Page images
PDF
EPUB

too much reason to fear, that most of the distinguished subjects of eulogy and statuary, are no better prepared for the presence and service of a holy God in the one case than they were in the other, it is delightful to think, how many bright exceptions the history of our own country surnishes to this remark. Some of our greatest and wisest and most useful men, have been among the best, among the humblest, and most devoted servants of God. And though we cannot prove that the soul of one man is more valuable than that of another, we dwell with peculiar interest upon the evidence which a great public benefactor leaves behind him, that having served God and his generation, he has entered into the eternal joys of a good and faithful servant in the heavens.'

Such, in the judgment of their present eulogists, is the happy condition of the two venerable Patriarchs of the Revolution,' who left the world together, on the great day of their country's Jubilee. This favorable and even confident opinion of their having gone into the heavens, together with the grounds of it, so far as the writers before us have stated the reasons of their belief, we shall now submit to our readers in one connected view.

Scarcely had the funeral knell of Jefferson been sounded in our ears, when we were startled by the death of another patriot-of Adams the compeer of his early fame --the opposing orb of his meridian day—the friend of his old age—and his companion to the realms of bliss.' * And when the sun of that happy day was past his meridian, the acclamations of rejoicing aroused them for a moment from the lethargy of approaching dissolution, to hail once more the great and glorious occasion ; and their enfranchised souls instantly winged their flight to the realms of bliss, • You are gone! you have fought the

good fight and have winged your flight from the field of your fame, to the regions of eternal bliss, to receive your reward in heaven.' "Their pure spirits have been permitted to take their exit, on the brightest day the sun has ever lighted, and be wasted back to the great fountain of life.'

• Whenever the fourth of July arrives, mankind will see in his rising beams the rays of liberty ; and in his meridian path, the names of the two patriots, who consecrated the day to freedom, and ascended to its rewards on its Jubilee.' · The blessings of emancipated millions have followed their spirits to those regions where life is without end and where sorrow never enters.' • Hope celestial, resignation, and prayers for their country accompanied their tranquil passage to immortality.' Of the whole brave and animated band who signed the declaration of independence, with the exception of a single survivor, it is said, “They have bequeathed to us the immortal record of their virtue and patriotism, and have ascended to a brighter reward than men can confer.' And again, · The wonder is, that two such men should on this fiftieth anniversary of the day on which they had ushered the cause of liberty into light, be caught up to heaven together in the midst of their raptures. May we not, with reverence, interpret the voice of heaven in this wonderful dispensation, These are my beloved servants in whom I am well pleased. They have finished the work for which I sent them into the world, and are now called to their reward.''

Our readers will perceive, that the above extracts are taken from every part of this volume, and that they express not a strong belief, merely, but full assurance; and that not of one, but of many, that Adams and Jefferson are now in the realms of eternal bliss.'

[ocr errors]

Other passages

equally unequivocal might be quoted from the present Selection,' and indeed, the whole spirit of it is in accordance with the sentiment which these extracts so confidently express. Any strictures that we think it our duty to offer, would be quite premature, till the grounds of this high and celestial award are fully and fairly stated froin the eulogists themselves; but we shall take this opportunity to make a few general remarks upon that more sacred species of eulogy, which we so often see in obituary notices, and so often hear on funeral occasions.

Such expressions as the following will be recognized by our serious readers as extremly common. Our departed friend was a Christian '-—'he evidenced his faith by his works'--' love to God and man were predominant traits in his character '—" he bore a long and distressing sickness with singular Christian fortitude and resignation ?in all his suffering he never uttered a murmuring word?

- he died as he had lived, a sincere Christian’ departed in the full hope of a glorious immortality ?• he has, as we confidently believe, entered into the joy of his Lord'--' his toils have ceased, his warfare is ended, and he is gone to his eternal rest.'-- Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.'

Such things as these are every day said, not only of those who have been eminently distinguished for their piety, but of many, who while living, exhibited no reinarkable proofs of love to God and the Saviour; and of some, who were never known to give any other evidence of piety than a cold profession of religion, and perhaps not even that, till it appeared in the newspapers. Far from us be the wish to prevent any bright Christian example from being held up to public view, or to condemn indiscriminately the practice of expressing hope and even

- he

confidence in regard to the eternal state of the pious dead. There are some examples of holy living' and holy dying,' which seem to leave no room for doubt that all is well after death ; and to justify the highest degree of confidence which partiality itself can wish to express. But they are few in number, compared with the multitudes who go down to the grave ; and even where the evidences of piety shine out in their holiest lustre, might it not in most cases be better to follow the example of Paul, and say, 'a faithful brother, as I suppose,' than to speak without any such qualification ? The sacred writers are very sparing of their encomiums upon departed saints, and indeed rarely say more of them than that they were gathered to their fathers. How much less do the scriptures authorize such hopes and assurance as we often hear expressed respecting the dead, who, so far as man can judge, neither lived the life nor died the death of the righteous.

It is certainly a very interesting inquiry, how far ministers of the gospel have countenanced, and are still in the habit of countenancing this unauthorized liberality of speech by their own example. That many go to the utmost verge of what is lawful in their holy vocation, will not, we presume, be denied!; but then it must be remembered that the circumstances in which they are placed are often delicate and trying.

The death of a respectable parishioner, is always deeply afflictive to his family and friends; and they naturally look to their pastor for the strongest sympathy in their

In the mournful discharge of his official duties, he is expected to forget every blemish and doubtful trait in the character of the deceased, and with pious solicitude to recall every word and act and circumstance

sorrows.

which will bear a favorable construction. At the same time there seems to be a kind of tacit agreement throughout the parish, or town, to remember only the virtues of the dead; and even his enemies, if he had any, are more than half reconciled to his being sent to heaven, especially as they anticipate that they may one day need the same kind office themselves.

Thus while the grave and the fountains of grief and sympathy are all open at once, the minister is sent for to comfort the mourners and attend the funeral. He repairs to the house of weeping, and sits down with the widow and her fatherless children. Thus circumstanced, and earnestly wishing to console them to the full extent of his ability, how difficult is it to refrain from expressing a cheering hope that it is well with the husband and father, though he may have left no evidence of piety behind him. So when the pastor rises to speak in prayer, or in exhortation, it is commonly under an equal, if not an increased excitement. Nor is this all. Full well does he know, that every word from which his own views of the religious character of the deceased can be gathered, will be eagerly caught up and weighed by the audience. If he says nothing on the subject, friends will be dissatisfied and put the most unfavorable construction upon his silence. If, on the other hand, to save their feelings, he expresses a hope in general and guarded terms, it is still worse. And to increase the embarrassment, it will sometimes happen, that the deceased has been a firm and liberal supporter of his minister; that he has left many wealthy and influential relations and friends in the parish ; and that to increase their displeasure, would be extremely hazardous. A conscientious pastor will not, indeed, knowingly, suffer himself to be

« PreviousContinue »