I am slowly (but steadily!) making my way through the collected sermons of De Witt Talmage. Though he is little-known and little-remembered today, he was considered one of the great preachers of his time. In one of his sermons I found this sweet tribute to his parents and the joy of a long marriage.
My mind is full of the memory of a couple who were united in holy marriage December 19th, 1803. Their Christian names were old-fashioned like themselves: David the one, Catharine the other. They lived to see their crystal wedding, their silver wedding, their golden wedding, and nine years beside. They lived to weep over the graves of three of their children. They lived to pass through many hardships and trials, but they kept the Christian faith, they lived for God, for each other, for their children, and for everybody but themselves.
Their hair grew white with age, and their steps became shorter and shorter, and their voice tremulous in the church psalm, though once they had led in the village choir. The one leaned heavily on a staff which I have in my house today, but heavier on the arm of God, who had always helped them. They were well mated. What was the joy of the one was the joy of the other, what was the sorrow of the one was the sorrow of the other.
At last they parted. My father, though a very tender-hearted man, I never saw cry but once, and that at my mother’s burial. You see they had lived together fifty-nine years. My mother said in her dying moments to my father, “Father, wouldn’t it be pleasant if we could both go together?” But three years soon passed, and they were reunited. Their children are gradually joining them, and will soon all be there; but the vision of that married life will linger in my memory forever.
Together in the village church where they stood up to take the vows of the Christian just before their marriage day. Together through all the vicissitudes of a long life. Together this morning in the quiet of the Somerville graveyard. Together in heaven.
Oh! there are many in the house this morning who can say with William Cowper:
My boast is not that I deduce my birth
From loins enthroned and rulers of the earth;
But higher far my proud pretensions rise,
The son of parents passed into the skies.