Delivered at the Opening of the
Annual Convention of the Diocese of New York
November 14th, 1906
RT. REV. CHAUNCEY B. BREWSTER, D. D.
Bishop of Connecticut
Printed by order of the Convention
"And the city lieth foursquare, and the length thereof is as great as the breadth."
Revelation XXI. 16.
Reverend Brethren of the Clergy and Brethren of the Laity of the Diocese of New York:
I bring greeting from the eldest of our sees to the greatest. The graciously insistent invitation to stand here has been by me appreciated especially as evidence of relations between the two Dioceses far different from those which prevailed, sixscore years ago, between the accomplished and courtly first Bishop of New York and the first Bishop of Connecticut. Now the fifth Bishop of Connecticut is invited to preach here expressly because this Convention is assembled on the anniversary of the consecration of Seabury.
It may, I trust, be pardoned, if, yielding to the natural suggestion, I begin by referring to the early days of the Church in Connecticut. It is a story doubtless familiar in its somewhat dramatic features. The loan, by a layman, of a Prayer-book, two centuries ago, to a youth afterward tutor, indeed for awhile himself the whole faculty, of Yale College; a little later the group of scholars, under the shadow of Yale, studying the doctrine and polity of the Church of England; the consequent avowal on the part of Samuel Johnson, the former tutor, now a promising divine, Timothy Cutler, rector of the college, another instructor and also three other intelligent and thoughtful Congregational ministers, of doubts regarding the validity of Presbyterian [3/4] ordination; the debate in 1722, held in the College library, before the Governor as Moderator, between Cutler with his friends and the champions of the Standing Order; the embarking for England, before the year was ended, of Cutler, Johnson, and Brown, to receive Holy Orders; the shaking of New England by this conversion to Episcopacy which included the head and chief instructors and friends of the College. "I suppose," wrote President Woolsey a century and a half later, "that greater alarm would scarcely be awakened now, if the Theological Faculty of Yale were to declare for the Church of Rome."
Then, from time to time, one after another honored Congregational pastor gave up all and sailed to England for ordination. In a half century forty-three Connecticut men had gone across the ocean, one in seven of them dying in that long, and then perilous, quest for Holy Orders. Of those forty-three every man was a college graduate. Thus the Connecticut clergy of those days illustrated a type that was distinctively characteristic. They were men of learning. They were men of courage. As a rule, they had come into the Church because of deep conviction and at no little sacrifice. They were men of personal dignity and character. They understood their people, for they were almost to a man natives of the soil. It is no wonder that they were followed by a like-minded laity. Indeed their impress may be traced even unto this day.
Among the Connecticut pastors who early conformed to the Church and received her Orders was Samuel Seabury. His second son, bearing the same name, was born at North Groton in Connecticut, was graduated at Yale and also studied at Edinburgh, was ordained in 1753 and ministered on Long Island and at West Chester. Amid the rising tide of political discontent he stood steadfast for the [4/5] Crown. He was the knight in encounter with whom the youthful Alexander Hamilton won his spurs. The future statesman, then only nineteen years of age, replied to anonymous pamphlets which had attracted wide attention. Of those pamphlets Seabury was the author. In consequence he was seized, carried to New Haven and there kept a prisoner for a month. The American Loyalists set themselves against the onward movement of their time, and have taken their place among the adherents of lost causes. At this distance, however, from the passions of that time, it is possible to judge them fairly, and to appreciate the reasons and also the quality of their loyalty. Indeed it is impossible not to admire that temper that could not be intimidated; for example, the man who was fired at in a Connecticut pulpit, and who, when the bullet lodged in the sounding-board over his head, paused only to say: "Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul," and continued his sermon. Seabury in particular, by the learned author of The Life and Epoch of Alexander Hamilton, [ By Chief Justice Shea, p. 307.] isthus described: "simple, grand, conciliatory, uncompromising man."
