Reverend Brethren, and Brethren or the Laity:
The Declaration of Bishops on the subject of Ritualism was published in this Diocese by my authority, with entire confidence that it would be received with profound respect by the Clergy and Laity alike. In this I have not been disappointed.
I suffered it to go forth without comment, and to commend itself to your judgment, by its own merits: and I have delayed, until now, to direct attention to it, by a Pastoral Letter, because I have seen, with joy, that both here and elsewhere, it has been making its way, and doing good, in a manner most satisfactory. I now address you chiefly to correct a few mistakes which have been made, honestly enough, by some, as to its scope and bearings. If any have purposely misrepresented it, or distorted its meanings, they may safely be left to their own better selves, when they reflect upon the [5/6] words of our Lord--"He that despiseth you despiseth me." If it be a crime against God to "offend one of His little ones," what must be the nature of any attempt to bring despite upon the solemn judgment and voice of those who are set in authority in the Church, by CHRIST and His Holy SPIRIT?
It has been assumed by many, that the Declaration is a sweeping judgment against all Ritual: and, as a legitimate Ritual is part of the Divine System of the Church, a confusion of ideas has been the result. But, a careful reading of the document in question will relieve any mind that has been thus disquieted. Not a word is said against a genuine Ritualism, but only against "Ritualistic Innovations." These innovations have, indeed, become known as "Ritualism," just as other follies of the times are known as "Spiritualism." The use of these words is convenient, in their novel sense; but, as well might one argue in favour of the latter, from the Church's Spiritual System, as in favour of the former from its legitimate Ritual. Another mistake has arisen from not duly remarking that the Declaration says nothing as to what may be, or may not be, good for the ancient established Church of England, and for a country where the Church is predominant. On this subject, and on the true sense of certain Rubrics to be found in the English Prayer-book, but not in ours, the Declaration leaves every one to his own opinion. It merely directs attention to the fact that, in America, we have nothing to do with such questions for practical purposes; but must be governed by our own rubrics, and by the wants and experiences of a' Church which is a mere missionary body, among millions of people who are indifferent or even hostile to her apostolic claims and character; and who, [6/7] for the most part, instead of demanding an elaborate Mediaeval and Ceremonial System, are yet to be taught the use of the Lord's Prayer, and the simplest forms of Primitive and Scriptural worship.
Some have thought that the one vigorous sentence in which the Declaration censures defective observance, is not a sufficient condemnation of that extreme. I take a widely different view: it is the brevity of force and not of weakness. Be sure, brethren, that wherever the principles of this Declaration are received, the Prayer-book may be safely left to do its own work. In fact, there is a healthful spirit at work in our Church, and pressing upon us from the imitative progress of our Christian brethren, which, if not checked and turned backward by the extravagances we rebuke, will secure a rapid upgrowth of hearty conformity and order through our entire Communion. Such was the happy and universal tendency, when this "root of bitterness" was introduced as if on purpose to destroy the brightest prospects with which we have ever been blessed.
If it has been imagined by any that the Declaration is opposed to a high Litnrgic beauty and order, even in congregations that appreciate and love those becoming developments of Music and Architecture which have already become common among us, and which have always been identified with the Anglican worship, where circumstances have justified and permitted, it may suffice to say, that nothing could be further from the mind of many of the signers of the document, than this. It may be searched, in vain, for anything that can properly be charged with such a meaning. The grandeur and dignity of our time-honoured Rites and usages; their Scriptural and Primitive purity; and the preservation of [7/8] them, in all their simple beauty, are in fact, the objects of that profound concern by which the Declaration was inspired. The degradation of our own Ritual, by tawdry and fantastical ornaments and by silly practices, imported from foreign and corrupt sources, is what it so strongly deprecates.
I venture to say, beloved brethren, that there are those among the signers of this Declaration, who must yet be looked to for the preservation of our Liturgic System, for its support and defence against the strong disgust and reaction which the "Ritualists" are doing their utmost to engender. The worst enemy of our Liturgy could not wish anything more fatal to its triumph, in the mind and heart of American Christians generally than the multiplication of "Ritualist" congregations. Such a caricature is more formidable than any other form of attack on the holy worship of our Church. To talk of the increased reverence and devotion of such mummery is insulting to common-sense. The only Ritualists who will be heard or trusted, in the Church, in a very short time, or who will be found competent to carry out and give a higher perfection to our purely Scriptural system of worship, are those who, from the outset, have known how to detect and expose this base counterfeit, and to save what is precious from all intermixture with the vile.
It is the reverse of truth, then, that the Declaration is unmindful of the examples and practices of those great Divines who have adorned the Church of England for centuries, or even of such as, in our own times, have kept up the bright succession of its worthies. It aims only to withstand a Faction which declares itself to be "at war" with our Reformed Church, and which no [8/9] longer conceals its plans of undermining and corrupting our Apostolic doctrine and worship, in favour of the meretricious and wicked system of Romanism. [See the Church Times, London, March 30, 1867.]
Nor, in the relations which some of the signers of this document have borne to legitimate liturgical improvements, in our own Church, in former days, is there anything to disqualify them to be good judges of the novelties they condemn. The rather, having planted "a noble vine," from which they might justly look for genuine grapes, are they bound to guard it against being grafted with bastard shoots, which can bring forth nothing but "wild grapes."
Many who have failed to see the great need of such a Declaration, at this time, are simply ignorant of the serious and extraordinary crisis in which the Anglican Communion, and our own with it, is now involved. The things we censure are not the mere offspring of ecclesiastical foppery; much less are they the healthful development of taste and civilization, as applied to sacred matters; but, they have been brought in and forced upon the Church in connection with a violent revolutionary effort to build again all those things which the Reformation destroyed. All that corrupt system, which was then so mercifully abolished as contrary to God's word and a gross perversion of His Holy Sacraments, has now its apologists in the Church of England, and their wicked imaginations have taken the shape of open and combined aggression, for the express purpose of restoring the ideas of such Anglicans as Gardiner and Bonner. These are the saints of the new calendar, while scorn and derision arc poured on the precious names of Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley. This Faction has, of [9/10] late, declared war upon the Reformed Church, in express words, suggesting1 a policy of gradual and strategic subversion worthy of the Jesuits, with whom they are, very probably, allied. Is this a time to keep silence? Is the enemy to have his way with no adequate show of a manly courage for the defence of Truth? God forbid. Such is the lot of the Militant Church. In primitive times there were heresies even in the bosom of the Apostolic Church, but they were suffered in order that truth might be made the more manifest. So now, we can no longer close our eyes against the astounding fact that there is an enemy in the camp, and that priests, holding orders and benefices in the Church of England, are everywhere actively propagating heresy and schism, under these two pretences: (l) That the Thirty-nine Articles maybe harmonized with the Trentine Creed; and (2) That nearly all the Romish usages, which are symbolical of Trentine Theology, may be practised in the public worship of the Church of England.
In our own Church this Faction has a very small but mischievous counterpart, which, knowing and understanding all this, maintains the same things, and justifies its innovations in worship, by English rubrics. The Faction has, also, a following of better men, who, led away by their love of ceremony, do not see where they are drifting, and who entirely fail to comprehend the importance of the issues which are now joined.
The dangerous positions on which they are proceeding, may be stated, in brief, as follows:
1. That an old rubric of Edward the Sixth's time, obsolete and of uncertain meaning, even in England, is at this moment the Law of our American Church, which any deacon, or novice in the priesthood, may assert, in [10/11] contempt of his bishop, and may make the practical rule of his ministry.
2. That in general, any ceremony or solemnity, which such a deacon or priest may imagine to be desirable, may, by him, be introduced and practised, without reference to the Ordinary, or even in contempt of his authority, provided there be no express rubric or canon directly forbidding it.
Such being the audacity of the Faction; the activity of its allies in England, furnishing them with every instrument necessary to the propagation of their mischievous purposes; the Declaration was thought a wise and prudent measure, and was issued, bearing the names of more than two-thirds of the bishops of our Church. It is hardly necessary to say that when a Church is addressed by such a proportion of its entire Episcopate, there is no escape from one of these two conclusions: it is a Church deprived of all wisdom and prudence in the selection of its chief rulers, or else their solemn and official warnings are entitled to the most reverential regard and to dutiful acceptance.
The bishops are charged not only to watch, but to admonish: and a double portion of the Spirit is promised them, so long as they are faithful to their trust. Their field of observation is very wide; their knowledge of the practical effects of any movement is likely to be very full and accurate; of the spiritual wants and perils of the population at large they have a better idea than any other class of men in the land, derived as it is from constant travel and close inspection. The Declaration proceeds, therefore, from competent and authorized witnesses; and in giving their testimony a combined expression, they have acted on the old Cyprianic principle [11/12] of the unity of the Episcopate. Those of their Rt. Reverend brethren who, for various reasons, did not unite with them, have acted as they had a right to act; and I know that, in some instances, they were influenced by views entirely harmonious with those of the signers, except as to the choice of corrective measures. Not one of our House of Bishops has avowed himself a practical "Ritualist," in the novel sense of the term. It is not often that any important document proceeds from so largo a body of men, with greater unanimity; and I rejoice that in Western New York it has been generally received with reverence, and recognized as full of "wholesome words" and "sound speech, which cannot be condemned."
My own share in the draught of the Declaration, was strictly subordinate: and though the learned and judicious bishop of Connecticut may justly be credited with much that is wisely said in it, I think it proper to remark that it originated with the venerable bishop of Wisconsin, whose eminent piety, tried Catholicity, and long career of usefulness in the Church, entitle his convictions, on any practical subject, to much more than an ordinary degree of consideration and deference.
Forethought is better than correction. If the evil which is rebuked in the Declaration, is, as yet, inconsiderable, the bishops who signed it are not disposed to let the evil assume more formidable proportions. Petty as it is, it has already done great mischief. The secular press, always ready to report what is novel, and especially that class of journalists who delight in all that makes religion appear ridiculous, has given a vast currency to the sayings and doings of the Faction; and thus, the most secluded hamlets in the land, where no sound of the Church itself [12/13] has ever been heard, are fully informed of extravagances and absurdities which poorly prepare them to receive with profit, the missionary of the Church whose zeal and piety may hereafter "reach even unto them." But, besides this, the so-called religious press--Protestant and Romish--has found in these innovations a coveted opportunity and means of renewing the war against our real principles, and thousands of minds, favourably disposed to receive the Church's ministrations, have thus been rendered hostile to her, in a degree that will probably never be modified. In this way, openings that only a twelvemonth since appeared most favourable to the progress of the Church, have been closed; missionary enterprises that seemed most promising, have been rendered abortive; and where Romanism has been active, efforts, sometimes too successful, have been made to represent the "Ritualistic movement," among us, as a practical surrender of our claims and a humiliating concession of Romish superiority. There never was a time when sectarian opposition to our Church had been so feeble as of late: old objections had been withdrawn; prejudices were visibly softened; and everywhere a disposition to admire, to study and to adopt our Liturgy had begun to prevail. Even yet this spirit is working deeply among our fellow Christians; but, it is painfully true that it has received a check from the supposed growth of Romish innovations among us; a check which God may indeed overrule for good, but which has been already attended by many painful consequences to individuals and to our Church. Several bishops in conference upon the subject, bore witness to most distressing and humiliating experiences in proof of this reaction. In short, while "Wisdom has been building her house," [13/14] this foolish faction has sprung up as if on purpose to "pluck it down with their hands."
In our country, events are very rapid in their succession. A single year's interruption of natural progress may prove fatal to any recovery of lost ground. In view of the evils they had already encountered, the bishops who issued the Declaration, felt that a "word in season" might save the Church from misfortunes which no future Legislation could remedy. In fact, some of us were inclined to regard Legislation on this matter as most undesirable. For one, I think we have Law enough to answer every purpose. The Declaration was designed as an official statement of our interpretation of the Law, and of our intention to enforce it. I feel quite sure it will be found a serious matter for any one to venture on a violation of the Law as thus expounded, no matter in what diocese the offender may be suffered to disjilay himself with impunity for a time.
Another mistake, and perhaps the most pardonable one that I have heard of, arises from the language employed in the Declaration, concerning the period in which our own Church Laws and Usages were settled. That period is spoken of, as immediately following the Revolution; and some have imagined that a mere epoch, and not a period of years, was thus intended. But, in point of fact, our period of formation may justly be regarded as extending down to the death of Bishop White. He himself brings it down to 1817, as may be seen in his Memoirs. Now it was during this period, or, at all events, until the Institution-office had been adopted, and placed with other offices, as a sequel to the Prayer-book, that the Ritual System of the Church, as referred to in the Declaration, was in process of creation; while at the [14/15] same time, its usages were healthfully growing with its written law. And at the same time, not only its actual usages, but its possible usages, or such as might legitimately grow out of acknowledged principles, were virtually recognized. For during all this time, with respect to innovations, however simple and innocent, the practical rule was the old Ignatian one, of Episcopal sanction: nothing was done, by orderly and reputable churchmen, except with the advice and consent of the Ordinary. I am sure it never entered the head of one of the signers of the Declaration, that they could be charged with a desire to reduce our Church to the Ritual and Architectural poverty of those days of manifold trials. They simply asserted the extraordinary sagacity and foresight of those who adopted the American "Use" as distinct from the Anglican, and under whose wise provisions our recognized usages have been naturally and happily developed, growing with our growth and strengthening with our strength. [Some who read this may not know that Use is a technical word for the technical Order of Divine Service.] To such development, the innovations complained of furnish the strongest contrast: introduced and thrust upon us, as they have been, by mere novices, and originating, as they have done, under alien influences, wholly foreign to the spirit of our Liturgy and professedly at war with that of the blessed witnesses and martyrs of the Reformation.
As the publication of the Declaration is destined to mark an era in our history as a Church, I would, now, in view of the misapprehensions I have noted, direct attention to its several propositions. It will be seen that though not incapable of being perverted by petty [15/16] quibbling, no document framed with special regard to brevity and condensation could well be made more plain as to its meaning.
1. Divers National Churches are entitled to their divers rites and ceremonies, so that nothing be done contrary to Holy Scripture.
On this point the Declaration merely adopts the Catholic language of the Thirty-nine Articles.
2. Our own is a duly organized National Church.
Nobody will deny this.
3. The period of its organization immediately followed the Revolution.
The last Organic Office of the Church dates from 1808; but Bishop White speaks of the General Convention of 1817, as that in which the Legislation of our great Council ceased to "have a bearing on the doctrine or the worship, or the discipline of the Church." We must therefore take the period from 1783 to 1817 as that which is referred to in the Declaration.
4. Bishops Seabury and White and other justly venerated divines, who were the chief organizers, thoroughly understood the times, the country and the peculiarities of our people.
Of this, the marvellous success of their work is the best evidence. By a few partial concessions to popular prejudice, they have, in a great measure, conquered prejudice, and won over the thoughtful minds of the Nation to the Liturgic principle; while, by restoring the older Liturgic Office without its rubrics as to vestments, they have given a noble example of contending for great principles, and omitting minor considerations. [That is the older Order of the Holy Eucharist.]
5. These great divines also had wisdom given them to [16/17] make provisions for what is still requisite to our success as a Missionary Church.
This is but a just tribute to the wonderful prescience with which they formed our Offices, and suited them to a full-grown as well as to an infant Church. Had "the Proposed-book" been adopted, it could not have been thus spoken of: it was obsolete almost as soon as it was introduced. But how wonderfully the Prayer-book of our Church has stood the test of time and change!
It seems to be supposed, at least by some, that the Declaration is designed to give an iron-bound perpetuity to their work, and to admit no changes however wholesome, whether in the "Use" itself, or as to the usages recognized under it.
But certainly it was designed to do no such thing: for those great divines, themselves, provided for an orderly and lawful development of the Church, and for beneficial changes, from time to time; and they recognized such changes as likely to become necessary. In this as in all other respects, they showed themselves prescient of our own times; but they gave us an example and a law of change, according to great principles, as opposed to the irregular and lawless innovations which the Declaration censures. On this point, it will suffice to quote the words of Bishop White himself. lie says:--
"Neither is what is here said intended to discountenance all changes, which succeeding circumstances may render expedient. . . . On the subject of rites and ceremonies, it is the judgment of the Church of England that they may lie regulated according to the circumstances of different times and places. . . . But if ever there should be a surrendry of those evangelical truths which are not only affirmed in the Thirty-nine Articles, but pervade the services, and are generally understood to be the leading doctrines [17/18] of the Reformation, its fall (i. e., the fall of our Church) may be counted on, and, because of such change, ought not to be regretted."
6. The organization thus established is the Law of the Church, to which every Cleric, at the time of his Ordering, solemnly swears obedience.
In view of the Seventh Article of our Constitution and the vows of the Ordinal, there can be no doubt on this point.
7. Extra-rubrical and extra-canonical Usages should not be introduced by private judgment.
That is to say -- the official judgment of the Ordinary is to be invoked in all such matters, and his decision is Law until the whole Church legislates in the matter. But no bishop can establish contra-rubrical ceremonies, nor such as have been legislated against.
8. This Church, as a particular National Church, has its own place, character and work, and hence cannot be governed by foreign Laws, even when those Laws are wise and good for foreign Churches respectively.
I cannot attempt to prove what seems to me an axiomatic statement.
9. English rubrics and canons have their historic use in explaining our own, but cannot have such force of Law as to invalidate the deliberate action or known usages of our own Church.
The use of the word "such"--in the Declaration--plainly expresses what I have thus enlarged; and I see no need of arguing so plain a point.
10. Innovations, contrary to the foregoing principles, are contrary to the Doctrine of this Church, as well as contrary to its discipline.
The Thirty-fourth Article of Religion is a doctrinal article, and it not only sustains this important point, but [18/19] has also the force of a Canon, the stringency of which no offender can escape, if subjected to discipline by his bishop.
11. The attempt to introduce changes and innovations, on grounds of private judgment, and in contempt of Episcopal authority, is insurrectionary and factious.
This follows from the former propositions. I can conceive of no honest difficulty as to that clause of the Declaration which speaks of usages "hitherto unknown." This certainly does not imply that they are unknown at this present. But the censures of the Declaration are expressly directed against the attempt to introduce such usages, in a factious manner, which is sadly manifest in certain quarters.
12. Incense, Symbolic lights, gratuitous reverences to the altar, vestments unknown in our American history and unauthorized by Ordinaries, and even any considerable change in the material and fashion of vestments already naturalized among us, are such innovations as no priest or deacon may introduce, of his private judgment, in the public worship of the Church.
These instances are given, because the attempt to introduce all these things, and the actual introduction of some of them, have already created great scandal, and not a little mischief, in our Church. It is altogether probable, that, but for the Declaration, the scandal would have, ere this, assumed more serious dimensions; so active is the Faction, in the circulation of books and tracts, in which the most extravagant views are adopted and maintained, for practical ends. That a party of thinly disguised Papists is actually at work, in the Church of England, under the express sanction and encouragement of unprincipled Papal emissaries, is highly probable. [19/20] The bishops who signed the Declaration, have taken such steps as will effectually discourage similar stratagems among us, and such as will also put an end to the schemes of simpler folk, who, without suspecting it, are the dupes and tools of their foreign allies.
11. The authority of the Magistrate is violated by those who violate Church-Law.
The quaint formula of the Thirty-fourth Article is quoted, of purpose, in the Declaration, because those who draughted it, believe it to be retained of purpose, in our American Articles, from which mere establishmentarian expressions were so carefully excluded. As every Clerk in Orders professes to believe these Articles, let him reflect what they say of "the authority of the Magistrate" in view of Hooker's general Exposition of Law.
It is the duty and office of the Church to teach respect for Human Laws, and thus the Church has ever proved itself the great bulwark of civilization. He, then, who breeds faction in the Church is shaking the frame-work of society itself; for if Christians pay no respect to Ecclesiastical Laws, with what success can they teach the people "to honour and obey the Civil authority?"
14. The consciences of weak brethren are to be respected.
The great Hooker guards us against the abuse of this Scriptural principle; but, it must be stretched much further, in a Missionary Church, like ours, than in an ancient, well-established, National Church, like that of England. The "weak brethren" of England, who became Recusants and Nonconformists, were but a handful at first: the Church was assumed to be coincident with the nation. With us these conditions are reversed: [20/21] the Church is but a small fraction of the people; and surely if we are to win over thirty millions of Americans to the essential principles of the Church, it is our bounden duty not to offend them, in things indifferent. On this principle of Scripture and of common-sense, our Church was organized: so far as it has been respected, we have prospered; but, almost without exception, wherever the contrary spirit has been exhibited the progress of the Church has been checked, and the aim and object of Missions have been thoroughly subverted. Instances are not few where the indiscretion of youthful missionaries in this matter, has effectually done the work of the enemy, and operated to exclude the Church from positions which it would otherwise have occupied, to the glory of God and the salvation of men.
"There is no reluctance," says Bishop White, "to record the opinion, that if an important object were likely to be accomplished, there would be no difficulty in taking a ground which would not be objected to by the more moderate of the non-Episcopalians, provided there ceased objections of another kind; especially, the greatest hinderance of all, in the irritation kept alive by the intemperate zeal of some on each side."
It is owing to this Pauline spirit of "speaking the truth" in love, and of becoming, in an elevated sense, "all things to all men," that the Church has made the progress of its actual history in this land. Catholic and Apostolic though it be, and, as such, chartered with a sure success, if guided by wisdom and a Scriptural prudence, it is certain that the "intemperate zeal" of the innovators, should it be encouraged, would condemn it to the proportions of an insignificant sect for centuries to come.
 15. The Declaration concludes with an assertion of the Catholic and Apostolic character of the Church, and of the duty of all persons to guard against deficiencies as well as excesses, with respect to the plain Law of the Church.
This sound and conservative principle pervades the whole document; and, therefore, its assertion in so simple a manner is a token of strength, and of a firm confidence, that it will be found impossible to oppose the innovations of one faction, without resolutely correcting the irregularities of another.
16. Each bishop signing the Declaration, reserves his official rights as an Ordinary and a Legislator.
The importance of this reservation has not been fully estimated. It has been observed, however, that the entire Document proceeds on the ancient principle--that "nothing is to be done without Episcopal sanction." In a word, Episcopal counsel and approval are, of necessity, the criterion of lawful usage, in each diocese, until the whole Church legislates. Each signer, therefore, retains his individual right to direct his own diocese; not surrendering it, by signing this Document, to the conscience of any other bishop, or bishops, who may be thus associated with him, but who may, perhaps, be influenced by very different views. Nor does any signer pledge himself as to the course he might hereafter pursue, even with regard to new ceremonies, should they cease to be factiously maintained; that is, in case they should come up for orderly Legislation, in the councils of the Church.
Such, then, is the spirit, at once conservative and liberal, of this important Document, and I conceive that it condenses, into fewest words, some of the soundest [22/23] principles of Catholic antiquity, and renders them applicable to our case at this present. It is a document which has already deeply impressed itself on the conscience and intelligence of the Church, and its effects will long survive the feeble captiousness which has attempted to withstand its force: for it is not too much to say, that he who would neutralize its principles must first revolutionize the Divine Constitution of the Church and reduce to a nonentity the Episcopate itself.
The practical operation of these principles, under my own administration, in this Diocese, may be easily stated. I need not remind you that unwritten laws were recognized, even by heathen moralists, as appealing to honour and delicacy for due observance. [Aristotle, Rhetoric I. xiv. 7.] My venerated predecessor was very sensitive as to extra-rubrical usages. The usages which became established, during his long and judicious Episcopate, may, therefore, be assumed as the usages of the Diocese. Whatever he established, approved or even tolerated, I shall recognize as authorized, and not to be changed by any one's private judgment. If they are to be altered, your bishop alone must alter them, unless the whole Church legislates. In the Providence of God the responsibilities which were once another's, have been laid on me, and what he established as the Ordinary of this Diocese is not mutable except by the equal authority which his beloved hands transmitted to his successor.
1. The Prayer-book, then, is your Law, and where this is clear, you need nothing more to sustain you, in obeying its directions.
2. Where the rubric is doubtful, usage is your comment.
3. Where usage is not settled, the Ordinary is Judge.
4. Where matters are extra-rubrical and extra-canonical, as e. g. in Architecture, Music, Education, Charities, Special Services and the like, the Ordinary is the Lawgiver, subject to the whole Church, if an appeal be taken to her great Council. Such appeal may be made by the introduction of a Canon; and in divers instances heretofore, legislation has overruled the action of Ordinaries.
According to my office, I have thus laid down the Law. Let me remark, that I have done so, not because of any contumacious violation of the Law among us, nor yet of apprehensions that a lawless spirit is likely to find encouragement in these parts. I am grateful to God for the peace and good order which you have maintained in this Diocese: and having endeavoured to make the Law clear, and to commend it to every man's conscience, before God, I rely on you to preserve it inviolate. My object is to prevent difficulties. Beloved brethren, let us keep Western New York entirely free from the Independency of this novel sort of Nonconformists; from the devices and stratagems of the disreputable faction which has sprung into existence in the defiant spirit of a schism, "despising governments and speaking evil of dignities."
A few words more may be properly addressed to those of you who are candidates for Holy Orders; or who are yet in the first years of your clerical experience. It is impossible that those thus addressed should see all the bearings of the questions involved in this Discussion. Experience, observation and a careful watch of the signs of the times will convince you, however, that eight-and-twenty bishops have not warned you unnecessarily. But I now address your practically, because on your [24/25] inexperienced shoulders is largely laid the noble and all-important burthen of Missionary work. Now, our oldest and wisest missionary bishops have testified, that, if such innovations cannot be checked, our Missions may as well be given up. Our Church will have no vocation in the land. For why? Our claim on the respect and eventual conformity of the Christians of America is our absolute identity with the Apostolic Church of Scripture and of Primitive Antiquity. This is our character: this is our position before the American people. It is a claim which challenges the attention of all thoughtful men: they must sooner or later examine it, and compare us with it. If, then, we are true to ourselves, our Church becomes, in God's good time, the Church of the American people.
But, let us once abandon this position; let us Mediaevalize ourselves, and introduce the rites and ceremonies of a corrupt Christianity; let us cease to be Primitive and truly Catholic; let us conform ourselves, even in outward things, to the false system of the Papal obedience; who does not see that we stultify ourselves, and abdicate our Apostolic throne? We give over the victory to our vile invader, the unprincipled Trentine Sect which calls itself Catholic and -which is aiming to subvert, at once, the religion and the freedom of America. If Ceremonialism and Pomp and dumb-show arc to take the place of a "reasonable service" and a genuine Liturgy, there is no doubt at all that Romanism can beat us at that game. I repeat it, then, our hold and claim upon the intelligence of our countrymen and on their consciences also, are forfeited, justly and necessarily, just sq soon as we cease to be the most Primitive Church in existence. Whatever other Churches may become, we
are forced to maintain a noble, dignified simplicity, in all our worship and offices. As the American Church, our appeal is to the reason, the sober sense, the enlightened conscience of the American people. If we maintain our character, true to the Reformation, and therefore true to Primitive Catholicity, we shall enlist their love and sympathy in the conflict with Romanism, which is so near at hand. They will even begin to thank us for maintaining that Apostolic Succession which they now decry; for they must soon see that without it no theologian can successfully contend with Popery. By fidelity and consistency, therefore, we shall defeat Romanism and largely win over those who now dissent from us; but--if we arc so weak and so unfaithful as not to maintain ourselves on our own historical ground, be sure we shall perish; and as Bishop White said in a passage I have already cited,--in that case our perishing will be nothing to regret.
You are sometimes reminded that "Ritualism" is a harmless word and means what all Churchmen approve. But a fallacy is involved in this show of argument. "Unitarianism" is a good word: we all believe in the Unity of the Godhead. But, such words, when assumed by faction or sect, come to mean something disproportionate and anomalous. The "Ritualism" which is intended is not the handmaid but the Mistress of Devotion. Thus it becomes an Ism; and we concede the name, because that which has its proper and subordinate place in a true Theology, is the one idea of the "Ritualists": they are, "Ritualists" and nothing more.
Genuine Ritualism, on the other hand, is but part of the grand Liturgical System of the gospel, and of a truly Evangelical Church. It pervades it, like the veins and [26/27] arteries in the body of a man, but does not stick out like a dislocated bone. This is the "decency and order" of St. Paul; this is what Hooker maintained against the Puritans. In the beautiful tribute which Burke has paid to our Church, it is described as disclosing itself, "in buildings, in music, in decoration, in speech and in the dignity of persons, with modest splendour, with unassuming state, with mild majesty and sober pomp."
Observe these adjectives. The Bride of Christ clothes herself with wrought gold, but her chaste spirit is modest, unassuming, mild and sober, even in her majesty and state. She knows nothing of the harlotries of a corrupt Church. Compare a true Eucharist with a Pontifical High Mass! Well does Hirscher express his belief that the Apostles would not recognize the latter as anything they had bequeathed to the Church.
The Ritualism we censure, then, is that of discarded Ceremony and false Theology; and with it we rebuke the entire spirit that makes a principle about candlesticks, and none at all about despising Christ himself in the authority he has given to bishops. I have said less of the movement in its doctrinal aspects, because, at least among us, it has not been outspoken as to the insidious heresy which taints all its flowers and vestments. Here, it is chiefly an artistic movement, as yet, but let its true character be understood. In England, the "advanced ritualists" are, as I have said, practical advocates for almost everything that Rome teaches and practices, justifying their subscription to the Articles, by a finesse in theology, which it takes a Jesuit's conscience to approve. The "Eucharistic Adoration" which they recommend and practice, is something unknown to the primitive Church; something which the common mind cannot [27/28] distinguish from the gross idolatries of the Romish Mass; something, which they deduce from a great mystery of faith, by a carnal logic, which, if carried out, would involve us in the most ignoble consequences, and set us to worshipping one another, as all "members of Christ," and receptacles of his Body and Blood. It is enough to say of such merely inferential rites and practices--that the Apostles knew nothing of them: "we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God."
