BISHOP B. T. ONDERDONK' S ADDRESS
PRINTED BY STAVELY AND M'CALLA,
No. 12 Pear Street.
"We hold that the published works of a Bishop are as fair objects of review, criticism, and censure, as those of any other man.
We know of no peculiar pre-eminence to be accorded to Episcopal authorship."--The Rev. Doctor Seabury, Editor of the New- York Churchman.
The ordination of Mr. Carey, by Bishop Onderdonk, of New-York, has excited a profound sensation not merely in the Episcopal Church, but throughout the land. And this wide-spread feeling must become more and more intense till the whole matter be safely settled for the best interests of true religion. Even were the Episcopal Church disposed to pass the affair over in silence, she could not. Her character and influence are at stake. All other denominations,--the whole country,--are looking on, in anxious suspense, to see whether she will quietly acquiesce in this advance to ROME, or firmly place her foot on the word of God, and speak out in the distinct and energetic tones of a grieved and outraged PROTESTANTISM. To do nothing is, in her case, to sink down dishonoured, enervate, the helpless victim in the time to come of the loathsome abominations of the man of sin.
Doubtless the principal agents concerned in this transaction, the Bishop and his accordant Examiners, supposed that the affair would prove merely "a nine days' wonder;" and that when the excitement had subsided, or been diverted to [3/4] some other quarter, the series of measures of which this ordination was but a single and the first public link, might be quietly carried out, till the Church, no more startled at such things, would submissively acquiesce in the doings of the self-styled CATHOLIC party. It is, indeed, amazing that any should be able to "lay this flattering unction to their souls." Were the Articles and Homilies so largely condemnatory of the errors of Romanism, altogether lost sight of? Was the whole body of our ministry solemnly pledged to these standards, unthought of? Were the Laity so thoroughly Protestant in their sentiments, and habits, and even prejudices, overlooked? And, to name no more, was public opinion, which so justly despises inconsistency and abhors despotism, counted nothing? With all these influences,--multiform, honest, vigorous, sleepless, and, in such a case, sure to be united--with all these influences arrayed against them, how could the Catholic party hope to escape detection and defeat? Why, this excitement, so far from being merely "a nine days' wonder," is but just begun; and it will go on to spread, and deepen, and gather strength till the whole conservative energies of our Protestant Church are aroused and called into action. The result it is not difficult to anticipate.
"He must recant or be silenced," was the prompt decision of the Chancellor of the University of Oxford, in the case of Doctor Pusey, the chief leader of the Catholic Party in the Church [4/5] of England. And is there less of the spirit and energy of Protestantism in our own free Church? Certainly the decree has already gone forth. To the offending--there is but one alternative,--bring forth fruits meet for repentance, or bear the condemnation of unfaithful stewards. The Church, our Protestant Episcopal Church in these United States, must have security the most ample, against the recurrence of such evils for the future.
We have said that the ordination of Mr. Carey was the first public link in a series of measures, &c. To give no other evidence of the existence of similar things,--the late developments of a Committee of the Trustees of the General Theological Seminary, demonstrate this. The most adroit and strenuous efforts were then made, and unhappily with success, to suppress investigation into the state of the Institution in respect to popery. And yet it was known that a student, without any adequate censure by the Professor, had written and submitted a discourse advocating the ADORATION OF THE VIRGIN MARY!!! What other "wicked abominations" lurk "in the dark," we know not. It is high time that the hand of honest inquiry drew back the covering of this "chamber of imagery," and let us see the worst.
We have before us, in the columns of the Episcopal Recorder, Bishop Onderdonk's statement and vindication of Mr. Carey's Ordination. It is, of course, virtually a vindication of himself. Carefully passing by all the particulars of the [5/6] candidate's examination, and the obnoxious sentiments then avowed, the Bishop rests the defence of his ordination upon a certain construction of a Rubric, upon a "wide latitude of opinion," which he asserts to prevail among us, but chiefly upon a particular theory of Church government and ministerial responsibility which he dwells upon at some length. Such, at least, are the only reasons we could sift out of the very loose, vague, and confused statement before us. And upon these grounds of defence, we will proceed to offer some remarks.
But, perhaps, it may here be asked--"Why, as the propriety and lawfulness of the ordination mainly depend upon the doctrinal views and other qualifications of the candidate, and upon these grounds must the question be finally settled,--why did not the Bishop state these as they were developed in the examination? Surely this would have been a more direct and satisfactory course to arrive at the merits of the case." And so it seems to us also. Still who does not see that this would have been but a sorry defence before a Protestant community who are wont to measure their principles and their rights by the word of God?
I. Was it then lawful and right to proceed at once to ordain in the very face of plain, strong, and solemn protests by two respectable Presbyters? The Bishop attempts to justify himself for doing this. We think it a great wrong. He rests [6/7] his defence, in the first place, upon his construction of the Rubric preceding the call in the ordination service upon the "Brethren" to object. This, he says, excludes objections by ministers. We maintain that it does not. There is nothing in the call itself to limit it to any particular class. On the contrary, it could not possibly be more general in respect to persons and charges. It is a plain and most solemn call upon the whole congregation and every individual in it. "Brethren, if there be any of you who knoweth any impediment, or notable crime in any of these persons presented, &c., let him come forth in the name of God, and show, &c."
Now who does not know that ministers frequently form a part of our assemblies for public worship? And, so far as the religious exercises are concerned, such ministers present belong to the "Brethren,--the people," the congregation, as distinguished from the other party, the officiating minister. Hence they are just as much addressed by the officiating minister in the different parts of the service as the other members of the congregation, and they unite in common with the laity in their portions of the service.
But why argue this point? The Bishop himself concedes it. With one breath he tells us that the term "people" in the Rubric, excludes the "clergy;" and in another he acknowledges that a clergyman may be present, and lawfully object to the ordination. This is fully sufficient to justify [7/8] the conduct of Doctors Anthon and Smith. Whether they had been present at any previous trial or not, whether they were in gowns or without them, are matters of no consequence here. The only question is,--were they so present as to be a part of the "Brethren," the "People," the congregation assembled for worship? If so, they were publicly called upon in the name of God, publicly to object if they knew any impediment to the ordination; and they could not, without incurring great guilt, do otherwise than they did on that occasion.
But their course may be defended on another ground furnished by the Bishop. He tells us, alluding to the Rubric,--"All laws are to be construed on the principles of common sense, and so as that the good obviously intended to be accomplished by them should neither be defeated nor marred by the understanding of them with which they are executed." This is certainly a very plain and reasonable principle of interpretation. Now that a common sense construction of the call and the rubric includes a minister present we have shewn, and the Bishop himself acknowledges that it may. The other inquiry then suggested by this rule of interpretation is,--"What is the good obviously intended to be accomplished" by the public call? We answer, to guard the Church against the introduction of improper candidates into her ministry. But Doctors Anthon and Smith verily believing in their [8/9] consciences that the candidate was unfit for the ministry, and knowing that a public call for objections would be made, what could they do less than be present and solemnly object to the ordination? We doubt not that nine-tenths of the Church, both clergy and laity, agree with these respected brethren in the views they took of the case, and, with Bishop McIlvaine, "feel that the whole Church owes a large debt of gratitude to them for their faithful, noble, and painful stand for the purity of her ministry."
But Bishop O. alleges that the fact of Doctors Anthon and Smith having at the previous examination urged their objections, cut them off from the right to object in public. Here also might we rest the defence of these brethren upon the Bishop's own concessions. "It may be asked," says he, "will you take entirely from the clergy and people of the Church the privilege of protest when their rights are endangered, and iniquity bears sway in the counsels and acts of those in authority? There are--the history of man, in every department of his social character evinces, that there mournfully have been--extreme cases, in which all the ordinary provisions of law are wickedly deprived of all their influence for good, and individual and social rights demand the interposition of such law as the emergency renders imperative. Then even resistance and forced changes in social relations have been found unavoidable, and submitted to as lesser evils. There [9/10] may be emergencies when people in reference to their pastors, and pastors and people in reference to their bishop, may have no alternative left, consistent with conscientious duty to the cause of God, but openly to protest against the measures of those to whose decisions ordinarily they are bound reverently to submit." In a word, we are here informed that in a desperate case, to use a common saying, we may have recourse to a desperate remedy. He who does so is perfectly justifiable. Now, certain are we, that very many of the wisest and best among us, take just this view of Mr. Carey's case, and on this ground cordially approve of the conduct of Doctors Anthon and Smith.
And yet, though believing as we do in this sacred right of revolution here accorded by Bishop O., we are not compelled to plead it in defence of our protesting brethren: Their conduct was not revolutionary,--they violated no fundamental law. Far from this, they simply went forward in the path of duty which the Church herself opened before them. She requires a private examination, and they faithfully took a part in it; she likewise publicly calls for public objections, and they fearlessly met this call. What else could they have done in their circumstances consistently with a good conscience? To have shrunk back might have been expedient in the eyes of some; but it would have been treason, rank treason against the Church and her divine Head.
 II. Another ground on which the Bishop rests his defence, is, that wide latitude of opinion, which he asserts to exist in the Reformed Catholic Church in England and in this country." [* "Reformed Catholic, &c."--Mark, the Bishop does not call our Church Protestant. It is painful and humiliating in the extreme to notice the scorn and bitterness with which the Oxford Tract men (the Catholic Party) speak of the Reformers and the Reformation. The very name Protestant is hateful in their eyes. Hence the late efforts in New York by this Party to strike out the term Protestant from the title of our Church. Straws shew which way the wind blows.] This latitude, he gives us to understand, extends in three directions--"the Catholic, the Calvinistic, and the Arminian views of our standards." He frankly avows his own predilection for Catholic views. What the phrase Catholic views really means, as here employed by Bishop Onderdonk, any one may easily discover who peruses the account of Mr. Carey's examination, or the columns of the Bishop's official organ, the New York Churchman, or looks into the Oxford Tracts. It is, in plain, honest English, Popery, more or less developed indeed on different occasions,--but in all of them genuine POPERY,--that very thing against which our Articles and Homilies so loudly protest, and for faithfully resisting which, our Reformers poured out their blood like water.
Such then is the "latitude" of our Church according to Bishop Onderdonk. Instead of looking upon her, as many of us were wont, as a goodly, well-built house, whose inmates dwelt together in unity,--we are here taught to regard her as having [11/12] really been all along a triangular camp ground, having three discordant hosts occupying its several corners.
Now we do object to this whole view of the subject as incorrect and unfair. Such a huddling together of things that differ is indeed admirably adapted to obscure a subject, and cover up error, and thus favour the escape of an offender; but not at all to elicit truth, or serve its great interests.
Our Church is not Catholic, or Calvinistic, or Arminian, or all combined, or made up of a little of each,--she is Protestant, distinctly and thoroughly PROTESTANT. How far indeed men holding certain alleged peculiarities of Calvinism or of Arminianism may be safely borne with among us, may admit of honest difference of opinion; but there can be no communion with the Catholic as such. With Calvinists or Arminians our Church never had any controversy. It was from the Catholic Church our Fathers reformed. They protested against the foundations of Catholicism, or to use more common and better understood terms, the Papal Church, as being rotten, and the whole superstructure, as unsound and dangerous. Regarding as Mystical Babylon, the "Mother of Harlots and abominations of the earth," they could no longer conscientiously stay in her, but, in obedience to the solemn command of the Saviour, they "came out of her."
