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follow to the house of mourning, and represent to
themselves what is going on there. There we should see a disconsolate family, sitting in silent grief, thinking of the sad breach that is made in their little society; and, with tears in their eyes, looking to the chamber that is now left vacant, and to every memorial that presents itself of their departed friend. By such attention to the woes of others, the selfish hardness of our hearts will be gradually softened, and melted down into humanity.
Another day, we follow to the grave one who, in old age, and after a long career of life, has in full maturity sunk at last into rest. As we are going along to the mansion of the dead, it is natural for us to think, and to discourse of all the changes which such a person has seen during the course of his life. He has passed, it is likely, through varieties of fortune. He has experienced prosperity and adversity. He has seen families and kindreds rise and fall. He has seen peace and war succeeding in their turns; the face of his country undergoing many alterations; and the very city in which he dwelt, rising, in a manner, new around him. After all he has beheld, his eyes are now closed for ever. He was becoming a stranger in the midst of a new succession of men. A race who knew him not, had arisen to fill the earth. Thus passes the world away. Throughout all ranks and conditions, one generation passeth, and another generation cometh; and this great inn is by turns evacuated, and replenished by troops of succeeding pilgrims. O vain and inconstant world! O fleeting and transient life! When will the sons of men learn to think of thee as they ought? When will they learn humanity from the afflictions of their brethren; or
moderation and wisdom, from the sense of their own But now, to come nearer to our
fugitive state? selves, let us,
II. CONSIDER the death of our friends. Want of reflection, or the long habits either of a very busy, or a very dissipated life, may have rendered men insensible to all such objects as I have now described. The stranger, and the unknown, fall utterly unnoticed at their side. Life proceeds with them in its usual train, without being affected by events in which they take no personal concern. But the dissolution of those ties which had long bound men together in intimate and familiar union, gives a painful shock to every heart. When a family, who, for years, had been living in comfort and peace, are suddenly shattered by some of their most beloved or respected members being torn from them; when the husband or the spouse are separated for ever from the companion, who, amidst every vicissitude of fortune, solaced their life; who had shared all their joys, and participated in all their sorrows; when the weeping parent is folding in his arms the dying child whom he tenderly loved; when he is giving his last blessing, receiving the last fond adieu, looking for the last time on that countenance, now wasted and faded, which he had once beheld with much delight; then is the time, when the heart is made to drink all the bitterness of human woe. But I seek not to wound your feelings by dwelling on these sad descriptions. Let us rather turn our thoughts to the manner in which such events ought to be received and improved, since happen they must in the life of man.
Then, indeed, is the time to weep.
Let not a
false idea of fortitude, or mistaken conceptions of religious duty, be employed to restrain the bursting emotion. Let the heart seek its relief, in the free effusion of just and natural sorrow. It is becoming
in every one to show, on such occasions, that he feels as a man ought to feel. At the same time let moderation temper the grief of a good man and a Christian. He must not sorrow like those who have no hope. As high elation of spirits befits not the joys, so continued and overwhelming dejection suits not the grief of this transitory world. Grief, when it goes beyond certain bounds, becomes unmanly; when it lasts beyond a certain time, becomes unseasonable. Let him not reject the alleviation which time brings to all the wounds of the heart, but suffer excessive grief to subside, by degrees, into a tender and affectionate remembrance. Let him consider, that it is in the power of Providence to raise him up other comforts in the place of those he has lost. Or, if his mind, at present, reject the thoughts of such consolation, let it turn for relief to the prospect of a future meeting in a happier world. This is indeed the chief soother of affliction; the most powerful balm of the bleeding heart. It assists us to view death as no more than a temporary separation from friends. They whom we have loved still live, though not present to us. They are only removed into a dif ferent mansion in the house of the common Father. The toils of their pilgrimage are finished: and they are gone to the land of rest and peace. They are gone from this dark and troubled world, to join the great assembly of the just; and to dwell in the midst of everlasting light. In due time we hope to be associated with them in these blissful habitations.
Until this season of reunion arrive, no principle of religion discourages our holding correspondence of affection with them by means of faith and hope.
Meanwhile let us respect the virtues, and cherish the memory of the deceased. Let their little failings be now forgotten. Let us dwell on what was amiable in their character, imitate their worth, and trace their steps. By this means the remembrance of those whom we loved shall become useful and improving to us, as well as sacred and dear; if we accustom ourselves to consider them as still speaking and exhorting us to all that is good; if, in situations where our virtue is tried, we call up their respected idea to view, and, as placed in their presence, think of the part which we could act before them without a blush.
Moreover, let the remembrance of the friends whom we have lost, strengthen our affection to those that remain. The narrower the circle becomes of those we love, let us draw the closer together. Let the heart that has been softened by sorrow, mellow into gentleness and kindness; make liberal allowance for the weaknesses of others; and divest itself of the little prejudices that may have formerly prepossessed it against them. The greater havock that death has made among our friends on earth, let us cultivate connection more with God, and heaven, and virtue. Let those noble views which man's immortal character affords, fill and exalt our minds. Passengers only through this sublunary region, let our thoughts often ascend to that divine country, which we are taught to consider as the native seat of the soul. There we form connections that are never broken. There we meet with friends who never die. Among celestial things there is firm and lasting con
stancy, while all that is on earth changes and passes away. Such are some of the fruits we should reap from the tender feelings excited by the death of friends. But they are not only our friends who die. Our enemies also must go to their long home: Let us, therefore,
III. CONSIDER how we ought to be effected, when they from whom suspicions have alienated, or rivalry has divided us; they with whom we have long contended, or by whom we imagine ourselves to have suffered wrong, are laid, or about to be laid, in the grave. How inconsiderable then appear those broils in which we had been long involved, those contests and feuds which we thought were to last for ever! The awful moment that now terminates them, makes us feel their vanity. If there be a spark of humanity left in the breast, the remembrance of our common fate then awakens it. Is there a man who, if he were admitted to stand by the death-bed of his bitterest enemy, and beheld him enduring that conflict which human nature must suffer at the last, would not be inclined to stretch forth the hand of friendship, to utter the voice of forgiveness, and to wish for perfect reconciliation with him before he left the world? Who is there that when he beholds the remains of his adversary deposited in the dust, feels not, in that moment, some relentings at the remembrance of those past animosities which mutually embittered their life?
"There lies the man with whom I contended so "long, silent and mute for ever. He is fallen, and "I am about to follow him. How poor is the ad
Where are the fruits "of all our contests ? In a short time we shall be
vantage which I now enjoy!