Jeremy Taylor A Funeral Sermon
Preached by Jeremy Taylor,
at the Obsequies of the Right Honourable and most Vertuous Lady,
the Lady Frances, Countess of Carbery:
Who deceased October the 9th 1650. at her House Golden-Grove in Caermarthen-shire.
2 Samuel 14. 14.
For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground which cannot be gathered up again: neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.
When our Blessed Saviour and his Disciples viewed the Temple, some one amongst them cried out, Master, behold what fair, what great stones are here! Christ made no other reply, but foretold their dissolution, and a world of sadness and sorrow which should bury that whole Nation, when the teeming cloud of Gods displeasure should produce a storm which was the daughter of the biggest anger, and the mother of the greatest calamity which ever crush’d any of the Sons of Adam; [The time shall come that there shall not be left one stone upon another.] Whatsoever had a beginning can also have an ending, and it shall die, unless it be daily watered with the Purles flowing from the Fountain of Life, and refreshed with the Dew of Heaven, and the Wells of God: And therefore God had provided a Tree in Paradise to have supported Adam in his artificial Immortality: Immortality was not in his Nature, but in the Hands and Arts, in the Favour and Superadditions of God. Man was always the same mixture of Heat and Cold, of Dryness and Moisture; ever the same weak thing, apt to feel rebellion in the humors, and to suffer the evils of a civil war in his body natural: and therefore health and life was to descend upon him from Heaven. But he that in the best of his days was but a Cien of the Tree of Life, by his sin was cut off from thence quickly, and planted upon Thorns, and his portion was for ever after among the Flowers, which to day spring and look like health and beauty, but at night are dead. And as before, even from our first spring from the dust on earth, we might have died if we had not been preserved by the continual flux of a rare providence; so now that we are reduced to the Laws of our own Nature, we must needs die. It is natural, and therefore necessary. We are returned to the condition of Beasts, and Buildings, and common things: And we see Temples defiled unto the ground, and they die by Sacriledge; and great Empires die by their own plenty and ease; and huge Buildings fall by their own weight, and the violence of many Winters eating and consuming the Cement, which is the marrow of their bones; and every thing finds a Grave and Tomb.
The godly descend into their Graves, and shall no more be reckoned among the living; they have no concernment in all that is done under the Sun. Cicero hath no more interest in the present evils of Christendom, than we have to do with his boasted discovery of Catilines Conspiracy. What is it to me that Rome was taken by the Gauls? These things that now happen concern the living, and they are made the scenes of our duty or danger respectively.
The Dead lie in a bosom where there can be no murmur; and they that are consigned to Kingdoms, and to the feast of the marriage-supper of the Lamb, the glorious and eternal Bridegroom of holy Souls, they cannot think our lighter laughings and vain rejoycings considerable as to them.
And yet there is a relation continued still: Aristotle said, that to affirm the dead take no thought for the good of the living, is a disparagement to the laws of that friendship which in their state of separation they cannot be tempted to rescind. And the Church hath taught in general, that they pray for us, they recommend to God the state of all their Relatives, in the union of the intercession that our blessed Lord makes for them and us: And S. Ambrose gave some things in charge to his dying brother Satyrus that he should do for him in the other world. And certain it is that though our dead friends affection to us is not to be estimated according to our low conceptions, yet it is not less, but much more than ever it was; it is greater in degree, and of another kind.
But then we should do well also to remember, that in this world we are something besides flesh and bloud; that we may not without violent necessities run into new relations, but preserve the affections we bore to our dead when they were alive: We must not so live as if they were perished, but so as pressing forward to the most intimate participation of the communion of Saints. And we also have some ways to express this relation, and to bear a part in this communion, by actions of intercourse with them, and yet proper to our state: such as are strictly performing the will of the dead, providing for, and tenderly and wisely educating their children, paying their debts, imitating their good example, preserving their memories privately, and publickly keeping their memorials, and desiring of God with hearty and constant prayer that God would give them a joyful Resurrection, and a merciful Judgment, (for so S. Paul prayed in behalf of Onesiphorus) that God would shew them mercy in that day, that fearful, and yet much to be desired day, in which the most righteous person hath need of much mercy and pity, and shall find it. Remember that we shall converse together again. For though, as to us, they are like water spilt; yet, to God, they are as water fallen in the Sea, safe and united in his comprehension, and inclosures.
But we are not yet passed the consideration of the sentence: This descending to the grave is the lot of all men, [neither doth God respect the person of any man]. Well! But all this you will think is but a sad story: What? We must die, and go to darkness and dishonour; and we must die quickly, and this is the condition of us all, from which none can be excepted; every man shall be spilt and fall into the ground, and be gathered up no more. Is there no comfort after all this? Shall we go from hence, and be no more seen, and have no recompense? Is there no allay to this huge calamity? Yes, there is: There is a [yet] in the Text: [For all this, yet doth God devise means that his banished be not expelled from him.]
Death is nothing but the middle point between two lives, between this and another: concerning which comfortable mystery the holy Scripture instructs our Faith and entertains our hope in these words: God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; for all do live to him; and the Souls of Saints are with Christ: I desire to be dissolved (saith S. Paul) and to be with Christ, for that is much better: and, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; they rest from their labours, and their works follow them: For we know, that if our earthly house of this Tabernacle were dissolv’d, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens: and this state of separation S. Paul calls, a being absent from the Body, and being present with the Lord: This is one of Gods means which he hath devised, that although our Dead are like persons banished from this world, yet they are not expelled from God: They are in the hands of Christ; they are in his presence; they are, or shall be clothed with a house of Gods making; they rest from all their labours; all tears are wiped from their eyes, and all discontents from their spirits; and in the state of separation, before the Soul be re-invested with her new house, the Spirits of all persons are with God, so secur’d, and so blessed, and so sealed up for glory, that this state of interval and imperfection is, in respect of its certain event and end, infinitely more desirable than all the Riches, and all the Pleasures, and all the Vanities, and all the Kingdoms of this world.
God will restore the Soul to the Body, and raise the Body to such a perfection that it shall be an Organ fit to praise him upon; then the Soul shall be brought forth by Angels from her incomparable and easie bed, from her rest in Christs holy Bosom, and be made perfect in her being, and in all her operations: And this shall first appear by that perfection which the Soul shall receive as instrumental to the last Judgment; for then she shall see clearly all the Records of this World, and the Register of her own Memory: For all that we did in this life is laid up in our Memories, and though dust and forgetfulness be drawn upon them, yet when God shall lift us from our dust, then shall appear clearly all that we have done, written in the Tables of our Conscience, which is the Souls Memory. We see many times, and in many instances, that a great Memory is hindred and put out, and we thirty years after come to think of something that lay so long under a Curtain; we think of it suddenly, and without a line of deduction, or proper consequence. But as soon as ever God shall but tune our Instrument, and draw the Curtains, and but light up the Candle of Immortality, there we shall find it all, there we shall see all, and the whole world shall see all; then we shall be made fit to converse with God after the manner of Spirits, we shall be like to Angels. Amen.