« Prev A Funeral Oration. Next »






THAT solemnity, of celebrating in public orations the extraordinary merits of great men at their funerals, which was established of old by those people who were eminent for having humanity and learning flourish among them, can certainly never be more justly observed, than in our performance of the obsequies of this illustrious person before us. Nor do I in the least doubt but all you, who are present, perfectly agree, that all the honours that can possibly be paid to the venerable person whose remains lie before you, by which his funeral rites may be made conspicuous and deservedly eminent, should be performed. And yet I must confess I am very apprehensive, that some among you may be offended that I should be singled out particularly to execute so awful and solemn a duty, and bear it with some indignation, that the praise of so learned and celebrated an orator should be undertaken by a boy, who is scarce yet arrived to be master of the very first principles of letters. But I would have these gentlemen consider, that at Rome and at Athens, which were full of great and excellent orators, men of learning and consummate eloquence were not always deputed to this office, but such as were either related to the deceased, or bound to him by some signal obligations; who freely and voluntarily undertook this province, not at all confiding in their own eloquence to do him justice, but cxxiwilling to lay hold of that opportunity to give some testimony of their gratitude.

Give me therefore leave, without envy, to make some small return for the benefits I have received; give me leave to perform this last office to the excellent person here deceased; who as great and eminent as he was, yet to him I must boast some alliance. This indeed might be looked on as a more proud and arrogant assertion, had not this reverend gentleman, as long as he lived, seemed, in all his discourse, with a particular satisfaction, freely and voluntarily to tell his friends the same thing; that he had his early days instructed in our seminary of noble and wholesome arts; and he was so far from being ashamed of taking his rise in learning from this school, that in the midst of those distinguishing merits of which he was master, and those dignities which he obtained, this only seemed to give him satisfaction in that good fortune which had attended him; and that which made the memory of this place the more dear to him was, that here the seeds were happily sown, which after wards produced so noble and so daily increasing a harvest. And this harvest so increased, that our school, the fertile mother of learned men, never received from any of her children more ample matter of glory. For when this excellent man was elected into that college’s which has always been eminent for men of extraordinary parts, he first grew considerable among his fellow-collegians, and soon extended the knowledge of his admirable talents beyond those narrow bounds; and soon after, the fame of his learning and eloquence increased so far, that out of many persons of consummate learning, who then flourished in the same house, he alone was chosen to explain, and by his eloquence to adorn, the sense of that most celebrated university.

And how fit for and how equal he was to this great work, if the treachery of our memory should leave the fact in silence, yet we have sufficient testimony from those admirable and immortal works which he has left written for the benefit and support of the church.99   Christ Church, Oxon. You must know, my most cxxiilearned auditors, how great learning, how various and how manifold, shines in them; you must know the penetration, or if you will have the word, the subtilty of his arguments, the force of his refutations, the poignancy of his wit, and the copiousness and majesty of his style. With these arms this strenuous defender of the church and the monarchy entered the lists; these weapons he with vigour darted against those abandoned wretches who designed the destruction of both; nor did he quit the field till he saw those terrible conflicts appeased, and the efforts of the malignants restrained, by the restoration of the king.

Now at last the way lay open and easy to all men of worth for honours; and among many who received the most just rewards of their merits, this most excellent person was happily compelled to accept of the highest dignity; that is, he obtained a chief seat in those places where he was educated.

It is a difficult matter to determine, whether this was a happier and more desired event to him or to those houses. It is certain he was infinitely satisfied that he should settle his fortunes particularly in those places which he loved above all others; and those perfectly rejoiced, that this worthy person, who had his childhood instructed in one, and his youth accomplished in the other, should thus be an ornament and defence to both. Nor did these hopes in the least deceive them; for that immense glory which this great man justly acquired through the whole course of his life, they in some measure had their share of.

For he gave not himself up to sloth and inactivity, nor squandered away that life, which God, for the public benefit, made long, in a mere idle retreat. There is no man surely can be ignorant of this, since it is evident from the many excellent sermons he has given the world, and the other accurate books which he writ. Nor can I suppose it possible, that most of you should be ignorant of those numerous and sublime virtues which were conspicuous in him, and which are an ornament to a private station, and prove not so much a popular as a good man. There is no greater cxxiiiproof of his charitable nature, and compassion for the poor, than his uncommon and large donations in one only h parish; and of his piety to God, (although this was sufficiently evident in all his writings and the whole conduct of his life,) his constant frequenting the offices of the church is a sufficient testimonial. For as long as his health would any way suffer him, he so religiously observed the hours set apart for the divine worship of the church, that the sun was not more constant to its diurnal and nocturnal revolutions. But old age growing sensibly upon him, and death approaching, which neither the most admirable endowments of mind, nor the most eminent piety can put off, this excellent man, who had been so great a benefactor to the present age, had also a generous regard to posterity. And as he left his immense learning in his books to the ages to come, so he disposed of that fortune which his extensive liberality had left him, in such a manner, that it should for ever contribute to the study of learning and the promotion of piety.

All this being done, as if he had been born entirely for the benefit of others, this most excellent person departed this life; and while his sacred relics are deposited among the tombs of the most illustrious, his name will ever live and flourish in the memory of the learned and the virtuous.1010   Islip, in Oxfordshire.

« Prev A Funeral Oration. Next »


| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |