Glorious things are spoken in Scripture concerning the future Reward of the Righteous; and all the words that are wont to signifie what is of greatest Price and Value, or can represent the most enravishing objects of our desires are made use of by the Holy Ghost, to recommend unto us this transcendent State of Blessedness: Such are these; Rivers of pleasures, A fountain of living water, A treasure that can never be wasted, nor never taken from us, An inheritance in light, An incorruptible Crown, A Kingdom, The Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Christ; The Kingdom of Glory, A Crown of Glory and Life, and Righteousness, and Immortality; The Vision of God; Being fill'd with all the fulness of God, An exceeding eternal weight of Glory, Words strangely emphatical, that can't be put into English; and if they could, they would not be able to convey to our minds the Notion that they design: for it is too big for any Expressions; and, after all that can be said, we must resolve with our Apostle, It does not yet appear what we shall be.
At this distance we cannot make any likely guesses or conjectures at the glory of that future state. Men make very imperfect descriptions of Countries or Cities, that never were there themselves; nor saw the Places with their own eyes. It is not for any mortal Creature to make a Map of that Canaan that lies above: It is to all us that live here on the hither-side of Death, an unknown Countrey, and an undiscover'd Land. It may be, some heavenly Pilgrim, that with his holy thoughts and ardent desires, is continually travelling thitherward; he arrives sometimes near the borders of the promis'd Land, and the Suburbs of the new Jerusalem, and gets upon the top of Pisgah, and there he has an imperfect Prospect of a brave Countrey, that lies afar way off; but he can't tell how to describe it, and all that he hath to say, to satisfie the curious Enquirer, is only this, If he would know the glories of it, he must go and see it. It was believ'd of old, that those places that lie under the Line, were burnt up by the continual heat of the Sun, and were not habitable, either by man or beast: But later Discoveries tell us, that there are the most pleasant Countries that the Earth can shew; insomuch that some have plac'd Paradise it self in that Climate. Sure I am, of all the Regions of the Intellectual world, and the several Lands that are peopled, either with Men or Angels, the most pleasant Countries they lie under the Line, under the direct beams of the Sun of Righteousness, where there is an eternal Day, and an eternal Spring; where is that Tree of Life, that beareth twelve manner of Fruits, and yieldeth her Fruit every Month: Thus we may use Figures, and Metaphors, and Allegories, and tell you of fruitful meads, and spacious fields, and winding rivers, and purling brooks, and chanting birds, and shady groves, and pleasant gardens, and lovely bowers, and noble Seats, and stately Palaces, and goodly People, and excellent Laws, and sweet Societies; but this is but to frame little comparisons to please our childish fancies: and just such discourses as a blind man would make concerning Colours; so do we talk of those things we never saw; and disparage the state whilst we would recommend it. Indeed it requires some Saint or Angel from Heaven to discourse upon this Subject; and yet that would not do neither: for though they might be able to speak some thing of it, yet we should want ears to hear it. Neither can those things be declar'd but in the language of Heaven, which would be little understood by us, the poor inhabitants of this lower world; they are indeed things too great to be brought within the compass of words. Saint Paul, when he had been rapt up into the third Heaven, he saw things unlawful, or unpossible to be uttered; and, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor can it enter into the heart of man to conceive, what God hath prepared for them that love him; and, It does not yet appear what we shall be, said that beloved Disciple, that lay in the bosom of our Saviour.
You will not now expect, that I should give you a relation of that which cannot be uttered, nor so much as conceiv'd; or declare unto you what our Eagle-sighted Evangelist tells us does not yet appear: But, that you may understand, that that which sets this state of happiness so beyond the reach of all imagination, is only its transcendent excellency; I shall tell you something of what does already appear of it, and may be known concerning it.
First of all we are assur'd that we shall then be freed from all the evils and miseries that we now labour under: Vanity and Misery they are two words that speak the whole of this present world; the enjoyments of it are dreams and fancies, and shadows, and appearances; and, if any thing be, it is only Evil and Misery that is real and substantial. Vanity and folly, labour and pains, cares and fears, crosses and disappointments, sickness and diseases, they make up the whole of our portion here. This life it is begun in a Cry, and it ends in a Groan; and he that lives most happily, his life is checker'd with black and white, and his dayes are not all Sun-shine, but some are cloudy and gloomy, and there is a Worm at the root of all his joy, that soon eats out the sap and heart of it; and the goard in whose shade he now so much pleases himself, by to morrow will be wither'd and gone. But Heaven is not subject to these mixtures and uncertainties; it is a Region of calmness and serenity, and the Soul is there gotten above the clouds, and is not annoyed with those storms and tempests that are here below. All tears shall then be wip'd from our eyes; and though sorrow may endure for the night of this World, yet joy will spring up in the morning of Eternity.
