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Luke vii. 11 — 17. Soon after the apostles had received their commission and instructions, Jesus went to ain, a city of the tribe of Issachar, about two miles from Mount Tabor. In this visit he was accompanied by a crowd of disciples, and of other persons, who were collected through various motives. The Jews were always accustomed to bury their dead without the precincts of the city. As Jesus entered ain, he met a funeral procession, the principal mourner in which engaged his attention and sympathy. She was a mother, following her son to the grave. Parents, from whose reluctant bosoms those children, whom you loved as yourselves, have been torn, judge of her grief! It was a son arrived at mature age. He had safely passed through the dangers of infancy, of vol. ii. 32
250 SERMO XL1X. childhood, and of youth; there appeared a long interval between him and old age ; and the mother, no doubt, now that he was about to engage in the scenes of active life, blessed God for his providential care of her child, trusted he would safely pass over this interval, and expected to reap the rich harvest of her anxieties, her cares, and her labours, in the duty, the affection, the virtues, and the reputation of her dear son. Alas ! instead of realizing these fond anticipations, she beholds this son struggling with
death, she sees him straining his closing eye upon her, she hears his expiring groan. Who can tell her agonies? Judge of them by those which David felt, when he poured forth his lamentations, and cried, " O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom ! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son. my son !" Could not, however, this poor mother find consolation from the caresses of her other children, from the recollection of their attachment, from the view of their virtues, and from the hopes that she entertained respecting them ? This was an only son. In him all her maternal love was concentrated ; in him all her hopes and joys must live or die. There is no other child, towards whom the current of her affections may be turned ; no other pillar to support her blasted hopes. Still, may she not mingle her tears with those of her husband ; may not the afflicted parents, by uniting, mitigate their sorrows ? She is a widow. She already has wept over the tomb of her husband. The wounds of her soul that were inflicted by his separation, are re-opened, as she goes to unite with his ashes those of his son ; as she follows to the same grave the only pledge of their love.
LIFE OF CHRIST. 251 Such was the affecting situation of this mourner. She supposed that the rest of her life would be spent in misery and tears, and that she was about to entomb with her son every prospect of earthly bliss. Ah, Christians ! how often, when we are ready to sink in despair, does the God of mercy appear to sustain us ! How often, when we see the inefficacy of all human comforters, does his own hand wipe away our tears ! Mourn not, bereaved mother, as " those without hope." The compassionate Saviour beholds thee ; he pities and will relieve thee. Jesus gene-
rally performed his miraculous cures at the request of others. You have seen intercession made for the daughter of Jairus, by her father ; for the centurion's servant, by his friends; for the paralytic, by his neighbours. But who supplicates the Redeemer in behalf of this widow ? Her afflictions. She is silent ; but the sorrows of her heart plead with prevailing eloquence. " He had compassion on her ;" and his compassion, unlike to that of mortals, is never confined to impotent wishes, to ineffectual condolences. " He said unto her, Weep not." How vain would have been such an address from any other person ! From him it was a cordial to her fainting spirit, and an assurance that he would convert her mourning into joy. He stopped the procession, and touched the bier, on which (according to the custom of the Jews at that time) the body was laid on a small bed, covered with a winding-sheet. With that authority which belonged to him as the Lord of life and death, having power to quicken whom he will, he said, " Young man, arise.' 1 ' 1 In an instant, his soul re-animated his body, and he was restored to life and health. How beautifully do the most attractive benignity and the most engaging tenderness mingle with the Saviour's acts
252 SERMO XLIX. of almighty power ! After this display of his omnipotence, he immediately, instead of showing him to the multitude around, to excite their applauses, with the sympathizing kindness of a friend, " took him, and,'* with his own hands, " delivered him to his mother. 1, What a flood of powerful emotions rushed upon her heart ! How was she agitated with wonder, gratitude, and joy ! ature impelled the re-united relatives to fly to each other's arms, and indulge in mutual endearments. Grace and thankfulness urged them
first to prostrate themselves at the feet of Jesus, to bless and adore their Benefactor. Perhaps, fixed in silent astonishment, they remained looking alternately at each other, and at the meekly-majestic Saviour. Here the Scripture is silent. We are told, however, what was the effect produced upon the spectator. " There came a fear on afV That reverential awe, which is produced by any signal manifestation of the divine presence, pervaded the whole multitude ; and " they glorified God" for this " great prophet," and for again " a isiting his people," after suspending all miraculous interpositions for more •than eight hundred years. This history is full of the most valuable instructions. 1. It teaches us the superiority of Christ over the greatest ancient prophets. Elijah also raised to life the son of a widow ; but how differently did he act from Jesus ! In her anguish she complains to the prophet, that he appears to have come into her house only to slay her child. Elijah, touched with this expostulation, and with her complaint, took the child into his chamber, stretched himself three times over it, supplicated God to restore it, and obtained its restoration in answer to prayer. Elisha, in raising the
LIFE OF CHRIST. 253 son of the Shunamite, acted in nearly the same manner. either of these prophets spoke to the dead, and authoritatively commanded him to rise. This is peculiar to the Lord ; and it evidently shows, that he has an authority infinitely superior to that of the greatest prophets. He acts as the only Son of God ; the prophets, as his servants.
