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they live in this city of their habitation and their glory, or whether they are residents of other cities and States of the North and Northwest, to the solemn declaration, that we esteem it to be our duty to train our pupils on the one hand in enlightened science, and on the other in the living power of the Christian faith. [Applause.] We are certainly not sectarian. It is enough that I say that we aim to be enlightened Christian believers, and with those hopes and those aspirations we trust that the next generation of men whom we shall educate will do their part in upholding this country in fidelity to its obligations of duty, in fidelity to every form of integrity, in generous self-sacrifice on the field of contest, if it be required, and in Christian sympathy with the toleration and forbearance which should come after the fight. [Applause)
HENRY CODMAN POTTER
(Speech of Rev. Dr. Henry C. Potter, Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, at the seventy-third annual dinner of the New England Society in the City of New York, December 23, 1878. Daniel F. Appleton presided and proposed the toast, “ The Church-a fountain of charity and good works, which is not established, but establishes itself, by God's blessing, in men's hearts.”]
MR. PRESIDENT:-I take up the strain where the distinguished Senator from Maine [James G. Blaine) has dropped it. I would fain be with him one of those who should see a typical New England dinner spread upon a table at which Miles Standish and John Alden sat, and upon which should be spread viands of which John Alden and Miles Standish and the rest, two hundred and seventy-three years ago, partook. I would fain see something more, or rather I would fain hear something more and that is, the sentiments of those who gathered about that table, and the measure in which those sentiments accorded with the sentiments of those who sit at these tables to-night. [Applause.] Why, Mr. President, the viands of which John Alden and Miles Standish partook did not differ more radically from the splendor of this banquet than did the sentiments with which the Puritans came to these shores differ from the sentiments of the men who gather in this room to-night. If it had happened to them as it happened to a distinguished company in New England, where an eminent New England divine was called upon to lead in prayer, their feelings would have been as little wounded as those against whom he offered up his petition; or rather, if I were here to-night to denounce their sentiments as to religious toleration, in which they did not believe; their sentiments as to the separation of the Church from the State, in which they did not believe any more than they believed in religious toleration; their sentiments as to Democracy, in which they did not believe any more than they believed in religious toleration—those of us who are here and who do believe in these things would be as little wounded as the company to which I have referred. The distinguished divine to whom I have alluded was called upon to offer prayer, some fifty years ago, in a mixed company, when, in accordance with the custom of the times, he included in his petition to the Almighty a large measure of anathema, as “ We beseech Thee, O Lord! to overwhelm the tyrant! We beseech Thee to overwhelm and to pull down the oppressor! We beseech Thee to overwhelm and pull down the Papist!” And then opening his eyes, and seeing that a Roman Catholic archbishop and his secretary were present, he saw he must change the current of his petitions if he would be courteous to his audience, and said vehemently, “We beseech Thee, O Lord! we beseech Thee -we beseech Thee—we beseech Thee to pull down and overwhelm the Hottentot!" Said some one to him when the prayer was over, “My dear brother, why were you so hard upon the Hottentot?” the Hottentot?” “Well,” said he,
“Well," said he, “the fact is, when I opened my eyes and looked around, between the paragraphs in the prayer, at the assembled guests, I found that the Hottentots were the only people who had not some friends among the company.” [Laughter.]
Gentlemen of the New England Society, if I were to denounce the views of the Puritans to-night, they would be like the Hottentots. [Laughter.] Nay more, if one of their number were to come into this banqueting hall and sit down at this splendid feast, so unlike what he had been wont to see, and were to expound his views as to constitutional liberty and as to religious toleration, or as to the relations of the Church to the State, I am very much afraid that you and I would be tempted to answer him as an American answered an English traveller in a railway-carriage in Belgium. Said this Englishman, whom I happened to meet in Brussels, and who recognized me as an American citizen: “ Your countrymen have a very strange conception of the English tongue: I never heard any people who speak the
English language in such an odd way as the Americans do." “What do you mean?” I said; “I supposed that in the American States the educated and cultivated people spoke the English tongue with the utmost propriety, with the same accuracy and the same classical refinement as yours." He replied: “I was travelling hither, and found sitting opposite an intelligent gentleman, who turned out to be an American. I went on to explain to him my views as to the late unpleasantness in America. I told him how profoundly I deplored the results of the civil war. That I believed the interests of good government would have been better advanced if the South, rather than the North, had triumphed. I showed him at great length how, if the South had succeeded, you would
have been able to have laid in that land, first, the foundations of an aristocracy, and then from that would have grown a monarchy; how by the planters you would have got a noble class, and out of that class you would have got a king; and after I had drawn this picture I showed to him what would have been the great and glorious result; and what do you think was his reply to these views? He turned round, looked me coolly in the face, and said, 'Why, what a blundering old cuss you are!'" (Great laughter.]
[ Gentlemen, if one of our New England ancestors were here to-night, expounding his views to us, I am very much afraid that you and I would be tempted to turn round and say: “Why, what a blundering old cuss you are!"
” [Renewed laughter.]
But, Mr. President, though all this is true, the seeds of our liberty, our toleration, our free institutions, our “ Church, not established by law, but establishing itself in the hearts of men,” were all in the simple and single devotion of the truth so far as it was revealed to them, which was the supreme characteristic of our New England forefathers. With them religion and the Church meant supremely personal religion, and obedience to the personal conscience. It meant truth and righteousness, obedience and purity, reverence and intelligence in the family, in the shop, in the field, and on the bench. It meant compassion and charity toward the savages among whom they found themselves, and good works as the daily outcome of a faith which, if stern, was steadfast and undaunted.
And so, Mr. President, however the sentiments and opinions of our ancestors may seem to have differed from ours, those New England ancestors did believe in a church that included and incarnated those ideas of charity and love and brotherhood to which you have referred; and if, to-day, the Church of New York, whatever name it may bear, is to be maintained, as one of your distinguished guests has said, not for ornament but for use, it is because the hard, practical, and yet, when the occasion demanded, large-minded and open-hearted spirit of the New England ancestors shall be in it. [Applause.] Said an English swell footman, with his calves nearly as large as his waist, having been called upon by the lady of the house to carry a coal-scuttle from the cellar to the second story, “ Madam, ham I for use, or ham I for hornament?” (Laughter.]
I believe it to be the mind of the men of New England ancestry who live in New York to-day, that the Church, if it is to exist here, shall exist for use, and not for ornament; that it shall exist to make our streets cleaner, to make our tenement-houses better built and better drained and better ventilated; to respect the rights of the poor man in regard to fresh air and light, as well as the rights of the rich man. And in order that it shall do these things, and that the Church of New York shall exist not for ornament but for use, I, as one of the descendants of New England ancestors, ask no better thing for it than that it shall have, not only among those who fill its pulpits, men of New England ancestry, but also among those who sit in its pews men of New England brains and New England sympathies, and New England catholic generosity! (Continued applause.)