The 1st Chapter.

Summarizes the content of the book and contemplates that we human beings are not only mortal, but also quite
uncertain about when, how, and where God
would claim us from this world.

Tell me in a brief summary: what must I –from
God’s Word and from all sermons–
learn, retain, and do?

You shall learn to live in a Christian manner and to die blessedly.

Oh, help me, my God! help me so that I may learn to live here in such a way, so that I may also live there eternally. Amen!

What is a Christian life indeed?

A Christian life is established when a human being learns to know God, the Lord, and to know himself rightly.

Firstly, know the Lord God, that he is one God in three persons, namely, God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And that among these three persons, the middle one, namely, the Son, has been sent into this world, has assumed human nature, and has become our savior.

Next, one must also learn to know oneself rightly, namely, that we are poor, great, and reeking sinners in the sight of God, and that we would be eternally lost if we did not convert to Christ, believe in him, become new human beings, and serve God and our neighbor with our whole hearts until our end.

Only, eternal, almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons and one being! I pray you, teach me to know you and my own self rightly, to gain such knowledge daily and grow, so that I orient my short, miserable life in such a way that it will glorify you, that it will serve my neighbor, and that it will not be condemning to myself, but that it will be a righteous, penitent, and Christian life in your sight. Amen!

What does it mean to die blessedly?

To die blessedly means to conclude life in righteous and true faith, to commend one’s soul to the Lord Jesus Christ, and –with a heartfelt desire for eternal bliss– to fall asleep gently and joyously, and to depart from here.

LORD Jesus Christ! you alone know my hour: I pray you, give me a blessed ending and thereupon take my soul into your hands. Amen!

Must we humans all die?

Yes, for thus speaks scripture, Humans are destined to die once; then, however, follows the judgment. Do listen, my soul, and take to heart that all humans are predetermined to die at once; thus, death will certainly also come to you at one time. For the wise man says, Yesterday it was up to me; today it is up to you. Yes, dear soul, keep well in mind what scripture says: to die once, and not twice. Indeed, if we humans had been destined to die twice, then someone, if he had not died well the first time, would die better the second time: but no, dying badly once will bring eternal perdition.

Lord, my God! do teach me that there must be an end with me, and that my life has a goal, and that I will have to depart; Behold, my days are a hand’s breadth to you, and my life is like nothing to you. My God, teach me to bear in mind that I must die, so that I become prudent, and that I learn the right and beneficial art of dying. Amen!

If only God, the Lord, would have revealed to us the hour of our death, so that we can get ready and
prepare at the right time.

Yes, my soul, not only is the hour hidden from you, but much more. The generations of old say, Quatuor circa mortem sunt incerta, nimirum, tempus, locus, status, modus; that is, not only is the hour and time of our death hidden from us humans, we also do not know at which place, in which state, and through which affliction death may carry us away. These are indeed significant measures which you shall keep in mind daily.

You holy and wise GOD! how completely are your thoughts not our thoughts, and your ways not our ways; but as much as the sky is far above the earth, so are your paths far above our paths, and your thoughts far above our thoughts. Grant me to step in front of you daily with heartfelt assurance, to pray for a blessed hour of dying, and to have the firm faith that you will expose me only to what is beneficial, good, and blissful for me. Amen!

How shall I, in my simple-mindedness,
rightly consider these four measures?

1st Tempus (Time)

Firstly, you know not, dear soul, at which hour, on which day, or in which year of your age God will take you away, and whether it may happen during the night or the day, in the evening or the morning. It would have been easy for God, the Lord, to reveal such things to us. In his special wisdom and great benevolence, however, he decided not to do this.

For behold, my soul, we miserable humans have been spoiled by sin, and we are so fond of our worldly existence that –if we knew the hour of our death– we would not commemorate God very much; we would neither fear him, nor love him, nor pray to him, nor do any penance until the predetermined hour of our death would have arrived. If one would do penance only at that time, many would not have learned what rightful penance is, and they would remain ill-prepared. For this reason, it is surely not harmful for us humans, but beneficial and well, that we do not know the hour of our departure.

