Gordon, Charles George by Faye Huntington

Gordon, Grant, Greeley, Garfield, Gladstone—such an array of names as sound in my ears when I think of this alphabetical list of great men! We have come to a letter that is prolific in subjects, and it is hard to choose. I would like to have you study the characters of the great men whose names I have written down above and there are others—great men whose initial letter is "G"—Gough, Garrison, Garibaldi—indeed there seems to be no end to the list! At present we will speak of only one. I have headed the list with the name of Gordon, not intentionally, but it seemed to come first. Was that because he is greatest? Perhaps not. My boys, there are noble men in this list, some of them your own countrymen, who have done much for humanity.

General Charles George Gordon was an Englishman, but his fame has gone into all the earth; his example, his Christian faith and courage, is ours to emulate. He belonged to a military family and was educated for the army, entered his country's service at twenty-one, and distinguished himself in the Crimean War. Afterwards he was attached to an expedition of the French and English into China at a time when there was a rebellion in progress, and upon application of the Chinese government to the English for an officer to lead their forces in suppressing this rebellion, Lieutenant Gordon was appointed to the command, and it was at that time that he began to be called "Chinese Gordon," a name by which he has been widely known. He was successful in suppressing the revolt which is known as the Tai-ping Rebellion. The Chinese government were loud in their expressions of esteem and gratitude and would have rewarded him right royally, if he would have accepted the reward of money; as it was, they gave him "a yellow riding-jacket to be worn on his person, and a peacock's feather to be carried in his cap; also four suits of uniform proper to his rank in token of their favor and desire to do him honor."

As he refused their money, the leading officials called upon the British ambassador and desired to know what would please the man who had done so much for them and would not be rewarded. They were puzzled over the conduct of a man who seemed to be prompted by a motive other than military glory or pecuniary reward. There has been printed a letter written to his mother about this time which shows a strong regard for his parents' feelings and wishes and a desire to put down the rebellion for the good of humanity. It was several years later that he was appointed English governor of the Soudan. He was offered a large salary, but would accept only a moderate sum. This position gave him an opportunity of fighting the slave trade. He sailed up the Nile to Khartoum, and from that city he went still farther into the interior of Africa, into the midst of a people so degraded and wretched that he wrote "what a mystery, is it not, why they were created! A life of fear and misery night and day!" And it was his happiness to minister to the needs of these people.

It is said that he gave away more than half of his small salary to soften the lot of the poor creatures, and he was so kind and gentle with them and so considerate of their needs, that unused as they were to a governor who treated them with kindness, they became devoted to him, proving over again that kindness will win even a savage heart.

During the few years he remained governor of the Soudan he was earnest in his fight against the slave dealers and accomplished much, but because the Khedive from whom he received his appointment did not support his measures, he finally resigned and returned to England. It was a sad day for the Soudan when he left; I have not time to tell you how affairs in that far-off country grew worse and worse, until in January, 1884, General Gordon was sent the second time to command the Soudan. It is said his coming was welcomed by the people who remembered his former kindness and that they "fell on their knees before him and kissed his hand as he passed along the streets." Many of you have read how the brave General was at length driven into Khartoum and forced to cut off from communication with the outside world. And finally relief being delayed the city was taken by the rebels and General Gordon killed. Thus in following the path of duty he went straight to his death. He fell in the city which he had sought to defend. He died at his post.

Boys, the life and death of this man may teach valuable lessons. There is always an attraction in stories of the exploits of a brave soldier, but when you can write after that word brave the other and best adjective of all, Christian, we seem to have passed the highest eulogy. General Gordon was eminently religious. It is said of him that he read scarcely anything but the Bible; and that "he was simply a Christian with his whole heart, and his religion went into the minutest details of his life."

Once when waiting in loneliness and weariness on the Upper Nile, for steamers which were delayed, he wrote: "I ask God not to have anything of this world come between him and me; and not to let me fear death, or feel regret if it comes before I complete my programme. Thank God, he gives me the most comforting assurance that nothing shall disturb me or come between him and me."

Whatever may be our political opinions, whatever we may think of the work he was set to do, and in doing which he lost his life, we are sure of one thing, this man's devotion to duty was supreme and absolute. And death found him not shirking or hiding from duty and from danger, as ever fearless and bold, walking in the line of what he considered his duty. A chivalrous Christian soldier has ended his warfare, leaving behind a fragrant memory, a shining example of Christian faith. He believed in his Leader, and followed with implicit trust, seeking not for glory, yet his heroic death has covered his name with glory.