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“Make no tarrying to turn unto the Lord, and put not off from day to day; for suddenly shall his wrath come, and in the day of vengeance he shall destroy thee. Stand fast in the way of the Lord, be steadfast in thine understanding, and follow the word of peace and righteousness.” Ecclesiasticus 5. BEING minded through the help of God, for mine own comfort and encouraging of others, to speak something of Death, (at whose door though I have stand a great while, yet never so near, to man’s judgment, as I do now, ) I think it most requisite to call and cry for thy help, O blessed Savior Jesus Christ, “which hast destroyed death” by thy death, and brought in place thereof “life and immortality,” as by the gospel it appeareth. Grant to me true and lively faith, wherethrough men pass from death to “eternal life;” that of practice, and not of naked speculation, I may something now write concerning Death, (which is dreadful out of thee, and in itself,) to the glory of thy holy name, to mine own comfort in thee, and to the edifying of all them to whom this my writing shall come to be read or heard. Amen.
Concerning the first and the last, what they be I need not to declare: but the second and the third perchance of the simple (for whose sake especially I write) are not so soon espied.
By a ‘spiritual death’ therefore, I mean suh a death as, the body living, the soul is “dead:” whereof the apostle maketh mention in speaking of widows, which “living daintily,” being alive in body, “are dead” in soul. Thus you see what I mean by the ‘spiritual death.’
Now by a ‘temporal death’ I mean such a death, where-through the body and affections thereof are “mortified,” that the spirit may live: of which kind of death the apostle speaketh in exhorting us to “kill our members.”
And thus much of the kinds of death, wherein the judgment of the world is not to be approved: for it careth less for ‘spiritual death’ than for a ‘natural death,’ it esteemeth less ‘eternal death’ than ‘temporal death;’ or else would men leave sin, (which procureth both the one and the other, I mean ‘spiritual and eternal death,’) and choose temporally to die, that by ‘natural death’ they might enter into the full fruition and possession of “eternal life:” which none can enjoy nor enter into, that here will not temporally die, that is, mortify their affections, and “crucify their lusts” and concupiscences; for by obeying them at the first “came death,” as we may read, Genesis 3. If Eve had not obeyed her desire in eating the forbidden fruit, whereby she died spiritually, none of these kinds of death had ever come unto man, nor been known of us. Therefore (as I said) we must needs here temporally die, that is, mortify our affections, to escape the ‘spiritual death,’ and by ‘natural death’ not only escape ‘eternal death’ of soul and body, but also by it as by a door enter into “eternal life;” which Christ Jesus our Savior hath procured and purchased to and for all that be “in him,” translating ‘eternal death’ into a “sleep,” or rather into a deliverance of soul and body from all kind of misery and sin.
By reason whereof we may see, that to those that be “in Christ,” that is, to such as do believe, which (believers, I mean) are discerned from others by “not walking after the flesh, but after the Spirit;” to those, I say, death is no damage but an advantage; no dreadful thing but rather desirable, and of all messengers most merry, whiles he is looked upon with the eyes of faith in the gospel. But more of this hereafter.
Thus have I briefly showed thee the kinds of death, what they be, whence they come, and what remedy for them. But now, forasmuch as I am purposed hereafter to entreat only of the first kind of death, that is, of ‘natural death,’ something to comfort myself and others against the dread and pains of the same; I will speak of it as God shall instruct me, and as I accustom with myself to muse on it now and then, the better to be prepared against the hour of temptation.
I have showed how that this ‘natural death’ came by ‘spiritual death,’ that is, by obeying our affections in the transgressions of God’s precepts: but through the benefit of Christ, to such as be in him and die temporally, that is, to such believers as labor to mortify their affections, it is no destruction, but a plain dissolution both of soul and body from all kind of perils, dangers, and miseries; and therefore to such is not to be dread but to be desired, as we see in the apostle which “desired to be dissolved,” and in Simeon which desired to be loosed, saying, “Dismiss (or loose) me, O Lord.” By which words he seemeth plainly to teach that this life is a bondage, and nothing to be desired; as now I will something show.
First, consider the pleasures of this life what they be, how long they last, how painfully we come by them, what they leave behind them; and thou shalt even in them see nothing but vanity. As for example, how long lasteth the pleasure that man hath in sensual gratification? How painfully do men behave themselves before they attain it; how doth it leave behind it a certain loathsomeness and fullness! I will speak nothing of the sting of conscience, if it be come by unlawfully. Who, well seeing this and forecasting it beforehand, would not Forego the pleasures willingly, as far as need will permit and suffer? If then in this one, whereunto nature is most prone, and hath most pleasure in, it be thus, alas! how can we but think so of other pleasures?
Put the case, that the pleasures of this life were permanent during this life: yet, in that this life itself is nothing in comparison, and therefore is full well compared to a candlelight which is soon blown out, to a flower which fadeth away, to a smoke, to a shadow, to a sleep, to a running water, to a day, to an hour, to a moment, and to vanity itself; who would esteem these pleasures and commodities, which last so little a while? Before they be begun, they are gone and past away. How much of our time spend we in sleeping, in eating, in drinking, and in talking! Infancy is not perceived, youth is shortly overblown, middle age is nothing, old age is not long. And therefore, as I said, this life, through the considerations of the pleasures and commodities of it, should little move us to love it, but rather to loath it. God open our eyes to see these things, and to weigh them accordingly!
Secondly, consider the miseries of this life, that, if so be the pleasures and commodities in it should move us to love it, yet the miseries might countervail, and make us to take it as we should do; I mean, rather to “desire to be loosed” and dismissed hence, than otherwise. Look upon your bodies, and see in how many perils and dangers you are: your eyes are in danger of blindness and blearedness; your ears in danger of deafness; your mouth and tongue of cankers, toothache, and dumbness; your head in danger of rheums and megrims; your throat in danger of hoarseness; your hands in danger of gouts and palsies, etc. But who is able to express the number of diseases whereto man’s body is in danger, seeing that some have written that more than three hundred diseases may happen unto man? I speak nothing of the hurt that may come unto our bodies by prisons, venomous beasts, water, fire, horses, men, etc.
Again, look upon your soul: see how many vices you are in danger of, as heresy, hypocrisy, idolatry, covetousness, idleness, security, envy, ambition, pride, etc. How many temptations may you fall into! But this shall you better see by looking on your old falls, folly, and temptations, and by looking on other men’s faults; for no man hath done anything so evil, but you may do the same. Moreover, look upon your name, and see how it is in danger to slanders and false reports; look upon your goods, see what danger they are in for thieves, for fire, etc.; look upon your wife, children, parents, brethren, sisters, kinsfolks, servants, friends, and neighbors, and behold how they also are in danger, both soul, body, name, and goods, as you are; look upon the commonweal and country; look upon the church, upon the ministers and magistrates, and see what great dangers they are in: so that, if you love them, you cannot but for the evil which may come to them be heavy and sad. You know it is not in your power, nor in the power of any man, to hinder all evil that may come. How many perils is infancy in danger of; what danger is youth subject unto! Man’s state is full of cares: age is full of diseases and sores. If thou be rich, thy care is the greater: if thou be in honor, thy perils are the more: if thou be poor, thou art the more in danger to oppression. But, alas! what tongue is able to express the miserableness of this life? The which considered should make us little to love it.
I can compare our life to nothing so fitly as to a ship in the midst of the sea. In what danger is the ship and they that be in it! Here are they in danger of tempests, there of quicksands; on this side of pirates, on that side of rocks: now may it leak, now may the mast break, now may the master fall sick, now may diseases come among the mariners, now may there dissension fall among themselves. I speak nothing of want of fresh water, meat, drink, and such other necessaries.
Even such another thing is this life. Here is the devil, there is the world: on this side is the flesh, on that side is sin which throughly cleaveth unto our ribs, and will do so long as we be in this flesh and natural life. So that none but blind men can see this life to be so much and so greatly to be desired: but rather, as the men that sail are most glad when they approach to the haven, even so should we be most glad when we approach to the haven, that is, death; which setteth us a land whose commodities “no eye hath seen,” no tongue can tell, no heart can conceive, in any point as it should.
If any man would desire testimonies of these things, (although experience, a sufficient mistress, is to be credited,) yet will I here mark certain places whereunto the reader may resort, and find no less than I say, but rather much more, if that with diligence he read and weigh the places.
Job calleth this life “a warfare:” in the eighth chapter he painteth it out something lively, under divers similitudes. St. James compareth it to “a vapor.” All the book of Ecclesiastes teacheth it to be but “vanity.” St. John saith it is altogether “put in evil.” David saith, the best thing in this life is but vanity, “labor, and sorrow.” But what go I here about? seeing that almost every leaf in the scripture is full of the brevity and misery of this life.
So that I think, as St. Austin doth write, that there is no man that hath lived so happily in this world that would be content, when death cometh, to go back again by the same steps whereby he hath come into the world and lived; except the same be in despair, and look for nothing after this life but confusion.
Thus I trust you see, that though the commodities of this life were such as could cause us to love it, yet the brevity, vanity, and misery of it is such as should make us little to regard it, which believe and know death to be the end of all miseries to them that are “in Christ:” as we all ought to take ourselves to be, being baptized in his name, (for our baptism requireth this faith under pain of damnation,) although we have not observed our profession as we should have done; if so be we now repent, and come to amendment. To such, I say, as are “in Christ,” death is to be desired, even in respect of this, that it delivereth us from so miserable a life and so dangerous a state as we now be in. So that I may well say, they are senseless, without wit, void of love to God, void of all hatred and sense of sin (wherewith this life floweth), that rather desire not to depart hence out of all these miseries, than here still to remain to their continual grief; if that they have, as I said, any wisdom, any love to God or man, or any sense of sin. But if these things will not move us, I would yet we beheld the commodities whereunto death bringeth us. If we be not moved to leave this life in respect of the miseries whereof it is full, yet we should be moved to leave it in respect of the infinite goodness which the other life, whereto death bringeth us, hath most plentifully. Men, though they love things, yet for things which are better can be content to forego them: even so we now, for the good things in the life to come (if we consider them), shall and will be content to forego the most commodious things in this present life.
Here we have great pleasure in the beauty of the world, and of the pleasures, honors, and dignities of the same; also in the company of our friends, parents, wife, children, subjects; also in plenty of riches, cattle, etc.: and yet we know that never a one of these is without his discommodity, which God sendeth, lest we should love them too much; as, if you will weigh things, you shall easily perceive. The sun, though it be fair and cheerful, yet it burneth sometimes too hot. The air, though it be light and pleasant, yet sometimes it is dark and troublous: and so of other things.
But be it so that there were no discommodities mingled with the commodities; yet, as before I have said, the brevity and short time that we have to use them should assuage their dulcetness. But if this were not also but that the pleasures of this life were without discommodity, permanent, and without peril (whereof they be full); yet are they nothing at all to be compared to the commodities of the life to come.
What is this earth, heaven, and shape of the world, wherein beasts have place, and wicked men, God’s enemies, have abiding and liberty, in comparison of the “new heaven and earth wherein righteousness shall dwell?” in comparison of that place where angels and archangels, and all God’s people, yea, God himself, hath his abiding and dwelling? What is the company of wife, children, etc., in comparison to the company of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, confessors, virgins, and all the saints of God? What is the company of any in this world, in comparison to the company of the angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, powers, thrones, dominations; yea, of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost? What are the riches and pleasures of this life, in comparison of the felicity of everlasting life, which is without all discommodities, perpetual, without all peril and jeopardy, without all grief and molestation?
O the power and majesty! O the sweetness and dignity of the life to come! “The eye hath not seen, the ear hath not heard, nor the heart of man is not able to conceive” in anything any part of the eternal felicity and happy state of heaven. Therefore the saints of God have desired so earnestly and so heartily to be there. “O how amiable are thy tabernacles!” saith David: “my soul hath a desire to enter into the courts of the Lord: my heart and my soul rejoice in the living God.” “Blessed are those that dwell in thy house, that they may always be praising thee;” “for one day in thy courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of ungodliness; for the Lord God is a light and defense.” And again, “As the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after thee, O God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God: when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?” And, “My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh also longeth after thee, in a barren and dry land, where no water is.”
They “lift up their heads,” looking for his appearing, which will “make their vile bodies like to his own glorious (and immortal) body;” for, “when he shall appear, they shall be like unto him.” “The angels will gather them together;” and they “shall meet him in the clouds, and be always with him.” They shall hear this joyful voice, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning.”
Then shall they be “like unto his angels.” Then shall they “shine like the sun in the kingdom.” Then shall they have “crowns of glory,” and be “endued with white garments” of innocency and righteousness, and “palms” of victory “in their hands.” O happy, happy is he that may with them see that immortal and incorruptible inheritance which then we shall enjoy forever!
Thus you see, I hope, sufficiently that in respect of heaven and eternal bliss, whereunto by the haven of death we land, this life, though there were no evil in it, is not to be loved; but rather we that be pilgrims in it should desire with Paul and Simeon to be “loosed and dissolved,” that we might be with God.
Here our bodies (as before is spoken) are in danger of innumerable evils: but there our bodies shall be, not only without all danger, but also be “like the glorious (and immortal) body of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now our bodies be dark: then shall they be most clear and light, as we see Christ’s “face did shine in his transfiguration, like to the sun.” Now our bodies be vile, miserable, mortal, and corruptible: but then shall they be glorious, happy, immortal, and incorruptible. We shall be like unto Christ our Savior: even “as he is,” so shall we be. “As we have borne the image of the earthly, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly.”
Here our souls are in great darkness and dangers of many evils: but there they shall be in great light, safe security, and secure felicity. “We shall see God face to face:” where now we “see him but as in a glass through a dark speaking,” there “shall we behold him even as he is,” and be satisfied without loathsomeness of his presence. Yea, we shall be endued with most perfect knowledge: where “now we know but partly, there shall we know as we be known.”
Here our commodities are measurable, short, uncertain, and mingled with many incommodities: but there is mirth without measure, all liberty, all light, all joy, rejoicing, pleasure, health, wealth, riches, glory, power, treasure, honor, triumph, comfort, solace, love, unity, peace, concord, wisdom, virtue, melody, meekness, felicity, beatitude, and all that ever can be wished or desired; and that in most security and perpetuity that may be conceived or thought, not only of men, but also of angels; as witnesseth he that saw it, I mean Paul, who was “carried up into the third heaven.” “The eye hath not seen,” saith he, “the ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the felicity that God hath prepared for them that love him.”
There the archangels, angels, powers, thrones, dominions, cherubim, seraphim, patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, virgins, confessors, and righteous spirits, cease not to sing night and day, “Holy, holy, holy Lord God of hosts!” ‘Honor, majesty, glory, impery, and dominion, be unto thee, O Lord God the Creator, O Lord Jesu the Redeemer, O Holy Spirit the Comforter!’ For “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven-fold, even as the light of seven days,” in his blessed kingdom, where and when he “will bind up the wounds of his people, and heal their plagues.”
O that we might have some lively sight hereof, that we might rejoice over the “undefiled and immortal inheritance,” whereunto God hath called us, and which he doth keep for us in heaven! that we might hear the sweet song of his saved people, crying, “Salvation be unto him that sitteth on the throne of our God, and unto the Lamb!” that we might with the elders and angels sing and say, “Praise, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be to thee our God forevermore!” that we might be “covered with a white stole, and have a palm in our hands,” to “stand before God’s throne night and day, to serve him in his temple, and to have him dwell in us!” that we might “hear the great voice saying from heaven, Behold the tabernacle of the Lord is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them, their God!” O happy were they that now might have a little show of that “holy city, new Jerusalem, descending from heaven, prepared of God as a bride decked for her husband,” which he showed to his servant John!
Truly this should we see, if we were with him “in the Spirit:” but this cannot be, so long as we are “in the flesh.”
Alas then and welaway, that we love this life as we do! It is a sign we have “little faith;” for else how could we but night and day desire the messenger of the Lord (death I mean) to deliver us out of all miseries, that we might enter into the fruition of eternal felicity?
But here will some man say, ‘O sir, if I were certain that I should depart from this miserable life into that so great felicity, then could I be right glad and rejoice as you will me, and bid death welcome: but I am a sinner, I have grievously transgressed and broken God’s will; and therefore I am afraid I shall be sent into eternal woe, perdition, and misery.’
Here, my brother, thou doest well that thou dost acknowledge thyself a sinner, and to have deserved eternal death; for doubtless, “if we say we have no sin, we are liars, and the truth is not in us.” A child of a night’s birth is not pure in God’s sight. In sin were we born, and “by birth (or nature) we are the children of wrath,” and firebrands of hell: therefore confess ourselves to be sinners we needs must. For, “if the Lord will observe any man’s iniquities, none shall be able to abide it:” yea, we must needs all cry, “Enter not into judgment, O Lord; for in thy sight no flesh nor man living can be saved.” In this point therefore thou hast done well, to confess that thou art a sinner.
But now where thou standest in doubt of pardon of thy sins, and thereby art afraid of damnation, my dear brother, I would have thee answer me one question, that is, ‘Whether thou desirest pardon or no; whether thou dost repent or no; whether thou dost unfeignedly purpose, if thou shouldest live, to amend thy life, or no?’ If thou dost even before God so purpose, and desirest his mercy, then hearken, my good brother, what the Lord saith unto thee: “‘I am he, I an, he, that for my own sake will do away thine offenses.’ ‘If thy sins be as red as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow;’ for ‘I have no pleasure in the death of a sinner. As surely as I live, I will not thy death, but rather that thou shouldest live, and be converted.’ I have ‘so loved the world,’ that I would not spare my dearly beloved Son, ‘the image of my substance and brightness of my glory,’ ‘by whom all things are made,’ by whom all things were given; but gave him for thee, not only to be man, but also to take thy nature, and to purge it from mortality, sin, and all corruption, and to adorn and endue it with immortality and eternal glory, not only in his own person, but also in thee and for thee: whereof now by faith I would have thee certain, as in very deed thou shalt at length feel and fully enjoy forever. This my Son I have given to the death, and that a most shameful death, ‘even of the cross,’ for thee to ‘destroy death,’ to satisfy my justice for thy sins: therefore ‘believe,’ and ‘according to thy faith, so be it unto thee.’ “Hearken what my Son himself saith unto thee, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are laden, and I will refresh you:’ ‘I came not into the world to damn the world, but to save it:’ ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’ ‘I pray not,’ saith he, ‘for these mine apostles only, but also for all them that by their preaching shall believe in me.’ Now what prayed he for such? ‘Father,’ saith he, ‘I will that where I am they may also be, that they may see and enjoy the glory I have, and always had with thee.
Father, save them, and keep them in thy truth. Father,’ saith he, ‘I sanctify myself, and offer up myself for them.’ Lo, thus thou hearest how my Son prayeth for thee. “Mark now what my apostle Paul saith: We know, saith he, that our Savior Christ’s prayers were ‘heard:’ also ‘this is a true saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.’ Hearken what he saith to the jailer, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved;’ for he by his own self hath ‘made purgation for our sins.’ ‘To him,’ saith Peter, ‘ beareth all the prophets witness, that whosoever believeth in his name shall receive remission of their sins.’ ‘Believe,’ man. Pray, ‘Lord, help mine unbelief:’ ‘Lord, increase my faith.’ ‘Ask, and thou shalt have.’ Hearken what St.
John saith, ‘If we confess our sins, God is righteous to forgive us all our iniquities; and the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ shall wash us from all our sins:’ for, ‘if we sin, we have an Advocate,’ saith he, ‘with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins.’ Hearken what Christ is called: ‘Call his name Jesus, saith the angel, ‘for he shall save his people from their sins.’ So that, ‘where abundance of sin is, there is abundance of grace.’ “Say therefore, ‘Who shall lay anything to my charge? It is God that absolveth me. Who then shall condemn me? It is Christ which is dead for my sins, yea, which is risen for my righteousness, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father, and prayeth for me.’ Be certain therefore, and sure of pardon of thy sins; be certain and sure of everlasting life. Do not now say in thy heart, ‘Who shall descend into the deep?’ that is, doubt not of pardon of thy sins, for that is to fetch up Christ. Neither say thou, ‘Who shall ascend up into heaven?’ that is, doubt not of eternal bliss, for that is to put Christ out of heaven. But mark what the Lord saith unto thee, ‘The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart; and this is the word of faith which we preach: If thou confess with thy mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and believe with thy heart, that God raised him up from the dead, thou shalt be safe.’ If thou ‘believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again,’ even so shalt thou be assured, saith the Lord God, that ‘dying with Christ I will bring thee again with him.’” Thus, dear brother, I thought good to write to thee in the name of the Lord, that thou, fearing death for nothing else but because of thy sins, mightest be assured of pardon of them; and so embrace death as a dear friend, and insult against his terror, sting, and power, saying, “Death, where is thy sting? Hell, where is thy victory?” Nothing in all the world so displeaseth the Lord, as to doubt of his mercy. In the mouth of two or three witnesses we should be content: therefore, in that thou hast heard so many witnesses, how that indeed desiring mercy with the Lord thou art not sent empty away, give credit thereto; and say with the good virgin Mary, “Behold thy servant, O Lord: be it unto me according to thy word.”
Upon the which word see thou set thine eye only and wholly. For otherwise here thou seest not God thy Father but in his word, which is the “glass” wherein now we behold his grace and fatherly love towards us in Christ: and therefore herewith we should be content, and give more credit to it than to all our senses, and to all the world besides. “The, word,” saith our Savior, “shall judge.” According to it therefore, and not according to any exterior or interior show, judge both of thyself, of all other and things else.
Concerning thyself, if thou desire indeed God’s mercy, and lamentest that thou hast offended, lo, it pronounceth that “there is mercy with the Lord for thee, and plenteous redemption.” It telleth thee which wouldest have mercy at the Lord’s hand, that the Lord willeth the same: and therefore thou art happy, for he “would not thy death.” It telleth thee, that if thou acknowledge thy faults unto the Lord, he will cover them in his mercy.
Again, concerning death it telleth thee, that it is but a “sleep,” that it is but a passing unto thy Father, that it is but a deliverance out of misery, that it is but a putting off of mortality and corruption, that it is a “putting on of immortality and incorruption;” that it is a putting away of an “earthly tabernacle,” that thou mayest receive an “heavenly house” or “mansion;” that this is but a calling of thee home from the watching and standing in the “warfare” of this miserable life. According to this (the word I mean) do thou judge of death: and thou shalt thus not be afraid of it, but desire it as a most wholesome medicine, and a friendly messenger of the Lord’s justice and mercy. Embrace him therefore, make him good cheer; for of all enemies he is the least. ‘An enemy,’ quoth I? Nay, rather of all friends he is the best; for he bringeth thee out of all danger of enemies, into that most sure and safe place of thy unfeigned “Friend” forever.
Let these things be often thought upon. Let death be premeditated, not only because he cometh uncertainly (I mean for the time, for else he is most certain), but also because her helpeth much to the contempt of this world, out of the which as nothing will go with thee, so nothing canst thou take with thee; because it helpeth to the mortifying of the flesh, which when thou feedest, thou dost nothing else but feed worms; because it helpeth to the well disposing and due ordering of the things thou hast in this life; because it helpeth to repentance, to bring thee unto the knowledge of thyself that thou art but “earth and ashes,” and to bring thee the more better to “know God.”
But who is able to tell the commodities that come by the often and true consideration of death? Whose time is therefore left unto us uncertain and unknown (although to God it be certain, and the “bounds thereof” not only known but “appointed of the Lord, over the which none can pass),” because we should not prolong and put off from day to day the amendment of our life, as did the “rich man” under hope of long life.
And seeing it is the ordinance of God, and cometh not but “by the will of God” even unto a sparrow, much more then unto us which are incomparably much “more dear than many sparrows;” and in that this will of God is not only just, but also good (for he is our Father); let us, if there were nothing else but this, submit ourselves, our senses, and judgments, unto the pleasure of him, being content to come out of the room of our soldiership whensoever he shall send for us by his pursuivant, Death. Let us render to him that which he hath lent us so long (I mean life), lest we be counted unthankful. And in that death cometh not but “by sin,” forasmuch as we have sinned so often, and yet the Lord hath ceased from exacting this tribute and punishment of us until this present, let us with thankfulness praise his patience, and pay our debt; not doubting but that he, being our Father and our almighty Father, can and will, if death were evil unto us (as God knoweth it is a chief benefit unto us by Christ), convert and turn it into good.
But death being, as before I have showed, not to be dread but to be desired, let us “lift up our heads” in thinking on it, and know that our “redemption draweth nigh.” Let our minds be occupied in the consideration or often contemplation of the four last articles of our belief; that is, ‘the communion of saints’ or ‘the holy catholic church,’ ‘remission of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and the life everlasting.’
By faith in Christ, be it never so faint, little, or cold, we are members in very deed of the catholic and holy church of Christ; that is, we have communion or fellowship with all the saints of God that ever were, be, or shall be. Whereby we may receive great comfort: for, though our faith be feeble, yet the church’s faith (whereof our Savior Christ is “the Head”) is mighty enough; though our repentance be little, yet the repentance of the church, wherewith we have communion, is sufficient; though our love be languishing, yet the love of the church and of the Spouse of the church is ardent: and so of all other things we want. Not that I mean this, as though any man should think that our faith should be in any or upon any other than only upon God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; neither that any should think I mean thereby any other merits or mean to salvation, than only the merits and name of the Lord Jesus: but that I would the poor christian conscience, which by baptism is brought into God’s church, and made a member of the same “through faith,” should not for his sin’s sake, or for the want of anything he hath not, despair; but rather should know that he is a member of Christ’s church and mystical body, and therefore cannot but have communion and fellowship of both; that is, of Christ himself, being the “Lord,” “Husband,” and “Head” thereof, and of all that ever hath been, be, or shall be, members of it, in all good things that ever they have had, have, or shall have. Still doth the church pray for us by Christ’s commandment, “Forgive us our sins, lead us not into temptation, deliver us from evil:” yea, Christ himself doth pray for us, being “members of his body,” as we be indeed if that we believe, though it be never so little.
As I would have us often to muse upon ‘the catholic church’ or ‘communion of saints,’ (whereof we may not doubt, in what state soever we be, under pain of damnation, being baptized “in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost;”) so would I have us to meditate upon the other articles following, that is, ‘remission of sins, resurrection of the flesh, and life everlasting.’
It is an article of our faith to believe, that is, to be certain, that our sins are pardoned: therefore doubt not thereof, lest thou become an infidel. Though thou have sinned never so sore, yet now despair not: but be certain that “God is thy God,” that is, that he “forgiveth thee thy sin.” Therefore, as I said, doubt not thereof; for in so doing thou puttest a sallet on the head of thy soul, that the “dew” of God’s grace cannot indeed drop into it, but slip by as fast as it droppeth. Therefore, without that sallet or soul nightcap, be bareheaded; that is, “hope still in the mercy of the Lord,” and so “mercy shall compass thee on every side.”
In like manner, the article of ‘the resurrection of the flesh’ have often in thy mind, being assured by this, that thy carcass and body “shall be raised up again in the last day,” when “the Lord shall come to judgment;” and shall be made incorruptible, immortal, glorious, spiritual, perfect, light, and even “like to the glorious body” of our Savior Jesu Christ. For he is “the firstfruits of the dead;” and as God is “all in all,” so shall he be unto thee “in Christ.” Look therefore upon thine own estate; for “as he is,” so shalt thou be. As thou hast “borne the image of the earthly Adam, so shalt thou bear the image of the heavenly:” therefore glorify thou now God, both in soul and body. Wait and look for this “day of the Lord” with groaning and sighing. Gather together testimonies of this, which I do omit for time’s sake.
Last of all, have often in thy mind ‘life everlasting,’ whereunto thou art even landing. Death is the haven that carrieth thee unto this “land,” where is all that can be wished, yea, above all wishes and desires; for in it we shall “see God” “face to face:” which thing now we can in no wise do, but must cover our faces with Moses and Elias, till the “face” or fore-parts of the Lord be “gone by.” :Now must we look on his “back-parts,” beholding him in his word, and in his creatures, and in “the face of Jesus Christ” our Mediator: but then we shall see him “face to face,” and “we shall know as we are known.”
Therefore let us often think on these things, that we may have faith lustily and cheerfully to arrive at the happy haven of death: which you see is to be desired, and not to be dread, to all those that are “in Christ,” that is, to such as do believe indeed; which are discerned from those that only say they do believe, by dying temporally, that is, by laboring to mortify through God’s Spirit the affections of the flesh; not that they should not be in them, but that they should “not reign in them, that is, in their mortal bodies,” to give over themselves to “serve sin:” whose “servants” we are not, but “are made servants unto righteousness,” “being now under grace, and not under the law;” and therefore hath God mercifully promised that “sin shall not reign in us.”
Amen. Amen. Amen. JOHN BRADFORD . FB120 [The treatise on the ‘Restoration of all things’ follows the text of the ‘Letters of the martyrs’ edited by Bishop Coverdale, 1564, p. 478 — 89, with the single exception of the first two lines.
This remarkable Essay, addressed as a letter to Mistress Joyce Hales, was evidently written about the same time and under the same circumstances with that ‘Against the fear of death,’ as Bradford states at the beginning, “Because this morning I had some knowledge... how that my life stood in great danger, and that even this week,... I thought good... to go about something which might be on my behalf, as it were, cygnea cantio , ‘a swan’s song.’” It was therefore penned, in all probability, not long after the condemnation of Bradford, January 31, 1555.
It is, through almost the whole, translated from the commentaries of the very learned Reformer Martin Bucer, with whom Bradford was on terms of close intimacy in 1549 — 51, when Bucer was Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. An extract from the original is given at p. 355 — 6, in connection with a passage where Bradford specially refers to Bucer.] THE RESTORATION OF ALL THINGS.
