Project Canterbury

The Life and Work of William Augustus Muhlenberg
Doctor in Divinity

By Anne Ayres

New York: T. Whittaker, 1889.

CHAPTER XXI. 1856-1859.

Benevolent Activities during War.--The selfish Landlord--Central Park Splendor.--An unrepining Spirit.--Evening Hours.--Soldier Patients.--Favoring the Poorest.--A Riddle.--Keeping Lent.--Efforts for general Observance of Good Friday.--Co-operation of Ministers of various Denominations.--Sermon in Dr. Adams's Church.--Bishop Potter's Pastoral.--Letters to a Friend.--Dr. Schaff's Service in Church of the Holy Communion.--Restoration of Church of Augustus.--Growth of exclusive Sentiment.--Death of Dr. Crusé.--A Pair of Saints.--Anecdotes.--An Olive Branch.--Act of General Convention of 1865.

THE unhappy years of the war, in the sufferings direct and indirect which it entailed, opened a vast field both for public and private benevolence throughout the land. Dr. Muhlenberg's humane and Christian sympathies were never in more active exercise. There seemed an almost unremitting demand upon his time and attention. "I hope the way to the kingdom of heaven for you and me lies through these corridors," he said one day to a fellow-worker, "for we spend very much of our time in traversing them."

Besides his ardent, pains-taking interest in the soldiers themselves, he often found occasion for out-of-door errands of mercy in the service of their families; the following is an example. The wife of a volunteer, then in the army, had failed to receive her usual remittances, and came in great distress to Dr. Muhlenberg under a threat of ejection for not paying her rent.

"Who is your landlord?" he inquired.

"Mr. ----. He has a good many houses."

"Oh, I know him well. Be comforted. I will see to it."

Forthwith he repaired to the poor woman's landlord, who was engaged, at the time, in his private office, but, being intimate with the Doctor, admitted him there. The rich man was counting a quantity of gold into little piles at the moment Dr. Muhlenberg described the poor tenant's distress, and asked him to give her a quitclaim for a quarter's rent.

"Impossible. I have nothing at all to do with it. My agent attends to all such matters. Business would be quite demoralized by such interference."

"Nay, but," remonstrated Dr. Muhlenberg, "the good woman occupies your house, and you receive her money for it. She has paid regularly till now, when she is ordered to leave."

"Yes, yes, that may be all true, but the thing can't be done; it is not business."

"Well, then," said the faithful pleader for the poor, "just give me one or two of those gold pieces for her."

"By no means," rejoined the rich man. "I want every one of them to make up a sum I'm going to put into the bank."

"Well, sir," said Dr. Muhlenberg, rising with some indignation to go, "I would rather take my chance for the kingdom of heaven, with the poorest, meanest, dirtiest beggar in the streets of New York than with you."

Full of the softest humanities, and merciful after the heavenly pattern, to "publicans and sinners," there were two things that always roused his ire--greed and hypocrisy. Further, he enjoyed, now and then, a strong word when it fitted. Here is a similar reflection, made after a somewhat like occurrence. "I am no apologist for Mariolatry, but I would rather fare with Bridget saying her 'Hail Mary,' than with Old Rent Roll, her master, groaning over her idolatry--himself a worshipper of Mammon. Granting the idolatry, hers may be venial, compared with his, in the eye of the Discerner of Spirits."

In these days, his main recreation was a brisk walk in Central Park, so conveniently at hand, where he frequently noted the throng of gay equipages bowling along the carriage ways. "Little sign of the unparalleled disaster of the land," he would say, and then recollected that those newly set up handsome establishments were too often the very product of the war, acquired by those who made money out of it, but took not the slightest share in its hardships. Gazing one day at such a scene, he said to a poor shivering fellow who asked for something to buy him a morsel to eat, "I suppose you think it rather hard to see these streams of merry sleigh-riders dashing along so gayly while you are starving in the cold?" "Oh! no," he replied, "they are enjoying themselves. I like to see them. I would do the same if I had a chance." Dr. Muhlenberg did not fail to reward the man's un repining spirit, and recorded the incident to the credit of human nature.

