A Sermon in Memory of the Rt. Rev. Wm. Ingraham Kip, D.D., LL.D., Preached at S. Stephen's Church, San Francisco, Cal. on Low Sunday, April 9th, 1893.
By Edgar J. Lion.
San Francisco: William Doxey, 1893.
“To die is gain.” Phil. I: 21.
No one but a Christian, and one who had fathomed that deep and spiritual philosophy, which is taught in the inspired volumes of the New Testament, could so express himself. It is not natural for man to feel that the great, mysterious, awful change, which comes across us, inevitably; the change which we all know must come to us individually, however we may defer the reflection, is for the better, and that to depart hence, and be with the Lord, is a change so much to our advantage, that the Apostle could truthfully say, “To die is gain." But down through all the centuries of Christianity, in days when to be a follower of the Crucified, was to hold one's life at the mercy of some tyrant; in days when, as Bunyan says, "Religion walks in her silver slippers;" in every tongue, and in every clime, this doctrine has been constantly taught by the Church of the Living God.
To the parent, heart broken by the side of the little child, into whose being the heartstrings have been woven, and they are all torn and bleeding by the stroke [3/4] of the fell destroyer, says the voice of inspiration, “It is well with the child; to die is gain." To the wife, stunned by the shock which has made her a widow, and before whom stretches the dreary waste of a life into which the voice of the strong, the dear one comes no more, to her in her desolation whispers in tender accents religion's consoling voice, "Weep not, to die is gain."
O, strong and helpful doctrine! overriding all our human fear of death, and in the presence of the awful change, which, passing over the sacred forms of our dearest ones, blurs them, and we are fain to hide them from our eyes, and reverently lay them in the bosom of kindly earth, mother of all, to be kept there, a sacred trust, until the awful day of God; in the presence, I repeat of that evidence of our mortality, the faith, the faith which Jesus Christ brought to us poor suffering mourners, declares in trumpet tones, “Mourn if you will, but not as them without hope, for contrary to human expectation and experience, it is not death to die." But to the Christian "to die is gain," great gain; to depart hence and be with the Lord is far better than to tarry here.
And now, at Easter tide, the Church Catholic declares again her strong and unwavering faith, that "To die is gain." In psalm and hymn, in creed and collect; in matin prayer, or when shadows fall, and men gather for evensong; at high and holy Eucharist, [4/5] always and ever does this noble assertion of the triumph won over death and the grave meet us, “Mortality is swallowed up of life."
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?" So runs the joyful song of God's Church, and so do we believe who receive her teaching, the blessed message she bears to us when faith so sorely tried might fail, that, "To die is gain." Let us believe it implicitly, Oh, my brethren! The doctrine given so long ago to them of Philippi is strong now as it was of old, comforting now as of yore, helpful to men of the nineteenth as to men of the first century. The expression of a faith potent to lift us up in that dark hour of bereavement which we may happen upon all too soon, when tapping at our door comes the veiled angel, with the wreath of asphodel, and bears away the one we least can spare.
And now, to-day, upon the festal raiment of the Church at Eastertide, all white and gold in hue, falls heavily the black and purple of the mourning of the Diocese of California for the first bishop of the See. Well does this blending of joy and sorrow, in outward sign and symbol, show the Christian sentiment which at this time marks the congregations of the faithful throughout the diocese. Sorrow for the absence of that reverend man, whose hoary head wore the crown of honor conferred by the gray hair, whitened by the snows of fourscore winters spent in the service of God. [5/6] Joy for the blessed hope of a glorious resurrection, in which, now, in the rest of Paradise, he waits the glorious consummation of all things, and the coming of the Son of Man.
Joy and sorrow then, to-day, as always in this our pilgrimage, go hand in hand, and if we mourn the Bishop departed, we rejoice over the saint who has been added to the number of those who clad in white are ever with the Lord. 0, blessed compensation for earth's toil. O, holy peace, after days of toil and struggle. Because of this blending of Easter joy with the expression of human sorrow, and ere the mortality of our Bishop is laid away to rest, awaiting the call of God, at earth's latest day to arise to renewed activities, let us pause awhile, and meditate upon the lesson which the Bishop teaches us, as the last message we may derive from our father in God. And we can proceed along no better line of thought, and use no outline more suggestive, than that which his Assistant has laid down in the singularly fitting notification, but now read to you from the altar. And in well chosen words he sums up the characteristics of the late Bishop as those of (1) the Christian gentleman, (2) the scholar, (3) the citizen, (4) the prelate.
How thoroughly in keeping with our experience are these, and how well they fit in with the facts of the case. And yet, while the Assistant Bishop has told in his well expressed notification only the plain [6/7] unvarnished truth, and has exaggerated these facts in no respect, how much more of theory must it be to him than to us who have dwelt beside this gentleman, this scholar, this citizen, this prelate, for forty years. To him these are facts to be accepted upon indubitable evidence; but to us, who are eye witnesses, they are demonstrations of what a Christian manhood can attain unto in each respect. Therefore, my brethren, let us take each illustration and dwell upon it; if "To die is gain," it must be because such points in character have been developed, and because a Christian life has been thus built up.
And first in this enumeration, is the Christian gentleman, that happy combination in which, when seen, we observe all the graces of social refinement, inspired by that divine influence which gives heart and soul to what otherwise might be only a veneering of conventional forms. And here, as we pause, let us remark, how truly was our bishop the living illustration of this union of religion gracing refinement. When, in all of our experience of him, did he ever fail in either respect? The courteous host; the genial gentleman; the presiding officer, whose greatest trial was that other men could not and would not manifest to each other in debate that urbane treatment, so kindred to his soul, that it grieved him to his heart's core to see any exhibition of the reverse; the brilliant conversationalist, whose table talk, if written down, would [7/8] delight the intelligence, and inform a later generation, who have not been so privileged as to hear him discourse on men, and travel, and reminiscences of the foremost: writers, poets, statesmen, of this century.
If then from the social side of his character, we turn. to that which leavened it so thoroughly, and gave it its peculiar grace, and look upon the religious side, we find a lovely, tender, gentle spirit; too, modest, graced with too much real humility to be loudly expressive, but running all the deeper for its silence. We, who have seen him by the bedside of the sick and lowly, and have seen, even late in life when powers were failing, his devotion to his Master's cause and to his Lord in the presence of some sick man or women or child; we, I repeat, know whereof we speak. What is more touching, than our dear Bishop some years ago, with sight almost gone, searching for, and with the greatest difficulty finding, in a remote suburb, an old acquaintance of early Californian days, who, in reduced circumstances, paralyzed and blind, was slowly wearing away to a long deferred release from life's sorrow. And who of us is there to whom, when. death entered our house, he has not come as the gentle, prayerful Christian, bringing us the balm which Christ imparts to wounded hearts. We bear witness this day, that he was both Christian and gentleman.
We hear much, in this portion of the nineteenth [8/9] century, of the culture which is so fair an ornament of society, and in our observation of what belongs to our generation, we lack, somewhat, appreciation for the things of a day gone by. As an example of literary style, we may, without hesitation, point to the beautifully polished periods of the volumes, which have made for him a "monument more enduring than brass." How often, too, have we listened to the melodious sermons, which were the delight of the last generation, and which, for several years, have no longer pleased the ears and instructed the minds of the faithful. They linger in our memories like strains of music; once heard, not to be forgotten; full of sweet suggestion and tender association. Perhaps, however, the book for which the Church owes to him the deepest debt of gratitude, is the well known "Double Witness of the Church;" so strong an argument for the faith and order of the Church is here presented, that we may well believe that its influence has brought many within our communion; and its force is in no wise lessened by the fact that, born and brought up in a strongly Calvinistic communion, it is the fruit of conviction, based upon deep study, and may be taken as the result of reflections which brought him out of the Dutch Reformed communion into that of the Holy Catholic Church.
Our late Bishop held a position in this community which was a well known and defined place as a citizen [9/10] of the State of California. Not always was he appreciated, and frequently was he misunderstood. From the force of those very characteristics which we have but now discussed, he was, in the nature of things he had to be, the good citizen. And here we may note the influence which after forty years he has exerted in this community, the influence of uprightness and of real consistency; of an example and standard of life which would not condescend to meanness of any sort. As we look at the forty years in which he has lived and labored in this community, we fail to find any reason for criticism of his acts or of his life. He never sought the acquaintance or friendship of those whose only claim to social position was a hoard of ill gotten gain, but held himself aloof from such, feeling that he must not sully the purity of his life by association with that which was base and vile.
In business relations—for even a clergyman must in some slight degree come into business life and have dealings with those who are occupied with commercial transactions—his course was marked by the most scrupulous sense of honor, and probably no man is held in greater respect than he is upon this very point. Always ready rather to suffer wrong than to do wrong, he stands out in the minds of business men as one who held his honor as above price and to be maintained at any cost.
But after all, it is the prelate, who is most clearly in [10/11] our minds to-day. As we look toward yonder chair now draped with mourning garb for him who will never again take his seat in the sanctuary, and remember the benign presence of the godly old man, who so often sat there, and from thence blessed his people, we recall many tender memories of the good Bishop who spoke to us those brave and kindly words, when at confirmation, after the execution of his apostolic office, he encouraged the newly confirmed with counsel, and advice.
And, not to dwell on these things with which so many of you are familiar, and for once venturing to refer to personal experience, permit me to dwell upon my own recollections of the young man in the prime of his strength upon whom I often gazed as he. rode through the streets, or at whom I looked with childish awe, when he ministered in the parish church where I was brought up. How his words to the class with which I was confirmed, still are treasured in my memory; and later still, how pleasant was the greeting I received from him, when I went to speak of my ordination, and encouraging me, he spoke of childish days in which he remembered me. Sweeter still, and a privilege, to be accounted such, all the days of my life, is the memory of those ever holiest days, when by his apostolic hands, I was set apart to the sacred offices of deacon and priest.
And as memory rejoices over its records of these [11/12] personal relations, so also of days of social intercourse, and of long conversations of personages in the church, and stirring times when burning questions well nigh divided the household of the church. Let me bear loving witness, my brethren, that to me he was truly the Father in God. And in this you too may claim your share, for has he not been ever to us, the good friend, loving to come, simply to join in our worship, and share our devotions. And to these later memories, let us add earlier reminiscences, of our days of initial struggle, when all was uphill work, how it was his determination that sent me, long years ago, to work and live among you. And some there are yet with us who may recall that stormy Easter Day of the year 1875, when forsaking the grander services of the great churches, he came to the narrow little room, where our tiny congregation was worshipping, and preached for us, and bid us God speed, rejoicing greatly, in our joy over the large offertory, which made the real start for the work, and laid the foundation of the parish. And so through the revolving years of our parochial existence the Bishop has been to us the good friend and faithful chief Pastor, always taking pleasure in the smaller, as well as in the greater affairs, and showing in all of our news the kindly interest so gratifying to us all.
But we have, in treating of him as the Prelate, limited ourselves to personal relations, and to relations [12/13] with this parish. There is, of course, always to be considered the wider scope of the Episcopate, but on that theme there is so much to be said that appertains to his biographer, rather than to this tribute to his memory, that we must pass on to the lesser characteristics, which however go to make up the character, which lies before us.
Again asking indulgence for personal mention, may I not recount what fell under my own observation: Some years ago it was my pleasant duty to make some long journeys with him into the interior, as his chaplain, and I was able to judge, somewhat, of the estimate in which he was held by the people in the mountains, among whom in the early days of his episcopate, he had gone bearing the precious seed of the Word. And however much, association, and natural reverence for both the man and his office had influenced me, prior to this time, the manner and attitude toward him, of those with whom we came in contact, deeply impressed me with the great respect in which he was held.
Our journeys brought us into contact with all sorts and conditions of men, and from them all, without exception, deference and reverence were the distinguishing marks, the conductors on railways, the drivers of conveyances, the hotel keepers, all from whom any service was to be expected, showed that they regarded and cared for him. And, we who know, and perhaps appreciate, the Californian feeling; which distinguishes [13/14] between man and office; and cares rather for the man, we, I say, can understand how in the olden days, when in the face of the wild excitement of the time, when every cañon had its band of gold seekers, the Bishop had gone from camp to camp and preached the gospel, and the deep and warm feeling we observed in the mountaineers was the fruit of the labors, and of the example of years gone by, and as I write these words I recall our journey over the mountain roads, and the mouldering signboards by the wayside, with the queer names for the camps, and as I read them, how the Bishop's face lighted up, and his quiet remark, "Yes, I was there in such a year." And so we may well believe that those in whose eyes I saw the tears of joy at seeing him again felt that he was truly their bishop, and if they laid but little stress upon the term prelate, they recognized in him a Reverend Father in God, whose presence was to them a benediction.
And now we must bring these meditations to a close. The long episcopate of forty years is ended. The Crosier has fallen from his grasp, the days of toil, of anxiety, of care, and all the weariness of life's pilgrimage, all these things are over; best of all the days when he has had to stand aside and wait, they, too, are over. And how patiently has he borne them, the days when the student has been obliged to lay aside his loved pursuits, or depend upon others, for the information he loved so dearly to cull himself. The priest has ceased [14/15] from the altar, the Bishop from the Episcopal chair. He lies vested, in yonder mansion, in the robes of his office, fair in his serene old age, noble in the fixedness of death. But, the life and labors of the years gone by remain. Upon foundations broad and deep, laid by the pioneer Bishop, will his young successor build the fair fabric of the future, and in the days to come, while men admire the superstructure, will be found those who will descend into the crypt, and note the foundation stones which, so fairly laid, have made the edifice a possibility.
And so, oh brave old man, who art no more of earth, farewell. Thy labor is done. Thy warfare is accomplished. In all sincerity hast thou kept the faith. In all fidelity hast thou maintained the duties of thy office. Good friend! True citizen! Student of letters as of theology! Pure, high-minded Christian gentleman! Apostolic Bishop of the Church of God! Hail and farewell.
To thee be rest eternal.
To thee perpetual light. Amen.