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Learning in the Professor's Chair

XXXIII.

LEARNlNG lN THE PROFESSOR'S CHAlR. *

I have been asked to say a few words with regard to Dr. Hotchkiss as a teacher, and with regard to his former connection with the Rochester Theological Seminary. I little thought twenty-five years ago when, as a student of the Institution, I first came under his instruction, that the day would ever come that I, as a representative of the Seminary, should officiate at his funeral. Even now the old associations come over me, and it seems unfit that I, the scholar, should speak of him the teacher. But there is a debt of gratitude I owe him, and though I can but poorly repay it by any spoken words, yet such as I have I gladly give, by way of tribute to an old instructor, whom each successive year has only taught me the more to revere and to love.

I shall be obliged to say over again some things which the honored President of the University has said before me, because what Dr. Hotchkiss was as a teacher grew out of what he was as a scholar, as a preacher, and as a man. Technical learning alone can never make a successful instructor of the young. There must be with it, and behind it, a certain mass of manhood, or the learning will never win respect, much less communicate itself, as by contagion, to the pupils. There was much in the mental make-up of our friend, which qualified him for success in the professor's chair, and especially for success in his chosen department — the teaching of the Bible in the original languages. He was an ardent lover of the Bible, and a profound believer that its every line and syllable were written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. In those days, we who were students wondered whether he did not press too strongly and exclusively the divine aspect of the doctrine of inspiration, and whether he made sufficient allowance for the human moulds into which the molten gold of truth has been poured. But it was a most valuable aud never to be forgotten lesson which we learned from his intense and unflinching maintenance of the divinity of the Bible. To him each and every part of it was instinct with life. There was meaning enough in every word, to spend an hour upon. And every word had its practical value, because it was a part of the larger word of God.

I think that all his learning grew out of this reverence for the Scriptures. His studies were not secular studies. He did not give himself to Syriac and Arabic merely because he loved them, but because he could make them helps to the interpretation of the Bible. He was an illustration of the intellectual stimulus aud achievement which come directly and indirectly from the gos

* Remarks at the Funeral of the Rev. "V.fi.. Hotchkiss, D. D., in the First Baptist Church, Rochester, January 7,1882.

pel of Christ. He loved the old doctrines, and he held them in their old forms. The fall and total depravity of man, the substitutionary atonement of a divine Savior, the sovereign grace of God in regeneration, the eternal doom of those who reject Christ—these were to him indubitable truths, because the Bible taught them. And though his mind did not run predominantly to Systematic Theology, yet a clearly conceived, and at times a sharply stated, theology gave coherence to all his thinking, and strength to all his utterances as a teacher.

Because he recognized the Bible as the only infallible and sufficient source of truth with regard to God and heaven, sin and redemption, he set himself from the beginning of his ministry to draw water out of these wells of salvation. He knew that the well was deep, and so he availed himself of all grammatical, lexical and exegetical helps. He became a genuine man of learning. I doubt whether any man in the pastorate of any denomination in the land pursued a more continuous and thorough course of Biblical study than he. And in our own denomination, I can safely say that, though some may have surpassed 1dm in their knowledge of history, of philosophy, or of theology proper, we have had no man in the pastorate who was a more profound student of the Scriptures. I do not speak simply of his knowledge of the Greek, of the Hebrew with its cognate languages, of oriental archaeology and customs, geography and history. I mean that knowledge which is the result of painstaking and minute investigation of every verse and chapter and book of the sacred record — such investigation as is necessary to correct and effective exposition of the Bible in public.

In teaching his classes, therefore, he was always felt to be a full man. He would bring out meanings which we students had never imagined before, but the truth of which, when once suggested, was self-evidencing. Truly I can say, that the hours spent in his lecture-room were pleasant hours. He formed in us the habit of searching the Scriptures; showed us what mines of unsuspected wealth were in them; and withal taught us, after all our grammatical and textual studies, how to take forth the precious from the vile, and to turn every real acquisition to practical use. In this respect I must speak of his Sabbath sermons, as an unintended but most helpful means of influence over his students. He had a rare way of gathering up the results of a week's study of a miracle or of a parable, of a connected passage of prophecy or of a penitential Psalm of David, into a compact, well-organized and intensely interesting expository discourse. I doubt whether this country has seen a better expository preacher than he was at his best. I remember going out from the meeting-house after his sermon on the Transfiguration, almost carried beyond myself by the variety of new knowledge, the grandeur of description, and the wealth of 2)ractical application he had given us from that well-worn narrative. Many an earnest effort to study the Scriptures with thoroughness, and many an attempt, however imperfect, to follow in his line of expository preaching, were, in my own case and in the case of others, the result of his example.

He had doubtless his limitations. He was not — no man can be — equally conversant with all departments of knowledge. But Dr. Hotchkiss came as near knowing something about everything, and everything about something, as any man I have met. He was not preeminently a philosopher,—but he could talk with you about Kaut and Hamilton. He was not mainly a student of the Fathers,— but he could give you new information about Hegesippus and Origen. He was not given to political economy,—but he could argue the question of protection and free trade. He was not a devotee of Early English,— but he had read Piers Plowman, and he knew his Chaucer. He was not a recluse. He was a sagacious observer of current events. He was a companion almost unequalled in his power to instruct and entertain. Nervous of temperament, easily disturbed on account of this physical peculiarity, he was yet, with friends, one of the most genial of men. The Minister's Conference, of Buffalo, have given expression to their sense of bereavement, in the loss of one who was their wisest counsellor, their most erudite scholar, and their most venerated and beloved friend.

All these peculiarities made his instruction of his classes something unique. His quick, nervous manner, the readiness with which emotion would master the voice, the sharpness with which he would reprove captious questioning, the genuine devotion to the sacred text which shone through all his utterances — these first challenged attention, then attracted interest, finally won sympathy and confidence, till his classes came to be fellowstudents with him, or rather, like a family group—he the father, and they the children sitting at his feet to learn. For eleven years he did this work in the Seminary, and, when it ceased in 1865, scores of Baptist ministers were preaching, and have been preaching ever since, with something of the matter he had given them, and with something of the spirit they had caught from him.

If there was anything he loved next to the Bible, it was the Bible-lands. I never can forget the ardor with which he would expatiate upon the scenes of Palestine and of the Desert. Twice he went to the East, and five times he traversed the Holy Land from end to end. To hear him tell about the red cliffs of Sinai, or about Jacob's well, where Jesus taught the woman of Samaria, or about Jerusalem, "beautiful for situation, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King," was almost to see the sights yourself. To see those sights he traveled, in the fall of the year, with a single Arab guide, under circumstances that involved no little hardship. But it was the delight of his life. And now that he is gone, I think with pleasure, and I know that his children and his friends will think with pleasure, that he has entered the gates of that city that hath foundations, the heavenly Jerusalem, and has become an inhabitant forever of that Holy Land of which the earthly is but the faint type and symbol,—

"A land upon whose blissful shore

There falls no shadow, rests no stain;
There those who meet shall part no more,
And those long parted meet again."

There the deep meanings of the book of God are opened to his illumined sight, and Christ speaks to him no more in parables, but shows him plainly of the Father. We do not need to pray for the repose of his soul, for the perfect peace of Christ is now his. He has served his generation by the will of God, and now he rests from his labors, and his works do follow him.