Imatges de pàgina
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vent us from indulging iinmoderate sorrow for the death of our friends.

II. That we should rather rejoice in the death of our virtuous friends, since they sleep in Jesus in their intermediate state, and shall be brought to glory at the resurrection of the just.

III. The practical improvement which we should make of this subject.

I. The reasons which should prevent us from indulging immoderate sorrow on the death of our friends, are many and satisfactory. We are by the law of our existence mortal creatures, who must some time or other submit to dissolution. Our first parents indeed were created with such a corporeal constitution, as was capable of being nourished by the tree of life to an interminable period of existence. But, by their transgression, they incurred the loss of that perpetual vigour which they would have maintained in this world, and that destiny which would have translated them to heaven without tasting of death. Accordingly, we are informed by the sacred historian, that the sentence of death was pronounced upon them, “ dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." In conformity with this fate which was appointed for all living, the several generations of men, who have successively peopled the globe, have been cut off either by accidents, diseases, or violent deaths. Some men have existed for a longer, others for a shorter period of years, according to the strength or weakness of their constitutions, and according to the accidental circumstances in which they have been placed. It is computed by naturalists, that one half of mankind die before they arrive at the age of manhood; and that the principles of decay begin to operate as soon as our bodily structure is completed. In consequence of those latent diseases which prey imperceptibly upon the vital functions, many are cut off in the prime of youth, when health and long life might have been expected. “ One dieth in his full strength, being wholly at ease and quiet; his breasts full of milk, and his bones moistened with marrow.”

Or if

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longer life awaits us, some malady seizes our frame, and in a short time brings us down to the grave.

grave. Or if we arrive at the utmost verge of existence, and number “ threescore and ten, or fourscore years;" we soon experience the infirmities of age, and drag out a few more days of frailty, till we go the way whence we shall not return. Such is the allotted portion of man upon earth;

. so few are the years of his pilgrimage ; " verily, there is but a step betwixt him and death.” It is thus appointed for all men once to die, and this event occurs sooner or later, according to certain determinate laws, which regulate the health or sickness of our bodily constitution.When our vascular system is so far deranged, as not to be capable any longer of performing the functions of animal life; when the organs and vessels cease to have any more power for nourishing the body, and when any obstruction is generated which impedes the usual course of secretion and assimilation ; from that moment there is a tendency to speedy dissolution. These causes may have greater influence upon the health of some who are of a delicate and feeble frame, than upon others who are robust and vigorous. And accordingly we find in general, that the length or shortness of our lives depends in a great measure upon the original conformation of our corporeal frame. And we find also, that some constitutions are liable to certain fatal diseases; others to those of a different kind, which are equally deleterious.—If then our friends are snatched away by death, this is nothing more than the usual fate which befals all mankind; and therefore we should not repine at their suffering the unavoidable lot of humanity. They must die, either by the violence of disease, which overcomes the energies of their youthful constitution ; or if suffered to come to the grave in a good old age, they must then yield at last to the decays of nature; so that there is no respite from that impending doom, return to the dust, ye children of men. Why then should we sorrow at the departure of those who were born to die; did we not know that they were mortal; did we not know that the human body which is Liarfully and wonderfully made, is subject to innumerable

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casualties which easily interrupt the discharge of those minute channels through which the current of life flows, and that by such a natural cause, death has ensued; which is the natural consequence of disorganization in the animal economy? Let us therefore acquiesce in the laws of nature, which are as invariable in the preservation of our lives, or the manner of our death ; as in any other appoint

; ment of divine providence.

But we may perhaps allege, that our case is more intolerable than that of others; that we have been deprived of our friends, when they were in the prime of life, and when we could least spare their important services. If they had lived till old age had rendered them unfit for farther usefulness, and after they had enabled us to bear along with them the burthens which our condition had imposed; we would have cheerfully resigned their parting spirits, and wished to accompany them to the realms of rest. As they are however taken away at a time when we expected much satisfaction and pleasure from their continuance in life, we may be ready to repine at the severity of our lot. But let us consider a little, in whose hands are the issues of life or of death. Is it not God “ who bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up, in whose hands is the breath of every living thing, and the souls of all mankind; who chasteneth us with pain upon our beds, and the multitudes of our bones with strong pain, who changeth our countenance and sendeth us away.” Our times are in his hands, and the period of our existence on earth is at his disposal. In the usual course of his providence, he either gives us such a constitution as will support us amidst the infirmities of life, or such a one as may be susceptible of sickness from a very slight indisposition in our organic system. If he does not by some counteracting energy, prevent the natural tendency to dissolution occasioned by the action of disease, we undergo the consequences which result from such a combination of concurrent causes all operating on our constitution. If for wise reasons, he sees fit to prolong our days, he can in a manner to us unknown, so far modify the temperament of our bodies, as to render them

more capable of overcoming the violence of distemper; and bless such remedies as may be applied for our recovery.—Or if it seemeth good in his sight, he can give commission to disease to attack our bodies, and impair our health, so that we at last sink under it, and yield up the ghost. It is certain that the time and manner of our death are thus ordained by the divine counsels; "that our days are determined" by God; "the number of our months is with him; he hath appointed bounds for us, which we cannot pass." He is continually superintending us during our abode on earth; and when the purposes of his providence are accomplished with us here; he removes us by death to other mansions accommodated for our reception according to our respective characters.

And it is our wisdom to acquiesce in his unerring dispensations; since he knows at what period of our lives it is most suitable to quit this mortal state. He foresees that many calamities would befal the righteous, and therefore he takes them away from the evil to come; he foresees the pernicious consequences of the wicked's transgression, and shortens their days, lest they become tenfold more the children of wrath by longer impunity. "He is just and righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works;" and continues us in life, or removes us by death, according as either may best promote his glory and our good. Let us then learn to submit patiently to every affliction however severe; to be dumb and not open our mouths, because God hath done it. Let us say with Job, under the most distressful circumstances, "the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord."

We may not indeed be so ready to acknowledge that goodness and mercy have followed us, when we find the afflicting dispensations of divine providence. But even in this respect we shall perceive reasons sufficient for preventing immoderate sorrow at the death of our friends, When we reflect, that the world is a scene of trouble, vexation, and misery; that the longer we live our cares and perplexities increase upon us; and that by the cala mities of life our spirits are broken, and our hearts are

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disconsolate; we may adopt the sentiments of the wise man, and exclaim," when I returned and considered all

“ the oppressions that are done under the sun, and beheld the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; then I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive.” Our virtuous friends, whom death has translated to a better world, are now free from the endless train of those miseries which embitter our lives. Often were their minds bewildered when anticipating the impending misfortunes which might befal us; often with an anxious wish did they ruminate on the future prospects which awaited themselves and their families; and often in the bitterness of grief did they bewail the slightest indisposition of their infant children. These affections of our nature, though amiable and endearing, are frequently sources of the most penetrating anguish. But in that happier world, which those who sleep in Jesus are admitted to inhabit, “ there is neither sorrow, nor crying, neither is there any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

While they lived on earth, the infirmities of nature were also constant causes of distress to their enfeebled frame. The weak, the sickly, and the aged, are daily groaning under the pressure of some inveterate disorder, or the gradual decay of the functions of life. How often do we see our fellow-creatures suffering either the most excruciating pain, or the most lingering sickness, without the capacity of enjoying any longer that cheerfulness and those pleasures which once afforded them the most exquisite delight. Now, they can no more engage in those active employments which promoted their health, and ministered to their comforts; now they can no more take a part in the labours and amusements which once gladdened their hearts; now they can no longer enjoy the society of their dearest friends, but have lost a relish for every thing under the sun. Perhaps their souls are pierced with anguish at the recollection of better days; perhaps they deplore the untimely death of those who might have contributed to their support; perhaps they ruminate on the hapless fate of those whom they shall leave behind

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