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Preached in Trinity Church, Princeton, N. J., Friday, December 9, 1904,




HENRY C. POTTER, D.D. (Oxon.,) LL.D. (Cantab.)





Joseph is a fruitful bough; a fruitful bough
by a well: his branches run over the wall.


THE incident, from the story of which I take these words, has an eminently significant introduction. It is the story of Jacob's farewell to his sons; and is introduced, as you will remember, with the words, "And Jacob called unto his sons and said: Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the latter days." Has it ever occurred to you to consider how little of their future, after all, Jacob did tell them? Here and there, in those strange and weird farewell words of his, there is a brief lifting of the curtain that hides the future; but, on the whole, it is, so far as there is prophecy at all, a prophecy suggested by the past. The man Reuben, Simeon, Issachar--whoever he is, has given certain disclosures of his character, in certain base, or wise, or noble acts, and these forecast the rest. Jacob, in one word, is, after all, only so much of a prophet as he is made competent to anticipate the future from the past. A man's conduct and character in one set of emergencies, issues, allurements, reveal what he is likely to be in another; and so, my young brothers, when, in your hot [3/4] youth, you hear the kindly but cautionary tones, of riper years admonishing you, do not be too swift to say "Oh, he is a 'back number,' an old fogy, a Bourbon; I can not undertake to be governed by his standards!" Jacob was an old man, but he was not a stupid man; and, as he sat quietly at one side of that swift current of life in which his sons were struggling for the prizes of their day, he had measured them up with unerring accuracy; and could forecast their future from their past.

What a fine and interesting future it is that he fore sees for Joseph! In Joseph we seem to have that most engaging type of man who is not only exemplary, but benignant; who unites virtue with kindliness, and who, best of all, is endowed with a certain affluence of beneficence which Jacob can symbolize by nothing so accurately as the "fruitful bough whose branches run over the wall." It is this quality which has in it, not alone the most attractive, but the most distinctively Christian characteristics: for it is distinctive of the Man Christ Jesus that He reveals to us the Divine, not so much in acts of seclusion and reserve, as in those of what I might call, if they were not His, utter naturalness. He is accessible to everybody; and, best of all, His beneficence has in it an overflowing quality which can not but bless and heal one who only comes behind in a crowd, and touches the hem of His garment. There are people we all know them, and have no smallest [4/5] doubt that they are very good people whose attitude toward their fellow-men is chiefly interrogatory or austere; they own gladly their duty to serve their kind, but you must bring a certificate of character before they can consent to serve you. And then, there are others in whom the impulse. of beneficence is so rich, and the love of their fellow-men so, real, that, freed from self-consciousness or suspicion, they go through the world breathing benedictions in all that they are and do.

It is because Doctor Charles Woodruff Shields always impressed me as such a man, that I have chosen Jacob's words as the motto for this discourse. I came to know Dr. Shields when he was spending his summers at Newport, Rhode Island, where he had, as I then had, a summer home. The foremost impression which, then, he made upon me, was of his benignity and modesty. He was at that time about twenty-five years ago--a man of recognized distinction in his high calling; a man of exceptional gifts and achievements in his profession; and a thinker whose genius, I must be permitted to say, "blazed" a way for many an inferior mind to follow him, that never recognized the large nobility of Dr. Shields's vision. Earlier than most men of his time, he saw the essential oneness of Science and Religion, and broke away from traditions of the latter which have often transformed conspicuous leaders of a Reformed Faith into blind followers of an obscurantism which, in [5/6] the official utterances of Latin Christianity, have, as Lippold has shown in his "Papacy in the Nineteenth Century," made Papal Encyclicals fit subjects both for mirth and for mourning, among Christian scholars.

Now then, whence did this blending of characteristics, both rare and engaging,. come? I presume that I shall be called a snob if I say that, in part, at any rate, they came from a remarkable ancestry. You do not call that snobbery when I show you a horse which I ride with a just pride; and of which I can tell you that it is descended from a great sire, and bred from a high-spirited and graceful dam. And I do not know why, however cordially we may recognize those great personalities that have sprung from the humblest soil, we should not also recognize that most recognizable and indestructible influence which may come from a long line of high-minded and well-bred ancestors. In a paper which a friend has lent to me, and which was prepared, originally, by Dr. Shields, himself, I have found the vivid and picturesque story of his "forbears." It is a story of dramatic interest, and of suggestive vicissitudes; for, while Dr. Shields does not undertake to decide from which of two lines his own parentage came, both of them lead back to moments in English or Scottish history of heroic and prophetic significance. And, whether the Shields who were the ancestors of Charles Woodruff Shields settled, first, in Delaware, or in Virginia, they came to these shores pregnant with those [6/7] great ideas which, later, made of the Colonies a Republic, and which, whether in Virginia, or in Indiana, to which, in or about 1803, Dr. Shields's grand-father emigrated, furnished the inspiration that, in due time, laid the foundations of our civic order, and of our national life.

It is hard to think of the polished gentleman, so gracious, so urbane, and so singularly refined in all hid tastes and bearing, as originally the grand-son of an Indiana settler, who drifted down the Kentucky and Ohio rivers in a flat-boat to "below the Falls," as Dr. Shields describes the point, and, haying landed there, cleared a bit of land, and built the log cabin in which, a little later, his wife and children were sheltered. But such were the facts; and such was the nurture which, in due time, made of the boy Charles, scion of a long line of brave and high-bred gentlemen, the gracious, scholarly, thorough-bred teacher, author and divine that he was!

If, however, I were to leave the story of the youth of Dr. Shields, as though this were the whole of it, I should not only grossly misrepresent the facts, but ignore potent influences which were largely concerned in the ultimate direction of his life. If one were to compare, to-day, the intellectual privileges of what we, here, who live in it, call "the East" of our Republic and the Middle West, as represented, e.g., by the State of Indiana, there would probably be little to choose; [7/8] but in the earlier part of the last century, it was quite otherwise. Indiana was largely wild land;--its settlements few and far apart; and its educational opportunities, especially, as yet meagre and inadequate. And so the lad Charles Shields is sent to an aunt at Newark in this State, that, thus, he. may be brought within reach of the privileges of schools such as the Newark Academy; and in this atmosphere he is prepared for Princeton College. In 1840 he was entered as a Freshman in a Class which contained among others, at least a half dozen men of exceptional gifts and promise, e.g., Charles G. Leland, Dr. James C. Welling, later President of the Columbian University, Governor Colquitt of Georgia, the Honorable H. S. Little, and Colonel Edward Wright, of this State, and others. The relation of these men and others like them, among Dr. Shields's classmates as theological students were the late Bishop Littlejohn and the Reverend Dr. W. W. Lord,--to Dr. Shields's future was, I apprehend, far more potential than, ordinarily, we are wont to recognize. In every Class in College there are a few men who think;--to whom College life is not a mere routine; and who, in encountering the questions which their studies, especially if those studies are of a speculative character, bring up, are provoked to discussions among themselves which, if not of immediate, are destined to be of remote, value of a very high order. With young Shields this was [8/9] unquestionably the case. Long afterwards he referred to nightly debates with congenial friends, which, starting with the topics of the day, political, social, or economic, ran on and out, into realms which, with a higher training and wider vision, came to include the fundamental questions of philosophy itself.

When, after his graduation from the College, in 1844, he entered Princeton Seminary to prepare himself for the minis try of the Presbyterian Church, we can well understand that those questions did not become, to the young scholar, less interesting. There was a lull in the air just then; and the ancient formularies in which this youth had been bred and nurtured still held a sway which, as we look back upon it, is full of interesting suggestions. But men had not ceased to think because they were taught the Westminster Catechism, or required to subscribe to the Westminster Confession. Young Shields, however, passed out of the Princeton Seminary, accepting, I presume ex animo, all that he had been taught there. He went, first, to a pastorate at Hempstead, Long Island; I suppose that this was in 1847; and thence, in 1850, to the Second Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, where he remained until 1865. I wonder how he relished the fierce sectarian antagonisms which rent Philadelphia in those days? I was a boy in Philadelphia, at that time, and I can remember how swift we of different communions were to fasten upon one another's failings, and how little love was [9/10] lost or found between us! And yet all the while, then, as now, there was a Divine substratum of Truth that should have bound warring Sects together, and made the Kingdom of God real to the eyes of men by the love that shone in the faces of its disciples! But what was most prized, then, was a master of polemics; and if the modern Christian did not take pleasure in Jonathan Edwards's suggestion that one of the joys of Paradise would be looking from its battlements on the errorists who were seething in hell, there is little doubt that the orthodox believer, when he looked at his heterodox neighbor, complacently thanked God that he was not as other men were!

