Chauncey Giles.

Progress in spiritual knowledge online

. (page 4 of 26)
Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 4 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

of comfort. With the tenderest sympathy they lift up
the thought to heaven, and tell of the homes prepared
by the Lord for His little ones, where, secure from every
danger, they develop under angels' care in the eternal
spring. They have brought consolation to thousands
of sorrowing hearts.

A new avenue of usefulness was opened to Mr. Giles
in 1865, when he was associated with Mr. Thomas



Hitchcock ill the editorial charge of the New -Jerusalem
Messenger. From May i, 1873, to January, 1878, Mr.
Giles was sole editor. He was also editor of the Chil-
dren' s New- Church MagaziJie from 1868 to January 30,
1872, when it was discontinued. This editorial care
added greatly to his labor. There is no more exacting
master than a periodical, which must be ready each week
on time whether there are contributions or not, whether
one is sick or well. Mr. Giles often was obliged to write
a considerable part of the paper himself, and for a time
he attended also to the details of proof-reading and the
making up of the paper. He also contributed generously
to the Children' s Magazine^ and told to a wider circle
of children such pleasant and instructive stories as had
been enjoyed by his Sunday-schools.

In 1875, while Mr. Giles was pastor of the New York
Society, he was elected president of the General Con-
vention of the New Jerusalem in the United States, suc-
ceeding the Rev. Thomas Worcester ; and he held the
position until his death, a period of eighteen years. In
the general body of the church, as in the societies with
which he was connected, Mr. Giles was a warm supporter
of practical uses and a leader in them. The missionary
cause was especially dear to him, and the printing and
publishing of the doctrines. His earnestness in the
work of the church, his confidence in the support of the
Divine Providence, and in the ability of the people to
supply the means to do their part, were inspiring, and
led to substantial results. Mr. Giles's annual addresses
as president of the Convention presented in practical
ways the principles which should guide the church in its


work. The address seemed to sound the key-note of
the session, and it was a note of harmony and practical
usefuhiess. His very earnestness that the church should
be at work actively furthering the great uses intrusted
to it made Mr. Giles impatient of obstruction, and even
of parliamentary forms, when they seemed to retard the
uses which he had so much at heart. He recognized
this quality in himself as a defect in a presiding officer,
and it was his custom of late years to intrust the con-
duct of the business to the vice-president. He thought,
however, and probably with truth, that his own ignorance
of rules had been useful to the church in leading to less
regard for mere technicalities. Mr. Giles's presence
always seemed to give deliberations a higher tone, and
when he spoke it was often to lift discussion above minor
differences to the more spiritual plane of use, where all
could unite, and where the light of heaven shines. Mr.
Giles's influence in public meetings and at all times was
for peace. He avoided controversy, especially upon
sacred subjects, usually preferring that attacks upon
himself or his views should go unanswered. He bore
no malice towards those who opposed him, and remem-
bered nothing against them when they showed a desire
to join helpfully in the common work.

The same year that Mr. Giles became president of the
Convention he made his first trip abroad. He landed in
Liverpool, and, after some pleasant days in Scotland,
went to London, where he received a warm, even en-
thusiastic, v.^elcome at the Argyle Square church. He
found himself at once among friends, for his sermons,
and especially the lectures on ' ' The Nature of Spirit' '


and on "The Incarnation and Atonement," had been
widely read on the other side of the water. The mem-
bers of the New Church in England were glad to see
and hear and know personally one whose writings they so
highly valued. Mr. Giles felt very deeply the kindness
shown him on this and subsequent visits, and close friend-
ships were formed with his English brethren. Writing
home to the Messenger^ from England, he once said, —

" I found I was not a stranger. I could not make myself one.
They not only took me by the hand, but by the heart. I was a
friend and a brother and at home. A feeling would sometimes
come over me that I must have seen them and known them before.
I hope the cordiality of my welcome and the impossibility of feeling
that I was among strangers may be accounted for by the great law
of spiritual association, according to which those of a homogeneous
nature feel as though they had always known one another when
they first meet. I am sure I shall always remember their kindness
and unremitting efforts to make my visit a pleasant one, with pro-
found gratitude. I feel that I have been greatly benefited by my
intercourse with them. It has enlarged the horizon of my thoughts
and affections, and enriched my mind with many charming scenes
and pleasant memories, which will be a comfort and delight during
my whole life."

On his first visit, in 1875, Mr. Giles attended the New-
Church Conference in Manchester, as the official mes-
senger of the Convention, and received the kindest hos-
pitality. He continued his journey to the continent.
Availing himself of the kind escort of a friend to Ger-
many, he afterwards wandered alone into Italy, and,
tempted from place to place, feeling that this was prob-
ably his only chance to see the historic cities, he visited
Venice and extended his journey to Rome, seeing some-
thing of Switzerland and Paris before his return.


But the first trip to Europe was not the last. Mr.
Giles visited his friends across the Atlantic five times in
all. In 1878, which was the summer following his re-
moval from New York to Philadelphia, he made his
second voyage, accompanied by his wife and youngest
son. The chief mission of this visit was to the New-
Church friends in Paris. It is difficult for us in a country
where religious thought and expression are so free, to
realize the discouragements under which the little circle
of New-Churchmen in Paris were struggling, oppressed
by the influence of the Church of Rome, and by the
government, and by their own fears, Mr. Giles was
much touched by their position, especially by the noble
and untiring efforts of Mile. Holmes, now Mme. Charles
Humann. He secured the kind offices of the United
States government and obtained a letter to the French
government from President Hayes, testifying to the
orderly character of New-Churchmen in our country,
which was the means of securing permission for the
little circle in Paris to meet for worship unmolested. At
this visit Mr. Giles assisted in the organization of the
Paris Society, addressing them through an interpreter.
The little circle, lonely, timid, and oppressed, received
strength and hope from Mr. Giles, with his free Amer-
ican spirit, and his sublime confidence in the truths of
the New Church and their triumph in the world. There
was a delay of several weeks in receiving the necessary
permission of the government, and the time was spent
in part in travel. The journey included a trip to Scotland
with a delightful visit in Paisley. Mr. Giles was again
cordially welcomed in London ; he attended the Con-



ference in Salford, and before sailing for home he re-
ceived the warmest expressions of affection and esteem
in Birmingham and Manchester.

The following year Mr. Giles again made a vacation
trip to England, accompanied by one of his sons. The
experiences of this journey are fully recorded in a series
of interesting letters written by Mr. Giles to the Mes-
senger. He preached on the steamer on the outward
voyage, as he did on several of his voyages, and this time
awakened a somewhat remarkable interest. He attended
the Conference in Dr. Bayley's church in London. He
visited Paris again, and encouraged the faithful little
group of New-Churchmen in that city, baptizing some
of their number. Before saiHng for home he visited the
beautiful church lately finished at Birmingham. The next
year, 1880, Mr. Giles crossed again, accompanied by Mrs.
Giles, and they enjoyed many pleasant experiences among
their new and old friends in Birmingham and Manchester,
and attended the Conference in Liverpool. The journey
was extended to the continent, and Mr. Giles visited Mr.
Mittnacht in Frankfort.

The last trip to Europe was in 1883. The chief pur-
pose of the visit was to dedicate the new church nearly
completed by the society in Paris. Mr. and Mrs. Giles
sailed to Antwerp. Some time was passed at Aix-la-
Chapelle, where Mr. Giles sought relief from rheumatism
by using the hot baths. They visited England and found
themselves among old friends, and afterwards crossed to
Paris, where the new church was dedicated by Mr. Giles,
assisted by the Rev. John Presland, of London.

These visits abroad, which were enjoyed through the
Q, d 5


kindness of a friend, gave Mr. Giles rest after seasons of
hard work, and the memory of them was a constant
pleasure to him. They served also a very real use to the
church in England and America, in strengthening the
bonds of sympathy between its branches.

