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OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH OF MRS. LAKE (THE
WHO DIED IN NOVEMBER, 1774.
Heb. iv. 9.
And it is well there doth; for otherwise the la. bours and sufferings of this present life would beutterly insupportable. " Man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward ;" but some have a greater share than others: we read (Rev. vii. 14) of some, that were advanced to stations of distinguished eminence in heaven, standing before the throne of God in white robes, and with palms in their hands; and find that these were persons " who had come out of great tribulation.” The bitter cup goes round, and all must taste it in their turn; but few drank oftener, or deeper, of it, than the deceased. She seemed to be set up as a public monument of the rebukes of Providence and the triumphs of grace. And as there is something in her history so singularly afflictive, so crowded with sorrow upon sorrow, I may venture, on such an occasion, to give you a sketch of it.
When the first breach was made in her family, which is now about three years ago, the suddenness of the stroke could not but give a momentary
shock; but, at the same time, to see one, the most timorous of all her children, meet death so calmly; take leave of father and mother, brothers and sisters, and her most intimate friends, with so much composure; and go out of the world smiling and singo ing; no one wondered, that, in such circumstances, the mother should be resigned to the translation.
But when, after an interval of only six months, a second child was called for, and that too a son, in all the bloom of youth, and at a time when brighter prospects were opening upon him, when he died, some envied her the honour of being the mother of one so early ripe for heaven; others wondered how she could survive the loss : but you all know how meekly she kissed the rod that struck her favourite dead; how she enjoyed his triumph over death, and joined with us in shouting " Thanks be to God, who gave him the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
She had but just time to look about her, and reckon up the children she had left-only six months-and Death knocked at her door again, and a third child was summoned away !-and, at the same time, a strong intimation given that he (Death) should soon be with her again. And so indeed he was :-only five months, and her husband left her to sigh out the widow's complaint: “Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness."
Now, one would have thought, Death should have had enough out of one family, and that she might have been permitted to enjoy the small remainder in peace. But no such thing. It hath been an old saying, “Cruel as Death, insatiable as
the grave: and now we see those characters were not given them for nothing ; for, notwithstanding all the precious morsels she had thrown it, the Grave opened its meagre mouth, and cried give, give, with as much greediness and impatience as if she had never given it any thing; and all the favour she could obtain was a respite of only twelve months, and then a fourth child was arrested and quickly hurried off!
You will easily suppose that all this could not be without great fatigue of body, as well as distress of mind ; for, except the first and last, all the rest were several months a dying; and many a busy day, and many a wearisome night, was appointed to her during the tedious progress of their disease. However, she bore it all to admiration, and was a fresh proof of the truth and sweetness of that promise: “ As thy days, so thy strength shall be.” (Deut. xxxiji. 25.) But when her nursing and burying work was over, and she had no more sick children to care for, she sickened herself, and quickly perceived that she now wanted that attendance which she had been so long accustonied to give.
Her spirits failed; her strength failed ; “ heart and flesh failed;" and, like a labourer after a hard day's work, she sat down, rejoicing that bed-time was so near: for, in her busiest and most gloomy hours, this was her support, and this her song in the house of her pilgrimage ;
" There remaineth a rest to the people of God.”
These words hold up to us these two general obe' servations--viz.
I. That this world is usually a state of labour and suffering to the people of God.
II. That the world to come is a state of rest and recompence.
But before we enter on the particulars, either of their griefs or joys, it may be right to ascertain their character. Our text says, “ There remaineth a rest for the people of God.” Who are they? It is proper to know, because to all but them there “remaineth nothing but a certain fearful looking for of wrath and fiery indignation to devour them.” The people of God are so denominated,
1. From God's property in theni,
“ The Lord's portion is his people, and Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” (Deut. xxxii. 9.) This was an appellation formerly peculiar to the Jews, whom the Lord was pleased, in awful sovereignty, to single out from the rest of the world, and form into a state, where he himself condescended to be their judge, their lawgiver, and their king: and this not on account of any superior worthiness in them beyond their neighbour nations: the contrary was notorious ;-but hear God's own account of the matter : “ For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto him, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people. ( for ye were the fewest of all people ;) but because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.” (Deut. vii. 6.-8.) And from that time the divine favour was
in a manner confined to the Jewish nation, and all the world besides were considered, or rather neglected, as outcasts and aliens. But now “ the middle wall of partition is broken down," and there is no more distinction of Jew and Greek ; now, all that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and embrace and obey his Gospel, are the people of God. ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. ii. 9.) The people of God, then, are those whom the Lord hath set apart for himself; whom he claims as his own, to command and dispose of as he pleases. They also are distinguished,
2. By their conformity to God.
“ The carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” There is, in every unrenewed heart, an aversion to the strict and universal holiness which the law of God requires. Our lips are our own,' say they ; ' who is Lord over us ? As for the word which thou hast spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee, but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth.' And so they do. Look at them when you will, you see them walking after the ways of their own heart, and the sight of their own eyes, making provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof. But it is the sure criterion of the people of God, that they delight in the law of the Lord after the inner man :
Thy law is holy, therefore thy servant loveth it.' (Ps.cxix. 140.) They hate every false way; volun: tarily swear allegiance to the Prince of Peace ; and