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´╗┐Title: Submission to Divine Providence in the Death of Children - Recommended and inforced, in a sermon preached at - Northampton, on the death of a very amiable and hopeful - child, about five years old
Author: Doddridge, Philip, 1702-1751
Language: English
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_Submission to Divine Providence in the Death of Children, recommended
and inforced,_


IN A

SERMON

PREACHED at

_NORTHAMPTON_,


On the DEATH

Of a very amiable and hopeful CHILD, about Five Years old.


_Published out of Compassion to mourning_ PARENTS.

By _P. DODDRIDGE_, D. D.


_Neve Liturarum pudeat; qui viderit illas,_

_De Lachrymis factas sentiat esse meis._    OVID.


The SECOND EDITION.


_LONDON_,

Printed for R. HETT, at the _Bible_ and _Crown_ in the _Poultry_. MDCCXL.



THE PREFACE.

_THE Discourse which I now offer to the Publick was drawn up on a very
sorrowful Occasion; the Death of a most desirable Child, who was
formed in such a Correspondence to my own Relish and Temper, as to be
able to give me a Degree of Delight, and consequently of Distress,
which I did not before think it possible I could have received from a
little Creature who had not quite compleated her Fifth Year._

_Since the Sermon was preached, it has pleased_ GOD _to make the like
Breaches on the Families of several of my Friends; and, with Regard to
some of them, the Affliction hath been attended with Circumstances of
yet sorer Aggravation. Tho' several of them are removed to a
considerable Distance from me, and from each other I have born their
Afflictions upon my Heart with cordial Sympathy; and it is with a
particular Desire of serving them, that I have undertaken the sad Task
of reviewing and transcribing these Papers; which may almost be called
the Minutes of my own Sighs and Tears, over the poor Remains of my
eldest and (of this Kind) dearest Hope, when they were not as yet_
buried out of my Sight.

_They are, indeed, full of Affection, and to be sure some may think
they are too full of it: But let them consider the Subject, and the
Circumstances, and surely they will pardon it. I apprehend, I could
not have treated such a Subject coldly, had I writ upon it many years
ago, when I was untaught in the School of Affliction, and knew nothing
of such a Calamity as this, but by Speculation or Report: How much
less could I do it, when_ GOD _had touched me in so tender a Part, and
(to allude to a celebrated ancient Story,) called me out to appear on
a publick Stage, as with an Urn in my Hand, which contained the Ashes
of my own Child!_

_In such a sad Situation Parents, at least, will forgive the Tears of
a Parent, and those Meltings of Soul which overflow in the following
Pages. I have not attempted to run thro' the Common place of_
immoderate Grief, _but have only selected a few obvious Thoughts which
I found peculiarly suitable to myself; and, I bless_ GOD, _I can truly
say, they gave me a solid and substantial Relief, under a Shock of
Sorrow, which would otherwise have broken my Spirits._

_On my own Experience, therefore, I would recommend them to others, in
the like Condition, And let me intreat my Friends and Fellow-Sufferers
to remember, that it is not a low Degree of Submission to the Divine
Will, which is called for in the ensuing Discourse. It is
comparatively an easy Thing to behave with external Decency, to
refrain from bold Censures and outragious Complaints, or to speak in
the outward Language of Resignation. But it is not, so easy to get rid
of every repining Thought, and to forbear taking it, in some Degree at
least, unkindly, that the_ GOD _whom we love and serve, in whose
Friendship we have long trusted and rejoiced, should act what, to
Sense, seems so unfriendly a Part: That he should take away a Child;
and if a Child,_ that Child; _and if that Child, at that Age; and if
at that Age, with this or that particular Circumstance, which seems
the very Contrivance of Providence to add double Anguish to the Wound;
and all this, when he could so easily have recalled it; when we know
him to have done it for so many others; when we so earnestly desired
it; when we sought it with such Importunity, and yet, as we imagine,
with so much Submission too:--That, notwithstanding all this; he
should tear it away with an inexorable Hand, and leave us, it may be
for a while, under the Load, without any extraordinary Comforts and
Supports, to balance so grievous a Tryal.--In these Circumstances, not
only to justify, but to glorify_ GOD _in all,--chearfully to subscribe
to his Will,--cordially to approve it as merciful and gracious,--so as
to be able to say, as the pious and excellent Archbishop of _Cambray_
did, when his Royal Pupil, and the Hopes of a Nation were taken
away_[+], "_If there needed no more than to move a Straw to bring him
to Life again, I would not do it, since the Divine Pleasure is
otherwise".--This, this is a difficult Lesson indeed; a Triumph of
Christian Faith and Love, which I fear many of us are yet to learn._

_But let us follow after it, and watch against the first Rising of a
contrary Temper, as most injurious to_ GOD, _and prejudicial to
ourselves. To preserve us against it, let us review the Considerations
now to be proposed, as what we are to digest into our Hearts, and work
into our Thoughts and our Passions. And I would hope, that if we do in
good earnest make the Attempt, we shall find this Discourse a cooling
and sweetening Medicine, which may allay that inward Heat and
Sharpness, with which, in a Case like ours, the Heart is often
inflamed and corroded. I commend it, such as it is, to the Blessing of
the great Physician, and could wish the Reader to make up its many
Deficiencies, by Mr._ Flavel's Token for Mourners, _and Dr._
Grosvenor's Mourner; _to which, if it suit his Relish, he may please
to add Sir_ William Temple's Essay on the Excess of Grief: _Three
Tracts which, in their very different Strains and Styles, I cannot but
look upon as in the Number of the best which our Language, or,
perhaps, any other, has produced upon this Subject._

_As for this little Piece of mine, I question not, but, like the
Generality of single Sermons, it will soon be worn out and forgot. But
in the mean time, I would humbly hope, that some tender Parent, whom
Providence has joined with me in sad Similitude of Grief, may find
some Consolation from it, while sitting by the Coffin of a beloved
Child, or mourning over its Grave. And I particularly hope it, with
Regard to those dear and valuable Friends, whose Sorrows, on the like
Occasion, have lately been added to my own. I desire that, tho' they
be not expressly named, they would please to consider this Sermon as
most affectionately and respectfully_ dedicated to them; _and would,
in Return, give me a Share in their Prayers, that all the Vicissitudes
of Life may concur to quicken me in the Duties of it, and to ripen me
for that blessed World, where I hope many of those dear Delights,
which are now withering around us, will spring up in fairer and more
durable Forms._   Amen.

Northampton,

_Jan._ 31, 1736-7.



POSTSCRIPT.

_I could easily shew, with how much Propriety I have called the dear
Deceased_ an amiable and hopeful Child, _by a great many little
Stories, which Parents would perhaps read with Pleasure, and Children
might hear with some Improvement: Yet as I cannot be sure that no
others may happen to read the Discourse, I dare not trust my Pen and
my Heart, on so delicate a Subject. One Circumstance I will however
venture to mention, (as I see here is a Blank Page left,) which may
indeed be consider'd as a Specimen of many others. As she was a great
Darling with most of our Friends that knew her, she often received
Invitations to different Places at the same Time; and when I once
asked her, on such an Occasion, what made every Body love her so well;
she answer'd me, (with that Simplicity and Spirit, which alas! Charm'd
me too much,_) Indeed, Pappa, I cannot think, unless it be because I
love every Body. _A Sentiment obvious to the Understanding of a Child,
yet not unworthy the Reflection of the wisest Man_[*].



2 KINGS IV. 25, 26.

_And it came to pass when the Man of GOD saw her afar off, that he
said to Gehazi his Servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunamite: Run now,
I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? Is
it well with thine Husband? Is it well with the Child? And she
answered,_ It is well.

