CHURCH OF ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST, BARRYTOWN, N.Y.,
ROBERT B. FAIRBAIRN,
WARDEN OF ST. STEPHEN'S COLLEGE,
2 BIBLE HOUSE
"And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"--2 SAMUEL 3:38.
THE death of a great man attracts the attention of the world. He has been a centre of the civil, or military, or religious affairs. There has gone out from him an influence which has given life to certain operations. He has been the point of attraction, drawing and winning hearts to himself. He makes a part of the history of the times, for his doings are a link in the chain of affairs which make up the history of the world. A great statesman, or a great soldier, or a great bishop, occupies a position on which the world gazes, because its affairs have been carried on by such persons. They were great because of their influence, and because of their connection with the affairs which make history. It is a shock to the world when one such is taken [3/4] from us. You see it in the case mentioned in the text. It is Abner on whom David is now relying for the peaceful union of his kingdom. He had shown that he possessed those great qualities of sagacity, forecast, judgment, affection, attraction--qualities which are universally admired, and which win the hearts of all men. A prince and a great man he is called. A prince is a chief--a leader, who is conspicuous for his courage, his clear-sightedness, and the exercise of a strong will.
The history of the world is a history of heroes. The great actions of the world, which mark an age and create a new influence, are often the actions and the influence of an individual. A moment's consideration will teach us that history brings into view a succession of warriors. The heroic is the prowess of the successful soldier. The history of a nation is too apt to be merely the history of the fortunes of war, and it brings into prominence the deeds of heroism in the contentions of nations. It is certainly singular that war still holds its place in Christian nations; that the contentions of battle, of bloodshed, and of savagery still [4/5] afford a field for Christian men to gain distinction. It is certainly singular, that through the eighteen centuries that the Christian faith has held sway over the affairs of the world, the heroism of battle is still as attractive as when Homer sang of Achilles. The influence of eighteen Christian centuries has not yet brought in that reign of peace when "they shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain," when "Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim." It is certainly a blot on our civilization, that the heroes which the passions of war produce are the heroes on whom the Christian gazes with admiration.
Statesmanship, too, is a field for the exercise of great qualities, which have more claim on our admiration than those of the warrior. It gives shape to human affairs, and creates or controls influences which form character and direct the destiny of men. It stimulates the progress of civilization. It makes the world, a better world. It brings into view the great principles which are to educate character and to give it strength. As the State, as well as the family [5/6] and the Church, is one of the institutions which have been divinely ordained for our culture, it affords a field of action which can not be ex celled. It has given opportunity for the exhibition of character which is a glory to our nature.
But there is another field for distinction and heroism which does not attract the attention of the world in the same degree, because therein is the reign of peace. There is no excitement of the passions. It is not the courage of quick and vigorous action. But it is the courage of endurance, of patience, and of love. There is forecasting and sagacity in the field of religion. There is the great bishop and the great missionary, as well as the great soldier and the great statesman. There are the same qualities called into exercise which the more stirring affairs of the world demand. Who can rise from the perusal of Miss Yonge's Memoir of Bishop Patteson without some such exclamation as was made by a secular journal of New-York, that here was a true hero--here was the spirit of the ancient martyrs--here was an exhibition of qualities which make us think better of our race? [6/7] What soldier or statesman leaves behind him the record of greater qualities than those which were exercised in the daily intercourse with these South Sea Islanders? The Church has had such heroes in all ages of her existence. She has always had men remarkable for their faith, their devotion, their endurance, their courage, and theft love. The play by Gregory on the word which designated the English, when he sent forth Austin and his forty co-missionaries to turn the Angles into Angels, shows the great office which they were to fulfil, the great qualities which were to be called into operation, and the great results which were to be expected When St. Patrick carried Anglo-catholic Christianity into Ireland he was doing a work which will not be forgotten until after Macaulay's New-Zealander shall have made his sketch on the ruins of London Bridge. The name of Boniface will never fade from history, because through his influence were planted in the Ger man mind those principles which are daily developing in Christian culture: The name of Henry Martyn, the successful scholar at Cant bridge, sheds new lustre on Christian devotion [7/8] when he goes to lay all his talents and all his acquirements at the foot of the, cross in his missionary work in India. The name of Eliot is so connected with the Indians of our early history, that no work on our colonial times is complete which does not relate his devoted and courageous labors.
