Project Canterbury

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 XXXII

In 1888, in response to an invitation from the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the nomination of our presiding Bishop Williams, I preached the opening sermon before the Lambeth Conference in the chapel at Lambeth Palace, a place hallowed by memories of the great hearts who have witnessed in life and in death for the truth.

There were present bishops from Africa, India, China, the isles of the sea, the icy regions of the North, and from the scorching suns of tropic land--men who had given up home and country for Christ's sake, and had come together to witness as men of old witnessed to the faith.

The magnitude of the occasion never so impressed me. As I said in beginning my address:--

"No assembly is so fraught with awful responsibility to God as a council of the bishops of His Church. Since the Holy Spirit presided in the first council in Jerusalem, faithful souls have looked with deep interest to the deliberations of those whom Christ has made the shepherds of His flock and to whom He gave His promise 'Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.'

"The responsibility is greater when division has marred the beauty of the Lamb's Bride. Our words and acts will surely hasten or (which God forbid) retard the reunion of Christendom. Feeling the grave responsibility which is imposed on me to-day, my heart cries out as did the prophet's, 'I am a child and cannot speak.' Pray for me, venerable brethren, that God may help me to obey His word, 'Whatsoever I command thee, that thou shalt speak.'"

It would be a pleasure to tell the story of the trials and triumphs of the individual bishops.

Among the most marked characters in the conference were that wise executive, Archbishop Benson, who graced the chair of Augustine; Bishop Lightfoot, one of the greatest of Biblical scholars; the silver-tongued Bishop Magee of Peterborough; the Christian Socialist, Bishop Morehouse of Manchester; the exegetical scholar, Bishop Ellicott; the divinity students' friend, Bishop Harold Browne of Winchester; Bishop Maclagan, who so gracefully filled the see honored by Bishop Selwyn, and my dear friend Bishop Thorold of Rochester. It seems invidious to single out men of a company of whom one might say, "There were giants in those days."

The American bishops did honor to their Church and country. The missionary bishops were listened to as one listens to those who bring tidings of the battle.

The venerable Bishop Crowther was one of the most interesting characters present. When a boy he was rescued from a slave-ship, placed in the mission school of the Rev. Mr. Weeks, made master of an African school at Regentstown, explored the River Niger in company with the Rev. J. F. Schon, was sent to the Church Missionary College in England, and in 1843 was ordained deacon by the Bishop of London. He was missionary at Sierra Leone and Abrokuta. It was here that he met his mother after the years of separation and was permitted to lead her out of heathen darkness to Jesus Christ. His life is a marvellous record of dangers; of voyaging along deadly rivers; of weary footsore inarches over deserts; of hunger, illness, imprisonment. In 1864 he was consecrated bishop. At the time of the Lambeth Conference he was four score years of age. The peace of God was seen in his face. His broken speech always rang true. In the discussion of the question of polygamy he said: "A heathen chief said to me: 'Mr. Bishop, I know Bible true. I become Christian. I have three wives.' I said: 'Mr. Chief, the Bible is God's book. The Bible is true. When God made Adam, how many wives made God for Adam? One wife, Mr. Chief, only one,--that is God's way. When men became wicked, and Noah built the ark, how many wives did Noah take into ark? Only one wife for Noah, one wife for Ham, one wife for Shem, one wife for Japhet. Mr. Chief, that ark represents the Church; the Church, the ark of Jesus Christ. How many wives Jesus Christ tell men to have? One wife. Apostle Paul said, marriage represents the union of Christ and his Church.'"

Tears were on the aged bishop's cheeks as he stood in Westminster Abbey and read on Livingstone's tomb the name of the man who gave his life for Africa. Bishop Crowther received the degree of Doctor of Divinity from Durham University with the Metropolitan of Guinea, Bishop Coxe, Bishop Potter, and myself.

The Cathedral Chapter and the heads of the University of Durham gave the bishops a dinner in the hall of the University. There is no place in England around which are clustered memories more sacred than Durham Cathedral. There were sixty bishops in the chancel at the special service, and the music by two thousand surpliced choristers suggested the song which St. John heard, as the voice of many waters. The sermon was preached by our beloved Bishop Coxe. This grand service preceded the setting apart of lay readers and lay preachers who were to go into the colliery districts.

The most memorable service was at Canterbury, where Augustine preached the gospel to Ethelbert, the Saxon king, and where may be seen the graves of Bishop Stephen Langton, who, at the head of the nobles, wrung from King John the Magna Charta which has made the English race the representative of constitutional government; of Anselm, the great scholar and doctor; of Thomas a Becket, statesman, bishop, and martyr; and a host of prelates, nobles, and kings whose names are intertwined with English history.

The words of Archbishop Benson, as he welcomed the bishops, breathed the same charity as did the instructions given to Augustine by Pope Gregory. That first service held thirteen hundred years ago was in strange contrast with this one where there were bishops from lands then unknown, speaking one language, using one service, and holding one faith. One hundred and ten years ago the Anglican Church did not have a bishop outside of England. There are now one hundred and eighty-five beyond its shores.

I was invited by the archbishop to preach the sermon at the consecration of the Croyden Church, where I saw what had not been the custom in the American Church,--the separate prayers of consecration used beside the pulpit, lectern, font, and altar, and which adds impressiveness to the solemn service.

I preached before the University of Cambridge; and Dr. Westcott, now Bishop of Durham, invited me to deliver an address on Indian missions. The Rev. Dr. Wigram, Secretary of the Church Missionary Society, was to speak in Cambridge the same night, but he kindly gave up his appointment, telling his audience that he could come again and that they must not miss the story of the North American Indians. We were, therefore, obliged to go from one hall to a larger to accommodate a second congregation.

The university paid me the honor of conferring upon me the degree of Doctor of Laws, upon which occasion the university theatre was packed with undergraduates and friends. The Rev. Dr. Taylor, celebrated for his scholarship in the Semitic tongues, was then vice-chancellor. The description of the candidates in their scarlet robes delighted my wild Ojibways, who said, "Kichimekadewiconaye heap chief."

The public orator delivered the laudatory speech, and as each candidate came forward the Hoi polloi of the university met him with cheers. In my own case there was no chaffing, which sometimes sounds like bedlam let loose, for I had the advantage of having delivered an Indian address, and as the boys say, "they cheered me like mad."

It was my privilege in 1889 to preach the triennial sermon in St. George's Church, New York, on the Centenary of the organization of the American branch of the Church.

In the autumn of 1890 I met a dear friend in New York who asked me where I expected to spend the winter; and upon my answer that, God willing, I should spend it in Maitland, he replied: "No, you are not well enough to go on with your work this winter. You must rest; the Church and your friends need you too much for you to run risks. You are going to Egypt." He then told me that he had engaged passage for my daughter and myself for the next month. I accepted the generous offer which, under God, was the means of my restoration to health.

On my arrival in England I found that my dear friend, the Rev. Dr. Randall Davidson, Dean of "Windsor had been appointed Bishop of Rochester in the place of Bishop Thorold, who had been translated to the see of Winchester. I received the following letter from him:--


My Dear Lord Bishop: I have received this morning your most kind letter, and I thank you most cordially for your words of welcome and benediction to us, in a time when we are called to enter upon work and responsibilities so momentous. Above all do we thank you for the promise of your prayers.

My consecration cannot, I understand, take place before Easter as Bishop Harold Browne has not yet resigned Winchester and Rochester will not be even vacant until February.

If it only were possible for you to be one of my consecrators, I can think of few things in connection with that solemn service which would give to me, and to all of us, more profound and thankful joy. The memories of past days would indeed in that case have a fresh significance and a sacred link with our new work.

Is it in any way practical for you to come to Windsor and stay a few days with us? We should prize it beyond words. My wife is most keenly anxious that you should come if you possibly can. . . .

You will be sharing with us all, the heartfelt sympathy which the archbishop's sorrow has evoked. It is indeed a loss (to the Church Militant) of one whose life seemed very full of promise.

I am
Ever affectionately and dutifully yours,

I spent Sunday with Dean Davidson at Windsor Castle, preaching in the morning in St. George's Church. I received a message that the Queen desired to see me in the afternoon. It was a pleasure to be able to tell her in connection with the story of my Indians, in which she was much interested, of the work of the English missions with which I was familiar. The following day I received from the Queen a portrait of herself, and a short time after a beautiful copy of her Journal in the Highlands.

Again I was the guest of my dear friends, Archbishop and Mrs. Benson. How often in dark days have messages of love from the former cheered me! I recall the pleasant greeting which he sent me by Bishop Thorold at the time of his visit to Minnesota, "Give my brotherly--younger brotherly--love to the Bishop of Minnesota. I wish he knew how often and how affectionately he is remembered. Tell him there is a tree which goes by his name in Addington Park, from which he stripped a fragment of birch to illustrate an Indian tale."

