ALL these "school traditions," as the Doctor called them, would have meant little without the man. "Alumnus," writing in the "Boston Transcript" a few days after Dr. Coit's death, says: "We are accustomed to accept without reserve the statement that the formation of character should be the chief end of all education, but it is seldom that we apply this test in estimating the value of the work of an individual teacher. It is by this test, however, that the life just ended at St. Paul's school must find its true measure; and judged by this standard the name of Henry A. Coit will be remembered as one of the great educators of our time, long after distinctions based on mere methods of instruction and discipline have lost the importance now attributed to them. There are scholars still remaining to whom the classics are something more than the means of pursuing philological research, there are other preachers of equal eloquence and earnestness, and there are men who can follow the onward moving thought of the times with better success than he, who found in the past so much to reverence and love. There will, however, be found no leader with equal power to make the idea of obedience to his Master seem no mere religious platitude, but the actual motive and inspiration for the every-day life of a whole working community.
"St. Paul's school drew its pupils from all parts of the Union; its alumni are scattered over a still wider field. Wherever the news of Dr. Coit's death shall reach one of these men, it will bring sorrow that seldom comes save at the loss of a parent. Each man will feel the loss of one to whom he, as a boy, was no mere object for routine instruction, but a living soul to be loved and saved, of one to whom he could send back no good news without giving pleasure and no ill news without giving pain.
"The great school that he built may seem to the world the chief evidence of his ability, but to these old boys the stamp of his character, set on their lives and enduring unchanged amid the passing influences of later years, will be the great proof of his worth as servant of God and leader of men."
Though the Doctor shrank from all parade and publicity, the sharp eyes and impressionable memories of boyhood bring back clearly to us the simplicity of his own life. His home and his school also were modeled on this severe simplicity. Marion Crawford, on a visit to St. Paul's some years ago, said in a little speech to the boys that he had felt all through his life the benefit of his early training at St. Paul's in simple living. While the Doctor encouraged the display of individual good taste in arranging rooms and alcoves, and while he listened with pleasure to a paper read before the boys by a master and alumnus on "Household Art," his own habits were so far removed from luxury in any form as to shame fashions that tended to personal comfort or ease. When one considers how the school grew about his own household while Mrs. Coit kept the accounts, it seems possible to understand how, when the number of boys had reached three hundred and thirty, the curator was still haled to the Doctor's study for a daily accounting, how those employed on the farm and in the houses had still a place in his care. So strict was the economy that there never was a room, not even a closet, in house, shed, or stable, that was not strained to its utmost capacity--no extra space to heat or clean. Certainly we were cramped for room and overflowed into every conceivable sort of a place, but there was a plain lesson there, as well as a very practical advantage for discipline, in having no large halls or stairways which boys could turn into playgrounds.
One day I heard him speak of the hardships which he gladly endured for the cause, and, referring to a speech of the elder Bishop Doane, in which the bishop had welcomed all sacrifices, persecutions, and even debt for the cause of education, the Doctor said, "Yes, welcome all but debt." Yet when it came to the point, and he felt the work strong enough to guarantee it, he was not afraid of debt. In the summer of '77 the whole building in which the body of the boys lived was destroyed by fire from lightning. For various causes, the insurance was small, and entirely inadequate to rebuild; and besides, the school was to open in a few weeks and there was no place in which to house the boys. I, for one, immediately wrote to the Doctor offering to raise money at once. He acknowledged the letter with thanks but gave me no encouragement to beg for the school. I know of no instance in which the Doctor was ever a party in asking gifts for his work. But when the boys returned they found excellent accommodations; the gymnasium was fitted with alcoves, and the old bowling alley served as a dining-room, while there was in progress a new building on another site. At the time of his death there was still a small debt on this building as well as a larger debt on the new lower school. But for this others interested themselves; and large sums of money have been given of later years by warm friends and alumni.
The material prosperity of the school did not change his own habits of severe simplicity. As Mrs. Coit's health became feeble her brothers and sisters provided her with many comforts, which naturally changed somewhat the life at the rectory; but the Doctor kept to his old democrat wagon and single horse till old age demanded that they both be put on the retired list. A faithful cob and a secondhand buggy bought at a country auction took their place in the rectory stable. While he denied himself in every way, he was profuse in his expenditure for others; he seemed not to consider cost when the pleasure of his family or friends was concerned, provided that there was no "show." He was almost morbidly afraid of show as of all publicity, probably because he had a secret love for handsome things and handsome ways to which he would give no heed. Whatever seemed an indulgence to self was rigidly put away; his food was simple and spare to the extreme; it almost seemed at times as if he were injuring his health by his abstinence. The same may be said of his habit of sleep; his light was the last to go out, and yet he was always up and at work before the household was astir. Between five and six we would hear the Doctor about in his little dressing-room. The early morning was a favorite time for letter writing; five or six letters went regularly from his study before breakfast; they rarely covered more than one or two pages of concise and beautifully written matter.
But this was not the only employment of the early morning hour; from an intimate acquaintance in later life, I know that he gave much of this time to devotional reading, prayer, and meditation. After the breaking of his leg he was dependent on massage for exercise; and while that was going on in the evening, again he would read and meditate; his "little books" of devotion were always at hand. In one of these I find marked several passages which speak his own mind on prayer: "Prayer, therefore, though it is not the cause to us of God's goodness, is the way." "The secret of successful prayer is to persevere in praying, and to believe that we receive that for which we pray. ... A divided heart cannot obtain its broken prayer. 'Blessed are they who seek Him with their whole heart.'" "He who deserts his opportunities for prayer will soon find out that the opportunities have deserted him." "Wisdom is the application of truth to the practice of love." In this same book is a manuscript prayer of his own, most beautiful and touching in its humility, but too sacred for the public eye. I give simply the opening words: "O Lord, and all seeing and almighty God, who knowest all things concerning me, both those things which escape the eyes of men, and those which escape even my own knowledge, have mercy upon me in my great need, and help and pardon. Make me truly penitent for all the wretched past and save me from despair and surrender of my hope."
In these last years he grew more and more away, from the present in his love for the old saints and his longing to be with the new. One who had known him from early manhood wrote at the time of his death: "It has seemed to me that he never recovered from the terrible shock he sustained by the death of his beloved wife. Their union was a peculiarly happy one, she being all that a husband could possibly desire. Intimate as I had been with both, he could never after years of bereavement trust himself to speak of her. He took up patiently the heavy cross; seemed willing to abide God's will and work on for Christ and the church; but since her decease he has impressed me as one 'whose staff was broken,' ready and anxious to depart."
The following letter in reply to a lady who had written her sympathy on this occasion is an example of many such written in his own clear and beautiful hand:--
MY DEAR MRS.------,--I wish to thank you for your sweet and kind letter. I cannot say much. My loss does not admit of any measure in human speech. My one safety and resource is to be still, and fix my heart and mind upon these hopes which spring from our Lord's open sepulchre, and follow Him where He has gone before.
May I count upon your prayers as I go back to take up the burden of life again.
And with love to you and your family, believe me always gratefully and sincerely yours,
HENRY A. COIT.
NEWPORT, 6 Sept., 1888.
How vividly this brings back that sad time so pervaded with his own calm resignation! Again I hear him in the family prayer commending their "dear one" to a merciful Father and loving Saviour.
Mrs. Coit used to guard the half hour after dinner as a time of rest for the Doctor. But after her death this custom was gradually given up, and, I believe, to the hastening of his own death. Pure force of will drove him to the extremity of his powers; no wonder that when the final struggle came the physicians announced that his whole system was starved and overdone.
When he was assisted from the chapel in a fainting condition on that early Sunday morning, he refused to be treated as a sick man; he returned to his study on one of the following days, but only to go back to bed with fever and other alarming symptoms. Again he rallied and dressed, and I went to see him in his room. He was sitting straight up and reading, with no support for back or arms, bright but wan. He was evidently under a strain as he spoke of the school and his hopes, and I felt a great awe upon me as I realized the fight that he was making. That was his last word to me. I did not see him again till that terrible night when he lay unconscious, groaning out his every breath. After the boys had gone to bed, I went to the rectory, and found on the steps Mr. Hargate, who had always loved him and looked to him as a father. He said shortly, "Only a few hours;" and we two stood there on that bitter night while fearful death knocked at our own hearts and froze our hot tears with his cold breath. It was blank desolation that settled upon the hearts of all his own men. As Stanley speaks of the death of Arnold at Rugby, so we felt "the blank more awful than sorrow." We, too, had the "feeling as if the very place had passed away with him who had so emphatically been in every sense its head."
The news was received among the alumni throughout the country with a feeling akin to incredulity. It seemed out of the order of things; Dr. Coit and St. Paul's School were parts of the same thing, and we had grown to feel somehow that things in general would stop if anything happened to the Doctor. His wonderful vitality had always risen above every evil. And here and there all over the land were men holding on to him as if they were still boys. The steady flow of his letters to those in trouble or distress was now to stop. A good-sized volume could be filled with such outpourings of his sympathy. Many must be still extant, and should come to light with the publication of his diaries. One will be enough to show the delicacy and fullness of his sympathy.
It is worthy of note that the Mr. Parker to whose widow the following letter was written was one of the original trustees of St. Paul's School. His son, Edward Melville Parker, is now Coadjutor Bishop of New Hampshire.
ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL, Oct. 26, 1863.
MY DEAR MRS. PARKER,--I cannot refrain from expressing to you my very deep and affectionate sympathy with you and yours in your very great and irreparable loss. I loved and esteemed Mr. Parker very sincerely; and no one since I came to New England has been a kinder, more considerate, and encouraging friend than he. The world will never know the real worth of such a man as he was. I do believe that "every pulse beat true to airs divine." He was so eminently faithful to his convictions and so regardless of what the world covets and seeks after. When he was here,--it seems but a day since,--just before our school year began, he seemed particularly kind.
We had a long talk together about the future prospects of St. Paul's, about the church here and her relations to the state in these civil troubles, about an article of his own which I see printed in my last "Guardian," with occasional allusions to other and lighter subjects, e. g., the autumn leaves that day in their full beauty. He spoke quite warmly about the true theory in regard to their colors, that they were ripe, not dead or dying, and it has occurred to me since that although we call his departure from us death, and untimely, yet really he was taken because God rejoiced in him and saw he was ripe for the Heavenly Garner.
Do not be too sorrowful, my dear friend. He is not lost, but gone before.
He will be no more grieved or pained by earthly sins and the unworthiness of men. He is housed where no rude storms shall trouble him. God help us to love truth and duty and all holiness as he did, and bring us in His time to the same rest and harbor of the soul.
Please accept Mrs. Coit's and my own warm love and sympathy. We shall love to have you visit the school for his own sake as well as ours.
The Lord bless your little children, and may His unfailing promise sustain the fatherless and the widow!
I am most faithfully and truly yours,
HENRY A. COIT.
In October, 1880, Mr. Nathaniel White, a leading citizen of Concord and a warm personal friend of Dr. Coit, died very suddenly at his farm not far from the school. Mrs. White was greatly touched by the tactful sympathy of the Doctor at the time and wrote shortly after: "Dr. Coit's kind regard and loving tribute for the dead, and sympathetic and tender service for the living, will ever be remembered as a sweet fragrance in those first hours of my sudden and overwhelming grief." She requested that he write for her the words which he spoke at the farm in the presence of the family, the household, the farm workmen, and neighbors. In compliance the Doctor wrote the following letter:--
MY DEAR MRS. WHITE,--I wish I could recall the words which sprang from my heart to my lips, when I had the little service at your farmhouse, and your good husband was lying cold and still in an adjoining room. I was most thankful to you for giving me the opportunity of saying what I felt about his life, and character, and example,--though it was only what I had felt, and often said, while he was still living with us, and we had the comfort and blessing of his friendship. The words I used have passed from memory, but the thought remains which was uppermost in my mind then, viz., that Mr. White exemplified St, James's definition of pure religion: "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." He was certainly the friend of the friendless. I was first won to respect and love him by learning from my own experience the largeness of his sympathy and the tenderness of his heart. As time went on, we had a sort of mutual understanding in regard to cases demanding help; and his assistance was never withheld and never stinted. No oppression or sorrow under which human nature suffers failed to call out his interests and compassion. If
"To comfort and to bless,
To find a balm for woe,
To tend the lone and fatherless,
Is angels' work below,"
he was always doing angels' work. He was every one's friend,--not in the sense of an ordinary popularity, such as may often be acquired by easy social manners without sacrifice of self, but because all knew his unselfish kindness; and that the greater their need the readier he was to help them. So much for the first note of pure religion. For the second, those who knew him best, and read his daily life and conversation as one reads an open book, can best bear witness to his unstained integrity, and that he did, in a very high and unusual degree, keep himself "unspotted from the world." Not that he withdrew from large and general intercourse with his fellow-men, but that in the world, in the thick of business and occupation, he was free from engrossing cares and covetous desires--was blameless in word and deed--and had a heart "at leisure from itself to soothe and sympathize." In summing up such a life, how instinctively one recurs to the familiar words of Scripture, "He hath showed thee, 0 man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." How exquisitely appropriate are these words to Mr. White;--and, again, how expressive and applicable to him are the verses from the Psalm, "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness. He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. A good man sheweth favor, and lend-eth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. Surely he shall not be moved forever; the righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." It is as if the words had been written o£ him. Surely for such a man there is no darkness in the grave. The example he has left behind him, to his family and friends and fellow-citizens, is like a bright light shining amidst the darkness and disappointments of our earthly pilgrimage. In that mysterious life into which he has entered "there is no night" for him, for the "path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." If we who knew him here shall always cherish his memory, and his name will live among us, surely "The Lord is mindful of his own; He remembereth his children." It must be our consolation to know that, while our friend's place can never be made good here, in a better, happier world he has a work to fulfill, where those
"Who seem to die in earth's rude strife,
Only win double life:
They have but left our weary ways,
To live in memory here, in heaven by love and praise."
Forgive me, my dear Mrs. White, for this most imperfect and inadequate tribute, and believe me always
Truly and faithfully yours,
HENRY A. COIT.
It may not be out of place to print here a few letters to his old boys. He had followed hundreds all through their lives, entering into every detail with remarkable freshness and interest. He said to one who was visiting at the rectory, "Not a day passes that I do not write to an old boy; but you must not expect letters, there are so many who need them more." Let it be noted that all these letters were very rapidly written.
To a boy at college:--
S. PAUL'S SCHOOL, 3 April, 1888.
MY DEAR.------,--I will write you a line on our anniversary to thank you for your pleasant Easter letter, and for your love and good wishes. I have been forced to keep my Easter indoors, not even able to have the Blessed Sacrament. But one may trust that under any circumstances the true Easter brightness will be ours, if we really seek it. "It is not night if Thou be near." I wish our fellows would go to------(college). Athletics and fashion of this world carry them off to------and------to------and false teachings, and to severer temptations. There are temptations everywhere, but there is a Divine strength in the church's prayers and Sacraments.
I think the boys have never had a pleasanter Easter. The day was beautiful, the flowers were lovely, and there were many visitors. And they tell me the Gymnasium Exhibition was the best yet.
Will you give my love to all the fellows. Mrs. Coit would send hers if she knew I was writing to you. . . .
And I am always, dear------,
Your faithful friend,
HENRY A. COIT.
Extract from a letter to an old boy contemplating mission work in the West:--
"I want you here very much next year. It will be a whiff of new atmosphere enough to be here to help and to have responsibility. I am getting old, and the night cometh and only a few can really enter into work like this.
I will promise $------the first year, and love and trust, which are worth more than money. But we are without endowment, and the school needs much, and it is the best mission field,--and I hope you will come. . . . You shall be as independent in many ways as if you were out on a Western prairie. I do not see how the West can be converted if the East is not. I write in a great hurry with much love. . . . We must not scatter our forces in this day and generation."
A letter to one on finishing college:--
MY DEAR------,--You are quite right in staying at home and with your father. I felt anxious about you, and wrote with the old impulse of taking care of you. ... I am very happy in your college record, but you must not overdo. Take regular exercise, and enough sleep, and wholesome food.
The boys' progress in Canada (the school-team was on a cricket tour) is very satisfactory. I hope they will one day demonstrate that one can be a good athlete, and a thorough gentleman, a faithful and successful student, and a true unswerving Christian all in one.
My love to your father and family. Always your faithful friend,
HENRY A. COIT.
In another letter to a college boy he writes: "I trust much to you to keep up the true St. Paul's spirit among the S. P. S. boys at ------. The loyalty that disdains to complain and criticise, the honorable sense of duty that asks not if some one's eye is upon us, i. e., some earthly eye, these are more than ever needed everywhere."
Extract from a letter to one looking forward to Holy Orders and using his vacation in tutoring:--
"I am glad you are with that little fellow. You must try in every way you can wisely, to make him love good and seek it, which simply means, loving and fearing God. We do not trust enough in Divine Grace. It is a Power. We can do and undo all things by it. We must trust it for others older and younger for whom we are interested. The real good must come from God, the Holy Spirit. It is not of or from us.
"The books you mention are Milman's "Love of the Atonement" and "Wilberforce on the Incarnation." If you read and master these four books with your Bible at your side, you will be no indifferent theologian. Mason's book is the only one of the four which needs here and there a little supplementing or qualification. But you cannot read such books hastily. Liddon alone will take you all summer.
[Lava quod est sordidum
Riga quod est aridum
Sana quod est Saucium.']
"As to the other question. If a man has given his whole heart to the Lord and His work, and has self-mastery, so as not to be pestered all the time by temptations of the flesh, he might wait awhile before thinking of marriage. The church needs a far larger number of unmarried clergy, men who can go anywhere, and will not require more than a bare maintenance. Of course Kingsley's views belong to himself. He was no Catholic and no theologian, and is no authority, although he had so much that was manly and true in him that he was far nearer Divine truth and more loyal to it than most of his school. Of course celibacy is the higher state, as our Lord and St. Paul distinctly affirm. And in any case, married or unmarried, nothing is more loathsome than an amorous or effeminate priest. We are all to be on our guard, from youngest to oldest, against occasions. We want to have pure and heaven-encompassed thoughts, and here we can trust implicity to grace.
A letter to an alumnus studying for Holy Orders:--
ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL, 7 Nov., 1884.
MY DEAR------,--Thank you very much for sending me your paper. I was very greatly pleased with it, and will, with your permission, keep it a little longer that several here may have the pleasure of reading it. I agree with you entirely about the needlessness of ultra ritualism. My faith is in the attractive power of the cross, and that must be the real drawing, whatever instrumentalities are used to win people at the outset. The sacramental system held and preached with evangelic earnestness, and never losing sight of the need of a personal faith and a personal experience on the part of the individual, being God's way of salvation, His gospel to all men in Jesus Christ will "constrain" men. Only, a bright and beautiful service should always be aimed at, and that can be attained on the Prayer Book lines, and without danger of leading people by making a mere spectacle.
I am most deeply interested in all you say of your studies, and of what concerns yourself. May God bless you to win many souls to his service!
My love to----. You will be very welcome for Thanksgiving or any other time. Always, my dear,
Your faithful friend,
HENRY A. COIT.
