Reflections among the monuments

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Reflections among the monuments (c. 1800)
by James Hervey
3266467Reflections among the monumentsc.1800James Hervey

Calculated to promote the Interests of Religion, Virtue, and Humanity.

No. VII.




Extracted from Meditations among the Tombs, by the Rev. Mr. Hervey.

The man how wiſe, who ſick of gaudy ſcenes,
Is led by choice to take his fav'rite walk
Beneath death's gloomy, ſilent, cypreſs ſhades,
Unpierc'd by vanity's fantaſtic ray!
To read his monuments, to weigh his duſt
Viſit his vaults, and dwell among the tombs!

Printed by G. Miller:—at whoſe Shop may be had a variety of Pamphlets, Ballads, Children's Books, Pictures, Catechiſms, &c.




I paſs, with melancholy ſtate.
By all theſe ſolemn heaps of fate;
And think, as ſoft and ſad I tread
Above the venerable dead,
"Time was, like me they life poſſeſs'd;
"And time will be when I ſhall reſt."


YONDER white ſtone, emblem of the innocence it covers, informs the beholder of one, who breathed out its tender ſoul almoſt in the inſtant of receiving it.—

Happy voyager; no ſooner launched, than arrived at the haven——But more eminently happy they, who have paſſed the waves, and weathered all the ſtorms of a troubleſome and dangerous world; who, "through many tribulations, have entered into the kingdom of heaven;" and thereby brought honour to their divine Convoy, adminiſtered comfort to the companions of their toil; and left an inſtructive example to ſucceeding pilgrims.

Highly favoured probationer I accepted without being exerciſed! It was thy peculiar privilege, not to feel the ſlighteſt of thoſe evils which oppreſs thy ſurviving kindred; which frequently fetch groans from the moſt manly fortitude, or moſt elevated faith; the arrows of calamity, barbed with anguiſh, are often fixed deep in our choiceſt comforts. The fiery darts of temptation, ſhot from the hand of hell, are always flying in ſhowers around our integrity. To thee, ſweet babe, both theſe diſtreſſes and dangers were alike unknown.

Conſider this, ye mourning parents, and dry up your tears. Why ſhould you lament, that your little ones are crowned with victory, before the ſword was drawn, or the conflict begun?—Perhaps, the ſupreme diſpoſer of events foreſaw ſome inevitable ſnare of temptation forming, or ſome dreadful ſtorm of adverſity impending. And why ſhould you be ſo diſſatisfied with that kind precaution, which houſed your pleaſant plant, and removed into ſhelter a tender flower, before the thunders roared; before the lightnings flew; before the tempeſt poured its rage?——O remember! they are not loſt, but taken away from the evil to come.

At the ſame time, let ſurvivors, doomed to bear the heat and burden of the day, for their encouragement, reflect,—that it is more honourable to have entered the liſts, and to have fought the good fight, before they come off conquerors. They who have born the croſs, and ſubmitted to afflictive providences, with a cheerful reſignation, have girded up the loins of their mind, and performed their Maſter's will, with an honeſt and perſevering fidelity;—theſe, having glorified their Redeemer on earth, will probably be as ſtars of the firſt magnitude in heaven. They will ſhine with brighter beams, be repleniſhed with ſtronger joys, in their Lord's everlaſting kingdom.

Here lies the grief of a fond mother, and the blaſted expectation of an indulgent father.—The youth grew up, like a wellwatered plant; he ſhot deep, roſe high, and bid fair for manhood: but juſt as the cėdar began to tower, and promiſed ere long to be the pride of the wood, and prince among the neighbouring trees:—behold! the axe is laid unto the root; the fatal blow ſtruck; and all its branching honours tumbled to the duſt.—And did he fall alone? No: The hopes of his father that begat him, and the pleaſing proſpects of her that bare him, fell, and were cruſhed together with him.

From this affecting repreſentation, let parents be convinced how highly it concerns them to cultivate the morals, and ſecure the immortal intereſts of their children. If you really love the offspring of your own bodies; if your bowels yearn over thoſe amiable pledges of conjugal endearment; ſpare no pains, give all diligence, I entreat you, to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Then may you have joy in their life, or conſolation in their death. If their ſpan is prolonged, their unblameable and uſetul conduct will be the ſtaff of your age, and a balm for declining nature. Or, if the number of their years be cut off in the midſt, you may commit their remains to the duſt, with much the ſame comfortable expectations, and with infinitely more exalted views, than you ſend the ſurvivors to places of genteel education. You may commit them to the duſt with cheering hopes of receiving them again to your arms, inexpreſſibly improved in every noble and endearing accompliſhment.

It is certainly a ſevere trial, and much more afflictive than I am able to imagine, to reſign a lovely blooming creature, ſprung from your own loins, to the gloomy receſſes of corruption. But, O! how much more cutting to you, and confounding to the child, to have the ſoul ſeparated from God; and for ſhameful ignorance or early impiety conſigned over to places of eternal torment!

On this hand is lodged one, whoſe ſepulchral ſtone tells a moſt pitiable tale indeed! Well may the little images, reclined over the ſleeping aſhes, hang down their heads with that penſive air! None can conſider ſo mournful a ſtory, without feeling ſome touches of ſympathizing concern.——His age twenty-eight; his death ſudden; himſelf cut down in the prime of life, amidſt all the vivacity and vigour of manhood: while "his breaſts were full of milk, and his bones moiſtened with marrow."——Probably he entertained no apprehenſions of the evil hour. And indeed, who could have ſuſpected, that ſo bright a fun ſhould go down at noon? To human appearance, his hill ſtood ſtrong. Length of days ſeemed written in his ſanguine countenance. He ſolaced himſelf with the proſpect of a long, long ſeries of earthly ſatistactions.—When, lo! an unexpected ſtroke deſcends! deſcends from that mighty arm, which "overturneth the mountains by their roots; and cruſhes the imaginary hero. before the moth;" as quickly, and more eaſily, than our fingers preſs ſuch a feeble fluttering inſect to death.

Perhaps the nuptial joys were all he thought on Were not ſuch the breathings of his enamoured soul? "Yet a very little while, and I ſhall poſſess the utmost of my wiſhes. I ſhall call my charmer mine; and in her enjoy whatever my heart can crave."——

Who can tell, but the bride-maids, girded with gladness, had prepared the marriage-bed! had decked it with the richeſt covers, and dreſſed it in pillows of down? When,—Oh! truſt not in youth or ſtrength, or in any thing mortal; for there is nothing certain, nothing to be depended on, beneath the unchangeable God;—Death, relentless death, is making him another kind of bed in the duſt of the earth. On this he muſt take up a lonely lodging, nor ever be releaſed, till "the heavens are no more."—In vain does the conſenting fair one put on her ornaments, and expect her ſpouſe. Little thinking that the intended bridegroom had for ever done with tranſitory things: that now everlaſting cares employ his mind, without one ſingle remembrance of his lovely Lucinda!—Go, diſappointed virgin! go, mourn the uncertainty of all created bliſs! Teach thy ſoul to aſpire after a ſure and immutable felicity! For the once gay and gallant Fidelio ſleeps in other embraces; even in the icy arms of death! forgetful, eternally forgetful, of the world—and thee.

—another monitor beſpeaks me, from a neighbouring ſtone. It contains the narrative of an unhappy mortal, ſnatched from his friends, and hurried to the awful bar; without leiſure, either to take a laſt farewel of the one, or to put up ſo much as a ſingle prayer preparatory for the other; killed, according to the uſual expreſfion, by a ſudden ſtroke of caſualty.

Was it then a random blow? Doubtleſs, the ſtroke came from an aiming, though inviſible hand. God preſideth over the armies of heaven; God ruleth among the inhabitants of the earth; and God conducteth what men call chance. Nothing, nothing comes to paſs through a blind and undiſcerning fatality. If accidents happen, they happen according to the exact fore-knowledge, and conformable to the determinate counſels of eternal wiſdom. The Lord, with whom are the iſſues of death, ſigns the warrant, and gives the high commiſſion. The ſeemingly fortuitous diſafter is only the agent, or the inſtrument, appointed to execute the ſupremne decree. When the impious monarch was mortally wounded it ſeemed to be a caſual ſhot. A certain man drew a bow at a venture*[1].—At a venture, as he thought. But his hand was ſtrengthened by an omnipotent aid, and the ſhaft levelled by an unerring eye. So that what we term caſualty, is really providence, accompliſhing deliberate deſigns, but concealing its own interpoſition.—How comforting this reflection! Admirably adapted to ſoothe the throbbing anguiſh of the mourners, and compoſe their ſpirits into a quiet ſubmiſſion! Excellently ſuited to diſſipate the fears of godly ſurvivors and create a calm intrepidity even amidſt innumerable perils!

The marble, which graces yonder pillar, informs me, that near it are depoſited the remains of Sophronia; the much lamented Sophronia, who died in child-bed.—How often does this calamity happen? The branch ſhoots; but the ſtem withers. The babe ſprings to light; but ſhe that bare him, breathes her laſt. She gives life, but gives it (O pitiable conſideration !) at the expence of her own: and becomes, at once, a mother and corpſe.—Or elſe, perhaps, ſhe expires in ſevere pangs, and is herſelf a tomb for her infant; while the melancholy complaint of a monarch's wo is the epitaph for them both; The children are come to the birth, and there is not ſtrength to bring forth*[2]. Leſs to be lamented, in my opinion, this misfortune than the other. Better, for the tender ſtranger, to be ſtopped in the porch, than to enter only to converſe with affliction. Better to find a grave in the womb, than to be expoſed to a hazardous world, without the guardian of its infantile years, without the faithful guide of its youth.

This monument is diſtinguiſhed by its finer materials, and more delicate appendages. It ſeems to have taken its model from an affluent hand, directed by a generous heart, which thought it could never do enough for the deceaſed. It ſeems, alſo, to exhibit an emblematical picture of Sophronia's perſon and accompliſhments. Is her beauty, or, what is more than beauty, her white robed innocence, repreſented by the ſnowy colour? The ſurface ſmoothly poliſhed, like her amiable temper, and engaging manners. The whole elegantly adorned, without either extravagant pomp or ſordid negligence; like her undiſſembled goodneſs remote from the leaſt oſtentation, yet in all points exemplary. But ah! how vain were all theſe endearing charms! How vain the luſtre of thy ſprightly eye! How vain the bloom of thy bridal youth! How vain the honours of thy ſuperior birth! How unable to ſecure the lovely poſſeſſor from the ſavage violence of death! How ineffectual the univerſal eſteem of thy acquaintance; the fondneſs of thy tranſported huſband; or even the ſpotleſs integrity of thy character, to prolong thy ſpan, or procure thee a ſhort reprieve!—The concurrence of all theſe circumſtances reminds me of thoſe beautiful and tender lines,

How lov'd, how valu'd once, avails thee not:
To whom related, or by whom begot.
A heap of duſt alone remains of thee:
"Tis all THOU art—and all the proud ſhall be!

Yet, though unable to divert the ſtroke, Chriſtianity is ſovereign to pluck out the ſting of death. Is not this the ſilent language of thoſe lamps, which burn; and of that heart, which flames: of thoſe palms, which flouriſh; and of that crown. which glitters in the well imitated ahd gilded marble? Do they not, to the diſcerning eye, deſcribe the vigilance of her faith; the fervency of her devotion; her victory over the world; and the celeſtial diadem, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, ſhall give her at that day?*[3]

How happy the huſband, in ſuch a ſharer of his bed, and partner of his fortunes! Their inclinations were nicely-tuned uniſons, and all their converſation was harmony. How ſilken the yoke to ſuch a pair, and what bleſſings were twiſted with ſuch bands? Every joy was heightened, and every care alleviated. Nothing ſeemed wanting to conſummate their bliſs, but a hopeful progeny, riſing around them; that they might ſee themſelves multiplied in their little ones; ſee their mingled graces transfuſed into their offspring; and feel the glow of their affection augmented, by being reflected from their children. "Grant us this gift," ſaid their united prayers, "and our ſatisfactions are crowned; we requeſt no more."

