REV. G. H. HOUGHTON, D.D.,
Rector of the Church of the Transfiguration.
The undersigned, your parishioners, in behalf of themselves and others, desire permission to publish in pamphlet form, for the use of the congregation, the sermon you recently preached in commemoration of the three anniversaries of our Church.
Believing that such publication would gratify the entire congregation, while affording to all Churchmen an interesting and profitable study of your Church work in this parish, we earnestly solicit your approval of the publication.
Sidney S. Harris,
Wm. C. Prime,
Chas. N. Kent,
P. C. Gardner,
Thomas B. Peck,
E. B. Sexton,
Henry L. Clarke.
New York, Oct. 15, 1887.
NINE-AND-THIRTY years ago to-day a devout stranger, who happened to be in the city on his way to a distant part of the world where he was long to take up his residence, happened, we will suppose, to be passing in the rain through East Twenty-fourth street, between Lexington and the fourth avenues. Being a Churchman, his attention was attracted by his seeing a number of persons, not many, Prayer-Book in hand, entering through a door in a fence into a vacant lot and making their way into a room in the rear part of a house.
The rather unusual sight so interested him that he followed them, and presently found himself one of, perhaps forty or fifty persons, who were there gathered for divine service. The room, which would seat no more than it then contained, was furnished with a few benches and Lecturn made of pine wood, and a small parlor Organ which bore marks of having in its day, now long past, done excellent and protracted service. The stranger ascertained, to the very greatly enhancing of his interest, that the present was the first occasion of divine worship in that place, and that the object in view was the formation of a new Parish and the building in due time of a Church.
When the prescribed order of the Prayer-Book had been observed, and the Selection,
"We build with fruitless cost, unless
The Lord the pile sustain,"
had been sung, the minister--who had conducted the service, and who was a young man evidently of very great inexperience, with an appearance, observable by every one, of little physical strength and power of protracted endurance--proceeded from the words:
"THE CHURCH IN THY HOUSE,"
suggested as he said by the place of present gathering, to unfold his future plans and purposes.
These, viz.: the securing of a sufficient plot of ground, the building of a suitable Church Edifice, the formation of one and another eleemosynary societies, the personal ministration to the sick, and the poor, and the afflicted, the knowing no difference of sorts and conditions of men in the gathering of the future congregation, the carrying out to the very fullest extent the ritual and order of the Church in services and observances--seemed to our stranger,--especially when the young man went on in all simplicity and frankness to state that for the accomplishment of his plans and purposes he had neither a dollar nor the promise of one, nothing but his Bible and Prayer-Book, the Surplice which he wore, the pine Lecturn at which he stood and the three months' promised free use of the room where he was; and when the stranger afterward learned that no more than six, of the present forty or fifty fellow-worshippers, were minded to cast in their lot with the young man--if not almost chimerical, yet very, very bold and difficult to be realized. And the stranger went his way from the place and the city and the country, admiring the young man's largeness of purpose and his evident guilelessness of the years of toil and of the abundant means required and of the obstacles in the way of obtaining those means, that were involved in the accomplishment of that purpose--all unmindful that it is wisely ordered and best for us that, like Homer's successful heroes, we see no more, at a time, of the future in our purposes and endeavours and all that pertains to them, than a stone's throw. [tosson tiV t epileussei, oson t'epi laan ihsin. Homer's Iliad, Book III, v. 13.]
Nine-and-thirty years elapse. Our stranger returns for the first time again, during the past week, to the city. He is a good Churchman, interested in all that concerns the progress and welfare of the Church. This and the sameness of the season remind him of his experience on that rainy Sunday with the young man on East Twenty-fourth street.
He thinks, we will suppose, that he will ascertain, if possible, whatever in the world has become of that same innocent young man with his small means and magnificent plans and purposes. He has been directed thitherward. And he has come this morning, we will suppose, to see and to hear into what that room with its promised congregation of six persons has grown, and what has come of that very small, unpromising, but trustful beginning.
