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RELATIVES AND FRIENDS.
with the revelation of another truth; I would | death of those we love, confounds us with those
2. Though the apostles might be ignorant of the final period of the world, though they might have left the Christians of their own age in the presumption that they might survive to the end of the world, the point however they have left undetermined. The texts which seem repugnant to what I say, regard the destruction of Jerusalem, and not the day of judgment; but it is not possible to examine them here in support of what I assert.
3. But though the apostles were ignorant of the final period of the world, they were confident, however, that it should not come till the prophecies, respecting the destiny of the church, were accomplished. This is suggested by St. Paul in his second Epistle to the Thessalonians: "Now, we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in your mind," or troubled, "neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter, as from us, as though the day of Christ was at hand. Let no man deceive you in any way whatever; for the day of the Lord shall not come until the revolt shall have previously happened, and till that man of sin, the son of perdition, shall be revealed," chap. ii.
4. In fine, the apostles leaving the question undecided respecting the final period of the world; a question not essential to salvation, have determined the points of which we cannot be ignorant in order to be saved; I would say, the manner in which men should live to whom this period was unknown. They have drawn conclusions the most just and certain from the uncertainty in which those Christians were placed. They have inferred, that the church being ignorant of the day in which Christ shall come to judge the world, should be always ready for that event. obliges me to suppress the texts whence the But brevity inferences are deduced.
II. Having sufficiently discharged the duties of the critic, I proceed to those of the preacher. Taking the words of St. Paul in all their extent, we see the sentiments with which we should be animated when called to survive our dearest friends, which we shall now discuss.
St. Paul does not condemn all sorts of sorrow occasioned by the loss of those we love; he requires only that Christians should not be inconsolable in these circumstances, as those who have no hope. Hence, there is both a criminal and an innocent sorrow. The criminal sorrow is that which confounds us with those who are destitute of hope; but the innocent sorrow is compatible with the Christian hope. On these points we shall enter into some detail.
First, The sorrow occasioned to us by the
that have no hope, when it proceeds from a principle of distrust. Such is sometimes our situation on earth, that all our good devolves on a single point. A house rises to affluence; it acquires a rank in life; it is distinguished by. equipage; and all its elevation proceeds from a single head: this head is the mover of all its springs: he is the protector, the father, and friend of all: this head protector, and friend, expires; and by that single stroke, all our honours, rank, pleasures, afflucut down: this father, with him to the tomb. At this stroke nature ence, and enjoyments of life, seem to descend groans, the flesh murmurs, and faith also is obscured; the soul is wholly absolved in its calamities, and contemplating its own loss in that of others, concentrates itself in anguish. Hence those impetuous passions; hence these mournful and piercing cries; hence those Rachels, who will not be comforted because their children are no more. Hence those extravagant of present evils, and those gloomy augurs of portraits of past happiness, those exaggerations the future. Hence those furious howlings, and frightful distortions, in the midst of which it would seem that we were called rather as exorcists to the possessed, than to administer balm to afflicted minds.
we have formed of the grief proceeding from
renders us idolaters, idolatry is not the less odi-
Hence, when driven to despair by the occur-
that most Christians draw improper consequences, and act in a manner wholly opposed to the faith they profess. We believe the soul to be immortal; we are confident at the moment of a happy death that the soul takes its flight to heaven; and that the angels who are en
to determine whether it be love for the gift, or the giver, which excites our devotion. It is in the midst of tribulation that we can recognise a genuine zeal, and a conscious piety. When our faith abandons us in the trying hour, it is an evident proof that we had taken a chimera for a reality, and the shadow for the sub-camped around it for protection and defence, stance. Submission and hope are the characteristics of a Christian.
