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When I take a full view and circle of myself, without this reasonable moderator, and equal piece of justice, Death, I do conceive myself the miserablest person extant; were there not another life that I hope for, all the vanities of this world should not intreat a moment's breath from me; could the devil work my belief to imagine I could ever die, I would not outlive that very thought. I have so abject a conceit of this common way of existence, this retaining to the sun and elements, I cannot think this is to be a man, or to live according to the dignity of humanity. In expectation of a better I can with patience embrace this life, yet in my best meditations do often defy death; I honor any man that contemns it, nor can I highly love any that is afraid of it. -- For a Pagan there may be some motives to be in love with life, but for a Christian to be amazed at death, I see not how he can escape this dilemma, that he is too sensible of this life, or hopeless of the life to
“ Were there any hopes to out-live vice, or a point to be super-annuated from sin, it were worthy our knees to implore the days of Methuselah. But age doth not rectify but incurvate our natures, turning bad dispositions into worser habits, and, like diseases, brings on incurable vices; for every day, as we grow weaker in age, we grow stronger in sin, and the number of our days doth but make our sins innumerable. Certainly, there is no happiness within this circle of flesh, nor is it in the optics of these eyes to behold felicity: the first day of our jubilee is death; we are happier with death than we should have been without it."
He takes care, however, while communicating his ideas on this subject, to correct the error of those among the ancients, who, in order to escape the miseries of life, extol the practice of šuicide ; “ This,” he justly observes, " is indeed not to fear death, but yet to be afraid of life. It is a brave act of valour to contemn death ; but where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest valour to dare to live; and, herein, religion hath taught us a noble example. For all the valiant acts of Curtius, Scevola, or Codrus, do not parallel or match that one of Job; and, sure there is no torture to the rack of a disease, nor any poniards in death itself,
like those in the way, or prologue to it.” He then notices one of the circumstances of humanity, which, with those who are not reconciled to life on motives derived from religion, is often a cause of the highest dissatisfaction and complaint. “ Men that look no further than their outsides," he remarks, “ think health an appurtenance unto life, and quarrel with their constitutions for being sick; but I that have examined the parts of man, and know upon what tender filaments that fabric hangs, do wonder that we are not always so; and considering the thousand doors that lead to death, do thank
God that we can die but once.” It is impossible, indeed, to reconcile the evils of this life, moral or physical, with the mercy and justice of the Deity, but upon the basis of a resurrection and a day of retribution; doctrines on which, in fact, are founded the main pillars of revealed religion, and without which, as the great apostle of the Gentiles has asserted, we should be of all beings the most miserable.
Very forcibly, therefore, and very distinctly, has the author of “ Religio Medici,” expressed
himself on these momentous subjects, conscious that on a firm reliance on the truth of these essential articles of Christianity, can alone be built a morality acceptable to God.
“How shall the dead arise,” he observes, “ is no question of my faith; to believe only possibilities, is not faith, but mere philosophy; many things are true in divinity, which are neither inducible by reason nor confirmable by sense ; and many things in philosophy confirmable by sense, yet not inducible by reason. Thus, it is impossible by any solid or demonstrative reasons, to persuade a man to believe the conversion of the needle to the north; though this be possible and true, and easily credible, upon a single experiment unto the sense. I believe, that our estranged and divided ashes shall unite again; that our separated dust, after so many pilgrimages and transformations into the parts of minerals, plants, animals, elements, shall, at the voice of God, return into their primitive shapes, and join again to make up their primary and predestinate forms. As at the creation, there was a separation of that confused mass into its species, so at the destruction thereof there
shall be a separation into its distinct individuals. As at the creation of the world, all the distinct species that we behold, lay involved in one mass, till the fruitful voice of God separated this united multitude into its several species; so at the last day, when these corrupted reliques shall be scattered in the wilderness of forms, and seem to have forgot their proper habits, God by a powerful voice shall command them back into their proper shapes, and call them out by their single individuals.
“ This is the day, that must make good that great attribute of God, his justice; that must reconcile those unanswerable doubts that torment the wisest understandings, and reduce those seeming inequalities and respective distributions in this world, to an equality and recompensive justice in the next. This is that one day, that shall include and comprehend all that went before it; wherein, as in the last scene, all the actors must enter, to complete and make up the catastrophe of this great piece. This is the day, whose memory hath only power to make us honest in the dark, and to be virtuous without a witness. That virtue is her own reward, is