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CHAPTER XVI.

The fourth Consolation against the Fears of Death is, to meditate upon our Lord Jesus Christ in his sepulchre.

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IT is so natural for mankind to ablıor the few persons can pass through a church-yard without dread, not only they wbomake their abode beneath gilded roofs, in stately palaces, but also they who reside in poor cottages, or in desert caves; they who are shut

up in dark dungeons, and even they who have no other covering but the sky, cannot without horrour, reflect that this wretched body must go into the bowels of the earth, and lie down in a noisome grave.

To banish from our minds this dangerous apprehensiop and groundless fear, we must consider, with a religious attention, that we ought not to abhor the earth, seeing it is the matter of which our bodies were formed, and that it is, as it were, the mother from whence we proceed.

We must also remember, that it is the universal rule of nature, with respect to compounded bodies, that every part must return to its first principle. Therefore as the soul ascends up to its source, and returns unto God who gave it, Eccl. xii. 7, it is no wonder if the body returns to the earth, from whence it was taken, according to the irrevocable sentence pronounced by God in the earthly paradise, Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return, Gen. iii. 19. Nicodemus inquired of our Lord Jesus Christ, How can a man be born when he is old ? Can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born ? John iii. 4. As gross and extravagant as this imagination appears, it is, in some measure, verified upon this occasion ; for we must enter a second time into the womb of the earth, our common mother, that we may be born again, and pass into another life.

Jesus the son of Sirach, had the same thought when he expressed himself in this manner in the 40th chapter of his book of Wisdom, otherwise called Ecclesiasticus, Great travail is created for every man, and an heavy yoke is upon the sons of Adam, from the day that they go out of their mother's womb, till the day that they return to the mother of all things, ver. 1.

We shall find it for our advantage to meditate often upon those beautiful images which St. Paul hath set before our eyes, in the 15th chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians; and to remember, that it is with our bodies as with the seed which is cast into the earth, that it may bring forth: Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened except it die, 1 Cor. xv. 36. It cannot flourish without it rots. Naturalists inform the corruption of one thing is the generation of another : but upon this occasion we may affirm, that the corruption of this miserable body, contributes to its own generation. You that weep for your friends and kindred, when you see them laid in the grave, remember the words of the royal prophet, They that sow in tears shall reap in joy, Psal. cxxvi. 5.

Remember that death is the way of all the earth, Josh. xxiii. 14, and that the grave is the house appointed by God for all living, Job xxx. 23. So that to be unwilling to enter into it, is to desire Almighty God to grant us a lodging by ourselves, to change the course of nature, and to create for us a new world.

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The grave is not only the house appointed for all living, it is also the bed where they rest after their painful and laborious race. Therefore the prophet Isaiah speaking of the death of the righteous, saith, They shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, chap. Ivii. 2; that is with regard to the blessed estate of their souls, they shall enter into that great and eternal peace that reigns in heaven : but with respect to their bodies, they shall rest in their beds.

For the same reason, the places set apart to bury the dead, were anciently called dormitories or sleeping places, to teach us, that they lie there asleep, in expectation of that great day when God shall awaken them with the sound of the Archangel's trumpet.

Therefore when the patriarch Jacob was ready to yield up his soul unto God, he commanded his son Joseph, saying, Bury me not, I pray thee in Egypt: but I will lie with my fathers, Gen. xlvii. 29, 30. Holy Job speaks in the same manner, I shall sleep in the dust, chap. vii. 21. And God himself, says to his servant Moses, Thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, Deut. xxxi. 16; and to King David, When thy days shall be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, 2 Sam. vii. 12. And the prophet Daniel; speaking in general of all those who have died since the creation of the world, says, They sleep in the dust of the earth, chap. xii. 2.

In particular, take notice, Christian souls, that when God spoke to Moses out of the midst of the burning bush, he said unto him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, Exod. iii. 6. These patriarchs had been dead many ages ; nevertheless God calls himself their God. Now, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living, Matth. xxii. 32. These holy men

were not dead in respect of their souls, seeing those are immortal, and bound up by God in the bundle of life.Likewise their bodies, properly speaking, were not dead, but slept in their graves. As our Saviour said of Jairus's daughter, The maid is not dead but sleepeth, Matth. ix. 24; and of Lazarus, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, Johp xi. 11.

Moreover, we may truly say, that the condition of our bodies in that state which we call death, is far better, and more easy, than that of our ordinary sleep; for during the latter we are often disturbed, we labour and sweat; nor are the richest and most magnificent couches exempt from these evils: whereas in the grave our bodies are incapable of suffering, and secure from all the attacks of pain. They enjoy a perfect sleep, an undisturbed repose.

The greatest princes, the most superb monarchs, are constrained to enter, one after the other, into this house appointed by God for all living; and to repose themselves upon that bed which he hath prepared for all the children of Adain. The sacred history, after having given us an account of the reigns of the kings of Judah and of Israel, adds at the close of each, and he slept with his fathers. Let us be ever so poor and miserable, we shall enter into this dwelling of kings, and lay ourselves down in the same bed. Therefore when Job complains through the extremity of his grief, that he had not died immediately after he was born, he says, For now should I have lain still, aod been quiet, I should have slept : then had I been at rest, with kings and counsellors of the earth, which built desolate places for themselves ; or with princes that had gold, who filled their houses with silver, chap. iii. 13, 14, 15.“

It is in this house, and upon this bed, that the patriarchs and prophets rest, the apostles, evangelists, martyrs, and in general, all the faithful who have lived in all ages of the world; as it is recorded of St. Stephen, that when he had commended his spirit into the hands of the Lord Jesus, he fell asleep, Acts vii. 60. Therefore St. Paul, reproving the Corinthians, and representing to them that God had visited them with divers diseases, and with death, because they had profaned the Lord's supper, tells them, For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep, 1 Cor. xi. 30; and speaking in general of those who, are dead in the Lord, he says, they sleep in Jesus, 1 Thess. iv. 14; and he styles them, they which are fallen asleep, 1 Cor. xv. 18. Now what are we better or nobler than the saints of paradise, to expect that our bodies should be treated more favourably than theirs ?

But there is nothing inore capable of removing this horrour of the grave, than the consideration of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who entered into it like other men, and rested in it for a season. He hath sanctified it by his divine presence, and hath filled it with celestial odours. He hath made it the object of our wishes, and the cause of all our glory; for there is no subject but thinks it an honour to lodge in the same palace wbere his prince has lodged before, and lie down upon the bed where he had taken bis rest, though be liad remained there but an hour, or a moment. O blessed sepulchre ! where death and life, disgrace, and glory are found together; nay, what is more, the Prince of life, the foun- . tain of honour and happiness. Christian souls, who desire to banish from your

minds all fears of death and apprehensions of the grave, look

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