William Bradford Institute
for Study of the
Early Settlement of America

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Directions for Grief at the Death of Friends


by Richard Baxter


Direct. IX. Be neither unnaturally senseless at the death of friends, nor
excessively dejected or afflicted. To make light of the death of relations and
friends, be they good or bad, is a sign of a very vicious nature; that is so
much selfish, as not much to regard the lives of others: and he that regards not
the lives of his friends is little to be trusted in his lesser concernments. I
speak not this of those persons whose temper allows them not to weep: for there
may be as deep a regard and sorrow in some that have no tears, as in others that
abound with them. But I speak of a mischievous, selfish nature, that is little
affected with any one's concernments but its own.

Yet your grief for the death of friends, must be very different both in degree
and kind. 1. For ungodly friends you must grieve for their own sakes, because if
they died such, they are lost for ever. 2. For your godly friends you must mourn
for the sake of yourselves and others, because God has removed such as were
blessings to those about them. 3. For choice magistrates, and ministers, and
other instruments of public good, your sorrow must be greater, because of the
common loss, and the judgment thereby inflicted on the world. 4. For old, tried
christians, that have overcome the world, and lived so long till age and
weakness make them almost unserviceable to the church, and who groan to be
unburdened and to be with Christ, your sorrow should be least, and your joy and
thanks for their happiness should be greatest. But especially abhor that nature
that secretly is glad of the death of parents, (or little sorrowful,) because
that their estates are fallen to you, or you are enriched, or set at liberty by
their death. God seldom leaves this sin unrevenged, by some heavy judgments even
in this life.

Direct. X. To overcome your inordinate grief for the death of your relations,
consider these things following. 1. That excess of sorrow is your sin: and
sinning is an ill use to be made of your affliction. 2. That it tends to a great
deal more: it unfits you for many duties which you are bound to, as to rejoice
in God, and to be thankful for mercies, and cheerful in his love, and praise,
and service: and is it a small sin to unfit yourselves for the greatest duties?
If you are so troubled at God's disposal of his own, what does your will but
rise up against the will of God; as if you grudged at the exercise of his
dominion and government, that is, that he is God! Who is wisest, and best, and
fittest to dispose of all men's lives? Is it God or you? Would you not have God
to be the Lord of all, and to dispose of heaven and earth, and of the lives and
crowns of the greatest princes? If you would not, you would not have him to be
God. If you would, is it not unreasonable that you or your friends only should
be excepted from his disposal? 4. If your friends are in heaven, how unsuitable
is it, for you to be overmuch mourning for them, when they are rapt into the
highest joys with Christ; and love should teach you to rejoice with them that
rejoice, and not to mourn as those that have no hope. 5. You know not what mercy
God showed to your friends, in taking them away from the evil to come, you know
not what suffering the land or church is falling into; or at least might have
fallen upon themselves; nor what sins they might have been tempted to. But you
are sure that heaven is better than earth, and that it is far better for them to
be with Christ. 6. You always knew that your friends must die; to grieve that
they were mortal, is but to grieve that they were but men. 7. If their mortality
or death be grievous to you, you should rejoice that they are arrived at the
state of immortality, where they must live indeed and die no more. 8. Remember
how quickly you must be with them again. The expectation of living on
yourselves, is the cause of your excessive grief for the death of friends. If
you looked yourselves to die to-morrow, or within a few weeks, you would less
grieve that your friends are gone before you. 9. Remember that the world is not
for one generation only; others must have our places when we are gone; God will
be served by successive generations, and not only by one. 10. If you are
christians indeed, it is the highest of all your desires and hopes to be in
heaven; and will you so grieve that your friends are gone thither, where you
most desire and hope to be?

Object. All this is reasonable, if my friend were gone to heaven: but he died
impenitently, and how should I be comforted for a soul that I have cause to
think is damned?

Answ. Their misery must be your grief; but not such a grief as shall deprive you
of your greater joys, or disable you for your greater duties. 1. God is fitter
than you to judge of the measures of his mercy and his judgments, and you must
neither pretend to be more merciful than he, nor to object to his justice. 2.
All the works of God are good; and all that is good is amiable; though the
misery of the creature be bad to it, yet the works of justice declare the wisdom
and holiness of God; and the more perfect we are, the more they will be amiable
to us. For, 3. God himself, and Christ, who is the merciful Saviour of the
world, approve of the damnation of the finally ungodly. 4. And the saints and
angels in heaven do know more of the misery of the souls in hell, than we do;
and yet it abates not their joys. And the more perfect any is, the more he is
like-minded unto God. 5. How glad and thankful should you be to think that God
has delivered yourselves from those eternal flames! The misery of others should
excite your thankfulness. 6. And should not the joys of all the saints and
angels be your joy, as well as the sufferings of the wicked be your sorrows? But
above all, the thoughts of the blessedness and glory of God himself, should
overtop all the concernments of the creature with you. If you will mourn more
for the thieves and murderers that are hanged, than you will rejoice in the
justice, prosperity, and honour of the king, and the welfare of all his faithful
subjects, you behave not yourselves as faithful subjects. 7. Shortly you hope to
come to heaven: mourn now for the damned, as you shall do then; or at least, let
not the difference be too great, when that, and not this, is your perfect state.

 

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