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fingers of a man's hand writing these words upon the wall of his palace ; “ Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin;" which the prophet Daniel hath thus interpreted; “ Mene,, God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it; Tekel, Thou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting ; Perez, or Upharsin, Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” As soon as this great monarch had cast his eyes upon this miraculous writing, it is said, that his countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. Certainly the proud worldling has a greater cause to be dismayed in the midst of his glory and pleasures, when he may perceive Death writing upon every wall of his house in visible characters, and printing upon his forehead, that “ God hath numbered his days,” and this, in which he now breathes, shall be soon followed by an eternal night; that God hath weighed him in the balance of his justice, and found him as light as the wind; and that the almighty Creator, unto whom vengeance belongs, will soon divest him of all his glory and riches, to clothe therewitla his enemies. What comforts can be found for the wretched sinners, who do not only understand their final sentence, but also hear the thundering voice of the great Judge of the world exasperated by their impieties? They may now perceive hell prepared to swallow them up, and the fiery chains of that doleful prison ready to embrace them. They may at present feel the hands of the executioner of divine justice, that seize upon them already, and see themselves before stretched and tortured in that place, where there shall be nothing but weeping and horrible gnashing of teeth. At present they may feel the fierce approaches of that fire and brimstone which is the second death ; for it may be justly said of these wretched varlets, That hellcomes to them before they go to hell, and that in this life they have a presension of the grievous pangs of their future torments : therefore some
of them in despair offer violence to themselves, and commit an horrid murder upon their own persons, as if they were afraid not to die by a band wicked enough. The expectation of Death to them, is more insufferable than Death it. self; and they had rather cast themselves into the bottomles pit of hell, than endure the apprehensions and fears of hell in their guilty consciences; and to be delivered of the flashes of hell-fire, and mount up their souls in this life, they cast themselves in a brutish manner into that unquenchable burning
That which is most terrible is, that the horrid and insufferable fears that seize upon the wicked, are not short and transitory; for as a criminal that knows there is a sentence of death pronounced against him, continually thinks upon those torments that are preparing for him; as soon as he hears the door unlocking, or a fly buzzing at his ears, he imagines that some are entering to drag him from his prison to execution. In some sense he desires what he apprehends, and hastens the approach of that which he wishes, but cannot avoid. Thus desperate sinners, that know there is a sentence of eternal death proclaimed against them in the court of the King of kings, and that from this sentence there is no appeal nor escape, must needs be in continual fears. Such foresee the fearful image of Death, that disturbs their quiet; and, as St. Paul expresses himself, “through fear of Death they are all their life-time subject to bondage,” Heb. ii. 15. That is, they are like so many wretched slaves, that tremble under the inhuman power of a merciless tyrant.
I know that there be some Atheists who talk of Death with contempt or scorn, and who make an open profession of braving Death without the least sense of fear ; nevertheless, they feel in their souls some secret thorns, with which i Death often galls them ; some fears and apprehensions, with..."
which it tortures and disquiets them, when they dream least of it. It is true, they, for the most part, boast of not fearing the approaches of Death, and laugh at it, when they imagine that it is at a distance from them ; but these are they who are most apt to tremble at the near and grim countenance of Death, and soonest discover their weakness and despair.
them. IA at it, coast of n
If there be any that seem to laugh at Death, their laughter is only an appearance upon the lips. They are like a child newly born, that seems to smile, when it is inwardly tormented in the bowels; or like chose that eat of the famous herb mentioned by the herbalist, which causes a pleasant laughter to appear upon the lips of such, into whose noble parts it conveys a mortal poison that kills them.
There be some, I confess, that die without any concern ; but these are either brutish or senseless persons, much like unto a sleeping drunkard, who may be cast down a precipice, without any knowledge or foresight of the danger; or they be pleasant mockers, who are like the foolish criminals, who go nierrily to the gallows; or they be such as are full of rage and fury, whom I may well compare to an enraged wild boar, that runs himself in the huntsman's snare; such monsters of men deserve not to be reckoned among-rational and understanding creatures.
CHAP. II. That in all the Heathen Philosophers, there is no solid and true
comfort against the fears and apprehensions of Death. . THERE are certain empirics, that seem at the first dis
course to be very well skilled in their art, that talk of diseases and of their causes most learnedly and acutely, and
nevertheless, in their practice they are both unhappy and ignorant. Their unseasonable learning disturbs the patient more than their physic eases him, and increases the sufferings of the languishing body. These kind of physicians very well describe to us in this particular the properties of the Heathen Philosophers; for when they represent the calamities of our human condition, they sharpen their wits, and discover all their skill and rhetoric. Some of them laugh ingenuously at our miseries; others artificially weep to behold them. But in all their writings and tragic expressions, we find not any solid and sincere comforts to strengthen us against the apprehensions of Death. Therefore their contemptible and vain fancies oblige us to tell them, as Job his troublesome friends, “ Your remembrances are like unto ashes, your bodies to bodies of clay,” Job xiii. 12. It is true, some of those learned philosophers have very well spoken, that we begin to die as soon as we begin to breathe; that our life is like unto a candle that lives by its consumption, whereof the flame devours and consumes it. For the natural heat that entertains our life, insensibly undermines it; it is that which spends our radical moisture, that yields the same benefits to our life, as oil to a lamp, or wax to a taper.
Others have as well said, that our present life is but a swift race from one mother to another. They meant, from the womb of our mothers that brought us into the world, into the womb and bosom of the earth that will receive us at last; for as soon as we are borrt, we run a swift race towards our grave. At that instant, when we fly from Death, we approach insensibly towards it; and, contrary to our intention, we cast ourselves into its embraces. Some of the same school have compared man to a bubble upon the water, that rises and sweils, and immediately decreases and breaks. Others make him like unto the waterish bottles of divers colours, that children blow with their breath, and destroy with the same.
In truth, all man's beauty is but a vain appearance, that vanishes away in an instant, Isa. xl. “ All flesh is like grass, and all the glory of man like the flower of the field,” i Pet. i.
One of these great philosophers, being asked what the life of man was, answered never a word; because such a question deserved none, or rather because he would imitate the custom of his age, of speaking by guess, and symbolical re- : presentations. For that purpose he entered into a chamber,' and passed out again at the same instant, to signify to his disciples that questioned him, that man's life is but an entrance in, and an egress out of the world; the one succeeds inmediately the other.
Another of the same sect walked in a bravado two or three turns, and then shrunk into a pit, to show that our life is but a kind of masquerade, a vain appearance that soon vanishes. When men have well admired themselves in their splendour, and have drawn to them the looks and esteem of the world, Death surprises them, and spoils all their lustre, and covers their borrowed glory in a mournful grave. It is with us as with actors in a comedy; the one represents a king, the other an emperor; the one a counsellor, the other a minister of state; but when the comedy is ended, and the garments changed, you know not which is which. We are all like counters upon a table: some signify units, others tens, others hundreds, and others thousands and millions ; but when they are shuffled together, and put again into the purse, the vast difference appears no more. This is a lively image of all mankind : for in this life some appear on a throne, others are seated upon a dunghill; some flourish in golden and silken attire, others are clothed in nakedness; some command as princes, others submit as galley-slaves; some are fed with exquisite dainties, others must be content with the bread of affliction. But