WHEN the Apostle would encourage our Hope and Trust in the Tenderness
of Christ as the great High Priest and convince us that he is capable
of being touched with a sympathetick Sense of our Infirmities, he
argues at large from this Consideration, that Jesus _was in all Points
tempted like us;_ so that as _he himself has suffer'd, being tempted,
he knows how_ more compassionately _to succour_ those that are under
the like Trials[a]. Now this must surely intimate, that it is not in
human Nature, even in its most perfect State, so tenderly to
commiserate any Sorrows, as those which our own Hearts have felt: As
we cannot form a perfect Idea of any bitter Kind of Draught, by the
most exact Description, till we have ourselves tasted it. It is
probably for this Reason, amongst others, that GOD frequently
exercises such, as have the Honour to be inferior Shepherds in the
Flock of Christ, with a long Train of various Afflictions, _that we
may be able to comfort them who are in_ the like _Trouble, with those
Consolations with which we have ourselves been comforted of GOD_[b].
And, if we have the Temper which becomes our Office, it will greatly
reconcile us to our Trials, to consider, that from our weeping Eyes,
and our bleeding Hearts, a Balm may be extracted to heal the Sorrows
of others, and a Cordial to revive their fainting Spirits. May we
never be left to sink under our Burden, in such a manner, that there
should be room, after all that we have boasted of the Strength of
religious Supports, to apply to us the Words of _Eliphaz_ to _Job_[c],
_Thou hast strengthen'd the weak Hands, and upheld him that was ready
to fall; but now it is come upon thee, and thou faintest; it touches
thee, and thou art troubled!_ May we never behave, as if _the
Consolations of GOD_ were _small_[d]; lest it should be _as when a
Standard-Bearer fainteth_[e], and whole Companies of Soldiers are
thrown into Confusion and Distress!

MY Friends, you are Witnesses for me, that I have not stood by as an
unconcerned Spectator amidst the Desolations of your respective
Families, when GOD's awful Hand hath been lopping off those tender
Branches from them, which were once our common Hope and Delight. I
have often put my Soul in the stead of yours, and endeavour'd to give
such a Turn to my publick as well as my private Discourses, as might
be a means of composing and chearing your Minds, and forming you to a
submissive Temper, that you might _be subject to the Father of
Spirits, and live_[f]. In this View I have, at different Times,
largely insisted on the Example of _Aaron, who held his peace_[g],
when his two eldest Sons were struck dead in a Moment by Fire from the
Lord, which destroyed them in the very Act of their Sin; and I have
also represented that of _Job,_ who, when the Death of ten Children by
one Blow was added to the Spoil of his great Possessions, could say,
_The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the Name of
the Lord_[h]. The Instance which is here before us, is not indeed so
memorable as these; but to present Circumstances it is, in many
Respects, more suitable: And it may the rather deserve our Notice, as
it shews us the Wisdom, Composure, and Piety of one of the weaker and
tenderer Sex, on an Occasion of such aggravated Distress, that had
_Aaron_ or _Job_ behaved just as she did, we must have acknowledged,
that they had not sunk beneath the Dignity of their Character, nor
appear'd unworthy of our Applause, and our Imitation.

INDEED there may be some Reason to imagine, that it was with Design to
humble those who are in distinguish'd Stations of Life, and who have
peculiar Advantages and Obligations to excel in Religion, that GOD has
shewn us in Scripture, as well as in common Life, some bright Examples
of Piety, where they could hardly have been expected in so great a
Degree; and hath, as it were, _perfected Praise out of the Mouths of
Babes and Sucklings_[i]. Thus when _Zacharias_[k], an aged Priest,
doubted the Veracity of the Angel which appeared to assure him of the
Birth of his Child, which was to be produced in an ordinary Way;
_Mary,_ an obscure young Virgin, could believe a far more unexampled
Event, and said, with humble Faith and thankful Consent, _Behold the
Hand-maid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy Word_[l].
_Jonah_ the Prophet, tho' favour'd with such immediate Revelations,
and so lately delivered, in a miraculous Way, from the very _Belly of
Hell_[m], was thrown into a most indecent Transport of Passion, on the
withering of a Gourd; so that he presumed to tell the Almighty to his
Face, that _he did well to be angry even unto Death_[n]: Whereas this
pious Woman preserves the Calmness and Serenity of her Temper, when
she had lost a Child, a Son, an only Child, who had been given beyond
all natural Hope, and therefore to be sure was so much the dearer, and
the Expectation from him so much the higher. Yet are these
Expectations dash'd almost in a Moment; and this, when he was grown up
to an Age when Children are peculiarly entertaining; for he was old
enough to be with his Father in the Field, where no doubt he was
diverting him with his fond Prattle; yet he was not too big to be laid
_on his Mother's Knees_[o], when he came home complaining of his Head;
so that he was probably about five or six Years old. This amiable
Child was well in the Morning, and dead by Noon; a pale Corpse in his
Mother's Arms! and he now _lay dead in the House_; and yet they had the
Faith, and the Goodness to say, "_It is well._"

THIS good Woman had found the Prophet _Elisha_ grateful for all the
Favours he had received at her House; where she had from time to time
accommodated him in his Journies, and thought it an Honour rather than
an Incumbrance. She had experienced the Power of his Prayers, in
answer to which the Child had been given; and 'tis extremely probable,
that she also recollected the Miracle which _Elijah_ had wrought a few
Years before, tho' till that Time the like had not been known in
_Israel_, or on Earth; I mean, in raising from the Dead the Child of
that Widow of _Sarepta_[p], who had nourished him during the Famine.
She might therefore think it a possible Case, that the Miracle might
be renewed; at least, she knew not how to comfort herself better, than
by going to so good a Friend, and asking his Counsels and his Prayers,
to enable her to bear her Affliction, if it must not be removed[*].

ACCORDINGLY she hasted to him; and he, on the other side, discovered
the Temper of a real Friend, in the Message with which he sent
_Gehazi_ his Servant to meet her, _while she was yet afar off._ The
Moment she appeared, the Concerns of her whole Family seem to have
come into his kind Heart at once, and he particularly asks, _Is it
well with thee? Is it well with thine Husband? Is it well with the
Child?_ A beautiful Example of that affectionate Care for the Persons
and Families of their Friends, which Christian Ministers (who, like
the Prophets of old, are called _Men of GOD_[q]) should habitually
bear about in their Hearts; which should be awakened by every Sight of
them, and expressed on every proper Occasion.

HER Answer was very remarkable: _She said, It is well._ Perhaps she
meant this, to divert the more particular Enquiry of the Servant; as
she had before made the same Answer to her Husband, when he had
examined into the Reason of her intended Journey, as probably not
knowing of the sad Breach which had been made: _She said, It is
well_[r]; which was a civil way of intimating her Desire that he would
not ask any more particular Questions. But I cannot see any Reason to
restrain the Words to this Meaning alone: We have ground to believe,
from the Piety she expressed in her first Regards to _Elisha,_ and the
Opportunities which she had of improving in Religion by the frequent
Converse of that holy Man, that when she used this Language, she
intended thereby to express her Resignation to the Divine Will in what
had lately pass'd: And this might be the Meaning of her Heart, (tho'
one ignorant of the Particulars of her Case, might not fully
understand it from such ambiguous Words; ) "_It is well_ on the whole.
Though my Family be afflicted, we are afflicted in Faithfulness; tho'
my dear Babe be dead, yet my Heavenly Father is just, and he is good
in all. He knows how to bring Glory to himself, and Advantage to us,
from this Stroke. Whether this Application do, or do not succeed,
whether the Child be, or be not restored, _it is_ still _well_; _well_
with him, and _well_ with us; for we are in such wise and such
gracious Hands, that I would not allow one murmuring Word, or one
repining Thought." So that, on the whole, the Sentiment of this good
_Shunamite_ was much the same with that of _Hezekiah_, when he
answered to that dreadful Threatning which imported the Destruction of
his Children, _Good is the Word of the Lord which he hath spoken_[s];
or that of _Job_, when he heard that all his Sons and his Daughters
were crushed under the Ruins of their elder Brother's House, and yet
(in the fore-cited Words) _blessed the Name of the Lord._

Now this is the Temper to which, by divine Assistance, we should all
labour to bring our own Hearts, when GOD puts this bitter Cup into our
Hands, and _takes away with a Stroke_ those dear Little-ones, which
were the _Desire of our Eyes_[t], and the Joy of our Hearts. Let us
not content ourselves, in such Circumstances, with _keeping the Door
of our Lips_[u], that we break not out into any Indecencies of
Complaint; let us not attempt to harden ourselves against our Sorrows
by a stern Insensibility, or that sullen Resolution which sometimes
says, _It is a Grief, and I must bear it_[w]; but let us labour, (for
_a great Labour_ it will indeed be,) to compose and quiet our Souls,
calmly to acquiesce in this painful Dispensation, nay, cordially to
approve it as in present Circumstances every Way fit.

IT will be the main Business of this Discourse, to prove how
reasonable such a Temper is, or to shew how much Cause Christian
Parents have to borrow the Language of the Text, when their Infant
Offspring is taken away, and to say with the pious _Shunamite_, in the
noblest Sense that her Words will bear,--_It is well._

AND here I would more particularly shew,--It is well in the general,
because GOD does it:--It is surely well for the pious Parents in
particular, because it is the Work of their Covenant GOD:--They may
see many Respects in which it is evidently so, by observing what
useful Lessons it has a Tendency to teach them:--And they have Reason
to hope, it is well with those dear Creatures whom GOD hath removed in
their early Days.

THESE are surely convincing Reasons to the Understanding: Yet who can
say, that they shalt be Reasons to the Heart? _Arise, O GOD, and plead
thine own Cause_[x] in the most effectual Manner! May thy powerful and
gracious Voice appease the swelling Billows of the Passions, and
produce a great and delightful Calm in our Souls, in which we may yet
enjoy thee and ourselves, tho' a Part of our Treasure be for the
present swallowed up!


I. THERE is surely Reason, in such a Case, to say _it is well_,--because
GOD doth it.

THIS pass'd for an unanswerable Reason with _David, I was dumb, I
opened not my Mouth, because thou didst it_[y], and with good old
_Eli,_ under a severer Tryal than ours, _It is the Lord, let him do as
seemeth good in his Sight_[z]. And shall We object against the Force
of it? Was it a Reason to _David_, and to _Eli_, and is it not equally
so to us? Or have We any new Right to _reply against GOD_[a], which
those eminent Saints had not?

_His kingdom ruleth over all_[b]; and there is _not_ so much as _a
Sparrow that falls to the Ground without our Father, but the very
Hairs of our Head are all number'd_[c] by him. Can we then imagine
that our dear Children fall into their Graves without his Notice or
Interposition? Did that watchful Eye that _keepeth Israel_, now, for
the first time, _slumber and sleep_[d], and an Enemy lay hold on that
fatal Moment to bear away these precious Spoils, and bury our Joys and
our Hopes in the Dust? Did some malignant Hand stop up the Avenues of
Life, and break its Springs, so as to baffle all the Tenderness of the
Parent, and all the Skill of the Physician? Whence does such a Thought
come, and whither would it lead? Diseases and Accidents are but second
Causes, which owe all their Operations to the continued Energy of the
great original Cause. Therefore GOD says, _I will bereave them of
Children_[e]; _I take away the Desire of thine Eyes with a
Stroke_[f]_. He changeth their Countenance, and sendeth them away_[g].
_Thou Lord turnest Man to Destruction, and sayest, Return ye Children
of Men_[h]. And what shall we say? Are not the Administrations of his
Providence wise and good? Can we _teach him Knowledge_[i]? Can we tax
him with Injustice? Shall the Most High GOD learn of us how to govern
the World, and be instructed by our Wisdom when to remove his
Creatures from one State of Being to another? Or do we imagine that
his Administration, in the general Right and Good, varies when he
comes to _touch our Bone and our Flesh_[k]_?_ Is that the secret
Language of our Soul, "That _it is well_, others should drink of the
Cup, but not We; that any Families but ours should be broken, and any
Hearts but ours should be wounded?" Who might not claim the like
Exemption? and what would become of the Divine Government in general;
or where would be his obedient Homage from his Creatures, if each
should begin to complain, as soon as it comes to his own Turn to
suffer? Much fitter is it for us to conclude, that our own Afflictions
may be as reasonable as those of others; that amidst all the _Clouds
and Darkness_ of this present Dispensation, _Righteousness and
Judgment are the Habitation of his Throne_[l]; and, in a word, that
_it is well_, because GOD hath done it. It suits the general Scheme of
the Divine Providence, and to an obedient submissive Creature that
might be enough; but it is far from being all. For,



II. PIOUS PARENTS, under such a Dispensation, may conclude _it is well
for them_ in particular,--because he, who hath done it, is their
Covenant GOD.

THIS is the great Promise, to which all the Saints under the Old and
New Testament are Heirs, _I will be to them a God, and they shall be
to me a People_[m]: And if we are interested in it, the happy
Consequence is, that we being his, all our Concerns are his also; all
are humbly resigned to him,--and graciously administer'd by him,--and
incomparably better Blessings bestowed and secured, than any which the
most afflictive Providence can remove.

IF we have any Share in this everlasting Covenant, all that we are or
have, must, of course, have been _solemnly surrender'd_ to GOD. And
this is a Thought peculiarly applicable to the Case immediately in
view. "Did I not," may the Christian, in such a sad Circumstance,
generally say, "did I not, in a very solemn Manner, bring this my
Child to God in Baptism, and in that Ordinance recognize his Right to
it? Did I not, with all humble _Subjection to the Father of
Spirits_[n], and _Father of Mercies_[o], lay it down at his Feet,
perhaps with an express, at least to be sure with a tacit Consent,
that it should be disposed of by him, as his infinite Wisdom and
Goodness should direct, whether for Life or for Death? And am I now to
complain of him, because he has removed not only a Creature of his
own, but one of the Children of his Family? Or shall I pretend, after
all, to set up a Claim in Opposition to his? A Heathen Parent, even
from the Light of Nature, might have learn'd silent Submission: How
much more then a Christian Parent, who hath presented his Child to GOD
in this initiatory Ordinance; and perhaps also many a time, both
before and since, hath presented himself at the Table of the Lord!
Have I not there taken that _Cup of Blessings_, with a declared
Resolution of accepting every other _Cup_ how bitter soever it might
be, _which my heavenly Father_ should see fit to _put into my
Hand_[p]? When I have perhaps felt some painful Fore-bodings of what I
am now suffering; I have, in my own Thoughts, particularly singled out
that dear Object of my Cares and my Hopes, to lay it down anew at my
Father's Feet, and say, _Lord thou gavest it to me, and I resign it to
thee; continue, or remove it, as thou pleasest._ And did I then mean
to trifle with GOD? Did I mean in effect to say, _Lord, I will give it
up, if thou wilt not take it?"_

REFLECT farther, I beseech you, on your _secret Retirements_, and
think, as surely some of you may, "How often have I there been on my
Knees before GOD on account of this Child; and what was then my
Language? Did I say, Lord, I absolutely insist on its Recovery; I
cannot, on any Terms or any Considerations whatsoever, bear to think
of losing it?" Sure we were none of us so indecently transported with
the fondest Passion, as to be so _rash with our Mouths_ as _to utter_
such _Things before_ the Great GOD[q]. Such Presumption had deserv'd a
much heavier Punishment than we are now bearing, and, if not
retracted, may perhaps still have it.--Did not one or another of us
rather say, "Lord, I would humbly intreat, with all due Submission to
thy superior Wisdom and sovereign Pleasure, that my Child may live;
but if it must be otherwise, _not my Will, but thine be done_[r]? I
and mine are in thine Hand, _do with me_, and with them, _as seemeth
good in thy Sight_[s]". And do we now blame ourselves for this? Would
we unsay it again, and, if possible, take ourselves and our Children
out of his Hands, whom we have so often owned as all-wise and
all-gracious, and have chosen as our great Guardian and theirs?

