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there is some ground to hope that he had experienced a saving change. But their present duty is to turn off their attention from him whom they lament, and gratefully acknowledge the goodness of God, in giving them such a son, and such a brother; and now cordially and unreservedly submit to his amiable and awful sovereignty in taking him away and sparing others. God may and certainly will do more good by his sudden, unexpected and alarming death, than he could have done by his life. They know not to how many his death may be sanctified. It may have a happy effect upon a very sensible and highly accomplished young lady, who may imagine she has the largest share of affliction in this instance of mortality. The parents may receive great benefit from it; and they certainly will, if they rightly improve it. The brother and sisters may receive great benefit from it; and they certainly will, if they rightly improve it. It ought to make a deep impression upon the minds of both parents and children in this place, and excite them to the faithful discharge of their mutual duties to each other. And it ought to make a deep impression upon the bereaved College, who have sustained a great, and it is to be feared, an irreparable loss. The certain prospect of the good which God will answer by this death, in all its aggravated circumstances, ought to heal the wound which every one has received by this great frown of providence. God has answered all his benevolent purposes by the life of the deceased; and he will answer all his benevolent purposes by his death, and all is well. So let the afflicted father and mother, brother and sisters, believe and feel and say, and all will be well with them. Amen.
AFTER Moses had reared the tabernacle in the wilderness, and placed all its furniture in order, and spent seven days in consecrating Aaron and his sons to the sacred office, Nadab and Abihu his sons took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. The sudden and unexpected death of the young men was a very astonishing event, and calculated to pierce the heart of Aaron with extreme pain, sorrow and distress. Moses sincerely sympathized with his bereaved brother, and directed him to the only proper remedy of assuaging the anguish of his heart. “And Moses said unto Aaron, this is that the Lord spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.” By this he complied with the divine direction, and glorified God in the furnace of affliction. Such silence was a signal expression of Aaron's filial affection towards God, and unreserved submission to his fatherly chastisements. He was dumb, and opened not his mouth, because he was deeply sensible that it was God, his holy and righteous Sovereign, who had smitten his children, and sunk him in sorrow. He knew that he had no power to stay his hand, and no right to say unto him, “What doest thou?” He did as it became him; he held his peace, he bowed in silence to the sovereign will of God. This example of Aaron teaches all men,
That they ought to hold their peace, when God sees fit to afflict and bereave them. We shall first consider what it is for men to hold their peace under the afflictive and bereaving hand of God; and then consider their obligations to do it. I. Let us consider what it is for the afflicted and bereaved to hold their peace under the correcting hand of God. There was something very significant in Aaron's holding his peace while God laid his heavy hand upon him, and bereaved him of two sons by one sudden and unexpected stroke. There is no doubt but that Aaron's heart was very much bound up in these two sons, who he expected would have been his assistants, if not successors, in his sacred office. They were amiable and promising young men; for God had distinguished them by a peculiar mark of his favor. We read, “And he said unto Moses, come up unto the Lord, thou, and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel.” But after these young men had exhibited so fair a character, and had been consecrated to the priest's office, they were so elated with their high station and bright prospects, that they precipitately did an act which cost them their lives. Without divine direction, they not only offered incense, but offered it with common or strange fire, instead of taking sacred fire from the sanctuary, which was always kept burning. For this presumptuous act, like Uzza's, they were struck dead in a moment. But under all these aggravating and heart-affecting circumstances of his sons' death, Aaron held his peace, by which he glorified God, and exhibited a bright example, which it becomes all the afflicted and bereaved to imitate. But what does this imply? 