Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful.--Ps., i., I.
IN the brilliant annals of sunny France, there is the story of one of her sons, so brave on the battle-field, so generous to a fallen foe, so full of the highest sense of honor, so courteous to serf and to noble, so pure in life, so devoted to God, that all Christendom joined to give him the title, "Without fear and without reproach." All honor to the noble Bayard! Would that every man who calls himself a soldier and a gentleman took him for a pattern! But I claim the title he has won and worn for another also; a knight not of France, but of this western land; a knight not of the order of the Garter, or the Golden Fleece, or the Eagle, or of the Sword; but a knight of the army of Jesus Christ, a knight of the Holy Ghost, whose armor was not of shining steel, but "the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left;" whose victories were not over frowning castles, but over prejudice and over sin; whose prisoners were not trembling and beaten men-at-arms, but prisoners of hope, souls taken captive by Christ; whose pennon bore no device but "Christ and Him crucified;" whose sword point was love, but whose courage was undaunted; whose face was ever toward the foe; a knight who fell on the battlefield, with armor on and lance in rest, who is laid to sleep in the shadow of his tent, and whose pure and stainless scutcheon bears the words: "Without fear and without reproach."
I am about to pronounce a eulogy on James De Koven, who fell asleep in the arms of Jesus on the 19th of this current month, March, 1879. And I say distinctly, a eulogy. For could it be tolerated that I, the friend of his life, should strive to bring out into the light of day any fault of his character? Before God, I know not any, if it were my place to mention them. For, beloved, this man, whose character I am about to retrace, was one who, like the lily in some muddy pool, preserved the snowy whiteness of childhood amid all the evil and stain of a busy life. It seems to me, if I searched the whole scriptures, I could not find a better text than this first verse of the first Psalm, the one which leads the whole stately and splendid procession of the Psalms, as they march through the centuries, spreading benediction and comfort to so many throbbing hearts, "Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful." Then the next verse is also true of him, "His delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law will he exercise himself day and night." And I must add in this hour, when it seems as if he could not be spared, as if he had fallen too soon, "He shall be like a tree planted by the waterside, that will bring forth his fruit in due season. His leaf also shall not wither; and look, whatsoever he doeth it shall prosper." It is a portrait painted by David's hand, which has found its counterpart in many a saint, whose name glows in the history of the Church; and that it can be set forth now in truth and soberness is a full and perfect answer to those who think that the type of personal religion is deteriorating, and that the saints are dying out from the earth. Let us turn this diamond, this "gem of purest ray serene" on some of its many facets, and catch the gleam of its; brightness from various points of view. The General Convention of this Church is not a body easily moved by flights of oratory, or bursts of rhetoric. Cold, hard, dry argumentation is much more likely to move it. But to this man it listened spell-bound. When he began to speak, a hush came over the scene; the reading, the note-writing, the whispering, the coming and going, all ceased; and everyone, whether friend or foe, gave mute attention. The gavel of the president would fall again and again, to mark the time allotted to each speaker; but the cry would go up "Let him go on." And on in that resistless tide of burning eloquence he went. Again and again has this been witnessed. Who that heard him can ever forget his brilliant defense of his position in the Wisconsin convention, when carried away by the magic power of his words, the whole assembly-burst out into a tumultuous shout of praise, and many ministers of other religious bodies, who were standing there, exclaimed, "With such a man to choose, how can it be possible that they hesitate?" His voice was not particularly good. He was not a graceful orator. But there was that power, that pathos, that resistless energy of love burning and breathing through all his words, which went like an arrow to the hearts of his hearers. Earnestness, deep conviction, reality--these were the forces which made his preaching so effective; and these soared op the wings of a cultivated style, a full acquaintance with all the treasures of literature, a glowing imagination, and a tact, which never failed to gauge the wants of his hearers. The young men and boys who heard him every Sunday hung, upon his words; and the most fastidious congregations in the largest cities found equal delight in his glorious presentation of the gospel of Christ. As a theologian, I do not know any man now living in our American church who is his superior, especially in that great subject which occupied so much of his time and thoughts--the doctrine of the holy Eucharist. I do not appear here as the champion of his views; it is not necessary. But certainly it was a subject which he had personally studied, and of the literature of which he was a thorough master. No one has done so much as he to elevate the public interest in regard to the beauty, the power, the tremendous importance of this great mystery; and no one was more tolerant than he of those who could not see as he saw. One thing, surely, he proved, if pointed and thorough quotation ever prove anything, and that is that he held no view which had not been held by the most revered and honored of the fathers of the English church. Cosin and Andrewes are names too saintly and too weighty to permit a man who believed what they believed to be called an innovator or a disturber of peace. Ah, what a battle raged around him on this point! In what adust and roar of pamphlets, speeches and newspaper articles he had to live! I think of all that weary controversy, and the verse of the Psalm comes up, as he lies sleeping: "Thou shalt hide them privily by Thine own presence from the provoking of all men; Thou shalt keep them secretly in Thy tabernacle, from the strife of tongues."
