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Look to Absalom: and if you see in his character every thing, which as men you ought to abhor; and in his end, every thing, which as Christians you ought to dread, remember this history was written for your instruction. Learn from an example so awful, to check the first approaches to that licentious indulgence, which, in its progress, seldom fails to undermine the principle of filial duty. Learn to counteract the very first motions of an undutiful and rebellious temper, lest, in gathering strength, they should lead to atrocities, at the very thought of which, your souls would now revolt. No man ever became an Absalom at once. But when the ties of filial duty are broken in one instance, you may soon be tempted to a second transgression : and if you once lose the fear of wounding a parent's feelings, in things of inferior moment, you may come imperceptibly to disregard them, in those matters which more deeply concern both him and yourselves. You cannot be charged with any thing that bears even a distant resemblance to the guilt of Absalom. God forbid you ever should ! If I know any thing of your present feelings, not all the thrones of Europe, not all the pleasures which the union of wealth and power could purchase, could tempt you, either in life or death, to plant such daggers in that bosom, into which you are bound, by all the ties of nature and religion, to pour the sweetest balm of filial affection. What! would you hazard, for any temporary indulgence, the awful possibility of leaving the world, your souls weighed down and agitated, with the consciousness of embittering the grief of your parents by an unhallowed and a hopeless end ? You shrink with horror from the very idea. Keep then at a distance from every temptation, that night excite their uneasiness for the present, or their apprehension for the future. Your youth does not secure you from the shafts of death. You know not how speedily, how unexpectedly, these shafts may reach you. Is it not then the desire of your heart, that in living to God and virtue your latter end may be peace ? nay, that you may not only be safe yourselves, but that those who have the deepest interest in your safety may be comforted for your loss by the assurance, that they shall meet you spotless and without rebuke, in that world, where nothing can occur either to diminish affection or to interrupt enjoyment?
Children should be warned and awed by the profigacy and the end of Absalom. Parents should learn wisdom from the fondness and the grief of David. If they would escape those feelings of anguish, which he experienced, they must avoid that partiality and that excess of indulgence, which are so apt to nourish the baneful weeds of arrogance and obstinacy. They must guard with care against those dangerous predilectious, which a comely form and winning manners insensibly awaken. Children possessing these qualities, are even without encouragement, too prone to self-conceit. But, if they once perceive, that such qualities excite vanity and produce favouritism, in a parent, the mischief is infinitely aggravated. For it requires more humility and more wisdom than fall to the share of the young,
to resist that pride of heart, which such a discovery tends to foster, or to refrain from the abuse of that indulgence, which such partiality encourages them to expect. Therefore whenever you feel this partiality growing, and are tempted by it to concede too much to the demands of youthful passions, think of David's bitter tears, and check the impulses of that excessive fondness, which, though amiable in its source, too often becomes dreadful in its consequences. Counteract the weakness of nature both in yourselves and your children, in the only way in which it can be counteracted with effect. Invigorate by precept and example, those principles of religion which are the only sure check upon the growth of evil inclinations; which being once deeply rooted in the mind, will render the parent cautious, the child submissive and affectionate, and both anxious, that by living to God and goodness here, they may live together, with God and good men hereafter. Be our love to our children ever so tender, if it look not to this great result, it fails in its most important office; and if, through the want of religious and moral culture on our part, there should be on theirs a want of that faith and holiness, without which no man can see the Lord, how would the thought embitter our sorrow in those moments of deprivation and affliction, which every parent may expect to see! For let us not vainly suppose, that our children are given us as a permanent possession. All of them may, and some of them probably will, be carried to an early grave. Happy they, and happy we, if instead of mourning over them with hopeless
despondency, as David did over Absalom, we can sweeten the cup of sorrow with the cheering cordial of Christian hope! Happy, if we lament not the untimely fate of the debauched, the rebellious, the profane; but that early worth, that filial tenderness, that unspotted purity, which gave the promise of excellence in this world, and is gone uncorrupted to that place, where the seed, thus sown, will bear fruit an hundred fold. Have you lost such children, young, virtuous, amiable? Nature bids you weep, and let the voice of nature be obeyed. I like neither the philosophy which forbids tears, nor the over-refinement which is too much afraid of exciting them. They are at once the dictate and the relief of sorrow. And when the Saviour has wiped them away by his great and precious promises, we are enabled to say, in the composure of resignation,
Why art thou cast down, O my soul; why art thou disquieted within me? Trust in the Lord, and return to thy rest. The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.”
Be this the language of those who now mourn in Zion. Your loss may be great, your
may be deep; but how readily would David have parted with his crown for such a grief, accompanied with such consolations! You have lost a child; but, blessed be God, you have not lost an Absalom-not a child snatched from you with rebellion in his heart and impious arms in his hands; but a child affectionate and good, whose dying bed has been tended and soothed by maternal affection, and who is now lamented for the loss of early virtue, not from
any apprehension about his future happiness. Whilst, therefore, we shed the tear of a reasonable regret, let us be thankful to God, that religion does not call forth the bitter tears of an awful despair. The desire of our eyes is taken from us; let us rejoice that there is no darkness, nor shadow of death, which can take from the eye of faith those visions of future glory which reconcile the heart to all the dispensations of heaven, and to all the troubles of our weary pilgrimage. If the young have escaped from these troubles before us, why should we envy them this happy preference? They are with Christ. Let us follow them in faith, desire, and expectation. Let the experience of disappointed fondness teach us to moderate even our innocent attachments; and let every attachment be kept subordinate to that duty which we owe to God, and that preparation for heaven which we owe to ourselves. As children, let us cherish filial love; it is the best image of piety, and the first step to the practice of all the social virtues. Let us think of our latter end; it is probably very
Are we endeavouring so to live that it may be peaceful and happy? that we may leave among our friends no regrets of which virtue needs to be ashamed; no grief but that which nature prompts, and which religion may approve? As parents, let us bring up our children in the nurture and adınonition of the Lord: then, if they live, they will live with usefulness and reputation; and if they die, we shall be comforted with the assurance, that they sleep in Christ, and will appear among those, whom Christ shall bring with him to the mansions of eternal rest.