Chauncey Giles.

Progress in spiritual knowledge online

. (page 3 of 26)
Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 3 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ness and pleasant humor helped to endear him to them.
His efforts were successful, and the society was soon
strengthened by a large body of active and earnest
younger members. The affection of the young people
for Mr. Giles and their devotion to him were very strong



CHAUNCEY GILES.



31



in Cincinnati. One of the "young people," writing of
a time a little later, when Mr. Giles lived at the top of one
of the hills which circle Cincinnati about, says, —

" It was a walk of a mile and a half from where most of us lived
to the hills, and another half-mile climb to the house, up a steep path
with rough stone steps a part of the way. It was before the days of
inclined planes or even of street-cars or omnibuses. And. every
week a party of the young people would go over this toilsome route
to see him and have a meeting of a young people's class."

Mr. Giles's relations with the little children were also
very happy. He was usually present in the Sunday-
school ; for a time he was the superintendent. But his
part at the Christmas and Easter festivals was what the
children especially enjoyed. The stories, " The Wonder-
ful Pocket," "The Magic Shoes," and many more,
which have since been printed in several little volumes,
and which have interested so many children, were most
of them written for these occasions. They are especially
dear to those who associate them with Christmas happi-
ness and Mr. Giles's charming manner in addressing the
children. There was never in the stories any exciting
plot, and rarely much action or incident, but they always
expressed some truth of our inner life in simple and
amusing form, in which it was at once recognized by the
children. "Those who were scholars then and have
since grown into mature men and women tell us they
were the most interesting stories they ever listened to,
and they never lost a word of them as they were read."
So writes one who heard them, and adds, "I think
there never was a man that came closer to children than
he did, and when he spoke every one listened. These



32 PROGRESS /.¥ SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

little Stories were gems that every child remembered, and
on any Christmas could tell just what the preceding
Christmas gift was and all about it." The custom of
putting thoughts for the children in story form at Christ-
mas and Easter was one which Mr. Giles continued, and
his stories were enjoyed no less by the children in New
York and Philadelphia.

As for the old dissensions in the Cincinnati Society,
Mr. Giles treated them as he almost always did such
things, — he ignored them altogether. He declined to
listen to complaints of one against another. He was
watched to see with what party he "would side, but it was
as it had been in school when the children tried to detect
partiality, — there was none to find. Under such treat-
ment dissensions could not live.

At the end of one year's ministry in Cincinnati, the
society voted to employ Mr. Giles for another year. As
the second year drew to its close in the autumn of 1855,
Mr. Giles received an invitation to go to Boston to act as
assistant to the Rev. Thomas Worcester. The invitation
was dechned, but the thought of losing Mr. Giles seems
to have awakened the Cincinnati Society to the need of
making his relation with them more permanent, and they
asked him to become their pastor. He accepted the
position October 6, 1855. He records in his journal his
desire and intention to be a devoted pastor, to enter upon
a more thorough course of study, to perfect himself as
much as possible as a preacher, and to become better
acquainted with the people, and strive to do all that he
can for their spiritual good.

The work in Cincinnati was laborious. It was usual



CHAUNCEY GILES.



zz



for Mr. Giles to teach a class in the Sunday-school;
' ' hear a class, ' ' he always said, which suggests that with
him scholars were not passive listeners. The morning
service followed. In the afternoon he often drove to
Glendale, a suburb of Cincinnati, and preached, returning
to lecture in the evening. For a time he gave lectures
Wednesday evenings, and a class of ladies met Saturdays
at his house. Calls to attend funerals were frequent ; it
was the exception when a week passed without one, and
on many Sundays a funeral was attended before morning
service or between services. It was not the custom in
those days to take long summer vacations, and the work
in the hot weather, with short intermission, was exhaust-
ing. For some years Mr. Giles suffered with his throat,
and feared that the trouble would interfere with his work.
The most serious interruption was in the winter of i860,
when on account of feeble health he visited New Orleans,
being absent two months.

In 1858 a new responsibility came to Mr. Giles in his
election as president of the Urbana University. He
never made Urbana his home, but for several years exer-
cised a general oversight of the institution and visited it
occasionally.

A tone of discouragement is noticeable in Mr. Giles's
private record of his early ministry, but it was not felt by
others. His influence in the society, in the Sunday-
school, and at home was uniformly cheerful. He was
dissatisfied with his extempore speaking, and thought
himself too old to learn to do it well. He also concluded
rather hastily in those days that he never should be able
to write an interesting course of lectures. He was some-



34 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

times disheartened when the attendance at service was
small, and would fear that his usefulness in that place was
nearly ended. Indeed, he never could quite overcome a
little depression when he was obliged to speak to ' ' empty-
benches."

Mr. Giles wrote, August 9, 1863, when thirty years of
his best work were still before him, —

"I now begin the work of another year with many doubts and
misgivings and with little apparent strength for the work. I do not
think I shall accomplish much, and I fear I shall not do much more
in this world. How little, oh, how little I have done ! — almost nothing
it would seem. And I feel that my powers are failing in some
respects. I may preach better perhaps. But I do not know. There
ought to be ten or fifteen years of good hard work in me yet."

But another spirit was gaining strength which over-
came any natural despondency. A week later than the
above he writes, —

" I am trying to bring myself into a state to do my duty and leave
the results with the Lord. I know that the Lord requires only my
duty. Results are with Him alone. We have nothing to do with
them."

To this trust was added, as years went on, an undoubt-
ing confidence in the triumph of the truth, and in the
real success of every effort to advance the cause of the
Lord's church, which was inspiring to all who felt its
influence.

Mr. Giles, soon after he became a minister, was recog-
nized as one of the ablest preachers in the New Church.
His preaching from the first possessed the same elements
of strength which afterwards made it so efiective in other
fields. He felt the need of '' more plainness and direct-



CHAUNCEY GILES.



35



ness in preaching and talking about the spirit ;' ' and
spiritual things, as he spoke of them, became substantial
realities. Subjects often treated in a vague and abstract
way he made clear by regarding them from universal
principles. He was fond of speaking of religion as a
spiritual science, and of showing that spiritual truth has
the same logical unity and the same certainty as truth of
natural science. Knowing that the same Divine laws
rule in all realms of the creation, in mind and matter, in
heaven and earth, he looked to nature and to natural life
for illustration of spiritual truth. He had remarkable
facility in such illustration. He also made frequent use
of the principle that the Lord works always like Himself.
By studying His methods in a plant which we hold in
our hand we may learn of man's regeneration. '' How
often," writes a friend, "has he taken as his illustration
an ^^%, a seed, the eye, a watch, an engine, and presented
it in such a way that the spiritual truth he wanted to teach
blossomed in the mind as he talked of the natural image !"
Mr. Giles had no taste for minute study of fine points,
and never burdened his sermons with them, but set him-
self to teach the great essential principles of the New
Church with all possible clearness and force. A hopeful,
joyful spirit pervaded his preaching,— a deep sense of the
wonderful goodness of the Lord and of the beauty of the
heavenly life. He did not threaten and condemn, but
won the heart to the goodness of living with the Lord.
He was not discouraging to weak and sinful souls, but
inspired them with new hope and resolution. Mr. Giles's
manner in the pulpit was simple and earnest ; his voice
was of unusual strength and of a sympathetic quality.



^6 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

There were times when the tenderness of his own feehng
made it difficult for him to speak. Some would say that
Mr. Giles was persuasive. It was not so in any artful
sense, but his manner was tender and at the same time
expressive of his own intense conviction of the truth of
what he said.

Mr. Giles was always in the effort to improve his
preaching, and often expressed the belief that there are
new and better ways of presenting spiritual truth yet to
be discovered. Early in his ministry he wrote, —

" I am more and more dissatisfied with the effect of preaching ; it
does not seem to me to be as efficient and well directed as it ought
to be, certainly not if its main object is to teach spiritual truth. No
system of science could be taught in such a haphazard manner with
any success. There is certainly great room for improvement in my
mode of preaching, and I mean to effect it."

