to many new Christians, in the church of Corinth, for their little indecencies and disorders in the circumstances of receiving the holy sacrament. St. Paul says, that "many amongst them were sick, many were weak, and some were fallen asleep." He expresses the Divine anger against those persons in no louder accents; which is according to the style of the New Testament, where all the great transactions of duty and reproof are generally made upon the stock of heaven, and hell is plainly a reserve, and a period set to the declaration of God's wrath. For God knows, that the torments of hell are so horrid, so insupportable a calamity, that he is not easy and apt to cast those souls, which he hath taken so much care, and hath been at so much expense to save, into the eternal never-dying flames of hell, lightly, for smaller sins, or after a fairly-begun repentance, and in the midst of holy desires to finish it; but God takes such penalties, and exacts such fines of us, which we may pay salvo contenemento, saving the main stake of all, even our precious souls. And therefore St. Augustine prayed to God in his penitential sorrows, "Here, O Lord, burn and cut my flesh, that thou mayest spare me for ever." For so said our blessed Saviour," Every sacrifice must be seasoned with salt, and every sacrifice must be burnt with fire:" that is, we must abide in the state of grace; and, if we have committed sins, we must expect to be put into the state of affliction; and yet the sacrifice will send up a right, and untroubled cloud, and a sweet smell to join with the incense of the altar, where the eternal priest offers a never-ceasing sacrifice. And now I have said a thing, against which there can be no exceptions, and of which no just reason can make abatement. For when sickness, which is the condition of our nature, is called for with purposes of redemption; when we are sent to death to secure eternal life; when God strikes us, that he may spare us, it shews, that we have done things, which he essentially hates; and therefore we must be smitten with the rod of God: but, in the midst of judgment, God remembers mercy, and makes the rod to be medicinal, and, like the rod of God in the hand of Aaron, to shoot forth buds and leaves, and almonds, hopes and mercies, and eternal recompences, in the day of restitution. This is so great a

e 1 Cor. xi. 30.

good to us, if it be well conducted in all the channels of its intention and design, that if we had put off the objections of the flesh, with abstractions, contempts, and separations, so as we ought to do, it were as earnestly to be prayed for as any gay blessing, that crowns our cups with joy, and our heads with garlands and forgetfulness. But this was it which I said, that this may, nay, that it ought to be chosen, at least by an after-election: for so said St. Paul, “If we judge ourselves, we shall not be condemned of the Lord:" that is, if we judge ourselves worthy of the sickness, if we acknowledge and confess God's justice in smiting us, if we take the rod of God in our own hands, and are willing to imprint it in the flesh, we are workers together with God in the infliction; and then the sickness, beginning and being managed in the virtue of repentance, and patience, and resignation, and charity, will end in peace, and pardon, and justification, and consignation to glory. That I have spoken truth, I have brought God's Spirit speaking in Scripture for a witness. But if this be true, there are not many states of life that have advantages, which can outweigh this great instrument of security to our final condition. Moses died at the mouth of the Lord, said the story; he died with the kisses of the Lord's mouth (so the Chaldee paraphrase): it was the greatest act of kindness that God did to his servant Moses; he kissed him, and he died. But I have some things to observe for the better finishing this consideration.

1. All these advantages and lessenings of evils in the state of sickness are only upon the stock of virtue and religion. There is nothing can make sickness in any sense eligible, or in many senses tolerable, but only the grace of God: that only turns sickness into easiness and felicity, which also turns it into virtue. For whosoever goes about to comfort a vicious person, when he lies sick upon his bed, can only discourse of the necessities of nature, of the unavoidableness of the suffering, of the accidental vexations and

Deut. xxxiv. 5.

Hæc clementia non paratur arte: sed nôrunt cui serviunt leones.

Si latus aut renes morbo tententur acuto,

Quære fugam morbi. Vis rectè vivere? quis non ?

Si virtus hoc una potest dare, fortis omissis
Hoc age deliciis-
-Horat. 1. i. ep. 6.

increase of torments by impatience, of the fellowship of all the sons of Adam, and such other little considerations; which indeed, if sadly reflected upon, and found to stand alone, teach him nothing but the degree of his calamity, and the evil of his condition, and teach him such a patience, and minister to him such a comfort, which can only make him to observe decent gestures in his sickness, and to converse with his friends and standers-by so as may do them comfort, and ease their funeral and civil complaints; but do him no true advantage: for, all that may be spoken to a beast when he is crowned with hair-laces, and bound with fillets to the altar, to bleed to death to appease the anger of the Deity, and to ease the burden of his relatives. And indeed what comfort can he receive, whose sickness, as it looks back, is an effect of God's indignation and fierce vengeance, and if it goes forward and enters into the gates of the grave, is the beginning of a sorrow, that shall never have an ending? But when the sickness is a messenger sent from a chastising father; when it first turns into degrees of innocence, and then into virtues, and thence into pardon; this is no misery, but such a method of the Divine economy and dispensation as resolves to bring us to heaven without any new impositions, but merely upon the stock and charges of nature.