Alas! how blind are mortals to future events? how unable to diſcern what is really good! Give me children, ſaid Rachel, or elſe I die. An ardour of impatience altogether unbecoming, and as miſtaken as it was unbecoming. She dies not by the diſappointment, but by the accompliſhment of her deſire. If children are, to parents, like a flowery chaplet, whoſe beauties bloſſom with ornament, and whoſe dours breathe delight; death or ſome fell misfortune, may find means to entwine themſelves with the lovely wreath. Whenever our ſouls are poured out, with paſſionate importunity, after any inferior acquiſition; it may be truly ſaid, in the words of our divine Mafter. Ye know not what ye aſk—Does Providence with hold the thing that we long for? It denies in mercy; and only with holds the occaſion of our miſery, if not the inſtrument of our ruin. With a ſickly appetite, we often loath what is wholeſome, and hanker after our bane. Where imagination dreams of unmingled ſweets, there experience frequently finds the bitterneſs of wo.

Here a ſmall and plain ſtone is placed upon the ground; purchaſed, one would imagine, from the little fund, and formed by the hand of frugality itſelf.

I perceive, upon a cloſer inſpection, that it covers the remains of a father; A religious father: ſnatched from his growing offspring, before they were ſettled in the world, or ſo much as their principles fixed by a thorough education.

This, ſure, is the moſt complicated diſtreſs, that has hitherto come under our conſideration. The ſolemnities of ſuch a dying chamber are ſome of the moſt melting and melancholy ſcenes imaginable.—There lies the affectionate huſband; the indulgent parent; the faithful friend; and the generous maſter. Here lies, in the laſt extremities, and on the very point of diſſolution. Art has done its all. The raging diſeaſe mocks the power of medicine. It haſtens with reſitſleſs impetouſity, to execute its dreadful errand; to rend aſunder the ſilver cord of life, and the more delicate tie of ſocial attachment, and conjugal affection.

Thoſe poor innocents, the children croud around the bed; drowned in tears, and almoſt frantic with grief, they ſob out their little ſouls, and paſſionately cry, "Will he leave us? leave us in a helpleſs condition! leave us to an injurious world!"

Theſe ſeparate ſtreams are all united in the diſtreſſed ſpouſe, and overwhelm her breaſt with an impetuous tide of ſorrows. In her, the lover weeps, the wife mourns, and all the mother yearns. To her, the loſs is beyond meaſure aggravated, by months and years of delightful ſociety, and exalted friendſhip.—Where alas! can ſhe meet with ſuch unſuſpected fidelity, or repoſe ſuch unreſerved confidence? where find ſo diſcreet a counſellor, ſo improving an example, and a guardian fo ſedulouſly attentive to the intereſts of herſelf, and her children—See! how ſhe hangs over the languiſhing bed; moſt tenderly ſolicitous to prolong a life, important and valuable, far beyond her own; or, if that be impracticable, no leſs tenderly officious to ſoothe the laſt agonies of her dearerſelf. Her hands, trembling under direful apprehenſions; wipe the cold dews from the livid cheeks; and ſometimes ſtay the ſinking head on her gentle arms, ſometimes reſt it on her compaſſionate boſom.—See! how the gazes, with a ſpeechleſs ardour, on the pale countenance, and meagre features! While all her ſoft paſſions beat unutterable fondneſs, and her very ſoul bleeds with exquiſite anguiſh.

The ſufferer, all patient and adoring, ſubmits to the divine will; and, by ſubmiſſion, becomes ſuperior to his affliction. He is ſenfibly touched with the diſconſolate ſtate of his attendants, and pierced with an anxious concern for his wife and his children; his wife, who will soon be a deſtitute widow; his children, who will soon be helpless orphans. Yet, "tho' caſt down, not in dispair." He is greatly refreſhed by his truſt in the everlaſting covenant, and his hope of approaching glory. Religion gives a dignity to diſtress. At each interval of ease, he comforts his very comforters; and ſuffers with all the majeſty of wo.