Does anybody wonder that the sensitive and devout scholar turned from a ministry in which it was often demanded that the preacher should meet such expectations or be lectured by his deacons turned, I say, from such a conception of the office of the pulpit to the Professor's chair? At any rate, there can be no doubt that when Dr. Shields was called here, to the Professorship of the Harmony of Science and Revealed Religion, he came with a glad alacrity. Already there had dawned upon him that great conception of which his "Philosophia Ultima" was the earliest disclosure. Already he had seen, with strong persuasion, that the revelations of God in His universe, whether in nature, in philosophy, or in religion, were, as they were from one Source and the expression of one Mind, but parts [10/11] of one Whole; and while other men were wrangling about what they ignorantly conceived to be irreconcilable differences in these disclosures, or else fled, panic-stricken, as some of them did, to some ecclesiastical standing-ground which substituted an arbitrary dictum for a divine and rational order, Dr. Shields ascended to those upper levels where his great mind seized upon the unifying truths that lay behind all these apparent differences, and swung them into view with something of that inspired discernment which breaks upon the ear in Addison's matchless hymn:

In reason's ear they all rejoice,
And utter forth a glorious voice;
Forever singing as they shine,
"The hand that made us is divine."

The necessary limits of such an occasion as this make it impossible for me to do justice to Dr. Shields as a thinker, or to depict his relation to the higher realms of philosophy as his altogether exceptional services deserve. One of his pupils has said, "With the best American writers in constructive philosophy, I am fairly well acquainted; and my own deep conviction is that Dr. Shields was the true founder of systematic and constructive philosophy, in the United States; logically coming before" men to whom ordinarily that honor has been conceded. [Mr. H. W. Rankin, of the Class of 1873.] "Many thinkers have, in the last thirty years, made special studies of great value in [11/12] several departments of philosophy that were only briefly handled by Dr. Shields in his comprehensive synthesis. But his pamphlet of 1861 was the first serious projection of a comprehensive cosmic philosophy ever produced in this country; and his subsequent volumes furnished, in my belief, the broadest foundations for Christian theism ever laid. Dr. Shields, when he began his work, was a man so far in advance of his time and place, that no one was prepared to understand him; and, so far from being behind his times, to-day, the world has never yet caught up with his magnificent conception."

"Dr. Shields," continues the same student, "has been thought by many to have been visionary; but, if, indeed, he was a visionary, it was only in the sense that he was before his time. Which of all the magnates in constructive philosophy who have ever lived, was not a visionary to the generality of men? Preeminently such was Plato; such was Haegel; such was Berkeley; and such was Herbert Spencer. But none of these men ever based philosophy so squarely as did Dr. Shields on the entire range of phenomena; and not one of them ever produced an organization of the several inductive sciences based on so thorough an analysis of all existing and foregoing syntheses, and upon the natural order in which phenomena are to be found. However imperfect may still be the scheme proposed by Dr. Shields, it has never been surpassed, and, as I believe, never equalled."

[13] I am not quoting these words as though they were the verdict of a jury of philosophers, or the dictum of a University. But they are the sober judgment of a competent scholar; and, as such, they bring into view one of those two classes of judgment which the world is wont to pronounce. One is swift and tumultuous, and, so far as the Vox Populi is concerned, unanimous. But it ought to comfort many a solitary thinker and reformer, to remember when, as so often he finds himself a "voice crying in the wilderness," that the time draws on when many a John the Baptist, late and slowly, comes to be understood. You remember that incident of Disraeli's public life, when he made his maiden speech in the House of Commons, and when, after blundering and fumbling with his topic, he sat down amid the mocking laughter of the House, dismayed and humiliated, sat down, only to spring to his feet again, and cry out, "But the time is coming when you will hear me!" It did; because, of all men of his time, Disraeli came to be a master of cogent speech and of effective debate.

But in a far higher sense the time comes it may be long after they themselves have left the stage, when men who in their generation have taught, and wrought, only to be misunderstood, shall stand revealed as the prophets and thinkers that they were; going before their Lord, and, partakers of a Divine inspiration, preparing a highway for our God!

