THE STORY OF
BEING AN ACCOUNT OF
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2013
Letter of Dedication
My DEAR DR. DIX,
While writing this little book I have been living over again the days when it was my privilege to be one of your clergy, serving under your wise and loving oversight my seven year's apprenticeship, in the work of the ministry. Because those were the first years, they were the important years of my ministerial life. The associations which were formed then have been life-long associations; change and distance have not affected them. Though more than twenty years have passed away since I left you, you are still to me and mine the Rector. I hold in grateful memory your kindness to and forbearance with the young deacon, who must ofttimes have tried your patience.
I value that period of my life the more because I was a fellow worker with many earnest and holy souls, whose lives were an example and an inspiration. Among these, was that soul, so remarkable in its devotion and simplicity, whose life and labors are briefly recorded in this book. In writing of her I am not only following an impulse of gratitude and affection in trying to preserve the name of one to whom I owe the support of a life-long friendship, but I feel that I am fulfilling a duty to the world at large, in making known as far and widely as I can this simple life; showing as it does how much can be done with a little; teaching as it does that not great gifts but great faithfulness is necessary to the highest usefulness in the world and the church.
In writing the life of my friend I have endeavored to set that life in the frame of its circumstance. In doing this I have had to take some liberties with an illustrious living name. I excuse myself for this by saying that the name in question has long ceased to be private, it belongs to the world.
You know how intimate was the friendship existing between the writer and the subject of this book; how her home was his home, and how that friendship was unbroken to the last. But the writer of this book knows well that he did not occupy the first place in the esteem and affection of his friend. That place was taken before he knew her. She ever held in highest regard her Rector, who was also her pastor. She had for him the love and the reverence which a disciple has for his master; her loyalty and her admiration for him were a fixed element in her life, so in describing her character I am talking of his influence as well.
I ask you then to accept the dedication of this little book, to which you make so valuable a contribution, in memory of the dear old days in dear old S. Pauls; days which you perhaps have forgotten but which I can never forget.
Asking you, for the sake of the one that is gone, a little place in your affection and esteem, I remain,
Very affectionately yours,
ALGERNON S. CRAPSEY.
S. Andrews Rectory,
Rochester, N. Y.
REV. MORGAN DIX, S T. D.; D. C. L.
Rector of Trinity Church
The writer cannot let this book go to press without expressing his sense of great obligation to Mr. G. Wisner Thorne, the loving and devoted nephew of Sarah Wisner Thorne; to whose affectionate care she owed much of the comfort and ease of her declining years.
It is to Mr. Thorne's earnest desire to preserve the memory of his relative's simple, saintly life that this book owes its existence; without his encouragement it never could have been written.
Besides undertaking the expense of publication, Mr. Thorne has furnished much valuable information in regard to the early life of Sarah Thorne, which is embodied in this book.
The writer wishes thus publicly to express his gratitude to Mr. Thorne for being permitted to perform this labor of love.
I. THE WAY OF ALL THE WORLD
II. A NOTABLE PERSON
III. HER BIRTH AND LINEAGE
IV. HER PREPARATION FOR HER WORK
V. HER WORK ROOM
VI. MISS THORNE AND HER HELPERS
VII. MISS THORNE'S METHOD
VIII. A HELPING HAND
IX. COMFORT AND COUNSEL
X. A TEACHER OF THE BIBLE
XI. THE CHILDREN OF THE DESOLATE
XII. OLD S. PAUL'S
XIII. MR. DIX
XIV. HOUSE AND HOME
XVI. FAMILY TIES AND CARES
XVIII. MY FRIEND
XIX. UNDER THE CROSS
MEMORIAL—THE WITNESS OF ONE WHO KNEW HER
BY REV. MORGAN DIX, S. T. D.; D. C. L.
IN MEMORIAM—By REV. W. MONTAGUE GEER, M.A.
SERMON—A LILY OF THE FIELD
SARAH WISNER THORNE, AGE FORTY, Frontispiece
THE DEACON, page 6
FATHER LEMPRIERE, page 40
S. PAUL'S, page 58
THE OLD SEXTON, page 64
MR. DIX, page 70
HIRAM, page 80
SARAH WISNER THORNE, AGE SEVENTY, page 100
REST AND PEACE, page 121
The Way of All the World
THERE is nothing more pathetic in this world than a funeral procession in a large city. The dead, followed by the mourners, seems strangely out of place in the midst of all that life and activity. No reverent courtesy is shown there to the sacredness of sorrow or to the mystery of death. The procession is halted and hurried by the traffic of the street; and of the crowds upon the pavement, no one bows the head in recognition of the mourners or lifts the hat in honor of the dead, for no one knows or cares to know who it is, out yonder in the roadway, that is going to his long home. He is only one of the millions of atoms that make up the life of the city. The city never knew him and the city will never miss him. He has served his day and gone his way and for all his labor he has darkness and the dust. It is only in the wide and silent spaces of the country, where time is something more than money, that men can pause and think as the dead go by; in the city they cannot pause and they will not think; and because they are thus regardless, they lose all those emotions [1/2] of tenderness and pity which the sight of the dead is meant to stir in the hearts of the living.
Such an unregarded funeral procession made its way through the streets of New York, on Saturday, the seventeenth of February, in the year 1900, from the region of Fifteenth Street and Sixth Avenue to Broadway and Vesey Street. A little after the hour of noon, the poor, worn out body was carried from the house, which had been its earthly home for forty years, to be taken first to the church and then to the grave. A few near relatives and friends followed after, and so began that sad procession through the streets, with all its jarring incidents: the hurrying and the halting; the loud rough voices of men driving their teams close beside the dead and in between the carriages of the mourners; the evident disinclination to give the procession any right of way; the people hastening over the crosswalk, fearful of a moments delay and irritated that the dead should thus presume to interfere with the business of the living.
All this seemed very pitiful to the mourner who looked out on that rush and roar from the quiet of his carriage. That world of the street, with its confused noise; with its men and women going to and fro, some up, some down, seemed an unreal world; a world of uncertainty; a world of passing shadows; while here [2/3] in the comparative silence of grief and there in the perfect silence of death, was the real world; the world of definite and unchanging purpose; the world that knew its own mind and kept it. The men and women going by with such headlong haste, if they had looked up, might have seen in that passing procession the end of all their hurry; the goal of all their striving; but as they did not look up, death went by them with its warning unheeded. The day of this burial was the day of the greatest storm of the season; when the wind was high and the snow was falling fast and drifting as it fell. This gave added dreariness to that ride through the streets; and the thought would come, in spite of the will, that the dead was well quit of this world; man is hard and nature is cold and what, after all, is better than the grave.
The procession reached the church, as the clock was striking one, and the body was carried into that House of God, where the soul of the dead had worshipped while living, and where was to be said over the body those words of finality and those words of promise, which speak of the end and of the beginning. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes" is the end of man, except "we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come," as his new beginning.
When the funeral procession entered the church and the voice was heard saying, [3/4] "I am the Resurrection and the Life saith the Lord," a hundred or two persons stood up to receive it. But the eye did not rest upon the people; it wandered over the emptiness of the church, the vacant seats upon the floor, the wide and lonely spaces of the galleries, and as the eye wandered, it wondered where they were who should have filled this church so that there should have been no room to stand in it. For if all who had been benefited by the life, that was thus ended in death, had been present, not only would the church itself have been crowded, but there would have been hundreds standing in the streets and in the church yard. The reason for this seeming neglect was not far to seek. The body of the woman lying before the altar was the body of a woman who had died in the eighty-ninth year of her age. She was very old when she died and those who were very near and dear to her were dead also. She was the last of her generation. And of the hundreds, yes, thousands of lives that had received help and inspiration from hers, only a few were left to mourn her here; the many were waiting for her in that country to the which she had gone. So as one looked not with the outward but with the inward eye he saw no longer that old church, cold in the winter light, with its congregation of mortals looking, in wistful silence, upon this evidence of their mortality; but he saw a great host, radiant in the glowing [4/5] light of immortality, waiting, with the glad noise of beating wings, to welcome the weary one home. For she too was a saint of God.
A Notable Person
UPON almost any day of the week, except the Saturday and the Sunday, from the middle to the close of the nineteenth century, at about the hour of noon, a woman might have been seen alighting from a Sixth Avenue railway car at the Broadway and Vesey Street terminus of the road. As this woman stepped from the car to the walk, the conductor, as likely as not, gave her a kindly and a helping hand; and his was a hand and a kindness that was not the outcome of mere courtesy, but it was given at the call of considerate pity. The figure of that woman was one that appealed to compassion. She was very small and she was lame. As she walked away from the car she was so little and so frail that it seemed wrong and dangerous for her to be going about alone, with no one to help her over the cross walks and guard her from the perils of the street. Always dressed in simple black, she was the very picture of genteel poverty, that poverty that is sweet and clean and shrinking and sad, that poverty that does not degrade but elevates and is a kind of poverty [6/7] never seen except in women of gentle birth and fine culture.
This limping figure, passing out of the street into S. Paul's Church yard, could not but attract the attention of any who should chance to look at her with the eye and spirit of an artist. She made a picture as she stood there in the shadow of the church and in the midst of the graves. She seemed so much in need of the one and so near to the other. For such as she, one might say, the church exists; it must be her protection and her stay; she is doubtless coming now to it to receive the dole of charity which the church is ready to give to the needy. But she will not need help long. She is only a little higher than the mounds that are over the dead. In a few days she must sink low enough so that the mound shall cover her, and there will be one less sight of human weakness to appeal to human compassion.
So might the thought of the curious follow the slow progress of the little woman, as she goes down to the church offices, at the foot of the church yard, to receive her supposed alms. As she enters the building and the door closes upon her, the watcher goes his way with a kinder heart for having seen her; and as he goes, he hopes that they to whom she has gone will be gentle with her and will not make her feel her weakness and her poverty too keenly.
 But all this while appearances have been making a fool of this observer. His judgment is just like a man's. He thinks that to be a force in this world one must be tall and strong and must show one's power by dress and gait. So thought Samuel when he had to choose a king for Israel. He chose Saul because he was of goodly stature, a head and shoulders above his fellows. And when he found that he had in Saul a man whose body was out of all proportion to his soul and whose strength of arm was the more dangerous because of the weakness of his will, and Samuel had to choose again, he used the same measure, and when the six feet of Eliab passed him by, Samuel cried in admiration and said "Surely the Lord's anointed is before him." But the Lord said unto Samuel "look not on his countenance or the height of his stature, because I have refused him; for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart. [*1. Samuel xvi: 6-7.]
So the dear little woman, limping through the church yard, might be pitied by those, who seeing her there, make the common mistake of confounding bigness with greatness, but to those who knew her she was not by any means a woman to be pitied, she was a woman to be feared. When she entered that building, the boy that kept the door put away the yellow covered book that he [8/9] was reading and straightened himself up and looked his best; the women, who were in charge of the house, made haste to go before her and make ready her way; and if there were any ministers of the church present, this woman did not approach them as a shrinking suppliant who had a request to make, but she looked at them fearlessly, and greeted them as equals; and if she did more than pass the courtesies of the day, she did not receive direction and command, but she gave the minister some information needful for his days work; told him of a sick child or a poor widow requiring his ministrations, and if that matter were not duly attended to, that poor minister heard of it afterward, from that little woman, in a way that was not to his comfort. On this, or any morning, the woman in black would go through the large open room, where the under clergy sat at their desks, hearing the complaints of the poor, into that inner, sacred room, where the awful majesty of great Trinity sat, in the person of the Rector, to freeze out those who would fain wheedle from him the riches of the Parish. But there was no awfulness nor coldness in that room for that woman. But a voice was heard full of the warmth that comes from the heart of a friend, giving to her the greetings of the morning, and by and by there would come from the room the ringing sound of hearty laughter; and they, outside, [9/10] would know that the Rector was telling one of his funny stories. When the morning story was told and the morning conference ended, our little friend would come out of the region of greatness with her face toward us. And one could read in that face the secret of her power. It was an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. It was the face of a soul that was at peace with itself, at peace with the world and at peace with God, and which had that strength that only peace can give.
The head of this woman was built upon a much larger plan than the body. It was not so out of proportion as to be painful to the sight, but still one could see that if nature had been kindly she would have put a better foundation under this fine super-structure. The head was long, the brow high and broad, well shaded by heavy dark hair, drawn close over the ears, the nose was long and firm and prominent, the eyes wide apart, large, open and grey in color, the mouth firm but sensitive, the chin pointed and strong. But why describe the indescribable. No human face can ever be put into mere human words; as well might one attempt to describe in speech the nature of God as the face of a man or a woman; there is always something left out and that something is the secret and the charm of it all. One could only say of that face that it was as calm as the summer sea and as deep as the [10/11] summer sky, and had in it somewhat of the strength of the sea and the tenderness of the sky.
The present writer remembers well when he first saw that face. He was the new deacon, fresh from the seminary. Now a deacon is nothing accounted of in Trinity Parish; the vestry do not condescend to notice him, the rector hires him by the year, and when his year is up he ordinarily goes his way, and Trinity knows him no more. The janitor and sexton condescend to the deacon, and the office boy kindly instructs him in his duties. And when an old woman once sent word to the rector—"would he please send her some liniment, some red flannel and any kind of a deacon that he'd got"—she expressed that contempt for the deacon which was common to all the people.
So on the morning of our history, when the poor deacon in question, sat at his desk in the great open room of S. Paul's Parish house, hardly daring to speak, afraid of the rector, afraid of the assistant ministers, afraid of the controller (and well he might be, for that controller was the great John A. Dix, who said "shoot him on the spot," and who looked as if he would do it, too), afraid of the janitor, the sexton and the office boy, and in mortal terror of the old women to whom he was expected to judiciously minister alms, so as not to pauperize them, nor yet to [11/12] hurt their feelings; when, I say, this poor deacon, who was simply a bundle of abject terror, saw that insignificant mite of a woman playing with all those sanctities and dignities as a strong man plays with indian clubs, he summoned his courage and turned to the office boy and said in astonishment: "who is that lady?" "Why that," said the boy, "that is Miss Thorne." And who Miss Thorne was and what she did, it is the purpose of this little book to tell.
Her Birth and Lineage
SARAH WISNER THORNE was born in the city of New York on the 27th day of March, 1811. Her father was William W. Thorne and her mother Sarah Wisner. The Thornes came from England and settled at Great Neck, Long Island, about 1650. They were Church of England people and were among the first to establish that communion in the new colony, which England had so recently acquired. Two of the family were vestrymen of S. George's Church, Hempstead, Long Island, between the years 1720 and 1750.
But though the Thornes were, when they came to this country, strong Church and State men, loyal to the bishop and to the king, yet they did not fail to identify themselves with the new land in which they had made their home. In the contest between the mother country and the colonies, the Thornes and the Wisners were found in the ranks of what was then (and is still, for that matter) called the patriot party. Richard Thorne, the grandfather of Sarah, was a major in the revolutionary army, and served his country [13/14] faithfully and bravely to the end of the war. Gabriel Wisner, who was Sarah's maternal grandfather, lost his life in battle at Winisink, in 1779. His father, Henry Wisner, was a member of the Continental Congress in the years 1774-5-6, and was distinguished in that body of men, than which there has been none more remarkable in the history of the world.
We learn from this short family history that Sarah Wisner Thorne was fortunate in her birth and lineage. She was the daughter of soldiers and statesmen. From her fathers she inherited an honorable name, a refined nature and a competence sufficient for her simple needs; and she derived from them that firmness of character and that capacity for affairs, which she used, not to exalt herself in the eyes of men, but to make herself great in the sight of God.
When Sarah was born it was still the fashion to live down near the Bay, and she first saw the light in this world in her father's house in Whitehall street. As a little child she trundled her hoop in the Battery Park and played at tag in the Bowling Green.
How far away all that is. It seems as if we were talking of days that were before Noah builded the Ark. That old New York has been swept away by the rising tides of commerce, as completely as the antediluvian world, according to the story, was swept clean by the waters of the [14/15] Flood. Who, standing in Whitehall street to-day, in the midst of its great warehouses and crowded and heavy traffic, can think of it as ever having been the home of wealth and refinement; where substantial men of the city gave dinners to men as substantial as themselves, where fair ladies walked after dinner with the beaux of the town, and where children of tender years made the street their play ground and no horse nor rider made them afraid. And yet Whitehall street was all this less than a hundred years ago.
In the days of which we are writing, Grace Church had not gone to its new home far up town, at the corner of Tenth street and Broadway. It was still on the corner of Rector street, just over the way from old Trinity, which had been, and in a measure was yet, the center of the resident district, where that refined and wealthy class lived, who have always been the stay of the Episcopal Church. The Thornes were members of Grace Parish and at the font of that historic church this little Thorne was called Sarah Wisner, when she was washed in the waters of baptism, and made a member of Christ and a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven. Thus did she, before the dawn of human consciousness, become a member of that christian communion, which she was destined to serve with a life-long service.
 The little Sarah was sent in her early girlhood to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she received that training which was then considered the proper training for the female sex. For at that far off time the human race was still male and female, and the training of the one was very different from the training of the other. Sarah was instructed in the arts of reading and of writing. She was taught plain and fancy needle work. She was well read in the polite literature of the eighteenth century, and to the end of her life she was fond of Cowper's Task and Thomson's Seasons. And so this little girl with the lovely profile and the large grey eyes, by the acquisition of useful arts and elegant accomplishments, was making herself ready to take her place at the head of some home, where she would find rest in the house of her husband and where her children should call her blessed. She had her dreams as well as another. There was nothing then to set her off from other girls; she was of average height and strength, and her life was bright with all the promise of a fair and perfect womanhood.
Her Preparation for Her Work
THE discipline in the school in Connecticut was very well in its way and was all that was necessary to prepare a girl of that generation to enter upon the common life of women; but this girl was not to lead a common life, and for her work she needed another kind of a schooling. And it was not long before the "Providence that shapes our ends" took her from that school in the country, where she was so happy, and put her to a school of His own.
In the twelfth year of her age, Sarah Thorne was smitten with a wasting sickness, and her dream days and her play days were over. For years she lay in the silence and the shadow of the sick room, and her constant companions were pain and tears. Like One of old, she learned obedience by the things which she suffered. The dreary days and months and years went by and with them went her childhood and her girlhood. But though cast down she did not despair. During all that long season of sorrow, that frail soul wrestled with God's angel of pain as Jacob wrestled with the angel at the ford Jabbok, and she would [17/18] not let him go except he blessed her. And when he saw that he prevailed not against her, he touched the hollow of her thigh. And when the night of sorrow was gone and the sun rose upon her, and she passed over Penuel, she halted upon her thigh. But she had wrestled with God and prevailed, and the angel of pain blessed her and let her go, and as a prince she had power with God and with men and prevailed. [*Genesis xxxii, 24-32]
When Sarah Thorne rose from her bed of sickness, a cripple for life and robbed of her womanhood, she spent no time in vain regret. She knew that there was some divine purpose in her affliction. She was only sixteen years old when she recovered. But pain ripens rapidly, and she who was only a child in form and a child in years was mature in heart and will, and that heart was fixed upon God and that will determined to do His bidding.
Her personal character and the circumstances of her time decided for her the nature of her service. Miss Thorne was not deeply emotional. Her feelings were strong but they were for the most part calm. It may be that the purely emotional element in her character was exhausted in that long conflict with pain. At any rate she came out of that trial with a calmness which remained with her to the day of her death. She could not, therefore, find the service of God in the [18/19] mere exercise of devotional feelings. She had no ecstasies and she felt no thrills. She was not tempted, as some are, to mistake ardent feelings for religious principle. Her thoughts were simple and practical, and if she were to do anything for God it must be, as her thoughts were, somewhat very simple and very practical.
The religious atmosphere in which she lived fostered the natural bent of her mind. She was by birth an Episcopalian, which in her days was not an enthusiastic religion. It was the religion of the colonial gentry. After the Revolution, Episcopalianism hung about the old families like an antique memory. It was the religion of their fathers and as such it was cherished. The life of these English folk in the new world was, because it was new, raw and crude. And they sought in their church for that which they missed so sadly in their daily lives. In the church they were associated with what was venerable and ancient and historic; it called up to them visions of grey cathedrals and ivy-grown churches and quiet church yards. In the orderly services of the Prayerbook they found relief from the turbulent political and religious life around them. These people did not ask much of their religion, but they did ask of it rest and peace. Now such an atmosphere is conducive to refinement and gentleness, but hardly to enthusiasm. A graveyard is a fine place for contemplation, [19/20] but scarcely for vigorous action. The Episcopal church in America reflected, as it always does, the condition of the English establishment. It was high church with a strong flavor of evangelicalism. That movement which was to give new life to the church, and as new life always does, sadly disturb its peace, was yet unborn. It gives one a startling conception of the shortness of time and the rapidity of historical movement to remember that when Sarah Thorne entered upon her active life in the Episcopal church, Keble’s Christian Year was still in manuscript and Newman was an unknown tutor of Oriel College, remarkable only for his rationalistic tendencies. So it was that the young girl desiring to give her life to God, found only one way open to Him. She could not find Him in frequent church services or in early communions at His altar, for the church was closed six days in the week and communions were to be had only once in the month, if so often. Nor could she satisfy her desire for God by the reading of devotional and theological literature. It was considered best that a child should know her catechism and be content with her prayerbook; beyond that she need not go. Shut out then from the devotional and from the intellectual life, this energetic soul could find vent only in the practical life. There are times in the history of the church when she has no cathedrals, no elaborate and soul-moving offices of worship, [20/21] and no great preachers, but the poor she has always with her, and when all else fails, a soul can remember the poor. To visit the poor was the only church work possible for little Sarah Thorne. As soon as she could walk she went to her rector, Dr. Taylor of Grace Church, and asked that she might be given some work among the poor. Consent was given heartily and graciously to her request. It was very proper and churchly and English that she, a woman of culture and wealth should visit the poor. The favorite reading of her day pictured the English lady carrying liniment and tracts down to the cottages of her poorer neighbors and the reader was expected to admire the sweet condescension with which the lady of the hall dispensed her cordial and her advice; and also to admire the proper humility with which the cottager received his mental and material correction. So for a girl to visit the poor meant only that she had a due regard for the proprieties of life. What is the use of wealth and culture if one cannot derive from them the satisfaction of seeing that one is better off than one's neighbors; and by means of them, become the patron of the less fortunate, and receive from them that flattery, which even if not disinterested, is still pleasant to the ear. Of all the forms of religious activity that of visiting the poor on the part of the rich is the one least likely to produce [21/22] a character remarkable for simplicity and saintliness. So there was nothing very promising in the request which that young girl made of her pastor.
To accomplish anything great in such a vocation a person must have a genius for the work. And the only reason why the life of Sarah Thorne is worth writing or reading is because she had that God-like quality. She was a genius, knowing what to do and how to do it. From the very first and instinctively she identified herself with those for whom and with whom she worked. As we have already seen her appearance suggested genteel poverty. She herself was never conscious of this and would have made merry had it been told her. Yet it was so; that scrupulously clean, well-worn black, that simple, spotless linen, all suggested care in expenditure; you could see that this was a woman who had little to spend upon her dress. And this suggestion did not deceive. Miss Thorne had very little to spend upon her dress. She was not rich; she only had a modest competence. And the calls upon her purse were so many that she had to be careful. She was poor in order that she might make many rich. And she became like the poor not only in her outward appearance, but also in her inward nature. Her thoughts were occupied with the problems of the poor; not with the abstract problems of supply and demand; of work and wage; but with [22/23] the concrete problems of the winter coal and the morning meal.
It was not long before this young girl began to attract the attention of such as were working in the same field of labor. Among those who regarded her with admiring love, because of her work, was the Rev. Dr. Parkes, assistant minister of Trinity Parish, in charge of S. Paul's Chapel. He desired to secure such a helper and made her an offer to take charge of a work among women in his parish. After consulting with the Rector of Grace Church, she secured her honorable discharge from that parish and entered upon what was to be her life-long labor in S. Paul's Chapel. She had served her apprenticeship, she was now a master workman.
Her Work Room
JOHN STUART MILL, in his work on "The Subjection of Women," speaking of that large class of women, to be found in every civilized country, who do not, or cannot enter into the married state and therefore have not the duties of a home or the care of a house to occupy their time and employ their energies, says: "Of such women, and of those others to whom this duty has not been committed at all—many of whom pine through life with the consciousness of thwarted vocations and activities which are not suffered to expand—the only resources, speaking generally, are religion and charity. But their religion, though it may be one of feeling and ceremonial observance, cannot be a religion of action unless in the form of charity. For charity many of them are admirably fitted; but to practice it usefully, or even without doing mischief, requires the education, the manifold preparation, the knowledge and the thinking powers of a skillful administrator. There are few of the administrative functions of [24/25] government for which a person would not be fit, who is fit to bestow charity usefully." [* The Subjection of Women, John Stuart Mill. Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1877; page 390.]
It was in this important field of labor that Sarah Thorne proved herself a woman of capacity. Her work was purely voluntary; she received for it no compensation whatever—not even her food and her clothing—but this did not lead her to look upon that work as if it were the mere occupation of an idle hour. She considered it her business in life and she gave to it the ability, the thought, the time and the care which are the conditions of success in any business in the world.
The first and most necessary element for prosperity in business she possessed in the highest degree. She was regular, constant and methodical in the performance of her work. Every day in the week, except Saturday, she devoted to the duties of her calling. She had a certain hour to arrive at her office, and she was never long after that hour. When the church clock struck twelve Miss Thorne entered the church yard. And she did not, as is the habit of some, work at haphazard; she arranged her work just as a business man does, giving certain hours to certain duties. She kept a record of what she was doing, and knew one day what she had done the day before and what she meant to do the day following.
 Her room was, next to the Sunday school room, the largest in the Parish house; it was about thirty feet by twenty, and high in proportion. At one end of the room was an open fire place and a marble mantle, at the other end was a great chest of shelves and drawers; in the middle of the room was a large work table; the floor was covered with a green figured carpet; and between the windows, upon the walls, were pictures of Bible scenes. On one side, the room looked out on the crowded thoroughfare of Church street, with its jam of carts and drays, with its unceasing rattle and roar; while on the other side, the windows were open upon the church yard, where was the quietness of nature and of death. Standing in that room and letting the eye rest upon the yard below and the church beyond, one could forget the great city, which even at Broadway seemed so far off, and could lose himself in the beauty and the silence that lay so near at hand. One could see the grass and the flowers and the shadow of the trees; he could hear the birds sing and the leaves rustle; he could count the headstones at the graves, up and across, and multiplying the one number by the other, could calculate how many were the dead who peopled the yard. All this the present writer has done over and over again as he has stood, in dreamy silence, at the window in Miss Thorne's room waiting for a conference with the little lady.
 There was always much to be talked of there and many directions to be received and given. In that great chest in the end of the room were stores for distribution. Miss Thorne was a store keeper; and her supplies always anticipated any demand. In that store house were garments of every kind and size: pinafores for the children and aprons for the mothers, dresses and underwear, hats and shoes; it was a regular department store in which anything was to be had, from a needle to a shroud.
Miss Thorne manifested her administrative capacity by collecting and distributing these stores. She was not like a merchant, who can put his goods upon the shelf and then wait, for those who need, to come and buy, but she had to be both buyer and seller. She kept in mind the wants of her people. This one required clothing, another shoes, another food, another fire. And without waiting for them to come and ask, she would send to them what they needed for their comfort. In her earlier days she used to visit the poor herself, but as she grew older and more infirm, the outdoor work was committed to others, especially to the deacon of S. Paul's Chapel, and Miss Thorne was occupied not with the detail but with the larger matters of administration.
She never lost, however, that wisdom which can only come from personal knowledge. [27/28] When she could no longer go to the poor, the poor came to her. And every day she devoted an hour or two to the work of seeing and listening to her poor people. And in that large quiet room on the second floor of S. Paul's Parish house, many a sad story of sin and want has been told to that woman which would never have been told to any other. She was the friend of the poor by nature, and they came, naturally, to rely upon that friendship.
Of the many uses of that room we have yet to speak. We consider it now simply as the office and the work room. As such it is fragrant with a sacred aroma. That old chest with its smell of cloth and leather is more pleasant to the nostrils of charity than the odor of the rose and the violet; that chair at the head of the table, with its footstool for the feet that could not reach the floor, is as a holy relic, to be treasured because it was the seat of compassion. The room of which we are reading is gone. The old building that contained it was torn down to give place to the large building, with all the modern conveniences, which stands where it stood. In that new building Miss Thorne doubtless had a room. But that new room the writer of this book never saw and never cared to see. It may have associations for others, it has none for him. He remembers the old room, in the old building, with its morning sunlight and afternoon shadows; [28/29] with its fire in winter, and its welcome every day to all who came to give and to receive.
Miss Thorne and Her Helpers
WE read in the story of King Arthur and the Round Table, about which were gathered the knights who followed and loved the king, and where high talk was had of damsels in distress, of wrongs to be righted and of Sir Galahad and the Holy Grail.
Now Miss Thorne, like king Arthur, was a leader, and she had a devoted following. One day in every week the table in her room was surrounded by a band of earnest workers, who came there to assist Miss Thorne in her self-appointed task of caring for the poor. They were from the same class to which she belonged; of good old English stock, the wives and daughters of successful merchants.
Charitable work was much more simple and in some respects more interesting than it is to-day. There was not the same perfection of organization and there were fewer professionals employed in the work. These ladies belonged to that remote and primitive period when New York was a comparatively small city, and the rich lived near enough to the poor to be in personal [30/31] touch with them. These ladies belonged to families that have once lived in the region about S. Paul's and S. John's Chapel; they had a personal interest in the people for whom they were working, many of them were their tenants, living in the houses which they once occupied themselves. That utter separation between the rich and the poor, which is the sad characteristic of our modern cities, was not at that time the accomplished fact that it is to-day. So when these good ladies came together it was not to do an impersonal and a formal work, but it was to consult together concerning the welfare of those whom they knew by name and with whose history they were well acquainted. Under the leadership of Miss Thorne this work lost all the coldness of distance and the arrogance of pride. She knew the particulars of every case of distress by heart, and she could inspire her fellow workers with her own loving interest in the people for whom they were working.
The weekly meeting of this little band of women was an important event in the routine of the church. The room was carefully swept and dusted and made bright with a fire in the grate. Miss Thorne came a little earlier on that day that she might have all things ready before the ladies arrived. It was a charming company that soon filled the room; about twenty in all, chief among whom were Miss Maria Mount and [31/32] her sisters Susan and Jane, coming from their beautiful home in 22d street, where they lived their quiet lives, never marrying and never mingling with the world of wealth to which they belonged; with them was Mrs. Anderson, whose heart was in every good deed and word and Mrs. Farnham, afterward blind and so cheerful in her blindness. But why distinguish one from another. They were all devoted women giving freely of their time and strength to the poor. They were most of them younger than Miss Thorne, but when she died there was only one of that company left to follow her to the grave.
It was a rare sight to see them sitting about the table busy with their needles and not idle with their tongues. This was not, indeed, a village Dorcas society giving itself to neighborhood gossip, it was a gathering of ladies educated above the mere level of personalities. Their talk was mainly, so it was said, concerning the work in hand, cases of distress were considered and the best method of relief suggested. But these would have been less or more than simple women, if their talk had not turned from time to time to the young rector of the parish, whose person and work were then exciting so much comment in the church and the city, and who was, in that day, the Sir Galahad of the new high church movement, leading many in the quest for a higher and holier life; nor, doubtless, [32/33] did these ladies fail to discuss the other clergy of the parish and give them each their due allowance of praise and blame. But their talk was innocent and harmless, and for the most part helpful, and so went by the hours of duty, which were also to them hours of pleasure. Whether such little companies of workers meet in S. Paul's Chapel now, this writer does not know; but if they do, they meet under different circumstances and a different leadership. That connecting link between the rich and the poor which the lives of such persons as Miss Thorne and her helpers furnished is in a great measure gone, and we are looking about for something to take its place. We have now our great mission churches and our college settlements, and these, doubtless, are doing much good. But after all they are artificial and self-conscious, and they lack that delicate and human quality which was found in those old and simpler methods, in old and simpler times, when the work of helping the poor was largely still a neighborhood work, done by those who all their lives long had known and loved the poor.
One can see Sarah Thorne, the last of this band of workers, standing in her lonely room, no longer a leader but a follower, bearing her loneliness as she had borne the other trials of her life, bravely, as one who had a long while ago promised to be Christ's faithful soldier and servant unto her life's end.
Miss Thorne's Method
IN dealing with the poor Miss Thorne escaped in a great measure, if not entirely, the evils both of professionalism and of patronage. She did not look upon herself as a dispenser of alms, nor as the benefactor of those whom she served. She thought upon the work simply as her calling in life. It was the way that was opened to her of earning her living. She did not think that the fact that she had a competence and could live without working was any excuse for being idle.
Miss Thorne was not a philosopher, nor did she trouble herself to reason out in detail the principles that guided her. But that her life was based upon principle was evident to others, if not to herself. And in nothing was she clearer than in the thought that the world owes no one a living. And she was glad that she could in some way make a return for all that was done for her. Men and women, boys and girls, were working long hours in shops and factories, in back streets and alleys, on lonely farms in the country and still more lonely ships at sea, [34/35] to give her the comforts of life, which they themselves never could hope to have, and it seemed to her a mere matter of course that she should do what she did to make their hard lives easier.
This conception of her vocation gave to Miss Thorne's dealing with the poor a practical and business like aspect. There was in it an utter absence of sentimentality and of self-consciousness. Whatever might have been her feeling at first, Miss Thorne was not, during the greater part of her life, in the business of caring for the poor for the purpose of saving her own soul; she was in that business for the purpose of saving the poor; she never spoke of it as a means of spiritual discipline, or as meriting any other reward than the day's pay for the day's work. When she had finished her daily task she had earned her dinner and her night's rest. It was this conception of her calling that gave Miss Thorne her power and her influence. Those who came to her were never cases of distress, as they are to mere professionals, nor were they objects of charity, as they are to the patron of the poor. They were simply men and women, boys and girls, needing assistance over the hard places in life, and it was her duty to help them. The relation existing between Miss Thorne and her poor was one of personal equality; they were, as we have seen, never objects and never cases, but always persons.
 Nor was it any more the duty of Miss Thorne and the church to give, than it was the duty, of those who needed, to receive. If anything more than another would excite Miss Thorne's indignation, it was that false pride which concealed great distress, and refused to receive that assistance which she was so ready to give. She would argue with such persons about the injustice of their conduct; they were hindering the flow of charity, for if no one was willing to receive a kindness no one could confer a kindness, and for want of exercise kindly feelings would die out of the world. It is true she would say that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but it is only more blessed, and only a little more blessed to give than to receive. To receive graciously and gratefully is the act of a gracious and a grateful soul, and such souls are needed in the world and ought to be cultivated. There is just as much selfishness in hoarding poverty as there is in hoarding riches, and as much pride in refusing as there ever can be in giving.
It is not asserted that Miss Thorne argued in these very words with the pride of poverty, but this was the argument of her life. It was based upon the fact that some must give and some receive, and the one was as much a duty as the other. It was a transaction beneficial to both parties, and hence neither is under any obligation to the other.
 This, which is the secret of all true giving, is a secret so subtle that very few find it out. Most of the giving in this world is not giving, it is paying. It is simply returning to others an equivalent for what has been done for us. No one goes through the world without receiving many benefits for which he can never make any direct return; he can only discharge his obligation by assisting others as he himself has been assisted. If this thought ruled more largely in the world, charity would not be that term of reproach that it now is, nor would the receiving of charity be so humiliating as it is apt to be under present conditions.
In helping others, Miss Thorne was only doing what is done in every household, when the father and the mother help the children without implying merit in themselves or demerit in their children. It is right and natural and that is all there is of it. So Sarah Thorne would discuss family necessities with some poor woman as freely as a mother with her daughter; there was nothing in that woman's poverty to be ashamed of, unless it were the result of improvidence or vice, and for such poverty Miss Thorne had very sad and stern rebuke.
But she did not think with the ancients that all the ills of life were a sign of the displeasure of the gods and were an evidence that the sufferer was a sinner. Nor did she think that all bad [37/38] fortune was necessarily blameworthy. It is too much the thought of the modern world that poverty is not only a deprivation, but that it is also a disgrace; that a lack of worldly wealth implies a lack of manly and moral qualities; that the poor man is wanting in industry, in perseverance, in temperance and in courage, and so is to blame for his want of success. Fortune favors the brave, say these men of the world, who, from the vantage of prosperity, look down with pity and scorn upon those who have been beaten in the conflict of life.
But Miss Thorne was too well learned in the science of poverty to have any such crude conception of its causes. She knew, as well as another, that much of the poverty of the world is the result of improvidence and vice, but she knew also that much of the improvidence and vice in the world are the direct product of helpless and hopeless poverty. It is the heavy weight from above that in every civilized society crowds men into drunkenness and women into shame. Hopeless lives are helpless to resist the forces that drag men back into the animal and transitory existence from which they have been slowly emerging.
A Helping Hand
TO check this downward drag was the ruling thought of Miss Thorne's life. We can understand her method of work better by seeing it in actual operation than by considering it abstractly. So we will take our readers to one of the houses and make them acquainted with some of the people who were the objects of Miss Thorne's solicitude. We will call upon father Lempriere. He lives (or did live) in West Broadway, old College Place, in one of those houses, which once a mansion of the rich is now a tenement of the poor. The poor of today, living for the most part in regularly constructed, if not model tenements, can have little notion of the misery of that transition period, when the house was going out and the tenement coming in. When what was sufficient for the comfort of one family was made to supply the needs of five or six; a family in the basement and perhaps two families on each of the floors above—for a whole floor was a luxury which only the better class of the poor could afford—the common stairway and the common closet make privacy [39/40] in such a house impossible, and compels these people to live, as the cave dwellers, without modesty and without respect; the lack of water and bathing accommodations renders cleanliness impossible; the house door always open to the street; the stairway uncarpeted and resounding all the day and almost all the night to the tread of heavy feet, carry the noise of the street to the sacred precincts of the bed room, rendering sound and wholesome sleep well nigh impossible: such was the home which New York provided for a vast number of its people. And to such a home we must go if we would see and know father Lempriere. It is, perhaps, a damp day in the late fall or early spring; the east wind is bringing with it the fog that darkens the noon day and the chill that reaches the marrow. Miss Thorne, as she comes in the office, shaking the wet from her waterproof, says to the deacon: "I am afraid father Lempriere will be feeling badly to-day. Would you mind going up to see him and take him some new flannels that I have for him and some beef extract? I can't bear to have him neglected on such a day as this." Having made her request the little lady goes up to her room, in the calm assurance that what she desires will be done.
The poor deacon looks out dolefully at the weather and wishes that he had chosen some other vocation in life than that of errand boy to the poor. [40/41] He considers this demand almost an imposition. He has been for years educating himself for the ministry, studying Latin and Greek and Hebrew, and every kind of ology and theology and all, that he may, at last, carry red flannel and beef extract to father Lempriere. The deacon is in no cheerful mood, as he sets out on that cheerless day upon his cheerless errand. The mist of the morning has become rain in the afternoon, and it is not long before this poor young man is both cold and wet; in keeping the flannel dry he has had to expose himself to the storm. All this comes upon him because Miss Thorne is so considerate of her poor and so inconsiderate of her deacons.
He arrives at last at the house in West Broadway, and is depressed and sickened by its depressing sights and sickening smells. He knocks at the second floor front, a strong voice says "come in" and he is face to face with father Lempriere, and face to face with what he soon learned to be a life of patient endurance and heroic courage. Father Lempriere was a native of the island of Jersey, of French extraction. He was a carpenter by trade, and years before this meeting he had come from the little island of his birth to the great new land of the west, to make a home for himself, his wife and his children. He was a skillful workman and work was plenty, and the future was his to make of it what he would. [41/42] He found profitable employment in building the great docks out into the river, which the growing commerce of the city demanded. His work required Lempriere to be a great deal in the water and as a consequence he contracted inflammatory rheumatism, which soon became chronic, and when the deacon first saw him he had been a rheumatic patient for many years, unable to leave his chair. As he sat there in the dim light of the waning afternoon he was an object of admiration more than of pity. He had a magnificent head set upon mighty shoulders. Upon his head he wore a red flannel cap, like the liberty cap of the French Revolution. His chest was broad and deep and covered by a long black beard. He was the type of man that has done the world's best work since the world has had work to do. The deacon, as he looked at him, had that feeling of involuntary respect which the sight of greatness never fails to stir in the heart of the beholder. The deacon seemed to himself a very little man, to whom it was an unmerited honor that he should bring red flannel and beef extract to this king of men.
But his heart was full, not only of respect and reverence, but also of compassion, that was bitter to the taste, when he looked at the poor hands and feet of this giant, twisted out of all human shape; hands and feet forever more helpless and useless for walking and for working, and learned [42/43] that for eighteen years this man had not spent a week free from excruciating pain. And the feeling of indignant protest was increased when it was discovered that all this suffering was the outcome of an honest effort on the part of this man to earn an honest living. One's sense of justice was outraged. One could almost see from his darkened window the great docks that he had builded, ladened with the wealth of nations, while he, who was one of their builders, was shut up here in his room of pain, hardly having air to breath or bread to eat. In the presence of this mystery one's book learning was helpless, and one could only cry out against a life that so rewarded its workers; until one suddenly recalled from out that learning the mystic letters I. N. R. I., and remembered that the Great Worker of the world, after His feet had carried Him far and near upon errands of mercy, and He had, with His hands, wrought many works of healing, was rewarded by the world, which He served, with a cross of pain and wounded hands and feet; and the student was consoled when he remembered that the cross of pain was a throne, and the wounded hands and feet more strong than ever to work for man and God, and above this Man were written the mystic letters I. N. R. I. which being interpreted read IESVS. NAZARENUS REX + IUDAEORUM.
It was not a great while before it was manifest [43/44] to the young minister that father Lempriere, though poor in this world's goods, was rich in all that pertains to the kingdom of heaven. He was strong in faith. In spite of his weary years of sickness, he believed that his Father loved him; he would speak of that love in a simple, straight-forward way as he would speak of the sunlight. He always referred his sickness to its natural cause. He was not a rheumatic, because God hated him or was punishing him, but because he worked in the water and did not take care of himself. A minister of the gospel can get many a lesson in sound theology and philosophy at the bed-side of some plain man or woman which will be more valuable than all the learning of the schools. And from father Lempriere the present writer learned that God is not to blame for the mistakes and follies of men.
Father Lempriere was not only strong in faith and ardent in love toward God, but he was also grateful to the world for what it had done for him. And especially was he grateful to Miss Thorne and the church for the loving care that had been given during all these years of his sickness. Miss Thorne was the angel of that house. She had provided work for mother Lempriere and clothing for the children, and her helping hand had, in some measure, supplied the place of the strong hand of the father, now crippled and useless, and had sustained that [44/45] family above the level of hopeless poverty until the children were grown and able to care for the father and the mother.
In this work Miss Thorne was remedying, as far as she could, the defects of civilization. Modern civilization is terribly cruel to its workers. It is more cruel than war. In war, the wounded are cared for; they are borne as carefully as possible from the field and all that skill can do is done to alleviate their pain and to heal their wounds. But modern industrial civilization leaves its wounded on the field, to get well or die as chance may determine. As soon as a man is sick the modern industrial world casts him aside, making no provision for him in his sickness or in his old age. And were it not for what the workingmen do for themselves and what is done for them by such persons as Sarah Thorne, the suffering of the world would be appalling and utterly destructive of the civilization permitting it to exist. It is only the mutual benefit societies of the working men and the charitable work of men and women like minded with Sarah Thorne that prevent the modern industrial world from being crushed by its own weight. And unless some remedy is found for this evil, sooner or later the catastrophe will come. No system can endure which persistently and systematically neglects those by whom the system is builded and sustained.
