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DECEMBER, 1822. [No. 12. Vol. XXII.
For the Christian Observer. MEMOIR OF THE LATE RIGHT REV. THEODORE DEHON, D. D.
(Concluded from p. 679.)
'N the year 1812, the Convention of South Carolina unanimously chose Dr. Dehon for their bishop. The post had been unoccupied for many years: it was also an office little known, and of an unpopular character in the country; and, besides involving great anxiety and fatigue, appeared likely to give rise to much misconception and misrepresentation. It was besides not very congenial to the retired habits, the diffident manners, and the early associations of a man like Dehon, to whom honours were burdens; and was also a post for which he conscientiously thought himself very ill qualified. He, how ever, fully entered into the views of his fellow-churchmen in relation to the importance, and, as he considered, the necessity, of the episcopal order; and remarked that, in declining to receive it, he should incur as great responsiblity as in accepting it. He therefore deliberately weighed the subject with much fervent prayer to God for direction, and with an attentive perusal of the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, in order to have fully before him the qualifications requisite for a bishop. He also frankly stated his difficulties to his brethren, and did not at length accept the office till they had expressed their deliberate opinion that, under the circumstances of the case, Divine Providence called him to it, and that it was clearly his duty to
CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 252.
make the sacrifice. That he did not yield through any interested or ambitious motive is proved by a resolution which he formed, that the appointment should never be to him a source of emolument; and that, far from assuming any appearance of elevation above his brethren or his flock, he would endeavour more than ever to be "the servant of all." The following observations found in a paper after his death evince the truly Christian spirit in which he undertook the office.
"It having pleased Almighty God to permit me to be called to the office of a bishop in his church, I ought to be humbled to the dust, by the sense of my unworthiness, and penetrated with gratitude, love, and fear, for this undeserved distinction. Lord! what am I, or what is my father's house, that thou shouldest bring me to this honour in thy service?' I have examined my past life. Oh! how little do I find with which to be satisfied! how much to condemn ! God be merciful to me a sinner l' Would men inspect themselves closely by the light of God's word, how little cause would they find in themselves for self-complacency. Alas! my best services have been alloyed with too much selfishness; and conscience accuses me of many sius. Never have I felt myself so poor and needy, so culpable and wretched, so much a subject for mercy rather than favour. 'Lord, what is man, that thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that thou so regardest him?' At times I have felt as if I would give worlds, if I had them, could I but go spotless
into the office whereunto I have been permitted to be called. But, perhaps, there is something of pride and self-love in this. There is none good but One. All whom He has employed, from among men, have been sinners. In Him alone can there be any glorying; to Him must be all glory. Saul who persecuted, and Peter who denied Jesus, were employed as Apostles by Him, and their conversion has scarcely done less than their labours for His cause. I hope that God has presented me with this most humbling view of myself, that I may perceive fully at my entrance on this office, that if I stand at all, it must be in the worthiness of Christ: that in me there is no good thing to give me authority, power, complacency, or confidence that I must act by his authority and power; be a dependant of his, and owe every thing to Him; especially that I may know and feel the absolute necessity, the amazing extent, the constraining power of his mercy in Christ Jesus; and so have a fuller sense of the importance of the treasure entrusted to me. My best delight has been in His law. My fondest joy***** This interesting fragment here abruptly terminates; but not without having disclosed to the reader the feelings of devotion, of self-abasement, and of trust in God, with which this humble-minded man commenced his episcopal labours. His life hitherto had been somewhat retired, but he soon became well skilled in all the duties of his public station. In the chair of the State Convention, he displayed an exemplary diligence and impartiality, combined with an unaffected dignity of deportment, great collectedness of spirit, and an almost instinctive discrimination in matters of business. In administering the rite of Confirmation, or conferring holy orders, he exhibited a demeanour and expression which none who have ever beheld him on such occasions, will be
likely to forget: his countenance beamed with affection, devotion, and every Christian grace, in a way difficult either for the pen or pencil to describe; nor did he ever lose his devotional and interesting manner of conducting these services, though they were often protracted for many hours, and were sometimes interrupted by a want of sympathy in those around him. In his visitations, he ever kept in mind his great object: in all his conversations, his anxiety for the welfare of the church of Christ, especially of that branch of it of which he was a minister and overseer, was prominent. He carried a Christian and a missionary spirit into the social circle; and even amidst the exertion and haste of his visitations, he would go many miles out of his way to visit a Christian inquirer, or a sick or afflicted person "perishing for lack of knowledge." Many of the parishes in his diocese were far remote from his residence; and as his duties to his own large congregation would not permit of his being absent long together from Charleston, he was obliged to travel with a degree of exposure and fatigue which his delicate constitution could ill sustain, especially in a Carolinean climate, travelling often beyond midnight, and hastening not unfrequently from church to church, worn down in body, but ardent in spirit, without even allowing time between one service and another for the friendly hospitalities which he so much needed, and which an affectionate people were most anxious to bestow. In these visitations he succeeded by the Divine blessing, in reviving episcopal worship in several parishes where it had been long neglected, and establishing it in others where it had been hitherto unknown. The candidates for Protestant Episcopal ordination having at that time no regular instructor, he voluntarily undertook that office; pointing out to them the best theo
the spring of 1817, at New York, where Bishop Dehon attended in his place; and though a young man, and almost the junior bishop, ani mated, by his powerful influence, the whole body of that assembly. On no occasion probably had his talents and eloquence appeared to so great advantage, and never certainly did he impress on his admiring auditors a greater regard for his person, or a greater estimation of his Christian zeal and piety. He had attended this General Convention with almost certain risk to his health, having, on a similar occasion in 1814, keenly experienced the hazard of returning to the pestilential climate of Charleston at midsummer. But his sense of duty prevailed, and he counted not his life dear if he might in any way benefit the church of Christ. On his arrival at home, he instantly resumed his customary duties with his characteristic ardour and activity. The larger sphere in which his talents had been lately displayed, had created in him no distaste for the most minute details of his ordinary function: he was seen vi
logical works for their study, patiently examining the abstracts which they made under his directions; conversing with them with the freedom of a friend and brother; and as a parent correcting their errors, and cherishing in them the dispositions which become the sacred office. His examination for orders, as respected sound doctrine, personal piety, professional attainment, and attachment to the discipline of the episcopal church, was strict and conscientious. It needs scarcely be added, that he cherished great affection for his elergy, whom he was always pleased to see around him, especially at the sacred altar; and he particularJy wished to have the society and advice of one or more of them in all his episcopal visits, alleging the example of our Lord, who sent out his ministers by "two and two." He felt great interest in their concerns his influence and exertion were ever at command to promote their welfare, and his purse to supply their necessities. He extended kis regard to their families, and, in case of their death, would undertake the education of their fatherless off-siting the poor, the sick, the afflictspring. He was particularly anxious for the establishment of a college under the patronage of the whole of the American Protestant Episcopal church for the instruction of candidates for the sacred ministry. This measure he had urged for a considerable period in the General Convention, and elsewhere, without effect; but he had the satis faction, before his death, to induce a change in the opinions of those who had most strongly opposed the project. His success on this occasion filled him with the liveliest joy; and the "Theological Academy" since instituted in consequence of his exertions, bids fair to become as splendid a monument to his memory as a lasting benefit to the American Episcopal church, and to posterity.
This great point was carried in the General Convention held, in
ed, as usual; and his last visit, within a few hours of the attack of
that malady which terminated his life, was to the chamber of a mother who had lost her child. The seeds of the fever which ended thus fatally, and for the reception of which his return to Charleston in the sickly season had predisposed him, are thought to have been sown while he was attending by the deathbed and at the grave of the wife of a clerical brother who was from home, and whose family the bishop had been accustomed to visit in seasons of sickness and affliction. The last two letters he ever wrote were to the absent relatives of this lady, to console them under their bereavment.
The Bishop's illness was too severe to admit of his holding much conversation; and the world is consequently deprived of the benefit
of many pious and interesting remarks which would doubtless have fallen from his lips on so solemn an occasion. But the little that transpired was highly consolatory. His mind was perfectly serene amidst his greatest sufferings. Having once uttered a sudden exclamation from pain, he instantly remarked, "Do not suppose that I murmur," adding for the solace of those around him, "Be still, and know that I am God." The 33d chapter of Job having been read to him, he observed, in allusion to verse 25; "I do not know whether my flesh will ever again be fresher than a btle child's; but this I know, that I am just where I would be-in the hands of God." He declared that his trust in the mercies of his Heavenly Father had never been shaken; that "he knew he should carry to God at his death much sinfulness: but," continued he, in reference to the atonement of his Saviour," that is covered;" adding a second time, with emphasis, "That is covered." On the last day of his life, he made the remarks already alluded to, respecting his desire to be " a more perfect being," his rejection of all meritorious claim to salvation, and his exclusive trust in his Savi
He repeated from one of the colects, "Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy;" commenting as he proceeded, "Increase-and not only increase, but multiply." His last quotation from Scripture was, "God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob;" expressive, says his biographer, of his confidence in that Divine faithfulness on which the patriarchs rested, and of that mercy which is from generation to generation. "As his end drew near," continues Dr. Gadsden, "he was silent and still: his counte nance had the expression of his happiest and most pious moments; it was turned from earth and friendship, to heaven and to God." He expired, or, as his epitaph strikingly expresses it, he "ceased to
be mortal," on the 6th of August 1817, in the 41st year of his life, and the 20th of his ministry.
In the preceding narrative, no intimation is given that Bishop Dehon was a husband and a parent*; Dr. Gadsden having apparently been prohibited from touching upon this tender subject, by respect for the wishes of the bereaved survivor. He remarks," Of our departed friend's feelings towards the dearest of his relatives, I would that I were allowed to speak, for they gave rise to some of his most interesting remarks. Blessed be God, they will afford unspeakable comfort to the heart to whom they belong." This deficiency, it is earnestly to be hoped, will be permitted to be supplied in some fu ture edition of the Bishop's sermons; for Bishop Dehon is how endeared to a circle far wider than that of his immediate and beloved relatives: his memory "belongs" to his country, and to the church of Christ; and every reader of his works, or of the memorial of his public life, must feel anxious to learn, as far and as soon as the sacredness of private feeling will permit the disclosure, how such a man deported himself in those endearing relations which occupied his domestic moments, and called forth the tenderest sympathies of his truly affectionate spirit.
The following particulars are selected from Dr. Gadsden's interesting summary of the principal features of his character.
The great and peculiar characteristic of Bishop Dehon was devotedness to God and his ministry. In this cause he left his quiet home, his select friends, his favourite studies and contemplations, and entered into general society, for which he had no taste; and on a life of perpetual activity, which was un
He married Sarah, daughter of Nathaniel Russell, Esq. of Charleston, by whom he had three children, one of whom was posthumous.
congenial both with his disposition and his habits. In this cause he spared no sacrifice, and declined no difficulty and danger; he was willing to spend and be spent, and would allow nothing to divert him from his object.
But his conduct, in the other relations of life, ought not to pass unnoticed. As a good citizen, it was his uniform practice to call on the Chief Magistrate of the State, soon after his election, and to express devout wishes for the prosperity of his administration. He prayed, and requested his friends to pray, for his country. He suggested the propriety of several of the fasts and thanksgivings ordered by the civil authority. He patronized important literary institutions and publications, not to avail himself of their advantages, for he had not sufficient leisure, but because he considered them valuable to the country. He rejoiced in the establishment of the free schools, and has left in print two judicious plans for securing to the poor of Charleston the ordinances of religion; and he went into the byelanes of that city for the express purpose of making himself acquainted with their condition. His anxiety for the slave population has been already mentioned.
In the intercourse of society he was courteous to all, but he flattered no person. He was as tender of the feelings and reputation of others, as of his own, and equally so in their absence and their presence. He was careful to avoid giving, and very slow in taking, offence; but he declared his sentiments in relation to wicked conduct without fear or favour; and, when it was necessary, with the boldness of an Apostle, to the offender to his face. He had charity for those whom he conceived to be in error; but he never could be seduced, by a specious liberality, to do any thing which might reasonably be considered a compromise of his own principles. "Cha
rity," he used to remark, "requires me to bear with the errors of my brother, but not to adopt or to approve them."
He was most beneficent. had for many years appropriated one tenth of his income to charitable purposes; but latterly he gave one seventh;-observing, that Christians ought to do more than the Hebrews did, and that this proportion seemed to be suggested by the circumstance, that God required of man one seventh of his time. But he found reasons for giving away still more. He lent sums which could not be returned. He never laid up money from his income, and he never wished to do so; for he used to say, "he had never wanted, and could not doubt the future good providence of God towards him."
Thus liberal himself, he suffered no favourable opportunity to escape for exciting the liberality of others; and he enforced the claims of charity on the affluent, with a delicacy which was almost irresistible. his influence, the pious and the poor are indebted for several generous benefactions and legacies, as honourable to the givers as they have been valuable to the receivers.
Of the powers of his understanding, it may be observed, that they were of a very high order; for in the various situations in which he was called to act, he always held the first rank. His imagination was lively, and in early life had been cultivated. His memory was remarkably quick and retentive. His judgment was eminently sound. His opinions, on subjects not connected with his profession, were seldom incorrect, and were eagerly sought by his friends. He had a complete command of his intellectual resources, and could use them with equal advantage in public and in his study. His mind had an energy which was not to be controuled by the fatigue of the body.
A prominent excellence in the character of Bishop Dehon, was