The soul, juſt going to abandon the tottering clay, collects all her force, and exerts her laſt efforts. The good man raises himself on his pillow; extends a kind hand to his servants, which is bathed in tears; takes an affecting farewel of his friends; clasps his wife in a feeble embrace; kiſſes the dear pledges of their mutual love, and then pours all that remains of life and of ſtrength, in the following words;——"I die, my dear children: but God, the everlaſting God, will be with you—Though you loſe an earthly parent you have a father in heaven, who lives for evermore.—Nothing, nothing but an unbelieving heart, and irreligious life, can ever ſeparate you from the regards of his providence,—from the endearments of his love."

He could proceed no farther. His heart was full; but utterance failed.——After a ſhort pauſe, prompted by affectionate zeal, with difficulty, great difficulty, he added,——"You the dear partner of my ſoul; you are now the only protector of our orphans.——I leave you under a weight of cares.——But God, who defendeth the cauſe of the widow,—God, whoſe promiſe is faithfulneſs, and truth,—God hath ſaid, I will never leave thee, nor forſake thee——This revives my drooping ſpirits.——Let this ſupport the wife of my boſom——And now, O Father of compaſſions, into thy hands. I commend my ſpirit.——Encouraged by thy promiſed goodness, I leave my fatherleſs"——

—the afflicted family ſearch for the ſentence, which fell unfinished from thoſe loved, thoſe venerable and pious lips. They find it recorded by the prophet Jeremiah, containing the direction of infinite wiſdom, and the promiſe of unbounded goodneſs: Leave thy fatherleſs children; I will preſerve them alive: and let thy widows truſt in me—This, now, is the comfort of their life, and the joy of their heart. They treafure it up in their memories. It is the beſt of legacies, and an inexhauſtible fund. A fund, which will ſupply all their wants, by entailing the bleſſing of heaven on all their honeſt labours.

No sooner turned from one memento of my own, and memorial of another's deceaſe, but a ſecond, a third, a long ſucceſſion of theſe melancholy monitors crowd upon my ſight.——That which has fixed my obſervation, is one of a more grave and ſable aſpect than the former. I ſuppoſe it preſerves the relicks of a more aged perſon. One would conjecture, that he made ſomewhat of a figure in his ſtation among the living, as his monument does among the funeral marbles. Let me draw near, and enquire of the ſtone. "Who, or what, is beneath its ſurface?"—I am informed, he was once the owner of a conſiderable eſtate: which was much improved by his own application and management; that he left the world in the buſy period of life, advanced a little beyond the meridian.

Probably, replied my muſing mind, one of thoſe indefatigable drudges, who riſe early, late take reſt, and eat the bread of carefulneſs, not to ſecure the loving-kindneſs of the Lord, not to make proviſion for any reaſonable neceſſity, but only to amaſs together ten thouſand times more than they can poſſibly uſe.—

But ſee the folly of worldly wiſdom! How ſilly, how childiſh is the ſagacity of (what is called) manly and maſterly prudence, when it contrives more ſolicitouſly for time, than it provides for eternity! When every wheel-moves on ſmoothly; when all the well-diſpoſed deſigns are ripening apace for execution; and the long expected criſis of enjoyment ſeems to approach; behold! God from on high laughs at the Babel-builder. Death touches the bubble and it breaks; it drops into nothing.

Some, I preceive, arrived at threeſcore years and ten, before they made their exit: nay, ſome few reſigned not their breath, till they had numbered fourſcore revolving harveſts.——Theſe, I would hope, "remembered their Creator in the days of their youth," before their ſtrength became labour and ſorrow;—before that low ebb of languiſhing nature, when the keepers of the houſe tremble, and thoſe that look out of the windows are darkened; when even the lighting down of the graſhopper is a burden on the bending ſhoulders, and deſire itſelf fails in the liſtleſs lethargic ſoul;—before thoſe heavy hours come, and those tireſome moments draw nigh, in which, there is too much reason to say, "We have no pleaſure in them; no improvement from them."

If their lamps were unfurniſhed with oil, how unfit muſt they be, in such decrepit circumſtances, to go to the market and buy! For, beſides a variety of disorders, ariſing from the unfeebled conſtitution, their corruptions muſt be surpriſingly ſtrengthened, by such a long course of irreligion.

