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risk so much as a hand, or a finger, or a joint, no, nor perhaps a toy that adorns it. Surely this is the wonder of angels, and per. haps of devils too, unless the observation of so many ages may have rendered it familiar to both. And can we, my christian brethren, behold such a scene with indifference? If some epidemical madness had seized our country, or the places where we live, so that as we went from one place to another, we should every where meet with lunatics, and see, among the rest, some perhaps of the finest genius and improvements, and in the most eminent stations in life, amusing themselves with straws and bubbles, or wounding themselves and others; surely were we ever so secure from the danger of infection or assault, the sight would cut us to the heart. Surely a good-natured man would hardly be able to go abroad, or even be desirous to live, if it must be amongst so many sad spectacles. Yet these poor creatures might, notwithstanding this, be the children of God, and the higher their frenzy rose, the nearer might their complete happiness be. But alas, the greater part of mankind are seized with a worse kind of madness, in which they are ruining their souls: And can we behold it with indifference! The Lord awaken our compassion, our prayer, and our endeavours in de. pendance on divine grace, that we may be instrumental in bringing them to their right mind, and making them wise indeed, that is, wise to salvation.
2. How necessary is it that we should seriously enquire how this one thing needful is regarded by us!
Let me intreat you to remember your own concern in it, and inquire- Have I thought seriously of it?- Have I seen the importance of it
i H as it lain with a due and an abiding weight on my mind ? Has it brought me to Christ, that I might lay the stress of these great eternal interests on him? And am I acting in the main of my life as one that has these convictions ? - Am I willing in fact to give up other things, my interests, my pleasures, my passions to this ?--Am I conversing with God and with man as one that believes these things, as one that has deliberately chosen the better part, and is determined to abide by that choice?
Observe the answer which conscience returns to these inquiries, and you will know your own part in that more particular application, with which I am to conclude my discourse.
1. Let me address those that are entirely unconcerned about the one thing needful.
Sirs, I have been stating the case at large, and now I appeal to your consciences, are these things so? or are they not ? God
and your own hearts best know for what the care of your soul is neglected ; but be it what it will, the difference between one grain of sand, and another, is not great, when it comes to be weighed against a talent of gold. Whatever it is, you had need to examine it carefully. You had need to view that commodity on all sides, of which you do in effect say, for this will I sell my soul, for this will I give up heaven and venture hell, be heaven and hell whatever they may. In the name of God, Sirs, is this the part of a man, of a rational creature ? To go on with your eyes open towards a pit of eternal ruin, because there are a few gay flowers in the way. Or what if you shut your eyes ? will that prevent your fall? It signifies little to say, I will not think of these things, I will not consider them. God has said, In the last"days they shall consider it perfectly *, The revels of a drunken malefactor will not prevent, nor respite his execution. Pardon my plainness; if it were a fable, or a tale, I would endeavour to amuse you with words, but I cannot do it where your souls are at stake.
2. I would apply to those who are convinced of the importance of their souls, yet are inclined to defer that care of them a little longer, which in the general they see to be necessary.
I know, you that are young are under peculiar temptations to do this, though it is strange that the death of so many of your companions should not be an answer to some of the most specious and dangerous of those temptations. Methinks if there were the least degree of uncertainty, the importance is too weighty to put matters to the venture. But here the uncertainty is great and apparent. You must surely know that there are critical seasons of life for managing the concerns of it, which are of such a nature, that, if once lost, they may never return : Here is a critical season. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation t. To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts I. This language may not be spoken to-morrow; Talk not of a more convenient season, none can be more convenient : and that to which you would probably refer it, is Jeast of all so. A dying time. You would not choose then to have any important business in hand ; and will you of choice refer the greatest business of all to that languishing, hurrying, amazing hour? If a friend were then to come to you with the balance of an intricate account, or a view of a title to an estate, you would shake your fainting head, and lift up your pale trembling hand, and
* Jer. xxiii. 20.
+ 2 Cor. vi. 2.
