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continue thee in this mortal life a length of years beyond thy desires, and should withhold thee froin his secret place of retreat and rest. A constant and joyful readiness at the call of God to depart hence, with a chearful patience to continue here during his pleasure, is the most perfect and blessed temper that a christian can arrive at : It gives God the highest glory, and keeps the soul in the sweetest peace,
III. This one thought, that the “ grave is God's hiding- , place,” should compose our spirits to silence, and abate our mourning for the loss of friends, who have given sufficient evidence that they are the children of God. Their heavenly Father has seized them from the midst of their trials, dangers and difficulties, and given them a secure refuge in his own appointed place of rest and safety. Jesus has opened the door of the grave with lis golden key, and hath let them into a chamber of repose : He has concealed them in a silent retreat, where temptation and sin cannot reach them, and where anguish and misery never come.
When I bave lost therefore a dear and delightful relative or friend, or perhaps many of them in a short season are called successively down to the dust, let me say this within myself, “ It is their God and my God has done it : He saw what new temptations were ready to surround them in the circumstances of life wherein they stood : He beheld the trials and difficulties that were ready to encompass them on all sides, and his love made a way for their escape : He opened the dark retreat of death, anıt bid them there from a thousand perils which might have plunged them into guilt and defilement. He beheld this as the proper season to give them a release from a world of labour and toil, vanity and vexation, sin and sorrow : They are taken awny from the evil to come, and I will learn to complain no more. The blessed Jesus, to whom they had devoted themselves, well knew what allarements of gaiety and joy might have been 100 prevalent over them, and he gave them a kind escape lest their souls should suffer any real detriment, lest their strict profession of piety should be soiled or dishonoured : He knew how much they were able to bear, and he would lay upon them no further burden: He saw rising difficulties approaching, and new perils coming upon them beyond their strength, and he fulfils his own promises, and glorifies bis own faithfulness, by opening the door of his well-known hiding place, and giving them a safe refuge there. He keeps them there in secret from the corruptions of a public life, and the multiplied dangers of a degenerate age, which might have divided their hearts from God and things heavenly: And perhaps he guards them also in that dark retreat from some long and languishing sickness, some unknown distress, some overbearing flood of anisery, which was like to come upon thera had they continued longer on the stage of life.
« Let this silence thy murmuring thoughts, O my soul ; let this dry up thy tears which are ready to overflow on such an occasion. Dare not pronounce it a stroke of anger from the band of God, who divided them from the tempting or distressing scenes of this world, and kindly removed them out of the way of danger. This was the wisest method of bis love to guard them from many a folly and many a sorrow, which he foresaw just at the door. Will the wounded and complaining heart go on to groan and murinur still, “ But my son was carried off in the prime of life, or my daughter in her blooming years; they stood flourishing in the vigour of their nature, and it was my delight to behold their growing appearances of virtue and good ness, and that in the midst of ease and plenty, and prospects of happiness, so far as this world can afford it?" But could you look through the next year to the end of it? Could you pene, trate into future events, and survey the scenes of seven years to come? Could your heart assure itself of the real possession of this imaginary view of happiness and peace? Perhaps the blessed God saw the clouds gathering afar off, and at a great distance of time, and in much kindness he housed your favourite from unknown trials, dangers and sorrows. So a prudent gardener, who is acquainted with the sky, and skilful in the signs of the seasons, even in the month of May, forsees a heavy tempest rising in the hedge of the horizon, while a vulgar eye observes nothing but sunshine ; and he who knows the worth and the tenderness of some special plants in his garden, houses them in haste, lest they be exposed and demolished by the sweeping rain or hail.
" These children were in the bloom of life, and in the most desirable appearance of joy and satisfaction: “ But is not that also usually the most dangerous season of life, and the hour of most powerful temptation ? Was not that the time when their passions might bave been too hard for them, and the deluding pleusures of life stood round them with a most perilous assault Aud what if God, out of pure compassion, saw it deeessary to bide them from an army of perils at once, and to carry them off the stage of life with more purity and honour? Surely when the great God has appointed it, when the blessed Jesus has done it, we would not rise up in opposition and say, " But I would have bad then live longer here at all adventures: I wish they were alive again, let the consequence be what it will." "This is liat the voice of faith or patience; this is not the language of boly sybinission and love to God, nor can our souls approve of Buch irregalar storms of ungoverned affection, which oppose thomselves to ibe divine will, and ruffle the soul with criininal disquietude.”
There are many, even of the children of God, wbo had left
a more unblemished and a more honourable character behind them if they had died inuch sooner. The latter end of life hath sometimes sullied their brightness, and tarnished the glory they had acquired in a hopeful youth: Their growing years have fallen under such temptations, and been defiled and disgraced by such failings, as would have been entirely prevented had they been summoned away into God's hiding-place some years before. Our blessed Jesus walks among the roses and lilies in the garden of his church, and when he sees a wintry storm coming upon some tender plants of righteousness, he bides them in the earth to preserve life in them, that they may bloom with new glories when they shall be raised from that bed. The blessed God acts like a tender Father, and consults the safety and the honour of his children, when the band of bis mercy snatches them away before that powerful temptation comes, which he foresces would have defiled and distressed, and almost destroyed them. They are not lost, but they are gone to rest a little sooner than we are. Peace be to that bed of dust where they are hidden, by the hand of their God, from unknown dangers ! Blessed be our Lord Jesus, who has the keys of the grave, and never opens it for his favourites but in the wisest season !