Hence while there seldom has been any serious difficulty in the way of the ordination of a pious [12/13] Calvinist or Arminian among us, because both these hold the great truths of evangelical faith; we never could, without manifest and most perilous inconsistency, admit a candidate tinctured with "Catholic views" into our ministry. To be tinctured at all is not to be a Protestant. However convenient the term, semi-popery, may be, there can really be no such thing. There may be popery more or less developed, still it is popery. The child, however small, is really of the same species as the man, and needs but time to attain to the same stature. Such have ever been the views of intelligent, consistent Protestants. "The Bible, the Bible, is the religion of Protestants." But Popery, or Catholicism, is quite another thing. "The Roman Catholic"--is the honest avowal of two of its clerical defenders [* The Very Rev. John Power, V. G. and Rector of St. Peter's, and the Rev. Thomas C. Levins, Pastor of St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York.]--"the Roman Catholic and Protestant Religion are not merely differences in opinion; they are opposite, and must naturally counteract each other. If the Catholics are right, your Reformation (Protestantism) was not merely superflous, but must be stigmatised as a rebellion against the powers established by God himself. If you (Protestants) hold the TRUTH, the chief part of Catholic worship is not only erroneous but idolatrous--an offence against heaven, instead of a reasonable service." (New York Observer, March 16, 1833.)
It is then treason against our Protestant Church [13/14] to admit a candidate of "Catholic views" into her ministry; it is doing what indeed the Oxford divines have avowed their intention to do--it is "unprotestantizing" her; it is not honestly going to Rome, but it is covertly bringing Rome to us.
III. In order still further to justify what at least appeared an irresponsible exercise of power, the Bishop gives us an account of the origin of ecclesiastical and civil government, and his views of ministerial responsibility.
Civil government, he tells us, arises from "men's voluntarily seeking the good which it may impart, or yielding to their necessities which may have driven them into it, by the surrender by each, for the good of the whole, of immunities and prerogatives naturally his. The primary authority rests in a good degree with the individuals composing them, in their primary capacity. They have associated for their common benefit, and to secure that end have each surrendered a portion of original inherent right, and each is by that right a judge, with inherent prerogative as such, to see that his privileges and interests are duly regarded in the operation of the compact, and has his share of power which is lodged in the body to dissolve, change or remodel itself at pleasure."
But "the foundation of the Church," says Bp. O., "lies not in man's agreement, but in God's requirement. Its powers and prerogatives come directly from heaven--from God and not from men. The primary powers of the Church, then, [14/15] are not diffusive but concentrated. They are not in the members, but in the head. They were committed by the head to the ministry. Power and prerogative in the Church, came from Christ to the first order (bishops) in the ministry, and thence to the lower orders, and to the brethren or laity of the Church. As the last gave not power or prerogative, it is difficult to conceive how they can demand responsibility to them as of right." " Still," he adds, "an efficient interest is given in administering the polity of the Church, to the subordinate pastoral associates (Presbyters and Deacons) of the chief ministers (Bishops) of Christ's flock, and to the members generally (i. e. the Laity) of that holy body." And this concession, we are told, is made on the sanction of "Holy Scriptures and ancient authors." "Ministers of Christ (i. e. Presbyters and Deacons) are responsible to Him through those whom He has invested with authority (i. e. Bishops) over them, and these again (i. e. Bishops) to their own order in the Church."
The Bishop's theory of the Church, then, when stript of its mystification, is simply this,--the government is of God. He gave all power and prerogative to Bishops,--they (the Bishops) under sanction of the Scriptures and the Fathers, granted to Presbyters and Deacons, and to the laity generally, a certain interest in the administration of the polity of the Church. Hence Presbyters and Deacons are responsible to God through the Bishops, and these are responsible to their own [15/16] order; and in this whole matter the Laity have nothing to do "as of right."
Our readers need not be told that all this is despotism. Despotism with scarcely a softening feature. All power is given to the Bishops; they have indeed conceded somewhat to the other orders of the ministry and to the laity; but of these concessions the Bishops themselves are, after all, the sole judges, because responsible for their conduct only to their own order;--which responsibility, therefore, is practically, and, so far as the Church is concerned, no responsibility at all. A more perfect theory of arbitrary power it would be impossible to frame. It out-popes the pope.
But of all the inconsistencies in the document before us, and these are not a few, the greatest is that of allowing resistance to such a government which, the Bishop gives us to understand, may at times be justifiable. What--right to resist men to whom all "power and prerogative come directly from heaven!"--right to "protest" against the doings of such rulers! Shockingly impious! With perfect consistency have the Catholic priests above quoted, told us that such conduct "must be stigmatised as a rebellion against the powers established by God himself. But is not consistency here one of those "Catholic views," which our Catholic party yet holds in "reserve,"--to be developed, however, in due season?
Of the account of the origin of civil governments here presented we need say but little. [16/17] Fidelity, however, to the cause of truth and right compels us to object to it as altogether erroneous and full of mischief. It is a revival of the old, exploded doctrine of the Social Compact, first prominently presented, we believe, by the atheistic Hobbes in the seventeenth century, and afterwards advocated by Locke in order to overthrow the tyrannical assumptions of the favourers of the political jus divinum theory. It was subsequently adopted by Rousseau, just because it suited the infidel turn of his mind, and took away all divine sanctions from human government. It is, moreover, the very notion, now unhappily prevalent among so large a class in our country, manifesting itself in irreverence for civil authority, and reckless assaults upon the first principles of social order.
The truth is--government both in church and state, is of God; but in the case of the latter, the form and the administration are of men. As members of civil society we have no right therefore to be without government, this would be impious revolt against heaven; but we have the right to say what sort of government ours shall be, and who shall administer it. Any attempt to impose laws and rulers upon us without our consent, is tyranny.
It is not needful for us here to say whether any form of ecclesiastical government is given to us in the Bible. To us, as Episcopalians, this is not an open question. We have adopted a form of [17/18] government which we believe to be in accordance with the general principles and spirit of God's word. This is contained in the Constitution and Canons of the Church, and in the Book of Common Prayer. It is not unfrequently our boast, as Protestant Episcopalians, that the rights of all were carefully secured among us, and that therefore ours was emphatically a free government. Nay, the chief champions of our Church polity have gloried in the fact that it was more closely conformed than that of any other Christian denomination, to the great charter of American liberty, the Constitution of the United States.
To this government, then, all of us--Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons, and Laymen--are responsible. By it our conduct must be tried and offences punished; and none among us may claim powers or prerogatives beyond what are here accorded.
But how completely may the most sacred of our constitutional provisions be evaded, and indeed, the whole instrument nullified, if it be permitted to any among us to frame a theory of arbitrary power and apply this to our laws as the grand rule of interpreting them, and especially if this rule of interpretation is to be wielded by those who claim to be responsible only to their own order, and not at all to the body, the Church. Just such a theory is that of Bishop O., and verily he showed himself wise in his generation in mainly resting his defence upon it.
With this theory of Church government and [18/19] Episcopal responsibility before us we are at no loss to explain the monstrous outrage by the Chair upon the rights of one member of the New York Convention,--John Duer; and the equally monstrous avowal of another member, Mr. Ogden, that the matter of admission to the ministry was entirely in the hands of the Bishop, the others had nothing to do with it only so far as he might choose to ask their counsel. Clerical arrogance and Lay obsequiousness go hand in hand; they are the natural results of such views. But a free people will ever abhor such theories and the practices growing out of them.
It is no faint, dubious utterance, but one of loud, clear, overwhelming disapproval of this ordination, and nearly all the circumstances of it, which comes upon us from every quarter. No wonder, therefore, that so much of trepidation appears in the Bishop's defence, that he so largely and earnestly deprecates publicity. A deep consciousness is evinced throughout that such theories and such practices cannot stand the open, honest, indignant gaze of a free "people," a Church that knows its rights, and loves them. No wonder that the Bishop's official organ, the New York Churchman, gave, amidst all its abuse and bluster, such evident signs of cowering under the rebukes of an outraged community. No wonder that of the Bishop's accordant Presbyters in the examination, one wept before the people of his charge, and all of them manifested such a desire to escape, if possible, public scrutiny.
 But on this point we need say no more. The Church in every diocese is awake, and pondering upon the matter. Suitably instructed Trustees will come together, and make thorough search into the state of the General Theological Seminary; and Delegates will go up to the next General Convention fully prepared to meet the crisis before us.
No body of men has ever assembled among us under so solemn a weight of responsibility as that which will rest upon the General Convention of 1844. It is for them, with much prayer and careful deliberation, with the wisdom of an enlightened piety, and the firmness of a true charity, to adopt such measures as will at least prevent the repetition of such grievous offences. May the Great Head of the Church so inspire their counsels and doings that we may continue one body, having one faith, and one hope of our calling!
Let no good man among us, in the meanwhile, fold his hands with the professed confidence that--"the Lord will take care of his Church;" that "the offenders in this matter have been so exposed and rebuked that they will be careful how they repeat the offence." Most perilous security! Would that such ministers and people may not see the Church's dangers too late! The Lord will indeed take care of his Church,--not, however, through the easiness, or lukewarmness of his professed friends, but by their wise, energetic, [20/21] faithful endeavours. Let each one of us, then, in his station, be up and doing for the Ark of his God. Let the pulpit and the press be true to their trust;--"blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain. Fear not, let your hands be strong, saith the Lord." Let us all "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel." He who, at such a crisis, folds his hands and does nothing, whether from a professed trust in God, or a real indifference to "the truth as it is in Jesus," is virtually aiding and abetting the enemy, and has awful reason to fear the traitor's doom.
But why, it may be asked, has the Great Head of the Church permitted such an outbreak of the Man of Sin among us? What are the reasons and designs of a holy Providence in this calamity? We thought that our "mountain stood strong," and that we were making rapid advances as a Church. But were we not puffed up? "Have not our iniquities separated between us and our God? Have not our sins hid his face from us?"
It requires much holiness to be qualified to do good in the world, and safely bear success. When then we see such evils springing up in our midst--evils, which by occupying so much of our time and energies, and perverting so many souls among us, will greatly hinder our present growth and usefulness--ought not these things to humble us? Do they not urgently call us to much self-searching and prayer? May we not discover many other [21/22] evils among us? Have we been sufficiently careful to keep our communion pure? and to see to it that they who ministered to us in holy things, were not merely learned in theology, but converted men, men who felt the worth of souls, and "determined to know nothing among us but Jesus and him crucified?" Have we not been too much given to 'flattering words,'; instead of plainly telling each other our faults, and having all "our conversation in simplicity and godly sincerity"? Have our eyes affected our hearts in view of that dark cloud of ignorance, oppression, and sin, which covers so large a portion of our fellow-men in our own country and throughout the world? And has this mournful spectacle, which called the Redeemer from his throne of glory to our fallen earth, aroused us to strenuous, unceasing, holy effort for their deliverance? Or have we not, to a great extent, wrapped ourselves up in our dignity, and estranged ourselves from the great cause of human happiness and virtue? Have we not profanely boasted of "our Church and our Episcopacy," instead of "glorying in nothing save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"? Have not too many among us, once our most faithful watchmen on the walls of Zion, been "corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ," by an unholy ambition for the Mitre? When we looked upon the unhappy divisions and contentions in other evangelical denominations for some years past, instead of grieving over these things, and praying for our brethren, have we not [22/23] taken occasion to depreciate them and glory over them in "great swelling words of vanity" about our unity and peace, when we know all the while that there were serious differences among ourselves,--yea differences so great as to amount to another gospel? And has not the present awful outbreak of Popery only brought to light those differences in our ranks, which would long since have been exposed and corrected, had there been spiritual light and life enough among us? What, therefore, were all these boastings but "telling lies in hypocrisy?" And now that "our sin has found us out," should we not take shame and confusion of face to ourselves as at this day?
O, it is "a day of rebuke and blasphemy! Let us look well to ourselves, and drag out all our Achans that have troubled Israel, and slay them before the Lord. Doubtless we have all much, very much to repent of. And if we do so, when this "calamity is overpast," we shall be found, as a church and individually, with a deeper self-consecration, having more of the spirit of Him who was "meek and lowly of heart," and wiser and stronger to labour in the great work of a world's conversion to God.