We are sure we shall be freed from this earthly, and cloath'd with an heavenly and glorified Body. These bodies of ours they are the graves and sepulchres, the prisons and dungeons of our Heaven-born souls; and though we deck and adorn them, and pride our selves in their beauty and comeliness, yet, when all is done, they are but sinks of corruption and defilement: they expose us to many pains and diseases, and incline us to many lusts and passions, and the more we pamper them, the greater burden they are unto our minds; they impose upon our reasons, and by their steams and vapours cast a mist before our understandings; they clog our affections, and like a heavie weight depress us unto this earth, and keep us from soaring aloft among the winged Inhabitants of the upper-Regions: But those robes of light and glory, which we shall be cloath'd withall at the Resurrection of the Just, and those Heavenly Bodies which the Gospel hath then assur'd unto us, they are not subject to any of these mischiefs and inconveniences, but are fit and accommodate instruments for the soul in its highest exaltations. And this is an argument that the Gospel does dwell much upon, viz. the Redemption of our bodies, that He shall change our vile bodies, that they may be like unto His glorious body; and we are taught to look upon it as one great price of our Reward, that we shall be cloath'd upon with our house which is from heaven; that this corruptible shall put on incorruption, and this mortal immortality: that, as we have born the image of the earthly, so we must bear the image of the heavenly Adam, who was of heaven heavenly; as the first man was of the earth earthy. And therefore, I think, the Schools put too mean a Rate upon this great Promise of the Gospel, The Resurrection of our bodies; and, I believe, it might be demonstrated from the principles of sound Philosophy, That this Article of our Christian Faith, which the Atheist makes so much sport withall, is so far from being chargeable with any absurdity, that it is founded upon the highest Reason; for, seeing we find by too great an experience, that the Soul has so close and necessary a dependence upon this gross and earthly Mass that we now carry about with us; it may be disputed with some probability, whether it be ever able to act independently of all matter whatsoever: at least, we are assur'd, that the state of conjunction is most connatural to her; and that, Intellectual pleasure it self is not onely multiplied, but the better felt, by its redundancy upon the body and spirits: and if it be so, then the purer and more defecate the Body is, the better will the Soul be appointed for the exercise of its noblest operations; and it will be no mean piece of our reward hereafter, that that which is sown an animal, shall be raised a heavenly body.
We are sure, that we shall then be free from fin, and all those foolish lusts and passions that we are now enslaved unto. The life of a Christian, it is a continual Warfare; and he endures many sore conflicts, and makes many sad complaints, and often bemoans himself after such a manner, as this: Wo is me, that I am forc'd to dwell in Mesech, and to have my habitation in the Tents of Kedar; that there should be so many Goliah's within me, that defie the host of Israel; so many sons of Anak that hinder my entrance into the Land of Promise, and the Rest of God; that I should toil and labour among the bricks, and live in bondage unto these worse than Egyptian Task-Masters. Thus does he sit down by the Rivers of Babylon, and weep over those ruines and desolations that these worse than Assyrian Armies have made in the City, and House of his God. And many a time does he cry out in the bitterness of his soul, Wretched creature that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? And though, through his faith, and courage, and constancy, he be daily getting ground of his spiritual enemies, yet it is but by inches, and every step he takes, he must fight for it; and living as he does in an Enemies countrey, he is forc'd alwayes to be upon his Guard; and if he slumber never so little, presently he is surpriz'd by a watchful Adversary. This is our portion here, and our lot is this; but when we arrive unto those Regions of bliss and glory that are above, we shall then stand safely upon the shore, and see all our enemies, Pharaoh and all his host, drown'd and destroyed in the Red Sea; and being delivered from the World, and the Flesh, and the Devil, Death, and Sin, and Hell, we shall sing the Song of Moses, and of the Lamb, an Epinicion, and Song of eternal triumph unto the God of our Salvation.
We shall be sure to meet with the best company that Earth or Heaven affords: Good company it is the great pleasure of the life of man; And we shall then come to the innumerable company of Angels, and the general Assembly of the Church of the First-born, and to the Spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant. The Oracle tells Amelius, enquiring what was become of Polinus's soul, that he was gone to Pythagoras, and Socrates, and Plato, and as many as had born a part in the Quire of heavenly love. And I may say to every good man, that he shall go to the Company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; Moses, David, and Samuel; all the Prophets and Apostles, and all the holy men of God that have been in all the ages of the World. All those brave and excellent persons that have been scattered at the greatest distance of time and place, and in their several generations have been the salt of the earth to preserve mankind from utter degeneracy and corruption; These shall be all gathered together, and meet in one Constellation in that Firmament of Glory. O Praeclarum diem, cùm ad illud divinorum animorum concilium, coetumque proficiscar, atque ex hac turba ac colluvione discedam! O that blessed day, when we shall make our escape from this medly and confused riot, and shall arrive to that great Council and general Randevouz of divine and godlike Spirits! But, which is more than all, we shall then meet our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head of our Recovery, whose story is now so delightful unto us, as reporting nothing of him, but the greatest sweetness and innocence, and meekness and patience, and mercy and tenderness, and benignity and goodness, and what ever can render any person lovely or amiable; and who out of his dear love and deep compassion unto mankind, gave up himself unto the death for us men, and for our salvation. And if St. Augustine made it one of his wishes, to have seen Jesus Christ in the flesh; how much more desirable is it, to see him out of his terrestrial weeds, in his robes of Glory, with all his redeemed Ones about him! And this I cannot but look upon, as a great advantage and priviledge of that future State; for I am not apt to swallow down that Conceit of the Schools, that we shall spend Eternity in gazing upon the naked Deity; for certainly the happiness of man consists in having all his faculties, in their due subordinations, gratified with their proper objects; and I cannot but believe, a great part of heaven to be the blest Society that is there; Their enravishing beauty, that is to say, their inward life and perfection, flowring forth and raying it self thorow their glorified bodies; The rare discourses wherewith they entertain one another; The pure and chast and spotless, and yet most ardent Love, wherewith they embrace each other; The ecstatick Devotions wherein they joyn together: And certainly every pious and devout soul will readily acknowledge with me, that it must needs be matter of unspeakable pleasure, to be taken into the Quire of Angels and Seraphims, and the glorious Company of the Apostles, and the goodly Fellowship of the Prophets, and the noble Army of Martyrs; and to joyn with them in singing Praises, and Hallelujahs, and Songs of joy, and Triumph unto our great Creator and Redeemer, The Father of Spirits, and the Lover of Souls, unto Him that sits upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.
