There are some events, in the providence of God, so completely overwhelming as to render it extremely difficult, almost impossible, to give utterance to the full feelings of the soul through the medium of words. Language refuses its aid to relieve the burdened heart; and the oppressed spirit finds itself more inclined to the deep silence of grief, than to the expression of its sorrows by the human voice.
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When the heart-rending intelligence reached us of the event that has filled our souls with grief and dismay, we felt that no language could relieve our distress or mitigate our sorrow. We were dumb: we opened not our mouth. Our hearts bled—and they bled most freely in silence. But the solemnities of the occasion await us, and the usages of society demand, that we should attempt to give utterance, in the presence of our fellow creatures, to those feelings, which we can pour out before our compassionate[Pg 4] God and Saviour in sighs and tears, without the intervention of set forms of speech.
But where shall we find words to express the depth of our affliction? Where shall we find language to depict the character of the dear departed—or to administer comfort and support to the beloved survivors?
Mysterious Heaven! how unsearchable are thy judgments, and thy ways past finding out! We bow before that holy and righteous Being, whose inspiration gave us understanding, and who has the undoubted right to resume the gift which he bestowed. We know that all his ways are just and equal, and that he will not hold us accountable for any act, committed in the absence of that mental and moral power by which we are enabled to distinguish between right and wrong.
On the painful and distressing circumstances, by which our ever lamented and beloved friend is numbered among the silent dead, we will dwell no longer than to express an entire and unwavering conviction, that her character and present condition cannot in the least degree be affected by the manner of her removal from this sublunary state. We have not the shadow of a doubt, that the spiritual intelligence, which once beamed upon us with such mild and gentle lustre, and which was, for a short season, shrouded in darkness, is now rekindled by the same gracious hand that so mysteriously overshadowed it, to burn, with increasing and never-ending brightness, with seraphs that surround the throne of God.[Pg 5]
It is utterly impossible for the speaker to do justice to the character of our much loved friend, though it has been his privilege to have known her worth for nearly thirty years. The circle of christians which, at the time of his first acquaintance with her, then resided in our metropolis, many of whom are now in heaven, were distinguished for deep and ardent piety. Surrounded as they were by fashionable and increasing errors, they maintained their integrity and held fast their attachment to the doctrines of grace. The precious names of Mrs. Waters, and Mrs. Mason, and other aged saints, are embalmed in the memory of many a child of God. With these venerable pilgrims was associated a young disciple, who, with all the loveliness of youthful attractions, separated herself from the world, and consecrated herself to the service of her God and Saviour. From the prayers and conversation of these aged saints, through the blessing of God, she seemed to receive a peculiar unction of spirit, which was strikingly characteristic of her future course. In all plans of usefulness, which, though small and few when compared with those which distinguish this stirring age, no one took a more decided and active part. Her peculiarly affectionate manner ingratiated her with many, who were won by her mild and lovely spirit to congeniality of sentiment and effort. Her usefulness at that period, in the sphere in which she moved, was by no means inconsiderable; but the great Head of the church had still more important and interesting duties for her to perform.[Pg 6]
There are few situations in life that present more promising fields of usefulness to a pious, devoted female, than that of the wife of a minister of a united parish. Even the pastor himself, with his additional opportunities of affording instruction from the sacred desk, can scarcely exert a greater or a happier influence upon the minds and hearts of his congregation, than is often produced by the more humble, but not less important labours of his devoted companion. Her influence is not unfrequently greater than his, especially upon her own sex, and upon the tender, opening minds of the lambs of the flock. In the promotion of benevolent enterprize, by female associations, and in maternal counsels and prayers for the children of the church, she finds her appropriate and successful sphere, though upon the whole congregation, in their varied seasons of prosperity and adversity, her silent but benign influence is felt like the dew of Hermon, like the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion.
From the more diversified and exciting scenes of usefulness in a city our departed friend was called to the more arduous and self-denying labours that devolve upon the conscientious wife of the pastor of a country parish. With what untiring zeal, with what scrupulous fidelity, she discharged these duties, I need only appeal to this crowded, this weeping, this afflicted assembly! From lisping infancy to hoary age, the testimony is one and the same. The children of affliction remember with affectionate gratitude her tender sympathy and her active benevolence. With the spirit of her divine Master, it may be[Pg 7] truly said, that "in all their afflictions she was afflicted." Mothers, with their youthful charge, will never forget her wise counsels and her fervent prayers. The aged and infirm will pour out their benedictions upon her memory, and even babes and sucklings will lisp the praises of one, who watched with maternal solicitude over their cradles, and taught them to pronounce the name of Jesus.
But, great and painful as this bereavement is to this afflicted people,—their griefs are almost forgotten, when we turn to the chief mourner in this scene of deep and heart-rending calamity. God help thee, my brother!—The God of Jacob, the Angel of the Covenant sustain thee! That your brethren, your people, the church of Christ, your numerous and attached friends, feel for you, you cannot doubt. Could they have averted the dreadful blow, how readily would they have hastened to your relief. But no human precaution could turn aside the fatal stroke. Dethroned reason will find opportunity to escape the most vigilant eye, and to elude the most watchful care. But dwell not, my brother, on circumstances which were beyond human control, and which affect not in the least degree the accountability of the dear departed. Bury in the grave, to which we are soon to assign these precious relics, as far as possible, the memory of the awful circumstances that attended their dissolution, and think only of the bright and happy spirit, of what she was, and what she is. O! she was every thing which a fond husband could desire in a companion of his life and labours; truly a help-mate for him in his temporal and spiritual concerns,[Pg 8] in his family, and in his parish; in the social circle, and in the widely extended plans of usefulness in which the devoted servant of Christ is sometimes engaged beyond the limits of his congregation.
My brother, in the repeated domestic bereavements which you have sustained, you have indeed been greatly afflicted, but you have also been greatly blessed. To the lot of but few does it fall to have been united to two such companions to cheer them in their pilgrimage through this vale of tears.[A] Their sainted spirits are waiting to receive you to those blessed mansions where reason holds her unclouded empire, where sighing and sorrow can never come, where death can never enter, and where sin can never defile.
But not yet, my brother. The Lord hath need of you to work in his vineyard. From your repeated and heart-rending trials you will be better qualified, than ever for that important work which the Lord has assigned you in his American Israel. Go on then, my brother, and spend and be spent for Christ; and when you shall have performed your appointed service, you shall be welcomed by those whom you have loved on earth to the society of the redeemed—to the vision of Jesus—to the presence of God.[Pg 9]
And you, the dear and only child of the lamented dead! My heart bleeds for you. Your loss is indeed irreparable; but a mother's prayers are your legacy, and they are better than thousands of gold and silver. How much she loved you, and how closely you were entwined about the fibres of her heart, is abundantly evident from the affecting fact, that maternal solicitude, struggling with departing reason, directed her to the bed of her sleeping child to bid him a last and long farewell. Although the affecting circumstances of her removal can never be obliterated from your memory, think less of them than of the pious counsels, the holy example, the fervent prayers of your much-loved mother. Let these dwell on your mind, and they will be a restraint, a comfort, and a support to you under all the various trials of life to which you may be called. God bless you, my dear child! May your life be spared to your surviving parent, to console him in his deep affliction, and to be the prop of his declining years.
The near relatives of our departed friend claim and receive our tender and affectionate sympathy. More especially do we feel for that afflicted sister, who, while she mourns with us on this affecting occasion, has the additional trial of watching around the sick bed of a beloved husband, deprived also of the exercise of his reason. May she be supported, in this season of her deep affliction, by the consolations of that holy religion, which are neither few nor small.
And may all the relatives and the numerous christian friends of the deceased, whether present or absent, be graciously[Pg 10] sustained under this painful bereavement, and bow, with humble submission, to the will of God.
Friends of this Church and Congregation, with you too we heartily sympathize.
You have been called in divine providence to repeated trials. We bear record to your disinterested regard to the cause of evangelical religion in our growing country, in consenting to the arrangement by which, for a definite period, you have been deprived of the immediate services of your beloved pastor. You have hitherto had the consolation, and it has been one of no small importance, of the presence and laborious efforts for your good of the partner of his life. With what exemplary patience, with what admirable self-denial, she sustained the peculiar trials of her situation, watching around the couch of a dying brother,[B] administering to the comfort of your late youthful pastor,[C] adopting into her family the orphan and the fatherless,[D] while her best earthly friend was laboriously employed in the service of the church, are well known to you all, and ought to be suitably appreciated. How far she fell a sacrifice to these painful deprivations—to this uncommon self-denial, is known only to Him, who is best acquainted with the intimate connection between the body and the[Pg 11] mind.[E]That she died in your service—in the service of her family—and in the service of her God and Saviour, cannot admit of a doubt. You will delight, I know, to cherish her memory, to dwell upon her virtues, and to imitate her example.
And now, my respected hearers and friends, it only remains, that we deposit these precious relics in yonder receptacle of the dead! there to rest, till the trump of the archangel awake the sleeping dust. Then, when the millions of the dead shall burst the cerements of the grave, we doubt not that the bright form of our departed friend, arrayed in immortal youth and vigour, will ascend to meet the Lord in the air, and enter with him into his glory.