A SERMON Preached before the KING AT WHITE-HAL, April the 12th 1674.

BY THE Right Reverend Father in GOD, HERBERT, Lord Bishop of Hereford.

LONDON: Printed for Charles Harper at the Flower-de-Luce over against St. Dunstans Church in Fleetstreet. 1676.

PHIL. 1. 21.‘For to me to live is Christ, and to dye is gain.’

HE that ponders well this saying, and the Author of it, will stand ama­zed at the strange and miraculous Operation of the Grace of God. To me to live is Christ, &c. I have no other thought, no other delight but Christ. As the Hart desireth the Water-Brooks, so longeth my Soul after Christ: My life with­out him is worse than death, and death with him is a gain beyond life. A very passionate and wonderful Affection! And who is this so passionately in love with Christ? 'Tis Paul the Apostle. Where's then the Wonder? Who more full of fervent Expressions towards Christ? Wherefore I tell you, 'tis Saul the Persecutor; he that but even now breathed no­thing but Wrath and Vengeance against the Servants of Christ, now breathes nothing but the love of Christ. Is not this a wonderful change? But the manner of this change is yet more wonderful. For how was he reconcil'd, [Page 6] and so firmly united to Christ? Was it after the manner of men, by Gifts, Honours, Ad­vancements, Possessions, &c. This is our way, especially with men of Spirit and Re­solution; violent and compulsary ways do but exasperate and harden such; and the Rule is general, Oderunt quem timent: Men hate whom they fear. But let us see how Christ deals with Saul, who was riding on, as furious­ly as Iehu, to Damascus, to oppose Christ, and destroy his Disciples. Christ at first dash tumbles him down to the Earth, strikes him blind: And though afterwards he restored him his sight, yet 'twas, as a Worldling would think, on very hard Conditions; to forsake all, Wealth, Honour, Friends, Country, and go preach the Gospel to Infidels. And what's his Reward for his great Labour and Travel? Reproaches, Fetters, Whips, Stones. And is this the way to beget Love, or rather to convert great Love, into great hatred? Is it not then very true which the Lord said, Isa. 55. 8. My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways? Christ casts Saul's body to the Earth, but elevates his Soul to Heaven; covers his corporal eyes with blinding scales, [Page 7] but takes the darkening veil from his spiritual eye; discovers unto him the infinite Love and Goodness of his Saviour, whom he so blind­ly persecuted; and giving him a ravishing taste of his Divine Sweetness, Saul is become Paul; the Persecutor an Apostle; and so zealous a Disciple, as he knows no other delight, no other joy, but Christ; for his sake he gladly quits all, gladly suffers all. And now to him to live was Christ, and to die for Christ was a gain beyond all. To me to live is Christ, &c.

