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be once, but when, we know not. 4. The natural Fears and Terrors of Death, or our natural Aversion to it, and how they may be allay'd and sweeten'd.
CH A P. I.
The several Notions of Death, and the Improve
ment of them. 1. WHAT
Death is : And I shall consider
three Things in it: 1. That it is our leaving this World. 2. Our putting off these earthly Bodies. 3. Our Entrance into a new and unknown State of Life; for when we die. we do not fall into Nothing, or into a profound Sleep, into a State of Silence and Insensibility till the Resurrection ; but we only change our Place, and our Dwelling; we remove out of this World, and leave our Bodies to sleep in the Earth till the Resurrection, but our Souls and Spirits still live in an invisible State. · I shall not go about to prove these Things, but take it for granted that you all believe them; for that we leave this World, and that our Bodies rot and putrify in the Grave, needs no Proof, for we see it with our Eyes; and that our Souls cannot die, but are by Nature immortal, has been the Belief of all Mankind. The Gods which the Heathens worshipped, were most of them no other but dead Men ; and therefore they did believe that the Soul survived the Funeral of the Body, or they could never have made Gods of them : Nay, there is such a strong Sense of Immortality imprinted in our Natures, that very few Men, how much soever they have debauched their natural Sentiments, can wholly deliver themselves from the Fears of another World. But we have
a more fure Word of Prophecy than this: Since Life and Immortality is brought to Light by the Gofpel
. For this is so plainly taught in Scripture, that no Man who believes that, needs any other Proof. My Business therefore shall only be to thew you how such Thoughts as these should affect our Minds What that Wisdom is, which the Thoughts of Death will naturally teach us; how that Man ought to live, who knows that he must die, and leave his Body behind him to rot in the Grave, and felf into a new World of Spirits.
The first Notion of Death, That it is our Lea
ving this World; with the Improvement of it. I. FIRST then, let us consider Death only as
our leaving this World ; a very delightful Place, you'll say, especially when our Circumftances are easy and prosperous : Here a Man finds whatever he most naturally loves, whatever he takes Pleasure in ; the Supply of all his Wants, the Gratification of all his Senses, whatever an earthly Creature can with for or desire. The Truth is few Men know any other Happiness, much less any thing above it. They feel what strikes upon their Senses: This they think a real and substantial Good; but as for more pure and intellectual Joys, they know no more what to make of them than of Ghosts and Spirits; they account them thin vanishing Things, and wonder what Men mean who talk so much of them. Nay, good Men themselves are apt to be too much pleased with this World, while they are eafy here; something else is necessary to wean them from it, and to cure their fondness of it, besides the Thoughts
of Dying; which makes the Sufferings and AMictions, and Disappointments of this Life, so necefsary for the best of Men. This is one Thing which makes the Thoughts of Death fo terrible: Men think themselves very well as they are, and most Men think that they cannot be better, and therefore very few are desirous of a Change. Extreme Miseries may conquer the Love of Life, and some few Divine Souls may long with St. Paul to be dissolved and to be with Christ, which is best of all; but this World is a beloved Place to the generality of Mankind, and that makes it a very troublesome
Thing to leave it: Whereas did we rightly consider this Matter, it would rectify our Mistakes about these Things, and teach us how to value, and how to use them. For,
1. If we must leave this World, how valuable soever these Things are in themselves, they are not so valuable to us. For besides the intrinsick Worth of Things, there is something more required to engage the Affections of wife Men; viz. Property, and a secure Enjoyment. What is not our own, we may admire if it be excellent, but cannot doat on; and what is worth having Increases or Decreases in Value, proportionable to the Length and Certainty of its Continuance: What we cannot enjoy is nothing to us,' how excellent foever it be; and to enjoy it but a little while is next to not enjoying it, for we cannot enjoy it always; and such Things cannot be called our own. sind this shews us what value we ought to set upon this world, and all Things in it; e'en just so much as upon Things that are not our own, and which we cannot keep.
We use indeed to call Things our own, which we have a legal Title to, which no Man can by Law or Justice deprive us of; and this is the only Property
we can have in these Things, a Property against all other human Claims: But nothing which can be rąken from us, nothing which we must leave; is properly our own; for in a strict Sense nothing is our own, but what is essential to our Being, or to our Happiness. Creatures are Proprietors of nothing, not so much as of themselves; for we are his who made us, and may unmake us again when he pleases: But yet there are fome Things proper to our Natures, and that is all the natural Property we have; but what is thus proper to us, we cannot be deprived of, without ceasing to be, or being miserable.
And this proves that the Things of this World are not our own, that they are not proper and peculiar to our Natures, though they are necessary to this present State of Life. While we live here we want them, but when we leave this World we must live without them, and may be happy without them too. There is a great Agreeableness between the Things of this world, and an earthly Nature ; they are a great Support and Comfort to us in this mortal State ; and therefore while we live in this World we may value the Enjoyments of it, for the Ease and Conveniencies of Life; but we must neither call this Life, nor any Enjoyments of it, our own, because they are short and perishing. We are here but as Travellers in an Inn; it is not our Home and Country, it is not our Portion and Inheritance, but a moveable and changeable Scene, which is entertaining at present, but cannot last. Let us then consider how we ought to value such Things as these: And to make it as plain and self-evident as I can, I shall put some easy and familiar Cafes.
1. Suppose you were travelling thro' a very delightful Country, where you met with all the Pleasures and Conveniencies of Life, but knew that you must not tarry there, but only pass thro’it: Would you think it reasonable to set your Affections fo much upon it, as to make it uneasy to you to leave it? And shall we then grow fo fond of this World, which we must only pass thro', where we have no abiding City, as to enslave ourselves to the Lusts and Pleasures of it, and to carry out of this World such a Passion for it, as shall make us miserable in the next ? For tho' Death will separate us from this World, we are not sure it will cure our earthly Paffions: We may still find the Torment of fenfual Appetites, when all sensual Objects are removed. This was all the Purgatory-Fire St. Austin could think of, that those who loved this world too much here, though otherwise innocent and virtuous Men, should be punished with fruitless Desires and Hankering after this World in the next; which is a mixed Torment of Desire and Despair. For though indeed it is only living in these Bodies, which betrays the Soul to such earthly Affections; yet when the Impression is once made, and is strong and vigorous, we are not sure that merely putting off these Bodies will cure it; as we see Age itself in old Sinners does not cure the Wantonness of Desire, when the Body is effete and languid: And this I should think were Reason enough to convince every Man, who considers that he is not to live here always, how much it concerns him not to grow over-fond of present Things; for to contract an eternal Passion for what we cannot always enjoy, must needs make us miserable.