There has just been taken from us the Reverend James Lloyd Breck, whose name will go into the history of the Church in this country as the great missionary of this generation. It becomes us to do honor to his name for the devotion and zeal which have been so conspicuous for the past thirty-five years. He has performed a work in evangelizing parts of our country which will not be forgotten, and laid the foundations of institutions which will live for generations as the centres of light and of truth. The soldier who has shown his courage in conquering the Indians in battle has received the thanks of his country, has in consequence been honored with office, and has made for himself a place in history. Why should not the missionary, whose devotion to his work has been conspicuous; who has brought into operation great [8/9] abilities in civilizing, enlightening, and Christianizing the Indians of our country, be deserving of greater honor, and of more hearty thanks from us, than the mere soldier? If our faith in our Divine Master is genuine, if our confidence in the divine system of religion which He has instituted is real, we Christian believers ought certainly to see in the work of a great missionary a zeal, a devotion, and a courage which should excite our admiration to a far greater degree than the prowess of the mere warrior. He conquers by love. He leaves no wounds which are to be healed. He makes no bleeding hearts, no widows and orphans, but in the spirit of his Divine Master he comes "to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and to set at liberty them that are bruised." If we are faithful to our principles, this is the one to whom we should rise up to do honor.
I shall not give you any history of Dr. Breck, but I shall endeavor to exhibit some of the principles winch were at the foundation of his character and his labors, and which claim our admiration in the department of Church work which he chose.
 I. It was a purpose which he formed early in life, to carry the Church and her truth and worship to the outskirts of our Western settlements. I became aware of this purpose when he was only twenty-two years of age. He deliberately formed that purpose, he kept it steadily in view, and he faithfully and cheer fully performed it. It is the characteristic of a great mind that it has a purpose, a clear conception of that purpose, a deep conviction of the importance of that purpose, and a love of the honor which the fulfilment of that purpose will bring. I might produce you name after name which has been distinguished in history in every department of life--in discovery, in science, in law, in medicine, and in theology--and you would find that it was the result of devotion to a purpose. It was so in this case. How much earlier in life than twenty-two this purpose was formed, I am not now aware; but it was then made known. It was not a mere sentiment. Others were attracted by the sentiment which the announce of the purpose created, and their purpose, so far as it might he called one, vanished before the time came to [10/11] give it reality; others put their hand to the plough and turned back when the sentiment failed to sustain them. But in his case the purpose was the foundation of the sentiment; the more deep was the conviction of the purpose, the higher the sentiment rose. I have a picture of him clearly before my mind at this moment, as he appeared thirty-six years ago, in the midst of seventy young men. Others had formed purposes of life which created amusement, because we knew that the purpose would vanish at the first contact with the realities of life--as they did. But no one felt so in his case. He was as cheerful a man as any of the rest of us; but there was a reality in his purpose which obtained the respect of every one. We should as soon have thought of making a disparaging remark on himself to his face as of his purpose to carry the Church to Wisconsin, which was then the borders of our Western settlements--any land beyond being almost an unknown region. In the autumn of 1841, an associate mission was formed, and the work was begun on the shores of Nashotah Lake. This was the centre of operations of Breck [11/12] and his two companions, who formed the mission. Small settlements for fifty miles round this centre were the scenes of their labors. This work, of which he was the head and the life, continued for nine years. It was he who gave character to it, and inspired its purpose. His associates left him, but others joined the mission. It was at this period that I had the honor of receiving, through Bishop Kemper, an invitation to join it. During those nine years there was a steady stream of population pouring into Wisconsin, which made Nashotah and the surrounding country very different from what they were when the Associate Mission took up its residence there. A school of the prophets had been established, where the course of education, adapted to the needs of the scholar, ended only with his ordination. It was thus not only the centre of missionary operations, but it was supplying clergy for the missionary jurisdiction. It had also become the residence of a bishop, who was attracted thither by the work which was so vigorously and so successfully carried on.
In 1850 Dr. Breck felt that his work at [12/13] Nashotah was completed. It had, by the in flux of population and the increase of wealth, ceased to be that missionary ground which had been so clearly before his mind in 1840. He saw that the time had come for him to move towards the West, and to anticipate again, the influx of population, as he had done nine years before. The result was that he organized, on the 26th of May, 1850, another associate mission, and settled in Minnesota, making St. Paul, on the Mississippi, the centre of his operations. If you look into the Church Almanac for 1851 you will find that all the clergy of Minnesota were Breck and his two associates: Their treasurer was John L. Aspinwall, then of New-York. No large amount of money came to them, but sufficient to purchase a plot of ground, which now forms part of the city of St. Paul. It now yields an important revenue, which will be greatly increased at the next valuation of rents. It is devoted to sustaining the diocesan operations of Minnesota. The next year he moved farther west, and took up his residence at Fort Ripley. Three years later he went to reside among the Chippewas [13/14] Indians, to whom he devoted four or five years. In 1858 he removed to Faribault, in Minnesota and brought into operation from this new centre his associate mission. Subordinate to his mission work he became the principal of Seabury Divinity School, and the rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd. He continued at Faribault for nine years, until a diocese had been organized, and the clergy performing regular work amounted to forty, and a bishop had been elected. He handed over to him a cathedral church and important institutions of education.
In 1867, he organized a new associate mission and removed to California. He came here and took from this College three young men, one of whom soon vanished from view; the second was ordained in California, and did faithful missionary work, until failing health compelled him to ret n to his home, where he died eighteen months ago; the third transfer red himself to the African mission at Cape Palmas. He began the same Church work in California which he had so successfully carried on in Wisconsin and in Minnesota. The result of [14/15] his work on the Western Coast is St. Augustine's College, and St. Mary's Hall, a seminary for girls.
There was a pleasantry to which we used to give utterance, that Nashotah and St. Paul and Faribault had become too civilized for Dr. Breck, and therefore he was moving farther towards the West. In one respect it was no pleasantry; it was true: not because he did not love civilization as well as the rest of us, but because he was keeping steadily before his mind that one single purpose of his life--to be a pioneer missionary, to go before the great influx of immigration, and prepare the way for the Church. His associate missions were intended--and they never failed of their intention--to be in advance of a great population; to he on the ground with the first settlers, to offer the privileges of the Church to the first who took up their residence in these new regions.
You will rarely find a life which was characterized by a single purpose, in which that purpose was kept so steadily in view, and was adhered to so faithfully. It was a real element of greatness in him. It gives him a claim on our [15/16] admiration; it will give him a place in the history of our Church in this country. He will be known, when most of the men of this generation are forgotten, as the great pioneer missionary.
II. The second trait of his character was his devotion. I do not now mean religious devotion and communion with God; but I mean that his mind and heart were set on a purpose, that he was in every way nourishing that purpose, and that he was making every action bend to it and minister to its fulfilment. The service which he rendered was not a heartless service; it was not a task; to him it was not a sacrifice. He did not look at the purpose of his life through any such medium. But he was devoted to it very much as some of us are devoted to a pleasure. Before he set out on his mission, he was not asking aid on account of his self-denial, or putting forth his work as something which was to task his endurance. He spoke of the object of his mission as that to which his life was devoted. There seemed to be no thought of hardship, of self-denial, of a task requiring the bracing himself up with an effort of the [16/17] will. The truth was, the work was so presented to his mind that it became a matter of course. It was his life work, the success of which would afford him the same satisfaction that almost any object in life does when it is pursued with the same devotion. In most cases, the pleasure of a course of life which one chooses and steadily pursues arises, I suspect, more from its being a well-defined purpose pursued with devotion than from the course of life having any intrinsic pleasure in itself I gather this from the daily observation which I made when the vision was simply rising before his mind. But there was joined with it a strong will. A purpose, however well defined, with out devotion and without a will, soon becomes languid, and fails, and in a measure involves the author in contempt. But what is the voice of the Church to-day? Who that has watched his career, that has followed him from the General Seminary to Nashotah, and then to St. Paul, and then to the Indians, and then to Faribault, and last to California, has ever observed any wavering in his purpose, any relaxing of devotion to his idea of associate missions and schools [17/18] for the training of a ministry in the jurisdiction where they are to labor? What man of history that we ever read of, or person who has risen to distinction under our observation, ever pursued an object with greater zeal and devotion, and a stronger will, than Breck did the planting of the Church through associate missions in the very foremost rank of immigration? He chose his sphere of life, and he brought into exercise the very qualities which were calculated to produce success in that sphere. He gave himself up to action, and not to books. Bacon was a great philosopher, but probably could not have directed the simplest military movement with powers of endurance in the study he may not have had the nerve which would endure the shock of battle. The only question in regard to any man is, whether he is great in his own department, whether he has the qualities which his department requires, and whether he has the devotion and the will to make the right use of them. Who will deny that Breck was the great missionary, and that by devotion to this purpose he has won distinction which will not be forgotten?
