And it came to pass . . . ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep, that the Lord called Samuel, and he answered, Here am I. I Samuel iii, 2, 3, 4.
"The temple of the Lord" here spoken of was not so much a temple as a tabernacle. But though only a tent in Shiloh, it was the sanctuary of Israel, and the seat of its ruler or Judge. From hence, under the guidance of Eli, had gone forth the voice of worship and the tones of law. It was the centre of the rule of the Judges; and Hebrew history, lost to view after the death of Samson, reappears with Eli, who "sat within the tabernacle gate and judged Israel" for wellnigh forty years.
But the days of his rule were about to end. A turning-point in the nation's life had come at length, and that inevitable law by which
"The old order changeth ever,
Giving place to new,"
was to find in the history of the chosen people a sudden and tragic fulfilment. The hand of Eli had grown weak. His grasp of the sceptre was at once feeble and ineffectual, and even within the sacred precincts of the sanctuary, and in the [3/4] persons of his own sons, crime and lawlessness ran riot unrebuked. "Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli, are, for students of ecclesiastical history, characters," which have been fitly described as " 'of great and instructive wickedness.' They are the true exemplars of the grasping and worldly clergy of all ages. It was the sacrificial feasts that gave occasion for their rapacity. It was the dances and assemblies of women in the vineyards and before the sacred tent that gave occasion for their debaucheriesBut the coarseness of their vices does not make the moral less pointed for all times. The three-pronged [instead of the single-pronged] fork which fishes up the seething flesh, is the earliest type of grasping at pluralities and church-preferments by base means; the profligacy at the open door of the temple is the type of many a scandal brought on the Christian Church by the selfishness or sensuality of its ministers." [*History of the Jewish Church ; Stanley, part 1 p. 418.] No wonder that the wrath of God could not long endure them, and that Providential judgments, swift and sharp, brought an administration at once so weak and so corrupt to an end.
But from our modern stand-point, it is scarcely less a wonder that it was not superseded by a rule at once of alien origin and of hostile spirit. When the student of history reads of ecclesiastical corruption or of power, whether secular or spiritual, as abused in ecclesiastical hands, it is the fashion to find in the incident an argument for disowning all ecclesiastical authority, and for distrusting all ecclesiastical power. The government of Eli, and of Eli's time, men say, so far as it was a government, was a "government of the Church; and Eli, so far as he was the product of any institution, was the product of the [4/5] Church. Well, if you Churchmen want him as an illustration of the fruits of your system, you are welcome to him! He was not perhaps a wicked old man, but he was a very weak one, and he is a fair type of that system which trains a man in rites and ceremonies, in creeds and formularies, but leaves him with a blunted moral sense, a contracted intellect, and a selfish heart. Plainly enough, whatever else his history teaches us, it teaches us that whenever a nation wishes to rear men and not tools, leaders and not formalists, it must rear them elsewhere than within the precincts of the Church. Plainly enough, wherever else we are to look for prophets and reformers in a corrupt and lawless age, we are not to look for them in the chambers of the sanctuary."
And yet God does not seem to have thought so. In that crisis of Israel's history, when the power of the Judge broke down and self-will ran riot in the land, when corruption nestled at the altar and stalked abroad in priestly office and apparel, a child's voice is heard out of the darkness, out of the despair, out of the shame, saying, "Lord, here am I." We turn to look for its source, and not out of the wilderness, the hermit's cave, or the far-country, but right there in the temple it is heard; and the child Samuel, dedicated in the temple, reared in the temple, dwelling in the temple, is the speaker. Nay, the child Samuel it is, the youth Samuel, the man Samuel, who, reared and nurtured thus, comes forth from out his chamber in the sanctuary, where the voice of God has found and spoken to him, and lifts the Israel of his time out of its sin and shame into the peace and order of a reverent, loyal, law-abiding people. If ever there was a reformer, Samuel was a reformer. If ever there was a fearless ruler, a righteous lawgiver, [5/6] a stainless man, Samuel was that man. In all Hebrew literature, aye, or in any other literature, find if you can anything finer in its way than that calm challenge with which, at the last, he lays down the sceptre of his authority. "Behold, here I am, old and gray-headed; and I have walked before you from my childhood unto this day. Witness against me before the Lord, and before His anointed: Whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?" [*I Samuel xii, 2, 3.] And such a ruler, such a judge, such a prophet, was the product only, solely, absolutely, of the temple. In the temple he had learned to hearken and to wait. In the temple he had been taught to trust and to obey. And when at length in the temple the voice of God finds him and speaks to him, it is a priest of the temple who recognizes its august tones, and interprets them to his childish soul.
