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is a blessing which God may grant or deny to any of our connections or friends, and it depends upon his sovereign pleasure whether we shall live and die together, or whether we shall soon follow them, or they soon follow us, to the silent mansions of the dead.
4. If God so often deprives men of the residue of their years, then long life is a great as well as distinguishing favor. Very few of mankind are allowed to live to old age, while a large majority are cut down in the morning or meridian of life. To live, while multitudes fall on our right hand and on our left, is a distinguishing favor. But it is no less important than distinguishing. There is no other earthly blessing so valuable in its own nature. It is a talent capable of being improved to the highest public and private advantage. God promised to Abraham that “ he should go to his fathers in peace, and be buried in a good old age." And he promises to those who love him sincerely, that "he will satisfy them with long life, and show them his salvation.” It was esteemed a mark of divine favor in the days of Job, “ to come to the grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in in its season.” The same sentiment still prevails among mankind; especially when they view death approaching. Pious Hezekiah would not have so sincerely regretted the loss of life, had he not considered the residue of his years as of the greatest importance. And almost every sick person, whether young or old, sincerely desires to be spared a little longer; and some would give the whole world, if they had it to give, that they might have fifteen years, or even fifteen months, added to their lives. How often do the sick and dying ardently desire to live, that they may regain the time they have lost, and perform the duties they have neglected! And what an unspeakable privilege would they esteem it, to have their days prolonged! Such declarations, made under such circumstances, have every appearance of sincerity and truth, and carry clear and convincing evidence that long life is a most desirable and invaluable blessing. The continuance of life is also much to be desired, for the sake of having greater opportunity of doing, as well as of getting good. Hezekiah did much more for the glory of God and the good of his kingdom than he could have done, if he had been deprived of the residue of his years. Joseph did much more for the benefit of his father's family, his own nation, the kingdom of Egypt, and the good of the church, than he could have done, if his life had not been ransomed from the power of the grave. Joshua and Caleb did much more for the safety and happiness of Israel than they could have done, if they had fallen with those who perished in the wilderness. The eminent services of David were owing to
the preservation of his life from the paw of the lion and of the bear, and from the mighty hand of Goliah. It is very remarkable, that some of the most useful men have been signally snatched from the jaws of death, to teach the world the importance of life in the present state, where so much is to be done for the temporal and spiritual good of mankind. And since good men are to be rewarded according to their works, the longer they are permitted to live, the greater opportunity they enjoy of promoting their own future felicity. There is no period in their existence so valuable to themselves, as the present life, in which all their pious labors and sufferings will work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. How precious is every moment, every hour, and every year, added to our lives! It ought to be our heart's desire and prayer to God, that he who has hitherto carried us from the womb, would still carry us even to old age, and cover our heads with those gray hairs, which are the fruit of righteousness and a crown of glory
5. If God always has wise and good reasons for depriving men of the residue of their years, then it is as reasonable to submit to his providence in one instance of mortality as another. He knows that some will be much more affected by being deprived of long life, than others. He knows how the gay and vain youth will feel when he sees death approaching, and what extreme hope and fear will agitate his heart in the prospect of leaving a world which he loves, and going to another which he dreads. He knows how the strong and enterprising man will feel, when all his promising prospects are cut off, and he looks forward with fearful apprehensions of lying down in everlasting disappointment and sorrow. He knows the views and feelings of the good man, who, like Hezekiah, anticipates the loss of many years which he had devoted to the good of his family, his friends, and his fellow men. He knows the hopes and desires of those who have passed the common boundaries of life, when they are about to be deprived of the small remnant of their days. And he equally knows the sorrows, the sighs and groans of surviving friends, under all these instances of mortality. But he never afflicts willingly, nor grieves the children of men. He takes no pleasure in giving anxiety and distress to the dying, nor in grieving the hearts of the living. He has as good reasons for depriving the young as the old, the rich as the poor, the high as the low, the pious as the impious, of the residue of their years. And these reasons ought to bow the hearts of mourners to a cheerful submission under his holy and correcting hand. He never deprives any human being of the privilege of living, only when he knows the loss sustained
will be certainly outweighed by a superior good. This ought to satisfy the minds of survivors, whether the bereavements they are called to endure be more or less unexpected and severe. If they have lost a lovely infant or promising youth, a pious father or virtuous mother, an intimate friend or kind benefactor, or one united to them by the tenderest ties of affection, it still ought to be the language of their hearts, " The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” If it be true that there is no sorrow like unto their sorrow, it is equally true that the Judge of all the earth has done right, and that their will ought to be swallowed up in his. It is as reasonable to submit to the heaviest as to the lightest afflictions, and commonly much more easy ; because the heaviest afflictions appear to come more immediately from the wisdom, goodness and justice of the Deity, which are the most powerful motives to a filial fear, a holy confidence, and a sincere submission.
