THE General Convention of the Church, in 1898 met in Washington. The opening sermon preached by the Rt. Rev. Dr. Tuttle of Missouri was a missionary sermon full of apostolic zeal and catholic spirit.
It was a gratification that the General Convention passed a canon ratifying the action of the diocese of Minnesota in permitting Swedish congregations to use the liturgy of the National Church of Sweden.
To many of the bishops it was a disappointment that a more stringent canon on divorce was not passed. It is a burning question which touches all that is sacred to home and nation. The lax laws of state legislatures in legalizing the sundering of the marriage vow contrary to the law of God has created a public conscience and has brought in its train shameless desecration of that holy ordinance which God gave in the time of man's innocency and which was hallowed by the presence of Christ at the wedding of Cana in Galilee.
The discussions in the House of Bishops and in the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies must prove of great benefit in calling attention to this crying evil, and I believe that the time will soon come when the Church will place her legislation on the immutable law of God. Many of the evils which vex the Church of England have been avoided by the Church in America, in that the laity of the Church have their true position in all legislation, and they have been the conservative element in the history of the Church.
A beautiful service was held at the unveiling of the Peace Cross, on the site of the future Cathedral of Washington, on which occasion the President of the United States was present and delivered an address.
Four missionary bishops were elected, and the Rev. Dr. Kinsolving was elected for the infant Church of Brazil. Few missions have been more blessed than those of the American Church Missionary Society in Brazil. Multitudes of the normal adherents of the Roman Catholic Church were living in open irreligion and even denying the faith of their Church. The success of this mission, the zeal of the clergy, and the devotion of its laymen made it necessary to give them the oversight of a bishop, and we had no question that the time had arrived when loyalty to Christ demanded that we should consecrate a bishop for them.
In 1875 some of the wisest bishops of our Church gave their support at the request of the House of Bishops to the establishment of a mission in Mexico, and the Rev. Dr. Riley was elected and consecrated Bishop of Mexico. Serious difficulties arose which affected this work and the honor of the Church in the United States. In 1883 the House of Bishops appointed Bishop McLaren of Illinois, Bishop Dudley of Kentucky, and myself a commission to visit Mexico to procure some peaceful settlement of the difficulties existing in that branch of the Church. After full consultation, it was decided that it was not advisable to visit Mexico. Feeling the deep importance of the settlement of the difficulties, I wrote Bishop Riley the following fraternal letter:
FARIBAULT, MINN., Dec. 17th, 1883.
My dear Brother: I had expected to leave, with the Bishop of Illinois and the Bishop of Kentucky, for Mexico, on January first, but after a full conference we have decided not to go,--into the reasons, I need not enter.
I write you as a brother who loves the Saviour, and to whom it would be a lifelong sorrow if harm were to come to the work so dear to his heart.
Circumstances have arisen which seem to make it necessary to hold in abeyance 'the present plan of establishing a National Church in Mexico, and to carry on the work as a mission of our own Church.
The expectations of yourself and the Mexican Commission as to the adoption of a liturgy and order for the administration of sacraments have not been fulfilled. Grave dangers threaten the work,--dangers which touch upon all which we hold dear. Added to this are the lack of funds to prosecute the work in Mexico, and the decrease in all gifts for missions.
I know your loving heart, and write to ask if it will not be better for you, for the Church in Mexico, and for the future of this work for which you have done so much, to place your resignation in the hands of the bishops, and retire from the work. It will be a magnanimous act worthy of one who loves Christ and His Church more than all things else.
I have no right to dictate to you, but I felt that, without consultation with others, I might write as a brother.
May God guide you, is the prayer of
Your friend and brother,
H. B. WHIPPLE.
Bishop Riley resigned, and the mission was placed under the care of the Board of Foreign and Domestic Missions, and its immediate oversight committed by the Presiding Bishop to the Rev. Dr. Henry Forrester, under whose care it has been much blessed. Mexico is awakening to a new life, and there is a great work to be done for her people by the Church.
In the winter of 1898 the Church Missionary Society of England invited me to deliver an address at their Centenary, in April, 1899, as the representative of the American Church. The invitation was seconded by the managers of our Foreign and Domestic Missionary Society. It was an occasion of the deepest interest; missions from every quarter of the globe were represented; archbishops, bishops, statesmen, ex-governors of foreign colonies, and delegates from other missionary societies were present, their speeches all revealing that their hope for the children of a ruined world was in Jesus Christ, and ringing with the story of the triumphs of the Church.
The address of the Archbishop of Canterbury glowed with his passionate love for missions. He dwelt upon the necessity of convincing men that the carrying forward of the gospel message was an essential part of Christian life.
The Earl of Northbrook, Ex-Viceroy of India, gave a marvellous record of the increase of Christianity in India, stating that between the years 1851 and 1890 Christian congregations had increased from two hundred and fifty to five thousand; and individual Christians from ninety thousand to six hundred and seventy thousand.
Lord Cranborne, M.P., eldest son of the Prime Minister, made a most earnest speech in behalf of aggressive missionary work. He called forth a storm of applause by saying that whatever might be done in heathen lands in the way of founding secular colleges, unless the definite teachings of Christianity were carried with the institutions, nothing real could be accomplished.
The closing speech of the Rev. H. E. Fox, the beloved secretary of the Society, was a noble plea in which he spoke of the wrong of destroying a religion and giving no religion to fill the empty place, as in India and Africa where Western civilization is making it impossible for the natives to believe in their own religion.
My Centenary address on Christian Unity and the Extension of Missions was warmly received, and the vast audience paid a graceful tribute to the Sister Church in America by rising to receive her representative.
At a breakfast given at the Castle and Falcon Hotel, the birthplace of the Society, I had the pleasure of meeting Archdeacon MacDonald of the Yukon, whom I had not seen for thirty years and whose work has been crowned with success.
It is impossible to estimate the splendid impetus which is given to missionary workers by these meetings where facts and figures tell of God's blessing.
During the few weeks of our stay in London, where we were the guests of our beloved friend Lady Ashburton, whose home has more than once been to me a haven of rest and refreshment, I delivered many sermons and addresses. The University of Oxford conferred upon me an honorary degree. Lady Ashburton is an evangelical of the best school, always busy in noble works. She might well be called the patron saint of dockmen, for whom she has done such blessed work, among other benefactions having built them a church which she lovingly supports. Her pity for suffering humanity breathes in this letter:--
KENT HOUSE, KNIGHTSBRIDGE, S. W., Tuesday, December, 1889.
My dear friend: I was grieved on my return home very late last night to find your precious note. Last night makes me feel England, not dazzling Egypt, ought to be my winter home. I wish you had seen the loving welcome the many hundreds of my poor brothers and sisters gave me on this my return from Scotland, and joined in the sweet and blessed Communion we all had in prayer and praise--it was a little thank-offering ceremony (quite unexpected by me) in which the dear people gave me a beautiful large Bible for my Victorian Dock Mission Hall (opened now four years since), and we had some lovely thoughts from friends, and sweet prayers of thankfulness. I really feel I cannot leave my poor friends if I can be of any help or comfort to them during the long dreary sunless winter. I shall ask God's guidance more in this matter and will write you, but I do not think anything but illness would keep me from them. I thank God I have had the dear privilege of meeting you--remember me sometimes at God's throne, that I may be guided right in all things. Thanks for your friendship which is very precious. May I send my hearty love to your daughter and a blessed sojourn in dear Egypt. I hope strength will be given me for work.
I put you into God's tender keeping.
Yours with gratitude,
It was at Lady Ashburton's house years ago that I first met Mr. Edward Clifford, the author of the life of Father Damien. When he visited that sainted man on the leper island of Molokai he received from Archbishop Magee the parting words, "G-ive Father Damien my love and tell him that an English bishop always remembers him in prayer."
In May I returned to my diocese. The celebration of the fortieth year of my election to the Episcopate occurred on June 7, when the Diocesan Council met in the Cathedral at Faribault.
There was a large representation of clergy and laity. Several of the Indian clergy from the Chippewa country were present and also some of the faithful laymen of the Sioux, among whom was the venerable warden of the Birch Coulee Mission, Good Thunder.
A beautiful illuminated address expressing their loyal affection was presented me by the clergy of my diocese, which was read by the Rev. J. J. Faudé, one of the most faithful of my clergy.
In writing these reminiscences, it has been impossible to keep personality in the background. No one could be more sensible of the overmuch praise which has been given me. The success which our Heavenly Father has permitted me to see is His gift. I have tried to give Him the will, and His love has raised up friends to help in the work.
In reviewing the past, forms and faces come to me of the men and women who, through these many years, have given me their support in every venture I have made for Christ and His Church.
In dark days, when the way was overshadowed, faith and prayer always showed the silver lining to the cloud and nerved me to work and wait for the result to come in God's good time.
At a period of great financial depression, when our treasury was empty and the outlook forbidding, I was sitting in my study, weary of heart, wondering how the difficulties could be met, when my dear brother, the Rev. E. S. Thomas, came in. I saw by his face that he had come to tell me that the school work must be given up. I sprang to my feet, and grasping him by the hand said:--
"Thomas, do not tell me a word about it. Let us pray."
Side by side we knelt and poured out our hearts to God. We rose from our knees, and without speaking Thomas put his arms around my neck, kissed me, and went out. That was the nearest approach to failure which ever came to our work.
No words can describe the terror and foreboding which came to the bravest hearts, when, in the dark hours of the Sioux massacre, every hour brought some new tale of the horror of Indian warfare. And when, believing that Enmegahbowh and the other missionaries were murdered, my dear Breck said from the chancel, that Indian missions were a failure, it came to me as the last drop in the cup of anguish. I came forward and said to the people:--
"Our Indian missions cannot be a failure, for if our missionaries are murdered, my young diocese will have the honor of writing in its history the names of martyrs for Christ! "
I could say no more. With a heart of lead I sat in my study a few hours later when brave Manney came in to see me. With tears of agony I said:--
"Manney, it is not failure! We must not give up hope!"
"You are right, Bishop," came the quiet answer, "there is no failure! All we have to do is to sow the seed; you have done that, and in His own good time God will permit you to see the harvest."
There is nothing which brings more joy to my heart than the light which is dawning on the future of the Indian race. The heart of the American people has been awakened to the wrongs of the past and present, and hands are outstretched to undo the sins of the fathers.
The Indian Commissioner stated in his report for the year 1897 that there were 38,681 Indians who could read, 25,744 who lived in houses, 23,000 children in school, 23,574 communicants of churches, 348,218 acres of land cultivated by Indians. One million, seven hundred and sixteen thousand, nine hundred and eighteen bushels of grain were raised by Indians, and the value of the products sold by them was $1,033,047. There were 268 more births than deaths.
While it is true that the difference between our Indian affairs now and forty years ago is as between midnight and morning, it is but the beginning. But God's spirit is moving over the darkness, and "they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death have seen a great Light."
My readers may think me an optimist, but a Christian has no right to be anything else. This is God's world, not the devil's. It is ruled by One who is "the Lord our Righteousness," "the same yesterday, to-day, and forever."
In my childhood it was no disgrace for men of the highest social position to drink to intoxication. Spirits always stood on the sideboard, and the Christian minister was expected to partake of its hospitality. Human slavery was a part of Christian civilization; the most enlightened nations were engaged in the slave-trade. The North American Indian was looked upon as a miserable savage to be driven from the face of the earth. The slums of Christian cities were festering with disease and vice with no good Samaritan to bind up the wounds of the world's stricken children. Christian men too often left the poor victims to die of diseases which came from the violations of the good laws of God, and laid the cause to His Providence.
There were no Toynbee Halls, no college settlements. Prison reform had few laborers, and jails and prisons were often schools of vice, and the poor souls who had fallen by the way were hopelessly lost. Christians were arrayed in hostile camps too busy fighting one another for aggressive work against the Kingdom of the devil. The one thought in many hearts was to escape a hell and gain a heaven beyond the grave, forgetting that salvation was here in hearts filled with that love only learned from Jesus Christ which rebinds men to God, and reunites the broken ties of humanity in brotherhood in Christ. There was little interest in missions at home or abroad.
Never in the world's history has there been such enthusiasm in all humanitarian work as now. It is not a mere pity for suffering, it is a hopeful, helpful, personal work, that human touch which makes the world akin. Not even in the Primitive Church have greater victories been won in leading heathen folk to Christian civilization. It will be a world of sorrow and sin until it is a Redeemed World. But ours is not a forlorn hope. We may out of the gloom of our perplexed hearts cry, "Watchman, what of the night?" But faith answers, "The morning cometh."