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who inflicts it. And this folly they will certainly sooner or later regret. Thousands have regretted it, when it was too late. This, the afflicted ought to realize, and sincerely guard against.
5. If afflictions are instructive, then the afflicted are always in a peculiarly trying and dangerous situation. They must receive or refuse to receive instruction. And it is more natural for all the afflicted to refuse than to receive instruction that is given to them under the smart of the rod. They are very ready to complain, rather than to submit to the correcting hand of God. This is the representation of scripture. This is evident by observation, and this is still more evident by the experience of all mankind. The afflicted need to tremble under the instructive voice of affliction, lest they disregard, despise, and abuse the chastenings of the Lord. They are in danger of feeling more and heavier strokes of the rod. They are emphatically in a state of trial. God watches every motion of their hearts, and every word that drops from their lips. And his hand is stretched out, still ready, if need be, to give heavier and heavier strokes, or to leave them to perish in their opposition, and perverse course of rebellion. They are shut up to submission, and must either submit or die. And when they feel this, they are under indispensable obligation to feel and say, “ It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.”
Finally, this subject calls upon all to hear the voice of Providence, which crieth to the nations who are now groaning under the rod of affliction and calamity; to hear the voice of God, which crieth to the cities which are in trouble and distress; to hear the voice of God, which crieth to bereaved families, and which crieth to afllicted and bereaved individuals. The mourning family who now appear before us, have received a heavy stroke; the heaviest that the bereaved husband has ever felt. He has long enjoyed great prosperity; but adversity has now overtaken him. The cup of the wormwood and the gall is put into his hand, by him who had a right to bereave him. Let him be still, and know that he is God.
The bereaved children have suffered an irreparable loss. She who bore them in her arms, and watched over their infancy, childhood and youth, is taken from them for ever. They shall no more see her face, nor hear her voice, nor enjoy her maternal example or instructions. This is a loud call, not merely to remember their mother, but their Creator. Perhaps they never will have a louder call by the providence of God, to make their peace with him, and devote themselves to his service. The repeated instances of mortality of late, solemnly admonish all to prepare for death, which might be their lot.
THE POWER OF GOD TO PREVENT DEATH.
OCTOBER 14, 1821.
THEN said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not
died. — JOHN, xi. 21.
We are told in the preceding verses that a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha; that these sisters of Lazarus sent to Christ, informing him that their brother was sick, confidently expecting that he would come and heal him, as he had dane in other cases of sickness; that Christ designedly delayed going to Bethany to visit him, until after he died, and had lain in the grave four days; that as soon as Martha heard of his then coming, she went and met him, and accosted him in these words: “ Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died;" that she immediately called her sister Mary, and told her that the Master had come; that when Mary was come to Jesus, "she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” It seems that Martha and Mary both had the same opinion of Christ, that he was the Son of God, and that God would grant him whatever favor he would ask; and that if he had been present while their brother was sick, he would have asked God to spare his life, and prevent his death at that time. It is likely, therefore, that they often said to one another, “ O that Christ were here! If he were here, he would ask God to heal our sick brother, and prevent his early death.” This thought had made such a deep impression on their minds, that they both express it in the first words they said to Christ: “ Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” They certainly had some reason to think that if Christ had been present, he would have entreated with God to spare their brother's life, and God would have healed his disorder, and prevented his death. But they could not be certain that if Christ had been present, he would have interceded for their brother; or, if he had, that God would have granted his request, and spared their brother's life. Hence we may justly conclude,
That though God is able to prevent any person's dying at the time he does die, yet he never sees fit to prevent it. I shall show,