The lesson, men and brethren, is, I venture to think, not inappropriate to this place and this occasion. Both the place and the occasion are unique. It is the occasion of a dedication or consecration, and the consecration of the chapel of an institution of learning. Now, in neither of these two things, taken by themselves, is there anything at all remarkable. There are schools and colleges all over the land, and there are, I presume, chapels connected with most of them. But in the case of no one of them all, I venture to affirm, is there an instance in which the chapel is so plainly and obviously the one conspicuous figure, the costliest fabric, the dominant centre of the whole. There are, I rejoice to know, not a few centres of Christian nurture where Christian teaching is the rule, and [6/7] where Christian worship is not unfitly housed; but it has been reserved for this School, and for the grateful generosity of those who were once its pupils, to rear a sanctuary here, which, among buildings of its kind, is, at any rate, in our own land, foremost, if not preeminent.
It is this fact, I say, which makes this occasion unique. The munificence of individual or associated generosity to our American institutions of learning is in no wise unusual, nor is its expression very diverse. We have wealth rearing very splendid dormitories, and very stately dining-halls, and very complete and amply equipped laboratories. Just now, I believe that wealth is chiefly devoting itself, in most of our schools and colleges, in fit submission to the ruling voice of the hour, to the erection of gymnasia and swimming-baths; and I am told that the provisions in this latter regard of some of our great universities are likely, before long, to rival those of Roman magnificence in days when Diocletian reared those splendid structures whose ruins still survive. In this view, it must be owned, I think, that the visible structures which distinguish our institutions of learning have a profound significance. They reveal the nature of that faith which has reared them. If a man believes that character is to be formed by merely physical and intellectual culture; that the training of the hand, or the eye, or the brain is to make an honest man, a loyal citizen, a lover of humanity,--he will be apt to provide buildings meet for such training, and no more. If he does not believe that in the nurture of youth the most august fact is GOD, and that the most solemn word is DUTY, he will not greatly care whether a boy is taught to recognize the one or to own the other. And this is, in truth, what we largely see. There could be no more [7/8] impressive contrast between the earlier days of our republic in this regard than the present. No American can find himself within the boundaries of this commonwealth, I fancy, without recalling the figure of that greatest of orators, if not of statesmen, whose nativity within its borders lends to New Hampshire a chief distinction. Daniel Webster had, doubtless, not only great gifts, but great faults. And yet no one can read the story of his life without seeing how profoundly it is stamped, from its beginning to its end, with the impress of a strong, definite, and devout Christian nurture. Said Mr. Bell, of his native state, to Webster on the morning when the latter made his great reply to Hayne,--"It is a critical moment; and it is high time that the people of this country should know what the American Constitution is." Said Webster in reply,--"Then, by the blessing of heaven, they shall learn, this day, before the sun goes down, what I understand it to be." [* Lodge's Daniel Webster, pp. 178, 179.] "By the blessing of heaven." The words were not lightly spoken. They were the language of a man whose childhood had taught him his dependence on God, and whose manhood never forgot it. Do not mistake my meaning. I am no stickler for cant phrases or for empty formalisms. But I think you will agree with me that in our modern statesmanship there is a barrenness of reverence for the Unseen, a visible impatience often of all recognition of those mightiest forces that govern the universe, that bodes no good for our future. Is it hard to discern its source? I make every allowance for the growth of a triumphant materialism, for the incursion of alien faiths and manners, for the debilitating effect of wealth and luxury. But behind these there is another cause, more potent, [8/9] as I am persuaded, than all the rest. It is a nurture which, in the school-room and in the college, largely leaves GOD out of the account, which trains body and brain alone, and which, as it has come to be doubtful whether there is anything more or higher to be trained, has no warning for the conscience, no discipline for the affections, and, above all, no word of inspiration for the soul!
And so, my friends, I think we may well bless God for this day, for this School, and most of all for this Chapel. In his admirable volume on the "Rise and Constitution of Universities," a work which I would commend to the thoughtful attention of every scholar, Professor Laurie, of Edinburgh, discusses the influence of Christianity on education, and the rise of Christian schools. Contrasting them with those which had preceded them, he observes,--"Had Christianity assumed a purely negative attitude to the Romano-Hellenic life and culture, and done no more, it would have to be classed among the destructive powers of barbarism. But it had its positive side: it had in it a power to build up as well as to throw down. It introduced more than one new idea into the life of our race. It broadened and deepened the sentiment of the common brotherhood of man, by giving to human sympathy and love a divine sanction. But, most important of all, it fortified the sense of personality. The individual was now not only a free, thinking spirit, which had its personal life and personal rights;--this spirit, the true person of each individual, was now seen to be rooted in God--to be of infinite importance even in His eyes. Thus, by one stroke as it were, the personality of each man was deepened, nay, consecrated, while at the same time his bond of sympathy with all other human beings was strengthened. Two opposite results [9/10] were thus attained, and these two were conciliated. For the deepening of man's spiritual, personal life meant the life with God, and it was in and through this life that his personality became a matter of infinite worth. But this rooting of the finite subject in the eternal and universal Reason, while giving infinite worth to the soul of each man, at the same time made impossible that insolence of individualism and self-assertion which had characterized the subjective movement among the Greeks. Man became, as a personality, much greater than the most exalted Stoic could have conceived; but by the very same act he was taught humility, dependence, humanity, love." [*Rise and Constitution of Universities. Laurie. Pp. 22-23.]
"Humility, dependence, humanity, love." My brethren, these are the things that have been preeminently taught here. The record of this School is not devoid of honours won by its sons on many fields of endeavour and in many halls of learning. The standard of its scholarship, as illustrated in the standing of its pupils, is such as any mother might point to with just pride. But its preeminent distinction has been that it has taught its children faith, and reverence, and the eternal sanctity of duty. And these things it has taught, not alone in the class-room, by text-book, through the impressive lessons of history, but most of all in St. Paul's Chapel. The daily prayers, the weekly sacraments, the well remembered sermons, the Sunday afternoon Bible Lessons, these have been powers that have taught Christ's presence in His Church and Christ's message to His children in a language never to be forgotten. Once and again and again--I know it from testimonies which might well be brought here to help to hallow by their inspiring memories this holy and beautiful house--has some young life, struggling in the [10/11] meshes of strong temptation, torn by doubt, or smitten by a sense of its sin, heard from yonder altar or yonder pulpit words of hope and pardon, a message of life-giving love and courage. Once, and again and again, have young feet, turning thither tardily and reluctantly, found themselves, like Jacob at Peniel, halted on their earthly way, and called to climb the gleaming ladder ascending to the skies. Ah! my young brothers, Alumni of this School, am I not telling the story of some of you as I speak these words? As you come back here to-day, to join with us in giving this sanctuary--your gift--to God, do not your hearts turn to the dear old Chapel,--the hallowed place which those who have come after you have found "too strait,"--with tender and inextinguishable devotion? The convictions that are deepest in your lives to-day, the faith that, when the world scoffs, yet lives and glows within you, the reverence for goodness, the love of nobleness,--tell me, are not these things linked in your memories with lessons that you learned here, lessons which you will never forget?
Believe me, I am not unmindful, in saying this, that the personal element in all the religious life of this School has been a preeminent element, and that to that, under God, the influence of its Chapel and its Chapel services, its whole system of churchly teaching, have been largely due. John Henry Newman, in his essay on "Private Judgment," calls attention, with characteristic acuteness, to the limitations of such a judgment "It is much easier," he says, "to form a correct and rapid judgment of persons, than of books or of doctrines. Every one, even a child, has an impression about new faces: few persons have any real view about new propositions. There is something in the sight of persons . . . which speaks to us for [11/12] approval or disapprobation with a distinctness to which pen and ink are unequal. . . . Reason is slow and abstract, cold and speculative;--but man is a being of feeling and action; he is not resolvable into a dictum de omni et nullo, or a series of hypotheticals, or a critical diatribe, or an algebraical equation. And this obvious fact does, as far as it goes, make it probable that if we are providentially obliged to exercise our private judgment, the point towards which we have to direct it is the teacher rather than the doctrine." [*Essays Critical and Historical, Vol. II, p. 353. London, 1871.]
In the case of a boy, Newman might safely have written for "probable" the word "inevitable." It is the teacher, rather than the thing taught, which is the foremost potentiality in influencing any boy; and I may not be denied even by the restraints of this place the expression of our feeling of grateful homage and affection for the character and services of one to whom, under God, the work and influence of this School are preeminently due. His honoured associates in this work, his boys, now men by hundreds, bearing, many of them, the burden and heat of the day in many a place of honour and usefulness in church and state, will never be able to separate, in their thought and memory, St. Paul's School and St. Paul's Chapel, from the rare and commanding personality of him who is so absolutely identified with both of them.
But yet the fact remains--is it not the very office of this service and of this building to remind us of it?--that, in the realm of the highest things, the personality that moves and influences others is the personality that itself has been wrought upon by a Force from without and above. Mr.
Matthew Arnold was right, only in a sense infinitely higher, I fear, than he himself [12/13] recognized, when he said, the other day, that what our American society waits for is to be born from above. It is the teacher and the teaching that know the spell of that quickening that shall move society and the world!
But where, save here, my brothers, can they learn it? The problems of the teacher in our generation are certainly not easier than the old. On the contrary, I think it must be owned that there is much in the intellectual atmosphere of our time to make them harder. Never was there an age more impatient of what it calls the lumber of useless learning. Says the hard, dry, material spirit of the hour,--"I want my boy taught how to use his hands and brain in such tasks as will win the most prizes and earn the most money. Is this education of yours a convertible article, which may be turned readily into dollars and cents? For if not, I want none of it! Greek, Latin, Scripture studies, the history of the past--what have these to do with the ores of Mexico and the exports of Singapore?" And this spirit, which makes itself felt in many ways, cares little for conduct and less for character. It offers a direct premium to any teacher who will content himself with veneering his pupil with a thin coating of accomplishments, or drilling his brain in the use of mechanical formulae. Surely, I do not need to tell those who hear me this morning that this is not the way in which men are made,--men who are to rule themselves, their own passions, their own powers, and so to rule the world. To influence a man, to influence a boy, you must not merely know him or deal with him from without, but from within. "A grand cathedral," says Edward Thring, [* The Theory and Practice of Teaching. Pp. 37-40.] "is a glorious specimen of thought in stone; but to many it is but stone, with [13/14] no message of the higher life, of which, nevertheless, it is a most true and living expressionWhen a traveller in the distance coming to see it, crosses the last hill, ten miles off, the massive walls and towersmark it as a building intended for worship. Many are satisfied at this pointSome go nearerbut the landscape, not the cathedral, is still the main considerationIn the precincts all the outside can be seenBut the great purpose does not reveal itself till the reader of mind addresses himself to the inner truth, and lovinglysearches out the history, learns the plan, strives to enter into the secret shrine of the feelings which wrought out thesanctuary, and to translate out of the stone the speech which in very truth is in it. [But] then as he gazes, spirit answers spiritThe dumb walls speak, the beam unlocks its secretto a spirit that can watch and wait and learn"
"Such is the power," he adds, "of getting near, the power of the right point of view, when distance is got rid of and mind touches mind[And] whenever life is in question, and the higher manifestations of life, this power of getting closer and closer, of being admitted inside, as it were, and penetrating to the innermost sanctuary and most secret work of the organism, whatever it may be, building, painting, music, book, man,is the only means by which mind can be reached and true success attained. This is simply the teacher's starting-point."
Yes, but again I ask, Where but here can such a power be attained? Spiritual touch, spiritual insight--men and brethren, these are none other than the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and these are the gifts with which Augustine, and Arnold, and [14/15] Muhlenburgh, nay, with which He who is the Master of every true teacher, living or dead, and Who "knew what was in man," wrought within that divinest sanctuary, which was made to be the Temple of the Holy Ghost, and which is the human heart! And so to-day we come here to dedicate this holy house as the CENTRE and SOURCE of all those gracious and regenerating influences which have made this School a power in the land, and which have made its administration most of all memorable, as illustrating a Christian nurture, itself in touch with Christ, and rich in the fruits of the Spirit! The boys, the men, of the future, believe me, fathers and brethren--our hope for them, nay, our hope for the Church, our hope for our land, must find its reason here! Other Samuels, yet to rule in Israel, must come within these walls, and hear God call, and answer, "Here am I!" Or else, whatever triumphs may be won, the end will be but failure, and all gain but loss.
And so I congratulate you, my right reverend father, and you gentlemen of the trustees of this School, and you my reverend brother who have been from its foundation its rector, upon the hopes long cherished which find fulfilment here to-day. This is the fitting crown upon a life-work memorable for results which glowing and grateful hearts all over this land will never cease to cherish. I may not speak of them as I would, for I know well the pain that even this brief allusion may cause to one to whom all personal praise is at once pain and punishment, but I shall not be denied the privilege of mingling my joy with yours who have come up here to-day, upon this fair and finished work. The venerable donor of the material foundation of this School comes back here to-day, "his eye not dim nor his natural force [15/16] abated," to own that when he made the first gift--wise, large-hearted, and far-seeing--from which this School has grown, "he builded better than he knew," and loving hearts in both hemispheres, St. Paul's boys, who under many skies, in ranch and pulpit, at desk or on quarter-deck, are bearing the honour of Alma Mater as a white guerdon on their hearts, are lifting their prayers with ours as they pray, "For my brethren and companions' sake I will wish thee prosperity: peace be within thy walls and plenteousness within thy palaces!" May God be pleased to hear that prayer, and grant to it abundant answer. And when our work is done, and tired hands and feet are crossed in rest, may children and children's children still come here to learn to serve God in His Holy Church, and to give thanks for all the love that here has led and fed and taught them!