[14] There remains one other feature in the history of Dr. Shields, of which it will, of course, be expected that I should speak in this place, and which was so eminently characteristic of Dr. Shields that to be silent concerning it would, I think, be equally unintelligent and unjust. Dr. Shields became, somewhat late in life, a Churchman, and took Orders in the Episcopal Church. There are those who thought that, in the decision which led him to this step, he was hurried by criticisms of an action which he took as a rational citizen, but for which he was widely denounced. He treated such denunciations, however, with the contempt that they deserved; and though he may have been influenced, in withdrawing from its Communion, by his desire to relieve his colleagues in the Presbyterian Church from an embarrassing issue, I do not believe that, otherwise, the incident gave: him any very serious concern. He was a man of almost feminine sensibility; and I presume that villification did not afford to him, always, the unmixed amusement which it affords to some of the rest of us. But he was too large a man to be disturbed by the frothy abuse of ignorant fanaticism; and I presume that he brushed it aside as he would the buzzing of a swamp mosquito.

But there were others who explained the step which took him out of the Communion in which he had been born and nurtured, in quite another way, and who had, I apprehend, no smallest doubt that, in so doing, they [14/15] were right. Dr. Shields was a man of singular niceness of culture, and of exceptional training as a rhetorician; and he was one who could easily be shocked and pained by offences against refinement of speech and even grammatical inaccuracy, to which others were largely indifferent. And so it has been said and widely believed--as though the saying triumphantly disposed of what otherwise might have seemed obscure, that Dr. Shields became a churchman for aesthetic reasons; and that the domination of rhetorical refinement in him obscured and overlaid weightier considerations. Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson is said to have said (I am sure I do not know whether he ever did so or not!) the same thing, when he said that the reading of the Apostle's words, "By grace ye are saved," ran, in the Episcopal Church, "By taste ye are saved"--a statement, begging Mr. Emerson's pardon, as shallow as it was false.

But if ever it was true in any other case, it was not true in that of Dr. Shields. And, in order to see this, we need go no further back in his mental history than to that point in his philosophic studies which I have been discussing. We have seen that, as a student and teacher of philosophy, Dr. Shields was enkindled by what I conceive to have been a really sublime dream of unification. Whether it was mental, physical, or theological, science with which he concerned himself, no man who has read what he has written, can be insensible to the great ideal which brooded above all that he said. [15/16] And, if it did, it is not difficult to understand why Unity in the realm of Religion interested him, most of all. The scholar of this later day has no difficulty in seeing that the Sectarist of modern times may well echo the exclamation of the Roman Centurion, "With a great sum obtained I this freedom." [Acts xxii: 28.] The Religious Communities that broke away, at the time of the Reformation, from the tyranny of the Papacy, ran into opposite extremes in which individualism became grotesque. The Presiding Bishop told me, not long ago, that a religious community in the West--a community of which most of you never heard, but which counts its disciples by thousands, and which is known as "the Church of the Feet Washers," had lately been rent by a schism which, now, squarely divided it into two "Churches," one of which holds to the washing of both feet, as a part of public worship, and the other to the washing of only one. If you think such a statement, as typical of the divisions of modern denominationalism, is an exaggeration, get, if you dare, the statistics of denominations, as furnished by the last census. It is a story of individualism run mad; and the conception of him who seeks, by whatsoever lawful and rational means, to heal it, is born of God!

It was not surprising, therefore, that the fine spiritual vision of Dr. Shields, looking over the vast realm of Christendom, with all its mutual misapprehensions; its often deadly animosities; its pathetic wastes of [16/17] power and of service, should turn to a communion which shared with him a grief for hands which rent the seamless garment of the Common Saviour; and for hearts in which hatred was mistaken for loyalty, and zeal for humility and love. I do not propose, here, to show how especially adapted for that great movement which culminated in the Declaration commonly known as "the Quadrilateral," and adopted by the Lambeth Conference of 1888, was the Episcopal Church in this land; and I am quite ready to admit that, in some respects, the Movement with which "the Quadrilateral " was identified was premature. But it is not difficult to understand with what force such a Movement appealed to Dr. Shields; nor, with what especial sympathy his mind turned to one,--I mean Dr. Littlejohn, a Classmate of Dr. Shields's in the Princeton Theological Seminary and, later, Bishop of Long Island, to whom the authorship of "the Quadrilateral" has been widely credited. Bishop Littlejohn and Dr. Shields were men in many things greatly unlike; but, in their common abhorrence of a divided Christendom, and in their common interest in and longing for any right thing that would end it, they were "of one heart and one mind."

