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to withstand argument," "The power of
individual goodness," "The contrast be-
tween the Church and the world," "The
ideal of the Christian, and the assurance
of attaining it," "The danger lest the
Christian life become an unsympathetic
doing of duties for low ends," "The essen-


tials of true family life." During the
Lenten season he made addresses upon
such subjects as, "The glory of God in
the face of Jesus Christ," "Examples of
heroism in the Christian life," and "The
soul of man in its relationship to God as
expressed in the Psalms of David."

His talks to children, which he gave
each year during Lent, were along similar
lines of thought; for instance, "Jesus the
children's Savior" and "What men and
women have borne for the Christian faith."

Memories of his early years, when in
the family circle the Bible was read, were
ever with him. When we think of his
ancestors, of those men who loved and
revered God's word, and shaped their
lives and conduct according to its precepts,
it is natural to find in him a profound re-
gard and love for the Scriptures. Here
was God's great storehouse of spiritual


.facts, which he studied diligently, and
used for the purpose of character building.
He tried to have his people see their own
lives reflected in familiar biblical scenes.
The Bible was his proving ground for all
questions of social, moral, and intellectual
life. "Each word seems as real and as
necessary for us as though our ears were
the first to hear them," he said.

No man welcomed with more joy and
gladness than Mr. Brooks the advance
that had been made out of the old theology
of his fathers, but it troubled him when
he saw the tendency of men to mistake
carelessness and indifference to God for
freedom from fear. He saw men calling
themselves Christians, but ceasing to
learn more of the character of God.
Speaking of the influence of the Calvin-
istic theology upon the Puritans, he said:
"To Him and to His laws they bowed in


perfect loyalty in every relationship of
life. They were proud to be led captive
at His chariot-wheels, and felt no hum-
bling or shame, but peace and rest in
union with the Almighty. Herein sprang
surely the sweetest, noblest virtues of
right-doing, purity, constancy, fearless-
ness, patience, shall we forget these, and
let their misjudgment as to God's law
oftentimes, shut out the vision of those
sweet-faced women, and strong, grave,
earnest men of conviction which they have
left behind them for us to wonder at, and
envy in these days ? That is what loyalty,
and obedience to the will of God, and
right-doing, as they thought that they
knew His law, brought forth. It does not
seem altogether strange and absurd when
we regard them thus, that John Cotton
said that he loved to have a taste of John
Calvin before he went to bed at night.


It assured him of safety, we may believe,
in the arms of the great and mighty God,
to whose service he had given his life.
Would we not all like to have such a feel-
ing about God, whose we are, and whom
we serve?"

This picture is interesting, for it affords
us a glimpse of Mr. Brooks' spiritual na-
ture, his regard for conduct, and his rev-
erence for the past. The Puritan influence
upon him is shown in his unceasing regard
for God's will, "the Law," obedience,
and kindred themes, subjects upon
which he preached many sermons.

Such thoughts as these were charac-
teristic of him: "To love the law and
to rejoice in it is the true aim, otherwise
it is not a true vision of God," and "the
insistence of every life ought to consist in
this, that I do my duty, and not only do it,
but in my sentiments become like the law.


I am not only to do good, but to be good."
He endeavored to learn the character of
God, as he followed His will and His law.
The manner in which he connected the-
ology with life prompted a Congregational
clergyman to remark that Mr. Brooks
"was a little strenuous in his theology."
It was, however, his profound sense of duty
and responsibility to God and Christ that
often gave to his sermons this doctrinal
aspect. He aimed, not to entertain or
make his preaching popular, but to in-
struct in God's word, to arouse the con-
science, and to make real God and Christ
to men.