In 1783, at the close of the war of the Revolution, ten of the fourteen clergy of Connecticut had assembled, very quietly, in the picturesque village of Woodbury, on the twenty-fifth day of March. On that Festival of the Incarnation they were taking counsel for the Body of Christ, which might be described as the extension of the Incarnation. Recognizing that the primary practical need was of the Episcopate which for so many years American Churchmen had been seeking from the Mother Church, earnestly but in vain, these men proceeded to an election to the office of a Bishop in the Church of God. In view of the retrospect [5/6] and the outlook, that little company in the lonely Connecticut parsonage showed a prompt energy and a high courage which merit this characterization of them by the recent British historian of the Revolution: "men as noble as ever manned a forlorn hope, or went down to ruin for a sacred idea." [ Trevelyan: The American Revolution, Part II. Vol. II., 327.]
As a result of that election Samuel Seabury arrived in London in July, 1783, with testimonials addressed to the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. Those dignitaries, however, seemed to see only obstacles to the consecration and to be powerless through a certain political paralysis. After more than a year of weary waiting, Seabury resolved upon a step which, as an alternative, had been included in his original instructions from the Connecticut clergy.
It is unnecessary to do more than remind you of the romantic history of the Non-Jurors, the bishops and clergy who, after the Revolution of 1688, refused to swear allegiance to the new sovereigns. In consequence, upon the Scottish Episcopal Church had descended the heavy hand of the Government. Having been subjected to the severe provisions of penal acts which in Seabury's time were unrepealed, minished and brought low, still that Scottish Church was not extinct, but stood like the bush that burned with fire and yet was not consumed. That God's Providential design, in the preservation, through the fire, of that small and despised branch of the Vine, included the transplanting, to the vast vineyard of the West, of a shoot which, when it had taken root, should fill the land--who can doubt in view of the fact that in 1788, four years after the consecration of Seabury, on the death of the last Pretender to the throne, the Scottish Church resumed allegiance to the British Crown, and has since been [6/7] regaining prosperity. At this time, however, it had been reduced to its lowest depression. It had four bishops and forty-two other clergy.
Regarding that Scottish Church may be noted two things. First, like the Church in Connecticut, it also represented earnest convictions and large sacrifices on their behalf. Like the Connecticut Churchmen, these Scotchmen, moreover, had been driven to regard the Church, and its Episcopal order, not at all on the temporal, but on the spiritual and diviner side. Hidden streams of Catholic thought and tradition there flowed as in subterranean channels. Secondly, there were none of the perplexities besetting an Established Church. The peculiar history of that well-nigh proscribed communion had given it an unique independence of the State. The clergy of the Episcopal Church of Scotland, in the words of that one of them whose name is most closely associated with Seabury's had "ventured for a long time to shew more regard to the acts of the apostles than to the acts of the British Parliament." [ Bishop Skinner: Sermon at Bishop Seabury's consecration, Aberdeen, p. 15.] Its bishops, owning no obligation to the Government, felt themselves free to do what, but for such disconnection from the State, seemed then impossible to be done.
It was to this Church, in an eminent degree at once Catholic and free, that Seabury at last applied for consecration, and not in vain. In that university town whither have been this Autumn turned the eyes of the academic world, in no stately minster but in an upper room--suggestive to a believer in the Apostolic Church--a large upper room furnished as a chapel, in Bishop Skinner's house, [ An engraved stone in the University wall marks the site.] at Aberdeen, on November fourteenth, the twenty-second Sunday after Trinity, Bishops Kilgour, Petrie, and Skinner publicly consecrated Samuel Seabury to be the "first apostle of the new world."
An address of the Connecticut clergy, expressing thanks to those venerable fathers contained these words: "And wherever the American Episcopal Church shall be mentioned in the world, may this good deed which they have done for us be spoken of for a memorial of them." Let me remind you of the opinion explicitly declared, both in Massachusetts and in England, by contemporaries who were cognizant of the facts on both sides of the Atlantic, that the reception of the Scotch Episcopacy by Seabury alone secured for Drs. White and Provoost the English succession at a later date. One priceless result of the consecration at Aberdeen was the richest contribution to our Prayer-book, the Oblation and Invocation in the Communion office, which the American Church received from Scotland through Seabury.
It is evident how it came to pass that Connecticut churchmanship stood for the ancient order and Catholic principles, and for "the length thereof," firm against modern expedients that had actually been proposed, and contending for historic continuity with the Apostolic line. Much was owing to this day's connection with "the Catholic remainder of the ancient Church of Scotland." [ "Concordate" at Aberdeen, November 15, 1784.] Already, however, as we have noted, there had been in Connecticut something distinctively characteristic. It might be described as the application to Church truth and order of the New England conscience. That is proverbially rigid, perhaps even to an uncomfortable degree. Connecticut churchmanship might be considered somewhat stiff, [8/9] inflexible and unadaptable. Nor had it been, in Seabury's day, of the most patriotically American type. It bore the reproach of Toryism.
It is true Bishop Seabury took all pains to recognize the authority of the Governor of the State and dedicated a sermon to President Washington. Still he had been an ardent loyalist. At best, High Churchman that he was, he could expect little sympathy from the first Bishop of New York, a prelate of the Hanoverian type. But it was especially on account of his political associations that he was obnoxious to Provoost, who was in every fibre a Whig.
In New York the situation was very different from that in Connecticut. Here Churchmen had largely been identified with the patriot cause, with the achievement of independence, with the idea of the American nation. This identification and sympathy with American national life the Church in New York has always manifested. Here the Church has not been slow to adapt herself to the conditions and needs of American life. Of none of the successors of the first Bishop of New York could it be said that he loved his ease. Bishop Hobart, in labors abundant, began a new era for this Church. The tradition here has been continued until the day of the present Diocesan and his Coadjutor. In this presence it were not becoming to speak of one who has preeminently illustrated the office of bishop in an American metropolitan see, while as himself a citizen of no mean city, he has by deed as well as by word illuminated the duties of citizenship. Here in New York has been the beginning of developments transcending the limits of a petty and selfish parochialism. Here one after another great parish has ceased to be a Sunday club and is daily ministering to varying conditions of men. [9/10] Here, crowning these heights, beside hospital and university, shall stand a true cathedral, the Bishop's church, because a house of prayer for all the people the chief pastor is called to shepherd.
Thus while to Connecticut was assigned an honorable part in the laying of foundations, New York has been potential in building thereupon. In the one Diocese the American Church may be said first to have come to the realization of herself; in the other to have awakened to her work and mission. The several elements revealing themselves in our ecclesiastical history ought to be fused into some large unity which shall be potent in our national life. So may it be with the contributions thereto of these two historic Dioceses. The conservatism has been of value. We need also the expansion and development. A genuine conservatism is bound to manifest some advance. In the Pharisaism our Lord condemned there is impressive illustration of a conservatism that has ceased to manifest the vital principle of adjustment to environment, of growth, and become a petrified ecclesiasticism. There is warning there for all time. It is possible for a church to make more of its laws than its life, possible, in a dead conservatism to rest in privileges with no quick convictions of responsibility therefor to God and on behalf of fellowmen.
The approach of the anniversary which completes three centuries of this Church on these shores brings a challenge and a question: what this historic Church ought to mean in the national life of America to-day.
I. Amidst its movement and change she stands for the principle of authority truly interpreted and applied, the authority of a divine revelation, and of the testimony thereto in Catholic consent, the common consciousness of the company of [10/11] all faithful people in the centuries since Christ. True to her lineage, she stands for the continuity of something which is above and beyond the shifting speculations, opinions, and moods of men, because it is not of this world. The Catholic and Apostolic Church, she stands for truth which is not for a passing day, but endureth from generation to generation.
II. The length and breadth of the city are equal. For the Church length and breadth belong together. Commensurate with length of lineage is breadth of mission. A Catholic and Apostolic descent involves a Catholic and Apostolic mission with sympathies, purposes, and efforts widening as each age brings its own needs.
There is one evident need in American life to-day. It is the need of something that shall bring differing and opposing elements of society closer together, and bind them, not by any external and mechanical adjustments, but by spiritual bonds, into a genuine unity. Pressing problems of our national life demand something more than the paternalism of mere authority, demand an advance, not aside into a discredited individualism, but forward into more and more of a fraternalism which shall bind man to man and so class to class.
