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Their condition was one of great loneliness, and deep commiseration was excited by it, not only in Bethany where they lived, but in the great city close at hand. Many of the Jews from Jerusalem, not content with sending a message of condolence, hastened themselves to the spot. They came, moved with a true pity, to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.
And this forms, as I have said, a pleasing contrast to the usual mention of the Jews by the Evangelists. Let us remember it in their favour. Let us remember that men so hard, so worldly, so absorbed in self-interest, as the Jews were in our Lord's day, had still that “ touch of nature" in them which makes us all akin-could feel for the afflicted in their bereavement, and could give up their business and time to go to the house of mourning.
Let us, I say, remember this in our estimate of the Jews; and let us learn from them to be of quick sympathy with sorrow, and not to regard trouble or personal convenience, if by going to their homes we can in the least degree bring solace to our brethren in their affliction.
But it is not only for the favourable light which it throws upon the Jews, that I have taken the verse before us for a text this morning, but for a purpose more close to ourselves.
I would take occasion from it to speak some words of Christian comfort to some of our company, and such as the present circumstances seem to require.
After being many weeks without a single death amongst us, we have seen, within the last few days, the unusual spectacle in this parish of two funerals on the
same day. Another of our number is, I am informed, even now dead.
There must be many whom these losses have plunged in grief—there may be some of them now present. We must wish you as well as I, brethren-not to add to their distress, but, if we may, in some sort help to lessen it.
Nature prompts to do this. The sorrow under which they labour is pre-eminently a common sorrow. It is their's to-day, it may be our's to-morrow. And then God's word enjoins it on us—God's word says, Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Remember them that are in bonds as bound with them ; and them that suffer adversity as being yourselves also in the body.
Let me, then, suggest some topics of comfort for those of you who are in affliction. And may He Who is the God of comfort be with us, and comfort those who are cast down! and cause the present chastening to yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby!
And first, a very obvious source of comfort to us, when suffering under the loss of friends, will often arise from considering their age.
They who die quite in infancy_before they have done any evil, must be counted happy—“It is certain,” says our Church at the end of the Baptismal service, “ by God's word that children which are baptized, dying before they commit actual sin, are undoubtedly saved.”
Let the parents think of this, who mourn their little one prematurely cut off. Is it not well if the child be “ undoubtedly saved ?”.
If it has lost the good of a longer life in this world and I would not underrate the value of human life—if it has lost the sweetest part of human life, its childish years, has it not also lost the evils of life-sickness, pain, sorrow, separation-trials of every kind ? More than all, has it not escaped all peril to its soul ? is it not already there where no harm can reach it? Can any subtlety of devil or man pluck it from its heavenly Father's hand ?
You say that you know this—that you admit it—but still, it is hard to part—that the child was very dear to you—that you cannot be reconciled to losing it.
But to this let me reply-many things to our seeming are hard which a wise and merciful God appoints for us to bear. But we shall find the load lighter if we remember that He does not willingly afflict us—not without a purpose.
A child's death has often ere now proved the very life of its parents! God has made it in its little grave speak words of exhortation, and press home, as no other preacher could have done, the great truths on which salvation hangs—repentance towards Himself, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Again-look at death under other circumstanceswhen it occurs as the termination of a severe and longcontinued illness.
There is nothing more mysterious than the difference between man and man in dying. Some are released from the burden of the flesh with little or no pain at all. Some are well to within a few hours, even moments of their death, and then die seemingly without a pang. Others have, in leaving this life, to pass through the acutest sufferings.-Wearisome days and wearisome nights are appointed them. They realize the words of the afflicted patriarch— When I lie down I say, When shall I arise and the night be gone? I am full of tossings to and fro, unto the dawning of the day. Nor is it restlessness only that tries them—sometimes these long watchings are filled with terrible pangs of agony—sometimes so heavy, so intolerable are the sufferings, that the poor wounded soul cries out, How long, 0. Lord, how long ? and craves for death as the dearest boon.
And in such cases, when at length the prayer is heard, and death is sent, shall we count it anything but a mercy ? Shall we, though the sufferer be very dear to us, very closely allied to us, wish to keep him or her with us at the cost of a lengthened agony ? Shall we wish to protract for a single hour, beyond what is allotted to them, such piteous suffering ? Shall we not rather give God thanks because it is over- because it hath pleased Him to deliver our brother out of his miserybecause the pains of his long dying are ended ?
Indeed, I think we shall. It would be cruel and sel-' fish to do otherwise-cruel and selfish to wish the final stroke delayed when recovery, humanly speaking, has long ceased to be possible—when the pains are continuous and the wound incurable.
But if it be a consolation to us under such sad circumstances, that the friend we love is out of her misery—if it soothe us to think of her, not as we have seen her for months past, racked with agony, but as she was when she fell asleep—when the “long disquiet” was “merged”
in perfect “rest” —how much more may we be comforted where we have good reasons to hope that the rest is a blessed rest—that the sleep is sleep in the Lord !
I would ever speak with the utmost caution on what is hid from our eyes--on the state of a departed soulbut I trust there is no over-boldness, in counting one happy, whose life shewed many marks of walking humbly with her God-who, as I have been told, did her duty well; was faithful in her trust, well reported of by all who knew her, diligent in the work she had to do—who
— and to this I can bear witness myself—when it pleased God to afflict her, bent obediently to His will murmured not, nor set her mind on getting well, but betook herself to religious duties-duties to which while still in health she had been no stranger—to prayerto the reading of God's word, to the receiving of the Holy Sacrament.
I think it no presumption, as I have said, to call one who so lived and died happy. She has, we believe, through the mercy of our God and Saviour, on Whom her trust was built an inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Him. She is one of those who have come out of great tribulation. For her we humbly trust, a day of joy has dawned after a night of heaviness. From her, the former things, death, sorrow, crying, pain, have for once and for ever passed away!
But if this be so, what room is there for over much sorrow ? Surely, as we have seen, there is in the circumstances of this particular death, whether we look at the terrible illness to which it was the close, or to the Christian character of the sufferer, much that may con