III. “ God has appointed a set time in his own counsels for all his children to continue in death :" Those whom he has hid. den in the grave be remembers they lie there, and he will not suffer them to abide in the dust for ever. When Job intreats of God that he may be hidden from his sorrows in the dust of death, he requests also that God would appoint a set time for his release, and remember him. His faith seems to bave had a glimpse of the blessed resurrection. Our senses and our carpal passions would cry out, where is Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the ancient worthies, who have been long sleepers in their beds of repose for many thousand years ? But faith assures us, that God numbers the days and the months of the concealment under ground, he knows where their dust lies, and where to find every scattered atoni against the great restoring day. They are unseen indeed and forgotten of men, but then they are under the eye and the keeping of the blessed God: He watches over their sleeping dust, and while the world has forgotten and lost even their names, they are every moment under the eye of God, for they stand written in his book of life, with the vame of the Lamb at the head of them. Jesus, his Son, had but three days appointed him to dwell in this hiding-place, and he rose again at the appointed hour. Other good men who were gone to their grave not long before him, arose again at the resur. rection of Christ, and made a visit to many in Jerusalem : Their appointed hiding-place was but for a short scason ; and all the children of God shall be remembered in their proper seasons in faithfulness to his Son to whom he has given them : The head is raised to the mansions of glory, and the members must not for ever lie in dust.
Reflection. Then let all the saints of God wait with patience for the appointed time when he will call them down to death, and let them lie down in their secret beds of repose, and in a waiting frame commit their dust to his care till the resurrection. All the days of my appointed time, says Job, I will wait till my change come. The word appointed time is supposed to signify “ warfare" in the Hebrew : As a centinel, when he is fixed to his post by his general, he waits there till he has orders for a release. And this clause of the verse may refer either to dying or rising again, for either of them is a very great and important change, passing upon human nature, whether from life to death, or from death to life. It is said by the prophet Isaiali, chapter xxvii. 16. He that believeth shall not make haste, that is, he that trusteth in the wisdom and the promised mercy of God will not be too urgent or importuvate in any of his desires : It is for want of faith that nature sometimes is in too much haste to die, as Job in some of his expressions appears to have been, or as Elijah perhaps discovered himself when he was wandering in the wil. derness disconsolate and almost despairing; or as the prophet Jeremiah sufficiently manifested, when be cursed the day of his birth; or as Jonali' was, that peevish prophet, when he was angry with God for not taking away bis life ; but the ground of it was, he was vexed because God did not destroy Nineveh, acrording to his prophecy : These are certain blemishes of the children of God left upon record in his word, to give us warning of our danger of impatience, and to guard us against their sius and follies, And since we know that God has appointed the seasons of our entrance into death, and into the state of the resurrection, we should humbly commit the disposal of ourselves to the hand of our God, who will bestow upon us the most needful blessings in the most proper season.
Do not the spirits of the just made perfect wait in patience for the great and blessed rising-day which God has appointed, and for the illustrious change of their bodies froin corruption and darkness to light, and life, and glory? God has promised it, and that suffices, and supports their waiting spirits, though they know not the hour. The Father keeps that in his own hand; Acts i. 7. And perhaps reveals it to pone but his Son Jesus, who is exalted to be the governor and judge of the world. There are millions of souls waiting in that separate state for the accomplishment of these last and best promises, ready to shout and rejuice when they shall see and feel that bright morning dawping
“ Wait therefore, O my soul, as becomes a child of God in the wilderness among many trials, darknesses and distresses. He has stripped thee perhaps of one comfort after another, and thy friends and relatives in succession are called down to the dust; they are released from their conflicts, and are placed far out of the reach of every temptation ; and it is not thy business to prescribe to God at what hour he shall release thee also. Whensoever he is pleased to call thee to lay down thy flesh in the dust, and to enter into God's hiding-place, meet thou the summons with holy courage, satisfaction and joy, enter into the chamber of rest till all the days of sin, sorrow and wretchedness are overpassed : Lie down there in a waiting frame, and commit thy flesh to bis care and keeping, till the hour in which he has appointed thy glorious change."
IV. “ The lively view of a happy resurrection, and a well. grounded hope of this blessed change, is a solid and divine comtort to the saints of God, under all trials of every kind both in life and death." The faith and hope of a joyful rising day has supported the children of God under long distresses and huge agonies of sorrow which they sustain here. It is the expectation of this desirable day that animates the soul with vigour and life to fulfil every painful and dangerous duty. It is for this we expose ourselves to the bitter reproaches and persecutions of the wicked world ; it is for this that we copflict with all our adversaries on earth, and all the powers of darkness that are sent from hell to annoy us ; it is this joyful expectation that bears up our spirits under every present burden and calamity of life. What could we do in such a painful and dying world, or how could we bear with patience the long fatigues of such a wretched life, if we had no hope of rising again from the dead? Surely we are the most miserable of all men in the days of public persecution, if we had hope only in this life, I Cor. xv. 19. It is for this that we labour, and suffer, and endure whatsoever our heavenly Father is pleased to lay upon us. It is this confirms our fortitude, and makes as stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much os we know that our labour shall not be in vain in the Lord, I Cor. xv. 58. It is this that enables us to bear the loss of our dearest friends with patience and hope, and assuages the sınart of our sharpest sorrows: For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so we rejoice in hope that they which sleep in Jesus shall be brought with him at his return, and shall appear in brighter and more glorious circumstances than ever our eyes were blessed with here on earth, 1 Thes. iv. 13, 14. This teaches us to triumph over death and the
grave in divine language, 0 death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory 1 Cor. xv. 55.
Reflection. “ What are thy chief burdens, O my soul? Whence are all thy sighs and thy daily groanings ? What are thy