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CHRIST'S CHURCH, DUBLIN,
July 16, 1663,
AT THE FUNERAL
THE MOST REVEREND FATHER IN GOD,
LATE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF ARMAGH, AND PRIMATE OF ALL IRELAND.
But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.-1 Cor. xv. 23.
THE condition of man, in this world, is so limited and depressed, so relative and imperfect, that the best things he does, he does weakly, and the best things he hath, are imperfections in their very constitution. I need not tell how little it is that we know; the greatest indication of this is, that we can never tell how many things we know not; and we may soon span our own knowledge, but our ignorance we can never fathom. Our very will, in which mankind pretends to be most noble and imperial, is a direct state of imperfection; and our very liberty of choosing good and evil is permitted to us, not to make us proud, but to make us humble; for it supposes weakness of reason and weakness of love. For if we understood all the degrees of amability in the service of God, or if we had such love to God as he deserves, and so perfect a conviction as were fit for his services, we could no more deliberate: for liberty of will is like the motion of a magnetic needle toward the north, full of trembling and uncertainty till it were fixed in the beloved point; it wavers as long as it is free, and is at rest, when it can choose no more. And truly what is the hope of man? It is indeed the resurrection of the soul in this world from sorrow and her saddest pressures, and like the twilight to the day, and the harbinger of joy; but still it is but a conjugation of infirmities, and proclaims our present calamity, only because it is uneasy here, it thrusts us forward toward the light and glories of the resurrection.
For as a worm creeping with her belly on the ground, with her portion and share of Adam's curse, lifts up its head to partake a little of the blessings of the air, and opens the junctures of her imperfect body, and curls her little rings into knots and combinations, drawing up her tail to a neighbourhood of the head's pleasure and motion; but still it must return to abide the fate of its own nature, and dwell and sleep upon the dust: so are the hopes of a mortal man; he opens his eyes, and looks upon fine things at distance, and shuts them again with weakness, because they are too glorious to behold; and the man rejoices because he hopes fine things are staying for him; but his heart aches, because he knows there are a thousand ways to fail and miss of those glories; and though he hopes, yet he enjoys not; he longs, but he possesses not, and must be content with his portion of dust; and being a worm, and no man,' must lie down in this portion, before he can receive the end of his hopes, the salvation of his soul in the resurrection of the dead. For as death is the end of our lives, so is the resurrection the end of our hopes; and as we die daily, so we daily hope: but death, which is the end of our life, is the enlargement of our spirits from hope to certainty, from uncertain fears to certain expectations, from the death of the body to the life of the soul; that is, to partake of the light and life of Christ, to rise to life as he did; for his resurrection is the beginning of ours: he died for us alone, not for himself; but he rose again for himself and us too. So that if he did rise, so shall we; the resurrection shall be universal; good and bad, all shall rise, but not altogether: first Christ, then we that are Christ's; and yet there is a third resurrection, though not spoken of here; but thus it shall be." The dead of Christ shall rise first;" that is, next to Christ; and after them, the wicked shall rise to condemnation.
So that you see here is the sum of affairs treated of in my text: not whether it be lawful to eat a tortoise or a mushroom, or to tread with the foot bare upon the ground within the octaves of easter. It is not here inquired, whether angels be material or immaterial; or whether the dwellings of dead infants be within the air or in the regions of the earth? the inquiry here is, whether we are to be Christians or no? whether we are to live good lives or no? or whether it be
permitted to us to live with lust or covetousness, acted with all the daughters of rapine and ambition? whether there be any such thing as sin, any judicatory for consciences, any rewards of piety, any difference of good and bad, any rewards after this life? This is the design of these words by proper interpretation: for if men shall die like dogs and sheep, they will certainly live like wolves and foxes; but he that believes the article of the resurrection, hath entertained the greatest demonstration in the world, that nothing can make us happy but the knowledge of God, and conformity to the life and death of the holy Jesus. Here, therefore, are the great hinges of all religion: 1. Christ is already risen from the dead. 2. We also shall rise in God's time and our order. Christ is the first fruits. But there shall be a full harvest of the resurrection, and all shall rise. My text speaks only of the resurrection of the just, of them that belong to Christ; explicitly, I say, of these; and, therefore, directly of resurrection to life eternal. But because he also says there shall be an order for every man; and yet every man does not belong to Christ; therefore, indirectly also, he implies the more universal resurrection unto judgment: but this shall be the last thing that shall be done; for, according to the proverb of the Jews, Michael flies but with one wing, and Gabriel with two; God is quick in sending angels of peace, and they fly apace; but the messengers of wrath come slowly: God is more hasty to glorify his servants than to condemn the wicked. And, therefore, in the story of Dives and Lazarus, we find that the beggar died first; the good man, Lazarus, was first taken away from his misery to his comfort, and afterwards the rich man died; and as the good, many times, die first, so all of them rise first, as if it were a matter of haste: and as the mother's breasts swell, and shoot, and long to give food to her babe, so God's bowels did yearn over his banished children, and he longs to cause them to eat and drink in his kingdom. And at last the wicked shall rise unto condemnation, for that must be done too; every man in his own order: first Christ, then Christ's servants, and, at last, Christ's enemies. The first of these is the great ground of our faith; the second is the consummation of all our hopes : the first is the foundation of God, that stands sure; the second is that superstructure that shall never perish: by the