REV. SIR:
In behalf of the Vestry of Trinity Church, we respectfully solicit, for publication, a copy of the discourse delivered by you at the funeral of the Right Rev. JOHN HENRY HOBART, D. D., Bishop of the diocese of New-York, and Rector of Trinity Church, on Thursday, the 16th instant.
We are, Rev. and Dear Sir, with the greatest respect,
Your obedient servants,
JOHN T. IRVING,
J. H. LAWRENCE
A. L. UNDERHILL,
E. W. LAIGHT,
To Rev. Benjamin T. Onderdonk D. D.
I scarcely know a more embarrassing, and in some respects, more unfavourable situation, in which a clergyman can be placed, than to be requested to preach at the funeral of a beloved and valued friend. The necessary shortness of the notice, and the accompanying agitation of mind, preclude the care and deliberation which he would wish to bestow on a public performance. The difficulty is greatly enhanced, when the standing of the deceased is calculated to draw a large share of attention to the funeral honours which may be paid to him, and to any delineation which may be attempted of his illustrious character. Trusting that the eye of criticism, if it should be disposed to glance at these pages, will not be unaffected by such circumstances of palliation for any defects, I respectfully accede to your request for a copy of this discourse; and remain,
Gentlemen, with high consideration
Your attached friend and pastor,
BENJAMIN T. ONDERDONK.
JOHN T. IRVING,
J. H. LAWRENCE,
A. L. UNDERHJLL,
E. W. LAIGHT, and
JACOB LORILLARD, Esq.
Standing Committee of the Vestry of Trinity Church, New-York.
"He was a burning and a shining light; and ye were willing,
for a season, to rejoice in his light."
SUCH was the Saviour's declaration of St. John the Baptist. It alluded to a figure common and well understood by the Jews, whereby a teacher of religion was called a light, or, more properly, a lamp, a dispenser of light. The expression, "for a season," during which the Jews are declared to have been willing to rejoice in his light, may be considered either as implying reproach, on account of their not having continued steadfast in their regard for St. John's preaching, or as referring to the short continuance of his ministry. With its particular bearing, however, the present design in selecting the text has no connexion. The verse refers to "a burning and a shining light," whose bright irradiations were a source of joy--and joy, alas! but "for a season."
 Christian brethren, it were doing violence to the best feelings of your hearts, those which, in the order of Providence, are now the most absorbing, and at the same time the most approved by a sound and well ordered understanding, were I longer to delay that application of the subject which your affectionate sorrows loudly claim. You wish to call home every errant thought, and fix your minds wholly and undividedly on the melancholy event which has brought you to the house of GOD. When the words of my text first met your ears, your minds reverted, at once, to a burning and a shining light, which has been--not extinguished--but taken from us, and called to mingle with the pure splendour of perfect day. And why should we weep because another ardent spirit has been summoned to join the ranks of those who cease not, day nor night, in rendering homage to Him who sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb? Why should we weep because another blessed trophy of GOD's grace has been added to the number of the saved? Why should we weep because another soul, purified and made white in the blood of the Lamb, has been called to adorn itself in the robes of celestial righteousness? For these things we weep not. We weep not for the father and the friend who has rested from his [6/7] toils, his anxieties, and his sorrows. We weep not that a good and faithful servant has been called to the joy of his LORD. We weep not at heaven's gain: but Oh! we do weep at our loss. We weep, because a burning and a shining light, in which we had so long been wont to rejoice, has been taken from us. Sorrow fills the hearts of many who remember how that light shone upon their path, to direct in the way they should go, the steps of their childhood and their youth. Many a penitent weeps when he remembers how, from the ministrations of the beloved and venerated one who lies before us, light has flashed conviction of sin upon his mind, laid open the recesses of his corrupt and guilty heart, and led him for refuge to the grace of an all-sufficient Saviour, where he has found mercy, whence peace and comfort have been derived, and in the guidance and strength of which, he now goes on his way rejoicing. The bitter tear of bereavement is shed over those dear remains by many, who, in the trials and afflictions of life, have been soothed and cheered by the light of heavenly consolation, emanating from the friendly and pastoral offices so congenial with the kind and benevolent nature of the good man whose loss we now deplore. The confirmed Christian laments that he is never more to be blessed with his instructions, [7/8] who so well conducted him in the ways of truth and holiness. The anxious inquirer respecting the things that belong to his everlasting peace, weeps sorely that that voice is hushed, whence he has derived so much clear light of satisfaction and of comfort. The lover of truth laments that the fearless champion has sunk in death, who was ever its ready, enlightened, and valiant advocate and defender, who set his eye and his mind immovably on what his conscience told him was the right and the truth, and thither directed all the powers of an extraordinarily clear and vigorous intellect, unbiased by minor and collateral considerations, undaunted by what, to the self-interested, would be appalling difficulties, rising above all motives unconnected with principle and moral obligation, and going right onward, generally to a successful issue, always to the firm establishment of a claim to the testimony of a good conscience, that he had well and faithfully performed what he was honestly convinced was his bounden duty. The good member of society, devoted to its best interests, and justly appreciating whatever can tend to render social intercourse happy and delightful, laments the removal of one of its brightest ornaments, and of a most interesting exhibition of the highest virtues, of the kindest and most conciliating deportment, of frankness which passed [8/9] by with contempt all guile, artifice, and deception, of cheerfulness which diffused joy all around it, of powers of conversation which ever delighted and instructed, and in short, of a combination of the best social properties, which has rarely, indeed, been met with in others. The scholar and friend of science weeps over the remains of one, in whom a liberal education produced its most interesting and valuable fruits, and one of the most conspicuous of the talented band, who put to shame the unnatural and truly unphilosophical perversion of learning, which brings it into disgraceful union with infidelity and impiety.
And if thus ordinary friends, and those who enjoyed ordinary intercourse with our beloved father, have reason to weep over the sad providence that has removed him from their society, how much more reason they whose intercourse with him was of the holy and elevated character which drew forth the affections and powers of his mind, as controlled and sanctified by piety of the highest order, the most genuine in its principles, and the most efficacious in its influence on the character and life. Oh! to them, indeed, he appeared in all the lustre of "a burning and a shining light;" burning with a zeal, tempered, indeed, by the most extensive and correct knowledge of spiritual things, and therefore, too pure, holy, and rational, to run wild in the extravagances of enthusiasm and disorder; yet truly ardent, deeply felt, and energetically practised. And bright was the lustre of that piety, in all that was lovely, interesting, and endearing. For what more lovely, interesting, and endearing, than that true piety which dissipates gloom by the humble hopes that the gospel inspires, draws peace and joy from the pure faith of revelation, and animates and cheers with the bright prospects of future eternal blessedness; and that piety which, under the directing and sanctifying influences of divine grace, rises above the world, and moves in a sphere unpolluted by its vices, uncontaminated by its allurements, unruffled by its agitations, and while duly appreciating and enjoying its means of happiness, ever mainly intent on the far more exceeding felicity, which reigns in brighter realms beyond!
Such piety, brethren, seemed almost personified in the holy prelate whose remains are soon to find a resting place beneath the altar of his GOD. And very interesting is it, that one who so fully embraced the scriptural view of the value of the ordinance, to the solemnities of which that altar is dedicated, and of its sister institutions in the 10/11] Christian Church, should there sleep in the hope of being preserved, by the power of GOD, unto everlasting life. For his was that true, primitive, evangelical piety, which, building all on the one only foundation of JESUS CHRIST, and him crucified, and drawing all its hope of spiritual ability from the unmerited grace of GOD, dedicates to his glory the moral agency which is his gift, by seeking, in all appointed ways, the influences of that grace, and improving them by faithfully stirring up the gift of GOD within--the ability which cometh only of him.
Such a pattern of piety has been removed from before our eyes. Great was our privilege in having been so long permitted to rejoice in its light. And blessed be the sweet remembrance of the just! even the grave cannot extinguish that light. Oh! no: while ever the mind which truly loved to contemplate it, and truly rejoiced in its holy, happy influence, retains the power of just and virtuous appreciation, its beams will still linger, bright, cheering, and ministering safe and holy guidance.
And if the privilege was great, my brethren, of having this light so long before us, so was the attendant responsibility also great and momentous. How has the privilege been improved? How [11/12] has the pattern been imitated? How has the rule been followed? Weep not for him, ye careless and impenitent, but weep for yourselves, that you have suffered such an example to pass from before your eyes, without having duly and faithfully improved it. It was the gift of GOD. You have set it at nought. Right is the homage which you love to pay, in any degree, to departed worth and excellence; but it comes not up to the full measure of true respect and gratitude; it comes not up to the measure of duty to your GOD, and to the cause of virtue and religion; it falls far short of safety to your own souls; if it embraces not that evidence of just estimate of merit which is given in walking in the same steps of holy living.