He enters not, through an opening in a fence and a vacant lot and a back door, into a rear room in an ordinary house, to find the pine benches, and Lecturn, and his old friend, the asthmatic parlor Organ, and to be one of the forty or fifty who, out of friendly personal regard to the young man, there for the once had assembled. But through yonder gateway and the grounds, with green trees, and grass, and flowers, and fountain, he has come into this place of beauty and holiness, with its Memorial windows, and Organ, and Baptistery, and Altar of marble, and so choice devotional Paintings and Statuary, to be one for the day of the numerous and usual congregation.
Bear with me, brethren beloved, while I, the no longer young man, the no longer utterly inexperienced youth, proceed to acquaint our friend, the supposed stranger, with somewhat of that which has come out of that room wherein we first long ago met, and rehearse to him much with which some of you, perhaps many of you, are familiar; and then let us go on to consider together the happy conspiracy of circumstances to which under God--for all is of Him and to Him, in all things and for all things be the glory forever!--humanly speaking, this progress and development, and as we would hope even greater promise for the future, is due; and what the day may seem to demand wherewith meetly to mark it; and then draw all to a somewhat fitting close. ["Hither also we may refer to that lucky conspiracy of circumstances, which we sometimes experience in our affairs and business, otherwise of great difficulty; when we light upon the to nun, or nick of opportunity; when the persons, whose counsel or assistance we most need, strangely occur, and all things fall out according to our desire, but beyond our expectation."--Bishop Bull, Vol. I, Sermons, p. 294. "The Office of the Holy Angels," Oxford, 1846.
Come, then, my friendly stranger, and walk with me around our beloved Transfiguration and look upon what meets the eye, and hear the telling of somewhat that is associated therewith. Again contemplate the ample site upon which this Holy Building stands, the fair grounds through which you passed in entering it. Look upon the trees which have attained such goodly growth, tin: green sward, solace and comfort of the eye, the fountain with its falling water, the delight of the sparrows that would fain be our example in finding in the Sanctuary of God their home and place of refreshment.
Take in with your eye this Holy Place and all that it contains. Mark well all that here there is that is beautiful; all that here there is that is for the comfort of those who are wont here to gather. Observe how little there is that is wanting, how complete in its furnishing and furniture is this Place for its purpose.
Come, pass with me along yonder wall and bend the knee in adoration, and lift up the heart in joyful sorrow at each of those preaching pictures, the Stations of the Cross, that tell the passion and death in this world of the Lord of Glory, to the end that we in another should know not an endless passion and dying, but be with Him in His everlasting bliss and glory. And as you do so, note chiefly and above all, that which is chief and above all, that which is its crowning feature, that which is impressed first and at once upon every beholder, viz: that the general air and effect of this Place, are unmistakably what they should be, what they were intended to be, those of a House of Prayer, of a Place for the Worship of Almighty God; that this is none other but the House of God, and the Gate through which Te Deum and Miserere, through which praise and prayer are to ascend up to Heaven.
All this which you see, my friendly stranger, is indeed as it should be, the Lord's--His and His only. Man holds no mortgage, nor lien, nor claim of any sort soever upon it. It is without encumbrance, without debt. It is the Lord's, the Lord's only, the Lord's wholly. Nor is this all: That it ever may be such, that, in the lapse of years and the chances and changes of time, there be neither apparent necessity, nor temptation, to alienate this property and commit the sacrilege of pulling it to secular uses, an Endowment Fund, now some years since, was begun and has already with its accumulated interest reached the sum of about thirty-one thousand dollars. This is a Fund which is to be remembered on each Christmas and Easter by the offerings then made, and by future bequests and gifts, until the maintenance of the Church and its services be no longer entirely contingent upon the income derived from the existing congregation.
Nine-and-thirty years ago to-day there was neither tree nor a brick nor mortar on these grounds, nor a dollar, in that room on East 24th street, to place them here.
Prithee listen now, my gentle stranger, to the telling of some of the uses to which that which you have seen is put and is consecrate, and by which it is daily more and more consecrated; to the telling of what has found and is finding its source and spring in this place; of all that is due, under God, to that long ago gathering in East 24th street.
Through yonder gate and yonder door, by which you entered, the rich in his goodly apparel and the beggar in his rags may pass without let or hindrance from morning until evening all the year long, here to kneel for private prayer. This Church no day, from earliest morning until the evening shadows fall, is ever closed. In yonder Chapel, the far westerly end of the Church, at 9 and 4, the Daily Prayers of the Church are daily said, be it winter or summer, be there sunshine or storm. On that Altar there is never a day, alike in July as in January, when at seven o'clock in the morning the one great Sacrifice of Calvary is not commemorated, and the faithful are not fed, if they will, with the Bread of Life.
