A. G. SHERWOOD & CO
M CM VIII
So he fed them with a faithful and true heart, and ruled them prudently with all his power.--PSALM lxxviii: 73. (Prayer Book Version.)
THESE words occur at the end of a long Psalm in which is reviewed the history of Israel from the days of Jacob down to and inclusive of the time of David. The culmination of the whole piece is striking. The fact that David began life as a shepherd, and was literally taken from the sheepfolds to be King, is made emblematic of the character of his reign. Declared the Lord's anointed, he did not cease to be a shepherd; only, in place of fleecy flocks, he had people, tribes of men, women and children for his charge. These with a faithful and true heart he fed, prudently ruling them with all his power. Our Lord Jesus Christ gave permanency to this similitude by his parable of the Good Shepherd, and the Christian Church promptly caught up the thought, and through all the generations of its life has reckoned "pastor" [3/4] and "pastoral" among the most precious words in its vocabulary. Still to the Christ there has clung the title of "Chief Shepherd," but subordinate to Him there have been all along the under-shepherds, bound by his tender injunction, laid first on Simon Peter, but meant for all who should be entrusted with the cure of souls, "Tend my sheep. Feed my lambs."
One of these shepherds of the flock has lately been taken from our sight. On Tuesday last, within these walls, the solemn ritual of the dead was rendered for HENRY CODMAN POTTER, fifteen years the rector of this parish, five and twenty years the bishop of this diocese. For, such a service both the place and the time were singularly appropriate--the place, because it had been the scene, in his earlier life, of a ministry distinguished and successful; the time, because it marked precisely the expiration of a quarter of a century from the day when, in this church, before this altar, he was consecrated to the episcopate. It was rightly and wisely decided that no address of eulogy should be interpolated into the Order for the Burial of [4/5] the Dead. The occasion was allowed to speak for itself, and speak it did most eloquently. But now that the obsequies are past, and the body of the dead bishop has been given a place beneath the sanctuary floor of the Cathedral Crypt, it seems only the dictate of right feeling, to say nothing of propriety and precedent, that words of thankful remembrance should be here spoken. Grace Church, I need scarcely say in this presence, owes to its sometime rector a tribute of profound gratitude. When he came to New York in the ripeness of his manhood, Henry Potter had already enjoyed a varied and instructive experience. He had been successively the rector of a village parish in Pennsylvania and of a city church in Troy. He had also, latest of all, been practically in full charge of Trinity Church, Boston, though nominally an assistant of Bishop Eastburn, who was ex officio the rector. In each of these three positions the young man had won the loyalty and affection of the people. I remember his telling me, years ago, with pardonable pride, that when he left Troy [5/6] one hundred young men came down to the railway station to see him off.
The new rector entered upon his duties here at a critical moment. The cry had already begun to be raised that Grace was a "down-town church," and that population was moving northwards so rapidly as to make a permanent stay at this spot inexpedient. But Dr. Potter saw his opportunity, and, nothing daunted, began his work as if convinced that Grace Church could live and thrive for an indefinite period in spite of changes in its surround rugs.
Those were the days when the methods of what it is the fashion to call "the institutional church" were just beginning to loom above the ecclesiastical horizon. Really, "the institutional church" is nothing in the world but a church which is trying to help the neighborhood in the midst of which it finds itself planted in just the sorts of ways in which Jesus Christ helped people when He was here among us. There is no blinking the fact that He cared for men's bodies as well as for their souls, that sympathy was the [6/7]
mainspring of his ministry, and that above all He sought to convince those among whom He moved that He was in very deed and truth their friend. If such was Christ, should not his Church be such? You remember that, after He had washed the disciples' feet, He said to them, "Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord; and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you." That narrative is the perpetual justification of "the institutional church." The words give an emphatic sanction to efforts to relate religion as we have received it to the needs and the demands of contemporary life.
At any rate, it was with this conception of what Christianity meant that Henry Potter came to this great city and under took the task of feeding and ruling the flock committed to his care. The spiritual fruits of his rectorship it is not possible to tabulate. They are known only to [7/8] Him from whom no secrets are hid. I might, had I seen fit, have gone over, in preparation for this discourse, the parish records of those days, and ascertained just how many were baptized and how many confirmed during the period in question; but such methods of gauging the measure of ministerial success are crude in the extreme. The influence of the then rector of Grace Church extended far beyond the walls of this building, and many were the souls, not formally attached to his congregation, whom his "Sermons of the City," as he rightly entitled them when they came to be published, reached and helped.
Among the material and visible results of Dr. Potter's rectorship were a greatly enhanced beauty in a church building beautiful from the first. Most of the memorial windows which make the church so attractive, the chimes and the marble spire surmounting the belfry where they hang, date all of them from that period. The little Chantry, so manifoldly useful, the chancel organ, Grace House, our administrative centre, the Memorial House, [8/9] better known as the Day Nursery, Grace Chapel, the forerunner of our present East Side Settlement, a building fully up to the standards of that day, Grace House by the Sea, a Summer Home for children at Far Rockaway--all these be long in the record of the accomplishment of those fifteen years, and surely they make a creditable list.
All of these various activities had for their object getting the Church into close contact with the needs of the people. They meant Socialism of the sane and Christian type, in contrast with Socialism of the red and crazy sort, for the true Socialism is that which promotes sociability, not that which provokes bloodshed.
During his rectorship, Dr. Potter published, in addition to occasional pamphlets, three volumes, one of Sermons, one on travel, and one on Woman's Work in the Church entitled Sisterhoods and Deaconesses. Extra-parochial duties also fell on him abundantly; and in addition to other responsibilities, there was the secretaryship of the House of Bishops, an office that entailed no little toil.
 But the time came when, in place of being Secretary to the House of Bishops, Dr. Potter was to be called to become a member of that body. Chosen in September, 1883, to the episcopate of this diocese, he was on the loth of October consecrated accordingly. It was characteristic of him that he chose for his first place of visitation the Chapel on Black well's Island, going thither, if I remember aright, on the afternoon of the very day of his consecration. This act indicated, and, I suppose, was meant to indicate, that he regarded the social problem as the paramount issue in the life of the modern world. How to make men to be of one mind in that great house under the roof of which we are all of us living and loving and striving and failing and succeeding and dying together--that he conceived to be the pressing duty of the Christian Church, the question of questions, every where and always urgent.
Bishop Potter's acknowledged attitude of tolerance with respect to extremes of doctrine and of ritual in the diocese over which he presided has been viewed in [10/11] various lights. With some, who were for violent measures, his course appeared to be chargeable with timidity. But in reality the policy which he adopted, and by which he stood throughout the whole term of his episcopate, was one that rather indicated courage than betrayed the lack of it. The ecclesiastic who refuses to antagonize the extreme right risks losing the allegiance of the extreme left, and when, in turn, he declines to antagonize the extreme left, he naturally has the extreme right against him. To let one's self be thus menaced on both flanks at once may not be the best sort of generalship, but it certainly is no evidence of a lack of courage. Bishop Potter held, and rightly held, that the Church of which we are members has for its distinctive characteristic, its note (to use the technical word), inclusiveness. Anglican religion is an attempt, and an honest attempt, to hold together in one communion and fellowship people who believe the primitive creeds, but who differ in their interpretation of the sacramental element in the Christian religion. No other community of [11/12] Christians has this comprehensive character. Under the Roman discipline it is as necessary to accept the doctrine of transubstantiation as it is to believe that Christ rose from the dead. On the other hand, under popular Protestantism, profound reverence for the sacraments of the Church finds little to encourage it. The religion of the Prayer Book aims at ministering to the needs both of those who may possibly overestimate and of those who may possibly underestimate the value of sacra mental helps to holy living, provided both classes hold to the faith as the faith embodied itself in the ancient creed of Christendom. It was in the strength of this view of the right relations of things that Bishop Potter practised the tolerance for which he was alternately dispraised and praised. I conceive it to have been a righteous policy and a wise. "Live and let live" was the Bishop's watchword. Over the whole of his career as a church ruler we see written, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are differences of administration, but the same Lord." In the good sense [12/13] of the words--and surely words quoted from St. Paul must have their good sense--he sought to be all things to all men. It is easy to disparage this as being a Laodicean temper, neither cold nor hot. I admit that it may degenerate into that; but then again, instead of falling lower, it may rise higher--so high, indeed, as not to be distinguishable from that holy love which beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
The true key to Bishop Potter's course in practical matters is one that I have not seen so much as mentioned by a single one of the numerous speakers and writers who have essayed to pass judgment upon his career. I refer to the man's profound and never dormant feeling of filial reverence. In order rightly and deeply to interpret the life and acts of Bishop Henry Codman Potter, one should study with close attention the life and acts of Bishop Alonzo Potter, his father. It was as if the son had taken up the thread which fell from the father's hand at death and followed it as a clue.
 Glance at the great interests to which Bishop Alonzo Potter devoted his unusual powers of mind and heart, during the twenty years of his episcopate in Philadelphia. We may sum them up under the heads of the Negro question, the question of Woman's Work in the Church, the Temperance question, and the Church Unity question. In connection with all four of these subjects Bishop Henry Potter followed loyally the footprints of his father's course.
Bishop Alonzo Potter felt a keen sympathy for the negro, in the old slavery days. I do not know that he was accounted an Abolitionist, but he was distinctly "Anti-Slavery." Bishop Henry Potter's feeling for the negro was also keen. One of the early acts of his episcopate was the taking a prominent part in the Consecration, here in this very church where we are gathered, of the negro Bishop of Cape Palmas. And only a year ago he incurred odium at Richmond by asking a colored clergyman to be a guest at his table.
Criticism of that sort did not move him.
Bishop Alonzo Potter, as I have said, [14/15] was interested in widening the scope of woman's usefulness in the Church, so much so that, after his death, a house in which a number of women who desired to devote their lives to good works lived together in a sort of community was named The Alonzo Potter House. This line of endeavor Bishop Henry Potter also took up. One of the earliest, perhaps the earliest, of his literary ventures was, as we have seen, a book on Sisterhoods and Deaconesses. The Deaconess movement here in this diocese had his active sympathy. By the laying on of his hands were most of the graduates of the New York Training School for Deaconesses set apart for their beneficent ministry, and in every possible way he gave the
Order his official recognition.
Bishop Alonzo Potter was greatly interested in the promotion of temperance. In fact, unless I am mistaken, he urged and practised total abstinence. Bishop Henry Potter dealt often with this subject also, and was one of the founders of the Church Temperance Society. A well meant experiment which it took boldness [15/16] to try proved, to be sure, a failure, and some of the opinions expressed in a Convention Address upon the subject of temperance and the best ways of promoting it challenged dissent on the part of many of us. But no one who knew Bishop Potter doubted for one moment the sincerity of his purpose, and no one whose good opinion was worth having failed to admire the courage with which he shouldered alone a responsibility which others, his associates, might well have volunteered to share.
Bishop Alonzo Potter was profoundly interested in all efforts to adapt the usages of the Episcopal Church, and more especially its formularies of worship, to the distinctive needs of the people of this country. He realized that this was an American and not a foreign Church, and he wanted to see it become as American as might be possible without the sacrifice of anything essentially primitive and catholic. He joined with Dr. Muhlenberg, of blessed memory, and with others like minded, in presenting to the General Convention a Memorial pleading for a [16/17] larger liberty and a richer variety in our services of worship. Here also Bishop Henry Potter followed where his father had led. When the Committee of the General Convention charged in 1880 with the task of bringing in proposals for liturgical enrichment was in need of funds for the proper prosecution of its work, I well remember that the then rector of Grace Church was one of the most generous of the contributors. His interest in the work of revision never flagged; but while some lost courage and turned back, he stood faithful to the end. Even so was "the first commandment with promise" kept.
Recalling all that the Bible has to say about filial duty and filial reverence, I confess to seeing something singularly beautiful in this devotion of a son to the ideals of his father. Too often we discern a sharp fracture, an actual dislocation, between the parent's purpose in life and the child's. When we see continuity it does us good. "There is something in tradition after all," we say, "something worth [17/18] while in a man's, quite as much as in a woman's,
"Becoming, as is meet and fit,
"A link among the days, to knit
"The generations each with each."
And yet Henry Potter was no servile imitator--do not for a moment understand me as intimating that. What he got from his father was not a programme, it was an inspiration. Upon the lines on which the father started, the son moved further, quick to adapt the tried principle to the changed condition, ever ready, like the instructed scribe, to bring forth out of his treasure things new and old.
Preacher, orator, ecclesiastic, publicist, man of affairs, he touched life at many points, often powerfully, always grace fully. But he is dead, and we have laid his body to rest in the great unfinished church of which he hoped so much. It is not likely that the thought of the building's incompleteness would have seriously troubled him. I remember once hearing him quote with approval John Keble's prayer that God would save him from "the lust of finishing." Almost the last [18/19] thing to be desired by any man who amounts to much is that he should leave behind him a finished work, for what is finished has ceased growing, and it is growth that tells.
We ourselves, dear friends, are parts of an unfinished building, living stones, we trust, in that vast temple of all souls which God the Maker is rearing for his glory and our good. In our building enterprises we count by years, He, in his, by ages. If He is in no hurry, why should we be? Let the great Cathedral grow. Its very growth is in itself the best re minder of him whose hand, now lifeless, laid the corner-stone.
A LMIGHTY and everlasting God, we yield unto thee most high praise and hearty thanks, for the wonderful grace and virtue declared in all thy saints, who have been the choice vessels of thy grace, and the lights of the world in their several generations; most humbly beseeching thee to give us grace so to follow the example of their stedfastness in thy faith, and obedience to thy holy commandments, that at the day of the general Resurrection, we, with all those who are of the mystical body of thy Son, may be set on his right hand, and hear that his most joyful voice: Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.