c DEATH SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY. A- . A SERMON OC^BIONED BY THE DEATH OE MRS. STJSAN GRATIOT, M LATE A MEMBER OF THE SOUTH MESBYTERIAN CHURCH, GALENA, ILLINOIS. DELIVERED AT GALENA, JUNE 11, 1854. REV. H. J. COE, PASTOR OF SAID CHURCH WASHINGTON, D. C: BUELL AND BLANCHARD, PRINTERS. 1854. ^ % V MRS. SUSAN GEATIOT. Mrs. Susan Gratiot was the daughter of Stephen HempsteaCj Esq., of Connecticutj a soldier of the Revolution. At an early day, the family removed to St. Louis, in the then Tertitory of Missouri. Her oldest brother, the Hon. Edward Hempstead, was the first Delegate in Congress from that Territory. Her hus- band. Col. Henry Gratiot, was a pioneer oFthe Upper Missis- sippi Lead Mines, long connected with the Indian affairs of that new country, and whose history was closely identified with it, up to the time of his death, which occurred in Baltimore, Maryland, in the year 1836, on his return from Washington, D. C, to his home in Wisconsin Territory. Mrs. Gratiot had been spending the winter and spring in Washington, with the family of her son- in-law, Mr. E. B. Washburne, a Representative in Congress from the State of Illinois. She was returning with him and his family to the West, when she was seized with the Asiatic cholera, within ten miles of her own home, at Gratiot's Grove, Wisconsin, and of which she died on the second day of June, 1854, after an illness of some ten hours. Galena, Illinois, June 12, 1854. SERMON. " Death is swallowed up in victory." [I Corinthians, xv, 54. Most men view Death as a fearful foe. In the far off distance, they may mock at his power, and sport at his coming ; but their cheeks will blanch, and their eyes quail, at his near approach. Their terror betrays itself in the names they have given to Death, and the repulsive forms with which, in their dark imaginings, they have clothed him. They have called him a heartless tyrant, a fell destroyer, rioting in gloom and woe. They have portrayed him as a grim and spectral warrior. According to their pen- cilings, his form is skeleton and hideous, his breath is icy, his eye is pitiless, his voice rings stern and hollow. With ruthless scythe and tireless arm, he mows down the thronged procession of life, that shrinkingly defiles before him. Viewing Death thus, they draw near the sweep of his remorseless hand with struggling reluctance. They close the eye ; they stop the ear ; they are steeped in intoxication, or stupefied with opiates. They steel themselves into insensibility, or delude their fluttering hearts with the vain hope of escaping his stroke, or at least delaying the hour of fatal approach. 6 Far different is the view the ripened Christian takes of Death. Enhghtened by the teachings, imbued with the spirit, gladdened by the hopes, of Revelation, Death is to him disrobed of its terrors' and shorn of its power to harm. It may come with the quiet glacier-tread of lingering disease, but he fears it not ; he knows the arm of infinite wisdom and love is guiding its footsteps. It may with the gush of a torrent sweep loved ones from his side ; he does but loosen his hold on the frail supports of earth, to tighten his grasp on the immovable rock of omnipotence. It may even thunder down his own pathway, as th0 avalanche bounds along on its mis- sion of wrath ; but he can gaze fearlessly on its beetling brow, for on it he shall be safely borne across the otherwise impassable chasm that separates him from eternal and unutterable glory. His calm- ness is not stupidity ; his boldness is not rashness. He has planted himself on the assurance that Death is swallowed up in victory; an assurance on whose breadth, and strength, and meaning, nature and history. Scripture and observation, have taught him firmly to rely. Nature, in her teaching, bids him gaze on the unsightly worm, yielding up its breath to reappear with the most beauteous form of insect life ; on the sun, gilding with glory the clouds that sought to engloom his setting on the fretted Rhone and the turbid Jordan, losing themselves in the clear, quiet waters of Gennesaret and Geneva, and, while he gazes, points with emblem finger to the glorious spiritual truth they foreshadow — the truth that Death is swallowed up in victory. To deepen this impression, History adds her teachings, and bears the Christian away to her interpreting scenes. She takes him to the Heights of Abraham, and bids him behold the pain-stamped brow of the conqueror of Quebec grow radiant with joy as the shout of triumph falls on his dying ear, and listen to the hurra of victory that bursts from his stiffening lips amid the groans of dissolution. She carries him to the martyr fires of Smithfield and Oxford, and, amid the slowly embering fagots that agonize the flesh of Cranmer and Ridley and Latimer, bids him gaze on the raptured spirit, illumining the whole countenance with gladness, a,tid bedewing the lips with songs of thanksgiving. Amid such scenes she whispers to his opening understanding the truth they illustrate : " Death is swallowed up in victory." Revelation, too, grasps his willing hand, and leads him to her yet loftier heights of prospect. She points to Him who cometh with blood-stained garments from Edom, who hath trodden the wine press of wrath alone, and through Death destroyed him that hath the power of Death. She causes to pass before him the way-worn apostle to the Gentiles, saying, " For me to die is gain. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.'' Farther still, she brings from the distant future the final consummation, when mortal puts on immor- tality, and Death and the grave are cast into the lake of fire, and points to it as that last and highest fulfill- ment, whose far-away glories irradiated the stern eye of the prophet, seen when he exclaimed, "The 8 Lord Grod will swallow up death in victory, and will wipe away tears from ofP all faces." Observation likewise lends lier aid to impress what Nature, and History, and Scripture, have so vividly taught. She bids us watch each departing Christian, as Heaven projects its glories in his countenance, and plants its exceeding joy in his heart, as glorious fulfillment of the prophetic utterance, "Death is swallowed up in victory." It is by such a striking fulfillment and illustration of this glowing prophecy we are called together to-day. We come to celebrate a glorious victory over Death — a victory which, whether we view the conqueror, the circumstances of the conflict, or the completeness of the conquest, looms up far beyond an ordinary triumph. So far as can now be learned, our departed sister was the first, as she was one of the most consistent, professing Christians that ever dwelt in this city. The pioneer Christian of Galena has gone to her rest, and won her star-jewelled crown. A brief sketch of the life and character of such an one may not be inappropriate. Yet it is no easy task to daguerreotype the dead. To so sketch the character of departed worth, that all shall recognise each lineament as real, each feature as truthful, is always difficult, if not impos- sible. The partialities of friendship, the enhanced value we ever put upon what we have lost, the ignorance or lesser knowledge of strangers and unfamiliar friends, must ever prove potent causes of wide differences of opinion, and remain serious obstaces to a united abiding at the golden mean of truth. These difficulties increase as the character 9 grows more perfect. Since perfection is but the harmonious blending in due proportion of all excel- lences, perfect characters furnish no angular points, like those less rounded and polished, on which the hand can fasten its grasp, while it holds them up to inspection. Moreover, true humility, the rarest, as the crown- ing glory of high excellence, can never shine in the strong glare of publicity. Its sweet light beams undimmed only amid familiar friends, or in the quietude of retirement. Hence, intimacy lays itself open, on the one hand, to the charge of overdrawing when it unveils the virtues of privacy, while on the other it justly incurs the blame of underpainting, if it do not permit the beauteous tints of the home life to mellow the portrait. Hence, too, a perfect character as that of our incarnate Lord, is indescribable, even by inspiration itself, save by its own words and deeds. Pressed in no small degree with these difficulties, a short statement of facts, a brief reference to that trait of character which most remarkably distin- guished the departed, must suflS.ce for the present occasion. Mrs. Susan Gratiot was born in Hebron, Connec- ticut, February 20, 1797. Her ancestral line runs back to the early settlement of America, and loses itself in the pilgrim band that sought, on the sterile shores of New England, freedom to worship Grod. In her case, as in many others, the blessing that rests upon the seed of the suffering righteous seems from infancy to have translated her into the kingdom of faith and love. Her removal, however, in early 10 childhood, to the then frontier village of St. Louis, and the absence for years of all congenial religious privileges, prevented her public identification with people of God, till youth had well nigh ripened into womanhood. In her nineteenth year, she united on profession of faith with the little band at that time organized into the second Presbyterian church west of the Mississippi river. A little more than one year after, she was the youngest of the nine persons who,, on the 23d of November, 1817, formed the first Protestant church organized in the city of St. Louis. In the year 1825, she removed to Galena, then a collection of less than half a score of rude cabins. For three years after her arrival, she was entirely deprived of the public means of grace, and six years went by before any Christian church sprang into being here. In this city, as in St. Louis, it was her rare privilege to be one of the founders of the first church organized ; being one of the six whose names stand forth as the germ of organized piety among us. During all these years of destitution, as in all time since, she walked so closely with God, that none doubted the reality of her religion. Her cheerful words and hearty prayers did much to stay up the hands of God's servants in the weary conflict with overwhelming iniquity, and keep alive the well nigh expiring cause of Christ in this region. Less than eighteen months ago, in company with her two elder sisters, she identified herself with us in church relationship, thus twining a threefold cord of spiritual strength about our Zion. That cord, we had hoped, would long remain unbroken ; but God loved our departed sister too well to permit her to tarry longer ii " Where storm after storm rises dark o'er the way," and to linger " Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode, Where the rivers of pleasure roll o'er the bright plains, And the noontide of glory eternally reigns." Nine days since, the summons came for her to enter the better land. The message reached her while on her return from the far-away grave of her husband, and as the familiar landmarks of her earthly home rose upon her vision. It came with the sudden agony wherewith the Asiatic cholera comes in its deadliest wrath, but she welcomed its coming. Its stern accents Were to her full of melody, and words of joy trembled on her lips as the gol(J- en bowl was breaking at the fountain. To fully portray such a character is beyond our power. Its most prominent trait was love to God and man ; that love so glowingly described by the apostle Paul in the thirteenth chapter of his first Epistle to the Corinthians. Her love was an active love. It went about doing good. It delighted to give the more than a cup of cold water to every wearied disciple. It was a self-denying love. She regarded not her own ease, but went willingly through night watch- ings and early risings to minister to the afflicted. She shared her every good with the sons of want, and performed in hours of need the most repulsive offices for the suffering. When pressed with the cares of a large household, she not unfrequently rose in the dim twilight of summer, to minister to the suffering family of some distant inebriate 12 neighbor ; and more than once, for weeks, daily dressed the loathsome wounds of the rude savage, with no other claims upon her than those of poverty and suffering humanity. Her love was a broad, far-reaching love — a love of the Good Samaritan type. Incidents like those above referred to show that it overleaped the narrow boundaries of kindred, of friendship, of wealth, or race. Her hands soothed as patiently and tenderly the child of want and oppression, as the rich man clad in sumptuous apparel. Her love was withall a most unobtrusive love. It shrank even too much from observation. It blew no trumpet when it went forth on missions of charity ; and anointed itself with the oil of gladness in its hour of humiliation, that it might not appear unto men to fast. It reproved in quiet, and warmed with tears. It avenged not itself, and contended only for the good name of others. Above all, her^s was a love whose perennial streams were fed by close and wonderfully constant communion with the Giver of every good and perfect gift. She delighted to draw near to the Author and Finisher of Faith. Her well-worn and well-marked Bible, the keen zest with which she enjoyed the means of grace, her midnight communings with Grod, and medita- tions in night-watches upon his word, all revealed the source whence she drew her wealth of love. It was indeed a wealth of love she possessed. It so habitually controlled her, that it moulded her countenance to its own sweet expression, stirred stranger hearts with kindly yearnings towards her, and drew children, those quick discerners of the 13 soul, to her side, as to a familiar, though new-found friend. The teachings of such a life, crowned by such a death, may be few, but they are deeply momentous. It testifies most impressively to the power of Christian love. We are prone to underrate the power of Christian love, and explain away the requirements of Him whose new commandment was. Love one another. We are wont to consider the sermon on the mount an exaggeration, incapable of practical exemplification in this present, selfish world. We are ready to regard iron sternness as needful, and most effective, especially amid the rough scenes of life. We look upon the hot temper and iron will of Luther and Augustine as admirably fitting them for their great work, and enabling them to stamp most deeply their impress upon their fellows. The life of our departed sister weighs not a little in proving such opinions erroneous. She lived amid pioneer scenes, and came in contact with the roughest forms of humanity, but her love never failed to triumph. The blood-thirsty savage grew mild and peaceful in her presence — the fierce inebriate, who rudely rebuffed all other entreaties, in grateful love for her kind ofi&ces, forswore the maddening bowl — and the stranger maniac was quickly lulled to slumber by her gentle words. In truth, such lives as that of the departed teach us that men of iron are not so mighty, and that their sterner traits do not exert so controlling an influence on their own age, or leave so deep an impress on succeeding ages, as we are wont to suppose. The u stern tones and iron strokes of Luther and Augustine did not give them their mightiest power over others. They subdued kingdoms, and wrought righteousness by the strong sympathies of large hearts, and the full out-gushings of Christian love. Nay, even their iron firmness, and the lesser power it gave, was not unfrequently the offspring of Christian love, speaking through some gentle friend and quiet disciple. The sweet notes of silver trumpets, as in Israel's battles, nerved them to breast the storm of conflict to the end. Oft-times the foes that sternly withstood the assaults of wrath, bow willing captives to the stronger cords of kindness. The giant iceberg, that grinds gloomily along the iron-bound shores of Labrador, and, amid stormy seas, dashes unbroken against the rocky headlands of Newfoundland, melts and disap- pears amid the quiet waters of a sunnier clime. The life we have been contemplating, teaches us likewise the surpassing excellence of true religion. It exemplifies the excellence of intelligent piety, both in life and death. Religion taught Mrs. Gratiot how to live so useful a life. It nerved her for self-denials. It sustained her in cheerfulness, amid disappointments and sorrow. It ennobled the lowliest offices of love with such dignity as made it no condescension in her eyes to perform them. It invested all with whom she came in contact, whether clothed in rags or purple, with the dignity of immortal spirits, destined to an endless existence of joy or woe. It enabled her to live the life of the righteous. It prepared her to meet the last foe with gladness, and exclaim, in the dying hour, death, where is thy sting ! grave, where is thy victory 1 In view of such results accomplished by it, how do all other possessions sink into insignijSicance ? They are not comparable to that which wafts its glories across the stream of death, and gladdens with its far-off foretastes the soul struggling with the pains of dissolution. Bereaved kindred, it was the wish of your departed relative that life for you might spring from her death. She longed to have your sorrow swallowed up, not only in her gain, but in those peaceable fruits of righteousness, and that exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which may result from so sore a trial. Let not that desire be ungratified — that wish remain unaccomplished. Make your bereavement a means of leading you to that trust she found so precious. Let it fire you to imitate her example of patient labor and self-denial, that you may share her reward. See to it that she is permitted to welcome you to her own bright home, when the warfare of life is for you accomplished. Christian friends of the deceased, and especially those bound to her by the tender ties of church relationship, upon which of you shall her fallen man- tle of love rest, and upon whom shall a double por- tion of her spirit abide? As one and another of your strong warriors are prostrated by the foe, who will close up the broken ranks, and fill the gaps Death has made. The time is short. The hour of depart- ure is at hand. The summons may come to you as suddenly as it came to her. Gird anew the armor of righteousness upon the right hand and upon the left. Be not weary in well doing. Be ever watchful and laborious. Give diligence to add to your present 16 % fim faith, virtue, and knowledge, and love, that ye may be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of Christ, and may welcome his appearing with the longing entreaty, Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Friends of the departed whose peace is not yet made tvith God, how strongly do her life arnd death testify to the excellence of the religion you have hitherto neglected ! What are the wealth and fame and power you so earnestly seek, compared with this most precious possession ! They cannot enable you to act well your part in life. They cannot swallow up death in victory. They rather wither and dissolve and disappear at his approach. His breath tarnishes their lustre, shrouds their splendor in deepening gloom, and stills forever the glad pulsations they have stirred. It is not thus with true piety. Like its glorious Giver, it is a refulgent sun to those who trust themselves to its guidance. It will add zest and brightness to all that is joyous and radiant in life ; it will line with gold the clouds that ever and anon will sweep across your sky ; it will tip with light the mountain summits of your pilgrimage, and throw its cheering reflections down the deep valleys of your pathway. In the hour of dissolu- tion, if it may not pierce the night-wove curtain doubt has drawn athwart the soul with its clearer shinings, its triumphant joys, it will reflect its lesser consolations, its long-lent lunar beams and stellar rays, to illumine your way and gladden your depar- ture.