« AnteriorContinuar »
THE LADY KATHARINE BROOK.
The desire of your Dying Son brought me into the pulpit, and now your Ladyship’s commands into the press. I could heartily wish that the tender of my obedience in this address, might not make one among your too many sad remembrancers; nor give you cause to lament him as well in the press, as in the grave; as here propounded, a pattern for our life, as well as made by God an example of our death. But, Madam, when you have wept over this dear loss in all the forms so great a sorrow as yours could represent, this small piece will, I fear, prove so unhappy, as to give you his memory in a new shape, and thereby lay a new scene for grief.
The necessity and usefulness of this subject of mortality are, I am confident, sufficient to recommend it to your acceptance; and if any thing make it unwelcome, it must be that which gives you too great a title to it, the nearness of the instance: an instance so near, that seems like the smiting of one half, to bid the other prepare.
The loss is confessedly great; vast as our hopes, and general as our sorrows. Indeed, to look upon moderate losses through tears, is as ill a way to make a right judgment of them, as it is to take the dimensions of objects through water, which always reflects them greater or nearer than in truth they are. But yours, Madam, is so truly extraordinary, and of such public concernment, that it must needs fall below its just estimate, if it be not judged through more than your own tears and grief. The Church and State join with you, and each of them deplores as a loss at present, whatsoever so great virtues and endowments as his prompted them to expect hereafter. The right eye of the kingdom runs down with tears. All, who knew him, and
had the honour and happiness of so great an example, pay down that tribute in sorrow, to his memory, which they owed of love and service to his
person. But, Madam, it is in vain to nourish sad thoughts, by conjecturing to what height he might have attained, if years had not been wanting to his merits : for, though his flourishing hopes gave earnest of somewhat most excellent and perfect, yet hath he now far outstripped even those hopes; and, instead of a great man on earth, is become a glorious saint in heaven: and, certainly, we have no just cause to quarrel the Divine Provi. dence, for not taking our method to advance him.
That God would preserve your Noble Sons yet remaining, and lengthen out their lives to fill up their deceased brother's hopes, and their own too, that you may find no other miss, but in number; that God would sanctify this heavy stroke both to you and them, and fit you for that last, which alone can come nearer, is the prayer of,
ECCL. ix. 5.
FOR THE LIVING KNOW THAT THEY SHALL DIE,
Life, whether an active spark struck out from the meeting of soul and body together, or whatsoever sprightful and busy thing else it be, is the highest perfection of corporeal beings, because the nearest resemblance of the divine. The variety of its motions, the multiplicity of its functions, the secret conveyance of its influences through those hidden channels of the organs into the several parts of the body, give it a preeminence above all that the inanimate greatness or lustre of other things can attain unto.
Upon this very account, philosophy teacheth us, that the least fly, though it be nothing but dust animated by the sun, is yet of greater excellency than the sun itself; and Sampson's bees, than the lion which bred them. These slight and contemptible creatures, which serve for little else than to shew the world in how small a room God can enclose the springs and engines of such various motions, have yet a perfection beyond all the large volumes of the heavens, and the light and duration of all the stars in them,
Upon these principles, Solomon, making a comparison, in the verse immediately preceding the text, between lifeless and living things, prefers the meanest of these before the best and noblest of the other: a living dog is better than a dead lion.
Though this be true of all creatures in general, yet commodation of it is here more particularly intended unto man; and the design of the Spirit of God is, to shew that life hath a vast prerogative above death. One would think it strange, that there should need so much solemnity, such a train of prepara
tives, reasons, and similitudes, to usher in a conclusion so obvious, and undoubted as this is, that it is better to live than to die.
And, yet, if we observe it, the method of the Holy Ghost is much stronger, in confirming so plain a thesis by an abstruse argument. The argument we have in the text: For the living know that they shall die : because we know that we must die, therefore it is better to live. This might seem a somewhat harsh kind of argumentation, were
not, that, as to die is the last period; so to die well and breathe out a holy soul into the arms of a merciful God, is the greatest end of life: this advantage have the living. The dead can die no more; for It is appointed unto men once to die : Heb. ix. 27. nor, if they err in this, can they ever recal or amend it. This is that warfare *, as the Wise Man calls it, in which we cannot twice mistake. But it is the privilege of the living, that, knowing the frailty of their lives and the certainty of their dissolution, they may, by repentance and holiness, so prepare themselves for death as to make it only a happy transition from a temporal to an eternal life, and an inlet into' endless bliss and joy. So that if we briefly gather up the sum and force of the reason, we may find that it lies thụs: it is better to live than to die, because the living know that they shall die ; and the knowledge and expectation of our death is the most likely means to engage us to live in such constant holiness and preparation, as that after death we may live in eternal glory and happiness.
The words, though they are thus obscure in their coherence, yet, in themselves and their own proper and genuine sense, are very clear and perspicuous. They contain in them the judgment, which the living pass upon their own mortality; and, as they lie before us, cannot be so much as suspected of any difficulty.
I shall, therefore, waving all other enquiries, make only these two.
Whence it is, that the living attain the sure and infallible
knowledge of their own death. Whence it proceeds, thạt, though all men generally
know that they shall die, yet so; few do seriously and in good earnest prepare themselves for it,
I. To the FIRST, I answer:
* Eccl. viii. 8.