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Lights and Shadows of a Long Episcopate
Being Reminiscences and Recollections
of the Right Reverend
Henry Benjamin Whipple, D.D., LL.D.
Bishop of Minnesota

New York: The Macmillan Company, 1899.

Chapter XVIII

THERE is no work of the Church more important than the laying of Christian foundations in a new state. The population in the West is made up of immigrants from the older states and from nearly every country in Europe. Society has not crystallized. Everything is to be done--roads opened, school-houses, court-houses, and churches to be built. Old prejudices are weakened, necessity compelling men to fraternize. There is intense energy and activity in all secular matters, and he who would mould these restless men must be one who feels the beating of their pulses, and keeps even step with the tide of immigration.

Fifty years ago the Church in the East did not realize the character of Western work. They admired the heroism of Bishop Kemper and others; but work of the kind was a marvel to be admired, not copied. The East kept its men of promise at home. When it had a man who had tried parish after parish and failed, it thought that man had a call to preach the gospel in the West. It did not realize that the West had the young blood of the nation, and that men covered with barnacles were pitiably helpless.

It was the bleating of the sheep in my ears that compelled me to enter into the blessed work of Christian education. In every fibre of my heart I loved and believed in the Church, having not one doubt of its apostolic lineage. I believed in its mission. I believed that in a day when every form of unbelief was banded together--when to many God was a name, the Bible a tradition, and heaven and hell fables--that these scoffs and denials could not be met without the witness of an historical church.

From the first I said that I would not be the head of a divinity school representing a party. Men are wanted who know what they believe, and in their love for Christ will labor to bring back unity and peace to a divided Christendom. The fact that the faith of the Church rests on impregnable ground led me to believe that within the limits which the Church allows there was no room for fear. Truth will conquer error, and oneness will come in the faith of Jesus Christ. This tolerant spirit does and will place one at a disadvantage. The charity which concedes to every brother the liberty whi6h the Church gives will be misjudged, and he who holds it will be accused of being an apologist of error. For those who play fast and loose with eternal verities, who cast doubts on the inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, I have only profound pity, and say with the apostle, "We know no such teaching, neither the Church of God."

In my first Diocesan Council I said:--" I pray you, as you would spare the Church one of the heaviest curses which has marred its beauty, be united as brethren. If we love Christ and his Church more than we love our plans and party, there will be no room for bitterness.

"In presenting holy truths the difference must not be forgotten between the guilt of wilful schism and the inheritance of schism. There are those who love the Lord Jesus who cannot claim identity with the Primitive Church, and there are also Churches which can claim apostolic descent, which we believe have corrupted the faith. God forbid that we should fail to recognize His Faith wherever it is found.

"Again, thank God, a restored unity is not impossible. Orthodox Christians have retained the Apostles' Creed and baptism in the name of the Ever Blessed Trinity; and they are the doctrinal tests for the admission to the Church's fold.

"The questions which lie at the foundation of schism are for the most part questions of religious opinion; many of them could be held or denied without peril to the faith and are not ground for rending the visible Church."

The greatest difficulty which a theological school meets is that of finding men fitted for the sacred ministry. Too often a boy, because he is pious, has no bad habits, and is a regular attendant at church, is urged into becoming a candidate for Holy Orders. There is not a vocation which demands the best brains as well as the best heart, as strongly as does the ministry of the Church.

Few bishops have been more blessed in their clergy than I have been in those trained at Seabury. My beloved assistant, Bishop Gilbert, the Rev. Dr. Dobbin, rector of Shattuck School, the Rev. George B. Whipple, late Chaplain of St. Mary's Hall, the Rev. Edward C. Bill, late Professor of Liturgies at Seabury, several of the deans of the diocese, and over one-third of the clergy, were graduated from our Divinity School.

