« PreviousContinue »
BY REV. JOHN TODD, D.D., PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH, PITTSFIELD, MASS.
THE GOOD NEVER DIE.*
"HE, being dead, yet speaketh.”—HEBREWS 11 : 4. BRETHREN AND FRIENDS: We have come together on this occasion, that we may follow to the grave all that remains of HEMAN HUMPHREY. We shall not study to have every expression the most proper and appropriate possible—for we gather around that which was lately the temple of the Holy Ghost, with the awe and reverence which we feel due to preëminent worth, and with the sorrow of children met to bury a father. The old warrior hath put off his armor—for the conflict of a
As the NATIONAL PREACHER contains quite a number of discourses in its thirty-five volumes, it is peculiarly fitting that this Sermon should find a place in it also.ED. N. P.
long life is over. The victor-who hath so long done battle, overcoming poverty and obscurity in youth, dashing aside the indolence of our nature, grappling with the duties and the burdens of a long public life, mastering the imperfections inseparable from humanity, the weaknesses and the besetting sins never fully overpowered, holding out till he stood almost alone, left by nearly all who commenced life with him—the victor, over even the last enemy, has gone to receive his crown!
My wish and prayer at this time is, that I may meet the responsibilities of this hour by so speaking to you that the passing away of a great and good man, and our last opportunity to honor his worth, may not be without spiritual benefit to us all.
Those who have made and left their mark upon the world, have been, for the most part, the founders of empires, the deliverers of nations enslaved by tyrants or by superstitions, the promulgators of laws wise and comprehensive, the inventors, and hence the benefactors and contributors to the comforts and conveniences of men, and the men who have made their impression directly on the mind of the race. Of these, the influence of the last is the most permanent, the most beneficial, and by far the most desirable. Tables of stone perish, but what was written on them is imperishable. The heroes and the great ones of earth come and go like the tornadoes and thunders near the equator. The world seems to rock and roll under them for an hour, but the influence of him who can write thought on the minds of men, is like that of a spring gushing up with living water, that enlarges its blessings as long as it flows.
It was thought that first created the universe, and it is thought, divine and human, that now sways the world; and he who has passed his probation, having the power to use this influence, has had the mightiest weapon for good or evil in his hand, which the earth knows.
God has so arranged his government that what is evil sball die, and its influence cease. The plague that rides on the wings of the wind shall go past; but the mind shall live to refresh the lungs, and bring healing to thousands. Tamerlane, the scourge, shall sit on his war-horse, and point to his pyramid, made of eighty thousand human skulls, and feel that he is Destiny; but he shall molder into dust, and perhaps have less influence in the world to-day than some poor slave that toiled on the pyramids of Egypt. The dew-drop that hangs on the leaf or the mountain-side, and there seems to dry up and be gone forever, shall reappear a thousand times to refresh the rose that cheers the heart in the sick. room. A thought which a good man throws out upon the world does not die in the air. It ceases to be heard ; but time, like a vast sounding-board, has it in safe-keeping, and again and again will it be echoed back upon men, and influence human character,
A moral impression which is made upon the child or the youth, may be transmitted from heart to heart, from character to charac. ter, to the latest generations. Even if Abel's name had not been written on the pages of the Bible, you and I might and would now be feeling the influence of that man to-day. He, being dead, would still be speaking.
It was the mind, the pen of Voltaire, that poisoned his nation, and maddened and convulsed all Europe. It cost him thirty-six quarto volumes to do it. But when that generation had passed away, those writings were dead. They will never again rouse the passions of men ; while the influence of some poor shepherd, like Abel, will live, and influence men for good to the end of time. The great queen of Egypt, who had power to change the destiny of the Roman empire, will have no influence upon the world, while the influence of the captive child that waited on the wife of the Syrian general will never leave the earth. Bad men turn the waters into blood, and there they leave them ; but the rod in the bands of the good, turns the blood into water again. Human footprints made in blood will soon be effaced from the earth; but beauty shall wait upon the footsteps of him who lives to do good.
While the tramp of the Roman legions was shaking the earth, and there was no power known in the world but that of her sol diery, there was a little child living in the despised village of Nazareth, a single word from whose lips was to become a power mightier than that of all the armies of Rome. Some years after this
, Rome was in flames. Public opinion pointed to Nero, the Emperor--a monster in human form--as the one who kindled the flames. “So far from quieting this rumor,” says Tacitus-perhaps the shrewdest man of his generation—"so far from quieting this rumor, Nero judicially charged with the crime, and punished with the most studied severities, that class, hated for their general wickedness, whom the vulgar call Christians. The originator of that name was one Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, suffered death by sentence of the Procurator, Pontius Pilate. The baneful superstition, thereby repressed for a time, again broke out, not only in Judea, the native soil of that mischief, but in the city also, where, from every side, all atrocious and abominable things collect and flourish !"
