Printed by T. & J. SWORDS, No. 99 Pearl-street,
MY RESPECTED BRETHREN,
BEING called, in the dispensations of Divine Providence, to the office of a Bishop in the Church of Christ, I have thought proper to address you, in this public manner, from an affectionate concern for your everlasting welfare. From the relation which now subsists between us, several important duties arise, with which my mind is deeply impressed. It is said, "that he who desireth the office of a Bishop, desireth a good work." It is, unquestionably, a good work "to watch for the souls of men; to take care of the Church of God," so that by the exercise of wholesome discipline, and by the regular administration of the word and sacraments, immortal souls may be saved in the great day of final retribution. If an inspired Apostle found reason to exclaim, "Who is sufficient for these things!" well may the Ministers of the Gospel, in the present day, be humbled under a just sense of their own infirmity, and of the magnitude of the office which they have undertaken to discharge. But, notwithstanding these discouragements, with a stedfast reliance on the aid of that grace which is sufficient for us, we must "preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, [3/4] exhort, with all long suffering and doctrine." We must "watch in all things; endure afflictions; do the work of evangelists; make full proof of our ministry." Vigilance and industry have been always necessary; but, when we consider the subtilty and malignity which actuate the enemies of the gospel, the scoffers of these last days, the antichrists who are now in the world, it must be confessed, that never did the providence of God more loudly call upon the Pastors of the Church "to be sober in all things, and watch unto prayer; to guard their flocks, with unceasing anxiety, against the devouring lion, and the wolf who cometh to catch or to scatter them.
The enemies of our holy religion have frequently boasted, that the philosophy which is so highly celebrated in the present day is of a mild and liberal spirit, abhorring all manner of violence, using no weapons with which to propagate its peculiar notions, but those of candid discussion, and sober argument. Some shocking examples, which have recently occurred in one of the greatest nations of the European world, prove these assertions to be utterly false, and have showed to all mankind, that Infidel Philosophy, armed with power, is one of the most despotic and sanguinary of all tyrants. We have reason to bless God, that in this country the profession of Christianity does not expose us to such severe trials. We are not called upon "to resist unto blood, striving against sin." Unbelievers are, nevertheless, numerous, subtil, [4/5] and malignant. The principles which they advocate, unless baffled by determined resistance, will be productive of the same effects here which they have produced in other parts of the world. With indefatigable perseverance, they are disseminated by methods almost infinitely diversified; by secret societies caballing in darkness, and by lectures delivered at noonday; by histories and travels, by novels and plays, by cheap pamphlets for the poor, and by newspapers circulating far and wide, among all classes of the community; and, when the original productions of our own country fail, the most impious publications of foreign nations are translated with mischievous industry. The word of divine inspiration has forewarned us, "that, in the last days, perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, boasters, proud, blasphemers, despisers of those that are good. Ye have need, therefore, to be exhorted to put on the whole armour of God, that ye may fight the good fight of faith, and having done all to stand."
Be not misled by the bold pretensions of those proud boasters, who are ever declaiming upon the superior attainments of this enlightened age. It will be readily acknowledged, that, in the course of a few years past, improvements have been made in astronomy, geography, chymistry, and some other branches of natural philosophy, which depend upon experiments; but, in all these things, how is pure religion concerned? What have these to do [5/6] with that merciful scheme of salvation which has been revealed in the gospel of our Redeemer? Of this momentous subject we know no more than what God has been pleased to disclose to us. Christianity is now what it was from the beginning; and all the wisdom of this world can make no improvement upon the prescribed method of obtaining the remission of our sins, the sanctification of our corrupted nature, and the final salvation of our souls. It is written in the scriptures of everlasting truth, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nought the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" In things pertaining to godliness, let the word of God be your only guide. Attempt not to be wise above what is written. "Cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bring into captivity every thought, to the obedience of Christ."
Departing from this unerring rule, those who pretend to be the most enlightened have, in fact, wandered in the grossest darkness. Equally absurd and pernicious are the tenets which they have openly maintained: they have asserted, that, between parents and children, there is no peculiar obligation to protection and education on the one part, and to reverence and gratitude on the other; that the nearest relatives have no particular claim upon your beneficence, [6/7] which ought to be extended in an equal degree to all mankind; that human nature, even in this world, may arrive at such a state of perfection as to render an atonement for sin utterly needless; that the reason of man wanted not the aid of divine revelation; that religion is of little consequence, since death is an everlasting sleep; that the priesthood is a grievous burden; that the abolition of the sabbath would be advantageous to society; that the public solemnities of our religion are nothing more than ridiculous superstitions. Be not deceived, my beloved brethren; these doctrines, most assuredly, have a direct tendency to involve the world in confusion and misery. As parents, as neighbours, as fellow-citizens, be attentive to all the domestic and social duties of life. With respect to religious knowledge, learn, from the example of the heathen world, how little can be done by the unassisted powers of human reason. With humility and gratitude bless God for bringing life and immortality to light through the gospel. This alone can make you wise unto salvation. It is profitable for all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. Yield a becoming respect to all its ordinances. Ever remember, that unless persons, and times, and places, be set apart for the purpose, these ordinances cannot be regularly administered. In a word, "keep the sabbath and reverence the sanctuary."
