The Christian, and he alone, can triumph amidst the agonies of dissolving nature, in a well grounded hope of future felicity. There is a genuine dignity in the death of the real believer. It is not the vanity of an Augustus Cæsar, who called his subjects around him; and after reminding them that he had lived in glory, bid them applaud him after death.
It is not the heroic stupidity of an Andre, who ostentatiously desired the spectators of his catastrophe, to witness that he died as a brave man. It is not the thoughtless courage of a professed hero, in the heat of spirits, and amidst the confusion of battles, rushing almost headlong upon certain destruction. It is not the hardy insensibility of an Indian warrior, exulting in the midst of surrounding flames, provoking his tormentors, and singing a merry song of death. He meanly retreats from evils, which Christian heroism would qualify to overcome by his exertions, or to endure with patience.
The votaries of fame may acquire a sort of insensibility to death and its consequences. But he alone whose peace is made with God, can walk with composure through the gloomy valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil. Behold Chesterfield, after a life of pleasure, endeavoring to act the philosopher in death! But, alas! it proved fatal.
The man of intellectual genius may cause his wit to flash, and blaze, and burn; and as Pollock says of Byron, “He stands on the Alps—stands on the Appenines, and talks with thunder, as with friend to friend, and weave his garland from the lightning’s flash in sportive twist,” and then die, and is gone; but where?
A cultivated mind, and an unsanctified heart, may become one of the most awful scourges of this world. Such was Byron, such was Rosseau, and such was Voltaire, and many others.
On the other hand, behold the amiable, the virtuous, the pious Addison, in his dying scene. How humble, and at the same time, how dignified he appears. His setting sun shone bright. The evening of his life was pleasant and serene. Observe him, ye admirers of fortitude; view him in that critical hour, which emphatically tries men’s souls; and learn with what superior dignity of mind a Christian can die.
No kingdom can flourish or be at ease, in which there is no peace.
Quotidiana is an online anthology of "classical" essays, from antiquity to the early twentieth century. All essays and images are in the public domain. Commentaries are copyrighted, but may be used with proper attribution. Special thanks to the BYU College of Humanities and English Department for funding, and to Joey Franklin and Lara Burton, for tireless research assisting.