Rest in Death.
TO MY DEAR GODSON FREDERICK GEORGE LEE PURCHAS, AND TO THOSE RELATIONS AND FRIENDS WHO, WITH MYSELF, SO HEARTILY MOURN HIS FATHER'S DEATH, I dedicate THIS FUNERAL SERMON.
F. G. L.
6, Lambeth Terrace, London.
Oct. 27, 1872.
The enemy stood round
Bitter and resolute. Every nerve was strained,
All back-door influence secured by craft,
To compass his destruction. Knaves, with cant
Malignant, curious and contemptible,
With broad phylactery and rich-droned psalm,
Gathered, maligning and oppressing him.
Taking God's Name in vain by nauseous talk,
Too superfine, in Bible-chosen words,
For any save the elected and their friends;
Who did not hustle to the chain and stake
A loyal subject and a churchman true,
Only because they're rusty and unused,
Dead and decayed the executioner,
In days of spurious liberality."
THE SORROWS OF SEWALLIS, a Dramatic Poem.
REST IN DEATH. A FUNERAL SERMON. "The Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies."--2 Samuel vii. 1.
THE struggles of God's chosen people of old, so diverse in their character, so continual, so harassing, are but types of our own struggles and trials under this better dispensation of the Gospel. Temporal punishments fell of old upon the children of Israel, because of their deliberate and constant transgressions so that from the period when Moses led them out of Egypt until the reign of King David, to whom the words of the text refer, the record of their history is in truth but a record of disobedience, strife, perplexity and confusion. In their long and perilous journey to the land of Canaan, though God was amongst them, to guide, to direct and to reveal His will, the din of war was ever rising, seldom was the sword sheathed, dangers were pressing upon them from their enemies on all hands, and the bones of thousands were left: buried on either side in the unkindly and deserted [5/6] country through which they passed. For the sins of their forefathers the children suffered. The deliberate unbelief and disobedience of one generation ensured sorrow and anguish to those that came after: just as Abraham's unswerving faith merited and drew down from God a rich benediction on those who had sprung from his loins, as well as upon himself. Even after the people of God had reached the land of corn and wine, the land of oil-olive and honey, peace was scarcely known to them. The idolaters of Canaan, steeped in degrading superstitions and more than corrupt in morals, remained verily as thorns in their side. Rest, like a mirage of the desert, therefore, receded with the growing years. It had been dreamt of but was not yet realized. The picture of every man sitting under the shadow of his vine-tree, in obedience, in peace, in order, harmony and charity, was a prophecy unfulfilled or only a sunny vision. Families were born and died, to whom in the youth or heyday of life this sweet hope of the future was a consolation in thought, but they were gathered to their fathers, and never knew peace in their own, the promised land. The rainbow's beautiful colours were ofttimes radiant in the sunshine and the spray, but faded suddenly before the gloom of gathering clouds. Yet from time to time God vouchsafed to them glimpses of rest, and gave them peace with their enemies.
Such a period was that to which the text relates, when David began to make preparations for the [6/7] building of a temple to the Most High, peace and prosperity being the then lot of those over whom he ruled. For "the Lord had given him rest round about from all his enemies." But even this was transitory. Soon came a change. True that the temple in due course rose noiselessly and silently above the battlements of Sion. True that God accepted the prayer and offering of His people by the hand of His servant Solomon, and vouchsafed by luminous symbol and glorious token to testify of His very Presence in the Most Holy place. It was verily a day of joy, and thanksgiving, and peace. But the noon became clouded over shortly, and night drew on apace. There was too soon a revolt of the ten tribes, and a schism secured and sealed. Idolatry reared its head again, fostered in high places for state purposes, and so came intestine strife, fresh wars, disorder, confusion, and captivity--God's marked and righteous punishment for man's persistent sin.
And now, in these latter days, it is as it was. We Christians have left Egypt far behind. We have passed through the Red Sea of baptism, just as our fathers "were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea." [1 Cor. x. 1, 2.] The Son of Mary has been our Joshua, our leader, our guide, even unto death. He has strengthened us when weak, fed us with the True Manna from above, even [7/8] Himself, provided rivers of water in the desert, and aided us to overcome our several enemies by the way. Yet, even if we strive faithfully and labour constantly, our rest in its completion and perfection is not here. We are still amongst those who seek a City. Around us and about us are unquiet, disorder, and strife. Therefore we look onwards. A little while, and the youngest and most hale amongst us, will have left the beaten track, and taken a longer journey than ever. A shadow of the rest and peace everlasting may, by God's undeserved mercy, fall upon our pathway here; it cannot be perfect, however, it cannot be the peace which passeth all understanding, until we reach the glorious City of Peace and the very Presence of God.
But for that we must prepare, by painful labour and earnest sincerity here in our time of probation. We have to toil day by day. "Man goeth forth to his work and to his labour until the evening." [Psalm civ. 23.] Of old his sentence was two-fold. In the first place the ground was cursed for his sake, and he himself became subject unto death, in the second place to toil. We require, therefore, a two-fold deliverance; first from death: "Thou shalt surely die," and secondly from labour, "in the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread," because life (and life eternal is comprised in this term) is better than meat. In whatever [8/9] station we are placed, therefore, let us labour. Let us do our duty in that state of life to which it hath pleased God to call us. Let us work in patience and obedience. So may we look for rest from our enemies, as did the children of Israel of old,--so may we expect a rest from our labours hereafter,--so may we pray for a full fruition of that rest which remaineth to the people of God. It will be given by Christ who overcame death, and He will duly put an end to toil.
He whom we mourn to-day laboured most efficiently in that part of God's vineyard where he was called to work. When first clothed with the stole of the priesthood, and sent forth to bid to penance and call home--to minister God's Word and Sacraments, he saw instinctively how deeply our National Church stood in need of such a restoration of her external religious rites as should help to impress the primary truths of the Gospel upon her suffering and alienated poor. In due course he laboured for a reform. The re-action against the infidelity and negations of Protestantism had been great, momentous, and efficient. The old truths were regained and re-affirmed. But they were gained to the scholar, to the student, to the schools. Some pious and amiable fanatic, with more zeal than knowledge, had some years previously convulsed a whole diocese by insisting upon delivering his weekly sermon in linen instead of black silk. There may have been some deep and mystical principle involved in this reform, but [9/10] it certainly does not appear on the surface of things. In the main, it rested with him, whose decease we lament, to restore that which had been lost and was wanting. A man of action rather than of words, a man of principle rather than of sentiment, he toiled and laboured continuously to this end, and did his work well. When men had learnt to believe anew the Catholic Faith, it was surely neither irrational nor revolutionary to put that faith before men's eyes by acts and deeds. People who look upon the Church of England as a political organization created by Henry VIII., Thomas Cromwell, Cranmer, Queen Elizabeth, Cecil and Parker, are of course ready to deny that what was not formally and legally abolished in the nineteenth century, is our certain heritage now. Yet this last proposition was that which our lamented friend ever maintained and taught. Fairly and faithfully he applied the principle, by the exercise of an erudition which was remarkable, and a judgment ever definite, honest, and sound. His deeds are before the whole National Church: nor have the literary attacks on the principle in question in the least degree shaken its foundation, or marred its features. The very persons to whom the breeze of popularity is as the life-blood of their bodies, and who were boisterous and decisive, but not too refined in the terms of their ready [10/11] condemnation, are now quietly adopting the principles for which he contended, and practising at the present time the very rites themselves, of old so noisily and ostentatiously condemned. ["We might have taken that absurd book, the 'Directorium Anglicanum,' we might have tied it to Ritualism, as a kettle is tied to a dog's tail, then we might have shouted 'Mad dog,' and run it to death."--Speech in Convocation of Harvey Goodwin, Dean of Ely [now Bishop of Carlisle] "Guardian," p. 659, for June 27, 1866.] This, of course, is quite in accordance both with popular precedent and practice. One man labours, and others enter into his labours. [Some of the English bishops and deans are now adopting Copes; and the bishops, in addition, pectoral crosses, mitres, episcopal rings, and pastoral staves,--action which most conclusively proves that the sound Liturgical principle for which Mr. Purchas contended is not only true, but practical. A law or custom which covers pastoral staves for bishops will equally cover the sacerdotal vestments of Edward VI.'s reign for priests.] It was popular and politic to criticize our deceased friend while at work, so numbers were found eager to lift their testimony against him. Mean minds condescend to mean actions, of which those who seek examples can readily find an abundant crop. He is gone, alas! but his good works remain behind. He lived to see an ecclesiastical revolution in the externals of Christian worship, for which few could have reasonably hoped. Our parish churches having been restored to something of their former decency and splendour, were of course found un suitable for the corrupt and grotesque rites of an irreligious system of negations. So that men: having naturally turned their eyes to what was venerable, and good, and useful, and Catholic, have found that for which they longed, and so satisfied their reasonable aspirations
