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of about two years and a half, the house that was full--I may say crowded—is now so very thinly inhabited, that it is many times difficult to find a person to speak to! And to lose such children !—whom she had early devoted to God, and brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and had the satisfaction to see them, as they grew up," asking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward,” and“ joining themselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten !"- And to lose them at that time of life! Had they been stifled in the birth ; or had they just groaned out a few days, or weeks, in misery, and then died, the loss had not been so severely felt: but to see them outlive all the diseases and dangers usually attendant on infancy and childhood; see them advancing apace towards maturity, and entering upon the world with such prospects, as, with God's blessing on their abilities and industry, might have carried them comfortably through :-and then-just when all the mother's toil and anxiety were in a manner over, and she was beginning to enjoy the fruit of so many years care and cultivation, to see thehopeful plants blasted on a sudden, and, like Jonah's gourd, wither in a night! And to lose them, not only in the prime of their life, but in the decline of her own! Had all these calamities come upon her when she was younger, and had better health and spirits, she might have borne them better; but now, when age and disorders had greatly impaired her constitution, and she needed all those pillars which she had reared, to support her under growing infirmities ;-to have them, one after another, sink under her, and leave her with only one solitary prop to
trust to! and when the evil days were at hand, and the years when she should say,
- I have no pleasure in them;" when the decays of nature were coming on apace, and she needed the assistance of others; I
say, when she had all along pleased herself with the thoughts of having her own children about her, to make her bed in her sickness," and, by a thousand tender offices, in some measure repay her former tender care of them :-instead of this, to be attended only by strangers ! And when she lies on tbe bed of languishing, to look on this side, and on that, for a child to soothe her pain, and wipe off the dewy sweat, and receive her parting blessing; to look and look--but, alas ! to look in vain! To be occasionally visited, perhaps, by christian friends; but to be attended only by persons she but barely knows !-Say, ye parents who have lost hopeful children, when they were just beginning to be helpful; and ye, too, who are now surrounded and supported by dutiful and affectionate children,--say, if Rachel has not cause enough for lamentation and bitter weeping.
Yes, indeed; she may weep naturally, and innocently : but she should not refuse to be comforted. To want comfort, is an affliction ; to refuse comfort, is a sin.
What then have I been doing all this while ? I have been soothing that grief, which I ought to have checked, as what there was no foundation for.
She makes this lamentable outcry 'upon a hasty presumption that her children were totally, and for ever, lost; whereas, in fact, they were all safe and well. Let us read the two verses immediately following our text, and they will give quite another
face to this seemingly doleful dispensation, and turn our condolences into congratulations: “ Thus saithi the Lord, Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears : for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy :
And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” (ver. 16, 17.)
I should suppose it is hardly necessary to observe, that Rachel herself had been dead a long while, and that it is her descendants that are here weeping for their children, that were carried into captivity; though, in the figurative style of Scripture, it is ascribed to Rachel in her own person. However, as it will make no difference in the general meaning of the text, I shall take it as it lies : and here my principal business will be ;
1. To offer a few considerations, by way of counsel and comfort, to weeping Rachel.
II. To“ gather up the fragments that remain," for general improvement,
1. To offer a few considerations, by way of counsel and comfort to weeping Rachel.
I. Consider who gave you these children, the loss of whom you so passionately mourn. It was “ the Lord gave.” Indeed,
every good and perfect gift cometh down from above; from the Father of lights." There is not a single blessing we ever enjoyed, either respecting life or godliness, but what was an emanation from pure Mercy: God owed
us nothing; and, therefore, when be resumes his own grant, we should acquiesco, and say, with Job;
with Job; “ Shall we receive good at
the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job ii. 10.) Surely he hath as much right to recal his favours as to dispense them. – Now, among the various blessings of Providence, this of children is far from being the least: it is what most are desirous of: some, criminally eager, as Rachel herself; “ Give me children, or else I die.” (Gen. xxx, 1.) But it is a blessing denied to many, even to those who, we are ready to think, are fittest to have them ; who can best provide for them, as to this world, and (which is infinitely more important) are qualified and disposed to bring them up for God. You may look round, and see many such written
childless. God was more indulgent to you: and there hath been a time when you could subscribe to what the Psalmist says : “ Lo, children are an heri. tage of the Lord; and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows in the hand of a mighty man, so are children of the youth: Happy is the man that bath his quiver full of them : they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.” (Ps. cxxvii. 3, 4, 5.) And if any had then asked you, as Esau did Jacob, 66 Who are these with thee?” (Gen. xxxiii. 5:) you would have answered, as the pious patriarch did, “ They are the children which God hath graciously given thy servant.” If, therefore, he hath thought proper to send for any of them again, and you feel yourself loth to let them go, and your passions begin to grow turbulent and mutinous, check them, as the Psalmist did : “ And I said, this is my infirmity: but I will remember the years of the right hand of the most High: I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember thy wonders of old.” (Ps. lxxvii. -10,11.)
2. Consider who deprived you of these children.
“ The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away:": and why cannot you go on, and say,
" Blessed be the name of the Lord ?" It signifies nothing to look back on the disorders they died of, and say, One died of a mortification, two died of a consumption, the last died of a fever : these were only the special messengers which God made choice of to fetch them home. " No affliction springeth out of the dust, nor trouble out of the ground :" there is never a breach made upon our comforts, but under immcdiate direction from above. The hairs of our head are all numbered : and if not one of them can perish, nor a sparrow fall to the ground, without our heavenly Father, surely not a child. We are not to suppose that Death hath an absolute and unlimited commission to make what ravages he pleases upon mankind, aud plunge his dart into your bosom, or mine, just as humour or chance may direct. No, no ; “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints:” his eye is always upon them; and when he sees that any of them have been long enough in the wilderness, and are meet to be partakers of “ an inheritance among the saints in light,” he says, 'Go, Death, to such a house, and say to such a soul, Thy Father hath sent for thee!'-One would think, this should effectually silence every murmur: it did so with the Psal. mist; “ I was durub, I opened not my mouth! because thou didst it.” (Ps. xxxix. 9.) What avails it to sit poring on the amiable dispositions of this and the other child, and to mutter, as loudly as you durst, that for objects to be rendered so endearing, and then snatched away, seems as if Providence took a pleasure in tormenting you; and that it was only building up for the sake of puiling down again,