UNCERTAINTY is the predominating feeling of the first days of a boy at school. But there was something about our head-master that from the very beginning gave the feeling of security. To hear his estimate of the bully warmed to him the soul of the new boy. Sympathy, of course, was the medium through which his greatness was approached by the boy, but I suppose that in his character what gave so markedly the impression of security was his constancy. To those who needed him he was the same faithful friend at all times and in all places. He had no mannerisms appropriate to the school-room or to the chapel. While the manner always fitted the occasion, it was peculiarly his own. To a man so sensitive as Dr. Coit there must have come times of great depression; and it always seemed to me a mark of his greatness that this depression so rarely affected his judgment or his kindness. His voice and manner in the chapel never varied. Was it not a marvelous thing that there, day after day, year in and year out, in a life so full of petty vexations, the same lofty and inspiring spirituality prevailed? This alone was a tower of strength and certainty to the erring volatile boy.
On the first morning of school, the boy's perplexities thickened with every stroke of the chapel bell. There were the first few continuous peals to which no one seemed to give any heed; then a more prolonged ringing at which one remarked, "There goes the ten minutes' bell." (These repeated calls of the first bell ending with the longer peal, then the ten minutes interval before the final tolling of the last bell, were all parts of the Doctor's plan for trying to bring our minds into trim before entering the chapel.) "Sure enough," in ten minutes there was a toll at which the outside games stopped, desks in the schoolroom were opened and shut, and there was a general movement toward the chapel. I was in the school-room trying to solve some of my uncertainties, and, as I followed the stream out through the common room and turned into the little passage which opened at the side of the house toward the chapel door, there stood the Doctor fully robed. Once more I breathed freely. There was a doorway here that led into the part of the house occupied by the head-master's family, and it was his custom to robe in his own house and stand at the entrance, facing us as we passed before him into chapel. I have said that the Doctor was "fully robed;" his figure filled the doorway. Till the latter part of his life he always wore the old-fashioned, wide-spreading surplice which stood out in ample folds. I for one was exceedingly sorry to have that old memory marred by the adoption of another style, for it was a characteristic feature in the picture so dear to St. Paul's men.
His presence there in the hall as we passed was a guarantee of safety to the lonely new boy and a brace toward reverence to every one in the crowd. Talking immediately stopped, and we passed out and across the yard in silence. I found myself in the lower part of the chapel, which I afterwards learned was reserved for the country people, "the neighbors." The Doctor followed up the line of boys and sailed straight to his stall; the hymn was given out at once, and the first verse read while we found our places; but I may say that for myself I soon formed the habit of looking at the Doctor while he read, the hymn taking on a new meaning as I listened. Three facts stand out in my memory from that first morning in chapel: first, the all-pervading influence of the Doctor as he stood or kneeled at his place almost in the midst of us--his reverence was contagious; then, the hearty singing of the hymn, and the deafening response in the Psalter and prayer; and thirdly, the manner of the boys themselves was in thorough accord with the place. As I afterwards learned, the Doctor's close attention to the service was not incompatible with his power of noticing any carelessness on our part; without looking, he would feel that a certain place in the chapel was out of touch, and then he would look fairly at the spot in such a way as to bring a boy to his better self. I have seen him turn and leave his own seat to give a book to a boy who was not following the service. Some careless happy-go-lucky, called to the Doctor's study and expecting a "lecture," would be taken aback by such words as these: "My dear, I want to give you this little token of my regard, and I hope that you will keep it by you and use it in the chapel;" and then he would write with one of his fine little pencils the boy's name, "From his faithful friend, H. A. C.," on the fly-leaf of a beautiful prayer book. It seemed his special delight to give books as presents. He certainly did love books, and, in spite of the quickness of his ear, always preferred to see the page. He invariably followed the whole service with his book, and to all of us he constantly advised the same practice.
The chapel was the place where he looked for the real self to show. As a man I remember the great distress which he expressed to me concerning a certain boy about whom he had taken much trouble, when the restlessness in a part of the chapel was attributed to this fellow. "Just think of it! when he is on his knees he recites nursery rhymes; he confesses to have said aloud, 'How doth the little busy bee improve each shining hour.' "The Doctor's sense of humor cropped out even among the weeds of trouble.
In the chapel, as in all the life of the school, there was not only the careful study of the whole effect, but always first the loving vigilance of and for the individual. It was a boy's face in chapel that often gave the Doctor the desired clue. This was no secret; he openly and naturally looked each boy in the face as he passed out, and I once heard him say, "I sit there as a sort o£ embodiment of their consciences; it is in that House that a boy's true self will show in look and manner." Did you ever get used to passing the Doctor's stall? It was like a daily "dress rehearsal" of a fellow's state of heart. That seat in the old chapel is never occupied, and I confess that to-day, as often as I pass and repass, it is never without the consciousness of the presence of him who was there. Over it stands a brass tablet with the words: "Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house and the place where thine honor dwelleth."
Of course, this kind of "following up" was galling to some natures; but even to them there was the stimulus. I can recall no case of a boy coming to the school below the age of sixteen who seemed in any way injured; as soon as the Doctor was known, his great love generally acted as a balm for the wounded pride.
Surely there was a great "let down" when we came into the college world and stood alongside of boys of eighteen or twenty who had been through most of the temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. We did not know as much as they; we were not so strong? Suffice it to say that Dr. Coit had no faith in that kind of strength. "The little old men of the school," as he called them, were objects of pity and compassion. His idea of strength was different.
"My strength is as the strength of ten
Because my heart is pure."
It was the strength of innocence for which he strove in himself and in his boys, the strength of God's Spirit, unmixed with the knowledge of evil. He himself wonderfully illustrated the Master's charge to the Apostles: "Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves." And as St. Paul to his converts at Rome, so he to us: "I would have you wise unto that which is good and simple concerning evil." (Of course, we must all admit that much depends on the method of application; but surely the knowledge of good as a principle of education tends more to moral strength than the knowledge of evil. Moreover, the habits of youth formed on the one or the other will follow us persistently.) While I was at college Dr. Coit asked me if I thought that a man who had defiled himself could ever be quite the same. I was obliged to confess that I thought not. No one could more thoroughly believe in "the forgiveness of sins," yet he always taught that sin would exact her wages. I remember many striking passages on this subject in his sermons. "How could such a holy man have such insight into the effects of sin?" was often in my mind when I heard his scathing description of the man who followed his own lust. Many old boys will remember the distinction made in his catechism questions between the "trying or tempting" of a man's strength and the "leading or tempting" into sin. "It is never necessary for a man to fall in order to be strong," was a sentence often on his lips. Again and again this trend of the Doctor's teaching appears; it seems to me, after all, the distinctive feature of his life work. "They will go from strength to strength, and unto the God of gods appeareth every one of them in Zion," was not only the plan of his own life, but it was also the plan that he marked out for his boys. No doubt it was often misunderstood; it is only the pure heart with a keen insight into other hearts that appreciates the high value of innocence. Most of us begin to realize this when it is too late. What man of us now striving after high and noble aims would not sacrifice much to clear the memory of this or that shadow from his early life? Do we, old boys of Dr. Coit, do we not now see the wisdom of his purity? He loves much who is forgiven much, it is true; but a Peter could never have the vision of a John, or a Magdalen the lofty love of a Virgin.
Thus it was that the absolute perfection in all things, at which we were taught to aim, naturally had its centre in the chapel. Here it was that the Doctor dealt plainly with Eternal Truth; and here it was that he gathered up all the arrows which fell short, and gave us in plain terms the mark at which he would have us aim. The late President Garfield once said very truly to him: "I see, Dr. Coit, that you have the faculty of impressing yourself upon your boys;" to which the Doctor is reported to have replied, "I have another Image in my mind which I hope to impress."
