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I will only add one very obvious reflection upon this head, and then proceed to the next.
May the dearest of our friends so soon forsake us? Then how careful should we be, that we do not value them too highly, and love them too fondly?
We find in scripture, that the inconstancy, and the mortality of human nature, are each of them urged as an argument against trusting in man. Thus we are cautioned to Take heed every one of his neighbour, and not to trust in any brother, for every brother will utterly supplant, and every neighbour will walk with slanders*. And elsewhere we are bid to Cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for wherein is he to be accounted of? And how indeed can we reckon on any thing as certain, which is suspended on so uncertain a life? The words of Solomon are applicable to friends, as well as to riches, when he says, Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for they make themselves wings, and flee away, often swiftly and irrecoverably, as an eagle towards heaven. To set them up as idols therefore, in the place of God, is the readiest way to provoke him to remove or imbitter them; and then our Own iniquity, in this respect, will correct us§. Our confident expectation from them will increase our perplexity and our shame, if they should forsake us through their own unkindness; and our excessive fondness for them will add new pangs to the agonies of a last separation. One way, or another, they will prove Broken reeds, that will not only fail and sink under us, but will go into our hand and pierce it|| with a wound, which will be deep and painful, in proportion to the stress with which we have leaned upon them. On the whole, then, let us love our friends heartily, but let us love them cautiously, as changeable, and as mortal creatures; and from a conviction, that it is possible they may forsake us, let us make it our greatest care to secure an interest in such consolations, as may be a support to us when they do. Which leads me to the second observation:
II. That when good men are abandoned by their dearest friends, they may find more in God, than they have lost in them.
So David, in the text, declares his assurance, that when his father and his mother forsook him, then the Lord would take him up; i. e. would approve himself a friend and a father to him. And if we be christians indeed, we may promise our
* Jer. ix. 4. + Isai. ii. 22. Prov. xxiii. 5. Jer, ii. 19. Isa. xxxvi. 6.
selves all that tenderness and care from him, which David, and other saints of old, expected and found. He hath said to every one of us, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee*; and for our peculiar support under the loss of the dearest and most useful relatives, he has more particularly added, A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation+.
When our friends are dead, we are generally more sensible of their value, than we were before: But let the tenderest heart, under the immediate impression of this severe calamity, set itself to paint the character of a departed friend in all its most amiable colours; let it reckon up all the advantages, which fondness could have taught it to hope for; and I will answer for it, that all this, and a great deal more, is to be found in God. Let the dejected orphan, that is even now weeping over the dust of a parent, yea, of both its parents, say, what these parents, in the greatest supposable advantages of cha.. racter and circumstance, could have done for its support, and its consolation; and the complaints of the most pathetic sorrow shall suggest thoughts, which may serve in a great measure, to answer themselves, and to engage the mind joyfully to acquiesce in the divine care, though deserted by the best of parents, or any other friends, however hopeful or useful.
"Alas," will a dutiful and affectionate child be ready to say, in such a circumstance, "do you ask, what my parents were? They were my dearest, my kindest, my most valuable friends-Their counsels guided me ;-their care protected me;-their daily converse was the joy of my life ;-their tender condolance revived me under my sorrows ;-their liberal bounty supplied my necessities. Is it to be inquired, what they were? Say rather, what were they not? And now they are gone, where must I seek such friends? And how justly may I say, that my dearest comforts and hopes lie buried with their precious remains."
Let us more particularly survey each of these thoughts, and consider with how much greater advantage each of these particulars is to be found in the paternal care and favour of God.
1. Could your parents have advised you in difficulties and perplexities? God is much more able to do it.
You will perhaps say, "Our poor giddy unpractised minds
have been hurried with a variety of schemes and projects, and we have soon found ourselves bewildered and lost; but then it has been the greatest pleasure to us to apply to our parents, from whose more advanced age, and riper experience, we might well hope for considerable assistance. We were sure they would not upbraid our ignorance, or despise us for our weakness; but would give us their best advice, with endearing tenderness, and a cordial concern for our welfare." I allow, my friends, that if they were wise and good, which we now suppose, they were valuable counsellors indeed; and that it was your duty, and your happiness, to use them as such while living, and as such to lament them, now they are here no more. Yet, were they ever so prudent, you must still acknowledge they were fallible creatures. They could only form probable conjectures concerning the future consequences of things; and as those conjectures were always precarious, so, no doubt, they were sometimes erroneous; and you were, perhaps, in some instances, misled by their mistaken apprehensions: But the only wise God knows the end from the beginning; his views of the most distant futurities are not conjectural, but certain; and his wisdom is far more superior to that of the most sagacious and experienced mortal, than the wisdom of such a mortal can be superior to that of an infant. It is He that teaches man knowledge*, in whatever degree he possesses it. He instructed our parents, that they might instruct us; and he has expressly promised his direction to all those that humbly seek it. The meek will he guide in judgment, and the meek will he teach his way. You may therefore, according to his own instruction and command, cry unto him, My father, thou art the guide of my youth; and you will find him such a guide, as can give Wisdom to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and discretions.
2. Could your earthly parents have protected you from injuries? God is much more able to do it.
Nature has implanted even in irrational animals such a regard to the safety of their offspring, that many of the most weak and timorous of them become strangely courageous in their defence. The little bird, that will at other times fly from every noise and every motion, will hover over her young, when they are assaulted with danger; and, rather than she will forsake them will share in their ruin. It is easy to perceive the spirit of parents
Psal. xciv. 10. † Psal. xxv. 9.
Jer, iii. 4.
§ Prov. i. 4.
naturally rise on the least injury that is offered to their children, even sometimes when it is only accidental, and undesigned; and all the professed enemies of their children, they of course reckon to be their own. Nor do they only watch over them in their infancy and childhood, to defend them from the many dangers which surround those tender days; but in more advanced years, they are ready to use all their power, and their influence, to shelter them from the unworthy usage, which they might otherwise expect from an ill-natured world: And I own, it is a very melancholy thing for young people to lose such a guard, at a time when they are most exposed.
But surely the defence of the Almighty must be a much juster and nobler confidence. It is amazing to observe, in how condescending a manner he expresses his care for the protection of his people. In one place he says, He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye*; and elsewhere; He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust† ; i.e. he shall defend thee, as the bird shelters her little, helpless brood, from the assault of any thing, that would injure, or destroy them. And could we desire a better guard? There are many seasons when our earthly parents must of necessity be separated from us; and a thousand calamities might overtake and destroy us, even in their presence, while they stood by helpless and amazed: But God is always with his children, and as there is no danger of ours unseen by him, there can be none, from which he is not able to deliver us. When David was forsaken by his father and mother, and surrounded with a whole army of inhuman enemies, he speaks of this as his comfort, The Lord my light, and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident ‡ ; for in his help I shall be safe, though I stood single against united legions.
3. Did you hope for agreeable entertainment in the company of your earthly parents? You may expect far nobler pleasure in conversing with God.
I acknowledge, there is something peculiarly delightful in the company of a wise, a pious, and an indulgent parent; and I doubt not, but many of us can easily recollect it. Even in our infant-days, when we were fondly prattling to them, we,
* Zech. ii. 8.
+ Psal. xci. 4.
Psal. xxvii. 1, 3.
perhaps, often saw smiles of complacency sitting on their cheeks, and even tears of tenderness and pleasure rising in their eyes; especially if, with the dawnings of reason, they discovered in our minds any early impressions of religion: We can perhaps recollect the condescending air with which they talked to us, and the kind caresses which they intermingled with the discourse. And as we grew up to a riper understanding, we were still more charmed with the company of such parents. We had not only the manly pleasure of rational converse, but there was a mixture of reverence and of gratitude in our hearts, which much increased the delight. We were assured of their candour towards their children, and their prejudice in favour of what we might say; and that inspired us with spirit and cheerfulness. We were encouraged to attempt to please them, because we concluded we might easily do it; and the sense we had of the superiority on their parts, made every expression of their kindness so much the more sweet and obliging.
The loss of such conversation is indeed to be greatly
; and it would argue a strange mixture of stupidity manity to be unaffected with it. But still remember,
DODDRIDGE'S ugh your parents are gone, you are not left entirely
for, not to mention other surviving friends, your heaather is with you, if it be your prevailing desire still to him. Though your father and your mother be removed, can no longer go to them, unless it be to mourn over ave, and to mingle your tears with their dust; yet you may go to God, and with pleasure pour out your souls before him: And what you find in him may give a more transporting exercise to those sweet affections, which added a relish to the conversation of your earthly parents. The first imperfect accents of prayer and praise will be a pleasing offering to him. Great and glorious as he is, he will bow down an indulgent ear, through Jesus, your dear elder brother; he will smile upon your souls, and allow you a holy freedom in all the endearments of filial converse.
Your earthly parents were not always at leisure, nor always in temper to receive your visits; but wherever you are, and whatever you are doing, God's gracious eye is always on his children; his indulgent ear is always open to their addresses. You may come and tell him how heartily you love him, how affectionate a sense you have of his favours, how sincerely you are concerned for his interest in the world, and how earnestly desirous of taking every opportunity to advance it; how well X