HORATIO POTTER, D.D., L.L.D., D.C.L., BISHOP OF NEW YORK,
IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK,
GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, AND RECTOR
OF ST. THOMAS CHURCH, AMENIA UNION,
DUTCHESS COUNTY, NEW YORK,
THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY, NEW YORK.
This sermon is printed exactly as it was delivered, and hence the special allusions which occur, suggested by the circumstances of the time and place, need no further explanation.
The sermon which follows, commemorative of the REVEREND SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, D. D., was preached, at the opening of the 90th Convention of the Diocese of New York, in Saint John's Chapel, on the 24th day of September, A. D. 1873. In view of the respect and love universally felt for the venerable and saintly man, whose recent departure had so deeply affected the hearts of his brethren and friends, and the general wish to know more about his somewhat remarkable history and life, it was resolved that the discourse, listened to on that occasion with great interest, close attention and tender sympathy, should be preserved for future reference, as a memorial of one whose record and example are so precious and whose praise is in all the churches. The Society for Promoting Religion and Learning, in furtherance of the desire of so many churchmen offered to undertake the work, and to see that the sermon should be printed. It was fitting that the Society should thus become joint agents in doing honour to the memory of Dr. JOHNSON, because he had been for many years a member of it, and had taken an active and intelligent interest in its affairs. In this way the able and beautiful discourse of Prof. SEYMOUR, now comes forth to the light, and is spread before the eyes of the public. It was composed and preached by one who knew the departed father very intimately, was very strongly attached to him, and was in every particular, preeminently fitted to serve as his biographer; it is now printed, and will be circulated by a society in which the deceased was held in the highest veneration, and whose members deem it a cherished privilege to be able to do anything in their power to show honour to that beloved name; and it will be read with lively emotions of affectionate interest, by multitudes who will feel that they are helped and profited by reverent study of the simple yet precious annals of that pure, unselfish, and sanctified life.
THOMAS W. OGDEN.
PERHAPS that which helps us best to answer the question of the text, and to apprehend the mind of Christ as manifested in His life and ministry is the contemplation of a Christ like man, when God vouchsafes us the sweet, the blessed privilege of knowing such an one in the intimate relations of daily intercourse. Christ lives in such an one, and His spirit breathes through him upon us like the breath of Paradise. Such were the saints and martyrs of the early ages, and we yearn sometimes as we grow weary of contemplating the low level of christian virtue and holiness, the meagre stunted growth of the divine life in ourselves and others, we yearn for something higher, better, purer, we ask with passionate earnestness cannot the past come back again, at least in so far as to give us once more the miracle of grace as exhibited in a saintly life? Aye, it is a natural craving, [5/6] Beloved, and the intense worldliness of the day, the supreme selfishness which breathes all round us, the coldness, the deadness, the sensual gross materialism of society inflames the thirst which one feels for a life like one of those who in the olden time gave up all for Christ, who knew no duty but to love, no pleasure but to deny themselves. I have brought you with me by this train of thought to make this confession of a craving which we all alike experience, that I might ask you, with a view to satisfy it, to dwell with me for a little space upon the character of one who more than any one whom I ever knew reproduced in this generation, in this diocese and among ourselves the holiness, the purity, the guilelessness, the childlike simplicity and unworldliness of the early saints. No better subject for meditation, and study, and thought can occupy us at any time than the record of a good man's life. But when as now we come together in our yearly council to consult for the welfare of the diocese, our beloved Bishop could not have planned more wisely for our common benefit and advancement in the spiritual life, than by laying his injunction upon him, whom he honored with the office of preaching before you, to make the subject of his discourse the life and character of one of ourselves, who has lately gone from us to enjoy the rest and peace of Paradise; of one whom all will recognise at once as suggested by what has been already said, since, "None knew him [6/7] but to love him, none named him but to praise." I refer to the Rev. SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON.
It is not affectation, it would ill befit the occasion and the place to indulge in unrealities, but it is due to the clear memory we all so fondly cherish, and to the great lesson which his life is calculated so tenderly to teach, that the preacher should tell you that he painfully distrusts his own ability to do justice to such a theme; he would fain crave indulgence, not for himself, but for you, he would warn you in advance not to measure the goodness and the greatness of the Rev. Dr. SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, by what you hear to day in this imperfect sketch, but let your minds and hearts in meditation, making draughts from memory, fill up the outline which is here attempted: do that justice which one who loved him second to none would fain do, but knows he cannot. This caution is stated for your sakes, that you may not lose aught of the influence of that blessed example, nor be deprived of the full benefit of the lesson which his holy humble walk with God is calculated to teach. When you think of our departed Brother, it is not unsafe to say, think of all that a good man should be, and such was he.
His life falls within the limits of the present century. His birth occurred on the 18th of November 1802, and his departure out of this world took place on the 13th of August 1873. He was educated in this city, having for his instructor in his school days, Mr. Nelson, a celebrated teacher of [7/8] that time: He graduated from Columbia College in 1820; and from the General Theological Seminary in 1823. He was ordained Deacon at New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Tuesday the Feast of the Epiphany 1824 by Bishop Croes, in the absence of the Bishop of New York, who was in Europe at the time. His first Parish was at Hyde Park on the Hudson, which he held for ten years; while there he married, September the 6th 1826, Elizabeth, the daughter of Judge Johnston, of Dutchess County, New York, who still survives him loved and honored by all whose happiness it is to know her. No less can be said, no more need be, than that she has proved through the grace of God a meet companion for such a man. He was ordained Priest in his own Parish Church, St. James Hyde Park, by Bishop Hobart, on Wednesday, August 1st 1827. In 1834 he accepted a call to St. George's Church, Flushing, Long Island, where he remained about a year. In 1835 the general Church aroused herself to the great missionary work which lay before her, and sent out a Bishop to take charge of what was then known as, "the northwest," a vast region which included the present Dioceses of Indiana, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. The apostolic Kemper was consecrated to the field, and Dr., then Mr. JOHNSON, felt himself constrained, because he possessed wealth and could afford to do so, felt constrained to relinquish his flourishing Parish at Flushing, forego the ease and comforts of civilized life, and volunteer [8/9] at his own expense to become the travelling companion of the pioneer Bishop. For nearly a year he endured the privations, and hardships, and perils of a wanderer through the wilderness, visiting the widely scattered settlements which had just begun to dot the then distant prairies lying east and west of the Mississippi River. In 1836 he removed his family to Lafayette, Indiana, which he made his permanent abode for nearly twelve years. In this place he organised a Parish, giving the site for a church building, and contributing a large portion of the money necessary for its construction, and then served as the Rector without salary. He aided materially by his personal exertions, and munificent gifts in establishing the church in the more important leading towns as they grew up during his sojourn in Indiana. He gained in his own quiet and unobtrusive way a deep and wide spread influence throughout the length and breadth of the State.
All looked to him as the man for the Bishopric when the Diocese of Indiana was organised, but he anticipated the universal wish, and assured his intimate friends that under no circumstances would he consent to take upon him the responsibilities of the Episcopate. Had it not been for his wondrous humility, the name of SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, would have graced and enriched the list of American Bishops, and it is no disparagement to any of our prelates living or departed to add that no brighter luminary in that constellation of [9/10] worthies would have rivalled the lustre of his holiness of life, and entire self-surrender to duty. In 1847 Dr. JOHNSON returned to the East, and became Rector of St. John's Church Brooklyn, Long Island, which he relinquished to enter upon his duties as Professor of Systematic Divinity in the General Theological Seminary, to which post he was chosen on the 5th of November 1850. He served as a Professor for twenty years, resigning the position in June 1869, but consenting to remain for another year at the urgent request of the Trustees.
