College Green, Hartford (Connecticut, U. S. A.),
June 21, 1850.
MY DEAR Sir,--Some account of a late meeting of our "Board of Missions," which has just been held in this place, for the transaction of the annual business, may be of interest to your readers; and at least it will prove my disposition to redeem a promise, in communicating something about our Missionary work.
Our "Board of Missions," you must know, is a coordinate and dependent department of our great ecclesiastical legislature--the General Convention; and in some respects I count it more honourable than its constituent body, since its concerns more immediately relate to the enlargement of the Church, and the wants of human souls. If the [72/73] spirit which becomes it always reigned in its sessions, its meetings would indeed be highly privileged; and such has occurred now. We have spent two delightful days in our work, and have just adjourned in the most fraternal good-will, although different views and principles have been represented, and some exciting matters have been discussed. Would to GOD it were always so among brethren!
There were present, of the Bishops, the Bishop of Connecticut, who presided (Bishop Brownell), and the Bishops of New Jersey (Doane), Western New York (De Lancey), Maryland (Whittingham), Rhode Island (Henshaw), Massachusetts (Eastburn), New Hampshire (Chase), Pennsylvania (Potter), Indiana (Upfold), Maine (Burgess), and the Missionary Bishop to Turkey--Bishop Southgate. Of the clergy and laity, there were besides, about thirty present, members of the Board; and many others attending its sessions. The morning of Wednesday, the 19th inst., was devoted to Divine Service and the Holy Communion; the sermon being preached by the Rev. Dr. Stevens, of Philadelphia, from the first chapter of the prophet Haggai, verses 2d, 7th, and 8th. In the evening, the reports of the Domestic and Foreign Committees were presented, exhibiting, on the whole, an encouraging view of the work.
Our Domestic Missions, you know, are managed by a Committee, who devote themselves entirely to the wants of our own new dioceses; while the concerns of our foreign stations are entrusted to another Committee, in a similar way. These two committees make annual reports to the Board, which are examined and acted upon, as may be necessary and expedient. These reports, at the present meeting, furnished the chief business, and suggested such discussions and remarks as warmed the hearts of all present to renewed interest in the sacred behalf of evangelizing the world. It is with us indeed the day of small things; and a deep sense of this insufficiency, and inefficiency, was one of the encouraging signs of the spirit of the meeting. When we look at the noble Missions of our beloved mother, the Church of England, we are made to blush, and to own that we fall far short of her example, even in a proportionable estimate; but still that example stimulates us more than it shames us; and to have it constantly before us, in our counsels and debates, is one of our richest encouragements.
You will perhaps be glad to know what little we are doing. The Domestic Committee have sustained, in whole or in part, during the year, three Bishops, ninety Clergymen, and three lay-assistants. They are burthened with a debt of 10,000 dollars; but their receipts, during the year, have been greater than their expenses. Among those labours which have been more wearisome than fruitful, according to present appearances, is a negotiation with the Government, growing out of an application of the Chickesaw tribe of Indians, for missionary aid from our Church. These Indians, of their own accord, have begged the Government to allow us to establish schools and churches among them, and to defray a portion of the expenses out of money which is annually paid to their nation by the Secretary of the Treasury. Accordingly, the Government made a proposal to the Board, which was accepted; but when the details came to be settled, it was [73/74] found that such conditions were exacted by the Government as could not be suffered; and, accordingly, the matter was dropped, but a message has been sent to the Chickesaw chiefs, proposing to establish a Mission among them on another plan. If published, the account of this business will be very interesting, and will reflect honour on the Church, which, in treating with "the powers that be," has shown herself possessed of a spirit and character widely diverse from that which they have been wont to find in the sectarian bodies with which they more frequently have dealings.
Our Foreign Committee have received 34,000 dollars, and expended somewhat less, on their three missionary stations and the school in Greece, keeping their missionaries paid in advance. The embassy of Bishop Southgate to the Oriental Churches, so dear to many of us, but so much opposed by others, is the least encouraging of its operations, owing to the embarrassment the Bishop has experienced in the receipt of funds for carrying on his work, and his consequent return to America to present himself, and his trying grievances, to the Church, in general convention. This unexpected event, justified in the Bishop's own mind, and indeed rendered imperative by his painful circumstances, has proved, on the whole, so far as we can now see, unfortunate for his work, as strong efforts were making in his behalf, and it was confidently believed they were such as to ensure permanent relief. But the Bishop has acted for the best, so far as he could judge, in circumstances peculiarly discouraging, and at a great distance from his friends and advisers; and he hopes, in a few months, to be able to return to his field of labour, with full assurance of lasting support and ultimate success.
Our Mission in Africa still suffers from want of more labourers, and, more than all, from the want of a Bishop to make it truly a Mission. But churches have been erected, and schools multiplied, and a second generation of Christians is now sitting at the feet of its fathers and mothers who were in CHRIST before them, and giving cheering evidence that something has been gained, on which, as on the substructure of a bridge, the future work will be less difficult, and at the same time, if it please God, more visible and more beautiful too. In China a church has been erected; nine adults baptized; nine confirmed and admitted to holy communion; and there are ten catechumens preparing for baptism. Better yet--one native youth, Chae, has probably, ere this, been admitted to the diaconate; he was to have been ordained at Easter; and thus, we suppose, has one of these uttermost sons of Shem received from Japhet, abiding in their tents, that apostolic gift whose mysterious history proves so wonderfully what the Saviour intended when he said that the gates of hell should not prevail against his Church. To see the blessing which Seabury and White brought to us from Scotland and England, thus transplanted in China, will awaken inspiring reflections among our British brethren.
Yet what is this among so many? Our five loaves and two fishes look very small when a starving world is before us; but, thanks be to GOD, He knows what He will do, even now, as of old.
Yours truly, A. C. C.