The example of the father of the faithful here occurs to our view. If ever a mortal had cause to fix his hopes on any object, it was undoubtedly this patriarch. Isaac was the son of the promise; Isaac was a miracle of grace; Isaac was a striking figure of the blessed Seed, in whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed. God commanded him to sacrifice this son; who then had ever stronger reasons to believe that his hopes were lost? But what did Abraham do? He submitted, he hoped. He submitted; he left his house; he took his son; he prepared the altar; he bound the innocent victim; he raised his arm; he was ready to dip his paternal hands in blood, and to plunge the knife into the bosom of this dear son. But in submitting, he hoped, he believed. How did he hope? He hoped against hope. How did he believe? He believed what was incredible, rather than persuade himself that his fidelity would be fatal, and that God would be deficient in his promise; he believed that God would restore his son by a miracle, having given him by a miracle; and that this son, the unparalleled fruit of a dead body, should be raised in a manner unheard of. Believers, here is your father. If you are the children of Abraham, do the works of Abraham. I say again, that submission and hope are the marks of a Christian. "In the mountains of the Lord he will there provide. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; yet my kindness shall not depart from thee; neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed. But Zion said, The Lord hath forsaken me; and my Lord hath forgotten me. Can a woman forget her sucking-child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forsake thee. When my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. Though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee," Isa. xlix. 14; liv. 10; Ps. xxvii. 10; Job xiii. 15.
II. We have reprobated the affliction of which despondency is the principle. A man judges of the happiness of others, by the notion of his own happiness; and estimating life as the supreme good, he regards the person deprived of it, as worthy of the tenderest compassion. Death presents itself to us under the image of a total privation. The deceased seems to us to be stripped of every comfort. Had he, by some awful catastrophe, lost his fortune; had he lost his sight, or one of his limbs, we should have sympathized in his affliction; with how much more propriety ought we to weep, when he has been deprived of all those comforts at a stroke, and fatally sentenced to live no more? This sorrow is appropriate to those who are destitute of hope. This is indisputable, when it has for, its object those who have finished a Christian course; and it is on these occasions more than any other, we are obliged to confess
carry it to the bosom of God. We have seen the living languish and sigh, and reach forth to the moment of their deliverance; and when they attain to this moment, we class them among the unhappy! Was I not right in saying, that there are no occasions on which Christians reason worse than on these, and act more directly opposite to the faith they profess? While the deceased were with us in this valley of tears, they were subject to many complaints. While running a race so arduous, they complained of being liable to stumble. They complained of the calamities of the church in which they were entangled. They complained when meditating on revelation that they found impenetrable mysteries; and when aspiring at perfection, they saw it placed in so exalted a view, as to be but imperfectly attained. But now they are afflicted no more; now they see God face to face; now they "are come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the myriads of angels, to the assembly of the first-born." Now, as the Holy Spirit has said, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord; for they rest from their labours, and their works do follow them," Heb. xii. 22; Ps. xvi. 11; Rev. xiv. 13.
These remarks concern those only who die the death of the righteous: but should not piety indulge her tears, when we see those die impenitent to whom we are joined by the ties of nature; and shall we call that a criminal sorrow when it is the death of reprobates which excite our grief? Is there any kind of comfort against this painful thought, that my son is dead in an unregenerate state? And can any sorrow be immoderate which is excited by the loss of a soul? This is the question we were wishful to illustrate, when we marked, in the third place, as a criminal sorrow, that which proceeds from a mistaken piety.
III. We answer first, that nothing is more presumptive than to decide on the eternal loss of men; and that we must not limit the extent of the divine mercy, and the ways of Providence. A contrite heart may, perhaps, be concealed under the exterior of reprobation; and the religion which enjoins us to live in holy fear of our own salvation, ever requires that we should presume charitably concerning the salvation of others.
But people are urgent, and being unable to find any mitigation in a doubtful case, against which a thousand circumstances seem to militate, they ask whether one ought to moderate the anguish excited by the eternal loss of one they love? The question is but too necessary in this unhappy age, where we see so great a number of our brethren die in apostacy, and in which the lives of those who surround us afford so just a ground of awful apprehensions, concerning their salvation.
I confess it would be unreasonable to censure tears in a situation so afflictive; I confess that
But if there be one kind of sorrow incompati
one has need of an extraordinary confidence to repress excess, and that an ordinary piety is in-ble with the hope of a Christian, there is anadequate to the task. I contend, however, that other which is altogether congenial to it, and religion forbids, even in this case, to sorrow inseparable in its ties, and such is the sorrow above measure. Two remarks shall make it which proceeds from one of the following prinmanifest; and we entreat those whom God has ciples:-from sympathy;-from the dictates of struck in this sensible manner, to impress them nature;-and from repentance. To be explicit: deeply on their mind. I. We have said first, from sympathy. Though we have censured the sorrow excited by the loss of our dearest friends, we did not wish to impose a rigorous apathy. The sorrow we have censured is that excessive grief, in which despondency prevailing over religion induces us to deplore the dead, as though there was no hope after this life, and no life after death. But the submissive sorrow by which we feel our loss, without shutting our eyes against the resources afforded by Providence; the sorrow which weeps at the sufferings of our friends in the road to glory, but confident of their having attained it; this sorrow, so far from being culpable, is an inseparable sentiment of nature, and an indispensable duty of religion.