A year later he writes, —

" It does seem as though more might be made of the sermon in
the New Church. But I have not found the way yet, and I do not
know who has. Very little good seems to grow out of it yet."

And once more, —

"I am satisfied that ordinary sermons are but little use. They
are too fragmentary. They give truth in bits without showing its
relation. We are yet far from the true method, and I am too old to
do much in finding or practising a better."

It was probably his desire to make preaching more
connected and systematic which led Mr. Giles often to
write sermons in connected series, keeping the thought
of the congregation upon one subject for a considerable
time. The expressions of dissatisfaction are interesting
as illustrating Mr. Giles's desire for improvement, for he



CHAUNCEY GILES. 37

did not become too old to enjoy trying new things and
new ways if they gave promise to be better than the old.
But no one will accept his own estimate of his preaching.

Though Mr. Giles excelled as a preacher, he was per-
haps equally helpful to the church in other ways. He
was always a peace-maker. His almost overwhelming
sense of the greatness of the work intrusted to us by the
Lord made all personal feelings and dissensions seem
wholly out of place. All our time and strength are
needed for the work. He was wonderfully successful in
finding money for church uses, and he did it not by beg-
ging, but by helping people to realize that they have no
money of their own, but that what they have is intrusted
to them by the Lord to make useful.

Mr. Giles was a leader always, but a leader whose rule
was scarcely felt. He never forced his will upon others,
but taught the true principles of action and waited
patientty. He prepared the ground and sowed the seed
and gave it time to grow. An example of this is found in
his relation with the first church of which he was pastor.

The Cincinnati Society, when Mr. Giles became its
pastor, was not connected with the General Society of
the New Church in Ohio, nor with the General Conven-
tion in the United States. Mr. Giles believed that asso-
ciation is orderly and useful ; that so a power and free-
dom of action are gained which an individual or a society
does not enjoy which stands alone, but he was willing to
wait till the usefulness of union commended itself to
others. He had himself been received as a member of
the General Convention at the meeting in Boston, June
30, 1855. In 1857, through Mr. Giles's influence, the

4



38 PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.

Convention met in Cincinnati ; and September 5, i860,
his patience was rewarded by the society's voting to join
the General Society of the New Church in Ohio, which
was a member of the General Convention. ' ' This I
have long desired," Mr. Giles writes, "and I have no
doubt it will be of great use to the church generally."
It is remarkable that a similar experience was repeated in
New York, and again in Philadelphia. The society in
New York had withdrawn from the Convention, and had
worked alone twelve years when Mr. Giles became its
pastor. Some one remarked to Mr. Giles when he went
to New York, ' ' You need not expect to induce this
society to join the Convention ; it never will." To
which he replied, " I shall not try to induce you, but you
will do it." A year later the society joined with others
in the neighborhood to form the New York Association,
which after another year united with the general body of
the church. The situation in Philadelphia was peculiar.
For years the President of the Convention was pastor of
a society which was not connected with that body ; but
patient waiting and the principle of use prevailed.

The society in Cincinnati, at the time of Mr. Giles's
coming, occupied a church on Longworth Street, which
was dark and noisy and unsuitable. Mr. Giles was ear-
nest that they should have a better home. Finally he
preached a sermon in which he contrasted the elegance
of the people's dwellings with the poorness of the house
provided for the worship of the Lord. A friend remarked
to him at the close of the service, " Mr. Giles, that ser-
mon will do one of two things : it will drive you out of
this churchp or the whole congregation." It had the



CHAUNCEY GILES. 3p

latter effect, but not immediately. The society took up
the question in earnest in the spring of i860. A lot on
one of the most central corners in the city was bought,
and plans were being considered when the breaking out
of the Civil War put a stop to all enterprise, and the
ground was returned to its former owners. But before
Mr. Giles left Cincinnati a better home for the society
was provided. The church on the corner of Fourth and
John Streets, now occupied by the society, was bought,
and January 17, 1864, it was dedicated.

