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presenting, to be far from being small*; and surely, when you consider how soon the best of your mortal friends may fail, you cannot but wish for an interest in them: But you wish it in vain, unless you seek it in the gospel way: unless you deliberately and resolutely chuse God for your Father in Christ, and devote yourselves to them in the bonds of an everlasting covenant. If you refuse this, you have reason to regard him under the character of an enemy; and to fear, that when he removes your friends, it is in judgment that he visits you with such a blow. Your hearts may justly meditate terror, if this be the case; especially when your pious parents are taken away. You are then deprived of their prayers, their exhortations, their advices, and their examples; and so seem to be thrown farther out of the way of repentance and reformation. And let me add, that if Almighty grace doth not prevent it, the trouble which you now feel, in being separated from such dear relations while you continue on earth, will be the smallest part of your unhappiness; for you must finally be separated not only from all the most valuable persons you have ever known here, but, which is infinitely more, from the presence of the blessed God himself; must fall unpitied victims of the divine justice, and be delivered over to dwell with Your father the devil, whose works you have chosen to dot. And oh! how unutterably dreadful is it to think, that in the awful day, when this sentence is to be pronounced and executed upon you, there will not be one friend to plead in your favour! That though your pious parents be then present, yet, in a most terrible sense, Father and mother will then forsake you indeed, and, instead of interposing their intreaties for you, will applaud the righteous vengeance that dooms you as obstinate rebels to eternal death; to those abodes of distinguished misery, which are prepared for such as have broke through all the peculiar advantages, which will then be found chargeable to your account.
3. Let what I have been saying be considered by parents, as an encouragement cheerfully to leave their religious children in the hands of God, when providence shall see fit to make the separation.
When, through the riches of gospel grace, a christian parent sees his own eternal concerns so safe in a Redeemer's hands, that he can say, with respect to them, I Desire to depart; yet sometimes he feels reluctance mingling itself with
+ John viii. 44.
*Job xv. 11.
Phil. i. 23.
the holy desire, when he considers that he must leave his dear children behind him; perhaps in a destitute, and always, if they be very young, in a hazardous condition. And this thought presses with peculiar weight on the minds of those who have lost the companion of their lives; as upon their decease their children will become entirely orphans. But may it not revive you, to hear, that God will be their guardian, if they be willing to chuse him as such? Surely you may be abundantly satisfied with his care. Alas! what were you yourselves, with all your parental tenderness, but instruments which God made use of for conveying some few of his favors to them? And cannot he do that by others which he hath long been doing by you? Distrust not his power or his faithfulness; but turn all your anxious care about future events, into a religious concern to do your duty to your children, and, by all the most prudent and affectionate methods of address, to lead them into the early knowledge of God in Christ; that so, through the mercies of an everlasting covenant, they may stand intitled to the special protection of an heavenly Father, who can never be separated from them; and who, as he is never unable, will never prove unwilling to help them. Once more;
4. Let distressed orphans have an immediate and frequent recourse to such supporting considerations as these.
Do not allow yourselves to suspect the truth of these Exeeeding great and precious promises*, which have now been set before you; and, for your farther encouragement, consider in how many instances they have been confirmed by experience.
There are my friends, I am sure there are, those amongst us this day, who can set our seal to the truth of what has now been spoken, and can say in the language of the text, that when our father and our mother did both of them forsake us, then the Lord actually took us up, and proved a most gracious parent to us. He supplied the breaches that he made, and by a train of providence, which we cannot but admire in the review, raised up other friends for us; and it may be, inspired almost with the tenderness of parents, persons who were ever unknown to us, when the last of our parents was taken away. Nay, perhaps, some of us may say, that the death of a valuable parent, which we feared would be our ruin, has proved in some of its then unthought-of consequences, on the whole, a very great mercy to us.
* 2 Pet, i. 4.
Let such reflections as these encourage you, my young friends, for whose admonition and consolation this discourse was peculiarly intended, to hope, that as your afflictions are the same, your consolations will also be the same. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid*. Your father and mother are dead, but your heavenly Father can never die. I would willingly hope, that it has been your early care to secure an interest in him; and I would solemnly charge it upon you, as you value your present peace or your eternal happiness, that it be the great business of your life to keep close to him; and then you may assure yourselves with the most cheerful confidence, that He will never fail nor forsake yout.