In writing to a man whom he wanted to return to St. Paul's to teach, he says: "You know I am growing old and worn, and I cannot count on years, and if you are going to help me you must come now. And I personally want you." It was very characteristic of him to make these personal appeals. Though he shrunk from every kind of publicity, wherever he was and whenever he wrote his presence was always pronounced. I remember in writing to an old boy to ask the favor of his delivering an address before the Library Association, he said, "I wish you to consider that I am bestowing an honor by the request."
A letter to a young married man in answer to an invitation:--
ST. PAUL'S SCHOOL, Jan. 10, 1891.
MY DEAR------,--I have your very sweet and valued note and invitation, and wish I could accept it, but I shall not visit New York this year. I am very busy, and must husband my powers of body and mind during the few years left me, that nothing be lost. Too much is lost out of one's life at best, owing to human weakness and error.
But I should go to you with as much pleasure as to any friend I have, and some day it may be that I may have the gratification of spending a night under your roof.
And with kind remembrance to Mrs.------ and a blessing for the children, believe me always affectionately and faithfully yours,
HENRY A. COIT.
In answering a request for advice on undertaking a new and responsible work, he writes to another "old boy:"--
"I most earnestly advise you to accept the work which is offered you, in the fullest confidence that you are the man for it, and that you will, with God's blessing, make it a success in the true sense of the word, as advancing His glory and strengthening and enlarging His Kingdom among men."
To an alumnus elected head of a school, he writes:--
"I am heartily glad of your election. There is nothing to do but to put your trust in God, accept it loyally as His work, and go forward. The difficulties you mention will solve themselves. Each day will bring and clear off its own work. . . . You may count on any help I can give you, and surely always upon sympathy and warm interest."
In another letter to the same, he deplores the necessity for raising the price of tuition, in these words: "As to the change in price, that goes to defeat our object. ... I have the 'Christian Brothers' in my mind. Why should Rome be able to inspire men with enthusiasm for such work, who by their love and zeal and self-denial make success? . . . I am afraid my wishes in the matter are defeated." But the last letter to this man on this subject is worth more than anything save the final, "Well done." It contains these words: "It is a sort of triumph won by patience and fidelity over a series of wearying vexatious obstacles for no one of which you were responsible. I am not surprised. It is just what I expected. I predict success for you, and that of the right kind. Honest loving work for our Lord in His church, without thought of self, will surely have His Blessing."
In the Doctor's copy of "The Christian Brothers," I find these words marked: "If you ask (the Christian Brother) whence he has derived this feeling, at once so grave and so sweet (towards the little ones who must perpetually try his patience), he will tell you that he has heard in the secret depths of his heart the voice of his own Master, saying: 'These children are dear to Me; be a father, and more than a father to them. Watch over them tenderly, be just and kind. If thy heart is not large enough to embrace them, I will enlarge it after the pattern of My own: if these young creatures are docile and obedient, bless Me for it: if they are freward, call upon Me for help: if they weary thee, I will be thy Consolation: if thou sink under the burden, I will be thy Reward."
We have a surer mark than that of his fine pencil-point on the margin of a book to show that these words were taken to himself, namely the impress of his strong but delicate touch upon the hearts and lives of us men who have been his children.
When the end came, letters and telegrams poured in from all parts of the world to testify to the loss. After these eleven years, his oldest living friend writes to me, "A more devoted, godly man never lived. It was an inspiration to be near him ... a patent of nobility to be called his friend."
It would go far beyond the scope of this book to do more than to touch upon the public and private manifestations of feeling that were called forth by the Doctor's death. For us lovers of the man and his work, no more fit conclusion can be drawn than that of the Rev. George William Douglas, D. D., in the "Evening Post" of February 10, 1895: "It rests with us to follow or to repudiate the 'secret of Jesus' for which he lived and died. This, I think, is the final impression which every St. Paul's boy, whether of the older time or to-day, has derived from intercourse with that great schoolmaster whose earthly remains were laid to rest last Friday, in the pure Hampshire snows."
