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one has need of an extraordinary confidence to repress excess, and that an ordinary piety is inadequate to the task. I contend, however, that religion forbids, even in this case, to sorrow above measure. Two remarks shall make it manifest; and we entreat those whom God has struck in this sensible manner, to impress them deeply on their mind.
1. Our grief really proceeds from a carnal principle, and our heart disguises itself from its own judgment, when it apparently suggests that religion is the cause. If it were simply the idea of the loss of the soul; if it were a principle of love to God, and if it were not the relations of father and son; in a word, if the motives were altogether spiritual, and the charity wholly pure, which excites our grief, whence is it that this one object should excite it, while so great a multitude of unhappy men are precisely in a similar case? Whence is it that we see daily, without anxiety, whole nations running headlong to perdition? Is it less dishonourable to God, that those multitudes are excluded from his covenant, than because it is precisely your friend, your son, or your father?
Yes, it is allowed on seeing this body, this corpse, the precious remains of a part of ourselves, carried away by a funeral procession, it is allowed to recall the tender but painful recollections of the intimacy we had with him whom death has snatched away. It is allowed to recall the counsel he gave us in our embarrassments; the care he took of our education; the solicitude he took for our welfare; the unaffected marks of love which appeared during the whole of his life, and which were redoubled at the period of his death. It is allowed to recall the endearments that so precious an intiac-macy shed on life, the conversations in his last sickness, those tender adieus, those assurances of esteem, that frankness of his soul, those fervent prayers, those torrents of tears, and those last efforts of an expiring tenderness. It is allowed in weeping to show the robes that Dorcas had made. It is allowed to the tender Joseph, on coming to the threshing floor of Atad, the tomb of his father; it is allowed to pour out his heart in lamentations, to make Canaan resound with the cries of his grief, and to call the place Abel-mizraim, the mourning of the Egyptians. It is allowed to David to go weeping, and saying, "O my son Absalom; my son, my son Absalom! would to God I had died for thee, O Absalom my son, my son!" 2 Sam. xviii. 33. It is allowed to St. Augustine to weep for the pious Monica, his mother, who had shed so many tears to obtain the grace for him, that he might for ever live with God, to use the expression of his father. Confess. lib. ix. c. 8, &c.
II. A due regard to ourselves should affect us with sorrow on seeing the dying and the dead. The first reflection that sight of a corpse should suggest is, that we also must die, and that the road he has just taken, is "the way of all the earth." This is a reflection that every one seems to make, while no one makes it in reality. We cast on the dying and the dead but slight and transient regards; and if we say, in general, that this must be our final lot, we evade the particular application to our heart. While we subscribe to the sentence, "It is appointed unto men once to die," we uniformly make some sort of exception with
Our second remark is, that the love we have for the creature should always conform itself with the Creator. We ought to love our neighbours, because like us they bear the image of God, and they are called with us to the same glory. On this principle, when we see a sinner wantonly rush on the precipice, and risking salvation by his crimes, our charity ought to be alarmed. Thus Jesus Christ, placing himself in the period in which grace was still offered to Jerusalem, and in which she might cept it, groaned beneath her hardness, and deplored the abuse she made of his entreaties; 'O that thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things that belong to thy peace," Luke xix. 42. But when a man becomes the avowed enemy of God, when a protracted course of vice, and a final perseverance in crimes, convinces that he has no part in his covenant, then our love should return to its centre, and associate itself with the love of our Creator. "Henceforth know we no man after the flesh. I hate them with a perfect hatred. If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. If any man love father, mother, son, or daughter, more than me, he is not worthy of me," 2 Cor. v. 16; Ps. cxxxix. 22; Matt. x. 37.
