James Houston Eccleston.

The James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; online

. (page 1 of 10)
Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 1 of 10)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


3 3433 06826173 8


mp'-iladhy Samuel M Shoemakerjr.

v^^>>«^'^•^v^>r. '^v^.^JU-'




OOMETIMES a biography comes to us almost
as a Gospel of Hope — ours to rebuke us, and
ours to help us: ours to condemn us, and ours
to sustain us, the mighty influence of an ear-
nest, true and believing life.

J. H. E.


TIC DFN f.-^nv/nATlON

sli&7nu^ Qic^iZj^













i.ui^N fouwdatlons









HIS was a life too busy and too humble to
take thought for leaving its record any-
where but in the lives of others. The sermons
of Dr. Eccleston are the only written source of
knowledge about him: and the condition of the
manuscripts is such as to make their publication
impossible. But there are passages of striking
helpfulness in them, which seem to me to reveal
his personality, and to instance his peculiar
charm of didion: and from these I have taken
the quotations which follow.

With the advice and encouragement of the
Bishop of Maryland, and the Reverend Hugh
Birckhead, D.D., I have thus endeavored to meet,
in some measure, the desire of Dr. Eccleston s
friends for some memoir of him.

I must acknowledge my thanks to his sister,
Miriam Eccleston Harper, for corrections in the
biography: and to her son, S. Eccleston Harper,
for help in compiling the book.

S. M.S., Jr.



in Chestertown, Kent County, Maryland,
May 10, 1837. He was the fourth
child, and second son, of Judge John Bowers
Eccleston and Augusta Chambers Houston,
daughter of Judge James Houston. His family
seems to have been English in every branch ;
and the names Houston, Bowers, Forman and
Chambers are among those of his immediate
forebears. Throughout his writings are re-
peated references of pride and respect to the
"English-speaking people." Such of his family
as were professional men were, for the most
part, lawyers and clergymen; and it would
seem that Dr. Eccleston inherited his interest
in the law, and the discerning mind which
helped make him, in later years, an authority
on Church canon.

One day as I stood looking at a picture of
his father, Dr. Eccleston said to me, "Mother
used to say that Father's swear-words were
'Dear! Dear!!' and that when he got specially


excited he wiggled his watch-chain." Judge
Eccleston was a quiet man, resolute, kindly and
composed. It is characteristic of him that his
old-time ideas of hospitality and Christian
courtesy would never countenance on the part
of his children criticism of any person who had
sat at his table. His half-brother was Samuel
Eccleston, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Bal-

From Mrs. Eccleston came the more genial
side of Dr. Eccleston's nature, his humor, his
interest in life, and much of his knowledge of
it, and it is interesting to know that the mother
of this preacher and teacher had an unusual
gift of teaching. His elder brother, Samuel, died
at the age of fourteen; and Judge Eccleston
writes that only a few days before his death he
had declared his intention of entering the min-
istry. We cannot tell how much the desire to
carry out the hopes of this brother incHned Dr.
Eccleston in his later decison when he took up
that work himself. There was also the influence
of his half-brother, the Rev. Dr. John Clarkson
Eccleston, between whom and himself there
was always, through their long lives, the most
profound respect and love.


He attended Washington College, in Chester-
town, for a while; but the records there have
since been burned, and the dates of his course
are not known. He then went to Princeton,
where he was graduated a Bachelor of Arts in
the class of 1856, together with Dr. Samuel
Chew and his cousin, Judge Wickes, of Balti-
more. He studied law after his graduation from
Princeton. The state of his health forced Dr.
Eccleston to abandon his studies temporarily,
and he served for some time as a route agent
between Baltimore and Wheeling, West Virginia,
for the Adams Express Company, of which his
brother-in-law, Samuel M. Shoemaker, was one
of the founders. He always declared that the
knowledge of human nature he gained in that
work was of the greatest value to him in later
life, and used to say that if he were Dean of a
Seminary he would make every candidate take
a year on the street-car, as a conductor, for
the same purpose.