Brethren, all who knew him saw enough of that dear departed saint, to justify our view of him as indeed "a burning and a shining light." But there were a few peculiarly blessed in their opportunities of seeing and admiring its brightness. Oh! how lovely that splendour in which the orb of day is often presented, at the very moment of his sinking from our view! There was such splendour on the eve of the departure of that life, whose loss now fills our eyes with tears, and our hearts with wo. It was given to distant [12/13] friends to see it. [* Bishop Hobart died at the residence of the Rev. Dr. Rudd, in Auburn, about 320 miles from New-York, being, at the time, on an episcopal visitation.] GOD bless the friends, who, in the remote place of his happy death, ministered so kindly, so affectionately, so unweariedly, to the comfort of his last moments. The widow's blessing will rest upon them, and the blessing of the fatherless. A bereft parish and diocese will have them in perpetual remembrance. An affectionately and devotedly attached clergy will ever pray, GOD's peace and blessing be upon them; and let not their good deeds be blotted out of the book of his remembrance! GOD make all their bed in their sickness, and give them grace to die the death of this righteous man, and to have their last end like his! They have, already, had a rich reward. It was their's to see the consolation and support of Christian peace and hope, and the glorious triumphs of Christian faith, when nature sinks, the world recedes, and the king of terrors stands in full view with awful menace. The lovely simplicity which had marked the piety of this devoted prelate during life, forsook not that which shed its sweet influences over his dying hour. His expressions were brief, unaffected, and unadorned, but full of meaning. Referring to the [13/14] brightness of the sun, of which, in his characteristic fondness for the works of nature, he begged that he might have a fuller view, he spoke in admiration of its beauties; but it was the admiration of the Christian, looking up from providence to grace. This is, indeed, delightful, but there is a "Sun of righteousness." This evinced his views of the strong foundation of all his hopes, and the only source of all his joys. There is a Sun of righteousness. In His light he saw that only light which brought true comfort and refreshment to his soul. And rejoicing in that light, he was enabled to give evidence of the humble composure and serenity of his mind. There were three favourite ejaculations often on his lips--GOD be merciful to me a sinner--GOD's will be done--GOD be praised for all his mercies.
GOD be merciful to me a sinner--the effectual fervent prayer which was the blessed mean of justification to the humble and contrite publican.
GOD's will be done--the devout ejaculation of our Divine Exemplar, in the days of his suffering humanity. And it was attended with the devout prayer that he might not say this only because he must--because GOD's will must have its course; but that he might feel it; that it might [14/15] be the language, not of constraint, but of his heart--of willing, cheerful resignation.
GOD be praised for all his mercies. If "the ruling passion," so also the ruling affections and dispositions, are "strong in death." All who knew our beloved Bishop knew that the praises of GOD were a favourite employment, to which his heart was ever attuned, and in which he was ever happy to be united with a band of Christian worshippers. And now, that he saw the bright inheritance just before him, and that rest, and peace, and joy, were soon to succeed his labours, his trials, and his sufferings, he drew fresh strength from near approach to the communion of the just made perfect, and with his whole soul, blessed the LORD for all his mercies.
At this trying moment, as ever, his religious views and feelings were built on the only sure and allowed foundation--faith in the doctrines of the gospel. The corner stone of them all, the doctrine of the Trinity, presented itself to his mind in all the rich fulness of grace, mercy, and truth. He found in it comfort and support which could come from no other source. He clung to it, as that which, only, can minister to the wants of the dying Christian. He dwelt upon it as the most [15/16] glorious, and most precious of GOD's revelations. When the Divine Persons were separately invoked in his behalf, "Oh !" he exclaimed, "in what interesting relations does this doctrine represent the Deity as standing to his people!" And his acquiescence in this great truth, and the immense value which he set upon it, were far from being the operations of a weak, a deluded, and a superstitions mind. They were the homage of an intellect as high in order, and as rich in cultivation, as perhaps ever fell to the lot of man. But high as were its natural powers, and extensive as was its cultivation, he knew and felt it to be but the intellect of man. He appreciated the obvious truth, that in the perfect intelligence of the Deity there must be a capacity infinitely greater than in any human mind, and perfectly equal to the full apprehension of truths, however inexplicable and mysterious to us. He felt, too, that in the teaching of GOD's holy word, he was sure to be safe, and therefore, received with meekness and gratitude all that it reveals. [Note 1]
 With such faith, such devotion, and such piety, our revered father entered into his rest. He has gone, people of his charge, whither you must follow him; and he will stand where you must meet [17/18] him, at the bar of impartial justice. What account can you then render of the fidelity with which you have waited on his ministrations, and the improvement which you have made of his faithful labours in your behalf? Ask this question, each one seriously of his own conscience. Ask it, on bended knees, before your GOD. Ask it, with a full view of the momentous consequences which rest upon a faithful answer. For nearly thirty years he has laboured among you. [Note 2]  Many blessed evidences of his successful labour have been afforded. How many shall be added to the happy number, from among those who cannot forget, while life will last, how zealously, affectionately, and industriously, he sought their spiritual and eternal welfare?
For nearly two thirds of the period of our beloved father's ministry, he was, my reverend brethren of this diocese, over us in the LORD; and we all are witnesses with what fidelity he fulfilled the weighty trusts of his high office; what a glorious pattern of earnestness and devotion he set before us; how well he knew, and how zealously he advocated and vindicated, the principles of our [19/20] holy Church; and how successfully he pursued, in her behalf, what his well-informed and well-regulated judgment satisfied him was the policy the most accordant with her interests, and with the interests of the ever-blessed gospel, on whose account he loved her so much, cherished her so faithfully, defended her so valiantly, and laboured so industriously in her cause. Oh! we have had privileges and blessings in our connexion with our spiritual father, of the choicest and most elevated character. Forget we not, therefore, that we have correspondent weighty obligations, resting upon us. Be not our's the guilt of godly counsels neglected, and a godly example unfollowed. Under the softening and chastening influence of the affliction which now fills our hearts, it will be well to renew our vows of ministerial duty, and to devote ourselves, with fresh vigour, to the work whereunto we have been called. Melancholy is the reflection, that, besides our venerated father, six of our brethren of this diocese have been [20/21] called away since, less than a year ago, we assembled in our ecclesiastical convention. The hoary head, the mature in years, and the almost youthful fellow servant at the altar, have been taken from us. We are spared; but GOD only knows how long we shall be. [Note 3]
What shall I say of this our bereft diocese? Brethren, it is impossible for words to express what we of the diocese most acutely feel. The praise of our late head is in every church; and churchmen of other dioceses, and the religious of every name, give us their tenderest condolence, because they feel and know that a greater loss could hardly have been sustained by a religious body. I might speak of an activity and of labours, almost beyond the ordinary strength of man. I might speak of an energy, a quickness, a devotion, of mental powers, perhaps without a parallel. I might refer to the promptness with which the calls of duty were ever answered, at the most disinterested sacrifice of comfort, of feeling, and of the ten thousand considerations which would have stood in the way of ordinary men. I might tell of the nearly threefold increase of the diocese which has blessed the labours of him who there sleeps in silence. I might call on the zealous missionary, or the faithful parish priest, to bear [21/22] testimony how his spiritual father has encouraged, aided, and co-operated with him in his labours; how he has cheered him, when ready to despond; What excellent counsel he has given him in difficulties; and how he has strengthened his hands, when he began to yield to the many discouragements which lie in the way of the minister of the gospel. But, brethren, why should I do this? Your hearts anticipate all I have to say, and your memories crowd proof after proof on your minds. Oh! let us be duly thankful for the rich blessing we have enjoyed, and humbly pray, and faithfully strive, that it may not be lost; but that the influence of principles so correct, a policy so sound, and labours so abundant, may be maintained and strengthened, as a permanent blessing to our diocese.
But this diocese is far from being alone concerned in our bereavement. A voice is hushed which was never raised in the general councils of our Church, without commanding the respect and influence to which it was every way entitled. The cause of pure religion has been deprived of one of its most able and enlightened advocates and supporters. Virtue and morality lament that diligent teaching and a uniform example, of inestimable value to their interests, are no [22/23] more. Literature and science have bid a long adieu to one of their most faithful and judicious friends. And every interest connected with human welfare, and the elevation of the human character, droops, in melancholy and in mourning, over the ashes of one who well knew how they might best be promoted, and faithfully and indefatigably laboured to promote them.
Over those venerated ashes let devout Christians kneel, and meekly and resignedly exclaiming "GOD's will be done," pray devoutly that his grace may cause the affliction of this day of sadness to work for us spiritual good here, and a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, in those happy regions where all tears will be wiped from all eyes, where there will be no more sorrow, sickness, or death, and where the righteous will enjoy perpetual rest and felicity.