I have hitherto, by way of Preface, shewed you the wonderful love of St. Paul to Christ, which was not a languishing, idle Passion; but, Amor efficax: An efficacious operating Love; like active Fire, which converts every thing into the same nature: So this Divine Flame infused into the breast of Saul, convert­ed the whole man into a new Creature. His earthly carnal Nature, is now become spiri­tual and divine; for so St. Peter expresses it, That by Grace we are partakers of the Divine Na­ture, 2 Pet. 1. 4. This seems to carnal men a thing wonderful and incredible; and yet we have daily before our eyes effects, in some [Page 8] measure, as wonderful; but the frequency of them takes away the wonder; and instead of admirable, renders them scarce considerable. Do not we see the same earth converted into various substances, by the diversity of Seed cast into it, and from thence spring up Corn, Tares, Flowers, Weeds, Grass, Thistles, all out of the same Earth? Such is the efficacious power of the little Seed, as each one works such a total change in the Earth, that our Brain would never conceive it possible, were not our eyes daily convinc'd of this Truth. Should any man come and tell us, That in the Indies 'tis common to file Iron into dust, and to sow it, and from thence in a short time to spring forth a plentiful Crop of Iron-bars; should not we esteem him a large talking Traveller, and let this pass for a mere Fable? And I pray why? Is it not more probable from Iron-dust, to spring up Iron, than from a little, dry, black Kernel, to sprout forth a tall, moist, green Twig; thence bud forth Leaves, then curious Blossoms, then lovely pleasant fruit? Cer­tainly this in appearance is a much more im­probable change, and would be less credible, were it not daily visible. So should I come [Page 9] to some carnal, covetous Wretches, or to some debaucht lustful Youths, and tell them, That would God be so gracious as to sow in their corrupted earthly hearts, the Seeds of his Divine Grace, there would spring forth from thence most vigorous Branches, laden with rich and lovely Fruits of Temperance, Chastity, Meek­ness, Mercy, Charity; the money they now hug so close, they would then scatter abroad among the poor; the Epicurean delights they now greedily hunt after, then offer'd, they would reject; the painted Beauty they now adore, they would then contemn; and in fine, it would work so strange a Transformation in them, as to make them love Lowliness and Poverty, Hunger and Thirst, Cold and Naked­ness, Imprisonment and Stripes, any thing for Christ's sake; and to rejoyce more in these, than in any carnal Pleasure they ever enjoy'd. Think you, would they not rank me with the large talking Travellers, and think this the veriest Fable in the World? No doubt on't. Yet, blessed be God, such is the powerful Operation of his heavenly Grace, as it hath often wrought these wonderful Con­versions in men of the foulest carnal temper: [Page 10] Zacheus a Publican, to give half his Goods to the poor; Matthew the Publican, to forsake all; Mary Magdalen, the Sinner of the City, made the Saintly Penitent of the World; the furious Persecutor Saul, the most fervent Apo­stle Paul; who did neither care to enjoy, nor so much as know any thing, saving Christ and him crucified, 1 Cor. 2. 2 And to gain Christ, how readily did he quit all, even in the Infancy of his Conversion; yea, counted all but as dung, so he might gain Christ: As dung, which with loath­ing, a man hastily casts from him; far from affectionately seeking them. This was the first step of his Giant-pace, wherewith he began his course towards Christ. At the next stride he passes over Kindred and Friends, his Bre­thren according to the flesh; they are all now become his Enemies, they daily plot mischief, and muster up all their Forces against him; and though Death, like a Cannon planted in the Rear, stands ready with open mouth to devour him, yet he is less terrified with that grim Visage, than Sampson with the Lyon, which he rent in pieces like a Kid, and found honey in the jaw thereof. So far was Death from being a terrour to St. Paul, that it was [Page 11] his delight, and could endure to be killed all the day long, as he expresses, Rom. 8. 36. And af­ter all crys out, We are more than Conquerers: We not only overcome, but rejoyce in that we are thought worthy to suffer for Christ. Christ is the Prize his heart is set upon, to that he ha­stens; Death it self stops not his course. And now I come to that which far surpasses all I have yet said: Such was the transcendent love of St. Paul, as that Christ's glory might be en­creased, and many Souls gained unto Christ, he was content to give up, not only his Body unto Death, but his Soul also, even to eternal Death, and become Anathama, a Curse for them. So high a pitch of Divine Love and Charity, as never any man before but Moses, arrived unto, nor ever any man after as we find. Hic terminus esto. Had it not been for this, the Jews might have out-bragg'd us with their great Captain and Deliverer from Egypt, Moses, who for the good of his People, was content to be blotted out of the Book of Life. How would they have triumphed, could they have out-vyed us with a Saint of the Old Law; boasting his Charity as far above any of ours, as Saul was by the head and shoulders above [Page 12] all the People, and insultingly cry, Toto ver­tice supra est. But God hath taken away this Reproach from us; to whom he hath given not only a Chief Captain and Saviour Christ Je­sus, far to surpass their Deliverer Moses; but another also to equal him, this great Apostle of the Gentiles, St. Paul, who deliver'd more thousands from a far more miserable Thral­dom, captivated under Satan, and brought them to the heavenly Ierusalem: For the Sal­vation of whose Souls, he was as ready as Moses, to give up his own, and be blotted out of the Book of Life.

And now, if you please, we will erect here two Tabernacles, or two Pillars with a Ne plus ultra; one for Moses, and one for Paul. But I pray let us take care to build them ac­cording to St. Paul's Directions, who would have all done to Edification; that these may be not only Trophies to them, but Instructi­ons to us; to the end we may in some mea­sure follow their godly example. For I fear that many look on these stately Pillars of God's Church, as we now a-days look on the Ancient Colossuses of Egypt. They at first, [Page 13] as Pierius, and other Writers relate, were erect­ed full of Figures and Emblems, to teach the People Morality and Divinity; but this Em­blematical Science being now antiquated and forgotten, we gaze on them as Wonders on­ly, not one jot the better or the wiser by them. And just so these goodly Pillars of the Church we much admire, but learn very little from them, and not at all endeavour to imitate them. That's beyond our power. And why beyond our power? Were not Moses and Paul men of the same flesh and blood with us? [...], men of like passions, subject to the same infirmities with us? Did not St. Paul Rom. 7. 18. confess, That in his flesh dwelled no good thing: And, 2 Cor. 12. 7. did he not complain to the Lord, of a Thorn in his flesh, and Satan given to buffet him; sharp Tempta­tions, and great oppressions? But what did the Lord answer him? My Grace is sufficient for thee. Let not thy weakness make thee despond, and cause thy fall, My strength shall be made perfect in thy weakness, and shall bear thee up against all opposition. And Paul con­fiding in this Promise of the Lord, was kept up, and overcame the Temptation, surmount­ed [Page 14] all Difficulties whatsoever; and no man ever met with more. Therefore in another place, Phil. 4. 13. he boasts, THAT through Christ he could do all things. Why then may not other men of the same corrupt flesh and weak infirmities with Paul, through Christ, do the same things which Paul did; Do all things? Is the Grace of God infeebled, that it cannot strengthen? Is the Arm of the Lord short­ned, that it cannot save? Or is the hand of the Lord closed, that he will not give? Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you, Mat. 7. 7. said the same Lord that enabled Paul to do all things. And can he deceive? Will He fail to make his Promise good? No cer­tainly. But we do ask and seek, we daily pray, yet we continue as frail and weak as ever: And why? Because we do not ask in Faith: We do not believe God is now so bountiful to confer such wonderful Grace. Why not now? Is not God the same yesterday, to day, and for ever? God is no Changeling; but we are, we are turned aside from the holy Com­mandment; we do not love God with all our heart, nor with half of it, the World [Page 15] hath three quarters at least, God but a small pittance; the Pomp and Glory of this World, the carnal desires of the Flesh, have wholly possest our hearts. Would God freely ask us, as he did Solomon, what we desired; whe­ther we would have Dignity and Wealth, or Grace and Vertue; whether we would be Croesus or Paul; Croesus, Croesus, would be the loud cry, and carry it clear from Paul a hun­dred for one. Can we then expect that God will pour down his precious Grace on us, to make us Pauls, who care not to be Pauls; but would cast away his heavenly Grace, for worldly Wealth? Really I fear there are not three persons here of all this Assembly, that would be Pauls if they might. No, no, the Plea­sures, the Riches, which Paul chearfully aban­doned, and counted as dung, we eagerly pur­sue, and highly esteem; the Sufferings and Af­flictions which he rejoyced in, we tremble at. We are a faithless and faint-hearted Generati­on, we will not fight the good Fight of Faith; there is not one spark of Christian Ambition in us; we are no way worthy to bear the name of Christian Souldiers, much less of Cap­tains and Pauls; but deserve rather to have [Page 16] our names quite blotted out of the List. It was handsomly said of Henry the Fourth of France, Did he know any Souldier in his Ar­my, that did not hope to be a Captain; or any Captain, that did not hope to be Captain-Ge­neral, he would presently cashier him. But all can't be Captains, 'tis true, but all may aim at it; and then as Tully saith, Honestum est prima sequentem, in secundis tertiisve consistere: 'Tis honorable for him who aims at the Chief, if he arrive to the second or third degree, and there sit down. This was the way St. Paul took, as he tells us, Phil. 3. 13. Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press towards the mark, for the prize of the high Calling of God in Christ Iesus. Christ was the mark he aimed at, not that he hoped to come up fully to it, yet pressed towards it. But alas! we have no such aim, not a thought that way; we press not towards Christ our Captain-General, nor towards this Great Captain St. Paul, nor any thing like it; we had far rather be Pioneers, to dig and moyl in the Earth, to cast up Banks, and raise Bulwarks of earthly Riches, that we may skulk under them, and avoid all Gun-shot; or be [Page 17] Wagon-Drivers to attend on the Carriages of Provision: Like the base Israelites, that drew back, and would not follow their Noble Captain Moses; but still hanker'd after the Flesh-pots of Egypt, the Belly-comforts, as most of us do. Our Ambition reaches no higher than to arrive to a full measure of those lustful, sordid delights, which the meanest and foulest Beasts enjoy as fully as any man can do. What wretched thoughts are these for Men of Honour? The steam of these Flesh-pots have so blinded our eyes, so stupified and besotted our brain, that like men bereft of common sense, we can't discern betwixt Light and Darkness, Vertue and Vice, Honour and Shame; but all is turn'd into a Chaos of Con­fusion. For shame let us rouse up our selves out of this deadly Lethargie, let us shew we have some sparks of Honour and true Nobi­lity in us. Nobilitas sola est at (que) unica, virtus: Vertue is the only true Nobility; a Heathen said it. Consider then the high price of our Calling, far above Heathens: We are called Christians, Sons of the Ever-living God, Fellow-heirs with Christ, Heirs of the Kingdom of Hea­ven: [Page 18] Let us walk worthy of this Vocation where­with we are called; not in Rioting and Drunken­ness; not in Chambering and Wantonness, not in Strife and Envy, worse then Heathens: But in Sobriety, Chastity, Charity, as good Christi­ans. If we can't walk with St. Paul, Passibus aequis, and keep up close with him; yet let us, Corde fervido, hasten after, and press towards him. We serve a gracious God, who will ac­cept of desires for deeds: A bruised Reed shall he not break, and the smoaking Flax shall he not quench, but rather enssame it. Take a Candle newly put out, and yet smoaking, bring it near a flaming Candle, the flame of that will descend by the smoak of the other, and set it on fire: So would we but with hearts, like smoaking Flax, draw near unto God, his Ho­ly Spirit would descend and set them a fla­ming. Oh then let us earnestly desire at least, and endeavour with St. Paul, to live to Christ, and the infinite mercy of God will accept us, and enable us to live to Christ, and then doubt­less our death will, like St. Pauls, be gain unto us; whereof I am now to treat, To die is gain.

