MILO MAHAN was born in Suffolk, Nansemond County, Virginia, on the 24th day of May, 1819. [This was the day and year of the birth of Queen Victoria; and he was wont playfully to express his gratitude to the British Empire for so kindly celebrating his birthday all over the world at their own expense.] His father was an Irish gentleman. His mother was a member of one of the ancient families of the Old Dominion: and the strong Southern sympathies which were natural with such an extraction, and with a boyhood spent in such an atmosphere, abode with him indestructibly through life, though they were never allowed to interfere with his spiritual duties. When about fourteen years of age, he was sent to S. Paul's College, Flushing, where Dr. Muhlenberg was so nobly setting an example in the higher walks of Churchly education for boys. Among those who were then his school-fellows, three have since become known as Bishop Odenheimer, of New Jersey, Bishop Bedell, of Ohio, and the Rev. Dr. Tucker, of Troy. Dr. Muhlenberg, writing of Mahan's boyhood there, says:
Never was the saying more true than in regard to him, that "The Boy is father of the Man." What he was in the Church, was only the development of what he had been at school. Making allowance for growth, he was remarkably the same. The first, intellectually, of all my pupils, he owed the distinction he attained but little to his education with me. It was all in himself, and it would have come forth anywhere, in one field or another.
Here he remained until, in his seventeenth year, he went to the Virginia High School, near Alexandria, as teacher of Greek. "Bishop Meade," writes Dr. Muhlenberg, "justly thought he had obtained a prize, when he secured Milo from S. Paul's College, young as he was." During the six or seven years of his sojourn in Virginia, his familiarity with Greek literature rapidly increased, and his love and admiration for it remained undiminished through life. Even during the busiest of his later years, there was nothing more refreshing to him than to throw himself down on the sofa with his dear old Homer in his hand, and for an hour or two drink in a deep draft of the freshness of the world's youth and of the springtide of his own intellectual life, both joined in one. And the exquisite way in which his religion breathed a new spirit and a deeper meaning into that old classic story, may be seen in his charming lecture on The Christian Odyssey. The roots of this lecture ran far back into boyhood's years; and its branches never ceased to grow. It was printed on the occasion of its first delivery, in S. James's College, 1851; but it was repeated in many subsequent years, extemporaneously, and with constant amplifications, modifications, and additions of richness, variety, and beauty, of which now no other permanent trace remains. The reality of GOD'S work in that old pagan society, whether in the remnants of the original traditional deposit of truth imbedded in its mythology and literature, or as manifested in the outworking of the human part of the preparation of the world for the coming of CHRIST, was so constantly present to his mind, that he could not help Christianizing every thing of that classic literature which he enjoyed. Of this he himself says, very beautifully:
Literature and Science,--or what S. Paul calls "the wisdom of this world,"--is naturally opposed to Christianity. At the first preaching of the Gospel, it was arrayed against the Truth, and had to be sternly condemned. But, as in the case of Samson, the young lion which came out against him when he went forth to meet his Gentile bride, and which consequently had to be slain, was afterwards, when he returned that way, found full of bees and honey, so that the hero actually obtained refreshment where he had formerly found nothing but bitter opposition: so it has been seen in the history of the triumphs of the Cross. "Out of the eater comes forth meat: out of the strong comes forth sweetness." Now that the opposition has been slain, and the Gentile bride won, a Christian may turn aside, and strengthen and refresh his soul with that very literature which was once a most formidable opponent. For there is no fountain so bitter, whether it bear the name of Literature, or Philosophy, or Science, that it may not be sweetened by the healing wood of the Cross.
Besides this beautiful lecture, the giving a Christian application to ideas taken from the Greek classics lies at the basis of many of his poems, and scintillates here and there throughout all his works.
It would be a great mistake, however, to suppose that his attention was entirely monopolized by the study of classic antiquity. Along with this there was an equal love for the well-springs of our noble English literature. It were hard to say which were the nearer and dearer to him, Homer or Chaucer. And as the former was only the chief among many, so in the train of the latter followed a clustering band of worthies, of whom De Joinville and Sir John Maundeville were great favorites; but no name of note was omitted, whether in the picturesque times of Chivalry, the stirring upheavals of the Reformation era, or the successive changes that have gradually ripened the harvests of the nineteenth century. The wide sweep of his reading gave breadth and strength to every faculty of his mind. But his love for the Old Greek and Old English were the two perennial streams, that watered the rich garden of all his future intellectual life.
The Churchly associations of S. Paul's College seem to have predisposed his mind towards the work of the sacred Ministry from an early period. Indelible impressions were made upon the boy's mind by the early Christmas services, the lights, the fragrant incense that filled the air, and other striking peculiarities which would now be called Ritualism. And these things then filled the minds of trembling Protestants with visions of advancing Popery, which we all know now to be utterly ridiculous as connected with the name of the venerable Dr. Muhlenberg. With growing maturity of years and character, it was natural that the tendency thus early formed should become stronger: and at length, though now very differently situated, the young man began, rather informally, to pursue the studies requisite for his ministerial preparation. The Oxford movement meanwhile had begun, and the fermentation caused by it had penetrated even to Alexandria, Virginia. A mind and heart like Mahan's were just ripe and ready to receive the good leaven; and though the work done in him was not sudden or sensational, yet it was deep and thorough, and gave permanent character to his whole future life.
Others, however, were as keenly alive to the new influences as himself. And when, one day, Bishop Meade was in the study of his young teacher of Greek, and on looking through his book shelves found there a volume of the hated Tracts for the Times, his countenance fell, and his views of "the prize" he had obtained several years previous from S. Paul's College underwent a rapid and decided change. It was not long after this discovery, that the teacher of Greek returned to exercise his skill in S. Paul's College, and as one looking forward, at no distant date, to the Ministry. In these early years of his service as an instructor, he had learned the great secret--which he never lost--of being greatly beloved by his classes. They were never wearied by their recitations to him. The fulness of his own mind was soon ready to overflow, in a genial and pleasant way, for the instruction of others. By his interesting method and lively illustrations he chained their attention to the subject in hand; while by his coolness, readiness of repartee, and quiet weight of character, he found it easy to quench any attempt at insubordination before it could possibly attain sufficient headway to be dangerous.
His entrance into the Ministry was by no means hasty. He was ordained Deacon by Bishop Brownell, at New Canaan, Connecticut, on the 27th of October, 1845; and was raised to the Priesthood by Bishop Ives, on the 14th of December, 1846, at the Church of the Holy Communion in New York City, being then in his twenty-eighth year. For a brief period he assisted the Rev. Dr. Seabury, at the Church of the Annunciation; and in November, 1848, accepted his first parochial cure,--that of Grace Church, Van Vorst, Jersey City. The parish was then in its infancy, and the congregation worshipped in a temporary wooden structure, having as yet no consecrated building of their own. He threw himself into his new work with the strength of full manhood, animated by the ardor of a first love. During all his life he had a singular power of attracting the personal confidence of others. There was at the heart of him, a moral steadfastness like the solidity of the everlasting rock. With a sympathy so manifold that it could present a corresponding surface to every variety of mind and temper, each variety no sooner found itself in contact with him than it also perceived, and felt disposed to rest on, the immovable rock within. And the total and imperturbable reticence with which he was able to set all curiosity at defiance whenever he so pleased, heightened that confidence of others in a remarkable degree. The strong hold which he thus obtained over some of the noblest minds and hearts in that young parish, remained undiminished ever afterwards: and it was an influence that could be used as boldly for remonstrance and rebuke, when needed, as for spiritual guidance and consolation. Among the Letters given hereafter will be found some remarkable proofs of the subtle refinement of thought and feeling, the delicate yet fearless analysis of individual character, the affectionate considerateness for the peculiar circumstances of others, and the wise healing touch of the gentle yet brave physician, which made his ministries so effective and so dear. And though these letters were not written during his pastorate there, or to those who were at the time his parishioners, they illustrate most powerfully his possession of those qualities which make the truly conscientious and successful shepherd of souls.
After less than two years' work in Jersey City, during which he built up the slight elements of a new enterprise into the solid strength of a settled parish, he accepted the position of Assistant Minister in S. Mark's, Philadelphia, then under its first Rector, the Rev. J. P. B. Wilmer, D. D., now the Bishop of Louisiana. He was in entire sympathy with the earnest and aggressive Churchmanship which made the foundation of that new parish, and the erection of its beautiful edifice, so marked an epoch in the history of Church progress in the city of Philadelphia. His prudence and tact were abundantly exercised in harmonizing, as he did most loyally, the honest and ardent aspirations of the junior members of the parish, with the greater moderation and more hesitating wisdom of their elders. Here, too, his powers as a preacher found a larger field and higher exercise, and grew into greater strength and flexibility.
It was here, moreover, that he began the work of publication,--his first printed sermon and his first book both bearing date in 1851. The sermon, preached on Epiphany night, was a stirring exhortation to nobler ventures of faith and self-sacrifice in pushing on the aggressive work of the Kingdom of CHRIST. The book requires some words of special explanation.
During the few years preceding, the fermentation of the ecclesiastical leaven due to the Oxford movement had permeated every part of the Anglican Communion. The defection of Dr. Newman to the Church of Rome in 1845 was a terrible strain upon the hundreds and thousands of young, generous, and noble minds which had been fascinated, up to that point, by his marvellous gifts of learning, eloquence, poetry, asceticism, self-restraint, and subtle spiritual power. The excitement of the crisis compelled a fundamental searching of the real points at issue between the Anglican and the Roman branches of the Church, the like of which has never been known among us before or since. Many defections among ourselves helped to spread uneasiness and alarm, which rose now and then into a paroxysm of panic by no means favorable to a calm and thorough examination. No man in our Church had, during all these years, gone over this whole ground more thoroughly or more conscientiously that Dr. Mahan. His love and admiration of Newman he never lost; but he did not find it necessary to look to him any longer as a guide. Nor was he ever hasty in reaching conclusions. He preferred to give what some have called "unconscious cerebration" fully time and opportunity to do its perfect work. He read very many of the ablest and most plausible treatises on the Roman side of the question: and at length learned to unravel their disingenuousness and special-pleading by the mere analysis of their own pages.
The result of the entire period was, to render him one of the soundest men among us in his recognition of the Catholicity of the Anglican position, as well as one of the clearest in his ability to demonstrate the correctness of that position to others. But, besides this, his personal familiarity with the whole period of this effervescence, and his faculty of personal sympathy with every form in which such difficulties are likely to present themselves to the mind and heart of the young, the fanciful, the morbid, the weary, the impatient, or those who happen to be disheartened or disgusted with the peculiar incidents of their own experience: all this made him one of the wisest and most helpful of physicians for all patients who were suffering from attacks of the Roman fever. From the period we speak of to the end of his life, no one of our Clergy has been more successful than Dr. Mahan in clearing men's minds of Roman doubts, or settling their consciences firmly and intelligently upon the basis of the true Catholicity of the Anglican Communion.
It was early in the year 1851 that a most estimable clerical brother came to him in great distress of mind on this subject; and in a discussion lasting nearly all night long, he satisfied his visitor so completely, that the work then begun went on to full satisfaction, and his settled convictions remained unshaken ever afterwards. A desire was expressed by many to see the successful line of argument, then adopted, put within the easy reach of others, in book form; and the Exercise of Faith was begun while the mind of the author was yet full and glowing with the subject. The earlier portion of it was put to press before the rest was written; and on more than one occasion he sat down among the printers and wrote off a dozen or twenty pages, leaving them to set up the matter without any revision or comparison with what went before or followed after. So entire and present a mastery of any subject is a rare thing with any mind: and merely as a literary tour de force the little treatise is remarkable. But the quiet and patient thoroughness with which it meets one of the most plausible and mischievous temptations of Roman error, is its best title to our gratitude. It has been of unspeakable service to many minds, and will continue to be useful so long as the delusions of Rome continue to be dangerous to the minds and hearts of the inexperienced, the impatient and the unwary.
It is no wonder that, with such specimens of his power as this, his reputation began rapidly to rise. The lamented death of the Rev. Dr. John D. Ogilby, had left vacant the Professorship of Ecclesiastical History in the General Theological Seminary. Both under Whittingham and Ogilby it had been manifest that the occupant of that chair could do more to kindle the hearts and guide the minds of the young men, than all the other professors put together. The venerable Dr. McVickar,--who was ever on the lookout for marks of rising talent among the younger clergy, and whose heart went with the advancing rank to the day of his death at more than four-score,--he it was, who had fastened his eye on the Assistant Minister of S. Mark's, convinced that, in him, he had found one worthy to take up and carry on the powerful influence wielded by Whittingham and Ogilby from the Chair of Ecclesiastical History. All that could be done to prepare the way for success, was done by Dr. McVickar. Dr. Berrian, and what might be regarded as the more conservative portion of the old High Church Party in the Board of Trustees, looked mainly to other candidates. After quite a number of ballots, Dr. Mahan was elected by a majority of only one vote,--no unusual mode of choice in that Board. And the autumn of the year 1851 saw the new Professor installed in his Chair, and bending his whole energy to the mastery of his new work.
One letter, giving a description of his arrival, is tinged with that quiet sense of humor, which kept up its separate and distinct existence in his mind at all times, though it was never allowed free play except when it would not interfere with real solemnities:--
After a night spent somewhere about the 92d story of the Astor House, at 9 o'clock we took a "stage," and after half an hour's drive (with the payment of a sixpence) were duly deposited--the driver having no notion whatever that he was conducting a learned Professor--at the famous Chelsea regions. With considerable nonchalance we walked in at the middle door of the Seminary Buildings. There, by good fortune, we found one of the natives, who informed us that the "Faculty" and Students were assembled in the Chapel, but would be out shortly. I told him I would rather go in, and see what they were doing. So he showed me the way. And accordingly without more ado we entered the Chapel, and took the first seat that came to hand, just as if we were nobody, among the assembled Students. After prayers were over, we were introduced to three of the Professors. It was a little dry. Two of the Doctors, being personally strangers, very naturally eyed me, as Mrs. F------'s chickens would look upon some intruding biped of a different feather. I stood the scrutiny bravely, however, and even ventured to bend the rigidity of Dr. T----'s muscles with a joke or two. The consequence was, we became more cordial.
But under this bright ripple of pleasantry was the full depth of the deep sea of earnestness, and in another letter he writes:--
To day is the first entire Sunday that I have officiated at the Seminary Chapel. .... It is enough with such an audience to have a fair hearing. So long as they listen, my words cannot be wasted. And while I feel that there is just that degree of half-knowledge among the Students which renders anything like originality of thought or expression peculiarly liable to be misunderstood, every man among them having some half-saddled hobby that he is anxious to see ridden: there is at the same time a depth of good soil which it would be idle to look for in any other congregation. For this reason, I preach to the students my best, and give them the best of my reading, and of everything. If GOD has given me any good gift, I have reason to be thankful that I am here in the position in which, of all others in this country, it can be used to the best advantage.
At the time of his election, he had given no special preparation to the subject of Ecclesiastical History. His first duty was, to master that. He wisely began by making use of such framework as he found in use, from the labors of his predecessors. And soon going beyond that, he added, year by year, from the resources of his own industry, fresh streams of information and interest. He used to say, that his Professorship gave him abundant opportunity to teach all the other departments as well, for there is no leading point in Systematic Divinity, or in Exegesis, or in Church Polity, or in Liturgies or Homiletics or Pastoral work, which cannot be touched effectively in tracing the actual working of the Church system in all the ages from the beginning. His full mind overflowed freely in the recitation room. He did not make his classes feel that they were tasked merely to so much cramming. There was nothing of the dry or the perfunctory about his method with learners. While his own easy flow of conversational disquisition was ever ready, wrapping the warm flesh and blood of present life around the dry bones of past ages, and making his hearers feel that the story of the Church was the narrative of the fruits of CHRIST'S Life in this our world: yet he never allowed the students to shirk their share of the work. A pointed question; a probe driven at one push down to the bottom of a man's ignorance; a quick yet dry rejoinder which, but for its wit, would have been felt as a snub; an immovable presence of mind and control of temper which kept the tempers of the young men entirely under his control; a tact which was so tender, simple and delicate, that it never struck one as being tact at all: these were only a part of the means by which he steadily gained upon the respect, the affection, the intense admiration and almost devotion of the students.
Nothing was further from him than the un-American idea of ruling young men with the rod of bare authority. He looked upon all tyranny as hateful, especially in small things. While no one knew, better than he, how to submit cheerfully and loyally to legitimate authority, no one could resist intrusion upon his own liberty with more indomitable firmness, and no one ever had a more conscientious and instinctive regard for the rights and liberties of others. All the discipline of the Seminary, therefore, so far as he had anything to do with it, flowed on as pleasantly and as easily as one of his own recitations in Ecclesiastical History. A few brotherly words to an individual student in private, were more powerful in producing acquiescence of mind and conduct, than any amount of summonings before the Faculty, or of accusing reports sent to the young man's Bishop.
In the examination room, also, his method was, to, throw every man as wholly as possible on his own resources. The subject assigned was mentioned clearly enough to let each one understand fully what he was to talk about: and then he was left free to say all that he knew, in his own way. Rarely was any question, however brief, added in order to draw out a further response. And the uniform intelligence and fulness with which the young men were wont to acquit themselves in his department, proved his mastery of the true method of giving them a deep and living interest in the complex and boundless theme. No one ever passed under his forming hand without comprehending that a correct knowledge of the History of the Church is the only argument worth a rush in solving the religious difficulties of this, or of any other, age of the world: or without receiving so fair and full a grounding in the great facts of that History, that any subsequent defection, to the right or to the left, must needs have been due to the power, which some men possess, of obstinately shutting their eyes to what they know to be true.
It was the general feeling, among all his friends, that the Professorial work alone would not be sufficient to absorb all the activities of his mind and pen. And suggestions were abundant, from different quarters, as to the outside subjects to which he should devote himself,--the books that he should write. Of one adviser he says: "He begged me to write something for the benefit of his Quaker friends, and I am inclined to comply with his request. I am doubtful, though, whether I can get myself wide enough awake to do anything." "Another clergyman," he adds, also asked him to do something of the same sort:
He wanted me to take in hand some dozen things,--among others a Treatise on the Incarnation. So, you see, if I do a tenth of the work that other people are kind enough to carve out for me, I have no resource left but to give up all loves and hates, and "miseries" and ecstasies of every sort, and to convert myself into a regular quill-driver of the most patent kind. How delightful it would be to have no soul of one's own, but (with the variety of an occasional winding up) to tick all day like a clock! I wish I had a little more iron in me, and a few more wheels. Or, since I have a soul, and have to provide for it, I wish at least that I had a little more ambition, or--what is infinitely better--a little more of that Love which would nerve me to work and labor as I ought for the Kingdom of Heaven's sake.
Nor were these two the only persons who would fain have found him something to do. Several of his warm Philadelphia friends had started The Register, a Church paper which did not live as long as it deserved. And they succeeded in gaining several contributions from him, though he took no active share in the management of the enterprise. He received also repeated invitations to contribute, for a handsome compensation, to the columns of the old New York Churchman, under the management of the late John Hecker. But a want of congeniality was a sufficient reason for declining the profitable offer.
About a year after his removal to New York, however, the foundation of the Church Journal afforded the most attractive opening for journalistic activity which our American Church has yet seen. There were four of us united at first on the editorial staff of that new venture. We were all novices in that particular line of business and literary labor, so that the work had the freshness of novelty for us all. We were very nearly of an age, there being less than two years between the oldest and the youngest of the quartet. In our editorial capacity we all stood on an equality, though necessarily the greater part of the labor fell to the share of the one who made it his chief business. For years, our editorial meetings were kept up, very nearly every week. They were held alternately at the houses of the Rev. Dr. Rowland, the Rev. Dr. Hobart, and the Rev. Dr. Mahan, and "pleasant exceedingly" was the memory of those evenings to all of us, in after years. I would always come with a budget of papers--editorials, book-notices, communications, and what not,--including everything on which I supposed that my colleagues would wish to express an opinion. We had no formal chairman: and yet my colleagues will bear me out in saying that Dr. Mahan virtually filled that post, owing to the superiority of ability, of calibre, of wit, and of wisdom, which we all recognized in him. He was always the soul of every discussion. Never have I known the play of his powers of conversation more full and free than at those meetings. Being totally relieved from the possibility of misconception--for no one was present but ourselves--his humor sparkled; his paradoxes were perversely droll, and yet ingeniously and pertinaciously maintained with the gravity of an owl; his intellectual gymnastics were kept up by the hour without the slightest sign of nagging or fatigue; and then, at the end, a few kind or weighty words of common sense or of deeper wisdom, settled the whole point under discussion in an instant. At times, the deepest problems of theology were handled, by all, in a devout and reverent spirit. Then again, practical controversies, of instant importance, were to be decided. Sometimes there was a vote, three to one, that a certain editorial should not appear, because as Dr. Mahan would quizzically word it, "it was too good to print." Sometimes an article, after thorough discussion, was remodelled, and came out upside down. Sometimes a peculiarly knotty subject for an editorial would be tried first by one, then by another, and then by a third, before the result would pass the approval of the rest. Yet, with all this freedom and liveliness of discussion, never lacking for life, strength, wit, and warmth, there was not a single occasion on which any nerve of unpleasant feeling was touched,--never the slightest trace of a misunderstanding. The irrepressible discursiveness of such minds, in such delightful freedom, added an incalculable charm to those golden evenings. Indeed the only difficulty was to keep ourselves steadily to business until business was disposed of. Specially enjoyable, however, were the evenings when Dr. Mahan would bring us something of his own: and, of the three members whose services were wholly gratuitous, he wrote during the eight years of his connection with the paper much more than both the others put together. Dr. Hobart, indeed, left us in 1856, by our own vote, when it came to our knowledge that his connection with the paper--which he was too chivalrous to surrender of his own accord--was seriously endangering his parochial position: and his genial presence was not a little missed. But the other three kept up their reunions, with more or less of regularity, until the breaking out of the civil war. Some valuable contributions to the editorial columns were made by Dr. Mahan long after his formal connection with the editorial corps had ceased; and he well knew how welcome they always were. Would that we could have found room for a larger share of his weighty articles, in this imperfect gathering of his "miscellaneous" works!
During all these years, Dr. Mahan's power as a preacher became practically known in many of the parishes in and near New York, as well as Albany and Boston, and was by no means shut up within the narrow bounds of the Seminary Chapel. There, indeed, in his turn, he gave the students "his best:" and by example as well as precept encouraged the young men to master the art of extemporaneous delivery, as adding to the freshness of effect which makes it easier for ordinary minds to listen. He never recommended it to the total exclusion of written sermons, however: knowing that writing is as necessary to the making of an exact man, as extemporary delivery is to the making of a ready man. His own style of preaching was settled during these years: and it was a style of remarkable power. He had not the graceful and varied gesticulation, the sympathetic and theatrical tone, the magic of personal magnetism, the flexible and captivating voice, which the public idolize in the sensational preacher. His greatness was that of the true thinker, and he appealed directly to the thinking power in the hearer. He was, therefore, of far weightier metal than the so-called "popular preachers" are made of. Every sermon was carefully thought out,--often minutely skeletonized on paper. There was a close-twisted, organic connection of thought running harmoniously through the whole, every fibre of the texture being livingly connected with every other. The ease with which the argument flowed on and opened itself out, was like the graceful natural ease of the growing tree, unfolding leaves and buds and flowers, and at length offering the full-ripe fruit. Specially beautiful were those sermons in which he took up the marvellous story of some hero of Holy Writ, and unravelled from the well-known, picturesque brevity of Scriptural language, the still more marvellous likeness or shadow of some of the acts or sufferings of the LORD JESUS: thus bringing the fulness of the Gospel out of every part of the Old Testament. Sometimes he would take up some abstract point,--as once, at the opening of the Maryland Convention in 1868, we heard him preach on The Unity of the Church,--and astonish his most accomplished hearers by the perfect science with which the subject was handled, in its fulness, and roundness, and many-sidedness, and its harmony of perfect proportion. But in every variety of his sermons, the Word of GOD was shown to have a living power, growing out, as it were, of its own accord, and of its own inherent force, into all the fulness and fruit that was offered for the nourishment of the souls of men.
His first pastoral charge in New Jersey had brought him into close acquaintance with him who was then at the head of that Diocese,--the lion-hearted Bishop Doane. The two men were wonderfully different, and perhaps, for that very reason, took to one another instinctively. The feeling on Dr. Mahan's part was so strong, that as soon as his position at the General Seminary left him canonically free to fix his diocesan relations where he would, he returned to his first love, and was transferred to the Diocese of New Jersey. And on the part of Bishop Doane this feeling of affectionate confidence was so warmly reciprocated, that Dr. Mahan was soon made one of the Trustees of S. Mary's Hall and of Burlington College, besides being sent by New Jersey to the General Conventions of 1856, 1859, and 1862. His connection with those two noble educational Institutions became closer and stronger with the lapse of years. His lectures on Church History were one of the chief attractions of the College year. His extensive experience as an educator made him peculiarly valuable on the Executive Committee of the Hall: and his attendance on the meetings was not only most punctual, but his wisdom, clear-sightedness, and self-control, and his masterly and tenacious grasp of sound principle, were of great value to that Institution at some of the most critical turns in its management. He steadily won at last his recognized place in New Jersey as the one of all the Clergy of that Diocese to whom the Bishop and the brethren looked as their soundest, safest, and trustiest counsellor: never volunteering advice, yet never refusing it,--never intruding himself, yet never deserting those who needed him.
It was natural, then, that early in 1859, when the final breakdown of Bishop Doane's overtasked strength had stretched him on his dying bed, he should, almost with his last breath, have intimated a strong desire that Dr. Mahan should be his successor. Probably, that wish would have been easily realized, had it not been expressed. Among a portion of the laity of New Jersey, the bitter feelings of personal hostility to Bishop Doane, which had been defeated in countless contests during his life, seized upon the first chance of an ignoble triumph after his death. It was easy, in the excitement of an Episcopal election, to make the expression of a wish, whispered to one listening relative from a death bed, appear like the attempt of the departing ruler to domineer over his clergy and laity even after life was ended. I was myself present during that whole election, and was amazed at the depth and intensity of the misconceptions concerning Dr. Mahan which had raised the excitement of many of the laity to a white heat. In a chance conversation with one of them, I did my best to correct one tremendous misunderstanding after another, Dr. Mahan being represented as the ludicrously exaggerated opposite of his real self: but my interlocutor would not be convinced. "Sir," said he, with face flushed and blood in his eye, "all that you say about Dr. Mahan may be perfectly true: but as the nominee of the old Bishop we wouldn't vote for him, if he were an archangel come down from heaven!" The only answer was, that "such a temper as this was not likely to bring down an archangel from heaven to be their Bishop." Twelve times the Clergy, by a large majority, reiterated their confidence in their departed leader, and their devotion to the man of their own choice. The only apparently uninterested person present was Dr. Mahan himself. He did not wish to be a candidate at all, and his sole desire from the first was to withdraw his name. During the last two or three ballots in which the contest was kept up, the passionate urgency of his excited friends alone prevented his action. But, after a conference in which he satisfied his friends that his course was the best, he rose, and with a voice of quiet calmness and unconcern, thanked his friends for the oft-repeated marks of their confidence, withdrew his own name, and, with a few words of strong commendation, nominated the Rev. Dr. Odenheimer: who was thereupon at once, on the thirteenth ballot, elected by an overwhelming majority of both Orders. And Dr. Mahan was one of the Committee who waited upon Dr. Odenheimer, to inform him of his election.
Meanwhile, the ripening literary powers of the Professor of Ecclesiastical History were not confined to the columns of the Church Journal, or to the singularly beautiful letters which he wrote to private friends. He recognized his primary duty to his own special department of labor, and his Church History of the First Three Centuries had, for some years, been slowly working its way towards completion. Nothing was more characteristic in Dr. Mahan than his extreme deliberateness in thought, in resolve, in action. He never would allow himself to be put in a hurry. He never considered anything as finished, which was done on the spur of the moment. Rare as was his power of extemporary speaking, he did not believe in extemporary thinking or writing. And this was not due,--as many persons thought--to slowness, or inertness, or as some plainly called it "laziness." His mind was never slow. Its rapidity was as instantaneous as the flash of bright silver in sunshine. It was never inert. The powers of nature might as well be called inert, because the harvest is not ripe the day after the seed is sown. Those who sometimes spoke of him, with colloquial freedom, as "lazy," never did in all their lives as much brain work as he would put through in a single day. But he was deliberate, because he knew that truth is a solid, which has many sides and aspects, besides those two which are called the outside and the inside. He knew that no eye--except that of GOD--is so constituted that it can see all sides (including the inside and the outside) of any solid substance at the same instant of time. And he waited, therefore, until he could go all round, and through and through, and make his work complete. The care with which he erased, and interlined, and rewrote, a second, a third, or a fourth time, the more important portions of all his productions, is a lesson to those shallow pates who think that their own crude first impressions about things are good enough, not only for their own conceited selves, but to be spread before the world. It was several years, therefore, before the History was ready for the press, its appearance in print being in the Spring of 1860. And several years more were needed, before he had brought the continuation of it, through the period of the Six General Councils, to the condition in which it was found among his MSS. after his departure. The warm commendation of such men as Canon Bright, and the concurrence of many of the most high-toned of the English Reviews, renders any critical opinion superfluous here. But in justice to Dr. Mahan I ought to mention his reason for some deficiencies which have been more or less noticed, in the latter portion of that History. His object was, to trace the history of the Church as bearing upon, and illustrating, the establishment of CHRIST'S Kingdom upon earth, and the complete definition of the body of Divine Truth as contained in the decrees of "the undisputed General Councils," before the Great Schism had begun. S. Chrysostom--great as he was--had but little connection with the chief doctrinal contest of those ages, and is therefore but slightly mentioned. And S. Augustine's special field of life-long controversy was not in connection with the points closed by the decisions of the undisputed General Councils, but rather contained the seed-sowing of very different crops of controversies, which ripened in ages long afterwards. The unity of the work, as Mahan intended it, would have been injured, had the later part been more complete. But, for the period which it covers, and the object which it had in view, there is none of our very numerous Church Histories which condenses, within such small limits, so large an amount of mature and well-digested thought, lighted up by so much of poetic truth and intensely real life.
As a specimen of the minute and patient labor with which Mahan went through and through a historical subject, we commend the reader to his review article on Philosophic History: Milman, as a masterly example of the difference between using one's fancy to pervert every fact of history, and employing every faculty of the true poetic imagination in order to reconstruct the fair body of truth from the fossil fragments that are imbedded in the strata of histories. That article is like the application of the microscope to test whether a particular thing be a work of man's clumsy artifice, or a product of GOD'S handiwork in Nature. Yet that article is only as it were "a chip from the workshop" of one who did all his work with equal thoroughness, even when nothing was to be seen by others but the quiet, unpretending, result.
Few modern books have called forth so many answers as Dr. Colenso's attack upon the credibility of the Pentateuch. One reason of this was, that the multitudinous ignorances and stupidities of that work made it so easy to answer from a variety of points of view. The Hebraist showed him to be wofully ignorant of Hebrew. The Historian was equally prompt to convict him of ignorance of History. Even the provinces of modern science and statistics, on which he chiefly prided himself, were easily turned against him. And yet the mere fact of his being a Bishop advertised his crude essay till it reached a remarkable circulation among the middle and lower classes of readers: persons who have learned to read a little; but to think, not at all. Among the rest, Dr. Mahan's little treatise is remarkable as not taking up any profound line of demonstration, such as would require peculiar preparation on the part of the reader: but he calls for the exercise of nothing but plain common-sense. He shows that the Bible is to be read, not in order to demonstrate from its pages the discoveries of modern science or the contrary; nor to find the complete statistics of those ancient times, or even full data for an unlimited number of sums in the rule of three: but that it is to be read from the Spiritual point of view, for the Revelation of spiritual truth which man could not discover for himself. And the wit which sparkles on almost every page of this work is so in-woven with wisdom, and seems so entirely to be the self-luminousness of condensed common-sense, that even the most uneducated reader can see clearly the degree to which the celebrated "intelligent Zulu" made a fool of the arithmetical Bishop.
This little essay occupied comparatively a short time, and certainly was not one of the most important contributions of its author to the literature of the Church. Yet out of it grew up, unconsciously at first, the great work of his life,--that by which his name will live long through future ages. When he began his answer to Colenso, he was under the impression, shared by many, that, if there be a weak place in the text of Holy Scripture, it is in the use of numerals in the vague, loose, Oriental, hyperbolical, poetical, and essentially unstatistical or unscientific method: and strong traces of this will be found here and there throughout that work. He had never before given this particular subject any special consideration. But now that his mind was turned to it, he could not rest upon the surface. He began to mine, deeper and deeper: and the more deeply he mined, the richer were the ores and gems which found their way up into the light. Before the Colenso tract was finished, it will be seen that the new idea had begun to germinate. He had gotten hold of Browne's Ordo Saeclorum; and the spiritual meaning of numbers began to shine forth, not as merely the mode of explaining a few things here and there on the surface of Holy Scripture, but as the golden thread with which GOD has bound all the Ages, and the whole volume of His Word, and the entire universe of His Works, together into one inseparable Whole.
The answer to Colenso was completed in December, 1862. Palmoni--the first form in which he announced his new and astonishing discovery--was finished and published in the following June. Few mortal minds have ever accomplished such an immensity and intensity of labor within less than six months. Though it was only gradually that the idea took possession of him, yet that possession rapidly became complete; and, without interfering with any positive duty, absorbed the entire remainder of his time, thought and energy. The whole concentrated power of his maturest manhood went out into this new work. Having found, of GOD, something for his hand to do, he did it with his might. Meeting him generally twice a day during all this period, it was a delight to me to watch the rise and progress of a great discovery, dawning upon a great mind, illuminating a great soul, and drawing forth and multiplying all the powers of a great nature. How often, on entering his room, I could see by the smile of sure triumph that lit up his usually quiet face, and the sparkle that shot from his pale blue eye like the glint of burnished steel, that new victories had been won: and he would pour forth to me, in order, the fresh discoveries and marvels of the day. And then he would "prospect ahead"--as a California miner would say--and settle upon the lines along which his next day's explorations should run: to be followed on the next evening by the narration of other and still greater wonders than had been anticipated.
In publishing Palmoni so soon, he was deviating from the usual habit of his life: but not without a purpose. His object was, in part, to place his discovery before the minds of others, so that many minds might be engaged in testing it, in many ways, at the same time. But in this he was disappointed. The minds capable of understanding such marvellous discoveries when made, are rare enough. Those who are capable of taking up and carrying on the investigation are so few, that no generation of men is likely to see two at a time. In this connection one is reminded of the saying of Kepler, when he was printing a Latin book containing the demonstration of his discoveries of the laws of planetary motion, and an economical friend was dissuading him from the expensive experiment on the ground that "the book would find few readers:" the discoverer instantly replied: "I am willing to wait five hundred years for the first reader, since God Almighty Himself has been willing to wait more than five thousand years for the first observer."
In another purpose he was equally disappointed. Besides enlisting the minds of others, he hoped that the intense strain upon his own, which had been kept up incessantly since the idea first dawned upon him, would be interrupted and relaxed by the fact of publishing what he had thus far ascertained. But the man who is called of GOD to any such special work, cannot shake it off so easily. It clung to him. It seated itself in the very citadel of life and thought. It continued there to reign during all the remaining six years of his life. It enlisted all his old knowledge of mathematics: and the power which was thus appealed to grew stronger and stronger by daily exercise. The calculations that at first needed the mechanical assistance of pen and pencil, came at last to be performed mentally alone; and, as rapidly as the voice could pronounce the words of Hebrew or Greek, so rapidly the mind would add up the entire value of the numbers indicated by each letter in those languages. At first, the actual working of sums in long or short division was needed, to cipher out and ascertain the factors of which any large numeral was composed: but, eventually, one and the same act of reading the words was sufficient, in one and the same moment, to read the words, cipher the sum, and resolve that sum into its component factors. Every power of his poetic imagination was enlisted to the utmost, in order to lead and illustrate the outbranching of the living Idea which thus continued to grow from within: until arithmetic--the most prosaic and matter-of-fact branch of human thought-- was found to contain all poetry, as the white light of the sun contains all colors. The whole realm of Natural science was called upon, and it obediently crystallized into corroborations in every branch of the inquiry. And the whole range of Chronology and History, Ancient and Modern, Biblical and Secular,--that Chaos of accident, as it seems to the common mind--was found to be as marvellously moved, under the magic of this new discovery, as a chaos of grains of sand on a metallic plate when charged from a galvanic battery. As the chaotic grains gently and voluntarily weave themselves into figures of the most wonderful symmetry, until shapelessness disappears in perfect beauty of design: so, under the hand of this mighty Master, the whole long blood-stained story of the Ages of Man upon the earth melts into a harmonious music, with a rhythm of symmetrical motion, and a beauty of perfect harmony, and an exquisite rising swell towards the climax of future glories yet unattained, which blends in one complex whole the utmost powers of the human mind and heart and soul.
The work went on incessantly. Other duties might interrupt it for a brief season: but the mind, released from that interruption, rushed back at once, with irresistible fascination, to the boundless, unfathomable ocean of delight. Under this tremendous strain of all the faculties of body, mind and soul, the physical frame of the great Discoverer began to show the varied resu-lts of his toil. I have no doubt, myself, that it seated and aggravated the subtle disease which so soon after carried him hence. But besides this, it modelled and moulded the head which did so vast an amount of brain work, after a fashion of enlarged grandeur which was beautiful to see. Not that it gave him what is commonly called physical beauty: but it increased the breadth of that head, already of massive breadth from the first; it added squareness and strength to its lower lines; it added height and majesty to the arch above; it reinforced the prominences of the forehead, until they seemed to be bulging outward under pressure from a power within; and the projections of the face grew into a ruggedness of strength in harmony with the breadth of the brain. The whole man was new-made with a visible grandeur of strength which was the crown placed upon his outward form by the royalty of the work done within. It is a subject of profound regret that--even in this age of photographs--we have no representation of him which does not date far back beyond the beginning of these great changes. And thus the only portrait we can lay before the reader gives small hints to the ordinary eye of the manifestation of Power which was seen to rest upon that head, before it was laid down to rest forever.
The unity of this subject has carried me on to the end: but we must now return to take up the thread of other things.
For some time, the finances of the General Theological Seminary had been in an increasingly unsatisfactory condition. The payment of the Kohne legacy of $100,000, anxiously looked forward to for many years as the cure of every stringency, had disappointed these glowing expectations, owing to grievous mismanagement in its investment. There was an entire disinclination on the part of the Board of Trustees to examine into the matter. A large body of men, coming together for only a few hours' session once a year, is not likely to manage the work of an investigation willingly or wisely. I was satisfied that an exposure of the facts in the Church Journal was the only thing that would lead to any amendment, and was ready to begin the work in 1858. But Professors Mahan and Johnson--who were the most grievous sufferers in income by the then state of affairs--begged me not to do so: and I yielded. The next year, I was ready once more, as all the pledges of amendment had remained unfulfilled. But they both, again, so earnestly insisted that I should refrain, that I yielded once more; and they suffered silently one year longer. A third time they attempted the same self-denying intercession, affirming that the Treasurer had made strong promises of amendment: but I was satisfied that he could not keep them, on that system of doing business, and that the sooner the change was effected the better. The war therefore began. And though it did not secure a thorough investigation by a Committee of the Board, which it ought to have done,--the Laity largely voting for it and the Clergy against it--yet it brought about a very general change in the whole financial management of the Institution, including the appointment of the able Treasurer who has from that time continued in office, and who has long since navigated his charge into comparatively clear water.
More serious troubles, however, were close at hand. The outbreak of the Civil War brought with it heavy trials to Dr. Mahan, as to so many others of us all. His principles were such as compelled him at all times to render a conscientious obedience to the Civil Authority under which he lived: and in this he never failed, "for conscience sake." He took no part whatever in practical politics, except depositing the quiet vote of an individual citizen, which he and I have often done together, and always in such a way as to throw all our little weight against the triumph of sectional parties. But he was a Southerner by birth. His sympathies were warmly Southern: and with the freedom of a free man in a free country, he expressed them in private conversation with his friends, at all times. That the number of those who took precisely his view of the subject should be small, in that section of the country, was not strange, and would not have been felt as a hardship. But that opinions which he had expressed only in private conversation should result in cooling the fraternal courtesies of some of his clerical brethren, he felt very deeply, though--after his quiet manner--he said little or nothing.
Already, early in 1861, he had, of his own accord, withdrawn from his connection with the Editorial corps of the Church Journal: not that there had arisen any difference in regard to the course of the paper, but that he apprehended--with his usual thoughtful delicacy--that we might feel his presence an embarrassment in taking that part, which so many urged us to take, in "sustaining the life of the Nation" as it was then called. And he was also justly solicitous lest he should place himself in a false position with his own Southern friends by appearing to share a responsibility for the course which he supposed would 'be ours. The paper, it is true, never took the course which he feared. We never could see that splitting the Church with politics would strengthen the life of the Nation. And--except for the technical formality of the Editorial name and position--his connection with us was really as near and dear as ever. He and I, it is true, did not quite agree in our abstract political views. We soon found it out, and each of us had too much respect for the conscientious tenacity of the other, to attempt a conversion. We had plenty of other matters to talk about. But in regard to the great point of keeping all political questions and issues out of the Church, no two could be more thoroughly agreed.
And the highest field in which this point was discussed at large was in the General Convention of 1862, where he sat, being for the third time a deputy from the Diocese of New Jersey. The first introduction of the political question--though in a fairly ecclesiastical guise--was tabled by a majority of three to one, in both Orders, Dr. Mahan of course voting with the majority. This was the instinctive impulse of the body: and it was the right impulse; and they ought to have acted upon it with equal promptness and fearlessness all the way through.
But, unfortunately, the New York State election was only two or three weeks distant; and Horatio Seymour, the Democratic candidate for Governor on "the War platform," was a member of the House as a Deputy from Western New York. The Democrats were loudly accused of insincerity in putting forth such a platform. And as the General Convention was sitting in New York, it was feared that the total refusal to do anything might have an unfavorable effect upon the election. The Republicans being clamorous for action, and the Democrats being thus reluctantly persuaded that they "must do something," the subject would not remain upon the table, but was sent to a large Committee. The result of their long incubation was a string of Resolutions whose strength was in inverse proportion to their volume: and the debate ran on for more than a week, hounded by the daily press of all parties, and wasting a fearful amount of time and temper, to no real purpose.
Up to this time Dr. Mahan had been a silent member of General Convention, never having made a set speech on any subject, and never having been a member of any important Committee. He had manifested to those around him only his apparently half-stolid, half-playful, unconcern, and during some of the long speeches one might have thought him half-asleep. But he was really taking in the whole length and breadth and depth of the discussion, and tracing it down to deeper principles than the shallow commonplaces which passed current with the many. While his colleagues saw only his apparent unconcern, we, who watched him morning and evening and in his library, could see that the ore was in the furnace, and the wood and coal were being heaped on day by day, and the fire was in full blast. At length on Saturday morning (the sixth day after the discussion began), there was a favorable opportunity, and, gaining the eye of the President, the bright molten metal of his eloquence began to flow. Certainly since the great speech of Dr. Hawks in 1844, nothing in the Lower House had ever taken the hearers so entirely by storm. The wisdom, the measured calmness, the depth and clearness of the scientific theology, the pertinent applications of history, the grasp of fundamental principles, and the keen wit that flashed out like lightning from a rising cloud, made it the climax of the long debate. Immediately after the close of that speech, in the midst of the profound sensation caused by it, the House adjourned to the Monday morning following, while crowds thronged around the orator, expressing their triumphant congratulations. After brief counsel among a few of our friends, it was determined that the full report of that speech in pamphlet form should be gotten out with all speed. I had taken notes (not in short hand), and went down first to the printers, making arrangements that a messenger should be sent at 7 o'clock for half the "copy" and at 11 o'clock for the remainder. I then went up town to Dr. Mahan's, and found him enjoying a cigar after dinner in his library, with the quiet look of satisfaction on his face which a man has a right to feel whose day's work--and a good day's work at that--is done. He was at once informed that his work was not yet half over: and sitting down, and with the help of my notes, he dictated the whole speech to me and I wrote it out at his lips. At 5 o'clock, the messenger received rather more than half, and at 11 o'clock the rest; and the whole pamphlet was distributed in the House on Monday morning at 10 o'clock: and no part of the work, even by the printers, was done on Sunday. His second speech, on the Wednesday following--the day of the close of that debate,--produced no such sensation as the first, for the House now knew what to expect. Nor was it in unity so artistic, as it necessarily followed the points made by objectors. But it was well worthy of the first in every part. It tested his masterly readiness as a debater, making instant use of every attempt to interrupt. It drove home the application of the principles announced in his first speech. And the closing warning against "Confusion," and against carrying the Ark of GOD to the battle-field to "please the people." will ever ring like deathless watchwords in the ears of all who heard them. The venerable Judge Chambers--not generally of an enthusiastic turn--declared of these two speeches on Schism: "They are Stars, to guide all future generations."
But the troubles of the War were then only beginning. The splendid service which he had rendered in the attempt to keep politics out of the Church, did not conciliate towards him the feelings of those who were doubly embittered, first by their possession of the power that comes from present popularity in times of high excitement, and secondly by the consciousness that they had been defeated in argument by those who were, in other respects, at their mercy. As time went on, Dr. Mahan was made to feel that there was a growing coldness towards him on the part of a portion of the Board of Trustees. Moreover the changes of the times in money matters were peculiarly hard upon men of small salaries. His professorship was "endowed" with the narrow income of $1250 a year, which--to a man with a family of six in all--was so insufficient in New York City, that from before his time it had been supplemented by the Board, to the total amount of $2000 a year and a house. Even this is beggarly enough, in that city of rich rectors and high salaries. But the late embarrassments of the Seminary had crippled its resources, and the refusal of the board to investigate open charges of mismanagement had rendered it almost useless to appeal to the public; besides which, war prices had doubled the cost of all the necessaries of life, and--under the stress of the pressure--the Board had cut down the income of his Chair to the bare amount due from the endowment, and even that was of course paid in greenbacks, and irregularly: so that the pinchings of poverty were verging towards what might be called, by no violent figure, the unbearable. It was under these circumstances that, in the summer of 1864, Dr. Mahan accepted, after long deliberation, and with great reluctance, the call to the Rectorship of S. Paul's Church, Baltimore, then vacant from the decease of the venerable Dr. Wyatt.
He took up his abode in the ancient Rectory of S. Paul's, 83 Saratoga street---his last earthly home--in September, being instituted on the Feast of S. Michael and all Angels: and he soon found many a heavy load upon his shoulders. The parish--the original parish Church of the whole city of Baltimore--was in the condition that might have been expected from the great age of its last Rector. He had indeed shown a remarkable tenacity of life and activity, until within a few months of his departure. But though his theological teachings had laid deep the foundations of Catholic truth, he and his people were of the extremely conservative kind, and the warmth and strength that comes from numbers and from the hearty interest of the young, did not then distinguish S. Paul's. There was, withal, such a traditional attachment to the memories of the past half century, that to make essential improvements was painfully difficult, and to make them rapidly was simply impossible. In his usual quiet method, little was said, and -there was nothing in the way of complaint, or fuss, or the appearance of any great thing to be done. There was no shock, no jolt, no revolution, no newspaper chronicle of improvement. But quietly and silently one dropped stitch after another was taken up; one want after another was supplied. To the Daily Service was soon added the weekly Celebration, besides that on Saints' Days; and an early service during Lent, which was afterwards continued all year round. The alb and chasuble (of white linen) were introduced. The one Altar-cloth was supplemented by another of white, and then others of other colors followed, until S. Paul's had received the richest specimen of such embroidery to be found in this country. A Guild was formed among the young men. An association for providing and serving the vestments and other ornaments of the Altar was formed among the devout women. Numerous wax lights gleamed from the Altar on all High Festivals, on either side of a new Altar Cross. And these are only samples of that which was going on and gaining during all the six years of his Rectorship. He himself looked forward longingly to the time when "The Daily" Celebration should be his delight, and he was steadily leavening the hearts and souls of his people till they should reach that higher level.
And this is perhaps, the fittest place to introduce the following tribute to Dr. Mahan as a Theologian, which I find among the materials kindly placed at my service for this Memoir by his devoted friend and admirer, the Bishop of Albany:--
Such a man as Dr. Mahan, living, thinking, being, in a sphere largely of his own creation, leads the times in which he lives. By and bye, slower and smaller minds creep up to the standpoint which he has cleared away. A few shallower people seize, here and there, a point, and distort it out of its proportionate truth, which the broader mind held in all its roundness. And as time goes on, the issues which were contended for in one generation, come to be accepted; and new questions rise up. It is not so much a change, an introduction of novelties, as it is an advance, another position taken in the same great battlefield. From which three things result. Men imperceptibly advanced themselves, claim the leader of a past generation as belonging to their school; forgetting that their school has changed to his views. Extreme men single out, from the old leader's writings, his views on this or that point of their position, as though they were all he used to hold. And upon new topics, on which he was silent, each party claims him, by his silence, as in accord with them.
Desiring to speak soberly and truly of the Doctor, and believing that I speak from knowledge, I should place him among the very highest Churchmen--to use the common phrase--I ever knew. Thoroughly Catholic, in his nature, by his tastes, and from his studies, he was in many ways more "advanced" than clergymen of his own age, who agreed with his general views. At the same time, his nature was most generous, most genial, most full of sympathy, most just, most ready to allow for liberties of difference. Trusting in his own well-considered and well-grounded acceptance of the Catholic faith and appreciation of the Catholic Church, he never despised any other. His early associations had been with men of the Evangelical School, as it used to be, before the Radicals narrowed and embittered it; and he had a very warm and kindly love for the men, and for their sincerity and earnestness, and the substantial soundness of the positive truths they held. Later on, he had not only moulded the younger minds of the more Churchly School, but his companionship was with them. He loved their energy and devotion, and was in accord, not merely with their theology and their good works, but with their more frequent and richer services. He longed for the restoration, in some Churches at least, of the Daily Celebration. I remember his writing to me, that, in decency and reverence of ceremonial, S. Paul's Church, Baltimore, was not behind any of the Churches. He was intensely impressed with the reality, and dignity, and awefulness, of the Sacrifice of the Altar. And his offering of It was a very blessed part of his Priesthood, involving a constant commemoration of those who were in his heart. And while he was not at all, in the vulgar sense, "a Ritualist," he loved all the beauty of holiness, with his great poetic soul. And all these things made him farther removed from Roman error than any one, except my father, that I ever knew. His tract on The Exercise of Faith is an absolute antidote against Romanizing, if the disease attacks the head, as sometimes it does; and is then curable. At the same time, the instinctive equipoise of his mind, his wonderful composure in the heat of excited controversy, in the stir of a debate, even in the intense feeling of a personal conflict, made it impossible for him to be an extremist or a partisan. His views upon the Sacraments, the Ministry, the divine authority of the Church, her organic Unity, the Rule of the Faith, and the whole class of subjects which we have contended for since Bishop Hobart's time, and for which we have won almost an unquestioning acceptance, are perfectly well known.
