Bishop’s Address of 1843

By The Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott
First Bishop of Georgia

Brethren of the Clergy and Laity:

It is with the most heartfelt gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ, the Head over all things to the Church, that I recount to you the many mercies which have been vouchsafed our Diocese during the past year. Although in many respects the times have been evil, they have not been evil to us, and through a period of unexampled trial, temptation and difficulty, the Spirit of Christ has guided our little flock unharmed and unspotted. And not only has it been guided, it has been likewise specially blest. The Clergy who have been added to us as co-workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, the Churches which have this day united themselves to us—the offspring of the year, and yet, in a certain sense, already full grown—the Parishes which, for the first time, have enrolled their names upon the records of our Convention, all testify that, of a truth, the Spirit of God hath been with us to bless us. May His presence abide with us during our sessions, and preserve us from every influence which may darken our counsels or disturb our peace, and may all our deliberations turn, with a single eye, to the praise and glory of God in Christ.

The Rt. Rev. Stephen Elliott

My first official act, during the Ecclesiastical year which has now come to its close, was the Confirmation in Trinity Church, Columbus, on the Sunday after Ascension, of thirteen persons, and the administration of the Communion to a large concourse of the faithful. This Confirmation occurred during the session of our last Convention, subsequently however to the delivery of my annual address, and is now, for the first time, officially reported to your body.

Mr. Henry Elwell, of the Diocese of Florida, having been recommended to me by the proper authorities of that Diocese, as a fit person to be admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons, I subjected him to the necessary examinations, and on Whit-Sunday, May 15th. 1842, ordained him. Since his Ordination Mr. Elwell has been laboring at Monticello, Florida.

While delayed at Columbus by the Ordination of Mr. Elwell, I made a visit to Russell County, Alabama, at the earnest request of several Episcopal families, and after Divine Service in the neighborhood school-house, organized a Parish with the title of St. John’s in the Wilderness. This organization was immediately reported to the President of the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Alabama. While this Parish continues without a Clergyman, its members worship in Trinity Church, Columbus.

From Columbus I proceeded, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Bragg, to Marietta, Cobb County, where service was held in the Presbyterian and Methodist Churches for three successive days, and a Parish organizes under the title of St. James’ Church, Marietta. Nothing could exceed the zeal with which the friends of the Church at that point entered upon the work of erecting a House to the Lord of Hosts, and nothing proves more conclusively than their complete success, how much a mere handful of Churchmen can effect, when they move forward in faith and prayer.

From Marietta I visited Milledgeville, preached on the 1st Sunday after Trinity, and on Monday the 30th May selected, with the advice and concurrence of the Vestry, the site for St. Stephen’s Church.From Milledgeville I returned to Savannah, and until the 10th October performed Parochial duty in the united Parishes of Christ Church and St. John’s, and on the 15th Sunday after Trinity confirmed in St. John’s Church seventeen persons from the two Parishes.

On the 10th October I proceeded to Clarksville, Habersham County, and on the 21st Sunday after Trinity, consecrated Grace Church in that village. This is a very neat wooden building, with tower and bell, prettily located, and an ornament to the village. The heavy debt which has been hanging over it for the last three years is now, I am happy to say, in the way of speedy liquidation. May the time quickly come, when it, along with all its sister Churches of the Diocese, may say that it “owes no man any thing but love!” The Rev. J.B. Gallagher will resume his Missionary labours in Clarksville immediately after the adjournment of the Convention.

The 22d Sunday after Trinity (Oct.23) was spent in Athens. I preached twice in the Presbyterian Church and administered the Communion at night to ten communicants at the house of Dr. Moore.

The 23d Sunday after Trinity (Oct. 30) was devoted to the interests of the rising congregation at Marietta. I preached twice in the Presbyterian Church, baptized one infant, and administered the Communion to eight communicants, at the house of Col. Long. I found upon this visit a very pretty stone Church just shewing itself above its foundation, and an undiminished zeal in the hearts of our people.

The month of November was passed in Savannah in the performance of Parochial duty. On the 28th I paid my semi-annual visit to Montpelier and occupied a week in the examination of the Schools. On the second Sunday in Advent, I confirmed two pupils of the Institute and administered the Communion to about thirty persons.

The remainder of the month of December and the half of January were spent in Savannah in the performance of Parochial duty, when I set out upon the visitation of the Churches upon the Eastern Shore. On the second Sunday after Epiphany, I consecrated Christ Church, St. Simon’s Island, baptized twenty-one colored adults, five by immersion, and confirmed twenty-eight persons. Services were held during the two following days, which were punctually attended by the inhabitants of the Island.

I found the Church upon the Island very much improved since my last visit. Its external appearance spoke well for the people, and the increased interest in spiritual things for the Pastor. His labours among the negroes had been attended with decided success, and twenty-one candidates for Baptism were the first fruits of his exertion. Finding that they desired immersion, I determined to carry out the Rubric of the Church and force it upon their notice, that the Ministers of the Church generally poured or sprinkled in Baptism, not because they had any objection to immersion, but because they deemed those modes equally scriptural and far more convenient. I read the Baptismal service upon the bank of the river, proceeded into the water, immersed five, and the prejudice was at once overcome. The remaining sixteen sent a message informing me that they would prefer to be baptized in the Church by pouring. I am thus particular in the statement of this case, because I think that it might be well to pursue, from time to time, a like course in other parts of the Diocese, that the people may understand, that so far as the Episcopal Church is concerned, the real difference between the Baptists and ourselves lies not in the matter of immersion, but in the more vital question, whether our children shall be admitted into the covenant with Christ—whether the promise shall be sealed, as St. Peter assures us it was given, to our children as well as to ourselves, or whether the more glorious dispensation of the Gospel shall be counted, in this respect, inferior to the dispensation which gendered unto bondage.

On the 3d Sunday after Epiphany (Jan. 22) I confirmed in the Methodist Church, in Darien, twelve persons, having previously baptized three white adults and a child, and commenced a series of services which terminated on Tuesday night in the administration of the Lord’s Supper to a large body of communicants. I found the state of feeling so promising as to determine me to pay this Parish a second visit as quickly as possible.

On the 25th January I returned to Savannah and was with my Parish until the middle of February, when I visited Glynn County and consecrated St. David’s Church in the old Colonial Parish of the same name. This is a small but very neat country Church, built by five Planters for the accommodation of their own families and of such of the neighbourhood as may please to join them in the worship of the Church.

This Church is interesting to us in many ways. It is a spark of proper liberality uncommon in these days of faithlessness, and we trust will not be lost, as a noble example, upon those who may be cast in a like situation. It is an evidence of growing interest in the religious instruction of the negroes, for it places at least one thousand slaves under the direct pastoral care of the Rector. It is an opportunity for trying fairly, in this Diocese, the experiment of the adaptedness of the Church to the spiritual wants of the negroes, for their owners are determined to commit them (without compulsion, of course) to the charge of their Rector, and lend him all their influence in his work. The Rev. Dr. Vaughan has been labouring in this Parish for the last six weeks and has received a call to become its Rector. May the Holy Ghost direct his heart that way, and make his path plain before him into this interesting field of labour. We trust that God, in his Providence, intends him to lead the van of the Episcopal Missionaries that must shortly extend in an unbroken phalanx from the Savannah to the St. Mary’s. One half, at least, of the large slave holders on the Savannah, the Ogeechee, the Alatamaha, the Satilla and the Sea Islands which skirt the coast of Georgia, are Episcopalians, and it is time that they were awake to their responsibility in this matter. May St. David’s Church be the first fruits to the Lord of the rich harvests with which he has so long blessed these rivers and islands, and may many spire speedily point Heavenward from their banks and groves, to disperse the gathering wrath of the Almighty and bring back to them prosperity and plenty. “Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in my house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of Hosts, if I will not open you the windows of Heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”

But it is useless to arouse the Planters to their duty so long as the Ministers of the Church and her candidates for Orders shut their eyes to the vast work which is here spread out before them. From this city we can look out upon, at least, ten thousand slaves whose masters are, for the most part, willing that they should be religiously instructed—willing too to pay that they might be instructed—especially anxious that they should have Episcopal instruction; and yet among all that vast multitude there is not heard the voice of a single Episcopal Pastor. From the bluff at Darien, there are to be seen plantations containing five thousand slaves, and St. David’s is the first Episcopal Church that has offered the glad tidings of great joy to their greedy ears. Lying between these points, and upon the islands to the East, are thousands more, and still no Pastor from their Master’s Church tells them of their souls and of their Savior. Why is this so? Can our young men answer this question satisfactorily, to their consciences? It cannot be lack of zeal for the extension of the Church, for, now-a-days, the Church is in every body’s mouth, and to judge from the utterance of the lips, there is not one that would not give up every thing for her glory. It cannot be a want of Missionary spirit, for at this moment there are more applications for foreign stations than the Board can venture to encourage. It cannot be fear of climate, for he that would risk an Indian or an African sun, might well rejoice in the very worst atmosphere to which he should be subjected among us. It must be ignorance of the field that has kept our Ministers back, and we ourselves must be in fault in not having sufficiently instructed the Church in regard to our wants in this particular. All that time will permit me now to say is this, that for any young man, suitable to the work, who will dedicate himself to it as to a foreign field, a convenient mission, with a competent salary, can be immediately procured.

From Glynn County I returned to Darien, and on the evening of the 17th February I baptized one coloured adult, and confirmed twelve persons in addition to those previously reported. The services were peculiarly interesting and were closed by my laying the corner stone of St. Andrew’s Church, Darien. May it have been laid upon Christ the Rock of Ages, and may the Church grow up a spiritual temple, holy and acceptable to God.

