« AnteriorContinuar »
and from thence to his right hand in the day of sentence: "For we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ ;" and then if we have done well in the body, we shall never be expelled - from the beatifical presence of God, but be domestics of his family, and heirs of his kingdom, and partakers of his glory. Amen.
I have now done with my text, but yet am to make you another sermon. I have told you the necessity and the state of death, it may be too largely for such a sad story; I shall, therefore, now with a better compendium teach you how to live, by telling you a plain narrative of a life, which if you imitate, and write after the copy, it will make that death shall not be an evil, but a thing to be desired, and to be reckoned among the purchases and advantages of your fortune. When Martha and Mary went to weep over the grave of their brother, Christ met them there, and preached a funeral sermon, discoursing of the resurrection, and applying to the purposes of faith, and confession of Christ, and glorification of God. We have no other, we can have no better precedent to follow and now that we are come to weep over the grave of our dear sister, this rare personage, we cannot choose but have many virtues to learn, many to imitate, and some to exercise.
I choose not to declare her extraction and genealogy; it was indeed fair and honourable; but having the blessing to be descended from worthy and honoured ancestors, and herself to be adopted and ingrafted into a more noble family; yet she felt such outward appendages to be none of hers, because not of her choice; but the purchase of the virtues of others, which although they did engage her to do noble things, yet they would upbraid all degenerate and less honourable lives than were those, which began and increased the honour of the families. She did not love her fortune for making her noble; but thought it would be a dishonour to her, if she did not continue a nobleness and excellency of virtue fit to be owned by persons relating to such ancestors. It is fit for us all to honour the nobleness of a family; but it is also fit for them that are noble, to despise it, and to establish their honour upon the foundation of doing excellent things, and suffering in good causes, and despising dishonourable actions, and in communicating good things to others: for this is the rule in nature; those creatures are most honourable, which have the greatest power and do the greatest good; and accordingly myself have been a witness of it, how this excellent lady would, by an act of humility and christian abstraction, strip herself of all that fair appendage and exterior honour, which decked her person and her fortune, and desired to be owned by nothing but what was her own, that she might only be esteemed honourable according to that which is the honour of a christian and a wise man.
2. She had a strict and severe education, and it was one of God's graces and favours to her: for being the heiress of a great fortune, and living amongst the throng of persons, in the sight of vanities and empty temptations, that is, in that part of
the kingdom where greatness is too often expressed in great follies and great vices, God had provided a severe and angry education to chastise the forwardnesses of a young spirit and a fair fortune, that she might for ever be so far distant from a vice, that she might only see it and loathe it, but never taste of it, so much as to be put to her choice whether she would be virtuous or no. God intending to secure this soul to himself, would not suffer the follies of the world to seize upon her, by way of too near a trial, or busy temptation.
3. She was married young; and besides her businesses of religion, seemed to be ordained in the providence of God to bring to this honourable family a part of her fair fortune, and to leave behind her a fairer issue, worth ten thousand times her portion : and as if this had been all the public business of her life, when she had so far served God's ends, God in mercy would also serve hers, and take her to an early blessedness.
4. In passing through which line of providence, she had the art to secure her eternal interest, by turning her condition into duty, and expressing her duty in the greatest eminency of a virtuous, prudent, and rare affection, that hath been known in any example. I will not give her so low a testimony, as to say only that she was chaste; she was a person of that severity, modesty, and close religion, as to that particular, that she was not capable of uncivil temptation; and you might as well have suspected the sun to smell of the poppy that he looks on, as that she could have been a person apt to be sullied by the breath of a foul question.
5. But that which I shall note in her, is that which I would have exemplar to all ladies, and to all women: she had a love so great for her lord, so entirely given up to a dear affection, that she thought the same things, and loved the same loves, and hated according to the same enmities, and breathed in his soul, and lived in his presence, and languished in his absence; and all that she was or did, was only for, and to, her dearest lord:
Si gaudet, si flet, si tacet, hunc loquitur;
And although this was a great enamel to the beauty of her soul, yet it might in some degrees be also a reward to the virtue of her lord: for she would often discourse it to them that conversed with her, that he would improve that interest which he had in her affection, to the advantages of God and of religion; and she would delight to say, that he called her to her devotions, he encouraged her good inclinations, he directed her piety, he invited her with good books; and then she loved religion, which she saw was not only pleasing to God, and an act or state of duty, but pleasing to her lord, and an act also of affection and conjugal obedience; and what at first she loved the more forwardly for his sake, in the using of religion, left such relishes upon her spirit, that she found in it amability enough to make her love it for its own. So God usually brings us to him by instruments of nature and affections, and then incorporates us into his inheritance by the
more immediate relishes of heaven, and the secret things of the Spirit. He only was (under God) the light of her eyes, and the cordial of her spirits, and the guide of her actions, and the measure of her affections, till her affections swelled up into a religion, and then it could go no higher, but was confederate with those other duties which made her dear to God which rare combination of duty and religion, I choose to express in the words of Solomon; "She forsook not the guide of her youth, nor brake the covenant of her God." d
6. As she was a rare wife, so she was an excellent mother: for in so tender a constitution of spirit as hers was, and in so great a kindness towards her children, there hath seldom been seen a stricter and more curious care of their persons, their deportment, their nature, their disposition, their learning, and their customs and if ever kindness and care did contest and make parties in her, yet her care and her severity was ever victorious; and she knew not how to do an ill turn to their severer part, by her more tender and forward kindness. And as her custom was, she turned this also into love to her lord for she was not only diligent to have them bred nobly and religiously, but also was careful and solicitous, that they should be taught to observe all the circumstances and inclinations, the desires and wishes of their father; as thinking that virtue to have no good circumstances, which was not dressed by his copy, and ruled by his lines and his affections and her prudence in the managing her children was so singular and rare, that whenever you mean to bless this family, and pray a hearty and a profitable prayer for it, beg of God, that the children may have those excellent things which she designed to them, and provided for them in her heart and wishes; that they may live by her purposes, and may grow thither, whither she would fain have brought them. All these were great parts of an excellent religion, as they concerned her greatest temporal relations.
7. But if we examine how she demeaned herself towards God, there also you will find her not of a common, but of an exemplar piety: she was a great reader of Scripture, confining herself to great proportions every day; which she read, not to the purposes of vanity, and impertinent curiosities, not to seem knowing, or to become talking, not to expound and rule; but to teach her all her duty, to instruct her in the knowledge and love of God and of her neighbours; to make her more humble, and to teach her to despise the world and all its gilded vanities; and that she might entertain passions wholly in design and order to heaven. I have seen a female religion that wholly dwelt upon the face and tongue; that like a wanton and an undressed tree, spends all its juice in suckers and irregular branches, in leaves and gum, and after all such goodly outsides, you should never eat an apple, or be delighted with the beauties or the perfumes of a hopeful blossom. But the religion of this excellent lady was of another constitution; it took root downward in humility, and brought forth fruit upward in the substantial d Prov. ii. 17.
graces of a christian, in charity and justice, in chastity and modesty, in fair friendships and sweetness of society: she had not very much of the forms and outsides of godliness, but she was hugely careful for the power of it, for the moral, essential, and useful parts; such which would make her be, not seem to be, religious.
8. She was a very constant person at her prayers, and spent all her time, which nature did permit to her choice, in her devotions, and reading, and meditating, and the necessary offices of household government; every one of which is an action of religion, some by nature, some by adoption. To these, also, God gave her a very great love to hear the word of God preached; in which, because I had sometimes the honour to minister to her, I can give this certain testimony, that she was a diligent, watchful, and attentive hearer and to this, had so excellent a judgment, that if ever I saw a woman whose judgment was to be revered, it was hers alone: and I have sometimes thought that the eminency of her discerning faculties did reward a pious discourse, and placed it in the regions of honour and usefulness, and gathered it up from the ground, where commonly such homilies are spilt, or scattered in neglect and inconsideration. But her appetite was not soon satisfied with what was useful to her soul: she was also a constant reader of sermons, and seldom missed to read one every day; and that she might be full of instruction and holy principles, she had lately designed to have a large book, in which she purposed to have a stock of religion transcribed in such assistances as she would choose, that she might be "readily furnished and instructed to every good work." But God prevented that, and hath filled her desires, not out of cisterns and little aqueducts, but hath carried her to the fountain, where "she drinks of the pleasures of the river," and is full of God.
