By Lewis Bayly
Now, forasmuch as God of his infinite mercy doth so temper our pain and sickness, that we are not always oppressed with extremity, but gives us in the midst of our extremities some respite, to ease and refresh ourselves, thou must have an especial care, considering how short a time thou hast either for ever to lose or to obtain heaven, to make use of every breathing time which God affords thee; and during that little time of ease to gather strength against the fits of greater anguish. Therefore, in these times of relaxation and ease use some of these short thoughts and sighs:-
The first Thought.
Seeing every man enters into this life in tears, passeth it in sweat, and ends it in sorrow, ah! what is there in it, that a man should desire to live any longer in it! O what a folly is it, that when the mariner rows with all his force to arrive at the wished port, and that the traveller never resteth till he come to his journey's end, we fear to descry our port, and therefore would put back our bark to be longer tossed in this continual tempest; we weep to see our journey's end, and, therefore, desire our journey to be lengthened, that we might be more tired with a foul and cumbersome way.
The spiritual Sigh thereupon.
O Lord, this life is but a troublesome pilgrimage, few in days, but full in evils (Gen. xlvii. 9), and I am weary of it, by reason of my sins. Let me, therefore, O Lord, entreat thy majesty, in this my bed of sickness, as Elias did under the juniper tree in his affliction,-It is now enough, O Lord, that I have lived so long in this vale of misery, take my soul into thy merciful hands, for I am no better than my fathers (1 Kings xix. 4.)
The second Thought.
Think with what a body of sin thou art laden (Rom. vii. 24), what great civil wars are contained in a little world (Jam. iv. 1;) the flesh fighting against the spirit (Gal. v. 17), passion against reason, earth against heaven, and the world within thee banding itself for the world without thee; and that but one only means remains to end this conflict-death, which, in God's appointed time, will separate thy spirit from thy flesh, the pure and regenerate part of thy soul, from that part which is impure and unregenerated.
The spiritual Sigh upon the second Thought.
"O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" (Rom. vii. 24.) O my sweet Saviour Jesus Christ, "thou hast redeemed me with thy precious blood!" (Rev. v. 9.) And "because thou hast delivered my soul from sin, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling" (Psal. cxvi. 8), I do here, from the very bottom of my heart, ascribe the whole praise and glory of my salvation to thy only grace and mercy (Psal. cxlv.), saying with the holy apostle, "Thanks be unto God, which hath given me the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. xv. 57.)
The third Thought.
Think how it behoves thee to be assured that thy soul is Christ's, for death hath taken sufficient gages to assure himself of thy body, in that all thy senses are ready to die, save only the sense of pain; but since the beginning of thy being began with pain, marvel the less if thy end conclude with dolours. But if these temporal dolours, which only afflict the body, be so painful, O Lord, "who can endure the devouring fire? who can abide the everlasting burning?" (Isa. xxxiii. 14.)
The spiritual Sigh upon the third Thought.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who art the only physician that canst ease my body from pain, and restore my soul to life eternal, put thy passion, cross, and death, between my soul and thy judgments, and let the merits of thy obedience stand between thy Father's justice and my disobedience, and from these bodily pains receive my soul into thy everlasting peace: for I cry unto thee with Stephen, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" (Acts vii. 59.)
The fourth Thought.
Think that the worst that death can do, is but to send thy soul sooner than thy flesh would be willing to Christ and his heavenly joys; remember that that worst is thy best hope. The worst, therefore, of death, is rather a help than a harm.
The spiritual Sigh upon the fourth Thought.
O Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all them that put their trust in thee, forsake not him that in misery flieth unto thy grace for succour and mercy. O sound that sweet voice in the ears of my soul, which thou spakest unto the penitent thief on the cross, "This day thou shalt be with me in paradise" (Luke xxiii. 43.) For I, O Lord, do, with the apostle, from my soul speak unto thee, "I desire to be dissolved, and to be with Christ" (Phil. i. 23.)
The fifth Thought.
Think, if thou fearest to die, that in mount Sion there is no death; for he that believeth in Christ shall never die (Isa. xxv. 7, 8; John xi. 25.) And if thou desirest to live, without doubt the life eternal, to which this death is a passage, surpasseth all. There do all the faithful departed, having ended their miseries, live with Christ in joys. And thither shall all the godly which survive be gathered out of their troubles to enjoy with him eternal rest.
The spiritual Sigh on the fifth Thought.
O Lord, thou seest the malice of Satan, who not contenting himself, like a roaring lion, all the days and nights of our life, to seek our destruction (1 Pet. v. 8), shews himself busiest when thy children are weakest and nearest to their end; O Lord, reprove him, and preserve my soul. He seeks to terrify me with death, which my sins have deserved; but let thy Holy Spirit comfort my soul with the assurance of eternal life, which thy blood hath purchased. Assuage my pain, increase my patience, if it be thy blessed will, end my troubles, for my soul beseecheth thee with old Simeon, "Lord, now let me thy servant depart in peace according to thy word" (Luke ii. 29.)
The sixth Thought.
Think with thyself what a blessing God hath bestowed upon thee above many millions in the world; that whereas they are either Pagans, who worship not the true God, or idolaters, who worship the true God falsely, thou hast lived in a true Christian church, and hast grace to die in the true Christian faith, and to be buried in the sepulchre of God's servants; who all wait for the hope of Israel (Acts xxvi. 6, 7), the raising of their bodies in the resurrection of the just (Luke xiv. 14.)
The spiritual Sigh upon the sixth Thought.
O Lord Jesus Christ, who art the resurrection and the life, in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he were dead, I believe that whosoever liveth and believeth in thee, shall never die. I know that I shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day; for I am sure, that thou, my Redeemer, livest: and though that after my death, worms destroy this body; yet I shall see thee, my Lord and my God, in this flesh (John xi. 24, 25, 26; Job xix. 25, 26.) Grant, therefore, O Christ, for thy bitter death and passion's sake, that at that day I may be one of them to whom thou wilt pronounce that joyful sentence, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you before the foundation of the world" (Matt. xxv. 34.)
The seventh Thought.
Think with thyself how Christ endured for thee a cursed death, and the wrath of God (Gal. iii. 13), which was due unto thy sins; and what terrible pains and cruel torments the apostles and martyrs have voluntarily suffered for the defence of Christ's faith, when they might have lived by dissembling or denying him: how much more willing shouldst thou be to depart in the faith of Christ, having less pains to torment thee, and more means to comfort thee?
The spiritual Sigh upon the seventh Thought.
O Lord, my sins have deserved the pains of hell and eternal death, much more these fatherly corrections wherewith thou dost afflict me. But, O blessed Lamb of God, which takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me, and wash away all my filthy sins with thy most precious blood, and receive my soul into thy heavenly kingdom, for into thy hands, O Father, I commend my spirit, for thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, thou God of truth (John i. 29; Rev. i. 5; Luke xxiii. 42; Psal. xxxi. 5.)