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If death be like a journey, neither upon this account is it an evil, but rather the contrary; for certainly it is the emphasis of happiness to be freed from the incumbrances of the flesh and all those troublesome passions which attend it, which serve only to darken the understanding, and overspread it with all the folly that is incident to human nature.

‘The very body,’ saith Plato, ‘procures us infinite disquiet only to supply its daily necessities with food; but if any diseases are coincident, they hinder our contemplations, and stop us in our researches after truth. Besides, it distracts us with irregular desires, fears, and vain amours, setting before us so many fantastic images of things, that the common saying is here most true, that on account of the body we can never become wise. For wars, popular seditions, and shedding of blood by the sword are owing to no other original than this care of the body and gratifying its licentious appetites; for we fight only to get riches, and these [p. 312] we acquire only to please the body; so that those who are thus employed have not leisure to be philosophers. And after all, when we have retrieved an interval of time to seek after truth, the body officiously interrupts us, is so troublesome and importune, that we can by no means discern its nature. Therefore it is evident that, if we will clearly know any thing, we must divest ourselves of the body, and behold things as they are in themselves with the mind itself, that at last we may attain what we so much desire, and what we do profess ourselves the most partial admirers of, which is wisdom. And this we cannot consummately enjoy till after death, as reason teacheth us. For if so be that we can understand nothing clearly as long as we are clogged with flesh, one of these things must needs be, either that we shall never arrive at that knowledge at all, or only when we die; for then the soul will exist by itself, separate from the body; and whilst we are in this life, we shall make the nearest advances towards it, if we have no more to do with the body than what decency and necessity require, if we break off all commerce with it, and keep ourselves pure from its contagion, till God shall give us a final release, and then being pure and freed from all its follies, we shall converse (it is likely) with intelligences as pure as ourselves, with our unaided vision beholding perfect purity,—and this is truth itself. For it is not fit that what is pure should be apprehended by what is impure.’ 1

Therefore, if death only transports us to another place, it is not to be looked upon as an evil, but rather as an exceeding good, as Plato hath demonstrated. The words of Socrates to his judges seem to me to be spoken even with inspiration: ‘To fear death, gentlemen, is nothing else than to counterfeit the being wise, when we are not so. For he that fears death pretends to know what he is ignorant [p. 313] of; for no man is certain whether death be not the greatest good that can befall a man, but they positively dread it as if they were sure it was the greatest of evils.’ Agreeably to this said one after this manner:—

Let no man fear what doth his labors end;—
and death sets us free even from the greatest evils.

1 Plat. Phaed. pp. 66 B—67 B.

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