had given him a family of his own, in whom he was happy; yet the idea of his father and mother was dear to his heart; his wish was that he might rest in their sepulchre; and he was reluctant to go to any place where the execution of this purpose might be impracticable, or might be neglected. This was a thought which made even the grave less gloomythat there his father and mother slept—and that there he would sleep beside them. Such a wish has been felt by men in all countries and ages. We have known the old man, who felt his last sickness commencing, insisting on his removal even from a scene of comfort to his native spot, which had few attractions but this, that it was the place of his fathers' sepulchres. Let it not be ridiculed as the feeling of dotage ; for it has operated in the strongest minds, and is the voice of nature in the human heart. It is the appointment of Heaven, that the first attachment of which the heart is conscious should be its last ; and it is no difficult matter to point out wise reasons for this.

It has a happy tendency to maintain mutual love betwixt parents and children, and to excite a youth to the zealous imitation of a parent's holy pattern; for how can the idea of his dust mingling with theirs be soothing, if conscience tells him that he destroyed their peace, and that he is an utter stranger to their virtues? And what can be better adapted than this to lead to a serious concern to meet with them in heaven, and to excite us to show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end. How terrible must not the idea be to a vicious man -I may be laid in *1.

grave of holy parents, but in the resurrection they must disown me, and abandon me for ever! Often has their grave been surveyed in grateful recollection, and their memory honoured by affectionate praise ; but if it is visited after I am laid there it will be considered as a profanation of that hallowed spot, and the contrast betwixt my life and theirs which shall then be made will render mine more loathsome. It appears evident from this wish, that Barzillai had been a dutiful son, and that the character of his parents had been so excellent, that he regarded a connexion with them as his honour. Favourably as children wish to think of departed parents, it is impossible that they can anticipate being deposited in their graves, if they have been impious and profligate, with any feeling of complacency. They must think of it as a spot where the curse of God and the horror of man rests. This feeling, therefore, though the dictate of nature, is friendly to grace.

The feeling of which I speak has been abused by the superstitious, who have requested to be laid in the sepulchres of those deemed eminent saints, under the idea that their power with God will ensure their safety, and that they will be regarded with favour for their sakes. It may have made some unhappy, whose wishes as to this could not possibly be gratified, and may have engrossed that solicitude which should have been directed to more important objects; but still the principle is salutary, and the heart which never felt it, or which can ridicule it as a childish whim, or as the freak of misguided affection, is not likely to be influenced by any of those other work

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

ings of nature which render the character so amiable, and the manners so sweet, and which enlightened reason regulates, but never will


[ocr errors]

I proceed now to recommend the imitation of his example to the aged by some considerations.

1. Consider how much the honour of religion is concerned in your temper and conduct. When disciples at an earlier period act unsuitably to their profession and obligations, the apology is sometimes made, that they are but imperfectly acquainted with it, and have not yet had opportunities for imbibing its spirit so fully. But no excuse of this kind can be presented for you who have watched so long at Wisdom's gates. What will the world think of the revełation of the glories of a future state, if they behold you minding earthly things, and reluctant to admit the thought of your departure? How excusable will they think their attachment to the world is, if they see it to be the ruling passion of age! On the other hand, your weanedness from the world will appear to them the testimony of experience to its emptiness and vanity; your cheerful patience under infirmities, will prove the strength of your consolation ; and your tranquillity in the views of death will be an evidence of the power of the hope of immortality. Thus will you plead its cause, and plead it with success.

2. Consider how much your own happiness is concerned in it. You have felt the vexation of worldly cares in the former periods of life, and how the mind, at its most vigorous season, is burdened and harassed with them; and will you make yourselves miserable

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

by them now? It will give you no pain to be excluded from scenes of gaiety, if you are impressed with their vanity; and easy will it be for you to leave them all in death. Think also how quiet and pleasant old age will be, if you are thus reconciled to its infirmities. The fretfulness with which you tease others will torment yourselves ; but the fortitude and acquiescence which they will admire will be your joy and crown. And how peaceful is death to a man thus familiarized to it, and who has been expecting its approach for years ! It is sweet like the evening of a long summer day, when a solemn stillness is gathering over the world-when the clouds are gilded by the departing sun, and the air is cooled by falling dew.

3. Consider what superior advantages you have for obtaining this temper and conduct, in comparison with what Barzillai had. Think how pleasant the views are which the Gospel hath taught you to take of death. Jesus, whose appearance was seen in the days of this good man afar off, hath come, and by death hath destroyed him that had the power of death, that is the devil, and delivered them who, through fear of death, are all their lifetime subject to bondage. Terrors which then haunted the vale of death have now vanished away. What an example of patient suffering have you had set before you in the Man of Sorrows! And if he endured the cross in perfect meekness, shall you complain of your light afAlictions? Consider, too, how by the cross of Christ the world is crucified to you and you to the world.

ou have seen, that when all the kingdoms of the


world, and the glory of them, were offered to the Redeemer, they were nobly scorned. You have in Christ's conduct to his mother, a specimen of filial piety of the most beautiful kind: and this is a thought which makes the grave a desirable habitation, not only that it is the place where your fathers are lying, but that it is the place where the Lord lay; and that if you are planted in the likeness of Christ's death, you shall be planted in the likeness of his resurrection.

Be humbled then on account of your deficiency in this character amid such advantages, and implore those influences of the Spirit of God which will strengthen in


the faith that overcomes the world, and the love which desires to depart, and to be with Christ, as what is far better.

To those in middle life I would recommend the culture of this spirit. How long have you to live that you

should form so many schemes, and engage in so many enterprises for worldly gain, as if you were sure that you would carry them all into execution ? « Go to ow, ye


say, To-day or to-morrow, go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow;

for what is your

life? it is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Ye ought to say, If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that."* How long have you to live, that you should promise yourselves a long series of earthly pleasure? Remember the man who said to his soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat,

we will


* James iv. 13-15.

« VorigeDoorgaan »