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1. In the house of mourning we may learn the vanity and uncertainty of human life.
When all our plans succeed according to our wishes; when wealth and honour elevate us to the summit of enjoyment; when health inflames our desires, and excites to the indulgence of the passions; elated with the joys of the house of feasting, we are apt to forget our dependent and humble condition. It is the language of our hearts-“ Our own arm and our own strength have gotten us this wealth." Occupied solely with the gratification of our passions, to which health excites us, and the means of which prosperity affords, we bury, in the unceasing round of pleasure, the recollection of the shortness and vanity of life, of the solemn account, and the eternal destiny to which we are hastening.
From this dangerous condition, into which uninterrupted prosperity too often deludes us, the stroke of adversity seems necessary to recall us to serious reflection, to just views of our character and of our destiny. When the superstructure of prosperity, which we supposed would defy the storm, falls beneath its blast; when health, which was carrying us along the current of pleasure, is interrupted, and disease invades our bodies and dries up the springs of enjoyment; when our relatives, our friends, or our acquaintance, fall beneath the stroke of death; when the house of feasting is thus changed into the house of mourning; how impressive the lesson of the vanity of life, and of the uncertainty of all its prospects! and how forcible the call to us to prepare for the summons which in an unexpected hour may snatch us from the midst of worldly enjoyment, and place us in the
scenes of eternity! Salutary, then, may prove the house of mourning: there we may lay to heart the vanity and uncertainty of human life, of all its concerns and all its pleasures, when supremely pursued and immoderately enjoyed. How vain that inordinate love, that supreme pursuit of objects, which, in the moment of rich fruition, may be torn from us! how vain those projects of worldly prosperity which the hand of disappointment may in a moment frustrate! how vain that secure confidence in life and its enjoyments, which so many changes interrupt, so many sorrows alloy, and which the stroke of death may in an instant terminate! Surely man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain: he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them. Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away."
Discontented seclusion, indeed, from the duties and the innocent relaxations of life, is not a dictate of reason nor a demand of religion. The experience of the uncertainty of human life and the vanity of its joys, should not abate our ardour in the discharge of its duties, nor our thankful enjoyment of its blessings, when a gracious Providence puts them within our reach. The house of mourn ing should not excite in us a disgust for the joys of the house of feasting-it should only weaken our inordinate attachment to it: it should not make us despise the bounties of our heavenly Benefactorit should only prevent us from resting upon them as our supreme good. From the disappointments and afflictions which fill the house of mourning, we should draw the salutary lessons, that we are strangers and pilgrims upon earth; that our hea
venly Father designs, by the discipline of affliction, to prepare us for immortal joys; that we are not, therefore, to expect uninterrupted prosperity in this changing scene; that we are not to set our affections supremely on those transitory pleasures that may occasionally illumine our path; but while with thankful hearts we repose on the goodness of our heavenly Benefactor and Father, and enjoy his bounties, we are to keep our hearts steadily fixed on the heavenly inheritance for which he hath destined us, and supremely engaged in the pursuit of its undecaying and satisfying joys.
2. The house of mourning is calculated to excite in us a conviction of our unworthiness in the sight of God.
That by our sins we have offended our Almighty Maker and Sovereign, and provoked his just displeasure, is a truth which the faithful testimony of conscience will instantly sanction. But, alas! the prosperous scenes of the house of feasting too often elate us with a proud confidence in ourselves, make us repugnant to the humiliating truth of our weakness and guilt, and confirm us in our forgetfulness of God and rebellion against him. The afflictive dispensations of Providence, wresting from us those props of worldly happiness on which we reposed, are designed to teach us our impotence and dependence, and to excite in us a sense of our folly and our guilt in the pursuit of the vain enjoyments of the world, while we neglected the reasonable and satisfying service of our God. Under the shock of disappointment, under the apprehensions of sickness, under the approach of death, the world is unable to comfort us; and we must turn from its
disappointing and treacherous allurements to our only refuge, our unfailing Protector, God. Then, when we feel our need of his favour and protection, the ingratitude and guilt of our disobedience to him will rise to our view. This, then, is the moment for fixing in our minds that deep sense of our unworthiness which will lead us with humble and penitent hearts to implore the forgiveness of our offended God.
If, notwithstanding the warnings of God's providence, we continue in a state of sinful security, insensible of our guilt and danger; if, when God would reclaim us to his service, we despise his warnings and reject the overtures of his mercyhave we not cause to apprehend that his wrath will not delay the execution of the sentence of his justice? In a state of impenitence, are we prepared for the summons of death? While our souls are loaded with unpardoned sins, can we encounter that tribunal where inflexible justice will by no means spare the guilty? Our only shelter from the Divine displeasure is in the merits of that Redeemer whom God hath set forth, in infinite compassion, as a propitiation for the sins of the world. To him, an unfailing covert from the tempest-to him, a sure hiding-place from the stormlet us flee without delay. Let us confess our sins; let us deplore our guilt; and "return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon us; and to our God, and he will abundantly pardon us."
3. Lastly. When overwhelmed by the sorrows of the house of mourning, we learn the value of trust in the goodness and mercy of God.
Mercy guides even the arm of his indignation.
It is the gracious purpose of his judgments to reclaim the impenitent; and their final destruction is delayed till the warnings of his justice and the persuasives of his mercy have been repeatedly and obstinately contemned. The afflictions by which he seeks to awaken impenitent sinners, are accompanied by the gracious assurance, that if they return to him, "though he hath torn, he will heal; though he hath smitten, he will bind up. Let then the merciful goodness of God, O sinner! lead thee to repentance. Despise not the gracious voice of thy heavenly Father, who, in the midst of judgment remembering mercy, invites thee to repose under the shadow of his wings. Return to those merciful arms which thou hast so long resisted, but which are still stretched out to receive thee, and thou shalt be sheltered from the apprehensions that agitate the guilty, and refreshed with divine and unfailing consolations. For Jehovah is the everlasting Father and Friend of the righteous: "he will keep them as the apple of his eye;"" he will hide them as in the hollow of his hand." "In the time of trouble he will keep them in his pavilion, in the secret of his tabernacle will he hide them: he shall set them up as upon a rock." Though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they shall fear no evil: his rod and his staff comfort them." "The Lord of hosts is with them, the God of Jacob is their refuge."
Let then the servants of God, under all the afflictive dispensations to which in this state of probation they are exposed, repose with full faith on the goodness and mercy of that Lord who is their refuge and their portion. Let them cast their care upon God, for he careth for them. They "shall