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desolation and horror, it would be to transfer the blame of my ruin upon another. Oh that I could say, there was some powerful, arbitrary being, by whose irresistible hand I was forcibly borne away, as by a mighty torrent, and swept into this burning gulph! Oh that I could say, that I was wicked and miser. able by a fatal necessity! But there is not a wretch, amidst all the rage and blasphemy of such a dwelling as this, who can dare to assert that to have been the case : How much less then can I assert it!
“When I look up,” may you justly say, “ when I look up to yonder seats of unapproachable glory, from whence I am now Cast out, as an abominable branch*, Why was not my portion there? Wretch that I am, I was once numbered among the children of the kingdom; I was born in Emmanuel's land; I was educated in a religious family; and Oh, my parents and my ministers! how diligently did they instruct me! how awfully did they admonish me! how tenderly did they expostulate with me! I had indeed Line upon line, and precept upon precept t; and therefore I have now stroke upon stroke, and wound upon wound. The blood of a Redeemer was once offered me as a healing balm, and I despised it; and now it is poured out, as a burning corrosive on my bleeding soul. I was once lifted up even to the gates of heaven, and now I am cast down to the very centre of hell: I am now looking with envy, and with rage, on the milder torments of Tyre and Sidon, of Sodom and Gomorraht. There, sinner, thou wilt perhaps curse the compassionate heart, which now is almost sinking under this necessary representation of thy danger, and those unavailing tears which one or another of us may now be shedding, in the distant views of thy ruin.
Yet I must add once more, that as your pious parents will tremble " at the view of meeting you at the tribunal of God, so the thoughts of such an interview must be insupportably dreadful to you."
If Satan now draw you from your allegiance to God, and harden your heart to final impenitency, being Partakers of his sins, you will be partakers likewise of his plaguess, and like him, be Reserved in chains of darkness to the judgment of the great dayl. And how will your haughty hearts brook it, when you are to be brought out to that judgment? Oh, how often will your anxious, foreboding thoughts anticipate the shame and horror of that dreadful day!
Isa. xiv, 19.
I Mat. xi. 21--24.
+ Isa. cxviii. 10.
“I must stand forth,” will you then say, “ I must stand forth before my inexorable judge; my sin and my folly must be publicly proclaimed before the assembled world, and my parents too must be the witness of it. But oh, how shall I be able to lift up my face before them, blackened with the marks of guilt and despair! If I Call, will there be any to answer me; or to which of the saints shall I then turn*? Shall I turn to my parents and intreat them, by all their former tenderness for the children of their own bowels, to plead with the judge in my favour, if, perhaps they may mitigate the rigour of his wrath? Alas, I know him, and myself, and them too well, to expect any such attempt, or to ask any such favour. Will they not rather stand up as Swift witnesses against met and call for an increase of wrath on my guilty head? Will not all their former tenderness be turned into stern and awful severity? Will they not upbraid me with their instructions, their reproofs, their prayers, and their tears ; and applaud the triumphs of the divine vengeance, in the condemnation of so wicked, of so incorrigible a creature? With these awful remonstrances I dismiss you, and conclude with a reflection of a more comfortable nature.
3. From this survey of the reflections of a pious parent on the
death of a wicked child, we may certainly infer,—That the parents of religious children have abundant reason for thankfulness.
They have reason for thankfulness, both as they are free from such melancholy reflections and apprehensions ; and as a foundation is laid of other views, as full of cheerfulness and joy, as these are of terror and distress. My brethren I congra. tulate the happiness of those of you, who can say through grace, that God has Established his covenant with you, and with your seed after you, for an everlasting covenant to be a God unto you, and unto themt. It is the joy of my heart, to think how much it must be the joy of yours, to see your Children walking in the truth ş; and to see them Flourishing in the courts of your God I, as well as growing Like olive plants round your own tables 1: to see, that they have not only Escaped the grosser corruptions, which are in the world through lust**, but subscribe with their hand unto the Lord, and surname themselves by the name of Israel, his people tt. With what sweet tranquillity may you look forward to all the uncertainties of life
* Job. v. 1.
+ Mal, iii. 5.
1 Gen. xvii. 7.
$ 2 John ver. 4.
and death, for yourselves and for your children, while you have such a joyful persuasion, that you leave them in the hand of Your Father, and of their Father, of your God, and of their God *
And give me leave, on so natural an occasion, to address myself to you, my dear friends, from whom the great Sovereign of life has been pleased to take away pious and promising children, by what we are apt erroneously to call an immature death. You are ready to say, with a peculiar accent, that you Are the persons who have seen afflictiont. The images of those lovely creatures rise in your memory on such a hint as this, and croud into your minds afresh. You saw them growing up, and flourishing under your care; growing up, perhaps, to ripeness of years, and flourishing in some remarkable degrees of knowledge and of grace. And you fondly promised yourselves, from what you saw in them, that they would not only have been the comfort and delight of your declining broken age, but the support and honour of the church, when you were here no more: And now all these pleasing prospects are vanished, all these important hopes are buried with their dear dust.
Nay, perhaps, God hath, in this respect, Broken you with breach upon breach I, has taken away one desirable branch of your family after another, till all the branches are lopped off, and you stand like the naked trunk of trees which were once diffosing a thick and extensive shade. Yes, I am aware, there are some of you, that know the peculiar agony, to all but such as yourselves probably unknown, of following your last child to the grave. I fear, I come too near you, and that some of your wounds are bleeding anew. Would the balm of sympathetic tears administer any relief to them, how easy would it be to ponr it out in abundance! But, in a case like yours, there is a much more efficacious and sovereign relief.
I am speaking to christians. You sometimes plead the indications of wisdom and piety, which you discerned in your children as an aggravation of your sorrow for the loss of them ; and I acknowledge, in one view, they are indeed so : But in another view, bow greatly do they extenuate it!
You saw them, it may be, when they were under a languishing distemper, for some time, as it were, daily dying before your eyes; but did you not likewise see the divine Rod and staf comforting them $? It may be, sometimes to such a degree, that you regretted not so much, that they were going
John xx. 17.
+ Lam. iij. 1.
Job xvi, 14.
Psal. xxiii. 4.
off the stage, as that you were not accompanying them in the same way, and with the same spirit. You heard their expiring groans, but did you not also hear some songs of praise mingled with them? Perhaps, you heard them strengthening their feeble voices, and summoning up all their little remainder of spirits, to say, as from their very soul, My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever*. And does the recollection afford you no pleasure ? or does your pleasure terminate even here?
Your dear children are now dead to you; but do you not believe, that They live to God t, and live with him? What if they had been still continued on earth, answering all your schemes, and possessing all that you intended or desired for them? How low had those services been, and how worthless those possessions, in comparison with the services which they now render, with the riches and glory which they now inherit !
Methinks it should be, and surely, christians, it sometimes is, matter of rejoicing to you, to reflect, that the desolation of
your houses is, in some degree, the prosperity and joy of that celestial society, to which you are more intimately allied, than to any thing here: To think, that your families should have been nurseries for heaven, and that God should have honoured you so far, as already to have taken some of your children to minister around the throne of his glory, and so to be the associates of angels in their highest honour and joy.
And is it not most delightful to think of meeting them again ? Had they still survived, the thoughts of leaving them might have sharpened the pangs of dissolving nature, which now the remembrance of them may moderate. You had left them in an insnaring, calamitous world; perhaps, some of you had left them in circumstances of difficulty and distress. But now all those apprehensions are over; and what would otherwise have been the stroke of painful separation, will now be the means of ending your separation, and bringing you, once for all, to the embraces of each other. And oh, with what mutual congratulations will the converse be renewed! With what delightful overflowings of parental complacency on the one side, and of filial gratitude on the other! How thankfully will they for ever acknowledge your pious cares and early instructions, to which perhaps, under God, they owe their first religious impressions, and, in some sense, even their present glory! And in the great day of the Lord, with what unutterable transports of holy joy will you stand forth, and say at once, in the most literal and the most sublime sense, Here are we, and the children that our God hath graciously given us * !
* Psal. Ixxiii. 26.* Some, into whose hands these discourses will probably full, know, that these were not imaginary circumstances, and cannot but temember, they have since attended the death of soine of those young per sons to whom this serinon was first preached.
+ Luke xx. 38.
Surely, when you think of these things, your joys may abundantly counter-balance your sorrows; and I appeal to your own hearts, even in the midst of all this tender distress, whether such a circumstance as yours, supposing it ever so aggravated, be not much more tolerable, than that, which we have been describing; of a pious parent bewailing the death of a wicked child, or even looking upon him in life and health under the tyranny of satan, and of sin, and in the probable way to everlasting misery.
And thus I have finished my meditations on this pathetic and important subject. Let me conclude with my most affectionate Prayers to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of merciest, for all of you to whom the discourse has been addressed.
May young ones be brought, by the blessed Spirit of God, to Know in this their day, the things that belong to their eternal
peacef; that they may apply to Christ for life and salvation, and Join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenants. There all our applications to you centre; there may all your attendances on our ministrations issue!
May those, who have been effectually taught this lesson, who are the joys of parents and ministers, and the hopes of the church, as to the rising age, be very deeply sensible of the distinguishing grace of God to them! may they be spared to rise up in the stead of their parents! and may they labour with great success, to spread a spirit of seriousness amongst their companions, and to maintain it continually in their own souls !
May the pious parents of pious children be suitably affected with the goodness of God to them and theirs ! And may the parents of others be stirred up, as they value the souls of their children, and their own comfort and repose, to renew those attempts which have hitherto proved unsuccessful, and to exert the most vigorous efforts, for plucking the unhappy creatures, as Brands out of the burning s||!
* Heb. i. 13. Gen. xxxiii. 5.
+ 2 Cor. i. 3.
1 Luke xix. 43