« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
Dr. Fisk on this particular subject enables us to bear. In those moments of private expression when the first sentiments of the mind must develop themselves, and tried dissimulation will drop the mask, the most single-hearted and invariable desire for the prevalence of the great cause of human good was most perfectly apparent. Previous to send. ing his first publication to the press, he brought the rough draft, as he usually did his subsequent, for the purpose of comparing views; and he asked with that candor which ever prompted him to receive any proper modification of his own views from an inferior mind, whether it were best on the whole to publish it. The conversation, as near as recollection serves, was in the following words :-“ Doctor, it certainly ought to be well weighed; it commits you completely to the controversy : and from the moment you publish it, you hang yourself up as a target to be shot at.” “ I know that,” he replied, “ but I have ever, when called upon by duty, expressed my opinions without regard to personal considerations ; I have found it turn out best; and I think I must do it now.” This simple conversation, uttered in a college study, which either of us little prophesied would be published thus to a congregate community, passed casually, with hundreds of others equally characterized by the same spirit. “I hear,” said he, with that subdued expression of voice and feature so well known to his associates, " that some of my old friends in Vermont think that I actually have forsaken the cause of truth and righteousness. I am sorry—but there is one consolation ; as former friends leave me, God raises me up hosts of others to supply their place.” He believed that an ultra, antislavery excitement, artificially excited, would raise, in the calm sense of the community, an antagonist feeling to a specific and misguided movement, which might be easily mistaken for, and even transformed into an antagonism against emancipation, and a complacency to the system of slavery. “It requires an effort in my own mind,” he said, " in opposing their ultra denunciations of the south, not to look too favorably on what is really wrong; nevertheless, the balance must be kept.” Between the defenders and perpetuators of slavery as a sys. tem, on the one side, and the unexcepting excommunicators of every man who holds a legal bondsman, on the other; between the total rejecters of all sympathy with the colored race, and those who believed in an organized system of northern action in their behalf, he thought there was a broad and maintainable isthmus of opinion, where the public mind could, and would probably stand. The Colonization Society, a plan founded, as he believed, and maintained, as he knew, on fundamental principles of benevolence both to the African and American, and uniting, as it did, all parties, sects, and sections, nay, even the benevolent master of bondsmen himself into, at any rate, one plan of mercy, he viewed as the only present visible palladium of hope. That it would quietly outstand the storm of excitement untouched that when the blast had died away from all but memory, it would con. tinue its plan of enterprise that it would be the mediator and union point between north and south, and probably the harbinger of any scheme which would ultimately attain the great millennial step toward universal emancipation, he maintained an unwavering confidence. To these opinions he early and unequivocally committed himself; and from them never did he for a moment falter. He maintained them in
the day of his towering strength; the last great public appeal to the church through his pen was in their defence; and when he could hold a pen no longer, when he had bidden farewell to all earthly hopes, and his eyes were uplifted to the bar of his final Judge, the firm ac. cents of his voice still reaffirmed their dying testimony,“ The cause of colonization is the cause of God.”
The election of Dr. Fisk to the presidency of the Wesleyan Uni. versity offered him a new sphere of action, and a new prospect for his future history. It presented him a high and prominent pedestal, upon which he immediately became conspicuous to the public eye; and his reputation, which had hitherto been, although brilliant, yet circumscribed and sectional, became now unequivocal and national.
He came upon the general public in the full possession of meridian powers with something of surprise ; and some of his master efforts of oratory, exhibited at this time on the platform of those great societies which bring upon one basis the members of so many different churches, produced a thrilling effect that gave him at once a sudden universality of notice. Some of his anniversary speeches, at this point of his history, we have heard spoken of with such high admiration, by such a variety of persons, that we cannot but think them the master pieces of the orator. Deeply do we regret, that the thrilling words flung by his genius so prodigally upon the universal air, no human mind can bid back again to existence. Standing, as Dr. Fisk now did, upon the highest station of literary eminence and the highest acme of influence, he Aung his great, effective, versatile powers into the most ardent and unsparing action. Calls came upon him from all quarters of the nation for the exercise of his talents; and thus the station, which it might once have been supposed would elevate him, received its recompense in the splendid reflex illustration which his talents shed upon it. In his election to the two highest offices of literary and ecclesiastical dignity, the college presidency and the episcopacy, it was his singular destiny that the main opposition came from his personal friends, whose wish it was to retain him from those more extended spheres to their own more narrowed field. We say not how generous a friendship it is thus to hem up an individual that your own section may engross
We speak not in reference to the rank or honor such a course may wrest from him ; but the friendship which can for life throw its fetters around the great powers of a responsible being, and send him into the presence of his God with unexerted energies slumbering in his arm and unimproved talents buried in the earth, might look very like the greatest cruelty. Still, in reference to the episcopacy, the friends of the president, and the friends of the Uni. versity could not but feel that he was then standing upon that tower among the bulwarks of Zion which he ought to occupy until sum. moned to the upper sky. They felt, and we think that he felt, that he ought to die as he had been destined to live, and be to posterity as he was to us, the FIRST PRESIDENT of the WESLEYAN UNIVERSITY. The UNIVERSITY was the one single object of enterprise which lay most near his heart while living; it was among the last of his dying earthly solicitudes; it is the signal memento upon which his name must go down to posterity. And could he by me this night present one bequest and pledge to you his affectionate friends and reverers,
most fit for him to send, most appropriate for me to bring, what other could it be than this, the surviving monument of his talents and his toils ? Orphaned of him, the Wesleyan University claims a new adoption into your cherishing affections, and your zeal of enterprise. It was his-it is yours. By the holy name of WESLEY inscribed upon her entablatures—by the sacred memory of Fisk emblazoned first upon her heraldry--by her past brief, but successful career, and by her hopeful yet tremulous prospects for the future--by what she has already done for our church, and by what she yet may do for your ministry and sons--we implore that, if while his arm sustained us, ye leaned too much upon its support, that now ye would redouble your effort and substitute your energies to supply the vacuum of its with. drawal. Memorials more near to your own metropolis you may erect to the memory of the departed, honorable to yourselves and appropriate to him ; but his spirit would bid me tell you, that no memento could be dearer from your efforts to him than the towering success of that monument to whose existence his labors contributed ; in all the elements of whose prosperity his prayers are intermingled ; around whose columns his memories are entwined ; and within whose hal. lowed precincts his ashes are reposing.
The pulpit in which I stand and the audience addressed are both remembrancers, that the man whose character is commemorated was, as has been already said, the champion of a cause. Dr. Fisk's Me. thodism, uncompromising as it was, was of the most genuinely liberal stamp; for with him it was synonymous with “ Christianity in ear. nest.” He knew that not only the spirit, but the very name of Me. thodism, upon another continent, is synonymous with vital religion of belief, heart, and life; and he knew and rejoiced too that, even on our continent, the more fervid tone that now melts through all the spirit of the American Church, not only thence instrumentally received its electric spring, but was what in Europe would be called, and here would thirty years ago have been called, Methodistic. In the spirit that he saw transcending his sectarian boundary lines, and transfusing itself through the different bodies of the American Protestant Church, he saw the pervading glory of bis Methodism. But he was not one jot the less an unflinching champion for the creed, the forms, and the institutions of central, original Methodism proper. He believed her tenets the purest fac simile of the New Testament original; he con. templated her forms as the best enshrinement of her creed and spirit; and he maintained her whole machinery and operations as the best attainable apparatus for evangelizing the world. 'He knew that there was a spirit in her springs and eyes in her wheels; and while he would rigidly and purely confine her to the most energetic and decisive effort to electrify the world with the gospel's power, he would sooner have disjointed his arm from its socket than not have maintained her ut. most energy in that one, pure, holy work. Religious radicalism and church anarchy found in him an opponent uncompromising, frank, and perpendicular; for while they eyed the bishop elect as assuming the air of haughty churchmanship, and drawing up the reigns of an upstarting prelatic, he viewed them as cutting the marrow and sinew of the best-nerved evangelic arm that has ever since the apostolic days held forth the gospel gift to the nations of the earth. Upon this occasion, we hold ourselves no disputant, and upon any occasion no arbiter of so great a question. Our prayer and our trust are, that whatsoever may be the fate of ecclesiastic institutions, the gospel's power and the Bible's truth may be triumphant.
Such, my friends, was Wilbur Fisk. Such, at least be was, to the fallible view, and in the hastily-expressed phrase, of one whose happiness it was to enjoy his friendship, and whose honor it was to have been the associate of some of his earthly labors. If personal feelings were likely to color the expression, still the endeavor has been to draw the lineaments from memory, and to speak with the impartiality of history. And so speaking, we must say, that in the possession of great and most beautifully balanced mental powers, held in sway by the energy of predominant will, and that will aiming at the highest moral purpose, he has left very few, if any, his living superiors. And we must affirm, that we hold him to be one of those characters deigned in mercy to a wicked world-commissioned messengers of almighty goodness, on ministers of grace and mercy-God's visible ANGELS of the church below.
Brethren in the ministry of reconciliation, he whom we have lost rejoiced to make great worldly sacrifices for the honor of being your brother, in your high and sacred calling. With the path of human ambition full in high prospect before his ardent imagination, with a heart beating with hope, and talents that most amply augured his complete success, he sacrificed all-and his was a Methodism and a ministry which cost him something. “When," says he, in one of his private papers, “when I made up my mind to be a Methodist travel. ing preacher, it was an entire abandonment of ease, wealth, worldly honor, and even an earthly home.” Such was his sacrifice; but it was without reserve without retræction--and without regret. How beautiful and striking an assurance did he give of this, in a passage (which his modesty would not allow to be published, as being too personal) addressed by him in England to thirty young missionaries, then ordained for the foreign service! When, in the new world, I gave myself to the itinerant ministry, I laid my ease, my reputation, my future prospects, my all, on the missionary altar; and I have never regretted it. No, nor even for one moment have I ever wished to take any thing back. So good has God been in his manifestations to me." To you his brethren, in the midst of the successive depriva. tions she has suffered, in the quenching of her shining lights, the church turns with new and increasing solicitude. What stars have, from our earthly orrery, gone up to the high empyrean! An Emory, a Ruter, a Merwin, a Fisk, where are they? Alas, our prophetsthey live not for ever! But though they to our vision be lost, all is not lost ; for the great Head of the church survives, “ Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to.day, and for ever.”
Brethren of the Young Men's Missionary and Bible Societies, yours too was this great loss. From among your bulwarks, a tower of strength hath departed. Ye are coming to your place of annual ga. thering, but let there be no voice of joy among you -for know ye not that a prince and a great man hath fallen in Israel ? Ye are summoning down from their towers the watchmen of Zion, to challenge them, “ What of the night?”—but summon ye not the noblest of them all,
for know ye not that the beauty of Israel is slain upon her high places? I have come-
--for ye have called me from the halls of study and the abodes of science, and I tell you there was a sadness and a mourning among them; for he who was their chief light was quenched and gone. His pupils look over the green sward where he walked, and the prayer-room where he came, and they thought to have seen him--and then remember they that they shall see him no more. We, the partners of his labors, gather ourselves to our place of counsel, but our little number is diminished; we look for our guide and our own familiar friend--but he comes not-he shall be there no more! There is a widowed heart that is lone and desolate and she mourneth with a mourning that may not be comforted—for he who was her life's life is gone, and gone for ever!
We stand by the new heaped tombless mound, where spring hath spread her fresh green sod, and we muse silently over the days, when he, who was meek as a lamb in his mildness, and mighty as a lion in his strength, with his voice of softness and his look of peace, was one among us; and we say, as we gaze upon his
gravem Shrine of the mighty! can it be
That this is all that's left of thee? From the field where he lies from the scene where he fell I have come at your kindly bidding ; but I bring you not that mighty heart which ye knew once beat with such heaving throbs in the cause for which ye are banded; for that heart beats no more :--but the pulsa. tions which it felt and the vibrations which it awakened shall revolve to the world's remotest bound, and their wave shall never cease! I bring you not the lofty utterings of that voice which once pleaded with you and for you
in your own cause; for its words are gone, and its tones are suppressed in death; and yet they are not dead; for they were sparks of immortality; and they burn in many a living heartburning hearts that shall kindle other hearts and the fire shall be undying! I bring not that manly form which once led your section of the sacramental host; for that form now molders in the fresh spring cemetery that spreads upon the sunny bill where his pupils hands have placed it; but moldering as is his dust, I hold on high before you his beaming example, to guide, like a flaming pillar, your triumph. ant march in the cause for which he lived, and for which you labor. These shall be his still surviving life; in these, even on earth, shall he be immortal. But to the image that once lived and now is dead-to the speech once articulate but now hushed to the eye once beaming with intelligence but now closed, we join to bid our silent--sorrowing -last—FAREWELL !