THE SENIOR MEMBER, MAY 15th, 1877.
T. WHITTAKER, 2 BIBLE HOUSE.
TO THE BOARD OF MANAGERS OF ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL, NEW YORK,
TO THE TRUSTEES OF ST. JOHNLAND, LONG ISLAND,
This Publication is Dedicated.
BY THE ASSOCIATION OF CLERGYMEN WHO PAY THIS TRIBUTE
TO THE MEMORY OF THEIR SENIOR MEMBER.
THOMAS M. PETERS,
JOHN N. GALLEHER, Committee.
FOR several years a number of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church have met together once a month in New York for the interchange of social and literary fellowship, and for the discussion of important topics in religion and theology. Dr. Muhlenberg was a cherished and earnest member. He attended the meetings whenever his health allowed, and readily took his turn in the order of readers of essays. It is fitting, then, that this tribute should be to his memory, and that these writings should be published in this form and addressed to the Trustees of the two institutions which are monuments of his piety and charity and legacies of his influence.
The day of meeting, May 15th, was in keeping with the loveliness of his spirit, and there was a large attendance of members. The Chairman, in asking the Association to join in the Collect for All Saints' Day, at the close of the memorial services, and before entering upon the usual order of business, said that there could be no more fitting close of the tributes to the saintly soul who had gone from us than this prayer of the ages which spoke of no sects or parties, and knew no Church but that which is Holy and Catholic, the Body of Christ our Lord.
WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, D.D., LL.D.
Homo antiqua fide et virtute.
NOT for the eye that scans the accustomed page
Where the day's issues place the ventured lines
Of him who tempts the path thick-hedged about
With sharp reminders that the immortal Muse,
Winged like the fabled Mercury, must fly
Or e'er she move with measured feet and mien,
Bring we our tribute of the heart's dear love:
Rather, in mind perennial of him,
True prophet, gentlest priest, for offering
The service of his own great soul of love
On altars not of human hands, but woes
Consecrate ever by his Lord's own woes,
Come we, his friends, nay more, his children, blest
What time within the aureole of his smile
Reverent we sat in its rich largess glad,
As in the presence of some saint of old
With whom our God had spoken; come we now,
Not in vain griefs to pour the sad lament;
But--nobler guerdon from his nobler life
Than the dull age is wont to mark or mind--
To take new faith and courage for the day,
Haply the dawn of his prophetic ken--
Like him to work and wait his Lord's good will to men.
Peace! let no travail of our selfish grief
Through earth's poor numbers seek a fond relief;
All that to him was dear
Is ever near.
Like as of toilers who their Lord's dear form
Saw through the mist, and erst, the wild sea storm,
Heard o'er the waters clear,
His voice of cheer,
No spirit's call from Eld's mysterious realm--
Bid ply the oar and shift the opposing helm,
Unwearied cast the net,
So, latest saint of all the historic line
Meet for the high Kalendal place and sign
Thine the responding word,
"It is the Lord!"
"It is the Lord!" thus o'er the heaving sea
Of the world's tide-way haste, the mystery
Of the great King's delays
To human gaze,
He saw the Lord; though toiling all the night,
The morn came shimmering with the vision bright;
Counting the promise true,
The net he drew.
Gifts for the Master! first, himself a gift,
In Christ's own love, the burthened soul to lift
Out of its sad unrest
To that dear breast.
Gifts for the Master! for the heart of youth,
The quickened conscience and the lip of truth,
Bidding it firm God speed,
He sowed the seed.
Gifts for the Master! gathering where he strewed,
His heart rejoicing, if along the road,
Pressed by his Saviour's feet,
Something to greet,
The King in the last solemn Advent-tide,
He planted well, with patience to abide
The sheaves of harvesting
The reapers bring.
Poet and prophet! God's own prophets are
His poets--under-makers [* Bailey's Festus]--from afar
To frame the vision clear
And hail it near.
Shaped to the measure of the living ill,
Earth's saddest solitudes with joy to fill,
He wrought the vision high
To love's employ.
Man among men; the kind courageous heart
Chivalric, true, to aid the weaker part,
Free in the liberty
Of Christ's own free,
His the rare martyr soul; for truth and right
The pleader and the worker; in the might
Of Christ's great might to stand
At His command.
Not the gray annals of an elder time,
Of joyful service and of faith sublime,
In rubricated name
Tell worthier fame.