Many in times of Paganism, considering the [Page 19] small and momentary pleasures men enjoy in this life, the grievous and durable miseries men suffer, all which death delivers them from; did thereupon conclude, death to be a great advantage, and a wonderful gain: [...]. So Plato in Apo. Socr. And Cicero de Fin. (who in all things followed Plato) called death, Portum malorum, perfugium aerum­nosae vitae: A Haven and Shelter from a tempe­stuous miserable life. But Zeno the Stoick-ma­ster shall make answer to this; affirming, That there is no misery in this life, but as we make it so; and that a wise Philosopher is always happy in all conditions. And a Disci­ple of his Seneca, discourses the same at large, shewing how the riches of the mind are much improved by noble Sufferings; and these be­ing of a far greater value than any earthly riches, the noble Sufferer is happy by enlarging these, though his Body or Estate suffer detri­ment. And then the Conclusion must be, That death can be no gain: First, because it de­prives a man of life, which is a good thing of its self; and secondly, it robs us of the oppor­tunity to encrease the riches of the Soul, which [Page 20] true Philosophers improve by Sufferings. I doubt Plato and Cicero, and such Academicks, would be foully pusled to answer from Natu­ral Reason, these Arguments of Zeno and Se­neca, and the rest of the Stoicks. But I will leave them to canvas and justle one another in the dark; for truly I can't approve the Opi­nions of either party, or their Principles. For life being a natural pleasing thing, I can't think it any gain to quit it, without the assu­rance of a better life, which Philosophers had not: Nor can I think there's any happiness merely in Sufferings, though ever so gallant. 'Tis true, a man should bear them like a man, but this makes not a happy man, if no recompence follow. And though the Stoick Anaxarchus pun'd in a large Morter, affirm'd, he was there happy, and defied the Tyrant Nicocrean, saying, [...], Bruise the Case of Anaxarchus, thou canst not bruise nor touch the hidden Jewel therein, my Soul: Yet I believe could he have leap'd out of the Morter, and escaped the Tyrant, he would not hastily have leapt into it again to renew that happiness. These are brave flourishes of [Page 21] the Pen, whilst men sit at ease in their study; or a good face put on the matter, when a man is so fettered in an evil, as he sees no possibility to escape; then 'tis better to brave it gallantly like a Lyon, than to dye sneakingly like a Cur.

