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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 be 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 affliction.
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 lxxviii. 33, 34, 35. To the same purpose is that of Jeremiah: In those days, and in that 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 Zion 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 unnatural parent, that would scourgé his child with
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 than 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 smitten your children: they received no correction ; Jer. ii. 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. against you ; Return ye now every one from his evil ways, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope ; but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart ; Jer. xviii, 11, 12. Woë is me! who sees not, that, after all the blood that thou hast let out of our Teins, we are still 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 decreed to make good upon us that woeful word, which thy prophet denounced against thy once-no-less-dear people, I will make this lard desolate, and a hissing : every one, that passeth thereby, shall be us onished, 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 cone to weigh both these in the balance of the sanctuary, we shall find cause to take
Will ye hear what wise Solomon says of the point ? Sorror', saith he, is better than laughter : And it is better, to go to the house of mourning, than to 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 bis sin, and a lowly submission to the hand that inflicts it. And why should it be better, to go to the house of mourning, than to the house of feasting? For this is the end of all men, and the living shal lay it to his heart. The house of mourning hath
here principally respect to a funeral. The death, which is lamented for, being the end of all Aesh, a man is, here and thus, put feelingly in mind of his mortality; which, in a house of feasting and jollity, is utterly forgotten. “By how much, then, it is better for a man to have his heart kept in order by the meditation of death, than to run wild after worldly vanity ; by so much, is the house of mourning better than the house of feasting.
But, if this be not persuasive enough, hear what a greater than Solomon says; Blessed are they that mourn ; Matth. v. 4. Lo, he, that is the author, and the owner, and giver of blessedness, tells you where he bestows it, even upon the mourners. Did ye ever hear him say, “ Blessed are the frolic and jovial ?” Nay, do ye not hear him say the contrary; Woe be to you that laugh nowe ? Luke vi. 25. And though he needed not, whose will is the rule of all justice and paramount to all reason; yet, he is pleased to give you the reason of both; Blessed are they that mourn, for they shull. be comforted; and woe be to you that laugh now, for ye shall mourn
Lo, joy, and comfort, is the end of mourners; and mourning, and weeping, is the end of mirth and laughter.
O Saviour, give me leave to wonder a little at this contrariety. That, to which the blessing is promised, which is mourning, is made the curse of laughter and joy: for they shall mouri, that rejoiced ; and yet, they that mourn shall rejoice.
Is it not partly for that necessary vicissitude, which thon, in thine infinite wisdom, hast set of joy and mourning? So as no man can be always capable of both these : but he, that rejoiceth, must have his turn of mourning, as Abraham told the rich glutton in his torment; and he, that mourneth, must have a time of rejoicing:
Or, is it for the great difference, that there is of the several kinds of mourning and joy? For, as there is a natural joy and sorrow, which is neither good nor evil, but in itself indifferent: so there is a carnal sorrow and joy, which is evil; and a spiritual joy and sorrow, which is good : there is a temporal sorrow and joy, ive terchanged here; and there is an eternal joy or sorrow, reserved for hereafter. So then hath thine infinite justice and wisdom disa tributed thy rewards and punishments, that the carnal and sinful joy is recompensed, with eternal sorrow and mourning; the holy and spiritual mourning, with eternal joy and blessedness.
Do we then desire to be blessed? We must mourn. Do we desire to have all tears wiped hereafter from our eyes ? we must not then have our eyes dry here below.
And, surely, did we know how precious our tears are in the account of the Almighty, we would not be niggardly of those peni. tent drops. These, these, if we know not, are so many orient pearls laid up in the cabinet of the Almighty; which he makes such store of, that he books their number for an everlasting remembrance; and, lest one tear should be spilt, he reserves them ell-in his bottle; Psalm Ivi. 8: Do we not remember, that he hath promised a happy and glorious barvest for a wet seed-time! that, those, which sow in tears, shall reap in joy? that every grain, which we sow in this gracious rain, shall yield us a sheaf of blessedness? Psalm cxxvi. 5, 6. If then we believe this unfailable word of truth, who would not be content to mourn awhile, that be may rejoice for ever? Oh the madness of carnal hearts, that choose to purchase the momentary pleasure of sin, with everlasting torments; while we are hardly induced to purchase everlasting pleasures, with some minutes' mourning!
Neither is it the pleasure of the Almighty, to defer the retributory comforts of his mourners till another world. Even here, is he ready to supply them with abundant consolations. The Sweet Singer of Israel was experimentally sensible of this mercy : In the multilude of the sorrow's of my heart, thy comforts have refreshed my soul ; Psalm xciv. 19. Neither was the Chosen Vessel any whit behind him, in the experience and expression of this gracious indulgence of the Almighty: Blessed be God, saith he, een the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Mercies; and the God of all Comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort them, which are in any trouble, by the comforts, wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God; 2 Cor. i. 3, 4. What do I stand to instance in the persons of some special favourites of heaven? It is the very office of the Messiah, the perfect Mediator betwixt God and man, To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn in Zion ; to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heariness; Isaiah Ixi. 2, 3. So as all God's faithful ones may cheerfully espect the performance of that cordial promise, which the God of Truth had made to his Israel; Their soul shall be as a watered garden ; and they shall not sorrow any more at all. Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance ; both young men and old together' : for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow : Jer. xxxi. 12, 13.
But, if the justice of God have been so highly provoked by the sins of a particular nation, as that there is no remedy but the threatened judgments must proceed against them; remember what charge Ezekiel tells you was given to the man clothed in linen, that had the writer's inkhorn by his side : The Lord said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the inidst of Jerusalem ; and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men, that sigh and that cry for all the abominations, that be done in the midst thereof; Ezek is 3, 4.
Lo, these marked Jews owe their life to their tears. If they had not wept for their fellows, they had bled with their fellows. If their sighs could not save their people from slaughter, yet they have saved themselves: their charitable mourning is recompensed with their own preservation.
Oh then, my Brethren, as we desire the joys of another world, and as we tender our own comfort and safety in this, let us not be sparing of our tears. Let them flow freely out, for our own sins first, and then for the sins of our people. Let not our mourning he perfunctory and fashionable ; but serious, hearty, and zealous : so as that we may furrow our cheeks with our tears. Let our de votions, that accompany our mourning, be fervent and importunate, as those that would otter a kind of holy force to heaven ; wrestling with the Angel of the Covenant for a blessing : let our amendment, which should be the effect of our mourning, be really conspicuous to the eyes both of God and men. And, finally, that our mourning may be constant and effectual, let us resolve to make it our business; and, for that purpose, let us solemnly vow to set apart some time of each day for this sad, but needful task. And, which is the main of all, since the public is most concerned in this duty, Oh that the trumpet might be blown in Zion, fasts sanctified, solemn assemblies called ; that the ministers of the Lord, as the chief mourners, might weep aloud in God's sanctuary; and say, Spare thy people, O Lord, and give not thine heritage to reproach; wherefore should the enemies of thy Church say among the people, Where is their God? Joel ii. 15, 16, 17. This were the way to reconcile our offended God; to divert his dreadful judgments; to restore us to the blessings of peace; and to cause the voice of joy and gladness to be once again heard in our land.