Fourscore and one! yet not the good old age,
Measured by years alone; if these were all,
Unmeaning life, and vain the sacred page,
The patriarch's record: then 'twere wise to install
For all it grants, long life as sovereign good;
To account the hours for God and duty given,
Servants of greed, and passion's fitful mood
The all in all, and verity of heaven!
Not thine, dear saint! thou of the head encrowned
With glory in the ways of righteousness--
Thus to thyself to live; but toilful, found
Blessing and blest where'er thy Lord would bless;
Not to "live alway," this thy song and prayer;
To live to Christ, thy life's supremest care.
 WILLIAM AUGUSTUS MUHLENBERG, D.D. "H kaqarsiV poiei en gnwsei twn aristwn Einai"
MANY men have been prompt to do honor to the name and memory of our venerated and admirable father in the Church, who has lately fallen asleep in the confidence of a certain faith: in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope: in favor with God, and in perfect charity with the world. Sermons, newspaper articles, poems, and resolutions of religious bodies, have been spoken and written and printed; and it may seem as if this Club were somewhat tardy in rendering public homage to him to whom we all looked up as a rare embodiment of the spirit of a broad, generous, and living Christianity. If indeed all have spoken, let us here and now echo the general sentiment, and return thanks to Almighty God for the life, the labors, the example, the genius of William Augustus Muhlenberg.
There are men who, owing to some personal traits, or to the force of circumstance, or to the character of their environments, seem to belong less to themselves, to their families, and to their personal friends than others. [11/12] It is difficult to explain the reason of this satisfactorily to every one, nevertheless the fact is admitted. It may be that there is a keener sympathy, or a more restless sensibility, a certain force impelling one even to lose one's self in others, or to forget one's griefs in the desire to promote the well-being of others. It seems that, sometimes, men without immediate family ties or family responsibilities create for themselves obligations and a line of life which never touch the heart and conscience of other men who are married and have children, and who have many cares and many duties which demand time and energy and the whole strength, but which are not prompted precisely by benevolence of feeling. It is impossible to forecast a human life, except indeed in one way. We know the inevitable effect of good or of evil upon the character, but we cannot tell how misfortune will affect one or prosperity another: we cannot tell what the effect of commingled good and evil fortune will be. What destroys one man is wholesome for another: one discipline is good for characters of a given type; the same discipline may prove disastrous to others.
Dr. Muhlenberg is to be accounted singularly happy in his endowments and surroundings. The romance of an early attachment and the grief that followed, when she whom he loved was removed forever from mortal sight, [12/13] might seem to demand some qualification of my statement. Making all allowance, however, for the lasting effect of the cruel blow, I can, nevertheless, say that I have rarely known a man whose endowments, surroundings, and opportunities more fully harmonized with his chosen lines of life. Perhaps I err in saying chosen. It seems to me that he must have done what he did and as he did. He could not help himself. A certain duty was laid upon him: a trust was committed to him: a burden was placed upon his shoulders by invisible hands, and he carried it with an unwearied enthusiasm. It should be remembered, too, that his position was singular and exceptional. He was not the rector of a large exacting parish, nor was he a bishop with the troublesome care of a turbulent diocese, nor was he the president of a college always in need either of money or of students. He never, after he was thirty years of age, occupied any position or filled any office which he could not control either by virtue of proprietorship, as at College Point, or else by virtue of intimate personal relationship, as the Church of the Holy Communion, built by his sister, Mrs. Rogers, as a memorial to her husband, or else by virtue of the right which creation confers, as at St. Luke's Hospital and St. John-land. He was always free in the sphere of his activity and in his mode of working. These are circumstances to [13/14] be borne in mind when we seek to understand him, and to form some definite conception of him as a great personal influence in the church of our day and country.
