John Davis Sweet.

The speaking dead. A discourse occasioned by the death of Serg't. Edward Amos Adams, 59th regiment, M.V.M., delivered at Billerica, Mass., July 31st, 1864 online

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Online LibraryJohn Davis SweetThe speaking dead. A discourse occasioned by the death of Serg't. Edward Amos Adams, 59th regiment, M.V.M., delivered at Billerica, Mass., July 31st, 1864 → online text (page 1 of 3)
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Jxxly 31st, 1804.


Pastor of the Baptist Church.

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" Tongues of the Dead, not lost,

But speaking still from Death's frost,
Like tiery tongues at Pentecost."

" As the Saviour's blood was shed to save sinners, so may mine in part ior my country."

EuwD. A. Adams.





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J uily 31»t, 180-1.


Pastor of the Baptist Church.

" Tongues of the Dead, not lost,
But speaking still from Death's frost,
Like tiery tongues at Pentecost."

' As the Saviour's blood was shed to save sinners, so may mine in part for my country."

£dwo. a. Adams.













MAY THE "SPEAKING DEAD" have a voice;





jjsakiug f BE^.

HEB. xl. 4.


Then they whom we call dead have voices for us ! Such had
Abel he whose soul clad in its vestment of liaht first stooped,
solitary and alone, before the throne of God, sole representative
of the Redeemed Church. And so of all the " sleeping dead,
none are mute, none tongueless or speechless. The sealed lips
of mortality to be sure shall no more be heard on the shores ot
time, but yet the dead speak to u. by the lives which they have
lived. Departing they leave

'• Footprints on the sands of Time," —

a harvest of weal or woe to be gathered by the successive gen-

erations. , ,, ^ ,^

Not many weeks ago we laid in its narrow house, the cold
clay casket of a lovely maiden ; a little later we observed the
funeral rites of a Mother, fallen in the strife of life ; still more
recently we gathered in the sanctuary to take a final eave ot
all that was mortal of one whose young life had been yielded up
in his country's service ; the quick expanding perennial blade
has not "decked the hallowed mould" since we fol owed to
the grave the crumbling clay tabernacle of an aged Mother in
Israel; nor have five suns set, since we stood around the bier
of one whose earthly sun had been obscured in the meridian ot

life's little day. Of all these it may be said, " being- dead they
yet speaky Like echoes amid the gorges of stupendous moun-
tains their voices shall forever sound down the corridors of
time, and like the immortal, the nobler part, which has gone
hence, these voices were not born to die, but to speak on, on
amid eternity^ s ceaseless round of eras and cycles.

And now, once more, wherefore are we here assembled?
"Why this large assemblage, this presence of fellow-citizens
without distinction, of the honorable Trustees,* teachers and
pupils of the Howe High School, of war worn soldiers, rem-
nants of war-shattered regiments, or representatives, perhaps,
of the immortal 59th ? Why this sombre black, whose drapery
of woe meets our vision, for the moment dimming the lustre
which beams from the stars of our flag ? Wherefore all these ?
They, too, all have " speaking voices,'^ which together with the
tears that course down these cheeks, these habiliments of grief,
and the silence that reigns around, in language; which is un-
mistakable, inform me that once again we are in the house of

• My friends, as we assemble here to-day we are reminded that
we are not the only mourners for departed worth and blighted
joy in this land of ours. Through the length and breadth of
Columbia there this day ascends from ten-thousands of homes
,the wail of the widow and the orphan, the childless and the

" Tliere is no fireside howso'cr dcfendcfl,
But haes one vacantj chair."

" The air is full of farewells for the dying
And mournings for the dead,
The heart of Rachel for her children weeping,
Will not be comforted."

Not as yet can it be said as once of the subjects of a hardened
king, — " There was not a house where there was not one

* Dea. Amos Spaulding, Col. John Baldwin, Marshall Preston, Esq., Dca. James R.
Faulkner, Geo. H. Whitman, Esq., Dudley Foster, Esq., Wm. H. Odiorne, Esq.
f By absencp or death.

dead," * — but surely it may safely be averred there is not a
household exempt from the universal lamentation which ascends
from a grief-stricken people.

