At a regular meeting of the AMERICAN CHURCH UNION, held on the I3th of May, 1869, the following Resolutions, prepared by the Council, and by them recommended for adoption, were approved and passed:
WHEREAS, The AMERICAN CHURCH UNION has been informed that the Rev. Colin C. Tate, Rector of S. Paul's Church, Columbus, Ohio, has been presented by the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Ohio, for trial, for alleged violation of the law of the Church, in having a surpliced choir, and in using processional singing, therefore,
Resolved, That the members of the AMERICAN CHURCH UNION do hereby offer the expression of their hearty sympathy to the Rev. Mr. Tate, and assure him of their support.
Resolved, That the AMERICAN CHURCH UNION pledges itself to provide, and, if necessary, to compensate counsel for the defence of the Rev. Colin C. Tate in the said trial.
Resolved, That a Committee of five be appointed to co-operate with the Rev. Mr. Tate in his defence, and to carry out the provisions of the above resolutions.
Out of this action the following Correspondence has arisen. The interest and importance of the question discussed is a sufficient apology, (if apology be needed) for its publication; not to speak of the position and relations of one of the parties. Its appearance has been delayed from a cause stated in Letter No. IV.
To the Primary Correspondence has been added a letter from a Divine, whose ability, learning, thoughtfulness, and experience, give to every emanation from his pen the highest weight. The satisfaction with which it was received need not be concealed. In days past--days of trial--often have the writer and the undersigned stood shoulder to shoulder in the maintenance and defence of the Church Principles, which are the heritage of the Diocese of New York, from the days of Bishops Benjamin Moore, and Hobart; and though differing somewhat occasionally, on minor points of policy and action, yet we were always agreed as to the Principles to be advocated. His letter was a response which deserved, as it received, my warmest acknowledgments; not for myself alone, but for hundreds of Churchmen, whose anxieties will be relieved by his word of truth and soberness in these days of confusion and discord.
B. I. H.
No. 56 West 26th St., New York, June 19, 1869.
No. 26 West 26th Street, N. Y.
MAY 18TH, 1869.
DEAR MR. NASH:
I address you as the President of the American Church Union, to express my deep regret at the recent action of the Union, in the case of the Rev. Mr. Tate; and my dissent therefrom.
In my judgment, after a careful examination of the documents which have been laid before us, and after no little reflection upon the principles involved in the matter, the resolutions adopted by the Union, tendering to Mr. Tate their sympathy under his presentment, and proffering to him their counsel and aid in his trial, are wholly at variance with sound church principles, and give countenance (of course not intentionally) to that spirit of individualism, self will, and resistance to the constituted authorities of the Church, which, unfortunately, is so rife in this day.
The case, as I understand it, stripped of all immaterial accessories, and regarded as to its essential characteristics, is simply this:--the Bishop of Ohio, having expressed to one of the Rectors of his Diocese, his disapprobation of two practices which he had introduced into the services of his Church, viz: that of singing a Processional Hymn at the opening of Divine Service, and that of having the members of his Choir vested in surplices; and having as his Bishop admonished him to discontinue them; the Reverend Rector refuses to do so, notwithstanding his vow at his Ordination, "reverently to obey his Bishop, following with a glad mind and will his godly admonition and submitting himself to his godly judgment"; and notwithstanding the action of our last General Convention remitting all cases of this kind to the judgment of the Bishop of each Diocese, until the next General Convention.
Now, publicly to express sympathy with a Clergyman in thus setting at nought the judgment of his Bishop; to come forward as his counsellor and defender; and to back him up in a contest with his Spiritual Father, with all the influence which we may possess; is so wholly at variance with the Church principles in which I was trained, and by which I have professed to be guided all my ministerial life--(not a short one)--that I cannot consent even to appear to assent to its propriety. The practices in question are not enjoined by any law of the Church; they are not sanctioned by general usage; they are not identified with any important point of doctrine, discipline or worship; they are matters unessential. And if in a case like this a Bishop's authority is to go for nothing, in what case can it be of any account?
I say nothing of the Bishop of Ohio's assertion of the impropriety and illegality of the practices in question. That has nothing to do with the essential point involved in the case. T do not agree with the Bishop. I think they are neither improper nor illegal. But the point is--even granting their propriety and legality--whether in such a case, the Bishop has not, in virtue of his high office, a right to challenge the obedience of his Presbyter; and whether that Presbyter is not insubordinate when he disregards the injunction of Him who is over him in the Lord? As a Churchman, I think he is; and I can have no sympathy with him in his resistance to Episcopal counsel and authority.
Undoubtedly this is a question to be determined, not by one's personal, or sectional, or party sympathies or prejudices, but solely by considerations of principle and of right. My sympathies would naturally go out to a brother Presbyter, who is faulted for practices in which I myself occasionally participate; and in which I see no impropriety; while the reverse would be the case in regard to a Bishop--however high may be my estimate of his abilities and character, and however great my personal regard for him--who is, as it seems to me, narrowing unnecessarily the liberty of action in the Church, and making her platform less broad and comprehensive. But I must not take counsel of my sympathies and predilections. I must ask, what the fundamental principles and law of the Church require at the hands of her sons. Of this, in the present instance, I have no doubt; and hence I cannot assent to the late action of the Church Union.
I was absent from the city for more than three weeks on business of the Board of Missions, and knew nothing of the proceedings of the Council until my return on the 13th inst., when I received a copy of the Resolutions, as prepared by them for presentation to the Union, at the meeting to he held that night, which I was not prepared to attend.
With the request that you will communicate this letter to the Council and to the Union, and request that my dissent may be recorded on the minutes; and with the assurance of my unfeigned respect and regard,
I remain, dear Mr. NASH,
Very faithfully Yours,
BENJ. I. HAIGHT.
S. P. NASH, ESQ.,
President, A. C. U.
NEW YORK, May 24th, 1869.
MY DEAR DR. HAIGHT:
I have lately received yours of the 18th inst.. in reference to the late action of the American Church Union, in the case of the Rev. Mr. Tate. Were the question merely as to the policy of that action, I should not deem it important to defend it. But as you condemn it on higher grounds, I must say a word or two in reply.
I do not interpret the Resolutions of the Union as you do. They do not express sympathy with Mr. Tate in "Setting at naught the judgment of his Bishop." That is a construction which is imputed to them, but which may fairly be denied. What is expressed is simply sympathy for Mr. Tate as a Clergyman presented by the Standing Committee of Ohio "for alleged violation of the laws of the Church in having a surpliced choir and in using processional singing." There is not a word about the charge of disobedience to his Bishop, or of sympathy with the accused in that particular. A Clergyman of the Church engaged exclusively in his practical work, is put on trial merely for a mode of performing the service in his own Church, no member of his parish, so far as appears, making any complaint; and the American Church Union expresses its sympathy and offers aid, not to obstruct the cause of justice, but to secure a full and fair defence in the proper tribunal. This is all there is in the Resolution. It is all, I think, that any one has a right to imply from them, because it was by such a view of them that their advocates carried them against the able argument of Judge Bell and Mr. Cambridge Livingston, expressing views similar to your own.
The Resolutions in no way prejudge the question, or undertake to exculpate Mr. Tate. Doubtless it was felt that he is not so clearly guilty that one may not consistently aid him in his defence. You think him innocent under the First Article of the Presentment. The Bishop did not seem certain on the point. True, in his letter of Feb. 25, he wrote of the practice as one "against which I have repeatedly given you my counsel and judgment as against the law and usage of the Church," but he proceeded to upset this judgment by falling back on the Resolution of Convention, that in "all matters doubtful, reference should be made to the Ordinary," and then invoked the vow of Obedience. I cannot agree with you that all this is matter of minor importance.
In reference to the Article which charges Mr. Tate with a violation of his Ordination vow, he has clearly a right to be heard. To hold that he may possibly be innocent is not "to back him up in a contest with his Spiritual father." The accused appeals to the law, and the Bishop should not there be considered as the contesting party. He should be rejoiced if his Presbyter can establish his innocence, and it would be indecorous for him to press for a conviction. The matter has passed out of his hands into the Courts, where no one is condemned until he is heard.
The Canon subjecting a minister to presentment for "any act which involves a breach of his Ordination vows" is new. Does it not mean that the act must be one which of itself involves such a breach? or does it mean that disobedience to anything which the Bishop may direct or forbid is such a breach, merely because the Bishop makes it so by virtue of having issued his command? In this view, the vow would be one of entire submission, quite as complete as that of the Jesuits.
In December last, some laymen in Ohio wrote to the Bishop: "The Rector of our Church has told those who believe in the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour to bow in the Creed when his name occurs," &c., and asked the Bishop what he should do. The Bishop replied that it was only within a few years that the practice named had been made a matter of so much importance, owing to the growth of a disposition to increase the ceremonial of the Church, that there was no law for it, that he had never done it, and never would, and concluded, "My advice is that in this particular you continue in your accustomed way, the more satisfied therein just because of unauthorized attempts to move you from it." (Episcopalian, December 30, 1868.)
On the positions here assumed the Bishop might forbid this Rector to bow in the Creed, with as much propriety as he prohibited Mr. Tate's surpliced choir. The theory seems to be: There is no law for the practice, therefore it is illegal; but if not it is doubtful and I forbid it.
In the case I put, a tenderer point would be touched than that involved in Surpliced Choirs, and I think your sympathies, my dear Doctor, might get the better of those Church principles, which you now think stand in the way of it.
It is worth considering where the action of the last General Convention has left us, and the question ought not to be a party one. Mr. Tate has a right to have it plainly debated before the Court convened to try him. Any one may without scruple aid him in its elucidation, without being open to the charge of insubordination; and why may not the American Church Union? They propose to do for him what the Rector of the Church of the Ascension did, without impropriety and without blame, for a Clergyman under presentment in Rhode Island, and what any one may do for a person accused in the civil courts. I do not think any aid Mr. Tate may get will do more than give him an even chance in Ohio, do more than balance the scales of justice.
If the Episcopal Prerogative, as asserted by the Bishop of Ohio, be sustained, he will aid some of his brethren in the Episcopate, and perhaps limit the sphere of action of some "Evangelical" agencies which do not much regard Diocesan rights. I do not, therefore, though sympathizing with Mr. Tate, feel very anxious about the result.
I submit these views with hesitation but hope they may tend to restore your confidence in the American Church Union.
I am, my dear Doctor, with great respect and esteem,
S. P. NASH.
REV. B. I. HAIGHT, D. D.
No. 56 WEST 26TH STEEET, N. Y. May 29th, 1869.
DEAR MR. NASH:
Allow me to say a very few words in reply to your letter of the 18th inst.
I never doubted that my Colleagues in the Council of the American Church Union, from whose action I dissent, had grounds for that action which, to their minds, reconciled it with sound Church principles. I have too high an appreciation of their intelligence, their honor and their loyalty to the Church, to permit a doubt of this kind to arise in my mind. And you state very clearly one such ground.
But that ground, to my apprehension, is formal and technical, and not satisfactory. It makes a nice distinction, which I think cannot be admitted. It separates the Presbyter maintaining that certain practices of his are legal, from the Presbyter refusing to discontinue those practices upon the admonition of his Bishop. It proposes to sympathize with him in the former relation, and ignores him in the latter. It sustains him in his opinion on a point of Church Law, while it is silent on a point--vastly more important--of Church discipline and order; a point which reaches down to the very foundations of our ecclesiastical system. Now I submit that this cannot properly be done. We must look at this case--(Churchmen all over the land will so look at it)--as one and indivisible:--we cannot rightly look at it in any other light. Whether the Rector of St. Paul's, Columbus, is acquitted or condemned on the point of the legality of his practices, he will be on trial at the same time for refusing to submit to the judgment of his Bishop; on which count the question of the legality or illegality of his practices can have no force. Granting their legality, they are nevertheless not enjoined upon him by any law of the Church, nor commended to him by any general usage. They touch no point of Christian doctrine; and they are confessedly in their nature unessential and unimportant. And, therefore, the fact of his refusal to submit to the judgment of his Bishop is in itself his condemnation. He is condemned already by the great mass of churchmen who know the case, as he will be condemned by the court, and as he would be condemned necessarily by any church court in this land, or elsewhere within the bounds of our Communion.
Of course there are limits to the prerogative of the Bishops in such matters; and Presbyters have their rights and privileges; for we are not living under a despotic or autocratic form of Church government.
But there is no occasion to discuss this point in this connexion. If in a case like this, a Bishop has not the right to speak authoritatively and enforce that right, he never can have it; and he becomes a mere official to discharge certain duties; a figurehead to the ship; a titled gentleman to whom we may take off our hat if we please; a sham. And then what becomes of the ancient Scriptural Episcopacy, the overseership, the government of the Church of God, the Fatherhood? and what becomes of our "Order of Ordaining and Consecrating a Bishop" with its words of awful and touching solemnity?
I almost tremble, my dear friend, as I write these words, so fearful are the consequences if we thus strip our Bishops of the small remnant of their original authority which is left them.
I will only add that to my mind there is a wide difference in the coming forward of the American Church Union as an adviser and counsel in a case like this before us? and that of an individual so doing. The Union is a Society formed for certain general purposes; and in a specific case of a nature so problematical and delicate as this, (to say the least of it,) it surely ought not to compromise by the action of a majority, at a small meeting, the great body of its members, and commit the Union to a course so novel and open to objection.
I remain, dear Mr. Nash,
Very faithfully yours,
BENJ. I. HAIGHT.
S. P. NASH, ESQ.,
President A. C. U.
NEW YORK, June 17th, 1369.
MY DEAR DR. HAIGHT:
An absence from home of nearly three weeks had diverted my thought entirely from the case of the Rev. Mr. Tate and the action of the American Church Union, when on my return I find yours of the 29th of May.
In this last letter it seems to me that, swerving from your attack on the American Church Union, you undertake to pass upon and prejudge the guilt or innocence of Mr. Tate. You pronounce that "He is condemned already by the great mass of churchmen who know the case." I have nothing to do with this question. My only excuse for writing at all was that you addressed me as President of the American Church Union, and I confined myself simply to an attempt to protect the action of that body from the misconstruction which has been forced upon it. Surely in condemning Mr. Tate, before the court to try him is organized, you go farther than the American Church Union went, which did not pronounce him innocent, but simply expressed sympathy with him, and offered him aid in a legitimate defence,
Yet, in pronouncing sentence upon Mr. Tate you concede him innocent under the first charge of the Presentment, that of violating the law. But you find him guilty of violating his ordination vow, because he did not submit to the judgment of his Bishop. And yet that judgment was a judgment that Mr. Tate was violating the law, all the time that you agree that he was not violating it.
It is the Bishop of Ohio, and not the Church Union that has placed the case in the confused condition that it is. I agree with you in upholding the Episcopal prerogative, which you describe so eloquently. But this prerogative, it seems to me, is paternal; a "Fatherhood," as you call it, not judicial. In the exercise of it, the Bishop does not declare the law, but simply announces his wishes in matters outside of the law, expecting his presbyters to yield a ready acquiescence. But if the Bishop says to a presbyter, such is the law, I require you to submit to my interpretation of it, under the penalty of a breach of your ordination vows, it seems to me the Presbyter may say, without being insubordinate, I cannot agree to your interpretation, and am willing to hazard the result of an appeal to the tribunals which the church provides.
You, my dear Doctor, as well as others, not to mention the newspapers, are pronouncing upon these questions, while the judicial proceedings are still pending. The American Church Union did not do this, but simply said: let us aid in having the question intelligently passed upon in the court to which the Bishop of Ohio has remitted them.
I am willing to let all good churchmen decide which is the more conservative, law-abiding position.
I am, my dear Doctor,
S. P. NASH.
GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY,
June 1st, 1869.
MY DEAR DR. HAIGHT:
Thank you very cordially for your printed letter of dissent from the action of the A. C. U., in the case of the Rev. Mr. Tate, and for sending me a copy of it.
Out of sympathy with the Society in its proposed objects, I have wished to think well of its organization. And yet an association of presbyters and laymen without a bishop is not apt to inspire a churchman with confidence. It is, after all, a sort of Presbyterian Assembly. Its managers, by means of branch societies, may exert an almost ubiquitous influence; and the bishops, as they are not officially represented in it, may from time to time find it a thorn in their sides. Indeed, had a few active spirits, conceiting themselves to be in advance of the rest of creation, sought to contrive a scheme by which they might coerce the bishops into following their lead, they would have hit upon an association of this sort, hoping to shape its course; and with "words softer than butter, having war in their hearts," would have commended it to the kind regards of their Rt. Rev. Fathers. But, as I said, I have wished to think that the Society is founded on sound principles, and I am still desirous to believe that the action from which you dissent, is not a fair exposition of the animus of the Society, nor consequent on a defect in its constitution.
My concern, however, is not with the action of the Society, but with your dissent from it.
I agree with you in your approbation of the practices--in themselves considered--which have given occasion to the trial in Ohio. That is to say, I think that a choir of boys, suitably trained, is productive of less evil, and is better adapted to the ends of church music, than what is called a "Quartette Choir." And if we have a choir of men and boys, it seems only decent that they should be arrayed in uniform attire; and I know nothing of this sort less objectionable than a plain white habit: a vestment of a different kind, and colored, whether scarlet or black, would be open to other and graver objections. Nor do I see more harm in processional singing than in stationary singing, e.g., of a hymn or metrical psalm before service; nor in processional singing than in processional reading; which latter is prescribed by rubric, and is practised, I presume, by the Bishop and Clergy of Ohio on every occasion of the consecration of a church or chapel; not to speak of the verses in the Burial Service, which the minister "shall say or sing" in procession. On the whole, then, I cannot but think that these practices, where they involve no breach of charity nor violation of order, are innocent and becoming accessories of Divine worship.
But these practices, as you very justly remark, are neither enjoined by any law of the church, nor sustained by general usage. It is true they are not forbidden by rubric or canon; and as they are neither enjoined nor forbidden, they are, to speak technically, things indifferent, that is, which one is at liberty to do or leave undone, without blame. The things which are absolutely necessary to public worship by the Divine law are very few; all else, whether actions or words, are added to make the service of God more solemn and edifying. If every presbyter were left to his own discretion to devise such prayers or ceremonies as he thought most fitting, there would be infinite diversity. The authority of the church, therefore, is of necessity interposed in order to preserve uniformity (as far as desirable), and to avoid confusion. In this way, things in their own nature indifferent, when prescribed by the authority of the church, become obligatory; and the liberty of bishop and presbyter is limited by the law of the church. On this principle, I suppose, our services have been regulated. The church has given her reasons (see Preface to the English Prayer Book), both for what she has enjoined on us and what she has forborne to enjoin; and if we of the clergy affected no changes until we had shown these reasons to be either groundless or inapplicable to our present condition, our chaste and impressive ritual would continue to be a faithful witness of the truth to all generations. Now and then, perchance there might be some youthful Phaeton, rerum novitate pavens, whose hands would itch to seize the reins of the chariot, but most of us having imbibed the wisdom of our fathers, would be content to walk in their path; thankful to preserve their use, and not officious to mend it.
Now as the practices to which you refer are neither enjoined nor forbidden, but are in themselves indifferent, the question is, whether there is any authority in the church, besides that of the highest council, which is competent to regulate them, or whether every presbyter is at liberty to introduce them at his own discretion? The answer to this question is found, if anywhere, in the following extract from the office for the Ordination of Presbyters, which shows, I think, that while bishop and presbyter are alike subject to that authority which is legislative and supreme, we presbyters are moreover subject to an authority which is discretionary and paternal, and which ought, in its proper sphere, to be final:
BISHOP.--Will you reverently obey your Bishop and other chief ministers who, according to the canons of the church, may have the charge and government over you; following with a glad mind and will their godly admonitions, and submitting yourselves to their godly judgments?
ANSWER.--I will do so, the Lord being my helper.
This vow, or solemn declaration before God and His people, obliges the Presbyter to conform to the judgment of his Bishop in all questions of doubt and uncertainty as to the conduct of public worship. Such, I think, is the opinion of our ablest casuists and liturgical expositors. If a Presbyter has the express or tacit permission of his Bishop, in matters which are extra rubrical or not sanctioned by general usage, I know not who has the right to object; but if his Bishop interdicts them, the Presbyter has nothing to stand on but his own self-will. It were unjust to the advocates of the practices to which you refer, to say that they regard them merely as matters of taste; undoubtedly they rest them upon higher grounds, and seek to defend them by reference to unbroken usage from the time of the Reformation. I am not disposed to contest the point; I only say, that the precedents of cathedral churches and university chapels in England create no obligation to introduce these practices in parish churches in the United States; while the prohibition of the Bishop of the Diocese to which said parishes belong, does create an obligation to abstain from them.
Of course the Bishop, in virtue of his executive authority, has the right (and indeed is in duty bound) to hold his Presbyters to the rubrics and canons of the church; but our ordination vows, if I mistake not, oblige us moreover to defer to his authority as the Father, or the spiritual Pastor of his flock; and when in this capacity, under the highest responsibility which man can assume, he inhibits his Presbyters from practices which are enjoined by no law nor any thing equivalent to law, and which, in his deliberate judgment, are repugnant to the genius and intention of the church, it would really seem that the wisdom which is from above would counsel the Presbyter to submit; and that only that wisdom which "descendeth not from above," and is "not afraid to speak evil of dignities," could bring against the Bishop so acting, the charge of usurpation and tyranny.
This is the principle on which the Episcopal authority of this Diocese, from times beyond as well as within our memory, was administered in opposition to "Prayer Meetings" and "Revival measures," while these things were in fashion. To such of the clergy as favored these ways, the Bishop was accustomed to say: You think that these measures are promotive of piety in a certain sense you are right, but in my judgment they serve to "excite a passionate and transitory at the expense of an enlightened and substantial devotion" and the clergy were constantly exhorted, in such cases, not to follow their own notions of fitness, but to be governed by the godly judgment of their Bishop. It is on this principle that you have always consistently stood, and on which I, also, after some vacillation in early life, was led firmly to repose. And now that we have both of us, for more than thirty years, steadily maintained this ground, we can hardly be expected to discard it and toss it to the winds, because, in the vicissitudes of events and the shifting phases of religious opinion, or rather of humours and fancies in religious matters, it chances at present to favour a Low-church Bishop.
The same principle has been remarkably illustrated in the case of what used to be called "The Amalgamation Societies;" i.e., societies composed of the members of all Christian denominations, united for the dissemination of the Scriptures or some other object of common interest. At the institution of the first of these societies, the American Bible Society, in (I think) 1816, Bishop Hobart, in a letter addressed to the editor of the "Evening Post," warned his Diocese against participation in the operations of this society, briefly assigning his reasons. A large majority of the clergy and laity of the Diocese approved his course and followed his advice. Among the laymen of this city who adhered to the Bishop were several eminent men and the motives from which they acted may be inferred from the remark of one of them--the late David B. Ogden, who, as he told me himself, said to Bishop Hobart: "Sir, this is a grave matter. I frankly confess to you that my first impressions are in favour of this society, as presenting a common ground on which all Christians may meet without sacrifice of principle. But the question is new, and as we have neither law nor custom to guide us in reference to it, I consider you, the Bishop of the Diocese, to be the proper person to decide it; and I for one am prepared to accept your decision." Such men never for a moment dreamed that they were yielding to their Bishop "unlimited" obedience.
This retrospect of the past naturally recalls another illustration; and so leads me to add that the ground now taken by Bishop McIlvaine is precisely that which was taken by Bishop Hobart in reference to a "clerical association "which had once a brief notoriety. The association was formed--so far as I know honestly--for mutual conference and improvement in theological studies. Among its members were the late Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Wainright, and my revered predecessor in the chair I now so unworthily occupy. Bishop Hobart feared that the association would become an engine of party. Its members unanimously disclaimed all party schemes and purposes. Bishop H. replied in effect: I believe, brethren, that you are honest in your disclaimers, but this much is certain; you are under no obligation to belong to this association; and however harmless you may think it, I regard it as likely to become a provocative of party strife and dissension, and I hold that you, as my Presbyters, are bound by your ordination vows to follow my "godly judgment." To the course thus marked out for them by their Bishop the clergymen composing the association, some willingly and others unwillingly, acceded. Bishop McIlvaine and I were members of this association; and I rejoice to find that we now both agree in upholding a sound church principle, the application of which in our own case we did not then acknowledge, nor quite approve.
But why advert to recent cases, while the history of the Church from the Reformation to the present time shows that it is on this principle that her Bishops have rested and justified their efforts to repress and control the vagaries of Puritanism? And if now a Bishop who may look leniently on Puritanical "tendencies," plants himself on the same principle in order to reduce within the orbit of the Church's System what he regards as the exorbitancies of Ritualism, what right have we to complain or to censure him? If the Church has provided the fulcrum, why may not one Bishop rest his lever upon it as well as another? In construction of law, symbols not authorized by rubric or canon or immemorial usage, are much on a level with extempore prayer in Divine service. The Church wisely allows a liberty in either direction, in order to keep us all in the bond of a willing and intelligent unity; but to restrain this liberty from breeding dissension and faction in a Diocese, she interposes the discretionary authority of the Bishop; and hence the Bishop, who best knows the temper and tastes, the wants and capacities of his people, becomes the judge as to what practices, (if any) beyond those required by written law and established usage, are best fitted to promote their edification. This I believe to be both the rule of the Church, and the surest means to preserve the peace and harmony of a Diocese.
However much, then, I may regret the inconvenience to Mr. Tate, I cannot but think that the ruling of Bishop McIlvaine will be productive of no little good. The practices, viz.: surpliced choirs and processional singing, are comparatively unimportant; the principle involved, viz.: the right of the Bishop to direct his Presbyters in indifferent matters, is of very great importance. Hitherto this principle has been asserted for the most part in order to repress the excesses of the Puritans; and as, speaking historically, every restraint on the self-will of the Puritans has been resented as a violation of true piety, and an invasion of the sacred rights of liberty and conscience, it has come to pass that even the legitimate exercise of Episcopal authority is apt now to be regarded as tyranny. But when these over-sensitive brethren see the principle under consideration asserted by a Bishop in whose piety they confide, and directed against practices of which they are by no means enamoured, they will, it may be hoped, consider the subject either without prejudice or with prejudices of an opposite kind; and then possibly they will begin to think that the concession to the Bishops of the right to regulate the conduct of their Presbyters in non-essentials is so far from being a germ of spiritual despotism that it is really a wise distribution of responsibility; such a definition of the powers and functions of the several members of the body as is necessary to the preservation of harmony and order: the like of which is accepted, both as a necessity and a benefit, in every profession and department of secular life; and the instinct of which the Almighty has implanted even in the brute creation. And if Bishop McIlvaine's course in this matter is assailed, one may venture to predict that the defence of the able and eloquent prelate will go far to convince a large portion of the Church on whom the labours of other Bishops have been exhausted in vain, that the principle which he now asserts is no dry rule of order merely, but is, and was meant by our Divine Master to be, a bond of charity, compacting the Clergy and parishes of the Diocese as lively stones in a spiritual house, and enabling them by its informing power, to grow up in mystical union with CHRIST their Head.
It may be objected that on this principle some Bishops would rule one way and some another. True; but what then? So long as the Liturgy, and consequently the essentials of the Faith are preserved in all the Dioceses, I do not see that harm will arise from their variation in lesser matters. Dioceses may have now as they had of old, their different uses and customs in non-essentials, and yet all consent in one communion and fellowship. In proportion as responsibility is concentrated in the Bishops, the circle of acrimonious differences will be narrowed, and the differences themselves will come before the public in a more definite shape. The real evil is when any one Diocese is torn by contending factions, as every Diocese is liable to be unless its Bishop be allowed to regulate matters which are not ruled by the written law or custom of the Church. To deny this principle is, as it seems to me, to abolish CHRIST'S Episcopacy and to set up an episcopacy of nature in its stead; to give us as many Bishops in a Diocese as there are parties; to exhibit to the world, it may be, four able Presbyters seeking for the pre-eminence in a Diocese instead of one Bishop governing it in the name of CHRIST. In effect it is to invite and encourage the very evils from which the Episcopacy was appointed to preserve us.
The practices which Bishop McIlvaine condemns are in my judgment harmless, because their significance, so far as they have any, harmonizes with the doctrine of the Church. Nor am I averse to other practices which are intended (subject to the ruling of the Diocesan) to be ornaments of Divine Service and incentives to devotion agreeably to the Church's doctrine. But it is quite conceivable that practices may be introduced which symbolize doctrines that the Church has condemned. For example; the Body and Blood of Christ, (distinguished in the Catechism from "the benefits received thereby") are present in the Holy Eucharist, "insomuch that to such as rightly, worthily, and with faith, receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ and likewise the cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ." So says our XXVIIIth Article, clearly in the sense and in almost the very words of 1 Cor. X., 16. Some of our divines call this Presence "Real" in order to distinguish it from what is imaginary or symbolical; others refuse to call it so because the word real is apt to be taken in the sense of carnal and is moreover (probably for this reason) not in the authorized formularies of the Church; but all, so far as I know, consent to the doctrine. The Church also declares that "Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the supper of the Lord cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. "Now suppose that in any diocese one or more presbyters should, in the celebration of the Holy Communion, introduce practices, which declare as plainly as words, not that the faithful are by partaking of the Bread made partakers of the Body of Christ; but that the bread and wine are by the words of consecration changed (not conditionally and for the purposes of the institution, but absolutely) into Christ himself; and that whole Christ Body, Soul, and Divinity, remains either under the appearance of bread, or in indissoluble union with its substance, as long as the bread or its accidents continue to exist. Who sees not that such practices would make the Church's Ritual symbolize a doctrine which she has plainly abjured? And how is the Bishop of a Diocese in which such practices are introduced to arrest them, unless it be on the very principle now asserted by Bishop McIlvaine? True, no sober mind would be led by the study of the Institution and history of the Holy Eucharist to introduce practices of this sort; but it is perhaps equally true that a few learned men, out of a passionate desire for Church Union, may devise and lead their unsuspecting followers to adopt such clumsy approaches to the modern usages of the Greek or Roman Church as no sober mind could approve.
I much regret that the case in Ohio could not have been settled without resort to a trial. It is one and in my opinion (I am sorry to add) not the least objection to ecclesiastical courts, as now constituted among us, that they furnish infinite occasion of scandal. A court without coercive jurisdiction (to which a kingdom not of this world can lay no claim) and without judges trained to their work, furnishes but an inadequate security for the attainment of the ends of justice. Such tribunals enlarge the sphere of the Bishop's executive power only to depress and abridge that paternal authority, which when exercised with firmness and discretion, tempered by the spirit of meekness and love, is the noblest feature of the Pastoral Office. Possible indeed it is that this authority may be abused; and should it ever become necessary to guard against such abuse, the Church, it may be hoped, will give the presbyter a right of appeal from the adverse decision of his Bishop. But there is no need at present to moot this question; for in regard to practices like those now under consideration, the surrender of which involves no sacrifice of principle, there can scarcely be a doubt that the presbyter, who cheerfully yields to his Bishop, will be sustained in so doing (and what higher reward can he ask in this world?) by the good sense and calm piety of the Church.
I am, dear Dr. Haight,
With much regard,
Your friend and brother,
REV. B. I. HAIGHT, D. D.
THE following letter from a distinguished Jurist--a member of the Committee on Canons of the late General Convention--is given to the Church with the writer's permission.
B. I. H.
21 MARLBORO ST., Boston, June 3d, 1860.
DEAR DOCTOR HAIGHT:
I have read with entire approval your letter to Mr. Nash, a copy of which you were kind enough to send me. I thank you for this just protest against an act which seems to me irreconcilable with the government of the Church--indeed, so far as I can see, with any government at all. You or I might think that the particular ceremonies in question might best be practiced or omitted as should most tend to the edification of the congregation; and we might properly have our own opinions as to that effect. But how we can set up our opinions on this question, as a rule of action in the conduct of public worship, against the direction of that authority which, by the organization of our Church, is charged with the responsibility and duty of governing it, I do not perceive.
With great respect,
Your obedient servant,
B. R CURTIS.
REV. DR. HAIGHT, NEW YORK.