And then there was, in the mental constitution of Dr. Shields, an instinctive hunger for unity which lent to the Church toward which he turned his face an especial attraction. I have no word of disparagement [17/18] for those who are, to-day, chiefly responsible for the manifold divisions of Christendom; for I suppose that,. when you have made all those deductions which, in such a connection, may justly be made, and which represent that self-seeking impulse that divides that it may conquer;--or profit;--or have official precedence;--there remain a vast number of persons to whom the ecclesiastical issues that, to-day, divide men into different camps, are matters of conscientious conviction. In baptism, the application of a tumblerful or a hogsheadful of water, in confirmation, the laying on of hands or the putting on of oil with the hand, these are things which some of us may think of infinitesimal importance, but of which others may so think that multitudes have gone, or cheerfully would go, for them, to the stake! And when you add to this the enormous influence of heredity; that impulse which made the Mexican chieftain, as he stepped down into the font, ask of the priest who was about to baptize him, "Where are my ancestors?" and who, when the priest asked, "Were they baptized?" and the chieftain answered, "No," received from the priest the reply, "Then they are in hell," stepped back out of the font, saying, "Then I do not propose to be separated from my family"--when, I say, you add inherited beliefs and attachments such as these to the religious problems of to-day, the wonder is, not that ecclesiastical divisions exist, but, rather, that they are not far more numerous than, in fact, they are!

[19] Do you suppose, now, that Dr. Shields was insensible to such influences, and that it cost him no pang to sunder ties and end companionships which, in their origin, reached back for generations, and were as truly a part of his mental and emotional identity as anything can be? There were men whom he met, every day, who loved and honored him, as who that really knew him could help doing? and who had no smallest doubt as to the honesty of his motives, or the integrity of his action, in any step that separated him from his earlier associates; but who could never forget, and he knew that they never could forget, that a certain action had been determined upon by him, and that a certain step had been taken. When these men met him, with whatever continuance of the old warmth and cordiality, they knew, and he knew, that there was one group of subjects that were to be avoided, and one realm of discussion even the outer portals of which were never, any more, to be opened!

And yet with what gentle dignity and gracious self-restraint, through it all, he bore himself! Yes, and with what true nobility of largeness and charity did this ancient University bear herself toward him! One can easily imagine, on the part of associates and authorities from whom he separated, something of resentment, because of action on Dr. Shields's part, which some of them thought inconsistent, if not positively disloyal. But if they ever thought so, they never said so; or, if they said so, they said it with such cautious reserve that it never came to outside ears. And I must confess, [19/20] for myself, that there has always seemed to me some thing especially dear and beautiful in the fact that, with Princeton, its social, and its intellectual life; and, best of all, with that great University in which so long he was a professor that with all these Dr. Shields remained identified to the last! Long may his memory survive here as that of a true scholar, a pure, and most lovable man, who brought to great opportunities great gifts, and who used them, with unwearied fidelity, for God and man!

An accomplished young woman of letters, inheritor of a great name and of great gifts, has lately sketched for us, in her charming "Roma Beata," a summer storm, as, from a height, she saw it in the Eternal City. [Maud Howe Elliott, a daughter of Mrs. Julia Ward Howe.] There are characters like such a storm, with all its thunderous and impetuous traits, its fierce movements, its resistless rush, its torrential outpourings. Like nothing less than like this, was Dr. Shields. But his fine and clear insight, his noble and lofty serenity, his gentle and benignant patience gave, no less, to him who understood him, the sense of power; and recalled those other spectacles of Nature where the broad and peaceful landscape broods beneath the sun; and, in its own good time and way, bears fruit for the service of man, and the glory of God.

Even so we think of this our father and brother, who has, for a little, gone before us. He has sown, and we shall reap. May light perpetual shine upon him, and fruit eternal spring from what he sowed!

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