James Abercrombie.

A sermon occasioned by the death of Major General Alexander Hamilton who was killed by Aaron Burr, Esq., Vice President of the United States, in a duel, July 11, 1804 : preached in Christ-Church and St. Peter's, Philadelphia, on Sunday July 22d, 1804 online

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Online LibraryJames AbercrombieA sermon occasioned by the death of Major General Alexander Hamilton who was killed by Aaron Burr, Esq., Vice President of the United States, in a duel, July 11, 1804 : preached in Christ-Church and St. Peter's, Philadelphia, on Sunday July 22d, 1804 → online text (page 1 of 4)
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IN A DUEL, JULY 11, 1804.

ON SUNDAY, JULY 22d, 1 804,



AND ST. Peter's.






*' At a Meeting of the citizens of Philadelphia, on Monday July
1 6th, agreeably to public notice, for the purpose of adopting proper
measures for the expression of their grief at the untimely fate of
their deceased fellow citizen Major Gen. Alexander Hamilton^ their
admiration of his virtues and his talents, and their gratitude for the
eminent services which as a Soldier and a Statesman he has rendered
to his country ; " the following, among other resolutions, was pass-

"Resolved, that the clergymen of the several denominations,
be requested to expatiate, on Sunday next, upon the irreligious and
pernicious tendency of aj custom, which has deprived our country
of one of her best and most valuable citizens, and has proved so
destructive to the happiness of his family.

«* Wm. Meredith — Sec'ry.'*

|C7* The publication of the following Sermon would have taken
place immediately after it was delivered, had not the most imperi-
ous necessity obliged the author to be absent from the city, during
the month of August.




The melancholy event which has depriv-
ed yon of an affectionate husband — your chil-
dren of a vigilant protector — and the United
States of America of one of the most valuable and
meritorious of her sons^ has justly excited in the
breasts of the 'ioise^ the virtuous^ ajidthe good^ the
most poignant sensations of sorrow^ and raised
the loud cry of lamentation and distress.

The death of General Hamilton^ Madam^
must ever be deplored^ as a national calamity.

Among the various tributes of respect which
have been offered to the memory of your illustri-
ous husband^ that of the citizens of Philadelphia
has not been., I trusty the least acceptable to you,
I am confident it was expressed with ardour and

By their resolutions of 16 th July., the clergy
%vere requested to give their aid^ on the following
Sunday^ towards the suppression of a fasJiion-


able yet destructive practice^ which had so re-
ceiitly inflicted on our country an irreparable loss.

In compliance with this request^ 1 composed^
though^ in haste^ the following Sermon: and be-
ing now ccdled upon^ by the partiality of my
friends^ to commit it to the press^ a sense of pro-
priety^ combined with the most respectful esteem^
induces me to dedicate it^ Madam ^ in this public
manner^ to you; in testimony of the profound vene-
ration with which I ever contemplated the pre-
eminent talents and virtues of your departed com-
pa77io7i and friend^ as well as of my sincere and
high estimation of that resplendent and acknow-
ledged merit whicli constitutes your o^cn character.

The trial you have been called upon to cxperi^
enccy though charged with an unusual degree of
severity, has, I trust, been received by you with
that rationed fortitude, and exemplary Christian
resignation, which shone so conspicuously in your
conduct on a former similar occasion, when a
beloved son fell a sacrifice to the delusive princi'
pies of modern honour.

May that Almighty Being who directeth the
government of the Uiuverse, and who ^^ chasten-


eth those whom he loveth^ " enable you to derive
such spiritual improvement from these dispensa-
tions of his providence^ as may elevate you to
the highest possible attainment of Christian ex^
cellence ift this worlds and of celestial felicity in
the world which is to come.

With the sincerest sympathy in your affliction^
and the most affectionate ivishesfor your present*
and future welfare^

I am^


Tour most obedient^
Humble Servant^


October 10. 1804.


JOB, CH. XIV. VER. 10.

A SOLEMN assertion, indeed! and an awful
and important inquiry ; the resolution of which
most intimately concerns every one in this as-
sembly ! — not only on account of affection for
our departed relatives and friends, but of our
own condition, when the toils, the troubles, the
pains, and deceitful pleasures, of this short and
uncertain life are over.

If there be another state of existence after
this, a state of retribution for our conduct here —
and that there is, we cannot doubt, — the in-
quiry is surely both rational and necessary.


We know that death is the inevitable lot of
man. We daily see our fellow creatures borne
to the silent grave, where there can be no re-
pentance nor device. We know that the body
only is deposited there, that the etherial prin-
ciple which animated it is immortal, and that
the operation of death is the separation of the
one from the other. There lies the tabernacle
of clay! but where's the soul — the spirit which
inhabited it? "Gone to its great account!" —
Gone to the invisible and spiritual world,
whither ours must soon follow! — how soon, we
know not.

The passage of Holy Writ which I have
selected for my text, and which I offer to your
present contemplation, was chosen in reference
to a late melancholy event, which derives unu-
sual solemnity from its peculiar circumstances,
and demands our most serious attention.

Dismissing, therefore, for a few moments,
all obtrusive, busy thoughts, and anxious,
worldly cares,

"With inward stillness, and a Ixjwcd mind,"

let us pause, and meditate on death. Let us

attentively, and with religious awe, listen to the
warning voice of our departed brother, who,
"though dead, yet speaketh;"'^^" and, v/ho by the
example which he hath exhibited of the brevity
and uncertainty of human life, calls upon us to
reflect, that "it is appointed unto all men once
to die:"t and that " there may be but a step
between us and death. "J

On such an occasion, we are naturally led
to consider, what may be the condition of the
soul in the world of spirits ; the period of pro-
bation being terminated. "Man giveth up the
ghost, and where is he?"

The doctrine of a future state of existence
after death, and that a state of retribution, has,
we know, either from a principle inherent in
man's constitution, from tradition, or from the
deductions of reason, been universally received

*Heb. 11.4. in allusion to Gen. 4. 10. "And the Lord said
unto Cain, what hast thou done ? the voice of thy brother's blood
crieth unto me from the ground."

t Heb. 9. 27. \ 1 Sam. 20, 3.

and cherished by all nations.* The imperfect
suggestions, however, of reason, in the early-
ages of the world, with respect to the soul's im-
mortality, could gratify even the anxious re-

*Tf we consult the records of historians, we shall find, tliat the
doctrine of the soul's immortality lu.s pervaded l11 nations, l.cwe\cr
remotely separated by distance of time or place; evincing almost
an innate conviction of that important truth.

Of the varioHS testimonies on tliis sul)ject, the following may
be considered as some of tl.e most prominent.

<Privic*T6 rati "^v^xi rav uvB-^uittojv v'^x^yjiv xB-x)>x,t^;.^^

Pythagoras the Samian, and some oliiers of the ancient natu-
ralists, have declared the souls of men to be immortal.

Diodorus Sicuhis, L. X\'III. S. 1.

2. Xenophon, in his Cyropoediu, tiuis cNpresses the stntiments
of Cyrus in his last moments, when ad(h'essing I. is sons:

** Oy yxp ^yiTTH tkto */£ cx^ug ooy.iTTi iioivxi, ojj vaiv irouxi iyt» eT<
tTU^xv ra xiB-^wrivii /3«» riXivTr,7a' tf^i yx^ vvv roi in y luyiv -^v^f^ttt

iOPXTl, «>A' 0<; ^UTT^XTTiTOy T»Te.< OtfTJJV 6»; HS-XV KXTi^U^XTi. OvTOl

tywyt, A> "Txidi;, vdi ruTt TrMTFon iTnia-^r^i^ a/5 n V'-'Pil) **< ,**»' *» 6»
3-»>jTw a-ufixTi ,", ^k' 07XV 2i Tara x-rxXXxyrt^ T£.9-v»)X£y."

Think not you know assuredly, that when I shall have finished
my life amongst men, I shall thence be annihilated. In what is
now past you saw not my soul, but, by the actions wliich it per-
formed, you discovered its existence... .By no means, my sons,
was I ever persuaded, that the soul lives only wliilst it remain*
in a mortal body, but is dead wlien it hath departed tlience.

Xenoplion's Cyropxdia, B. N'lII.