Some, no doubt, came to this their laſt retreat full of piety, and full of days; "as a shock of corn, ripe with age, and laden with plenty, cometh in, in his ſeaſon."

——Theſe were children of light, and wiſe in their generation; wise with that exalted wiſdom which cometh from above: and with that enduring wiſdom which laſts to eternity.—Rich alſo they were, more honourably and permanently rich, than all the votaries of mammon. The wealth of the one has made itſelf wings and is irrecoveraly gone; while the wretched acquirers are tranſmitted to that place of penury and pain, where not ſo much as one drop of water is allowed to cool their ſcorched tongues, the ſtores of the other ſtill abide with them; will never depart from them; but make them glad, for ever and ever, in the city of their God.

What figure is that which ſtrikes my eye, from an eminent part of the wall? It is not only placed in a more elevated ſituation than the reſt, but earries a more ſplended & ſumptuous air than ordinary. Swords and ſpears, murdering engines, and inſtruments of ſlaughter, adorn the ſtone with a formidable magnificence——It proves to be be the monument of a noble warrior.

Is ſuch reſpect, thought I, paid to the memory of this brave ſoldier, for ſacrificing his life to the public good?——Then, what honours, what immortal honours, are due to the great Captain of our ſalvation? who, though Lord of the angelic legions, and ſupreme commander of all the heavenly hoſts, willingly offered himſelf a bleeding propitiation for ſinners.

Never, O my ſoul, never forget the amazing truth. The Lamb of God was ſeized, was bound, was ſlaughtered with the utmoſt inhumanity, and endured death in all its bitterneſs, for thee. His murderers ſtudiouſly cruel, ſo guided the fatal cup that he taſted every drop of its gall, before he drank it off to the very dregs.

What ſuitable returns of inflamed and adoring devotion, can we make to the Holy One of God, thus dying that we might live? dying in ignominy and anguiſh, that we might live for ever in the heights of joy, and ſit for ever on thrones of glory. Alas! it is not in us, impotent, inſenſible mortals, to be duly thankful. He only who confers ſuch inconceivable rich favours, can enkindle a proper warmth of grateful affection.

Then build thyſelf a monument, moſt gracious Immanuel, build thyſelf an everlaſting monument, of gratitude in our ſouls Let it ſtand conſpicuous and indelible, not on outward tables of ſtone, but on the very inmost tables of our hearts.

What a poor ſubſtitute for a ſet of memorable actions, is poliſhed alabaſter, or the mimicry of ſculptured marble! The real excellency of this bleeding patriot is written on the minds of his countrymen: it would be remembered with applauſe, ſo long as the nation ſubſiſts, without this artificial expedient to perpetuate it.—And ſuch, ſuch is the monument I would wiſh for myſelf. Let me leave a memorial in the breaſts of my fellow creatures. Let ſurviving friends bear witneſs that I have not lived to myſelf alone, nor been altogether unſerviceable in my generation. O! let an uninterrupted ſeries of beneficent offices be the inſcription, and the beſt intereſts of my acquaintance the plate that exhibits it.

Let the poor, as they paſs by my grave, point at the little ſpot, and thankfully acknowledge,——"There lies the man, whoſe unwearied kindneſs was the conſtant relief of my various diſtreffes; who tenderly viſited my languiſhing bed, and readily ſupplied my indigent circumſtances. How often were his counſels a guide to my perplexed thoughts, and a cordial to my dejected ſpirit! It is owing to God's bleſſing on his ſeaſonable charities, and prudent conſolations, that I now live, and live in comfort."—Let a perſon, once ignorant and ungodly, lift up his eyes to heaven, and ſay within himſelf, as he walks over my bones, "Here are the laſt remains of that ſincere friend, who watched for my ſoul. I can never forget with what heedleſs gaiety I was poſting on in the paths of perdition; and I tremble to think, into what irretrievable ruin I might quickly have been plunged, had not his faithful admonitions met me in the wild career. I was unacquainted with the goſpel of peace, and had no concern for its unſearchable treaſures: but now, enlightened by his inſtructive converſation, I ſee the all-ſufſiciency of my Saviour; and, animated by his repeated exhortations, I count all things but loſs that I may win Christ. Methinks, his diſcourſes, ſeaſoned with religion, and bleſſed by grace, ſtill tingle in my ears: are ſtill warm on my heart; and, I truſt, will be more and more operative, till we meet each other in the houſe not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Yonder entrance leads, I ſuppoſe, to the vault. Let me turn aſide and take one view of the habitation, and its tenants.——What a ſolemn ſcene! how diſmal the gloom! Here is perpetual darkneſs, and night even at noon day.—