Prior to the consideration of our text a succinct sketch of
the quickly-run and abruptly-terminated course of Sergeant
Adams, that consideration to be succeeded by an enforcement
from his life and character of the sentiments of our theme.

I. A brief narrative of the life of the subject of our esti-

II. A review of our text.

III. An application and enforcement from the life and char-
acter of our subject.

I. Edward Amos Adams was the son of Amos Adams,
Esq., of Westford, Mass., and Susan Dodge, of Charlestown,
Mass. He was born at Billerica, Nov. 25, 1839. In early
childhood he was left without a father, and the tender thought
was reared under the affectionate tuition of a devoted mother.
At the early age of twelve he entered the Howe High School,
where he remained about four years. His course here was
marked by great diligence. With zeal he received the means
of knowledge and improvement afforded him, and used as not
abusing them, and graduated with high honors. He subse-
quently sailed upon two voyages to sea,f twice visiting our
antipodes ; and for several terms taught in the schools of his
native town. At the age of twenty-two he became a subject of
Divine Grace in regeneration, made a public profession of re-
ligion by baptism into Christ, and was received into the fellow-
ship of the Baptist Church of Billerica.

From the commencement of our sad intestine war he ever
manifested a lively interest in the national welfare, and upon the
call by the Government, Sept. 1863, for 300,000 volunteers, for
three years' service, he was the first to enlist from his own town.
He connected himself with the 59th Regiment M. V. M., as
Sergeant accompanied his command to the seat of war,:|: " went
into the fearful charge of the 17th of June," (Battle of Peters-

* Ex. xil, .30.

t AVith Capt. Ranlett, ship Surprise.

t Extract of letter from his brave commanrting offleor, Col. J. K. F. Gould , since deceased
in couscquence of wounds received in battle.

burg,) and here received a wound from the effects of which, in
conjunction with disease, he rapidly sunk awaj'-, and June 27,
1864, at City Point Hospital, Va., fell asleep in Jesus.

Thus set the sun of Edward A. Adams, with full day efful-
gence. His spirit, like a long imprisoned bird, has winged its
way to the God who gave it. His body sleeps soundly beneath
the Southern sod to-day.

" Though trumpet may sound and loud cannon rattle,
He heeds not, he hears not, lie's free from all pain,
He sleeps his last sleep, he's fought his last battle.
No sound can awake him to glory again."

No, my friends, not to the fleeting empty glory of this nether
sphere, but amid the celestial glories of the upper firmament,
we doubt not that the disenthralled spirit shines, one more star
in that bright and innumerable constellation, which reflects the
brightness and glory of the fountain of uncreated light. Aye,
and though the earthly tabernacle has been removed from its
place among us, yet in the thoughts and deeds of by-gone days,
Edward " still lives."


H. Now let us divert our minds a little from the subject of
our solemn regard and tribute, to that which is wrapped up in
our text, and as an embryo of fertile and useful and solemnly
important truths let us unfold it.

(1) Death.

(2) The Speech op the Dead.

(1st.) Death ! My hearers, it should not be a painful thing
for us at times to contemplate, and take some serious thought, of
that Messenger who so soon, at the farthest, will summon us
hence. It were for our advantage often to look into our own
graves, that thereby, to take off the terror of them, we might be
led to gaze into the tomb where our Lord lay and learn the
price of our ransom from its jaws. Not that we should so dwell
upon death as through "fear" of it to be "all our lifetime sub-

ject to bondage,"* but give the subject that wholesome thought
which shall make us both better and wiser men.

We speak now not of a second death, the inevitable retribu-
tion of those who receive not the merit of Christ's efficacious
atonement by faith, but of the first, to the wicked indeed but
the sad precursor of the second, to the Christian like the angel
to Peter, breaking open the prison door and leading forth to the
light and liberty of eternal day.

It should not be an unprofitable inquiry for any one of us, —
What is death ? It is the middle point between two lives ; a
probationary and a retributive existence, both lives but infi-
nitely unlike, since one is mortal, the other immortal ; one
dying, the other undying ; one (to the Christian) a foretaste,
the other fruition. For all our inquiries as rational creatures,
we have one safe referee, one faithful arbiter, this Holy

" It is the judge that ends the strife,
When wit and reason fail."

With reference to the subject under consideration let us
make it the " man of our counsel."