LET it farther be consider'd, it is done by that GOD who has _accepted
of this Surrender_, so as to undertake the Administration of our
Affairs: "He is become my Covenant GOD in Christ," may the Christian
say; "and, in consequence of that Covenant, he hath engaged to manage
the Concerns and Interests of his People so, that _all Things shall
work together for good to them that love him_[t]: And do I not love
him? Answer, Oh my Heart, dost thou not love thy GOD much better than
all the Blessings which Earth can boast, or which the Grave hath
swallowed up? Wouldst thou resign thine Interest in him to recover
these precious Spoils, to receive this dear Child from the Dust, a
thousand times fairer and sweeter than before? Rather let Death devour
every remaining Comfort, and leave me alone with him; with whom when I
indeed am, I miss not the Creatures, but rather rejoice in their
Absence, as I am then more intire with _him whom my Soul loveth._ And
if I do indeed love him, this Promise is mine, and _all Things_, and
therefore this sad Event in particular, _shall work together for my
good._ Shall I not then say, _It is well?_ What if it exceeded all the
Stretch of my Thoughts, to conceive _how_ it could, in any Instance,
be so? What are my narrow Conceptions, that they should pretend to
circumscribe infinite Wisdom, Faithfulness, and Mercy? Let me rather,
with _Abraham, give Glory to God, and in Hope believe against
Hope_[u]".

ONCE more; let us consider how many _invaluable Blessings_ are given
us by this Covenant, and then judge whether we have not the utmost
Reason to acquiesce in such an Event of Providence. "If I am in
Covenant with God," may the Believer say, "then he hath pardoned my
Sins, and renewed my Heart, and hath made his blessed Spirit dwelling
in me, the sacred Bond of an everlasting Union between him and my
Soul. He is leading me through the Wilderness, and will, ere long,
lead me out of it to the heavenly _Canaan_. And how far am I already
arrived in my Journey thither, now that I am come to the Age of losing
a Child! And when GOD hath done all this for me, is he rashly to be
suspected of Unkindness? _He that spared not his own Son_[w], he that
gave me with him his Spirit and his Kingdom, why doth he deny, or why
doth he remove, any other Favour? Did he think the Life of this Child
too great a Good to grant, when he thought not Christ and Glory too
precious? Away with that Thought, Oh my unbelieving Heart, and with
every Thought which would derogate from such rich amazing Grace, or
would bring any thing in comparison with it. Art thou under these
Obligations to him, and wilt thou yet complain? With what Grace, with
what Decency canst thou dispute this, or any other Matter, with thy
GOD? _What Right have I yet to cry any more to the King?_[x]" Would
any of you, my Brethren, venture to say, "What tho' I be a Child of
GOD, and an Heir of Glory, it matters not, for _my Gourd is withered_;
that pleasant Plant which was opening so fair and so delightful, under
the Shadow of which I expected long to have sate, and even _the Rock
of Ages_ cannot shelter me so well? I can behold that beloved Face no
more, and therefore I will not look upward to behold the Face of GOD,
I will not look forward to Christ and to Heaven?" Would this, my
Friends, be the Language of a real Christian? Nay, are there not many
abandon'd Sinners who would tremble at such Expressions? Yet is it not
in effect the Language of our tumultuous Passions, when, like
_Rachel,_ we are _mourning for our Children,_ and _will not be
comforted, because they are not_[y]? Is it not our Language while we
cannot, like the pious _Shunamite_ in the Text, bring our afflicted
Hearts to say, _It is well?_



III. PIOUS PARENTS, in such a Circumstance, have farther Reason to
say, _It is well_,--as they may observe an apparent Tendency in such a
Dispensation to teach them a Variety of the most instructive and
useful Lessons, in a very convincing and effectual Manner.

'TIS a just Observation of _Solomon_, that _the Rod and Reproof give
Wisdom_[z]; and 'tis peculiarly applicable to such a Chastisement of
our heavenly Father. It should therefore be our great Care to _bear
the Rod and him that hath appointed it_[a]; and so far as it hath a
Tendency to teach us our Duty, and to improve the divine Life in our
Souls, we have the highest Reason to say, that _it is_ indeed _well._

EVERY Affliction hath in its Degree this kind of Tendency, and 'tis
the very Reason for which _we are_ thus _chastened_, that we may
_profit_ by our Sorrows, and be made _Partakers of God's Holiness_[b].
But this Dispensation is peculiarly adapted, in a very affecting
Manner,--to teach us the Vanity of the World,--to warn us of the
Approach of our own Death,--to quicken us in the Duties incumbent upon
us, especially to our surviving Children,--and to produce a more
intire Resignation to the Divine Will, which is indeed the surest
Foundation of Quiet, and Source of Happiness.

I SHALL insist a little more particularly on each of these; and I
desire that it may be remembered, that the Sight and Knowledge of such
mournful Providences as are now before us, should, in some Degree, be
improved to these Purposes, even by those Parents whose Families are
most prosperous and joyful: May they learn Wisdom and Piety from what
_we_ suffer, and their Improvements shall be acknowledged as an
additional Reason for _us_ to say, _It is well._



1. WHEN GOD takes away our Children from us, it is a very affecting
Lesson of the Vanity of the World.

THERE is hardly a Child born into it, on whom the Parents do not look
with some pleasing Expectation that it shall _comfort them concerning
their Labour_[c]. This makes the Toil of Education easy and
delightful: And truly 'tis very early that we begin to find a
Sweetness in it, which abundantly repays all the Fatigue. Five, or
four, or three, or two Years, make Discoveries which afford immediate
Pleasure, and which suggest future Hopes. Their Words, their Actions,
their very Looks touch us, if they be amiable and promising Children,
in a tender, but very powerful Manner; their little Arms twine about
our Hearts; and there is something more penetrating in their first
broken Accents of Indearment, than in all the Pomp and Ornament of
Words. Every Infant-Year increases the Pleasure, and nourishes the
Hope. And where is the Parent so wise and so cautious, and so
constantly intent on his Journey to Heaven, as not to measure back a
few Steps to Earth again, on such a plausible and decent Occasion, as
that of introducing the young Stranger into the Amusements, nay
perhaps, where Circumstances will admit it, into the Elegancies of
Life, as well as its more serious and important Business? What fond
Calculations do we form of what it _will be_, from what _it is_! How
do we in Thought open every Blossom of Sprightliness, or Humanity, or
Piety, to its full Spread, and ripen it to a sudden Maturity! But, oh,
who shall teach those that have never felt it, how it tears the very
Soul; when GOD roots up the tender Plant with an inexorable Hand, and
withers the Bud in which the Colours were beginning to glow! Where is
now our Delight? Where is our Hope? Is it in the Coffin? Is it in the
Grave? Alas! all the Loveliness of Person, of Genius, and of Temper,
serves but to point and to poison the Arrow, which is drawn out of our
own Quiver to wound us. Vain, delusive, transitory Joys! "And such, Oh
my Soul," will the Christian say, "such are thine earthly Comforts in
every Child, in every Relative, in every Possession of Life; such are
the Objects of thy Hopes, and thy Fears, thy Schemes, and thy Labours,
where Earth alone is concerned. Let me then, once for all, direct mine
Eyes to another and a better State. From these _broken Cisterns_, the
Fragments of which may hurt me indeed, but can no longer refresh me,
let me look to the _Fountain of living Waters_[d]. From these setting,
Stars, or rather these bright but vanishing Meteors, which make my
Darkness so much the more sensible, let me turn to the _Father of
Lights._ Oh Lord, _What wait I for? my Hope is in thee_[e], my Pure
Abode, my everlasting Confidence! My Gourds wither, my Children die;
but _the Lord liveth, and blessed be my Rock, and let the God of my
Salvation be exalted_[f]. I see, in one Instance more, the sad Effects
of having over-loved the Creature; let me endeavour for the future, by
the Divine Assistance, to fix my Affections there where they cannot
exceed; but where all the Ardor of them will be as much my Security
and my Happiness, as it is now my Snare and my Distress."



