TRINITY CHURCH, SOUTHWARK, PHILADELPHIA,
RIGHT REVEREND LEVI SILLIMAN IVES, D. D.
BISHOP OF THE PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN
on Thursday, Sept. 22, 1831.
BY BENJAMIN T. ONDERDONK, D. D.
PRINTED FOR THE BENEFIT OF
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 23, 1831.
RIGHT REV. AND DEAR SIR,
The undersigned, Members of the Episcopal Church of the Diocese of North Carolina, respectfully request that you would favor them with a copy of the very interesting and appropriate discourse delivered by you, on the 22d instant, at the consecration of the Bishop of North Carolina.
The happy and pertinent allusion made to the prominent traits in the character of our late beloved and lamented Bishop, and the occasion on which it was delivered, satisfy us that its perusal will be a source of high gratification to our brethren of that Diocese.
C. P. MALLETT, E. L. WINSLOW, THOMAS H. WRIGHT.
THE RIGHT REV. BENJAMIN T. ONDERDONK, D. D. Bishop of New-York.
EPHESIANS ii. 20.
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
JESUS CHRIST himself being the chief cornerstone."
THE apostle is speaking of the Christian Church, in which, as the component parts of a building, Jews and Gentiles are united. Of this spiritual edifice, the foundation is declared to be the apostles and prophets, with JESUS CHRIST himself for the chief corner-stone.
This beautiful and expressive simile directs our attention to JESUS CHRIST, as our sole dependence for the support of our Christian privileges and hopes, and to the apostles, who proclaimed his religion, and the prophets, who foretold it, and prepared the world for it, as the medium through which we have connexion with that only cornerstone of our faith.
This view of the connexion of the Church with CHRIST, and with the apostles and prophets, may lead to interesting and important reflections, suitable to the peculiar solemnities of the day.
We may consider, first, how CHRIST is the chief corner-stone, or the main dependence, in the foundation of the Church.
 He is so, inasmuch as through Him alone men can have any hope of the favor of GOD, and therefore of enjoying the blessings of religion here, and its eternal rewards hereafter. No reasonable minds reflecting on the character of our race, as exhibited in the page of history, within the sphere of our own observation, and by the faithful monitions of personal experience, can arrive at any conclusion at variance with the humiliating view that Scripture gives of human frailty, depravity, and guilt, and of the consequent absence of all claim to the favor of GOD, and all hope in His mercy, on the ground of any merit in ourselves. And when, from this view, we rise to the contemplation of the Great Being, whose favor we must enjoy, or be miserable for ever, sound reason gives further confirmation to the doctrine of Scripture, that a creature so corrupt cannot approach a Creator so pure and holy, or hope for any interest in His compassion and loving-kindness, save through a mediator able to plead his cause, and worthy to procure for him favorable regard. Such a mediator, revelation informs us, is provided in JESUS CHRIST. He, being a person in the Godhead, and therefore Divine, is worthy to appear before the Father, and claim, as of right, whatever mercy may comport with the essential holiness and justice of His character, government, and laws. Becoming man, this Son of GOD can appear as man's representative. He can place himself in the sinner's stead, and receive the inflictions [6/7] which are due to the sinner's guilt. This He has done. He has exposed himself to that justice which the Divine perfections will not suffer to be sacrificed to any other attribute; and which, therefore, must be satisfied, ere the guilty being who deserves its inflictions can be pardoned, spared, and blessed.
For the sinner, thus commended to mercy, the same Mediator, by the infinite merit of His voluntary, and of course, from His equality with the Father, unbounden, obedience, in the days of His flesh, has purchased grace, enabling him to perform the conditions on which this pardon will be extended, and on which, consequently, are suspended all the great and precious benefits flowing from that pardon, in this world, and in the eternal world to come. And still, to secure the acceptance of those conditions, and their consequent success, the same blessed scheme provides in his behalf that powerful intercession before the heavenly throne, which invests his poor and unworthy services, if rendered in sincerity and faith, with the merit of the Divine Advocate with the Father.
For extending to man these inestimable benefits of His grace and mercy, CHRIST has established his Church, in which is enjoyed a covenant relation with the Father through Him, and in which are provided the means and pledges of that sanctification [7/8] and salvation which come only through His all-worthy and all-powerful mediation.