Heb. iii. 7, 8.
say perhaps with a feeble voice, “ Alas, is this a time for these things?” And is it a time for so much greater things than these? I wish you knew, and would consider into what a strait we that are ministers are sometimes brought, when we are called to the dying beds of those who have spent their lives in the neglect of the one thing needful. On the one hand we fear, lest if we palliate matters, and speak smooth things, we shall betray and ruin their souls ; and on the other, that if we use a becoming plainness and seriousness, in warning them of their danger, we shall quite overwhelm them, and hasten the dying moment which is advancing by such swift steps. Oh let me entreat you, for our sakes, and much more for your own, that you do not drive us to such sad extremities : But that if you are convinced, as I hope some of you may now be, that the care of the soul is that needful thing we have represented, let the conviction work, let it drive you immediately to the throne of grace, that from thence you may derive that wisdom and strength which may direct you in all the intricacies whichintangle you, and animate you in the midst of difficulty and discouragement.
3. I would in the last place, address myself to those happy souls who have in good earnest attended to the one thing needful.
I hope when you see how commonly it is neglected, neg. lected indeed by many, whose natural capacities, improvements, and circumstances in life, appear to you superior to your own, you will humbly acknowledge, that it was distinguishing grace that brought you into this happy state, and formed you to this most necessary care.
Bless the Lord therefore who hath given you that counsel, in virtue of which you can say that he is your portion.-Rejoice in the thought that the great concern is secured ; as it is natural for us to do, when some important affair is dispatched which has long lain before us, and which we have been inclined to put off from one day to another, but have at length strenuously and successfully attended. Remember still to continue acting on these great principles which at first determined your choice; and seriously consider, that those who desire their life may at last be given them for a prey, must continue on their guard, in all stages of their journey through a wilderness, where daily dangers are still surrounding them. Having secured the great concern, make yourselves easy as to others of smaller importance. You have chosen The kingdom of God, and his righteousness, other things therefore shall be added unto you; and if any which you desire should not be added, comfort yourselves with this thought, that you hare the good part which can never be taken away. And, not to
enlarge on these obvious hints, which must so often occur, be very solicitous that others may be brought to a care about the one thing needful. If it be needful for you, it is so for your children, your friends, your servants. Let them therefore see your concern in this respect for them, as well as for yourselves. Let parents, especially, attend to this exhortation, whose care for their offspring often exceeds in other respects, and fails in this. Remember that your children may never live to enjoy the effects of your labour and concern, to get them estates and portions. The charges of their funerals may perhaps be all their share of what you are so anxiously careful to lay up for them. And oh! think what a sword would pierce through your very heart, if you should stand by the corpse of a beloved child with this reflection, “ This poor creature has done with life before it learnt its great business in it, and is gone to eternity, which I have seldom been warning it to prepare for, and which perhaps it learnt of me to forget.”
On the whole, may this grand care be awakened in those by whom it has been hitherto neglected; may it be revived in each of our minds! And that you may be encouraged to pursue it with greater cheerfulness, let me conclude with this comfortable thought, that in proportion to the necessity of the case, iş the provision which divine grace bas made for our assistance, If you are disposed to sit down at Christ's feet, he will teach you by his word and Spirit. If you commit this precious jewel, which is your eternal all, into his hand, he will preserve it unto that day, and will then produce it richly adorned, and gloriously improved to his own honour, and to your everlasting joy. Amen.
SUBMISSION TO DIVINE PROVIDENCE
THE DEATH OF CHILDREN, Recommended and enforced, in a Sermon preached at Northampton, on the Death
of a very umiable and hopeful Child, about Five Years old.
PREFACE. The discourse which I now offer to the public 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 completed 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. Though several of them are removed to a considerable distance from me, and from each other, I have borne 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 public 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 over-flow in the following pages. I have not attempted to run through 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 subscantial relief, under a shock of sorrow, which would otherwise bave 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, wbich is called for in the ensuing discourse. It is comparatively an easy thing to