James Clement Sharp.

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thought him at the time.

He said one day to a small boy as he
stood beside his mother at a church picnic,
"Well, I suppose I have got you to
bring up, but after bringing up your father
it looks like a hard job"; and then said
the mother, "He was so funny with his
witty remarks that every one was con-
vulsed with laughter." The two traits
that struck the mother who related the
story were his keen wit, and his fatherly
tenderness when one was in trouble. " I
shall never forget," she said, "how he
came here a sick man himself, when my
mother lay dying, and how he talked to
me. One sentence stands out clearly.
'The same Jesus I have told you about
will help you to bear this.' ' Thus, those


who knew the man saw how transparent
and frank were his motives and how
lovable his nature.

One summer while spending his vaca-
tion in Maine, he stopped for a few days
at a boarding-house. A young couple re-
cently married was present at the table.
Mr. Brooks kept the company in good
spirits, and when the young couple was
about to leave, the young man said to
Miss Brooks, "You don't know what it
has been to me to meet your father. It
has been a perfect revelation to see what
a minister can be. Ever since I was a boy
I have been frightened to death of them.
I have felt that they could have nothing
in common with me."

It was this trait that made his compan-
ionship a delight, and in his home it en-
riched the spirit of his hospitality. To
sit at his table after a Sunday morning


service was to find him not self-conscious,
and ill at ease, thinking over his work of
the morning, he would dismiss all that
and his witticisms would come forth, mak-
ing the hour a most joyous one. One day
he invited a young man, who was a
stranger in the city, to dine with him.
With embarrassment he accepted, expect-
ing a rather somber and dreary visit.
When at table Mr. Brooks began a humor-
ous story, a relief came to his embarrass-
ment, and he had an exceedingly enjoyable
time. To this young man Mr. Brooks be-
came a help in finding a way for him to
enter college. His friendship began that
day at dinner.

With his love of fun and buoyancy of
spirits one could discern that he was a man
of much nicety of feeling, of high in-
stincts. Nothing aroused him to protest
more quickly than some low or base


standard. In everything he was the
high-minded Christian man.

Another of his characteristics was his
love for children. He saw to it himself
that every detail for the Christmas enter-
tainments was carried out to the letter.
Each year he sent a little letter to some
two hundred children in the parish asking
them to attend the special Christmas
entertainment provided for the kinder-
garten department of the Sunday school.
The following is one of them :

MY DEAR EUNICE : Christmas is coming
next Thursday, and Santa Claus says he is coming
to the Parish House on Saturday the 27th, at two
o'clock, with lots of presents for all the little girls
and boys of our Church. So I want you and your
mama surely to come, and have a Christmas party
with him just as you did last year.

I shall look for a little letter telling me that you
will come, and I hope that you can, for we will all
have a real nice time, and I will be awfully dis-


appointed if you don't come. With a Merry
Christmas and a Happy New Year,
I am, Your loving friend,


The replies to these letters Mr. Brooks
treasured and put carefully away. Each
one he would read himself, thus showing
his delight in the joy of the child. So in
their earliest years the children of his par-
ish learned to know that he was a joyous
man, as well as a faithful minister. It
was one way of teaching them the idea he
preached upon and talked about as he
went from family to family in his pastoral
calls, that is, the church as a home, the
parish as a family. "In my great big
family of Christ Church," he wrote in a
letter one year to the children.



JOHN COTTON BROOKS was more than
a parish priest. As Archdeacon, and
Dean of the Convocation of Springfield,
as President of the Union Relief Associa-
tion, and President of the Ministers'
Association of the City of Springfield, as
one of the founders of the Springfield
Hospital, and in various charitable in-
stitutions of the city he proved himself
able and efficient. He gave himself with-
out stint to the city as well as to his

As Archdeacon he was untiring in
his efforts to promote the interests of
the Church in Western Massachusetts.


"Nothing kept him back, nothing was to
him impossible. As like nothing so
much as a great wheel-horse to some
diligence on an Alpine road. It was
up-hill strain and struggle, with tense
nerve, with masterful perseverance and
resolution coming at last to the top of the
difficult pass." In this manner spoke
one who was associated with him for
years, the Rev. William Wilberforce
Newton, D.D., then rector of St. Stephens
Church, Pittsfield. Mr. Brooks became
for a time a rural missionary, traveling
over the Berkshire country and exploring
the needs and possibilities of the Church.
At Williamstown he aided the church
committee in making a strong parish out
of a struggling mission. A church was
built and a rector called. He went to
Mt. Holyoke College to conduct services,
and to administer Holy Communion to


the Episcopalians, and as a result of his
visits a number of the students came to
Springfield and were confirmed at Christ
Church. As they were not able to attend
the evening confirmation lectures, they
went to the rectory study to receive in-
struction. To one girl he wrote, "This
is a Congregational school, but give of
your very best, and especially do not
absent yourself from Communion."
When he preached there during one of his
last visits on the subject, "Harmony and
peace with activity and work," it ex-
pressed what his own life had been.

In the Convocation meetings of the
Diocese Mr. Brooks is described as the
life of the meetings. "He was enthusi-
astic about the Convocation of the western
part of the state, and how many con-
ferences he and I have had," said Dr.
Lawrence of Stockbridge. "He brought


into the meetings," said another, "his
enthusiasm, and light-heartedness, and
would pass on the contagion until every-
body was in the best of spirits. He never
seemed to think that religious matters as
such called for the long face and tired
expression." His genius for details was
shown by the study he gave to the reli-
gious statistics and geography of the
western part of Massachusetts, for none
could talk more intelligently about the
conditions in the remote towns of the
Diocese than he. Some years later he
preached before the clergy at All Saints
Church, Worcester, and those who heard
him were impressed with his detailed
knowledge of the Diocese. It was more
than a mere collection of data from pre-
pared statistics, for it showed that he had
been over the country, studied its pos-
sibilities, observed the weakness and fail-


ure of other churches, and had studied
their causes. He made an eager plea for
the Church to carry the Gospel to these
people. With a reverence for the soil of
his native state he recognized the part
that missions played in determining the
character of the commonwealth. In re-
gard to diocesan missions he once said,
"When we go on to remember whose
presence has filled these fair regions,
whose holy lives were lived in them, and
whose graves yet hallow them in every
ancient graveyard in country and city,
we feel more intensely still the need of
hastening to cleanse and preserve our
beautiful state as a fit legacy to bequeath
to the future."

After the death of Bishop Brooks in
1893 the question of the division of the
Diocese of Massachusetts arose, for the
impression prevailed that the burden


of the administration was too great for
one man. A committee was appointed
by the Diocesan Convention to report
upon the question of this division. But
ancient and beloved associations were
strong. The way did not seem clear to
accomplish it, and the question rested
until 1900. Mr. Brooks, during these
years, as a Massachusetts man, was
frank to confess, as did his Bishop, that
he did not want the Church in Massachu-
setts to be divided. Yet he recognized
the necessity for division, and gave his
hearty support to the cause. He was
appointed a member of a committee
consisting of the Rector of Trinity Church,
Boston, Dr. E. Winchester Donald, the
Rev. William B. Frisby from the Church
of the Advent, Boston, and Dr. Arthur
Lawrence of Stockbridge, and the follow-
ing laymen, Messrs. Bent, Choate, Paine,


and Saunders, to consider the detailed
plan of the division of the Diocese. Mr.
Brooks' part in the division of the Diocese
was a conspicuous one. After the organi-
zation of the Diocese of Western Massa-
chusetts he was elected president of the
Standing Committee, an office which he
held until his death.

Mr. Brooks was often a presiding
officer, and as such he knew the work
down to the minutest details, the intri-
cate questions of debate that frequently
call for a presiding officer's ruling never
confusing him. " His mind was as clear
as a bell on the questions at issue. There
was a constructive and orderly aspect of
his mind that always revealed itself when
necessary," said the Rev. Henry B.
Washburn, Secretary of the Standing
Committee. When he was put on a
special committee to report, he returned


a report worthy of acceptance. His
familiarity with the details and condi-
tions of the Church in Western Massa-
chusetts made his opinion valuable.

