Joseph H. (Joseph Herman) Hertz.

King Edward the Seventh : memorial sermon online

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Ecclesiastes X, 17


IYAR 11, 567O.-MAY 2O, 191O.


p -pt?K " Happy art thou, O
land, whose king is a free man." (Eccl. X. 17). This
Scriptural verse is the key that will disclose to us the
world-historical significance of him who is to-day being
laid to rest amid the sorrowing sympathy of all nations.
True, this is not a text that suggests lamentation or wailing.
If however, we consider the briefness of King Edward's
reign and his royal record of work achieved, even our
grief at his swift summons into eternity cannot prevent us
from feeling that lamentation is indeed uncalled for.
Instead, by centering our attention upon the personality of
King Edward as a ruler, as a man, our text will help us to
a realisation of what the British Empire has lost in the
passing of our great Sovereign ; we may learn the secret
of his hold upon the affections of the civilised world ; we
may obtain a glimpse of the place he is destined to occupy
in the pages of history.

In the Hebrew original our text reads : ''Happy art
thou, O land, whose king is a son of free men." And it
is this pre-eminence as the offspring of a free race and
free institutions, that compels us to regard him as the
ideal British king, nay more, as the ideal king of the
Biblical writers. For the close affinity between the
Hebrew and the British ideals of kingship is also evidenced

21 16772

by the persistent struggle of both nations for a law-abiding
ruler. Let us first turn to the Bible, if we would grasp
the unique qualities which have distinguished King
Edward's kingship from all others. The Bible is for all
time the sacred source of the spirit of human liberty.
Even an agnostic like Huxley could realise that the Bible
was the " Magna Charta of the poor and the oppressed" ;
and could declare, in respect to the Jewish State founded
upon the Torah, that "down to modern times no state had
a constitution in which the interests of the common
people were so largely taken into account, in which the
duties so much more than the privileges of rulers were
insisted upon." The Jewish king was bound to respect
the liberty, the honour, and the property of his subjects ;
and his power was strictly limited by the fundamental
laws of the Torah. Listen to the words of the Law-giver
(Deut. xvii., 10-20), "And it shall be when he sitteth upon
the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself
a copy of this law in a book ; and he shall read therein
all the days of his life, that he may keep all the words of
this law ; and that his heart be not lifted up above his
brethren." The vigilance of the Prophets, throughout
Jewish history, against every kind of abuse perpetrated
by the brute-force of king or noble, was ceaseless.
Samuel warns the tribes of Israel against the ways of the
Eastern despot ; Nathan the Prophet hurls his, "Thou art
the man ! " at the royal sinner ; and Elijah beards Ahab

as the latter proceeds to take possession of the vineyard
of the murdered Naboth. Prophets, sages, psalmists and
seers, all cherish the Messianic dream that days are
coming when the king will be a shepherd to his people,
when the king's sceptre will be a sceptre of peace, and
upon him shall rest the spirit of wisdom and counsel and
and fear of the Lord.

In all history there is only one parallel to this Jewish
hope for a king who should be a son of Freedom and a
prince of Peace, a hope for ever coupled with fearless
opposition to rulers whose strivings were merely for
personal and dynastic power and that parallel is furnished
by the English people. For if anything can be more
remarkable than the unanimity with which the British
people to-day cling to and reverence the Throne, it is the
age-long conflict waged between People and Crown on
the soil of England. As soon as the Crown had fulfilled
its vital and inestimable work of unifying the nation, a
bitter struggle began for freedom, and it lasted for over
five centuries. Truly does the poet sing :

" All we have of freedom, all we use or know
" This our fathers bought for us long ago.

" Lance and torch and tumult, steel and grey-goose wing
" Wrenched it, inch and ell and all, slowly from the King

" Till our fathers 'stablished, after bloody years,

" How our King is one with us, first among his peers."

Now this transformation of the absolute monarch of
a barbaric age who could say, " The State, I am the State,"
into the king of a modern democracy, who is the first
among a nation of peers, who recognises loyalty to the
laws of his country as his highest duty, and the service of
his people the divine right and privilege of a king this
process of transformation had reached its culmination in
King Edward VII. On his accession he announced, " I
shall be a constitutional monarch in the strictest sense of
the words," and nobly has he proved himself the free king
of a free people. He reigned over half the earth and all
the seas, with a mild sovereignty that was as gentle, as
unfelt and unseen, and yet as real as is the moon's attrac-
tion for the waters of the ocean. No wonder that by his
life he greatly increased the dignity and the worth of the
royal office, and measurably enhanced its influence. Broad-
based on the people's will, the Crown is to-day the symbol
of Imperial unity, above all political parties and trusted
by all. It is the fountain of honour and national
gratitude, the nucleus of everything that is best and
highest in the national life a vast force for moral and
social good. Verily, happy is that land whose kings are
the nurslings of Liberty, the sons of Freedom.

We have so far spoken of King Edward as a ruler.
But his pre-eminent political gifts, no matter how interest-
ing to the student of liberty, would never alone explain

his boundless popularity, the affection that hundreds of
millions of his fellow-men held him in when he was still
with us ; neither would they account for the feeling of
personal loss, as of a dear friend, which pervades this
world-wide sorrow, now that he has left the pathway of
life and entered the abode of everlasting peace. This
affection could have been inspired only by King Edward
the man. Early in life he won all hearts by his simplicity,
his sincerity, and his good-fellowship. His heart was
never lifted up above his brethren. His freedom from
religious prejudice was shown by his numerous friendships
with men of our creed, and his magnanimity by his
reception of the Boer Generals fresh from battle with his
people ; a magnanimity and broad-mindedness which
were as respect-compelling as the wonderful witchery of
his courtesy was irresistible. His popularity was the
unconscious homage of all classes to the qualities that
endear man to man, to a supreme tact, a genuine polite-
ness of the heart, and that rare sympathy and consi-
deration for others which is unquestionably the fruit
and fine flower of British freedom. Well may the words
of Rabbi Chanina be our consolation to-day, ^

,UDTI nrm mpon nn /UDTI nnu nv-on nnp

" He in whom the spirit of his fellow- creatures takes de-
light, in him will the Spirit of the Almighty take delight."

We must, however, call to mind not only his tireless

fidelity to the duties of his exalted position, the purity of
his aims for the welfare of his people, but also his mani-
fold labours for the welfare of all humanity. As Prince
of Wales, his motto had been " Ich dien " (I serve) ; his
reign was begun with the words, " As long as there is
breath in my body I will work for the good and ameliora-
tion of my people"; and very faithfully was this vow
fulfilled to the last, the very last day of his life on earth.
" The righteous " the Rabbis tell us, " perform far more
than they promise." At his accession no one foresaw the
services he was to render to the cause of the world's
peace. The Talmud speaks of fortunate men who achieve
immortality by one deed, in an hour, as it were H31p 12^
nnS nj?2O lOVlJ? ; and we may well believe that
the preservation of the peace of great nations is sufficient
to merit immortal renown and the gratitude of mankind.
It has been said that in literature the judgment of foreign
nations resembles the verdict of posterity. Within
certain limits, this also holds true in the sphere of politics
The foreign press spoke of him as of a great international
Power, and named him " Edward the Peacemaker." And
it is under this glorious title that he is likely to shine in
the annals of the future. Again and again, he made his
beneficient influence felt in the direction of international
sanity, justice and peace. And now that he is gone, all
feel that the world is poorer for the loss of his moderating
influence, and gloomier for the absence of his deep

sympathy with suffering and persecuted humanity.

So far we have endeavoured to realise what we have
lost; but it is as sacred a duty to realise what we have not
lost, what we cannot lose the example of this noble
lover of Freedom, Justice and Humanity, whose ways were
ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths were peace.
His example remains with us for all time an imperishable
addition to the ideals and memories of the British nation.
In many a heart it will implant the conviction that there
are higher things in life than gold and pomp and power ;
that during our brief journey from infinity to infinity, each
one of us, no matter how humble his station in life, may,
coral-like, add his share to the slowly-rising fabric of a
better world a world of triumphant Truth, realised
Righteousness, and universal Peace.

"The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things ;
There is no armour against fate,

Death lays his icy hand on kings
Sceptre and crown

Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

All heads must come

To the cold tomb ;
Only the actions of the just
Smell sweet and blossom in their dust." AMEN.

In this hour of our nation's sorrow we have come
unto Thee, Who art our Rock and our Redeemer forever,
to offer our supplications unto Thee on behalf of the soul
of our departed Sovereign, King Edward VII., who hath
been gathered unto his people. O Father of life and
death, in Whose hand is the soul of every living thing and
the breath of all flesh, with Thee is remission of sins, in-
finite compassion and life eternal. Take, we beseech
Thee, his soul into Thy keeping ; have mercy upon him,
and pardon all his transgressions, for no mortal man is
sinless before Thee. Remember unto him his strivings and
yearnings for the good of his people and the brotherhood
of man, and grant him his recompense for all the righteous-
ness and peace which he wrought while on earth. Lift
up the light of Thy countenance unto him, and vouchsafe
unto him of the abounding happiness that is treasured up
for those who walk in Thy ways of loving-kindness and
truth before the children of men. O Lord, Who healest
the broken-hearted and bindest up their wounds, grant
Thy heavenly consolation unto the bereaved widow, Queen
Alexandra, unto our most gracious Sovereign King George
V., and unto all the mourners of the Royal Family. Be
with them in this hour of their bitter grief, and cause the
staff of Thy love to guide and comfort them as they walk
through the valley of the shadow of death. "He will
destroy death forever ; and the Lord God will wipe
away tears from off all faces; for the Lord hath spoken
it." AMEN.


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Online LibraryJoseph H. (Joseph Herman) HertzKing Edward the Seventh : memorial sermon → online text (page 1 of 1)