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An Uncorrupt Life.


A Sermon





OCT. 31ST, A.D. 1886, BY








AT a special meeting of the Vestry of S. Stephen’s Church, Providence, R. I., held July 9, 1886, the following minute was adopted:


Our associate and friend. Resolved Waterman, Esq., Senior Warden of S. Stephen’s Church, Providence, having, in God's good time, entered, as we trust, into the rest that remaineth for the people of God, we, the Rector and Vestrymen of S. Stephen’s Church, are come together to bear our unanimous witness to his good example, for which we give high praise and hearty thanks to God.

Mr. Waterman was for forty-three years a member of S. Stephen’s Vestry, and during that long time rendered services which have won for him the most grateful and imperishable remembrance as a benefactor of the Parish. Our Parish Church, beautiful for situation and architectural grace, will tell as long as it endures of his wise judgment, his unstinted liberality, his zeal in good works, and his devotion to the religion of Jesus Christ.

A devout son of Holy Church, Mr. Waterman was true to her faith and teachings, following them with filial and dutiful affection. He loved the Church. His dearest thoughts and most ardent longing were for her peace and unity and good estate. He breathed the air and spoke the language of the Communion of Saints, and he passed into Paradise fortified and cheered by her Sacraments and Prayers.

As a precious treasure we cherish the heritage of the unspotted life, with which our dear brother adorned the doctrine of God, our Saviour, in all things. For many years a prominent figure in the activities of the city of Providence, he lived a Citizen of Heaven, maintaining an unsullied name and bearing through all life’s conflicts, in unabated triumph to the close.

“Honour’s white rose
And Virtue’s stainless shield.”

Gentleness, humility, guilelessness, sagacity, and strength united to make his a character of unusual beauty and of rare usefulness. His life was and, we believe, will continue to be, an abiding power and benediction.

What he was and what he did, for God and for man, will cause his name ever to be mentioned before S. Stephen’s Altars with joy and gratitude, and will keep his memory green in the hearts of all our people who frequent those Courts of the House of our God, Which he loved so well.

“Grant him, O Lord, Eternal Rest,
And let Light Perpetual lighten upon him.”

Attest: Wm. W. White,
Secretary pro tem.

At an hour, consecrated by the Church of God to the remembrance of her unseen children, we come together here to praise the Lord for the honour of all His saints. Out of that bright and numerous congregation of the saints, rises before us the familiar figure of one whose protracted pilgrimage on earth has brought him, as we trust, into the home and company of those spirits of the blest.

As this All Saints’ festival occurs, our minds are drawn upward to the heavenly land, and inquiring the way thither, the passports for admittance, and the qualifications of its inhabitants, we ask, “Lord, who shall dwell in Thy Tabernacle? or who shall rest upon Thy Holy Hill?” In such a life as that of our dear brother. Resolved Waterman, we seem to find this answer breathed by the Holy Spirit Himself: “Even he that leadeth an uncorrupt life, and [3/4] doeth the thing which is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.”

“He that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbour, and hath not slandered his neighbour.”

“He that setteth not by himself, but is lowly in his own eyes, and maketh much of them that fear the Lord.”

“He that sweareth unto his neighbour and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance.”

“He that hath not given his money upon usury, nor taken reward against the innocent.”

“Whoso doeth these things shall never fall.”

We sang this Psalm as we bore his body to the burying, and none who heard it, after knowing him, but felt it to be most meet expression of our sense of his good example and of the hope we confidently cherish, that our dear friend and fellow-labourer, having dwelt in the Tabernacle of the Lord and led an uncorrupt life, now rests upon God’s Holy Hill of Zion,—that Fair Place, on whose north side lieth the City of the Great King, and in whose palaces God is well known as a sure refuge.

This life, which we commemorate, was a simple and modest one; uneventful in the sense of publicity or [4/5] fame; a life without noise or clamour, and yet a life that was strong and widely refreshing,—strong in the best strength of all, the strength of quietness and confidence,—a strength, which, while it wasted not, diffused itself richly and fruitfully among other lives; for

“Stillest streams
Oft water fairest meadows, and the bird
That flutters least, is longest on the wing.”

