For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.
For which we sigh and groan.
We are come hither to perform a double duty to this our sister deceased, to commit her body to the ground, the first, and to commend her good name and memory to the world, the second. While she was alive, she had her soul, her body, and her good name; but as for her soul, God has taken it to Himself, but these two He has left behind with us to preserve and lay up for him while His own coming at the last day. I will speak somewhat of both.
And though her body be now to us as all other dead bodies are, brought hither by us to be decently interred in the earth; yet--because the reason of the Churches' ceremony, as we too well know, perhaps, being made but a matter of course and common custom only--we will tell you now once for all why we do it, not only to her, but to all other that depart, as she hath done, in the faith of Christ.
The Church then would have us consider, that as God hath taught us to put a difference between the soul of a beast and the spirit of a man, (for the soul of a beast goes downward to the earth from whence it came, but the spirit of a man returns [24/25] to God That gave it, as the Wise Man speaks,) so likewise He hath taught us to put a difference between their bodies too. The bodies of other creatures consume away and perish, and shall never be heard on again, after they are once dead. But our bodies are not so, for though the soul be now gone from it, yet one day it shall return to it and make it stand up from the grave. When we sleep you see we rise again, and this death of the body is but a little longer sleep than ordinary, which is the reason that we read so often in Scripture how the kings of Israel slept with their fathers. Nay, it is but a rest, saith David, a rest from the troubles and cares of this world, and not a bare rest, and no more, but a rest in hope: 'my flesh shall rest in hope,' saith the Prophet, in hope of being raised up again at the last day, to a far better state than ever it was in this world; which hope other creatures have not.
The difference then being so great, since it is not God's pleasure that our bodies should be neglected and cast away, as the bodies of other dead creatures are, to become dung for the earth, and to have our bones lay scattered abroad to the sight of the sun: it was the Prophet's complaint, that they gave the dead bodies of his servants to be meat unto the fowls of the air, and the flesh of His saints unto the beasts of the land, that their blood ran about like water, and that there was none to bury them. And that being such a kind of barbarous inhumanity, God and the Church have taken order for it, that when His servants are gathered to their fathers, their souls gone up to heaven, there should be care taken to have their bodies laid up with honour, seemly, and decently, in the bed of the earth, while it shall please God to awaken it again.
In the earth? Nay, that is not enough; for then what we need to make all this solemn procession to the church; we love earth enough everywhere about our houses, and we [25/26] might lay our dead bodies there. But it is not God's will that our bodies should be buried as an ass is buried, in the common fields; but here is a place chosen out and dedicated to that purpose; and therefore Abraham would not bury his dead in the corn fields, nor among the Hethites, but we see he purchased the plain of Mamre to lay the bodies of God's servants up in peace together. And so after his example has the Church ordered amongst us, that are of the seed of Abraham, and accordingly are we met together to commit the dead body of His servant, our sister departed, to her hallowed grave in peace, and in hope of the glorious resurrection hereafter. That, for the first duty to her.
Now as there is a difference betwixt men and other creatures, for their bodies, so there is a difference betwixt men themselves too, for preserving their good name; which is our second duty to be performed towards her.
There are indeed those that die and perish, and have nothing worth the remembering left behind them, people that are clean forgotten and out of mind as soon as they are gone, as though they never were. But yet there are others which are honourable in their generations, as Ecclesiasticus speaks, and well reported of in their times, which have left a name behind them, that when they are gone their praise may still be spoken of and their names be had in continual remembrance. Among which company we esteem this our sister deceased.
And to make good what we say, we will a little view her life and death; by both which men are sufficiently tried what they are.
She was born of an honest and religious parentage, which, as it was not obscure then, so it has been since, by the worth of them which were nearest allied unto her, made honourable to the world. But howsoever that had gone, being good, she was great enough, virtue being the best thing to measure greatness by, when all is done.
Her education was suitable to her birth, such as befitted her in all honesty and piety; and though there be many alive that can bear witness to it, yet the best and surest testimony of that are the fruits that she showed of it in the ensuing course of her time afterwards.
