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Submission To Divine Providence In The Death Of Children by Philip Doddridge

3. THE Providence before us may be farther improved to quicken us in the Duties of Life, and especially in the Education of surviving Children.

IT is, on the Principles I hinted above, an Engagement, that whatever our Hand findeth to do, we should do it with all our Might, since it so plainly shews us that we are going to the Grave, where there is no Device, nor Knowledge, nor Working[j]: But permit me especially to observe, how peculiarly the Sentiments we feel on these sad Occasions, may be improved for the Advantage of our dear Offspring who yet remain, and quicken us to a proper Care in their religious Education.

We all see that it is a very reasonable Duty, and every Christian Parent resolves that he will ere long apply himself to it; but I am afraid, great Advantages are lost by a Delay, which we think we can easily excuse. Our Hands are full of a Variety of Affairs, and our Children are yet very young: We are therefore ready to imagine 'tis a good Husbandry of Time to defer our Attempts for their Instruction to a more convenient Season[k], when they may be able to learn more in an Hour, than the Labour of Days could now teach them; besides that we are apprehensive of Danger in over-loading their tender Spirits, especially when they are perhaps under Indisposition, and need to be diverted, rather than gravely advised and instructed.

BUT I beseech you, my Friends, let us view the Matter with that Impartiality, which the Eloquence of Death hath a Tendency to produce. |That lovely Creature that GOD hath now taken away, tho' its Days were few, tho' its Faculties were weak, yet might it not have known a great deal more of Religion than it did, and felt a great deal more of it too, had I faithfully and prudently done my Part? How did it learn Language so soon, and in such a Compass and Readiness? Not by multiplied Rules, nor labour'd Instruction, but by Conversation. And might it not have learn'd much more of Divine Things by Conversation too, if they had been allowed a due Share in our Thoughts and our Discourses; according to the Charge given to the Israelites, to talk of them going out and coming in, lying down and rising up[l]? How soon did it learn Trifles, and retain them, and after its little way observe and reason upon them, perhaps with a Vivacity that sometimes surprized me! And had I been as diligent as I ought, who can tell what Progress it might have made in Divine Knowledge? Who can tell but, as a Reward to these pious Cares, GOD might have put a Word into its dying Lips, which I might all my Life have recollected with Pleasure, and out of its feeble Mouth might have perfected Praise[m]?|

MY Friends, let us humble ourselves deeply before GOD under a Sense of our past Neglects, and let us learn our future Duty. We may perhaps be ready fondly to say, |Oh that it were possible my Child could be restored to me again, tho' it were but for a few Weeks or Days! how diligently would I attempt to supply my former Deficiencies!| Unprofitable Wish! Yet may the Thought be improved for the good of surviving Children. How shall we express our Affection to them? Not surely by indulging all the Demands of Appetite and Fancy, in many early Instances so hazardous, and so fatal; not by a Solicitude to treasure up Wealth for them, whose only Portion may perhaps be a little Coffin and Shrowd. No; our truest Kindness to them will be to endeavour, by Divine Grace, to form them to an early Inquiry after GOD, and Christ, and Heaven, and a Love for real Goodness in all the Forms of it which may come within their Observation and Notice. Let us apply ourselves immediately to this Talk, as those that remember there is a double Uncertainty, in their Lives, and in ours. In a Word, let us be that with regard to every Child that yet remains, which we proposed and engaged to be to that which is taken away, when we pleaded with GOD for the Continuance of its Life, at least for a little while, that it might be farther assisted in the Preparations for Death and Eternity. If such Resolutions be formed and pursued, the Death of one may be the Means of spiritual Life to many; and we shall surely have Reason to say it is well, if it teach us so useful a Lesson.

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