His was a remarkable life, but men remarked it, not merely because it was prolonged, in the fulness of intellectual and spiritual powers, so far beyond the usual limit of the lives of men, but because through all that length of days they saw honour, integrity, and cleanness.

Born in one of the country towns of this state, and coming to Providence in his maturity, Mr. Waterman lived for almost three-score years under the observation of the people of this community, and every year but added to the respect, the trust, and the veneration with which all regarded him. He is a part of the history of commercial honour and honourable success, which belongs to Providence. I use that term honourable success advisedly, because—we grieve to say it, yet we must—now-a-days, so many in commercial life would have us think that the main thing, the one thing, is success in making money,—success to [5/6] be purchased at any price, even the price of honour. Yes, there are men who do not shrink from saying that success in business is incompatible with the rigid maintenance of honour. Unless we mistranslate their language, they seem to say that there is no success but dishonourable success, that success with honour is unattainable. If that be true, let us no more take pride in, or endeavour to encourage, the diversified industries of mankind. Sooner than heap up riches by acting on such maxims, let our wharves decay, our shops and store-houses stand empty, and our manufactories lie idle. If the false balance, the scant measure, and the sharp practice be the only avenues to competence and wealth, let us choose the harshest poverty, let us revert to the most primitive simplicity and rudeness of living and of avocation, yea, to barbarism itself, rather than enjoy comforts and refinements procured at such an outlay. Purple and fine linen, sumptuous fare, and universal luxury, so dearly bought, would only form a splendid hell on earth at the expense of that, which is holy, and right, and just.

Jesus Christ our Lord says, that it will in no wise pay to gain the whole world, if you are going to lose your soul in gaining it. On the other hand, fraud, deceit, and falsehood, if they spoke out their mind, would say that gain is the only godliness, that gain [6/7] is the prize; gain, however gotten, it matters not, gain at all hazards and by any means—gain is the end of life, and work, and wisdom. They would say, gain the whole world if you can, and it will pay you, even though you lose your soul. If the gain be large enough, scruple not to stake and jeopardize your soul. Put to death truth, fairness, faith, all that makes a living soul, if thereby you may swell your profits and distance all competitors.

Such wretched fallacies of trade must make the men who listen and give place to them, what Holy Scripture calls them (i Tim. vi., 5), “men of corrupt minds.” Many of you, my brothers, whom I see before me, know well how plentifully these ideas of minds corrupt are floating about in the atmosphere of the market place. You would, I feel sure, repudiate such sentiments with honest indignation. You doubtless believe, as firmly as I do, that the Gospel of Jesus Christ has power to hallow and purify the dealings of men, one with another.

The merchants of a land where Christ is known and worshipped ought to be the honourable of the earth, and they will be, if only they will live in daily loyalty to Christ’s Gospel, and say with apostolic sternness, “let him that preacheth any other gospel be anathema.”

[8] Every one, who thus inflexibly adheres to Christian righteousness, and, through all the traffic of his working-day, upholds the banner of the “uncorrupt life” is a tower of resistance to the rise and supremacy of men of corrupt minds. Such an instance was Mr. Waterman. He achieved a success which was thoroughly honourable, and in his high-minded line of action in the business of his life, he has left an heritage to all who, coming after him, shall stand, where he once stood, to buy and sell. His example is a lesson full of positive encouragement and exhortation, persuading all, whom it shall reach, to carry into offices and counting-rooms the fear of God.

Mr. Waterman has left a record in the annals of the commercial life of Providence worthy to be read, and pondered on, and kept in mind.

Were it the custom of the city, as it might appropriately be, to set up in the halls and squares of trade the “animated bust” or speaking statue, for memorials of those distinguished as representative business men of this town, among all, which might be selected for that purpose, none would be worthier of a place before the eyes of the business community than the likeness of Resolved Waterman, who, at costly sacrifice, fulfilled the standard of the loftiest honour and kept his word with a fidelity equal to that of an [8/9] ancient Roman. His benignant features looking down upon the mid-day tide of busy men, seeking the prosperity and handling the interests of corporations, families, and individuals, would rebuke the questionable ways, the guile and artifice,—the heartless artifice,—which are the proverbial reproach of the “street” and the exchange, and would recall the fact how one of the substantial men, whom Providence has known, led an uncorrupt life and spoke the truth from his heart, and swearing unto his neighbor disappointed him not, though it were to his own hindrance.

