Page images
PDF
EPUB

It must not be supposed, however, that these writers have omitted the proofs which they considered as entirely satisfactory, and they have left us to collect them at our leisure. Though we have availed ourselves diligently of the privilege, we are not positive that we have been completely successful. We believe, however, that the book contains but two sources of evidence. First, the dying words of the “Sages,' and secondly, their patriotic public services. Perhaps too much stress is apt to be laid upon the last words of the dying in every condition of life; and certain it is, that the scriptures make very little account of the manner in which men die, compared with the importance which they attach to "holy living.' Still, it must always be interesting to know how men's thoughts are employed in the immediate prospect of dissolution; and when the soul seems to triumph in anticipation of her deliverance from the body of this death, who can help regarding these dying exercises, as strong proofs, if not the very best that could be given, of preparedness for heaven?

What the all important subjects were, which engrossed the dying thoughts of Adams and Jefferson, and what evidence there is of fervent piety in their last words, will appear from the following extracts. Of Adarns it is said, by one of his eulogists, On the fourth, his faculties appeared to sink to eternal rest—nature was about to surrender her office to her God-the cannon of our Jubilee waked the dying patriot to momentary lifehe inquired and was told the cause—in the accents of death he articulated. It is a great and glorious day.' p. 60. By another— The last words of the venerable Adams were, ' Independence forever !' p. 88. "The illustrious Jefferson gave to the world his last declaration,

•I have done for my country and for all mankind, all that I could, and I now resign my soul without fear to my God, my daughter to my country' p. 66. Death is a debt incurred by all at our birth, and he has lived to little purpose, who when loaded with years and honors, and carrying with him the blessings of posterity and a grateful country, cannot say with our departed friend, (Mr. Jefferson,) I have done my duty on earth, I fear not to meet my Maker.' p. 326. Those who surrounded the death-bed of Mr. Jefferson report, that in the few short intervals of delirium that occurred, his mind manifestly relapsed to the age of the Revolution. One of his exclamations was,

- Warn the Committee to be on their guard.' But these intervals were few and short. Reason was almost constantly upon her throne, and the only aspiration he was heard to breathe was the prayer, that he might live to see the fourth of July. When that day came, all he was heard to whisper was, the repeated ejaculation, Nunc Domine dimittas.' p. 424.

We feel ourselves' much obliged to the present eulogists for the report, (a faithful one no doubt,) which they have brought to us from the death-beds of Quincy and Monticello ; but we are not quite certain that we understand the object of thus recording what fell from the dying lips of the two great men who left the world together on the fiftieth anniversary of American Indepedence. Was it to prove that they were ripe for heaven, or that their ruling passion,' love of liberty, was strong in death ?' If the latter, the point seems to be established beyond any reasonable doubt. They died as they had lived, with their hearts set upon the independence and glory of their country; and far be it from us to say that they were unprepared for their last change. We do not

6

know; and it is a question which we do not feel ourselves called upon to discuss. Our business is neither to affirm nor deny, but simply to examine all the evidence in the case which the present volume contains. Possibly other and better proofs might have been adduced, but we can judge only of such as are before us.

If there is anything decisive in the foregoing extracts it must be this. "I have done for my country and for all mankind all that I Could, and I now resign my soul without fear to my God.' I have done my duty on earth, I fear not to meet my Maker.' Stronger confidence than this, it must be admitted, a dying man could hardly express. But what does it prove ? On what foundation does it rest ?—the law or the gospel ? By grace,' saith an Apostle, "are ye saved through faith ; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.' Not of works lest any man should boast.' And again : “ Not by the works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.'

We confess it would have been much more satisfactory to us to have been informed, that notwithstanding all the eminent public services of Adams and Jefferson, they at the close of life explicitly renounced all dependence upon their own doings and merits, and expressed a humble, even though it had been a trembling hope of acceptance, through the atonement and righteousness of Christ. Some whose lives have testified most strongly in favor of their unfeigned and ardent piety, have, in view of the infinite holiness of God, and their own sinfulness and omissions of duty, ' loathed and abhorred themselves' in the hour of death ; and not one of this class, we believe, was ever heard to say when going into the immediate

.

presence of his Judge, 'I have done my duty on earth, I fear not to meet bim.'

If, from the last words of the two venerated patriots of Quincy and Monticello, as recorded in the present volume, we turn to these nineteen eulogists and ask them what the other strong proofs are, on which they rest the oft repeated assurance, that the departed objects of their splendid panegyric bave gone to the realms of bliss,' we are told of their great talents, ardent patriotism, and eminent public services. And the specifications are such as these. Adams, while yet a youth, uttered a kind of prophecy, which has since been remarkably fulfilled in the emancipation of our country from a foreign yoke, and in its unesampled prosperity under a free government. Jefferson, if not quite so far and clear sighted at first, was not a whit behind his illustrious compeer, in his early hatred of tyranny and attachment to republican principles. Each was known and honored in his native state, ere the heavings of the revolution were felt, and each contributed, not a little, to hasten the crisis. Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, and Adams was its most powerful advocate. Both of them were employed on very important foreign embassies, and both contributed much by their talents and unbending integrity, to raise the character of our country abroad. Both were subsequently raised to the bighest honors, which a free and enlightened people had it in their power to bestow : both lived to a great age in dignified retirement, rejoicing to the last hour in the liberties and happiness of this

mighty republic, and both left it together amid ten thoupor sand sounds of jubilant festivity.

These and such as these are the only proofs, which after the most diligent and anxious search, we have been

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

able to find in the volume before us, to sustain the positiveness with which it speaks, in so many places, of the glorious translation of Adams and Jefferson from earth to heaven. If other and scriptural evidence of their piety exists, why was it withheld ? Will it be said, that such evidence would have been out of place in these popular funeral orations ? Then we answer, it is equally out of place, to use the strong language of assurance in them. The latter must be regarded as entirely gratuitous, in the absence of the former. But as great talents, and love of country, and eminent political services, are thought by many to be exceedingly meritorious, or to deserve eternal rewards in the realms of bliss,' we cannot dismiss the present topic without a few additional remarks.

What merit, is there, we ask, in being endowed with distinguished natural abilities? And why is not the man who possesses but two talents, if he improves them faithfully, as deserving of commendation and reward as his neighbor who has five, or ten ? We have learned from very ancient and high authority, that each will be judged according to what he hath, and not acccording to what he hath not.' It would be just as rational, and quite as scriptural to reckon a man's stature, or the color of his eyes, or the height of his forehead, among his qualifications for heaven, as to lay any stress upon mere native talent, however brilliant, or extraordinary. And after all, how much more patriotic were Adams and Jefferson than they ought to have been ? Could they have been less so, without abusing the confidence reposed in them by their country? And how much more did they do for her welfare, than it was their duty to do? Which of all their illustrious deeds was superogatory? Was it drawing the memorable Declaration of Independence ?

« PreviousContinue »