To my dearest sister in the Lord, Joyce Hales, J. Bradford wisheth increase of all godliness in Christ. Because this morning I had some knowledge, more than before I had, how that my life stood in great danger, and that even this week, so far as men might, both by the doings and sayings of such as be in authority attempted and spoken concerning me, judge and perceive; I thought good, my right dearly beloved in the Lord, to go about something which might be on my behalf, as it were, cygnea cantio , ‘a swan’s song;’ and towards you, both a monument of the kind of my love, and also a help, or at the least an occasion for you to profit in that which, I bear you record, you most desire; I mean, everlasting life and the state thereof. And this will I attempt, upon the last talk we had betwixt us, when you were here with me.
I know you have not forgotten that we talked together of the place of St.
Paul to the Romans, chapter 8, concerning the “groanings of the creature,” and his “desire of the revelation of the children of God.” You demand whether this word “creature” was to be understand of man, or no: and I told you, that though some did take “creature” there for man, because there is no kind of creature which may not be acknowledged in man; yet, said I, the text itself, considered with that which the apostle writeth of Christ, the Restorer and Reformer of “all things that be both in heaven and earth,” and with the argument which St. Paul presently hath in hand there, doth enforce a godly mind to take “every creature” there, as also St.
Chrysostom and St. Ambrose do, for the whole world and every creature both heavenly and earthly.
All things, I told you, were made for man: and according to man’s state, so are they. When man was without sin and in God’s favor, there was no malediction, curse, or corruption: but when man by sin was cast out of favor, then was the earth cursed. “For the wickedness of the inhabitants fruitful lands are turned into salt ground;” as, for their piety, barren countries are made fruitful. The angels themselves do “rejoice over one sinner that repenteth;” thereby giving us notice that in their kind they lament over the impenitent.
In reading the prophets, you may see how all things do depend of man.
When they prophesy any great blessing or plague to come to God’s people, they do communicate the same both to heaven and earth, and to everything else. As for example, when the prophets do foreshow the overthrows of realms and peoples, how do they say that the whole shape of the world shall be moved thereat! Look upon Esay, how he, when he prophesieth the fall of Babylon, doth say that “the stars shall not shine from heaven, the sun shall be darkened in his rising, the moon shall not give her light.” And afterwards he saith, “I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall be moved out of his place.”
But the histories do witness that there are wonderful changes of all creatures, both heavenly and earthly, in the overthrows and destructions of realms and people.
Again, when Esay doth prophesy of the kingdom of Christ, he doth promise “new heavens and new earth;” and that so excellent and new, that he showeth “the former heavens and earth to be utterly forgotten:” whereto the apostle agreeth, making Christ the Repairer of “all things in heaven and in earth.”
And behold the history of Christ: consider how the angels rejoiced; how the star brought the wise men to Christ; how the angels were ministers unto him in the wilderness; how the devils confessed him. In his death, how did all the whole world show compassion! “The sun was darkened;” “the earth did quake; the rocks clave asunder; the veil of the temple rent asunder.” When he arose, both heaven (for the angels with great heavenly brightness appeared), and earth which was moved, did rejoice: the angels were preachers of it. In his ascension also, did not a bright cloud “receive him and take him up?” Did not the angels testify of his return? When he sent the Holy Ghost, and made his “new covenant” of grace, did not all the whole world serve thereto, by thunder, smoke, fire, earthquake?
Now, how wonderfully they will do their service to Christ coming to judgment, is more plain than I need to rehearse. And inasmuch as we are “the members of Christ,” he being our “Head,” we may soon see how that all things have a certain compassion with man, and do after their kind (as the apostle writeth) look for a deliverance from vanity, which they shall obtain in their “restoration.”
I therefore told you, how that I do take the apostle to mean, by “every creature” simply, even all the whole shape and creatures in the world. He doth attribute unto them, how that they look for the perfection of our salvation; how that they are “subject to vanity;” how that they are “subject in hope;” how that they “groan and travail;” attributing these things unto the senseless creature by translation from man, to signify the society, cognation, and consent, which all and “every creature” hath with man; that, as every and all things were made for man, so by the man Christ all and “everything both earthly and heavenly” shall be “restored.”
These things, you know, in effect I spake unto you, to stir up both myself and you to a deeper consideration of our blessed state, which now we enjoy “in hope,” which will never deceive us, the more to occasion us to desire the full fruition of the same.
But I do remember that you were something troubled with some doubtfulness hereabout. Therefore I purpose now to write of this matter more at large, thereby to occasion us both to see better, through the help of God’s Spirit, that which we desire, and I pray God grant unto us both, for his mercy’s sake; I mean the felicity of his children, and the happy state which one day in very deed, my dear heart, we shall fully possess, and both together praise the Lord with all his saints world without end. Amen, Amen.
This was your doubt. If so be that St. Paul did mean by “all creatures” simply, as I have spoken, that they “shall be delivered from corruption” into such a state as shall adorn the freedom of God’s children; whether that plants, beasts, and other things having life, shall be restored? If yea, then you would know, whether all things that have been shall be restored also?
And after this, you will perchance ask in what place they shall be, what they shall do, and so forth.
As I think upon this matter, and as I am accustomed to answer such questions coming to me, I will here write for an answer unto you also; not doubting but that therewith you will be satisfied, because I know your heart is satisfied with godly and sufficient answers.
Thus I think. All and “every creature groaneth and travaileth” as yet, hoping and looking for my restoration: for they be subject to corruption for my sin’s sake; but they all shall be delivered by my Christ “from the bondage of corruption” then, when he shall restore us his members. This will I muse on and weigh with myself, that I may duly know, both in me and in all other things, the atrocity and bitterness of sin which dwelleth in me; and so may the more heartily give over myself wholly to the Lord Christ, my Savior; that he may, with what cross soever shall please him, slay sin in me, and bring me after his own will and way to “newness of life.” Whereunto, that I for my part may faithfully and with all my whole heart do my diligence in mortifying the desires of my flesh, and in laboring to obey the desires of the Spirit to live a life acceptable to him, I beseech him of his grace. And that I may do this cheerfully, and continue in this purpose and diligence, I will fasten my mind, as much as the Lord shall enable me, to consider this my so great happiness, whereunto I shall be restored “in the resurrection:” the which “resurrection” doubtless shall be adorned by the whole shape of the world “delivered from corruption.” These things will I think on, these things will I pause on: herein will I, as it were, drown myself, being careless of this, I mean, what parts of the world the Lord Christ will restore with me, or how he will do it, or what state or condition he will give it. It is enough and enough for me, that I, and all the whole world with me, shall be much more happy than now I can by any means conceive.
By reason hereof I will praise and glorify my Lord; and by his grace I will study to please him with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my strength; singing unto him that he both doth well, and hath done and made “all things well.” To him be eternal glory forever.
This is my cogitation in this matter, and not mine only, but the cogitation of one who was my father in the Lord, and now, I am assured, with the Lord at home; where we yet are from home by reason of these our corruptible habitacles, wherein we abide the Lord’s leisure.
If you would know the reason that moveth me to answer, as I have done, to the aforesaid doubts or questions, it is this. You see that the apostle, in this place to the Romans, speaketh of the “deliverance of every creature from the bondage of corruption;” and that to the beautifying of the glory of God’s children. This is so manifest that no man can well deny it. It is but a simple shift to say that the apostle doth mean in this place, by “every creature,” man only: he is not wont to speak on that sort. Neither dare I say that the apostle speaketh here hyperbolically or excessively, although some think so. But as I said, I say again, that the apostle doth here simply affirm that there shall be a renovation and a “deliverance from corruption,” not only of man, but also of all and of every part of the whole world: of every part, I say, meaning parts indeed, and not such as be rather vices and added for plagues, than for parts; for by reason of sin many spots and corruptions are come into the world, as is all that is hurtful and filthy in the creatures, also all that cometh of corruption, as perchance fleas, vermin, and such like.
This “renovation of all things” the prophets do seem to promise, when they promise “new heavens and new earth;” for “a new earth” seemeth to require no less renovation of earthly things than “new heavens” do of heavenly things. But these things the apostle doth plainly affirm that Christ will “restore, even whatsoever be in heaven and in earth.”
Therefore methinks it is the duty of a godly mind simply to acknowledge, and thereof to brag in the Lord, that in our resurrection “all things” shall be so repaired to eternity, as for our sin they were made subject to corruption.
The ancient writers, out of Peter, have, as it were, agreed to this sentence, that “the shape of this world shall pass away through the burning of earthly fire, as it was drowned with the flowing of earthly waters.” These be St. Augustine’s words, whereto I will add these which he here writeth: “The qualities,” saith he, “of the corruptible elements, which agreed with our corruptible bodies, shall utterly be burned with that same worldly conflagration and burning, as I said: but the substance itself shall have those qualities which do agree by a marvelous change to our bodies, that the world, changing into the better, may openly be made meet to man, returned even in the flesh into the better.” These be his words, whereby it is plain that this good man did believe that the elements should be renewed: but of other things he meddleth not, except it be of “the sea,” by the occasion of that which is in the Apocalypse; howbeit, so he speaketh, that he “cannot well tell whether it also shall be changed into the better,” adding these words, “But we read that there shall be a new heaven and a new earth.” For he did understand the place of Esay, concerning the “new heaven and new earth” simply: of other things he expresseth nothing.
But Thomas Aquinas entreateth this question more exactly, or rather curiously, affirming the celestial bodies, the elements, and mankind to be renewed; but in no wise beasts, plants, etc. to be so: and this is his principal reason: “The renovation of the world shall be for man: therefore such shall be the renovation, as shall be conformable to the renovation of man. But the renovation of man shall be from corruption to incorruption, from moving to rest :... the things therefore that shall be renewed with man must be brought also to incorruption. Now the celestial bodies and the elements were made to incorruption; the one wholly and in every part, the other, that is, the elements, though in part they are corruptible, yet concerning the whole they are incorruptible; as man... is incorruptible concerning part, that is, the soul... But beasts, plants, etc. are corruptible both wholly and in every part: therefore they were not made to incorruption;... and so are they not conformable to the renewing, that is, they are not receivable of incorruption: and therefore they shall not be restored.” This reason is true in this part, that it affirmeth ‘things shall be restored with man, and with him shall be brought to perpetuity;’ and, as the apostle saith, to be “delivered from the bondage of corruption.” Again, his reason is true herein also, that man’s reason may sooner be persuaded, that things now ‘partly incorruptible’ shall be restored altogether to incorruption.
But now to say, that by no reason those things may be brought to perpetuity, which now both wholly and partly be temporal and momentary, how can he prove it? in that the nature and being of all things dependeth on the omnipotency of God, which, after his own pleasure, doth give to things which he hath made their being: and all is one to him, to make a thing temporal, and to make it eternal. For he made all things of nothing: and therefore heaven and the celestial bodies have no more of themselves that they be perpetual, than have those things that last but a day. Wherefore this reason which Thomas maketh is not firm, in that it wholly leaneth to that which now seemeth and appeareth in things.
Indeed, as I said, it hath some show or probability, that these things shall be renewed to eternity for the glory of God’s children, which now something are partakers of the same. But now, seeing that both it which they now have, and also shall have, dependeth upon the beck and pleasure of God; whom hath God made of counsel with him concerning the renovation of the world and of all things, that he can tell what parts of things and what kinds of things he will renew?
Yea, even Aristotle did acknowledge that physice or ‘natural knowledge,’ because it bringeth his reasons from the disposition and nature of things, hath not full necessity of his reasons. For nature is nothing else than the ordinary and wonted will of God, as a miracle, portent, or monster is the rare and unwonted will of God. We say that the nature of stones and all heavy things is to sink downward, which is nothing else but the pleasure of God so depelling them and putting them down; for else of themselves nothing is either heavy or light, all is alike to be carried downwards or upwards. Who may make God subject to his work? Cannot he, that made all things of nothing, give hereafter to the things that he hath made that whereof now in themselves they have no capacity?
These things I do therefore rehearse, to the end I might declare, that when we dispute what God will do concerning his works, how that it is not seemly for us to conclude according to that which seemeth and appeareth to us in things; but rather, as godliness requireth, to refer all things to the “will of God.” This “will” if it be expressed in holy scripture, then may we simply determine that which we read expressed there. But if it be not so, then ought we freely to confess our ignorance, and not prescribe to God what he ought to do of his works, by that which already he hath done. God is of power infinite: and of nothing did he not only make all things, but also will “do what pleaseth him both in heaven and in earth,” saith David.
