Sermon Preached at the Consecration of Rev. Elisha Smith Thomas as Assistant Bishop of Kansas, in St. Paul’s Church, St. Paul, May 4, 1887, by Rt. Rev. A. [sic] B. Whipple, Bishop of Minnesota
St. Paul, Minnesota: W. W. Price & Co., 1887.
ST. JOHN 15: 16.
"Ye have not chosen me, but l have chosen you and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit and that your fruit should remain. That whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name He may give it to you."
Our holy religion rests upon the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. For more than eighteen-hundred years the Church has fearlessly declared, that the sinful who have been led to a holier life, the sorrowful who have been comforted, the broken ties which have been reunited, the works of charity which have been founded are the Divine proofs, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is an ever living, ever present, Almighty Christ and Saviour.
If He has not come back from the grave, there is no key to the problems of human life, there is no light over the darkness of death, there is no certain hope of a life beyond the grave. Jesus Christ has conquered death, and the work which He did in Galilee and Jerusalem, He has through all the ages been doing through His Church.
The miracles wrought by the hand of His Apostles were His witness to their authority. When the ministry was established the miracles ceased.
The ministry is from Christ. No less authority can declare the terms of Salvation, receive men into a covenant with God, and dispense the sacraments of a kingdom [3/4] of which Jesus Christ is the King. The voice of Christ declares, "I have chosen you and ordained you." The office is from God. It must come to men immediately by a call from heaven, and they have the power to verify their authority by miracles, as in the case of the prophets, or it must come mediately through a chosen line who have been authorized to commit unto faithful men, also. The world saw in the men who went out from Christ's presence no more than some unnoticable men who had given up their fisher's boat and kindred, but wherever they went the kingdom of God went also. They were the seal of Christ's authority. "As my father sent me so send I you" "Whosoever receiveth you receiveth me." The charter of the Church was perpetual. Men may change governments and social orgnizations. But the ministry, the faith and the sacrament appointed by Christ must be the same forever. The Church was visible as the net let down into the sea which gathered good and bad, as the field where tares grew with the wheat until the harvest, as the body which had many members, as the building fitly framed together, as the kingdom with its citizens dwelling in loyal obedience to its king. It is almost 2,000 years since the Risen Saviour said unto His Apostles, "Lo, I am with you always to the end of the world." It was 2,000 years to the flood. It was 2,000 years to the destruction of Jerusalem, and the wisest and holiest of Christian scholars have never looked beyond the fall week of 6,000 years for the second coming of the Son of Man--the first, the second and the third watch of the night--each period hedged in with its awful sins and its certain doom. Has Christ's promise failed? Has the Ministry no warrant but the will of the people? If this Christian ministry was appointed by the Son of God, no lapse of ages can weaken it, no time can change it; as He gave it, it will be until He comes to rescue it, the Judge of the quick and [4/5] the dead. It matters not whether bishops became the successors of the Apostles by His Divine command or were made overseers of the flock of Christ. When the Church was guided by the Holy Ghost. The fact remains this office is and always has been a part of the ministry of a historical Church. It is by the perpetual authority of the ministry of Christ that we have met here to-day. As St. Paul gave this office to Timothy and to Titus, and as they handed it on to others, so we have come to set apart and consecrate our brother, a bishop of the Church of God.
Bear with me if out of the depths of my own heart and the memories of more than a quarter of a century I speak of a bishop's work.
First of the field. A few years ago the country west of the Mississippi was almost an unknown wilderness. The wildest dream has never compassed the realty of its development. The power which is to mould this nation and influence the world is in the West. Kansas is no whit behind the fairest portion of our goodly heritage. It will be the home of millions. If the entire population of the Eastern and Middle States was placed within its borders it would not be as densely populated as England is to-day. In the life of our brother the fortunes of the Church will be settled for more than one hundred years. I gladly remember the labors of my venerated brother who has grown old in his Master's Service. I rejoice at the blessing which God has given for his toil. He knows better than we, that the Church in Kansas has only entered upon its work. The work is everywhere. Missions to plant. Churches to build. Homes of mercy to found. Schools to endow. Work to make the stoutest hands weary and the strongest heart faint.
Second. The bishop who enters on such a field must not be a son of Ishmael with his hand against [5/6] every man and every man's hand against him. He can not build for God by tearing down any Christian work. He must represent "the Church of the Reconciliation". He must love all whom Christ loves. He must with St. Paul say "Grace be with all; who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity." He has no right to apologize for error. He must not surrender the truth for which the Church is a trustee. He must not enter into any entangling alliances which will hinder his Master's work.--Some truths stand out so plain that he who runneth may read:
a. Every branch of Christ's Church recognizes the validity of all Christian baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. As baptised unto Jesus Christ we are brothers.
b. The condition of fellowship in the kingdom of Christ is faith in the Incarnate Son of God, as contained in the Catholic creeds. The hedges builded in the Lord's garden are not made up of things necessary to salvation. The truths in which Christians agree are truths of the Catholic faith. We are living in separation because "the fathers have eaten sour grapes and the children's teeth are set on edge." The sin of schism does not lie at any one door. Christians the world over are ceasing to apologize for division and a power above our weak will is kindling a desire for Christian unity. No human eirenicon can heal our divisions, no human hand can remove these walls of separation. Where we can see no way God can make a way. When the Son of peace fills all of our hearts we shall be one.
c. The bishop who would do God's work must be a man of hearty sympathy. He must know these men who sin and suffer. He must feel the pulse beat of the people. Never in this world has there been more unrest than to-day. In this land where the people are the [6/7] rulers, where the nation offers a home to all who claim it, where education is the birth right of every child, there is alienation and strife between class and class. In other lands institutions and governments hoary with age are assailed. Men's hearts are failing for fear of the things which are coming on the earth. None can tell whether out of all this turmoil there is to come a truer brotherhood or whether it is the forerunning token of the strife of the last days. I believe that these clubs and brotherhoods and orders are the unconscious prophecies of the only real brotherhood of men as children of one God and Father. They are the voice of humanity asking for its inheritance. These human expedients which end in failure are the outcome of our denial of truths which lie at the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The reason men sneer at christianity as an effete superstition is because the Church is not living in the spirit and power of our Lord's words in the synagogue at Nazareth. "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor. He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them who are bruised."
We have brought our caste unto the very presence of Christ, we have forgotten that the condition of our fellowship with Christ is that we become the poor man's brother. These men who have filled our cities with creatures of beauty, do not feel as they pass by the Church's door "this is the house of my Father." The wildest dream of men has never compassed a brotherhood so great as that by the appointment of God. The poorest child of toil and the greatest king shall become members of Christ, children of God and inheritors of the kingdom of heaven. That which men need to-day is not alms, not missions, not free Churches. They need in us Christian folk a love which [7/8] will be to them the hand, the voice and the heart of Christ. It is not machinery, necessary, as it is to do Christ's work, but this, the love of Christ, which is the motive power of all Christian work. The bishop must in his own life show this love and teach by word and by example that our time, our talent and our wealth is a sacred trust for which we shall give an account to God. Thoughtful men are starting back with affright from the yawning gulf of atheism and chaos. They are beginning to see that brotherhood men will have, and it will either be a brotherhood as the children of our God and Father, or the brotherhood of the Commune. I believe that a better day is dawning, the sad warnings of men whose lives were spent in hoarding wealth which at death left them too poor for any man to reverence. The blessed examples of those like Miss Catherine L. Wolfe and Mrs. Augusta M. Huntington, who sent their wealth before them to the other home where they have gone to enjoy it, is teaching us all that no man can preserve his good name for his children or inherit the blessing of God unless he use his wealth for the good of others.
Third. The bishop of the church must be a man among men, an intensely human man. He must be a man of the people, not by fawning upon and flattering their sins, not by apologizing for error, not by giving up manhood. He must be a man of God who dare withstand the people, a man who can plant his feet on the truth and work and bide his time and die. So the seed falls into the ground and so God giveth the harvest.
Fourth, The bishop must be the leader, the shepherd and the father of his flock. If he is negligent where shall we look for vigilance? If his heart burn not who will seek for Christ's lost sheep? If he bind not up the heart-broken who will plead for the wretched? If [8/9] his heart is cold, who will go into the wilderness to bring the torn lambs to his Master's bosom? The best bishop is the best father. The bishop will always gather men of like faith and devotion with himself. If he is the foremost missionary, the humblest deacon will be braver for his example. The age demands the ripest scholarship, the truest devotion and the deepest faith, and the men he sends forth should be men who in the spirit of Christ can preach deliverance to the captives and the opening of the prison doors to men who are bound.
Brethern of the clergy and laity need I tell you how highly you ought to esteem this office for Christ's sake. If the greatest of Apostles turned to his converts in the infant Church and said "Pray for us", how much more may we ask your love, your sympathy and prayers. I wish my voice could reach every member of the church in Kansas. With me and with my venerable brother "it is towards evening and the day is far spent." These younger brothers whom the voice of the Church and the Providence of God have called to be our helpers and to whom we shall soon surrender our bishop's staff have the right to your love, your prayers and your alms. As I look back on the early years of my episcopate when our hearts beat as one and the missionary work of Minnesota had a name throughout the Church, there comes up in memory names to whom under God I owe the success of every venture of faith, I laid corner stones and they builded thereon. I planned missions to the heathen and their prayers and alms sent out men to do the work. May God reward them in that day and may the same love be the inheritance of our brother.
Brother Beloved, for almost a quarter of a century you have been my own son in the Gospel. Few men have ever shared so deeply in a bishops love. You came to me young in the ministry [9/10] and I have watched with a fathers love your developement into the ripeness of Christian manhood. You who was the junior are now one of the senior Priest's canonically resident in the Diocese. Our fellow laborers Gear, Manney, Breck, Wilcoxson, Paterson, McMaster, Van Ingen, Livermore and many more have entered into rest. Our brothers Kinckerbacker and Wells are bishops in other fields. As missionary, teacher, pastor, and parish priest I have not one memory I would recall. You have always given me the love of a loyal heart. I remember one day when clouds were thick around us and the future of our work looked dark as midnight. I sat in my study with my hand on my aching head. You entered the door. I read in your sad face that you had come to tell me we must give up our efforts to found these Christian schools. I sprang to my feet and said: "Do not tell me brother, let us pray." We knelt and poured out our hearts to God and rose and kissed each other. You left without one word of the burden on your heart and mine. That was the nearest we ever came to failure in Faribault. As we have shared each others love, so we have shared the fruition of our hopes. If it had been the will of God, I would have kept you here until I surrendered my bishop's staff unto other hands. God was wiser than we. He chose another to take the place of Timothy to your aged bishop and he called you to be the strong staff on whom another careworn bishop is to lean. My heart goes out to you as it never did before. None but God knows what it is to give up the tender ties of a pastor's life to bear everybody's burdens, and to bear yours alone, A bishop's life is no way of roses. You will feel like a man who has drifted out on an unknown sea where there is no help but to cry to God our Father. From this day you give up home to be a wanderer. You will miss these hearts on whom you have so long leaned [10/11] and there will be times when if it was the will of God you would exchange your lot with the humblest parish priest, and yet we have no regrets to-day. Your Saviour's voice has called you, "I have chosen you". I know not what trials await you. Whether clergy and people will give you as mine have given me, an unclouded love. Whether you will have as I have had in ventures faith the help of loving hearts. I do know that He who calls you will go with you and that in His strength you will bear fruit and that fruit will remain unto life eternal, and whenever the way is dark your may claim His own blessed promise, that whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in his name He may give unto you. Few men have been called to leave a parish which has so many memories to bind your hearts as one. The Diocese loves you for your work, for the warm heart and the generous hand which has been given to every missionary, and for a magnanimity which knew no differences in brothers of the Church of God. You have that which St. Paul prized "a good report of those without." No pastor has ever left this city who will be followed with more love. Men love you for the Christian sympathy which was always ready to help others bear their woes. Christians of every name honor you for your Christian scholarship, your Christian charity, and your ripe knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures. They have a kindlier feeling for the Church for your work's sake. We shall miss you everywhere save in our hearts. If we could we would not hold you back. Every heart in this vast congregation answers to my own. Go dear brother and may God go with you. Whether your Episcopate is longer or shorter we will all pray that yours may be the reward "they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever."