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complete your happiness, and which the presence of your beloved offspring only could supply? Be comforted then if they have left this troublesome, ensnaring world, before they were contaminated by its corruptions, or led astray by its temptations; and let not their innocence and your guilt endanger the bitter pangs of another separation.
May I not now, my friends, revert to the words of my text, and ask- "Are the consolations of God small with you?" If he wound, does he not heal? If he smite, does he not bind up? If his decrees be those of absolute sovereignty, to which no resistance can be opposed, is it not comfortable to reflect that the milder attributes of paternal authority soften what might wear the aspect of severity-that infinite wisdom cannot err in the choice of what is most condacive to our best interests, and that infinite goodness cannot want the disposition to adopt it? Under a sense of our own insufficiency for these important ends, does it not become us "in every thing to give thanks," and whatever he determines, to say-" It is well?" Ignorant and short-sighted as we are, yet sometimes his merciful purposes in afflicting us are so apparent, that we cannot avoid assenting to their propriety; and the benefits of properly improved chastisements are too obvious, and have been too often attested by the most exalted characters, to be the subject of doubt or dispute. Above all, we not only see that suffering and distress can last but for a short time, but are assured by the gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord, that it shall be succeeded by positive, substantial, never-ending felicity and glorywhen what is not now in our power to comprehend, shall all be made clear and intelligible. After this,
shall we presume to complain of any of the dispensations of our heavenly Father and benefactor? Surely his rebukes and corrections are salutary, and his consolations neither few nor small-" his mercy endureth for ever."
On the whole, when we take a deliberate and collective view of the circumstances of our condition in this transitory world, the fashion of which is continually changing and passing away, we must acknowledge the propriety of the apostolic advice, to rejoice as though we rejoiced not, and to weep as though we wept not. When our families are healthful and prosperous, and every thing wears a smiling aspect, let us chasten our joy. The events of a day, the indisposition of an hour, the accident of a moment, may change the scene, and turn the abode of gladness into the house of mourning. When this is our situation, let such considerations as I have now been suggesting, controul our passions, compose our spirits, banish distrust and despondency, and forbid an ungrateful insensibility to remaining mercies.
If to sustain the parental relation be naturally desirable, and if it call forth and bring into activity the finest and best affections of the human heart, still its cares and anxieties are sure to be many, and its griefs and disappointments may be heavy and bitter. Let this reconcile to the disposals of the divine Providence those from whom the blessing of children has been withheld. Where a trust so important has been committed, the responsibility is great and awful; and He who knows all things, best knows whether in their case it would have been faithfully discharged or not. Alas! how many parents may there not be who have reason to wish they had never borne the title!
Opportunities may not be wanting to those who are not parents, for performing many of the duties of the relation, and even some of the most important; they may be fathers to the fatherless, and mothers to the motherless; and while they acquiesce in what appears to be the will of God, fill up a most honourable and useful station in society.
To you, my young friends, 1 must now be permitted to address a word of exhortation. I take it for granted that you are of an age to be grateful for the tenderness of your parents, and to know that it is your duty to love, honour, and obey them. But you cannot, as yet, be acquainted with the full extent of what they experience on your account, nor the alternations of hope and fear, pleasure and pain, with which their minds are affected with regard to your health, your disposition, and your future situation in, and progress through, life. These you will better understand, if it should please Providence that you yourselves should stand in the like relation. It is their hope, if it so please the Almighty, that they may be spared the keen distress of following you to an early grave-but be assured that the only alleviation with which such a heavy stroke could be attended, must be, that your amiable and virtuous dispositions will afford them the consolatory prospect of meeting you again in a better world. I will farther suppose you arrived at that period when the understanding is unfolding itself, when mature reflection is beginning to take place of childish levity, and things which essentially differ, to be seen by you in a proper light of discrimination. It ought not to be -it is not expected, that the face of youth should wear the gravity of age that you should not partake
of the innocent pleasures suitable to your season of life, or prematurely encounter those cares and troubles which will soon enough cross you in your journey through the world. But there are seasons when serious thought and reflection will appear very proper and becoming even in you. Occurrences frequently take place, which one would think could scarcely fail to excite it even in the most volatile. The arrows of death fly thick around you-a proof is now fresh in your recollection that youth is no security against their stroke, and who among you of a contemporary standing may be the next victim God only knows, or whether we who in the course of nature are approaching the conclusion of life may not be your survivors. The dread of death is natural to us all; but there is a way to make it less terrible, and life, if life be spared, more desirable. In both respects, religion -the religion of Christ, offers you its friendly aid. Examine then, with diligence and earnestness, the grounds upon which rest the proofs of its truth-attend with respect to the arguments in its favour; and fear not that when viewed in its native purity and simplicity it will not abide the strictest scrutiny. Your labour will be abundantly rewarded-you will have laid up a good foundation against the time of need-you will be enabled to resist with success the allurements, and to bear with fortitude the afflictions of the world through which you are expecting to pass; and when you leave it, whether sooner or later, you may look forward, with humble and cheerful hope, to the possession of immortal life and glory.