But let us now see St. Pauls Philosophy, we shall find it much better: Thus far he agrees with the Stoicks, that there is no such misery in this life, but that men may receive bene­fit by it: All things work together for good, Rom. 8. 28. But to whom? To all men? No: But to them that love God; who for God's sake bear it patiently, and by God shall be rewarded liberally; and thus all things work together for good to them that love God: But not to them who know not God, much less love him. For if there were no gracious God to recompence our Sufferings, no other life after this to receive the reward; then, saith St. Paul, were we Suf­ferers of all men most miserable, 1 Cor. 5. 19. Sure very miserable, to be made the filth of the World, the off-scouring of all things, 4. 13. And though St. Paul agrees likewise with Plato, [Page 22] That death is a wonderful gain: Yet not in it self, as in putting off this house of Clay (for any house is better than no house;) but as death is a passage to a better house: A house not made with hands, eternal in the Heavens, 1 Cor. 5. 1. And he desires to depart, not so much to be rid of the present Misery, as to be with Christ the only true Felicity. And though life here be good; yet, To be with Christ is far better, Phil. 1. 23. Thus you see how much wiser and better Christianity is, than Heathen Phi­losophy, which at best is but Gallant Folly.

But we have some Christian Philosophers, who endeavour to lessen much our gain by death; telling us a fond Dream of their own Brain (viz.) The Souls sleeping at death till the day of Judgment, and then to rise again with the Body to receive the reward of good or evil. They were as good tell us in plain terms, the Soul dies with the Body; for this sleep is so like death, as I know not how to distin­guish it from Death. How a pure Spirit (as the Soul divided from the Body is) can fetch a sleep of one or two thousand years, I cannot understand, and I believe they as little. Let [Page 23] them shew us what kind of sleep this is, and some warrant in Scripture for it, and then I shall willingly hearken to them, and submit my Soul to sleep with theirs, not otherwise. For I shall not easily quit the comfort St. Paul gives us at death, That we shall depart hence, and be with Christ, for which he desired to be dis­solved; not to enter into so dead a sleep, as would make his condition no better than of a dead block. He tells us also, he was in a streight betwixt two, Whether to stay and preach the Go­spel to others, or to depart and be with Christ, which was far better for himself. Surely he that had so passionate a zeal to gain Souls unto Christ, would never have thought it far better to sleep a thousand years, than to gain a thousand Souls. Thus to dye was a dull stupid gain, much disagreeing with his Active Soul, and as much disagreeing with the clear current of Scripture. What can be clearer than those words of our Saviour unto the Thief on the Cross? This day thou shalt be with me in Paradise. Which must needs be understood of his Souls living after the death of his Body on the Cross. For sure our Saviour took not the Thiefs Soul in­to [Page 24] Paradise to sleep with him, but to rejoyce with him there: Had Christ intended sleep, he would rather have said, This night thou shalt be with me in Paradise. I suppose the main cause that moves them to this sleepy Imagination is, Their Wisdom thinks it not reasonable that the Souls of men should at death receive the Recompence of Good or Evil, in Heaven or Hell, and thence come out again to the General Judgment, having before past their Particular Judgment. I wish these over-wise men would leave these mat­ters to the Wisdom of God to determine; for my part, I shall determine no more than the Scripture plainly declares, (viz.) That the Souls of good men after death have some hap­py being, where with St. Paul they enjoy Christ, frequently at least, if not always: The Souls of wicked men some miserable Be­ing, at a vast distance from the godly, di­vided by an unpassable Gulf, as Dives was from Lazarus; but whether these places be the Heaven of heavens, and the Hell of hells, I will not now dispute, but shall in a short time certainly know: In the interim, I rest [Page 25] satisfied with S. Paul's Assurance, That death will be a gain, and convey me to some place where I shall enjoy Christ my Blessed Re­deemer.

