Project Canterbury





Trinity Church, New Haven,


Sunday, November 1, 1863,











In the House of God, we do not seek to exalt man. For we remember that in His sight, “with whom we have to do,” we are but dust and ashes, and that before Him the angels veil their faces. We remember, too, that we gather together here, to lift up our hearts, by means of prayer, of praise, and devout meditation, to the Most High. The world tends always to distract our thoughts, and to reduce them to its own level; and the mind finds not only relief, but a reactionary impulse against the power of the world in the associations, the objects, and the atmosphere itself of the house of God. We need more of God and less of the world, more of Eternity and less of time in our deepest heart, and to supply this need, to give nutriment to the heart, to strengthen the spirit, the Churches of the land are thrown open to all who wish to enter them. We can never forget, therefore, that the Churches are for the praise and glory of God, and not for the glorification of men.

Nevertheless, the Church has a share in the worth of a good Christian, as the community has an interest [5/6] in the life of a good citizen. It deplores his death, for a void is created; it feels his loss, because he has filled a place in the regard and esteem of men, which is, in a special sense, peculiar to himself. And unless we can prize noble characters, we are fallen indeed upon an evil day, and belong to a perverse generation.

In the House of God, then, when we speak of men whom we have seen and known, with whom we have worshipped together, we speak of them according to our conception of their character, according to the gifts and graces with which they have been endowed. We do not prize and commemorate them here on account of the honors with which they may have been crowned, nor because they may have filled a large place in public estimation, nor for the brilliancy of a career. These are often, indeed, noble evidences of worth, of genius, of true power; but, on the other hand, they may indicate a false standard of merit upon the part of a community. In the honors it grants, a country may even proclaim its own disgrace, and therefore, the mere fact that a man has been honored in his life, presents no reason in itself, why we should speak of him in the House of God. For here, if anywhere, we seek to judge according to realities and not appearances. We consider a character for what it is—a man, for his properties and endowments, and for what God has been pleased to do for him, through grace and mercy.

[7] I feel that I am permitted to speak to you to-day, of a true man, who has been taken away, alas, for us! in the meridian of his life. I seek to deepen in your hearts, and to keep there, fresh and unimpaired, the affectionate regard you bear and have borne for FREDERICK CROSWELL. I do not seek to present to you traits of character which are new to you, of which you have known nothing, and which may seem to have an existence only in my own fancy, but those characteristics which you yourselves know, and which they who knew him intimately, loved well. The secret of our interest in FREDRICK CROSWELL, lies in his character, in his personal attributes and qualities, rather than in the stages of his career in life. His record in the community is honorable indeed, but let me ask you, instead of considering this, to review with me some of the elements of his personality—and to observe how these manifested themselves in matters which were, both to him and to us, of the deepest interest.

He was a man of refined intellectual temperament. There was even a poetic vein in the composition of his mind. He shared his poetic tendency with his well known brother, the late WILLIAM CROSWELL, whom he resembled not only in mind, but in features and figure. In his reading and study he followed the bias of his mind, preferring the graceful forms of literature to the severer pursuits of scholarship and learning. Culture increased, and imparted [7/8] additional beauty to, his native refinement. He was well read in literature, and his taste for books was delicate. He loved especially the quaintness of our old authors, enjoying with keen relish their terse, vigorous, and even homely English. He was fond, moreover, of “gay humors” in verse, while in fact he loved every species of composition where great mastery of language was displayed.

Besides this, he was a person of solid judgment. He was not prone to abstract speculation, nor to theorizing. Neither did he build air cities for his mind to dwell in, but he sought firm foothold in the grand doctrines of the faith, and in the broad principles of constitutional liberty. Calm, rather than impetuous or vehement, he did not readily form opinions, but when once adopted, he did not hastily yield them. In fact, tenacity of conviction was a marked characteristic of his mind. Thinking, in his view, was an element of human responsibility, and hence he was alike careful and cautious.