On one point he has been greatly misunderstood. Because he spoke and wrote strongly on the subject of "Eucharistic adoration," it has been, widely believed that he wished to inaugurate an elaborate system of genuflections, a prostration before the elements of bread and wine. He has said to me often that he was perfectly and entirely satisfied with the one act of worship which his church prescribed--the kneeling down upon the knees to receive the Body and Blood of Christ. He asked for no more. He contended for the right, which no power indeed can interfere with, to lift up the heart in adoring worship before that real, spiritual, and therefore all the more real, presence of Christ Jesus, who, as he often said, is to be worshipped wherever he is. The greatest misunderstandings have also prevailed in regard to the ritual of the chapel where he ministered daily. Surely, it is enough to say that it was submitted by him to eight or ten bishops of the church, met in council at Racine college, containing among them men of the most moderate views, and by all of them allowed, and by most of them highly approved. And I am permitted here to say, by one of that number, that he wished to make one or two additions to that ritual which the bishops could not agree upon, and he submitted in a moment with that sweet obedience which he delighted ever to pay to those who were over him in the Lord. His theology was bold and fearless, but never stood "like quills upon the fretful porcupine," rasping all who came near it. There was in it a manliness, a reserve of possible ignorance on his part, a knightly courtesy, which made men who hated it respect the man who uttered it. The only wonder is how, with all that pressed upon him, he ever found time to master some of the greatest topics of theology. But then, like the famous Arnauld, of Port Royal, when asked to rest, he replied: "I shall have eternity to rest in."
Then as a teacher. Here, too, he stands preeminent. He had that first qualification for a teacher--a personal magnetism, a charm of manner--which drew boys and young men to his side, and chained them there by links of love, which never will be broken. He had no trouble in gaining any young man's confidence, for he inspired immediately the feeling that such confidence would be given to a true man, with a loving heart actuated only by the purest motives, and with the sincerest desire to aid and strengthen the young and forming nature. He sought this confidence, for he thought it the basis of all influence; and he has sometimes been faulted for it, and ugly things about "confessionals" were put out in the newspapers. But as a father I thank him for the interest he took in my boy's spiritual nature, and hundreds of fathers will do the same. When I think how little my instructors knew or cared about the struggles of my heart, and the character of my temptations, I thank God that this man did so greatly care, for those who fell under his charge. Like that famous bishop of Orleans, Dupanloup, who has just gone to his rest, himself a famous educator, he believed that "a teacher's care (to use that bishop's own phrase) should extend from a boy's soul to the strings of his shoes," and in that spirit he governed his college. Everything was under his supervision and received his attention--the health, the exercise, the clothes, the company, the manners. Ah, many a time has the watcher by some sick boy been surprised in the middle of the night by the appearance of the warden, too full of anxiety to allow himself to sleep when even one of his boys, perhaps the very one who tried him the most, was sick. Boys do not forget that and fathers and mothers do not, and "Our Father" never forgets it. He writes such things as that in His book of life. Those who think that Racine college was a sort of monastery, where nothing went on but prayers and Eucharists, are tremendously mistaken. It was a scene of the healthiest and the soundest realities. Unless I am mistaken, Dr. De Koven was the first president of a college in these United States who publicly authorized and recognized the playing of cards and billiards by the college students. Places were provided by the college for these amusements, and the temptation to go to forbidden places to indulge in them removed. This shows, more than volumes of words, the common sense which governed him in the administration of his great task. The intellect of the students was constantly spurred by his untiring supervision, their physical development went on apace with that, and their spiritual nature was tenderly fostered, with that knowledge of the soul, that intimate acquaintance with human nature which astonished me to the last, familiar as I was with his power over men. A boy's motto, he often said, should be, "Work hard, play hard, pray hard." And those words are the key note to his whole system of training. He was not a teacher for a profession, to earn a certain salary, to have a certain place. He was a teacher because he thought God called him to the work. He threw his whole soul into it, and in order to carry it on, refused some of the most distinguished positions the Church could offer him.
But let us look at him as a man of the world, a citizen, a friend, a visitor. These, for their perfection, involve gifts and graces which are, very often, separated from great intellectual gifts, great spirituality, or great administrative power. It is rarely one sees all these exist with great social endowments. But in his case he was no less distinguished in society, and in the intimate life of friendship than in his more public positions. There was no greater ornament to the circles of the refined and highly placed than he. His courtesy was so high bred, so unaffected. No one knew better than he the value of all those nice distinctions which society has settled upon as the best solvents of a crowd. Who can forget the conversation in his noble library, the brilliancy of his repartee, the clearness of his thought, the good humor with which he would attack an adversary, his loud, ringing laugh, and with it all the calm dignity of the priest and of the warden? And if ever welcome in the salons of the rich, he was no less dearly prized in the humble abodes of the poor. Who that saw the number of workmen and servant women sobbing over his grave could doubt that? No one sympathized more deeply with all their trials, no one entered more energetically into any effort to better their condition. His charity was wonderful. Before his death he had reduced by one-half the fortune he inherited by the money he was continually giving away. Many a poor clergyman weeps in secret for the loss of the friend whose purse was ever open to him. Many a needy student is wondering now what he will do, when the hand which so generously supplied his necessities is stiffened in death. When his will was opened, there was written the grand bequest to the college of his love, which, estimating the library at a low figure, amounts to $45,000. The little hospital in Racine knows what it has lost; for he was not only one of its founders, but its constant benefactor, and a week never passed without a visit to its sick and suffering inmates. And what a friend! How tender, how affectionate, how considerate! There was a delicacy of feeling which even the most intimate relations with a man never broke down, and which prevented all familiarity. And there was in trouble and in sickness, a softness, a gentleness, which was almost feminine. Very unyielding where principle was involved, there was no sacrifice too great for the comfort of a friend. One of his friends once characterized him as an "iron pillar cased in velvet." It was a happy illustration, for no man ever combined more beautifully a firm, unbending devotion to principle and to his own sense of right, with the most confiding, dependent, trusting devotion to those whom he held dear. There are inner depths here which I could not trust myself to unfold; but they are fresh in my heart.
And now let us look at him as a priest; for you will observe that I am gradually rising higher in the relations which make up the man. The office of a priest is the highest and the holiest that a man can dare to take, and there ought to be within the soul a clear and distinct call before a man does dare to take it. That call he felt he had received when a boy. He grew up with the priest's office ever before him, and his studies from the beginning, were directed to that end. And if purity of life, devotion to the great High Priest, and determination to give one's self wholly to this one thing, can make any weak, sinful, erring man a good priest, he was that man; for those requisites were peculiarly his. He magnified not himself but his office, and he never was happier than when, before the altar, he was pleading the memorial of the sacrifice once offered on Calvary, and interceding with Christ for the flock committed to his charge. What simple reverence of tone, of gesture, of spirit, shining through the material form! There was none of that affectation which is the mark of a certain class of ritualistic clergymen. There was no exaggeration of devotional manner, but there was the evident humbling of body and soul in the presence of God, the silent confession, "Who am I, that I should dare to celebrate this great mystery?" Souls found in his counsels such comfort. He was in the constant receipt of letters from strangers, both at home and abroad, placing before him their spiritual troubles and asking his advice; and he never slighted even the most absurd and unfounded of them. He never had but one strictly parochial charge, a little parish near Nashotah, where he ministered for a year or two, to plain people principally, and where he was, as every where else, tenderly beloved. But the college church, with its interesting and ever-changing congregation, gave him full employment in his priestly office, and he performed it more thoroughly, even with all his many duties, president of the college, member of the missionary board, delegate to the councils of the diocese and the general church, member of all sorts of church committees, selected preacher on numberless public occasions, and an extended correspondence and controversial writing; he performed it, I say, more thoroughly than many a rector who has no other occupation. I do not believe there is one to be found who took the pains with each individual case that he did.
And now we come to him as a Christian. For, better than preacher, or theologian, or teacher, or gentleman, or priest, is the character which is stamped with that most priceless of all names, the Christian, the follower of Christ. Now I know that an all pure God sees folly in His very angels. I know how full of self-will and sin the holiest heart is. I know that James De Koven felt a terrible sense of sin, and lamented his shortcomings before God. I know how hidden may be the evil tenants of the heart; but with all that, I feel that if ever man could be held up to his fellows as an example of the power of the gospel of Christ, this man could. He had a strong nature, a man's nature, with all a man's feelings and passions. Sin attacked him as it does every child of Adam, an d that he was enabled to trample upon it and subdue it to the will of Christ was no triumph of unaided nature, but the miracle of redeeming grace He said so. He felt so. "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto Thy name be the glory." The first trait of his Christian character, suggested first by the festival of to-day in honor of the Virgin Mother of Jesus, is his purity. His life was like some beautiful block of snowy marble, or rather (for that is too cold and lifeless) like some stainless flower which throws its perfume on the air. No man ever dared breathe before him an allusion that was not chaste. You felt that his holy purity was to be respected like that of a young girl. It was the purity that sprang from the soil of deep principle, of a nearness to the life of Christ. Then there was the most perfect submission to the will of God. "Do you not feel anxious?" I said, on the eve of his election to this episcopate. "Not at all," he said, "I have tried to submit every act of my life since I was a conscious agent to the will of God; and thanks to His holy name, I am able to do so, and it is a wonderful relief in any time of trial. I accept every turn of fortune as the will of God." These were his express words, and, when a man can say them as he did, beyond suspicion of hypocrisy, they betoken a very far advancement along the road to holiness. Several times every day it was his wont to retire and commune in prayer with his God. Devotional reading, holy meditation, occupied him greatly. Then we must remember his great charity of soul. He had to bear, in his life, many unjust accusations, many unwarranted attacks; but no man ever heard him use uncharitable language against his adversaries. And some of them, convinced of their error, and going to him were humiliated beyond measure to see how he took the blame, how he more than met their advances, how thoroughly he accepted their reparation. Then there was ever in his life the exhibition of the deepest spirituality. As the light held behind a statue seems to struggle through the marble and inflame it with life, so the light of holiness within him seemed to struggle through the veil of flesh and blood, and illumine his whole frame. He convinced you without a word of his living with God. And lastly, his humility. Who ever heard him boast of his honors, his acquirements, his influence? All that was offered on the altar of his God, and buried under his sense of the measureless humility of Jesus. And so I finish the picture of this holy man. You may say it has been painted by too partial a hand, and is too flattering a likeness. It may be so, but it does not seem so to me. It seems merely the truth, to which hundreds can bear witness. I, for one, thank God with all my heart that such a man has lived. We have had reason to think evil of humanity lately. We have had some awful falls. And to have this beautiful life brought out by death in all its glory, is like wine to a fainting man; it reanimates, encourages, kindles fresh hope. Still are there saints. Still does the love of Christ elevate and ennoble the souls of those who drink it in. He sleeps. Over his grave friend and foe have joined to do him honor. The senate of a state not his own paid their homage. Bishops and clergy flocked in astonishing numbers from all parts of the land to take part in the sad funeral rites. Ministers of the religious bodies around us rivalled us in eulogies on his life and character. His body sleeps; but his spirit, clad in its celestial form, mitred with that glowing tongue of divine love which crowns the victors, is now employed in doing God's will in some grander field, where God needed just such a worker. He sleeps, and we survive; and as his memory glows within us; "we bless God's holy name for all His saints departed this life in His faith and fear; beseeching Him to give us grace so to follow their good examples, that with them we may be partakers of His heavenly kingdom. Grant this, Oh Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen."