ON THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3d, A. D. 1833.
MY BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND THE LAITY,
The good providence of GOD has enabled me, since I last met you in Convention, to accomplish at least three thousand miles of journeying in the discharge of official duties, including visits to almost every extremity of the State. Thus it has been my happiness to be a grateful witness of the uncommon degree of health with which the same kind Providence has blessed our borders--a merciful compensation for the dire inflictions of sickness and mortality with which the preceding year had been marked, and a merciful contrast, to the sufferings of our brethren and fellow-citizens, in other parts of our land, which have, I doubt not, drawn forth our sympathies, and engaged our prayers, in their behalf. And be our prayers also humbly and faithfully offered for ourselves, that we fail not duly to receive and improve our many evidences of the kindness and love of GOD.
If the manifestation of that kindness and love which has now been especially noticed, demanded this grateful mention, much more is the like demanded by the proofs that I have had of the generally healthful moral and spiritual state of our Diocese. [1/2] Among the most satisfactory of these is the daily increasing call for the services, ordinances, and instructions of the Church, and the clearly apparent strengthening disposition and effort to improve them to the holy and blessed purposes for which they were established. I am aware that there are few subjects in which men are more exposed to delusion, especially as connected with the too prevalent spirit of the present times, than in the estimate of personal piety; there are so many wrong criteria abroad--so many that stop at mere professions, and the self-interested declarations of the parties concerned--so many that have mainly to do with what relates to mere excitement of feeling and animal sensibility--so many that are exhibited in efforts to sustain a favorable contrast with others by ungodly aspersions, unjust judgments, and the reverse of the kind, long-suffering, and charitable spirit of the Gospel. Much have I both heard and seen of the piety, falsely so called, which, thus imposing on public credulity, wounds the cause of CHRIST even in the house of His professed friends, deceives the unwary, grieves the truly religious, disgusts the judicious and reflecting, and hardens the worldly and the wicked.
But the evidences to which I referred of the healthful moral and spiritual state of our Diocese, are of a far better and more satisfactory nature. I see them in the growing desire before referred to, of enjoying the worship, ordinances, and instructions of the Church, and the strengthening disposition and endeavor to improve them to the holy purposes for which they were established, by those fruits of the living faith of the Gospel, which are found in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and living righteously, and soberly, and in all Christian quietness, meekness, and sincerity.
With the prominent tangible evidences of this--those to which the wisdom of the Church mainly refers, as the most satisfactory--I have reason to hope, from what my visitations through the year have brought within my notice, your parochial and missionary reports, my reverend brethren, will be well fraught. Those connected with my peculiar duties, as the details which are to follow will more particularly show, are presented in the fact that, during the year, I have ordained 9 Priests, and 22 Deacons, consecrated 20 churches, and confirmed 1101 persons. It ought further to be remarked, that of the 67 places in which these persons were confirmed, confirmation has been administered [2/3] in 35 twice, and in 2 thrice, within the less than three years of my episcopate.
I now proceed to the more particular detail of my episcopal duties through the year.
From Wednesday, October 17th, to Wednesday, October 31st, inclusive, I attended, in my place, as a member of the House of Bishops, the triennial Session, in this city, of the General Convention of our Church. The publication of the proceedings of that body has given you due information of the various important matters which engaged its attention. To some of them I would beg leave to direct your special attention.
The grounds taken by the two Houses, as their reasons respectively for favorably answering the request of the Diocese of Ohio for the consecration of a successor to its first Bishop, who had sent to the Convention of the Diocese the resignation of its episcopal supervision, and had removed beyond its borders, and those of the organized jurisdiction of our Church, appear on the minutes. Reference is now made to the subject, only for the purpose of gratefully noticing the evidence which it was the means of affording, of the general prevalence in our communion of love of order, and a spirit of submission to the decisions of duly constituted authority. The questions involved were deeply interesting, and in no small degree perplexing, and the discussion of them, as might have been expected, elicited a proportioned degree of earnestness and feeling. The decision, too, was far from being unanimous. And yet, that decision made, all cordially acceded. It would be difficult to say whether the cheerfulness with which the minority yielded, or the earnestness with which they had contended--an earnestness, I ought indeed, to add, never transcending the bounds of courtesy, or of Christian temper--were the most conspicuous. GOD be praised for this blessing of His grace; and grant that thus it may always be, and the conscientious differences which the imperfection of our nature renders inseparable from the discussion even of topics connected with religion, be so blended with the true spirit of that religion, as to show that Christian amity, peace, and love, are the great objects with us all!
A Canon guarding against the unhappy consequences of unrestrained Episcopal resignations, originated with the House of [3/4] Bishops, as deemed by them a necessary condition on which to proceed to the consecration of the Bishop elect of Ohio, and was duly passed by the Convention.
A general revision of the Canons took place at the Convention, and the whole code, together with the general Constitution of our Church, has been published. I would suggest the obviously proper expedient of at least every clergyman, and every vestry, being possessed of a copy of both the General and Diocesan Canons, and would extend the remark to every individual, who, as a vestryman, as a member of Convention, or as delegated to any department of our ecclesiastical polity, should be expected to be well-informed in the laws of the Church.
Two new dioceses, those of Alabama and Michigan, were admitted into union with the General Convention.
Measures were adopted, which have resulted in the publication of a Selection of Psalms in Metre allowed to be used, instead of "The whole Book of Psalms in Metre," as heretofore allowed. The allowance of the latter has not, indeed, been withdrawn by this act of the Convention; but both stand upon the same footing--each being allowed, and a choice between them being, of course, left with the respective Rectors. It would seem to me, however, very desirable, that the selection should, as fast as circumstances admit, supersede the old version of the whole Book of Psalms. Every one is aware that the latter contains a great deal of matter never introduced into worship, and which cannot be used in a species of singing totally inconsistent with the introduction of more than a small number of verses at a time, and which, therefore, must shut out that correct understanding of many parts which can be derived only from their juxtaposition with the context. Any greater extension, therefore, of metrical versification than to such portions of the Psalms as contain, within a small compass, definite and appropriate acts of Christian worship, is, as it has ever proved to be, a useless appendage to our Book of Common Prayer. The more primitive use of the Psalter, as prescribed in our daily Morning and Evening Prayer, is that in which the ancient and godly use of the whole Book of Psalms is preserved among us. The comparatively modern, and merely allowed, introduction of Metre-singing, necessarily excludes a large portion of those psalms from this species of use; what reason, then, can there be assigned, for not excluding it from the bulk and expense of our Book of Common Prayer? For even [4/5] the matter of expense--however trifling in the case of a single copy--is well deserving consideration, when we reflect on the hundreds and thousands of copies, for the gratuitous or cheap distribution of which there is such a daily increasing demand. In reference to the new selection, as compared with the old whole Book of Psalms in Metre, it ought further to be observed, that beside some obvious improvements in the style of the former, it brings together, and thus introduces to use, a number of beautiful, interesting, and edifying passages, which were previously lost by being mingled with portions of psalms which could not be profitably separated from the whole psalm. On these several accounts, I would express the hope, that as fast as my brethren, the Rectors of the several parishes in the Diocese, may deem it expedient in their respective cures, the new selection of Psalms in Metre may be generally introduced.
It could hardly have escaped general notice that our office for the administration of the Holy Communion is deficient in precise directions as to the proper postures to be observed in the several parts thereof by both the officiating minister and the congregation. The result was, a variety in this particular, hardly consistent with the uniformity which is so generally characteristic of our Church. The subject was brought to the consideration of the House of Bishops, by a resolution of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, in the General Convention of 1829, requesting the Bishops to express their opinion as to the proper postures to be observed. The subject was then laid over, and was taken up in the late Convention. The result appears on the face of the Journal, and has also been made public in various other ways. It is much to be desired that a strict conformity with the opinion thus given at the request of the representatives of the Church, will remove the still existing diversity for which it was intended to introduce a uniform usage.
