« PreviousContinue »
cellent conversationalist. An author 12 says of him, “whenever the writer called upon him, he happened to be alone in his room.
At those calls we distinctly remember seeing the old family Bible, with its brazen clasps, lying open on the bed or table. It appeared to be his familiar companion. His mind was undoubtedly replenished from this exhaustless fountain. He was tall, rather corpulent, of dignified deportment and possessed a cheerful countenance.”
Ebenezer Davis 13 died August 12th, 1816, aged 79 years. His funeral took place the Thursday following. Rev. Hosea Ballou, his faithful friend and adviser from the very beginning of Father Ballou's ministry twenty-five years previous, preaching the sermon, His text, aptly selected and enforced, was from Luke ii. 29–32: “Lord, now lettest Thou Thy servant depart in peace,” etc., etc.
" With respect to Mr. Davis it may be truly said, that he possessed a fund of intelligence, perhaps superior to any of the same opportunities in that section of the country. With a mind strong and energetic, he became eminently useful as a member of society. Although endowed with a spirit of liberality almost proverbial, yet he had accumulated a vast fortune principally by the aid of agriculture. With this great property at his command, it appeared to be his constant object to ease the burdens of his fellow men, and let the oppressed go free. As a patriot he has ever stood firm in defence of his country's rights. Throughout his protracted illness he evinced the strongest confidence in the all-prevailing Name of his Redeemer, and he died, as he had lived, in the full belief of the perfect reconciliation to his God.” 14
The influence of these men, of whom such imperfect records are gathered, was not small. They may not have been college men, or gifted in the arts of oratory ; but with all the great weights of prejudice upon them, and the calumnies and misrepresentations amidst which they lived, they wrought a good and abiding work. There were doubtless many in those times who joined the movements to resist the “ministerial tax," and who even subscribed the “Compact” from no worthy and pure motive, but all were not such. Men who follow for the “ loaves and fishes” live in every age. The weak men fall by the way; the strong endure to the end of the race. There were “ living epistles, known and read of all," among the little companies of Universalist believers a century ago, and their influence was great for laying the foundation of that temple which it is our privilege and duty to strengthen and upbuild.
12 Historical Sketches of Sturbridge and Southbridge, by George Davis. p. 115.
18 His first wife and mother of his children died in 1785. The Charlton town records mention it as follows: “ Mrs. De prah Davis, wife of Eb zer Davis, died February 27, 1785,- a virtuous person, lamented by relations and acquaintances. It is appointed for all once to die.” The late Hon. Emory Washburn, Ex-Governor of Massachusetts, was a grand-son.
14 The National Ægis, Worcester, August 28, 1816.
Resurrection -- Its Nature and Development.
ORGANIC structures differ widely and essentially from inorganic. The distinction between them is so marked and manifest, that the dullest minds can hardly fail to perceive it. Chemical affinities, which bind in permanent union the different elements of inorganic bodies, have little power over living tissues. These tissues, to all appearances, are under the control of laws, or forces entirely different-forces which elaborate and bring into being forms and combinations lying far beyond the reach of human skill or human achievement. The laboratory of the chemist has indeed produced many substances bearing the exact imitation of some which Nature forms in her animal and vegetable economy. The simplest forms alone have been obtained, the more complex defy the art of man. The farthest reach of human skill has never yet created a “ living soul,” or given form, and beauty, and sweetness to a rose, or endowed even the humblest protophyte with organic force. Science has made a thorough and searching examination of the human body in all its parts - its brain substance,
nervous tissue, bony structure, muscular arrangements, circulatory system, glandular apparatus, and dermoid texture. It has lifted into prominence, named and registered every part, even the minutest, of the complicated machine. But there its labor ends. It has never been able to set in motion the wheels and springs even of an old body, or with a breath of power give it life again. With all its experimentation and its researches, it has not yet brought to light the unknown element of a living man.
What is that unknown element ? Everywhere, among all classes, its presence is recognized as an actuality in living bodies. But it is intangible and invisible, and so far as human knowledge extends it has neither form, substance, weight, nor extension. In vain has it been sought in the living tissue. It lies beyond the domain of physical science. It remains, then, for the theologian or the metaphysician to carry his investigations into the realms of the Unseen, and solve the problem as best he may.
