A LETTER TO THE RIGHT REV. ----
B--- May 12, 1866.
MY DEAR BISHOP. I remember hearing that some years ago a distinguished Presbyter of the Diocese of ----, was much horrified by the use of flowers upon the altar, and he wrote an article, in his usual strong style, for the purpose of "arresting a growing practice which he believed to be decidedly wrong." However, the practice went on, and more and more increased, so that the Presbyter himself has not only succumbed to it, but is probably now as much pleased with flowers upon the altar as anybody else. Now I predict the same result with your efforts to arrest the growing practice of "Surpliced Choirs." The practice will go on, you will fall into it yourself, and finding it so much more decent, more devotional, more Scriptural and more Catholic than the prevailing custom, you will wonder how you could have written such an article as that which was printed in the W ----of the 27th ult. Let me give you a few of my reasons for this opinion.
I. Your objections are altogether original, as you must acknowledge. I do not mean that I have not heard the same expressed by clergymen of our Church, but I mean that no writer of any note, and no Ritualist of any authority in the Church, can be found to sustain you in these objections. The practice of Surpliced Choristers is certainly as old as the consecration of the Temple of Solomon, has always existed in the Church of England, was retained hy the Reformers, was never abolished, excepting by the Puritans in the reign of Cromwell, and has never been objected to by any authority upon the grounds advocated in your article. To a plain man, therefore, who is disposed to stand by the universal practice of the Church in all ages, the presumption is, that you must be wrong, even though he might not be able to detect your fallacies. For it is never safe to go against the voice of the Church in matters of common and ordinary ritual, nor is it to be supposed that her voice would sanction any practice, for so many ages, if, as you maintain, it has so palpably invaded the rights of the clergy, nor can it be imagined as possible that you have made upon this subject an entirely new discovery.
II. Your article is opposed to almost the only feature in that Catholic movement which commenced a few years ago in England--the influence of which we have felt--which has enlisted the sympathy and support there of men of all parties, whether "high Church" or "low Church" or "broad Church." That feature is the music of the Church, the change and improvement of which all acknowledge, and which is owing, as all confess, to the introduction of "singing men and singing boys," arrayed in white linen as in the time of Solomon, placed in the "Choir of the Church, sustaining and animating the worship of Priests and people." Instead of the single Parson and Clerk or Minister and Quartette, the people have seen, especially at the Festivals," (I am quoting the testimony of the Arch Deacon of Exeter,) "the choral worship, conducted by a multitude of the clergy and by hundreds or thousands of the white-robed choir, and they have felt, us they never felt before, the grandeur of such a service, and its correspondence to the glimpses of heavenly worship disclosed to us by Holy Scripture ..... And the larger gatherings at which these things were done have reacted upon the more limited and ordinary parochial services. Their proper object was so to react in respect of musical proficiency only; but they have influenced, at the same time, the whole outward form and order of things." I could quote much more testimony, and from men of all parties, to the blessedness of this movement. And yet you seek to arrest it, as you say, "upon principle," not because of any authority in ancient or modern canon laws or in the practice of the Church, but upon principle, a newly discovered principle, that the "Surplice is a Priestly vestment and belongs exclusively to the clergy, Moreover, you connect with this principle another new discovery, that these singers ought not to be "placed in that part of the chancel end of the church occupied by the clergy," and which has always been called "the choir." Now, my dear Sir, my prediction is, that the movement will arrest you, and, knowing your Catholic heart, you will rejoice to be arrested by it. Besides, I have no doubt that upon the subject of "Priestly Vestments" and the "Chancel," as well as some other matters contained in your article, you will, upon more thorough investigation, entirely change your mind.
III. Your article will not stand the test of examination, and you have made in it some very unfortunate and fundamental mistakes. Let us examine it seriatim. You say "God has once expressly revealed His will, that His ministers, when officiating in the service of His house, should be arrayed in sacred vestments, i.e., they should wear a dress peculiar to their holy office, while performing its duties, and which they were not to wear at other times, and which other persons were not to wear on any occasion. From that period to the present, so far as we know, the practice obtained in all dispensations of the Jewish Church, and in the Christian Church, varying in form and color, in different ages and in different branches of the church."
The italics are your own. It is observable that you do not say the Priests, but "His Ministers, when officiating in the service of His House." But whom do you mean by "His Ministers"? Would you exclude the Sexton, or the Wardens and vestry, or the choristers, or even the whole body of His people, as in one sense "a royal Priesthood in the Christian Church"? All certainly officiate in His House and are His Ministers and servants; and, if what you say is true, which I do not deny, then all should be "arrayed in sacred vestments" appropriate to the different offices which they are required to discharge. Such has been, to some extent, the practice of the Church; each and all have had their appropriate dress or insignia for the House of God; even "the holy women" laying aside their worldly apparel, and being "adorned," at least, in His house, as "women professing godliness." But evidently you mean to confine "the sacred vestments" to the Priesthood, as you say that "the surplice is a Priestly vestment, and belongs exclusively to the clergy". But the Levites, who did not officiate as Priests, and by whom principally the music was conducted, were arrayed in white, and David, who belonged to neither, sometimes wore the ephod.
Again, you say, "following this ancient and authorized practice, as highly proper, our own church has adopted the surplice, a plain garment made of 'pure white linen,' as nearly as possible in the form of the Jewish ephod. This pattern is as near as we can now attain to that which God himself set forth in the Old Testament, while the material, emblematic of the righteousness of the saints, resembles that wherewith the redeemed are robed in the church triumphant, as revealed in the New Testament."
"Our own church has adopted the surplice!" Well, we rejoice that the surplice is becoming such a general favorite, and we hope the time is not far distant, when it may be generally used in this Diocese by all the clergy, especially on all occasions of ordination, and the consecration of churches, but that time has not yet come. To say, however, that "our church has adopted it," in any other sense than that it has gradually come into general use, is a mistake. There is no law upon the subject, as you acknowledge, and therefore it is not impossible that custom may yet introduce something better, and something which will mark more strongly the distinction between the officiating Priests and the officiating choristers. This, in fact, is the great question which your article has opened, and you have put an argument in the hands of those who are seeking to introduce something else on the express ground that the surplice is not the true Priestly vestment.
But how could you compare the Surplice to the Jewish ephod? In the 28th chapter of Exodus, at the 6th verse, you will find a description of the ephod. "And they shall make the ephod of gold; of blue, and of purple, of scarlet, and fine twined linen, with cunning work. It shall have the two shoulder-pieces thereof joined at the edges thereof; and so it shall be joined together. And the curious girdle of the ephod which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen" etc. Such is a description of the ephod, by an authority which will not be questioned. Hence Calmet says: "It was an ornamental part of the dress worn by the Hebrew Priests;" that it was "worn above the Tunic and Robe, was without sleeves, and open below the arms on each side, joined together on the shoulders by golden buckles, set with gems, having a girdle by which it was bound to the body." Robinson thinks there were two kinds of ephod, one plainer than the other, worn by the Priests, and the other embroidered for the High Priest. But the plain one was that described above, and then for the High Priest was added the " onyx stones and the names of the twelve tribes," etc. Probably the ephod worn by the singers, by David and others, was more plain and simple than either of them, just as the Surplice worn by our choristers is plainer than that worn by the clergy and differently made, and only called an ephod because resembling it and used in the worship of the Temple. But what mistake could be greater than to speak of the Surplice "as nearly as possible in the form of the Jewish ephod."
Again you say that "Protestant Episcopal Church has no other clerical vestment than the surplice." You then go on to speak rather disrespectfully of the black gown as altogether a Romish affair, "introduced by the Black Friars," and even "the stole" or scarf falls under your condemnation as "emblematic of sin." What those brethren may say of these strictures who have not yet laid aside the black gown, and among whom it made the special emblem of an evangelical preacher, or what all may say, who regard an ordinary black dress as becoming the clergy, I do not know. But when you say that "the Protestant Episcopal Church has no other clerical vestment than the surplice," it seems to me you must have slightly forgotten some things which you have lately seen and felt. You certainly will not deny that the Bishop is a clergyman, and has he no other clerical vestment than a surplice, or are the Bishop's robes not clerical? Moreover, you must also know that many of the clergy, when ministering at the altar, are accustomed to wear the alb and chasuble, as a true priestly vestment, and for this they have the best of human authority--the authority of the English church, and the express words of her best liturgical writers, who say, that "the surplice is the choral, the alb the sacrificial ministering robe." And hence the first prayer book of Edward VI., now binding upon the English clergy, (and why not upon us?) required that "the priests at the time of the Holy Communion should wear the alb with a vestment or cope, though in the saying or singing of Matin and Even Song," a surplice was commanded.
