As I have had for many years what my friends have playfully called "Lincoln on the brain," let me say a few words in regard to the most marvellous man that this country has produced in the nineteenth century. His name is to-day a household word in every civilized land. Dr. Newman Hall, of London, has told me that when he had addressed a listless audience, he found that nothing was so certain to arouse them as to introduce the name of Abraham Lincoln. Certainly no other name has such electric power over every true heart from Maine to Mexico. The first time I ever saw the man whom we used to call, familiarly and affectionately, "Uncle Abe," was at the Tremont House in Chicago, a few days after his election to the presidency. His room was very near my own. I sent in my card, and he greeted me with a characteristic grasp of the hand, and his first sentence rather touched my soft spot when he said: "I have kept up with you nearly every week in the New York Independent." His voice had a clear, magnetic ring, and his heart seemed to be in his voice. Three months afterwards I saw him again, riding down Broadway, New York (thronged with a gazing multitude), on his way to assume the presidency at Washington. He stood up in a barouche holding on with his hand to the seat of the driver. His towering figure was filled out by a long blue cloak, and a heavy cape which he wore. On his bare head rose a thick mass of black hair—the crown which nature gave to her king. His large, melancholy eyes had a solemn, far-away look as if he discerned the toils and trials that awaited him. The great patriot-President, moving slowly on toward the conflict, the glory and the martyrdom, that were reserved for him, still remains in my memory, as the most august and majestic figure that my eyes have ever beheld. He never passed through New York again until he was borne through tears and broken hearts on his last journey to his Western tomb.
I did not see Lincoln again until two years afterwards, when I was in Washington on duty for the Christian Commission. It was one of his public levee nights, and as soon as I came up to him, his first words were: "Doctor, I have not seen you since we met in the Tremont House in Chicago." I mention this as an illustration of his marvelous memory; he never forgot a face or a name or the slightest incident. My mother was with me at the Smithsonian, and as she was extremely desirous to see the President I took her over to the White House late on the following afternoon. In those war times, when Washington was a camp, the White House looked more like an army barracks than the Presidential mansion. In the entrance hall that day were piles of express boxes, among which was a little lad playing and tumbling them about. "Will you go and find somebody to take our cards?" said my mother to the child. He ran off and brought the Irishman, whose duty it was to receive callers at the door. That was the same Irishman who, when the poor soldier's wife was going in to plead for her husband's pardon of a capital offense he had committed, said to her: "Be sure to take your baby in with you." When she came out smiling and happy, Patrick said to her: "Ah, ma'am, 'twas the baby that did it."
The shockingly careless appearance of the White House proved that whatever may have been Mrs. Lincoln's other good qualities, she hadn't earned the compliment which the Yankee farmer paid to his wife when he said: "Ef my wife haint got an ear fer music, she's got an eye fer dirt." When we reached the room of the President's Private Secretary, my old friend, the Rev. Mr. Neill, of St. Paul's, told me that it was military court day, when the President had to decide upon cases of army discipline that came before him and when he received no calls. I told Neill that my mother could never die happy if she had not seen Lincoln. He took in our names to the President, who told him to bring us in. We entered the room in which the Cabinet usually met—and there, before the fire, stood the tall, gaunt form attired in a seedy frock-coat, with his long hair unkempt, and his thin face the very picture of distress. "How is Mrs. Lincoln?" inquired my mother. "Oh," said the President, "I have not seen her since seven o'clock this morning; Tad, how is your mother?" "She is pretty well," replied the little fellow, who was coiled up then in an arm chair, the same lad we had seen playing down in the entrance hall. We spent but a few moments with Mr. Lincoln, and when we came out my mother exclaimed: "Oh, what a cruelty to keep that man here! Did you ever see such a sad face in your life?" I never had, and I have given this account of my call on him in order that my readers may not only understand what democratic customs then prevailed in the White House, but may get some faint idea of the terribly trying life that Mr. Lincoln led.
Dr. Bellows, the President of the Sanitary Commission, once said to him: "Mr. President, I am here at almost every hour of the day or night, and I never saw you at the table, do you ever eat?" "I try to," replied the President; "I manage to browse about pretty much as I can get it." After the long wearing, nerve-taxing days were over in which he was glad to relieve himself occasionally with a good story or a merry laugh, came the nights of anxiety when sleep was often banished from his pillow. He frequently wrapped himself in his Scotch shawl, and at midnight stole across to the War Office, and listened to the click of the telegraph instruments, which brought sometimes good news, and sometimes terrible tales of defeat. On the day after he heard of the awful slaughter at Fredericksburg, he remarked at the War Office: "If any of the lost in hell suffered worse than I did last night, I pity them." Nothing but iron nerves and a dependence on the divine arm bore him through. He once said: "I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go; my own wisdom and that of all around me seemed insufficient for the day." We call him "Our Martyr President," but the martyrdom lasted for four whole years!
The darkest crisis of the whole war was in the summer of 1862. I slipped away for a few weeks of relaxation to Europe, sailing on the Cunarder China, the first screw steamer ever built by that company. She was under the command of Captain James Anderson, who was afterwards knighted by Queen Victoria for his services in laying the Atlantic cable, and is better known as Sir James Anderson. There was no Atlantic cable in those days, and our steamer carried out the news of the seven days' battles before Richmond, which terminated in the retreat of General McClellan. We had a Fourth of July dinner on board, but between seasickness and heart sickness it was the toughest experience of making a spread-eagle speech I ever had. After landing at Queenstown I went to Belfast and thence to Edinburgh. I found the people of Edinburgh intensely excited over our war and the current of popular sentiment running against us like a mill-race. For instance, I was recognized by my soft hat on the street; a shoemaker put his head out of the door and shouted as I passed: "I say, when are you going to be done with your butchering over there?" The Scotsman was hostile to the Union cause, and the old Caledonian Mercury was the only paper that stood by us; but it did so manfully. On the day of my arrival a bulletin was posted in the newspaper offices and on Change that McClellan and the Union army had surrendered. The baleful report was received with no little exultation by all who were engaged in the cotton trade. I sat up until midnight with the editor of the Mercury, helping him to squelch the rumor and the next morning expose the falsity of the news in his columns.
Dr. John Brown, the immortal author of "Rab and His Friends," had called on me at the Waverly Hotel, and that morning I breakfasted with him. At the breakfast table I made a statement of our side of the conflict and Dr. Brown said: "If you will write up that statement, I will get my friend, Mr. Russell, the editor of the Scotsman, to publish it in his paper." I did so and sent it to the care of Dr. Brown. On the following Sabbath afternoon I attended the great prayer meeting in the Free Church Assembly Hall, and Sir James Simpson was to preside. There was a crowd of over a thousand people present. Simpson did not come, and so some other elder occupied the chair. During the meeting I arose and modestly asked that prayer might be offered for my country in this hour of her peril and distress. There was an awful silence! In a few moments the chairman meekly said: "Perhaps our American friend will offer the prayer himself." I did so, for it was evident that all the Scotchmen present considered our cause past praying for.
On the morning of our departure my letter appeared in the Scotsman accompanied by a long and bitter reply by the editor. Within a week several of the Scotch newspapers were in full cry, denouncing that "bloody Presbyterian minister from America."
After a hurried run to Switzerland I reached Paris in time to witness the celebration of the imperial birthday and to see Louis Napoleon review the splendid army of Italy with great pomp, on the Champs des Mars. It was a magnificent spectacle. That day Mr. Slidell, the representative of the Southern Confederacy, hung on the front of his house an immense white canvas on which was inscribed: "Jefferson Davis, the First President of the Confederate States of America." Our ambassador, Hon. William L. Dayton, was a relative of mine, and I had several conversations with him about the perilous situation of affairs at home. Dayton said: "Our prospects are dark enough. All the monarchs and aristocracies are against us; all the cotton and commercial interests are against us. Emperor Louis Napoleon is a sphinx, but he would like to help to acknowledge the Southern Confederacy. If he does so Belgium and other powers will join him; they will break the blockade; they will supply the Confederates with arms and then we must fight Europe as well as the Southern States. Our only real friends are men like John Bright, and those who believe that we are fighting for freedom as well as for our National Union. Mr. Lincoln must declare for emancipation and unless he does it within thirty days, I have written to Mr. Seward that our cause is lost."
I returned to London with a heavy heart; all of our friends there with whom I conversed echoed the sentiments of Mr. Dayton. One of them said to me: "Earl Russell has no especial love for your Union, but he abominates negro slavery, and is very reluctant to acknowledge a new slave-owning government. Prince Albert and the Queen are friendly to you, but you must emancipate the slaves."
My return passage from Liverpool was on board the Asia, and Captain Anderson commanded her for that voyage. When we reached Boston, we heard the distressing news of the second Battle of Bull Run, and our prospects were black as midnight. Captain Anderson remarked to me, in a compassionate tone: "Well, Mr. Cuyler, you Yankees had better give it up now." "Never, never," I replied to him. "You will live to see the Union restored and slavery extinguished." He laughed at me and bid me "good-bye." A few years afterwards, I laughed back again when I met him in New York.
On Sunday evening, September 7, I addressed a vast crowd in my own Lafayette Avenue Church, and told them frankly, that our only hope was in a proclamation for freedom by President Lincoln. Henry Ward Beecher invited me to repeat my address on the next Sunday evening in Plymouth Church. I did so and the house was packed clear out to the sidewalk. At the end of my address Mr. Beecher leaned over and said: "The Lord helped you to-night." When the meeting closed Mr. Henry C. Bowen said, "Will you and Mr. Beecher not start for Washington to-morrow morning to urge Mr. Lincoln to proclaim emancipation?" We both agreed to go before the week was over, but could not before. On the Wednesday of that very week the Battle of Antietam was fought, and on the Friday morning we opened our papers and read President Lincoln's first Proclamation of Emancipation. The great deed was done; the night was over; the morning had dawned. From that day onward our cause, under God, was saved; but that proclamation saved the Union. No foreign power dared to oppose us after that, and Gettysburg sealed the righteous act of Lincoln, the Liberator, and decided the victory.
At the beginning of this chapter I described the thrilling scenes at the opening of the conflict; let me now narrate a still more thrilling one at its termination. The war began by the surrender of Fort Sumter by Major Anderson, April 13, 1861; the war virtually ended by the restoration of the national flag by the same hand in the same Fort, on April 14, 1865.
I joined an excursion party from New York, on the steamer Oceanus, and we went down to witness the impressive ceremonies in Sumter. We found Charleston a scene of wretched desolation, and General Sherman, who had once resided there, said he had never realized the horrors of war until he had seen the terrible ruins of that once beautiful city. At the time of my writing, now, Charleston is crowded every day with visitors to its industrial Exposition, and the President is received with ovations by its people.
Our party went over to Fort Sumter in a steamer commanded by a negro, who was an emancipated slave, but very soon became a member of Congress. The broken walls of Sumter, brown, battered and lonely in the quiet waves were hopelessly scarred, and all around it on the narrow beach lay a stratum of bullets and broken iron several inches deep.
The Fort that day was crowded with an immense assemblage. Among them were the Hon. Henry Wilson, afterwards Vice-President, and Attorney-General Holt, Judge Hoxie, of New York, William Lloyd Garrison and George Thompson, the famous member of the English Parliament, who had once been mobbed for his anti-slavery speech in this country. General S.L. Woodford was in command for the day. Dr. Richard S. Storrs offered an impressive prayer, and the oration was delivered by direction of the Government, by Henry Ward Beecher. When the speech was completed, Major Anderson drew out from a mail bag the identical bunting that he had lowered four years before, and attached the flag to the halyards, and when it began to ascend, General Gilmore grasped the rope behind him, and, as it came along to our part of the platform several of us grasped it also. Mr. Thompson shouted, "Give John Bull a hold of that rope." When the dear old flag reached the summit of the staff, and its starry eyes looked out over the broad harbor, such a volley of cannon from ship and shore burst forth that one might imagine the old battle of the Monitors was being fought over again.
The frantic scene inside the Fort beggars description. We grasped hands and shouted and my irrepressible old friend, Hoxie, of New York, with tears in his eyes, embraced one after another, exclaiming: "This is the greatest day of my life!" In the rainbow of those stars and stripes we read that day the covenant that the deluge of blood was ended, and that the ark of freedom had rested at length upon its Ararat.
On the next day I addressed a thousand negro children, and when I enquired, "May I send an invitation to the good Abraham Lincoln to come down and visit you?" one thousand little black hands went up with a shout. Alas, we knew not that at that very hour their beloved benefactor was lying cold and silent in the East room at Washington! At Fortress Monroe, on our homeward voyage, the terrible tidings of the President's assassination pierced us like a dagger, on the wharf. Near the Fortress poor negro women had hung pieces of coarse black muslin around every little huckster's tables. "Yes, sah, Fathah Lincum's dead. Dey killed our bes' fren, but God be libben; dey can't kill Him, I's sho ob dat." Her simple childlike faith seemed to reach up and grasp the everlasting arm which had led Lincoln while leading her race "out of the house of bondage."
Upon our arrival in New York, we found the city draped in black, and "the mourners going about the streets." When the remains of the murdered President reached New York they were laid in state in the City Hall for one day and night, and during that whole night the procession passed the coffin—never ceasing for a moment. Between three and four o'clock in the morning I took my family there, that they might see the face of our beloved martyr, and we had to take our place in a line as far away as Park Row. It is impossible to give any adequate description of the funeral—whose like was never seen before or since—when eminent authors, clergymen, judges and distinguished civilians walked on foot through streets, shrouded in black to the house tops. The whole journey to Springfield, Ill., was one constant manifestation of poignant grief. The people rose in the night, simply to see the funeral train pass by. I do not wonder that when Emperor Alexander, of Russia (who was himself afterwards assassinated) heard the tidings of our President's death from an American Ambassador, he leaped from his chair, and exclaimed, "Good God, can it be so? He was the noblest man alive."
Thirty-seven years have passed away, and to-day while our nation reveres the name of Washington, as the Father of his Country; Abraham Lincoln is the best loved man that ever trod this continent. The Almighty educated him in His own Providence for his high mission. The "plain people," as he called them, were his University; the Bible and John Bunyan were his earliest text-books. Sometimes his familiarity with the Scriptures came out very amusingly as when a deputation of bankers called on him, to negotiate for a loan to the Government, and one of them said to him: "You know, Mr. President, where the treasure is, there will the heart be also." "I should not wonder," replied Lincoln, "if another text would not fit the case better, 'Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together,'" His innumerable jests contained more wisdom than many a philosopher's maxims, and underneath his plebeian simplicity, dress and manners, this great child of nature possessed the most delicate instincts of the perfect gentleman. The only just scale by which to measure any man is the scale of actual achievement; and in Lincoln's case some of the most essential instruments had to be fabricated by himself.
The first account in the measurement of the man is that with a sublime reliance on God, he conducted an immense nation through the most tremendous civil war ever waged, and never committed a single serious mistake. The Illinois backwoodsman did not possess Hamilton's brilliant genius, yet Hamilton never read the future more sagaciously. He made no pretension to Webster's magnificent oratory; yet Webster never put more truth in portable form for popular guidance. He possessed Benjamin Franklin's immense common sense, and gift of terse proverbial speech, but none of his lusts and sceptical infirmities. The immortal twenty-line address at Gettysburg is the high water mark of sententious eloquence. With that speech should be placed the pathetic and equally perfect letter of condolence to Mrs. Bixby of Boston after her five sons had fallen in battle. With that speech also should be read that wonderful second Inaugural address which even the hostile London Times pronounced to be the most sublime state paper of the century. This second address—his last great production—contained some of the best illustrations of his fondness for balanced antithesis and rhythmical measurement. There is one sentence which may be rendered into rhyme:
"Fondly do we hope, Fervently do we pray That this mighty scourge of war May soon pass away"
Terrible as was the tragedy of that April night, thirty-seven years ago, it may be still true that Lincoln died at the right time for his own imperishable fame. It was fitting that his own precious blood should be the last to be shed in the stupendous struggle He had called over two hundred thousand heroes to lay down their lives and then his own was laid down beside the humblest private soldier, or drummer boy, that filled the sacred mould of Gettysburg and Chickamauga. In an instant, as it were, his career crystalized into that pure white fame which belongs only to the martyr for justice, law and liberty. For more than a generation his ashes have slumbered in his beloved home at Springfield, and as the hearts of millions of the liberated turn toward that tomb, they may well say to their liberator: "We were hungry and thou gavest us the bread of sympathy; we were thirsty for liberty and thou gavest us to drink; we were strangers, and thou didst take us in; we were sick with two centuries of sorrow, and thou didst visit us; we were in the oppressive house of bondage, and thou earnest unto us;" and the response of Christendom is: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord."
In closing this chapter of my reminiscences, I may be allowed to express my strong conviction that our Congress, impelled by generous feeling, and what they regarded as a democratic principle of government, committed a serious error in bestowing the right of suffrage indiscriminately upon the male negro population of the South. A man who had been all his life an ignorant "chattel personal" was suddenly transformed into a sovereign elector. Instead of this precipitate legislation, it would have been wiser to restrict the suffrage to those who acquire a proper education, and perhaps also a certain amount of taxable property. This policy would have avoided unhappy friction between the races, and, what is more important, it would have offered a powerful inducement to every colored man to fit himself for the honor and grave responsibility of full citizenship. At this time one of the noblest efforts made by wise philanthropy is that of educating, elevating and evangelizing our colored fellow countrymen of the South. To help the negro to help himself, is the key-note of these efforts. The time is coming—yea, it has come already—when to the name of Abraham Lincoln, the grateful negro will add the names of their best benefactor, General Samuel C. Armstrong (the founder of Hampton Institute) and Booker T. Washington.
The work of the faithful minister covers all the round week. On the one day he teaches his people in the house of God, on the remaining days he teaches and guides them in their own houses and wherever he may happen to meet them. His labors, therefore, are twofold; the work of the preacher and the work of the pastor. The two ought to be inseparable; what the Providence of God and good common sense have joined together let no man venture to put asunder. The great business of every true minister is the winning of souls to Jesus Christ, and to bring them up in godly living. In other words, to make bad men good, and good men better. All this cannot be accomplished by two sermons a week, even if they were the best that Paul himself could deliver; in fact, the best part of Paul's recorded work was quite other than public preaching. As for our blessed Master, He has left one extended discourse and a few shorter ones, but oh, how many narratives we have of His personal visits, personal conversation and labors of love with the sick, the sinning, and the suffering! He was the shepherd who knew every sheep in the flock. The importance of all that portion of a minister's work that lies outside of his pulpit can hardly be overestimated. The great element of power with every faithful ambassador of Christ should be heart-power and the secret of popularity is to take an interest in everybody. A majority of all congregations, rich or poor, is reached, not so much through the intellect as through the affections. This is an encouraging fact, that while only one man in ten may have been born to become a very great preacher, the other nine, if they love their Master and love human souls, can become great pastors. Nothing gives a minister such heart-power as personal acquaintance and personal attention to those whom he aims to influence; especially his personal attention will be welcome in seasons of trial. Let the pastor make himself at home in everybody's home. Let him go often to visit their sick rooms and kneel beside their empty cribs, and comfort their broken hearts, and pray with them. Let him go to the business men of his congregation when they have suffered reverses, and give them a word of cheer; let him be quick to recognize the poor and the children, and he will weave a cord around the hearts of his people that will stand a prodigious pressure. His inferior sermons (for every minister is guilty of such occasionally) will be kindly condoned, and he can launch the most pungent truths at his auditors, and they will not take offense. He will have won their hearts to himself, and that is a great step toward drawing them to the house of God and winning their souls to the Saviour. "A house-going minister," said Chalmers, "makes a church-going people." There is still one other potent argument for close intercourse with his congregation that many ministers are in danger of ignoring or underestimating. James Russell Lowell has somewhere said that books are, at best, but dry fodder, and that we need to be vitalized by contact with living people. The best practical discourses often are those which a congregation help their minister to prepare. By constant and loving intercourse with the individuals of his church he becomes acquainted with their peculiarities, and this enlarges his knowledge of human nature. It is second only to a knowledge of God's Word. If a minister is a wise man (and neither God nor man has any use for fools) he will be made wiser by the lessons and suggestions which he can gain from constant and close intercourse with the immortal beings to whom he preaches.
In Dundee, Scotland, I conversed with a gray-headed member of St. Peter's Presbyterian Church who, in his youth, listened to the sainted Robert Murray McCheyne. He spoke of him with the deepest reverence and love; but the one thing that he remembered after forty-six years was that Mr. McCheyne, a few days before his death, met him on the street and, laying hand upon his shoulder, said to him kindly: "Jamie, I hope it is well with your soul. How is your sick sister? I am going to see her again shortly." That sentence or two had stuck to the old Christian for over forty years. It had grappled his pastor to him, and this little narrative gave me a fresh insight into McCheyne's wonderful power. His ministry was most richly successful, and largely because he kept in touch with his people, and was a great pastor as well as a great preacher.
I determined from the very start in my ministry that I would be a thorough pastor. A very celebrated preacher once said to me: "I envy you your love for pastoral work, I would not do it if I could, I could not do it if I would; for a single hour with a family in trouble uses up more of my vitality than to prepare a sermon." My reply to him was: "That may be true, but, after all, the business of a minister is to endure these strains upon his nervous system if he would be a comforter, as well as the teacher of his people."
My practice was this: I devoted the forenoon of every day, except Monday, to the preparation of my discourses. My motto was: "Study God's Word in the morning, and door-plates in the afternoon." I found the physical exercise in itself a benefit, and the spiritual benefits were ten-fold more. I secured and kept a complete record of the whereabouts of all my congregation and requested from the pulpit that prompt information be given me of any change of residence, and also of any case of sickness or trouble of any kind. I encouraged my people to send me word when there was any case of religious interest in their families or any matter of importance to discuss with me. In short, I endeavored to treat my flock exactly as though they were my own family, and to be perfectly at home in their homes. I managed to visit every family at least once in each year and as much oftener as circumstances required. As I had no "loafing" places, I easily got through my congregation, which, in Brooklyn, numbered several hundreds of families.
Spurgeon had an assistant pastor for his immense flock, but he made it a rule to visit the sick or dying on as many occasions as possible. He once said from his pulpit: "I have been this week to visit two of my church members who were near Eternity, and both of them were as happy as if they were going to a wedding. Oh, it makes me preach like a lion when I see how my people can die."
It was always my custom to take a particular neighborhood, and to call upon every parishioner in that street, or district, but I seldom found it wise to send word in advance to any family, that I would visit them on a certain day or hour, for I might be prevented from going, and thus subject them to disappointment; consequently, I had to run the risk of finding them at home. If they were out I left my card, and tried again at another time. In calling on my people unawares, I found it depended upon myself to secure a cordial welcome, for I went in with a hearty salutation and asked them to allow me to sit down with them wherever they were, regardless of dress or ceremony, and soon I found myself perfectly at home with them. No one should be so welcome as a faithful pastor. I encouraged them to talk about the affairs of our church, about the Sabbath services, and the truths preached, and the influences that Sabbath messages were having upon them. In this way I have discovered whether or not the shots were striking; for the gunnery that hits no one is not worth the powder.
Fishing for compliments is beneath any man of common sense, but it does cheer the pastor's heart to be told, "Your sermon last Sunday brought me a great blessing; it helped me all the week." Or better still, "Your sermon brought me to decide for Christ." In a careful and delicate way, I drew out our people in regard to their spiritual condition, and if I found that any member of the family was anxious about his or her soul, I managed to have a private and unreserved conversation with that person. It is well for every minister to be careful how he guards the confidence reposed in him. The family physician and the family pastor often have to know some things they do not like to know, but they never should allow any one else to know them.
This intimate, personal intercourse with my flock enabled me more than once to bring the undecided to a decision for Christ. In dealing with such cases, whether in the home or in the inquiry-room, I aimed to discover just what hindrance was in the path of each awakened soul. It is a great point also for such a one to discover what it is that keeps him or her from surrendering to Christ. If it be some habit or some evil practice, that must be given up; if some heart sin, that we must yield, even if it be like plucking out an eye or lopping off a right hand. It was my aim, and ever has been, to convince every awakened person that unless he or she was willing to give the heart to Jesus and to do His will there was no hope for them. We must shut every soul up to Christ.
I requested my people to inform me promptly of every case of serious sickness, and I could never be too prompt in responding to such a call. However busy I might be in preparing sermons or any commendable occupation everything else was laid aside. For a pastor should be as quick to respond to a call of sickness as an ambulance is to reach the scene of disaster. I sometimes found that a parishioner had been suddenly attacked with dangerous illness and even my entrance in the sick room might agitate the patient. At such times I found it necessary to use all the tact and delicacy and discretion at my command. I would never needlessly endanger a sick person by efforts to guide or console an immortal spirit. I aimed to make my words few, calm and tender, and make every syllable to point toward Jesus Christ. Whoever the sufferer may be, saint or sinner, his failing vision should be directed to "no man save Jesus only" It is not commonly the office of the pastor to tell the patient that his or her disease is assuredly fatal, but if we know that death is near, in the name of the Master, let us be faithful as well as tender.
