Phillips Brooks

IN the life of Phillips Brooks there appears no trace of an inward revolution by which he attained his spiritual development. He stepped at once into his heritage of power and renown. He was as great a preacher, receiving the same tribute of recognition, while still a young man, under thirty, as at any later time. From the first his peculiar way of apprehending truth and presenting it was mature and complete, as if he had gone forth from the schools equipped with his full armor. If we compare the sermons of different periods of his life, the earliest do not suffer by the comparison, nor do they differ in any essential feature.

Most men grow by inward struggles, by revolt against some earlier training, by what we call reaction. The sermons of Frederick William Robertson show traces everywhere of the process by which he passed from the limitations of his youth into the large liberty of his spiritual manhood. The late Henry Ward Beecher lived in a condition of theological ferment, a state of transition from the older New England Calvinism, and not without an inward agony accompanying the process. So it was, also, with the late Cardinal Newman, with Theodore Parker, with others who might he mentioned : they passed through some inner, perhaps bitter mood of thought and experience before they gained their independent footing; while the traces of the conflict remained in a certain combative attitude against old beliefs or errors from which they were emancipated. Or if we go further back into history, to Savonarola or to Martin Luther, with each of whom Phillips Brooks had striking points of resemblance in the rare gift of reaching men by direct address and of revolutionizing their lives, they, too, went through long stages of inward agitation before they found themselves and were ready to face the world. But in Phillips Brooks the inward preparation does not seem to correspond with the vast influence he exerted, and certainly the negative attitude of antagonism toward rejected beliefs was almost wholly wanting. No one of his sermons is devoted to showing that certain theological formulas are no longer tenable, or that he is offering some better substitute for dead convictions. It was not his mission to combat errors; he was consumed with an eager haste to impart some positive truth, some fresh revelation of God to man.

In this aspect of his life is revealed one of the peculiar elements of his greatness, as well as what has been called the secret of his power. It constituted something new in the history of preaching as an art. If no one ever preached quite like him before, so no one was ever listened to as he was, with an intensity of expectation, as if the very mystery of existence were at last to stand forth unveiled. It marks an epoch in many lives when he was heard for the first time. It seemed as if an infinite pressure were impelling him, so that he spoke because he must speak, and could not be silent, and was in such haste to communicate the message that he could scarce allow time for the enunciation of his words. This was the external man ; but despite the outward tumultuousness there was an absolute serenity of the spirit within him, betrayed by the utter unconsciousness of self, and when he came down from the pulpit he was more composed than his audience.

In connection with this, it may be said of his sermons that he rarely quoted from authors, — from poets, as the custom is of many preachers ; his sermons contain few allusions to contemporary incidents, although they are born out of the moods of his age. The local and the transitory elements of life gave way before those of enduring and permanent validity. If he was preëminently a preacher to his own time, speaking to its inmost moods and deepest embarrassments as no one else could do, yet his sermons also impress one as though he would have met men of other times as successfully as in his own day he met men of every variety of religious belief, or of no belief at all. This feature of his work constitutes a ground for thinking that his sermons are destined to live after him. For most sermons are evanescent and transitory, intended to do their work for the moment; there is a fashion about them, as in the clothes we wear. But there are a few immortal sermons which will not cease to be read and pondered. Among them we may place St. Paul’s sermon upon Mars’ Hill, Tauler’s sermon (attributed to him) for the second Sunday in Advent, Luther’s Address to the German Nobility, Chalmers’s discourse on the Expulsive Power of a New Affection, Caird’s on Religion in Common Life, and that sermon of Robertson s on Baptism, to which so many owe their first real insight into the Christian faith. Are we mistaken when we think that there are more such immortal sermons preached by Phillips Brooks than the record of any other preacher can display ? Indeed, were not all his sermons framed on the supreme principle which makes these few to hold an honored place in what we know as literature ?

