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separation cannot be made without distressing pangs and bleeding wounds.
We proposed, II. To conteniplate the painful trial of parting with intimate friends. This Heman laments as the severest circumstance in his affliction, that “ lover and friend were put far from him.” The removal any
friend is an affliction that must be felt, but nothing wounds the heart so deeply as the dissolution of the conjugal connexion. This crosses the strongest affection, and frustrates the most pleasing hopes of the surviving partner. It brings on a gloomy train of new and unexperienced cares. Every rising care revives a pungent sense of the loss sustained. In former afflictions, there was the solace of mutual sympathy.
In this the pensive mourner sits alone and keeps silence, finding none, to whom the feelings of the heart can be communicated, or who can take an equał share in its anguish. The anguish is augmented by a recollection of past delights, which now are fled, to return no more.
The sight of children deprived of one who naturally cared for them, swells the tide of grief. When the desolate mourner walks abroad, nature appears covered with a gloom ; and when he treads the empty chamber, absorbed in silent meditation, the hollow dome sadly echoes to the sound of his feet, and mournfully whispers back his deep fetched sighs. Every object which meets his eyes--every sound which strikes his ears, reminds him that lov. er and friend is put far from him, and his acquaintance into darkness.
Reflection easily convinces us, that such an affliction is great : How great, experience only can realize.
The scripture, which is always just and natural in its descriptions, places this among the most griev. ous adversities. God says to the prophet Ezekiel, Vol. II.
“ Son of man, behold, I take away from thee, the desire of thine eyes with a stroke : Yet neither shalt thou mourn nor weep; neither shall tears run down thy cheeks.”—This is not to be understood as a general prohibition of mourning for the loss of friends; but as an intimation, that the prophet's, affliction would be so great and sudden, as to confound and astonish him, lock up the avenues of tears, and render him incapable of the relief which nature affords in more moderate afflictions. In this, Ezekiel was a sign to the children of Israel. He says, “I spake to the people in the morning, and at even my wife died; and I did as I was commanded. And the people said unto me, Wilt thou not tell us, what these things are to us? And I answer. ed them, Thus saith the Lord, I will profane my sanctuary, the excellency of your strength, and the desire of your eyes; and that which your soul pit. ieth ; and your children shall fall by the sword; and ye shall do as I have done ; ye shall not mourn nor weep, but shall pine away in your iniquities."
– The greatness of that distress, which should attend the desolation of Judea, is here aptly represented by the sudden death of the prophet's wife ; an event which left him in such solitary, deep felt anguish, as groans could not express, nor tears re.. lieve.
A state of great and helpless calamity, is also ex. pressed by a state of widowhood. The prophet Jeremiah describing the desolation of Jerusalem, says,
“How doth the city sit solitary that was full of people! How is she become a widow ! She hath none to comfort her.” Widowhood is consid. ered, in scripture, as a state peculiarly helpless and pitiable.
Hence we meet with so many cautions not to oppress the widow; and so many injunctions to relieve and defend her. The apostles considered the
cases of those who were widows and desolate, as intitled to special attention. For such the primitive church made particular provision. When Jesus saw the breathless body of a young man carried forth to the grave, a circumstance in the case, which touched his benevolent heart, was, that this was the only son of his mother and she was a widow. Pitying her affliction, he stopped the procession, awoke the dead and restored him to her alive.
The language of scripture, in such tender cases, corresponds with the feelings of nature.
We proceed to shew, III. That in this, as indeed in every affliction, the best consolation is drawn from a belief of, and meditation upon, God's governing providence.
In the loss of friends, Heman acknowledged God's holy and sovereign hand.
“ Thou hast put them far from me."
This consideration silenced David's complaint: “I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because thou didst it." Job felt the influence of the same sentiment. “ The Lord gave ; and he hath taken away; and blessed be his name."
All events are under the direction of God's hand. The circumstances of our life, the time and manner of our death, the relations which we sustain, and the continuance and dissolution of the connex. ions which we form, are ordered and determined by his providence. To him the scripture ascribes, not only great, but small; not only miraculous, but common occurrences ; not only the suspension, but the operation of the laws of nature ; yea also, the events in which human agency is concerned, as well as those which seem to proceed more immcdiately from him.
Hence good men derive their strongest consolation amidst the vicissitudes and adversities of this mortal state.
God is supreme and above all : He gives not an account of his matters : Who shall say to him, What doest thou? Though he is high, he has respect to the lowly ; the hairs of their head are all numbered. Though his judgments are unsearchable, yet we know that they are right, and no injury can we fear from him. His wisdom is perfect; it clearly views every circumstance of our condition, and exactly traces all the connexions of things, even to the remotest ages of eternity ; it can judge for us with safety in seasons of greatest darkness; and can overrule, for our good, the afflictions which are most threatening in their appearance, and most painful to bear. He is very pitiful and of tender mercy: He afflicts not willingly, nor grieves the children of men ; but corrects them for their profit, that they may be partakers of his holiness; he is a very pres. ent help to those who are in trouble ; he invites them to call upon him, and assures them of his gracious attention. And though what he does, they know not now, he has given them his faithful promise, that no evil shall happen to the just, but all things shall work together for their good.
This life is a short period of probation for eternal happiness. In the prospect of approaching glory, believers may rejoice, though now, for a season, if need be, they are in heaviness, through manifold temptations.
A state of mortality must necessarily be attended with affliction. The connexions and relations, which exist among the human race, are proper for the present state. We could not subsist, nor the world be continued without them. The reciprocal affection which results from these connexions, is exceedingly useful and happy. It sweetens and endears the relations of life, and facilitates the rela. tive and social duties. But still it is a spring of bitter anguis!, when these connexions are broken.
Without it we cannot enjoy the pleasures, nor discharge the duties, of friendship. And while we have it, we cannot but feel the stroke, which parts from us lover and friend, and hides them long in darkness. Affliction must therefore be an attendant on such a condition as the Creator has here assigned us.
We wonder, perhaps, why so benevolent a Being should place his creatures in a condition subject to so much sorrow. But we should reflect, that this affection, from which sorrow springs, is, on the whole, a source of superiour enjoyment. We derive from it more pleasure than pain. The greater part of our present happiness arises from friendship and society. The love which unites friends, makes their connexion happy while it lasts. It is the lot of most men to enjoy, through life, more friends than they lose. The pain of separation is indeed more pungent, but less permanent, than the pleasure of the union. Time, reason and grace, improve and heighten the latter, but kindly mitigate and soften the former.
Let it also be remembered, that this life is only a small part of our existence--a short trial in order to lasting happiness; and “these present light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are working for us a far more exceeding and an eternal weight of
They admonish us of the shortness of life and quicken us to improve it.
Cool lectures on human frailty, and general ol). servations on the mortality of our race, often leave the heart unaffected. But the removal of a near and intimate friend brings the thoughts of death home to our feelings. When the awful stroke comes within the walls of our own chamber-within the curtains of our own bed, we cannot resist the impression of this serious truth, that we must also, fall. We shall