CHAPTER VIII. 1828-1835.
Flushing Institute in Operation.--Intensity of Religious Conviction.--An Apostle to Youth.--Characteristic Incident.--Theory of the School.--Its Government.--Secretary Forsyth and the Fourth of July.--Not Emulation but Christian Endeavor.--System of Marks.--An Evening in the Institute.--The Church Year.--His Assistants.--Private Interviews with Boys.--Unceasing Efforts for their Salvation.--Little Prayers for Little Things.--"Tabella Sacra."--The Rector's Rules for himself.--The Little Charity Box.--Cold Water Treatment of a Trick
THE Institute was ready for occupation in the spring of 1828, and its doors were at once opened for the admission of pupils. Mr. Muhlenberg had retained the pastoral charge of St George's, Flushing, beyond his first engagement, but now relinquished it in order to be wholly free for his chosen work. Nevertheless he did not cease from an active Christian interest in his former flock and in the spiritual welfare of the neighborhood generally.
But education he felt was his calling. He became a master in the art, and was untiring in the illustration of his subject. Throughout this part of his life, and as far back as his origination of the public school in Lancaster, his pen was continually throwing off essays, letters, suggestions, etc., which, judged by the fragments that remain of these productions, were as clear in Christian argument, as they were fresh and original, and full of a common-sense adaptation of their principles to the details of instruction.
A singular intensity of religious conviction pervades all that he says and does as an educator. His Christianity seemed to be the entire man, rather than one of the elements of his character. It imbued all that he touched. It modelled the mechanism as well as inspired the life of his school; shaped its government; ruled in his resolute will, which was never self-will, and controlled alike the boyish games of the Grammar School, and the higher recreations of the College. Yet, in its manifestations there was never one least suspicion of stereotyped piety or perfunctoriness, all was so natural, so grandly simple and true.
He was endowed with many distinguishing gifts, any one of which would have given him influence among men; but possibly neither his genius nor his wit, neither his poetic fancy nor the strong common sense and originality of his words and ways, had nearly as much to do with his remarkable power over boys, and later over, men of all sorts and conditions, as his unfeigned reality, combined with his wonderful, overflowing love. A youth coming for the first time within his influence would feel himself inspired by a strange new joy; an awakening to the earnestness of life, and with that, to a sweet sense of holy sympathy, which lifted him up to possibilities of goodness and usefulness, such as he had never before dreamed could be his. This is the testimony of many of his pupils.
His forte was not so much with younger boys, as with those from fifteen to twenty years of age, or through "the rapids," as he sometimes called this period in the stream of their earthly existence. A tender, untiring concern for such, with regard to their moral and religious culture, formed an integral part of his ministry, not alone while giving himself pre-eminently to the work of education, but always, and to youths of every degree. To a multitude of these he has been not only a "father-confessor," but their earthly saviour. And such youths would come to him with a freedom and confidence, as though his fatherly heart were theirs by right; while many of maturer years, even in the course of a long acquaintance, have found themselves unable ever quite to shake off a certain reverent restraint, inspired perhaps by the spiritual atmosphere of his presence.
A strong religions influence over the young of his own sex, was a predominant feature of his life. We trace the beginning of it in the story of his boyhood, and it formed one of the most striking characteristics of succeeding years. His love for boys never waned. Whoever or whatever might occupy his attention, he was never indifferent to a demand of one of them upon his sympathy. He was truly an apostle to them. What other could speak to them with the godly wisdom and directness, the holy plainness and frankness, and the measureless love that he did? And what he accomplished by this means, how many young souls he thus won to Christ, who are now themselves sources and centres of Christian influence, who may tell? It is hard to find any who came near him in their youth/ that in speaking of him now is not forward to say, "No one ever helped me so much; no one ever did me so much good."
