Project Canterbury

Sermons Preached on Various Occasions
by James de Koven, D.D.

with an Introduction by Morgan Dix, S.T.D., Rector of Trinity Church, New York
New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1880.

(Preached in All Saints' Cathedral, Milwaukee, February 10, 1874.)

"Then came the same Sheshbazzar, and laid the foundation of the House of God which is in Jerusalem: and since that time even until now hath it been in building, and yet it is not finished."—EZRA v. 16.

IN all ages of the world it has been the will of God that the Church should succeed through failure. When the Son of God bowed His head and gave up the ghost, it seemed as if the powers of this world had conquered; but it was not with the feeble wail of the dying, but with the loud cry of a conqueror, that He proclaimed that in the midst of seeming defeat He had overcome the power of Death and of Hell. And what was true of Him has been ever true of His children. Poverty has proved to be riches; folly, wisdom; weakness, strength; cowardice, courage; rashness, prudence; death, life.

Thus it is that the world is ever making mistakes about the saints of God and the history of the Church. It mistakes victory for defeat, advance for going backward, the triumphant march of the Catholic Church for ignominious flight. It is so occupied with buying and selling, gaining and losing, with, the things that are seen and temporal, that it is no fair judge of the unseen and eternal. The miracles of prayer, the victories of faith, the ministrations of the angels, the mysteries of the sacraments, the awful powers of the world to come, are nothing to it. Heroism is in the midst of it, and it takes no heed of it. A great cloud of witnesses encompasses some solitary man round about; but, though he be numbered among the children of God, and has his lot among the saints, the world counts his "life madness, and his end to be without honor."

Nay, in the midst of the noise of the conflict, the clash of arms, the shouts of defiance, the clangor of trumpets, the rush of horsemen, even the children of the Church can scarce tell on which side the true victory lies. It is only they who stay up Moses's hands upon the mount above until the sun goes down, who realize full well that Israel ever prevails over Amalek, and that "the Eternal God is still the refuge of His people, and underneath are the Everlasting Arms."

The words of the text were the words of the foes of the Church of God, or at least of those indifferent to its welfare. They stated the truth, however. It was sixteen years since Sheshbazzar or Zerubbabel, the descendant of David, the prince of the house of Judah, had come up from Babylon to build the house of the Lord. Amid the ruins of Jerusalem, with vested priests, with the sound of trumpets and the clash of cymbals, with the shouts of joy, and blended with it the noise of the weeping of the people, he had laid the foundation of the temple and begun anew the daily sacrifice. But foes without and cold hearts within had stopped the labor. The people said, "The time is not come that the house of the Lord should be built." They dwelt in “ceiled houses while the temple lay waste. Then upon their ears fell the burning words of the prophet Haggai: "Consider your ways. Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little. Why? saith the Lord of hosts. Because of mine house which is waste, and ye run every man to his own house. Therefore the heaven above you is stayed from dew, and I called for a drought upon the land. Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts."

Thus the temple was built, and once more on the great day of atonement the high priest could enter the holy of holies with the blood of the sacrifice. And yet the work was not finished. It was more than half a century later that Ezra the priest began his reformation of the people, and for fourteen years labored to bring them back to God. Then tidings came to Nehemiah, the king's cup-bearer, in Shushan the palace, that the Jews "who had escaped were in great affliction and reproach"; and when he saw the ruined city, the cry burst forth from his lips to priests and nobles: "Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." And thus they builded: "They which builded on the wall, and they that bear burdens, with those that laded, every one with one of his hands wrought in the work, and with the other hand held a weapon." From the time that the foundation of the temple was laid to the time that Nehemiah and Ezra dedicated the wall with "sacrifices, and rejoicings of great joy," was a period of eighty-nine years—exactly the time which has elapsed in the history of our own Church since the consecration of the first American Bishop. Zerubbabel and Haggai and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, had gone to their rest. It was in the days of their grandchildren when the work was ended. It was theirs to begin, the work of others to finish. They saw the temple built indeed, but Gebal and Ammon and Amalek insulted the weakness of the holy city. They died with all things incomplete. And what was true of them has been true of all God's saints ever since. The world demands success; God only asks for labor. The world clamors for results; God asks for principles. Whether His servants succeed or fail in the eyes of men, is a thing altogether immaterial in His sight, if only they do their part well, and hand on the witness of the truth from age to age. They are to be the champions of the right, happen what may. They are to stand unmoved, though "the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing." They are to pass on the trust committed to them, till He shall come, to whom alone it is reserved, when He shall "present to Himself a glorious Church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing," to proclaim amid the wondering silence of men and of angels, "It is finished!"

I have dwelt thus, my brethren, upon this part of the history of God's Church, because I find in it a teaching worthy of thought, in considering the life of him whom to-night we commemorate; and the history of the Church of which that life, as it will be my effort to show, forms an important part.

William Edmond Armitage was born in the city of New York, September 6, 1830. At the age of ten years he was made a member of God's Holy Church by baptism, in St. John's Church, Brooklyn, of which the Rev. Evan M. Johnson was at that time the Rector. He was connected with the Sunday school of the same church for several years, as pupil, librarian, teacher, and assistant superintendent; and in it, by the grace of God, he was confirmed and received his first communion. Guided through his school life by the loving teaching of his uncle, Mr. Daniel P. Bacon, he entered Columbia College at the earliest age the statutes of the institution permitted, and graduated with honor in the year 1849, at the age of nineteen. From early youth he had determined to devote himself to the holy ministry, and thus grew up with the shadow of the priesthood over him. He, therefore, immediately after his graduation, entered the General Theological Seminary in the city of New York, and after three years of careful preparation was ordained Deacon by Bishop Chase, of New Hampshire, in the Church of the Annunciation, in the early summer of 1852. Called this same year to assist the venerable Dr. Burroughs, at St. John's Church, Portsmouth, K. H., he passed his diaconate and the first years of his priesthood there and at St. Mark's Church, Augusta, in Maine. It was in the latter place that on the feast of St. Andrew, 1858, he married Charlotte Louisa, daughter of Mr. Alien Lambard, of Augusta. It was during his residence in Maine that he came under the influence of the amiable, devout, and learned Dr. Burgess, the first Bishop of that Diocese, who ordained him to the priesthood in September, 1854. He was wont to speak with loving gratitude of the personal holiness and untiring industry of one whom many still remember with love and honor.

It was in October, 1859, that he became the first Rector of St. John's Church, in the city of Detroit. The chapel and rectory had already been built by the earnest efforts of Mr. H. P. Baldwin, the founder of the parish. It was his, with the same cooperation, to complete the work thus zealously begun. A parish was formed unequal ed in the West for faithful labor, for perfect organization, for varied societies for parochial work, for a devout, reverent, and well-ordered congregational worship, for numerous and well-trained communicants, and for a parish church which, in stateliness, noble proportions, and convenient arrangement, was at once the expression of the idea of his work and the instrument by which it was forwarded. It still continues, with ever-increasing beauty and reverence, with multiplied numbers of faithful communicants, with an ever-developing organization, and a fuller realization of the true worship of the Church—a witness to the fruitful seed he planted, and to the blessing of God upon his own and the labors of them that have succeeded him. It was in this church that, on December 6, 1866, he was consecrated a Bishop in the Church of God. It was in this church that, on December 11, 1873, in the midst of fathers, brethren, and children, with blended joy and weeping, weeping for ourselves, joy for a life well spent, and a work nobly done, the funeral office was said.

For seven years, in the college and the seminary, he was preparing for holy orders. The first seven years of his ministry he spent in New Hampshire and Maine. For seven years, as a priest at the altar of St. John's Church, Detroit, he "watched for souls as one who must give account." For seven years, as a Bishop in the Church of God, he wielded the "pastoral staff and keys of heaven," and when the morning broke of the eighth year, which is the year of resurrection, he was at rest.

I pause, before I speak of that which chiefly makes his life memorable, to speak of one or two points in his character and history. It is all very uneventful. There is nothing stirring to mark it. It was a life of patient dutifulness, of exact order, of careful rule, of untiring industry, of affectionate gentleness, and of what was ever most touching, entire humility. In the will which, "without feeling apprehension about the operation" to which he was soon to submit, yet bearing in mind the recent death of a well-beloved priest under similar circumstances, he nevertheless wrote, as thinking it "wise to be ready for an unfavorable result," he thus expresses his ever-present humility: "May God have mercy on my soul, for His Son's sake, forgiving all my coldness and deadness in His service, and the dreadful failure in personal example and influence, which might, in my office, have done so much for Him! I do humbly hope to be admitted to the Father's House, and beg my dear wife and child, my father, and all the rest of my dear ones, to live in expectation of our eternal life together there." Alas, my brethren, for ourselves, who so much need to learn the lesson which his words so meekly teach!