Oh, my God, how those humans are nothing at all who seem to live so securely. Truly, the human, born by woman, lives only for a short time and is filled with disquiet. He blooms like a flower, takes flight like a shadow, and does not last. He has his designated time; the number of moons stands with you; you have set a goal for him which he will not exceed. My God, who has concealed the time of my death, according to your wise counsel, help me that I live not a single day without true penance. My Lord, who has concealed the lone hour of my departure, grant me to conduct my entire life so that I will be found in rightful Christian readiness day and night, even at every hour and any moment. Amen!

2nd Locus (Place)

Secondly, you do not know at which place you may find your end bestowed on you, whether you pass away at home or in a strange place, whether in your bed or in the field. Indeed, my soul, the pointer of our life‘s clock never stands still, and no human knows when it will stop. Thus, death is pursuing us, and he keeps at our heels; he takes us away wherever he finds us; he awaits you at every place. If you are a prudent servant, do await death everywhere with a prepared, penitent heart.

Oh, my God, let me become aware that at all places am I a miserable, mortal human being, and that nowhere am I safe from death. Since he is out to get me, and since he lingers everywhere, so help that I become a prudent servant, and that I guardedly await him at all places with a penitent heart. Amen!

3rd Status (State)

Thirdly, you also do not know, my soul, in which condition the Lord your God may find you, whether he may find you sleeping or waking, happy or sad, in worldly or in spiritual affairs, drunk or sober, angry or peaceful. Oh, dear soul, do become diligently aware of yourself, and do not let yourself be found in such a state in which you would not willingly like to die. For Sirach says, Remember that death does not tarry, so be well aware what kind of a bond you have with death. Yes, dear soul, as the Lord will find you, so will he also judge you.

Guard me, my Lord Jesus, from being overly confident so that I do not live mindlessly into the day like the ungodly who have no hope. Grant me, instead, that –day and night– I live in such a way, and that I am found in all my doing to be prepared at every moment so that I may take a blessed farewell. Amen!

4th Modus (Manner)

Fourthly, you do also not know, dear soul, by which illness your God will let you die, whether you will perish through pestilence, through illness in the head, through fever or ulcers or consumption, whether you will perish by drowning or by burning, through murder or wild animals, or suchlike. Yes, my soul, many say, “When I get ill, I will do penance, and then I will prepare myself.” This person, however, does not know whether he would be so fortunate for God to let him have an illness. Do we not encounter such examples every day? How many a red mouth has paled –while commemorating God– by suffering a sudden stroke or another fatal punishment before becoming ill?

My God! how imprudent we miserable and careless humans are indeed. A bird is an irrational animal, and yet, when it sees that the one next to it has been hit and shot away, it swerves off in a hurry. Yes, when it sees a person drawing the bow and aiming at it, it does not wait, but it soars away to a place of safety. Oh, dear soul, so shall we humans also act; we encountering such examples every day: death does not take a break, but he shoots at one heart after the other, bringing them down. Oh, get ready, my soul, and fly away from sin toward righteousness, away from hell toward heaven, away from the terrible, disdainful world toward your Lord Jesus Christ, so that you can indeed say with comfort, “Go ahead and shoot, death, if you like; for even if you bring down my mortal heart and end the limited time of my life, I –in right faith– still have the governor of eternal life with me and in me; he gives me more than you can take from me.”

Therefore, dear soul, do not hold back on penance since you still can sin; do not profess to become pious, and do not anticipate your life’s betterment until death comes.

Lord Jesus, my savior! safeguard me from painful illnesses and from a terrible death. Do not assail me in my sins, and let me not die without penitence. Instead, convey to me a quiet, soft end without great fright and pain, so that –keeping my good senses– I may make a good end with a good mind, that I avow your name until my departure, and that I commend my soul into your hands devoutly and wholeheartedly. Amen!






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