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A Remarkable Life
A REMARKABLE LIFE in
character and accomplishment was that of Aaron Martin Crane, born in
Glover, Vermont, February 13, 1839, and who passed away at Norfolk,
Virginia, in the autumn of 1914. Of his early life spent on a farm in
his native town, one may gather something of the general tenor from a
letter written by a surviving comrade of his boyhood, and his life-long
friend. "I have always had for him," he says, "a most sincere
admiration, in boyhood, in middle life, and in old age. I well remember
so many of his wise sayings. ... In boyhood, he often said to me,
'Water will find its level and so shall we. We shall find a place equal
to our worth.' . . . He lived for the good he could do. I firmly think
his influence for good will continue with greater power in both
worlds." It will be seen that though the lad's favorite saying is
common, yet to use it with such a sense of corresponding truth in the
affairs of men is not common in the case of a stripling.
No doubt the boy enjoyed the sports that the young delight in, for it
has been said that even towards the close of his busy life, he ever
found a pleasant relief in some active, outdoor game; with boys he
became a boy.
The public schools, an academy, and the Newbury Seminary - attended but
for a term gave Mr. Crane an excellent basis on which to build such an
education as equalled, practically, what is afforded by a college
curriculum. Snatches of leisure, we may well believe, were diligently
devoted to the pursuit of his chosen studies. At all events, his
writings and conversation proved his comprehensive knowledge of
language, science, and literature.
His was a life of vicissitude. From 1862 to 1865, he served in the war
of that period, entering as a private in a Vermont cavalry company, and
becoming successively, lieutenant and captain. The same year in which
he left the army, he became editor of a Republican paper in
Westchester, Va., and continued it till 1869, when he was appointed
Internal Revenue assessor, which office he held till it was abolished
by law in 1873. He used often to say that he never liked the work
because "it was hunting the bad." Later, he became special agent in
charge at St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, San Francisco, etc., till
A varied life is often the outcome of vacillating purpose, fickleness
of choice, love of adventure, or repeated failure to find the true
vocation, honestly and earnestly sought for. In other cases, it is the
result of a nature denied by circumstance the pursuance of its bent,
and taking up conscientiously and industriously, a work which,
congenial or distasteful, is seemingly thrust upon one by the kind hand
of Providence. This was the case with Mr. Crane. He did what it
appeared to him he was bound to do at the given time, believing, no
doubt, that the Ruling, the Overruling Will would make all these
various situations preparatives to the ultimate end that he longed to
compass. Indeed, but for his many-sided life, his breadth and depth of
experience with men of multifarious conditions and opinions and
character, he could not have so well understood human nature, in all
its diversity, or the manifold needs of humanity. Nor, indeed, would he
have attained that self-knowledge which renders men useful to their
fellows in proportion to the amount of it they possess.
As in the case of Phillips Brooks, Mr. Crane's physique harmonized with
his spiritual power, and a certain lofty magnetism of presence aided in
impressing his hearers, when he taught or lectured, and was no small
factor in his remarkable work as a healer. His facial expression, his
voice, his whole manner, assured those whom he neared, whether in his
classes, in the lecture-room, or at the bedside of the sick, that he
was what he seemed to be; that he had fully tested the Divine Power for
himself, before seeking its influence on others. One felt sure of his
illimitable faith and his whole-souled sincerity.
In 1906, appeared Mr. Crane's first book, "Right and Wrong Thinking,
and Their Results." This work met with great favor; and in 1911 the
twelfth edition was issued, and it has been translated into several
languages: these two facts alone are a more telling criticism of its
value than pages of laudatory comment.
The same simplicity of diction, cogent reasoning, and strength of
thought that mark the first work characterize the second also, "A
Search after Ultimate Truth," published in
1910. In its preface, we find this passage which reveals the
earnestness and sincerity of the author. This book is strictly
elemental and fundamental, and because the ultimate criterion is always
one's own perception, the reader is never to accept anything on the
dictum of another; therefore, he who finds Truth in these pages, must
work out for himself its practical application to his own conduct and
career, but an earnest appeal is made for careful consideration. Each
one is urged by his own freedom, by the light of his own understanding,
and with the fearlessness of the old Welsh motto, 'The Truth against
the world,' to follow, with entire confidence, wherever he sees that
Truth leads. Truth belongs to everybody, and as Socrates said, 'The
point is not who said the words, but whether they are true or not.' It
may be truly said that the search for Truth was Mr. Crane's
master-passion. Hungry and thirsty for Truth, he sought it with
life-long ardor, and unflagging devotion.
With clarity and simplicity of style, "A Search After Ultimate Truth"
is yet too deep and strong for a mere cursory reading. Just glancing
through the book impresses one with a sense of the vast sum of thought
and study spent on it by its author. The reader surely should give such
a work nothing less than a thoughtful, studious perusal, if he would
fully understand it. Mr. Crane's mind was distinctly analytic, and his
logic, from his standpoint, unassailable. Those taking different
premises must, of course, arrive at different conclusions regarding sin
and evil, but the latter may yet find the work of deep interest, and
feel a new impulse to investigate the subjects presented in its pages.
The closing chapter, "Immortality," appeals to all souls of whatever
Mr. Crane had profound sympathy with sufferers; it was his delight to
help them healthward; and his Heaven-derived gift made him marvellously
successful in doing so. Yet, as much as he rejoiced in healing a sick
humanity, he felt that his highest service was the exposition of Truth,
as he had found it. It is a singular coincidence that Aaron
has teacher for one of its meanings; and Mr. Crane felt that his
highest vocation was reached when he taught what he believed, either by
word of mouth in his classes and lectures, or by means of the printed
Thoroughness was one of Mr. Crane's most conspicuous traits. This was
noticeable in his everyday life, in his teaching, in his scientific and
religious investigation. The appendices of his second volume are a
monument of thoroughness, showing how he went to the very root of
matters. The Greek and Hebrew meanings are compared the number of times
certain words are used in certain senses; and the exact purport of the
word whose meaning causes variance and discussion among biblical
scholars is traced to its source. His patience must have been as
indefatigable as his thoroughness to accomplish such a task.
Consistency was another shining feature of Mr. Crane's. While teaching
the complete charity of purse, speech, and deed, he was careful to
maintain in his own life the high standard of the great Apostle as
given in the Thirteenth Chapter of I. Corinthians. Like others who do
remarkable deeds, and speak and write remarkable words, and live
remarkable lives, Mr. Crane had frequent calls to practise the hard,
exceedingly hard things named in that chapter as tests of the greatest,
the unfailing virtue, Charity. But he kept through all, a Christly
walk, and one could not lay to his charge a distance between teaching
and practice. Besides the external forbearance, we may justly suppose
that Mr. Crane's heart attained a large measure of kindness towards
those who were unkind to him, for he laid great stress on having the
thoughts free from resentment and bitterness. Perhaps three tracts of
this author's all effective expositions of the Christ-life are among
his ablest writings, surely as regards practical value, - "Anger,"
"Forgiveness," and "Cleansing the Temple."
"Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors" is the text which the
second essay expounds in a logical and exhaustive way. "As in this, so
in all the precepts of Jesus, the Christ, perfection is the thing aimed
at, and it will be attained by every one who fully complies with them.
It may be said in accordance with popular opinion that this is
impossible; but Jesus 'knew what was in man,' and as a reasonable
being, He would not have required impossibilities. He told us to love
our enemies. Forgiveness is the first step in that direction, and in
conclusion of that subject, He said: 'Ye therefore shall be perfect, as
your Heavenly Father is perfect.' The perfection of mankind was
His object and His prediction."
While true it is that the multitude are indifferent to their inner
life, and the progress upward, there are not a few who are eagerly
pressing towards that goal. To such, the message of this
Divinely-taught man is welcome and inspiring. One feels that not only
to act calmly, kindly, forgivingly, purely, justly, but to think thus
constantly, and under temptation, is indeed the straight road to
perfection, and rugged, rocky as it is and seemingly impossible yet the
aspiring soul has the impulse to undertake it to seek to be as
blameless in the secret soul as the best, the loftiest Christian is in
his outer life.
What a beautiful forgiveness does the tract of that name set forth! Not
a formal, grudging affair ; not the words merely or the deeds, but the
heart pardon, thrusting the very memory of the wrong from the mind. Of
course this cannot often be done on the instant ; but repeated striving
will gradually become the victor over pride and self-love.
Mr. Crane's theory and practice included financial forgiveness as well
as the trespass, and, with his usual consistency, he left a clause in
his will, providing for the cancellation of all debts due him.
A very unusual thing in Mr. Crane's healing was his comparative
indifference to fees! He believed that if one used the gift of healing
unselfishly, serving God in the service of his fellows, sufficient
funds would be supplied to meet the needs of life. What was offered, he
accepted, but he demanded nothing; and no doubt, he brought many a one
from sickness to health without receiving any payment but gratitude.
The same generous treatment was shown in the case of his classes; those
who could not afford to pay had the free gift of his teaching.
Mr. Crane's marriage, which took place in 1865, was one of the best
proofs that true unions are possible. At one time, before his wife's
passing, he was so near the verge, it was thought that his going might
precede hers; his long and unremitting devotion to her, while yet his
own health was impaired, left him worn and exhausted; for humanity is
humanity, say what one will; man is mortal, and Death comes at last, as
a recognized messenger of the Divine Will. More than one friend of the
two has said that it seemed as though Mrs. Crane's desire was so
intense to have her husband rejoin her, she drew him, as it were, into
the Heaven where they would be forever inseparable. The following
passages from "Immortality," the closing chapter of "A Search After
Ultimate Truth," seem peculiarly pertinent here:- "Herein is an
authoritative answer to the question which Love so often asks, 'Shall
we meet and know each other again?' Three things are absolutely proved:
we continue to live; each continues to be his own distinct self; and
each continues to pos-sess his own mind with its own intelligence;
therefore we must know each other with even more certainty than we do
now, 'for now we see through a glass darkly, but then, face to face;
now I know in part, but then shall I know as also I am known.' Just as
surely as God is God, just so surely shall we know each other
hereafter. . . . Our existence is so involved in the warp and woof of
the nature of God, that the unending life of our true and real selves
is as far from question as is the life of God Himself."
We cannot omit from this tribute a passage from the letter written by a
prominent member of a well-known Boston publishing-house to the
foster-daughter of Mr. Crane, on hearing that the latter had passed
away: "We have never known anyone - man or woman who, at all times
seemed so far above all petty weaknesses of character or temperament. .
. . May the healing touch of Time hasten to efface natural grief, with
the glorious and assured memory of a noble and helpful life, which may
not idly be compared to that of the Man of Nazareth." This expresses
the conviction of many.
On Mr. Crane's seventieth birthday anniversary, he received the
To AARON MARTIN CRANE
1839 -1909 -Feb. 13th
Aaron (Heb. Inspired)
Lofty the meaning of thy name, O friend!
And with it, life and work how richly chord!
Whether thy power is breathed abroad or penned,
One feels the inspiration of the Lord.
What are the years to such a one as thou,
Bent on high errands for humanity?
Thou workest ever in God's blessed Now,
And reckest not of age, or time to-be.
With her whose life and thine are so at one,
May a far future find thee as today,
Through God's inbreathing, still new work begun,
And with rich fruitage of the far-away.
On that birthday Mr. Crane must have been absorbingly busy with the
work that appeared in the March of 1910, and whose dedication is: " To
my Wife, my faithful companion in my work and in my life." Well may we
believe that the poetic vision is fulfilled, in this not "far future,"
and that amidst the "rich fruitage" of their earthly activities, the
risen ones with "still new work begun" are rejoicing in the glory of
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