No attempt will now be made to speak of his career as a Professor. He lives in the memory of every alumnus who has sat at his feet as a pupil, and they are my witnesses every one, scattered as they are in their high posts of trust and usefulness all over this land, that among the best things for which they have cause to be thankful to Almighty God is the blessed privilege of having been associated with Professor JOHNSON in the intimate relations of Seminary life. On retiring from his academic chair, he took a brief interval of rest from active duty, and then accepted the Rectorship of St. Thomas' Church Amenia, a missionary station in the eastern part of Dutchess Co., in the State and Diocese of New York. In this retired and beautiful spot he passed the few remaining days of his life, devoting himself with untiring diligence not only to the care of his little flock, but to the welfare and best interests of the entire community. He was not permitted to linger [10/11] much longer upon earth; his work was done, and well done.
The three-score years and ten were vouchsafed to our Brother in this mortal life, and he made them through God's help rich in blessing to all about him, rich in blessing to himself; and now that he has gone from among us it is right and fitting that we should, when we have met in our annual conference so soon after his decease, attempt to estimate the worth of his character, and lift up our hearts in gratitude for the legacy of his precious example. We have no time to delay longer upon the details of the story of his life, this we trust will be told elsewhere, and at greater length than the limits of any sermon would permit. We shall only refer to it as occasionally its incidents will serve to illustrate the traits of the beautiful character which it is our privilege to sketch.
At once when we begin to think of Dr. JOHNSON there occurs to all alike, as the crowning excellence of his many virtues, that which in part involves them, and in part rests upon them as a special grace, like light upon the countenance, giving them an heavenly aspect, Guilelessness.
The unanimity with which this award is made by all who have ever known him shows how preeminently conspicuous this trait must have been. Association with Nathaniel seems so natural in his case that spontaneously many pointed it out at the time of his death, and remarked upon the coincidence that the month of St. Bartholomew, the [11/12] guileless saint, was the selected season of Almighty God to summon him to Paradise. Jesus saw Nathaniel coming unto Him and saith of him, behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile."
Guilelessness, the pre-eminent grace which invested our departed brother's character with a special and peculiar charm like the clear transparent atmosphere which bathes the mountain's brow, is not easy to be described. It is an excellence so exalted and etherial that it eludes our grasp when we seek to fix it by exact definition, and precise limitations. We appreciate its beauty, we take cognisance of its presence, but as if called upon to describe an angel's visit, we are at a loss for words to tell what we know and feel. It must ever be so, because it is so far above the low level of earthly things that it taxes common words and ordinary thought to reach it; and hence in accommodation to our weakness, the inspired penman employs an entire psalm of several verses to delineate its beauties; for I take it David's answer to the question, "Lord who shall dwell in Thy tabernacle, or who shall rest upon Thy holy hill?" paints the leading features of the guileless character as manifested in some Nathaniel, whom the Lord welcomes with the commendation, "Behold an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile." Perhaps we shall best prepare ourselves to note and appreciate its positive excellences by contrasting it with that, with which unhappily we are all too familiar, this evil world against which St. John warns us, "Love not the world, neither [12/13] the things that are in the world." Guilelessness is the direct antithesis of the world, so that the term which is given as its synonym is unworldliness, and rightly too, for the world, which our dear Lord overcame, and out of which He hath called us, and which we have renounced, and against which we have pledged ourselves to fight unto our life's end, is directly the opposite of His kingdom, and its spirit character and aims are contrary to those which He approves. The world in this sense is the evil, manifold and complex as it is, which man has made during the six thousand years he has lived and sinned upon the earth: it is an atmosphere charged with miasmatic vapors, which have been accumulating until the heavens are black, and the sun and the sky are no longer seen; it is a mighty current broad and deep which has gathered into its bosom the countless streams of individual lives, the traditions of past ages and generations, and sweeps onward with ever increasing volume and strength as it advances: it is the comprehensive word which stands for human society in its complex development, thinking, acting without any reference to Him who made it; which goes on from age to age making itself its own end and aim as much as if there were no God. This godless realm, which the devil owns and rules, in all its manifold wickedness and tremendous power is in character and spirit the direct opposite of guilelessness. Hence we can estimate the grandeur of that victory of grace, when some poor weak human soul is [13/14] enabled to assert itself, and stand up with heroic fortitude during a long life in open antagonism to its claims, in undisguised rebellion against its commands, in patient endurance of its ridicule, its sarcasm, and its sneers. Aye, it is a glorious sight, and we may well bless God and praise Him, that it has been vouchsafed us to behold it, and to have lived so long in its presence; to have witnessed one of ourselves, going in and out among us, breathing the same air, eating the same bread, mingling with the same society, yet triumphing, as we all feel and know he did, over the combined influences of a power which besets us on every side, and is wielded by Satan. It is a great thing, I say, and a grand thing not only in itself, as an object of contemplation to see reproduced among ourselves the life of guilelessness, which though in the world keeps itself unspotted from the world; but it is a great thing and a blessed thing for us, as regards ourselves, because it comes right home to us, and as we muse upon this victory of faith, crowned as it is with final and irreversible success when a good man dies, we are drawn onward and upward by the kindly light of so radiant an example, which has passed from us, to follow on along the straight and narrow path which it still illumines; we are encouraged, since this miracle of grace has repeated itself among us, now in these degenerate days as a present reality, we are encouraged to hope that we may be helped, and through divine assistance may help ourselves to overcome the world at last, and rest [14/15] upon God's holy hill, even though it be as the last and least of the redeemed who are permitted to enter into the joy of their Lord.
Guilelessness as the quality or combination of qualities which is the opposite of the world, the Christian's foe the enemy of God, pre-eminently marked, as we have said, the character of the Rev Dr. JOHNSON.
