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Right Rev. Henry Champlin Lay, D.D., LL,D.,




NOVEMBER 18TH, 1885.




Assistant Bishop of New York.



Published at the request of the Convention of the Diocese of Easton.








He fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands.--PSALM lxxviii., 72 (King James Version).

So he fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power.--PSALM lxxviii., 73 (Prayer Book Version).

THE difference in these two translations is not material, and yet each has a shade of meaning which is its own, and each of them helps to bring more vividly before our minds the image of him of whom I am to speak to-day.

Believe me, dear brethren, I do not attempt the task to which you have called me without diffidence, nor without the sincerest self-distrust. One whose lot is cast amid fevered and restless surroundings, and whose life is spent in endeavors to overtake tasks too large and weighty for any single hand, may well hear with something of dismay the call which bids him sketch the character of a prelate whose life was so calm, so wisely poised, and so elevated in all its attributes as his of whom I am to say these words commemorative this morning. I [3/4] never met the Bishop of Easton without a sense almost of rebuke as I recognized that rare balance of powers, that gentle dignity of presence, that matured wisdom of speech which told how habitually he "trode the upper airs" of communion with his Master, and how absolutely unmoved he was by the distractions and commotions of the age in which he lived; and I never parted from him without feeling how complete was his identity with his office, and how ennobled and transformed were all his powers, by the indwelling life of the Holy Ghost. In the presence of such a man one owned how small are the interests which to many of us seem so large; and how real is that greatness in which the intellect and the will, the affections and the conscience are all made subordinate to a consecrated purpose and a saintly life.

And yet the humblest of us may venture to bring our tribute to his grave, and standing there, as I come to stand to-day, may well give thanks to the Master who chose and led him, for all that he was to the people who were his flock, and to the Church which was his mother--that Church which throughout all her borders mourns with you his departure, and thanks God for the good example of this her sainted son.

The words which I am bidden to speak to you [4/5] this morning are not so much historical as commemorative, and it is well that it should be so. Already have one and another of his own sons reviewed the story of their Bishop's ministerial life, and rehearsed the incidents of his career. Press and pulpit have recorded, though all too briefly, where he labored and what he did. And while we may well hope that these obituary biographies are but the prelude to memoirs at once more detailed and more complete, it will better comport with the requirements of this occasion if I deal, as I shall attempt to do, with those larger suggestions of his life and ministry as a whole, which revealed themselves in his work as a priest and a Bishop, and in his character and attributes as a man.

And in doing so, I think you will agree with me, that no more fitting words could give form and direction to our thoughts than those which I have read to you as the text. "So he fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power." In that magnificent Psalm of which this is the closing versicle, there is, you well remember, the story, brief, but vivid and instructive, of Israel's Emancipation. For its triumphal accomplishment and for that noblest development of the kingdom of Israel which was the latest, God chooses one who had been first a shepherd, and who out of the shepherd's [5/6] tasks had learned to feed and guide. Feeding and guiding--are not these the two pre-eminent tasks to which his hand is set whom God has called, whether to be pastor or chief pastor in His Church, and are not these the characteristics, no less preeminent in the constancy and wisdom with which they were illustrated, of him whose dear and cherished memory we honor to-day? Let me speak of them briefly in their order, and then of that rare and winning personality which stood behind them.