We are sure we shall then have all our capacities fill'd, and all our desires answered. They hunger no more, neither thirst any more; for the Lamb which is in the midst of the Throne, shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters. What vast degrees of perfection and happiness the nature of man is capable of, we may best understand, by viewing it in the person of Christ, taken into the nearest union with Divinity, and made God's Vice-gerent in the World, and the Head and Governour of the whole Creation. In this our narrow and contracted state we are apt to think too meanly of our selves, and do not understand the dignity of our own natures, what we were made for, and what we are capable of: but, as Plotinus somewhere observes, We are like Children, from our birth brought up in ignorance of, and at a great distance from, our Parents and Relations; and have forgot the Nobleness of our Extraction, and rank our selves and our fortunes among the Lot of Beggers, and mean and ordinary persons; though we are the off-spring of a great Prince, and were born to a Kingdom. It does indeed become creatures to think modestly of themselves; yet, if we consider it aright, it will be found very hard, to set any bounds or limits to our own happiness, and say, Hitherto it shall arise, and no further. For that wherein the happiness of Man consists, viz. Truth and Goodness, the Communication of the Divine Nature, and the Illapses of Divine Love, it does not cloy, or glut, or satiate; but every participation of them does widen and enlarge our Souls, and fits us for further and further Receptions; the more we have, the more we are capable of; the more we are fill'd, the more room is made in our Spirits; and thus it is still and still, even till we arrive unto such degrees as we can assign no measures unto.
We shall then be made like unto God, said the Areopagite, Salvation can no otherwaies be accomplish'd, but by becoming God-like; It does not yet appear what we shall be, but when he shall appear we shall be like him, sayes our Evangelist; for we shall see him as he is. There is no seeing God as he is, but by becoming like unto him; nor is there any enjoying of him, but by being transform'd into his Image and Similitude. Men usually have very strange Notions concerning God, and the enjoyment of him; or rather, these are words, to which there is no correspondent conception in their minds: but if we would understand God aright, we must look upon him as Infinite Wisdom, Righteousness, Love, Goodness, and whatever speaks any thing of Beauty and Perfection; and if we pretend to worship him, it must be by loving and adoring his transcendent Excellencies; and if we hope to enjoy him, it must be by conformity unto him, and participation of his Nature. The frame and constitution of things is such, that it is impossible that Man should arrive to Happiness any other way. And if the Soveraignty of God should dispense with our obedience, the nature of the thing would not permit us to be happy without it: If we live only the Animal Life, we may indeed be happy, as Beasts are happy; but the Happiness that belongs to a Rational and intellectual Being, can never be attain'd but in a way of holiness and conformity unto the Divine Will: for, such a temper and disposition of mind is necessary unto Happiness, not by vertue of any arbitrarious constitution of Heaven; but, the eternal Laws of Righteousness, and immutable respects of things, do require and exact it: Yea, I may truly say, That God and Christ without us cannot make us happy: for we are not conscious to our selves of any thing, but only the operations of our own minds; & tis not the person of God and Christ, but their Life and Nature, wherein consists our formal happiness: For, What is the happiness of God himself, but only that pleasure and satisfaction that results from a sense of his Infinite perfections? And how is it possible for a creature to be more happy, than by partaking of that, in its measure and proportion, which is the happiness of God himself.
