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Ar two in the afternoon, the people assembled, to perform their last sad office to a deceased fellow creature. It was easy to see the spirit of participation and sympathy in all present. Their own afflictions seemed forgotten in the greater affliction of their neighbor. Though all had been visited by this awful providence, very little complaining was heard among them. Even the guilty sinner dared not complain, conscious that his offences had merited the displeasure of heaven. This event had set before him the semblance of that day, when Christ shall come to judge the world. The humble believer submitted with quietude and patience, under a conviction that the Judge of all the earth does right.
The mournful family were soon seated, dressed in the babiliments of sorrow. In the countenance of the father, was seen an air of composure, but he felt the wound, and the moving of strong affections; but these were regulated and kept under, by the pious assurance that God does all things well. The mother labored to suppress her grief, and though she repined not against the will of heaven, yet her grief sometimes overflowed; it was expressed by floods of tears. The surviving children mourned sincerely—they loved their brother !
The village pastor was next seen coming in; a placid serenity beamed upon his countenance; his eyes spake sensibility. Though solemn as eternity, his solemnity appeared to lie between the self sanctified grimace of a hypocrite, and the forbidding gloom of monkish superstition. In short, his appearance so caught the attention of Charles, he was ready to give the most undeviating attention, to what should be offered on the occasion.
The prayer was reverential, humble, comprehensive, and consoling He first addressed the Deity under a few appropriate and dignified titles; he meekly confessed his own sins, and the sins of his people ; he praised God for his goodness in laying help on one, who is mighty and able to save he pffered peligions in the name of Christ for pardon, sanctification, and eternal life; he adored God for the rich display of his perfections; confessed the justice of God in their late afflictions, and prayed with great earnestness for a sanctified uese of them. He next called on God in behalf of the afflicted family; he prayed for resignation, for confort, for
#trengthening and sanctifying grace; he commended thera, Iris people, himself, to the care and protection of a wise, good, and all powerful God.
He next proceeded to an appropriate address on the occasion. My dear people,” (said he,) “we are made painful witnesses of a very unexpected and distressing event. My present design will be, to vindicate the ways of God to man; for the purposes of administering consolation to believers, and of carrying conviction to the hearts of impenitent sinners.
Some things relating to this event, may appear so obscure, and incomprehensible, as to stagger the faith of such as are not well instructed in the great scheme of God. Were it not for divine revelation to aid me, I own, I should tremble in view of our present situation. But with this in my hand, I do not hesitate to say, that his dealings towards us may be so far reconciled with his known perfections, as to lead us to be quiet and submissive.
1. Let us consider we are short sighted creatures, and God is all-seeing, and infinitely wise. He might see it necessary to use this corrective method, to cure us of some evil that was growing up within us, unperceived by ourselves or others. Or he might intend to prevent an evil he saw coming upon us; or, perhaps, it might be intended as a cure of one evil, and a preventative of another. Suppose either, or both to be true, is it not far better to be corrected in time, though the correction be painful, than to be suffered to go on, till our habits of evil become too stubborn to yield to any corrective methods whatever ? A limb is infected with a dangerous sore, which threatens to spread its putrifying effects through the whole system. To amputate is painful, to omit it is certain death. What shall be done? Wisdom will say, cut off the limb, and save the man. Shall we then suppose God wanting, either in wisdom or goodness towards us, if he acts according to the above illustration ? Certainly not.
2. This is a proper method to teach the vanity of all earthly things. And have we no need to learn such a lesson ? Must we not all confess a natural propensity to be too much in love with the world ? And multitudes seem to have their affections wholly engrossed by it, as if it were their happiness, their God, and their all. But as this is not its true character, and as some men seem likely to be deceived into endless ruin, by an inordinate affection for the things of time and sense ; and all this under the delusion, that they
have power to afford solid enjoyment; is it not of the last importance, that God should take some method to convince them of their emptiness and vanity? And few methods are likely to be more effectual than that which divine wisdom bas chosen in relation to us.
3. The things of this world are as uncertain as vain. They may be ours to-day, and another's to-morrow; or valuable to-day, and to-morrow not worth possessing.
And yet multitudes set their hearts upon them as if they were to last forever. While they view their possessions in this light, it is hardly possible that they should have the least desire to lay up a durable substance in heaven. If, therefore, the providence of God did not break in on our possessions, and forci. bly take away a part; to show the entire uncertainty of the rest, what should undeceive us, or prevent us from continuing to imagine, that riches are an enduring substance ?
4. If we are not so far taught the vanity of earthly things, as to learn that they cannot satisfy the almost boundless desires of an immortal mind; and, that they are so uncertain as not to be depended on; and thus be weaned from them, so as to create a desire for the inheritance of the saints in light, we shall be utterly unfit for that inheritance. What taste can those have for heaven, who are wholly taken up with earth? Or what happiness can they have in God and the holy delights of the sanctified, who are so much in love with the world as to expect their happiness from it; and pursue it with as much eagerness, as if it were to last forever? But such as use the world as not abusing it, considering that the fashion thereof passeth away ; and having their treasure in heaven, lift their affections there, to place them on things above; and have thus learned to set lightly by the world, being ready to leave it when called, will not only enter on the purchased possession at death, but have a state of mind qualifying them to enjoy the fullest measure of what divine grace shall bestow.
5. Suppose some of us are not thus devoted to the world but have learned that this is not our continuing city, and are' seeking one whose maker and builder is God; does it follow that every degree of inordinate love is purged from our hearts; and that we do not need this awful visitation to effect this, through divine influence, and make us more heavenly minded ? Or admitting this lesson had been learned in some good degree; does not the world still hold out its allarements, and
does not Satan tempt us to return to the evil we have escaped? Or allowing neither of these suppositions to be true, it is certain there are some among us, who are yet wholly given up to worldly pursuits, in spite of all the means employed, to cause them to lay up a treasure in heaven. These affictions, therefore, cannot be sent unjustly, nor in vain. God must have some determinate end in view; an end worthy of himself.
6. When we attend more particularly to the language of holy writ, we learn that God chastises his creatures for their profit, to make them partakers of his holiness ; and that all things shall work together for the good of those that love him; and, that these light afflictions which are for a moment, shall work out for us, a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory Suppose then, we could not see in what manner, afflictions are to work these effects, nor the distinct parts of the effects promised; are not such strong and repeated assurances from a God that cannot lie, sufficient to silence every murmur, and lead us calmly to trust in him ? If we are blind to these things, it is certain, our heavenly father is not; nor shall we be always blind concerning them. God may speedily begin to unfold his designs; which, when unfolded, will lead us to admiration and praise ; and what he begins on earth, will be completed in heaven; so that we shall have cause to praise God forever and ever, that he manifested his Love by rebukes and chastenings. Indeed, who can doubt this, that heartily believes the gospel, when all things are to work for the good of believers; and an excessive excess of glory is to be the fruit of these light, momentary afflictions. This dispels the darkest cloud, and makes the sunshine of eternal day break forth upon us, in our calamity. As ease is sweeter to him who has been in pain, and as labor gives a higher enjoyment to rest, so shall the sufferings of the present life give a keener relish for the delights of heaven. Nor is this all; sanctified sufferings enlarge the capacity of the soul, to take in more of God; to drink more deeply at the fountain of life, as well as to relish those draughts more sweetly. Why not then rejoice in God, at the same time we mourn for that folly, which rendered chastisements necessary. Itought, at least, to calm our fears, dispel our sorrows, and make us quietly submit to God.
7. But, suppose the scriptures afford us no further light, than that which dows from what is revealed conceruing his
diviae perfection ; these would afford matter to check presumptuous unbelief, and prevent all sinful doubts of the justice of God, in his severest dispensations, He is infinitely powerful ; nothing can, therefore, hinder the exercise of his power for the good of the faithful. He is infinely wise, and can direct all the operatious of his power, so as to make them issue in the purposes of his grace. He is as good as wise, and is therefore disposed by his own mature, to use such methods in the operations of his power and wisdom, as to lead men to holiness ; and to crown with eternal life, all, who do not obstinately, to the last, reject the methods of his grace. He is a God of invariable truth. He cannot lie. He will therefore accomplish to his own whatever he has said. All these perfections are engaged in the behalf of such as trust in him. Who can take this view of the perfections of Jehovah, and know that they are all exerted in favor of his adopted, obedient children; yea, anil to render the disobedient, also, the faithful subjects of his kingdom, and not find in it a balm for a wounded spirit, an antidote against despair, a cure for presumptuous murmuring, and a powerful motive to commit all things to the dis;os ul of his sovereign will. Guided by such a discovery of the divine perfections, no man can imagine Go: capable of injustice towards his creatures : Not even if his dispensations are too clark and intricate to be understood. But when we unite this with the other remarks which I have mude, it would seem, that all present will say, “ What ! shall not the judge of all the earth do right ?"
8. It will be expected that I should say something to those whose very afflicting case calls us this day together. Your case is truly afflicting ; but it might have been much greater instead of one child, all might have been taken at a stroke and left you childless. You have mercies remaining, to alleviate your anguish. Though unable, now, to see, why your son was singled out as a victim of death, yet the time will arrive when this shall be no longer a trial of your faith; but a subject of your joy. God may have taken him away from the evil to come-he has certainly designed it as a leg. son of instruction to you. In this you are taught the uncertainty and vanity of human life. “ Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.”
Give all diligence to make your calling and election sure.” But consider, in the mean while, God can be better to you than ten sans---He can make up outward losses by inward