The charming social tone of Baltimore--which is the most enjoyable of all our large cities--was a constant feast to him.
Without going outside of his own parish, he found men and women of the highest cultivation and refinement, whose society was not only a refreshment and a strength in itself, but who were so thoroughly devoted to the Church, that constant intercourse with them was one of the chief parts of his Church work. And from their position in the mother parish of the largest Southern city, he was brought into contact with many individuals from all parts of the country, so that his influence was soon felt through a far wider sphere than ever before.
And he found a peculiar work to do among his brethren of the Clergy and Laity. The intensity and almost universality of Southern sympathies in that State, made "My Maryland" a proverb during the whole period of the War; and these sympathies were peculiarly strong in Church circles. The Bishop, from of old, had been known as standing in the front rank of High Churchmen, and was peculiarly obnoxious to the partisan prejudices of his Low-Church congregations. Shortly after the opening of the war, under impulses the sincerity and disinterestedness of which no one doubted for an instant, the Bishop had changed his political sympathies, and "sustained the Government" with a warmth and earnestness which had alienated him almost entirely, for a time, from large portions of his Clergy and Laity, who had previously been his devoted friends. The isolation in which the Bishop stood in regard to his Diocese was excessively painful, all round. While second to none in his Southern sympathies, Dr. Mahan yielded entire obedience to the Civil Authority on principle; and equally on principle as well as from personal affection, was determined to show full and loyal and cordial regard to his Bishop. Everything, therefore, that was in his power he did, even at times when he was likely to be misunderstood by his best friends, in order to restore more kindly relations between the Bishop and his Flock. As to the complexity and obstinacy of the difficulties in the way of restoring that desirable condition of feeling, some idea may be formed by the perusal of the letter to Bishop Whittingham, which, after the most painful deliberation, and consultation, and writing and rewriting, Dr. Mahan felt it to be his duty to send. It received no answer. But matters began to mend. And little by little, after the war was over, its bitterness began to fade away from the hearts and tongues of all. In his own parish, there were prominent men of both parties; and both were warm personal friends of their Rector, giving him their full confidence. And in the leading part taken by him, after the close of the war, to secure the benefit of Church education for daughters of the South to whom the disasters of the war had left no other chance than the kindness of their more fortunate brethren, a field of common Churchly exertion was found, which not only did a great and needed good in itself, but gave the best opportunity for drawing together, once more, hearts which had been sundered by the calamities of the times.
The Comedy of Convocation,--a Romish caricature of some of the difficulties of the Anglican position, and written by a 'vert from the Church of England,--was vigorously circulated by Romanists about the close of the year 1867 and the early part of 1868; and several of our Bishops and Clergy repeatedly urged me to respond to it. Others had made similar suggestions to Dr. Mahan, and I added my own entreaties so strongly--knowing how much better he could do the work--that at last he promised to furnish something, if I would take the risk and trouble of seeing it printed: which I gladly promised to do. In the summer of 1868 he sent me his first sketch, modestly giving me entire freedom to add, curtail, alter, or suppress, or do what I pleased with it. I added somewhat, and sent it back to see how he liked the additions. He adopted them, and added still more; and the manuscript took further journeys back and forth till all was complete. The Comedy of Canonization was published before the adjournment of the General Convention of that year, anonymously. It is the only thing printed in this collection which is not wholly his own. The portion contributed by each of us is more minutely indicated elsewhere: but since the whole idea, the larger part in quantity, the deeper part of the learning, the best of the theology, and the brightest of the wit, are all his, the Comedy is rightfully inserted among his "Works." Maryland continued to Dr. Mahan the honor which he had received from New Jersey, and he sat in the General Conventions of 1865 and 1868. In the former, the happy return of two of the Southern Bishops to the Upper House and four of the Diocesan delegations to the Lower, settled sufficiently the entire reunion of the Church after the war. With large majorities on the right idea of the question, there was no occasion for any special effort; and Dr. Mahan's modesty was such, that he always remained silently in the background unless imminent danger to the Right and the True called him to the front. But it was not so in 1868. It was then that the first distinct onslaught was made upon Ritualism, as such, and Dr. Mahan's services were invaluable in breaking the force of the blow. He was on the Committee on Canons,--the most important Committee in the Lower House. And every time the subject came up for consideration in that Committee, he took hold of it with the determination to make the discussion as thorough as possible. Day after day it was found that they were not yet ripe for a Report. Day by day it was found that the divergency of views between the members was increasing. The result--not reached until quite late in the session--was, a double Report, one by the Majority, and one by the Minority. The newly-formed alliance between the Low-Church and the High-and-Dry was ominous of mischief. It was effected first of all at that General Convention, and chiefly with a view to that special work. Dr. Mahan's indefatigable labors in committee were supplemented by a brief but noble speech in the House (after the ten minutes rule was adopted) and to him more than any other man is due the credit of confusing and confounding the efforts of the obstructives. The House was at length so wearied and disgusted that both schemes of action were defeated: and some sonorous "resolutions," that hurt nobody, ended the campaign with edifying unanimity.
We are now drawing towards the close. The chronic disease of the heart which was slowly doing its fatal work, had given some warnings long before. Already in his twenty-sixth year, he had experienced some serious attack, which was accompanied with a mysterious intimation that one half of his life was now past. From about the time of his removal to Baltimore, the periods of distress became more frequent and more decided; and continued to increase--though not alarmingly--year by year. He was mostly very silent on this subject, and to his friends he usually made light of any serious apprehension: but no man, in reality, ever looked the future in the face with eyes more widely open. On S. Stephen's Day, 1868, in writing to an intimate friend on the prevalence and the usefulness of suffering, there is an exquisitely pathetic mingling of playfulness and deep feeling, which meant more than was then understood:
First, I remembered you, with emphasis, yesterday morning early, before the Altar-lights, as also this morning when a few of us--alas, so few!--commemorated the First Martyr. Secondly, I am not sorry to see you laying the thought to heart that others around you suffer identically as you do, though (like others too) you may have your pet horrors as well as your pet fancies, and may imagine your pets to be more exquisite than anybody else's. You have read, I dare say, the Acts of the Scillitan Martyrs. Saturus had a particular dislike of bears; and GOD in the sweetness of His mercy kept the bears away from him, and allowed him to be torn in pieces by a beautiful and fragrant leopard. Saturninus, more catholic in his tastes, prayed for a wrestle with all the beasts at once, and his prayer was granted. Perpetua endured joyfully the tossing of wild cows, flying from one pair of horns to another in an ecstasy of devotion, but shrieked at the sight of the gladiator's sword. Stars differ in glory; and there is room for the exercise of taste, in tortures and deaths. I am some centuries older than you, Sister ----, and have been often in that old Colosseum where one is made a spectacle to angels and to men. Moreover, I can remember as a thing far back,--in some stage or other of my many metempsychoses,--that I had what the physicians called heart-disease, namely, a heart badly lodged, not comfortably accommodated. Thereupon the physicians advised that I should keep my heart very still, avoid violent exercise, and the like. At another stage of existence, I was threatened with brain-disease, namely, brain too large for its quarters. Whereupon the doctors said, keep your brain still, avoid study, close thought, and the like. At other stages I have had symptoms of lung-disease, and have therefore been advised to keep my lungs still; in other words, to let the fire go out in order to spare the bellows. To all this good advice I have paid some slight attention, now and then, when I felt like it; but in general I have found it of little use to discriminate among the bears and leopards and wild cows to which we are thrown. We are put into the amphitheatre to suffer, and the one beast which combines all the dread qualities of all--decay and death--we cannot possibly avoid. Indeed, we cannot well avoid any of them. In the one as in the many, in the individual as in the Empire, there is that same old procession coming out of the great deep: the lion, of our youth, generous, grandiose and cruel; the bear, of youth also, on its shady side, grumbling, dyspeptic, cruel and voracious; the leopard of life in its finish and perfect culture, which conies, if anywhere, a little before our decline; and lastly the beast diverse from all the others, with the great iron teeth, which tramples, and tears, and crunches our very bones----------. Is not this a cheerful view of life? But I am writing on S. Stephen's Day; and though I have never worn, as he did, the garment of sharp stones, I can sympathize a little in that internal stoning which wrings from the Ministry in all ages the cry (not the less bitter that it has to be suppressed), "We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not wept." But in all this there is a grain of comfort still. "What advantageth it me to have fought with beasts at Ephesus, if the dead rise not?" But the dead do rise. There is the advantage!" He that hath suffered in the flesh, hath ceased from sin." "Every sacrifice is salted with salt, and every soul shall be salted with fire." Life is but a sea of fiery sorrows, from which the hopeful and strong swimmers emerge, but the unbelieving and desperate sink deeper and deeper. Sister---- is bound to look up and rise! But whenever you do get a little lift, don't forget your heavy old friend, who has a hundred-millstone power of gravitation to contend with, and whose occasional uprisings are altogether of the porpoise and whale order,--a momentary breath of the pure air, and then down, down, down again into the depths.
He was ever eloquent upon the uses of suffering. To the same friend he wrote, not far from the same time:
Between you and ---- I feel as if I were at least a century old; and if I could only cut out a half-century of apathy from my pericardium and divide it between you, it would be a benefit to you, perhaps, without any serious injury to myself. Still, in wishes of this kind, I speak only "as a man." When I think seriously, and as a spiritual man, I have to abjure all anaesthetics as "earthly, sensual, devilish." They savor not of the wisdom that is from above. A soul that tingles at every touch is nearer to GOD than a soul which is at ease. The true rest in GOD is a rest of vehement and free motion, a fire enkindling and enfolding itself, an agitation which attains to serenity and stillness as the light of heaven does, by leaving no gap, no vacuum, in the sphere which it is created to fill. Therefore, dear Sister----, as an old earthly friend, having a good deal of sympathy with hearts,-- especially with those which have minds attached,--I exhort you much to quietness, and patience, and even philosophic apathy, in some things: but as a spiritual guide, having a concern for souls with some slumbering sparks of the love of GOD, I say to you rather, Sursum corda! up hearts! Give no place to mere apathy or tolerance of evil; but suffer keenly, with all your might, and by suffering conquer, overcoming evil with good.
