One of the remarkable things in the career of Dr. Storrs was that by far the grandest portion of that career was after he had passed the age of fifty! Instead of that age being, as to many others, a "dead line," it was to him an intellectual birth line. He returned from Europe—after a year of entire rest—and then, like "a giant refreshed by sleep," began to produce his most masterly discourses and orations. His first striking performance was that wonderful address at the twenty-fifth anniversary of Henry Ward Beecher's pastorate in Plymouth Church, at the close of which Mr. Beecher gave him a grateful kiss before the applauding audience. Not long after that Dr. Storrs delivered those two wonderful lectures on the "Muscovite and the Ottoman." The Academy of Music was packed to listen to them; and for two hours the great orator poured out a flood of history and gorgeous description without a scrap of manuscript before him! He recalled names and dates without a moment's hesitation! Like Lord Macaulay, Dr. Storrs had a marvelous memory; and at the close of those two orations I said to myself, "How Macaulay would have enjoyed all this!" His extraordinary memory was an immense source of power to Dr. Storrs; and, although he had a rare gift of fluency, yet I have no doubt that some of his fine efforts, which were supposed to be extemporaneous, were really prepared beforehand and lodged in his tenacious memory.
Dean Stanley, on the day before he returned to England, said to me: "The man who has impressed me most is your Dr. Storrs." When I urged the pastor of the "Pilgrims" to go over to the great International Council of Congregationalists in London and show the English people a specimen of American preaching, his characteristic reply was, "Oh, I am tired of these show occasions," But he never grew tired of preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Bible his old father loved was the book of books that he loved, and no blasts of revolutionary biblical criticism ever ruffled a feather on the strong wing with which he soared heavenward. A more orthodox minister has not maintained the faith once delivered to the saints in our time than he for whom Brooklyn's flags were all hung at half-mast on the day of his death.
All the world knew that Richard S. Storrs possessed wonderful brain power, culture and scholarship; but only those who were closest to him knew what a big loving heart he had. Some of the sweetest and tenderest private letters that I ever received came from his ready pen. I was looking over some of them lately; they are still as fragrant as if preserved in lavender. His heart was a very pure fountain of noble thought, and of sweet, unselfish affection.
He died at the right time; his great work was complete; he did not linger on to outlive himself. The beloved wife of his home on earth had gone on before; he felt lonesome without her, and grew homesick for heaven. His loving flock had crowned him with their grateful benedictions; he waited only for the good-night kiss of the Master he served, and he awoke from a transient slumber to behold the ineffable glory. On the previous day his illustrious Andover instructor, Professor Edwards A. Park, had departed; it was fitting that Andover's most illustrious graduate should follow him; now they are both in the presence of the infinite light, and they both behold the King in His beauty!
Fifty years ago one of the most famous celebrities in the Presbyterian Church was Dr. Samuel Hanson Cox, famous for his linguistic attainments, for his wit and occasional eccentricities, and very famous for his bursts of eloquence on great occasions. He was at that time the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, and resided in the street where I am now writing (Oxford Street); and the street at the end of the block was named "Hanson Place" in honor of him. His large wooden mansion was then quite out of town, and was accordingly called "Rus Urban," In that house he wrote—for the New York Observer—the unique series of articles on New School Theology entitled "The Hexagon," and there he entertained, with his elegant courtesy and endless flow of wit and learning, many of the most eminent people who visited Brooklyn. The boys used to climb into his garden to steal fruit; and, as a menace, he affixed to his fence a large picture of a watch-dog, and underneath it a dental sign, "Teeth inserted here!" The old mansion was removed years ago.
In 1846 he was the moderator of the "new school" Presbyterian General Assembly. It was during the sessions of that assembly that the famous debate was waged for several days on the exciting question of negro slavery, and when some compromise resolutions were passed (for those were the days of compromise salves and plasters)—Dr. Cox rose and exclaimed, "Well, brethren, we have capped Vesuvius for another year," But "Vesuvius" would not stay capped, and in a few years one of its violent eruptions sundered the "new school" church in twain.
Dr. Cox was a vehement opponent of slavery, and his church in Laight Street was assailed by a mob, and he was roughly handled. In 1833 he was sent to England as the delegate to the British and Foreign Bible Society, and at their anniversary meeting he delivered one of the most brilliant speeches of his life. He came into the meeting a perfect stranger, while Dr. Hamilton, of Leeds, was uttering a fierce invective against American slavery. This aroused Dr. Cox's indignation, and when he was called on to speak he commenced with exquisite urbanity as follows: "My Lord Bexley, ladies and gentlemen! I have just landed from America. Thirty days ago I came down the bay of New York in the steam tug Hercules and was put on board of the good packet ship Samson—thus going on from strength to strength—from mythology to Scripture!" This bold and novel introduction brought down the house with a thunder of applause. After paying some graceful tributes to England and thus winning the hearts of his auditors, he suddenly turned towards Dr. Hamilton, and with the most captivating grace, he said: "I do not yield to my British brother in righteous abhorrence of the institution of negro slavery. I abhor it all the more because it was our disastrous inheritance from our English forefathers, and came down to us from the time when we were colonies of Great Britain! And now if my brother Hamilton will enact the part of Shem, I will take the place of Japhet, and we will walk backward and will cover with the mantle of charity the shame of our common ancestry," This sudden burst of wit, argument and eloquence carried the audience by storm, and they were obliged to applaud the "Yankee orator" in spite of themselves. I count this retort by Dr. Cox one of the finest in the annals of oratory. Several years afterwards he visited England as a delegate to the first Evangelical Alliance. It was attended by the foremost divines, scholars and religious leaders of both Britain and the continent; and a brief five-minutes' speech made by Dr. Cox was unanimously pronounced to have been the most splendid display of eloquence heard during the whole convocation.
He owed a great deal to his commanding figure, fine voice, and graceful elocution. His memory also was as marvelous as that of Dr. Storrs or Professor Addison Alexander. One night, for the entertainment of his fellow-passengers in a stagecoach, he repeated two cantos of Scott's poem of "Marmion"! I have heard him quote, in a public address before the New York University, a whole page of Cicero without the slip of a single word! His passion for polysyllables was very amusing, and he loved to astonish his hearers by his "sesquipedalian" phraseology. A certain visionary crank once intruded into his study and bored him with a long dissertation. Dr. Cox's patience was exhausted, and pointing to the door, he said: "My friend, do you observe that aperture in this apartment? If you do, I wish that you would describe rectilineals, very speedily."
I could fill several pages with racy anecdotes of the keen wit and the varied erudition of my venerable friend. But let none of my readers think of Dr. Cox as a clerical jester, or a pedant. He was a powerful and intensely spiritual preacher of the living Gospel. In his New York congregation were many of the best brains and fervent hearts to be found in that city, and some of the leading laymen revered him as their spiritual father. Sometimes he was betrayed into eccentricities, and his vivid imagination often carried him away into discursive flights; yet he never soared out of sight of Calvary's cross, and never betrayed the precious Gospel committed to his trust.
The first time that I ever saw Henry Ward Beecher was in 1848. He was then mustering his new congregation in the building once occupied by Dr. Samuel H. Cox. It was a weekly lecture service that I attended, by invitation of a lady who invited me to "go and hear our new-come genius from the West." The room was full, and at the desk stood a brown-cheeked young man with smooth-shaved face, big lustrous eyes, and luxuriant brown hair—with a broad shirt collar tied with a black ribbon. His text was "Grow in Grace," and he gave us a discourse that Matthew Henry could not have surpassed in practical pith, or Spurgeon in evangelical fervor. I used to tell Mr. Beecher that even after making full allowance for the novelty of a first hearing, I never heard him surpass that Wednesday evening lecture. He was plucking the first ripe grapes of his affluent vintage; his "pomegranates were in full flower, and the spikenard sent forth its fragrance." The very language of that savory sermon lingers in my memory yet.
During my ministry in New York—from 1853 to 1860—I became intimate with Mr. Beecher and spoke beside him on many a platform and heard him in some of his most splendid efforts. He was a fascinating companion, with the rollicking freedom of a schoolboy. I never shall forget an immense meeting—in behalf of a liquor prohibition movement—held in Triplet Hall. Mr. Beecher was at his best. In the midst of his speech, he suddenly discharged a bombshell against negro slavery which dynamited the audience and provoked a thunder of applause. For pure eloquence it was the finest outburst I ever heard from his lips. Like Patrick Henry, Clay, Guthrie, Spurgeon and other great masters of assemblies, he was gifted with a richly melodious voice—which was especially effective on the low and tender keys. This gave him great power in the pathetic portions of his discourses. Of his superabounding humor I need not speak. It bubbled out so naturally and spontaneously that he found it difficult to restrain it even on the most grave occasions. Sometimes he sinned against good taste, and I once heard his sister Catherine say that "Henry rarely delivered a speech or a sermon which did not contain something that grated on her ear." His most frequent offenses were in the direction of flippant handling of sacred themes and Scripture language. This he inherited from his illustrious father.
Mr. Beecher is generally regarded as an extemporaneous preacher. This is a mistake. He prepared most of his discourses carefully, and full one-half of many of them were written out. Among these written passages he interjected bursts of impromptu thoughts; and these were generally the most effective passages in the sermon. While he repeated himself often—especially on his favorite topic of God's love—yet it was always in fresh language and with new illustrations. Abraham Lincoln said to me, "The most marvelous thing about Mr. Beecher is his inexhaustible fertility."
During the Civil War he was at the acme of his power. He was then the peerless orator of Christendom. It was his intention (as he once told me) to resign his pastorate at the age of sixty and to devote the remainder of his life to a ministry at large. But the tempest of troubles which struck him about that time forbade his cherished design, and he continued at his post until the touch of death silenced the magic tongue. Nearly thirty years have elapsed since I sat by him on the crowning evening of his career, at his "silver anniversary," in 1873. As to his later utterances in theology, and on some questions of ethics, I dissented from my old friend conscientiously, and I expressed to him my dissent very candidly,—as becometh brethren. I am convinced that if there were more fraternal frankness between the living, there would be less hypocrisy over the departed.
Charles G. Finney was the acknowledged king of American evangelists until Dwight L. Moody came on the stage of action. They resembled each other in untiring industry, unflinching courage, unswerving devotion to the marrow of the Gospel, and unreserved consecration to the service of Christ. The secret of Finney's power was the fearless manner with which he drove God's word into the consciences of sinners—high or humble—and his perpetual reliance on the immediate presence of the Holy Spirit in his own soul. Emptied of self, he was filled with the Holy Spirit. His sermons were chain lightning, flashing conviction into the hearts of the stoutest sceptics, and the links of his logic were so compact that they defied resistance. Probably no minister in America ever numbered among his converts so many lawyers and men of intellectual culture.
Soon after commencing his law practice he was brought under the most intense conviction of sin; and the narrative of his conversion—as given in his autobiography—equals any chapter in John Bunyan's "Grace Abounding." After light and peace broke into his agonized soul, he burst into tears of joy, and exclaimed: "I am so happy that I cannot live," He began at once to converse with his neighbors about their souls. When a certain Deacon B. came into his office and reminded him that his cause was to be tried at ten o'clock that morning, Mr. Finney replied, "Deacon B., I have a retainer from the Lord Jesus Christ to plead His cause, and cannot plead yours." The deacon was thunderstruck, and went off and settled his suit with his antagonist immediately.
From that time a law office was no place for the fervid spirit of Charles G. Finney, and he resolved at once to prepare for the ministry.
Revivals followed his red-hot discourses wherever he went. At Auburn he declares that he had—during prayer in his own room—a wonderful vision in which God drew so near to him that his flesh trembled on his bones, and he shook from head to foot as if amid the thunderings of Sinai! He felt an assurance that God would sustain him against all his enemies; and then there came a "great lifting up," and a sweet calm followed after the agitation. Such extraordinary spiritual experiences occurred quite often during his career as a revivalist, and they remind one strikingly of similar experiences of John Bunyan—to whom Finney bore a certain degree of resemblance. At Rochester many of the leading lawyers were attracted by his bold and logical style of speech; and among his converts there was the distinguished jurist, Addison Gardner. It was during his ministry in New York that he delivered his celebrated "Lectures on Revivals," which were reprinted abroad and translated into several foreign languages. Of all Mr. Finney's published productions, these lectures are the most characteristic. Often extravagant in their rhetoric, and sometimes rather reckless in theological statements, they contain a mine of pungent truth which every young minister ought to possess and to peruse very often. I shall never cease to thank God for the inspiration they have imparted to my own humble ministry; and they have had a place in my library close beside the "Pilgrim's Progress," and the biographies of Payson and McCheyne, and the soul-quickening sermons of Bushnell, Addison Alexander and Dr. McLaren.
After his extended evangelistic labors in various cities, Mr. Finney was appointed to a theological chair in the newly organized college at Oberlin, Ohio. From this post, his irrepressible desire to kindle revivals and to save souls often called him away, and he conducted two famous evangelistic campaigns in Great Britain. He was the first man to introduce American revivalistic methods into England and Scotland; but his labors were never as wide, as influential, and generally acceptable there as the subsequent labors of Messrs. Moody and Sankey. Forty years of his busy and heaven-blessed life were spent at Oberlin, where he impressed his powerful personality on a multitude of students of both sexes; few religious teachers in America have ever moulded so many lives, or had their opinions echoed from so many pulpits.
With all my admiration of President Finney's character, I could not—as a loyal Princetonian—subscribe to some of his peculiar opinions. It was, therefore, with great surprise that I received from him a letter in 1873 (two years before his death) which contained the startling proposal that I should be his successor in the college pulpit at Oberlin! He wrote to me: "I think that there is no more important field of ministerial labor in the world. I know that you have a great congregation in Brooklyn, and are mightily prospered in your labors, but your flock does not contain a thousand students pursuing the higher branches of education from year to year. Surely your field in Brooklyn is not more important than mine was at the Broadway Tabernacle in New York, nor can your people be more attached to you than mine were to me." This letter—although its kind overture was promptly declined—was a gratifying proof that the once bitter controversies between "old school" and "new school" had become quite obsolete. When I mentioned this letter to my beloved Princeton instructor, Dr. Charles Hodge, a few weeks before his death, he simply remarked that "his Brother Finney had become very sweet and mellow in his later years." And long before this time the two great antagonistic theologians may have clasped hands in heaven.
The closing years of President Finney's useful life were indeed mellow and most lovable. In the days of his prime he had a commanding form, a striking face and a clear, incisive style of speech. Simple as a child in his utterances, he sometimes startled his hearers by his unique prayers. For example, he was one day driven from his study at Oberlin by a refractory stovepipe which persisted in tumbling down. At family worship in the evening he said "Oh, Lord! thou knowest how the temper of Thy servant has been tried to-day by that stovepipe!" Several other expressions, quite as quaint and as piquant, might be quoted, if the limits of this brief sketch would permit. What would be deemed irreverent if spoken by some lips never sounded irreverent when uttered by such a natural, fearless and yet devout a spirit as Charles G. Finney. He retained his erect, manly form, his fresh enthusiasm and intellectual vigor, to the ripe old age of eighty-three. On a calm Sabbath evening—in August, 1875—he walked in his garden and listened to the music from a neighboring church. Retiring to his chamber, the messenger from his Master met him in the midnight hours, and before the morning dawned his glorified spirit was before the throne! His is the crown of one who turned many to righteousness.
While I am writing this chapter of ministerial reminiscences, I receive the sorrowful tidings that my dear old friend, Dr. Benjamin M. Palmer, of New Orleans—the prince of Southern preachers—has closed his illustrious career. To the last his splendid powers were unabated,—and last year (although past eighty-three) he delivered one of his greatest sermons before the University of Georgia! His massive discourses, based on God's word, were a solid pile of concinnate argument, illuminated with the divine light, and glowing with the divine love shed abroad in his heart. In the spring of 1887, Mrs. Cuyler and myself visited New Orleans, and I cared more to see Dr. Palmer than all the city besides. He cordially welcomed me to the hospitalities of his house, and of that pulpit which had so long been his throne. I do not wonder that the people of New Orleans—of all classes and creeds—regarded him not only with pride, but with an affection that greeted him at every step through the city of which he was the foremost citizen.
As my readers may all know, Dr. Palmer, through the Civil War, was a most ardent Secessionist, and as honestly so as I was a Unionist. He spent much time in preaching to the Confederate soldiers, and he narrated to me an amusing incident which illustrated his calm and imperturbable temperament. On a certain fast-day (appointed by the Confederate authorities) he was to preach in a rural church within the Confederate lines. The Northern army was lying so close to them that a battle was imminent at any moment. Dr. Palmer had begun his "long prayer," when a Federal shell landed immediately under the windows of the church and exploded with a terrific crash! The doctor was not to be shelled out of his duty, and he went steadily on to the end of his prayer. When he opened his eyes the house was deserted! His congregation had slipped quietly out, and left him "alone in his glory."
Soon after my visit to New Orleans, my old friend was sorely bereaved by the death of his wife. I wrote him a letter of condolence, and his reply was, for sweetness and sublimity, worthy of Samuel Rutherford or Richard Baxter. As both husband and wife are now reunited I venture to publish a portion of this wonderful letter—both as a message of consolation to others under a similar bereavement and as a tribute to the great loving heart of Benjamin M. Palmer.
He says: "Truly my sorrow is a sorrow wholly by itself. What is to be done with a love which belongs only to one, when that one is gone and cannot take it up? It cannot perish, for it has become a part of our own being. What shall we do with a lost love which wanders like a ghost through all the chambers of the soul only to feel how empty they are? I have about me—blessed be God! a dear daughter and grandchildren; but I cannot divide this love among them, for it is incapable of distribution. What remains but to send it upward until it finds her to whom it belongs by right of concentration through more than forty years."
"I will not speak, my brother, of my pain—let that be; it is the discipline of love, having its fruit in what is to be. But I will tell you how a gracious Father fills this cloud with Himself—and covering me in it, takes me into His pavilion. It is not what I would have chosen; but in this dark cloud I know better what it is to be alone with Him; and how it is best sometimes to put out the earthly lights, that even the sweetest earthly love may not come between Him and me. It is the old experience of love breaking through the darkness as it did long ago through the terrors of Sinai and the more appalling gloom of Calvary. I have this to thank Him for, the greatest of all His mercies, and then for this, that He gave her to me so long. The memories of almost half a century encircle me as a rainbow. I can feed upon them through the remainder of a short, sad life, and after that can carry them up to Heaven with me and pour them into song forever. If the strings of the harp are being stretched to a greater tension, it is that the praise may hereafter rise to higher and sweeter notes before His throne—as we bow together there."
SUMMERING AT SARATOGA AND MOHONK.
Bishop Haven.—Dr. Schaff.—President McCosh.
To the laborious pastor of a large congregation some period of recuperation during the summer is absolutely indispensable. The cavalry officer who, when hotly pursued by the enemy, discovered that his saddle-girths had become loose, and dismounted long enough to tighten them, was a wise man, and affords a good example to us ministers.
It was my custom to call a halt, lock my study door (stowing away my pastoral cares in a drawer) and go away for five or six weeks, and sometimes a little longer. A sea voyage was undertaken during half a dozen vacations, but during a portion of forty-two summers I "pitched my moving tent" in salubrious Saratoga, and a part of twenty-one summers was spent on the heights of Mohonk.
As this volume is issued in London as well as in New York, I will mention some things in this chapter for my British readers with which many of my own fellow-countrymen may be already familiar. There were several reasons that induced me to select Saratoga early in my ministry as the best place to spend a part of the summer vacation. It is the most widely known the world over of any of our American watering places and is an exceedingly beautiful town. Its spacious Broadway, lined with stately elms, is one of the most sightly avenues in our land; and some of the superb hotels that front upon it fulfill the American demand for "bigness." The most attractive spot to me has always been the beautiful park that surrounds the famous Congress Spring, and to which every morning I made my very early pilgrimage for my draught of its sparkling water.
The park covers but a few acres, but it is a continuous loveliness. When its rich, soft greensward—worthy of Yorkshire or Devonshire—was sparkling with the dew, and the fountains were in full play, and the goodly breeze was singing through the trees, it was a place in which to chant Dr. Arnold's favorite hymn:—
"Come, my soul, thou must be waking; Now is breaking O'er the earth another day; Come to Him who made this splendor, See thou render All thy feeble strength can pay."
The second reason for my choice of Saratoga was the variety of the wonderful medicinal waters, and their renovating effects. "I can winter better," said Governor Buckingham, "for even a short summer at Saratoga," and my experience was quite similar. I honestly believe that those waters have prolonged my life. In addition to the many health fountains which have been veritable Bethesdas to multitudes, the dry, bracing atmosphere is perfumed and tempered by the breezes from the pine forests of the Adirondack Mountains. While some are attracted to Saratoga by the waters and others by the air, I found both of them equally beneficial. As far as its social life is concerned, there are, as in all summer resorts, two very different descriptions of guests. One class are devotees of fashion, who go there to gratify the "lust of the eye, and the pride of life." They drive by day and dance by night; but some devotees of pleasure have yielded too much to the ensnarements of the gaming table and the race course. There is another and a more numerous class made up of quiet business men and their families, clergymen, college professors and persons in impaired health, who go for recreation or recuperation. From this latter class, and in some measure indeed from the former also, the churches of the town attract very large congregations. It has been my privilege to deliver a little more than two hundred sermons in Saratoga, and there is no place in which I have found that a faithful and practical presentation of the "word of life" is more eagerly welcomed. It is no place to exhibit a show sermon on dress parade, but it is the very one in which to press home the word on hearts and consciences, to arouse the impenitent, to give tonic truth to the weak and the weary, to afford the word of comfort to the sorrowing and soul-food to the many who hunger for the heavenly manna. I have already narrated some of my pleasant experiences in preaching at Saratoga, and I could add to them several other interesting incidents.
For about thirty summers, and occasionally in the winter, I found a happy home at Dr. Strong's "Remedial Institute" on Circular Street. This is a family hotel during the summer, and a sanitarium during the remainder of the year. Every morning the guests assemble for worship, and the intolerable trio of fashion, frivolity and fiddles, has never invaded the refined and congenial atmosphere of the house. My host, Dr. Strong, is an active member of the Methodist Church in that town, and naturally a large number of ministers of that denomination are his summer guests. This was very pleasant for me, for, although I am loyally attached to my own "clan," yet I have a peculiarly warm side for the ecclesiastical followers of the Wesleys, and am some times introduced in their conferences as a "Methodistical Presbyterian." At Dr. Strong's I met many of the leading Methodist ministers, and was exceedingly "filled with their company." I met, among others, the sweet-spirited Bishop Jaynes, who always seemed to be a legitimate successor of the beloved disciple John. If Bishop Jaynes recalled the apostle John, let me say that the venerated father of my kind host and the founder of the Sanitarium, the late Dr. Sylvester S. Strong, was such an impersonation of charming courtesy and fervid spirituality that he might be a counterpart of "Luke the beloved physician." He was an admirable preacher before he entered the medical profession. Bishop Peck was a very entertaining companion and most fraternal in his warmheartedness. He was a man of colossal proportions, and it was quite proper that he was appointed to the charge of the churches in the wide regions of California and Oregon. When he came thence to the General Conference, he presented his protuberant figure to the assembly, and began with the humorous announcement, "The Pacific slope salutes you!" On that same "slope" I discovered last year that Methodism has outgrown even the formidable proportions of my old friend Dr. Peck.
At Saratoga I first met the eloquent Apollos of American Methodism, Bishop Matthew Simpson. Those who ever heard Henry Clay in our Senate chamber, or Dr. Thomas Guthrie in Scotland, have a very distinct idea of what Simpson was at his flood-tide of irresistible oratory. He resembled both of those great orators in stature and melodious voice, in graceful gesture, and in the magnificent enthusiasm that swept everything before him. Like all that type of fascinating speakers—to which even Gladstone belonged—he was rather to be heard than to be read. It is enough that a Gospel preacher should produce great immediate impressions on his auditors; it is not necessary that he should produce a finished and permanent piece of literature. Bishop Simpson was the bosom friend of Abraham Lincoln, and on more than one occasion he knelt beside our much harassed President and prayed for the strength equal to the day of trial.
Among all the guests there was none to whom I was more closely and lovingly drawn than to Bishop Gilbert Haven. None shed off such splendid scintillations in our evening colloquies on the piazzas. Haven was not comparable with his associate, Bishop Simpson, in pulpit oratory, for he was rarely an effective public speaker on any occasion, but in brilliancy of thought, which made him in conversation like the charge of an electric battery, and in brilliancy of pen, that kindled everything it touched, he was without a rival in the Methodist Church—or almost in any other church in the land. Consistently and conscientiously a radical, he always took extreme ground on such questions as negro rights, female suffrage, and liquor prohibition, and he never retreated. Underneath all this impulsive and impetuous radicalism he was thoroughly old-fashioned and orthodox in his theology—as far from Calvinism as any Wesleyan usually is. He did delight in the doctrines of grace with his whole heart, and it is all the more grateful to me, as a Presbyterian, to pay this honest tribute to his deeply devout and Christ-like character. I knew him when he was a student in the Wesleyan University at Middletown—somewhat rustic in his ways, but a bold, bright youth hungry for knowledge. In 1862 he published a series of foreign letters in the New York Independent, which Horace Greeley told me he regarded as most remarkable productions. During the summer of that year I was watching the sun rise from the summit of the Righi in Switzerland, and was accosted by a sandy-haired man in an old oilcloth overcoat who asked for some explanation about the mountain within our view. At the foot of the Righi I fell in with him again, and was struck with his original and vigorous thought. The same evening he marched into my room at the "Schweitzer-Hoff," dripping with the rain, and introduced himself as "Gilbert Haven." We ministered to the few Americans whom we could find in Lucerne, and held a prayer meeting on the Sabbath evening in Haven's room for our far-away country in her dark hour of distress. On that evening began a friendship which waxed warmer and warmer until death sundered the tie for a little while; the same hand that sundered can reunite us.
I am under a strong temptation to give my reminiscences of many notable persons whom I was wont to meet at Saratoga, such as the urbane ex-President Martin Van Buren, and that noble Christian statesman, Vice-President Henry Wilson, and the cheery old poet John Pierpont, and the erudite Horatio B. Hackett, of Newton Theological Seminary and the level-headed Miss Catherine E. Beecher, and the gifted Queen of the great temperance sisterhood, Miss Frances E. Willard, and General Batcheler, the able American Judge, at Cairo, and that extraordinary combination of courage, orthodox faith, and brilliant platform eloquence the late Joseph Cook, of Ticonderoga. I would like also to attempt a description of the gorgeous "Floral Festivals," which are celebrated in every September, when the streets of the town blaze with processions of vehicles decorated with flowers, and the sidewalks and house-fronts are packed with thousands of delighted spectators; but if "of making many books there is no end," there ought to be a proper end in the making of a book. In the course of my life I may have done some very foolish things, and quite too many sinful things, but I have always endeavored to avoid doing too long a thing, if it were possible.
During the last twenty-three years I have spent a portion of almost every summer at Mohonk Lake Mountain House, a hostlery equally celebrated for the culture of its guests and charms of its scenery. It is situated on a spur of the Shawangunk Mountains, about six miles from New Paltz, on the Wallkill Valley Railway. Its discoverer and proprietor is Albert K. Smiley, who was for many years president of a Quaker Ladies Academy in Providence, R.I., and is a gentleman of fine scholarship and varied attainments. He is quite equal to discussing geology with Professor Guyot (from whom one of the highest hilltops near his house is named), or art with Huntington, or botany or landscape gardening with Frederick L. Olmstead, or theology with Dr. Schaff, or questions of philanthropy with General Armstrong or Booker T. Washington.
The distinctive character of the house is that there is a notable absence of what is regarded as the chief attractions of some fashionable summer resorts. Neither bar nor bottles nor ball-room nor bands are to be found in this Christian home;—for a home it is—in its restful and refining influences. The young people find no lack of innocent enjoyment in the bowling alley or on the golf links, in the tennis tournaments or in rowing upon the lake, with frequent regattas. Instead of the midnight dance the evening hours are made enjoyable by social conversation, by musical entertainments, by parlor lectures and other interesting pastimes. The Sabbath at Mohonk realizes old George Herbert's description of the
"Sweet day so cool, so calm, so bright, The bridal of the earth and sky;"
Not a boat is loosened from its wharf on the lake; not a carriage is geared up for a pleasure drive, and many a guest has learned how a Sabbath spent without the introduction of either business cares or frivolities may be a joyous refreshment to both body and soul. The spacious parlor is always crowded for the service of worship on every morning during the week and also on the Sabbath. I can testify that on the three-score Sabbaths when I have been called upon to conduct the services, I have never found a more inspiring auditory.
It is no easy thing to put the external beauties of Mohonk upon paper. The estate covers four thousand acres, and is intersected with about fifty miles of fine carriage drives. The garden, which contains a dozen acres, is ablaze during the most of the season with millions of flowers—many of them of rare variety. As the glory of Saratoga is its springs, of Lake George its islands, of Trenton Falls the amber hue of its waters, so the glory of Mohonk is its rocks. The little lake is a crystal cup cut out of the solid conglomerated quartz. Its shores are steep quartz rocks rising fifty feet perpendicularly from the water. The face of "Sky Top" is heaped around with enormous boulders some thirty feet in diameter. In among them extend rocky labyrinths which can be explored with torches. On every hand are immense masses of Shawangunk grit hurled together over the cliff as if with the convulsions of an earthquake. Upon these acres of rock around the lake grow the most luxuriant lichens and the forests in June are efflorescent with laurels and azalias. The finest point of vantage is on Eagle Cliff; I have climbed there often to see the sun go down in a blaze of glory behind the Catskill Mountains. The three highest peaks of the Catskills—Hunter, Slide, and Peekamoose—were in full view, in purple and gold. Beneath me on one side was the verdant valley of Rondout; on the other side the equally beautiful valley of the Wallkill. In the dim distance we could discover the summits of the mountains in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
When I took Newman Hall, toward sunset, to a crag or cliff overlooking the lake, he said to me: "Next to Niagara I have seen nothing in America equal to this."
Mohonk has been a favorite summer resort of many of the most distinguished people in our land. The Honorable Rutherford B. Hayes, after his retirement from the presidential chair, loved to find recreation in rowing his boat on the lake, and in making the ascent of Sky Top. President Arthur came there during his term of office; and the widow of General Grant, after spending a fortnight there, pronounced it the most fascinating spot she had ever seen on this continent Among all the guests who made their summer home there, none contributed more to the intellectual enrichment of the company than my revered Christian friend, Dr. Philip Schaff. No American of our day had such a vast personal acquaintance with celebrated people. Dr. Schaff was the intimate friend of Tholuck, Neander, Godet, Hengstenberg, and Dorner; he was one day in familiar conversation with Dean Stanley in the Abbey and another day with Gladstone; another day with Dollinger in Vienna, and another day with Dr. Pusey at Oxford. The promise, "He shall stand before kings," was often fulfilled to him. The veteran Kaiser William had him at the royal table, and gave him intimate interview. The King and Queen of Denmark came on the platform to congratulate him after one of his eloquent speeches, and the Queen of Greece was one of his correspondents. He shook hands with more ministers of all denominations, and of all nationalities than any man of this age. He was as cordially treated by Archbishop Canterbury as he was by Bismarck at Berlin or the old Russian Archpriest Brashenski. Dr. Schaff was a prodigy of industry. During half a century he was the foremost church historian of this country; he led the work of the Sabbath Committee, and was the master spirit of the Evangelical Alliance. He edited a volume of hymnology, and wrote catechisms for children; he filled professors' chairs in two seminaries and lectured on ecclesiastical history to others. He published thirty-one volumes and edited two immense commentaries; he was the president of the Committee on Biblical Revision, and he crossed the ocean fourteen times as a fraternal internuncio between the churches of Europe and America. His prodigious capacity for work made Dr. Samuel Johnson seem an idler, and his varied attainments and activities were fairly a match for Gladstone.
To those of us who knew Dr. Schaff intimately, one of his most attractive traits was his jovial humor and inexhaustible fund of anecdotes. When I made a visit to California—journeying with him to the Yosemite—his endless stories whiled away the tedium of the trip. How often when he sat down to my own, or any other table, would he tell how his old friend, Neander, when asked to say grace at a dinner, and roast pig was the chief dish, very quaintly said: "O, Lord, if Thou canst bless under the new dispensation what Thou didst curse under the old dispensation, then graciously bless this leetle pig. Amen!"
Another eminent scholar who was wont to seek recreation at Mohonk was the venerable President McCosh, of Princeton University. Since Scotland sent to Princeton Dr. John Witherspoon to preside over it, and to be one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, she has sent no richer gift than Dr. James McCosh. For several years before he came to America he was a professor in the Queen's College at Belfast. Passing through Belfast in 1862, I looked in for a few moments at the Irish Presbyterian General Assembly, which was convened in Dr. Cook's church, and said to a man: "Whom can you show me here?" Pointing to a tall, somewhat stooping figure, standing near the pulpit, he said: "There is McCosh." I replied: "It is worth coming here to see the brightest man in Ireland." What a great, all-round, fully equipped, many-sided mass of splendid manhood he was! What a complete combination of philosopher, theologian, preacher, scholar, and college president all rolled into one! During the twenty years of his brilliant career at Princeton he displayed much of Jonathan Edwards' metaphysical acumen, of John Witherspoon's wisdom, Samuel Davies' fervor and Dr. "Johnny" McLean's kindness of heart; the best qualities of his predecessors were combined in him. He came here a Scotchman at the age of fifty-seven, and in a year he became, as Paddy said, "a native American."
To my mind the chief glory of Dr. McCosh's presidency at Princeton was the fervid interest he felt in the religious welfare of his students. He often invited me to come over and deliver sermons to them, and occasionally a temperance address; for he was a zealous teetotaler and prohibitionist, and I always lodged with him at his house. As I turn over my book of correspondence I find many brief letters from him. In the following one he refers to the remarkable revival in the college in the winter and early spring of 1870:
COLLEGE OF NEW JERSEY, PRINCETON, Jan. 9, 1873.
My dear Dr. Cuyler:
In the name of the Philadelphian Society, and in my own name, I request you to conduct our service on the day of prayer for colleges, being Thursday the 30th of January. It is three years, if I calculate rightly, since you performed that duty for us. That visit was followed by the blessed work in which you took an active part. May it be the same this year! The college is in an interesting state: we have a great deal of the spirit of study; there is a meeting for prayer every night except Friday; the class prayer meetings are all well attended, in some of the classes as many as sixty present; but we need a quickening. I do hope you will come. Our habit is an address of half an hour or so at three PM in the college chapel, and a sermon in one of the churches, especially addressed to students, but open to all in the evening. Of course, you will come to my house, and live with me. Yours as ever,
To hundreds of the alumni of Princeton this letter will stir the fountain of old memories. They will hear in it the ring of the old college bell; they will see the lines of students marching across the campus to evening prayer and into the chapel. Upon the platform mounts the stooping form of grand old "Uncle Jimmie," and in his broad and not unmelodious Scotch accents he pours out his big, warm heart in prayer. With honest pride in their Alma Mater, they will thank God that they were trained for the battle of life by James McCosh.
The limits of this narrative do not allow me to tell of all my delightful "foregatherings" with that venerated Nestor of American art, Daniel Huntington; and with General James Grant Wilson with his repertoire of racy Scotch stories; and with my true yoke-fellows in the Gospel, Dr. Herrick Johnson, Dr. Marvin R. Vincent, and Dr. Samuel J. Fisher—and with a group of infinitely witty women who regaled many an evening hour with their merry quips and conundrums. The unwritten law which prevails in that social realm is: "Each for all, and all for each other."
Mr. Smiley had been for some years a member of the United States Indian Commission, and his experience in that capacity had awakened a deep interest in the welfare of the remaining Aborigines, who had too often been the prey of unscrupulous white men who came in contact with them. About sixteen years ago he conceived the happy idea of calling a conference at Mohonk of those who were conversant with Indian affairs and most desirous to promote their well being. His invitation brought together such distinguished philanthropists as the veteran ex-Senator Henry L. Dawes, General Clinton B. Fisk, General Armstrong, the founder of Hampton Institute; Merrill E. Gates, Philip C. Garrett, Herbert Welsh, and that picturesque and powerful friend of the red man, the late Bishop Whipple of Minnesota. The discussions and decisions of this annual Mohonk Conference have had immense influence in shaping the legislation and controlling the conduct of our national government in all Indian affairs. It has helped to make history.
The great success of this conference, which meets in October of each year, led my Quaker friend, Smiley, eight years ago, to inaugurate an "Arbitration conference" for the promotion of international peace. It was a happy thought and has yielded a rich fruitage. About the first of every June this conference brings together such men and women of "light and leading" from all parts of our country as ex-Senator George F. Edmunds of Vermont, the Rev. Edward Everett Hale of Boston, the Hon. William J. Coombs, the Hon. Robert Treat Paine, Dr. B.F. Trueblood, John B. Garrett and Joshua L. Bailey, Colonel George E. Waring, Hon. John W. Foster, Chief Justice Nott, Warner Van Norden, and a great number of well known clergymen and editors have read able papers or delivered instructive addresses on that ever burning problem of how to turn swords into plowshares, and spears into pruning hooks.
I especially sympathize with the spirit of this Arbitration conference, not only because I abominate war per se, but because I firmly believe that among the grievous perils that confront our nation is the mania for enormous and costly military and naval armament—and also the policy of extending our territory by foreign conquests. The high mission of our Republic is to maintain the fundamental principles initiated in our Declaration of Independence—that all true government rests on the consent of the governed. It is an impious profanation of our flag of freedom to make it the symbol of absolutism on any soil. In the conflict now waging for true American principles, I heartily concur in the views of the late Benjamin Harrison, who was one of the most clear-sighted and patriotic of our Presidents. Just before his death I addressed to that noble Christian statesman a letter of heartfelt thanks for the position he was taking. With the following gratifying reply which I received, I conclude my chapter on peace-loving "Smiley-land":
INDIANAPOLIS, Dec 26, 1900
My dear Dr. Cuyler.
I can hardly tell you how grateful your letter was to me, or how highly I value your approval. My soul has been in revolt against the doctrine of Congressional Absolutism. I want to save my veneration for the men who made us a nation, and organized the nation under the Constitution. This will be impossible if I am to believe that they organized a government to exercise from their place that absolutism which they rejected for themselves. The newspaper reports of my Ann Arbor address were most horribly mangled, but the address will appear in the January number of the North American Review. Allow me, my dear friend, to extend to you the heartiest thanks, not only for your kind words, but for the noble life which gives them value.
With all good wishes of the Christmastide,
Most sincerely your friend,
When I entered upon the Christian ministry fifty-six years ago, there was no probability that I would live to see four-score. My father had died at the early age of twenty-eight, and several of his brothers and sisters had succumbed to pulmonary maladies. My mother was dangerously ill several times, but had a wiry constitution and lived to eighty-five. That my own busy life has held out so long is owing, under a kind Providence, to the careful observation of the primal laws of health. I have eschewed all indigestible food, stimulants, and intoxicants;—have taken a fair amount of exercise; have avoided too hard study or sermon making in the evenings—and thus secured sound and sufficient sleep. In keeping God's commandments written upon the body I have found great reward. From the standpoint of four-score I propose in this chapter to take a retrospect of some of the moral and religious movements that have occurred within my memory—in several of which I have taken part—and I shall note also the changes for better or worse that I have observed. If as an optimist I may sometimes exaggerate the good, and minimize the evil things, it is the curse of a pessimist that he can travel from Dan to Beersheba and find nothing but barrenness.
The first change for the better that I shall speak of is the progress I have seen in church fellowship. The division of the Christian church into denominations is a fixed fact and likely to remain so for a long time to come. Nor is it the serious evil that many imagine. The efficiency of an army is not impaired by division into corps, brigades and regiments, as long as they are united against the common enemy; neither does the Church of Christ lose its efficiency by being organized on denominational lines, as long as it is loyal to its Divine head, and united in its efforts to overcome evil, and establish the Kingdom of Heaven. Some Christians work all the better in harness that suits their peculiar tastes and preferences. Denominationalism becomes an evil the moment it degenerates into bitter and bigoted sectarianism. Conflicts between a dozen regiments is suicide to an army. When a dozen denominations strive to maintain their own feeble churches in a community that requires only three or four churches, then sectarianism becomes an unspeakable nuisance.
I could cite many instances to prove the great progress that has been made in church fellowship. For example, my early ministry was in a town in which the Society of Friends had a large meeting house, well filled by a most intelligent, orthodox and devout congregation. But its members never entered any other house of worship. I had the warmest personal intimacy with some of its leading men, but they would say: "We would like to hear thee preach on First Day, but the rules of our society forbid it." I have lived to see the day when I am invited to speak in Friends' meetings, and I have rejoiced to invite Quaker brothers, and sisters also, to speak in my pulpit. When I visit London, the most eminent living Quaker, J. Bevan Braithwaite, welcomes me to his hospitable house, and we join in prayer together. I wish that the exemplary and useful Society of Friends were more multiplied on both sides of the sea.
During the early half of the last century sectarian controversies ran high, especially in the newly settled West. It was a common custom to hold public discussions in school houses and frontier meeting houses, where controverted topics between denominations were presented by chosen champions before applauding audiences. Ministers fired hot shot at one another's pulpits; churches were often as militant as mendicant, and all those polemics were excused as contending most earnestly for the faith. Both sides found their ammunition in the same Bible. When I was a student in the Princeton Seminary, a classmate from Kentucky gave me a little hymn-book used at the camp meetings in the frontier settlements of his native region. In that book was a hymn, one verse of which contains these sweet and irenic lines:
"When I was blind, and could not see, The Calvinists deceived me."
Just imagine the incense of devout praise ascending heavenward in such a thick smoke of sectarian contentions! All the denominations were more or less afflicted with this controversial malady; and I will venture to say that in Kentucky and Ohio and other new regions, the Presbyterians were often a fair match for their Methodist neighbors in these theological pugilistics. I might multiply illustrations of these unhappy clashings and controversies that have often disfigured even the most evangelical branches of Christendom. What a blessed change for the better have I witnessed in my old days! Among the foremost efforts of denominational fellowship was the organization of the American Bible Society, the American Tract Society, and the American Sunday School Union. Later on in the same century came those two splendid spiritual inventions—The Young Men's Christian Association, and the Society of Christian Endeavor. Sir George Williams, the founder of the one, and Dr. Francis E. Clark, the father of the other, should be commemorated in a pair of twin statues of purest marble, standing with locked arms and upholding a standard bearing the sacred motto: "One is our Master, even Christ Jesus, and all ye are brethren." To no man are we indebted more deeply than to the now glorified Mr. Moody who made Christian fellowship the indispensable feature of all his evangelistic endeavors—with Brother Sankey leading the grand chorus of united praise. Union meetings for the conversion of souls and seeking the descent of the Holy Spirit are now as common as the observance of Christmas or of Easter Day. Personally I rejoice to say that I have been permitted to preach the Gospel in the pulpits of all the leading denominations, not excepting the Episcopalian; and I once welcomed the noble and beloved Bishop Charles P. McIlvaine of Ohio to my Lafayette Avenue Church pulpit, where he pronounced a grand discourse on "The Unity of All Christians in the Lord Jesus Christ." If I lived in England I should be heart and soul a nonconformist. But I can gratefully acknowledge the many kind courtesies which I have received from the clergy of the Established Church. Once, when in London, I was invited to the annual dinner given by the Lord Mayor to the archbishops and bishops, and I found myself the only American clergyman present. The Archbishop of Canterbury, when Bishop of London, did me the honor of presiding at a reception given me at Exeter Hall, and whenever I have met the venerable Dr. Temple I have been cheered by his warm-hearted and "democratic" cordiality of manner. In return for the kindness shown me by my brilliant and scholarly friend, Archdeacon Farrar, I was happy to preside at a reception given him in Chickering Hall. He had a wide welcome in our land, but it was as the untiring champion of temperance reform that he was especially honored on that evening. He and Archdeacon Basil Wilberforce are among the leaders in the crusade against the curse of strong drink. Amid some evil portents and perils to the cause of evangelical religion, one of the richest tokens for good is this steady increase of interdenominational fellowship. For organic unity we need not yet strive; it is enough that all the regiments and brigades in Christ's covenant hosts march to the same music, fight together under the same standard of Calvary's Cross, and press on, side by side, and shoulder to shoulder, to the final victory of righteousness and truth and human redemption.
Another change for the better has been the enlargement of woman's sphere of activity in the promotion of Christianity and of moral reform. As an illustration of this fact, I may cite a rather unique incident in my own experience. During the winter of 1872 I invited Miss Sarah F. Smiley, an eminent and most evangelical minister in the Society of Friends (and a sister of the Messrs. Albert and Daniel Smiley, the proprietors of the Lake Mohonk House) to deliver a religious address in my pulpit. The discourse she delivered was strong in intellect, orthodox in doctrine and fervently spiritual in character; the large audience was both delighted and edified. A neighboring minister presented a complaint before the Presbytery of Brooklyn, alleging that my proceeding had been both un-Presbyterian and un-Scriptural. The complainant was not able to produce a syllable of law from our form of government forbidding what I had done. Long years before, a General Assembly had recommended that "women should not be permitted to address a promiscuous assemblage" in any of our churches; but a mere "deliverance" of a General Assembly has no binding legal authority.
In my defense I was careful not to advocate the ordination of women to the ministry in the Presbyterian Church, or their installation in the pastorate. I contended that as our confession of faith was silent on the subject, and that as godly women in the early church were active in the promotion of Christianity (one of them named Anna having publicly proclaimed the coming Messiah), and that as the ministry of my excellent friend, the Quakeress, had for many years been attended by the abundant blessings of the Holy Spirit, my act was rather to be commended than condemned. The discussion before the Presbytery lasted for two days and produced a wide and rather sensational interest over the country. The final vote of the Presbytery, while withholding any censure of my course under the circumstances, was adverse to the practice of permitting women to address "promiscuous audiences" in our churches. Two or three years afterwards, a case similar to mine was appealed to the General Assembly and that body wisely decided that such questions should be left to the judgment and conscience of the pastors and church sessions. When the news of this action of the assembly reached us, the old sexton of the Lafayette Avenue Church hoisted (to the great amusement of our people) the stars and stripes on the church tower as a token of victory. It has now become quite customary to invite female missionaries, and other godly women, to address audiences composed of both sexes in our churches; the padlock has been taken off the tongue of any consecrated Christian woman who has a message from the Master. I invited Miss Willard and Lady Henry Somerset to advocate the Christian grace of temperance from my pulpit; and if I were still a pastor I should rejoice to invite that good angel of beneficence, Miss Helen M. Gould, to deliver there such an address as she lately made in the splendid building she has erected for the "Naval Christian Association."
Foreign missions were in their early and vigorous growth eighty years ago. I rode in our family carriage to church with Sheldon Dibble and Reuben Tinker, who were just leaving Auburn Theological Seminary to go out as our pioneer missionaries to the Sandwich Islands. The Missionary Herald was taken in a great number of families and read with great avidity. Many of the readers were people who not only devoutly prayed "Thy Kingdom come," but who were willing to stick to a rag carpet, and deny themselves a "Brussels," in order to contribute more to the spread of that Kingdom. Wealth has increased to a prodigious and perilous extent; but the percentage of money given to foreign missions is very far from what it was in the day of my childhood. It is a growing custom for ministers to utter a prayer over the contribution boxes when they are brought back to the platform before the pulpit; I suspect that it in too many cases should be one of penitential confession.
While I was a student in the Princeton Seminary we had a visit from the veteran missionary, Levi Spalding, who sailed from Boston to Southern India in the very first band which invaded the darkness of Hindooism He was as nearly like my conception of the Apostle Paul as anyone I ever beheld. He told us that when he was a youth and his heart was first drawn to the cause of missions, he told his good mother that he had decided upon a missionary life (which was then thought equivalent to a martyrdom), and she was perfectly overcome. He said to her: "Mother, when you gave me as an infant to God in baptism, did you withhold me from any service to which I might be called?" She assented in a moment—went to the old chest—from it she took a half-dollar (all the money she possessed in the world), and, handing it to him, said: "Levi, you may go, and this starts you on your education." On his way over to India his preaching converted all the sailors, including the ship's carpenter, "whose heart was as hard as his broadaxe." That was the stuff our first missionaries were made of. The tears flowed down our cheeks as we listened to Spalding's recital, and the result of his visit was that more than one of our students volunteered for the work of foreign missions.
It was also my great privilege during that Princeton course to put eye upon a man who, by common consent, is regarded as the king of American missionaries. On my way from Princeton to Philadelphia in the Christmas week of '45 I found among my fellow passengers a gentleman with a very benign countenance, and to my great delight I learned that he was Adoniram Judson, who was on his final and memorable visit to his native land, and was received everywhere with the most unbounded and reverent enthusiasm. He had begun his work in Burmah in 1813, but under great difficulties. During the first six years he made no converts; he defied the demon of discouragement and labored on with increased faith and zeal, and then came an abundant harvest. The colossal work of his life in Burmah was the translation of the Holy Scriptures into the Burmese language. To this work, which is likely to endure, he added a Burmese-English dictionary. At length the toils and exposures broke down his health and he was obliged to take several voyages in adjoining waters. Soon after I saw him he married Miss Chubbuck and returned to Burmah in the following year. The old conflict between the holy and heroic heart and failing body was soon renewed. He resorted once more to the sea for relief, but died during the passage, on April 12, 1850. When crossing the Atlantic in the summer of 1885 I spent much of the time with that noble minister, Rev. Edward Judson, of New York. A funeral at sea occurred, and as the remains were disappearing in the water Mr. Judson said to me, with solemn tenderness: "Just so my beloved father was committed to the deep: his sepulchre is this great, wide ocean," That ocean is a type of his world-wide influence. Not only in the priority of time as a fearless pioneer into unknown dangers, but in profound and patient scholarship, and in the beauty of a holy and lovable personality, Adoniram Judson still hold the primacy among our American missionary heroes.
The progress which has been made in Christianizing heathendom during the last century (which may well be called the century of foreign missions) is familiar to every person of intelligence. The number of converts to Christianity is at least two millions, and several millions more have felt the influence of Christian civilization. The great mass have not been suddenly revolutionized, as in Luther's time, but one by one individual hearts yield to the gospel in nearly every land. As a serious offset to these glorious results the commerce of nominally Christian nations is often poisonous. Britain carries opium into China and India; America and other civilized nations carry rum into Africa. The word of life goes in the cabin, and the worm of death goes in the hold of the same vessel! The sailors that have gone from nominally Christian countries to various ports have often been very far from acting as gospel missionaries. It is not only for their own welfare, but that they may become representatives of Christianity that the noble "American Seamen's Friend Society" has been organized. The work which that society has wrought under the vigorous leadership of Dr. Stitt entitles it to the generous support of all our churches. If toiling "Jack" braves the tempest to bring us wealth from all climes, we owe it to him to provide him the anchor of the gospel, and to save him from spiritual shipwreck.
To no other benevolent society have I more cheerfully given service of tongue and pen than to this one. An honest view of the foreign mission enterprises to-day reveals the laying of broad foundations, and the building of solid walls, rather than any completed achievements already wrought. Blood tells, and God has entrusted his gospel to the Anglo-Saxons and the other most powerful races on the globe. The religion of the Bible is the only religion adapted to universal humanity, and in the Bible is a definite pledge that to all humanity that religion shall yet be preached.
Among the great spiritual agencies born within my memory, none deserves a higher place than The Young Men's Christian Association. When my beloved brother, Sir George Williams (now an octogenarian) started the first association in London on the 6th of June, 1844, he "builded better than he knew," The modest room in his store overlooking Paternoster Row in which he gathered the little praying band on that day is already an historic spot. My own connection with the Young Men's Christian Association began in New York when I joined the association there in the second year of its existence, 1854. We met in a room in Stuyvesant Institute and the heroic Howard Crosby was our president. We had no library, or reading room, or gymnasium, or any of the appliances that belong to the institutions of these days. After several migrations, our association found its permanent home in the spacious building on Twenty-third Street, to which Morris K. Jesup and William E. Dodge were among the foremost contributors. The master spirit in the operations of the New York Association for thirty years was Mr. Robert McBurney, who, when he landed from Ireland, was only seventeen years of age. He was among my evening congregation in the old Market Street Church. During my seven years' pastorate in that church I delivered a great many discourses and platform addresses on behalf of the association, and through all of the subsequent years it has been a favorite object on which to bestow my humble efforts. Here in Brooklyn a host of young-men have found a moral shelter, and many of them a spiritual birthplace, in the fine structure, reared largely from the munificent bequests of that princely Christian philanthropist, the late Mr. Frederick Marquand. It is not permitted to every good man or woman before they die to see the glorious fruits of the trees they planted, but to the eyes of the veteran George Williams the following facts must seem like a rehearsal of heaven. The Young Men's Christian Association now belts the globe with half a million of members, and ten times that number in some direct connection with the organization. It is housed in hundreds of solid structures which have cost between thirty and forty million dollars—each one a cheerful home—a place for physical development, manly instruction and training for Christ's service.
It has brought thousands of young men from impenitence to Christ Jesus, and made thousands of young Christians more like Jesus in their daily life. The most effective lay preacher of the century, D.L. Moody, confessed that in his training for spiritual work he owed more to the Young Men's Christian Association than to any other human agency. It has moulded the students of colleges and universities; it has been the salvation of many a soldier and sailor; it has led many into the gospel ministry; it has taught the whole world the beauty and power of a living unity in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has set the Divine seal of His blessing on its world-wide work, and to the triune God be all the praise and all the glory.
As I witnessed the birth of the Young Men's Christian Association, I also saw the birth of a kindred organization, the "Society of Christian Endeavor." Many years ago an absurd and extravagant statement was widely afloat, claiming that I was the "grandsire" of this society. The simple truth was that Dr. Francis E. Clark, its heaven-directed founder, had seen in some religious journals my account of the good work wrought by the Young People's Association of the Lafayette Avenue Church, and he recognized the fact that its chief purpose was not mere sociality or literary advancement, but the spiritual profit of its members. He examined its constitution and reports, and when he constructed his first Christian Endeavor Society in the Williston Church of Portland, Maine, he adopted many of its features; and my beloved brother Clark, in his public addresses, has generously acknowledged such obligation as he was under to our Young People's Association (now in its thirty-fifth year of prosperous activity). It has always been a source of grateful pride that it should have furnished any aid to the origination of one of the foremost spiritual instrumentalities of the century. As any attempt to describe the sublime grandeur of Niagara would be a waste of time, so it would be equally futile for me to describe the magnificent extent of the Christian Endeavor Society's operations and the immense spiritual results that have flowed from them. There is no civilized speech or language where its voice is not heard; its line has gone out to all the earth, and its words to the ends of the world. It has done more than any other single agency to develop the life and to train for service the energies of the youthful members of the churches It has yet still wider possibilities before it, and when the hand that planted this mighty tree has turned to dust its boughs will be shedding down the fruits of the Spirit on the dwellers in every clime.
One of the most striking improvements that I have witnessed has been in the sanitary condition, both physical and moral, of our great cities. The conditions in New York, when I came to the pastorate of the Market Street Church almost fifty years ago, would seem incredible to the New Yorkers of to-day. The disgusting depravities of the Fourth Ward, afterwards made familiar by the reformatory efforts of Jerry McCauley, were then in full blast, defying all police authority and outraging common decency. The most hideous sink of iniquity and loathsome degradation was in the once famous "Five Points," in the heart of the Sixth Ward and within a pistol shot of Broadway. At the time of my coming to New York public attention had been drawn to that quarter with the opening of the "Old Brewery Mission," and by the first planting of a kindred enterprise which grew into the now well-known "Five Points House of Industry." The brave projector of this enterprise was the Rev. L.M. Pease, a hero whose name ought not to be forgotten. As my church was just off East Broadway, and within a short walk of the Five Points, I took a deep interest in Mr. Pease's Christian undertaking, and aided him by every means in my power. His wife became a member of my church. The "Wild Maggie," whose escapades described in the Tribune gained such public notoriety, became also, after her reformation, one of our church members and afterwards held the position of a school teacher. After the resignation of Mr. Pease and his removal to North Carolina, his place was taken by one of our Market Street elders, the devout and godly minded Benjamin R. Barlow. In order to keep awake public interest in the mission work at the Five Points, and to get ammunition, in its behalf, I used to make nocturnal explorations of some of those satanic quarters. I recall now one of those midnight forays of which, at the risk of my reader's olfactories, I will give a brief glimpse. In company with the superintendent of the mission and a policeman and a lad with a lantern I struck for the "Cow Bay," the classic spot of which Charles Dickens had given such a piquant description in his "American Notes" a few years before. Climbing a stairway, from which the banisters had long been broken away for firewood, we entered a dark room. There was only a tallow candle burning in the corner, and in the room were huddled twenty-five human beings. Along the walls were ranged the bunks—one above the other—covered with rotting quilts and unwashed coverings. Each of these rented for sixpence a night to any thief or beggar who chose to apply for lodging—no distinction being made for sex or color. As the lad swings the lantern about we spy the rows of heads projecting from under the stacks of rags. In one bed a gray-haired, disheveled head cuddled close to the yellow locks of a slumbering child. While we are reconnoitering, something like a huge dog runs past and dives under the bed. "What is this, good friend?" we ask. "Oh, only the goat," replied a merry Milesian. "Do the goats live with you all in this room?" "To be sure they do, sir; we feeds 'em tater skins, and milks 'em for the babies," Country born as we were, we have often longed to keep a dairy in this city, but it never occurred to us that a bedroom was sufficient for the purpose. Truly, necessity is the shrewd-witted mother of invention! Opposite "Cow Bay" was "Cut-Throat Alley." Two murders a year were about the average product of the civilization of this dark defile. The keeper of the famous grog shop there, who died about that time, left a fortune of nearly one hundred thousand dollars. In city politics the keeper of such a den is one of the leaders of public opinion. We climbed a stairway, dark and dangerous, till at length we reached the wretched garret through whose open chinks the snow drifted in upon the floor. Beside the single broken stove, the only article of furniture in the apartments, sat a wretched woman wrapped in a tattered shawl moaning over a terrible burn that covered her arms; she had fallen when intoxicated upon the stove and no one had cared enough to carry her to the hospital. She exclaimed, "For God's sake, gentlemen, can't you give me a glass of gin?" A half eaten crust lay by her and a cold potato or two, but the irresistible thirst clamored for relief before either pain or hunger. "Good woman," said my friend, "where's Mose?" "Here he is." A heap of rags beside her was uncovered, and there lay the sleeping face of an old negro, apparently of fifty. In nearly every garret we entered practical amalgamation was in fashion. The superintendent told me that the negroes were fifty per cent. in advance of the Irish as to sobriety and decency. Descending from the garret we entered a crowded cellar. The boy's lantern shone on the police officer's cap and buttons. A crash was heard, and the window at the opposite end of the cellar was shattered and a mass of riddled glass fell on the floor. "Poor fool!" exclaimed the policeman, "he thinks we are after him, but I will have him before morning." From these sickening scenes of squalor, misery and crime what a relief it was for us to return to the House of Industry, with its neat school room and its capacious chapel and its row of little children marching up to their little beds. It was like going into the light-house after the storm.
I have drawn this pen picture of but a part of the shocking revelations of that night, not only that my readers may know what kind of work I often engaged in during my New York pastorate, but that they may also know what kind of city I labored in. New York is not to-day in sight of the millennium; it still has a fearful amount of vice and heathenism; and the self-denying men who are conducting the "University Settlement," and the Christ-serving "King's Daughters," who are giving their lives to the salvation of the poor in the Seventh Ward are doing as apostolic a work as any missionary on the Congo. Nevertheless it is true that a "Cow Bay," or an "Old Brewery," or a "Cut-Throat Alley" is no more possible to-day in New York than the building of a powder factory in the middle of Central Park. The progress in sanitary purification has been most remarkable.
This narrative of the sanitary and moral reform wrought in the Five Points reminds me of another good man whom the people of this city and our whole country cannot revere too highly as a public benefactor. I allude to Mr. Anthony Comstock, the indefatigable Secretary of the "Society for the Prevention of Vice." I knew him well when he was a clerk in a dry goods store on Broadway, and when he undertook his first purifying efforts, I little supposed that he was to achieve such reforms. It was an Augean stable indeed that he set about cleansing. Fifty years ago our city was flooded by obscene literature which sought no concealment. The vilest books and pictures were openly sold in the streets, and an enormous traffic was waged in what may be called the literature of hell. Such a courageous crusade against those abominations and against the gambling dens, by Mr. Comstock—even at the risk of personal violence and in defiance of the most malignant opposition—entitles him to a place among our veritable heroes. At a time when deeds of military prowess receive such adulation, and when the "man on horseback" outstrips the man on foot in the race for popular favor, it is well to teach our young men that he who takes up arms against the principalities and powers of darkness, and makes his own life the savior of other lives, wins a knightly crown of heavenly honor that outshines the stars, and "fadeth not away."
The most unique organization that has been formed in our time for the evangelizing of the lost masses is the "Salvation Army." When I was in London, in the summer of 1885, I attended one of their monster meetings in Exeter Hall. There was an enormous military band on the platform behind the rostrum. Their Commander-in-Chief, General Booth, presided—a tall, thin, nervous man, who looked more like an old-fashioned Kentucky revivalist than an Englishman. His bright-eyed and comely wife, Mrs. Catharine Booth, was with him. She was a woman of remarkable intellectual force and spiritual character, as all must acknowledge who have read her biography. Her speech (on the Protection of Young Girls) was finely composed and finely delivered, and quite threw into the shade a couple of members of Parliament who spoke from the same platform on the same evening. When she made any telling point that awakened applause, her husband leaped up, and gave the signal: "Fire a volley!" Whereupon his troops gave a tremendous cheer, followed by a roll of drums and a blast of trumpets. The chief agency which the army employs to gather its audiences is music—whether it be the rattling of the tambourine, or the martial sound of a brass band. Some of their hymns are little better than pious doggerel, and they do not hesitate to add to Perronet's grand hymn, "All hail the power of Jesus name," such a stanza as the following:
"Let our soldiers never tire, In streets, in lane, in hall, The red-hot Gospel's shot to fire And crown Him Lord of All."
Grotesque as are some of the methods of this novel organization, I cannot but admire their zeal and courage in dredging among the submerged masses with such spiritual apparatus as they can devise. They are doing a work that God has honored, and that has reached and rescued a vast number of outcasts. Their chief weakness is that they appeal mainly to the emotions, and give too little solid instruction to their ignorant hearers. Their chief danger is that when the strong arm of their founder is taken away he may not leave successors who can hold the army together. Let us hope and pray that the period of their usefulness may yet be protracted.
While an abnormal agency, like the Salvation Army, may do some useful service among the occupants of the slums, the greater work of reaching and evangelizing the immense mass of plain, humble working people must be done by the churches themselves. What do the dwellers in the by-streets and the tenement houses need? They need precisely what the dwellers in the brown stone houses on fine avenues need—a sanctuary to worship in, a Sunday school for their children, a preacher to give them the Gospel, and a pastor to visit them and watch over them—in short, a spiritual home. As for bringing the poorer class of the back streets into the elegant churches on the fashionable avenues it is an absurdity, both geography and human nature are against it. The plainly dressed laborers of the back districts could not come to the fine churches on Fifth Avenue, or similar streets, because these edifices are already occupied by their regular pew holders; they would not come, for they would not feel at home there. Since the humbler toiling classes will not come to the sanctuaries occupied by the rich, the only true Christian policy is for the rich churches to build and maintain plenty of attractive auxiliary chapels in the regions occupied by those humbler classes. Not mean and unattractive soup-house style of chapels should they be, either—they ought to be handsome, cheerful, well-appointed sanctuaries, manned by godly pastors who are not above the business of saving souls that are clad in dirty shirts. And that is not all: the members of the wealthy churches which rear the auxiliary chapels should personally go and attend the services and Sunday schools and weekly meetings in the chapel—not go in costly raiment that touches the pride of God's poor, but in plain clothes and with a hearty democratic sympathy in their whole bearing. To reach the masses we must go after them—and then stay with them when we get there. If broadcloth religion waits for poverty and ignorance to cross the chasm to it, then may they at last come to be a menace to the safety of society—with imprecations on it for criminal neglect. Christianity must build the bridge across the chasm, and then keep its steady procession crossing over it with bright lamps for dark homes, and Bibles for darker souls, and bread for hungry mouths, and, what is best of all, personal intercourse and personal sympathy. The music of a Christmas carol would be very sweet in poverty's garret; the advent of the living Jesus in the persons of His true-hearted followers would be a "Merry Christmas" all the year round.
Brooklyn is not a city of slums, nor does it abound with the sky-scraping tenement houses, like those in which the myriads of New York live, but we have a large population of wage-earners of the humbler class. These mainly occupy streets by themselves. In order to do our part in giving the bread of life to these worthy people, Lafayette Avenue Church has always maintained two, and sometimes three, auxiliary chapels. Of these, the "Cuyler Chapel," built and supported entirely by our Young People's Association, is a fair representative. It has an excellent preacher, who visits the plain people in their homes; it has a well-equipped Sunday school—prayer meetings, kindergarten—its own Society of Christian Endeavor, and King's Daughters, its penny savings bank and its temperance society—in short, every appliance essential to a Christian church. Many others of our strong Brooklyn churches are working precisely on the same practical, common-sense lines. If all the wealthy churches in New York would illuminate the darker quarters of that city with a hundred well-manned light-houses, well provided with the soul-saving apparatus of the poor man's Gospel they would do more to silence the cavils against Christianity, and more to bridge the chasm between the rich and the poor than by any of the superficial methods of the "Humanitarians." What a poor man wants is not only a clean shirt, a clean home, and a clean account on Saturday night; he wants a clean character and a clean soul for this world and the next. Christianity makes a sad mistake if it is satisfied to give him a full stomach, and leave him with a starving soul.
In recent years we have heard much about the "Institutional Church" as the long sought panacea. It is claimed by some persons that the churches cannot succeed unless they add to ordinary spiritual instrumentalities, various useful annexes, such as reading rooms, kindergartens, dispensaries, and certain social entertainments. But it is a noteworthy fact that the chief pioneer in "Institutional" methods was the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and he was the prince of old-fashioned gospel preachers. He never thought of his orphanage, and other benevolent adjuncts of the Metropolitan Tabernacle as substitutes for the sovereign purpose of his holy work, which was to convert the people to Jesus Christ. He subordinated the physical, the mental, and the social to the spiritual; and rightly judged that making clean hearts was the best way to secure clean homes and clean lives. I have no doubt that a very strong, well-manned and thoroughly spiritually managed church may wisely maintain as many adjuncts, such as reading-rooms, libraries, dispensaries, kindergartens and other humanitarian annexes as it has the means to support. An illustration of this is seen in the successful and Heaven-blessed Bethany Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia, founded and maintained and guided by that hundred-handed Briareus in the service of Christ—my beloved friend, the Hon. John Wanamaker. The aim of that great church and its well-known Sunday School, is to make people happy by making them better, and to save them for this world after saving them for another world. When a church has the spiritual purposes and spiritual power of the London Tabernacle and the Bethany Church, and is guided by a Spurgeon or a Wanamaker, it may safely become "institutional." But some experiments that have been made to establish churches of that name in this country have not always been conspicuously successful.