Robert Morehead.

A series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) online

. (page 17 of 18)
Online LibraryRobert MoreheadA series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


spirit, against which our Lord here warns
his disciples. When men had lost that
presumption, which had no foundation
in reason, they gave themselves up to
as irrational a spirit of despondency :
they permitted a " MAN to deceive them ;"
that ' false prophet" who has so
long announced himself as the anoint-
ed minister of Heaven, the destined
ruler of the universal world, found
too much credit to all his extravagant
assumptions, and dazzled and confound-
ed by the splendour of successful am-



AND DESPONDENCY. 441

bition, too many of the nations basely
yielded to the seduction of " his signs
" and wonders."

It was in this temper that the world
generally appeared around us, when, but
a year ago, we were assembled, as at this
time, to implore the protection of Heaven.
To the former period of false security had
succeeded a long period of disaster and
dismay : conquest had continued to make
its unresisted progress ; and day after day
was still bringing the melancholy rela-
tion of thrones subverted, and nations sub-
dued. The hour of universal destruction
was but too commonly predicted ; and
while men looked upon the venerable fa-
brics of their country with the eye of
feebleness and despondency, rather than
with the animation of patriot ism , they were
gloomily occupied with the presages of evil,
and said to themselves, " there shall not,



442 ON NATIONAL PRESUMPTION

" alas ! be left one stone upon another
" that shall not be thrown down.'*

It was in the midst of these dark thoughts
that we again " heard of wars, and ru-
" mours of wars, and were troubled."
We imagined, with too much alarm, that
the destiny of other empires was at hand :
we scarcely hoped to see greater resolu-
tion than had yet appeared in the rulers
of nations, or greater self-devotion in
their people ; and we despaired to find
one people who should " endure to the
" end, and be saved." A third period
has since opened upon us, in which
we have seen that splendid and animat-
ing spectacle, the spectacle of a Prince
and a People who would stoop to no base
submission, not " though the abomina-
" tion of desolation stood where it ought
" not," amid the ruins of their city, and
" in their holy place ;" who, though they
" left their houses without entering therein



AND DESPONDENCY. 443

" to take any thing out, and went into the
" fields without turning back again for their
" garments," yet turned back again in
arms, and drove before them that " false
" prophet," and have brought contempt
upon all his " lying wonders."

It is impossible, my brethren, to speak
of this proud triumph in language ade-
quate to its magnificence ; yet it is suit-
able to this place to feel, that if man did
much, God did more ;- ever to recollect,
with shuddering devotion, that the flight
of these oppressors was " in the winter,"
that " affliction fell upon them, such as
" was not from the beginning of the crea-
" tion, which God created, unto this
" day ;" that although they had " rush-
" ed like the rushing of many waters.,
" yet God rebuked them, and they fled
* afar off, and were chased as the chaff of
*' the mountains before the wind, and like
*' a rolling thing before the whirlwind;-



444 ON NATIONAL PRESUMPTION

" and behold, at evening-tide, trouble,
" and before the morning they were
not !"

Amid the glory of this mighty scene,
and the glowing hopes which it awakens,
it is pious, no less than natural, to give
way to our feelings of gratitude and ex-
ultation. It is pious, too, from the hopes
which it inspires, to feel the value of our
Lord's admonition in the text, that it
is not every rumour of war which ought to
trouble us,-^ that nations are destined to
pass through many a storm of peril, and
that, even when the clouds are thickest
around them, the light of their fairest
prospects may, at that moment, in the
bounty of Heaven, be preparing to
open. " Such things must needs be ;
tf but the end shall not be yet" Far-
ther, it is wise, from the experience
of these latter days, to feel that it is
not the external circumstances of na-



AND DESPONDENCY* 445

tions which are chiefly alarming ; that,
while there is resolution at home, the
greatest hazards may be encountered
abroad ; that God will not desert those
who do not desert themselves ; and that
no peril is so great or so portentous, as
weak and debasing submission. It is
wise, no less than magnanimous, from
the splendid page of recent history, to
imbibe that lofty character of mind, which
cannot be lightly troubled ; which will
not sink before every menace of evil ; but
in the very jaws of apparent destruction,
can carry that firm and collected spirit,
which is ready to catch the first moment
of recovery.

But, while this great example points
out to us the miracles which national
firmness can effect, those scenes which
we before witnessed, as distinctly prove
to us, the miserable consequences of na-
tional divisions, and pusillanimity and



446 ON NATIONAL PRESUMPTION

irresolution ; and if we go back to the
beginning of those fatal convulsions
which have torn and mangled all the
texture of society around us, we shall
then see the dangers of which, indeed,
we have cause to beware ; those pesti-
lences and " earthquakes" of the moral
world, which are truly " the beginning of
"sorrows;" and which, far more than
" wars, and rumours of wars," may call upon
us to be troubled, and to take heed to our-
selves. We shall see those disorders ori-
ginate in the thoughtless profligacy of the
great ; in the discontented turbulence of
the people ; in the general neglect of re-
ligious duties ; in that narrow and over-
whelming selfishness, which cannot look
beyond immediate gratification ; which
can feel no ardour of Patriotism ; nor
be touched by any fire from Heaven !

These are, in truth, the irresistible ene-
mies of nations ; where these assail, no



AND DESPONDENCY. 44?

" great buildings, and no manner of
" stones," will be able to defend ; these
were the enemies, much more than the
armies of Rome, which overthrew the
temple and the state of Jerusalem of old ;
and they are the very same, whose pro-
gress, in every country around us, has in
our time been marked with tracks of
blood and desolation ; and has left
thrones, and dominions, and principali-
ties and powers, one undistinguished mass
of degradation and ruin.

If these are still the signs of our
times, my brethren ; if the judgments
of God in the earth have not yet
awakened us to thought, and religion,
and duty ; if, what I trust in Him can-
not generally be said of us, in public life,
we are without zeal for our country, and
in private, are without love to God and
to our neighbour; then let us not be
deceived, as so many other nations have



448 ON NATIONAL PRESUMPTION

been, with vain dreams of pre-eminence
and power. Let us not even surrender
our minds too hastily to those bright
gleams of hope which have now at length
opened upon the world j but if we
would really see that " shining light" of
freedom and restoration " shining more
" and more unto the perfect day/' then,
ere we leave the meditations of the
Temple, and while we yet stand in the
gate of the Lord's house, let us once
more reverently hear, and solemnly vow
to observe, the word of the Lord. " Thus
" saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of
" Israel, Amend your ways and your do-
" ings, and I will cause you to dwell in
" this place. Trust ye not in lying words,
" saying, the Temple of the Lord, the
" Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the
" Lord are these. For, if ye thorough-*
" ly amend your ways and your doings ;
" ifye thoroughly execute judgment be-



AND DESPONDENCY. 449

" tween a man and his neighbour ; if ye
" oppress not the stranger, the fatherless,
" and the widow, and shed not innocent
" blood in this place, neither walk after
" other Gods to your hurt ; then will I
" cause you to dwell in this place, in the
" land that I gave to your fathers, for
" ever and ever."



fltfhf



VOL. II. F f



-



DISCOURSE XXVll.






ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. *

fat <ai:)?bsi 1'fov ' ' & i'-'fa fw'-?' -

ECCLESIASTES, Vli. 1.

" A good name is better than precious oint-

/7v\?/i/i \ C/-JKI i/l<(s C(/Ct%/ O/ G/(sCt'v/l> t/ Ctfv LttC

" day of one's birth"

THERE seems, my brethren, at first view?
to be something very extraordinary in
the latter part of this assertion of the
wise man. The day of the birth of man
has, at all times, been esteemed a day of
rejoicing. It is the day on which the

* Preached on July 2, 1815, the second Sunday after
the Battle of Waterloo.

6



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 451

wishes of parents are accomplished, and
when the mother "remembereth no more
" her anguish, for joy that a man is born
" into the world." It is a day on which
innumerable hopes are formed, that car-
ry forward the imagination into many
pleasing anticipations of the future,
hopes, which are only clung to with the
greater eagerness, from the feeling of their
precariousness and uncertainty.

The day of death, on the other ha-d,
is, we all know, a day of lamentation
and mourning. When the buds of in-
fancy are blighted, the tears of parents
fall over the failure of all their hopes ;
when the strength or beauty of maturer
years is cut down, how many heart-
rending sorrows are awakened and wide-
ly diffused ; and even when the hoary
head descends to the grave, covered with
honour, and in the serenity of its setting
radiance, how painful to part with that



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD.

cheerful affection which had so long
smoothed, or that experienced wisdom
which had guided through the perplexed
paths of human existence !

