Page images

friendly spirit. Any child may know that he loves his earthly parent, by the exercise of a filial spirit. In the same manner, any christian may know that he loves God, by the exercise of the spirit of adoption. A filial spirit carries its own evidence with it. All real christians feel a filial spirit towards their heavenly Father, by which they may know that they are the children of God, and heirs of everlasting life. It is a duty which they owe to God and to themselves, to examine their own hearts impartially, and know what manner of spirit they are of; for, without knowing this, they will all their life-time be subject to bondage, through fear of death; and they may expect when that comes, their sun will set in a cloud, and bring a reproach upon themselves, and upon the religion which they have professed. But if they faithfully search their own hearts, and discover their filial spirit towards God, they may read the promises in their favor, and view death on the light side, which will give them a complete victory over their last enemy, and afford the best source of consolation to their best friends, who stand around their dying bed.

4. The preceding observations leave us no room to doubt, that death is always a happy event to the children of God. We know enough about their future state, to be satisfied that whenever and however they may die, they actually gain by their great and last change. God has told us that as soon as they leave this world, they are carried to a better, where they are completely holy and happy. Though they may be troubled with doubts and fears, and dread to meet the king of terrors, yet he who began a good work in their hearts, never fails to own them for his children, and to give them their promised inheritance. To exclude all possibility of doubt upon this interesting point, the apostle has said, "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate them from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

5. This subject affords a source of great consolation to those who have been bereaved of near and dear christian friends. They have suffered a great loss, and experienced a painful separation, which justly calls for mourning and sorrow; but if they will only carry their thoughts into that world where they believe their friends are gone, and view them in their present state of glory and felicity, their sorrows must be mingled with joys. Can they mourn that those whom they esteemed as the children of God and the excellent of the earth, have become unspeakably more excellent, more amiable, and more happy, than they ever were in this imperfect state? Can they really

believe what the gospel reveals concerning the spirits of just men made perfect, and yet mourn that their pious friends have actually joined the general assembly and church of the firstborn, in the delightful service of their divine Redeemer? If they do not refuse to be comforted, they must derive peculiar consolation from what they know of the past conduct and present state of dear departed christians, who have ceased from sin and suffering, and are in the full enjoyment of all good.

I presume I shall now have the concurrence of this whole assembly, in applying these consoling observations to the numerous mourners on this occasion. Numerous mourners, I say, because there is not, perhaps, a single person here present, who does not lament the decease of that amiable and excellent child of God, whose remains now lie before us. I have endeavored to delineate that filial spirit which constitutes and adorns the christian character; and can any one recollect a single trait in that character, which does not plainly apply to Mrs. WILDER? Without mistaking nature for grace, and making every proper allowance for her native mildness, her superior education, and her polished manners, did she not discover, in the whole course of her conduct, that love to God, that love to Christ, that love to the friends of Christ, and that universal love to mankind, which are the genuine expressions of a holy and humble heart? What duty to God, what duty to her husband, what duty to her friends, or what duty to her enemies, (if she had any,) did she habitually neglect? She exhibited in her very countenance that meek and quiet spirit, that serenity and peace of mind, which naturally flow from vital piety. There is, therefore, just ground to believe that she has safely reached her heavenly Father's house, and is there fixed as a pillar in his temple for ever. In this firm belief, the bereaved and afflicted PASTOR of this church has no cause to sorrow, as those who have no hope. Though his loss is greatly enhanced by all the amiable, useful and virtuous qualities which adorned the dear wife of his youth, whom God has taken away, yet he has abundant reason to be thankful that her life, which had been so often threatened, was continued so long in mercy to him, and to his numerous family. May he sing aright of mercy and of judgment. May he hear the rod, and who hath appointed it. With a filial spirit, may he bow in cheerful submission to his heavenly Father, and cast all his burdens upon his arm, who is able and willing to sustain him.

