Зображення сторінки

was that night occupied by him, preaching his funeral sermon! So unwelcome, indeed, was the intelligence of his death, that I rejected the evidence, and withheld credence as long as possible. But unbelief was compelled to give way to a sorrowful conviction of the sad reality, and I was at length reduced to the necessity of proclaiming to my charge, that he was indeed no more! To me, I can truly say, the occasion was one of agony; I felt as a man who had lost an elder, and an only, brother. Even now, I cannot recur to the tragical subject without emotion; neither, I am sure, can you.

“ Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit :

Nulli flebilior quam tibi."

In your Funeral Sermon, you urged the duty of cherishing a spirit of forgiveness; you expatiated on the attributes of the great missionary, and on the extent of our loss, urging us to follow it up by redoubled prayer and activity,-exhibiting Christ and his apostles as patterns of the conduct which you recommended. Such were the main points of the first part of your discourse : you next descanted on the probable effects which this melancholy occasion for the exercise of a spirit of forgiveness, might produce in furtherance of the gospel. These effects you thus exhibited: it might tend to correct errors, and to improve the spirit of surviving advocates; -it might ultimately be attended with the happiest results upon the hearts of the inhabitants of Erromanga ;-it might be productive of highly beneficial effects on the surrounding islanders ;—it might induce men to come forward in larger numbers to promote the glorious enterprise of missions; and it might contribute to make the subject itself more seriously pondered by a

thoughtless world. There is reason to believe, that, to a considerable extent, all these anticipations will be realized. The shock has passed away, but the substantial lessons thus taught are not forgotten. Williams “ being dead yet speaketh,” and his voice will be heard throughout these realms for ages yet to come. I look upon his death as an event of great importance to the cause of missions; and, in conclusion, I beg to lay before you some of the views which have occurred to me in revolving the sorrowful dispensation.

It is enough to say, at the very outset, The Lord hath done it! The violent death of Williams was part of the system of Divine arrangements adopted by the All-wise God, respecting Polynesia. There has been disappointment here, but none in heaven. Had it been left to you and me to order the rest of his lot on earth, we should have brought matters to a very different conclusion. We should have doomed him to at least some thirty more years of exile from his Father's house and his elder brothers' society; and, to complete our erring kindness, we should have supplied him with a bed of down to die upon, a parting look of his family and friends, a splendid funeral, and a copious epitaph. How different from all this was the plan of his Master! We can be at no loss to divine which of the two is the better way, in the estimation of our friend, now in glory.

" -- Quæ fuit durum pati,

Meminisse dulce est.”

The laws of harmony require the end to be in accordance with the way. The history of true greatness ought, therefore, like itself, to form a climax. Thus hath it been with the bulk of this world's illustrious

names. The devastating course of Alexander terminated in a manner suitable to his character. A burning and rapid fever, which cut him off amidst spears and shields, meetly closed his intemperate and fiery career ! The sanguinary end of Cæsar, too, was in perfect keeping with his dreadful progress, every step of which was stained with the blood of man! Charles XII. could not have finished, more appropriately than he did, his brief, mad race of reckless courage. All mere men of letters, endowed with true historic and dramatic tastes, feel that Napoleon should have died at Waterloo. For the man who had stilled the most dreadful and alldevouring revolutionary storm of ruin that ever swept the surface of a great nation; who had amalgamated hostile parties of the greatest power and the fiercest spirit; who had rallied and invigorated the hearts of prostrate millions; who had established a government of iron strength, and an empire of gigantic dimensions; who had not only quelled the kings, but subverted the thrones, of Europe ; for such a man to end his days in lonely exile and fettered durance on a barren rock of the ocean, like some petty pirate, was humiliation indeed !

“The desolater desolate!

The victor overthrown!
The arbiter of others' fate,

A suppliant for his own!
Is this the man of thousand thrones,
Who strewed the earth with hostile bones ?”

Then there is Cook, Albion's glory, and the world's wonder ; was it to be endured that the bones of Cook should moulder in Westminster Abbey? What place so fit for their repose as an island of his own discovery? Was not Owhyhee their proper place of sepulture ? His was a death worthy of his matchless maritime glory. The idea of such a man's decease amid the soft obscurities of British retirement, perhaps some half century posterior to the achievement of his matchless triumphs -his widow died but the other day-is not to be tolerated. It would have robbed the record of such triumphs of half its interest, themselves of more than half their worth, and of all their tragic grandeur. You have doubtless often felt with me that the remarkable life of Captain Wilson, of the Duff, had a tame and insipid conclusion. He dropped into comparative insig. nificance; and his death excited little more notice than that of a pious and worthy Thames waterman. What Cook was in his own department, that Williams was in his; the career of the seaman shone resplendent with maritime, the career of the missionary with moral, glory. They were both Englishmen; the sphere of both their labours was Polynesia : the one represented England's power and science, the other her piety and humanity; both had earned the confidence of their country, and the admiration of mankind; both were killed with the club of the savage. Behold the parallel! Who ought to wish it otherwise, either in respect of the mariner or the missionary?

“ Ut nec pes, nec caput uni
Reddatur formæ !"

It deserves calm consideration, that, like Cook, the work of Williams was near a close. The life of Cook would have added but little to the records of maritime discovery. Like Nelson, he fell not till the victory was decided. Little more in Polynesia was left for him to discover; and, although he had lived, it did not follow

that he should have been the discoverer of the stray isles which had escaped his notice. He had reaped the harvest; to others he could afford to leave the gleanings. All this finds a strange analogy in the case of Williams. The romance of his career was past and gone. In the nature of things, it was impossible to add much of the marvellous to what he had achieved. It seems to me pretty certain that the issue of a four or five years' cruise in the Camden, would have been a disappointment. Like the Society's deputation, it would have proved a project of more splendour than practical utility. The chief groups have all been more or less invested by the missionaries of the London, Wesleyan, and American Societies; and what remains can be overtaken by the use of ordinary means. That the Camden will be a matter of great convenience and substantial comfort to the agents at the stations of the different groups and isles, there can be little doubt; but it remains to be seen whether that accommodation, highly desirable as it may be, can be permanently enjoyed, unless at an expense which the directors of the Society will hardly feel warranted to incur. Be this as it may, I have a conviction which will not be easily shaken, that, had our friend survived, the result of the expedition would have been—disappointment. All that remained to be done was a very plain, unpoetic, and every-day sort of affair. He could have done but little, because little was to be done, that cannot be as successfully performed by several of his surviving brethren in the South Seas.

Much reflection has convinced me, that, for popular effect, for the reputation of Mr. Williams, and for the purposes of history, he died in the proper manner, at

« НазадПродовжити »