WHEN Dean Stanley, on the 18th of July, was drawing near his death, he asked that his brother-in-law and lifelong friend, Dr. Vaughan, might preach his funeral sermon in Westminster Abbey, “ because,” said he, “ he has known me longest.” He chose the friend who had known him all his life to speak of him. There was nothing in all that life which he would have concealed ; and he knew that it was only as that life was treated as a whole, and its continual characteristics surveyed in their development from boyhood to the mature age in which he then lay dying, that he could be fitly understood.
This which is true of all men was specially true of Dean Stanley. When he came to America, in 1878, he was wholly taken by surprise by the welcome with which he was received. His friends themselves were unprepared for any such enthusiastic interest in one who was known only as a writer of books and as an ecclesiastic of a foreign establishment. Men and women of all classes seemed to greet him as if he were their friend. It must have meant that in his books there was that power, which not many books possess, of making those who read them know their author as a man, — of making his personal life and character real and vivid to them. Therefore, they thronged the churches where he preached, and even the streets in which he walked, not merely to hear his words, but to see him.
And there can be no doubt as to what was the personal impression which men had of him. Ten years ago a wise writer in the Contemporary Review said, “ If we were to attempt a description of Dean Stanley’s characteristics, we should name first, and chief of all, his intense love for the light.” That word describes the passion of his life.
The insatiable curiosity, the eagerness to acquire and to impart intelligent conceptions, accompanied by an absolute moral clearness, a wonderful single-mindedness, and a sympathy and fairness which never failed, — these, which are the elements in which light lives and grows, were what we all delighted to discover in him while he lived, and what we delight to remember now that he is gone. His living and learning and working was like the shining of a star. “ It is no task for stars to shine,” and so with him all that he did seemed easy, as if it were but the natural and spontaneous utterance of what he was, the effortless radiance of a nature which was made to gather and to utter light. Intelligence shone in the refined alertness of his face, — which, by the way, has never found such good representation as in some of the photographs that were taken in America. His style had a crystal clearness, which showed his thought distinctly. His very walk was quick and eager, as if he must find what he sought. It is no wonder that many men have instantly applied to him Matthew Arnold’s famous phrase, “ sweetness and light.” And the Spectator could use of him an expression which would be ridiculous if it were used of almost any other public man, and declare that his death “ leaves the public with the sense of having lost something rare and sweet.”
In due time there must come a Life of Stanley, which, if it be worthily written, will be one of the richest records of the best life of our century, and one of the most attractive pictures of a human life in any time. His large associations and continual activity and ceaseless correspondence must have left most precious materials for such a book. If there were only another Stanley left to write it ! Let us here recall its simplest outline.
He was born, as he used to love to recall, in 1815, the year of Waterloo, and received his name of Arthur from the great duke of whose renown all England then was full. His father was the brave and clear-sighted Bishop of Norwich, who stood with Whately in the House of Lords when one of the first petitions was presented on the subject of subscription, who was the friend of Arnold and asked him to preach his consecration sermon, and whose life his son has written with a son’s affection and the admiration of a kindred soul. To his mother Arthur Stanley dedicated his Jewish Church, in recollection of “ her firm faith, calm wisdom, and tender sympathy ; ” and of her too he has written delightfully in the same volume that portrays his father’s life. When he was fourteen years old, in 1829, he went to Rugby, and was one of the first pupils of his father’s friend. His Life of Dr. Arnold, which is perhaps the best biography of our time, is the truest record of what Rugby was to him. There is one passage in it which, as we read it, still lets us see the boy sitting beneath that pulpit in the Rugby chapel, with his eyes fixed upon the teacher, and gathering into his open heart “ an image of high principle and feeling,” which found in him a true mirror and was never blotted out. In 1834, when he was nineteen years old, Stanley went to Oxford, and there spent four years in the midst of the intense religious excitement of those days. He went forth from his student life laden with the honors and prizes of the university. Then he became a Fellow and tutor. Later he was made the secretary of the Oxford University Commission. In 1845 he was chosen to be select preacher to the university. Five years later he became a canon of Canterbury Cathedral, and in
1852 he made the journey to the East, the record of which is in the glowing pages of his Sinai and Palestine. In
1853 he was appointed Regius professor of ecclesiastical history at Oxford, and to his labors in that chair we owe the Lectures on the Jewish Church and the Lectures on the Eastern Church, which have opened the doors of the Old Testament and of the early church to hosts of readers. In 1862 he went to Palestine again with the Prince of Wales, and the Sermons in the East recount the lessons of that journey. In 1863 he was made Dean of Westminster, and began to wear that title by which he will always be best known, — the title which he loved above all others.
It was a bright and happy life. And it was constantly productive. Besides the books already named, there were published in 1847 the Sermons and Essays on the Apostolic Age ; in 1855, the Commentary on the Epistles to the Corinthians; in the same year the Historical Memorials of Canterbury ; in 1867 the Historical Memorials of Westminster Abbey ; in 1870, the Essays on Church and State, which has been well described as “ the epic of the Thirty Years’ War in the Church of England ;” and, in 1877, Lectures on the Church of Scotland, which, as Bishop Ewing wrote, “ show a marvelous acquaintance with Scotch facts and their bearings.” And last of all there was his most interesting volume on Christian Institutions, which was hardly issued when he died. These marked the great current of his life and study. And around them, no less characteristic and full of his character and spirit, like spray flung up by the impetuous and eager stream, there gathered a cloud of lectures, sermons, reviews, and articles of every kind, bearing perpetual witness to the activity of his mind, the wide range of his learning, and the quickness of his sympathy with life.
And now, what were his characteristics as they were indicated in this life and work ? First of all, as we have said, there was the love of light. No man ever loved more to look facts in the face, and to know the exact and certain truth. “ Let us be firmly persuaded,” he wrote, “ that error is most easily eradicated by establishing truth, and darkness most permanently displaced by diffusing light.” There is no clearer illustration of this love of light than in his eager and impassioned insistence that the revision of the translation of the Bible should have the help of all the best scholarship of England, in whatever creed or church it might be found. His speech in Convocation, when it was proposed to reject the help of a Unitarian which had already been invited, is a fine utterance at once of intelligent judgment and of chivalrous courtesy and justice. And it is interesting to see always who are the men whom he loves most, the men of whom he speaks with the most spontaneous affection. Always they are the men of light. It is “ the clear-headed and intrepid Zwingli ” who, he says, “ anticipated the necessary conclusion of the whole matter ” of the efficacy of the eucharistic rite. It is the liberal theologians of the seventeenth century to whom he always turns back for the best patterns of religious thought in England. T\'e of America may well love to remember how he treasured the friendship of one of our own men of light, whose loss we are still freshly mourning. “ Dear Dr. Washburn ! ” he wrote this spring, “ How well I remember preaching in that great Calvary, and my visit to him in the latter days of my stay in New York ! He was of ' that small transfigured band whom the world cannot tame,’ — the band of Falkland, Leighton, Whichcote, Arnold, Maurice. Peace be with him ! ”
Again, there is the specialness of the method of all Dean Stanley’s work, the way in which he approached all truth through history. It has often been said of him that he was no metaphysician, and that he had no turn for abstract thought. Nobody saw this, and nobody has said it, more clearly than himself. When he was asked to write an intro-
duction to Bunsen’s God in History, he replied, “ I hesitated, among other reasons, because it relates so largely to philosophical and abstract questions, on which I do not feel myself competent to enter.” Truth has many doors, and he would enter it through that to which his feet most naturally turned. This recognition of the specialness, or, if we please, the limitation, of his power had much to do with the effectiveness, and also with the perennial freshness, of his life. On the steamer at New York, when he was leaving America, he was asked whether he was not weary with his most laborious journey. But he answered, “ No ! I have declined to see anything in which I was not interested. Kind friends have asked me to go to see factories, and many other interesting things for which I did not care ; but I have confined myself to things which I did care for, and so I am not tired.” So it was all his life. He worked as he was made to work and as He loved to work, and so the last page that he wrote was as fresh and unwearied as the first. He is everywhere and always the historian. If he wants to define a doctrine, he traces its history. If he makes a page glow like a picture with some description of natural scenery, it is always as the theatre of human action, or as a metaphor of human life, that he describes it. Of pure love for nature for its own sake he shows but little. In his volume of Addresses in America there are three beautiful pictures from nature, but it is noticeable that in each case the picture is drawn with reference to human life. He described Niagara ; but it was because he saw in its mist and majesty an image of the future of American destiny. He told of a maple and an oak which he saw growing together from the same stem on the beautiful shores of Lake George ; but it was because there seemed to him to be in them a likeness of the unbroken union of the brilliant, fiery maple of America and the gnarled and twisted oak of England. He pictured the effects of sunrise on the Alps ; but it was the rise of true and rational religion among men that he wanted his hearers to see in his majestic words. Everywhere his eye is upon man. He is always the historian, because in the simplest and most literal sense he is always the philanthropist, the lover of man.
And it is not only men, but man, that he loves ; nay, it is mainly man. He loves men for the sake of man, for their contribution to and their share in humanity. Therefore it was that he could care most earnestly for men in whose special arts and occupations he personally had no share or interest. To him they were all part of the great human drama, full of divine meanings. He could preach in the Abbey of the greatness of a great naturalist, although he was no student of natural science ; or of a great musician, though he had no taste for music ; or of a great novelist, although he could not read his novels. Sometimes his eulogies have seemed to some men to be indiscriminately lavished, but we must have the sight, which he never lost, of the endless human procession, ever moving on ; each faithful human being, famous or insignificant, bearing his gift, great or small, intelligible or unintelligible to his brethren, yet all accepted, and laid up in the vast temple of the divine purpose, to which they move, in which they slowly disappear. We must have this sight, before we can understand or judge his judgments of his fellowmen.
One rejoices to think how full of poetry the world must have been to him. A walk in London or Jerusalem must have been crowded with memory, and fear, and hope, and love. The unexpressed, half-conscious joy of life to one who carries such a mind and eye must be something of which the multitude of us know nothing.
And while we grant its specialness, while we see the need of other methods for the entire mastery of truth, let us acknowledge the greatness and beauty of the historic method, of which Dean Stanley gave such a noteworthy example. In the turmoil of a priori reasoning, in the hurly-burly of men’s speculations about what ought to be, let us welcome the enthusiastic student of what is and of what has been. The gospel in the ages must always be part of the same revelation with the gospel in the Bible and the gospel in the heart. We cannot afford to lose the softening and richening of opinions by the historic sense. The ecclesiastical historian and the systematic theologian must go hand in hand. “ The word of the Lord which was given in the Council of Nicæa,” says Athanasius, “ abideth forever,” but the personal History of the Council, which Dean Stanley has so wonderfully told, is part of the word of God which comes from that memorable assemblage to all the generations.
The catholicity and charity for which Dean Stanley’s name has become almost a synonym is worthy of being carefully studied, in order that its full greatness may be known. Some men’s toleration of those who differ from them is mere good-nature and indifference. Other men’s toleration is the mere application of a theory, and is quite consistent with strong personal dislikes. In the Dean of Westminster the catholicity which so impressed the world and drew the hearts of all good men to him was the issue of a lofty conception of the church of Christ, combined with that instinctive love for man of which we have been speaking ; and heart and mind were perfectly united in it. Therefore the public and the private life were in completest harmony. It is well known with what a generous hospitality the doors of the deanery stood wide open. Older men tell how, in older days, the Stanley rooms at Oxford were eagerly thronged with all who had any desire to seek the light which filled them; but what we know best, and what will always be remembered by multitudes as they pass in sight of the little dark door, hidden away where yet so many pilgrims found it, under the cloister arch as you pass through to the Jerusalem Chamber, is the open welcome which at the deanery in Stanley’s time was always waiting for whoever brought anything of love for truth or interest in noble things.
In what they have won of truth possessively ! ”
That was the spirit of the place, and evidently before such a spirit no enmity could stand. Dean Stanley was a strange instance of a man who was dreaded and disliked in hundreds of rectories and homes in England, for the ideas which he held, or was supposed to hold, but who had not a personal enemy in all the world. When he was made Dean of Westminster Christopher Wordsworth, who was one of the canons of the Abbey, publicly protested against the appointment. When lie died, the same Christopher Wordsworth, now Bishop of Lincoln, bating nothing of his disapproval of the Dean’s opinions, bore most affectionate testimony in Convocation to the richness and nobleness of Stanley’s character.
All this means something. It means that Stanley had the power of going himself, and of compelling the men who dealt with him to go, down to those deeper regions of life and thought where men of different opinions may find themselves in a true sympathy. Therefore his catholicity was real. Men did not meet at the deanery in an armed truce, but in a deeper brotherhood. When Stanley went and lectured to the Scotch Presbyterians, or to the American Methodists or Baptists, it was a real thing, He carried to all of them the truth on which their truths rested. He taught the Scotch out of Chalmers, and the Methodists out of Wesley, and the Congregationalists out of Dr. Robinson. “ As certain also of your own poets have said,” he seemed to be always repeating, as if in the highest and truest and most poetic utterance of each man’s faith he rejoiced to find the essence of the common faith of all. In one of the last articles which he wrote there is an estimate of Newman, Pusey, and Keble which, without in the least losing the clear discrimination of their opinions, is wonderfully full of appreciative honor for the men ; and hardly any page in all his writings glows with more generous enthusiasm than that, in the same article, in which he records the opposition of the Liberal party in the Church of England against the attempt to put down the Tractarians in 1844. The volume of Essays on Church and State is a book which every religious student ought to read, for it contains his threefold plea for liberty, — liberty for the Evangelical, the Rationalist, and the Ritualist ; a liberty for which he pleads in the name of that large conception of the church of Christ which would be mangled if any one of these representatives of the three great perpetual types of religious life were persecuted or expelled.
It is evident that a catholicity as positive as this could not rest in mere sentiment. There was always an enthusiastic chivalry waiting, sleeping on its arms, and ready to spring up at the slightest cry of oppression or unfairness, and utter itself in word and deed. How we shall miss his voice ! Whenever meanness or bigotry lifted its head we knew that we should hear from Stanley. When the atmosphere grew heavy we looked for the lightning of his speech. In 1866, Convocation undertook to denounce Bishop Colenso for his theological writings, and to confirm his deposition. As one reads the speech of Stanley, one can see him on his feet in the midst of the bishop’s enemies. The small figure, great with indignation, seems to dilate before us. He takes possession of our sympathies, as his words took possession then of the real heart of England. He says in the plainest language how absolutely his method of studying the Bible differs from Colenso’s. He emphasizes his plea by a disclaimer of personal association. But he pleads for free speech and for light. “ The Bishop of Natal gives us more than he can ever take from us by the testimony which is thus rendered to all the world that the power of thought and speech is still left to us, even in the highest ranks of our hierarchy. This is worth a hundred mistakes that he may have made about the author of the Pentateuch.” He tells Convocation that among living prelates and clergymen of the Church of England there are hundreds and thousands who hold the same principles as Bishop Colenso, “ against whom you have not proposed and dare not propose to institute proceedings,” Among these he describes himself. Then he cries out, “ At least, deal out the same measure to me that you deal to him ; at least judge for all a righteous judgment. Deal out the same measure to those who are well befriended and who are present as to those who are unbefriended and absent.”
It would be hard to find a truer chivalry than that. It would be hard to say what nobler use could possibly be made of privilege and power and prosperity than thus to hold them like a shield over the oppressed and helpless. Something of the same chivalry appears in his continual assertion of the worth of goodness outside the visible church and the formal associations of religion. He, living deep in those associations, and loving them with all his heart, is watchful and jealous lest any wrong should be dune to that larger working of the Spirit of God which no organization can express. So he pleads for the sacredness of secular life. So he even becomes the champion of a depreciated age of history, and in the article which I have already quoted chivalrously stands up for the despised and dishonored eighteenth century.
There is a chivalry in prayer. There is a kind of prayer in which the man who prays seems to value the privilege of his spiritual life mostly because of the hope which it gives him for the darkest and most hopeless of God’s children. Such a prayer as this is one which the Dean of Westminster wrote very lately for one of the days of the church year for which the Liturgy provides no collect : —
“ O Eternal Spirit, through whom in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is accepted before Him, enlighten our hearts, that we may know and perceive in all nations and kindreds of people whatsoever there is in any of them of true and honest, just and pure, lovely and of good report, through the Word which lighteth every man, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
It is certain that the religious life and teaching of Dean Stanley have given immense support to Christian faith in England. In Convocation, just after he died, the Archbishop of Canterbury spoke of him thus : “ There are, in a great community like ours, a vast number of persons who are not members of our own or of any other church, and there are persons whose temptations are altogether in the direction of skepticism ; and my own impression is that the works of the late Dean of Westminster have confirmed in the Christian faith a vast number of such persons.” That is a noble record in such days as these. To discriminate the essence of Christianity from its accidents ; to show the world that many of the attacks on Christian faith are aimed at what men may well be in doubt about, and yet be Christians ; to lead the soul behind the disputes whose battleground is the letter, into the sanctuary of the spirit ; to bid the personal loyalty to a divine Master stand forth from the tumult of doctrinal discussion as the one vital power of the Christian life, — this is a work for the defender of the faith winch is full of inspiration, and makes multitudes of men his debtors. Stanley’s last volume, his Christian Institutions, does this with wonderful clearness and power. What Christian faith and worship really are stand forth in that book in most calm and majestic simplicity. As we read it, it is as if we heard the quiet word spoken which breaks the spell of ecclesiasticism, and the imprisoned truth or principle wakes and stands upon its feet and looks us in the eye. The flush of life comes back into the hard face of dead ceremonies, and their soul reveals itself. Bubbles of venerable superstition seem to burst before our eyes ; and we feel sure anew, with fresh delight and hope, that not fantastical complexity, but the simplicity of naturalness, is the real temple in which we are to look for truth. The great Christian faith of the future will honor the life-long teacher of such rational Christianity as that high among the servants and saviours of the religion of Christ in England in these days of doubt, high among the faithful souls who, in the midst of perplexity and disbelief, refused to despair of the church of Christ.
Nor was it for mere concession that the religion of the Dean was noteworthy. His whole work was constructive. He was the most conservative of radicals. In 1863, when he bade farewell to Oxford that he might go to Westminster, these were his last words to the young men of the university : “ Be as free, be as liberal, be as courageous, as you will, but be religious, because you are liberal ; be devout, because you are free ; be pure, because you are bold ; cast away the works of darkness, because you are the children of light ; be humble and considerate and forbearing, because you are charged with hopes as grand as were ever committed to the rising generation of any church or of any country.” Any man who talks about him as if the essence of his life and work were destructive has yet to learn what destruction and construction mean, — has yet to master that great truth which Stanley himself thus nobly states : “ We sometimes think that it is the transitory alone which changes ; the eternal stands still. Rather, the transitory stands still, fades, and falls to pieces ; the eternal continues by changing its form in accordance with the movement of advancing ages.”
It would be hard to name any man in these days who has given clearer proof of a true love for the Bible than Dean Stanley. On a quiet summer Sunday evening, as you sat in the thronged Abbey, in that mingling of the daylight from without and the church’s lamps within which seemed to fill the venerable place with a sacred and yet most familiar beauty, and saw by and by, as the service advanced, that small live figure move, during the music of the chant, to the old lectern, and read the chapter from the Old Testament ; as you heard the eager voice lose all its consciousness of time and place as it passed on into the pathos of the story ; as, at last, there rang through the great arches the wail of the great Hebrew monarch, “ O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom ! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son ! ”— as thus, for the instant, the Dean thrilled himself and filled the trembling souls of those who heard him with the passion of the king, you felt yourself in the presence of a love and reverence for the Book of God which was deep and true just in proportion as it was free from superstition and full of intelligence. “ And oh, to think,” says Canon Farrar, “ that we shall never hear him read again, with such ringing exultation, the Song of Deborah ! ” And when we hear the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol tell how, in the Revision Committee, the Dean would often plead for the preservation of an “ innocent archaism ” in the English text, we catch a glimpse of his love for the familiar words of the old New Testament which appeals to the hearts of multitudes of English Christians.
The first and indispensable condition of the Bible’s power is that the Bible should be alive. A dead book, like a dead man, slays no dragons. And to how many readers Dean Stanley’s works have made the Bible live ! How many eyes, fastened upon his pages, have seen gradually issuing through the thin substance of the half-mythical Moses or David, in whom they once, tried to believe, a real Moses or David, — as real to them as Moses was to Miriam, or David was to Joab, — and have found, perhaps to their surprise, that it was in those real human lives, in men and women troubled, tormented, loving, hating, sinning, repenting, yet all doing something to make possible the days of the Son of man which were to come, — that it was in such human lives as these that the true revelation of God to man in the Old Testament was contained. How many a reader of Stanley has felt the truth of these words of the Dean himself : " Can any one doubt that the characters of David and Paul are better appreciated, more truly loved, by a man like Ewald, who appreciates them with a profound insight into their language, their thoughts, their customs, their history, than by a scholastic divine from whom the atmosphere in which the king and the apostle moved was almost entirely shut out ? ” It would be little if the work of Stanley had simply clothed the Bible for many readers with a fascinating interest. It is surely a debt for which the Christian world is grateful that he has called forth for multitudes its sacredness and power, and made it for them the Book of Life.
Nor can there be any doubt that, in this vividness and sacredness which filled the life of the Bible and all human life for him, there lay the true secret of that
prevailing silence in his writings with regard to the things on which theologians ordinarily dwell most, which has so frequently been observed and questioned. The miracle of life to him was everywhere. So truly was the hand of God apparent in the building of the nations, in the guiding of the stream of history, and especially in the education of character and in the moral progress of the world, that in these great phenomena he found the truest signs of his religion ; and the extraordinary manifestations of divine power, while they always wakened in him an awe peculiar to their own mysteriousness, while they were dwelt upon in the silence which often marks the deepest reverence, were never made the chief objects of his study, nor the supports on which his faith relied. “ Let us recognize,” he said, “ that the preternatural is not the supernatural, and that, whether the preternatural is present or absent, the true supernatural may and will remain unshaken.” “ Not by outward acts, or institutions, or signs of power, but by being what He was, has the history of Jesus Christ retained its hold on mankind.” The life of Christ was a life “ sacred and divine, because it was supremely, superhumanly, and transcendently good.” When he went to Patmos, and wrote that account of the island which will always make the vision of the Apocalypse more vivid and intelligible to any one who reads it, it was still the vision-seer more than the vision on which his mind was dwelling, and he closes his account by saying, “ We understand the Apocalypse better for having been at Patmos. But we can understand the Gospel and Epistles of St. John as well in England as in Patmos, or in Ephesus, or even in his own native Palestine.” Surely a faith like this, to which all ground is holy and all days are the days of Christ, and man lifted to moral nobleness and purity by God is the great miracle, is better than a faith which only looks afar off, and finds the world of men around it and the present day in which it lives barren and destitute of God.
It is hard for us Americans to enter fully into an understanding of that idea of the national church, of religion as a true function of the Christian state, which Stanley learned from his great teacher Dr. Arnold, and which pervaded all his thinking all his life. But when he comes himself to state the spiritual meaning of his idea, he takes us into his sympathy at once. “ The connection of the church with the state is,” he says, “ merely another form of that great Christian principle, — that cardinal doctrine of the Reformation, which is at the same time truly catholic and truly apostolical, — that Christian life and Christian theology thrive the most vigorously not by separation and isolation and secrecy, but by intercommunion with the domestic and social relations of man, — in the world, though not of it.” There is no low Erastianism in that high interpretation. And we always must remember that Arnold, deeply as Stanley honored him, was not the only influence that had shaped his thought. The profounder and more spiritual philosophy of Frederick Maurice was freely felt and owned. It is really the church-and-state theory of Arnold, inspired and glorified by Maurice’s doctrine of the Kingdom of Heaven, and the ongoing of the redemptive life of man in Christ, and both of them made clear and familiar by his own historic sympathy and never failing love for man, that one feels at the heart of Stanley’s hope for his country and for the world.
No one who heard it will ever forget the benediction which Dean Stanley uttered at the close of the service at which he preached in Trinity Church in Boston, on the 22d of September, 1878. He had been but a few days in America. It was the first time that he had looked an American congregation in the face. The church was crowded with men and women, of whom he only knew* that to him they represented the New World. He was for the moment the representative of English Christianity. And as he spoke the solemn words, it was not a clergyman dismissing a congregation : it was the Old World blessing the New ; it was England blessing America. The voice trembled, while it grew rich and deep, and took every man’s heart into the great conception of the act that filled itself. The next morning he met a gathering of clergymen at breakfast, and as they separated, the room for an instant growing quiet and sacred, he said, “ I will bid you farewell with the benediction which 1 pronounced yesterday in Trinity Church, and which it is my habit to pronounce on all the more important occasions in the Abbey.” And then again came the same words, with the same calm solemnity. When he stood where now he himself lies buried, and had watched the dear remains of his wife — to lose whom from his sight was agony to him—committed to the ground, he lifted up himself at the close of the service, and with a clear voice uttered this same benediction. And once again, for the last time, when he lay waiting for the end in the deanery, Canon Farrar tells us how, after he had received the communion, the voice of the dying Dean was heard feebly blessing his friends, and blessing the world that he was leaving, with the same benediction, which meant so much to him. Wherever he went, whatever he did, he carried a benediction with him.
The personal charm of Dean Stanley, in public and in private, was something which everybody felt who came into the slightest association with him. Indeed, it seems, as we have intimated, to have been felt even by those who never saw him, and who knew him only through his books and by the public record of his life. It was the charm of simple truthfulness, of perfect manliness, of a true sympathy with all forms of healthy human action, and of a perpetual picturesqueness, which was enhanced by the interesting positions which he held, but was independent of them, and had its real being in his personality itself. If he had been the humblest country parson instead of being Dean of Westminster, he would have carried about the same charm in his smaller world. It was associated with his physical frame, his small stature, his keen eye, his rapid movement, his expressive voice. The very absence of bodily vigor made the spiritual presence more distinct. And the perfect unity of the outer and the inner, the public and the private life, at once precluded any chance of disappointment in those who, having been attracted by his work, came by and by to know him personally, and at the same time gave to those whose only knowledge of him was from his writings and his public services the right to feel that they did really know him as he was.
His preaching was the natural expression of his nature and his mind. It was full of sympathy and of historical imagination. Apart from the beautiful simplicity of his style, and the richness of illustrative allusion, the charm of his sermons was very apt to lie in a certain way which he had of treating the events of the day as parts of the history of the world, and making his hearers feel that they and what they were doing belonged as truly to the history of their race, and shared as truly in the care and government of God, as David and his wars, or Socrates and his teachings. As his lectures made all times live with the familiarity of our own day, so his sermons made our own day, with its petty interests, grow sacred and inspired by its identification with the great principles of all the ages. With the procession of heroism, and faith, and bravery, and holiness, always marching before his eyes, he summoned his congregation in the Abbey or in the village church to join the host. And it was his power of historical imagination that made them for an instant see the procession which he saw, and long to join it at his summons.
Such a life as we have tried to describe, a life so full of faith and hope and charity, could not but be a very happy life. All his friends know — indeed, all the world which has watched him knows — how that life has been changed since his wife died in 1876. Lady Augusta Stanley — of whom her husband wrote upon her grave that she was “ for thirty years the devoted servant of Queen Victoria and the Queen’s mother and children, for twelve years the unwearied friend of the people of Westminster and the inseparable partner of her husband’s toils and hopes, uniting many hearts from many lands, and drawing all to things above ” — left the home to which her life had given such brilliancy and sweetness very desolate and empty when she died. And yet, with all his most pathetic sorrow, there was a richness in his memory and thought of her after her death that was not destitute of happiness. “ I shall be there when he takes people round the Abbey. I shall be associated with all his works.” So she had said when speaking of her grave. And some fulfillment of her hope, some constant sense of spiritual company, gave a peculiar beauty to the last years of the servant of God, as he still lingered till his work was done.
The feeling of Dean Stanley towards Westminster Abbey and his treatment of the duties and privileges which belonged to him as the head of that venerable sanctuary have been full of poetry and beauty. They have made the last seventeen years of his life a poem by themselves. Westminster Abbey represented to him the religious life of England ; and in its abundant suggestiveness he found illustrations of all his best hopes and ideas of humanity and of the church. More and more his whole life centred there. In 1865, before the Society of Antiquaries, pleading for the restoration of certain neglected parts of the great building, he said, imitating the line of Terence, “ Decanus Westmonasteriensis sum ; nihil Westmonasteriense a ne alienum puto.”
To walk through the Abbey with the Dean was like walking through antiquity with Plutarch ; only it was a Christian Plutarch, and a Plutarch full of the ideas and aspirations of the nineteenth century, as well as the memory of all other centuries, with whom you walked. Now he stopped by the tomb of Edward the Confessor, in the centre of the Abbey, and told of “ his innocent faith and sympathy with the people,” which give the childish and eccentric monarch such a lasting charm. Now he paused before the often-mutilated monument of André, and had a kind word both for the ill-fated victim and the great captain who reluctantly condemned him. Now, in the centre of the nave, he would let no one pass the grave of Livingstone without reverence. Now, in the poets’ corner, he stood beneath the quaint memorial of “ rare Ben Jonson,” and told the fantastic stories of his burial and of the strange inscription. Then, in Henry VII.’s chapel, he would point to the Duke of Buckinghamshire’s monument, and recount how a too scrupulous dean had made the famous inscription heathen, because he could not have it made Christian in just the words he wished, and so, “ rather than tolerate suspected heresy, admitted the absolute negation of Christianity.” A moment he would linger by the spot where Cromwell’s body lay for three years, till the silly rage of the Restoration dragged it away. And just beyond that grave, in the chapel where the Duke of Montpensier, the younger brother of Louis Philippe, king of the French, lies buried, there is the stone beneath which he now sleeps himself, and which for years he never approached without a change in the step which any one walking by his side could feel at once.
The anxiety of the Dean of Westminster that all the people of England, as far as possible, should know the Abbey ; the intense interest with which he led companies of workingmen and workingwomen through its aisles and chapels ; the responsibility which he felt for the execution of his office as the guardian of its dignity and the judge of who should be admitted to its courts for worship or for burial, — all these show in how lofty a way he loved it. It was no toy for him to play with. It was no museum of bricabrac antiquity. Nor was it a pedestal for him to stand on, nor a frame to set off the picture of his life. It was the image of the sacredness of history and of God’s ways in England, which he was set to keep, as the high priests of the Jews were set to keep the Books of the Kings and of the Chronicles. When he was willing that the monument of the French Imperial Prince should be received into the great assembly, it was not a certificate of the prince’s greatness nor an indorsement of imperialist ideas which was intended. It was simply that the death of one who might be called the last of the Bonapartes in the service of England seemed to the Dean a picturesque event, worthy to be written on the stone tablet of history which was in his keeping. When he refused the use of the Abbey for an official meeting of the Lambeth Conference in 1867, it was because he could not see in that assemblage a fair, impartial utterance of English Christianity. When he invited Max Müller to lecture in the Abbey upon Christian missions, it was his testimony to the truth that the laity really are the English church, and that by lay intelligence and thoughtfulness, as well as by the special methods of knowledge which are open to the clergy, the questions of religion must be approached and answered. “ So long as Westminster Abbey maintains its hold on the affections or respect of the English church and nation, so long will it remain a standing proof that there is in the truest feelings of human nature and in the highest aspirations of religion something deeper and wider than the partial judgments of the day and the technical distinctions of sects, — even than the just, though it may for the moment be misplaced, indignation against the errors and sins of our brethren.” In words like these we have the true key to his treatment of the great national trust, which he never mentioned without a most impressive seriousness.
It is interesting to see, in his delightful work upon the Abbey, what are some of the incidents in the history of the great church which seem to give him peculiar pleasure. He commemorates the fact that “ William Caxton, who first introduced into Great Britain the art of printing, exercised that art, A. D. 1477 or earlier, in the Abbey of Westminster.” Again, he recollects with pleasure that the injunction under Edward VI., which commanded the sale of the brass lecterns and copper gilt candlesticks and angels “ as monuments of idolatry,” was coupled with a direction that the proceeds should be devoted “ to the library and the buying of books.” Both of these satisfactions are characteristic of the light-lover. While he records the execrations which the gigantic and obtrusive monument of James Watt has provoked from architectural enthusiasts, yet he himself is reconciled to it by remembering “ what this vast figure represents, — what class of interests before unknown, what revolutions in the whole frame-work of society, equal to any that the Abbey walls have yet commemorated.” When he was installed as Dean, the passage in the service which most startled his ear as the oracle and augury of his new work was that in which it is prayed that the new-comer may be enabled to do his best “ for the enlargement of God’s church.” On December 21, 1869, the consecration to the see of Exeter of “ the worthy successor of Arnold at Rugby, Dr. Temple, who, after an opposition similar to that which no doubt would have met his predecessor’s elevation, entered on his episcopal duties with a burst of popular enthusiasm such as has hardly fallen to the lot of any English prelate since the Reformation,” is joyously recorded by his sympathizing friend. Everywhere there was that same broad satisfaction in the highest uses to which his great charge could be put which was uttered in almost the last articulate words which were taken down unaltered from his failing speech, — words in which he passed most naturally from the thought of his own personal life to the thought of the Abbey in which he had lived. “ The end has come,” he said, " in the way in which I most desired it should come. I could not have controlled it better. After preaching one of my sermons on the Beatitudes, I had a most violent fit of sickness, took to my bed, and said immediately that I wished to die at Westminster. I am perfectly happy, perfectly satisfied ; I have no misgivings.” And again, a little later on, “ So far as I knew what the duties of this office are supposed to be, in spite of every incompetence, I yet humbly trust that I have sustained before the mind of the nation the extraordinary value of the Abbey as a religious, liberal, and national institution.”
However men have questioned other burials in the Abbey, there is no doubt about his right to be buried there. He has given the venerable structure a deeper meaning, and therefore a deeper sacredness, to countless minds. His use of the building of many centuries for the best purposes of this latest century in which he lived is a true picture of how he tried to make the unchanging church of Christ a real and living servant of this modern time, with its changed needs and thoughts.
The short and hurried visit of Dean Stanley to the United States in 1878 will be long remembered here. It is not too much to say that more than any Englishman of distinction who has visited this country he entered into sympathetic understanding of its life. He came as an historian and as an Englishman. When he stood upon the hill at Plymouth, and took in with wonderful distinctness the whole scene of the landing of the Pilgrims ; when he made his pilgrimage to Channing’s grave ; when he stood upon the spot of André’s execution, and conceived the beautiful inscription which he afterwards wrote out for the monument to be erected there, always he was the historian and the Englishman, loving to trace in the first settlement of the country, and in the struggle for independence, and in the growth of liberal and humane Christian thought the tokens in the New World of that same trusty human character which he at once shared and honored in the mother country. But always, besides being the historian and the Englishman, he was also the prophet and the man ; ready and glad to recognize that, for the state and for the church and for the race, God had appointed a work here in America which could be done only here, and so honoring our country not simply as the issue of great histories in the past, not simply as the echo on new shores of a life which he respected and loved at home, but as the minister of unknown works for God and man in the great future, as containing the promise and potency of sorts of life in the days to come which she alone could furnish. The sketch of America which he wrote in a magazine article on his return was very remarkable for its observation and thoughtful insight. More than ever, since that visit, the deanery and the Abbey have been open to Americans. And in all the last services in which he took part there, from the day of the murderous assault upon President Garfield, prayers were offered in the Abbey, by the Dean’s direction, that the life of the American President might be spared to his nation and the world.
As we close this rapid survey of Dean Stanley’s life, can there be any doubt what are the lessons which he would wish to have it teach ? Must not the first certainly be this : that Christ is the Lord of human history, and that in his gospel and his church, ever more broadly and spiritually conceived, lies the true hope of human progress and the true field of human work ? And is not the second this : that human existence is full of crowded interest, and that simplicity, integrity, the love of truth, and high, unselfish aims must make for any man in whom they meet a rich and happy life ?
These lessons will be taught by many lives in many languages before the end shall come ; but for many years yet to come there will be men who will find not the least persuasive and impressive teachings of them in Dean Stanley’s life. The heavens will still be bright with stars, and younger men will never miss the radiance which they never saw. But for those who once watched for his light there will always be a spot of special darkness in the heavens, where a star of special beauty went out when he died.