I KNOW you will say, that it is inexpressibly grievous and painful, to part with Children who were grown up into most amiable Friends, who were your Companions in the Ways of GOD, and concerning whom you had a most agreeable Prospect, that they would have been the Ornaments and Supports of Religion in the rising Age, and extensive Blessings to the World, long after you had quitted it. These Reasonings have, undoubtedly, their Weight; and they have so, when considered in a very different View. Must you not acknowledge it is well, that you enjoyed so many Years of Comfort in them? that you reaped so much solid Satisfaction from them? and saw those Evidences of a Work of Grace upon their Hearts, which give you such abundant Reason to conclude that they are now received to that Inheritance of Glory, for which they were so apparently made meet? Some of them, perhaps, had already quitted their Father's House: As for others, had GOD spared their Lives, they might have been transplanted into Families of their own: And if, instead of being removed to another House, or Town, or County, they are taken by GOD into another World, is that a Matter of so great Complaint; when that World is so much better, and you are yourselves so near it? I put it to your Hearts, Christians, Would you rather have chosen to have buried them in their Infancy, or never to have known the Joys and the Hopes of a Parent, now you know the Vicissitude of Sorrow, and of Disappointment? But perhaps, you will say, that you chiefly grieve for that Loss which the World has sustained by the Removal of those, from whom it might reasonably have expected so much future Service. This is, indeed, a generous, and a Christian Sentiment, and there is something noble in those Tears which flow on such a Consideration. But do not so remember your Relation to Earth, as to forget that which you bear to Heaven; and do not so wrong the Divine Wisdom and Goodness, as to suppose, that when he takes away from hence promising Instruments of Service, he there lays them by as useless. Much more reasonable is it to conclude, that their Sphere of Action, as well as Happiness, is inlarged, and that the Church above hath gained incomparably more, than that below can be supposed to have lost by their Death.
ON the whole, therefore, far from complaining of the Divine Conduct in this Respect, it will become you, my Friends, rather to be very thankful that these dear Children were spared so long; to accompany and entertain you in so many Stages of your short Journey thro' Life, to answer so many of your Hopes, and to establish so many more beyond all Fear of Disappointment. Reflect on all that GOD did in, and upon them, on all he was beginning to do by them, and on what you have great Reason to believe he is now doing for them; and adore his Name, that he has left you these dear Memorials, by which your Case is so happily distinguished from ours, whose Hopes in our Children withered in the very Bud; or from theirs, who saw those who were once so dear to them, perishing, as they have Cause to fear, in the Paths of the Destroyer.
BUT while I speak thus, methinks I am alarmed, lest I should awaken the far more grievous Sorrows of some mournful Parent, whom it will not be so easy to comfort. My Brethren and Friends, what shall I say to you, who are lamenting over your Absaloms, and almost wishing you had died for them[m]? Shall I urge you to say it is well? Perhaps you may think it a great Attainment, if, like Aaron, when his Sons died before the Lord, you can hold your Peace[n], under the awful Stroke. My Soul is troubled for you; my Words are almost swallowed up. I cannot unsay what I have elsewhere said at large on this melancholy Subject[*]. Yet let me remind you of this, that you do not certainly know what Almighty Grace might do for these lamented Creatures, even in the latest Moments, and have therefore no Warrant confidently to pronounce that they are assuredly perished. And if you cannot but tremble in the too probable Fear of it, labour to turn your Eyes from so dark a Prospect, to those better Hopes which GOD is setting before you. For surely you still have abundant Reason to rejoice in that Grace, which gives your own Lives to you as a Prey, and has brought you so near to that blessed World, where, hard as it is now to conceive it, you will have laid aside every Affection of Nature, which interferes with the Interests of GOD, and prevents your most chearful Acquiescence in every Particular of his wise and gracious Determinations.