A common occupation of the evenings of his Hospital life consisted in private interviews with the patients in his own room. When the rush of business from outside was suspended, and he was at leisure from other interruptions, the lights in his study turned low, one might hear, in passing along the corridors, his voice in deep, subdued tones of earnest persuasion, or fervent prayer, with one or another forlorn patient who had crept down to that hallowed place for the fatherly counsel and spiritual help never sought in vain. Very often, at night, before he lay down to sleep, he would mount even to the third-story ward, and at the bedside of those whom he knew to be in especial danger or distress, speak such words of heavenly help and cheer, that the poor souls felt as though an angel of God had visited them. And with the morning dawn, before sitting down to his early breakfast, he would constantly again look in for a moment upon such sufferers, to learn how the night had passed.

On Sunday evenings he would have his melodeon carried into the wards most remote from the Chapel, and make a bright service of praise and prayer for those excluded by their ailments from attending church with the rest. And so passed his happy, thrice blessed days.

By the close of the year 1863, the government had removed the sick and wounded men from all the civil institutions to military hospitals. Dr. Muhlenberg had found great pleasure in ministering to his soldier patients. "It is a satisfaction," he said, "to see how much they enjoy their accommodation here. Used to the forms and strictness of military regimen, some very few of them abused the mild, paternal order of the house, but with these exceptions, they have been as orderly and obedient as could be desired. . . . Very generally they are pleased to attend the religious services, both in the wards and in the Chapel. Scarcely any of them are Episcopalians, but after a few directions they take to the Prayer Book and make responses worthy of a regular church congregation. It is pleasant to have them gathered every evening, as well as on Sundays, for worship, which they can do so easily by means of the central Chapel communicating with the wards. Some of them have expressed much pleasure in it. We may hope that they will carry from the Hospital more than they came for. . . ."

There was a great preponderance of chronic patients in the earlier years of the Institution, and the prolonged occupation of beds sometimes rendered it difficult to entertain all the applications made for admission. One day, when only one vacant bed remained on the men's side, two men applied at the same moment to be taken in. One was a respectable-looking man, able to pay his board, the other a poor consumptive, without a shilling in the world. The well-to-do man was so eager to be admitted, and the poor man so needy, that Dr. Muhlenberg was referred to for a decision. "Why, of course, take in the man that has no means; the other can procure a shelter somewhere." This was not a solitary instance of the principle governing admissions; any other decision would have been a disgrace to the Christianity of the house; but Dr. Muhlenberg always congratulated himself on an opportunity of favoring the poorest, and often called the Hospital, "Lazarus's Palace." On one such occasion he improvised a riddle, thus: "Why is St. Luke's like the kingdom of heaven?" Answer: "Because ' they that have riches shall hardly enter therein.'"

In the spring of 1864, it occurred to him to make an effort for the observance of the coming Good Friday, by all Evangelical Christians in the city of New York He always made much of Lent, not in the way of minute rules, as to this or that article of diet, or other matters of "mint, anise and cummin," but as an especial time for self-searching, true self-denial, and humiliation for sin. He would speak of the season as "an annual returning to the law, which might be made very salutary if used for evangelical repentance," "Our Lord," he said "was forty days in the wilderness alone; we may profitably follow him there, by making this appointment of the church, a time for putting ourselves more frequently and solemnly in the presence of God, in spiritual reflection and prayer. . . ."

Passion Week was eminently a Holy Week to him to his life's end, and with regard to the observance of Good Friday, as was his earliest desire, so was his latest--that all who named themselves Christians should, with one accord, keep the day of their common redemption.

This year (1864) there were some especial grounds whereon to urge his Evangelical Catholic principles to such an end. These were, in his own words, "the fearful moral aspect of the city of New York, the revelling in luxury and wanton extravagance; the squanderings of newly-gotten wealth in fashion and display; the triumphant successes of places of amusement, while new horrors of the necessities of war form the daily items of news; while the moans of suffering and bereavement from agonized hearts almost sound in our ears."

In a brief paper entitled "A Word for Good Friday," he expatiates upon the history and principle of the solemn observance of the day, thus: "There are traces of it in the earliest centuries. It is impossible to assign the date of its beginning, but naturally it might have been the first anniversary of the Crucifixion. ... It was adhered to in Protestant countries as strictly after, as it had been before, the Reformation. They never thought of giving it up as a papal custom, nor do they at the present day. Good Friday belongs to the religion of continental Europe everywhere; prevailing also, though not so universally, in the British dominions. In our own country, likewise, many of the Protestant churches, the Lutheran and the Reformed, the Moravian Brethren, with a large number of the Wesleyan Methodists, and others, are of one mind on the subject, which, without any violence to conscience, it would seem might be the mind of all. If hallowed associations, if ancient and world-wide precedent be required for an institution, this may claim them abundantly.

"Of all holy days, it is the least likely to be abused. It is a fast, not a feast, like Christmas, which men may and often do prostitute to riot and excess. Merry Christmas the world is willing to keep; Good Friday it would leave undisturbed, and on no day might devout Christians more realize that they are not of the world.

"True, the great theme then dwelt upon is not for our thoughts on that day alone. We remember the death of Christ every day of our lives, but it does not thence follow that we may not more especially remember it on one day in the year. "We are to pray without ceasing, but we have certain times for prayer. We' are to hallow all our days, yet we are to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. The Christian is to be always humble and penitent, yet the profit of special days 'for humiliation and penitence has always been recognized. We receive our daily blessings from the hand of God with lively gratitude, but no one would make this a reason for dispensing with the annual Thanksgiving. The principle involved is the same in the observance before us. It assumes the expediency of there being one marked, fixed, and devoted period in the cycle of the year to call us away from earth, to bring us closer to the cross, to study more deeply its awful mystery, to perceive more clearly the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and thus to renew our repentance, to quicken our faith, and to see the whole price of our redemption paid when the Redeemer cried: 'It is finished.' Nothing but further sanctification, under the blessing of the Holy Spirit, could flow from a day thus used.

"Hence there are countless believers to whom Good Friday is inestimably precious, and who would not for the world spend it in secular pursuits; while it is equally true of countless others that while the dying Saviour is never absent from their spiritual gaze, they know nothing of the day, and would even shrink from keeping it as carnal and popish; just again as there are still others who keep it with the utmost scrupulousness, who, nevertheless, may have every thing yet to learn of the power of the cross to salvation. But any thing of that kind does not touch the question of the edification of the observance in the manner in which alone it is here commended.

"But, further, do not the times call upon all who believe in the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, for some special demonstration on their part which shall declare their unanimity in that belief? Now, when multifarious and subtle errors are undermining this vital doctrine of the Gospel, when unbelief insinuates itself under the guise of rational belief, when Christ is preached, but not Christ crucified, does it not behoove all who are steadfast in the faith to stand up together and announce that in whatever else they are apart, on this ground truth they are one? And would it not be an easy, a natural and edifying way to set apart and give up a day for this purpose, and further to take that which always has been kept as the Atonement-day, and so testify that it is the ancient catholic as well as the scriptural faith which they maintain in confessing ' Christ Jesus dying, just for the unjust to bring us unto God'? A general return to Good Friday would be emphatic, would have a positive meaning, would tell upon the world as a proclamation that, despite of divisions and differences, Christians do see 'eye to eye' when they turn to the central object of their faith and hope and love. "Such a union service in our several churches could only be profitable, and also most animating in thought, when we consider the vast company of Christians with whom we would be in sympathy. The millions in all quarters of Christendom, all called by the day to their respective sanctuaries, all turning their eyes to the one object on Calvary; some, indeed, less understandingly or with a more mixed faith than others, but all naming the only Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved; all pouring forth one litany: 'Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us;' an innumerable brotherhood of ransomed sinners, each claiming his share in the salvation of their great Elder Brother, the God-man, the Peacemaker between God and man, all in virtue of the blood of the everlasting covenant, crying, 'Our Father who art in heaven.' What a time for universal charity, for those who are blessed with the clear knowledge of redemption to pray for the illumination of many of their brethren, looking also to the cross, but with a darkened faith; what a time for supplicating the great Head of the church that he would purge out her errors, heal her divisions, and give her peace! Shall we not bear our part in the congregation of all nations, and languages, and tongues? Shall we not in solemn worship, special and appropriate to the day, manifest our union, so far forth, at least, with the 'holy church throughout all the world'?"

This paper was followed by a circular very widely N. disseminated, and to which he succeeded in obtaining the signatures of the pastors of all the more prominent churches of the city, of every party and denomination, proposing respectfully to their Christian brethren of the city a general agreement to observe the day in their congregations. In the list of signers, we find the rectors of Trinity, Grace Church, Calvary, (then Dr. A. C. Coxe, now Bishop of Western New York) of St. George's Church, of St. Bartholomew's, with those of the Madison Square Presbyterian Church, St. Paul's Methodist Episcopal Church, the Fourth Ave. Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Dutch Church, the Fifth Ave. Baptist Church, the German Reformed Church, etc., and very many more of differing communions. The effort was an eminently successful one, and from that time forth the observance of the day by Christians generally has been steadily extending.

Dr. Muhlenberg preached, by invitation, at the second service held in the Madison Square Presbyterian Church. He simply preached, leaving the conduct of the worship to the pastor of the congregation. He was afterwards censured for this, and in vindicating himself said:

S "For a fortnight previous I had spent much time in obtaining the signatures of a large number of the clergy of various denominations, to a circular recommending the observance of that day, both for its commemoration and for the purpose of manifesting the unity of Christians in the doctrines of the Cross. Nearly everywhere I met with the most cordial welcome. A few days before the fast, Dr. Adams, who had taken a lead in furthering the movement, said to me: 'Will you not now come and finish your work by preaching in my church on Good Friday afternoon, when a number of clergy and people of other congregations will be present?' A small reply would it not have been, had I said, 'Yes, on condition that you allow me to conduct all the worship myself, and according to the forms of my own church.' I shall never forget that solemnized and thronged assembly. Never did I so feel the reality of my office as a preacher of the Crucified. It was the happiest Good Friday of my life."

Mention has been heretofore made of the tenacity with which Dr. Muhlenberg held to his principles of Evangelic Brotherhood. In season and out of season he pressed them, and it is doubtful if he ever passed by an opportunity of discussing the subject with his Episcopal superiors. Items in his journal constantly glance at conversations upon the theme with one or another bishop with whom he came casually in contact

He had an unfeigned reverence for, and appreciation of, their office, with a vision so grand of the possibilities of the Episcopate for the advancement of the church of Christ that he longed to bring every individual member of the same to see what he saw.

In the year 1865 he published a pamphlet in answer to Bishop Potter's Pastoral, making serious charges against himself and some brother clergymen for practising what were deemed canonical irregularities, the preaching in Dr. Adams's church on this Good Friday, being one of them; and lending the Church of the Holy Communion to the Rev. Dr. Schaff for a German service, the other. Br. Muhlenberg felt there was an unfairness in the allusion of the Pastoral to this last particular, under the circumstances through which Dr. Schaff's use of the church came to pass; and an injustice also in the objection made to it, in the face of the liberty allowed about the same time in Trinity Chapel, of the celebration of the Holy Communion in the Greek tongue after the formulas of the Russian Church.

The facts regarding Dr. Schaff's preaching, are thus stated by Dr. Muhlenberg:

"In regard to the preaching of the Rev. Dr. Schaff, in the Church of the Holy Communion, it (the Pastoral) says: 'Certainly the specious plea urged on that occasion will never be admitted again by the present bishop.' The specious plea was this: For some time I had thought it would be a good thing to give our churches, when not otherwise used, on Sunday evenings, for sermons by native German preachers, with the view of inducing the attendance of some of that large portion of our German population neglecting public worship altogether. Many who send their children to our Sunday schools, will not themselves come to 'church. I believed that if special efforts were made to bring them, not, just to mission halls, with which their foreign feelings won't associate the ideas of worship, but to our goodly sanctuaries, giving them a cordial American welcome there, putting our organs in the hands of their countrymen to lead them in chorals of their fatherland--by such means I believed something might be done in bringing them to hear earnest preachers of their own, not as of any one denomination but as evangelists declaring to them the Gospel, the same in Germany and America. Full of my scheme for a German lecture, I went to the bishop for his approval of it, proposing to make a beginning in the Church of the Holy Communion. He assented to it, without any pressing on my part, or hesitation on his. I left him, gratified with his readiness in the matter. As he now says he 'gave a bare assent,' I must suppose that he did, but that he was urged by any specious plea, I can not admit. He knows how careful I was to adhere to the understanding that the church should be considered as loaned for the occasion, for I afterward informed him that I had declined the offer of one of our clergymen to read the evening prayer in German, before Dr. Schaff's sermon, that there might be none of the intermingling of services to which he objected. I made use of no pretext; I was open and straightforward throughout.

"Some three months afterward, the bishop, at my request, allowed the use of the same church, for a sermon by a German Lutheran divine, who then thought of coming into our church. The purpose, a special one, was approved by the bishop, but no specious plea was urged."

For a full understanding of the matter the reader is referred to the pamphlet itself, entitled "Letters to a Friend." Dr. Muhlenberg used much deliberation in making this reply to the bishop. On simply personal grounds he might have been content to let it pass, as more than one of his brethren entreated him to, but he thought the Pastoral "calculated to do harm, to our church." "It sets her," he said, "in a false attitude toward surrounding Christians. It attributes an exclusiveness which does not belong to her, and puts her ministers in an ecclesiastical bondage foreign to her spirit, and not imposed by her laws."

He never ceased to be jealous for the honor,--the true character, full usefulness, and fair adornment,--of the Episcopal Church; which had not, in all her borders, a more loyal and loving son; and the same spirit that, before he was even ordained, stirred him to reform the organ loft of St. James's, Phila., and to remove from the sanctuary service the incongruous office of clerk, impelled him, as life went on, to put forth his best efforts for the eradication of more important evil growths. The hallowed structure, if of heavenly foundation, was built up of earthly elements, and hence liable to injury, to unwholesome accretions, and to decay. He would not have us--in the imagery of a delegate to the General Convention, succeeding his decease,--" retrain from repairing the old building till the timbers fall about our ears."

"'Take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's,'" he said might be enjoined of the prohibitory canons. Speaking of the interpretation of the twentieth canon which makes it enforce absolute uniformity of worship to the exclusion of a breath of free prayer, under whatsoever circumstances, he writes:

"In vain do we look for any of these severe provisions in the Prayer Book. That keeps within the limit of its prerogative. It dictates what shall be said, and there stops. It prescribes, but does not proscribe. It does not forbid the utterance of any words whatever beyond its own. But that, you answer, is implied. Not so. When our Lord said, 'When ye pray, say Our Father,' we do not understand him as enjoining exclusively that prayer, which, from its perfection, might, if any prayer might, be our sole liturgy. The church, then surely would not go beyond her Lord, and say of the 'form of sound words,' thus, and thus alone, shall ye pray. No, no. It is the canon, in its hard sense, not the dear old Prayer Book, which knows the Bible too well to abridge our Bible rights."

......"When the whole country reeled as the lightning flashed through it the terrific word of the murder of the president, and we be wed in our sanctuaries before the Sovereign Disposer of events, should we have stifled our hearts and uttered no supplications dictated by that event in his providence, crushing the heart of millions, and changing, for aught we knew, the whole current of our nation's fortunes? No earnest cries, that out of that darkness he would bring light; no litany, that the people might learn what he would teach them by that undreamed of reverse of his hand? No prayer extraordinary for the magistrate suddenly lifted to supreme command, that he might be endowed with wisdom extraordinary for his new and tremendous responsibilities, and that he might call to him counsellors seeking counsel of God? Nothing--nothing at all out of the ordinary routine, but the 'Prayer for Persons in Affliction,' commended to us on that occasion by our Diocesan! "

The above occurred thus: On the day following the Good Friday of Mr. Lincoln's assassination, there was a confirmation in Dr. Muhlenberg's Church of the Holy Communion, when he read the service. He asked the bishop's consent to a prayer suitable to the appalling circumstances, the thought of which filled every heart. The result was the direction stated, namely, to read the "Prayer for Persons in Affliction." Nevertheless, his sanguine, upright heart comforted itself that "the church as well as the earth does move. Evangelical Catholicism will be understood some of these days."

In the year 1860, on the occasion of the restoration of the old Church of Augustus, at The Trappe, Pa, founded by the Lutheran Patriarch Muhlenberg, Dr. Muhlenberg as great grandson to the latter, took part by invitation on the occasion. He delivered a sermon on the words, "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy," but did not conduct the worship; circumstances closely parallel to those of the Good Friday service in the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Muhlenberg mentioned this fact in a note to his "Letters," adding that both "Bishop Alonzo Potter, and Bishop Bowman had approved of his accepting the invitation, aware of the devotional services of the occasion being conducted by Lutheran clergymen." At the same time, to show, by a retrospective comparison, the striking growth of exclusive sentiment in our church, he makes an opportune quotation from an old record of the consecration of Zion, another Lutheran Church of the Patriarch Muhlenberg's founding in 1769. This ancient church stood in the neighborhood of Fifth and Cherry Streets, Phila., and has only within a very few years been pulled down. The record to which Dr. Muhlenberg refers says: "On the second day of the solemnities, the services were according to the Liturgy of the Church of England, and a sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. Peters, a clergyman of that church, (one of the three ministers of Christ Church and St. Peter's, Philadelphia). Several other Episcopal ministers were present on the occasion, at the conclusion of which the Rector Muhlenberg, who had delivered the sermon the first day, addressed the congregation, and, in the name of the corporation of Zion Church, adverted to the many kind proofs of sympathy they had received during the three years in which they had worshipped in a building belonging to the Episcopalians, and the additional gratification they had just experienced in the services conducted by their Episcopal brethren."

The sermon preached by Dr. Muhlenberg, at the restoration of the Church of Augustus, was an extended and carefully written Evangelical Catholic discourse from Rev. xix. 10. It was inscribed to his "dear brother in the ministry, and former college classmate, Christian Frederick Cruse, in memory of countless hours of sweet converse on 'things pertaining to the Kingdom, and in testimony of wisdom and learning, alike meek and profound, disclosed only in such hours.'"

In the month of October, 1865, death parted these bosom friends. Dr. Muhlenberg's journal has the following entry:

"Thursday, October 5th, 11 1/2 P.M. I have just come from the death-bed of my beloved friend, Dr. Cruse. He has fallen asleep. So gently did he at last breathe his life away that we could not tell the moment he left us."

In another place he says: "About three years ago I induced him, in consequence of his declining health, after much persuasion, to make his home with me. Since when we have been daily companions. We read together, we thought together, we conversed together--each knowing each, more than men are wont to know one another. . . . He was my living commentator, better than any dead one on my shelves. I always found him at home in the most difficult texts, often original, yet strikingly natural in their interpretation. . . . He was profound in his affection for the truth of God, but impatient of the traditions of men. . . . Simply and entirely a disciple of Christ. . . . Alas! for these hours of sweet communion no more on earth! what a blank has his departure made in my life. . . . None of the associations of the Hospital are dearer to me than that here was the last tarrying place of the scholar, the saint, and the sage, the beloved friend of more than fifty years, who, in the fulness of age, without the least decay of mind, here glided in heavenly slumber, to his rest among the beatified within the veil."

Dr. Muhlenberg and Dr. Cruse were a pair of saints. They were very differently constituted, mentally and physically, but alike in unworldly simplicity, unselfishness, self-sacrifice, and habitual communion with God. It was interesting to see them together, so opposite, yet so harmonious: one so vivacious, the other so quiet, and mutually so frank and confiding. Sometimes Dr. Muhlenberg would call Dr. Crusé his cruse, out of which he got much oil. The Doctor was a learned linguist as well as theologian; the master of seven or eight languages. Again, the former would rally the old scholar on the advantage the college boys used to take of his absent-mindedness, when "keeping the study," with some huge parchment tome before him. This was during his association with Dr. M. as a professor at St. Paul's College, and "keeping the study" was sitting in the large room to maintain general order while the students prepared their lessons.

On one of these occasions, the boys perceiving that their guardian was very far off, possibly on some Arabic or Coptic exploration, dared one of their number to ask the most preposterous thing they could think of. Some unimportant preliminary requests being made by one and another scholar, and all receiving the invariable, "Yes, sir," the test question was put:

"Dr. Crusé?"


"If you please, may I cut your head off?"

"Yes, sir," with the most innocently respectful bow.

The room was in a roar, and the story ever after was a standing joke in the college.

"You shouldn't tell tales out of school, Doctor," his friend added in the mildest manner; the Sisters, at whose table the story was told, meanwhile, laughing heartily at the fun.

Each of the friends had a gold watch stolen from him while in the Hospital: not a solitary instance of such sacrilege practised upon Dr. Muhlenberg, who could never be withheld from taking strange young men for prayer and counsel into his private room, nor from leaving them there if intermediately called off; so making an easy opportunity for the ill-disposed, and which, in several notable instances, was taken advantage of. Besides, both these excellent doctors had a habit of hanging their watches on a nail in the room, instead of carrying them on their persons. Close together, within a week perhaps, the two watches were taken, undoubtedly by the same hand. Dr. Muhlenberg, when he found his gone, said, "And it was my brother's. Ah, well!" and then went on to expatiate on his grief that the young man in whom he had felt so interested should have so disappointed him. Dr. Cruse had tender associations with his gold watch also. "Well, well! it was given by my wife to our son,"--both long dead,--"but 'Sic transit gloria mundi'" The two friends were well paired in such matters.

In the September preceding Dr. Crush's death (1865), Dr. Muhlenberg wrote and circulated anonymously a paper .of some four pages, entitled "An Olive Branch," pleading for the church in the South in view of the approaching General Convention. Widely as this flyleaf was scattered the distribution was accomplished with such studious secrecy that its authorship was never known. As illustrative both of its author, and of the interesting times in which it was written, the paper is subjoined:


"All Christians in the Northern and prosperous States of the Union, must sympathize in the sufferings at the South occasioned by the recent war. As a war between brethren, between fellow-citizens and fellow-Christians, while we knew it to be as righteous as it was inevitable, we yet felt it to be so unnatural that at times we almost wished for peace on any terms. We dared not surrender the very being of the Nation and the dearest interests of humanity, and that reconciled us to what our souls abhorred. Of malice or hatred towards our self-made foes we were conscious we were entirely free. "We resisted all rising feelings of revengefulness towards them, contending simply for the right and only because it was the right.

"And now how shall we prove that we were thus single-hearted? How shall we prove that in our hostility there was no malignity--that in our antagonists we had no personal enemies? Obviously one, among other ways, is, to be forward in acts of good-will towards them, generously to succor them in the distress of which they compelled us to be the cause, to help them all we can to repair the ravages of our armies bound on their work of death for the country's life; and especially to promote all the agencies and appliances for making their former race of bondmen a race of industrious freedmen. By these means let us show that our Christianity has survived the terrible ordeal; that the war, with all its enormities, has not depraved or hardened us; and that if we fought with the persistence of men who welcomed their own rather than their country's death, it was all the while with the charity of Christian men. So, indeed, to a great extent we are doing. Liberality in no stinted measures is flowing Southward. Let it flow on still more copiously. Next to providing for the brave men and their families, among ourselves, who have been disabled or bereaved by the war, this ministry to our brethren no longer in arms against us, might well be for the time a leading charity of the day. It requires more than the munificence of individuals, noble as that has already been. It requires co-operation and concert of action, which also it largely has--but to be thoroughly done it must have more of such action, especially in the religious and ecclesiastical field. This brings us to our present object, which is to suggest that the approaching General Convention of our church take early action in the matter, and adopt measures for interesting the congregations generally in the Northern States in behalf of the wasted churches at the South. "Why might there not be a Southern Church Aid Commission, with its branches north and west? Why should not the contribution of liberal funds to such a commission, enabling it to act extensively, be set forth as a paramount obligation of loyal churchmen, whose means the war has scarcely touched, and many of whom it has enriched? Why should not the bishops make this one of the topics of their triennial pastoral? Some formal action of the kind proposed by the Convention would demonstrate that we are in earnest in desiring to heal the breach in Israel. It would do more than any thing else actually to heal that breach. In fact, it would be the right preliminary measure towards a restoration of our ecclesiastical unity. It would be a practical advance on our part towards that 'consummation devoutly to be wished for'; and, further, what a worthy accompaniment would it be of the thanksgivings of the Convention for the return of peace in the suppression of the rebellion, in the reunion of the States, and in the end of that which awhile rent them asunder. Nor let our zeal in so Christian a movement be dampened by such sentiments as appear in the recent letter of one of the Southern bishops. From his official position he may be regarded as the spokesman of the Southern Church. That would be a mistake. He does not, in all he says, utter the unanimous voice of the Clergy and Laity in the recently Confederate States. ["They would not all so confront us with the memory 'especially of their 'beloved Polk.' To the question, 'whether he did right in again drawing the sword which he once had laid sheathed on the altar,' they would not all answer (as Bishop Elliott says he still does, by telling us that he is glad that his sermon on the death of Bishop Polk was republished in the Christian Witness), 'Yes--a thousand times, yes--in defence of the soared trust of Slavery.' Leaving it to our own Christian delicacy not to 'disturb the ashes of the dead,' they would not so peremptorily lay down the terms of fraternizing with us: 'not a word of obloquy or dispraise.' Nor do all our Southern brethren feel that returning to the Union is to 'submit to the yoke prepared' for them, coolly telling us that 'the struggle was forced upon' them, and that they did 'not rejoice' in the result. For the most part, however, Bishop Elliott's letter is sensible and just. Both sides will yet see eye to eye. In the meanwhile let us dwell on what, in due time, will bring us together, rather than on what would keep as apart."] Letters have been received from Southern churchmen, breathing a very different spirit. However that may be, let us do our part. Let us stretch forth our hands with substantial peace-offerings; and that with no air of conscious magnanimity, but in Christian meekness and love, confessing it a privilege and a duty. By gracious and conciliatory words; none, however, which would compromise our sense of the arch-heresy and schism of secession, or of our abomination of that which lay at the root of secession--by all kindly overtures consistent with self-respect and conscious rectitude, and yet in the spirit of our religion, let us show that we long to meet our separated brothers again, and with them once more to 'take sweet counsel together and walk in the house of God as friends.' Thus let not the war be prolonged by war in the church. Thus let the world see that if we had to do battle even with those of the same household of faith, it was not in the spirit of the world; and thus let them also be convinced that in the hottest of the fight, we had no bitterness towards them in our hearts. If Christendom has been shocked by fratricidal carnage within its borders, as wide and as dreadful as any on record, let it now see the compensation in a consequent and unparalleled out-pouring of fraternal benevolence; its waters, for being awhile dammed up, all the more rushing forth to fertilize the regions which from dreadful necessity the fire and sword had laid waste. Be it that the war, considered in itself, has been one of the darkest pages in the history of the world; then let this sequel of the war, on our part, be one of the brightest and loveliest pages in the annals of the Church.


"Sept., 1865."

The General Convention to which this missive was anticipatory met in St. Andrew's Church, Phila., and was in session from Oct. 4th to Oct. 24th (1865). "The crowning event of the Convention," says its official chronicler, "was the reunion of the church, which had been, in fact, separated by the independent action of the Southern dioceses during the civil war." Possibly Dr. Muhlenberg's loving "Olive Branch," by influencing the general sentiment, indirectly did its part towards this happy issue; but to what extent, supposing that a fact, must be judged by those familiar with the working of men's minds at the time.

Project Canterbury