The Rev. Frederick J. Goodwin of Flushing, L.I., accompanied me in this and my previous visitations to these Parishes, and has laid me and my people at the South, under a load of obligation, which can only be repaid by our common Lord and Savior. To his valuable services much of the present feeling in those Parishes is to be attributed, and it must be to him a most gratifying cause of thankfulness to God, that he was permitted to turn a season of weakness and infirmity to so good account. Long will the remembrance of him be cherished among the people of St. Andrew’s.

On the 26th February, Quinquagesima Sunday, I admitted the Rev. Edward T. Walker to the Priesthood and Dr. William B. Stevens to the Holy Order of Deacons, in Christ Church, Savannah, and on the first Sunday in Lent, I confirmed seven persons in Christ Church, from the associate Parishes of Christ Church and St. John’s.

On the 7th March I left Savannah for Augusta upon my spring visitation. Upon the 8th and 9th I examined Mr. Thomas F. Scott, upon the 10th officiated in St. Paul’s, and on Saturday night the 11th confirmed fifteen persons. On Sunday the 12th I admitted Mr. Thomas F. Scott to the Holy Order of Deacons, and in the afternoon administered the Communion to a large body of communicants.

On the 14th March I left Augusta for Lexington, accompanied by the Rev. Wm. B. Stevens. I officiated in Lexington on Wednesday and Thursday mornings, Dr. Stevens preaching in the afternoon of Wednesday, and on Thursday I confirmed two persons in the Methodist Church and baptized a child at the residence of Maj. Rembert.

On Friday Dr. Stevens and myself went up to Athens. I officiated on Sunday morning in the Presbyterian Church and baptized the child of the Rev. Mr. Hunt on Monday the 20th. I found our friends in Athens prepared to build and anticipating much pleasure and edification from the ministrations of Dr. Stevens. I feel sure, under God, that we shall collect in Athens a very respectable congregation.

On Monday the 20th I proceeded to Columbus and officiated in Trinity Church on Friday and Saturday evenings, and on the 4th Sunday in Lent confirmed seven persons. I found this congregation stronger and in better spirits than I had ever seen it.

The next Lord’s day found me at Milledgeville, where in the morning I read the service, preached and administered the Communion to six persons at the house of Dr. Cotting. In the afternoon and evening I officiated in the Presbyterian Church. On Monday, April 3d, I held a meeting of the Wardens and Vestry of St. Stephen’s Church and finally determined upon a plan for a Church edifice and the terms of the contract. Our friends at Milledgeville are firm, and I feel confident that we shall secure a good footing in the metropolis so soon as we can procure a Clergyman to officiate regularly in the place.

On the Sunday next before Easter, I consecrated St. James’ Church, Marietta, and administered the communion to twelve communicants. This is a very pretty Gothic Church, of rubble masonry, with tower and vestry, and capacious enough to accommodate some hundreds of persons. Its erection reflects great credit upon the zeal and energy of the young men who took it in hand and carried it through. Within ten months the Parish was organized and already is the Church finished, paid for and tolerably well furnished, and provided too, in the good Providence of God, with a suitable Pastor, the foundation of whose Episcopacy was laid about the same time with the corner stone of the Church. It was as if God raised up together the Parish and its Minister.

From Marietta I visited Macon, where I found a very gratifying state of things. By a generous exertion the congregation had just paid off a heavy debt which was pressing upon it, and the Spirit of God was visibly moving in the midst of them. I held services during Passion week, and on Easter Sunday baptized four adults and confirmed thirteen persons. In the afternoon I visited, examined and addressed the white and coloured Sunday schools.

On Monday I made my semi-annual visit to the Montpelier Institute and spent the week in examining the two departments. I was highly gratified at the condition of the Institute and was pleased not only to note a decided improvement in moral feeling, but a deep religious impression pervading the schools. This was the result of Scriptural study, of private prayer, of pastoral instruction. It eventuated in the baptism of four of the pupils of the Institute and in the Confirmation of four. There were two others who desired Confirmation, but as they were not the children of Episcopalians, and had not the written consent of their parents, I declined the administration of the rite.

Since my last address to the Convention, very great improvements have been made at the Institute. The building originally purchased (Lamar Hall) has been rendered much more comfortable. A very handsome and spacious school-room with chamber and private parlour for one of the teachers, and with rooms for ten pupils, has been finished and is in use. A mile distant from Lamar Hall, a boys’ school has been built, having accommodations for fifty boys, with school-rooms, music-room, &c., and suites of apartments for the Rector and his family, and the various officers of the school. This building has been occupied since January last, and has been named after our Presiding Bishop, the venerable Bishop of Illinois. Its rapid completion reflects great credit upon Mr. S.H. Fay’s taste and energy.