At the memorial service in Calvary Church, New York, it was estimated that at least five hundred men were present. The old hymns were sung with old-time heartiness; the service was such a spontaneous and overwhelming testimony to the man, that a lady in the throng was heard to say: "I was in doubt where to send my boys; now I have not a shadow of a doubt." Bishop Potter preached on the text, "And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain," striking most felicitously a well-known keynote in the Doctor's character, which had its echo in every heart in the church. The bishop again alluded to this exalted aloofness in an address before the boys at the following school anniversary; speaking among other things of his home near Newport as the "house on the hill." I was then reminded of his love for a solitary rock high up on the edge of the cliff, where he was wont to sit and meditate. As we sailed the waters below, we often saw his figure there in silhouette against the sky. To quote again from Dr. Douglas: "If any man in America deserved a public funeral, it was the late rector of St. Paul's School. And yet I cannot but feel that there was something singularly appropriate in the privacy and loneliness with which, from sheer stress of weather, so far as friends from a distance were concerned, his remains were laid to rest. . . . As my mind goes back to the old days when I was a schoolboy there, it seems, I say, quite in keeping with the character of our dear dead master, that his burial should be thus apart and lonely, hidden by the snow. For was there ever a great man who more instinctively shrank from publicity than Dr. Coit? Never, from start to finish, was it he that put himself forward; it was his work that thrust him into prominence. Never once, in any way, did he advertise the school or himself. Nay, he recoiled from everything that savored of notoriety with the simple delicacy of a girl. He hated to show himself in strange places, to speak or write in them. The only place where he was thoroughly himself was at his own school, among his own boys; there he was at home. It was his boys and undermasters, as far and wide they scattered to their homes, that advertised him; as St. Paul said of his disciples, 'Ye are my epistle.' "
With a burning zeal for the church all over the land, and especially in New Hampshire, though always a delegate to the general convention, and chairman of the committee on church education, and the leading presbyter of his diocese, he rarely spoke or wrote before the public, and then but shortly. At the general convention, while the report of his committee was being discussed, he sat a listener; when asked why he did not speak he said:
"Oh, anybody can talk about education." However, he was once fairly forced into the position of a speaker. When the general convention met at Chicago, a large delegation made a visit to Racine College. His fellow clergy persuaded him that it was his duty to respond on their behalf to the welcome of the Warden, the Rev. Dr. Gray. This speech, made after dinner, was a model of graceful thanks for, and appreciation of their welcome at the college. He added a few general remarks, among which were noted the following in a report taken at the time: "And I might be permitted, as one very deeply interested in this particular work, to say that my own experience is, that if we go along humbly and faithfully, simply depending upon those agencies which we have in hand, and doing our duty, the value of this great work will assert itself, because it is the very best work, and the only true way in which education can really be conveyed to man, I don't mean to their hearts and characters only, but even to their intellects. I think no greater mistake can be made than the effort to divorce the education of the mind from the education of the heart and character [applause]. I believe with all my heart that we should be brought back more and more in this country to the spirit expressed in the motto of the great University of Oxford, 'Dominus mea Illuminatio,' not only for the sake of character which stands first, but also for the intellect, so that when men attack us--we shall be attacked no doubt before our work is over--and say that we are in danger of substituting religion for brains, it will be found by and by that both brains and heart have had a fair share of education end instruction; and I am absolutely certain that when religion and brains are divorced, the brains will suffer, and the intellectual education itself will go for very little indeed." Not only the school and its alumni missed his great personality, but the diocese of New Hampshire at once felt the loss of his unfailing interest and material help. The school funds were absolutely at his disposal, and while he made it evident by his liberality in the name of the school to all Christian work that we stood as members of the great family of God, his benefactions to the diocese were marked with a sense of our duty to the church and to the bishop. It was at his instigation and through his untiring faith that the bishop was enabled to establish Holderness School for boys, and St. Mary's for girls. He never rested till he saw far on its way the raising of a fund for the permanent support of the Episcopate in the diocese of New Hampshire. And I well remember how he stood up in convention, and in a few words threw a cold blanket upon a very flowery report of the treasurer of this fund; he sounded a warning note as to the unwisdom of investments far from home and drawing high rates. His warning was not heeded or came too late; but undaunted he rose above the apparent loss of a great part of this fund with plans for its renewal.
The Rev. Dr. Roberts of Concord well sums up his position in the diocese with these words: "As president of the standing committee of the diocese, the constitutional counselor of the bishop, his wisdom, the firmness of his convictions and the breadth of his thought, made him a tower of strength." As to his position in theology let me quote his words said in conversation with two of the clergy. He was speaking of his great love and admiration for St. Augustine, "but," he added, "write me down with Andrews and Hooker."
In my school days there was a tradition among us that the Doctor had failed of an election to the Bishopric of New Hampshire by one vote. Be that as it may, I have his word for it that he himself presented the name of his friend, Professor Niles of Trinity College. The friendship of these two men was an earnest of the success of the school and of the church in New Hampshire. The bishop has always been the chairman of the board of trustees of St. Paul's, through whose wise administration so much has been accomplished. Bishop Niles never failed to be in his place, unless prevented by illness, and he stood ready at all times to back up Dr. Coit; and, on his side, the Doctor was unfailing in his support of the bishop in the diocese. I once heard the bishop quote the Doctor as saying: "I cannot always give money, but I can always 'stand by.'" We boys were made to feel the dignity of the office; we were instructed to remain standing in the chapel always, till the bishop had taken his seat, or while he was proceeding to the pulpit. I remember the Doctor once saying to a boy, as if bestowing upon him a great honor, "My dear, will you go over to the rectory, and escort the Lord Bishop of Nova Scotia to the chapel?"
But it was not only deference to the office, for even we boys noticed the unfailing attention of the Doctor toward Bishop Niles as his friend. Few men indeed received the friendship of Dr. Coit; he was too sensitive for that kind of converse with the many; he would either assume the whole burden of the conversation or else be painfully silent. And I believe that even his few trusted friends never felt intimate with him. Dr. Shattuck came nearer than any one to an intimate give and take relation as between man and man. They seemed to bask and expand in each other's company like two happy lovers. Indeed, each, I believe, found in the other the nearest approach to the likeness of a man after his own heart. With these two as a centre, others lost their reserve and talked as they would not alone with the Doctor. It certainly raised one's whole look at life to sit by while such men as Dr. Shattuck, Dr. Samuel Eliot, and Dr. Hudson, sharpened their wits together: it was a meeting of the great ones; while Mr. Edward Perkins kept up his running accompaniment of dry humor.
But perhaps the visits of few men to the rectory gave more pleasure to the Doctor than those of Dr. Putnam. I believe that this dear old gentleman, whom we all loved to hear preach in spite of his singularly slow and sometimes halting speech, "fairly worshiped" the ground on which the Doctor walked. He would rather be rebuked by him than praised by any other man. On one of the prize nights Dr. Putnam had been amusing us by his deliberate and appreciative criticism of the essay: he finally came to the announcement of the nom de plume of the writer who had received the prize, "the boy who signs himself 'Alter petens.' "No one moved; in expectant silence we waited, while the old gentleman stood, prize in hand, with benign uncertainty of what to do next. Presently the Doctor rose and said, with marked clearness of accent, "Will' Alta petens please come forward."
Another one of the Doctor's worshipers was an old Scotch gentleman who frequently came to the rectory in later days. One evening he noticed that the leaves of the "Encyclopaedia Britannica" had not been cut: he at once started in, but when bedtime came he was still at it. When gently ordered by the Doctor, he went to bed, but early the next morning he was at it again. He was not ashamed of his devotion, and he allowed the Doctor to discover that he had risen at three A. M.
Blessed indeed is the man who carried so many hearts with him, but kept his best for the very few.
Though the Doctor rarely exhibited the manner of the "bon homme," he was himself peculiarly dependent on the love and sympathy which he showered on those who needed him. In writing to a mutual friend he speaks thus: "Our dear friends, Dr. and Mrs. Shattuck, are indeed very feeble, and we cannot hope that they will be spared to us many years to come. And I dread to think of the breach it will make for us when they are taken from us. My own consolation is that I am getting old myself, and treading the same way, and as the good Frenchman said, 'Repos ailleurs.' It is well to look onward and forward."
These memories would be unduly extended if I gave place to that long line of men, living and dead, whose faces I see ready to light up at grasp of his hand, some of whom were wont to come back to cheer him in his work, as well as to drink again of his love. So many "old boys" came to him in their troubles! And not only old boys, but people of all descriptions, from men doubtful in faith to those overwrought with cares or work; a few days at the rectory have set many a man once more on his feet, to say, as he went off, what old Dr. Hudson used often to say: "It is good for me to be here."
Among the Doctor's old and well-tried friends, Dr. John C. Eccleston of Staten Island held an honored place. Closely associated in their early days at Lancaster, their friendship was kept warm by the regular visits of Dr. Eccleston to the school to deliver his illustrated lectures on history.
In later life, the Doctor turned with all his heart to the friendship of such men as Father Benson and others of those whom we called the Cowley Fathers. In the absence of our own bishop in Europe, Bishop Hall read the funeral service of Dr. Coit, and Father Benson was chosen to hold a memorial celebration on the first anniversary of his death.
In the midst of all his work for school and church, he never forgot those whose homes were in the country round, "the neighbors," as he always called them. Here, again, it was not the community but the soul of the individual that he sought to win, and there are today none truer than some of those friends in the country who grew up under his pastoral care. He was untiring in his attention, especially to the sick and afflicted; he was the means of bringing God's love into many a barren heart. The Puritan of the third and fourth generation that wins his bread from this rocky soil is not as pliant as a sapling; yet the Doctor never gave up. One afternoon he was starting off behind "old Joseph," and, on turning to go, excused his haste by saying, "A man dying, out near the Mineral Springs--they always want me then; I am going to-day to baptize him." He was always as carefully dressed at such times as if calling in town,--" they like it," was his comment. It has been the privilege of some of his old boys to cover the same ground since his death; indeed, during the latter part of his life he often asked one to go here and there with messages, or with delicacies, or sometimes with money to be quietly slipped into the hand of a poor widow--once with the words, "You know, I want some one to pull these strings together when I am gone." Do you wonder that we joyfully keep his memory green in this valley and about these hills? The old "neighbors" do not forget as others whose lives are perhaps more full; but their vision, I do believe, is all the clearer. Now and again I meet a man or a woman who was educated at the Orphans' Home: Dr. Coit is father and mother and patron saint.
