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Let us look with contempt upon the world, upon its vain grandeur, aud upon its decaying riches ; esteem not any thing upon earth, nor that which man is able to promise or procure ; but esteem and value the blessed advantages that we expect in heaven, and that are disposed and entrusted in God's own hands, 2 Tim. i. Tit. ii. Let us prefer Job's dunghill and ashes before the proud throne and glorious monarchy of Nebuchadnezzar. Let us fancy the beggary of poor Lazarus more happy than the overflowing abundance of the rich miser. Imprint in our minds that blessed saying of the Son of God, “ What would it profit a man if he gain the whole world, if he destroy himself, and lose his soul ?” Luke ix. Let us have always before our eyes the image of that rich worldling, who had gathered much wealth for his soul, but his soul was not wealthy or rich before God : remember what he saith to his soul; “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years ; rest thyself, eat and drink, and be merry." But what says God to him? “ Thou fool, this very night thy soul shall be taken away from thee ; and the things that thou hast gathered, whose shall they be ?” Instead of studying how to enlarge our barns and cellars, and to increase our revenues and treasures, let us labour to set some bounds to our desires, and let us be content with what we have at present. Seeing we have but a breath in our nostrils, and that we are clothed with a mortal body, let us not entertain such vast designs, nor suffer our longings to be perpetual. Let us always, in every place, be ready to end our life, to put the last stone to its building; or rather, let us be always in a disposition of dissolving this earthly tabernacle. Let us willingly break all the bands and ties that fasten us to this miserable earth, that when Death shall come, it. may have nothing to do but to cut the last string, by which our soul is naturally joined to this languishing body. Settle and fix your strongest affections in heaven, that where your treasure is, your hearts may be there also. Let us not be U
lulled asleep, as the foolish virgins ; but, having our reins girded, and our candles lighted, let us be prepared, at every moment, to go and meet our heavenly Spouse, and follow him into the marriage chamber. Let us be like a ship at anchor, ready to set sail with the first fair wind, and as a soldier newly armed, that waits for the day of battle, and for the signal to mount upon his horse, that he may appear in the field at the sound of the trumpet. Let us send, beforehand, all our precious jewels into the most glorious palace of eternity that our bag and baggage being ready prepared, we may have nothing to do but to take our last farewell. If any consideration of flesh and blood hinders us, let us break asunder all these bands by the strength of our Nazarene, that is, by the virtue of God's holy Spirit, which he hath been graciously pleased to grant unto us. And if the persons that we love and cherislı as tenderly as our soul, or those whom 'we are to reverence and honour, labour to stir up the bowels of our compassion, and to impede us in our holy resolutions by base and earthly considerations; let us tell them, as our Saviout did Mary Magdalene, “ Touch me not, for I am going to my Father,” John xv. Stop not my course ; for I hold already the prize, and the promised crown. In short, as Abraham let the ram loose, whereof the horns were taken in a thicket, and offered it up in sacrifice to God, Gen. xxi. so let us free our minds from all worldly cares and carnal affections ; let us offer them all up to God as a sweet-smelling sacrifice ; let us present them as a burnt-offering, consume them in the flames of an holy zeal and love of his divine Majesty. When the Christian shall be thus prepared, he shall never stand in fear of Death ; he will say to it with an assured countenance, Come when thou wilt, O Death, I desire no reprieve; for a long while ago I have settled my affairs, and wait for thee with patience. The chief part of myself is not here below; my heart is already ravished into heaven, where God expects me with open arms. Therefore, notwithstanding thy fearful darkness, and the design that thou hast to de. stroy me, I will follow thee as courageously and as joyfully as St. Peter did the angel of light, that opened to him the gates of his prison, and freed him from his chains, Acts xii.
A PRAYER and Meditation for such as prepare for Death by
a Renunciation of the World.
