Project Canterbury

Some American Churchmen

By Frederic Cook Morehouse

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1892.

Chapter V. George Washington Doane, Bishop of New Jersey

THE subject of this sketch was born in Trenton, New Jersey, May 27, 1799, and his boyhood was spent in Trenton, in New York City, and in Geneva, New York. He entered Union College, Schenectady, at an early age, and there came under the influence of the Rev. Dr. Brownell, soon after Bishop of Connecticut, through whom it appears to have been, that Mr. Doane directed his thoughts to the ministry. He graduated in his nineteenth year in the same class with Alonzo Potter, afterward Bishop of Pennsylvania. Mr. Doane at once began his theological studies at the General Theological Seminary, which then occupied a second story room over a saddler's shop. Here began his intimate acquaintance with Bishop Hobart, whom Mr. Doane greatly admired, and who had a marked influence over his subsequent life. Mr. Doane established a classical school for boys, in New York, while engaged in his studies, and there laid the foundations of his subsequent career as an educator. He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Hobart on the 19th of April, 1821, in Christ Church, and was appointed by the Bishop as his assistant at Trinity Church. The young deacon's first sermon was preached at S. Philip's, the church for colored people, in the metropolis. He was advanced to the priesthood, in Trinity Church, on the 6th of August, 1823. In connection with Dr. Upfold, afterward Bishop of Indiana, he established S. Luke's Church, in New York.

Soon after Bishop Brownell went to Connecticut, he took steps for the establishment of Trinity College--first called Washington College--at Hartford. The college opened in 1824. When he arranged for the faculty, Bishop Brownell called Mr. Doane, who had been successful in his classical school, to assist him in the work. This call Mr. Doane accepted, and became professor of belles-lettres, and bursar, at the college. Throwing himself heartily into his new and congenial work, in which, though only in his twenty-sixth year, he made a marked success, Mr. Doane succeeded in attracting wide attention to the college. He was also active in missionary work, founding, at this time, the parish at Warehouse Point, with others.

When the Churchman's Magazine, which had been founded by Bishop Hobart as an aggressive organ of true Churchmanship, suspended publication, Mr. Doane began the editing at Hartford, of the Episcopal Watchman, which he designed to take the place of the former, and to support a staunch form of Churchmanship, then not altogether common in the Church. Here he was first associated with the Rev. Dr. William Croswell, between whom and Dr. Doane a warm and lasting friendship sprung up.

The Episcopal Watchman was an ardent exponent of Church principles. In its opening address the editors, Drs. Doane and Croswell, said:

"Taught by the Word of God thus to look to Jesus Christ as the Author, and, by the 'preventing' and assisting graces of His Holy Spirit, the Finisher of our Faith, we also learn from the same inspired source, to recognize in that Church which He purchased with His Blood, the only authoritative channel of His saving grace--the one, sufficient fold of covenanted salvation.

"Unfashionable, and perhaps inexpedient, as it may be deemed to speak thus on a subject so much and so warmly controverted, we venture to express our conviction, that the Church in which we worship, * * * * * is, whatever others may be, a sound member of that Holy Catholic Church of which Jesus Christ is the Head, from whom all the body, by joints and bands, having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. The elucidation and defense, therefore, of the doctrines, discipline and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church--its divinely instituted ministry, existing from the Apostles' time in three orders, with the power of ordination exclusively in the first; its blessed sacraments, opening the kingdom of heaven and conveying the means of grace to the devout and faithful recipient; its primitive and apostolical rites and usages; its liturgy, simple, comprehensive, fervent and almost inspired; and its government (at least as it is constituted in this country) judicious, wholesome and equitable, will be, as in our judgment the scriptural and most efficient mode of promoting the salvation of souls, the subject of our constant efforts." [Bishop Doane's Memoirs, by his son, vol. 1, pages 100, 101.]