While I beseech you, then, for the sake of your own usefulness, and as you value a reputation for good sense and common honesty to have nothing to do with this faction of the "Ritualists," I will direct your attention, by way of contrast, to a very different movement, which for a time occupied the attention of the Church. I refer to that of the Memorialists of 1853; a movement, which, whatever its faults and failings, was marked by a manliness and an energy of thought and purpose worthy of true ministers of Jesus Christ. It was an effort to give the Church some of those features of elasticity and adaptation to our National life, which, in some degree, it has been thought to lack; and though it was, in my opinion, mixed up with impracticable and even with very erroneous ideas, it nevertheless contained germinal thoughts of great value, and should not have been laid aside without practical results. On Liturgical subjects there is much to be derived from the honest and practical suggestions which were then brought into view, and I should rejoice to see your Convocations reviving and reconsidering them. [See "Memorial Papers," edited by Bishop Potter, of Pennsylvania. 1857.] It was a movement as healthful as this is sickly. It supplied a noble exercise to mind and to the spiritual [28/29] faculties, and might now furnish food for much profitable reflection, in comparison with this "cake not turned;" this "Ritualism" that is half the dough of a crude theology and half the cinder of lifeless Ceremonialism.
The conclusions which I reach, in these matters, are those which, I can truly say, I have endeavoured to sustain throughout my whole Ecclesiastical life, and I shall not depart from them now, to the right hand nor to the left. [The very first elements of "Ritualism," as I saw them in 1851, were the subject of a kind, but yet earnest protest on my part, as may be seen in "Impressions of England," p. 79.] It is the policy of the Faction to assume that they are the advocates of reverence, of order and of decency; and they who are easily frightened are likely to be driven into an opposite extreme, by confounding Liturgic proprieties with their puerilities. Now I oppose them on the very ground that they are not reverent; on the ground that they are shockingly irreverent; that they degrade the worship of the Church, and reduce the august solemnities of the Lord's Supper to a miserable pageant, as ludicrous and as empty as it is in their power to make it. Such a ceremonial, however, I would not oppose by mere negations. I would set over against it, in all its majesty and simplicity, the true Liturgic Eucharist of the Primitive Church. Understand, then, beloved brethren, that I shall ever maintain and set forward, in this Diocese, all that goes to a just exhibition of the awful solemnity of the Lord's Supper, and all that truly tends to make glorious the holy place of the sanctuary of the Most-High. In a word, all that is according to the Scriptures; all that honours the written Word and the Christian Sacraments; all that puts honour on Christ and brings out the spiritual beauty of His Cross; [29/30] all that tends to humble sinners and to edify believers; all that is of this character, and that can be done legitimately, in this spirit, according to the law of our own Church, I will sustain you in doing, and love you for promoting, in every way that is "according to knowledge." The fearful unreality of this factious movement, regarded in a practical light, presents a singular contrast to what is thus commended. How wonderful the work which is presented, by the movements of the age, to a truly Catholic mind and heart. Immortal souls, perishing in heathenism, but daily made accessible by instrumentalities which God has created, through the energy of man: all parts of the historic Church filled with activities, that arc working out some grand result; our own country swarming with discordant sects, but striving after some better way; Infidelity and Irreligion possessing themselves of the old homes of Puritan faith and piety in New England; the West menaced by a gross and worldly Romanism; the whole land full of fraud, avarice, covetousness, impurity, intemperance, debauchery, divorce, child-murder and all kinds of bloodshed; the ministers of Christ few, and the supply decreasing; all Institutions of real good feeble and ill-supported, as compared with vice and its resources: such the state of things, and we in an Apostolic Church, forced to spend time on the wayward fancies of our own brethren for a religion of embroidery and candles!
I have closely observed these ritualistic zealots, to see whether this unreality extends to the individual case, and produces an unreal character in practical religion. God forbid that I should judge the heart; but, if "by their fruits" we must know them, then I say that their piety is not of that simple and Scriptural type which we [30/31] see in the time-honoured saints of the Church of England, and which we have been wont to venerate in the founders of our own Church. Its disciples profess an extraordinary devotion, but their mouths arc full of "railing accusations;" their "cursing and bitterness" break forth from lips yet crimsoned by the reception of the Eucharist. They load the altar with flower-pots; but they seem to cultivate flowers rather than those "fruits of the spirit"--"love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance." The system promotes a strange compromise between the world and the Church: they who bow to the earth before the altar in the morning, are often found cheering a ballet-dancer in the evening; and frequent communions seem to involve no such thing as frequent preparations, or chronic abstinence from worldliness and vanity. Even Lent is turned into a mere histrionism, with "new scenery, dresses and decorations;" the empty prelude to an empty Easter -- when the scene changes again, and worldliness resumes its course, without the Lenten mask. Nor do I find a very elevated spirit of piety and un-worldliness in the "advanced clergy." They are strong in the Directorium Anglicanum, but by no means "mighty in the Scriptures." The length of a cassock, as proportioned to a surplice, is a prime matter with them, to say nothing of Ecclesiastical undress, the cut of coats and waistcoats and the colour of gloves and neckties. And such are they who rail at the old reformers, and at the testimony they gave to the world, amid the blazing faggots. Alas! they no more appreciate the voice of that fiery pulpit, than did the children who railed at Elisha, the horses and chariots of fire that had taken Elijah up to God.
"My great anxiety to see efficient Sisterhoods founded among us, for teaching, nursing and visiting, leads me to say that in this matter, also, success will depend on the spirit in which it is undertaken. If we are to have a masquerading of mock nuns and abbesses, the whole thing will prove a sham; its unreality will kill it. Even in Romish countries the conventual system is perishing, after long and weary experience of the inevitable abuses of which it is the source. [See La Religieuse by the Abbe ****, author of Under the Ban.] Let us have none of these discarded abominations among us. But, if the design be an honest one to revive the deaconesses of the Primitive Church, and to give them a genuine instead of a romantic character as such, no man more heartily than myself will labour to sustain it. Some neat, modest, cheerful, ladylike attire, not fantastic, but historical, patterned, e.g., after that of the Lady Jane Grey, as we see it in pictures, might serve for a uniform; but as for the mufflers and broad-bands and dangling trinkets of Romish Pharisaism, let us have none of them. All this belongs to a system which the Gospel condemns. [See S. Matt. vi. 1, and xxiii. 5.]