Let me exhort you not to delay the important [7/8] business of having your children admitted into the Church, and made partakers of the benefits of the christian covenant, by the holy ordinance of baptism. The Church is the same spiritual society, whether we view it as existing before or since the coining of our Lord; for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved; neither is there salvation in any other but in Christ alone. This covenant of mercy was made with Abraham, as the father of all believers, whether they, be Jews or Gentiles. He was admitted, and his whole house, by the instituted rite of circumcision. This was to be performed when the infant was eight days old, and dreadful was the consequence of wilful neglect: the uncircumcised man-child was to be cut off from the people, "because, saith God, he has broken my covenant." Into this covenant, baptism is now the instituted rite of admission. When our Lord commanded his Apostles "to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them," these heavenly messengers well knew that baptism was of the same significance; that it was to be as extensive in its application, as circumcision had been under the former dispensation; that it was to be applied to the old and to the young, to adult believers and to their children. If the wrath of God was declared, in the strongest terms, against those descendants of Abraham who despised the offers of his mercy, and refused to comply with his holy ordinance; let christian parents tremble, [8/9] lest a similar neglect on their part, with respect to the baptism of their children, should expose them to the same displeasure of the Almighty.
It is my intention to administer, from time to time, the Apostolic rite of confirmation to those who may be properly prepared for the reception of the same. One great end of this holy ordinance, our Church has declared to be this: "that children, being now come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promised for them in baptism, may themselves, with their own mouth and consent, openly, before the Church, ratify and confirm the same." In order to give your children this necessary instruction, my brethren of the Clergy are, no doubt, attentive to the important duty of teaching and explaining the fundamental principles of christianity, according to the catechism of our Church. But this good work cannot be effectually performed, unless parents heartily co-operate with their Ministers. In this age of dangerous innovations, among other deviations from the good old way, this error is to be deplored and condemned: that, in many of our schools, children are not permitted to read the Bible, and the custom of catechising them is entirely neglected. As an excuse for this omission, it is asserted, that the scriptures contain many things beyond the comprehension of the youthful mind; and, that children ought not to be instructed in the principles of our religion, [9/10] because this will be nothing better that prejudice in favour of a particular system; a prejudice imbibed before they are able to deliberate and decide for themselves. In answer to such objections, let it be observed, that, by habituating your children to the reading of the holy scriptures, sentiments of piety are insensibly acquired; these solemn truths are gradually and deeply impressed upon their minds--that the universe was created by an almighty, wise, and good Being; that he constantly governs the works of his hands; that his providence over-rules the affairs of men; that he loves and will reward the good; that he is displeased with the wicked, and will most assuredly punish them. Leave the young without timely education, and what will be the consequence? The evil propensities of their corrupted nature will gain the ascendency; and should you ever attempt, at any subsequent period of life, to lead them into the right way, you will have the additional difficulty of correcting wrong notions, and conquering bad habits, before the work of religious instruction can begin; you must endure the labour of clearing the ground which you have left to be over-run with briars and thorns, before the good seed can be sown, with any rational hope of a future harvest. Such an absurd procedure would be directly contrary to the practice of the most considerate men, in all ages of the world, and to the express declarations of that wisdom which cometh down from above: by this we are taught [10/11] "to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it; to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." The all-wise God himself gives this high commendation of Abraham, whom he vouchsafes to call his friend; "I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment." Let these authorities have their due effect. Let the worship of God be duly celebrated in your families. Assiduously train up your children in the knowledge of religion, and in the love of their Creator and Redeemer. Let the performance of this duty be considered as essentially necessary to social happiness, especially under a republican form of government, where so much depends upon the will of the people. Take care that the masters, to whom you entrust their education, set apart a particular portion of every week for the purpose of making them thoroughly acquainted with the catechism of our Church. Put the Bible early into their hands. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; so that the man of God may become perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all the good works which he is obliged to perform, as a member of civil society, and as an heir of immortality.
To counteract the spirit of profaneness which has gone forth, and which, it is to be feared, [11/12] is prevailing in our land, I cannot too earnestly recommend to your particular regard a devout observance of the holy sabbath. This institution of our heavenly Father is fraught with blessings to mankind, both temporal and eternal. Its direct tendency is to banish vice, the parent of misery, and to cherish habits of virtue and piety, from which spring peace on earth and glory in heaven. In places where Clergymen are regularly settled, let no frivolous excuse arising from the love of pleasure, or from excessive attention to business, prevent the assembling of yourselves together in the house of God, for the purposes of social worship. And in those districts where you are unhappily deprived of the public ordinances of religion, you can, at least, so far hallow the sabbath, as to make it a day of rest; to devote it to meditation upon the works of God, the ways of his providence, and the dispensations of his grace; to employ it as a stated season of giving religious instruction to your children and dependents. Be assured you will lose nothing, even with respect to temporal possessions, by thus abstaining from worldly labour and hallowing one day in seven: you will procure the benediction of God; and, without his blessing, in vain do ye rise up early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof: he can make it barren for the wickedness of those who dwell therein; and he can open his hand, and fill all things living with plenteousness."
 The government of our country has declined giving any direct encouragement to the Ministers of the Gospel, and to the maintenance of our holy religion. Whether this be sound policy or not, experience must determine. It is certainly a deviation from the practice of the wisest nations, in all ages of the world, who seem to have been unanimous in this sentiment, that religion, under any form, is better than absolute atheism. And, surely, among all the modes of religion which have at any time prevailed in the world, Christianity is the most worthy of the countenance and support of the civil Magistrate. Being deprived of this support, let every individual christian be more deeply impressed with the obligation incumbent upon him, to give weight and influence to his religion by his own personal exertions. Be it your endeavour to show the utility of this divine institution, by its blessed effects on your whole life and conversation. Let it render you more sober in the government of your appetites and passions, more righteous in your dealings with others, more pious in your intercourse with the great Lord of all. Let it make you, as parents, more affectionate; as children, more dutiful; as masters, more kind; as magistrates, more exact in the execution of the laws; as members of society in general, more steady and uniform in maintaining peace and good order among all ranks of the community. "Thus will your light shine before men; who, seeing your good works, may be induced to [13/14] glorify your Father who is in heaven. You will put to silence the ignorance of foolish men; He that is of the contrary part will be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."
Influenced by this disposition of mind, take under your particular patronage and encouragement the plan which has lately been adopted by your Bishop and Clergy, for your spiritual edification, and which is herewith communicated to you. It must be apparent to every person who bestows the slightest attention upon the subject, that the publishing of religious tracts, and distributing them among the people, must be exceedingly conducive to the promotion of primitive christianity. Those whom God has blessed with abundance of temporal possessions, lie under peculiar obligations to give this plan all the aid in their power. In what way can a small portion of your wealth be more usefully employed, than in providing books of piety for the poor who are not able to purchase them, and inducing many to read, who would neglect their religious concerns, were not admonition and instruction sent to their doors? By publications, under every form, they, who have hostile designs against our holy religion, disseminate their pernicious doctrines. It becomes us to learn wisdom even from an enemy. Let not the children of this world be, on all occasions, wiser than the children of light. If the poison has been circulated far and wide by exertions worthy of a better cause, let us, with equal industry, endeavour to make [14/15] the blessed antidote at least as extensive in its operation. One, or more Missionaries, will, ere long, be employed to publish the glad tidings of salvation, through a Redeemer, to those congregations who are now unhappily destitute of the advantages of a settled ministry, of the ordinances of religion, and of all the solemnities of public worship, according to the rites and ceremonies of our truly Apostolic Church. And, it may be reasonably supposed, that the pious admonitions and instructions of a Missionary will be crowned with much more complete success, if he be furnished with a variety of useful tracts, on the most important subjects of religion, to be distributed by him, as occasion may require. If, therefore, it be an object deserving the encouragement of those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, to enlighten the ignorant, to fix the wavering, to confirm those who are already inclined to hold fast that which is good, afford the benevolent plan here proposed your liberal support.
These, my brethren, are some of the duties which I have thought proper, at this time, to mention, as claiming your more immediate regard. There are many others of great, perhaps of equal importance, which, on some future occasion, I may suggest to your serious consideration. If these be the words of truth and soberness, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, be persuaded to think on these things. And, that you may both perceive and know what things you ought to do, and also [15/16] may have power faithfully to fulfil the same; that you may run in the way of God's commandments and not be weary, pray without ceasing for the aid of that blessed Spirit, from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed. Thus, when Christ, the great Shepherd, shall appear, and call us to give an account of our conduct, we shall do it with joy and not with grief. I shall be cheered with the delightful consciousness that I have not laboured in vain, and you will receive the great reward promised to his faithful people; a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; a joy which, in this imperfect state, eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and of which it hath not entered into our hearts to conceive. That you may finally obtain this great felicity, be assured, you shall have the fervent prayers of your affectionate Pastor, and servant in Christ,