The uncorrupt life was his. O it is a comfort and delight to estimate his worth, because as we advance from point to point drawing the portrait of the guileless man, as guided by the Holy Spirit in the 15th Psalm, we feel that we are sketching his likeness that the lineaments were reproduced in his life and conversation as rarely they are in the case of mortal man. The uncorrupt life, the life unspotted from the world, which was in the world, yet not of the world, was his; and this was so even to the end, not only in the quiet and seclusion of childhood, and the freshness and enthusiasm of youth, but amid the greater activities of mature years, and the more extensive experience of men and things which is forced upon one by association with society. The world, which so commonly corrupts men as they grow older, hardens them, sharpens them, depraves them, had no power against him. Like the children in the midst of the burning fiery furnace, he was in the fire, but One like in form unto the Son of God was by his side and shielded him from the subtle destructive foe. Here lay the secret of his strength and security from [15/16] harm, the Son of God was by his side, and the Son of God was by his side because he habitually called upon Him, and trusted in Him, and kept his eye fixed upon Him, not as an abstraction, but as a living Person, near at hand to help, the God-man. It is the feeling very commonly, and it is justified by the event in most cases, that the uncorrupt life is the product of retiracy; that it flourishes if at all apart from the highways of traffic, the turmoil of busy life; that the atmosphere of the throng, the gaiety of the city, the pomp of wealth and fashion are too strong for the simple heartedness which makes trial of such temptations; and that while a decent respect for virtue may be maintained, and a religiousness of tone even kept up, there still comes a change over the spirit by contact with these subtle potent influences. The freshness of childhood's purity is exchanged for guilty knowledge, the fearlessness of early innocence is replaced by the prudence which betrays the weakness superinduced by indulgence in sin. O seldom, very seldom, do we see the early promise of a holy life fulfilled in the event; it is a rare thing to see a man of three score years and ten with the spirit of a little child, as pure and peaceful, and contented, as unsuspecting and as trustful. But such was the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON'S. It seemed as though in the things which belong to the inner man, the heart and conscience, faith and duty, he had never passed from Childhood. The body grew, time set its mark upon his brow, the wrinkles came and silver [16/17] hair, and trial and anxiety left their traces, the intellect expanded, and the busy mind heaped up stores of knowledge, and experience taught its many lessons, but the spirit never lost the dew of early morning; the fragrance of spring still exhaled its sweetness from within, when without were the tokens of decay, and decadence and death.
Let us hold fast as a most precious legacy such a rare example, and see in it one of those gracious helps which God gives us to assure us that He is still with us as He was with our fathers, and that if a man will he can, with the qualifications which human infirmity must always imply, lead an uncorrupt life, since one of ourselves, whom we all knew and loved passed through the vicissitudes of time, and was drawing on towards four score years, yet was kept by the grace of God unspotted from the world even to the end.
The comfort to us is, my Brethren, that the life which we are contemplating was not in outward circumstances and allotment more favorable for this blessed result than is that of the great mass of men. It was not the life of a recluse, of one secluded from the world, who dwelt apart, and knew not men, nor busy life; nay it was a life of most active association with other lives, and under varied conditions of change and contrast; now it was in the midst of the great city in his early years; then amid the scenes and associations of a retired rural Parish; then in contact with frontier, border life in the western wilds; again in the heart of this [17/18] metropolis; and at last in the humble country home once more; but still the life was uncorrupt, whether it was passing here amid the busy activities of commerce and the scenes and influences of civilization in its highest development, or in the wilderness was tested by the freedom from restraint which belongs to society in its infancy, and the rough, rude experiences which are incident to the hardy adventurer in the new settlement.
Another conspicuous trait in our departed Brother's character we recognize at once as the second point mentioned by the Psalmist in his description of the guileless man. "He that speaketh the truth from his heart he that hath used no deceit in his tongue, nor done evil to his neighbor: and hath not slandered his neighbor."
Truth in heart, in word and in deed the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON could claim as his to an extent few can.
To his childlike simplicity was joined the most transparent sincerity. Unreality was as far from his lips as it was from his soul.
One felt in his presence, in his conversation, and in his daily life that the outward reflected the inward: that what he seemed to be, he was.
It must not be understood that in saying our departed Brother was pre-eminently the disciple of truth, I mean to imply that men professing and calling themselves Christians are dishonest; very few would be open to such a charge; no one who has any sense of morality, not to say religion, would [18/19] distinctly, when the issue was sharply presented, commit himself to what was false. But the virtue of which the Psalmist speaks, and which beautified our Brother's character, reaches much further than this; it covers the whole of life, the words, the actions, the manner of a man, when he is so to speak not on his good behavior, when he is off his guard. Then apply the tests of speaking the truth from the heart, using no deceit in the tongue, of doing no ill to one's neighbor, and of not slandering one's neighbor, and few, very few will bear the ordeal with even a distant approach to acquittal of very serious and frequent breaches of these restraints of truth and honesty. The ordinary man's heart sinks within him as he thinks of being confronted with the requirements which truth exacts in the freedom of his home, the relaxation of the festive board, the familiarity of intimate friendship, the excitement of eager debate, the passionate struggle, the desperate efforts for success in life. Here in this sphere, amid these experiences, where the lamp of truth in the hands of most men flickers, burns dim and low, and often goes quite out, in his it shone ever the same, as bright and clear and steady in his unguarded moments, as when conscience was distinctly appealed to, and he knew that his words were marked and his actions weighed. There is a danger in the case of those who are conspicuously truthful that they become rude and blunt; and if they are relieved from the restraints which oblige men to be courteous [19/20] by wealth or station they grow to be unbearable in language and demeanor. But while transparent sincerity pre-eminently marked our Brother's character, he was ever gentle towards all men, he spoke and acted the truth in love: no harshness breathed through his words, even when they were words of rebuke, no unkindness could be justly imputed to his acts, even when they were the acts of a disputant in conflict, or of a ruler in administering discipline. I have had before me a printed correspondence in which he was one of the parties, which was published by his antagonist, and it is delightful to read his letters as a charming manifestation of the truth spoken in love, when he lay under the stress of a very strong temptation to intermit that sweetness of temper, and abounding charity which were so uniformly his own. The excuse is often pleaded by those who regret in themselves the absence of that gentleness and loving forbearance, of which I have been speaking, that they were not blessed by nature with a good disposition, and that it is easy for others to be patient and docile, and amiable, but for them it is hard, and the wonder is that they are as kind and self restrained as they are. This may be so to some extent, there are differences undoubtedly among men, and due allowance ought to be made for such inequalities; but God's grace is sufficient for all men, and no more touching and beautiful rebuke of such an insufficient plea could be found, no more comforting illustration of the truth of the divine promise could be imagined [20/21] than is furnished by the life of him whom we all so truly loved and honored, because he was so gentle, and affectionate and patient, for these excellencies in his case were not a natural gift. He told me that when he was a youth he was irascible and quick to resent a wrong, and he added, "if I have gained any mastery over these evil passions, it is not due to myself it is the gift of God, it is an answer to my life long prayer."
On the other hand there is a danger, and it is a very subtle peril, for those who are sensitive, tender hearted and affectionate, that they should be tempted to make sacrifice of truth at the shrine of friendship, if not of popularity. It is a grief to them to say or do what would offend, and where truth is at stake, not as between God and Satan, Christ and Antichrist, the Catholic creed and its denial but as regards minor points, which are still in debate, and about which two opinions may lawfully be held, there is a very strong temptation, to one of such a spirit and temper as were Dr. JOHNSON'S, to trifle almost unconsciously with one's convictions, and allow a refined insincerity to creep in and deprave the soul. But never for one moment did he yield to the pressure of such influences. His mature and later years were passed amid theological conflicts. They followed each other in rapid succession from the days of Bishop Hobart to the present time. He faced these issues every one, he never shirked them, nor blinked them. He prayed, he studied, he meditated, he conscientiously [21/22] reached his conclusion, and then he took his stand and avowed his convictions of what he believed the truth to be, and fearlessly did his best to proclaim it, and secure it to the church as her rightful and permanent possession. Were I to review these issues, you all know where he stood, you would confess that they were such as moved men deeply and stirred their passions strongly, and yet I have to learn the first instance wherein he hesitated either in private or in public to make known his views; and I have also to learn the first instance wherein he allowed any differences of opinion to estrange a friend, I say, allowed, for the occasions were not few where it was his own Christ-like spirit which alone prevented what his sensitive affectionate nature dreaded next to disloyalty to truth, the breach of the law of love. Still another difficulty besets the steps of him who seeks to be scrupulously true; I refer to the unreality which always characterizes this evil world, and which so interweaves itself with our common life, that it is impossible to escape from subjection to its dominion, at least as regards its less questionable behests. Not to speak of the conventionalities of society, the well understood falsehoods with which men and women amuse themselves in daily intercourse, the elegant fictions which are coined and pass current to conceal the poverty of ideas which would else be disclosed; not to speak of the deceits which are all around us and infect the very atmosphere we breathe, so that we have come almost to acquiesce [22/23] in the conclusion that dishonesty is to be recognized as the rule, promises are not to be kept, men do not mean what they say, nor say what they mean; not to dwell upon these things, the unreality of the day even intrudes itself into the realm of divine truth, and seeks by a free-handling of the word of God, and charitable hypotheses in the interpretation of the creeds and sacraments to deprave revelation, undermine the faith, and eliminate all value from the means of grace. Our dear Brother's life, I may almost say his death, was a protest against this spirit, since the last utterance of his lips was a masterly discourse on the striking text, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus," in which he insists with all his wonted gentleness, but with touching eloquence, and intense power and earnestness that our dear Lord's words were always real words, but if ever distinction is to be made in estimating the worth of what He said, "Who spake as never man spake," then most of all must we remember and cherish and love, and believe in His words as of priceless value, of the most unspeakable reality, which He spake on the two occasions when he was just about to leave this world; on the first, in the upper chamber when He said, "Take eat, this is My Body; drink ye all of this, for this is My Blood," and then went forth to His agony, and left the world through suffering and death. On the second, when He said unto His disciples, "go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized [23/24] shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned," and left the world as the King of glory in the ascension from Olivet.
Our Brother thus with his parting breath protests against that evil temper, which in these later and degenerate days, would put a gloss of unreality even on His words, who is the eternal truth itself, and bids us as the antidote to the unreality of the age, the unreality of life, of society, of fashion, of religion even, bids us, speaking with his farewell accents, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus."
That sermon so impressively associated with the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON'S decease, will reach a larger circle than the little congregation in the village church, whose privilege it was to hear it as it fell from the living preacher's lips; a larger circle even than the clergy and laity of this great Diocese assembled as to day in this venerable house of God. The bereaved flock will publish the discourse in order that others may share in the parting instructions and behests of their sainted Pastor, and when that tender, loving earnest appeal meets your eye in the printed page, read it as a message addressed to you from the other world warning you against that most fearful of all forms of unreality, unreality in religion; read it as his protest against the falsehood, and deceit which pervade society, and seek to rob revelation of its value, faith of its sanctions, and the Sacraments of their blessing; read it as the witness of his own deep sincerity, who calls you off from everything besides, from earth and its [24/25] joys, from men and their works, from the world and its many voices, the voice of the street and of the shop, of the senate and the bar, of the school and the lyceum, of society and the domestic circle even, calls you off from these, and bids you, as it were, forget all else, or if you hold anything in memory, to do so only in so far as it is in harmony with what He said, "Who spake as never man spake:" "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus:" "His word is truth."
The guileless man, the Psalmist tells us, is "lowly in his own eyes, and maketh much of them that fear the Lord." How vividly do these words recall the venerable SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON. He was ever greater in the eyes of others than in his own. He saw his own defects of life and character in the light of self-examination, and he habitually made the most of them; he was blind to the faults of others, or if perforce he saw them, he sought to cover them with the mantle of charity, and so he esteemed others better than himself, and strove to take, it was his wont, the place he deemed his own, the lowest. Wonderful humility, it was not assumed, it was no affectation; I knew him in his later years most intimately, and it is a proof of his great humility that he should have honored with his confidence and affection one so much his junior, so much his inferior in every respect; but I was saying I knew him most intimately, and his deep humility, conscious as I was of his choice gifts and excellencies, filled me with admiring wonder. [25/26] Rebukes and rebuffs, hard words and unkind acts did not seem to provoke the least resentment, even though he felt them more keenly than most men could, owing to his acute sensitiveness. He took them as his desert, he said when approached on the subject, and so he bore them patiently and made no sign; it was a mark of his great humility. By birth and association he claimed kindred and relationship with the best blood in the land; as an honored Priest his circle of acquaintance included the foremost men in Church and State; the doors of the highest and wealthiest were always open to admit him as a welcome guest. But seldom was he found where pleasure simply led the way. His calls were calls of duty, duty that to him was sweet. In the humble homes of poverty and distress he would pass many an hour; by the bedside of the menial servant, whom he had known in other days, he would read and pray and celebrate the Holy Eucharist; many of this class were on his list of those to be remembered, and when, by reason of distance, he could not visit them in person, he sent to them the affectionate letter full of loving counsel, and replete with tender, soothing consolation. In his Seminary life the students were his choice companions; he was with them as an elder brother; it was his delight to know them well, to enter into their hopes and prospects, and to help them in their difficulties, and troubles; he loved to take an interest in them as candidates for holy orders; he made much of [26/27] them that feared the Lord; it was a mark of his great humility.
"He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Even here while he lived this promise was for him in a measure fulfilled. He chose the lowest place, but in the eyes of others it became the highest because it was his. In men's hearts and minds he was very highly regarded. It was no exaggerated estimate of the worth of his influence, which was made by a Presbyter, who had formerly sat at his feet as a pupil, when he said that he regarded the presence and conversation of the Rev. Prof. JOHNSON, as in a qualified sense a means of grace. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Who of us would not deem it a priceless boon to be permitted now to sit at his feet in that better country, where he reigns as a saint, where he is indeed exalted?
We pass to another element which enters into the texture of the guileless character, unselfishness. All whose good fortune it was to meet the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON, even casually, were impressed with the beautiful illustration which he afforded of the fulfilment of the apostolic injunction, "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." This looking away from self, the preferring others to himself, the considering others, grew through grace to be the rule and habit of his life, and hence he acted unselfishly without the slightest affectation, in fact without knowing that he did so. Ordinary men do at [27/28] times unselfish acts, even selfish men may by a special effort be generous, but unselfishness as a trait of character animates the life, and breathes its spirit into its minutest details. When we recall our Brother's career in the light of this reflection, and apply to his daily walk and conversation the severe tests which disclose the real temper and disposition of a man, his preeminent unselfishness is revealed in all its beauty. It would not be difficult to mention scores of incidents in his life, which were conspicuously acts of great self-denial; nay the difficulty would be to find a single instance of what are called the critical and prominent decisions, which determine one's position and fortunes in this world, which did not in his case distinctly involve to a large extent self-sacrifice. But leaving these, there comes before us the picture of one who habitually looked off from his own things upon the things of others; who was never weary in contributing to others' happiness, and seeking to promote others' good, who forgot himself so thoroughly that to himself he was never first. If joy he had, he could not rest until others shared it, if sorrow he saw, he was ill at ease until he helped to bear the burden: he was going to and fro charged with many cares that were not his own, he allowed that every one had a claim upon him; and somehow it seemed at times that those, who least deserved it, received the largest measure of his solicitude. Perhaps he knew better than we, grace illumined his understanding, and he discerned in the most unworthy [28/29] objects the likeness of such as called forth the infinite compassion of his adorable Lord. He trained himself to take an interest in all with whom he was associated in the varied walks of life. He would play with little children with such real earnestness that they would regard him as one of themselves. He would enter into the innocent pleasures of the young, and be provident for their gratification and comfort to an extent that would rival the thoughtfulness of a tender mother. He would listen with patient ear to the plaints of querulous old age, the recital of the privations and miseries of the poor, and make their griefs his own. He always had a host of pensioners, not only upon his bounty in worldly things, but upon his sympathy and kindly help.
It is unselfish, preeminently unselfish, not to give great sums of money of one's abundance, not to perform at times acts of heroic self-sacrifice, but to forego oneself from day to day, and year to year in behalf not only of those we love, but of all who chance to cross our path; to force oneself to take an interest in trifles, in matters we have long since outgrown, to do uncongenial tasks and treat them as pleasant duties; to associate with indifferent, or even repulsive people, and yet treat them with genuine and delicate consideration; aye this is unselfish, preeminently unselfish, and this to its very letter the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON did. The Psalmist suggests this feature of the guileless character in one of its details which was repeatedly exemplified in the life [29/30] of our Brother. His words are these. "He that sweareth unto his neighbor, and disappointeth him not, though it were to his own hindrance."
The selfish man, nay the man, whom we would not designate as selfish, is glad to escape from the hard bargain, and relieve himself from the obligations of an unequal compact: the promise, the pledge, the oath, if kept will be to his own hindrance, if broken will disappoint his neighbor; he can evade the obligation, he looks on his own things, he forgets all else; he trifles with his plighted word, his own selfish advantage is too strong a temptation for his integrity, and so he disappoints his neighbor. It was the misfortune of Dr. JOHNSON again and again in the course of his life to be the victim of an unequal compact, to be outwitted, as the world would say. He might have escaped on many an occasion from the severe conditions with his honor in the eyes of human law untouched, but the temptation had no power against him; he dwelt in a higher sphere than that which is governed by the code of expediency; he habitually did that which was right.
The suggestion was only heard to be instantly rejected; and he went on with a conscience void of offence to fulfill the hard terms of his agreement, that his neighbor might endure no disappointment, even though he and his must suffer hindrance to the extent of severe distress. Such conduct am I told is not politic, or wise? it may not be, as judged by men, but such conduct [30/31] I am told by the Holy Ghost qualifies the saint "to dwell in God's tabernacle, and to rest upon His holy hill."
One other trait the inspired penman paints. It is among the rarest which we are ever permitted to see emerge in human character, unworldliness. I use the term in that precise sense which negatives the central idea, the very heart and soul of that spirit, which we call worldliness; I mean by it the absence of that love which the Apostle says is the root of all evil, the love of money. Around this love cluster, as fruit upon the parent bough, all those other loves which bind a man to earth, and this remains when all others in their distinct activity have withered and died. The love of money, for itself as an end and object, lives on when society, dress and fashion, and show, and the pomp and circumstance of life have ceased to interest and influence, when sensual delight has lost its charm, and ambition is either hopelessly disappointed, or has no more to crave; when the heart has suffered a paralysis as to all other feeling, it warms and glows with the love of money, and to the very last, as life is ebbing and the pulse beats low, it maintains its tyrannous sway. The Psalmist therefore rightly paints the unworldly man as, "he that hath not given his money upon usury, nor taken reward against the innocent," since he seizes here the primary and germinal elements which are essential to the worldly character. SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON inherited [31/32] a splendid fortune, he died comparatively poor. In the course of his diversified life large sums of money, extensive tracts of land, valuable parcels of real estate came into his possession; but his wealth passed very quickly from him, his gentle loving hand could not keep tight its grasp upon his worldly goods. To account for this, it is true, we may allow that in the arena of business he was no match for the keen sharp wits of those with whom he was obliged to deal. In this way doubtless he lost much. But to explain the phenomenon we must follow his footsteps, and pry with scrutinizing eye into his doings. We shall discover him scattering gifts on every side; now helping to endow a Diocese, now giving the site for a Church, now educating a bright promising boy, now sending sums of money to his brother clergy who were in need. Wherever he went bread came to the hungry, clothes to the naked, tokens of affection to the sick, and the sorrowing and the desolate. The beggars at the Seminary, who did not know his name, inquired for him as "the old gentleman who gave out change." His gifts were princely, not only in their amount, but in the way in which he dispensed them. No ostenation, or parade or affectation marked his charities: they were bestowed as the exercise of a great privilege. They reveal the beautiful spirit of one who was so habitually with Jesus in spiritual companionship, and looked so constantly and steadfastly upon Him in His infinite sacrifice of [32/33] Himself for others, that he realized in his inmost soul that "it was more blessed to give than to receive." He could not keep his wealth, he invested it in beautifying the vineyard of the Lord; he endowed with it the poor, and the sick, the halt, the maimed and the blind, the widow and the fatherless. It is gone from him and from his children, but not forever; wherever it is, we may be sure the Lord sees it, and regards it as a loan lent to Him; and He will repay His beloved servant, when in the resurrection of the just He shall welcome him with the invitation, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord."
The unworldliness of Dr. JOHNSON was of the rarest and highest type. It went beyond even that heroic and grand exhibition of it, which is made by those who are led on by grace to renounce their possessions and take the vow of voluntary poverty. This is a single act, it is noble and glorious, but when once done, it is over: henceforth the struggle of parting with one's goods is no more required; the temptation to cling to wealth can never be renewed. But he who lives in the possession of his means, and yet is constantly giving away in larger and larger proportion, is triumphing day by day over the temptation which so easily besets us. Our blessed Lord for our sake became poor. He could claim the universe as His, yet He put from Him even the shelter of a home, and the support of a solitary couch; "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have [33/34] nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." For our sake He was putting away from Himself what was His own, not by a single act, but His life and death were one continued gift, made up of an infinite number of items. Even at the close of His Ministry He claimed, because He had need of them, the ass and the colt, the upper chamber and its furniture, and yet He used them simply to make them the instruments of blessing to us. In his divine Master's footsteps walked our departed Brother. It was his constant aim to keep his crucified Lord in sight, he was always giving by a continuity of effort reaching all through life, detaching himself from what even good men cling to, and ordinary men worship with idolatrous fondness, and closing his career, O beautiful coincidence, since as the farewell note, it is in such exquisite harmony with the music of his life; closing his career with the exhortation, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus," this was all his text, leaving you and me to catch the cadence now that he has gone, and finish the sentence as the comment on his life, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."
I have, dear Brethren, guided by the Psalmist endeavored to sketch the character of the guileless man, and I feel sure that all with one consent will own that Dr. JOHNSON realized as few have ever done, the lovely ideal. I would go on, and tell you what he was in his home, in the social circle, in his Parish, in the Seminary among the students, but time forbids. His biography should be written by [34/35] some well skilled hand; we owe it to ourselves, and to our children to preserve the record of such a good man's life. It is no disparagement to them to say that many have their place in the calendar of saints, whose claims will yield in the great award to his whose name but lately stood side by side with ours on the records of this Diocese.
