Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

that there is a Solemn mourning; and there is a Private and Domestical.

(1.) The Solemn is by public indiction of authority. That only Power, that can command our persons, may command our humiliation, and prescribe the circumstances of the performance of it. Nineveh itself had so much divinity, as to know and practice this truth. How strict a proclamation was that of the king of that heathen city; Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water; but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, &c. As for the choice and punctuality of the time, whereto this public mourning must be limited, where shou d it rest, but in the hand of sovereignty; whose wisdom is to be presupposed such, as to pitch upon the meetest seasons for this practice?' It is very remarkable that we find recorded in the case of Israel's public mourning; Neh. viii. 9, 10. Then Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, or governor, and Ezra the priest, the scribe, and the Levites, that taught the people, said unto all the people; This day is holy unto the Lord

your God: mourn not, nor weep: Go your way, eat the fal, and drink the sweet, and send portions to them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord, neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

A consideration, if I may intimate it without presumption, meet to be tendered to our brethren of the neighbour Church, who are wont to cast their public fasts upon the Lord's Day; contrary, no less to the determination of the Councils of the Evangelical Churches, than the practice of the Jewish: for what other is this, but God's Holy-Day? of which we may well take up the words of the Psalmist, This is the day, which the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it. As it would therefore be utterly unseasonable to rejoice in a day of mourning, so must it needs be to mourn in a day of rejoicing

The rites and forms of public mournings may and were wont to vary, according to the usages of several nations and churches. How ceremonious the Jews were in this kind, I need not tell you. Here was rending of garments, girding with sackcloth, muffling of faces, prostration on floors, covering with ashes, howling on the house-tops, cutting and tearing of hair, wringing of hands, and all possible gestures that might express depth of passion: and so much of this is imitable by us, as may in a grave Christian fashion testify our dejection and true sorrow of heart, upon the occasion of public calamities. This solemn humiliation then, being always joined with an afflicting the body by fasting, for deep sorrow doth both take away appetite and disregards nature; so it calls us, for the time, to an absolute forbearance, and neglective forgetfulness of all earthly comforts. In which regard, the Popish mock-fasts, which allow the greatest dainties in the strictest abstinence; and the Turkish, which shut up in an evening gluttony; are no better than hypocritical counterfeits of a religious self-humbling. Those habits then, those discourses or actions, those contentments, which are in

[ocr errors]

themselves perhaps not lawful only but commendable, must now be avoided, as unseasonable, if not sinful. How heinously did the Almighty take this mis-timed pleasure and joility, at the hands of his people the Jews! In that day, saith Isaiah, did the Lord God of Hosts call to weeping and to mourning, and to baldness, and to girding with sackcloth : And, behold joy and gladness; slaying oxen, and killing sheep; eating flesh, and drinking wine : let us eat and drink, for to morrow we shall die. And what was the issue? It was revealed in mine ears by the Lord of Hosts, surely this iniquity shall not be purged from you till ye die, saith the Lord God of Hosts ; Isaiah xxii. 12, 13, 14.

(2.) In matter of Private mournings, every man is allowed to be the arbiter of his own time, place, measure, manner of performance: always so, as that he keep within the just bounds of piety, decency, discreet moderation : as Bernard well adviseth in the like kind, so punishing a rebel, that he do not destroy a subject. Neither can I apprehend any reason, if we entertain a wellgrounded sorrow, why we may not express it: not in a hypocritical way of ostentation, as the vain Pharisees taxed by our Saviour; Matt. vi. 16 : which disfigured their countenances, and did set a sour face upon a light heart, that they might appear unto men to fast ; but in a wise, sober, seemly, unaffected deportment.

To instance in the case of the death of those, to whom we have the dearest relation : there can be no case wherein mourning can be more seasonable: it is no less than a judgment, that God denounceth against king Jehoiakin; They shall not lament for hiin, saying, Ah, my Brother; or, Ah, Sister': they shall not lament for hinn, saying, åh, Lord; or, Ah, his glory; Jer. xxii

. 18. And it was a hard word, that God spake to Ezekiel; Son of man, behold I take away frim thee the desire of thine eyes with a stroke; yet shalt thou neither mourn nor weep, nei'her shall thy tears run down : forbear to cry; make no mourning for the dead, &c. Ezek. xxiv. 16. Lo, such a wife as it might have been, froward, disobedient, unquiet, it had been no greatly dithcult charge to have parted with her: but it seems Ezekiel's was a dear, pleasing, loving consort, even the desire of his eyes, and the comfort of his life; and, therefore, to part with her without tears, must needs be a double grief to his soul.

As, therefore, it is unnatural and inhuman, not to mourn for parents, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, children, friends, so it cannot be unmeet, to testify our mourning even by our outward habit

. I could never see a reason, why it should not be fit to wear blacks upon funeral occasions. Neither piety nor Charity is an enemy to civil ceremonies. This colour and fashion is not indecent, nor justly offensive: so as the mind be free from superstition and over-nice curiosity : such, as Balsac jeers at in his vain French Lady; who ailected to have not her house only, but all the vessels and utensils that belong to it, put into that hue. If you tell me, that the Heathens mourned thus; I must tell you, that all did not so: some nations mourned in white; others, in

[ocr errors]

blue; others, in purple*; and, if all had done so, they are no il patterns in matters of mere civilities. Besides, that, in reason, this colour is most proper for sad occasions: for, as white comes nearest to light, and black to darkness; so we know that light and joy, darkness and sorrow, are commonly used to resemble and express each other.

Well may we then outwardly profess our inward mourning for the dead: but yet, not beyond a due moderation. It is not for us to mourn, as men without hope ; as the Apostle holily adviseth his Thessalonians. Our sorrow must walk in a mid-way, bet vist neg. lect and excess. Sarah was the first, that we find mourned for in Scripture; and Abrahain the first mourner: now the Hebrew Doctors observe, that in Genesis xxiii. 2. where Abraham's mourning is specified, the letter, which is in the midst of that original word that signifies his weeping, is, in all their Bibles, written less than all his fellows; which they, who find mountains in every title of Moses, interpret to imply the moderate mourning of that holy Pa. triarch : surely, he, who was the Father of the Faithful, did, by the power of his faith, mitigate the sorrow for the loss of so dear a partner. Thus much for the Manner of our mourning.

4. Now, forasmuch as it is the mourner in Sion; not in Babylon, whom we look after; in the fourth place, the inseparable CONCOMITANT of his mourning must be his Holy Devotion; whether it be in matter of suffering, or of sin : in both which, our sorrow is illbestowed, if it do not send us so much the more eagerly to seek after our God.

Thus hath the mourning of all holy souls ever been accompanied. The greatest mourner, that we can read of, was Job; who can say, Mly skin is black upon me, and my bones are burni with heat ; Job xxx. 30. How doth be lift up his eyes from his dunghill to heaven; and say, I have sinned, what shall I do to thee, o thou preserver of men! Job vii. 20. The distresses of David and the depth of his sorrows, cannot be unknown to any man, that hath but looked into the Book of God: and what are his divine diuties, but the zealons expressions of his faithful recourses to the Throne of Grace? Good Ezra tells you what he did, when he heard of the general infection of his people with their heathen matches : Having rent my garments and my mantle, I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto the Lord my God; and said, O my God, Í am ashamed, and blush to lift up my face to thee, O my God, for our iniquities are increased over our heads, and our trespass is grown up to the heavens ; Ezra ix. 5, 6. And Daniel, a no less devout mourner than he, lays forth himself in as holy a passion; I set my face unto the Lord God to seek him by prayer and supplications, with fasling, and sackcloth, and ashes ; and I prayed unto the Lord my God, und made my confession, and said; O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them thai love him,

in Alexand, ab Alexandro. Genial, Dierum I. iij. c. 7

and to them that keep his commandments; we have sinned, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments, &c.

Hereupon it is, that prayer is ever joined with fasting in all our humiliations; without which, the emptiness of our maws were but a vain and purposeless ceremony: as that, which was only taken up to whet our devotions, and to give a sharper appetite to pious duties. So as, he, that mourneth and fasteth without praying is as he, that takes the preparative, but refuses the medicine that might bring him health; or, as he, that toils all day in the vineyard, and neglects to call for his wages.

This for the Companion of our mourning.

5. The ATTENDANT of our mourning is, the Good Use that must he made of it, for the bettering of the soul. For, surely, affliction never leaves us as it finds us : if we be not better for our mourning, we are the worse. He is an unprofitable mourner, that improves not all his sorrow to repentance and amendment of life; whether his sin be the immediate object of his grief or his afliction.

And this is both the intention of our Heavenly Father in whipping us, and the best issue of our tears.

Thus it was with his Israel: Their days, saith the Psalmist, did he consume in vanity, and their years in trouble : when he slew them, then they sought him; and they returned, and enquired early after God: and they remembered that God was their Rock, and the High God their Redeemer; Psalm Ixxviii. 33, 34, 35. To the same purpose is that of Jeremiah: In those days, and in thai time, saith the Lord, the children of Israel shall come, they and the children of Judah together, going and weeping, they shall go and seek the Lord their God : they shall ask the way to Sion with their faces thitherward, saying, Come, let us join ourselves to the Lord, in a perpetual covenant, that shall not be forgotten ; Jer. I. 4, 5.

Surely, as he were an annatural parent, that would scourge his child with

any

other purpose, than to correct and amend somewhat amiss in him: so is he no better than an ungracious child, that makes a noise under the rod; but amends not his fault.

Here, then let mine eyes run down with tears, night and day ; and let them not cease, for the obstinate unproficiency of the sons of my mother, under the heavy hand of my God. O Lord, are not thine eyes upon the truth? T'hou hast stricken them ; but they have not grieved. Thou hast consumed them ; but they have refused to receive correction : they have made their faces harder thun a rock ; they have refused to return ; Jer. v. 3. How sadly dost thou complain of us, under the person of thine Israel! In vain have I smitlen your children: they received no correction ; Jer. ij. 30. Notwithstanding all the fair warnings that thou hast given us, we run on resolutely in the course of our wickedness; as if those paths were both safe and pleasing; giving thee just cause to renew thine old complaint against the men of Judah and Jerusalem ; Thus saith the Lord; Behold I frame evil against you, and devise a device

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

against you ; Return ye nou' every one from his evil ways, and make your ways and your doings good and they said, There is no hope ; but we veill walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart ; Jer. xviii. 11, 12. W oe is me! who sees not, that, after all the b.ood that thou hast let out of our veins, we are stili full of the deadly inflammations of pride and maliciousness ? that, after we have drunk so deep of the cup of thy fury, even to the dregs, we cease not to be drunk with the intemperate cups of our beastly excess and, after strict professions of holiness, have run out into horrible blasphemies of thy Sacred Name? So, as we have too just cause to fear, lest thou have de. creed to make good upon us that woeful word, which thy prophet denounced against thy once-no-less-dear people, I will make this land de solate, and a hissing : every one, that passeth thereby, shall be astonished, and hiss, because of all the plagues thereof; Jer. xix. 8.

Hitherto then, I have shewed you the Just Grounds of our Mourning ; Afflictions, Sins, Dangers : and applied them to our own condition. I have shewed you the Due Regulation of our Mourning; in the Quantity, the Quality, the Manner of performing it, the Company that goes with it, and the Train that follows it.

III. What remains now, but that I should labour to PERSUADE YOU ALL TO BE TRUE MOURNERS IN OUR SION?

Were it my work to exhort you to mirth and jollity, the task were both pleasing to undertake and easy to perform : for we all naturally affect to be delighted; yea, I doubt there are too many Christians, that, with the epicure, place their chief felicity in pleasure: but, for sorrow and mourning, it is a sour and harsh thing; unpleasing to the ear, but to the heart more.

But, if, as Christians, we come to weigh both these in the balance of the sanctuary, we shall find cause to take up other resolutions.

Will ye hear what wise Solomon says of the point ? Sorrow, saith he, is better than laughter : And it is better, to go to the house of mourning, than io the house of feasting ; Eccl. vii. 2, 3. Lo, his very authority alone were enough; who, as a great king, had all the world to be his minstrel : but, withal, he sticks not to give us his reason. Why, then, is sorrow better than laughter? For, by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. Look to the effects of both, and you shall easily see the difference: sorrow calls our hearts home to God and ourselves, which are apt to run wild in mirth. Where did you ever see a man made more holy with worldly pleasure ? no; that is apt to debauch him rather: but many a soul hath been bettered with sorrow; for that begins his mortification, recollecting his thoughts to a serious consideration of his spiritual condition, and working his heart to a due remorse for his sin, and a lowly submission to the hand that inflicts

And why should it be better, to go to the house of mouring, than to the house of feasting? For this is the end of all men, and the living shall lay it to his heart. The house of mourning hath

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« PoprzedniaDalej »