 Miss Thorne felt very keenly the injustice of the modern system. She was very angry when told of some act of hardness on the part of employers, who would discharge men and women in the middle of winter or cut down their wages, while the employers themselves indulged in every luxury and extravagance. Miss Thorne was not a political economist, and could not understand those so called laws of nature by which the many are compelled to serve the few. She only felt the moral wrong of it all and did what she could to remedy the evil.
And in such cases as that of father Lempriere, she considered that she was not only relieving his wants, but was making reparation for the sins of her own class in the social and economic world. She held that the wealthy and refined were, in a measure, responsible for the condition of the poor and the ignorant and the sinful, and her life was propitiatory, making as far as it could an atonement for the carelessness, the neglect and the cruelty of the world to which she herself naturally belonged.
Comfort and Counsel
NOT only did Miss Thorne care for the material wants of the people, but she ministered to their spiritual needs as well. She exercised the holy office of counsellor and consoler. And the importance of this office is known only to those who know the mind of the poor. The outlook upon life, on the part especially of poor girls, whose natural instinct for refinement has not been crushed, is very dreary. They can look forward to nothing bright or lovely in the future. The prospect of a home of their own does not allure them; nor do they think with any pleasure of husband and children. Home to them is nothing more than a few rooms in a tenement, and a husband a man that drinks and swears and sometimes beats his wife and children, and as for the children themselves, no thoughtful young woman—and there are many thoughtful among the poor—can think of bringing them into the world without a shudder. It is only to be the cause of more misery; more hunger and cold, more drinking and fighting and swearing. Large numbers of young women when [47/48] they reach the threshold of womanhood find every door of happiness closed against them; the present is wretched and the future hopeless. And it is not surprising that they seek relief from the sordid monotony of their lives in ways that lead to ruin. The street and the dance hail offer an inducement in the way of present enjoyment that is hard to resist; and before the poor girl is aware she has drifted from pleasure into sin. Of the vast number of unfortunate women who live their sad lives and die their miserable deaths in our large cities, very few are the victims of some overmastering passion, the most of them are the victims of want and of the inborn desire of the human heart for variety and pleasure. Many throw themselves away deliberately and desperately, feeling that they have nothing to live for and that they might as well get what they can out of life before they die.
Now, when a girl is in this desperate mood she can be saved if there is any one to whom she can go and pour out her sorrow and her indignation without fear of a scolding or a sermon. The clergy are, for the most part, useless in such cases, because they are men and cannot understand, but more because they are professionals, with a few set phrases which only make the angry heart more bitter in its anger. What is the use of telling a girl who lives in a back tenement to trust in God; [48/49] there is no God where she lives, only the demons of darkness and drunkenness and blasphemy. To such a girl mere pious words are mockery, especially pious words coming from a man who is living in the comfort of a refined and elegant home. What is needed, in such cases as this, is that the girl may find some strong woman upon whose heart she can lean while her own heart is breaking, and in whose presence she can dare to complain, and not be ashamed to find relief in tears.
Miss Thorne's quiet disposition, free as it was from conscious piety, adapted her to this work of counsellor and consoler. She had in the highest degree the essential quality of a comforter. She was a good listener. She did not, as many do, interrupt the speaker by interjecting remarks of her own. She would sit in perfect stillness, her face alive with interest and her eyes suffused with sympathy and listen to the story of sorrow and pain. And that of itself was a great consolation, for the poor and children have very few to listen to them.
Many and many a time has the writer of this book been saddened by the noise of bitter crying in Mrs. Thorne's room, as if some lost soul were in there, moaning out its misery and despair. And when the sound of weeping ceased a murmuring of voices would reveal that the poor storm-tossed soul was seeking refuge in the calm haven of Sarah Thorne's great spirit. [49/50] There are to-day many woman who owe to a quiet hour in that upper room the fact that they are living respectable and happy lives.
One case the writer has in mind, of a girl who owed to Miss Thorne the comfort and the counsel that enabled her to endure a great trial of afflictions. This girl was Puritan born and her name was Hephzibah. Her father was a sailor from the region of Cape Cod and had, in his day, held offices of responsibility on sea and land. But drink had ruined him, and he had been caught in the current that drags down and submerges so many human lives. This wreck of a man dragged down with him a wife, a son and two daughters, the eldest of whom was Hephzibah. The wife and mother, a large, blond woman, handsome in her day, had yielded to misfortune, was a slattern in house and in dress, and found relief from her daily misery in her daily drug. The boy, wounded in the draft riots, was lame and useless; the younger girl was kept in school by her elder sister.
The story of the elder sister, Hephzibah, is one of the unwritten tragedies of the world. She was a refined woman with the hectic beauty of New England, who found herself, at the age of twenty, in a back tenement, the sole support of four human beings, beside herself. No one except those who have lived close to the poor can comprehend the misery of such a life as that of [50/51] Hephzibah, nor understand the force of that love for home and kindred, which is the strongest instinct of a woman's heart, that kept this girl at her post during all the years of her young womanhood.
Hephzibah found in Miss Thorne the strength that she needed to enable her to bear the burden that was laid upon her. She was herself a remarkable woman. As a teacher in the Sunday School she had a wonderful and almost unaccountable influence over the children. It was hypnotic. She was one of those magnetic personalities that are powerful for good or evil in the world. As a bad woman she would have had a successful, and for a while, a brilliant career. Men would have been willing to spend fortunes upon her, and he must be altogether without sin, who would dare to blame her had she sought that way out of her misery. That she was saved from such a fate was owing, in a great measure, to the friendship of Sarah Wisner Thorne.
Hephzibah may be alive to-day or dead, but whether alive or dead, she is one of those to whom the world owes the meed of reverence and affection, for she, too, is one of the world's saviours.
A Teacher of the Bible.
SUNDAY was Miss Thorne's working day. Others might rest upon that day, but she was busy from morning till night. She would leave home a little after eight o'clock in the morning, carrying in her hand a basket containing her luncheon, and would reach the church before nine. Upon her arrival she would find her room full of young women of twenty years old and upward. These were the members of her Bible Class, with whom she would spend an hour and a half before church. As a teacher, Miss Thorne was successful in gaining and holding the attention of her pupils. She was not a profound student, nor learned in Bible lore. A person going to her for mere information, in matters critical and historical, would have come away dissatisfied; he might never have learned from her the authorship of any book, the age of any manuscript, nor the family history of the Herods. Nor would he have been troubled by any lengthy discussion of doctrine; but he would have heard the Bible read slowly and stammeringly by the pupils, with a wise [52/53] word of comment thrown in here and there by the teacher.
It was Miss Thorne's method to let the scholars do most of the work. The collect for the day was learned by heart and recited, the Gospel for the day was read, verse by verse, in turn by the scholars; a few words of explanation were given, and so the hour was passed. Miss Thorne's power as a teacher did not lay in her intellectual acumen, but in her moral discernment and in her spiritual insight. The practical side of her character was so strong that she was never in danger of spending time in vain disputing about the law. Her teaching, like herself, was very simple; the Creed, the Lord's prayer, the Commandments, the Church's feasts and fasts, gave her all the material that she needed for her doctrinal instruction. Her usefulness lay, not so much in her teaching, as in her unconscious influence. In her Bible Class she laid foundations upon which were builded strong pure lives. Girls graduated from her class only after they were married and had children, and because of home duties could no longer attend. The alumnae of Miss Thorne's Bible Class were a very numerous and important body in lower New York.
When the present writer entered upon his ministerial work in S. Paul's Chapel, he would call upon some mother whose grown up children were in the Sunday School, and she would speak [53/54] to him of the time when she was in Miss Thorne's Bible Class; and perhaps, there would be sitting in the corner, the grandmother, sixty years old, if a day; and she, too, would tell of what happened when she was in the Bible Class.
These revelations filled the heart of that young man with amazement. And he began to ask himself who is this Miss Thorne and whence came she that she should be the instructor of three generations of women. At that time she had the appearance of a well preserved woman of not more than forty years; her hair was dark and her face unwrinkled; her interest in life was intense, and as people of middle age always do, she lived mainly in the present. She talked little of the past, and never of the future. She gave her daily thought to her daily occupation. When he first came to the work the young deacon surmised that this woman was not more than ten or twelve years older than himself. And his astonishment was profound when, by putting things together, he discovered that she was over sixty years old, and had been for nearly forty years engaged in her present work. From that time he could not look upon her without a feeling of reverence and awe. So youthful in appearance, so old in years, so active in life, so untouched by the world. She did not seem as if made of ordinary flesh and blood, but as if formed out of that spiritual essence of which God makes His angels and arch angels.
 The secret of Miss Thorne's extended influence lay simply in this fact of her persistence. She was there, she had always been there; to the people of S. Paul's Chapel she was as much a part of their daily providence as the sun itself.
Hundreds and hundreds of women had been members of her Bible Class and seldom did any of these women go wrong in after life. Upon leaving the class they would retain their connection with the Chapel, and their desire was that their daughters might have the advantage, which had been so much to them, of Miss Thorne's influence and instruction. Many, of course, were lost by death and removal, and a generation has arisen in the Chapel to whom Miss Thorne is only a shadow and a memory; for she did at last grow old and die; but there still remain, scattered all over the great city, many women in middle life and in old age, who look back to Miss Thorne's Bible Class with that fond and sad regret, with which we, poor mortals, look back to the days of our youth, and think of that woman as one to whom they owe much of what is best in their lives. Her wise and loving words made them, in their measure, wise and loving also.
Had she done nothing else but teach this Bible Class Miss Thorne's life would have been a notable one in the world, remarkable for the extent and power of its influence.
The Children of the Desolate
IN the life of Sarah Thorne was fulfilled the words of the prophet when he said, "more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married wife saith the Lord." Having no children of her own, Miss Thorne became as a mother to all the children of the poor. Her work for and with the children was really the chief occupation of her life. In many families she played the part of assistant mother, it being her duty to look after many of the material and all of the spiritual necessities of the little ones. Children would come to her with their wants as naturally as if she were indeed their mother. "Miss Thorne," some little voice would say, "my shoes are all worn out. Can I have a new pair?" "Miss Thorne, may I have a new dress?" and so on through all the manifold necessities of the wardrobe. On certain days in the week the children were sent to Miss Thorne's room for inspection, that she might see what they needed for their comfort.
Nor was there on the part of Miss Thorne or of the church any feeling other than that of a mother [56/57] ministering to the wants of her own children; these little ones were the children of the poor, and therefore the children of the Father; and as the Father's children, to be cared for by His servants. By this wise and loving ministration, the children were carried over the hard period of their childhood without losing their self respect. They were kept neat and clean, and were at the same time trained in the habits of industry and self-reliance. Most of these children are now grown men and women, living happy, independent lives; able not only to provide for themselves and their families, but also to make some return for the loving care which protected their childhood and youth.
Miss Thorne was occupied two days in the week in the parish school, teaching writing and sewing. In these arts she was an accomplished mistress. Her work in both these departments was remarkable, not so much for the beauty that is the result of ornamentation, as for the charm of simplicity and neatness. To the end of her days, Miss Thorne's hand writing was perfectly legible; in it every letter was formed and every word correctly spelled. There was never anything careless in her work. Great painstaking in the beginning formed habits that remained with her for life. And it was the same with her sewing. Miss Thorne was trained to use the needle before the days of the sewing [57/58] machine, when every stitch had to be taken by hand, and there was little time, on the part of the poor at least, for anything but the simplest work. It was in this kind of work that Miss Thorne excelled. She had no aptitude for embroidery or for fancy sewing. She felt that the people ought first to have simple modest clothing, and until that want was supplied all else was waste. She was very rigid in requiring neatness and discouraging all display in the matter of dress. Her own example was a living sermon on this subject. Her dress had the charm which comes from neatness and appropriateness, and no one could see her without saying "what a charming woman; how perfectly she is dressed." The children in the school were greatly influenced by this and grew up into habits of simplicity becoming their station in life.
Miss Thorne was a firm believer in the adage, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy," and so took the greatest interest in the amusement of the children. Two of the happiest days in the year for her were the day of the Christmas entertainment and the day of the summer excursion. Children in those days did not have the manifold amusements which are theirs to-day, and because of which they are just a little blasé and hard to entertain. Forty years ago the Christmas tree was a novelty and Santa Claus a reality. Not only the children, but many of the [58/59] grown people believed in him most devoutly. Indeed, to doubt his existence was scepticism, to deny it was atheism. Dutch and English and German traditions were all mixed up in one delightful conception of the rosy saint, the reindeer and the chimney, the Christmas tree, the yule log and the plum pudding. At that season merriment was a duty, and he was churlish who did not join in the fun. Preparations for Christmas began two months before the day. Lists were prepared of all the children in the day school and Sunday school, and for each of these children a present was to be purchased and made ready against the coming of Santa Claus. This was a part of Miss Thorne's work. Trinity corporation furnished the money and Miss Thorne spent it. And of all the weeks in the year there were none that she enjoyed more than these. She knew each of her four or five hundred children by name, and would purchase for each one some suitable gift. In due time her purchases came pouring into her room until there was no toy shop like it in all the world. Then came the great Christmas tree, which was set up in the school room and trimmed with balls and lights. On the night of the festival, Miss Thorne was about the only quiet person in the midst of the general hubbub. It was a time of unrestrained rejoicing; the rector was always present, delighting the children with his funny stories, laughing [59/60] loud and long when he was given his doll or jack-in-the-box from the tree; the dignified senior assistant was there, somewhat scandalized, but unbending a little; the poor deacon, also, beside himself with the noise and confusion, trying to make his voice heard above the din as he cried the presents from the tree, and all the while Sarah Thorne was as quiet and demure as if she were in her own room, looking upon this scene of pleasure with happy eyes; showing that she was glad in the gladness of her children.
The Christmas festival, while it was the great day of the year, was not the only play day for the children. All through the winter there were entertainments for them. The girls were gathered from time to time in the upper room with the rector and the clergy, and under the direction of the mistress of the sports, they would play various games, the rector leading at the top of his voice in the song of work: "This is the way we wash our clothes, we wash our clothes, we wash our clothes, so early Monday morning." After play came refreshments. Oysters perhaps or ice cream and cake, according to the season. The summer excursion was more of an event in the middle of the century than it is now. Now traveling is made easy and any one can go anywhere, and so no one cares very much for church excursions; but the time was, when the Sunday School picnic was the one outing in the year for the children. [60/61] Miss Thorne did not have the management of this as she did of the Christmas tree, but on that account perhaps she enjoyed it the more. All day long she was surrounded by groups of children, taking part in their amusements, and making herself that day as a little child and entering with the children into that heavenly kingdom of happiness which is open only to the innocent and the unconscious.
