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GENESIS xxiii. 19, 20. And, after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field
of Machpelah, before Mamre, the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan. And the field, and the cave that is therein, were made sure to Abraham for a possession of a burying-place by the sons of Heth.
After many agitations of thoughts and counsels, we see it effected this day, Right Worshipful and Dear Christians, which hath been oft mentioned and long desired, that there is, by mutual agreement, a new dormitory provided for our dead: so as now, we hope our Church shall not need fear to be buried with bodies, nor our bodies to be indecently pressed in their last lodgings: An act worthy, both of this common celebration, and of that Episcopal service of mine, which shall this day give a due consummation to it. I could not better parallel the occasion, than with the practice of him, in whose bosom we all once hope to rest.
Shortly then, my Text and my speech offer you two heads of meditation, ABRAHAM'S PURCHASE OF GROUND, and ABRAHAM'S EMPLOYMENT OF THAT PURCHASE.
1. The PURCHASE is first in nature, though last in mention. We will be as short in the discourse, as Abraham was in the transaction; and he had not many words to a bargain.
Lo, even Abraham purchases: holiest men may touch with secular occasions: not the máyuate, but the neypateia is that which offends. No man that warfares, as every faithful man doth and must, entangles himself in the affairs of this life, saith our Apostle. He says not, he meddles not with them, but he entangles not himself in them. The world is pitch; scarce to be touched without a defilement: but if we touch pitch with a cold hand, it cleaves not to our fingers. So doth every right son of Abraham handle the world. The earth is the Lord's as the possessor; and he hath conveyed it by deed of gift to the children of men: so that, by due right of inheritance or purchase, it is lawfully devolved to us. This is no warrant for excess: Woe to them, that join house to house, and land to land, till there be no more place! devouring depopulators of whole countries.! Such men purchase with a vengeance. Let it be our care so to purchase a share on earth, that we lose not our mansion in heaven.
Of whom doth Abraham purchase, but of Ephron the son of Heth? and he was the son of cursed Canaan: yet Abraham forbears not, both to converse and commerce with these, that were of the seven branded nations. Trade and cohabitation with them without, is not unjustifiable; so as it may be carefully managed: civil society and traffic is lawful; yea, compliment and courtesy, as we see here: but without too much entireness; so as, in the mean time, we lie at a sure lock for the avoiding of spiritual hurt. If our purses gain, and our souls lose, we make but an ill match.
As we are wont, in public and politic affairs, to say, Salus populi suprema ler; so, in spiritual and private, Salus animæ suprema lex: 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, 727 NINN, 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. And 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.
Yet 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 seizin; 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 storms; 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 forcible 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 transaction 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 curvæ 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 reposat. 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,
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.
Ephron had a vault for the nonce, and that no scant one; which he, however it pleases the Jewish Doctors to misconstrue it, lov, ingly proffers unto Abraham. And, that ye may not think this to be the privilege of his greatness, 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. 1. 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 not 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 mo nument; 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 record of any of the great Judges or Kings of Israel dying, you are told withal where he was buried; and the place is specially dea noted, either for degree of honour or reproach.
So as I find three ranks of noble burial of their Princes.
Some, of no 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 buried 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 sepulchres of the sons of David, as Tremellius; or, as ours, in the chiefest, or highest sepulchres: as Hezekiah was; 2 Chron, xxxii. 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. xxii. 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 s
Quia terram tuam corrupisti; Isaiah xiv. 20. And to this
purpose is that heavy imprecation of David, Let them be a portion for foxes; Psalm Ixiii. 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. viii. 1. 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 gilded frame and with a fair curtain, Why should we, or how can we, do less to this, which was once an organical body; exquisite for proportion 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