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tender mercy, and repenteth him of the evil, fix these things in your hearts, and water the seed he hath sown with the dew of Heaven! May he correct whatsoever he seeth amiss in us! May he supply whatsoever is wanting! May he perfect that which is according to his Will; and so establish, strengthen, and settle us, that this place may again be a faithful City to her Lord, yea, the praise of the whole earth!
JUNE 24, 1741.
THE Reader will observe, that the following Sermons were written, and most of them preached soon after Mr. Wesley's Ordination, while he was yet young, and but very imperfectly acquainted with the genuine Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nevertheless it is judged proper to subjoin them to the preceding; 1st, In order to gratify those of his friends who wish to see a complete Edition of his Sermons; 2dly, Because although they do not exhibit the grand and distinguishing doctrines of the Gospel in that luminous and convincing point of view, in which they are set forth in the preceding Discourses, written after he became savingly acquainted with vital Christianity; yet it is hoped that the important truths which they contain will prove edifying to every unprejudiced Reader: a 3d reason for publishing them is, That while they manifest his great sincerity and zeal in pursuit of the religion of the Bible, they show also, taken in the order in which they were written and in which they here appear, how his mind was gradually opened more and more to the whole truth as it is in Jesus; so that when he wrote the last of them, preached before the University of Oxford, after his return from Georgia in the year 1736, he was evidently acquainted with the nature and necessity of Regeneration by the Spirit of God, and was on the point of entering into the liberty of his Children through faith in Christ Jesus. LONDON, June 22, 1808.
The following Sermon of Mr. Wesley, was preached at Epworth, Jan, 11, 1726, at the Funeral of John Griffith, a hopeful young Man, Son of one of his Parishioners,
2 SAMUEL XII. 23.
"Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him; but he shall not return to me."
THE resolution of a wise and good man, just recovering the use of his reason and virtue, after the bitterness of soul he had tasted, from the hourly expectation of the death of a
beloved son, is comprised in these few, but strong words. He had fasted and wept, and lay all night upon the earth, and refused, not only comfort, but even needful sustenance, whilst the child was still alive, in hopes that God would be gracious, as well in that, as in other instances, and reverse the just sentence he had pronounced: when it was put in execution, in the death of the child, he arose and changed his apparel, having first paid his devotions to his Great Master, acknowledging, no doubt, the mildness of his severity, and owning, with gratitude and humility, the obligation laid upon him, in that he was not consumed, as well as chastened by his heavy hand; he then came into his house, and behaved with his usual composure and cheerfulness. The reason of this strange alteration in his proceedings, as it appeared to those who were ignorant of the principles upon which he acted, he here explains, with great brevity, but in the most beautiful language, strength of thought, and energy of expression: "Now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me."
To what end, (saith the resigned mourner,) should I fast, now the child is dead? Why should I add grief to grief, which being a volunteer, increases the affliction I already sustain? Would it not be equally useless to him and me? Have my tears or complaints the power to refix his soul in her decayed and forsaken mansion? Or, indeed, would he wish to change, though the power were in his hands, the happy regions of which he is now possessed, for this land of care, pain, and misery? O vain thought! Never can he, never will he return to me: be it my comfort, my constant comfort, when my sorrows bear hard upon me, that I shall shortly, very shortly go to him! That I shall soon awake from this tedious dream of life, which will soon be at an end; and then shall I gaze upon him: then shall I behold him again, and behold him with that perfect love, that sincere and elevated affection to which even the heart of a parent is here a stranger! When the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from my eyes; and the least part of my
happiness shall be, that the sorrow of absence shall flee away!
The unprofitable and bad consequences, the sinful nature of profuse sorrowing for the dead, is easily deduced from the former part of this reflection: in the latter, we have the strongest motives to enforce our striving against it; a remedy exactly suited to the disease: a consideration, which duly applied, will not fail, either to prevent this sorrow, or rescue us from this real misfortune.
Grief, in general, is the parent of so much evil, and the occasion of so little good to mankind, that it may be justly wondered how it found a place in our nature. It was, indeed, of man's own, not of God's creation; who may permit, but never was the author of evil. The same hour gave birth to grief and sin, as the same moment will deliver us from both. For neither did exist before human nature was corrupted; nor will it continue when that is restored to its ancient perfection.
Indeed in this present state of things, that wise Being, who knows well how to extract good out of evil, has shewn us one way of making this universal frailty, highly conducive both to our virtue and happiness. Even grief, if it lead us to repentance, and proceed from a serious sense of our faults, is not to be repented of, since those, who thus sow in tears, shall reap in joy. If we confine it to this particular occasion, it does not impair, but greatly assists our imperfect reason: pain, either of body or mind, acting quicker than reflection, and fixing more deeply in the memory any circumstance it attends.
From the very nature of grief, which is an uneasiness in the mind, on the apprehension of some present evil, it appears, that its arising in us, on any other occasion, than that of sin, is entirely owing to our want of judgment. Are any of those accidents, in the language of men, termed misfortunes, such as reproach, poverty, loss of life, or even of friends, real evils? So far from it, that if we dare believe our Creator, they are often positive blessings. They all work together for our good. And our Lord accordingly
commands us, even when the severest loss, that of our reputation, befalls us, if it is in a good cause, as it must be our own fault if it be not, "To rejoice, and be exceedingly glad."
But what fully proves the utter absurdity of almost all our grief, except that for our own failings, is, that the occasion of it is always past before it begins. To recall what has already been, is utterly impossible, and beyond the reach of Omnipotence itself. Let those who are fond of misery, if any such there be, indulge their minds in this fruitless inquietude. They who desire happiness will have a care how they cherish such a passion, as is neither desirable in itself, nor serves to any good purpose, present or future.
If any species of this unprofitable passion be more particularly useless than the rest, it is that which we feel when we sorrow for the dead. We destroy the health of our body, and impair the strength of our minds, and take no price for those invaluable blessings: we give up our present without any prospect of future advantage, without any probability of either recalling them hither, or profiting them where they are.
As it is an indifferent proof of our wisdom, it is still a worse of our affection for the dead. It is the property of envy, not of love, to repine at another's happiness; to weep, because all tears are wiped from their eyes! Shall it disturb us, who call ourselves his friends, that a weary wanderer has, at length, come to his wished for home? Nay, weep we rather for ourselves, who still want that happiness, even to whom that rest appeareth yet in prospect.
Gracious is our God and merciful, who knowing what is in man, that passion when it has conquered reason, always takes the appearance of it; lest we should be misled by this appearance, adds the sanction of his unerring commands, to the natural dictates of our own understanding. The judg ment, perhaps, might be so clouded by passion, as to think it reasonable to be profuse in our sorrow at parting from a