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Full text of "A sermon delivered in the Second Presbyterian Church, Albany, on Sabbath afternoon, July 20, 1854, immediately after the funeral of Mrs. Harriet Chapin, wife of Lyman Chapin, Esq."

SERMON 

OCCASIONED BY THE DEATH 

OF 

MRS. HARRIET CHAPIN. 



SERMON 

DELIVERED IN THE 

SECOND PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ALBANY, 

On Sabbath afternoon, July 20, 1854. 

IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE FUNERAL OF 

MRS. HARRIET CHAPIN, 

WIFE OF LYMAN CHAPIN, Esq. 



BY WILLIAM B. SPRAGUE, D. D., 

MINISTER OF SAID CHURCH. 



rRINTED EY REQUEST OF THE BEREAVED FAMILY. 



ALBANY: 

C. VAN BENTHUYSEN, PRINTER. 

1854. 



Tins sermon liu.-j lieeu somewhat modified una enlai uetl since the delivery 



SERMON. 



JOHN XIII. 7. 

Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now, but 
thou shalt know hereafter. 

The blessed Jesus had now delivered his 
last message to the world ; but He had a few 
more gracious and monitory words to say to 
his disciples. The occasion on which He had 
met them was the last celebration of the Pass- 
over. Notwithstanding He had so often and 
so faithfully warned them against a worldly 
and ambitious spirit, even the solemn circum- 
stances in which they were then placed had 
not been sufficient to repress it ; for He had 
just seen it breaking out in a strife among 
them, who should be advanced to the highest 
honours of his kingdom. He, therefore, by a 
most significant act, gives them a fresh lesson 
of humility — a lesson rendered more impres- 
sive by the affecting associations and myste- 
rious tendencies of the hour. " He rises from 



supper," says the Evangelist, with inimitable 
simplicity, " and laid aside his garments, and 
took a towel, and girded himself. After that, 
He poureth water into a basin, and began to 
wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them 
with the towel wherewith He was girded." 
When He came round to Peter, that affec- 
tionate but impetuous disciple exclaimed with 
astonishment — "Lord, dost thou wash my 
feet?" The Saviour's answer we have in the 
words of our text — "What I do thou knowest 
not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." 

The act to which our Lord here immedi- 
ately refers, was one which required nothing 
but the ordinary faculties of humanity. But 
inasmuch as He is constituted the Head of the 
mediatorial economy, and has all the fullness 
of the G odhead dwelling in Him, we may pro- 
perly recognize his hand in the high and mys- 
terious movements of providence. He says, 
therefore, to us, in reference to many past and 
passing events, to which no other than a divine 
power could be adequate, as truly as He did to 
Peter, in respect to the simple act of washing his 
disciples' feet — " What I do, thou knowest not 
now, but thou shalt know hereafter." Come 



then, Christians, especially Christian mourners, 
and dwell for a few moments upon some of 
those events around which the thickest dark- 
ness now hangs ; and then, with the eye of 
faith, behold all that darkness passing away, 
and leaving a region of unclouded glory. 

I. Let me call your attention then, in the 
first place, to some of the mysteries of God's pro- 
vidence — " What I do, thou knowest not now." 

What say you then, of the introduction of moral 
evil into a system ordained and established by a 
Being of infinite perfection ? It is obvious, at a 
glance, that sin is an infringement of the 
great law of God's moral creation; that, while 
it is itself the greatest possible evil, it is the 
source of all other evil in the universe. It has 
put at least two races into the attitude of re- 
bellion against their Almighty Sovereign. It 
has swept over this goodly world of ours like 
the Simoom of the desert, marring much that 
was fair and beautiful, and drying up innume- 
rable fountains of joy. It has embittered the 
enjoyments of social life, often making man 
the enemy of his own flesh and blood. Here 
it has blazed forth in acts of oppression and 
rapacity, and there it has worked its engines of 



death most effectively, but silently and in the 
dark. It has gone through the world as a 
murderer, changing the earth itself into a 
charnel house. It has caused to be built 
somewhere in the universe a prison of despair, 
where neither voice of mercy nor beam of joy 
ever penetrates. And it has entrenched itself 
in the very depths of the human spirit, mock- 
ing at every effort that man can make to cast 
it out. Contrast the world as it now is with 
what it would have been, if it had been 
nothing more than an expansion of Eden with 
its innocent inmates ; or contrast it with what 
many believe it is destined to be, when it shall 
have passed through the purifying fires, and 
come out a perfectly renovated world, and be 
inhabited again by the loyal and the holy, — 
and this may help you to form some idea of 
the ruin which sin has brought upon our com- 
mon humanity ; though any idea of this would 
be vastly imperfect that should not include 
the retributive scenes of the eternal future. 
Now consider the introduction of this mighty 
evil into the system in connexion with the 
character of God, and say whether there is 
not mystery here which challenges and baffles 



all human scrutiny. God is a Being of infi- 
nite holiness, and cannot look upon sin. He 
is a Being of infinite power, to which all things 
are alike easy. He is a Being of infinite be- 
nevolence, delighting of course in the happi- 
ness of his creatures. He is a Being of infinite 
knowledge, and never at a loss for means to 
accomplish his purposes. And yet under the 
administration of this infinitely perfect Being, 
there exists an evil of which no finite mind 
can take the measure. Sin came not in as an 
accident — it came by divine permission — it 
came even as part of an infinitely perfect 
plan — the holiness of the divine character had 
suffered no eclipse, the arm of omnipotence 
was not palsied, nor the eye of omniscience 
closed, nor the heart of infinite benevolence 
chilled, when this monster first appeared in 
Heaven, and was afterwards reproduced on 
earth. Why is it that this wo-encircled ob- 
ject — this spoiler of angelic and human joy, 
has not been kept out of God's universe? 
Reason has tried for ages to grapple with the 
problem ; but she has faltered always. " What 
I do thou knowest not now." 



Equally mysterious is the fact that the Gos- 
pel, which supplies the only remedy for man's moral 
disease, has hitherto prevailed to so very limited an 
extent. This remedy, though it is the fruit of 
boundless grace, has involved a mighty 
amount of labour and sacrifice, and has been 
identified with all the grand movements of 
the Infinite mind from the foundation of the 
world. The dispensation of mercy dawned 
immediately after the fall of man, and it was 
gradually developing itself, first in the Patri- 
archal and then in the Mosaic economy, until, 
after the lapse of four thousand years, it 
reached its culminating point in the ministry, 
the death, and the subsequent triumph of the 
Son of God. It seems wonderful indeed, that 
so insignificant a being as man should have 
thus concentrated the divine regards, espe- 
cially when another race, which had fallen 
from a yet loftier height, had been left to the 
stern exactions of unmitigated justice ; but 
the wonder with which we are now con- 
cerned, is, that after the death of Christ had 
laid the foundation for a universal offer of 
mercy to the world, and even after Christ had 
left an express command that his Gospel 



should be preached to every creature, there 
should be, at this hour, but a small portion of 
the earth's inhabitants that have ever heard 
of it ; while a large part even of nominal Chris- 
tendom have received it in such a form that 
it amounts to little more than a cumbrous 
mass of superstitious observances. There are 
a few spots on the earth's surface where noth- 
ing seems to intercept or obscure the beams 
of the Sun of righteousness; but can you 
tell me why there are such immense regions 
overhung by the darkness of spiritual death ? 
Is the soul of man more precious here than it 
is in the heart of Asia, or in the wilds of Af- 
rica ? Does not the disease of sin prevail 
with as much intensity and virulence there as 
here ; and if left to itself, is it not equally sure 
to terminate in a never dying death ? Is not 
the remedy which Heaven has provided, 
adapted to our entire fallen humanity ; and of 
course just as efficacious on one side of the 
globe as on the other, and in one state of 
society as another ? Why then, I ask again, 
is the remedy so restricted, when the disease 
is so universal ? Why are millions every 
year passing off into the world of retribution, 

2 



10 

without even being permitted to know that 
there is balm in Gilead or a physician there ? 
You may say indeed that it is on account of 
the culpable delinquency of the church in 
failing to obey the requisitions of her Head ; 
but my inquiry goes further- — I ask, why is it 
that He who orders all things according to the 
counsel of his own will, permits such a state 
of things — permits even the apathy of his own 
people to prevent Christianity from dispensing 
her blessings " far as the curse is found." 

The hostile and apparently disastrous influences 
that have been suffered to operate upon the church, 
form another mystery in divine providence. 

It was while Christianity was yet as a new 
born babe, that Persecution began to gather 
her fagots, and brandish her sword, and con- 
struct her engines of torture, to drive that 
angel of love out of the world. The little 
company of our Lord's immediate disciples 
quickly became a mark for the shafts of ma- 
lignant hate ; and while they all accomplished 
their mission with the world in arms against 
them, some of them we know were finally 
crowned with martyr honours. And in the 
progress of years and centuries, Persecution, 



11 

always a monster, reached a gigantic size : 
she identified herself with the policy of cab- 
inets and the power of tyrants ; the groans of 
dying Christians were music to her ear, and 
she actually became drunk upon their blood. 
When Pagan Rome dropped her bloody 
mantle, Papal Rome caught it ; and for cen- 
turies and centuries, with the name of Jesus 
imprinted on her forehead, she tasked her en- 
ergies to the utmost to bring all who ventured 
to question her dogmas, to the rack or the fire. 
In later years, she has moved more silently, 
and doubtless has done a smaller work ; but if 
so, it has been only because her influence has 
been restrained by other agencies ; and very 
recent events have shown that she has the 
same adamantine heart, the same burning- 
thirst for blood, as ever. Yes, I may say with 
confidence, the Christian church has been, 
from the beginning, a persecuted body ; thus 
verifying the Saviour's declaration that He 
came not to send peace on earth but a sword. 
The corruption and perversion of God's truth 
is another of the great evils with which the 
church has had to contend. Not only is the 
truth the means of personal sanctification to all 



12 

her individual members, but it is the aggressive 
instrument by which she may expect to mul- 
tiply her triumphs and spread her glory 
through the world. But then this wonderful 
result is not to be accomplished by a mere 
name — it is not error calling itself truth, nor 
dressed in the garb of truth, nor is it a mere 
system of negations, in which the divine 
power resides, hut it is the simple teachings 
of the Bible. But who that knows any thing 
of the history of the church, does not know 
that, from the beginning, she has had her false 
teachers, who have handled the word of God 
deceitfully, putting darkness for light and 
light for darkness. This evil begun even in 
Apostolic times ; and it grew with the progress 
of centuries, until at length, the prevailing 
religious system scarcely retained a feature of 
genuine Christianity. And the consequence 
was, not merely the absence of the life-giving 
influence of the true Gospel, but an almost 
universal stagnation of the human faculties — 
a dead pause in the world's progress; aye, 
and the opening of the flood gates of a thou- 
sand forms of positive evil. The Reformation 
indeed wrought a mighty change — -restoring 



13 

to a portion of the world the Gospel in its sim- 
plicity and purity ; but even in those countries 
where the Reformation has scattered its bless- 
ings most profusely, there are systems of error 
almost innumerable, which claim to be the 
very spirit and letter of divine revelation. 
And these are all hostile to the interests of 
the church ; for they not only mar her purity, 
and disturb her harmony, but consume her 
energies in endless conflicts. 

In like manner the church has always been 
subjected to great trials from the apostacy of 
her own members. This indeed is very often 
identified with the corruption of the truth ; 
and we have already seen how the spirit of 
error, like an incubus from the world below, 
rested upon her, until she became, with 
comparatively few exceptions, an apostate 
church. Apostacy from the truth is not 
uncommon in these days; but there are 
many who apostatize from the spirit and the 
practice of Christianity, who do not profess to 
renounce its doctrines. Is it not a fact too 
lamentably familiar to require either proof or 
illustration, that men, from whose lips the 
voice of prayer used to be heard, do not scru- 



14 

pie now to use the language ol imprecation 
and blasphemy ; that hands that once seemed 
ready to every good work, are now obedient 
only to the calls of evil ; aye, and that minis- 
ters of the Gospel who once stood erect in con- 
scious integrity and honour, and were reckon- 
ed perhaps among the lights of their genera- 
tion, are now living in the open violation of 
God's laws, or else are courting solitude for 
shame, and would bless the hand that would 
spread over them the pall of oblivion. Believe 
me, no one stabs the cause of Christ more 
vitally than an apostate. He strikes a note of 
opposition to Christianity, to which myriads 
of voices are already attuned ; and thousands 
are ready to come up with acclamation, as if 
to glory over a fallen enemy. 

And I may add to this list of hostile agen- 
cies, Infidelity. The apostate indeed often 
becomes an infidel ; but probably the greater 
number who enlist under this banner, have 
never examined the evidences of Christianity 
■ — certainly have never openly and formally 
professed their faith in it. They turn skep- 
tics, in the hope of being able to hush 
the clamours within ; never dreaming that 



15 

they are rushing into the arms of a monster 
whose embrace is the second death. But 
an infidel — especially an active, insinuating, 
clamorous infidel — tvho can tell the amount 
of evil that he accomplishes, in diminish- 
ing respect for divine institutions, in un- 
hinging the principles of the young, and in 
perplexing by his cavils the simple minded 
and unlettered Christian. Infidelity has often 
lifted her head high; but the epoch of her great- 
est insolence, of her most terrible achieve- 
ments, was the French Revolution. Then, for 
a little while, she was left to have her own 
way ; she presided in all high places, and pro- 
faned all sacred ones ; the breathings of the 
pestilence were healthful and harmless, com- 
pared with her spirit; consternation and rage 
vented themselves in perpetual blasphemies; 
and the very fires of hell seemed bursting 
forth from the inmost heart of the nation. 
Thanks to the Ruler of the world, that scene 
has never been repeated ; but the one exhibi- 
tion will remain an eternal proof that Infidelity 
belongs to the family of fiends. What a foe has 
the church always had to contend with in 
Infidelity! How many struggles might she 



16 

have been spared — how much farther might 
she have travelled in her onward march, if 
Atheism and Deism and Pantheism had for- 
borne their deadly attacks ! 

But the church, let it be remembered, is 
God's peculiar delight- — she is graven on the 
palms of his hands — is dear to Him as the 
apple of his eye; and in her prosperity and 
final triumph Jesus is to see of the travail of 
his soul. Wherefore is it then, asks the in- 
quiring mind of man, that God has thus suf- 
fered his church so often to be in the deep 
waters ? Wherefore is it that He ordains or 
permits events in his providence, which seem 
adapted to retard, if they do not actually con- 
tradict, his declared purposes ! 

There is much of mystery also in the ravages 
of death, and especially in the selection of his vic- 
tims. 

The king of terrors always has his agents 
abroad, and they are always busy ; but there 
are times when they seem to gather to them- 
selves unwonted strength, and multiply their 
triumphs on a scale that spreads consternation 
almost through the world. The two which 
perhaps are most prominent at this hour, are 



17 

war and pestilence. Several of the most pow- 
erful nations on earth are now standing forth 
in a hostile attitude against a single nation ; 
and while multitudes have already fallen in 
battle, the whole world is waiting in anxious 
apprehension of a far more extended and ter- 
rific slaughter. And the pestilence that walk- 
eth in darkness — how it seems to be travelling 
through the world ; transforming almost in 
an hour, and by a process which no medical 
skill can analyze, the most healthful and 
vigorous body into a corpse ; planting itself in 
some dark part of a city, and driving all the 
inhabitants before it, either into some more 
healthful region, or into the house appointed 
for all living. If you will know what the pes- 
tilence can do, there are times when you have 
only to look out of your window, or to listen 
in your dwelling, and the slow and solemn 
movement of the hearse will tell you what it 
is doing ; and the repetition of the sight or the 
sound will be so frequent as well nigh to dis- 
may you. But who can tell why God permits 
such a mighty waste of human life — why men 
press in such crowds into the invisible world, 
with scarcely a moment's warning — why God 



18 

does not either prevent these destroying angels 
from going forth, or recall them ere they have 
made such appalling desolation ? 

But death's doings are often enshrouded in 
mystery in respect to particular individuals. 
The upright and able magistrate — the pride 
and glory of a nation, has his countenance 
changed, and is carried away, at the very mo- 
ment when his continuance seemed essential 
to mature and carry out some lofty purpose, 
or to conduct the vessel of state through the 
whirlpools of party strife. The beloved and 
useful minister, whose influence is genial as 
the breath of the morning, and who knows no 
offering too costly to be made to the best inte- 
rests of those whom he serves, is summoned 
away from his work just when, through his 
persevering labours, the fields have become 
white already to harvest. The devoted 
Christian father, whose children are already 
motherless, and depend solely on him for sup- 
port and instruction and guidance, finds him- 
self at the entrance of the dark valley, with 
hardly time to commend them with his dying 
breath to the orphan's God. At the same 
time,, other magistrates are suffered to live,, 



19 

whose administration is only a career of infa- 
my and a curse to the world ; others in the 
sacred office are spared, who pervert their vo- 
cation to the ruin of their fellow men ; and 
other parents are continued to their families, 
only to waste their substance, corrupt their 
minds, becloud their prospects, and destroy 
their souls. 

And since we have followed death to the 
domestic circle, we may pause and see how 
he sports with other tender relations. There 
are the husband and the wife, united in bonds 
of closest affection, living in each other's 
smiles, and rejoicing in each other's joy, with 
no overshadowing cloud to remind them that 
there is any thing even dubious in their pros- 
pects of living. But into that scene of domes- 
tic quietude and comfort, death stealthily 
passes, and one or the other of that happy 
couple bows to his mandate, and turns into a 
clod. The heart of the survivor is wrung - with 
anguish, because the object most dear to it, 
wakes no more to behold the light of the sun, 
or to return the warm greetings of conjugal 
tenderness. The question urges itself upon 
us, why this separation of those who delighted 



20 

to minister to each other's enjoyment and use- 
fulness, when so many husbands and wives are 
suffered to live, to be the instruments of each 
other's degradation, and to give to one another's 
lives the complexion of a lingering death. 

There is still another tie which death does 
not always spare — I mean that which binds 
the child to the fond parent's heart. Let the 
parent say — for none but a parent can — what 
joyous emotions and anticipations cluster 
about the moment when Heaven commits to 
his care and training a rational and immortal 
being. How impatiently he waits for the first 
gleam of intelligence, or the first loving smile ; 
and how, as the faculties begin to open, and the 
tongue begins to act as the exponent of thought, 
does he watch every step of the process of 
development, with an all-absorbing interest. 
Thus far nothing is wanting to realize his 
fondest wishes; and as he looks upon this 
child, so lovely and virtuous and promising, 
he secretly comforts himself with the thought 
— -" Here is the hope and staff of my declin- 
ing years." But wait a little, and see what a 
disastrous change will come. A sickly blast 
passes over this object of his affections; the 



21 

roses of health begin to fade ; the playful 
vivacity of the spirits dies away; life quiv- 
ers on the point of extinction ; the cold damps 
of death settle upon the limbs, and this most 
endeared of objects is carried away to the 
grave. The heart of the fond parent refuses 
to be comforted. Over the door of the tomb 
where that loved one is laid, well may it be 
written — "What I do, thou knowest not 
now." 

Do you ask whether there is any consola- 
tion to be gathered from this branch of our 
subject ? But you surely cannot ask such a 
question, unless it be in your haste, and because 
you have not considered from whom the de- 
claration we have been contemplating, comes. 
It is Jesus Christ, — He who is exalted to be 
Head over all things to the church; who is 
before all things, and by whom all things 
consist ; whose power nothing can withstand ; 
whose vigilance nothing can elude ; whose 
faithfulness nothing can move ; whose good- 
ness and grace are illimitable. What then 
though I may look in vain for one illumina- 
ting ray to fall upon this valley of affliction 
through which I am passing — should it not 



22 

suffice me to know that it is Jesus the Media- 
tor, Jesus whose infinite perfection I have 
recognized by committing my soul into his 
hands, — who has ordained that this darkness 
should gather around me ? Had it been an 
enemy or a doubtful friend, or a being who 
was even liable to err, who had said, — "What 
I do thou knowest not now," they might, for 
aught I could tell, be words to awaken appre- 
hension and terror ; but coming as they do from 
Him in whom all the fulness of the Godhead 
dwells, and who has manifested his love for 
me by the shedding of his blood, I may afford 
to ponder them with cheerful trust, and may 
legitimately draw from them precious conso- 
lation. 

II. But Jesus opens to his people another 
source of comfort, in the assurance He gives 
them that this darkness is not to last always: 
beneath those mysteries of providence which 
Reason, after her highest efforts, is obliged to 
leave as dark as ever, Revelation writes as 
with a sunbeam, " Thou shalt know here- 
after." This is the second division of our 
discourse. 

This word hereafter mav have reference to 



23 

the future of the present life. In the case of 
Simon Peter, it is probable that a few minutes 
were sufficient to put to flight all his doubts, 
and to enable him fully to comprehend the 
act to which they related. When Jacob's 
sons carried to their father that cruel lie that 
Joseph was dead, and showed him the bloody 
coat as evidence of it, the venerable man rent 
his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins, 
and exclaimed in the bitterness of his spirit, 
" All these things are against me." But when 
the intelligence was conveyed to him that 
Joseph was still alive, and held a distinguished 
post of honour in the land of Egypt ; when 
he saw the provision that was made for re- 
moving him and his substance thither ; and 
especially when he found himself in the 
embraces of that beloved son, whom he had 
reckoned among the dead; how very different 
must have been the good man's emotions ! 
In that event in which he had supposed his 
fondest hopes to have been sacrificed, provi- 
sion was making in the providence of God, 
for raising his son to a station of affluence 
and honour; for preserving himself and his 
family amidst the desolations of a wide 



24 

spread famine ; for brightening the evening 
of his days with scenes of exquisite endear- 
ment ; and for introducing a train of dispen- 
sations towards the church, the benign influ- 
ence of which will reach to the end of the 
world. 

And where was there ever a case of deeper 
despondency than that of our Lord's disciples, 
when they saw that He had actually suffered 
death at the hands of his enemies ? Until that 
time, their eyes had been holden in a great 
measure in respect to the spiritual nature of 
Christ's kingdom; and their hearts had been 
filled with joyful anticipations of the distinc- 
tion to which their peculiar relations to Jesus 
would entitle them. What a scene of withered 
hopes and sad recollections then, must that 
have been, in which they saw their beloved 
Master hurried from one stage of suffering to 
another, till He finally bowed his head and 
gave up the ghost ! But a few days only had 
to pass away, before these men were permit- 
ted to see a flood of light poured upon this 
darkest of all dispensations: their views of 
the character of Christ's kingdom were cor- 
rected, and they understood the connection 



25 

which this mysterious event had with the 
redemption of the world. That which had 
seemed to them defeat, they now saw to be 
victory ; and out of what they had regarded 
as the grave of their best earthly hopes, came 
streaming the light of an immortal life, in 
which myriads were to rejoice forever. 

And who will say that these dispensations 
are not a fair sample of God's dealings with 
his church in all ages ? How often have those 
events which, at the time of their occurrence, 
seemed wrapped in mystery that no human 
sagacity could penetrate, been explained, by 
subsequent developments, to be the richest of 
mercies in disguise ! How often has the aged 
saint, as he has lingered at the gate of death, 
looked over his past life, and fixing his eye upon 
some melancholy bereavement, exclaimed 
with gratitude — " In that dark hour was sown 
the seed of all this precious consolation. Had 
a less bitter cup been mingled for me, I might 
have been closing my eyes now, only to open 
them in eternal darkness." Let any Christian 
scan his own experience, and it will be strange 
indeed, if something like this is not found in 

it. By carefully observing the connexions of 

4 



26 

the divine dispensations, he will find one to 
be explanatory of another, and will be able at 
the end of his course to see light and har- 
mony, where there once seemed nothing but 
darkness and discord. 

But it must be acknowledged, after all, that 
we have at best only a partial clearing up of 
the mysteries of God's providence, in the pre- 
sent world — there are many events which 
must be thrown into a yet brighter light, before 
we can recognize their harmony with the wis- 
dom and love of God — much more, view them 
as illustrative of these attributes. But that 
brighter light will blaze upon the Christian, 
the moment the veil is drawn aside. The 
great system of providence on which clouds 
and shadows had rested hitherto, now comes 
up, discovering the perfection of its parts and 
the grandeur of its proportions, just as the 
beautiful scenery of the valley which looked 
ragged and unseemly as seen through the 
mist, takes on a thousand forms of loveliness 
as it lights up under the orb of day. And as 
the general system of providence shall be 
wonderfully illustrated, so also particular dis- 
pensations, the meaning of which we had 



27 

here sought in vain to understand, shall re- 
ceive a perfect explanation. Christian mother, 
thou shalt then know why it was that the 
child that once nestled in thy bosom, and 
greeted thee with its unconscious smile, has 
since grown into a monster of vice, and given 
thee a broken and bleeding heart, and finally 
died a spectacle of public ignominy. Chris- 
tian wife, thou shalt then know why the sor- 
rows of widowhood overtook thee so early, and 
a little group of fatherless children were left 
to keep thee ever mindful of thy loss. Chris- 
tian philanthropist, thou shalt then know why 
thy cherished and well matured plans of 
benevolent effort did not succeed; and how 
their defeat was rendered instrumental of the 
greater good. Faithful disciple of Christ, 
who art ever awake to thy Master's honour, 
and ever on the watch-tower to descry the 
first approach of danger to his cause — thou 
shalt then know that that cause, even when 
it seemed to be retrograde, was still advancing ; 
that the storms and convulsions which have 
agitated the church and sometimes threatened 
its extinction, have been the means of its 
purification and final triumph. Glorified im- 



28 

mortal, thou seest now that there is not a link 
in the chain of the divine dispensations that 
could be spared — that light of Heavenly glory 
into which thou hast entered, has shown thee 
that there was love and faithfulness as well 
as grandeur imprinted on all Jehovah's foot- 
steps. 

It must have already occurred to you that 
the subject on which we have been medita- 
ting, has had a most impressive illustration in 
the funeral solemnities that have occupied us 
to-day, in the interval of our accustomed pub- 
lic services.* Ask you why it was that the 

* Mrs. Chapin left home on the 7th of June to visit her daugh- 
ter, Mrs. Brown, at Chicago, and remained with her until Tues- 
day, the 18th of July, when she set out withjier son-in-law and 
his wife, to return home. When they reached Buffalo on Wednes- 
day evening, she was in her usual health, and in full ex- 
pectation of being with her family in Albany the next day. A 
lady who had accompanied them from Chicago, was taken ill on 
their arrival at Buffalo, and Mrs. Chapin kindly volunteered to 
occupy the same chamber with her, and administer to her wants 
during the night. About five o'clock in the morning she found 
herself seriously ill ; and it was quickly ascertained that her dis- 
ease was the cholera. Medical aid was immediately called, but it 
soon became apparent that the case was hopeless. While the 
terrible malady was doing its work, she was composed and sub- 
missive, and occupied alternately in supplicating God's sustaining 
grace, and leaving affectionate messages for her friends. She died 
at seven o'clock, on Wednesday evening, before her husband or 
any of her absent friends were able to reach her. 

Mrs. Chapin was the daughter of V\ illiam and Hannah Sheldon, 
and was born in Providence, R. I., July, 1804. After her father's 



29 

affectionate wife, the devoted mother, the 
consistent and earnest Christian, the watchful 
friend and benefactor of the poor, was, as our 
ignorance might incline us to say, thus pre- 
maturely cut down, when, if she had been 
spared, she might still have diffused gladness 
through her circle, and rendered each of her 
relations a channel of both temporal and 
spiritual blessing ? Ask you why she was not 
permitted to die in her own quiet dwelling ; 
why she paused at a certain stage of her 
homeward journey, that she might be prepared 
to travel the rest of the way as a corpse ; why 
there "was so small a representation of her 

death, and while she was quite a child, her widowed mother re- 
moved to this city, where the daughter spent the residue of her life. 
She was married, July, 1826, to Lyman Chapin, Esq., and has 
had three daughters, all of whom survive. For many years she 
was exercised with doubts in regard to the divine authority of the 
Scriptures ; but she set herself at length to an earnest and dili- 
gent examination of the subject, the result of which was a full 
conviction that Christianity had a divine origin. This conviction 
gradually worked itself into the heart ; and her views and affec- 
tions from that time had evidently an upward tendency. She 
made a public profession of religion in May, 1840, but as she had 
scruples in regard to the mode of baptism, which did not yield to 
a somewhat protracted examination, the ordinance was adminis- 
tered to her by immersion. She had much more than ordinary 
strength of mind, and had thought and read much on theological 
subjects, but she was too quiet and unostentatious to make any 
display of either her talents or her knowledge. Her heart and 
hand were open to every good work. 



30 

own dear family to listen to her last words 
of love and trust and prayer? Ask you why 
she was overtaken by disease in one of its 
most terrible forms ; why it was permitted to 
do its work so suddenly that no message could 
be quick enough to secure the presence of 
those who would have wished most to be 
there ? Ask you why yonder house seems to 
its surviving inmates to be left to them deso- 
late ; why those hearts that were so hopeful 
and joyous at the beginning of the last week, 
are burdened and bleeding at the beginning 
of this ? Take the gracious words of Jesus 
as the answer — " What I do thou knowest 
not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." In 
respect to our departed friend herself, there is 
nothing difficult to be accounted for ; for while 
it is the ordinance of God that all should die, it 
fully accords with all our ideas of God's loving 
kindness towards his children, that He should 
remove them in his own way from the sins 
and sorrows of this life, to the joys and glories 
of the world to come. And mourners, while 
ye are waiting for the fuller explanation of 
this event, as it respects yourselves, must it 
not be an alleviation to your sorrow, — nay, a 



31 

source of positive joy, to reflect that she whom 
you lament, is walking in an infinitely brighter 
light than ever shone on this side the dark 
valley, — that events which were once as 
mysterious to her, as her sudden departure 
now is to you, are at this moment contempla- 
ted by her as beautiful illustrations of God's 
paternal love. Follow in the footsteps of her 
faith — especially, heed the solemn teachings 
of her dying scene, if you would be ready to 
share with her the exceeding and eternal 
weight of glory. 

And now, Christian friends, shall we not all 
learn from this subject and this occasion, les- 
sons of serene submission, of humble trust, of 
steadfast hope, of cheerful obedience. Study 
the dispensations of God's providence as 
closely as you will, but study them reverently ; 
and be willing to remain in ignorance where 
God is not pleased to explain. Thus will this 
hallowed employment form the appropriate 
discipline of your faculties for those higher 
investigations and clearer discoveries that will 
be incident to the glorified state. Mighty 
God, we would submissively wait the move- 
ments of thy providence, welcoming all the 



32 

light thou art granting us here, as a pledge 
of the brighter light which is to burst upon 
us hereafter ! And yet may we not say, 
still remembering that our place is in the 
dust — fly away, months, years, ages, of dark- 
ness, and let this chequered scene of things 
that is now passing, — nay, let the whole course 
of God's dispensations toward our race, and 
toward his universal church, brighten into a 
field of glory, beneath that flood of illumina- 
tions that shall emanate directly from his 
throne.