A Letter to the Bishop of Massachusetts,
Occasioned by his late letter to the clergy.
By William Croswell, Rector of the Church of the Advent.
Together with the Resolutions of the Wardens and Vestry.
Boston: Printed by Tuttle and Dennett.
To the Right ReverendMANTON EASTBURN, D.D.,
Bishop of the Diocese of Massachusetts.
REVEREND FATHER IN GOD:I received through the Post Office, this afternoon, a copy of the "Christian Witness," of Dec. 5, containing the following circular:
TO THE CLERGY OF THE DIOCESE OF MASSACHUSETTS.
REVEREND AND DEAR BRETHREN:
A deep sense of the responsibility attached to my office, as the chief Pastor of this portion of our common fold, has constrained me to address you on a subject, in regard to which I would fain, if duty would have permitted, have remained silent.
It is already known to you, that, towards the close of the last year, a parish was incorporated in the north-western part of this city, under the name of the Church of the Advent. Its commencement afforded me sincere pleasure; and having been begun with the avowed intention, on the part of the respectable persons engaged in it, of establishing a church with free sittings, I commended it to the liberal aid of the Episcopalians of Boston. On the evening of Sunday, the 23d of last month, according to previous appointment, I visited the temporary place of worship of this parish, for the purpose of administering the apostolic rite of Confirmation; and there observed, to my inexpressible grief and pain, various offensive innovations upon the ancient usage of our Church. In the form of the Communion Table; in the decorations of golden candlesticks, and of a large wooden cross, by which it is surmounted; and in the postures used in front of it by the Assistant Minister, who, as I learned from the Rector, was only conforming to the constant practice of the latter on all occasions except the service of that evening,I perceived with sorrow superstitious puerilities of the same description with those, which already, in the case of another parish church of this Diocese, had called forth a public expression of disapprobation, first from my revered predecessor, now resting from his labors, and subsequently from myself, in the Address to the Convention of 1844.
I feel, my reverend brethren, that I should be guilty of a dereliction of plain duty, were I not to express, in this public manner, my utter and unqualified condemnation of these practices, carried on in the principal city of the Diocese, and under my own immediate eye. Were these novelties nothing more than childish, they would be on that account sufficiently objectionable to call forth my censure; for it certainly must be a fit subject of rebuke, that there should be found a disposition among any of the Clergy to abandon, in their mode of conducting divine service, that masculine simplicity and dignity, by which our beloved and venerable Church, both here and in England, has been so long and so justly distinguished. But chiefly do I condemn these innovations upon established custom, because of their pointed and offensive resemblance to the usages of that idolatrous Papal communion, against which our Prayer Book so strongly protests; and because, where a Communion Table is fitted up like a Romish altar, and certain postures are used by the Clergy indicative of reverence toward that altar, the certain effect of such a spectacle is, to produce gradually among the congregation those very corruptions in regard to the sacrament of the Lords Supper, from which, by the good providence of God, we have been so graciously delivered. Those who are familiarized, by the officiating minister, with the forms of error, will fall, by an imperceptible but sure process, into error itself; and thus our people will be led, by the very services in which they engage while actually within the bosom of our own Protestant church, into doctrinal departures of the most grievous and vital character. And, in addition to these considerations, I will not dissemble the pain which such practices give me on another accountnamely, the ridicule and contempt to which they expose the Church of our affections, from all sensible and enlightened persons of other Christian bodies.
In view of the dangers above stated, and considering this subject as far from being a mere matter of taste and fancy, about which men may safely differ, I have already privately remonstrated against the novelties adopted in the Church of the Advent, and have expressed my views, as opportunity offered, to various individuals. But, knowing that the mode of signifying disapprobation must, of necessity, be limited in the extent to which it reaches, and fearing lest my supposed silence should, in any part of this Diocese, be construed into acquiescence in things which I condemn, and which I regard as pregnant with evil, I embrace the present method of letting my sentiments be more widely known.
It is a pleasure to me to feel well assured, that with the usages referred to, and with the unsound and unchurch-like theology to which they belong, a great majority of the clergy over whom God has given me the oversight, have no sympathy. But others are constantly entering our ranks; and may need, especially the younger of them, to be warned against the imitation of such examples. Whether the course adopted in the parish referred to, will be continued or not, it is beyond my ability to conjecture: but, however this may be, I shall have the satisfaction of feeling that I am clear of the responsibility of being a silent spectator of irregularities, degrading to the character of our Church, and perilous to the souls of our people.
That your hearts desire, my reverend brethren, in your high and holy calling, may be to set forth the unsearchable riches of Christ to a world lying in sin and death, is the prayer of
Your affectionate Diocesan,
Boston, Dec. 2, 1845.
