Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916. Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Preparation for Death a Cure for Fear of Death
By William Sherlock (1641?1707)
From A practical Discourse concerning Death
IT betimes delivers us from the fears of death: and indeed it is then only a man begins to live, when he is got above the fears of death. Were men thoughtful and considerate, death would hang over them in all their mirth and jollity, like a fatal sword by a single hair; it would sour all their enjoyments, and strike terror into their hearts and looks. But the security of most men is, that they put off the thoughts of death, as they do their preparation for it: they live secure and free from danger, only because they will not open their eyes to see it. But these are such examples as no wise man will propose to himself, because they are not safe. And there are so many occasions to put these men in mind of death, that it is a very hard thing not to think of it; and whenever they do, it chills their blood and spirits, and draws a black melancholy veil over all the glories in the world. How are such men surprised when any danger approaches? When death comes within view, and shows his scythe, and only some few sands at the bottom of the glass? This is a very frightful sight to men who are not prepared to die: and yet should they give themselves liberty to think in what danger they live every minute, how many thousand accidents may cut them off, which they can neither foresee nor prevent; fear, and horror, and consternation, would be their constant entertainment, till they could think of death without fear; till they were reconciled to the thoughts of dying, by great and certain hopes of a better life after death.
So that no man can live happily, if he lives like a man with his thoughts and reason and consideration about him, but he who takes care betimes to prepare for death and another world. Till this be done, a wise man will see himself always in danger, and then he must always fear. But he is a happy man, who knows and considers himself to be mortal, and is not afraid to die. His pleasures and enjoyments are sincere and unmixd, never disturbd with a handwriting upon the wall, nor with some secret qualms and misgivings of mind, he is not terrified with present dangers, at least not amazed and distracted with them. A man who is deliverd from the fears of death, fears nothing else in excess but God. And fear is so troublesome a passion, that nothing is more for the happiness of our lives, than to be deliverd from it.