CHAP.  9.

The second and third consideration for the reformation of the sensualist.


2. LET them mark well the different ends of these men. Though the one now carries away the credit and current of the times, and with all bravery and triumph rolls himself in the pleasures, riches, and glory of the world, and the other is kept under hatches, neglected and contemptible to carnal eyes, trampled upon with the feet of pride and malice by the prouder Pharisees, and hunted with much cruelty and hate by men of this world: yet watch but a while, and you shall see the end of this upright man, whatsoever his sorrows and sufferings, troubles and temptations have been in this [[33]] life, to be most certainly peace at the last. “Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.” (Psalm xxxvii, 37). He either• passeth fairly and calmly through the port of death to the land of everlasting rest and rejoicing; or else, if a tempest of extraordinary temptation seize upon him in the haven, when he is ready to set foot into heaven, which is the lot of many of God’s dearest ones, for ends seeming best to the ever-blessed Majesty, as perhaps to harden those about him that hate to be reformed; yet all the hurt he hath thereby is, besides serving God’s secret holy pleasure, an addition to his happiness; for an immediate translation from the depth of temporary horror, as in the case of Mr. Peacock and Mrs. Brettergh, to the height of endless joy, makes even the joys of heaven something more joyful. Ile feels those never-ending pleasures at the first entrance more delicious and ravishing, by reason of the sudden change from that bitterness of spirit in the last combat to the excellency and eternity of heavenly bliss. His soul, in this case, after a short eclipse of spiritual darkness upon his bed of death, enters more lightsomely into the full sun of immortal glory. But what do you think shall be the end of the other man? He is in the meantime, it may be, “in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree,” revelling in the abundance of all worldly jollity and wealth; wallowing dissolutely in the choicest delights and vainest pleasures; yet wait but a while, and you shall see him quickly “cut down like grass, and wither as the peen herb.” For God shall suddenly shoot at him with a swift arrow. It is already in the bow, even a bow of steel shall send forth an arrow that shall strike him through, and shall shine on bis gall. His power and his pride shall be overthrown in the turn of a hand. All his imperious boisterousness shall melt away as a vain foam. “The eye which saw him shall see him no more; neither shall his place any more behold him.” He must descend into the grave, naked and stripped of all power and pomp, all beauty and strength; a weaker and poorer worm than when he first came out of the womb. Hear further for this purpose, and fuller expression of my meaning in this point, how a worthy friend of mine, instancing in the exemplary and dreadful downfalls of Haman, Shebna, and others, labours to fright graceless great ones out of their luxury and pride, security and sinful pleasures, by consideration of their ends. “Oh then,” saith he, “ye rich and great, ye proud and cruel, ambitious and honourable, take from their woeful examples the true estimate of your riches and your power, your pleasure and your honour, [[34]] wherein ye trust, and whereof ye boast, but as Israel in Egypt, of a broken reed. Consider that like sins will have like ends; that God is to-day, and yesterday, and the same for ever; that the pride and cruelty, oppression and luxury of these times, have no greater privilege than those of the former. But when for a while you have domineered far and near, had what you would, and done what you pleased;. dispeopled parishes and plains for your orchards and walks; pulled down many houses to set one up, from between whose battlements and turrets at the top you can see no end of you meadows, your fields, and your lands, the measuring whereof, as the poet speaks, would weary the very wings of the kite; when the train of your dependents hath been too long for the street, and your bare respect hath shook the hat from the head, and bent the knee afar off; when you have clapped whole manors on your backs, or turned them down you throats; when you have scoured the plains with your horses, the fields and woods with your hounds, and the heaven with your hawks; when with pheasants’ tongues you have burnished whole feasts, and with the queen of Egypt drunk dissolved pearls, even fifty thousand pounds at a draught, and then laid your head in Dalilah’s lap; when, if it were possible, you have spent your whole lives in all that royal pomp and pleasure which that most magnificent king and queen did (Esther i.) for a hundred and fourscore days; in a word, when you wallowed in all delights and stood in pleasures up to the chin; — then, even then, the pit is digged, and death, of whom you dream not, stands at the door. Where are you now, or what is to be done? Come down, saith Death, from your pleasant prospects; alight from your jades; hood your kites; couple up your curs; bid adieu to pleasure; out of your beds of lust; come naked forth, and descend with me to the chambers of death. Make your beds in the dust, and lay down your cold carcasses among the stones of the pit at the roots of the rocks. And you, great and delicate dames, who are so wearied with pleasure that you cannot rise time enough to dress your heads and do all your tricks against dinner; to wash your bodies with musk, and daub your faces with vermilion and chalk; to make ready your pleasant baits to poison men’s eyes and their souls; you painted Jezebels, think you now you are fit company for men? Nay, come headlong down to the dogs. if not suddenly so, yet dispatch, and put off your cauls, ear-rings, and round tires; your chains, bracelets, and mufflers; your rings, wimples, and crisping pins; your hoods, veils, and changeable suits; your glasses, fine linen, with all your manilas muliebris (Isa. iii, 16); and [[35]] put on stench instead of sweet smell; baldness instead of well-set hair; burning instead of beauty. Worms shall make their nests in your breasts, and shall eat out those wanton windows and messengers of lust; yea, rottenness and stench, slime and filth shall ascend and sit down in the very throne of beauty, and shall dwell between your eyebrows.”

All this is very woeful; and yet there is a thousand times worse. Besides all this, thou that now layest about thee for the world and wealth; for transitory pelf and rotten pleasures, that liest soaking in luxury and pride, and vanity, and all kind of voluptuousness, shalt most certainly very shortly lie upon thy bed of death, like “a wild bull in a net, full of the fury of the Lord;” either sealing thee up finally in the desperate senselessness of thine own dead heart, with the spirit of slumber for everlasting vengeance even at the door, or else exemplarily enraging the guilty conscience upon that thy last bed with hellish horror even beforehand. For ordinarily the more notorious servants of Satan and slaves of lust depart this life either like Nabal or Judas; though more by many thousands die like hard-hearted sots in security, than in despair of conscience. If it be so with thee, then, that thine heart when thou shalt have received the sentence of death against thyself die within thee, as Nabors; “and most commonly,” saith a worthy divine, “conscience in many is secure at the time of death, God in his justice so plaguing an affected security in life with an inflicted security at death;—I say, then, thou wilt become as a stone, most prodigiously blockish; as though there were no immortality of the soul; no loss of eternal bliss; no tribunal in heaven; no account to be made after this life; no burning in hell for ever. Which will make the never dying fire more scorching, and the ever-living worm more stinging, by how much thou wast more senseless and fearless of that fiery lake into which thou wast ready to fall. “Death itself,” saith the same man, “cannot awake some consciences; but no sooner come they into bell but conscience is awakened to the full, never to sleep more; and then she teareth with implacable fury, and teacheth forlorn wretches to know that forbearance was no payment:’ But if it please God to take the other course with thee, and to let loose the cord of thy conscience upon thy dying bed; thou wilt be strangled even with hellish horror upon earth, and damned above ground. That worm of hell which is a continual remorse and furious reflection of the soul upon its own wilful folly, whereby it hath lost everlasting joys, and must now lie in endless, easeless, and remediless torments, is set on work whilst [[36]] thou art yet alive, and with desperate rage and unspeakable anguish will feed upon thy soul and flesh; the least twitch whereof, not all the pleasures of ten thousand worlds would ever be able to countervail. For as the peace of a good, so the pangs of a guilty conscience are unspeakable. So that at that time thou mayest justly take unto thyself Pashur’s terrible name, Magar Missubih, Fear round about. Thou wilt be a terror to thyself and to all thy friends. And that which in this woeful case will sting extremely, no friends, nor physic; no gold, nor silver; no height of place, nor favour of prince; not the glory and pleasures of the whole world; not the crowns and command of all earthly kingdoms, can possibly give any comfort, deliverance, or ease! For when that time and terror bath overtaken thee, which is threatened Prov. i, 24-31; “Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer, they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: they