1. Our grief really proceeds from a carnal principle, and our heart disguises itself from its own judgment, when it apparently suggests that religion is the cause. If it were simply the idea of the loss of the soul; if it were a principle of love to God, and if it were not the relations of father and son; in a word, if the motives were altogether spiritual, and the charity wholly pure, which excites our grief, whence is it that this one object should excite it, while so great a multitude of unhappy men are precisely in a similar case? Whence is it that we see daily, without anxiety, whole nations running headlong to perdition? Is it less dishonourable to God, that those multitudes are excluded from his covenant, than because it is precisely your friend, your son, or your father?
Yes, it is allowed on seeing this body, this corpse, the precious remains of a part of our selves, carried away by a funeral procession, it is allowed to recall the tender but painful recollections of the intimacy we had with him whom death has snatched away. It is allowed to recall the counsel he gave us in our embar. rassments; the care he took of our education; the solicitude he took for our welfare; the unaffected marks of love which appeared during the whole of his life, and which were redoubled at the period of his death. It is allowed to recall the endearments that so precious an inti
Our second remark is, that the love we have for the creature should always conform itself with the Creator. We ought to love our neighbours, because like us they bear the image of God, and they are called with us to the same glory. On this principle, when we see a sinner wantonly rush on the precipice, and risking salvation by his crimes, our charity ought to be alarmed. Thus Jesus Christ, placing himself in the period in which grace was still offered to Jerusalem, and in which she might ac-macy shed on life, the conversations in his last cept it, groaned beneath her hardness, and de- sickness, those tender adieus, those assurances plored the abuse she made of his entreaties; of esteem, that frankness of his soul, those fer"O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy vent prayers, those torrents of tears, and those day, the things that belong to thy peace," ," last efforts of an expiring tenderness. It is alLuke xix. 42. But when a man becomes the lowed in weeping to show the robes that Doravowed enemy of God, when a protracted cas had made. It is allowed to the tender Jocourse of vice, and a final perseverance in seph, on coming to the threshing floor of Atad, crimes, convinces that he has no part in his the tomb of his father; it is allowed to pour out covenant, then our love should return to its his heart, in lamentations, to make Canaan recentre, and associate itself with the love of our sound with the cries of his grief, and to call Creator. "Henceforth know we no man after the place Abel-mizraim, the mourning of the the flesh. I hate them with a perfect hatred. Egyptians. It is allowed to David to go weepIf any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, leting, and saying, "O my son Absalom; my son, him be anathema. If any man love father, mother, son, or daughter, more than me, he is not worthy of me," 2 Cor. v. 16; Ps. cxxxix. 22; Matt. x. 37.
This duty is, perhaps, too exalted for the earth. The sentiments of nature are, perhaps, too much entwined with those of religion to be so perfectly distinguished. It is certain, however, that they shall exist in heaven. If you should suppose the contrary, the happiness of heaven would be imbittered with a thousand pains: you can never conceive how a father can be satisfied with a felicity in which his son has no share; nor how a friend can be composed while his associate is loaded with "chains of darkness." Whereas, if you establish the principle that perfect charity must be an emanation of divine love, you will develop the inquiry; and you will also conclude, that excessive sorrow, excited by a criminal death, is a criminal sorrow, and that if piety be its principle, it is a misguided piety.
my son Absalom! would to God I had died for thee, O Absalom my son, my son!" 2 Sam. xviii. 33. It is allowed to St. Augustine to weep for the pious Monica, his mother, who had shed so many tears to obtain the grace for him, that he might for ever live with God, to use the expression of his father. Confess. lib. ix. c. 9, &c.
