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behave with external decency, to refrain from bold censures, and outrageous complaints, or to speak in the outward language of resignation. But it is not so easy to get rid of every repining thought, and to forbear taking it, in some degree at least, unkindly, that the God whom we love and serve, in whose friendship we hare long trusted and rejoiced, should act wh to sense, seems so unfriendly a part: that he should take away a child; and if a child, that child; and if that child, at that age; and if at that age, with this or that particular circumstance; which seems the very contrivance of providence, to add double anguish to the wound; and all this, when he could so easily have recalled it; when we know him to have done it for so many others; when we so earnestly desired it; when we sought it with such importunity, and yet, as we imagine, with so much submission too :
-That, notwithstanding all this, he should tear it away with an inexorable hand, and leave us, it may be for a while, under the load, without any extraordinary comforts and supports, to balance so grievous a trial. - In these circumstances, not only to justify, but to glorify God in all, cheerfully to subscribe to his will, cordially to approve it as merciful and gracious, so as to be able to say, as the pious and excellent archbishop of Cambray did, when his royal pupil, and the hopes of a nation were taken away*, “ If there needed no more than to move a straw to bring him to life again, I would not do it, since the divine pleasure is otherwise.”—This, this is a difficult lesson indeed; a triumph of christian faith and love, which I fear many of us are yet to learn.
But let us follow after it, and watch against the first rising of a contrary temper, as most injurious to God, and prejudicial to ourselves. To preserve us against it, let us review the considerations now to be proposed, as what we are to digest into our hearts, and work into our thoughts and our passions. And I would hope, that if we do in good earnest make the attempt, we shall find this discourse a cooling and sweetening medicine, which may allay that inward heat and sharpness, with which, in a case like ours, the heart is often inflamed and corroded. I commend it, such as it is, to the blessing of the great physician, and could wish the reader to make up its many deficiencies, by Mr. Flavel's Token for Mourners, and Dr. Grosvenor's Mourner; to which if it suit his relish, he may please to add Sir William Temple's Essay on the Excess of Grief: Three tracts which, in their very different strains and styles, I cannot but look upon as in the number of the best which our language, or, perhaps, any other, has produced upon this subject.
As for this little piece of mine, I question not, but, like the generality of single sermons, it will soon be worn out and forgot. But in the mean time, I would humbly hope, that some tender parent, whom providence has joined with me in sad similitude of grief, may find some consolation from it, while sitting by the coffin of a beloved child, or mourning over its grave. And I particularly hope it, with regard to those dear and valuable friends, whose sorrows, on the like occasion, have lately been added to my own. I desire that though they be not expressly named, they would please to consider this sermon as most affectionately and respectfully dedicated to them; and would, in return, give me a share in their prayers, that all the vicissitudes of life may concur to quicken me in the duties of it, and to ripen me for that blessed world, where I hope many of those dear delights, which are now withering around us, will spring up in fairer and more durable forms. Amen. Northampton, Jan. 31st, 1736-7. * The duke of Burgundy. See Cambray's Life, p. 329.
I could easily shew, with how much propriety I have called the dear de ceased an amiable and hopeful child, by a great many little stories, which parents would perhaps read with pleasure, and children might hear with some improvement: yet as I cannot be sure that no others may happen to read the discourse, I dare not trust my pen and my heart on so delicate a subject. One circumstance I will however venture to mention, (as I see here is a blank page left) which may indeed be considered as a specimen of many others. As she was a great darling with most of our friends that knew her, she often received invitations to different places at the same time; and when I once asked her, on such an occasion, what made every body love her so well; she answered me, with that simplicity and spirit, which alas! charmed me too much, Indeed, papa, I cannot think, unless it be because I love every body. A sentiment obvious to the understanding of a child, yet not unworthy the reflection of the wisest man*.
* Tibi monstrabo amatorium sine medicamento, sine herbis, sine ullius renc. ficæ carmine, Si vis amari, ama. Sen.
2 Kings iv. 25, 26.--- And it came to pass when the Man of God saw her afur
off, that he said to Gehazi, his Servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunamite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say, unto her, Is it well with thee? Is it well with thine Husband ? Is it well with the child ? And she answered,
It is well. WHEN the apostle would encourage our hope and trust in the tenderness of Christ as the great high priest, and convince us that he is capable of being touched with a sympathetic sense of our infirmities, he argues at large from this consideration, that Jesus, Was in all points tempted like us ; so that as He himself has suffered, being tempted, he knows how more compassionately to succour those that are under the like trials*. Now this must surely intimate, that it is not in human nature, even in its most perfect state, so tenderly to commiserate any sorrows, as those which our own hearts have felt: as we cannot form a perfect idea of any bitter kind of draught, by the most exact description, till we have ourselves tasted it. bably for this reason, amongst others, that God frequently exercises such, as have the honour to be inferior shepherds in the fock of Christ, with a long train of various afflictions, That we may be able to comfort them who are in the like trouble, with those consolations with which we have ourselves been comforted of Godt. And, if we have the temper which becomes our office, it will greatly reconcile us to our trials, to consider, that from our weeping eyes, and our bleeding hearts, a balm may be extracted to heal the sorrows of others, and cordial to revive their fainting spirits. May we never be left to sink under our burden, in such a manner, that there should be room, after all that we have boasted of the strength of religious supports, to apply to us the words of Eliphaz to Jobs, Thou hast strengthened the weak hands, and upheld him that was ready to fall; but now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it touches thee, and thou art troubled! May we never behave, as if The consolations of God were smalls; lest it should be as when a standard-bearer fainteth ll; and whole companies of soldiers are thrown into confusion and distress!
It is pro
* Heb. iv. 15,-ü, 18. + 2 Cor, i. 4. # Job iv, 3-5. Job xv, 11. Is. X. 18.
My friends, you are witnesses for me, that I have not stood by as an unconcerned spectator amidst the desolations of your respective families, when God's awful hand hath been lopping off those tender branches from them, which were once our common hope and delight. I have often put my soul in the stead of yours,
and endeavoured to give such a turn to my public as well as my private discourses, as might be a means of composing and cheering our minds, and forming you to a submissive
you might Be subject to the Father of spirits, and live * In this view I have, at different times largely insisted on the example of Aaron, who Held his peacet, when his two sons were struck dead in a moment by fire from the Lord, which destroyed them in the very act of their sin ; and I have also represented that of Job, who, when the death of ten children by one blow was added to the spoil of his great possessions, could say, The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away ; blessed be the name of the Lords. The instance which is before us, is not indeed so memorable as these; but to present circumstances it is, in many respects, more suitable : and it may the rather deserve our notice, as it shews us the wisdom, composure, and piety of one of the weaker and tenderer sex, on an occasion of such aggravated distress, that had Aaron or Job behaved just as she did, we must have acknowledged, that they had not sunk beneath the dignity of their character, nor appeared unworthy of our applause, and our imitation
Indeed there may be some reason to imagine, that it was with design to humble those who are in distinguished stations of life, and who have peculiar advantages and obligations to excel in religion, that God has shewn us in scripture, as well as in common life, some bright examples of piety, where they could hardly have been expected in so great a degree ; and hath, as it were, Perfected praise out of the mouths of babes and sucklings. Thus when Zacharias || an aged priest, doubted the veracity of the angel which appeared to assure him of the birth of his child, which was to be produced in an ordinary way; Mary, an obscure young virgin, could believe a far more unexampled event, and said, with humble faith and thankful consent, Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word. Jonah the prophet, though favoured with such immediate revelations, and so lately delivered, in a miraculous way, from the very Belly of hell *, was thrown into a most indecent transport of passion, on the withering of a gourd ; so that he presumed to tell the Almighty to his face, that He did well to be angry even unto deatht; whereas this pious woman preserves the calmness and serenity of her temper, when she had lost a child, a son, an only child who had been given beyond all natural hope, and therefore to be sure was so much the dearer, and the expectation from him so much the higher. Yet these expectations dashed almost in a moment; and this, when he was grown up to an age when children are peculiarly entertaining ; for he was old enough to be with his Father in the field ; where no doubt he was diverting him with his fond prattle ; yet he was not too big to be laid On his mother's knees [ when he came home complaining of his head; so that he was probably about five or six years old. This amiable child was well in the morning, and dead by noon ; a pale corpse in his mother's arms! and he now lay dead in the house ; and yet she had the faith, and the goodness to say, It is well.
* Heb. xii. 9.
Mat. xxi. 16.
+ Lev. x. 3.
1 Luke i. 18.
Job i. 21. 9 Luke i. 38.
This good woman had found the prophet Elisha grateful for all the favours he had received at her house; where she had from time to time accommodated him in his journies, and thought it an honour rather than an incumbrance. She had experienced the power of his prayers, in answer to which the child had been given; and it is extremely probable, that she also recollected the miracle which Elijah had wrought a few years before, though till that time the like had not been known in Israel, or on earth ; I mean, in raising from the dead the child of that widow of Sarepta $ who had nourished him during the famine. She might therefore think it a possible case, that the miracle might be renewed ; at least, she knew not how to comfort herself better, than by going to so good a friend, and asking his counsels and his prayers, to enable her to bear her affliction, if it must not be removed l.
Accordingly she hasted to him; and he, on the other side, discovered the temper of a real friend, in the message with which he sent Gehazi his servant to meet her, while she was yet afar off. The moment she appeared, the concerns of her whole family seem to have come into his kind heart at once, and he particularly asks, Is it well with thee? Is it well with thine husband ? Is it well with the child ? A beautiful example of that affectionate care for the persons and families of their
* Jon. ii. 2.
+ Jon. iv. 9.
: 2 Kings iv. 18, 20.