On the return homeward, as the boat sailed down the river or up the bay, Miss Thorne would be found sitting in the midst of the older girls, and singing with them the hymns of eventide.
As we grow old the most of us forget how to play, and the world of little children is closed against us. But Miss Thorne, while very sedate, was always at home with the children. She was one of them, and as such they loved her.
Old S. Paul's
WITH the exception of the first few years, Miss Thorne worshipped all her life in S. Paul's chapel. Her seat was on the right side of the church, four or five pews from the front. S. Paul's was built in the middle of the eighteenth century, before the days of the Gothic revival, and was in the style of Wren. It is a fine specimen of that school of architecture. The lines of the building are full of grace and movement. But our fathers were savages in the matter of ornamentation. They covered the outer wall of the building, which was cut stone, with stucco; the interior was a glare of white; whitewashed walls, white painted seats, unrelieved by any dim, mysterious light coming through stained windows, which were composed of small panes of common glass. There is no chancel in the church, only a little recess, on the floor of which is a very humble, wooden box, covered with cloth, which is called the altar. Behind the altar is a window which certainly, is not a thing of beauty and a joy forever. On either side of the window was a wonderful wooden imitation [62/63] of the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai, which looked like nothing in all the world, except it were half cold molasses candy. In front of the altar and towering above the pews, the most conspicuous object in the church, was the reading desk and the pulpit. That pulpit was conceived in sin and shapen in wickedness. It was a place of torture. It was in the shape of a wine-glass, larger at the top than at the bottom, with just room enough to hold a fair-sized man. It was the very place to make a preacher self-conscious, and take from him all freedom of thought and movement. As the poor man climbed the steps he felt as if going to his doom, and when the door was shut upon him he knew his doom was sealed: he must stand on his lonely height, away from the people, and prophesy—and alas, if no word came to him from the Lord, what should he do. Experience taught the preacher to provide against such a contingency. He always went up to that mount of the Lord prepared. His words all written down, so that he had nothing to do but to read them. Wineglass pulpits may make good writers and good readers, but they are not conducive to great speaking. When a man stands upon so high and so narrow a platform, he has all he can do to keep his balance; if he were not boxed in he would certainly fall.
But for all this, old S. Paul's was and is a place [63/64] in which a devout soul loves to worship; it is dear and quaint (or rather was, for it is so no longer), and is hallowed by sacred associations. In pre-Revolutionary times it was the church of the colonial gentry, and its walls are lined with memorials of those who were distinguished in church and state. To it Washington came to worship, on the day of his inauguration as President, and ever after had his seat there. Many memorable occasions have been celebrated within its walls; and more than any church in this country, it belongs to the past, and to the great and honored dead.
It was always a conservative church. The Parish church—old Trinity—was carried along by the current of the High Church revival, and so were all the other chapels of the Trinity Corporation. But not so, S. Paul's. In it the old ways prevailed; the service was read, the choir was in the organ loft, the vestments were the surplice and the black stole. The administration of Trinity Parish was very tender of ancient custom, and left a place of shelter for those who were too old to change.
In this church, with its simple morning prayer, and its monthly celebration of the Holy Communion, Sarah Thorne found all that she needed for her spiritual food and sustenance. Her quiet nature was satisfied. She did not crave excitement. She loved to read her psalter and to [64/65] listen to the prayers, and then when the worship was over, to limp down through the church yard and rest until the children's service in the afternoon. On the Sunday, as on other days, she was too busy to think much of her own spiritual life. If she had but little help from without, that little was enough. Miss Thorne was so closely connected with the life and work of the chapel, that she was as much a part of it as the stones in its walls. Her life had been builded into it. She belonged to the chapel and the chapel to her. This fact was recognized by all, and she received that homage which was the right of her long and faithful service. The old sexton, gruff toward the clergy, especially toward the younger clergy, whom he ranked in office, was very tender toward Miss Thorne. She and he were fast friends, and would talk together of those old and better days when S. Paul's was in the best part of the city, and was the spiritual home of the best people. And these two would watch the gray heads in the center aisle go down one after another, until there was no one left but themselves. At last there came a Sunday when old Mr. Weld, the sexton, was not in his place, and Miss Sarah was the only one remaining of all that company which had worshipped in that church fifty years ago. It was then to her not so much a church as a monument. She came to it as people come to where the dead are buried, [65/66] that she might sit and think, and by thinking, enter into that communion of saints where the living are dead and the dead are living. She was, like the church, a relic of the past, forgotten by, and forgetting the world. Long before her funeral, "she was dead already," and "her life was hid with Christ in God."
OLD S. Paul's did not, in Miss Thorne's time, depend wholly or mainly upon its historical memories. It was the scene of a spiritual and intellectual movement which gave it an intense living interest. For many of the best years of Miss Thorne's life, she was associated with one of the churches' most efficient and loving pastors, who was also one of her greatest preachers. And it would be impossible to give an account of the life of Miss Thorne, and not say a word of this other life which was her inspiration and support.
No one who lived in those times can forget the mystery that hung about S. Paul's chapel. In it was ministering the young rector of Trinity Parish. He had been chosen to his high office on account of eminent fitness, over others much older and better known than himself, and his election had been the occasion of much bitter disappointment. The young man was placed in a position of great delicacy and danger. A false move on his part might bring on a quarrel, which would ruin his usefulness and the usefulness [67/68] of his parish for years to come. The line of action which the young rector pursued, showed that the vestry of Trinity Parish had acted wisely. He took to himself all the responsibility and the labor of the rectorship, but as far as possible, left its honors to others. For years after his election, the strangers who flocked to Trinity Church, as to one of the sights of the great city, seldom or never saw the rector of the parish. The post of honor in the parish church was held by one of the older assistant ministers, and while this man was holding forth to the crowds that frequented the church, the rector of the parish was ministering to a much smaller congregation in S. Paul's Chapel, and was proving the obvious truth, that it is not the extent of a work, but its character, that gives it its importance.
In old S. Paul's, year after year, upon alternate Sundays (for even in S. Paul's, the rector did not take upon himself all the honors and privileges of his office, but shared them with his venerable and beloved assistant, the Rev. Dr. Haight), were preached those sermons which, in intellectual insight, in spiritual power, and in purity and beauty of style, have seldom been equaled in the history of the church, and surpassed only by the greatest of her doctors. The young rector was a master of applied theology. He would take some text of Holy Scripture [68/69] or some spiritual truth, and make that text or truth applicable to every soul within hearing. The present writer remembers distinctly when he first heard that preaching, which was to him a revelation. It was on a rainy Sunday, in the early spring, when he a young man, drifting about the streets of New York, turned into the open door of S. Paul's chapel and went up into the gallery. It was not an imposing sight that met his eye; the body of the church was not half full, the galleries were almost deserted, the church was white and wan and cold; the service was uninspiring, and the music unattractive; the stranger in the gallery considered his morning wasted until he began to listen to the preaching. He watched, with curious interest, the ascent of the preacher into that wonderful pulpit, where he shut himself in. As the pulpit was on a line with the galleries the youth had a fine view of the preacher, and he saw a tall, slender figure, a long, narrow head, and a grave, cold face; not a promising outfit for a pulpit orator; and the listener soon discovered that this man was not a pulpit orator, but something very different; he was a pulpit thinker. Without gesture or movement he read his sermon in a musically, monotonous voice, and there was nothing to hold the attention but the thought, and the expression of thought. It was a pleasure to listen to the crisp, clear English, mostly words of one syllable, every [69/70] one of which had a life and a meaning of its own, which was related to the life and the meaning of the sentence that contained it, and to the life and meaning of the whole sermon. As each word was uttered, there was a feeling that it was the only word possible under the circumstances, and in that connection.
The sermon that morning was on "Wandering Thoughts in Prayer." And the preacher dealt very tenderly, and, at the same time, very justly with human nature: there was none of that crude denunciation of fallen man, which made up so much of the ordinary preaching of the day. As you listened to this preacher, you felt that human nature was a wonderful and complicated work of Almighty God, and many of its so-called imperfections were simply manifestations of its greater perfections. The preacher showed us how the human mind is able to follow several different lines of thought at the same time; how a man can be listening, most intensely, to some speaker, and at the same time, counting the panes of glass in the window, or numbering the ornaments on the wall, how the mind may be earnest in prayer while working out more or less vaguely, some geometrical problem. All this was told us, not by way of excuse, but by way of encouragement. And when the preacher ceased, there was a distinct impression left upon the mind, a conscious addition made to one's store of thought. [70/71] After hearing that sermon a man was able to have more perfect control of his thoughts, because he had a more perfect understanding of the working of his mental nature. It was such sermons as this that were Miss Thorne's delight and strength and comfort during the busiest years of her life. Nor was it the preaching only which helped her in her work. This man was more to her than a preacher, he was a friend and a pastor. He shared in all her solicitude for the poor, and was even greater as a pastor than as a preacher. A certain diffidence which generated coldness made him austere and somewhat forbidding to strangers; but when once that diffidence was dispelled and he was at his ease, he revealed a simplicity of thought and life that were attractive and charming to the last degree. To the children, to the poor and to his younger clergy, and especially to Miss Thorne, he was always the sympathetic, loving friend. The children were never afraid of him; they would call him by his name and swarm around him and tease him, as if he were an elder brother, which indeed he was.
As one follows the career of this man, there is a vague suspicion that his greatest qualities have not been manifested in his life; he is known to the world as an administrator; a man of affairs; a man of letters and a preacher, but he was a born pastor; a man who had a genius for souls; [71/72] and he would have been even greater than he is had his lot been cast in the lowlier walks of life, when he would have been always and constantly near to the people. As it is, and in spite of manifold preoccupations, he has always held his place in the world more by the exercise of personal influence than by the use of official power and patronage.
It was his pastoral character that Miss Thorne admired and loved. She had for him an affection that was the affection of her life. Earthly love she never knew, but the affection that binds soul to soul was hers in the highest degree. It was a compensation to her for all the deprivations of her life.
Changes came as they always do and must come, and the rector went away from S. Paul's to take his rightful place in the pulpit of Trinity Church. This change did not, however, greatly alter his relations with Miss Thorne; he was still her rector and her pastor, and these two worked together for God and for the poor until one of them could work no longer. Many years older than he, it was in the course of nature that she should first be called to her rest and her reward. She did not, however, have to wait till the end for all her recompense. She found a daily wage for her daily work in the friendship of one, who, whatever might be his academic titles and honors, was to her simply Mr. Dix.
House and Home
MISS THORNE did not find in her work for others any excuse for neglecting her own house. Her morning hours and all day Saturday she gave to her household duties. For the last forty years of her life she lived at No. 127 West 15th Street; just beyond Sixth avenue. Early in her life, her family had been driven out of Whitehall street and had migrated to College Place. After a few years, that region, too, was required for business purposes, and the Thorne's moved far up town and had their home somewhere in the forties; but that was too far out, and finally they settled in 15th street and there remained.
The house was an ordinary city house, with its basement and three stories, each story having a front and back room. On the first floor was the old fashioned parlor and the dining room, which were also the living rooms of the family. The furniture in these rooms remained unchanged during all the forty years that Miss Thorne lived in them. It was the furniture of our fathers; the carpet was changed from time to time, but [73/74] the new was always as nearly like the old as possible: the green figured carpet which Miss Thorne always favored; there were hair cloth chairs and sofas, with a few fancy chairs scattered about; the chandeliers were ornamented with the old fashion glass pendants; upon the walls hung family portraits, and among them, in a place of honor, the picture of Mr. Dix. Such were the quaint old fashioned rooms, in which Sarah Thorne lived in a quaint old fashioned way.
In the rear of the house was a little garden with a single tree and a solitary rose bush, and flowers bordering the walk. It was so little and yet so charming. It was charming because it was Miss Thorne's delight. She loved that tree and rose bush as if they were living souls. In the spring and summer, she was out, early in the morning, in her white morning gown, snipping away the dead leaves from the rose bush, digging with her trowel in the flower beds and gathering the fallen leaves from under the tree. This little patch of ground was all of nature that Miss Thorne ever had or cared for. She did not like the country. She gave her whole heart to the city of her birth. She loved its pavements; they were softer to her feet than meadow grass. Its confused noises were as holy silence to her ears, and the only bird she cared to hear was the canary in the window over the way. Her love for nature was strong, [74/75] but it was concentrated upon these natural objects that were under her window and were her constant care. It was characteristic of her to find a little enough.
Miss Thorne had her favorite seat in the dining room, which room ran across the rear of the house. At the window where she sat, she could look out on her garden. In this room she would spend the long winter evenings, before the hard coal fire in the grate, with her sewing in her hands, ready for a cosy chat with any one who might come in. In the hurry and rush of modern life, old fashioned folk are apt to be neglected and Miss Thorne was no exception to the rule. As the years went by and her friends passed away, she was more and more alone. But that loneliness never seemed to disturb her. She was far down town, so out of the way of people, that she did not expect them to come and see her. As long as she could go to her work she had occupation that took up her time and exhausted her strength, and she was glad to be quiet in the evening. She was, however, always cheerful when any one came in, and whoever did come, found in that house a recompense for coming. It was unlike any other house. It was an antique; it belonged to another century.
A few such houses were found, here and there, in the lower part of New York, twenty years ago. They were the homes sometimes of wealthy and [75/76] always of refined people, who refused to be driven out of the place where they had been born and had always lived. Business might crowd in upon them, but they sturdily held their own; the neighborhood might degenerate and become poor and mean, but these people would shut themselves in their own houses and forget the neighborhood. So it was with the Thorne's: they were survivals in 15th street. It was once the neighborhood of competence and culture; but that was years ago. For a long time, while Miss Thorne lived there, it was the street of cheap boarding houses and small flats; opposite the house was the armory, and a boarding and sale stable for horses. The neighborhood was not altogether savory. Characters of poor reputation lived in the flats and haunted the streets at night. But of all this Miss Thorne was oblivious. She was seldom at the front of the house; and at the rear, was the quiet and beauty of her little garden; at night her windows were closed, and she never knew what was going on, under those windows, in the public street.
So she and her family lived in peace, undisturbed by the rush of change going on all about them, and unharmed by the wickedness that was near them; they did not care for the change and they knew nothing of the wickedness; they inhabited a world which was as far away from the world which hemmed them in, as heaven is far away [76/77] from hell. They did not know that world and that world did not know them.
SARAH THORNE was enable to give so much time to her work among the poor, because, in her house, she had the most devoted and efficient servants. And chief of these servants, in length of service, in devotion and in efficiency was Hiram.
Now Hiram was a slave.
The startled reader of this statement must not, however, come to the hasty conclusion that slavery prevailed in the city of New York in the middle of the nineteenth century, and that Miss Thorne purchased her servant for so much money at public or private sale. The reader knows perfectly well that human slavery was abolished in the state of New York long before the middle of the century; and that the Empire state had joined the other northern states in a long and bloody war, the result of which was to put an end to slavery in all the states of the Union. The statement, therefore, that in the year 1870, a man was held in slavery by Sarah Thorne, living in West Fifteenth, in the city of New York, is an evident absurdity.
 But in spite of all this, the affirmation is repeated that Hiram was a slave. He was born in slavery and he lived in slavery all his life. Hiram Phillips was born in Goshen, in the state of New York, in the year 1816. He was of negro parentage and was the child of a slave mother, and until slavery was abolished he lived in legal servitude. After that time his servitude was different in kind, but it was servitude all the same. Before his emancipation, he was held in bondage by fear, after that event his bondage was the bondage of love. He was in active service in the Thorne family for more than sixty years, and for the most of that time he was the devoted slave of Miss Sarah. His relation to her and her sisters was very lovely. It was deferential and yet it was paternal. These ladies were in his care, and it was his duty as an honest man and a gentleman, not only to see that no harm came to them, but to provide in every way for their comfort and happiness. He was the steward of their household and he was faithful in his stewardship.
Hiram was a fine specimen of the Americanized negro. He was tall and broad in proportion, massive in his appearance; his wiry hair, perfectly white in old age, gave to his countenance a venerable aspect in which innocence and wisdom were combined. No one would ever think of taking a liberty with Hiram. [79/80] His dignity forbade it. Nor was his the false dignity which inferior men assume as a shield to their inferiority. Hiram's dignity was real because it was well founded. He had his definite place in life, he knew what that place was and he was not ashamed of it. It was his duty in life to serve, and in that service he found perfect ease and freedom. His voice was soft and his manners gentle, and no gallant was ever more courteous to his love than was this negro to Miss Sarah and her sisters. His were a model of good manners; equally removed from impudence and obsequiousness.
It was Hiram's chief duty to provide for the table. He was steward, cook and butler, combined in one man. And the duties of his office were the pleasures of his life. Three times every week he went with his basket on arm to Washington market to purchase his supplies. He knew where to get the best, and he always got it. Better steaks than Hiram set before Miss Thorne and her guests were never put upon an epicure's table. They are among the pleasant memories of a life-time. Hiram's fish and fowl were always like his meat, the very best that the market yielded; these with vegetables and fruits in their season, furnished forth the simple table of the Thorne household; for it was simple. It was the table that was spread for company sixty years ago in the best houses in New York City.
 Miss Thorne in this, as in other things, followed the customs of her early days. She served the meat breakfast, common to England and America and unknown elsewhere. Only in her later years did the cereals find their way to the breakfast table, and fruit only on demand of some daring and familiar guest. The breakfast hour was eight o'clock. No luncheon was served in the house, as Miss Sarah was away at that hour, and whoever was at home had the lightest kind of a repast served upon a tray. Dinner was laid at what is now considered the barbarous hour of half past five. This was the dinner hour of the fashionable world in the thirties and forties of the nineteenth century. Common people dined at noon, the gentry at from five to six. This custom of Miss Thorne's was somewhat inconvenient for her guests, but the inconvenience was borne for the sake of the novelty. One had a real dinner under Hiram's regime. Not a succession of little nothings that pall the appetite and clog the stomach, but real food for brain and brawn. A rich soup to begin with, and then, without further preface, the real dinner of meat and vegetables, a salad served with the meat, and this followed by a deep dish apple pie or by a rice pudding with raisins, such as only Hiram could make. This was the dinner, which eaten slowly in the late afternoon and digested in the early evening, made a man equal to any [81/82] work or adventure in the first part of the night, and sent him to bed, after the lightest kind of a supper, at or about midnight to sleep a sound refreshing sleep until the maid called him in the morning. On the score of health and efficiency, there is much to be said in favor of an early dinner.
Sarah Thorne loved to have a friend with her at her dinner. She enjoyed that meal and she was the happier when she was in pleasant company. She had no patience with that kind of religion which depreciates good plain living, which frowns at a juicy steak and sighs over a tender fowl. She knew that there is a good deal of humbug in that kind of discipline. She kept with due observance the fasting days of the church, but she did not approve of fasting as a regular habit. The ascetic type of living did not approve itself to her common sense. Her favorite grace was "God has given us all things richly to enjoy, let us enjoy them."
Over this home of simple hospitality Hiram was, for many years, the dignified, presiding genius. At the dinner hour he would himself, clad in his white coat and apron, carry the chief dish from the kitchen to the dining room. There was evident pride in his face; he was a workingman who was not ashamed of his work.
In due time, Hiram grew old and blind, and then, the measure which he had meeted to others, [82/83] was measured to him again. He was, during all his later days, the object of the tenderest solicitude. Miss Thorne always treated him as she did her other servants, with the most considerate kindness. She made those who served her feel that they had placed her under an obligation, which she could not discharge simply by paying them money wages; she owed them, in addition, the debt of love. On this account there was never any servant question in Miss Thorne's household; her servants were faithful until they died or she died.
Hiram, in his blindness, had every care and comfort that loving hearts could give. After Hiram's death, his widow was provided for by the justice and generosity of Miss Thorne and her sister.
When Hiram died, we might have said with truth, that, take him for all in all, we shall never look upon his like again. With him and others like him, a type of noble service passed away from the earth.
Family Ties and Cares.
MISS THORNE was the member of a family; she had brothers and sisters, and when she entered upon her new life in the church she did not forsake her old life in the home. She was a power in her own family, just as she was a power in the church. Her favorite nephew, writing of her, says: "She had many sorrows, as one who outlives her family, must have; yet she was ever calm and cheerful. In every move in the family she was the leader, and in every sorrow, the one who was calm and buoyed up all the rest. I remember, in August, 1869, my sister was ill of typhoid fever. My aunt, who was in the country, hurried to the hot city to nurse my sister; while she was at our house, her brother died suddenly. This was, perhaps, the heaviest sorrow that could come to her, for he was very dear to her. But even when this great trial came she was calm, and devoted herself to cheering her sisters. I remember when the body was being removed, my aunt Eliza began to sob and aunt Sarah went to her, with her own heart breaking, and said, "Eliza, you must [84/85] not do this, you will unnerve Mary." I mention these things simply to show what she was in her family, the leader, the consoler; the one always strong, always resigned, however heavy the hand of affliction. Always thinking of others and doing for them. Never mindful of herself."
When the writer of this book first knew Miss Thorne, her family consisted of her great uncle, Thomas Gale, her two sisters, Mary and Eliza, and herself. None of these people had ever married. All his life Mr. Gale had been devoted to his twin-brother, and that brother to him; these were in business together, and were prosperous. They might have sat to Dickens as models for the Cheerbly brothers, in Nickolas Nickleby: they were so bright, so cheery, so generous. When his twin-brother died Thomas Gale retired from business and came to live with his grand nieces, whom he loved and cared for as a man cares for his daughters. Whoever visited Miss Thorne, found in Mr. Gale the fine old English gentleman that we read about, in the fine old English novels; his was a typical English face, round and ruddy, full of strength and good humor. Mr. Gale was very deaf and used a trumpet, so that conversation with him was difficult, but his hearty, gracious manner made up for any deficiency in his speech. He died in the ninetieth year of his age, attended by the loving care of his adopted daughters.
 Eliza Thorne was very unlike her sister. She was much stronger in appearance, but was, in reality, much more frail. She died at the comparatively early age of seventy, and then Miss Sarah and Miss Mary were left alone in the house. These were so nearly alike that the one was easily mistaken for the other. Miss Mary was a little the larger, and was not lame, otherwise there was no difference. There was the same face, the same form, the same general manner. At a short distance one could not tell which was Miss Mary and which was Miss Sarah. On nearer view Miss Sarah's face was seen to be the stronger; in it there was more of determination, and one could see that hers was the master mind of the household; and so it was. Miss Mary was gentle and loving, and looked to her sister for support and guidance.
The life of these two little ladies, during the last years of their joint existence, was, as the girls say, "two sweet for anything." They spent their time caring for each other. Each was in a constant flutter of anxiety about the other. If Miss Sarah overstaid her time, Miss Mary would walk to the window twenty times a minute to see if she were coming. If Miss Mary had ever so slight a cold, Miss Sarah would watch her with the solicitude of a mother for her first-born, and could not sleep a wink while Mary coughed. And knowing their weakness each would try to [86/87] hide from the other any ailment. Sarah was an adept at this kind of deception. She had a disorder that finally called for a serious operation. And then and then only, did Mary learn that her sister had been a sufferer from this disease for many years. When Sarah was upbraided for her silence, and asked why she had said nothing about her trouble, she answered, "what good would it have done; it could not be helped, I have saved Mary twenty years of anxiety." Only a soul long schooled in pain could have practiced such heroic reticence.
It was Miss Sarah's wish to outlive her sister. She said, "I must live here till Mary dies; there is no one to take care of her but me." As long as Mary lived Sarah Thorne kept fast hold of all her faculties. She never slept on guard, never faltered at duty; and so the years went on and these two grew old together until Sarah was eighty-three and Miss Mary ninety. Then Miss Mary died, and Miss Sarah was left alone.
For a year or two after that she went about and was herself and knew her friends. But at last it was eventide for her and the darkness gathered in and she could not hear new voices nor see new faces, and all the while old voices became unfamiliar and old faces strange and she lived that far away, sad life of isolation, when the soul is no longer able to use the bodily organs as means of communication with the world, the eyes [87/88] are dim, the ears dull, the hands unsteady, the poor lame feet can walk no further and the weary brain responds no longer to the touch of the intelligence. This woman has made the grand circuit from unconsciousness to unconsciousness. She is a little child again, and it is her bed time. The strong Angel of Death has taken her in his arms and is rocking her to sleep.
SARAH WISNER THORNE is dead and we have buried her. She is now simply a name and a fame. And it only remains for us to sum up, as best we can, her character. This is no easy task, for it is as difficult to tabulate a human character as it is to describe a human face. In the previous chapters we have tried to make a picture of the personality of Sarah Thorne, so that our readers can see her as we saw her, and know her as we knew her.
But that picture would be far from perfect if we said nothing about the intense interest which Sarah Thorne had in the life of the world at large. Her own work was centered in the poor of S. Paul's chapel, but her sympathies were as wide as the world itself. She was especially interested in the political affairs of the country. Her political opinions were formed during the great anti-slavery agitation, and Miss Thorne was naturally and ardently on the side of freedom. She had, what was and is so rare in the north, a regard for the colored people as people. They had always lived with her in the house, and her [89/90] intercourse with them was as free and natural as it was with people of her own race. The saying that "the negro is a man and a brother" was not, in her case, a mere phrase; it was the expression of a fundamental truth. A truth which she manifested in her daily life.
She was the disciple of Horace Greeley. She read the New York Tribune daily, with the closest attention, and had the utmost faith in its great editor.
After the war was over and slavery abolished, Miss Thorne did not lose her interest in public men and things. She was, up to the last few years, keenly alive to all that was going on in the
nation. The present writer remembers only one occasion when the outward calm of Miss Thorne's life was broken up. It was the day that President Garfield died. Miss Thorne was visiting the writer of this book at his home in Rochester, N. Y. The news of the death of the president came in the night, and as the church bell tolled out the sad tidings, Miss Thorne lost her usual composure and walked up and down her room in an agony of sorrow. She passed a sleepless night, and it was days before she recovered her usual quiet. This event was a revelation; it showed that the calmness of Sarah Thorne was not the calmness of indifference, but the calmness of self-control.
The sense of justice was very highly developed [90/91] in the character of Miss Sarah. When she was roused by any act of injustice there was a look of indignation on her face and a bitterness in her speech harder to endure than any mere outburst of anger. Miss Thorne was an ardent admirer of Henry Ward Beecher, and during his great trial she had an intense hatred and contempt for his accuser. She believed that his accuser was an envious man, trying to ruin a great reputation, and willing to sacrifice his own domestic honor to gain his wicked end. During that trial and for weeks afterward, if one wanted to rouse the sleeping lion in Sarah Thorne, he had but to hint that some suspicion might possibly rest upon the great accused, and that there was some excuse for the mean accuser. Such statements never failed to draw fire from the eyes, and vigorous words from the lips, of the little lady.
This incident reminds us that Miss Thorne was an intense partisan. This, if anything, was her fault. She was lacking in the judicial faculty. It was almost impossible to convince her that any one whom she had believed in could be radically wrong. It was for this reason that Miss Thorne never could have been a great administrator; her partiality blinded her eyes to the faults of those whom she loved and trusted. The present writer is of the opinion that he could have committed murder and Miss Thorne would not have believed it of him, even if he had confessed the crime. [91/92] She would have cried, "there is some mistake; he is taking the sin of another upon himself."
It was necessary that Miss Thorne should be protected from the many fraudulent characters that besiege every charitable person. Miss Sarah was the friend of the poor, and she believed in the poor. Nothing could convince her that these, her friends, were as a class dishonest and dishonorable. And in this Miss Thorne was perfectly right. As a class, the poor are the most honorable and honest class in the world; the most of them will endure hardship to the crushing point before they will ask aid of others. But there are, as every one knows, a vast army of parasites who feign poverty as an easy means of livelihood, and who prey upon the kindly hearted, and of these Miss Thorne was the easy victim. During all her life, and in spite of hundreds of disappointments, Miss Sarah kept her faith in the integrity of the poor. Every tale of woe was believed to be true until it was proved to be false, and it required a strong preponderance of evidence to make Miss Thorne doubt the word of any poor person.
As a case in point, there was a woman, who, for many years, was a pensioner on the bounty of the parish. Any one looking at the woman could see that hers was the poverty of avarice, and not the poverty of want; her yellow face, her gleaming [92/93] eyes, her long-skinny hands, were the face, the eyes, the hands of a miser. It was suggested to Miss Sarah that this woman might not need the aid she was receiving; but such suggestion was met by an indignant denial; the woman had been a pensioner of the chapel for years; she needed the little help she received, and she should have it. When Miss Sarah talked in that strain dispute was ended, and she had her way. In due time the woman died, suddenly, in the street; on her person were found bank books showing that she had over seven thousand dollars on deposit in various savings banks; beside this, valuable securities were found in the wretched room, where the woman lived, and as she left no heirs, a large sum of money was escheated to the treasury of the state.
Miss Thorne held up her hands in horror at this case of deceit, but it did not shake her general belief in the righteousness of the poor. This credulity of hers was often the cause of much inconvenience to herself and her friends. As for instance, one Sunday evening, the deacon preached in S. Paul's Chapel; after the service, a young woman came into the robing room and fell on the neck of the deacon in a violent fit of weeping; this was, naturally, a very embarrassing situation for the young man, and as soon as possible he disentangled himself from the moist embraces of the fair stranger. He was naturally [93/94] interested in one who gave him such moving evidence of the power of his preaching. He listened to the usual story of man's infamy and woman's wrong. The next day he reported the affair to Miss Thorne and secured her interest in this stray from the street. Miss Sarah became intensely interested in the young woman, and was at once her warm friend. Then began a series of adventures that, if they did nothing else, added zest to life. It was not long before the deacon discovered that this young woman was as artful a minx as ever deceived Satan; and he soon dropped her as he would drop a snake; but not so Miss Thorne, she held on to the woman, believing her stories until the deceiver having gotten from Miss Sarah and her friends all that it was possible to get, suddenly disappeared. And that was the end of Ida, but it was not the end of Sarah Thorne's confidence in human nature. She went on working for and loving the poor just the same.
And after all, this weakness was only the wrong side of the strongest element of her character. Without that unwavering faith in the worthiness of those for whom she worked, she never could have stood as she did for years between them and death. Her work was not simply a duty, it was a pleasure, because she was working for those whom she loved and trusted.
She had the sublime faith of her Lord and Master; [94/95] in spite of all evidence to the contrary, she believed in the essential integrity of man, as she believed in the essential goodness of God.
THE reader may think that this book is partial in its judgment of the character which it portrays, because it records the impressions of a friend. And this accusation is not without foundation. This book is the tribute of one who was honored by the friendship of Sarah Wisner Thorne for nearly thirty years. As has been said in another place by the writer, "her home was my home." During all the years of her life, he had a room set apart for him in her house, and it was always a grief to her if he went elsewhere when in the city of New York. And among all the great qualities of her nature, the capacity for friendship was not the least in the character of this woman.
It has been said that a pure friendship can hardly exist between a man and a woman, no matter how great the disparity of their years. The disturbing sex principle will insinuate itself into every such friendship. But very early in life Sarah Thorne reached that angelic condition where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage. In the confidence of friendship, she [96/97] once told the present writer that she had never had a lover. This was the more wonderful because of the beauty of her face and the strength of her character. She was a woman to win love had she desired it. She had never desired it. Her life was consecrated to her work and no other thought ever crossed her mind. Her purity was the purity of ignorance. She knew nothing of passion, innocent or guilty. That whole region of life lay out of the range of her vision. It was this quality of her soul that made Sarah Thorne such an excellent adviser in all love affairs. She knew, by instinct, when mere passion was making a fool of a man or a woman, and, if she had the right, she was not slow to tell them so. Many a boy and girl has been saved from a life-long error by the strong common sense of this passionless woman.
Being thus free from disturbing elements, Miss Thorne's friendship was very restful to the soul. It was in the case of the present writer, a friendship founded upon mutual esteem. He had for her that admiration which he has endeavored to express in this book, and she had for him, to the end of her life, a regard which was far greater than he deserved. A regard which has been for him a help in every needful time of trouble. In times of failure and of discouragement, when it seemed to him that perhaps, after all, he was no better than the foolish, he would [97/98] remember that Sarah Thorne believed in him, and he would pit the opinion of Sarah Thorne against that of all the world, and so gain courage to go on in his blundering career.
It was Miss Sarah's habit to make light of difficulties and to scorn of self-depreciation. It was her firm conviction that if any work ought to be done in this world, it could be done, and that the difficulties that beset it were simply the means for its better accomplishment. A talk with her on a day of depression was as good as a tonic. By the strength of her faith and the constancy of her purpose, she shamed a man out of despondency and despair.
The writer and his friend were associated in the same work for seven years, and in that association learned to know and esteem each other. This book shows that the deacon was at first the humble servitor of Miss Thorne. She told him what to do and how to do it, and so he was brought into the closest intimacy with her. It was their custom to lunch together on Sundays in Miss Thorne's room, between the morning and the afternoon service. Hiram put up the luncheon in a basket, and Miss Thorne brought it down. Cold chicken and salad and rice pudding—always rice pudding. To this day, rice pudding is redolent to the writer, of a green figured carpet, of church yard shadows, and of a little figure in black and white. Those luncheons, [98/99] and the hours that followed them, were given over to friendly chat and to high converse. For though Miss Thorne did not philosophize, she could listen with patience to a deal of what passes for philosophy in the minds of the young; and the deacon, standing at the window in the summer-time, or with his back toward the fire in the winter, would discourse by the hour to poor patient Sarah Thorne, and if he owes her a debt of gratitude for nothing else, he owes it to her for listening so sweetly to his youthful nonsense.
When the close relation arising from association in a mutual work was severed, the friendship existing between these two became a pure friendship, resting upon nothing but itself—and as such it was prized by them to the end. We cannot know what it is to the one that is gone, but to him that remains it is more than a blessed memory; it is a source of present power. He has been given by a bountiful Providence the best that this life has to give; he has been highly blest in home and kindred; that peculiar feeling which grows up between a pastor and his people has been his, and he has had the esteem of many good men and women; but of all the blessings of his life, he reckons among the greatest the friendship of Sarah Wisner Thorne.
Under the Cross.
FOR a great many years Miss Thorne wore a gold cross suspended from her neck and resting on her bosom. This was the gift of a friend, and she was never without it. It rose and fell with every breath of her life. And it was the symbol of that life. She lived under the cross; but it was the cross from which had been taken the horror and the pain. It was not so much the cross of suffering as it was the cross of consecration. And as one looked at her life, this brighter aspect of the cross became the real one. It seemed to teach that God does not love suffering for itself; He only loves it as a means of consecration. Pain is His great teacher; the cross the seat of wisdom. So it was in all the later years of Sarah Thorne's life. She had in that life nothing of the hardness or the self-consciousness of pain—only the calmness of habitual consecration. If she were still on the cross she did not care; she was used to it.
She requested of her friends that when she died her cross might be buried with her. And as she lay in the darkness of the death chamber its [100/101] golden gleam was seen shining over her dear dead heart; that heart that had beaten so long and patiently in unison with human needs and human sorrows, was beating no longer; it was still now under the light of the golden cross.
In the Mount Pleasant Cemetery, near the city of Newark, New Jersey, is another cross. It is cut out of the granite rock. It stands in the midst of many graves, and upon it is cut the single word THORNE. Near to this cross lie the mortal remains of Sarah Wisner Thorne, surrounded by her people. She has been gathered to her fathers, and as the cross was over her life, so its shadow is over her death. As from her life we learned that the cross is the brightness of life, so from her grave we discover that the cross is stronger than death. The years will come and the years will go, the dead will sleep on; but the cross shall watch over them, and of the dead not one shall perish, because the cross shall save them.
THE WITNESS OF ONE WHO KNEW HER.
 Our dear old S. Paul's chapel stands in its ancient church yard, the only building of the pre-Revolutionary period on Manhattan Island still in existence, and occupied for its original use. The air that draws through the historic nave and aisles may be thought to bear upon its currents some fragrance of an atmosphere of former days, wherein many of the good and great lived, and worshipped, and passed away; but I think that none is sweeter than that which meets us as we recall the holy and gracious woman to whom these pages are dedicated. I first met Sarah Wisner Thorne in the year 1855, on coming to Trinity parish as a junior assistant minister, assigned to duty at S. Paul's chapel. There I found two servants of God, Miss Thorne, and Mr. William W. L. Voorhis, who were notable among others for this, that they had been already working in that part of the parish many years, and had seen before that time days of straitness in spiritual things, through which they had been keeping on quietly and hopefully, looking for larger opportunities and a better yield to earnest effort for our Lord's cause. Thenceforward, and for a long time I was associated with them both, and particularly with Miss Thorne, whom I saw every day, and watched until there grew within my consciousness a feeling of reverence and wonder, considering the way in which she filled her place, the tenor of her life, and the amount of time and force devoted to her unostentatious and indefatigable toil. As facilities for educational and missionary work multiplied, her energies were put forth with fuller and more free action, in the field around the old church. It seemed to be her home; the building and its precincts; she was there every day of the week, excepting Saturday, which she reserved for the claims of her own household, and the domestic circle of whom she was the main stay. But surely her heart was in the work at S. Paul's. A room was given her, in the parish building, close by the daily school, that she might be accessible to teachers, children, clergy and personal friends. She was [103/104] active in every department. She taught daily in the parish school; she helped the head mistress most efficiently. She taught the children writing, sewing, and dressmaking; she was at the head of women's societies; she had a wonderfully well trained and instructed Bible class; she bought the Christmas gifts, and all needed supplies for the Employment society; gave out at Thanksgiving and Christmas the dinners for the poor; headed the little band who dressed the old chapel for the Feast of the Nativity; prepared the dresses and caps for the confirmation candidates; took charge of the women and children on the excursions in the summer time; kept the account books of the charity fund; visited the sick, counseled the doubtful, helped those in trouble or danger, saved the lost, stood close to the dying and the dead. She was not a sister, nor even a deaconess; she had no official title or ecclesiastical status; she was simply a gentlewoman of old and honorable lineage and independent means, who had elected to give her life to the Church, Christ, and the poor. And withal she was absolutely without pretention or affectation; not one of the usual conventionalisms of dress, speech or manner was ever seen in her; what people did see was merely a cultured, refined, and dignified lady holding her own place in the world, yet hidden with Christ in God. I cannot exaggerate the precious influence of that strong character, that firm will, that good sense and tact, those frank and winning manners, that loving tenderness, by which she ruled us all. I can recall occasions, on which I was myself the better for her counsel, advice, and warning, when such a clearheaded, wise, and judicious friend was needed, to check, to deflect, to guide through snares. And so the years passed on; she standing like a spiritual mother, surrounded by loving friends, and children devoted to her, and her poor people praying for her, and the absent writing to her, and hundreds rising up and calling her blessed. It was a memorable life; earnest, unselfish, cheerful, brightened by constant smiles and the happiness and beauty of a character which shines with diamond light; and sometimes it seemed that I had never known just such a woman, or one who more perfectly illustrated what is best [104/105] and purest in the religion which we profess and the church of our love. Thus time went by; from 1855, when I first met her, on to 1899, it grew slowly towards a half century, prior to which there had been I know not how long a prelude to that latter term of faithful service; and she grew old and stricken in years, and at last became so feeble that it was a wonder how she ever reached the church, as she did, without some fatal accident; but the conductors on the surface railroad all knew her, and would stop, and help her in and out with tender care and veneration; and so she went down and back day by day, to the old scenes, the chapel, the house, her rooms, till at last God said, as if quietly: "Dear child of Mine, the time is ended; it is finished; come back to Me." I used to think after what fashion she ought to be buried; that no vestige of black should be seen; but white everywhere; the white of virgin souls, the white of garments washed in the Blood of the Lamb; flowers also white and shining in morning dew, and glorious hymns of triumph for the elect and precious of God. And it was an unspeakable grief to me, that I was ill, that day when what was mortal of her was laid to rest, and that another hand had the honor of casting the earth upon the dead. They are not dead: such as this do not die: they pass out of darkness into the light; out of weakness they are made strong; the physical yields to the spiritual; they walk before the Lord in the hand of the living. S. Paul's chapel has many and many a memory of the good and great among its annals; but none could rival, for life-long devotion, and faithful and approved work, that servant of the Lord, whose name gives a fresh consecration to the venerable site, in our eyes and in the eyes of the angels, and in the eyes of the King of Saints.
Rector of Trinity Church,
SARAH WISNER THORNE
To Miss Thorne the City of the Great King lay on the north side of life; yet warmth and sunshine for all came forth from that life hid with Christ in God. The nigh latitude of limitations which created the bracing atmosphere of her existence produced fruits of the Spirit in tropical luxuriance. She faced those who loved her, and those who needed her love, with both hands full of gifts. "Of her sufferings we knew only from her silence."
Can we ever forget the slow progress up the aisle to her wonted seat, of that great soul enshrined in the frailest tabernacle of human flesh? Dearest to her of all earthly things, of all heavenly things on earth, was this Holy House of God. She loved with a great love the place where His honour dwelleth. The key-note of her character seemed to be to yield but little to personal infirmity. To illuminate this trait, we have an imperishable vision of that feeblest of human frames, "a Spirit, yet a woman too," standing to the end through long Anthem Te Deums, a rebuke it might be to some, a delightful inspiration to all. To us worshippers in S. Paul's Chapel, it is hardly too much to say, that "there fell along with her a whole wing of the palace of life."
Another precious memory is that of Miss Thorne sitting book in hand at the long table with her sewing "mothers" gathered about her, to whom it was the joy of that hand-maid of the Lord to minister for many many years in spiritual and material things. Some to whom she pointed the way, and for whose often faltering footsteps she made the way smooth, preceded her to the rest of Paradise. What greetings from them the Saint of God received on her entrance into that Kingdom! Others remain this side the veil, far the lonelier that she has left them.
It was my privilege, for a portion of one summer vacation, to know Miss Thorne, as by invitation I was one of a large family at the sea side. Was she a burden of old age and low spirits, an added anxiety and care in family life? No, a charming companion always; in spirits as youthful and bright as the youngest. No matter when or how often surprised, her face always wore the aspect of one looking up, because her redemption was drawing nigh. She was like one who had passed beyond the confines of old age, and was already out of reach of the storms of life. Walking and sitting on the beach, by night and by day, a frail form but an undaunted heart, she seemed to exercise the right to look off on the great sea, with the wistful gaze of one for whom the mystery of all storms had been solved, and whose fears had been long since laid at rest.
And now, to what extent may a Pastor raise the curtain on that lonely but beautiful home life. By preference, nearly always alone, yet not alone. It was during these years, "when the Vesper bell of her life was tolling" that I saw most of Miss Thorne; during the period when she was fearlessly, cheerfully, relaxing her hold on life, and God was slowly and tenderly leading His weary child home.
It is a mystery how Paradise can even be complete without that little room, its windows looking off on that well-kept garden, the walls and tables made bright by the faces of those dear by ties of blood and warmest friendship, the cheerful fire place, the white translucent drop-light filled with pictures, and the slight vanishing form in the little easy chair, giving life and meaning to all about her.
Pastoral calls were frequent and most delightful, never-to-be-forgotten. A brief service, then the greatest freedom in playfulness, to which she was always a most willing party; with many a walk for exercise up and down the long parlours: everything done just to brighten the homeward journey of a faithful loving soul, who seemed to need exhortation, warning and special preparation, as little as the rose needs colour, or the sunshine needs light.
At last the earthly lights were all out, and swift messengers from the feet of God caught up the aged Saint from the gathering gloom, unto the radiant presence of the redeemed and their Redeemer.
"As narrower grows the earthly train,
The circle widens in the sky;
These are our treasures that remain,
But those the stars that gleam on high."
The simple burial service was read in this chapel. Those of the congregation who knew Miss Thorne best, had received personal notices, and they gathered in large numbers, during a severe snow storm, to pay the last tribute of respect to the memory of their friend of many years.
I accompanied the family to the cemetery in Newark, and, there, while the snow continued to fall, as a fit symbol of the purity of her life, and giving rare softness and beauty to the scene, we laid to rest all that was mortal of Sarah Wisner Thorne, whom we admired and loved.
Here was a rarely beautiful life, and a noble and inspiring example to us all. We leave her in the tender care of Him who giveth His beloved sleep. His loving kindness and mercy, having followed her all the days of her life, have now taken her into full possession; and she shall dwell in the House of the Lord forever.
May God, of His infinite love in Christ Jesus, give us grace so to live, that we shall meet our dear friend again in the Paradise of the Blessed.
W. MONTAGUE GEER,
Vicar of S. Paul's Chapel,
Trinity Parish, New York City.
A LILY OF THE FIELD.
BEING A SERMON
Preached in S. Paul's Chapel, Trinity Parish, New York,
Sexigesima Sunday, February 18, 1900,
IN MEMORY OF
SARAH WISNER THORNE,
ALGERNON S. CRAPSEY,
Rector of S. Andrew's Church, Rochester, N. Y.
Text—"Consider the lilies of the field how they grow." Math. vi. 28.
NOTE.—For years it had been the hope of the writer of this book that, if he survived his friend, he might be permitted to preach a sermon in her memory. He set apart the above text to this use, knowing that none other so perfectly expressed the meaning of her life. And the wish of years became the reality of a day. By the kindness of the Rev'd Montague Geer, Vicar of S. Paul's Chapel, this sermon was preached in that church the day after Miss Thorne's funeral. There was no time then to write it out, and now it is reproduced from memory; the thoughts are given, not the very words.
It is evident to every observer that a great change is passing over the spiritual life and thought of the English speaking world. Within the memory of those who have reached middle life it was the confirmed opinion of the majority of English speaking Christians that the Christian life must begin in excitement and continue in anxiety. Before a man could begin to live in Christ he must first be conscious of his alienation from God. [107/108] He must have, as it was said, a conviction of sin; he must enter into the darkness before he could emerge into the light. His fears were appealed to and he was if possible thrown into a state of despair in order that he might be the better subject for the saving grace of God.
Every device that ingenuity could conceive was made use of in order to produce this excited condition of soul. A special order of preachers, called revivalists, went about, stirring up the people, picturing to them the fearful state of the lost; dwelling in detail upon the horrors of eternal damnation, until they drove the more susceptible of their hearers into a condition of hysteria bordering on madness. This emotional excitement was considered to be an evidence of the presence and working of the Holy Ghost and the wilder the uproar the more pleased were both preacher and people with the outcome of the work.
From this hysterical state, the soul of the subject would pass to one of great exaltation. There would be the sense of lightness, as if a load had been taken from the heart and the sinner was then said to be converted to God. From this conversion was dated the spiritual life of the convert; then first he began to be a child of God; and unless he were conscious of and could tell the day, the hour and the minute when he accepted Christ there was no life in him; the new born [108/109] child of God was and must be conscious of his birth; his kingdom of God came with observation.
And when a man once became a Christian the emotion of his heart was changed from excitement to anxiety. He did not dare to leave that life which he had gained by conscious effort to the care of unconscious laws and forces. He must himself look after it; he must be able to see, almost to hear it grow. Week by week he must be ready to tell what God had done for his soul; and his proficiency in the spiritual life was measured by his ability to describe his own inward experiences; he who was most apt in speech was considered most perfect in life.
This method of spiritual advancement was reduced to a system. Regular meetings were held, called experience meetings, in which each Christian was expected to describe in detail the condition of his soul; to expose all the relations existing between himself and his God if there was any love story between his heart and his Savior, he must tell that story to curious and sometime scoffing ears. In this system the Christian life was from first to last a self conscious life; thinking chiefly of its emotional relation to the Lord; considering every quiet hour a lost hour and every cold and dark day a day of disgrace and disfavor.
Now it is evident that this phase of religious life [109/110] and thought is slowly passing away. It is no longer possible for the revivalists to stir up the old time excitement. Men and women to-day are not so easily moved from the firm base of their reason and their conscience; more and more they are acting from principle rather than from impulse, and, except among the lowest classes of our great cities and in far away country places, the methods so powerful thirty or forty years ago now produce little or no result. The preacher of mere excitement is no longer in favor, he finds his occupation gone.
And people of cultivation and refinement are feeling it more and more difficult and distasteful every day, to give account of their souls to their fellow men. They are beginning to see that a man knows very little about the state of his own soul and what little he does know he would never dare to tell. Of all created things a human soul is the most mysterious and intricate and he who knows the most is the one who will say the least. The experience meeting is shunned now by the more modest and reticent and is left to the young, the ignorant and the self satisfied.
Some see in this great change which is coming over the Protestant world, a sign of spiritual decay. They long for the days of old when there were visible signs of the Lord's presence among his people, and think of the present with [110/111] anxiety and of the future with despair; as if true religion were about to perish from off the earth. But others who have greater faith in God and who are more wise and observant see in this change of sentiment a better conception of the spiritual life, and find in it the hope of a more perfect, because a more natural, development of the soul in its relations to God.
A careful study of life in general and of the spiritual life in particular shows that of all things in the world the beginning of life is the most silent and unconscious. No living thing ever knows when it begins to live. Our Lord compares the life of man to the life of the flower of the field. He says consider the lilies of the field how they grow, and if we will only do as the Lord says and carefully consider how the lilies grow, we shall learn much that is useful about our own lives.
The life of the lily begins with the impregnating of the seed, and of all the processes of nature this is the most silent.
The beginning of life is a secret, which from the very first even until now has been the great secret which God has held in His own keeping. He is the life giver and when he works, He works in the darkness and the silence in which no eye can see and no ear can hear. And the sowing of the seed in the ground is hardly more perceptible than the impregnating of the seed itself.
 The sower throws his seed broadcast over the field and it falls silently upon the earth and by the earth is buried in darkness. The sower may be conscious of his act but the seed never is; it falls in silence and it rests in darkness and knows nothing of itself. When man cultivates the earth, there is indeed the excitement of breaking up the soil and preparing the ground for the seed, but the seed itself cannot be sown until this period of disturbance is over. And perhaps it may be said for that system of excitement, which is passing away, that it came into the world when the heart of man was very hard and obdurate, and it was the only method that could be used to break up that heart and make it ready for the sowing of the seed. This may be so—but even then we must not confound the breaking of the ground with the sowing of the seed, much less with the growth of the plant. But if we would see how God sows His seed we must turn from the operations of man to the operations of nature. And when we look at nature we stand in admiration before her mysterious, silent working. No sound is heard when she plants her forests except the noiseless dropping of the acorn and the nut. No one can tell when and where the seed comes from that clothes the grass of the field with the beauty of the lily, it floats upon the still air or is carried by the noiseless flight of the bird or the insect and when it is dropped into the earth no [112/113] ear hears it. It is God's work and God's work is silent.
Nor is the process of growth any more conscious than the process of generation. All true growth is imperceptible to the sense of man. We can measure growth after it has taken place, but we cannot see the process. In the springtime one can almost persuade himself that he sees the grass grow, but he does not. No more does he hear it; it comes without observation and before we are aware the earth is green with grass and bright with flowers.
Now these are the laws of life everywhere. The operation of generation and the process of growth are both silent and unconscious, known last of all to the new born growing creature. And that life is always the most perfect which retains in the greatest measure these elements of silence and unconsciousness. Noise and consciousness are signs of defect. Nature is unconscious and man is greatest when he is most like nature; when he is least conscious of his own life, and is most alive to the great world of nature and of spirit in which his own life finds its joy and perfection. To cultivate self consciousness in any department of life, physical, intellectual or spiritual, is to cultivate a serious fault and to hinder rather than help forward the process by which life reaches its goal.
We learn from the lily that our life is in the care [113/114] of some One greater than ourselves. If we will only let it alone and go about our own business our life will be the better for our neglect. The lily is the center of a system of ministration, which it did not create and which it cannot alter. While it is lying in the mold and the darkness, there is far away a great Light, in the sky, that sends down to that particular spot a piercing ray of heat that breaks up the mold and penetrates the darkness, and calls the lily forth to the glory and beauty of the day. And when the lily comes out into the world it finds many servants ready to wait upon its needs, it has the air to breath and the dew to drink and the winds to play with, and so it increases by means of air and dew and grows strong by playing with the wind.
Nor is its discipline without a touch of severity. Looking at the lily, so frail and fair, one wonders how it can endure in such a boisterous world as this. For the lily has its days of darkness, its days of cold and bitter rain. But it spite of all this, nay, because of all this, the lily goes on to its perfection. It folds itself close in the day of coldness and of darkness, and it bends low in the day of wind and rain, but when the cold, dark day is gone it opens itself more widely to the light and the heat and has a brighter, warmer hue than ever before; and when the wind and rain have ceased, it rears itself more proudly on its stem, [114/115] the stronger because of the hardness which it has endured. And God asks nothing of the lily for all His care of it except that it shall be a lily and make the earth glad with its beauty and its fragrance.
And this is the symbol of human life. We are in the keeping of some One greater than ourselves. Our life is His gift and His care. We have nothing to do with our beginning, and have little control over the course and ending of our career. Now to many, this our helpless state, seems our misery. But if we will only submit to it and cast ourselves with sublime faith and indifference upon the system that sustains us, "casting all our care upon God, believing that He careth for us," we shall find our state of subjection to be one of perfect freedom. The same forces that called us into being provide for our existence. Every child born into the world is provided for. It is only when man thwarts the operations of nature that misery sets it. To live is man's birth right, and to grow is his duty. So necessary are these things to the purpose of God in creating man, that they come without his wish, and continue without his knowledge. Now this great truth is dawning upon the Christian mind, and is gradually curing it of diseased self-consciousness; leaving it free to expand, unconsciously, under the light and heat of God's love, and to grow strong under the discipline of His hand.
 Modern religion has too little of this faith in the divine care and in the divine processes. It is anxious and disturbed lest the spiritual life should not be growing. It has a childish desire to dig up the seed to see whether it is doing well or not. This is true both in the Catholic and Protestant Churches. It is the anxiety about the state of the soul that underlies the discipline of the one as well as the other. A soul that is not anxious is considered to be in a dangerous state; and it is the main purpose of religious discipline to arouse the soul to a sense of its danger. In every other department of life except the spiritual, this is considered a weakness. A man who is anxious about his bodily health, is either sick or foolish. If he is really sick, he should of course be anxious, and should use every proper means for the recovery of his health. But such a state is not a happy nor a perfect state; nor is it a common one. All men are sick sometime, some men are sick all the time, but all men are not sick all the time. And yet it is upon this supposition that much of our modern religion is based. Sickness is considered to be a constant, continuous, and even preferable state of the soul. One must feel the ache and the pain else one is not alive. Freedom from pain, spiritual ease, health of soul, are considered impossible for mortal man. So we are bidden to nurse our aches and pains and make the most of them and never [116/117] to hope for release from self-consciousness until we die and go to heaven.
But all this, as I have said, is passing away. We are beginning to believe in health of soul, just as we believe in health of body. And we are beginning to practice spiritual sanitation instead of spiritual medication. If we live freely and actively in the light and air of God's truth and God's love, our souls will grow unconsciously and will come in time to the fullness of the stature of Christ. Self-consciousness is a sign of disorder and arrest of growth; the more we worry the less we grow. "We cannot, by taking thought, add one cubit to our stature."
But some one will say, no such unconscious soul ever did live or ever can live in this world. To which it is answered that it is the purpose of this sermon to celebrate just such a soul as this.
We are all of us thinking this morning of one, who yesterday, was buried from this church. One who was esteemed and beloved as few are esteemed and beloved in this world. One who, for fifty years and more, went in and out among us in the service of God and the service of humanity. It is given only to a few to serve so long and so faithfully, and to accomplish so much as she whose hands are now folded in their well-earned, eternal rest. If ever there was a child of God in this world, surely it was this woman of whom we speak. She impressed those [117/118] who knew her best with a sense of spiritual perfection. She was not great, perhaps, as men count greatness, but she was good, and her goodness was perfect after its kind. For nine and eighty years she did justly, and loved mercy and walked humbly with her God.
But this woman never had, in the common acceptation of the word, any religious experience. She never knew when she began to live her life in God. Her regeneration lay far back in the region of her unconscious life. It began with her beginning. Even her baptism, when she was a child in arms, was only the outward and visible sign of the life which she possessed already. In the language of the bishops, her baptism made no moral change in her, it only proclaimed her birth-right as "a member of Christ and child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." If you had asked this woman how and when she obtained her freedom in Christ, she might have answered with justice, "I was born free."
Nor was she any more conscious of her spiritual life than she was of her spiritual birth. She doubtless had her seasons of self-conscious pain; especially in the long sickness of her youth. What occurred in that chamber of pain she only knows, and she never told. She did not magnify her personal experiences by dwelling on them. The season of self-conscious pain was short; [118/119] the season of unconscious life and growth was long. She never expressed the least anxiety about her own soul. She never seemed to care whether it was saved or not; in fact she did not appear to know that she had a soul. She was so busy living that she did not know she was alive. I, who speak to you was her friend, living with her in all the intimacies of friendship for thirty years. I have talked with her upon every and any subject that can engage the thoughts of men and women, but never by any chance did we talk about the state of her own soul. Not that she was reticent on this subject. She simply did not think about it. She was not worrying about a future salvation because she was enjoying a present salvation. Her joy was not the uneasy joy of anticipation; it was the constant, and because constant, the unconscious joy of possession.
Her life was the life of the lily of the field, in its unconsciousness, its physical frailty, in its beauty and its fragrance. She was born without knowing it, and lived without thinking of it. She had a little of this world's good and that little was enough. She had her own particular gift from God, and she did not wish for another. She was early rooted in one place and she did not crave a change. She was indeed a lily of the field, clothing the grass of the field with beauty, and making the air of the field sweet with the fragrance of her simple, holy life.
 We can see her now; her beautiful head set like a flower upon its slender stem, that untroubled face reflecting the hidden peace within; calm in the light, serene in the storm, knowing that light and storm are both alike necessary to the discipline of the soul.
As we think of that life we can think of nothing better than it in all the world. It possessed, in the highest degree, the two essentials of a perfect life; it was useful, and it was beautiful; its usefulness was our profit and its beauty our delight. And we thank our God this morning, most of all for the blessing wherewith he has blessed us in the life and labors of Sarah Wisner Thorne. And we need not pray for her that she may rest in peace, and that perpetual light may shine upon her, for that her earthly condition must now, necessarily, be her heavenly estate.