Dr. Coit was a formalist in so far as to insist rigidly upon the reverent conformity to the observances of the church. On that first morning I was struck with the fact that every boy kneeled during the prayers. No boy with ordinary sense could escape the impression from our school life that the chapel service was but an offering to God of the daily life. The perfection of the form, he taught, had much to do with the perfection of the offering. He had himself a strong instinct for worship, and he would constantly say to older people that the failure to worship was the failure of the day, and that if he were called to preach a "mission," he would make "worship in the church" the burden of his message. He had confidence in the efficacy of church forms, properly taught, to mould a young life. Never shall I forget a sermon preached after the death of Nicoll Ludlow. On occasions of this kind the Doctor, though almost unnaturally calm, was so affected that we were all held as if by a spell. This sermon described the boy, newborn at baptism, brought up a child of God in the Christian home, always faithful to his parents, never knowing any other life but the growth in loving obedience; and then the few words with which he turned this light upon the life of Ludlow went straight to the heart of every boy. That one sermon, exemplified by the life of that one boy, was enough to bring every soul in that chapel to a realization of God's love for man, that He had chosen me, not I Him, that He had first loved me and had lived the life of man and died the death of man for me, and had called me from the font to live his life.
More than any other man I ever knew, Dr. Coit based his teaching upon the broad truths of the Catholic Church. One rarely ever heard a sermon from him that could have been preached by any but a priest of the church. Even his talks at funerals among the neighbors were always tinged with distinctive church teaching. For this, some called him narrow, which did not much disturb him, for he knew the real breadth of the position, and by nature he loved the narrow way, because it was the straight.
Particular sermons are not easy to recall at this date, though the impression of each at the time was clear and distinct; during my school days I found it easy each week to comply with my mother's request to send her a short abstract of the Doctor's sermon. Striking analogies were not frequent, and the arrangement was not such as fastened in one's memory; teaching was the point always most pronounced, given in delightful English, with such aptness and beauty of Biblical illustration and keen insight into human motives that we always listened. In fact, if a boy did not listen he would be quietly chided on some suitable opportunity, or, at the time, his attention would be aroused with, "My dear, I am saying this for you," or, "Do lay this to heart," as his eye rested kindly here and there. Sometimes the Doctor would stop and wait for a dreamer till the boy was roused by finding all eyes turned on him. And how familiar that gesture of the hand with the ends of the long fingers rapidly passing across the thumb as he stood with his eyes on some careless figure! Oh, those were days when the spirit had a hard time to sleep! The Doctor's gestures were few and simple, and no less remarkable than his restraint. As I sat in the choir I used to watch the hand that he often held behind him in perpetual movement as he spoke. His action in speaking, as in all that he did or said, gave one the impression of much force in reserve. The death of Mrs. Coit affected the Doctor's preaching, and the lameness left by a broken leg about the same time had also a tendency to burden his natural buoyancy. The change to the new chapel, occurring during this sad time, seemed almost another tax upon the old-time easiness and spring of his life and sermons. I remember in that first year of the new chapel a sermon on Easter night about "The two who walked to Emmaus and were sad." He dwelt so long upon the sadness of life without Christ, while he pictured these two on their lonely walk, that little time was left for the joy of the Resurrection and the walking with Christ. This sermon stands out in my memory, in spite of its felicitous expression, as almost morbid in its effect.
The Doctor always read his sermons to the boys; but he generally spoke without notes and from the fullness of his learning and sympathy at Communicants' Meeting, and to the congregation of neighbors assembled in later years in the old chapel. The effect of these addresses upon those who loved and honored him was very marked.
The Communicants' Meeting once a month on Saturday night was a noted occasion. The Doctor was particular that every communicant should be present though the service was not part of the school duty. There was an unusual solemnity in the hymn without the organ, the short Bible reading, the address, and the closing prayer. The Doctor's address was absolutely free from anything approaching to oratory and general exhortation; it was always based on some line of church teaching and spiritual need. I remember one very distinctly in which the words of the confession, "Almighty God, Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ," were used as a text. Dr. Coit had a very keen sense of the misery of sin, and he loved to dwell upon our Redemption by Our Saviour. This appreciation of the power of sin, combined with the sorrows of his later life,--the death of Dr. Shattuck and of other old friends was a great blow to him,--caused an almost settled sadness in the latter days.
It was his custom to hold a vigil service on the last night of the old year for the neighbors. These services were always in the nature of regrets for the failures of the year, but who present on that night about a month before his end can ever forget the painfulness of that address? He had never been known in public to dwell upon the dreadfulness of death; but on that night he depicted the last hours, the death, the funeral, and burial of mortal man in such a way as to bring home to each the words of the Psalmist: "The fear of death is fallen upon me. Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me; and an horrible dread hath overwhelmed me." There certainly was no limitation of power, but there was a spirit of depression entirely strange to most of his hearers. In the light of after events it seemed a forecast of what was soon to follow in his own case. Within forty days we were kneeling beside that open bier before the altar of the old chapel, but with far different feelings from what he had foretold. He had spoken of the lightness with which our friends would lay us aside, our places soon filled by others; but I venture to say that some of those who renewed their vows beside that calm prostrate figure have never ceased to miss his gracious presence.
We seem to have drifted to sermons, though sermons were a small part of Dr. Coit in the chapel. The liturgy more than sermons was his unfailing delight and the medium of his teaching. No other man ever seemed to me so perfect a living voice of the Prayer Book. In regard to his reading, let me quote from a letter of Dr. Hall Harrison appearing in the "Churchman:" "As a reader of the church service and administrator of the Sacraments, Dr. Coit could not be surpassed. His voice was clear and sweet toned and well modulated. His enunciation was distinct, his pronunciation and accent cultivated and refined, and his emphasis always correct, yet never excessive; so he furnished to one generation of students after another, through his long rectorship of nearly forty years, a perfect model and example of the good reading which befits the gentleman and scholar." His mind seemed in perfect tune with it all, and overflowed with bits of the Psalms and lines of our beautiful hymns as if they were his own. Even now, sometimes on a Monday morning, I seem to hear his voice once more, announcing in the old way the hymn,
"Awake, my soul stretch every nerve,
And press with vigor on,"
"Direct, control, suggest this day
All I design or do or say."
In my first year, when the Doctor still lived in the house with us, we often began with the second verse of the hymn, now number 489,
"Happy birds that sing and fly."
One of the favorites for a dark morning was
"Christ, whose glory fills the skies,"
sometimes beginning with the second verse,
"Dark and cheerless is the morn."
Many a dull heart was aroused by the morning hymn, and under our leader no opportunity was given to sink back or fall into listless gazing; hardly was the note of the "Amen" concluded before the Psalm was announced and we heard the Doctor's voice in clear tones: "The Heavens declare the glory of God." Generally a short selection was made from the Psalms of the day, but there were special ones which we had again and again. How these Psalms seemed to speak his own mind! I still recall those far-off mornings with the snow driving without and our fingers numb with cold. With almost grim appropriateness came, "Are your minds set upon righteousness, 0 ye congregation?" We often had the first Psalm, "Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the council of the ungodly;" the thirty-ninth, "I said, I will take heed unto my ways, that I offend not in my tongue;" on a beautiful morning the nineteenth, "The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handy-work:" the fiftieth Psalm sometimes came with admirable fitness, "The God, even the most mighty God, hath spoken and called the world from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof," as also the sixty-third, "O God, Thou art my God, early will I seek Thee;" the ninetieth and ninety-first came with frequent regularity, "Lord, Thou hast been our refuge from generation to generation," and "Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High," and the one hundred and thirty-ninth, "O Lord, Thou hast searched me out, and known me." But I cannot call back that voice again by dwelling on these Psalms in fond memory, though its echoes are still part of our life; and with them in our ears more and more truly may we still sing, "Praise the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me praise His Holy Name!"
The love that boys developed for the Church service at St. Paul's was remarkable. I remember in my second form year sitting at table next to a boy who had been brought up to a different form of worship, and yet declared that he should hereafter always go to a service like ours. I afterwards learned of a great many such, yet I never knew of any pressure by word or deed brought to bear on any one to forsake the way of his fathers. Not the smallest slur was cast on fellow Christians who differed in forms or doctrines. When as a man at college I sought advice on questions of so-called churchmanship, the Doctor said, after discussing various phases of it in and out of our communion, "But you will not forget, after all, that the great division is between the bad and the good."
