In taking this, my retrospective view at four-score, I have noted many heart-cheering tokens of social and religious progress, and many splendid mechanical and material inventions to make the world better and happier. Yet I have also seen some painful symptoms of decline and deterioration. All the changes have not been for the better; some have been decidedly for the worse. For example, while there is an increase in the number of the Christian churches, there is a lamentably steady diminution of attendance at places of religious worship. Careful investigation shows a constant falling off in church attendance—both in the large towns, and in the rural districts. In spite of the blessed influence of the Sunday School, the Young Men's Christian Association and Christian Endeavor, there is an increasing swing of young people away from the House of God, and therefore from soul-saving influences. The Sabbath is not as generally kept sacred as formerly. One of the indications of this sad fact is a decrease in church attendance, and another is the enormous increase in the secular and godless Sunday newspapers. Materialism and Mammonism work against spiritual religion, and the social customs which wealth brings are adverse to a spiritual life. As one illustration of this a distinguished pastor said to me: "Forty years ago my people lived plainly, were ready for earnest Christian work, and attended our devotional meetings; now they have grown rich, our work flags, and our weekly services are almost deserted." Half-day religion is on the increase almost everywhere. Sporting and gambling are more rife than formerly. What is still worse, the gambling element enters more largely into transactions of trade and traffic. Divorces have become more easy and abundant, and, as Mr. Gladstone once said to me: "This tends to sap one of the very foundations of society," All these are deplorable evils to which none but a fool will shut his eyes and by which none but a coward will be frightened. God reigns, even if the devil is trying to. The practical questions for every one of us are: how can I become better? How can I help to make this old sinning and sobbing world the better also?
A RETROSPECT, CONTINUED.
As I look over the changes that half a century has wrought in the social life of my beloved country, I see some which awaken satisfaction—others which are not so exhilarating. The enormous and rapid increase of wealth is unparalleled in human history. In my boyhood, millionaires were rare; there were hardly a score of them in any one of our cities. The two typical rich men were Stephen Girard in Philadelphia and John Jacob Astor in New York; and their whole fortunes were not equal to the annual income of several of the rich men of to-day. Some of our present millionaires are reservoirs of munificence, and the outflow builds churches, hospitals, asylums, and endows libraries—and sends broad streams of charity through places parched by destitution and suffering. Others are like pools at the base of a hill—they receive the inflow of every descending streamlet or shower, and stagnate into selfishness. Wealth is a tremendous trust; it becomes a dangerous one when it owns its owner. Our Brooklyn philanthropist, the late Mr. Charles Pratt, once said to me: "There is no greater humbug than the idea that the mere possession of wealth makes any man happy. I never got any happiness out of mine until I began to do good with it."
To the faithful steward there is a perpetual reward of good stewardship. No investments yield a more covetable dividend than those made in gifts of public beneficence. When Mr. Morris K. Jesup drives through New York his eyes are gladdened in one street by the "Dewitt Memorial Chapel" that he erected; in another by the Five Points House of Industry, of which he is the president, and in still others by the Young Men's Christian Association and kindred institutions, of which he is a liberal supporter.
Mr. John D. Rockefeller is reputed to have an annual income equal to that of three or four foreign sovereigns; but his inalienable assets are in the universities he has endowed, the churches he has helped to build, the useful societies he has aided, and in the gold mines of public gratitude which he has opened up.
Many of our most munificent millionaires have been the architects of their own fortunes. It is most commonly (with some happy exceptions) the earned wealth, and not the inherited wealth that is bestowed most freely for the public benefit. The Hon. William E. Dodge once stated in a popular lecture that he began his career as a boy on a salary of fifty dollars a year, and his board—part of his duty being to sweep out the store in which he was employed. He lived to distribute a thousand dollars a day to Christian missions, and otherwise objects of benevolence.
There are old men in Pittsburg (or were, not long ago), who remember the bright Scotch lad, Andrew Carnegie, to whom they used to give a dime for bringing telegraph messages from the office in which he was employed. The benefits which he then derived from the use of a free library in that city, have added to his good impulse, to create such a vast number of libraries in many lands that his honored name throws into the shade the names of Bodley and Radcliffe in England, and that of Astor in America. The mention of this latter name tempts me to narrate an amusing story of old John Jacob Astor, the founder of the fortune of that family, and a man who was more noted for acquiring money than for giving it away for any purpose. Mr. Astor came to New York a poor young man. His wealth consisted mainly in real estate, which he purchased at an early day. When the New York and Erie Railroad was projected (it was the first one ever coming directly into New York), my friend, Judge Joseph Hoxie, called on Mr. Astor to subscribe to the stock, telling him that it would add to the value of his real estate. "What do I care for that?" said the shrewd old German, "I never sells, I only buys." "Well," said Judge Hoxie, "your son, William, has subscribed for several shares." "He can do that," was the chuckling reply, "he has got a rich father." It is a fair problem how many such possessors of real estate it would take to build up the prosperity of a great city.
There is one temptation to which great wealth has sometimes subjected its possessors, which demands from me a word of patriotic protest. It is the temptation to use it for political advancement. No fact is more patent than the painful one that some ambitious men have secured public offices, and even bought their way into legislative bodies, by the abundancies of their purses united to skill in manipulating partisan machines. This is a most serious menace to honest popular government. It is one of the very worst forms of a plutocracy. I often think that if Webster and Clay and Calhoun and John Quincy Adams and Sumner and some other giants of a former era could enter the Congressional halls of our day, they might paraphrase the words of Holy Writ and exclaim: "Take the money-changers hence, and make not the temple of a nation's legislation a house of merchandise."
Foreign travel is no longer the novelty that it was once, and many wealthy folk spend much of their time abroad since the Atlantic Ocean has been reduced to a ferry. This growth of European travel has brought its increment of information and culture; but, with new ideas from abroad, have come also some new notions and usages that were better left behind. A prohibitory tariff in that direction would "protect" some of the unostentatiousness of social life that befits a republican people. No young man or woman, who desires to attain proficience in any department of scholarship, classical or scientific, need to betake themselves to the universities of Europe. Those universities have come to us in the shape of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cornell and our other most richly endowed institutions of learning for both sexes.
Quite too much of the social life of our country is more artificial than formerly, and one result is the growing passion for publicity. Plenty of ambitious people "make their beds in the face of the sun." Many things are now chronicled in the press that were formerly kept behind the closed doors of the home. The details of a dinner or a social company at the fireside become the topics for the gossip of strangers. I sometimes think that the young people of the present day lose much of the romance that used to belong to the halcyon period of courtship. In the somewhat primitive days of my youth, young lovers kept their own secrets, and were startled if their heart affairs were on other people's tongues; but now-a-days marriage engagements are matters of public announcement—not infrequently in the columns of a newspaper! It seems to be forgotten that an engagement to marry may not always end in a marriage. The usage of crowned heads abroad is no warrant for the new fashion, for royalty has no privacies, and queens and empresses choose their own husbands—a prerogative that the stoutest champion of woman's rights has not yet had the hardihood to advocate.
It has always required—but never more than now—no small amount of moral courage on the part of newly married couples, whose incomes are moderate, to resist the temptations of extravagant living. As the heads of young men are often turned by the reports of great fortunes suddenly acquired, so the ambition seizes upon many a young wife to cut a figure in "society." Instead of "the household—motions light and free" that Wordsworth describes, the handmaid of fashion leads the hollow life of "keeping up appearances." If nothing worse than the slavery of debt is incurred, home life becomes a counterfeit of happiness; but any one who watches the daily papers will sometimes see obituaries there more saddening than those which appear under the head of "Deaths," it is the list of detected defaulters or peculators or swindlers of some description—often belonging to the most respectable families. While the ruin of those evil-doers is sometimes caused by club life or dissipated habits, yet, in a large number of cases, the temptation to fraud has been the snare of extravagant living.
In my long experience as a city pastor I have watched the careers of thousands of married pairs. One class have begun modestly in an unfashionable locality with plain dress and frugal expenditure They have eaten the wholesome bread of independence. I wish that every young woman would display the good sense of a friend of mine, who received an offer of marriage from a very intelligent and very industrious, but poor young man who said to her: "I hear that you have offers of marriage from young men of wealth; all that I can offer you is a good name, sincere love and plain lodgings at first in a boarding house." She was wise enough to discover the "jewel in the leaden casket" and accept his hand. He became a prosperous business man and an officer of my church. As for the other class, who begin their domestic career by a pitiable craze to "get into society" and to keep up with their "set" in the vain show, is their fate not written in the chronicles of haggard and jaded wives, and of husbands drowned in debt or driven perhaps to stock-gambling or some other refuge of desperation?