If therefore your hearts are almost overwhelmed within you, in the melancholy circumstances into which his providence has brought you, fly into his presence, prostrate yourselves before him with humble importunity, and turn your tears of sorrow into tears of devotion.
"Behold, Oh most compassionate Father," may you reasonably and confidently say, "behold thou hast plunged me even into the depths of distress; but blessed be thy name, thou hast not left me to sink in them, without any support. I have this day received some kind assurances from thy word, and I now intreat thee to Remember that word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hopet. My father and my mother have forsaken me: Lord, wilt thou not take me up? Wilt thou indeed abandon me? Wilt thou add affliction to the afflicted? the insupportable affliction of seeing myself deserted by thee, when I most evidently need thy succour? That be far from thee, Oh Lord, and be the unworthy suspicion far from me!—I have lost my most prudent and faithful counsellors, but I look unto thee, as the guide of my youth.--I have lost those who were once my guardians and my protectors; but I am come to take shelter under the shadow of thy wings.-Their eyes are closed, and their mouths are sealed up in death: No longer can they look with compassion on my sorrows; no longer can their converse cheer or delight me. Oh! may thy compassionate eye regard me, and thy comforts delight my soul! Permit me, Oh God! an humble freedom in approaching to thee, and in pouring forth all my heart in thy presence.My parents are now returned naked to their dust, and should my wants be ever so pressing, are now incapable of affording me any relief. May thy rich bounty supply me, thy unwearied
John xiv. 27.
+ Deut. xxxi. 8.
Psal. cxix. 49.
providence take care of me! But, above all, withhold not thy covenant blessings, and let me share in that eternal inheritance which thou hast prepared for all thy children in Christ."
If these be the daily breathings of your souls before him, you have abundant reason to hope, that he will return an answer of peace. In all your difficulties he will wisely direct you; in all your sorrows he will compassionately relieve you; in all your dangers he will powerfully protect you; in all your wants he will bountifully supply you: In a word, you will be conducted safely, and I hope, notwithstanding this gloomy prospect, you will be conducted comfortably, through this mortal life, till you come at length To your Father's house in peace*. And when you are arrived thither, and take a view of all the various occurrences of the way, you will see apparent reason to acknowledge, what is now so difficult to believe, that the present awful dispensation was sent with a gracious design, and that All the paths of your heavenly Father have been mercy and truth to yout. Amen.
TO YOUNG PERSONS.
The Reflections of a pious Parent, &c.
2 Sam. xviii. 33.- -And the King was much moved, and went up to the Chamber over the Gate, and wept: And as he went, thus he said; O my Son Absalom, my Son, my Son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my Son, my Son!
As the providence of God calls me this Day particularly to
address myself to young persons, so the words I have been reading suggest some very awful thoughts, which are well suited to such an occasion. And there is one circumstance, relating to this discourse which I cannot forbear mentioning to you, because I hope it may be a means of engaging a more than common attention to it, from the auditory to which I am now speaking*.
It is this: The substance of the sermon which I am now to deliver, was drawn up some time ago, at the desire of your late reverend and worthy pastor Mr. Jennings, and preached to a society of young persons, then under his charget. The text was chosen by him; and his tender and obliging care to assist his pupils in their first labours, engaged him to draw the plan of the discourse, and to furnish me with several of the most important thoughts which I am now to offer.
So that, I think, I may properly say, that though your eyes will no more see him, nor your ears any more hear his persuasive voice, which has so frequently, and so affectionately, addressed you from this place, yet this day by me, He being dead, yet speaketh, speaks to you young persons; to many of whom, I
This sermon was preached at Kibworth in Leicestershire, towards the beginning of the year 1725, about eighteen months after the death of the Rev. Mr. John Jennings, who had long been minister there, and was author of those excellent discourses on preaching Christ, and experimental preaching, which have met with such great acceptance at home and abroad.
Heb. xi. 4.
+At Hinckley, May 7, 1723. VOL. II.