Thus, then, is CHRIST the chief corner-stone of this Church. He lies at the foundation of all the Christian's hopes. On Him the Christian rests; and the rest is sure and stable. There is an infinity in his love, a certainty in his promises, and a steadfastness in his holy covenant, which leave no room for a single doubt, or for the least mistrust. Let but true faith embrace him in his genuine character and offices, in the plenitude of his grace and mercy, with the entire renunciation of every other hope, and in humble compliance with all the means and conditions of his mercy, which he has been pleased to appoint; and the sinner is in a safe place of refuge, and will, if he continue true to himself, assuredly enjoy the mercy of GOD, to pardon his sins, to renew him unto holiness, and to sanctify and save his soul. Spiritual trials may indeed be allotted him. Spiritual anxieties may still remain to test his sincerity and perseverance. Imperfections and failures will still remind him that he is yet in a state of frailty and sin. Let these, however, but clothe him with humility, and render still more ardent his longings for divine grace and mercy, and still more diligent and faithful his search for them, by all the appointed means; and GOD'S word will surely be kept and performed. He will be the subject of that mercy which never faileth, and be kept unto [8/9] that salvation which CHRIST has purchased, and GOD has promised.
Of the Church of which CHRIST is thus the chief corner-stone, and which is the constituted channel of all the mercies of his redemption, the apostles and prophets are said to be component parts of the foundation. Through them, as the inspired agents for imparting what GOD has been pleased to reveal, we are to attain to a true knowledge of our great Mediator, and of the plans of his grace and mercy to mankind. Long before the Son of GOD came on earth, was His day seen by faith, enlightened by those beams of knowledge and comfort, which the sure word of prophecy imparted. As soon as sin began its melancholy work of depredation and destruction, was the sinner's refuge revealed. The promised Seed was ever in the view of the faithful. The great cornerstone of his hope and faith was laid; and the goodly fellowship of the prophets, by their heaven-inspired teaching, revealed GOD'S purposes of mercy, unfolded the means and conditions on which they were suspended, laid before men the pledges of their fulfilment, and thus proceeded in the erection of that spiritual edifice, the Church of GOD, which, in all ages, has been the required refuge of sinners, and the place where divine grace and mercy are appointed to be found.
 There was that, however, in the superstructure thus raised, which was designed to be but temporary. When JESUS CRIST himself came into the world, and sent abroad the glorious company of his apostles they completed the vast original design. The foundation of the Messiah expected, they strengthened by that of the Messiah come. For all that in the holy edifice was peculiar to the imperfect state of things which preceded the Gospel, they substituted what was proper for the complete organization which was to follow its introduction. Typical rites and ceremonies gave way to the evangelical sacraments, ordinances, and worship. The comparatively obscure faith which rested on promises yet to be performed, was followed by the brightness and clearness of that which rests on a Saviour already come to fulfil all GOD'S purposes of grace and mercy. The priesthood which had been established in Aaron, his sons, and the honored tribe of Levi, was merged in that which, from the great High Priest of our profession, was, through the apostles, and their companions and successors, to last till the end of time. The code of moral and religious duty, once suffered to be imperfect, was raised to all that can elevate and purify the character, bring near to GOD in this world, and be a meet preparation for his holy presence in the life to come.
Thus, then, in CHRIST JESUS we are to find the corner-stone of the Church, and in the doctrines [10/11] and precepts of the apostles and prophets, its true foundation. And other foundation can no man lay. Where CHRIST is not owned, in all the glory, fulness, and integrity of his character, offices, and acts, there can be no legitimate claim to being his. It is a spurious religion, and an unchristian Church. It wants that only foundation on which man's hopes can reasonably and securely rest, and must fail all who presume to place in it their dependence.
And though there be an assent, however sincere, to all that the Gospel reveals of the Redeemer; yet neither will this avail, without humble observance of the other parts of that counsel of GOD, which, to a correct belief, adds, as further conditions of salvation, humble observance of all the practical requisitions of the Gospel. The apostles and prophets must be studied, with the devout prayer that we may be guided to a correct understanding of all that they were inspired to write for our learning, and with humble resolution, and faithful endeavors, to comply with it. GOD'S requisitions comprise a beautiful, harmonious, and extensively comprehensive whole. He hath joined together what man has no right to put asunder, and cannot, without great presumption, guilt, and spiritual danger.
Well then, in a devout collect of the Church, drawn from the text, do we pray "to be so [11/12] joined together, in unity of spirit, by" the "doctrine of the apostles and prophets, that we may be made an holy temple, acceptable unto GOD." [St. Simon and St. Jude.]