I. It was the fortune--as the world speaks, and in the same vein we may confidently affirm that it was the good fortune--of Bishop Lay to have been born in Virginia. There is a single touch, brief, but like everything that he wrote, pregnant and meaningful, in that "Story of a Quarter of a Century" which your Bishop read as his address on the 23d of October, more than a year ago, which opens out into wide and fruitful suggestions. He is recalling the men with whom he had sat in the House of Bishops, and who, when he spoke, had preceded him to their rest; and of one of them he uses these words: "Surely there were giants in those days. . . Meade, reformer of the morals of his age." It was William Meade who was Bishop of Virginia when Henry Lay became a candidate for Holy Orders. It was William Meade by whom the young candidate [6/7] was ordained to the Diaconate; and it was impossible that a fresh and earnest mind could have come under the influence of so strong and marked a personality without bearing the imprint of it to the end. And in fact he did. Bishop Meade and the young deacon soon parted company in more ways than one. The minister of Lynn Haven in Virginia was called, after a brief service there, to Huntsville, Alabama, where he came under the influence of that rare man whom he describes, in the address from which I have just quoted, as "Cobbs, unique in the combination of a common sense almost unerring with a living sympathy, a very perennial spring, for every human being," by whom, a little later, he was ordained to the Priesthood. It is probable that, even if young Lay had never come to know Bishop Cobbs, he would ere long have found himself out of sympathy in some respects with Meade, his earlier Bishop and preceptor; for he had both the historic and poetic instinct, and it is no disrespect to the great Bishop of Virginia whom I have named to say that he was not distinguished for either. But in Bishop Cobbs, undoubtedly, Mr. Lay found a prelate with profound convictions as to scriptural authority and apostolic warrant, both for his own ministry and the order and polity of the Church as a whole; and it is plain enough, from what the young rector [7/8] at Huntsville wrote and taught while in Alabama, that he had reached a standpoint of clear convictions as to the Church's catholic teaching and primitive government.

Yet the stamp of Meade remained upon him to the end. I do not speak of that Doric simplicity of manners in which he often reminded me of the rugged simplicity of Meade as I remember him in my own childhood--a rugged simplicity softened in the case of Lay by the charm 'of his own more distinctive and more gracious characteristics, and which somehow recalled the resolute outline of some bold and rocky headland as one sees it chastened by the charm of the moonlight--but I have in mind that austere integrity of purpose, that simple and manly directness of address, that clear and Saxon English, and that homely, but never vulgar, presentation of the truth, which made it at once lucid and luminous to all who heard. Nobody was ever in doubt as to what Bishop Meade meant. Nobody was ever in doubt about what Bishop Lay meant. He had something to say, and he always said it to edification. And in affirming this I do not refer to the rare charm of his voice and his style--the one as it seemed to me so fitly married to the other--but rather to a fact of infinitely larger consequence and influence. Bishop Lay was a born teacher. His [8/9] "Letters to a Man Bewildered among Many Counsellors," his "Tracts for Missionary Use" (who of us can not remember the thankfulness with which we welcomed and used them?), his "Studies in the Church," his charges and addresses as preserved in the journals of this diocese, are illustrations of that rare gift which so singularly fitted him to "feed the flock of Christ." When he began his ministry he found himself environed by an atmosphere of profound ignorance, both as to the Church itself and as to its faith and worship; and it is no disparagement to the time and place in which he worked to say that there did not exist at hand the instruments precisely adapted to dispel that ignorance. What then did he do? He might easily have wrapped himself--alas! how many young clergymen have done it when finding themselves in the midst of uncongenial and irresponsive surroundings--in the lofty sense of his own superiority, and have gone through the perfunctory routine of his official duties with a dull and hopeless sense of the uselessness of his work and the poverty of its promise. But, instead, with that fine genius of fitting means to ends in which he grew steadily more illustrious as years went on, he set himself to creating a literature which I do not hesitate to say has been as effectual in translating the truth--"as this Church hath received [9/10] the same"--and the Church herself, to the minds and hearts of "all sorts and conditions of men" as anything which our own generation has produced. There are works of laborious learning and large scholarship, in which happily our own communion in this land has not been wholly destitute, and we may well honor the men who have produced them. But I hold that it is a service no less honorable, if less conspicuous, which he performs who makes the Church's argument for her belief and practice level to the humblest mind, and who dispels ignorance and misapprehension by a wise adaptation, by a transparent logic, and by a winning and persuasive style. And this is precisely what Bishop Lay did, whether as priest or prelate. He was singularly free from that cheap parade of learning which is the veritable snobbishness of authorship, and which is more eager to exhibit its acquisitions than to persuade its readers. His work never smelt of the lamp; but it was perfumed through and through with the fruits of a sound learning and the treasures of a studious life. "Let your travel appear in your converse rather than in your apparel," Lord Bacon has said, and Bishop Lay let the past and the present, in the wide fields of literature which he had explored, shine forth in the wisdom with which what he wrote was freighted, rather than in the quotation marks [10/11] by which its pages were decorated. I have in mind in this connection, as I am sure you must have, two discourses which were not more characteristic in their wisdom than they were apt and timely in their utterance--I mean that entitled, "The Ardent Longing of the Anglican Communion for Peace and Unity," and the sermon commemorative of his gifted and eminent colleague, the late Bishop of North Carolina. In the former of these discourses, especially, he touched some of the most burning questions of his day, but he did not deal with them as a novice. I may not review his words to-day, but for the flavor of a thoughtful scholarship, not idolatrous of the past and not intoxicated by the present, his utterances on that occasion may well stand as a fit illustration of the character of his teaching from the beginning to the end. He had a strong instinct of justice, he had a rare perception of proportion, and best of all, he had an enduring abhorrence of logical or rhetorical finesse, which made his teaching like a well-built wall, plumb and true, with no untempered mortar or hastily-daubed surfaces, from base to crown. And with these weightier excellencies he had the charm of a fine and poetic fancy, not without the thread of a gentle irony, here and there, to give it zest and pungency, which uttered itself so quietly that only a close [11/12] attention sometimes could detect it. What could be more felicitous in these characteristics than that sentence in the "Ardent Longing" in which he refers to the present Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster? "If," he says, "we turn to another, once a Master in Israel among us, and on whom Rome has laden her utmost honors--how terrible seems the sacrifice when Manning accepts as inspiration the dreams of a crazy nun, and a knight once almost without a peer limps sorely off the field where an unknown champion has proven heresy against him, leaving to his armor-bearer professedly the honor, but in truth the shame!" [Sermon preached at the consecration of the Right Rev. T. B. Lyman, D.D., page 14.]

And so he fed them--the flock in Virginia, in Alabama, in Arkansas, and the vast Southwest, and latest and longest here--"with a faithful and true heart." From first to last he exalted and adorned his office as a teacher; in all things "approving himself as a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

II. But again. Bishop Lay was not more eminent as one who fed the flock of Christ than he was as a ruler and guide to that flock. In the verse which I have taken as my text, there is in the two translations which I have read to you a significant [12/13] and suggestive difference. Of the shepherd king it is said in our English Bible, "He guided them by the skilfulness of his hand"; but in the Psalter the original is rendered, "He ruled them prudently with all his power." There is no doubt (as the form of the Hebrew shows), that the former is the closer rendering. The verb employed is elsewhere almost universally rendered led or guided," and the Vulgate, after which our prayer book seems to follow closest, uses the word deduxit." But, as I began by saying, the two are substantially one, and the idea which both include is that of the leadership of one who guided according to rule or law. "Regula" is the old Latin root from which we get our word rule, that which makes and sets a straight line; and if one thing more than another distinguished the Episcopate of the Bishop of Easton, it was that he governed his diocese on right-lines and guided his flock, not according to his own caprice, but according to fixed principles and a wisely-determined rule.

The moment that any man is entrusted with large discretionary power (and notwithstanding canonical and other limitations, such as those of usage and the prescript of local customs, it must still be owned that considerable discretionary power remains to the Episcopate), there is the [13/14] danger that he may impose his ipse dixit as the mind of the Church. To decide questions hastily, arbitrarily, in the interests of a school or a party--this may easily seem to be the duty of one who forgets that he is set to be the ruler over brethren whose divergencies exist by the deliberate consent of the Church, and whose idiosyncracies he may not disallow (so long as they do not traverse the explicit law of the Church) because they do happen to traverse his own prepossessions. If ever that father of his flock whom we mourn to-day was tempted to err in this way, he wisely refrained from doing so. He ruled in the Church of God with a calm equipoise and sure discernment which were never narrow and never one-sided. He did not belittle his office, and he did not disesteem his authority. But he filled the one in a spirit of grave and gentle benignity which made men feel that he was incapable of an injustice, and he wielded the other with a prudent reserve which was all the more effectual because it never clamored for prerogative and never paraded its power.

