The Protestant Episcopal Church in New Haven and for New England
PREACHED AT THE
Consecration of Trinity Church
Wednesday, February 16th, 1866,
PUBLISHED BY THE VESTRY.
TRINITY CHURCH, NEW HAVEN.
The earliest records of Trinity Church, New Haven, known to be in existence, go back as far as the year 1767. Serious efforts were made to establish the Church in this city as early as 1752. In the following year the Church appears to have been built (see Dr. Beardsley's History, p. 173). The Rev. Mr. PUNDERSON was in charge of the congregation from 1752 to 1763. He was succeeded by the Rev. Mr. PALMER, who found the Church in a languishing condition. (See Beardsley, p. 222.) In the year 1767 the Rev. BELA HUBBARD became Rector of the Church, and he retained the Rectorship until his death in 1812. The Rev. HENRY WHITLOCK succeeded him, but was compelled to resign the charge of the parish, through ill health, in 1814. The Rev. HARRY CROSWELL entered upon his duties Jan. 1, 1815, and died in March, 1858. In 1859 the Rev. EDWIN HARWOOD was elected Rector.
Strictly, the Church has had but four Rectors.
It has had the services of the following clergymen as Assistant Ministers, Assistant Rector, and Associate Rector.
The Rev. FRANCIS L. HAWKS, D. D., from 1828 to 1829.
The Rev. JOHN S. STONE, D. D., from 1830 to 1832.
The Rev. WM. LUCAS, from 1832 to 1833.
The Rev. W. L. KEESE, from 1833 to 1835.
The Rev. L. T. BENNETT, from 1835 to 1840.
The Rev. J. H. NICHOLS, from 1841 to 1846.
The Rev. W. F. MORGAN, D. D., from 1841 to 1844.
The Rev. T. C. PITKIN, D. D., from 1847 to 1856.
The Rev. S. BENEDICT from 1856 to 1858.
The above were elected by the Parish. Other clergymen, from time to time, have served the congregation as Assistants to the Rector.
A. D. 1816.
The present Church was consecrated by the Rt. Rev. JOHN HENRY HOBART, then Assistant Bishop of New York, on Wednesday, Feb. 21, A. D., 1816. The Rev. HARRY CROSWELL was Rector; Messrs. JONATHAN INGERSOLL and WILLIAM WALTER were Wardens; ELIAS SHIPMAN, NATHAN SMITH, CHARLES DENISON ANDREW KIDSTON, WM. MCCRACKEN, SOLOMON COLLIS, SAMUEL HUGHES, JOHN HUNT, Jr., WARD ATWATER, JOHN H. JACOCKS, and JEREMIAH M. ATWATER, were Vestrymen.
A. D. 1866.
The semi-centennial anniversary of the consecration of the Church was celebrated on Wednesday, Feb. 21st, A. D. 1866. The Rt. Rev. JOHN WILLIAMS, D. D., was present, also BISHOP SMITH of Kentucky, and BISHOP QUINTARD of Tennessee, about forty clergymen, and a large concourse of people. Morning prayer was begun by the Rev. L. T. BENNETT, of Guilford; the first lesson was read by the Rev. Dr. BEARDSLEY, of New Haven; the second lesson by the Rev. W. H. VIBBERT. of Fair Haven, the creed and prayers by the Rev. Dr. T. C. PITKIN, of Buffalo. The Rev. Dr. JOHN S. STONE read the ante-communion service, Bishop QUINTARD reading the epistle. The sermon was preached by the Rector. The Holy Communion was then celebrated, the Bishop of the Diocese, Bishops SMITH and QUINTARD, Drs. STONE and W. C. MEAD taking part in the service.
The Offertory was devoted to the purchase of a stained glass window for the chancel.
EDWIN HARWOOD, D. D.
BERIAH BRADLEY, WILLIAM W. BOARDMAN.
JOHN S. BEACH, HENRY HOOKER, JUDSON CANFIELD, CHARLES R. INGERSOLL, WM. S. CHARNLEY, ANDREW L. KIDSTON, WM. C. DEFOREST, HENRY W. MANSFIELD, E. K. FOSTER, Jr., JAMES M. MASON, PHILIP S. GALPIN, GARDNER MORSE, HENRY B. HARRISON, STEPHEN D. PARDEE, EDWARD HOTCHKISS, JOHN P. TUTTLE.
STAND FAST, THEREFORE, IN THE LIBERTY WHEREWITH CHRIST HATH MADE US
FREE.--Gal. v: 1.
HE who is able to look back over fifty years of his own life, feels that he has reached or is entering upon the autumn of his existence. There is a touch of melancholy in his reflections. The productive activities of his life are bounded by this narrow span. Friends have disappeared; the heat and burden of the day have been borne; character has been formed, the successes and illusions of time alike have been felt, and life in its aggregate has brought the most of what he can expect from it. For him there can be little that is new, because old age clings especially to the past, and its own experiences are the measure of its judgments. There is, therefore, something sombre in the review of fifty years by a single life. It means the beginning of the end!
But with the community, whether society or church, the case is otherwise. It celebrates the flight of time. While the feeling of the individual [5/6] is sombre, the society rejoices; because, to be able to look back for a century, or even for fifty years, suggests at once something historical, as well as permanent. Commonwealths and churches are erected by the efforts, the labors, the prayers and the sacrifices of individual lives. They are fed and they grow upon the vital forces of men, singly considered. They demand sacrifice for their own perpetuity and glory. They are enriched by human blood: their splendor comes from it. Hence the measure of their existence cannot be computed by the term of a man's mortal career. They have their own eras. Their own memorable events are illuminated and pictured in their calendar. A great deed is done, a great word is uttered, a great result is secured: and these have places in their history, so that the memory of them does not perish.
This explains why we, today, following the pious usages of men everywhere, have met to celebrate the semi-centennial anniversary of the consecration of this Church. In our country, where so much is new, this Church is already old. It is associated with the religious history of thousands of immortal souls. They who have worshipped within its walls have witnessed events and changes in our own and in foreign lands, which if fully told would seem more startling than the legends of the remotest ages gone. I cannot undertake even a bald enumeration of them; for [6/7] I must speak to you more especially of New Haven, and of the Church in this quarter of our vast country. We must devote our thoughts chiefly to the associations and the men connected with this parish; to those who have supported it and managed its affairs; to the worshippers who have been blessed through it, and to the work which has been done here: and I shall also embrace the opportunity now afforded, to state some reasons why our Church certainly ought to grow and acquire great strength in New England.
Fifty years ago this day, [Wednesday, February 21st, A. D. 1816.] and at this hour of the day, an immense concourse of people [People came from the neighboring towns, and prominent churchmen from all parts of the diocese.] was assembled within these walls. The all-active and vigorous HOBART, then assistant bishop of New York, was here to consecrate the Church, to preach the sermon, and to exercise his episcopal functions in the institution of the rector, and in a service for confirmation. Nearly all the clergy of the diocese were present, and among the rest, Dr. MANSFIELD, then in his ninety-third year. Dr. CROSWELL had been in the rectorship since the first of January, 1815; and in the list of the names of the officers of the parish, I find seven whose families are still connected with this Church, viz:--JONATHAN INGERSOLL, senior warden, and [7/8] Messrs. DENISON, COLLIS, HUGHES, JACOCKS, KIDSTON, and SHIPMAN. A grandson of Lieut. Gov. Ingersoll, and the son of Mr. Kidston, are now in the vestry.
The day for the consecration had been anxiously looked forward to. Men wondered at the size, the proportions, and the appearance of the Church. It was the largest Gothic structure in New England, if not in the country. It was said that New Haven would never supply "enough Episcopalians" to fill it. But the congregation had a wise rector and skillful officers. They at least had faith in their own work. They believed that the Church would grow and flourish. They never quailed before the animosity and prejudice of which at that time it was the special object. And it ought to be said, that up to that time, no bolder enterprize had been undertaken within the limits of our communion in this country, than the erection of this building. During three days,--one devoted to the consecration, one to the institution of the rector, and the third to the confirmation of a large class of candidates, [ More than one hundred persons (one hundred and seven) were confirmed at that time. For several years previous, there had been no confirmation. A large proportion of the candidates embraced heads of families: many others were of mature years: two at least were in their old age,--Dr. AENEAS MUNSON, aet. 82; and Capt. DAVID PHIPPS, U. S. N., aet. 75.] the churchmen here held high festival. And then the [8/9] bishop, after having won all hearts by the charms both of his eloquence and of his personal manners, took his departure, and the rector was left alone with his congregation, to go forward in the work which had been committed to him. He was then in the early prime of a vigorous manhood, and his ministry at once was marked by unceasing labor, and rewarded with unusual success.
The history of the parish, from that time, falls naturally into three divisions, or periods. The first, from the year 1816 to 1829; the second, from the year 1829 to 1845; that is, from the date of the erection of St. Paul's Chapel to the establishment of the congregation worshipping there as an independent parish; and the third, from the year 1845, when the parish again consisted of but one congregation, down to the present time.
I. THE FIRST PERIOD. In the year 1816, New Haven contained about seven thousand inhabitants. The distances from the centre of the city to any point of its circumference were short, and it was comparatively easy for a clergyman to ascertain the ecclesiastical relations of the people, and to discover families as well as individuals who did not consider themselves attached to any religious society or church. Both public opinion and statute law moreover, may be said then almost to have forced every one into some sort of connection [9/10] with a professedly christian congregation. [ In fact the old law was then in force which required every citizen who did not belong to any ecclesiastical organization, to pay a tax for the support of the "standing order," i. e. the congregational denomination, which in so far was the state church.] Dr. CROSWELL appears accordingly to have seized every opportunity to be of service to all who were either dissatisfied with the then prevailing religious teaching, or whose connection with any religious society was fluctuating or desultory. He toiled in the spirit of a missionary, and by his unwearied efforts he gathered numerous families into the parish. In fact his great strength lay in the skill and assiduity with which he fulfilled the duties of the pastorate. The Church therefore became aggressive in its movements. It received constant accessions. The current of parish life was tranquil indeed, but it became broader, and broader, through the tributaries emptying themselves into it.
During this period, nothing interfered either with the growing prosperity or the internal peace of the parish. The old zeal for church-going, fostered by public sentiment and the traditions of New England, had not abated. The life of the community was not stimulated then by a sensation press, nor a sensation literature, nor sensation lecturers. Consequently, the gathering together of the people in their churches each Lord's day, was an affair of common interest--[10/11] was, in fact, the most noticeable event of the week, except during heated political contests. How simple, how severe their manners were, contrasted with our own. They had no apparatus for warming churches, beyond the little foot-stove! In the sharp winter days, when the thermometer was almost as low within the Church as in the open air,--when the hands of the clergyman were stiff with cold, and his vocal organs benumbed, the congregation, wrapped in furs and coats and shawls, would sit through the long service and sermon, without feeling that they had been undergoing any special hardship. Were there no fire here to-day, hundreds would quit the Church, fearing an attack of some one of the many diseases which exposure in this climate is liable to entail. In the year, 1818, the vestry discussed gravely the subject of hiring a stove for the Church; and at length, in 1822--the very year in which our present senior warden was elected vestryman,--it was "voted that it is expedient to erect four stoves in the Church, provided that the same (exclusive of pipes) be furnished by private subscriptions." Their action was singularly deliberate. There must have been strong prejudice against the novelty of heating a Church. I have heard of congregations being divided most seriously on the subject of the introduction of a stove into the house of God.
Your fathers of the last generation were suspicious, [11/12] moreover, of night services. The vestry, however, in the year 1819, were induced to pass a vote allowing certain persons to place, at their own expense, patent lamps on the walls of the Church, provided no injury were done; and also that the Church should be opened in the evening, on extraordinary occasions only, and not more than twelve times in a year. And still further, they reserved to themselves the right of taking down the lamps, if at the expiration of a year the experiment were found unsatisfactory. Really, we seem, in these quaint votes and proceedings, to catch glimpses of an old world; and yet fifty years have not gone! Manners and customs, indoor life and public life, forty years ago, were so unlike our own, that we seem to be separated from our fathers by at least a century. There was with them more dignity and courtesy of manner in private, and in their deliberate bodies; with us there is more earnestness, and perhaps vehemence, in the endeavor to seize the realities of things. There is more of iron in our thoughts, and more of clay in our personal habits. We are more luxurious, we live in warmer houses, we worship in warmer churches, and we have learned to fear a climate which breeds typhoid fever, and bronchitis and consumption!
Honorable and prominent mention should be made of the fact that Dr. CROSWELL was among the first to appreciate the use and worth of Sunday schools, and [12/13] as early as in the year 1818, he wrote to the late Dr. MILNOR, of New York, that a flourishing Sunday school had been established in his parish, in which religious instruction exclusively was given. Opinions varied respecting the proper method and line of instruction to be followed in Sunday schools. Originally, they differed in little from the ordinary primary schools of the time. In fact, the chief difference lay in the spirit and aims of those who were willing to engage in them. Their labor was a labor of love. Soon, however, it became manifest that opportunities were presented, through the Sunday School, for imparting religious truth and affecting spiritual character. Hence it has become, everywhere, a marked feature in parochial work. Dr. CROSWELL, in this community, led public opinion in this matter. His school was the first in New Haven. He saw that instruction in the elements of christian doctrine, for the children not only of the members of the parish, but of persons who themselves were not specially intelligent and grounded in the faith, must tend to the increase and vigor of the Church. He prepared brief manuals of instruction, and to his latest day he always felt an interest in this department of his work.
In the mean while the names of men who had served the parish long and faithfully, begin to disappear from the records. Lieut. Gov. INGERSOLL, who had been in the vestry since 1789, was elected senior [13/14] warden for the last time at the Easter meeting in 1822. In the following winter he died, regretted and honored by the community. He was succeeded by GILBERT TOTTEN, who was re-elected annually, until his death in 1839, and the vestry made a record of their sense of the loss which both they and the parish met with in his removal.
In 1825, CHARLES DENISON, who had been clerk of the parish since 1813, and a man of influence in the vestry for a long time, died. There is a blank in the records for nearly a year after his death. His successor was Mr. SEELEY, who was elected at the annual meeting held Easter Monday, 1826.
We find offices filled by new names, but names familiar to us, because several are still living, while others have been called hence. You will not expect me, today, to read the roll of our dead--nor to enumerate the living. We hold, indeed, in pious remembrance the departed of a past generation who served the parish long and faithfully in offices of trust and honor. But there are, it should not be forgotten, men now living who themselves have for many years, borne the same offices with fidelity and with a desire to subserve the best interests of the church. There are seven members of the parish now living, who held office between the year 1816 and 1829,--Mr. BRADLEY, our senior warden, Mr. BOARDMAN, our junior warden; Mr. P. S. GALPIN, now in [14/15] the vestry, and Messrs. R. I. INGERSOLL, JOHN BEACH, ABRAHAM HEATON, and HENRY HUGGINS. Mr. Samuel Short is still a member of the parish; and as far as the record shows, these are the only survivors of the generation that managed the affairs of this Church immediately previously to the erection of St. Paul's Chapel. I use the word parish here, in its technical legal sense. In the congregation there are at least thirty families who have worshipped in this Church for two or more generations. In these years, long gone to those of us who were children then, without recourse to any ecclesiastical machinery, and by untiring devotion upon the part of the rector, the congregation became larger and larger. In 1828, the vestry resolved to build a Chapel of Ease in that part of the city which was then called the New Township. The population of New Haven had increased from 7,000 to 10,000 inhabitants. The communicants of the Church had more than doubled in number. At a meeting of the wardens and vestry, held on the 12th of April, 1828, it was "Voted, that the rector and wardens of this Church be, and they are hereby authorized to employ the Rev. FRANCIS L. HAWKS, as an assistant minister for the term of one year;" and on the 10th of May following it was voted, that in the opinion of the wardens and vestry, measures ought to be taken to erect a new chapel so as better to accommodate the members of this Church with pews, [15/16] and with the further view to settle the Rev. Mr. HAWKS as an assistant minister of this Church. Our present junior warden was one of the committee appointed to carry the project into execution. Clearly at that time the parish acquired additional momentum. The site selected for the new chapel was at the corner of Olive and Chapel streets. The corner stone of the new building was laid April 18th, 1829. Mr. HAWKS preached as assistant in the parish Church, but resigned, to the great regret of the vestry, before St. Paul's Chapel was completed. [ Dr. Hawks resigned, to accept the rectorship of St. James', Philad.]
II. We are brought now to THE SECOND PERIOD of this historical review. The design of the rector and vestry was that St. Paul's Chapel should remain permanently and forever as a portion of Trinity parish. The Rev. JOHN S. STONE was elected in December, 1829, assistant rector of this Church. The parish started upon a new course, the vestry was called upon to act for two church buildings and two congregations, and to provide for the support of two clergymen. The growth of the Church became accelerated. The congregations at St. Paul's were large. The great religious awakening which fairly startled the country in the year 1831, was felt in the parish, and large accessions to the communion were the result,--with a proportionate increase of parochial activity. [16/17] The work of the ministry became more arduous, the devotion and christian efforts of the people more zealous, and the truth seemed winged with power. The course of the Church was onward here, as also elsewhere. The parish was in a condition of vigorous strength. Dr. STONE was induced, in the spring of 1832, to accept the rectorship of St. Paul's Church, Boston, and the letter of the vestry in accepting his resignation shows how strongly he had bound them to him. The assistantship in the ministry of the parish devolved successively upon the Rev. Messrs. LUCAS, KEESE, BENNETT, NICHOLS and MORGAN. It may not be known to a majority of my audience, but it deserves mention here, that our reverend father, the bishop of this diocese, was also elected assistant minister of the parish in March 1841, but he declined the appointment.
I must not dwell too long upon these details. I cannot write the annals of the parish in a sermon. I seek simply to bring certain points in its history to your remembrance. I must speak briefly, however, of a great loss sustained by the Church in this period, in the death of the Hon. NATHAN SMITH, who had been in the vestry for thirty years. His devotion to the Church, and his influence in its deliberations, had been most conspicuous. He had been the friend and counsellor of the rector for a long time. He had used his influence to strengthen his hands in the [17/18] work of the ministry. He was a man of whom his pastor said that "his whole conduct furnished abundant proof that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Regular, uniform and constant in his observance of all the external forms and ordinances of his Church, he presented himself as a humble and devoted supplicant at the foot of the Cross. He looked for salvation through the merits of Christ Jesus, and in His mercy he manifestly placed the most implicit trust and confidence." [ From a Funeral Sermon, by Dr. Croswell.] I can only add, that the elder members of the parish to this day cherish the recollection of Mr. Smith, and they are most explicit in their testimony of his worth as a christian man and of his unwearied devotion to the interests of the Church. He was certainly a conspicuous example of chivalric devotion to his rector; and if laymen, whose character and talents entitle them to influence in the community, would remember how much and how well they can assist their pastors by words and deeds which need not occupy much of their time, nor encroach seriously upon hours devoted by common consent to business, their pastors would not be compelled to complain, or to feel, without complaining, as often as now, the loneliness of their position.
The parish had become large, and I suspect cumbrous. The rector, however, had set his heart upon retaining St. Paul's Chapel as an integral portion of [18/19] his cure, but a considerable number of the worshippers there were becoming restless. They began to think that the chapel should be set apart, and erected into an independent parish. The resistance of the rector could not put an end to the movement. He had never before, I believe, met with any serious or protracted opposition to his wishes. The period of old age was approaching indeed, suggestive of repose rather than of enlarged labor, yet his natural force was not at all abated. But the movement day by day acquired strength. The persons most interested were determined to agitate the matter until their purpose should be accomplished. Many who opposed it were governed by a desire to gratify their beloved pastor, rather than by the conviction that it was in itself either injudicious or inexpedient. At last, as might have been foreseen, the parish gave its consent to the separation of St. Paul's Chapel, and it became, when certain formalities and transfers of property had been complied with and made, St. Paul's Church. And as a church it has had a most honorable record amongst the churches, and a course distinguished by unbroken prosperity. Surely, on this day, we who knew nothing personally of the conflicts and debates of the hour, and who rejoice in the progress of the Kingdom of Christ, may extend our cordial congratulations, and our best wishes and hopes for the continued well-being of the daughter Church.
III. THE THIRD PERIOD IN THIS REVIEW.  There were two parishes. But a great impetus was given to the work of church extension. The rector of Trinity, with his assistant, the late Rev. Mr. NICHOLS, retired to the parish Church, the worshippers gathering within these walls comprised, once more, his entire flock. But the Church was not deserted. The venerable pastor, nearly seventy years of age, was not left alone. His old friends and people were still in great force, strong in numbers, in influence, in wealth, in moral and christian worth. The old Church was the spiritual home of hundreds of communicants. In 1846 Mr. NICHOLS resigned his position, and in the year following the Rev. Dr. PITKIN, a grandson of BELA HUBBARD, was chosen associate rector. He entered upon his work with hearty zeal, and the congregation accepted readily the new order of things. It may be said that the parochial work was carried on with decided vigor and success. The Sunday school increased: the interior of the church was newly decorated, and the expense was liberally borne by the people. In the year 1848, however, thirty families withdrew from Trinity Church. These were the nucleus of still another parish, organized in that year, under the name of St. Thomas' Church, [ About three thousand dollars have been given by members of the congregation towards the building of St. Thomas' Church.] a parish in whose continued, quiet progress we all rejoice. [20/21] Trinity Church may be said to have suffered a little while, at least, by the establishment of these new parishes. The withdrawal of many worshippers necessarily created a gap, and besides, strangers of our communion coming here, could choose now between churches and clergymen,--formerly there was no choice. In new undertakings, more zeal is apt to be shown than in the conservation of old institutions. The old institution, however, is sure to revive, and in the inevitable reaction it renews its youth.
A school was established in the year 1851, and through the liberal gifts of a member of the parish [ Mr. Joseph E. Sheffield.] from time to time, it has been in so far forth endowed, as to ensure its permanence as one of the agencies of this church for reaching the children of a neglected class of our population. Much unobtrusive, self-sacrificing labor has been done within the school, not only by the teachers, but by other christian women, whose charity has prompted them to work for their Lord in that direction.
So, also, Christ Church, begun as a missionary effort, was built during this period. [ Christ Church parish has had two buildings; the first was erected by the Misses Edwards, upon a lot purchased by Trinity parish. The first building forms the transept and chancel of the new church.] Fostered at its start by members of this congregation, it became in [21/22] due time an independent parish, several families having left the Church to connect themselves with it.
Thus Trinity Church has been drawn upon from all quarters, as if the supply of its population were inexhaustible. But we hold on our way in strength, and, thank God! the number of worshippers here never fails.
Dr. PITKIN, having served the Church in the associate rectorship nine years, resigned, leaving behind him many friends, to whom he had endeared himself by the faithfulness and zeal with which he had toiled for their spiritual welfare. Then the infirmities of age began to make themselves felt, upon even the robust frame of your late rector, and he could not carry on his work without an assistant. Your choice--it was the last time you have elected an assistant minister--fell upon the Rev. SAMUEL BENEDICT. The brave old man, who had served you so long,--whose zeal knew no abatement to the end,--fell asleep in March, 1858. Mr. BENEDICT remained with you until the Whitsuntide following. Of Dr. CROSWELL I have spoken fully and at length, upon another occasion. I will not repeat what I then said. He needs to-day no eulogy upon his character. He lives in your hearts and in your tender remembrances. You knew him personally, so well, and your attachment to him was so strong, that it may be said--Ye are his epistle, read and known of all men.
 It is proper that I close at this point my observations about the parish. I know that thousands rejoice now in its prosperity and vigor. It is fitting that before long, I should ask you to weigh well the great matter of your duties and responsibilities as a parish, in this community. Time has wrought rapid changes. Trinity has become the mother of churches, and you are aware that New Haven is not what it was twenty years ago, and that the especial work to which we are called must be modified accordingly. We have seven places of worship in this city, and the aggregate of worshippers and communicants is larger now than at any previous time. You have been blessed in many ways. You are at peace amongst yourselves. Your history is remarkably free from discord and strife. Bitterness of feeling cannot take root here. It withers beneath these arches. You are prosperous as a people. You are numerous. You have great possibilities of influence and remember, that for these blessings you must give account. As surely as New Haven lasts, our successors fifty years hence will judge us. They will wish to know what we did for the glory of the Lord; what evidence we furnished of a living, loving faith. Let us labor, then, for the approval of our God, in our own salvation, in the salvation of others, and in the trust we must hand down to them that shall come after us.
 Today, celebrating and surveying the past in this parish, we become naturally thoughtful touching the future. Memory, in some respects, is the reverse side of Hope. History is the fountain of prophetic feeling, and we may most justly think, therefore, of the future of the Church, not simply in this city, nor in this diocese, but in New England generally. And, moreover, remember that here in New England your forefathers were called upon to face a spirit of distrust, suspicion and animosity, which is not entirely extinct, though it no longer persists in showing its rough edge. The wealth and culture of New England were against the Church. Dr. MANSFIELD said in this building, fifty years ago, that he could remember when there were but two or three Church families of reputation in all New Haven. The social feeling, the religious temper of the people, the schools and colleges, and learning, were all against it; yet it took root and grew, not only here in New Haven, not only in this State, but everywhere in New England. Bear in mind, too, that it rarely recedes. Its movements were never characterized by grand enthusiasms of peoples or populations; for they were cautious, prudent, and perhaps even slow. Its legislation was, and is sometimes, timid; is never very pronounced, and yet it continues to take hold of the affections of large numbers in every class of the community. The progress it has made is marvellous, especially when you [24/25] consider that it has been forcing its way into a hostile country, and certainly it has not in times past been led by men who, as a body, have been distinguished for their personal gifts of eloquence or of greatness of thought, or for their accomplishments in learning or of theological science. Its conflicts and progress illustrate the difference between the strength of an institution and the power of mere individual effort.
There is, indeed, a difference between us and the New England pastors and teachers, not, be it understood, respecting the work of our redemption through our blessed Lord, nor our hope of salvation, but touching the relation of christian theology to christian faith, and the terms of communion. In New England, christianity, to all intents and purposes, has been identified with a system, or systems of theology. Christianity, accordingly, in the public mind, has meant a scheme of doctrine. I do not mean to assert nor to imply that the pastors of the congregational churches have overlooked the moralities of the New Testament; but simply that the one overshadowing characteristic of the New England method and spirit, must be found in the doctrinal instruction received by the people, and in their doctrinal belief. This instruction led to confessions of faith, more or less elaborate, which were proffered to candidates for admission into membership with particular congregations, as tests, or conditions, or absolute preliminaries [25/26] to full communion and fellowship. These confessions of faith contained, of course, theological propositions, which, when they were prepared, were the full expression of the belief of the congregations. But it has happened with them, as with all other kindred documents, that a generation came, and then another, no longer in sympathy with them. What is the natural movement of the mind, in this sphere of its action? First, there is indifference; next, there is silent dislike; and lastly, there is open war. The Unitarian outbreak in Massachusetts was the grand climax of the protest against the prevailing teaching. The people, in certain other portions of New England, in certain portions of Massachusetts itself, as well as in Connecticut, fell, in large numbers, under the influence of the Methodists, with their broad assertion of the freedom of the human will, while others sought the communion of our Church. The breaking away from the rigid doctrinal system which had been all powerful, was deep and thorough. The granite rock of a united public sentiment in matters of religion was split; and a process of disintegration is still going on. I do not, at this time, wage war; I simply observe. And observation makes clear that this disintegrating, disorganizing process is powerfully at work. I am not aware that the fact is even questioned, and I point to it as the inevitable result of identifying [26/27] christianity with a system of theology. In so far as facts like the one under consideration have come to the surface of society in other lands, they are attributable to the like cause. The law of cause and effect--the logic of Church life and thought--knows nothing of degrees of latitude, knows no geographical lines or circles.
And so we witness, in a measure, the breaking away from all systems; preachers even becoming as it were tribunes of the people, devoting themselves to a sturdy advocacy of right, in matters touching the public life of citizens, while, however, it remains certain, that the great public is becoming more and more unsettled, and even disturbed, on the momentous question of faith in a revealed God. Hence, I say, there is a difference between ourselves and the New England pastors. For we plant ourselves, and stand firmly upon the simple creed of the Church, as the condition of communion, and as the true embodiment of what constitutes the unalterable christian faith. Do you ask what I mean by the simple creed of the Church? I mean the apostles' creed, which should be considered as the expansion of the original baptismal formula. By it we assert our faith in the Fatherhood of Almighty God, in the Sonship and redemptive work of Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, the Sanctifier, and in His work in the Church; and in the life everlasting. The creed of the Council of [27/28] Nice, which was framed to meet a heresy touching the person of our Lord, we also accept, and recognize as a larger statement of the contents of the apostles' creed. We demand, then, I repeat, the reception of the unalterable faith, in this respect following ancient practice; and we leave the question of scientific theology, or of systems of doctrines, to the individual judgment. We do not interfere with the christian liberty either of clergy or of people. We do not identify christianity with a current system of metaphysics, nor of metaphysical divinity. We distinguish between faith and opinion. We insist upon the faith, in its historical sense and meaning, while opinion is beyond or outside of law, and does not come under the supervision of an ecclesiastical inquisition, whether in the form of a board of deacons, or of a council, or of a standing committee, or of a convention.
The mind of New England is intelligent and acute, and therefore we present this distinction. We seek to make known the cardinal position of the Church. We are governed by a principle. We are the exponents of a great law, to be asserted here, and everywhere, that the faith of the Church is one, and is unalterable, while systems of theology [ "Theology"--"Creed"--what is the difference? The Creed is the simple statement, (without any raisonnement) of the articles, [28/29] which in the judgment of the Church constitute the substance of the christian faith. Theology, or dogmatic or systematic divinity, means the scientific or systematic representation of the truths or facts embraced in the creed, together with other points of christian belief and christian feeling, derived in part from scripture, in part from christian usage, and in part from personal experience. Of course, this systematic scientific arrangement is the work of individual minds, and partakes therefore of the fortunes of all intellectual endeavor. It’s worth changes with changing times and modes of thought. This is exemplified in the history of christian doctrine, and in our theological literature. The science of one age must yield to the achievement of another, but the substance of the belief of the Church remains one, and unchanging.] are, from their very nature, subject to the changes which mark all the efforts of the reflecting mind; and we simply call men to the reception of the one faith, the creed of the Church of all past time. We are in sympathy with the christian past, and we have large hope in the future, and our Church ought to grow in New England, because it thus in the sphere of faith and thought presents distinctly the two poles of stability and progress. There is stability in its creed; there is progress in its thought, under the conditions and limitations which a general reception of the creed imposes.
Moreover, as the Church requires the hearty reception only of the ancient creed as the condition of communion, so it insists upon the broad renunciation of sin, and the desire to keep God's holy will and commandments in every-day life. I am willing to confess that it accepts the minimum of spiritual attainment, [29/30] as the prerequisite to entrance within its fold and fellowship. For in the minimum you find the essential, the permanent, and the catholic. It is the true starting point for the christian; we holding that one should not look for the high-water mark of piety during the early spring time of a living faith. The Church does not, it dare not, erect temporary, partial, or individual standards of piety, or of feeling, into a public law! It dare not say,--"You cannot approach the Lord's table, unless you can state clearly when you were converted!" It demands no history of the soul, but simply repentance towards God, the forsaking of evil, and the pursuit of good, according to the divine Word. It does not interfere with the liberty wherewith Christ had made His disciples free. It repels from the communion only those who are known to be living in violation of the law of Christ.
But to charge the Church with teaching men to rest satisfied with the lowest spiritual state reconcilable with their admission to the communion, were a wicked libel. It exhorts and persuades men against a lukewarm love and a dead belief. It calls them to newness of heart and to the life of righteousness. It sets before them the highest standard of human endeavor. What duty of love, what penitence, what sacrifice for the Lord, what effort for men, what worship, what struggle with evil, held and taught by the [30/31] noblest of God's servants everywhere, does it neglect, or pass over, or refuse to enforce? It needs no apology upon this score.
Now, in so far as there is a difference in this respect between ourselves and the New England pastors and teachers, it concerns the terms and conditions of communion. We, as I have said, require the minimum of spiritual attainments reconcilable with living christian faith; they demand the maximum. Their tendency is exclusive; ours is inclusive. They repel all who fall short of the standard they have adopted; we invite all who embrace the law of the universal Church in this matter. When we err, we err upon the side of indulgence; and I do not see how anyone who reads the New Testament can hesitate to decide which of these opposing tempers most fairly reflects the mind of Christ, and perpetuates the prevailing spirit of the apostolic Church and age. I seek, moreover, to state the point with clearness, because objections have been and still are urged, that we are too ready to open the doors to men, irrespective of their personal qualifications for the communion. The reply is, that should we go beyond the actual written requirement of the Church, we should be guilty of tyranny, and would violate the spirit of the New Testament. We act upon a principle here, not upon a worthless expediency to secure converts and partizans. Again we appeal to the ancient law of the Church, [31/32] which we follow without reservation And again we challenge the recognition of this principle, upon the part of a people known to be jealous of their own rights and liberties. We never dream of fresh enactments; we do not open inquiry touching the revision of our terms of communion, because they are, in their breadth and compass, adapted to men everywhere, and are not the offshoot of any tyranny, nor the product of a passing feeling.
You must perceive that there is complete harmony between the demand upon our belief, and upon our hearts and lives. There is a rhythm of movement always in ideas,--in law. Expediency rests upon shifting sands. Passion and prejudice write their enactments in the water! but law is the fruitful source of order and harmony, in things spiritual, as in things secular. It continues and is felt from generation to generation, and reveals its power in its applicability to the new emergencies in which men find themselves in the conflicts and changes of time.
The principle for which we have been contending, because it is law, is available at present in two distinct directions. It affords standing ground over against the uncertainties, and the doubts, and the dissolving views, of the present moment and it is one of the factors, one of the elements for the restoration of the unity of christendom, a consummation which now occupies so many minds, and is the desire [32/33] of so many hearts in all parts of the world. But I cannot pursue this line of remark any farther. I ask today for justice! I ask that men not of our communion shall see, that in the matter under review, we are not governed by expediency, but by law and principle; and if they will do us justice in so far, I believe they will discover that we are right, and that a Church which hopes to live on from age to age, doing the work of the Lord, must rest upon the principle we hold, and the law we recognize.
Again: in the common mind of the Church, and by common consent, the constitution of the ministry is unalterable. But there is no cast iron, no rigid, inflexible rule, for all times and all places, touching the manner in which the ministers of Christ shall exercise their functions. There is in our worship a severe and stately simplicity. We preach the Word of God, according to individual power, fervor, love of souls, intelligence and ability. We dispense the sacraments according to the prescribed law of the Church. "It is," says the preface to the Prayer Book, "a most invaluable part of that blessed liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, that in His worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the faith be kept entire; and that in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to doctrine, must be referred to discipline; and therefore, by common consent and [33/34] authority may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people, according to the various exigencies of times and occasions." These particulars, however, do not touch the constitution of the ministry itself. The question is never raised in our deliberative bodies, whether, in the abstract, one order in the ministry be better than three, or three orders better than one. We have adhered to, and we perpetuate, the three-fold ministry. We hold to and have the primitive episcopacy. We jealously guard the sacred office, and we seek to apply the episcopate to the needs and exigencies of the modern Church. The bishop is not a medieval baron, nor a lord over God's heritage. He is entrusted with the duties of government. He ordains; he confirms in the Churches; he exercises a general oversight, binding together the parts of his diocese, and imparting, under the law of the Church, unity to its action. He is a link in the great chain which binds us to the past. He derives his powers from an episcopate whose beginning must lie in the apostolic age; otherwise, explorers starting upon voyages of discovery, with another theory, would assuredly be able to fix its date. In the exercise of these powers, he is under the organic law of the Church, to which he promises loyalty and obedience. It was no part of the work of the reformed Church to break, but to restore organic law [34/35] in the household of Jesus Christ. Now what is the especial moral significance of the episcopate, to the modern man? I ask the question seriously, and I answer, it is two-fold. It is a protest, a perpetual, standing protest, against unauthorized and fanatical assumptions of the ministerial office; and it is equally a protest against the assumption of an hierarchical imperialism within the Church.
It is a fact of history, that when men part with the episcopate, although their opinions touching the ministerial office be reverent, they who succeed them, gradually, yet by well-defined steps, relinquish their feeling of its sacredness, and of its divine origin; they lower or abandon all conception, in the course of time, of the need of a lawful ordination, and at last deem it a matter of no moment who or whence the person is who may undertake to preach to them. What inconvenience, what scandal, what evils are bred! I observe, therefore, that over against anything like anarchy, in the sphere of religious associations, the episcopate is a standing protest. It represents the fixedness of authority in the Church, touching the admission of men to the functions and work of the sacred ministry. I ask you, especially, my friends, to weigh this, in connection with the "religious notices" you may read each Saturday in the newspapers of our great cities and centres of population.
 On the other hand, the episcopate is equally a protest against the assumption of imperial power in any member of the hierarchy. The primitive episcopacy insists upon the equality of each bishop with all other bishops. It is jealous of its own rights. And under this view it cannot be true to itself, if it submit to any pretensions of a supreme, or even of a superior authority, made by any member of the episcopal order. Its existence is a protest, therefore, against all papal claims. Thus, once more you see in our Church these two facts and forces--stability and progress; fixedness and movement, law and liberty. Stability, fixedness, law, in the constitution of the ministry; progress, movement, liberty, in its work in the world for human salvation and the glory of God. We recognize the need of a cultivated, learned, thoughtful, devoted clergy, who shall be in full sympathy with men, laboring for the conversion of the ungodly, and for the edifying of the body of Christ.
There are, I submit, in these considerations, grave reasons why the Church ought to grow in New England, why it should commend itself as the ordained witness for Christ, as in ages long gone, so also in this present time, with all its weight of distraction and doubt. It meets admitted needs at all points. It sets forth Jesus Christ crucified among you, in all simplicity and with godly sincerity. I know that a new Baptism of the Holy Ghost upon both clergy and people, would carry with it a more convincing [36/37] logic, than argument for the Church built upon the fullness of the truth it embraces and represents. I know that a larger missionary spirit, a deeper charity, a purer life in the members of the Church, would clothe her with irresistible attractions. There is such a power in virtue, that bad causes are never so dangerous as when advocated by good men. But a good cause, a great truth, held before the mind by a heart filled and overflowing with a holy love, has such force of argument and holds such sway over the heart and conscience, as to challenge in grand and almost peremptory style, an obedient recognition. It conquers by a divine right.
My brethren, let us be faithful witnesses for Christ, in our daily lives, in our deeds and thoughts. Let us turn unto the Holy Comforter for His indwelling grace, for the light and power of the truth as it is in Jesus; then we shall not gather the wages of an ignoble proselytism, but the fruits of a glorious and symmetrical christian faith. We shall be able to say,--"Thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place."
And now, O Lord God Almighty, grant us all, the bishops of thy Church, the other clergy and the people, thy heavenly benediction and grace, that we may so live and so labor, that thy Son, our adorable Redeemer, "may see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied." Amen.