These, my brethren, are the feelings
of nature, and her voice is ever sacred !
Yet there is a greater voice, which springs
from the meditations of wisdom and re-
ligion, there is a light of glory which
surrounds the grave, that last retreat of
mortal man is not left in the obscurity
of its native horrors, and even amidst
the pangs and afflictions of suffering na-
ture itself, there is a triumph and a con-
solation which may be heard !

" The day of death," says the wise
man, " is better than the day of one's
" birth." In the first and simplest view
of this assertion, death may be consider-
ed as the termination of all the trials and
conflicts of human nature. It is the hour
of calm after the storm the day of peace



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 453

after the tumult of the battle. If, in the
silent " valley of the shadow of death,"
the joys and hopes of man are not to be
found, neither are his anxieties and cares,
-*4he pulse of passion has there ceased to
beat, and all the sorrows that distract,
and the disorders that lay waste his soul,
are hushed in an eternal repose. " There
" the wicked cease from troubling, and
" there the weary be at rest,"

There is, in this view of the tranquilli-
ty of the grave, something which is con-
genial to every gentle mind. We love,
in the hours of thought, to retire front)
the tumultuous gaiety of the world, ov
from its scenes of horror and sorrow, and
to meditate amid the quiet mansions of
mortality ; and while the evening sun
shines upon the turf that covers them, to
feel the conflicts of our own bosoms gra-
dually subside into the calm of nature,
an.d of the tomb ! When we think of the



454 ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE l^EAD.

dead, we think of those whose task is
done, who, after a long day of labour,
are now laid quietly asleep, and whose
slumbers will not be broken by the rest-
less feet that are treading around them.
Is there anything in the toils and per-
plexities of that busy multitude, so sooth-
ing to the imagination, as the hallowed
repose of those who have quitted the dis-
tracted scene ; and when we contem-
plate the birth of man into a world so
fluctuating and uncertain, in which, alas !
the human character itself is subject to
the same fatal mutability and disorder,
can we, in reason, regard it as a happier
event, than that sacred stroke pf destiny
which at once closes for ever all the course
of his sorrows and his temptations ?

Let us not then, my brethren, on any
occasion, mourn over the dead on their
account ; let us not imagine that they
have met with any loss or privation. To



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 4f55

us their departure may, indeed, be griev-
ous ; but the woe is unmanly that centres
solely in itself, and it is, in truth, the il-
lusion that the dead have met with a heavy
misfortune, which occasions our severest
pangs when we lament their destiny.
When infant innocence is cut off, we
mourn that so happy an existence should
so suddenly terminate, forgetful that
those joyous years would soon be cloud-
ed by the gathering anxieties of human
life ! We mourn over the fall of youth in
the pride of its bloom and of its hopes,
unmindful of the decay and disappoint-
ments which are the too certain attend-
ants of increasing age ! We mourn for
the aged themselves, although, probably,
the few years which might have been add-
ed to their being would have taken away
more than they could bring ! The truth
is, the shortest life gives us a taste of
the happiness of existence, and the most



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD.

protracted period of our being gives us
little more. The speediest death prevents
the repetition, merely, of the same, or a
few similar enjoyments, but kindly cuts
off, at the same time, the possibility of
evils and disorders which too often sting
and wound the very vitals of the soul.

The observation of the wise man ought,
however, in the second place, to be view-
ed in connection with the words by which
he introduces it. " A good name," he
says, ^ is better than precious ointment,
" and the day of death than the day of
" one's birth." In these words he al-
ludes to that important truth which has
gained the assent of the good and wise
in every age, 'that life is only truly valu-
able, as it opens a theatre for the dis-
charge of duty ; that it is not to be priz-?
ed by the number of years to which it
extends, the number of enjoyments
which may be crowded into it, or the



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD, 457

magnificence and glory which may distin^
guish it, but by the genuine esteem and
love which it acquires in its course ; and
that the " precious ointment" which em-
balms the dead, is the " goodname" which
follows them. This it is, indeed, for which
alone a wise man would be desirous to
live, and when this invaluable prize is
obtained, wherefore should he refuse to
die?