 How, for being faithful and true, when many were false and faithless, the pastor of S. James', Brighton, was persecuted with rancour, oppressed and harried by organizations created for the very purpose of stirring up strife and litigation; how those who guided the cold and rude hand of Persecution, needlessly invaded the privacy of his home, and embittered more strongly the well-bittered waters of theological strife, is known to many. What such proceedings involved, contemplated by him, the subject of them, with a highly sensitive mind, an enfeebled and weak constitution, the pressing anxiety concerning present and future, constant work single-handed, few can realize. And though all these sharp crosses were happily counterbalanced by a genial spirit, a sweet and unruffled temper, a patience which was surely supernatural, and a charity such as might be envied, yet when a sharp attack of sickness overcame him, those whose noble science was enlisted to battle with disease, to allay pain and assist Nature, too accurately foretold the end. [A most intimate friend informs me that during the whole period of persecution endured by him from the Church Association, he never uttered a harsh word against his persecutors. The same was the case, even when people were sent to ransack his house. ] And so Persecution triumphed by the death of its victim. For his persecutors it is an ugly picture and dark, though what is called "the Religious world" has apparently looked upon it with bland and pious satisfaction. A decaying school, which in theory [12/13] finds small scope for the recommendation of good works, and which grows blinder through increasing infirmity, naturally mistakes evil for good, error for truth, darkness for light, and light for darkness. But let there be no harsh words while we are commemorating the departed. Let the policy of persecution, which has turned out more than impotent, be forgiven now that his grave on a southern slope has been filled and covered in. Let us hope that many who combined in their attacks upon the ancient faith and its defenders, may henceforth desist in their feeble and futile opposition to the spread of Gospel truth. "If it be of God ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God." [Acts v. 39]
Let us mark further, as a personal detail of interest, that our departed friend, physically weak though he was, bravely continued his practical labours to the end. Having put his hand to the plough, he did not look back. He never swerved from that well-defined policy which he so firmly believed to be for the good of the whole Church. The falling away of friends, less true and resolute than himself never altered his bearing nor blunted his purpose. The increased bitterness of his foes only led him to be more instant in prayer on their behalf, and more constant to principle than before. Now, however, for good or for ill, his earthly work is done, his toil is ended. The [13/14] tongue of the maligner wags in vain. The gold of the modern Pharisee is gathered for nought. Persecution is harmless. For the spirit of him for whom we plead at the altar has gone to the God who gave it. The Lord hath given him rest from all his enemies.
When the evening-time comes, and it is surely drawing on for all, then will come the rest for which we have fondly hoped, and of which, maybe, we have sweetly dreamed. Not in this life, while we labour, as we ought, in our various grades and stations, now the sun rides high and the time of toil is upon us; but afterwards, having passed the valley of the shadow of death in the strength of Jesus, and by the aid of His guiding Hand, shall peace be shed.
Lastly, and specially as regards the work before us to-day. For him whom we have loved and lost, whose eyes have been closed in the sleep of death, whose hands have been folded in his last narrow bed, whose body has been, carried forth from hearth and home to the sleeping-place of the faithful, let us send up our petitions to God. Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, be our prayer. Blot out O Lord, most merciful, remember not, o God, most pitiful, his past failings and transgressions. He was weak, but Thou art strong. Thou art his Creator, he is the work of Thine hands. Wipe out soon every stain for Christ's sake, whose Precious Blood was freely shed that man might live eternally; and give him whom we mourn [14/15] everlasting rest. Lux perpetua luceat ei. Let the light of Thy Presence in the place of departed spirits, break sweetly on his soul, and then shine forth more and more unto the perfect day. So that, when the sorrowful partings of time are reversed by the perfect union of Eternity, when the pangs of separation here have given place to the joy of meeting hereafter, we may all be found, at the close of our time of toil and trial, to have rested in Christ, as our hope and prayer is this our brother doth, and may for ever be bound together in Jesus our Redeemer, by the golden chains, of charity before the footstool of the Most High, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, God blessed for evermore. Amen.