« PreviousContinue »
their children. They neglect to instruct them, to govern them, to restrain them, and to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They forget that God has lent them their children, and required them to bring them up for him, and not for themselves. They consider them as their own, and as their own they love them too much, and place too great dependence upon them, and are ready to call in question God's right to take away what he has given them. Such conduct in parents is displeasing to God, and a solid reason why he should bereave and chasten them. There is the same reason why God should chastise mankind for their undue attachment to and dependence upon any other earthly objects and enjoyments. The afflicted and bereaved always deserve just such afflictions and bereavements as God calls them to experience. So that they have never reason to complain of God for treating them according to their deserts. No doubt Aaron had sinned in respect to his sons, by neglecting to educate them properly, by placing an undue affection and dependence upon them, and probably by neglecting to direct them in the duties of their office on the morning they died. He felt that he deserved to be bereaved, and held his peace. The afflicted prophet said, "I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned." All the afflicted and bereaved ought to feel as Aaron and the prophet did, and silently and unreservedly submit to the correcting hand of God, because they have sinned and deserve to be punished. For God always punishes them much less than they deserve, by the severest bereavements, afflictions and sufferings he calls them to endure.
2. The afflicted and bereaved ought to hold their peace, and silently submit to the correcting hand of God, because he has a right to afflict and bereave them, whenever he sees it necessary to do it. He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men. It is only if need be, that he pierces their hearts with sorrow. He never afflicts them so often, or so much, or so long, as they deserve to be afflicted. His mere justice does not require him to punish mankind in this world, according to their deserts, nor even to punish them at all. He acts according to the counsel of his own will, in the afflictive dispensations of providence. He has a right to afflict one, and not another, and to afflict one more than another. He exercises his wisdom and goodness, as well as his justice, in visiting mankind with afflictions and bereavements. He knows the tender ties, by which parents and children, brothers and sisters, and the nearest and dearest connections in life, are bound together; and what pain and anguish the living and dying will suffer, when these tender cords are severed by death.
But he does not regard the hopes, desires, and sorrows of either the living or dying, in taking away life at his own appointed time. He has a supreme regard to his own glory and the general good, in sending adversity, sickness, and death, when and where and to whom he pleases. This is his original and independent right, as the owner of the world, and the giver of every good and perfect gift. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein." Mankind have no independent right to their lives, or to any of the blessings of life. They all belong to God, who has a right to do what he will with his own. In every instance of bereavement, God takes nothing but what he has given. This the bereaved ought to believe and acknowledge. If he takes away their children, as he took Aaron's away, they ought to hold their peace, without a murmuring thought. Or they ought to say as Eli did, on a similar occasion, "It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good." Or as Job did, when he stripped him of all his earthly enjoyments, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord." It is always true of the afflicted, that it is of the Lord's mercies, that they are not consumed. As God's right to afflict and bereave is unlimited, so the afflicted and bereaved ought to exercise an unreserved and unlimited submission to his afflictive, bereaving, chastising hand.
3. It becomes the afflicted and bereaved to bow in silence to the sovereign will of God, because he always afflicts and bereaves them at the proper time. The time of afflictions and bereavements often gives them great weight and pungency. Men are apt to murmur and repine because their troubles and afflictions come upon them in an evil time, when they feel less prepared and able to bear them, than at any other time. They are ready to say that if they had been afflicted when they were young, or when they were in their full strength and vigor, or at any time before they felt the infirmities of old age, they could have borne it; but now their afflictions are too heavy for their feeble powers to support. But all ought to remember that God knows the best times to afflict them, and always chooses the best times to do it. He may see it best that some should bear the yoke in their youth; that some should bear the yoke in riper years; that some should bear the yoke in their declining days; and that some should be afflicted, time after time, from the morning to the evening of life, and then receive the heaviest stroke. If it were left to the afflicted to choose the. time of affliction, they would never know what time to choose. If it had been left to Aaron when his sons should die, he would not have chosen that they both should have died the 34
same day, and the next day after he and they had been consecrated to the priest's office. If Eli had been allowed to choose the time of his sons' death, he would not have chosen that they should have died in one day, and at a time when he was stooping under the decays of nature, and when the bare news of his bereavement was more than he could support, and live. is well that God does not allow men to choose when he shall afflict them, but has reserved the times and seasons in his own power. He always knows the best time to afflict them, and when he does afflict them, they must know that he sees good reasons to afflict them at that time, rather than any other. And since he sees good reasons for afflicting them at such a particular time, they have no ground to complain, but ought silently to submit to his unerring wisdom, whether they are high or low, or whether they are young or old. I must add,