The Soul being thus prepar'd, shall live in the presence of God, and lie under the influences and illapses of Divine love and goodness; Father I will that they whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory. They that fight manfully under the Banners of Heaven, and overcome their spiritual Enemies, They shall eat of the hidden Manna, and become Pillars in the Temple of God, and shall go no more out: They shall stand before the Throne of God continually, and serve him Day and Night in his Temple, and he that sitteth on the Throne shall dwell amongst them; God shall put under them his everlasting Arms, and carry them in his bosom, and they shall suck the full Breasts of eternal goodness: For now there is nothing can hinder the most near and intimate conjunction of the Soul with God; for, things that are alike, do easily mingle with one another: but the mixture that is betwixt Bodies, be they never so homogeneal, comes but to an external touch; for their parts can never run up into one another. But there is no such antitupia, or resistance, amongst spiritual Beings; and we are estranged from God not by distance of place, but by difference and diversity of Nature; and when that is remov'd, He becomes present to us, and we to Him: like the Magnitudines congruae in Mathematicks, Quando prima primis, media mediis, extrema extremis, partes denique partibus usquequaque respondent, each of whose parts do exactly answer one to the other. This therefore is the Soul's progress from that state of purgation to illumination, and so to Union. There are several faculties in the Soul of Man, that are conformed to several kinds of objects; and, according to that Life a Man is a waked into, so these faculties do exert themselves; and though whilst we live barely an Animal Life, we converse with little more than this outward World, and the objects of our Senses; yet there are Faculties within us that are receptive of God, and when we arrive once unto a due measure of purity of Spirit, the Rayes of Heavenly Light will as certainly shine into our minds, as the beams of the Sun, when it arises above the Horizon, do illuminate the clear and pellucid air: And from this sight and illumination, the Soul proceeds to an intimate union with God, and to a tast and touch of him. This is that hsucoV proV ekeinon epafh, that silent touch with God that fills the Soul with unexpressible joy and triumph: For, if the objects of this outward world that strike upon our senses do so hugely please and delight us; What infinite pleasure then must there needs be in those touches and Impresses, that the Divine Love and goodness shall make upon our Souls? But these are things that we may talk of, as we would do of a sixth Sense, or something we have no distinct Notion or Idea of; but the perfect understanding of them belongs only to the future state of Comprehension.
Lastly, we shall have our Knowledge, and our Love, which are the most perfect and beatifying Acts of our Minds, employed about their noblest objects in their most exalted Measures; For a Man to resolve himself in some knotty Question, or answer some stubborn Argument, or find out some noble Conclusion, or solve some hard Probleme, what ineffable pleasure does it create many times to a contemplative mind? We know, who sacrific'd a Hecatomb for one Mathematical Demonstration; and another that upon the like occasion cry'd out, eurhka, eurhka, in a kind of Rapture: To have the secrets of Nature disclos'd, and the mysteries of Art reveal'd; but above all, the Riddles of Providence unfolded, are such Jewels as I know many searching and inquisitive Spirits would be willing to purchase at any Rate; when we come to Heaven (I will not say, We shall see all things, in the mirror of Divinity, for that it may be is an Extravagancy of the Schools; nor, that any one true Proposition through the concatenation of Truth, will then multiply it self into the explicit knowledge of all Conclusions whatsoever, for I believe that a Fancy too, but) our Knowledge shall be strangely enlarg'd, and, for ought I can determine, be for ever receiving new Additions, and fresh Accruements; The Clew of Divine Providence will then be unravell'd, and all those Difficulties which now perplex us, will be easily assoyl'd, and we shall then perceive that the Wisdom and Goodness of God, is a vast and comprehensive Thing, and moves in a far larger Sphear than we are aware of in this state of narrowness and imperfection: But there is something greater and beyond all this; and S. John has a strange Expression, That we shall then see God even as he is; And God, we know, is the well-spring of Perfection and Happiness, the Fountain and Original of all Beauty; he is infinitely glorious, and lovely, & excellent; and if we see him as he is, all this Glory must descend into us and become ours: for we can no otherwaies see God (as I said before) but by becoming Deiform, by being changed into the same Glory. But Love, that is it, which makes us most happy, and by that we are most intimately conjoyn'd unto God, For he that dwelleth in Love, dwelleth in God, and God in him: And how pleasant beyond all imagination must it needs be, to have the Soul melted into a flame of Love, and that Fire fed and nourish'd by the enjoyment of it's Beloved; To be transported into Ecstasies, and Raptures of Love; to be swallowed up in the embraces of eternal sweetness; to be lost in the Source and Fountain of Happiness and Bliss, like a spark in the Fire, or a beam in the Sun, or drop in the Ocean.
It may be you will tell me, I have been all this while confuting my Text, and giving you a Relation of that which S. John tells us, does not yet appear what it is; But my design has been the same with the Holy Evangelist's; and that is, to represent unto you, how transcendently great, that State of Happiness must needs be; when as, by what we are able to apprehend of it, it is infinitely the object of our desires, and yet we are assur'd by those that are best able to tell, That the best and greatest part of the Countrey is yet undiscover'd, and that we cannot so much as guess at the pleasure of it, till we come to enjoy it: And indeed it is impossible it should be otherwise; for Happiness being a matter of Sense, all the words in the World cannot convey the Notion of it unto our Minds, and it is only to be understood by them that feel it.
But though it does not yet appear what we shall be; yet so much already appears of it, that it cannot but seem the most worthy object of our endeavours and desires; and by some few Clusters that have been shewn us of this good Land, we may guess what pleasant and delightful Fruit it bears: And if we have but any reverence of our selves, and will but consider the dignity of our Natures, and the vastness of that Happiness we are capable of; methinks we should be alwayes travelling towards that Heavenly Countrey, though our way lies through a Wilderness, and be striving for this great Prize and immortal Crown, and be clearing our eyes, and purging our sight, that we may come to this Vision of God; shaking off all fond passions, and dirty desires, and breathing forth our Souls in such aspirations as these:
My Soul thirsteth for thee, O Lord, in a dry and barren Land, where no Water is; O that thou wouldst distill, and drop down the Dew of thy Heavenly Grace into all it's secret Chinks and Pores; One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after, That I may dwell in the House of the Lord all the dayes of my Life, and behold his Glory, for a day in thy Courts is better than a thousand, and I had rather be a Door-keeper in the House of the Lord, than dwell in the Tents of wickedness. All the Kings of the Earth, they are thy Tributaries; the Kings of Tarshish, and of the Isles, bring Presents unto thee; the Kings of Sheba and Seba offer Gifts! O that we could but pay thee, that which is so due unto thee, the tribute of our Hearts! The Heathen are come into thine Inheritance; thy holy Temple have they defi'ld: Help us, O God of our Salvation, and deliver us, and purge away our sins from us, for thy Name's sake! O that the Lord whom we seek, would come to his own House, and give Peace there, and fill it with his Glory! Come and cleanse thine own Temple, for we have made it a Den of Thieves, which should have been a House of Prayer! O that we might never give sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our eye-lids, till we have prepar'd a House for the Lord, and a Tabernacle for the God of Jacob! The Curse of Cain it is fallen upon us, and we are as Vagabonds in the Earth; and wander from one Creature to another! O that our Souls might come at last to dwell in God, our fixed and eternal Habitation! We, like silly Doves, fly up and down the Earth, but can find no rest for the sole of our feet; O that after all our weariness and our wandrings, we might return into the Ark, and that God would put forth his hand and take us & pull us in unto Himself! We have too long lived upon Vanity and Emptiness, the wind and the whirle-wind; O that we may now begin to feed upon Substance, and delight our selves in Marrow and Fatness! O that God would strike our rocky Hearts, that there might spring up a Fountain in the Wilderness, and Pools in the Desart; that we might drink of that Water, whereof whosoever drinks, shall never thirst more; that God would give us that Portion of Goods that falleth to us, not to waste it with riotous living, but therewith to feed our languishing Souls, lest they be weary and faint by the way! We ask not the Childrens Bread, but the Crums that fall from thy Table; that our Baskets may be fill'd with thy Fragments, for they will be better than Wine, and sweeter than the Hony, and the Hony-Comb, and more pleasant to us than a Feast of fat things! We have wandred too long in a barren, and howling Desart, where wild Beasts, and doleful Creatures, Owls and Bats, Satyrs and Dragons, keep their haunts; O that we might be fed in green Pastures, and led by the still Waters, that the Winter might be past, and the Rain over and gone, that the Flowers may appear on the Earth, and the time of the singing of Birds may come, and the Voice of the Turtle may be heard in our Land! We have lived too long in Sodom, which is the place that God at last will destroy: O that we might arise and be gone; and while we are lingring, that the Angels of God would lay hold upon our hands, and be merciful unto us, and bring us forth, and set us without the City; and that we may never look back any more, but may escape unto the Mountain, and dwell safe in the Rock of Ages! Wisdom hath killed her Beasts, she hath mingled her Wine, and furnish'd her Table; O that we might eat of her Meat, and drink of the Wine which she hath mingled! God knocks at the doors of our Hearts; O let us open unto him, those everlasting Gates, that he may Sup with us, and we with him; for he will bring his Chear along with him, and will feast us with Manna, and Angels food! O that the Sun of Righteousness might arise and melt the Iciness of our Hearts! That God would send forth his Spirit, and with his warmth and heat, dissolve our frozen Souls! That God would breathe into our minds, those still and gentle Gales of Divine Inspirations, that may blow up, and increase in us the flames of heavenly Love! That we may be a whole burnt Offering, and all the substance of our Souls be consum'd by fire from Heaven, and ascend up in Clouds of Incense! That as so many sparks we might be always mounting upward, till we return again into our proper Elements! That like so many particular Rivulets, we may be continually making toward the Sea, and never rest till we lose our selves in that Ocean of Goodness, from whence we first came! That we may open our Mouths wide, that God may satisfie them! That we may so perfectly discharge our selves of all strange Desires and Passions, that our Souls may be nothing else but a deep Emptiness, and vast Capacity to be fill'd with all the fulness of God! Let but these be the breathings of our Spirits, and this Divine Magnetism will most certainly draw down God into our Souls, and we shall have some Praelibations of that Happiness; some small glimpses, and little discoveries whereof, is all that belongs to this state of Mortality.
I Have as yet done but the half of my Task: and I have another Text yet to preach upon, and a very large and copious one, The great Person, whose Obsequies we here come to celebrate: His fame is so great throughout the World, that he stands in no need of an Encomium; and yet his worth is much greater than his fame; It is impossible not to speak great things of him, and yet it is impossible to speak what he deserves; and the meanness of an Oration, will but sully the brightness of his Excellencies: But Custom requires that something should be said, and it is a duty and a debt that we owe unto his Memory: and I hope his great Soul, if it hath any knowledge of what is done here below, will not be offended at the smallness of our Offering.
He was born at Cambridge, and brought up in the Free-School there, and was ripe for the University, afore Custom would allow of his admittance; but by that time he was Thirteen years old, he was entred into Caius-Colledg; and as soon as he was Graduate, he was chosen Fellow. Had he lived amongst the ancient Pagans, he had been usher'd into the world with a Miracle, and Swans must have daunc'd and sung at his birth; and he must have been a great Hero, and no less than the Son of Apollo, the God of Wisdome and Eloquence.
He was a Man long afore he was of Age; and knew little more of the state of child-hood, than its Innocency and Pleasantness. From the University, by that time he was Master of Arts, he removed to London, and became publick Lecturer in the Church of St. Pauls; where he preach'd to the admiration and astonishment of his Auditory; and by his florid and youthful beauty, and sweet and pleasant air, and sublime and rais'd discourses, he made his hearers take him for some young Angel, newly descended from the Visions of Glory; The fame of this new Star, that outshone all the rest of the Firmament, quickly came to the notice of the great ArchBishop of Canterbury, who would needs have him preach before him; which he perform'd not less to his wonder than satisfaction; His discourse was beyond exception, and beyond imitation: yet the wise Prelate thought him too young; but the great Youth humbly begg'd his Grace to pardon that fault, and promis'd, If he liv'd, he would mend it. However the grand Patron of Learning and Ingenuity, thought it for the advantage of the World, that such mighty Parts should be afforded better opportunities of study and improvement, than a course of constant preaching would allow of; and to that purpose he plac'd him in his own Colledge of All-Souls in Oxford; where love and admiration still waited upon him: which so long as there is any spark of ingenuity in the breasts of men, must needs be the inseparable Attendants of so extraordinary a worth and sweetness. He had not been long here, afore my Lord of Canterbury bestowed upon him the Rectory of Vphingham in Rutland-shire, and soon after preferr'd him to be Chaplain to King Charles the Martyr of blessed and immortal memory. Thus were preferments heaped upon him, but still less than his deserts; and that not through the fault of his great Masters, but because the amplest honours and rewards were poor and inconsiderable, compar'd with the greatness of his Worth and Merit.
This Great Man had no sooner launch'd into the World, but a fearful Tempest arose, and a barbarous and unnatural War, disturb'd a long and uninterrupted Peace and Tranquillity; and brought all things into disorder and confusion; but his Religion taught him to be Loyal, and engag'd him on his Prince's side, whose Cause and Quarrel he alwayes own'd and maintain'd with a great courage and constancy; till at last, he and his little fortune were shipwrackt in that great Hurricane, that overturn'd both Church and State: This fatal Storm cast him ashore in a private corner of the World, and a tender Providence shrowded him under her Wings, and the Prophet was fed in the Wilderness; and his great worthiness procur'd him friends, that supply'd him with bread and necessaries. In this Solitude he began to write those excellent Discourses, which are enough of themselves to furnish a Library, and will be famous to all succeeding Generations, for their greatness of wit, and profoundness of judgement, and richness of fancy, and clearness of expression, and copiousness of invention, and general usefulness to all the purposes of a Christian: And by these he soon got a great reputation among all persons of judgement and indifferency, and his Name will grow greater still, as the World grows better and wiser.
When he had spent some years in this retirement, it pleas'd God to visit his Family with sickness, and to take to himself the dear Pledges of his favour, three Sons of great hopes and expectations, within the space of two or three Moneths: And though he had learned a quiet submission unto the Divine Will; yet the affliction touch'd him so sensibly, that it made him desirous to leave the Countrey; And going to London, he there met my Lord Conway, a Person of great Honour and Generosity; who making him a kind Proffer, the good man embrac'd it, and that brought him over into Ireland, and setled him at Portmore, a place made for study and contemplation, which he therefore dearly lov'd; and here he wrote his Cases of Consciences: A Book that is able alone to give its Author Immortality.
By this time the wheel of Providence brought about the Kings happy Restauration, and there began a new World, and the Spirit of God mov'd upon the face of the Waters, and out of a confused Chaos brought forth Beauty and Order, and all the Three Nations were inspir'd with a new life, and became drunk with an excess of Joy: among the rest, this Loyal Subject went over to congratulate the Prince and People's happiness, and bear a part in the Universal Triumph.
It was not long ere his Sacred Majesty began the settlement of the Church, and the great Doctor Jeremy Taylor was resolv'd upon, for the Bishoprick of Down and Conor; and not long after, Dromore was added to it; and it was but reasonable that the King and Church should consider their Champion, and reward the pains and sufferings he under-went in the defence of their Cause and Honour. With what care and faithfulness he discharg'd his Office, we are all his witnesses; what good Rules and Directions he gave his Clergy, and how he taught us the practice of them by his own example. Upon his coming over Bishop, he was made a Privy-Councellor, and the University of Dublin gave him their Testimony, by recommending him for their Vice-Chancellor; Which honourable Office he kept to his dying day.