A boy was rarely any length of time in his presence without being drawn almost magnetically to his side, and then one kind arm would go up and around the youth's neck, and the other hand, perhaps, be laid upon his head, in that benediction which he had a way of his own of thus expressing; or else, according to another habit peculiar to him, be passed through and through the boy's hair, as though seeing what he was made of.
At one time, accidentally coming upon him, while thus drawing a boy to his heart, these words were heard, "Say, Down, devil! down, devil!" The youth with kindled eye and glowing cheek was looking up into the master's face, always at such times fullest of that heavenly light which the painter "Huntington has called his "evangelic look," and it was plain the younger was receiving gratefully from the elder the counsel he needed for the conquest of some dominant bad habit.
The theory of the school was that of a Christian or church family, of which the rector was the father, his school-sons living under the same roof and eating at the same table with him. They slept in large dormitories, divided into curtained alcoves for the older boys, thus securing them some privacy. A tutor or prefect always slept in each dormitory.
The pupils were divided into classes as to their studies, into sections for discipline and domestic order. Each section consisted of twelve boys under a prefect. This was to prevent the promiscuous herding together of large numbers. These prefects were commonly candidates for the ministry. They were young enough to be able to sympathize with the boys and take part in their amusements, yet of sufficient intelligence and firmness of principle to qualify them to do good to their charge, both by precept and example. They were not employed in teaching, having their own studies to pursue during school hours. Their duties lay mainly in friendly intercourse with the boys in the intervals of classes, and in headship each over his own section, in the refectory and in the dormitory. They were the elder brothers of the family.
The boys prepared their lessons in a large study, which was their common room, making their recitations in separate class-rooms. For the first ten years,--that is until the development of the Institute into a regular college,--the course of study was that of ordinary high-schools as preparatory to college; later St. Paul's College was established with a complete faculty of professors and instructors for the several departments of collegiate education.
The government was paternal, most loving and considerate, yet not without strictness. Said one who was for years under its rule, "Though at times it seemed hard, men, who as boys were under his care, are all ready to say, 'It was good for us in youth to bear the yoke that this wise master imposed.' Corporal punishment was rarely resorted to, never on the part of the principal, except at the request of the offender. "I never whipped a boy," he said, "unless he asked me." It was perfectly understood, on receiving a boy from his parents, that the rector claimed the right to return such scholar if for any reason he judged it best not to retain him, though not as necessarily dismissing him in disgrace; and boys whose conduct had made them liable to this exercise of the rector's discretion, not unfrequently asked to be flogged rather than sent, away. Bad fellows would, unavoidably, now and then get in, and it was with some trouble and heart-ache they were gotten out again; but Mr. Muhlenberg's independence of extraneous control, the absence of all lucrative motive in what he was doing, and his wise precaution in laying down the conditions of admission and continuance, saved him from a multitude of vexations and annoyances, arising in other institutions from the presence of undesirable scholars.
He distinctly claimed pre-eminence of authority over the boys while they were in session, which was for ten consecutive months, requiring that, during that period, parental control should be delegated to him and only under extraordinary circumstances did he allow a visit home, except at the regular vacations; but this restriction Avas generously set off by a very liberal hospitality in welcoming the relatives and friends of the boys as guests at the School. A thorough and guarded education was his aim, and it could only be attained by strenuously resisting any interruption of study or discipline during the school term.
It is told that, on one Fourth of July the then Secretary of State, Mr. Forsyth, arrived in a chartered steamboat at the private dock of the place, expecting to take his son, at that time a pupil in the College, and perhaps some of his fellow-students, for an excursion. The school-father had his own, plans for the enjoyment of the nation's holiday by his adopted family, and could not consistently comply with the request. The manner and ground of the refusal must have commended themselves to the honorable secretary, for he amiably accepted the invitation to spend the day with his son, and, dismissing the steamboat, threw himself cordially into the boys' festivities. Having parted with his conveyance, he was set on his way home in the afternoon of the day by means of the large six-oared barge of the College, whose boy-crew, with their tutor captain, rowed him as far as Harlem. Before leaving, he asked kindly if there were not something he could do for them in Washington, and learning they had no post-office of their own, engaged to procure one for them, and did so. This occurrence was after the removal of the establishment- to College Point and of later date than the period of which this chapter mainly treats.
The session of ten months included all the great festivals of the Church Year, but no exception was made as to leave of absence for their celebration. Christmas, Easter, and Whitsuntide alike found the students keeping the feast in their school-home. And these days were rendered so enjoyable there, the religious services were made to illustrate so interestingly and impressively the great verities of the Gospel which they commemorate, and the household arrangements were ordered so kindly and generously, and with so open-handed an hospitality, that parents and guardians learned to feel, with their youthful charge, that nowhere else could they find the festival as profitable and delightful This, especially as to Christmas, which was invested with every thing that could give it a sweet, home aspect. Among those who would resort thither on these occasions were persons of very different shades of Christian opinion; but whether Evangelical or Anglican, Presbyterian or Methodist there was but one sentiment as to the beauty and benefit of the church seasons thus observed. Emulation was not allowed to be a Christian motive for exertion in any of Dr. Muhlenberg's schools. He considered it a malevolent principle, the ignoble counterfeit of aspiration of which nothing abidingly good can come. Hence, in place of the ordinary methods of prizes, exciting competition where one alone could be the victor, he instituted a system of marks wherein the highest reward was obtainable by all. Once a month, through the Journal of the Institute, there appeared in print, and was sent to the respective parents and guardians, a record of the rank in the separate studies, and in assiduity of each pupil; but this was so ingeniously arranged that the signature and indication of standing affixed,--the former by letters, the latter by numbers,--was unintelligible, save to the individual boy, his tutors, and friends at home.
An abounding consideration for his boys, in little things as well as great, was a striking feature of Mr. Muhlenberg's government. Nothing that affected their interest was too insignificant for his attention, even to the sort of boots he wore, which were always rather heavy and creaking, that he might not seem to steal upon them unawares. And in their griefs, who so tender and sympathizing as he? One of the younger boys, son of Francis S. Key, author of the "Star Spangled Banner," was under Mr. Muhlenberg's care when his father died. Tidings of the event came late in the day, with a request for the boy to be sent home the next morning. "Never, if you can help it, tell bad news at night," was a life-long maxim with Mr. Muhlenberg, and the little fellow was allowed to retire undisturbed with the rest, while the devoted school-father attended himself to the arrangements necessary for an early morning start, and when all this was done, he went into the dormitory, and bowed himself in prayer and blessing over the newly-made orphan, lying peacefully in the sweet sleep of childhood.
The Monthly Journal of the Institute, mentioned above, was a pamphlet of some twenty pages, comprising a mixture of information for parents and guardians, illustrations of the principles of the Institution for the boys themselves, interesting items of public news, specimens of literary and mathematical achievement on the part of the students, and informing or amusing articles, longer or shorter, from the several instructors. Among some old surviving numbers of this domestic periodical may be found, now and again, contributions from the rector himself, one of which as showing something of his close acquaintance with his boys, and how in every-day matters he moved amongst them, is of interest here. It is an actual record of one of his evenings in the Institute, and dated January 21st, 1834.
"Here we are in the large study--bona fide--for fact, not fancy, shall guide our pen--we are going to write down things and thoughts just as they are. It is a little after seven, and the bustle of returning from tea has subsided. The boys (for so we call the long coat of eighteen as well as the roundabout of twelve) are at their desks; except the junior, class, who have rooms of their own, and the junior section, who have a study of their own. The instructors are at a meeting of the Philomathean Society, and it has fallen to our turn this evening to 'keep the study.' Seated at one of the ordinary desks, for there is no pedagogic throne in the room, with pen, ink, and paper, we shall be the faithful chronicler of the important events of the evening. All is as quiet as the restlessness of sixty young mercurials will allow. The business of the day is over, and the evening they are left to employ as they please, provided that during the first hour they are silent, and that no one disturbs his neighbor. And how are they all employed? Students, aspirants after literary fame, they are communing with the master minds of-antiquity. Not satisfied with the acquisitions of the day, they are digging still deeper in the mines of classical lore. Their grammars, their lexicons, and their text-books, are their delight.--Your smile of incredulity, gentle reader, rebukes me, and ends me back to the unvarnished truth. There is one who has already fallen to sleep: tired with skating in the afternoon, he has taken his dictionary for a pillow, and in his dreams is repeating his pleasure on the pond. There is a fidget--a perpetual motion--now he stands up--now he sits down, moving about as much as possible within the precincts of his liberty; presently he will be nodding, too, for the quicksilver of his nature is rather in his body than in his mind, and when one is obliged to be still the other soon sinks to rest; a book, at this hour, except it be a fairy tale, operates upon him like an opium pill. There is another devouring the Arabian Nights, whose taste will be considerably elevated when he thinks the Iliad superior to Sindbad the Sailor, or the Forty Thieves. I pity that poor fellow across the room, who sees the long hour before him and can not contrive what he shall do with it Inclined neither for books nor for sleep, he is making dumb signs to another at an opposite desk, who is whittling a stick for the want of some better entertainment, to know whether he will play at draughts with him the next hour. The whittler does not understand him, so he has gone to scribbling his question on a scrap of paper. After watching for an opportunity, he has thrown it over to his friend, who in deciphering it has now some amusement beside his stick and his pen-knife. 'Mr. -----,' I say to one leaning on his elbow, 'Would it not be well for you to devote a part of your evenings to your lessons, that you may stand a little higher in the ranks? Your friends are mortified in seeing your signature so low down.' I give the advice, as physicians do medicine to an incurable patient, more for conscience' than for hope's sake. Nature seems not to have designed the young gentleman for a scholar, and yet it will offend his parents to tell them that any thing more than a plain English education will be wasted on him. Besides, what shall they do with him for a few years to come. Turning over the leaves of Latin and Greek books is at least an innocent employment, and, after all, his instructors may be mistaken; good minds are sometimes very slow in unfolding: the acorn gives no promise of the oak. Now yonder little volatile is a boy of talent, and would make a fine fellow, if his mind would only hold still long enough to receive an impression. M------ is preparing a hoop for the 'graces'; C------ is adjusting one of the buckles of his skates; B----- is entertained with his picture in a looking-glass, etc., etc. But we must not do injustice to our adopted family. These are the minority, and if they are not turning their time to the best account, it must be remembered in their behalf, that business hours are over. Their recitations during the day make no part of the present scene. The majority are so quiet that they do not attract our attention, and hence we have little to say concerning them. But we have our eyes on students in earnest. Some with works of useful information or entertaining knowledge, others with their classics or mathematics, and some with still bettor books are making a profitable use of their time.
"The bell-ringer leaves his seat--a general movement of impatience. Three tolls of the bell say that the hour is gone. Not much mourning at its decease. Every one shoots from his place. The sleepers awake. The 'graces,' battledoor, etc., are all in motion. The five minutes of liberty, bustle, and noise, soon fly past, and the ringing of the 'big bell,' echoed by the jingling of the 'little bell' restores the study to order. ' The letters! the letters!' How many bright eyes of expectation, and eager voices in every quarter ' any thing for me?' as the sprightly post boy distributes his packet. 'It's too bad,' says one, 'I haven't heard from home these three weeks; I'll not write again until I do hear.' While some glad hearts are as enraptured with a letter from home, as if they had received a valuable present. Now and then we observe one who will lay aside a letter even from 'home, sweet home,' and not read it until he has finished his play--a worse sign, by far, than an ill recitation. The mail has brought a favor for ourselves. After a few lines of introduction we read, 'How is ------ coming on? We should be glad to hear from you about him, as often as it suits your convenience to write. Your silence has left us in suspense.' Would that we had the faculty of Dr. Dwight for dictating to three amanuenses at once; for then we might communicate with parents about their sons to the extent of their wishes. Our numerous engagements allow us to do but little in this way. We make it a rule, however, alway to answer letters of inquiry; and we are glad also to receive such letters, as they serve to direct our attention more particularly to individual boys. We hope our friends will understand this; and there is another thing, on this subject, that we would request of them, which is, that they will not measure our attention to their children by our attention to them. We are alive to the responsibilities we have assumed. Our pupils are our family. Between them and us there are no intervening objects either of interest or affection. That we are not forgetful of his boy, every parent or guardian should feel assured, although he may not receive a line of intelligence from us during the session. To take care of our pupils is our duty; to write frequent letters about them may or may not be our duty. We repeat again, that we are happy in receiving communications from parents, inasmuch as they serve to bring particular boys to our mind, and we invariably sooner or later reply to their inquiries. It is a deficiency in making voluntary reports, that we would explain. [The monthly reports of the Journal should not be forgotten.]
"But we have wandered from the study. What are the boys about? 'The last hour' they spend ad libitum with an extension of the liberty of the first hour, but not to their leaving the room. A couple here are playing at checkers, and there at chess; a few keep to their books if the rattling tongues and restless motion of their companions will permit them; for the majority prefer talking and moving about. And of what are they talking? What are the themes of such incessant discourse? What the unfailing excitement of such constant clatter? One would suppose, that secluded from the world, and forming a community so entirely among themselves, they would find conversation (to use one of their own favorite words) rather 'stale.' But no, it is as fresh and as brilliant at mid-session, as when they have just returned from the novelties of the vacation. Beside the music of tongues we have the piping of rare musicians; a dozen flutes are going in all the varieties of melody, from the gamut to the sonata. In one corner two are playing duos, entertained with their own harmony, regardless of the Babel of tongues and the chaos of notes around; a happiness we cordially wish every family that our journal visits.--The bell rings out another hour; the little bell calls to order, and all is perfectly still for fifteen minutes before repairing to the chapel--an interval of quiet appropriated to the reading of the Holy Scriptures. Thoughts here possess the mind too deep, and in this medley, too solemn for utterance. The service in the chapel is short. The boys hasten back to the studies and prepare to retire. They linger round the stoves, talking about its 'freezing hard to-night,' and wondering if ' the bay will be frozen over this winter.' With 'good-night, good-night,' we give them hints to be gone. Some three or four light the lamps at the desks, and by permission go to reading or studying again until the bell rings ten. The rest are away to the dormitories--a little racket on the stairs--here and there a straggler--and the house is still The solitary lamp diffuses its dim light through the dormitories--the instructor on duty paces the floor. Some of the alcoves we trust are closets of prayer, since there are bended knees beside the beds without. They slumber quietly; not one on the bed of sickness--Gratias, Domine.--The watchman strikes ten--the curfew of our little world."
The Chapel, with an organ, was within the building, and was used exclusively for divine worship morning and evening daily, as well as on Sundays and other church days. Great attention was given towards making the services and instruction interesting to the youthful congregation; and the different seasons of the Church Year were marked by appropriate teaching and observances which helped the design of their appointment. In the chapel of St. Paul's College yet more regard was paid to this particular, Dr. Muhlenberg using the liberty which he always contended for as necessary to do justice to the Liturgic worship of the church. Of these pastoral ministrations, survivors from among those young disciples have spoken with, grateful and eloquent remembrance; telling of "his unequalled reading of the Scriptures, and of the impression made upon their minds by his sermons, in their clear simplicity, their poetic fervor, and above all, in 'the strong faith in Christ which made real to him and helped him to make real to others the narratives and teachings of the Bible and especially of the Holy Gospels.'"
He was assisted in the different branches of education by able professors and instructors, Christian gentlemen, who set a good example to the scholars, and some of whom were clergymen subsequently well-known in the church. [Among these may be named the Rev. Drs. Samuel Seabury, Christian F. Crusé, Samuel Roosevelt Johnson, and Francis L. Hawks.]
The faculty of the College eventually consisted al-v most wholly of men trained by himself, school-sons and pupils, grown to be church brothers and instructors. [The most prominent of these were the Rev. James B. Kerfoot, afterwards Bishop of Pittsburg; Rev. Libertus Van Bokkelen; Rev. J. G. Barton; Rev. Milo Mohan and Rev. Joseph C. Passmore.] In the distribution of work, the rector took for his own department of tuition, the Evidences and Ethics of Christianity, Logic, and Rhetoric. But however effective Mr. Muhlenberg's official teachings, whether in pulpit or class-room, they were far exceeded in value by his private and individual instructions. Undertaking the work as he did, solely for the purpose of gathering around him and bringing up in true Christian nurture a family of adopted sons, his personal influence would necessarily be a most important means towards the end proposed, and he relied much upon it, differing widely, in this particular, from his English contemporary, Dr. Arnold of Rugby, with whom he is often compared. The two great educators had many points of resemblance between them, but Dr. Arnold knew almost nothing individually of his charge, those of the Sixth Form excepted, and not unfrequently "a boy would leave Rugby without any personal communication with him at all." Mr. Muhlenberg, on the contrary, took the greatest pleasure in private interviews with his pupils. It may be said, indeed, that such were among his chief delights.
The natural affection so strong within him and held back, through his supreme self-consecration, from expending itself in the ordinary channels of human love, was poured out upon these boys with well-nigh parental fondness. So endearing were his ways to them, one by one, that each was apt to think himself an especially beloved and favorite pupil. But it was always with their salvation prominent as the great end of his interest in them. Evidences of this remain in a multitude of ways; most fully, perhaps, in his own journals, which were more extensively and regularly kept throughout this period than in the other parts of his life. Their pages month after month and year after year record hopes and fears, progress or the contrary, now of this lad, now of that, following them often in their career after they ceased to be members of his household, and breaking out continually in importunate prayers for them as they pass in turn mentally before him. Such records are sacred.
The following memoranda of encouragement and the contrary, are but meagrely illustrative of what is referred to.
"... I desire to thank God for-----. After all, the seed sown was not in vain. He seemed to be proof against all religious appeals as much as any boy I have ever had. . . His correspondence with me is a good sign."
"-----and-----came for the first time to Holy Communion to-day--Oh! these children whom thou hast given me--what rapture to my soul to see them gather before thy altar."
"... I keep my appointment with my former pupil--to meet him at this hour in prayer. O Lord Jesus Christ, bless him and make him a trophy of redeeming love. Holy Spirit, overcome his pride, his stubborn self-will. O shine into the darkness of his heart. .... Spent an hour in conversation and prayer with -----. He wishes to consecrate his life as a missionary. O God, I thank thee, I bless thee, I glorify thee that in thy Sovereign grace thou dost dispose one of my spiritual children towards this highest exercise of the Christian ministry. Oh bless him and consecrate him with the unction of thy Spirit." "-----" (a dismissed pupil) "left this morning; he would show more generous feeling but that his conscience is burdened with a lie."
"Returned from-----. Alas, I fear that after all---- will not do well. Oh, he has been the child of many, many prayers. I am cut to the heart when I see him less and less thoughtful, and more and more inclined to the indulgences of the world. Mem.--pray daily for him. . . ."
There seems to have been no limit to the pains he bestowed upon this part of his ministry. In season and out of season, he wrought for the spiritual good of his boys, and his iterated and earnest prayers, for and with them, were accompanied by a multitude of ingenious methods and contrivances for the enforcement of his holy lessons. The filial piety of one who became an endeared assistant has preserved an example of one such- device. It consists of a number of tiny sheets or leaflets, beautifully written by his own hand, and entitled "Little prayers for little things." They are brief reflections and ejaculations, evidently penned, from time to time, for every-day use, as needed. In a short preface the master says to his disciple,
"They are not prescribed for the occasions mentioned, but are given as a specimen of the manner in which a spiritual mind will delight to be ascending continually to God in every occupation and seeking grace in the smallest matters.....Into the bosom of his spiritual child his father would breathe his own daily aspirations to the throne of grace. May the same blessed Spirit breathe into the hearts of both. 'Soli Deo Gloria!'" There are over forty of these little prayers, from which the subjoined are selected.
"On waking up in the morning. My gracious Benefactor, I consecrate my recruited energies to thee. I wake to duty. In thy service only let all the strength thou hast given me be employed. Thou hast made me thy creature, O make me thy willing servant."
"While dressing. While I am careful to appear decently clad before my fellow worms, shall my soul be left naked, or in the rags of sin before the King of kings? I am soon to go into his presence-chamber, O then, may I be dressed in the golden robes of the righteousness of Christ."
"When plagued by bad thoughts. Get thee hence, Satan--I ask none of thy entertainment--I know thy arts. I know thy methods of approach. In the name of my Saviour I bid thee be gone. Tempter, away! And now, O Lord, for the fulfilment of thy promise, 'Resist the devil and he will flee from thee!'"
"At meals. May I never be choice, or dainty in my food, remembering that thy dearest saints have lived on the coarsest fare. If I never have luxuries, make me contented without them, and if thou dost set them before me, I will partake of them with moderation and gratitude."
"On receiving praise. Let me not be flattered by the praise of men. They can see only my outside virtue and not my inside sin. I thank them for their good opinion. Lord, help me to deserve it better, but never let it for an instant keep me from seeing my sinfulness in thy sight"
"At noon. How is the day going? Have I once thought of God since I was on my knees this morning? If I never lift up my heart at mid-day, I may fear that my morning and evening prayers are mere matters of course. My soul, canst thou not find a moment for thy Saviour at noon?"
Another packet of little sheets is called--"Helps to pray without ceasing," and consists of a series of reflections on different passages of Scripture, of which, the following is an example:
"'He that loveth is born of God.' O then, do I love? It is the very sign of my regeneration. I think I can say, 'Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee--' but how feeble the glow! It has been kindled I trust from above, but how dim the light! how cold the fire! how nickering the flame! Holy Spirit, from thee the spark first came--O breathe upon it--blow upon it--or amid folly and impurity I fear it will expire. Let me seek the truth on which it feeds. Let my highest care and chief anxiety be that love may burn in my soul warmer and brighter, and shine more and more unto the perfect day. Let me know that I love, that I may know I am born of God."
The foregoing exemplifies but one of his methods, and that for a more advanced learner. His expedients varied with the varying temperaments and needs of his charge. Sincerely fighting "the good fight" himself, he was well-skilled in equipping these young recruits with the weapons best suited to them.
Further, for all who were disposed to avail themselves of it, there was, every Thursday evening, a voluntary religious meeting in the chapel; and before - each vacation a "Tabella Sacra, or Table of Daily Scripture Reading," was issued, as an incentive both to keep up the sacred duty during the holidays, and also to promote a feeling of unity among the scholars during their separation. The voluntary meetings were ordinarily well attended, and a spirit of piety at times prevailed, not common to schools.
The last day of the year was spent by the boys in putting their desks in order and getting all things ready for a good beginning of the New Year. In the evening there was a penitential religious service. The names of all those who had ever been at the school were called, those present who could give any account of old scholars were encouraged to do so, and in conclusion all present, together with all who, in any way, or at any time, had made part of the Institute household, were earnestly remembered in prayer. Later, a midnight watch was held by the adults of the school family, in which they "saw the old year out," in prolonged confession of sin, followed by silent prayer, until the bell rang twelve, when a full joyous "Gloria in Excelsis" ushered in the New Year.