This prayer we should often devoutly use, and earnestly and faithfully improve the grace of GOD to the blessed end for which we ask it. Unity of spirit is one of the cardinal duties and obligations of the Gospel. The preservation of it, therefore, should be the object of the Christian's constant solicitude and care. But he should remember, that by this is meant, not simply unity in itself—for this may but strengthen interests very foreign from those which the Gospel enforces—but unity of spirit, produced by the doctrine of the apostles and prophets. In everything else, however plausible, however popular, or however recommended by temporizing considerations, unity tends but to the increase of evil. Every principle of unity which cannot stand the scrutiny of rigid examination by the law and the testimony, is to be renounced. This may sometimes involve the trial of differing from those dear to us, those whose judgments, in many things, we cannot but respect, and those in the purity and consciousness of whose motives we may have the fullest confidence. It may expose us to misapprehension, evil report, and ill-will. That may be construed into unnecessary severance and division, which is but [12/13] conscientious avoiding of the strengthening of the cause of error, and a manly shrinking from even the appearance of abetting what our sober judgment cannot but disapprove. Selfish considerations of ease, of popularity, and of applause, may hereby be made to yield to the honest dictates of duty. But all such sacrifices must be gladly made. They require not the judging of the hearts of others, or any withdrawal from the good offices of Christian benevolence and courtesy; but only a candid, conscientious, and consistent maintenance of what we deliberately believe to be requisite to the integrity of the Gospel scheme in all its just consequences and legitimate bearings. What, from holy Scripture, and ancient authors, and from the fair and godly exercise of the powers vested in the Church, is of obligation, in reference both to its principles and its order, and that only, should be with us the bond of Christian unity. And if ever a recurrence to these first principles of evangelical concord was seasonable and important, surely it is so now. The superstitions and corruptions of the Romish polity, intimately connected as they are with corrupt and superstitious doctrines and requisitions, the presumptuous experiments around us of the variety of forms into which the wit of man can torture the semblance of Christian communion, and the abuse of liberality which would purchase numbers, applause, and fair show of operation, at the expense of much that enters into the very essence of the [13/14] revealed method of GOD'S grace and mercy, are calls daily made upon us, from every quarter, to stand in the way, and ask for the old paths, for that stable, well-tempered, and beauteous work, which the apostles and prophets reared on the great corner-stone of JESUS CHRIST.
And that we may herein be directed aright, we should carefully and diligently study those authentic records of the truth as it is in JESUS, the holy Scriptures, in connexion with their best interpreter, the principles and practice of primitive Christian antiquity; and cherish a sentiment of devout and holy submission to the legitimate requisitions of the authority vested in the Church. Every thing connected with the pure principles and proper order of that Church, should be regarded as of the greatest interest, and claiming our most serious and awakened attention. Let this be given, with prayer for the Divine illumination and guidance, with faithful use of all the appointed means of right direction within our power, and with constant care to maintain that evangelical piety, without which the soundest principles and views will but increase our condemnation, and we may humbly hope that it will be blessed to our being led into the truth, and preserved in that way of salvation, which GOD has been pleased to ordain, that we should walk therein. And this will be found to be, indeed, a way of pleasantness, and a path of peace. The grace [14/15] of GOD will be poured abundantly upon us. The consolations and joys of true religion will surround us; and in the faith, the hope, and the humble devotion, which it inspires, every sorrow will be alleviated, and every rational pleasure enhanced. A Divine protection will be over us for good. In this legitimate unity of the Gospel, the ties of spiritual brotherhood will be more tender, more sacred, and more happy here, and prolonged, with continually increasing delights, throughout eternity. We shall be made a holy temple, the habitation of GOD's blessed Spirit, in this world, and consecrated into meetness for removal to the heavenly Jerusalem. There we shall for ever enjoy, in its fullest sense, unity of spirit with the prophets and apostles, those great and good men, who brought us to CHRIST, the only foundation of hope and safety; and with all who, by the faith revealed through them, will have attained to the salvation of their souls. And the bond of that sacred unity will be JESUS CHRIST himself, there enthroned in glory, the object of enraptured vision, and of ceaseless praise and homage, to all the blest company of heaven.
