Project Canterbury

From The Works of the Rt. Rev. Charles C. Grafton (Volume 4),
edited by B. Talbot Rogers, New York: Longmans, Green, 1914, pp. 71-87

A Journey Godward
of a Servant of Jesus Christ

transcribed by Ralph Kettell
AD 1999


IF we may look for hidden and little beginnings, of God's great purposes, we may find one in the connection of our Church with the saintly work of the house at Little Gidding. The holy Nicholas Ferrar was a member of the London Society that set forth the enterprise of the Virginia colonization, and we recognize as one of its objects the establishment of the Church there and the conversion of the Indians.

The Church at this time in England, however, was in a low spiritual condition, and this may be the cause of the subsequent difference in churchmanship between Virginia and New England. The Virginians were conservative and held on to the Church as they had received it. In New England the Church had to maintain itself against the fierce prejudices of the Puritans, and, this forced it to a fuller grasp of Church principles and its life.

After the Revolution a great effort was made to obtain the Episcopate. The colonists up to that "time had been under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of London, who never visited them. The clergy, especially those of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York, desired Bishops as essential to the preservation of the Church. The scheme was violently attacked by and some in the Church, as likely to bring in the English system of Episcopal rule over the clergy, and tithes imposed upon the laity.

It was, however, contended that the Episcopate was to have no connection with the civil government whatever. The Bishops were not to be appointed, but elected by clergy and laity. The Bishop was to govern along with a council of advice, elected by the Diocesan Convention. The establishment of the American Church has been regarded as the greatest of all reformation. Up to that time, from the days of Constantine, State and Church had been united, sometimes to the detriment of both parties. But now the American Church was to be free, and the responsibility of growth rested on herself.

The Episcopate was at last obtained. First, by Dr. Seabury, from the Scottish Bishops on the fourteenth of November, 1784, at Aberdeen. It was a wonderfully providential event, as it brought, through Seabury, our Church under the influence of the Scotch Liturgy. The Scotch Liturgy differed from the English, showing signs of a more Eastern origin, and in its recognition of the great Eucharistic Sacrifice.

Seabury, it is said, was willing that changes might be made in the offices of Morning and Evening Prayer, if he might direct those relating to the Eucharist. It was this that gave the American Church the more full and Catholic recognition of the Holy Eucharist as the great Christian Sacrifice. Seabury said that he left it to men of another generation who were to come after him, to restore the losses in the offices. The Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis had been left out, the Benedictus had been abbreviated. The Nicene Creed was practically bracketed, and the recitation of the clause in the Apostles' Creed, "He descended into hell," was made optional. All of these blemishes have now been done away. Seabury's words have become true, and our grand canon in our Communion service will ever be a monument to his wisdom and piety.

Early in the nineteenth century the Church's doctrines were tended by the administration of the great Bishop Hobart, who boldly declared that he was a high churchman. He founded a society for the distribution of the Book of Common Prayer. He was greatly attacked by the existing Bible Society for doing this, but he declared that he held that the Bible and the Prayer Book ought to be side by side in every house. His motto was, evidently, that the Church teaches, while the Bible proves.

It is thus interesting to note how the great Church revival of the nineteenth century began quite independently in America. Before Keble had preached his great Assize Sermon in 1833, which is usually given as the date of the beginning of the Tractarian Movement, Seabury, Hobart, and others had laid, here in America, its foundations. But, as is well known, the Church revival met in England with fierce opposition. The low church, or Evangelical, party had lost much of its early fervor, and gained large political influence. The Bishops appointed were mostly from this school. They regarded the "Tracts for the Times" as full of dangerous errors, and violently denounced them. The theological system, which taught that grace was given through the Sacraments, was taken to be in opposition to the received doctrine that man was justified by faith or, simply, trust in Christ's merits. The two ideas, rightly understood, were not really contradictory, but supplementary of each other. Christianity has its objective and its subjective side. While the sacraments are means through which Christ acts and bestows His gifts, faith and repentance are the subjective and necessary conditions for their profitable reception.

The controversy in England and America began to be very fierce. Each party appealed to the Scriptures, the Prayer Book, and the Articles. The contest at first raged about the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession, and the remission of sins in Baptism.

In the American edition of the Prayer Book the doctrine of the Apostolic Succession was clearly stated in its Collect in the Institution office. It declared that God had "promised to be with the Ministers of Apostolic Succession to the end of the world."

The doctrine of baptismal regeneration was also clearly stated, for after every baptism the Minister gives thanks to God that "this person is regenerate." The Articles were shown by the Tractarians, and really by "Tract 90," to be patient, in their true literal and historical meaning, of a Catholic interpretation.

In Holy Scripture, in the sixth chapter of St. John, fairly interpreted, there could be little doubt as to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist; and the new birth from above was ever associated, in Holy Scripture, with the one act of water and the Spirit.

There was connected with these teachings a slight improvement in the arrangement of our churches and some details of our worship. The ordinary arrangement, as is now seen in some survivals of the old church, was to have a high pulpit, beneath it a desk for the clergyman, sometimes a lower one for the clerk who made the responses, and beneath this the three-decker arrangement there was a plain table for the Communion. The prayers were said by the minister in a surplice, though this was never adopted in Virginia by some of the clergy. The minister went out at the end of the prayers and changed it for a black academical gown to preach in. Any innovation of this order was visited by riots in England, and the denunciation of the Bishops.

Bishop Eastburn of Massachusetts, an earnest but narrow Calvinist, would not go to the Advent because there was a cross on the wall over the altar, flowers were at times placed on the altar, and the prayers were said stall-wise. Good old Dr. Edson of Lowell told me that when he began to say the prayers in that way, Dr. Eastburn being present, the Bishop rose up, came to him, took him by the shoulders, and forced him to turn around with his face to the people. The great Bishop McIlvaine of Ohio forbade any altar with a solid or closed front. It must be, he said, an honest table, with four legs. But a growing knowledge of architecture led to some improvement in the Church's appointments, and chancels took the place of the old three-decker arrangement.

The low church opposition took, next, the form of attack, and the ordination of young Carey, a student at the General Theological Seminary, who held Catholic views, was publicly protested against. Attacks were made on Bishop Onderdonk of New York, and Bishop Doane of New Jersey, which were instigated by the low church party spirit. One proof of this is seen in the fact that in the judgment of the court in Onderdonk's case, the low churchmen voted for condemnation and high churchmen for acquittal.

These contests so full of human bigotry and uncharitableness, greatly checked the growth of the Church. The Church herself, by her internal strife, his been her own greatest enemy.

In 1844 the Convention was stirred up to take action, and endeavor to deal with the Tractarian Movement. But you could as little check its onward career by resolution, as you could, by addressing a series of them to an advancing locomotive, to stop its progress. In spite of the desertion of Newman of England and of Bishop Ives of North Carolina, the work continued to grow. It was of God and could not be stopped. It was a promulgation of the truths in the Prayer Book. It was an assertion of the Church's right to her ancient heritage of worship.

Early in the fifties Bishop Eastburn, urged on by the low element, brought the Rev. Oliver S. Prescott, an assistant at the Advent, to trial. The writer, who was at that time a law student at Harvard, attended the three trials to which he was subjected, and took notes. The Hon. Richard H. Dana, a noted lawyer and staunch churchman, was Father Prescott's counsel. It was proved that Father Prescott had offered to hear confessions privately, and to give absolution. He had also, in a sermon, spoken of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the sinless mother of a sinless Child. The trials lasted some years, the first having failed for want of particularity concerning time and place in the indictment. At length a conclusion was reached. It was evident that the phrase "a sinless mother of a sinless Child" might be differently construed, and did not necessarily involve the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. But in respect to confession the judgment was different. It was that "though the charge was not proven" as to Father Prescott's having heard confessions privately, nevertheless he must "agree that he would not preach it, and until he so agreed he should be suspended from the ministry."

So far as the Church at large was concerned, the brave stand taken, and the fulness of the Anglican authority cited in favor of sacramental confession were such, that a new impulse was given to the Church's doctrine and principles. The effect on the Church at large was contrary to what low churchmen supposed it would be. Dr. Whittingham, the great and learned Bishop of Maryland, wrote Father Prescott and invited him into his diocese. He said what a Bishop could do a Bishop could undo, and he released Father Prescott from any obligation to obey the decision of the Court in his diocese.

One of the most significant events in our Church history was the founding of Nashotah House. James Lloyd Breck, with two others, came out from the East to found a mission. They lived in community, they had some rule of life. They had not to avow poverty; poverty was upon them. Their lives were very hard and heroic. They thought nothing of walking ninety miles or more, through the forest, in order to reach a little consecrated church, for their ordination. Of course there were men then, and Bishops who said, "It will come to naught," advised against it, and tried to keep men from joining it. But a work was planted which passing through many vicissitudes, nevertheless has given hundreds of clergy to the Church. It is one of the greatest lessons the Church has had of faith. We would like to dwell upon the noble work done by Bishop Kemper and Philander Chase and others, but we only mention this to show how the great struggle was going on, and though opposed, the Church was slowly responding to the Holy Spirit's guidance.

It was but natural after this that in England, as well as in America, contests arose over the doctrine of the Real Presence. Mr. Bennett said he taught that there was "in the Sacrament an actual presence of the true Body and Blood of our Lord." It was there by virtue of the consecration, and extended to the communicant, and separately from the act of reception. He held that the Communion table was also an altar of sacrifice, and that adoration was due to Christ in the Sacrament, on the ground that under the veil of bread and wine was our Lord. The Privy Council declared this not to be contrary to the Church's allowed teaching. Though the Privy Council is not a Church court, nevertheless the decision of these lawyers at this time gave much encouragement to churchmen.

The same doctrine was taught in America. In a note to a famous sermon preached in 1836 by Dr. Samuel F. Jarvis before the Board of Missions, he wrote: "We have no right to banish from our communion those whose notions of the Real Presence of Christ in the Sacrament rise to a mysterious change by which the very elements themselves, though they retain their original properties, are corporally united with or transformed into Christ."

But at this time the Holy Communion was celebrated very rarely; in a number of cases not once a month. A very devout woman, Miss Seton, who subsequently left our Church for Rome and founded an order for Sisters of Charity, went to the rector of Trinity Church, New York, and asked for more frequent Communions. But as she was refused, she turned elsewhere to find that fuller satisfaction of communion with her Lord.

It was in 1844 or 1848 that Dr. Muhlenberg, Dr. Croswell, and others met in New York to consider the question, whether it was possible in the Episcopal Church to have a weekly Eucharist. Not long after, a Sunday celebration began in a few churches, one of which was the Advent in Boston.

Attention was now especially drawn to the doctrine of the Eucharist. Bishop Whittingham had taught me that "one ought to go to the. death for the doctrine of the Real Presence."

Later on a great controversy arose between Dr. Craik of Kentucky and Dr. de Koven. The latter contended that, while in Baptism there were but two parts of the sacrament mentioned, in the Catechism three statements were made respecting the Blessed Sacrament. There was, in the latter, the outward sign of the element, and the inward part or thing, the Body and Blood of Christ, and the grace of the Sacrament, which those received who communicated worthily. He denied the old doctrine of Transubstantiation of pre-Reformation times, which taught the destruction of the elements. He did not hold to the Lutheran Consubstantiation theory, that the two parts were in some way mingled together. The union was caused by the act of consecration and the power of the Holy Ghost, but it was a sacramental union, and a mystery. He asserted the fact of the Real Presence, but would not define the how. It was thought by most that he gained the victory in the controversy. The great transaction is one which takes place, not in a natural order governed by natural laws, but in the spiritual organism which is the Body of Christ. It is the non-recognition of this fact that has led to such unwise controversy.

But to return. The advances, which were being made in the Church, became more and more distasteful to the extreme low churchmen. They saw, however, at last, and admitted, that the high church doctrines had support in the Book of Common Prayer. They said it contained "Roman germs." They admitted that it taught Baptismal Regeneration. One of their leaders explained how he came to this conclusion. He had always held that it was in consequence of the faith of the sponsors, that the hope of regeneration was expressed, but on the occasion of his administering baptism privately, he saw that no sponsors were required, and the Church in her prayers stated the same truth, that the person was regenerate. His theory thus fell to the ground.

Another one, who subsequently became a Bishop in the Reformed Episcopal body, said: "Father Grafton, you are right in holding that the Prayer Book teaches the doctrine of the Real Presence. I don't believe in that doctrine, and therefore I have left the Church."

So the low church party tried to get the Prayer Book changed. The Church in General Convention refused to do this. Presently a number, led by Dr. Cummins, Assistant Bishop of Kentucky, left the Church and began the formation of a new sect.

It is quite clear that the Reformed Episcopalians have no valid Orders. One reason is, they had no intention, when their first Bishop was set apart, to make him a Bishop in the old sense of the word. It was thus different from the case of the consecration of Archbishop Matthew Parker. There all the four Bishops who were consecrators were the official agents of the Church and used her own Ordinal. In that Ordinal the intention of the Church was explicitly stated, that its object was that the ancient orders should be "continued." As the consecrators acted as agents of the Church, they could not, by any private opinions or belief, alter the intention. It was different in the case of Dr. Cummins. He was founding a sect. His own expressed intention was the intention that governed his act. As he proclaimed at the time that he did not believe in the ancient doctrine of the Church concerning episcopacy and priesthood, he did not make a Bishop. It was something like this: Suppose a man should define that by the term "bishop" he meant one who opened the church, made the fires, swept and took care of it; in other words, defined the office and work of a sexton. If he laid his hands on one and prayed that he might be a bishop, since he defined the term "bishop" to be only a sexton, only a sexton would be made. The exodus, thus, of these low churchmen, was in the nature of a demonstration of the Catholicity of the Prayer Book.

As the century went on, a new school of theology arose. It came to be called the Broad Church. The discoveries of science, the new doctrine of evolution, the different methods of historical research led some to seek a reconciliation between the old Church teaching and the spirit of the age. It was marked also by a growing spirit of philanthropy and an enthusiasm for humanity. It had, thus, its good side. But each school of the Church has its weak side. The high churchman, emphasizing the institutional form of the Church and the need of authority, tends, if not balanced, gradually towards a papacy. The low churchman, with his subjective view of religion, weakens his realization of the objective side in Church and Sacraments.' The extreme of the broad or rationalistic school tends to break with tradition and authority and with the facts stated in the Creeds. Just as the low church negations were checked, so it has come about with the rationalizing broad school. The Church's discipline is like the movement of a great glacier, which gradually throws out from itself substances foreign to it. And so it came to pass that Bishop Colenso in Africa, MacQueary and Dr. Crapsey in America, ceased to be teachers in the Church.

The Catholic Movement, which had been largely academic in the sixties, greatly developed its scope and effectiveness by increased ceremonial. Then again another series of attacks began. The low church party raised a large sum of money and formed a society for the purpose of crushing out Ritualism. It appealed in England, eventually, to the highest civil court, that of the Privy Council. There were decisions pro and con and some things were allowed and some not. But the Privy Council was not regarded as an Ecclesiastical Court, and rather than obey it priests went to prison. It was the beginning of what began to be called the Victorian persecution. Her Majesty, it is said, was very much displeased that such a stain as a religious persecution should be placed on her reign.

In time the convicted priests were released. They had nobly suffered, and taught the English nation a great lesson. The Church also came to realize better her own spiritual character and her independence of the State. A desire for disestablishment, or at least for a readjustment of the relations of the two, began to be popular. Convocation, which had been silenced for one hundred and fifty years, had resumed its sittings. A Lay House was added to help give expression to the mind of the laity. In 1867 the first great mission in London, organized by the Cowley Fathers, was given, and one hundred and forty-six churches united in the effort, and some sixty thousand persons were in daily attendance. An heroic missionary spirit was developed, and mission houses were established in London, India, Africa, and elsewhere. Clergy houses, where priests lived in community life, were established. The clergy began to go to the yearly retreats, and those given by Carter, Randall, and Benson were remarkable for their deep spirituality.

The cathedrals became centres again of missionary effort; St. Paul's especially, under the ministration of Dean Church and Canons Gregory and Liddon. I remember praying, in Dean Milman's days, as I saw the cathedral dome out of my little garret window, that the daily Eucharist might be re-established there, and I used to send penitents down to St. Paul’s to pray for this. At last it came.

What is called the Ritualistic Movement made steady progress. In America the ornaments-rubric had been omitted from the Prayer Book, and the result was that it gave freer scope to the development of ritual and ceremonial. However, it met, as every forward step is, met, with fierce opposition. The Church was roused by partisan efforts into a fury and panic. The opposition said it meant to crush out Catholicity. If they could not get the Prayer Book altered, they would forbid all acts of worship offered to Christ in the Eucharist. But, as Dr. deKoven said, you may pass what law you please, you cannot prevent the inward worship of the heart and adoration to our blessed Lord. The canon that was passed proved to be futile. It was held, even by those who opposed ritual, to be unconstitutional. The Church's Prayer Book could not be altered, nor the Church's worship regulated, by canon.

As an evidence of the marked way in which God protected the Faith, it was not noticed that the canon itself was fatally defective in respect to the object sought. For while it forbade all acts of worship in any form to be paid to the elements—no one does that—it did not forbid worship to the consecrated elements. A great jurist and ecclesiastical lawyer said that no one could be condemned under such a canon. But at the last revision this canon was repeated. How wonderfully God has protected the Faith of our Church.

We are, of course, opposed by a body of skillful legislators, whose effort is to undermine the whole movement under the specious plea for unity. Our Lord prayed for both unity and union, and the desire of it must be agreeable to His will. But it must be sought in a right way and on right principles, or more harm than good will be done. During the last century the Holy Spirit has been striving with our communion, leading it to the recovery of its Catholic heritage, and the Church has been responding to this leading. The Holy Spirit has also been pleading with the Roman Church, calling it back to primitive doctrine and true Catholicity, and it has rejected the Spirit's guidance and become more papal. Union with Rome is therefore an absolute impossibility. Her term of union is simply submission to monarchical papacy. The Eastern Church asks, not for submission, but whether we are of the same faith, and if so, we are brethren. That which stands in the way is the clause in our Creed which we inherited from Rome, speaking of the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father "and the Son." For one, I should be willing to have' these unauthorized words omitted from the Creed.

Looking back, what great things hath God wrought! It is said that Newman placed beneath a picture of Oxford hung in his room the words, "Can these dry bones live?" The answer is, Circumspiceri! His melancholy and despairing farewell came from a broken heart. His subtle intellect could cleverly defend any theory that, at the time, presented itself to his imagination. Pusey was so different. His dominant principle was submission to the authority of the Church. His great mind was filled with vast stores of learning, and his humility was that of a little child. John Mason Neale was a far better prophet than Newman. What Neale saw in a vision has come to pass:—

"Again shall long processions sweep through Lincoln's minster pile:
Again shall banner, cross, and cope gleam thro' the incensed aisle;
And the faithful dead shall claim their part in the Church's thankful prayer,
And the daily sacrifice to God be duly offered there;
And Tierce, and Nones, and Matins, shall have each their holy lay;
And the Angelus at Compline shall sweetly close the day
England of Saints, the peace will dawn—but not without the fight;
So, come the contest when it may—and God defend the right."

Project Canterbury