Once more, then, I beg you to consider that our revered father in the church was singularly happy in his endowments and surroundings. I mean by this that they harmonized with each other and with the great work of his life. What he was able to accomplish was not the result of accident, nor the prosperous issue of some stray bright thought or charitable emotion. It was what it was because he was what he was. His life, his vital powers, in a singular degree, were embodied in his prolonged working and in his manifold undertakings. The Jews used to maintain that in order to the spirit and vocation of the true prophet a man should have the following endowments and qualifications: "1. An excellent temper; 2. Good accomplishments both of wit and fortunes; 3. Separation from the world; 4. Congruity of place; 5. Opportunity of time; 6. And divine inspiration." [* Stillingfleet, Origines.] Here is a terse, sharp statement of the conditions of a most felicitous working capacity. A good sound temper, not morbid nor suspicious, not too easily aroused nor too sluggish: quick, bright intelligence, a mind open to all [14/15] good and noble impressions: freedom of action, assured by a competent fortune and by good social position: a suitable field of action: the auspicious moment: the inspiration of the genuine Christian piety, charity and enthusiasm. These conditions were fulfilled, one might say, almost to the letter, in Dr. Muhlenberg. He was a well-equipped, well-endowed man for his work and ministry. He had great natural "staying power," and he was equally strong through the power of his Christian faith.
My purpose in this discourse is to endeavor to place before you some of the characteristic features and results of his most valuable ministry--to remind you of his wise and beneficent exertions for the good of men and for the advancement of the kingdom of God: and to delineate some at least of his marked personal traits. He knew and had associated with all generations of our American churchmen from the period of our ecclesiastical organization. He knew all types of churchmen and of churchmanship. Bishop White was his early friend, and some of his latest friends were born after the venerable bishop slept in his honored grave. I cannot now present to you, however, a biographical sketch or summary of Dr. Muhlenberg's life. The time for this task has not yet come. I must content myself with considering the latter half of his ministry. I recall him to you and to myself when, in the enthusiasm [15/16] of his hopes, he began his work in the city of New York. He had passed--just passed--his fiftieth year, and his hair was already whitening, but his step was rapid, his eyes brilliant, his strong features full of sensibility, and every motion was suggestive of physical and of intellectual activity and health.
I. THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY COMMUNION.
The unusually long ministry of Dr. Muhlenberg, of nearly sixty years, falls, readily and naturally, into two periods of nearly equal length. The first, beginning at his ordination, and ending when he relinquished College Point to assume the pastorate of the Church of the Holy Communion, New York, lasted nearly thirty years. The second, beginning with his pastorate and ending only with death, lasted thirty years. Of the first half or period, I will not speak. What he did as a youthful clergyman under the rectorship of the patriarchal White, and still later in Pennsylvania, at Lancaster,--how the conception of a church school took on clear form, ending in his removal from Pennsylvania to Long Island, how the school became known far and near, and how his influence was felt in the lives of many of his scholars who have won [16/17] reputation and done good work in Church and State, it would be well worth while to know and to relate. But, as I have said, I confine myself to the last half of the public life of my dear friend, to the years since I have known him well, and honored him with all reverent affection for what I knew him to be, and for what we all knew he was accomplishing with sleepless and unselfish zeal.
When Dr. Muhlenberg began his pastorate at the Holy Communion, the Protestant Episcopal Church was, and had been for several years, in a state of great commotion. The storms of to-day are feeble in comparison. Doctrinal controversy and personal scandals had produced only bitterness, anger, malice, and an evil temper. The thoroughly Protestant portion of the church, and numbers of christians not of our communion, were alike exasperated and alarmed at the drift towards Rome. When, at last, John Henry Newman, the author of Tract No. 90, a publication which had alarmed churchmen everywhere--when Mr. Newman, the darling leader of the new movement, the eloquent preacher, the devout theologian, deserted the Church of England and joined the Church of Rome, there was actual consternation in the high church party, and they were compelled beside to listen to the taunts of many of their low church brethren, who were not loth nor slow in saying, "We told you so!" [17/18] The atmosphere of the whole church was heated: the temper of the laity had become suspicious: New York was divided into two hostile camps. Theology and scandal: "Puseyism" and the process against Bishop Onderdonk produced the most painful confusion; and every one felt that the church had received a check which could not be neutralized nor forgotten for years. It was at this apparently most inauspicious season that Dr. Muhlenberg began his ministry in New York. He had come to New York, moreover, with an enthusiastic feeling for certain phases of church life and peculiarities of worship which were extremely distasteful to the low church, but to which high churchmen gave sympathy and support.
He had a choir consisting solely of boys and men: the sittings in the church were free: there were no pews: the church was open for daily prayer, morning and evening. Nothing like it had ever been seen in New York. The church produced a decided sensation. Youthful enthusiasts and mature clergymen, young ladies and staid matrons, were attracted, drawn thither as by some magnet, and it was understood that "Puseyism" had achieved its first great practical triumph, in a beautiful church with impressive music, with sittings for the poor, with systematic work going forward in aid of the wretched. It was whispered that a sisterhood was to be or had been established [18/19] in connection with the church, and altogether it came to pass that Dr. Muhlenberg was a person much discussed at clerical gatherings of all descriptions, at tea-tables and church entertainments. Yet he made no sign. No one could vouch for his theological beliefs. It was assumed that he had become very Romish in his opinions: and he was regarded with much suspicion by the great mass of the old-fashioned laity. He was not known personally to many of them, nor did he court society. He was not wanting in pride, there was fire beneath his strong face, and he did not explain. Dr. Muhlenberg was not a learned liturgist, but I have never known a person possessed of such delicate and deep liturgical feeling as he, and his imagination had been appealed to powerfully by the liturgical and ecclesiological phases of the Tractarian movement. Between the years 1847 and 1851 his personal associations were largely with clergymen and others who sympathized with that movement, and I venture the assertion, with all caution, however, that during those years, while the work and the services in the church of the Holy Communion were attracting such general notice, Dr. Muhlenberg had not clearly defined either to himself or to others his doctrinal position.
In 1851 he began the publication of a paper which he named the Evangelical Catholic. In the spring of that year [19/20] I had removed into Dr. Muhlenberg's neighborhood and made his acquaintance. He seemed to me then unlike any person I had ever known: he was utterly unlike all the clergymen of his own age. The acquaintance soon ripened into intimate friendship, and, at his solicitation, I assisted him in the editorship of his paper. It soon became apparent that he had been misunderstood everywhere. The Evangelical Catholic was a genuine surprise, and the surprise culminated when it was discovered that Dr. Muhlenberg had no doctrinal affiliation with the party to which it had been assumed that he belonged. It was found that he was thoroughly Protestant both in his beliefs and in his sympathies. Catholic he claimed to be, because he held to the historic Church, with its creed and sacraments, and ministry and type of worship: Evangelical, because the Scriptures were the sole ultimate rule of faith and practice. He advocated great freedom of thought within the faith of Christ. This was the position he laid down, and upon which he stood before the church and country. Standing upon it resolutely, he found, and others found also, that he thenceforth surely, and without any qualification, began to acquire the confidence of the community, and he became a recognized power in New York and throughout the church.
There was no change in the type and style of the [20/21] services at the church of the Holy Communion, although the tone of its pulpit became more and more free from any thing savoring of mere ecclesiasticism: it was more positively Protestant it may be: it was broader, and Dr. Muhlenberg himself preached with greater power than ever before. He never did justice to himself, however, and always underestimated his own abilities as a preacher. Yet who that has heard him ever thought him dull? He was always interesting, and sometimes eloquent. He preached to achieve results and not to win applause. To him the pulpit was not the throne of the orator, but the chair of the preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact he possessed the prophetic spirit, for he was a fearless preacher of the word and will of God.
The church of the Holy Communion became thus an institution. It represented a free gospel, systematic work for the poor. Its name meant not the sacrament, but communion, Christian brotherhood. One found there beauty in the forms of worship, congregational singing, and devout church music. Dr. Muhlenberg was known as the influential champion of the free church system: as the successful organizer of work for the poor: as the apostle to the sick and needy, working perhaps in the out-door field more through others than personally. He never devoted much time to what is called parochial visiting.
II. THE MEMORIAL MOVEMENT.
 The Evangelical Catholic was understood to be specially a paper whose columns were open to discussion from all quarters, upon the great questions of practical church life. In such discussions Dr. Muhlenberg led the way: and his influence, through the paper; extended beyond the limits of New York. Never losing sight of the needs of the poor, always feeling the charm of the idea of the brother-hood grounded in the Incarnation of the Word of God, he perceived that our church was destined to a small membership unless it could be adapted to the tastes and character of the people of this country. He deplored the rigid, slavish observance of mere custom or usage, and he maintained that the rubrics, canons, and liturgy were made for the people, and that the people were not made for them. He felt that the church should be carried to the people unless indeed we abandoned the attempt to interest the uneducated and the neglecters of public worship in the Prayer-Book. This feeling grew into the proportions and power of a passion. He would ask, what do we mean? We call ourselves catholics; but in what respect are we catholics? What are we doing for the people--for our brothers and sisters who never hear the Gospel [22/23] preached: who will not come near our churches: who claim that the church is only for the rich, and we are content to say, day after day, year in and year out, "Dearly beloved Brethren," to bare walls and empty seats. We do not act upon our idea. Our position is alike absurd and unchristian. Then, moreover, he became more and more painfully impressed with the isolation of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and he thought effort should be made to bring the christians of this land into something like fellowship on the basis of a common historic faith--and while he was devoting much thought and time to subject--he suddenly, with that impulsive energy which comes like an inspiration to a man of genius, said to a friend "Let us prepare a memorial upon this subject, to the house of bishops, and if we can get no one to sign it, we will sign it ourselves and send it in."
This is the origin of the memorial sent to the house of bishops in October, 1853, and which is known and will continue to be known as the "Memorial Movement." The memorial was prepared and met with ready approval. Only few were asked to sign it. Scarcely any refusals were met with, and in due time it was presented to the house of bishops, where it was received with many expressions of generous sympathy. A committee of the bishops was appointed to consider the subject, to receive [23/24] other papers that might be presented, and to report at the next meeting of the convention.
Now this memorial went upon the assumption that the then present arrangements and methods of the Protestant Episcopal Church were inadequate to do the work of a church aiming at a catholic life and spirit in this country: that although in settled, well-established parishes and communities, the order which was observed might be unobjectionable, yet in view of the character of our population and of the masses of heathens at our own doors something must be done, some liberty of public worship must be allowed, otherwise the church would remain incompetent to cope with the difficulties of the situation.
The subject awakened immediate and general interest. It was discussed in all our church papers, in tracts and essays, which were read before the committee of bishops. appointed by the house, and which subsequently were collected in a volume. Dr. Muhlenberg's enthusiasm never, for a moment, abated: and when the argument was exhausted, we awaited with some impatience the meeting of the General Convention in 1856.
At that Convention the house of bishops took action: and the somewhat famous declaration was passed. This declaration expressed the opinion of the bishops to this effect, that "the order of Morning Prayer, the Litany, and [24/25] the Communion Service, being three separate offices, may, as in former times, be used separately, under the advice of the bishop of the diocese."
"That on special occasions or at extraordinary services not otherwise provided for, ministers may, at their discretion, use such parts of the Book of Common Prayer, or such lesson or lessons from Holy Scripture as shall, in their judgment, tend most to edification."
The declaration proceeded to give authority to the bishops to prepare services suitable for congregations not acquainted with nor accustomed to the use of the Book of Common Prayer, and lastly, a Commission on Church Unity was appointed, "as an organ of communication or conference with such christian bodies or individuals as may desire it." All authority to mature plans of union with other "christian bodies" was at the same time disavowed. I have been precise in stating what the bishops did, because, although their action was without force or warrant of law, it exhibits the generous spirit in which they met the memorialists. The commission on Church Unity did not achieve any permanent results--but their declaration respecting the services in due time acquired the force of law, and the law is still upon the statute-book of the church.
Dr. Muhlenberg had every reason to congratulate [25/26] himself and to be congratulated upon the success of the memorial. True, he could not create a spirit against the ecclesiastical spirit of our time and church, but to him more, far more than to any one man, we are indebted for a sense of larger liberty in the use of the Book of Common Prayer, for the right to separate the separate portions of the service, and for the readiness with which special services for special occasions are prepared and made use of. He has called into life a larger liturgical spirit and a more generous latitude than had been known in our day and country. Results are rarely commensurate with hopes. There is always some disappointment, some regret at the scanty returns of generous ventures. The appeal to the bishops and to the church, made by Dr. Muhlenberg in 1853, has never been forgotten, however, and I do not exaggerate when I say that, in this respect, he has left the impress of his christian wisdom upon our entire church.
III. ST. LUKE'S HOSPITAL.
 While Dr. Muhlenberg was busy with his parish, with the Evangelical Catholic, and with the memorial, he devoted himself with such energy to the founding, the incorporation, and the endowment of a christian hospital, which has become so famous under its name of St. Luke's, that one might have thought him free from all other cares and engagements. In the spirit of a wise and charitable forethought he established a sisterhood whose members should be trained to serve as christian sisters in the hospital. "He set his heart" upon having a Protestant and not a Romish nor a Romanizing establishment, and he looked to Kaiserswerth and to the pious Passavant rather than to Miss Sellon or to any of the new Anglican institutions. This is one reason why he was sometimes called a Lutheran. He was admirably assisted by one who, for her ability, good judgment, devotion, and for her unfailing attention to himself in his old age, deserves most honorable mention. I mean Sister Anne Ayres, who, in addition to her other labors, has edited and compiled a volume of Dr. Muhlenberg's papers, and another volume, collected with pious care, has just been issued. [27/28] The sisters were in process of training before the hospital was built. Dr. Muhlenberg had no doubt of success, though he often met with discouragements, and the difficulties in obtaining the hundred thousand dollars he needed seemed very formidable at times. Nevertheless he made his appeals to intelligent christian men and women, and they felt that his plans were as wise as they were good. They furnished the means--some poor people giving even of their penury: the building was completed, the necessary appliances and furniture were obtained: physicians, sisters, servants--and last of all Dr. Muhlenberg himself--were in their places, and the hospital was inaugurated! The work was at last done. Old age was coming on, and most men would have rested thenceforth from all labor.
IV. ST. JOHNLAND.
The night was coming on, very slowly indeed, but still advancing with noiseless tread, and with scarcely any premonition save in the inevitable softening of the sunshine of the long day: and for Dr. Muhlenberg one more work was necessary. In the first number of the Evangelical Catholic he had not been afraid "to confess to the socialism of the brotherhood in Christ." [28/29] He had thought long of the misery of the poor, especially of the invalid poor, and of poor crippled children lying in rooms reeking with filth and with foul air. He was becoming an old man, and he thought of old men without means of support and without strong sons to care for them. He knew the evil ways of a great city, and of the temptations which were forever assailing the young--both boys and girls. So these and the needs suggested by his hospital experience pressed upon him until he saw, in vision, a community of old and young, of healthy and of invalid, of boys and of girls, enjoying themselves in the sunshine, acquiring strength in the pure air of the country, learning trades and occupations, and out of all these thoughts, longings, sympathies, and understood needs came St. Johnland, a wonderfully noble, wise, and beautiful institution. We may not call it a civitas Dei, nor can it serve as a model for the organization of an ordinary village. It has no magistracy chosen by citizens or freeholders. The property does not belong to the beneficiaries who enjoy it. They are removed from municipal life, but the genius of the place is a protest against some of the well-known evils of our modern civilization, such as the utter disregard of the moral necessities of the young where work is concerned, and the perfunctory treatment of the poor by [29/30] state officials. It is a clean, pure, wholesome workshop and home, it is a calm haven of rest for the aged, it secures kind superintendence and treatment for the invalid. The multiplication of such institutions would tend inevitably not only to reduce poverty, but to lessen also the number of idlers and to give to young people better equipment and capital in the way of skill in some trade than they can find in our larger cities. I can well understand the delight, therefore, of our venerable friend in the knowledge of the good wrought already and destined to be wrought in St. Johnland. It is the crown and climax of the effort of a noble soul.
The achievements--the things done by Dr. Muhlenberg--are tangible, definite, lasting. They are the Church of the Holy Communion: the memorial movement: St. Luke's Hospital: St. Johnland. These are wise, beneficent, charitable forces to-day, and will continue to be. They show and reveal, as in a mirror, the kind and type of man who created and gave them shape. Everywhere you observe strong personality and a resolute will; yet all these things will survive and last independently of any one personality, because they all rest upon objective fact and truth. In the few hymns he has written he is more subjective, yet he has given to the English-speaking world one hymn at least, which, whatsoever its defects, has [30/31] proved a balm of healing to many who have mourned, and which is sung in church, in chapel, and in the family. It is a great glory to write a hymn which becomes adopted and welcomed into and by the many households of faith. The controversial essay and essayist are soon forgotten, but the hymn lives and its author lives in the best associations of the Christian heart.
Dr. Muhlenberg's best work was done after he was fifty years of age. You have had before your contemplation a man of great vitality, of restless energy, of an abundant charity, which never became softened into mere sentimentalism nor hardened into a perfunctory performance. He was not a man guilty of the sin, as Dante has it, of nursing his own misery and grief. He was a singularly happy man in the old Roman sense of the word. Aye, he was more than felix, he was felicissimus. He did and waged no battle with the world for personal ends; nor did he fight for an idea under the shadow of a great reproach. The nearest approach to this was his silent endurance of a misapprehension during the first years of his residence in New York.
He grew vigorous in the sunshine of the confidence of men. As they trusted him, his heart and genius moved to nobler music, and with more uniform elasticity and strength. He is a notable instance of a nature developing [31/32] under prosperity, becoming richer and more creative as time and years were advancing. His sympathies became more and more extensive, his wisdom was more and more conspicuous as fame and age came on. He was not ashamed to call them brethren who owned his Lord and theirs. His fellow-Christians of every name were dear to him: with his liturgical genius he was not afraid of free prayer, nor did he ever tremble for the safety of the ark of God. Clearly he was possessed of a strong common sense, which was inspired by the fire of a poetic temperament. He used frequently to say that all his thoughts were embodied in concrete forms, and that he could not frame abstract propositions. This was entirely true. His thinking is in the institutions and the charities he organized. You see from them and in them the dominating traits of his faith and religious life. His faith was not a theological formula, but a living conviction and power. It was a free, joyous allegiance to Jesus Christ. The incarnation of the Word of God in Jesus was the central idea of his theology and the inspiration of his christian life. It was brotherhood in Christ--brotherhood through Christ--that he aimed to exemplify. Upon this account his religious sympathies overleaped the barriers of his own communion, and upon this same account he toiled for those who needed assistance. This made him the consoler of the wretched and [32/33] the counsellor of the rich. It gave to him a blessed standing ground, and he remembered day and night that the Lord Jesus became poor in order that we through His poverty might be rich.
The Church never saw fit to invest him with official honors. He was not sought after by our largest parishes: his voice was not heard in our General Conventions: no diocese called him to the office of a bishop. People in distress, however, sought his counsel and strong men went to him for advice. He was honored with the affectionate veneration of thousands throughout the land, and New York, which bows down to wealth, was proud of this eminent citizen, who could but say with the Apostle Peter: "Silver and gold have I none: but such as I have give I unto thee."
This Club has special reason for offering its homage to the great presbyter who sleeps now in the sweet seclusion of his beloved St. Johnland. He took the liveliest interest in every project and work that we have thought and wrought. He stands before us in the fulness of his living, charitable, eager, religion, striving to embody his idea in concrete work and not in intellectual forms. He hailed in us fellow-workers, and we beheld in him the wise master-builder who sought to make men one in the fellowship of a simple faith. He knew that he was not a scholar; but [33/34] unlike so many, especially in old age, he delighted in scholarship. He believed in learning, and he never for a moment supposed that intellectual activity was dangerous to the best interests of the Church of Christ. This is one reason why, until the last, he continued to be receptive and to carry himself generously when new phases of truth were offered to his consideration.
Nor, still farther, was Dr. Muhlenberg a systematic and scientific theologian. He had neither the training nor the taste for scientific theology. Yet I dare presume that you will agree with me when I declare him to be a grand illustration of the old and wise saying, "Pectus quod theologum facit"--it is the heart that makes the theologian. His theology was of the heart: it was the utterance of his christian experience, the expression of his faith. I do not forget that all theology is truly catholic or partial, is valuable or worthless as it is or as it fails to be the expression of the general consciousness of the mind of the Christian Church. Dr. Muhlenberg, without theorizing indeed, illustrates this truth. He did not care for dogmatic definition, and attached but little importance to doctrine which could not be transmuted into a practical proposition. The sovereignty of God, the divinity of our Lord, the work of the Holy Spirit, the broad comprehension of the Church, were to him truths for the heart and the life. Most men of a superior type who think, feel, and preach in this way are drawn towards the great Augustine: and so Dr. Muhlenberg loved the spiritual power and the profound insight of the marvellously endowed Latin father without committing himself in full to his theology. He was not bound to any name of the past--not to Augustine, nor to Luther, nor to Hooker. The grand old man, while the blood in his veins was beginning to move but sluggishly, was forever looking and hasting unto the dawn of the new day, when the life and interests of the divine kingdom would attain unto a nobler and richer expression than ever before.
So, in all reverent and filial affection, we take leave of our large-hearted, wise, eminent father. We bless God for his gift to us, to the church, and to the country. His course is finished, his life is ended, and his works follow him!
O ALMIGHTY GOD, who hast knit together thine elect in one communion and fellowship, in the mystical body of thy Son Christ our Lord; Grant us grace so to follow thy blessed Saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those unspeakable joys, which thou hast prepared for those who unfeignedly love thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.