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As we are wont, in public and politic affairs, to say, Salus populi suprema ler; so, in spiritual and private, Salus anime suprema ler: the main chance must be looked to: we may not so far and so long put ourselves out of the bounds of God's Church, as to starve our graces.
Withal, if we mark it, Abraham so converses with them, that he severs from them: and, therefore, as Cornelius à Lapide well observes, he will purchase, 731) nins, the possession, and not the loan or use of a sepulchre. And, when Ephron offers him his tomb, he refuses it: he will not have his dead mixed with idolaters; although it were, as the word signifies, spelunca duplicitatis, " a cave with partitions," as Precopius, one part for men, another for the women; or, as Mercerus, so called because of the capacity and sinuosity of it, insomuch as there might seem to have been room enough, yet Abraham holds off. so must all his true sons learn of him to do: so dealing with infidels and idolaters, as we would do with the plague-sick; talk with them at a distance; and take the wind of them; and deliver our commodities at the stave's end; and, as it were, wash their coin, ere we touch it; and, shortly, in the Apostle's charge, Have no fellowship or unequal yoking with infidels.
Yèt further, see, I beseech you, in this purchase Abraham's justice, moderation, faith. Twice had God given Abraham and his seed this land. He had now a right to it, jus ad rem; but would stay God's leisure for the possession of it, four hundred years. Onwards, he takes his livery and seizm; and will purchase with money that, which the great Owner of Heaven gave him freely, and which he knows shall be once his. If we will approve ourselves the true sons of faithful Abraham, we must with patience wait God's leisure in all his performances: He, that believes, hastens not. What a difference there is, betwixt a David and a Hazael, a Syrian and Israelite! That Syrian hears he shall once be a king; and straight goes home, and smothers his master: David, that hath full and clear assurances of his succession, rides out many bitter storins; and repents, to have but cut off a skirt of his master's garment. Have we then the gracious engagements of the Almighty; and yet, doth he seem to protract the time? Let not the hope, that is delayed, be the fainting of our heart; but let us bear up cheerfully, in a constant expectation of that mercy, which in due time shall be made good to us. Let us take what he gives; and wait for what he promises: as well knowing, that he cannot be slack, as the world accounts slackness; but will surely keep his own time, though not ours. Is it for some great heir, to break through his wardship; and shoulder into his inheritance, by a for. cible anticipation? Were not this the way to lose all ? Canaan was to Abraham and his seed a type of heaven: if we be his spiritual seed, we must live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world; looking, and looking long, for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Tit. ii. 12. 13.
II. This shall be enough for Abraham's Purchase. The EMPLOYMENT OF HIS PURCHASE follows: both, in general, for the possession of a burying-place; and, in particular, for the present use of Sarah's burial.
1. For the POSSESSION OF A BURYING-PLACE. I shall not need to take upon me to defend Abraham from simony, as Aquinas and some other Schoolmen have done; by pleading his bargain to be, not of the jus sepulture, the right of burial, but of the ground or soil for burial; or, by pleading, with Cornelius à Lapide, that as yet there was no use of consecration: it is plain enough, this trans'action was merely civil, and not sacred.
Let me rather mind you, that a burial-place was the only purchase that ever we find Abraham made: he would be a stranger here below; and, neglecting all other assurances, takes only order for graves: those he thinks are the houses he must trust to. How happy were it, if we could herein imitate him! so looking upon the earth, as if there were no other use of it but to inter us: that, as they said of the Egyptians of old, that they bestowed more cost upon their sepulchres than their houses; so we could bestow more thoughts upon our graves than upon our lands and manors. But, О curve in terras animæ ; “O grovelling souls!" we look deep into the earth as our treasury, not as our tomb: we use it as our home, not our passage; yea, not as our earth, but our heaven. How can we hope to repose in Abraham's bosom, that thus hug the world in ours?
(1.) Had Abraham purchased a Lordship of Ephron, I know no harm in it; but now he takes not so much care for the provision of the living, as of the dead. Sarah, his old partner, lay now by the walls; and he knew himself, who was elder, must follow and now he holds it necessary to take Sure Order for their last reposal. His deceased consort was not sensible of honour or disgrace: be, that was her living head, takes thought for his dead body. He doth not therefore slight the sepulture, as to say, “ The corpse is shrouded with heaven, that wants a coffin;" or, as the cynic, “ Corruption will bury us, if men do not; and what matters it whe. ther we rot above ground or beneath it?" An Abraham's heart abhors such brutish thoughts. Whatever, therefore, become of his stock and an inheritance for Isaac, his main and first care is, to treat, to sue, to bargain, to pay for a burial-place.
