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man. He hates him, when he hath not the power to hurt him, because he hath not had the pleasure of hurting him ; he hates him, after he hath injured him, because he considers him as a man always ready to revenge the affront offered him ; and if he thinks him superior to revenge, he hates him because he is incapable of vengeance, and because the pao tience of the offended and the rage of the offender form a contrast, which renders the latter abominable in the eyes of all equitable people.
A good man, on the contrary, is happy in the company of another good man. What countrymen feel, when they meet in a foreign land where interests and customis, maxims and views, all different from those of the land of their nativity, resembles the pleasure believers experience, when they associate in a world, where they are only strangers and pilgrims. Accordingly, one of the most ardent wishes of our prophet was to be always in company with people of this kind, I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of then that keep thy precepts, said he to God. In another place, I will early destroy all the wicked of the land, that I may cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord. And again, all my delight is in the excellent saints that are in the earth.
But how few of these saints did he find! Most of his misfortunes were brought on him by the very sinners, whose depravity he deplores. They were the poison of his life, and them he always saw standing ready to persecute him, and to discharge against his person the impotent malice they had against that God, whose servant he considered it as his glory to be.
Doth our age differ in this respect from that of David? are saints more numerous now than they were then? May a good man promise himself among you more approbation, inore countenance and support than the psalmist found?
This is an odious question, and our doubts may seem to you illiberal. Well, we will not press it. But if the bulk of you be saints, this country must be the most delicious part of the whole universe. A good man must be as happy as it is possible to be in this world. In these provinces, free by constitution, opulent by trade, invincible by alliances, and perfectly fafe by the nature of their government from tyrants. and tyranny, if the number of saints be greater in these provinces than that of the wicked, it must be the most delicious
of all residences in this world for a good man; if he stumbles, you will charitably save him from falling, if he errs, you will patiently bear with him, and gently reclaim him, if he be oppressed, you will assist him with firmness and vigour, if he form schemes of piety, charity, and reformation, you will second him with eagerness and zeal, if he sacrifice his health, and ease, and fortune for your good, you will reward him with gratitude, yea with profusion. May a good man promise himself all this among you? Alas! To be only willing to devote himself to truth and virtue is often sufficient to cause him to be beset round with a company of contradicters, and opposers.
But we will not engage too deeply in such gloomy reflections, we will finish this discourse, and can we finish it in a manner more suitable to the emotions of piety that assembled you in this solemn assembly, than by repeating the prayer, with which we began? Almighty God! whose adorable judgments condemn us to wander in a valley of trouble, and to live, sometimes to be united by indissoluble ties, among men, who insolently brave thy commands, Almighty God? grant we may be gathered to that holy society of blessed Spirits, who place their happiness in a perfect conformity to thine august laws!
The occupation of the blessed in heaven (and this is one of the most beautiful images, under which a man, who loves his God can represent the happiness of heaven) the employment of the blessed in heaven is to serve God; their delight is to serve God; the design of all the plans, and all the actions, and all the motions of the blessed in heaven is to serve God. And as the most laudable grief of a believer in this unhappy world, which sin makes a theatre of bloody catastrophes, and an habitation of maledictions, is to see the unworty inhabitants violate the laws of their Creator, so the purest joy of blessed is to see themselves in a society, where all the members are always animated with a desire to please God, always ready to fly where his voice calls them, always collected in studying his holy laws.
This is the society, to which you, my dear brethren, are appointed, you who, after the example of Lot, wer your righteous souls from day to day at seeing the depravity of the world, you, I mean, who shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation. Into that society those holy persons are gone, whom death hath taken from us, and a separation from whom hath caused us so many sighis and tears. Behold faithful friend! behold the company, where now resides that friend, to whom thy soul was knit, as the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David! See, thou weeping Joseph! See that society where thy good father now is, that good Jacob whom thou didst convey to the grave with tears so bitter, that the inhabitants of Canaan called the place, where thou didst deposit the body AbelMizraim, a grievous mourning to the Egyptians. Look, frail father! look at that society, there is thy son, at whose death thou didst exclaim, 0 Absalom, my son, would God I had died for thee, 0 Absalom, my son, my son! And you, too, distressed Rachels! whose vorces are heard, lamenting, weeping, and mourning, refusing to be comforted, because your children are not, see, behold there in heaven are your children, the dear objects of your grief and your love!
Oh! Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord! I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me. Let us apply this thought of the prophet to ourselves and may the application we make serve for a balm to heal the wounds, which the loss of our friends hath occasioned! They shall not return to us, they shall never return to this society. What a society! A society in which our life is nothing but a miserable round of errors and sins; a society where the greatest saints are great sinners; a society in which we are often obliged to communicate with the enemies of God, with blasphemers of his holy name, violaters of his august laws! No, they shall not return to us, and this is one consolation. But, (and this is the other) but we shall go to them. They have done nothing but set one step before us into eternity; the pleasures they enjoy are increased by the hope of our shortly enjoying the same with them. They with the highest transports behold the mansions, which Jesus Christ hath prepared for us in the house of his Father. I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God, said our divine Redeemer, to raise the drooping spirits of his apostles stunned with the apprehension of his approaching death. This is the language we have heard spoken, this is the declaration we have heard inade by each of those, whom we have had the consolation of seeing die full of the peace of God, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God. O may we be shortly united in the bosom of this adorable being with our departed friends, whose conversation was lately so delightful to us, and whose memory will always continue respected and dear! May we be united with the redeemed of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, in the presence of the blessed God! God grant us this grace! To him be honour and glory for ever. Ainen.