Response of Bishop Clarkson to Bishop George Augustus Selwyn's Jubilee Address to the Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, Baltimore, Maryland, October 6, 1871.
Extracted from The Churchman, New York, Daily Edition, Monday, Oct. 9, 1871.
THE CHAIRMAN. It gives me great pleasure to introduce the Rt. Rev. Bishop Clarkson, one of our early Missionary Bishops to the far West--the Bishop of Nebraska.
Rt Rev ROBERT HARPER CLARKSON, D.D., Bishop of Nebraska, spoke as follows:
My dear Brethren, it would be a very great imposition upon you, and it would be a very great injustice to myself, to attempt anything like a missionary speech after what we have just heard; and if I could have the consent of the gentleman who, yesterday, announced me, without my request, to say nothing, I should say nothing at all to-night, but give you the opportunity of making your missionary speeches in our collection-plates. But the noble Bishop, who has just taken his seat, said something to you about the red man in the northwest. Now let me say one word only with reference to the missionary work among the Indians in that part of our country.
Three years ago this General Convention set apart a large part of the district north of the State of Nebraska, into a separate Indian jurisdiction, and placed that jurisdiction temporarily in my charge. Into the borders of this jurisdiction, or the territory represented by those borders, the General Government has been trying to locate, permanently, all the Indians in that part of the country, about thirty or forty thousand, for the purpose of having them taught the arts ofindustry and civilization, and for the purpose of trying to redeem them from their savage state; and lately the President of the United States has declared that the entire control of all that population shall be taken out of the hands of the politicians and given into the control of the various religious bodies of our land. God bless him for such a scheme as that! (Amen.) And to-day all those Indians are under the control of Christian people; all who have anything to do personally in those agencies and reservations are Christian people, and at the back of those Christian people there stand all the great religious bodies of the land, with all their power, and influence, and inspiration. Oh, what a splendid sunshine of hope this movement has cast over this great Indian work!
Now, in pursuance of this just and righteous act of the Government, all the Indian reservations that lie within a hundred miles of our famous Santee mission, that region rendered glorious and radiant by the labors of Hinman and his fellow workmen, have been given to the control of this Church and of this Board of Missions to administer in the interests of humanity and civilization and Christianity; and I do say that never, never has there been in the whole history and realms of heathenism a finer opportunity for Christian enterprise and for missionary effort than is found there along the shores of the Missouri river to-day, among that people who are begging piteously for the Gospel of Christ. We have there now eight clergy; five of those are native Indians, ordained within a few years past; we have three white clergy; we have three mission houses; we have over 400 communicants; we have the Prayer Book translated into their own language, and used Sunday by Sunday with as much heartiness, with as much apparent apprehension as by this congregation, or any congregation in the land. Oh I how I wish that you could on some beautiful Sunday, hear ringing out in their own tongue there by that vast congregation, "Greenland's icy mountains," and
"Just as I am, without one plea,
Save that that blood was shed for me."
On the occasion of my last visitation there, I baptized at one service over seventy of these people, and during my visitation to the various chapels along the river in the Indian country, confirmed on that visitation eighty persons, Indians all, and also called together a convocation of all the clergy engaged in this work, and Christian deputations from all the tribes and all the bands of Christians along the river, and I wish that I had the power or the time to convey to this audience the faintest possible idea of the impressiveness, and the dignity, and the missionary zeal of that most significant gathering together of converted Pagans. Why, the burden of the eloquent words that fell from the lips of converted chieftains, catechized one after another, was just this: "God has saved us by His Gospel, and we must save our brethren of the same flesh and blood with us." Every heart there seemed to be filled with the constraining love of Christ, and every soul aflame with missionary fire, As I sat in the beautiful chancel of that beautiful church, restored by the large-hearted liberality of one layman of this body, with Mr Hinman by my side interpreting the words that fell from their lips, it seemed to me as if I was for once in my life-time near to it Pentecostal scene. Never have I anywhere seen such an exhibition of Christian zeal and fervor. One after another those dusky children of the forest, lately redeemed from Paganism, rose up and argued in the very words ofSt. Paul, "as we have received the manifold grace of God, so are we bound to carry it to the outlying tribes beyond." And if this [line missing in original text] forward now and send to these people a Bishop exclusively for themselves, a Bishop whose whole interest and earthly care was their interest and earthly care I do believe that this generation would not pass away until a diocese would grow up there with 25 Indian clergy, and 25 Indian churches, and 2,500 communicants.
I have often been asked the question, and with some incredulity, by good people, "Can it be possible that an Indian can be made a Christian of?" I know nor care nothing about theories; I have no theories about it; but all I can say is, that I never visit that wonderful Santee Mission that I am not more and more impressed with the wonderful evidences of the work of God's HolySpirit among that people. I do not believe that there are the same number of Christian people in the city of Baltimore that show more convincing evidences in their lives and conduct of the renewing power and the heavenly illuminations of the Holy Spirit than these people do. Oh, a wonderful door is indeed opened there to us. Shall we not go in and occupy it better? Shall we not send in more missionaries, and build more chapels? and, most of all, send them a Bishop for themselves?
During the last ten years a great deal has been done by a few noble men to elevate and to Christianize these people, and no Christian mind can notice the contrast between the Indians along that river, some of them as they are to-day, with what they were ten years ago, without a feeling of devout recognition of the invaluable services of those few noble men. I need hardly name them in your presence; you know who they are. God forever bless them! But this I know, that I never visit an Indian village or enter into an Indian service that there does not rise to my lips in grateful appreciation the name of those men. By and by our poor names will soon be forgotten and the little that we have done for our common humanity and for the glorious faith will have faded away from the light of men; but I do believe, in my soul, that history will remember what these men have done for the red man there, and will write the names of Henry Benjamin Whipple and Samuel D. Hinman and William Welsh, alongside of the names of Heber and Selwyn, and Kemper, and Wilberforce.
The collection was then taken up; the service was concluded by the Rt Rev. Bishop of Michigan, and the audience dispersed.