Project Canterbury

"God's Workman,"

A Sermon Memorial of the late

Right Rev. John Franklin Spalding, D.D.
Bishop of Colorado

Delivered by

The Right Rev. Boyd Vincent, S.T.D.
Bishop Coadjutor of Southern Ohio,

In S. John's Cathedral, Denver, at the Annual Council of the Diocese of Colorado

June 4, 1902.

S. John ix: 4. "I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work."

These, let us remember, are the words of our Blessed Lord Himself. And as we study them and try to get at their inmost meaning, there seem to be four things of which He is especially conscious here: First, of His own distinct character as a worker; next, of a ceaseless compulsion in His work; then, of a divine mission to it; and, lastly, of the limited time for it. "I must work," He says: "I must." But why? Why, because the work is not his own, but God's, and he is sent to it by God; and then too, because it must be finished "while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work."

Hardly had the young Jesus of Nazareth opened His eyes to the meaning of human life, and particularly of His own life, before He declared that He must be a worker:--"Wist ye not," he said, "that I must be about my Father's business?" He had come to reveal God to men, and men to themselves. He had "come to bear witness to the truth." But that truth was to be the truth of life and of love. It was to be embodied in His own Person and wrought out in His own Life of obedience, service and suffering. It must be translated for men in actual deeds of love--in deeds of healing and salvation for their bodies and their souls. He was to work: and the compulsion of this thought never left him for a single moment. The strenuousness of His spirit was forever breaking out in such words as these: ''My Father worketh hitherto and I work:" "I must finish the work which He hath given Me to do." Into that compulsion there went always the recollection of the divine [3/4] character and so the sacred obligation of the work. It was God the Father's work; and God had "sent" Him to do it. That fact was His inspiration, His authority, His strength and His assurance of success in it all. God--the Almighty God--was behind Him and with Him and in Him. But that same fact was always the sufficient reason, too, for His self-effacement. "For I seek not Mine own glory." He said, "but the glory of Him that sent Me." And, then, besides, there was always that other pressing thought of His limited opportunity. Human life, even at its longest, was all too short. Yet He Himself had but three short years in which to fulfil Himself and also to save a world. He could not afford, therefore, to lose one moment of His working day. The work must be finished. Not all at once. Its ultimate outworking was to be world-wide and age-long. Others would carry it on and out after His own hands were stilled in the night of His human death. But at least the lasting foundations of it all must be laid now, while Fie had His day. That was His work.

It was in such a spirit, we see, that even the Master's life work was done--under the constant stress of recollection at once of its origin, its character, its obligation and its end. Its accomplishment would be both His Father's glory and also His own sufficient joy and reward. And so His life becomes to us the type of the faithful redemption of the time of every human life.

Here, in this lofty Ideal, we find, I am convinced, the real inspiration and explanation of the other life we are now trying to estimate. In the light of that ideal let us now consider our subject : First as a Man, next as a Priest and lastly as a Bishop.

I. Bishop Spalding, then, was above all things a worker: consciously such, I think. How could this help being so? In his veins ran the blood of the best New England stock for two hundred years--the blood of pioneers, of farmers, of statesmen, and of soldiers--strong men and workers, all of them. That blood fold even in his magnificent physique, in his six feet two of bone and muscle, in his handsome face and noble presence. It told again in his strong, logical mind, in his manly self-reliance, in his Puritan strength of [4/5] conviction and tenacity of purpose. Add to this the equipment and discipline of a complete collegiate and seminary training; and we can hardly wonder at the man's conscious strength--his sense of power to do. For strength must assert and realize itself; it must put itself forth in deeds, in results.

And yet let us not misunderstand him here. He did not work for the mere sake, of working. He did love to work. As some one once said of Sir Walter Raleigh: "He could toil terribly," and he did. There was in him much of the gaudium certaminis--the joy of the fray. But all this was, nevertheless, dominated and directed in him by one lofty purpose, which ennobled and sanctified if all. That purpose was work for His God and Master--work for the Church. For he believed profoundly in Jesus Christ as the God-Man, His Saviour and Lord. He believed profoundly in the Church as a divine institution and in the apostolic character of her Ministry. Those of you who have read his solid volumes on "Jesus Christ the Proof of Christianity" and "The Church and its Apostolic Ministry," can never question that. But his faith was not merely a theological one. Those of us who came close to him know how intensely personal, too, his faith was. Simple and trustful, indeed, as a little child's; yet strung and overmastering, too, with a man's gratitude and sense of endless obligation to the Person and service of his Saviour and Lord. And so with regard to his official ministry; as truly as the Father sent the Son to work a work upon this earth; as truly as that Master-Worker in turn sent His apostles to carry on His work; so truly did this man believe himself standing in that same apostolic line, "sent" to the same work by God and for God. Yet he never allowed the merely temporal concerns of his work, in which he was necessarily so much engrossed, to interfere with his spiritual vision. For him, the Church was not a society of men seeking after God, but a divine institution seeking after men and bringing to them the truth and grace of God, already committed to it for this very purpose. Therefore to extend and build up the Church was still God's work--God's way of saving souls. The Church visible was the means to the Church invisible. [5/6] The Church Militant must come before the Church Triumphant.

Such convictions gave strength and dignity, of course, to ill I he did. Because of them, he never failed to magnify his office, but for the same reasons, too, he never magnified himself. Personally, he was one of the humblest and most unselfish of men. In His Master's service, he utterly forgot himself. He never sought praise or credit for himself but he was always ready to give these to others--to accept their suggestions and follow their initiative. This made him an inspiring man to work with. If sometimes in his plans and work he seemed to override others and ignore their interests, for the most part he did this unconsciously, just as he ignored himself, but never with deliberate unkindliness, and always only because his whole being was concentrated on the thing to be done.

Sometimes this force and energy, this aggressiveness and concentration of his seemed almost phenomenal. I have visions of him now as I used to see him in his early manhood, head and. shoulders above the crowd, striding along the street, three feet at a step, his long coat skirts streaming behind him as he pushed on to what, he had in mind: or on horseback, at his pastoral work, rushing from point to point in his widely scattered parish.

Even then he seemed to realize the limits of his human opportunity, the shortness of the working day, the certainty of the coming night. And the same consciousness, the same spirit, went with him all through his life. If anything, it seemed to intensify with age, until his working power was gone. Like Jowett, the famous blaster of Balliol, he seemed to be constantly reminding himself: "My last days must be my best days."

II. In 1862, young Spalding, who had already had some experience as a missionary and also as an assistant to Dr. Clark (now Bishop Clark), accepted a call to the rectorship of S. Paul's Church, Erie, Pa. This was practically his first and only parochial charge, Here he quickly began to make himself felt and to realize his priestly ideal of Church life and work. He found a decent old church building and a quiet parish of 100 souls, dying of its own dignity and [6/7] respectability. He startled it instantly by a sermon on "Work as a means of grace," and by an outline of his plans for its future. In a year's time he had doubled his congregation and quadrupled his Sunday School. In another year or two he had pulled down the old building and begun the erection of the present beautiful church. A large mortgage indebtedness fairly terrified his people and once even caused a sheriff's notice to be affixed to the front door of the church: but it never daunted his courageous spirit for a moment. Every year saw it steadily reduced until it speedily disappeared. Services were held and rendered with a frequency, churchliness and heartiness, which were the wonder and delight of his people. The congregation soon filled the new church. And then a new phase of his executive ability began to show itself. For as has well been said; "It takes a good deal higher order of ability to keep six other men at work, than it does to do six men's work yourself.'" And Spalding knew how to do both. He believed rightly that a parish of Christian people is not merely a field to be worked in, but a force to be worked with. He had gathered his forces, and now he proposed to apply them. He believed that a congregation, like an individual, in order to realize its own highest spiritual life, must use the truth and grace of God given it, to do good with. He believed, with the present Bishop of London, that "the only way to save London, is to get London to help in saving the rest of the world." Such a spirit and example in the young rector became contagious, of course. Soon he had everybody else at work, men as well as women. The city was districted to its utmost limits. Volunteer district visitors, who had never lifted a hand in Church work before, now went through every hack street and cottage, making friends among the poor, the sick and the uncared for; holding mothers' meetings by day, while the rector was holding cottage lectures at night, inviting and of course attracting to the services of the parish church. The whole city was astir over it all. Soon these neighborhood meetings began to develop into local missions: and at length, at the end of ten years, instead of a dead and alive parish with a handful of indifferent, self-absorbed souls, there was a living, working parish of [7/8] earnest Christians, with a beautiful church building and four mission chapels of its own, with 600 communicants and 1,000 Sunday School scholars. It was a sight to be remembered as, on a bright Easter afternoon, all those congregations and children gathered for their annual service at the Parish church. Surely, all this was full warrant for writing a book on "The Best Mode of Working a Parish." It is still in use in some of our seminaries.

