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Assistant-Bishop of Springfield, Illinois,





Bishop of Delaware.




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010


A Fatherly Episcopate.

"And ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged
every one of you, as a father doth his children."
1. Thessalonians, II., 11.


IDEAS for their force and permanency must depend largely upon their relation to human
experience. It were idle for a theorist to attempt to gain anything but a transient currency for such schemes or conceits as did not correspond either with our actual life or with our approved aspirations. Aristotle, in his Categories, describes Truth in knowledge to be the agreement of truth and reality; [Categories, c. 12.] and quaint Fuller says that "All truths have eagle's eyes.'' Sure it is that thoughts which can face without flinching the sunlight of prolonged experience must have about them the strength and vitality pertaining only to perennial truth.

It may also be said that the perpetuity of any one idea which belongs essentially to a system of philosophy or morals will rest, so far at least as its application to matters growing out of that system is concerned, upon the permanence which comes of a faith which is at unity with itself.

Thus it is that the idea of the sacred ministry, as put forth by St. Paul in the text, recommends itself to all ages of the world. It is in harmony with human experience, and it is in harmony with other ideas which appertain to the sacred ministry. It is the Fatherly Idea.

[4] Unquestionably, the Episcopate may not lay claim to it exclusively; but I think it may primarily and chiefly.

It was as a Bishop that St. Paul wrote of himself in his Letter to the Thessalonians. Therefore, at the consecration of another Bishop, we may well consider the fatherly character of his office.

It seems to have been a favorite idea with the Great Apostle. In writing to the Corinthians, he says: "As my beloved sons I warn you." [I. Corinthians iv. 14.] When he addresses St. Timothy [I St. Timothy. I., 2; I. St. Timothy, I., 18; II. St. Timothy, I., 2.] and St. Titus [St. Titus, I., 4.] he, more than once, calls them his sons. When he alludes to the former in his Epistle to the Philippians, he again calls him his son. [Philippians, II., 22.] He does not hesitate to give the same endearing title even to the slave Onesimus. [Philemon, 10.]

The fatherly character of the Episcopate will be further seen in considering more fully the words of my text, in which St. Paul calls his Thessalonian children to witness how he had labored among them with all fidelity, yet with all loving-kindness and gentleness.

He had invited or exhorted them to come to and with him, that he might show them the good things which the Gospel has in store for those who as children will obediently heed its calls. He had comforted them; spoken kindly to them in their distress; cheered them when, by reason of the keener sense of God's goodness and righteousness which the truths of Christianity had imparted to them, they were filled with painful forebodings. And he had [4/5] charged them; testified to them the things which they must believe and do; "witnessing"—as he himself declared before Agrippa and Festus,—"both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come."

This, surely, was a fatherly way of discharging the duties of his Apostleship: enlightening, stimulating, and warning those who were Providentially committed to his charge.

And this it is which a Bishop to-day is expected to do for his diocese. As a father, he is to call his clergy and his people to him for counsel as to the work in which he and they are to be engaged together.

It is not every Bishop who can have what is known as personal magnetism, by which even distasteful tasks may be made palatable, and forlorn hopes be transformed into brilliant prospects through the force of individual affection. But at least every Bishop may so strive after and cultivate such relations between himself and his fellow-laborers as to win and retain their confidence, and in time compel their filial obedience, if not their enthusiastic cooperation. By the very nature of his office, and the circumstances attending the discharge of its duties, he may well be expected to have all the ampler and truer view of the field entrusted to him. Therefore, he comes to know more readily than others its various needs, and the means that are required to supply them.

He must summon his children to his aid. What would be thought of a father who showed no interest [5/6] in the affairs of his family; or who, conscious of glaring necessities, took no steps to provide for them? A Bishop, surely, cannot be indifferent to the spiritual wants of his household.

And he is justified even in importunity. It is because he has a father's love, and a commendable paternal pride, that he cannot content himself with a formal notification of what he may observe in the matter of diocesan needs. He reiterates his calls, it may be even to the dangerous edge of satiety, and of restiveness on the part of those whom he calls. But he is not calling for himself: it is for our Father. Neither is he calling to others that they should work without him. The word in the original here is parakalounteV. It is the summons to one's self, that those who are summoned may enter into the counsels for that labor of which one has already taken, or is prepared to take, one's own part.

It has been said that the chief reason for the defeat of the French at the battle of Waterloo was to be found in the fact that while their officers were in the habit of saying to their men: Go, the English officers said to theirs: Come. The ministry ought to be one of conquest; but Bishops and priests must fight together, side by side. No pride will keep the Bishop from his sons, and no fastidiousness will cause him to disdain any work which their hands may find to do.

In the trying and perilous isolation which falls to the lot of some of them to bear, they cannot but long at times for some one to cheer them by his sympathy and companionship. To whom can they as naturally look as to their Father in God?

[7] At a recent missionary meeting in London, a native student from Central Africa was among the speakers; and in the course of his observations he remarked that while in England his audience were accustomed to address the occupant of an Episcopal chair as "Lord Bishop," he always called him: "My Father Bishop." And nothing that he said was more loudly cheered. For both in heaven and earth, it is the fatherly relation which delights in being trusted, and which desires to be loved in return, which cannot be asked too many favors, or be laden with too many confidences.

The word employed in my text as the equivalent of "comforted" is again strengthened by para. It is paramuqoumenoi. It is not making one the subject of a story, or to be talked about, as would be the case without the addition of the preposition; but it implies such kindness and generosity of speech as comes from personal contact and mutual confidence: such comfort as is felt by one who has had the opportunity of putting one's case frankly before another who is trusted implicitly.

This is the kind of comfort which the clergy should be able to feel in approaching their Bishop. And not the clergy only, but laymen as well; for he is no less a father to the one than to the other. While in some of the texts already quoted, St. Paul addresses as sons those who were in the ministry, in the one more directly under consideration now he speaks as a father to the whole body of his disciples.

If in my own discourse I have dwelt more upon a Bishop's relations to his clergy than upon his relations to his people, it has simply been because the [7/8] former are of necessity more intimate, and because the nearer pastoral work among the people is, alas! one of the things which a Bishop has to forego, so far as doing it to any extent is concerned.

Yet there is a compensation here. For while so far as any one particular congregation is concerned, he may have to surrender to another that nearer pastoral work which, as you may have judged from my manner of alluding to it, is surrendered by a Bishop reluctantly, he enters a wider family, and may call the members of every priest's cure his sons and daughters.

If, for self-evident reasons the clergy seem to be in an especial manner his sons, there is no true Bishop anywhere who will show them such partiality as will do injustice to the rights and privileges of the laity.

Sometimes, to these, a Bishop may appear slow and lenient in his judgment against a clergyman. Again, when deciding between them and their rector, he may seem over-sharp in rebuking what he may account a wrong done by them. But were they to reflect the more upon the paternal attitude which he must assume towards all, and to consider how the clergy are especially—though not exclusively—his sons, I am inclined to think that the Bishop's course would be more freely approved.

The trials of the clergy are real; and not less so oftentimes are those of the laity. But in many of them the latter may go for counsel and sympathy to their pastors. They certainly will not complain if these in turn come for comfort to their pastors, who in their turn again must have recourse to the one gracious Bishop and Shepherd of us all.

[9] The comfort thus given by the Bishops to their clergy more especially is no unmanly commiseration of their trials and anxieties. These, when patiently endured or bravely overcome, may only develop the more the grace that is in them, and edify their nobler character. But it is, rather, the comfort which one ministers to another through a generous appreciation of the difficulties which surround the performance of duty, and that comes of the readiness of the one to stand by the other in all his honest efforts to fulfil his ministry. It is the comfort—and how unspeakable it is—which one derives from being tenderly and yet authoritatively reminded of that gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, which was made by the laying-on of hands, and of His promise from Whom in part the Holy Ghost did come: "Lo, I am with you alway—all the days [pasaV taV hmeraV]—even unto the end of the world."

Naturally enough, there grows out of this Divine Commission not only a sense of comfort, but also one of solemn responsibility. "As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you." "For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth."

The gifts of the ministry are not for controversy; although in their exercise controversy may be forced upon us. They are for reconciliation. But for a reconciliation that comes from man's subserviency to the truth of God.

Thus it is that the ministry is the witnessing—and with authority—to truth. So it was that St. Paul in the text wrote of his well-known course [9/10] among the Thessalonians. He exhorted, he comforted, he charged—or bore witness to—every one of them.

And it is a fatherly thing to do. For can a father be accounted faithful to his duty who does not constantly put before his children what they are to believe and perform? It were strange, indeed, if they did not look to him to guide and instruct them in matters of such eternal import.

So, Fathers in God must ever be witnesses to the truth. If they fail in this respect, to whom are the children of the Church to look?

It is said that every error is but the perversion of some truth. If so, who is to divide the error from the truth? Surely more to Bishops than to others belongs this duty—the duty of ascertaining and determining, under the ruling of their Divine head, the actual limits and relations of fundamental verities.

It is expressly enjoined upon them, at the time of their consecration, that they shall, "with faithful diligence, banish and drive away from the Church all erroneous and strange doctrine contrary to God's Word."

Of course, in determining the question, a Bishop will, as a loving father, have respect to the idiosyncrasies of his various children. Yet he must also have respect to the welfare and reputation of the family at large. While there is a certain amount of individualism that may properly enough be allowed, there is a certain amount also that ought to be put aside. Here the Church must claim her rights; must bear her witness. Better by far is it [10/11] even to force men to orthodoxy, else expel them, than, by tolerating them indefinitely, to sacrifice in one particular her claim to catholicity. There is, undoubtedly, such a thing as lawful latitude. And, quite as unquestionably, there is such a thing as illegal independence.

It is by no means easy always to distinguish between the two. No Bishop in this branch of the Catholic Church demands a belief in his infallibility. In his very efforts to be impartial, and to distinguish between essentials and non-essentials, he runs the risk constantly of offending one section or another. But he must act the father, even though he do for a while lose the affection and confidence of some of his children. Ought not the children the oftener yield, with filial reverence, to his fatherly judgment?

Selden, in his Table Talk, tells us that "the way to find out the truth is by others' mistakings." [Page 216.] So I think it not uncharitable to say that by the mistakings of those religious bodies which are without the Episcopate we see all the more clearly the truth of its Divine origin and the advantages of its fatherly offices.

Hitherto I have said nothing, except in passing, of its authority, although its character invites one to such considerations as treat of warrant and sovereignty.

I have forborne going into these considerations solely from the consciousness of the many unanswerable arguments that have already been adduced in their support. To say nothing of the force of reason and experience in testifying to a Divine commission [11/12] for the institution and transmission through an unbroken continuity of the Episcopate, it does seem so utterly unfair to be called upon again and again to produce the records of the early Church and of every successive period, that we may properly enough put the onus upon those who publicly say that what is morally impossible now could have been morally possible at any time. Facts may be perverted, and twisted, and bent to suit a purpose; yet they offer a sterner resistance than argument and sophistry. To this whole question the words of Newman may well apply: "To appeal to facts," he says, ''is to put the controversy out of our own hands, and to lodge the decision with the world at large."

To this tribunal we have long ago appealed, and with its decision we have good reason to be satisfied. To know that four-fifths of all nominal Christians to-day may be reckoned among Episcopalians, that is, among those who recognize the Episcopate as a fact and a law, this is something over which they who are still praying, as our Blessed Lord Himself prayed, for organic unity, have great reason humbly and thankfully to rejoice. Towards effecting such unity our own National Church has already contributed; and that, by the grace of God, to no small degree. It is not too much to say that by the very characteristics which St. Paul sets forth in my text as belonging to the ministry, as well as by other features in her policy, she is becoming more and more the centre for the discordant elements of American Christianity, and the great hope of the Republic in its most perplexing problem of making [12/13] into one homogeneous nation the dissimilar people gathering here from every race and clime.

Indeed, when I contemplate her rapid and accelerating growth during the past few years, and the magnificent future thus assured her in her labors for and with the millions yet to come, I am inclined to—nay, I do—envy the younger men and younger women, who because of their youth, and therefore their greater strength, have the wider opportunity of engaging in a mission so fraught with glory to God and blessing to man.

It is in the honest pursuit of the fatherly policy which appertains especially to the Episcopate, that we have been asked to join in the solemn services of this auspicious day. Despite the devoted energy and recognized ability of the Bishop and other clergy of the Diocese of Springfield, it has been demonstrated that the territory is too vast to enable one Bishop so to exhort and comfort and charge the large and varied population already there in such a manner as becometh a father in dealing as to spiritual things with his children. And so out of love for them, and mindful of the awful responsibilities involved, choice has been made of another Bishop who shall share the labors of one as to whose claims upon our affection and regard I have no need to speak.

As to the choice of his assistant, one is estopped, by his presence and by his own unaffected modesty, from saying what otherwise it might be fitting enough to say. And yet even so I may be permitted to express the congratulations which we all feel ought to be expressed to the diocese upon [13/14] having been led to elect one who, by reason of his personal character, his varied and extensive acquirements, and his ripe experience, answers so well the requirements for the office to which it is purposed now to admit him.

Doubtless his removal will be felt as no ordinary loss to Davenport and Iowa; but we do not want men in the Episcopate who can be easily spared elsewhere. And because of the gain which we believe will accrue to the Church at large, as well as to his own diocese, by his consecration, we may well ask of those who are called upon now to give him up an unselfish rejoicing at his entrance upon an office wherein he becomes to a certain extent the minister of all.

In your heart, too, my dear brother, there must be some regret only natural at leaving a life and work which have had about them so much to your desiring. Had it not been that you were well persuaded that you were called of God, you would have answered, No. You were not unmindful of the high honors of the Episcopate. But these honors imply responsibilities of no ordinary weight. And of these I know you chiefly thought. And of these again there is none more grave than that of being a Father in spiritual things.

As I go back in my cherished remembrance of the friendship which has existed between us from the days of our boyhood, I cannot but recall that wise and devoted prelate under whom we both began our ministry, the third Bishop of Pennsylvania. [The Rt. Rev. Alonzo Potter. D.D. LL.D.] He certainly helped us, after an especial [14/15] manner, to realize the fatherly character of the office whose duties he discharged so consistently.

This character, I am quite sure, you will ever strive to maintain and exemplify. It will demand the very best of all you have and of all you are. As you realize more and more the greatness of the work and your own unworthiness, you will oftentimes cry out, in the bitterness of your soul: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord." And yet as you realize, too, the source of all your strength, and the supreme object of all your labor, you will again cry out: ''Lord, to whom shall I go? Thou hast the words of eternal life." There is the consciousness of sin which forbids God's nearness, and the yearning for grace which attracts us to His presence.

It is this sense of His presence that will give you courage to believe in the potency of your commission. Very solemn words will soon be addressed to you: words which will have no meaning at all unless they signify that to you is conveyed in a special way the gift of the Holy Ghost. Were it not so, it would be worse than mockery for us to use these words.

But, as a Father in God, you will not rely solely upon the authority thus conveyed. Its possession in no manner lessens the necessity of personal qualifications and exertions. Therefore, by your own spirit, enlightened and sanctified by The Spirit, you will inspire in others affection and respect. An infidel once acknowledged that "to a philosophic eye the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues."

[16] Let energy and gentleness [I. St. Timothy v. 1.] characterize your rule, and when you tire of your work or grow impatient under its trials, recall the example of that apostle whom we have just commemorated. [St. James.] Imitate his ready following of the energetic and gentle Master, even though it lead you to the drinking of His cup and the baptism wherewith He was baptized. In Christ: "There lies the spring of all your strength. For Christ: There lies your motive, if it be pure. With Christ: There lies the efficiency of your work, and its imperishable reward.

                        "To thee may it be given
                        Many to save with thyself;
                        And at the end of thy day,
                        O faithful shepherd! to come
                        Bringing thy sheep in thy hand."
                        M. Arnold.

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