My dear brethren, of the younger Clergy, by close study of the New Testament, you will see that this Faction greatly resembles those Judaizers with whom St. Paul waged a life-long warfare, even in that day of Apostolic life and energy, and of whom he said, in his whole-souled fidelity to the Redeemer, "I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ." Again he said, of the same class of religionists among the Roman Christians, "I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them." It [32/33] was by not heeding this warning that the once glorious Church of Rome has come to the condition which it presents, at this moment, in the person of its unhappy pontiff and his satellite bishops, now assembled, with exceeding great pomp, in their ancient city, to "Crucify Christ afresh, and put him to an open shame."
And here let me quote the words, not of an Anglican, but of one of the most learned, the most pious and the most eminent of modern theologians in the Latin Church; one who was accustomed to celebrate the Mass in all its splendours, in a glorious cathedral of his Fatherland, but one who had observed its practical workings, and who, as a Christian, groaned under the burden of those pageants in which he was forced to bear his part. He says: [Hirscher, (Parker, 1852,) p, 218.]
"I know all that can be said in their defence, but I also know, that, by means of them the soul of man is turned aside from the inward devotion and set upon exterior things, and that with such appeals to sight and hearing the power of self-composure is quite distracted: and I am sure, moreover, that by them the delusive idea receives nourishment that God is glorified in material splendours, and that He delights in the mechanical performances of hands and lips.....Yet more unbecoming is such pomp, when the performance of Divine Service is made, by it, to Hatter the vanity of the clergy, or when with God's worship, man-worship is so bound up that the officiating priests must be continually waited upon by a retinue of inferior officials. What incongruity! Before the naked and crucified Redeemer to present one's self in the magnificence of a pageant.
"The spirit of the present time differs widely from that of preceding ages, and what imposed upon the rude masses once, is no longer of use. A degree of external pomp in the celebration of divine worship was formerly serviceable . . . but not only has it lost its value amid the prevailing intelligence of modern times; it has been subjected rigourously to the examination of competent criticism, is regarded as utterly foreign to the devotion of the heart, and is consequently despised. Will it do to make [33/34] no calculation, in such matters, for the total change of times, of manners and of men?"
This heavenly-minded witness rests from his labours, but others have risen up to carry on his work, and while I am writing, I receive the most animating proofs that I am labouring in harmony with the true spirit of reviving Catholicity, all over the world. A petty school of religions dotards and reactionists may be as loud, as they are Pharisaical, in their yearnings for Mediaeval rites and ceremonies; but the great heart of Latin Christendom itself is with us who call for the Primitive and the Scriptural only, whether in Faith or Worship. My table is loaded with testimonies from the Italian reformers. While the secular press gives prominence to the pomps now going on at Rome, these earnest minds exclaim against them, as mockeries, in view of the spiritual destitution of the Italian people. "Seventeen millions of the Italians do not know how to read or write;" they ask for the bread of life, and the Pope gives them a show of fire-works at the Vatican. "Instead of thinking profoundly how to stem the torrent of evils that overwhelm the Catholic verity, they give us an Oriental prodigality of fetes, in nothing conformed to the austere genius of Christianity." So speaks an eloquent Italian; and he adds a question which I would press in turn on all those who would introduce a sensual worship among us-- "What good can be the result? Will the infidel, the rationalist, the materialist, the sectarian be convinced of their errors? Will they not rather receive a fresh incentive to their contempt for a Church, which instead of the simplicity of the gospel, and the intensity of that faith which once removed mountains, substitutes theatrical [34/35] spectacles, pompous parade and the luxury which is corrupting our age?" So it looks to the Italians.
The times are very real and earnest; and everywhere the intellect and vigorous piety of the age are at war with Formalism. The papacy may amuse its dotage with such toys, but the manhood of reviving Christendom demands a restoration of what is Primitive. It will not be refused: the cause of true Catholicity is strengthening and must triumph. To revert to Medievalism is to fall under the car of genuine Progress, and it will surely grind its adversaries to powder. A new era is just opening which the men of the future will not fail to understand. It is the era our Church has prayed for, and waited for, ever since the Reformation. Questions are now started, to which only our true Catholicity can give answer: the results of the existing agitation all promise triumph, at last, to Truth. In America, ours is the solemn trust of Apostolic Doctrine and Order. Arc we fitting ourselves for our great work? Alas! while these triflers are idling over their dreams of tapers and tippets, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" Where are the men of the rough raiment and the leathern girdle, who are just now needed to found new Nashotahs all over our great West, and to exhibit our Church in her genuine spirit as "apt to teach" and ready to communicate. "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" Why does not God arise and do great things for us? Is it not because so few of us are prepared "in the spirit and power of Elijah," to gird up our loins and renew the efforts and self denials of the Primitive Age? It is easy to indulge in spiritual luxuries, and to enjoy the sentiment of religion, in sensuous devotion; but, the work of evangelizing a Continent demands a widely different spirit. Let [35/36] every pastor preach from house to house and boldly lay hold of worldly men, entreating them to be saved, "pulling them out of the fire." Let the pulpit exert fresh energies, admonishing and persuading, rather than gratifying and consoling, the ungodly. Let the Laity make use of their divers gifts and talents, in due order and subordination, and so hold up the hands of faithful pastors. Let children be more carefully trained in the way they should go. Let young men be set apart for the work of the Ministry; and let our zeal and divers energies be so directed that the Church may go everywhere preaching the Gospel of Christ, rebuking and converting sinners, and upholding, in all its spiritual beauty and attractiveness the Faith of the Crucified Redeemer. Your affectionate bishop,
A. CLEVELAND COXE.
See-House, Buffalo, August, 1867.
Draughted by a Committee of three bishops (Bps. Kemper, Williams and Coxe, appointed by the House of Bishops in session at New York.
Whereas, at a meeting of the House of Bishops, held in the city of New York in the month of October, (October 5, 1866,) the subject of Ritualism was brought to the notice of the House and considered with a, great degree of unanimity; and
Whereas, on account of the absence of a number of the Right Reverend members of the House, and the fact that the House was not sitting as a co-ordinate branch of the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, it was regarded as inexpedient to proceed to any formal action; and
Whereas, it was nevertheless regarded as highly desirable that an expression of opinion on the part of the Episcopate, of this Church should be given, with respect to ritualistic innovations, There/ore, the undersigned bishops, reserving each for himself, his rights as Ordinary of his own diocese, and also his rights as a member of the House of Bishops, sitting in General Convention, do unite in the Declaration following:
We hold in the language of the XXXIV Article of Religion, that every particular or National Church hath authority to ordain, change and abolish, Ceremonies or Rites of the Church, ordained only by man's authority, so that all things be done to edifying; " and also in the language of the same Article that: ''It is not necessary that Traditions and Ceremonies be in all places one or utterly like; for at all times they have been divers, and may be, changed according to the diversity of countries, times and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained against God's Word;" and also, that this Church was [36/37] duly organized as a "particular and National Church" in communion with the Universal or Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ, and that this was settled under the careful direction and advice, and with the cordial cooperation of Godly, well-learned and justly venerated divines, who were well acquainted with the history of the Church of England before blessed Reformation, and who thoroughly understood what was and is still required by the peculiarities of this country and its people.
have been in use since the establishment of our Episcopate; is an innovation which violates the discipline of the Church, "oftendeth against its common order, and hurteth the authority of the Magistrate and woundeth the consciences of the weak brethren."
Furthermore, that we be not misunderstood, let it be noted that we include in these censures, all departures from the Laws, rubrics and settled order of this Church, as well by defect as by excess of observance, designing to maintain in its integrity the sound Scriptural and Primitive, and therefore the Catholic and Apostolic, spirit of the Book of Common Prayer.
The above was signed by the following bishops, viz: Smith, of Kentucky; McIlvaine, of Ohio; Kemper, of Wisconsin; McCoskry, of Michigan; Lee, of Delaware; Johns, of Virginia; Eastburn, of Massachusetts; Chase, of New Hampshire; Unfold, of Indiana; Payne, of the African Mission; Williams, of Connecticut; Davis, of S. Carolina; Kip, of California; Lee, of Iowa; Clark, of Rhode Island; Gregg, of Texas; Bedell (Assistant), of Ohio; Whipple, of Minnesota; Talbot (Assistant), of Indiana; Wilmer, of Alabama; Vail, of Kansas; Coxe, of Western New York; Clarkson, of Nebraska; Randall, of Colorado; Kerfoot, of Pittsburgh; Williams, of the China Mission; Cummins (Assistant), of Kentucky; Armitage (Assistant), of Wisconsin.
 The Archbishop of Canterbury has lately expressed himself, quite coincident, as follows:
"I am by no means insensible to the dangers which at this moment beset the Church of England, from the renewal of certain ceremonial observances and the introduction of changes in our ritual symbolical of doctrines at variance with those of our Reformed Church. The answer which I gave to the address of the English Church Union, twelve months ago, sufficiently indicated my feelings on this subject, and subsequent events have only tended to confirm the justice of the remarks I then made. With an anxious desire to follow after that charity 'which thinketh no evil,' I now find it impossible to evade the conviction that among those who are joining in the present movement for the restoration of Eucharistic vestments, the use of the incense and candles lighted in the day-time, the offering of the holy sacrament as a propitiatory sacrifice, and the elevation of the consecrated elements for the worship of the people, there are many who are resolved, if possible, to obliterate in the formularies and worship of our church every trace of the Reformation. The publications which are the acknowledged exponents of their opinions, leave no doubt in my mind upon this point; and having bad some experience in times past of the tendency of such a movement as this, I have the less difficulty in interpreting its real bearing. Sixteen years ago I bad to contend with au attempt of somewhat the same character at St. Saviour's, Leeds, where, among other innovations, the practice of confession after the Roman usage was introduced; and as soon as I proceeded to repress it by the exercise of discipline, some of the clergy of the church showed themselves in their true colours by seceding to the Church of Rome.
"I have great satisfaction in believing that there is not a single instance in the diocese of Canterbury in which the changes you have enumerated in the usual mode of administering the Lord's Supper at present exists; and in the only two cases of the kind of which I am cognizant--(in one of which the adoption of the vestments was contemplated, and the other lighted candles were used in the celebration of the Holy Communion)--the respective incumbents yielded at once to my wishes, and abandoned their purpose. You have, therefore, I trust, a sufficient guarantee that wherever my influence or authority can avail they shall be exercised to discourage and repress those practices. At the same time it must ever be remembered that the bishops are judges, and cannot act as partisans. Whatever changes may be fairly considered to be symbolical of erroneous doctrine, and to favour that which was deliberately rejected by the Church of England, whatever I have reason to believe is offensive to the great bulk of a congregation and calculated to estrange them from the church of their forefathers, all this I shall resolutely discountenance; but I must not be understood to promise any interference with that legitimate latitude which is permitted in the ordering of the services of the church--for instance, the alternative which allows certain portions of them to be either said or sung, or to control variations in things indifferent where there is no appeal to me from the congregation.
"I could not say with truth that those clergy who have been following irregular customs to which they have been habituated from their youth are equally deserving of censure with those who introduce innovations with a special object foreign to the spirit and letter of our formularies. Hut while I admonish all who have broken in upon the uniformity of our ritual observances on the side of excess, I would remind those who, either by intentional omission or by neglect and laxity, offend in the other direction, how much they thereby weaken the side of order and embarrass the administration of even-handed justice by their own short-comings. You are all, doubtless, acquainted with the deliberate judgment in these matters of ritual passed by the two Houses of Convocation of the province of Canterbury, a judgment which I hope soon to see ratified by the Convocation of the province of York. I will not do the advocates of extreme ritual, to whom this judgment refers, the injustice of supposing that they will persevere in their present course in the face of such authority; I would rattier anticipate their yielding to it. They will thus aid in the restoration of that harmony which has been so grievously disturbed by their recent proceedings, and will help to avert those imminent dangers which have threatened the church through their rash and wilful innovations."