But looking at such a life with admiration, let us not forget the Place, wherein it grew. Mr. Waterman was one, who dwelt in the Tabernacle of the Lord. That is, as mystical writers would point out to us, the Church Militant. Within that “Secret Place of the Tabernacle of the Most Highest,” where the Lord imparteth His Secret to them that fear Him, where He showeth them His Covenant, and where our corruptible nature putteth on incorruption in receiving, through Sacraments, the Immortal Manhood of Jesus Christ, there our brother put on Christ in Holy Baptism and feasted on the Bread That cometh down from Heaven, of Which if a man eat he shall live forever. In that Sanctuary of Divine Grace was [9/10] that uncorrupt life born and nurtured. It proceeded from the House of God. There it was sheltered and there it was replenished. From it he came forth into the ranks of men, to labour as God had called him, and to it he went back, bearing as a grateful and willing offering the first fruits of the golden harvest of his toil. His best thoughts were for the Church of God. He lived and wrought and God blessed his substance and accepted the work of his hands, for his ambition seemed to be, not to build up a house and a name for himself, not to glorify himself,—walking in a vain pomp and show before the eyes of men,—but to glorify God and to show forth His worship in the beauty of holiness.

Before the feet of Christ the King he fell down and opened his treasures, and precious were the gifts he brought. First of all he gave himself. He became as a little child, born of water and the Holy Ghost, that he might enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He offered himself. Let me dwell on that momentous and rare offering. Rare and momentous, I call it, because so many men will give to God and His service any and everything save themselves. They are glad to have their families and their money devoted to God, but they keep back themselves. They desire their wives and children to go to church and receive [10/11] the Sacraments; they give their money to the Church, and entertain the warmest wishes for the free course of the Gospel, but they will not give that, which would complete it all—themselves. Mr. Waterman was none of these. He did not grudgingly say “As for my house it shall serve the Lord,” but, “as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” He gave himself to God, his body and his soul, counting nothing less than that his reasonable service. He was baptized. He was confirmed. He was a communicant, and his life, as all attest, showed correspondence with Sacramental grace, for he walked in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. So long as his bodily powers permitted him he was constant in his attendance here, and more than once have I heard it said that his presence and his bearing, as he went in and out and worshipped here, were a benediction and a sermon of devotion and "humility. During all those long years, while he served as those “who only stand and wait,” his Bible and Prayer-book were daily in his hands, and when he felt his passing hour approach he asked for the Sacramental Presence of his Master, Who has promised in that veiled companionship to be with us always, even to the end of the world, though we walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Supported by the Rood of the Holy Cross, and [11/12] strengthened with the Bread of Heaven, his soul entered into that multitude of peace, with which the meek-spirited are refreshed in the hands of God. In life, in death, he gave himself, as fully, as generously, as unsparingly, as sweetly, as mortal man, compassed with infirmity could well be thought to do. And then he gave his house to God. He gave his children, bringing them up in the admonition of the Lord, and withheld not his only son from the divine service of the Sacred Ministry, and what a gift that proved to be the hearts of that great number, whom that son guided in the paths of holiness, are a cloud of living witnesses.

Mr. Waterman gave his time and thought to the Church, which, finding in him a faithful counsellor, and servant, honoured him with positions of responsibility and prominence. For a long time he was a member of the Standing Committee of this Diocese, and for forty-three years he held office in the Vestry of this Parish, and for a long period until his death, was its Senior Warden, giving of his substance as freely as few men do, because he felt that God had freely given him. He was glad to do it, and in after days of adversity he found no greater joy and consolation than the thought that he had given so much when he had it to give, counting that, as true riches and treasure [12/13] laid up in Heaven. Of his abundant liberality, far more abundant than the public ever knew, for he suffered not his left hand to know the doing of his right, this noble Parish Church is the abiding memento before God. We shall ever pray, as Christian charity must bid us, for this gracious benefactor of this Parish of S. Stephen, that the Father which seeth in secret will reward him openly in the coming of our dear Lord’s Kingdom. In the providence of God, our brother was called upon to suffer much, and long, and deeply. The Cross was distinctly imprinted on his life. On his flesh, and on his soul, were measured its length, and breadth, and depth, and height. In mind, body, and estate, he was afflicted and distressed. The line of graves, in which we laid his body down, shows how often his affections were smitten, and how often his was a house of mourning.

Few of fortune’s oft reverses are harder to bear than that which befell him in his latter years. And few physical infirmities are more taxing to one who has been strong and active than the wound of that swift shaft which in a moment, as it were, blighted his strength, and fastening him a prisoner to his couch, condemned him to years of lingering helplessness. But his suffering was of the Cross of Christ, for beneath his trials, he but grew more and more [13/14] heavenly-minded. In patience he possessed his soul. When the accumulation of his working years was swept away, he only said with perfect self control, with scarcely visible emotion, that he knew not whether he had a roof over his head, and nothing nearer murmur or complaint was ever heard from him. He received the blow with meekness and bore it in the silence of charity and submission. When he lay sick upon his bed, the Lord comforted him and made all his bed in his sickness, remembering him in the day of trouble. He dwelt in the Tabernacle of God and put his trust under the Shadow of the Almighty Wings. And so he tarried till God should release him from the flesh which had come to be a burden. “I am here,” he used to say, “for how long I know not, but any time that God shall send for me I am ready.” He thought and spoke much of that new world into which were garnered so many near and dear to him. He looked forward with steadfast eye to the reunions of the Future, always speaking—and during my intercourse with him he spoke many times concerning it—of our dear Lord as the Sun, the Centre, the Bond of Happiness in that Happy Land. His was a wholesome Christian frame of mind, not morbid or overwrought. Living in the habitual hope and contemplation of the world to come, he yet retained [14/15] thought for and interest in the welfare and the occupations of those around him. Out of that chamber of a soul’s unclouded sunset, radiated a light that interpreted to all who entered there the Christian Faith and Life, and made them clearer as they were seen exemplified and realized in him. That presence seemed to say: “Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it”; and that household felt that it was blessed indeed in its patriarchal head. His time of age was such an one as Keble’s strain sings of:

“Such calm old age as conscience pure,
And self-commanding hearts ensure,
Waiting their summons to the sky,—
Content to live, but not afraid to die.”

And when our brother came to die, he died humbly, even as he had humbly lived. He had led an uncorrupt life, and had done, as fully and as faithfully as he knew how, his duty both to God and man. Some, at such a time, with an upright life behind them, will recount their virtues and their good deeds. Mr. Waterman left that for others. Considering that God was to judge him, he left it to men to form of him what opinions they might. When a man faces death, remembering that he is to meet his God,—that God, Whom no man without holiness shall see, that God, in Whose sight the lustrous stars are dark,—it becomes him to pass hence as a sinner imploring mercy. So I [15/16] saw our dear brother going forth in the confidence of the Christian Faith, in lowliest penitence, and with a full trust in God’s mercy through Christ, assuming no place, and with no plea in his mouth, save Christ’s Merits for him a sinner, humble, contrite, and hopeful, through Jesus Christ, praying for that mercy which Christ hath promised to the merciful. From all these things, we cherish a good hope that he has found favour with his God.

His days were many, and as his days, so was his strength. There is another rendering of that familiar verse—“as the days of thy youth, so shall thine old age be.” There is an immortality, a perpetual youth about a life like his of whom we speak. It grows not old, nor fades, nor loses power. It lasts and blooms in the verdure of an eternal spring. In that youthfulness of the righteous in the Kingdom of their Father will our dear friend survive. He rests awhile in Paradise, expecting the Consummation, for his final rest upon God’s Holy Hill, in the Glory and the Beauty of the Church Triumphant. He is numbered among the Children of God, and his lot is among the Saints.

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