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deaths, are the most fruitful sources of sorrows, sighs, groans and tears in this evil world. There seems to be a general willingness that those who are far advanced in years, and have lost their activity and apparent usefulness, should go off the stage of action, and leave room for others to come after them, and fill their places; but not so, in respect to the young, the amiable, and the useful. When these are cut down by the stroke of death, it disappoints many hopes, wounds many hearts, and excites a general sorrow. In all such cases, God foresees all the painful consequences, and might prevent them, by preventing so many persons from dying as soon as they do. Though we cannot assign all, yet we may safely assign some reasons, why God never prevents men from dying as soon as they do; though he foresees all the sorrows and afflictions which will finally flow from their dying in such particular stages of life. Here it may be observed,
1. That God does not prevent men's dying as soon as they do die, because he knows their appointed time to die is come. God has not only appointed to all men once to die, but he has also appointed the particular time when every one shall die. Job asserts, that the number of every man's months, and even days, are appointed, and the bounds are fixed that he cannot pass. He asks, "Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days, also, like the days of an hireling?" David supposed that God had determined when he should die and finish his course of life. "Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is, that I may know how frail I am." Solomon says, "Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." And again he declares, “Man knoweth not his time: as the fishes are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, so the sons of men are snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them." The great diversity in the times of men's death indicates that the time is appointed when every one shall die by the hand of the great author of life. And so the apostle James expressly declares: "Go to, now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain; ' whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? it is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will we shall live, and do this or that." Every one must die at the time God has appointed that he should die. God will certainly bring about every event which he has appointed to bring about, and at the time he has appointed. He has made all his appointments under the influence of unerring
wisdom and perfect goodness; and can never see any good reason for altering, or not acting according to, any one of his appointments. He knew from eternity that death would be an important event to every person, himself and to others; and he knew that it would be more important at one time than at another. He therefore appointed the time of every one's dying, which he saw to be the most proper and the most important time; and he never will deviate a moment from his appointed time, in bringing about any person's death. And this is a good reason why he never prevents any one from dying when his appointed time is come.
2. God does not prevent some from dying as soon as they do, because he sees it best for them to die then. He has a particular regard to their good, in respect to the day of their death. He knows what would be the consequences of their living any longer, and takes them away from the evils to come. He sees it to be best for some infants never to see and suffer the evils that they would see and suffer, if they should live any longer, and takes them away for their good. He sees it to be best for some children to die in their childhood, and never be exposed to the evils and calamities which would come upon them, as well as the world, if their lives should be any longer spared. This was probably one reason why God did not prolong the life of young Abijah, the son of Jeroboam. He said that he was then about chastising his undutiful people. God sees it to be best for some pious and promising youths to meet an early death, and escape later evils and dangers. God sees it to be best for some very excellent and useful men to be called out of the world, in the midst of their prosperity and usefulness, that they may escape the evils and infirmities of declining years. This was probably the reason why God did not prevent the early death of the amiable Jonathan, the useful Josiah, and the bold and zealous Zacharias, who perished between the altar and the temple. But there may be another reason why God so early removes pious, promising, useful men, and little children, from this evil world; and that is, to make them unspeakably more happy in the kingdom of heaven. This was undoubtedly the reason why he translated Enoch to heaven, before he had finished half a patriarchal life. He had a particular regard to Enoch's personal good in so early taking him to himself. And we may justly conclude that he does, in ten thousand instances, cut short the lives of the amiable and excellent, to promote their personal and eternal good.
3. God does not prevent some from dying so soon as they do, because he knows that their dying thus will be best for their surviving friends and acquaintance. "For us they sicken, and
for us they die." God has regard to the living as well as to the dying, in every instance of mortality. Many have done more good by dying, than they ever would or could do by living. The death of a child has often proved the means of conversion to the parents. The death of a brother or sister has often proved the means of the spiritual and eternal good of a brother or a sister, if not of both brothers and sisters. The death of the young often makes deep and lasting impressions on the minds of the living, whether they are fathers or mothers, brothers or sisters, friends or acquaintance, old or young. Sudden, unexpected, premature deaths are generally the most impressive, the most instructive, and the most beneficial, to those who are prepared, as well as to those who are unprepared for dying. And for this reason, probably, God does not prevent more than half mankind from dying before they have lived out half their days. Christ did not prevent Lazarus from dying as soon as he did, because he intended his death should be the means of spiritual and saving benefit to others. "Then said Jesus unto his disciples plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe." His death produced the salutary effects which Christ intended it should produce. It tried and purified the hearts of Martha and Mary, and not only so, but it brought some to saving faith and repentance. "Then many of the Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him." They saw Lazarus dead. They saw Martha and Mary and others mourning. They saw Jesus weep. And they saw Jesus raise the dead. And Christ meant that they should see and hear all these things, for the benevolent and gracious purpose of their believing in him to the saving of their souls. And how often does God produce such saving effects on the hearts of the living, by the death of the young, the promising, and the pious! I may add,
4. God does not prevent some from dying so soon as they do, because he has a peculiar and supreme regard to his own glory in their death. He never displays his superior wisdom, superior goodness, and his amiable, absolute sovereignty, more clearly and solemnly, than by taking away the lives of persons contrary to the desires, the hopes, the expectations and prayers of their nearest and dearest friends. By such instances of mortality, he displays a wisdom, a goodness, and a sovereignty, which infinitely surpasses the wisdom, the goodness, and the sovereignty, of any or all his intelligent creatures. Neither men, nor angels, if they had the government of the world, could dispose of the lives of men in the manner in which God has always been disposing of them. If the latter could weep,
they would have wept, as Christ did, at the death of Lazarus. God means to display his own glory before the eyes of angels, as well as of men, in causing death to reign without any apparent order, respecting the ages, the characters, and the conditions of mankind. And he has a sovereign right to take away any person, when, and where, and by what means, he pleases. "Behold," says Job, "he taketh away, who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, what doest thou?"
