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MEDITATION XXXIV
Upon the Putting Out of a Candle

Light and darkness are in Scripture the two most usual expressions by which happiness and misery are set forth unto us. Hell and Heaven which will one day divide the whole world between them and become the sole mansions of endless woe and blessedness are described: the one to be a place of outward darkness, and the other an inheritance of light.

But it is observable also that as the happiness of worldly men and believes is wholly differing; so the light to which the one and the other is resembled is wholly discrepant. The happiness of the wicked worldling is compared to a candle which is a feeble and dim light, which consumes itself by burning, always put out by every small puff of wind. But the prosperity and happiness of the righteous is not, lucerna in domo, a candle in a house; but sol in Coelo, as the sun in heaven which though it may be clouded or eclipsed yet can never be extinguished or interrupted in its course, but that it will shine more and more onto the perfect day till it comes to the fullness of bliss and glory in heaven.

May we not then rather bemoan, than envy, the best condition of worldly man, who comes out of a dark womb into a dark world, and has no healing beams of the Son of Righteousness arising upon him to enlighten his paths or to direct his steps. What if he some few strictures of light which the creatures, that are no better than a rush candle, to seem to refresh him with, and in the confidence which he walks for a time — yet alas! How suddenly do the damps of affliction make such a light to burn blue and to expire and leave him as lost in the pitchy shades of anguish and despair? How do the terrors of darkness multiply upon him every moment all those evils that a restless fancy can suggest? He sees nothing and yet he speaks of ghastly shapes that stand before him: He cannot tell who hurts him, and yet he complains of the stinging of serpents, of the torments of fiery flames, or the wracking of his limbs.

If he have cordials put into his mouth, he spits them out again as if they were the gall of asps. Of if he have food ministered unto him, he wholly rejects it as that which will help to lengthen his miserable life. And yet die he dares not, lest worse things befall him.

If death approach, he then cries out as Crisorius in Gregory, a truce, a respect Lord until the morning. So great are his straits as that he knows now what to choose or where to fly. O that I could then affect some fond [foolish] worldlings with the vanity and sickness of their condition, who have nothing to secure them from an endless night of darkness but the wan and pale light of a few earthly comforts, which are ofttimes far shorter than their lives, but never can be one moment longer.

Have you no wisdom to consider that your life is but a span and that all your delights are not so much? Have you never read of a state of blessedness in which it is said that there shall be no night, and they need no candle, neither the light of the sun, for the Lord God giveth them light, and they shall reign for ever and ever? Or are you so regardless of the future as that you will resolvedly hazard what can never fall out for the present satisfaction of some inordinate desires? Do you not fear the threatening of him who said, The candle of the wicked shall be put out.

O then while it si called today makes David’s prayer from your heart, say,
Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us,
Thou shalt put gladness in my heart more than in the time my corn and wine increased.