And now what is this principle ? We may not be able to analyze the secret of his fascinating, absorbing eloquence, for the hidden personality of the man lay behind it, — something in the last analysis inexplicable. But one thing has long seemed clear regarding his work : he has contributed more material than any other man in his age to what we may call, for lack of a better name, spiritual psychology. There is a science of physiological psychology which traces the connection between the brain and the mind, which aims to measure in its laboratories the rapidity of thought; but there is another psychology to which the laboratory cannot contribute. The true biography of man, his spiritual endowment, his real nature, the image of God within him, the imperative wants and necessities of that nature which cannot be fed by bread alone, the development of a true manhood according to some eternal ideal, — these constitute the science of spiritual psychology, whose materials are stored as in a treasure-house, unread or uninterpreted in the courses of human history. The need of the age, as Amiel has not only told us, but has impressively illustrated in the Journal which gives us the story of a human life, is the translation of Christian history into psychology, — " Le déplacement du Christianisme de la région historique dans la région psychologique est le vœu de notre époque.” Into this psychology Phillips Brooks was all his life translating his own experience, His wide reading, his vast, incessant observation. Here lay the opportunity for his subtle intellect, for that combination of powers which constituted his marvelous genius. Very early in life he discovered this hitherto almost unoccupied province, and from that moment he was himself, and the great preacher stood up before the world. Others resemble him to some extent. Newman had the power, but he was not wholly free or natural; his conclusions were biased by conventional theories of life. Robertson excelled in the use of this gift, but the personal equation and the tendency to deal with mere opinion, and that too often in a negative way, entered largely into his work. Beecher, also, was influenced by reactionary impulses, strong as was his appeal to spiritual law. But Phillips Brooks was hampered by no limitations of theory or conventionality ; when he entered the pulpit, he was as impersonal as Shakespeare. This was what puzzled his hearers, that there was no trace of individual experience or theological conflict by which he could be labeled, or the route by which he traveled known.

Some traces, however, of the process by which he grew may be detected. He was always enlarging himself by entering into the experience of others, making his spirit a reservoir for the reception of all that was vitally human. " Meditation ” was the old word for the method he pursued; but in its older use it was regarded chiefly as a devotional accomplishment, while he made it the habit of his life. “ The dwelling on truth, selfapplication, as loving as possible, — this,” said Lacordaire, “is the essence of meditation.” But the range of Lacordaire was narrow, and emotion more than intellect inspired the process. Phillips Brooks took home in self-application, and always as loving as possible, history, literature, art, as well as Scriptures or theology. His range was as wide as the interest of human life. In his method, the highest reason shared alike with conscience or emotion. Hence he could not be indifferent to religious dogmas. He penetrated beneath the formula to the truth for which it stood. It was almost an axiom of his procedure that anything with which humanity had ever been supremely concerned, as witnessed by creeds or confessions, could not, in the nature of the case, be false, but rather needed only to he seen in its relation to life or supplemented with other truth. Nor was he content with merely making this an admission which courtesy required. He explored the ancient formula in search of truth, forgotten or overlooked, but which men needed to-day in order to be fully alive. This contributed a certain originality and freshness as well as profundity to his sermons. What he brought out as apparently new was often in reality old, while much that he did not utter lay behind in the depth of his soul as motive and inspiration. From this point of view, what had been stigmatized as heresy was also vitally related to man; even as full of significance for the interpretation of man to himself as the orthodox creed which anathematized it. In this respect he resembled one who has been called “ the father of modern church history ; ” for who is there, since Neamler’s time, who has brought so rare a combination of powers to the interpretation of man, or to the revelation of his divine capacity ? His sermons will hold a unique place in literature, because they have explored the hidden resources of human nature; opening up to the light the existence of disused and even unsuspected chambers of the soul, disclosing the diversified wealth of our human endowment. The attestation of their truth is in the response they have produced, as though the people had stamped them with approval, — that verdict from which there can he no appeal.

For a man occupying this high ground, from which he could survey the whole religious world, it was only natural that he should appeal with equal force to men of varied religious attitudes; nay, even with greater force, at times, than their chosen representatives could do. He gave their special truth a larger setting. He had a message for the Calvinist which no one else could bring to him sowell. Unitarians and Universalists were inclined to claim him as their own, for no one else could preach so powerfully as he the positive truth for which they stood. But Methodists, also, holding to orthodox convictions, as they are called, delighted in him, as if he spoke the very word of unadulterated primitive Methodism. Candidates for the Methodist ministry sat under his ministrations as best fitting them to do their peculiar work.

It was not easy to say, if you tried to test him by a formula, exactly where he stood. He lived above the sphere of religious controversy. In the ancient Church, there had been a hitter discussion between Augustine and Pelagius as to whether a moral reformation could be accomplished by man through the strength of his will, or whether man was so weak that his regeneration depended alone upon God. But he outdid Augustine in attributing the whole work to God. from beginning to end ; and yet it sounded like mere humanitarianism, as ecclesiastics know it, because he also regarded the soul as charged with divine capacities, as thickly strown with the germs of immortal power.

How did he stand related to the institution, as it is called, and did he sufficiently appreciate the value which Christian institutionalism plays in the development and maintenance of human society ? Or did he represent mere individualism, or some invisible church which could never be realized for the benefit of humanity ? One church had the honor of claiming him as its own, and to this church he was loyal, in its creed, worsliip, and discipline. No one could have been more scrupulous than he in fulfilling its requirements. However he may have differed from others in his interpretation of its law or doctrine, it was no individual judgment which lie set up for himself to follow. He stood as the illustrious representative of a great historical school in the Church of England, — the school which inherited in its large freedom the spirit and the principles of the Church in the age of the Reformation. Those who are familiar with these things never questioned his loyalty or his representative attitude as a Churchman. He had among his predecessors Cranmer and Jewell, Hooker and Jeremy Taylor ; the school, also, of intuitive moralists in the seventeenth century, of whom Cudworth was an ornament; and in his own age, Coleridge, Whately, and Dr. Arnold of Rugby, Maurice. Kingsley, and Stanley. Robertson of Brighton, the present Bishop of London, and the late Archbishop of Canterbury : these were among the names which he loved and honored, whose teaching had inspired his youth. In the Church for which they stood he had grown up from his boyhood; he knew no other; he entered with enthusiasm upon its ministry ; he watched its progress with deep interest; he studied its peculiar place among Christian organizations ; he felt entirely at home within its fold. He was one of the most practical of men, with no quixotic tendencies in his nature. He knew the world he lived in ; and if it seemed as though he limited himself by conforming to rubrics or liturgies, yet it was, on the contrary, a means to a larger influence and helpfulness. He did not tilt against institutions : he recognized their worth ; they were indispensable.

All this is true, yet still it must be said that his life work will always suggest the importance of the individual man as compared with institutional Christianity. His true place is with those who loom up in the Church’s history as larger than institutions. He belongs with St. Paul, whose mission it was to widen the conception of the original twelve apostles regarding the scope of their Master’s teaching; with Athanasius, who forced an unwelcome doctrine upon a hostile clergy ; with Francis of Assisi, the pioneer of a new epoch, who illumined with an intense light the more inward meaning of the eternal gospel; with Luther, who broke the chains which shut in the Church of the Middle Ages, and set humanity free to expand on its God ward side. In an age when many had grown indifferent to churches, or could find in no church the food for which their souls were hungering; to whom the Bible had become unfamiliar, and the conventionalities of religious expression had lost their meaning, — who, somehow, amid the distractions of modern life, had fallen out of sympathy with historic Christianity; to those so shaken by doubt that they could no longer understand, or were impatient with, creeds, catechisms, or confessions, — to all these, and they are thousands whom no man can number, Phillips Brooks was the divine instrument for restoring faith toward God and love toward man. To such as these he was an institution in himself; in the old phrase, the Institution of the Christian Man. They did not need to have heard him often; it was enough to have heard him once, or even to have seen him, of whose existence they had become aware, as of some mysterious spiritual potency who could restore them to their true selves. To meet him on the street was a reminder of faith and hope, as if his presence held their world together. So, at least, he was regarded. It was like a new fulfillment of the ancient prophecy, “ A man shall be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place ; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” Because such men come to us but rarely, in the course of long ages, institutions are essential, where the faith of the many shelters, educates, and strengthens the individual solitary heart.

It was a characteristic mark of the power of Phillips Brooks as a preacher that he appealed with equal success to the educated and to the illiterate. It, fell to his lot to minister to the cultivated and fashionable, for the most part, whether at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Philadelphia, Trinity Church, Boston, or the chapel of Harvard University. But if ever there was a man of whom, after his Divine Master, it might be said that the poor heard him gladly, it was he. In later years, more especially, he gave himself to them with all the resources at his disposal. He did not need to preach down to them, as the expression goes ; he gave them the one truth which ran through all his teaching, the manner and the form unchanged : and the sermon which delighted a fastidious taste or illumined the specialist for his task was heard with rapt attention by the man of no education.

“ For evermore the deepest words of God
Are yet the easiest to understand.”

There was another class to whom he ministered, and who claimed him as their own, — the graduates, as it were, from the various religious communions, who failed any longer to find in their own religious homes the direction or help which they required. All that could be done for them had only left them yearning for something higher or fuller, or left them painfully conscious of some great want. For the work of the different churches consists, for the greater part, in laying the foundation of faith and character. To receive the young, to educate them, to retain them at the most critical moment within the fold, and so preserve them from the contagion of evil influence, — this is the primary task entrusted to the churches, to fulfill each in its own way. The clergy have been sometimes classified as foundation men and superstructure men. The latter are the more rare, since the demand for them is less and the opportunities are few. So important is it to get hold of the young that ability in this respect is generally considered the first requisite, in calling a minister. It is pathetic to see the old and those of middle age sacrifice themselves to this necessity, content to go unfed, to he turned out to pasture. provided only that the young can be retained within the fold. Here again our great preacher found his opportunity. To such as these he seemed to have a special message ; to lead them forth into richer fields, to make them feel at home still in God’s world, to teach them how to minister to themselves. These were always among the crowd that poured into the churches when he was to preach, to listen with amazement, almost with awe, as he traced the laws of spiritual growth, or revealed the richness of life, or showed them the open heaven descending to their need. But there was something still more extraordinary than this ; for if he met men in the maturity of experience as others could not do, yet he appeared as one who was forever laying anew the foundations of Christian manhood, so that what he uttered applied to young as well as to old. Young men formed a large part of his audience; he was the favorite preacher at Harvard College, and wherever young men were gathered together.

There is something here which is phenomenal, which was never recorded before. No one could address more powerfully the mature Christian mind, the professed Christian believer, the ministers of religion ; and yet when he spoke to men absorbed in business, as during one Lent in the city of New York, or again in Boston, he seemed to he disclosing the unknown reserves of his vast power. In all this he had not to adapt himself, but only to be still more himself. He touched the hidden springs of life because he spoke out as man to man, apart from any preconceptions ; he made the reality stand forth ; he went behind the external appearance to the thing in itself. His beautiful letter to little Helen Keller reads not unlike a page from one of his printed sermons.

Under such circumstances, other men have been tempted to become the founders of a new order; but while he ministered to individual needs, he also aimed to serve existing institutions. No one ever complained that the influence which drew men from every direction to his preaching, like some powerful magnet, was hurting the local parishes, or weakening the hold of any pastor upon his congregation. On the contrary, he was reconciling men to the different households of faith who might otherwise have been alienated. He led them to see a deeper meaning in that which they had begun to think they had outgrown. He did not deny nor underrate the diverse dogmas under which they had been trained; he taught them rather to expect these diversities, to value them as so many rich manifestations of the divine purpose in educating human character. He was very far from thinking that because character was the end of religion, therefore it stood in opposition to creeds or doctrines. What he aimed at was to make doctrine minister to life, and so vindicate its truth. He could not have done all this if he had not been at home in the sphere of religious thought, discerning its relations to the real life of man. If he moved easily from one denomination to another, receiving a welcome from all, he broke down no fences as he went. Whatever purpose the fences were intended to serve, it was all the same to him. He went his way in God’s world by the direct light of the divine mind, so that he could not be lost. If he found streams without bridges, he forded them with unconscious case. Sometimes he did so even where bridges had been carefully and anxiously provided. In this way he became the property of us all; he solved in himself, in his loving heart, his large nature, the problem of Christian unity, though generations may yet pass by before the promise of his career can be fulfilled.

When we study Phillips Brooks with reference to the preparation for his work, he appears as the resultant of the spiritual processes of history. The most influential factors of the last hundred years combined to produce him. He was the direct outcome of that wave of inspiration which swept over Kurope and America from the close of the last century. His place is secure among the greatest: with Schleiermaclier and Goethe ; with Coleridge. Carlyle, Tennyson, and Browning; with Hawthorne, Emerson, Channing, Longfellow, and Whittier. Though the last to appear, he was in some respects the greatest of them all. He stood for the supremacy of the pulpit, the awakening and reassertion of the moral conscience and the spiritual life ; yet had he gone into literature, toward which his earliest taste inclined him, it seems as if his excellence would have been equally assured. That he was a poet by nature is witnessed by all his sermons. One brief song which he wrote, O Little Town of Bethlehem, has secured almost universal recognition, as if it were destined to be sung so long as Christmas Day is remembered. The conception which he reached at an early age, that in literature the soul of humanity is revealed, gave to his preaching a peculiar charm, as though in every sermon he sought to produce a literary masterpiece. His sermons, therefore, are related to the best literature not only by the rhythm of the style, the command of language, the ear for the music of words, but by the gift of penetration which reads the instincts of the heart in their free, spontaneous expression. His mission was to combine the fruits of the great humanitarian movement, which has made so many names immortal in the Victorian age, with the idea of God as their source and their goal. He was always showing how genuinely human is the religious sentiment, and therefore how divine. It was his work to mediate, as it were, between literature and theology; to restore theology to the place which it had lost since it died as a science in the abstractions of the Schoolmen. Great as was his love for pure literature as such, yet be so read it as if it were only another form of theology, and drew from it an inspiration for the work of the preacher.

