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sorrow puts a veil of darkness upon the heart: and we scarce pity a vile person, that is haled to execution for murder or for treason, but we say he deserves it, and that every man is concerned in it, that he should die. If lust brought the sickness or the shame, if we truly suffer the rewards of our evil deeds, we must thank ourselves; that is, we are fallen into an evil condition, and are the sacrifice of the Divine justice. But if we live holy lives, and if we enter well in, we are sure to pass on safe, and to go forth with advantage, if we list ourselves.
2. To this relates, that we should not counterfeit sickness for he, that is to be careful of his passage into a sickness, will think himself concerned, that he fall not into it through a trap-door: for so it hath sometimes happened, that such counterfeiting to light and evil purposes hath ended in a real sufferance. Appian tells of a Roman gentleman, who, to escape the proscription of the triumvirate, fled, and to secure his privacy counterfeited himself blind on one eye, and wore a plaister upon it, till beginning to be free from the malice of the three prevailing princes, he opened his hood, but could not open his eye, but for ever lost the use of it, and with his eye paid for his liberty and hypocrisy. And Cælius counterfeited the gout, and all its circumstances and pains, its dressings and arts of remedy, and complaint, till at last the gout really entered and spoiled the pageantry. His arts of dissimulation were so witty, that they put life and motion into the very image of the disease; he made the very picture to sigh and groan.
It is easy to tell, upon the interest of what virtue such counterfeiting is to be reproved. But it will be harder to snatch the politics of the world from following that, which they call a canonized and authentic precedent: and David's counterfeiting himself mad before the King of Gath, to save his life and liberty, will be sufficient to entice men to serve an end upon the stock and charges of so small an irregularity, not in the matter of manners, but in the rules and decencies of natural or civil deportment, I cannot certainly tell, what degrees of excuse David's action might put on. This only; besides his present necessity, the laws, whose
Tantum cura potest et ars doloris: Desît fingere Cœlius podagram.-Mart. 1. vii. ep. 38.
coercive or directive power David lived under, had less of severity, and more of liberty, and towards enemies had so little of restraint and so great a power, that what amongst them was a direct sin, if used to their brethren the sons of Jacob, was lawful and permitted to be acted against enemies. To which also I add this general caution, that the actions of holy persons in Scripture are not always good precedents to us Christians, who are to walk by a rule and a greater strictness, with more simplicity and heartiness of pursuit. And amongst them, sanctity and holy living did, in very many of its instances, increase in new particulars of duty; and the prophets reproved many things, which the law forbad not; and taught many duties, which Moses prescribed not; and as the time of Christ's approach came, so the sermons and revelations too were more evangelical, and like the patterns, which were fully to be exhibited by the Son of God. Amongst which, it is certain, that Christian simplicity and godly sincerity are to be accounted: and counterfeiting of sickness is a huge enemy to this: it is an upbraiding the Divine Providence, a jesting with fire, a playing with a thunderbolt, a making the decrees of God to serve the vicious or secular ends of men; it is a tempting of a judgment, a false accusation of God, a forestalling and antedating his anger; it is a cozening of men by making God a party in the fraud: and therefore, if the cozenage returns upon the man's own head, he enters like a fox into his sickness, and perceives himself catched in a trap, or earthed in the intolerable dangers of the grave.
3. Although we must be infinitely careful to prevent it, that sin does not thrust us into a sickness; yet, when we are in the house of sorrow, we should do well to take physic against sin, and suppose that it is the cause of the evil; if not by way of natural causality and proper effect, yet by a moral influence, and by a just demerit. We can easily see, when a man hath got a surfeit; intemperance is as plain as the handwriting upon the wall, and easier to be read; but covetousness may cause a fever as well as drunkenness, and pride can produce a falling-sickness as well as long washings and dilutions of the brain, and intemperate lust: and we find it recorded in Scripture, that the contemptuous and unprepared manner of receiving of the holy sacraments caused
sickness and death; and sacrilege and vow-breach in Ananias and Sapphira made them to descend quick into their graves. Therefore, when sickness is upon us, let us cast about; and, if we can, let us find out the cause of God's displeasure; that, it being removed, we may return into the health and securities of God's loving-kindness. Thus, in the three years' famine, David inquired of the Lord, what was the matter and God answered, "It is for Saul and his bloody house:" and then David expiated the guilt, and the people were full again of food and blessing. And when Israel was smitten by the Amorites, Joshua cast about, and found out the accursed thing, and cast it out; and the people, after that, fought prosperously. And what God in that case said to Joshua, he will also verify to us; "I will not be with you any more, unless you destroy the accursed thing from among you"." But in pursuance of this we are to observe, that although, in case of loud and clamorous sins, the discovery is easy, and the remedy not difficult; yet because Christianity is a nice thing, and religion is as pure as the sun, and the soul of man is apt to be troubled from more principles than the intricate and curiously-composed body in its innumerable parts, it will often happen, that if we go to inquire into the particular, we shall never find it out; and we may suspect drunkenness, when it may be also a morose delectation in unclean thoughts, or covetousness, or oppression, or a crafty invasion of my neighbour's rights, or my want of charity, or my judging unjustly in my own cause, or my censuring my neighbours, or a secret pride, or a base hypocrisy, or the pursuance of little ends with violence and passion, that may have procured the present messenger of death. Therefore ask no more after any one, but heartily endeavour to reform all: "Sin no more, lest a worse thing happen":" for a single search or accusation may be the design of an imperfect repentance; but no man does heartily return to God, but he that decrees against every irregularity; and then only we can be restored to health or life, when we have taken away the causes of sickness and a cursed death.
