AFTER a winter of blessed experience in Florida, I returned to my parish in Rome. I received calls to Grace Church, Chicago, St. Paul's Church, Milwaukee, to Terre Haute, and several other places; but I loved my flock as they loved me and, as there was every sign that God's blessing rested upon my work, I declined all calls.
In the winter of 1856, Albert E. Neely of Chicago, brother of the dear Bishop of Maine, came to see me. After telling me of the great number of artisans, clerks, and railway men in that city who were as sheep having no shepherd, and of the multitude of wanderers where there was not a free church, he begged me to go to Chicago and take up this work. His words moved me deeply. The more I prayed and thought over it the plainer the way of duty seemed. Bishop de Lancey said: "You must not go. If you wanted to go West, why did you not accept a settled parish? If you go, you will starve." Every one thought it was madness, but my convictions remained clear. The Rev. Dr. Clarkson of St. James' Church, Chicago (afterward Bishop of Nebraska), lent three members of his congregation to make the number necessary to organize a parish. They organized the Free Church of the Holy Communion, rented Metropolitan Hall, and called me.
At first my parishioners were from the highways and hedges, and the support came from the free-will offerings of the people. I visited every shop, saloon, and factory within a mile of the hall, leaving a card giving the place and hour of worship and stating that I would be at the service of any one needing help, day or night. I called on William McAlpine, the chief engineer of the Galena railway, to ask his advice as to the best way to reach the operatives, for there were hundreds of railway men in Chicago.
Mr. McAlpine asked, "How much do you know about a steam-engine? "
"Nothing," I replied.
"Then," he said, "read Lardner's 'Railway Economy ' until you are able to ask an engineer a question about a locomotive and he not think you a fool."
I followed this advice, and in due season went to the roundhouse of the Galena railway, where I found a number of engineers standing by a locomotive which the firemen were cleaning. Observing that it was a Taunton engine with inside connections, I asked at a venture, "Which do you like the better, inside or outside connections?" This was followed by questions about steam heaters and variable exhausts, and in less than half an hour I was taught far more than I had learned from my book. In leaving I said: "Boys, where do you go to church? I have a free church in Metropolitan Hall where I shall be glad to see you, and if at any time you have an accident or need me, I will gladly go to you." The following Sunday every man was in church. This was before the day of air-brakes, and accidents were frequent. Whenever I heard of one I immediately went to the sufferer and very soon I found that superintendents and station-masters were expressing their approval of "that sort of religion," and many of the officials became members of my congregation. M. L. Sykes, George B. McClellan, John Newell, John Tracy, E. B. Phillips, Joseph and James Tucker, General Burnside, George Dunlap, and others became lifelong friends. f"
There are no men who deserve and need the sympathy of Christian men more than railway operatives. They are intelligent and brave, and face death for us every day. I learned to esteem and love them as I looked into their earnest faces turned up to me for God's message of love.
Mr. McAlpine was an ardent Democrat. A few weeks before the meeting of the Republican Convention in Chicago, in 1860, I met him as he was on his way to call upon Senator Douglas. He asked me to accompany him, and during the conversation Mr. McAlpine asked the senator whom he thought the Republicans would nominate for President.
"No one can foresee the action of the Convention," was the answer, "but if the Republicans are wise they will nominate Abraham Lincoln."
"Do you think that he is fit to be President?" exclaimed Mr. McAlpine in surprise.
Mr. Douglas replied, "You know I have been a public speaker since I came to Illinois, and I have never met so able an opponent as Abraham Lincoln."
Much of my work and visiting was among the poor and outcast. Volumes would not hold the experiences of those days. So often the shadows were shifted to show that in the most brutalized lives there were traces of God's image left. I was one day called to a house of sin to see a dying girl, whom I found in the depths of sorrow. Her story was the old story of man's inhumanity to woman, and of parents' pitilessness to an erring child. Dr. Kelly, the girl's physician who accompanied me on my visits, suddenly advised me to discontinue them, saying that "the brute who owned the house had declared that he would kill me if I appeared again." On my next visit the menacing figure of the man confronted me. Taking him by surprise, I put my hand on his shoulder and said: "I heard your threat, but I know you will not injure me because you have had a mother. I must help this poor girl, for whatever she is to others, to me she is a wandering lamb of the Saviour." The threatening attitude was changed, there were no more threats, and I believe that the child found mercy at the hand of Him who pardoned the Magdalene of nineteen hundred years ago.
This experience was not as trying as that of the Rev. Benjamin Evans, for many years one of my clergy. He was summoned to a dying girl at Gorlear's Hook in New York. The house of shame was kept by an incarnate devil. After several visits he was met at the door by a servant who said: "The mistress has been away; she has just heard that you have been here; she says if you ever pray again in her house she will kill you." Mr. Evans went to the room of the sick girl, and a moment after the woman appeared with a drawn bowie-knife, screaming, "Get out! Don't pray here, if you do I will kill you!"
With his usual courtesy Mr. Evans replied, quietly:
"Madam, I came here to commend this dying girl to Jesus Christ. I can pray with my eyes open. I shall now pray, and if you stir one step while I am praying, I will break your head with this stick." What a scene! The virago stood with uplifted bowie-knife, while the clergyman with his oak stick raised, and tears rolling down his cheeks, plead for mercy for the dying girl.
Actors and actresses came often to my services. Upon one occasion I noticed in the congregation a lady dressed in mourning, whose devout manner and interest in the service attracted me. No one knew her; but upon learning that she was staying at an hotel in the city, I called upon her and learned that she was a noted actress. I found my parishioner with a beautiful child in her arms. She seemed touched that I had observed her interest in the sermon of the day before, and when I asked if her child had been baptized, she answered, with tears in her eyes: "I have never been baptized. I am an actress. You would not baptize me, and I cannot put a gulf between my child and myself! "" But actresses have souls to be saved," I answered. "The gospel is as much for them as for others." There was a grateful expression in the woman's face, as she said sadly, "It is not the popular belief."
I learned the woman's history, and that the profession of the stage had been hers from childhood, while she had led an exemplary life. I instructed her and prepared her for holy baptism. Some of my brethren advised me not to baptize her, and members of the parish were afraid that it would injure the Church. While the discussion was going on, Mr. and Mrs. Mc-Alpine, who were among my most influential parishioners, called upon me to say that they would be glad to act as witnesses at the baptism of Mrs.------, if I desired it. This ended all strife. Knowing the weak side of human nature, I was pained but not surprised at the sudden transition of feeling in the parish. Convinced of this woman's fitness to receive the sacraments of the Church, I would have received her had it left me with a congregation of one mother and babe.
When Bishop Whitehouse asked my reasons for presenting an actress for confirmation, I said: "Bishop, would you sustain me if I were to suspend a communicant from the Holy Communion for attending the theatre?" "Certainly not," was the reply. "Then can I refuse to receive this pure woman who loves Jesus Christ, when she asks for a home in the Church?" "Certainly not," he answered, with a smile.
Years after, when in Rome, Italy, I held service at the United States Embassy, and Charlotte Cushman was present. She did not come to the Holy Communion, and the next day I visited her. When I expressed regret that she had gone away from the Communion, she exclaimed earnestly, "Bishop, I am an actress, and you know how harshly we are judged by Christians." We had many long conversations about Christian duty, during my stay in Home, and I never knew any one who had a deeper interest in holy things. I did not meet her again for many years. When in Cleveland I saw a notice that she was to give a farewell reading. I called upon her, and when she came into the room she rushed toward me with outstretched hands, with the words: "Bishop, that is all settled! You know I have undergone heroic suffering, and what could I have done without Jesus! And how can I thank you for the help and comfort you have given to me! "It was our last meeting.
During my rectorship I held many services in the country around Chicago; at the homes of S. H. Kerfoot, whose daughter Alice was the first graduate of my St. Mary's Hall, of Thomas B. Bryan, who was a generous helper in the early days of missionary work in Minnesota, and of many another fresh in memory. My life in Chicago was made happy by the generous confidence given me by my own and other folds.
The Church in Chicago was not a united household. The differences between High Church and Low Church were then burning questions. I have often thought of the words of the Rev. Dr. Herman Dyer: "Strife is a great price to pay for the best results, but strife between kinsmen of Jesus Christ is almost an unpardonable sin." The Rev. Noah Schenck, Dr. William Smallwood, and the Rev. Hiram Bishop were the representatives of the Low Church party, and Dr. R. H. Clarkson, the Rev. Gustaf Unonius, and the Rev. John W. Clark, of the High Church party. But all have been my lifelong friends. The Rev. Mr. Unonius had charge of the Swedish Church of St. Ansgarius, to which Jenny Lind gave a most beautiful communion service. When Mr. Unonius was about to return to Sweden, I was asked by pastor and people to take charge of the parish. My third service on every Lord's Day was for them, besides administering the Holy Communion at an early hour. My interest in them has been rewarded, for we have now several prosperous Swedish parishes in my diocese, of which I shall speak later.
The bishop of the diocese of Illinois resided in New York, and the fact of his non-residence had caused much irritation and bad feeling on the part of Churchmen. The Diocesan Convention had made an assessment of one dollar on each communicant for the support of the bishop. I called the attention of my vestry to our dues, but the answer was, "We shall not pay it until the bishop resides here." I expressed my deep regret at the position taken, and said that I should not preach another sermon in the parish if the canonical obligations were not met. Not until then was the assessment paid. No one felt more keenly than I did the non-residence of Bishop Whitehouse, but to me he was always the kindest and most affectionate of friends and bishops.