We have yet another Generation of men, who call themselves Christians, and would be called Wits; but I can call them neither, they having no belief in the Promise of Christ for a future life, but make a mock of this as an idle Dream. 'Tis strange that men, who have so high a conceit of themselves, should make use of their wit thus to debase themselves. Cer­tainly this is great folly. God hath made Man but a little lower than the Angels, by giving him an eternal Soul; but they by denying the Eternity of the Soul, make themselves as low as Beasts, their Soul dying with their Body, without hope of future life. If you ask them a reason for their Opinion, their Sense is their Reason; they see no other life, therefore they believe no other. (Really I could never yet hear any thing else objected.) Thus they be­lieve according to Sense, and live according to Sense; very Beasts in all, but stupendious [Page 26] Wits. 'Tis true, when a Man dies, and a Beast dies, we see no more of man remain­ing than of the Beast. But shall we be such Beasts, as to make no use at all of our Reason? Doth not our Reason evidently shew us, that there is a vast difference betwixt our Soul, and the Soul of Beasts, by the many won­derful Arts and Sciences which man arrives unto, of which Beasts are not capable in the least degree? And we may farther urge the Metaphysical Speculations and Spiritual Con­templations of the Soul, wholly independant of the Body; which strongly proves the sub­sistency of the Soul independant of the Body, as the Learned well understand: For, an Action presupposes the being of the Actor. But this is an Argument too Scholastick for this Assembly, therefore I shall not here enlarge upon it: Though methinks these men, who would be thought Masters of Wit and Reason, should be ashamed of their Ignorance in this, the Master-part of Reason. But Beasts they would be, and so let them be, unfit to con­sort with knowing wise men; who in all Ages all the World over, had this belief of a fu­ture [Page 27] life; which being so universal, must needs proceed from the instinct of Nature, which is nothing else but an inner light infused into the Soul of Man by God the Creator, together with a feeling and pleasing expectation of fu­ture Felicity. Thus far Heathens went. But we Christians have a farther and much clearer light from our Saviour Christ, who plainly taught this, and evidently confirmed it by in­numerable Miracles which he did in his life, and chiefly by his rising again after death, so fully attested. Do not the Laws of God and Man in all Nations, receive for truth what­ever is witnessed by two or three? But if twen­ty persons affirm upon Oath, what they them­selves have seen, all twenty being men of un­suspected credit; who then doubts the truth thereof? Had any one of these perverse faith­less Wretches an Estate to recover, witnessed for them by twenty, or ten, or two sufficient Witnesses, and should be deprived of it; would they not make great out-crys of Injustice? Have not we then most just cause to cry out against these unjust Judges, that would de­prive us of our heavenly Inheritance, attested [Page 28] for us by twenty, a hundred, five hundred most credible persons, who all at once were eye-witnesses of our Saviours being risen from the dead; most whereof testified the same, not with Oaths, but with their Deaths, and joy­fully died in full assurance of this heavenly In­heritance? And what these men were eye­witnesses of, they declared unto others, and so from hand to hand conveyed it for many hun­dred years together, and in every year down­wards from the Apostles, hundreds and thou­sands continually attested the same, by suffer­ing many grievous Torments, and cruel Deaths. Was there ever any thing so attested in the whole World? or was there ever any thing so perversly, so madly denied? Are not these men, as St. Austin saith, Miracles of Unbelief? For really it seems impossible in nature, that men should so unnaturally deny a thing attest­ed by thousands of reasonable and credible men; so that to reject their evidence, is to reject the Evidence of Mankind. And that which makes these Infidels most notoriously ridiculous is, that they undoubtedly believe many things which have not the tenth part of [Page 29] this Evidence, or scarce any at all. But as it is, 2 Thess. 2. 11. God shall send them strong delu­sion, that they should believe a lye, and not believe the truth. Should I ask these men, what far­ther Evidence they would have for a future life? Doubtless they would require a sight of some half a score to come from the dead and assure them of it. Our Saviour said it, and therefore I believe it, That if they will not hear Moses and the Prophets, the Apostles and Mar­tyrs, neither will they hear, though one, or ten, rose from the dead. But put the case some should come from the dead to assure them of another life, and these men having many children of their own, should tell them what they saw and heard; and their children should answer, They would not believe, unless they them­selves also saw and heard the very same: Would they not have great indignation at their childrens unbelief? No doubt on't. And yet their children have the same reason for them­selves to deny it. And so by their Rule, some must be daily coming from the dead into all parts of the World to satisfie men, or else no belief. Is not this a most extravagant thing? [Page 30] We have had great patience to talk with these, so unreasonable men, so long. I shall now make a short Reflexion on what I have said in this matter.

