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the proper medium, through which he converses with them, and they may converse with him. And by conversing with him in this way which he has appointed, they find peculiar light and instruction. It is the plain language of his providence, that he is treating them just as he has always treated his most sincere and cordial friends; which is a consoling thought to their troubled minds.
2. Another method which they take to converse with God in his providence is, to review the course of his conduct towards themselves through all the past scenes and stages of their lives. By such a review, they clearly perceive that God has been wise and gracious in all his providential dealings towards them. They find he has treated them far better than they have deserved, expected, or even desired; that what often appeared to be against them, eventually appeared to be for them; and that afflictions have proved to be great and distinguishing favors. When the children of God are afflicted, they naturally look back and meditate upon what they have enjoyed and suffered in the course of life ; and such meditation carries their minds to God, and fills them with devout affections. 66 While I was musing,” says the Psalmist,“ the fire burned.” And again he says, " Unless the Lord had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence. When I said, my foot slippeth; thy mercy O Lord, held me up. In the multitude of my thoughts within me, thy comforts delight my soul." While the children of God are retracing and musing upon the foot-steps of providence, they hold an intimate and pleasing intercourse with their heavenly Father. By reflecting upon his smiles and frowns, and their own feelings under them, they call into exercise hope and fear, love and joy, faith and submission, and the whole train of gracious affections. Their hearts become conformed to the manifestations of God in his providence, which is the most desirable and salutary effect of affliction.
3. The children of God never fail to converse with God by prayer, while they are suffering his fatherly chastisements. For this, they are greatly prepared, by musing on his past and present dispensations towards themselves and others. These fill their mouths with arguments, and constrain them to draw near to God, and make known their wants and desires, their hopes and fears, by prayer and supplication. They have often found him to be a present help in time of trouble. They delight to pour out their hearts before him, as a Father who is ready to hear, and able to relieve. David took this method to converse with God in his afflictions. “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed : lead me to the rock that is higher than I. My soul, wait thou only upon God: he only is my rock and my salvation.” It is by prayer, that God would have his children come and converse with him, under his correcting hand. He says in his word, “ Is any of you afflicted, let him pray.” And again, “ Call upon me in the
day of trouble." He delights in the prayers of the upright. He loves to hear his afflicted children call upon his name; and they love to unbosom themselves to their heavenly Father, and commit themselves and all their concerns, for time and eternity, to his wise and gracious disposal.
This subject may, in the first place, teach the children of God to restrain their unreasonable expectations of outward prosperity in the present life. They have reason to expect less prosperity, and more adversity, than commonly falls to the lot of other men. God is here preparing both the righteous and the wicked for their final state. Adversity is better suited than prosperity, to promote the present holiness and future happiness of the godly; but prosperity is better suited than adversity, to augment the present guilt and future misery of the wicked. It was this consideration that convinced David of the propriety of the divine conduct, in sending prosperity to sinners, and adversity to saints. “ Truly God is good to Israel, even to such as are of a clean heart. But as for
feet were almost gone; my steps had well-nigh slipped. For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. Their eyes stand out with fatness; they have more than heart could wish.” “Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world. Verily, I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus ; behold I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me; until I went into the sanctuary of God: then understood I their end." Thus God often grants the desires of the wicked, while he sends leanness into their souls, but it is through much tribulation that he commonly conducts his children to the kingdom of heaven. They have much reason, therefore, to expect that he will re: peatedly and severely correct them, while he is making them meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
In the second place, this subject may teach the godly, that adversity may be much more beneficial to them than prosperity. The smiles of Providence often lead good men, as well as others, to be forgetful of God, unthankful for his mercies, and unfaithful in his service; but the frowns of Providence are directly suited to reclaim them from their wanderings, to inspire them with gratitude for forfeited favors, and to awaken every filial affection in their hearts. Though no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous, yet it often yields afterward the peaceable fruit of righteousness. God often comforts his mourning children with the consolations of his spirit, and gives them “beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." They never enjoy a more favorable opportunity of conversing with God, and of living religion, than while they are feeling the smart of his fatherly chastisements.
In the third place, this subject exhibits a peculiar and distinguishing mark of grace, by which every one may determine whether he is or is not a real child of God. It is the habitual disposition of the true children of God to converse with him from day to day, under all the various dispensations of his providence. They find a peculiar pleasure in tracing all the good and evil they experience to the hand and heart of God, and in exercising affections correspondent to his daily dispensations. Enoch walked with God, and conversed with him in his providence. Isaac meditated upon God, and conversed with him in his providence. Moses lived as seeing God who is invisible, and conversed with him in his providence. David kept himself in the fear of God all the day long, and conversed with him in his providence. And Jeremiah expressly tells us that he conversed with God in his providence. Such a free, familiar and habitual intercourse with God under his smiles and frowns, forms an essential distinction between his children and the rest of the world. The world say unto God, Depart from us; we desire not the knowledge of thy ways; but his children say unto him, It is good for us to draw near unto thee, and to talk with thee of thy judgments. Do your hearts, my hearers, now approve, or reproach you? Do they testify for, or against you? Do you, or do you not, habitually and delightfully converse with God in his providence ?