4. He, that means to have his sickness turn into safety and life, into health and virtue, must make religion the employment of his sickness, and prayer the employment of his
u Josh. vii. 12.
ν Ορα κακῶς πράσσοντες, μὴ μείζω κακὰ Κτησώμεθα.—Soph.
religion. For there are certain compendiums or abbreviatures and shortenings of religion, fitted to several states. They, that first gave up their names to Christ, and that turned from Paganism to Christianity, had an abbreviature fitted for them; they were to renounce their false worshippings, and give up their belief, and vow their obedience unto Christ; and in the very profession of this they were forgiven in baptism. For God hastens to snatch them from the power of the devil, and therefore shortens the passage, and secures the estate. In the case of poverty, God hath reduced this duty of man to an abbreviature of those few graces, which they can exercise; such as are patience, contentedness, truth, and diligence; and the rest he accepts in good will, and the charities of the soul, in prayers, and the actions of a cheap religion. And to most men charity is also an abbreviature. And as the love of God shortens the way to the purchase of all virtues; so the expression of this to the poor goes a huge way in the requisites and towards the consummation of an excellent religion. And martyrdom is another abbreviature; and so is every act of an excellent and heroical virtue. But when we are fallen into the state of sickness, and that our understanding is weak and troubled, our bodies sick and useless, our passions turned into fear, and the whole state into suffering, God, in compliance with man's infirmity, hath also turned our religion into such a duty, which a sick man can do most passionately, and a sad man and a timorous can perform effectually, and a dying man can do to many purposes of pardon and mercy; and that is, prayer. For although a sick man is bound to do many acts of virtue of several kinds, yet the most of them are to be done in the way of prayer. Prayer is not only the religion that is proper to a sick man's condition, but it is the manner of doing other graces, which is then left, and in his power. For thus the sick man is to do his repentance and his mortifications, his temperance and his chastity, by a fiction of imagination bringing the offers of the virtue to the spirit, and making an action of election: and so our prayers are a direct act of chastity, when they are made in the matter of that grace; just as repentance for our cruelty is an act of the grace of mercy; and repentance for uncleanness is an act of chastity, is a means of its purchase, an act in
order to the habit. And though such acts of virtue, whichare only in the way of prayer, are ineffective to the entire purchase, and of themselves cannot change the vice into virtue; yet they are good renewings of the grace, and proper exercise of a habit already gotten.
The purpose of this discourse is, to represent the excellency of prayer, and its proper advantages, which it hath in the time of sickness. For besides that it moves God to pity, piercing the clouds, and making the heavens, like a pricked eye, to weep over us, and refresh us with showers of pity; it also doth the work of the soul, and expresses the virtue of his whole life in effigy, in pictures and lively representments, so preparing it for a never-ceasing crown, by renewing the actions in the continuation of a never-ceasing, a never-hindered affection. Prayer speaks to God, when the tongue is stiffened with the approachings of death: prayer can dwell in the heart, and be signified by the hand or eye, by a thought or a groan: prayer of all the actions of religion. is the last alive, and it serves God without circumstances, and exercises material graces by abstraction from matter, and separation, and makes them to be spiritual; and therefore best dresses our bodies for funeral or recovery, for the mercies of restitution or the mercies of the
5. In every sickness, whether it will, or will not, be so in nature and in the event, yet in thy spirit and preparations resolve upon it, and treat thyself accordingly, as if it were a sickness unto death. For many men support their unequal courages by flattery and false hopes; and because sicker men have recovered, believe, that they shall do so; but therefore they neglect to adorn their souls, or set their house in order: besides the temporal inconveniences, that often happen by such persuasions, and putting off the evil day, such as are, dying intestate, leaving estates entangled, and some relatives unprovided for; they suffer infinitely in the interest and affairs of their soul, they die carelessly and surprised, their burdens on, and their scruples unremoved, and their cases of conscience not determined, and, like a sheep, without any care taken concerning their precious souls. Some men will never believe, that a villain will betray them, though they receive often advices from suspicious persons and likely accidents, till they are entered into the snare; and