[* The following is the instrument above referred to:--
"The House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, having at the last Convention, requested the House of Bishops to express their opinion as to the proper postures to be used in the Communion office, with a view of effecting uniformity in that respect, during its celebration, and the request having been then ordered to lie on the table for future consideration, the House of Bishops now communicated to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies the opinion thus requested of them, as follows:
First, with regard to the officiating priest, they are of opinion that as the Holy Communion is of a spiritually sacrificial character, the standing posture should be observed by him, wherever that of kneeling is not expressly prescribed, to wit; in [5/6] all parts, including the ante-communion and post-communion, except the confession, and the prayer immediately preceding the prayer of consecration.
Secondly, with regard to the people, the Bishops are of the opinion that they should observe the kneeling posture during all the prayers and other acts of devotion, except the Gloria in Excelsis, when standing is required by the rubric, and except, also, during the allowed portion of the Hymns in Metre, when the analogy of our services requires the same posture. The same analogy, as well as fitness of posture for the succeeding private devotions, which are required alike by propriety and godly custom, supposes kneeling as the posture in which to receive the final blessing.
Analogy, also, and the expression at the close of the shorter exhortation immediately preceding the confession, as well as the rubric before the confession, which suppose the posture of kneeling to be there assumed, indicate that that exhortation, and the longer one immediately preceding, should be heard by the people standing.
The postures, therefore, proper to be observed by the people, during the Communion office, the Bishops believe to be as follows:--
Kneeling during the whole of the ante-communion, except the epistle, which is to be heard in the usual posture for hearing the Scriptures, and the gospel, which is ordered to be heard standing.
The sentences of the offertory to be heard sitting, as the most favorable posture for handing alms, &c., to the person collecting.
Kneeling to be observed during the prayer for the Church militant.
Standing during the exhortations.
Kneeling to be then resumed, and continued until after the prayer of consecration.
Standing at the singing of the hymn.
Kneeling, when receiving the elements, and during the post-communion, or that part of the service which succeeds the delivering and receiving of the elements, except the Gloria in Excelsis, which is to be said or sung standing. After which the congregation should again kneel to receive the blessing.
The House of Bishops are gratified at the opportunity afforded them by the above-noticed request of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, of contributing to what they hope will be perfect uniformity in all our churches in the matter now before them."
The particulars in which the postures here recommended differ from the usages in many places, are, that it is recommended to the minister to kneel only in the confession, and the prayer immediately before the prayer of consecration; and to the people, to stand during the exhortations, and to kneel during the whole of the service between the exhortations and the singing of the Hymn, including the Trisagion, or the anthem beginning "Therefore with angels; &c."]
Three proposed alterations of the Book of Common Prayer were resolved upon by the General Convention, official notice of which, by the Secretary of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, has, agreeably to the constitution and canons, been just laid before this Convention.
The first provides for such a modification of the "Prayer to be used at the Meetings of Convention," as will admit of its being [6/7] used, during the session of that body, in other places than that of its assembling; and also, for its being inserted among the “Prayers upon several Occasions," printed after the Litany.
The second proposed alteration gives, in effect, to the officiating clergyman a right to substitute, instead of the psalms for the day, or one of the "Selections," any psalm or psalms, or any portion of the hundred and nineteenth Psalm. Although this proposition passed the House of Bishops, and I believe that of the Clerical and Lay Deputies, without opposition, yet I feel it my duty to state that, upon more mature reflection, I cannot but cherish serious doubts as to its propriety. It will open the door to the reducing of what, in all ages of the Church, (the use of the psalms,) has been an important, and not inconsiderable, part of divine service, into the introduction of but a few verses of that devout and edifying portion of Holy Writ. My fears on this subject are strengthened by the desire of curtailment, which the indevout spirit of the age so much fosters, in our acts of public homage at the throne of grace. I confess, also, that much and serious reflection on the subject has led me to look with deep concern on all unnecessary departures from the scriptural and primitive order of the Church of England. Not unfrequently do the advocates for the Church of Rome bring against Protestants the specious argument of the contrast between their divisions and the unity of that Church. The argument is, indeed, but specious, yetit is not without its effect. This, I have thought, might be diminished by the adoption, as extensively as may be, of the primitive order, as well as the evangelical doctrines, by a reversion to which the Church of England was made the great bulwark of the reformation. Within her proper sphere, at home, in the provinces of the English empire, and in the many congregations of her communion scattered over the European continent, and other parts of the world with which those civil relations are maintained which always guarantee the admission of her religious rites and worship, especially as far as they are embraced in recent measures for local episcopal supervision; and in her sister communions in Scotland, and our own confederacy; Protestants can show a unity in the great points of ministry, doctrines and worship, existing in all parts of Christendom, not unmeet to be weighed in the balance against the boasted exclusive oneness of the Church of Rome; and an unity, the more valuable because preserved by the voluntary spirit of uniformity, and not by the compulsion of [7/8] unscriptural authority.
It is a desire for this beautiful, and, to the sound Christian mind, deeply interesting and important regard for the maintenance, throughout the Christian world, of a catholic primitive unity, in form as well as substance, that fills me with deep concern at any unnecessary departure from that order which was established by our great and good fathers in the Reformation. And such I believe to be any change which will lower the use of the Psalter from the important place in divine service which they allowed it to retain, according to their wonted rule of adherence to whatever of ancient godly usage they found mingled with the errors of the Church of Rome. And therefore it is, brethren, that I feel compelled to express serious doubts of the propriety of the proposed plan for placing the use of the Psalter so much at the discretion of the officiating minister. The argument sometimes brought against objections to a very wide discretion, that persons fit to be ordained are not unfit to be thus trusted, is set aside by the too obvious fact, that piety--if it must be so called--exists sometimes in almost inverse proportion to sound and sober judgment, and that zeal often requires that restraint from law which there is not knowledge in the subject to render unnecessary.
Some provision by which the reading of the Psalter would still be required, in portions of sufficient length to enable it to retain its wonted importance in our services, and which would extend more widely the latitude of choice already allowed by our selections, would perhaps answer every desirable purpose, without being liable to the objections here supposed to attach to the proposition of the General Convention.
Another proposed alteration is in that part of the last rubric before the Communion Service, which designates the position, at the holy table, of the officiating minister. He is there directed to stand "at the north side of the table." There can be no doubt that this rule was formed with a reference to the ancient English custom of having the altar uniformly placed at the east end of the church. According to this arrangement the north side was, of course, always the right side, of the table--the place designed by the Church to be occupied by the officiating minister. In the change of usage as it respects the position of churches, a compliance with the present letter of the rubric is often impossible, and as often at variance with its evident design. Hence the present proposition for so altering the rubric as that that design may, in all cases, be secured.
 The Constitution and Canons of the General Convention, agreeably to which these proposed alterations have been laid before you, do not require any action on the part of the Diocesan Conventions; and it will rest with yourselves to determine if any, and if any what, proceedings of this body in the premises may be proper.
On the last day of the General Convention, Wednesday, October 31st, in St. Paul's Chapel, in this city, I enjoyed the high gratification of being present at the consecration of four Bishops--the Right Rev. John Henry Hopkins, D. D., of Vermont; the Right Rev. Benjamin Bosworth Smith, D. D., of Kentucky; the Right Rev. Charles Pettit McIlvaine, D. D., of Ohio; and the Right Rev. George Washington Doane, D. D., of New-Jersey. The act of consecration was, of course, performed by our truly patriarchal senior Bishop, and occurred within a day of forty-six years since his embarkation, at this port, for England, for the purpose of his own consecration. The presence of this venerated individual at the General Convention, nearly half a century after he took part in the first steps toward the organization of that Church, at whose General Councils he has, ever since, without one exception, been an active and faithful attendant, was indeed a source of the liveliest gratitude to Divine Providence.
The attendance of Bishops at the above consecration was happily so great--eight being present--as to render it obviously inconvenient for all to assist on each occasion. The venerable consecrator was, therefore, assisted by his brethren in rotation. According to this arrangement, I united with my Right Reverend Brother of North-Carolina, in the laying of hands on the Bishop-elect of New-Jersey.
The four Bishops then added to our Church are now faithfully engaged in their holy functions in their respective fields of labor.