"The Memory of the Just is Blessed."
PREACHED IN THE FIRST REFORMED EPISCOPAL CHURCH
IN MEMORY OF
REV. SAMUEL CUTLER,
FOUNDER AND FIRST PASTOR OF THAT CHURCH.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST.
"THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED."
Prov., 10th, 7.
THESE words will serve as an introduction rather than a text. That they attain a literal fulfilment in the subject of present thought our consciences may witness. Our departed friend was just, not as men count justness. His was a conformity to right and truth based, not upon the worldling's moral code, but on that righteousness which is from above. He was just with men, because in Christ he had first been "just with God," as it is written, "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of Me, saith the Lord." His memory proves a blessing, in that it practically manifests God's connexion with a fallen world, it verifies the excellence of genuine religion, it diminishes the horror and repulsiveness of death. It comes to us clothed with holy associations, which are all the holier as the garment of flesh has been removed. It is a pure memorial which operates as an encouragement to purity and a check to unworthy conduct. Though we do not now behold that venerable form, which once in placid love and dignity stood where I now stand, yet he has not [3/4] departed from this house. He looks on us with wonted kindness and still speaks words of counsel. For the last time his body has been borne through yonder door, but the influence of his spirit is felt to-day in our affections and deportment. "He being dead yet speaketh." The history of this church is being insensibly moulded by the very name of him, who under God, brought it into being, and watched it in its cradle. He is living in the hearts and lives of many here to-day. Happy is that people who have such to remember!
As I approach the story of Mr. Cutler's life, I am reminded in the language of another, how impossible it is to describe in its completeness, the life of a good man. That which is mature and beautiful in nature, seems exaggerated when carried into art. Compare the golden splendor of the sunset with the glaring colors in which it is depicted on the canvas. How tame a painted ocean to the traveler who has crossed the seas! "Every man's life," says Bushnell, "is a plan of God," hence in its perfection it can only be known to Him who sees the end from the beginning. In estimating it we are prone to err. We exaggerate or undervalue the internal forces which operate in individuals, and from this source come our many disappointments in their career. "True life is the working out of hidden energies and powers," remarks an author, "let us be sparing therefore of our judgments, in view of this simple truth." In weaving into fitting story then the record of our brother's life, I dare not hope to do him justice. Your expectations also doubtless will miscarry, but yet we can not but be profited by even an imperfect knowledge of so good a model, and may [4/5] sincerely hope to honor God in considering the character of His saint.
Reformers, like orators and poets, are born, not made. The errors they combat, the abuses they would amend, the rights they would reclaim, find their contrariety or sympathy at the very root of the individual's existence. Mr. Cutler's ancestry for instance was puritanic. The protestant spirit which in him withstood the romanizing errors and prelatical assumption of the latter half of the 19th century, was identically that which opposed the same in the reigns of Elizabeth and the early Stuarts. The pilgrim fathers who,--weary and distressed, broken in everything but spirit, poor in all but faith and courage--sought a higher religious freedom, and a purer form of worship on these New England shores, counted among their number, the family of our friend. His genealogy is traceable to colonial days. His fore-father John Cutler, originally of Hingham, Eng., appears among the persecuted adherents of one Rev. Robert Peck, who "sold their possessions for half their value, and in 1637 removed with him to New England, and named the place of their settlement after their natal town." On his mother's side, Mr. Cutler's lineage was coincident with that of the family of Hutchinson, which early attained so prominent a part in both the political and religious history of this country. Thomas Hutchinson, the great uncle of Mr. Cutler, a graduate of Harvard, was Governor of this province in 1771, after having held the offices of Speaker of the General Court, Lieut. Governor, and Chief Justice. He in turn was the fourth remove from the celebrated Anne Hutchinson, daughter of the Rev. Francis Marbury, born in Alford, Eng., [5/6] in 1591, but who becoming interested in the preaching of John Cotton, and of her brother-in-law John Wheelwright, followed the former to this country with her husband in 1634. This remarkable woman rapidly acquired influence both in Church and State, and became indeed the founder of a party of Antinomians in New England. Two years after her arrival, the strife between her opponents and supporters broke out into public action, and so high ran the dispute, as to infuse its spirit into everything. "The continued existence of the two opposing parties was at length considered inconsistent with the public peace," says Bancroft. Mrs. Hutchinson was finally banished the territory of Massachusetts: but subsequently joining a larger number of her friends, who had been welcomed by Roger Williams to his vicinity, they purchased from the chief of the Narragansetts, that portion of land afterwards known among us as Rhode Island. Here, greatly by her influence, a body politic was formed on democratic principles, in which no one was to be accounted a delinquent because of doctrine! I have dwelt the longer on this episode, as possibly affording a curious illustration of what Joseph Cook might call "Heredity." "You have directly descended from the celebrated Anne Hutchinson who defied all the ministers of Mass.," wrote a friend to Mr. Cutler some years ago, "this possibly may account for your pugnacious tendencies and your latitudinarian views!" There can be no doubt perhaps that it had much to do with both. And yet if Mr. Cutler could be called a latitudinarian, we must be careful to observe that it were only in the noblest sense.
The subject of our memoir was himself born in Newburyport, Mass., [6/7] on the 12th of May, 1805. His father was for many years a merchant in that city, president of an insurance company, and warden of the Protestant Episcopal Church, to which he was much attached. At fourteen years of age Samuel entered a store as clerk, but upon attaining his majority removed to Portland, Me., forming a copartnership with another in the dry goods business. To that city his history was confined for a period of eight years. Here it was, to use his own expression, that 'the Holy Spirit was exercised within him, giving him a more correct and exalted idea of God than he had ever entertained.' The following religious experience is given in his language. As it finds a counterpart in many a soul, so may God bless it to-day to many another who may have 'a name to live though dead.' "I was born and educated," says he "in the Protestant Episcopal Church, baptized in infancy, and nominally took upon myself my baptismal obligations when about eighteen years of age, but without any true conception of what is implied in the vow of renouncing the world, the flesh, and the devil. For some three or four years after being confirmed I lived without God, and without any good hope of salvation through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. The love of the Father was not in me. From this state of spiritual death God called me, as I trust, during a season of religious awakening at Portland, Me., in the month of May, 1827. It was one of those times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, when the Church is revived, and when sinners are awakened and converted." I may add that it was the earnest gospel preaching and consistent living of the consecrated and renowned Dr. Edward Payson, [7/8] which under God brought about this happy change. Would I had the time to speak at length of that noble man and devoted servant of Jesus Christ. I may however venture to observe, that they who knew Dr. Payson and Mr. Cutler, must have been able to distinguish many traits in the one which reminded them of the other. Comparing Dr. Cumming's memoir of Edward Payson with Mr. Cutler's private journal, I have been astonished at the similarity. The former in character and service was a noble model, the latter a worthy copy.
The second copartnership which Mr. Cutler had formed in Portland expired in February, 1834, at which time he came to Boston, connecting himself as partner with the importing and jobbing firm of Edward Clarke & Co., the relation being finally dissolved in 1837-8. And now arrived the second important epoch in his history. His heart had long said: 'you may be useful as a minister of Jesus;' and now he thought he heard God's voice proclaiming 'This is the way, walk ye in it.' The question of duty sorely troubled him. Flattering openings appeared in commercial life, and indications were not wanting that such might be his proper sphere. He deprecated what he regarded as his few attainments and meagre ability, but the call of God could not be disregarded. "Can I prepare myself for the ministry?" he inquired; to this the answer came, 'If God has called you, He will enable you to prepare yourself; the five loaves will increase in the distribution; the one talent may be multiplied if improved; go on, and trust in the Lord.' He went on. After earnest reflection, of all flesh and blood conferring only with his wife, and seeking the [8/9] direction of Him without whose aid all our consultations are little worth, he came to his decision. "I trust," he writes, "that it is a correct decision,--and if so, may God give me grace to engage earnestly and perseveringly and prayerfully, in the work of preparation for the ministry; if in that ministry He will be pleased to make me an instrument of promoting His glory, and of saving souls." How faithfully this prayer was answered and the work performed, scores of the redeemed declare, some in heaven and some on earth.
On May 12th, 1841, Mr. Cutler was ordained to the Diaconate by Bishop Griswold, in St. Paul's Church in this city. In the following year Presbyter's orders were accorded him in St. Andrews, Hanover, to the Rectorship of which Church he had been called. In this latter ordination, Bishop Griswold was assisted by the Revs. John Woart of Christ's Church, Boston, and Thomas M. Clarke then Rector of Grace Church and now Bishop of Rhode Island. Mr. Cutler remained at Hanover more than thirty years; which fact alone is more emphatic than any language possibly could be, in demonstration of the high value that people placed upon his labors, and of their deep and abiding attachment to his person. His resignation in 1872 was accepted with unfeigned sadness. His departure from Hanover was a loss sustained not by the Church alone, but by the community at large. The "Abington Standard" of April, 1872, doubtless truthfully expressed the feelings of its readers, when, in an extended notice of Mr. Cutler's work of thirty years, it testified that he 'was universally respected and beloved; that the impress of his ministry would not soon be effaced; [9/10] that he would be followed by many good wishes and long be held in respectful and affectionate remembrance.'
The fall of 1877 brought together the Triennial Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the city of Boston. In some respects this was the most notable gathering in the history of that body. It witnessed the conclusion of the warmly contested battle, which had been waged within its communion between the high and the low Church parties, for nearly or quite a quarter of a century. Sacramentarianism won the day. All attempted legislation on the part of the evangelicals, either to offset the ritualists or to eliminate error from the prayer book, ended as had been predicted 'in a mortifying discomfiture.' "The result of that long war was victory all along the line for the ritualistic advance," so wrote John Henry Hopkins, D. D., one of the boldest and ablest representatives of the high Church party. "A victory so complete" he adds, "that the renewal of hostilities hereafter is hopeless." This was apparent even to a superficial observer. Men of Mr. Cutler's mould therefore, felt that there was no longer a place within the borders of the Protestant Episcopal Church where they could honestly labor. A radical difference existed between the systems of justification by faith and justification through sacraments. How could they who held to the one fellowship them who were the exponents of the other? "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Is principle neutral? This problem had been forcing itself upon Mr. Cutler's attention since 1871. It was in fact the underlying cause of his resignation, to which we have just referred. The restraint upon him was so great, as to preclude any [10/11] further pulpit ministration in that body. He was relieved, and his mind brought to a point however, by the result of this Convention of 1877; when, after long and prayerful deliberation, he resigned his office as presbyter in the Protestant Episcopal Church. Hard was the struggle, bitter the anguish it cost, but "in the spirit with which John Winthrop and his Puritan companions, before leaving Yarmouth in 1630 for these western shores, bade an affectionate adieu to the Church of England, trusting in God to be with and to guide them, so with the prayer that the divisions and compromises in the Protestant Episcopal Church might be overruled for the glory of God, he said, farewell!"
More than threescore years and ten of his life had now been spent. Unremittingly he had wielded the Sword of the Spirit in defense of the Truth for a third of a century. He carried the marks of conflict. Might he not have retired in glory and rested in peace? No one could have gainsayed such an act. But his work was not done. Coke at the age of seventy started to Christianize India, might he not as well have yet a task to perform? The Reformed Episcopal Church, organized by the more aggressive and zealous of his earlier colleagues, had been in existence three years. It was a strictly Protestant liturgical church; canonically free from romanizing errors, with an open pulpit, and sacramentarianism expunged. It was indeed the church of his fathers, the Protestant Episcopal Church of fifty years ago! Its establishment in this, the intellectual and mercantile centre of New England, at once became the darling and holy ambition of his life. By the help of God he would give to it the benefit of his name, his experience, and his faith! [11/12] And, my brethren, if Mr. Cutler died a happy man--and we are assured he did--happy in the possession of a Saviour and in the hope of glory, yet next to that, and above every other consideration of his life, he died happy in that God had permitted him, as he believed, to plant the banner of His Truth a little higher up upon the hill; happy, that, like his historic ancestors, he had been blessed of God to sow the germs of a purer faith in his beloved New England!
With the history of his subsequent effort in Boston most of you are familiar. Three years ago to-day his letter of resignation to Bishop Paddock appeared in print. On the Advent Sunday following, with a little band of devoted adherents, he inaugurated public services in the Freeman Place Chapel, under the constitution and canons of the Reformed Episcopal Church. This was the crowning act of his life, the cap-sheaf of his history. In the crypt of St. Paul's Cathedral, London, over the spot where rests the body of the great architect Sir Christopher Wren, there are found these words: "Reader, wouldst thou behold his monument? Look about thee." So with an experience of sincerest joy, not unmixed perhaps with righteous pride, will we in the future even more certainly than now, be able to point to the First Reformed Episcopal Church in Boston as the noblest cenotaph of our departed friend. The founding of this church was not only a noble object, it was a heroic deed! Friends were few, and foes were many, but the invincible faith of Samuel Cutler neither required the encouragement of the one, nor was dismayed by the derision of the other. He faced contumely and gave no heed to opposition. In the consciousness of right he was content, if [12/13] need be, to stand alone! During the two years in which he served as pastor of this little flock, his task was that of a conservator rather than a promulgator of our particular views, and when twelve months ago, at his own request, his successor appeared, and the work began to develop, and promise a happy result, he felt that at last he might die. His language was then, "Lord, now let thy servant depart." The day of happy release soon came. In the early Spring of the present year he was attacked by disease of a rheumatic nature, which defied the physician's skill. His death however was hastened, perhaps, by his own indisposition to remain. 'All the days of his appointed time would he wait, 'til his change came,' but still he was anxious to go. "Why tarry so the chariot wheels?" he said; "Come quickly, Lord Jesus, come!" It was just before dawn on the morning of the 17th of July that his spirit departed; of all whom he honored by the title of friend, it being my privilege only to stand at his side. Thrice blessed experience! "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints!" The closing days and hours of his life were spent in testifying to the power and goodness of God. His suffering at times was severe, yet not a murmur escaped; the Atonement of Christ was the theme of his thought; he often rehearsed the promises; his faith never failed. Triumphantly resigning his strongest and tenderest ties, he glided away without a fear or a doubt into the fathomless, measureless, ocean of God. "He came to his grave like as a shock of corn cometh in in his season." He was ripe for the kingdom. Ripe in years, ripe in his worldly relations, ripe in Christian experience, ripe in the fulfilment of the [13/14] happiest dream of his life. That life closed without a cloud,
"As sets the morning star, which goes
Not down behind the darkened West, nor hides
Obscured among the tempests of the sky.
But melts away into the light of Heaven."
Mr Cutler's influence was extended greatly beyond his immediate circle of friends and acquaintances in various ways. He was, for instance, a copious writer--the author of several tracts and larger devotional works [* Among the larger devotional books from Mr. Cutler's pen, may be mentioned that entitled, "The Name Above Every Name," and "The Work of the Holy Spirit;" being doctrinal and practical meditations for every day in the year. Both of these, recently revised, are published by the American Tract Society.]--as well as engaged in the promotion of private and public charities; for some years historiographer of the New England Genealogical Society; director of the North End Mission; interested in the American Bible and Tract Societies, the General Theological Library of Boston, and other similar institutions. He was ever intensely active, earnest, and aggressive in the cause of the Lord; and like Hezekiah, "in every work that he began in the service of God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered." Although twice married, no living descendants were vouchsafed him; his only child--a son, born of his second wife and long an invalid--having died eleven years ago, at the age of thirty-three. His estate, at his widow's decease, is bequeathed to three different religious objects, among which it is almost needless to say our church is included. I cannot close this narration without a sympathetic and respectful allusion, to the one who for forty-seven years of her life, shared Mr. Cutler's [14/15] happiness and divided his woe. Of the parting between such husband and wife how dare we venture to speak? And yet, under other circumstances, how much sadder might it have been! Her heart with his has long been in the Saviour's keeping, and as in the natural course of human events she soon must follow him to glory, the separation was more in the nature of that of a vacation journey, than a last and a sad farewell.
"God will not
Sever them in His blest mansions,
But there re-united, through eternal days
Their joy shall be Himself; their theme His praise."
We honor Mr. Cutler's relict for her own worth, as well as for her husband's name, as we commend her in our daily prayer to Him who saith, "let thy widows trust in Me."
In conclusion, and with the hope of its practical improvement to us who remain, I desire to emphasize, that Mr. Cutler was a man (1) pre-eminently prudent in judgment. No one could imagine him hasty, or rash, or unwise. It was his habit to deliberate long; to weigh cause and effect. This was illustrated, and beneficially exercised at the inception as well as in the subsequent growth of this church. It is a matter of record, for instance, that a Reformed Episcopal enterprise would have been started in Boston at an earlier date, under auspices sadly adverse, had it not been for his wisdom and tact. He was one of those men who "look well to their goings;" hence his mistakes must have been few, his remorse greatly diminished. Would there were more such wisdom among us! He was (2) conscientious in principle to an extraordinary degree. The paramount question with him was not, "What is my [15/16] policy?" but, "What is my duty?" The personal sacrifice he made on leaving the old church to unite with the new, turned on a question of conscience; so did his change from mercantile life to the humble and less remunerative work of the Gospel; so did his refusal to have his remains carried into his dearly-loved church at Hanover, where his pastor would not be permitted to take part in the burial service. On matters of principle, Mr. Cutler s nature was that of the oak. It would be almost superfluous to say to those who knew this dear man, that he was (3) pure in his life. Every one felt that as he believed what he preached, so he lived what he believed. While carrying a lantern for others, he watched that he walk not in the darkness himself. Having made a good profession, he was ever after careful to make his profession good. He was known as "dear," and "good," Mr. Cutler. One can hardly conceive that he had ever an enemy, so considerate was he, and gentle, and true! (4) He was open handed in charity, adopting a rule early in life, to which he ever adhered, of appropriating a certain part of his annual income to the service of God. As freely as he received he cheerfully gave. "In watering others," he said "he became watered also himself." (5) He was broad in spirit. Like the late Dr. Channing, whom in many respects he greatly revered, he distrusted sectarian influence. He never sympathized with modern high church views, and always held to the validity of the Christian ministry and ordinances, as administered in Protestant churches of other names than his own. "The older I grow," said he, "the less am I wedded to a system." With the Apostle I can say, "Grace be with all them who love our Lord [16/17] Jesus Christ in sincerity." (6) He was firm in the Truth, i. e., modern speculation never disturbed him so far as his own hope was concerned. He knew whom he believed. He was saddened by the rationalism and infidelity of the day because of their effect upon others; but as for himself, he ever retained his hold upon the Tri-unity of God, the necessity of the Atonement, the plenary Inspiration of the Scriptures, and Justification by Faith. These were the foundation stones of his spiritual building, than to deny which I believe he would sooner have parted with his life! He was not only firm in the Truth, but as well (7) steadfast in faith. Faith in his Saviour's ability and readiness to pardon his sin; faith in the superintending Providence of God; faith in the fulfilment of His every promise. Faith which produced a childlike submission, a patient endurance, an ever hopeful anticipation. "I have faith to believe," was his favorite, and perhaps most frequently uttered remark. How grandly that faith sustained him, and encouraged others in the work of this church, and how equally available it was as he entered the dark valley, has been already declared. Richest of all legacies! May it be made over to us by the spirit of God.
Thus lived and died our very dear friend. I blush at my feeble attempt to portray his career and speak of his worth, for to us he was inexpressibly lovely and precious. My own relations with him, though brief in duration, were of the tenderest kind, while the earlier members of our little flock had come to regard him in the holiest light of earthly acquaintanceship. How loving, and wise, and patient, and earnest he was with us all! That he should be [17/18] taken away just at this time, is an inscrutable providence. We think if he had remained, we as a parish would have been much better off; how often and sadly I miss him! but the Lord knoweth best. If Mr. Cutler had lived we would have leaned upon him, it may be, more than on God, because we felt him to be so righteous and strong. But to us it is left, my dear friends, to show an appreciation of such a friend and example, by adopting his counsel and pursuing his steps. Would we fulfil our obligations to the memory of the dead? Would we be grateful to God for the blessing of such a witness to His Truth? Then let the young among us "remember now their Creator;" and the aged be ready to answer the summons of death; let the formal examine their lives for the fruits of the Spirit, and the humble believer be more zealous for Christ.