What a trifling circumstance was this persecution of Christians in the life of such a great man as Nero! Hardly worth mentioning! And what a small affair was that "one Christ," thus to be incidentally named, and that with sneers! They all three bave been numbered among the dead-Nero, and Tacitus, and Christbut which yet speaketh? While once in months, perhaps, Nero's name is mentioned, and that with detestation, the name of the Child of Nazareth is dwelt upon by millions of tongues, and the
hopes of uncounted numbers in every generation—the highest hopes which the soul can have are centered in him.
It is a beautiful circumstance, that in the arrangements of Divine Providence, too, it is not important whether the agent seems to do a great work at the time. He passes along, and goes out of sight, but his works come after him. Abel did but one single act-offered his lamb in faith ; but that brought on the first deadly contest between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and it will affect the world to the end of time. The man who wrote the four simple lines beginning with, "Now I lay me down to sleep,” seemed to do a very small thing. He wrote four lines for his little child. His name has not come down to us, but he has done more for the good of his race than if he had commanded the victorious army at Waterloo. The little fires which the good man kindles here and there, on the shores of time, never go out; but ever and anon they flame up and throw a light upon the pilgrim's path. There is hardly any thing so fearful, to my mind, as the mind reaching down into the coming ages, and writing itself upon the minds of unborn generations. We know not whose hand held the pen that wrote the Arabian Nights; but what a book! How few are the children who have not sat spellbound at the feet of that enchanter!
Men who can throw themselves down into human character, by the pen or by the voice, have a high honor. One such oak is worth whole forests of gourds which come up in the night and wither in the morning. Noiseless as the wheels of the sun are such influences, and if flowing from a sanctified heart, will go into human character-will mold it for time and for eternity. The missionary, teaching a poor heathen child, is communicating impressions and influences that will be transmitted again and again, till at some time in their progress they fall upon the right spirit, and there comes out an Edwards, a Bunyan, or a Cowper. So that no man knows or can know at the time whether he is doing a great work or a small one. The unknown mind that wanted to contrive something to write on cheaper, and more abundant than parchment or the papyrus, and who finally discovered a way to make cheap paper, had no conception of what he was doing. This was just before John Faust invented types; and had Faust not done it, the paper being cheap, somebody else would. To that unknown mind the world owes the intelligence, the conveniences, and, very much, the religion which are filling the earth. There may be at this very hour, in some obscure, retired cottage, a mind that is at work over some one thought which is yet to become a power in the world, second only to the Christian religion. Very possibly, too, that mind will never be known in this world. Can any one tell who sowed the first handful of wheat? or who in
vented the first plow? Can any one tell who made the proverbs which are the concentrated wisdom of ages, and the common property of the world? Can you tell us which of the disciples it was who first conceived the idea of asking Christ to teach them to pray, and thus gave to the whole race the Lord's prayer? The whole human family are linked together, so that when you make an impression on one, you affect them all; the influence never dies. Of every one it is true: "He being dead, yet speaketh.'
There is no position in which impressions that are to go down to future ages can so well and so surely be made, as the position of a minister of Jesus Christ. We don't expect to make new discoveries in theological science, to discover new truths, to mark out new fields for investigation ; but the minister of Christ is a workman under him, a servant in his house, a messenger of his truth, linked in with his great plans, and laboring in a cause infinite in importance, and accompanied by the promises and the presence of Christ. When, therefore, he stands up in the pulpit, when he leads the devotions of God's people in prayer, when he speaks to the lambs of his flock, when he throws out a warm thought in the prayer meeting, or when he whispers of the mercy of Christ in the sick-room, he is making impressions that reach beyond the present hour. The drooping faith of that child of God is made stronger--the heart and conscience of that sinner has received an arrow which none but the hand of Christ can extractthe soul of that little child has received impressions that will make him a minister of the Gospel, or a missionary of the Cross. That mother is going home to kneel down to-night with a fuller, warmer heart, as she brings her children to God in fervent prayer. His hand is upon the spring-waters, and he opens here and there a spring that will send forth its stream, and gather other waters, till it has created a river of mercy. And many a humble man, who at times has hung his head and mourned over the few sheaves that he hath gathered, who at times doubts whether he ought not to lay down his commission and retire from the field, is doing what will be felt the world over. He casts his bread upon the waters. It may be many days before it is found. But the seed will not be lost. It may come up on the shores of the Pacific—it may wave on the sides of great Lebanon in the East. He makes impressions for eternity on souls that are immortal, and they can not be lost. The teachings which Doddridge received from his mother as she taught him Bible history from the tiles of her chimney, can be seen in a succession of ministers—a chain indeed extending down to this day. And how many mothers have been led by that simple circumstance to be faithful to their children in the nursery ; and how that incident has done much to lead to the beautiful pictures for children in religious books and papers of this day, the Great Day alone can reveal. It is by no means certain that the