would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices:” —I say, when this terrible time is come upon thee, then will the mighty Lord of heaven and earth come against thee “as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of thy heart, and will devour thee like a lion” (Hos. xiii, 8). “He will come with fire arid with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire” (Isa. lxvi, 15). All his terrors at that hour will fight against thee, and that unquenchable anger that burns to the very bottom of hell, and “sets on fire the foundations of the mountains “ (Deut. xxxii, 22). The empoisoned arrows of his fiercest indignation shall be “drunk with the blood” of thy soul, and stick fast in it for ever. In a word, the fearful armies of all the plagues and curses, sorrows and insufferable pains denounced in God’s book against final impenitents, shall with irresistible violence take hold upon thee at once, and pursue thee with that fury, which thou shalt never be able either to avoid or abide; and “Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? who can abide in his sight when he is angry? who can deliver out of his hand?” What man or angel, what arm of flesh, or force of arms, what creature, or [[37]] created power, what cherub, or which of the seraphim is able to free a guilty conscience from the ever-gnawing worm, and an impenitent wretch from eternal flames? Oh! methinks a sensible forethought of these horrible things even at hand should make the hardest heart of the roost abominable Belial to tremble at the root, and fall asunder in his breast like drops of water! To have his end in his eye, and seriously to remember the tribulation and anguish that shall shortly come upon his soul, the affliction, the wormwood, and the gall, should instantly frighten him out of his filthy, graceless, good-fellow courses.

3. Let them consider what horror it will be in evil times: I mean not only at death and the last day, which are the most terrible of all; but also in times of disgrace and contempt; of common fear and confusions of the state, of sickness, crosses, restraint, banishment, temptations, or any other days of sorrow. At such times to find, instead of peace, fiery scorpions in their consciences, innumerable sins graven there with an iron pen unrepented of! Hear how excellently Austin foretells and forewarns them, into what a forlorn and fearful state they shall most certainly fall, when, after a short gleam of worldly glory, they fall into tempestuous and troublesome times: “Of all afflictions incident to the soul of man, there is none more grievous and transcendent than to have the conscience enraged with the guilt of sin. If there be no wound there, if all be safe and sound within, if that bird of the bosom sing sweetly in a many breast, it is no matter what miseries be abroad in the world, what storms or stirs be raised against him, what arm of flesh or rage of foes beset him round; for he in this case bath presently recourse unto his conscience, the safest sanctuary and paradise of sweetest repose; and finding that sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, filled with abundance of peace, and God himself there reconciled unto him in the face of Christ, he is courageously fearless of all, both mortal and immortal, adversaries and oppositions. Though the earth be removed and the mountains carried into the midst of the sea;’ though all the creatures in the world should be turned into bears or devils about him, yet his conscience being comfortable he is undaunted and confident, and more than conqueror over the whole world and ten thousand hells. But on the other side, if by reason of the reign of sin, there be no rest there; if God be not there because of the abounding of iniquity, what shall a man do then? Whither shall he fly when the hand of God bath found him out, and the swift-arrow of the Almighty sticks fast in his side? He will fly,” saith that ancient father, “out of the [[38]] country into the city, out of the streets into his house, out of his house into his chamber, horror still following him closely. From his chamber whither will he go but into the inmost cabinet of his bosom, where his conscience-dwelleth? and if he find there nothing but tumult and terror, but guiltiness, confusion, and cries of despair, which way will he then turn himself, or whither will he fly then? lie must then either fly from himself, which is utterly impossible, or else abide that torment, which is beyond all compass of thought or expression of tongue.” For “all the racks,” saith another, “wheels, wild horses, hot pincers, scalding lead poured into the most tender and sensible parts of the body; yea, all the merciless, barbarous, and inhuman cruelties of the holy house, are but mere toys and Alay games, compared with the torments that an evil conscience will put a man to when it is awakened.”