Soule and the Body. But there is comfort in this. For though it divorce the Soule and the Body, yet it cannot Page 275 destroy the soule and the body: even the body is in the hand of God, when it is rotting in the earth, as the Soule is translated to heaven. Againe, though they be separated, yet it is but for a time, one day they shall meet more joyfull, and glorious then ever be∣fore, and after that they shall never be separated againe. Lastly, though he separate the soule from the body, and the body from the soule, yet neither from Christ, nor Christ from them. Nay, it is so farre from separating, that it helpeth to unite us to Christ, (as I said before) the dissolution of those shall bee the conjuncti∣on with him; I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ.*
Thirdly, it is true, the horrour of the Grave attendeth Death, and the putrifaction of this flesh of ours, that must turne to corrupt∣nesse, it makes it terrible and fearfull. But there is comfort against this. For after that time of putrifaction, there shall bee a time of restitution, and though the wormes devoure this flesh of ours, yet in that very flesh of ours, wee shall see God another day, These eyes shall*see him. There is comfort in that, that when God shall come to restore us with himselfe, what the Grave hath clothed with cor∣ruption, he will cloath with glory; these vile bodies, hee will make*them like the glorious body of Christ, without all corruption.
Fourthly, it is true, Death depriveth us of worldly friends, of worldly imployments, this makes it terrible; Yet there is com∣fort against this. Though we be deprived of worldly friends, it carries us to heaven, to better company, to Angels, to the spirits of*just and perfect men, to God the Iudge of all, to Iesus the Mediatour of the New Testament. Nay besides, one day hee will restore againe those very friends, of which here we are deprived: though wee lose them for a time, in heaven wee shall meet againe, and there renew a perpetuall league of societie and love. So though it de∣prive us of worldly benefits, it cannot of heaven, and those are better, they are not pleasures of sinne, that last for a season, but at the*right hand of God, that endure for ever.
So though it deprive us of worldly services, it carrieth us to heaven, to those that are better, that are high and proper to the Church triumphant, such as befit the Church, to sing Hallelujahs; and such as are profitable to the Church militant, by the memorie of good examples, and by the prayers they offer to God, not in particular, for they know no mans particular wants, yet for the generall and common good of all.
Fifthly and lastly; It is true, the consideration of sinne, and of Judgement, and our uncertaine estate after death, makes it terrible like the face of an Enemie. Yet there is comfort against these.
For sinne. I told you that though there bee a sting in the Ser∣pent, yet Christ hath drawne out that sting, so that being a Serpent without a sting, we may doe as Moses, take it in our hand, put it into Page 276 our bosome, and it will never doe us hurt, to them that die in the Lord: Death rather came by sinne, then for sinne; It is not betweene sinne and damnation, but betweene sinne and salvation.
For judgement; It is true, Death presenteth judgement, but it presenteth it with comfort, for the day of Judgement, is the day that the godly looke for, and long for, as the day of redemption, not of confusion; when they shall receive the sentence by which they shall bee absolved, and not condemned. For they know when God shall come to be their Judge, hee shall come to be their Saviour.
And so for the uncertaintie of our future estate after death. It is true, the state of the dead, in regard of naturall understanding, it may be a thing uncertaine and obscure, yet from the secre•… reve∣lation of Gods Spirit, the Saints in some measure know how it will be with them after death, Wee know though our earthly tabernacle be destroyed, wee have a building given us of God.*
All these things are helpes to give us comfort against the feare of Death, and those Enemies that Death comes attended with: that though it be an Enemie, yet it is a subdued Enemie.
Secondly, it may comfort us, to consider that Death is not only * a subdued, but a reconciled Enemie; of an Enemie it is made to bee a friend: it is so to all the faithfull; such a friend, as they have not a better in the world. It is most certaine, the wicked have not a worse enemie in the world then Death, and the godly have not a better friend; so yee should see if I had leisure to shew you, on the one side from what labour and care, and miserie, it helpeth to free them; and on the other side, to what comfort, and rest, and peace, and joy, it helpeth to bring them.
Lastly, it may comfort us, to consider that as death is an enemie,* a subdued enemie, a reconciled enemy, so it is an enemie, that at last shall be destroyed. The time shall come when Death and Hell shall be cast into the lake of fire; the meaning is (I thinke) they shall be shut up in the bottomlesse pit, where they shall only have leave to ex∣ercise their power on the Divell, and damned reprobates that lie there in torments, Death on the one side still gnawing of them that they ever die, and yet Hell on the other side, still preserving of them, that they shall everlastingly live. But the godly, and the faithfull shall have their part and portion given them in the resurrection to life, where they shall never •…ast of death more. What the Apostle saith of Christ, is true of all those that are in Christ, when they are once dead, they shall die no more, Death hath no more dominion over them.*
But I cannot inlarge these comforts; Yet (Beloved) I have a word or two of counsell, I pray hearken to it. Birefly thus.