A solemn observance of the last night of the year was a practice of Mr. Muhlenberg's life, from youth to extremest old age, and frequently the sons and pupils of earlier days, who could not be with him in body, would unite spiritually in the accustomed devotions. Some of these will remember, too, how on New Year's Day, he would, again and again, ring out Charles, Wesley's lines--
"Come, let us anew, our journey pursue--
Roll round with the year,
And never stand still, till the Master appear
His adorable will, let as gladly fulfil,
And our talents improve
By the patience of hope, and the labors of love."
A constant upward endeavor was the keynote of his long service.
This faithful master laid down rules for himself as well as for his pupils. In his private diary of this date, after certain retrospective meditations, we find, among other self-admonishings, the following:
"Never be in bed after five o'clock. It is of the utmost importance that all the duties of the morning relating to the body or the soul be performed early. Lift up your voice in a song of gratitude to God and rejoice like the sun to run the course of another day. Let not your morning prayers be hurried, the day will depend on them......Bear with the thoughtlessness and frowardness of your adopted children; remember that they are but children, even the oldest of them, that therefore they need all the forbearance and condescension you can exercise. Remember that their tastes and yours are different. Remember that you have meat to eat which they know not of. Have patience to give line upon line and precept upon precept--remember how slow you have been to learn of God, and therefore wonder not that they are slow to learn of you. Be impartial. Have no favorites. Guard against overlooking retired boys,--and against neglecting those who are unpleasant in their intercourse with you. Your affection for them should be enlightened Christian charity, not attachment founded on personal attractions or any earthly consideration. Let your love for them show itself not by playing or fondling with them, but by uniform kindness of manner and steady endeavors to do them good. Recollect that some of the dull or unpleasant boys, to whom you say comparatively little, may after all be those who will have derived most benefit from the School; take care then not to overlook them. . . Have no idols. . . O my blessed Saviour, may I be in thy company all the day long. May I walk close behind thee, holding the skirt of thy garment, treading in every track of thy footsteps. O, never desert me. Leave me not a moment alone. Without thee I stumble and fall."
He was most unsparing of his own faults, even before his scholars, where they were concerned in the circumstance. One of them, a young man very dear to him, tells that after receiving on a certain day a severe rebuke, Mr. Muhlenberg at night put into his hand a little box containing money and a brief note in which he deplored that he had "lost his temper in the morning, and spoiled his admonition by impatient tones and ugly looks." The note went on to say, "These accounts are not to be settled between ourselves, but, as a peace-offering, let me give you this Charity Box, to which I will add something every time I offend in a similar way and about the use of which I promise not to inquire. By this penance of love, my infirmities may at least be the occasion of your benevolence....." This little box and note have been preserved. The arrangement was undoubtedly a genuine expression of his grief and humility, but it may have been, along with this, one of his loving and ingenious ways for impressing upon the mind of his dear scholar the ground of said reproof, viz., the fault he desired him to watch against and correct. It would be like him that it should be so. Nor would he have minded sacrificing what some would call their dignity to such an end.
He could exercise a little muscular Christianity at need. One of the students attempted a practical joke upon him by walking into his chamber at midnight, in the regulation, long, white bedgown, as a somnambulist. Mr. Muhlenberg instantly penetrated the disguise, and springing out of bed grappled the youth tightly and drew him to the wash-stand, where stood a large ewer full of water, the whole contents of which he discharged upon his head. The discomfited lad slank away as fast as he could. He had anticipated great fun in telling his comrades the next morning how finely he had scared the rector, but this complete turning of the tables made him thankful for the forbearance which withheld all comment regarding the night's exploit.