The first issue of the paper began a series of articles upon the Christian Year, entitled, "The Ritualist." Other subjects that received editorial attention were, the revival of crosses in churches, a defense of the use of the term Dissenters as applied to non-Churchmen; the revival of Gothic architecture, etc. An early number contains a well-merited attack on the Sunday-school library books issued by the American Sunday-school Union, on the 'undenominational" scheme. Another number rebukes a common failing in referring to "members of the Church" when meaning communicants, and of "joining the Church" when referring to Confirmation or First Communion. In 1827, there is a long and appreciative review of Bishop Hobart's fearless sermon on the Church, delivered at the consecration of Dr. Onderdonk as Assistant Bishop of Pennsylvania. "Fraternizing with denominational ministers" was a topic argued against, the point having been brought out in Bishop Hobart's sermon. On this subject Dr. Doane's ideas were clearly that the clergy of the Church could have no communion with sectarian ministers. He said:

"It is one of the errors of the day to suppose that charity, or, as the more favorite expression is, liberality, is often inconsistent with a firm adherence to the truth, and that, when it is so, the latter must at once be given up. We are taught by the wise man to buy the truth and sell it not, and we do not believe that any exception to this rule was ever contemplated, even though it were possible that charity should be the price. But in matters of religion, surely it is not possible. It can never be required of a man to sacrifice his principles to charity; because true charity would never make such a demand. Charity has nothing to do with opinions. It is with men that she is concerned. Her sacred precept is, love your enemies; but she does not command you to love their creed, or their practice; do good to them that hate you, but not a word about bringing our religious opinions into unison with theirs. ******** Let it not be supposed, then, that charity towards man requires, or that duty to God will allow of, any union with Christians of other denominations in ecclesiastical matters, by which the principles and institutions of our own Church may be endangered. ****** As we desire that the time of our sojourning here should ever be thus passed in harmony and love, let us attempt no amalgamation in ecclesiastical concerns. They have deliberately adopted their mode of faith. We hold ours by the same conclusive tenure. If either of us can give up his belief and go over to the other, it is well. Short of this, there can be no 'mixture of administrations' that will not endanger collision. The attempt to approximate, not being deliberate and thorough, will lead to a wider separation. The honorable regard of those who agreed to differ will give place to the fearful jealousies of those who still differ in their agreement.

******* "There is another evil inseparable from all attempts at such amalgamation, and one of inconceivable moment. I mean the encouragement which it affords to that most false and dangerous opinion, that it is indifferent what a man believes, or to what denomination of Christians he belongs. With what eye the God who ruleth over all looks down upon the various denominations which distract the Christian name, it is not for us to say. Certain we are that no man can agree with all; and that no man can be justified in attaching himself to any one, but upon sincere conviction of the agreement of its faith and worship, its ministry and ordinances, with the Word of God. How, then, can he be indifferent to its distinctive principles? How can he appear to be so, and not give to the infidel and the scoffer occasion to triumph over the groundless distinctions by which the Body of Christ has been divided?

"Finally, we presume not to judge for others, but for the Bishops and Clergy of our own Church, having assented, at the solemn season of their ordination, to the clear and explicit declaration,' it is evident unto all men diligently reading Holy Scripture and ancient authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been three orders of ministers in Christ's Church, Bishops, Priests and Deacons'--'and no man shall be appointed or taken to be a lawful Bishop, Priest or Deacon, in this Church' (no Church is spoken of but Christ's), 'or suffered to execute any of the said functions, except he hath had episcopal consecration or ordination;' we see not how any other offices, any other ordinances, any other worship, any other institutions, can claim to be recognized by them as valid and authorized, or how they can avail themselves of any other instrumentality for the propagation of the Gospel, than that of their own Church, and doing this, they will have done their part towards advancing what should be dearest to their heart, a substantial and fervent piety."

Truly does Bishop Doane's son, the present Bishop of Albany, say:

"My father's line of argument against fraternizing with the denominational ministers, shows how early he acceded to the Church's rule on that point, whose observance exposed him all his life to much misunderstanding." [Memoirs of Bishop Doane, by his son, vol. 1, pages 112-3-4.]

The motto of the Episcopal Watchman, was "The Gospel of Christ in the Church op Christ." Dr. Muhlenberg's "Flushing Institute" plan was heartily commended; the use of the word "Catholic" to include only Romanists, was warmly denounced, and our right to the name was vindicated. In short, the Episcopal Watchman was a courageous and vigorous defender of the Faith. It was such a paper as the Church needs to-day; but it never brought wealth to its editors.

In 1828, Dr. Doane became assistant minister at Trinity Church, Boston, and on the death of the Rev. Dr. Gardiner, in 1830, he succeeded to the rectorship. He at once took the front rank among the Massachusetts clergy, and, notwithstanding his youth, was the recognized leader of the High-Church side, which was then in the ascendant, in Massachusetts. He took an active interest in missions, foreign as well as domestic, and was active in establishing a monthly missionary lecture in Boston, in different churches, to be followed by a missionary offering. Dr. Doane himself preached the first of the series, in Christ Church, of which Dr. Croswell, his Hartford friend, had lately assumed the rectorship.

