Delivered at the Funeral of William Regenhardt
Psalm 112, 6.:
"The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance."
When William Regenhardt drew his last breath at half past ten o'clock last Tuesday morning, a good man, a prominent and distinguished citizen, a highly esteemed and valuable member of the Lutheran Church, the honored head of a family, and the cherished friend of many of his fellow-men passed form time into eternity. In his demise a long and useful career on earth has reached its end. Large is the number of those who lament his death. It includes not only his faithful spouse, children, grandchildren and other near of kin; it includes also a large circle of personal friends, business associates and a host of men who formerly or of late were in the employ of the deceased; it includes our whole city and county; it includes the members of the Lutheran church in this city of which the deceased was an old member and a faithful officer for many years. Among the member of mourners is also his pastor who loved and esteemed the deceased very highly as a precious child of God by faith in Christ Jesus. I venture to say that there is no one present in this large assembly who is not sorry that the deceased has left us; we would all gladly have kept him in our midst for a few years longer at least.
But the time of his departure was come, and his soul, in peace with God and man, passed into another, a better and brighter world. Our loss is his gain. It devolves on us to bring his earthly remains to their last resting place on earth. I deem it a privilege to officiate at his funeral and to pay this tribute of love and respect to his memory. For he was one of "the righteous" of whom our text speaks, saying that they "shall be in everlasting remembrance".
"The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance", says the Psalmist. Who are the righteous? Righteousness may be considered under two heads, as righteousness before men and as righteousness before God. The two must not be confounded. The one belongs to the province of nature, the other to the province of grace. The one is a very desirable thing in the sphere of civil life, the other is an important factor in the sphere of spiritual life. The one is the result of our own endeavors under divine providence, the other is the righteousness of Christ appropriated by faith.
In the first place, there is such a thing as civil righteousness or virtuousness. It consists of leading an outwardly honorable and virtuous life before our fellow-citizens. Civil virtues render a man righteous in the eyes of his fellow-men. Such civil righteousness cannot be recommended and praised too highly in this life. Law-abiding citizens, faithful husbands, men that are upright and honest in word and deed and reliable in their dealings, are a great boon to any community, are the mainstay and support, the pillars and sustainers of family, society, and state. God himself demands such virtues and rewards them in this life with temporal blessings. It is mainly this righteousness of which the Book of Proverbs (chap. 14, 34) is speaking when it says, "Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people." By divine providence honesty is still the best policy, and virtue finds its reward.
Of such civil righteousness our departed friend and fellow-citizen was a glorious type. Born, cradled and reared in Germany, in a village of the Duchy of Brunswick, he came to this country in 1849 at the age of twenty-one and since October of that year has been without interruption a resident citizen of Cape Girardeau. Being one of its oldest, he was at the same time one of its best citizens. He was a man who, as to the virtues which go together to constitute good citizenship, far excelled many and would bear comparison with any. He was plain, economical, and temperate in his habits; fair and considerate toward his fellow-men; conservative in his opinions; charitable in his judgments; slow to speak, but when he did speak, every word full of marrow and to the point. He was of a kind and tender-hearted disposition; to refuse a favor asked for was to him well nigh an impossibility. He was a peaceful neighbor, having a strong dislike against quarreling. He was kind and generous to those who were in his employ. He was a man whom everybody knew and everybody loved. For these reasons he was a very valuable citizen; but he was also a prominent citizen. Taking a lively interest in public affairs very early, he was soon called upon to play a prominent part in the public life of our city and county. More than twenty-five years he was a member of our City Council, and from 1861 till recently he was Chairman of the Republican County Committee. In politics he detested everything which savored of corruption and bribery. In business he was successful; by duty of industry and good management he, by the blessing of the Almighty, prospered in almost everything he undertook. He was connected with a number of business enterprises, and everywhere he won and retained the regard and esteem of his associates. Take him all in all, he was a venerable old gentleman, a citizen who deserved to be highly respected by his fellow-men, a citizen of a kind which every community needs and no community can well afford to lose, His death signifies a loss to our city, and he will always be remembered as one who has been a good, honorable, valuable and prominent citizen of Cape Girardeau.
But he was still more. He was also a Christian, who stood high in the estimation of his fellow-Christians, whose memory will be cherished in the church of which he was an active member for many years, and whose departure has inflicted a loss which will be felt by his fellow-Lutherans for years to come. He took a lively interest in the affairs of the church, was a regular attendant at the public worship and at the lord's table; for twenty years and longer he was member of the Board of Trustees, president of the congregation and chairman at its regular monthly meetings, placing his remarkable ability for conducting a public meeting, his experience, his soundness of judgment, his conservative advice, his extensive influence and other gifts at the disposal of his church. His services were at all times valuable and were highly appreciated. His memory will ever be blessed among us.
But there is still another righteousness which is of far greater value for time and eternity than the one that we have hitherto been speaking of. That is the righteousness which is available in the sight of God. It is the righteousness of Christ which is procured for all men and is imparted of all believers. Civil virtues and Christian graces may render a man righteous in the eyes of his fellow-men and fellow-Christians, but will never justify him before God. And why not? God demands perfect obedience to his law, not only in some outward things, but in desires, thoughts, words, and deeds. Outward conformity to the divine law does not satisfy him, but he looks at the heart and will have us to be pure in heart, holy and without any evil lust, fearing him and loving him above all things; and all our thoughts and words and deeds are to proceed from such fear and love of God. And he that offends against the divine law in a single point is guilty of all. And since no man can keep them, no man is justified before God by the Jew or Gentile, Pharisee or Publican, have sinned and came short of the glory of God, that in the sight of God we are all as an unclean thing and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. All mankind is by nature under the wrath of God and deserving of eternal damnation, and hence sorely in need of a Savior, who is righteous himself and whose righteousness may be imparted to sinners. Such a Savior has made his appearance. It is Jesus Christ, True God and true man, who perfectly fulfilled the law in our stead and suffered the penalties of our sins, and by his holy precious blood and by his innocent suffering and death gained for us forgiveness of sins or the righteousness which is valid before God. By the work of redemption which Christ performed in the days of his flesh such righteousness has procured, and in the gospel it is offered to all sinners, and all that believe the gospel and thus accept
this righteousness of Christ actually become partakers of the same and are justified before God. To live up to the so-called Golden Rule is indeed our duty, but since we all come short of fulfilling it perfectly we can not be saved thereby, and if we are to receive for forgiveness of sins and be justified before God, it must be not by our works, but by the grace of God, for Christ's sake, through faith. And in this and in no other way was our departed friend justified before God, and in this and in no other way did he want to be righteous in God's sight. He knew and acknowledged that in spite of his civil virtuousness and Christian conversation he was a sinner deserving divine wrath and eternal condemnation. But he also knew and recognized his Savior Jesus Christ and firmly believed that there was salvation for men in nothing save the grace of God and the merits of Christ. Thus he was righteous before God, and was of the number of "the righteous" who "shall be in everlasting remembrance", who shall not have believed in vain, but who, when they die, are, according to the soul, at once present with Christ and, after the last day, shall be with Christ, body and soul, and live with him in eternal joy and glory. And thus he faced death calmly and serenely, trusting not in his own righteousness, but in the righteousness of his Savior; and his trust has not deceived him. He has entered the realms of everlasting bliss; for "blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth." (Rev. 14, 13.) He is wearing the crown of glory, according to the divine promise, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life". (Rev. 2, 10.)
May the memory of William Regenhardt ever remain green among us. May his life and his faith be an example to us prompting us to follow in his foot-steps, striving to be good and useful men and women, and, above all, seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness. And may we all die the death of righteous, and may our last end be like his. Amen.