« AnteriorContinuar »
ing there is, in the eye of God, good furnished by that melancholy mansion, and good which they will naturally find.
The two reasons here given by the wise man why such as visit the house of mourning will be profited by going to it, are the nature of the place, and the emotions which it inspires in their hearts. That is the end of all men, and the living will lay it to heart. The end of all men, the most solemn and affecting of all things here below, is found in the house of mourning, and is not barely taught, but most affectingly taught. It is taught in fact, in the person of a friend or neighbour, one whose death affects us particularly on a great variety of accounts. Death in such circumstances affects us deeply, solemnly, and permanently.
Beyond this we are in the midst of a mourning family, and by tender sympathy share in all their sorrows, while they are fresh and powerful. We cannot fail to weep with those who weep, and to mourn and be in bitterness with such as have lost perhaps an only son, and are in bitterness for a first-born..
Thus we see here the end of all men in the clearest light, and are in the most advantageous situation to lay it usefully to heart.
But if this be the case with mere visitors, with friends, neighbours, or even strangers, how much more advantageous must be the situation of the mourners themselves! To them the end of all men is brought far nearer, and their tenderness of mind is far greater, and prepares them much more effectually to lay it to heart. Their minds are more affected, more solemn, and better prepared for religious impressions than those of any other persons, and more than they themselves are in any other circumstances.
But to lay to heart the end of all men, is one of our most important duties and highest interests. It is the way to be prepared for that end, to become religious, to be fitted for heaven.
Thus, then, the afflicted, especially mourners, enjoy the best opportunity commonly afforded by the providence of God for securing the end of their being, the salvation of their souls. This opportunity is rendered profitable chiefly, or only, by wise.
consideration. Of course our highest interest demands this duty at our hands. He therefore who does not perform it is most unwise, and lost alike to his duty and to his supreme in
Thirdly, As afflictions are sent to bring us to consideration, God, if he designs good for us, must be expected to go on in his course of chastisement until the end of them, viz. our reformation is produced.
The purposes of God will all be accomplished. "My coun"sel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure." "I work, "and who shall let it?" Hence we ought rationally to expect affliction to be added to affliction, until the rebellious heart is broken, and the spirit of obstinacy and impenitence subdued. If the first afflictions accomplish the design of God in sending them, he will not make use of others. If not, there is always reason to fear that he will continue his chastisements until he has brought us to submission and repentance. The smart of one stroke naturally leads us to dread another, and therefore common prudence should prompt us to a faithful performance of this duty.
Fourthly, God may, on the contrary, and often does, give up those who are unreformed by afflictions to hardness of heart.
This of all evils on this side the grave, is undoubtedly the greatest. It is no other than an anticipation of the final sentence of the wicked. Yet this is unquestionably often pronounced in the present world, although we ourselves are not warranted to apply it to individuals. In conformity to this doctrine God said to the ancient Jews, "Why should ye be "stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more ;" and still more dreadfully of Ephraim," Ephraim is joined unto idols, "let him alone. The earth which, in this sense, drinketh in the rain, which cometh oft upon it, and still beareth thorns and briers, is rejected, and nigh unto cursing. The miry places and marshes, which thus prove that they cannot be healed, are given to salt. If repeated afflictions are to be dreaded by those who are now suffering, how much more this rejection, this final desertion of God.
In this way we lose the best, and, as the case is supposed, the only time of repentance and salvation. As our hearts are now more fitted to receive divine impressions than in any ordinary circumstances, so, since we do not receive and feel them during this happy period, there is no reason to expect that we shall feel at all.
Fifthly, By the performance of this duty, the afflicted will obtain incalculable good now as well as hereafter.
Afflictions, of course, if wisely improved and sanctified by God, yield the peaceable fruits of righteousness. If wisely improved by us, there is good reason to hope that they will be thus sanctified. Great multitudes of mankind are hopefully brought out of darkness into marvellous light during seasons of severe affliction. Then the first views begin, the first affections are cherished, the first resolutions are formed, which introduce all the succeeding happy train of conduct and character of the sanctified man. Eternal life is very often to be dated from the dying bed of our friends. Religion there sits kindly and constantly to persuade us to admit her as a future friend, a future and eternal inmate of our bosoms. Christ there solemnly and affectingly calls on us, as we dread death, to dread sin, the cause of death, and to be alarmed with the thought of dying for ever; to be reconciled to God, then waiting to receive us to his arms, and to believe in himself, the resurrection and the life, that he may raise us up at the last day. Salvation here dawns like the day-star, rising out of a night of gloom and tempest, and anticipating a perfect and glorious day. The soul, here under a load of hopeless sorrow, finding no earthly friend or comforter able and willing to relieve its distresses, bows before its divine Redeemer, and turns to the Spirit of grace for heavenly and immortal consolation. Here it seeks,
so as to find, them all.
A new disposition now commences in the soul, a lively confidence in Christ, a humble sorrow for sin, a willing submission to God. With these are found peace of conscience and joy in the Holy Ghost; delightful companions, born in the heavens, and springing from a parent infinite and divine! The mind, under their mild and sweet influence, becomes at peace
with itself, at peace with its fellow-creatures, at peace with its Maker. The north wind awakes in it, the south wind blows upon it, its blossoms all expand, its spices flow out in all their fragrance. The Spirit of truth finds a residence in which he is pleased to dwell. Thenceforth all its fruits are pleasant and abundant, acceptable to God, useful and delightful to mankind. No more a desolate wilderness, overgrown with briers and thorns, the soul has become a well-watered garden, a fruitful field, which the Lord hath planted. Like Eden it blooms, not with beauty only, but with life, and bears fruits, not only good for food and pleasant to the eye, but fraught with the principle and the hopes of immortality.
A SERMON ON THE OLD YEAR.
PSALM XC. 9.
"We spend our years, as a tale that is told."
THIS psalm is composed of a series of just, forcible, and melancholy reflections on the shortness and vanity of life, and of a fervent and most interesting prayer for such blessings as are especially suited to beings possessed of such a life. It is styled "A prayer of Moses, the man of God"; and is strongly marked with the energetic and sublime spirit everywhere visible in the writings of this singular man. The occasion, on which it is supposed to have been written, was the termination of that gradual change in human life which began immediately after the flood, and reduced the period from a thousand to seventy years. This termination seems to have been accomplished at the time when the rebellious Israelites, of the generation which went out of Egypt, were condemned to perish in the wilderness. Both of these subjects appear to have been strongly realized by the writer, and directly alluded to in his reflections; and were therefore, I think, certainly in his mind when he began to write.
The psalm is a poem strictly of the elegiac kind; and is, for its length, excelled by no similar human composition in the propriety and beauty of thought and description. The Lamen