His mind turned to the past with reverence and love. Utterly despising the shallow ignorance which seeks to glorify the present at the expense of the past, he saw wisdom, genius, heroism, insight, and the fear of God, in the lives and labors of the men of the ages that are gone. Hence he was by constitutional structure a conservative. I do not, however, use this word in its hacknied sense to express the temper which leads men to accept all things, and [8/9] institutions, and usages, whether good or evil, simply because they have been handed down to us—the temper which presents a bar against all progress, or the incoming of new ideas with their uncomfortable revolutionary results; but I use the word in a nobler sense, to denote that characteristic which finds wisdom in the past, and which seeks to perpetuate it, which finds in old forms and institutions the embodiment of a living spirit, which it is part of our duty, as men and citizens and Christians, to recognize and to acquire, as far as possible. He loved the old, but he was not indifferent to the new. He found the roots of the new in the old, and his mind occupied itself  therefore in the things and movements of our own time, because, in its grandest interests and tendencies, he could see the results of the best agencies of all past time.

One manifestation of this characteristic bias of his mind towards what was old, however, was his fondness for old things in and near this town, which he loved well and tenderly. The elms, which are the glory of our streets and of our public “Green,” were sacred; the old houses and other relics of by-gone generations, were dear in his sight. They were as voices of the days when strong and wise men lived and labored for the common good. His antiquarian taste led him to take a great deal of interest in the formation and objects of the recently incorporated Historical Society of New Haven Colony, and one of his latest [9/10] employments was the preparation of a paper, which he read before that Society, giving a sketch of the History of our Church in New Haven, from the first labors of Church Clergymen in this city, down to the period when his father, Dr. Harry Croswell, took charge of this Parish. The Society, by vote, requested him to continue the History on, during the period of his father’s rectorship, but disease soon laid violent hands upon him, and death intervened to put an end to this and to all other literary projects and employments to which his mind had devoted itself.

In a marked degree, the qualities of Mr. Croswell’s heart corresponded with those of his mind. Refined and poetic in the temper of his mind, he was refined in the quality of his affections; solid and tenacious in his judgments, he was true and steadfast in his friendships. His character, consequently, was harmonious and symmetrical in its proportions. He was not like some men who are brilliant in intellect and cold of heart, nor like others who, while warm of heart, are deficient in understanding. The elements of his character meet the injunction of the Apostle to the Corinthians, “Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.”

He did not seek many friends nor numerous intimacies. He gave himself unreservedly to few only, and with these he was one in manly associations and sympathy, delighting in their society, thinking no [10/11] sacrifice for friendship’s sake, heavy or burdensome. Hence he was loved most by them who knew him best. They knew he could be trusted entirely, because he was free from all low self-seeking, and was true in his attachments, caring for his friends, because he was fond of them, and never dreaming of wearing the cloak of friendship with a view to any supposed or possible selfish advantage. There are men in this community who feel that they have lost a friend whose place must forever remain void. For later in life, we do not make new friendships, as in boyhood and youth; and when a dear friend whom we have known and loved from boyhood is lost to us, the loss is permanent. Such must be the experience of the intimate companions of Frederick Croswell.

I have said that he was refined in the quality of his affections. He was even fastidious in temper. He shrunk from all vulgarity, and from all moral baseness. He hated all pretense and shams, and he looked, with noble scorn, upon the artifices by which many men gain notoriety. He despised all double dealing, for he was ingenuous, simple hearted, frank, and endowed with a nice sense of honor. These qualities made him courteous in his bearing towards men. His self-respect taught him to respect others, and his genuine amiability of character manifested itself alike in action and in kindliness of manner, towards persons with whom he came in contact only casually, or in the way of business.

[12] He was characterized, moreover, by true modesty, never obtruding himself upon public notice, never forcing his opinions upon other men; never, in fact, attaching undue importance to himself, but always ready to give generously to others all that they deserved, in his best judgment, in the way of praise and admiration.

Poor persons have felt his benefactions without knowing to whom they were indebted. His friends cherish piously the memory of his generosities and charities, which were always unostentatious and free. He sought not to let his left hand know what his right hand did. He believed in the duty of showing mercy to the erring, in helping the distressed, and what he did from the promptings of his belief and from his broad sympathy and generosity, is known in its full extent only to Him who seeth in secret.

