CHAPTER XXIII. 1872-1873.
St. Johnland Begun.--The Benjamin of his Works.--The "Retroprospectus."--Christian Fatalism--Purchase of Farm.--Asks ten more Years.--A valued Birthday Gift.--His Golden Wedding.--Letter Congratulatory and Retrospective.--Funds for St. Johnland.--Tact and Principle in Money Matters.--The Spencer and Wolfe Home.--Three Thousand a Year.--St. Johnland's Gaudy Day.--"Glorious Birthday."--"Brotherly Words."--Foundation of St. John's Inn.--The Boys' House.--Church of the Testimony of Jesus.--Munificent Friends.--Laying Comer-Stone of Church.--Declaration of Evangelical Catholic Principles.--Verses.
DR. MUHLENBERG was in his seventieth year when he began St. Johnland, but "his eye was not dim nor his natural force abated." His hair had become snowy white, and there was a slight stoop at the shoulders, but he retained remarkably his freshness of spirits and general" alertness of bearing. A friend commenting about this time, on the rapidity with which he went from his study on the entrance floor of the Hospital to the upper wards of the great house, he said, "It will be all over with me, when I can't run upstairs;" and he still took his walk of a mile before his half-past six o'clock breakfast. He had ascertained how many circuits of the Hospital grounds made a mile, and would make the necessary number of rounds for this amount of exercise, marking the count with a stroke of his stick upon the stone abutment of the portico. This was long his habit.
St. Johnland was the Benjamin of his numerous works, and had a Benjamin's portion of his affections. The idea of some such embodiment of Evangelical Brotherhood was in his mind long before it took substantial form, dating almost as far back as the Declaration of the House of Bishops upon the Memorial (1856).
There was the same spontaneity and naturalness in the origin of this Church Village, that we have seen in his other creations. As the thought of St. Luke's Hospital was inspired at the beginning of the Church of the Holy Communion, by his contact with the sick poor in their miserable lodging-places, so his conception of a St. Johnland grew out of his daily observation, as a clergyman and philanthropist, of the sore disadvantages of the city poor, in their tenement-house abodes; and, concomitant with this, of his desire to present to the 'church a living exemplification of the principles of the Memorial, or Evangelical Catholicism.'
The embryo thought clothed itself in divers visions more or less akin to the picturing of the "Retro-prospectus," years before he resorted to that pleasing and ingenious method of presenting his ideal in print. He found it difficult to make even those nearest to him fully apprehend what he had in his mind. Clearly as he wrote, he was not always equally clear in conveying by word of mouth the scope and bearing of a new conception. His habit of uttering half sentences, and of abruptly breaking into gestures, induced by some eager thought, reaching far beyond what he was saying, was not favorable to explicitness in such cases. Besides, unique and without precedent as was his St. Johnland scheme, it might well demand some such graphic pre-representation as he drew with artistic pen in the pamphlet alluded to.
The "Retro-prospectus" consists of two letters supposed to be written by one visiting the place ten years after its foundation, and in them is presented to the reader, in the most natural and life-like manner, a living, breathing, ideal St. Johnland, full of healthful activity and Christian beneficence, such as he conceived the actual would be when thoroughly established. The pamphlet is pleasant reading, if only as a fresh, beautifully drawn picture of Christian socialism.
"Oh, Doctor, you are a dreamer in this thing," had been said, in substance to him, over and over again, by friends and brethren, as he tried to tell them what he meant to do. So he quaintly took as the motto of his "Retro-prospectus," "Your old men shall dream dreams," Acts ii. 17. And when so much of a portraiture, as he thought it necessary to anticipate his work with, was completed, he added naively: "I have told my dream." Then, from these words, he proceeds, urgently and eloquently, to plead through terrible facts in the social condition of our city poor for means for its realization:
"Shall it be no more than a dream?
"Before answering the question, my Christian reader, to whom I beg to address it, allow me to ask you to look at that which is no dream. Let me turn your eyes to that which exists in no aerial regions of the brain, but in regions earthly enough and not miles away from your own doors. Look at those quarters of your city where the people herd by fifties and hundreds in a house, street after street Look at them huddled together in narrow rooms with surroundings and effluvia where a half-hour's stay would sicken you. See places which might rather be stalls or sties than human abodes. Look at the swarms of children in the streets, on the stoops, at the windows, half-naked or in unwashed rags. See the crowds of rough, half-grown boys in knots at the corners, quick at all sorts of wickedness, loud in foulness and blasphemy, the ready and, the worst element of your riots. Mark the looks and the talk of the populace of the dramshops, and then the exhibitions of godlessness, drunkenness, and licentiousness on the Lord's day, turning it, I had almost said, into Satan's day. And why do I ask you to look at such a revolting state of things among those thousands of your neighbors? In the hope that aught which you or I can do will better it? To propose any scheme for its material improvement? Alas, no. The evil is too gigantic for any grasp of reform at all conceivable. It calls for legislative interference; and that, could any practicable mode of melioration be shown, would call for more public virtue than exists. This massing of human beings, prolific of those vices and miseries, is profitable to too many pockets. The exorbitant rents of the smallest dens or of the larger tenements swell the gains of landlords, who have the plea for any amount of rapacity, that they only meet a demand. Their receptacles overflow with those who must have stopping-places where they can get their bread. The insular city can not be expanded into space for any fit or healthful housing of the poor in those quarters of it where they must consort. [Unlike Philadelphia, with innumerable separate domiciles for its laboring and mechanic population--the chief beauty of that beautiful city.] This stowage of souls and bodies--our municipal disgrace--is, I fear, a necessity--in view of its terrible evils, a dire necessity--how dire we have not yet seen.
"Our benevolent, reformatory, and religious agencies do not stand aloof. They work on with a persistent zeal, encouraged by the least success; but any thing like the elevation of a whole locality is beyond their hopes. They can not change circumstances and their inevitable consequences. They can not remove causes, and, of course, not effects. What they do to-day is undone to-morrow, to be done again the next day, and then again undone. The good seed is perseveringly sown, but the field is already rank with tares. The means of salvation are proffered and urged, but amid overpowering means of destruction. The noxious physical and moral are ever acting and reacting with cumulative force. The cleanliness which is next to godliness, among the degraded poor finds no place. In filth sin is in its element, and has its most disgusting outgrowths.
"Again, then, why do I ask you to look at a state of things confessedly so hopeless? Hopeless in the aggregate, but not in the particulars. It would be sad, indeed, if in our dark delineation it was all dark; dreadful, if in those masses of humanity it was all vile. But it is not There are green spots even in those deserts, and doubtless far more than we sea The forbidding aspects do not indicate universally corresponding facts. There are exceptions, and often most interesting ones. Every here and there are individuals and families having a keen sense of the wretchedness of their condition, but powerless to escape it. Many of them once used to other modes of life, while they submit to their lot, yet for its worse than temporal ills can not be reconciled to it. Strangers to aught of domestic comfort, they are unrepining yet not without longings for the sweets and decencies of home. They are parents, and can not be indifferent to the perils of their offspring. They are hard workers. They are above begging, and to keep above it they must live as and where they do. For the sake of these it is I show you those hapless multitudes--these among them, yet not of them; these toiling, suffering poor; these Christians steadfast amid unchristian influences and antichristian forces which would try a more enlightened faith than theirs; these fellow-members of the household of faith, perchance of your own particular communion. To the rescue of these and theirs, whom they love as you love yours, I invoke you. For these I beg Christian homes and privileges, and some little share of family enjoyments, to which you can not think they have forfeited every right. You will not say that their poverty is their righteous f excommunication. To show how they may be rescued, I have dreamed of them, transplanted by your bounty, to where they can live, and not merely exist. I have pictured their colony, with its accessories, such as I have long pleased myself with imagining, and as time might bring forth. Whether it is all likely to be realized, whether some of the forms of the vision are not fond fancies rather than probable future facts, matters not. Set down as much as you please to the score of imagination; amend, change, curtail as you will, only saving the one main idea--a Christian industrial community, a rural settlement in which the worthy, diligent poor may have becoming abodes, with the means and rewards of diligence, together with the provisions of the Gospel--will that be dismissed as a dream?
"It can not be. It is not to be conceived of Christians who are in the midst of plenty, encompassed by a gracious and bountiful Providence, having scarce a wish within the wide limits of their means ungratified, and acknowledging their responsibility for the use of their manifold gifts and opportunities, that they will turn aside from a practical philanthropy commending itself, so entirely as this must, to their minds and hearts: a scheme not to increase, but to lessen the numbers of dependents upon alms-giving; not to encourage and so multiply the indolent poor, but to help them to help themselves; to lift them up to an honest independence; to give them what on any scale of Christian justice is their due; to save them from ever struggling in vain; to extricate them from necessities binding them hand and foot, a prey to wretchedness, sorely tempting them to seek relief in sin; to give a brotherly hand to them, amid all their homeliness, as to brothers and sisters in Christ. A scheme not for to-day or to-morrow, but to make virtuous and happy generations of those who else would swell the generations of vice and misery in this metropolis, where they are already so frightfully augmenting."
The foregoing suffices to show the impulse and aim of his project. He scattered the pamphlet far and wide, and awaited the result. Some friends in sympathy with him, interested themselves in drawing his attention to places they deemed suitable in the way of a site for his village. He visited such in New Jersey, Connecticut, and elsewhere, but none of them met his quest. No direct effort was made by means of advertisement or real estate agents to find what he sought. He used to say that for none of his undertakings had he prayed so much, from first to last, as for St. Johnland, and that no one of them had he offered to God with more singleness of aim or in more confident faith. So he waited. He manifested always a moat devout recognition of Divine Providence, yet was, withal, something of a Christian fatalist This would reveal itself in many little ways. If two signal events of a kind occurred in quick succession, he would predict another, for "things go by threes";, and to a friend suffering under an extraordinary personal trial, he said: "Some great favor is coming to you." One day, towards the close of the year 1865, he observed: "I am impressed that I am going to hear something good for St. Johnland," and within a very little while it followed that his attention was directed to the beautifully diversified and secluded domain which makes the present settlement.
The estate now comprises an area of between five and six hundred acres. The original farm consisted of four hundred and twenty-five acres. Two thirds of this was woodland and salt meadow, and the remainder arable land, but in so exhausted a condition as to be useless for tillage without much outlay.
It chanced that all Dr. Muhlenberg's greater works, as to locality, were begun in a region of desolate waste, leaving room for his Christianity, literally as well as spiritually, to make the wilderness "blossom as the rose." In the present instance, the fields were wholly bare for want of fertilization, the few farm buildings were dilapidated, fences there were none, and the noblest trees in the grove were chalk-marked for felling. Dr. Muhlenberg was only just in time to save these ancient oaks and chestnuts, the pride of the domain, from the woodman's axe. His observant eye at once took in the adaptability of the place for his purpose, and a single glance from the wood-crowned bluff, northward of the estate, to the Sound washing up at its foot, settled the question definitively. It happened to be high-tide when he first visited this point, a material circumstance in the picturesqueness of the scene. The view, always pleasing, is at this state of the tide, and under a mid-day sun, nothing less than entrancing--the blue waters flashing into beryl, topaz, and amethyst, like a very sea of jewels, and then, in rich contrast, leading the eye to the sombre green of the thick cedars that mantle the jutting slope from summit to base.
The beauty-loving mind and fatherly heart of Dr. Muhlenberg was enraptured. Here were all sorts of pleasures and delights for his coming St. Johnlanders. To the west the waters set in between a long narrow peninsula and the shore, and made a safe, sheltered, and commodious creek for bathing, swimming, and other water sports; and what opportunities for healthful enjoyments of many kinds did not the rare old grove, a mile or more in stretch, offer for young and old of his anticipated colony. So, nothing daunted by the brier-grown, neglected aspect of the farm, nor its remoteness from any centre--at that time it was ten miles distant from the nearest railroad terminus--nor by the task before him of raising funds for the whole enterprise, he at once negotiated for the purchase.
The terms of this were very easy, owing to the tasted condition of the land and the eagerness of the owners to sell; and a number of gentlemen readily subscribed in equal shares to meet the cost, and thus St. Johnland had, at last, an existence upon terra firma.
Co-incident "with the acquisition of the estate, Dr. Muhlenberg entered into relations with an intelligent Christian man, a superior proof-reader and master printer, who had been benevolently attracted by the scheme of a church industrial community, and was ready for an engagement to teach poor children the art of typesetting and to help generally in the work. Thus was providentially opened the way for an important industry from the beginning, and together with this was supplied the services of a business agent and local superintendent for the first three years of the enterprise. In the spring of 1866 the work of renovation began. Some fields were put under cultivation, and within a few months a suitable printing-office was erected by a contribution from one of the purchasers of the farm, which was followed later by two cottages from two other friends.