May these thoughts sink deeply into the minds of those who have been sorely bereaved in the course of the last week. The afflicted parents have lost an amiable and only daughter, * whom they had nurtured from her childhood to youth, with uncommon care and tenderness. What they long feared has come upon them. God has removed the dear object of their parental affections to the land of silence. But the Judge of all the earth has, in this, as in all other instances, done right. It becomes them to be still, and know that he is God. Let them neither despise the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when they are rebuked of him. Let them not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which they are now called to endure; but rejoice in the opportunity of becoming partakers of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory shall be revealed, they may be glad also with exceeding joy.
But those who have just committed to the grave the last of their dear parents, have received a more deep and lasting wound. Until a few weeks past they fondly expected that their kind and indulgent father, who had guided them through their young and inexperienced age, would have still lived to comfort and counsel them in their riper years. But a holy and sovereign God has been pleased to destroy both his and their expectations. They ought to realize the greatness of the loss they have sustained; and they will realize it more and more, as often as they call to remembrance his exemplary conduct, his sage counsels, his agreeable conversation, and all that he said and did, to make them useful and respectable in this life, and happy in the life to come. But great as their loss is, they have no just cause to murmur or repine under the chastening hand of God, but have abundant reason to feel and express entire submission to his will. Though father and mother have forsaken them, yet the Lord will take them up, if they will only become his dutiful and obedient children. They never have had, and perhaps they never will have, a louder call to make their peace with God. Now, therefore, let them acquaint themselves with him, and be at peace, and thereby good shall come unto them.
* This daughter of Capt. Robert Gilmor died very unexpectedly, in the twen. tieth year of her age. Though she had long been subject to an asthmatic complaint, yet her death was not apprehended until a few hours before she expired.
Not only the mourners, but all this people, ought now to hear the voice of God in his word and providence. We are all liable to be deprived of the residue of our years, and know not how soon our days may be numbered and finished. We are all hastening to our final hour, and need to be in constant preparation for it. None have a license to delay, and presume upon an uncertain futurity. Those who expect to be the last, may be the first, to meet ihe king of terrors. Life is infinitely precious, and ought to be wisely and faithfully improved while it lasts. The most useful men may be called from the stage of action, in the midst of their usefulness. Of this they are loudly admonished by the death of Deacon Whiting. He was a man of a strong mind, and of good principles, and firmly engaged to promote the cause of truth, virtue, and religion. He filled every public station in which he moved, with fidelity and dignity. And had his life been spared, he might have done much more for the civil and religious benefit of this people. His death is a great loss to the town as well as to the church. Let the useful lay it to heart, and become more active and faithful in discharging all their public and private duties. Let the little flock of Christ, who are bereaved of one of their religious officers and most influential members, double their diligence, trim their lamps, and stand in actual readiness for the coming of their Lord. Let them set their houses in order, and persevere in well-doing, and then the day of their death shall be better than the day of their birth.
COMMUNION WITH GOD IN AFFLICTION.
FUNERAL OF MISS ESTHER WILDER, DAUGHTER OF REV. JOHN WILDER, OF
ATTLEBOROUGH, JULY 19, 1808.
RIGHTIOU8 art thou, O Lord, when I plead with thee : yet let me talk with thes
of thy judgments. — JER. xii. 1.
JEREMIAH was sanctified from the womb. He grew up a dutiful and obedient child of God. And while he was discharging the office of a prophet, he often had occasion for the exercise of his filial spirit, under the tokens of the divine displeasure. He lived to see and feel many of the divine judgments which he had been inspired to foretel. And in this chapter, he acquaints his suffering nation how he had felt and conducted under the afflicting hand of God.
He freely acknowledges, that he had seen no reason to complain of any undue severity or unrighteousness in the divine dispensation ; but
yet he felt a desire to converse with God in his providence. Such views and feelings were not peculiar to the afflicted prophet; for they have always been common to the children of God under affliction. It is, therefore, a general truth, which we shall endeavor to illustrate in the present discourse:
That when God sees fit to afflict his children, they are disposed to converse with him in his providence.
I shall inquire,
I. Why God sees fit to afflict his children by the dispensations of his providence.
II. Why they are disposed to converse with him in their afflictions.