A NEW epoch opens up before us with the consideration of the work of Bishop Hobart. After the Revolution, the Church was tolerated only, and her chief shepherds, it may be of necessity, did little aggressive work, but apologized, perhaps too feebly, for the continuance of what had once been known as the "Church of England." From the days of Bishop Hobart a new idea was advanced. The divine mission of the Church was taught, and a truer Churchmanship was impressed upon her members.
John Henry Hobart was born in Philadelphia on the 14th of September, 1775. He was baptized, confirmed and ordained deacon, by Bishop White, in Christ Church, in his native city.
For short periods of time he was, respectively, in charge of Trinity Church. Oxford, near Philadelphia; rector of Christ Church, New Brunswick, New Jersey (the same parish which had once been served by Bishop Seabury), and rector of the Church at Hempstead, Long Island. In 1799, he became secretary of the House of Bishops. In 1800, he became assistant minister at Trinity Church, New York, Bishop Moore being rector. In the following year, he was advanced to the priesthood by Bishop Provoost.
Mr. Hobart was known as a remarkable preacher before he had passed his diaconate. After he took up work in the metropolis, his fame spread rapidly. A disciple of Bishop Seabury, he was convinced that the position of the Church was impregnable, and he believed in preaching it vigorously. He early took a leading part in the deliberations of the diocesan convention of New York, was its secretary from 1801 until his election to the episcopate, was a member of the Standing Committee, and was deputy to General Convention in 1801, 1804 and 1808.
In 1803, he began his literary work by editing and republishing a work on "The Nature and Constitution of the Christian Church." The first edition of his "Companion for the Altar" was dated the next year. This little work was of deep spirituality, and was of a character unknown before, in those days. It created a storm of dissension, and was condemned as "unreal" and "extravagant." Unreal and extravagant its language would doubtless be to its condemners; real, sincere and true, it was to the young priest. It is encouraging to learn that prior to 1836, the Manual had passed through six editions. Two other works were also published, in 1805, and 1806, respectively. One of these was his "Companion for the Festivals and Fasts," which is still in print, and which was destined to bring its author into a sharp controversy.
Soon after this work was published, a series of violent attacks upon its principles, and upon the Church, was made by the Albany Sentinel, a paper widely circulated in the State at that time. The attacks were continued through several months, and, though anonymous, were understood to have been written by the Rev. Dr. Linn, a Presbyterian minister, widely known. The attacks not only criticised the book itself, but also appealed to the popular prejudice against the Church, which was then happily declining. Mr. Hobart, assisted by two friends, ably defended the "Companion" and the Church tenets which were so bitterly assailed. As a result of this literary warfare, Mr. Hobart, now a D. D. from Union College, published another, and perhaps his most famous, work, "An Apology for Apostolic Order and its Advocates." It was in this book that he used those words which afterward became so widely quoted as the watchword of the Church: "My banner is EVANGELICAL TRUTH AND APOSTOLIC ORDER."
This latter book, being a complete defense of the Church and its Apostolic succession, created a great furore. Dr. Hobart was said to "unchurch the other denominations." His argument was coarsely said to be "episcopacy or perdition." He was characterized as a bigot, and was charged with a lack of charity. Indeed, the charges against Dr. Hobart in 1807, have a strikingly familiar sound. They are the same as are sometimes made now against the advocates of Apostolic order. How completely has history vindicated Dr. Hobart! How completely will it also vindicate those who dare to stand up for the truth now!
One of the greatest ambitions of Dr. Hobart, was to build up a theological seminary for the Church. As yet, there was no place in the Church for the instruction of candidates for the ministry. The canons, indeed, provided for examinations by chaplains prior to ordination. But the education itself must either be obtained under alien influences, or under private tutorship. What wonder that the clergy were not fully instructed in distinctive Churchmanship! How shall they learn except they be taught?
This ambition resulted in the formation of a class, under the leadership of a clergyman, which should make a study of Theology, and at the same time unite in devotional exercises. This class, so humble in its origin, was the germ of the present General Theological Seminary. Of that institution, Dr. Hobart was one of the founders, and afterwards, when he was established in New York, he was made its professor of Pastoral Theology.