But if there be one kind of sorrow incompatible with the hope of a Christian, there is another which is altogether congenial to it, and inseparable in its ties, and such is the sorrow which proceeds from one of the following principles:-from sympathy;-from the dictates of nature;—and from repentance. To be explicit: I. We have said first, from sympathy. Though we have censured the sorrow excited by the loss of our dearest friends, we did not wish to impose a rigorous apathy. The sorrow we have censured is that excessive grief, in which despondency prevailing over religion induces us to deplore the dead, as though there was no hope after this life, and no life after death. But the submissive sorrow by which we feel our loss, without shutting our eyes against the resources afforded by Providence; the sorrow which weeps at the sufferings of our friends in the road to glory, but confident of their having attained it; this sorrow, so far from being culpable, is an inseparable sentiment of nature, and an indispensable duty of religion.
This duty is, perhaps, too exalted for the earth. The sentiments of nature are, perhaps, too much entwined with those of religion to be so perfectly distinguished. It is certain, however, that they shall exist in heaven. If you should suppose the contrary, the happiness of heaven would be imbittered with a thousand pains: you can never conceive how a father can be satisfied with a felicity in which his son has no share; nor how a friend can be composed while his associate is loaded with "chains of darkness." Whereas, if you establish the principle that perfect charity must be an emanation of divine love, you will develop the inquiry; and you will also conclude, that excessive sorrow, excited by a criminal death, is a criminal sorrow, and that if piety be its principle, it is a misguided piety.
regard to ourselves: because we never have died, it seems as though we never should die. If we are not so far infatuated, as to flatter ourselves concerning the fatal necessity imposed on us to leave the world, we flatter our selves with regard to the circumstances; we consider them as remote; and the distance of the object prevents our knowing its nature, and regarding it in a just light. We attend the dying, we lay them in the tomb, we preach their funeral discourse; we follow them in the funeral train; and as though they were of a nature different from us, and as though we had some prerogative over the dead, we return home, and become candidates for their offices. We divide their riches, and enter on their lands, just as the presumptive mariner, who, seeing a ship on the shore, driven by the tempest and about to be bilged by the waves, takes his bark, braves the billows, and defies the danger, to share in the spoils of the wreck.
A prudent man contemplates the death of his friends with other eyes. He follows them with a mind attached to the tomb; he clothes himself in their shrouds; he extends himself in their coffin; he regards his living body as about to become like their corpse; and the duty he owes to himself inspires him with a gracious sorrow on seeing in the destiny of his lamented friends an image of his own.
But why should the thought of dying excite sorrow in a saint, in regard of whom the divine justice is disarmed, and to whom nothing is presented beyond the tomb but inviting objects The solution of this difficulty associates with what we said in the third place, that the death of persons worthy of our esteem, should excite in our hearts the sentiments of repentance.
III. It is a question often agitated among Christians, that seeing Jesus Christ has satisfied the justice of the Father for their sins, why should they still die? And one of the most pressing difficulties opposed to the evangelical system results from it, that death equally reigns over those who embrace, and those who reject it. To this it is commonly replied, that death is now no longer a punishment for our sins, but a tempest that rolls us to the port, and a passage to a better life. This is a solid reply: but does it perfectly remove the difficulty? Have we not still a right to ask, Why God should lead us in so strait a way? Why he pleases to make this route so difficult? Why do not his chariots of fire carry us up to heaven, as they once took Elijah? For after all the handsome things one can say, the period of death is a terrible period, and death is still a formidable foe. What labours, what conflicts, what throes, prior to the moment! what doubts, what uncertainties, what labouring of thought before we acquire the degree of confidence to die with fortitude! How disgusting the remedies! How irksome the aids! How severe the separations! How piercing the final farewell! This constitutes the difficulty, and the ordinary solution leaves it in all its force.
in view, that we may so live as to avoid becoming the victims of that justice. It is an awful monument of the horror God has of sin, which should teach us to avoid it. The more submissive the good man was to the divine pleasure, the more distinguished is the monument. The more eminent he was for piety, the more should we be awed by this stroke of justice. Come, and look at this good man in the tomb, and in a putrid state; trace his exit in a bed of affliction to this dark and obscure abode; see how, after having been emaciated by a severe disease, he is now reserved as a feast for worms. Who was this man? Was he habitually wicked? Was he avowedly an enemy of God? No: he was a believer; he was a model of virtue and probity. Meanwhile, this saint, this friend of Christ, died: descended from a sinful father, he submitted to the sentence, "Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return," Gen. iii. 19. And if those remains of corruption were subjugated to a lot so severe, what shall be the situation of those in whom sin reigns? "If the righteous be saved with difficulty, where shall the wicked appear? If the judgment of God begin at his house, what shall the end be of those that obey not the gospel?" I Pet. iv. 17, 18.
The law imposed on us to die is, therefore, a requisite, but indeed a violent remedy; and to correspond with the design, we must drink the cup. The death of those who are worthy of our regret, ought to recall to our mind the punishment of sin, and to excite in us that sorrow which is a necessary fruit of true repent
The following remark to me seems to meet the difficulty in a manner more direct. The death of the righteous is an evil, but it is an instructive evil. It is a violent, but a necessary remedy. It is a portrait of the divine justice which God requires we should constantly have
These are the three sorts of sorrow that the death of our friends should excite in our breast. And so far are we from repressing this kind of grief, that we would wish you to feel it in all its force. Go to the tombs of the dead; open their coffins; look on their remains; let each there recognise a husband, or a parent, or children, or brethren; but instead of regarding them as surrounding him alive, let him suppose himself as lodged in the subterraneous abode with the persons to whom he has been closely united. Look at them deliberately, hear what they say: death seems to have condemned him to an eternal silence; meanwhile they speak; they preach with a voice far more eloquent than ours.
We have taught you to shed upon their tombs tears of tenderness: hear the dead, they preach with a voice more eloquent than ours. "Have you forgotten the relations we formed, and the ties that united us? Is it with games and diversions that you lament our loss? Is it in the circles of gayety, and in public places, that you commemorate our exit?"
We have exhorted you to shed upon their tomb tears of duty to yourselves. "Hear the dead;" they preach with a voice more eloquent than ours. They cry, "Vanity of vanities. All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field. The world passeth away, and the lusts thereof. Surely man walketh in a vain shadow," Eccles. i. 2; Isa. xl. 6; 1 John ii. 17; Ps. xxxix. 7. They recall to your mind the afflictions they have endured, the troubles which assailed their mind, and the deliriums that affected their brain. They recall
those objects that you may contemplate in their situation an image of your own; that you may be apprised how imperfectly qualified a man is in his last moments for recollection, and the work of his salvation. They tell you, that they once had the same health, the same strength, the same fortune, and the same honours as you; notwithstanding, the torrent which bore us away, is doing the same with you.
We have exhorted you to shed upon their tombs the tears of repentance. Hear the dead; they preach with an eloquence greater than ours; they say, "that sin has brought death into the world; death which separates the father from the son, and the son from the father; which disunites hearts the most closely attached, and dissolves the most intimate and tender ties." They say more: Hear the dead-hear some of them, who, from the abyss of eternal flames, into which they are plunged for impenitency, exhort you to repentance.
O! terrific preachers, preachers of despair, may your voice break the hearts of those hearers on which our ministry is destitute of energy and effect.-Hear those dead, they speak with a voice more eloquent than ours from the depths of the abyss, from the deep caverns of hell; they cry, "Who among us shall dwell with devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings? Ye mountains fall on us; ye hills cover us. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, when he is angry," Isa. xxxiii. 14; Luke xxiii. 30; Heb. x. 31. Hear the father, who suffering in hell for the bad education given to the family he left on earth. Hear him by the despair of his condition; by the chains which oppress him; by the fire which devours him; and by the remorse, the torments, and the anguish which gnaw him, entreat you not to follow him to that abyss. Hear the impure, the accomplice of your pleasure, who says, that if God had called you the first, you would have been substituted in his place, and who entreats to let your eyes become as fountains of repentant tears.