INFINITE Lord of heaven and earth, who disposest of
good and evil by thy divine providence and admirable wisdom! thou hast not suffered us to have here an abiding city, that we might seek for that which is to come. Thou discoverest before our eyes the vanity and inconstancy of all things under the sun, that we might labour to attain to solid and everlasting advantages. Thou hast placed and reserved in heaven inexhaustible treasures of riches, uncorruptible crowns of glory, and eternal triumphs, that thither we might transport our hearts and affections. The source of heavenly pleasures is with thee, that we might always be athirst for the strong and living God; and that we might desire, with an holy earnestness, to look upon thy beautiful and glorious face. Most glorious Creator, seeing thou hast bestowed on me an immortal soul, suffer me not to be so wretched, as to doat upon these perishing vanities; and seeing thou hast made it of a spiritual and heavenly nature, suffer me not to be so unhappy as to wallow in this miserable dust of the earth, or to cast myself into the puddle and dirt of carnal lusts. Give me grace to renounce the world, and all the vanities that the world adores. Give me grace to possess all these decaying things as not possessing them; that I may trample upon all the pomp and glory of the age; that I may consider, that the gold, the silver, the precious jewels, whereof the apparent beauty deceives the carnal eye of man, is no
thing else but concrete earth, that will dissolve again into dust ; that I may remember, that after my decease all these things will profit me no more than the earth and stones which shall cover my dead corpse, or the wood and lead which shall be given to it for a coffin. Give me grace to despise all the honours and dignities, after which men of the world run so impatiently; for they are but like a shadow that passes away, and like the smoke that ascendeth up out of our reach. Pluck out of my heart the cares of this life, and all solicitousness for the earth, that Death may never surprise me unawares, and that there may be nothing to stop or hinder me from going to thee, when thou shalt be pleased to call me; that my soul, being totally disengaged and freed from all these briers and thorns, I may be ready always at every moment, to be offered unto thee as a living and burnt sacri. fice. The children of Israel waited for thine orders to pitch and move their camp: give me also grace to be as ready prepared to live and die, to remain in this tabernacle, and to depart out of it when thou shalt send thy warrant. And as this people went over the river Jordan, with a wonderful joy, to take possession of the promised land; O that I might also leave this miserable wilderness with like transports, to enter into the celestial Canaan, where the milk and honey of divine pleasure and of eternal comforts flow, as in their natural channel! O God, who art my portion and mine inheritance, cast ne not away with the men of the world, whose portion is in this life. Thou fillest their paunch with thy good things, so that they are full, and leave sufficient for their babes. But, as for me, all my comfort is, that I shall behold thy face in righteousness, and shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.
CHAP. XI. The Fifth Remedy against the Fears of Death is, to forsake
Vice, and to apply ourselves to the Practice of Piety and Sanstification.
M OD is wonderful in all bis works, and he governs all bis
S creatures in such a manner that draws from his very enemies the acknowledgment of his truth. You have an excellent example in Balaam, who, beholding the tents of the children of Israel, breaks out into this passionate wish,“ Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his,” Numb. xxiii. He was a wicked varlet, that loved the wages of iniquity; nevertheless he perceived, by that prophetical light with which his soul was enlightened, how sweet and comfortable death was to such as addicted themselves, in this life, to the service and fear of Almighty God, and how different it is to the death of the profane worldlings, who give themselves over to their lusts, and delight in the unlawful pleasures of the flesh: for as drunkards sleep with a disturbed and unquiet fancy; likewise such as are drunken and full with the base and rotten pleasure of this life, if they be not hardened by atheism, commonly depart out of this world with strange frights, and horrid gripings of conscience, that cannot be expressed. It is otherwise with a good Christian; for as the handicraftsman, who hath worked all the day in his shop, and the husbandman, who hath wearied himself in following the plough, lays himself down at night in peace; so it is with a good Christian, who hath carefully attended the works of piety and mercy in this life. He takes his last sleep with great quiet of mind, and satisfaction of soul. As righteous Jacob, when he travelled a journey to his mother's friends at his father's command, was not frighted to see the sun go down, though he was in the midst of an open field, Gen. xxviii. but he laid him down in peace, and