Death is represented in the Heavenly Oracle under various
emblems, which severally portray its character.

At one time we hear it described as a sleep^ to express how
calm and tranquil its repose, from which there is a joyful
waking, for though "weeping may endure" for the brief night of
earth, "joy cometh in the morning" of the resurrection. Anon
the Psalmist of Israel represents death under a sterner and
more forbidding aspect, depicted as the desolating floodX, over-
whelming and irresistible, likened to the mower's scythe% lev-
elling all ranks irrespectively like the grass which is cut down
by the unthinking swain.

" There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
And with his sickle keen
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between."

* Heb. ii, 15. f John, xi, 11. t J Psalms, Ix, 5, 6.

Again we find the "Royal Promise pleader" portraying death
as a shadoiv* so like an unsubstantial dream as compared with
the substance which his prophetic vision descried sliould be van-
quished by death's great Abolisher who took away death's sting
by allowing it to be sheathed in His own body.f The "Valley
of the shadow," a vale of tears and darkness to be sure, but
quickly bounded and conducting to Mount Zion and the City
of the living God.

Such are a few from many of the similitudes under which
Death is represented. Involved and obscured in his robes of
darkness, he seems grim indeed, but divest, denude him of his
mask, (which the Grace of God alone can do for us,) and that
monster of darkness stands forth an angel of light, to conduct
to realms of eternal day.

My hearers, there are many things which it is profitable for
us to learn here upon earth, but I think I may safely aflirm
there is no knowledge which we can with as little safety neglect
as this,

1st. That ive must all die I

2d. That we may die soon !

We must all die ! How momentous a thought I And yet
men trifle with life as if it were a coil of infinite length which
could never be shuffled off. We must all die. We are Ijorn to
die. Man's life has been compared to a book, his birth the
title-page, his death the finis which closes up all. Therefore
the volume of our life may be a mere romance or a solemn
reality ; it may be fairer or plainer bound ; it may be longer or
shorter ; but at the last finis, death comes in and closes up all,
for it is the end of all. Yes, when our "determined days,
numbered months, appohited bounds which we cannot pass"^:
are all completed, we must all die! There is no " exemption,''' no
" commutation clause'' for us here to avail ourselves of; " there is
no discharge in this war." § We must all die ! The decree
has gone forth "dust thou art and unto dust thou shalt return," ||

* Psalm xxili, 4.

t " Death stung himself to death when he stung Christ."— i?c>n)at«e.

|.Jobxiv,5. $ Eccl. viii, 8. || Gen, iii, 19.


and it is a decree which has been executed npon all the myriads
of mankind who. have walked the earth since the pristine inno-
cency of paradise, with two exceptions only, the translated ones,
all have tasted death. Under this sad covenant all ages -and
conditions are comprehended.

The Destroyer poisons and disappoints earth's brightest
hopes. What rite regarded as prefiguring so much of happi-
ness here below as the marriage-service ? And yet mark its
winding up, how death creeps in even here ! — "To have and to
hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for
poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, — till
death do us part P\ So he alway: comes in at the last. As
nature's day is succeeded by its night, so the span of life's little
day by the shadow of death's dusk.

And not .only upon all conditions but upon the cold bosom of
all ages death lays his leaden sceptre. Old age withers before
its palsying stroke. I read of one Guerricus, who was humbled
to the foot of the cross at reading this announcement : "And
all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty
years, and he died; and all the days of Methuselah* were nine
hundred and sixty and nine years, and he diedJ^j And so of Seth
and Enos and Jared and others. Neither does the relentless
Visitant spare the strong man in the meridian of his days and
strength, nor yet the

" Young and strong who cherished
Noble longings for the strife ;"

like grapes plucked before fully ripe. No, my friends, for if
youth or vigor, nobleness or virtue had been a shield or
defence from the death-darts of the foe, we had not gathered
here to-day, to honor the memory of the brave and the true.

And relative to our dissolution, there is secondly this solemn
thought, We may die soon !

No man knows the hour or day of his death, not more than

* Methuselah signifies " he dies.'" " The longest liver that ever was, carried death in
his name, that he might be reminded of its coming surely, though it came slowly."— H#nrj/.
tGen. 5.


he is informed of that wherein the "Son of Man cometh.'*
AHke the Master and his messenger shall appear in an hour
that we think not of, and as a thief in the night. Of all the
generations of men, we have on record only three individuals
the exact time of whose death was ever foretold : — Hezekiah*
fifteen years : Hannaniahf one year ; the rich fool| one day.

My friends, at every swing of the pendulum a spirit is ushered
into eternity ! Our turn may come next ; at the furthest it will
be very very soon ! What then should be our conduct with such
enlightenment ? " Turn to God one day before your death,"
said Rabbi Eliezer to his disciples. " But how can a man,"
replied they, " know the day of his death ?" " True," said
Eliezer, " therefore you should turn to God todai/ ; perhaps you
may die to-morrow." We should therefore live each day and
hour as though the announcement of the Lord to King Hezekiah
were ringing in our ears : — " Set thine house in order ; for thou
shalt die and not live."§ But oh how grievous the apathy
which distinguishes us all in view of life's uncertainties. We
live as if, like Adam and Abel, we had never seen a person die,
and as though the destroyer of mortal felicities were an unknown
visitant, whereas he stalks among us with a high hand, and our
vacant seats, the slabs of yonder cemeteries, ri\ ailing in their
coldness and whiteness the forms that sleep beneath, the long
train of bereaved hearthstones rendered desolate by the enginery
of destructive war, and the scene before us to-day, should each
be to us preachers of mortality, reminding us that our turn may
come next. And hence the necessity of having the " loins
girded about, and the lights burning."

" Every night brings us nearer, nearer, and every departing sun
Bids us take heart and labour, for soon will our work be done."

But, my hearers, though we must all die, and tliough toe may
die soon, there is one for whom this knowledge has no terrors.
Whom we mean is obvious. What is death to the Believer ?
As a desolating flood, or a valley deep and dark, hath it terrors
for him ? Ah, no ; to the wicked the day of death may be

♦Isaiah, 38. f Jer. xxviii, 16, 17. | Luke, xi. 20. ij ? Kings, xx, 1.


dark, but to the Christian it is a bright day, inlinitely brighter
than tlie day of his birth. As the cloud which had a dark side
for the Egyptians had a bright side for the Israelites, so death
which lowers ominously upon the wicked for the good hath
nothing but bright beams, or a dark night before a brighter
and everlasting to-morrow.

As we liave before intimated, the flower of the morning is not
more fading or the rainbow of the evening more transitory,
than is the narrow handbreadth, the little span of the "tale-told,"
our lives. But this, so far from being fraught with alarm to
the Clu'istian, is the great stay of his hope and the corner-stone
of his building, that his '* rest is not here ;" that here he is but
a "stranger, a pilgrim and a sojourner," having no "continuing
city," but hastening to a "better coimtry, that is a Heavenly ;"
that this mortal tenement is but a " prison house whose cribs
and bars confine the soul,"* like the movable tents of- Patri-
archal life, in which the undying, the nobler part, is but a
^' guest," a lodger for the brief night of earth ; the " lengthened
cords" and " strengthened stakes" of the tabernacle state once
removed, and like an unfettered slave the winged soul flies to
the light of perpetual day and liberty unrestrained at God's
right hand. So death is the messenger of peace to the believer,
and the day of his death is the day of his joy. We remember
the inquiry of Paul, "who shall deliver me from the body of
this death ?"t The response is to be found in the believer's
gain, since for him the death of the body quite destroys the
body of death.

There is another view of our text upon which we must descant
for a moment, and for a moment only it need be, since already
we have anticipated its instructions.

" He being dead yet speaketh^

"The Speaking Dead !" Who does not love to regard our
dead as still, in their now and infinitely extended spheres of
action, exerting influences which like themselves can never

* Rev. John F. Bigelow.
t Romans, vli, •J4.

die ! But while the dead to us, but the aUve to Christ, in their
state of everlasting cessation from tlie restless vicissitudes of life
have eternal voices, for us who a little longer tarry here below,
how do they speak, and what do they say ? We read of a rich
man speaking from his place of torment, and we remember his
language ; but what is the burden of their speech who inhabit
the regions of the blest ? Ah ! my friends, for you or for me it
is not to penetrate that vail. The Revelator in his Patmos
vision, through the door "ajar upon its golden hinges," caught
some faint glimpse of the glory within and some faint whisper
of the ceaseless anthem. But in our cases,

" Ear hath not heard, nor eye hath seen,
Its swelling songs, or its changeless sheen,"

so as to reveal those " secret things which belong to God."

