OCTOBER 18, 1797.
Episcopal Church, in Connecticut,
to their Bishop.
BY LAZARUS BEACH.
MY REVEREND AND DEAR BRETHREN:
UNDER the good providence of God, we are assembled, on an occasion both solemn and interesting to us of the clergy, and to the church. The character in which I now address you, is by divine permission devolved upon me, through your unanimous, and in respect of myself, unmerited suffrage. Much are we obliged to the Bishops [Bishop White, Bishop Provost and Bishop Bass] for their attention to your application; and our most hearty thanks are due to them, for the pains they have taken in coming here, to ratify your election, and supply this diocese with the office, made vacant by the death of our late Bishop, of blessed memory. My own feelings assure me, that the transactions of this day, must have called up afresh to your remembrance, former painful sensations on the loss we sustained, in the death of that most amiable and excellent prelate, who by every means endeared himself to us; and whom so many years experience taught us, most highly to esteem and admire.
 IT is your unhappiness that he is succeeded by one, who thinks it no degradation, to acknowledge himself every way his unequal, and whose feelings would be gratified by never being brought into a comparison with him; Although he would esteem himself honoured, in the enjoyment of a lower seat near him.
BUT what is wanting in abilities on my part, I trust confidently, will be considered as an additional reason, for greater and more united exertions on yours, to make good the deficiency. Your friendship, together with your well grounded affections for the interest of religion, the good and welfare of the church, will, I cannot doubt, incline you to accept candidly, and assist with your best aids the well meant endeavours of one, who can with the utmost sincerity assure you, of his having an equal desire with you, to be useful according to his capacity; and is not less concerned for the interests of religion, and of this church. Most seriously is it to be lamented, that there is so much need of anxious concern on the subject.
THE church of Christ hath always had, and always will have her enemies. The Kingdom of Christ is not of this world. To that kingdom, the children of this world will, some way or other, be opposed; either by open unbelief, or by errors in faith, or viciousness of life. The persons who belong to any of these descriptions, will be found, in different degrees, to be disaffected to religion in general; or, from various unhappy causes, to the duties it prescribes, or the life it requires. As men are well or ill affected towards religion, so are they accordingly affected towards the clergy, who are the teachers & supporters of it. Those who reverence christianity, and its sacred institutions, will reverence the [4/5] priesthood, which is of the same divine establishment; through the ministry of which, they can only enjoy the consolations and blessings of their holy faith and religion. On the other hand, those who seek to undermine religion, and bring it into disrepute, are always adversaries to the Clergy. Active in discipling others to their own opinions, their first step commonly is, to persuade people to think meanly of, and to treat the clergy with contempt. As they succeed in this point, so they prepare them to sneer at, and ridicule religion; to neglect and slight public worship, and all public institutions. That this is an existing, and that it is a growing evil among us, we of the clergy, with deep concern, see and feel. In like manner does it affect the regular, and serious part of our people. It may however, afford some satisfaction to observe, that in general, they, who would deprive us of our orders and usefulness, are the very men, who would rob their Redeemer, of his eternal Godhead and Divinity.
WHAT is personal, ought to be of the least consideration. We are to expect tribulation in this world, and are bound to bear with patience, reproaches for his sake, whose servants we are. We are bound also to take heed, not to deserve them. The Servant is not above his Master. It is enough for the disciple, that he be as his Master, and the servant as his Lord: if they have called the Master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household.--None of us, even the best, are in every respect, such as we ought to be. This use therefore we may make of their censures, tho' a very different one, from what our adversaries intend, namely, to correct the [5/6] things, wherein we may perceive ourselves to be blameworthy, or may appear so to others: and their unfounded aspersions, may and should, excite us to take more diligent heed, that, as far as it is possible in us, our ministry be not blamed, or found upon the fullest enquiry to deserve it. So that--In much patience--By pureness, by knowledge, by long suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned--By honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report,--As poor, yet making many rich--in all things approving ourselves, as the ministrers of God.
NO serious mind can be insensible, that to be God's minister must be to hold an office of high dignity: that it is an office, in its design greatly benevolent, and useful, and in its due execution, most extensively beneficial; and nothing can be more fatal in its consequences, than the neglect and abuse of it.
LET us then look up to the head, and founder of the pastoral office, the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls; and behold him, in the depth of humility and meekness, teaching the ignorant, relieving the distressed, and labouring to save lost sinners. Let us recollect those, to whom he first committed the charge, of carrying on the same great work; and see them, through much tribulation, doing the work of their master, and from thence learn our calling: and under the darkest appearances, take courage, and be faithful to do our duty, and he will take care of the event.
TO rescue fallen nature from the miseries of its Apostacy, and cleanse it of those corruptions, by [6/7] which it lay in ruins; was the design and end, for which Jesus came into the world, clothed by the Father with an everlasting priesthood. From these corruptions, sprang all that contradiction of sinners, all those sorrows and sufferings, which he endured. They have been, and still are, the source of all that opposition, which, his priests and ambassadors have met with, in his service, and of all the hardships they have undergone, in the labour of bringing men to their duty, and reconciling them to God; from the time, in which he sojourned on earth, down to this day. All this was perfectly foreseen by him, who knew all things. He accordingly, prepared his disciples for what they were to meet with; by telling them plainly beforehand, Behold, I send you forth as Sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Certainly no office, or employment, can require greater, or more unremitting exertions; no one calls for more prudence, composure, and fortitude; accompanied with a well tempered zeal for the happiness of others, and an exemplary life, to encourage and guide them in the path of Salvation.
OF this every clergyman ought to be duly sensible, and by frequent reflections, to make it familiar to his mind, to prepare him to act with good judgment, and a religious sense of duty, under all the adverse casualties that may occur in the due execution of his office.
FOR the more faithful discharge of his duty, he should at no time forget, that he is the servant and minister, the steward and ambassador, of Jesus [7/8] Christ. These are titles honorary indeed, but all of them expressive, of a state of dependence, and subjection; and speak the person to whom they belong, not at liberty to act his own humour:--but under the strictest obligation, to observe the commands of that heavenly Lord and Master, whose servant and minister he is. Obedience to his commands, is what all christians are bound to pay; but the obligation is yet stronger upon the clergy; as the near relation they stand in to him, by the priesthood they bear, adds to all their engagements.--Every argument, for the performance of christian duties in common, concludes more particularly, for the faithful, and regular discharge of the duties of their sacred function; for the due execution of those great offices, and the pursuance of those ends, for which they were invested with this character.--It is the dignity of our office, to represent and display the honour of our great high priest, by whose authority we act; and to answer the exigences of his church. We must therefore sincerely endeavour to promote those purposes, or we violate the design of our ordination, and are manifestly deficient, in the duty we owe to him, as his ministers.
PERMIT me then, my Brethren, in this my first address, to lead your attention to some particulars, which I trust, you will consider with me, as important to the rightful discharge of our duty, and interesting to the people of our cures.
THE first I will mention to you is, that, as clergymen, and Ambassadors of Christ, it is an incumbent branch of our duty, to use our best endeavours, that the people of our cure made understand well their christian profession; what are the duties they owe to God, as members of the church of christ; and, as much as possible, to attach their minds, [8/9] and religious affections, to the performance of them.
NOW in order for this, people must understand the nature of the church: the relation they stand in to its head; what they must do, that they may be true and found members of, and attain to the blessings, he has annexed to it. It cannot escape our notice that the people of our congregations, instead of attending to the instructions of the church, to which they belong; have from other sources, lost sight, to an unhappy degree, of the means ordained by our gracious redeemer, for our access to and communion with him: through which we are to partake of the aids of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify our hearts, and obtain the forgiveness of our sins: and in their place have substituted preaching or hearing of Sermons as the chief or only business of church assemblies. Thus, what was in its original institution and use, for the purpose of instructing men in the faith of the Gospel, and to awaken their consciences to do all that is therein commanded for Salvation, is hereby perverted, and made in itself an act of religion; and the end of meeting for a public, and religious service. So that preaching in the church, it is to be feared, perhaps it may be affirmed, has contributed much to cast religion out of it. This, as I apprehend, is a sad and dangerous departure from the genius, and spirit of the christian religion. A good knowledge of the christian church, as to its nature and design, will effectually correct so gross a mistake.
THE church is not of an human, but of a divine original. In its nature it is an institution of God; a regular society, founded by divine authority. It is the church of Christ; because he purchased it [9/10] with his blood. He called it out, and separated it from the world, that it might be holy unto himself; and the school of holiness to all, who being admitted into it, would conform to its holy and divine nature. For this purpose he appointed its government, instituted its priesthood, and ordained its sacraments. He is the founder of its faith, and he gave to it the promise of eternal life. Could we persuade people, thus seriously to enquire into, and make themselves acquainted with the nature of the christian church; they would be convinced, that the design of its institution, is to call them from the dominion of sin; from a subjection to their fleshly lusts,--and passions, the vanities and follies of this wicked world; to an union with Christ, and with each other; by a new birth from the holy spirit, and to train them up, in virtue and holiness, to the Kingdom of Heaven. [See Bp. Seabury's Sermon, of Christian Unity.]
As they realize this to be the design of the church, and the end of its institution, they will have more correct and truer notions, of the relation they bear to christ, their redeemer and spiritual head. By faith in him their Saviour, they are his disciples; and being incorporated by his spirit, undr him, they are a holy society; who, as members, form one body, united to him their head. Under this emblem, all christians should see their connection, subordination, and dependence, upon this their head. The body is a regular structure, the limbs of which, being joined together, are subordinate and subservient to one another, and are animated by the same soul or spirit. For by one spirit we are all baptized into one body. Being planted [10/11] into Christ by the holy spirit, he, as the head, communicates nourishment to his body, and its several members, through the operations of the spirit, conveyed in the ordinances of his church. In the faithful use of these means, blessed and sanctified by him, his body is edified and built up in him, perfected in all things that pertain to life eternal.
AS we succeed in bringing our people, thus to understand the nature and oeconomy of the church of Christ, our labours will be productive of this good effect; they will learn to distinguish rightly, the holy offices of the church, from the discourses delivered to them from the pulpit; and to place their principal regard, upon the prayers and sacraments, as means whereby they hold communion, and have fellowship with the Father, and his son Jesus Christ. Being well grounded in these doctrins, we may then reasonably expect, that our people will come to church, under a clear and full sense of their duty; that they may perform it, in all due acts of adoration, petition and praise; and express the becoming affections of grateful hearts, for the privileges they enjoy in God's church, in the means of grace, and helps to a holy life, they there receive; and the hopes of future glory, of which they are the earnest and pledge.
ACTUATED by these principles, they will come to church, for the sake of the prayers, and sacraments. In these, they will enjoy the sincere delight of christian communion, in the pledges of their redeemer's munificence on the church, and happy sensations will rise in their breasts, and flow with their devotions to Jesus--who was crucified for sin--but--Being exalted to the right hand of God---"hath shed forth those streams of the water of life, which have been flowing ever since, from the [11/12] throne of God and the lamb, through the appointed channels, to water every plant and flower in the Garden of God."
To honour our redeemer, in his own institutions and services, is the bounden duty of all christians. It is eminently the duty of the clergy; that they may prove themselves faithful stewards of those heavenly mysteries, with which they are intrusted: and to entitle them, with confidence, to look for his gracious protection and favour. Hence all christians, who will attend to us, and with minds open to the truth, hear from us, the things which belong to sound faith and godliness, will properly sort, and duly estimate, their respective religious duties, and will rate each, according to its importance. They will think lightly of none, but they will more highly reverence some than others; although they will conscientiously practice all. While we are diligent to press them, to be anxiously careful of their everlasting felicity; they will be steady and devout, in the public worship of God--as being called to one common duty, the duty of honoring and glorifying him, with one mouth and one voice--As children of one family, members of one body--having one hope of our calling, and being heirs of one common salvation. Their devotions will be animated with humble and hearty desires, that their wants, spiritual and temporal, may be supplied by our heavenly Father; and that by the same devotions, their hearts may be fixed, in the firmest resolutions of holy obedience. These desires and resolutions, thus kindled, will not suffer them to tarry behind, or stop with the ordinary service of the church. Delighting to tread the courts of the Lord's house, they will go forward to his altar, and in the sacred symbols there exhibited, will eat of that bread, which came down from heaven; [12/13] and drink of that cup which giveth life to the world.
ENLIGHTENED by the doctrins of the scriptures, faithfully stated to them by us, the worship they pay to God, will be understood, not as an arbitrary demand, merely to shew his sovereignty over us, but as a natural right, indispensably due to him, the maker of all things; who gives us life, and continually provideth all things for us. In like manner, the positive institutions of the Gospel, will be received, as gracious appointments in the scheme of our redemption, and recovery to life and bliss in Christ. The holy eucharist will be applied, as the means of keeping up that spiritual life, the principle of which we received in our new birth, at our baptism; and of continuing that interest, in the benefits and blessings of christ's passion and death, which was made over to us, when we became members of his mystical body.
PRESUMING, according to my knowledge of your sentiments, my Brethren, that it is your desire, people should be well informed of their duty, and their lives be conformed to the precepts of the Gospel; I have mentioned these things, as essential to the character, and life of the christian. But it may be proper to add a further observation; that the means should ever be enforced, as they should always be used, with a view to the end of religion; and carefully discriminated from it.
THE end of Religion is the salvation of our souls. The Son of God came to seek and to save that which was lost. The church itself, and all its services, were erected and appointed for this purpose. Every act of which, as a part of her service, is therefore an act of religion, because it is a means to [13/14] prepare and fit us for the enjoyment of a happy state with God. While we are in the church in this world, we are in God's vineyard, are his husbandry. In complying with his commands, and doing his will, the outward and personal act is ours, the inward is his, in fashioning the soul, through the instrumentality of his institutions, into his own likeness and image. This is the spiritual building, formed by the hand of God, to endure forever. For the raising and finishing of this building, positive rites and ordinances, and all outward acts are but the scaffolding; when the building is completed, the scaffolds are removed and fall off, as being of no further use.
WAS this truth attended to according to its importance, the close connection christ hath established, between the external ministrations of his church, and the internal renovation of the soul, would be more perfectly discerned, and comprehended. As christians come to think, and believe rightly concerning these things, they will see the necessity of communion in the prayers and sacraments of the church. These, accompanied with reading the holy scriptures, which, in the sense of those scriptures, is preaching, and the best of preaching; as they of right challenge, so will they not fail, to be most regarded and venerated. Sound religion, and vital active piety, will prevail, in proportion as the duties of the Gospel are thus understood, and practiced. People will then become more regular, and steady; and by the habits of stedfastness, will daily increase, and grow up in their holy faith, until they come unto God's everlasting kingdom. It will prevent them from being tossed to and fro, by every self authorized novel teacher, and carried about, by every wind of doctrin, with which the ignorant enthusiast, or the more subtle deceiver, strive to delude them.
 And here I may observe, that the christian faith and practice, understood in the light I have considered them, can hardly fail of leading people, into a due sense of the importance of the christian priesthood.
"THE regular ministers, (you have here the words of the archbishop Usher) are authorized to declare God's pleasure unto such as believe and repent; and in his name to certify and give full assurance to their consciences, that their sins are forgiven. For though others may indeed bring glad tidings of good things to the penitent sinner, as truly as they do, yet neither is it to be expected that they should, or indeed that they can do it, with the same authority and power, with such full assurance and such entire satisfaction to the afflicted, broken and wounded conscience."
ST. Paul tells us that Christ whom God had given to be head over all things to the church--gave some apostles, some pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of christ. Till we all come, in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
CAN the intelligent do otherwise than reverence that office, by which he was regenerated, and grafted into the body of christ's church; by which, in the consecrated elements of bread and wine, he is admitted to the inestimable privilege of eating the flesh, and drinking the blood of the Son of God.--That blood which cleanseth from all sin, and whosoever doth it in true faith and penitence, his Saviour hath said, hath eternal life abiding in him? In brief,--To his ministers, God hath given [15/16] power and commandment, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. To them he hath committed the means, and ministrations of grace. By them men put on Christ, and are united to the Son of God; by whose prevalent acts, they are constituted members of his sacred polity, and communion. Christ's ministers lead in the prayers and praises of his church, and present them to him, the great high priest, which, perfumed by his own merits, he presents to the Father. Divine mercies in return, descend through this prevailing intercessor, and by his priests, regularly serving at his altar, are dispensed in the word and sacraments, and by blessing his people, in his name, and by his authority.
AN office thus connected with all the parts form the system of christian faith and worship, must be held in reverend esteem by all who have any true notions of, or any real regard for them. It cannot in reason be imputed to the clergy, that they preach up themselves, when t hey teach the nature and duties of their office; for all are equally concerned to know, how they are to be saved by Christ. Whosoever he hath appointed must be important; and they cannot know the use and end of his servants, and their appointments, without knowing, that priests are ordained for men, in things pertaining to God; and that we are their servants for Jesus sake.
THERE is one point more to which I would call your attention. And if the fact be, as I conceive it is, we ought industriously to combat, what is so false in principle, and pernicious in practice.
BY the language and conduct of men, we are to judge what are their religious principles. These [16/17] shew but too plainly, that the gospel is considered by many, as being a mere system of opinions or doctrins, and conceive, that an assent to them, with the observation of some outward forms of general repute, and a behaviour that passes without reproach, in the vulgar eye, is all that is required, to constitute the christian character. The christian religion is indeed a system of doctrins, or truths, revealed in the gospel; for which we are bound earnestly to content. But the mistake is, and it is a dangerous one; that the truths of the gospel, are mere speculative opinions, of which, men are at liberty to frame their own notions, as they chuse, and each one for himself. If they can flatter themselves that they are sincere, they may judge themselves safe, and their opinions true, for with them sincerity is the only thing necessary. This principle being allowed, it is equally good in every man, and proves every man's opinions equally true. Hence the unity of the church is destroyed; Prayer, public and private, are called in question, whether founded in reason, or of any utility. The necessity of the Sacraments, their use and significance, become greater or less, or nothing at all, just as mens opinions are. Men may divide and subdivide, into sects and parties, without number, and without end, and every mans conduct passes as harmless, without crime, in going where they please, in joining whom they please, and worshipping God as they please, in retired solitude, or a public assembly, in mute silence, or vocal harmony. The scriptures are to be interpreted according to every man's private judgment, whether he be learned or unlearned: and private judgment is the standard, by which, the truths or doctrins of the scriptures are to be measure; and all rest upon this foundation, that christianity is a religion of opinions. Private judgment is ever to be valued, [17/18] and ever used; its right out never to be denied. But it should be remembered, that where there is a right, there is also a duty, and he who only attends to the former, and neglects the latter is sure to be in an error. Private judgment should also be claimed & used, as being private. And though one man may not be obtruded upon, or deprived of that right by another, yet he is accountable to God for his private judgment, and opinions, as he is, for the right use, or abuse, of all his faculties, and for all the means which God affords him, to know and do what he ought. But whatever opinions men entertain, and however corrupt & hurtful to themselves, so long as they confine, and duct them, within their own right, they will do not injury to others, nor disturb the peace and order of society.
ON the contrary, when particular opinions cause men to disregard the united Judgment, and voice of God's church, when they lead men to put forced constructions, upon the plainest things written in the word of God; when they dispose men to transgress his clear, and express commands; when they slacken, and melt down, all zeal for christs's church, as he framed and modeled it; for the faith he laid as the foundation; for the orders and institutions he hath erected, as the mounds about it; and for the commands he hath given, to govern and perfect its members: The principle, which brings forth such fruits, whose end is the dissolution of the church, as a Society; and makes ever man a church to himself; is so visibly contrary to the whole scheme, and plan of the gospel; to its leading and fundamental doctrines, that it must be the duty of the clergy, to watch against, and do their utmost to correct such false and baneful tenets, wherever they meet with them; and to persuade men to think more justly, to receive those truths, and [18/19] direct their minds by those doctrines, which are according to the Scriptures, and more certainly accompany salvation. It is not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. He that will be saved, must be saved in the way which God hath appointed, and not in any way of his own. We shall be judged at last according to God's word, not according to any persuasions we may have taken up, through the prejudices of education, or the perverseness of our own hearts; all of which are indeed no better than dreams, having no foundation but on that loose bottom of human imagination, on which are built, all the visions of the night, and all the heresies in the world. [See Essay on the Church.]
THE several points to which, in the foregoing, I have led your attention, I hope, my Brethren, you will approve of. In my apprehension they are matters of weight. And though they comprehend but a part of our duty as clergymen, they may serve to shew in no small degree, how delicate and curious is the work, to frame the minds of men into right principles, solid and clear notions of the redeemer's kingdom, ho wnoble is the employment to watch over the church, that God bought with his own blood. The Son of God is the first of our order, the founder of our Society. Now when we consider how various are the spiritual necessities of his church, the ignorance, mistakes, and negligence of the people, the arts, sophistry, and wiles of the adversary; these things carry conviction, that nothing but an inexhaustible source can supply its wants.
LET these things be duly considered by us, and [19/20] let us thereby be engaged, to support and adorn our function, both by our lives, and doctrin. The way to do this, is to take care--
FIRST--To be orthodox in your opinions, keeping form and steady to that form of sound words, delivered by Christ and his Apostles, and handed down to us by the church: giving no ear, much less a favourable reception, to those novel doctrines, which are only ancient heresies, newly dressed, and broached, by restless lovers of novelty, or by ambitious designing men. A general good rule in divinity is, the more ancient the better. What is new, is a good reason why it cannot be true. In theological questions, that which hath been always, and everywhere, and by all received, is a safe and just standard. The streams of those waters of the Sanctuary, being the more pure, the nearer they are to the fountainhead.
SECONDLY--Another subject, which it concerns us duly to attend to, is the observing uniformity in the government, and worship of our church. For these, the rules prescribed by the church, should be regarded with as great exactness as possible. The rubricks where they are definite, should direct us in the administration of our office, without deviation, or in any case, as little as may be. Where there is a latitude, individuals may judge of the propriety of it; in unnecessary cases, and it is not an easy matter to find any that are otherwise, they may regret, that any latitude is allowed; yet the inconveniences may in some measure be avoided, if we act up to our former resolutions, that all should observe the same method, in all parts of the service. This uniformity will continue to give, as I trust it has had, its happy effects, in the satisfaction, harmony, and unity, it contributes to establish, both [20/21] among us of the clergy, and among our people.--For as we esteem it a great excellence of our church, that with one mouth, and one voice, we worship God, in one beautiful system of sound words; so the more strictly we adhere to the same order in every part of the service, the more perfectly shall we illustrate that excellence.
A THIRD particular, we should be assiduous to cultivate and maintain, is love and unity among ourselves. Disaffection, and opposition among the clergy, lessens their influence, often compels them to submit to, and do things they ought not, and if they were unanimous, and would support each other, they need not do. It is ever a matter of triumph, as it affords great advantage to the adversaries of religion. Religion itself is injured, and its friends suffer, by having their minds perplexed about its truths, or by weakening the power of it upon their lives. From the ministers of Christ, dedicated to his service, and teachers of his religion, example is very justly expected. Unfeigned love to God, and benevolence to men, is the pure spirit, to which all the doctrines of the gospel have the most powerful tendency, and do actually generate, in the hearts of all its genuine disciples. The ministers of Christ should take heed to realize in themselves, the truths and spirit of that religion, they are bound to preach. The first and fair fruits, that spring from thence, will be love and unity with their Brethren, and fellow labourers. This assemblage of the amiable graces of the christian, will dispose the conscientious clergyman, to be critical in respect of his own reputation; it will render him equally critical and tender of the reputation of his Brethren. A spot in his garment is easily contracted, but hard to wipe off; it is discerned with an eagle's eye; and bow of [21/22] slander stands ready bent, to pierce him through with her dart.
We can do but little by ourselves, to defend the inclosures of the church, and train up children to our divine head. We are weak and feeble; the wickedness of men makes us more so; yet, if every one made his brother's reputation, dear to him as his own, we might do very much to vindicate the innocence, to extenuate the infirmities, to remove the reproaches, that the faithless and vicious cast upon the order. The weakest things knit together make a strong resistance, for tho we fight not with carnal weapons, yet those we make use of are mighty, under God, to break and shatter the kingdom of darkness and all its retinue.
WERE this our conduct, we might, with that confidence true virtue always gives, ask the man, in whom zeal for the welfare of his fellow creatures, burns with the brightest & most ardent lame, what his patriotic and generous heart could wish more, than that men might be brought to this blessed temper of mind? Wherever it prevailed in its full extent, it would universally reform; and the church, blessed with such faithful sons, would be, and might appear to her enemies, according to the language of Solomon, Beautiful as Tirzah, and comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army of banners.
PERMIT me to exercise your patience a few moments longer, while I suggest a reflection or two, to the lay members of the convention.
AS the clergy have their duties it must be remembered, that the laity have theirs. If it is our duty to take the oversight of the church, and family of Christ, as being thereunto appointed; it must [22/23] be the duty of the laity so to account of us; and by a willing and discreet compliance, enable us, as God's watchmen, to execute our trust, in all good conscience. It is a piece of justice to yourselves and to us, to lay a part all prejudice, to hear with sobriety and reason, and consider with candour, what we say to you on the great truths, and the general or particular duties of christianity; the things that make for the good and peace of the church; the beauty and perfection of her holy worship; and for every one, according to the influence he bears, among the people of his respective church, to give proof of his own, by doing his best to engage the zeal of all others, for our common religion.
A few judicious, active, and exemplary men, in a congregation, can give strength and energy to the instructions, and labours of a faithful clergyman, more than any, without seeing the effects, would be apt to imagine. Why should not christians, shew a zeal to support the faith and church of Christ, equal to that, which the infidel shews to destroy them? For, what does the infidel expect and hope? that he should be thus active and zealous? If he is consistent with himself, Nothing--beyond this world. What does the christian? Every thing that can dignify and exalt the human mind. What does the infidel labour to rob and strip you of? Your faith and religion; and with them, every thing that affords you solid comfort in this life, or happiness and glory in the next. And while they, who toil and drudge in that workhouse of iniquity, are constantly sending abroad their artful and elaborate absurdities, to corrupt the minds of the common people, and divest them of all principles, which gives security to government, order and peace in civil society, and are the basis of all morality and virtue; ought you not, in honour to God and his [23/24] christ,--as friends to your fellow men, to civil government and public order--To private justice, and common humanity;--ought you not to strive to establish, and give currency to your religion? A religion, which is so beneficient to all orders and degrees, and adapted to make men of every description, happy in themselves, and instruments of happiness to others. The clergy of our church, teaching her doctrines, and acting according to her rules, are ministers of peace, and supporters f rational and good government. It must therefore be the true interest of government to encourage and support them.
"To these things Brethren, if we have any concern for the interests of religion, or our own, we must always industriously attend; but especially in such times, as by no means admit of negligence or mismanagement. Yet vain will be our best endeavors, unless we constantly add to them, our fervent prayers, that God would enable and strengthen both us, and all that serve him in the gospel of his Son, to perform our duty with faithfulness and success. For we are not sufficient to think any thing of ourselves: for sufficiency is of God. What therefore we ought, every one of us, to beg of him at all times, let us all present, joint address him for, in the comprehensive and expressive words of our public service."[A.Bp. Secker's first charge.]
Almighty and everlasting God, by whose spirit the whole body of the church is governed and sanctified; receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee, for all estates of men in thy holy church; that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Of the Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in the state of Connecticut, to the Right Rev. Doctor Abraham Jarvis, Bishop of the Diocese.
WE, the Presbyters and Lay-Representatives of the Protestant, Episcopal Church, in the State of Connecticut, avail ourselves of the earliest opportunity, that could have been presented to us, to congratulate you, upon your elevation to the dignified station of a Bishop, in the Church of Christ. Most cordially, Sir, do we recognize you in that sacred character, and most readily do we receive you, as our Superintendant and Guide;--promising with chearfulness and from a sense of duty, to pay you all that respect and obedience, to which your office entitles you; and which, we are assured from the word of God, and the testimony of antiquity, was ever deemed to be due to the sacred Character, with which you are invested.
JOYFUL, Sir, as is the present occasion, which fills the Episcopal Chair, yet, the solemn scene [25/26] that has just been performed, irresistibly leads back our mind, in sad remembrance to him, whom, we have often seen, from that Altar breaking the Bread of Life, and have often heard from that Pulpit, teaching the words of Peace. But, Sir, portentous to the Church, as was the moment, when the great disposer of events called to his reward, our late much revered Bishop, yet we trust, nay are confident, that your best abilities will be exerted, to mitigate the loss of that wisdom and zeal, for which, he was so highly distinguished. Whatever depends upon us to lighten the burden, which, your office imposes upon you, shall be cheerfully contributed. Esteeming your personal character, as we unquestionably ought, and revering the Authority, with which you are clothed, as we assuredly do, your Episcopate opens with a prospect of Peace and harmony throughout your Diocese. This state of the Church is, at all times, devoutly to be wished; but perhaps, never more than at present, when unity is so necessary to render fruitless, all the attacks of infidelity and vice. May that divine spirit, who is the source of unity and love, continue to preserve this Church, under your Episcopate, in the most perfect Concord! And may zeal for promoting virtue and religion, ever distinguish the Bishop, the Clergy, and the Laity of the Church of Connecticut!
Bishop Jarvis's Answer.
MY REVEREND BRETHREN,
Beloved in our Lord Jesus Christ.
I RETURN you my sincere thanks for your affectionate address. Permit me to request you and the lay Gentlemen of the convention to accept my assurance of the warm and grateful affections, with which I receive your declarations of personal regard and friendship.
YOUR sentiments of the sacred office of a Bishop, perfectly accord with my own, and compel me to observe the restraint they lay upon me, from gratulating myself on being promoted to that dignified station. Your united judgment of the circumstances, and situation of our church; and an unequivocal assurance, that in your opinion, her exigencies, in a pressing manner required it; were the prevalent reasons that overruled me, to acquiesce in your election to the office, with which I am now invested.
DISTINGUISHED as our late revered Bishop was, for his eminent abilities; and amiable for the ornaments of the christian; the recent act performed in your sight, of consecrating a successor to the vacant chair, could not fail to recall him, with vigour to your remembrance. So interesting a life, justified the strongest apprehensions, that his death was an omen of unhappy import to our church. [27/28] Known unto God are all his works, in wisdom doth he dispose them all, and that unerring hand, which directeth the whole to his own glory, often strikes away all other propos, to convince men, that in him alone is their unfailing strength.
MAY a wise and gracious providence so order events, as to evince the rectitude of our intentions, and that our proceedings may be for his honour, and the good of his church.
NEXT to the guidance and protection of our all gracious head, I do, and must, rely on your friendship and benevolence, to prevent, or remove, those difficulties and impediments, which, contemplated in prospect, filled me with diffidence, and caused a reluctance, which, even as yet, I have not been able wholly to surmount. Sensible I am that in me emphatically this treasure is lodged in an earthen vessel; from the divine aid and support, and the constant united assistance, of you my brethren, it is, that I can hope, in any measure, to do the duties of the office committed to my trust. Altho' solicitude and anxious doubts abide me, yet while strengthened by these helps, I may solace my heart, that the important interests of that part of the church of christ, over which I am appointed to preside, will not materially suffer, so long as, by divine permission, the charge shall rest on me to superintend her weight concerns.
THAT the redeemer's kingdom may flourish, the spirit of the Gospel prevail, and its laws be obeyed, is ever to be the object of our desires, & the subject of our prayers. To promote so great a work, much depends on the exertions, and pious labours of the clergy. The assurance you give of these, and that you will ever study to cultivate the strictest harmony, [28/29] and be ever ready with your best advice, as they are expressive of a well directed zeal, so are they satisfactory, and minister grounds of confidence, not to be drawn from any other source.
CHARITY is the bond of perfectness: It is the cement which knits together the church; in every member perfects the child of God, and completes the family of christ.
AS this virtue is the summary, and crown of christian graces; by cherishing it in our own breasts, and exercising it amongst ourselves, we shall shew, that we are the true disciples, and faithful ministers of christ, his peace, which passeth knowledge, shall keep our hearts and minds; it will give energy to our labours, & render us examples to our flocks.
MY future conduct, I trust, will manifest my real respect and sincere affections for you, and all, whom we serve in the Gospel of our Lord. In addition to your advice, and assistance, in our respective sacred labours; let our prayers be mutual for each other, that God will continue us, and his church, in his holy keeping; and enable both you and me, to fulfil our ministry; and that the people, especially committed to our charge, may be a mutual blessing, and a crown of rejoicing to us, and to each other, in the day when the Son of God shall appear in glory, to judge and to reward.
ABRAHAM, Bp. Epl. Ch. Connect.
New-Haven, Oct. 18, 1797.