In Boston, Dr. Doane and Dr. Croswell were again brought together in editorial work, on the Banner of the Church, which took the same line as had the Episcopal Watchman, and renewed as its motto, Bishop Hobart's watch, word, "Evangelical Truth and Apostolic Order." Through this paper, Keble's "Christian Year" was introduced to the American Church, and, in its issue for April, 1832, there was a plea for daily services, which at that time were nowhere held. This paper was only issued a year and a half, when it was suspended by reason of Dr. Doane's call to a higher office.

Early in October, 1832, the convention of the Diocese of New Jersey met at New Brunswick, to elect a Bishop in succession to their late diocesan, Bishop Croes, whose eyes were closed in death in the August preceding. On the sixth ballot, Dr. Doane was elected, and, subsequently, the election was made unanimous. It came as a surprise to the Bishop-elect, but was accepted at once. Prompt action was needed, as General Convention was about to convene. Dr. Doane had been passing through a troublous year in Boston, and there was some delay in the House of Bishops in passing on his testimonials. His election was, however, confirmed, and he was consecrated Bishop, with Dr. Hopkins, Bishop-elect of Vermont; Dr. Smith, Bishop-elect of Kentucky; and Dr. McIlvaine, Bishop-elect of Ohio, on the 31st of October. Bishop Onderdonk, of Pennsylvania, was the preacher.

It is difficult for us to realize how great have been the changes, even in the East, in the last sixty years. It was after Dr. Doane's consecration to the episcopate, that he notes in his diary under the date of December 17, 1832:

"Saw for the first time the locomotive engine on the railway. Stupendous result of human ingenuity! What a world, if men were as skilful and as active in promoting holiness as in advancing their temporal interests!" [Memoirs of Bishop Doane, vol. 1, page 196.]

As in many other dioceses in that day, there was no provision in New Jersey for the support of the episcopate. Bishop Doane therefore accepted an election to the historic parish of S. Mary's, Burlington, and made his home in that city.

Bishop Doane's previous ministry had taken four distinct aspects. These were, educational, editorial, parochial and missionary. When he had established himself in New Jersey, he renewed all four of these phases of his usefulness, and added to them those branches of work which were strictly episcopal. He commenced the publication, in 1834, of a Church paper known as The Missionary, in which his well-known editorial abilities found ample scope.

The missionary portion of his work was also fully carried on. The west end of New Jersey was considered a hopeless field for the Church. The Bishop, however, refused to so consider it, and built up and encouraged the feeble churches everywhere, and was constantly planting new ones. He was also active in the general missionary work of the Church, and was the chairman and leading spirit of the Committee of the General Convention of 1835, which declared that the Church is the Missionary Society, and as a result of whose activity, the Board of Missions was organized. Bishop Doane was one of those who cordially approved of sending a missionary Bishop into the great Northwest, and he preached the sermon at the consecration of Bishop Kemper, who was elected at that session. In 1841, largely through the work of Bishop Doane, a proposition to send missionary Bishops to Africa and to Texas passed the House of Bishops, but failed in the lower House, much to the regret of Bishop Doane. It was claimed that General Convention had no right to send Bishops outside the United States!

In 1841, the British Parliament repealed the act under which American clergymen were prohibited from taking any official part, or preaching, in services of the English Church. The vicar of Leeds, Dr. Hook, thereupon invited the Bishop of New Jersey to be the preacher at the principal service of the consecration of the new and imposing parish church of Leeds. This invitation the Bishop accepted, and sailed from Boston on the 1st day of June. He was received in England with great cordiality. The invitation of Dean Hook, and its acceptance, were indeed important episodes in the intimate relations between the English and the American Churches. Bishop Doane records, in his diary, interesting interviews with many of the best known Churchmen of that day. The celebrated Tract XC, of the Oxford Tracts for the Times, had just appeared, and the public mind was in a state of violent inflammation. Bishop Doane was in full sympathy with the Oxford leaders, and had vigorously defended them before. Nor did he now see any reason for changing his views. At Oxford, he met Dr. Pusey, for whom he had a great admiration. He also describes interviews with many others. The services at Leeds were great functions, and Bishop Doane's sermon was worthy of the occasion.

In 1837, the Bishop, following his inclination for, and belief in, Christian education, founded S. Mary's Hall, for girls, in Burlington, opening the hall on the 1st of May of that year. The outlook was most encouraging when, in the fall of the same year, the financial world was struck by a terrible panic which arrested progress everywhere. It was a great strain on the Bishop and on S. Mary's; but in a few years the outlook again became hopeful, prosperity returned to the country, pupils increased, and extensive additions and enlargements were required. In 1846, the Bishop also opened Burlington College, for boys. In two years there were 127 students; but no endowment, no adequate provisions for work, no money for the necessary increase of the work.

All this was a heavy burden to the Bishop, who was himself receiving a salary of only $700 a year from the parish of S. Mary's, one-third of which he gave toward the support of an assistant minister; and next to nothing from the diocese. To add to his troubles, he was taken dangerously ill in the winter of 1848-9, and for a time his life was despaired of. By God's mercy he again came to life; but the financial outlook was gloomy indeed. The debts upon the two schools could not be met. An attempt to receive an extension of time on certain obligations failed, and at length the Bishop was obliged to turn over all his own property without reservation, for the benefit of his creditors. It was a dark day indeed, when he was declared bankrupt. The schools, however, re-opened, under the management of the Bishop, but with the finances in the hands of others.

Troubles now fell thick and fast upon the Bishop. Ugly rumors affecting his character, in connection with the failure, had been spread abroad; and were seized upon by his enemies. At home, where the Bishop was known, he retained the full confidence of his friends. A resolution introduced into the diocesan convention of 1849, to investigate the rumors, failed by a unanimous and indignant "No." Not a solitary "aye" was recorded. The opinion of his co-laborers at home was unmistakable.

But those were dark days in the American Church. There was a relentless, bitter war raging against all who were supposed to be in sympathy with the new movement emanating from Oxford. The Bishop of New York (B. T. Onderdonk), a leading High-Churchman, had been found guilty of immorality and had been suspended from the exercise of his Bishopric. The verdict had been found entirely by Low-Church Bishops, with the single exception of the Bishop of Vermont (Hopkins), who certainly believed the defendant to be guilty. The High-Church minority had voted "not guilty," and believed that Bishop Onderdonk was undergoing persecution for his staunch Churchmanship. Bishop Doane believed firmly in his innocence, and was most active in seeking to prevent his condemnation, but to no avail.

The Bishop of Pennsylvania (H. U. Onderdonk) was then charged with drunkenness. He admitted the charge and was deposed. It was, however, a case where it would seem that clemency might profitably have been exercised. The Bishop had, on one specific occasion, taken an overdose of a stimulant prescribed by his medical adviser. To his dying day there was never again cause for complaint against him.

And now, flushed with their victories in New York and Pennsylvania, the Low-Church leaders attacked Bishop Doane, the noblest Bishop, perhaps, on the whole bench. "After Doane, Whittingham!" it was whispered.

It is a terrible indictment against the Low-Church Bishops of that day, to charge them with the prosecution, on criminal charges, of innocent men, because their theological opinions did not agree with their own. We make, here, no charges against them. Doubtless they were blinded by their zeal to remove from the Church what they believed to be serious errors, and so, more easily became convinced of their guilt. Had their complaints against their opponents been on the charge of heresy, it would seem less like persecution. But history always speaks for itself, and we need make no allegations against any of those who have now been called to give their final account.

The canons of that day provided that charges against a diocesan Bishop might be made to the House of Bishops by the convention of his diocese, or, failing that, by any three Bishops. We have already seen that the New Jersey convention of 1849 unanimously refused to even consider the matter, so firm was their trust in their Bishop.

Two years passed by, and then, in September, 1851, the same charges were taken up by three of the leading Low-Church Bishops, the Bishops of Virginia (Meade), Ohio (McIlvaine) and Maine (Burgess), in a letter to Bishop Doane alluding to the charges, and urging him to call a special convention of the Diocese of New Jersey to consider them; and stating that, should he not do so, they would feel obliged to proceed against him. The Bishops must, however, have known of the action of that convention in 1S49, it having been widely published.

In reply, Bishop Doane issued a warm letter protesting against the interference of those Bishops in his diocesan affairs, saying:

"The undersigned is a Bishop in the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America. There is nothing against which our whole reformed communion in England and America protests more strenuously, than against the right of any Bishop to interfere within the jurisdiction of any other. And, for himself, he must alike resist the intrusion into the fold which he has received from Jesus Christ, of the individual papacy of Rome, and of the triumviral papacy of Virginia, Maine and Ohio. What! Three Bishops, or three hundred, or three thousand, presume to dictate to him, under the menace of a presentment, the calling of a special meeting of the convention of his diocese! Presume to dictate the object for which such convention shall be called! * * * * * The three Bishops have misconceived their man. The undersigned has not asked their advice, and will not submit to their urgency. Least of all will he listen to their advice, or endure their urgency, under the enforcement of a threat. No such special convention will be called by him." [Memoirs of Bishop Doane, vol. 1, pages 474-5.]

The Bishop then makes his "Solemn Protest and his Appeal, as solemn, to the Bishops everywhere with whom he is in communion, against the uncanonical, unchristian, and inhuman procedure, of the three whose names are overwritten." After the protest, which is quite extended, the Bishop makes a reply to the charges against him, detailing his several transactions and explaining all his actions in regard to them. Three days later, he issued a call for a special convention to be held in S. Mary's Church, Burlington, "to answer and express their judgment on the official conduct of these three Bishops as touching the rights of the Bishop and the diocese, in dictating a course of action to be pursued by them."

The special convention met on the 17th of March, 1852. In his opening address, the Bishop recounted the events which had led to the call. The convention, by an overwhelming vote, resisted and protested against the intrusion of the three Bishops, and declared their confidence in their own Bishop. The Bishop had declared to them his readiness to undergo any investigation, but the convention declared that no investigation was necessary.

The three Bishops named, then presented the Bishop of New Jersey for trial, and a summons was issued to him to appear before the whole bench of Bishops, at Camden, on the 24th of June. Later, as many of the Bishops desired to be in England at that time, and as no provision was made in the canons for an adjournment or postponement, a new presentment was made, and a new summons issued, to appear before the court of Bishops on the 7th of October.

Without considering the details of the trial, it is enough to say that the complaint was dismissed by the Bishops, without even proceeding to argument, on the ground that most of the matters had already been investigated by the convention of the diocese of New Jersey, which had yet refused to appear against their Bishop; and that another convention of the same diocese had already been called to consider the remaining specifications, which were new in the second presentment.

On the 27th of the same month (October, 1852), the Diocesan Convention of New Jersey again met. The charges were fully investigated by a committee, and when the convention re-assembled, in December, the Bishop was vindicated almost unanimously.

Again were the charges formally made by the same three Bishops, and the Bishop of New Jersey was again cited before the Bishops for trial. It was a complete vindication for him. Seventeen Bishops composed the court, and at length, by an unanimous vote, the presentment was dismissed, and the respondent discharged.

So the terrible clouds which had gathered over the Bishop's head, gradually lifted; but not before long furrows had been drawn across his countenance. The iron had entered into his soul.

But though these troubles from without pressed hard upon him, a domestic sorrow was laid upon the Bishop of New Jersey in 1855, which truly bore heavily upon the already broken-down man. His eldest son, George Hobart, whom, only seven months before, he had admitted to the diaconate, now abandoned the Church of his birth and was admitted into the Roman communion. On the 15th of September, Bishop Doane performed the unusual and terribly hard duty, of pronouncing deposition on his own son.

Only a few more years were left to the Bishop. It was in the spring of 1859 that he finally succumbed. He had been making a visitation of remote portions of his diocese, travelling by carriage in almost incessant rain. His last sermon was preached at Red Bank, on Passion Sunday. He was then called home, and for little more than two weeks he lay helpless on his bed. It was on Wednesday in Easter-week, the 27th of April, 1859, that he passed to his rest.

Bishop Doane's literary works are extensive. They include, not only the ordinary sermons, charges and addresses of a Bishop, valuable though those are, but also numerous orations delivered on public occasions, speeches, essays, reviews, etc. A defense of the Oxford Movement, issued from his pen just at the time when men generally, and Bishops in particular, were loudly denouncing it, is particularly strong. He was fearless always--so fearless, so pronounced, that upon him was heaped all the abuse which the Oxford movement received in its early days.

The American Church may justly pride herself on just such men as the elder Bishop Doane. They are the ones who, when tried, are not found wanting; the ones who are not led astray by the popular voice, but remain firm as a rock, though turbulent storms of public opinion beat fiercely over them. It requires courage so to stand. Few are equal to it. One, at least, whose courage, whose steadfastness, whose firmness in maintaining the Faith can never be called into question, was George Washington Doane.

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