DEACON, A COLORED MAN, MISSIONARY IN CHARGE OF
"ST. CYPRIAN'S MISSION" TO COLORED PEOPLE,
WYLIE AVENUE, PITTSBURGH, PA.
PITTSBURGH, December 31, 1877
TO THE RT. REV. J. B. KERFOOT, D.D., LL.D.,
Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
RT. REV. AND DEAR BISHOP:--
We believe that the Sermon preached by you yesterday, the first Sunday after Christmas, in Trinity Church, in this city, is calculated to increase the interest in our Mission among Colored people. We therefore respectfully request a copy for publication.
With great esteem, very faithfully yours,
WM. A. HITCHCOCK, Rector of Trinity Church,
H. W. SPALDING, Rector of St. Peter's Church,
WM. WHITE, Dean of the Kittanning Deanery,
J. H. SHOENBERGER,
ACTS 8: 26-29.--And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert.
And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship,
Was returning; and sitting in his chariot, read Esaias the prophet.
Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
HERE we have the earliest provision that was made by the Holy Spirit for Missions in Ethiopia. Among the many special provisions for sending the gospel forth into new lands, none in the Sacred Record is more expressive of the personal planning and directing of the Holy Ghost. He took an immediate and personal charge of the gospel of the Son of God on Pentecost. His office it was to send that gospel, and plant the church everywhere. He laid the plans, and selected and commissioned the agents. Africa was at once cared for. On the first Whitsun-day, He provided that among the men of Jewish blood and faith, who should be in Jerusalem as worshippers from the various lands, there should be some from Egypt, and from the parts of Lybia about Cyrene, the northern, parts of Africa, west of Egypt. These men, Africans by birth and residence for generations, were to be there in Jerusalem to witness the outpouring of the Holy Ghost's gifts, and to receive, (as some of them, we see, did,) their share of His miraculous powers and commissions: These converts would go home to tell of Christ in Egypt, and west of Egypt, along the southern shores of the Mediterranean. But southward from Egypt lay Ethiopia--a name that covers several regions, both Asiatic and African, by no means unknown in ancient history. The Old Testament speaks very often of the Ethiopians and their lands; and in the later [3/4] books, the name generally designates only African regions. The name means the men with the faces burnt, darkened, blackened by the tropical, sun. The original redness of the human face and form, the first man's color and name, as well as those of the ground he was made from, had deepened and darkened in Ethiopia, and the regions about it and southward and westward from it, as the same original color became blanched in other northern and colder lands and races. The science that Paul taught on Mars' Hill, in Athens, that "the God who hath made the world and all things in it," (Acts 17: 24 and 26,) "made of one blood every nation of men to dwell over the whole face of the earth," the best science of this day proves and confirms against all cavils. Changed greatly from the first typal man, as the very hand of the Creator moulded and adorned his body and gifted his mind, greatly and sadly changed are we all. Sin made sad changes, and natural, physical operations have produced others. Virtue, holiness, temperance, purity and Godlike love and Christlike humility and beneficence can now best make individuals recover much of the goodness and holiness of the man, as God first made him. Merely physical transformations are His orderings for races, which wise men neither deny nor complain of. He will care in things temporal and spiritual for those who obey Him. His chiefest mercy to us all was the gift of His Son. This gospel, its truths and its means of grace, its organized Body--His Son's Body and Church--He sent His Spirit down to extend to all men. The first Pentecost witnessed that Spirit's provision for Northeastern Africa. A year or two later, not more, that Spirit made careful provision for the regions south of Egypt. He had just blessed the ministry of Philip, the Deacon, in Samaria with wonderful success; so that Peter and John had been sent from the Apostolic College, (still existing complete in Jerusalem,) to give the other ordinances of Christ to those whom Philip had converted and baptized. The Jews and Samaritans were thus strangely getting together in Christ; perhaps because Philip, the Deacon, may have had as a Greek, or a Jew of Greek associations and culture, an earlier insight than his official superiors into the widened scope of this Gospel; for he was thus early preaching Christ to the Samaritans, to these Africans, then at once in Ashdod of the old Philistines, and later on in Caesarea, the seaport and thoroughfare of Gentiles.
 This Philip seemed to be the very man for Samaria. But the Spirit planned otherwise. He sent an angel to tell Philip to leave Samaria, and go southward and take the road that led down from Jerusalem towards Gaza--probably he was not to visit the Holy City at all--and certainly he was not to go so far as Gaza, which lay quite southwest. The Evangelist was only, but yet specially bidden, to go down southward by that road, which road, the angel said at the time, was "desert." It went through a region very little inhabited. It was, perhaps, well that one of our modern Missionary Boards or Committees was not there just then, or that angelic bidding would, we may fear, have been promptly voted down as an imprudent waste of men and money! To take such an efficient preacher, as Philip had proved himself to be, and send him down that road with its scanty population--who could think of it? But springing up, Philip went. Faith and obedience were his duties and his qualifications. And this Philip was a married man, too; with a home and family; for we meet him again some years later, (Acts 21: 8, 9,) in his hospitable home and with his four daughters, all active in church work. He seems to have reconciled missionary journeys in destitute roads and places with his home duties; a puzzle now (as a Bishop sees) often very perplexing to pastors with their one flock; and. that too a flock surfeited even to distaste with incessant feeding in rich pastures, and along full streams; till they forget the desert roads and the few starving souls along them, and wonder what we Bishops mean when we tell them so anxiously that a handful of their green grass and a cupful of their cool waters would comfort and save some hungry souls of brethren not very far off; or, anyhow, of those ready to be made brethren, in the one hope of our Redemption. Philip went at once, and no doubt walked many a mile along that desert road, in wonder, yet in faith, as to what his errand was to disclose. But the Spirit who had sent him, and who journeyed with him, had arranged it all. He put into the Evangelist's way a convert worth all that journey and its perplexity. One of these Ethiopians, no doubt a genuine African in every respect, was on his journey back from Jerusalem to his African home. He rode in his chariot, and was a prince, high in office and trust, with the Queen of the Ethiopians, whose queens then all bore this name "Candace." This man was [5/6] her Treasurer, or Chancellor, and he had in charge her rich revenues and stores.
He was, we see, a man of culture, for be was reading the prophet Isaiah, perhaps in its Hebrew original; but more probably in the Greek version of the Septuagint. The quotation we have in this history indicates the latter; and then the vicinity of Egypt to this man's home, begetting active trade and frequent collisions between the two countries, would have made this Egyptian translation of the Old Testament well known long before this to the scholars among the Ethiopians. The Eunuch's piety is proven by his having just made the long journey up to Jerusalem to worship there the true God; and by his reading (it would seem aloud, to his attendants,) the great prophet's words. The Holy Spirit, who had all along moved this man's mind and heart and guided his worship and his reading, brought Philip near him just as that 53d chapter of Isaiah was open before him; and, as he was uttering those mighty words of the Evangelic prophecy, the Spirit moved the Evangelist to go near and attach himself to that chariot. Philip ran (we read) with an eagerness that met a prompt response from the Eunuch, who recognized in the traveler one sent and qualified to teach him the meaning of what he was reading. The man's eagerness to learn made him humble and docile, as the Evangelist, now seated by his side as the chariot went forward, "preached Jesus to him." And so would any Jewish scholar then have explained those words of Isaiah to mean the Messiah in His sufferings for His people. The distinctness of the prophecy has only since then made unbelief give to it some later date and some other meaning. So to the well prepared mind and heart of the Ethiopian the full truth soon became evident; and so, also, did his duty to accept the Redeemer thus marvellously foretold; for, coming at last to some stream or fountain along that desert road, he asked for and received the baptism, which the Evangelist told him was ordained and necessary means of entering into Christ and His salvation. The water was found even in the desert for the soul that thirsted for Christ and His cleansing; and we readily hear that it made that soul rejoice, so that to his faith that desert would blossom as the rose. Some critics of the manuscripts of the New Testament think that the 37th verse--"Philip said: 'If thou [6/7] believest with all thine heart, it is lawful to be baptized,' and he answering said, 'I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of the (one true) God,'" was first written on the margin of some manuscript by the transcriber, (and so got into the text,) because it very evidently and rightly explained what Philip's preaching must have been. Yet this verse, though not found in some of the best early manuscripts, had its place very soon in the faith and writings of believers, and was quoted as the very words of Inspiration. [1. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, quotes this verse as so received, before the end of the second century.] It makes clearly a truthful link in the story; and then one of the oldest existing manuscripts of the New Testament has, on its margin, the statement that the Holy Ghost, dispensing with His own ordinances and the ministry of Apostolic hands, "fell upon the Eunuch," and gave him miraculous gifts and powers. [2. The "Codex Alexandrinus," in the British Museum, a manuscript probably of as early a date as the fourth century.] That, too, we may well believe, without drawing any so wrong and dangerous an inference as that men may by their own will dispense with divinely ordered rites and acts. Directly after the baptism, Philip was caught away by the Holy Spirit, so that the new convert and member of Christ might see that his teacher had been sent and recalled by God's special act, and that he might so learn at once to rest only on Divine guidance. Faith equal to this was given him, and he went on his way rejoicing. Such joy would not die out in mere emotion in such a man as he was. His long journeys to worship the true God in His own temple, his diligent study of God's written word, his eager listening to Philip and his prompt and complete acceptance of the Redeemer, show a man and a believer whose joy for himself would at once make him eager to bring other men to share in that same rejoicing. This is always so. It can hardly be possible for any man or woman to know Jesus as his or her own Saviour, and His death as the real, inner, conscious ground of the hope of pardon and life, without such a heart-stirring joy as will impel the quickened believer to make others know the same joy. It is, strange and sad, too, to see how, after all, some Christians easily settle down to a selfish, idle acceptance for their own selves, of gifts of mercy, the very taste of which should be a joy that cannot rest till others seek and find the like [7/8] of it. No doubt the rest of that long journey' was full of such efforts of that rejoicing Ethiopian. The earliest historical reminiscences that we have honor this Eunuch as the Apostle of the Ethiopians, and say that he went home and preached the Gospel among his own people, and in the neighboring and eastern nations; that thus by his mission the Psalmist's prophecy (Ps. 68 : 81) "Ethiopia," (or as our older English version in our Prayer Book expresses it,) "the Morians' land" "shall soon stretch out her hands unto God"--found its first real fulfillment in this convert's preaching of the Gospel at his home. [Eusebius, S. Cyril of Jerusalem and Jerome, to the fourth century, &c.] Before that--as a probable tradition of that African race says, this Psalmist's son, Solomon, by the lessons he gave to the Queen of Sheba, had sent into that land a knowledge of the true God. However this was, this Eunuch of Candace had before this known Jehovah, and sought His true worship and word. But now the full Gospel was carried thither into Ethiopia, and men learned to know God in Jesus Christ. The traditions of that country say that Philip's convert first turned his queen to the faith of Christ, and then with her aid spread the Gospel through their own region and far eastward of it; and after long service died as a martyr in that one of the many Islands of the Eastern Oceans, that we know as Ceylon. That some centuries later his work had to be repeated in Ethiopia; that the church thereabouts now shows but dimly the light of the Gospel, though she keeps her life, her apostolic order and faith and ordinances; that the land and its tribes have hearts and minds as well as faces darkened yet; that missions have yet to go on for ages, if the Son of Man should so long delay His coming, before the races of men will become ready for His judgment--all these things do not show that the Gospel and cross of Christ have failed, or can fail; for He is eternal and Almighty, and His Spirit works, if slowly to our eyes, yet surely and effectually. Time cannot measure or bound His work; but these things do show that believers--we and those of the ages gone by--have not believed and rejoiced and wrought as was our duty. Our years run out fast and soon. O! that we were doing our work as vigorously and surely as our day for work is passing rapidly!
 Our special work to-day here is a part of this distinct mission of Philip and the Eunuch, as the Holy Ghost planned it and began it eighteen centuries ago. We men very easily become used to very strange things. We have five millions of this Ethiopian race in our land to-day. There are thirty-five millions or more of our own and other northern races. Four hundred years ago none of these, now more than forty millions of men, were on this continent. What a strange and incredible vision would then have been to any human eye, this nation as it is here to-day! When four centuries ago men of faith in our forefathers' lands, (for there were then and always many such believers in these old prophecies of ours,) read and sang in their Psalters, "Ethiopia, the Morians' land, shall soon stretch out her hands unto God"--"make its hands to run," are the literal and expressive words--and then looked far southward across their great sea to the continent darkened indeed into blackness by torrid suns and burning sins, they might well ask how shall this ever be? [Alexander on the Psalms.] How shall Ethiopia ever have the wish or the power to reach out to God in Christ? But had they then looked westward across the boundless and then unknown ocean that now we cross in a week, and had they seen their children filling this continent, and seen us here, nearly or quite two score millions of their own European stocks, owning and ruling this vast territory, and filling it with our population, our cities and towns, our railroads and steamships, our telegraphs, our printing presses, our books and laws, our homes and our grand temples of Jesus Christ, our preachers of His Gospel, our Bibles, and His own Evangel, printed and multiplied and scattered in millions upon millions of copies everywhere among us, and by us over the