2. THE Removal of our Children by such awful Strokes may warn us of
the Approach of our own Death.

HEREBY GOD doth very sensibly shew us, and those around us, that _all
Flesh is as Grass, and all the Glory_ and Loveliness _of it like the
Flower of the Field_[g]. And when our own Habitations are made the
Houses of Mourning, and ourselves the Leaders in that sad Procession,
it may surely be expected that we should lay it to Heart, so as to be
quicken'd and improved by the View. "Have my Children died in the
Morning of their Days, and can I promise myself that I shall see the
Evening of mine? Now perhaps may I say, in a more literal Sense than
ever, _The Graves are ready for me_[h]. One of my Family, and some of
us may add, the Firft-born of it, is gone as it were to take
Possession of the Sepulchre in all our Names; and ere long I shall lie
down with my Child in the same Bed; yea perhaps many of the Feet that
followed it shall attend me thither. Our Dust shortly shall be blended
together; and who can tell but this Providence might chiefly be
intended as a Warning Blow to me, that these concluding Days of my
Life might be more regular, more spiritual, more useful than the
former?"



3. THE Providence before us may be farther improved to quicken us in
the Duties of Life, and especially in the Education of surviving
Children.

IT is, on the Principles I hinted above, an Engagement, that _whatever
our Hand findeth to do, we should do it with all our Might_, since it
so plainly shews us that we are _going to the Grave, where there is no
Device, nor Knowledge, nor Working_[j]: But permit me especially to
observe, how peculiarly the Sentiments we feel on these sad Occasions,
may be improved for the Advantage of our dear Offspring who yet
remain, and quicken us to a proper Care in their religious Education.

We all see that it is a very reasonable Duty, and every Christian
Parent resolves that he will _ere long_ apply himself to it; but I am
afraid, great Advantages are lost by a Delay, which we think we can
easily excuse. Our Hands are full of a Variety of Affairs, and our
Children are yet very young: We are therefore ready to imagine 'tis a
good Husbandry of Time to defer our Attempts for their Instruction to
a more _convenient Season_[k], when they may be able to learn more in
an Hour, than the Labour of Days could now teach them; besides that we
are apprehensive of Danger in over-loading their tender Spirits,
especially when they are perhaps under Indisposition, and need to be
diverted, rather than gravely advised and instructed.

BUT I beseech you, my Friends, let us view the Matter with that
Impartiality, which the Eloquence of Death hath a Tendency to produce.
"That lovely Creature that GOD hath now taken away, tho' its Days were
few, tho' its Faculties were weak, yet might it not have known a great
deal more of Religion than it did, and felt a great deal more of it
too, had I faithfully and prudently done my Part? How did it learn
Language so soon, and in such a Compass and Readiness? Not by
multiplied Rules, nor labour'd Instruction, but by Conversation. And
might it not have learn'd much more of Divine Things by Conversation
too, if they had been allowed a due Share in our Thoughts and our
Discourses; according to the Charge given to the _Israelites_, to
_talk of them going out and coming in, lying down and rising up_[l]?
How soon did it learn Trifles, and retain them, and after its little
way observe and reason upon them, perhaps with a Vivacity that
sometimes surprized me! And had I been as diligent as I ought, who can
tell what Progress it might have made in Divine Knowledge? Who can
tell but, as a Reward to these pious Cares, GOD might have put a Word
into its dying Lips, which I might all my Life have recollected with
Pleasure, and _out of its_ feeble _Mouth might have perfected
Praise_[m]?"

MY Friends, let us humble ourselves deeply before GOD under a Sense of
our past Neglects, and let us learn our future Duty. We may perhaps be
ready fondly to say, "Oh that it were possible my Child could be
restored to me again, tho' it were but for a few Weeks or Days! how
diligently would I attempt to supply my former Deficiencies!"
Unprofitable Wish! Yet may the Thought be improved for the good of
surviving Children. How shall we express our Affection to them? Not
surely by indulging all the Demands of Appetite and Fancy, in many
early Instances so hazardous, and so fatal; not by a Solicitude to
treasure up Wealth for them, whose only Portion may perhaps be a
little Coffin and Shrowd. No; our truest Kindness to them will be to
endeavour, by Divine Grace, to form them to an early Inquiry after
GOD, and Christ, and Heaven, and a Love for real Goodness in all the
Forms of it which may come within their Observation and Notice. Let us
apply ourselves immediately to this Talk, as those that remember there
is a double Uncertainty, in their Lives, and in ours. In a Word, let
us be _that_ with regard to every Child that yet remains, which we
proposed and engaged to be to that which is taken away, when we
pleaded with GOD for the Continuance of its Life, at least for a
little while, that it might be farther assisted in the Preparations
for Death and Eternity. If such Resolutions be formed and pursued, the
Death of one may be the Means of spiritual Life to many; and we shall
surely have Reason to say _it is well_, if it teach us so useful a
Lesson.



4. THE Providence before us may have a special Tendency to improve our
Resignation to the Divine Will; and if it does so, it will indeed be
_well_.

THERE is surely no imaginable Situation of Mind so sweet and so
reasonable, as that which we feel, when we humbly refer ourselves in
all Things to the Divine Disposal, in an intire Suspension of our own
Will, seeing and owning the Hand of GOD, and bowing before it with a
filial Acquiescence. This is chiefly to be learn'd from suffering; and
perhaps there is no Suffering which is fitter to teach it, than this.
In many other Afflictions there is such a Mixture of human
Interposition, that we are ready to imagine, we may be allowed to
complain, and to chide a little. Indignation mingles itself with our
Grief; and when it does so, it warms the Mind, tho' with a feverish
Kind of Heat, and in an unnatural Flow of Spirits, leads the Heart
into a Forgetfulness of GOD. But here it is so apparently his Hand,
that we must refer it to him, and it will appear bold Impiety to
quarrel at what is done. In other Instances we can at least flatter
ourselves with Hope, that the Calamity may be diverted, or the
Enjoyment recovered; but here alas! there is no Hope. "Tears will
not," as [*]Sir _William Temple_ finely expresses it, "water the
lovely Plant so as to cause it to grow again; Sighs will not give it
new Breath, nor can we furnish it with Life and Spirits by the Waste
of our own." The Sentence is finally gone forth, and the last fatal
Stroke irrecoverably given. Opposition is vain; a forced Submission
gives but little Rest to the Mind; a cordial Acquiescence in the
Divine Will is the only thing in the whole World that can ease the
labouring Heart, and restore true Serenity. Remaining Corruption will
work on such an Occasion, and a painful Struggle will convince the
Christian how imperfect his present Attainments are: And this will
probably lead him to an attentive Review of the great Reasons for
Submission; it will lead him to urge them on his own Soul, and to
plead them with GOD in Prayer; till at length the Storm is laid, and
_Tribulation worketh Patience, and Patience Experience, and Experience
a Hope which maketh not ashamed,_ while _the Love of God is so shed
abroad in the Heart_[n], as to humble it for every preceding
Opposition, and to bring it even to a real Approbation of all that so
wise and good a Friend hath done; resigning every other Interest and
Enjoyment to his Disposal, and fitting do with the sweet Resolution of
the Prophet, _Tho' the Fig-tree do not blossom, and there be no Fruit
in the Vine, &c. yet will I rejoice in the Lord, and joy in the God of
my Salvation_[o]. And when we are brought to this, the whole Horizon
clears, and the Sun breaks forth in its Strength.

NOW I appeal to every sincere Christian in the Assembly, whether there
will not be Reason indeed to say _it is well_, if by this painful
Affliction we more sensibly learn the Vanity of the Creature and we
are awakened to serious Thoughts of our own latter End; if by it we
are quickned in the Duties of Life, and formed to a more intire
Resignation of Soul, and Acquiescence in the Divine Will. I shall only
add once more, and 'tis a Thought of delightful Importance,



IV. THAT pious Parents have Reason to hope _it is well_ with those
dear Creatures who are taken away in their early Days.

I SEE not that the Word of GOD hath any whit passed a damnatory
Sentence on any Infants; and it has not, I am sure we have no
Authority to doubt, especially considering with how much Compassion
the Divine Being speaks of them in the Instance of the _Ninevites_[p],
and on some other Occasions. Perhaps, as some pious Divines have
conjectured, they may constitute a very considerable Part of Number of
the Elect, and, _as in Adam_ they _all died_, they may _in Christ all
be made alive_[q]. At least, methinks, from the Covenant which GOD
made with _Abraham_, and his Seed, _the Blessings of which_ are _come
upon the_ believing _Gentiles_[r], there is Reason to hope well
concerning the Infant Offspring of GOD'S People, early devoted, and
often recommended to him, that their _Souls_ will be _bound in the
Bundle of Life_[s], and _be loved for their Parents Sakes_[t].