In another portion of this autobiography I have uttered a prayer for the revival of soul-kindling eloquence in the pulpit. In this age of dizzy ballooning in finance and social extravagance, my prayer is: "Oh, for the revival of old fashioned, sturdy, courageous frugality that 'hath clean hands and a clean heart, and hath not lifted up its soul to vanity!'"
"Do you not discover a great advance in educational facilities and in the enlargement of means to popular knowledge?" To this question I am happy to give an affirmative reply. Schools and universities are more richly endowed and our public schools have been greatly improved in many directions. Among the educated classes, reading clubs and societies for discussing sociological questions are more numerous, and so are free lectures among the humbler classes. Books have been multiplied—and at cheaper prices—to an enormous extent. In my childhood, books adapted to the reach of children numbered not more than a score or two; now they are multiplied to a degree that is almost bewildering to the youthful mind. Newspapers printed for them, such as the Youth's Companion and the National Society's Temperance Banner, were then utterly unknown. The sacred writer of the ecclesiastics needs not to tell the people of this generation: "That of making many books there is no end."
It is not, however, a matter for congratulation that so large a portion of the volumes that are most read are works of fiction. In most of our public libraries the novels called for are far in excess of all the other books. Let any one scrutinize the advertising columns of literary journals, and he will see that the only startling figures are those which announce the enormous sale of popular works of fiction. I am not uttering a tirade against any book simply because it is fictitious. Our Divine Master spoke often in parables; Bunyan's matchless allegories have guided multitudes of pilgrims towards the Celestial City. Fiction in the clean hands of that king of romancers, Sir Walter Scott, threw new light on the history and scenes of the past. Such characters as "Jennie Deans" and her godly father might have been taken from John Banyan's portrait gallery; Lady Di Vernon is the ideal of young womanhood. Fiction has often been a wholesome relief to a good man's overworked and weary brain. Many of the recent popular novels are wholesome in their tone and the historical type often instructive. The chief objection to the best of them is that they excite a distaste in the minds of thousands for any other reading. Exclusive reading of fiction is to any one's mind just what highly spiced food and alcoholic stimulants are to the body. The increasing rage for novel reading betokens both a famine in the intellect, and a serious peril to the mental and spiritual life. The honest truth is that quite too large a number of fictitious works are subtle poison. The plots of some of the most popular novels turn on the sexual relation and the violation in some form of the seventh commandment. They kindle evil passions; they varnish and veneer vice; they deride connubial purity; they uncover what ought to be hid, and paint in attractive hues what never ought to be seen by any pure eye or named by any modest tongue. Another objection to many of the most advertised works of fiction is that they deal with the sacred themes of religion in a very mischievous and misleading manner. A few popular writers of fiction present evangelical religion in its winning features; they preach with the pen the same truths that they preach from the pulpit. Two of the perils that threaten American youths are a licentious stage and a poisonous literature. A highly intelligent lady, who has examined many of the novels printed during the last decade, said to me: "The main purpose of many of these books is to knock away the underpinning of the marriage relation or of the Bible." If parents give house room to trashy or corrupt books, they cannot be surprised if their children give heart-room to "the world, the flesh, and the evil one." When interesting and profitable books are so abundant and so cheap, this increasing rage for novels is to me one of the sinister signs of the times.
Within the last two or three decades there has been a most marked change as to the directions in which the human intellect has exerted its highest activities. This change is especially marked in the literature of the two great English-speaking nations. For example, there are now in Great Britain no poets who are the peers of Wordsworth, Tennyson and Browning;—no brilliant essayists who are the peers of Carlyle and Macaulay, and no novelists who are the peers of Scott, Dickens and Thackeray. In the United States we have no poets who are a match for Bryant, Longfellow, Whittier and Holmes; and no essayists who are a match for Emerson and James Russell Lowell—no jurists who are the rivals of Marshall, Kent and Story; and no living historians equal Bancroft, Prescott and Motley. These facts do not necessarily indicate (as some assert) a widespread intellectual famine. The most probable explanation of the fact is that the mental forces in our day exert themselves in other directions. This is an age of scientific research and scientific achievement. It is an age of material advancement, and in those lines in which the human mind can "seek out many inventions." The whole trend of human thought is under transformation. In ancient days "a man was famous according as he had lifted up axes upon thick trees." The man is famous now who makes some useful mechanical invention, or explores some unknown territory, or bridges the oceans with swift steamers, or belts the earth with new railways, or organizes powerful financial combinations. If the law of demand and supply is as applicable to mental products as it is to the imports of commerce, then we may readily understand that the realm of the ideal, which was ruled by the Wordsworths, Carlyles and Longfellows, should be supplanted by a realm in which the master minds should be political economists, or explorers, or railway kings, or financial magnates, or empire-builders of some description. The philosophical and poetical yield to the practical, when "cui bono?" is the lest question which challenges all comers. This change, if it be an actual one, may bring its losses as well as its gains. We are thankful for all the precious boons which inventive genius has brought to us—for telegraphs, and telephones, and photographic arts, for steam engines and electric motors, for power presses and sewing machines, for pain-killing chloroform, and the splendid achievements of skillful surgery. But the mind has its necessities as well as the body; and we hope and pray that the human intellect may never be so busy in materialistic inventions that it cannot give us an "Ode to Duty," and a "Happy Warrior," a "Snow Bound," and a "Thanatopsis," an "Evangeline" and a "Chambered Nautilus," a "Pippa Passes" or a "Biglow Papers," an "In Memoriam" or a "Locksley Hall."
One characteristic of the present time is the radical and revolutionary spirit which condemns everything that is "old," especially in the realm of religion. It arrogantly claims that the "advanced thought" of this highly cultured age has broken with the traditional beliefs of our benighted ancestors, and that modern congregations are too highly enlighted to accept those antiquated theologies. No pretentions could be more preposterous. Methinks that those stalwart farmers of New England, who on a wintry Sabbath, sat and eagerly devoured for an hour the strong meat of such theological giants as Jonathan Edwards, and Emmons and Bellamy and Dwight, would laugh to scorn the ridiculous assumption of the present day congregations, many of whom have fed on little else during the week but novels and newspapers. This revolutionary spirit is expert in pulling down; it is a sorry bungler at rebuilding. Nothing is too sacred for its assaults. The iconoclasts who belong to the most extreme and destructive school of "higher criticism" have reduced a large portion of God's revealed word utterly to tatters. King David has been exiled from the Psalter; but no "sweet singers" have yet turned up who could have composed those matchless minstrelsies. Paul is denied the authorship of the Epistle to the Romans; but the mighty mind has not been discovered which produced what Coleridge called the "profoundest book in existence." The Scripture miracles are discarded, but Christianity, which is the greatest miracle of all, is not accounted for. The "new theology" which has well nigh banished the supernatural from the Bible pays an homage to the principle of "evolution," which is due only to the Almighty Creator of the universe. Spurgeon has wittily said that if we are not the product of God's creating hand, but are only the advanced descendants of the ape, then we ought to conduct our devotions accordingly, and address our daily petitions "not to our Father which is in Heaven, but to our father which is up a tree."
I do not belong to that class which is irreverently styled "old fogies," for I hold that genuine conservatism consists in healthful and regular progress; and it has been my privilege to take an active part in a great many reformatory movements; yet I am more warmly hospitable to a truth which has stood the test of time and of trial. There are many things in this world that are improved by age. Friendship is one of them, and I have found that it takes a great many new friends to make an old one. My Bible is all the dearer to me, not only because it has pillowed the dying heads of my father and my mother, but because it has been the sure guide of a hundred generations of Christians before them. When the boastful innovators offer me a new system of belief (which is really a congeries of unbeliefs) I say to them: "the old is better." Twenty centuries of experience shared by such intellects as Augustine, Luther, Pascal, Calvin, Newton, Chalmers, Edwards, Wesley and Spurgeon are not to be shaken by the assaults of men, who often contradict each other while contradicting God's truth. We have tested a supernaturally inspired Bible for ourselves. As my eloquent and much loved friend, Dr. McLaren, of Manchester has finely said: "We decline to dig up the piles of the bridge that carries us over the abyss because some voices tell us that it is rotten. It is perfectly reasonable to answer, 'We have tried the bridge and it bears.' Which, being translated into less simple language, is just the assertion of certitude, built on facts and experience, which leaves no place for doubt. All the opposition will be broken into spray against this rock-bulwark: 'Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and they are the joy and rejoicing of my heart.'"
MY HOME LIFE.
One of the richest of the many blessings that has crowned my long life has been a happy home. It has always seemed to me as a wonderful triumph of divine grace in the Apostle Paul that he should have been so "content in whatsoever state he was" when he was a homeless, and, I fear, also a wifeless man. During my own early ministry in Burlington, N.J., my widowed mother and myself lodged with worthy Quakers, and realized Charles Lamb's truthful description of that quiet, "naught-caballing community." On our removal to Trenton, when I took charge of the newly organized Third Presbyterian Church, we commenced housekeeping in what had once been the residence of a Governor, a chief-justice, and a mayor of the city; but was a very plain and modest domicile after all. My new church building was completed in November, 1850, and opened with a full congregation, and I was soon in the full swing of my pastoral duties. As I have already stated in the opening chapter of this volume, my father and mother first saw each other on a Sabbath day, and in a church. It was my happy lot to follow their example. On a certain Sabbath in January, 1851, a group of young ladies, who were the guests of a prominent family in my congregation, were seated in a pew immediately before the pulpit. As a civility to that family we called on the following evening, upon their guests. One of the number happened to be a young lady from Ohio who had just graduated from the Granville College, in that State, and had come East to visit her relatives in Philadelphia. The young lady just mentioned was Miss Annie E. Mathiot, a daughter of the Hon. Joshua Mathiot, an eminent lawyer, who had represented his district in Congress. That evening has been marked with a very white stone in my calendar ever since. It was but a brief visit of a fortnight that the fair maiden from the West made in Trenton; but when she, soon afterwards returned to Ohio, she took with her what has been her inalienable possession ever since and will be, "Till death us do part." My courtship was rather "at long range;" for Newark, Ohio, was several hundred miles away, and I have always found that a man who would build up a strong church must be constantly at it, trowel in hand. On the 17th of March, 1853, the venerable Dr. Wylie conducted for us a very simple and solemn service of holy wedlock, closing with his fatherly benediction, one of the best acts of his long and useful life. The invalid mother of my bride (for Colonel Mathiot had died four years previously) was present at our nuptials, and for the last time was in her own drawing-room. Mrs. Mathiot was a daughter of Mr. Samuel Culbertson, a leading lawyer of Zanesville, and was a lady of rare refinement and loveliness. She had been a patient sufferer from a painful illness of several months' duration, and peacefully passed away to her rest in September of that year.
Of the qualifications and duties of a minister's wife, enough has been written to stock a small library. My own very positive conviction has always been that her vows were made primarily, not to a parish, but to her own husband; and if she makes his home and heart happy; if she relieves him of needless worldly cares; if she is a constant inspiration to him in his holy work, she will do ten-fold more for the church than if she were the manager and mainspring of a dozen benevolent societies. There is another obligation antecedent to all acts of Presbytery or installing councils—the sweet obligation of motherhood. The woman who neglects her nursery or her housekeeping duties, and her own heart-life for any outside work in the parish does both them and herself serious injury. If a minister's wife has the grace of a kind and tactful courtesy toward all classes, she may contribute mightily to the popular influence of her husband; and if she is a woman of culture and literary taste, she can be of immense service to him in the preparation of his sermons. The best critic that ministers can have is one who has a right to criticize and to "truth it in love." Who has a better right to reprove, exhort and correct with all long suffering than the woman who has given us her heart and herself? There are a hundred matters in the course of a year in which a sensible woman's instincts are wiser than those of the average man. There is many a minister who would have been spared the worst blunders of his life, if he had only consulted and obeyed the instinctive judgment of a loving and sensible wife. If we husbands hold the reins, it is the province of a wise and devoted wife to tell us where to drive.
It is very probable that my readers have suspected that this portraiture of a model wife for a minister was drawn from actual life; and they are right in their conjectures. In the discourse delivered to my flock on the twenty-fifth anniversary of my pastorate was the following passage, to whose truth the added years have only added confirmation, "There is still another sweet mercy which has been vouchsafed to me in the true heart that has never faltered and the gentle footstep that has never wearied in the pathway of life for two and thirty years. From how many mistakes and hasty indiscretions her quick sagacity has kept me, you can never know. If you have any tribute of thanks for any good which I have done you, do not offer it to me; go carry it down to yonder home, of which she has been the light and the joy, and lay it at her unselfish feet." On that occasion (for the only time) I heard a murmur of applause run through my congregation.
About the time of our marriage, I received a call from the Shawmut Congregational Church of Boston, and soon afterwards overtures from a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, and from the First Presbyterian Church of Chicago. All these attractive offers I declined, but within a few months I accepted a call from the Market Street Dutch Reformed Church of New York—a far more difficult field of labor. My ministry in Trenton was one of unbroken happiness, and the Church were profusely kind; but at the end of nearly four years I felt that my work there was done. The young church had built a beautiful house of worship without a dime of debt, and it was filled by a prosperous congregation. I was ready for a wider field of labor.
The Market Street Dutch Reformed Church, to which I was called, was down town, within ten minutes' walk of the City Hall, and was beginning to feel the inroads of the up-town migration, when my excellent predecessor, Dr. Isaac Ferris, left it to become the Chancellor of the New York University. Although most of the well-to-do families were moving away, yet East Broadway was full of boarding houses packed with young men and these in turn packed our church on Sabbath evenings. Of the happy spiritual harvest-seasons in that old church, especially during the great awakening in 1858, I have written in the chapter on Revivals. I was as eager for work as Simon Peter was for a good haul in fishing, and every week there, I met on the platform the representatives of temperance societies: The Five Points House of Industry, Young Men's Christian Associations, Sunday schools or some other religious or reformatory enterprise. These outside activities were no hindrances to either pulpit or pastoral work; and, like that famous English preacher who felt that he could not have too many irons in the fire, I thrust in tongs, shovel, poker and all. The contact with busy life and benevolent labors among the poor supplied material for sermons; for the pastor of a city church must touch life at a great many points. Our domestic experiences in early housekeeping were very agreeable. The social conditions of New York were less artificial than now. Pastoral calls in the evening usually found the people in their homes, and I do not believe there were a dozen theatre-goers in my congregation. After a very busy and heaven-blest ministry of half a dozen years, I discovered that the rapid migration up town would soon leave our congregation too feeble for self-support. I accordingly started a movement to erect a new edifice up on Murray Hill, and to retain the old building in Market Street as an auxiliary mission chapel. A handsome subscription for the erection of the up-town edifice was secured, and the "Consistory" (which is the good Dutch designation of a board of church officers), convened to vote the first payment for the land. The new site was not wisely chosen, and many of my people were still opposed to any change; but the casting vote of one good old man (whom I shall thank if I ever encounter him in the Celestial World) negatived the whole enterprise, and it was immediately abandoned.
A few weeks before that decision, I had received a call to take charge of a brave little struggling Presbyterian Church in the newer part of Brooklyn. I sent for the officers, and informed them that if they would purchase the ground on the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Oxford Street, and pay for it in a fortnight, and promise to build for me a church with good acoustics and capable of seating from eighteen hundred to two thousand auditors, I would be their pastor. Instead of turning purple in the lips at such a bold proposal, they "staggered not at the promise through unbelief" and in ten days they brought me the deed of the land paid for to the uttermost dollar! I resigned Market Street Church immediately, and on the next Sabbath morning, while the Easter bells were ringing under a dark stormy sky, I came over and faced, for the first time, the courageous founders of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church. The dear old Market Street Church lingered on for a few years more, bleeding at every pore, from the fatal up-town migration, and then peacefully disbanded. The solid stone edifice was purchased by some generous Presbyterians in the upper part of the city, who organized there the "Church of the Sea and Land," which is standing to-day, as a well-manned light-house amid a dense tenement-house foreign population. The successful work that is now prosecuted there is another confirmation of my favorite theory that the only way to reach a neighborhood crowded with the poorer classes, is for the wealthy churches to spend money for just such an auxiliary mission church as is now thriving in the structure in which I spent seven happy years of my ministry.