The reflections now made, have suggested themselves as by no means without peculiar adaptation to the deeply interesting solemnity which has this day called us together. The communion with which we are connected, has declared to the world its sense of the office to which the reverend candidate [15/16] present now seeks admission, in terms authorizing its connexion in our minds with the essential characteristics of that Church which is revealed to us as built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, JESUS CHRIST himself being the head corner-stone. Venerable and apostolical as we deem that polity which recognises the supremacy in government of the first of three orders in the Christian ministry, and valuable as we find its practical operation as a bond of unity, and a mean of discipline at once prudent, judicious, and effective, it is from far higher considerations that a transaction like that of this day, derives its greatest interest, and its most eminent value. These considerations flow from the principles on which the Church grounds her doctrine of the exclusive lawfulness of those ministrations which proceed from authority derived through that order, and her consequent practice of counting as nothing worth orders otherwise conferred. It is as connected with the being of the Church, as CHRIST established it, and not with the mere well-ordering of that Church, that the episcopacy is invested with its highest importance. And it is in this her conscientious view of it, only, that our communion can stand justified to the Christian world for the high and exclusive ground which she takes in reference to it. Whenever an addition is made to that holy order, there is made, by that act, provision, in the divinely appointed way, for perpetuating that ministerial authority which [16/17] is to extend to men the inestimable blessings of the Church that is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, JESUS CHRIST himself being the chief corner-stone. Such is the solemn transaction to be now offered to the pious regard, and made the subject of the devout prayers, of the good Christian people here assembled.
And such is the momentous character, my reverend and beloved brother, my old and valued friend, of the office to which you have been chosen in a manner so highly creditable to yourself, and to which, by the appointed solemnities, you are now to be set apart. Your views of the nature of that office I know to be such as the Church considers the fair result of the diligent reading of holy Scripture and ancient authors; and your sense of pastoral obligation and responsibility, which have long been evinced in a peculiarly faithful and useful course of pastoral duty, and which, we doubt not will still animate and control you in the higher sphere of labor on which you are now to enter, give the most pleasing anticipations of your future career of labor. That career, we cannot forget, is appointed to you where lately one of the most distinguished leaders of our Zion closed a short but signally distinguished and meritorious course of episcopal ministrations. [The Right Rev. John S. Ravenscroft, D. D.] In the special appeal to yourself, which, on this [17/18] deeply interesting occasion, is demanded by usage, propriety, and considerations of mutual edification, my mind involuntarily rests upon two traits in the official character of your great and good predecessor, in which it were well for us all to imitate him. I allude, first, to his single eye to duty, his inflexible love of truth, his undaunted courage in answering the calls of conscience, and his superiority, in the spirit of a man, the dignity of an intelligent being, and the devotion of a good Christian, to all the lures which the world would lay to tempt him from the straight-forward prosecution of the right, for indulgence of the yearnings of the natural man after the greater ease of meeting smiles than frowns, and applause than censure. Let it be with you a light thing to be judged of men. Show yourself approved unto GOD; and depend upon it, you will in no wise lose a reward infinitely counterbalancing all the sacrifices that you may make, and all the loss of the breath of man's applause that you may sustain.
Another point in which the example of your predecessor may be deemed peculiarly deserving of your regard, is the noble consistency with which he maintained the essential connexion between the distinguishing principles and institutions of our Church, and the great and precious doctrines of the Gospel. More flagrant injustice cannot be done to those principles and institutions, than their severance from those doctrines. The Church [18/19] derives all its value from its connexion with GOD'S method of grace and mercy, through CHRIST crucified, to our apostate race. Lay, then, always, as I know you have been wont, wherever you go preaching the Gospel, that only foundation of all that can be good and happy in our nature, JESUS CHRIST and him crucified. Through him make offers of reconciliation to sinners, on the part of their offended GOD. Through him, urge the acceptance of those offers, and unfold and extend the appointed means and pledges of the grace and salvation purchased by his atonement. In his name, in his spirit, animated ever by true faith in him, and devoted, body and soul, with all their faculties and powers, to his service, enter the new, the wide, the interesting, and important field that is before you. And may His blessing rest upon you! In the kindness, affection, and fidelity, of the large flock among whom you are to minister, and in delightful view of their spiritual improvement under your labors, may you find a cheering recompense for the uncommon sacrifice which I know you make in parting with a people than whom never had pastor a more attached—and, thank GOD, I can add, a more deservedly attached, spiritual charge!—Again, I say, GOD'S blessing go with you, and so direct and aid you, that when the chief Shepherd shall appear, you may receive a crown of everlasting glory!