II. A due regard to ourselves should affect us with sorrow on seeing the dying and the dead. The first reflection that a sight of a corpse should suggest is, that we also must die, and that the road he has just taken, is "the way of all the earth." This is a reflection that every one seems to make, while no one makes it in reality. We cast on the dying and the dead but slight and transient regards; and if we say, in general, that this must be our final lot, we evade the particular application to our heart. While we subscribe to the sentence, "It is appointed unto men once to die," we uniformly make some sort of exception with
regard to ourselves: because we never have died, it seems as though we never should die. If we are not so far infatuated, as to flatter ourselves concerning the fatal necessity imposed on us to leave the world, we flatter our selves with regard to the circumstances; we consider them as remote; and the distance of the object prevents our knowing its nature, and regarding it in a just light. We attend the dying, we lay them in the tomb, we preach their funeral discourse; we follow them in the funeral train; and as though they were of a nature different from us, and as though we had some prerogative over the dead, we return home, and become candidates for their offices. We divide their riches, and enter on their lands, just as the presumptive mariner, who, seeing a ship on the shore, driven by the tempest and about to be bilged by the waves, takes his bark, braves the billows, and defies the danger, to share in the spoils of the wreck.
A prudent man contemplates the death of his friends with other eyes. He follows them with a mind attached to the tomb; he clothes himself in their shrouds; he extends himself in their coffin; he regards his living body as about to become like their corpse; and the duty he owes to himself inspires him with a gracious sorrow on seeing in the destiny of his lamented friends an image of his own.
But why should the thought of dying excite sorrow in a saint, in regard of whom the divine justice is disarmed, and to whom nothing is presented beyond the tomb but inviting objects The solution of this difficulty associates with what we said in the third place, that the death of persons worthy of our esteem, should excite in our hearts the sentiments of repentance.
III. It is a question often agitated among Christians, that seeing Jesus Christ has satisfied the justice of the Father for their sins, why should they still die? And one of the most pressing difficulties opposed to the evangelical system results from it, that death equally reigns over those who embrace, and those who reject it. To this it is commonly replied, that death is now no longer a punishment for our sins, but a tempest that rolls us to the port, and a passage to a better life. This is a solid reply: but does it perfectly remove the difficulty? Have we not still a right to ask, Why God should lead us in so strait a way? Why he pleases to make this route so difficult? Why do not his chariots of fire carry us up to heaven, as they once took Elijah? For after all the handsome things one can say, the period of death is a terrible period, and death is still a formidable foe. What labours, what conflicts, what throes, prior to the moments what doubts, what uncertainties, what labouring of thought before we acquire the degree of confidence to die with fortitude! How disgusting the remedies! How irksome the aids! How severe the separations! How piercing the final farewell! This constitutes the difficulty, and the ordinary solution leaves it in all its force.
The following remark to me seems to meet the difficulty in a manner more direct. The death of the righteous is an evil, but it is an instructive evil. It is a violent, but a necessary remedy. It is a portrait of the divine justice which God requires we should constantly have
in view, that we may so live as to avoid becoming the victims of that justice. It is an awful monument of the horror God has of sin, which should teach us to avoid it. The more submissive the good man was to the divine pleasure, the more distinguished is the monument. The more eminent he was for piety, the more should we be awed by this stroke of justice. Come, and look at this good man in the tomb, and in a putrid state; trace his exit in a bed of affliction to this dark and obscure abode; see how, after having been emaciated by a severe disease, he is now reserved as a feast for worms. Who was this man? Was he habitually wicked? Was he avowedly an enemy of God? No: he was a believer; he was a model of virtue and probity. Meanwhile, this saint, this friend of Christ, died: descended from a sinful father, he submitted to the sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," Gen. iii. 19. And if those remains of corruption were subjugated to a lot so severe, what shall be the situation of those in whom sin reigns? "If the righteous be saved with difficulty, where shall the wicked appear? If the judgment of God begin at his house, what shall the end be of those that obey not the gospel?" 1 Pet. iv. 17, 18.
The law imposed on us to die is, therefore, a requisite, but indeed a violent remedy; and to correspond with the design, we must drink the cup. The death of those who are worthy of our regret, ought to recall to our mind the punishment of sin, and to excite in us that sorrow which is a necessary fruit of true repentance.
These are the three sorts of sorrow that the death of our friends should excite in our breast. And so far are we from repressing this kind of grief, that we would wish you to feel it in all its force. Go to the tombs of the dead; open their coffins; look on their remains; let each there recognise a husband, or a parent, or children, or brethren; but instead of regarding them as surrounding him alive, let him suppose himself as lodged in the subterraneous abode with the persons to whom he has been closely united. Look at them deliberately, hear what they say: death seems to have condemned him to an eternal silence; meanwhile they speak; they preach with a voice far more eloquent than ours.
