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he receiveth.” How consoling is this reflection to the bereaved child of God, who feels the spirit of adoption, and can cry, Abba, Father, while sensibly feeling the smart of his rod! Like the man after God's own heart, he must submit in silence, because it is his heavenly Father who corrects. The single consideration, that God never afflicts nor grieves the children of men but in justice, wisdom and goodness, affords a plain and solid reason for the most cheerful and unreserved submission under the severest bereavements.
It now remains to improve and apply the subject, agreeably to the present mournful occasion.
1. If a consideration of bereavements coming from God be the proper ground of submission; then the afflicted may be truly submissive, while they have a painful sense of the loss they have sustained. Though submission will produce silence, yet it will not produce insensibility. Nothing but what is painful to the body or distressing to the mind, can give occasion for the exercise of a truly submissive spirit. Sensibility is so far from being inconsistent with submission, that it is absolutely essential to its existence. No person can exercise submission while he feels no evil. If God did not mean to give pain and distress by bereavements, the bereaved would be under no obligation to submit. For they are not required to submit to pain or distress itself, but to the just, and wise, and benevolent being who inflicts it. They may, therefore, exercise entire submission to the will of God, while they most painfully feel the weight of his correcting hand. Indeed, a consideration of bereavements coming from God, instead of diminishing, greatly increases the anguish and distress of the pious heart. For there is nothing more painful to good men, than a realizing sense of the frowns of God, whom they sincerely and supremely love. But the same supreme affection which excites their keenest sensibility, no less excites their most cheerful submission, under the marks of the divine displeasure. And hence they enjoy the pleasure of submission, in proportion to the pain of suffering.
2. If a consideration of bereavements coming from God, be the proper ground of true submission, then those who are bereaved can never exercise true submission, from any other consideration. Many who are utterly destitute of the love of God, manifest great composure of mind under his bereaving hand, which they and others are apt to imagine is genuine submission. But such apparent submission is either real stupidity, or something worse. It commonly arises from a total disregard to God,
a by whom they are afflicted. Man is born like the wild ass's colt. Stupidity is the natural effect of moral depravity. So
long as this reigns in the heart, men are prone to overlook the heart and hand of God, in all his afflictive, as well as merciful dispensations. Hence the Psalmist says of the sinner, God's “ judgments are far above out of his sight." Those who are bli to the divine agency in bereavements, derive all their calmness, ease and serenity, from self-dependence and self-sufficiency. They determine to support themselves as well as they can under the evils they suffer, because they imagine they could not be avoided, or because they imagine they cannot be removed. But such views and feelings must be banished from the minds of the bereaved, before they can exercise any true submission. For this essentially consists in bowing their wills to the will of God. Such was the nature of Christ's submission. When it pleased the Father to afflict him, he said from the heart, “ Father, not my will, but thine be done.” The bereaved are greatly deluded, if they imagine that they feel truly submissive, while they hear not the rod, nor him who hath appointed it. They have one ground, and but one ground of submission, and that is a consideration of their bereavements coming from God. Hence,
3. The ground of their submission is the only source of true consolation. If their bereavements came from the dust, or sprang from the ground, where would they find the least source of real satisfaction? But that which is the ground of their submission, is no less the ground of their comfort. While they realize the hand of God in their afflictions, and cordially submit to his holy and sovereign will, they cannot fail of finding sweet and solid consolation. They must enjoy that peace of God, which passeth all understanding. The duty and happiness of the afflicted are intimately, naturally, and almost necessarily connected. Nothing can put them into the more full enjoyment of God, than a cheerful and unconditional submission to his just, and wise, and benevolent dispensations. David appeared to be happy, when he said, " I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it.” Job appeared to be happy, when he said, “ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” The primitive christians appeared to be happy when they said, “ As dying, and behold, we live; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.” While pious mourners are deeply impressed with a sense of their bereavements coming from God, and while they muse in silent and cordial submission to his fatherly chastisements, they have a season of peculiar enjoyment. God appears in all his glory; and they see his justice, his goodness, his faithfulness, and his amiable and awful sovereignty, in a clear and striking light. Hence it often comes to pass that' the true friends of God never enjoy him more fully and sensibly, than while he is visiting them with the sorest bereavements. The duty which God requires of the bereaved is both plain and pleasant. It is to be still, and know that he is God. It is to exalt him on the throne, and take their own place at his footstool. It is to trust in the Lord, and stay themselves upon their God.
Here, then, my bereaved and much respected brother will permit me to point him to the only source of comfort in his present afflicted and trying situation.
Dear sir: you have for days been eating the bread of mourners, and lamenting a bereavement which you had long and painfully anticipated. The Lord has finally come and taken away the wife of your youth. Hereby he has made your house desolate, and caused you to sigh in silence over the remains of her, who sustained the amiable character of the virtuous woman. She accompanied you a great way in the journey of life. With you she joined morning and evening in addressing the throne of divine grace. Together with you she walked to the house of God from Sabbath to Sabbath, and there, from time to time, united with you and your christian friends in celebrating the astonishing love of the divine Redeemer. She long labored with you in rearing up a large, amiable and promising family. For your sake she looked well to her household, ordered her domestic concerns with prudence and economy, and exhausted her strength by perpetual industry. With you she rejoiced under the smiles of Heaven, and with you she mourned in the days of affliction. In a word, she made it her study to lighten your cares, to alleviate your burdens, and to promote your comfort and usefulness, in the important sphere in which you have been called to act. But the Sovereign Disposer of all events has been pleased, for wise and holy reasons, first to put a period to her health, and at last to her life. He now requires you to be “dumb, and not open your mouth, because he has done it." This is that dutiful, decent, and christian conduct which highly becomes you as a man, as a christian, and especially as an aged and experienced minister of Christ. You have long been preaching submission to others; but you are now called to feel and express it yourself. You have often directed mourners to cast their cares and burdens upon the Lord; but you are now called to follow your own directions, and carry your own sorrows to the God of all grace and consolation. He allows you to weep, but not to repine. To murmur and complain will only increase your darkness and distress; but to be silent and submit will afford you the highest enjoyment. God will certainly comfort you if you refuse not to be comforted. Draw near to him, and he will draw near to you. Only turn at his reproof, converse with him in his providence, rely on his faithfulness, and take him for your portion, and you will at once glorify his name, do honor to his cause, and promote your highest happiness both in this life and in that which is to come.
The bereaved children will please to consider, that it is their duty to regard the hand of God in their present affliction. The Lord has taken away your faithful and affectionate mother, who once carried you in her arms, who long bore you upon her heart, and who always expressed the tenderest concern for your present and future good. You have abundant reason to remember with gratitude, “the years of the right hand of the Most High;" and with silence submit to his holy and righteous providence. Your dear departed mother will never return to you, but you must each of you in your turn go to her. Henceforth when you think of her, you must think of eternity, where she has gone, and whither you are constantly going. Her death speaks louder than words, and bids you to be wise, to understand this, to consider your latter end. Let not stupidity stop your ears, nor natural affections harden
your hearts. Humbly look up to the father of your spirits, by whom you are chastened, and learn obedience and submission by the things which you suffer. In this way you may be assured your light affliction, which is but for a moment, will work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
The church and congregation in this place must feel themselves deeply affected by this instance of mortality. Mrs. Sanford, ever since her lot was cast among you, very justly merited your sincere affection and esteem, by her prudent, peaceable, friendly conduct. She ever appeared to seek your real prosperity, and spared no labor nor pains, in her subordinate sphere, to promote your highest interests. Some years ago, God was pleased to pour out his spirit in plentiful measures, and revive his languishing cause among you. At that peculiar season, he put it into the power and into the heart of the person you lament, to perform those acts of kindness to you, and to others laboring for your good, which neither you nor they can ever forget. As a people, you have sustained a heavy loss, which calls you to mourn for yourselves, and silently submit to the bereaving hand of providence. Nor is this all. There is another peculiar, important, christian duty devolved upon you; I mean the too much forgotten and too much neglected duty, of weeping with them that weep, and mourning with them that mourn. The present situation of your
bereaved pastor calls for your friendly and sympathetic attentions. How often has he mourned and wept with you! How often has his presence and friendly discourse poured the balm of consolation into your wounded hearts! Can you, then, forget or forsake him, while he sits solitary in his lonely dwelling? Now is your time to give, and his to receive, the peculiar token of love and respect. If you feel for him, you will feel for yourselves. If you pray for him, you will pray for yourselves. And whatever you do to comfort and relieve a member and minister of Christ, he will finally acknowledge and reward, as done to himself.
Finally, be entreated to remember that your days are numbered, and will shortly be finished. The day of death cannot be far distant from any, and may be much nearer to some, than either they or others imagine. It highly concerns you all, to stand in the posture of servants waiting for the coming of their lord. You know not how soon you may be called to follow her into eternity, whose remains you this day follow to the tomb. Here you have often been admonished by the voice of man, to prepare for a dying hour; but it is the voice of God which now speaks in this house, and bids you to be ready also. And if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, but set your souls in order; that you may meet not only death, but your final Judge, in peace. Amen.