child!" In this way has the sage expressed the "Wo to thee, O land, when thy king is a calamities of states conducted by men destitute of experience. But this general maxim is not without exceptions. As we sometimes see the gayeties of youth in mature age, so we sometimes perceive in youth the gravity of sober
This is the sort of sorrow with which we should be affected for the death of those with whom it has pleased God to connect us by the bonds of society and of nature. May it penetrate our hearts; and for ever banish the sorrow which confounds us with those who have no hope. Let us be compassionate citizens, faith-years. There are some geniuses premature, ful friends, tender fathers, loving all those with with whom reason anticipates on years; and whom it has pleased God to unite us, and not who, if I may so speak, on leaving the cradle, regarding this love as a defect; but let us love discover talents worthy of the throne. A proour Maker with supreme affection. Let us be fusion of supernatural endowments, coming to always ready to sacrifice to him whatever we the aid of nature, exemplifies in their character have most dear on earth. May a glorious re- the happy experience of the prophet; "I have surrection be the ultimatum of our requests. more understanding than all my teachers. I May the hope of obtaining it assuage all our sufferings. And may God Almighty, who has educated us in a religion so admirably adapted to support in temptation, give success to our efforts, and be the crown of our hopes; Amen.tensive authority. The Abbe Maury, in his treatise on To whom be honour and glory, henceforth and for ever.
* Saurin, placed at the Hague as first minister of the
Eloquence, though hostile to Saurin, allows this Sermon
ON THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON
1 KINGS iii. 5-14.
Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon, in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give. And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord, my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David, my father; and I am but a little child; I know not how to go out and come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give, therefore, thy servant an understanding heart, to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast thou asked riches for thyself; nor hast asked the life of thine enemies, but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment: Behold I have done according to thy words. Lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart, so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honour; so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then will I lengthen thy days.
understand more than the ancients," Ps. cxix. | dream. We have elsewhere* remarked, that 99, 100. there are three sorts of dreams. Some are in the order of nature; others are in the order of providence; and a third class are of an order superior to both.
I call dreams in the order of nature, those which ought merely to be regarded as the irregular flights of imagination, over which the will has lost, or partially lost, its command.
Here we have an illustrious proof. Solomon, in the early periods of life, formed the correctest idea of government which had ever entered the mind of the profoundest philosophers, or the most consummate statesmen. Awed by the sceptre, he acknowledged the impotency of his arm to sway it. Of the high privilege granted of God, to ask whatever he would, he availed himself solely to ask wisdom. What an admirable choice! How many aged men have we seen less enlightened than this youth? On the other hand, God honoured a petition so wise, by superadding to the petitioner every other endowment: he gave to Solomon wisdom, and with wisdom, glory and riches; he elevated him to a scale of grandeur, which no prince ever did, or ever shall be allowed to equal. It is to this petition so judicious, and to this reply so magnificent, that we shall call your attention, after having bestowed a moment on occasion of both.
I call dreams in the order of providence, those which without deviation from the course of nature, excite certain instructive ideas, and suggest to the mind truths, to which we were not sufficiently attentive while awake. Providence sometimes directing our attention to peculiar circumstances in a way purely natural, and destitute of all claims to the supernatural, and much less to the marvellous.
Some dreams, however, are of an order superior to those of nature, and of providence. It was by this sort of dreams that God revealed his pleasure to the prophets: but this dispensation being altogether divine, and of which the Scriptures say little, and being impossible for the researches of the greatest philosopher to supply the silence of the Holy Ghost, we shall make no fruitless efforts farther to illustrate the manner of the revelation with which Solomon was honoured.
It occurs in the leading words of our text. It was a divine communication, in which the place, the manner, and the subject, claim particular attention.
3. A reason very dissimilar supersedes our
1. The place: it was in Gibeon; not the city from which those Gibeonites derived their name, who, by having recourse to singular artifice, saved their lives, which they thought them-stopping to illustrate the subject; I would say, selves unable to defend by force, or to preserve it has no need of illustration. God was wishby compassion. That, I would say, the city of ful to put Solomon to the proof, by prompting those Gibeonites, was a considerable place, and him to ask whatsoever he would, and by encalled in the Book of Joshua, a royal city. The gaging to fulfil it. Solomon's reply was worother was situate on the highest mountains of thy of the test. His sole request was for wisJudea, distant, according to Eusebius and St. dom. God honoured this enlightened request; Jerome, about eight miles from Jerusalem. and in granting profound wisdom to his servant, he superadded riches, and glory, and long life. It is this enlightened request, and this munificent reply, we are now to examine. We shall examine them jointly, placing, at the same time, the harmony of the one with the other, in a just and proper view. Four remarks demand attention in Solomon's request to God, and four in God's reply.
We shall not enter into geographical discussions. What claims attention is, a circumstance of the place where Solomon was, which naturally recalls to view one of the weaknesses of this prince. It is remarked at the commencement of the chapter, from which we have taken our text, that "the people sacrificed in high places." The choice was, probably, not exempt from superstition: it is certain, at least, that idolaters usually selected the highest mountains for the exercise of their religious ceremonies. Tacitus assigns as a reason, that in those places, being nearer the gods, they were the more likely to be heard. Lucian reasons much in the same way, and, without a doubt, less to vindicate the custom than to expose it to contempt. God himself has forbidden it in law.
We have, however, classed this circumstance in Solomon's life among his frailties, rather than his faults. Prevention for high places was much less culpable in the reign of this prince, than in the ages which followed. In those ages, the Israelites violated, by sacrificing on high places, the law which forbade any sacrifice to be offered, except in the temple of Jerusalem; whereas, in the age of which we now speak, the temple did not exist. The people sacrificed on the brazen altar, constructed by the divine command. This altar was then in Gibeon, where it had been escorted with the tabernacle, as we read in the book of Chronicles.
2. The manner in which the revelation to Solomon was made, supplies a second source of reflections. It was, says the historian, in a
I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recollection of past mercies: "Thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy:" and mark, in the reply, how pleasing this recollection was to God.
II. Consider, in Solomon's request, the aspect under which he regarded the regal power. He considered it solely with a view to the high duties on which it obliged him to enter. "Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, which cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Who is able to judge this thy so great a people?" And in God's reply, mark the opposite seal, with regard to this idea of the supreme authority.
III. Consider, in Solomon's request, the sentiments of his own weakness and the consciousness of his insufficiency: "I am but as a little child, and know not how to go out, and to come in:" and in God's reply, mark how highly he is delighted with humility.
IV. In Solomon's request, consider the wisdom of his choice; "Give, therefore, unto thy
*Discours Hist. tom. v. p. 184.
servant an understanding heart to judge thy | arguments? How often has he, for the sake of people:" and in God's reply, mark how Solo- the patriarchs, for the sake of David, heard mon's prayer was heard, and his wisdom prayer in behalf of their children? crowned. Four objects, all worthy of our regard.
I. Consider, in Solomon's request, the recollection of mercies. It was the mercies of David, his father. Solomon made this reference as a motive to obtain the divine mercies and aids his situation required. He aspired at the blessings which God confers on the children of faithful fathers. He wished to become the object of that promise in which God stands engaged to "show mercy to thousands of generations of those that love him," Exod. xx. 6. This is the first object of our discourse. The privilege of an illustrious birth, I confess, is sometimes extravagantly amplified. This kind of folly is not novel in the present age: it was the folly of the Hebrew nation. To most of the rebukes of their prophets, they opposed this extraordinary defence: "We are Abraham's seed; we have Abraham to our father," Matt. iii. 9. What an apology! Does an illustrious birth sanction low and grovelling sentiments. Do the virtues of our ancestors excuse us from being virtuous? And has God for ever engaged to excuse impious children, because their parents were pious? You are the children of Abraham; you have an illustrious descent; your ancestors were the models and glory of their age. Then you are the more inexcusable for being the reproach of your age; then you are the faithless depositories of the nobility with which you have been intrusted; then you have degenerated from your former grandeur: then you shall be condemned to surrender to nature a corrupted blood, which you received pure from those to whom you owe your birth.