We have taught you to shed upon their tombs tears of tenderness: hear the dead, they preach with a voice more eloquent than ours. "Have you forgotten the relations we formed, and the ties that united us? Is it with games and diversions that you lament our loss? Is it in the circles of gayety, and in public places, that you commemorate our exit?"
We have exhorted you to shed upon their tomb tears of duty to yourselves. "Hear the dead;" they preach with a voice more eloquent than ours. They cry, "Vanity of vanities. All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof. Surely man walketh in a vain shadow," Eccles. i. 2; Isa. xl. 6; 1
John ii. 17; Ps. xxxix. 7. They recall to your mind the afflictions they have endured, the troubles which assailed their mind, and the deliriums that affected their brain. They recall
those objects that you may contemplate in their situation an image of your own; that you may be apprised how imperfectly qualified a man is in his last moments for recollection, and the work of his salvation. They tell you, that they once had the same health, the same strength, the same fortune, and the same honours as you; notwithstanding, the torrent which bore us away, is doing the same with you.
We have exhorted you to shed upon their tombs the tears of repentance. Hear the dead; they preach with an eloquence greater than ours; they say, "that sin has brought death into the world; death which separates the father from the and the son from the father; which son, disunites hearts the most closely attached, and dissolves the most intimate and tender ties." They say more: Hear the dead-hear some of them, who, from the abyss of eternal flames, into which they are plunged for impenitency, exhort you to repentance.
O! terrific preachers, preachers of despair, may your voice break the hearts of those hearers on which our ministry is destitute of energy and effect.-Hear those dead, they speak with a voice more eloquent than ours from the depths of the abyss, from the deep caverns of hell; they cry, "Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? Ye mountains fall on us; ye hills cover us. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, when he is angry," Isa. xxxiii. 14; Luke xxiii. 30; Heb. x. 31. Hear the father, who suffering in hell for the bad education given to the family he left on earth. Hear him by the despair of his condition; by the chains which oppress him; by the fire which devours him; and by the remorse, the torments, and the anguish which gnaw him, entreat you not to follow him to that abyss. Hear the impure, the accomplice of your pleasure, who says, that if God had called you the first, you would have been substituted in his place, and who entreats to let your eyes become as fountains of repentant tears.
ON THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON.*
1 KINGS iii. 5-14.
In Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon, in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give. And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David, my father; and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out and come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast thou asked riches for thyself; nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment: Behold I have done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou will walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then will I lengthen thy days.
"Wo to thee, O land, when thy king is a This is the sort of sorrow with which we child!" In this way has the sage expressed the should be affected for the death of those with calamities of states conducted by men destitute whom it has pleased God to connect us by the of experience. But this general maxim is not bonds of society and of nature. May it pene- without exceptions. As we sometimes see the trate our hearts; and for ever banish the sorrow gayeties of youth in mature age, so we somewhich confounds us with those who have no times perceive in youth the gravity of sober hope. Let us be compassionate citizens, faith-years. There are some geniuses premature, ful friends, tender fathers, loving all those with whom it has pleased God to unite us, and not regarding this love as a defect; but let us love our Maker with supreme affection. Let us be always ready to sacrifice to him whatever we have most dear on earth. May a glorious resurrection be the ultimatum of our requests. May the hope of obtaining it assuage all our sufferings. And may God Almighty, who has educated us in a religion so admirably adapted to support in temptation, give success to our efforts, and be the crown of our hopes; Amen. To whom be honour and glory, henceforth and
with whom reason anticipates on years; and who, if I may so speak, on leaving the cradle, discover talents worthy of the throne. A profusion of supernatural endowments, coming to the aid of nature, exemplifies in their character the happy experience of the prophet; "I have more understanding than all my teachers. I
Saurin, placed at the Hague as first minister of the persecuted Protestants, and often attended by illustrious characters, saw it his duty to apprise them of the moral sentiments essential for an entrance on high office and extensive authority. The Abbe Maury, in his treatise on Eloquence, though hostile to Saurin, allows this Sermon on the Wisdom of Solomon, to be one of the best specimens of his eloquence.