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An Account of the Ceremony of Laying the Corner Stone of St. Thomas' Church;
Including the Adrdesses delivered on that occasion
Together with a Brief Statement of the Rise of that Church.

New-York: Printed by T. and J. Swords, 1824.


At a Meeting of the Corporation of St. Thomas' Church, held in New-York, on Monday Evening, 2d August, 1824;

On motion of John Duer, Esq. it was "Resolved, that the thanks of the Rector, Wardens, and Vestry be presented to the Right Rev. Bishops White, Kemp, Croes, and Brownell, for their attendance on the late solemnity of laying the corner stone of St. Thomas' Church; and that the Right Rev. Bishop White be respectfully requested to furnish for publication a copy of the address delivered by him on that occasion.

"Resolved, that the thanks of the Wardens and Vestry be presented to our Rector, the Rev. Cornelius R. Duffie, for the address delivered by him on the same occasion, and that he be respectfully requested to furnish a copy for publication."

Extract from the Minutes.

RICHARD OAKLEY, Secretary pro tem.


ON Sunday evening, 12th October, 1823, (notice thereof having been previously given in some of the public papers) divine service, according to the rites of the Protestant Episcopal Church, was celebrated, for the first time, in the large room, No. 440 Broome-street, corner of Broadway, by the Rev. Dr. Wainwright, Rector of Grace Church; nearly all the Episcopal clergy of the city being present: after which a discourse was delivered by the Rev. Cornelius R. Duffie, from Psaim lxxxvii. 2.

From that time forward service continued to be regularly performed on Sunday morning and evening, and for part of the time on Thursday evenings also.

On the 4th December, 1823, agreeably to public notice, signed "Isaac Lawrence, Murray Hoffman, Richard Oakley, Thomas M. Huntington, David R. Lambert, and William Beach Lawrence, a meeting of persons friendly to the establishment of a new Church in communion with the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New-York," was held at the place above mentioned. At this meeting it was resolved, that the legal notice for an election of Wardens and Vestrymen, to be held on the 25th December, should be given during morning service on the two Sundays previous to that day; and that an incorporation of a Church should then be made under the statute in that case provided.

The required notice baring been given, an election for Wardens and Vestrymen was held immediately after divine service on the 25th December, 1823, and the incorporation of the Church completed, under the name and style of "St. Thomas' Church in the city and county of New-York."

At the first meeting of the Vestry Richard Oakley was appointed Treasurer, and Murray Hoffman Secretary of the Corporation; and at the ensuing meeting the Rev. Cornelius R. Duffie was unanimously called to be the Rector of the parish of St. Thomas' Church.

Encouraged by the liberal assistance of several individuals in addition to their own subscriptions, the Vestry determined to procure ground, and to erect an edifice for public worship.

The site at the corner of Broadway and Houston street (forming seven lots, and extending through to Mercer-street) being thought most eligible, was accordingly purchased; and with a view to aid in meeting the cost, part of the ground was laid off for family vaults, a number of which have been already built and disposed of.

The Vestry having adopted a plan of a Church, designed by the Rev. Professor M'Vickar, of Columbia College, and having made their arrangements for building, gave notice of their intention to lay the corner stone of the new Church on Tuesday afternoon, the 27th July, 1824.

The annual commencement of the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States having called together many of the clergy from different parts of the Union, they were invited to be present and the Vestry had the satisfaction to see, in addition to the clergy of our own city and its vicinity, many from the eastern and southern states, including the Right Rev. the Bishops of Pennsylvania, Maryland, New-Jersey, and Connecticut; the senior of whom, the Right Rev. Bishop White, of Pennsylvania, agreeably to the desire of the Vestry, had consented to perform the ceremony.

At six o'clock on the evening of the day appointed, a pro-cession was formed from the room occupied for divine service, in the following order;

The Sexton, bearing a leaden box, [1] intended to be deposited in the corner stone,
Builders,
The Building Committee,
Members of the Congregation,
Wardens and Vestries of other Churches,
Wardens and Vestry of St. Thomas' Church,
Students of the General Theological Seminary,
Professors of the same,
Clergy,
Bishops,
Officiating Bishop, accompanied by the Rector.

On arriving at the ground, the procession opened, and the Bishops having passed through, took the seats prepared for them, on an elevated platform; the clergy and others occupying the space excavated for the foundation of the Church, and a very respectable concourse of attentive spectators being ranged on the surrounding banks. The officiating Bishop then commenced the service with the following

ADDRESS.

Brethren,

We are assembled to lay the first stone of a building, intended, if God should prosper the undertaking, to be hereafter consecrated agreeably to the form provided by our Church; and to be thus set apart exclusively to the duties of devotion, and to religious instruction and incitement. Although the Church has not provided a ceremonial for the initiatory act to be performed on this occasion; yet we may humbly hope, that it will be acceptable to the great Being, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, but has vouchsafed his blessing on undertakings of this description, by making them a mean of the advancement of the glory of his great name.

To him who addresses you, it is highly gratifying to anticipate the erection of another building, for the worship of Almighty God, agreeably to the institutions of our Church: not, however, without its being a subject of regret, that he does not meet the Right Rev. brother, in whose province it would have fallen, had he been present, to preside on the occasion. But we look forward with hope in the good Providence of God, for a return to the active duties of the Diocese; and, in particular, to the consecrating of the building now to be begin.

It would be an error to suppose, that we annex the idea of sanctity to the materials, of which houses for divine worship are composed. Further, we entertain no doubt, that prayer and praise sent up by devout hearts, from houses open to the ordinary business of the world, and not resorted ┬Ěto for the sustaining of error or from the love of change, are as acceptable to the Almighty Father, as when they ascend from the hallowed enclosure of a sanctuary. But we contemplate a property of human nature, creating an ideal association between place, and the purpose to which it is set apart: so that devout sensibilities are favoured by the presence of material objects, which have customarily surrounded us when assembled for the hearing of God's holy word, for the celebrating of his blessed sacraments, for the offering of the sacrifices of prayer and thanksgiving, and for the performance of all other sacred offices.

It is in accommodation to this law of association, that we set apart houses for religious exercises, and for what immediately relates to them. If any should imagine, that more than this is comprehended under the name of Consecration; they mistake the meaning of the word, as established by use,--the law of language: [2] and that nothing more is understood by the term in the appropriate service of the Church, may be learned by a perusal of it. Hitherto, no part of it, so far as is here known, has been pronounced by any to be superstitious or unevangelical.

It may be hoped, from the respectable company assembled on the occasion, that all present feel an interest in the work to be begun; and accordingly, that it will be favoured by their aids; as well by their prayers, as by pecuniary contributions, in proportion to their several ability; and by their recommendations, within their several spheres of influence. It must be obvious to all, how great is the disproportion between the increased population of our country, and the increase of places of worship for their accommodation. If civil order and decency of behaviour were the only matters in question, they ought to be powerful excitements. But we may hope, that there will be a higher motive in the consideration, that the persons to be benefited are designed for a never-ending state of being; in which, their happiness or misery will be dependent on "the things done in the body."

That the intended building may contribute eminently to their temporal and their eternal interests, let us invoke the blessing of Almighty God, to that effect.

"Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen,"

"Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings, with thy most gracious favour, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy name; and finally, by thy mercy obtain everlasting life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

"Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of the Church is governed and sanctified; receive our supplications and prayers, which we offer before thee for all estates of men in thy holy Church, that every member of the same, in his vocation and ministry, may truly and godly serve thee, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen."

"O Almighty God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner stone; grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their doctrine, that we may be made an holy temple acceptable unto thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Great and glorious God; whom heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain, much less temples made with hands; we implore thy blessing on the work to be now begun, for the erecting of a house of worship, to be consecrated to the glory of thy great name. May the hands and the hearts of thy people be open, for the carrying of the design into effect. May all employed in the work, be under the protection of thy good Providence, and guarded against the casualties incident to their respective occupations. May pure and undefiled religion be professed, and its duties be practised, by all who shall minister, and by all who shall worship in this place. May it be instrumental to the conversion of sinners, to the edification of the godly, to the sustaining of the integrity of Christian doctrine, to the promoting of peace and good will among men, and to extension of all the charities of social life.

To our prayers, we desire to join our praises and thanksgivings unto thee, for having called us to the knowledge of thy grace and faith in thy Son's redemption; and for the privilege which we possess of opportunities, for the offering to thee of a holy and reasonable worship; beseeching thee to give us grace, so to improve this great mercy, as that having served thee faithfully in the present life, we may at last be admitted to join in the strains sung day and night before thee, of Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, to him that sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb, for ever and ever." These things we ask, through the merits of the Same, thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with us all. Amen."

The officiating Bishop then descended from the platform, and proceeded to the corner stone, [3] accompanied by the other Bishops; and the box being placed in a cavity made to receive it, he pronounced the words--

"Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."

Striking the stone three times--

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."

The same ceremony was likewise performed by the other Right Rev. Bishops.

Having resumed their seats, the Rector of the Church, standing in the place, before occupied by the officiating Bishop, delivered the following

ADDRESS.

To celebrate with solemn rites and formal observances those actions from which important consequences are likely to ensue, is both natural and just. The active mind delights to trace out the connecting links which bind together cause and effect; to mark the dependence of consecutive events; and to see where this began, and how that terminated.

But while it is the boast of enlightened intellect thus to extend its associations, by going back to the past to behold things in their origin, and forward to the future to discern them in their results, it is the ennobling province of religion, to raise the mind to more elevated views, teaching it, in the present, the past, and the future, to behold the good hand of God directing and controlling all.

A steady habit of regarding the minute connexion and wonderful dependence of events, does not permit us to think of any thing as fortuitous, isolated, or unimportant: but presents every circumstance and every event as equally necessary in the view of an all-discerning Providence. Still it cannot but be acknowledged, that to us, who know only in. part, there are occasions and circumstances which appear more prominent than others; and which, like rising grounds on a journey, present new points for observation, and offer opportunity for new survey.

The present is such an occasion in the history of our undertaking, and it invites us in the spirit of religious gratitude to raise our thanksgiving to Him who hitherto hath helped us; and iu the spirit of religious trust to commend to his continued protection the object in which we are engaged.

This we have now done; designating at the same time with impressive ceremonies, and surrounding with incidents for future recollection, the stage of our progress at which we have arrived.

Among those circumstances which will long and agreeably occupy our reflections in looking back to the event of this day, it will not be the least gratifying, that so many of our Fathers in the Gospel have, by their presence and assistance, given interest to the scene.

One indeed there is, who, though absent from our view, cannot on such an occasion be absent from our thoughts; but his heart will rejoice with us in this commencement of our labours, and his hands we hope will crown their termination. To him, as to us, it will be a subject of high gratulation, that we have been encouraged by such favourable auspices, and especially that we have been animated by the benediction of the venerable Father of the Episcopate in this country--of him "whose praise is in all the Churches," and to whom God has given so long, so useful, and so honourable a life.

The part which now, in the absence of our own beloved Bishop, he has consented to take in our concerns, will cause us to feel new obligations to offer our affectionate prayers for his happiness while he continues on earth; and when the sun of his declining day shall set in peace, to rise in glory; the mild lustre of his virtuous course, being associated with the cherished recollection of this evening scene, shall cause a fonder interest in his character to affect our hearts, and a deeper reverence for his memory to linger there.

But while in the present we are furnished with incidents on which we shall hereafter look back with grateful feeling, it is no improper season to quicken our zeal, by carrying forward our thoughts to the future.

On the corner stone which has now been laid, there will soon arise a temple dedicated to the Lord. Within these walls shall the good news of salvation for a guilty world be proclaimed; pardon and peace be assured to the penitent; life and immortality offered to the obedient and the faithful. Here, duly as the sacred day returns, shall we "assemble and meet together, to render thanks to God for the great benefits that we have received at his hands, to set forth his most worthy praise, to hear his most holy word, and to ask those things which are requisite and necessary as well for the body as the soul." Long may he spare the members of this infant congregation, to enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise. Long may they be spared, to serve and to glorify the God of their fathers, and to train up in his fear their households and their children; and worshipping the Lord in the beauty of holiness, in the temple which they shall have builded to his name, enjoy, in the communion of his presence, a rich reward for their liberality and their zeal.

But not to themselves shall the benefit of these labours be confined. When they have "gone the way of all the earth"--when "the places which now know them, shall know them no more"--other generations will rise up, and, beholding this memorial of their pious care, shall "call them blessed." In other and far distant years, when we shall have gone back to earth, to ashes, and to dust--when all this living congregation shall form an assembly of the departed, a congregation of the dead--when other men shall occupy our habitations and walk our streets--then shall this house remain, a blessing to their times, and God shall still be worshipped here. Hither shall successive generations come, "to give thanks unto the Lord, to call upon his name, to make known his deeds among the people."

The thought that we are aiding to effect such extensive and lasting good, should give impulse to our efforts, and furnish a motive for steady perseverance. Let us often reflect, that, in erecting this building, we are engaged in a work, the benefits of which are to outlive ourselves--that, while the ordinary actions in which we employ our lives shall soon be forgotten--while the worldly occupations which to-day seem important, shall to-morrow appear to have been unworthy of our regard--while the anxious cares, or fruitless expectations, which every day fill our waking thoughts, and which furnish the materials for our nightly dreams, shall, like those dreams, soon pass away--this object of our exertions shall have a permanent and a beneficial duration--this fabric shall continue to be an ornament and a blessing, when its founders themselves shall be forgotten.

Who can tell what numbers there may be, who, here permitted to enjoy "the means of grace," shall have cause to triumph in "the hope of glory!"--Who can tell how many, numbered here with the saints on earth, shall be hereafter "numbered with the saints in glory everlasting!"--Who can tell how many yet unborn, may here be "born again, and made inheritors of the kingdom of heaven!" To their salvation our present efforts may be instrumental. Let us think of this as Christians; and we shall be encouraged to exert ourselves as men. It is indeed ennobling to reflect, that we are engaged in promoting so good a work. It is doubly gratifying, that we are permitted to be the designers and the beginners of it: and we should consider it a high and honourable devotion of our time, of our talents, of our wealth, thus to consecrate them to the service of God, and to the spiritual and everlasting welfare of present and of future generations.

But while we are thus engaged in building up "the ark of Christ's Church," there is a solemn thought suggested, which I dare not repress. Of the multitudes who must have assisted in preparing the material ark, how few were saved in it! Let us bethink ourselves; it is not enough to assist in rearing the altars, and in building up the temples of the living God: we must ourselves "be built up a spiritual house--an habitation of God through the Spirit:" we must ourselves be "the temples of the Holy Ghost," and Christ must "dwell in our hearts by faith." "Other foundation can no man lay, than that is laid; which is Jesus Christ." Let us be careful to lay upon this foundation of a Gospel faith, the only safe superstructure--a life according to the Gospel. And since "the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is," let us be ever ready for the scrutiny; for we "know neither the day nor the hour" when we may be called to our account.

Into this temple which we are now building, some of us perhaps, and God only knows who or how many, may never live to enter. The graves are at our feet:--soon and suddenly we may be gathered there; and over those still abodes the voice of prayer and of praise, which consecrates this temple to the Lord, may pass unheeded by.

It is a consideration not to make us slacken in the work before us, but to make us active in "whatever our hand findeth to do;" and especially since that is the "one thing needful"--to be diligent in "working out our salvation," and in "making our calling and election sure;" that so, when "our earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, we may have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

Whether, "then, we have many or few days to live, let us be always abounding in the work of the Lord." "While we have time, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."

Such is emphatically our object in this work in which we are now engaged: and if at all times "to do good, and to communicate," be that sacrifice with which "God is well pleased," in this most certainly we may be assured of his favour.

This is the work of the Lord, and to his Providence we may confidently look for protection, for guidance, for ability to go forward, for present blessing and for future reward. Having such a trust in God, let us never give way to despondency or fear. In every difficulty, let our reliance upon HIM be perfect and implicit; and in the whole progress of this undertaking, in whatever capacity we are engaged, whether as having the direction of the work, or as contributing the means, or executing the plan--whatever we do, let us do it "heartily, as to the Lord;" let us strive to secure his favour, as doing it in his name, and for his sake, and with a view to promote his cause in the world.

And having assisted to build up a temple to his glory here on earth, may we, through his mercy, be received into that heavenly city, whose gates are of pearl, and whose streets are of gold; where the nations of them that are saved shall walk in his light; but where we shall see no temple therein; "for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple thereof."

"Which he grant us all, who died for us all; Jesus Christ our Lord!"

The address being concluded, the officiating Bishop dismissed the people, pronouncing the benediction.

The Church is to be built of stone, in the Gothic style, 62 feet wide and 100 in depth, including two towers, to project 12 feet from the front of the building.


[1] In this box were placed

"A Bible, in token that this Church is built on the truth revealed by God;

"A Prayer Soak, as a testimony that this Church is built on a pure faith and a spiritual worship;

"Pastoral Letters of the House of Bishops, and Charges of the Bishop of this Diocese, in acknowledgment of the apostolic ministry on which this Church is built;

"Also a brief statement of the affairs of this Church, in humble gratitude to the Providence who hitherto hath helped us."

[2] See the most approved dictionaries for the sense of the word, which they define, "a rule or ceremony dedicating to the service of God."

[3] The following is the inscription on the corner stone:--

ST. THOMAS' CHURCH,
Incorporated XXV Decem. MDCCCXXIII,
Rev. Cornelius E. Duffie, Rector.
Isaac Lawrence, David Hadden, Wardens.
Vestrymen--John Duer, Charles King, John James Lambert,
Wm. Beach Lawrence, Richard Oakley, Murray Hoffman,
Benjamin M. Brown, John Smyth Rogers.
Plan designed by
Rev. Professor M'Vickar, Col. Coll. N. Y.
Geer & Riley, and Joseph Tucker, Builders.
this Corner Stone was laid XXVII July, MDCCCXXIV.
(The Right Rev. Bishop Hobart being then absent in Europe,)
By the Right Rev. William White, D. D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in tbe Diocese of Pennsylvania.


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