But bear with me for a few moments longer, I am jealous of his honor, and I fear in one respect, while he lived, the judgment formed of him was not adequate, and therefore was not just. Men said that Dr. JOHNSON was good, simple hearted, guileless, gentle, and there they stopped. These traits were so conspicuously great that they eclipsed others which he possessed in rare combination and excellence; I refer to his intellectual gifts.
It was the terse remark of one who knew him well, an aged Presbyter, now verging on four-score years, that Dr. JOHNSON was so guileless and meek that his ability was apt to be lost sight of in his amiability.
His literary productions were chiefly of an occasional or fugitive character, but were they collected and published as a whole, they would sustain his reputation as a man of high intellectual power, of discriminating judgment, and refined and elegant taste. They would disclose to some extent the wealth of his acquisitions as a scholar.
But the estimate which these alone would suggest would fall beneath the truth; one needed to know him as for twenty years the students of our great Seminary knew him to appreciate his worth [35/36] as an intellectual guide. They, many of them are here to day, will bear witness to his mastery of theology. In the realm of catholic truth, as summed up in the creeds, and applied and made practical in the Prayer Book, he was perfectly at home. Holy Scripture as a whole, the Gospels, the words and works of Jesus, the Church, which is His body, were to his mind and heart what food and air and sunlight are to the outward man. He esteemed it the choicest blessing which the all merciful God had granted him, that He had so arranged that he should be reared and educated in the bosom of the Church. He rose to the full measure of her teaching; he held it in its integrity and fulness. He would be satisfied with nothing less, since it was hers, and therefore his: he craved nothing more, since she did not sanction it; that there were things which might be readjusted to advantage, and deficiencies to be supplied he allowed; but he was jealous of indulging in such criticism himself, and discouraged it in others. He rejoiced to believe that our Branch of the Church is at one with the pentecostal church of the apostolic era, the primitive church of the ante nicene period, the undivided Church of the first six centuries, is at one with her in all essentials of faith and worship, of doctrine and duty, and so the Prayer Book was to him the blessed bond of union which brought him into communion with the apostles in doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. Thus he held, and thus he taught a system [36/37] of theology clear, compact, solid, well adjusted in all its parts, and harmonious as a whole. This was the subject matter of his teaching but the picture would be incomplete without the light which imparts to it its exceeding loveliness, the spirit with which he taught, love. In the pulpit, from the professor's chair, in conversation, in discussion and debate he always strove most conscientiously to speak the truth, but he strove as conscientiously to speak it always in love and I am sure, however much any may have differed from him, there is no one but will accord him the great praise of having combined, with a degree of success that is very seldom achieved, entire loyalty to principle with the most scrupulous fidelity to that blessed charity, "which suffereth long and is kind, which thinketh no evil, which never faileth."
Brethren, this sketch, incomplete as it is, would be fatally defective, were I not to suggest to you the last scene of all. It closes well the panorama of a life, which in all its many changes keeps steadily before us the guileless man, preserving ever from youth to manhood, and from manhood to old age, the features of a character, which divine grace alone could develop in the heart of a fallen man, breathing the atmosphere of this naughty world. While in the full possession of his powers of mind and body, as he drew on towards threescore years and ten, he announced to his intimate friends his resolution to retire from his position as Professor of Systematic Divinity in the General [37/38] Theological Seminary. He would not, he said, be burdensome to the Church when his faculties began to decay, and he as a feeble old man would not only fail himself to discharge the important duties of his chair, but would also prevent a younger and more vigorous mind from doing what he could not do. He would devote, he added, the last decade of his years, if God spared him so long, to some retired rural parish, where he would be equal to the care of the few souls committed to his charge, and have leisure and quiet to get himself ready to meet his Lord, when He summoned him from earth. Accordingly he resigned his Professorship in the Seminary, and after a brief interval accepted one of the most retired missionary Parishes in the Diocese, St. Thomas' Church, Amenia, Dutchess County, New York. It was my privilege, in company with our beloved Bishop, to visit him in his Church and home in the summer of 1872. What we heard and saw suggested to us both alike the same thoughts and associations, George Herbert, John Keble; so pure, so guileless, so gentle, so simple and yet so great; so great in all that lifts a man above the accidents of life, and the power of this evil world to harm. There he was, the missionary, the country parson, living among his people with all the zest and intensity of interest of one who had never known any other or larger sphere of work; who yet, but lately, had filled with credit the Professor's chair in the great theological school of the general Church, who had [38/39] dwelt for a long time in the busy city and had shared for nearly fifty years in the activities of a life of extended and diversified responsibility and care. It was a wondrous privilege to witness such a sight. He was more nearly ready for his Master's service in another and higher sphere than we supposed. The month of August came again, the month made beautiful with the bright day that is sacred to the memory of the guileless saint, Bartholomew. On the first Sunday our beloved Brother, all unconscious that it was to be so, met his flock for the last time; he preached to them with more than his usual earnestness and impressiveness, closing his remarkable and beautiful sermon with these words, they were his parting words of counsel and instruction spoken in public, "Blessed Lord, we would draw nigh adoringly to receive," (he was about to celebrate the Holy Eucharist,) "It is Thine graciously and miraculously to give. Do you ever do your part of duty in humility, and faith, and love, and leave Him to work within you, and for you, His blessed work in Providence and in Grace." He spoke to them these touching words, so full of Wisdom and of truth, and then, O beautiful conclusion of a guileless holy life, it was his last official act, he celebrated the Holy Communion and dismissed his flock with the Benediction of Peace. Ere another morning dawned he was unconscious. God came in the watches of the night and laid His hand upon His holy servant's brow and gave him rest. He had [39/40] lived so near to his all-merciful Saviour, and so habitually with death and judgment and eternity before his eyes, that it needed not that he should face the pains of death, and endure the agony of bidding his loved ones at home farewell. God spared him this, He withdrew him from the recognition of earthly scenes and sounds, and then after a little space He translated him to Paradise.
Brethren, SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON has gone from us, but he has left us the legacy of such an example, and character, and influence, as few Dioceses, nay, Branches of the Church inherit. It is God's gift to us; what he was, he became through grace. Let us cherish his memory with loving reverence, we shall best do so, best prepare ourselves for the special duties which lie before us on the present occasion, for the duties which await us in our several stations in life, for the solemnities of our dying hour, and the ordeal of the judgment, we shall best prepare ourselves for time and for eternity by seeking through divine help to copy his example and live near in spirit and in truth, as he did, to our adorable Lord.
Could he address us now from that better country whither he has gone to dwell in the more immediate presence of his Redeemer, we know not precisely what he would say to us, but we may be sure he would not leave unsaid the words, which he uttered as he took leave of us all, without knowing that he was doing so, "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus."
"The funeral of the Rev. Dr. SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, took place at Hyde Park, Dutchess County, New York, on Saturday August 16th, 1873, at two o'clock P. M. He departed this life on the 13th at noon, after nine days sickness, having been seized with apoplexy on Monday, the 4th of August. At the time of his death, he was Rector of St. Thomas Church, Amenia Union, Dutchess County, N. Y. A suitable service for the sake of his attached parishioners, was held in the Church at Amenia Union, on Friday morning the 15th, and the body was then borne to Hyde Park, where the funeral service proper took place on Saturday. The Rev. Dr. JOHNSON, at the commencement of his ministry, was Rector of St. James Church, Hyde Park, and in the Cemetery which adjoins the Church, the remains of many of his relatives and friends repose.
The day and hour of the funeral prevented many, who would fain have been present to pay their loving tribute of respect to his memory, from attending. The season of the year also had withdrawn Clergy and laity from their homes, scattering them far and wide over the land, and rendered it impossible for them on short notice to be brought together as at other times. Besides the immediate relatives of the [41/42] deceased, there were present of the Clergy, the Rev. Drs. Purdy, Croes, Cady, Clark of Madalin, Seymour, and Buel of the General Theological Seminary, Ten Broeck, and Houghton; and the Rev. Messrs. Wright, Hopson of St. Stephen's College, Heffernan, Terry, Fay, Carter of Nashotah, and Archdeacon Brown of Cohoes.
The opening sentences and concluding prayers in the Church were said by the Rev. Dr. Houghton; the anthem was sung by the Choir, and the lesson was read by the Rev. Dr. Seymour. The service at the grave was said by the Rev. Professor Buel, the Rev. Dr. Croes saying the sentence of committal, and the Rev. Professor Seymour casting the earth upon the coffin.
There are few places on the Hudson that equal Hyde Park in the beauty of its situation and scenery, and in the elegance of its homes. There is no Place that surpasses it in the possession of a treasure greater than that which was committed to its churchyard on Saturday last.
"Grant him Lord eternal rest
With the spirits of the blest."
_________ An extract from the Annual Address of BISHOP POTTER
to the convention of the Diocese of New York,
Thursday September 25th 1873.
(Convention Journal, pp. 79, 80, 81.)
"Reference has been made to a reunion of the Alumni of the General Theological Seminary, at Breakfast, on Wednesday morning, the 25th of June. At that Breakfast our dear departed brother, the Rev. SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, D. D, late Professor in our General Theological Seminary was present.
In all these later years I have never seen him appear in stronger health, or in better spirits. It became my duty in presiding to call upon a few brethren, Bishops and Clergy, [42/43] (as many as the time would permit) from whom we wished to hear some words of good cheer; and in mentioning the name of Dr. JOHNSON, which called out a demonstration, showing what the general feeling towards him was, I could not refrain from reporting what I now take a melancholy pleasure in repeating, the remark of a gentleman in whose house I passed the night, when on a visitation at a point a few miles away from the Church and parsonage of our dear friend; "Everybody," said he, "for ten miles around whether in the Church, or out of it, loves Dr. JOHNSON." And well they might: for he loved every body, and was always ready to prove it. On the occasion just referred to, he spoke with remarkable freshness and vigor, especially when vindicating the Seminary from a piece of invidious criticism which had chanced to come under his notice.
In the evening of the same day we heard him again on a very different occasion. Having been requested at a former meeting of the Clergy to appoint some presbyter to deliver a memorial sermon on the life and character of the late Dr. Seabury, many years a Professor in the General Seminary, I had at once applied to Dr. JOHNSON, and he promptly consented to undertake the duty as a labor of love toward his old associate. On the evening referred to he delivered his memorial sermon. It was almost necessarily long, but it was delivered with much interest and animation, and it did ample justice to the eminent abilities of his many years co-laborer, as he had on a similar occasion several years before in a memorial sermon, paid a most loving and faithful tribute to the character and services of that good man, that amiable and learned Professor, the Rev. Samuel H. Turner, D. D. So short a time ago full of life, erecting a memorial for a departed brother, and now in this session of our Convention, the same loving office has been performed for himself!
Some time before the news of Dr. JOHNSON'S illness reached me, a request had been sent to a distant presbyter to favor us with a sermon at the opening of our Convention. When tidings of death came I felt that the presbyter designated [43/44] would feel a delicacy in saying what I was sure all would desire to have said upon our first coming together; and so with his warm approval I turned to a brother, who had long been associated with the dear deceased in the work of theological education, and who I knew was most tenderly attached to him.
After the sermon of yesterday it would be improper for me to detain you with many words. In a very few you will indulge me. I owe that dear brother a debt of gratitude. During all the days of my Episcopate he has been the most tender, the most considerate, the most obliging of friends. He not only rendered a thousand little services, many of which I could never have thought of asking for, but there was something so touching in his affectionate ways of doing his kindly offices that they served a double purpose--not only meeting the official need, but ministering to his Bishop those grateful refreshments of spirit which come from the offices of a dutiful and a loving heart.
When Dr. JOHNSON was conducting the examinations of a Candidate for Holy Orders no intelligent person could be present without being struck with his minute acquaintance with the details of his subject. He was ever a sound and steadfast theologian; but in the later years of his life it was pleasing to observe an enlargement of views, an increasing depth and mellowness of tone, a profounder reverence in all things pertaining to the institutions and offices of religion, a widening of the bounds of his toleration and sympathy. I very much doubt whether in the last fifteen or twenty years of his life his definite doctrinal opinions underwent any material change. But if I may use, in a just sense, a much abused word, (abused at two opposite extremes,) there was breathed over all his judgments and feelings in regard to divine truth, in regard to the Church of God, and in regard to men, a deeper, a more loving, in a word a more Catholic spirit. O how pure, how humble, how loving and charitable, how religious he was! The [44/45] words used in writing to me by a beloved brother of kindred spirit, after he had participated in the last offices at the grave were as we humbly venture to believe, as true as they were beautiful: "Hyde Park Church-yard " said he, "holds no greater treasure than we gave to it to keep until the Resurrection."
________ Extract from the Proceedings of the Ninetieth Convention
of the Diocese of New York.
See Journal of Convention, pp. 58, 59.
On motion of the Rev. Dr. Haight it was
Resolved, "That this Convention has listened with deep interest to the memorial sermon of the Rev. Dr. SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, delivered by Prof. Seymour, and to the remarks of the Bishop in relation to the noble character of the same holy man in his address of this day; that they recognize fully the beauty and truth of the portraiture thus given, and that they trust that the lessons which it supplies may sink deep into every heart."
________ Action of the Faculty of the General Theological Seminary, N. Y. MINUTE.
At a meeting of the Faculty of the General Theological Seminary, held August 23, 1873, on motion, the following minute was adopted:
The visitation of Almighty God in taking out of this world the soul of our deceased colleague and brother, the Rev. Dr. SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, has again called us, the members of the Faculty of the General Theological Seminary, together to give expression to our love and veneration [45/46] for him who has gone, and to place on record the sense of the great loss which we have sustained in his removal from earth.
We recollect in the presence of this our fresh sorrow that this is the third time within the brief cycle of twelve short months that the grave has closed over one of our number. We who remain have no time to loiter; we are admonished, with intense solemnity, of the shortness and uncertainty of human life. We read our lesson, and are taught our duty in recounting the labors of our late colleague's well-spent years, and estimating the worth of his lovely character.
It does not often fall to the lot of mortal men to enjoy the privilege of a brighter example than was his to those who were associated with him in any of the varied relations of life. A thousand points suggest themselves upon which we might dwell, all radiant with beauty; it becomes us, however, in this brief minute to speak of him simply as a Professor in this institution.
