An Elegy on the Death of the Reverend Doctor Gifford, who fell asleep in Christ the 19th of June, 1784, in the 84th Year of his Age.
When the loud din of war, and clash of arms
Subsides, and all Bellona’s fierce alarms
Complete the labours of the long campaign,
And smiling Peace resumes her gentle reign;
The hero, crown’d with conquest, pleas’d, throws by
The glitt’ring spear, and the bright panoply
Of warlike arms, he quits the hostile shore,
His toils and dangers past, his battles o’er;
He flies to greet once more his native land,
And from his royal master’s gracious hand
Receive the laurels, which he won with pain,
In the long siege, and on the well-fought plain;
In sylvan scenes to lose each anxious care,
Forgot his toils and breath the purest air
Of sweet serenity. No more the sound
Of thund’ring cannon shakes the trembling ground;
He listens to the lark and linnet’s lay,
Enjoys the calm, as much at ease as they;
Bids ev’ry rude tumultuous passion cease,
And triumphs in the gentle arms of peace.
So rev’rend Gifford lays his armour by,
Quits the low earth, and soars above the sky.
Long in the field the Christian soldier stood,
And wrestled, not with foes of flesh and blood,
But pow’rs of darkness, rulers of the air,
Whose fiery darts ten thousand horrors bear.
Oft in black storms the barbed mischief flies,
Obscures the sun, and darkness all the skies.
But GIFFORD, great in arms, maintain’d the fight,
And, unappal’d, march’d on, through shades of night,
Till brighter day arose, secure he stood,
In all the glorious panoply of God;
And the last foe subdu’d, he quits the place,
And more than conq’ror, thro’ almighty grace,
To brighter, fairer worlds he wings his way,
Where perfect peace, and everlasting day
Sweetly unites; there from Immanuel’s hand,
The mighty Monarch of that happy land,
Receives the glorious palm of victory,
Receives a gracious welcome to the sky.
He tunes his golden harp, and joins the throng
Of white-rob’d saints, who with melodious song
Incessant hymn the throne of God, and raise
Eternal anthems to Immanuel’s praise,
Thy name they sing, O Lamb of God! for thou
Hast wash’d them in thy blood; to thee they bow,
And tell to wond’ring seraphs what thy grace
Hath done for sinners of the human race.
Seraphs shall, pleas’d, attend, then join the lay,
And saints and angels shall thy love display:
The glorious theme shall run from choir to choir,
Tune ev’ry tongue, and ev’ry harp inspire.
Thy name shall echo thro’ the courts above,
And all the wonders of redeeming love.
Come gentle Muse, in softest lays record
How liv’d, how dy’d the servant of the Lord;
Tell how, baptiz’d with heav’nly fire, he ran
To preach a God of love to fallen man:
To publish the good news of gospel grace
And free salvation, to a sinful race.
Sav’d by this grace himself, he long’d to tell
The boundless glories of Immanuel.
Truth from his lips like softest music flow’d,
And all his theme the righteousness of God.
Sweet Consolation sat upon his tongue
For mourning souls, by sin’s sad serpent stung,
A son of Thunder to awake the dead,
While Sinai’s light’nings flashes over head.
Amidst a world of error, faithful He,
Zealous for Gospel, holy liberty.
Firm as a brazen pillar Gifford stood,
And liv’d and wrote, and preach’d the truth of God.
At Jesu’s feet he sat, and on his breast,
Like favor’d John, was oft indulg’d to rest.
He found his bliss and source of wisdom here,
And caught his spirit while he sat so near.
Love! heav’nly love, like a bright flame arose,
Immortal love, that no extinction knows,
Enlarg’d his gen’rous heart, and bid it flow
With softest sympathy for others woe.
There mild Beneficence sat up her throne,
And sweet Complacence seal’d him for her own:
The law of kindness from his lips distill’d,
Smil’d in his cheeks, and all his bosom fill’d;
And now he proves, in the bright world above,
His heav’n of heavens in a Savior’s love.
Vast was his mind, for Contemplation made;
Vast were the pow’rs his active mind display’d.
Thro’ Nature’s most stupendous works it run,
Measur’d the stars and circumscrib’d the sun;
From link to link of the great chain descends,
And only with Creation’s ending, ends.
Thro’ fields of science sought the Deity,
Led by thy hand, O fair Philosophy!
But chiefly thou, O Science all divine!
To whom all others must the palm resign;
Creation proves a God, but how to know,
To fear, and love, and to enjoy him too,
Creation here is mute, and all the rest,
Can but by Revelation be exprest.
Hail! then, O Spirit, who only can display
To sinners hearts, the new and living way.
Gifford, led on by thee, explor’d the road,
And learn’d to know the hidden things of God.
Hail! sacred knowledge, science all divine,
Distinct from thee, Philosophy can shine
But with a glow-worm lustre; the vast mind
By arts and erudition most refin’d,
So comprehensive, as to grasp the ball,
Untaught by thee, is ignorant of all.
For God is all – and not that God to know,
Is blindness, death, and everlasting woe;
But Gifford knew, and preach’d to sinners round,
The Savior and Salvation he had found;
And now from earth remov’d to yonder skies,
How high his wonder swells, his joys arise;
His large capacious soul amaz’d, can trace
The God of Nature, Providence, and Grace,
In all his wond’rous works, by death set free
From the dark veil of dull mortality.
Soft was the hand, and gentle was the blow,
That summon’d Gifford from this vale below;
Death like an angel came, and beck’ning stood,
His willing soul took wing, and soar’d to God;
In realms of bliss adores his Savior’s name,
And bows and sings salvation to the Lamb.
Text: Divine Poems and Essays, 1791, pp. 75-79.