Memories of Bishop Kemper

Daily Reading for May 24 • Jackson Kemper, First Missionary Bishop in the United States, 1870

He rendered divine service in an ideal manner, with simplicity and feeling. He loved the study of divinity, and made it a practice to read theological works, both the standard Anglican doctors, Hooker, Person, Bull, Barrow, Butler, Waterland, etc., and current treatises as well. . . . He also made it a rule daily to read a chapter of the New Testament in original Greek. He used Bishop Andrewes’ book of devotion and Bishop Wilson’s “Sacra Privata,” but, as before said, was exceedingly reticent about his religious frames and feelings, and delicate about discussing those of others. As was inevitable in one who had been trained by Dr. Hobart, he was a strong, hearty and loyal Churchman, but owing to Bishop White’s temperate influence, not as stiffly so as his first preceptor. To quote again from his correspondence with Milnor: “I have not infrequently been perplexed in mind, wondering at the mysterious providence of God in permitting a Church whose doctrines are apparently an exact transcript of the Sacred Scriptures to continue in so lifeless a state. But those days of coldness are, I trust, fleeing away. Many are becoming sensible of the vast importance of their immortal souls, who, if they continue seeking, will soon glory in the cross of Christ.”. . .

His temperament was pastoral rather than sacerdotal or oratorical. He was in his element when making a round of parish visits, which he found to be an easy and eligible means of imparting religious instruction; and his tenderness and personal kindness in times of trouble, sickness, or death endeared him deeply to his people. . . . He was not a great man intellectually, not a thinker, scholar, writer, or eloquent preacher. Such is the testimony of one who knew him best and loved him most, and none was better aware of these facts than he himself. He had the most modest view of his powers and attainments, and was never satisfied with them but ever strove to improve himself. . . . He read newspapers on principle, believing that a minister should keep up with what is going on in the world. He was by no means lacking in humor of a gay and gentle kind; one of his most attractive qualities, which he never lost, was a certain boyish light-heartedness and zest in living. He had a quick and keen appreciation of the ludicrous side of things, expression of which, like Bishop Griswold, he thought it a duty to restrain.

From An Apostle of the Western Church: Memoir of the Right Reverend Jackson Kemper, Doctor of Divinity, First Missionary Bishop of the American Church by the Reverend Greenough White A.M., B.D. (New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1900).

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