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earth. Parents cannot save their children, nor ministers their hearers. David could not save Absalom, nor Paul save Felix, nor Peter save Simon the sorcerer. Paul may plant, and Apollos water, but God alone can give the increase. He can break down the strong holds of sinners, destroy their refuges of lies, dissolve their covenant with death and the grave, and prepare them for heaven, by making them willing, in the day of his power, to place their supreme love and dependence upon himself. In eternity, all mutual dependence among men will be dissolved, and they will all fall into the hands of the living God, and must be either happy or miserable, as they are disposed to rest or not to rest upon him alone for happiness. None can be happy after death, who do not choose God for their sole and supreme portion. Our Lord has declared that no man can be his disciple, or enter into the kingdom of heaven, who does not love him above all creatures, and forsake the whole world, for the sake of spiritual and divine enjoyments. Princes must renounce their thrones, the rich must renounce their wealth, and every man must renounce the idol in his heart, in order to love and enjoy God in this life or the next. Turn then an obedient ear to the warning voice of God: “Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help,” and place your supreme affection upon God, whose favor is life, and whose loving kindness is better than life.
1. Since mankind are so prone to place supreme dependence upon each other, they are born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. Though they are frail, mutable, mortal creatures, they have a right to place subordinate dependence upon one another. The child has a right to place some dependence upon the parent, and the parent upon the child. The brother has a right to place some dependence upon the brother, and the sister upon the sister.
The youth has a right to place some dependence upon the aged, and the aged upon the youth. The friend has a right to place some dependence upon the friend, the poor upon the rich, and the rich upon the poor. But whether these various classes of people place a subordinate or supreme dependence upon each other, they are always liable to be disappointed in their hopes and expectations, which is a most fruitful source of sorrow and deep distress. How often are children disappointed by the death of their parents, and parents by the death of their children! How often are the young disappointed by the death of the aged, and the aged by the death of the young! How often are friends disappointed by the death
of friends, and people in general by the death of able and faithful men in the lower and higher stations in life! Death and sorrow are intimately connected. They have reigned together all over the world, ever since the death of Abel. They are still reigning together, and drawing sighs from the hearts and tears from the eyes of thousands every day. Man goeth to his long home, and ihe bereaved, disappointed and afflicted mourners go about the streets every where. Were there no other troubles and afflictions but what spring from the painful strokes of death, the whole family of man might be justly called a family of affliction. This universal affliction is unavoidable, whether men place a subordinate or supreme dependence upon one another. . Any dependence creates hope, and the disappointment of hope never fails to create sorrow in proportion to the hopes disappointed. Those who have placed an undue dependence upon their deceased relatives, friends and connections, have prepared themselves for severer afflictions; and those who have placed their supreme dependence upon them, have procured for themselves the deepest, most lasting, and overwhelming sorrows. How many hearts have been entirely broken by bereavements! David's heart was almost broken by the death of his idolized son Absalom; and Rachel's heart by the death of her children. Jacob placed an undue affection and dependence upon Joseph, which well nigh brought his gray hairs with sorrow to the grave. Trusting in man, instead of trusting in God, has always been extremely common, sinful, and dangerous. It has been the occasion of adding a ten-fold weight to all the common calamities, bereavements and afflictions which have fallen to the lot of mankind in every age and part of the world. It is because men are born to sin, that they are born to death and sorrow. If they would live above the world, the sorrow of the world, which worketh death, would not reach them. If they would give up themselves, their friends, and all that is most agreeable and valuable in life to the supreme disposal of God, he would give them that peace which the world cannot give, nor take away.
2. Since mankind are so apt to place their supreme dependence on each other, instead of placing it upon God, we may see one reason why he causes so many dark and distressing scenes of mortality among them. Every instance of mortality is a melancholy event; but there are some instances of mortality which are attended with circumstances peculiarly afllictive, alarming, and impressive. Sudden and unexpected deaths of young or old are of this character: so are the deaths of amiable and promising youths and young men; so are the deaths of the heads of rising families; and so are the deaths of men of
superior talents, tried integrity, and extensive usefulness. When death comes and cuts off the lives of such persons as these, it never fails to shake the foundations upon which mankind are so apt to inisplace their hopes and dependence. It gives them ocu. lar evidence, that neither health nor strength of body, nor mental talents and acquisitions, nor exemplary conduct, nor any promising prospects, are any security against the stroke of death. When any die by the hand of violence, or by the hand of public justice, or by unforeseen accidents, or by a burning building, or sinking ship; these circumstances are more affecting and alarming than death itself in the common course of
Some such sudden, unexpected and distressing instances of mortality seem necessary to awaken the living out of their stupidity, and give them a realizing sense of their constant and absolute dependence on him, in whose hand their breath is, and whose are all their ways. When God sends his judgments on the earth, he intends that the inhabitants of the world shall learn righteousness. They take but little notice of the rising and the setting of the sun, of the regular succession of the seasons, and the common blessings of providence, because all these things are agreeable to their hopes and expectations; but when God sends death among them in its most terrible forms, it shakes the false foundation of their hopes, and brings them to a proper sense of their entire dependence on himself. God does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. He never employs this last most painful and powerful method to alarm his people, until he has found all milder methods fail of producing this needful and salutary effect. “ Therefore, saith the Lord of hosts, Behold, I will melt them and try them; for how shall I do for the daughter of my peo
We have no reason to think hard of God, when he employs the best though the severest means to do us good. Great afflictions more frequently do greater good to the afflicted, than lighter afflictions. And for this reason God often inflicts greater evils on good men, than upon bad. Whom did he ever more severely melt and try, than Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, and Job? The bereaved and afflicted are very ready to imagine there is no sorrow like unto their sorrow; but they are generally mistaken in thinking they have the greatest burdens to bear. But if they have a double portion, they may and ought to turn it into a double portion of good.
3. Since men are so prone to place supreme dependence upon one another, and since God has so plainly and solemnly warned them against it, it must be very unwise and criminal to disregard his kind and salutary admonitions. We have heard what he has said in his word against trusting in man, who is a VOL. III.
weak, feeble, mutable, impotent creature, whose breath goeth forth, who returneth to his earth, and whose thoughts that very day perish, and in whom there is no help. We have heard how in his providence he orders the times, the means, and the circumstances of death, in the best manner to impress upon the minds of all persons of all ages, characters and conditions, an habitual sense that they are dying creatures, and live in a dying world. He leads little children to see little children put into
He leads youth to see youths put into the grave. He leads those in the midst of their days, their hopes, and promising prospects, to see others of the same character and condition put into the grave.
He leads old men to see old men, wise men to see wise men, great men to see great men, rich men to see rich men, and poor men to see poor men, put into the grave. Now, can we conceive how God could have executed the universal sentence of mortality, which he has passed upon mankind, in a wiser and better manner than this? In this way he shows every child, every youth, and every man, he must die, by placing the dying and the dead of his own age, character and condition before his eyes. The eye affects the heart. It is far more affecting to see the dying and the dead, than to hear of the dying and the dead. God providentially leads almost every child to the grave of a child, every youth to the grave of a youth, every young man to the grave of a young man, and every old man to the grave
of an old man. Is there a child seven years old in this house, is there a youth, or is there an old man, whom God has not led to the grave, and shown him that that is his house, where he must lie and crumble to the dust? Surely all men must be extremely unwise and criminal, if they place their supreme dependence upon one another, after God has so repeatedly and solemnly warned them against this easily besetting sin. Every man knows that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish; and that he cannot redeem himself or his brother from the grave. It is criminal presumption for any of mankind to place their supreme dependence upon one another. They can have no excuse for misplacing their confidence and hopes, which will certainly be buried either in their own graves, or in the graves of others. How many misplace their dependence and confidence, and reap the bitter fruits of their folly by losses, disappoiniments and wretchedness? Yet this fatal error prevails more or less among all classes of men. Children will un. reasonably depend upon their parents, and parents will unreasonably depend upon their children, and friends upon friends, though all know one another to be frail, mutable, dying
creatures. Be entreated then to “cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of ?”
4. Since all men are so prone to place an undue dependence upon one another, they all stand in need of trials, afllictions, and bereavements in this present life. These are all suited to teach them what they are most unapt to learn, and have the most need to learn; that is, to withdraw their attention, affections and their dependence, from all creatures and created objects, and to place their supreme love and dependence upon God himself, who is supremely worthy of their supreme regard and confidence. Adversity is generally more beneficial to men, than prosperity. Prosperity tends to lead them to forget and forsake God, and to place their highest hopes and dependence upon the men and things of the world. But adversity has an opposite tendency, to withdraw their thoughts, their hopes and their dependence from the world, and to persuade them to give God the supreme affection of their hearts, and to commit all their temporal, spiritual and eternal interests into his hand, and confide in his faithfulness. When all other means failed to humble and reform Manasseh, that prodigy of wickedness, the great and dreadful evils God brought upon him made him feel the duty and happiness of giving his heart and life to him who had severely and mercifully afflicted him. David found it was good for him that he had been afflicted. Multitudes have found the need and the benefit of afflictions, and especially of bereavements. How many parents have been benefitted by the death of their children, and how many children have been benefitted by the death of their parents! How often has the death of a brother proved the salvation of a brother, and the death of a sister the salvation of a sister, and the death of a friend the salvation of a friend; and one sudden, extraordinary death proved the means of preparing many, both for living and dying! Let none think it strange that they are visited with afflictions, bereavements, and fiery trials, as though some strange thing had happened to them ; for this is the very method which God finds it necessary to employ, to teach men their duty, and prepare them to do it.
5. We learn from what has been said, when bereavements and afflictions have their proper and salutary effect upon those who are subjects of them. They are powerful means, and designed to produce very sensible and important effects. They always prove beneficial, or detrimental. They always make men better or worse. They are proper trials, because they excite and draw forth good or evil affections. They always lead men to God, or from God. They lead them from God, when they lead them to transfer their dependence and hopes only