IT is, indeed, impossible for us to say, how soon Children may be
capable of contracting personal Guilt. They are quickly able to
distinguish, some Degree, between Right and Wrong; and 'tis too plain,
that they as quickly, in many Instances, forget the Distinction. The
Corruptions of Nature begin early to work, and shew the Need of
sanctifying Grace; yet, without a Miracle, it cannot be expected that
much of the Christian Scheme should be understood by these little
Creatures, in the first dawning of Reason, tho' a few evangelical
Phrases may be taught, and, sometimes, by a happy kind of Accident,
may be rightly applied. The tender Heart of a Parent may, perhaps,
take a Hint, from hence to terrify itself, and exasperate all its
other Sorrows, by that sad Thought, "What if my dear Child be perished
for ever? gone from our Embraces, and all the little Pleasures we
could give it, to everlasting Darkness and Pain?" Horrible
Imagination! And Satan may, perhaps, take the Advantage of these
gloomy Moments, to aggravate every little Infirmity into a Crime, and
to throw us into an Agony, which no other View of the Affliction can
possibly give, to a Soul penetrated with a Sense of Eternity. Nor do I
know a Thought, in the whole Compass of Nature, that hath a more
powerful Tendency to produce suspicious Notions of GOD, and a secret
Alienation of Heart from him.

NOW for this very Reason, methinks, we should guard against so harsh a
Conclusion, lest we, at once, injure the Divine Being, and torture
ourselves. And, surely, we may easily fall on some Reflections which
may incourage our Hopes, where _little Children_ are concerned; and
'tis only of that Case that I am now speaking. Let us think of the
blessed GOD, as the great Parent of universal Nature; whose _tender
Mercies are over all his Works_[t]; who declares that Judgment is _his
strange Work_[u]; who _is very pitiful, and of tender Mercy_[w],
_gracious and full of Compassion_[x]; who _delighteth in Mercy_[y];
who _waiteth to be gracious_[z]; and _endureth, with much
Long-suffering,_ even _the Vessels of Wrath fitted to Destruction_[a].
He intimately _knows our Frame_[b], and our Circumstances; he sees the
Weakness of the unformed Mind; how forcibly the volatile Spirits are
struck with a thousand new amusing Objects around it, and born away as
a Feather before the Wind; and, on the other hand, how, when
Distempers seize it, the feeble Powers are over-born in a Moment, and
render'd incapable of any Degree of Application and Attention. And,
Lord, wilt thou _open thine Eyes on such a one, to bring_ it _into_
strict _Judgment with thee_[c]? Amidst all the Instances of thy
Patience, and thy Bounty, to the most abandon'd of Mankind, are these
little helpless Creatures the Objects of thy speedy Vengeance, and
final Severity?

LET us farther consider, as it is a very comfortable Thought in these
Circumstances, the compassionate Regard which the blessed _Jesus_
expressed to little Children. He was _much displeased_ with those who
forbad their being _brought_ to him; _and said, Suffer them to come
unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of GOD_; and
_taking them up in his Arms, he laid his Hands upon them, and blessed
them_[d]. In another Instance we are told, that he _took a little
Child_, (who appears to have been old enough to come at his Call,) and
_set him in the Midst of his Disciples, and said, Except ye become as
little Children, you shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of
Heaven_[e]. May we not then hope that many little Children are
admitted into it? And may not that Hope be greatly confirmed from
whatever, of an amiable and regular Disposition, we have observed in
those that are taken away? If we have seen [+]_a Tenderness of
Conscience in any thing which they apprehended would displease the
great and good GOD; a Love to Truth; a Readiness to attend on Divine
Worship, from some imperfect Notion of its general Design, though the
Particulars of it could not be understood; an open, candid, benevolent
Heart; a tender Sense of Obligation, and a Desire, according to their
little Power, to repay it_; may we not hope that these were some of
the _first Fruits of the Spirit_[f], which he would, in due Time, have
ripened into Christian Graces, and are now, on a sudden, perfected by
that great Almighty Agent _who worketh all, and in all_[g]?

SURE I am, that this blessed Spirit hath no inconsiderable Work to
perform on the most established Christians, to finish them to a
complete Meetness for the Heavenly World: Would to GOD, there were no
greater Blemishes to be observed in their Character, than the little
Vanities of Children! With infinite Ease then can he perfect what is
lacking in their unfinished Minds, and pour out upon them, in a
Moment, that Light and Grace, which shall qualify them for a State, in
Comparison of which, ours on Earth is but Childhood or Infancy.

NOW what a noble Source of Consolation is here! Then may the
affectionate Parent say, "_It is well_, not only with me, but _with
the Child_ too: Incomparably better than if my ardent Wishes, and
importunate Prayers for its Recovery, had been answered. _It is_
indeed _well_, if that beloved Creature be _fallen asleep in
Christ_[h]; if that dear Lamb be folded in the Arms of the
compassionate Shepherd, and gathered into his gracious Bosom.
Self-love might have led me to wish its longer Continuance here; but
if I truly _loved_ my Child with a solid, rational Affection, I should
much rather _rejoice_, to think _it is gone to_ a heavenly _Father_[i],
and to the World of perfected Spirits above. Had it been spared to me,
how slowly could I have taught it! and in the full Ripeness of its Age,
what had it been, when compared with what it now is! How is it shot up
on a sudden, from the Converse and the Toys of Children, to be a
Companion with Saints and Angels, in the Employment, and the
Blessedness of Heaven! Shall I then complain of it as a rigorous
Severity to my Family, that GOD hath taken it to the Family above? And
what if he hath chosen to bestow the distinguished Favour on _that
one_ of my little Flock, who was formed to take the tenderest Hold of
my Heart? Was there Unkindness in that? What if he saw, that the very
Sprightliness and Softness which made it to me so exquisitely
delightful, might, in Time, have betrayed it into Ruin; and took this
Method of sheltering it from Trials which had, otherwise, been too
hard for it, and so fixing a Seal on its Character and Happiness? What
if that strong Attachment of my Heart to it, had been a Snare to the
Child, and to me? Or what if it had been otherwise? Do I need
additional Reasons to justify the Divine Conduct, in an Instance which
my Child is celebrating in the Songs of Heaven? If it is a new and
untasted Affliction to have such a tender Branch lopp'd off, it is
also a new Honour to be the Parent of a glorified Saint." And, as good
Mr. _Howe_ expressed it on another Occasion, "_If GOD be pleased, and
his glorified Creature be pleased, who are we that we should be
displeased?"_[*]

"Could I wish, that this young Inhabitant of Heaven should be degraded
to Earth again? Or would it thank me for that With? Would it say, that
it was the Part of a wife Parent, to call it down from a Sphere of
finch exalted Services and Pleasures, to our low Life here upon Earth?
Let me rather be thankful for the pleasing Hope, that tho' GOD loves
my Child too well to permit it to return to me, he will ere long bring
me to it. And then that endeared paternal Affection, which would have
been a Cord to tie me to Earth, and have added new Pangs to my Removal
from it, will be asa golden Chain to draw me upwards, and add one
farther Charm and Joy even to Paradise itself." And oh, how great a
Joy to view the Change, and to compare that dear Idea, so fondly laid
up, so often reviewed, with the now glorious Original, in the
Improvements of the upper World! To borrow the Words of the sacred
Writer, in a very different Sense? "_I said, I was desolate and
bereaved of Children, and who hath brought up these? I was left alone,
and these where have they been?_[k] Was this my Desolation? this my
Sorrow? to part with thee for a few Days, _that I might receive thee
for Ever_[l], and find thee what thou now art!" It is for no Language,
but that of Heaven, to describe the sacred Joy which such a Meeting
must occasion.