Under date of 1889, Dr. Eccleston writes,
"Thirty years ago, Mr. Richardson, then Super-
intendent of this (Emmanuel) Sunday School,
came after me and interested me in this
work. Under God I trust I passed from it to


the sacred ministry, and that by very direct
routes/* During the Civil War he went to
Hampton, Virginia, under the auspices of the
"Christian Mission,'' to nurse the wounded.
He succumbed, himself, to typhoid fever, and
was brought to Baltimore, where he suffered a
very severe illness.

His long service of forty-seven years to the
Church began when, after preparation at the
Philadelphia Divinity School, he was made
deacon in St. Paul's Church, Baltimore, on
Trinity Sunday and St. Barnabas Day, June ii,
1865. His was the largest class ever ordained
by the late Bishop Whittingham, of Maryland.
On the first of June, 1866, in Philadelphia, he
was ordained a priest at the hands of Bishop
Vail, of Kansas.

His first rectorship was at St. Matthew's
Church, Philadelphia, from January 21, 1866,
till 1870. He was made rector of the Church
of the Saviour, in the same city, March 19, 1871,
and was there until December, 1876. During
this time Griswold College gave him the degree
of Doctor of Sacred Theology. Dr. Eccleston
always kept up his connection with these Phila-
delphia churches, and some of his life-long friend-


ships were formed during this period. At the
time of his death a most appreciative tribute to
his memory was pubhshed in the parish paper of
the Church of the Saviour, with some account
of his labors there, and the unfaiHng remark
upon his genius for sympathy and pastoral

He was then called to Trinity Church, Newark,
New Jersey; and, for an account of his ministry
there, I can do no better than to print a letter
from the late rector of that church, Dr. Louis
Shreve Osborn, dated May 22, 191 1:

"Dr. Eccleston came to Trinity, Newark, in
January, 1877, and remained until December,
1883, precisely seven years. During his rector-
ship the church was altered, repaired and reno-
vated, a recess chancel built, and the organ
removed from the western gallery to its present
position in the chancel. A new chapel was
erected at Harrison to replace the old one (a
mission of Trinity), a Sunday School started in
a building on Clark Street, which was the be-
ginning of what is now St. James Church.

"Of the fourteen rectors who have served Old
Trinity from 1746 to the present day, none was
more beloved than J. Houston Eccleston. I


formed his acquaintance thirty-five years ago,
while a student in the Philadelphia Divinity
School. He was then rector of the Church of
the Saviour, which he left in 1877 to come to
Newark. He was in Newark at the opening of
our new parish house on the 28th of February
last, and dined with me. I have never seen
him looking better. His death was a great
shock to us all, and a distinct personal loss to
myself, who always felt I had in him a true and
loyal friend. I went to Baltimore for his funeral
service to testify to our affection, as a parish,
for so noble and so good a man."

From Newark he came to Emmanuel Church,
Baltimore, where he served for twenty-seven
years, and did his largest work. To recount
these so recent labors were to mar them; for
we all have personal remembrances of him which
are far more precious than anything that can
be written in a book.

On the eleventh of January, 1887, he was
married to Helen McLeod Whitridge, the daugh-
ter of Joshua Barker Whitridge, of Charles-
ton. Mrs. Eccleston had lived for many years
with her uncle, Thomas Whitridge, at his place,
"Tivertonia," by the side of Druid Hill Park,


whither Dr. Eccleston's early morning horseback
rides frequently brought him for breakfast. The
marriage was performed by Dr. John C. Eccles-
ton in Emmanuel Church. Their short married
life of only six years was an ideally happy one.
Of the same deeply spiritual nature as her
husband, Mrs. Eccleston was well fitted to help
him in his work at Emmanuel, wherein lay
their common interests. She died in August,


Princeton University conferred the degree of
Doctor of Divinity upon him in June, 1904.

In 1909 Dr. Eccleston celebrated his twenty-
fifth anniversary as rector of Emmanuel; and
the endowment fund of Emmanuel Church was
started at that time.

On March 27, 191 1, occurred the accident
which caused his death. His condition did not
at first seem so serious, and within a few hours
of the accident he was joking about automo-
biles: one of his remarks was, "one of those
things pretty nearly put this old Parson out of
business." When some of his family arranged
to stay with him, he characteristically said, *'It
strikes me one old man is giving lots of folks a
heap of trouble."


But only a very few days before, he had gone
to Bishop Murray in great discouragement and
told him that he felt his strength was failing,
and he could not properly keep up his work.
His first words to the Bishop, who came to see
him after the accident were, "Maybe this is the
solution of it. He knows best about it, and we
must leave it in His hands." On Saturday morn-
ing, April first, his sufferings were at an end, and
he had entered into Hfe eternal. So passed this
man: and was it not the plan of Him whom he
had served so well.?

His last days were an inspiration to all who
were with him at the time. His bravery under
intense suffering, and constant consideration for
those about him, his readiness to go, were, in-
deed, characteristic of the whole of his Hfe, and
never did he cease to be the same "parson"
that he had been throughout.

"Parson" he was generally called by his inti-
mates, — and, who that knew him did not feel
that they were his very own.? — and often
he signed himself "O. L. D. Parson." His
pastoral influence extended far beyond the official
limits of his parish. Many a time one saw his
carriage emerge from a small side street, where,



far down, perhaps, he had carried some message
of cheer, and brought the Spirit of his Master.
It was while he was bent on just such an errand
that the fatal accident occurred to him.

His supreme ability was to come to people in
doubt and trouble and to help them with an
understanding love, born of his own experience,
and the Spirit of Him who was acquainted with
grief. In his many-sided contact with men he
never forgot the dignity of his office. But his
common interests with every-day people made
him a trusted adviser in practical matters, and
a genial companion among men of varied types.
He walked with Bishops, and counted among his
real friends guides and cooks in the Yellowstone,
who found in this cultured man of God a good
companion for a long journey in the woods.
His pleasures and recreations were carefully
chosen, always with a view to helping his work.
He was a good judge of horses, and always took
keen interest in them, and continued to ride
nearly every day until the last year of his life
when — he said — both he and his horse were
lame. Good pictures were a source of great
pleasure to him, and he had about him many
fine etchings and engravings. One day I went


into the rectory, and saw a new etching: "Shh!**
he said, "I saw it and got it, but I ain*t telHng
anybody." He constantly denied himself these
httle luxuries, but enjoyed them like a boy.

To the general Church Dr. Eccleston was most
known through his work on the Board of Mis-
sions, which he served continuously for nearly
thirty-four years. The Church's work in far-ofF
lands was always specially dear to his heart.
Since 1886 he had represented the Diocese of
Maryland in the General Convention, and for
years was Chairman of the Committee on Canons
in the House of Deputies. For nineteen years
he was a member of the Standing Committee
of the Diocese of Maryland, and was President
of that body at the time of his death. "The
Churchman" said of him, "In Dr. Eccleston's
death the Church has lost a judicious ecclesi-
astical statesman and a large-hearted priest who
will long be remembered for his devotion alike to
the extension and to the peace of the Church."
He was also well known in England, where he
had many friends.

Dr. Eccleston, I believe, never thought, in-
deed, never desired that his biography should
be written, or any of his sermons published.



The only record of his every-day hfe which we
have is a very brief one, where during his later
years, he had jotted down dates and notes of
his services. This was intended for his own use,
and here, — and sometimes written hurriedly
across the back of his sermons, — is the only
place where we may have any glimpse into his
own personal feeling. The ledger which he used
for this purpose is full of comments about his
work, some abounding in his unfailing humor,
many more filled with pathetic sadness, and fear
of failure. Who can tell how difficult it was for
him to bear up when he wrote "Dec. 31, 1903 —
Watch-Meeting. Close to a failure"; or what
trouble he had had with the sermon of which he
said, "Sermon on Amos. Poor Amos! sorry
for him and me." And it seems indeed a strange
coincidence that the last note in the record,
written the day before he was hurt, should have
been, "Humphries — a dandy on Thomas, *Let
us go die with Him."*

I dare not try to measure the life of a man
Hke this: and it is difficult to characterize. His
influence was so broad, so simple, so really
helpful, that we cannot know where its bounds
lay. Somehow people did not forget him, and



he did not forget them. A man of great humble-
ness of heart, he never sought honors, and even
underrated his own powers. A man of deep
conviction and intellectual power, he never forced
his ideas except by example. A man intolerant
of wrong and injustice, he was never critical of
men, and consistently gave them encouragement
rather than censure. Withal he was firm and
just; and those who have sought his counsel
know that a strict loyalty to right pervaded his
sympathy, and guided his advice.

And so he has gone. And yet his spirit is
among us still; and his influence will go on to
children's children; and many a hfe which knew
him not will be better and stronger because he






"Whom say ye that I am ?" The question has
come before, it will come again. It will come in
the threat to your home of want and need; it will
come in the appeal of plenty, it will come with
the shadow of sorrow, it comes in the light of joy,
it comes in the jargon of dispute, it comes in the
songs of praise, it comes in the chill of death, it
comes in the privilege of lengthened days. Whom
say ye that I am?

Men may feast and dance and sing in crowds,
and have fun. They may toil and delve and labor
in crowds, and make money. They may hurrah
and vote in crowds. But to make a Chris-
tian, — that is between the individual and his


Obey the call of the Leader to come out from
the easy drudgery of slavery into the freedom of
the struggle and hardship of those who, with God



Almighty and His Son, battle against evil, and
march towards the righteousness of God.


Through the strange medley of sounds in hu-
man life there is no note so persistent, so constant,
and so unhushed as the prayer of a human heart
to the God above us; the longing and the hope
for the better life ; the promise and confidence of
somehow a triumph in the Lord.

The first to pray to the crucified Saviour, and
the first ever to hear an individual promise of
bliss, was the man crucified with Him, dying
justly, but penitent.


Men tell us the best way to learn the power of
sin is to go through it, feel its slime, feel its
folds about us, have it drag us down into
misery and wretchedness, besmirch the heart
and life, and taint and cripple the will and con-
science, and so know the evil of sin. And they are
true. It will teach it, as murder taught Cain,
and his guilt taught Judas — one a vagabond
and the other a suicide; a brutal, bitter lesson



with one frightful characteristic, without any
hope of ever doing or being better. The Spirit
of God has another lesson. It does not tell us
how black we are by showing us a shade darker;
it does not show us what a moral dwarf we are
by putting another cripple there. It shows it
by the perfected strength of the Son of God.


No man ever took a new stand, none ever
deliberately arrayed himself on the side of
right, and formed new resolutions of living and
doing, but that in a little while it seemed to him
all the forces of evil were let loose to defeat him.
A man who moves with the crowd finds matters
immensely different when he tries to move
against it.

The Christ stood in the dim light of a breaking
morning: let us be thankful if He is sometimes
with us when our eyes are held.


Strength is only power well used and wisely
applied. What was it which miraculous light
showed to men of old, but wise men? It was a



little Child. Yes, and it was a holy family:
and that is after all your strength.


If I pretend a repentance only that I may es-
cape the fires of punishment, and go on sinning
under the promise of forgiveness, Christ will see
long before I do that I am a hypocrite.

"Who shall have forgiveness?'' He that re-
pents. "How am I to know I have repented?"
You need not know. What you and I wish is
that Christ shall know. We need God's knowl-
edge of our own hearts.

When the woman was flippant the Lord flung
full and clear before her, her heart and life of
sin. When the woman was penitent, Christ
told her that God as Father was seeking her as

Let us remember one thing — if we would
ever hide our sins, they must be lost in the
memory of God, there alone.


What is faith? I have never been told, but
whether it be between husband and wife, or



child and parent, or dealer and merchant, or
man and his Maker, or Christian and his Lord,
I know only one thing, faith is the gift of God.

Faith grows as his own great spirit grows,
faith in himself, faith in his brethren, faith in
his calling, faith which helps him through many
a night of watching and day of waiting, faith in
the great unseen growing out full and strong in
what he has gathered of knowledge, faith greater
than failure, stronger than racking disappoint-

Faith is God-given, and stretches a very bless-
ing from the cradle on earth to the throne of
God on high.

We forget the triumphs of humble faith in
humble lives.


It is an invaluable friend who can find and
know and tell us what good God has put in our

. . . that blessing of God to man, the help of a
true God-serving, man-loving "person."

Do you ever pray for God's help because you
wish to give God's message? When a great
human being without miracle or miraculous



claim can carry the voice of God on to a human
heart, who sent it?


Many a Hfe has been absolutely given to God
that never got the chance to get outside of the
home walls; some patient toiler laden down with
daily duty, even the sleep at night broken with
some call of duty to others.

There are in history many heroes conspicuous
enough: but the real heroes of the Church of
God are found in humble homes where men and
women and children meet and discharge daily
duties, adjust daily difficulties, do the humdrum
work, lead the humdrum lives of diligent, con-
scientious people.


I am very tired of hearing men and women
talk and say, "You know, I have my own
opinion and my own thought about God." In
the first place, with all respect, such people have
nothing of the kind. It is something that they
have heard or read, and chimes in with their
own desires, their own prejudice, unhappily,



too often with their own passions. But there
is something so much worse about it. They
often use those words with a sort of patronizing
hint of how much more they know than the
Lord Jesus Christ knew, about God. If you
and I could simply sit down and accept the
teaching of Jesus of Nazareth of what God is,
if we would not forget His love when we read
of His righteousness; if we would quit wishing
Him weak where for right rule it is essential that
He be strong; if we could only believe that what
is impossible to me may be possible to the
Almighty, and what may be difficult to men may
be easy to the All-wise: if in the presence of
all difficulties in the ordering of God's Provi-
dence we could only hear and believe the Wit-
ness who says, "God so loved the world that
He gave His only begotten Son that men should
not perish": if we could only accept the witness
of the Lord as to what God is, and as to the
meaning of His own awful life on earth, with
God's love for a background instead of our
own guesses — then perhaps we might begin to
realize the force of the whole sentence ^^ahve
unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord."




Are we then to approve all forms of worship,
or are we to reject all? It is a question to be
answered with the utmost caution. Christ him-
self worshipped through the forms of Herod's
Temple; but His ideal worshipper was the man
who, standing by himself, smote upon his breast,
and said, "God be merciful to me, a sinner,"
and His ideal prayer you teach your children in
the nursery.

When we get to heaven no doubt we can do
without what are now the externals of our holy
religion, but we are not in heaven yet.


"Ought I to do this, or ought I do that?"
The answer to which is not a list of rules, it is
simply an ideal, an impulse that is all, and an
infinite "all."

Not so much God's command, as God's


The blessing of God to men is that in most
men you can't hush conscience. It lives in all
lands, in all places, and through all ages, the
voice of God in a human soul.



What deep heart-searching it brings to guard
this quickened conscience from abuse — to make
us dread lest we allow the clangor of sounds of
this world to harm the sensitiveness of the ear;
nay, beyond even that, lest we taint and harm
that something within us to which we cannot
give a name, but by which the child knows the
first sound of a mother's voice, the life within
which recognizes and knows and welcomes the
Lord of all moral power, the rightful Ruler of
one's own heart, and the rightful Judge of men,
and the enthroned King of Heaven. What
matter to the soul that welcomes the Christ
the speculations of presumption or the infidelities
of persistent wrong? What difference to such a
conscience the wanderings of the pride of this
intellect, or the chill cold hopelessness of that?
The one who welcomes the Christ as Shepherd
and King, who owns Him the Teacher of the
Ages, rightful Ruler in the realm covered by the
word "love," needs and makes no apologies
for it; but faces alike the temptations of evil
and of trial; he *'goes in and goes out" in abso-
lute safety under the ever-present Guide, and
still more, he finds pasture as he goes.




Make the Creator of this world as great as

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Online LibraryJames Houston EcclestonThe James Houston Eccleston day-book, containing a short account of his life & readings ... chosen from his sermons; → online text (page 1 of 10)