« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
by others. ‘The disease is death; he said, “truly, at Hôtel Dieu, where I have seen fifty and more in a ward, it is almost like walking through an autopsy room; in many, nothing but the act of respiration shows that life still exists. It is truly awful.’” — pp. 24–26.
While he remained in Paris during the prevalence of this frightful disease, he gave up his whole time to its study. Retiring to England about the last of April, he there digested his observations upon sixty of the cases which he had examined, of which thirty were favorable and thirty fatal in their termination. The manuscript was forwarded to his father and published in this country. “I am willing to refer to the book,” says his father, “in support of the praise which I have ventured to give to my own son.” We refrain from quoting the further apparently very impartial remarks which are made concerning it.
He remained for some time in England, and then having returned to Paris, quitted it finally in July, 1833. On the 23d of August he again landed on his native shores;– to give momentary pleasure to a large circle of friends; to afford them evidence that his character was what it had appeared to be ; and to die. He was attacked by our autumnal fever in a very severe form just two months after his arrival. At the end of three months he seemed to have regained his health. But in February he had some recurrence of a diarrhoea which had afflicted him in France. The disease, which was at first regarded as of little importance, assumed the character of a severe dysentery; and the event should be told only in the words of his father.
“Under this disease he suffered much and struggled hard, retaining his firmness of mind, and fully aware of the uncertainty of its issue. He was severely sick about three weeks, but after the first fortnight, I regarded him as safe. The dysenteric affection was clearly subsiding, and he recovered some appetite, though still very weak. Suddenly a change occurred, of which the cause was latent; the prostration was extreme; his mind gave way, and in less than two days and a half he ceased to breathe. In his last hours, his mind, amidst many wandering thoughts, appeared to get momentary glimpses of his real situation. He did not seem to shrink from the view, but was unable to keep it before him from failure in his physical strength. In one of these moments he said very distinctly and solemnly, ‘God, pardon me.” That he had sins which called for this petition at all times, there is no doubt. That he was deeply sensible of his own frailties and imperfections I well knew, for no son was ever more frank than he was in communications to a father. That the prayer from a heart like his, not now uttered for the first time, was freely granted, it was impossible for me to doubt. His own humble penitence was highly proper. But for me, there was no fear that he would find any thing but bliss in the new state of existence, into which my mind seemed almost capable of following him; almost, of seeing his admission. It was for my own loss, for that of my household, I had to grieve. And that grief, sincere as it was, found solace from the first in the delightful recollections his life had left on my mind. These recollections have constantly hung about it, and how gratefnl they have been may be seen by what I have transcribed in the preceding pages.” — pp. 42, 43.
The remaining pages of the Memoir are principally occupied by a general view of the character of its subject, admirable for its calmness of style and evident freedom from exaggeration. The whole Memoir indeed is distinguished by that simplicity and truth of thought and expression, which are the only foundation of all that produces a permanent effect in writing. It concludes thus.
“With such characteristics as I have attributed to my son, he seemed calculated to be highly useful in the world. I never anticipated that he would have a commanding influence in society, but I did think that he would have an agreeable and useful influence. Why he should have been permitted to go so far, to give blossoms of so fair a promise and of so sweet a flavor, and just then be cut down, is not for us to say. It is one of those events, which show us that we know very little of the designs of our own being, at least while we regard this world only. I do not consider it as singular, because to me it was so afflictive ; because I was disappointed of the most cherished hopes, just when I was almost ready to think my life well spent in having learned how to educate one, who could be much more useful than I had ever been. I need not look far from home to find those, who suffered in like manner, almost at the same moment. The instance is not singular; and because it is not, we must infer that the end of our existence is not merely to be useful in this world; and we must be comforted by the assurance that a good life, however short, is the great blessing which alone should satisfy all our desires, as respects our children. Almost unnatural, it may seem, at least against the ordinary course of nature, for a father thus to erect a monument for his son. But surely he should be solaced, if the life of his son has furnished at once the solid materials for its erection, and flowers for its ornament.”— pp. 53, 54.
We should be doing injustice to our readers if we were to attempt to deepen the impression, which the extracts we have given are of a character to produce. But we may state one train of sentiment which the reading of this Memoir has awakened in our minds. It is strikingly adapted to strengthen the feeling, which is a different thing from the conviction, of the reality of death; and to divest it at the same time of all those false terrors that commonly accompany it. In the natural course of things, as we advance in life, unless the discipline of God has been lost upon us, our connexions with this world are weakening, and those with the future growing more numerous and intimate. Objects of our dearest love, who were an essential part of all our hopes and cares, have been removed to a better state of being, while we are left behind. We have seen the vigor of early manhood and the beauty of female loveliness disappear from among us, and felt deeply what a void was produced by their passing away. The aspect of life has changed; we have ourselves died in part; and we cannot avoid recollecting, that soon, God only knows how soon, we too shall go,
“Even where weak infancy, and timorous age,
Could our individual lives be prolonged in the enjoyment of health and strength, with what indifference, in the second century of this mode of being, should we regard all its ordinary concerns and pleasures : What heart-worn, desolate beings should we become All around us has the stamp of change and mortality upon it. It is this, if we may be allowed again to borrow the language of poetry, which
“gives to the flute-notes an undertone, To the rose a coloring not its own.”
But we have no just conceptions of death, when we regard it as the termination of all present things, and see nothing beyond but some indistinct and half-terrific vision of great enjoyment or great suffering, the one or the other not being conceived of, as the natural result of the laws of God's moral government, such as we see them operating in this world, but viewed as the effect of some immediate act of his will. It is only when we carry forward, in imagination, into the future
vol. XIX. — 3D s. vol. 1. No. 1. 13
life, the affections, the permanent interests, the pursuits worthy of an immortal being, the high hopes and desires of the present, that we have just notions either of that state or of the transition to it. A question has been raised, whether we shall there recognise our friends. What should we be if we did not ; – social as we are in all our virtues; having scarcely a feeling, even a blamable feeling, which regards only ourselves; members of each other; with all our recollections and interests, our very individuality, as it were, blended with the being of others ? What consciousness should we have ourselves, deprived of the memory of those we have loved Or what could we enjoy, if, retaining their memory, we were separated from them for ever ? The change produced by the transition to the future life, we may reasonably believe, will be far less than the change which in middle life we have gone through since the period of our earlier remembrances. It must, it is true, be more sudden, like the voyage which carries us from our native country to some distant climate, whose wonders and beauties we had only read of and imagined. But when we too arrive in that future world, we shall probably look back, in company with the friends who will rejoin us, upon the cares, the interests, and the mistakes of the present, somewhat as we now look back upon those of our childhood; and almost wonder to find that we, with all our consciousness and all our gratified affections, are at last in the midst of scenes so strange and so delightful. A. N.
ART. V. — An Address delivered before the Ministerial Conference in Berry Street, May 27, 1835.
THE subject assigned to the present Address is, “The best means of bringing our Lay brethren to be more useful in the maintenance of Religious Institutions.” The subject, thus stated, implies, that greater action on the part of the laity, than now exists, is desirable. This may possibly be questioned by some, as there are those who appear to think religious institutions the exclusive charge of the clergy, and any interference on the part of other men, to be deprecated. It may not be amiss, therefore, to begin with one word in defence of the position here assumed; and only a word can be necessary; for the truth, I suppose, is simply this ; – Religious institutions must be sustained by laymen, or they cannot exist. The clergy have no power to uphold them, except so far as the people coöperate. In other places, in other days, the clergy had authority, property, power, could support themselves, and could compel the aid of others. It is not so now and amongst us. Christian institutions are now altogether at the mercy of the laity. If the people choose to sustain them, they live; and with just that degree of prosperity, which the people may allow to them. Otherwise, they perish; and the clergy, so far from being able to rescue them from destruction, are exposed with them to starvation and ruin. There can therefore be no doubt, that it is not barely desirable, but absolutely essential, that our lay brethren take an active and prominent part in the concerns of our religious institutions. We may be jealous of an undue interference; but better to run the risk of this, from their too great interest, than expose ourselves to the deadly calamity, which would follow upon their indifference and neglect. We must seek for our institutions their fostering and patronizing care ; not, like that of the powers and principalities of the old world, to overload and enslave them, but to nourish them to a healthful growth, and enable them to meet the emergencies of the times. The question before us is, by what means they may be excited to do this more effectually, than it is now done. I do not know that this implies a complaint of any unusual remissness at the present time. Such a complaint would not be just. For no one can cast back a thought over the last fifteen years, and not perceive a decided augmentation of active interest on the part of private Christians. But this very increase of action, and the beneficial effects which have flowed from it, serve to instruct us concerning the value of that action, and to hint to us, what we should not otherwise have perceived, how much more yet it must be in their power to accomplish. We have learned how the power of the ministry is augmented, when there is enlisted, in coöperation with it, the power of ardent and devoted minds in other walks of life; and we thence learn to anticipate the most beneficial results from their more general and extensive action. The question is, how shall they be excited to this action : how shall they be brought to do all which they may do, for the prosperity and advancement of our institutions :