Death, George Swinnock, Happines, Holiness, life, Meditation, politics, Psalm 82
The Gods are Men
A Sermon on Psalm 82:6-7
6 I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”
The sermon is a warning to magistrates that even though they enjoy great power in this world, they will die. It is a meditation on death coming to all. The sermon is found in volume 4 of the collected works of George Swinnock. The numbers indicate the page from the volume. Quotes are given without comment.
Oh how little a parcel of earth will hold us when we are dead, who ambitiously seek after the whole world whilst we are living! 105
A painted window keepeth out the light; a painted fire will not burn; a painted sword will not cut; and if ever the fire of Scripture, Jeremiah 23:29, warm the heart, Luke 24:32; or this sword of the Spirit wound the conscience, Ephesians 4:17, to conviction and conversion, it must be drawn out of the gaudy scabbard of man’s wisdom. 111
Death is to every man a fall, from everything but God and godliness. Ye that are magistrates fall more stairs, yea, more storeys, than others. The higher your standing while ye live, the lower your falling when ye die. Death to some is a fall from earth to hell; to all, from the society of men to the company of worms….113
Nothing will follow when you die but your works. Rev. 14:13.
The mortal scythe of death is master of the royal sceptre, moweth down as the lilies of the crown as the grass of the field. Isaiah 40:6-7.
As the thread followeth the needle, so death followeth sin. 115
Sin in the body is like leprosy in the house, which will not out till it be pulled own; but when the body of the saint shall be dissolved, that body of death shall be wholly destroyed. 115
The house of man’s body is walled and roofed with earth, and founded upon no better than dust. 116.
First, if magistrates are mortal, observe hence death’s prevalency and power above all the privileges and prerogatives of nature… Take notice from hence that nothing in this world can privilege a man against the arrest of death. 117
Their endeavor is to live in the favor of great men, and not to die in the fear of the great God. 119.
Alas! how irrational is this! You may as soon satiate or content the body with wind as the soul with wealth. 120
Ambitious, like the jay, they are pruning and priding themselves on the top of some high tree, when suddenly a shot from a fowler tumbleth it down dead to the earth. 121.
Consider that on this moment dependeth eternity. God hangeth heavy weights on weak wires. 122.
I commend six particulars to your most serious thoughts:
1. Discharge your trust faithfully. The way to have great confidence when ye die, is to keep a good conscience whilst ye live. 124.
There are four things requisite in a magistrate that he would discharge his trust faithfully.
1A. First, courage and magnanimity. Every magistrate should be a man of metal, not daunted with dangers, nor frightened with frowns. 125
1B. Secondly, uprightness and integrity. A magistrate as he should not be frightened with fear, so not swayed by favor. 125.
Laws were never made to be nets, only to catch the little fish and let the great ones break through. 126.
1C. Third, bounty and liberality….It was a witty speech of a pious person, He is the best magistrate that is good for nothing. 126.
1D.The fourth thing requisite in a magistrate is ability.
2. Secondly, If you would fit yourself for death, live among men exemplarily. 127.
Take a turn or two daily in Golgotha; walk among the tombs; ponder frequently your own frailty; it may much quicken you to walk exemplarily. 127.
Sin, indeed, cometh in at first by propagation, but is much increased by imitation. 128
Theodosius the emperor being asked how a prince might promote good abroad, answered, by ordering all well at home. If ye cannot rule your family well, ye are unfit to rule cities and counties. 128.
3. Thirdly, as your frailty calleth upon you to be faithful in your place, holy in your practices; so likewise, in the third place, to walk humbly with God….But here isa pin in the test to prick this bladder, and take down its swelling. Did you but spiritually consider the brittleness of your bodies, it would abate the swelling of your spirits. I should think the evil disposition of your souls, and the frail condition of your bodies, should keep you low while ye live. Alas! notwithstanding all your power, places and preferments, what are yet but clods of clay — a little refined earth, moving slime, enlivened dust, breathing ashes? 129.
4. Fourthly, must ye die, and would ye prepare for it, then be active for God whilst ye live; the serious thoughts of death in your hearts will put life into your hands…..The task of Christianity is great; the time ye have is little, the time ye have lost is much. 130.
5. Fifthly, must ye die and would ye prepare for death? Labor to find some inward work of grace wrought in your hearts. 132. …Pharisaical holiness will never evidence your right to eternal happiness….You that are magistrates may probably be free from scandalous enormities. 133.
6. Lastly, If ye must die, to prepare yourselves for death, make sure of an interest in Christ, in the death of The Lord Jesus. …All mercies that believers enjoy, come streaming to them in the blood Christ; though there be much attributed to his intercession, yet that, like the king’s stamp on silver, addeth no real value to it, only maketh it current. Fn. 1: Calvin observed on 1 John 2:1, that Christ’s intercession is nothing else but a perpetual application of his death. 134.
I shall, in the next place, annex some motives, …
1. Consider how vain and unprofitable all others things will be to you when ye fall.
1A Ye fall from the highest pinnacle of honor and reputation….Titles of honor glister, like glow-worms, in the dark night of this life; but in the day of death they all vanish and disappear. 136
1B Ye fall form your greatest treasures and possessions. 136
1C Ye fall from all your friends and relations; when ye die, they that were near and dear to you will leave you. …Believe me sirs, your honors, treasures, and relations will shake hands with you at death, like leaves in autumn, fall from you; like Absalom’s mule, fail you even in your great extremity. 137-8.
2. By this means you names may be highly honored; true glory is entailed on piety. The heathen would go through the temple of virtue to the temple of honor. 138
3. Hereby your deaths will be truly peaceable. An ungodly man can never die with true peace, though he may die in much security. 139.
If ye would not die well, then be sure ye live well; let holiness be your way, and happiness shall be your end. 141.
4. This will make your estates and conditions eternally comfortable. 141 In a word, let true righteousness towards men, and real holiness towards God, be your work while ye live. 143