Such, it seems to me, are the chief characteristics of the mind and heart of our departed friend and brother. Let us still farther notice how they were manifested in subjects pertaining to State and to Church.

As a citizen, Mr. Croswell was eminently true to the constituted authorities of the land; he was equally loyal and patriotic, and firm in the assertion of his principles. When the storm of civil war and rebellion first darkened the southern sky, and the foundations of the Republic began to tremble, his heart rose to the height of a noble passion for his country. [12/13] He would not allow himself for a moment to estimate the action of the rebels against the laws of the land, through the bewitching atmosphere of past political associations. He saw in it only crime, confusion, and madness. He felt that the Country was calling upon her children for help, and he had no apologies to suggest for the men who were threatening her life. He did not hesitate, therefore, but made his choice at once. He did not know what other men might do, or what they might think, he felt that for himself there was but one course. He did not weigh the possible effects of his decision upon his own civic fortunes for the future, for with such considerations, at such a time, he had nothing to do. And having once made his choice, he never wavered or faltered. Nothing could shake his faith in, nor disturb the completeness of his devotion to his country. From time to time the public heart has been made heavy by disasters to our arms, and men have been tempted to cry out that all was lost. From time to time it has seemed as if the fortunes, the life of the Republic, were trembling in the balance. Antagonistic opinions respecting the course of the Government have disturbed and partially, at least, divided even true-minded men. Some have clamored for one, and others for a different policy—hearts have failed, it must be acknowledged, through fear, but under all untoward circumstances, no matter what or whence, Mr. Croswell maintained a cheerfulness and calmness [13/14] which expressed the depth of his faith in the destiny, the strength, and the ultimate prosperity of his native country. He believed in our power, under God, to bring the war to a victorious end, and in the determination of the people to save the land from anarchy. He was buoyed by a large hope that God would not suffer us to be destroyed, but would lead us on through the tremendous sorrow and labor now imposed upon the Republic, to a better and nobler civilization. In his conduct as a citizen, he displayed, therefore, the fine qualities of his mind and heart. He was not a noisy patriot; he was not addicted to making plans for the settlement of our national troubles; neither did his patriotism mean desire to advance himself or to win office. More than once he has been solicited in vain to offer himself, or to allow his name to be used, as a candidate for office. But he did not covet civic honor’s. He longed devoutly for the public good. His heart was in the national cause, and not in himself; and he had the courage not to despair of the Republic.

Lastly, Frederick Croswell was a reverent and devout Christian. He had a large, yet childlike, faith in his Lord and Saviour. His heart rested in Christ as the personal object of our faith, and the Author of everlasting life to all believers. His hope, whether of pardon or of victory over sin and death, was in the power of the Cross. He knew that he had fallen upon a time of wide-spread doubt and unbelief; that men [14/15] were seeking to undermine the faith of Christendom in a supernatural revelation; he felt the shock of conflict, but he could, nevertheless, say, I know in whom I have believed. There was great steadfastness in his faith; it was clear, pure, and not movable. The tumult of controversy could not disturb it. There was even repose in it, as of an heart that could not question the grace and mercy of the living God towards His creatures. He felt, indeed, that the Most High has not left us in the darkness of our sin and ignorance, but has opened to us the way of life, and therefore he rejoiced in the hope of the glory of the sons of God.

The faith of Mr. Croswell was marked in its form and tone. It was not a vague and indeterminate belief in the general theory of grace, neither was it a mere system of theology. He was a Churchman upon principle and by conviction. It was his belief that the Church was instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ—“that it was built upon the foundation of apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone,” and that by divine Providence it was ordered in its worship, its sacraments and ministry. He believed that this Church, having survived all revolutions amongst the nations of the earth, had come down to our own time, reformed and purified in our particular branch and communion, and that a recognition of it upon his part was due as a Christian man.

There was, moreover, in its antiquity, an element [15/16] in the Church which appealed to his entire, nature with great power. Age made her venerable; eighteen centuries—a long while in the history of any religion!—had made her the depository of rare treasures of devotion and thought, the center of grand influences, and the object of tender and pure associations. Her voice, as uttered in the ancient creeds, touched the heart of Frederick Croswell, and he loved to embody his own devotional thoughts and feelings in the prayers and hymns which have been transmitted to us from the early Christian ages. So he loved the Book of Common Prayer, not only for the purity and truth of its teachings and its sentiment, not only because it re-echoes to the sense of Holy Writ, not only for the noble language and grand style which pervade it; but also because it is largely of remote origin, and belongs, in many of its features, to the primitive Christian Church; because generation after generation has found those prayers suited to their own needs, and has offered them, in faith and love to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

His view of the functions and posture of the Church in its relation to the world, acquired more and more breadth as he grew older. He thought that she should not only bear witness to the Faith once delivered to the saints, but that she should be the source and centre of positive power in the way of thought, that the ministers of Christ should attempt the treatment of great themes in a living [16/17] spirit, as if they felt that they were called upon to influence the public mind, and as if they recognized the fact that the Revelation of our Lord is adapted to the exigencies of every age. He was not content with the thought that it was the business of the Church of Christ to repeat the formulas of the faith, as if by rote, and without any reference to the especial needs of each generation. He did not think that her strength lay in holding herself aloof from the living thoughts of men. If she will win, if she will gain men for Christ, she must come into spiritual contact and relations with them, and in order to this, there must be living thought and energy in the ministry. He would not secularize the Church indeed, but he saw, with growing distinctness, that she must ever adapt herself to the actual demands of the ages, if she will prove herself the agent of God in the conversion of the ungodly; he saw that, for her work, it is necessary that she use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, with skill and intrepidity, always having, however, the profoundest sympathy with men everywhere. In fact, it appears to me that the mind and heart of Frederick Croswell were growing and expanding steadily under the pressure of the time in which we live.

Trinity Church was especially dear to him. For here he had been a constant worshipper from childhood; here, too, he came to the table of his Lord and ours, and the best experiences of his Christian [17/18] life were intertwined with the spiritual influences of which this Church has been and is the centre. It was associated in his heart, moreover, with his father, who had given to the Parish the best energies of his life. You can readily understand, therefore, how it should happen that few men could care more for the
interests of Trinity Church than he; that few could have rejoiced more than he in its prosperity, or have grieved more than he over any adversity that might come. It was his home, and beneath its roof he had lifted up his heart to God in all the phases of Christian worship, as I have already said.

I feel, brethren, and I am not alone in the feeling, that in his death this Parish has sustained a serious loss. His honorable and. pious fidelity to it, under any and every exigency, could be counted upon. We have lost a true-hearted, devout member of the Church. But we do not sorrow for him as they who have no hope. We committed his body to the ground when the summer was at its height and the earth was in the brightness of its glory and life; we committed his body to the ground, I say, in the hope of a joyful resurrection unto life eternal. [July 14th, 1863.]

Brethren, the winds of autumn sigh through the trees of our cemetery, and the leaves of autumn have fallen upon the grave of our friend and brother—a pure-minded gentleman, a warm-hearted patriot, a devout and reverent Christian. He has passed away [18/19] forever from our mortal sight. For us nothing remains but the impress of his character—of his qualities and graces. Let us keep fresh in our hearts, not the memory, but the idea of him, which neither painter nor sculptor can delineate. And let us lift up our hearts to Him who both gave and has taken away our brother. Soon we, too, must follow. One by one we depart and are no more seen. One by one we leave the world in the tremendous power of its life, and silently disappear, as if at best we had been mere shadows—mere shadows! always moving, never the same, changing in feature and form, changing in the tone and forces of our life, as it we were even subject to the mysterious power that regulates the tides of the ocean; to-day strong, as men count strength; to-morrow—dead. Men look for us, but we cannot be found. So quick is the march along the strip of time and space allotted to each of us. The hands upon the dial of Time never stop, and we are borne along to inevitable death. Let us look to it that the sting of death, in our case, be taken away. Let us seek to be enrolled in that great multitude, that heavenly host which shall offer eternal praise unto God and the Lamb that was crucified to destroy the power of sin and death. Let us make God our portion, so that, whether living or dying, we shall be His. The living and the dead alike call us to be reconciled unto Him, to be affiliated unto Him through faith in the adorable Saviour.

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