It seemed, too, as if the shadow of the Cross of Christ fell especially upon the later years of his life. It pleased God to call his children away, save the one who now remains. He had to bear the sorrow of the ill health of her he loved the best on earth; and at last fell upon him the anticipation of what proved to be the change from the Cross to the Crown. To all this, as one who patiently took up the Cross which was laid upon him, he added great personal self-denial. Without any means of his own, except the salary he received from the Diocese, in all the journeys hither and thither which he took for Kemper Hall and the Cathedral, he bore his own expenses, and was giving to the work he loved the best, when God called him away, more than one quarter of his episcopal salary. His heart, too, was full of anxiety and sorrow for the anxieties and sorrows of his clergy. He knew, as only a Bishop can know, the narrow means, the uncertain position, the difficulties which no man could remedy, and which needed the keener sympathy because they were irremediable; the children deserving and needing education, the sickness and sorrow sometimes, the unrequited labor, the silent cry which goes up to heaven from many a clerical home, and pleads in the ear of God, and will cry aloud at the day of judgment, my brethren, for them of whom the Master has said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." It was with such thoughts in his mind that, in the will I have previously quoted, he says to her who he then thought might at some future day be able to do some good work for the Diocese: “If any one shall happen to propose a memorial institution, or building, or whatever else, for which money is to be raised, I beg that she will forbid and prevent the undertaking. If she should be able, by the gift of a sum of money, to set forward the work I have begun in our Cathedral or at Kemper Hall, I would be very glad, but do not mean even to imply an obligation to do so. She will see how the work goes on, and judge for herself. Then the endowment of the library, in addition to my books, or a special fund, of which the income shall be spent by the Bishop himself, without further accountability than to report to each Council the aggregate of receipts and expenditures—all for the work of the Church in the Diocese, or for charity to the clergy in need—would be the first objects of my choice."

The spirit in which Dr. Armitage accepted the office of Assistant Bishop is clearly shown in his letter of acceptance to the Standing Committee. He says: "Many and serious fears and doubts have beset me since then (the election), not only in view of the sacred office itself, but because of the great promise of your Diocese, and of the standard of "devoted and unwearied labor in the Episcopate to which it has been used. These fears and doubts I can not dismiss; and I obey your call, now that it has come to seem to be the call of God likewise, trusting that He will grant me the help of His Holy Spirit, and that you will join me in continually praying for it, so that, in spite of all my insufficiency, I may be an instrument in His hands of building up the Church among you, for the salvation of many souls and to His eternal glory through Jesus Christ, our Lord!"

His Episcopal work is naturally divided into two portions—his labors as Assistant Bishop, and the work which was properly Episcopal. The position of an Assistant Bishop in the American Church is one of the most difficult to which a faithful and earnest man can be called. An Assistant Bishop is a Bishop without a see. He is called to Episcopal work without any canonical right to do it, except so far as the Bishop whom he assists may call him to it. He has no rights and no duties in the Diocese, so far as the canons of the Church go, during the life of the Bishop he assists, except such rights and duties as may be committed to him. He might even see before him the sheep perishing for want of care, and yet be unable to give the care they needed. He might receive from his senior Bishop all the necessary authority to do all that was needed, and yet, in certain functions of his office, be unable to accomplish all that he would wish to do; because, after all power had been delegated, he would still be not Bishop of the Diocese, but only Assistant Bishop. That the office has been so worthily filled, and with such admirable results, has only served to lessen the feeling against it, and to postpone the legislation which is sure at some future day to place the necessary office of a coadjutor Bishop on its proper foundation.

But the Assistant Bishopric of Wisconsin in 1866 seems, as we look back upon it, like none other. The venerable father, the saintly Bishop, the ardent missionary, the loving pastor, whose kindly government and breadth of toleration to all who would work seemed to some to be weakness, and as the years go by shine brighter and brighter as the strength of God; to uphold his hands, to aid him to wield the pastoral staff, to comfort his declining years, to catch something of his spirit, to carry on and perfect the work he had begun—this was indeed a blessed labor. And such he found it to be. With loving heart and affectionate reverence on the one side, with a father's counsel and a father's prayers on the other, the two Bishops worked together until the 31st day of May, 1870, when, amid the assembled throng whom love and reverence had brought together, the venerable Bishop was committed to the ground in the quiet churchyard at Nashotah. It was the legitimate results of Bishop Armitage's labors as an Assistant Bishop, that he should have endeavored with all the energy of his nature to build the proposed monument to Bishop Kemper, the permanent foundation of a school for girls at Kenosha, to be known as Kemper Hall. You remember the enthusiastic meeting of the Council in which it was begun. You remember the laborious journeys, the personal solicitations, the persevering efforts of the Bishop. You are aware, though possibly all may not realize it, of the success which has crowned the work. The buildings enlarged, improved, and furnished with loving care, in order to give to girls all that the most beautiful home can offer; the admirable corps of teachers, under the guidance of the Rector, to whom so much of the success of the school is due; the ever-increasing number of scholars, making the effort a success financially; the well-ordered discipline, the proper seclusion, the gentle nurture, the earnest religious influence; all these are making Kemper Hall, within and without, a noble monument to the first Bishop of Wisconsin. No better testimony of all this can be given than the fact that, in the will I have already quoted, the Bishop commits his only child, should she be sent to school, to the care of his well-beloved Kemper Hall. May God of His goodness prosper it!