During his being in this See, he wrote several excellent Discourses, particularly his Disswasive from Popery (which was receiv'd by a general approbation) and a Vindication of it (now in the Press) from some impertinent Cavillers, that pretend to answer Books, when there is nothing towards it, more than the very Title-Page. This great Prelate improv'd his Talent with a mighty industry, and mannag'd his Steward-ship rarely well; and his Master, when he call'd for his Accounts, found him busie and at his work; and employed upon an excellent Subject, A Discourse upon the Beatitudes; which, if finisht, would have been of great Use to the World, and solv'd most of the Cases of Conscience that occurr to a Christian, in all the varieties of states and conditions. But the All-wise God hath ordain'd it otherwise, and hath call'd home his good Servant, to give him a portion in that Blessedness that Jesus Christ hath promised to all his faithful Disciples and Followers.
Thus having given you a brief Account of his Life, I know you will now expect a character of his Person; but I fore-see, it will befall him, as it does all Glorious Subjects, that are but disparag'd by a commendation; One thing I am secure of, that I shall not be thought to speak Hyperbolies; for the Subject can hardly be reach'd, by any expressions; For he was none of Gods ordinary works, but his Endowments were so many, and so great, as really made him a Miracle.
Nature had befriended him much in his Constitution; for he was a person of a most sweet and obliging Humour, of great Candour and Ingenuity, and there was so much of Salt and fineness of Wit, and pretiness of Address in his familiar Discourses, as made his Conversation have all the pleasantness of a Comedy, and all the usefulness of a Sermon; His Soul was made up of Harmony, and he never spake, but he charm'd his Hearer, not only with the clearness of his Reason; but all his Words, and his very Tone, and Cadencies were strangely Musical.
But, That which did most of all captivate and enravish, was, The gaiety and richness of his Fancy for he had much in him of that natural Enthusiasm, that inspires all great Poets and Orators; and there was a generous ferment in his Bloud and Spirits, that set his Fancy bravely a work, and made it swell, and teem, and become pregnant to such degrees of Luxuriancy, as nothing but the greatness of his Wit and Judgment, could have kept it within due bounds and measures.
And indeed it was a rare Mixture, and a single Instance, hardly to be found in an Age; for the great Tryer of Wits has told us, That there is a peculiar and several Complexion, requir'd for Wit, and Judgment, and Fancy; and yet you might have found all these, in this great Personage, in their Eminency and Perfection. But that which made his Wit and Judgment so considerable, was the largeness and freedom of his Spirit, for truth is plain and easie to a mind dis-intangled from Superstition and Prejudice; He was one of the eklektikoi a sort of brave Philosophers that Laërtius speaks of, that did not addict themselves to any particular Sect, but ingenuously sought for Truth among all the wrangling Schools; and they found her miserably torn and rent to pieces, and parcell'd into Raggs, by the several contending Parties, and so disfigur'd and mishapen, that it was hard to know her; but they made a shift to gather up her scatter'd Limbs, which as soon as they came together by a strange sympathy and connaturalness, presently united into a lovely and beautiful body. This was the Spirit of this Great Man; he weighed Mens Reasons, and not their Names, and was not scar'd with the ugly Vizars men usually put upon Persons they hate, and Opinions they dislike; nor affrighted with the Anathema's and Execrations of an infallible Chair, which he look'd upon only as Bug-bears to terrifie weak, and childish minds. He consider'd that it is not likely any one Party should wholly engross Truth to themselves; that Obedience is the only way to true Knowledge; (which is an Argument that he has manag'd rarely well, in that excellent Sermon of his, which he calls, Via Intelligentiae,) that God always, and only teaches docible and ingenuous minds, that are willing to hear, and ready to obey according to their Light; that it is impossible, a pure, humble, resigned, God-like Soul, should be kept out of Heaven, whatever mistakes it might be subject to in this state of Mortality; that the design of Heaven is not to fill mens heads, and feed their Curiosities, but to better their Hearts; and mend their Lives. Such Considerations as these, made him impartial in his Disquisitions, and give a due allowance to the Reasons of his Adversary, and contend for Truth, and not for Victory.
And now you will easily believe that an ordinary Diligence would be able to make great Improvements upon such a Stock of Parts and Endowments; but to these advantages of Nature, and excellency of his Spirit, he added an indefatigable Industry, and God gave a plentiful Benediction; for, there were very few Kinds of Learning, but he was a Mystes, and great Master in them: He was a rare Humanist, and hugely vers'd in all the polite parts of Learning; and had throughly concocted all the ancient Moralists, Greek and Roman, Poets and Orators; and was not unacquainted with the refined Wits of the later Ages, whether French or Italian. But he had not only the Accomplishments of a Gentleman, but so universal were his Parts, that they were proportion'd to every thing; and though his Spirit and Humour were made up of Smoothness and Gentleness, yet he could bear with the Harshness and Roughness of the Schools; and was not unseen in their Subtilties and Spinosities, and upon occasion, could make them serve his purpose; and yet, I believe, he thought many of them very near akin to the famous Knight of the Mancha, and would make sport sometimes with the Romantick Sophistry and phantastick Adventures of School-Errantry. His Skill was great, both in the Civil and Canon Law, and Casuistical Divinity; and he was a rare Conductor of Souls, and knew how to Counsel, and to Advise; to solve Difficulties, and determine Cases, and quiet Consciences. And he was no Novice in Mr. I. S. new Science of Controversie; but could manage an Argument, and make Reparties with a strange dexterity; He understood what the several Parties in Christendom have to say for themselves, and could plead their Cause to better advantage than any Advocate of their Tribe: and when he had done, he could confute them too; and shew, that better Arguments than ever they could produce for themselves, would afford no sufficient ground for their fond Opinions.