The first visit abroad was made while Mr. Giles was
pastor of the New York Society, but before his second
visit he had removed to Philadelphia. In performing the
double duty of pastor and editor, Mr. Giles worked be-
yond his strength, and in the autumn of 1877 he was very
ill. Before his health was fully restored he received an
invitation from the First New -Jerusalem Society of Phila-
delphia to become its pastor, and he began work in the
new field the ist of January, 1878. There was an ap-
parent lack of worldly wisdom in the change. The society
in Philadelphia had been through hard experiences, and
at this time was weak and distracted by conflicting ele-
ments. Its most earnest and devoted members were
discouraged, and many persons who were stanch be-
lievers in the New-Church doctrines held aloof from the
society. There was little interest in the public worship,
and the means to support it were raised with difficulty.
Of this society Mr. Giles was invited to become pastor,
at a salary much less than he was receiving in New York.
Why did he accept ? ' * Because," to use his own words,
' ' I had an assured feeling, that amounted to a certainty,
that it was a call of the Divine Providence, to do a work
for the New Church which I could do in no other way.
I had no expectation of doing anything more than help
you to become more united and work together more
harmoniously and efficiently for your own spiritual good


and the prosperity of the church. But so sure was I that
it was a call from a higher source than your society, that
I had no doubt, and no hesitation in accepting it." Mr.
Giles also had in mind some books which he had not
found leisure in New York to put on paper.

What Mr. Giles hoped for in coming to Philadelphia
he saw accomplished, and much more. But he was far
from taking credit to himself It was the Lord's work,
and if he was the leader in it, he was supported by faith-
ful, devoted helpers, without whom nothing could have
been done.

It is useful to notice the more important steps by which
harmony and active life grew in the society. A begin-
ning must be made. It chanced to be the decoration of
the windows of the church which the society then occu-
pied, on the corner of Broad and Brandywine Streets.
Next the purchase of a new organ was undertaken, with
many misgivings. ' ' The difficulties of paying for it, ' ' to
use Mr. Giles's words, "were not overestimated. The
whole machinery and all the motive power of the society
were brought into requisition to raise the money. We
had suppers and sales, strawberry festivals and concerts
and lectures until every one was weary of them, and al-
most of the organ itself, which began to remind us of the
necessity for renewed effort to pay for the music. I think
the movement was useful to the society. It was move-
ment, and that of itself was worth more than the organ.
It awakened a more general interest in the society, brought
its members together and gave them some practice in
working together, and prepared them to take another
step when the time came for it. ' '


When Mr. Giles had been in Philadelphia a year the
society recast its by-laws, providing for quarterly business
meetings, and for a Church Committee of nine members,
who should meet weekly with the pastor, to care for the
spiritual welfare of the society. In the Church Committee
almost every new movement originated, and was carefully
considered before being presented to the society. Mr.
Giles kept the committee on the alert to find new and
better ways for the society to do its work. It must move
on, it must improve, or it would go backward. The
freest expression of opinion was encouraged in the com-
mittee, but its members learned to differ kindly, and to
set aside personal preferences for the good of the society.
The same spirit extended to the larger body. No im-
portant step was taken in the committee or in the society
till it could be taken with practical unanimity.

In the autumn of 1879 the New Church in Philadelphia
came into unexpected prominence. It had already been
found that Mr. Giles's lectures attracted larger audiences
than the church building could well accommodate, and in
opening the autumn course it was decided to secure the
hall of the Young Men's Christian Association, where
Mr. Giles had once before lectured. Unexpectedly the
hall was refused on the ground that the New Church is
not "evangelical." The first lecture of the proposed
series, on "Spiritual Death," was accordingly advertised
to be given in the church, though the advertisement re-
ferred to the disappointment in not obtaining the hall.
Dr. E. L. Magoon, pastor of the Baptist Church at Broad
and Brown Streets, generously, and not without bringing
censure upon himself, offered Mr. Giles his church. He


put his offer in writing, and with characteristic bluntness
addressed Mr. Giles as "My dear Fellow-Sinner," say-
ing, " They may deny that you are evangelical, but they
will admit that we are all sinners. ' ' The newspapers of
the city published the incident widely, which gave op-
portunity to make it generally known that ' ' the doc-
trines held by Swedenborgians are evangelical in the
sense of affirming and teaching the supreme and sole
Divinity of Jesus Christ, and the absolute dependence of
every one upon Him for salvation ; the absolute neces-
sity of faith in Him as the Redeemer, Regenerator, and
Saviour of men ; and the verbal and plenary inspiration
of the Sacred Scriptures." Dr. Magoon's church was
crowded to overflowing on two Sunday evenings to hear
Mr. Giles. It was impossible to invite the crowds now
attracted to the lectures to the little church at Broad and
Brandywine Streets, and the course was continued in the
Horticultural Hall, then the largest hall in the city. It
needed a strong voice to fill the hall, and a clear pres-
entation of the truth to hold the attention of the in-
creasing audiences which gathered to hear. But Mr.
Giles was fully equal to the occasion.

The same winter Mr. Giles delivered in the church a
series of discourses on "The Garden of Eden," and the
house was overcrowded throughout the course. These
were followed by another series of discourses upon the
Lord, beginning with one entitled "Who was Jesus
Christ?" delivered April 4, 1880. We note the subject
and the date, because in connection with this lecture a
new step was taken, which, though small in itself, led to
great results.




In a Church Committee meeting Mr. Giles asked what
new work could be thought of to extend the influence of
the society, and keep the interest of its members awake
and active. He mentioned the plan of publishing a few
discourses from week to week as they were delivered,
which seemed to work well and to be useful in New York.
Mr. T. S. Arthur said, ' ' Let us try it for two or three
weeks at least." It was done, and the first discourse
printed was the one named, of which many thousands
have since been distributed. From that time it became
a custom with the society to publish Mr. Giles's discourse
of one Sunday for distribution the next Sunday. Hun-
dreds were taken away each week, and some persons
who did not attend the church received them regularly.
The members of the society made it their duty to dis-
tribute the sermons wherever they might be useful.

The large attendance to hear Mr. Giles was meantime
suggesting the necessity of a new and larger church.
Reminding the people some years later of the beginning
of this movement, Mr. Giles said, "None of you will
forget how impossible of accomplishment it seemed at
first to almost every member of the society. It was too
absurd to consider for a moment. There was not suffi-
cient money in the society to do it. Those who put the
mildest construction on the idea regarded it as most
visionary and impractical, and if it had been pressed at
first with any degree of pertinacity it would have been
promptly rejected. But the seed was quietly planted
and began to grow. ' '

By the ist of June, 1881, a lot had been bought, and
March 11, 1883, the church at the corner of Twenty-


second and Chestnut Streets, now occupied by the Phila-
delphia Society, was dedicated. It is a beautiful church
of ample size, with a connecting building in which are a
cheerful Sunday-school room and parlors and library and
book-room. The whole, when finished, cost about one
hundred and fifty thousand dollars, and there was prac-
tically no debt upon it at its dedication. Still better than
this was the harmony which prevailed throughout the
work. Mr. Giles writes, —

" There were differences of opinion about some minor matters of
detail, but they were amicably adjusted to the general satisfaction
of all. It is said that no workman in the erection of the buildings
was seriously injured. The same can be said of the feelings of the
members of the society. It is not often that so large and important
an enterprise is carried to completion with so little friction and with
such apparent ease and general satisfaction,"

The success in raising the large sum of money was due
largely to Mr. Giles's teaching that we are stewards of
the Lord's goods, which it is a duty and privilege to use
for the best interests of His kingdom. The money for
the church was more cheerfully and probably more easily
raised than the money for an organ had been a few years
before. The harmonious spirit of the work was also due
largely to Mr. Giles's wisdom. When small differences
arose he laid personal preferences aside, and helped the
society to decide every question on the ground of use.
Should there be one reading-desk or two ? Mr. Giles
was here to preach the truth ; he would do it from a
music-stand if need be. Let not any trifling external
thing cause the great spiritual use to be forgotten.

