Project Canterbury






JULY 24th, 1853







Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012

The Rev. T. STAFFORD DROWNE, Assistant Minister
of the Church of the Holy Trinity.
BROOKLYN, July 26, 1853.

Dear Sir,
Believing that much good may be done by publishing the very excellent discourse delivered by
you in the absence of the Rector, on Sunday morning last, we respectfully request of you, at your
earliest convenience, a copy of the same for publication.
Very truly your friends,

I BEG to thank you for the kind manner in which you have spoken of the discourse, delivered
last Sunday morning. Prepared without the remotest thought of publication, it is with some
reluctance that I comply with your request. As however you think it may be useful, I place it at
your disposal.
I remain,
Brooklyn, July 30th, 1853.
Most truly and respectfully yours,



ISAIAH xiv. 11.

Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols:
the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee.

To Isaiah, the noblest prophet and the sweetest bard of Israel, it was permitted to foresee and foretell the punishments and the deliverances of his nation. From his entrance upon the prophetic office to his departure out of the world by the bloody gate of martyrdom, he was a faithful father to his countrymen, whether to rebuke and warn, or to pity and console them. His mind overleaping the intervening ages, now dwelt upon the dark and gloomy reverses which were to chastise their repeated transgressions; and again upon the bright and splendid triumphs which were to reward their renewed obedience. At one time, as his eye pierced the depths of the future, he was forced to behold the approach of a powerful and relentless enemy; to see his beautiful city laid in ruin; and covered with ashes; to view the sacred temple rifled of its consecrated wealth, and its altars thrown down by sacrilegious hands; and to follow the mournful train of captives pursuing their weary way to the land of their exile. At another time, he was allowed to predict the fall of the cruel oppressor, and the overthrow of his great [5/6] kingdom; to rejoice in the release of the penitent descendants of those banished Israelites; to describe their return to Palestine with shouts of gladness; and to exult in their successful labors to restore their temple and rebuild their city.

It was when contemplating these more welcome and cheering fortunes in store for his people, that Isaiah seems to be alive with a new energy, and to utter his predictions in the most glowing and impassioned language. The chapter in which our text occurs, was penned on such a subject and at such a time. It is a prophetic ode, descriptive of the death of the king of Babylon, and the destruction of the Assyrian empire; fitted, it would almost seem, to be sung as a triumphal song by the released and joyous exiles on their march back to their beloved country. Under the mysterious rapture of inspiration, the prophet seems to see each event as though it were transpiring before his eyes. He breaks forth into a strain of victorious exultation, as he beholds in the distance the vast armies of Cyrus, commissioned by the Almighty, rising up with warlike weapons and waving standards, and going forth to battle against mighty Babylon; as he records the capture of the golden city, and sees it, though the mistress of nations and the praise of the whole earth, overthrown in the dust; as he pictures the inanimate things of creation, the fir trees and cedars of Lebanon, uniting in the universal joy at the downfall of the oppressor; as he represents the departed kings of the earth, who had once fallen beneath the arms of the Assyrian tyrant, coming from the regions of the dead to greet him with bitter taunts, and triumph in his fall.

What a terrific picture have we here! As the monarch totters from his falling throne, and descends swiftly to [6/7] the abodes of darkness, hell from beneath is moved for him, to meet him at his coming! In the startling imagery of the prophets, there is summoned before us a vast, dreary, dark, sepulchral cavern, where the mighty ones of the world lie each upon his bed of dust, the arms of each beside him, his sword under his head, and the graves of his numerous hosts round about him. Behold! the monarch of Babylon, so long feared and felt as the scourge of the earth, enters upon the scene! They all rise and go forth, as they used to do when he made his public entry into their conquered cities, to meet him and receive him now as he approaches. "Art thou also," they ask with scornful contempt, "become weak as we? Art thou become like unto us? Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms, that made the world as a wilderness? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee."

In the course of time, what was here revealed as prophecy became history. Every word had a literal fulfilment. [It should be remembered that the destruction of that great monarchy, the circumstances attending it, and the agency by which it was to be accomplished, were predicted while Babylon was in the zenith of its glory, after its armies had swept like a torrent over the finest provinces of the East; when the spoil of Tyre and Nineveh had enriched it, and when the arts and sciences driven from Egypt and Phoenicia, were centred in Chaldaea,—nearly two hundred years before its downfall. The minutest features of its prophesied desolation were in the lapse of a few centuries distinctly visible. The historians of past ages have, one after another, unwittingly shown the language of Isaiah to be most exact:—"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation; neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their [7/8] houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces. I will also make it a possession for the bittern, and pools of water, and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts."]

The Assyrian empire, though it had become a prodigy among all nations in wealth and power, and swayed its conquered provinces with an iron rule, and boasted itself as firm and lasting as the solid globe, suddenly felt the stroke of the Divine vengeance and reeled to the earth. From its king was for ever wrenched the fearful sceptre, before which nations had quaked and fallen. Rich and powerful though he had been, flattered by cringing nobles and followed by a numerous retinue, yet like the poorest and vilest slave of his dominions he had to go down himself and alone, to the congregation of the dead, his pomp perished with him in the grave. The noise of viols and the shouts of revelry at his feasts were hushed. His body was not embalmed with reverent care, and wrapped in costly cerements, and inclosed in sculptured cedar, and laid in a marble mausoleum with his royal ancestors, as was the custom of that proud nation; but was cast out and left to putrify and crumble, without a grave, like the loathsome carcass of a beast. What a dismal farewell to the pleasures and the vanities of this world! This mighty prince, that used to dwell in a splendid palace, to tread upon carpets of the richest hues, to wear gorgeous robes of Tyrian purple, to drink out of jewelled cups of gold, to lie on a bed of softest down, and to have coverings and canopies exquisitely fine, henceforth shall have nothing but a coverlet of worms!

There is a weighty moral read us in this sacred history. Why was this great empire blotted out, [8/9] its flourishing capital made desolate, its royal family extirpated; and this haughty ruler in its line of kings covered with everlasting shame and contempt? Is there not a tongue in this Divine Providence to tell us of its cause? An invading army was but the immediate agent which God selected for the accomplishment of this destruction. The cause of Babylon's decay and downfall must be sought for, farther hack than that.

Both sacred and profane historians teach us that the causes of the rise and fall of nations, of the progress and decline of societies, are in all ages the same. There is a path of the virtues by which they climb the difficult heights of prosperity and greatness, and a precipice of the vices by which they topple down into the low vales of obscurity and oblivion. Sometimes many centuries are required for their slow ascent, while a single day or hour suffices for their fall. It is ordained by the great King of Heaven in his government of our world, that certain results shall generally follow certain courses of conduct. When a nation in its infancy is blessed with wise and prudent rulers, and with frugal and industrious people, it will grow in vigor and strength. As its arts multiply, and its commerce flourishes, wealth will be poured into its treasuries, and power will be added to its government, and respect will be paid to its name. But the next step in the march of empire is apt to be the perilous and the fatal one. Great power begets national vanity, carelessness, and corruption. Large wealth leads to self-indulgence, ease, and effeminacy. The healthful habits of youth are gradually lost in the wasted energies and nerveless decrepitude of premature age. Prosperity inflates, idleness corrupts, luxury enervates, vice debases, and excess destroys a people with rapid and inevitable advances. And when a nation has attained this vicious [9/10] and sensual state, however fair and sound may seem its outward aspect, a slight shock from without reveals its weakness, and ushers in its ruin. It was so with Babylon. The physical and moral degeneracy of its inhabitants had prepared it for falling an easy prey to the stratagems of the Persians.

But these are only secondary causes. Isaiah, guided by inspiration, points us to the first great cause. The overthrow of this haughty nation had its origin in their forgetfulness of God, and their trust in themselves; and so having offended the majesty of Jehovah, they felt His avenging hand. As before He had given up Jerusalem to the sword of the Assyrians, for the idolatry and disobedience of its people; so now He gives up Babylon to the armies of Cyrus, because it refused to acknowledge Him as the author of its greatness. "Thou," said the prophet to that devoted city, "hast trusted in thy wickedness; thou hast said none seeth me. Thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it, thou that art given to pleasures and dwellest carelessly. Thy wisdom, and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee, and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me. Therefore shall evil come upon thee thou shalt not know from whence it riseth; and mischief shall fall upon thee, thou shalt not be able to put it off." We see that there is a divine law of retribution, sure and dreadful in its operations. Punishment is meted out to sin. It is a solemn doctrine of revelation, and a well-attested fact in history. When a nation attributes everything to itself, and acknowledges God in nothing; when it ceases to confide humbly in His protection, and proudly glories in its own strength,—its ruin is certain,—its days are numbered.

Looking abroad upon our own country, have we not [10/11] some cause for apprehension and alarm? Are there no real workings of the same spirit, no visible approximations towards the same evils, which terminated so disastrously of old? Are we not, in developing the rich resources of our country, and in establishing multiform institutions for social progress, becoming proud and boastful of our achievements and our capabilities?

It is the general opinion among us, that we are fast becoming the wealthiest and most powerful among the nations of the earth. In consequence of the extent of our territory, the increase of our capital, the produce of our soil, the triumphs of our skill and energy, we can not only supply our absolute wants, but can command all imaginable foreign luxuries. A long career of uninterrupted prosperity is beginning to make us vain. We are puffed up with an unbounded conceit of our discoveries in physical science, our advancement in literature and general knowledge, our spirit for internal improvements, and our additions to the useful arts of life. We look back with ill-disguised compassion upon our forefathers, as though the world had been standing still for ages before us, and we had done everything ourselves;—while perhaps our greatest works are really based upon their inventions, and our scientific renown has been gained by the natural development and application of principles, which they had discovered and bequeathed to us.

It was a saying of Lord Bacon, the most learned observer of a learned age, that, "in the youth of a state, arms do flourish; in the middle age of a state, learning; and then both of them together for a time; in the declining age of a state, mechanical arts and merchandise." We have reached the critical period. We can accomplish, by our mechanical appliances, the results of years in days. We have in our onward course, as the phrase is, [11/12] almost annihilated time and space. But the close neighborhood into which we have brought distant nations by our ingenious machinery, the private wealth and enterprise among us which can send abroad whole fleets of ships for the produce of foreign climes, the rapid intercourse which we have established with our inland cities by the chained lightning, the ease and rapidity with which mercantile exchanges every where in our land are made with the ports of other countries;—all this has a tendency to inflate our vanity and to pamper our sensuality. Increasing wealth is producing its usual fruits. It is nursing a passion for luxurious living and unprecedented extravagance. The great aim and end of modern society, in most of its pursuits and pleasures, is to gratify to the full the lust of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life. It may be as truly said of us, as it was of those of whom the prophet spoke, that we are given to pleasures and dwelling carelessly.

Every one must acknowledge that it is difficult, under such a state of things, for the heart of a nation to be mindful of its God, to trace its blessings up to Him, and to bow in humble gratitude at His feet. To be surrounded by abundance, and to have the means of gratifying every wish, is not favorable to religious or moral growth. An unbroken current of temporal success bears away our minds from all care and anxiety respecting our spiritual welfare. The loud tumult of worldly business and forbidden pleasures drowns the voice of conscience. Amidst all this ceaseless emulation and idolatrous respect for wealth which every where prevail; amidst this all-pervading taint of self-sufficiency and moral laxity which infects our nation; the claims of Christianity, the interests of the Church of God, are in danger of being forgotten or despised. Men wish to coin gold out of every thing they touch.

[13] The divine has to deplore that the precepts of the Gospel, instead of taking root in the heart, are choked by the cares of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches; and that the preparation of the soul for another state of existence, instead of being the first, is generally regarded as the last object of life. The philanthropist has to lament that the obligations of charity are lightly esteemed; and that the noble instances of munificence, which sometimes occur, are often sneered at as the design of a hypocrite or the imprudence of a fool. The moralist has to complain that money is receiving the service and the honors which are due to knowledge and virtue. The statesman has to confess that the great business of governments is little more than to furnish facilities for accumulating gain. The merchant has to acknowledge that trade, instead of being conducted on principles of honor and honesty, is often but a system of tricks to deceive and overreach. The patriot has to protest that promotion to office is a matter of intrigue and of purchase; and that men, like the chattels of the market, are labeled with their price. In a word, the struggle of business, the excitement of speculation, the strife of fashion, and the love of display, are thought worthy to enlist the best efforts, and able to confer the greatest happiness of life. And it is not only among the rich and refined, but among the large middle and working classes as they are called, that the same opinions and tendencies may be seen. Our people, fascinated by outward splendor, and devoted to the indulgence of the baser appetites, are resembling more and more the voluptuous Babylonians. As with them, our prosperity is betraying us into a national vainglory in our deeds, and a forgetfulness of Him Who alone gives us the power to do any thing. As with them, our wealth is engendering a growing disposition to overlook the message of God's [13/14] revealed word, to violate His holy Sabbaths, to neglect His sacred worship, to despise His appointed means of grace, to deny His superintending Providence, and even to doubt and disbelieve His very existence.

Will there be no recompense, think ye, for this? Is God's eye dimmed, that it cannot see, or His arm weak, that it cannot punish? Will He, who has overthrown other nations for their wickedness, wink at our iniquities? Let us not delude ourselves by any such expectation. Let us awake to our true position as the frail and dependent creatures of a merciful and long-suffering God, to whom we owe all that we have and are. Let us, worms of the dust, cease from our idle boasting, our reckless indulgences and our miserable pride. Let us repent and amend, before our sins provoke the Almighty to unsheath the sword of His vengeance.

We are not safe. It is when we are at the height of worldly prosperity and grandeur that we have most to fear. It is then that the curse of offended Deity usually descends. When the monarch of Babylon paced along the lofty summit of his palace, and gazed abroad upon the massive and pillared piles of his gorgeous city, with its hanging gardens, and sparkling fountains, and towering domes, and brazen gates, and lofty walls, stretching as far as the eye could see;

[Herodotus, who visited the city, and was an eye-witness of its stupendous structures and marvels of art in its proudest days, has recorded that it stood upon a great plain in the form of a perfect square, each side of which was fifteen miles in length; and that its walls, thus measuring a circumference of sixty miles, were surrounded by a wide fosse full of water, from which they rose to the height of three hundred and fifty feet, with a thickness of eighty-seven feet, and were surmounted at short intervals by towers. On every side of this large square were twenty-five gates, making a hundred in all, which were constructed of solid brass, and adorned gloriously. The principal streets were fifteen miles long, traversing the city from gate to gate. A branch of the river Euphrates, entering at the north side, ran through the city; the [14/15] shores of which were secured against inundation, and fortified against the entrance of foes by high embankments and gates of brass. Over this river was suspended a bridge of great size and surpassing beauty, and under it ran a walled passage, furnishing a communication between the royal palaces.

In speaking of the contributions of Nebuchadnezzar towards the enlargement and the beautifying of the city, the ancient historians seem almost to trespass beyond belief into the regions of fable. Besides the walls, he built a new royal palace, much larger than his father's, measuring, according to Diodorus Siculus, eight miles in circumference, and profusely embellished with sculptured devices. He greatly enlarged the celebrated temple of Belus, and placed in it many images of massy gold, one of which was forty feet high. He constructed an immense artificial lake forty miles square, and prodigious quays and canals, to protect his city and country from the melted snows of the mountains of Armenia, by which they would otherwise be yearly overflowed. Berosus relates that he also erected what was called a pensile paradise (hanging gardens), consisting of terraces one above another, to the height of three hundred and fifty feet, built upon substantial arches, and covered with thick earth; upon which grew the greatest trees and flowers of every kind, irrigated by fountains;—a work undertaken in order to please his wife Amytis, daughter of the king of Media, by representing before her the mountainous and woody scenery of her native country.]

and thought of his wide dominions, his vast armies, his uncounted wealth, his unnumbered captives; and felt that this was the acknowledged queen of kingdoms, and the centre of the world, and he the lord over all; and then said in his heart, Is not this great Babylon which I have built by the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?—THEN, while the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken, the kingdom is departed from thee! In that instant was his proud mind shattered, and he driven forth from the society of men a miserable maniac, to roam through the woods and deserts, to herd among wild beasts, and to eat the grass of the fields. And what became of great Babylon itself? Built to endure for ever, it faded away quickly, like an unsubstantial vision! Feared so long among the nations, it suddenly became a byword of contempt! Its beautiful temples and colossal images and ornate palaces, [15/16] which made it the proudest city upon which the sun ever shone, tumbled down into shapeless heaps of earth. A few ages passed by, and scarcely a vestige of its scattered and mouldering ruins remained to mark the site upon which it stood. And now in this our day, a curious traveller has visited the spot, and exhumed the fragments of some of its magnificent structures from the sands of the desert, which had wrapped them round like a shroud;—perhaps, in the wise ordering of Providence, to verify anew the Word of Inspiration; and to repeat to us in this distant age when the warning is needed, as by a living example, the fate of all those who forget God.

And if we heed not the lesson, we may well fear lest upon us shall come the visitation of an insulted Deity in some dreadful form, and lay our national prosperity and vainglory low in the dust; and that some future traveller, as he roams among the ruins of our deserted cities, and witnesses the desolation of our unpeopled land, shall number us with the Babylons and Tyres and Ninevehs of departed ages; and repeat over our unremembered ashes the same sad epitaph, that we do over them,—"Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee."

If we consider our theme with reference to the individual, as well as to the nation, it is still freighted with wholesome counsel, and awful admonition. It is the single sins of the man that give the tone to society, and the characteristics to the age. It is as true of individuals as of nations, that the extreme of luxury and refinement is often the hectic of moral disease, which though flattering is deceptive; for it proceeds not from the perfection of health, but from the fever of corruption.

[17] Year by year, an all-absorbing worldliness is growing upon us. The flourishing condition of business in its thousand forms, with all the fast multiplying means for facilitating it, has become the great topic upon which we think and converse. Turn whatever way we will, we see, and hear, and read of scarcely anything else. Our pursuits, various as they seem, are yet all centred on a common object, gain. In this all men, rich and poor, successful and unfortunate, learned and ignorant, are alike united and earnest, willing to toil and to suffer. Among the countless worshippers who throng around the altars of Mammon, there is not one hypocrite. Money has become the great lever which moves the whole human race. Men will do any thing, and risk every thing for it. They will cross dangerous oceans, they will live in pestilent climates, they will dig in deadly mines, they will traverse burning deserts, they will ransack the whole world or it. It would be strange if this untiring exertion and patient endurance from sunrise to sunset, and year after year, did not bring in a harvest. In these favorable times, men are fast accumulating wealth. And what is the result? They are becoming elated, and covetous, and selfish. They are chiefly concerned in self-pleasing. Drawn away into this great maelstrom of prosperous worldliness, what time—we are led to ask—have they to think of God, to remember that they have souls, to realize that this life is the vestibule of heaven or hell? What inclination have they to pray, to repent of their innumerable sins, to hate the world, to forsake all for the self-denying religion of Christ? Devoted, body and soul, to a daily routine of engrossing business, and a nightly round of pleasure and dissipation, when do they heed the divine commands, and follow holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord?

[18] Is the condition of the great mass of men in our country, in a moral and religious point of view, much above the level of the learned and refined cities of the East, which God once smote for their daring irreligion and their sleek iniquities? We have just such persons walking our streets, as once trod the marble pavements of Babylon. They are living the same careless and ungodly lives, and indulging the same unhallowed and ruinous passions. Self is their god; and in their infatuation they say, as David describes himself to have said in his prosperity, "I shall never be moved." If you remind them of the awful truths of Revelation,—a judgment to come, and a state of retribution; they will listen carelessly, as to the tales of a silly superstition, or of a crafty imposture. If you exhort them to self-denial and temperance, and purity and alms deeds, they will resent it as an unwarrantable interference with their liberties. If you tell them of the necessity of prayer, and faith, and obedience, they will look down upon you half in contempt and half in pity, for being so weak as to let go worldly enjoyments for such distasteful duties.

Take a glimpse at the men who daily mingle among us, and help to make up the society in which we move. Here you will meet a youth, emerging from the chrysalis of the schoolboy, a butterfly of fashionable folly; and attaining, almost at a single bound, the accomplished swagger and impudence of a full-grown adept. There you may behold a devotee of idleness, who, with greater patience and perseverance than would be required for excessive toil, spends the livelong day in exhibiting himself in the street. On another side you may discover the smooth-faced villain and the shameless sensualist, who, with outside propriety, and graceful hearing, and silvery voice, cover up their treachery, and pass for models of [18/19] virtue. To yonder brilliant haunt of intemperance you may trace the gay inebriate, who makes a willing sacrifice of time, and health, and character, in hilarious mirth, and demoralizing sports, and ruinous debauchery. In another secret den of infamy, you may perceive a little group of men, wearing away the night in their unholy vigil; while now and then a burst of loud glee, or of shocking blasphemy, breaks forth from their lips, as they watch the maddening game.

Every where, there are not only middle-aged and gray-haired disciples of vice in some of its Protean shapes; but, what is most fearful to see, numberless victims from among those just entering upon life. At no time more than ours, probably, has youthful folly and profligacy and crime been so fully and universally developed. You may see it in the general characteristics of the young;—their premature desertion of the quiet enjoyments of home; their noted disobedience to parental authority; their reckless rush into the gayeties of the world; their ostentatious extravagance among their companions; their unscrupulous violation of the restrictions of society; their witty contempt for the good maxims which have safely guided their fathers; their ready assumption of an open profligacy of opinion, made attractive by the example of some brilliant genius; their unripe skepticism, which doubts and ridicules before inquiry or comprehension; and their heedless levity, which laughs when the wise tremble, and which would mock at God, to make a moment's impression or gain a moment's applause. What sad instances, among the young in our very midst, often startle and pain us; where, for lack of early parental discipline, and careful training in religious principles, and the sweet restraints of home influences, they are decoyed away from the path of rectitude and [19/20] happiness by the fascinating but counterfeit pleasures of the world, to bring disgrace and sorrow upon a disappointed family, and eternal rain and misery upon themselves. Thankful may that parent be, who has never felt the keen anguish of wasted tenderness and broken hopes; nor realized, in his own bitter experience, how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child.

And looking at society in its best phases, and selecting its best examples, is there not too much grovelling selfishness, and luxurious living, and fashionable display, and irreligious vanity? Is there not even among Christians, the professed disciples of a lowly and self-denying Master, too much extravagant self-indulgence and worldly conformity? One man prides himself upon his large estate, his splendid equipages, his magnificent house, his beautiful paintings, his elegant furniture, and the number of servants that he employs. Another congratulates himself upon his mental gifts, his literary reputation, his business talents, his mechanical skill, or his graceful accomplishments. Another is puffed up with his beauty, or his dress, or his polished manners, or his noble descent. What excess of folly! Why glory in that which is so transitory and so worthless? Why glory in that which is not thine, but which thou hast received as a talent from God? Boastest thou of wealth? It is always winged for flight, [The Greeks, with great beauty and propriety, represented Plutus, the god of riches, as a fickle divinity,—by picturing him as blind, to intimate that he distributes his favors indiscriminately; as lame, to denote the slowness with which he approaches; and winged, to imply the velocity with which he flies away.] and may in a moment, break away from thy grasp for ever. Boastest thou of thy grace and beauty? They are as fading as the flower, that charms at early morn [20/21] with its loveliness, and before eventide is withered. Boastest thou of thy mental gifts? They may be the very means of thy disgrace or thy destruction. Boastest thou of thy noble virtues, or thy deeds of liberality? Thy very boasting deprives thee of respect, and renders them of no effect.

Alas! what a sudden overthrow and complete destruction shall come at last to all this worldliness, and ostentation, and pride! They must end. A man must reap what he sows. How soon in the dark charnel-house will be laid the pampered body, and to the darker abodes of the lost will descend the wailing soul! The prophet's sentence will have its fulfilment anew:—"Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee."