But while there was always this tremendous aggressiveness about him in practical work, Spalding never failed to do the other duties of his priestly office just as faithfully and effectively. All the while he was preaching the strong, stirring sermons and delivering the scholarly, instructive lectures, afterwards embodied in his two other books already referred to. He was not a great scholar, but he was a good one. He was a constant student and reader along the lines of his profession and outside them. He had a well balanced and well disciplined mind, a dear, vigorous expression and always a masterly grasp of his subject, he was as forceful and direct, in his sermons as he was in his character and work. He preached from conviction and so was always effective. He never rambled. He war; never misty or mooney. There never was any uncertain sound in him. If he lacked grace of manner in the pulpit, he redeemed it by his championship of the truth; and his people, who believed in him, listened to what he said and believed that, too,

He was, in the fullest sense of the word, a pastor to his people. He did his whole duty in his Sunday School and by his confirmation classes. He was an ever-welcome guest in the homes of his people. He was their universal counsellor and friend, in health and happiness as well as in suffering and sorrow. He knew no distinction among them of rich and poor. To him they were ail alike Christ's people and his people. Witness one little incident, when once, on returning from a mouth's absence at General Convention, he went straight from the railway station to the bedside of one of his sick poor, before going even to his own home!

What wonder that the people of his old parish revered and loved him so! What wonder that thirty years after when, by such a strange Providence, he died in their midst, the old [8/9] fountains of affection and gratitude, never closed, should have poured themselves out again in such a tribute of love and devotion over his remains, as if he were only theirs still, as if he had never gone from them.

Even while so occupied with his own Parish work Spalding was almost as devoted and active in the work of diocesan missions. As Dean of his Convocation he not only inspired and directed others, but he was also frequently in the field himself, preaching and building and raising funds. Many a parish in that Convocation to-day owes its existence or prosperity largely to his origination or timely encouragement. And if the Diocese of Pittsburgh had been then divided, as was sometimes urged, he would undoubtedly have become the first Bishop of Erie.

It was during this period of his life, too--his Erie rectorship--that Spalding seems to have initiated a movement which has since become very general in the Church. This was in connection with organized woman's work; and was undoubtedly the outcome of his own successful experience of such work, in his own parish. In a pamphlet on the subject prepared by Mrs. Twing in 1880, she says distinctly: "In looking up the matter in the Journals, I found that Bishop Spalding's recorded interest in it dated some years back, as he offered a Resolution on the subject of Organized Woman's Work during the session of the General Convention in 1868, and another during the session of 1871, which seems to have introduced the idea specifically to the Church, as they were followed up by tolerably full reports to the House of Deputies, of which he was then a member, and afterwards by still more interesting discussion and action in the Board of Missions." The subject had originally been introduced in the House of Bishops in 1862 and then lost sight of. But Mrs. Twing's pamphlet shows plainly that it was Dr. Spalding's resolution in Ti8 and '71 which really brought and kept the subject to the front. In 1872 appeared Bishop Potter's volume on "Deaconesses and Sisterhoods in the Church." Meanwhile a joint committee, of which Dr. Spalding was a member, had formally recommended (1) the establishment of training schools for these Orders and (2) the erection, by the general missionary authorities, of the [9/10] "Ladies Domestic Relief Association," then existing in a few parishes, into a "Woman's Auxiliary Missionary Society," "with branches in every parish in the land.'' Those recommendations were adopted; and on the strength of them, in 1872, the Woman's Auxiliary was organized. So that if Dr. Spalding did not wholly originate, he probably did more than any other man to establish that admirable institution, now everywhere the promoter of missionary intelligence and zeal among ns, and which, besides all its annual contributions, turns in $100,000 triennially to our general missionary treasury. Surely such an important piece of history is worthy of record here; and this is meant to be a fair statement of it.

III. By this time Dr. Spalding and his remarkable parish work were, of course, well known to the entire Church: and when, in 1873, she wanted the right man to succeed Bishop Randall, she knew where to look for him and she found him.

Bishop Spalding was consecrated and came out early in 1874. Colorado was territorially an empire even by itself: but when to this enormous jurisdiction were added Arizona and New Mexico on the one hand and on the other Wyoming also, the newcomer must have felt, like Bishop Kemper of old, as if he were literally "The Bishop of all out-doors." To be asked to develop and organize such a field was a tremendous burden to have laid on any man's soul. But his soul was equal at least to undertaking it. Indeed the spirit of the man rang out clear again in the text of his very first sermon among you viz.; "To preach the gospel to the regions beyond."

He was as good as his word, he plunged instantly into the work of his vast field. And he seems like an heroic figure, indeed, as we think of him now in those far off days, still strong and energetic and confident, traveling over those great territories by stage or on horseback, through sandy deserts and along mountain trails, preaching in mining towns and Indian ramps, sleeping on the ground and eating by the roadside, holding steadily aloft before the eyes and hearts of his hearers the banner of the Cross, winning everywhere respect for his message and for himself.

[11] When he came to the field he found in it only ten clergy. There were but seven Episcopal churches in Colorado-- only two of them self supporting. Wyoming had but two clergy, New Mexico none. Soon, however, new chapels were being built, parsonages erected, parishes organized. Gradually, as the Church could provide for the other territories, he was relieved of their care and so enabled to give his whole time and strength to Colorado. As a result, this was shortly erected into an independent diocese. Population was now fast pouring into the state, railways being built, the vast, mining and grazing interests being developed, towns springing up every where and Denver vapidly giving promise of being what it is to-day--the metropolis of the Eastern Rocky Mountain Slope.

Meanwhile, looking at all this with the eye of a statesman, Bishop Spalding had forecast the brilliant future of his see city and diocese, and with the judgment and skill of a first-rate financier had begun to put his diocesan affairs on a firm financial basis. The buildings occupied by the School of Mines in Golden were wisely sold and provision made for securing and reducing the large indebtedness of the diocese. Large tracts of then cheap but now valuable property were bought in more promising Denver. Permanent funds for the endowment of the episcopate and for theological training were thus established.

Believing, as every thoughtful and experienced churchman must, not only in the best secular education but also in the advantage of daily religious and churchly teaching for our children, Bishop Spalding built Wolfe Hall for girls and rebuilt Jarvis Hall for boys. Believing under his circumstances in the training of his own clergy under his own eye and in the field where they were to work, he built Matthews Theological School. Believing rightly that every bishop, like every other clergyman, ought to have his own church where he can preside by right, where the Gospel can be most impressively preached and the highest and most attractive ideals of worship can be realized: believing that every diocese ought, for its own good, to have such a center of unity and mission work: believing also, for the sake of the whole Church, that in every see city there should be this [11/12] visible symbol of the episcopate, so fundamental to our polity as a constituent part of Christ's Church Catholic; believing all this, he founded and organized ideally S. John's Cathedral, now one of the glories of Denver. And, seeing the needs of a great city population and the growing popularity of Colorado as a sanitorium, he was largely instrumental in the establishment of your noble S. Luke's Hospital and of your beautiful Home for Consumptives.

In short, with your co-operation, he very largely made Colorado in strength, in organization, in property and in endowments, what it is to-day--one of the foremost dioceses of the Church. There are now more than 100 Episcopal churches in Colorado. The number of communicants has increased from 500 to 5,000.

IV. You know all this history, of course, much better than outsiders. You, too, thus learned to respect and love your Bishop for what he was in himself; and looking back now at the whole course and results of his episcopate, must appreciate more and more what he did for you and be accordingly thankful. Others of your fellow citizens, as shown by your local press, have rightly regarded him as at once one of the great pioneers and civilizers who have made your city and state what they are to-day. But it is doubtful whether you here even yet realize how high an estimate is put by the Church in the East on his very marked character and manifold labors. For instance, I remember once, when still a missionary bishop, he hesitatingly offered in the House of Bishops some resolution, it was enthusiastically seconded by one of our greatest diocesan bishops, with these words: "I hardly feel worthy to stoop down and unloose the shoes of a man who is doing such work as his." We see all things at last in a true perspective. And some day, if it be not even now, the name of John Franklin Spalding, Bishop of Colorado, will be written high on the list of the missionary heroes of the Church, as one who served his Divine Master faithfully and did his whole duty.

Of course no such intense and effective life as his is ever lived, except at enormous cost to the man himself. Into all such devoted service must go, necessarily, the very best life blood of the servant. And so it was here. Go servant of God could ever say more truly, "The zeal of thine House hath even consumed me." Yet how steadfast and self reliant and persevering he was in it all! How faithfully he remained at his post, laboring on through the years, developing and using his own resources, instead of exploiting the East for outside help! How he ever bore so long the great strain of effort and, above all, the great burden of financial responsibility and anxiety which were his, is inexplicable. But he never complained or drew back, while strength was left him. He "endured hardness'' with all the fortitude of "the good soldier of Jesus Christ." There was in him the stuff of the true martyr. His character in this respect was well sketched by one of yourselves in these words, when he was described as "resourceful, indomitable, unsparing."

But his work is done. The day ended. The night came. And if, looking back now at his whole ministry--at its aim and at its end--we were to try to sum it all up in a single word, that word should be--accomplishment! Like his Divine Master to the Father, he, too, could have said to that Master and to the Church: "I have finished the work which Thou gavest me to do." This thought was his constant inspiration from the beginning, his legitimate satisfaction in the end. It was his true joy and his sufficient reward.

May a double portion of his spirit now rest upon his successor!




Bishop Spalding came of an old and patriotic American family, of Puritan stock. He was born in Belgrade, Kennebec county, Maine, August 25, 1828. In 1619 two brothers, Edmond and Edward, came to this county from Lincolnshire, England. Edmond settled in Maryland and Edward in Virginia, first, then went to Massachusetts making his home at Braintree. Some years later he and his son, Colonel John Spalding, with others incorporated the town of Chelmsford. Colonel John Spalding figured prominently in King Philip's war, and had a son, Joseph, who followed the martial path of his father and became an officer, a lieutenant in the Revolutionary army. A brother, Hon. Simeon Spalding, was a member of Washington's staff and afterwards a statesman of no little eminence in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. Jesse, son of Lieutenant John, engaged in farming at Chelmsford. Although a very young man at the time of the Revolution he bore arms under Washington.

The father of Bishop Spalding, John, son of Jesse, removed from Chelmsford to Maine, settling on a tract of land lying on the Kennebec river, and holding the office of selectman of Belgrade. John Spalding had four children by his first marriage, John Franklin, the late Bishop being the eldest.

The future Bishop of the Diocese of Colorado fitted himself for college at Camden, Kent's Hill, Maine, Wesleyan Seminary and North Yarmouth Academy. He entered Bowdoin College in 1849 and graduated in 1853 with the degree of A. B., later receiving the degree of A. M. and D. D. He was a classmate of Melville Weston Fuller, now chief justice of the United Stales, and a warm friend throughout life.

[15] Young Spalding taught school after his graduation as principal of the East Pittston, Maine, Academy for one year, and preceptor of Dennysville Academy in the winter and spring terms of 1854. In October of that year he entered the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, New York City, from which he graduated June 24, 1857. July 8th he was ordained deacon of S. Stephen's Church, Portland, Maine, and August 1st, was appointed missionary to S. James' Church, Oldtown, Maine; July 14, 1858, ordained priest by Bishop Burgess in Christ Church, Gardiner, Maine; August 1, 1859, appointed rector of S. George's Church, Lee, Massachusetts; November 1, 1860, became assistant minister of Grace Church, Providence, Rhode Island, of which Bishop Clark was the rector; November 1, 1861, he dissolved his connection with that Church, and April 1, 1862, became rector of S. Paul's Church, Erie, Pennsylvania, where he remained for twelve years, and of which his son, Rev. Franklin S. Spalding, is now the rector.

It was in Erie that the energy characteristic of Bishop Spalding became noticeable. In 1865 he secured funds for the erection of a church at a cost of $65,000. He was a member of the Board of Missions of the Church for the Diocese of Pittsburg. In 1860 he organized S. John's Church of Erie, and in 1867 built the church, costing $5,000. In 1868 he was a member of the General Convention, meeting in New York. In October, 1871, he was a member of the General Convention that met in Baltimore. In the meanwhile he had built the Church of the Cross and Crown and Trinity Chapel in Erie.

September 28, 1873, he was unanimously elected, and December 31st, was consecrated Bishop of Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, succeeding Bishop Randall. He reached Denver February 27, 1874, and at once entered upon his duties. He was the second Missionary Bishop to this state, and was also provisional Bishop of Arizona and New Mexico.

In Erie Bishop Spalding had married Lavina Spencer, who was born there. She was the daughter of Judah C. Silencer, a native of Connecticut, and, like her husband, a descendant of Revolutionary ancestors.

[16] In 1881 New Mexico was taken out of the field, and in 1887 Wyoming was formed into another Diocese.

Bishop Spalding built the Wolfe school for girls and Jarvis Hall, recently burned down, also Matthews Hall theological school, and was instrumental in the erection of S. Luke's Hospital and the Home for Consumptives in North Denver.

The diocese, owning property valued at $56,000, was in debt. If in anything Bishop Spalding excelled it was as a financier. At the time the Bishop began his task of freeing the diocese from debt the Church owned the buildings occupied by the School of Mines at Golden. The institutions in Denver were first relieved, the missions given rectors. The Episcopate fund, which now is $125,000, was established. The Theological Endowment Fund was established. Other trusts, all valuable, go to swell the aggregate Church property that has placed the Colorado diocese as nearing fifth in wealth in the United States.

There are now more than 100 Episcopal churches in Colorado. More than half are credited to the Bishop's efforts. The number of communicants has been increased from 500 to 5,151.

This is a remarkable record when it is taken into consideration that in 1874 there were but seven Episcopal churches in the territory. But two, S. John's of Denver and S. Paul's of Central City, were self-sustaining. In Wyoming there were only two Episcopal churches. New Mexico had none. One of Bishop Spalding's first successful endeavors was to establish the Indian boarding school at Lander, Wyoming. Bishop Spalding in his trips through the mountains made no enemies, only converts. Indians, gamblers, men who gloried in the reputation of being "bad," respected him. The famous chiefs, Washakie of the Shoshones, Ouray, Colorow, made him welcome and came to hear him preach. In after days the Bishop dwelt upon the friendship of Mrs. Jessie Benton Fremont, wife of General Fremont, who established the first Episcopal Church in Arizona at Prescott.

Bishop Spalding has been honored by his Church. Three times he has gone to London to attend international conventions of Bishops.

[17] The degree of D. D. was conferred upon him by both Bowdoin and Trinity Colleges. He published "The Church and Her Apostolic Ministry" (1886); "The Best Mode of Working a Parish" (used in the Syracuse, New York, Theological Seminary) "Jesus Christ, the Proof of Christianity" (1889), and numerous pamphlets and magazine articles. He was a member of the Sons of the Revolution, elected as its first president, serving for two years; also of the New York Society of Colonial Wars, and the Colorado Society, of which he was president for two years.

In point of service Bishop Spalding was next to the oldest Bishop west of the Mississippi. For some time he has been failing gradually in health, due, in great measure, to the hardships and rigors of his early life in the West. He went to Erie to visit his son, Rev. Frank Spalding, who was ill, and died while there.

Bishop Spalding leaves a widow and four children. Frank Spalding is a graduate of Princeton and Rector of S. Paul's Church, Erie; William, also a graduate of Princeton, is engaged in business in Denver; Elizabeth and Sarah were given splendid advantages, Miss Elizabeth being well known in New York for her art work. Miss Sarah is a graduate of Vassar. A fifth child, John Edward, died in Erie.

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