College Letter No. VIII
December 12th, 1890
For Private use of Members of the Academy of the New Church. Please read carefully, and when read return immediately to the undersigned.
No. VIII, __ Philadelphia, December 12th, 1890=121.
DEAR FRIEND:—Two years have elapsed since the last College Letter was issued, in which time the Academy has passed through a state of grievous temptations. Our most heartfelt thanks are due to our LORD and FATHER, that He has not suffered the Academy to succumb in the conflict, but has guarded and defended it, and so disposed the things of its life that at the present day it is stronger and performs more extended uses than ever before.
The delay in issuing a New College Letter was due to the hope that the history of events since the last one, might be completed. This hope has been disappointed, and the decision has therefore been formed, to take up the record of current happenings, and to leave the chronicle of the past two years to some future opportunity.
On the LORD's Day, November 30th, our brother, Associate William Gibbs, of London, England, passed into the spiritual world.
A memorial meeting was held on the third day after his decease, Tuesday evening, December 2d, at the Hall of the Academy, in Philadelphia, attended by thirty-two members, including one from Chicago.
Chancellor Benade conducted the opening services. larcy [mv [in the original publication the Hebrew charcters for "shm' ysr'l" are included] was sung as Introit. After the Prayer, the Chancellor said:
"We have come together on the occasion of the removal to the other world of our brother, William Gibbs. It has pleased the LORD to remove him after a period of sickness and suffering, and it will be best for us to hear the teaching of the LORD on the subjects of sickness and death, which He has made known to us in these latter days."
The Chancellor then read the portion of Arcana Clestia, n. 6221, beginning with: "The angels know nothing concerning death, or sickness."
On the conclusion of the reading, he continued: "Death and sickness are natural and of the natural world. When man reads of death and sickness, in the Word, the angels think of what they know: namely of life and not of death. The Ancients said, 'The day of death is the day of life,' because then man enters into spiritual life, which is the real life. It is clear that as there is a communication of thought in the angelic heaven,—if we come into angelic thought, that is, into the desire of being regenerated, we shall rise into the spiritual life of heaven, and that the common thought of the angels will be communicated to us. But this communication will depend on our affections. If our affections are directed to Heaven, the LORD will make common for us, or will communicate to us, what the angels think. Natural thought will cease with the weakening of the affections of the natural life. Then shall we see the beginning of life, and this will be a joy and delight to us. The separation of the spirit from the body is the rising into spiritual life. This ought to give us great joy. We must think of our friends who have gone before us as living, not as having died or as being dead. The natural is dead, the spiritual is living. As the LORD in His Divine Providence has permitted the separation of the spirit from the body, so should our thoughts be separated from the natural life of our friends and turn to their spiritual life. Thus they will die as to the natural, and rise again as to the spiritual. In this there will be a reconciliation of the heavenly and earthly life in faith and love, and we shall be lifted up out of this world into the spiritual world, into conditions in which the LORD is most fully present with us.
"These considerations come to us in the thought of the removal of our dear brother. By some of us he was as well loved as he was well known, and all knew of him and valued him as one who was true and loyal in the principles of the Academy, and who gave powerful support to them in the most critical period of the history of the body in England. He would not follow any other leading; he could not. We can think of him as one of our own who has entered the spiritual world, to be prepared to pass on to his eternal abode, and as being received by those who have gone before, with rejoicing. And we can believe that he will communicate to those who have gladly met and greeted him, the tidings of concern to the welfare of our body, and we may well rejoice in this thought of the communication of the good things here to those who dwell beyond the bounds of time, and be encouraged to go on with the work still before us. When the LORD takes away members of our body it is for many reasons. One is, because they are needed for the strengthening of the body in the other world, and in this the need is great because on the influx and reception of the Divine into the heavens depends our fruitful activity here. The removals of our friends to the other world are for their good and for our good, and for the sake of the uses in which we are engaged. Their entrance into the other world completes and rounds out the living instrumentalities provided for the promotion of the good of the human race. So, as the angels rejoice over the entrance of our brother into their world, we ought to rejoice with them, and to suffer them to communicate their thoughts about death to us, and also their delights arising from the presence of a new brother and comrade. From this their delight, there will flow comfort and strength to the dear family from which was taken away a beloved father and honored guide and counselor. Our sympathy with them will lead us to bend to the LORD in humble thankfulness for having opened to our friend the way to eternal usefulness and happiness.
"If we will regard this event in this way our affections and thoughts will be lifted up higher. We shall look upon the LORD as our Father from whom as children we shall receive the inheritance in His mansions, of abodes eternal in the heavens: His dwelling-place, in which He will gift us with every good.
"The commemoration of such events ought then to lift us up from the natural into the spiritual, from earth to heaven. Let us think from the Divine Truth, and not from the natural ideas of this world: Let us think of what is of good, that is, of what is Divine. Coming thus into communion with the angels, Heaven shall be brought down upon the earth."
Mr. John Pitcairn read extracts from a letter recently received by Mrs. Schreck from Miss Kate Gibbs, and dated November 19th. She wrote:
"Dear father is very ill—hemorrhage of the lungs—congested bronchitis. He is very bright and quite conscious.... We were hopeful till to-day. He became much worse in the night, and is worse to-day.... He cannot swallow solids now, but has just taken milk, and I just have a little hope, as he seems more restful. He is so satisfied that the General Church stands free of Convention now. It is just splendid.... Much love from us to ... the Circle.... I know you will all give dear father a 'send-off' if I have to telegraph."
"Miss Gibbs," said Mr. Pitcairn, "telegraphed on Sunday, and I replied yesterday (Monday), 'Deep sympathy. Memorial meeting this Tuesday evening. Chancellor much better; will preside.' I telegraphed the last sentence, as we knew that the family would be glad that Father Benade would preside, as they are warmly attached to him.
"I saw Mr. Gibbs several times. His whole heart was in the Church. I was present the first time that Academy principles were presented to him, when he expressed his gladness that such a body existed. The position which Dr. Tafel took toward the Academy was a cause of great sorrow to him. As Dr. Tafel receded more and more from the Academy, Mr. Gibbs receded more and more from the Doctor. When Dr. Tafel decided to leave the Academy, and wished to take all the English members out with him, Mr. Gibbs, in spite of Dr. Tafel's misrepresentations, would not leave the Academy. We, on this side of the ocean, could not fully appreciate the position of the members in England, as we did not fully know the extent of Dr. Tafel's misrepresentations.
"Mr. Gibbs was always active in the Church. While Dr. Tafel seemed sound, Mr. Gibbs gave him the greatest support. It was a noteworthy fact that before he passed out of the natural world he, together with his wife and Miss Kate, left the Camden Road Society, of which Dr. Tafel is the Pastor, and joined the Camberwell Society, of which Mr. Tilson is Pastor. All through his illness he seemed to think less and less of worldly matters, and more and more of the Church. The Church was his greatest concern. His illness was doubtless increased by the severe trials through which he passed, especially in resisting the strong will of Dr. Tafel and others. It was a great blow to him when Dr. Tafel took the position he did. We shall miss our dear friend, but it is a pleasure to have still with us his wife and daughter. Miss Kate is one of our most intelligent women; she takes a lively interest in all the uses of the Academy, and her affections are very strongly with this body."
The Vice-Chancellor: "I have not known our departed brother as long as some others. Indeed, I met him only last summer, but I liked him much, though I saw him only four or five times. I was impressed with his warm love for the Church and the Academy. Whenever the Academy was the subject of conversation, he was all ardor and enthusiasm. His history was closely identified with the history of the Academy in England, and it will be interesting for the future historian to note the position which he took when Dr. Tafel attempted to lead the members of the Academy out with him. When I saw him last summer, he rejoiced greatly that in spite of the obscurity then existing he had seen clearly enough to take the stand he did, and to remain with us. The consciousness of this has been the joy of his life. He was a thorough and loyal member of our body. All the other members there have a great love for him.
"An interesting point in the letter read this evening is that he knows about the severance of the General Church from the Convention, and it may have considerable bearing on further developments. This movement is from the other world, it is the ultimation of a state which must exist there, and when the knowledge of this ultimation is carried back there, the state is more complete and full. We can think of this with pleasure and delight. The delight of which the Chancellor has spoken, is heightened by the fact that the new movement was known to him.
"Mr. Gibbs was a man who excited the affections of those who were around him. His going away must have stirred the band in England."
Mr. Walter C. Childs said: "Like Bishop Pendleton, my acquaintance with Mr. Gibbs was of very limited duration, and this greatly to my regret. I met him during a short stay in London in 1886, and was much attracted by his marked courtesy and geniality, and because he so much resembled the mental picture I had previously formed of him from descriptions by friends. There was something about him that reminded me of our dear Father Forrest, though not in personal appearance. Nearly all of the few evenings of that stay in London were spent at his house. With delightful recollections of his warm hospitality and evident love for the Church, I can realize something of what his loss will be to our Academicians in England."
Mr. Henry Schill spoke of the very great delight which Mr. Gibbs experienced in being surrounded with children. When, according to his custom, he would sit in the open square near his house, the children, glad to see him, would at once flock around him. "When we read the WORD together, he desired to know why we pronounced proper names as we did, it being so different from the scientific pronunciation which he had been at some trouble to master. When I explained that it was the Hebrew pronunciation and why we used that, he saw it at once and acknowledged it."
Mr. Gibbs was described as a tall, fine, portly, imposing man, with a large gray beard, a benevolent expression, and a very hospitable manner. His father had been an artist, and he himself was an artist of some merit.
Dr. Starkey thought it a pity that we had no portrait of him, and suggested that the Academy ought to own the portraits of all its members.
Mr. Schreck spoke of his impressions of Mr. Gibbs in similar terms as those that had preceded him, and referring to the fact that he was made acquainted with the new movement of the General Church, said that on former important occasions members of the Academy were called away to the spiritual world, probably as subject spirits from this Society of the Church, in order that our reaction upon the influx from Heaven may be carried back so much the more fully.
Chancellor Benade concluded: "If you will pardon a personal allusion, I may state that Mr. Gibbs and myself both came from the same district of the wilderness of the Old Church, from the Moravian Church, and this no doubt accounts for his being struck with pronunciation of the proper names, as his teachers had probably been Germans, whose pronunciation is a little nearer to the Hebrew.
"I owe a great debt of thankfulness to the family for the extreme kindness which they manifested in my late illness, a kindness which was to me a source of joy, as of comfort and support. Mr. Gibbs, although himself quite ill at the time, was full of interest and good-will.
"Our hope is again to meet him, as well as the other dear ones who have gone before. The LORD in His Mercy will prepare us to become worthy companions of those who are there, if we submit to His Providence. He will prepare us to be together where there will be a complete communication of all the good of one to the others, of all to each. This life is before us if we are willing to accept it at the LORD's hands."
The hymn, "Father, I come to Thee!" was sung and the services closed.
After the retirement of the officiating priest, bread and wine were produced and toasts proper to the occasion were proposed and drunk.
Eugene J. E. Schreck