A beam or two finds its way through the grates; and reflects a feeble glimmer from the nails of the coffins. No vulgar dead are depoſited here. The moſt illuſtrious, and right honourable, have claimed this for their laſt retreat. And, indeed, they retain ſome what of a ſhadowy pre-eminence. They lie, ranged in mournful order, and in a ſort of ſilent pomp, under the arches of an ample ſepulchre, while meaner corpſes, without much ceremony, "go down to the ſtones of the pit."

Thoſe who received vaſt revenues, and called whole lordſhips, their own, are here reduced to half a dozen feet of earth, or confined in a few ſheets of lead. Rooms of ſtate, and ſumptuous furniture, are reſigned for no other ornament than the ſhroud, for no other apartment than the darkſome niche. Where is the ſtar that blazed upon the breaſt; or the coronet that glittered round the temples? The only remains of departed dignity are, the weather-beaten hatchment and the tattered eſcutcheon. I ſee no ſplended retinue ſurrounding this folitary dwelling. The lordly equipage hovers no longer about the lifeleſs maſter. He has no other attendant, than a duſty ſtatue; which, while the regardleſs world is as gay as ever, the ſculptor's hand has taught to weep.

Thoſe who gloried in high born anceſtors, and noble pedigree, here drop their lofty pretenſions. They acknowledge kindred with creeping things, and quarter arms with the meaneſt reptiles. They ſay to corruption, Thou art my father; and to the worm, Thou art my mother and my ſiſter.——Or, should they ſtill aſſume the ſtyle of diſtinction, alas! how impotent were the claim! how apparent the oſtentation! It is ſaid by their monument, Here lies the Great! How eaſily is it replied by the ſpectator?—Falſe marble! Where? Nothing but poor and ſordid duſt lies here.

For now, ye lying vanities of life!
Ye ever tempting, ever cheating train!
Where are ye now? and what is your amount?

What is all the world to theſe poor breathleſs beings?—what are their pleaſures? A bubble broke.—What their honours? A dream that is forgotten.—What the ſum-total of their enjoyments below?

Alas! it is ſhorter than a ſpan, lighter than the dancing ſpark, and driven away like the diſſolving ſmoke.

Indulge, my ſoul, a ſerious pauſe. Recollect all the gay things that were wont to dazzle thy eyes, and inveigle thy affections. Here examine thoſe baits of ſenſe; here form an eſtimate of their real value.

I thank you, ye relics of founding titles, and magnificent names: ye have taught me more of the littleneſs of the world, than all the volumes of my library. Your nobility, arrayed in a winding ſheet; your grandeur, mouldering in an urn: are the moſt indiſputable proofs of the nothingneſs of created things. Never, ſurely, did Providence write this important point, in ſuch legible characters, as in the aſhes of My Lord, or on the corpſe of His Grace.—Let others, if they pleaſe, pay their obfequious court to your wealthy ſons; and ignobly fawn, or anxiouſly ſue for preferments; my thoughts ſhall often reſort, in penſive contemplation, to the sepulchre of their fires; and learn, from their ſleeping duſt—to moderate my expectations from mortals;—to ſtand disengaged from every undue attachment to the little intereſts of time;—to get above the deluſive amusements of honour, the gaudy tinsels of wealth, and all the empty ſhadows of a periſhing world.


Printed by G Miller, Dunbar.

This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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  1. 2 Kings xxii, 24.
  2. Isiah, xxvii, 3.
  3. Tim. iv. 3.