I owe a debt of grateful love to its faithful warden, Professor Butler, the Rev. Dr. E. S. Wilson, and to all of its professors and teachers, and to none more deeply than to my beloved brother the Rev. Dr. John Steinfort Redney, whose love, unwearied devotion, and cooperation I have ever had in all my plans for this school of the prophets.

He is honored for his ripe scholarship and for his theological and philosophical works. There are few of my clergy who have so shared the thoughts of my heart or to whom I have more often turned for sympathy.

The Rev. George C. Tanner was the first man that I ordained to the sacred ministry. He was graduated from Brown University, and received his theological education at Seabury. He had charge of the outlying missions in Steele and Rice counties. He was a true missionary,--one of those who preach from house to house, and by his loving example win the hearts of all who come under his influence. To me, he has ever been as a right hand. After Shattuck School became so large, Dr. Tanner was placed in charge of the schoolroom as an encyclopaedia for the boys, from whom he received the sobriquet" Brains."

The Rev. Dr. Dobbin was graduated from Union College, and pursued his theological education at Seabury. He was ordained to the priesthood by me, and in 1866 was elected the rector of Shattuck School. For more than thirty years he has been the loving father of the boys entrusted to his care. To him and his associates Shattuck School owes its high reputation.

Our Seabury students have been as loving sons to a father. Occasionally one has come to us who, never having recited a lesson in theology, has attempted to set bishop, professors, and fellow students aright as to Catholic teaching and usage.

In the early days of my bishop's life, I confirmed a man of high character who told me, some years after, that a friend had asked him if he were High Church or Low Church. "And, Bishop," he said, "you never told me anything about it; I did not know what to say, and so I said High Church because it sounded better. I hope I was right."

We have been greatly blessed in the work done by Seabury men, who lived by the motto: "Preach Christ and work in the Church."

It has been my custom to deliver lectures annually before the students upon the pastoral office. I have always advocated the wearing of clerical dress; it is a means of much good to be always recognized as a minister of Christ, as it gives opportunities to be helpful to perplexed souls in Christ's name.

In the beginning of the Oxford Movement, men like John Henry Newman wore the dress of laymen. When Dr. Muhlenberg visited England and saw for the first time clerical coats, he thought them most fitting and described them to his tailor, who said to his man, "I think he wants an M. B. coat." Expressing his curiosity as to what an M. B. coat might be, the good doctor was told that it was a secret; but it was finally divulged. "We call it the Mark of the Beast" said the tailor.

Advice has often been asked of me regarding the preparation of sermons. As a rule, young clergymen should carefully write their sermons. My own custom was to read on Monday the services, lessons, collect, epistle, and gospel, for the following Sunday. There is a lesson inwrought and underlying the service for each Sunday, Festival, and Fast day, which a prayerful consideration will bring out. Selecting my text, I have made my notes as full as if I were to preach extempore. Then destroying the notes I have reviewed the subject and made other notes, often repeating this several times. When my heart was full of my subject, after earnest prayer, I have written my sermon.

For many years I have preached unwritten sermons, but with as much preparation as if written, and always with the prayer that the words spoken might by the Holy Spirit help some poor soul to find peace.

Year by year the work of a minister of Jesus Christ grows more precious and seems freighted with graver responsibility. It is an impressive thought that to some one of the congregation it may be the last hearing of the gospel.

In my addresses to candidates for Holy Orders I have begged them never to indulge in pride, a stumbling-block to men and an offence to God. A young preacher once said to a wiser one:--

"Do you not think that I may well feel flattered that so great a crowd came to hear me preach?"

"No," was the answer, "for twice as many would have come to see you hanged."

Another of the same calibre said to Bishop Griswold:--

"My sermon is long to-day; do you think we had better omit the ante-communion? "

"Certainly," said the bishop, "if you are sure you have something better for the flock of Christ than the Commandments of God, the Epistle, and the Gospel."

Our candidates for Orders should be trained to read and speak intelligibly. Many excellent sermons are lost to the listeners by the preacher's poor delivery.