It was his good fortune to have inherited the best traditions of New England history, coining as he did by direct descent from the Rev. John Cotton, a better type of Puritan than were the Mathers, whose reputation has eclipsed him. His mother’s family name, which became His Christian name, stood for the devotion of New England to the highest learning, but also in combination with the church. In his family, too, had been felt the evil effects of the schism which divided the New England churches, and to his mother was due the transition from Puritanism to the Episcopal Church. If, as an Episcopalian, he occupied what must seem like a position hostile to Puritan traditions, yet in his attitude there was no antagonism or hostility. He believed that the Episcopal Church could reap the fruits of the long and bitter controversy only as it discerned the spiritual worth of Puritanism, and the value of its contribution to the history of religious thought or to the capital of Christian character. No chapter in the records of the Christian church seemed to him richer in materials than that which had been written in New England history. For this reason, his mission to the world may be said to have been foreordained from his birth. His heart went forth to both the divisions of Puritanism, to the so-called orthodox Calvinists and to the heterodox Unitarians ; the one standing for the sovereignty of God, the other for the sacred rights and dignity of man. He stood for both, as one and indivisible.

He loved New England with all the strength of his large nature. One of the features of his character was, that while rejoicing in things that were world-wide in their range, seeming to live as if for humanity alone, yet he took such a deep interest in lesser things, as if he could have been content to live and die for them. There was in him a singular power of concentration of the affections. To those who had the privilege of his more intimate friendship, it seemed as though he loved them to the exclusion of all else ; as though, when he withdrew for a moment from the sphere of public life into this small inner circle, he was entirely at home, in the one place where he most wished to be and to remain. He carried the personal interests of his friends so close to his heart that it was hard to realize how he could make this compatible with his wider obligations, as if one or other of these devotions must he unreal. This must have been the method by which he grew, rising to the universal by means of the individual affection. He loved the country, and was above all else a typical citizen of America ; yet his love for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and for the city of Boston in particular, was so strong that it might have degenerated into absurdity, if it had not coexisted with the larger love. But so it was that he loved Boston and Harvard College, as if he could have been satisfied if all the rest of the world had not existed. If there be anything provincial in such devotion to a city or a college, he had it, he was proud of it, he cultivated it, as if making it his business to lead others, and rouse them to an enthusiasm equal to his own. It stirred his nature to its inmost depths to travel as bishop over the State of Massachusetts, to penetrate its remoter towns, recalling wherever he went the associations of a great history. One of his most perfect literary productions was an address made at an anniversary of the Boston Latin School, when he reviewed its record and disclosed its meaning. On the Tuesday morning of that last sad week of his life, when he was preparing, whether consciously or not we shall never know, for his impending translation, he laid aside his work, telling his assistant that he might go; and then he did what he himself regarded as unusual, — he spent the morning roaming about the streets of Boston.

But now we must recall that strong as he was in individual or local attachments, yet as a citizen of the world he surpassed every other man of his generation. Where shall we turn for any one who had studied humanity on so large a scale as he, sojourning in almost every country, as if he were restless or his education incomplete until he had seen for himself all that the world had to offer ? For about thirty years it had been his custom to go abroad every alternate summer. In this way, visiting England so often, he was as much at home there, and his name as familiar, as in his own land. He was a favorite preacher in rural churches and in the great Abbey, and was sent for to preach before the Queen. The same phenomena attended his preaching there as here, — the thronging congregation, the thousands who were turned away for lack of room, as when he preached last summer at Westminster. He made it an object to have the acquaintance of great Englishmen of whom he knew through their books or their work. He became the warm friend of Dean Stanley.1 He visited Tennyson at various times, one of the visitors whom the poet welcomed and loved. Only last summer he spent a day with him, talking over the great theme to which Tennyson so often reverted, the weird fascination of death. He was struck with the poet’s hopefulness despite the pessimistic mood with which he struggled, with his power to extract blessedness from the sorrow and the misery of life. He made also a summer’s sojourn in the other countries of Europe. Norway and Russia, Holland and Spain, were taken in this way, Italy, Germany, and France, and also Greece, Egypt, and Palestine. He gave one year to India, one of the most fruitful years in his experience, impressing him with the supreme importance of foreign missions. A summer was given to China and Japan, with the double journey across America. But he could go nowhere that his fame had not preceded him. He traveled for the increase of life and education ; but as if it might seem like amusement or recreation only, he spent alternate summers at home, where he was found each Sunday in his pulpit. Many were thus enabled to hear him who would not otherwise have found the opportunity, — the dwellers at home whose churches were closed, or the traveler passing through the city.