This portion of Brooklyn to which we removed in 1860, was very sparsely settled, and Rev. Henry Ward Beecher said to me: "I do not see how you can find a congregation there." He lived to say to me: "You are now in the center, and I am out on the circumference," Brooklyn was then pre-eminently a "city of churches," and, though we had not a dozen millionaires, it was not infested with any slums. In a population of over three hundred thousand there was then only a single theatre, and when one of our people was asked: "What do you do for recreation over there?" he replied, "We go to church."
Certainly no one was ever attracted to our own modest little temporary sanctuary by its beauty; for it was unsightly without, though very cheerful within. Soon after we commenced the building of our present stately edifice the startling report of cannon shook the land from sea to sea.
"And then we saw from Sumter's wall The star-flag of the Union fall, And armed hosts were pressing on The broken lines of Washington."
Every other public edifice in this city then in process of erection was brought to a standstill; but we pushed forward the work, like Nehemiah's builders, with a trowel in one hand and a weapon in the other. To raise funds for the structure, required faith and self-denial, and in this labor of love, woman's five fingers were busy and helpful. One brave orphan girl in New York gave, from her hard earnings as a public school teacher, a sum so large that the announcement of it from my pulpit aroused great enthusiasm, and turned the scale at the critical moment, and insured the completion of the structure. Justly may our pulpit vindicate woman's place, and woman's province in the cause of Christ and humanity, for without woman's help that pulpit might never have been erected.
On the 16th of March, 1862, our church edifice was dedicated to the worship of Almighty God, Dr. Asa D. Smith, of Dartmouth College, delivering the dedication sermon, and in the evening, my brilliant and beloved brother, Professor Roswell D. Hitchcock, gave us one of his incisive and inspiring discourses. The building accommodates eighteen hundred worshippers, and in emergencies, twenty-five hundred. It is a model of cheerfulness and convenience, and is so felicitous in its acoustics that an ordinary conversational tone can be heard at the opposite end of the auditorium. The picture of the Church in this volume gives no adequate idea of the size of the edifice; for the Sunday School Hall and lecture-room and social parlors are situated in the rear, and could not be presented in the photographic view. I fear that too many costly church edifices are erected that are quite unfit for our Protestant modes of religious service. It is said that when Bishop Potter was called upon to consecrate one of the "dim religious" specimens of mediaeval architecture, and was asked his opinion of the new structure, he replied: "It is a beautiful building, with only three faults: you cannot see in it—you cannot hear in it—you cannot breathe in it."
I need not detail the story of my happy Brooklyn pastorate; for that is succinctly given in the closing chapter of this volume. Our home-life here for the past forty-two years has been a record of perpetual providential mercies and unfailing kindness on the part of my parishioners and fellow townsmen. Brooklyn, although removed from New York (for I cannot yet twist my tongue into calling it "Manhattan") by a five minutes' journey on the East River Bridge, is a very different town in its political and social aspects. New York is penned in on a narrow island, and ground is worth more than gold. It is therefore piled up with very fine apartment houses for the rich, or tenement houses for the poor to more stories than the ancient buildings on the Canongate of Edinburgh. Here in Brooklyn we have all Long Island to spread over, and land is within the reach of even a parson's purse. A man never feels so rich as when he owns a bit of real estate, and I take some satisfaction in the bit of land in the front of my domicile, and in the rear, capable of holding several fruit trees and rose-beds. Oxford Street has the deep shade of a New England village. We come to know our neighbors here, which is a degree of knowledge not often attained in New York or London. The social life here is also less artificial than at the other end of the bridge. There is less of the foreign element, and of either great wealth or poverty; we have neither the splendor of Paris, nor the squalor of the by-streets of Naples. The name of "Breucklen" was given to our town by its original Dutch settlers, but the aggressive New Englanders pushed in and it is a more thoroughly Yankee city to-day than any city in the land outside of New England. My old friend, Mayor Low, urged the consolidation of Brooklyn with New York on the ground that its moral and civic influence would be a wholesome counteraction of Tammany and the tenement-house politics. For self-protection, I joined with my lamented brother, the late Dr. Storrs, in an effort to maintain our independence. Ours is pre-eminently a city of homes where the bulk of the people live in an undivided dwelling, and I do not believe that there is another city either in America, or elsewhere, that contains over a million inhabitants, so large a proportion of whom are in a school house during the week, and in God's house on the Sabbath.
One of the glories of Brooklyn is its vast and picturesque "Prospect Park," with natural forests, hills and dales and its superb outlook over the bay and ocean.
I hope that it may not be a violation of propriety to say that the Park Commissioners in this city of my adoption bestowed my own name on a pretty plot of ground not far from my residence; and its bright show of flowers makes it a constant delight to my neighbors. Last year some of my fellow-townspeople made an exceedingly generous proposition to place there a memorial statue; and I felt compelled to publish the following reply to an offer which quite transcended any claim that I could have to such an honor:
176 SOUTH OXFORD STREET, JUNE 12, 1901.
MESS JOHN N. BEACH, D.W. MCWILLIAMS, AND THOMAS T. BARR.
My Dear Sirs,
I have just received your kind letter in which you express the desire of yourselves and of several of our prominent citizens that I would consent to the erection of a "Memorial in Cuyler Park" to be placed there by voluntary contributions of generous friends here and elsewhere. Do not, I entreat you, regard me as indifferent to a proposition whose motive affords the most profound and heartfelt gratitude; but a work of art in bronze or marble, such as has been suggested, that would be creditable to our city, would require an outlay of money that I cannot conscientiously consent to have expended for the purpose of personal honor rather than of public utility. Several years ago the city authorities honored me by giving my name to the attractive plot of ground at the junction of Fulton and Greene Avenues. If my most esteemed friend, Park Commissioner Brower, will kindly have my name visibly and permanently affixed to that little park, and will direct that it be always kept as bright and beautiful with flowers as it now is, I shall be abundantly satisfied. I have been permitted to spend forty-one supremely happy years in this city which I heartily love, and for whose people I have joyfully labored; and while the permanent fruits of these labors remain, I trust I shall not pass out of all affectionate remembrance. A monument reared by human hands may fade away; but if God has enabled me to engrave my humble name on any living hearts, they will be the best monument; for hearts live on forever. While declining the proffered honor, may I ask you to convey my most sincere and cordial thanks to the kind friends who have joined with you in this generous proposal, and, with warm personal regard, I remain,
THEODORE L. CUYLER.
I cannot refrain here from thanking my old friend, Dr. St. Clair McKelway, the brilliant editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, for his generous tribute which accompanied the publication of the above letter. His grandfather, Dr. John McKelway, a typical Scotchman, was my family physician and church deacon in the city of Trenton. Among the editorial fraternity let me also mention here the name of my near neighbor, Mr. Edward Gary, of the New York Times, who was with me in Fort Sumter, at the restoration of the flag, and with whom I have foregathered in many a fertilizing conversation. Away off on the slope above beautiful Stockbridge, and surrounded by his Berkshire Hills, Dr. Henry M. Field is spending the bright "Indian summer" of his long and honored career. For forty years we held sweet fellowship in the columns of the New York Evangelist.
The experience of the great Apostle at Rome, who dwelt for nearly two years in his "hired house," has been followed by numberless examples of the ministers of the Gospel who have had a migratory home life. My experience under rented roofs led me to build, in 1865, this dwelling, which has housed our domestic life for seven and thirty years. A true homestead is not a Jonah's gourd for temporary shelter from sun and storm, it is a treasure house of accumulations. Many of its contents are precious heirlooms; its apartments are thronged with memories of friends and kinsfolk living or departed. Every room has its scores of occupants, every wall is gladdened with the visions of loved faces. I look into yonder guest chamber, and find my old friends, Governor Buckingham, and Vice-President Wilson, who were ready to discuss the conditions of the temperance reform which they had come to advocate. Down in the dining-room the "Chi-Alpha" Society of distinguished ministers are holding their Saturday evening symposium; in the parlor my Irish guest, the Earl of Meath, is describing to me his philanthropies in London, and his Countess is describing her organization of "Ministering Children." In the library, Whittier is writing at the table; or Mr. Fulton is narrating his missionary work in China; out on the piazza my veteran neighbor, General Silas Casey, is telling the thrilling story of how he led our troops at the storming of the Heights of Chapultepec; up the steps comes dear old John G. Paton, with his patriarchal white beard, to say "good-bye," before he goes back to his mission work in the New Hebrides.
No room in our dwelling is more sacred than the one in which I now write. On its walls hang the portraits of my Princeton Professors, and those of majestic Chalmers and the gnarled brow of Hugh Miller, the Scotch geologist, the precious gifts of the author of "Rab and His Friend." Near them is the bright face of dear Henry Drummond, looking just as he did on that stormy evening when he came into my library a few hours after his arrival from Scotland. I still recall his reply to me in Edinburgh, when I cautioned him against permitting his scientific studies to unspiritualize his activities. "Never you fear," said he, "I am too busy in trying to save young men; and the only way to do that is to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ," In former years this room was my beloved mother's "Chamber of Peace" that opens to the sun-rising. Her pictured face looks down upon me now from the wall, and her Bible lies beside me. In this room we gathered on the afternoon of September 14, 1887, around her dying bed. Her last words were: "Now kiss me good night," and in an hour or two she fell into that sweet slumber which Christ gives His beloved, at the ripe age of eighty-five. Her mental powers and memory were unimpaired. On the monument which covers her sleeping dust in Greenwood is engraved these words: "Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee."
This room is also hallowed by another tenderly sacred association. Here our beloved daughter, Louise Ledyard Cuyler, closed her beautiful life on the last day of September, 1881. On her return from Narragansett Pier, she was stricken with a mysterious typhoid fever, which often lays its fatal touch on the most youthful and vigorous frame. She had apparently passed the point of danger, and one Sabbath when I read to her that one hundred and twenty-first Psalm, which records the watchful love of Him who "never sleeps," our hearts were gladdened with the prospect of a speedy recovery. Then came on a fatal relapse; and in the early hour of dawn, while our breaking hearts were gathered around her dying bed, she had "another morn than ours." Why that noble and gifted daughter, who was the inseparable companion of her fond mother, and who was developing into the sweet graces of young womanhood, was taken from our clinging arms at the early age of twenty-two, God only knows. Many another aching parental heart has doubtless knocked at the sealed door of such a mystery, and heard the only response, "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." Upon the monument that bears her name, graven on a cross, amid a cluster of white lilies, is inscribed: "I thank my God upon every remembrance of thee." The lovely twin brother, "Georgie" (whose sweet life story is told in "The Empty Crib"), reposes in our same family plot, and beside him lies a baby brother, Mathiot Cuyler, who lived but twelve days. As this infant was born on the twenty-fifth of December, 1873, his tiny tomb-stone bears the simple inscription: "Our Christmas Gift."
During all our seasons of domestic sorrow the cordial sympathies of our noble-hearted congregation were very cheering; for we had always kept open doors to them all, and regarded them as only an enlargement of our own family. In our household joys, they too, participated. When the twenty-fifth anniversary of our marriage occurred, they decorated our church with flags and flowers and suspended a huge marriage-bell on an arch before the pulpit. After the President of our Board of Trustees, the Hon. William W. Goodrich, had completed his congratulatory address, two of the officers of the church in imitation of the returning spies from Eshcol marched in, "bearing between them on a staff" a capacious bag of silver dollars. A curiously constructed silver clock is also among the treasured souvenirs of that happy anniversary.
In April, 1885, the close of the first quarter-century of my ministry was celebrated by our church with very delightful festivities. Addresses were delivered by his Honor Mayor Low, Dr. McCosh, of Princeton, Dr. Richard S. Storrs, and the Hon. John Wanamaker, Post-Master General. A duodecimo volume giving the history of our church and all its activities was published by order of our people.
From such a loyal flock in the full tide of its prosperity, to cut asunder, required no small exercise of conscience and of courage. When the patriarchal Dr. Emmons, of Franklin, Massachusetts, resigned his church at the age of eighty, he gave the good reason: "I mean to stop when I have sense enough to know that I have not begun, to fail." In exercising the same grace, on a Sabbath morning in February, 1890, I made before a full congregation the following announcement: "Nearly thirty years have elapsed since I assumed the pastoral charge of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church; and through the continual blessings of Heaven upon us it has grown into one of the largest and most useful and powerful churches in the Presbyterian denomination. It has two thousand three hundred and thirty members; and is third in point of numbers in the United States. This church has always been to me like a beloved child: I have given to it thirty years of hard and happy labor. It is now my foremost desire that its harmony may remain undisturbed, and that its prosperity may remain unbroken. For a long time I have intended that my thirtieth anniversary should be the terminal point of my present pastorate I shall then have served this beloved flock for an ordinary human generation, and the time has now come to transfer this most sacred trust to some other, who, in God's good Providence, may have thirty years of vigorous work before him, and not behind him. If God spares my life to the first Sabbath in April, it is my purpose to surrender this pulpit back into your hands, and I shall endeavor to co-operate with you in the search and selection of the right man to stand in it. I will not trust myself to-day to speak of the pang it will cost me to sever a connection that has been to me one of unalloyed harmony and happiness. It only remains for me to say that after forty-four years of uninterrupted mental labor it is but reasonable to ask for some relief from the strain that may soon become too heavy for me to bear."
The congregation was quite astounded by this unexpected announcement, but they recognized the motive that prompted the step, and acted precisely as I desired. They agreed at once to appoint a committee to look for a successor. In order that I might not hamper him in any respect, I declined the generous offer of our church to make me their "Pastor Emeritus."
As my pastorate began on an Easter Sabbath, in 1860, so it terminated at the Easter in 1890. Before an immense assemblage I delivered, on that bright Sabbath, the Valedictory discourse which closes the present volume, and which gives in condensed form the history of the Lafayette Avenue Church.
Our noble people never do anything by halves; and a few evenings after the delivery of my valedictory discourse they gave to their pastor and his wife a public reception, for which the church, lecture-room and the church parlors were profusely adorned; and were crowded with guests. Congratulatory addresses were delivered by Dr. John Hall of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, by Professor William M. Paxton, of Princeton Theological Seminary; and congratulatory letters were read from the venerable poet, Whittier, the Hon. William Walter Phelps, Mr. A.A. Low (the Mayor's father), General William H. Seward, Bishop Potter and Dr. Herrick Johnson, besides a vast number of others renowned in Church and State. On behalf of the Brooklyn pastors an address was pronounced by the Rev. Dr. L.T. Chamberlain, which was a rare gem of sparkling oratory. In his concluding passage he said: "Nor in all these have I for an instant forgotten the dual nature of that ministry, which has been so richly blessed. I recall that in the prophet's symbolic act, he took to himself two staves, the one was 'Beauty,' while the other was 'Bands.' In the kingdom of grace and in the kingdom of nature, loveliness is ever the fit complement of strength. Accordingly, to her, who has been the enthroned one in the heart, the light-giver in the home, the beloved of the church, we tender our most fervent good wishes For her also we lift on high our faithful, tender intercession. To each, to both, we give the renewed assurance of our abiding affection. God grant that life's shadows may lengthen gently and slowly! Late, may you both ascend to Heaven: long and happily may you abide with us here!" The report of the proceedings of that evening says that at this reference to the "dual" character of his ministry, "the veteran pastor sprang to his feet and, seizing Dr. Chamberlain's hand, exclaimed; 'I thank you for that, and the whole assembly's applause revealed its heartfelt sympathy." I had declined more than once, for good reasons, the kind offer of my generous flock to increase my salary, but, when on that evening that crowned my thirty years of labor, my dear neighbor and church elder, Mr. John N. Beach (on behalf of the congregation), put into my hands a cheque for thirty thousand dollars, "not as a charity but as a token of our warm hearted grateful love," I could only say with the Apostle Paul: "I rejoice in the Lord that your care has blossomed out afresh" (for this is the literal reading of the great apostle's gratitude).
The proceedings of that memorable evening were closed by a benediction by the Rev. Dr. Charles L. Thompson, then Moderator of our General Assembly and now the super-royal Secretary of our Board of Home Missions. The proceedings were afterwards compiled in a beautiful volume entitled "A Thirty Years' Pastorate," by the good taste and literary skill of my beloved friend, the late Jacob L. Gossler.
In justice to myself, let me say that I have given this narrative of the closing scenes of my pastoral labors, not, I trust, as a matter of personal vain glory; but that good Christian people in our own land and in other lands may learn from the example of the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church how to treat a pastor, whose simple aim has been, with God's help, to do his duty.
LIFE AT HOME—AND FRIENDS ABROAD.
A few months after my resignation, the Lafayette Avenue Church extended an unanimous call to the Rev. Dr. David Gregg, who had become distinguished as a powerful preacher, and the successful pastor of the old, historic Park Street Church, of Boston. He is also widely known by his published works, which display great vigor and beauty of style, and a fervid spirituality. When Dr. Gregg came on to assume his office, I was glad, not only to give him a hearty welcome, but to assure him that, "as no one had ever come up into the pilot house to interfere with the helmsman, so I would never lay my hand on the wheel that should steer that superb vessel in all its future voyagings." From that day to this, my relations with my beloved successor have been unspeakably fraternal and delightful. While I have left the entire official charge of the church in his hands, there have been many occasions on which we have co-operated in various pastoral duties among a flock that was equally dear to us both. Recently the Rev. George R. Lunn, a young minister of exceedingly attractive qualities both in the pulpit and in personal intercourse, has been installed as an assistant pastor. The divine blessing has constantly rested upon the noble old church, which has gone steadily on, like a powerful ocean steamer, well-manned, well-equipped, well-freighted, and well guided by the compass of God's infallible word. Last year the church rendered a signal service to the cause of Foreign Missions by erecting a "David Gregg Hospital" and a "Theodore L. Cuyler Church" in Canton, China. They are both under the supervision of the Rev. Albert A. Fulton, who went out to China from our Lafayette Avenue flock, and has been a most energetic and successful missionary for more than twenty years.
My ministry at large has brought a needed rest, not by idleness, but by a change in the character of my employment. Instead of a weekly preparation of sermons, has come the preparation of more frequent contributions to the religious press. Instead of pastoral visitations have been the journeyings to different churches, or colleges, and universities and Young Men's Christian Associations for preaching services. I doubt whether any other dozen years of my life have been more crowded with various activities. To my dear wife and myself have come increased opportunities for travel, which have been, during the almost half century of our happy wedded life, a constant source of enjoyment. We have journeyed together from Bar Harbor, in Maine, to Coronado Beach, in Southern California. We have traversed together the Adirondacks, the White Mountains and the Catskills, the prairies of Dakota and the orange groves of Florida, the peerless parks of Del Monte on the shores of the Pacific, and the "Royal Gorge" in the heart of the Rocky Mountain Range. Our various trips to Europe have photographed on our hearts the memories of many dear friends and faces, some of whom, alas! have vanished into the unseen world. In the summer of 1889, when we were at Ayr, the late Mr. Alexander Allan, came down for us in his fine steam yacht, the Tigh-na-Mara, and took us up to his hospitable "Hafton House" on the Holy Loch, a few miles below Glasgow. For several days he gave us yachting excursions through Loch Goil, and the Kyles of Bute, and Loch Long, with glimpses of Ben-Lomond and other monarchs of the Highlands. When we saw the gorgeous purple garniture of heather in full bloom, we no longer wondered that Sir Walter Scott was quite satisfied to have his beloved hills devoid of forests.
Another memorable visit of that summer was to Chillitigham Castle in Northumberland, from whose towers we got views of Flodden Field and the scenes of "Marmion." The venerable Earl of Tankerville (who was a contemporary and supporter of Sir Robert Peel in Parliament), and his warm-hearted Countess, who has long been a leader in various Christian philanthropies, entertained us delightfully within walls that had stood for six centuries. In a forest near the Castle were the famous herd of wild cattle which are the only survivors of the original herd that roamed that region in the days of William the Conqueror. They are beautiful white creatures, still too wild to be approached very nearly; and Sir Edwin Landseer, an old friend of the Earl, has preserved life-sized portraits of two of them on the walls of the lofty dining hall of the castle. When the servants, gardeners and other retainers assembled for morning worship in the chapel, the handsome old Earl presided at the melodeon, and the singing was from our American Sankey's hymn-book, a style of music that would have startled the belted knights and barons bold who worshipped in that chapel five centuries ago.
While at Dundee, as the guests of Mr. Alexander H. Moncur, the Ex-provost of the city, I had the satisfaction of preaching in St. Peters Presbyterian Church, whose pastor, sixty years ago, was that ideal minister, Robert Murray McCheyne. The Bible from which he delivered his seraphic sermons was still lying on the pulpit. When I asked a plain woman, the wife of a weaver, what she could tell me about his discourses, her remarkable reply was: "It did me more good just to see Mr. McCheyne walk from the door to his pulpit than to hear any other man in Dundee." A fine tribute, that, to the power of a Christly personality. A sermon in shoes is often more eloquent and soul-convincing than a sermon on paper. I spent a very pleasant hour with sturdy John Bright, and he told me that he had more relatives living in America than in England. His reason for declining the invitation of our government to visit the United States was that he knew too well what our enthusiastic countrymen had in store for him. The separation of Bright and Gladstone on the question of Irish Home Rule had a certain tragic element of sadness. When I spoke of this to Mr. Gladstone, the old statesman of Hawarden tenderly replied: "Whenever I think now of my dear old friend, I always think only of those days when we were in our warmest fellowship" Among the many other recollections of foreign incidents I must mention a very delightful luncheon at Athens with Dr. Schlieman in his superb house which was filled with the trophies of his exploration of the Troad and Mycenae. I found him a most genial man; and he told me that he had never surrendered his American citizenship, acquired in 1850. It was very amusing to hear him and his Grecian wife address their children as "Agamemnon" and "Andromache" and I half expected to see Plato drop in for a chat, or Euripides call with an invitation to witness a rehearsal of the "Medea." Athens is to me the most satisfactory of all the restored cities of antiquity, every relic there is so indisputably genuine. My sunrise view from the Parthenon was a fair match for a midnight view I once had of Olivet and Gethsemane.
I cannot close these recollections of foreign friends without making mention of the late Mr. William Tweedie and his successor the late Mr. Robert Rae, the efficient Secretaries of the National Temperance League (of which Archbishop Temple has long been the President). They rendered me endless acts of kindness, and at their anniversary meetings I met many of the most prominent advocates of the temperance reform in Great Britain. It gives me a sharp pang to recall the fact that of all the leaders whom I met at those meetings, the gallant Sir Wilfred Lawson and Mr. Caine are almost the only survivors.
Returning now to the scenes of our happy home life I should be criminally neglectful if I failed to give even a brief account of the gratifying incidents connected with the recent commemoration of my eightieth birthday. Reluctant as I was to quit the good Society of the Seventies, the transition into four-score was lubricated by so many loving kindnesses that I scarcely felt a jolt or a jar. During the whole month of January a steady shower of congratulatory letters poured in from all parts of the land and from beyond sea, so that I was made to realize the poet Wordsworth's modest confession:
"I've heard of hearts unkind kind deeds With coldness still returning, Alas, the gratitude of men Has oftener left me mourning."
In anticipation of the event Mrs. Houghton, the editor of the New York Evangelist, to which I have been so long a contributor, issued a "Birthday Number" containing the most kindly expressions from representatives of different Christian denominations, and officers of various benevolent societies, and from representative men in secular affairs, like Mr. Andrew Carnegie, Mr. Jesup, General Woodford, the Hon. Mr. Coombs, Dr. St. Clair McKelway, and others. On the afternoon of January 9th, the National Temperance Society honored me with a reception at their Publication House in New York, which was attended by many eminent citizens and clergymen, and "honorable women not a few." Letters and telegrams from many quarters were read and an eloquent address was pronounced by Mr. Joshua L. Bailey, the President of the Society. The evening of my birthday, the 10th of January, was spent in our own home, which was in full bloom with an immense profusion of flowers, and enriched with beautiful gifts from many generous hearts. For three hours it was the "joy unfeigned" of my family and myself to grasp again the warm hands of our faithful Lafayette Avenue flock, and of my Brooklyn neighbors who had for two-score years gladdened our lives, as the Great Apostle was gladdened by his loyal friends at Thessalonica.