Mr. Brooks was called upon at one time
to read before the literary club of which he
was a member, an essay on the subject of
the Church and the Sacraments. He en-
deavored to present the "simplest com-
plete idea of the Church.'* He quoted one


verse which seemed to convey concisely
the whole story of how the Church came
into being, "Because I live, ye shall
live also." He said, "The Church was,
and is, and ever shall be a natural conse-
quence of Christ's Incarnation, it was
something grown out of his previous ex-
istence. It became a brotherhood of men
worshiping Christ as their revelation of
the Highest, that is God." Of the Sacra-
ments, he said, "Christ needed to establish
but two forms to sustain the Church's
healthful life. One should establish fit-
ness for entrance into the Church by a
confession of faith in Father, Son, and
Holy Ghost, and therefore acceptance of
relation with Him. The other should
supply a never-ceasing source of com-
munion with the brethren and the As-
cended Lord. These two sacraments link
the person partaking of them with the per-


sonal Christ, and with Him alone, bap-
tism with Him as an historical existence in
Whom he believes and the Lord's Supper
with Him as a spiritual existence with
Whom he daily lives."

More and more in later years the mys-
tery of the Holy Eucharist occupied the
central place in his preaching. In it he
found a strength and power ; Christ was
present, real and living, and he sought to
impart to others the truth of this sustaining
spiritual help, as those who listened to him
bear witness. He said, "God comes to us
in Christ in this Sacrament. He enters
into our imperfect life. He accepts the
dwelling place which we have to offer.
The dear Lord answers our prayer, and
comes, almighty to deliver. He occupies
our life by satisfying its standards and
wants, and makes of it a spiritual place
once more. Christ becomes present by


an invisible though most real communion
with Him. He communicates Himself
to His faithful people in the closest of
all unions."

His views on the services of the Church
were what might be expected from an
evangelical training. He loved the ser-
vice, simple and free from ritual. The
Prayer Book, with its emphasis upon wor-
ship, he treasured, and he followed its
rubrics faithfully; so great was his love
for it that he disliked to shorten the ser-
vices, even when the Prayer Book itself
permitted him to do so.

Naturalness, simplicity, and stability
were to Mr. Brooks the glory of the
Church. He felt that man's needs for
orderly government were fulfilled in her
threefold ministry. "It is that body
handed down by the Apostles, and which
has so remained to the present day," he


said ; and to him she was the guardian of
the Scriptures, while in her creeds were
preserved the records of a loving God,
with which she defends the truth as it is
in Christ Jesus.

In the following extract from a sermon
on the Church, Mr. Brooks tells of his
ideals of the ministry, and the relation of
minister and people. His text is from the
tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles,
the twenty-first verse, "Then Peter
went down to the men which were sent
unto him from Cornelius; and said, * Be-
hold, I am he whom ye seek : what is the
cause wherefore ye are come ? ' '

In the course of his sermon, he said :
"Now all this scene as it unfolds itself
before my mind, my people, images for
me the Christian Church in its simplicity,
and its fullness. Here we find the begin-
ning of the great Church of the world.


Here is a congregation, a meeting of
minister and people, a coming together
just as you and I have come together
this morning. In Simon Peter's position
in that meeting I feel that we should find
very grave lessons as to the Christian
ministry, lessons which we need to learn
over again in every new age. A minister
should come to his people straight from
the presence of God, with one simple
thing to offer, and that one of which his
whole being is full, namely, the story of
the life and death of Jesus Christ. His
one work should be to tell that over and
over to men, in whatever form he can
find expression for it. And also, the true
minister comes with the grand respect for
man, and as man which Simon brought
from the presence of God to Cornelius.
Unless I feel the intrinsic worth of every
human life to which I speak, based upon


its right and ability to hear and make its
own the simple story of the Son of God,
I am on a low plane indeed of the ministry.
My friends, you will understand me when
I say that I sometimes feel that you do
not allow me to be all that my holiest
ambition would have me be in this respect.
"Each year, and peculiarly at the con-
firmation season, I feel the dread creep
over me that I am losing my high estimate
of the worth of man as man lying in his
title to take the knowledge of Jesus
Christ into his life. Like Simon Peter, I
go to God, and hear the blessed truth
from the divine lips, that all men are
worthy of the privilege, and then I put
the question with more and more of
trembling as my ministry advances, * What
is the cause wherefore ye are come?'
longing for the answer from your lips
that you have come to receive from