Does any one suppose that even in the midst of these people that loved him, and surrounded by all the outward evidences of success in the school, and in daily receipt of letters of love and confidence, he ever allowed feelings of self-congratulation? Far from it, as the following incident will testify. The Home was started in the very earliest days of the school, in the house on the corner of the Long Pond Road; but soon a parcel of ground with a house was bought on the hill to the southwest overlooking the school. In speaking of this one day, the Doctor said with a look of sorrow and failure: "Mrs. Coit and I stood on this hill, and in our youth and enthusiasm looked down upon the school valley and prayed together that some day we should see it 'the valley of the cross,' a very garden of the Lord." In all one's memory not a note sounds of anything like self-congratulation.
But here must come the end of my chapter, in spite of the rush of memories that crowd in as these years are recalled. I delight to quote the words of Bishop Doane as a fit summary of our great master's work:--
"There is no nobler record in the world, and no more fragrant and lasting recollection, than that of the great schoolmasters of the world. From Wykeham down, the names of men who have built up or carried on great institutions of Christian learning have been, and are to be, immortal. Holding high place upon this roll of honor stands to-day, and will stand through all time, the name of the great rector of St. Paul's School, Concord. He was the last to recognize it, because in his extreme humility he could not realize the greatness of his personality in the place, nor the greatness of the place which his personality enriched and enlarged. My father's name and Dr. Muhlenberg's stand earlier in the record of the founders of church schools in America, but it was given to Dr. Coit, partly by the benediction of Dr. Shattuck's friendship and devotion, partly by the happy opportunity of the time, partly by his rare combination of sweetness and strength, to lay the deepest foundations and lay the best superstructures that have been laid or built for the Christian training of boys."
In a letter of the Rev. Dr. Ferguson, an alumnus and trustee, printed in the "Churchman," occur these paragraphs: "We learned deep reverence for all holy things and acts, and were taught how amiable were the tabernacles of the Lord of Hosts, but deeper than any religious service or observance was the zeal for righteousness which filled even the most thoughtless of us with reverent awe.
"It was this reverent affection that induced so large a number of his 'old boys' to face the cold and storm for the sad pleasure of standing by the open grave of 'the Rector,' who had been for so many years a part of their very lives."
Indeed it was a dreadful day on which we laid him to his rest. Many were storm-bound in their efforts to get to the school, while many kept arriving later in the day. Yet the chapel was filled, and as his body was borne down the aisle by faithful men who loved him much, our hearts seemed to stop for a space. Tears, however, would come as, during the pause at the door, the organ seemed to drift to the strain of the last night's hymn, "Saviour, source of every blessing."
As we stood about the open grave and the bishop of Vermont committed his body to the ground, nature let loose all her fury and drove the snow in winding sheets about us all. The strong voice of the bishop seemed in tune to the elements as he said above the uproar, "I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, write, From henceforth blessed are the dead who die in the Lord; even so saith the spirit; for they rest from their labours."
As the memory born of a summer night nearly thirty years before had gone out in this winter's blast, so the first impression of a soft and gentle man had gone out in the birth of a sterner memory, the memory of a gentleman indeed, but one ever hard to himself, uncompromising in every principle of truth and justice, and ever ready to face with courage and faith the very worst that the world could do.
With heavy hearts we stood about while men who loved him piled the earth upon his body; with heavy hearts and desolate we left him, while the driving snow soon made clean and white every mark of man.
In the early spring, while all nature was throbbing with her renewal of life, the loving care of his brother, who succeeded him, had placed over his grave a beautiful cross, inscribed on one side with the words,--
"The Lord grant thee thy heart's desire:
And fulfill all thy mind."
And on the other,--
"With long life will I satisfy him:
And show him my salvation."
The following hymns were written by Dr. Coit for use among the private prayers of the boys:--
Lord, our hearts to Thee would rise,
As the sun ascends the skies,
And our daily work begin
Freed by Thee from taint of sin.
Thou who art our Light and Life,
Fill each heart with love to-day,
Banish jealousy and strife,
Drive unholy thoughts away.
As each hour fleets swiftly by,
May it find us busied still,
Storing knowledge steadily,
Knowledge of Thy ways and will.
Help us all to patient be,
Speaking truth in look and word,
Fearing most of all, lest we
In Thy sight seem useless, Lord.
So the day which has begun
Peacefully, will peaceful close,
And when westward sinks the sun,
Thou wilt give us sweet repose.
Holy Father, Holy Son,
Holy Spirit, Three in One, Glory, as of old, to Thee,
Now and evermore shall be.
H. A. C.
When the sun draws near his setting
In the cradle of the West,
We, our daily toil forgetting,
Think of home, and peace, and rest.
And our hearts, to Heaven ascending,
Where no night obscures the sky,
Pardon ask for each offending,
In His name who deigned to die.
Evil words now past recalling,
Precious hours this day misspent,
Looks unkind on others falling,
Help us, Saviour, to repent.
For the days of life are flying,
And the last night comes apace,
In that fearful hour of dying
Hide not, Lord, from us Thy face.