Again, after inveighing against what you call the desecration of "the holy vestments," by "putting them upon a company of men and boys who are picked up and brought into the church because they can sing, with no moral or spiritual qualification for the services of God's house," . . .. "profane, thoughtless, faithless, godless," you say:-
"What a comment upon such desecration of the use of sacred vestments is the fact, that a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ stands up to perform the service, habited in his priestly vestments, and within a few feet of him stands a man in precisely the same habit, whom every member of the congregation knows to be an undisguised infidel, but who has a voice, and is willing to sing in a Christian church for money! It is true the scarf, a piece of black silk, emblematic of sin, distinguishes the minister."
Now, may I be permitted to make a different application of your vehement expostulation? What a desecration, not of sacred vestments, but of the whole worship of God's house, and the most solemn words of Holy Scripture, that a minister of the Lord Jesus Christ stands up to perform the service, and yet before him in the organ-loft, perhaps there is a company of "undisguised infidels," upon whom he is dependent for the performance of the most devotional and the most seraphic parts of that service--a company who have voices to sing and "are willing to sing in a Christian church for money," and yet entirely removed from the control of minister and people, talking, laughing, playing at cards, or rushing into an ante-room when the prayers commence, coming back for the hymn and running out again when the sermon commences! What an awful desecration of the worship of the Most High God! And then what hope can there be that such a company of performers will ever be converted and reconciled to God by the blood of the cross!! Have I not as much ground and vastly more for making this expostulation, than you have for the other? Neither of us would reflect unkindly upon the singers in our churches, whether in the chancel or the organ-loft; for we know that many of them are among the most devout and unselfish of all our worshippers, and even those who are paid for their services, are dependent upon that pay for their daily bread.
I think that such persons should be paid and paid well, just as the clergy should be paid and paid well; not because they servo the church for hire, but because the church is bound to support those who minister in her service and at her altars. Were it possible, as I hope it may ere long be, my choir of boys should belong to the Parochial School under the charge of the Rector of the Parish, and not one member compelled, by the necessities of his daily bread, to sing for the amusement of the people--all attending the daily service, as well as the Sunday and festival worship, and all loved, cared for and sustained for their "work's sake." But you know, as well as myself, the untold evils of voluntary singers and hired singers in by-places and organ-lofts, and in my judgment the only remedy is the introduction of "singing men and singing boys" in their proper place, in the "choir of the church," under the eye of minister and people, not behind a screen, but arrayed in those white vestments which proclaim to all the sacredness of their office as choristers,--an office which gives them a position in the Church, and which cannot but make them feel, and the people feel, that they should be pure in heart and life. I say that this is the only remedy for that awful desecration to which I have referred, and over which all of us have mourned and wept--for the following reasons, as briefly expressed as I know how to express them: 1st. Because it is God's remedy, as seen in the worship of the Temple and in that of the Christian Church in all ages. 2d. Because, under this system, minister and people are compelled to act upon principle, not hiring "undisguised infidels," etc., but opening the door-way to those who have the heart to come under discipline, and who love the worship of the Church, or can be trained to love it. 3d. Because "undisguised infidels," with some lingering feelings of shame and self-respect, are generally opposed to the system, and shrink from it. 4th. Because, as a general rule, the "boys" employed do not hire themselves out for money, for the pay would not clothe them, but they are brought to us by their parents for the sake of the discipline and instruction. 5th. Because they are boys, mere boys from seven to twelve and fourteen years of age, not profane and hardened infidels, as you seem to fancy, but just at that tender age when they can be moulded, changed and transformed into new creatures in Christ Jesus; and such has been the result, scarcely a boy belonging to my choir who has not become a faithful communicant of the Church, and not a few, either ministers of the Gospel, or now studying for the ministry. 6th. Because the system is one which attracts the support and cooperation of devout men, most of whom give their services voluntarily, and here, as in England, many of the clergy, when not otherwise engaged, take their places in the choir as choristers. I could give many other reasons, derived from experience, why "the surpliced choir" is the only remedy for that lamented desecration of the worship of God's house which is so common, but these are enough for the present.
But again, you make a strong, though, as it seems to me, a very deceptive argument from the fact, that even candidates for Orders, when they act as Lay Readers, are not allowed to wear the surplice. You say: "Take the parishes, and there are quite a number, where the choirs wear surplices; would the Rector of such a parish, if a candidate for Holy Orders were to assist him in the Service, allow this religious layman to put on a surplice? Even though this candidate may have been a long time a devoted Christian, and perhaps for many years a zealous preacher in some denomination, yet that very Hector allows a man whom he knows to be an infidel to put on that holy garment in his presence, which belongs exclusively to God's minister, and denies it to a man who preached 'Christ crucified' before this singing infidel was born into the world."
Now, though I acknowledge that this argument is exceedingly specious and its fallacy is not easily detected, yet I am surprised you did not yourself discard it after it was penned; for it seems to me a very unkind argument, addressed to the populace, and not at all to the subject in question. I know you would have been the very last person to use it, had it appeared to you, in any particular, as it does to me. In the first place, you arraign some of your brethren of the clergy for a very great sin, and then you proceed to aggravate that sin by the mention of circumstances, over which, if true, they have no control. Is it true that the Rector of any church where there is a "surpliced choir," would "allow a man whom he knows to be an infidel to put on that holy garment in his presence?" For my part, I am happy to say that I do not know of any such Rector, nor do I believe that any such Rector can be found. There has never been any individual in my choir, wearing the surplice, whom I have known to be an infidel, or other than a devout worshipper. But supposing such a Rector to be found, is it true that he would or could deny the surplice to "a man who preached Christ crucified before this singing infidel was born," simply because he is a lay reader, and not a chorister?
Surely in this you have overstepped the bounds of Christian fairness and moderation. For you know perfectly well, and no man knows better than you, that the General Convention, by Canon Law, has made a distinction between "candidates for orders," and other laymen, in the matter of reading the service. Any ordinary layman may read the service, but not any candidate for orders, without a license from the Bishop, or, if there be no Bishop, from the clerical members of the standing committee. Nor could any Bishop or rector, with or without a surpliced choir, place upon him any dress appropriate to the clergy, when reading the service. Why the Church has thought fit to make this distinction between candidates for orders and other laymen, in reading the Church service, is obvious enough, but for the life of me I cannot see its bearing upon the question of a "surpliced choir." As well might it be argued from this distinction, that laymen who are not candidates for Orders have had Episcopal Ordination or consecration, simply because they can do in the church service what candidates for orders cannot. At all events, there is no Canon Law forbidding either class from officiating in the choir and in the appropriate vestments of the choir.
Again you say, that you have "taken up your pen in defence of the rights of the Priesthood." But what have you done? Most unwittingly, you have assailed the rights of the Priesthood and the rights of the Bishop of California. No churchman can doubt, as it seems to me, that Bishop Kip has a right to recommend a choral worship and a "surpliced choir" in his Diocese, and when you say that "no Bishop, Priest, Deacon, or Layman has this right," you arraign the great body of the English Bishops, and the great body of the American Bishops, and all the Bishops of the whole Catholic Church in all ages, by whom this right has been exercised. More than all you assail the undoubted rights of the Rector of every parish. For if there be any one thing which is and ought to be, by Rubric and Canon Law, under the control of the Rector, it is the music of the church, not only to "suppress all light and unseemly music," but to require that his choristers shall be placed in that part of the church which has always been known as "the choir" and that they shall appear, not in fancy dresses, hut in that decent and comely apparel which the Church in all ages has sanctioned and recommended by her practice.
Your position that "the surplice worn by our choristers is a priestly vestment, and, therefore, belongs exclusivly to the clergy," is as point blank a violation of fact, as it would be to maintain that a black coat or white cravat are "priestly," and therefore belong exclusively to the clergy, or that nothing is saintly or priestly which does not belong exclusively to the clergy. As well might you object to the white robes of the infant brought to the font, or the white robes of the candidates for baptism, in the primitive church, as a violation of the rights of the clergy. Scarcely in any other part of the world could such a position be taken. What would be thought of it in England, where not only every student in the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge must bring his "surplice," but every scholar in every institution having a religious foundation, from those most anciently established down to the last, the College established by the Bishop of St. Andrews in Scotland? What would be thought of it in Wisconsin, where, in the principal College of that Diocese, not less than forty or fifty students are daily arrayed in surplices in the worship of the daily service? In short, I can imagine no other stand-point in all Christendom, where such an idea could have entered into the mind, but the stand-point of the Diocese of M.
Again, you seem to imagine that the white surplice is not so much an official garment, sacred to the offices of religion, as it is a professional and emblematic robe, proclaiming the greater purity and sanctity of the clergy, as though when the clergyman puts on his surplice, he then says to the people, "I am holier than thou." Now, I have no doubt that the fine linen is emblematic of "the righteousness of the saints," but are the clergy the only saints? And if the object in wearing it is to proclaim "the righteousness of the saints," then all Christians should wear it, and the whiter the surplice, the purer the saint. No, my dear Bishop, the surplice, as I understand, is an Ecclesiastical garment, to be worn by all persons engaged officially in the Choral worship of the Church, and denoting, not so much the personal purity of character of those who wear it, as the sacredness of the duties which they are called upon to discharge. And, hence, I could not but think, when reading that part of your article which speaks of "undisguised infidels" employed in the worship, that it would he better, if by accident such persons are employed, that they should be disguised, at least in Church.
In conclusion, may I not express the hope that in the new and most important Diocese to which you are about departing, with the love, sympathy, and prayers of all your brethren and the whole Church, you may ere long be enabled to rejoice over the erection of a grand Cathedral in which you may have the Daily Service, and the full Cathedral Worship of the Church; and as the sainted Croswell said:--
"There let the organ and the strain devout,
Make every stone in sympathy cry out,
Like some harmonious fabric of the Lord's
'Whose vaults are shells and pillars tuneful chords.'
There let the surpliced priests in order stand,
And why not, white-robed choirs on either hand?"
With the assurance of my sympathy and love,
Truly and affectionately yours,
JAMES A. BOLLES.
To the RT. REV. --
REMARKS ON THE RECENT LETTER OF BISHOP EASTBURN.
It gives us no little pleasure to record the fact that the Bishop of Massachusetts, in addressing an informal letter to his clergy, has exempted from condemnation "processional hymns" so-called, "Surpliced Choirs," intoning the prayers, and flowers upon the Communion table, and elsewhere in the Church," at the same time that he denounces many other matters of ritual. These small favors we receive with thankfulness, and take them as intimations of future privileges yet to be granted.
But the Bishop of Massachusetts in addressing the congregations and clergy in his Diocese, has made several serious mistakes; and his fundamental one is found in his interpretation of the action of the General Convention; in fact is found in the very basis on which he rests his whole appeal.
For what is his appeal?
It is this: that inasmuch as the General Convention has condemned, changes in our ritual indefinitely, therefore, he exhorts his clergy and laity to see to it that where there have been established usages differing from those common in the American Church, there they are to make changes and return to the common usages; for he claims he is by this Conventional action sustained in his denunciation of Lights upon the Altar, burning of incense, crossings, elevation of the elements at the Lord's supper, vestments, turning to the east in the Creed and glorias, and bowing at the name of Jesus.
Now, it is very plain that while the resolutions relied on relate to "changes," yet they do not state what changes, whether they be changes from or to a more ornate ritual which are to be avoided.
It is plain to any one reading the proceedings of the General Convention that this phraseology was intentionally left thus indefinite; for the Convention passed over several Resolutions which were before them, which were explicit, and which did, condemn these very matters, now enumerated by Bishop Eastburn, when they accepted and passed these resolutions of Dr. Littlejohn, simply because they did not wish to condemn anything in particular, and because they would leave matters just as they stood before, for at least, nine years to come. They 'discountenanced "changes," but did not state what changes.
Bishop Eastburn states some things which he has noticed have been introduced into the Church, and calls upon those who have fallen into their use to cease using them, and so to make "changes." He quotes the Convention thus to sustain him in a denunciation contrary to their express vote, a denunciation which they themselves have actually refused to utter.
Still further, he denounces everything which assimilates our ritual to that of Rome, and yet gives us really no rule by which to guide us in the decision where to stop in this assimilation. For surplices used at all, Altar or Communion tables placed in the chief place of honor in the Church, bishops, priests, and deacons in the order of the ministry, decorating the Church with Christmas greens, Liturgical prayers, chanting psalms are alt Romish practices, and a part of the Roman discipline, and assimilate us to "that Papal Church from whose corruption, at the cost of the blood of the Protestant Martyrs we were mercifully delivered."
How far back, then, are we to go? Shall we give up those things by which we are assimilated to Rome, and follow the rule of the Protestant sects? Bishop Eastburn gives us no answer to this question; he states no principle to guide us; he merely puts us in leading strings, and endeavors to reduce his people and clergy from the liberty of the spirit to the servitude of the letter of his informal communication, upon the simple basis of his ipse dixit.
Usage is not Law.
He confuses two very distinct matters; he treats the unauthorized usages and customs of the Church as if they were the traditions and ceremonies of the Church, which have been ordained and approved by common authority.
Who ordained the surplice, black robe and bands, as the law of our Church? Who ordained the slip-shod method of performing Church service which is so generally practiced in our Churches? And that the eucharistic service should be so performed as to symbolize the Zwinglien views of the sacrament?
In fine, who by common custom, has ordained that no other than the common custom shall prevail? The fact is, custom is not a law to prohibit, but a law of privilege, and while it exempts from rebuke, it never condemns any change.
Ritualism is not Romish.
Still further, Bishop Eastburn, has told us that certain things, already enumerated in this criticism, are symbolical of Romish error, and derogatory to the one full perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction made by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the sins of the whole world. That they are not thus symbolical, is evident from their very enumeration, for they are all usages that prevailed in the Church long before the Papal usurpation, and also, long before false ideas of the atonement obtained among Christians; moreover they are usages which follow the order of the heavenly service, as witnessed by St. John.
Back to the people.
In speaking of one these usages, the Bishop has unfortunately misrepresented its force both by a suppressio veri and suggestio falsi, for the turning of the Clergy is to the East. The idea of the turning, is not at all to bring the back to the people, but to bow to the Lord God Almighty according to ancient custom, with the people, to unite with them in that same homage which they offer unto Him.
This letter is addressed to the "Congregations of the Diocese of Massachusetts." Of course as no exceptions are made, it denounces the custom, not only of the clergy, but of laymen turning to the altar, of their bowing towards the altar, which they per force must follow, if after the manner of the Bishop of Massachusetts, they bow in the creed. If it be an offence for the minister to turn to the altar, because in so doing "he turns his back upon the people," it is equally an offence for those who sit in the front pews, and so they must face about. But what an offence to the clergyman is this facing about! And so if, rank on rank, they all face about, why, then the sin is reversed, and those in the rear pews have committed the sin of turning their backs, not only on the minister, but on the whole congregation too. Indeed the dilemma is a ludicrous one, as ludicrous as that of the child, who in a crowded assembly, remembering this parental injunction, "not to turn his back upon any body," exclaimed, "what must one do with one's back in such a crowd as this."
But seriously, why talk about turning the back on the congregation, why think of any other presence in God's Church but the presence of God? Why not let the minister worship with the people, and lead them in the way in which it is confessed that they ought also to follow, when they approach to God, facing the holy table.
But observe the last fatal mistake of the Bishop, which we are not willing to characterize, and which would be thought dishonorable in any well regulated school, he exhorts the people to act as spies on their ministers; We feel too strongly upon this subject to do anything more than mention the mistake.
Lack of Authority.
One thing in conclusion we will treat as in fact no mistake, and that is the fact that this letter is not addressed by authority to the Diocese, but comes to the people and the clergy only through the press. It is no mistake at all then that has thus deprived this Pastoral of a prestige which, if added, would only consecrate a series of mistakes, with the form and semblance of the truth; as well might Episcopal authority bind a man to act upon the assertion that two and two make five, as compel him to accept the statement and then act upon the suggestion that what is condemned in the letter of the Bishop of Massachusetts, either symbolizes Roman error or
BODILY REVERENCE TO CHRIST.
disparages the doctrine of the Atonement.
In fact, the same principle which underlies the act of bowing at the name of Jesus, in the creed underlies all the acts of bodily reverence to our Lord and to the Holy Trinity, which are condemned by Bishop Eastburn, and we know not of any better reply to this condemnation than that which is recorded in Southey's "Church History," as having been uttered in Parliament on one occasion, when a motion was brought forward by some of the Puritans to prohibit bowing at the name of Jesus in the Creed.
Thus, then, would we speak, as out of the fullness of his heart did this man's mouth speak.
"Hear me with patience, and refute me with reason. Your command is, that all corporal bowing at the name Jesus be henceforth forborne.
"I have often wished that we might decline these dogmatical resolutions in Divinity. I say it, again and again, that we are not 'idonei et competentes judices' [fit and competent judges] in doctrinal determination. The theme we are now upon is a sad point. I pray you consider severely upon it. You know there is no other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. You know that it is a Name above every name. 'Oleum effusum nomen ejus,' [His name is as oil poured out] is the carol of His own spouse. This Name is styled by a father, 'mel in ore, melos in aure, jubilum in corde' [honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart]. It is the sweetest and the fullest of comfort of all the Names and attributes of God. GOD my SAVIOR. If Christ were not our Jesus, Heaven were then our envy, which is now our blessed hope. And must I, sir, hereafter do no reverence, -- none at all . . . to God my Savior, at the mention of His Saving Name, Jesus? Why sir, not to do it,. ... to omit it, and leave it undone, is questionable, it is controvertible; it is at least a moot point in Divinity. But, to deny it, . . . to forbid it to be done! take heed, sir! God will never own you if you forbid his Honor. Truly, sir, it horrors me to think of this. For my part, I do humbly ask pardon of this House, and thereupon I take leave and liberty to give you my resolute resolution. I may . . . I will, -- I must do bodily reverence unto my Savior; and that upon occasion taken at the mention of His Saving Name, Jesus.
"And if I should do it also as oft as the name of God, or Jehovah, or Christ is named in our solemn devotions, I do not know any argument in divinity to control me.
Mr. Speaker, I shall never be frighted from this, with that fond shallow argument, 'Oh, you make an Idol of a name.'
I beseech you, Sir, paint me a voice; make a sound visible, if you can. When you have taught mine ears to see, and mine eyes to hear, I may then perhaps, understand this subtle argument. In the mean time, reduce this dainty species of new idolatary under its proper head, the second commandment, if you can; and if I find it there, I will fly from it ultra Sauromatas, [beyond the very confines of the world,] any whither with you.
Was it ever heard before, that any men of any religion, in any age, did ever cut short, or abridge any worship upon any occasion to their God? Take heed, Sir, and let us all take heed whither we are going! If Christ be Jesus, if Jesus be God, all reverence exterior as well as interior, is too little for Him. I hope we are not going up the back stairs to Socinianism!
In a word, certainly, Sir, I shall never obey your order, so long as I have a head to lift up to Heaven, so long as I have an eye to lift up to Heaven. For these are corporal bowings, and my Saviour shall have them at His Holy Name Jesus."
The foregoing letter was first printed some two years ago, as a communication to a secular paper, and afterwards, as a portion of the Parochial Report of its Reverend Author.
It has been lately frequently enquired after, and desired for more extensive circulation as a tract, more especially since the criticisms upon Surpliced Choirs by the Bishop of Ohio, have been published. It is indeed believed that the battle upon this point has been fought and gained. And as evidence of this, reference is made to the fact that the Bishop of Massachusetts when condemning "novelties which disturb our peace," omits all censure of Surpliced Choirs, except to express his distaste for them.
This letter is published therefore only with the view to its use in Parishes where the attempt is made to introduce Surpliced Choirs, to answer such objections as are really worthy of notice, leaving prejudices to melt away, as alone they can, before the prevalance of the practice which is counted obnoxious, without knowledge, and against argument.