If in the time of thy sickness thou findest thyself fearful to die, meditate --
1. That it argueth a dastardly mind to fear that which is not; for in the church of Christ there is no death (Isa. xxv.7, 8), and whosoever liveth and believeth in Christ, shall never die (John xi.26). Let them fear death who live without Christ. Christians die not; but when they please God, they are like Enoch translated unto God (Gen. v.24;) their pains are but Elijah's fiery chariot to carry them up to heaven (2 Kings ii.11, 12;) or like the sores of Lazarus sending them to Abraham's bosom (Luke xvi.23.) In a word, if thou be one of them that, like Lazarus, lovest Jesus, thy sickness is not unto the death, but for the glory of God (John xi.4), who of his love changeth thy living death to an everlasting life. And if many heathen men, as Socrates, Curtius, Seneca, &c., died willingly, when they might have lived, in hope of the immortality of the soul, wilt thou, being trained so long in Christ's school, and now called to the marriage-supper of the blessed Lamb (Rev. xix.7), be one of those guests that refuse to go to that joyful banquet? God forbid.
2. Remember that thy abode here is but the second degree of thy life; for after thou hadst first lived nine months in thy mother's womb, thou wast of necessity driven thence to live here in a second degree of life. And when that number of months which God hath determined for this life is expired (Job xiv.5), thou must likewise leave this and pass to a third degree in the other world, which never ends; which, to them that live and die in the Lord, surpasseth as far this kind of life as this doth that which one lives in his mother's womb. To this last and most excellent degree of life, through this door passed Christ himself, and all his saints that were before thee; and so shall all the rest after them and thee. Why shouldst thou fear that which is common to all God's elect? why should that be uncouth to thee which was so welcome to all them? Fear not death, for as it is the exodus of a bad, so it is the genesis of a better world -- the end of a temporal, but the beginning of an eternal life.
3. Consider that there are but three things that can make death so fearful to thee: -- First, The loss thou hast thereby; Secondly, The pain that Is therein; Thirdly, The terrible effects which follow after. All these are but false fires and causeless fears.
For the first, If thou leavest here uncertain goods which thieves may rob, thou shalt find in heaven a true treasure, that can never be taken away (Matt. vi.19, 20:) these were but lent thee as a steward upon accounts, those shall be given thee as thy reward for ever. If thou leavest a loving wife, thou shalt be married to Christ, which is more lovely. If thou leavest children and friends, thou shalt there find all thy religious ancestors and children departed -- yea, Christ, and all his blessed saints and angels; and as many of thy children as are God's children, shall thither follow after thee. Thou leavest an earthly possession and a house of clay (2 Cor. v.1), and thou shalt enjoy an heavenly inheritance and mansion of glory, which is purchased, prepared, and reserved for thee (John xiv.2.) What hast thou lost? nay, is not death unto thee gain? Go home, go home, and we will follow after thee.
Secondly, For the pain in death. The fear of death more pains many than the very pangs of death; for many a Christian dies without any great pangs or pains. Pitch the anchor of thy hope on the firm ground of the word of God, who hath promised in thy weakness to perfect his strength (2 Cor. xii.9), and not to suffer thee to be tempted above that thou art able to bear (1 Cor. x.13;) and Christ will shortly turn all thy temporal pains to his eternal joys.
Lastly, As for the terrible effects which follow after death, they belong not unto thee, being a member of Christ; for Christ by his death hath taken away the sting of death to the faithful, so that now there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus (Rom. viii.1.) And Christ hath protested, that he that believeth in him hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but hath passed from death unto life (John v.24.) Upon which the Holy Spirit from heaven saith, |Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; and that from henceforth they rest from their labours and their works do follow them.| In respect, therefore, of the faithful, death is swallowed up in victory, and his sting, which is sin and the punishment of it, is taken away by Christ (1 Cor. xv.54.) Hence death is called, in respect of our bodies, a sleep and rest (1 Thess. iv.13; Isa. xxvi.; Rev. xiv.;) in respect of our souls, a going to our heavenly Father, a departing in peace, a removing from this body to go to the Lord, a dissolution of soul and body to be with Christ, What shall I say? |Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.| These pains are but thy throes and travail to bring forth eternal life. And who would not pass through hell to go to paradise? much more through death. There is nothing after death that thou needest fear; not thy sins, because Christ hath paid thy ransom; not the Judge, for he is thy loving brother; not the grave, for it is the Lord's bed; not hell, for thy Redeemer keeps the keys; not the devil, for God's holy angels pitch their tents about thee, and will not leave thee till they bring thee to heaven. Thou wast never nearer eternal life; glorify, therefore, Christ by a blessed death: say cheerfully, Come, Lord Jesus, for thy servant cometh unto thee. I am willing, Lord help my weakness.