2. This history presents us with a striking example of the compassion of Jesus. What numberless displays of this virtue do we behold in him, as we advance in his life ! In his person, how beautifully is the tenderness of humanity combined with the power of heaven ! We constantly behold him, who is to be our Judge, invested with all the amiable sensibilities of our nature. Compassion was the characteristic virtue of his life. It brought him down from heaven ; it caused him constantly to "go about doing good."' He indulged his feelings from no narrow views ; he looked not round for spectators to admire him ; he performed not a friendly office, in hopes of a greater in return. o : he chose the helpless and the distressed as the objects of his favour. Misery was not to him a motive of neglect, but a recommendation. It never appeared before him without moving him. If we follow him among those who have lost their friends, we behold his heart always filled with compassion ; we always see him mingling tear with tear. If we attend him into scenes of want, we perceive him exerting his divine power in its behalf; if into the habitation of misery, we hear him pouring consolation into the bosom of the afflicted. Who is not moved at the contemplation of such a character ? Who does not desire such a friend ? Who that calls himself a Christian, docs not feel impelled to imitate this illustrious pattern ?
251 SERMO XLIX. 3. From the example of this young man, learn the uncertainty of life ; learn the necessity of being prepared, even in youth, for a close of our days. We all know that we must enter into the tomb. The tempter would in vain say to us, as to our first parents, " Ye shall not die ;" we should not believe him. But he says to us, 4 You shall not die so soon ;' and
almost every one listens to him. Almost every one supposes that his life will be long, and places a wide interval between the present moment and death, which will close his eyes upon the earth. This imaginary interval weakens the impression of death, and makes us careless of preparing to render it happy. Be instructed by the example in the text, and by that of the countless young men whom you have known, who have been cut off in the flower of their days, in the midst of their expectations and their hopes of reaching an advanced old age. Hear, mortals ! hear, dust and ashes, the words of your Lord ! words which are verified by every day's experience : ** Be ye also ready ; for ye know not the hour in which the Son of man shall come." This is not all ; you know not the place, nor the manner in which the Son of man shall come. Let every one, then, say to himself, ' I shall die ; the sentence of death is irrevocable; but when shall it be executed? Will it be when old age has bent my body to the ground ? Will it be in the midst of my course ? Will it be in this year that I shall be laid in the tomb ? Will it be in a month, in a week, in a day ? God of my life! thou alone knowest. I shall die ; but how, or where ? Who can calculate all the avenues to death ? Who can tell which of the arrows of the king of terrors shall pierce my heart ? Every where death takes his stand ; he approaches us in a thousand different
LIFE OF CHRIST. 250 forms, and every where our last hour may sound.' These solemn considerations (and not the less solemn because they are common) should surely incite us to vigilance, should surely lead us to prepare for eternity. You, who have so many years neglected the calls of God ; you, who are occupied only with the festivities and employments of earth;
you, who are still impenitent, may, perhaps, to-morrow lie cold in the grave. And will you be careless and indifferent in such a situation ? Will you waste your time, and neglect your duties, and forget all serious things, when to-morrow you may appear at the bar of God ? 4. Let this history teach us not to love with too much ardour the things of this life. If you have family and personal mercies, be thankful to God for them, and enjoy them. Let your heart be filled with gratitude while you remember, that the continuance of them is no less a favour than the restoration of them would be. But yet fix not your affections inordinately upon any created good ; we know not how soon our dearest comforts may become the occassion of our deepest sorrows. Suffer not your hearts to have an earthly idol, or you prepare for yourselves the keenest woes. Testify to the truth of this, you who, like the widow of ain, have been bereft of your offspring ; ye afflicted Rachels, " who are mourning for your children, and refusing to be comforted, because they are not/' How many dear, but illusive expectations did you form concerning these children ! In how many dreams of the heart did you indulge ! With what confidence did you look forward to the period when you should see them beloved, respected, honoured by their fellow-men ! How did it mitigate the bitterness of apprehended death to believe
