Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

Could any

us.

would have ended had he been there. In the events of your own day scarcely a great question has arisen, but you conjectured what he would say or do. If you expected to witness some national solemnity, a chief point in your mind was the part he would bear. If listening to a debate in the lords, how often you asked yourself whether the Duke would speak ! When reviewing your own character, and resolving upon more order, energy, and real work, how often would his sayings, doings, habits, be your chosen self-incitements ! of us trace every instance in which he has occupied our minds, we should stand amazed that another man could so often speak and move in our inward selves. Could we collect the total sum of human thoughts, feelings, motives, impulses, principles, and decisions, originating from that one mortal, it would surprise

The history of his own acts forms a large chapter in earthly records ; but the history of the influence of those acts in the mind and life of others will form a chapter for which none could collect the materials, but One, whose eye covered all the earth, saw right into hearts, and never slumbered or ceased to take note, by night or day.

When that supreme moment comes, wherein each man shall see not only the true record of his “ways,” but also the “fruit of his doings,” into how

many lives of men will it prove that Arthur Wellesley entered as a moulding power!

But this power has not been confined to effects which can only be traced by the eye of the All-seeing. It is manifest to us in the character of multitudes. Not a heart has beaten under British uniform for the last forty years, but has received impulses from that one mind. Not a soldier lies in the soil of the Peninsula or Waterloo, or bears our arms to-day, who has not done things which but for Wellington he would never have done ; and left undone things which but for him he would have done. Our sovereign, statesmen, public men, have all been largely affected by his character.

His influence touched not only the mind and character of his fellow-men, but also their material condition. What would have been the state of the Mysore or the Mahratta country had he been less daring ? What the history of Spain had he been less wise ? that of France and Europe had he been less able ? that of England had he been less dutiful ? How many men now living would have been dead had he been less pacific! When we endeavour to put together, in thought, the immense results to mankind from this individual character, the truth presses down upon us with resistless weight, that the MAKER of us all can and does so constitute one, that the welfare of a multitude shall be held in his hand. Humbling testimony to the feeble many, that they have not made themselves ! affecting premonition to the powerful one, of a future account for so great a trust!

That accumulation of nothings which men call glory, does, after all, conceal one reality, having a present grandeur and an everlasting interest ; the power of forming men. Glory brings title, praise, revenues, and adornments ; but were all the skill in England united in one effort, it could not now induce the eye of Wellington to glance on one of these. To him they are not, and will never again be. But' works wrought upon human minds do not perish ; each principle and habit imparted, is a feature moulded in imperishable material. And he, under whose hand whole communities have trustfully placed themselves throughout continuous years, will, on entering the state wherein actions have their issue, find himself face to face with the spirits of a whole generation, each one of whom has fainter or deeper lines, traced by his own finger; and there an unfailing Arbiter will adjudicate upon the merit of his handiwork. Oh, how momentous the inquest, when one who has been the pride of a nation is to receive the just award of all his deeds !

Whatever end, besides, these startling examples of power over men may serve in the hand of Jehovah, they remind the least of us of a truth, which otherwise might not strike us so forcibly, that by a law of social life man is always forming

We are ready to proceed as if the salvation of others were but little dependent on us, and even to conclude that the Divine Being would hardly leave the highest concerns of one creature liable to be determined by the conduct of another. But when we see every temporal interest of a kingdom lying in the hand of one man ; life or death to thousands hanging on the preference for peace or war of a single Bonaparte ; the education and religion of sixty millions of men dependent on the will of one Czar; or of three hundred and sixty millions on one Chinese emperor ; then the belief is forced upon us that, in the unisearchable ways of God, one man is permitted to affect other men vitally in the most precious interests of this life, and of the life to come.

Seeing that this responsibility is manifestly devolved upon men on the grand scale of nations, we cannot escape the conclusion that it rests upon each of us in his own more limited sphere. And though we directly influence but a family, with its servants, retainers, and neighbours, yet the awe we feel in thinking of his guilt who mars, for a few years, the happiness of a nation, should help us to feel how great is his guilt who

man.

mars for life the peace of a bosom, or for eternity the hopes of à soul. A great man identifies his name in the mind of others with some idea, which every remembrance of him revives; thus each recollection of Milton revives our respect for poetry, of Wellington for devotion to one's country; while other names are constantly reviving in human breasts frivolous, ambitious, or lax views. Ordinary men exert a similar power in their own sphere. Fathers, masters, landlords, your name is associated with some class of influences, in the minds of those who look up to you; either it encourages them to follow the Pattern and the Saviour of men, or it encourages them to follow the multitude. Often one name will pass in a whole family as a standing appeal to honour ; and another in a nation : in either case he is surely honoured to whom that name belonged. But how blessed is he whose name is, to even one human being, a call to all virtues and all bliss ! How unspeakably blessed he whose name is associated in the minds of a whole country's population, with ideas of christian holiness, of a life after the example of Jesus! Oh, that the Almighty may grant this favour to our nation, that they who shed their influence on our entire people from high positions, may ever discountenance evil, magnify the law and the gospel of God, and point the way onward to glory and to virtue !

