Mary Chudleigh

Of Death

Since I’ve a long time thought, that the fear of death is the occasional cause of the greatest part of those mean dishonorable actions which are done in the world; none will, I believe, think it a misemployment of my time, seriously to consider, what ’tis renders it so formidable, makes it so dreadful not only to the vicious, but also to the pretenders to virtue, not only to those who by their immoral lives have consigned themselves over to eternal punishments, but to those who promise themselves glorious rewards, and talk of heaven, as of a place, where they hope to be everlastingly happy.

’Tis not to be wondered at, that such as are immersed in the delights of the animal life, who lie wallowing in sensual pleasures, whose understandings are so darkened by the interposition of their passions, that they cannot see one ray of intellectual light, can discover nothing beautiful beyond the ken of their senses, should be unwilling to leave a world they are acquainted with, for an unknown futurity; a state fitted to their depraved faculties, to their brutish inclinations, for a place of horror and inexpressible misery, or at least where they shall cease to be, and at once lose both themselves and their pleasures, themselves and their hopes, all their happiness, all their expectations: But I cannot see how such as have nobler views, who boast of being above sensible allurements, of having their affections not only disengaged from terrene objects, but fixed on such as they acknowledge to be transcendently, infinitely better, both as to their magnitude and duration, can answer it to their reason; how can they be solicitous for life, can shrink back, grow pale, and tremble, when death makes its attack: ’Twould be more ?consistent? to their principles to meet it with smiles, to welcome it with; for if they are really what they are willing to be thought, if they have virtue for her self, have seen the charms that are in truth, endeavored to live up to the dignity of their nature, to make as near Approaches as ’tis possible to the divine perfections, ’tis contradicting themselves, making their actions give the lye to their words; for their unwillingness to die cannot then be supposed to proceed from fear, there can be no room for that debasing passion in a purified mind, in a soul transported with the ravishing prospect of approaching felicity, neither can it be the result of their fondness for present enjoyments, as being things too mean, too despicable, to be much esteemed, or patted from with reluctance; therefore may I not be allowed, without breach of harity, to suspect that there’s some darling vice within, some concealed ?passion,? which disturbs their consciences, or ties them, nails them to enlarging our views, and pleasing ourselves with newer, nobler, and more entertaining prospects.

These were the thoughts I lately had of it, these my reasonings about it, when I had cause to believe my fate inevitable, when nothing but a wonderful over-ruling providence, nothing but the peculiar care of my guardian angel, could have secured my Life. When I saw the precipice, and at the same view saw my self falling from its top, tumbling to the bottom with an impetuous motion, an amazing violence, I then found the advantage of a strong, a firm resolution, and of being disengaged from the world; I had nothing to pull me back again to the earth, to make me unwilling to leave it; I could with Joy have taken my flight to the upper regions, there have assumed an ethereal vehicle, and made a tour, thro’ all the shining fields of light.

Thro’ the pure ether winged my way,
And viewed the Works of art divine;
Seen boundless love it self display,
And wisdom in perfection shine:
With the bright natives of the sky,
And such as once frail mortals were,
Had ranged thro’ all the realms on high,
And trod the liquid plains of air,
Where something new would still delight,
Something my knowledge still improve;
Would me to songs of praise invite,
To soft harmonious hymns of love.

But since ’tis the Will of God I should live longer, let me exercise the same act of resignation, be willing to wait a while for those pleasures which I then had in view, and to which I plied myself with the hopes of my being swiftly hastening; and as it becomes me cheerfully to devote to his service that life he thinks fit to prolong, and be very thankful for escaping those mischiefs which are generally the unhappy consequences of such dangerous falls; so let me resolve to employ all my coming moments in gratefully acknowledging His favours, and in endeavoring to advance His glory, and next to that, in the Improvement of my own mind; in the diligent and unwearied pursuit of truth, the exaltation of my intellectual powers, and assuring to myself such goods as are accommodated to rational beings, and perfective of their nature: such as will contribute to my present happiness and future felicity, to my unspeakable satisfaction here, and the transporting ?of? delights of a blessed eternity:

Where night her sable wings shall ne’er display,
Nor rising Vapors hide refulgent Day;
Where health, and peace, and pleasures all divine,
Shall mix their charms, shall all in one combine,
Then dart themselves into each happy breast,
And give them raptures not to be expressed;
Inebriating joys, too great for sense,
Which heavenly forms can only bear, and God dispense;
Where hopes shall cease, and wishes have an end,
And our fruitions our desires transcend;
Where no disgusts, no griefs, shall entrance find,
Nothing disturb the quiet of the mind;
Where death’s unknown, and life is only found,
Where with immortal wreaths the good are crowned,
And all together join in songs of praise,
Together tune their sweet melodious Lays;
The grateful tribute of their voices bring,
And find no other business, but to love and Sing.

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MLA Citation

Chudleigh, Mary. “Of Death.” . Quotidiana. Ed. Patrick Madden. 7 Dec 2006. 20 Sep 2017 <http://essays.quotidiana.org/chudleigh/death/>.

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