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and death, for yourselves and for your children, while you have such a joyful persuasion, that you leave them in the hand of Your Father, and of their Father, of your God, and of their God*.
And give me leave, on so natural an occasion, to address myself to you, my dear friends, from whom the great Sovereign of life has been pleased to take away pious and promising children, by what we are apt erroneously to call an immature death. You are ready to say, with a peculiar accent, that you Are the persons who have seen affliction. The images of those lovely creatures rise in your memory on such a hint as this, and croud into your minds afresh. You saw them growing up, and flourishing under your care; growing up, perhaps, to ripeness of years, and flourishing in some remarkable degrees of knowledge and of grace. And you fondly promised yourselves, from what you saw in them, that they would not only have been the comfort and delight of your declining broken age, but the support and honour of the church, when you were here no more: And now all these pleasing prospects are vanished, all these important hopes are buried with their dear dust.
Nay, perhaps, God hath, in this respect, Broken you with breach upon breacht, has taken away one desirable branch of your family after another, till all the branches are lopped off, and you stand like the naked trunk of trees which were once diffusing a thick and extensive shade. Yes, I am aware, there are some of you, that know the peculiar agony, to all but such as yourselves probably unknown, of following your last child to the grave. I fear, I come too near you, and that some of your wounds are bleeding anew. Would the balm of sympathetic tears administer any relief to them, how easy would it be to pour it out in abundance! But, in a case like yours, there is a much more efficacious and sovereign relief.
I am speaking to christians. You sometimes plead the indications of wisdom and piety, which you discerned in your children as an aggravation of your sorrow for the loss of them; and I acknowledge, in one view, they are indeed so: But in another view, how greatly do they extenuate it!
You saw them, it may be, when they were under a languishing distemper, for some time, as it were, daily dying before your eyes; but did you not likewise see the divine Rod and staff comforting them §? It may be, sometimes to such a degree, that you regretted not so much, that they were going
John xx. 17.
† Lam. iii. 1.
+ Job xvi. 14.
Psal. xxiii. 4.
off the stage, as that you were not accompanying them in the same way, and with the same spirit. You heard their expiring groans, but did you not also hear some songs of praise mingled with them? Perhaps, you heard them strengthening their feeble voices, and summoning up all their little remainder of spirits, to say, as from their very soul, My flesh and my heart faileth, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever *. And does the recollection afford you no pleasure? or does your pleasure terminate even here?
Your dear children are now dead to you; but do believe, that They live to God +, and live with him? What if they had been still continued on earth, answering all your schemes, and possessing all that you intended or desired for them? How low had those services been, and how worthless those possessions, in comparison with the services which they now render, with the riches and glory which they now inherit! Methinks it should be, and surely, christians, it sometimes is, matter of rejoicing to you, to reflect, that the desolation of your houses is, in some degree, the prosperity and joy of that celestial society, to which you are more intimately allied, than to any thing here: To think, that your families should have been nurseries for heaven, and that God should have honoured you so far, as already to have taken some of your children to minister around the throne of his glory, and so to be the associates of angels in their highest honour and joy.
And is it not most delightful to think of meeting them again? Had they still survived, the thoughts of leaving them might have sharpened the pangs of dissolving nature, which now the remembrance of them may moderate. You had left them in an insnaring, calamitous world; perhaps, some of you had left them in circumstances of difficulty and distress. But now all those apprehensions are over; and what would otherwise have been the stroke of painful separation, will now be the means of ending your separation, and bringing you, once for all, to the embraces of each other. And oh, with what mutual congratulations will the converse be renewed! With what de lightful overflowings of parental complacency on the one side, and of filial gratitude on the other! How thankfully will
*Psal. lxxiii. 26.-* Some, into whose hands these discourses will probably fall, know, that these were not imaginary circumstances; and cannot but remember, they have since attended the death of some of those young per sons to whom this sermon was first preached.
they for ever acknowledge your pious cares and early instructions, to which perhaps, under God, they owe their first religious impressions, and, in some sense, even their present glory! And in the great day of the Lord, with what unutterable transports of holy joy will you stand forth, and say at once, in the most literal and the most sublime sense, Here are we, and the children that our God hath graciously given us *!
Surely, when you think of these things, your joys may abundantly counter-balance your sorrows; and I appeal to your own hearts, even in the midst of all this tender distress, whether such a circumstance as yours, supposing it ever so aggravated, be not much more tolerable, than that, which we have been describing; of a pions parent bewailing the death of a wicked child, or even looking upon him in life and health under the tyranny of satan, and of sin, and in the probable way to everlasting misery.
And thus I have finished my meditations on this pathetic and important subject. Let me conclude with my most affectionate Prayers to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of merciest, for all of you to whom the discourse has been addressed.
May young ones be brought, by the blessed Spirit of God, to Know in this their day, the things that belong to their eternal peace; that they may apply to Christ for life and salvation, and Join themselves to the Lord in an everlasting covenants. There all our applications to you centre; there may all your attendances on our ministrations issue!
May those, who have been effectually taught this lesson, who are the joys of parents and ministers, and the hopes of the church, as to the rising age, be very deeply sensible of the distinguishing grace of God to them! may they be spared to rise up in the stead of their parents! and may they labour with great success, to spread a spirit of seriousness amongst their companions, and to maintain it continually in their own souls! May the pious parents of pious children be suitably affected with the goodness of God to them and theirs! And may the parents of others be stirred up, as they value the souls of their children, and their own comfort and repose, to renew those attempts which have hitherto proved unsuccessful, and to exert the most vigorous efforts, for plucking the unhappy creatures, as Brands out of the burnings||!
*Heb. ii. 13. Gen, xxxiii. 5.
+ 2 Cor. i. 3.
Luke xix. 42.
In a word, may divine grace so co-operaté with all, that all of you, according to your different relations and characters, may have reason to bless God for those awful thoughts which I have now been laying before you; that such cutting reflections, as I have so largely described, under the former heads, may never be known by one parent, or one child in this assembly, otherwise than by description, by imagination, by reason, and by faith! Never may they be known by heart-rending, and overwhelming experience! On the contrary, may parents and children be mutually growing joys and comforts to each other, in life, and in death, at your appearance before the solemn tribunal of Christ, and throughout all the ages of a glorious eternity! Amen.
TO YOUNG PERSONS.
Youth reminded of Judgment.
Eccles. xi. 9.—Rejoice, O young Man, in thy Youth, and let thine Heart. cheer thee in the Days of thy Youth; and walk in the Ways of thine Heart, and in the Sight of thine Eyes: But know thou, that for all these Things God will bring thee into Judgment.
My dear young friends! if it were possible for me, while
I am speaking, to lay open my whole heart before you, in such a manner as that you should be witnesses to every secret sentiment of it with regard to you, I should do it with a great deal of pleasure. You would see a tenderer concern for your present and everlasting welfare than words can express, and a proportionable desire of approving myself Your faithful servant for Jesus' sake*. I know not, how far you may have considered what I have largely laid before you, concerning "The Importance of the Rising Generation+;" but I am so thoroughly convinced of this importance, and so impressed with the conviction of it, that there is no part of my public work, to which I arise with a greater solicitude about the success, than I feel when I am thus particularly applying myself to you; and there is no prayers which I offer to God with greater earnestness, than that I may have the Joy to see you walking in the truth‡, a seed to serve the Lord, which shall be accounted to him for a generations.
This is what I wish, and pray, with regard to all of you. It is with inexpressible pleasure that I see so evidently, as to many, that my prayers and my labours are not in vain. Many of you are My joy now, and I trust, through divine grace, will be my crown in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at his coming. But would to God, there were none of whom I had occasion to say, I stand in doubt of you! Would to
* 2 Cor. iv. 5.