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hearts and consciences of their hearers, and to prepare them to glorify and enjoy God forever.
4. If afflictions are designed and suited to make men realize divine sovereignty; then they always try their hearts, whether they are friendly, or unfriendly to God. While he pours the blessings of providence into their bosoms, and gives them uninterrupted prosperity, they are all apt to think, that they love him in sincerity. But when he treats them as a Sovereign, and visits them with the rod of affliction, then he tries their sincerity. If they are sincere, they will submit to his sovereignty; but if they are insincere, they will hate and oppose it. As God never lets men know, whether he is afflicting them for their own good, or for their neighbour's good, or for their enemies' good, or for the general good; so he always means to try their hearts, and draw forth their benevolent, or selfish feelings. He led his people of old through the wilderness, to try them and see what was in their hearts. And the means he used answered the end he proposed. His friends submitted, but his enemies rebelled. Afflictions always produce these different effects in the hearts of saints and sinners. Those who sincerely love God are willing, that he should answer his own purposes, in casting them into the furnace of affliction. They feel as he feels. He desires to answer the best ends by their afflictions, and they desire the same. They feel that unreserved submission to God, that Job felt when he said, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." But when those who are destitute of grace are afflicted, and realize, that God designs to give them all the pain and anguish they endure, they find that they have a carnal mind, which will not submit to di vine sovereignty. They inwardly say, that he who made them shall not reign over them. They would
fain flee out of his hand. Afflictions equally try the hearts of both the friends and enemies of God, and give them the best opportunity to know what manner of persons they are.
5. If afflictions are designed and calculated to bring the friends of God to a cordial submission to his sove. reignty; then they will eventually do them good. God always makes the means he uses answer the ends, which he intends they shall answer. And he tells us, that he means to teach his people to profit by all his fatherly chastisements. He says, that all things shall work together for good to them that love him. He says, that their light afflictions shall work for them a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. He assures them, that whom he loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. Though real saints sometimes murmur, and complain of God under his chastising hand; yet they finally fall at his feet, submit to his sovereignty, and become partakers of his holiness. Lob alternately submitted and murmured, but at last, he cheerfully and unreservedly submitted to the rectitude and wisdom of the divine conduct towards him, which answered the very 'end, that he had desired and expected in the days of his adversity. In that dark and gloomy season he said, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I canaot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” David gratefully acknowledges, that he had found peculiar benefit from the afflictive hand of God “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes. Before I was aiflicted, I went astray: bụt now I have kept thy
word.” · God has often reclaimed, purified, and comforted his children, by means of sore and heavy afflictions. And it is always to be expected, that they will all eventually find great spiritual advantage from his fatherly chastisements. This the apostle suggests to christians for their consolation under their fiery tr als. “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering aitliction, and of patience. Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.”
Finally, this discourse applies, with peculiar propriety, to the Family and Friends of the late Deacon Gill
We presume, that it was the prayer of every christian, and the desire of every person, in this place, that his languishing health might be restored, and his valuable life might be continued for many years. He was universally and justly beloved. His peaceable disposition, his native modesty, his uniform piety, and his prudent, inoffensive deportment, gained the hearts of this people. Though he was called to act in a variety of civil, military, and religious offices; yet he so manifestly endeavoured to serve God and his generation, that he not only escaped the censure, but secured the esteem and approbation of the publick. But notwithstanding the prayers and desires of his friends and family, God has put a period to his life and usefulness, in the midst of his days. It becomes us to be dumb, and not open our mouths, because he has done it. He has seen better reasons for shortening his life, than we could see for lengthening it out. And, perhaps, his principal design in this instance of mortality was, to bring us to a cordial and unreserved submission to his amiable and absolute sovereignty.
It certainly becomes this Church to be humble and submissive under the sovereign hand of God, who has diminished their number and weakened their strength, by taking away a member and officer, whose service they not only desired, but peculiarly needed. As this circumstance displays the sovereignty of God, so it lays them under peculiar obligations to look to him for his special direction in the path of duty. Let it be their heart's desire and prayer to God, that he would completely repair the breach he has made among them.
Not only the Church, but the People, and especially those in the meridian of life, ought to be deeply affected with the death of a man, whose face they beheld, whose voice they heard, and whose company they enjoyed, with a great deal of pleasure. He has taught them how to live, and how to die. He has left them an example, which they may follow with safety and advantage, by which, though dead, he now speaketh. And whoever will live, as he lived, may hope to die as he died, in favour with God and man.
The bereaved Widow has much occasion to mourn, but not to mourn as those who have no hope. She has ground to believe, that her dear departed Husband has met with the approbation of God, which is infinitely better than the approbation of man. This is a consolation, which ought to melt her heart into gratitude as well as submission, God is giving her an opportunity to realize his sovereignty, and to exercise that supreme affection to him, which she has publickly professed to have. If she will now keep covenant with God, he will keep covenant with her, and grant her covenant mercies. As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. If she will only cast her burdens upon his arm, she may possess
her soul in peace, and humbly hope, that this sore bereavement and fiery trial will work for her a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
The fatherless Children are capable of feeling and duly estimating the great loss they have sustained, by the death of a dear and indulgent Parent. After holding them long in doubtful expectation, God has brought upon them the evil they feared. He has taken away, and they could not hinder him;" and will they now presume to say unto him, “What doest thou?" It becomes them to bow in silent and cordial submission to his holy and righteous sovereignty. They ought to be thankful, that God graciously preserved the life of their Father, until they have come to years of discretion and self-direction. It is now their indispensable duty to remember his instructions and counsels, and to imitate every thing amiable in his character and conduct: God has of late, been striving with them by his Spirit, and he is now striving with them by his Providence. If they will now hear his voice, let them not harden their hearts, but acquaint themselves with him, and be at peace, and thereby good shall come unto them. Amen.