3. Plato thus records the opinion of Socrates imparted to Sim-
mias and Cel)es :

" Et f^ii jxn nu/i* f.^iit TF^vTti uii Tx^x .*)!»; fltXXirf ff-»^«f ti kxi «-/«.%<?,

ITUTX KXi TZXf XfB-^MTTVi TiTtAifTI]X.OTde; XfAUIiti Ttlt {>^-«(di, 1t2l*>if Xf,

searches of the most sagacious and contempla-
tive philosopher no further, than to induce a
degree of confidence, resting entirely upon the
precarious foundation oi probabUity : and many

8« etyocvuKTiov ru B-xvxtoi. vvv ofc, sy iri on. Trap otvopxg ts iXthZju u<p.\-
ic-9-xt uyotB-a^' y.xi raro ^wsv hk xv ttxw ciu<r^vpia-Xiuyiv' on fX.iVToi
'Ttxqx S-gj<? ^io-rorxg -ttxvv xyxB-H? yj^iiv, tv <f£ or/, UTTi^ n xXXo rmv roia-
TAiv, dw5";(iyi^/ri3i:/,A6''5v xv kxi raro' ^>?i Oix rxvrx ovyj <3^o<a'5 xyx^XKrci■y
ciXX iviX'ng u^^i nvxi n roi^ TiTiXivry)Koa-t' xxij cotttsp yi kxi ttxXxi
Xiyirxiy "TToXv xf^nvcv roig xyxj'Ofi; ») too; KXKdig."

If, indeed, I were not expecting to go, first to other Gods both
wise and good, and then to men, who have died, and are better than
those in this state, I had acted wrong in not being concerned cit
the approach of death ; but now, be assured, I hope to arrive
amongst good men ; tliough this I would not positively affirm ; but
that I shall go to Gods, who are rulers altogether good, this be
assured, I would affirm, if I could affirm any thing of this nature.
On these accounts, therefore, I am not so concerned as otherwise
I should have been, but have earnest hope that there remains
something for those who have died, and, as was long ago said,
something much better for the good than for the wicked.

Plato's Phoedo. Forster's Ed. P. 170.

4. " n^MTOi ci y.x.i rovoz tov Xoyov Atyvrnoi utiV ot g<7rovT!$, ig
uv^^azra "^vy^n xB-xvxrog iff ra truf^XTog o% KXTx^B-ivovTog^ eg xXXo
C^c-jov x'.ii yivo^iivov z^dvirxi' zttixv oi ttz^hX^^ ttxvtx tx "viprrxtx x.xi ro$
B-xXxa-a-ix Kxt rx yriruvx^ avr/j i<^ xvB-^UTra cru)^ux yivofZivov i^-^uvuv,'*

The Egyptians are the first who have asserted that the soul
of man is immortal : when the body is dead, the soul enters into
some other living creature, as it is born in that succession which
is continually coming into existence ; but when it has gone
through creatures of land and sea, and through birds, it enters
into the body of man v.hen born.

Herodotus, L. II. S. 123.

of their most refined opinions, when given to the
world, became corrupted and deformed by a
variety of superstitious fears and absurd mis-
conceptions : so that death and the grave were

5. The celebrated Dr. Middleton thus expresses the sentiments
of Cicero :

" He held likewise the immortality of the soul, and its separate
existence after death in a state of happiness or misery. This he
inferred from that ardent thirst of immortality, which was always
the most conspicuous in the best and most exalted minds ; from
which the truest specimen of their nature must needs be drawn :
from its unmixed and indivisible essence, which had nothing
separable or perishable in it: from its wonderful powers and
faculties; its principle of self-motion, its memory, invention, wit,
comprehension, which were all incompatible with sluggish mat-

** As to a future state of rewards and punishments, he considered
it as a consequence of the soul's immortality ; deducible from the
attributes of God, and the condition of man's life on earth ; and
thought it so highly probable, that we could hardly doubt of it, he
says, unless it should happen to our minds, when they look into
themselves, as it does to our eyes, when they look too intensely
at the sun, that finding their sight dazzled, they give over look-
ing at all !"
IMiddleton's Life of Cicero. Sect. XII. Vol. III. P. 341—343.

6. CiESAR relates of the Druicla^ or the ministers of religion
among the ancient Gauls and Britons:

"In- primis hoc volunt persuadcre, non inlcrire animas, sed ab
aliis post mortem transire ad alios ; atque hoc maximc ad virtu-
tem excilari putant, metu mortis ncglecto."

One of their leading doctrines is, that the souls of men do not
perish at their death, but puss from one body to another ; thuii

rendered objects of terror and dismay to the
generality of the expiring sons of Adam. But,
no sooner did the beams of Divine Revelation
begin to illuminate a benighted world, — no

they think to inspire them with courage, by extinguishing the

dread of annihilation.

Cxs. Com. de Bello Gallico, L. VI. 13.
7. The Poet Lucan has -these Hnes:

•• Et vos barbaricos ritiis, moreraque sinistrum

Sacrorum, Druidx, positis repetisiis ab armis.

Solis nosse deos et coeli numina vobis,

Aut solis nescire datum : nemora alta remotis

Incohtis lucis. Vobis auctoribus, umbrx

Non tacitas Erebi sedes, Ditisque profundi

Pallida regna petunt : regit idem spiritus artus

Orbe alio : longx (canitis si cognita) vitx'

Mors media est. Certe populi, quos despicit Arctos

Felices errore suo, quos ille timorum

Maximus, baud urget leti metus : inde ruendi

In fermm mens prona viris, animceque capaces

Mortis, et ignavum rediturx parcere vitse.'*

Lucan. Phar. L. 1 . 450.

" The Druids now, while arms are heard no more,

Old mysteries and barb'rous rites restore:

A tribe who singular religion love.

And haunt the lonely coverts of the grove.

To these, and these of all mankind alone,

The (iods are sure reveal'd, or sure unknown.

If dying mortals' dooms they sing aright,

No ghosts descend to dwell in dreadful night:

No parting souls to grisly Pluto go,

Nor seek the dreary silent shades below :


sooner did the Sun of Righteousness arise —
than the lowering clouds of doubt were speedily-
dissipated. The celestial Conqueror, by whom
Death was disarmed of his sting, and the Grave

But forth they fly immortal in their kind,
And other bodies in n'jw worlds they find.
Thus life forever runs its endless race,
And, like a line, death but divides the space,
A stop which can but for a moment last,
A point between the future and the past.
Thrice happy they beneath their northern skies,
Who that worst fear, the fear of death, despise,
Hence they no cares for this fraii being feel,
But rush undaunted on the pointed steel ;
Provoke approaching^ fate, and bravely scorn
To spare that life which must so soon return."

Howe's Translation B. I. L 790.

8, Sir Wm. Temple, speaking of the religious tenets of the
Goths, \'andals, Ahms, Lombards, Huns, and other Northern
nations, who, at dilTerent times, invaded the Roman Lmpire, says,

"Whkther they were deduced from that of Zamolxis among
the Getes, styled of old, Immortals, or introduced by Odin among
the Western (ioths, it is certain that an opinion was fixed and
general among the ni, that death was but the entrance into another
life ; that all men who lived lazy and inactive lives, and died natu-
ral deaths, by sickness or by age, went into vast caves under
ground, all dark and miiy, full ol noisome creatures, usual in such
places, and there fjrever grovelled in endless stench and misery.
On the contrary, all who gave themselves to warlike actions
and enterinizes, to tlie coiujucsl of their neighbours and slaughter
of enemies, and died in batik, or of violent deaths upon bold ad-
ventures or resolutions, they went iuuncdiately to the vast hill or


disappointed of its victory, appeared ; merciful-
ly drew aside the veil between the earthly and
spiritual world, and proclaimed our deliverance
from their power: teaching us to consider the

palace of Odin, their god of war» who eternally kept open house
for all such guests, where they were entertained at infinite tables,
in perpetual feasts and mirth, carousing every man in sculls of
their enemies they had slain, according to which numbers, every
one in these mansions of pleasure was the most honoured and the
best entertained."

Essay 3d of Heroic Virtue.

9. Hyde in his history of the religion of the ancient Persians
asserts :

" Aliqui credebant beatorum sedem fore in corpora solis, ut
ManichcEi et alii hoeretici. Orthodoxi, post animx ascensum ad
Deum (ut apud sepulchreta cernitur) et requiem apud eum usque
ad resurrectionem, credunt habitationem corporalcm, reunitia
animabus, rursus tandem fore in hoc mundo renovato et reficto:
teiTam enim de novo refingendam, et talem ejusdem statum fore
in ultimo judicio, ipsi Indo— Persce produnt — Quod hxc sit revera
eorum traditio, constat ex libro Sad-cler, ubi inter Zoroastris prac-
cepta et canones, traditur talem fore Paradisum terrestrem amoe-
nitate, ad instar /lorti glGriodssimiy ad quem etiam per ponlem
transeundum sd statum renovatum. Dictus li^quc /wtis judiciu lit
a Camusi autore describitur, /ions extensus sujier dorsum gehenne.
Et quicunque per hunc pontem, a nemine angelorum prspcdltus,
pertransit, ad Paradisum pertingit: alias a ponte delapsus, in Tar-
tara cadit, et in ea prxcipitatur. In isto ponte constituti sunt
duo angeli examinatores : quorum ille bilancnn secum in manu ha-
bet, ut possit examinare hominum bona opera seu merita ; ut si
nimis levia sint, a ponte dejccti inimergantur in gehennam ; si vero
graviora et ponderosa, tum per prxdictum pontem transcunt iu
Paradisum amcsnissimum, 6cc. &c."

Hyde's Vetcrum Persarum, Religionis Historia, C. 3J.


one, as a messenger of mercy, sent to break off
the fetters of mortality; and the other, as the
gate of admission into tlie paradise of Cxod,

Some of them believed that the souls of the blessed were trans-
lated to the Sun. This was the opinion lield by the Maiiichceuus
and other heretics. While the orthodox asserted, (as appears by the
inscriptions in tlieir burial places^, that after death, the soul as-
cended to God, where it enjoyed a state of quiet repose, until the
i"Csurrection : that it was then re-united to a body, and returned to
this earth, which would at tiiat time be renewed and punfiefl.
For, the Indo-Persians profess to believe, that the earth is to be
formed anew, at the general judgment. — That this was really
a tradition among them is evident from one of their books entitled
^ad'clevy where among the precepts and canons of Zoroaster, it
is said that the ten-estrial paradise would be similar in its splen-
dour and happiness to that of the celestial regions, with which
it would be connected by means of a bridge. This judicial
dridifp^ according to Camusus, is extended over the gulph of Hell.
And whoever passed over this bridi^e without being interrupted in
the way by an angel, went forward into l^aradise ; but if thrown
from the bridge was instantly precipitated into lartariis : upon
this bridge two angels wer;i always stationed, one of whom had a
pair of scales, in which the merits and demerits of men were care-
fully weighed, that if the latter prepondej-ated, they weix; thrown
down into the regions of misery ; l)ut if the former, tiiey were pt_r-
milted to pass over into Paradise.

Hvdl's History of the religion of the ancirnt Persians, C 53.
P. 491.

10. Sir Wm. Jones, speaking of the niodcni Persians, tells ns:

*' I wii 1, only detain you with a few remarks on that melai)hysi-
cal theology, which has been professed inimemoiially by a nun:e-
rous sjcl of Pemiam and IJi.-;dufty was carried in pait into Cnrccy
and prevails even now uujon^thc learned Muaclmana^ who some-


Thus, amid the fears and sorrows which
unavoidably embitter hum.an Ufe, as a state of
probation, we are relieved from that most pierc-
ing and dejecting of all fears — the dread of anni-

limes avow It without reserve. Th.e moclcrn philosophers of this
persuasion are called SuGs, either from the Greek word for a
eag-e, or from the vjooUcn mantle, which they used to wear iu
some provinces of Persia. Their fundamental tenets are, that
nothing exists absolutely but God ; that the human soul is an
emanation from his essence, and, though divided for a time from its
heavenly source, will be finally reunited with it ; that the highest
possible happiness will arise from its reunion, and that the chief
good of mankind, in this transitoiy world, consists in as perfect an
union with the Eternal Spirit, as the incumbrances of a mortal
frame will allow."

Asiatic Researches : Vol. 2. P, 62.

1 1. Stuabo thus speaks of the ancient Brachmans:

tvB-ccoi /iioVf <y$ ccv ccx.uy,v Kvof^svMv uvea* rov 2i B-xvoctov yivic-iv iig rov ovra/^
/2lov, y.xi iv^xiuovcc TOig (piXogo(pr,o-cc<rr 2to rn otcrKYicru tsrXua-p p^p/jo-^xi
9r^d5 TO iTOif^oB-xvxTor xycc^ov ^£ -/J y.ux.oy ^njj^gv nvxi im vvf^cXiViVTi^

(Mf.gasthenes says) they disccurse much on death; for they
think the life here present to be as the stiite of creatures fully con-
ceived, but death they consider as a birth to life really such, a life
happy to those who have studied wisdom : for this reason they ex-
ercise themselves in preparing for death. Of the events which
befal men, they hold that not one is either good or bad.

Sirabo, L. XV. P 490. Ed .1587,

12. And Mr. Wilkins thus of the modern Brahnians.
Thkiu opinion concerning the nature of the soul, is thus deli

vercd in the Bhagvat-Geeta:


hilation. God has herein given us the most
sublime and animating consolation. In the Gos-
pel of our salvation, there is abundant provi-
sion made for the wants, the weaknesses, and

„Thou gricvest for those wlio are unwoilhy to be lamented,
whilst thy sentiments are those of the wise men. The wise nei-
ther grieve for the dead nor for the living, i myself never ivaa
not, nor thou, nor all the princes of the earth ; nor shall we ever
hereafter cease to he. As the soul, in t]»is mortal frame, findeth
infancy* youth, and old age; so, in some future frame, will it
find the like. One who is confirmed in this belief, is not disturbed
by any thing which can come to pass. The sensibility of the
faculties giveth heat and cold, pleasure and pain ; which come and
go, and are transient and inconstant. Bear them with patience,
O Son of Bhiir-at; for the wise man, whom these disturb not, and
to whom pain and pleasure are the same, is formed for immorta-
lity. The man who believeth that it is the soul which killelh, and
he who thinketh that the soul may be destroyed, are both alike de-
ceived; for it neither kiileth, nor is it killed. It is not a thing, of
which a man may say, it hath been, it is about to be, or it is to
be hereafter; for it is a thing without birth; it is ancient, con-
stant, and etemal ; and is not to be destroyed in this its mortal frame.
IIow can a m*an who believeth that this thing is incorruptible,
eternal, inexhaustible, and without birth, think tluit he can either
kill or cause it to be killed? As a man throwcth away old garments,
and putteth on new, even so the soul, having quitted its old mor-
tal frame, entereth into others which are new. The wea])on di-
vidttii it not, the fne burnetii it !U>t, the water corrupteth it not,
the wind drieth it not away ; for it is indivisible, inconsumable,
incorruptible, and is not to be dried away ; it is eternal, universal,
permanent, immoveable; it isin\isible, inconceivable, and unalier-
kble ; therefore believing it to be thus, thou shouldest not grieve."
Ltclure 2. Bhi';it-Gccta. Translated by Mr. \\ ilkins.


the guilt of man. If the world should fail us,
we are to consider ourselves as strangers and
sojourners here, whose treasures and whose
home are in Heaven — If we suffer affliction in

13. That laborious researclier, Purchas, gives this account of
the belief of the Africans, upon the coast of Guinea, v/ith respect
to a future existence.

"We asked them of their beliefe, and what opinion they had of
<livers things ; as first, when they died what became of tlieir bodies
and Bouls? they made us answere, that the body is dead, but they knew
not what any resurrection at the latter day meant, as we doe ; but
when they die, tljey know that they goe into another world, but

1 3 4

Online LibraryJames AbercrombieA sermon occasioned by the death of Major General Alexander Hamilton who was killed by Aaron Burr, Esq., Vice President of the United States, in a duel, July 11, 1804 : preached in Christ-Church and St. Peter's, Philadelphia, on Sunday July 22d, 1804 → online text (page 1 of 4)