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habits, if it be given him to continue many days upon earth ? How many judgments may be thus averted ? and how many providential favours of a temporal kind may even an undeserving people participate, through means of prayer, which, though the irreligious scorn it, is not overlooked by the Almighty? A praying man, who has access to God in the spirit of adoption, is as a bulwark and defence to a city or a nation. And perhaps the heroic warrior is sometimes crowned with laurels for victories and achievement, on which prayer had as much influence as the sword. When Moses held up his hands—an attitude significant of supplication, Israel prevailed against Amalek in the fight, Exodus xvii. 11. When angels came to destroy Sodom, they confessed that they could do nothing until Lot was brought out of it; and we learn from Abraham's communing with his Lord, that for the sake of ten righteous men, had that number been found in it, its overthrow had been averted or suspended.
Wicked, irreligious characters, on the other hand, diffuse a noxious influence around them, and provoke the plagues of judgment. An Achan in the camp, may trouble a whole host, Judg. vii. One man of lax prin-
ciples, and active impiety, may corrupt a number, and involve a neighbourhood in temporal distress. He may pretend patriotism ; but, rebelling against God, and provoking his displeasure by the doings of an unholy life, he is to his country's best interests the sorest foe. Not so the righteous and the merciful of the earth. They may want ability for the statesman's sublime de partment they may be unable also to advance the progress of scientific discovery-or to occupy a conspicuous place in the march of intellectual power, (though in none of these things will their piety prove a hinderance ;) but their lives are not unuseful to the state. They live to do good; and though unfurnished with means for munificent diffusion, they are blessings to their families, vicinities, and fellow-citizens; as the house of the Egyptian was blessed for the abode of Joseph in it, though in a state of slavery, Gen. xxxix. 5.
And shall such men die, and no man lay the bereavement to heart, as if no loss to society were incurred, and as if such removals did not leave the world spoiled of what was both for its ornament and de. fence? What a blank a good man leaves in his vicinity! Men of dissimilar cha .
racter may feel relieved in being delivered from the reproach and the restraint which his virtues cast upon their dissolute courses; but they do not reflect, that by the death of the righteous they themselves are more exposed to the retributive hand of the Omniprésent,--their intercessors no more standing in the breach to stay the judgments of heaven.
Perhaps survivors are occupied in numbering their inconsistencies, and recounting their defects; delighting to report things that were of a questionable nature, and where there is room for uncertainty, deciding at once for the unfavourable side. They have many things to allege against them, and cannot see in them so much righteousness and mercy as was supposed to exist. And, then, it is easy to state incidents or insinuations, . that seem to militate against the usual report of their upright and merciful characters. It were better to forget them altogether, than thus traduce. But whatever course men's judgments concerning them may take, their God remembers them for good, vindicates their name, and view: ing them as accepted in the Beloved, lays nothing to their charge, justifies them from all things, graciously notices only their vir.
tues, and styles them righteous and merciful, without exception of what was not excellent in them. To attain such a testimony from God, is enough. Man's applause can add nothing to it; man's censure cannot detract.
Such men, however, are not exempt from the law of mortality. One Enoch was translated, that he should not see death-one Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot of fire; but the remaining myriads of the just are left to yield to the common doom, and righteous men perish, and merciful men are taken away, and sometimes early in their day. And if any find fault with the Divine procedure in this respect, deeming it a sign of judgment, or at least not considering it a mark of special kindness on the part of God, to appoint his people an early time of dea parting from this world, the Lord corrects those mistaken views in the text, and by a disclosure of their present happiness in eternity, both vindicates their characters and his own goodness, from reflections cona nected with their early dissolution. This second part of the subject resolves into two branches of argument, each of which affords a most satisfactory display of divine goodness towards the righteous in the ar
ticle of death. Why are they taken away? or why so soon?
1. They are taken away from evil; and from evil, who should not prefer a speedy separation ? Who can be removed from evil too soon? Over the generation of the prophet's day a sore evil was impending. A prince of unparalleled depravity was about to ascend the throne, who “ seduced the people to do more evil than did the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the children of Israel;” and who 66 shed in-. nocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; besides his sins wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord.”
For such things, said the Lord God of Israel,“ behold I am bringing such evil upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of it, both his ears shall tingle,” 2 Kings xxi. But before those days of seduction and distress, in which his righteous and his merciful ones would have been exposed to strong temptations, and involved in fierce: persecutions, if they remained faithful to their God, in mercy he withdrew them to a better country, where there was no- . thing to hurt or to destroy ; no enemy to: