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Away, away, without a wing,
O'er all, through all, its thoughts shall fly;
A nameless and eternal thing,
Forgetting what it was to die.
Critique on DR. TAYLOR'S* SERMON ON THE DEATH OF QUEEN CHARLOTTE.
THE text is taken from Psalm ciii. 15, 16. "As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field he flourisheth; for the wind passeth over it, and it is gone: and the place thereof shall know it no more."
After a neat introduction, the Doctor arranges his thoughts under three general heads: 1st, "We see a description of our condition;-death reigns, and the life of man is short." 2d," Though life is short, and the ravages of death universal, yet God is good." 3d, "In our present situation, amidst the respect and sorrow that we justly feel, let us advert (he says) particularly to our recent public loss."
Under the first head, after some striking observations on the shortness of human life,-the works of man surviving himself,-the splendid mansion which the owner had exultingly built, soon passing into the hands of other pilgrims,-the lovely child snatched from the fond embraces of his mother, and
Late Minister of St. Enochs, Glasgow.
the son, in manhood's prime, on whom many hopes were built and cherished, torn away by the rude hand of death. After painting these situations, with his own peculiar and pathetic colouring, he gives the following correct and original description.
We cast our eyes around us on the earth, and see the immense multitude of its rational inhabitants enjoying happiness. After a period, not long, we look again, and many whose gladdened countenances we had with pleasure beheld, have disappeared from the joyous scene:-alas! many to whom our souls were knit in the kindest love, have departed, though we strove to hold and detain them with the firmest and most affectionate grasp. After a time, we take another view of the interesting scene, and we miss multitudes whom we had beheld satisfied and happy; we perceive the number of those that remain of them we first saw, to be now but few; like the scattered trees of the wood that remain after a furious storm. We observe them to be greatly changed in their appearance; we see in them the hard and wasted features of old age; and, in many, the weakness of a second childhood. In these circumstances, we are forced to observe ourselves; and we perceive, that, amidst the many changes around us, we have grown old and infirm, and we see the grave at our feet. Ah! there is a constant vicissitude, a continued movement and departure; generation passeth away, and another cometh." What a wasting malediction is spread over all! of what a fatal poison have all of us drunk! man, and every creature that has life, feel its dread influence: they are seen for a time, and are straightway mingled with the dust.—pp. 10, 11.
The same tenderness of heart, and the same moralizing eloquence, but in a still higher strain, is found in the paragraph that closes this first head. There is in it much imagination, with great truth of colouring, but want of room prevents its insertion.
In the second division of his discourse, the author's style is seen in a more striking manner. In it, there is presented a view of man's departure, altogether original. We had long been of opinion, that no mortal ever felt the stroke of death; but we never before saw this thought so well wrought out. The transition is so rapid, so instantaneous, that it is incapable of perception. Like falling asleep, we pass from a state of wakefulness, or drowsiness, to a state of unconsciousness. Ere death can be felt, we have ceased to be; for when death comes, sensibility departs.
And (says the Doctor) as God, in his goodness, accompanies our view of the general ravages of death with softening circumstances, so in the immediate prospect of our own death, he smoothes its approach, and takes out of it what would severely oppress the heart, and deprive us of due composure in meeting it. It is an event truly awful, but its coming may be surveyed with calmness.
We are apt to imagine that there will be something greatly painful and violent in the dreaded separation of soul and body at death; as if a strong cohesion were then to be violently rent asunder. It is not in this manner that the mysterious connection is dissolved; for such a conception borrows too much from what is material. But the change
is without violence, and, in that interesting moment, generally, without pain; for as the crisis approaches, the feelings are mercifully deadened and blunted. The relation continued, while the body was fitted to perform its office, and is straightway dissolved when it is no longer able. The words are often applicable-in giving up life, so soft is the transition, "we fall asleep."-pp. 16, 17.
This is throwing around the bed of death the softening emollients of mercy; while in the passage that follows it, the beams of immortality are made to irradiate the brow of the dying.
Of the materials for panegyric, the Doctor has made a fair and legitimate selection, and wrought them up into a monument of no common loveliness. On the effects of her example-on her "loving only what was virtuous and praise-worthy," and turning "away from what was frivolous"-on her purifying her court, and preserving, there, decency and high decorum of manners, for near sixty years-on her high exertions for lessening the progress of luxury and dissipation, the author exclaims with true eloquence,
What noble and desirable effects were produced, by her virtuous example, her encouragement of worth, and her firm and unvarying discountenance of folly and vice! Yes: these salutary means, exerted by one in her sacred and elevated situation, did, we say, without undervaluing public instruction, more good than many Homilies. The highest, and the proudest, and the most thoughtless, profited by her lessons; they took the true road to consideration and es
teem: decency of conduct, through her, became the fashion, Cand it spread, in a certain degree, downwards to the lowest ranks. Christians, we should value suitably our advantages: can we be ignorant, that there have been Courts, that can be called up to remembrance, very different from this-where those who sat upon the throne were careless and dissipated-where character weighed as nothing; and licentiousness reigned! and all was demoralised? What a public calamity-what a source of corruption to the unhappy nation! Such a Court is like that poisonous tree, in an eastern climate, which travellers tell us of; large, verdant, and with branches widely extended; but which spreads far around the most pestilential exhalations, and where it is certain death to approach near.-p. 24, 25.
This is the pencil of a painter; every touch is truth, and every tint the colouring of nature. It is only excelled by the following passage, where our late revered and aged Sovereign is represented as insensible of the loss of his Queen-amidst a nation's regrets, and amidst his family's sorrow:
But where is he, (exclaims the Preacher,) who, in her loved company, performed the lengthened journey of lifewith her endured its storms, and enjoyed its sunshine? How does he bear his loss? What is the measure of his sorrow? No: there is no husband to weep for her; no husband, to mark with delight the general respect to her memory: no husband, solicitous to regulate the mournful obsequies of the wife of his youth! and yet he lives! but a dark cloud surrounds him, and the world and its concerns are hid from him. He now faintly recollects a flitting vision, as of an