I am fain to believe that may of my clerical brethren, in that mystical Body, whose members suffer one with another, will feel hardly less deeply hurt and aggrieved than myself, both by the manner and matter of the foregoing official communication. As one who truly loves the brotherhood with whom he has been so long and so intimately identified, and who has ever desired to carry himself dutifully towards his Bishop, according to the vows of his ordination, I cannot affect to conceal the distress which it has given me; nor will you wonder that I should be most anxious to rescue myself, before the Church, from the fearful charge of having introduced among the "flock of God of which the Holy Ghost hath made me overseer," "irregularities, degrading to the character of the Church, and perilous to the souls of our people." On such a charge, the Canons require that every Clergyman should be presented, tried, and convicted, before the Bishop is authorized to pronounce sentence. As I have been condemned, in this case, without the formalities of a hearing, I see not what is left me, but to present, with a brief statement of the case, my earnest but humble Protest, against a proceeding so severe, and, as I am inclined to believe, in our branch of the Church, so entirely unprecedented.
I send you, also, at the request of the Wardens and Vestry, a copy oft a series of Resolutions, unanimously adopted by them, at a meeting held on the evening of the fifth instant, in which your Letter receives a careful and respectful consideration.
Having passed the first eleven years of my ministry in this city, as Rector of one of the oldest Churches, I need not speak for myself of my manner of life during that period. I left, in 1840, to take charge of a parish in the Diocese of Western New York, not only without censure or reproach, but with a voluntary testimonial of affection and confidence, signed by the Bishop and every one of our Clergy, resident at that time in Boston, Newton, and Lowell. In transferring my canonical relations, your truly "revered predecessor, now resting from his labors," wrote to Bishop De Lancey the following dimissory letter, a copy of which I have happily preserved:
"DEAR SIR,The object of this, is to transfer, from the State of Massachusetts to your Diocese, the Rev. William Croswell. Merely to say, that, for three years last past, he has not been justly liable to evil report, for error in doctrine, or viciousness of life, though eminently true, seems, in his case, very unnecessary. He will leave behind him not Clergyman, more highly, more justly, or more generally esteemed, for those qualities which constitute and adorn the gentleman, the scholar, and the faithful minister of Christ. While, with many hundreds of others, I deeply regret his loss to this Diocese, I may well congratulate you on such an accession to yours. That, in his new situation, he may find friends as numerous and as cordial as those he leaves, is the prayer of
Your friend and brother,
A. V. GRISWOLD."
The prayer of the aged and beloved Bishop was answered, in my new residence, beyond my expectations and deserts. Of this, however, it is foreign to my present purpose to say more. I would gladly have said less. But, though unconscious of the slightest change in the principles and views with which I entered the ministry, or of deserving, in any respect, to forfeit the confidence of those who are set over us in the Lord, yet a glance at the heinous imputations against me, in you Circular, painfully convinces me, that a testimonial, from such a quarter, of my "freedom from any just liability to evil report," however "eminently true," may not seem so "very unnecessary."
Suffice it to say, that I joyfully embraced an opportunity which offered, just a twelvemonth since, to return to this city of my affections; and accepted, with your sanction and approbation, Reverend Father in God, the Rectorship of the newly-organized Church of the Advent. I found a band of zealous and intelligent Laity, ready and willing to cooperate with me. We commenced, under every disadvantage, in an humble and obscure "upper room." It was my "hearts desire," in accordance with the closing aspiration in your Circular, "in my high and holy calling to set forth the unsearchable riches of Christ to a world lying in sin and death." Next to this, in building up a new parish from the beginning, it was our unanimous wish to carry out, as strictly as possible, the intentions of the Church, as they are expressed in the Prayer Book. With these two objects steadily in view, I have been willing to labor in season and out of season, and from house to house. As in the primitive days of the Gospel, by the Divine blessing, the Word of God has grown mightily and prevailed. We removed to our present Chapel, which, though very convenient, is not large enough for the accommodation of our people. The Lord is still pleased to add daily to the Church, such as, we trust, shall be saved. The number of communicants has increased to more than a hundred; thirty persons have been baptized, of whom nine have been adults; and several others are preparing themselves for the same "washing of regeneration."
I ascribe, Reverend Father in God, the blessing which has thus far crowned our efforts, chiefly to the simple and constant exhibition of our Church, as a Church "instant in prayer," and by seeking to stir up all that is within us to make the most of our privileges, and thus exhibit the service, not as a mere formality, but a free-will offering of the heart and understanding. To inspire the feeling of earnestness and reverence in others, we have sought to be earnest and reverent ourselves. We have knelt devoutly before and with our people, "towards Gods most holy place," as our new version of the Psalms expresses it, that they also might learn to kneel after our example. The effect has been all that we hoped for. The flame has spread from heart to heart. The cold silence and wandering looks, the carelessness and apathy, which are subjects of complaint in so many places of worship, have disappeared before it. Many, who have come without religious sympathy, we have reason to know have been joined together with us in a new bond of Christian union. I venture to say, that the expression of "ridicule and contempt," to which you allude, has not been known among us; though doubtless some who "came to scoff, have remained to pray."
The establishment of the daily service has, according to our fond anticipations, eminently contributed to the same happy result. It was commenced on the first of September last, and has been since continued, without intermission. To meet the demands of this service, in addition to our many other duties, I secured the assistance of a brother beloved, a native of this city, not without your being apprized that it was in contemplation, whom I had known and esteemed from the first beginnings of his ministry at Lynn, for his self-sacrificing fidelity, and his patient endurance of hardness as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. While I heartily respond to the terms in which he is noticed in the Resolutions of the Vestry, it is proper for me to add, that whatever censures you have thought fit, thus publicly, to cast upon the arrangements or mode of worship in our Chapel, no part of them should fall upon him. The responsibility rests with myself and the Vestry. He has simply conformed to our usages and my wishes, and has neither suggested nor practised any variations therefrom.
I need not say, Reverend Father in God, that your visitation to our Parish had been looked for with much interest. The crowd of worshippers, on that occasion; the simple but inspiring music; "the hearty and athletic responses, the sympathy of sacred sounds, the collective strength of prayer;" the devout and reverential demeanor of the congregation; the number and respectability of the candidates for Confirmation, (all persons of mature years;) and your own unusually glowing and fervid address;made us feel that it was, indeed, good to be there; and we could not but regard these as grateful evidences that God was with us of a truth, and had signally blessed our efforts to revive the tone of public worship from the cold and lifeless state, the want of vitality and engagedness, into which it has so confessedly fallen among us. I need not say, that I was greatly disappointed, to find that your feelings, at that moment, were so entirely different from mine.
In the hasty and impulsive, not to say excited, remarks, which fell from you, while my mind was yet filled with the impressive and solemn services in which we had just united,and even before you left the chancel,I did not recognise any thing like a formal or deliberate, much less authoritative, judgement, in the matters to which you alluded. The style of rebuke addressed to my Assistant, was such as I never had the pain to hear from any Bishop before. It was administered, not on account of his kneeling in front of the Holy Table, as one might be led to suppose from your Letter, which he did not do, (although it is every where done without blame, whenever three clergymen are in the chancel,) but on account of his not turning his back upon it, and facing his chair,a position which, as I had at the time no knowledge of your preferences, would have made him liable to reproof from me. You afforded the Wardens and Vestry, on that occasion, no opportunity to confer with you, although they waited long at the entrance of the Church to do so; nor has any communication, whether official or otherwise, since been made to us, collectively or individually. I could not but expect, that if, upon reflection, in that very brief interval which occurred between your visitation and the publication of your Letter, you should conclude these matters to be of sufficient gravity for Episcopal correction, you would, at least by official communication of something like a private character with the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry, have designated the new mode of worship which you wished to have introduced into our Chapel. As you state, that, during that time, you "expressed your views as opportunity offered to various individuals" other than ourselves; so might you have had opportunity of ascertaining, at least whether the result of such a communication with us would or would not have prevented any supposed necessity of "utterly and unqualifiedly condemning" a Clergyman and his Vestry in this public manner. It might, at least, have left you without occasion for the somewhat remarkable admission, in regard to a parish "under your own immediate eye," that "whether the course adopted there will be continued or not, it is beyond my ability to conjecture." If, however, in the exercise of your discretion, it seemed more proper, before thus communicating with the parties most interested, as a Spiritual Father with his children in the faith, to call the attention of all my clerical brethren to my alleged delinquencies, I cannot but regret, that you should have preferred, to all other obvious modes of doing so, that of publication in the columns of a newspaper; thus seeming to expose our common Mother, the Church, to the gainsaying of the world.
Since the publication of your Letter, I have carefully examined it, again and again, to ascertain precisely the grounds on which your charges and condemnation are founded; and can discover nothing but what relates to the arrangement of the chancel, and the posture of the officiating ministers in prayer. These topics,the Chancel, Holy Table, Candlesticks, Cross, and Attitude, are so satisfactorily treated, in the accompanying Resolutions, that further comment might seem to be unnecessary. It may be expected, however, that I should give my own opinions, without reserve, on all these subjects, in their order.
In the arrangements of our Chancel, with reference to the size of our Chapel, the utmost simplicity, consistent with the decency and dignity of public worship, was intended, and I am not aware that it contains a superfluous article. A Communion Table of the plainest description, and which has nothing to recommend it but its fair proportions, and its decent covering, the gift of an individual; four Candlesticks, on a shelf immediately above the Holy Table, to light the chancel, at evening; two narrow and high-backed chairs, imported at an early day, as I am informed, by our Pilgrim Fathers, for the use of a Puritan parsonage; and a Lectern,as entirely simple and unadorned as a common music-stand,from which the Word of God is read, and also preached to the people. Above the Table, in the window, is the Cross, the symbol, of all others, which we delight to make most conspicuous. These, constitute all the furniture of the Chancel, and I doubt whether there is another in the city which contains less of what can be dispensed with, or that is reasonably or unreasonably offensive.
For the evidence, in detail, that our Communion Table is not fitted up like a Roman Catholic Altar, I refer to the Resolution of the Vestry, on that point. Their views, on this subject, correspond with my own, so far as I can judge by description, not having seen the interior of a Roman Catholic place of worship for many years, and having very indistinct impressions with regard to it. But, though the Holy Table in our churches bears no resemblance to a Roman Catholic Altar, Reverend Father in God, there is no sense, I appeal to you, in which the members of our Church may say, with the blessed Apostle, "we have an Altar," as well as Priest and Sacrifice? On this subject, the views of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Henshaw, Bishop of Rhode Island, are essentially, I presume, your own, as well as mine, and those of most of the Clergy; or, if not, they will not, I am sure, be denounced, as a part of that "unsound and unchurch-like theology" with which the faithful are to have no sympathy. "What," says he, in his Lecture on "the True Construction of the Terms Altar, Priest, and Sacrifice," which has been published in many forms, and with which you are doubtless familiar, "What is an Altar? In its simple idea, it is something upon which, or at which, an offering is sacredly made to God. It is a common mistake, to suppose that an Altar necessarily implies that the offerings presented upon it must be bloody or animal sacrifices. There is nothing, however, in the term itself, or in its use among all nations, to justify this exclusive interpretation. From a very early period of the Christian Church, the HOLY TABLE, where the common praises and prayers were offered up, and where the Lords Supper,the highest act of Christian devotion,was celebrated, was called an Altar. This appellation has been common, in every succeeding age; and we are very familiar with this application of it in our own. Other denominations of Christians, no less than the Church, speak of their Altar, where they celebrate the most affecting services of their religion, and invite persons to approach and surround it, in the expectation that God will meet with and bless them there. This word occurs but once in our Prayer Book,in the Institution Office; but, as there applied, we know that it indicates what is called the Lords Table, and the Holy Table, in other parts of the Book. No one mistakes our meaning, when the word is so used: all know that we mean the place where the sacred mysteries of our religion are celebrated, and our most solemn offerings of devotion presented to God." "We have no wish to mystify what is plain; but, on the contrary, to relieve the minds of humble Christians from perplexity, by explaining language which the Church has seen fit to employ, and teaching them not to be alarmed, when things are called by their right names." If, then, Reverend Father in God, we of this Church have, in this sense, or any sense, an Altar, why should it be a subject of "utter and unqualified condemnation" that it looks so very like an Altar?
In the matter of the "Golden Candlesticks," I will only add, to what has been said in the Resolutions of the Vestry, that, so far from being an offensive innovation upon the ancient usage of our Church, these ornaments are in strict accordance with the existing English Rubric. Dr. Wheatly,whose "Rational Illustration of the Book of Common Prayer" is commended as a text-book, by the House of Bishops, to the "careful study" of every candidate for Holy Orders,states expressly that "two lights were, by the injunctions of King Edward VI., and by the Act of Uniformity, passed after the Reformation, to be set upon the Altar." "And these lights, used time out of mind in the Church, are still continued in most, if nut all, Cathedral and Collegiate Churches and Chapels, so often as Divine service is performed by candle-light, and ought also to be, by this Rubric, used in all Parish Churches and Chapels at the same time." This usage, therefore, is directly inherited by us from our Martyr Reformers. With regard to contemporaneous practice in the Mother Country, it is sufficient to say, that the Bishop of London observes, in a late Charge, "I see no objection to candles on the Communion Table, provided that they are not burning, except when the church is lighted for evening service." If it were worth while, in a matter of so little importance, to look for authority in our own Diocese and city, it might be stated, that in Christ Church,the only one of our older churches that was ever opened for worship at night,previous to the alterations in the year 1830, lights were burning upon the Holy Table, as often as they were needed at the evening service.
With regard to "the CROSS," I cannot bring myself to say one word in answer to your objection. I am happy to confess, that I am "childish and puerile" enough to love and rejoice to have that precious symbol presented to the eye in all holy places;"of all symbols the most speaking, and most touching; proclaiming Christ crucified, the Alpha and Omega of the Church's existence." Neither the size, nor the fact that it is "wooden" as well as "large," can in a way affect the feeling or the principle, though they may help to give it character and significancy. I hand it over to "the sensible and enlightened persons of other Christian bodies," who are referred to in the note, and who do not forget, in the sign, the thing signified.[*] This objection is the more remarkable, because there is not one of our Churches in the city, which is not as open to censure, on similar grounds. To begin with Trinity Church or Cathedral, the chancel of which has been arranged and highly decorated since your incumbency, if not under your supervision. We miss the Cross, indeed, but the Mitre is not excluded. There is the descent of the Mystic Dove, the Tables of the Law which came by Moses, radiant with glory; the Prayer of our Lord, and the Creed of the Holy Catholic Church; to say nothing of the monumental emblems, and the likeness of "the living dead" graved on the tablet erected, under the sanction of the Convention, to the memory of your meek and saintlike predecessor. For the same reason that I rejoice to see these, I should more rejoice to see the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Church has always abounded in imagery, painted and carved, of every description, and in every direction; and there are few among us who have not interesting and affecting associations connected with its beautifully-curtained Altar-piece of the Last Supper, with its golden chalice; the Descent of the Holy Spirit; and the rays over the chancel, in the midst of which is disclosed the Ineffable Name. Over the Holy Table, in St. Pauls, is a painting of the Transfiguration, direct from Rome. At Grace Church, a Cross, in bold relief, on the shaft of the baptismal font, intercepts the eye, between the porch and the Altar. In the chapel of the Church of the Messiah, there is a Cross over the Holy Table. Trinity Hall is arranged much like ours, in what you regard its objectionable features; and at St. Jamess Church, in Roxbury, a Cross is conspicuous among the decorations of the chancel window. In this respect, Reverend Father in God, are not all the members of our Communion, yourself included, yea, and all our Fathers before us, and even the original Continental Protestant Reformers, included in the self-same condemnation? The Lutherans have retained the Cross in their Churches; and if we, who follow their example in this respect, are justly stigmatized as Popish, then, as the learned author of "No Union with Rome" remarks, were Luther and Melancthon themselves eminently Papistical.