The aforesaid Thomas bringeth forth also other reasons, but which he himself counteth not for invincible. One is: “If beasts and plants shall be restored, either all or some shall be restored. If all shall be restored, then must the resurrection be communicate unto them, that the same in number be restored; which is not convenient. If some shall be restored, there appeareth no reason why these should be restored more than other: therefore,” saith he, “they shall not be restored.” But here what would he answer, if one should ask him, how he knoweth it is not convenient that either ‘all’ in number be restored (as man shall arise), either only ‘some?’ in that this thing wholly resteth in the hand and will of God.
Another reason he maketh out of Aristotle, and out of a ground which is uncertain. Aristotle affirmeth “the perpetuity of things to hang on the continual moving of heaven.” Thomas now hereto gathereth thus: “But the moving of heaven shall cease;” therefore he concludeth that “in these inferior things no perpetuity may be looked for.” But here what answer will he make, if a man shall say that all things hang at the beck and pleasure of God, who now for the conservation of his creatures, which now arise and spring, and now die and fall down, useth ‘the moving of heaven,’ and can afterwards not use it for this purpose? This is a truth, that all things of themselves are nothing: much more then can they not do anything. Now men may conjecture that ‘the moving of heaven shall cease;’ but yet by the certain word of God they cannot prove it.
In like manner is his last reason, which he maketh of the “end” of beasts and plants; but which ‘end’ he knoweth not: “Beasts and plants,” saith he, “were made for the sustentation of the mutual life of man: but this life shall cease, therefore shall they also.” But here hath he no answer, if a man should demand, Who knoweth whether God have made them to none other ‘end’ or use?
Seeing therefore these things be as you see, I suppose it not to pertain to a godly man to deny the beasts and plants to be restored, in that the apostle doth here expressly say that “every creature, which is now subject to vanity, shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” In that the Holy Ghost doth affirm this of “every creature,” by what reason dare a godly mind exempt any part from this deliverance to come? Howbeit, neither will the godly mind contend whether every creature shall be renewed; for the Holy Ghost spake of “the creature” generally, and not particularly: and therefore we may not otherwise affirm, because we must not speak but God’s word.
Therefore it is the part of a godly man, and of one that hangeth in all things upon the word of God, to learn out of this place that whatsoever corruption, death, or grief, he seeth in anything wheresoever it be, that, I say, he ascribe that wholly unto his sins, and thereby provoke himself to true repentance. Now as soon as that repentance compelleth him to go to Christ, let him think thus: ‘But this my Savior, and my Head Jesus Christ, died for my sins; and therewith, as he took away death, so hath he taken away all the corruption and labor of all things, and will restore them in his time, whether soever they be in heaven or in earth. Now “every creature travaileth and groaneth” with us; but we being restored, they also shall be restored. There shall be “new heavens,” “new earth,” and “all things new.”’ Thus I wish that our minds might stay in this generality of the renovation of the world; and not curiously to search what parts of the world shall be restored, and what shall not; or how all things shall be restored: much more then I would not have us curious nor inquisitive of their place, where they shall be; of their action, what they shall do; or of their properties, and such like. For if to have foreknown these things would have made much to godliness, surely the Holy Ghost would most plainly have told them; for, according to Christ’s promise, “he bringeth us into all truth;” “all truth,” I say, such as the knowledge of it would profit us. “All the scripture is given to us for this purpose, that the man of God might be made perfect, and instructed to all good works:” and truly that can be no “good work” which we do, except God teach us the same. He “hath prepared the good works wherein we walk.” But the certain and bottomless fountain of these “good works” is, in all things to hang on the beck and pleasure of God; and through our Lord Jesus Christ, to look for, with ‘remission of sins,’ ‘life everlasting,’ and the glory of ‘the resurrection.’
To the end therefore that we may more fully know our sins, and more make of our redemption from them by Christ, let us set before our eyes death, the hire of sin; and that not only in ourselves, but also in “every creature” of the world. Howbeit, this let us do with a hope of so ample a “restoration,” and never enough to be marveled at; which shall be even in all things for our renovation by our Lord Jesus Christ, the Renewer of “all things whatsoever be in heaven or in earth.”
He that with true faith weigheth and considereth these things will be, as it were, swallowed up in the admiration of so exceeding great “benevolence and love of God” our heavenly Father, that he can never admit to yield to this curiosity of searching what kind of things shall be renewed, and how they shall be renewed, or what state or condition they shall be in when they are renewed.
These be things of the life to come, whereof this foreknowledge is sufficient, that all these things shall be more perfect and happy than the reach of reason is able to look upon the glory of them. For “the eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, nor it cannot ascend into man’s heart, that God hath prepared for them that love him;” for concerning our resurrection what other thing do we know beforehand, but that we shall be most happy?
Even so therefore let us not doubt, but that there shall be a “deliverance of the creature from the servitude of corruption.”
And let us consider these things so, that we may wholly bend ourselves to put away all “the oldness” of our flesh, whence indeed corruption and death doth come; and that we may provoke ourselves to the “newness of the Spirit” and “the life of Christ,” wherein is all incorruption, and the true taste of the resurrection: for to this end the Holy Ghost did write this by the apostle. That therefore this Spirit might lead us hereunto, let us pray: and then we shall understand this place of Paul with profit.
If perchance it will move you, that the apostle speaketh not of this “deliverance of the creature from corruption” in any other place but here, neither any other holy writer; I would you would think, that the mystery of the “restoration of Israel,” also of antichrist, is not expounded but in the apostle’s writings, and that but in one place: yea, the manner of our resurrection is not written but in two places. We ought to know that they are the words of the Lord, whatsoever the apostle hath left to us written.
Again the simplicity of this place, Romans 8, is plain.
And thus, my dearly beloved, I have written to you so much as I think is sufficient about this matter; and therefore need not to tarry herein any longer, or to spend any more time about the answering of that which is but curiosity.
God our Father give us now his holy Spirit, to lead us into this and all other necessary truth, in such sort that we may have a lively feeling of “eternal life” begun in us; that we may become first “new,” and so “look for new heaven and earth, wherein righteousness dwelleth.”
Your own forever in the Lord, JOHN BRADFORD.