The support of Seabury Divinity School has been from the beginning a work of faith, and has been made more difficult because I have refused at all times to make it the organ of a party. At a time when I was much perplexed financially I was assured of the aid of one of our educational societies. I made an application in behalf of some worthy students. The society made as a condition of their assistance that the students should hold certain theological opinions, and sent me the pledges to be signed. I refused the aid proffered under these conditions and wrote the following letters:--

FARIBAULT, January 20th, 1880.

Dear Brother: I did not know that you required pledges of your beneficiaries. I write to you with perfect frankness as one brother should write to another brother in Christ, to tell you why I cannot ask the young men committed to my care to make the pledges which you require as a condition of rendering aid in their preparation for the ministry.

A young man who enters a theological school comes as a learner. Every pledge that he has made to hold certain opinions dwarfs his mind, precludes the possibility of broadest scholarship, tends to make him a partisan, and often, by a law of human perversity, leads him to the other extreme. I have felt it my duty to say that I will not knowingly receive candidates for Orders who come bound by pledges which will prevent them from becoming true scholars.

There are questions about which the Church allows a very great difference of opinion: i.e. as to whether Episcopacy is a primitive and apostolic institution, established in the earliest ages when the Church was guided by God, the Holy Ghost, and necessary to preserve the organic existence of the Church; as to the nature and extent of the Divine grace bestowed in Holy Baptism; as to the presence of Christ with the faithful members of His Body in the Holy Communion; as to the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures where Christians disagree. I might mention theories concerning the Atonement, Election, and a host of other deep mysteries about which the wisest scholars have in all ages differed.

A Catholic Church must be tolerant of opinion while firm as a rock in defence of the Faith. The moment that any opinion which does not belong to the faith as contained in the Catholic Creeds is demanded as a test of fellowship, the poor Ephraimite who cannot pronounce it must build his new sect. God has wonderfully preserved our branch of the Church from this one error, and I believe she is to be the Healer of Christian divisions in the last days. She preserves as primitive and apostolic her visible polity. She celebrates Divine sacraments as ordained by Christ, but does not define what God has not defined. She rests all her teaching on Holy Scripture, but gives her children as interpreter the old Catholic Creeds for which she is a trustee.

The Church recognizes the validity of all Christian Baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity and her condition of fellowship is faith in the Incarnate Son of God, as contained in the Creeds.

I do not question the right of your society to make the conditions you have made, and none will rejoice more than I at the good which has been done. I believe with all my heart in the position which I have occupied for years, and I think I see its influence on the Church. I cannot take a narrower one.

I think it would be a wiser policy for you to look, not to the opinions of the young men, but to the piety, scholarship, soundness in faith, earnestness, and charity of the teachers to whom you confide these young men, and to the spirit of the school which is to be their home. The Age demands much of the Church. It must have profound scholarship, great-hearted loyalty, and charity, and must not by any possibility allow her true position to be narrowed into limits which will surely create parties. With much love,

Your friend and brother,

FARIBAULT, Jan. 31st, 1880.

Dear Brother: The only point which I raise is this:--that a young man who comes to the highest of all investigation must be a free man. He is not able to make intelligently a declaration of faith upon questions which have occupied the deepest thought of the wisest men, and about which they have differed. If he accepts aid as a condition of holding certain views, he compromises his own freedom, and by a law of human infirmity is liable to drift to the opposite extreme.

I have been compelled to take the position which I have, to prevent young men coming to us bound hand and foot to the views of other societies, and as I am sure I am right, I cannot alter it.

I should never place on your scholarship a man whom I supposed you could object to. I have for years tried to fight an honest battle for what I believe is the broad Catholicity of our branch of the Church of Christ.

I believe that we are on the eve of the mightiest battle the world has ever seen between truth and error. I have no fear of the issue. The name of our King is the Truth. But they who are to be His leaders must not be bound by pledges which have not been reached by the full and searching examination of all facts.

Your Society is welcome to examine and scrutinize our work. We mean to be faithful almoners for Jesus' sake. But we ask you to trust us, and not demand of young men pledges which cannot be made intelligently before their theological studies have begun.

With love,
Your friend and brother, H. B. WHIPPLE.

Another educational society named conditions which we could not accept, thus adding one more evidence of the need of Western theological institutions having their own endowments.


Dear Brother: I write to you in sorrow concerning your decision that the only condition upon which you can aid us in the work of theological education is that the diocese of Minnesota shall raise one dollar for every two which you may give for this object. You have named a condition which we cannot fulfil, and one which I believe is unjust to us. It leaves me no alternative but to withdraw from your Society, and request that all contributions for Faribault shall be sent directly to us. I do not want the diocese to fail in any duty, or shirk any burden. It gives liberally. The diocese is poor and the field one of the hardest in the Church. Two-thirds of our people are foreigners. The people of a new country bear fearful burdens. They inherit no labor in the past, everything is to be done. Our rates of interest twelve to eighteen per cent, and taxes from three to five per cent, tell the story. In such a field the Church is trying to lay her foundations for our Saviour's work. We have sent out (over and above the missionaries of the Domestic Committee) eighteen missionaries. We have assessed our people over five thousand dollars. We have no Bishop's fund, and his salary of twenty-five hundred dollars is assessed upon the parishes. Our calls for aid to build mission churches are many times greater than in the East. For two years we have suffered from the plague of locusts, and with great liberality our people have resolved to care for this suffering at home, and not apply to the East.

The West is to swarm with a population of millions. You cannot and you will not give us the clergy. We have not the means to send our young men fifteen hundred miles to be educated. Our young men are needed by the Church.

In faith Minnesota founded a divinity school. It was work for God, and we believed that He would care for it. In its scholarship, discipline, piety, soundness of faith, and breadth of Christian love it is equal to any in the land. It takes devout young men without pledges of support to train them to preach the gospel. It refuses no one because of poverty. They come to us from other dioceses because we offer them a welcome and a home. They become postulants and candidates here, because we offer them the only door by which they can study for the ministry. At this time Minnesota has twenty-two postulants and candidates for Orders, besides several boys in preparatory schools who look to the ministry. Ten of these came from other states. Over two-thirds of those who are in our Divinity School came originally from other states, and one-half of all whom we have educated have been from outside of Minnesota.

One case will illustrate the rule. A bishop said to me last autumn:--

"I have an earnest man who desires to study for Holy Orders, but we are too poor to care for him."

I answered, "Send him to Faribault, and it will cost you nothing."

We trust God to care for this work. The conditions which you have named are simply impossible. With much love,

Your brother in Christ,

In the spirit of the following letter from the Hon. J. L. Motley we have founded the Breck Farm School at Wilder for the sons and daughters of farmers, which is doing a blessed work.

17 ARLINGTON STREET, LONDON, 10th Feb., '70.

Right Reverend and Dear Sir: Your letter of the 28th of Jan'y was duly received and read by me with sincere interest and sympathy.

I thank you very much for the details which you were so good as to give concerning the organization and progress of the system for higher education in the great Northwest. Such a work is the best to which men can devote themselves, for certainly it is education only, widely diffused and substantial, that makes our political institutions possible.

A highly educated and landed democracy seems to me the highest attainable human polity. An ignorant and pauper democracy is one of the most dangerous forms of tyranny. Certainly it should be the aim of all who love and believe in America to aid in the intellectual and moral development of the great West, to which region the future of the Republic is entrusted and "which is about, in coming years, to absorb so vast an amount of the superfluous populations of the old world.

I was very sorry to lose the opportunity of seeing you when you were in England, but am truly rejoiced to hear of the improvement in your health. Trusting that this may continue to a complete restoration,

I am, with high regard,
Very respectfully and faithfully,


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