The improvements at Lamar Hall, the new school house attached to the female department, and the building of Chace Hall, have called for an expenditure of eight thousand five hundred dollars. Besides bearing its own expenses, the Institute has paid the whole of this amount with the exception of about twenty-five hundred dollars, which will be met by the tuition money accruing in June and January next. We ask nothing of the Church but its children. Fill our schools, and we shall have a clear income of seven thousand dollars over and above all expenses, which will be faithfully disbursed in rendering the Institute still more worthy of the Church’s patronage. Nothing will prevent us, the blessing of God continuing to rest upon it, from making it the very first school in the United States, but the withholding of your children. One hundred pupils, fifty girls and fifty boys, are all we need to put it upon this footing, and already have we nearly seventy. This point once gained, we should present the singular spectacle of a school unsurpassed in its means of education of every sort, with a nett income of seven thousand dollars, and yet furnishing that education, including French, Italian, Music, Drawing, with board and most comfortable lodging, for two hundred and fifty dollars per annum, not more than one half of the cost of a northern education of like quality.

Since the publication of the Card setting forth the arrangements of the school, I have received a letter from my friend, Mr. Tebbs of London, who has kindly procured many of my teachers for me, announcing the engagement of Mr. George M. Messiter, B.A., of Wadham College, Oxford, as Classical and Mathematical Usher of the boy’s school. He has very high testimonials of character and scholarship from the late Dr. Arnold of Rugby, and the Tutors of the University. His services, together with those of Mr. and Mrs. Fay and of Mr. Berner, (a graduate of Leipsic,) give us ample assurance that whatever is taught, will be thoroughly taught.

And here, at the risk of being tedious, let me say a word to all those who may entrust their children to our care. My injunctions to the teachers are to educate thoroughly, and never to hesitate to put the oldest boy or girl back to the rudiments of learning, should they have been neglected. No very rapid improvement therefore must be looked for, except in character—that, we strive to improve at once—and faith must be had in the wisdom and judgment of teachers as experienced and devoted as those at the Institute. In many instances a very large part of the first term has been spent in teaching young people, who came from other schools where they were studying Mathematics and the Natural Sciences, to read, write and spell. We do not undertake to cram children—our endeavour is to train them—to give them a thorough education, combined with such accomplishments as the pupil will receive. Our plan is slow, but sure, and must ultimately find its reward in the hearts of parents.

Of the candidates for Holy Orders reported at the last Convention, Dr. Wm. B. Stevens has been admitted to the Holy Order of Deacons; Dr. J.J. Ridley has been transferred to the Diocese of North Carolina, and Mr. W.J. Ellis is pursuing his studies at the Theological Seminary of Virginia. During the year Mr. Thomas F. Scott, late a Preacher among the Presbyterians, was admitted as a candidate, and his six months having elapsed, was ordained in March last. Mr. Benjamin F. Mower, transferred as a candidate from the Diocese of Alabama, is likewise at the Theological Seminary of Virginia.

Since the last convention the Rev. John B. Gallagher has been canonically transferred from the Diocese of South Carolina, and Messrs. Scott and Stevens have been added to the Ministry by ordination. No clergyman has left the Diocese, nor has any one been liable to Ecclesiastical censure of any kind.

During the past year, I have been called upon to give my consent to the consecration of the Rev. John Johns as Assistant Bishop of Virginia, and of the Rev. Manton Eastburn to the Episcopate of Massachusetts. My response to the application was a hearty Amen, with an earnest prayer that God would multiply such Bishops in the Church.

Nothing remains for me but to convey to this Convention my sense of the irreparable loss which the Church has sustained in the death of our late Presiding Bishop, the Right Rev. A.V. Griswold. St. Paul’s description of Barnabas, that he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of Faith, has always struck me as peculiarly applicable to him. He walked by faith, and the unction of the Holy Spirit was upon all he said and did. Silently and unobtrusively he laboured for his Master, and “without the sound of hammer or of axe, or any tool of iron,” he has left behind him a spiritual Temple, which astonished us by its vastness and satisfies us with its completeness. As a Parish Minister, as a Bishop, as the Presiding Bishop, he maintained a character of unspotted consistency, and although he was permitted in the good Providence of God, fulfilling the truth of Scripture, “He that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” to reach the highest position in the American Church, he was, in every sphere, meek, humble, spiritual. May the beloved Brother, on whom his mantle has been cast, be replenished, like him, with truth of doctrine and adorned with innocency of life.

Bishop of the Diocese of Georgia.

The above address was transcribed from the Journal of the Twenty-first Annual Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church
in the Diocese of Georgia held in Christ Church, Savannah, Georgia, commencing May 4, 1843.
Every effort was made to transcribe the text as is with no updating of the style of the text.