This urgent need is the Church's opportunity. She in her essential constitution transcends all distinctions of class, caste, race or color. Her great sacraments are signs and seals of brotherhood, of birth into one family and household, of fellowship at one Father's table. In a land where are mingled strange elements as in a seething caldron, and diverse, even antipathetic races must live side by side, hers ought to be the courageous, loving, hopeful faith that shall refuse to despair of, or put a bar against, or a ban upon, any class or race. Standing for men as men, [11/12] for the sake of the man Christ Jesus, in her ought to be a fulfilment of the poet's description of our country:
"She of the open soul and open door,
With room about her hearth for all mankind!"
What narrower thing, as regards men, should a Catholic Church be?
How is the Church fulfilling this mission? There is reason to doubt whether the majority of her members are even aware of such a mission. It is undeniable that the Church of Him who died for all is not by any means reaching all. It will hardly be questioned that the Church of Him who worked at the carpenter's trade ought to come nearer than it does to the multitude who work with their hands to-day. Still, as when He trod this earth, should the poor have the gospel preached to them, and preached to them unmistakably as brothers of the rich. This is necessary not only to save souls but to save society. The Church of Christ, it is true, is for men, not as rich or poor, but as men whether rich or poor. Her clergy ought to take good care not even to seem to be retained in the interests of any particular, privileged class. With her mission to all sorts and conditions of men, it may well be matter of earnest thought why certain sorts of men and conditions of life are often not receiving her ministrations as largely as certain other sorts and conditions.
Of means and methods it is not for me here to speak. It would, however, seem evident that the Church at large needs more vision, to see the demand and the opportunity; needs in many quarters a renewed spirit; needs a widening and deepening of purpose; needs, with all her culture and aesthetic taste, a more robust energy of effort; needs a larger measure of the enthusiasm of humanity.
 Only let it be an enthusiasm which shall prompt to service. You do not help men with their burdens, grievous to be borne, when you only talk and scheme, "and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers." Our Lord, when He would help the leper, put forth His hand and touched him. Those sacred hands were placed in blessing upon little children, upon the blind, the dumb, the dead, and at last outspread over His disciples, as He was parted from them. That laying on of hands His Church has lovingly retained, made it the outward sign and means of her Apostolic succession, committed it to her overseers as a duty which keeps them literally in touch with the flock they shepherd; and not only the clergy at Ordination, but every member of the Church, at Confirmation, receives the laying on of hands, dedicating him to personal ministration, not aloof from but in touch with his brother men, not merely to give his money but to put forth his hand, not condescendingly to patronize but to come in close contact with, not only to teach but to touch them he would help. By such brotherly service men shall be won to the Church, being drawn "with cords of a man."
The Church, moreover, has a prophetic mission, to stand, as God's prophets stood of old, and in these days bear witness to a living God of righteousness. Conspicuous in the development of society during the last half-century has been the growth of associations and combinations. Some of these have been with the express design of realizing human brotherhood. Of others that could not be said. With some good, evil also has been wrought. The corporation is practically a new kind of individuality. Therefore not only has the Church to deal with individual persons; but also corporate Christianity cannot ignore the conduct and character of corporate bodies of men. Still has she to [13/14] bear witness against flagrant wrong and on behalf of righteousness. She has to show how men may share in responsibility for corporate action, to bring, as it were, an X-ray to penetrate the tissue of the soulless corporation, and, finding men's consciences, to reveal personal responsibility for dishonest dealing, and exaction and lawlessness, for wrongs like child-labor, and the unscrupulous crushing of opponents. It is only a new phase of the old problem of sin confronting the Church when men are confederate in a covenant that makes against righteousness. Standing for the majestic authority of divine law over all human affairs, hers it is to be indeed "a bulwark for the cause of men." Hers it is to win men, more and more, to that royal law which means the coming of the Kingdom of God. Hers it is, amidst the clash of colliding interests and the clamor of charlatans, to illustrate, in increasing measure, that Christian democracy which belongs to the best ideals of Catholicity.
If we are far away from ideals, the more reason have we to pray not only for pardon but also for help to better achievement by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May He open our eyes and enlarge our hearts! May we who here to-day come into His sacramental presence stand with Him and see as He sees what His Church in this world of men is for! May we have that wide and luminous view of a Church, not for the few and favored, but for the many sons of men; a Church largely realizing the brotherhood of men to men, because the Republic of God the Father of all; the divine commonwealth, Catholic and free, the city which is the mother of us all.