MY LITTLE GODSON
FREDERICK CLEVELAND MILLER,
BESIDE THE DEAD BODY OF HIS FATHER,
BORN OF WATER AND THE HOLY GHOST,
I dedicate this memorial;
WITH A PRAYER,
THAT BY FOLLOWING THE EXAMPLE OF HIS SIRE,
HE MAY FULFILL
THE VOWS HE THEN MADE BY ME.
A. C. C.
BEHOLD AN ISRAELITE INDEED, IN WHOM IS NO GUILE.-St. John, i; 47.
UPON the solemnity of this occasion I need not enlarge. The affecting ritual of the Church has impressed us all with appropriate emotions; and this coffin of one who has so often solemnized it for others, appeals to every tender feeling of a people who have so lately beheld him standing, where now I stand, and preaching to them the words of Life. A mourning assembly of his parishioners and neighbours and friends; the silent tribute of uncontrollable tears, from those who knew him well; and this company of his brethren in the priesthood, bearing him to his rest, with unfeigned lamentation; all these things attest the grief which, by nature's law, is uppermost, at this moment, and which, for a while, proves stronger than those words of hope, and confidence, and peace, which the Burial Service calmly suggests, to moderate the sorrow of believers. But it is our blessed privilege to rise above our sorrow, and by an effort to look beyond the coffin and its gloom, and beyond the grave, into that repose, where the souls of the faithful are in joy and felicity; and where at this moment, the spirit of this departed servant of God, is forever free [5/6] from sin, and blest among the blest. To assist such an effort, and to animate this consoling assurance, shall be all my aim. I will not dwell on death and its sting; I will speak of my brother's holy life, and so strengthen within you the comfortable conviction that, for him, as it was CHRIST to live, so it has been gain to die.
The Reverend FREDERICK MILLER was born at Potsdam, in the County of St. Lawrence, New York, on the 8th of October, A. D. 1811. His parents, though not in communion with the Church, were worthy and estimable members of society; and he was blest with a mother, who gave him an early training in virtue and religion. His primary education was directed to his preparation for mercantile, or business life; but when he was eighteen years of age he engaged, as clerk, in an extensive Land Agency, in Potsdam, under an excellent person who was a devoted Churchman. In this way he became acquainted with the Church, and was led. to begin his Christian life, in its communion; assisting, so far as his vocation as a youthful layman allowed, in founding a parish in his native place. And thus, perhaps, he was influenced by the HOLY GHOST, to devote himself to the Church's service, in a higher and holier calling. When he arrived at man's estate he was engaged in an occupation which ensured a worldly competence, and made wealth easily attainable. If St. Matthew's example taught him to leave the receipt of custom, for the sake of following JESUS, there were many plausible apologies, for his taking the admonition in less than its literal force. He had ties that seemed to bind him to a secular life; and there were obstacles in his way to the service of CHRIST, which were entirely cleared from his way to fortune. But he had [6/7] wisdom to choose the better part, and to begin by self-sacrifice, in the work of laying up treasures in Heaven. He decided to become a minister of the Gospel; and after prosecuting his preparatory course with great diligence, was entered at Trinity College, Hartford, in 1837; where he was graduated Bachelor of Arts, in 1840. As a student he honourably maintained his position, among competitors, who had enjoyed far better preparation, and who had spent in classical studies, the years which he had passed in his clerkship; and now, his maturity of mind and heart was judged, by his Diocesan, so considerable, as to justify his early admission to Holy Orders. Accordingly, on the 27th of October, 1841, he was ordained a deacon at Christ Church, Hartford. In November, he commenced his ministry, at Cheshire; and, in that parish, dignified by its history, and by a succession of able pastors, from early times, he was admitted to Priests' Orders, on Thursday, September 28th, 1842, in the week succeeding the Ember fasts. At Easter, in 1844, he became Rector of Trinity Church, Branford; and here, my brethren, as your devoted pastor, he has finished his short, but most useful and honourable career. To you, the best years of his priesthood have been devoted, and in your service he has fallen a prey to his fidelity; for it is not too much to say, that his great exertions in preparing for the late visit of your bishop, and his labors among the sick, in this season of pestilence, have been exciting causes of the violent distemper, of which he died. To this parish, therefore, he may be said to have consecrated his life; and to it, as an ornament forever, he has bequeathed his sacred memory. It is the memory of one, who has enjoyed and magnified the office of a parish [7/8] priest; who has gone in and out, among you, as a shepherd, and a friend; who for your sakes, has stored his mind with useful and refining knowledge, and disciplined his heart with patience, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. As a preacher earnest, instructive and practical; as a steward of God's mysteries, pure and zealous and devout; as a spiritual physician, diligent and skilful; as a catechist, winning and tender; he seems to have exemplified many of those mingled characteristics of holy and secular wisdom, which, united to a religious contentment, genuine self respect, ingenious resource, pious fortitude, and sterling honour, are classic among us, in Herbert's portraiture of a Country Parson. As I happen to know, that charming pattern was often before his eye; and so far as the difference of times and countries will permit, I may say without the common extravagance of obituary praise, that as a man and as a husband and father, as a friend and pastor, as a person in God's stead, and a minister of the Sacraments, in his home, and in his public station, he filled that admirable ideal, more nearly than has often been paralleled.
