CHAPTER XV. 1851-1852.
Projects an Evangelical Catholic Periodical.--Deference to his Mother's Wishes.--Object of the Paper.--What is Evangelical Catholicism?--General Surprise on Issue of "Evangelical Catholic."--Longings for Christian Unity.--Hints on Catholic Union.--Minor Use of Periodical.--Sisterhood of Holy Communion organized.--Its Principles.--St. Luke's Hospital.--A Young Physician's first Fee.--Significant Bequest.--Negotiations of Corporation of St. Luke's with Church of St. George the Martyr.--Site consecrated before determined upon.--Urgent Demands for Hospital Shelter.--The Embryo St. Luke's in a Rear Tenement House
IT is not surprising that at the beginning of his pastorate of the Church of the Holy Communion, Dr. Muhlenberg should have been little understood. The church was projected, as he said, "in the penumbra of Tractarianism," and although, before it was opened for worship, he had emerged again into the clear sunlight of evangelic truth, "as set forth by the Reformers," there clung to him certain Anglican usages, which, with his religious aestheticism, and the general appearance and ordering of his church, justified the conclusion of the general observer, that he was an extreme "Puseyite," the then sobriquet for "advanced" or Romanizing churchmen. The open, uncushioned benches, absence of women singers in the choir, daily morning and evening prayer, and the number of poor people connected with, the parish, were all construed as indicative of what was heard of the Tractarians on the other side of the water.
Dr. Muhlenberg apprehended all this, and, at an early day, conceived the idea of issuing an occasional paper, which should exemplify the true principles and genius of the Church of the Holy Communion. Nor only this. It was not possible for a man of his gifts and aspirations to abide simply in the routine of parish work, however rich and beautiful that work might become under his hand. His heart was full of the idea of Christian unity. He deeply deplored the divisions existing among those who called themselves after the one Christ, and longed for some method of communication with the church at large, which should make for peace and love. Hence his conclusion to edit a paper, differing from the religious journals of the time, none of which approached his thought on the cardinal point of Christian brotherhood. The publication was not to be an organ of either of the parties of the day--the one setting forth this, the other that view, of the Christian church--but an exponent and illustrator of the church, both in her objective and her subjective elements, and particularly in her office as "a healer of the ills that encompass us."
The Evangelical Catholic was in his mind, for some time before it had a tangible existence. He was held back from putting his design into effect by the strenuous objection of his venerable mother. "Do not make yourself a newspaper editor, William," she urged, as in his early manhood, she had remonstrated against his being a "school-master." There was not the same principle involved, in the present case, and he determined to wait. "My dear mother," he said, "misapprehends the matter, but she shall not be vexed in her old ago by any undertaking, the sound of which is so distasteful to her."
Within three months after his mother's decease, the first number of the Evangelical Catholic appeared, prospectively as a weekly, later as a monthly, "chiefly devoted to matters of practical Christianity." Its motto was: "For His Body's sake, which is the Church."
Dr. Muhlenberg originated the term "Evangelical Catholic," and in view of the importance of the subject, and the value he set upon this combination of words, as conveying explicitly the true theory of the church of Christ, it is proper to insert here, an exposition, by his own pen, of what is to be understood by EVANGELICAL CATHOLICISM: He is addressing, "in a brief and plain letter" one who has shown some misapprehension regarding the title of his paper.
"You must allow me," he writes, "to demur at your construction of the name" (Evangelical Catholic). "You seem to think it an ingenious fancy for meeting the views of both parties in the church--a happy device for being High and Low at the same time. Something like this, I find, is the notion of others, who, on that account, dislike the name, as they well may with such an interpretation of it..... We do not aspire to be a tertium quid between the existing parties--a little of each and not much of either--a 'whitish-brown' among the ecclesiastical hues of the day. We do not profess to be either Catholic or Evangelical, much less both, in the cant use of those terms. "We employ them in their original and proper signification, and thus understood they express something homogeneous and positive, very different from the heterogeneous and mongrel things which they have been supposed to stand for.
"In saying what we mean by Evangelical Catholicism, let me begin at the beginning, and express myself in a plain and simple way, in order to be understood by others who may be less informed than yourself.
"Of course, in common with all churchmen, we profess to be Catholics. We do not repudiate the Creed. We believe in the Holy Catholic Church: we believe that our Lord came into the world, not only to make a revelation of the truth to mankind, but also to found an institution which should hold and be actuated by the truth he revealed, and of which he himself should be the everliving Head. If we believed that he came only to make a revelation of the truth--to impart a system of doctrine and practice to the world!, it might be sufficient that we called ourselves Christians; thereby simply professing our belief in what he taught--adopting Christianity as our religion. But we believe in Christianity, not as an abstraction, but as an institution--a divine institution, adapted to all mankind in all ages: in other words, the Catholic Church. This we declare in calling ourselves Catholics. Hence the importance of adhering to this ancient appellation. To give it up would be ignoring the existence of the church--would be admitting that Christianity is no more than a doctrine or a philosophy, and that we are simply disciples, not members of a body. No: as I am more than a disciple---as I would not be a unit, an isolated believer, or associated, by a common creed, with the living few immediately about me--I will glory in the name which identifies me with the one congregation of Christ everywhere, and which tells that as a "church member," here or there, I belong not to a society which began yesterday or a century ago, but to the divine incorporation which has been perpetuated from age to age, a living and uninterrupted body, from the days of the humanity of the Son of God. I grieve therefore, to see Protestants so indifferent to the name. It looks as if they had quite lost the church idea of Christianity, and were as well content to continue in their separate and divided state, as in the old bonds of true Catholic brotherhood. This, however, I know, is not altogether the case. There are signs among Protestants of a longing for an outward Catholicity, which shall express and give effect to their agreement in those cardinal articles of the Fathers, which are the main element in Catholicism. In testimony of this, they should persist in calling themselves Catholics. On no account should the name be surrendered (as it now so generally is) to those who claim it exclusively for themselves. It seems a concession that they have all the right to it, whereas, at most, they are only a part of the Catholic brotherhood. How sound a part I need not just now say, but certainly a very unbrotherly part since they excommunicate thousands and tens of thousands who have every Scriptural mark of brethren in Christ. They are Roman Catholics. Let them have the appellation which designates their true position in the ecclesiastical world. Their communion is bounded by a circumference which has the Roman Episcopate for its centre. All outside of that they pronounce to be outside of the Catholic Church. The Bishop of Rome, as the successor of St. Peter, they say, is the vicar of Christ on earth, and in order to be in communion with Christ, men must be in communion with the Bishop of Rome. This is Roman Catholicism. We protest against it, and hence are called Protestants. We might be called Protestant Catholics; there would be nothing incongruous in the designation, since it would denote one portion of the Catholic body protesting against another, which, indeed, claims to be the whole. But there is this defect in it, that it does not state the ground on which the one portion protests against the other. What is that ground? The Gospel. Not ancient Catholicity, nor primitive, nor even Apostolical Catholicity; though each of these affords solid ground for our protest, and as we took one or the other, we should be ancient, primitive, or Apostolical Catholics. We go at once to the Gospel, and assert our selves Gospel (i.e., Evangelical) Catholics. We oppose the Church of the Gospel to the Church of Rome. In order to find that Church, we have only to turn to the beloved Evangelist, who opens his Gospel" with announcing it--'The Word was God.' 'The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.' 'He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.' Here is the origin of the church--the incarnation of the eternal Son. Those who received him, who believed on his Name, were made the sons of God; consequently, the brethren of him, the Son of God made flesh. This consequence of brotherhood with Christ is not mere inference. St Paul styles the Son of God 'the First-born among many brethren.' Again: 'He is not ashamed to call them brethren.' And again: 'He took not on him the nature of angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham; wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren.' Now these brethren, among whom Christ is the First-born, whom he is not ashamed to call his brethren--this divine brotherhood can be no other than the church; and since it is not confined to one nation, as was the Jewish Church, but is gathered out of all nations and kindred and people and tongues, it is the Catholic Church--the Church universal--of the Gospel."
"What were the Reformers and their followers? Did they cease to be Catholics? By no means. They asserted their Catholicity, and proved it by appealing to Scripture and antiquity. They never dreamed of striking out of the Creed the article of the Holy Catholic Church. But then, contending as they did for the Gospel doctrine of union with Christ by faith, immediate and direct, in opposition to the Roman doctrine of communion with Christ only through the priesthood--proclaiming the glorious liberty of the sons of God, a deliverance from "the servitude of a system which generated not the spirit of adoption, but the 'spirit of bondage again to fear'--they were distinctively Gospel, Evangelical Catholics, and such, I maintain, is the proper denomination of all Protestants who honestly and heartily receive the Apostles' Creed.
