A Great Teacher of Greek Exegesis



The hushed and intense silence of this funeral-scene is not without a meaning. We recognize by instinct the limits of the earthly, and standing upon its verge, we wait for some voice from beyond the darkness and the shadow. Human words are well, but now we listen for some word of God from the solemn quietudes and the eternal spaces into which our teacher and friend has vanished — some word that may tell us where and how the spirit fares that a few days since was with us, but now is not.

How fully this great need is met by Scripture! As we wait and listen, we too hear a voice from heaven, saying, "Write, blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, from henceforth; yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." No interval of blank unconsciousness,—no doubt as to their felicity, — no interruption of their work for Christ. Activity, service,— these have not ceased. But labor, with its painfnlness and sighing, its weakness and fear, — this has ceased, because, in the perfect union of the soul with its glorified Lord, all the imperfection and sin from which it springs have been done away forever. Into that rest of pure, rapturous and enlarged activity, the freed soul has entered.

And shall the long toil of the earthly life go for nothing, now that the soul is sundered from the body? Ah, no! The good men do is not'' interred with their bones." It rises clear-voiced before God's throne. It witnesses to the reality and power of Christ's life in those who wrought it. "By their deeds shall they be justified," not because these furnish the ground of their acceptance and reward, but because these deeds make manifest to the universe the fact that "God was in them of a truth."

Nor shall these good deeds be lost on earth. "Their works shall follow them," even here. Embalmed in the memory of their children and of the church, they shall continue their influence of blessing, all the more precious and powerful for good now that the heart that prompted them is still and pulseless in the dust. And when the memory of their work shall fade on earth, and the last survivors of those who knew them shall be gathered to their fathers, God will not permit its fruits to die. No! no! There is a memory that never lets go that which is committed to it; there is a hand that never ceases to tend and water the seeds of its own planting; there is a divine pride and justice that never suffers the earthly work of his departed servants to go unfruitful or unrewarded. God takes up that work after the workers are dead, and carries it on. Through a thousand means of spoken

* An Address at the Funeral of Professor Horatio B. Hackett, D. D., in the Second Baptist Church, Rochester, November5,1875.

word or living example, the influence they have exerted multiplies as it goes down through the ages. The works of the righteous follow them, ever increasing in weight and power as they go ouward, like the balls of moist snow which school-boys roll upon the ground in early winter, until, in the great day of account, those who did them are amazed at the surpassing grandeur of the result, and gazing at the vastness of the harvest which has sprung from the small seeds they sowed, they call to the Judge: "Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, or athirst,"—or did anything worthy of such abundant fruit!

It is only doing our part in fulfilling the declaration of Scripture, it is only performing a sacred duty to those who are left behind, when we speak to-day of the work and the character of a departed father and teacher in Israel. Far be it from us to glorify the name of man. The funeral-day is the day on which to recognize chiefly the sovereignty and grace of God. And he whose mortal remains lie before us, would have been the last to desire any other use of this occasion. We will not deal in eulogy. We give only a brief and simple memorial of one whose life and labors have become an inseparable part of the history of Biblical learning in America and in the world, and we do this, not for the praise of man, but for the glory of God's grace and for a testimony to those who come after.

With the second quarter of the present century, there commenced, both upon the Continent and in English-speaking lands, a reaction against the rationalism that had for so long a time poisoned and enfeebled the science of Scripture interpretation. Neander, Tholuck and Winer, in the several departments of history, exegesis and grammar, were showing the possibility of combining a scientific accuracy with a more evangelical faith, — nay, of delivering these special provinces of knowledge from the despoiling hands of a skeptical philosophy, by the very means of that believing spirit which the so-called philosophy despised. A new vitality and power was felt to pervade the Scriptures. New confidence was put in their accuracy of detail. The old apologies for Paul's slip-shod use of one Greek adjective or preposition, when he meant another, were shown to be wholly gratuitous. And upon the basis of a rigid and exhaustive grammatical and lexical analysis, the fair edifice of the nineteenth century exegesis and theology was built.

The new faith in Scripture and devotion to its study crossed the Atlantic, and found an impersonation in Moses Stuart of Andover. His incredible industry and contagious enthusiasm roused in this country a new love for Biblical studies. One of his pupils, however, who drank in, like a kindred spirit, his impassioned zeal for research and for teaching, went further than his master. Horatio B. Hackett betook himself to the German sources of knowledge, and above all to the New Testament original, felt himself compelled to adopt the Baptist faith as the result, and with an exacter scholarship than that of Stuart, made himself for a whole half-century, the Nestor aud leader of Greek exegesis in a denomination, which, during that same period, grew from half the number, till it counted a million and three-quarters of souls. This, as it seems to us, was the significance of Dr. Hackett's position and work. Chase, and Conant, and Kendrick, were laboring with a like aim in related departments, but it was Dr. Hackett, who, more than Any other man, formed the spirit and led the distinctive work of exact and believing study of New Testament Greek in a great body of Christians, which, partly by reason of this same progress in knowledge and love of the word of God, raised themselves during his life-time from numerical weakness to numerical power. He taught the teachers of hundreds of thousands of Christians throughout the land. And though many threads of human influence are woven together in the fabric of our denominational progress, we are safe in saying that our position in intelligence and influence to-day is in large part the result of the life and work of Horatio B. Hackett.

But the influence of his work extended beyond the bounds of our denomination, even as his sympathies and aims were broadly Christian, rather than sectarian. One of the most thorough scholars and one of the ablest men of the Congregational body said to me some years ago, that he regarded Dr. Hackett as the best Biblical scholar that wrote in the English language. A recent English work upon the Acts of the Apostles mentions Dr. Hackett's Commentary as the best work accessible to the English student. Dr. Westcott, the noted English writer upon the canon of the New Testament, said recently in a private letter, that he had discarded the English edition of the Bible Dictionary in order to replace it by Dr. Hackett's. In Germany, also, his works have been quoted and commended by scholars of the highest rank, and by many of these scholars Dr. Hackett was reckoned as a correspondent and friend. No man could hold a place like this, without influencing the Christian thought of the age, and by just so much as the progress of the church is dependent upon correct understanding of the Scriptures, by just so much must the work of our departed friend be regarded as having intimate connections with the general power of the universal church of Christ in this last generation of the history of the world.

This is much to say of the life and work of a scholar whom the outside world knows almost nothing of. But it is the Christian estimate. It takes account of God's ordination of conspiring influences, and his weaving the thread of his servant's life into the life of the church and of the time. Providentially and by his own deliberate purpose he was fitted for his work. What were the characteristics of the teacher and the man, that gave him his place and his influence? I say the teacher and the man,—but the two were one and inseparable. Of few men can it be said, with equal truth, that all there was of faculty and energy, even to the uttermost fancy and feeling, was thrown into the work appointed him. With him there was no side-life, no dallying with minor interests. That face so grave, benignant, just — that form so proportioned, compact, true — showed, even in the most casual conversation, no signs of trifling. "One thing I do," seemed written out in the very intent composure of the man. He was buried in his work of studying and interpreting the word of God. And to many and many a student, that example of a high intellect, that bent itself with ever new avidity and delight to exploration of the treasures of the Bible, has given a new and inextinguishable sense of the infinite reaches and the priceless value of God's revelation.

He might have had this singleness of aim without being the teacher that he was. But he added to this, certain tencherly qualifications which must not be unspoken of tw-day; and, first of all, the discipline and the habit of exhaustive investigation. Sometime a man must gain this, or he never makes a scholar. And one of the great blessings of God to a student, is the sight and contact of a teacher who presents in himself a model of absolute thoroughness; who anatomises his subject — brain, skeleton, viscera and heart; who, like Sir William Hamilton, aims before writing to master every valuable word that has been written upon his theme since the world began; who candidly recognizes every difficulty and weighs every objection; who leaves no stone unturned, if he may find, perchance, some new illustration that will help to clear or impress what he conceives alter long toil and inquiry to be the truth. Such a man was the instructor whom we knew. He had drunk in Greek in his very early boyhood; he had made it a living tongue to him by teaching its classics at Amherst and Providence, and by talking it with the boatmen of the Pirrous and the shop-keepers of Athens ; the rhythm and grace of it had entered into his brain and blood. Travel had made the scenes of Scripture vivid realities to him; he could interpret the ninetieth Psalm from his own experience in the solitudes of the desert, and the triumphal entry of Jesus, in Matthew, from his own surprise and exultation as he rounded the edge of Olivet, and caught the glorious view of Jerusalem, once the holy, now the profaned and desolate city. German, he learned in Germany itself; and the great works of the German critical scholarship, he daily used more constantly and naturally than English. But these were only the preparations for his work. Elaborate and comprehensive review of all the important literature bearing upon the subject under investigation, was followed by cautious, prolonged and original thought, and in this, the penetrating mind, the suspended judgment, the final, clear decision, showed him the master.

This was the spirit which he strove to arouse within his pupils — the spirit of minute, critical, exhaustive Scripture study. Non multa, sed multum. Not to go over all Scripture in a year, but to teach men what it was to study a few passages well; to convince them that every phrase had a meaning, definite and single — a meaning that could be accurately ascertained and clearly expressed according to fixed and settled laws of human speech; above all, that every word of God had a meaning which was worth all the study that the best-trained mind could put upon it,— this was his one great lesson to successive companies of students for forty years. If this had been the book-wormish and exaggerated devotion of a life-time to trifles like the markings of diatoms, it would have merited little praise. But it had its foundation and explanation in a reverent regard for divine revelation, that on the one hand would not brook a mystical importation of human fancies into the sacred text, and on the other hand would not permit the smallest Greek article or conjunction to be treated as an idle or ambiguous thing, in that word which "holy men of old wrote, as they were moved by the Holy Ghost."

Exegetical science has made steady progress since Dr. Hackett began to teach. The old mystical and homiletical method that prevailed in England fifty years ago, contemporaneously with the rationalistic methods of Germany, has given place to a more thoughtful and just inquiry into the actual meaning of Scripture. The grammatical and lexical method which succeeded, and the possibilities of which our departed friend so nobly illustrated, has itself been modified and broadened by Godet and Philippi, by Lightfoot and Perowne. We seem just about to enter upon a new era of Scripture comment, in which the word of God is to be interpreted not as a congeries of parts, but as an organic whole with a living unity. But historical and doctrinal interpretation, which Dr. Hackett conceived to belong not so much to his department as to that of theology, presupposes the grammatical and lexical, and would be impossible but for just such work as Dr. Hackett did. How faithful to that work he was, may be inferred from the fact that, after forty years of teaching, he never went to his class without a new investigation and revision of the lesson for the hour.

One other most distinguishing characteristic of his, was his faculty of terse, vivid and eloquent exposition. He knew something of the heights and depths of the English language, and he never failed to use it, even in his unpremeditated talk, with a curious accuracy and a delicate sense of light and shade, that invested even the commonest subjects with a charm, and left in many hearers' minds the feeling of an untraversable chasm between his culture and their own, while it stimulated the discerning to new care of their common speech. Yet this was at a world-wide remove from all pedantry or affectation. It was the limpid bubbling of a fountain of sweet waters, that all unconscious of itself must flow, and purely flow, if it flow at all. In his early days, he had drunk deep at those old "wells of English undenled," that are so nearly deserted now. His keen critical mind detected and rejected, with almost chemical alertness, both the vague and the rude in expression. He knew the value of time, and had learned the secret of style. He cultivated brevity and vigor of statement, in order to economize attention, and get the most that was possible into the written paragraph or into the passing hour. His questioning, in the class-room, was sharp and rapid, and perfectly unambiguous. And when he soared, as he often did, it was as if the prophetic fire of the sacred writer he expounded had flashed' into his own breast, and he himself were caught up in spirit. It was no rhapsody or long drawn digression that he indulged in, but a powerful picturing of the scene or the circumstances or the thought or the emotion, of evangelist or apostle, in the composition of the very words under consideration. No man has lived, in America at least, who has been able so vividly to impress the most minute and recondite indications of the Greek original upon the minds of New Testament students. Again and again have his classes found themselves gazing at him with open mouths — lost themselves and he lost also — in intense contemplation of the truth wrapped up in some Greek particle and now for the first time unfolded before them. The piece of fire-works unlighted, and the piece of fire-works burning, are no more different, than Dr. Hackett in his quiet moods, and Dr. Hackett kindled and glowing in his exposition of the Scripture.

During the war, it became his duty to give the parting address to the graduating class at Newton. They were going forth in a time of great needs and of great examples. In the silence of his study Dr. Hackett had followed our armies, and his whole soul was with the brave men struggling, wounded, dying, in the field. He urged the graduates to be men of like devotion to the cause of God. And, as he spoke, one of his raptures of eloquence came upon him, and the whole assembly were swept and bowed by his intense and flaming appeals. A man possessed of such godlike faculty of speech, and using it every day for two score of years to awaken enthusiasm in the study of the original Scriptures, is a very gift of God to those who hear him. He has stimulated many an apathetic soul into thought, and though he would have called himself no orator, many and many a man has caught the spirit of true pulpit oratory from him.

When I add to these two a last characteristic, I feel that it is the crown of all,— I mean his "modest stillness and humility." A natural shrinking from publicity, a constant consciousness of his imperfections, a childlike casting of himself at the feet of Christ, his Savior — these were so marked that they prevented most people from knowing him at all, while those who did know him knew him in these aspects best. His own low appreciation of his work led him to regard almost as pleasantry the praise that sometimes was lavished on him. At other times, his friends feared to intrude even their gratitude upon a mind that seemed so far from the thought of self. He was always ready to confess ignorance. Sometimes he timidly confessed it, when he knew far more upon the subject in question, than the person who offered to inform him. With a peculiarly nervous temperament, that made him exceedingly sensitive to interruption, and an absorption of mind in his proper work, that left but little time to think of matters of common life, he was sometimes perplexed and ruffled, but he was just as sensitive to kindness, and there were times when he showed the very tenderness of a woman. How utterly devoid of ostentation or forth-putting or self-seeking he was! With gifts that made him at times a very prince of talkers, it was only at intervals of years that he could be induced to speak in public. He prayed at our Chapel-service, and his pupils gained new views of sin, when they heard Dr. Hackett humbling himself and taking upon his lips the words of the publican: "God be merciful to me, the sinner." They gained new views of Christian service, when they heard him laying all his work as an unworthy offering at the feet of Him who died for us. Dear whitened head! how many lessons it has taught us of unselfishness and humility. Thank God, ho knows now, that his labor and his life were "not in vain in the Lord."

Only this last summer he visited his old haunts in Germany, and revived some of his cherished acquaintances of former days. He talked with Muller and Tholuck. He brought back the scissors and the paper-weight last used by Meyer, and presented to him by his daughter-in-law. The companionship of an old friend made the journey delightful. He returned to his work possessed apparently of a new vitality and spirit. On the very morning that he died, he prayed in his family, that, if it were God's will, the members of it might be long spared to each other. But God's ways are not our ways. Three days ago he met his class in the lecture-room, but a sudden pain seized him, and he suspended the exercise. He walked to his home, and there, in his own bed, in a short half-hour, he breathed his life away, so softly, that those who stood by hardly knew when he was gone. It was dying without the long agony of sickness. Unconscious as he was, it was virtually an instant transportation from the world of anxious desire, and, at the best, of unsatisfied hopes, to the joy of his Lord, and the untroubled rest and inconceivable reward of the faithful. It was sudden death, but it was sudden glory.

With the family toward whom he cherished so tender an affection, with the members of this Institution who so loved him, with the great company of ministers and scholars throughout the land who revered him as a teacher and a father, there is mourning to-day. From the East many friends of olden time have sent their letters of condolence, and from the distant state of Indiana, the Convention of Baptists there assembled unite in a telegraphic expression of sympathy. We have few such men to lose. But let us not murmur, nor mourn as those who are without hope. God's purpose and wisdom are in this affliction,— his will be done! God has blessed the earth with his life,— let us be thankful! God will care for his family, and for the Institution to which he gave his last labors,—let us trust those infinite resources of power and grace that for a little time gave him to us! Nothing in this world is too good to die; earthly friends and teachers and leaders fall; but the glorious gospel lives, and Christ lives, to put all things, even death itself, under his feet. Ah! the revelation is better still, for Christ himself has said to us, '' I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live ; and he that liveth and believeth in me shall never die." Let us not then talk of death,— it is life into which our beloved friend has entered. And since life to him meant work, I cannot think of him as enjoying or as praising only. That intent and studious mind is surely busy somewhere. He did good work for God here,— but he will do better work for God there, as he uses his now ransomed powers perfectly and only for the glory of his Redeemer. And so we lay these palm-branches upon his coffin, with the floral cross and crown. They are poor and mute, yet true testimonies, of our unending affection and remembrance. But they are more. They are symbols of the cross in which he trusted and of the joy to which the cross has led him,—the kingly diadem and the victor's palm!