Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Work of a Missionary Church by Bishop Henry Whipple

The following is an abridged sermon of Bishop Henry Benjamin Whipple's Missionary Theology from his Charge to the Clergy of the Diocese of Minnesota, 1862. His actual words will be in bold face.

A few words of note: Firstly, these articles are written at the behest of another blog page where I have been asked to be a contributor. This text will appear on that blog facebook page as well. Secondly, being a good Victorian, Whipple did refer to Native Americans in what now appears to be highly politically insensitive (read: offensive) language. To be true to the sermon, the beliefs of his era, and to perhaps generate a bit of discussion on race relations particularly in South Dakota, I am including that point, noting them as [SIC]. Before you jump off your PC bandwagon to condemn him, however, you need read my previous blog entry and other testimony here, as I think Whipple was light years ahead of others in terms of treating Native Americans with incredible respect as Children of God. Further, Bishop Whipple has a lot to say, I believe, to contemporary culture and the current problems in the Anglican church. Given that the following is an incredible amount of theology to digest, I will make a final 3rd post on Whipple and Contemporary America tomorrow in the hopes of tying this and my previous entry on Whipple together (God willing).

"The work of a Missionary Church is the salvation of souls for whom Christ died--no less an object can measure it. Its work is in time, but the results are for eternity. Wherever there are sinful men the Lord has sent it. To all, "the Spirit and the Bride say, come." No age, nor sex, nor rank, nor color, nor race is excepted. To turn aside from any suffering, sinful man, is to substitute man's selfishness in the place of the overflowing love of God; it is to give up grace for nature, to make the Church of Christ a human sect to shelter pride, and so dare to limit the Redemption on the Cross. In the relations of this work to our infant Diocese, the subject naturally divides itself into--
1. The nature of the Field which God has entrusted to our care.
2. The means provided of God to carry on His work.
3. And the Way in which His stewards must use His means."

Bishop Whipple's Basic outline is thus:

I. The Field is the World
 "The field is still new for our work is not only to eradicate error, but also occupy the vineyard of the Lord and win the first pioneers and their children that we may mould for Christ the men who are to mold the State."
    A. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT IN ITS PHYSICAL ASPECTS.-"It requires no ordinary energy for twenty men to care for a country larger than all England; and unless prepared to endure "hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ,' we shall never, in any respect, leave our mark upon the State."
    B. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT FOR THE WORLDLINESS OF WESTERN LIFE.-"If gold is the only end, it will here be sought by trickery, by falsehood, by extortion, by worldly work, without a day of rest, and by a life without faith in God or hope of heaven."
    C. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT BY INDIFFERENCE.-"The heart is dead and cold. For long years they have silenced every angel whisper; they have cast off God, and sin holds them in its unchallenged possession. To reach such men, to break up this ice-bound sea, to lead them out of their benumbed stupor, is a work of difficulty. The only message which can reach such hearts is in the love of Jesus Christ."
    D. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT BY IRRELIGION. -"Much of this awful record is the fruit of pretended preachers, who never believed in or lived for Christ. I have met upon the border an unbaptised man in almost heathenish darkness, who knew no Bible, Sunday, Church or Saviour, and yet this man came here claiming to be a minister of Christ. There have been others among us who are now leaders of infidelity, who came here professing to be heralds of the Cross."
    E. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT TO WIN THE HEATHEN RED MEN [SIC] OF OUR STATE TO CHRIST. "Wherever heathenism and civilization meet in conflict, either the civilization will become heathenish, or the heathenism must become civilization." 
    F. THE WORK IS DIFFICULT BY THE STRAITNESS OF THESE TROUBLESOME TIMES. "We are all of yesterday, and when these blows fall we have nothing to fall back upon. With us everything is to be done--churches to build, schools to found, Bibles to scatter, Prayer Books to distribute, Sunday Schools to plant--all this work to be done in our penury, where often the missionary is at his wit's end to know how he can secure his daily bread."
    G. CONCLUSION ABOUT THE FIELD. "The field, with all its difficulties, is a hopeful field. The pioneer is generally a man of warm and generous heart. His very isolation gives him longing for companionship. His sense of need and desire to have a teacher, make him give a hearty welcome to the minister of Christ, who seeks him in his home. The rough contact of western life opens avenues which lead straight to the heart. The man is himself a motive power, and if won to Christ he will mould other hearts. There is a self-reliance nurtured in the hardships of a border life, which makes a manly race of men. You know what such have dared to do at other calls of duty, and shall they not be braver soldiers for Jesus Christ, and have the manliness which is godliness. The danger is in superficial work."

II. THE MEANS PROVIDED OF GOD TO CARRY ON HIS WORK, ARE FIRST THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST. "It is the will of God, that by the foolishness of preaching they shall be saved who believe. 'How shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?' 'How shall they hear without a preacher?' 'How shall they preach except they be sent?' The ministry is sent by the Lord Jesus Christ. It is no appointment of a sect which selects its advocates. It is the Lord's. He bought it with His blood. He sent it to be His ambassador. The minister of the Church must believe this with all his heart, or he has no right to stand beside her altars...The claim to an inward call without the outer form, is the plea of every fanatic whose heresies have desolated the earth."
    A. THE MINISTRY MUST PREACH GOD'S MESSAGE IN THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST- "The moment men deny a visible Church of Christ, they will seek for societies, and lodges, and brotherhoods to take its place. The theory of an invisible Church is not needed for charity to those without its fold. We admit the purity, the faithfulness and piety of many who are not in the Church, and we love them for the love they bear to Christ, and for the grace of God which has been shed abroad in their hearts. But this no more absolves from loyalty to Christ, or apologises for Christian divisions and parties, than morality will excuse an upright liver for neglect of Holy Baptism."

III. THE WAY TO USE THIS MINISTRY, FAITH, AND WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH, DEMANDS MOST SERIOUS THOUGHT. "Into whatsoever field you enter, you are sent from God to all within your cure. Unless impossible, by reason of obligations already made, the Church ought always to be free. The open door, the ready welcome, and the brotherhood of a Free Church, proclaim, as no other Church can proclaim, a Gospel for all who need a Gospel. The Free Church is built upon that broad Catholic truth, that the hearing of the Gospel must be as free as the invitation is free. If this is true, if we cannot sell so much Gospel for so much money, if the poor, the neglectful, and the wandering, must be constrained to make the Church their home, then it is right, and if it is right it is expedient. It will cost trials, hardships, and self-denials, but the duty once settled must not be questioned. If God say "Go forward," the Pillar of Fire and Pillar of Cloud will lead us to perfect safety."
    A. "The larger part of our population are men who have been reared in other communions, and every custom of the Church will be strange to them. You go among them not to be a warring son of Ishmael, with your hand against every man, and every man's hand against you; nor yet to try and teach them your shibboleth, which unbelieving lips cannot speak. "
    B. "The preacher must be the pastor. The shepherd must know his sheep, and call them all by name. It is the only way to give to your preaching that directness which will go straight to the people's hearts. "
    C. "There must be Tracts and Bibles, and Books of Common Prayer, and Sunday School books scattered broadcast through the land. the door which now lets in so much evil by a depraved literature, must be the door of good to reach men's hearts. The missionary and the Diocese are too poor to provide for these wants, but there are in eastern homes thousands who love Christ's work, and who will aid you when they know what a messenger of mercy one good book is in a pioneer's home."
    D. THERE MUST BE CATECHETICAL TEACHING. "There is a whole library of sound theology in that old Church Catechism which for 300 years has given the sturdy strength to English character. its plain words of duty to God and duty to our neighbor, cover all of a Christian life. These truths planted in a child's heart are never lost."
    E. THE GREATEST OF ALL PASTORAL WORK IS TO TEACH THE PEOPLE HOW TO WORK. "Every baptized man is Christ's soldier, and has a post of duty. The surest way heavenward is to help some one else to go there. The man who has grasped the hand of Christ must reach out his other hand to help someone else. There is no such thing as a selfish Christian. If the love of Christ is in the heart it will glow with love; it will long to do, and will find ways to do. Work brings work and brings gladness.
The Christian laity of the Church, both sons and daughters must long to testify their love for Christ.
There must be a plan, and the parish must look to the plan, and God will bless the work, and it will widen and deepen, to lead other souls to Christ. The work of the laity will be divided into Parochial, Diocesan, and Foreign Missionary work...The Glory of the Church is to be a Working Church."
"The Clergy have no right to shrink from declaring the whole counsel of God. No delicacy of sentiment should keep them from declaring, on the testimony of God, that "He has ordained that they who preach the Gospel shall live of the Gospel."

THE FINAL CHARGE: "This Diocese is a branch of the vine which the Lord planted. It must either grow, and bud, and bear abundant fruit, or wither and die. Its growth depends alone on work and grace. Its life comes alone from Jesus Christ."

-From the The Work of a Missionary Church: A Primary Charge To the CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF MINNESOTA. By Henry Benjamin Whipple, Bishop of Minnesota: Delivered at the opening of the convention in St. Luke's Church Hastings

St. Barnabas' Day, 1862

(Ironically, the author of this blog was ordained a transitional deacon on St. Barnabas Day, some 145 years later, with the Deacon of the Word being a direct descendant of Bishop Whipple.)

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