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be immoderate which is excited by the loss of a soul? This is the question we were wishful to illustrate, when we marked in the third place, as a criminal sorrow, that which proceeds from a mistaken piety.
III. He answers first, that nothing is more presumptive than to decide on the eternal loss of men ; and that we must not limit the extent of the divine mercy, and the ways of Providence. A contrite heart may, perhaps, be concealed under the exterior of reprobation ; and the religion which enjoins us to live in holy fear of our own salvation, ever requires that we should presume charitably concerning the salvation of others.
But people are urgent, and being unable to find any mitigation in a doubtful case, against which a thousand circumstances seem to militate, they ask whether one ought to moderate the anguish excited by the eternal loss of one they love? The question is highly proper in this age, where we see so great a number of our brethren die in apostacy, and in which the lives of those who surround us afford so just a ground of awful apprehensions concerning their salvation.
I confess it would be unreasonable to censure tears in a situation so afflictive ; I confess that 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 ?
Our second remark is, that the love we have for the creature should always approximate 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 accept it, groaned beneath her hardness, and deplored the abuse she made of his entreaties : 0 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, is not worthy of me. 2 Cor. v. 16. Psa. cxxxix. 22. Matt. x. 37.
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, however, a fact, 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 shall be satisfied with a felicity in which his son has no share; nor how a friend shall 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 develope 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.
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 is such 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.
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 recal the tender, but painful recollections of the intimacy we had with him whom death has snatched away. It is allowed to recal 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 recal the endearments that so precious an intimacy 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 a sight of the dead 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 makes, and 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 regard to ourselves : because we never have died, it seems as though we never should die. If we are not so far in- . fatuated, as to flatter ourselves concerning the fatal necessity imposed on us to leave the world, we flatter ourselves 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