There is much that can be learned from funeral sermons for great men, particularly when delivered by great men. Of course, all men are sinners, and none are great in or of themselves. They are made great by their service to a far, far greater Lord and Master, and it is for their service that we value their lives, as examples of those who gave all glory and praise to the one triune God. Here, the Rev. Charles Hodge delivers the funeral sermon for his long-time friend, the Rev. Jacob Jones Janeway, a distinguished 19th-century Presbyterian.
A Fond Tribute for a Dear Brother in Christ.
BY THE REV. CHARLES HODGE, D.D.
FRIENDS AND BRETHREN:—We have assembled to pay our last tribute of respect to a venerable servant of God. After a life devoted with singular simplicity of purpose to the service of his Master, he descends to the grave with a reputation without a blot, followed by the benedictions of hundreds, and by the respectful affection of thousands. A long, prosperous, happy and useful life, has been crowned with a truly Christian death. “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord. Let me die the death of the righteous and let my last end be like his.”
Rev. Jacob J. Janeway was born in the city of New York, Nov. 1774. He pursued his academical studies in Columbia College, and graduated with distinguished honour in that institution. His theological education was conducted under the late venerable Dr. Livingston, so long the ornament of the Dutch Church in America. He was ordained in 1799, to the sacred ministry, and installed as an associate pastor with the Rev. Ashbel Green, D.D., over the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia. In 1818, he was chosen Moderator of the General Assembly, and for many years acted first as Chairman of the Committee of Missions, and afterwards as President of the Board of Missions, an office which he filled at the time of his death. In 1813, he was elected a Director of the Theological Seminary at Princeton, an institution in the origin of which he took an active part, and continued through life one of its most faithful and important friends. He was elected Vice-President of the Board of Directors, and after the death of Dr. Green, was made President of the Board. He was elected a Trustee of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton, in 1813, and at different times served in that capacity thirty-three years. He continued to serve as Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia until 1828, when he was chosen by the General Assembly to fill the Chair of Didactic Theology in the Western Theological Seminary at Allegheny, Pennsylvania. After resigning that position he was called to the Pastoral office of the First Dutch Reformed Church in this city, in 1830, and in 1833 was made Vice-President of Rutgers College. After his resignation of that office, he devoted his time to the general service of the Church, labouring assiduously in the Boards of Foreign and Domestic Missions, and in the oversight of our Theological and Collegiate Institutions, and in the use of his pen as long as his strength lasted. The numerous offices to which he was elected by the choice of his brethren, and his long continuance in those offices, are proofs of the high estimation in which he was held. These were chaplets placed on his brow by those who knew him best, and they were sustained there by the reverent hand of affection, even after he had become, from the infirmities of age, too feeble to bear their weight. Well may his children and friends contemplate such a life as this with tender reverence, and with sincere gratitude to God. As they gather round his tomb, the voice which each hears in his own heart, Well done good and faithful servant, is only the feeble echo of that plaudit with which his purified spirit has been already introduced into the joys of the Lord.
The extensive and long continued influence exercised by our venerated father, the numerous and important offices which he filled, are sufficient evidence of the estimate placed on his abilities and learning by those with whom he acted. He was eminently a wise man. A man whose judgments were clear and decided, and whose advice always carried with it peculiar weight. His remarkable placidity of temper, his amiable and courteous manners, his uniform regard for the feelings of others, carried him even through the severest conflicts without a scar. So far as we know, he never gave offence or made an enemy. His integrity was unimpeachable. He was truthful, frank, and honest. Always open in the expression of his convictions, no man was ever in doubt where he stood, or which side he occupied on any question of doctrine or policy. He was utterly incapable of chicanery or manoeuvring. He never attempted to attain his objects by any underhand measures. The end and the means were always openly announced and publicly avowed. As a preacher, Dr. Janeway was instructive, earnest, and faithful. As a pastor, he was indefatigable in his attention to the young, the sick, the afflicted and the inquiring. His zeal for sound doctrine was one of the most prominent traits of his character, and had much to do in determining the whole course of his life. His zeal was not unenlightened bigotry, but arose from the clear perception of the importance of truth to holiness. He was satisfied that the salvation of men and the glory of God were dependent on the preservation of the gospel in its purity. He was therefore always on the alert, always among the foremost in opposing every form of error. For this fidelity he is to be had in grateful remembrance. A more consistent man is not to be found in our long-catalogue of ministers. Consistent not only in the sense of being constant in his opinions, but in the correspondence of his deportment with his professions and with his social position and official station. There was nothing worldly in his spirit, or ostentatious in his mode of living. He was an exemplary Christian gentleman. God preserved him from those cancers of the soul, covetousness and avarice, which often eat out the life even of men professing godliness. He was a large and generous giver. It is believed that he regularly gave away the one-fifth of his income. All our benevolent operations can bear witness to the liberality and constancy of his benefactions. All that we have said, however, might be true; our revered father might have been thus amiable and upright as a man, thus consistent and irreproachable in his life, thus zealous for the truth, and thus generous in his benefactions, and yet come far short of what he really was. That which was the groundwork of his character, that which elevated his virtues into graces, was his deep, unaffected piety, not the religion of nature, not merely devout feelings excited by a consideration of the greatness and goodness of God, which so many mistake for Christian experience, but that love of God which flows from the apprehension of his glory in the person of his Son, and from the assurance of his love as manifested in Christ to the guilty and the polluted. Dr. Janeway was not only a religious man, but a Christian, a penitent believer in Christ, living in humble fellowship with God and with his Son our Saviour; living therefore not for himself but for Him who died for him and rose again.
He fought a good fight, he kept the faith, and henceforth there is laid up for him a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give him at that day. Christian brethren, how can we better employ the few moments which we are permitted to spend around the coffin of this faithful soldier of Christ, than in meditating on the nature and reward of that conflict which he so long sustained, and which, by the grace of God, he brought to so joyful an issue ?
To read the remainder of Dr. Hodge’s funeral sermon, click here.
Words to Live By:
Christians love the gift of life as received from the Lord, yet we welcome the approach of death as that which has been conquered by an all-victorious Savior. To die in Christ is to enter into His presence. To die apart from Him is to enter into an endless misery.
“By this faith, a Christian believes to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God Himself speaking therein; and acts differently upon that which each particular passage thereof contains; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace.”
—Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 14, paragraph 2. [emphasis added]