[Note 1] Since the above was delivered, farther most interesting particulars of the last illness of Bishop Hobart have been received from the Rev. Francis H. Cuming, who was his faithful and assiduous attendant. From this source the following particulars are added:
"When Bishop Hobart was suffering the most agonizing pain he exclaimed, 'Oh! this pain is distressing, yet what is it compared with what my Saviour endured. I will not complain. I will not complain. GOD's will be done!' He often repeated the following declaration of the Psalmist, 'Like as a father pitieth his own children, even so is the LORD merciful unto them that fear him, to them that love him,' adding, at one time, as he repeated it, 'Oh! I do; do I not love that gracious Being? will he not, then, pity me; me his child'? GOD be praised for this precious promise!'
The following is an affecting expression of his deep humility and clear views of the salvation brought to view in the gospel: 'GOD be merciful to me a sinner; what can I say more? I am a sinner; I need GOD's mercy; I can only throw myself on his mercy; GOD be merciful to me a sinner; yes, a great sinner; but I have been redeemed by the blood of my Saviour; I have been sanctified, I trust, by the divine SPIRIT; I will, therefore, hope that I shall not be denied the lowest seat in the kingdom of heaven.' Again, he asked, 'Is there mercy for the chief of sinners?' and thanked GOD for the assurances of this given by the apostle. Great was his solicitude that the doctrines of the cross should be faithfully exhibited by his bereaved clergy. To one of them he said, with a solemn earnestness, 'Be sure, that in all your preaching, the doctrines of the cross be introduced.--No preaching is good for any thing without these.'
"His views of prayer are strikingly evinced in the following expressions: 'Pray for me--pray that my own prayers may be heard--Oh! not, however, because of my importunities, or because there is any worthiness in me, or them; but because of the infinite merits of JESUS, the divine intercessor.' 'You must all commend me, in your prayers, to GOD's mercy. You are attending to my body--forget not I have a soul to be saved--pray for my soul.' He often spoke of heaven, and once remarked, with emphasis, 'He that would be most exalted in that world, must now most humble himself, and bend himself lowest before the cross.' He often exclaimed, 'I wish to talk of GOD and salvation. I wish to die with the name of GOD in my mouth; but then,' he added, 'not GOD without the Saviour. CHRIST is all--GOD over all.' When he found himself fast sinking, he exclaimed, 'I die at peace with all men;' adding the assurance that his descent into the tomb was cheered by the bright beams of the gospel, and his spirit sustained by the cross of his Redeemer."
[Note 2] Bishop Hobart was born in Philadelphia, September 14, 1775. He was ordained Deacon, in that city, by the Right Rev. Bishop White, 1799. He officiated, for a time, in Trinity Church, Oxford, and All Saints', Lower Dublin, Pennsylvania; and afterwards in Christ Church, New-Brunswick, N. J. He took charge of St. George's Church, Hempstead, L. I. in the year 1800; and in the latter part of the same year removed to this city, as Assistant Minister of Trinity Church. He was ordained Priest in that Church by the Right Rev. Bishop Provoost, in the same year. In 1807 he received the degree of D. D. from Union College, Schenectady. At a special convention of this diocese, in May, 1811, called by the late Right Rev. Bishop Moore, in consequence of his inability to continue in full charge of the diocese, Dr. Hobart was elected Assistant Bishop, and was consecrated, in the same month, in Trinity Church in this city, by the Right Rev. Bishop White, of Pennsylvania; the Right Rev. Bishop Provoost, residing in New-York, and the Right Rev. Bishop Jarvis, of Connecticut, being present and assisting. On the retiring of the late Rev. Dr. Beach, in the fall of 1813, he became the Assistant Rector of Trinity Church. On the death of Bishop Moore, in February, 1816, Bishop Hobart became the Diocesan, and the Rector of Trinity Church.
[Note 3] The Rev. William Harris, D. D., President of Columbia College, New-York; the Rev. Isaac Wilkins, D. D., Rector of St. Peter's Church, Westchester; the Rev. Daniel M'Donald, D. D., Professor in Geneva College; the Rev. John Sellon; the Rev. William Thompson, Rector of Christ Church, Rye; and the Rev. Edmund P. Griffin, Deacon, supplying the place of the absent Professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres in Columbia College.