It would be too great a Task to pursue his Accomplishments through the various Kinds of Literature: I shall content my self to add only his great Acquaintance with the Fathers and Ecclesiastical Writers, and the Doctors of the first and purest Ages both of the Greek and Latine Church; which he has made use of against the Romanists, to vindicate the Church of England from the Challenge of Innovation, and prove her to be truly Ancient, Catholick, and Apostolical.
But Religion and Vertue is the Crown of all other Accomplishments; and it was the Glory of this great Man, to be thought a Christian, and whatever you added to it, he look'd upon as a term of diminution; and yet he was a Zealous Son of the Church of England; but that was because he judg'd her (and with great reason) a Church the most purely Christian of any in the World. In his younger years he met with some assaults from Popery, and the high pretensions of their Religious Orders were very accommodate to his Devotional Temper; but he was alwayes so much Master of himself, that he would never be governed by any thing but Reasons, and the evidence of Truth, which engag'd him in the study of those Controversies; and to how good purpose, the World is by this time a sufficient Witness: But the longer, and the more he consider'd, the worse he lik'd the Roman Cause, and became at last to censure them with some severity; but I confess I have so great an opinion of his Judgment, and the charitableness of his Spirit, that I am afraid he did not think worse of them than they deserve.
But Religion is not a matter of Theory and Orthodox Notions, and it is not enough to believe aright, but we must practise accordingly; and to master our passions, and to make a right use of that antexousion and power that God has given us over our own actions, is a greater glory than all other Accomplishments that can adorn the mind of Man; and therefore I shall close my Character of this Great Personage with a touch upon some of those Vertues, for which his Memory will be pretious to all Posterity. He was a Person of great Humility; and notwithstanding his stupendious Parts, and Learning, and Eminency of Place, he had nothing in him of Pride and Humour, but was Courteous and Affable, and of easie Access, and would lend a ready Ear to the complaints, yea to the impertinencies of the meanest persons. His Humility was coupled with an Extraordinary Piety; and, I believe, he spent the greatest part of his time in Heaven; his solemn hours of Prayer took up a considerable portion of his Life; and we are not to doubt, but he had learn'd of St. Paul to pray continually; and that occasional Ejaculations, and frequent Aspirations and Emigrations of his Soul after God, made up the best part of his Devotions. But he was not onely a Good Man God-ward, but he was come to the top of St. Peter's gradation, and to all his other Vertues added a large and diffusive Charity: And, whoever compares his plentiful Incomes, with the inconsiderable Estate he left at his Death, will be easily convinc'd that Charity was Steward for a great proportion of his Revenue. But the Hungry that he fed, and the Naked that he cloath'd, and the Distress'd that he supply'd and the Fatherless that he provided for; the poor Children that he put to Apprentice, and brought up at School, and maintain'd at the University, will now sound a Trumpet to that Charity which he dispersed with his right hand, but would not suffer his left hand to have any knowledge of it.
To summ up all in a few words; This Great Prelate he had the good Humour of a Gentleman, the Eloquence of an Orator, the Fancy of a Poet, the Acuteness of a School-Man, the Profoundness of a Philosopher, the Wisdom of a Counsellor, the Sagacity of a Prophet, the Reason of an Angel, and the Piety of a Saint: He had Devotion enough for a Cloyster, Learning enough for an University, and Wit enough for a Colledge of Virtuosi; and, had his Parts and Endowments been parcell'd out among his poor Clergy that he left behind him, it would perhaps have made one of the best Diocese in the World. But alas! Our Father, our Father, the Horses of our Israel, and the Chariot thereof; he is gone, and has carried his Mantle and his Spirit along with him up to Heaven; and the Sons of the Prophets have lost all their beauty and lustre which they enjoy'd only from the reflexion of his Excellencies, which were bright and radiant enough to cast a glory upon a whole Order of Men. But the Sun of this our world after many attempts to break through the Crust of an earthly Body, is at last swallow'd up in the great Vortex of Eternity, and there all his Maculae are scatter'd and dissolv'd, and he is fixt in an Orb of Glory, and shines among his Brethren-stars, that in their several Ages gave light to the World, and turn'd many Souls unto Righteousness; and we that are left behind, though we can never reach his perfections, must study to imitate his Vertues, that we may at last come to sit at his feet in the Mansions of Glory; which God grant for his infinite mercies in Jesus Christ: To whom, with the Father, through the Eternal Spirit, be ascribed all Honour and Glory, Worship and Thanks-giving, Love and Obedience, now and for evermore. Amen.