And, best of all, he ruled by leading and guiding. I sometimes wondered at his punctiliousness about little things, but in truth, his wise discernment recognized that, in their relations to the Church's principles and practice, they were not little [14/15] things. In an age careless of discipline in the family, in the state, in the Church, he felt keenly that slackness and carelessness in minor things bred indifference and lawlessness in essentials. And for himself, therefore, he felt the obligation to draw a line--to mark out a course so clear and straight and true that no man should be in doubt where he stood or what he meant. It was, I think, the very perfection of Episcopal government. No priest, or deacon, or laymen ever found him unsympathetic, whether concerning people's errors or mistakes; but no one ever found him treating these things lightly, nor speaking nor acting as if they were of no account. He was a guide for his people to follow--he was a ruler whose voice was to be obeyed, because he lived his own life under law, and held his own office and powers to a rule of strictest accountability.

And united to this characteristic were two others which made him as a ruler and chief pastor in the Church of God no less pre-eminent in his influence. (a) He lifted all questions into the upper light of a wide and encompassing vision. "Man is a being of large discourse," says the great dramatist, "looking before and after." Such a man (alas, the race is not always like him in that!) was your Bishop. He had a profound disdain for expedients, as such, [15/16] but on the other hand he was singularly free from that habit of precipitate judgment which leads many earnest men to decide questions without looking before and after. He saw, as I have elsewhere said, the tendencies of things with a vision almost unerring; and then that fine historic instinct to which I have referred, saved him from the blunder of forgetting the lessons of the past. Who that ever talked with him can forget how his memory seemed to garner up all manner of stores of wisdom and learning, which, with a word dropped here, a question raised there, enriched his speech with a certain Socratic excellence. In that "Story of a Quarter of a Century," which a little while ago he rehearsed to you, he refers to four men who sat with him in the House of Bishops--who, when he spoke, had been called away from it by death--as "eminent for the judicial mind"; and the last named of these was Atkinson of North Carolina. I well remember how, on the first occasion when, after the death of that rare prelate, the House of Bishops was assembled, your own Bishop came to the desk where then I was at work as the secretary of that House, and spoke of the irreparable loss which he and his colleagues and the whole Church had sustained. I could not tell him then what was nevertheless in my thoughts, and what, I am persuaded, was the [16/17] growing conviction of others far better fitted. to judge than I--how upon his own already bent and slender shoulders had fallen the mantle of his revered associate and friend; but I think that if any one who knew the House of Bishops well, had been called on to name the four or five men who in that same House had taken the place of those departed prelates whom he enumerated as men of "the judicial mind," he himself would most surely have been named among them.

(b) And this because of another quality which distinguished him as a leader and guide, and in which he was no less pre-eminent. Like one of whom the words must always be true in a separate and incomparable sense and measure, "he knew what was in men." He was not often deceived by the outside of things. He pierced through the plaitings of custom and the draperies of dissimulation. No one ever encountered Bishop Lay without a conviction that he was in the company of one whose penetration was almost unerring. He had that instinct in the presence of evil and error which is only given to finer natures, and which acts almost unconsciously. Without heat, without breaking the calm and even tone with which he was wont to speak, he would utter a caution or warning, or reveal a danger or a drift where others had never [17/18] seen them. There was in him a flavor of the old prophetic power, piercing the darkness and flashing its clear rays of truth far ahead, which awed those sometimes who listened, and convinced them of the "wisdom with which he spake."

And how shot through and through, like some golden thread in a sterner-hued texture, was this grave and penetrating wisdom with an exhaustless sympathy and patience, which made it not hard for one to tell into the ever-ready ear of his Bishop the burdens and anxieties which he could not persuade himself to tell into any other. To be of use to his brethren, to help them in their difficulties, to share their sorrows and cares, this was his ideal of leadership and rulership in the Episcopate. And it is the right one. Says a divine of our Mother Church, [Davies: "The Christian Calling," page 189.] "A man is not set over his fellows that he may make them tools of his ambition, food to his vanity, ministers of his pleasure, foils of his splendor. He has his superiority as a charge, that he may serve those put under him by leading them. The real test of the genuine ruler is this: Does he separate himself from his people, or does he associate them with himself? . . . This is a central and a universal principle, the divine key to all lordship and superiority among men. Let men talk of the [18/19] divine right of kings, or of the rights of property, or of the deference due to rank and station, as they please; according to the law of the Eternal Maker, as illustrated by the history of mankind, as declared by the Son of God, and--what is more than all--as embodied in the life of the Son of Man, a man has no real divine right to his higher position save as he makes it useful to those beside him in the lower. This is true in Church and in State . . . of the mistress of a household, the master of a school, the parent of a family. . . . Wherever rule has been justified to the common conscience, so that men have rejoiced in their rulers and been grateful for them, whether the power was nominally despotic or limited by law, the secret has been that the rulers cared not for themselves but for the people." The writer here has mainly in mind, as you will perceive, those who hold power from the state, but if ever there was a ruler in the Church who had learned that secret it was Henry Champlin Lay.

III. And this brings me finally to speak of your Bishop as he revealed himself in that distinctive personality which was behind his office, whether as a teacher or a ruler. It cannot be denied that there are men, as Bacon says, "of great place," who impress us with a certain duality of character which is not pleasing or reassuring. Like some famous [19/20] preachers of whom it has been said that when one saw and heard them in the pulpit, his impression of their gifts and influence was so vivid and so favorable that he wished they might never leave it; and that when he met them out of the pulpit, the effect of what they did and said was such that one wished that they might never enter it; so in many cases there are men the power of whose influence is largely abridged by the want of harmony between their official services and their personal character.

But it was not so with Bishop Lay. The warp and woof of his public and his private life were woven of one texture and after one pattern. In that noble hymn, "Admonitio Summi Sacerdotis Christi Jesu," there is this single verse, which sums up with a marvellous condensation the traits which should adorn a minister of Christ of whatever grade and in whatever office:

"Estote benevoli, sobrii, prudentes,
Justi, casti, simplices, pii, patientes,
Hospitales, humiles, subditos docentes,
Consolantes miseros, pravos corrigentes."

Take it, my brethren, word for word, and fit it to the life and character of him whom to-day we commemorate. Benevolence, sobriety, prudence, equity, purity, simplicity, piety, patience, hospitality, humility, the teacher of the ignorant, the consoler of the sorrowful, the corrector of the erring--what [20/21] are these attributes but a portrait of our departed father? Over all that he was and did there brooded an atmosphere of sanctity which helped men to believe anew in the mission and work of the Holy Ghost, because they saw in such a life its daily fruits!

I may not rehearse here the illustrations of this rare charm of character which have come to me, and of which I cannot well speak without invading the privacy of relations too sacred for public mention; but there are those here before me who could tell a story of help extended in anxious moments, of thoughtful and delicate consideration--now in a door open for the education of a son or daughter--now in a holiday delicately planned and provided for the tired pastor--now in a book, which found its way to the meagre library of some country parsonage; and, all along, in a sweet and uncomplaining patience and cheerfulness that journeyed and wrote and prayed, and that, wherever they came, brought with them a new courage and a new hope.

Of these things, I say, I may not speak as I would, but there is one incident in the life of Bishop Lay so absolutely typical of all the rest that I cannot pass it by. It might be regarded as belonging rather to his public than his personal history, but it is because it illustrates so strongly his personal characteristics that I desire here to recall it.

[22] Bishop Lay has himself written the story of the General Convention of 1865, and of his own and Bishop Atkinson's appearance there. But that account has one grave and essential defect--that it so entirely ignores his own part in the matter. It ought never to be lost sight of or forgotten. With whom that purpose of going to the door of the House of Bishops in Philadelphia originated I do not know, but that it would ever have been accomplished without the co-operation of Bishop Lay I do not believe. And yet, think what it must have cost him. He has, in his sermon commemorative of his brother of North Carolina, delicately intimated the suspicions to which he and his associate exposed themselves, but in order to appreciate the situation we need to remember the attitude not merely of the Southern people but of the Southern Episcopate--not merely of the Northern people but of the Northern Episcopate. We need to remember who were sitting in the House of Bishops to which he was going, and who were leaders in that other House from which he was coming. There never was a crisis, I believe, in which more powerful influences, of the most opposite kinds and appealing most strongly to a man of keenly sensitive nature, conspired to hinder action; to excuse, even to justify inaction; to warrant a cold reserve, nay, an absolute silence. No [22/23] men without the attributes of real and rare greatness could have done what Bishop Atkinson and Bishop Lay did. And, as a Northern man, whose sympathies in that sad business were most unequivocally those of Northern men, I have no hesitation in saying that if Bishop Lay had then said something in the spirit of St. Paul at Philippi, "They have beaten us openly . . . being Romans, let them come themselves and fetch us," I could not have blamed him. It was for the stronger side to tender magnanimity, not for the weaker side to seek it. He might easily have said, "Something is due to dignity," and the like, but it was his greatness and that of his associate that they so effaced themselves, and that, seeing a great truth--the Church's essential unity, which no act of one part alone had broken or could break--he took it and bore it aloft like a standard, till kindred hands (I shall never cease to be proud that one of them was his whose name I bear and whose kinsman I am privileged to be) met him and his like-minded fellow, and drew them back with gentle and loving force into the old and honored places which they had never forfeited. In heroism, in self-abnegation, in the utter absence of all littleness and care for the coarse judgments of men, in traits, in one word, that adorn the highest and noblest manhood, that incident, as I read it, is, of Bishop [23/24] Lay's whole life, at once characteristic and most memorable. It was the office of his Divine Master to be a reconciler, and what his Master in His higher sphere had done for him, he did not tarry to do, in his lower sphere, for his brethren!

One word more and I am done. It is said of the shepherd king whose reign the psalmist celebrates that he fed his flock with integrity or fidelity and ruled them with skill and power. And the one in each case implies the other. Integrity is the best skill and fidelity is the mightiest power. And so it was with our father and friend departed. His power was supremely the power of moral rectitude and unswerving faithfulness. The steadfast heart. surcharged with love and the loyal soul that ever looked to God--in these were the hidings of your Bishop's power. A few days before his death--out of that ` long struggle which at last wore away strength and life--he came back for a little to a clearer command of his powers of thought and speech. And then he said--slowly, as though it were the goal of a long process of reflection, "I love--everybody. Yes, everybody." The great heart reached forth beyond the dear home hallowed by a domestic felicity as rare as it was beautiful--beyond the diocese--that other bride that he loved so well--beyond the borders of the Church Catholic, to [24/25] every child of the common Father, whether friend or foe, and yearned over them in inextinguishable tenderness.

This was a little while before the end. And then the end itself came. The weary pain had at last surcease, and the tired heart found rest. But not half an hour before he died he spoke, and these were his last words--no plaint of weakness, no murmur of fear, but the voice and the speech, faint but clear, of a conqueror--"Praise the Lord."

Friend and father! We take up the strain as it fell from your gracious lips! We praise the Lord for this His servant departed. The Church will remember and honor him through all her borders for all that he did and endured. No priest will read, no flock will hear that felicitous ordering of the Church Lectionary, in which he had so large and so helpful a share, without being a debtor, whether consciously or no, to him whom we mourn to-day. No pastor, grappling with the difficult problems of parochial discipline, will recall his oft-repeated counsels, and especially his wise labors in connection with the commission on the godly discipline of the laity, without thanking him for his timely courage. No son of the, Church in this land, recalling his place and service on the memorable commission of Liturgical Enrichment, will be unmindful of diligent [25/26] labors, of a delicate and discriminating taste, and of a sound practical wisdom which largely contributed to the success of a grave and important task. And no one who ever knew him and his work, whether in the Southwest or in Easton or in the House of Bishops, will ever question that to his Episcopate in this land the Church is a lasting debtor, and that among a body of men, some of whom at least have been no inconspicuous figures in their land` and day, that of the Bishop of Easton will always stand out as the commanding personality of a rare man and a great prelate.

But it is not precisely thus that I find myself thinking of him--nor, as I am disposed to believe, that you, his children, will think of him. When he stood before the chief pastor from whom he received his apostolic commission, these were the words he heard: "Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind up the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost. Be so merciful that you be not too remiss. So minister discipline that you forget not mercy, that when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive the never-fading crown of glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

I put the two together--the charge and the prophecy on the one hand, and the life and ministry on the other; and the two, as I read them, are one.

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