For some years Mr. Brooks was Presi-
dent of the Union Relief Association of
Springfield, an organization which was
one of the first of the kind to be estab-
lished in Massachusetts for the purpose
of systematizing the charitable work of a
city and helping the ministers as well as
private individuals by furnishing facts
concerning persons who needed aid and
support. It applied itself to the preven-
tion of outdoor begging, and as a great
deal of the work of the Overseers of the
Poor was given into its hands, it eventually
meant a saving to the city. It was a new
departure for Springfield. Mr. Brooks
became interested in it from the begin-
ning, realizing that with so many churches


there was need for a central bureau of
information. He saw in this association
that united work was possible, and to its
success he gave his best efforts, until it
became a help to his parish. To his
assistant he wrote one summer, pointing
out the value of the Union Relief, "Be
sure and consult the secretary, for she is
invaluable in guarding you from im-
postors who endeavor to take ad-
vantage of a new man." The assistant
was new, but a few weeks out of the the-
ological school, and he certainly needed
advice, for strange and unknown faces
appeared at the rectory door continu-
ally. He wrote to the rector for ad-
vice, and received the following reply,
"I see that your tramps are like all the
rest, and you will find them less encourag-
ing to aid than our resident people."
The place for them was the Union Relief


Association. When the rector returned
from his vacation the tramps ceased their
visits. The new minister's methods had
been tested. Thus the work of looking
after strangers was greatly lightened. A
large parish situated in the center of a
city is bound to be a refuge for people
of different kinds; some should be as-
sisted by the Union Relief Association,
and others should be taken care of by the
church. The minister must use his
judgment and discretion; in either case
the minister notifies the Association, and
the Association notifies the minister. In-
dividuals and families are not able then
to get help from different churches at the
same time. Of every case that came to
the secretary of the Association a record
was kept. Thus the sifting process
went on, and vagrants and impostors
ceased to be a care and problem to the


ministers of the city. To the building up
of this work Mr. Brooks gave his time
and best efforts, and the Association
became of value to the community as
well as to the clergy.

With the ministers of the city Mr.
Brooks held a very cordial relationship.
He was President of the Ministers' Asso-
ciation of Springfield for many years, and
during the last few years of his life the
monthly meetings were held in the parish
house of Christ Church. All the clergy
of the city were eligible for membership.
The attendance at the meetings averaged
from fifteen to twenty. Mr. Brooks took
pride in the fact that they were willing
to accept his hospitality, and the meetings
were a delight to him. Theological dif-
ferences were barred out, and the sub-
jects for discussion were generally upon
municipal and civic questions. One year,


each member contributed a paper, but
Mr. Brooks was urged to talk on his
brother, the Bishop. "One might have
listened to it all without suspecting that
there was any relationship between them,"
declared one of the clergy. "He spoke of
him as you or I might have done. I have
never heard him say * Phillips/ and very
seldom 'my brother,' but almost always
'Phillips Brooks' or 'that man.' "

Mr. Brooks' readiness and fluency in
speech made him often of great service
in public meetings. His own people took
pride in the fact that when he spoke he
would honor them, as he did himself.
He had ability in grasping a situation in
any public meeting, and he would strike
the right note when others were at sea.

He favored high license as the wisest
way to deal with the liquor problem in
the city of Springfield. He was chal-


lenged to a debate on the subject, but his
opponent failed to appear. At that time
it took courage to take the stand he did,
as the ministers, and many of the people
of the city, were opposed to his views.
His standard was thus sometimes mis-
understood, but people soon learned to
respect him for the strength he showed in
standing up for his own convictions. He
was never weak or vacillating in regard to
questions of civic or social life. As the
Rev. Dr. Moxom said of him after his
death, "He was a sound man, and the
citizens of Springfield could always count
on his support of any enterprise which
would promote righteousness." In re-
gard to temperance, he said, "The word
has been, and is abused. It is a larger
question than it looks to be, not political
at all. It is the question of moderation
in all life." He approached the question


from the point where he said "we may
see the whole of it at once." He treated
the subject from this standpoint, "A
prohibitionist on the lower ground will
become fanatical, and sadly misjudge
his fellow-men of other names. The
man favoring high license will, if he
remains on that same lower ground, but
consult for an increase in the city's
treasury. One advocating low license
will yield to outside pressure and political
ambition. Hence it is faith in our own
true worth, ... it 's something alto-
gether inward, nothing outward," he
declared, "and our methods by law are
necessary only because we have not yet
done our full duty. This legislation of
ours is but the temporary measure to
hold the evil in check lest it overwhelm
us before we have provided the true way
for its removal. Beware lest the


dam we put up cannot hold back the
flood permanently." From these words
we see his high stand in regard to this
question. Any lower ground than that
of the Bible he would not take, for it is
God's ground, and every other is man's,
and temporary. He therefore said, "It
is not fair to look to our city government
to do our work for us."

For many years he was a member of a
small coterie of literary and professional
men who styled themselves "the Club."
In later years, the pressure of his parish
duties made it possible for him to attend
but seldom, yet his absence was com-
mented upon as eloquent. In the dis-
cussions of "the Club," it is said that he
appeared oftentimes as a zealous cham-
pion of the faith, which was his power and
strength. At one of the meetings the
observance of Sunday was being dis-


cussed from a variety of standpoints : its
social utility, its occasional exaggeration,
and so on. Mr. Brooks, coming at the
end, it is said, "gave a most heartfelt
tribute to the joy Sunday had been to
him. Such a source of happiness and
power, that to weigh and measure its
utility was almost impossible for him.
The effect was as though an academic
debate on marriage were closed by a
happy husband speaking out of his

As the years passed, and the parish
became larger, Mr. Brooks found his
time filled with parochial duties, yet his
interest did not lag in regard to diocesan
or city affairs. It has been said of him
that he was "abreast with the forces that
would set the crooked straight and estab-
lish righteousness." He did not fail to
recognize the importance of the great


moral issues of the day, and the leading
newspaper of his own city said of him,
"He was his own man, and although the
last to bring politics into the pulpit, he
felt bound to bring there great moral
issues affecting the nation. One of his
notable sermons was preached to give
Christian judgment against the republic's
drift into imperialism. It was indeed
never a matter of doubt where John
Brooks stood, if the occasion called for
utterance. And it gave his opinion
weight that it was never lightly given,
and that it was felt to be the conscience
of a Christian minister that spoke. Never
man more unmistakably wore the mark
of his calling, or less obtrusively. His
manner was simple, and sincere, and his
conversation happy and humorous, as
often as it was grave and noble. . . .
Withal, no man knew him well who did


not feel the depth and height of his serene
spiritual life.'*

A fitting tribute to his influence beyond
his own parish has been made by one who
knew him for many years, Mr. Edward
A. Hall, President of the Society of St.
Vincent de Paul, of the Roman Catholic
Church of Springfield. He said, "I think
that it has been given to few men to
command the opportunity and power, and
at the same time to feel the inspiring and
dominating purpose to do good in the
world that distinguished his career. He
had a genius for sympathy and com-
passion that was not limited to feeling or
verbal expressions, but manifested itself
in helpful actions. He labored to make
others happy, and his fine, warm Christian
enthusiasm, his high ideals, broad culture,
and ardent, charming personality were
in themselves a blessing and joy to all


who came within range of their influence.
He was a strong and valiant soldier of the
Lord, and did noble service in the cause
of humanity. He taught by precept and
example the spirit of the Fatherhood of
God, and the brotherhood of man, by
sincere faith and the helpfulness of ser-
vice, so that his whole life was an in-
spiration to all fortunate enough to come
within its glorious influence. His charity
was as broad as his faith in God, and he
gave the energy of his soul in an earnest
effort to improve the religious, moral, and
temporal conditions of all the people of
Springfield and western Massachusetts."



WITH the exception of his speeches at
the Church Congress, some anniversary
sermons, and various newspaper reports,
none of Mr. Brooks' work was published.
After the death of Bishop Brooks he pre-
pared for the "Century Magazine" some
of the Bishop's letters, and later a volume
of his sermons and addresses.

When after his Sunday work, Mr.
Brooks returned to his study, and re-
marked, "Well, I wonder if anybody was
helped to-day. If I can only make Christ
real," he made plain the aim of his preach-
ing. He once said, "If I could lead each
young life of our parish to Christ, the long-



ing of every day of my life would be satis-
fied." His passion to bring others to
Christ explains his devotion to the Church,
his consecration to his work, and his inten-
sity as a preacher. The range of his feel-
ings was remarkable. It has been said of
him, "He could go away down into the
depths of the valley with a sufferer, and was
able to interpret the sympathy he really felt
in a voice and manner that were a part
of his rich spiritual self." This faculty,
which he showed in his pastoral relations,
he revealed also in his preaching. He
was able to touch, and quicken, and make
real the spiritual force in others. He be-
came himself the embodiment of a spirit-
ual life, the expression of a spiritual
force. He was persuasive and uplifting,
and possessed an emotional nature, but
his thought was the product of his reason
as well as of his heart. The moral im-


pulse often remained after the matter of
the sermon had evaporated.

For several years Mr. Brooks preached
extempore, at least once, and sometimes
twice a Sunday, and these sermons were
considered by many more effective than
his written work. Likewise in his Lenten
talks, confirmation lectures, and addresses
from the chancel there was a freshness and
spontaneity which preaching from the
written sermon does not always possess.
It has been said of him as a preacher,
"He came very near to the hearts of his
people, and my life will always be the
richer for having been one of the number."
Another said, "In the pulpit he seemed
to me to be the true artist. I could un-
derstand and appreciate the real soul of
the man." It was his ability to impart to
others a sense of spiritual life and strength
that called forth such words.


He once related the following incident
of Phillips Brooks : A minister was ques-
tioning him about his preaching, when he
said, "You can never preach with any
hope of lasting impression or sure results,
unless you hold fast to Christ as the Incar-
nate Son of God." This was the thought
that pervaded and dominated the preach-
ing of John Brooks. His ideal was rooted
in the Incarnate Christ. He said, "the
revelation of God in Christ is the power
that will lead men to salvation, to a higher
conception of life." From his earliest
years, even to the end of his ministry, he
talked of perfection, "it is an instinc-
tive desire implanted in every life."
Humanity hungers for righteousness, and
Christ alone can satisfy. It was his be-
lief in the efficacy of this ideal which gave
conviction and persuasion to his preach-
ing, and brought the "sure results."


His preaching never left a question as
to where he stood on the fundamental
ideas of the Christian faith. To him,
God was a loving Father, and religion
meant the gaining of loving help and
strength. He told from his pulpit the
love of his heavenly Father with as much
faith and conviction as he did when he
knelt by the bedside of a dying loved one,
and said so tenderly, "Our Father who
art in Heaven, . . . ' In Christ he found
his Father's love, in Christ he saw the
perfect life, and in Christ too, he saw the
possibility of a nobler life for every man.
To follow this thought in his preaching
would be to show how he emphasized the
spiritual worth of the individual. Listen
to his words on social relations, "It is
with the mother and the child in the home,
with friend and friend in personal inter-
course, and man with man in the close re-


lationship of life that this world is to be
saved and evil conquered." In speaking
of the work of missions, he said, "It is
always the individual life and character
and consecration which wins the battles
for humanity and carries the race onward."
Again, "Oh, how the Jerusalems of our
life of to-day, the possible cities of the great
King, need to discover the larger Christ.
Our theology must find Him. Our Church
needs to rediscover Him."

Some of the subjects of his sermons
suggest the character of his preaching:
"Personal knowledge of Christ necessary

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Online LibraryJames Clement SharpJohn Cotton Brooks → online text (page 4 of 7)