That, however, a love for more than the forms of the Anglican Church grew up in the hearts of the boys, there were many substantial proofs. It is not amiss to note here that, during his rectorship of forty years, more than fifty St. Paul's men have entered the ministry of the Church, and a fact most pleasing to recall is the great number of men returning to the school to read with the Doctor, and to spend the best years of their lives working with him, some indeed actually to take root in the chapel.
The day is not far off when an adequate account of the work of the first generation at St. Paul's school may be written; but I am sure that I shall be pardoned if I recall a few typical scenes in that chapel.
It is Thanksgiving Day; many old boys are up for the day; we have all had a bracing hour on the ice, and now at our very best we are joining in a hearty service. An alumnus is the preacher; it is his first sermon at the school and most of the boys know him for an "old boy," and note the Doctor's special interest. No one but a member of a great school can appreciate the pride of a boy at the performance of a graduate. There was no disappointment as we heard the sane and inspiring teaching from the one hundred and forty-fourth Psalm, "Blessed be the Lord my strength," ending with the words, "That our sons may grow up as the young plants; and that our daughters may be as the polished corners of the temple; that our garners may be full and plenteous with all manner of store; that our sheep may bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our streets; that our oxen may be strong to labor; that there be no decay, no leading into captivity and no complaining in our streets. Happy are the people that are in such a case; yea, blessed are the people who have the Lord for their God."
Dr. Coit lived to see many of his boys in the school pulpit, sometimes as chosen preachers on high occasions.
The school music was always a delight to him; a peculiar delight indeed, when the voice of Augustus Swift to the music of his friend and schoolmate led the choir in what has become the school anthem, "Oh pray for the peace of Jerusalem." As Mr. Swift sat on the same side of the chapel as Dr. Coit, while I sat opposite, I had a fair view of them both, and I shall not forget the evident appreciation of the Doctor as Mr. Swift proceeded for the first time in the solo, "I was glad when they said unto me, we will go into the house of the Lord." The composer of this, as well as of much of the music sung at the school, sat at the organ which he has played since boyhood. These two, boys and men together in that choir! What more suitable reward to their master! What more beautiful heritage to leave their school, their friends, and their country than those songs in the House of God? My dear friend and master of that choir, their sound has gone out and will still go out into all lands, wafting the Breath of Life.
Dr. Coit had the instincts of an artist. In many details he deferred to those who were better equipped; yet he was a sympathetic and moving spirit in all that was true and fine in art.
When the school /had manifestly outgrown the old chapel, he said once to me, "If I had fifty thousand dollars I could easily spend it on a suitable chapel." Pie never asked one penny for his work at the school, but the alumni learned that he would like to have a new chapel, and they promptly started under the leadership of W. S. E. to raise one hundred and twenty-five thousand instead of fifty thousand. This building was the joy of his later years, and he entered into every detail with characteristic thoroughness. I remember going into the chapel with him to see the first window. He asked me to place a chair for him and he sat down and studied drawing and coloring with careful and critical attention. The windows were all planned under his personal direction, as indeed was much of the detail of our beautiful chapel.
But we must not leave too soon the old chapel that he so filled with memories. There, too, there was art, and somehow every line spoke of the man; indeed, he himself stood there before us as the very essence of the art of God. Do you not see him as he walked to the pulpit with his surplice grandly gathered about him? Yet the picture of this saintly man in the old chapel would not be complete without recalling that hour so fraught with fear, the examination in sacred studies. How simple, yet how perfect the art in the setting! the bishop fully robed, very often Dr. Shat-tuck, with any other dignitaries that could be obtained, some of the older masters, with Mrs. Coit and perhaps another lady, the whole school in the body of the chapel, and the Doctor himself the centre. Somehow it seemed like the last judgment. Each boy was keyed to the highest pitch, for it was either "make or break." The Doctor calmly passed the questions without hesitation or interruption; there was no prompting, no second chance; an answer from the catechism for the younger boys, the Te Deum, the Gloria in Excelsis, the Lord's Prayer in Latin, and other parts of the Liturgy for the older, each answer practically perfect, or, "Will you take it up, next?" These examinations were always opened and closed with prayer, and the effect of them can only be appreciated by one who has sat there waiting for his freedom or his doom; no doubt a splendid tonic for the whole body as well as for the individual, though for certain ones the taste was not sweet.
This examination in the chapel may stand as a striking illustration of the Doctor's methods for creating high scholarship. Here his reverence for holy things, his intolerance of slipshod doctrine, and his insistence on accurate scholarship, had their meeting place. In that trying hour the retina of the soul of many a boy has received an indelible impression.
No single school worth anything can hope to pass along every boy to his best interest; and here was a system that showed up the willful sluggard and the faint-hearted, and soon brought home the fact to himself and to his people that he was out of place in this school, while there was always the upward pull toward the very highest aims with the ever ready sympathy and help to the weak.
But where the Doctor led supremely was in prayer. Slow the spirit that never rose to those prayers in morning chapel. Do you not now hear the words,--
"O Lord God, giver of all heavenly increase, Who by Thy spirit's might dost confirm the first efforts of feeble souls; Encourage in the hearts of these Thy children every good intent, and carry them from strength to strength; cleanse their consciences, and stir their wills gladly to serve Thee, the Living God. Leave no room in them for spiritual wickedness, no lurking place for secret sins. . . ."
"Help us this day to make one onward step, to resist some temptation, to do something in Thy service. Save us from stagnation of evil, idle habits, from the defilements of bad thoughts; from shutting our ears to the voice of conscience. ... In Thy own good time make of this Place what it ought to be, a home for all goodness, purity, and truth, a sanctuary for Thine ancient faith and worship and a light to this and future generations."
"Look upon us and hear us, O Lord our God, and assist those endeavors to please Thee, which Thou Thyself hast granted to us; as Thou hast given the first act of will, so give the completion of the work: Grant that we may be able to finish what Thou hast given us to wish to begin. . . . Give to us who are older largeness of heart, a patient and forgiving spirit, and faithfulness and courage. Give to those who are younger steadfastness and true manliness, and a living conscience, and the will to obey it. ... Give us all truthful lips and discerning hearts, that we may scorn whatever is low and base, and follow after such things as are lovely in Thy sight. Make us gentle and forbearing to all around us, unselfish and humble, doing to others as we would they should do unto us ... and help us daily as we grow in age, like our Divine Lord, to grow also in wisdom and favor with God and man."
"O Thou, Who formest the light and bringest back the morning, causing Thy sun to rise on the evil and on the good, scatter the darkness of our souls by the knowledge of Thy truth, and lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us."
"'Man goeth forth to his work and to his labor until the evening.' Grant unto us, O Lord, for the discharge of our duty towards Thee and towards each other, a wise and patient understanding, a charitable and pure, a devout and courageous heart; a soul full of devotion to do Thee service."
"Help us now in our poor attempts to serve Thee, and teach us how to pray and what to pray for as we ought. . . . Give us the settled purpose to do thy will. . . . May there be no unclean thought or word or deed among us here. Put far away from us all lying lips and the deceitful tongue. . . . Help us to work and do our duty, not from fear of man but to gain our heavenly prize."
"Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, Who didst lay down Thy Life for the sheep, defend the purchase of Thy Blood. Feed the souls which are hungry and athirst without Thee. Seek for the lost, convert the wandering, bind up that which is broken. Put forth Thine Hand and touch the head of each one, that all may receive the joy of the Holy Ghost."
"Form us, we beseech Thee, after Thy Divine Image, that we may despise those things which are low and base, and follow after such things as are lovely in Thy sight. Open our eyes to see things as they are that we may love those things which are worthy to be loved. . . . Give stability to the weak and double-minded. Give principle to those who lack it ... those of us who approach Thine Altar to receive the Bread of Everlasting Life, may we work for Thee, bear one another's burdens, rebuke vice and win others to Thy service by our life and words."
"We pray Thee to bless each member of this household. May no wrong motive, secret sin, or waning zeal in any one of us incur Thy just displeasure."
"Have mercy, Heavenly Father, on all who are hardened through the deceitfulness of sin, vouchsafe them grace to come to themselves, the will and the power to return to Thee, and the loving welcome of Thy forgiveness."
"Preserve us from the sins which do most easily beset us, and enable us this day and ever to walk worthy of our Christian calling."
As these sentences of his prayers come back to me and I look over the little notebook in which he wrote them all, he seems very near; as if his spirit was still hovering about the place he loved, and would still in these prayers lead up to the throne of Heaven the hearts of generations of boys still to come. Prayers there are for all days and all occasions of school life, every word of which seems so familiarly part of this man, that I know not where to begin or where to stop. Enough, however, of these prayers have been recalled to bring his voice to our ears and his fervent love to our memories.
Is it the last night before the Christmas holiday? Did you ever feel anywhere exactly the same kind of suppressed and holy joy that came upon you as you went into the chapel, blazing with the light from myriad candles, and festooned with hemlock? Perhaps you had helped cut the branches from the snow-clad woods, or had eaten cookies and apples at "Greens" in the basement of the school-house in reward for serving "cash" to the big fellows who made up the long ropes of evergreen. Be that as it may, every boy sang on that night with all his soul:--
"Saviour source of every blessing, Tune my heart to grateful lays; "
and many have carried all through their lives some sentence of the prayer: "We bless Thee for Thy goodness in the past; "we trust Thy care and providence for the future, and we beseech Thee to extend Thy favor and protection to the days of rest which are before us. Bless the work of this school, undertaken for Thy glory and continued in Thy fear. Make it in deed and in truth a Christian school, that none who come here may go away unimproved, that none may be afraid or ashamed to be Thy faithful servants. . . . Help us to obey our parents. . . . Kindle now in the heart of each member of this household from oldest to youngest the honest purpose to do right . . . and do Thou crown our work with good success. . . . Accept our thanksgiving for all Thy goodness to us . . .;and grant that, using all Thy gifts to Thy glory, we may please Thee both in will and deed and finally by Thy mercy be everlastingly rewarded."
But it was not all joy, that going away: there came a "last night" that was indeed a "last night," when, as a "sixth," one knelt and covered one's face to hide the tears. As the Doctor prayed for the "place," for "those whom we love," for us all to "see the fruits of our labors, and own in all Thy Hand from whom cometh every good and perfect gift," the words seemed to burn into one's soul. "To Thee we commend every member of this household, that Thou wouldst bless and keep them now and evermore from all harm both to the body and to the soul. 0 God, the protector of all that trust in Thee, without Whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; increase and multiply upon us Thy mercy, that Thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that finally we lose not the things eternal. Grant this, 0 Heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord. Amen." The prayers of Dr. Coit seem to me to voice his greatness of soul in eternal accents.
More than at any other place did his great soul shine out before the altar. He gave this service its true place as the centre of Christian worship, and to have served with him there was indeed a privilege. The spirit of the prayer of humble access and of the words of consecration recited by him is still a vivid memory of my early life. This is the place where some of us love to recall him, before that altar laid with the "fair linen cloth" that he was wont to handle, on which were worked the words with the quaint application in which he often indulged, "Amice, commoda mini tres panes."
Was it not fitting that our master and priest should end his life work in the chapel and before the altar? And so it came to pass early one Sunday morning while he was kneeling to receive the sacrament. Most alarming to us who had never known him to be faint was the fact that he was so overcome as to be obliged to leave the chapel. Like the great Thring he was last seen by his boys going out in pain from the service of the Holy Communion; both ripe in years; but both still in the fullness of power. I love to think of these two, the one in England, the other in America, so devoted from youth till death to the rescue of the boys' school from the old hard traditions. These men, so different in their characters, were alike in some peculiarities and in all their aims and general methods.
"No school has a right to exist that is not supplying the place of a well-ordered home to every boy," was an axiom both at Uppingham and at St. Paul's. The two leaders gave the strength of their splendid manhood, and laid down their lives, that in scholarship, manners, and morals, truth, purity, and justice should prevail, and that the individual should have his due.
What a glorious end! Work to the last! Once only did we see that form faint from its labor; and surely it is fitting that now every one who comes to the altar in our chapel shall see again that calm strength and dignity breathing out from the enduring marble figure of our priest, master, and father; a true emblem of his purity and steadfast faith.