IN the mean time, Christians, let us keep up the lively Expectation of
it, and let what has befallen us draw our Thoughts upwards. Perhaps
they will sometimes, before we are aware, sink to the Grave, and dwell
in the Tombs that contain the poor Remains of what was once so dear to
us. But let them take Flight from thence to more noble, more
delightful Scenes. And I will add, let the Hope we have of the
Happiness of our Children render GOD still dearer to our Souls. We
feel a very tender Sense of the Kindness which our Friends expressed
towards them, and think, indeed very justly, that their affectionate
Care for them lays a lasting Obligation upon us. What Love then, and
what Service do we owe to thee, oh gracious Father, who hast, we hope,
received them into thine House above, and art now entertaining them
there with unknown Delight, tho' our former Methods of Commerce with
them be cut off! "Lord," should each of us say in such a Case, "I
would take what thou art doing to my Child as done to my self, and as
a Specimen and Earnest of what shall shortly be done." _It is_
therefore _well_.

IT only remains, that I conclude with a few Hints of farther
Improvement.



1. LET pious Parents, who have lost hopeful Children _in a maturer
Age_, join with others in saying, _It is well_.

MY Friends, the Reasons which I have been urging at large, are common
to you with us; and permit me to add, that as your Case has its
peculiar Distress, it has, I think, in a yet greater Degree, its
peculiar Consolations too.

I KNOW you will say, that it is inexpressibly grievous and painful, to
part with Children who were grown up into most amiable Friends, who
were your Companions in the Ways of GOD, and concerning whom you had a
most agreeable Prospect, that they would have been the Ornaments and
Supports of Religion in the rising Age, and extensive Blessings to the
World, long after you had quitted it. These Reasonings have,
undoubtedly, their Weight; and they have so, when considered in a very
different View. Must you not acknowledge _it is well_, that you
enjoyed so many Years of Comfort in them? that you reaped so much
solid Satisfaction from them? and saw those Evidences of a Work of
Grace upon their Hearts, which give you such abundant Reason to
conclude that they are now received to that Inheritance of Glory, for
which they were so apparently _made meet_? Some of them, perhaps, had
already quitted their Father's House: As for others, had GOD spared
their Lives, they might have been transplanted into Families of their
own: And if, instead of being removed to another House, or Town, or
County, they are taken by GOD into another World, is that a Matter of
so great Complaint; when that World is so much better, and you are
yourselves so near it? I put it to your Hearts, Christians, Would you
rather have chosen to have buried them in their Infancy, or never to
have known the Joys and the Hopes of a Parent, now you know the
Vicissitude of Sorrow, and of Disappointment? But perhaps, you will
say, that you chiefly grieve for that Loss which the World has
sustained by the Removal of those, from whom it might reasonably have
expected so much future Service. This is, indeed, a generous, and a
Christian Sentiment, and there is something noble in those Tears which
flow on such a Consideration. But do not so remember your Relation to
Earth, as to forget that which you bear to Heaven; and do not so wrong
the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, as to suppose, that when he takes away
from hence promising Instruments of Service, he there lays them by as
useless. Much more reasonable is it to conclude, that their Sphere of
Action, as well as Happiness, is inlarged, and that the Church above
hath gained incomparably more, than that below can be supposed to have
lost by their Death.

ON the whole, therefore, far from complaining of the Divine Conduct in
this Respect, it will become you, my Friends, rather to be very
thankful that these dear Children were spared so long; to accompany
and entertain you in so many Stages of your short Journey thro' Life,
to answer so many of your Hopes, and to establish so many more beyond
all Fear of Disappointment. Reflect on all that GOD did in, and upon
them, on all he was beginning to do by them, and on what you have
great Reason to believe he is now doing for them; and adore his Name,
that he has left you these dear Memorials, by which your Case is so
happily distinguished from ours, whose Hopes in our Children withered
in the very Bud; or from theirs, who saw those who were once so dear
to them, perishing, as they have Cause to fear, _in the Paths of the
Destroyer._

BUT while I speak thus, methinks I am alarmed, lest I should awaken
the far more grievous Sorrows of some mournful Parent, whom it will
not be so easy to comfort. My Brethren and Friends, what shall I say
to you, who are lamenting over your _Absaloms_, and almost wishing
_you had died for them_[m]? Shall I urge _you_ to say _it is well?_
Perhaps you may think it a great Attainment, if, like _Aaron,_ when
his Sons _died before the Lord_, you _can hold your Peace_[n], under
the awful Stroke. My Soul is troubled for you; _my Words are_ almost
_swallowed up._ I cannot unsay what I have elsewhere said at large on
this melancholy Subject[*]. Yet let me remind you of this, that you do
not certainly know what Almighty Grace might do for these lamented
Creatures, even in the latest Moments, and have therefore no Warrant
confidently to pronounce that they are assuredly perished. And if you
cannot but tremble in the too probable Fear of it, labour to turn your
Eyes from so dark a Prospect, to those better Hopes which GOD is
setting before _you_. For surely you still have abundant Reason to
rejoice in that Grace, which gives your own _Lives to you as a Prey_,
and has brought you so near to that blessed World, where, hard as it
is now to conceive it, you will have laid aside every Affection of
Nature, which interferes with the Interests of GOD, and prevents your
most chearful Acquiescence in every Particular of his wise and
gracious Determinations.



2. FROM what we have heard, let us learn not to think of the Loss of
our Children with a slavish Dread.

IT is to a Parent indeed such a cutting Stroke, that I wonder not if
Nature shrink back at the very Mention of it: And, perhaps, it would
make those to whom GOD hath denied Children more easy, if they knew
what some of the happiest Parents feel in an uncertain Apprehension of
the Loss of theirs: An Apprehension which strikes with peculiar Force
on the Mind, when Experience hath taught us the Anguish of such an
Affliction in former Instances. But let us not anticipate Evils:
Perhaps all our Children, who are hitherto spared, may follow us to
the Grave Or, if otherwise, we _sorrow not as those who have no
Hope_[p]. We may have Reason still to say; _It is well_, and, thro'
Divine Grace, we may also have Hearts to say it. Whatever we lose, if
we be the Children of GOD, we shall never lose our Heavenly Father, He
will still be our Support, and our Joy. And therefore let us turn all
our Anxiety about uncertain, future Events, into a holy Solicitude to
please him, and to promote religious Impressions in the Hearts of our
dear Offspring; that if GOD should see fit to take them away, we may
have a Claim to the full Consolations, which I have been representing
in the preceding Discourse.



3. LET us not sink in hopeless Sorrow, or break out into clamorous
Complaints, if GOD has brought this heavy Affliction upon us.

A STUPID Indifference would be absurd and unnatural: GOD and Man might
look upon us as acting a most unworthy Part, should we be like _the
Ostrich in the Wilderness, which hardeneth herself against her young
ones, as if they were not hers; because GOD hath deprived her of
Wisdom, neither hath he imparted to her Understanding_[q]. Let us
sorrow like Men, and like Parents; but let us not, in the mean time,
forget that we are Christians. Let us remember how common the Calamity
is; few Parents are exempt from it; some of the most pious and
excellent have lost amiable Children, with Circumstances perhaps of
peculiar Aggravation. 'Tis a Trial which GOD hath chosen for the
Exercise of some who have been eminently dear to him, as we may learn
from a Variety of Instances both ancient and modern. Let us recollect
our many Offences against our heavenly Father, those Sins which such a
Dispensation may properly _bring to our Remembrance_[r]; and let that
silence us, and teach us to own, that _'tis of the Lord's Mercies we
are not consumed_[s], and that we are _punished less than our
Iniquities deserve_[t]. Let us look round on our surviving Comforts;
let us look forward to our future, our eternal Hopes; and we shall
surely see, that there is still Room for Praise, still a Call for it.
Let us review the Particulars mentioned above, and then let Conscience
determine whether it doth not become us, in this particular Instance,
to say it steadily, and chearfully too, Even _this is well._ And may
the GOD of all Grace and Comfort apply these Considerations to our
Mind, that we may not only own them, but feel them, as a reviving
Cordial when our Heart is overwhelmed within us! In the mean Time, let
me beseech you whose _tabernacles are in Peace_[u], and whose
_Children are yet about you_[w], that you would not be severe in
censuring our Tears, till you have experimentally known our Sorrows,
and yourselves tasted _the Wormwood and the Gall_, which we, with all
our Comforts, must have in a long and a bitter _Remembrance_[x].