your minister and to acknowledge as
your own henceforth that which alone it
is my honor and privilege to give you.
There have come from time to time
responses from some which have cheered
my faith in my high ideal of the ministry,
but too often the cause wherefore ye have
come has been a lower one than your
dignity entitled you to seek, and some-
thing which it was not the glory of my
Christian ministry to provide. Often as
I say to my parishioners, man or woman,
young or old, 'what is the cause wherefore
ye are come to the Church ? ' hoping
eagerly to hear, 'because I would learn
of and become a disciple of Jesus Christ,'
I have heard instead the life declare
itself unworthy of assuming its only real
dignity of confessing a knowledge of Him,
and say that music or family connection,
or sociability, or even convenience was


the cause. Can you not see, now at least,
what I mean when I say that you sadly
lower sometimes the ideal ministry of
your rector ? The Church in the thought
of your minister is intended for only one
thing, the giving of the Gospel to every
man. Would you have him exchange
that conception of his calling for a lower
one, and do you think that this change
would elevate or degrade his ministering
among you ? . . .

"I rejoice in all that you have so richly
given me, your loving friendship, your
respect, and loyal confidence, your sym-
pathy and support in the affairs of the
church. But are there not those here,
who, in their own lives or in those of their
families, might assign to me a nobler
position as their minister by seeking to
meet me, and have their children meet
me as Cornelius sought Simon Peter,


saying, 'Now, therefore, are we all here
present before God, to hear all things
that are commanded thee of God ' ?
Such uniting of parishioners and minister
can only come about by each starting
from the presence of the angel of God,
whispering to each the message of in-
completeness of life, however devout,
God-fearing, generous, and prayerful it
may be, without the simple story of
Christ's life and death heard and accepted
in it. ...

"My people, I believe and feel sure
that we have come to make our whole
church relation too confused and too low.
The church is one where minister and
people come together for no other reason
save the highest, and the simplest, because
Jesus Christ has lived, and died, and
risen again. . . . Such I would have my
church to be. "



IN the time of death and affliction the
arrival of Mr. Brooks was anxiously
awaited. It was his rule to drop every-
thing else, and go at once to a bereaved
family. He possessed a remarkable abil-
ity to say the right word and he was strong
in bringing comfort to others. It always
grieved him when people did not let him
know of their troubles at once, but there
are some in every parish who expect the
minister to know of their troubles by
some indirect means. Thus he was
sometimes unjustly blamed for his un-
conscious remissness, but John Brooks
expected that, and it did not deter him
from doing his best to bring help and


courage to others. He once said that he
was almost sorry when people got well,
or out of their troubles, because he was
then not so free to speak to them of higher
things and of God. "During our time of
sorrow and sadness, he was always com-
ing to help us," said one of his parishion-
ers. "I remember one thing that stands
out clearly as illustrative of his faith,
it was after our dear mother's death, and
he was telling me that I must not grieve.
'Why,' said he, 'so many of my family
have gone that I feel exactly as if they
had gone to a new country, and I am sim-
ply staying behind a little while to pack up
the last luggage, and follow after them.'
So often have I recalled that speech, and
the glad light in his eyes that told it would
be really a welcome moment when it
came time to start." So John Brooks
went to the sorrowing homes of his peo-


pie, and gave out of his own experience,
and the faith of his fathers, a strength and
courage in words that were convincing
and comforting.

The manner in which he endured sor-
rows in his own family life is shown by
some of his letters. Like his mother, when
greatly moved, he would often put his
feelings on paper. After the death of his
brother Phillips, he wrote the following :

January 31, 1893.

MY DEAR MRS. : I am so grateful to you

for your dear and loving words of comfort and
strength, which I found waiting for me as the mes-
sage of remembrance from you and your husband,
when I returned Friday night. They did bring me
great strength, for all this mysterious, and at first
remarkable experience of loss has gradually been
growing clearer to me, and is showing me the glory
of life as manifested in this life that is gone.

I find myself longing to reach men more closely,


and bring to them more than ever his one great
message, now that his lips are closed, the mes-
sage of their sonship to God, which he learned
from Christ as the truth which belongs to every
man. You can see therefore how welcome was
the voice of a friend just then to tell me of my own
peculiar privileges, and opportunities with the
lives of my own dear people, and precious as the
letters of my other friends have been, yet those
of my parishioners have been so far more than
all others as bringing, it seemed, God's voice
telling me that what I longed to be and do, now
I had the chance to be and do.

How good it is to feel that that life, whose work
we have now to take up, and do our share of, was
so grandly simple that it is no hard study for us to
find its secret It was just living loyal to the truth
about himself, and about all other men which God
in Christ revealed to him.

I cannot but think how that missionary meet-
ing of yours next week is going to be just what
we need at this time to emphasize that one


Again with warmest thanks to you both for all
that you are to me, and allow me to be to you.

How impersonal is his allusion to his
brother, he does not mention his name,
simply "that life" ! The secret of Phillips
Brooks' life he tells us is "just living the
truth about himself and about all other
men which God in Christ revealed to
him." And so he went on in his parish
being and doing for "my own dear
people." His mention of the missionary
meeting shows his deep desire to bring
all the work of the parish into harmony
with his own love for Christ, and for
"this life that is gone." The death of
his brother was a great loss to him. He
said at that time, "I have been doubly
bereaved, I have lost my brother and my
Bishop, and one who was like a father to
me. Seventeen years my senior, he was
my authority in all things, and my truest


friend." In the early years Phillips as
a schoolboy would return from school
and call for the baby, or Johnny, as he
called him even when he became a man.
Throughout his life Phillips had been
his counselor and guide. He had advised
him in his college days, had gone to Eu-
rope with him, and had come to Spring-
field to preach for him. All those years
he had taken great pride in "Johnny's"
ministry and successes.

Two years later, in the summer of
1895, his brother Arthur died. He was
rector of the Church of the Incarnation
in New York City, and is remembered
by his work for the education of women,
as it was largely through his efforts that
Barnard College was placed on a success-
ful footing. He was an able preacher and
a leader in diocesan affairs. After the

death of Phillips Brooks he undertook


the work of writing his life, but his health
failed, and going abroad he died on the
return voyage. As the steamer bearing
his body approached the dock, John
Brooks called out to the captain, "Is all
well," and he replied, "All is well." But
the tone of the captain's voice told him
that his brother Arthur was dead. Thus
three of the Brooks brothers had died in
the service of the Master. John was the
only one of the four ministers of that
noble group left to carry on the work and
preach the message they had lived to
bear to men.

A letter written shortly after his brother
Arthur's death reads as follows:

July 31, 1895.

DEAR MRS. : I thank you and your hus-
band most warmly for your kind and sympathizing
words in the great affliction which has come to me,


telling how much you were thinking of me during
those long days of suspense and sorrow.

It was comforting to know of human love spring-
ing so quickly to cheer and help, and then the
thought came, if such was human love, what must
God's love be in it all ? It has been very, very hard
to understand all that God has been revealing to
us in these sad days, but I do not expect to do so
now. I am sure that He wants all life for his ser-
vice, and so there must be some far greater work
somewhere for which He has wanted my brother
as He did the three others, but that He wants me
to stay here and finish the work that He has given
me to do.

After his brothers' deaths Mr. Brooks
each time settled down to his work with
a renewed earnestness and power, which
showed in his preaching, which became
more eager, and full of passion for Christ.
From his parishioners came a love and
sympathy that only tended to endear
them more and more to him. In all his


sorrow he retained his marvelous op-
timism and cheer. He seemed to be
spurred on to higher and better service.
One evening after the Bishop's death,
two of his parishioners went to his study
to express their sympathy. "Not once
did he strike the note of personal loss,"
one said. "How uplifted, how even
cheery he was, and the burden of his
talk was 'Now that he is gone there is
all the more for the rest of us to do. We
must all work as hard as we can to make
up for losing him.' ' Thus it was for
him a lesson of greater and nobler service.
During these years his wife was an
invalid, and to her he was most devoted.
He once said to one who spoke of missing
her in the life of the parish, "No one
knows what my wife has been to me.
She has been my inspiration since the
first day I met her, and always will be as


long as we live, whether she is ill or well.
She is that unique combination of gentle-
ness and strength which produces a
character of rare beauty and power. It
seems a pity that the world should lose
her influence for so many years."