"From what I have said, you will be ready to conclude that Evangelical Catholicism, after all, means nothing more than 'Evangelicalism.' I hope to show you wherein it differs from that on the one side, and from 'Anglicanism' on the other.
"... But you say, to speak of Evangelical Catholicism is tautology, since all true Catholicism must be Evangelical, and all true Evangelicalism must be Catholic. Certainly, and I grant that Catholic would be sufficient, if there was not a well-nigh universal understanding that the term is synonymous with Roman Catholic. This is a misfortune--but so it is. 'Use is the law of language'--use has affixed a certain signification to the term, and we can not alter it. Speak of Catholics, and not one in a hundred would suppose you meant any others than members of the Roman Church. If we will have the name, and surrender it we can not, we must qualify it, we must explain it, in order to guard against the common construction of it--we must affix an epithet which will tell that we are not Romanists, and why we are not, and for this purpose I know none better than that here contended for. As Protestants, we believe that Romanism is at variance with the Gospel, and therefore we style ourselves Gospel, that is, Evangelical Catholics. This states our position both as Protestants and members of the Catholic Church. '
"The Catholic Church is the universal society of the brethren in Christ which has existed from the beginning, when the Son of God was made flesh, and men by believing in him became the sons of God; all who believe in him and are baptized constitute this brotherhood. I do not say all who truly believe in him, because they can not be distinguished from others who do not truly believe, and I say who are baptized, because baptism is the sacrament of adoption, wherein God declares himself their Father, and they profess themselves to be his children, and consequently brothers in Christ. Thus, all the baptized are to be regarded as members of the Catholic Church, so long as they do not renounce their baptism, either by an avowed rejection of the Catholic faith, or an openly bad life, which is virtually such a rejection.
"What is the Catholic Faith? I answer, that which has been universally required to be believed, in order to salvation. "We find it in its simplest form in several places in the New Testament. Thus, it is that which the Ethiopian eunuch professed, and on which Philip baptized him: 'I BELIEVE THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE SON OF GOD.' This was all the creed demanded of him. The same was the creed which St. Paul enjoined on the jailor when he baptized him: 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.' This was the creed of Martha when, amid her grief, she exclaimed: 'I believe that thou art the Christ which should come into the world.' This was the confession which satisfied our Lord, when Peter said: 'I believe that thou are the Christ, the Son of the living God,' and so satisfied him that he declared upon that confession he would build his church. 'This is his commandment,' says St. John, 'that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ.' And again: 'Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?' From all that appears, this short and summary confession was the whole, on the score of belief, of what was required of the first converts in order to their baptism. The apostles proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth the Son of God--the hearers believed, and were baptized. Their belief, expressed in so few words, implied indeed, immediately and directly a great deal, but nothing more was explicitly declared. The creed of the eunuch, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,' was the original symbol of the Catholic Faith. After the age of the apostles, and when the life of our Lord on earth became matter of history, this brief formula was expressed more at length in that primitive and extremely ancient document--so ancient, that it has ever been known as the Apostles' Creed. This, besides the acknowledgment of God the Father and God the Holy Ghost, is for the most part a short history of Jesus, from his incarnation to his ascension into heaven, thence to come again to judge both the quick and the dead; so that, in fact, it is mainly the original formula drawn out in historical detail. This served the church for the first three centuries. All the generations of men and women that were enrolled among her members made only this summary profession. That which was the Catholic Faith then, must be the Catholic Faith now; and that which was a sufficient expression of it then, is a sufficient expression of it now. Such, certainly, is the judgment of our own branch of the church in the matter. She requires nothing, either of the adult or the sponsor for the infant, but a belief in 'the Articles of the Christian Faith as contained in the Apostles' Creed.' She inserts no other creed in her catechism; and when she asks of the catechumen what he chiefly learned from it, he is instructed to proceed with no deductions or inferences from it, or at least only such as are immediate and obvious. . . . This is eminently the Catholic creed. Whoever holds it, holds all that the church in all ages has required to be believed in order to salvation. Of course, I am not speaking of what we are required to do, nor of the sacraments, ministry, or worship of the church, but simply of the FAITH. The Credenda, and that by common consent, and the emphatic practice of our own church in particular, is the Apostles' Creed.
"'But this brief document,' you will remind me, 'is a very comprehensive and profound one. It is a fund of truth, vast, rich, and deep. In abiding by its articles, we implicitly receive all that is contained in them, and what follows from them. We do not take the several articles as so many barren propositions.' Unquestionably, we are bound to receive all that follows from the Creed by fair deduction; that is, provided we see it to be such deduction. If we do not thus see it, we are not bound to receive it. Many, the great majority of deductions from the Creed are so evident, that we are compelled to admit them as of equal authority with the Creed itself. Others are not so. A proposition asserted to flow necessarily from one of the original articles may seem demonstrable to one man and not to another. Such propositions every one is at liberty to examine by the light of reason and Holy "Writ, and accept or refuse them accordingly. A man is not unsound in the faith as long as he stands on the apostolical basis, however he may regard some of the superstructures that are raised upon it. He is not to be set down for a heretic, as long as he honestly adheres to the old Catholic symbol, although he may deny alleged inferences from it, and although, moreover, these inferences be maintained as part and parcel of the faith by a large portion of the church, perchance by the whole branch of the church to which he belongs. This is his Christian liberty--the liberty secured to him at his baptism, which he received on condition of his believing the Apostles' Creed. As long as he honestly adheres to that, he has not apostatized from his baptismal faith, and if not an apostate from that faith, he is not a heretic.
"Upon the groundwork of the Creed, or upon a groundwork added to it, drawn from Scripture, men have reared the numberless and multiform theological systems which divide the Christian world. The advocates of each, confident that they reason conclusively from the fundamental premises, earnestly contend for it as for 'the faith once delivered to the saints.' Each stands up for his own articles, formularies, or dogmas, as valiantly as he stands up for the Creed, nay, more valiantly, since, in striving for these, he believes he is most successfully striving for that, which often is lost sight of in the zeal employed upon the means for its preservation. Hence come the distraction and discord of Christendom. Hence there are as many orthodoxies as there are branches, divisions, and schisms in the church. Hence there are as many voices of the truth--if so be that truth can speak with contradictory voices--as there were tongues in the Corinthian Church, where each had a language of his own. Hence in our respective pulpits we preach from our books of theology, according to our traditionary formulas, our conventional modes of faith or doctrine, every herald of the Gospel sounding his own party trumpet, averring that it alone gives forth the note of truth. Amid this noise and jar, oh for the voice of the glorious old Creed once more, in its own pure and solemn strains rising above our discords, and rallying men to the original common ground where the church once stood at unity with herself, and where, if her unity is ever to be restored, she must stand again! We shall have to fall back upon the primitive ground, and use our strength in defending the common territory, instead of expending it all upon the separate fabrics there erected. We Protestants have need to come to a better understanding, and to look about for a platform broad enough for us to stand together upon, and to make common cause against the enemy, which, from opposite quarters, is coming in like a flood; and what can that be but the Rock-Confession on which Christ hath built his Church. . . ."
"The Evangelical Catholic," wrote Dr. Harwood, who, at Dr. Muhlenberg's solicitation, became his assistant in the editorship of the paper, "was a genuine surprise, and the surprise culminated when it was discovered that he had no doctrinal affiliation with the party to which it had been assumed that he belonged. It was found that he was thoroughly Protestant, both in his beliefs and his sympathies. Catholic he claimed to be, because he held to the historic church, with its creed, and sacraments, and ministry, and type of worship; Evangelical, because the Scriptures were the sole ultimate rule of faith and practice. He advocated great freedom of thought within the faith of Christ. This was the position he laid down, and upon which he stood before the church and country. Standing upon it resolutely, he found, and others found also, that he thenceforth, surely, and without any qualification, began to acquire the confidence of the community, and became a recognized power in New York and throughout the church."
No change took place in the manner or character of his church services or sermons with the publication of the Evangelical Catholic. Gradually, perhaps, there was a more thorough clearing away of any vestige of "mere ecclesiasticism" that may have lingered with him from his brief contact with Oxford.
He may have felt more sure of his ground, and so have preached, as some thought, "with more power than ever before." But there was nothing really new to himself in that which took others by surprise.
As far back as the year 1835, in the midst of his school labors, he had written, and the following year published, his "Hints on Catholic Union." From beginning to end of his ministry, his heart was full of a yearning desire for the union, in some form, of the Protestant bodies of Christendom. He was all along an "Evangelical Catholic," though not until now did he invest his principles with that appellation. His earliest explicit utterance in print was the above named treatise in 1835, in undertaking which he at first only designed to write a brief preface to some extracts from Bishop Jeremy Taylor's "Liberty of Prophesying," but the subject opened up to him as he studied it, and the preface became a book. The keynote of the essay is found in the sacred opening words from our Lord's Sacerdotal Prayer: "That they all may be one, as thou Father art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." "That they all may be one"--the great company of believers throughout the world,--the church, being, as Hooker says, "like the sea--one everywhere, though it have many precincts and many names."
A larger experience showed him that the particular methods of union suggested in the little work referred to, needed reconsideration, but its theory throughout is what he afterwards so repeatedly and eloquently urged: namely, Evangelical Catholicism; and the spirit of the treatise of eighteen years before, was identical with that of the present paper. The able columns of the latter, in connection with higher and more thoughtful articles, brought the touchstone of its principles to bear, in a lighter way, on men and things generally, on passing public events, and on the minutiae of domestic life. Many a pithy word and bright little lesson filled up spare corners of the sheet, and sometimes a reader would, recognize in the pleasantly put item a suggestion furnished by himself. Thus: A fond father and mother, on one of Dr. Muhlenberg's pastoral visits, exhibited the accomplishments of their baby boy. They were both amused and instructed to read in the next issue of the Evangelical Catholic the following: "'Show how big you are.' And the dear little creature, long before it can speak, lifts its tiny hands to its head--'So big.' 'Now, again, show how big you are.' The darling baby, how well it understands already. What wonder that all our lives long we are showing how big we are, when it is one of the first lessons we learn in infancy."
Incidentally, the paper was serviceable to St. Luke's Hospital and the Sisterhood, by keeping both institutions in view, and in the latter case, gradually allaying apprehensions of a secret nunnery and the like, by promoting familiarity with the true genius of the society. Much prudence had to be exercised, however, in this regard, and several communications appeared in the columns of the paper on the questions, pro and con, of the service of "Protestant nuns" in the projected church hospital. In the mind of the founder of both institutions, there was never any doubt of the result; but with his usual wisdom and prudence, he gave fair play to differing opinions on the subject.
From the beginning of the church, the first Sister, with an associate or two, informally connected with her, had done true Sisters' work in the parish. In 1852 the community was regularly organized as the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion. Principles of association were formulated, and a body of tried rules adopted.
A pamphlet, written by the first Sister, and edited by Dr. Muhlenberg, was at the same time put in circulation, in the hope of disarming fears, and of making the association better understood. A revised edition of that little work, republished at the desire of one of the bishops of the church, was afterwards more widely disseminated, and is reputed to have done its part in establishing confidence in such associations. [Bishop Alonzo Potter, of Pennsylvania] In Dr. Muhlenberg's Introduction to this work, entitled "Thoughts on Evangelical Sisterhoods," are some golden words which the popularity and present tendency of such communities amongst us make it desirable to preserve; and this the more, it will be conceded, in that he was the first to introduce Sisterhoods in the Protestant Episcopal Church. The following extracts are from the Introduction alluded to:
"At once, then, let it be said, that while we do not underrate the good that is done by such orders as the Sisters of Charity in the Roman Communion, we desire to attempt no copying of them among ourselves. They are essentially Roman. To say nothing of their corruptions and errors of faith, their perpetual vows, their constrained celibacy, their unreserved submission to ecclesiastical rule, their subjection of the conscience to priestly guidance, their onerous rounds of ceremonies and devotions, the whole tenor of their exterior religious life make them a homogeneous part of the system of that Church. They could exist nowhere else. There can be no imitations of them in a Protestant Church. ["Some of the Anglican Sisterhoods strike us as imitations. They are not genuine productions of Evangelical Charity in its Protestant simplicity. They have a foreign garb, indicative of a foreign taste. Pastor Fleidner's deaconesses ore more to our mind." Original note, 1852.]
"A Sisterhood (the appellation is too good to be given up), as here contended for, is a very simple thing. It is a community of Christian women, devoted to works of charity, as the service of their lives, or of a certain portion of them. For the most part, they form a household of themselves; that being necessary in order to their mutual sympathy and encouragement, and to their greater unity and efficiency in action. They are held together by identity of purpose, and accordance of will and feeling. Their one bond of union is simply the 'Love of Christ constraining them.' As long as that continues to be a constraining motive, cordially uniting the members, their society will last. In proportion as that languishes and fails, it will decline and dissolve of its own accord. In this respect, as well as in so many others, it differs from any of the religious orders of the Roman Church. To whatever extent these latter are actuated by the genuine life of true charity, yet they have all another and independent life, derived from the system of which they are a component part, and which may be called their ecclesiastical life. Hence they may continue to exist, in virtue of the latter, while the former is no more. Though their proper vitality be gone, the force of the church still acts upon them, impelling them on and keeping them in action. They may be in a state of moral apostasy--personal piety and virtue may be rare, or be entirely extinct in them; abuses and corruptions may be multiplying, nevertheless they live and prosper in their own way. They have lost none of their mere ecclesiastical vitality. They retain the imparted energy of "the church." Protestantism has no such power. That belongs to a consolidated church. Protestantism possesses not the art of keeping dead things alive. Orders of charity, should they come to pass among us, will be such really and actually as long as they last. They may not last long, but they will be what they profess to be as long as they do last. They will not survive their true and proper existence; they will derive no after being, no perfunctory and mechanical life from the church. As the spontaneous product of charity, they will thrive just as the spirit of charity continues to be their indwelling spirit. Their corruption will lead to their dissolution. Having only one life, when they are dead, they will die. Nothing then, is to be feared from a truly Evangelical Sisterhood. When it degenerates it will come to an end. It depends for its continuance wholly upon the continuance of the zeal which called it into being. The uniting principle among its members, is their common affection for the object which has brought them together, and which, by giving intenseness to their mutual affection as Sisters in Christ, tends to strengthen and confirm their social existence; but there is no constraint from without on the part of the church, not any from within in the form of religious vows, or promises to one another to insure their perpetuity as a body, or to interfere with their freedom of conscience as individuals. While one in feeling and action, each yet stands fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. Not that they hold themselves ever ready to adjourn, or that they would be satisfied with an ephemeral existence. Each and all feel that they have entered upon a sacred service, which they are at liberty to quit, only at the demand of duty elsewhere. They naturally cherish their union. They look forward to its permanence in themselves, and their successors, who may be called thereto. How it may be they do not know. They walk by faith. As they trust their society has come to pass in the gracious ordering of God, so they believe it will be upheld by him, as long as he has work for them to do, and it pleases him to give them grace to do it Handmaidens of the Lord, waiting upon his good pleasure, they are not anxious for the future, content to leave it in his hands."
As regarded any central organization, Dr. Muhlenberg said: "It is wholly undesirable. We want no such combination, no wide-spread of charity, under one head, or church control--neither, for my part, would I have these associations to be bodies corporate in law, or in any way capable of holding property in their own right Should they have dwelling-houses, as places of retirement when disabled, or in their old age, these, with moderate endowments, might be held for them by trustees, but nothing further. As simple evangelical associations, not ecclesiastical organizations, the less they have of the means of worldly influence the better.
Let this be understood, and any fears or jealousies of woman-power in the church, which, in fact, would be a priestly power, will have no place. The dread of convents, abbesses, lady-superiors, and every thing of that sort, will vanish."
In the constitution of the Sisterhood of the Holy Communion, the term 'First' heretofore applied to the original Sister, as first in the order of time, became the authorized title of the head or principal of the association, and was chosen as more simple, and less-assuming, than others now in vogue for the directing Sister.
St. Luke's Hospital quietly made its way into the hearts of Christian people generally, from the date of the first appeal of the Board of Managers for one hundred thousand dollars. The contributions, mainly from the, rich, but occasionally from very opposite sources, came in encouragingly. The wealthy gave of their abundance, and some poor people of their penury. A young physician consecrated his opening practice by sending part of his first fee to Dr. Muhlenberg, for St. Luke's; and a testamentary bequest of ten thousand dollars, from Dr. Wiley of the, United States navy, was received before even the site was fully determined upon. Within a year, the proposed . amount was secured; but the last five thousand, given especially to complete the hundred thousand, was contributed on condition that fifty thousand more should be raised.
It took proportionably longer to get this additional amount, and conflicting circumstances in connection with a site caused considerable delay. Almost from the time of St. Luke's incorporation, the ground on which it stands was regarded as well adapted for the purpose, and, moreover, very desirable, inasmuch as it could be obtained without an outlay of money. The corporation of the city, for certain considerations on the part of Trinity Church, had made a grant to the Church of St. George the Martyr, of which the Rev. Moses Marcus was rector, of twenty-four lots of ground, on the condition that there should be erected thereon a hospital and free chapel for British emigrants, within three years from the date of the grant. That condition not having been met, and the property in consequence likely to revert to the city, the Managers of St. Luke's exerted themselves with the city corporation, and obtained an extension of another three years. They then entered into negotiations with the Church of St. George the Martyr, which issued in the release of the ground to the corporation of St. Luke's, on certain conditions in regard to the support of patients, satisfactory to both parties. ["Sketch of Origin and Progress of St. Luke's Hospital" W. A. M. 1869.] But the land held by the Church of St. George the Martyr was insufficient in extent, for such a hospital as was now proposed, and the eligibility of other sites in different quarters of the city was actively discussed.
Dr. Muhlenberg fell in with the action of the Board in this particular, though without any idea of the institution standing anywhere else than where it does. For, while these questions were pending, in the fall of 1851 he invited three friends interested in the project to take an afternoon drive. Stopping at the corner of Fifty-fourth street and Fifth avenue, the party alighted and followed him to the middle of the present hospital site, a dreary, weed-covered area with two gaunt, weather-beaten oak trees looming up against the sky. He took his companions entirely by surprise, when, after a moment of silence, he uncovered his head and saying, "Now we will consecrate this place to St. Luke's Hospital," fervently prayed for the divine blessing upon what he knew, with "the intuition that was foresight," would come to pass there and nowhere else.
[Mr. and Mrs. John H. Swift and the writer were Dr. Muhlenberg's companions on the occasion. Recently, among some loose papers, I found a rough draft of the prayer referred to, which, as belonging to the history of St. Luke's, is of interest here:
[O Lord, to whom belong the earth and the fulness thereof, we adore Thee and give Thee thanks that in Thy Providence it has pleased Thee to order that this ground shall be set apart for the use of charity, in the name of Thy beloved Son. So far as we may, we humbly consecrate it to Thy service, praying that Thou wilt abundantly bless the labor of love which shall here be done to Thy glory, to the comfort of the sick and distressed who shall be brought hero for the good of their bodies and the salvation of their souls, in humble imitation of Him who Himself bear our sicknesses and healed our infirmities. Open the hearts and hands of Thy people that they may contribute largely of their ability to this end, so that here may stand a monument of faith and love to the honor and praise of Thy name from generation to generation.]
This site was eventually extended by the purchase of eight lots, to the west of the St. George Martyr grant, making thirty-two city lots the entire extent of the ground. The matter of locality was settled, but much time must elapse before any building would be in readiness, and Dr. Muhlenberg and his Sister workers were urgently pressed for some provision for the sick, now constantly thrust upon them--poor, pious, incurable sufferers, with not so much as a decent attic or basement to die in. Three such in quick succession claimed succor. "What are we to do? "he anxiously asked the Sisters. There was no vacant room in the house they occupied, though they had now and again sheltered a sick person there. "We must hire a place as near us as we can, and take them in," was the conclusion; to which Dr. Muhlenberg joyfully assented, lie always obtained money for the Sisters' charities, so they had not any disheartening question of means to embarrass them, and a little hospital was forthwith improvised in the rear-tenement of an alley, very near their own dwelling. Two or three rooms of a small house were all that was available, and here, in 1853, St. Luke's was virtually begun. The Sisters prepared the food of these poor patients in their own kitchen, and took turns in ministering personally to them. They did not at first escape a little persecution from their fellow-tenants of the alley, who threatened to prosecute them for introducing a "catching disease," and had to be indebted to a poor good woman, whom they had taken care of, for mediating with her rough neighbors in their behalf. So much for the embryo St. Luke's, as it really proved, for there was no break in the direct succession of patients. These in the rear-tenement having been later transferred to the Infirmary of the Church of the Holy Communion, and that institution in due time supplying the first patients of the full-grown Hospital.