The General Theological Seminary was his Alma Mater; he was among its earliest graduates; he brought to its halls in after life, when placed in charge of one of its most important departments of study, the most loyal devotion to its interests. He loved the Seminary as a dutiful and affectionate son; he loved her as the great accredited school of the general Church, where men were to be nurtured and trained for the awful duties and responsibilities of the Christian ministry. This love was the great motive power of his professorial career; it led him to subordinate everything to what he considered the advantage of the Seminary and that of his pupils. All he had was hers; time, money, talents, toils, anxieties, privations, were given without stint or reserve until he had no more to give. It is the spirit with which he wrought in the lecture-room, in the library, in his own study, in familiar intercourse with the students--it is this we wish first to note; it was the spirit of the purest and most unselfish love. All who have ever [46/47] enjoyed the privilege of sitting at his feet as pupils, and their name is legion, since he was Professor for twenty years, will rise up from their varied places of high trust and usefulness, and call him blessed, and say with one voice, "Yes, the spirit with which he taught us and cared for us was that of the purest and most unselfish love."
Second only to his love and devotion to the cause of his Divine Master as characteristics of his life was his varied and great learning. His natural gifts were excellent, his reading extensive, his experience varied, and his memory retentive; his treasures of knowledge were at the service of his pupils, and the eager questioner for information was never sent away empty. As a theologian, our late colleague was profound and clear. He knew full well what he believed, and why he believed. He held the verities of revelation as embodied in the Catholic Creed with a firmness and fulness of persuasion which imparted to his teaching a solidity and strength which made a deep and lasting impression on his pupils, and many who are now serving in the sacred ministry of the Church as bishops and priests are very largely indebted to him, their sainted teacher, for their sound, conservative and well-defined theological views.
We might go on, and speak of the manifold labors of our dear departed brother in behalf of the Seminary during his long term of service, of the honor and renown which he brought to this institution by his preeminently pure and saintly life, of the blessing which he conferred upon the Church at large by the influence of his guileless character and holy example upon those who passed from his culture as pupils to enter the Orders of the Sacred Ministry.
We might speak of these things and such as these, but time would fail us, and the occasion does not permit such indulgence. Our hearts are full, and our lips fail to tell what we know and feel. We bow our heads in humble submission to the Divine will. We bless God and praise Him that it was our privilege to enjoy his loving presence so long, in the intimate relations of colleague and friend. [47/48] We bless God and praise Him that the General Theological Seminary of the American Church is enriched with the precious legacy of his spotless character and holy example. We desire to tender our heartfelt sympathy to the family of our deceased brother in the Priesthood, and we hereby request the secretary of the Faculty to take order for sending a copy of this minute duly signed to the widow, and for publishing the same in the Church papers.
GEORGE F. SEYMOUR, Dean ad-interim.
RANDALL C. HALL, Secretary.
________ Action of the Vestry of St. John's Church, Lafayette, Indiana,
in reference to the decease of the Rev. Dr. S. R. JOHNSON.
(He resigned this Parish and came east twenty-six years prior to his death. It is worthy of special note that the memory of the deceased should have been so tenderly cherished, during so many years among a people from whom he had been so long separated.)
At a meeting of the Vestry of St. John's Church, Lafayette, Indiana, August 18, A. D. 1873, assembled on the announcement of the death of the venerable Rev. SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, D. D. founder of this parish, the Senior Warden, Thomas A. Littledyke, presiding, the rector, Rev. Thomas G. Carver, D. D., being absent, the following action was taken
WHEREAS, the death of the late venerable SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, D. D., a priest and devoted steward in the church on earth, has brought to the hearts of the people, of St. John's parish, of which he was the first pastor and the founder, a deep felt sorrow; and,
WHEREAS, the beloved deceased benefactor, friend and brother has been called by Almighty God, our Heavenly [48/49] Father, from his "blameless ministry'' and labor in "the Vineyard" to his holy rest--having been blessed in the rich harvest of good works, through grace, and in the purity of God's love; during an active, zealous life he was eminent in the virtues of humanity, filled with a catholic and philanthropic love; he was actuated by only noble purposes of the heart; his fraternal charities were proverbial; his bounties were unmeasured, generously bestowed, and will ever remain fragrant in the memories of the lowly, the needy, and the blessed poor in spirit--the Vestry of St. John's parish, in the full consciousness of the Christian humility that imbued and sanctified the prolonged life of this earnest follower of his Divine Master, exceeding the allotted days of man, of three score years and ten, would, in appreciation and love of his memory, place reverently upon record these proceedings; therefore,
"Resolved, That in the death of this beloved minister of Christ, the church has lost a distinguished priest, the clergy a confiding and exemplary brother, the poor a loving heart and munificent donor, and the world a light that illuminated the dark abodes of sinful man.
"Resolved, That this providential though painful severance of the active ministrations of the deceased rector from his afflicted parishioners is an event that awakens for them in this parish of St. John's an affectionate sympathy in the bonds of Christian love.
"Resolved, That in this strait, and dark hour of trial of the bereaved widow and family of the deceased we extend the warm sympathies of the heart, and offer our prayers that they may feel a support from the arm that never tires, when human strength gives way.
"Resolved, that as a testimonial of the veneration and love of this parish for the memory of its first pastor and founder--the late Rev. SAMUEL R. JOHNSON, D. D.,--that the church be appropriately draped in emblems of mourning.
 "Resolved, That the Clerk of the Vestry is hereby instructed to present the venerable widow of the deceased a certified copy of these proceedings; also one to the parish of St. Thomas, Amenia, and that the city press be furnished with copies of the same for publication.
"Attested: WM. GARLAND, "Clerk pro tem."
At a meeting in the village called in order to express our sorrow in view of the removal by death of the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON from our midst, Mr. Southard Hitchcock was called to the chair, and Mr. A. Hitchcock was appointed Secretary. On motion, Dr. Dedrick was appointed to prepare a series of resolutions expressive of the sense of the meeting. The following is a copy of the resolutions:
Resolved, That in the allotment of Divine Providence by which the Rev. SAMUEL ROOSEVELT JOHNSON, D. D. has been removed from our midst, we have a cause for heartfelt sorrow; and that while the Providence may seem to us inscrutable, yet we feel that all is ordered in wisdom, for "He doeth all things well."
Resolved, That during the comparatively brief sojourn of the Rev. Dr. JOHNSON with us, we had learned to love and respect him; not only for his devotion to the sacred ministry to which he was called as rector of the church here, but also as a citizen and man in our community. He had sympathy and kindly greeting for all. None were so far removed from virtue or right doing as to feel that they were beyond his broad mantle of charity and affection. [50/51] Not only the erring but the poor were not passed by on the other side; they had not only words of kindness and sympathy, but his purse was open to relieve their pressing wants. He was attached to his own church and congregation, yet he had an open hand and heart for all who were striving in the pathway of life. He had cheer for the disconsolate, courage for the disheartened, a word of caution for the heedless, and wise counsel for all with whom he became associated.
Resolved, That we will treasure up with a loving remembrance the broad pattern of active benevolence and kindly affection he has left us.
Resolved, That to Mrs. Johnson, his bereft consort, we tender our heart felt sympathy in this her hour of sadness and affliction. The link is broken that for many years united them in their earthly love, labors and sympathies. May He who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities, and knows our griefs and sorrows, be to her a present comfort and solace.
Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be presented to Mrs. Johnson and the circle of sorrowing friends; also a copy to the AMENIA TIMES for publication.