There are many cases of extreme and critical illness when the presence of even the most loving pastor may be an unwise intrusion. An excellent Christian lady who had been twice apparently on the brink of death said to me: "Never enter the room of a person who is extremely low, unless the person urgently requests you to, or unless spiritual necessity absolutely compels it. You have no idea how the sight of a new face agitates the sufferer, and how you may unconsciously and unintentionally rob that sufferer of the little life that is fluttering in the feeble frame," I felt grateful to the good woman for her advice, and have often acted upon it, when the family have unwisely importuned me to do what would have been more harmful than beneficial. On some occasions, when I have found a sick room crowded by well-meaning but needless intruders, I have taken the liberty to "put them all forth," as our Master did in that chamber in which the daughter of Jairus was in the death slumber.
A great portion of the time and attention which I bestowed upon the sick was spent on chronic sufferers, who had been confined to their beds of weariness for months or years. I visited them as often as possible. Some of those bedridden sufferers were prisoners of Jesus Christ, who did me quite as much good as I could possibly do them. What eloquent sermons they preached to me on the beauty of submissive patience and on the supporting power of the "Everlasting arms!" Such interviews strengthened my faith, softened my heart, and infused into it something of the spirit of Him who "Took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses." McCheyne, of Dundee, said that before preaching on the Sabbath he sometimes visited some parishioner, who might be lying extremely low, for he found it good "to take a look over the verge."
In my pastoral rounds I sometimes had an opportunity to do more execution in a single talk than in a score of sermons. I once spent an evening in a vain endeavor to bring a man to a decision for Christ. Before I left, he took me up-stairs to the nursery, and showed me his beautiful children in their cribs. I said to him tenderly: "Do you mean that these sweet children shall never have any help from their father to get to Heaven?" He was deeply moved, and in a month that man became an active member of my church. He was glued to me in affection for all the remainder of his useful life. On a cold winter evening I made a call on a wealthy merchant in New York. As I left his door, and the piercing gale swept in I said, "What an awful night for the poor!" He went back, and bringing to me a roll of bank bills, he said: "Please hand these, for me, to the poorest people you know of." After a few days I wrote to him, sending him the grateful thanks of the poor whom his bounty had relieved, and added: "How is it that a man who is so kind to his fellow creatures has always been so unkind to his Saviour as to refuse Him his heart?" That sentence touched him in the core. He sent for me immediately to come and converse with him. He speedily gave his heart to Christ, united with, and became a most useful member of our church. But he told me I was the first person who had ever spoken to him about his spiritual welfare in nearly twenty years. In the case of this eminently effective and influential Christian, one hour of pastoral work did more than the pulpit efforts of almost a lifetime.
SOME FAMOUS PREACHERS IN BRITAIN.
Binney.—Hamilton—Guthrie.—Hall.—Spurgeon.—Duff and others
In attempting to recall my recollections of the eminent preachers whom I have known, I hardly know where to begin, or where to call a halt. I shall confine myself entirely to those who are no longer living, except as they may live in the memory of the service they wrought for their Divine Master and their fellow men. When I first visited London, in early September, 1842, the two ministers most widely known to Americans were Henry Melvill and Thomas Binney. Melvill was the most popular preacher in the Established Church. His place of worship was out at Camberwell, and I found it so packed that I had to get a seat on one of the steps in the gallery. He was a man of elegant bearing, and rolled out his ornate sentences in a somewhat theatrical tone, but the hushed audience drank in every syllable greedily. The splendid and thoroughly evangelical sermons which he orated most carefully were exceedingly popular in those days, and even yet they are well worth reading as superb specimens of lofty, devout and resonant oratory. On a very warm Sabbath evening I went into the business end of London to the "Weigh House Chapel" and heard Dr. Thomas Binney. He was the leader of Congregationalism, as Melvill was of the Church of England. On that warm evening the audience was small, but the discourse was prodigiously large. Binney had a kingly countenance, and a most unique delivery. His topic was Psalm 147th, 3d and 4th verses. "God is the Creator of the universe, and the comforter of the sorrowing." He thrust one hand into his breeches pocket, and then ran his other hand through his hair, and began his sermon with the stirring words: "The Jew has conquered the world!" This was the prelude to a grand eulogy of the Psalms of David. He then unfolded the first part of his text in a most original style, made a long pause, scratched his head again, and said: "Now then, let us take some new thoughts, and then we are done." The closing portion of the rich discourse was on the tender consolations of our Heavenly Father.
Thirty years afterwards Dr. Binney was invited to meet me at breakfast at the house of Dr. Hall, with "Tom Hughes," Dr. Henry Allon and other notabilities. The noble veteran chatted very serenely, and offered a most majestic prayer while he remained sitting in his arm-chair. His physical disabilities made it difficult for him to stand; and very soon afterwards the grand old man went up to his crown. When I was spending two delightful days with Dr. McLaren, of Manchester, I described to him Binney's remarkable sermon. "Were you there that night?" inquired McLaren. "So was I, and though only a boy of sixteen, I remember the whole of that discourse to this hour." It was certainly a rare pulpit power that could fasten a discourse in two different memories for a whole half century.
Do many of the Londoners of this day remember Dr. James Hamilton, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Regent's Square? They should do so, for in his time he was the most popular devotional writer of both sides of the Atlantic; and during my visit to London, in 1857, I was very happy to form his acquaintance. He was a most cordial and charming man, slender, tall, with dark eyes and hair, and a beaming countenance. When one entered Hamilton's study he would hurry forward, seize his hands, and taking both in his, reply to your "How do you do, sir," with "Come in, come in; I am nicely, I assure ye." Would that all ministers were as cordial and approachable. When I attended his church in Regent Square they were singing, when I came in, a Psalm from the old Scotch Version. The choristers sat in a desk below the pulpit. The singing was general through the church, and excellent in style. Dr. Hamilton preached in a gown, and, as the heat grew oppressive in the middle of his sermon, threw it off. The discourse was delivered with extremely awkward gestures, but in a voice of great sweetness. The text was: "My soul thirsteth for the Living God." He described an arid wilderness, hot and parched, and down beneath it a mighty vein of water into which an artesian well was bored, and forthwith the waters gushed up through it and swept over all the dry desert, making it one emerald meadow. "So," said he, "it is the incarnate Jesus flowing up through our own dusty, barren desert humanity, and overflowing us with Heavenly life and grace, until what was once dreary and dead becomes a fruitful garden of the Lord." The discourse was like a chapter from one of Hamilton's savory volumes. Five years afterwards, I dined with Hamilton, and the Rev. William Arnot (who afterwards was his biographer), and I went to his church to deliver the preparatory discourse to the sacrament on the next Sabbath.
On my way up to London, I halted one night at Birmingham, and while out on a stroll, came upon the City Hall, which was crowded with a great meeting in aid of foreign missions. The heroic Robert Moffat, the Apostle of South Africa, was addressing the multitude, who cheered him in the old English fashion. Two years before that, Robert Moffat had met a young man in a boarding house in Aldersgate Street, London, and induced him to become a missionary in Africa. The young man was the sublimest of all modern missionaries, David Livingstone. Two years after that evening, Livingstone married Miss Mary Moffat (daughter of the man to whom I was listening), in South Africa, and she became the sharer of his trials and explorations. After Moffat had concluded his speech, a broad-shouldered, merry-faced man, with thick grey hair rose on the platform. "Who is that?" I inquired of my next neighbor. With a look of surprise that I should ask such a question in Birmingham, he said: "It is John Angell James." He was the man whom Dr. Cox wittily described as "An angel vinculated between two Apostles." He spoke very forcibly, in a hearty, humorous vein, and I could hardly understand how such a jovial old gentleman could be the author of such a serious work as "The Anxious Inquirer." But I have since discovered that many of the most solemn and impressive preachers were men of most cheery temperament who could laugh heartily themselves when they were not making other people weep. Mr. James looked like an old sea captain; but he was an admirable pilot of awakened souls, whom thousands will bless through all eternity.
Dr. Thomas Guthrie, of Edinburgh, was once pronounced by the London Times to be "The most eloquent man in Europe." Ruskin, Thackeray, Macaulay, and other men of renown joined in the crowd that thronged St. John's Church when they were in Edinburgh; and a highland drover was once so excited that in the middle of a powerful sermon he called out: "Naw, sirs, heard ye ever the like o' that?" My good wife made a run to Edinburgh while I was stopping behind in England, and on her return to me almost her first word was, "I have heard Guthrie; I am spoiled for every one else as long as I live." Guthrie, "Lang Tam" (as the toughs on the "Cowgate" in Edinburgh used to call him), was built for a great orator. He was more than six feet high, and would be picked out in any crowd as one of God's royal family. I once said to him: "You remind us Americans of our famous statesman, Henry Clay," There was a striking resemblance in the long-armed figure, the broad mouth and lofty brow, and still more in the rich melody of voice, and magnetic rush of electric eloquence, "There must certainly be a personal likeness," replied the Doctor, "for not long ago I went into the house of Mr. Norris, who came here from America, and said to myself, 'There is my portrait on the wall,' but when I came nearer I espied under it the name of 'Henry Clay.'" He used to say that in preaching he aimed at the three P's: Prove, Paint and Persuade. His painting with the tongue was as vivid as Rembrandt's painting with the brush. When I went to Edinburgh, in 1872, as a delegate to the two Presbyterian General Assemblies, Dr. Guthrie invited me to dine with him, and the gifted Dr. John Ker, of Glasgow, was in the company. After dinner, Guthrie literally took the floor, and poured out a flow of charming talk, interspersed with racy Scotch anecdotes. Among others told was one about the old Highland woman who said to him: "Doctor, nane of your modern improvements for me. I want naething but good old Dauvid's Psalms, and I want'em all sung to Dauvid's tunes, too." On the evening when I addressed the Free Church Assembly, I was obliged to pass, on my way to the platform, the front bench, on which sat the veteran missionary, Alexander Duff, Principal Rainy, William Arnot, Dr. Guthrie and two or three other celebrities. I have not run such a gauntlet on a single bench in my life. When I had finished my address, Guthrie, clad in his gray overcoat, leaped up, and kindly grasped my hand, and I went back to my seat feeling an indescribable relief. Dr. Guthrie a short time after attempted to visit our country, but was arrested at Queenstown by a difficulty of the heart, and returned to Scotland, and lived but a short time afterwards.
Sly personal acquaintance with Newman Hall began during the darkest period of our Civil War, in August, 1862 Up to that time I had only known him as the author of that pithy and pellucid little booklet, "Come to Jesus," which has belted the globe in forty languages, and been published to the number of nearly 4,000,000 of copies. When our Civil War broke out, Dr. Hall (with John Bright and Foster and Goldwin Smith) threw himself earnestly on the side of our Union He made public speeches for our cause over all England, and opened his house for parlor meetings addressed by loyal Americans who happened to be in London. He invited me to address one of these gatherings, but the necessity of my return home prevented my acceptance. Two years after the close of the war he made his first visit to the United States. He was received with enthusiastic ovations. Union Leagues gave him public welcomes, Congress invited him to preach in the House of Representatives; he delivered an address to the Bostonians on Bunker Hill; and every denomination, including the Episcopalians and Quakers, opened their pulpits to him everywhere. But the crowning act of his unique Americanism was the erection of the "Lincoln Tower" on his Church in London, as a tribute to Negro Emancipation, and a memorial to International amity. The love that existed between my brother, Dr. Hall, and myself was like the love of David and Jonathan. The letters that passed between us would number up into the hundreds, and his epistles had the sweet savor of "Holy Rutherford," When he was in America, my house was his home, when I was in London, I spent no small part of my time in his delightful "Vine House," up on Hampstead Hill. The house remains in the possession of his wife, a lady of high culture, intellectual gifts and of most devout piety. One reason for the close intimacy between my British brother and myself was that we were perfectly agreed on every social, civil and religious question, and we never had a chance to sharpen our wits on the hone of controversy. Our theology was all from the same Book, and our main purposes in life were similar. Many of my American readers heard Dr. Hall preach during some one of his three visits to the United States. What marrowy, soul-quickening sermons he poured forth in a clear, musical voice, and with a most earnest persuasiveness. Preaching was as easy to him as breathing. Including the Sabbath, he delivered seven or eight sermons in a week. Undoubtedly he delivered more discourses than any ordained minister during the nineteenth century. Peers and peasants, scholars and dwellers in the slums alike enjoyed his preaching of God's message to immortal souls. His favorite theme was the sin-atoning work of Christ Jesus; and the numbers converted under his faithful preaching were exceedingly great. One of his discourses in this country on "Jehovah Jireh," was especially helpful, and one on "Touching the Hem of Christ's Garment," was a gem of spiritual beauty. He generally maintained an even flow of evangelical thought, but sometimes he rose into a burst of thrilling eloquence, as he did in Mr. Beecher's church, when he made his noble appeal for Union between England and America. From his youth he was fond of street preaching. I have seen him gather a crowd, and hold them attentively while he sowed a few seeds of truth in their hearts.
I wish I had the space to describe some of the foregatherings that I have had with my twin brother in the Gospel. We visited Italy together, preached to "the Saints that are in Rome," and went down into that room in the sub-basement of St. Clement's where Paul is believed to have held meetings with them that were of Caesar's household. We roamed out on the Appian Road, over which the great Apostle entered the Eternal City. So conscientious was my brother Hall in his teetotalism that though tired and thirsty, he never would touch the weak, common wine of the country, lest his example might be plead in favor of the drinking usages. We once went up to Olney and sat in Cowper's summer house, and entered John Newton's church, and the old sexton told Dr. Hall that he had been converted by "Come to Jesus." We went together to Stonehenge, and as we passed over Salisbury Plain we recalled Hannah Moore's famous shepherd who said: "The weather to-morrow will be what suits me, for what suits God, suits me always." We spent a very delightful couple of days in rowing down the romantic river Wye, stopping for lunch at Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey. In his home he was a hospitable Gaius, with open doors and hearts to friends from all lands. He had the merry sportiveness of a schoolboy, and when our long talks in his study were over, he would seize his hat and the chain of his pet dog, and cry out: "Come, brother, come, and let us have a tramp over the Heath." He was a prodigious pedestrian, and at three score and ten he held his own over a Swiss glacier, with the members of the Alpine Club. He had hoped to equal his famous predecessor, Rowland Hill, and preach till he was ninety; but when he was near his eighty-sixth birthday he was stricken with paralysis, and never left his bed again. Those last two weeks were spent in the "Land of Beulah," and in full view of "The Celestial City." When asked if he suffered pain, he replied: "I have no pain, and nothing to disturb the solemnity of dying." On the morning of February fourteenth he passed peacefully over the river, and, as Bunyan said of old Valiant-for-the-Truth, "The trumpets sounded for him on the other side." No monarch on his throne is so to be envied as he who now wears that celestial crown.
Can anything new be said about Charles H. Spurgeon? Perhaps not, and yet I should be guilty of injustice to myself and to my readers if I failed to pay my love tribute to the most extraordinary preacher of the pure Gospel to all Christendom whom England produced in the last century.
I heard him when he was a youth of twenty-two years, in his Park Street Chapel; I heard him several times when he was at the zenith of his vigor; I spent many a happy hour with him in his charming home. On my last visit there I had a "good cry" when I saw his empty chair in its old place in the study. I did not form any personal acquaintance with him until the summer of 1872, and it soon ripened into a most warm and cordial friendship. On each of my visits to London since that time I have enjoyed an afternoon with him at his home. His first residence was Helensburg House in Nightingale Road, Clapham, a Southwest District of London. That beautiful home was his only, luxury; but he spent none of his ample income on any sort of social enjoyment, and what did not go for household expenses went for the support of his many religious enterprises. On my first visit to him he greeted me in his free and easy, open-handed way. I noticed that he was growing stouter than ever. "In me," he jocularly said, "that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing," We spent a joyous hour in his well filled library; he showed me fifteen stately volumes of his printed sermons which have since been more than doubled, besides several of his works translated into French, German, Swedish, Dutch and other languages. The most interesting object in the library was a small file of his sermon notes, each one on a half sheet of note paper, or on the back of an ordinary letter envelope. When I asked him if he "wrote his sermons out," his answer was: "I would rather be hung." His usual method was to select the text of his Sunday morning sermon on Saturday about six or seven o'clock, and spend half an hour in arranging a skeleton and put it on paper; he left all the phraseology until he reached the pulpit. During Sunday afternoon he repeated the same process in preparing his evening discourse. "If I had a month assigned me for preparing a sermon," said he to me, "I would spend thirty days and twenty-three hours on something else and in the last hour I would make the sermon, and if I could not do it then I could not do it in a month."