 III. I remark in the third place that he had qualities which are necessary to a great missionary--namely, patient endurance, sagacity, and forecast. Brought up in an Eastern city, amid all the comforts and enjoyments of society, life on the Western border could have presented no attractions. The work which he pro posed was at once a test of his principles, his purpose, his devotion, and the strength of his will. I suspect a more cheerful and happy life is seldom lived. And it was for this reason--namely, that he did not dwell upon it and talk of it as a sacrifice, and pi it to his mind as an act of self-denial, as something very hard, which he hoped would some day come to an end. How visible was all this in the life of Patteson! He could not think of leaving his work even for a visit to his home. He was afraid that it would beget feelings which would interfere with his work Breck, it might almost he said, never made a visit to his home, for a visit was always made subordinate to the great purpose of his life; it was employed in obtaining means for carrying on his missions and his institutions.
 And here he showed those qualities of judgment, sagacity, and foresight. He went to the right place and chose the right means. He could not at the outset of his career have chosen a better position than Nashotah. It was proved by the fact of its being chosen by the sagacious and devoted missionary Bishop Kemper, as the centre of his operations. And so, when he moved to St. Paul, he laid the foundation of Church work again in the most advantageous spot, and made such wise investments of money as will prove a blessing to the Church in Minnesota for generations to come. So when he settled in Faribault he showed again his wisdom, as is universally allowed, in the choice of a position for institutions of learning and for the centre of Episcopal work. He showed the very sagacity and foresight which a missionary ought to show that his work may produce the greatest effects, and that it may, at the least expenditure of labor and of means, furnish the largest returns. No doubt such will be the judgment concerning his work in California. He seized at the opportune moment a college which will not fail to do its work, and he [20/21] founded a school for girls under the auspices of the Church's worship and tone of thought, which will produce results that can never be known in this world.
I have held up to you the name of Breck as the Church's great pioneer missionary, because the name ought to be known and honored for the great services to which he devoted himself, for the successful manner in which he laid the foundations, and for the beautiful spirit of faith and love in which he always carried on the work. That there has been one among us who had the ability and the will to go forth to be the pioneer--to go in advance of the comforts of civilization, to go before any organizations were made, to go to meet the tide of immigration--is a very great thing. That the Church has produced such a man, that there were the faith and love to animate such an one, ought to give us confidence in the Church's religion, and ought to give us great hope for the future.
It shows us what great results will come from a clearly formed purpose, steadily pursued with a firm will. It shows each one of us the necessity of having some one well-defined [21/22] purpose in view, at which we will aim. It will be to use what Constantine's vision was to him--by this conquer. We shall keep it in view to shape our actions and to inspire our zeal.
It is the great secret of happiness to have a purpose which will usurp our thoughts and engage our affections, and drive away all cares. If the purpose is a noble one, like that of planting the faith, and organizing the Church, and gathering a flock for the Good Shepherd, it will stamp our characters as worthy of our holy calling and our high destiny.