By Lewis Bayly
After that the aged man has conflicted with long sickness, and having endured the brunt of pain, should now expect some ease, in comes death, nature's slaughterman, God's curse, and hell's purveyor, and looks the old man grim and black in the face; and neither pitying his age, nor regarding his long-endured dolours, will not be hired to forbear either for silver or gold; nay, he will not take to spare his life, skin for skin (Job i.), and all that the old man hath; but batters all the principal parts of his body, and arrests him to appear before the terrible Judge. And as thinking that the old man will not despatch to go with him fast enough, Lord! how many darts of calamities doth he shoot through him, stitches, aches, cramps, fevers, obstructions, rheums, phlegm, colic, stone, wind, &c. Oh, what a ghastly sight it is, to see him then in his bed, when death has given him his mortal wound what a cold sweat over-runs all his body-what a trembling possesses all his members!-the head shoots, the face waxeth pale, the nose black, the nether jaw-bone hangs down, the eye-strings break, the tongue falters, the breath shortens and smells earthy, and at every gasp the heart-strings are ready to break asunder. Now the miserable soul sensibly perceives her earthly body to begin to die; for as towards the dissolution of the universal frame of the great world, the sun shall be turned into darkness, the moon into blood, and the stars shall fall from heaven, the air shall be full of storms and flashing meteors, the earth shall tremble, and the sea shall roar, and men's hearts shall fail for fear, expecting the end of such sorrowful beginnings; so, towards the dissolution of man, which is the little world, his eyes, which are as the sun and moon, lose their light, and see nothing but blood-guiltiness of sin; the rest of the senses, as lesser stars, do one after another fail and fall-his mind, reason, and memory, as heavenly powers of his soul, are shaken with fearful storms of despair, and fierce flashings of hell fire-his earthly body begins to shake and tremble, and the humours. like an overflowing sea, roar and rattle in his throat, still expecting the Woful end of these dreadful beginnings.
Whilst he is thus summoned to appear at the great assizes of God's judgment, behold, a quarter-sessions and jail-delivery is held within himself; where reason sits as judge, the devil puts in a bill of indictment, as large as that book of Zachary (Zech. v. 2; Ezek. ii. 10); wherein is alleged all thy evil deeds that ever thou hast committed, and all the good deeds that ever thou hast omitted, and all the curses and judgments that are due to every sin. Thine own conscience shall accuse thee, and thy memory shall give bitter evidence, and death stands at the bar ready, as a cruel executioner, to dispatch thee. If thou shalt thus condemn thyself, how shalt thou escape the just condemnation of God, who knows all thy misdeeds better than thyself? (1 John iii. 20.) Fain wouldest thou put out of thy mind the remembrance of thy wicked deeds that trouble thee; but they flow faster into thy remembrance, and they will not be put away, but cry unto thee, We are thy works, and we will follow thee! and whilst thy soul is thus within, out of peace and order, thy children, wife, and friends trouble thee as fast, to have thee put thy goods in order; some crying, some craving, some pitying, some cheering; all, like flesh-flies, helping to make thy sorrows more sorrowful (Luke xii. 20.) Now the devils, who are come from hell to fetch away thy soul, begin to appear to her; and wait, as soon as she comes forth, to take her, and carry her away. Stay she would within, but that she feels the body begin by degrees to die, and ready, like a ruinous house, to fall upon her head. Fearful she is to come forth, because of those hell-hounds which wait for her coming. Oh, she that spent so many days and nights in vain and idle pastimes, would now give the whole world, if she had it, for one hour's delay, that she might have space to repent, and reconcile herself unto God! But it cannot be, because her body, which joined with her in the actions of sin, is altogether now unfit to join with her in the exercise of repentance: and repentance must be of the whole man.
Now she sees that all her pleasures are gone, as if they had never been; and that but only torments remain, which never shall have end of being. Who can sufficiently express her remorse for her sins past, her anguish for her present misery, and her terror for her torments to come?
In this extremity she looks everywhere for help, and she finds herself every way helpless. Thus in her greatest misery, desirous to hear the least word of comfort, she directs this or the like speech to her eyes: O eyes, who in times past were so quick-sighted, can ye spy no comfort, nor any way how I might escape this dreadful danger? But the eye-strings are broken, they cannot see the candle that burns before them, nor discern whether it be day or night.
The soul, finding no comfort in the eyes, speaks to the ears: O ears, who were wont to recreate yourselves with hearing new pleasant discourses, and music's sweetest harmony, can you hear any news or tidings of the least comfort for me? The ears are either so deaf, that they cannot hear at all, or the sense of hearing is grown so weak, that it cannot endure to hear his dearest friends speak. And why should those ears hear any tidings of joy in death, who could never abide to hear the glad tidings of the gospel in this life? The ear can minister no comfort.
Then she intimates her grief to the tongue: O tongue, who wast wont to brag it out with the bravest, where are now thy big and daring words? Now, in my greatest need, canst thou speak nothing in my defence? Canst thou neither daunt these enemies with threatening words, nor entreat them with fair speeches? Alas! the tongue two days ago lay speechless: it cannot, in his greatest extremity, either call for a little drink, or desire a friend to take away with his finger the phlegm that is ready to choke him.
Finding here no hope of help, she speaks to the feet: Where are ye, O feet, which sometime were so nimble in running? Can you carry me nowhere out of this dangerous place? The feet are stone-dead already: if they be not stirred, they cannot stir.
Then she directs her speech to her hands: O hands, who have been so often approved for manhood, in peace and war, and wherewith I have so often defended myself, and offended my foes, never had I more need than now. Death looks me grim in the face, and kills me-hellish fiends wait about my bed to devour me: help now, or I perish for ever. Alas! the hands are so weak, and do so tremble, that they cannot reach to the mouth a spoonful of liquid, to relieve languishing nature.
The wretched soul, seeing herself thus desolate, and altogether destitute of friends, help, and comfort, and knowing that within an hour she must be in everlasting pains, retires herself to the heart (which of all members is primum vivens, and ultimum moriens), from whence she makes this doleful lamentation with herself.
O miserable caitiff that I am! how do the sorrows of death compass me! how do the floods of Belial make me afraid! (2 Sam. xxii. 5.) Now have, indeed, the snares both of the first and second death overtaken me at once. O how suddenly has death stolen upon me with insensible degrees! like the sun, which the eye perceives not to move, though it be most swift of motion. How does death wreak on me his spite without pity! The God of mercy has utterly forsaken me; and the devil, who knows no mercy, waits to take me. How often have I been warned of this doleful day by the faithful preachers of God's word, and I made but a jest of it! What profit have I now of all my pride, fine house, and gay apparel? What is become of the sweet relish of all my delicious fare? All the worldly goods which I so carefully gathered, would I now give for a good conscience, which I so carelessly neglected. And what joy remains now of all my former fleshly pleasures, wherein I placed my chief delight? those foolish pleasures were but deceitful dreams, and now they are past like vanishing shadows: but to think of those eternal pains which I must endure for those short pleasures, pains me as hell before I enter into hell. Yet justly, I confess, as I have deserved I am served; that being made after God's image a reasonable soul, able to judge of mine own estate, and having mercy so often offered, and I entreated to receive it, I neglected God's grace, and preferred the pleasures of sin before the religious care of pleasing God; lewdly spending my short time, without considering what accounts I should make at my last end. And now all the pleasures of my life being put together, countervail not the least part of my present pains: my joys were but momentary, and gone before I could scarce enjoy them; my miseries are eternal, and never shall know an end. O that I had spent the hours that I consumed in carding, dicing, playing, and other vile exercises, in reading the scriptures, in hearing sermons, in receiving the communion, in weeping for my sins, in fasting, watching, praying, and in preparing my soul, that I might have now departed in the assured hope of everlasting salvation! O that I were now to begin my life again! how would I contemn the world and its vanities! how religiously and purely would I lead my life! how would I frequent the church, and sanctify the Lord's day! If Satan should offer me all the treasures, pleasures, and promotions of this world, he should never entice me to forget these terrors of this last dreadful hour. But, O corrupt carcase and loathsome carrion! how has the devil deluded us! and how have we served and deceived each other, and pulled swift damnation upon us both! Now is my case more miserable than the beast that perisheth in a ditch; for I must go to answer before the judgment-seat of the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, where I shall have none to speak for me: and these wicked fiends, who are privy to all my evil deeds, will accuse me, and I cannot excuse myself; my own heart already condemns me; I must needs therefore be damned before his judgment-seat, and from thence be carried by these infernal fiends into that horrible prison of endless torments and utter darkness, where I shall never more see light, that first most excellent thing that God made. I, who gloried heretofore in being a libertine, am now enclosed in the very claws of Satan, as the trembling partridge is within the griping talons of the ravenous falcon. Where shall I lodge to-night-and who shall be my companions? O horror to think! O grief to consider! O cursed be the day wherein I was born, and let not the day wherein my mother bare me be blessed! Cursed be the man that shewed my father, saying, "A child is born unto thee," and comforted him; cursed be that man because he slew me not! O that my mother might have been my grave, or her womb a perpetual conception! How is it that I came forth of the womb to endure these hellish sorrows, and that my days should thus end with eternal shame? Cursed be the day that I was first united to so vile a body! O that I had but so much favour as that I might never see thee more! Our parting is bitter and doleful, but our meeting again, to receive at that dreadful day the fulness of our deserved vengeance, will be far more terrible and intolerable. But what mean I thus, by too late lamentation, to seek to prolong time? my last hour is come, I hear the heart-strings break: this filthy-house of clay falls on my head; here is neither hope, help, nor place of any longer abiding. And must I needs be gone, thou filthy carcase? O filthy carcase! with fare-ill, farewell, I leave thee: And so all trembling she comes forth, and forthwith is seized upon by infernal fiends, who carry her with a violence torrenti simili to the bottomless lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; where she is kept as a prisoner in torments till the general judgment of the great day (Rev. xxi. 8; Jude, ver. 6; 1 Pet. iii. 19.)
The loathsome carcase is afterwards laid in the grave. In which action, for the most part, the dead bury the dead; that is, they who are dead in sin, bury them who are dead for sin. And thus the godless and unregenerated worldling, who made earth his paradise, his belly his god, his lust his law; as in his life he sowed vanity, so he is now dead, and reapeth misery. In his prosperity he neglected to serve God: in his adversity God refuses to save him; and the devil, whom he long served, now at length pays him his wages. Detestable was his life, damnable is his death. The devil has his soul, the grave has his carcase: in which pit of corruption, den of death, and dungeon of sorrow, let us leave the miserable sinner, rotting with his mouth full of earth, his belly full of worms, and his carcase full of stench; expecting a fearful resurrection, when the body shall be reunited with the soul; that as they sinned together, so they may be eternally tormented together.
Thus far of the miseries of the soul and body is death, which is but cursedness in part: Now follows the fulness of cursedness, which is the misery of the soul and body after death.