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fear, he hath often spoken in vain. Let me, therefore, solemnly charge you, by your veneration for the memory of so excellent a friend, as well as by the authority of God, and the importance of your eternal interests, that you give these things a diligent hearing, a serious recollection, and a religious regard. And indeed, if such a subject, introduced by such a circumstance, will not command them all, I can have very little hopes of impressing you, by what I may say in the course of my ordinary ministry amongst you.
The words of the text are the pathetic lamentation of good old David, on the death of Absalom; a favourite, but wicked son. His pious father had no doubt given him a religious education; and it is very probable, that, considering the remarkable beauty, and gracefulness of his person, he was ready to hope, that he would be endowed with virtuous and holy dispositions of soul, the correspondent beauties of the mind. But these hopes were dreadfully disappointed; for the darling, the beautiful Absalom, proved a murderer and a rebel; he Went in unto his father's concubines, in the sight of all Israel, and openly attempted to take away the life of him, from whom his own was derived, and by whose indulgence he had been spared, even when forfeited to justice. Yet nevertheless David had such paternal tenderness, as, under all these crying provocations, expressly to order the generals of his army, to Deal gently with the young man Absalom, for his saket: But the righteous vengeance of God determined it otherwise, and, notwithstanding all his Father's fond precautions, brought him down to the grave with infamy and blood. He was snatched away by a violent and very terrible death, in the prime of his days, and the very act of his sin; and this was the occasion of those moving words, O my son, Absalom, my son, my son, Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !
We may charitably, and I think very reasonably suppose, that they are not only the expressions of David's natural affection, on the death of a son whom he tenderly loved; but that they arose from the views of that state on which he entered by death, which must certainly be very dreadful; so dreadful that David, whose eternal interests were secure by the promises of an everlasting covenant, would have been willing even by his own death to have delivered him from such complete and such hopeless ruin.
It will be my business from these words,
I. To consider the reflections which may naturally arise in the mind of a pious parent, on the death of a wicked child. And,
II. To draw some inferences from such a survey. Oh! that all, and especially the degenerate children of religious parents, would attend with a becoming seriousness!
I. I am to consider the reflections which may naturally arise in the mind of a pious parent, on the death of a wicked child.
I cannot pretend to enumerate them all, or to describe them in such pathetic language as a bleeding heart will speak itself on so sad an occasion; but probably the chief of them may be such as these.
1. A pious parent will reflect on such an occasion, that his expectation from his child have been sadly disappointed in the past course of his life.
Parents are apt to flatter themselves with fond hopes from their infant offspring; they look upon them as the blossoms of future delight and support. They comfort themselves under the other burthens of life, and the additional cares and labours which a growing family brings upon them, by looking forward to future years, and anticipating the pleasures hereafter to arise from the duty, gratitude, and usefulness of their children, "But alas!" will the good man say; "Could I have seen what this poor creature would have proved, instead of rejoicing in his birth, I should have mourned over it as a calamity to me and my family. I promised myself other things. My heart trembled for him in the various dangers of infancy and childhood. I congratulated myself on his arrival at a more confirmed age. But When I looked that, this pleasant plant should have brought forth grapes, behold, it brought forth wild grapes*. Well did Solomon say, A foolish son is a grief to his father, and a bitterness to her that bare him†: So, alas, have we found. Oh! how often has our authority been affronted, and our love slighted, for a mere trifle? Or when he was treating us better, what a thorn has it been to our very hearts, to think that our child was in a state of spiritual death, and on the borders of that eternal ruin, into which we have reason to fear he is now
fallen. So that with regard to what is past, we have cause to
2. The pious parent reflects with concern on the fruitless pains
"He that searches my heart," will the christian say,
† Gal. iv. 19.
Luke xxiii. 29.
Isa. xlix. 4.
3. That the pious parent, on such an occasion, cannot but deeply reflect on that state of everlasting ruin, into which he has reason to fear that his child is fallen.
"Oh!" will the afflicted christian say, how comparatively light would my sorrows be, if, while I am looking on the breathless corps, and mourning the disappointment of my hopes as to the present life, I could by faith look forward to a world of glory, and see the branch of my family which is cut off from earth, transplanted thither, and flourishing there: Joy would then mingle itself with my parental sorrows, and praises with my tears. But alas! I have reason to apprehend, it was cut down, that it might be cast into the burnings. On the former supposition I might have comforted myself with the thoughts of meeting my child again, of meeting him on terms of infinite advantage, no more to be separated from him. But now alas! I have not only lost my child for a while, but I have lost him for ever; for the unhappy creature died a stranger to God and Christ, and therefore what can I imagine, but that he is fallen into the hands of divine vengeance? Overwhelming thought! While he lived, my bowels yearned for him when he was under any affliction; when I saw him struggling with illness and pain, I pitied him, and I wept over him. Oh, how can I bear to think, that he is now Tormented in that flame*, and that God is pouring forth on him the vials of his wrath! Oh! that the blood of the parent could redeem the soul of the child, how willingly, how gladly, would I part with it! O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son !" But once more,
4. The pious parent cannot but be much distressed in such a circumstance as this, at the thoughts of meeting his child at the tribunal of Christ.
"It would be mournful," may the good man say, "to think that I should see him no more; yet, as the matter now stands, even that would be some alleviation of my distress; But the immutable decrees of God forbid it. I know, that when all The dead, small and great, stand before his throne+, I and my child must appear together there; and Oh! what a dreadful interview will it be! When God committed his education to my care, he did, as it were, put his soul into my hands, and at my hands will he require an account of it. And when he comes to
make the enquiry, what will the issue be? Will my son accuse me, or must I be a witness against him? How terrible an office! To bear my testimony for the condemnation of one whom I tenderly loved, of one whose soul I would have died to deliver! I know I shall not dare to interpose in his favour, and plead the cause of my Saviour's enemy; or if I were so far transported by the fondness of a Father, I should plead in vain. Sooner, much sooner, would the Mountains be removed for me, or the earth carried out of its place, than the sentence of heaven, its final solemn sentence would be repealed. And if it must not be repealed, how shall I bear to hear it pronounced, to see it executed; to hear my own child separated by an everlasting curse from the presence of the Lord, to see the ministers of divine wrath hurrying away the helpless creature, and dragging him down to unquenchable burnings? Oh that, if no shelter must be allowed him, God would hide me in the grave till this tremendous scene of his indignation be overpast; lest the anguish of a parent mingle itself with the joys of a rising saint, and to me overcast the triumphs of the day!" Hardly can a good man refrain from such sentiments as these, though some of them be dictated by passion, rather than by reason.
After this survey of the reflections, which such a sad event might naturally produce, I would proceed to draw some inferences from it; yet I cannot but delay them for a few moments, in compassion to the sorrows of those pious parents, if any such be amongst us, whose case this has been. Are there any of you, christians, that experimentally know the anguish of such thoughts as these? Any of you, that have thus been mourning over your children, when God has on a sudden called them to his bar, with all their follies and sins on their head, without giving you any probable hope, that his grace had first recalled them to himself, and washed their souls in the blood of a Redeemer ?
It grieves me, my friends, to have been forced by a sense of duty, as I have now been, so largely to represent a scene, which must call up your sorrows afresh. But permit me to remind you, that, even in this dreadful circumstance, The consolations of God are not small+. Your hopes in your children have been sadly blasted; but you have hopes in God, your heavenly Father, which nothing can shake. You have reason to fear, their souls are lost; but is it nothing to you to reflect, that your own are given you as a prey? And that though your house be not so with God, as in this respect you