The bereaved and sorely afflicted children call for the sympathy and compassion of every tender heart. They have sustained a great and irreparable loss. Their dear mother has left

them at the very season, when they stand in peculiar need of her care, of her instruction, of her example, and I may add, of her prayers. But they may derive great and lasting benefit from her life and from her death, if they will only remember her instructions, her warnings and admonitions, and faithfully follow her bright example in every thing which is pious, amiable and praise-worthy in the christian character. Their duty, safety and happiness unitedly call upon them, to commit themselves to their father's and their mother's God, to whom they have been solemnly and publicly devoted. Let them feel and express a filial spirit towards their heavenly Father, and he will take them under his care, guide all their steps, support them under all their trials and bereavements, and finally wipe away all tears from their eyes.

This church and congregation will sincerely sympathize with their bereaved pastor, under the heavy loss which they, as well as he, have sustained, by the death of Mrs. Wilder, whom they have long and highly respected. While they lament that so bright an example of piety and virtue has been removed from them, they will remember that they must in their turns, one after another, follow her to the grave, and go into that invisible world whither she is gone, and from whence she will never return. May this solemn admonition of Providence happily serve to quicken all of every age and character, to be followers of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. Amen.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

BEHOLD, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?-JOB, ix. 12

JOB was afflicted not more for his own benefit, than for the benefit of others. God intended his scenes of sorrow should draw forth the feelings of his heart, and display his true character before the eyes of the world. And agreeably to this purpose he directed, that both his afflictions and his conduct under them, should be recorded and transmitted to future ages, that mankind might hear of the patience of Job, and see the end of the Lord, in his fatherly chastisements. His discourses with his friends gave him a good opportunity of justifying the sovereignty of God, in the dispensations of his providence. This was the principal subject of dispute between them. They insisted that God treated every man according to his real character, in his providential conduct towards him; but he maintained that God acted as a sovereign, without any design of distinguishing his friends from his enemies, by outward mercies and afflictions. Accordingly, in the preceding verses, he gives a striking description of divine sovereignty, which he owns he had too often disregarded, but now most sensibly realized. And in the text he seems to wonder that any should not both realize, and cordially submit to the sovereignty of God. "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?" These words present to our serious consideration this plain truth,

It is the natural tendency of afflictions to make the friends of God realize and submit to his sovereignty.

I shall first consider the natural tendency of afflictions to give the friends of God a realizing sense of his sovereignty; and, secondly, consider the natural tendency of this realizing sense of divine sovereignty to bring them to unreserved sub


I. Let us consider the natural tendency of afflictions to give the friends of God a realizing sense of his sovereignty.

This is one of the essential and most amiable attributes of the Deity, which he continually displays in dispensing both good and evil to mankind. But saints, as well as sinners, are very apt to suffer God to pass by them unheeded in the course of providence, and to forget that he holds them and all their temporal and eternal interests in his holy and sovereign hand. This stupidity good men always lament, when they are awakened to realize his sovereignty. Job in his affliction could say, "God is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered? Who removeth the mountains, and they know not: who overturneth them in his anger. Who shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble. Who commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars. Who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea. Who doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number." These bright and glorious manifestations of divine sovereignty, he tells us in the next verse, he disregarded in the days of his prosperity. "Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not." But when God laid his heavy hand upon him, he cries out with great sensibility, "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, what doest thou?"

Now, afflictions always display the sovereignty of God, and of course naturally tend to make his friends realize it. No afflictions for the present are joyous, but grievous, and never in their own nature desirable. Whenever God afflicts his children, he displays his sovereignty over them, and gives a practical and sensible evidence, that he has a right to dispose of them contrary to their views, their desires, and most tender feelings. But of all afflictions, those which are called bereavements, give the clearest display of divine sovereignty. These constrained Job to turn his attention to this awful and amiable attribute of the Deity. "Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him?" He had taken away Job's comforts one after another, until he had nearly stripped him of every earthly enjoyment. Though he had given him the bounties of his providence in sovereignty, yet he displayed his sovereignty in a clearer and stronger light, by taking them away in such a

« PreviousContinue »