9. She always lived a life of much innocence, free from the violences of great sins; her person, her breeding, her modesty, her honour, her religion, her early marriage, the guide of her soul, and the guide of her youth, were as so many fountains of restraining grace to her, to keep her from the dishonours of a crime. "Bonum est portare jugum ab adolescentiâ: "It is good to bear the yoke of the Lord from our youth:" and though she did so, being guarded by a mighty Providence, and a great favour and grace of God, from staining her fair soul with the spots of hell, yet she had strange fears and early cares upon her; but these were not only for herself, but in order to others, to her nearest relatives: for she was so great a lover of this honourable family, of which now she was a mother, that she desired to become a channel of great blessings to it unto future ages, and was extremely jealous lest any thing should be done, or lest any thing had been done, though an age or two since, which should entail a curse upon the innocent posterity; and, therefore, (although I do not know that ever she was tempted with an offer of the crime,) yet she did infinitely remove all sacrilege from her thoughts, and delighted to see her estate of a clear and disentangled inte
rest: she would have no mingled rights with it; she | and circumstances; yet, as if she knew nothing of would not receive any thing from the church, but re- | it, she had the meanest opinion of herself; and like ligion and a blessing; and she never thought a curse and a sin far enough off, but would desire it to be infinitely distant; and that as to this family God had given much honour, and a wise head to govern it, so he would also for ever give many more blessings: and because she knew the sins of parents descend upon children, she endeavoured, by justice and religion, by charity and honour, to secure that her channel should convey nothing but health, and a fair example, and a blessing.
10. And though her accounts to God were made up of nothing but small parcels, little passions, and angry words, and trifling discontents, which are the allays of the piety of the most holy persons; yet she was early at her repentance; and toward the latter end of her days grew so fast in religion, as if she had had a revelation of her approaching end, and, therefore, that she must go a great way in a little time: her discourses more full of religion, her prayers more frequent, her charity increasing, her forgiveness more forward, her friendships more communicative, her passion more under discipline; and so she trimmed her lamp, not thinking her night was so near, but that it might shine also in the daytime, in the temple, and before the altar of incense. But in this course of hers there were some circumstances, and some appendages of substance, which were highly remarkable.
1. In all her religion, and in all her actions of relation towards God, she had a strange evenness and untroubled passage, sliding toward her ocean of God and of infinity, with a certain and silent motion. So have I seen a river, deep and smooth, passing with a still foot and a sober face, and paying to the "fiscus," the great "exchequer" of the sea, the prince of all the watery bodies, a tribute large and full; and hard by it, a little brook skipping and making a noise upon its unequal and neighbour bottom; and after all its talking and bragged motion, it paid to its common audit no more than the revenues of a little cloud, or a contemptible vessel: so have I sometimes compared the issues of her religion to the solemnities and famed outsides of another's piety. It dwelt upon her spirit, and was incorporated with the periodical work of every day: she did not believe that religion was, intended to minister to fame and reputation, but to pardon of sins, to the pleasure of God, and the salvation of souls. For religion is like the breath of heaven; if it goes abroad into the open air, it scatters and dissolves like camphire; but if it enters into a secret hollowness, into a close conveyance, it is strong and mighty, and comes forth with vigour and great effect at the other end, at the other side of this life, in the days of death and judgment.
2. The other appendage of her religion, which also was a great ornament to all the parts of her life, was a rare modesty and humility of spirit, a confident despising and undervaluing of herself. For though she had the greatest judgment, and the greatest experience of things and persons, that I ever yet knew in a person of her youth, and sex,
a fair taper, when she shined to all the room, yet round about her own station, she had cast a shadow and a cloud, and she shined to every body but herself. But the perfectness of her prudence and excellent parts could not be hid; and all her humility, and arts of concealment, made the virtues more amiable and illustrious. For as pride sullies the beauty of the fairest virtues, and makes our understanding but like the craft and learning of a devil; so humility is the greatest eminency, and art of publication in the whole world; and she, in all her arts of secrecy and hiding her worthy things, was but "like one that hideth the wind, and covers the ointment of her right hand."
