Late Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
RECTOR OF ST. ANDREW'S CHURCH.
C. SHERMAN & SON, PRINTERS.
It is proper to state that this sermon, originally written during the week succeeding Bishop Bowman's death, and delivered in Christ Church, Williamsport, Penna., Sunday, August 11th, was repeated in my own pulpit on Sunday morning, September 8th.
Its repetition was requested by several of the clergy and by the immediate members of the departed Bishop's family, and at the suggestion of the Bishop of the Diocese the time fixed for it was that which he had designated for the assembling of the Special Convention.
SERMON "He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces."--Isaiah xxv. 8.
Seven hundred years before Christ a Jewish prophet was inspired by the Holy Ghost to foretell the future glory and kingdom of Christ. In the midst of one of his prophecies he pauses to celebrate God's judgments wherein he marvellously interposed in behalf of his people, and with a heart strung to the highest accents of praise at a view of the doings of the Lord of Hosts on his holy mountain, he breaks forth in the sublime words,--"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces." The voice of the prophet rings loud and clear through the corridor of centuries when his words are caught up by an Apostle in Philippi as he writes of death, and the grave, and the resurrection, and are re-enunciated in the declaration, "Death is swallowed up in victory!" Mark ye, brethren, St. Paul uses not the future tense which Isaiah used, but the present tense; he speaks of it not as a future and far-off contingency [5/6] but as something that now is, and hence no sooner does he utter the declaration than he makes an apostrophe to this defeated death and this disappointed grave; he personifies them as warriors thirsting for conquest and rejoicing over their trophies, and by a bold rhetorical figure he summons them with all their vaunted triumphs before him, and then, with a tongue touched as was Isaiah's with a coal from off the altar, he challenges their power with the taunt. "O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
What! we are tempted to exclaim, death no sting! What! the grave no victory! Ah! holy Apostle, the world says not so; its weeds of woe, its bleeding hearts, its joyless homes, its graveyard inscriptions, say that death has a sting, deep, poignant, soul-harrowing; that the grave has a victory over youth, beauty, goodness, wisdom, strength, love, over all that the heart enshrines and that the mind reveres. How, then, holy Apostle, can you intimate that death is swallowed up in victory? Because, he replies, "the sting of death is sin and the strength of sin is the law," and Christ by his death has atoned for sin, and by his obedience magnified the law, and hence, by dying as our substitute and obeying as our surety, he has delivered us "who through fear of death were all our lifetime subject to bondage;" and therefore, as Christ by his death has taken away from death that which gave it his sting; and by his perfect obedience, taken away from the law that which [6/7] gave it its strength, as a subduing power, he can with truth exclaim, "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
While, then, death is in the world, a victor of death is in the world also; and while the bosom of the earth is gashed and scarred with graves, a conqueror of the grave walks amidst its sepulchres as the resurrection and the life. The battle-field where death was despoiled of his sting was Calvary, and the conqueror the dying Jesus. The battle-field where the grave was stripped of its victory was the garden of Joseph of Arimathea, and the victor the rising Jesus. Heaven, earth, and hell waited, we might imagine, in breathless suspense during the weary hours between the taking down of the dead Jesus from the cross and the rolling away of the stone from the sepulchre. Should he not take back the life he had laid down, death will forever triumph! Should he not unbar the bolts of the tomb, the grave would forever conquer. The salvation of the world, the upholding of the Divine law, the confirming of angels in their first estate, the opening of heaven to man, the descent of the Holy Ghost, the deity of Christ, and the truth and justice and holiness of God hung upon the issue of those three days. At length the morning of the first day of the week dawned, and the fear-stricken guards, the rolled-away stone, the empty tomb, the shining angels, and the voice of Jesus himself proclaimed that he had triumphed, that death and [7/8] Hades are conquered foes, and hence in Christ, and by Christ, and through Christ, the most timid disciple, the weakest and most afflicted saint, as well as the stalwart warrior for Christ and the strong athlete in the arena of the Church, can catch the spirit of the Apostle and say, "Thanks be unto God who giveth me the victory over sin, death, and hell, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
This precious truth comes to us only through Revelation. But for God's word we never should have known that he would swallow up death in victory; that he would wipe away all tears from off all faces. Reason divined nothing of this. Philosophy unfolded no hope like this. Pagan religions enshrined no truth like this; it is a pure truth of Revelation, and constitutes the very corner-stone of the Christian religion.