4. That men ought to hold their peace under the afflicting hand of God, because he always-afflicts them in the best way, as well as at the best time. God is perfectly acquainted with all the children of men. He knows their corporeal construction, their mental powers, their hopes and fears, desires and pursuits. He knows their most vulnerable parts, and what will give them the most painful sensations. Of course, he always knows the best way to afflict them, or give them pain, which is the design of affliction. No affliction is joyous, but grievous. He always means to give more or less pain to those whom he afflicts. And among the innumerable species of affliction, he always employs that which is best adapted to answer his wise and holy purpose, in respect to every one of the afflicted. If he afflicts one by poverty, another by sickness, another by losses, another by disappointments, and another by bereavements, each individual may know that he has chosen the best way to afflict him in particular. He knows that poverty will afflict some, more than sickness; that sickness will afflict some, more than poverty; that losses will afflict some, more than sickness; that disappointments will afflict some, more than losses; and that bereavements will afflict some, more than any other evils or calamities. He always knows, therefore, where to send poverty, where to send sickness, where to send losses, where to send disappointments, and where to send the severest bereavements; and, accordingly, he afflicts the vast variety of individuals in the wisest and best manner, which ought to prevent every complaint. But how often do individuals complain , of the nature, the degree or duration of their own peculiar afflictions! They imagine that there is no sorrow like unto their sorrow, and that they would patiently bear any other afflictions than those with which God has visited them in his
anger. But they never know whether this is true; and if it be true, they must know that God has visited them with the very afflictions which are the best adapted to their peculiar state and character. Abraham's trials were the best for him; Jacob's troubles were the best for him; Eli's afflictions were the best for him; and Aaron's bereavements were the best for him. God struck him where he knew it would give him the keenest sensations of sorrow and grief; which were directly suited to do him the greatest good. And for that reason, it became him to hold his peace, and not utter a murmuring word, or indulge a murmuring thought. No man has any reason to complain of any affliction with which God pleases to visit him, because it is the best affliction for him that infinite wisdom and goodness can devise. This is a sufficient reason why all the afflicted should bow in silence and submission to the wise and holy will of God. God knew that they deserved to be afflicted, that they needed to be afflicted, that they needed just such afflictions as he has sent, and that they needed them at the very time he has sent them; and they have reason to believe that he knew what was good for them, better than they knew what was good for themselves. They have no reason to complain, but every reason to hold their peace, and silently and cordially submit to the justice, the wisdom and goodness of God in drowning their hearts in sorrow.
1. It appears from the nature of silent submission under divine corrections, that it must be highly pleasing to God. It is the very spirit which he requires them to feel and express while he lays his chastising hand upon them. He says to them, "Be still, and know that I am God." By exercising such silent, cordial and unlimited submission, they give him the throne in their hearts, and take their proper place at his footstool; they accept the punishment of their iniquities, and ascribe righteousness to their Maker, and they cordially approve of his justice as well as of his wisdom and goodness, in subjecting them to all the sorrows and sufferings which they actually experience. God must be pleased to see his guilty and afflicted creatures lie in such an humble and submissive attitude before him. And he expressly tells them so. "Thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." When Moses told Aaron that God would be sanctified and glorified by
those whom he had afflicted and sorely bereaved, he instantly held his peace, and bowed in cordial submission to the sovereign will of God. Aaron never appeared in a more amiable and acceptable attitude in the sight of God, than while he laid his hand on his mouth, and significantly expressed his cordial and unlimited submission to his holy and righteous Sovereign. This is the very effect which divine corrections are ultimately designed to produce. As soon as Abraham submitted to the command to offer up his son, his trial ceased; and as soon as Jacob said, If I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved, and I am willing to be so, his trial ceased. When any trial, affliction or bereavement has produced sincere submission to the correcting hand of God, it has produced the most virtuous, amiable and acceptable effect, in the divine view, that it could produce. When the afflicted and bereaved silently and cordially submit to divine corrections, they perform a peculiar, trying duty, which of all others, in their situation, is the most glorifying and acceptable to God.
2. It appears from the nature of sincere submission under trials and afflictions, that insubmission is extremely criminal and displeasing to God. There is no sin, perhaps, to which mankind are so universally liable, as insubmission under the afflictive dispensations of providence. God is every where and every day trying the children of men with lighter or heavier afflictions, which are very disagreeable to the human heart. Where can we find one, who has not a portion, and, as he thinks, a large portion of the common, if not uncommon, evils of life? And where can we find any, who silently, cordially and constantly submit to the sufferings that fall to their lot? This world, which is full of the goodness of God, is a murmuring and complaining world. But God has never taken away any thing from them, or inflicted any thing upon them, that gives them any just ground to complain of his injustice or unkindness. He treats them all infinitely better than they deserve. Though he often corrects them, yet his corrections are always mixed with mercy, and milder than strict justice requires. If they ever complain under his severest corrections, they complain without a cause, and express an ungrateful, undutiful and rebellious spirit towards their Creator, Preserver, Benefactor, and supreme Sovereign. And can there be any thing more odious and criminal in poor dependent, guilty creatures, than to stand and contend with their Maker, while he is using the most powerful means to suppress and subdue such a rebellious spirit? This spirit has been visibly acted out under divine corrections, and in such cases has appeared extremely criminal and malignant. Pharaoh is a strik