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To mourn for thy lov'd Pupil all approv'd;
ON THE SAME.
O DEATH! could manly courage quell thy power,
But he is blest where joys immortal flow;
PERSONAL AFFLICTION AND FREQUENT REFLECTION
UPON HUMAN LIFE, OF GREAT USE TO LEAD MAN TO THE REMEMBRANCE OF GOD.
IN CHRIST CHURCH, PHILADELPHIA,
SEPTEMBER 1, 1754.
ON THE DEATH OF A BELOVED PUPIL.
PSALM xliii. 6.
O my God. my soul is cast down within me, therefore will I
remember thee. IT is elegantly said by the author of the book of Job*, who seems to have experienced all the dire vicissitudes of fortune, “ That man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards.
These Troubles, however, as the same author further observes, serve the wisest purposes, inasmuch as they are not the effects of what is called blind Chance, but of that unerring Providence, which graciously conducts all events to the general good of the creature, and the final completion of virtue and happiness. “ Affliction comes not forth from the dust, neither does trouble spring out of the ground.” Very far from it. At that great day, when the whole council of God shall be more perfectly displayed to us, we shall be fully convinced, that all his dispensations have been wise, righteous, and gracious; and that:f “ though no chastening for the
present seems joyous, but grievous, nevertheless it afterwards yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them that are exercised thereby.”
Of the truth of this we might indeed soon be convinced, at present, were we but wise, and suffered ourselves to reflect on what we daily see. 'Tis with the greatest injustice, that men ascribe their sins wholly to worldly temptations, and inveigh upon all occasions against this life on account of its vanities. These, if well attended to, would perhaps put us on our guard against sin; and, upon inquiry, it will be found that the great and general cause of all iniquity, is a stupid listlessness, or want of consideration; yhich, like some vast weight, oppresses the more generous efforts of the soul, and bears all silently down before it, unless checked by the powerful hand of affliction.
I sincerely pity the man who never tasted of adverse fate; and were I capable of wishing evil to any person, I could not wish a greater to my greatest foe, than a long and uninterrupted course of prosperity. A flattering calm portends a gathering storm; and when the stream glides smooth, deep and silent on, we justly suspect that the sea or some declivity is near, and that it is soon to be lost in the vast ocean, or to tumble down some dreadful fall or craggy precipice.
Such appears his state to be, who never knew an adverse hour, nor took time to consider whence he came, where he is, or whither bound. There is room to be apprehensive lest, being drunk with prosperity, he should swim smoothly from joy to joy along life's short current, till down he drops, through the pit of death, into the vast ocean of eternity! If we
loved such a one, what more charitable wish could we indulge towards him, than that the chastening hand of heaven might fall heavy upon him, arrest him in his thoughtless career, and teach him to pause, ponder, and weigh the moment the eternal moment
-" of the things that belong to his peace, before they are for ever hid from his eyes ?"
That there should be any persons, endued with reason and understanding, who never found leisure in this world to reflect for what end they were sent into it, would seem incredible, if experience did not assure us of it. There are really so many affecting incidents in life (undoubtedly intended to awaken reflection) that their hearts must be petrified indeed, one would think, and harder than adamant, or the nether millstone, who can live in this world without being sometimes affected, if not with their own, at least with the human, lot.
I hope it is far from being my character, that I am of a gloomy temper, or delight to dwell unseasonably on the dark side of things. Our cup here is bitter enough, and misfortunes sown too thick for any one who loves his species to seek to embitter the draught, by evils of his own creation. But there is a time for all things; and, on some occasions, not to feel, sympathize, and mourn, would argue the most savage nature.
This day every thing that comes from me will be tinctured with melancholy. It is, however, a virtuous melancholy; and therefore, if publickly indulged, I hope it may be thought excusable.
You know it is natural for those who are sincerely afflicted, to believe that every person is obliged to
sympathise with them, and attend patiently to the story of their woe. But whether this be your present disposition or not, I shall say nothing, which you are not as much concerned to receive deeply into your hearts, as I am to pour it from mine.
The general doctrine which I would enforce from the text (previous to my intended application of it) is that a constant feast was never designed for us here, and that it is the good will of our Father that we should be frequently roused by what happens to us and around us, to remember him, the great fountain of our being; and to cherish that serious reflection and religious sorrow, which may lead us to eternal joy.
That we should observe such a conduct appears highly reasonable in itself. For next to the immediate praises of our great Creator, there is not an exercise that tends more to improve and ennoble the soul, than frequently to cast an eye upon human life, and expatiate on the various scene, till we lead on the soft power of religious melancholy, and feel the virtuous purpose gently rising in our sympathising breasts, thrilling through our inmost frame, and starting into the social
generous It would be affronting your understanding to suppose
think the melancholy here recommended, in any manner related to that gloomy despondency into which some people fall. No; my beloved brethren! It is that virtuous reflection, philosophic pensiveness, and religous tenderness of soul, which so well suit the honour of our nature, and our situation in life. And much to be pitied is that man, who thinks such a temper unbecomming his dignity,