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[Being the Festival of St. Luke]



Ecclesiastical Convention,










Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2009

At a Convention of the Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in Connecticut, holden at New-Haven, the 18th of October, 1797.

Resolved, That the Rev. ASHBEL BALDWIN, and ELI CURTIS, Esq. be a Committee to return the thanks of this Convention, to the Rev. Doctor WILLIAM SMITH, for his Discourse, delivered this day before the Convention, in Trinity Church, and request a copy for the Press.

Signed by order of the convention,


EPHESIANS, Chap. IV, Verses 11 & 12

He gave some Apostles,* and some Prophets, and some Evangelists, and some Pastors and Teachers, for the perfecting the Saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying the Body of Christ .

[* APOSTLES, by way of eminence so denominated, because they were immediately sent by Christ, as he was by the Father; and as having powers to govern his church and to appoint her Officers, similar to those with which he had been invested by the Father "For no man taketh this honor to himself but he who is sent of God."

PROPHETS, men endued with the spirit of prophecy, so as to predict future events, and to explain divine mysteries and ancient prophecies.

EVANGELISTS, so called, whether of the higher or lower orders of the ministry, because they published the glad tidings of the Gospel among nations who had not heard them before.--Philip, Apollos, and Timotheus are titled Evangelists; and so are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John eminently so, because they were the principal historians who wrote the account of Christ’s nativity, the "joyful news unto all people, that unto them is born a Saviour."

PASTORS and DOCTORS or TEACHERS, were the Bishops or presbyters, settled in particular Churches, to labour in the word and doctrine.]

"GOD, who at sundry times, and in divers manners, spake unto the Fathers by the Prophets, hath in these latter days spoken unto [3/4] us by his son Jesus Christ;" who, when he had made atonement for our sins, and introduced an everlasting salvation for the sons of men, ascended up on high far above all heavens, to re-assume "the glory which he had with the Father before the foundation of the world."

BUT tho' seated in glory unspeakable amidst the hosannahs of the heavenly host, and possessing all power both in heaven and on earth, the interests of the human race were as near and dear to him, as ever.--He loved man from the beginning;--affliction and death could not damp his love for them; in his exaltation and glory he loved them still, and did not forget them. Seated between the Cherubim he still continued to "lead Joseph like a sheep, and gently to gather the lambs with his arm."

TO the immediate servants of his household, before his ascension, Jesus had said--"Behold I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." And in due time this promise was faithfully fulfilled.

EVER obedient to the voice of their Lord, the Eleven tarried in the appointed place, an upper room in the Temple, "unanimous in prayer and [4/5] supplication, in sure and certain hope to receive the promise of the Father, power from on high." It was during these days, that Matthias received a divine designation to the Bishoprick, from which Judas had fallen.

THE Patriarchal number being compleated the day of Penticost come, and the sacred Twelve assembled in one place, "the Holy Ghost came down from heaven, with a sudden great sound, as it had been a mighty wind, in the likeness of fiery tongues, lighting upon the Apostles, to teach them, and to lead them to all truth; giving them both the gift of divers languages, and also boldness with fervent zeal, constantly to preach the Gospel unto all Nations."

THE Ministry which formerly they had received, and were now "endued with power from on high" to exercise, was to be universal in it's extent, and perpetual in it's duration; and that it might not be at the option of every one who chose to assume it, was fenced from invasion by being committed unto them as a sacred deposit.--For thus runs the Commission our Lord gave to them, and to them only.--"As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every Creature;--he who believeth and is baptised shall be saved [* Or, put into a state of salvation.];--and he who believeth not shall be damned. [* Or, remain in his state of condemnation.] And he breathed on them, and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted, and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained. [5/6] Disciple all Nations, by baptising them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo I AM + with you always, even unto the end of the world, Amen."

+ I AM--The name by which Christ "in the form of God" made himself known to Moses, Exodus. ch. 3 v. 14. "I AM that I AM &c.

+ THE name by which, "in the form of man" he confessed himself to the soldiers sent to seize him, and who, at hearing it pronounced by his lips, "went backward and fell to the ground." St. John ch. 18, v. 6.

+ THE name, by which he promises to be with his Church to the end of time.

+ THIS name is the English of the Hebrew word, Jehovah, and denotes Self-existence.--The translation might be, "The I AM hath sent you, &c. That I AM shall be with you to the end of the world."

KNOWING well the Nature and extent of their Apostleship;--strong in the power of Jehovah;-- rejoicing to do the will of him that sent them, and zealous to finish his work:--these "Servants of the most high God" went out into all lands, and sent their words into the world's end, "to shew unto men the way of Salvation." No wisdom could withstand the words with which they spake; the heart of pride fainted, and the arm of human philosophy withered at the reasoning of a Paul on righteousness, temperance, and judgement to come;" and at the preaching of a Peter on the necessity of Christ's "dying to save Sinners." God had given them "a mouth, and wisdom which all their adversaries were unable to gainsay or resist." The words which they spake, and the miracles which [6/7] they wrought confounded infidelity, bade defiance to the powers of darkness, and quickly converted innumerable sinners into saints, innumerable idolterers into true worshippers of the true God. "The power of the Highest having overshadowed them," they became exceedingly fruitful in begetting many sons, "and daughters unto eternal glory."

BUT however much "the pleasure of the Lord prospered in their hands;"--however successful they were in "delivering many from darkness unto light, and from the power of Satan unto God;" yet by reason of death, "it being appointed unto all men once to die;" thepromise of Jesus "lo! I am with you always even unto the end of the world," could not belong to them exclusively, nor be understood in any other sense, than implying a regular and uninterupted succession; together with a divine power and efficacy to accompany the same, always even unto the end of the world."

AND therefore, as the number of the disciples multiplied, the Apostles took "the first fruits" or Seniors [* Senior and Presbyter are words of the same import.--The word Priest implies one that appears in behalf of another, as a mediator appears in behalf of an offender to plead his cause with the party offended. Scriptures saith, "he is a Priest, and he shall pray for thee."] from among those whom they had christianized, and to them committed a part of their Ministry and Apostleship, according to their measure of the grace of Christ and the order of their appointment in the Church. The form by which they ordained others, was that by which Jesus had ordained them. After having imparted to them his [7/8] holy Spirit, "he lifted up his hands and blessed them,"--So in like manner, the Apostles and their successors always have done, do at this day, and will do to the end of the world, saying, at the instant of their "laying on of hands"--after the example and by the Authority of Jesus their Lord--"Receive thou the Holy Ghost. Whosoever sins thou dost remit, they are remitted, and whosoever sins thou doth retain, they are retained."

AND as there have been always divers offices in the Church, so, there have been always divers officers for the performance of them. All were not to be .Apostles; all were not to be Prophets; nor were all to be Teachers; but every one was to do his duty in that station, in which the Holy Ghost had placed him. The dispensation of the Law had HIGH PRIESTS [*], PRIESTS, and LEVITES; the HIGH PRIEST being the communicator and centre of all Ecclesiastical Unity and Power among the Jews. In like manner the Christian Church, being a rectified continuation, or rather an extension of the Jewish, so as to comprehend within it’s pale believers of all nations under heaven, has always had her three orders, viz. BISHOP, PRIEST, or PRESBYTER, and DEACON.

[* In the English Bible we read High Priest;--but in the Greek (and the same in the Hebrew Bible) it is "Bishop."--Thus, in Numbers ch. 4. v. 16, Episkopos Eleazar; that is Bishop Eleazar. In 2 Kings ch. 11. v. 13. Bishop over the House of the Lord. In Acts, ch. 20. v. 28. "The Holy Ghost hath made you Episkopous;" that is Bishops: and in various other places both in the Old and New testaments. Whenever the word Episkope occurs, it invariably signifies superiority, prelacy or pre-eminence.]

DURING the days of our Lord’s visible presence upon earth, HE, as head of the whole body corporate, [8/9] as Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, was the Apostle of the Father, and held in his own person the supremacy or EPISCOPATE. Next to him were the Twelve, his Apostles, holding the second order, that of the PRESBYTERATE. And next to them stood the Seventy, in the lowest grade or third order, that of DEACON. After our Lord’s ascension, and the endowment of the Twelve, "with power from on high," instead of the visible presence of Jesus, (whose representatives and vice-gerents they were) the Apostles stood in the highest order, that of BISHOP;--the Seventy in the rank of PRESBYTERS;--and to compleat the number of orders in the second Hierarchy (the Deaconate being wanting) the Apostles, in their Episcopal character, performed their first Act of ordination, in conferring the order of DEACON on seven men.

GOD is a God of order, and from the beginning "has appointed divers orders in his Church". Every man, in his own order, must perform the office assigned him. The laic must not intrude into the Deacon's office--nor the Deacon into that of the Priest--nor the Priest into that of the Bishop.--And though the exigences of the Church requires Readers, Catechists, Singers and such like, she hath never considered them in any other point of view than as to many beneficial attendents on her holy ministrations.

NO man, in his sober senses, who, uninfluenced by prejudice, has enquired into this matter, with that dilligence [* See Dr. Bowden's two (unanswered) letters to Dr. Stiles; these letters ought to be in the hands of every Episcopalian.] and candour which its importance deserves can, with a good conscience deny, that [9/10] "divers orders" were not known in the days of, and subsequent to, the Apostles. The universal content of ecclesiatical history and ancient nations fully evinces this great and important point; and from the existing records of innumerable Sees throughout the world, it is evident, that the line of succession has always been reckoned, not in the series or line of Presbyters or Deacons;--but invariably in that of Bishops; "the less being always blessed of the greater."

ALL the Presbyters and Deacons on the face of the Earth, according to the judgement of the primitive Church could not ordain one Deacon, or one Presbyter, much less consecrate a Bishop.--Tertullian [* Tertullian lived A. D. 192; and in his book De Perses, thus writes, "When your Captains, that is to say, the Deacons, Presbyters, and Bishops flee, who shall teach the laity to be constant?"] says, "he would be reckoned a mad man who would attempt it." It were just as easy for one man or any number of men to create a new world, as to institute a new Church different from that instituted by Christ; for none but that can justly claim the privilege of the promise "I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

THUS, the uninterrupted succession in the line of Bishops, from the days of our Saviour down to the present day, is the great Palladium of the Apostolic Church, and nothing can overthrow it, "even the gates of hell shall never prevail against it." It was this Apostolic uninterrupted succession, planted by Christ, watered by the Holy Ghost, and to which the Father hath promised abundant increase, [10/11] connected with, and comprehending in it, "all things whatsover Jesus had commanded," which the Apostle of the Gentiles so earnestly charges the then Bishop of Ephesus to keep, or preserve inviolate; in these words, "I charge thee O Timothy, in the sight of God, who quickeneth the dead, and of Jesus Christ, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession, to keep what was committed to thee, without spot unblamable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ."

PARALLEL to this is the charge so often inculcated by Jesus on Peter; and in the person of Peter upon all the Apostles; and in them all their successors to the end of the World--"feed my sheep--feed my lambs." Our Lord had other sheep besides those of the Jewish fold, "them also, saith he, I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd." And in the 18 ch. of the Gospel by St. John, we behold this Bishop of our souls, this prevailing intercessor thus addressing the Father in behalf of his Church, in those ever memorable words---"I will that all those whom thou hast given me, may be ONE, as thou Holy Father act in me and I in thee;--and that all the World may believe that thou hast sent me."

AND accordingly for the more effectually gathering together in ONE, the children of God who were scattered abroad as sheep having no Shepherd; the christian world, from the earliest ages, hath been parcelled out into Districts called Dioceses, and these again into smaller divisions called Parishes.--Of every Diocese the Bishop is the High Priest, and center of ecclesiastical Unity; and the Presbyters or Priests in their respective cures or parishes, are the Bishop's deputies and vicegerents' and accountable [11/12] to him for their conduct. The communicants--(called in ancient times the faithful) of every parish unite with their Presbyter in eating that one bread and drinking that one cup which our lord hath instituted; all the Presbyters and Deacons in a Diocese, by Holy Communion and the order they hold in the sacred Hierarchy, concenter and unite in their Bishop:--and all Bishops in the Unity of the Apostolic Church unite, and become ONE in their glorified Head, and Bishop, Christ Jesus, who is "God over all blessed for evermore."

THUS the Unity of the Church is supported and preserved; and however many her members may be yet they are but ONE BODY. And this is the very doctrine we profess to believe, when we say individually "I believe ONE, CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH."

TO preserve the purity of this ONE CATHOLIC and APOSTOLIC CHURCH, how careful ought the people to be in recommending--the presbyters in presenting--and the Bishops in laying on their hands! Never should the Episcopal hands be laid suddenly on any man:--never on "a novice," or on such as have the necessary acquirements to attain, "lest they fall into the condemnation of the devil:" but on those, and those only, who by their life and doctrine are qualified to teach others.--The end of the Mission at once bespeaks the care and fidelity with which it ought to be communicated; "the perfecting of saints, the edifying the body of Christ, the Church." This his body is inestimable, "purchased not with silver or gold, but with the price of his own most precious blood."

HAD man retained his original state of innocence, there had been no need of this redemption by the [12/13] blood of the cross;--nor would there have been any occasion for this ministry of reconciliation, this regular and standing Priesthood; man would not have stood in need of "the means of grace" to inspire him with "the hopes of glory." "Created a little lower than the angels," and retaining the divine image and likeness wherein he was created, he would have enjoyed a heaven upon earth, conversing with his maker, as man does with his fellow, till the time of his translation had arrived. But, when he lost his innocence, and greatly defaced the divine image, guilt made him horribly afraid to behold his Creator; whose presence heretofore yielded him the highest satisfaction and delight. In mercy then, God was pleased to receive man into favor again, upon the ground of faith and repentance, and the merits of a Saviour.

BUT, as the audible or visible presence of Jehovah was always accompanied with such circumstances of terror after the Fall, that Adam and his offspring could but just support life under it; God was pleased to communicate his word and his will to them, by means of types and shadows, of signs and sacraments, and by the ministry of certain persons raised up from time to time, to be the lights of the world in their several generations. Yet occasionally, and as the urgency of the case required, he appeared in glory, "encompassed with light as with a garment," to several of the eminent men who lived before, and after the flood: but these manifestations of the "God of glory" never failed to terrify them exceedingly.--At hearing the Decalogue pronounced by Jehovah, from the midst of the burning but unconsumed bush, on Mount Sinai, the whole of the Hebrew nation earnestly besought "that the word might not be spoken to them any more after that manner," saying to their [13/14] Legislator "Moses speak thou with us and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die." Even Moses himself says, "so terrible was the sight, that I exceedingly fear and quake." Again, when on Mount Tabor, the Son of God "was transfigured in the presence of Peter, James and John, his face shining as the Sun, and his raiment white and glistening, they were so sore afraid, that they wist not what to say," or do.--With Jesus in "the form of man," the Disciples were familiar, and under no concern; but his manifesting himself to them in "the form of God," was what they could not endure, "so terrible was the sight."

OR, had the all-wise God seen proper to commission Angels (created intelligences) to be our "guides in the way of salvation," our case even then had been exceedingly deplorable. Superior beings, unacquainted with the weakness of our mortal nature, unacquainted with the temptations which continually lie in wait to deceive us, unacquainted with the obstructions and difficulties which perpetually intrude upon us in every step of our christian course, commissioned to give and expound the rules of our duty, (we have reason to fear) would pronounce what they had to communicate in a style and manner parallel to the angelic nature, but by no means adapted to the condition and comprehension of fallen man.

IF then, the communicating the divine will, whether by angelic appearances, or by manifestations "in the form of God," was always accompanied with such alarming circumstances, as to terrify exceedingly the best of men; how grateful ought we to be to God for his unmerited goodness in condescending to stoop to our weakness, and to make use [14/15] of the ministry of man to instruct his fellow--of one man to "point out the way of salvation" to thousands!

HENCE it is evident, that the ministry of man is both a blessing and a mercy; a blessing and a mercy so great, that nothing can be reckoned an equivalent thereto! [* THE Ministers of Christ are sent by him, and the people are to receive them as such, and give them a maintenance according to the blessing of God upon their substance. No where does the scripture speak of hiring Ministers, or of hiring preaching. By the way of simile it says, "the labourer is worthy of his hire," and "thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn." But these expressions imply no act of hiring betwixt priest and people; but that "he who serves at the Altar, should live by the Altar;" that is by the offerings of the people which they present to God, by giving a certain proportion of what God hath given them, to his minister for his support and maintenance. Under the Law the tenth part was appropriated to the service of the tabernacle; under the Gospel, tho the law of tithing has never been abrogated by a divine authority, and is still in force in many christian countries, it seems but just that a competent provision be made for its ministers, and that "given not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver." As to the phrase "hiring a minister--hiring preaching by the year, or half year"--however innocent it may be in the intention of those who use it, it is exceedingly criminal in its consequences. It favours strongly of Simony--for what may be hired and leased out today, may be bought and sold tomorrow. It is fraught with many evil consequences in respect of the people as well as the clergy; as it manifestly tends to destroy every idea of pastoral relationship between Priest and People. It prevents, likewise, that mutual love and confidence which ought to subsist between a minister and his congregation, so as to render his ministry pleasant to himself, and beneficial to them.] Why then should any man be so blind to his own interest as to esteem it the reverse? Where is the man in these days, who is better prepared to stand before the glory of the eternal Majesty, or even to receive the shock of an angelic appearance, than the holiest of the men of ancient times? [15/16] Are men, now so self-illuminated, that the light of their own human reason is sufficient? Has the internal light superseded the utility of that external light, a divine revelation, which God hath given "to illuminate every man that cometh into the world?" Or, are the suggestions of philosophy, and the fictions of poetry better guides to mankind in the way of salvation, than the words which the Holy Ghost hath dictated?

IF any man thinks they are, to his serious consideration, I would beg leave to recommend the account which Paul of Tarsus has given us of the original apostacy of the nations in these words: "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, (graece their reasonings) and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to "be wise they became fools."

WARNED by the fall of others, let us "not lean upon our own understanding, but in all our ways acknowledge God, and he will direct our paths." HE will direct our paths by the light of the everlasting Gospel of his Son; and the guardianship of that Gospel he hath committed to the ministers of his sanctuary. Lo! these are they (my Lay brethren) who "claim no dominion. over your faith, but are keepers of your joy." It is their glory, their honor, their crown of rejoicing to be continually employed in "perfecting the saints, and edifying the body of Christ; by instructing the ignorant, reclaiming the vicious, strengthening the weak, confirming the strong, quickening the slothful, encouraging the timorous, composing the scrupulous, satisfying the doubtful, and giving to every one his appointed portion of spiritual food in due season."

BLESSED talk! glorious employment to be shewing to all with whom we are connected "the way of salvation!" How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the Gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!"

SEEING then, that this ministry of reconciliation, this "doctrine of repentance and remission of sins" hath been committed to earthen vessels, that the "excellency thereof may appear not to be of man but of God;" let no man despise the jewel, on account of the weakness or the meanness of the casket which contains it! "He who despiseth you (saith Jesus) despiseth me, and he who despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me." On the other hand "he who receiveth you, receiveth me; and he who receiveth me, receiveth him that sent me."

FINALLY--my clerical Brethren--let it be our continual aim and the ultimate object of all our endeavours, to promote the glory of God, by forwarding the salvation of "the people committed to our charge," to make our light so to shine before them, that copying after our good examples of faith and patience, of charity and meekness, and allthe other virtues and graces which are capable of adorning the christian soul, against the happy day of her espousals to the Lamb of God; they may with us "glorify God in the day of visitation, and be numbered with the saints of the Most High in glory everlasting." Let us never be afraid "to magnify our office"--nor ashamed to "glory in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."--Let us beemulous with truth and boldness to appropriate St. Pauls profession to ourselves--"We are not as many who adulterate the word of God, but in sincerity, as of God, in the sight of God, [17/18]  speak we in Christ." Let us ever bear in mind the admonition of St. Jude "to contend for the faith once given to the saints." Never surely did any age of the world call more loudly for a strenuous exertion of zeal well directed by knowledge, to defend the cause of "God and his Christ," than the present; wherein impiety, infidelity and sacrilege have not only everspread the face of the earth, but united their forces to cast down to the ground, and trample underfoot forever, the name of Jesus and his holy religion; and to disorganize all establishment, which the experience of ages and generations has found necessary to the peace and happiness of mankind. But though attempts be daily making to obscure the splendour of the sun of the intellectual world; yet he can never be extinguished; clouds may hide his brightness for a while, but in due time "all clouds shall vanish, all enemies be put under his feet;--he will shine more and more unto that perfect day, when the heavens and the earth shall be full of the majesty of his Glory."--For HE, who at first said, "let there be light and there was light;" will, at the proper season, command light out of spiritual darkness, and life to spring from the region and shadow of death. And however it may be the lot of any of us, to be placed in a spiritual desert, among thorns and briars of infidelity and disobedience;--to our comfort be it remembered, that HE, who, in the desert that lieth between Jerusalem and Gaza, made such a fragrant rose to spring up, as perfumed all the land of Ethiopia, can when he pleases, and will when he sees proper, cause the most dreary and barren wilderness to become fruitful field; and render the most unpromising journey in life productive of infinite good. "With God nothing is impossible." Therefore, as "good stewards of the manifold grace of God," as guardians of "the [18/19] word of eternal life," as "workmen that need not be ashamed," but rather have cause to glory in our "work and labour of love;"--let us (the God of all power and grace strengthening us) "be stedfast and immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that our labor shall not be in vain in the Lord." Let us, "be faithful unto death, and assuredly we shall receive the crown of life." Let us hold fast our "integrity, and not let it go,"--let us labor to "turn many to righteousness, and we shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever."

FOR which cause, "I humbly bow my knee before thee O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all the Families of the Earth are named, "beseeching thee of thy great goodness to preserve our Episcopacy always precious in thy sight, and lovely in thy eyes of all the people. "Give grace O Heavenly Father, to all Bishops, Priests and Deacons: that they may, both by their life and doctrine, set forth thy true and lively word, and rightly and duly administer thy holy sacraments. And to all thy people, give thy heavenly grace; and especially to this Congregation here present; that with meek heart and due reverence they may hear, and receive thy holy word; truly serving thee in holiness and righteousness all the days of their life.--Grant this, O Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen."

AND to the FATHER ineffable;--the SON Redeemer of the world;--and the HOLY GHOST Sanctifier of the faithful:--TRINITY of Persons in an indivisible UNITY of Essence:--TRIUNE GOD! by thy whole Church to us visible and invisible, [19/20] and by every part of thy Creation, be ascribed as is most due, all adoration, glory, honor, dominion and praise, world without end.

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