And now that I come to speak of his Episcopal work, I must crave your kind indulgence if I dwell for a while upon some facts of the history of the Church, without which I can not read his life aright, and in the light of which it seems to me more than an ordinary life.

It was on the 14th day of May, 1607, that the first recorded celebration of the Holy Communion by a priest of the Church of England took place in America. It was administered by the Rev. Robert Hunt" upon the shores of the James River in Virginia, only fifty-six years, be it noted, after the publication of the first Prayer Book of the Reformed Church of England. It was not until the 11th of November, 1781:, one hundred and seventy-seven and a half years afterward, that the first Bishop of the American Church was consecrated at Aberdeen in Scotland. It was on the 4th of February, 1787, two and a half years later still, that Bishops White and Provoost were consecrated at Lambeth by the Archbishop of Canterbury. During this long interval of nearly two centuries, the American Church was without a confirmation or an ordination on its soil, and without a Bishop. Nay, it is said that of those who sought the priestly office from the mother country, one in five perished by the way. Nor was there lacking the most earnest efforts on the part of the colonists to obtain a Bishop among them. Letters and memorials supply for a whole century, at least, a connected chain of entreaties and expostulations of the most heart-rending character. "We pray God," they write, "to inspire the Government with compassion toward this country, to the taking away our reproach among the enemies of the Church." "It seems the strangest thing in the world," they say, "and it is thought history can not parallel it, that any place which has received the Word of God so many years should still remain altogether in the wilderness as sheep without a shepherd." In the year 1705 a clergyman writes from New Haven "that near twenty young men went out as Bachelors of Arts from the College, all or most of whom would gladly have accepted Episcopal ordination, if we had been so happy as to have had a Bishop of America." Nor was this altogether without response from England. Charles II. went so far as to consent to the appointment of a Bishop for Virginia. Bishops like the great Butler, Bishop Gibson, and Archbishop Secker, pleaded for it. Bishop Berkeley spent seven years of his life in his endeavor to found a college in the Bermudas, and resided for three years in Rhode Island. Two missionaries of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel received irregular Episcopal ordination, it is said, from a non-juring Bishop, and may possibly have confirmed and ordained, until the Government put a stop to their efforts. All this, too, took place when in the year 1761 a calculation of the white population, and of the various religious persuasions on the continent of North America, transmitted to the Bishop of London, showed that nearly one fourth of the whole, at least nominally, belonged to the Church of England. Verily our venerable mother, the Church of England, bound hand and foot to the State, was compelled to treat her children with something "of a step-dame's art."

If the seventy years' captivity produced such lasting effects upon the Jewish people, might not one expect that this one hundred and seventy-seven years of neglect and spiritual destitution would have produced a marvelous influence upon the American Church? "Was it a wonder, at any rate, when the political complications which preceded the Revolutionary war had aggravated the difficulties of the question, that the lower branch of the Legislature of Virginia, a great majority of whom would have termed themselves Episcopalians, should have thanked certain Virginian clergy for "their wise and well-timed opposition to the pernicious project of introducing an American Bishop"? "Was it surprising that when the Church of South Carolina gave its consent to the organizing of the Church, it was with the understanding that there should be no Bishop settled in South Carolina? Is it any wonder that the first Bishop of South Carolina never ventured, it is said, to administer the rite of Confirmation? Was it marvelous, after all, great sin as it was, that John Wesley, in the year 1784, before the consecration of Bishop Seabury, should have excused to himself the ordination of the two Methodist Superintendents on the ground that there was no Bishop in North America? Was it wonderful that the Prayer Book proposed at such a time, but rejected, should have embodied the rationalism and indifferentism and lurking Socinianism of an evil time? Ought we to be surprised that it should have left out the Creed of universal Christendom and mutilated the Apostles' Creed; that it should have denied the grace of Holy Baptism, arid in the interest of latitudinarianism cut out from its Articles the chief protests against Roman error? If men can be found in our own day to accept all this, and in the face of wondering Christendom, apparently not knowing what they are doing, in the interest of evangelical religion, actually give up what all evangelical men would rather die than lose, is it marvelous that the Church then should for a brief space have considered what it considered only to reject? Nay, does it not fill us, not with surprise, but with loving gratitude and theme for loftiest praise, that to-day, in spite of all this, by the grace of Almighty God, and through His promise that the gates of hell should not prevail against His Church, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the long array of bishops and priests proclaim "the one Lord, the one Faith, and the one Baptism," to "them that ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward "?

And yet, though eighty-nine years have passed away since 1784, of the outward organization of the Church it may be said, "Still it is not finished." We have been working under a deficient organization, and with a heritage due to nearly two centuries of cruel neglect. The Church herself, full of the spirit of her Lord, has been struggling to be free. Her true children, now in one way, now in another, have striven for her to recover her own. They have done so often under reproach, with cruel names, and harsh epithets, and unloving suggestions. They have builded the wall and toiled "from the rising of the sun until the stars appeared "; and as it was of old, it has been reported of them, because "Gashmu said it," that they "builded the wall because they sought to rebel." The very loyalty of those who did not comprehend the mighty work the Church has to do in this land has been arrayed against them. It seemed as though it were finding fault with our dear mother to suppose that she had no clear and distinct law, no definite system of ritual, and that her officers needed at once fuller powers and more careful checks and safeguards. Men did not realize that she could not be a mere sect, but must stand forth the heir of all the ages, in the majesty of her Catholic beauty, glorious "within and without," and "terrible as an army with banners." As each recovery has been made, as each part of her precious heritage has been brought to light, as each truth she teaches has been held up to the gaze, an angry world and a feeble Christianity have uttered their cries of wrath or of fear. Nay, those who themselves have been cried out against have been ready to join the hue and cry against others. One has struggled for a great truth, and then has been full of terror when an earnest disciple has ventured to practice it. It has not been "Geshem the Arabian alone, and "Tobiah the Ammonite," but the children of Israel who speak "half in the speech of Ashod," and "even the prophetess Noadiah and the rest of the prophets "who have weakened the hands of Nehemiah and Ezra. But still the work has advanced, and stone by stone the wall has been laid; ay, and it will go on till every truth the Prayer Book teaches, and every practice she enjoins or permits, has become the constant privilege of her children. Then, from gate to gate and from tower to tower around the city of David, the glad procession with psaltery and harp shall wend Its way, and hearts that have been almost broken with their weary load, shall burst forth into the hymn of thanksgiving, till the "joy of Jerusalem is heard even afar off."

It is indeed a sign of the times, my brethren, that even now the Bishop of Western New York, with the general approbation of Churchmen of all views, has expressed the sense of need of which I have spoken, in the proposition for a Constitutional Convention to consider the necessary changes in the organization of the Church. Who that would see order instead of confusion, steady growth instead of fitful efforts, harmonious action instead of eager contentions, will not pray for its success? I do not, however, speak of this with a view to entering into so wide a subject. I only mention it to show that thoughtful, earnest, and loyal Churchmen know that there are difficulties in our organization. It is simply material to my history to, state that one of these difficulties is in relation to the position and work of a Bishop.

Four things the Church in all ages has deemed necessary to the Bishop's true work and position: 1. His selection by the people over whom he is to preside; 2. His due ordination to the office of a Bishop by those who have a right to convey the holy gift; 3. The proper relation between the Diocese and the Bishop, so that he may be a shepherd, a father, a guide, a preacher of righteousness, a head and a governor; 4. The due subordination of the Bishop to the Bishops of the province of which he is a member, that, should he prove to be a wolf and not a shepherd, a tyrant and not a head, the sheep of the flock may be protected.

Of these the second, viz., the due ordination and consecration, is necessary to the very being of a Bishop; the others are necessary to the perfection of his work. Of the four, the American Church at its organization fully provided for the most important one, and with some defects for the others also. She provided for the due selection of the Bishop by those over whom he was to preside, but omitted to require that they only should have the right of voting for him who were faithful members of the Church. She provided a Diocesan Synod and Standing Committees to connect the Bishop with the Diocese, and left out the see system. She formed the whole of the land into a solitary province, but left no appeal from the judgment of the Bishop, either to the House of Bishops or the General Convention.