[From a photograph, January, 1902]
On Saturday evening the 11th, the "Chi Alpha" Society of New York, the oldest and most widely known of clerical brotherhoods, gave me their fraternal greetings at the residence of the venerable Mrs. William E. Dodge, now blessed with unimpaired vigor, in the golden autumn of a life protracted beyond four-score and ten. The walls of that hospitable mansion on Murray Hill have probably welcomed more persons eminent in the religious activities of our own and other lands than any other private residence in America. Brief speeches were made; a beautiful "address" was presented, which now, embossed and framed, adorns the walls of my library. After this the Rev. Charles Lemuel Thompson, an Ex-moderator of our General Assembly, and now the Secretary of the Board of Home Missions, read the following ringing lines which he had composed on behalf of my fellow voyagers on many a cruise and in many a conflict for our adorable Lord and King. My only apology for introducing them here is their rare poetic merit which entitles them to a more permanent place than in the many journals in which they were reprinted. I ought to add that "Croton" is the name of the river and the reservoir that supply New York with its wholesome water:
Fill—fill up your glasses—with Croton! Fill full to the brim I say, For the dearest old boy among us, Who is ten times eight to-day.
It is three times three and a tiger— It is hand to your caps, O men! For our Captain of captains rejoices, In his counting of eight times ten.
Foot square on the bridge and gripping As steady as fate the wheel, He has taken the storms to his forehead, And cheered in the tempest's reel.
He has seen the green sea monsters Go writhing down the gale, But never a hand to slacken, And never a heart to fail.
So It's—Ho'—to our Captain dauntless, Trumpet-tongued and eagle-eyed, With the spray of the voyage behind him, And the Pilot by his side.
Together they sail into sunset— Slow down for the harbor bell, For the flash of the port, and the message "Well done"—-It is well—It is well.
So it's three times three and a tiger! Breathe deep for the man we love, His heart is the heart of a lion, His soul is the soul of a dove.
It is—Ho!—to the Captain we honor, Salute we the man and the day, On his brow are the snows of December, In his heart are the bird songs of May.
The Scripture passage from which I discoursed on the next Sabbath morning, January 12th, in our Lafayette Avenue Church pulpit—"At evening time it shall be light"—seems especially appropriate to an autobiography penned at a time when the life-day is already far spent. There are some people who have a pitiful dread of old age. For myself, instead of it being a matter of sorrow or of pain, it is rather an occasion of profound joy that God has enabled me to write in my family record "Four score years." The October of life may be one of the most fruitful months in all its calendar; and the "Indian summer" its brightest period when God's sunshine kindles every leaf on the tree with crimson and golden glories. Faith grows in its tenacity of fibre by the long continued exercise of testing God, and trusting His promises. The veteran Christian can turn over the leaves of his well-worn Bible and say: "This Book has been my daily companion; I know all about this promise and that one and that other one; for I have tried them for myself, I have a great pile of cheques which my Heavenly Father has cashed with gracious blessings." Bunyan brings his Pilgrim, not into a second infant school where they may sit down in imbecility, or loiter in idleness; he brings them into Beulah Land, where the birds fill the air with music; and where they catch glimpses of the Celestial City. They are drawing nearer to the end of their long journey and beyond that river, that has no bridge, looms up the New Jerusalem in all its flashing splendors.
In a previous chapter I have told the story of our bereavement when God took three of our precious children to Himself; but to-day we can chant the twenty-third Psalm, for the overflowing cup of mercies that sweeten our home, and for the two loving children that are spared to us. Our eldest daughter, Mary, is the wife of Dr. William S. Cheeseman, an eminent physician in the beautiful city of Auburn, the County-seat of my native County of Cayuga. It is the site of one of our principal Theological Seminaries, from which have graduated many of the foremost ministers in our Presbyterian denomination. One of the earliest professors of that institution was the revered Dr. Henry Mills, who baptized me in my infancy. Auburn is also well known as the residence of our celebrated statesman William H. Seward, who was Secretary of State under President Lincoln. From the window of my daughter's home I look over at the summer house in which that illustrious patriot meditated some of his state papers; and just beyond is the bronze statue reared to his memory. Our only living son, Theodore Ledyard Cuyler, Jr., the surviving twin brother of "little Georgie," fills an honorable position as an officer of the Postal Telegraph and Cable Company in New York. Since the death of his lovely young wife, several years ago, he has resided with us, and his only son, "Ledyard," is the joy of his grandparents' hearts. The sister and niece of my wife complete our household—and our happiness.
My journey hence to the sun-setting must be brief at the farthest. I only ask to live just as long as God has any work for me to do—and not one moment longer. I do not seek to measure with this hand how high the sun of life may yet be above the horizon; but when it does go down, may my closing eyes behold the bright effulgence of Heaven's blessings upon yonder glorious sanctuary, and its faithful flock. After my long day's work for the Master is over, and this mortal body has been put to sleep in yonder beautiful dormitory of "Greenwood" by the sea, I desire that the inscription that shall be written over my slumbering dust may be, "The Founder of Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church."
THE JOYS OF THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY.
A Valedictory Discourse Delivered to the Lafayette Avenue Church, April 6, 1890.
I invite your attention this morning to the nineteenth and twentieth verses of the second chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians:
"For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For ye are our glory and joy."
These words were written by the most remarkable man in the annals of the Christian Church. Great interest is attached to them from the fact that they are part of the first inspired epistle that Paul ever wrote. Nay, more. The letter to the Church of Thessalonica is probably the earliest as to date of all the books of the New Testament. Paul was then at Corinth, about fifty-two years old, in the full vigor of his splendid prime. His spiritual son, Timothy, brings him tidings from the infant church in Thessalonica, that awakens his solicitude. He yearns to go and see them, but he cannot; so he determines to write to them; and one day he lays aside his tent needle, seizes his pen, and, when that pen touches the papyrus sheet the New Testament begins. The Apostle's great, warm heart kindles and blazes as he goes on, and at length bursts out in this impassioned utterance: "Ye are my glory and joy!"
Paul, I thank thee for a thousand things, but for nothing do I thank thee more than for that golden sentence. In these thrilling words, the greatest of Christian pastors, rising above the poverty, homelessness, and scorn that surrounded him, reaches forth his hand and grasps his royal diadem. No man shall rob the aged hero of his crown. No chaplet worn by a Roman conqueror in the hour of his brightest triumph, rivals the coronal that Pastor Paul sees flashing before his eyes. It is a crown blazing with stars; every star an immortal soul plucked from the darkness of sin into the light and liberty of a child of God. Poor, is he? He is making many rich. Despised is he? He wouldn't change places with Caesar. Homeless is he? His citizenship is in heaven, where he will find myriads whom he can meet and say to them: "Ye, ye are my glory and joy." Sixteen centuries after Paul uttered these words, John Bunyan re-echoed them when he said:
"I have counted as if I had goodly buildings in the places where my spiritual children were born. My heart has been so wrapt up in this excellent work that I accounted myself more honored of God than if He had made me emperor of all the world, or the lord of all the glory of the earth without it. He that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways doth save a soul from death, and they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament."
Now, the great Apostle expressed what every ambassador of Christ constantly experiences when in the thick of the Master's work. His are the joys of acquisition. His purse may be scanty, his teaching may be humble, and the field of his labor may be so obscure that no bulletins of his achievements are ever proclaimed to an admiring world. Difficulties may sadden and discouragement bring him to his knees; but I tell you that obscure, toiling man of God has a joy vouchsafed to him that a Frederick or a Marlborough never knew on the field of bloody triumph, or that a Rothschild never dreams of in his mansions of splendor, nor an Astor with his stores of gold. Every nugget of fresh truth discovered makes him happier than one who has found golden spoil. Every attentive auditor is a delight; every look of interest on a human countenance flashes back to illuminate his own. Above all, when the tears of penitence course down a cheek and a returning soul is led by him to the Saviour, there is great joy in heaven over a repentant wanderer, and a joy in that minister's heart too exquisite to utter. Then he is repaid in full measure, pressed down, running over into his bosom.