[26/27] Her discretion and understanding grew as fast as her age; and in her discourse, her apprehensions of any thing propounded, and her answers to it, were many times noted to be more than ordinary; of such a strong and vigorous spirit she was.
Of the innocency of her life, they of her continual acquaintance and [who] knew her behaviour can generally affirm that as she was commendable for many good things, so she was careful to keep herself from all blemish of vice, and used the best means she could to keep always an undefiled conscience.
And as of herself, so she was sedulous and very affectionate in the education of her children, that they might serve God and the commonwealth, some in one course of life, and some in another; and one of them to her great comfort and content she lived to see pass two degrees of schools in the University, howsoever it pleased God to take him away sooner than she expected. There are now, that neither of themselves, nor of their offspring neither, have any regard at all, but let them run riot, they care not which way, and if they will prove good, so it is, let nature work, and so let grace work too, an it will, they will not force them to it, nor it shall not grieve their much whether they do or no. She was of another mind, so careful to have them do well, that it grieved her when she heard of any other did ill.
She had not much, and yet she was so well esteemed as she wanted not, but always laid in that sort as befitted her best; and yet though her stock was not great, nevertheless out of her little which she had, she would not let them want her bounty that had less than she, being noted to be so charitable, as that the sight of any poor creature would make her stand still to give her alms; and besides what love she shewed to many others at home in that kind, those that lived with her, and knew what her actions were, can give an ample testimony.
Herr attire was sober and decent, and she took no great care to make much of that body which she knew she must one day part withal, to the grave. Marry, now, for her soul, as we all should be, that she was a little more careful on. I will tell you how: myself can witness that her devotions she daily observed, and when sickness did not hinder her, offered [27/28] up her Morning and her Evening Sacrifice according to the order of our Church in the public place of God's service, in His hallowed temple, the most kindly place for that purpose that can be; and when she could not come forth by reason of her infirmities, what her private devotions were, you may guess by that.
Indeed it pleased God to visit her with many crosses and infirmities of this life, but they came not to her soul, they did but touch her body. And no strange thing neither, it is God's wont to do so to them that are dearest to him; He will not suffer them that are His to feed like flesh-worms upon the pleasures of this life, but keeps them to hard measure here that they may have their fill hereafter. It is St. Gregory's observation, those oxen that are designed to the slaughter-house are suffered to run and range at their will in the pleasant pastures, and are put to no labour at all; but those that are appointed to live, are put into the plough and to the yoke, and are beaten and whipped every day. So the less crosses and infirmities upon us, marry, the worse sign; when we have wealth, fund riches, and the world at will, it is a danger but we shall run headlong to perdition, and fat ourselves up for the slaughter only. But when God holds his scourge of tribulation over us, and whips our bodies, it will make us look to our souls the better; we shall still be kept in, and be the more careful of his service.
But for all these troubles, she was content to bear what God laid upon her, even to her death. And when her infirmity grew so strong upon her as she betook herself to her chamber and her bed, that afterwards she breathed her last in, her conclusion was not different from her premises, nor her death from her life.
Being warned of her danger she shewed no dismay, as carrying in her conscience the safe-conduct of innocency; and being not in love with her own desires, she committed herself to the good-will and pleasure of God. Her preparation to her end was by humble contrition, and hearty Confession of her sins; which when she had done, she received the benefit of Absolution, according to God's ordinance and the religious institution of our Church; a thing that the world looks not after now, as if Confession and Absolution were some strange [28/29] superstitious things among us, which yet the Church has taken such care to preserve, and especially to be preparatives for death.
When they had given her physic for her body, it presently put her in mind that there was other physic to be taken for her soul; and so she presently sent unto me, who in my priestly function was ready to attend, to have the blessed Sacrament given her, which she received from me with such gladness of her soul, and with such humility and reverence of her body (though she might hardly endure it by reason of her infirmity) that we might easily understand she knew very well what a great Majesty she was then to adore, and what admirable and mysterious benefits she was to receive. Such was her devotion upon the first falling into her last and fatal sickness.