1. It certainly implies, in the first place, that the afflicted and bereaved should not complain of the divine conduct towards them. Mankind have always been apt to complain under the afflictive hand of God. Though Job, at first, bowed in silence to the sovereign hand of God, which had bereaved him of all his earthly enjoyments, yet he soon said, “I will not refrain my mouth: I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” He cursed the day of his birth, and poured forth a torrent of complaints too bitter to be repeated. Jeremiah betrayed the same weakness and wickedness under the heavy hand of God. Mankind in general are prone to murmur and complain of far lighter evils than those which fell on Job and Jeremiah. The children of Israel were continually murmuring under the trials and troubles that befell them in the wilderness. The voice of complaint is still heard a thousand times oftener than the voice of praise. But why should a living man complain under the heaviest evils that fall to his lot? The afflicted and bereaved ought to be dumb, and not open their mouths in complaint. They have no ground to complain, because God takes nothing from them but what he has given them, and inflicts no more upon them than they deserve, and he has a right to inflict. This Aaron felt, and emphatically expressed, by holding his peace under the severe bereavement he was called to experience. While the afflicted presume to complain of God, they never exercise the least submission to his providence; but when they cease to complain, and hold their peace, they exhibit one mark of submission to the divine will. But, 2. For the afflicted to hold their peace, implies that they not only cease to complain, but that they cease to think hard of God. It is much easier to suppress their verbal complaints, than to suppress all their inward murmurings and repinings under the correcting hand of God. They can easily see that God has done them no wrong, and can readily say that the Judge of all the earth has done right; while at the same time they entertain and cherish hard thoughts of his wisdom and goodness. They are very apt to think hard of God for frowning upon them, while he is smiling upon others; for inflicting more evils upon them, than upon others; for inflicting much greater evils upon them, than upon others; and for inflicting upon them such evils as they are least able to bear. David acknowledged that he once let his murmuring and repining thoughts run in this strain. “I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. Will the Lord cast off for ever ? Will he be favorable no more ? Is his mercy clean gone for ever, doth his promise fail for evermore ? Hath God forgotten to be gracious f Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?” These hard thoughts of God he owns were the fruits and effects of his moral infirmity and imperfection. But they are too common to the afflicted, who love to pity themselves, by indulging such hard, rebellious thoughts towards God. Aaron indulged no such hard thoughts of God when he held his peace, and submitted to the hand that corrected him. The afflicted must cease to complain of God internally, as well as externally, in order to find favor and acceptance in his sight. But, 3. The only way in which the afflicted and bereaved can get rid of their inward murmuring and repining thoughts, is cordially to approve of the conduct of God in causing them to suffer their present afflictions and bereavements. Nothing can remove hatred of God, but love to God. Nothing can remove opposition to God, but submission to God. And nothing can remove our disapprobation of God's conduct towards us, but a cordial approbation of it. God exercises the same wisdom and goodness in taking away, as in bestowing mercies. There is, therefore, the same reason to approve of his conduct in taking away as in bestowing mercies. Job at first viewed the dispensations of Providence towards him in this light. He said in his afflicted, bereaved, forlorn condition, “Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” He felt and acted just as every afflicted person ought to feel and act. He did not complain that God had given him any favor which he had not granted to others; nor that he had granted him more favors than he had granted to others; nor that he had granted him greater favors than he had granted to others. In this he sinned not. Nor did he sin by complaining that God had taken away more and greater favors from him than from others. And he had no more reason to complain that God had taken away so much, than that he had given him so much. This is true of all the afflicted and bereaved. Aaron had no more reason to complain that God had taken away, than that he had given him two such promising sons. The afflicted and bereaved always have the same reason to approve of God's conduct towards them in taking away, as in bestowing great and signal favors upon them. And the afflicted and bereaved never do properly hold their peace, and cease to complain internally as well as externally, until they do cordially approve of God's conduct in taking away what he has given them. Let us now consider, II. Why the afflicted and bereaved ought to hold their peace, and silently submit to the correcting hand of God. This is their duty, 1. Because they always deserve the bereavements which they are called to suffer. . All men have sinned, and deserved the marks of the divine displeasure, both in this life and in that which is to come. Bereavements are always marks of the divine displeasure towards the bereaved. They are under the same obligations to submit silently and unreservedly under the frowns of God, as to rejoice under his smiles. They should always feel affections towards him, which are correspondent to his providential dealings towards them. When he bereaves them of those whom they loved and valued, he manifests his displeasure for something wrong in their hearts and conduct, which calls for their humiliation and silent submission. Parents in particular never fail to be verily guilty in respect to