1. If God can preserve human life as long as he pleases, then it is proper to pray for the strength, and health, and recovery of the weak, the sick, the wounded, and the apparently dying, as long as the least spark of life appears to remain. God can bring down to the grave, so he can bring up. As he can send weakness, so he can remove it. As he can send sickness, so he can remove it. As he can wound, so he can heal. And as he can give, so he can preserve life in its lowest state. What seems impossible with men, is often possible with God, in respect to the preservation of life. How often have the friends and the physicians of the weak, the sick, the wounded, and of the apparently dying and dead, despaired of their lives; and yet God has been pleased, after all their hopes and expectations were gone, to give them strength, and health, and even longevity. When Dr. Doddridge was born, he was supposed to be dead; but God preserved the spark of life in that critical and important moment, and raised him up to be one of the most eminent and useful men in his day. And have we not reason to believe that God has preserved the lives of many such weak and feeble creatures even to old age? How often does God prolong the lives of those who are apparently breathing their last, by sickness, or by wounds, or by swooning, or by drowning, or by the very decays of nature! This ought to teach us the propriety and importance of seeking to God to preserve the lives of those who apparently lie beyond the reach of all human means and exertions. As long as there is life, there is some ground to hope for recovery, and to pray for it. Neither the young nor the old ought to give up the desire and the hope of living. For God can preserve their lives as long as he pleases; and they may be assured that, for some reason or other, it will be best that they should live as long as God sees fit to preserve their lives. It is an indication of impatience, ingratitude, and irreconciliation to God, for any to omit praying for the continuance of their own life, or to desire others not to pray for it. Such instances frequently
occur; but all persons in such a state are to be better informed, and entreated to exercise and express unconditional submission to the gracious Giver and Preserver of life.
2. If God can and does preserve, or cut short life, just as he pleases, then we ought never to pray for the preservation of our own lives, or the lives of others, absolutely or unconditionally, in any case, or in any situation. We ought to rejoice that our own times, and the times of others, are in God's hands, and that he knows better than we do how to dispose of us and others. We have no right to pray absolutely that we may be kept from sickness; or, when we are sick, that we may be restored to health. We have no right to pray absolutely that we may be kept from danger; or, if we are in danger, that we may be preserved unhurt. And we have no right to pray for the preservation of others absolutely, in respect to sickness and danger. There is an important condition to be understood, and felt, and expressed. "If the Lord will," may our lives and health, and the lives and health of others, be preserved. Christ prayed conditionally in the view of his tremendous sufferings. "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done." It seems to be the opinion of some that we have a right to pray for the preservation of life, and health, and any other temporal or spiritual blessing, absolutely and unconditionally, with full assurance that God will grant the particular favor we pray for. But this is contrary to scripture, and to the universal experience of the best christians. They are fully sensible that they never know beforehand what favors it is best for God to bestow, or for them to receive. This leads them to pray conditionally and submissively, May God grant us this or that favor. They may pray ardently for some particular favor; but if they are sincere, they more ardently pray that God would glorify himself, than gratify them. There is no supposable case, in which we have a right to pray absolutely and unconditionally, for life, or health, or any temporal or spiritual blessing. Our dependence and ignorance render it absurd and criminal for us to desire or pray for any thing unsubmissively and unconditionally.
3. If God can preserve or shorten the lives of all mankind, just as he pleases, then all ought to carry about with them a realizing sense that they are dying creatures. God has passed a sentence of death upon them, and appointed the time, the place, the means, and all the circumstances, of their dying, and drawn an impenetrable veil over all futurity. They know not what a year, or a month, or a day, may bring forth. It is as certain that they shall die, as that they are now alive; and it is equally