2. Let it be observed, that these advantages, which spring from sickness, are not in all instances of virtue, nor to all persons. Sickness is the proper scene for patience and resignation, for all the passive graces of a Christian, for faith and hope, and for some single acts of the love of God. But sickness is not a fit station for a penitent; and it can serve the ends of the grace of repentance but accidentally. Sickness may gin a repentance", if God continues life, and if we cooperate with the Divine grace; or sickness may help to alleviate the wrath of God, and to facilitate the pardon, if all the other parts of this duty be performed in our healthful state: so that it may serve at the entrance in, or at the going out. But sickness, at no hand, is a good stage to represent all the substantial parts of this duty. 1. It invites to it; 2. It makes it appear necessary; 3. It takes off the fancies of vanity; 4. It attempers the spirit; 5. It cures hypocrisy; 6. It tames the fumes of pride; 7. It is the school of patience; 8. And h Nec tamen putaverant ad rem pertinere, ubi inciperent, quod placuerat ut fieret.

by taking us from off the brisker relishes of the world, it makes us with more gust to taste the things of the Spirit; and all this, only when God fits the circumstances of the sickness so as to consist with acts of reason, consideration, choice, and a present and reflecting mind; which then God sends, when he means that the sickness of the body should be the cure of the soul. But let no man so rely upon it as by design, to trust the beginning, the progress, and the consummation, of our piety to such an estate, which for ever leaves it imperfect: and though to some persons it adds degrees, and ministers opportunities, and exercises single acts with great advantage, in passive graces; yet it is never an entire or sufficient instrument for the change of our condition from the state of death to the liberty and life of the sons of God.

3. It were good, if we would transact the affairs of our souls with nobleness and ingenuity, and that we would, by an early and forward religion, prevent the necessary arts of the Divine providence. It is true, that God cures some by incision, by fire and torments; but these are ever the more obstinate and more unrelenting natures. God's providence is not so afflictive and full of trouble, as that it hath placed sickness and infirmity amongst things simply necessary; and, in most persons, it is but a sickly and an effeminate virtue, which is imprinted upon our spirits with fears, and the sorrows of a fever, or a peevish consumption. It is but a miserable remedy to be beholden to a sickness for our health: and though it be better to suffer the loss of a finger, than that the arm and the whole body should putrefy: yet even then also it is a trouble and an evil to lose a finger. He that mends with sickness, pares the nails of the beast, when they have already torn off part of the flesh: but he that would have a sickness become a clear and an entire blessing, a thing indeed to be reckoned among the good things of God, and the evil things of the world, must lead a holy life, and judge himself with an early sentence, and so order the affairs of his soul, that, in the usual method of God's saving us, there may be nothing left to be done, but that such virtues should be exercised, which God intends to crown: and then, as when

i Neque tam aversa unquam videbitur ab opere suo providentia, ut debilitas inter optima inventa sit.

the Athenians upon a day of battle with longing and uncertain souls sitting in their common-hall, expecting what would be the sentence of the day, at last received a messenger, who only had breath enough left him to say, "We are conquerors," and so died; so shall the sick person, who hath "fought a good fight and kept the faith," and only waits for his dissolution and his sentence, breathe forth his spirit with the accents of a conqueror, and his sickness and his death shall only make the mercy and the virtue more illustrious.

But for the sickness itself; if all the calumnies were true concerning it, with which it is aspersed, yet it is far to be preferred before the most pleasant sin, and before a great secular business and a temporal care: and some men wake as much in the foldings of the softest beds, as others on the cross: and sometimes the very weight of sorrow and the weariness of a sickness press the spirit into slumbers and the images of rest, when the intemperate or the lustful person rolls upon his uneasy thorns, and sleep is departed from his eyes. Certain it is, some sickness is a blessing. Indeed, blindness were a most accursed thing, if no man were ever blind, but he, whose eyes were pulled out with tortures or burning basins: and if sickness were always a testimony of God's anger, and a violence to a man's whole condition, then it were a huge calamity: but because God sends it to his servants, to his children, to little infants, to apostles and saints, with designs of mercy, to preserve their innocence, to overcome temptation, to try their virtue, to fit them for rewards; it is certain that sickness never is an evil but by our own faults; and if we will do our duty, we shall be sure to turn it into a blessing. If the sickness be great, it may end in death, and the greater it is', the sooner: and if it be very little, it hath great intervals of rest: if it be between both, we may be masters of it, and by serving the ends of Providence serve also the perfective end of human nature, and enter into the possession of everlasting mercies.

The sum is this: He that is afraid of pain, is afraid of his own nature; and if his fear be violent, it is a sign, his patience is none at all; and an impatient person is not ready

Detestabilis erit cæcitas, si nemo oculos perdiderit, nisi cui eruendi sunt. 1 Memineris ergò maximos dolores morte finiri, parvos habere multa intervalla requietis, mediocrium nos esse dominos.-Cicero.

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