This sounds like a risky process, but it must be remembered that if Spurgeon occupied but a few minutes in arranging a discourse he spent five days of every week in thoroughly studying God's Word—in thorough thinking—and in the perusal of the richest old writers on theology and experimental religion.
He was all the time, and everywhere filling up his cask, so that he had only to turn the spigot and out flowed the pure Gospel in the most transparent language. A stenographer took down the sermon, and it was revised by Mr. Spurgeon on Monday morning. He told me that for many years he went to his pulpit under such nervous agitation that it often brought on violent attacks of vomiting and produced outbreaks of perspiration, and he slowly outgrew that remarkable sort of physical suffering.
Twenty years ago Mr. Spurgeon exchanged Helensburgh House for the still more elegant mansion called "Westwood" on Beulah Hill, near Crystal Palace, Sydenham. It is a rural paradise. At each of the visits I paid him there, he used to come out with his banged-up soft hat, which he wore indoors half of the time, and with a merry jest on his lips. On my last visit, accompanied by my brother Hall, I found him suffering severely from his neuralgic malady, but it did not affect his buoyant humor. When I told him that my catarrhal deafness was worse than ever, he replied: "Well, brother, console yourself with the thought that in these days there is very little worth hearing." He took my brother Hall, and myself out into his garden and conservatory and down to a rustic arbor, where we sat down and told stories. There were twelve acres of land attached to "Westwood," and he had us into the meadow, where we laid down in the freshly mowed hay and inhaled its fragrance. Mrs. Spurgeon, a most gifted and charming lady, had a dozen cows and the profits of her dairy then supported a missionary in London; and the milk was sent around the neighborhood in a wagon labeled, "Charles H. Spurgeon, Milk Dealer." After our return, the great preacher showed us a portfolio of caricatures of himself from Punch and other publications. At six o'clock we took supper and then came family worship—all the servants being present Mr. Spurgeon followed my prayer with the most wonderful prayer that perhaps I have ever heard from human lips, and I said afterwards to my friend Hall, "To-night we got into 'the hidings of his power,' for a man who can pray like that can outpreach the world." In the soft hour of the gloaming we took our leave, and he went off to prepare his sermon for the morrow.
Spurgeon's power lay in a combination of half a dozen great qualities. He was the master of a vigorous Saxon English style, the style of Cobbett and Bunyan and the old English Bible. He possessed a most marvelous memory—it held the whole Bible in solution; it retained all the valuable truth he had acquired during his immensely wide readings and it enabled him to recognize any person whom he ever met before. Once, however, he met for the second time a Mr. Partridge and called him "Partridge." Quick as a flash he said: "Pardon me, sir, I did not intend to make game of you," He was a man of one Book, and had the most implicit faith in every jot and tittle of God's Word. He preached it without defalcation or discount, and this prodigious faith made his preaching immensely tonic. His sympathies with all mankind were unbounded, and the juices of his nature were enough to float an ark full of living creatures. Joined to these gifts was a marvelous voice of great sweetness, and a homely mother-wit that bubbled out in all his talk and often in his sermons. Mightiest of all was his power of prayer, and his inner life was hid with Christ in God. As an organizer he had great executive abilities. His Orphanage, dozen missionary schools and theological training school will be among his enduring monuments. The last sermon I ever heard him deliver was in Dr. Newman Hall's church on a week evening. He came hobbling into the study, his face the picture of suffering. He said to me, "Brother Cuyler, if I break down, won't you take up the service and go on with it?" I told him that he would forget his pains the moment he got under way, and so it was, for he delivered a most nutritious discourse to us. When the service was over, he limped off to his carriage, wrapped himself in the huge cushions, and drove away seven miles to his home at Upper Norwood. That was the last time I ever saw my beloved friend.
It seems strange that I shall never behold that homely, honest countenance again; and since that time, London has hardly seemed to be London without him. It is a cause for congratulation that his son, the Reverend Thomas Spurgeon, is so successfully carrying forward the great work of his sainted father. If my readers would like a sample taste of the pure Spurgeonic it is to be found in this passage which he delivered to his theological students: "Some modern divines whittle away the Gospel to the small end of nothing; they make our Divine Lord to be a sort of blessed nobody; they bring down salvation to mere possibility; they make certainties into probabilities and treat verities as mere opinions. When you see a preacher making the Gospel smaller by degrees, and miserably less, till there is not enough of it left to make soup for a sick grasshopper, get you gone with him! As for me, I believe in an infinite God, an infinite atonement, infinite love and mercy, an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure, and of which the substance and reality is an Infinite Christ."
I once asked Dr. James McCosh, who was the greatest preacher he ever heard. He replied, "Of course, it was my Edinboro Professor, Dr. Chalmers, but the grandest display of eloquence I ever listened to was Dr. Alexander Duff's famous Plea for Foreign Missions, delivered before the Scottish General Assembly at a date previous to the disruption," I can say Amen to Dr. McCosh, for the most overpowering oratory that I ever heard was Duff's great missionary speech in the Broadway Tabernacle during his visit to America. In the immense crowd were two hundred ministers and the foremost laymen of the city. When the great missionary arose (he was then in the prime of his power), his first appearance was not impressive, for his countenance had no beauty and his gestures were grotesquely awkward. With one arm he huddled his coat up to his shoulder, with the other he sawed the air incontinently, and when intensely excited, he leapt several inches from the floor as if about to precipitate himself over the desk. All these eccentricities were forgotten when once the great heart began to open its treasures to us, and the subject of his resistless oratory began to enchain our souls. In his vivid description of "Magnificent India" its dusky crowds and its ancient temples, with its northern mountains towering to the skies; its dreary jungles haunted by the tiger; its crystalline salt fields flashing in the sun; and its Malabar hills redolent with the richest spices, were all spread out before us like a panorama.
When the Doctor had completed the survey of India, he opened his batteries on the sloth and selfishness of too many of Christ's professed followers; he poured contempt upon the men who said: "They are not so green as to waste their money on the farce of Foreign Missions." "No, no, indeed," he continued, "they are not green, for greenness implies verdure, and beauty, and there is not a single atom of verdure in their parched and withered up souls." Under the burning satire and mellowing pathos of his tremendous appeal for heathendom, tears welled out from every eye in the house. I leaned over toward the reporter's table; many of the reporters had flung down their pens—they might as well have attempted to report a thunder storm. As the orator drew near his close, he seemed like one inspired; his face shone as if it were, the face of an angel. Never before did I so fully realize the overwhelming power of a man who has become the embodiment of one great idea—who makes his lips the mere outlet for the mighty truth bursting from his heart. After nearly two hours of this inundation of eloquence, he concluded with the quotation of Cowper's magnificent verse,
"One song employs all nations," etc
With the utmost vehemence he rung out the last line:
"Earth rolls the rapturous Hosanna round."
He could not check his headway, and repeated the line a second time, louder than before, and then with a tremendous voice that made the walls reverberate, he shouted once more:
"Earth rolls the rapturous Hosanna round!"
and sunk back breathless and exhausted into his chair. "Shut up now this Tabernacle," exclaimed Dr. James W. Alexander. "Let no man dare speak here after that."
SOME FAMOUS AMERICAN PREACHERS.
The Alexanders.—Dr. Tyng.—Dr. Cox.—Dr. Adams.—Dr. Storrs.—Mr. Beecher.—Mr. Finney and Dr. B.M. Palmer.
The necessary limitations of this chapter forbid any reference to many distinguished American preachers whom I have seen or heard, but with whom I had not sufficient personal acquaintance to furnish any material for personal reminiscences. In common with multitudes of others on both sides of the ocean, I had a hearty admiration for the brilliant genius and masterful sermons of Phillips Brooks, but I only heard two of his rapid and resonant addresses on anniversary occasions, and my acquaintance with him was very slight. I heard only one discourse by that remarkable combination of preacher, poet, patriot and philosopher, Dr. Horace Bushnell, of Hartford,—his discourse on "Barbarism the Chief Danger," delivered before the "Home Missionary Society." His sermon on "Unconscious Influence," was enough to confer immortality on any minister of Jesus Christ. I never was acquainted with him, but after his death, I suggested to the residents of New Preston, that they should name the mountain that rises immediately behind the home of his childhood and youth, Mount Bushnell. The villagers assented to my proposal, and the State Legislature ratified their act by ordering that name to be placed on the maps of Connecticut. In this chapter, as in the previous one, I shall give my recollections only of those who have ended their career of service, and entered into their reward.
During the six years that I spent in Princeton College and in the Seminary (between 1838 and 1846) I came into close acquaintance with, and I heard very often, the two great orators of the Alexander family. Dr. Archibald Alexander, the father of a famous group of sons, was a native of Virginia—had listened to Patrick Henry in his youth; had married the daughter of the eloquent "Blind Preacher," Rev. James Waddell, and even when as a young minister he had preached in Hanover, New Hampshire. Daniel Webster, then a student in Dartmouth College, predicted his future eminence. The students in the Seminary were wont to call him playfully, "The Pope," for we had unbounded confidence in his sanctified common-sense. I always went to him for counsel. His insight into the human heart was marvelous; and in the line of close experimental preaching, he has not had his equal since the days of President Edwards. He put the impress of his powerful personality on a thousand ministers who graduated from Princeton Seminary.
In his lecture-desk and in the pulpit he was simplicity itself. His sermons were like the waters of Lake George, so pellucid that you could see every bright pebble far down in the depths; a child could comprehend him, yet a sage be instructed by him. His best discourses were extemporaneous, and he had very little gesture, except with his forefinger, which he used to place under his chin, and sometimes against his nose in a very peculiar manner. With a clear piping voice and colloquial style he held his audience in rapt attention, disdaining all the tricks of sensational oratory. Twice I heard him deliver his somewhat celebrated discourse on "The Day of Judgment;" it was a masterpiece of solemn eloquence, in which sublimity and simplicity were combined in a way that I have never seen equaled He used to say that the right course for an old man to keep his mind from senility was to produce some piece of composition every day; and he continued to write his practical articles for the religious press until he was almost four-score. What an impressive funeral was his on that bright October afternoon, in 1851, when two hundred ministers gathered in that Westminster Abbey of Presbyterianism, the Princeton Cemetery! His ashes slumber beside those of Witherspoon, Davies, Hodge, McCosh and Jonathan Edwards.
Among the six sons who stood that day beside that grave, the most brilliant by far was the third son, Joseph Addison Alexander. Dr. Charles Hodge said of him: "Taking him all in all, he was the most gifted man with whom I have ever been personally acquainted," In childhood, such was his precocity that he knew the Hebrew alphabet at six years of age (I am afraid that some ministers do not know it at sixty); and he could read Latin fluently when he was only eight! Of his wonderful feats of memory I could give many illustrations; one was that on the day that I was matriculated in the Seminary with fifty other students, Professor Alexander went over to Dr. Hodge's study, and repeated to him every one of our names! When using manuscript in the pulpit, he frequently turned the leaves backward instead of forward, for he knew all the sermon by heart! His commentaries—quite too few—remain as monuments of his profound scholarship, and some of his articles in the Princeton Review sparkled with the keenest wit.
Oh, how his grandest sermons linger still in my memory after three-score years—like the far-off music of an Alpine horn floating from the mountain tops! His physique was remarkable, he had the ruddy cheeks of a boy, and his square intellectual head we students used to say "looked like Napoleon's." His voice was peculiarly melodious, especially in the pathetic passages; his imagination was vivid in fine imagery, and he had an unique habit of ending a long sentence in the words of his text, which chained the text fast to our memories. The announcement of his name always crowded the church in Princeton, and he was flooded with invitations to preach in the most prominent churches of New York, Philadelphia, and other cities. One of his most powerful and popular sermons was on the text, "Remember Lot's Wife;" and he received so many requests to repeat that sermon that he said to his brother James in a wearied tone, "I am afraid that woman will be the death of me."
There may still be old Philadelphians who can recall the magnificent series of discourses which Professor Alexander delivered during the winter of 1847 in the pulpit of Dr. Henry A. Boardman, while Dr. Boardman was in Europe. The church was packed every Sabbath evening, clear to the outer door, and many were unable to find room even in the aisles. Dr. Alexander was then in his splendid prime. His musical voice often swelled into a volume that rolled out through the doorway and reached the passerby on the sidewalk! During that winter he pronounced all his most famous sermons—on "The Faithful Saying," on "The City with Foundations," on "Awake, Thou that Sleepest!" and on "The Broken and Contrite Heart." It was after hearing this latter most original and pathetic discourse that an eminent man exclaimed, "No such preaching as that has been heard in this land since the days of Dr. John M. Mason." I enjoy the perusal of the rich, unique, and spiritual sermons of my beloved professor and friend; but no one who reads them can realize what it was to listen to Joseph Addison Alexander in his highest and holiest inspirations.
Was Albert Barnes a great preacher? Yes; if it is a great thing for a man to hold a large audience of thoughtful and intelligent people in solemn attention while he proclaims to them the weightiest and vitalest of truths—then was Mr. Barnes a great ambassador of the Lord Jesus Christ. He combined modesty and majesty to a remarkable degree. He had a commanding figure, keen eye, handsome features, and a clear distinct voice; but so diffident was he that he seldom looked about over his congregation and rarely made a single gesture. His simple rule of homiletics was, have something to say, and then say it. He stood up in his pulpit and delivered his calm, clear, strong, spiritual utterances with scarcely a trace of emotion, and the hushed assembly listened as if they were listening to one of the oracles of God. His best sermons were like a great red anthracite coal bed, with no flash, but kindled through and through with the fire of the Holy Spirit Bashful, too, as he was, he denounced popular sins with an intrepidity displayed by but few ministers in our land. In the temperance reform he was an early pioneer. For Albert Barnes I felt an intense personal attachment; he was my ideal of a fearless, godly-minded herald of evangelical truth; and he had begun his public ministry in Morristown, N.J., the home of my maternal ancestry, and in the church in which my beloved mother had made her confession of faith. When our Lafayette Avenue Church was dedicated—just forty years ago—I urged him to deliver the discourse; but he hesitated to preach extemporaneously, and his sight was so impaired that he could not use a manuscript. At the age of seventy-two he was suddenly and sweetly translated to heaven. Over the whole English-speaking world his name was familiar as a plain teacher of God's Word in very spiritual commentaries.
A half century ago Dr. William B. Sprague, of Albany, was in the front rank of Presbyterian preachers. His fine presence, his richly melodious voice, his graceful style and fresh, practical evangelical thought made him so popular that he was in demand everywhere for special occasions and services. He was a marvel of industry. While preparing his voluminous "Annals of the American Pulpit," and conducting an enormous correspondence, he never omitted the preparation of new sermons for his own flock. With that flock he lived and labored for forty years, and when he resigned his charge (in 1869) he told me that when removing from Albany, he buried his face and streaming eyes with his hands, for he could not endure the farewell look at the city of his love. When I first heard him in my student days I thought him an almost faultless pulpit orator, and when he and the young and ardent Edward N. Kirk stood side by side in Albany, no town in the land contained two nobler specimens of the earnest, persuasive and eloquent Presbyterian preachers.
When I came to New York as pastor of the Market Street Church, in 1853, the most conspicuous minister in the city was the rector of St. George's Episcopal Church on Stuyvesant Square. Every Sabbath the superb and spacious edifice was thronged. It was quite "the thing" for strangers who came to New York to go and hear Dr. Tyng. Even on Sunday afternoons the house was filled; for at that service he preached what he called "sermons to the children"—but they were not only sprightly, simple and vivacious enough to attract the young, they also contained an abundance of strong meat for persons of older growth. He was an enthusiast in Sunday school work—had 2,500 scholars in his mission schools, and possessed an unsurpassed power in nailing the ears of the young to his pulpit.
Dr. Tyng was the acknowledged leader of the "Low Church" wing of Episcopacy in this country, both during his ministry in the Epiphany at Philadelphia, and in St. George's at New York. He edited their weekly paper, and championed their cause on all occasions. He was their candidate for the office of Bishop of Pennsylvania in 1845, and the contest was protracted through a long series of ballotings. It was urged, and not without some reason, that his impetuous temper and strong partisanship might make him a rather domineering overseer of the diocese. He possessed an indomitable will and pushed his way through life with the irresistible rush of a Cunarder under a full head of steam. His temper was naturally very violent. One Sabbath evening he was addressing my Sunday school in Market Street, and describing the various kinds of human nature by resemblances to various animals, the lion, the fox, the sloth, etc.: "Children," he exclaimed, "do you want to know what I am? I am by nature a royal Bengal tiger, and if it had not been for the grace of God to tame me, I fear that nobody could ever have lived with me." There was about as much truth as there was wit in the comparison. His congregation in St. George's knew his irrepressible temperament so well that they generally let him have his own way. If he wanted money for a church object or a cause of charity, he did not beg for it; he demanded it in the name of the Lord. "When I see Dr. Tyng coming up the steps of my bank," said a rich bank president to me, "I always begin to draw my cheque; I know he will get it, and it saves my time."
His leading position among Low Churchmen was won not only by his intellectual force and moral courage, but by his uncompromising devotion to evangelical doctrine. He belonged to the same school with Baxter, John Newton, Bickersteth, Simeon and Bedell. In England his intimate friends were the Earl of Shaftesbury, Dr. McNeill and others of the most pronounced evangelical type. The good old doctrines of redemption by the blood of Christ, and of regeneration by the Holy Spirit were his constant theme, and on these and kindred topics he was a delightful preacher.
Strong as he was in the pulpit, Dr. Tyng was the prince of platform orators. He had every quality necessary for the sway of a popular audience—fine elocution, marvelous fluency, piquancy, the courage of his convictions and a magnetism that swept all before him. His voice was very clear and penetrating, and he hurled forth his clean-cut sentences like javelins. A more fluent speaker I never heard; not Spurgeon or Henry Ward Beecher could surpass him in readiness of utterance. On one occasion the Broadway Tabernacle was crowded with a great audience that gathered to hear some celebrity; and the expected hero did not arrive. The impatient crowd called for "Tyng, Tyng;" and the rector of St. George's came forward, and on the spur of the moment delivered such a charming speech that the audience would not let him stop. For many years I spoke with him at meetings for city missions, total abstinence, Sunday schools and other benevolent enterprises. He used playfully to call me "one of his boys." At a complimentary reception given to J.B. Gough in Niblo's Hall, Mr. Beecher and myself delivered our talks, and then retired to the opposite end of the hall. Dr. Tyng took the rostrum with one of his swift magnetic speeches. I leaned over to Beecher and whispered, "That is splendid platforming, isn't it?" Beecher replied: "Yes, indeed it is. He is the one man that I am afraid of. When he speaks first I do not care to follow him, and if I speak first, then when he gets up I wish I had not spoken at all." Some of Dr. Tyng's most powerful addresses were in behalf of the temperance reform; he was a most uncompromising foe of both of the dram shop and of the drinking usages in polite society. He also denounced the theatre and the ball-room with the most Puritanic vehemence.
Dr. Stephen H. Tyng's chief power, like many other great preachers, was when he was on his feet. He should be heard and not read. Some of the discourses and addresses which enchained and thrilled his auditors seemed tame enough when reported for the press. In that respect he resembled Whitfield and Gough and many of our most effective stump speakers. The result was that Dr. Tyng's fame, to a great degree, perished with him. He published several books, of a most excellent and evangelical character, but they lacked the thunder and the lightning which make his uttered words so powerful, and probably none of his many books are much read to-day. The influence of his splendid and heroic personality was very great during a ministry of over fifty years, and the glorious work which he wrought for his Master will endure to all eternity.
To have heard Dr. William Adams of New York at his best was better than any lecture on "Homiletics"; to have met him at the fireside or in the sick room of one of his parishioners was a prelection in pastoral theology.
The first time that I ever saw him was fully fifty years ago; he was standing in the gallery of the old Broadway Tabernacle at an anniversary of the American Bible Society, and Dr. James W. Alexander pointed him out to me saying—"Yonder stands Dr. William Adams, he is the hardest student of us all." It was this honest incessant brain work that enabled him to sustain himself for forty years in one of the conspicuous pulpits of the largest city in the land. He always drew out of a full cask. Let young ministers lay this fact to heart. It was not by trick or happy luck, or by pyrotechnics of rhetoric that Dr. Adams won and kept his position in the forefront of metropolitan preachers. The "dead line of fifty" was not to be found on his intellectual atlas. One of the last talks with him that I now recall was on an early morning in Congress Park, Saratoga. He had a pocket Testament in his hand, and he said to me, "I find myself reading more and more the old books of my youth; I am enjoying just now Virgil's Eclogues, but nothing is so dear to me as my Greek Testament."
All of Dr. Adams' finest efforts were thoroughly prepared and committed to memory. He never risked a failure by attempting to shake a sermon or a speech "out of his sleeve." His memory was one of his greatest gifts. Sometimes when his soul was on fire, and his voice trembled with emotion, he rose into the region of lofty impassioned eloquence. His master effort on the platform was his address of welcome to the members of the "Evangelical Alliance" in 1873. How the foreign delegates—Doctors Stoughton, Christlieb, Dorner and the rest of them—did open their eyes that evening to the fact that a Yankee-born parson was, in elegant culture and polished oratory, a match for them all. Dr. Adams' speech "struck twelve" for the Alliance at the start; nothing during the whole subsequent sessions surpassed that opening address, although Beecher and Dr. Joseph Parker were both among the speakers. He closed the meeting of the Alliance in the Academy of Music with a prayer of wonderful fervor, pathos and beauty.
One of his grandest speeches was delivered before the Free Church General Assembly in Edinburgh—in May, 1871. Dr. Guthrie told me that he swept the assembly away by his stately bearing, sonorous voice and classic oratory. The men whom he moved so mightily were such men as Arnot and Guthrie and Rainy and Bonar,—the men who had listened to the grandest efforts of Duff and of Chalmers. I well remember that when I had to address the same assembly (as the American delegate) the next year I was more disturbed by the apparition of my predecessor, Dr. Adams, than by all the brilliant audience before me.
Dr. Adams was gifted with what is of more practical value than genius, and that was marvelous tact. That was with him an instinct and an inspiration. It led him to always speak the right word, and do the right thing at the right time. Personal politeness helped him also; for he was one of the most perfect gentlemen in America. That practical sagacity made him the leader of the "new school" branch of our church, during the delicate negotiations for reunion in 1867, and on to 1870. He knew human nature well, and never lost either his temper or his faith in the sure result. To-day when that old lamentable rupture of our beloved church is as much a matter of past history as the rupture of the Union during the civil war, let us gratefully remember George W. Musgrave, the pilot of the "old school" and William Adams, the pilot of the "new."
The last sermon that I ever heard Dr. Adams deliver was in my Lafayette Avenue Church pulpit a few years before his death. His text was the closing passage of the fourth chapter of Second Corinthians. The whole sermon was delivered with great majesty and tenderness. One illustration in it was sublime. He was comparing the "things which are seen and temporal" with the "things which are not seen and eternal." He described Mont Blanc enveloped in a morning cloud of mist. The vapor was the seen thing which was soon to pass away;—behind it was the unseen mountain, glorious as the "great white throne" which should stand unmoved when fifty centuries of mist had flown away into nothingness. This passage moved the audience prodigiously. Many sat gazing at the tall pale orator before them through their tears. The portrait of Dr. Adams hangs on my study wall—alongside of the portrait of Chalmers—and as I look at his majestic countenance now, I still seem to see him as on that Sabbath morning he stood before us, with the light of eternity beaming on his brow!
In the summer of 1845 I was strolling with my friend Littell (the founder of the Living Age), through the leafy lanes of Brookline, and we came to a tasteful church. "That," said Mr. Littell, "is the Harvard Congregational meeting house. They have lately called a brilliant young Mr. Storrs, who was once a law student with Rufus Choate; he is a man of bright promise." Two years afterward I saw and heard that brilliant young minister in the pulpit of the newly organized Church of the Pilgrims in Brooklyn. He had already found his place, and his throne. He made that pulpit visible over the continent. That church will be "Dr. Storrs' church" for many a year to come.
Had that superbly gifted law student of Choate gone to the bar he would inevitably have won a great distinction, and might have charmed the United States Senate by his splendid eloquence. Perhaps he learned from Choate some lessons in rhetoric and how to construct those long melodious sentences that rolled like a "Hallelujah chorus" over his delighted audiences. But young Storrs chose the better part, and no temptation of fame or pelf allured him from the higher work of preaching Jesus Christ to his fellow men. He was—like Chalmers and Bushnell and Spurgeon—a born preacher. Great as he was on the platform, or on various ceremonial occasions, he was never so thoroughly "at home" as in his own pulpit; his great heart never so kindled as when unfolding the glorious gospel of redeeming love. The consecration of his splendid powers to the work of the ministry helped to ennoble the ministry in the popular eye, and led young men of brains to feel that they could covet no higher calling.