If we have not brought absolutely convin­cing proofs for a future Life, yet sure they are very probable proofs: So that considering our Assertion and Proofs, and their Denial and no Proofs, the Judgment stands fair for us. But the more to confute them, I will yield that we are upon equal terms; nay, what if I yield 'tis two to one on their side, and yet shew these great Wit-pretenders are Witless in their ways. I propose to them a Parable. A certain man brings them a Bottle of curious Wine to drink; there come in presently three more, wereof one crys out, Sirs, take heed what you do, this man comes to poyson you, I saw him put most deadly poyson into the Bottle: The other two laugh at it as a Fable, affirming both stood by when the Wine was drawn, and they saw no poyson put in. Some of my brave Youths say, Come, the Wine looks very clear, tastes very pleasant, away with these foolish fears, Let us drink and be [Page 31] merry. Others answer, Hold my Masters, let us not be so mad as to venture our lives for a glass of Wine; though therebe two Witnesses to one, that there's no poyson in it, yet this is but a Negative proof, poyson might be put in and they not see it; and then, the loss of our lives is an hundred to one more, than the gain will be in drinking it; the pleasure is but for the twinkling of an eye, the loss great and for ever. I beseech you tell me, which of these talk Reason, which Madness? Is it not then far greater Madness, for the small and mo­mentary pleasures of this life, to venture the loss of an eternal Life, of unspeakable Feli­city? And not only so, but to plunge them­selves headlong into eternal misery; and all this, not having two to one for them, but an hundred to one against them. If this be not desperate Madness, I beseech you tell me what is? Who can chuse but sadly lament the dangerous condition of these men? My only comfort is, That the mighty power of the Di­vine Grace is able from stones to raise up children to Abraham. And therefore I will never cease to pray and hope, that God of his infinite Good­ness [Page 32] and Mercy, will in his good time give a sensible Touch to their Faithless stony hearts.

And now for a Conclusion, I will in few words address my self to all you who have faith in the promise of Christ for a future life, and hope that death may be unto you gain. The day is at hand, when we are to celebrate the Resurrection of our Blessed Sa­viour, which is the ground of this our hope, and raises up in us fervent desires to live with St. Paul unto Christ, that we may die in Christ, rise again and reign with Christ. And for the encouragement and encrease of your desires, I beseech you remember, that St. Paul was by nature of the same flesh and blood with us, of the same infirmities and weakness, and of himself could do nothing, no more then we; but by Grace could do all things, and so may we.

I beseech you also remember the faithful Promise of Christ. That if we ask, seek, and knock, this Grace will be given unto us. And [Page 33] never more seasonable than now to seek it; for you know, Lent is the holy time appointed by the Church for Fasting and Praying, and this ensuing Week is the Holy of Holies, and more especially requires it. How you have spent the former part, God and your own hearts best know; but if amiss, I, with St. Peter, beseech you, That the time past may suffice to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in Lasciviousness, Lusts, excess of Wine, Revellings, Banquettings, and such like, 1 Pet. 4. 3. Very unfit for Christians at any time, much more in the holy time of Lent. We must therefore, according to St. Paul's Directions, Ephes. 5. 15. earnestly endeavour to redeem the time past by great Humiliation, and fervent Devotion, this Week yet to come; that so we may be meet partakers of the holy Mysteries, at the approaching Feast, and thereby partakers also of that powerful Grace which transform'd Saul into Paul; and will likewise transform us Sinners into Saints, if we receive those holy Mysteries worthily: But if unworthily, it will transform us great Sinners, into great Devils, eating and drinking [Page 34] our own Damnation, which God forbid. I have heard of some that have made a Covenant with the Devil, and signed it with their own blood: Who doth not abhor the Fact? Sure­ly then much more abhor to make a Cove­nant with the Devil to continue in sin, and sign it with the precious blood of Christ. The very thought of it is dreadful! Wherefore I most humbly and earnestly beseech you all with fear and trembling, to consider the King of Glory, the Judge of quick and dead we are to receive into our breasts, and that you would with repenting tears, so wash and make it clean, with chastising Mortifica­tion so rub and polish; with fervent Love and zealous Devotion so deck and adorn it, that it may become a fit Tabernacle to re­ceive the King of Glory, our Saviour Christ, and invite him to come in and sup with us, and we with him, as it is Revel. 3. 20. That our Souls may be so refreshed and strengthen­ed by this heavenly Food, that henceforth we may live in Christ, and Christ in us, and then we shall be sure to die in Christ; [Page 35] and that death will be unto us an unspeak­able gain, conveying us from a World of Misery, to a Kingdom of everlasting Glo­ry; which Christ hath faithfully promised us, and God of his infinite Mercy will give us. And therefore unto him be ascribed, as is most due, all Honour, Praise and Glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


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