This heroic endurance of suffering was becoming daily more and more the internal reality of his own life. And at the same time, the development of his parish work was going on as steadily as if nothing were the matter. A parish school for boys and one for girls he had found already in existence when he came to Baltimore; but he was now attempting to put them both on a far more efficient footing than before. His boys' school he writes of as "terribly interesting" to him; and for his girls' school he was desirous to secure the trained supervision of some of the Sisters in England who had specially devoted themselves to the work of education. The combined motive of his failing health and something to be done for his schools, induced him to make a brief trip to England in the summer of 1869. He thus briefly announced to me his determination: "I have almost made up my mind to go to England for a little sea-air and a view of Dr. Pusey. Could you not go?" And in a postscript he adds:--"I have started our boys' school--seventeen boys to be liberally educated by S. Paul's--year's estimate, $3400, given on Easter Day in advance--a splendid teacher and matron--and eleven out of the seventeen confirmed--with all things working well. Everything to be paid always in advance. If we can keep up to the programme, we shall have a Church School. If I had you here in Baltimore, I could make you spin." He had already been strongly solicited by his friends to return to the Seminary: but he wrote to me: "I found it impossible to indulge any thought of the Seminary. Though I am not much of a worker, I found S. Paul's work too much entangled around me to let me go.'' To another friend he wrote, at nearly the same time:
We have had a good Lent and Easter, with services not so bad as they might have been, and with a firmer resolve on my part to stand and strike for the old Catholic way. I am sick to death of the opposite. I long for the restoration of "The Daily." There are some signs that frequent celebration is coming to be understood, and some of us may live to see the day when the prayer for "daily bread" shall be answered by bread from heaven, and when any one who wants to see a priest may find one always near the Altar. I am not a very mindful or methodical person, but I remember Sister ---- as often as the Manna comes, and hope she remembers me.
With such longings, it is no wonder that, on his arrival in England about the middle of June, he soon found himself among those who are commonly regarded as the "advanced men." At Oxford he was so unfortunate as to miss Dr. Pusey; but he was delighted with Dr. Liddon, of whom he saw a great deal: he was a guest at the House of S. John the Evangelist, Cowley; he visited the Sisterhood of S. Thomas, Oxford. As to the revival of the Religious Orders, he writes:
I believe it to be an excellent thing for the Church that so many are moved in that direction, there being sufficient evidence of a real and living movement, of a kind to command respect from all quarters, and to tell upon the future with power. ..... I have been pleased to find so many young men, of high social position and commanding means, ready to give up all ordinary prospects for a life of devotion and hard work. Our wealthy neighbor, the son and heir of the ----s, is treading in Father Benson's steps, and hopes to establish a brotherhood in the county where his great wealth lies; and all the family seem to countenance him in it. Another young squire, equally wealthy, spends much of his time at the Mission, and seems equally enthusiastic.
He went to Clewer, also, "which is delightful:" and there he made arrangements in accordance with which three of the Clewer Sisters came over to Baltimore the following Spring, and took charge of his Girls' School, to his great rejoicing. After Clewer, he visited East Grinstead, where he found still another vanity of the movement, and made new friendships there also. He sat up nearly all night to enjoy a long conversation with Dr. Littledale. He naturally attended the highest Ritualistic services he could find: and thus briefly describes them:--
The words of consecration are said "mystically" and inaudibly; but the great bell booms out at the right moment, and when the bell ceases the Choir bursts in, and an awe comes over the congregation in which the heart lies still as a stone. In impressiveness, the best choral services of the Anglican mode are only so-so in comparison. Indeed there is no comparison: there is hardly anything in common. Ritualism is manifestly too strong for the old bottles.
There were some things which he saw here and there, with which he could not entirely agree: but the prevailing feeling was evidently an intense delight mingled with surprise, on realizing the solid strength and wonderful power of the advanced movement. In one letter he wrote: "The advanced movement, in this country, is enough to make one's hair stand on end: but,"--he adds very dryly, and with evident satisfaction,--"as I am rather deficient in hair, I do not suffer much from it."
He also took occasion to attend the Russo-Greek Chapel in London and Paris, and was exceedingly delighted with both. Of the latter he writes, in a sort of rapture:--"O how lovely! To hear that sweet and earnest litany, becoming more and more intense at every repetition, and seeming at times to be battering the gates of heaven, the Angels the meanwhile answering from within the closed doors of the Sanctuary,-- it beats all the Western uses beyond all comparison!" [He had been exceedingly interested in the services on board the Russian fleet when visiting the Harbor of New York, some years before; and he was charmed with the Russian priests whose acquaintance he then made].
But while his soul was thus rejoicing in its brief respite abroad, a cup of exceeding bitterness was being prepared for his lips at home. His friends had long felt that the General Seminary was the true field of his greatness, and that it was a grievous mistake in the Church to suffer him to be drawn away to parochial life. Although when privately sounded on the subject, he had found it impossible to pledge himself to return, and at the April meeting this year (1869) a letter from him was read declining to be a candidate: yet, as at the meeting there was no election, after five ballots, his friends nominated him afresh, strongly hoping that, if elected in June, and--as they took for granted--by a very large majority, he could not find it in his heart to persist in his refusal. At the June meeting, however, there was strong opposition on the part of some of the Bishops,--who, for the first time in the history of the Institution, called for the vote by Orders on the election of a Professor: and amazement is a mild word for the feeling which was aroused when the Bishop of Maryland arose and declared it impossible for him to support the candidate, because he knew from private conversation with him, that Dr. Mahan held unsound views tending to Romanism on the subject of Auricular Confession! That a charge like this should be made against a man of Dr. Mahan's great eminence, learning, and transcendent ability, and be made by his own Bishop, too, on the express ground of private conversation only, and while the accused was absent from the country,--the Bishop of Maryland, also, being second to none in reputation for theological learning,--was a combination of circumstances so strange and unprecedented, that the excitement rose to a pitch never surpassed even in that Board. On the fourth ballot, Dr. Mahan received 60 out of 74 votes cast; but the Bishops present, 4 to 2, steadily refused to concur. There was no little discussion as well as voting: and the Bishop of New Jersey warmly defended his absent friend, being especially severe upon the mode and circumstances of this attack upon the absent: "It was," he said, "a thing that might pierce the heart of some poor priest, and let out his life blood!" The vote by Orders having resulted in a complete dead-lock, and neither side being willing to yield, the election was postponed till the 12th of October, by which time Dr. Mahan was expected to return.
The startling and painful intelligence--not the slightest hint from any source having prepared him for so sudden a blow--was at once forwarded to him, through more than one channel. And knowing what we now know of the degree to which his fatal disease had already advanced, we can easily understand that the Bishop of New Jersey's words were hardly overstrained: and that the natural agony of grief and indignation helped to shorten an invaluable life. A few days after receiving the intelligence, Dr. Mahan sadly writes:--
I am not troubling myself. My heart is dead to everything American and mundane. I feel like one comfortably deposited in his grave, with just life enough to amuse himself with the ease with which he is forgotten. [He then passes his friends in review by name, one after another, imagining what they would each say and do; and continues]: In short, "La piece est finie, aliens souper!" "Qu' importe?" "Here lieth Dr. Mahan, done to death with Bishops and High-Churchmen!" This moral catalepsy, in which one sees and hears all, with no capacity to move, or even wink, merely waiting for a coffin, is not altogether a pleasant state of mind; but, I dare say, it has its uses. I will probably run over to Paris next week, stay my appointed time there, or in Switzerland, or elsewhere,--one place is as good as another, or perhaps a little better,--and then will roll over to the other side again, and be awakened once more by the bulls of Bashan. .... The safest way, on the whole, is to accept the counter-irritants which Heaven provides. GOD, in His sublime irony, prepares us a gourd now and then, "a shadow over the head, to deliver from grief;" but He at the same time prepares "a worm" to smite the gourd. My little trip to England has been my gourd, and I have been "exceeding glad of the gourd." But the sun arises, and the east wind blows, and the gourd is smitten. So Jonah faints, and wishes in himself to die! Well, I am glad at least that Jonah dared to say for me, what I dare not say for myself: "I do well to be angry, even unto death." But for you, Sister ----, you are a better person than I, and have a soul better worth saving, and therefore you do not well to be angry! "Anw kardiaV! Up, hearts, and be doing! Our poor country is, I grant, a rather shabby part of the great Tabernacle--apparently, hardly worth adorning. But, on the other hand, what are our poor works, our best efforts? May it not be that our Heavenly FATHER treats us and our doings as wise parents often deal with the over-ambitious efforts of little children? A pert little thing, perhaps, is very eager to stick her needle into some grand quilt, or other work, which the family is making. The mother, with a smile, grants her request. But she at the same time takes care that the needle shall be put in where the work will not show. Sister ---- tells you of my teaching her--in a rather heathenish way--that GOD is jealous of human bliss. It would perhaps be more Christianlike to say, that He deals with us ironically. He puts our little wits on the stretch by no end of paradoxes, so that we can never tell what He means, save by looking into His eye. And His eye, I fear, is not easy to be seen now-a-days. But His will is, in the main, that we should toil and suffer in that state to which it hath pleased Him to call us, and should find His Kingdom and His appearing, not in the desert, not in the secret chambers, not in anything that we are to find by "observation," but simply in ourselves. "Go thou thy way till the end: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days." But why should I attempt to give counsel to you, now? This note is an epistle from among the worms to the feeders upon the lilies. Why should I call you back from what may be a higher and truer life? Why should I speak of the path through Siddim and its slime-pits, when a louder voice may be crying: "Come with me from Lebanon. .. .look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions' dens, from the mountains of the leopards." On the whole, I give you no advice. Only, I would say, whatever may be your course, whether to go or stay where you are, be careful to expect nothing in this life, and to lean on nobody.
Nothing is more touchingly characteristic of Dr. Mahan, than that he should close the above letter with a message to a little child, who could not yet pronounce the letter S. His intense love for children was one of the most winning sides of his character; and he was never weary of having them with him, taking them in his arms, showing them pictures, and babbling to them an unbroken stream of baby-talk, in which there flashed out sparkles of wit and wisdom like the flakes of gold that shone among the sands of the Pactolus. So even in the first outburst of deep pain and righteous indignation, he is not wrapped up in himself, but can think not only for his friend, but also for the little child three thousand miles away:
Tell ---- that the sibilant which little Mary eschews, comes from the tree of knowledge, and also from the Tree of Calvary. She must train the child, therefore, to say:
JESUS, sole Shepherd of my soul,
Sole Sacrifice for Sin and Shame,
Sole Shibboleth, sole Saving Name,
Sole Serpent hung upon the pole!
which last epithets she herself must diligently expound as containing the cream of Catholic theology. .... .Good bye, dear Sister ----, and from the midst of the lilies and roses pray for your poor dear friend, who is decidedly among the thorns.