In this view, there can be no doubt
that " the day of death is better than the
" day of one's birth." When a man is
born into the world, it cannot be known
what may be the character of his course.
The helplessness and innocence of child-
hood are equally the beginnings of every
human career; but how wide the dis-
tinctions which arise in the progress of
life, how lamentable even at times the
termination of those who, for a season,
seemed to offer the fairest promises of



458 ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD.

virtue ; and can there, in fact, be an
hour of man more enviable than that in
which he sinks into the bosom of his mo-
ther earth, amid the genuine tears of sor-
rowing friends, and the universal regrets
of human kind ? That great hour is the
consummation of his moral being, the
seal affixed to the character of his soul,
which no future hour can efface or take
away ; he has then for ever escaped, not
merely from the fluctuations of the world,
but from the mutability of human nature
itself, and there is now no hazard that
he will ever awaken, in the breast of a
fellow-creature, any other emotions than
those of gratitude and love. In that hal-
lowed hour, even his failings are forgot-
ten ; nothing remains of him in our me-
mories but the qualities which we ho-
noured and loved ; and the common im-
perfections of his mortal nature seem to
vanish amid the dust in which he is laid.



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 459

Weep not for the dead, then, my bre-
thren, if the light of virtue has followed
them to the tomb, if the memory of their
" good name" lives sacred in the heart
of man, O weep not for them, weep for
yourselves and your children ! Weep over
the stains which continue to defile your
nature, and over all the trials and dan-
gers through which the steps of the living
are destined to go ; but wish not to recal
the virtuous dead, whose good name is
for ever sealed ; seek not to recal them
again into the midst of these trials and
defilements; wish not, for any happiness
which you might derive from their vir-
tues, to break the hallowed security of
their repose ; and if their last hour hath
likewise been their most glorious, if it
hath called down upon their heads the
tears and blessings of their Country, no
less than of their friends, what more
could life have offered them, and what



460 ON THE GOOD NAME OP THE DEAD.

have they lost, that was valuable in ex-
istence, even although they may have
fallen in the prime of their years ?

These are the lofty considerations which,
in every age, have presented themselves
to the contemplative and wise. They
brightened even the darkness of Heathen
times, and they formed the noblest exam-
ples of heroism and of patriotism even
among thpse whose eyes scarcely pene^
trated beyond the barrier of the grave. In
those illustrious ages, amidst all the ob-
scurity which surrounded them, death was
felt to be beautiful, " when earned by vir-
" tue ;" and the parent could resign his
son, almost without a sigh, when he fell
a sacrifice upon the altar of his country.

The milder genius of the Gospel, my
brethren, checks not the feelings of hu-
man nature : " Jesus wept," and the sa-
cred fountains of sorrow flow for the pu-
rification of the soul. But that Gospel,



ON THE GOOD NAME OP THE DEAD. 461

which represses not the tears of humani-
ty, lights up the radiance of hope in the
eyes from which they fall ; it draws the
veil of mortality aside, and points to the
glories of that region into which the im-
mortal spirit enters. Standing on the ho-
ly elevation of the cross of Christ, we
now behold the clouds roll away from the
valley of the shadow of death ; we see
opening beyond them, the innumerable
mansions of the virtuous, and, washed
from all their earthly stains, in the blood
which streamed for their redemption,
we see them prepared to enter into the
joy of their Lord.

This great view, then, gives us, in the
third place, a ground for the wise man's
assertion, which was not fully known .to
himself, but which, blessed be God, is re-
vealed to the humblest Christian. Yet
we do not, perhaps, always permit our-
selves to derive from these grand disco-



46'2 ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD.

veries, all the consolation and triumph
which they were designed to bestow;
and we are apt at times to suffer the li-
mited notions and prejudices of man to
cross, with their narrow boundaries, the
interminable prospects of the bounty of
God. " In my Father's house," says our
Saviour, " are many mansions," man-
sions, we may dare to interpret, in which
the innocent buds of childhood will open
beneath the beams of angel love ; man-
sions, in which the zeal and affection of
youth will be associated with those mi-
nistering spirits who carry through un-
numbered worlds, the messages of mer-
cy ; mansions, in which the pious wis-
dom of age will meditate by the still
waters of immortal bliss, on all the gra-
cious plans of Almighty beneficence ! g .
And are there no mansions of glory
allotted to the generous lovers, and the
brave defenders of their country ? Will



ON THE GOOD NAMK OP THE DEAD. 463

the blood which flowed for the liberties
of the world, sink into the ground with-
out its reward ? Has Heaven no offices in
store which heroic spirits will delight to
exercise ? And may it not still be their
lofty department, to fan the fires of pa-
triot daring, or to hurl the unseen bolts of
vengeance at the heads of the impious
oppressors of mankind ? The simplicity
of the Gospel checks, indeed, upon this,
as upon all religious inquiries, the wan-
derings of imagination ; but it is enough
that the mighty prospect is revealed, and
revealed in all the unlimited grandeur of
the conception, free from the littleness
of human distinctions.

If the day of death, then, is the day of
a new birth to every virtuous soul, of a
birth into a world where it is for ever
cleansed from all the stains and imperfec-
tions of mortality ,~where all its good and
elevated endowments will be crowned



464 ON THE GOOD NAME OF TfrE DEAD.

with unfading wreaths, and all its capa-
cities meet with employment far above
everything which this world esteems glo-
rious : is it not the selfishness of grief
which would long for its return ? and
ought not the " sweet-smelling savour" of
" a good name" which it leaves behind,
to remain in our hearts as the precious
pledge of that life of immortality into
which it is gone ?

Reflections of this kind, my brethren,
are at all times important and consola-
tory ; but I will not conceal from you.
that I have been led at present into this
train of thought, very much by the great
events of these last days ; and although
I feel it to be presumptuous in me, in
these moments of deep agitation, to make
any allusion to those unexampled ex-
ploits, which, while they have elevated
our Country to her highest pinnacle of
success and glory, have, at the same time,



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 465

involved her in a cloud of heavy sor-
row, I could not refrain from lending
even my feeble efforts to dispel the thick-
ness of the gloom !

s 1 1" 'How are the mighty fallen, and the
" weapons of war perished !" Yet blessed
was the cause in which they fell, and proud
and permanent the triumph which their
dauntless intrepidity has won ! They fell in
the greatest, and, I trust, the last conflict for
the independence of the civilized world;
and God hath granted to their heroic toils
a far more splendid issue than even the
warmest hopes of patriotism had dared to
presage. Their names will ever remain
inscribed on the pillar of their Country's
renown ; the eyes of liberated Europe
will long turn with tears of gratitude to
the field on which they bled j and the
father, in many a distant land, will speak
to his children of their deeds and of their

VOL. II. G g



466 ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD.

fame, as the noblest example and incite-
ment of virtue !

In hours like the present, my brethren,
it becomes us to lift the character of our
souls to the level of that majestic height
on which our Country stands, and to the
still higher level of the Gospel. It be-
comes us to dissipate private sorrow in
public triumph, and in the triumph of

greater things beyond mortality !
';f)how iVjisiiivn siii 'io 3'jflobfKHpbui 91!)

And now, may that Almighty God,
who strengthened the arms of our war-
riors on the day of battle, and crowned
their efforts with glorious victory, grant
that the memory of their " good name "
may fire, as incense from the altar, the
hearts of our children in every succeed-
ing age ; and may he speedily close the
wounds of private affection, by the ani-
mating spectacle of national security and



ON THE GOOD NAME OF THE DEAD. 46?

dignity won by their blood, and by all
the triumphant hopes and consolations
of Religion !



THE END.



Printed by George Ramsay and Company,
Edinburgh, 1816.





. ... ..










Regent's Classics.



. , *>

^

* I*i3*

TO THE PUBLIC.

THE gradual progress of time, and even a long succession
of ages, have not diminished that admiration which is justly
due to the Greek and Roman poets and historians. Their
works are the valuable property, not merely of Greece and
of Italy, but of the whole civilised world ; and the splendid
fabrics which their genius raised will subsist in unsullied
beauty, \\hen the pyramids of Egypt shall have mouldered
into dust. To answer the continued demand for these ad-
mired productions, new editions are constantly requisite. In
the present publication of the Latin poets, a minor form has
been preferred, for portable convenience and facility of re-
ference ; and it is hoped, that our volumes will rival the
Elzevir editions in neatness of typography, and surpass them
in correctness. They are not only intended for the use of
able scholars, who do not require the aid of annotations,
but will also suit young students in schools or in families,


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 17

Online LibraryRobert MoreheadA series of discourses on the principles of religious belief as connected with human happiness and improvement (Volume 2) → online text (page 17 of 18)