Christ though he have overcome, and destroyed both death and * sinne for us for ever, yet notwithstanding he will have us exercised Page 277 also in subduing and overcomming them, Christ hath not so fought for us, but he will have us also fight for our selves: as hee hath overcome death, so must we for our parts, that wee may have the comfort of that that Christ hath done. Death being an enemie* to us, we must prepare and arme our selves against it, that it may not be an Enemie too strong.
And for your better direction take these few heads.
First, Remember that Death is the wages of sinne. It is sinne that * lead Death into the world: it is in respect of that, that Death is an Enemie to us, and were it not for that, it would bee no Eenemie at all. Now then (beloved) if yee will not die in your sinnes, let your care be to die to sinne: labour to have sinne die in thee, and then thou shalt not die in that. When thou hast committed drun∣kennesse, or prophanenesse, &c. thinke with thy selfe, this is plea∣sant and sweet now; but how will this tast another day, when I shall come to lie upon my death-bed, and my soule shall set on my pale lips, ready to take her flight, and bee brought before the Judgement seat of Christ? What fruit will these things bring then? What comfort, and peace, and joy, will it procure to the consci∣ence then? Oh (saith Abner to Ioab) knowest thou not, that this will be bitternesse in the end? It will be as gall and wormwood, therefore if yee would not have Death be bitter then, let not sinne bee sweet now: part with sinne betime. That is the first.
Secondly, learne to walke humbly with God betime, and betime put your selves in a way of repentance, and new obedience: take * heed of dallying with God, and procrastinating, and putting off the time. What is the reason why a sort die (as Plinie saith some doe, that are stung with the Serpent Colemion) some laughing, some raging, some so•…tish and secure, others hoping, some dispai∣ring? They have not beene carefull to walke with God while they lived; because they wanted care then, they want comfort now. They that remember not God in their life (saith S. Austin) it is just with God to forget them in death. The Apostle S. Peter would have us looke for new heavens, and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righ∣teousnesse. But never looke thou to dwell in that heaven where righteousnesse dwelleth, except righteousnesse dwell in thee: And he exhorteth us, that wee be found of God in peace at that day: that is sweet and comfortable indeed; but remember, Peace and ho∣linesse goe together, if we would be found of God in peace, wee must be found of him in holinesse: Walke in holinesse and uprightnesse, and then peace shall kisse thee on thy death-bed: Marke the upright and just man, the end of that man is peare.
Thirdly, the better to subdue Death, be willing to meditate and * thinke o•… of Death, learne the Art of dying, practise the way of it betime, learne to die daily.
Page 278 How shall we doe that?
I will shew you. Consider we have many little deaths to un∣dergoe in the world, as we have many delights; Learne to inure and acquaint thy selfe before hand with the patient and quiet bearing and enduring of these many troubles and crosses that be∣fall thee, As Agamemnon first overcame the Lacedemonians by wrest∣ling, and then by fighting, and Bilney first burnt his finger in the Can∣dle, that after he might the better endure the burning of his body at the stake. So thinke with your selves, If I cannot endure a little, how shall I endure more? If I cannot endure a light crosse, a small af∣fliction, doe I murmure at that? Am I impatient and repine at that? How shall I beare the pangs of Death, when they come? Therefore let us inure our selves to a meeke, and quiet bearing of lesser stripes, so wee may be better able to endure heavier stroakes. Many of us lay out a great deale of care how to live in the world, we had more need take care how to die, when wee shall leave the world. Studie the Art of dying; That is the third.
Lastly, that we may the better subdue Death, that it may not * be an Enemie too strong; Learne before so to dispose of our selves, and order our affaires, that when Death commeth, wee may have nothing to doe but to die. Get all differences reconciled, all doubts settled, all reckonings ordered: sequester our selves from all other avocations, that nothing may interrupt us, when that worke is to goe in hand with. Put thy house in order (saith God to Hezekiah;) I say so to every one of you. First, your outward house, that which concerneth your worldly estate, put that house in*order. What? wouldest thou make thy Will and testament, and be troubled about that, when thou hadst more need to have that Will and testament confirmed, that Christ hath made?
And then set thy soule and conscience, thy inner house in or∣der, * let not conscience be to seeke then of any thing that concer∣neth thee for thy peace toward God and man. Die thus, and die happily. Though Death be an enemie, yet thou shalt not be hurt of it, because it is subdued, and at last thou shalt get the victorie over it, when thou shalt see it utterly destroyed.
And now as I have exhorted you to doe this, by way of coun∣sell, so yet a little further I crave patience, that I may encourage you to doe it by way of example: By the example of this blessed servant, and Saint of God, for whose occasion you have given this meeting, and I have preached this Sermon.