M. + M.
Nor must it be supposed that the gloomier intimations of these letters were the mere passing feelings of the moment, or unconscious effects of his disease. He knew perfectly well what his real condition was. At Brighton, while walking with an intimate friend, some merry words of his were interrupted by that strange suffocating cough that was slowly gaining upon him. With assumed gayety his friend asked: "And are you not rid of that? Why, what did you come over here for?" His manner instantly turned to that of the deepest solemnity, as he answered: "I came to try and learn how to save souls. I am not better, and I'm not going to be better. These people over here seemed to me to have found out how souls can be saved, and I thought I'd like to give up the rest of my time to that." And this friend afterwards learned that, to her sister in Baltimore, he had said almost identically the same words before leaving home. He went forward, therefore, "having his eyes open."
But, except only a word or a look understood by none save the very few, he gave himself up for the remainder of his brief trip to the reception of every bright or pleasing impression within his reach. From Paris he writes his description of the Fête Napoleon:
At once I was swept along in that delicious flow of souls innumerable, from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, a dark gurgling river rushing either way, with confluents and cross-currents without number, all illuminated by myriads on myriads of festoons of beady light, with the moon riding aloft as if she were longing to come down, and the Elysées twinkling as with millions of fire-flies, and the great fountain of the Louvre swaying its huge white jet to and fro under the blaze of Bengal lights,--in short, a perfect intoxication of splendor and of gayety, and yet, as I can bear witness from floating some four hours in the thickest of the crowd, not the slightest jostling, or pressure, or inconvenience of any sort. Little boys rode on the strong shoulders of good-natured fathers; infants were borne in the arms of much-enduring mothers; little girls danced in and out at every interval in the throng; Ladies (chiefly American) marched on in all the toggery and frippery of a ball-room; cumbrous old Padres jogged along with elephantine tread; gay young fellows swept by at double-quick, singing comic songs: everybody went his own ways, and did his own deeds, without, so far as I could see, a single accident, or cross word, without the slightest ruffling of all the gay plumage, without a feather lost, or a ribbon out of place. In American crowds I know well the inconvenience of a little extra bulk: so much so, that a quiet evening reception is enough to inspire me with terror. But here, in a crowd numbered by hundreds of thousands, of all classes and sorts, I walked as if I had a gift of intangibility. Verily the Parisians are of that boneless race which old Purchas describes somewhere in his Pilgrims. They have no elbows, no toes! What is better, the women have no skirts to tread on. Each atom of a crowd revolves on its own axis, like a drop of water; and the mass--like water, again--is capable of infinite movement, but is incompressible. Each boneless and guileless soul, sweetly lubricated, and enveloped in a soft panoply, which they call in their courtly jargon a "pardon, M'ss'r!" moves in a delicious vortex of its own, which again shares the movement of a grand comprehensive vortex from without, so that no one thing impinges upon any other, and there is no jostling in the ranks, no confusion, no check, no weariness, and you arrive at the end of a long tramp amid a crowd, with a sense of deep gratitude to the nation that has carried you in soft arms, and on cushions of roses, from the beginning to the end of your journey. As usually happens to me when I go in for "a bender," I had plenty of nice adventures to beguile the way. Some were too comical to be thought of without laughing at myself. Others were bedewed with "sentiment." I saw, and felt, the true Celtic thrill, when at the concluding feux de joie a low, tense cry burst out simultaneously, almost like a sob of joy: O que cela est joli!" It seemed strange to me to be moved by a blaze of fire-works (what a hateful word compared with feux de joie!) or to discern anything poetical in the word joli: but, really, the cry and the sight together awoke every bit of the old buried Celt within me, and the old dry wells were irresistibly galvanized. Another soft spot was touched by a beautiful boy, about four years old, a grand little bit of nature's royalty, who had for his chief worshippers a rough but kindly fellow in a blouse, with a sharp but sweet-visaged old dame, who was his mother. The little fellow was wild over the illumination of the Arc de Triomphe. I spent all my small stock of bad French in compliments to the old people, who were as grateful to me as if I had spoken "comme un ange." I also invested a couple of sous in one of the innumerable Gallic cocks that the children were blowing to my great delight; and I took a sly opportunity, as I saw no Americans around, to see whether I could make it crow. Its performances were quite satisfactory. But, to appreciate the gay bird, you ought to hear him when manipulated by some thousands of French urchins.
You see I'm a trifle Paris-mad, just now. But "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, all is vanity!" Have you ever studied that exquisite serpent in the doorway of Notre Dame, with the inspired woman-face? The idea is one easily debased into a common-place satire. But as it stands out at Notre Dame, it fairly haunts one with dim and deep meanings. On the whole, there is much to be said for the French people, and much to be hoped. Paris does not strike me as a wicked city: but it is tolerant of wickedness, as men come to be when they are old and ripe, and more or less weary of simulated good.
Or, as he expresses it in another place in this same letter: Paris is lovely--as a garden of the LORD;--but "Siddim, Siddim," slime pits, slime pits, everywhere. Yet such order, decency, one might almost say sobriety, and so much religion!
But the time was soon over, and the heavy-hearted laughing philosopher rolled over the sea to be awakened out of his pleasant dreams by the "bulls of Bashan," in the Board of Trustees.
We know the grief and deep pain and hot indignation that were really consuming his short remnant of life at this crisis. The fire had been long enough and fierce enough to bring the metal to perfect fusion: and externally there was not the slightest sign of the contest. As he went over to the meeting of the Board he was surrounded by his friends, and was laughing and jesting among them as lightly as if no serious matter were on his mind and lying heavy on his heart. The meeting was remarkably full, no less than sixteen Bishops being present. In the discussion, Dr. Mahan made a full and most unreserved statement of his whole teaching and practice in regard to the important subject of confession, including private conversations and everything else: and there was not, in voice or manner, the slightest trace of anger, or indignant feeling, or even of complaint at the cruel measure that had been meted out to him in his absence. The objections made to him, under this full and frank explanation, melted away as the morning mists under the sunshine melt into the blue sky. The Bishop of Maryland made the amende on the spot, with the heartiness and completeness which were worthy of his nobler nature. And Dr. Mahan's election followed, as a matter of course. The Bishops still claimed their separate vote, and gave fifteen of their sixteen votes to Dr. Mahan, the Clerical and Lay vote being 68 to 28. The substance of his statement in regard to confession was written out by him, as a Preface to the Rev. C. N. Gray's Tract on the subject: and will be found in this volume, with several letters on the same subject.
But his work in Baltimore was just then entangled about his heart and hands to such a degree, that he could not let it go: and, after mature deliberation, the Chair of Systematic Divinity was declined. In the Spring of 1870 the Clewer Sisters arrived, and were settled at their work in the outskirts of the City; and the arranging of the new order of things, and the weekly Celebration held there for them, were to him the greatest Comforts of the season in the midst of his growing infirmity. It was evident that his strength would not much longer suffice for the management of a large parish. And in June his Seminary friends once more re-elected him to the still vacant Chair, all the Bishops present casting their votes for him. Recognizing the unfairness of asking him to resign an income of $4000 in Baltimore for one of only $2000 in New York, a voluntary subscription was promptly made by his friends to supplement the salary attached to his Professorship. He at length accepted the Chair thus repeatedly tendered to him, from the idea that he might yet be able to do some work for the Church there, when the burden of parochial work had become too heavy for his strength: and he hoped that he might there be able to complete and publish his literary works, especially his Mystic Numbers, which still, during all these years, filled up every crack and cranny of his leisure moments. But the proposed voluntary addition to his income he entirely refused, in a letter breathing the noblest spirit of self-sacrifice. He would accept only the income which the Church had officially provided.
Through the Summer, his attacks became more serious and alarming, and he seemed to take no thought or step towards his removal to New York. His visits to the sick were continued when he was even more sick than they: and after attending the burial of an aged vestryman on the 13th of August, he never again left the house alive. To one brother priest he said, touching his removal: "Broken down in health, and old before my time, I found myself unable to attend to my duties. I thought I could do something for the Seminary, and I consented to go away from all that I love so much. But as I have to go away from S. Paul's, I would as lief go to S. Paul's graveyard." He was ever sternly silent about his sufferings: and his paroxysms were so increasingly frequent and exhausting that he found strength for but few words, except those expressing his desire for the Viaticum. On Saturday evening, September 3d, he lay down, chilly and weak; and his last words, "Cover me up," were addressed to his former priest-assistant, the Rev. Julian E. Ingle. When spoken to again, he could only open his eyes and look steadfastly, without uttering any reply. His heavy breathing soon gave warning of the end: and while the priest was uttering the words of the Commendatory Prayer, his spirit passed away.
On the morning of the Tuesday thereafter, the Body lay in the old Rectory, vested in alb, stole and chasuble, and with the silver cross--worn by him daily during the last years of his life--lying upon his breast. A large Cross, of wood, stood at his head; and lights were burning on either hand. Every trace of pain and suffering had passed from the face, which seemed to breathe of the peace of Paradise, while the brow was crowned with a peculiar majesty that none had ever seen before. Not even the shadow of Death was there. For two hours, friends stole in silently to look their last upon that face. Then some sixty priests in surplices gathered about him; the antique wedge-shaped coffin was closed; the purple pall with the red cross running the whole length and breadth, was spread, surmounted with the cross and crown in white flowers. Through the opening line of surplices, the body was borne into the Church by the young men of the Guild. Mingled with violet and white, the adornments of Easter filling the Chancel spoke of the triumph of the Christian's death. Lights gleamed from every panel of the reredos: and the only spot of black, in the Rector's chair, was relieved by the cross and crown of Easter flowers. After the lesson followed the Holy Sacrifice, the hymn being the one verse--
Angels, and living Saints, and dead,
But one Communion make.
The strains of the Nunc Dimittis followed the Body on its departure through the dense and silent crowd that filled the whole Church and overflowed far into the street. At the gate of the graveyard the double surpliced line was again formed. The floral cross was lifted from the pall and borne before the Body to the Grave. After the last Amen, the young men of the Guild, while Jerusalem the Golden was sung in the open air, filled in the grave and shaped the lowly mound of earth. The vast crowd remained motionless until the floral Cross was laid upon the whole length of that fresh earth. Men wept like children. One great sob of grief was the farewell of the loving multitude to him whose face they should see on earth no more.
J. H. H.