These defects, which naturally resulted from the history we have briefly recorded, have at various times occupied the thoughts, the care, and the labors of the members of the Church. At least two of them are spoken of in words of mingled humility and wisdom in the last words of the "Memoirs of the Protestant Episcopal Church" of the venerable Bishop White. One of them, namely, the see system, the Diocese of Wisconsin, trained thereto by the wise counsels of its oldest and most venerated presbyter, learned to believe in and to long for. The see system implies (and in endeavoring to explain it, I shall use the very words of a memorial adopted by the Diocese of Wisconsin in the year 1868, and ordered to be presented to the General Convention of the Church which met in the autumn of that year in the city of New York):

First, That the Bishop is a successor of the Apostles, and that as such he is and ought to be the leader of the Church in every onward step of advance and progress, the pioneer of all our work in the conversion of the world to Christ.

Second, That the place for the Bishop is in "the city as the center of population, of wealth, of intelligence, and of all progress of doctrines and propagation of ideas."

"And from the city," the Memorial goes on to say, "the Episcopate was named—the Bishoprics of Rome, of Corinth, of Ephesus, not of Italy, Greece, or Asia Minor. And in the city was the Bishop's Church or Cathedral, the mother church of the whole Diocese, and the center of his work, the very focus of all influences whereby the propagation of the gospel can be organized, pressed on, and facilitated."

"The Church of Wisconsin," the Memorial continues, "is convinced that these facts are true, and that they make the only basis whereupon the Church can be organized so as to have her full power to do the work that God has placed before her in this great land."

The Memorial concludes, after introducing three resolutions, in one of which the idea of the see system is embodied:

These measures she suggests, that the reformation begun in England may be here completed by the universal spread of the Church, founded upon the same principles, but freed from the domination of the state; that the world may behold once more what it has not seen since the fatal days of the first Constantine, the Church equally free from the supremacy of kings and popes, standing forth with the Bible in her hands open to all her children, governed by the law of Christ, and guarded by the Holy Spirit, pure and holy in principle and life; in every city in the land offering herself as a sure haven of refuge in this great storm of manifold and sincere, yet perplexed and agitated religious thought, having in every city her apostle or Bishop, the ambassador of the everlasting gospel; the Bishop's Church, his Cathedral, the center of all his work, religious, educational, and benevolent, a blessed temple and heavenly home to which all eyes may turn, and all hearts may rejoice.

It was a noble thought, conceived in the full spirit of Catholic antiquity and of practical wisdom, that in the chief city of the Diocese there should be a central work, which should be the heart of the Diocese; that from it the life-blood should course through veins and arteries, and glow and throb with quickened life; that the Bishop should bear the true relation to his Diocese, not simply through his Convention, its Canons, and its Standing Committee, but through a living work, replete with the grace of God and the love of Jesus; and that city after city should catch up ,the same idea, and bear across the land the gracious work. A noble theory, I hear some prudent critic say, but one that it was rash to attempt to put into practice. Thank God, my brethren, that faith and enthusiasm, and that divine rashness which risks all for God and His Church, are not lost among us! Other Dioceses, even prudence might answer, had attempted some part of the system. One at least had broken through the prescription of over eighty years and was named after its chief city. Bishops were trying to gather around them institutions of learning in some chosen town. Cathedrals had been started of varying likeness to the true ideal. The mind of the Church was teeming with the thought; why should not Wisconsin, with its noble Bishop, with its great institutions, its earnest clergy, its faithful laity, be the first to do entirely what others were partially laboring for?

But it was not with Bishop Armitage a question even to be decided. He felt that he was called to this special work by the Diocese which had elected him. Prudent or imprudent, wise or unwise, to that risk he was bidden, to that venture of faith he was invited. It is true, I am told by one who knew him best, that, in his labors in the Diocese of Michigan, his own mind had been especially drawn in the same direction, so that the idea commended itself to his own sound judgment; but the point I desire especially to call your attention to is that this especial work was not of his own seeking he was called to it by the combined wisdom of the Diocese.

In the very Convention in which he was elected, it was voted that the clergy and laity of Milwaukee be a Committee to obtain a "see house for the Bishop of the Diocese." In the same Convention the Church of St. James in the City of Milwaukee "was offered to the Bishop or Assistant Bishop elect, with the sum of fifteen hundred dollars per annum in addition to all canonical assessments." The Bishop's house and the Bishop's church were in the minds of all. In his first address to the Council of the Diocese he says:

It was not the least attraction to your Diocese to know that the "see principle" in regard to Episcopal work was expected to be put in operation. By common consent Milwaukee was to be made the See of the Diocese of Wisconsin, and my residence was virtually fixed in that city by the offers and resolutions which followed my election in your last Convention. Accordingly, in our earliest consultations, the Bishop assigned to me the organization of Church work in this city with reference to its Diocesan relations. Much of my time has been given and must be given to the effort to strengthen the work in this center.

