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The mortal and immortal each
Reflecting each were seen;
With death's pale face between.
From thee those prayers arise
Draw angels from the skies.
A wintry dawn of gloom,
The still and sickly room :
Oh, haste thee, love, come nigh,
And bless thee, ere I die!
Forgive me now,” she cried :
When most I seemed to chide;
And for her spirit pray!”
Passed blissfully away!
The slumbering girl alarms ?
Within the angel's arms !
But nothing there appears
ON THE DEATH OF CHILDREN.
“ While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” (2 Samuel xii, 22, 23.)
We have in this chapter, one of the most beautiful and affecting narratives which the sacred volume contains. A parent, even David, the good king of Israel, is introduced, fasting and weeping, and beseeching God for his child, grievously sick. Oppressed with unutterable woe, the distressed father lies all night upon the earth, and is unable to eat bread. His fears are realized—the child dies. Filled with compassion for their royal master, “ the servants of David feared to tell him that the child was dead; for they said, Behold, while the child was yet alive, we spake unto him, and he would not hearken unto our voice : how will he then vex himself, if we tell him that the child is dead !" But their sadness and stillness spoke more than words, to the anticipating eye of parental anxiety. “ David perceived that the child was dead.” What now is his conduct? He arises from the earth, and washes, and anoints himself, and changes his apparal, and comes into the house of the Lord and worships : returning to his own house, he takes the sustenance which nature requires, and exhibits a fine model of resignation to his wondering family, in the memorable words of my text—" While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, who can tell whether God will be gracious to me, that the child may live ? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Here are two things worthy of our particular consideration—the reasons of David's resignation, and the manner in which it manifested itself.
We will first advert to the grounds of his resignation :" Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” The good Psalmist had done as every pious parent will do in similar circumstances; he had bowed himself before the Most High God, and besought Him right humbly for his child. Death had signified it to be the divine pleasure, that the child should be taken to another state of existence. To resist would be vain—to repine would be fruitless. Our grief may unman ourselves, it may distress our friends, it may unfit us for the discharge of the duties of life, it may offend our God; but it can never call back from the tomb the beloved objects upon whom death hath once fixed his unrelenting hand. They hear not our sighs, they regard not our tears. Though rivers of waters should run down our cheeks, though we should give up all the pleasures and pursuits of life, and devote our days and nights to mourning, it would be of no avail. The spirit once fled, returns no more. We cannot bring it back again. It is the
appointment of that Being, who will not condescend to dispute with us his right to the creatures of his hand. His will must be done. Reason, therefore, on this ground, combined her voice with religion's, in inducing the Psalmist to endure with manly submission what he was unable to amend.
It is true, it would be a melancholy fortitude which these reflections produce, if it were not strengthened and cheered by another consideration. Though fate forbade David to call back to his embraces his departed child, was he separated from him for ever? Was the spark of life, which had been kindled in his babe, 'extinguished eternally? Was the little offspring of his body struck out of all being, born only to die, doomed to a shorter and more joyless existence than the idle gossamer that floats upon the air? Verily, to the tender heart of the affectionate king the thought had been insupportable. But he was consoled with far other expectations. The spark of being which the Almighty had kindled in his child, was kindled to burn for ever. The Messiah had consecrated it to immortality. “I shall go to him,” though“ he shall not return to me."
A resignation, grounded on such considerations as these, must have blessed and exalted the Psalmist's character. Let us briefly notice the manner in which it manifested itself. Behold, he who, careless of attire, lay weeping on the earth, arises and washes himself, and changes his apparel. He, whom no consideration could draw from the place where his child lay sick, goes forth spontaneously " into the house of the Lord, and worships." He, whom the elders of the house had intreated in vain to receive some sustenance, himself gives orders to set on bread. He whom his servants “feared to tell that the child was dead," leaves their astonished minds below his fortitude, and discourses with them on the reasonableness and propriety of submission. How majestic in his affliction! What greatness and peace in resignation like this! There is nothing here of the coldness of the stoic, or of the disgusting hardihood of the unbeliever. David's heart was tender. We have seen during the illness of his child, and we have learned from many incidents of his life, that he felt most sensibly what only parents feel. But his acquiescence sprang from a sense of duty. It was the effort of a great mind, greatly endowed with divine grace, and anxious in all things to honour God.
It is worthy of particular observation, that the first step of the Psalmist in the day of his sorrow, is to “the house of the Lord.” As soon as he had attired himself in the garments of
decency, he went into the temple. There, we may presume, he confessed his sins to his Maker, especially that flagrant departure from the law of God, which had been the occasion of the death of the child. There, we may suppose, he humbled himself in his prayer, and acknowledged the justice of the Almighty. There, we may believe, he sought the consolation and support of that grace, which descendeth from heaven upon the afflicted soul, as the dew upon the grass when it languisheth. His conduct, my brethren, is worthy of imitation. I know not where the children of sorrow should go, if not to the house of their heavenly Father. It is in the holiness of the sanctuary, that, “beauty” is found, which the prophet was to give, instead of “ ashes,” to those “who mourned in Zion.” It is in the sacred vessels of the temple, that the “ oil of joy” is kept, which God's people are to have “for mourning.” And here, we trust, when we are assembled “ in his name," Immanuel is “in the midst of us,” who furnishes from the wardrobe of heaven “ the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." Are you then bereaved or afflicted ? Fail not to seek your Maker in the house which He hath chosen “ to place his name there.” “Go into his tabernacle, and fall low on your knees before his footstool. Humble yourselves in his sight under his heavy hand. Pour out your griefs before Him, and beseech Him to speak peace to your perturbed bosoms. Trust me, “ He is a refuge in distress," a very present help in the needful time of trouble. David went into his sanctuary, and was strengthened: and his God is your God, powerful as a comforter; at whose word the gloomy clouds of sorrow will vanish, and the impetuous tossings of your hearts be still.--Extracted from Bp. Dehon.
ON THE ATTENDANCE OF CHILDREN AT CHURCH.
“ SUFFER the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not,” were the gracious words of our blessed Savour, implying that even the prayers and devotions of babes were acceptable unto God. Yet many parents, either from fancying that their children are too young to conduct themselves properly in the house of God, or from an erroneous notion that they cannot possibly derive any benefit from going to church, studiously keep them at home. But this system is always sure to be attended with serious evil to the children, and is grounded upon the ignorance of our nature. It is an old saying, and full of wisdom, that
“just as the twig is bent, the tree's inclined;" that is, that early discipline will mould any thing into what form we please-s0 that even lifeless or senseless bodies may be made obedient to the laws which we may impose upon them. Much more truly may this be said of children, with them early habits are all in all : if those habits in childhood are habits of order and industry -the man will generally be found to be orderly and industrious : if they be those of obedience to his parents, and piety to his God—the man will in general be found to be a loyal subject, and possessed with a serious due sense of the importance of religion. If, on the other hand, the parents set before their offspring examples of irregular, dishonest, or intemperate conduct; if they show no command over their own tempers, no reverence for their superiors, no regard for the will of their God—if all their habits are evil-can it be expected that a miracle should be wrought in their favour, and that their children should grow up into honest, religious, sober men ? Every day's experience shows the folly of entertaining such hopes or expectations. Among the great number of disorderly, dishonest, and profligate children with which London abounds, it will, generally speaking, be found that their parents were not persons of orderly, regular, and virtuous habits. Habits never leave a man—they may be the spring and source of his respectability and happiness; or they may conduct him to shame and the grave—but he will hardly ever be able to throw them off. When formed upon right principles, they are more stable than principle itself. Of their power and inveteracy, Scripture itself speaks when, in describing the difficulty of reformation to the wicked, it asks, “ Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard bis spots ? then may we learn to do well, who have been accustomed to do evil.” But of all important habits, none can surely be put in competition with that of early attendance in the house of God. He wbo bas been early accustomed to attend his church, will feel that something is wanting to the solemnity and the comfort of his sabbath, if this habit has been interrupted. This will be the case if the interruption has been unavoidable. If it have been occasioned by his own fault, to his discomfort and uneasiness will be added a sense of wrong doing—and the consequence of these feelings will be a renewed eagerness to go back to his old and good customs. He will say, “I was glad when they said, Let us go into the house of the Lord !” for he will esteem it at once a privilege and a blessing. On the other hand, if we inquire into the circumstances of a person's never going to church in his manhood, we