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to be eye-sick :" and that other could say of pleasure, “ I have gladly withdrawn myself from the service of that imperious mis
What an unreasonable vassalage our youthful lusts subject us unto, we need no other instance than in the strongest and wisest man.
How was the strongest man, Samson, effeminated by his impotent passion; and weakened in his intellectuals so far, as wilfully to betray his own life to a mercenary harlot; and to endure to hear her say, Tell one wherewith thou mayest be bound to do thee hurt! Judges xvi. 6. How easily might he have answered thee, O Delilah, “ Even with these cords of brutish sensuality, wherewith thou hast already bound me to the loss of my liberty, mine eyes, my life !"
How was the wisest man, Solomon, besotted with his strange wives, so as to be drawn away to the worship of strange Gods!
And how may the fir-trees howl, when the cedars fall! Who can hope to be free from being transported with irregular affections, when we see such great precedents of frailty before our eyes ?
From the danger of these miserable miscarriages our age happily secures us; putting us into that quiet harbour, whence we may see young men perilously tossed with those tempests of unruly passions, from which our cooler age hath freed us.
(3.) Add hereunto the benefit of Experimental Knowledge, wherewith age is wont to enrich us; every dram whereof is worth many pounds of the best youthly contentments : in comparison whereof, the speculative knowledge is weak and imperfect. This may come good-cheap; perhaps, cost us nothing : that, com. monly, we pay dear for ; and, therefore, is justly esteemed the more precious. If experience be the mistress of fools, I am sure it is the mother of wisdom.
Neither can it be, except we be too much wanting to ourselves, but the long observation of such variety of actions and events as meet with us in the whole course of our life, must needs leave with us such sure rules of judgment, as may be unfailing directions for ourselves and others. In vain shall this be expected from our younger years; which the wise Philosopher excludes from being meet auditors, much less judges of true morality. In regard whereof, well might the old man say, “ Ye, young men, think us old men fools; but we, old men, know you young men to be fools.”
Certainly, what value soever ignorance may put upon it, this fruit of age is such, as that the earth hath nothing equally precious. It was a profane word, and fit for the mouth of a heathen poet, That prudence is above destiny: but, surely, a Christian may modestly and justly say, That, next to Divine Providence, human prudence may challenge the supreme place in the administration of these earthly affairs; and that age may claim the greatest interest in that prudence. Young Elihu could say, Multitude of years should
teach wisdom ; Job xxxii. 7: and the Wise Man, “ Oh, how come ly a thing is judgment, for grey hairs; and, for ancient men, to know counsel! Oh, how comely is the wisdom of old men; and understanding and counsel to men of honour!” Ecclus. xxv. 4, 5. In regard whereof, the Grecians had wont to say, That young men are for action; old men, for advice : and, among the Romans, we know, that the Senators take their name from age.
That, therefore, which is the weakness of old men's eyes, That, their visual spirits not uniting till some distance, they better discern things further off, is the praise and strength of their mental eyes: they see either judgments or advantages afar off, and accordingly frame their determinations. It is observed, that old lutes sound better than new : and it was Rehoboam's folly and undoing, that he would rather follow the counsel of his green heads that stood before him, than of those grave senators that had stood beföre his wiser father; 1 Kings xii. 6, &c.
Not that mere age is, of itself, thus rich in wisdom and knowledge; but age, well cultured, well improved. There are old men, that do but live; or rather have a being, upon earth : so have stocks and stones, as well as they : who can have no proof of their many years, but their grey hairs and infirmities. There are those, who, like to Hermogenes, are old men, while they are boys; and children, when they are old men. These, the elder they grow, are so much more stupid. Time is an ill measure of age; which should rather be meted by proficiency, by ripeness of judgment, by the monuments of our commendable and useful labours. If we have thus bestowed ourselves, our autumn will shew what our spring was; and the colour of our hair will yield us more cause to fear our pride, than our dejection.
We accuse our age of many weaknesses and indispositions : but these imputations must not be universal : many of these are the faults of the person, not of the age. He said well, “ As old wine doth not turn sour with age, no more doth every nature.” Old oil is noted to be clearer and hotter, in a medicinal use, than new. There are those, who are pettish and crabbed, in youth: there are, contrarily, those, who are mild, gentle, and sociable, in their decayed years. There are those, who are crazy in their prime; and there are those, who, in their wane, are vigorous. There are those, who, ere the fulness of their age, have lost their memory; as Hermogenes, Cornivus, Antonius Caracalla, Georgius Trapezuntius, and Nizolius: there are those, whose intellectuals have so happily held out, that they have been best at the last. Plato, in his last year, which was fourscore and onc, died, as it were, with his pen in his hand : Isocrates wrote his best piece, at ninety-four years : and it is said of Demosthenes, that when death summoned him, at a hundred years and somewhat more, he bemoaned himself, that he must now die, when he began to get some knowledge. And, as for spiritual graces and improvements, Such, as be planted in the house of the Lord, shall flourish in the courts of our God: They
e attained or the end our age is
also shall bring forth more fruit in their age, and shall be fat and wellliking; Ps. xcii. 13, 14.
(4.) But the chief benefit of our age is, our Near Approach to our Journey's End : for the end of all motion is rest; which when we have once attained, there remains nothing but fruition.
Now our age brings us, after a weary race, within some breatha ings of our goal : for, if young men may die, old men must: a condition, which a mere carnal heart bewails and abhors; complaining of nature, as niggardly in her dispensations of the shortest time to her noblest creature; and envying the oaks, which many generations of men must leave standing and growing.