Dr. Hobart began, in 1808, the editorship of the Churchman's Magazine, the first Church periodical published in New York. The plan was to make a stirring magazine in the interests of the Church, to impress more firmly upon her members a sound Churchmanship. Busy though Dr. Hobart continually was, he found time to revise the papers sent for publication, and to perform the exacting duties of an editor.
It was in 1809, that Dr. Hobart began a work that, in its first years, encountered the most frantic opposition, both within and without the Church. This was the New York" Bible and Common Prayer Book Society, organized for the distribution of Bibles and Prayer Books as missionaries beyond the pale of the Church. Dr. Hobart believed firmly in the Prayer Book. He believed, without reserve, that no better digest of the Scriptures existed.
Thus, he believed it to be the duty of the Church to circulate the Prayer Book with one hand and the Bible with the other. This led, for a time, to serious trouble with the American Bible Society, an organization composed of representatives of all denominations. Dr. Hobart had no wish to antagonize their work, but he was bitterly opposed to any "inter-denominational" or "non-sectarian" union, which must ignore some of the positive teachings of the Church. He did not believe in a "Christian Unity" that left out the Church. He believed that the Church was qualified, as it was commissioned, to do its own work, and that any compromise in doing that work, was a breach of trust. Thus was formed that admirable institution, now so well and so gratefully known to hundreds of missionaries and struggling missions of the Church.
Church music was a subject which received frequent treatment in the Churchman's Magazine. Dr. Hobart was himself a musician, and opposed vigorously the frivolous music which was then too widely sung in the Church.
His work as a priest concluded with his elevation to the episcopate in 1811.
Before considering Dr. Hobart as a Bishop, we must go back some years to explain the status of the Bishopric of New York.
Bishop Provoost, her first Bishop, was con-secrated, with Bishop White, in Lambeth Chapel, in 1787. Prior to the War of Independence, Mr. Provoost was assistant minister of Trinity Church, New York. Unlike many of the clergy, his sympathies were with the patriots in the memorable struggle. At the outbreak of the war, the rector of Trinity Church being an ardent loyalist, Mr. Provoost retired to his farm in Dutchess county, living in poverty, and gaining the reputation of a martyr to the American cause.
When, therefore, the victorious colonists made peace, Mr. Provoost was invited to return to New York, and to become rector of Trinity Church. This, in 1784, he did. In 1786, he was elected Bishop of New York, and received consecration, as we have seen, in 1787.
Bishop Provoost was not an active man. He loved his comfort and ease, and appeared to be very little weighted down with diocesan affairs. In 1799, too, he was afflicted by the loss of his wife, and in 1800, by the death of an unworthy son. Increasing age did not increase his love for work, and, on the whole, his episcopate was not a brilliant one. In September, 1800, he resigned the rectorship of Trinity Church, and summoning the diocesan convention for the first time in three years, presented to them his resignation of his diocese, to take effect the following year.
Bishop Provoost's successor in the rectorship of Trinity Church was his own assistant, the Rev. Benjamin Moore, D. D. When the convention accepted the Bishop's resignation of his diocese, Dr. Moore was also elected Bishop, on the 5th of September, 1801.
Three days after Dr. Moore's election, the General Convention met at Trenton, New Jersey. On the second day of the session. Bishop White presented to the House of Bishops a personal letter from Bishop Provoost declaring that he had already presented his resignation to the convention of the State of New York. Dr. Moore's testimonials as Bishop-elect of New York, were also before the convention.
After deliberation, the House of Bishops declined to admit the validity of this resignation, because made to the diocesan convention instead of to their own House. They resolved, however, to consecrate Mr. Moore as coadjutor, or assistant, Bishop of New York, which resolve was carried into effect on September 11th.
Thus Dr. Moore, elected to one office and consecrated to another, proceeded to New York. Bishop Provoost retired to his farm, and devoted his time to the study of botany and the classics. He seems to have entirely neglected the services of the Church--not even attending the Holy Communion. For ten years he paid no attention, whatever, to the diocese of New York. Bishop Moore suffered a stroke of paralysis in 1811, and accordingly applied to the convention to elect an assistant Bishop. On the 14th of May, the convention assembled. Dr. Hobart was at this time an assistant minister of Trinity Church, and the editor of the Churchman's Magazine. His name appears to have been most prominent at once before the members of the convention. His election, however, was bitterly opposed by the evangelical faction. On the second day of the convention, May 15th, Dr. Hobart was elected by a majority of both orders. His consecration seemed, however, to be dubious, for it was doubtful whether three Bishops could, or would, unite together at any one place. Only two Bishops attended the meeting of General Convention, which was held the week after Dr. Hobart's election. These were the Bishops of Pennsylvania (White) and Connecticut (Jarvis). The ancient canons, however, require three Bishops to join in a consecration. Where should the third come from?
Bishop Provoost's retirement has already been noted. Bishop Moore was laid up by paralysis. Bishop Claggett, of Maryland, started North for the purpose, but was taken ill on the way, and returned home. Bishop Madison, of Virginia, declared that his duties as president of William and Mary College demanded his presence in Virginia, and declined to leave. Dr. Hobart's friends were in despair.
Finally Bishop Provoost was prevailed upon to consent to assist in the consecration, "if his health would permit." The Bishops agreed to have the service in his bed-chamber, if need be. This, fortunately, was not required, and the three Bishops, White, Provoost and Jarvis, gathered in Trinity Church.
Of this point in our narrative, an amusing story is related by Dr. McConnell in his very interesting "History of the American Episcopal Church:"
"But upon his (Bishop Provoost's) arrival a great difficulty arose. He had adorned his head with a wig, and the other Bishops wore only their hair. It was solemnly discussed whether or not so important a function could be performed wigless. Dr. Duche offered to lend Bishop White his for the occasion. But Bishop Jarvis, in that case, would be singular. Bishop White advanced the high example of Bishop Tillotson, whose portrait shows him wigless. This illustrious precedent was deemed satisfactory for the two, while Bishop Provoost should uphold ancient usage in his episcopal head-dress." [McConnell's Hist, of the Am. Ep. Ch., pages 285-6.]
So Dr. Hobart was consecrated a Bishop in the Church of God, with jurisdiction in New York, and at the same time Bishop Griswold was consecrated, for the Eastern Diocese.
The opposition which had manifested itselt at the election, was by no means allayed. A "Solemn Appeal to the Church" against his consecration had been made by the Rev. Cave Jones, fellow-assistant at Trinity Church. Though fruitless in preventing the consecration, it lighted a firebrand throughout the Church. Some also doubted the validity of Bishop Hobart's orders, the invocation ('In the Name of the Father,' etc.) having been inadvertently omitted by the Presiding Bishop, at the laying on of hands. To cap the climax, Bishop Provoost now addressed a letter to the convention of the diocese, reciting that the House of Bishops had, ten years before, declined to recognize his resignation, and declaring that he was now ready, "in deference to the resolution" of the House of Bishops, to resume his episcopal duties. This letter was signed by himself as "Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of New York, and Diocesan of the same."
The diocesan convention (1812) issued a long-proclamation reciting the facts, denying Bishop Provoost's jurisdiction, and acknowledging Bishop Moore "and no other person, to be their true and lawful Diocesan Bishop." Bishop Hobart also rose to the emergency. The personal charges against himself were easily refuted. His argument upon the legal point, was said to be unanswerable. Mr. Jones, his opponent, continued to be so troublesome, that he was finally suspended for contumacy. He was subsequently restored, and left the diocese.
The opposition to Bishop Hobart continued most bitter for the first two years of his episcopate. An anonymous letter to the Bishop, criticised severely, and not in a kindly spirit, the Bishop's pronunciation. His personal appearance, also, was brought into play against him. In spite of these petty insults, the Bishop easily held his ground.
In 1814, Bishop Hobart took his seat in the House of Bishops, which met in Philadelphia. At the opening service, the Rev. R. Channing Moore, D. D., was consecrated Bishop of Virginia. Bishop Claggett, of Maryland, was to have been preacher, but was detained by illness. Bishop Hobart, therefore, by invitation, took his place. The Bishop seized the opportunity for preaching a strong and characteristic discourse on "The Origin, General Characteristics, and Present Condition of the Church." The sermon was most timely, and received much attention. It was at this convention that the first steps were taken looking to the formation of the General Theological Seminary. In view of his well-known favor of such a seminary, Bishop Hobart was much criticised for opposing the establishment of it by act of General Convention. But the reason was plain. Bishop Hobart doubted the advisability of placing complete control of so important an undertaking, in the hands of so changeable a body as the General Convention. In later years, the matter was happily settled on its present basis.
Bishop Hobart was an ardent believer in domestic missions. His predecessors in the episcopate had hardly ventured further from the metropolis than to make an occasional visit to Albany. To Bishop Hobart, the rapidly settling portions of Western New York early became a care. The story of the conversion of the Oneida Indians, on the reservation in the central part of the State, is full of romantic interest.
One of the later inroads of the Indians, was an attack on Deerfield, Connecticut. The village was sacked and plundered, and among the captives who were carried off by the savages, were the wife and children of the rector, the Rev. Mr. Williams, who was absent. On his return, Mr. Williams at once set off in search of his family, but not until many years had elapsed did he find them, in an Indian village in New York State. One daughter had married an Indian chief, and refused to leave her family. A son of this union, who took the maternal name of Williams, received Church instruction, was appointed by the Bishop as lay reader, and. was afterward ordained. In 1818, Bishop Hobart reports that he confirmed at that mission a class of eighty-nine, who had been instructed and presented by this Eleazer Williams. In this same year, a touching address was sent by the Indian chiefs to Bishop Hobart, to which thirteen chiefs attested by their marks.
The Bishop's relation to the New York Bible and Prayer Book Society has already been noted. Of his influence as Bishop in connection with the same, it is enough to note that 500 copies of the Prayer Book were issued from the Depository in 1815, 2,750 in 1816 and 5,239 in 1817. These were distributed broadcast by the Bishop as missionary tracts. His own son-in-law, indeed, Levi Silliman Ives, afterward Bishop of North Carolina, was brought into the Church by casually looking over a Prayer Book, as was also Bishop Otey, first Bishop of Tennessee.
Indeed, Bishop Hobart was a profound believer in organization. Among the fruits of the first years of his episcopate, were the Protestant Episcopal Tract Society, the Young Men's Auxiliary Bible and Prayer Book Society, the New York Sunday-school Society, the Missionary Society, the Education Society, the Protestant Episcopal Press, etc. By these, the diocese was united together in active work, and the missionary spirit was encouraged.
After the death of Bishop Moore, in 1816, Bishop Hobart became involved in controversy in regard to the doctrine of the Intermediate State, through some clear statements of his on the subject, in his funeral discourse at the burial of the departed Bishop. This was a subject which was painfully misunderstood in the early American Church. In the "Proposed Prayer Book" of 1785, the clause relating to the descent into hell was expunged from the Creed. Upon the protests of the English Bishops, the clause was restored when the present Prayer Book was adopted, but with rubrical permission to omit the words--a permission which stood as a blot upon the Prayer Book until it was finally removed, in 1886.
The popular ideas upon this subject were very hazy. That misleading phrase, "he has gone to be an angel," or "gone to heaven," with the hymn:
"I want to be an angel,"
represented the popular belief. Bishop Hobart clearly showed how false these ideas were, and taught the Church's true belief of the Intermediate State of Paradise.
An interesting anecdote of the Bishop is told of his visit to Detroit, in 1817, to lay the corner-stone of the mother church in that, then, far Western outpost. The Bishop made the journey by boat, and was met at the landing by the members of a Masonic Lodge, in full uniform, who had come to assist in the ceremony.
The Bishop never hesitated, but said: "No, gentlemen, this cannot be. I came here to lay the foundation of a Christian Church, not of a heathen temple; if you accompany me at all in that ceremony, it must be as humble Christians."
One of the labors of Bishop Hobart at this time was as editor of an edition of D'Oyley and Hants' Family Bible, published in 1823. His health broke down in the same year, and he sought relief in a European trip. It is worthy of note, as Dr. Batterson remarks in his "American Episcopate," that Bishop Hobart was allowed to preach in Rome, but not in London, where he was prevented by the act under which Bishops White and Provoost were consecrated.
In 1826, Bishop Hobart presented in the House of Bishops a series of resolutions in regard to the use of the Prayer Book, which were adopted, as follows:
"The House of Bishops, deeply solicitous to preserve unimpaired the Liturgy of the Church, and yet desirous to remove the reasons alleged, from the supposed length of the service, for the omission of some of its parts, and particularly for the omission of that part of the Communion office which is commonly called the ante-Communion, do unanimously propose to the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, the following resolutions, to be submitted to the several State Conventions, in order to be acted upon at the next General Convention, agreeably to the eighth article of the Constitution." [Perry's Journals of General Convention, vol. 2, page 187]
The resolutions following related to permission to substitute other Psalms and lessons for those appointed, and to certain changes in the Confirmation office, and ended as follows:
"AND WHEREAS, In the opinion of the Bishops, there is no doubt as to the obligation of ministers to say, on all Sundays and other holy days, that part of the Communion office which is commonly called the ante-Communion, yet as the practice of some of the clergy is not conformable to this construction of the rubric on this point, the House of Bishops propose the following resolution:
"Resolved, That the following be adopted as a substitute for the first sentence in the rubric, immediately after the Communion office:
"'On all Sundays and other holy days, shall be said all that is appointed at the Communion, unto the end of the Gospel, concluding divine service in all cases when there is a sermon or Communion, and when there is not, with the blessing.'"
It is strange to notice how the position of parties in the Church has shifted. At that time (1826) Low-Churchmen never used the so-called ante-Communion service, except as a part of the celebration of the Sacrament, which was performed only at long intervals. The High-Churchmen, led by Bishop Hobart, were fighting vigorously to have that portion of the service used regularly in all churches. So successful were they, that to-day Low-Church clergymen are the most careful of any to say the ante-Communion service; while the successors of Bishop Hobart are endeavoring to raise the standard still higher, and secure the regular use of the other half of the service, also, on every Sunday in every church. Another sixty years may see that progress made. It may be remarked, in passing, that it is difficult to understand why, if the Bishops be correct in asserting that "there is no doubt as to the obligation of ministers to say, on all Sundays and other holy days, that part of the Communion office which is commonly called the ante-Communion," the "obligation of ministers" does not extend to finishing the Communion office as appointed, also!
There was opposition to these resolutions in the lower House, but they passed by a vote of 39 ayes to 19 nays. Three years later, however, when General Convention re-assembled, South Carolina had presented a vigorous protest, and so great was the opposition that Bishop Hobart himself introduced a resolution declaring the proposed changes inexpedient, to which both Houses agreed. Time has long since brought about the more desirable portions of what thus failed in legislation--a striking instance of how much better it frequently is, to let abuses die a natural death, than it is to fan them into life by opposition. Some of the propositions truly were highly inexpedient.
These were among the last works of Bishop Hobart. His death occurred at Auburn, New York, on the 10th of September, 1830. His body was taken to New York, and was interred under the chancel of Trinity Church.
What the American Church owes, under God, to Bishop Hobart, can hardly be overestimated. His work commenced a new era in the Church, when men began to wake up to its divine characteristics. That work, which is popularly supposed to have commenced with the Oxford revival, had really begun in America before Mr. Keble preached his famous sermon on the National Apostasy, in 1833. It was three years before this date that the earthly remains of John Henry Hobart were laid to rest.
In fact, we do wrong to suppose that there was ever in the English or American Church, a total forgetfulness of her Catholic position. Before the first waves of the great Oxford movement had even started toward the American shores, Hobart worked and died. Before Hobart, Seabury; before Seabury, in England, Berkeley and Warburton, and Butler; before them, Ken, and the Non-Juring Divines.
The results of such aggressive work on distinctively Church lines, may be traced, not only in the character of the Churchmanship which has resulted from Bishop Hobart's labors, but even, it seems, in numerical calculations. New York and Pennsylvania started under similar conditions. In 1792, when the clergy list was first published, there were nineteen clergymen in New York and fourteen in Pennsylvania.
The Episcopal administration of the two for the first quarter century, was of the same character. Bishop Hobart began aggressive work in New York, in 1811. Subsequent conditions as to emigration and immigration were the same, with the balance probably against New York on account of the hordes of alien emigrants who land and remain at New York City. But see the different results of the progress of the Church in the two States! In 1890, there was in Pennsylvania one communicant to 113 inhabitants, and in New York, one to 60. There were, in the three dioceses in Pennsylvania, 396 clergy, and in the five dioceses of New York, 8224 How can the results of real, uncompromising, aggressive Churchmanship--such Churchmanship as that of John Henry Hobart--be better demonstrated?