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Sanctified afflictions are an eminent means to fit the soul for heaven. Nothing in nature is so contrary as the pleasures of earth and the joys of heaven. The more we covet the former, the more we forfeit the latter; and if there is any thing to be depended on in experience, it is this, that the man who should never see any trouble in life, will never see happiness after death. Thus, far from being a curse, they are a real blessing. They are as medicine to the soul, bitter to the taste, but necessary for its well-being. They restore, under the care of the good physician, its faculties to greater soundness, and accordingly capacitate it for greater happiness.
That our loss seems greater than we can bear, is owing to our being more attached to an object than religion, which seeks only our happiness, allows. While all was well, we were not conscious of the strength of our attachment and the weakness of our faith. Now that we know it by painful experience, let us humbly implore forgiveness at the hands of God. Let us return to him that has smitten, and he will heal us.
Let us not be satisfied till we can exclaim, with all the powers of our soul, with the afflicted psalmist, “ Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none I desire upon earth besides thee."
ECCLESIASTES xii. 5.—Man goeth to his long home, and the
mourners go about the streets.
WHEN we observe the funerals that pass along the streets, or when we walk among the monuments of death, the first thing that naturally strikes us is the undistinguishing blow with which that common enemy levels all. We behold a great promiscuous multitude all carried to the same abode; all lodged in the same dark and silent mansions. There mingle persons of every age and character, of every rank and condition in life; the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the gay and the grave, the renowned and the ignoble. A few weeks ago, most of those whom we have seen carried to the grave, walked about as we do now on the earth; enjoyed their friends, beheld the light of the sun, and were forming designs for future days. Perhaps it is not long since they were engaged in scenes of high festivity. For them, perhaps, the cheerful company assembled; and in the midst of the circle they shone with gay and pleasing vivacity. But now-to them, all is finally closed. To them no more shall the seasons return, or the sun arise. No more shall they hear the voice of mirth, or behold the face of man. They are swept from the universe as though they had never been. They are carried away as with a flood. The wind has passed over them and they are gone.
When we contemplate this desolation of the human race; this final termination of so many hopes; this silence that now reigns among those who, a little while ago, were so busy, or so gay; who can avoid being touched with sensations at once awful and tender? What heart but then warms with the glow of humanity ? In whose eye does not the tear gather, on revolving the fate of passing and short-lived man? Such sensations are so congenial to human nature that they are attended with a certain kind of sorrowful pleasure. Even voluptuaries themselves sometimes indulge a taste for funereal melancholy. After the festive assembly is dismissed, they choose to walk retired in the shady grove, and to contemplate the venerable sepulchres of their ancestors. This melancholy pleasure arises from two different sentiments meeting at the same time in the breast; a sympathetic sense of the shortness and vanity of life, and a persuasion that something exists after death; sentiments which unite at the view of the house appointed for all living. A tomb, it has been
justly said, is a monument situated on the confines of both worlds. It at once presents to us the termination of the inquietudes of life, and sets before us the image of eternal rest. There, in the elegant expressions of Job, the wicked cease from troubling; and there the weary be at rest.
There the prisoners rest together ; they hear not the voice of the oppressor.
The small and the great are there; and the scrvant is free from his master. It is very remarkable, that in all languages, and among all nations, death has been described in a style of this kind; expressed by figures of speech, which convey everywhere the same idea of rest, or sleep, or retreat from the evils of life. Such a style perfectly agrees with the general belief of the soul's immortality, but assuredly conveys no high idea of the boasted pleasures of the world. It shows how much all mankind have felt this life to be a scene of trouble and care; and have agreed in opinion, that perfect rest is to be expected only in the grave.
There, says Job, are the small and the great. There the poor man lays down at last the burden of his wearisome life. No more shall he groan under the load of poverty and toil. No more shall he hear the insolent calls
of the master from whom he received his scanty wages. No more shall he be raised from the needful slumber on his bed of straw, nor be hurried away from his homely meal to undergo the repeated labours of the day. While his humble grave is preparing, and a few poor and decayed neighbours are carrying him thither, it is good for us to think that this man too was our brother ; that for him the aged and destitute wife, and the needy children now weep; that, neglected as he was by the world, he possessed, perhaps, both a sound understanding and a worthy heart, and is now carried by angels to rest in Abraham's bosom. At no great distance from him the grave is opened to receive the rich and proud
For, as it is said with emphasis in the parable, the rich man also died, and was buried.* He also died. His riches prevented not his sharing the same fate with the poor man; perhaps, through luxury they accelerated his doom. Then, indeed, the mourners go about the streets; and while, in all the pomp and magnificence of wo, his funeral is prepared, his heirs, in the mean time, impatient to examine his will, are looking on one another with jealous eyes, and already beginning to quarrel about the division of his substance.
One day we see carried along the coffin of the smiling infant; the flower just nipped as it began to blossom in the parent's view: and the next day we behold the young man, or young woman, of blooming form and promising hopes, laid in an untimely grave. While the funeral is attended by a numerous, unconcerned company, who are discoursing to one another about the news of the day, or the ordinary affairs of life, let our thoughts rather follow to the house of mourning, and represent to themselves what is going on there. There we would 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 lest 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.
* Luke xvi. 22
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 fugitive state? But, now, to come nearer to ourselves,
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