I know not by what instrument it happened; but when death drew near, before it made any show upon her body, or revealed itself by a natural signification, it was conveyed to her spirit: she had a strange secret persuasion that the bringing this child should be her last scene of life: and we have known, that the soul, when she is about to disrobe herself of her upper garment, sometimes speaks rarely; "Magnifica verba mors propè admota excutit;' sometimes it is prophetical; sometimes God, by a superinduced persuasion wrought by instruments, or accidents of his own, serves the ends of his own providence, and the salvation of the soul: but so it was, that the thought of death dwelt long with her, and grew from the first steps of fancy and fear, to a consent, from thence to a strange credulity, and expectation of it; and without the violence of sickness she died, as if she had done it voluntarily, and by design, and for fear her expectation should have been deceived; or that she should seem to have had an unreasonable fear or apprehension; or rather, as one said of Cato, "Sic abiit è vitâ, ut causam moriendi nactam se esse gauderet;" died as if she had been glad of the opportunity."
And in this I cannot but adore the providence and admire the wisdom and infinite mercies of God; for having a tender and soft, a delicate and fine constitution and breeding, she was tender to pain, and apprehensive of it as a child's shoulder is of a load and burden: "Grave est teneræ cervici jugum:" and in her often discourses of death, which she would renew willingly and frequently, she would tell, that "she feared not death, but she feared the sharp pains of death:” “Emori nolo, me esse mortuam non curo." The being dead, and being freed from the troubles and dangers of this world, she hoped would be for her advantage, and therefore, that was no part of her fear; but she believing the pangs of death were great, and the use and aids of reason little, had reason to fear lest they should do violence to her spirit, and the decency of her resolution. But God, that knew her fears and her jealousy concerning herself, fitted her with a death so easy, so harmless, so painless, that it did not put her patience to a severe trial. It was not in all appearance of so much trouble as two fits of a common ague, so careful was God to demonstrate to all that stood
in that sad attendance, that this soul was dear to him,—and that since she had done so much of her duty towards it, he that began would also finish her redemption by an act of a rare providence and a singular mercy. Blessed be that goodness of God, who does such careful actions of mercy for the ease and security of his servants! But this one instance was a great demonstration, that the apprehension of death is worse than the pains of death; and that God loves to reprove the unreasonableness of our fears, by the mightiness and by the arts of his mercy. She had in her sickness, if I may so call it,—or rather in the solemnities and graver preparations towards death,--some curious and well-becoming fears concerning the final state of her soul; but from thence she passed into a "deliquium," or "a kind of trance;" and as soon as she came forth of it, as if it had been a vision, or that she had conversed | with an angel, and from his hand had received a label or scroll of the book of life, and there seen her name enrolled, she cried out aloud, "Glory be to God on high! now I am sure I shall be saved." | Concerning which manner of discoursing we are wholly ignorant what judgment can be made; but, certainly, there are strange things in the other world, and so there are in all the immediate preparations to it; and a little glimpse of heaven, a minute's conversing with an angel, any ray of God, any communication extraordinary from the spirit of comfort, which God gives to his servants in strange and unknown manners, are infinitely far from illusions, and they shall then be understood by us when we feel them, and when our new and strange needs shall be refreshed by such unusual visitations.
But I must be forced to use summaries and arts of abbreviature in the enumerating those things, in which this rare personage was dear to God and to all her relatives.
If we consider her person, she was in the flower of her age, "jucundum cum ætas florida ver ageret;' of a temperate, plain, and natural diet, without curiosity or an intemperate palate; she spent less time in dressing than many servants; her recreations were little and seldom, her prayers often, her reading much; she was of a most noble and charitable soul, a great lover of honourable actions, and as great a despiser of base things; hugely loving to oblige others, and very unwilling to be in arrear to any upon the stock of courtesies and liberality; so free in all acts of favour, that she would not stay to hear herself thanked, as being unwilling that what good went from her to a needful or an obliged person, should ever return to her again. She was an excellent friend, and hugely dear to very many, especially to the best and most discerning persons; to all that conversed with her, and could understand her great worth and sweet
If we look on her as a wife, she was chaste and loving, fruitful and discreet, humble and pleasant, witty and compliant, rich and fair; and wanted nothing to the making her a principal and precedent to the best wives of the world, but a long life and a full age.
If we remember her as a mother, she was kind and severe, careful and prudent, very tender, and not at all fond; a greater lover of her children's souls than of their bodies, and one that would value them more by the strict rules of honour and proper worth, than by their relation to herself.
Her servants found her prudent and fit to govern, and yet open-handed and apt to reward; a just exactor of their duty, and a great rewarder of their diligence.
She was in her house a comfort to her dearest lord, a guide to her children, a rule to her servants, an example to all.
But as she related to God in the offices of religion, she was even and constant, silent and devout, prudent and material; she loved what she now enjoys, and she feared what she never felt, and God did for her what she never did expect; her fears went beyond all her evil; and yet the good which she hath received, was, and is, and ever shall be, beyond all her hopes.
She lived as we all should live, and she died as I fain would die :
Cum mihi supremos Lachesis perne verit annos,
I pray God I may feel those mercies on my deathbed that she felt, and that I may feel the same effect of my repentance which she feels of the many degrees of her innocence. Such was her death, that she did not die too soon; and her life was so useful and excellent, that she could not have lived too long: "Nemo parum diu vixit, qui virtutis perfectæ perfecto functus est munere." And as now in the grave it shall not be inquired concerning her, how long she lived, but how well; so to us who live after her, to suffer a longer calamity, it may be some ease to our sorrows, and some guide to our lives, and some security to our conditions, to consider that God hath brought the piety of a young lady to the early rewards of a never-ceasing and never-dying eternity of glory. And we also, if we live as she did, shall partake of the same glories; not only having the honour of a good name and a dear and honoured memory, but the glories of these glories, the end of all excellent labours, and all prudent counsels, and all holy religion, even the salvation of our souls, in that day when all the saints, and among them this excellent woman, shall be shown to all the world to have done more, and more excellent things than we know of, or can describe. "Mors illos consecrat, quorum exitum, et qui timent, laudant:" "death consecrates and makes sacred that person, whose excellency was such, that they that are not displeased at the death, cannot dispraise the life; but they that mourn sadly, think they can never commend sufficiently."
ST. MARY'S CHURCH, OXFORD,
THE ANNIVERSARY OF THE GUNPOWDER TREASON.
MOST REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
BY DIVINE PROVIDENCE,
LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY,
PRIMATE OF ALL ENGLAND, AND METROPOLITAN, CHANCELLOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD, AND ONE OF HIS MAJESTY'S MOST HONOURABLE PRIVY COUNCIL.
MY MOST HONOURABLE GOOD LORD;
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR GRACE,
It was obedience to my superior, that engaged me upon this last anniversary commemoration of the great goodness of God Almighty to our king and country, in the discovery of the most damnable powdertreason. It was a blessing which no tongue could express, much less mine, which had scarce learned to speak, at least, was most unfit to speak in the schools of the prophets. "Delicata autem est illa obedientia, quæ causas quærit." It had been no good argument of my obedience to have disputed the inconvenience of my person, and the unaptness of my parts, for such an employment. I knew God, out of the mouth of infants, could acquire his praise, and if my heart were actually as votive as my tongue should have been, it might be one of God's "magnalia" to perfect his own praise out of the weakness and imperfection of the organ. So as I was able, I endeavoured to perform it, having my obedience ever ready for my excuse to men, and my willingness to perform my duty, for the assoilment of myself before God; part of which I hope was accepted, and I have no reason to think that the other was not pardoned.
When I first thought of the barbarism of this treason, I wondered not so much at the thing itself, as by what means it was possible for the devil to gain so strong a party in men's resolutions, as to move them to undertake a business so abhorring from christianity, so evidently full of extreme danger to their lives, and so certainly to incur the highest wrath of God Almighty. My thoughts were thus rude at first; but, after a strict inquisition, I found it was apprehended as a business, perhaps, full of danger to their bodies, but advantageous to their souls, consonant to the obligation of all christians, and meritorious of an exceeding weight of glory; for now it was come to pass, which our dear Master foretold, “Men should kill us, and think they did God good service in it." I could not think this to be a part of any man's religion, nor do I yet believe it. For it is so apparently destructive of our dear Master's royal laws of charity and obedience, that I must not be so uncharitable as to think they speak their own mind truly, when they profess their belief of the lawfulness and necessity, in some cases, of rebelling against their lawful prince, and using all means to throw him from his kingdom, though it be by taking of his life. But it is but just that they who break the bonds of duty to their prince, should likewise forfeit the laws of charity to themselves, and if they say not true, yet to be more uncharitable to their own persons, than I durst be, though I had their own warrant. Briefly, Most Reverend Father, I found amongst them of the Roman party such prevailing opinions, as could not consist with loyalty to their prince, in case he were not the pope's subject; and these so generally believed, and somewhere obtruded under