For thousands of years had bereaved hearts been asking, How shall we conquer death? For thousands of years had bereaved humanity been striving to roll away the stone from the sepulchre; but all the enginery of man had only recoiled upon him to his greater confusion, and made his case more desolate, because it was sorrow without hope, darkness without light, grief that wrought only defiance and despair. The words of the prophet, therefore, "He will swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God shall wipe away all tears from off all faces," were as the first streaks of the morning heralding the resurrection day; a day which fully [8/9] dawned when Christ rose from the dead, and a day which will culminate in meridian glory, when the voice of the archangel and the trump of God shall wake the dead, and call them forth to stand re-embodied before Him.
It is ignorance of this precious truth which makes death a grim monster. It is the knowledge of this truth which turns this ghastly terror into a welcome servant, sent to usher us into the joy of our Lord.
Precious! precious truth! and especially precious to us who have come here this morning, as a group of mourners for the blessed dead.
Oh! brethren beloved, what has caused us to gather here at this unwonted season'? Why are weeds of woe hung on these sacred desks? Why these solemn melodies, these sad faces, these tearful eyes as we gaze at this vacant chair? Ah beloved! death has stalked into our midst, and taken away one of our chief pastors, and we bow our heads and smite our breasts in sorrow at this deep affliction. It is no ordinary death! It is no ordinary loss! and we should be unjust to him who has so lovingly presided over us, and unjust to ourselves who so deeply deplore his death, did we not pay that tribute to his memory which his personal worth and official dignity alike demand.
Born in the beautiful valley of the Wyoming, which history and poetry have alike made classic, he began life with the dawn of the present century, and had completed more than threescore years when his Master [9/10] called to him and said, "This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."
When he was but seventeen years old, his father was suddenly removed by death. On the evening after the funeral, as the widowed mother and children gathered around the fireside of their now desolate home, the shadow of their great bereavement, like the shades of the night without, fell deep and dark on their spirit. The family group was seated in silence, broken only by sobs and sighs, when Samuel quietly took the Bible, read a chapter, and then called upon them to join him in prayer. The request electrified the weeping group. Samuel had never before evidenced any marked religious feelings, and the family had never before united in family prayer, but from that hour the duty was continued until he left his home to study his profession.
It was about this time that he first was brought into contact with the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Rev. Jackson Kemper, then assistant of Christ Church, now the venerable Bishop of Wisconsin, at the request of Bishop White made an exploring missionary tour in the northern and western parts of Pennsylvania. On his arrival at Wilkesbarre, he was invited to hold service in the Academy, which he did, and there Samuel Bowman saw for the first time an Episcopal clergyman, and heard for the first time the service of our Church. This visit led to the formation of a church in Wilkesbarre, and implanted in young Bowman that love for [10/11] our worship, which subsequently developed itself into strong devotion to the Church of Christ.
After leaving the Academy of Wilkesbarre, he became a student of the law, and was admitted to the bar, but the grace of God soon drew him aside from the pathway to legal eminence, and inspired him with the higher aim of being a herald of the Cross of Christ.
He was ordained deacon by Bishop White in August, 1823, and advanced to the priesthood by the same Bishop in December, 1824, and after having temporary charge of the congregations in Pequea, Leacock, Easton, and Allentown, he was, in 1827, elected Associate Rector of St. James's Church, Lancaster.
In 1830, when the Rev. Joseph Clarkson died, he became full rector of the church. This office he held until his death. Thus his whole ministerial life was begun, continued, and ended in Pennsylvania. Few men have been so thoroughly indigenous. All his education was received in Pennsylvania, all his domestic relations were formed in Pennsylvania, all his ministerial labors were discharged in Pennsylvania. Like a tree, he rooted himself in the soil of his native State, drawing thence his strength, and rewarding the State which nourished him by the branching glories of a noble character, as he stretched out the boughs of his influence, green with the foliage of his virtues, from the valley of the Susquehanna, where his sun of life arose, to the valley of the Alleghany, where his sun of life went down "while it was yet day."
 In an age when the ministry is peculiarly shifting, when clergy and parishes are given to change, Bishop Bowman remained thirty-four years rector of one parish, spending among the people to whom he consecrated his youthful efforts, the strength of his mature years, the wisdom of riper age, and at last was carried forth by them to his burial, into that same churchyard where he had laid to rest a whole generation of his parishioners. As a parish minister, few have excelled him in single-hearted devotedness to his people, in a faithful cultivation of his parochial field, in the judicious charities which he founded in their midst.
In a striking manner he exemplified the terse and graphic lines of Bishop Ken, who, in his portrait of a faithful minister, describes him as having
"A father's tenderness, a shepherd's care,
A leader's courage which the cross can bear;
A ruler's awe, a watchman's watchful eye,
A pilot's skill, the helm in storms to ply,
A fisher's patience and a laborer's toil,
A guide's dexterity to disembroil;
A prophet's inspiration from above,
A teacher's knowledge and a Saviour's love."
Having proved himself faithful in "a few things," the Lord of the vineyard soon intrusted to his care "many things," and he was called to the higher responsibilities of the Episcopate.
 How strongly his character and abilities had favorably impressed themselves upon the minds of his brother clergymen, was shown in the fact that when the Convention of 1845 was called upon to elect a Bishop of this Diocese, the clergy selected this humble and faithful man to be their Bishop, and he was nominated by them to the laity as a suitable person for the Episcopate.
Three years after this, he was elected Bishop of Indiana, but such was his attachment for the people of his charge, that he declined the honor to which he was thus unexpectedly elected. Ten years later, when the failing health of our beloved Diocesan made it necessary to elect an assistant, his name sprang spontaneously to many lips, and after a contest marked by the unwavering confidence of his friends, and by a noble demeanor on his part which changed opponents into supporters, he was elected to the office of Assistant Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Little did I think, when, as President of the Convention, I announced the result of that election, and the newly elected Bishop stood beside me in the chancel of St. Luke's that Friday night, and spoke those subdued and solemn words in which, with faltering tongue (made faltering by his modesty and humility), he accepted the holy trust then reposed in him; that the meek speaker, who seemed to shrink from his prospective honors, after bearing those honors unsullied [13/14] for three years, would be called, at a moment's warning and in the midst of his work, to lay them down, and exchange the mitre for the crown, and the lawn of an earthly prelate for the white robe which marks him as a king and a priest unto God forever. How shortsighted are the wisest of men! The beloved Bishop, around whom clustered so many sympathies and fears, has been spared to our Diocese and to our love. God grant that he may long be spared! While he, who was selected to supplement his services, to be his stay and helper, was stricken down in the midst of apparent health and in the full discharge of his duties. How inscrutable are God's judgments, and his ways past finding out!
Dr. Bowman was consecrated Bishop in Christ Church, in this city, at the very chancel where, forty years before, he had been confirmed by Bishop White, and where, thirty-five years before, on that very day, he had been ordained by the Bishop to the office of Deacon in the Church of God; and his Consecrator was the very man, whom more than forty years before, he had heard in the Academy at Wilkesbarre, and from whom he gained his first love of the Episcopal Church. These were coincidences at once striking and full of interest, and made that consecration scene peculiarly impressive. As a Bishop, Dr. Bowman proved himself a true and faithful overseer of the house of God. He at once rose above all party lines, and showed himself to be a [14/15] man of true catholicity of mind, of high Christian sentiment, impartial, energetic, faithful, sympathizing; and by his preaching, his counsels, and his example, he made his presence a living benediction in every part of the Diocese.
One feature of his episcopal character deserves special notice: it was his deep practical sympathy with the missionary and his work. A missionary himself in early life, he knew their toils; a minister in the country for many years, he knew their trials, and was eminently fitted to enter into living sympathy with the toil-worn and trial-buffeted missionaries of the Diocese. He opened his ears to receive their tales of wrong and trouble; he opened his hand to minister to their necessities; he opened his house to receive them to his hospitalities; and his heart, like one of the Geysers of Iceland, poured forth hot streams of affection in response to their confidence and love. Nearly every missionary before me can tell of some loving counsel, some generous gift, some act of self-sacrifice which the Bishop gave or did for him; so that he linked himself by ties of secret benevolence to many a missionary in the Diocese. Hence, when the telegraph flashed the electric words, "Bishop Bowman is dead," every missionary's soul throbbed in unison with the pulsating lightning, and they groaned in heaviness as they realized their loss.
His charities were unusually liberal. As a parish [15/16] minister he gave away a fixed portion of his income, and as a Bishop fully half of his salary was spent upon the missionaries and their work. I shall not, perhaps, trench on the delicate feelings of domestic privacy, when I relate what I have several times heard, that on his last lonely journey to the West, it was his intention to take with him the beloved child who has proved such a ministering spirit to the Bishop in his several visitations; but this pleasure to him, this luxury to her, was denied to both, and by both, because the Bishop said that he needed the sum that he would thus spend in her travelling expenses, to aid and relieve the necessities of a poor brother who had just appealed to him for help. This was a noble self-denial,--a self-denial that rises to the moral heroic when viewed in its sad and fatal results.
The charities which he thus sowed broadcast will only be known in Heaven; but he confined not himself to these alone. The Free Church of St. John's, Lancaster; the Home for the Aged and Infirm; the Orphan Asylum, and the Parochial Schools of the same city, are striking evidences of his broad liberality. Of each of these he was the principal founder, and to each the largest donor. These are no ephemeral outbursts of benevolence, but perennial well-springs, "the streams whereof shall make glad the city of our God," from generation to generation.
Bishop Bowman was peculiarly a patriotic man. In [16/17] the fearful judgments which have fallen upon our land he manifested the deepest interest. Descended from patriotic sires, his heart beat with patriotic throbs, and his tongue spoke patriotic words. In the last conversation which I had with him, at his house in Lancaster, a few days before his death, we conversed together freely and fully concerning this monstrous rebellion, its causes and its issues, and deplored together the threatened riving asunder of the Church and of the State, by the incendiary dogmas and ruthless ambition of Godless men. He spoke as an American, spurning the narrow lines of State allegiance, and recognizing supreme fealty to the national Constitution. He spoke as an American nursed on freedom's soil, breathing freedom's air, and protected by freedom's flag, should speak, grieved and wounded at the assaults upon this Union, and ready to sacrifice everything for its preservation and continuance. You remember the words on this subject which he spoke to you at the Convention in last May. It was his last public testimony. Death has made that testimony sacred, and as we now recall them, may we not, at this time, turn into a prayer what he expressed as a hope, and earnestly beseech the high and mighty Ruler of the Universe, for Christ Jesus' sake, that we may yet be permitted to see "the old flag of the country, spangled with all its stars, float again, and without a rival, over a united, happy, and prosperous people."
 Bishop Bowman was peculiarly a lovely and a lovable man. He had no rough angles, no sharp or jagged edges, no repulsive features, and few of those personal imperfections and infirmities which are often found in good men, and which, like the dead flies of the apothecary, mar even the most precious ointments of grace. His piety was a life as well as sentiment. He spoke kindly of all men. He differed from many; he loved all. He respected opinion, and never battled for mere controversy.
There are men who, like the fabled Mellissa, are ever seeking for honey even out of noxious weeds; and there are men, even good men, who, like Arachne, seek only to find poison in the sweetest flowers. He, like Mellissa, sought for the honey in men's character, and he often found it, and was refreshed by its droppings, where many an Arachne with morbid tastes, would find only that which was noxious, and which could be spoken of with disdain.
Bishop Bowman was not what the world would call a great man, but he was what is better, a truly simple, pure, and godly man. Everything about him was well shaped, well balanced, well polished. The moral architecture of his character was of the Doric order,--simple, pure, chaste. Yet in another sense he was great; for true simplicity is great, true purity is great, true godliness is great; and while military greatness is stained with gore, and political greatness marred by [18/19] ambition, and intellectual greatness dimmed by error, and all are ephemeral, and however brilliant for a time, will fade away like the golden clouds that lie in burnished glory about the setting sun; the greatness of a simple, pure, and holy life will abide forever, because it will live and thrive forever, in heaven, with the God whom it emulates and adores.
I know not how better to sum up the Episcopal character of Bishop Bowman than by using the words of St. Paul, when he portrays by the pen of inspiration what a bishop should be. "A bishop must be blameless as the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and convince the gainsayers."
And now this good and faithful Bishop walks no more in our midst. He has been taken from the evil to come. He has been taken to the bliss which is everlasting. The manner of his death is the most remarkable in the history of the Episcopate. Of the twenty-nine Bishops of the American Church, all but Bishop Bowman died surrounded by relatives and friends. Two of them, Bishops Kemp and Chase, came to their deaths by casualties, yet in each instance the accident was not immediately fatal. Four other [19/20] bishops have passed away suddenly, but Seabury died of apoplexy in the house of his warden and relative. Prevost expired in like manner in his own city, among his own people, and in his own house. Bass was suddenly summoned by an attack of gout, but he received premonitory warning; and Griswold, falling at the doorstep of his recently consecrated Assistant, was immediately borne into the house of Bishop East-burn, and there breathed away his holy life. But oh! how harrowing were the scenes connected with Bishop Bowman's departure. That wayside death! falling in the road with his face to the earth. That lonely death! solitary and unseen by mortal eye, with no hand of love to bathe his head and close his eyes, and no ear of love to drink in his dying words. That sudden death! like a flash of lightning out of a clear sky, so that it might be almost said of him, he did not die, but was translated. These are the thoughts which, as our minds dwell on that road scene, harrow up our souls and afflict them with sorrow. Yet the God who doeth all things well so ordered it, and we can only bow submissively and say, "Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."
I said he was alone; no, he was not alone! The God who had promised never to leave nor forsake him was with him. The Blessed Jesus who had graven him on the palms of His hands, and who had said "Lo I am with you always," was with him. The Holy [20/21] Spirit, whose office it is to robe the soul in Christ's righteousness, and thus present it spotless before the throne, was with him; and the angels, those ministering spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation, they also were with him, and bore his departing soul on their outspread wings to the paradise of God.
What a going to sleep in Jesus! What an awakening! An awakening to life, a life that knows no death; an awakening to bliss, a bliss that knows no change, no woe, no end; an awakening to citizenship in heaven, a citizenship that makes us companions of prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and angels, and archangels, who constitute the general assembly and church of the first born in heaven; an awakening to be with Christ; whom having not seen on earth he loved, and with whom he shall ever abide in one of the many mansions which the ascended Jesus has prepared in his Father's house; an awakening to dwell with God and to go no more out from his presence forever.
This is the victory which faith in Christ gives and in which death is swallowed up; and this victory of death is so complete that in that better land to which the departed Christian goes there is no death, no tears, no sighing, no sickness, for the former things, the things of sin, of earth, of time, of flesh, have passed away.
Is this fancy? Is this Oriental imagery" Is it of some Elysium, some Hesperian garden, some vale of Tempe that we dream and speak? No! no! It is all [21/22] real, all true, more real than fancy can imagine, more true than the mind can conceive. I appeal to the Psalmist and say, Is it true that there is this bliss in reserve for the believer in Jesus? and the singer of Israel answers, "Like as we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the Lord of Hosts, in the city of our God. God will establish it forever." I appeal to the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and Isaiah answers in their behalf, "The ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." I appeal to the glorious company of the Apostles, and one of their number, who was caught up to the third heaven and heard things unutterable, replies, "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those that love him." I appeal to the angels of the Lord, and that shining one who conversed with John in Patmos answers, as he points to the white-robed and blood-washed throng, "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, or any heat, for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."
Ah, brethren, here it is! The promise in the Old Testament that he would swallow up death in victory [22/23] is confirmed by the declaration of the New,--death is swallowed up in victory. The promise of God by the prophet of the old dispensation that God would wipe away tears from off all faces is reiterated by the Apostle in the New, who tells us that tears are unknown in heaven! A grave is unknown in heaven! Death is unknown in heaven! The conquest is complete! and the holy Church throughout all the world exclaims with jubilant voice, "Thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory through Jesus Christ our Lord."