Every mind, the greatest as well as the least, instinctively refers all vital and mental phenomena in man to some force or energy beyond himself. Every effect must have an adequate cause. Science has sought in vain, in its own physical domain, for a cause equal to the vital and mental effects observed in a living man. Here all investigation must of necessity be turned over to the custody of Faith. What cannot positively be known may, with sufficient evidence to enforce a conviction, be believed. Indeed, in every case, what reaches into the unknown and unknowable must, from the necessities of logic, be consigned to the dominion of Faith. Few people are aware how much of the great work of life, how many of its brilliant achievements, are planned, not to say executed, in that obscure domain. “We walk by laith, not by sight.'
Looking then to the Unseen for an explanation of mental and vital phenomena, what is the inevitable inference to be drawn? The world in all its ages has referred these phenomena to a mysterious essence somehow connected with the physical organism. That essence has received the name of soul, spirit,
mind. It certainly furnishes a good “ working theory” for investigators, because it gives the best exposition ever made of the phenomena of thought. The supposition that mind is a function of brain, lacks the essential properties of a credible theory. It lacks consistency, it lacks evidence. It is surrounded with more difficulties, and requires more faith than any other theory ever offered for the solution of the difficult problem of vital and mental action. Returning, then, to the inevitable inference, man is double, embracing a spiritual essence and a physical enwrapment or pavilion for its habitation.
When death comes, what is its significance ? That which, with the aid of chemical affinities built up a body, controlled its corpuscular arrangements, and made it for years a living being, is somehow withdrawn. It no longer gives animation to an outward shelter, or locomotive pavilion. Pulsations cease, the heart stops its motion, and the rosy freshness of life has faded into a cold, wan, ghastly, pallor. We call it death, and never, except by a miracle, has reviviscence occurred. Here science fails, philosophy fails, all chemical manipulations, all the ceaseless tendernesses of devoted hearts, all the profoundest skill of the healing art, and all human effort in every form have failed to restore the vital force, or bring back to life again a body bereft of its animating spirit.
The living soul, then, goes out of its frail tenement. All its control over the chemical organization ceases forever, a rapid conflict of elements then commences and decomposition speedily ensues. But whither has this spirit fled ? Where now are its unseen wanderings? Does it still exist, a thinking, reasoning, praying, trusting, loving entity? Is it the mere expiration of a breath, or a final “puff of empty air,” to be absorbed in the infinite expanse of a thin, invisible, ethereal fluid surrounding it? If it still remains in being, where? Far beyond the reach of the human eye lies its heritage beyond even the farthest scope of scientific inspection, very deep in the realms of the unseen! Thither science cannot follow it. But because its home is beyond the scope of human
knowledge, is it, therefore, all a phantom ? Hope and conviction say not so. With the deepest, tenderest, and most absorbing interest do the living inquire concerning the final home of their departed. “If a man die, shall he live again?” Aside from the tender story of the holy Word, there appear some indications of a life hereafter some rays of light flashing along the human pathway, for its enlightenment and blessing - some brilliant gleams penetrating the darkness of the great Unknown!
The conscious perpetuity of souls hereafter, is dimly indicated in various ways : - First, by the absolute impossibility
— of any man conceiving of his own annihilation. Let him make the trial, and think, if he can, of absolute nothingness for himself! While he thinks, the Ego, or the Self within, which does the thinking, and which alone can think, stands outside of this apparent selfhood, and sees or conceives of somebody or something, but not itself, blotted out of existence. The Ego cannot think of the Ego itself as non-existent.
Next, the ineradicable sense of personal identity presents itself in evidence of perpetuity. Through all the changes of physical being, and all the revolutions of thought and feeling, self-hood appears indissolubly blended with consciousness. No one ever fails to perceive the sameness of his own being. No one fails to recognize that identity, the perception of which reaches back to the childhood of memory. The voices of the past, so rich, and full, and clear, are prophetic of the future. The conviction of identity, which is borne with such ineffaceable distinctness along the current of life, must, with no greater miracle, extend with equal certainty far into the coming ages. As the stability of matter, and the apparent impossibility of annihilating its atoms give countenance to the scientific inference that all material substance is indestructible, and therefore eternal; so the inextinguishable consciousness of personal identity, coming down from the earliest dawn of memory furnishes equal ground for the inference that the being of thought and memory shall continue far into the Unseen, and shall never cease.