The only other subject of censure, to which you have alluded, relates to the position of the clergymen in the devotional parts of the service; by which I understand you to refer to our kneeling with our faces towards the Holy Table. To nothing else can the equivocal expression, the "postures used," which I regret to see in your Letter, be applicable. We use no other "posture" in prayer, than that of kneeling towards the Altar; and this is no other posture than that which every reverential worshipper is taught to assume, in his devotions in the House of God, and which every member of our communion adopts, when he is invited to draw near in faith to the Holy Table, and to make his humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling. Indeed, it is impossible to conceive how any one is to pray at the Holy Table, without turning his face towards it; or why that posture should be stigmatized as "superstitious," when used within the chancel, which is adopted, as a matter of course, by every one without it. I have had experience of its happy effects on my own mind, in aiding reverential feeling, collectedness, and abstraction of thought, and freedom in prayer, as the countenance was relieved from the constraint of a gazing congregation. Indeed, I must confess that I can see no distinction, in principle, between facing the Altar at its corner, as was done by my Assistant, on the evening to which you refer, and facing it at its side, as was done by yourself, on that occasion.
True it is, that we have endeavored to observe the distinction, which was made by the compilers of our Liturgy, between the Daily Morning Prayer and the Ante-Communion Office. This has been done in accordance with the directions of our best Ritualists, with regard to the "Place of Reading Prayers, and the Position of the Minister." "From what has been brought together," says Robertson, in his masterly and dispassionate work, entitled, "How shall we conform to the Liturgy?" "we may conclude, that the Rubric was originally understood to fix the chancel as ordinarily the place in which the service should be read. In some cases, perhaps, it was said at the Holy Table, but it seems to have been more generally said in a lower part of the chancel, where the Priests stall was constructed. The stricter Churchmen turned eastward, [i. e. towards the Altar,] which position, as well as the place of service, the Puritans vehemently objected to." Would it were the Puritans, only, who seem to object to it, now, when those who desire to be accounted among "the stricter Churchmen," turn in the same direction. On this subject, great diversity of opinion and practice has prevailed, and been tolerated in different portions of the Church. One of our Bishops, some years since, complained that the Holy Table was frequently "placed so low as hardly to be seen, unless it is looked for," and recommended the abolition of the reading desk, on the ground of its manifest uselessness, and the gain effected in additional room. Another has expressed a wish to abolish both desk and pulpit, confining the devotional part of the service to the proper place,the Altar; and using the moveable Bible Stand, from which the Lessons are read, for the Sermon, Homily, or Exhortation. This was our preference, in arranging our present place of worship; and the service is thus exhibited, in open view, in all its simplicity, beauty, and integrity, as designed, we think, by the framers of our Ritual, and as the early Christians, without doubt, beheld it, antecedent to the days of Popery.
In adopting these authorized and edifying practices, and those arrangements which ensure the least display, and without which, suitable room for our Chancel could not be obtained, we cannot perceive that we have given any ground for the charge of introducing "irregularities degrading to the character of our Church, and perilous to the souls of our people." We do but stand fast in that liberty wherewith Christ and the Church have made us free. Uniting upon the broad platform of the ancient creeds, and cleaving steadfastly to the established formularies of the Church, and abiding by its prescribed practices, we claim the same latitude, in mere matters of opinion, which we freely accord to others. The peace of the Church is only to be preserved, by such mutual concessions as are required by an observance of the three great rules for maintaining Catholic concord: "In essentials, Unity; in non-essentials, Liberty; in all things, Charity." If the practices, which form the subject of your Letter, fall under the second head, as we have supposed, then the "liberty" has little to recommend it, which can only be exercised under the penalty of official denunciation. If, however,it is not in these, but in "essentials," that, in your judgement, our usages are irregular, degrading, and perilous, then the Canons prescribe the proper and obvious remedy for the offence. While the wise and prudent provisions of the Church, in this respect, are intended to serve as a guide to her Bishops, in "so ministering discipline, that they forget not mercy," they are intended no less as a protection to the inferior Clergy against condemnation without trial and without conviction. Waiving entirely the indignity offered to me, as a man, therefore, I feel that I have just cause to complain, as one of the Presbytery, that the protection, which the Church has thus provided for that body, has been, by this precedent, rendered of none effect. It is hard indeed to conceive how any "irregularity" can possibly be more "degrading to the character of our Church," or more to be deprecated in these days of disquietude, rebuke, and blasphemy, than the virtual "degradation" of the Clergy in the eyes of their people, by methods, alike unknown to the system of the Church, and to the laws of any well-ordered government.
Reverend Father in God, you will perceive the regret expressed in the Resolutions of the Wardens and Vestry of our Parish, that they find themselves forced into a position of defence towards one, with whom they had endeavored to hold different relations. If these are the sentiments of the Laity of my charge, how much more sensibly must I be affected by them! Those who know me will bear me witness,and if I know myself, their witness is true,that I would have endured much evil speaking, rather than be compelled, as I have been, by a public condemnation, to a public defence. But all the relations that I sustain in this life,and I do not deem it too solemn to add, towards the life to come,seemed to call upon me not to be silent under your accusations. You have taken occasion, through the public press, to hold me up as a Presbyter who has been unfaithful to his vows, who has not hesitated to sacrifice, to an inclination towards idolatrous usages and to superstitious puerilities, the character of the Church and the souls of our people. If charges of this description were true, there would be little question whether I were worthy to be a Christian Minister, since I should hardly be a Christian man. This were, indeed, to "be, toward the flock of Christ," not "a Shepherd," but "a wolf."
"This is not a vain thing for me," therefore, Reverend Father in God, "because it is my life." Nurtured, from childhood, in the strictest principles of the Church, by a venerable parent, whose long and consistent ministry has made his "hoary head a crown of glory" in the sight of the whole Church; rooted and grounded in the distinctive principles of the faith, not by "Union Questions" of all denominations, but by such little books as his own "Rudiments of the Church" and "the Young Churchmans Guide;" honored in being a catechumen of Bishop De Lancey, during a portion of his academic life at New Haven; instructed in Theology at the feet of Bishop Brownell, at Trinity College, Hartford; receiving authority, at his hands, to minister in holy things as a Deacon; and admitted, by Bishop Griswold, to the Priesthood, as one of those who had "used the office of a Deacon well, and had purchased to himself a good degree;" I claim, that my training, as a "Hebrew of the Hebrews," ought to be above the shadow of suspicion. Having thus been "taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers," I continue to this day, in the things that I then learned, and have been assured of, knowing of whom I have learned them. I have let my eyelids look right on, and mine eyes look straight before me; turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, and desiring no other or more excellent way, than those good "Old Paths" in which they had hitherto led me, and in which they had found, with myriads of the redeemed before them, true rest unto their souls. From the time that I was appointed "to stand in the House of God and to minister at His holy Altar,"and I am now no novice,each succeeding year has brought the increasing conviction, that "in proportion as we imbibe the spirit of our noble army of Martyrs and Reformers, as exhibited in the Liturgy and Ordinal, the more effectually we shall preach the true Gospel of Christ, and ensure the Divine blessing on our labors." It has been my hearts desire ever to do thus. I have honestly endeavored, according to the grace given unto me, and in the plain unsophisticated sense of my ordination vow, "to give my faithful diligence so to minister the doctrine, and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ; as the Lord hath commanded, and this Church hath received the same."
When it pleased the great Head of the Church, Reverend Father in God, to cast my lot in this new field, where the laborers are not sufficient for the harvest, it pleased Him also to inspire the hearts of the respectable and intelligent Laity of our Parish, with more than common zeal in this holy work. Their names and standing in this community are a guaranty that it was not "a zeal not according to knowledge." They know, and there is One who knows better than any of us, that I have determined, from the first, the Lord being my Helper, to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, and that I have longed to be a means, in His lands, of bringing many of them to glory. They know that I have labored earnestly for the peace and purity of the Church; that I have not only "studied to be quiet," myself, but "to set forth quietness, peace, and love, among all Christian people." They know, that I have thrown myself, to use the words of a dear Christian brother, "fearlessly, trustfully, and dutifully, on the system of the Prayer Book, in its whole form and spirit, keeping back from the people no portion of the heritage to which they are entitled, and giving them the full benefit of all the means which are provided, to enable them to grow in grace, and lo make their calling and election sure." They know, as those only who have tried it, can know, that "the more faithfully they discharge the duties which the Church enjoins, and the more minutely they comply with her various requirements, the more rapidly they grow in admiration of her practical system, and perceive her wonderful capacity to satisfy all the yearnings of the human heart." They know, also, that these well-meant efforts have been appreciated, far beyond our most sanguine expectations; and that "high and low, rich and poor, one with another," have resorted to our humble services, as to "the shadow of a great rock in a weary land." In the midst of this state of things, and with these prospects, "it is not an open enemy that has done us this dishonor, but it is Thou, my Guide!" However unhappy the consequences may be, elsewhere, I am sure, among those who know me, of their continued confidence, and their lively sympathy and prayers. But, with all these supports, and the testimony of a good conscience, besides, still it is the sorest of all trials to our sinful nature, "to do well and to suffer for it, and to take it patiently." That grace is only to be acquired by the discipline of the Cross. Looking to that Cross, as our only Hope, I bow my knees to Him, who loved the Church and gave Himself for it, that this severe affliction may be overruled for good; that we may take up our cross, daily, and bear and endure it, rather than talk about it, and exercise the lessons of forgiveness which it teaches, towards those by whom we are wounded in the house of our friends. In this spirit, I would also entreat your forgiveness, Reverend Father in God, as well as that of our Great Head in Heaven, if I have unawares exceeded the bounds of a due earnestness; if it is I, indeed, who have been, unconsciously, the "troubler of Israel," or if it is I, who, by any form of error, in word or deed, have caused to offend one of the little ones that believe in Christ!
I remain, Reverend Father in God,
Yours, in "the holy office of Priesthood,"
Boston, Dec. 6, 1815.
At a meeting of the Wardens and Vestry of the Church of the Advent, held December 5, 1845, the following Preamble and Resolutions were unanimously adopted:
WHEREAS there appeared, in the "Christian Witness" of December 5, a Letter, from the Right Reverend, the Bishop of this Diocese, in which, the arrangements made by us for Divine service in our Chapel and the mode of conducting it, are severely censured and denounced to the public as "offensive," " superstitious," and "degrading to the character of our Church and perilous to the souls of our people," we have thought it our duty to give the subject matter of the Letter a respectful consideration, although it is addressed neither to us nor to our Rector, and our attention has never been officially called to it. And although no request or representation has been made to us by our Bishop, on this subject, and we are not called upon to take any action or express any determination thereupon, yet it may be expedient to record our reasons for what we have done, and our feelings as to the same:Therefore, by the Wardens and Vestry of the Parish of the Advent, it is unanimously
Resolved, That it is with surprise and regret, we learn that our Bishop has thought proper to denounce, in this public manner, the arrangements of our Chapel, and the conduct of worship there, and especially that he has done so without having addressed to us any communication upon the subject, or having called our attention to it, either as a body or as individuals.
Resolved, That we have carefully considered so much of this Letter as touches upon our province and duties, to wit: the furniture and arrangements of the Chapel, and do not find any thing there alluded to by our Bishop, except the Communion Table, the Cross, and the Candlesticks, by which the Chancel is lighted in the evening; and that, as to these, we can see no just cause of complaint.
Resolved, That in placing a single Cross in the window of the Chancel, behind the Altar, we believe we have introduced no "offensive innovations upon the ancient usage of our Church," but have the example of a multitude of Churches in England, and an increasing number in our own country. That it is hardly for us to enter upon the defence of a usage so ancient, sacred, and continuous.
Resolved, That in the matter of the Communion Table, or Altar, we can see no cause for censure, or even for scrupulous doubt. It is a simple moveable table, of pine wood, standing upon four legs, occupying the usual place, covered with a plain crimson cloth, having no resemblance to the Altars used in Roman Catholic Churches, and differing in no respect from those in general use among us, unless it be in having a small shelf on the side next the wall, which we suppose is immaterial, as it is believed that the same may be seen in some other Churches, where it has remained without objection. In fact, so far is this, in our opinion, from tending to superstitious practices, that we have thought it might rather be liable to the objection of being too much like the table of common household furniture, to meet the requirements of the Holy Table and Altar, which the Prayer Book teaches us to consider it.
Resolved, That as candles have never been burned in our Chapel, except during service at night, for the purpose of lighting the Chancel, (as on the occasion of the Confirmation referred to in the Letter,) we presume the Bishops objection can only be to the use of the Candlesticks upon the Altar instead of some other mode of lighting the Chancel. That when the Chapel was furnished, we deliberately considered the different modes of lighting the Chancel, and were unanimously of opinion that Candlesticks were more appropriate than the modern fashions of gas fixtures or globe lamps, as being more Scriptural and Ecclesiastical, more significant, more consonant with the feelings of a worshipper, and less liable to mixed and secular associations. That we are informed that, on this point, we have the support of an existing Rubric and a not unfrequent practice of the Church of England, and the example of Churches in this country, and this Diocese, where Candlesticks have been used in this way for years, without objection or remark. That we have reconsidered this subject since the Letter has appeared, and cannot but believe that the substitution of either of the other modes of lighting the Chancel for the four Candlesticks now in use, would be repulsive to the feelings of the congregation, and aiding in the deplorable introduction of novel, secular, and uncanonical decorations into sacred places.
Resolved, That although the position our Minister may be led to take, when engaged in an act of worship, is not within our superintendence, yet we cannot but record our regret at the manner in which the Letter speaks on that subject. That the custom has been uniform, from the first opening of our Chapel, for the Minister, in the devotional parts of the service, to turn his face toward the Holy Table, whether kneeling at its side or more in front, and that we have never known any other "postures used" in these services than that of simple kneeling, as required by the Rubric. That this mode is congenial with our own feelings and sense of the proprieties of public worship. That we know it to be grateful to the worshippers at the Chapel. That so far from giving offence, we have found that not only the stated worshippers, but strangers, whether of the Church or of other religious bodies, have frequently expressed their sense of its fitness and solemnity. That it is of material aid, as we believe, in attracting the mind and centering it upon the Divine worship. That although it is not for us to decide upon Rubrics intended for the direction of the Clergy, yet we may say, that we understand them to be constructed upon the supposition that the Minister will face in the same people when engaged with them in the same acts of devotion; "turning towards the people" when he addresses himself to them, as in reading Holy Scripture, the Sermon, and the like. That as our congregation has become habituated and attached to this mode of worship (some of them having thus first learned the Church,) we should feel regret at having it abandoned, independently of its general propriety.
Resolved, That taking a general view of this subject, we believe, and have frequently heard it said, that the arrangements of the Chapel are simple and consistent, and we know that the mode of conducting the worship has called forth an interest and engagedness in the service on the part of the congregation, which is most encouraging to both Priest and people.
Resolved, That inasmuch as our Bishop, in his Letter, has publicly spoken of the practices of our Rector as "superstitious," and "puerile," and has charged him with "exposing the Church to ridicule and contempt," and "degrading its character and perilling the souls of the people," we cannot but record, with deference, but decidedly, our convictions to the contrary, and our solemn protest against the manner of this condemnation. We cannot express our sense of his many excellencies, of the untiring and self-sacrificing efforts he daily makes for the good of his people and the poor of the neighborhood; of his dignity and simplicity in conducting the Divine service, and our obligations to him for his solemn and affecting instructions. That his labors have met with great success in building up the Parish, and, we believe, in the spiritual growth and comfort of many that are under his charge. That we cordially sympathize with him in the efforts he is making, by the Daily Service, the observance of Holy Days, a regular Offertory, the use of free sittings, the introduction of simple and ancient music, visitations of the poor and sick, and frequent celebration of the Sacrament, Ordinances, and Offices, to do his part towards presenting the Church in its entireness before this community.
Resolved, That the Assistant Minister, of whom the Letter speaks, has, as we believe; conformed to the use of the Parish and to the wishes of the Rector, and has won the respect and affection of all by his patient endurance, his self-denial, his constant labors, especially among the poor, sick, and afflicted, and his single-minded devotion to the duties of his holy office.
Resolved, That when we consider the character, age, and services of our Rector, and that most of the officers of the Parish are personally known to the Bishop, we are the more surprised at the appearing of this Letter, as well as at its tone. That we regret it the more, as it places us, unexpectedly and unwillingly, in the attitude of a public defence against our Ecclesiastical Head the Diocese.
Resolved, That the Clerk procure a copy of the "Christian Witness" referred to, and place it on the files of the Parish; that these Resolutions be entered in full upon the Records; that a copy of the same be transmitted to the Bishop, and that they be sent to the "Christian Witness" for publication.
R. H. DANA,
C. P. GORDON,
THOMAS D. MORRIS,
R. M. COPELAND,
R. H. DANA, Jr.
W. E. COALE,
R. H. SALTER,
C. R. BOND,
THE CHURCH OF THE ADVENT
Is open for Divine Service, every morning, at half-past nine oclock, and on Sundays, at the usual hours. The sittings are free. The Church is supported by the voluntary oblations of the worshippers, opportunity being afforded, according to the precepts of Gods Word and the Order of His Church, for every individual to "offer his gift upon the ALTAR," in that part of the Divine Service which is called "THE OFFERTORY."
*The late Dr. ADAM CLARKE, a burning and shining light of the Methodist connection, who will not be suspected of any leaning towards Romanism, tells us, that in passing through a grave yard, he was struck with the appearance of graves ornamented with crosses and garlands as tokens of affectionate regard. "A frozen-hearted formalist," says he, "may condemn this, and call it superstition I true religion and pure affection would give it a far different name. I felt and could have wept with the disconsolate parents and survivors, and kissed the crosses, by which the meritorious death of our Blessed Saviour was thus held out to public view, as the only foundation of the survivors hope, that death, the last enemy, should be finally destroyed, and that those hearts knit together here in pure and honest love, should be reunited in eternity, where bonds can no more be broken, and death can never enter. Life, 2d edition, 1841, p. 289.
Dr. GRANT, a Missionary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, tells us, in his travels among the Nestorian Christians, that he was guided by one of the Bishops to a plain stone cross, which lay upon the Altar, supposing that he would manifest his devotional feelings, after their own custom, by pressing it to his lips. "There is something," says he, "very affecting in this simple outward expression, as practised by the Nestorians, who mingle with it none of the image worship or the other corrupt observances of the Roman Catholic Church. May it not be, that the abuse of such symbols, by the votaries of the Roman See, has carried us Protestants to the other extreme, when we utterly condemn the simple memento of the cross."
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