Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Catholic Church Alone. The One True Church of Christ. Part 181.



Remember, therefore, that you are a man and a Christian. As man, you know you are to die, and as a Christian you know you are to give an account of your life as soon as dead. Daily experience will not permit us to doubt the one, nor the faith we profess let us call the other into question. Every one of us all lies under this necessity. Kings and popes must submit to it. The day will come when you shall not live to see night, or a night when you shall not survive till day. The day will come, and you know not whether it may not be this very day or tomorrow, when you yourself, who are now reading this treatise in perfect health, and who perhaps think the number of your days will be answerable to your business and wishes, shall be stretched out in your bed, with a taper in your hand, expecting the last stroke of death, and the execution of that sentence which is passed upon all mankind, and from which there is no appeal. Consider, then, the uncertainty of this hour, for generally it surprises us when we least think of it, and is, therefore, said to come like a thief in the night; that is, when men are fastest asleep. A violent and mortal sickness is the usual forerunner of death and of all its attendants. Pains, aches, distractions, griefs, ravings, long and tedious nights, which quite tire and wear us out, are but so many ways and dispositions towards it. And as we see that an enemy, before he can force his entrance into a town, must batter down the walls, so the forerunner of death is some raging distemper, which so furiously, without intermission, batters down our natural vigor, and breaks in upon the chief parts of the body, that the soul, not able to hold out longer, is obliged to surrender.

But when the sickness grows desperate, and the physician or the distemper itself undeceive us, by leaving us no hopes of life, how great is our anguish at that time! Then it is we begin with concern and sorrow to think of departing this life, and of forsaking whatsoever we held most dear. Wife, children, friends, relations, estates, dignities, employments, all vanish when we die. Next follow those last accidents, that attend us just at our going off, which are much more grievous than all the rest; the feet grow cold, the nose shrinks in, the tongue stammers and is incapable of performing its duty; in fine, all the senses and members are in confusion and disorder on so sudden and hasty a departure. Thus man, at his going out of the world, by his own sufferings, pays back those pains he put others to when he came into it; so that there is no great difference, as to the matter of suffering, between his birth and his death, since they are both of them attended with grief, the first with what his mother endured, and the last what he endured himself.

Nor is this all that makes this last passage so terrible; for after this violent anguish, there appears before him the approach of death, the end of life, the horror of the grave, the miserable condition of the body, just ready to be preyed on by worms; but what is more dreadful yet than all the rest, is the lamentable state of the poor soul, as yet shut up in the body, but knowing not where she shall be within two hours; it is then you will imagine yourself before the judgment seat of Almighty God, and all your sins rising up against you; it is then, unhappy man, you will be sensible of the heinousness of those crimes you committed with so little concern; it is then you will curse a thousand times the day in which you sinned, and those pleasures which were the occasions of your offences: your condition will be so deplorable, that you will never be able sufficiently to deplore your own blindness and folly, when you shall see for what trifles (for all you have so foolishly set your affections on are no better) you have exposed yourself to the dangers of suffering ' most exquisite torments, which you will even 1 then be sensible of: for the pleasure being now all over, and the judgment that is to be passed on them approaching, that, which of itself was little, and now ceases to be, seems nothing, and that, which of itself is of so much weight and consequence, being present, appears just as it is; thus will you become sensible of the danger you have exposed yourself to, of losing so much bliss for the enjoyment of mere vanities, and which way soever you turn your eyes, you will see you are surrounded with subjects of sorrow and trouble; for you have no time left to do penance, the glass of your life is run out, nor must you expect the least assistance from your friends or from those idols you have hitherto adored; nay, what you have had the most affliction for will be the greatest torment and affliction to you then. Tell me now, if you can, what your thoughts will be at that time, when you shall see yourself reduced to such extremities ? whither will you run? what will you do? or to whom will you have recourse ? To go back is impossible, to go forward is intolerable, to continue as you are is not allowed; what is it then you will do? "