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PREACHED AT WHITEHALL.
Psalm Lxviii. 20. And unto God the Lord, belong the issues of death (from death). BUILDINGS stand by the benefit of their foundations that sustain them, support them; and of their buttresses that comprehend them, embrace them; and of their contingations that knit and unite them. The foundation suffers them not to sink ; the buttresses suffer them not to swerve; the contignation and knitting, suffer them not to cleave. The body of our building is in the former part of this verse; it is this; He that is our God, is the God of salvation; ad salutes, of salvations in the plural, so it is in the original; the God that gives us spiritual and temporal salvation too. But of this building, the foundation, the buttresses, the contignation are in this part of the verse, which
? Before that month ended (January 1630,) he was appointed to preach upon his old constant day, the first Friday in Lent (February 12, Ed.); he had notice of it, and had in his sickness so prepared for that employment, that as he had long thirsted for it, so he resolved his weakness should not hinder his journey; he came, therefore, to London some few days before his appointed day of preaching. At his coming thither, many of his friends (who with much sorrow saw his sickness had left him but so much flesh as did only cover his bones), doubted his strength to perform that task, and did therefore dissuade him from it, assuring him, however, it was likely to shorten his life ; but he passionately denied their requests, saying, “He would not doubt that that God, who in so many weaknesses had assisted him with an unexpected strength, would now withdraw it in his last employment, professing a holy ambition to perform that sacred work.” And when, to the amazement of some beholders, ho appeared in the pulpit, many of them thought he presented himself, not to preach mortification by a living voice, but mortality by a decayed body and a dying face. And doubtless many did secretly ask that question in Ezekiel (chap. xxxvii. 3), “ Do these bones live? or, can that soul organize that tongue to speak so long time as the sand in that glass will move towards its centre, and measure out an hour of this dying man's unspent life? Doubtless it cannot.” And yet, after some faint pauses in his zealous prayer, his strong desires enabled his weak body to discharge his memory of his preconceived meditations, which were of dying; the text being, “ To God the Lord belong the issues from death.” / Many that then saw his tears, and heard his faint and hollow voice, professing they thought the text prophetically chosen, and that Dr. Donne had preached his own funeral sermon.-WALTOM. [It was preached before the king, at Whitehall.-Ep.l
constitutes our text, and in the three diverse acceptations of the words amongst our expositors, Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death. For, first the foundation of this building, (that our God is the God of all salvation) is laid in this, That unto this God the Lord belong the issues of death; that is, it is his power to give us an issue and deliverance, even then when we are brought to the jaws and teeth of death, and to the lips of that whirlpool, the grave; and so in this acceptation, this exitus mortis, this issue of death is liberatio à morte, a deliverance from death; and this is the most obvious, and most ordinary acceptation of these words, and that upon which our translation lays hold, the issues from death. And then, secondly, the buttresses, that comprehend and settle this building; that He that is our God is the God of salvation, are thus raised; Unto God the Lord belong the issues of death, that is, the disposition and manner of our death, what kind of issue, and transmigration we shall have out of this world, whether prepared or sudden, whether violent or natural, whether in our perfect senses, or shaked and disordered by sickness; there is no condemnation to be argued out of that, no judgment to be made upon that, for howsoever they die, precious in his sight, is the death of his saints, and with him are the issues of death, the ways of our departing out of this life, are in his hands; and so, in this sense of the words, this exitus mortis, the issue of death, is liberatio in morte, a deliverance in death; not that God will deliver us from dying, but that he will have a care of us in the hour of death, of what kind soever our passage be; and this sense, and acceptation of the words, the natural frame and contexture doth well and pregnantly administer unto us.
And then lastly, the contignation and knitting of this building, that He that is our God, is the God of all salvation, consists in this, Unto this God the Lord belong the issues of death, that is, that this God the Lord, having united and knit both natures in one, and being God, having also come into this world, in our flesh, he could have no other means to save us, he could have no other issue out of this world, nor return to his former glory, but by death. And so in this sense, this exitus mortis, the issue of death, is liberatio per mortem, a deliverance by death, by the death of this God our Lord, Christ Jesus; and this is St. Augus
tine's acceptation of the words, and those many and great persons, that have adhered to him. In all these three lines then, we shall look upon these words ; first, as the God of power, the Almighty Father, rescues his servants from the jaws of death; and then, as the God of mercy, the glorious Son, rescued us, by taking upon himself the issue of death ; and then, (between these two,) as the God of comfort, the Holy Ghost, rescues us from all discomfort by his blessed impressions beforehand, that what manner of death soever be ordained for us, yet this exitus mortis, shall be introitus in vitam, our issue in death, shall be an entrance into everlasting life. And these three considerations, our deliverance à morte, in morte, per mortem, from death, in death, and by death, will abundantly do all the offices of the foundation, of the buttresses, of the contignation of this our building, that He that is our God, is the God of all saltation, because Unto this God the Lord belong the issues of death.
First then, we consider this exitus mortis, to be liberatio à morte; that with God the Lord are the issues of death, and therefore in all our deaths, and deadly calamities of this life, we may justly hope of a good issue from him; and all our periods and transitions in this life, are so many passages from death to death. Our very birth, and entrance into this life, is exitus à morte, an issue from death; for in our mother's womb, we are dead so, as that we do not know we live; not so much as we do in our sleep; neither is there any grave so close, or so putrid a prison, as the womb would be to us, if we stayed in it beyond our time, or died there, before our time. In the grave the worms do not kill us: we breed and feed, and then kill those worms, which we ourselves produced. In the womb the dead child kills the mother that conceived it, and is a murderer, nay a parricide, even after it is dead. And if we be not dead so in the womb, so, as that being dead, we kill her that gave us our first life, our life of vegetation, yet we are dead so as David's idols are dead; in the womb, we have eyes and see not, ears and hear not. There in the womb we are fitted for works of darkness, all the while deprived of light; and there, in the womb, we are taught cruelty, by being fed with blood; and may be damned though we be never born. Of our very making in the womb, David says, I am wonderfully and fearfully mades, and Such knowledge is too excellent for me*; for, Even that is the Lord's doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes', Ipse fecit nos, It is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves, no, nor our parents neither. Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me round about, says Job?; and, (as the original word is) Thou hast taken pains about me; and yet says he, Thou dost destroy me: though I be the master-piece of the greatest Master, (man is so) yet if thou do no more for me, if thou leave me where thou madest me, destruction will follow. The womb, which should be the house of life, becomes death itself, if God leave us there. That which God threatens so often, the shutting of the womb, is not so heavy nor so discomfortable a curse, in the first as in the latter shutting ; not in the shutting of barrenness, as in the shutting of weakness, when children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth. It is the exaltation of misery, to fall from a near hope of happiness. And in that vehement imprecation the prophet expresses the height of God's anger, Gire them, O Lord, what wilt thou give them? Give them a miscarrying womb'. Therefore as soon as we are men, (that is, inanimated, quickened in the womb) though we cannot ourselves, our parents have reason to say in our behalf, Wretched man that he is, who shall deliver him from this body of death 10? For, even the womb is the body of death, if there be no deliverer. It must be he that said to Jeremy, Before I formed thee I knew thee, and before thou camest out of the womb I sanctified thee". We are not sure that there was no kind of ship nor boat to fish in, nor to pass by, till God prescribed Noah that absolute form of the ark; that word which the Holy Ghost by Moses, uses for the ark, is common to all kinds of boats, thebah"; and is the same word that Moses uses for the boat that he was exposed in '3, that his mother laid him in an ark of bulrushes. But we are sure that Eve had no midwife when she was delivered of Cain; therefore she might well say, Possedi virum à Domino", I have gotten a man from
2 Psalm cxv, 6.
3 Psalm cxxxix. 14. * Psalm c. 3.
Hosea ix. 14.
- Psalm cxxxix. 6.
10 Rom. vii. 24.
5 Psalm cxviii. 23.
8 Isaiah xxxvii. 3. il Jer. i. v.
1* Gen. iv, 1.
the Lord; wholly, entirely from the Lord : it is the Lord that hath enabled me to conceive, the Lord hath infused a quickening soul into that conception, the Lord hath brought into the world that which himself had quickened; without all this might Eve say, my body had been but the house of death, and Domini Domini sunt exitus mortis, To God the Lord belong the issues of death.
But then this exitus à morte, is but introitus in mortem; this issue, this deliverance from that death, the death of the womb, is an entrance, a delivering over to another death, the manifold deaths of this world. We have a winding-sheet in our mother's womb, that grows with us from our conception, and we come into the world wound up in that winding-sheet; for we come to seek a grave. And, as prisoners, discharged of actions, may lie for fees, so when the womb hath discharged us, yet we are bound to it by cords of flesh, by such a string, as that we cannot go thence, nor stay there. We celebrate our own funeral with cries, even at our birth, as though our threescore and ten years of life were spent in our mother's labour, and our circle made up in the first point thereof. We beg one baptism with another, a sacrament of tears ; and we come into a world that lasts many ages, but we last not. In domo Patris, (says our blessed Saviour, speaking of heaven) multæ mansiones's, There are many, and mansions, divers and durable ; so that if a man cannot possess a martyr's house, (he hath shed no blood for Christ) yet he may have a confessor's; he hath been ready to glorify God, in the shedding of his blood. And if a woman cannot possess a virgin's house, (she hath embraced the holy state of marriage) yet she may have a matron's house; she hath brought forth, and brought up children in the fear of God. In domo Patris, In my Father's house, in heaven, there are many mansions, but here upon earth, The Son of man hath not where to lay his head', says he himself. No? terram dedit filiis hominum. How then hath God given this earth to the sons of men? He hath given them earth for their materials, to be made of earth ; and he hath given them earth for their grave and sepulture, to return and resolve to earth; but not for their possession. Here we have no continuing city'?; nay, no
15 John xiv. 2. 16 Matt. viii. 20. 17 Heb. xiii. 14.