entire world; our colleges and schools training strong men and cultured women; and our banks bursting with money unused or misused; our Christmas joys and beneficent loves for one another; our altars and anthems and vows and brave songs of self-devotion to Jesus; and then right here, in our midst, waiting for our guiding to that Saviour, five millions of Ethiopians, so strangely brought here from that Morians' land to be taught by us to stretch forth their hands unto God and His Christ; those hands to be guided and upheld by us; nay, now, already they are stretching forth [9/10] their own hands, while they and our one Father call us and bid us to lift up those hands and point them to Him that sitteth on that Throne whence He is-to come in judgment to them and to us, no one knows how soon! O! what would those old believers in prophecy, east of the Atlantic, have said some twelve or fifteen generations ago had this mighty opportunity of ours struck their vision? They would have changed their Psalter, and "said or sung," "Now, shall Ethiopia stretch forth her hands unto God." Those godly, pious, believing, benevolent, enterprising children of ours, so rich, far beyond us, in all resources and opportunities, they will convert these five millions! They will find large parts of those millions converted already when that second century of their great nation begins; and then, they, our own noble offspring, will soon convert the rest; and they will make scholars and Evangelists of the choice ones among those Morians, to help in the full conversion of the others; and so they will come and bring with them, and send by their great wealth, Ethiopian converts and preachers and apostles over to Africa to carry the Gospel of Christ from west to east, into and over the land for which so long ago the Psalmist prophesied and the Holy Ghost planned and provided such glorious gifts of grace!
Would that confidence of our fathers have been unreasonable had they foreseen what we see to-day, here, Brethren? Or would their foresight have asked more from us than God's demand requires now from us? And, if that foresight had concentrated its vision in upon this our centre of population, on these two cities, and seen here among us, Pittsburghers, ten thousand of these Ethiopians--nearly one-twentieth of our whole number--what would have been their rightful demand made of us?--But what would have been the measure of the fulfillment seen among us to-day? I do not forget the many and various problems and difficulties that such topics bring up to scare some men from clear duty, and to solace and soothe other men in the selfish neglect of that duty. I only brush those puzzles aside, and say that they have no rightful place in this matter of evangelizing our brethren, and helping the Holy Ghost to send the good news to them of His grace and of Christ's death. We need, just as much as they do, that grace and that redeeming death. The blood shed on Calvary was their [10/11] blood and our blood, equally, all the same! I do not forget, I rejoice to know, that vast numbers of these, our fellow members in Christ, are already His truly converted and loving servants. But how many remain yet to be taught soberly, as Philip taught, about Jesus; to be made to see that gospel, saving faith must believe in the Creed of Christ; entire and pure, not in wild fancies; that His worship must not expend itself in emotion; that He enacted and re-enacted the Ten Commandments for our obedience, as the rule of a holy life and as a condition of our effectual acceptance at last; that His ministry and ordinances are sober facts and necessities for us all. And these are the things that we, Prayer Book Christians, are equipped of God to teach with special fullness and success. We bless God for any wise and saving missions, among this or any people; but we do think that we see and know that this people specially need what this Prayer Book Church can, and therefore ought to do for them, better than others are ready to do it. Nor do I forget that our national and social prosperity, perhaps, safety, largely depends on the sober evangelization of these five millions of fellow-citizens. Grave thoughts these all are; but here and now our one thought must be, that the purposes and ends of Redeeming love wait upon our doing our duty. The salvation of millions of souls hangs upon this. The awards of the last Judgment--strange as the truth is--hang on this question of duty done now by us. Other men will be saved or lost, as you and I do, or do not, our part; and so, on the same condition, will each of us be accepted or rejected in the Day when the question asked of us will be, What good to our brethren have we done--and NOT what good excuses we can offer for having done nothing.
And, now, my dear brother, your admission to these higher orders means that you and your race must strive with us for Ethiopia, here and everywhere. Your trust is peculiar and very solemn. Your fulfillment, in zeal and lowliness, of this high gift of office will promote or impede this work among your people, even more directly than other, more usual ministries, can do. There is great, earnest, anxious hope. There may be, in some minds; unfriendly distrust. Do you, my brother, by God's grace, make good our loving hopes, and we will rejoice to ordain more and more of your race. You receive this office in all the fullness of [11/12] the dignity which the Holy Ghost gave it when He ordained it. Take this office of Priesthood, and fulfill it with an unselfish heart; out of true love to the High Priest, to Him who redeemed you with His own blood, to Him who thus honors you now, and who will reward you if you are, as I do think and believe you will be, faithful to your trust!