If we affect to be Abraham's sons, we must have Abraham's af. fections; we must do Abraham's works: and this is one of Abraham's works, to make meet room for the dead. Shortly then, it is and must be the due and laudable care of God's faithful people, to provide fit and decent burial-places for their dead. Nature itself teacheth us this. Ye see how readily these heathens entertained and approved it, upon Abraham's motion; yea, how commonly they had it in their own practice.
Éphron had a vault for the nonce, and that no scant one; which be, however it pleases the Jewish Doctors to misconstrue it, lovingly proflers unto Abrahain. And, that ye may not think this to be the privilege of his greatuess, see what he says, verse 6, In the choice of our sepulchres bury thy dead. There were choice, then, of burial-places among the Hittites; and, if a man had but a garden-plot, he would not want a sepulchre.
However, therefore, we find no mention of any burial-place till now } yet, it was plain, that it was formerly in use, and so ever since held on in a continuing succession. Abraham himself, that bought it, was buried in the same vault by Isaac and Ishmael; Gen. xxv. 9. After him, Isaac dies: Jacob and Esau carry him thither, and bury him there: Jacob dies, and gives charge, under oath, to Joseph to bury him there; Gen. xlvii
. 30: Joseph dies, and gives charge to have his bones carried thither; Gen. I. 25: and it is done accordingly; Exod. xiii. 19: and Josh. xxiv. 32. All the knot of these blessed patriarchs were housed there; and Rebecca with them, and Leah too; Gen. xlix. 31. The reason of which choice we shall see hereafter. I find not Ishmael there; nor yet Esau. All the Saints of that family were there. As for Rachel, there she had surely lain had she noi died by the way in child-bed; and could not therefore be capable of such a carriage: therefore she was necessarily buried in their passage; but not without a monument; Gen. XXXV. 19.
And thus it was perpetuated to and in all posterity: and it is held a thing of such importance, as that still, when you find the re. cord of any of the great Judges or Kings of Israel dying, you are told withal where he was buried; and the place is specially denoted, either for degree of honour or reproach.
So as I find three ranks of noble burial of their Princes.
Some, of vo good desert, yet, because they were kings, were buried in the City of David: (so was that upper part of Jerusalem called, which was built upon Sion-hill; where, besides the Temple, David's palace was:) but not in the sepulchre of their fathers. Thus Jehoram; 2 Chron. xxi. 19: so Joash, that fell to idolatry; 2 Chron. xxiv. 16: so Ahaz; 2 Chron. xxviii. 27.
Others, that were good kings indeed and kept up God's worship and the weal of their people, were huried in the holy City of David, and in the sepulchres of their fathers. Thus was also good Jehoiada, though a Priest, marshalled in his death.
But, thirdly, there were of the highest merit, that were buried in the City of David, in the sepulchres of their fathers, and in the upper part of the scpulchres of the sons of David, as Tremellius; or, as ours, in the chiefest, or highest sepulchres: as Hezekiah was; 2 Chron. xxxi. 33.
As for the wicked princes, it was a great judgment, that God inflicted upon them; that Baasha and Jezebel should be eaten with dogs, and there should be none to bury them; that they should be as the dung on the face of the field; 2 Kings ix. 37: Jehoiakim should be buried with the burial of an ass; Jer. xxi. 19. How is that? dragged out by the heels, and cast into a ditch. So it is threatened to the great king of Babylon, for a no small punishment, that he shall not be joined with kings in his burial: and why?
Quia terrum tuam corrupisti; Isaiah xiv. 20. And to this purpose is that heavy imprecation of David, Let them be a portion for foxes ; Psalm lxiii. 10.
I find three degrees then of hateful disposing of the dead, in way of judgment; a regardless sepulture, a reproachful sepulture, no sepulture.
A regardless one: so, to Jehoram, a wicked king, the people made no burning, that is, of odours at his funeral; 2 Chron. xxi. 19.
A reproachful one: so Absalom is cast into a pit, and a heap of stones thrown upon him; 2 Sam. xviii. 17. Lo, other disobedient sons were, by the Law, to be stoned alive: he, for his disobedience, was stoned dead; and still, as I find in Adricomius, every one that goes by throws a stone to add to the rest, in detestation of that
No sepulture at all: this was worst of all others. Ossa regum, saith Jeremiah, The bones of the kings of Judah, the bones of the princes, the bones of the priests, the bones of the prophets, shall they take out of their graves, and lay them open to the sun and moon; Jer.
Insomuch as wise Solomon tells us, that, if a man live many years, yet if his soul be not sated with good, and if he be not buried, an abortive is better than he; Eccl. vi. 3. Hereupon it was highly commended by David, that the men of Jabesh had ventured hard to give sepulture to Saul and his sons: whom, afterwards, David removed to a more honourable burial of Kish their father; 2 Sam. xxi. 14. Lastly, the curse upon false prophets in Jeremiah, is, Erunt projecti in plateis; They shall be cast forth into the streets, and there shall be none to bury them; Jer. xiv. 16: a thing so hateful, that our Histories tell us of some, whom the shame after death, and fear of not burying, hath more restrained, than the fear of dying.
This provision of honest and decent sepulture, then, is justly due to the body; of God's children especially: both, first, in respect of God; and, secondly, of each other; and, thirdly, of the body and soul.
First, of God, who is the Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier of the body. He, that made all the rest, made the man; but not without a consultory preface, Faciamus, &c.; and the Psalmist justly can say, I will praise thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. These, being the choicest piece of God's workmanship, therefore may not be carelessly laid aside. If we meet with a curious picture of a Hans Holbein, or Michael Angelo, we keep it choicely, and set great store by it; either locking it up in a sure cupboard, or gracing it with a giided fraine and with a fair curtain. Why should we, or how can we, do less to this, which was once an organical body; exquisite for proporcion and beauty, for comeliness of limbs, quickness of senses, agility of motions? He, that made this goodly frame of the body, repaired, redeemed it, when it was marred by sin; waiting for the adoption, that is, the redemption of our body; Rom. viii. 23 : but that redemption is from the natural death: our very bodies are partners of that spiritual and eternal redemption; Gal. iv. 4, 5. Ephes. i. 7. Lo, our bodies, as they are naturally the slaves of sin, and, by sin, of corruption, are, by that great AurpeThis, redeemed from both: and if the Son of God have bestowed so much cost on them, they are not to be thrown aside of us, as worthy of nothing but contempt. That God, who made and redeemed it,
hath also sanctified it: Know you not, that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you? 1 Cor. vi. 19. and, which is in effect all one; Know ye not, that your bodies are the members of Christ? verse 15. The body is for the Lord, and the Lord for the body; and true sanctification (like as Aaron's ointment did not rest upon the head, but descended to his skirts, so) doth not rest in the soul, but diffuseth itself to the body also: That your whole spirit
, soul, and body, may be kept blameless to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ; 1 Thess. v. 23. Being therefore co-partner with the soul in creation, redemption, sanctification, there is good reason, that the body should be comely and respectfully bestowed.
Secondly, in respect of each other. The bodies of our deceased friends lately animated, were they, with whom we have had sweet commerce, dear conversation; and they, by whom their souls have expressed themselves to us upon all occasions, and by which they have exercised all their functions, to the atchieving of those worthy things which they have done upon earth. Hence was the ancient manner of kissing the dead bodies of eminent saints; as Denis of Areopagus. The body of that loving wife, whom the kind husband hath lost, was that, which he had wont to entertain with dear and comfortable embracements: the body of that child, whom the tender parent hath lost, was a colony deduced out of their own flesh: the body of that brother or sister, which we have lost, what was it, but a piece of the same substance with our own the body of some dear friend, what was it, but ourself divided with a several skin? the body of some great commander, or some worthy patriot, what was it, but the living instrument of their noble victories and exploits ? the body of some painful messenger of God, what was it but the tubulus," the earthen conduit-pipe,” whereby God would convey spiritual comforts unto our souls? In regard then of what they were to us, there is good reason there should be care had of their comely and honourable reposition.
Thirdly, in respect of the parts themselves: the body in relation to the soul; both what it was, what it is, what it must be.
It was here the receptacle of the divine soul, and partner with it in all her actions. Our brother body, as Francis of Assise had wont to term it; yea, our twin; yea, our balf-self. What doth the soul, yea
what can it do here without it? That, which is in the understanding, must be first conveyed through the senses thither; and what the soul acts, it performs by the body: it sees by the body's eyes, hears by the ears, works by the hands; insomuch as the rule of our last judgment must be, according to what we have done in our body.
But what was, is easily forgotten: what is it, now that it is turned