Give me leave to doe by her, as Mary Magdelen did by our Savi∣our Christ, to breake a box of Spiknard and poure it on her, that I may anoint her for her buriall. Concerning whom, though I could say a great deale, yet (knowing how well shee was knowne to you) I should not be afraid to say too much. Yet on the other side (be∣cause Page 279 the night is farre spent, and because shee was sufficiently knowne to you) although I speake but a little, I shall speake enough. Shee dwelt among you: who is he that can speake ill of her? who knew her but reported well of her?
The Apostle Saint Paul reduceth all the practicall parts of Christianitie to three heads▪ Living soberly, and righteously, and ho∣lily: The grace of God (saith he) hath appeared, and teacheth us to doe*all this. Shee had learned to live soberly. Shee was a patterne of sobrietie. Sober in her countenance, in her diet, in her apparell, in her speech, in all her behaviour.
And the grace of God taught her to live righteously, both in those things that concerne the workes of justice, and those things that concerne the workes of mercy: both are referred to righteousnesse.
For her Justice, I am perswaded shee was exceeding carefull in all her wayes to keepe a good Conscience. I am sure she was a woman very diligent and painfull in her Calling, shee was truly one of those good house-wives that Solomon describeth in Prov. 31. and had studied that Chapter well, and attained the practise of it: she could never endure idlenesse in any: there was no plague (she said) to idle∣nesse; and that diligence in our Callings sets open a dore to many blessings, and shuts up the dore to many tentations. I may call her a discreet woman, that was a crowne to her husband; so Solomon said a vertuous woman is. Hee had a rich portion, when God gave him her. Houses and lands come by inheritance, but a Prudent wife commeth of the Lord. Shee was an excellent guide to her family, to her ser∣vants: Children she had none. She had such children as S. Austin speakes of, and he saith, they are those children that women are saved by; What children, saith he? Good workes: and those children shee was full of. She did the part of a Mother in bringing up her servants that were with her: insomuch as she would say sometimes (though they were none of her owne children) Behold, here am I, and the children that God hath given me. And for workes of mercie aswell as justice, she was most open-hearted and handed, not only to doe according, but beyond her abilitie: alwayes ready upon every occasion to distribute, and administer to the necessities of the Saints, and provoked, and stirred others to the doing of the like. Among her neighbours she lived unblameably: A woman of a meeke and quiet spirit, and Saint Peter saith, Such of God are much set*by. She was no tattler, nor busie medler in other folkes matters.
For Pietie, shee was remarkabl•…. Shee shewed it both in her health and sicknesse. In her health, both publikely and privatly. In publike, She was a religious frequenter of the ordinances on the Lords day, and on the weeke dayes, a diligent hearer and at∣tender, an excellent rememberer: one of the best Remembrancers that I have heard of. And in private, she was excellent for duties Page 280 there, both for the discharge of her owne dutie, by giving ensam∣ple to others, and many times by good and godly exhortations and instructions, and daily by private reading and prayer, shee set apart some time for her selfe, for private meditation.
In her sicknesse, she was a spectacle for thousands to looke on. It pleased God to lay a long and heavy affliction upon her. Shee had a Cancer in her breast, that had beene on her three yeares: in the two last yeares she suffered a great deale of extremity, as you may imagine by one thing that I shall say. Shee was faine to en∣dure a great deale of dressing with Corrasives and sharpe medi∣cines; a great deale of cutting, and searing, and burning: shee was above fiftie times burnt with hot Irons: but (Lord) with what patience did she still endure it? Shee would say, It was no matter; sanctified afflictions were better then unsanctified prosperity. Apelles said, when the picture of a beautifull woman was to be compleat∣ly drawne, he must borrow one part from one, and another from another, and put altogether. She had learned this. Shee had loo∣ked on many good patternes in the Scripture, and had drawne to her selfe an imitation of them all, so that she was a perfect and com∣pleat Modell. Though I say much, yet I know, I say, nothing but the truth. I read of few excellent women in the Scripture, but she made them a patterne of one vertue or other. For obedi∣ence, she was a Saraah: for wisedome a Rebecca: for meeknesse a Hannah: for a discreet temper, an Abigal: for good houswiverie a Martha: for pietie, a Mary, a Lydia. I know not any necessarie thing, that belonged to make up a good Christian, but in some measure it pleased God to bestow it on her. Thus she continued all her life in the time of her health: and in sicknesse with so much patience as (after a sort) she endured a martyrdome, and I see no reason but we may allow a Martyr of Gods making, aswell as of mans: I am sure, if God make Martyrs, I know not any fitter then she, so meeke, and patient, and constant. Many daughters (saith *Solomon) have done vertuously, but thou surmountest them all. I will not say so of her, because I decline flatterie. But this I will say, that I know not many excell her, scarse any that come neere her. She hath the reward of that shee hath done, given her of God, and her workes follow her. We leave her to God, and having committed her soule into his hands, we beseech his gracious favour upon our selves.