No marvel: for the worldling thinks himself here at home; and looks upon death as a banishment: he hath placed his heaven bere below; and can see nothing in his remove, but either annihilation or torment.
But, for us Christians, who know, that while we are present in the body, we are absent from the Lord; 2 Cor. v. 6: and do justly account ourselves foreigners, our life a pilgrimage, heaven our home; how can we but rejoice, that, after a tedious and painful travel, we do now draw near to the threshold of our Father's house; wherein we know there are many mansions, and all glorious? I could blush to hear a heathen * say, “If God would offer me the choice of renewing my age, and returning to my first childhood, I should heartily refuse it: for I should be loth, after I have passed so much of my race, to be called back from the goal to the bars of my first setting out:" and to hear a Christian whining and puling, at the thought of his dissolution. Where is our faith of a heaven, if, having been so long sea-beaten, we be loth to think of putting into the safe and blessed harbour of immortality?
COMFORTS AGAINST THE FEARS AND PAINS OF DEATH.
The fear of death natural. Thou fearest death :-Thou wert not a man, if thou didst not so: the holiest, the wisest, the strongest, that ever were, have done no less. He is the King of Fear; and, therefore, may and must command it. Thou mayest hear the man after God's own heart say,
The sorrows of death compassed me ; Ps. cxvi. 3: and, again, My soul is full of troubles : my life draweth nigh to the grave : I am counted with them that go down to the pit, as a man that hath no
* Cicero de Senect.
strength; free among the dead; Ps. lxxxviii. 3, 4, 5. Thou mayest hear great and good Hezekiah, upon the message of his death, chattering like a crane or a swallow, and mourning as a dove; Is. xxxviii. 14.
Thou fearest, as a man: I cannot blame thee: but thou must overcome thy fear, as a Christian; which thou shalt do, if, from the terrible aspect of the messenger, thou shalt cast thine eyes upon the gracious and amiable face of the God that sends him. Holy David shews the way: The snares of death prevented me : In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God : he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him even unto his ears; Ps. xviii. 5, 6. Lo, he, that is our God, is the God of salvation; and unto God, the Lord, belong the issues of death ; Ps. lxviii. 20. Make him thy friend, and death shall be no other than advantage; Phil. i. 21.
It is true, as the Wise Man saith, that “God made not death ;" but that, “through the envy of the Devil, death came into the world;" Wis. i. 13. ii. 24 : but it is as true, that though God made him not, yet he is pleased to employ him as his messenger; to summon some souls to judgment, to invite others to glory: and, for these latter, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his Saints; Ps. cxvi. 15: and what reason hast thou to abominate that, which God accounts precious ?
SECT. 2. Remedy of fear, acquaintance with death. Thou art afraid of death :-Acquaint thyself with him more; and thou shalt fear him less. Even bears and lions, which at the first sight affrighted us, upon frequent viewing lose their terror. Inure thine eyes to the sight of death; and that face shall begin not to displease thee. Thou must shortly dwell with him for a long time: for the days of darkness are many ; Eccl. si. 8. Do thou, in the mean time, entertain him : let him be sure to be thy daily guest. Thus the blessed Apostle, I protest, by our rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus, I die daily ; 1 Cor. xv. 31. Bid him to thy board: lodge him in thy bed: talk with him in thy closet : walk with him in thy garden, as Joseph of Arimathea did; and by no means suffer him to be a stranger to thy thoughts. This familiarity shall bring thee to a delight in the company of him, whom thou didst at first abhor: so as thou shalt, with the Chosen Vessel, say, I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is best of all ; Phil. i. 23.
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The misapprehension of death. Thou art grievously afraid of death:- Is it not upon a mistaking ? Our fears are apt to imagine and to aggravate evils. Even Christ himself, walking upon the waters, was by the disciples trembled at, as some dreadful apparition.
Perhaps, my son, thou lookest at death as some etter abolition or extinction of thy being; and nature must needs shrink back at the thought of not being at all.
This is a foul and dangerous misprision.
It is but a departing, which thou callest a death. See how God himself styles it to the Father of the Faithful: Thou shalt go to thy fathers, in peace : thou shalt be buried, in a good old age; Gen. xv. 15: and, of his holy grandchild, Israel, the Spirit of God says, When Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people ; Gen. xlix. 33. Lo, dying is no other than going to our fathers, and gathering to our people; with whom we do and shall live in that other and better world, and with whom we shall re-appear glorious. Let but thy faith represent death to thee in this shape, and he shall not appear so formidable.
Do but mark in what familiar terms it pleased God, to confer with his servant Moses, concerning his death: Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession : and die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered to thy people ; as Aaron thy brother died in mouni Hor, and was gathered to his people ; Deut. xxxii. 49, 50. Lo, it is no more than Go up, and die. Should it have been but to go a day's journey in the wilderness to sacrifice, it could have been no otherwise expressed; or, as if it were all one to go up to Sinai to meet with God, and to go up to Nebo and die.
Neither is it otherwise with us: only the difference is, that Moses must first see the Land of Promise, and then die ; whereas, we first die, and then see the Promised Land.
The common condition of men. Thou art troubled with the fear of death :-What reason hast thou to be afflicted with that, which is the common condition of mankind ? Remember, my son, the words of Joshua, the victorious leader of God's people: Behold, this day, saith he, I am going the way of all the earth ; Josh. xxiii. 14.
If all the earth go this way, couldst thou be so fond as to think