By the hidden movement of his own heart, by the ordering of God's Providence, by the voice of the Diocese of "Wisconsin, by the direction and counsel of Bishop Kemper, he felt himself called to bring into active operation the see system. It may be that he did not realize all the difficulties of that which he undertook; he did not understand that against him was arrayed the weary tradition of over two hundred and fifty years. It mattered not that the primitive Church had practiced it; that the Church of England approved it; that the heart of the Church in this country had begun to demand it: he was called to stand forth and fight against an abuse of immemorial age, and rooted far down in the system of the Church. God, who called him, mercifully suffered him not to see it all, and in the strength of God he strove to accomplish the work.

It was not the least attraction to your Diocese to know that the "see principle" in regard to Episcopal work was expected to be put in operation. By common consent Milwaukee was to be made the See of the Diocese of Wisconsin, and my residence was virtually fixed in that city by the offers and resolutions which followed my election in your last Convention. Accordingly, in our earliest consultations, the Bishop assigned to me the organization of Church work in this city with reference to its Diocesan relations. Much of my time has been given and must be given to the effort to strengthen the work in this center.

By the hidden movement of his own heart, by the ordering of God's Providence, by the voice of the Diocese of Wisconsin, by the direction and counsel of Bishop Kemper, he felt himself called to bring into active operation the see system. It may be that he did not realize all the difficulties of that which he undertook; he did not understand that against him was arrayed the weary tradition of over two hundred and fifty years. It mattered not that the primitive Church had practiced it; that the Church of England approved it; that the heart of the Church in this country had begun to demand it: he was called to stand forth and fight against an abuse of immemorial age, and rooted far down in the system of the Church. God, who called him, mercifully suffered him not to see it all, and in the strength of God he strove to accomplish the work.

Consider the work he attempted. The "Milwaukee Church Union," the "Diocesan Book Store," the "Diocesan Paper," the "Diocesan Records," the "Diocesan Office"; a financial system which was to reach every member of the Church in the Diocese, and say to them, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"; the Deacons of the Church gathered together in one place in a common brotherhood; the Clergy House, where he and his clergy were to live; and, last of all, the Cathedral itself. It matters not whether these plans were all successful; it matters not even whether they were all alike judiciously conceived. Much of all such work must be tentative, and much must fail through lack of zeal. He was laboring for a great idea, and through failure and disappointment, whether men approved or disapproved, whether they sympathized or did not sympathize, he worked on. He did not pause, he did not slacken; neglecting no one of his other duties—now organizing the Cadle Home at Green Bay, now laboring at Nashotah or Racine, now guiding the new arrangements at Kemper Hall, now comforting the aged at St. John's Home, now visiting the far-off missionary stations, now assisting in the efforts to organize the new Diocese at the North, now pausing to do his duty as husband and father, now in his place in General Convention, now on his knees before the merciful God to whose unchanging love he committed himself—nay, even with the shadow of death upon him, he worked on. It seems scarcely a moment since, at the last meeting of the Council, in this very place, in words that seem almost prophetic, he said of the Cathedral and its work: "I shall never see it all worked out, but I know that some one will by and by; and it is worth living for, and dying for, to lay the foundation of it all."

You know the end, my brethren. With the heavy burden of the work upon him, with the money that must be raised or his Cathedral be lost, with the financial panic filling all hearts with sudden fear, with his work incomplete, with his labor unaccomplished, yet with the same unflinching courage, he entered St. Luke's Hospital only to die.

And if ever there was a confessor to a cause, and that cause a great one, this stainless Bishop was such a one. We thought we were witnessing an ordinary life, and lo, it was another of those of whom the "time would fail to tell," "of whom the world was not worthy." He was one of the few whom the Lord had called to recover the lost heritage of the Church. Others had preceded him; for the Apostolic Succession, for the Sacrament of Baptism, for the very idea of a Church, for its worship, for its order, its services, its Eucharists, its penitential blessings, men in the midst of storms had borne their witness, and borne it well. Bishop White and Bishop Seabury, each in a different way; Bishop Hobart, the greatest and bravest of American Bishops, uniting in some sort the qualities of the two, and adding a power altogether his own; Bishop Doane, of New Jersey, who represents another advance in power and wisdom; and our own great missionary Bishop; each in his appointed place had done his work. Each of them, too, except the last, had done it more or less under protest and reproach. There were many who were unwilling to acknowledge the orders of Bishop Seabury. The later years of Bishop White were made sorrowful by the bitterness of those who did not acknowledge the divine origin of the Church. The lion-like Bishop Hobart was accused of bigotry, intolerance, and ambition. The memory of the stern trial through which the Bishop of New Jersey was called upon to pass is still fresh in our memories. It was reserved to Bishop Kemper alone to labor without reproach and bitterness. The wind and storm which beat against the Church to-day make us forget these tempests of the past. Nay, is it not somewhat true of us that we cry with them of old, “Had we been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets"? Take courage, brave heart, wheresoever thou mayest be. The end is not yet; if they slay thee to-day, to-morrow, with acclamations, “they will build thy sepulchre!"

Does it seem like undue praise to add the name of Bishop Armitage to these noble Bishops I have mentioned? They were the apostles of organization, of the recovery of lost powers and privileges, of educational labor and missionary work. He gave all he had to recover for a Bishop his lost place and position. Differing from them in manifold ways, he was one with them in this, that for something which the Church of God had lost, not merely for the ordinary work of the Episcopate, he gave his life. If that life shall leave a permanent impression on the Church, if future years shall show that he caught, as I believe he did, the very need of the day, what I have said of him will be assented to by grateful hearts in time to come.

But, beloved, whether this shall be or not in some sort rests with you. I ask you, therefore, in the name of Christ and of the Church, His spotless Bride, here in this Church to-night, will you suffer his work to fail? Shall the idea for which he lived and died bear no fruit? Shall the seven years of labor come to naught? Shall this fruitage of the long past which this single life has ripened drop from feeble and irresolute hands? I ask it of those who loved him as a pastor and guide; I ask it even of those who sometimes were fearful or anxious or doubtful of his plans; I ask it of those whose courage never failed and whose loyalty never wavered; I ask it of the Judge and King of all, who holds the hearts of all men in His hands, and moves them as He will.

Beloved, he is at rest with the saints of God.
We may not stir the heaven of their repose
By rude invoking voice, or prayer addrest,
In waywardness to those
Who in the mountain grots of Eden lie,
And hear the fourfold river as it murmurs by.
They hear it sweep
In distance down the dark and savage vale,
But they at rocky bed, or current deep,
Shall never more grow pale;
They hear and meekly muse, as fain to know How long untired, unspent, that giant stream shall flow.
And soothing sounds
Blend with the neighboring waters as they glide;
Posted along the haunted garden's bounds,
Angelic forms abide,
Echoing, as words of watch, o'er lawn and grove
The verses of that hymn which seraphs chant above.

But we are still in the midst of the conflict. It rages around us, it sometimes seems, as it never raged before. Unbelief and the denial of all things, schism and heresy, the most sacred truths of religion scoffed at or explained away, the very foundations of the truth utterly forgotten by them that pretend to teach it, the popular voice too often on the side of error, a coarse love of money, a barbaric luxury, an unrefined display, a growing effeminacy, unblushing vice, corrupted youth, and hard-hearted age, are on every side. What does all this say to us? It bids us remember that the questions which divide us are infinitely petty in the light of the work we are called to do. It urges us, with one heart and one soul, to find our unity, not in any intolerant assertion of our own views, but in the work, the mighty work for Christ, and for the dying souls of men, which will bind us all to the Cross of a loving Saviour, and in Him to one another. I see a vision stately fair of the one Church of God. Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ for its chief corner-stone, I see it rise before me. Built in its walls as living stones are the martyrs of God, the bishops and doctors, the poor and unknown, little children and virgin souls. With many a blow and biting sculpture each stone is laid. Now one and now another is called to take his place, the Bishop who has gone to his rest, and you and I. Unfinished yet, with neither sound of hammer nor instrument of steel, in silence wonderful, it rises still. As I gaze, the mists of earth, or else the tears that blind my eyes, or murky clouds that gather I know not whence, shut out the view. But as I strain my weary sight, lo! the clouds are rifted, and from heaven descending comes the New Jerusalem, like bride adorned for her husband. The two are blended into one. The gates are pearl; the streets are gold; the crystal waters shine; the tree of life is full of healing leaves. There is no weary controversy, or bitter words, or cruel misunderstandings, or mistaken divisions. There are hymns that know no discord, worship that never ceases, praise that never ends, and the Lamb of God to be our joy and peace for ever and ever!

Project Canterbury