To these constant, unfailing Services and Sacraments all, as they should be, are welcome. If one have nothing to contribute toward the maintenance of Divine Worship--and Divine Worship cannot be maintained without cost--it matters nut. So long it as there is place, he or she fails not to have it, if fain to take part and to find comfort in that Worship.
No day or night--there is a night-bell and speaking-tube at the rectory door as there should be--throughout the year, but a Priest is here present to heed the call to the sick and the dying and of the sorrowful and the penitent.
Hither upward come with me above stairs, my friend. In this room is the Parish Library of well nigh fifteen hundred well chosen books for the free use of all who are members of the Transfiguration. This afternoon you would find it almost uncomfortably filled, as on every Sunday afternoon, with its Bible Class of poor women, Communicants, members of our St. Anna's Guild, eager to drink in each word spoken by its faithful teacher.
Enter with me the next room, the room of the Altai-Society, the Society of Women Communicants (if this Parish, to whom we are indebted for the invariable cleanness and sweetness of the Church; the care of the vestments of the Clergy and Choir; the care of the Sacred Vessels, and for the enforcing through the eye of the teaching of Seasons and Holy Days; and to whom the Altar of many a poor Parish or Mission Station in various parts of the land owes the ability to Celebrate, with some measure of meetness, the Holy Communion of the Body and Blood of Christ. In that room what stores of fair linen for the Altar, and of all else that from time to time here adorns Pulpit and Faldstool and Lecturn, do we find, for which any Parish in the land might bless God and be thankful. There, too, in a room opening thence is all of Bier, or Pall, or Lights to stand by the Bier if one wish--as God grant they may stand by mine--to tell that the soul has departed not into darkness but into light that fades not but brightens ever more and more-the Bier with its comforting legend "I sent you forth with weeping and mourning, but GOD will give you to me again forever with joy and gladness;" the Pall with its embroidered words of pious aspiration and old time wisdom: "Grant them, LORD, rest, and let light perpetual shine upon them!" the Bier and the Pall used alike for all, for the poorest and humblest of her members whom Transfiguration buries in the plot which she has provided for them in St. Michael's Cemetery at Astoria, as well as for her Josephs of Arimathea, if such there be, who have sepulchres of their own in which to be laid.
Come with me, O kindly stranger, now to another place. In that room adjoining the westerly end of the Church--the Chapel as we call it--on the First Day of the week, has there wisely and lovingly long been taught another Bible class of devout humble folk, black and white, men and women. There on another day meet those who clothe in some measure the poor women and children of the Parish; and on a third those to whom the poorly paid Missionaries of the Church and their families in the distant West and South-west, and in Maine and Florida and Tennessee, and many another State or Territory, have reason to be thankful and are thankful as scarcely to any other kind and faithful women of any Parish in the land. There too, from time to time, the shepherd of the flock rejoices to meet the lambs of his love, and in their guiltlessness and gleefulness to forget for awhile his own experience and troubles and those of the sheep.
Once again, my friendly stranger, come with me above another stairs. Here in this somewhat sizable room over the westerly end of the Church meet our Sunday Schools, with their intelligent untiring teachers--that for the white children in the morning and for the coloured in the afternoon. Here our Holy Innocents' Guild--God bless its members each with holiness and innocence all their days--meets with skilful and industrious fingers to provide clothing and comforts for sick and suffering children. Here meets that most merciful society, the Maternity, but for which how many hundred poor mothers and new-born babes had never been able, it may be, to rise up that they might call its members blessed! Here too gather each Saturday the children, while and coloured, of our sewing school, with their teachers so patient and painstaking, and last, not least, here the young girls of St. Agnes' Guild one evening in the week are taught to be St. Agnes-like in purity and gentleness; and, in anticipation of the future, to prepare wholesome and nourishing food and to make the home sweet and comfortable and attractive.
