Ambrose Serle.

The church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. online

. (page 32 of 33)
Online LibraryAmbrose SerleThe church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. → online text (page 32 of 33)
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in tb^r dying hours, confiroaed the happiness and wifr*

dom of true religion; and shall leave their testimonies

for tbe reader's reflection.

Salmasius was one of the profoundest scholars th^
world ever saw, and, as he was leaving it, made this
confession: " O I have lost a world of time! Time, that
^* most precious thing in the world ; of which had I but
*' one year longer, it should be spent in reading David^s
'* Psalms, and Paul's Epistles. O Sirs, (addressing him-
'* self to those who surrounded his bed,) mind the world
*• less, and God more. All the learning in the worlds
^* without piety and the true fear of the Lord, is nothing
« worth. The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and
*' to depart from evil, that is understanding.'*

The other instance I would mention, is Selden, of
whose immense erudition it is quite superfluous to say
a word. Upon his death-bed, he sent for archbishop
Usher and Dr. Langbaine, two of his intimate friends,

G g 4 and


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and convened with them to this effect: ** That he had
^ surveyed most part of the leamii^ that v^as among
^ the sons of men ; that he had his study full of books
^ and papers upon most subjects in the world ; yet at
'* that time he could not recollect any passage, out of
'*the multitude of books and manuscripts tliathewas
*^ master of, wherein he could rest his soul, except in
'* the HOLT sc&iPTu&BS : and one passage of this
*' blessed book lay with most weight upon bis sjMri^
*^ taken from the apostle PauTs epistle to TUus: The
^ grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared
** to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness
^ and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously,
^ and godly, in this present world ; looking for that
*' blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great
*' God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave him*
^* self for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity,
^ and purify unto himself a peculiar people, aealous of
^ good woiks.*'



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Rcfruere, ut naiu9 mortalii : dilige ted rmi,
Tanquam immorialts, ■ ■■

X HSRC was a man, who became rich ; and the method
lie took to become so, was this.
' He exercised himself in his calling almost night and
day; and he followed this course for many years. And
he said within himself, ** I will be rich, and I will do
thus and thus to get riches." And accordingly he rose
early in the morning ; and he invited several poor persons^
saying; ** Work for me, and I will give you that which
will buy meaty drink, and cloathiog.'* And the poor people
heaikened to him ; and they worked hard on that day,
and the day following, and on the day after tliat, ^d
80 on for many days together. And he screwed out of
their labor, and the profits of their labor, money upon
money, increasing it in time to a heap. And when he
had thus gotten one heap, he took the same means to
make up another, and another after that, till he had raised
many heaps; the poor people wondering all the while
when they saw, how last they made his heaps to grow
up» and having no power or skill, though inclination
enough, tomake one for themselves.
When he bad thus amused himself and them for about




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46t A eoMMoir history.

ibirty years, he began to say within himself^ ** Now will
I enjoy the heaps 1 have raised ; aod these poor people
shall admire how much I will enjoy them/' And he
committed the method of making heaps into other hands ;
but first agreed with them, that the heaps they should
raise by his method should be shared between him and
them. And they joyfully consented diereto. And
upon this he retired into woods and lawns, saying, *^ Now
will I live a rural life." And he got men together to
build him an house; and he pleased himself extremely
to see how the men toiled and sweat to build a house
for him. And-they wrought hard while he looked upon
them, and diey played when be did not; and they
langhed at him as a fool for building such a house, and
for building it when he was old. And he ^UaUked the
ground about the house he was building; and he would
have it altered; and he ordered one lump of dirt to be
laid in one place, that it might be higher, and another
taken away from pother place, that it might be lower;
and that he might see a tree that stood afer off, and
that a place be did not like to see might be hidden.
And be sspd, it was all very fme. And he furnished
this house with many things ; and he called upon all hi^
neighbours to admire them. And they visited him, and
admired them all to lus face, and reviled both him and
them behind his back, as being all without taste or
propriety. And they bowed, and smiled, and said
compliments, whkrh is supposed to be an ingenk)us art
of speaking any thing and meaning nothing, and he did
the same to them; and this, they declared, ^i^ being
very happy. And when they departed ; they did not



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▲ COMMOM HI8TOBir« 459

gpare his method of making heaps^ nor his personal
.defects, nor his vanity, nor his situation, nor Im
pleasure^ nor any thing else that he had. And this
^nvy and spleen they called jocularity and taste. And
he also got together a great number of people catkd
servants; and he cloathed them, and fed them, and
made them live with him in his house and in his gardens,
and distributed some of his heaps s^mong them for so
living. And he looked after them diligently, and they
pifter him— as they could. And he fancied, that he
enjoyed the cloaths he gave theiy^ more than they did^
^nd a]^ their victuals, and their drink^ and their time;
and that he had laboured hard for many years for this
very good purpose; and that it was a great satisfac^tion to
pee how well they looked, and how se%dily they lived
with him to occupy )iis thoughts and his cares for his
money. And all the people wondered and stared to see
so many servants about him, and so many horses and
dogs, and other animals; and this he called great felicity;
and he did all be could to make them wonder and stare
again. And they did so again and again, till he and
they were tired of this wondering and staring; and then
he began to feel, that he was hungry. And '*now
(said he) will I enjoy my belly.*' And he eat, and he
drank, so much and of so many things, that he could
eat and drink no more. And he repeated this from day
to day, and for several years; and his servants, and his
horses, and his dogs, and all the animals about his
house, did so likewise ; and at length by these means
he grew sick and diseased ; and physicians were sent for^
who obliged him to swallow down all manner of nauseous
things, which they told htm might happen to cure him,



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but they did not; and so at length he died, having done
ail he could to destroy nature, as well as hired othe» to
assist him in doing it And then he had a sumptuous
funeral, Avith plumes; and horses, and so forth. And
hb corpse was dressed iif the highest style of death, and
was wrapped in lead, and carried along from one place
to another with great pomp ; and all the peoplejidmiredy
how wisely he had contrived to enjoy so many fine
things, and to get such a fine funeral, and to be laid at
Jast in a church, and in a fine tomb. And they all re-
solved to do, if they could, as he had done ; and one
thought within himself, '* Now, is not all this worth being
damned for?" And he said no, with his mouth, but
in his heart and Uk the yery contrary; for he went and
did likewise, as much as he could driving out all un^
seasonable thoughts of God (as he considered Ihem) till
he could think no longer, and at length departed as the
other had done before him. And tl\ere are thousands
that see all this, and approve it, and say, ^* That this is
the best way of spending a man's time, and this thechi^
and great end of his coming into the world.''

Reader; art thou the man, or one of the men,
above described ? And, in that case is not this history,
ironical as it may seem, most seriously thine? Is not the
anxious bustle of thy life for objects, and only for
objects, like these, at once deplorably ridiculous and
(dreadful ? Can word describe, or thought conceive, how
ridiculous, and yet how dreadful ? And hast thou the
shadow of a right, then, under a conduct so certainly
tending to ruin, to treat with contempt, or to cast
ridicule upon those, who wish to be wise for eternity
pmd cannot be content to murder their time?



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'isthuc est saperCf non quod ante pedes modo est

Videre; sed etiam illii, quee/utura sunt


JLt is a very oommon, but a very unjust and profligate
opinion which obtains in the world, that the fear of
God, and the knowledge and practice of religion en-
tirely unfit a man for the discussion of public affairs,
or the proper service of his country* Unhappily, those
persons, who pass this judgement, are very much dis-
qualified for the office; because they do not appear ta
undei^tatid the merits of the case. For, as none but
irreligious people could adopt a sentiment of this
kind; so, being irreligious, it is not uncha^ritable to say,
that they are incapable of deciding upon a principle,
which (over .and above the force of the natural under-i
standing) is the wisdom of God in the mind, and
holiness from God in the heart and life. The facut
ties of such men are too overwhelmed with the sen-
«ualitie3 and disorders of the world to see the beauty
and propriety of a subject, which is only to be under-
stood by a nobler energy and elevation of soul, than
can be raised frpm the unassisted powers of faUea



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But this notion is fiilae in fact. Some of the greatest
and wisest statesmen, who, under God, have blened
the world, were eminently disUnguished for their fove
and knowledge of divine truth, and for the circum«
cpection and purity of their ttves; And indeed, how
can a man be properly wise, who neither knows, nor
admires, nor follows, the highest wisdom in the world?
^-a wisdom, which not only furnishes the soul with vast
and comprehensive ideas, but (what is no less impor-
tant) enables it to pursue^ through aif the shadows of
time, its own proper and eternal felicity. It is not too
lianih to lay, that a man is, to tfat greatest of all pur-^
poses, a fool, who b only sagacious for the trifles of a
moment, while he is stupid in eveiy thing beyond iL
How can he be truly a man of sense, who neglects tlii
most solid happiness in this world, and his evarbsting
stfety in anoUier? That person is wise to very htlk
purpose, who is not wise to his own salvation.

The Opinion I am bold to condemn, is foil of mi^
chief to society, and tends to defeat eveiy purpose of
human polity. The vice of thought usually produces
impiety of pmctice ; and from hence we may trace thd
domineering widredness of the present day. This wide-
edness, either by the secret ordination or the opea
judgement of Providence, always entails upon a people
Wretchedness and ruin; as thfe histories of nations, fnom
their earliest date, do most awfully prove. In public
communities, as well as in private life, there is no such
thing as real prosperity and happiness, tHthout honour
and justke, godliness and trutlu /

The Bible furwhea exampte aft^ example to d6»



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monstrate this iact: And what are all the atinab of the
world, but 80 many attestations of it? The rery miseries
.recorded of past mankind have always been described
as originating in wickedness; and the chief detail of
human aifaiis b composed of the recital of human sins.
Wherever a decent or sober period comes in, the his*
torian is perplexed for materials, and passes over it as
a circumstance so foreign in the worid, as scarcely to
be described or known. I believe it will be confirmed
by the experience of all mankind^ that no bad mati
was ever honoured by Providence to be a real and
lasting blessing, properly so called^ to any country or
people; but that» whenever such an one has beenem<»
ployed^ it has been either for the pur pose of a particular
scourge, as in the case of JeAu to the family of Ahab, or
in the designation of a more gen^aZ judgement, as in the
instances of Akxander^ Ccesar^ and other butchers of the

Those statesmen^ who have feared God as well as
honoured the king, have never been called forth by
Providence to the principal direction of affairs, but in
order that some kind of blessing might ensue. Such
men, under God^ have been the props of their respective
states, and, though less pompous and noisy than con<*
querors revelling in blood, deserve more properly lo be
styled. The glories of their country^ and the lathers of

. I have been much pleased, in turning over Whit£«
i^oCKii's journal of his embassy to Sweden, with a pious
sentiment, which is related from the &mous chancellor
Os»9TifiB2^ of tlot country. Ttus celebrated states^



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man was one of the most able and learned men of bitf
time, and conducted affairs with great success for his
government. He was wise enough to be pious, as the
reader will perceive by the following transcript, given
. us by one of his own profession. " I have been so much
wearied out in public and great actions, that my re-
tirement and quiet have proved the greater contentment
tome: andl'fimd^ after all my troubles and toilings in
the world, that my private life in the country has
afforded me more contentment; than ever I met with m
all my public employments. Business was a burden, and
much company irksome, yet I have been able to spend
some of my time in study ; and chiefly, I may say solely^
I have applied myself of late to the study of the Bible,
wherein all wisdom, ^pd the greatest delights are to he
found, and much more in the practice of that wisdom.
I therefore counsel you (addressing himself to the
English ambassador) to make the study and practice of
the word of God your chief contentment and delight;
as indeed it will be to every soul that favors the truths
of God, which infinitely excel all worldly things." To
this noble confession of a wise and venerable statesman^
it will be apposite enough to add the dying testimony of
anoUier great politician. Sir John Mason, who had been
privy counsellor to two of our kings. " I have been ac-
quainted (says he) with the most remarkable trans-
actions in foreign parts, and been present at very many
state-negotiations for thirty years past; and I have
learned this^onclusion by the course of so many years*
experience, That seriousness is the greatest wisdom^
temperance tlie best physic, and a good conscience th^



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hcA estate ; and Were I to live over my time again, I
Avould change the court for a cloister (or Retirement,)
and the vv'hole life I have parsed in the king's palace,
for one hour's happy enjoyment of God in the chapel:
All things else forsake me^ but my God« my duty, and
my pmyer."

If this be wisdom in the end of life, if can never be
folly in the course of it: and if piety be right Conduct,
and divinely blessed, in an individual; boW faappy
would a nadon be under the general influence of a prin-
ciple, which could eoMii thrai to «iy, tVe taw th^
'LoRX>/or mir Gop!



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Undamped hy doubt, tmdaficen^d by despair^
Pkiiander,, thus, augustly rears his head, .
At that black hour, which gairal horror sheds
On the low Icoel of the faithless throng :
Sveet peace, aM heavenly hope, and humble joy,
Ditinely beam on his exalted soui,


JLt was very much the study and employment of some
antient philosophers, to reaaon themselves into a con«
tempt of death; and it was considered as a point of the
noblest heroism/ sometimes with no reasoning at all, to
rush without fear into eternity. Cicero, in the first
t)ook of his Tiisculan Questions, treats upon this subject
with his usual eloquence, and gives us many examples
amongst the heathens of persons, who have encountered
the king of terrors without dread ; some from the prin-
ciples of philosophy, and others from mere resolution
and vain glory. For my own part, I confess, that I
never read this book without emotions of concern.
While I pity the weakness of philosophy in some, by
the daring brutality of others I am grieved- The very
brightest example of death among the Gentifes, which
Ckero gives us from PkUo^ has something in it of so



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gloomy an uncertaiDty, as renders the steadinesB, witK
tvhich it was carried through, rather less rational thaa
feaolute. But Socratesi had only his natural wisdom
and powers to trust in, unblest and unsupported by thg
evidences of divine grace and revelation. He makes a
great figure, it is true, for a Gentile; but yet a very
pitiable one indeed, if compared with an example of
Christian departure, which I will beg leave to oifer in
this essay.

Mantaign^^ the modem Epicurean, and the classical
Addison, profess to be charmed with the death of 5o«
Crates. The witty rhapsodies of the former upon this
subject, shall be omitted, as well as his loose transla«
tion of the story : and though, with great veneration for
Socratesy I must hesitate to believe, that he was (as Mr*
Addison stiles him) '* the greatest mere man that ever
breathed,'' (and much less to call upon him, with an old
and eminent writer, sancte Socrates, ora pro nobis /J
I will present the reader however with his elegant ver^
sion from Cicero of the noble appeal made by that illns*
trious philosopher to his judges, when they had con«
demned him to die.

*' I have great hopes, O Hay judges, that it is greatly
to my advantage, that I am sent to death : fer it must
of necessity be, that one of these two things must be th«
consequence! death must take away all these senses, or
convey me to another life. If all sense is taken away,
and death is no more than that profound sleep without
dreams, in which we are sometimes buried ; O heavens 1
how desirable is it to die ? How many days do we know

HhS ia

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in life pvefeFable to such a state ? But if it be Irue^ that
death is biit a passage to places, i^vbich diey who Uived
beioKtis do now inhabit^ bow much stilt happier is il
to go from those, who call themselves judges, to appear
before those that are really such, and to meet men who
have lived with justice aod truth ? Is this, do you think,
no happy journey? Do you think it nothing to speak
with Orpheus, Mtismis, Homer, and Hesiodf I would,
indeed, suffer many deaths, to enjoy these things.—
But let not those among you, who have pronounced
me an innocent man, be afraid of death. No harm can
arrive at a good man whether d^d or living ; his affiiirs
are all under the direction of the gods ; nor will I believe
the fiite, which is allotted to me myself this day, to have
arrived by«chance ; nor have I ought to say either against
my judges or accusers, but that they thought they did
me an iigory*-— But I detadn you too long: it is time
that I retire to death, and you to your afiairs of life.
Which of us has the better is known to the gods, hut to
po inortal man."

fiere-is doubtless great magnanimity ; but what is its
foundation, and where is its hope? The on\y faundaiion
alledged is a self-approbation of innocence and^iodnesB
-^ plea whidi we will candidly dlow that Soorotes had
a right to make in his unenlightened situation, and upon
a comparison of himself wi(b all the world about him^
but that it was an erroneous plea for eternal happiness^
eveiy man must own, who knows and believes in tht
gospel of salvation. If Socrates be saved, certainly he
vm Aved upon a very different ground firom duit, which