Converted souls are jewels in the caskets of faithful parents, teachers and pastors. They shall flash in the diadem which the Righteous Judge shall give them in that great day. Ah! it is when an ambassador of Christ sees an army of young converts and listens to the first utterances of their new-born love, and when he presides at a communion table and sees his spiritual off-spring gathered around him, more true joy that faithful pastor feels than "Caesar with a Senate at his heels." Rutherford, of Scotland, only voiced the yearnings of every true pastor's heart when he exclaimed: "Oh, how rich were I if I could obtain of my Lord the salvation of you all! What a prey had I gotten to have you all caught in Christ's net. My witness is above, that your heaven would be the two heavens to me, and the salvation of you all would be two salvations to me."
Yet, my beloved people, when I recall the joy of my forty-four years of public ministry I often shudder at the fact of how near I came to losing it. For very many months my mind was balancing between the pulpit and the attractions of a legal and political career. A single hour in a village prayer-meeting turned the scale. But perhaps behind it all a beloved mother's prayers were moving the mysterious hand that touched the poised balance, and made souls outweigh silver, and eternity outweigh time.
Would that I could lift up my voice this morning in every academy, college and university on this broad continent. I would say to every gifted Christian youth, "God and humanity have need of you." He who redeemed you by His precious blood has a sovereign right to the best brains and the most persuasive tongues and the highest culture. Why crowd into the already over-crowded professions? The only occupation in America that is not overdone is the occupation of serving Jesus Christ and saving souls. I do not affirm that a Christian cannot serve his Master in any other sphere or calling than the Gospel ministry, but I do affirm that the ambition for worldly gains and worldly honors is sluicing the very heart of God's Church, and drawing out to-day much of the Church's best blood in their greedy outlets. And I fearlessly declare that when the most splendid talent has reached the loftiest round on the ladder of promotion, that round is many rungs lower than a pulpit in which a consecrated tongue proclaims a living Christianity to a dying world. What Lord Eldon from the bar, what Webster from the Senate-chamber, what Sir Walter Scott from the realms of romance, what Darwin from the field of science, what monarch from Wall Street or Lombard Street can carry his laurels or his gold up to the judgment seat and say, "These are my joy and crown?" The laurels and the gold will be dust—ashes. But if so humble a servant of Jesus Christ as your pastor can ever point to the gathered flock arrayed in white before the celestial throne, then he may say, "What is my hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing. Are not even ye in the presence of Christ at His coming?"
Good friends, I have told you what aspirations led me to the pulpit as a place in which to serve my Master; and I thank Christ, the Lord, for putting me into the ministry. The forty-four years I have spent in that office have been unspeakably happy. Many a far better man has not been as happy from causes beyond control. He may have had to contend with feeble health as I never have; or a despondent temperament, as I never have; or have struggled to maintain a large household on a slender purse; he may have been placed in a stubborn field, where the Gospel was shattered to pieces on flinty hearts. From all such trials a kind Providence has delivered your pastor.
My ministry began in a very small church. For that I am thankful. Let no young minister covet a large parish at the outset. The clock that is not content to strike one will never strike twelve. In that little parish at Burlington, N.J., I had opportunity for the two most valuable studies for any minister—God's Book and individual hearts. My next call was to organize and serve an infant church in Trenton, N.J., and for that I am thankful. Laying the foundation of a new church affords capital tuition in spiritual masonry, and the walls of that church have stood firm and solid for forty years. The crowning mercy of my Trenton ministry was this, that one Sunday while I was watering the flock, a goodlier vision than that of Rebecca appeared at the well's mouth, and the sweet sunshine of that presence has never departed from the pathway of my life. To this hour the prosaic old capital of New Jersey has a halo of poetry floating over it, and I never go through it without waving a benediction from the passing train.
The next stage of my life's work was a seven years' pastorate of Market Street Church in the city of New York. To those seven years of hard and happy labor I look back with joy. The congregation swarmed with young men, many of whom have risen to prominence in the commercial and religious life of the great metropolis. The name of Market Street is graven indelibly on my heart. I rejoice that the quaint old edifice still stands and welcomes every Sabbath a congregation of landsmen and of sailors. During the year 1858 occurred the great revival, when a mighty wind from Heaven filled every house where the people of God were sitting, and the glorious work of that revival kept many of us busy for six months, night and day.
Early in the year 1860 a signal was made to me from this side of the East River. It came from a brave little band then known as the Park Presbyterian Church, who had never had any installed pastor. The signal at first was unheeded; but a higher than human hand seemed to be behind it, and I had only to obey. That little flock stood like the man of Macedonia, saying, "Come over and help us," and after I had seen the vision immediately I decided to come, assuredly concluding that God had called me to preach the Gospel unto them.
This morning my memory goes back to that chilly, stormy April Sunday when my labors began as your first pastor. About two hundred and fifty people, full of grace and grit, gathered on that Easter morning to see how God could roll away stones that for two years had blocked their path with discouragement. My first message many of you remember. It was, "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Of that little company the large majority has departed. Many of them are among the white-robed that now behold their risen Lord in glory. Of the seventeen church officers—elders, deacons and trustees—then in office, who greeted me that day, only four are living, and of that number only one, Mr. Albion P. Higgins, is now a member of this congregation. I wonder how many there are here this morning that gathered before my pulpit on that Easter Sunday thirty years ago? As many of you as there are present that were at that service thirty years ago will do me a favor if you will rise in your pews.
(Thirteen people here stood up.)
God bless you! If it hadn't been for you this ark would never have been built.
Ah! we had happy days in that modest chapel. The tempest of civil war was raging, with Lincoln's steady hand at the helm. We got our share of the gale; but we set our storm-sails, and every one that could handle ropes stood at his or her place. Just think of the money contributions that small church made during the first year of my pastorate—$20,000, not in paper, but in gold. The little band in that chapel was not only generous in donations but valiant in spirit, and it was under the gracious shower of a revival that we removed into this edifice on the 16th of March, 1862.
The subsequent history of the church was published so fully at the notable anniversary five years ago that I need only repeat the chief head-lines in a very few sentences. In 1863 Mr. William Wickes started a mission school, which afterward grew into the present Cumberland Street Church. In 1866 occurred that wonderful work of grace that resulted in the addition of 320 souls to our membership, one hundred of them heads of families. As a thank-offering to God for that rich blessing the Memorial Mission School was established, which was soon organized into the Memorial Presbyterian Church, now on Seventh Avenue, under the excellent pastorate of my Brother Nelson. During the winter of 1867 a conference of gentlemen was held in yonder study which set on foot the present Classon Avenue Church, where my Brother Chamberlain administers equally satisfactorily. Olivet Mission was organized in 1874. It will always be fragrant with the memory of Horace B. Griffing, its first superintendent. The Cuyler Chapel was opened on Atlantic Avenue in March, 1886, by our Young People's Association, who are maintaining it most vigorously. The little Corwin Mission on Myrtle Avenue was established by a member of the church to perpetuate his name, and is largely sustained by members of this church.
Of all the efficient, successful labors of the Lafayette Avenue Temperance Society, the Women's Home and Foreign Missionary Society, their Benevolent Society, the Cuyler Mission Band, the Daughters of the Temple, and other kindred organizations. I have no time or place to speak this morning. But I must repeat now what I have said in years past, that the two strong arms of this church are its Sunday School and its Young People's Association. The former has been kept well up to the ideal of such an institution. It is that of a training school of young hearts for this life and for the life to come. God's blessing has descended upon it like the morning dew. Of the large number of children that have been enrolled in its classes 730 have been received into membership with this church alone, and to the profession of faith in Christ—to say nothing of those who have joined elsewhere. Warmly do I thank and heartily do I congratulate our beloved brother, Daniel W. McWilliams, and his faithful group of teachers, and the Superintendent of the primary department and her group of assistants, on the seal which God has set upon their loving work. They contemplate the long array of children whom they have guided to Jesus; and they, too, can exclaim, "What is our joy or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the Lord?"
If the Sunday School has rendered good service, so has the well-drilled and well-watered Young People's Association. The fires of devotion have never gone out on the altar of their Monday evening gatherings. For length of days and number of membership combined, probably it surpasses all similar young people's associations in our country. About three thousand names have been on its membership roll, and of this number twelve have set their faces toward the Gospel ministry. Oh, what a source of joy to me that I leave that association in such a high condition of vigor and prosperity! No church can languish, no church can die, while it has plenty of young blood in its veins.