My friendly stranger, I have now gone with you around our beloved Transfiguration, that into which our long-ago room has been changed and transformed, that which I trust there are many here and elsewhere who have found it to be a Bethshean, or House of Rest, a Bethesda, or House of Mercy, and a true Bethel, or House of God. But not here on this goodly site and in this Holy Place do we see all or find all that owes its origin and is due to our nine-and-thirty years ago room on East 24th street.
Pass with me my patient stranger, a few blocks westward along thin same street and on the little court opening northward from it, known as Pacific Place, you will come to our Mission Rooms in charge of our good and faithful Sister Rebecca, the visitor and helper and comforter of so many of our poor afflicted people, where some of our poor women, members of our St. Anna's Guild, gather each Tuesday evening to listen lo some pleasant kindly voice that reads to them or speaks to them, and to ply, poor as they are, their industrious fingers for the benefit of others more needy than themselves.
Then pass with me to the somewhat remote West 69th street, and there between the Boulevard and the 9th Avenue you will find, fronted with as pleasant grounds as here, our well-appointed Transfiguration Chapel, with its Daily Prayers, its Sunday and other Holy Day Eucharist, its Sunday and Industrial Schools, and its numerous Guilds--the daughter, which, with like fostering care and blessing, may grow in years to come into something even, fairer and better than the mother. [O matre pulchra filia pulchrior.--Horace, Book I, Ode xvi.]
And now, brethern beloved, bidding our supposed stranger, for whose enlightenment you have been thus long detained, God's blessing and God's speed--as we would fain bid every one who hither comes and hence departs--let us together briefly recall and somewhat consider the happy conspiracy of circumstances to which, under God, is due what I have rehearsed in your hearing. "Under God"--for without Him all efforts are vain and means the most abundant are unavailing; while with Him feebleness becomes strength, and poverty wealth. We recognize first, last and throughout, His Hand in all that has here been accomplished, and give Him glory and thanks for it all. But He works not frequent or needless miracles. It is ordinarily by means and through means that He accomplishes His whatsoever ends.
Like every other healthy, lasting growth, that of the Transfiguration has been, though continual, yet very gradual--there has been nothing sudden or spasmodic about it. Nine-and-thirty years is a long, long while, a lifetime--time enough for all that has here been done, and much more, to be accomplished. But the beginning being such as it was, longer time was needed than might otherwise have been required. Yet, though much, much indeed is due to the opportunity which the lapse of year after year has given, time alone--if there be nothing else--does often furnish no more than the opportunity for a progress backward to final failure and extinction.
The fostering care of early friends, never, never to be forgotten; and the faithfulness and earnestness and generous help of those who from time to time have cast in their spiritual lot with the Transfiguration, recognizing, like the Apostles on the mountain, that it was good for them to be here--have had much to do with its progress and prosperity. Friends true and tried are better than money, which this Church and Pastor had not. And what Church and Pastor was ever blessed from the beginning and continually with friends, so true, so tried, so loving and so loved--God remember them all for good in His everlasting Kingdom!--as this Church and its Pastor have been?
There was much, no doubt, in the place and surroundings where the lines have so pleasantly fallen to us. There was here from the beginning that most desirable opportunity for growing with the growth of a new and attractive neighborhood. When hither first we came from East 24th street, to occupy the small portion then erected of this Edifice, and a room in it was the Rector's study and lodging place for eighteen months, there was not another building on the block and the view was unobstructed from Madison Square to Murray Hill.
In his purpose from the very first to speak in the Jew's language of the Church, though with all prudence and charity, and not, mixed therewith, in the dialect of Ashdod of Ammon and of Moab; to be guided and governed by the Teaching and System of the Prayer Book--and not to be thrusting upon others the narrowness and contractedness of his own personal inexperience and ignorance, thinking, unhatched chicken-like, that there was no world of doctrine and practice outside his own surrounding eggshell; that what he did not know was not worth knowing, and that to which he was not accustomed must needs be wrong; ever to have his eyes and his ears open to that which was true and Catholic, and practiced and believed aforetime, and his hands and voice ready, as time went on, to set them forth and to enforce them; ever mindful that omission in the matter of Rubric or direction is not prohibition and that much belongs to the Catholic and Apostolic Church of England and her American daughter, that is profitable for edification and for the furthering of devotion and holiness of living, that had been allowed to fall into disuse, but which is now happily being reclaimed; in this too he, who stands, and has stood these many years here, sees another of the conspiring circumstances that, humanly speaking, have tended to the progress and prosperity of the Church of the Transfiguration.
The not unsuccessful purpose and endeavor, likewise, to make the place wherein we are assembled a Place of Prayer, a place of Worship; a place where all should be reverence a place where there should be nothing to offend proper taste and religious sensibility, but much to foster them; much through them to lift the soul heavenward, where, to this end, there should be Sacred Pictures and Memorial Windows, Lights and Flowers, Colors to mark the changing Seasons, Garments of beauty and holiness for those who minister at the Altar, the White-robed Choristers and the Processional Cross; a place outside whose door the World, and Wall street and Washington should be left--have not been without their influence.
A somewhat practical sense on the part of the ministers of this Church, year in and year out, of what was meant by faithfulness and persistence in duty, has, we may be sure, under God, had its somewhat telling effect. It seemed to be generally known that one could always be found at The Transfiguration to answer the call to the sick and the dying, and that here in 29th street it was practically thought that if our Banks and Markets and Shops were not closed in summer neither should our Churches be, and that if the Physician of the body had his night-bell and speaking-tube, that himself, as well as his patients, might be the better for them, even so the Physician of souls should have the same, that none of his flock for want of him might ever, at any hour, be comfortless, and, on his part,
"All for love and nothing for reward."
[Faerie Queene, Book 2nd, Canto VIIth, Stanza 2nd, Verse 8th.
But I think that I need not hesitate to say that, with nothing specially wanting in the Pulpit, at the Fald-stool, at the Lecturn, at the Altar, what God has, perhaps, chiefly blessed to The Transfiguration's hitherto unfailing progress and prosperity, has been the purpose and endeavor that here should there ever be the constant exhibition and exercise of the spirit which it was His to give and His to continue, the spirit that was never better and more tersely described than in the verse of the Latin play, which, when first spoken in the Roman Theatre, drew forth the universal applause.
"I am a man, and I think nothing alien to me that concerns the welfare of my fellow."
It has been but the natural instinct, God has so willed it, and ordered it, and to Him, therefore, be the glory, that here the poorest and the humblest should have the time, the sympathies, the ministrations, the assistance of whatsoever sort, as cheerfully and as fully as persons of wealth and condition. The Transfiguration is, in good measure, the memorial of the divine blessing upon constant, loving effort--due to God alone, the spirit which He had given--to promote His glory and the good of His creatures.
That mere incident in its history, the bringing hither for burial that baptized, and so Christian, man, George Holland, who deserved the last office of the Church, as much as I hope I shall in God's good time, for lie had neither laid violent hands upon himself, nor died excommunicate--which God forbid that I should!--with all its associations elicited toward this Church a world of kindly, tender feeling, and caused it to be known far and wide, the world over, almost, by another name. But it did but make this Church more widely known only as that which many a one already well knew it always to have been. Nothing unusual in that burial had here been done; nothing but what was wont here to be done, and aforetime and oftentimes had here been done: nothing but what was simple and bounden duty.
The kindly, gentle folk, most concerned, touched to the heart, stretched forth their open hands with generous gifts. Hut The Transfiguration, with its ever goodly congregation, was even then free from debt and had no need for itself of those gifts to which it surely had no right; and so made itself the almoner of them to the poor and afflicted for those kindly gentle folk.
In this connection and as speaking to the present point, I will repeal a notice given from this place on a Sunday sixteen years ago this very month:
"The offerings this morning, brethren, will be appropriated for the relief of those now suffering from the recent visitation of Divine Providence in the city of Chicago. [The great fire.] It is not the intention to make any appeal in their behalf, nor will the Sermon this morning turn in any measure upon the calamity which has overwhelmed them. An appeal surely is not necessary, and the impression which has already been made could not be deepened, nor any lessons drawn for our learning which are not already sufficiently obvious--at least by him who is here wont to address you.
But there is one circumstance which I desire to recall, in the hope that it may tend to concentrate, in a good degree, upon our Parochial Offering, what might, perhaps, otherwise be contributed through other channels.
It may be known to many of you, perhaps to the most of you, that, owing to something which took place in this Church in December last, the discharge of an act of simple, ordinary, almost every day, duty, there were sent to me from Chicago, in the early spring, between eighteen and nineteen hundred dollars. It was the desire of those who sent it that this money should be used for the benefit, in some way, of this, our Church. I constituted it however, a Charity Fund, and laid it out, in behalf of those from whom it came, in meeting some of the manifold applications which are here continually made by the sick and the needy. A portion of it went abroad to aid in relieving the famine-stricken multitudes in France. Other portions were distributed to a number of impoverished Parishes in various States of the Union. There is a Baptismal Font in Ohio; there is a Sunday School Library in Virginia; there are gas-fixtures in South Carolina which were therewith provided. And here in New York the remainder was used for the Children's Hospital; for St. Barnabas House; in providing shelter and food and clothing for the poor and the sick; and in burying the dead.
Indirectly our own Church failed not to be benefited, inasmuch as its insufficient income had else been taxed to meet some of these applications--it being almost impossible within these doors to send any empty away who come to ask an alms in the Name of the Lord.
I would, brethren, that on this morning provision might here be made for returning to Chicago as much at least as was placed in my hands in March last, with reference to a duty discharged by me which called for neither compensation nor commendation.
For that which this incident in the history of the Transfiguration, viz.: the burial, and that a number of days before, it was known that this burial had elsewhere been refused, of a man who had a right to Christian burial, was indeed made the occasion of accomplishing, I am most grateful, and would give thanks with all my heart to Almighty God. It drew toward the Church, to which my life has been given, a world of kindly, tender feeling; and it opened wide for personal ministration and usefulness such a door as few of you may imagine. It convinced many a one who had known nothing of the Church--not this Church of the Transfiguration in particular, hut the Church in general--and her Clergy, many a most wretched outcast, that hither he or she could come, and find a heart, a hand and an ear ever open, and a Priest's lips that could keep knowledge--could keep to themselves, as in honour and duty bound the knowledge confided to him.
From the Prison and the Gambling house and the house of Ill-repute, the message or the messenger has hither come that might not have elsewhere gone. God's blessing has rested upon this our Parish and Church by reason of the effort made to make the most of the greater opportunity thus offered for ministering to those who had need; upon the exercise, in the ampler field, of what has been the desire and the spirit from what time nine-and-thirty years ago today the opening service of the Church of the Transfiguration was held in that room on East Twenty-fourth street.
And now, brethren beloved, in what way shall this our Anniversary be most meetly marked by us all? By me surely, first of all, in giving thanks and glory to Almighty Clod, and saying with the Psalmist, "O, how plentiful is thy goodness which thou hast laid up for them that fear Thee; and that thou hast prepared for them that put their trust in Thee, even before the sons of men! * * * Thanks be to the Lord, for he hath showed me marvelous great kindness in a strong city!" and in holding in ever more and more loving and grateful regard and remembrance all, whether living or departed, whose hearts and whose hands have hitherto been with us, and in invoking upon them God's most tender mercy and abundant blessing.
We show our appreciation, brethren beloved, of an invitation by accepting it, and of a gift by using it in the manner designed. Let us all, then, make more general and more diligent use in time to come of all that is here provided for, and opened to, us--the manifold means of grace and opportunities for doing and receiving good. Let these ever open doors be oftener and more regularly entered by us. Let the Services and the Sacraments of this place be more faithfully and devoutly frequented by us. Let us engage most diligently in all that here we can which has for its object God's glory and the welfare of our fellows. Let us do all that in us lies, each in his or her place and station, to promote and to perpetuate that spirit which has hitherto characterized this Church and Parish, and which in some measure has given to them their name and their fame.
Here let the truest brotherly love, the greatest, gentlest courtesy and kindness, and the noblest, widest charity prevail and abound. In the Epistle for the sixteenth Sunday after Trinity, the first Epistle read in that room on East 24th street, all Christians, living and departed, are spoken of as constituting a family. Let at least all who belong to The Transfiguration see in every man a brother and in every woman a sister. Here and everywhere let us be gentle, let us be courteous, let us be kind and considerate and loving, never a hindrance but ever a help,--we can withal be just as resolute, just as determined, if need be, where need is-- ever mindful and regardful in the least thing: as well as in the greatest, of what concerns the welfare and the comfort of another.
Our supposed stranger thought these to be large plans and purposes, and rather extravagant aspirations which were conceived and entertained nine-and-thirty years ago to-day in that room on East 29th street. The desires of today are perhaps equally large.
I would fain see, before I go hence and be myself here no more seen, the long-cherished plan fulfilled of a Porch-gate at the entrance to these grounds, with its seat for the weary, its shelf for a chained metal-bound Bible and Prayer-Book, its drinking font for the thirsty, its niche for a figure of the Lord with Hands outstretched in wooing benediction, and its inscriptions: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst." "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
I would fain see before I go hence and be myself here no more seen, the house and lot No. 11 East 29th Street, which, like the house of Justus in the Acts of the Apostles which joined hard upon the Synagogue, join hard on the east end of the Transfiguration, made the property of The Transfiguration: that we might there find the ample room that we need for our Schools and Guilds and Societies and our Choir-practising; that our Chancel might be deepened and receive the dignity which it needs and be made more convenient and fit for its high and holy use, and that there, to our Organ and Choir might be given their proper place.
I would fain see, before I go hence and be myself here no more seen, our Church Endowment Fund brought up to not less than Two Hundred Thousand dollars--to the end that for all time to come, even until the Lord come, there could be no possible peradventure concerning the work and the Worship that shall here obtain, the seven o'clock daily Celebration of the Holy Communion and the ever-open doors wherein all who will may enter.
I would fain see, before I go hence and be myself here no more seen, the Congregation here, and that a Congregation filling the Church to the doors, a Congregation of Communicants--and that not of Communicants rejoicing in their beds at 7 o'clock on each Sunday morning at least, but rejoicing then at the Altar to receive, as their first food for the day, the Body and the Blood of the Lord.
To-day is the Seventh Anniversary of the commencement of the daily Celebration of the Holy Communion in this our Church of the Transfiguration. For seven years each morning at seven o'clock the Holy Commemorative Sacrifice of the Body and Blood of the Lord has been here offered and presented to Almighty God on this Altar, and the faithful, as many as would, have been fed with the Heavenly food of that most precious Body and Blood.
I would fain see, before I go hence and be myself here no more seen, such provision voluntarily and cheerfully and sufficiently made for our music year by year, and that not by the few but by the many, that there never should be the need of an asking, nor occasion to take for it from the ordinary income of the Church, which is wholly required for other purposes. Let the very beginning of the coming year give earnest that this shall be so. Would that there might be a Music-fund!
This is the Sixth Anniversary of the introduction here, mainly through the generosity of one member of the Parish, of our Surpliced Choir, which, with its Choir-master and Organist, we may well say we would not exchange for any other in the land. Ah! if only with lives as sweet as the playing and singing, and as white as their surplices, they were all, with not so much as a single exception, partakers of the Altar, and the devoutest of the devout and so reverent as none more so in their worship.
I would fain see, in the few years or days that remain to me here on earth, our Chapel on West 69th street, through the kindly practical interest felt for it by the mother Church on 29th street, so cared for in its infancy that the future of its usefulness might be made as certain and as great as the whatever usefulness through its nine-and-thirty years God has vouchsafed, and in time to come may yet vouchsafe, to The Transfiguration. Blessed be His Name.
Finally, when last I look upon the dear ones gathered here, I would fain see such a congregation, without an exception, of high-minded, unselfish, honorable, honest, faithful men and women, so observant of their every duty to God and to their fellows and to themselves, that the very fact of their membership here everywhere guarantees sufficient that they were worthy of such confidence, such trust, as none could be more so; that theirs would be ever the helping hand, the kindly word, the tender, sympathizing heart; never the falsehood, the trick, the thing mean or cruel or contemptible; that when it were said that he or she has been trained at the Transfiguration and belongs to The Transfiguration, it were the same as to say--he or she is a high-minded, tender-hearted, open-handed, in practise as well as in profession, Christian man or Christian woman: that with each one, more truly than the old Noblesse Oblige, it might be Transfiguration oblige.
O GOD, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistening; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth one God, world without end. Amen.