After the death of his brother Arthur,
his health was not good; he had worked
along for years with an energy and force
that were remarkable for a man of his
frail physique. During the winter of
1895-96, while spending a number of
months abroad with his family, he wrote
the following letter from Naples to one
of his parishioners, which shows his
humor, his tenderness to his wife, and his
love for his parish:

February 27, 1896.

MY DEAR R : So we have called you and

thought of you ever since we turned our sea-


tossed brains into the mouth of the mysterious
bag on the "Furst Bismarck" directed to the

Brooks from the R 's.

So I must address the family as a whole, and
thank you all most heartily in the name of all the
Brooks, for many delightful hours of much needed
self-forgetfulness. Indeed you were good more
than you realized in "directing his attention " as
they told Mulvaney to do with my lord the ele-
phant, and we have the precious bag stored away
with our steamer things to serve us again on our
return voyage. . . . Our stay in lovely Sorrento was
charming among the donkeys and oranges, and
then came heavenly Capri for two blissful days,
fascinating veins of mingled mountains and sea
everywhere. We do not know another place as
beautiful, unless it be little Ravello perched up
above old Amalfi with its ruined palaces, and con-
vents, and churches, a town in its prime in the tenth
century, and dead now for a hundred years.
We stopped there three weeks, but at last the cold
drove us to Naples at Christmas, where we happily
found the Brewers. After that time we went to
Sicily to spend the month of January at Palermo.


In spite of bad, rainy weather we delighted in the
wonderful architecture and rare old mosaics in
such profusion there, but after a time, Mrs. Brooks,
who had come away from home greatly exhausted
and careworn, came down with her old enemy
the rheumatism. ... It has been very hard to feel
her deprived of so much enjoyment for a time,
and in such suffering and weakness, but we are re-
joicing to feel that the worst is now over, and that
the doctor assures us of her going on to Rome next
week some time. . . . We have about four months
more to enjoy, and then shall sail from Genoa for
the dear old home, full to overflowing with what
we have seen and done, but oh, so happy in what
is our daily thought, the taking up next September
of the blessed old life in the midst of all the dear,
loving hearts. It is with me night and day, and
sometimes it seems as if I could not wait to feel
myself hi the old study and church once more,
but yet what a lovely experience lies before us
here in these coming weeks. Rome, Florence,
Venice, Milan, and all the lesser places. How we
will talk together next winter ! How I wish that


you could see wonderful Pompeii, and then the
treasures of fresco and bronze and marble from
it stored in the Museum. I am so glad that Mrs.
Brooks was able to go and see it with us. The
girls went first with me, and then another day she
went, so that by having a chair for her we could
show her all that we had enjoyed. . . . The spirit of
old Roman life and mythology is everywhere, and
you seem to live the very life. How splendidly all
is going in parish life, and what a noble fellow Mr.

P is. How I long to be at his ordination,

but I must n't do so, it is all right. How is the
St. Andrew's, and G. F. S., and the Trinity Club,
Sunday school, and all the rest ? . . . I am thinking
of you all these Lenten days in the chapel, and
shall be with you at Easter. Think of us some-
where between Rome and Florence. . . .

The "mysterious bag" alluded to at
the beginning of the letter was sent to
them as they were about to leave America,
filled with puzzles, games, riddles, verses,
and such things, to help them pass the


time on shipboard. Mr. Brooks returned
from his trip abroad refreshed and
strengthened for his work. During those

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Online LibraryJames Clement SharpJohn Cotton Brooks → online text (page 5 of 7)