That which strikes us, then, most forcibly, in what we may call his preparation fur his work, is the way in which he put the whole world under tribute to his genius. As we say of some mighty tree in the forest, he was a rich feeder ; he needed a large amount as well as a great variety of food to support the demand of his soul for life. Only as he saw things related to life did he seem to value them ; nothing was significant to him as mere theory or opinion; by some instinct he rejected whatever was artificial or unreal. Because he was so thoroughly alive himself, he made things live which to others seemed dead, whether past or present, near or remote, at home or abroad. His friends can recall how, on casual visits, he was desirous to know what they were thinking or doing, as if he would exhaust and appropriate the life that was in them. It. would not do to remain too long, when he was in this mood, for it put them, with their smaller resources, at too great a strain to keep up with him.

Among the sources from which he drew most deeply were works of art, — sculpture, architecture, and painting. He was conversant with the history of art, whether in galleries or private collections, in churches or cathedrals. He was an art critic, as if it were his profession, knowing and loving only the best. He was the friend and companion of artists, who saw in him a kindred spirit. In the decoration of Trinity Church he was consulted, so that his advice or suggestion written upon its walls makes it almost a personal monument to his name. He had a love of symbols, of rare things, of which he accumulated many ; beautiful things were all about him in that forever sacred room, his Study; mementos, too, of every kind, as though he felt the spirit of ancient relic worship. On this side of his nature, he was not guided nor limited by any theory of the function of art, but rejoiced in its higher manifestations as in the ways and works of God. One limitation he had : he lacked appreciation of music, the one form of art most distinctive of the age. There is something here deserving of explanation, if we only knew how to explain it. Perhaps, had he known the refreshment which music brings, it might have afforded an opportunity of rest to his ceaseless activity, or retarded the exhaustion of his power.

But his chief study was man as he stood revealed in life ; in this pursuit all the manifestations of life were as first sources of information. He was always studying, always observing; smallest details did not escape him, much as he rejoiced in the grander manifestations of human power ; he was attracted by every illustration of power, especially in all naive, unconscious strength, whether of purity or beauty or goodness. He might have been called a humanist but that he also studied in order to the knowledge of God; reading the Creator in the image, glorying in the incarnation of God in Christ as the supreme principle of human existence. Shall we ask concerning such a man how far he was a scholar or a thinker, or how he is to be compared with those who pass for such ? It throws no light upon Shakespeare if we seek to ascertain the extent of his classical or historical learning, or his mode of acquiring it ; nor does it seem becoming to put him in comparison with a Casaubon or Bentley, or at least we are not helped to any truer estimate by the comparison. Of Phillips Brooks it may be said that a hint was more suggestive to him than labored volumes are to many. He grew by what he saw, by the expansion of the germ of life within. But he was also a great reader of books, and of the best books. With the limited time at his disposal, it was astonishing how much he read, till it even seemed as though he read more than those who had nothing else to do. While he followed the rule of reading important works as they appeared, and so kept himself in sympathy with the more popular culture, yet he read far and wide outside the popular range. On his table was to be found everything of fresh interest, — the latest books, whether published at home or abroad; somehow he obtained them in advance of others; he was one from whom to seek information as to what must be read. In this respect, his large library, selected carefully, and embracing the standard works in history, art, literature, or theology, reflected the character of his mind. He had also the first requisite of a scholar : he knew where to go for what he wanted.

There are many things concerning him upon which one would like to dwell, — his charm in conversation, the wit and humor with which he overflowed, the high courtesy of his manner combined with freedom from conventionality, the naturalness and spontaneity of all he did and in all of which he so gracefully reflected himself, the exquisite modesty which clothed him as in a garment, the absence of self-consciousness. He was at home with children, reading with natural ease the child nature, and delighting to share their life. What scorn he had for hypocrisy and shams of every kind and degree, what keenness in detecting folly or weakness ! He was like Carlyle in his power of depicting character in a few bold strokes. The beautiful face, also, especially when illumined with a smile ; the voice, which no other voice resembled or could be put in comparison with, tender and gentle, yet full of strength, so expressive of the great soul within him, — a voice which went to the heart, which gave a new meaning to old or familiar things. How careful he was in attending to all the minuter details of life! With his immense correspondence, which must have taxed his patience and strength, he never left the smallest note unanswered, even when asked not to respond. His capacity for business was something extraordinary, but, because he was so much else besides, one never thought of mentioning it. so that some feared he might be lacking in the administrative power required for a great diocese. If he seemed to weary of committees and of routine work, it was because he needed no discussion to get at the heart of the matter, He never appeared confused, or doubtful as to how he should proceed. His force of will was like the elemental powers of nature ; and as to intellectual power, he had more than any other man of his generation. The power which he wasted was enough to constitute a respectable endowment. There was a subtlety and elasticity about his intellect, as also a comprehensiveness of grasp, which astonished when he talked. He had a capacity of saying the one thing which no one else ever thought of saying, and which, when once it had been said, put an end to further discussion. Had he given himself to speculation, he would have been a philosopher of the highest order.

There remains one other feature of Phillips Brooks as a man, which was at once a source and a revelation of his power, requiring a fuller notice than can be given here, but which must at least be mentioned. He was always to be found in sympathy with great popular sentiments. He made the watchwords of the age his own, identifying himself with every cause which moved the people. That which was limited in its influence to a few, which seemed likely to remain the mere badge of a school or sect, whether in church or state, had no interest for him. He first became known as great by throwing himself into the civil war beyond any other of the Philadelphia clergy. His sermon on the death of Lincoln, and another, after the war was over, entitled Mercies of Reoccupation, are two of his most memorable utterances. The latter in particular is noteworthy as containing some of his profoundest thought, the outline of his philosophy of history. He still continued to hold the conviction that America should stand open to the world as an asylum for the poor and the oppressed. It was this which had made the country great; and to restrict immigration seemed like the abandonment of a great principle. It made him indignant that the attempt at limitation should begin with any one people as such, as for example the Chinese.

His profound respect for accepted results made him believe in Protestantism as the greatest onward movement in the annals of Christianity, and in Puritanism as among its highest ideals. But he also affirmed with the whole strength of his nature the principle of tolerance, in which both Protestantism and Puritanism had been wanting, — the popular motive of the last century, painfully educed from the untold misery and anguish which intolerance had cost; the motive which had inspired the founders of American nationality. It may have been that he foresaw the evils which threatened from the rising spirit of intolerance among the American churches, or it may have been a chapter from his own experience; but he also discerned that toleration had never yet been rested on its true basis, the only ground on’which it can continue to exist. Because it had degenerated, as some conceived it, into the cultivation of indifference, he would not, like Carlyle, abandon the word with a sneer. It was one of the great words of history, to be taken up and redeemed. The spirit of true tolerance must grow, not out of a sense of uncertainty as to what is truth, but out of a deeper certainty and assurance of the possession of truth. When a man knew that he was right beyond the possibility of being shaken in adherence to his belief, he was strong to tolerate the conviction of others in the spirit of hopefulness and charity. To those whose faith was without this inward assurance and direct vision of truth, who rested on external authority, whether of ecclesiastical councils or the letter of Scripture, toleration must he always a forced necessity, a disguised spirit of persecution waiting for its opportunity. They could not, therefore, understand how he could affiliate with men of every variety of religious belief ; they thought him treacherous to his creed ; they designated him an Arian, a Socinian, or a Pelagian. His book entitled Tolerance deserves especial mention, because for once he dropped the rôle of preacher, and assumed the chair of lecturer, in order to teach the world what tolerance means. In this book more than in any other of his writings, we see how the man himself had been made. He has given ns a description of himself more true than any of his followers or admirers can give.

