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TO YOUNG PERSONS.
The Reflections of a pious Parent, &c.
2 Sam. xviii. 33. And the King was much moved, and went up to the Cham
ber over the Gate, and wept : And as he went, thus he said; O my Son Absalom, my Son, my Son Absalom ! Would God I had died for thee, O Absulom, my Son, my Son !
S address myself to young persons, so the words I have been reading suggest some very awful thoughts, which are well suited to such an occasion. And there is one circumstance, relating to this discourse which I cannot forbear mentioning to you, because I hope it may be a means of engaging a more than common attention to it, from the auditory to which I am now speaking*.
It is this: The substance of the sermon which I am now to deliver, was drawn up some time ago, at the desire of your late reverend and worthy pastor Mr. Jennings, and preached to a society of young persons, then under his charget. The text was chosen by him; and his tender and obliging care to assist bis pupils in their first labours, engaged him to draw the plan of the discourse, and to furnish me with several of the most important thoughts which I am now to offer,
So that, I think, I may properly say, that though your eyes will no more see him, nor your ears any more hear his persuasive voice, which has so frequently, and so affectionately, addressed you from this place, yet this day by me, He being dead, yet speaketht, speaks to you young persons; to many of whom, I
* This sermon was preached at Kibworth in Leicestershire, towards the beginning of the year 1725, about eighteen months after the death of the Rev. Mr. John Jennings, who had long been minister there, and was author of those excellent discourses on preaching Christ, and experimental preaching, which have met with such great acceptance at home and abroad. 7 At Hinckley, May 7, 1723,
Heb. xi. 4.
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.
* 2 Sam. xvi. 22.
4 2 Sam. xviii. 5.
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 ex
pectation 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 ;
6. 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 himt: 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 say, Blessed, in comparison of us, are the barren, that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck*.” These thoughts will be aggravated, when in the next place, 2. The pious parent reflects with concern on the fruitless pains
he has taken for the reformation and conversion of his child.
“ He that searches my heart,” will the christian say, “ is witness, that next to its concern for my own salvation, it knows not a more affectionate wish than this, That Christ might be fornied in the soul of my childrent; That how little soever of this world I could give them, they might be the children of God, and the heirs of glory. And with relation to this unhappy creature, I was not entirely wanting in such endeavours as lay in my power. What knowledge of the things of God I myself had, I was willing to communicate to him; I urged them seriously upon him; I frequently reminded him of them; and, to supply the defects of my personal instructions, I put the book of God into his hands, and engaged him in an early and constant attendance on public ordinances. When I saw him wandering in the paths of folly and sin, I endeavoured to convince him of the fatal consequences of such courses, and in the most affectionate manner to dissuade him from them. I have again and again urged him to pray for himself ; and I have frequently been praying for him. I have desired that he might be remembered in our worshipping assemblies; I have borne him on my heart before God in the family and the closet, and God alone knows with what overflowing tenderness. How importunately have I pleaded, and how unwilling have I been to take any denial ! But alas ! all my prayers and my tears have heen like water spilt on the ground ; and in all the endeavours I have been using for his conversion and salvation, I have been labouring in vain, and spending my time and my strength for noughts. Nay, as to bim, it has proved worse than in vain ; for every instruction, and every correction, every reproof, and every prayer, has aggravated his guilt, and increased his misery ; so that on the whole, while I thought I was acting the kindest and most affectionate part, I was only treasuring up for my child aggravated wrath and damnation. But this leads me to add,
• Luke xxiii. 29.
+ Gal. iv. 19.
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 thronet, 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