"While in London the Most Key. Dr. Bradley, Dean of Westminster, asked me to preach a missionary sermon, the first of a course of sermons delivered in Westminster Abbey. It happened that on the afternoon of my sermon some American ladies had asked Hon. Stanford Newell of St. Paul, United States Minister to the Hague, to accompany them to the Abbey. In speaking of it afterward Mr. Newell said:--

"As we entered the nave I heard a familiar voice saying, l the name of the Sioux Indian is a synonym for all that is fierce and cruel. General Sibley of St. Paul, who lived among the Indians for thirty years, says that it was their boast that they had never taken the life of a white man.' "

Mr. Newell at once wrote to General Sibley, who was on his death-bed, that he knew how much his friends loved him, but that he had not expected to hear his praises sung in Westminster Abbey. A few weeks after this I read in a London paper an account of the Sioux outbreak in which Sitting Bull was killed. The cause of this was laid at the door of "General Sibley, an officer of the United States Army, who had invented the Sibley tent." I wrote to the author of the article, stating that General H. H. Sibley was not the inventor of the Sibley tent, and that he had been a lifelong friend of the Indians and was Incapable of doing them injustice. I paid a jusfc tribute to his noble character. The letter was published and I am glad to say that my friend read the vindication before he was called away.

I spent Christmas with Dr. and Mrs. Thomas Evans and Mrs. Theodore Evans in Paris, and the following week left for Egypt by way of Venice. I look back with a peculiar pleasure to those weeks on the Nile and to the Sunday services when, under the shadow of those hoary monuments, we were able to bring out the undesigned coincidences which vindicated the truth of scriptural history. Little did Tiberius Cassar realize when he was building that temple, which was afterward embellished by Nero, that there was a babe lying in the virgin mother's arms who would rule in millions of hearts in every clime and tongue when his kingdom, which then ruled the world, would have crumbled into dust. And little did Nero think that there was a prisoner in Rome, chained to one of his soldiers, who was telling the passers-by of Jesus and the Resurrection, who would be honored and beloved wherever the name of Jesus was known, when the name of Nero would be remembered by the execration of the whole world.

The morning after reaching Luxor, hearing that the son of an English lady who was staying at the hotel had just died, I offered my services for the burial, being only too glad to give up the excursion for the day for the sake of remaining with the bereaved heart to whom I was able to carry some comfort.

On one of my visits to the tombs of the kings I asked my guide if he were a Mohammedan. "No," he replied, "I became Christian in Jerusalem, and was baptized and confirmed by Bishop Gobat with whom I lived; and twenty-four years ago when you had Syrian fever I helped carry you from hotel to bishop's house on a cot and waited on you all time while ill."

I met a Coptic priest in Luxor in whom I felt a deep interest. When we remember the persecutions which these ancient churches have suffered for Christ's sake our hearts must go out to them in profound sympathy. I found this priest intelligent, and longing to see the Coptic Church quickened into new life. We had many long conversations. He told me that their services for the administration of the sacraments were in the ancient Coptic language and not understood by the people, nor by himself fully. He said that he had heard that their offices had been translated into English and asked' if I could procure them for him, so that his son, who spoke English, might read them to him that he could teach them to his people. I was able to procure them in London through the kindness of my old friend Mr. Macmillan, greatly to the joy of the good priest.

While in Cairo I was invited to a Coptic wedding. The bride going forth to meet the bridegroom, the open-handed hospitality of the ruler of the feast, and other ancient customs, recalled that wedding in Cana which was blessed by the presence of our Lord. The officiating priest at the request of the bride and groom asked me to give them my blessing, which I did with a feeling of gratitude as I thought of the Providence which permitted a bishop of the Church seven thousand miles away to unite with a priest of the Coptic Church in the celebration of a marriage.

I visited the mission schools in Egypt and was rejoiced at the good work done.

The Protectorate of England over Egypt has brought hope to many downtrodden people. When I visited Egypt in 1865, if the Khedive needed men to dig canals or build railways, a requisition was made on the villages and the poor fellaheen were forced into a bondage little better than that of Israel in the days of Pharaoh. If the Khedive needed money, a forced tax was levied; and when a poor wretch could not pay it, he was beaten until his neighbors, moved by pity, paid it for him.

At that time there was no law in Egypt save the will of the royal master as administered by the sheiks of the village. Now labor is paid, taxes are equally levied, and there are courts of justice to administer law. In 1864 Egyptian cotton ruled and wealth poured into Egypt's coffers. There were signs of prosperity everywhere except in the hovels of the poor. It reminded me of a slave auction which I once witnessed in Mobile, where a buyer said to an old slave:--

"Where do you want to go, Uncle?"

"Ise done want to go to Africa."

"Africa? This is a better country than Africa!"

"It's a mighty good country for white men," the slave answered, "but drefful bad for a nigger."

We went from Alexandria to Athens, dear for the memories of the great seekers after Truth. Did Plato learn those truths about God when he visited the schools of Heliopolis where they had lingered from the days of Moses?

To all Churchmen sweet memories cluster around the school founded by Dr. and Mrs. Hill. My first visit was to the grave of Dr. Hill, where I knelt to thank God for the good example of "all those who have departed this life in His faith and fear." I visited the school several times. Miss Muir, then in charge and since entered into rest, worked faithfully under many and great obstacles in this mission of our Church, which has borne blessed fruit. The influence of that sainted man, Dr. Hill, has helped to kindle the zeal and deepen the life of the children of a church planted and watered by apostolic men. Several ladies of title who had been educated in Dr. Hill's school told me much of its influence on all classes of society in Athens.

In 1891 the girls of this school embroidered a beautiful screen with classic designs, which was framed in native inlaid wood and the back covered with cloth woven by the Christian women of Crete, which was sent to America with the request that it should be sold and the proceeds used for my Indian missions, of which they had heard. It was sold at the General Convention in Baltimore for five hundred dollars and presented to me by the purchaser.

In company with the archimandrite, who is a regular visitor of the school, I called on the archbishop, who greeted me with a kiss, and spoke of the debt of love which he owed to Dr. Hill's work, of his interest in our branch of the Church, and of his desire for a closer union between all who love the Lord Jesus Christ. We had several pleasant interviews, and at parting he gave me a book of services of the Greek Church.

Shortly after my arrival in Constantinople, I received a letter from the British Ambassador, Hon. Mr. White, saying that as he was suffering from a severe attack of neuralgia and could not call upon me, he would esteem it a favor if I would spend an evening with him. I found that he had a deep interest in the Indians and was desirous of obtaining some reliable histories of them and their language, which I sent him upon my return home. He was a devout Roman Catholic, but in a letter, which did not reach me until after his death, thanking me for sending the Indian books, he referred to our meeting in the warmest way, expressing his joy that God had permitted me to carry the gospel to the red men, and the hope that I might long be spared to work for our Lord and Master.

While in Constantinople, a young lady called upon me and said:--

"You do not know me, but I have often heard you preach in Minnesota. I am a niece of President Northrup of the State University, and I am now teaching in the Girls' College at Scutari. I have come to ask if you will visit the school and deliver an address Sunday afternoon."

I accepted the invitation and found my Minnesota friend teaching a Bible class of Bulgarian girls in their own language. There were also Bible classes in modern Greek and in Armenian. The pupils had bright, intelligent faces, and exhibited a keen interest in their sacred studies. I needed no interpreter in addressing the school, for all spoke English. When I saw the blessed work which Christian women were doing in moulding these young hearts for Christ's service, I thanked God as I gave them my blessing and benediction.

I had a most interesting interview with the Patriarch of the Armenian Church. The English Ambassador sent his interpreter with me on my visit to this venerable man, who presented a striking picture with his long white beard and flowing robe as he advanced to meet me, greeting me with a kiss on either cheek. He showed a profound interest in the Church in the United States, and had many questions to ask about our missions, seeming much affected when speaking of the early days of Constantinople and of the Church of St. Sophia.

I recall with pleasure these visits to Christian kinsmen of other communions. But nothing was of greater interest than the visit to Cyprus and the privilege of standing by the graves of the Fathers of Ni-csea. We went through that land freighted with history to Brindisi, and finally to Mentone, filled with memories of bygone days with friends now on the other shore.

In all parts of the world I have met my daughters of St. Mary's Hall. Again and again, in remote corners of foreign lands, I have suddenly heard the merry cry, "There is the bishop! There is the bishop! "and have been confronted by one of these dear daughters. None can know the joy that comes to a bishop's heart when the lambs of his Master tell him that his words have helped them, and he can say as did St. John, "I rejoice greatly that I have found my children walking in the truth, even as we received commandment of the Father."

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