How beautiful the picture of piety, without ostentation or pretence, which rises before the mind of a Churchman, when he hears of a true parish-priest, in a rural cure! It is not alone the fact that poetic prose, and standard poetry, have made the Country--pastors, of the Church of England, the loveliest illustration of her power to mould the soul of man to a divine image; it is that we have had such men, in history and real life; men of saintly virtue, and manly intellect, and of delicate taste and sensibility, devoted to the retirements of their cures, and sacrificing all that was their gain, to the good of souls and to the glory of Him, who seeth in [8/9] secret, and who will openly reward. Among the early clergy of Connecticut, how large a proportion of that noble few, illustrate my remark! And not unworthy of their mantle, was he whom we come to bury. Unobtrusive merit sometimes wrongs itself; and as the attainments of our departed friend, were never paraded, some may not have known how far superior were his mental adornments to those of noisier men. Few of us pastors can be scholars; but he was at least a student. In his College, he is remembered as one whose academic days were marked by diligence, fidelity, intellectual progress, and unblemished manners. In his after life--this people are witnesses to the practical power of his exhortations, and the solid worth of his instructions. His preaching was absolutely free from everything approaching to foppery and affectation; it was manly, earnest, honest, and such as became his person and his office. In his theology, he was true to the noble standards he had sworn to follow. To use an expression, in which, with kindling features, he once eulogized a friend--”he was nothing but a Churchman." In the doctrines, discipline and worship, of the prayer-book, his soul enjoyed a sweet repose. He loved them, not according to external models, to which he might make them conform: he loved them in themselves, and for their own competency to all the necessities of the soul, and to its dearest comforts and satisfactions. He was a Churchman, as the earliest disciples were, because he was a Christian; because he understood and lived the Gospel; and because, to be a thorough Churchman, is to be an Israelite indeed; is to have heaven in the heart, or at least to have that anchor to the soul, which is both [9/10] sure and steadfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; is to be like JESUS, without guile.
At ancient funerals, the preacher was wont to ask what special virtue might be learned from the example of the one who being dead, yet spake. The departed saint was thus made to preach his own funeral sermon. And you will anticipate me when I say, that as I look upon this coffin I feel that Guilelessness is the heavenly virtue it commends to me; for it was the suffusing characteristic of the departed rector of this parish. The text I have chosen, rose instinctively to my lips, as I received, the tidings that our beloved brother was with GOD; and when I asked of another brother priest, who knew him well, what text would best suit my occasions, he almost instantly replied,--”you might take Nathanael." [The Rev. Dr. Williams, of Trinity College.] Such were the impressions of many more: for our lamented brother was adorned not only with soundness of doctrine, but also with the chief perfection of a priest, that innocency of life, which, more than knowledge, or parts, or powers, ensures the great end of pastoral effort, and. redounds to the glory of God and the edifying of His Church. Am I mistaken, brethren in the priesthood, in saying that such is the example that now appeals to us, as we bear him to his burial? We shall look upon his face no more; but God who sets a mark upon a Cain, sometimes sets a mark upon an Abel too; and so long as I retain in memory, the features of my departed friend and brother, and of that peculiarly gentle, but not unmanly eye, which lighted up his face, and was the symbol of his soul, I shall bless God for his example, and [10/11] say upon every remembrance of him--an Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile!
There is no time to enlarge upon the text, in itself; but as there is a corrupt tendency in the age, to associate innocence with a lack of intellectual merit, and to rank it among the less valuable qualifications of the priesthood, it may be well to say, that the quality commended in Nathanael is not that negative quality, which too often is dignified with the name; but on the contrary it is a manly and even heroic virtue, and the very first in the true conception of a priest of God. How precious this quality is to the Redeemer, is shown by his making it the highest proof of true discipleship. To be an Israelite indeed, was to be without guile: to be a Christian indeed, must surely be the same, for if Nathanael was guileless, still more so was his glorious Master, of whom it is written there was no guile found in his mouth. I beg therefore to show, as briefly as possible, the nature of Guilelessness, and its characteristic prominence in the conception of a true Christian; and above all in the sacred portrait of a minister to man, and a servant of God.
It is impossible to conceive of Guilelessness as a natural quality: though there is a natural stock, on which the graft is most easily planted. It is one of the fruits of the Holy Ghost; and St. Paul who exercised himself, in order to have a conscience void of offence towards God, and towards men, proves that it is cultivated by active conformity to the standard of God's law. It would be very hard indeed for the most skilful anatomist of that grand composite of graces which make the perfect man in CHRIST JESUS, to show that guilelessness, is in its nature distinct from that charity [11/12] which is the bond of peace, and of all virtues, and without which the tongue of an angel is but sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. It is inseparable from Christian character in essence, though not in proportion; just as meekness, temperance and mercy, are absolutely requisite, and yet may mingle more largely in one Christian man, than in another. Moses was meek; Elijah was constant; St. Paul was self-governed; and Stephen was zealous; yet no one of these was destitute of the chief grace of the others. And so I conceive of Nathanael, that he was guileless, in a way of eminence; while he was also wise, and earnest, and bold, and energetic. If indeed Nathanael was that Bartholomew who in rebuking the idolaters of Armenia Magna, sacrificed his life, to the glory of the Cross, we see proof that innocence is a martyr virtue, and heroic unto bitter death. Flayed alive he might be, but not stripped of his faith, and love, and fidelity to his Master! For guilelessness though not necessarily heroic in the aggressive sense, is heroic in patience, and constancy and fortitude. A guileless man might not mount the walls of an enemy; but he would be burned at the stake, before he would betray his trust. Yet Jonathan was guileless, and he scaled a fortress; the very pattern of innocence, and yet in the cause of GOD, and his Church, he was swifter than eagles, stronger than lions; he fell upon the high places of the field. So, in the Gospel, St. John was guileless, but the flying eagle is his emblem, by the common consent of the Church: and by gift of CHRIST himself, Boanerges is his surname; he was a Son of thunder. Away with the conception that degrades guilelessness
 to a tame characteristic; and prefers natural, and even physical gifts, such as voice and gesture, before this unction of the Holy Ghost! What is the estimate of our Master? He took a little child, and set him among apostles, to answer the question who shall be greatest! In the last day, it is this characteristic that will be searched out in heart and reins, and for want of which many shall fail to enter the kingdom of heaven. And why? It is the great feature of Him who will be our judge; and therefore he will seek it in his children; and truly in the day of judgment--Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth no sin; and in whose spirit there is no guile.
If I have at all succeeded in showing the nature of guilelessness, and its prominence in the true conception of a Christian; I shall easily make it evident how distinguishing it should be in the character of a priest. Behold, an Israelite indeed! JESUS chose Nathanael for an apostle, because he was an Israelite indeed; a genuine Churchman; a true, consistent, model member of the Israel of God: and this paragon of Christian virtue was made by guilelessness. His reproof of the apostles, when he set the little child among them, was moreover, the plainest proof, that in the Master's estimate, Innocence is the greatest qualification for his service. Who shall be greatest? JESUS took a little child! What a rebuke to Diotrephes, and his imitators; what a standard of true greatness; what a foretaste of the final award! Among the thrones in heaven, and nearest to the Lamb that is in the midst, shall be seen, above all, those followers of the Lamb, who like Him were undefiled and innocent; those disciples who obeyed him, indeed, and were wise as serpents; but [13/14] who kept as carefully the rest of the commandment, and were harmless as doves.