But I must proceed no farther in general reflections upon the subject. It is time to apply it more especially to those who are called this day to commit to the dust the remains of their dear deceased daughter.
I know, my friends, that your affliction is very great. You have been called to part with your first-born, and very promising child, in the morning of her life, and in the flower of her age.* That modest appearance, that serious deportment, and that maturity of thought, which she early displayed, could not fail of attracting a large share of your parental affections.* But neither your attachment to her, nor her attachment to you, could preserve her much desired life. She is gone to that world from which she will never return. The decease of such a lovely and beloved youth, is one of the most dark and distressing dispensations of Providence. This calls you to plead with God, and talk with him of his judgments. While you feel the rod of correction, you will seriously and attentively consider who has appointed it
* She had just entered upon the eighteenth year of her age.
. The God who gave you your daughter, has taken her away. The God to whom you dedicated your daughter, has taken her away. The God to whom you have devoted yourselves and all that you have, has taken her away. The God who has a right to do what he will with his own, has taken her away. He clearly foresaw all the consequences which would flow from this early death, to you, and to your child, both in time and eternity. And in the full view of all these things, he has seen fit to do what he has done. His reasons have forestalled all your objections; and could you
discover them now, they would completely convince you of the wisdom and goodness, as well as rectitude, of his conduct. But what you know not now, you shall know hereafter. In the mean time, it becomes you to submit your understanding to his understanding, and your will to his will, and to say the language of the prophet, “ Righteous art thou, O Lord, when we plead with thee, and when we talk with thee of thy judgments.” By thus submissively and delightfully conversing with God, under his bereaving hand, you may derive greater comfort and consolation than can be derived from the enjoyment of sons or of daughters. Though God has dried up one stream of happiness, yet he appears to you the fountain. Though he has taken away your child, yet he offers you himself. Cast
your cares and burdens upon the Lord, and he will sustain you. The Lord hath smitten, but he will bind you up. The Lord hath torn, but he will heal you. He is giving you a peculiar opportunity to display your love, your faith, your submission, and all the beauties of the christian character. Draw near to him, and he will draw near to you.
Pour out your hearts before him, and he will pour out his spirit upon you,
* She was, from her childhood, given to reading and thinking upon religious subjects; but when she found her health declining, she manifested a deeper concern about the salvation of her soul. Though she never pretended to be free from doubts and fears respecting her spiritual state, yet she sometimes expressed such views and feelings as might be justly considered as evidential of a change of heart. Being questioned whether she thought she could be happy in the presence of God, in the company of saints and angels, and in the employments of heaven, she humbly replied, she thought she could enjoy perfect satisfaction in the presence, contemplation and fruition of such holy and heavenly objects.
and grant you inward comfort according to your trouble, and cause this light affliction to work for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
May this first breach in your large and rising family be sanctified to all of them who are capable of taking notice of their loss, and of remembering the sickness and death of their dear, departed sister. May their young and tender hearts be deeply affected with a sense of their own frailty and mortality, and of the distinguishing goodness of God in giving them farther opportunity to prepare for a sick and dying hour. They know not which of their names stands next in death's commission. This first death in this numerous family is a loud call to the rest to be ready also. May they remember their Creator in the days of their youth. Let them not put far away the evil day; it may be near. Their sister will never return to them, but they may soon be called to go to her. And whether their lives shall be shortened or lengthened, let them walk in that strait and narrow way which leads to everlasting life.
May this solemn instance of mortality deeply affect the youth in this place. One of your number is gone, and you know not how soon some of you may be called to follow.
of you ready? Have any of you made your peace with God ? Have any of you put away vain thoughts and become sober-minded? Do any of you converse with God, and call
upon his name every day, for sparing and pardoning mercy? If you still cast off fear, and restrain prayer before God, and walk in the way of your hearts, and in the sight of your eyes, you are treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath, and ripening fast for ruin. O that you would be wise, that you would understand this, that you would consider, and before it be too late, prepare for your latter end!
May we all, of every age, character, and condition, remember that the grave is our house, and that death is on its way to meet us. May we day by day fulfil the duties of the day, converse with God in his providence, and prepare to close a useful life with a peaceful death, and to exchange a scene of sorrow for a world of joy. Amen.