At the same time that the new church was being pre-
pared, Mr. Giles was considering a proposition to remove
to New York. He had declined the invitation to Boston
some years before, and had already declined an invitation
to New York. This time he decided to go, and on Feb-
ruary I, 1864, presented his resignation, to take effect
the I St of the following May. The reasons which led to
this change are shown in letters written by Mr. Giles to
the society. Referring to the lighter work in a new field,
he says, —

"This would give me leisure for more pastoral duty and time to
prepare some works for the press, which I have long contemplated
and which men of good judgment think might be of much use. And
it is a question with me whether I might not be more widely and
permanently useful to the church if by using the materials already
accumulated I could find time to prepare my discourses with more
care, and address a wider audience through the press."

He speaks most affectionately of his relations with the
Cincinnati Society, —

" I feel bound to the society by many strong and tender ties, and
the thought of leaving you is always attended with pain. I have



40



Fli OGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.



preached for you nearly one-fourth of the existence of your society,
and I cannot recall an unpleasant word that has passed between me
and any member of the society or congregation during this time."

His letter of resignation shows that the consideration
mentioned in the former letter prevailed, —

" I know I could not much longer perform the duties which the
society requires and which the wants of the church demand. My
health is good now, but I know that I have not the power of pro-
longed labor that I had a few years ago, and I see unmistakable
signs that the power is constantly diminishing. I think I can be
more useful to the church and to my family to accept the way Divine
Providence has opened for me, to get relief from the great and con-
tinued pressure of writing, and so use my remaining strength and
direct it in such channels that it may be the most available for the
use of the church."

The last months of Mr. Giles's stay in Cincinnati were
especially happy ones. The society was occupying the
pleasant church lately provided, the attendance at wor-
ship was large, and many persons united with the church
by baptism or confirmation. On Sunday, April 17, thirty
persons, ten adults and twenty children, were baptized ;
and on the following Sunday, which was the last on which
Mr. Giles preached as pastor of the society, eighteen per-
sons were confirmed. ' ' It was a most beautiful and
interesting sight," he writes, "and rejoiced my heart
greatly. I seemed to be reaping the harvest of my past
labors." The Holy Supper was administered to one
hundred and twenty-five communicants, although the day
was stormy. ' ' This is four or five times as many as were
present when I administered it the first time. The Lord
be praised for it all. ' '

While connected with the Cincinnati Society, Mr. Giles



CHAUNCEY GILES.



41



received the powers of Ordaining Minister or General
Pastor at the meeting of the General Convention in Phila-
delphia, June 14, 1863.

The affection between Mr. Giles and the Cincinnati
Society was strong and always continued so. There was
in it something of that friendliness which belongs to a
new country where people have been drawn closely
together by the hardships of pioneer life. But a short
time before his death he wrote, —

" I cannot tell you how much it gratifies me to know that I still
hold a warm place in the hearts of my old and new friends in Cin-
cinnati. I think the members of the New Church there seem nearer
to me than they do at any other place. They were my first love in
the church, and I think of them as they were when we lived there
and they became a part of my life "

The work in New York began in May, 1864, and con-
tinued for nearly fourteen years. It could hardly be
called lighter than the work in Cincinnati. It did, how-
ever, lead to the printing of articles and books, the use
which Mr. Giles had especially in view in making the
change. Until this time very few of Mr. Giles's sermons
or lectures had been printed, though for years the manu-
scripts had been borrowed and read in several small socie-
ties which were without ministers.

