Project Canterbury

The Work of Bishop Whipple for the Episcopal Church
By the Rev. William Cox Pope

An Address on October 14, 1901.

Minnesota Historical Society Collections, 1904, pp 716-720

Mr. President: "The powers that be are ordained of God," and those occupying civil offices receive much honor, and ought, properly, to receive more than they do. Nevertheless a bishop has certain advantages over state officials. He does not contribute to a campaign fund. He is not a candidate for office.

My revered diocesan, of whom it is my great privilege to speak, was ignorant that he was thought of in connection with Minnesota, until a brother clergyman in Chicago threw his arms around his neck, exclaiming, "My dear brother, you have been elected Bishop of Minnesota." In the episcopal office there is no trouble about the second term. Had Bishop Whipple lived until yesterday, his term of office would have been forty-two years. In the Church there is no opposition party whose chief business is to show how unfit those holding office are for the positions they occupy.

If ever a man was called of God to an office, Henry Benjamin Whipple was so called to be a Bishop in the Church of God in Minnesota. Not only does the manner of his election testify to this, but also the suitableness of the man to the position. "Why was it," I asked Dr. Folwell, "that the Bishop was in touch with all conditions of men, with statesmen, financiers, soldiers, workmen, Indians, and Negroes?" The answer was as beautiful as true: "He had influence with men because he loved them."

His missionary journeys were largely made with his own horses. They were a fine pair of blacks, one of which, Bashaw by name, a cousin to Patchen, was his special favorite, on account of his intelligence. The Bishop was once lost in a snowstorm between New Ulm and Fort Ridgely. He said his prayers, got under the buffalo robes, and let his horses take their own course. After travelling for some time, there was a sudden halt,--the horses had struck a trail. Then the Bishop saw a light in the house of the missionary who was expecting him.

He used to say that he had slept with every clergyman in his diocese. My experience is that he had the lion's share of the bed.

On going to a border town, a man told him that there were to be lively times that night. An infidel had been lecturing there during the week, who was going to have something to say to him. After he finished his sermon that evening, a man came forward and said, "Bishop, does your church believe in hell?"

The Bishop was as good at answering with a story as Abraham Lincoln, and had had much experience with the negroes. So he told a story. "A devout negro slave had a young niece who seemed determined to go wrong. One evening the child came bounding into the cabin from some scoffers' gathering, and exclaimed, "Aunty, I'se done gwine to b'lieve in hell no more. If dere done be any hell, I'se like ter know whar dey gits de brimstone fur it." The old aunty turned her eyes sorrowfully upon the girl, and answered, with tears running down her cheeks, "Oh, honey darling, look dat ye doesn't go dere! You done find dey all takes their own brimstone wid 'em."

In his preaching he seemed constantly anxious to strengthen those weak in the faith. He used to tell of a man who for years read everything he could against Christianity, but there were three things which prevented him from becoming an infidel. "First," said he, "I am a man. I am going somewhere. Tonight I am a day nearer the grave than I was last night. I have read all such books have to tell me. They shed not one solitary ray of hope or light upon the darkness. They shall not take away the guide of my youth and leave me stone-blind. Second, I had a mother. I saw her going down into the dark valley where I am going, and she leaned upon an unseen Arm as calmly as a child goes to sleep on the breast of its mother. I know that was not a dream. Third, I have three motherless daughters. They have no protector but myself. I would rather kill them, than leave them in this sinful world, if you blot out from it all the teachings of the Gospel."

Another point about his preaching was the great love manifested by him towards those who love the Lord Jesus Christ. He was a High Churchman, and in the early days of his episcopate a brother bishop objected to his making missionary addresses in his diocese on account of his views. Yet this is what he says in his Autobiography: "If any man has a passionate devotion to Jesus Christ, if he has a soul hunger for perishing men, if he holds the great truths of Redemption as written in the Creeds, if he preaches Jesus Christ crucified as the hope of salvation, count him as your fellow soldier."

During the Civil War he visited the Army of the Potomac three times a year. After the battle of Antietam he ministered to the wounded and dying, and had service in the camp of the First Minnesota Regiment. After the service he received a note from General McClellan, asking him to have a service of thanksgiving in his camp. He slept that night in the General's tent, and they conversed until midnight. The next day on parting the General said, "Bishop, you do not know what a comfort it is in my care-worn life to have a good talk about holy things."

To his Diocesan Council, in 1861, he said, "While for myself I stand aside for no man as truer to his country, no man shall rob my heart of the memory of other days. It was in a southern city I was consecrated as your bishop. The bishops of North and South, of East and West, stood side by side, heart beating unto heart, as they laid holy hands on my head in consecration. Where now there are only hatred and fierce passions, the tramp of soldiery, and the din of arms, there was then such love as made hearts tender as a woman's. Others may forget; I shall not, but day by day pray God that He will make us one again in love."

His prayer was heard. At the end of the war the Presiding Bishop wrote to the Southern bishops, inviting them1 to the General Convention which met in Philadelphia, October, 1865. Only the Bishop of North Carolina was present at the opening service, and took his seat in the congregation, During the service he was seen by some of the bishops, who went down in their robes of office and compelled him; to take his place among them in the chancel. When he and the Bishop of Arkansas sent word asking on what terms they would be received in the House of Bishops, they were asked, in reply, "to trust to the love and honor of their brethren." So the breach between North and South was healed.

Of late Bishop Whipple enjoyed the honors which came to him as the result of his participation in the stirring times of his earlier episcopate. He was several times appointed by the Government as a Commissioner on Indian affairs.

He was one of the trustees of the Peabody Fund for education in the South.

At the last meeting of the Anglican bishops in England, he was the senior American bishop, and as such was treated with honors due to the Presiding Bishop. The Queen received him at a private audience, when she presented him with her portrait and book. The three Universities, Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham, conferred degrees on him. He was the preacher on greatest occasions. Personally, he was treated with unsurpassed regard. Bishop Morehouse, of Manchester, spoke of him as the chief authority on missions among the bishops. "Who do you think is the best beloved bishop in England?" said the archbishop of Canterbury. "Your Grace," replied Miss Carter. "No," said archbishop Benson, "It is the Bishop of Minnesota."

His body now sleeps in the crypt of his cathedral, and over it is to be erected a marble altar. His spirit--for Christians think more of the spirits of the blessed departed than of their bodies-- his spirit, in Paradise, has entered into the joy of his Lord. A year ago he said to me, "When you get to Paradise, you will know how much I loved you." Now I am drawn, as by other forces, so also "with cords of a man, with bands of love," to' the farther shore, to acquire a fuller knowledge of the regard with which my Bishop honored me.

Gladly, if it were proper, would I read you extracts from his letters, in order that you might learn something of the graciousness of the man. But it cannot be told any more than the odor of a rose can be described, it must be experienced in order to be known. Yet I will venture to read a passage from one of his letters, because it will be a revelation to you as it was to me. He has left an undying memorial of himself in the institutions at Faribault. Did they come into existence by the touch of a fairy's wand, or was his as the word of God, which spake and it was done? No, they are the witnesses of his soul's agony. "Of course," he wrote, within a year of his death, "I will pray for you, because the Lord loves you as you have loved his work. I know, better than you can, the heartache in trying to raise money for the Church's work."

As our bishops multiply in this state, they will be called after the cities in which they reside. Bishop Whipple long ago stipulated that his title should always remain "The Bishop of Minnesota;" and so, in addition to his name, he has of late years always signed himself.

Therefore, Honored Sir, may I be allowed, in behalf of the Episcopal Church, to thank you and the Historical Society for the honor you have, in this Memorial Meeting, conferred on the memory of Henry Benjamin Whipple, Bishop of Minnesota.

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