Project Canterbury

Sermons Preached on Various Occasions
by James de Koven, D.D.

with an Introduction by Morgan Dix, S.T.D., Rector of Trinity Church, New York
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880.

(Preached at Racine College, Reunion Day, June 26, 1877.)

"Be ye strong therefore, and let not your hands be weak: for your work shall be rewarded."—2 CHRONICLES xv., 7.

LONG to look back upon, though it may have been longer to look forward to, is at any time a period of five and twenty years. One needs only to enumerate some of the leading events of the last quarter of a century to make the time seem longer still, so full of events has it been. Call to mind the sad Crimean war, when England, France, and Italy joined in an unrighteous alliance to maintain the falling fortunes of Turkey; the Indian mutiny, full of blood, rapine, and massacre, and of a heroism which makes the story of the siege of Lucknow thrill the soul of him that hears it; the days when at Magenta and Solferino the Austrians fled before the successful arms of Louis Napoleon and of Italy; the overthrow, so far as it has been overthrown, of the Pope's temporal power, and the glory of united Italy; the quick, sharp war when at Sadowa the might of Prussia was displayed to wondering Europe; the Franco-German war, when the empire of Napoleon vanished away, as fades a morning mist; the bloodshed and horror of the Commune; and our own long cruel war, when North and South were arrayed against each other in a strife at which the world wondered. While I speak, also, in far-off Armenia and toward the valley of the Euphrates and the very cradle of the human race, or onward toward that mighty city where, for four hundred years and more, in what was once the stateliest shrine in Christendom, the Divine Liturgy has not been said, the sound of war is heard, and is borne to our ears upon the eastern blast.

Or, if one looks at the ecclesiastical world, it is during the same period that the decree of the Immaculate Conception, and the proclamation of the Pope's Infallibility at the Vatican Council, have altered the whole aspect of Christendom. It is this which has rendered a movement like that of the Old Catholics a possibility, and made the East and West once more investigate the meaning of the questions which long ago parted them asunder.

Or, if we consider our own Church, it is during the same period that the Church of England has witnessed a mighty increase in missionary labor, begun indeed before, but crowned with the noblest martyrdom the Church has seen for many a year, when on September 20, 1871, John Coleridge Patteson lay asleep with the palm leaf on his breast by the coral reef of Nukapu. In the midst of prejudice and error, Erastianism and the too frequent feebleness or folly of those in authority, in the midst of persecutions and strange legal interpretations of the Church's formularies, in spite too of imprudence, excitement, and sometimes unguarded action, even on the part of those who were most in earnest, how wonderful has been the growth of the Anglican Communion in worship, in the realization of spiritual truths, in sacramental life, in self-denial and self-surrender, until no part of the Western Church can present such marks of life and the presence of the Spirit of God!

It enables one better to estimate the growth of the Catholic Church in this country during the same period, if one remembers that of the one hundred and fourteen Bishops who have succeeded Seabury and White, sixty-one have been consecrated since 1851; and of the forty-five Dioceses and ten missionary jurisdictions in this vast country, one third of the Dioceses and all of the missionary jurisdictions, in their present shape at least, have been organized during the same period. In 1852, from Lake Michigan to the Pacific Ocean in this western land, the only Dioceses with Bishops over them were Illinois and Missouri, and the whole of the Northwest was under the charge of Bishops Kemper and Chase. Wisconsin had indeed been organized, but Bishop Kemper had not become its Diocesan.

Of all the changes of the period, none have been greater than those witnessed in the valley of the Mississippi. Chicago, St. Louis, and Milwaukee have become great cities. Illinois is the fourth State in the Union in population. Iowa is advancing with rapid strides. The line of what I may call comfortable civilization, which at that time was but a short distance west of Lake Michigan, has vanished in the Pacific Ocean, though doubtless it tarries here and there on the way; while no one can estimate, but one who has witnessed it, the change in thought, feeling, mode of life, and appreciation of education and culture. I think I am not wrong in saying that, under other conditions, one hundred years would hardly have witnessed a similar advancement.

It was then, at the beginning of this wondrous quarter of a century, that by the labors of the Rev. Roswell Park, D. D., Racine College was founded. In union with him a Committee of the Diocese of Wisconsin acted; of whom two, General Philo White and the Rev. Dr. Cole of Nashotah, are still living; the former has removed to Whitestown, New York, and the latter, one of the original corporators of the Institution, still continues a deep and loving interest for its welfare in the midst of the gravest responsibilities, and is a member of the Board of Trustees. Of the original corporators, Dr. Elias Smith of Racine and Mr. J. B. Doe of Janesville still labor, as they have always done, for the benefit of the College, and are members of the present Board of Trustees. I read, as I write, the list of the Board of Trustees as published in the first Catalogue of the College. Of the twenty-five members, fifteen are at rest; of the remainder, besides the three already mentioned, only one is still a member of the Board; and he has been one whose judgment and wisdom have been a help and a stay in many a time of doubt and of necessary change: the Rt. Rev. R. H. Clarkson, D. D., Bishop of Nebraska. Of those who are gone from us, I must mention especially the first President, Dr. Park, and the honored name of Bishop Kemper, and Mr. M. M. Strong, and Mr. Isaac Taylor of Racine. To Mr. Strong we are indebted for plans, which only his death prevented from a successful completion, for a large increase in the lands of the College; and to Mr. Isaac Taylor and his wife, for the Taylor foundation, amounting to $30,200, and the noble building known as Taylor Hall.

It forms, however, no part of my intentions this morning to give a history of Racine College. That has already been done by one who for nineteen years has been a teacher and professor in the institution, the Rev. Homer Wheeler, B. D. I propose simply to speak of certain results by God's blessing accomplished, and of the work which lies before us.

From 1852 to 1859 the College was under the charge of its first President, the Rev. R. Park, D. D., whose body rests beneath the shadow of our Collegiate Church of St. John. Ten acres of land, the west line of which ran just to the west of the present chapel, were partly given and partly purchased for the site of the College; and on this land, by subscriptions raised for the most part in Racine, Park Hall, long afterward so called in honor of the first President, was built. Kemper Hall was begun in 1857, and was nearly completed when in 1859 the present Warden of the College was appointed its Rector. Since that time, besides the completion of Kemper Hall, Park Hall has been rebuilt after a fire on the 15th of January, 1864, which destroyed it, except the south wing and the walls, which remained standing. The chapel has also been built, chiefly by kind gifts. Taylor Hall was erected by the benefaction of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. The dining-hall was paid for by friends of the College in Chicago. The school house and recitation rooms were built by the College itself. A wooden gymnasium was similarly paid for, and at last Taylor Hall was rebuilt after the fire of February 4, 1815, and the present gymnasium and laboratory, which were paid for by gifts from various friends of the College. Besides these, the barns and the laundry have been built out of our current receipts, and seventy acres of valuable land added to the college domain. To these must be added the furniture of all the buildings, and the library and apparatus, for the most part purchased by the College out of its earnings. The property, personal and real, of the institution, over and above all indebtedness, must have increased since September, 1859, as much as $100,000, and this reckoning would not include the $30,200 of the Taylor foundation.

In concluding this part of my subject, I must call your attention to the fact that the institution is almost the solitary instance in the United States of a College and Grammar School, without any assistance except what has been given to repair losses or erect buildings, without any endowment whatever except the land and buildings, and these partially paid for out of its current receipts, supporting itself by the fruits of its own honest labor for five and twenty years.

Over and above whatever financial skill there may have been in the management (and no one could surpass the prudence and skill of the first President, Dr. Park, in this respect), the financial success has been due to the fact that the receipts of the institution have belonged to the corporation itself, and that the professors and teachers, together with the Warden, have been salaried officers, deriving no profits personally from the work in which they have been engaged. Yet I would be far from advocating or accepting, save as a dispensation of Providence, the idea that for a quarter of a century an institution should be expected to depend upon its earnings for support. Ordinarily, absolute failure must needs be the result of such a trial. It is asking too much of trustees and officers. There is a danger of a loss of independence, a sacrifice of intellectual and even of moral and religious convictions; and if not this, any attempt at true collegiate training, much more the effort to create a university, demands the free gifts of liberal men. No educational temple can be built of what costs men nothing, nor must it be built simply from the heart and the intellect of its teachers, but from the generous offerings of those who value time and education more than they do money. A university must be "exceeding magnifical," because it is created, after all, not for man, "but for the Lord God."

From 1852 to 1859, a period of seven years, under the Presidency of Dr. Park, there were in the College and Preparatory Department about 254 students; of these, 6 received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, and 28 attained to that of Bachelor of Science. Two of the number became respected clergymen of the Church, and others are following various professions and avocations. Many of them I do not know personally, and am unable to speak of their success or failure.

From 1859 to the present time there have been about 1,185 students under the care of the College; of these, counting the class which will graduate to-morrow, 99 have passed through the Collegiate Schools, and have secured, 96 of them the degree of B. A., and 3 the degree of B. S. Thus the total number of graduates has been 133; 102 in the School of Letters, and 31 in the School of Science. The whole number of scholars has been 1,439. Speaking of those who have been under my own care during the last eighteen years, and knowing nothing to the contrary of those of previous years, while there are some, no doubt, who have not yet been long enough away from the College to have proved themselves, and there may be one or two about whom one may be somewhat anxious, it makes me happy to say that, with these reservations, I do not know a single graduate of the institution who is not a respectable, useful man, and some of them are men of much and growing reputation.

Two Church Schools in our far western Dioceses—the Bishop Scott Grammar School, in Portland, Oregon, and Jarvis Hall, in Colorado—are under the charge of graduates of Racine, while thirty-three others are either clergymen of the Church, or soon to become such. The number of those ordained, however, as some left here without graduating, is about forty, and here or elsewhere there must be about twenty others who are in various stages of advancement, preparing for the same great work. Besides the students in the Collegiate Schools during the eighteen years in which I have been in charge of the College, there have been nearly 1,100 scholars in the Grammar School. I read the list in the Record Book of the College. Every name has a history of its own, of warning and guidance, and hope and fear. Forty or more are at rest with God. May they rest in peace, and may Eternal Light lighten upon them.

Of course, in general tone and character, the scholars have reflected the tone and character of the people they have in the main represented. Some, a larger number necessarily than in an old and more stable community, have been only transient scholars, and for them the College can not be held to any great degree responsible. Some few, from time to time, have been dismissed. There are, of course, many yet too young for any one to form an accurate judgment of their future career. Of some, one never hears for good or ill; but it is a source of the greatest thankfulness to me to be able to say that it is a very rare thing, so rare as almost not to be, that one hears of any youth who has been here, even for a brief time, who is unworthy of the regard and respect of his teachers. A school must stand or fall by the merits of those it trains. It is ever true of such a work that "by their fruits ye shall know them," and it is with thankfulness to God that I say, in behalf of my fellow workers and myself, that Racine College has been a blessing to this western land.

While I say this, however, I must define what I conceive to be the limits of the responsibility of any Church College. There are four elements which go to make up the character of any youth:

1. That marvelous law of heredity, whereby marks of family, lineage, race, blood in general, and the peculiar traits, tendencies, taints, and predispositions which come immediately from the parents in particular, descend from generation to generation. "Water will not rise above its source, and the attempt which the educator makes in this direction, though not an impossible effort, meets with difficulties easy enough to state theoretically, but beyond all conception difficult to meet practically.

2. The care which a lad has had, chiefly from his mother, before he reaches the age of seven; a care the elements of which are partly physical, partly moral, and partly spiritual.

3. The influences of the school, a portion of which must be assigned to companions, to teachers themselves more or less untrained, as well as to the general influences of the school itself.

4. The society, tone of thought, associations, and employments that the youth experiences when he first leaves school, and especially the amount of care, or the lack of it, which the Church and the priesthood give him in the place where he takes up his abode.

In stating these four elements, I have placed them in the order of their importance, and I rank, it will be noticed, the Christian school the third. This leads naturally to the remark that too much must not be demanded even from a Christian school; but I must add further that in judging of young men there must be patience and time given for results to manifest themselves. No good training is ever thrown away. If it does nothing better, it makes those who have it not so bad as they otherwise would have been. To have done nothing better than to have diminished the amount of evil under which the weary world groans, is something; but a Christian school effects far more than this: it only does not transform each youth whom it trains into a saint, especially when the generation from which he springs is very far from being saintly. But however this may be, time, patience, and years are necessary before one can judge of the effects of training upon any individual. During eighteen years, 96 of the boys have been baptized; 411 have been confirmed; and a still larger number, probably half of the whole, have been communicants.

During this long period only two boys have died at school, and two others were taken home to die. Two others died while scholars of the school, but were not at the time of their death under the charge of the school. The two latter died from accident. Amid all the physical sport which has characterized the school, it is, I think, worthy of note that there has never been any really serious accident, the two youths spoken of above having been under the charge of their parents, the one in vacation and the other as a day scholar.

But I pass from these statistics to what seems to me to be the point most worthy of consideration, in this review of the work of a Church College for twenty-five years. Had the attempt been made here simply to establish a Grammar School, and had the same success attended the effort that has attended it under the present circumstances, very large salaries could have been paid those engaged in the work, and a large sum of money accumulated. From the very first, however, the effort has been to establish not a school simply, but a College. Besides the teachers in the Grammar School, from, six to eight professors have been employed, whose work for some years has been exclusively given to the College students. While the students have dined in the same hall with the Grammar School scholars, and worshiped in the same chapel, their whole life, discipline, and care have been otherwise distinct. The number of College students has not been large; the charges have necessarily been much less in many cases than to a Grammar School scholar, while the expenses have been greater, and thus the College has had to be supported from the profits of the Grammar School. No professorship has as yet been endowed, and there are no endowed scholarships. I can not say that there are no scholarships, for we have done in this respect for very many from our own labor what, in other cases, arises from the liberality of individuals.

There are many reasons which may be adduced why larger gifts have not been given Racine College. The youth of the institution, the newness of the country, the great expenses which have been placed upon the men of the present generation in the building of cities, railways, churches, and public institutions, are no doubt weighty causes. Yet I must add, in the face of such institutions as the Northwestern University at Evanston, or of Beloit College, not to mention many others, that these reasons do not cover the whole ground. I hope I shall not be thought satirical, if I say that the members of our Church are prevented from giving the large gifts which one hears of elsewhere by the fact that it costs more to support the average Episcopalian, and to keep him and his in that "station of life unto which it has pleased God to call him," than it has done any other kind of Christian since the time when the Divine Master declared "that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." Perhaps I may add that, owing it may be to the generally comfortable tone which prevails, the sort of-well-to-do, refined, cultivated, worldly Christianity, nothing which does not reflect the average tone of thought, feeling, doctrine, and idea that is prevalent, can expect to be aided by what liberality there is. Anything beyond this can only look for an amiable toleration, with the permission to succeed if it be able to do so, and may be most thankful if it can avoid actual misrepresentation, and that species of persecution which is popular in an age tolerant of everything excepting the Faith.

But in spite of all this, and with a large hope for the future and for greater gifts and a whole-souled liberality, the College has been placed in the hands of the Bishops of the Northwest, to make it, for the honor and glory of God, a Christian University. I need not here repeat what the Bishops have already said in their letter of February, 1876. The Board of Trustees has been duly organized, and the work has been begun. I desire only to say a few words upon certain great principles which are, I believe, in danger of being overlooked in this land of ours, and which are the reason for the action of the College, and its only claim upon what it asks for, namely, the means to do the work God has called it to do, thoroughly and well.

Education, to be real education, must include the training of body, mind, and soul coordinately, and neglect no one of them. The intellectual training, therefore, which leaves God out of it, which imagines that any study, however abstract, can be pursued without Him as its beginning and end, must end in intellectual death. It may take long to die, but it can have only one result. And when I say God, I mean the personal, living, eternal God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Three in One, and One in Three, with all that He is and all that He has revealed. But while I make this statement, I must make another. There has never been, so far as I am aware, in the United States, and I thank God for it, any attempt on a large scale at a purely irreligious education. There are approaches to it. There is an effort in that direction. We are on the high road to it perhaps, but it is not yet. The denominational colleges and schools, however imperfect the religious system they represent, are professedly religious. No doubt they are affected by the prevalent tone. It is said that almost every college in New England has banished or dropped from its course any systematic instruction in the evidences of Christianity. Our own Trinity College is, however, a marked exception, and I am sure there must be others. The State universities, while professedly un-sectarian and trying to be so, generally fall more or less under the influence of some denomination or other; and let me add, their success seems to be somewhat in proportion to their doing so. It is said, however, that the State University of Wisconsin, on the motion of some wise legislator, dropped from its course not long since "the Evidences of Revealed Religion," on the ground that to teach them was sectarian.

But the argument on which I base the assertion that on the whole the teaching of our colleges and universities is still religious, is this: There are three factors in the educational problem: the immortal being who is instructed, the immortal being who instructs, and, far inferior to both of them, the book or books which are used in instruction. Banish religion from the latter, if you will; drive away the immortal works upon whose pages are written "For the honor and glory of God," if you can; but so long as the instructor is a believing man, and the soul of the pupil is ready to receive his instructions, just so long it must be religious instruction. I care not what the subject is, though it be the most abstract problem of the purest science, the living soul of the teacher, informed by the Eternal Word, pours into the living soul of the pupil that light "of God in which alone we see light." Banish God and the truth of God from such instruction! As well might you try to banish the sunlight from the upseeking glance of tree and shrub and flower. Men who really teach can not help themselves. It is not the word only that teaches; it is the glance and movement and all the soul of him that instructs; and, if he be a Christian, it is Christian teaching. Hence, so long as the land is a believing land, and its people are a people of believers, and its teachers hold to the truths of Christianity, is its instruction religious instruction.

This serves to explain something which few notice. The great mass of our people, though devout members of orthodox denominations, believe in the common-school system of this country. They do not do so because such teaching is, in their judgment, irreligious, but because it reflects the religious system which they accept. It reads the Bible, it says prayers, it is based in its discipline on Christian morality. It accepts the ten commandments, the Lord's prayer, and, more or less, the truths of the Apostles' Creed as a kind of substratum. "What more do they want? They do not ask for more, even in their churches. The common-school system of this country is accepted because the school is the parish school of the average Christianity of this country. And this, too, is the actual history of the common-school system. The common schools of New England were the parish schools of the dominant Puritanism and Congregationalism of that section of the country.

Just now begins an attempt against the reading of the Bible in the schools. I have never heard the question about the Bible in the schools fairly stated. If it is merely a question as to the reading of a few verses, more or less, of a version of the Bible Roman Catholics do not accept, or as to the benefit of such a reading even to those who do accept it, it is a trifling question about which people may comfortably differ. It involves, however, deeper questions than this. Has the State a right to educate? If so, ought it not to make education compulsory? If the State educates, must it not do so in the best way, and in no inferior manner? Can the State leave Christianity out of the question? Then comes the profound question: Is the State a Christian State?

Underneath the whole matter lies the question, which, while men are discussing every problem under heaven, and mostly "darkening counsel with words without knowledge," is worthy of a statesman's thought, if any statesmen there be: Can a State live and ignore God and Christianity? and, if it can not, what are the fundamental principles upon which it must insist, if it be its duty to educate its children? On this, even Roman Catholics and Protestants might be at one, or at least might begin to investigate the conditions of the question. But do not think that I underestimate the danger that imperceptibly a people may be losing their hold upon the truth; that every year may find fewer believing souls to teach or be taught; that Christianity may be in the life of a people a vanishing factor; and therefore I must briefly advert to a second great principle.

All true education must not only have Almighty God and His truth as its beginning and end, but because of this must also have a true Christian discipline in the training of the body, soul, and mind of the immortal being. In this respect the education of the country has never abandoned the true idea, but bears witness to it in many ways. A great institution like Harvard, while, on the plea that its students belong to so many and various denominations, it commits direct religious instruction to the pastors of the various churches, still holds prayers in its chapel, appoints eloquent preachers to deliver sermons, maintains an admirable chaplain, requires its students to attend church somewhere, and I believe at the same place, has some moral discipline and care still remaining, and even provides, under a new system, a dining-hall which is a modern shadow of ancient college halls and the monastic refectory. I fancy it will be found that, on the inspection of the questions which must arise as to discipline, care, and morals, universities like Harvard or Cornell are full of unsettled problems, among which the authorities drift, as one has said, "like Delos in the seas of Greece, without root or direction or rest." Nor do I despair of the day when to religious care and Christian guidance men whose hearts are better than their theories will appeal to save the young and the brave, the life and the promise of the coming generations, from the effects of uncontrolled passion, and untrained natures, and enervating luxury, and moral ruin.

Hence I hold that the duty of the Church, wherever either the charity of by-gone days has planted a great university, or the State, on any large principles, free from mere political influence—which is fatal to education as it is to everything else, and like the upas tree poisons everything that rests under its shadow—is to endeavor in all legitimate ways to seek to influence the institutions for the truth of God and the care of His children. Harvard University was once an orthodox Congregational College. It drifted almost imperceptibly into Unitarianism, and out of Unitarianism tends whither? No one has ever accused the authorities of diverting funds which one is quite certain the founders and benefactors of old time would never have given for anything but Christian training, based on a belief in the Holy Trinity. Why might it not be as imperceptibly converted to the Catholic faith? Has belief less power than misbelief or unbelief? Why should not the Church in Maryland build a University church and a true collegiate home for the youths who soon will flock to attend the lectures of the professors in the Johns Hopkins University? I am well aware that any such attempts would be full of the gravest practical difficulties; but if there are openings, they ought not to be despised by a Church that ought to dare on the largest principles to seek for the conversion of the land. I speak of these possible efforts, but in the presence of this audience, and on this occasion when we keep the Twenty-fifth Anniversary of our College, I ask, can the Church do nothing more? If from immemorial time it has been hers to guard these two great principles on which true Christian education rests; if she has seen their influence in its history ten thousand times repeated; if the greatest names the Anglo-Saxon race has known have derived their power from her loving care and training; if the two great Universities of England for a thousand years have trained generation after generation in those great ideas, which have blended corporate unity and individual responsibility, authority and freedom of thought, liberty and obedience; in this western land, in this great valley of the Mississippi, where myriads of human beings are yet to dwell in the shadow of great cities, can the Church not develop from this College a true Christian University? It is something worthy of thought and labor, for the Church to do what may be done to preserve the great principles of education in State universities and secular institutions; but it is nobler far, "as the pillar and ground of the truth," as the Mother of her children, as the Teacher of the nations, as the Spouse of Him "whom truly to know is everlasting life," to build up a true University in this glorious land.

Twenty-five years is a brief period in a country where centuries of civilization have come and gone; it is a long time on the shores of Lake Michigan. Honest poverty, a right to exist fairly earned, independence of thought which has never truckled either to the tone of the day or the clamor of supposed necessity, Christian discipline honestly enforced, the earnest endeavor after true learning, the worship of God the center of all our work, His honor our object, His glory our aim, His blessing manifested; this is the claim of Racine College on the heart and liberality of the American Catholic Church, to make it what it ought to be, what it can be, what I pray God it may be—the Christian University of the Northwest.

But I pause; I leave the past and the future, and turn to the present hour with its message of welcome. I see before me many long loved; and far away from here, amid toil and work, in the noise of cities, in the cloistered life of seminaries, before the altar and in the presence of the Lamb o£ God, ay, and in the land "where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest," there are others who are not here, whom I join with these in the welcome that, in behalf of the College and for myself, I give. The mother greets her children near and afar. She pleads the mercy of God before the altar, and wafts her love in interceding prayers, whithersoever that love and those prayers may go. O happy day, which yet shall be, when all true labor for the welfare of men, whether successful here or not, shall have its reward! O happy time, when they who go perchance on their way weeping, yet bearing forth good seed the while, shall doubtless come again with joy and bring their sheaves with them! O blessed reunion time, when all difficulties shall be settled, all ignorance dissipated, all parting for ever ended, and the true light shall shine in that land where sun and moon are not, because the Lamb is the light thereof! Therefore, as we journey onward, doing what we may, always truly, always honestly, always without flinching, be strong, O my friends! and "let not your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded."

Project Canterbury