Other illustrations of these universal attitudes of his mind might be given. He not only believed in progress with all his soul, but he applied the doctrine fearlessly in every direction. He constantly dwelt on the larger Inheritance awaiting the world ; he regretted that he should not be here to share in its higher, diviner life. He had no sympathy with those who, from theological points of view, suspected or decried the gifts that science was offering to the modern world. All that he asked, as in one of the latest of his sermons, was that the rising generation should so prepare themselves by faith in God as to be worthy to receive the richer blessings which were descending upon the age, which were yet to be poured out in fuller measure on the expanding life of humanity. With these catholic, massive convictions there was one truth which adequately corresponded, which was the burden and the refrain of all his preaching, — that all men were the sons of God ; all men everywhere, sons of God by creation and by redemption. In this large application of the divine sonslnp he was announcing no new truth, but only the old truth which had been from the beginning. This had been the teaching of Christ himself, reaffirmed by St. Paul at Athens, the first principle of the ancient Catholic Church; it had been reasserted by the Church of England with solemn emphasis in the age of the Reformation. Whenever it had been limited, great prophets like Maurice or Robertson had risen to re-proclaim it. He was, then, denying no standards of his own church, but rather defending them, when he threw the weight of his eloquence and of his life into the cause of humanity as the offspring of God, But he did so illustrate and illumine and apply this truth that it sounded, when he preached it, like something which had never been heard in the world before. Those who listened to it were struck as if with awe, when ushered into the presence of the sacredness, the majesty, of the divine potentiality of the true self within them.

For thirty years and more he has stood for the revelation of this truth with an eloquence peculiarly his own, which has found no imitators or rivals. At first, he delivered his message with the joyous freedom of unconscious power, with a certain objectivity of manner, as though he were merely an instrument on which the Spirit played. But in these later years we have seen a change. It, might seem as though for a long time he resisted the idea that he was more to the world than any ordinary man. In his deep humility, he refused to recognize the tokens of a people’s gratitude and love. The change consisted in a growing tenderness of manner,—a tenderness which became inexpressibly deep, as though he were brooding in love over the world whose love toward him was passing all ordinary bounds ; a deep anxiety, too. sometimes almost passionate in its manifestation, lest any whom he loved should miss the way of life. His soul went out to the world as the soul of the world seemed to enter within him. For here again was another, the last and the greatest, source of his preparation and his power. It was the people who were contributing to make the preacher, imparting to him something of the strength which made him great. Those who have sat where they could watch his audience have hardly known with which spectacle they were most entranced, the inspired orator, or the vast congregation whom he thrilled with his words. He was afraid that, as the forces of youth diminished, he must gradually be shut off from the world to which he ministered. As he entered the forties, he was depressed with each recurring anniversary. But as the years went on, they brought no loss of influence ; they grew richer in the increase of a people’s devotion. The text of one of his last sermons reveals to us what he was beginning to realize as true : “ Thou hast kept the good wine until now.” At last he must have known, perhaps even have confessed to himself, that he stood to the people in some unique relationship, as it were their idol and their king. It was at this moment that he welcomed the episcopate as giving him a larger chance to respond to their devotion. He submitted as he had not done before to be admired and loved; but the humiliation of his spirit kept pace with the growing devotion. Like some saint of earlier ages, he was receiving the honors of canonization before his departure. For in these last years we were coining to reverence the man for the character which seemed almost without a flaw, for his Christian manhood, more even than the preacher with his brilliant, transcendent power.

There is something strange, unwonted, about his entrance upon the episcopate. A bishop, to the typical New England mind, had hitherto been an object of indifference, if not aversion. It had been the intention of the Puritans to set up a church without a bishop, as a state without a king. But the prejudices of the past died out in his presence. If there were any office where Phillips Brooks could exert a wider influence, it should be his. Superintendence, shepherding oversight, episcopacy, if he could exercise it, would be only a richer blessing. But it must belong to all in common. Like all God’s richest gifts, it could not, should not, be the peculiar property of any one religious communion. He should be a bishop to them all. In life and in death he belonged to the people. The massive response of the country, of the commonwealth, and of the city, the universal recognition, the unparalleled grief, — these are the fittest expressions of what he has been to the world. If extravagant things may seem to have been uttered about him, if the language of eulogy and laudation seems to have been stretched beyond its warrant, yet this also is part of the fuller revelation of the man.

Alexander V. G. Allen.

  1. Perhaps Dr. Brooks’s solitary contribution to magazine literature was the paper which he wrote on Dean Stanley for The Atlantic Monthly, October, 1881.