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he resljed on. As to bis bope, alas, how poor a one ».
it, which terminates wholly, like his, in the wish for
the company and conversation of meuy and oi poets too,
who, whatever may be said of their ingenuity, defiled
eveh heathenism itself (and even in the judgement of
heathens^ Plaio, Varro, &c.) with the most monstrous
absurdities and lies? Besides, poor man! wretched as
this Acyt>c was, he seems to give it up, as it were, in the
last desponding clause; " which of us has the better, is
known to the Gods, but to no mortal man." If he had
oot doubted of immortality itself, he could not havQ
doubted upon so obvious a matter. The only wonderful
thing is, how he could support himself, as he did, by.
absolute conjectures, and fece death with calmness, .
having no other comforter but despair ^ Cicero's apology, ^ / ^
for this, *f that it was his principle to affirm nothing,"
does not, in my opinion, at all mend the mattei:. Per-
petual doubt, or scepticisms is neither the friend of tr^tb,^
Bor the^upporter of man.

The foundatioq of a Christian for eternal liie is laid
ia everlasting certainty and righteousness, and not in
himself, nor in bis own sinful or death-deserving deeds*
JehovaH'Jesus, th^ rock of age^, is the basis of his
salvation, and the consummation of his glory. And as
to h:s positive enjoyments and company hereafter, the
inimitable description of the apostle throws into shade
the poor expectation of the best of heathens : *^ Ye are
come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of thf^ living
God, the beavenly Jerusaleoi, and ta an innumerable
coQipany of angels, to the general assembly and church

uha bf


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of the first-bom which are written in heavai^ and toGod
the judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made,
perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new cove^

I could oppose a thousand instances of divine dying
to the philosophical exit of Socrates; but I will only
take, for the present occasion, the departure of a very
young minister, as it is related by his pious brother, a
minister likewise, who was pre9ent with him.

*'0 (said he to his friends) that 1 could but let you
know what I now feel! O that 1 could but show ybu
what I now see! O that I could express the thousandth
part of the sweetness, which I now find in Christ — My
friends, we little think what Christ is worth upon a
death-bed. I would not for a world be to live any
longerr The very thought of a possibility of a recovery
makes me even tremble.— -Come, Lord Jesus, come
quickly! Death indeed has lost its terror. Death is no^
thing; I say, death is nothing through grace to me. I
long to be with Christ. I long to die. O that gk>ry!
that unspeakable glory I behold ! My heart is full, my
Jieart is full. Did you but see what I see, you would all
cry out with me. How long, dear Lord, how long!
Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly!— O my friends^
stapd and wonder: come, look upon a dying man, and
wonder. Was there ever a greater kindness! Was there
ever more sensible manifestation of rich grace! O why
me. Lord! why me! Sure, this is akin to heaven! — ^If
this be dying, dying is sweet no Christian b^
afraid of dying. Death is sweet to me ! This bed is soft !

O that


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O that you did but se^ and feel what I do ! Come, and
behold a dying man more chearful than ever you saw
any healthful man in the midst of his sweetest enjoy-
ments. O why should any of you be dull, when lam
so glad ! This, this is the hour I have waited for. I
want now but one thing, and it is a speedy lift into
heaven«<»-Come, let us lift up our voices jn praise: I
with you, as lo|ig as my breath shall last, and when I
have none, I shall do it better."

Thus' departed to glory the Rev. Mr. John Janeway,
in June IG57, and in the 94th year of his age.

if h4


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Tkmnkt ht U God, vAa. ghM us the pietoiy through our Lori

Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. XV. 57,

I VLKKB no apology for presenting the reader with
the indoaed Faper» which contains an account of the
last sickness and death of a pious young person^ written
y her fittber,

Clifb% dlitMay, 1804.

Online LibraryAmbrose SerleThe church of God: or, Essays on various names and titles, given to the church, in the Holy Scriptures: to which are added, some papers on other subjects .. → online text (page 32 of 33)