In a little more than five years Mr. Giles had brought


the Philadelphia Society from a state of discord and in-
activity to one of harmony and usefulness. It had left a
small and unattractive church for one commodious and
beautiful. It had become known and influential in the
city. And not in the city alone. A characteristic of
Mr. Giles, to which some members of the society attrib-
ute its prosperity under his care more than to any other,
was his desire to reach out to help others besides our-
selves. He recognized it as a law of life and growth that
what we have must not be enjoyed selfishly : it must be
passed on for the blessing of others.

Mr. Giles saw great value in the library and reading-
room connected with the church, and did all that he
could to develop their usefulness. Here members of the
congregation and strangers could find New-Church books
and tracts ; and here they could meet for study and vari-
ous church interests through the week. The uses of the
book-room were organized under the name of the New-
Church Book Association of Philadelphia, of which Mr.
Giles was made president. The work of the American
New-Church Tract and Publication Society was also
transferred to these rooms, and Mr. Giles rejoiced to see
its increasing business giving regular employment to
many of the young people of the church. These active
uses he saw would do much to strengthen the love for
the church and to extend the influence of Sunday through
the week.

The Tract Society had been organized in 1865, some
years before Mr. Giles came to Philadelphia. And
through the generous co-operation of the publishing
house of J. B. Lippincott & Co., at a time when the


works of Swedenborg were almost unknown to the pub-
lic, and were regarded with prejudice by religious
teachers, the society had done a great use in publishing
the books in handsome form through the usual channels
of trade. Mr. Giles was connected with the society from
the time of his coming to Philadelphia, and upon the
death of Mr. T. S. Arthur, in 1885, he became its presi-
dent. During the years of his association with the so-
ciety, and largely through his influence, its work greatly
increased, especially in the publication and distribution
of tracts. The printing of Mr. Giles's sermons from
week to week led to a regular weekly distribution
through the mails, which in time became so large that
in 1888, for convenience and economy, the tracts were
given the form of a periodical, with the title of The
Helper. The work continued to grow, till a recent re-
port of the Tract Society showed an average distribution
of Helpers and other tracts for the year of over one thou-
sand a day. The publication of books was meantime not
neglected. In all this work Mr. Giles was the leader.
He always advocated printing as the most economical
and effective means of reaching the public, and did much
to awaken the church to the importance of this mode of
teaching. In recording their appreciation of Mr. Giles's
service in its work, the managers of the Tract Society
said, ' ' He has furnished the most useful sermons and
lectures and books for publication ; he has, by his broad
sympathies and by his knowledge of the church through-
out our country and abroad, done more than any other
to lift the society's work above mere local uses to such
as are of service to the church at large. His annual re-


ports, so full of love for the cause and of confidence in
its success, have called forth a general co-operation in
the work of the society, till it now has friends and sup-
porters wherever the New Church is known."

The last years of Mr. Giles's ministry were passed with
the Philadelphia Society, who were his devoted friends
and his faithful helpers in every enterprise. As his
physical strength grew less with advancing years, he
felt the need of a helper in his work. In May, 1885, the
present writer was called, and for eight years and a half
was his assistant and a member of his family. Mr. Giles's
kindness in this relation was most generous and abso-
lutely unfailing. He gave wise counsel, yet allowed the
fullest freedom. He was patient with shortcomings, and
was always ready with sympathy and encouragement.

For some years Mr. and Mrs. Giles spent their sum-
mer vacations at Lake George, in New York State.
Comfortably housed in "The Sagamore," Mr. Giles en-
joyed the society of friends who had cottages near by,
or who came and went among the summer guests. The
hotel stands on an island in the lake. The green lawn
which slopes to the water is shaded by forest foliage,
through which the sunshine falls upon the grass and white
birch stems. Across the water rise wooded mountains,
and in the lake are islands crowned with forest trees
which dip their overhanging branches. The air is cool,
and the scene one of peaceful beauty. Mr. Giles rested
in the shade or enjoyed a drive over the hills with friends ;
or he would row out into the lake, and, fastening his
boat to an overhanging tree, spend an hour in reading.
He wrote long and careful letters to his friends, full of

Online LibraryChauncey GilesProgress in spiritual knowledge → online text (page 4 of 26)