25b' SERMOi XL1X. that they would be nigh you, to smooth your dying pillow ; to close your eyes, and receive your last sigh. Have these hopes been all blasted ? They are a true image of all other earthly hopes. Have all your expectations of felicity from them been frustrated ? so will all other expectations which are founded on the
world. Raise then your thoughts above it, and place your affections on those things which can never be taken from you. 5. This history reminds us of that affecting but salutary truth, that the most dear and intimate relations •which we form must be dissolved by death ; and incites relatives and friends so to live that the survivers may not at that solemn moment be overborne with sorrow. Yes, the time is certainly coming, when in anguish you shall see all your mutual affection, all your pleasant intercourse, ending in ghastly looks and in dying pangs ; when one of you shall with grief mark the convulsive struggles of the other; when his hand shall give you the pressure of affection for the last time ; when his final groan shall vibrate on your ear. Oh ! in such a situation what comfort has the surviver except in the hope that the departed friend is happy ; and if he cannot scripturally and rationally entertain this hope, what can exceed his misery ! Oh ! what a sword pierces through the souls of those who weep for wicked, though near relatives and friends ; and who, in looking towards the future, see nothing but what is dark, dismal, and afflictive. Will you, who are careless and irreligious, continue to give this terror to your friends ? When you are sick, they tremble and are in pain ; they fear for two lives at once, that of the body, and the infinitely more important life of the soul. If you die in such a situation, they refuse to be comforted; they esteem
LIFE OF CHRIST. 257 themselves undone, because you have plunged into eternal despair. On the contrary, if they are assured of your pardon and acceptance with God, through Christ, the bitterness of their affliction is removed. If you are sick, they can with comfort go to Christ,
saying, in the language of the sisters of Lazarus, " Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick." If in bidding them farewell, you can say as Christ did to his disciples, " I go, but it is to come again," what a consolation will be left to them ! Since, then, like this widow and her son, we must be separated from each other, and since there must be so great a difference in the friends who survive us, according as we die impenitent or the children of God, let me exhort you, relatives and friends, to live together as heirs of eternal life, uniting your prayers, and giving mutual examples of piety, that so you may fit each other for heaven, and leave a testimony in each other's bosom of your preparation for eternity. Then, whoever of you die first, the parent or the child, the husband or the wife, the brother or the sister, the surviver in imagination can trace you to heaven, and safely lodge you in the embraces of the Saviour. When they have laid your body in the grave, they will be solaced by the sweet hope that your soul is with the redeemed of the Lord, and is waiting to hail them on their deliverance from earth. 6. This history shows us whither we should flee in a season of great affliction. As no physician could restore the widow's son, so none could heal her wounded spirit. But there was one at hand, of whom she little thought, who was able to do both. The same Almighty Deliverer is ever nigh unto us, and calls us to himself when we are bowed down with trouble, Do you say, weeping parent, 4 Oh. that he had beeu vol. ii. 33
258 SERMO L. near when the darlings of our hearts were snatched away from us, and we left them in the dust !' He
was near ; for he holds the keys of death ; by his appointment they were taken from you. He will say unto them at the last day, " Arise," and if they sleep in him, and you devote yourself to him, there shall be a re-union far more rapturous than that between this mother and her son.
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