4. LET those of us who are under the Rod, be very solicitous to
improve it aright, that in the End it may indeed be _well_.

HEAR, my Brethren, my Friends and Fellow-Sufferers, hear and _suffer
the word of Exhortation_[y]. Let us be much concerned, that we may not
bear all the Smart of such an Affliction, and, through our own Folly,
lose all that Benefit which might, otherwise, be a rich Equivalent. In
Proportion to the Grievousness of the Stroke, should be our Care to
attend to the Design of it. Let us, now GOD is calling us to Mourning
and Lamentation, be _searching and trying our Ways, that we may turn
again unto the Lord_[z]. Let us review the Conduct of our Lives, and
the State and Tenour of our Affections, that we may observe what hath
been deficient, and what irregular; that proper Remedies may be
applied, and those important Lessons more thoroughly learnt, which I
was mentioning under the former Branch of my Discourse. Let us pray,
that through our Tears we may read our Duty, and that by the Heat of
the Furnace we may be so melted, that our Dross may be purged away,
and the Divine Image instamped on our Souls in brighter and fairer
Characters. To sum up all in one Word, let us endeavour to set our
Hearts more on that GOD, who is infinitely _better to us than ten
Children_[a], who hath _given us a Name better than that of Sons or of
Daughters_[b], and can abundantly supply the Place of all earthly
Enjoyments with the rich Communications of his Grace: Nay, perhaps, we
may add, who hath removed some Darling of our Hearts, lest to our
infinite Detriment it should fill his Place there, and, by alienating
us from his Love and Service, have a fatal Influence on our present
Peace, and our future Happiness.

ETERNAL Glory, my Friends, is so great a Thing, and the compleat Love
and Enjoyment of GOD so unutterably desirable, that it is well worth
our while to bear the sharpest Sorrows, by which we may be more
perfectly formed for it. We may even congratulate the Death of our
Children, if it bring us nearer to our heavenly Father; and teach us,
(instead of filling this Vacancy in our Heart with some new Vanity,
which may shortly renew our Sorrows,) to consecrate the whole of it to
him who alone deserves, and can alone answer the most intense
Affection. Let us try what of this kind may be done. We are now going
to the Table of the Lord[*], to that very Table where our Vows have
often been sealed, where our Comforts have often been reigned, where
our _Isaac's_ have been conditionally sacrificed, and where we
commemorate the real Sacrifice which GOD hath made even of his only
begotten Son for us. May our other Sorrows be suspended, while we
_mourn for him whom we have pierced, as for an only Son, and are in
Bitterness as for a First-born_[c]. From his Blood Consolations spring
up, which will flourish even on the Graves of our dear Children; and
the Sweetness of that Cup which he there gives us, will temper the
most distasteful Ingredients of the other. Our Houses _are not so with
GOD_, as they once were, as we once expected they would have been, but
_he hath made with us an everlasting Covenant_, and these are the
Tokens of it. Blessed be his Name, we hold not the Mercies of that
Covenant by so precarious a Tenure as the Life of any Creature. _It is
well ordered in all things and sure:_ May _it be all our Salvation,
and all our Desire_[d]; and then it is but a little while, and all our
Complaints will cease. _GOD will wipe away these Tears from our
Eyes_[e], our peaceful and happy Spirits shall ere long meet with
those of our Children which he hath taken to himself. Our Bodies shall
sleep, and ere long also awake, and arise with theirs. _Death_, that
inexorable Destroyer, _shall be swallowed up in Victory_[f], while we
and ours surround the Throne with everlasting Hallelujahs, and own,
with another Evidence than we can now perceive; with another Spirit
than we can now express, that _All was indeed well_.   Amen.


_FINIS._



Footnotes.

+  _The Duke of_ Burgundy.   _See_ Cambray's _Life_, p. 329.

*  Tibi monstrabo Amatorium sine Medicamento, sine Herbis, sine ullius
Veneficae; Carmine, _Si vis amari, ama._   SEN.

a  Heb. iv. 15.--Heb. ii. 18.

b  2 Cor. i. 4.

c  Job iv. 3,--5.

d  Job xv. 11.

e  Isa x. 18.

f  Heb. xii. 9.

g  Lev. x. 3.

h  Job i. 21.

i  Math. xxi. 16.

k  Luke i. 18.

l  Luke i. 38.

m  Jon. ii. 2.

n  Jon. iv. 9.

o  2 Kings iv. 18, 20.

p  1 Kings xvii. 17, & seq.

*  See _Henry_, in loc.

q  1 Tim. vi. 11;   2 Tim. iii. 17.

r  2 Kings. iv. 23.

s  Isa. xxxix. 8.

t  Ezek. xxiv. 16.

u  Psal. cxli. 3.

w  Jer. x. 19.

x  Psal. lxxiv. 22.

y  Psal. xxxix. 9.

z  1 Sam. iii. 18.

a  Rom. ix. 20.

b  Psal ciii. 19.

c  Matt. x. 29, 30.

d  Psal. cxxi. 4.

e  Jer. xv. 7.

f  Ezek. xxiv. 16.

g  Job xiv. 20.

h  Psal. xc. 3.

i  Job xxi. 22.

k  Job. ii. 5.

l  Psal. xcvii. 2.

m  Heb. viii. 10.

n  Ibid. xii. 9.

o  2 Cor. i. 3.

p  John xviii. 11.

q  Eccles. v. 2.

r  Matt. xxvi. 39.

s  2 Sam. xv. 26.

t  Rom. viii. 28.

u  Rom. iv. 18, 20.

w  Ibid. viii. 32.

x  2 Sam. xix. 28.

y  Jer. xxxi. 15.

z  Prov. xxix. 15.

a  Mich. vi. 9.

b  Heb. xii. 10.

c  Gen. v. 29.

d  Jer. ii. 13.

e  Psal. xxxix. 7.

f  Ibid. xviii. 46.

g  1 Pet. i. 24.

h  Job xvii. 1.

j  Eccles. ix. 10.

k  Acts xxiv. 25.

l  Deu. vi. 7.

m  Matth. 21. 16.

*  _Temple_'s Essays, Vol. I. p. 178.

n  Rom. v. 3--5.

o  Hab. iii. 17, 18.

p  Jonah iv. _ult_.

q  1 Cor. xv. 22.

r  Gal. iii. 14.

s  1 Sam. xxv. 29.

t  Rom. xi. 28.

t  Psal. cxlv. 9.

u  Isa. xxviii. 21.

w  James v. 11.

x  Psal. cxi. 4.

y  Micah vii. 18.

z  Isa. xxx. 18.

a  Rom. ix. 22.

b  Psal. ciii. 14.

c  Job xiv. 3.

d  Mark x. 13,--16.

e  Mat. xviii. 2, 3.

f  Rom. viii. 23.

g  1 Cor. xii. 6.

+  I bless GOD, all these Things were very evident in that dear Child,
whose Death occasioned this Discourse.

h  1 Cor. xv. 18.

i  John xiv. 28.

*  _Howe_'s Life, _pag_. 32. _Fal. Edit._

k  Isa. xlix. 21.

l  Philem. _ver_. 13.

m  2 Sam. xviii. 33.

n  Lev. x. 3.

*  In the Sixth of my _Sermons to young Persons_, intitled, _The
Reflections of a pious Parent on the Death of a wicked Child._

p  1 Thess. iv. 13.

q  Job xxxix. 16, 17.

r  1 Kings xvii. 18.

s  Lam. iii. 22.

t  Ezra ix. 13.

u  Job v. 24.

w  Ibid. xxix. 5.

x  Lam. iii. 19, 20.

y  Heb. xiii. 22.

z  Lam. iii. 40.

a  1 Sam. i. 8.

b  Isa. lvi. 5.

*  _N. B._ This Sermon was preached _October_ 3, 1736. it being
Sacrament Day.   The Child died _October_ 1.

c  Zech. xii. 10.

d  2 Sam. xxiii. 5.

e  Rev. xxi. 4.

f  1 Cor. xv. 54.





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