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At the suggestion of some esteemed brethren in the ministry, who were present on the occasion above-mentioned, an Appendix was for some time contemplated, which might contain farther discussion on subjects touched upon in the Essay. On mature consideration, however, it has appeared undesirable to enlarge a pamphlet, which has already extended far beyond the original design ; and more conducive to general usefulness, to keep as much as possible within the ordinary range of English readers.
It would have been matter of gratification to the Author, could he have thrown the reasonings into an arrangement more compressed and simple than that which was originally pursued with a view to his personal satisfaction. He will rejoice to find some other writer succeeding where he has failed, and will consider it an honour if his endeavours should in any way subserve the production of a work on the subject, more adapted for general acceptance and usefulness.
In the meantime, he will have abundant occasion for devout and adoring gratitude, if his labours should be the happy means of ministering consolation and improvement to those with whose parental sorrows he can deeply sympathise; and especially, if the attractions of divine truth should be more powerfully felt by any, from their discovering in these pages, its benignant aspect towards departed infants.
Hoxton Academy, December, 1821.
The investigation prompted by benevolence-and is not forbidden
curiosity ;-still further by personal affection, consistently with the first duties of bereaved friends.—General design of the present Essay; the period of infancy described ;-general sentiment announced ;--difficulties acknowledged ;-general method of discussion stated.
WERE the death of an infant a rare occurrence, it would awaken many a mournful reflection, and suggest many an anxious enquiry into its condition in the unseen world. And whatever may be the fact, the frequency of such occurrences ought not to diminish the interest which they are calculated severally to excite in our hearts. A pestilence, which half depopulates a state, and which is continuing its ravages through successive years, and even generations, must raise the solicitude of survivors to a degree augmented beyond what would
result from a mere consideration of the numbers who have become its victims. We weep over the thousands who have fallen in battle, but shudder as we survey the horrors of that contagion, which may immediately renew its attacks upon ourselves.
From approved computations, it appears, that about one half of the human race die within seven years from their birth. Thus, according to the present population of the world, five hundred millions of every generation, a number sufficient to people another earth as ample as our own, are swept away by death, before they have attained, at least so far as our observation can extend, any important end of human existence. And this process has been going on in similar proportion, through every generation of mankind. Without defining the age at which moral agency commences under our highly favouring circumstances, it may perhaps be assumed, on considering the state of the world in general, and throughout all past generations, that an enquiry into the future condition of children dying in infancy, immediately respects the everlasting state of half the posterity of Adam.
Thus reflecting, even general benevolence cannot repress a desire to ascertain, if possible, whether, in cases so innumerable, the spark of immortality was kindled only that it might be quenched; whether so many interesting fellow-creatures were brought into relation with sinners, merely to share
with them in everlasting sufferings; or whether divine proceedings in this respect, do not better accord with our apprehensions concerning the divine character, and whether revelation discloses not some traces of a design more congenial with our best feelings.
The general disposition chiefly to be cultivated, is, indeed, a devout acquiescence in providential arrangements. The conviction, that all the dispensations of God are unquestionably right, should operate within us as an habitual principle. Hence, we are bound to repress inordinate curiosity respecting matters unrevealed, and to await, in patient expectation, the developments of another state of being It appears, however, an unwarrantable assumption, that enquiry into the condition of deceased infants, is chargeable with inordinate curiosity; or that solicitude to discover what grounds divine revelation affords us to hope for their happiness, proceeds from the want of due submission to the will of God. Christianity is the religion of man, intended to promote the perfection of his nature; it cannot, therefore, be hostile to principles implanted in him by the Author of his nature; much less can it countermand the genuine expression of feelings which it requires us to cultivate, which its influence refines, and to which its discoveries impart an acuteness, and an energy, otherwise unexperienced and inconceivable.
To parents who have been called to resign their beloved infants to the grave, the investigation proposed, acquires an interest and an importance, far beyond all which arises from sentiments of general benevolence: it appears awfully momentous.
The bereaved bosom, chilled with its loss, cannot catch a glow sufficiently cheering and satisfactory, from some general and indefinite persuasion, that those who were so dear on earth, are happy in heaven. In such cases, when less interested, we can more easily come to a decision ; for a heart deeply affected is suspicious in proportion as it loves. Hence, there arise causes of doubt, which had not previously occurred; and if ten degrees of satisfaction can be obtained, nine will leave an aching void.
To learn those practical lessons which our bereavements are calculated to teach, should unquestionably be our first concern. But no pious person can become indifferent to the everlasting condition : of that being, whom he was the instrument of bringing into existence; whose welfare entwined itself with every cord of his heart; in behalf of whom, his dearest hope and most earnest desire were, that he would become a child of God, an immortal companion in the employments and felicities of heaven. And where, or on what principle, does our heavenly Father prohibit such solicitude ? Where is the sorrowing parent required to renounce