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you have any thing in your hands, give it, that it may work to the remission of thy sins : for by faith and alms sins are purged.” The same also is the counsel of Salvian, who wonders, that men, who are guilty of great and many sins, will not work out their pardon by alms and mercy. But this also must be added out of the words of Lactantius, who makes this rule complete and useful; “But think not, because sins are taken away by alms, that, by thy money, thou mayest purchase a licence to sin. For sins are abolished, if, because thou hast sinned, thou givest to God,” that is, to God's poor servants, and his indigent necessitous creatures: but if thou sinnest upon confidence of giving, thy sins are not abolished. For God desires infinitely, that men should be purged from their sins, and therefore commands us to repent; but to repent is nothing else but to profess and affirm (that is, to purpose, and to make good that purpose), that they will sin no more?.
Now alms are therefore effective to the abolition and pardon of our sins, because they are preparatory to, and impetratory of, the grace of repentance, and are fruits of repentance: and therefore St. Chrysostom affirms “, that repentance without alms is dead, and without wings, and can never soar upwards to the element of love. But because they are a part of repentance, and hugely pleasing to Almighty God, therefore they deliver us from the evils of an unhappy and accursed death; for so Christ delivered his disciples from the sea, when he appeased the storm, though they still sailed in the channel : and this St. Jerome verifies with all his reading and experience, saying, “I do not remember to have read, that ever any charitable person died an evil deathh.” And although a long experience hath observed God's mercies to descend upon charitable people, like the dew upon Gideon's fleece, when all the world was dry; yet for this also we have a promise, which is not only an argument of a certain number of (as experience is), but a security for eternal ages.
“ Make ye friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when
2 Agere autem pænitentiam nihil aliud est quàm profiteri et affirmare se non ulteriùs peccatarum. a Orat. ii. de pænitentia.
Nunquam memini me legisse, malâ morte mortuum, qui libenter opera charitatis exercuit.-Ad Nepot. VOL. IV.
ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.” When faith fails, and chastity is useless, and temperance shall be no more, then charity shall bear you upon wings of cherubim to the eternal mountain of the Lord. “ I have been a lover of mankind, and a friend, and merciful; and now I expect to communicate in that great kindness, which he shews, that is the great God and father of men and mercies ;" said Cyrus the Persian, on his death-bed.
I do not mean, this should only be a death-bed charity, any more than a death-bed repentance; but it ought to be the charity of our life and healthful years, a parting with portions of our goods then“, when we can keep them: we must not first kindle our lights, when we are to descend into our houses of darkness, or bring a glaring torch suddenly to a dark room, that will amaze the eye, and not delight it, or instruct the body; but if our tapers have, in their constant course, descended into their grave, crowned all the way with light, then let the death-bed charity be doubled, and the light burn brightest, when it is to deck our hearse. But concerning this I shall afterwards give account.
General Considerations to enforce the former Practices.
These are the general instruments of preparation in order to a holy death : it will concern us all to use them diligently and speedily; for we must be long in doing that, which must be done but once and therefore we must begin betimes, and lose no time; especially since it is so great a venture, and upon it depends so great a state. Seneca said
“ There is no science or art in the world so hard as to live and die well: the professors of other arts are vulgar and many":” but he that knows how to do this business, is cer
• Εγώ φιλάνθρωπος εγενόμην, και νύν ήδέως αν μοι δοκώ κοινωνήσαι του ευεργετούντος αιθρώπους. .
d Da dum tempas habes; tibi propria sit manus hæres ;
Auferet hoc nemo, quod dabis ipse Deo. e Quod sæpe fieri non potest, fiat dia.–Seneca.
Nullius rei quàm vivere difficilior est scientia : Professores aliarum artium valgò multique sont.--Seneca.
tainly instructed to eternity. But then let me remember this, that a wise person will also put most upon the greatest interest. Common prudence will teach us this. No man will hire a general to cut wood, or shake hay with a sceptre, or spend his soul and all his faculties upon the purchase of a cockle-shell; but he will fit instruments to the dignity and exigence of the design : and therefore since heaven is so glorious a state, and so certainly designed for us, if we please, let us spend all that we have, all our passions and affections, all our study and industry, all our desires and stratagems, all our witty and ingenious faculties, towards the arriving thither; whither if we do come, every minute will infinitely pay for all the troubles of our whole life; if we do not, we shall have the reward of fools, an unpitied and an upbraided miseryh.
To this purpose I shall represent the state of dying and dead men in the devout words of some of the fathers of the church, whose sense I shall exactly keep, but change their order; that by placing some of their dispersed meditations into a chain or sequel of discourse, I may with their precious stones make a union, and compose them into a jewel : for though the meditation is plain and easy, yet it is affectionate, and material, and true, and necessary.
The circumstances of a dying man's sorrow, and danger.
When the sentence of death is decreed, and begins to be put in execution, it is sorrow enough to see or feel respectively the sad accents of the agony and last contentions of the soul, and the reluctances and unwillingnesses of the body: the forehead washed with a new and stranger baptism, besmeared with a cold sweat, tenacious and clammy, apt to make it cleave to the roof of his coffin; the nose cold and undiscerning, not pleased with perfumes, nor suffering violence with a cloud of unwholesome smoke'; the eyes dim as a sullied mirror, or the face of heaven, when God shews his anger in a prodigious storm; the feet cold, the hands stiff, the physicians despairing, our friends weeping, the rooms dressed with darkness and sorrow, and the exterior
& Nanc ratio nulla est, restandi nulla facultas, Æternas quoniam pænas in mito timendum. Lucret. i. 112. h Virtutem videant, intabescántque relicta.
parts betraying what are the violences, which the soul and spirit sufferk; the nobler part, like the lord of the house, being assaulted by exterior rudenesses, and driven from all the outworks, at last faint and weary with short and frequent breathings, interrupted with the longer accents of sighs, without moisture, but the excrescences of a spilt humour, when the pitcher is broken at the cistern, it retires to its last fort, the heart; whither it is pursued, and stormed, and beaten out, as when the barbarous Thracian sacked the glory of the Grecian empire. Then calamity is great, and sorrow rules in all the capacities of man: then the mourners weep, because it is civil, or because they need thee, or because they fear: but who suffers for thee with a compassion sharp as is thy pain? Then the noise is like the faint echo of a distant valley, and few hear, and they will not regard thee, who seemest like a person void of understanding and of a departing interest. Verè tremendum est mortis sacramentum. But these accidents are common to all that die; and when a special Providence shall distinguish them, they shall die with
easy circumstances; but as no piety can secure it, so must no confidence expect it; but wait for the time, and accept the manner of the dissolution. But that which distinguishes them, is this:
He that hath lived a wicked life, if his conscience be alarmed, and that he does not die like a wolf or a tiger, without sense or remorse of all his wildness and his injury, his beastly nature, and desert and untilled manners, if he have but sense of what he is going to suffer, or what he may expect to be his portion; then we may imagine the terror of their abused fancies, how they see affrighting shapes, and because they fear them, they feel the gripes of devils, urging the unwilling souls from the kinder and fast embraces of the body, calling to the grave and hastening to judgment, exhibiting great bills of uncancelled crimes, awaking and amazing the conscience, breaking all their hope in pieces, and making faith useless and terrible, because the malice was great, and the charity was none at all. Then they look for some to have pity on them, but there is no man'. No man dares be their pledge: no man can redeem their soul, which now feels, what it never feared. Then the tremblings and the sorrow, St. Basil.
1 St. Chrysostomus.
the memory of the past sin, and the fear of future pains, and the sense of an angry God, and the presence of some devils, consign him to the eternal company of all the damned and accursed spiritsm. Then they want an angel for their guide; and the Holy Spirit for their comforter, and a good conscience for their testimony, and Christ for their advocate, and they die and are left in prisons of earth or air, in secret and undiscerned regions, to weep and tremble, and infinitely to fear the coming of the day of Christ; at which time they shall be brought forth to change their condition into a worse, where they shall for ever feel more, than we can believe or understand.
But when a good man dies, one that hath lived innocently, or made joy in heaven at his timely and effective repentance, and in whose behalf the holy Jesus hath interceded prosperously, and for whose interest the Spirit makes interpellations with groans and sighs unutterable, and in whose defence the angels drive away the devils on his deathbed, because his sins are pardoned, and because he resisted the devil in his life-time, and fought successfully, and persevered unto the end; then the joys break forth through the clouds of sickness, and the conscience stands upright, and confesses the glories of God, and owns so much integrity, that it can hope for pardon, and obtain it too: then the sorrows of the sickness, and the flames of the fever, or the faintness of the consumption, do but untie the soul from its chain, and let it go forth, first into liberty, and then to glory: for it is but for a little while that the face of the sky was black, like the preparations of the night, but quickly the cloud was torn and rent, the violence of thunder parted it into little portions, that the sun might look forth with a watery eye,
and then shine without a tear. But it is an infinite refreshment to remember all the comforts of his prayers, the frequent victory over his temptations, the mortification of his lust, the noblest sacrifice to God, in which he most delights, that we have given him our wills, and killed our appetites for the interests of his services: then all the trouble of that is gone; and what remains, is a portion in the inheritance of Jesus, of which he now talks no more as a thing at distance, but is entering into the possession. When the veil
m Ephram Syras.