After all, what is it that we get out of this world? It is but the supply of our few necessities—a little food —a few pieces of raiment—a short-lived reputation—a narrow grave—and perhaps a monumental shaft, chiselled with a pompous eulogy. We can take nothing with us on our last journey. The hand that now clings so tightly to this world's baubles, must loosen its hold as it stiffens in death. What a quick transition must there soon be from affluence to emptiness, from gay laughter to utter silence, from painted ceilings to dark coffins, from all this beautiful and marvellous life, to a little heap of dust! "Recently two young princes," we are told, "wished to see the remains of Gustavus Vasa, which lie in the vaults of the cathedral of Upsala. They obtained the consent of the king of Sweden, and the marble sarcophagus was opened. But there was only the great man's skeleton, while the silk, and the velvet, and the brocade, were yet fresh. The crown was there, and the sceptre, and the [21/22] golden buckle; while precious stones shed a gleam through the ghastly chamber of the sepulchre. And this is the moral of all mere earthly good, even the highest. Its splendor decorates the heart that must soon cease to heave, and its pomp survives and mocks the mortal dust."

Finally: what then does all this outward show, and elaborate luxury, and senseless extravagance, upon which we waste our time and toil, avail? What can they do for us? Can they make life more pleasant or death more easy? Can they fill the aching void of an honest heart, or satisfy the questionings of an awakened conscience? Can they assuage the pangs of a real sorrow, or lighten the weight of a single burden? Will it yield us any solace in the dread hour of death, to think that after we are gone, men will say, "he died rich," "he lived sumptuously," "he was a man whose taste led the world of fashion," "he was princely in his hospitality," or "he has earned for himself a lasting name?" Will it bring us any satisfaction, as we stand before the bar of the Omniscient Judge to give an account of our stewardship, to remember that for the vain toys and empty gayeties of a day, we have squandered the talents which God gave us, and parted with all hope of heaven, and numbered ourselves among the lost?

Why live longer for the fleeting and the perishable? Why spend your lives in chasing the delusive phantoms of gain and pleasure, and neglect to run the race which can secure an immortal crown? Why, for a little of this world's showy tinsel, trample under foot the pearl of great price? Why lavish so much ingenuity and care in pampering and adorning the decaying body, when the soul must so soon leave it, and begin its life of endless [22/23] ages? "It strikes me," said one who moralized eloquently upon the transitory nature of earthly goods, "it strikes me as the most impressive of all sentiments, that it will be all the same a hundred years after this. It is often uttered in the form of a proverb, and with the levity of a mind that is not aware of its importance. A hundred years after this! Ah! with what speed and with what certainty will those hundred years come to their termination! This day will draw to a close, and a number of days make up one revolution of the seasons. Year follows year, and a number of years make up a century. These little intervals of time accumulate and fill up that mighty space which appears to the fancy so big and so immeasurable. The hundred years will come, and they will see out the wreck of whole generations. Every living thing that now moves on the face of the earth will disappear from it. The infant that now hangs on his mother's bosom will only live in the remembrance of his grandchildren. The scene of life and intelligence that is now before me will be changed into the dark and loathsome forms of corruption. The people who now hear me will cease to be spoken of; their memory will perish from the face of the country; their flesh will be devoured by worms; the dark and creeping things that live in the holes of the earth will feed upon their bodies; their coffins will have mouldered away, and their bones be thrown up in the new-made grave. And is this the consummation of all things? Is this the final end and issue of man? Is this the upshot of his busy history? Must we sleep for ever in the dust, and bid an eternal adieu to the light of heaven? Is there nothing beyond time and the grave to alleviate the gloomy picture, to chase away these dismal images?" Ah yes! there is a better and a brighter world above to live for, which even the vilest of us, if we [23/24] have the will, may gain. Treading in the footsteps of our Saviour, Who has brought life and immortality to light, we need not fear the sting of death, nor the victory of the grave. Our souls, freed at last from the fetters of the flesh, will soar aloft as on the wings of a dove; and heaven will open upon the enraptured vision, like an unclouded morning, after this dark strife of earth.

Project Canterbury