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into the next. How very few are so prepared: may God, then, of his infinite mercy, grant us time!'
But she is happy, while we must toil a little longer here below; let us, however, do it cheerfully and gratefully, supported by the pleasing hope of meeting again on a safer shore, where, to recollect the storms and difficulties of life, will not, perhaps, be inconsistent with that blissful state.2
All the fruition of the deluding pleasures of sin cannot countervail the horror that a dying man's review of them will create, who not only sees himself upon the point of leaving them for ever, but of suffering for them as long.3
The serious meditation of death will teach men to despise the world, which can be enjoyed but during a transitory life; and the attentive contemplation of eternity will lead them to abhor those sinful practices that tend to make it a miserable one for them.4
If thou wilt be fearless of death, be persuaded to believe that there is a condition of living better than this; that there are creatures more noble than we; that above there is a country better than ours; that the inhabitants know more and know better, and are in places of rest and desire; and first learn to value it, and then learn to purchase it, and death cannot be a formidable thing which lets us into so much joy and so much felicity."
2 Thomson. Sce a beautiful and most kind-hearted letter to his sister, in Johnson's life of him.
3 Boyle, ii. 378. 4to. ed. (1772.)
5 Jer. Taylor, iv. 432.
4 Ibid. vi. 791.
He that is afraid of death, with a fear apt to discompose his duty or his patience, either loves this world too much, or dares not trust God for the next.1
It is a great art to die well: he that prepares not for death, before his last sickness, is like him that begins to study philosophy when he is going to dispute publicly in the faculty.2
The Utopians are firmly persuaded that good men will be infinitely happy in another state; so that, though they are compassionate to all that are sick, yet they lament no man's death, except they see him part with life uneasy, and as if he were forced to it; for they look on that as a very ill presage, as if the soul, being conscious of guilt and quite hopeless, were afraid to die, from some secret hints of approaching misery; . . . . but when any die cheerfully and full of hope, they do not mourn for them, but sing hymns, and discourse of their good life and worthy actions, and speak of nothing oftener and with more pleasure than of their serenity at their death.3
When God sends his angel to us with the scroll of death, let us lay our heads down softly and go to sleep, without wrangling like babies or froward children.1
Death is necessary, and therefore not intolerable; and nothing is to be esteemed evil which God and nature have fixed with eternal sanctions."
1 Jer. Taylor, iv. 436.
2 Ibid. iv. Dedication to Holy Dying, cccxix.
All reluctance to obey the divine decree is but a snare to ourselves, and a load to our spirits, and is either an entire cause, or a great aggravation, of the calamity.'
It is not a sin to be afraid of death, but it is a great felicity to be without fear.2
There is something in us that can be without us, and will be after us; though it is strange that it hath no history what it was before us, nor cannot tell how it entered in us.3
Now for these walls of flesh wherein the soul doth seem to be immured before the resurrection, it is nothing but an elemental composition, and a fabric that must fall to ashes. All flesh is grass, is not only metaphorically, but literally, true; for all those creatures we behold are but the herbs of the field digested into flesh in them, or more remotely carnified in ourselves....... I believe that the souls of men know neither contrary nor corruption; that they subsist beyond the body, and outlive death by the privilege of their proper natures, and without a miracle.1
I am much taken with two verses of Lucan:
"Victurosque Dei celant, ut vivere durent,
Felix esse mori."
We're all deluded, vainly searching ways
The gods conceal the happiness of death.
Suicide is not to fear death, but yet to
be afraid of life. It is a brave act of valour to con
1 Jer. Taylor, iv. 435.
3 Sir Thomas Browne, Rel. Medici, p. 72.
2 Ibid. 434.
4 Ibid. and 73.
temn death: but, where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live; and herein religion hath taught us a noble example; for all the valiant acts of Curtius, Scævola, or Codrus, do not parallel or match that one of Job.'
Infinite hopes lie before us, from the existence of a being infinitely good and powerful, and our own soul's immortality; and nothing can hinder or obstruct these hopes but our own wickedness of life. To believe a God, and do well, are two, the most hopeful, cheerful, and comfortable things that possibly can be.2
Let us pray for one another that the time, whether long or short, that shall yet be granted to us, may be well spent; and that, when this life, which, at the longest, is very short, shall come to an end, a better may begin, which shall never end.3
1 Sir Thomas Browne, Rel. Medici, p. 84.
2 Cudworth, Intell. Syst. 889.
3 Johnson, Letters.
THE SCRIPTURES AND RELIGION IN GENERAL.
LET but any man show me any book in the worldthe rules whereof, if they were practised, would make men more pious and devout, more holy and sober, better friends and better neighbours, better magistrates, and better subjects, and better in all relations; and which offers to the understanding of men more powerful arguments to persuade them to be all this-let any man, I say, show me such a book, and I will lay aside the Scriptures.'
I have regularly and attentively read these Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion that this volume, independent of its divine origin, contains more sublimity and beauty, more pure morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence, than can be collected from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been composed.2
Laying his hand on the Bible, he would say, "There is true philosophy: this is the wisdom that speaks to the heart. A bad life is the only grand objection to this book." 4
3 Earl of Rochester.
2 Sir William Jones.
4 Motto to "The Gospel its own Witness," by Andrew Fuller.