The winter after going to New York Mr. Giles lectured
in the church on Thirty-Fifth Street on Sunday evenings,
from October to March. He began in November a series
of six lectures on the spiritual world. The first lecture
of the series was entitled ' ' The Answer of the New-
Jerusalem Church to the Questions : What is Spirit ?
What is the Spiritual World ? Where is it ? and What

4*



42



PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.



are its Relations to this World ?' ' Mr. Giles notes that
the house was completely filled and some went away.
The church was crowded throughout the course. After
the delivery of the first lecture the suggestion was made
that it should be printed and be ready for distribution the
next Sunday evening. This was done, and the experi-
ment seemed so useful that it was continued through the
course, five hundred copies of each lecture being printed
for free distribution. These lectures as printed from week
to week became afterwards the basis of the little book
* ' The Nature of Spirit, and of Man as a Spiritual Being,"
which has proved the most popular of any book of the
New Church. It has been issued in several languages
and editions, and its circulation has probably reached one
hundred thousand copies. The lectures were written
from week to week for the next Sunday's use, with no
thought of making a book ; and when they were first
pubHshed Mr. Giles was too busy to revise them, and
they were seen through the press by a friend. This was
characteristic of Mr. Giles's literary work. Of all that
he has published very little has been written originally for
that purpose, or has received the careful finish which an
author expects to give to a book. He wrote right along,
with a plan of what he intended to say, but allowing his
subject to grow and develop as he went ; and as it was
written, so it usually stood, with little change or revision.
In closing the lectures of the first winter in New York,
Mr. Giles says, —

" They have been the most successful course I have ever delivered.
The attendance has been good throughout, and the interest quite
profound. Eleven of them have been printed and very extensively



CHAUNCEY GILES.



43



circulated through the country. They have oeen read in many
societies and sent to a great number of individuals, and I trust
something has been done to help forward the cause of humanity,
and to establish the kingdom of God upon earth."

The success of the first season's lectures in New
York led to a bolder attempt the following year to bring
the truths of the New Church before the public. The
great hall of the Cooper Union w^as secured for a course
of five Sunday evening lectures. The subjects were
"Death," ''The Resurrection of Man," "The Life of
Man after Death," " Swedenborg, " and "The New
Church a New Dispensation of Divine Truth," The
hall was well filled at every meeting ; probably fifteen
hundred people were present at some of the lectures, and
the attention was good. But the visible efTect of the
lectures was disappointing. A few persons were drawn
to the society, and doubtless a use was done in intro-
ducing the New Church to the community and removing
prejudices against it. "Mr. Giles did his work well,"
writes a friend ; ' ' his heart was in it ; he was satisfied ;
for, as he encouragingly said, ' No one knows the result
of the planting. ' ' '

Further remembrances of Mr. Giles in New York by
the same good friend are too pleasant to withhold, —

" There was nothing dramatic in the life of Mr. Giles, neither did
he pose for effect before the world. His motives and purposes were
far beyond such littleness. His purely pastoral life can be com-
pared to the smooth flowing of a brook through grassy meadows
and flowering shrubs. The turbulent stream from the mountain-
side had no counterpart in his nature. This phase of his being is
beautifully illustrated by his writings : classic in style, apparently
simple, they have a power and directness which go to the very core



44



PROGRESS IN SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE.



of his subject, sounding depths of truth brought to the surface by-
great minds only. Dignity and self-control governed his character,
while composure and gentleness marked his daily life ; add grace
and a quiet humor in his intercourse with others, and the true
gentleman is in view. The world is the better for his living, and
the New Church a gainer by his faith and love for her doctrines,
which were intense.

" His calmness and self-possession may be illustrated by two inci-
dents in his New York pulpit. The usual services had been com-
pleted, and he rose up to deliver his sermon, but could not find the
manuscript ; all of his pockets were explored in vain. He quietly-
left the desk, went to his house a square off, returned with the
missing manuscript, and delivered a very able sermon, not at all
disconcerted by the singular circumstance. The congregation
waited his return quietly, but with a bit of suppressed amusement.

"On another Sunday morning the congregation had assembled,
the time had arrived for the service, but Mr. Giles had not been
seen. One of his sons was sent to look him up. He was found in
his study writing, and deep in thought ; when told the congregation
was waiting his presence, 'Bless my soul!' was the reply. His
opening words at the service betrayed no flurry over the delay."

It was during his stay in New York that Mr. Giles
deHvered in the church on Thirty- Fifth Street his lec-
tures on " Our Children in the Other Life." They were
at first printed as leaflets, and have now for many years
been published in more convenient form. They are full



Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 3 of 26)