Let these maxims be deeply imprinted on the heart. Our own interest should be motive sufficient to prompt us to piety. But we should also be excited to it by the interest of our children. The recollection of our virtues is the best inheritance we can leave them after death. These virtues afford them claims to the divine favours. The good will of Heaven, is, in some sort, entailed on families who fear the Lord. Happy the fathers, when extended on the bed of death, who can say, "My children, I am about to appear before the awful tribunal, where there is no resource for poor mortals, but humility and repentance. Meanwhile, I bless God, that notwithstanding my defects, which I acknowledge with confusion of face, you will not have cause to blush on pronouncing the name of your father. I have been faithful to the truth, and have constantly walked before God, "in the uprightness of my heart." Happy the children who have such a descent; I would prefer it to titles the most distinguished, to riches the most dazzling, and to offices the most lucrative. "O God, thou hast showed unto thy servant David, my father, great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart!" Here is the recollection of past mercies, the recollection of which God approves, and the first object of our discourse.
II. Consider, secondly, in the prayer of Solomon, the aspect under which he contemplated the regal power. He viewed it principally with regard to the high duties it imposed. "Thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen; who is able to judge this thy so great a people, which cannot be numbered?" The answer of God is a correspondent seal to this idea of supreme authority. And what we here say of the regal power, we apply to every other office of trust and dignity. A man of integrity must not view then with regard to the emoluments they produce, but with regard to the duties they impose.
It is true, however, all things being weighed, that, in tracing a descent, it is a singular favour of Heaven to be able to cast one's eyes on a long line of illustrious ancestors. I am not about to offer incense to the idol of distinguished families; the Lord's church has more correct ideas of nobility. To be accounted noble in the sanctuary, we must give proof of virtue, and not of empty titles, which often owe their origin to the vanity, the seditions, and fawning baseness of those who display them with so much pride. To be noble in the language of our Scriptures; and to be impure, avaricious, haughty, and implacable, are different ideas. But charity, but patience, but moderation, but dignity of soul, and a certain elevation of mind, place the possessor above the world and its maxims. These are characteristics of the nobility of God's children.
What is the end proposed by society on elevating certain men to high stations? Is it to augment their pride? Is it to usher them into a style of life the most extravagant? Is it to aggrandize their families by the ruin of the widow and the orphan? Is it to adore them as idols? Is it to become their slaves? Potentates and magistrates of the earth, ask those subjects to whom you are indebted for the high scale of elevation you enjoy. Ask, Why those dignities were conferred? They will say, it was to intrust you with their safety and repose; it was to procure fathers and protectors; it was to find peace and prosperity under the shadow of your tribunals. To induce you to enter on those arduous duties, they have accompanied them with those inviting appendages which soothe the cares, and alleviate the weights of office. They have conferred titles; they have sworn obedience, and ensured revenue. Entrance then on a high duty is to make a contract with the people, over whom you proceed to exercise it; it is to make a compact, by
In this view, it is a high favour of Heaven, in tracing one's descent, to be able to cast the eye on a long line of illustrious ancestors. How often have holy men availed themselves of these motives to induce the Deity, if not to bear with the Israelites in their course of crimes, at least to pardon them after the crimes have been committed? How often have they said, in the supplications they opposed to the wrath of Heaven, "O God, remember Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, thy servants!" How often has God yielded to the strength of these