The sorrow caused by the death of our great captain awakens, however, other thoughts besides those connected with man's moral power. Why are we mourning? Here was one who had passed unscathed through all forms of danger. The fever mists of Seringapatam, the suns of India, the winters of Spain, the irregular warfare of the Mahratta, the skilled battles of Europe, had all been harmless to him. After a hundred fights he stands, in the words of the only English genius who took pleasure in reviling him,

“Escaped from shot, unharmed by steel,

Or scarcely grazed its force to feel." At three-score years and ten, ay, at full fourscore, he is at his post, all nerve, sense, decision, and duty; alive to the present, alive to the future; old in sagacity, young in resources ; dangers seeming only to have shown how invulnerable he was, and years how long he had to live. But, lo! when no battlecry is heard, when there has been no lapse of years since we last took pride in his longevity-under that brow where invincible purpose had for years sat, as on an unshaken throne, rises up a power

which commands the hero, whom no force had ever conquered, to submit, to lay down at one surrender every star he wore, every post he held, every emolument he enjoyed,

THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON.

and to deliver himself up to be led away, by unknown paths, into the presence of a superior. How will the struggle turn ? On this side we have the intellect and will which gained Waterloo, the mastery of all England's soldiers, the consciousness of a monarch's trust, a nation's love, a world's regard; of vast authority, revenue, renown; and of a power never overmatched. On the other side, no form the eye can see, no weapon the hand can feel; but in a moment there remains to our hero nor understanding, nor will, nor use of treasure, office, or arms, only a mortal stupor, a victim dying. Another moment, and the hand which held the invincible sword lies a lifeless shape of clay.

As we watch that helpless surrender, does not a voice smite our very heart, saying, that this boastful, self-magnifying family of man lies under a law of death ; that we hold our joys and treasures under forfeit, by sufferance of a forbearing Power above, which, at any moment, without notice or appeal, can rightfully shear us of all our glories ? Wellington is dead; Bonaparte is dead; every name which strikes our ear with the boom of an old renown is a name of the dead. The living are but one generation; the dead are many. And the dead belong to us all. Not one of us but has clasped a hand, or drunk from a breast that now lies among the dead. And we belong to them; for they are every day adding to their number from our ranks, while we never gain from theirs. Our hand will yet lie on a coffin floor, as idle and as cold as is, at this moment, the most powerful hand ever waved by Briton.

And is that mysterious something, for which we have the name of “ death, an end, or a change? If an end, then, to-day, Wellington is nothing. If an end, then that wonderful life, about which the whole world has heard so much, was a noisy prelude to nothing. Can any man look at that life, at its effects, and say, that the spirit whence all this emanated is now, or ever will be, nothing ? Can any one trace the tremendous influence which this man, and his great rival, exerted upon

the world—as much our birthplace and home as theirsupon us and our destinies, who all have feelings and rights just as they, and then say that these giants are left to protect or to scourge us; to save our lives or to destroy them; to secure us peaceful homes, or to send dragoons and debauchery to our fireside ;—in fact, to govern us just after their own will, and yet that there is no Government above them, no recompense, review, or scrutiny? The thing is not possible. Beings so great as these must be made by a great Being.

If he, who is so powerful as to make such as these, were a bad Being, then peace would have no place of refuge in all our earth. If he be a good Being, he cannot be indifferent to our character or interests-indifferent as to whether we do right or wrong, are cherished or oppressed. If not indifferent to the character of his creatures, he must have in reserve a very different treatment for the good and the bad; if not indifferent to their interests, he must have a mode appointed of rendering meet recompense to those who have wronged and corrupted them; to those who have been willing instruments of his own goodness, in promoting their happiness for time and eternity.

In the case of these apparent masters of human destinies we see a demonstration, that a future account lies before them; but not before them alone. While they must answer for their course in the concerns of nations, we must answer for ours in the circle we were set to fill. Nor let us waste thoughts in imagining what the award of the heroes will be, but each wake up to the certainty that our own account demands instant and watchful preparation.

“Glory!” “honour !” “immortality!” “eternal!” “imperishable !” “ undying !” how many thousand times have these words been spoken, written, printed, respecting Arthur Wellesley ! And what a comment upon them is yonder in St. Paul's ! “Glory !" they call him duke, hero, conqueror; they play proud airs; but the sward of Waterloo is as much gratified by it as that dead ear. They wave banners, chisel statues, write eulogies, and toward the spot where he lies turn faces where true reverence is mantling ; but the stones from Tippoo's crown can as soon behold it as that dead eye. No! if there is no victory to be celebrated by other hosts, no star or crown to be given by another monarch, then, as to our wonderful Wellington, triumph and joy are for ever gone. Other men may glow in recounting his feats, but to him, in this world, and on this system, glory and victory are dead, dead, and ended.

And are, then, such words as “glory,” “honour,” “immortality,” but pompous names, to which nothing in the universe answers, except these poor counterfeits which always burst while we are admiring their inflation ? From beside that helpless clay we look up and ask, “ Father of all, is there nothing attainable by man which even thy wisdom would name glory, honour, and immortality ?" A voice from on high replies, "This is

my beloved Son, hear ye him.” Then we see before us one bearing our own form, and even lowlier than we.

He tells us that he is constantly “bringing many sons to glory;" that in defiance of time and death we may eternally live, triumph, and be glorious ; that even “ this mortal shall put on immor

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »