Page images


The Bible evidently transcends all human effort. It has upon its face the impress of divinity. It shines with a light which, from its clearness and its splendor, shows itself to be celestial. It possesses the energy and penetrating influence which bespeak the omnipotence and omniscience of its Author. It has the effect of enlightening, elevating, purifying, directing, and comforting all those who cordially receive it. Surely, then, it is THE WORD OF God, and we will hold it fast, as the best blessing which God has vouchsafed to man.


There is an efficacy in the truths of the Bible, not only to guide and sanctify, but also to afford consolation to the afflicted in body or mind. Indeed, the gospel brings peace into every bosom where it is cordially received. When the conscience is pierced with the stings of guilt, and the soul writhes under a wound which no human medicine can heal, the promises of the gospel are like the balm of Gilead, a sovereign cure for this intolerable and deeplyseated malady. Under their cheering influence, the broken spirit is healed, and the burden of despair is removed far away. The gospel, like an angel of mercy, can bring consolation into the darkest scenes of adversity: it can penetrate the dungeon, and soothe the sorrows of the penitent in his chains and on his bed of straw. It mitigates the sorrows of the bereaved, and wipes away the bitter tears occasioned by the painful separation of affectionate friends and relatives. By the bright prospects which it opens, and the lively hopes which it inspires, the darkness of the tomb is illuminated, so that Christians are enabled, in faith of the resurrection of the body, to commit the remains of their dearest friends to the secure sepulchre, in confident hope that after a short sleep they will awake to life everlasting.

The cottages of the poor are often blessed with the consolations of the gospel, which is peculiarly adapted to the children of affliction and poverty. It was one of the signs of Jesus being the true Messiah that the poor had the gospel preached unto them." Among them it produces contentment, resignation, mutual kindness, and the longing after immortality. The aged and infirm, who, by the gradual failure of their faculties, or by disease and decrepitude, are shut out from the business and enjoyments of this world, may find in the word of God a fountain of consolation.

They may, while imbued with its celestial spirit, look upon the world without the least regret for its loss, and may rejoice in the prospect before them, with a joy unspeakable and full of glory. The gospel can

[ocr errors]

render tolerable even the yoke of slavery and the chains of the oppressor. How often is the pious slave, through the blessed influence of the word of God, a thousand times happier than his lordly master! He cares not for this short deprivation of liberty; he knows and feels that he is “Christ's freeman,” and believes “ that all things work together for his good,” and that “these light afflictions, which are for a moment, will work out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory!"

But, moreover, this glorious gospel is an antidote to death itself. He that does the sayings of Christ shall never taste of death : that is, of death as a curse; he shall never feel the envenomed sting of death. How often does it overspread the spirit of the departing saint with serenity! How often does it elevate, and fill with celestial joy, the soul which is just leaving the earthly house of this tabernacle! It actually renders, in many instances, the bed of the dying a place of sweet repose. No terrors hover over them; no anxious care corrodes their spirit; no burden oppresses the heart. All is light; all is hope and assurance; all is joy and triumph!

OH, PRECIOUS GOSPEL! Will any merciless hand endeavor to tear away from our hearts this best, this last, this sweetest consolation ? Would you darken the only avenue through which one ray of hope can enter? Would you tear from the aged and infirm poor the only prop on which their souls can repose in peace ? Would you deprive the dying of their only source of consolation ? Would you rob the world of its richest treasure ? Would you let loose the foodgates of every vice, and bring back upon the earth the horrors of superstition or the atrocities of atheism ? Then endeavor to subvert the gospel; throw around you the firebrands of infidelity ; laugh at religion, and make a mock of futurity ; but be assured that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.

1 In Sprague's “Annals of the American Pulpit," vol. iii., may be found two very interesting letters upon the character, the learning, the pulpit-eloquence, and the personal manners and habits of Dr. Alexander,-one by John Hall, D.D., and the other by Henry A. Boardman, D.D.

Two of Dr. Alexander's sons are highly distinguished as scholars as well As theologians. Rev. Jaines Waddel Alexander, D.D., pastor of a Preshyterian church in New York, bas published a Life of his father; Consolation, in Discourses on Select Topics ; American Mechanic and Working-Man; The Nerchant's Clerk Cheered and Counselled; Plain Words to a Young Communicant; American Sunday-School and its Adjuncts. Rev. Joseph Andison Alexander, Professor in the Theological Seminary in Princeton, has published Critical Commentaries on Isaiah, 2 vols.; Acts of the Apostles Explained; The Psalms, Translated and Explained, 3 vols. They both buve been frequent contributors to that able religious quarterly, " The Biblical Repertory and Princeton Review," which was begun by Profossor Hodge in 1825, and has continued mostly under his direction to the present tiine, (1859.)

WILLIAM WIRT, 1772–1834.

WILLIAM Wirt, the son of Jacob and Henrietta Wirt, was born in Bladensburg, Marylaod, on the 8th of November, 1772. His father died when he was an infant, and his mother when he was but eight years old. An orphan at this tender age, he passed into the family and under the guardianship of his uncle, Jasper Wirt, who resided near the same village. His uncle and aunt did all they could to supply the place of the father and mother, and sent him to a classical school in Georgetown, taught by a Mr. Dent. At the age of eleven, he was removed to a fourishing school kept by the Rev. James Hunt, in Montgomery County, Maryland, where he received the principal part of his education; having learned as much of the Latin and Greek classics as was then taught in grammar-schools.

In the spring of 1790, he entered upon the study of law, at Montgomery CourtHouse, with Mr. William P. Hunt, the son of his old preceptor; and in 1792 commenced practice at Culpepper Court-House, in Virginia, at the age of twenty years. In a year or two his business had considerably extended, and in 1795 he married the eldest daughter of Dr. George Gilmer, a distinguished physician, and took up his residence at Pen Park, the seat of his father-in-law, near Charlottesville, where he formed the acquaintance of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and other persons of celebrity. In 1799, his wife died. In 1800, his friends urged him to allow himself to be nominated as clerk to the House of Delegates. He was elected; and after having perforined the duties of this office two years, he was, in 1802, appointed Chancellor of the Eastern District of Virginia, and took up his residence at Williamsburg. In the same year, he married Elizabeth, the daughter of Colonel Gamble, of Richmond,2 with whom he enjoyed, through life,

"Mr. Wirt's father was a Swiss, his mother a Gorman; and his face and figure clearly showed his connection with the German race.

Read an excellent biographical sketch, by Peter Hoffman Cruse, of Baltimore, prefixed to an edition of “The British Spy" published by the Harpers in 1832. But the best life of Mr. Wirt is by John P. Kennedy, Esq., of Baltimore. Mr. Kennedy was born in Baltimore in 1795, graduated at Baltimore College in 1812, and was admitted to the bar in 1816. He has been a most successful lawyer, an eminent politician, (baving been twice elected to the House of Delegates in Maryland, and twice to our National Congress,) and an author of much eminence in fictitious literature. His principal works are, “Swallow Barn," published in 1832 ; " Horse Shoe Robinson," 1835; “Rob of the Bowl,” 1838. But the work by which he will be best known is bis Life of Wirty--an admirably written pieco of biography, by which he has associated his own name imperishably with that of his illustrious friend.

2 - of all the fortunate incidents in the life of William Wirt, bis marriago with this lady may be accounted the most auspicious. During the long term of their wedlock, distinguished for its happy influence upon the fortunes of both, her admirable virtues in the character of wife and mother, her tender affection and watchful solicitude in every thing that interested his domestic regard, and in all that concerned his public repute, commanded from him a devotion which, to the last moment of his life, glowed with an ardor that might almost be called romantic."-Kennedy's Life.

Mrs. Wirt died at Annapolis, Md., at the house of her daughter Elizabeth, (Mrs. Goldsborough,) January 24, 1857, in the seventy-fourth year of ber age.

the greatest domestic bappiness. She united to every virtue of the wife and the mother, literary attainments of no ordinary character.'

At the close of the year 1803, Mr. Wirt removed to Norfolk, and entered upon the assiduous practice of his profession. Just before this, he wrote the celebrated letters published in the “ Richmond Argus" under the title of The British Spy, which were afterwards collected into a small volume, and bave passed through numerous editions. In 1806, he took up his residence at Richmond, believing that he could there find a wider and more lucrative professional field; and in this city he remained till his appointment to the Attorney-Generalship of the United States. In the next year, he greatly distinguished himself in the trial of Aaron Burr for high treason. Few trials in any country ever excited a greater sensation than this, both from the nature of the accusation and the eminent talents and political station of the accused. Mr. Wirt's speech, occupying four hours, was distinguished for its fine fancy, polished wit, keen repartee, elegant and apposite illustration, and logical reasoning, and placed him at once in the rank of the very first advocates in the country. .

In 1808, he was elected a member of the Virginia House of Delegates for the city of Richmond. It was the first as well as the last time he ever sat in any legislative body, as he preferred the more congenial pursuits of his profession. Iu 1812, he wrote the greater part of a series of essays originally published in the “Richmond Enquirer" under the title of The Old Bachelor, which have since, in a collective form, passed through several editions. The Life of Patrick Henry, the largest of his literary productions, was first published in 1817.

In 1816, he was appointed by Mr. Madison the United States Attorney for the District of Virginia. In 1817, he removed to Washington, having been appointed by Mr. Monroe Attorney-General of the United States, a post which he occupied with high reputation till 1828. In the latter part of this year, he removed to Baltimore, where he resided for the rest of his life. Previous to this, in October, 1826, he pronounced a discourse on the lives and character of Adams and Jeffer. son, one of the best of his literary efforts, and worthy of the impressive occasion on which it was delivered. In 1830, he delivered an address before one of the

1 One proof of her extensive reading, as well as of her delicate taste, is the work she published in 1829, entitled “ Flora's Dictionary; by a Lady." As far as my knowledge goes, it was the first of the kind published in our country, and I think it has never been excelled by any of its numerous competitors. The poetical selections are very tasteful and apposite, and are enriched here and there by original contributions from poetical friends.

2 " Wirt's papers in the Old Bachelor are undoubtedly the best of all his literary compositions; and in the perusal of them we are constantly led to repeat our regrets that one so endowed with the most valuable and pleasant gifts of authorship had not been favored by fortune with more leisure and opportunity for the cultivation and employment of a talent so auspicious to his own fame, and so well adapted to benefit his country.”—Kennedy's Life.

The “Old Bachelor" reached thirty-three numbers. It is a series of didactic and ethical essays, put together somewhat after the manner of the Spectator. In the dramatis persone, the chief part is borne by Dr. Cecil, written by Wirt himself, and engrossing much the largest share of the whole. The other contributors were Dabney Carr, Judge Tucker, George Tucker, Dr. Frank Carr, and R. E. Parker.

literary societies of Rutgers College;' and in 1831 the Anti-Masonic Convention that assembled in Baltimore nominated him as their candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Though he obtained but the vote of a single State, Vermont, it was generally felt that the election of such a man would be an honor to the country.

Mr. Wirt was engaged in a cause which was to come before the Supreme Court en Monday, February 10, 1834. The evening before, he felt unwell, and the next day he was confined to his room. On Wednesday he was much worse, and his disease was pronounced to be erysipelas. On Saturday all hopes of his life were given up.

About noon on Monday, consciousness had returned, and he had power to speak a few words. Nature had made a last effort to enable him to take leave of his family and friends, to give them assurance that he died in Christian hope, and to join with them in prayer to God. During the last eighteen hours, he was tranquil as a child; and at eleven o'clock on Tuesday morning, February 18, he breathed his last, leaving a nation to mourn his loss.

As a public and professional man, Mr. Wirt may be ranked among the first men of our country; and in all the relations of private life, as a man and a Christian, he was most exemplary. In person he was strikingly elegant and commanding, with a face of the first order of masculine beauty, animated, and expressing high intellect. His voice was clear and musical, and gave a fascinating power to his eloquence. If to these attractions we add a diction of great force, purity, variety, and splendor, a wit prompt, pure, and brilliant, and an imagination both vivid and playful, we have some idea of the character of the man who was the charm of every social circle, and who was regarded by all who knew him with singular affection and veneration.2


It was one Sunday, as I travelled through the county of Orange, that my eye was caught by a cluster of horses tied near a ruinous, old wooden house in the forest, not far from the roadside. Having

" This admirable address has been republished in England, and also in France and Germany.

2 I trust I shall be pardoned for introducing an anecdote of a persoual character, to show Mr. Wirt's estimation of the educational profession. I had seen him two or three times at his house in Washington, before he removed to Baltimore, in 1828; and a few days after he had settled in that city he called at my school, to place bis three boys under my care. On taking leave of me, he most cordially invited me to visit his family at all times, concluding with this remark :-" Thero are three persons, Mr. Cleveland, to whom my house is always open, and with whom I wish to be on intimate terms of friendship and social intercourse,-my clergyman, the teacher of my children, and my physician.” Accepting his cordia] invitation, I had every opportunity of observing his character in private and social intercourse; and I can truly say that it fell short in nothing that the most ardent admirer of his talents, eloquence, and public character could desire. How few parents, comparatively, have such a right sense of what is due to the teacher of their children, or indeed any just appreciation of the moral dignity of the educational profession !

3 The “ Blind Preacher," thus described by Mr. Wirt in 1803, was the Rev. James Waddel, born in Ireland in 1739, and brought here in his infancy by his parents, who settled in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. He became a fine classical scholar,

« EelmineJätka »