Now the common guise of the world goes another way; as soon as we feel ourselves sick, presently post away all the servants we have, this way and that way for the physicians of our body to come and help us; but for the physicians of our souls, them we never dream on, as if they would do well enough without any physic at all, which yet (God knows) want it ten tunes more than our bodies do, and are sicker a great deal than they be.
Well, when she was strengthened with this heavenly and spiritual repast, she set herself to combat with death. And whereas others use to be so much afraid to meddle with it, she was not one whit dismayed; but showing her willingness to be dissolved and to be with Christ, often in mine own hearing desired that death would come to her to bring her out of these miseries to the joys of heaven. Nor was she so disposed as many are, call for death to make us believe that they are willing to die, and then wish it gone again when it comes; like as Laertius tells us the story of Antisthenes, a philosopher, that led his life well, and was loth to part with it, if he knew how to have kept it, thought he seemed to [29/30] others to be desirous to be rid of it. The man being tied to his bed by a grievous disease, was visited by Diogenes, that knowing the nature of him very well, had taken a sword with him under his gown. As soon as ever he comes in, Antisthenes looks upon him, and cries out for pity, 'O God,'says he, 'who will deliver me from hence!' 'Marry, that will I,' says Diogenes presently, and so shews him the sword in his hand, 'this shall do it.' 'Oh God,' says Antisthenes, 'no, no, I mean from my pains, and not from my life;' he was loth to part with that, whatsoever he said. So Esop tells us of an old man that being laden with a great burden and fallen into a ditch and lying there a long time without hope, at last calls aloud for Death. Well, Death comes to him, and bids him go along with him 'O no,' says he, 'I call thee to help me up with my burden, that I may return;' he was loth to stand to his word too. But for her, now, her willingness that she had professed at first, she continued to her last day; and when death came, it was welcome to her; she made no reluctation at all. And though she had sore pangs upon her by reason of her long sickness, yet God gave her such patience to endure it as it was almost a marvel to us that saw it. During the time of her sickness, which was a long while together, she offered up with us the continual sacrifice of prayer, to God, both morning and evening and at noon-day, besides her contintual ejaculations. She made open profession of her faith, and she died a true member of the Church, and the child of God. She enjoyed her judgment as long as long as she breathed, and when her tongue could speak no longer, her thoughts offered up her last de-votions; and so, while the Penitential Psalms were read over her, she eftsoons went to God: and as one rather fallen asleep than dying, she most happily took her leave of all mortal miseries. Such was the life, and such was the death of this our sister; both so full of comfort that it may be a sufficient lenitive to the grief of any of her friends that have lost her, and if that be not enough, we will have a text fitted for it that shall.
[30/31] For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, amt house not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens.
For which we sigh and groan.
If any man has set his heart here upon these things below, and is afraid to part with his life, as not knowing where to get the like again when this is gone, St. Paul comes to in-struct him here, and to inform his knowledge a little better; to tell him that he is afraid (as the Psalmist speaks) where no fear is, and that the loss of this life is no such fearful matter as men take it for, no undoing of him, but an infinite advantage to him, bringing him to a life so full of joy and happiness, that this present life, as St. Paul speaks but a little before, is not worth the naming in re-spect of that.
And that this may appear to be true, he has drawn the pictures of them both out here to the life, made us a descrip-tion of either life, of this which we have now, and of that which we shall have by death, that we might judge ourselves which of the two is most to be desired. But he describes them in such a fashion that men that are not acquainted with his spirit, will wonder what he means. For whereas the world is worst to paint us out the pleasures of this life in such an amiable form, full of bravery and state, and make us pictures of death in such a pitiful shape, with a few naked bones knit together, that it would scare a man to look upon it, ye see he goes quite another way, gives us a picture of this life that has nothing but misery and horror in it, and a description of death that would entice a man's eyes to look upon it, so fair and beautiful it is; the one compared to a poor cottage, which every one passes by without looking on it; and the other to a fair, rich, building, that every body stays to gaze at and admire. [So we read of an old philosopher, Egesias, that had such a dexterity this way, as when he painted the portraiture of this life, he did it in such a rueful form as all the people ran away from it when they saw it; and when he [31/32] made the picture of death, he did it with such a smiling countenance, as every body that came to look on it fell in love with it, and began to be weary of this miserable life, they Would needs desire to live no longer]
Such another thing it is that St. Paul would work in us here, a contempt of this life in regard to the life to come, and a willingness to welcome death, (look it as it will,) in re-gard to the great happiness that it brings with it. Will you look upon the text, and there, as I tell you, ye shall see the description, first, of the poor and miserable estate of man in this world, and then the description of that perfect felicity which he shall enjoy after death in the world to come. And these two, which be the general parts of the text, are opposed in four several antitheses.
The first, that this life and this body of ours is earthly, 'our earthly house;' and that, heavenly, 'eternal in the heavens.'
The second, that this is 'a tabernacle,' a slight, flitting house; and that, 'a building,' a strong lasting house, 'we have a building.'
The third, that this is a tabernacle of our own: and that, 'a building of God;' so much the better.
And the fourth, that this is a house which will fall, and must be 'dissolved;' and that, a house which will stand for ever, and is 'eternal in the heavens.'
And all this, not out of any opinion, or guessing at it, but upon certain knowledge and assurance; ' we know' it, saith St, Paul, which produces the effect of all, a longing and a desiring after it, 'for which we sigh and groan.' And these be the parts of the text. Of these, &c.
I begin, as the text begins, with the certain knowledge and assurance of all this felicity after death. 'We know.' It is the confidence that we Christians have, and sure we have no small privilege by it above other men: for all the natural discourse of the world will not reach to this 'know,' but it is the Spirit of God that infuses it into us. The philosophers had a guessing at the immortality of the soul, limit they knew [32/33] not well whether they should say so or no; now there is no guessing at the matter, nor no opinion about it, as they had, God knows how many, but a certain, infallible assurance. We ' know' it; is so.
[Know it? Certainly by the order of nature there must be a little doubting about it. For what, and if the devil should come with his sophistry now to shake this foundation of our faith? and are we so sure of life again after death? or that our body, which lies mouldered in the grave for worms to make their beds in, shall be raised up to glory? 'Who is he,' saith Job, 'that can bring a clean thing out of filthi-ness? there is not; one. It is an easy thing to bring a man to his end, to put him into his grave, but to fetch him out again and make him live, what hope have ye of that? It is trite, indeed, there is some hope of a tree, if that be cut -down, yet it will sprout again, and though the root waxes dry 'and the stock be dead, yet a little water will fetch it again, and make it grow as well as ever it did. But with us that are men, now there is no such matter. 'Did you ever see an old man grow young again, with all the pains that might be taken about him? Why, no more shall ye see a dead men made alive again,' says the devil. And so he would persuade us that there were no life after this; at least, that there were no such know ledge and assurance of it as the Apostle speaks of here, but: that it might be called in question, for all we know it so well. Nay, he comes to us like a ghostly father, with a Bible in his hand, and would fain make us believe what we must trust to, for it is written, and it is written in Job (it is a shrewed place, I would wish you to look to it, that you might know how to answer him another time) 'For man sleepeth and riseth not, he shall not wake again, nor be raised from the his sleep till the heaven be no more. ' Marry now, if God would send a fiery chariot for us before we die, as H e did for Elias, or carry us from the world upon Angels' wings, as old Enoch was carried, then indeed there were some hope of living in this same place of glory that we speak on; but to die first, and be thrown into the earth, and there become earth ourselves, and if a man looks [33/34] after twenty years not to know what is become of us, there is likelihood of it this way, we perish and die, and where are we? says Job. Look ye what ways the devil has to take this same assurance anti knowledge of our happiness after death from us, to make us stagger at it and doubt, that so we might look the less after it. We might answer him now, as Christ did, with another place of Scripture, and tell him it is written otherwise in twenty places. But we say that Job spoke as a natural man there that was overgone with sorrow; and therefore he might have leave to express him-self with a little passion more than ordinary. But do you know what he said afterwards? 'I know,' says he, 'that my Redeemer liveth'; there he was of another mind, he knew it just as St. Paul says here.]
We 'know' it, indeed our reason can hardly otherwise judge of a man, but that he is utterly undone when he dies, and cannot see how it is possible for a dead man to rise again, no more than Nicodemus could, how a live man should be born again. And therefore when St. Paul came among the philosophers at Athens, and talked to them of the resur-rection, and of the life to come, they held him for a mad- man; all their learning was against it, and they could by no means perceive low it should be. But we, which have learned Christ, must not be deceived through vain philosophy; for we have a most undoubted assurance of it from the Spirit of God. Christ can tell Nicodemus how a man shall be born again; and St. Paul can tell us here how, after death, we shall be sure to live again eternally in the heavens.
This then, before we can go any further, must be the first thing, for us to be assured that there is glory for us after death for if we have not this assurance and knowledge first, it will be vain to go on and talk of any thing else. Nay, if we be ignorant of this, it wilt go hard with us, whensoever our turn shall come; for death will come upon us like a mighty storm at sea, and if we want the anchor of hope, this knowledge here, to hold us fast, then woe worth our ease! we shall be tossed, we know not whither, so that when we are gone and put in our graves, they may write upon us as [34/35] that perplexed knight of Arragon appointed to be written upon his tomb, in great letters, 'I die,' says he, 'against my will, and I know not whither I go;' or, as Titus the Emperor, 'Alas,' said he, 'I must die, and I know not why. We shall be a hundred ways perplexed, and if we know not this, we shall not know what to do with ourselves for very distraction. But now if we can get this full assurance, that St. Paul here had, and come to know beforehand what ad-vantage death is to us, we shall be so far from being afraid of it, or perplexed when it comes, that we shall throw our-selves into the arms of it, and, like the tired labourer, be glad when we can come out of the field and repose ourselves in the bed of rest.
(1.) Now I come to the two descriptions. The first is of our bodies as they are here: the next is of them as they are hereafter. Ye shall see what poor things they are here, and what glorious bodies they shall be there, and all in very few words, for I will not, I cannot, stared to enlarge much upon either.
'If our earthly house.' A house, first, where we have somewhat to set up withal yet, indeed our body is the house of the soul where it lodges. But if you look what ill en-tertainment it has in it, you will say it has but an ill lodging of it. For as long as our souls are there, they are lodged with a witness, lodged no better than as prisoners are lodged, shut and pent up so that they cannot have their own liberty. Ye see it defiles the soul as soon as ever it gets into it, cor-rupts and almost kills it, as soon as ever it is sent to harbour there, with original sin: and then when it is washed and all made clean again by baptism, yet ere long the house gets soiled and infects the soul, as long as ever it dwells there. And therefore the ancients were wont to call it the grave, and the sepulchre, and the prison house of the soul, the house of bondage. This is the house that St. Paul speaks on here. An ill beginning, you see.
[35/36] (2) Yet were it some goodly house, some stately, com-pacted building, that were reared up with costly stones about it, it might somewhat help the matter; but this house is built up of nothing but earth and mud, the most base materials that go to any building. Our 'earthly' house. That is the second point in the text. And if it be no better, it is a goodly thing, sure, that we should make so much of it as we do, whereby it seems we would fain seem to the world to be of a little better mould than God made us on; but when we have done what we can with all the bravery and cost that we can bestow upon ourselves, yet earth we are, and earth we must be again, whether we will or no. We set a fair outside on it, saith St. Bernard, but if we look to see what is within us, we shall find that we are but so many sacks of excrements, fit meat for the worms of the earth to diet on; like as Clemens Alexandrines tells us of the Egyptian temples, fair and sumptuous without, and set forth with all kind of majesty and curious ornaments, but within nothing but some ugly serpents, cats, and crocodiles, to behold. And so pull but this same skin off here, that makes us look so fair to the eye, and for the rest, the best of us are nothing else but a lump of clay, somewhat handsomely framed and prettily set together, and that is all. We make much ado with ourselves, as if we were some delicate creatures; and this earth that we carry about with us must be gilded over, as if there were no such matter, But when all is done, we shall find St. Paul's words here true, that earth and mud we are; and bring us the most comely feature you can find among a million, it is but a house of clay, and such like matter, make the best of it. [Which that young German understood very well, that would never suffer his [36/37] picture to be drawn ii his life-time, but bade his friends, that were so importunate to have it, take him out of his grave when he was dead, and then draw him as they found him; which some, for the love they bare him, would needs do too. Rut they found him in such a case as they had no heart to take his picture then, but laid him down again, as fast as they could, and found it true which Ecclesi-asticus saith, That when man dieth he becomes a corrupted earth, and the inheritance of serpents. So you see there is no great pleasure to be taken in these houses of clay; they are but poor mean things, God wot! that the world should so trim them tip, and set up their rest on them, as they do]. And this is the second step to our preferment here; ye see we are fairly holpen up with it; our bodies are but earthly houses.
(3.) Now an earthly house would do somewhat yet, and we might perhaps make a shift withal, if it were well and strongly built, if it were a steady house, though it had not so much beauty in it, yet we would go near to make it serve the turn. But this is a house that has no firmness, no foundation, nor no stability in it at all; it is but 'a taber-nacle,' saith the text, 'our earthly house of this tabernacle;' that is the third thing. Now we are worse than we were before, for there was some hope in an earthly house, that it might have stood still, and remained a sufficient time for us in one places. But a tabernacle is a flitting thing, set up in an hour to-day, and taken down again in less time to-morrow, if it will last so long, for perhaps a blast of wind may come and puff it down to-day, and so all is spoilt. See then, what this life of ours is; it is here compared to a travelling tent, travellers we are only and pilgrims upon the earth, carrying about our bodies but like tents and tabernacles, to set down and take up again after a night over; and there an end with them. Wherefore a wonder it is to see what the world means, to bestow such a deal of care and cost upon a thing that flits away from us every day, and perhaps must be taken [37/38 down to-morrow. Does any man do so with his tabernacle? He does not keep such a dressing up of that, but makes account to take it up again ere long, and get him gone. Then if we set [it] up for many years, and think our bodies like our barns, and this tabernacle like the tower of Babel, that shall never fail, perhaps this night they may be taken from us, and He that dwells in heaven will but laugh us to scorn at the last.
(4.) Perhaps they may be taken down? nay, be sure it shall, says the text, there is no hope on't, but it must be dis-solved; 'When this earthly tabernacle is dissolved,' that is the fourth thing. We shall not have it stand up for ever; but build it as carefully as we can, there must come a disso-lution of it; and fence it about with all the strength that our wealth can afford, or all the devices that our wits can imagine, yet all will not do; it must, and will, at the last fall asunder of itself, For I pray tell me, where are all they now that promise to themselves such eternity, how their houses should never fail, they that led the world in a string, and at whose beck both men and beasts did bow, that subdued kingdom upon kingdom, that called their lauds after their own names, and thought that their dwelling-places should endure from one generation to another, as David speaks. 'For we see,' says he, 'that wise men also die and perish together, as well as the ignorant and foolish, and leave their riches for others.' Indeed, we use to flatter the great men of the world with the titles of invincible Potentates, and pre-sently after comes an ague and shakes them all to pieces. They wrote the Emperors, Semper Augusti, men that should live for ever; and within an hour after some of them were laid flat along in their graves. This is that we call eternal and everliving honour. Alas! how soon it dies, how soon dissolved, and we are gone.
(5.) Again: 'when it shall be dissolved,' saith St. Paul; he does not tell us when, (for that is uncertain,) that we might be at all times prepared; perhaps it may be to-day, before to-morrow, in the first or second watch, we know not when; and when we rise in the morning, we can hardly make the proverb good that we are up for all day. For God knows, we may be down again, six feet in the earth before [38/39] the sun be seven hours high in heaven. But whensoever it is, though we know not when it will be, yet be sure it will be one time or other. The general tide wafts all to the shore, some sooner, some later, but all at last. This tabernacle must be dissolved.
(6.) And yet this for our comfort; it shall but be 'dis-solved,' says the text, and no more: it shall not be utterly destroyed and brought to nothing. All the power that death has of us is but to take our tabernacle to pieces, to dissolve the body only, and loosen one part from another; but to destroy it quite, that is beyond her power. It takes it asunder indeed, and that is no great matter, for we shall get by the bargain; death does but unmake us that God may come and make us up better again; Who, when He shall gather together what death has dissolved, of a corruptible body will frame us a glorious body, and of a flitting tabernacle will set us up a royal building, eternal in the heavens. And thus by this dissolution here there is more pleasure done us than we think of.. For among ourselves, which we see our houses are weak, and brittle, and every day ready to fall about our ears, we use to pull them down, that we may take the materials and build them up fairer and stronger again. This does God do for us; our bodies being such weak and unstable tabernacles as they are, he does but suffer death to dissolve and pull them down, that He may take the building of them up again into his own hands; and of poor earthly houses, build us heavenly mansions, and make us glorious bodies that shall continue for evermore.
II. And so I come to the second part of the text, the description of the life to come, which being a picture too glorious for our weak eyes to behold, and seeing we can per-ceive nothing of it but as through a glass and very darkly, as the Apostle speaks, we shall give you but a glimpse of it, and pass it over the faster.
(1)When this tabernacle is dissolved, we shall have a [39/40] building. So then death is but the passage and the door that let us out from a poor silly cottage, ready to tumble upon our heads, to a fair, spacious palace, whereof we shall fear no dissolution. And, if ye would know what manner of building it is, that you may see the difference betwixt it and ours, St. John will tell you. A building it is, says he, that hath the walls of jasper, and the whole structure within of pure gold, that looks as clear as crystal, (if ye be in love with such things, there they are for you,) and whose foundations are garnished with all manner of precious stones, and whose gates are of the purest pearl; and all those shining with the glory of God about them. We should put out our eyes to look any further, and therefore we will content ourselves with this. But look you what a change here is our own a poor despised tabernacle, a tent that is but holden up with a few sticks, not built at all; and this, a glorious compacted structure, as will amaze every one to behold the majesty of it.
(2.) Thus is but the beginning of our happiness, we shall have that, and we shall have God with it too, 'a building of God.' It is that which He has prepared for Himself of old, and that will double our happiness, when we shall not be left alone there, but admitted even into his own glorious presence, where are pleasures for evermore, as David speaks.
(3.) And ' a building not made with hands.' For what one hand makes, another may pull dowry again, and there-fore our tabernacles, a few hands can set them up in an hour, and one hand can pull them down again in a moment. But that we may know that all the strength of the world, put all their hands together, as we use to say, shall never dissolve this building, therefore the text tells us it is made without hauls, made even by the power of God, Who will strengthen it for ever. ' I saw,' says the king of Babel, in Daniel, ' a stone cut out of a rock, without hands;' that was the figure of Christ's Body, which was made without the help of man, by the power of God himself; as our glorious bodies shall be made hereafter, when they shall he like unto His.
(4.) And therefore, fourthly, it followeth that it shall be an eternal building, not like an unstable tent, a house here that had no abiding, for this body passeth away, saith the [40/41] Apostle; but to make amends for all labour here, this second building shall be a resting-place for ever, a house that shall never be flitting away, but one that will last unto all eternity; nor wind nor weather shall hurt it, it will be subject to no change, for eternity is ever one and the same; and therefore when we have got this building once, let hell and death roar never so fast, we shall not need to fear a dissolution any more.
(5.) And eternal 'in the heavens;' that is the last circumstance, which is the last of all, and makes up our fill of felicity. When we are to rear up a building, specially if it be a fair one, we use to stand as much upon the situation of it as upon the building itself. Now, if ye would choose a place to set it in, sure heaven is the best place that can be wished far. The earth, that wearies and dulls us, and no seat there to be found but has some annoyance or other. But in heaven we shall desire nothing which we shall not have, even God Himself for our prospect, Whose face we shall behold for ever, and the armies of regal Angels for our neighbours about us, the goodly fellowship of the Prophets, and the glorious company of the Apostles continually with harps and viols in their hands to sing songs of joy and melody with us to him That sits upon the throne for evermore. Who would not desire to dwell in such a place, where we shall live like kings and like the Angels of heaven.
And therefore we sigh and groan for it, saith St. Paul, which is the last thing of all, Propter hoc ingemiscimus. As David in the Psalms, 'My soul is athirst for the living God, O when shall I appear before the presence of God.' And as the Apostle in another place, 'I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ.' And you see what manner a desire it is; he sighs and groans for it, amid will be glad he can have it so too. The kingdom of heaven comes not with such cold wishes as we use commonly to send out for it, say but one, Miserere mei, or 'Christ have mercy upon me,' when we are a-dying, and then think an Angel will come down and carry us fair and softly upon his wings to eternal tabernacles. No, says our Saviour, you must not look for it. The kingdom of heaven is not by violence; it will cost us many a deep groan and sob before we can get to it, for it is a very narrow and [41/42] straight way thither, and we must thrust and labour hard ere we shall get through it. What, do we think the kingdom of God comes by observation and by sitting still? no; if ye would get into a place that is kept so close, you must do as men use to do at such a tune; strive and press forward till you groan again, till a man's body be all of a sweat for it, and then ye may get in; mid when we are in we shall hover sigh nor groan after; though we sigh now, we shall laugh then our fill. This is then that which St. Paul would commend unto us, that while we live here in this miserable world, our souls would have an earning and a longing after the joys of the next; and if we think what and how unspeakable they are, we cannot choose but do it.
Now, whatsoever we do, let us be sure we turn not our sighs the wrong way, and instead of sighing after heaven, set ourselves a-sighing after this life, [as if any joy were to be found here, for alas! you see here is nothing but misery and vanity, and therefore if we sigh for any thing here, it should be to be rill of that; but for any thing that should content us, alas! here is nothing. If we go about to seek for content here, we shall have an Angel come to tell us, as he told Mary, that sought Christ in a grave when He was risen, 'Whey seek you the living among the dead?' And why sigh we after pleasure in a place of misery, or for rest in a place of trouble? indeed, we cry 'peace, peace,' here like false prophets, when there is no such matter as peace in this world. Where is it then? Why, the true peace is that which our death and dissolution brings us, to translate our vile bodies from earth into glorious mansions in heaven. And therefore lest we should doubt of it, St. John was commanded to write it for a certainty, 'Write from henceforth, that blessed are the dead, for they rest from their labours;' mark it, they rest from henceforth, that is, from their death. They did not rest before then, for there are nothing but cares, and troubles, and sorrows here, when all is done.
And therefore to make an end of all, since there is no true rest, nor joy, to be had here, let us sigh and seek after it where it is; where this blessed sister of ours hath sought and sighted after it, and now found it, even in the kingdom of heaven. And when we are come thither after her, I shall [42/43] tell you one thing, we shall repent us nothing, but that we care there no sooner; and when we shall compare this flitting tabernacle of ours to that eternal building rage, we shall cry out with St. Peter, 'It is good for us to be here.' And we shall be as loath to look back upon the earth, as Lot was to look back upon Sodom, or Moses to the land of Egypt; while we shall consider ourselves to be delivered from the house of bondage, and brought into a land where at God's right land are pleasures for evermore.]
To these everlasting joys and pleasures, in houses not made with hands, but eternal in the heavens, for which we daily sight and groan, God for his mercy vouchsafe to bring us; that we with this our sister and all others departed in the faith of Christ, may have our perfect consummation there in soul and body. And He bring it to pass for us, That, by his death, hath purchased life for us, Christ Jesus, the righteous. To Whom, &c.