Project Canterbury




Society for the Promotion of Church Work








Washington. D. C., Sept. 27, 1877.




No. 166 West Baltimore Street.




Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2011

As many who read the following Sermon may be interested to know something of the character of the Society before whom it was delivered, the following extracts are made from its Constitution.


WHEREAS the spiritual and ecclesiastical condition of the colored people of the United States is, in many respects, a sad and inferior one; and

WHEREAS, through the influence of education, they are reaching a crises in their desires and aspirations, which if not properly directed, may lead to great spiritual disaster; and

WHEREAS, in our opinion, our Church system is not only fitted for all degrees and orders of men, but especially suited to the needs of a rising and aspiring people, with regard not only to their eternal, but to their temporal needs; Therefore,

This Conference now assembled in the city of Baltimore, to take into consideration the spiritual needs of the Colored People, has, after full consideration, determined to "organize ourselves into a society for systematic Church Extension" among Colored People under the following Constitution:

The objects of this Society shall be specifically:

A. The increase of candidates for Holy Orders who shall be colored men.

B. The multiplication of Churches to meet the needs of the Colored People, but free of caste.

C. In carrying out the objects of this Society, while training institutions for the ministry may be necessary for temporary use, this Society will lend no sanction to the founding of separate colleges and seminaries tending to a perpetuation of caste.

D. And while we deem special efforts necessary to increase the Ministry and provide Church-room for Colored People, this Society repudiates as pernicious and unscriptural, the project to set off the Colored People of this country into separate Convocations, or Conventions, or Dioceses.

To the Executive Committee shall be intrusted the operations of this society during the coming year.

1. To endeavor by Correspondence and other wise to obtain as Candidates for Holy Orders, men of manners, worth, education and piety carefully avoiding rude and unlettered men.

2. By Correspondence and otherwise among the members and others, to secure clothing, books, and money for the support of such candidates.

3. To use their influence by Correspondence with Bishops and eminent clergymen to establish the Church among the Colored People, especially in the great centres of population.




At the Annual Meeting the Executive Committee were instructed to endeavor to obtain at least $3,000 during the ensuing year for the objects of the Society. A number of young men who in every way meet the requirements of the Constitution are already upon its list of beneficiaries and need assistance in order to prosecute their studies. The aid of the Society has been especially pledged to the efforts to build Churches at Washington D. C., and New Orleans. While it is expected and intended that the Colored Communicants of the Church shall be foremost in their offerings as they have already been, it is hoped that very many in the Church will be willing to help on the good work. If every one who reads the Appeal will send to the Treasurer, an offering however small, it will greatly aid the work of the Society. Will not the clergy obtain some contributions from their people, and every one who reads this send at least $1.00 to the Treasurer.

78 St. Paul's St., Baltimore, Md.

[4] To RT. REV. H. B. WHIPPLE, .D. D
I am directed by the Executive Committee to enclose to you the following Resolutions passed at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Promotion of Church-Work among Colored People, and to again convey to you the deep gratitude that the Society feels for your service in our cause. We desire as speedily as possible to place your sermon before the Church. Faithfully, your son in the Church.
Baltimore, Oct. 2, 1877.

Resolved, That the thanks of the Society for the Promotion Church-Work among the Colored People are extended to the Right Rev. the Bishop of Minnesota for the very able and earnest discourse delivered at our annual Meeting, and that we assure him that we gratefully recognize the life-long friend of the Indian as no less the earnest and loving advocate of our cause.
Resolved, That we beg that he will furnish the Society with a copy of the sermon for publication.

If I was able to be of service by preaching the sermon on behalf of Colored People, I am overpaid. Your kind Resolutions have deeply touched my heart. I will send you the sermon by the next mail. Assuring you my dear brother, of my high regard, I am faithfully yours,



"Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God."—Psalm LXVIII, 31.

BRETHREN:—We are living in eventful times. The age offers glorious opportunities for Christian work. It is an age of intellectual activity, of generous sympathies, of open-handed beneficence and deep longing for real brotherhood. Within a half century the providence of God has broken down impenetrable barriers of race and caste, so that there is not to-day a people on the face of the earth to whom we may not carry the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The wonderful inventions which have given wings to commerce, the researches of scientific investigation, and the progress of civilization seem to be fusing the different tribes and nations of the earth into one family. China, Japan, Egypt, Australasia, the islands of the sea, once separated by caste and prejudice from the civilization of Christian lands, have thrown their doors wide open and their rulers and people have become bound to us by the ties of friendship. Perhaps there was no one thing in our Centennial Exhibition which awakened such surprise as the products sent to us from States and countries which were, in our very heart, unknown lands. Tasmania, New Zealand, the Orange States and the Pacific Islands were a few years ago heathen lands. To-day they have become or are fast becoming Christian lands, and little behind the most favored nations of the earth. They have schools and colleges and their Episcopate attests their oneness with the historic and Catholic church of all ages. Not less marvellous are the signs of the reunion of Christendom. True, the old barriers still separate historic churches. True, sectarianism rears its hated divisions in Christian lands. True, strife separates brothers even in the fold of the church. [5/6] But, underlying all these, there is an unrest and longing for unity which our fathers never felt. For the first time all branches of Christ's church and all Christian folk are bringing out in clear sight, that truth which must underlie all possibilities of unity,—the validity of all Christian baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. There is a clearer insight into the wide difference between Faith and opinion, and with this a broader and deeper love for all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth.

Surely these are times to kindle in every Christian heart a missionary spirit like that of the early church, when men counted it joy to suffer and even to die for Christ.

Yet in this wonderful awakening of the nations, one vast continent seems untouched—if the Spirit of God does brood there over the dark waters of humanity, we see no signs of the life which will bring a new created world. To human eyes it lies a land of impenetrable darkness; a land without a history; a land of warring tribes; a land which is the abode of cruelty; a land of violence and blood.

From time to time men like Mungo Park and the great hearted Livingston have felt a power above their own weak will, which has sent them to explore its deserts or fastnesses to tell men of the true God. They have died the martyr's death of devotion, and although the world has crowned the martyr's grave with honors, the darkness was still unbroken and the morning did not come. Missions have dotted the coast of Africa and their blessed fruit has been seen in redeemed souls. Our own church has been enriched by the noble heroism of such men as Hoffman and Payne, and Auer and others who laid down their lives for Christ. Holy women, brought up in refinement, have forsaken home and kindred to witness to an unbelieving world that the old martyr spirit is with us still. These have been the deeds of great souls, but the church has never thrown herself with passionate devotion into this work, and so fulfilled the Lord's words, "the Kingdom of [6/7] Heaven suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force." At best, amid all of our prosperity, amid all the voices of God calling us to this especial work, we have only given these brothers, who have forsaken house and lands and kindred, a grudged love.

The alms of God's people are withheld. Few prayers ascend for the faithful souls who are fighting the Lord's battle in heathen lands. We wonder why the harvest does not come—we say "why is the Lord's chariot so long in coming?" All this while there comes to us the old prophecy, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God," "The merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature shall come over unto thee, and thy SHALL be thine, they SHALL come after thee in chains—they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee; they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, surely God is in thee and there is none else, there is no God." We wonder why the prophecy of our God is unfulfilled. There must be some hindrance of our making, that this people of Africa have not become the citizens of the Kingdom of our Lord and Christ.

There have not been wanting signs of God's power to the people of Ethiopia. The great law-giver of Israel took one of their daughters to wife. The Queen of Sheba came to bring offerings to Solomon the great King of Israel. A man from an African province bore the Cross of Jesus up the hill of Calvary. Among the first Gentile converts received into the church of God was the Ethiopian eunuch. In the first three centuries there were no churches which were more blessed than the churches of Africa. Their bishops, like Cyprian, were the stoutest defenders of the faith. In that missionary age there were no distinctions of race or class to separate men from the church of Christ—there was one law for all citizens of the Kingdom of God. "There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither bond nor free; there is neither male nor female, for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." There are to-day decayed churches [7/8] in Africa which were once our twin sisters, and to whom we owe a debt of grateful love for the zeal they once had concerning the faith.

But if all were heathen, if every member of these African tribes were sunk in heathen degradation, if the church could not point to one solitary soul who had ever been to Jesus Christ, the African is a man, a man for whom Christ died, a man who may receive that new life which comes from our Incarnate God and Saviour. Our religion is a delusion and a snare unless we have learned to love all whom God loves.

There may be difficulties to daunt the bravest heart. There may be trials to test the stoutest faith, but if God speaks to His people to "go forward," the pillar of fire and the pillar of cloud will lead and will defend us. The missionary work of the Church demands no greater sacrifices than men of the world willingly make to secure their worldly ends. It was as hard a life of toil and privation and sickness for Stanley to go to Africa to fulfill the command of his employer as it was for Livingstone to go there under the constraint of his love for Christ and for the souls for whom Christ died. It was no harder for Hoffman and Auer to lay down their precious lives for Christ than it was for McPherson and Sedgewick to die for their country. It is not for us to know the times nor the seasons which "the father has put in His own power." We believe that in the Providence of God our own nation and church are called to this field of labor as no people have ever been called since our Lord ascended into Heaven. We cannot unravel the mystery how God works through human wills and makes even the wrath of man to praise him.

Egypt was the schoolmaster of Israel—the house of bondage was the school of God's freedmen. The proverb "after the prison house comes Moses," covers the divinest truth. For two centuries the Anglo Saxon enslaved the sons of Africa. Slavery brought in its train evils to master and to slave. We need not describe the slave trade, the [8/9] long record of human sorrow until christian influences made the house of bondage the school of preparation for freedom. Whatever man meant in it for evil, we may use the words of Joseph, "God meant it for good to save much people alive." We all know how marvelously slavery grew until it was incorporated into the very life of the nation. Where slavery had no other end but selfishness, it was a curse to the master and to the slave; but in many instances the relations were sanctified by that Christian love which taught the master to rule, remembering that he had also a master in heaven. There were evils to both parties which no humanity could cure and which no law could do away. But there was never an instance in the history of the world where five millions of slaves showed such devotion to the wives and children of their masters as during our civil war.

Knowing that the war was largely influenced by their condition as slaves, that the failure of their masters would be the guarantee of their own freedom, I do not know of one single act of violence—I have never heard of one deed of blood. It seemed as if the hand of God held them in perfect peace during all these dark days of fraternal strife. I hesitate not to say that there is not an American who does not owe to the African race a deep debt of grateful love for their patience, their heroic devotion to the helpless white women and children whom the issues of the war had left without their natural protectors.

It is one of these world facts which speak volumes for both masters and slaves, and answers all possible cavils as to any necessary antagonism of races.

The results of the civil war have incorporated these four millions of Africans into our own nation and have given to the weakest and the most ignorant of them every right and privilege which belong to the most favored citizens of the United States. As we look back upon our bereaved and desolate homes we can say with a great price we purchased this freedom. There are no steps backward in [9/10] such revolutions. Thoughtful and wise men never waste precious hours in vain resistance of inevitable facts. They ask, as they ought to ask, only about duties and danger. For good or for ill the sometimes-slaves are our fellow-citizens. There is but one alternative—we shall take care of them or they will take care of us. There is not the slightest use of looking to the past—our eye must rest alone upon the future. For weal or for woe their future is so intertwined with ours that whatever befalls them must befall ourselves. The restraints which grew out of former relations are no longer possible. The forces which are to do battle for the mastery are moral forces. The question is simply, shall these men become our fellow-citizens of the kingdom of God, or shall they be the slaves of the kingdom of Satan? Shall they go back to heathen darkness, to fetish idolatry, to brutalized humanity, or shall they be educated and trained as christian citizens? No one can hesitate as to the answer.

It was impossible that such a gulf could be passed by a whole people without creating irritations and strifes and even license. The world has always had demagogues who are ever ready to seize upon the confiding and ignorant to make them tools for their own selfish ends. The sundering of all restraints could not fail to lead many to idleness, and to the loss of virtue and religion. But there has been less even of these evils than we feared. Wherever our white brethren were quick to recognize the altered condition of things, their former slaves were no less quick to recognize their former masters as their truest friends.

The man is a stranger to the South who believes that there is any antagonism of race which can be a hindrance to Christian work. These Africans have been foster-mothers and nurses to white children. They have grown up beside the same homes. They are bound to us by the associations of domestic life. If there are any of our people who have become so brutalized by war that they will neither recognise the ties of humanity nor the brotherhood [10/11] of citizens, they must be made to feel that when that word "American" is spoken, it touches a chord which will vibrate through the length and breadth of the land. To my own mind there are no darker clouds which rest over the South than there are in the North. It is the same question of all the ages—the relations of employer to employed, of capital to labor. If Christian bonds do not hallow these relations, if there is no bond but a mercenary one we may be sure there will be alienation and jealously and heartburning,—it may be strife and blood.

The question for churchmen to ask is this, "Is our branch of Christ's Church fitted to do this work for the colored race? If it is not, we had better give over our discussion about the name Catholic, until we do feel enough of the catholicity of the love of Jesus Christ to love all for whom He died. If we have any machinery of rubrics or canons, which keeps us from doing the Lord's work, we ought to get new machinery. If our ideas of order and office have not taught us that he who is greatest among you is the servant of all, we must read again the Church's charter and learn that our Blessed Lord Himself was among men as one who serveth. The hindrance is not in the Church—the straitness is in ourselves. There is no branch of Christ's church which is better fitted for missionary work, or which has been more blessed in the results of its labors. It has never failed in doing this work. Was it a failure when Breck, of blessed memory, went to tell of Jesus Christ to the heathen Ojibeways? Has our Indian bishopric, under Bishop Hare, been a failure? Have the Indian priests and deacons whom Hinman and Gilfillan have trained, been a failure? One might blush for very shame at the question.

The Church will do for the African what it has done for the Indian race. When the Church shall put on her garments of beauty, then "the sons of the stranger and they that have been despised shall come bending unto her who is called the City of the Lord, the Holy One of Israel." [11/12] The docility of the African race, their loyalty to authority, their reverence for superiors, even their superstitions, are all traits of character which fit them to become a deeply religious people. The church's system of training, her "precept upon precept," is peculiarly applicable for the education of the colored people. Excitements may have a charm for them and they may be easily led to follow a religion of frames and feeling, but such means can never train them to the stature of men in Christ. They need for a sure anchorage, the definite faith of the old creed. The order and beauty of the services, the changing seasons of festivals and fasts, telling of a present Saviour, will appeal to their warm, sensuous natures—as an Indian once said, "I love your ways, for I can see your religion."

Almost twenty-five years ago it was my privilege to minister for some months to the colored people in the South. I shall never forget their simple earnest faith in the great truths of our holy religion. It only needs warm words from the heart to lead them by intuition to hear the voice of that Jerusalem which is the mother of us all. While they loved most, as all loving hearts do love, the words of Jesus, and clung to him as to a present Saviour—their love for Him made them love the dear home which His love had purchased for them with his own precious blood. In those days few of the slaves could read. They learned chants, the psalter and hymns from memory, and yet as I recall some services, they seem like the songs which St. John heard in the choirs of Heaven, "A sound of many waters"—and I well remember the deep-toned earnestness with which they were wont to say the creed, as if it was the watch-word of an army of the Lord who were ready to defend it with their lives. It will be so again, the words of our Lord in the Synagogue are the rule of His Church; when "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bound, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord."

[13] The real difficulty is that the war left our brethren at the South, utterly ruined. The whole land was desolate, churches were to be rebuilt, the foundations of schools and colleges relaid, missions and parishes to be re-established by a people who had been bankrupted by the war. Ten years ago the North ought to have given to every Southern Bishop the means to educate a native colored clergy. Had this been done, every diocese would have to-day its staff of colored Presbyters and Deacons. At first our Southern brethren felt that they could not come and ask for our help. They did not know their brothers' hearts. They did not know that all those dark days when the Church was desolate as a mother bereaved of her children, Christian hearts were crying to God to give us back our brothers. There never has been a time when, if southern bishops came to speak to us clear, ringing words from the heart, they would not have had the sympathy, the love, the prayers and the alms of their Northern brothers. They and they alone can tell us about this work—we do not need homilies about the duty of missionaries, we want the facts—we want the real pictures of human life—we want to hear about the living men and women who sin and suffer, we want the heart and home stories of what the church is doing to elevate and bless the homes of the colored people.

We cannot lose more precious hours. To wait is to lose a generation, and a generation lost, means degradation and death. The time has passed for doubting the capacity of this race for culture, refinement and education, already their sons are beginning to occupy places of trust in the walks of business, in the army, and in the halls of legislation. The church of the living God must seek out from their young men the very best of them to train for His service. They must carry the Evangel of God's love to their own race.

If, we, as a church, do stand aloof, others will not. I should not be loyal to our mother if I did not believe that she can do what neither the church of Rome nor the religious leaders around us can do.

[14] The work of this Association, which was commenced under circumstances to excite grave doubts of its success, has shown us what the Church can do for the colored race. The political hatreds, the prejudices of caste, the doubts which grew out of past neglect, your position as once a border slave-State, made the work one of peculiar difficulty. Yet I am sure that there is no work in your diocese which has brought a richer harvest. You have found what all Christians will find, that the solvent for all seeming impassable barriers is the love of Jesus Christ. The gospel destroys no human relations. There will be to the end of time masters and servants—rulers and ruled—even "the poor shall never perish out of the land," but all these relations may be sanctified by brotherhood in Christ. They may be in kind, if not in degree, as full of joy and peace and blessed fellowship with Christ, as the different order of angelic beings who minister around the throne of God. The human gospel of communism has always and everywhere brought discontent, turbulence, crime and blood. Its red flag means to the poor more than to the rich, desolation and death. The gospel of God's dear Son, has always and everywhere brought reconciliation, kindness, justice, peace and brotherhood in Jesus Christ.

Brethren:—"The fields are white already for the harvest." When I think of the problems in which are bound up the interests of our own white race, when I turn my eyes to that vast continent and remember the millions who have never so much as heard that there is a Saviour, when I think of the tribes living in utter darkness, when I think of the infinite love of Jesus Christ and how long He has waited to see the travail of his soul for them, I can find no words strong enough to describe the mission and duty of the church.

The prophecy of God is true, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." It waits upon human instrumentality for its fulfilment. The possibility, the probability, nay the certainty, that if we believe, and do God's [14/15] work, the four millions of Africo-Americans will become messengers of life to their benighted brothers in Africa, ought to stir the most sluggish heart. It only needs the consecration of willing hearts and hands, the bringing of all the trithes into the store house, and we may be sure that "beyond the rivers of Ethiopia my suppliants, the daughters of my dispersed people, shall bring mine offerings."

In the near or far off future churches shall rise, and all these barbarous tribes become the people of our Lord and Christ. It may be that alone we cannot awake the deaf ear of the Church—it may be that in our poverty we cannot found missions or build schools and churches. The secret of the Lord is that whoever gives God the will, God finds for him the way. We may not see the harvest, it may be ours only to work and pray and wait—we must not be weary. From the realms of Paradise our Christ and King looks down upon the world which He redeemed—no deed of love is ever forgotten—every prayer and loving work, and precious offering, is treasured in His divine heart, and He will use it to help on the world's redemption.

Brethren as the cry comes up from many anxious, burdened hearts, "Watchmen what of the night? Watchmen what of the night?" Thank God, that with a full heart, we can give back the answer. "The morning cometh!" The world is full of forerunning tokens of the coming of the Kingdom of God. It will not be long before that set time shall come and the old prophecy be fulfilled, "Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God."


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