A circumstance occurred at St. Johnland in the spring of 1867, which was remembered later with some emotion. Dr. Muhlenberg walking about the place one April day, with the wife of a brother clergyman, paused at the entrance of the grove on the grassy knoll, now the centre of the little cemetery, though then not set apart for such use. The elevation commands an excellent view of the settlement, and after silently surveying the then unoccupied site, he suddenly exclaimed, "Ten years more, oh! my Father, if it please thee to set forward this work, and then"--spreading his hands expressively towards the turf, and a moment afterwards stretching them eagerly upwards, as his eye gazed into the heavens. He said no other word. Precisely ten years, to a month, and his mortal remains were laid beneath the sod on the summit of the knoll where he was then standing.
His deep interest in St. Johnland gave him, at this time, new desires, if God so willed, that he should be well and strong. On his seventieth birthday, a consumptive girl in the Hospital made him a book-mark on which was worked the text, "As thy days thy strength shall be." Throughout his life, he set great value on any such simple gift from his humbler friends, while perchance a costly personal present from some wealthy parishioner or others, would be received with a sort of bewilderment. He was not ungrateful for the attention, but would ask in a puzzled way, "What am I to do with this?" commonly ending by transferring the gift to his sister, Mrs. Rogers.
But poor young Ellen's love-token delighted him extremely, and he kept it in his Bible always. The promise coming to him in this wise, and in connection with his anxiety for St. Johnland, was especially sweet to him, and so filled his mind that, as common with him, it ran out in verse. The little piece was published in "Brotherly Words," a monthly periodical, issued from St. Johnland at that time.
A single stanza is subjoined. He had been asking for strength for his last work for the Lord, and concludes:
"Howe'er, in that them shalt ordain,
To live is Christ, to die is gain:
Only thy work, in me fulfil,
All mine I leave to thy dear will!"
In the year 1867 Dr. Muhlenberg celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination, his "jubilee" and "golden wedding" he called it. An affectionate and intelligent friend sent him, with some warm congratulations, the following interesting thoughts on the occasion:
" It certainly is a long stretch of time to look back upon. You have seen wonderful changes in the world and in the church; more, I think, in the church than in the world. You were ordained just after the Congress of Vienna had made a map of Europe to suit dynasties without the slightest regard to peoples or languages; and you have lived to see Europe tear in pieces the Vienna parchments, and to assert the principles of Nationality! This is an enormous revolution, not yet completed, but in the process of triumphant completion.
"You were ordained just after the last war with Great Britain; we had acquired distinction, but we were feeble and few enough contrasted with our powers and numbers of to-day.
"You have seen and felt the shock of civil war; you have felt the Republic quiver in every fibre as she girded herself for a life and death battle. You have seen her emerge victorious and strong--yet not so fresh, so free, so inspired as her heroic endeavor would have led you to prophesy.
"But what have you seen in the church? You have seen what you never could have dreamed of. You have seen Protestantism becoming weaker and Romanism becoming proportionably stronger; you have seen the English Church convulsed by efforts in the Roman direction, and the German Church paralyzed by a learned unbelief, and the American Church reproducing feebly the robuster and the more serious controversies of the older church. You have seen good things done in the American Church. You have yourself done much in awakening this church to educational works and to works of beneficence. You have been felt in a great deal that has been best in this church--we thank God for your example; and I remember, moreover, now in writing, that you are a link connecting the church of Bishop White with the church whose bishops to-day are in England upon the invitation of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is a long, long journey. The old things have passed away--all things have become new. Old theologies, old modes of conducting public worship, old quarrels between Calvinist and Arminian are hushed. Men are divided upon new issues; they are interested in new themes. They read the Bible differently; they interpret it more thoroughly. We have more scholarship, more philanthropy. We have parted with an old simplicity; we are in the garish light when fashion will hold its revels at high noon.
"These things must come to your mind often and often, my beloved friend, and you wonder whither we are all drifting. But St. Luke's Hospital will long stand, I hope and believe, an evidence of the Christian charity and forethought of one man at least, whose name will be held long in remembrance. Our thoughts and feelings may drift but a thing done, stands....."
His continued health and activity often induced in those around him a forgetfulness of his age. "It is difficult," wrote one, a year or two later, "to realize that Dr. Muhlenberg has been in harness so long. Dining with him, in company with a brother clergyman (1871), the conversation turned on the action of the House of Bishops just fifty years before, and his guest expressed a regret that the secretary of that body was not living to enlighten the public on a point connected with its action, concerning which, opinion was divided. 'Why,' Dr. M----- said, 'I was secretary to the House of Bishops then.'" "Dr. Muhlenberg," the writer concludes, "was a venerable representative of what we might call a primeval age,--a living epitome of our church's history."
It could not be expected that a work so out of sight, so multiform, and to most, so incomprehensible, as St. Johnland, should command any thing like the remarkable pecuniary support recorded of the initiation ot St. Luke's Hospital. A few generous personal friends, \ as we have seen, met the cost of the laud, and cheered the Founder with gifts of different amounts, which he expended in extensive repairs and improvements. The cost of maintaining the place, such as provisions, salaries, and other incidental expenses, he assumed personally. Some private means of his own remained at this time, inuring to him through his family, and only unexpended, probably, because for a long while so placed as to be, in their bulk, unavailable. The requirements of St. Johnland now constrained their being put at his own disposal, and he spent them, to the last dollar, on that work. He preferred that while the undertaking was esteemed so much of an experiment, whatever loss there might be, should be his own. The farm, with the improvements constantly in progress, was soon worth much more than its first cost, and so in the event of failure the original contributors could easily be reimbursed, and no one the worse pecuniarily for the venture.
Dr. Muhlenberg could not be called "a business-man," but his high principles and perfect integrity were coupled with so fine a tact and wise circumspection, in monetary matters, that, costly as were his undertakings, their finance always did him credit. He designed that his labors for St. Luke's Hospital should always be free from all pecuniary considerations, and for the first ten years they were so. His only sister, like his good mother before her, provided his clothing; some Christian friend would now and again send a "hundred dollars for the Pastor's private use;" he had his living at St. Luke's without cost; "What more did a prophet of the Lord require as to this world's goods?" But towards autumn of the year 1868. St. Johnland funds were running low, and his own bank was exhausted.
By this time a House for crippled children, "The 'Spencer and Wolfe Home," built by the ladies whose name it bears, was in operation, and its first inmates were a band of little helpless convalescents from St. Luke's Hospital. Dr. Muhlenberg saw here room for a claim of the younger upon the older of the affiliated institutions, and proposed that an annual subsidy of two or three thousand dollars should be paid by St. Luke's for the maintenance of such poor little children at St. Johnland. The "powers that be "in the Hospital Board thought an appropriation on such grounds was not within their prerogative, but it would be entirely legitimate for Dr. Muhlenberg to draw three thousand a year as his salary, which, of course, he could expend as he pleased. The word "salary" grated upon the saint's ears in connection with his consecrated service, but he yielded. St. Johnland had to be supported, and after all, what did the name of the thing matter? And so it went for the remainder of his life.
Early in the year 1867 he resorted to the means he had used in the Church of the Holy Communion for making his Church Village better understood. His twelve numbers of Brotherly Words, published monthly, did for St. Johnland similar service to that rendered by the Evangelical Catholic to the Church, Hospital, and Sisterhood, and, at the same time, enforced many and beautiful Christian lessons on a diversity of subjects consonant with its name. Its motto, was the great St. Johnland text--"THIS HIS COMMANDMENT, THAT YE BELIEVE ON THE NAME OF HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS HE GAVE US COMMANDMENT."
During Dr. Muhlenberg's life the two works were very intimately connected, and St. Johnland must always be essential to St. Luke's for sheltering and educating the discharged little convalescents of its orthopedic department, who, too often, have no home suitable to their impaired physical condition.
The opening of the Home for crippled and destitute children brought new life and interest to the undertaking, and the year 1868 closed with encouraging fore-shadowings of yet more substantial advance. The Founder's birthday, from the beginning, has been observed in St. Johnland as a fête or "gaudy day," and in the year of which we are speaking, that day was a delightful occasion. Several gentlemen, friends of Dr. Muhlenberg's, were invited by the St. Johnlanders, through their representative, to come and help make merry with them; and a subsequent letter from one of these guests, as printed in a contemporary periodical, will show something of the genius of the place, as well as of the manner of celebrating its high anniversary After an interesting description of the territory, and some exposition of the design of the enterprise the writer says:
"The morning after our arrival was a fete day in St. Johnland. It was the birthday of its Founder and had been looked forward to with eagerness. While seated at the breakfast table, we heard a little stir outside the windows, and then a chorus of sweet voices breaking out into song. We looked up in surprise, and found a group of dear children, with others, including, I believe, every resident of the place, in an excited cluster, chanting an address of congratulation to their venerable Pastor, whose long life began that day its seventy-third year of usefulness. I can not picture this graceful and touching scene, followed by the presentation of a birthday gift and of the birthday song handsomely printed on card-board; the words, the music, and the printing being all of St. Johnland origin. The children are accustomed to commit to memory a daily text of Scripture, which they call the 'word for the day.' For this day their selection was, 'The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.' Not a little one there but made a personal application of the text to the 'hallowed crown of silver hairs,' to which they looked up with such filial and reverent love.
"Behind the buildings, which front toward the south, rises a range of hills, covered with oak and cedar forests, sheltering this 'happy valley' from the intrusion of northern winds. On the farther side, the ridge breaks down abruptly to the waters of the Sound, affording from its edge a beautiful view of blue waters, dotted with the sails of commerce, the receding bays and capes of Long Island, and the opposite shores of Connecticut, some fifteen miles distant. Inviting paths meander along this shady and undulating ridge. A rounded summit, overlooking all the rest, has been christened 'Mount St. John.'.........
"In the grove, near Mount St. John, the children enjoyed a pleasant little picnic, with swings and romping games, and an abundant feast, including a veritable clam-bake without the savor of politics. The occasion was to all a source of innocent hilarity, and called together the whole tribe of St. Johnland, from its silver crowned patriarch to its youngest citizen born upon the soil but a few months since.
"A painter should have sketched the group, a poet would have done it better justice. My pen rests here. We do not live in patriarchal days. The Arcadia of dreamland is undiscovered yet. But if Peace has her dwelling anywhere upon this footstool, the St. Johnlanders are resting under the shadow of her wings.
"May the choicest blessing descend upon this heavenly charity, and twice bless their unbought, self-denying toil.
"'From whom such deeds of week-day holiness
Fall noiseless as the snow.'"
There was just one little shadow of a cloud over the brightness of that day. The Pastor's humility shrank from the St. Johnland-made birthday song. Somewhat too laudatory he thought it. A slight air of depression passed over his strong yet gentle face, as the people, con amore carolled it forth, though he tried to be pleased with every thing. He was not at all prepared for such an ovation. Perhaps, had he been quite alone with his St. Johnlanders--his own children--it might have seemed different, but in the presence of his city guests his natural shyness winced under the loving honor done him. And before Christmas of that year came round, he had taken the refrain of the little birthday lyric and wedded to it a joyous choral, in honor of the Birthday of birthdays, composing a suitable praiseful tune to accompany this. There was something holily ingenious in thus converting the tribute to himself on his own birthday altogether into a hymn of adoration at the Nativity of his Lord and Master.
The following extract will serve to illustrate the incident:
Promised since the world began;
With the dawning,
Of this morning,
Born the Lord the Son of Man.
Angel hosts say,
Highest praise their notes employ;
Coming down to wish us joy.
doth the Church say,
Is the mystery triumphing;
While He sleepeth,
Her own Babe,
and Heaven's own King."
[The little home song annihilated by the above ran thus: "Happy Birthday! Happy Birthday! Ring it out with sweet acclaim; Blessings breathing, Honors wreathing For the well-belove'd name."]
In the fall of the year 1869, the foundations were successively laid of the "Boys' House, or Johnny's Memorial," "St. John's Inn, or the Old Man's Home," and the "Church of the Testimony of Jesus."
The first of these was built by Dr. Muhlenberg's niece, in memory of her eldest son, a lovely boy, taken away very unexpectedly in his tenth year. [John Rogers Chisolm.]
Next came "St. John's Inn, or the Old Man's Home"--the most costly and extensive structure on the place; consisting in fact of three large houses connected by enclosed passages, and forming a handsome front of a hundred and seventy-five feet. This building was erected by the munificence of Mr. John David Wolfe.
Dr. Muhlenberg--himself an old man--had had greatly at heart the establishment of an Old Man's Home for the entertainment of a certain number of wayworn old pilgrims, through the last days and year of their earthly tarrying, and the laying of the cornerstone of this building was to him no insignificant occasion. His birthday was by request appointed for the purpose. He arrived at noon of that day from the city, with a number of chosen friends, and found all the houses in holiday trim, decked with wreaths and flowers, and the whole place astir with pleased expectation. After the usual sports, with picnic and clambake in the grove, had been fully enjoyed by the people of the settlement, towards sunset came the event of the day--purposely left till that hour, as symbolizing the work, and the advancing years both of the Father of St.. Johnland, and of his friend Mr. Wolfe. The surroundings were in full harmony with the occasion. Nothing broke the repose of the service but the wood land hum of the insects. The gathered company, in number about a hundred and thirty, and consisting of young and old, lame children and sturdy workmen, country neighbors, black and white, farm hands and gentry, clergymen and laymen, stood reverently and bare-headed around the excavated area prepared for the middle building, standing within which was the central figure of the picture, the venerable Father and Pastor, who, after performing the simple ceremony, led them in his own way, from what they were doing here, to "the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." The little crippled children chanted, "The Lord is my Shepherd," and the whole congregation in chorus the "Gloria in Excelsis," while the western sky, growing momently richer in beauty, illumined the scene, not with the gorgeous splendor of a midsummer sunset, but with that soft, crystalline light, flecked with brilliant bars of azure and gold, not unfrequent on cool autumnal evenings. It was a sweet hallowed time. And before night closed in, the event of the day led indirectly to the more precious gift of a Village Church. St. Johnland as yet had no appropriate sanctuary, though it was never without an officiating minister. The services were held in a room of one of the houses, too small for the purpose, and a church proper was very earnestly desired by the people at large.
Mr. Adam Norrie, immediately on Mr. Wolfe's assuming the entire cost of St. John's Inn, undertook himself, in a very generous manner, the erection of the Church, the corner-stone of which was laid with appropriate services the month following that of the Old Man's Home.
St. Johnland, while an organization of the Protestant Episcopal Church, is not a diocesan institution; a distinction existing in numerous benevolent and educational societies amongst us. But Dr. Muhlenberg would not begin his Church of the Testimony without courteously communicating his intention to the bishop, territorially the nearest, who met him with equal kindness and courtesy in the matter. Within the corner-stone was deposited a declaration of the Evangelical Catholic principles upon which the entire work is founded, and a copy of the same was subsequently put in print as a preface to the St. Johnland Directory.
"The Church of the Testimony of Jesus" Dr. Muhlenberg named his village sanctuary. Mr. Nome's gift
included the furniture of the Church, and his daughter enriched the latter by a beautiful silver communion service and a church bell for the open belfry.
Mr. Adam Norrie was, next to Mr. Minturn, Dr. Muhlenberg's oldest and dearest friend in St. Luke's Hospital, his long service of which, as Treasurer, dates back to the earliest days of the Institution. There remain some lines written in 1871, and inscribed "To A. N. on his birthday, from W. A. M." which indicate gracefully the friendship existing between these two, as well as the continued facility of Dr. Muhlenberg's muse:
'"My fellow traveller on life's way,
So near our footsteps are--
'Twere strange if on thy natal day
My heart could be afar.
"Thy seventy years and six now fled,
With mind and body strong--
Thy green old age unwithere'd,
May the good Lord prolong.
"Prolong--that it be thine to know
Long joy in deeds of love:
A treasurer for the poor below
And for thyself above.
"True to thy trust, dear friend, live on,
With grace thy wealth to crown:
Grace still increasing, till thy sun
Undimmed by cloud go down.
"One favor yet, and that to pray
I've chiefly spun my rhyme:
Let genius thy loved form portray
In art defying time.
"For this thy patience we invoke,
With next to children's zeal,
Thy friends, St. Luke's, St. Johnland folk,
All join in warm appeal."
The purpose in writing the foregoing, was to induce his friend to sit to the artist Huntington for his portrait; an end which the bright little poem achieved.