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death tells us, it was a poor dying comfort, a pretty piece of brittle clay, broken and dissolved, and mouldering to the dust. Our love and our grief, it may be, join together, to recal the past days of fondness and delight, short-lived delight, and empty vain fondness, that ends in tears and long mourning? We have lost a superior relation, or perhaps, an equal, a father, a wife, a husband, or a brother: We have lost a guide, a support, a helper, a dear affectionate friend, entirely loving and entirely beloved.

He was a kind and skilful guide, but death teaches us the insufficiency of his guidance, who left us in the mid-way, and lets us travel through all the remaining part of this dark wilderness alone. He has given us sweet counsel and direction in days past, but he can now direct us no more, we can consult him no more: Those lips of advice, on which we hung, are closed and silent in death: That voice will be heard no more: We must walk without this counsellor all the rest of our way, be it never so long, and never so dangerous.

He was our helper, and our support under daily difficulties; but it was a weak support, that could not stand itself, when death shook him: A poor helper, and a sorry defence, that could not resist the powers of disease and mortality, nor defend himself from the assaults of death.

He was a friend, and a faithful one too; but it was a feeble, a failing friend, even in the midst of his love and faithfulness; for he was called away, and constrained to depart from us in a dark and sorrowful minute, and hath left us to mourn alone.— He could not abide with us a moment beyond his summons; he forsook us while we were drowned in grief, and could give us no more consolation. Our fathers where are they? Our prophets, qur instructors, our guides, and helpers are gone down to the land of silence, they lie asleep in the dust and darkness; Zech. i. 5.

Thus death is made of advantage to us, even when it strikes us in so tender a part: For it teaches us this sacred lesson, how vain and empty are all our hopes in creatures! The dart of death is like a pen of iron in his hand, and he writes emptiness and vanity on every friend, on every relative that he takes from our family, from our side, from our bosom: He writes it in deep and painful characters, and holds our souls to the solemn lesson. The same truth stands written in many a part of the book of God, in divine and golden letters; but perhaps, we would never have learned it, had not death copied it out for us in letters of blood.

II. The death of our kindred drives us to a more immediate and constant dependance on God. When the stream is cut

off, what should we do but run to the fountain? If the stars vanish, we seek the sun-beams. And O may the sun arise, and shine upon our souls with growing light and comfort as the stars disappear!

While our friends or kindred were alive, we made them our refuge in every distress; we have trusted in them perhaps too much; we have lived too much upon them, with the neglect of God. A parent, a brother, or perhaps a dearer relative; thesc were our high tower, our defence, our sun, and our shield: These assumed that station in our hearts, and that high place in our esteem, which is due to God only. But, when this tower is battered down to dust, when the shield of clay is broken to pieces, and this dim and feeble sun turned into darkness, then we make God alone our sun, our shield, and our high tower of defence. Then we search out earnestly, what kind and condescending characters, and relations God has assumed in his word; and we read and survey the gracious titles of our Lord Jesus Christ, with new and unknown delight.

Have any of you lost your earthly parents? Then you read with pleasure those words of the Psalmist, If my father or my mother forsake me, as they must do at the hour of death, then the Lord will take me up; Ps. xxvii. 10. And you rejoice in that glorious promise, Be ye separate from idols, saith the Lord; that is, separate yourselves from the sinful practices of the world, and I will receive you, and I will be a Father to you, and ye shall be my sons and my daughters, saith the Lord Almighty; 2 Cor. vi. 17, 18. Has death entered into a family, and taken the head, the husband away? The words of Isaiah grow sweeter than ever; Is. liv. 5. Thy Maker is thy Husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name, even the God of the whole earth. Are the widows and the fatherless children in danger of oppression, because they have lost their defender? They run to the lxviii. Ps. and live upon the 5th verse of it; A Father of the fatherless, and a Judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. Is a brother summoned away by the stroke of death? But the Lord Jesus is alive still: He that took flesh and blood upon him, that he might be made like the rest of the children of God, He is not ashamed to call them brethren; Heb. ii. 11. This is a brother that was born for the day of our adversity; this is the friend that sticks closer than a brother, and abides with us when a brother departs, according to the expression of the wise man; Prov. xvii. 17. and xviii. 24. Thus the names, and characters, and relations of God the Father, and of our Lord Jesus Christ, acquire a new sweetness, and appear with greater love and glory in them, at the death of our earthly relatives.

There is many a christian can speak feelingly, and say,

"Never did I live so much upon my God, I never knew nor loved my Saviour so well, never conversed so much with his word, never did I find such sweetness in his names, nor his promises, nor such pleasure in secret converse with him, as I have done since the day I lost such a friend, or such a dear relation by the stroke of death: I have learned now to put no trust in creatures; for their breath goeth forth, and that very day their thoughts of kindness perish; Ps. cxlvi. 3-8. Now refuge fails me, no man seems to be concerned for me, since the death of such a friend; I say, therefore, to my God, thou art my refuge; Ps. cxlii. 4, 5.

III. The death of our dearest friends calls us to a noble trial of our love to God, and our submission to his sovereignty. Human nature indeed is afraid of trials; but when the present aids of divine grace give us the victory, then blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him; James i. 12. And upon this account, he exhorts christians in the second verse, to a very sublime and difficult practice, My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations, knowing this, that the trial of your faith worketh patience, and if it endures the trial, it will be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ; 1 Pet. i. 7.

When God sends his messenger of death, and takes a dear and beloved creature from our arms, or our bosom, the divine question is like that of our Lord to Peter, Simon, lovest thou me? John xxi. 15-17. Christian, lovest thou me more than thou lovest this creature? Art thou willing to resign this comfort at my call? Hast thou not given thyself to me, and does thy heart refuse to give up thy son, thy brother, or thy dearest friend? Hast thou not called me thy sovereign? I am come now to enquire into thy sincerity. Dost thou resign thy most beloved objects to my disposal? I gave up my Son to death for you; and have you any thing so dear to you as my Son was to me? What says your heart in answer to these solemn questions? Do you love me above all things, or no? Is your will bowed down to my foot? Can you now repeat from your very souls the same language, in which you have often addressed me in your closets, and in my sanctuary, "I am thine, Lord, I am thine; all that I have is thine?" Or do you murmur and quarrel at my providence, when I send my servant death to your house, to try whether these professions of yours were sincere or no?

Happy the christian that comes off with honour in this hour of trial, and who can say heartily, Lord, I resign what thou demandest, and am angry with myself that I should find so much reluctance in my heart, to surrender any thing at the call of God!

What a shining evidence of our sincerity is obtained at such a season? What a noble proof of our supreme love to God? And it shall be recorded in heaven for our honour, and produced in the day of the Lord Jesus?

There is nothing in all the history of Abraham, the father of the faithful, that gives him a more shining character on earth, or, perhaps, in heaven, than that he gave up his son Isaac, at the command of God, and took the wood, and the fire, and the knife, in his hand, and devoted his beloved, his only son to death; though it was in a way so terribly painful and so shocking to nature, that he himself must be the executioner. He had offered the precious sacrifice already in his heart, when the angel of the Lord came down and stopped his hand Now I know that thou fearest God, and I know that thou lovest him too, seing thou hast not withheld thy son, thy only son from me; Gen xxii.


Thus the death of the dearest relation turns greatly to our advantage, when it gives us so bright an evidence of our own graces, and assures us that we are hearty lovers of God.

IV. The death of a beloved relative, has often wrought for the good of a saint, when the long and painful sorrow which has attended it, has shewn us how dangerous a thing it was to love a creature too well.


"O! What a wound do I feel at my heart, says a christian, since the death of so near a relation: It pains me all the day It fills my eyes with tears, and forbids my rest in the night: I am so troubled that I cannot sleep: It unfits me for the present duties of life, and hangs too heavy upon me, in the midst of the duties of religion. Surely, that creature dwelt too near my heart, and was joined in too close a union, since my heart bleeds and smarts so long after the parting stroke. Let me watch my affections for time to come, and set a guard upon my love, thrat it never, never tie my soul so fast to a creature again. Come down, blessed Saviour, and take faster hold of my heart; let thy own hand heal the wound that death has made, and let thy mercy pardon the guilt of my excessive creature-love: Dwell thou in my soul, my Lord and my God, and fill up all the unhappy and painful vacancy: Keep my affections for ever true to thee, and let my love to thee be supreme and unrivalled; nor let the softer passions of my nature wander and lose themselves amongst creatures again, lest they contract new guilt: lest they provoke thee to repeat the same smarting tragedy, and to renew these scenes of mourning."

V. The death of our kindred is for our advantage, when it awakens us to review our own conduct toward them, whether we

have behaved aright or no, and when it quickens our duty to surviving relatives.

While they are alive, and present with us, our neglect of duty towards them does not so soon strike our consciences; but when the stroke of death divides them from us in this world for ever, we are ready then to bethink ourselves, whether our carriage toward them has been just and kind: And if our enquiry finds out our guilt, our hearts are tender at that season, and we soon yield to the conviction. "Did I pay that duty to a father, which he well deserved, and which God required? Did I treat a mother with that filial affection, and submissive tenderness that became a child? Did I pay that just deference and honour to the counsels and advice of my parents as I should have done? Did I treat my sisters with that decent affection and respect that became me? And did I exercise brotherly love toward all my equal relatives? Or has my conduct been unḍutiful, unkind, and unbecoming?

And especially if we have this to charge ourselves with, that we took no care for the welfare of the souls of those that are dead. Such thoughts as these will hang heavy about the heart, and press hard upon the conscience in that day. "Did I not see my child or my brother walk in the ways of sin and yet did I ever give him a hint of his dreadful danger? Did I fear that he was a stranger to the grace of God, and yet did I not neglect to invite him to receive the gospel? Had I not reason to question whether he was a sincere convert or no? But how little have I done toward his conversion?

"Or if he was ever concerned about the affairs of his soul, and awakened and thoughtful about death and hell, did I direct him in the way of peace? Did I endeavour to lead him to Jesus the Saviour? Or did I let him go on without instruction, and without comfort, till death laid its cold hands upon him, and he plunged into the eternal world at a mournful uncertainty? O my heart! my heart! The anguish of it pains me beyond what I am able to bear. O that I could recal my brother, or my son from the grave! How would I follow him with counsels and intreaties? And neither give him nor myself any rest, till I had good hope, through grace, that he had fled for refuge to lay hold on Christ and his salvation. I would never be at ease, nor would I cease pleading for him at the throne of grace, till I had found some evidences of a new nature in him, and a change of heart from sin to repentance and holiness.

"Or suppose my departed relative was a true christian, what did I do toward the increase of his faith? Did I ever allure him to holy conversation? Did I take occasion now and then to introduce religious discourse? Did I converse with him

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