I. That God is able to prevent any person's dying so soon as he does die.
II. That he never does prevent any person's dying as soon as he does die. And,
III. Why he does never prevent any person's dying so soon.
I. I am to show that God is able to prevent any person's dying so soon as he does die.
As God is the giver, so he is the preserver of life. He giveth to all life and breath. “ In him we live, and move, and have our being.” He is as able to preserve one man's life, as another's; and all men's lives, as long as he pleases. And as he is able to preserve life as long as he pleases, so he is able to prevent death as long as he pleases. He preserved the lives of men much longer in former, than in latter ages. He preserved the lives of some of the patriarchs for seven, or eight, or nine hundred years; and he might have preserved their lives, and the lives of all their contemporaries, and the lives of all men since, much longer. Though Methuselah lived nine hundred and sixty-nine years, yet he could have prevented his dying so soon, and caused him to live to this time, if he had pleased. His preserving one man's life longer than another's is a demonstration that he is able to preserve every man's life as long as he pleases. So long as he can preserve any man's life, he can prevent his death. As he could have preserved the life of Methuselah longer than he did, so he could have prevented his dying so soon as he did. And as he could have preserved the life of Lazarus longer than he did, so he could have prevented his dying as soon as he did. And it is equally true that he can preserve any man's life, and prevent any man's death, as long as he pleases, without any miraculous interposition in the case. Sickness is the most common and general cause of death. But God is able to preserve any man from sickness as long as he pleases. He promised his peculiar people that he would take away from them all sickness, in case of their cordial obedience to his commands. And he was undoubtedly able to have fulfilled this promise. He now preserves some men from sickness for seventy, or eighty, or ninety years, or more. And this shows that he can preserve any man from dying by sickness as long as he pleases. But if men do become sick, and extremely sick, he can check, or mitigate, or remove their sickness, and so prevent its proving the means of their death. Hannah said, The Lord " bringeth down to the grave, and bringeth up.” Hezekiah was sick, and his sickness would have proved mortal, if God had not directed to and blessed means for his recovery, by which he prevented his death for fifteen years longer. And God has, in ten thousand instances, healed the sick, and prevented their dying, not only for fifteen, but for fifty years longer. How often does God bring mankind down to the verge of the grave, by both lingering and acute diseases, and then bring them up again, and thereby prevent their dying as long as he pleases! Though men are continually exposed to lose their lives by what are called accidents, yet God can prevent any accident happening to them, as long as he pleases. Or if he does suffer accidents to happen to them, he is able to prevent their proving fatal. How often did David meet with accidents, and narrowly escape! He narrowly escaped from the paw of the lion and the bear; and still more narrowly escaped, time after time, from the hands of Saul, who took unwearied pains to destroy him. Paul was exposed to a vast variety of dangers and accidents, but escaped them all, and lived to be such an one as Paul the aged. All Germany were united in their designs and attempts to destroy Martin Luther; but yet he came to his grave in peace, like a shock of corn fully ripe in its season. And where can we find a man, who has lived to fifty years, who has not had some hair-breadth escapes from dangers and accidents, which have proved fatal to others? In all such cases, though God suffered the accidents to take place, yet he prevented their becoming fatal. And he can always do this when he pleases. It is easy to see, therefore, that God is able to preserve the lives of men as long as he pleases, and to prevent their dying so soon as they do die. But yet,
II. He never does prevent their dying as soon as they do die. Though he might have prevented Lazarus' dying so soon as he did die, yet he did not see fit to prevent his dying as soon as he did die. And this holds true in all cases of mortality. God never sees fit to prevent any person's dying as soon as he does die. He did not see fit to prevent Methuselah from dying as soon as he was nine hundred and sixty-nine years old. Nor did he see fit to prevent Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Aaron and Joshua, from dying as soon as they did die. He did not see fit to prevent Ahab and Josiah from being wounded, nor from dying of their wounds, as soon as they did die. He did not prevent young Abijah from being sick, nor from dying of his sickness, as soon as he did die, though all Israel desired his life, and lamented his death. No means that can be used, and no intercessions that can be made, can move God to prevent any child, or youth, or man, from dying, as soon as he does die. Though he is able to prevent all infants from dying in infancy, and all children from dying in childhood, and all youths from dying before they arrive at manhood or old age, yet he does not see fit to prevent millions of infants from dying in infancy, nor millions of children from dying in childhood, nor millions of youth_from dying before they arrive at manhood or old age.
David desired and prayed ardently, that his little infant might live; but God did not prevent its dying. He also desired and ardently prayed, that his son Absalom might not be slain ; but God did not prevent his being slain. Though pious parents sincerely pray that their infants may live to childhood, and their children may live to manhood, and to future years, yet God often sees fit not to prevent their infants from dying in infancy, nor their children from dying in childhood, nor their youths from dying in that period of life. And though many may offer up pious and ardent prayers for the lives of amiable and useful men, yet God often denies their requests, and does not prevent such pious men from dying in the midst of their usefulness. In a word, God never sees fit to prevent any one's dying as early in life as he does die.
I now proceed to show,
III. Why God does not prevent any person from dying, as soon as he does die. I have already shown that God can preserve men's lives as long as he pleases, and consequently that he can prevent their dying, as soon as they do die. Martha and Mary supposed this to be true; for they said to Christ, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” And others were of the same opinion. When Jesus saw Mary weeping, and the Jews also weeping who came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, and said, Where have ye laid him? They say unto him, Lord, come
Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some said, Could not this man, who opened the
eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Now, since God can preserve the lives of mankind as long as he pleases, it is a very serious and important inquiry, why he does not prevent so many from dying in infancy, childhood, youth and manhood, before they reach the common age of man. Early, or what are called premature