The speech, then, of the " speaking dead" which we would
have you hear and heed this hour, comes not down from the
heavens, neither does it come up from the grave, "for there is
no work nor device, nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave."*
It is the voice which speaks from a life and character that still
moves and acts among us.

It is a gratifying but an overwhelming reflection that man
has two immortalities ; the one he lives yonder, the other he
leaves behind him ; so that no word spoken by human lips can
ever be unspoken, no deed done can ever be undone, no thought
can ever be unthought ; they shall ever exert a power for weal
or woe, till time shall be no more. One of America's greatest
sons upon his death-bed said, as his last mortal words, " I still
live." He spoke of the breath which was in his nostrils. We
lay greater stress upon his last earthly utterance, and what he
said of himself as a mortal man, we say of him in the various
media whereby he still lives and " speaketh," and forever shall
for good or for evil among the generations of men. There is a
little verse,

" Kind words can never die."
* Eccl. U, 10.

We should be solemnly impressed with the reflection that what
is so true of the "kind" and good is equally true of the evil—
neither can " ever die."

So, then, when we die let us remember that the lives we have
lived' cannot die with us ; they shall ever live on, on, a blessing
or a curse. " He who is not for me is against me." We cannot
die neutral.


And of him shall this be said whose memory we assemble this

day to honor ?

Oh, yes, the dust which sleeps where the missiles of war and
the shafts of disease have hurried it beneath the Southern sod,
has no voice for us indeed, but the unloosed tongue of the spirit
speaketh this hour amid the realms of the glorified, while the
character of our brother still walks the world in the power of
its influence.

I have now done with my text, and I have another text yet to
preach upon, supplied me in the life and character of him
whose obsequies we have assembled, irrespective of all denomi-
national distinctions, to observe. We have addressed you con-
cerning death ; permit me now with a better compendium to
speak a few words concerning the living; for such are the
''sleeping dead.'' We come not to speak the panegyric of
sergeant Adams, for his life is his best eulogy, and we would
refrain from adding affliction to the afflicted by tearing open
afresh the wounds of bleeding hearts. How shall we here
portray before you the life and character of the Patriot Hero
and the Christian Martyr, for such we characterize those who
die the Christian's death in the service of their country ! Shall
we represent before you his extraction or genealogy ? These
were indeed honorable, but by what the virtues of others pur-
chased the dead do not speak, neither shall we choose to declare
other minor points, but in a fourfold capacity we shall note that
which is worthy of imitation in us all. Consider the


The Son. To the youth before us we especially commend


this consideration. Tlie childhood and youth of Edward
Adams were formed under the influences of a Christian home.
It could be said of him as of one of old, " he was his Father's
son, tender and only beloved in the sight of his Mother."* But
more may be added to this of his own love and regard for the
Parents of his youth, or Parent we should say, for as we have
before stated the Father died while Edward was very young.
In the opportunity which has been accorded me to examine the
writings of the deceased I have made some selections. Under
date of Aug. 25, 1859, I find '* Rules for Action f and among
them is this one: — " I will listen to the counsels of my friends,
especially of my Mother, whose pure love, a Mother's love, must
ever desire my true good." This is the key note to the char-
acter of the man, for he who loves and respects his Mother
obeys a Divine commandf and is generallp on the Lord's side.

Again Feb. 22d, 1864, from his journal, six months since, by
which we learn that his was an affection and devotion which
manhood did not, as is too often the case, extinguish : — " I do
not half value my good mother, or what she has done for me."
And still more recently. May 25, from Fredericksburg, Va.,
while visiting the grave of Washington's Mother : — "I viewed
with veneration the resting place of this worthy woman, and
wished I could be as good a son to you as hers to lierT But if

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Online LibraryJohn Davis SweetThe speaking dead. A discourse occasioned by the death of Serg't. Edward Amos Adams, 59th regiment, M.V.M., delivered at Billerica, Mass., July 31st, 1864 → online text (page 1 of 3)