Without abstract argument, which little suits this occasion, let me commend my position to your hearts, by asking, at once, for the enshrined names, which are dearest to Churchmen, among those who have illustrated the priesthood of our Israel, in modern times. I might convince you of the claims of many to your admiration and regard; but there are some names which demand your homage as soon as they are uttered. Hooker, Andrewes, Taylor, Ken, Wilson, Horne, and Heber,--these were guileless men: and while some of them were swifter than eagles, in mounting up to God in the fervor of their eloquence, and stronger than lions in contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, you will agree with me, that innocency of life was the anointing oil, that was poured most largely upon their heads, and ran down to the skirts of their garments. Let me not seem then to disparage the gifts and graces of any of those, who in their various stations and degrees, serve the Altars of our own Church, and make it an honour to be of the goodly fellowship of the American Clergy: but let me infer, nevertheless, that he shall be chief among us, by the verdict of all consciences, who most largely unites to other merits, the glory of a guileless walk and conversation, before GOD and before man; who shall refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile; who shall eschew evil, and do good, who shall seek peace and ensue it. If such language condemns the preacher, let him stand condemned before the bier of one to whom every word is emphatic praise; for who of you, my dear brethren, the parishioners of Trinity Church, has not felt in his heart, that [14/15] the crowning glory of Nathanael, was also the glory of that man, who has broken among you the bread of life, and borne the vessels of the Lord, with clean hands, and a pure heart! In a day when the public press seizes on every case of clerical delinquency, and publishes it as characteristic of the ministers of God; when every disgraceful event rings throughout the land, to the discredit of the Gospel; and when marts and cities are full of consequent bickerings and debates--it is sweet to retire from the thoroughfares, and even on an occasion so mournful as the present, to be made to feel, that, after all, there are good men, in the sight of God, whom the rash world forgets, when it looks for the perfections of the priesthood. Brilliant popularity, and noisy rhetoric, and trumpeted genius--may charm the mass of men; but when they ask if the Gospel is true, they are not convinced by these. Would God they could look beyond the foreground, and see the genuine virtues; the patient, self-denying, glorious virtues; the toiling, wearing, self-sacrificing merits, that keep in the shade, and there, unseen of men, emulate that Good Shepherd who gave his life for the sheep!
Brethren, of this parish, you will bear witness that there are those who make it their meat and drink to do the will of God. And reflect, my friends, that in so doing you witness against yourselves, that it is your own fault if you are not saved at last. A man of God has consecrated to your spiritual service, a life of self-denial, and all his gifts of nature, of education and of grace! You know very well that you have never been able to recompense him, for what he bestowed. on you; and that he lived and died your benefactor. Yet you must rejoice to-day, to feel that as a parish you [15/16] cherished his ministry, and knew how to appreciate your happiness, in having such a pastor among you. You were good parishioners, under a good pastor. But his record is now closed; and it is for you to decide whether his ministry shall rise up against you, or be unto you a savour of salvation. When last he stood where now I stand, he preached, by a beautiful but unsuspected coincidence, upon the text--Little children, it is the last time. And so it was the last time:--but are those whom he addressed, little children, in the sense of the Gospel, and do they bewail him to day, as one who was their father, in the Lord? Being dead, he yet speaks; and from paradise, his spirit yearns upon his little flock, that they also may believe upon His Strength and his Redeemer, through the word which he has spoken, in Christ's name.
Brethren of the Clergy--it is such a scene as this, that makes us feel that we are brethren indeed, and that, in one sense, we have all things common. Ah, how we can feel, as others cannot, tin mingled sense of agony and relief; with which our departed brother, must have learned that his work was done, and that he must turn from his mid career, to meet his Master face to face! How would such a message come to us? To us, who are husbands and fathers, as well as priests, and who with all those special trials of our lot, that wean us from the world, are yet drawn to our homes, and our parishes, by the cords of a man; by the tender sympathies of a holy instinct towards the helpless ones who are bone of our bone; and by the bonds of human love, towards friends, and spiritual households! Oh, let us appropriate the warning, which at so dear a price, reminds us to day, that we are stewards, and must give account, [16/17] and that it is required of stewards that a man be found faithful. It is not I that presume to preach thus to my betters: it is the articulate voice of God; it is our brother's life and death, that appeals to us, and bids us do with our might, whatever our hands find to do. Now then, as we weep with them that weep, and with the sympathy of brothers pray for the widow, and commend the fatherless to God; let us lay it to heart, and resolve that since one is taken and another left, we who are spared, will hereafter live not unto ourselves, but unto Him who loved us, and bought us with his blood! And as we carry our brother to his burial and make great lamentation over him, let us be sorry, but with hope: and when we too shall go the way of all the earth, may we also be able to say, what the cold lips of this departed pastor seemed to me to speak, as I beheld them in the coffin,--I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have KEPT THE FAITH; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give me at that day. And now, &c. Amen.