Project Canterbury

Massachusetts Churchmanship.

A Paper Read at a Meeting of the Clerical Association in Boston, October Twenty-eighth, MDCCCXCV.

By George Hodges.

Cambridge: The Merrymount Press, 1895.

The existence of differences of opinion in the Episcopal Church is a matter of history and of easy observation. The fact may be deplored, it may be excused, or it may be, as far as possible, concealed; we may shut our eyes to it, and try to persuade ourselves that it is not there; but it cannot be denied. Rightly understood, it is not a thing to be ashamed of. It needs no apology. We ought to be proud of it.

Party spirit, in the mean sense of the phrase, is always detestable; and it must be confessed that differences of opinion make it always possible. But this is only the inevitable shadow which follows the bright light. The differences themselves are good and to be commended.

These varieties of opinion not only have unmistakable existence in the Church, but are evident in a degree singular among religious bodies. They are to be found, indeed, in every considerable company of people of whatever name; the same traits which amongst us distinguish between "high" and "low" and "broad" are to be found among Roman Catholics and Presbyterians and Methodists. But it is in the Episcopal Church alone that these convenient adjectives are found, and the differences for which they stand are appreciated and defined.

[2] This means that there is room in this Church for all manner of faithful people. The differences represent that profound truth, so plain and yet so hard to understand, the truth that God has made us different.

Which party ought to rule the State, the conservative or the radical? The State needs both. Take away either, and the ruin of the State will be written in the next chapter. Give the conservatives supreme authority, silence the radicals, and the State will be stricken with paralysis. It will be like China. Give all power to the radicals, put down or put out the conservative minority, and the State will go mad. It will be like France during the Revolution. Which force ought to control the planet, the centrifugal or the centripetal? Neither can be spared. We continue to exist upon condition of their even balance. Let one lose hold, and straight we plunge into the furnace of the sun, or out we go in tragic flight into endless space.

The Church has need of all its kinds of churchmen. Each has the truth, but none has the whole truth. Whenever any one variety of churchmanship begins to dominate the Church, the forces of reformation or of revolution begin to form themselves in line of battle. Leave the high churchman alone, and he will lapse into superstition; leave the low churchman alone, and he will fall into subjective [2/3] emotionalism; leave the broad churchman alone, and he will do away with dogma. Romanism, Methodism and Unitarianism, in their extremes, show to what end these different ways will come when they who go in them are not kept within easy hearing of the free criticism and correction of their neighbors.

Our claim to be a church and not a sect rests upon the existence of these differences side by side. The differences correspond to permanent qualities of human nature. Some there are whose instinctive look is up, towards God, who emphasize the objective element in religion, who go to church to say their prayers, whose characteristic word is adoration. Others there are whose instinctive look is in,  towards their own souls, who emphasize the subjective element in religion, who go to church to hear the sermon, whose characteristic word is salvation. And others still there are whose instinctive look is out, towards their neighbors, who emphasize the fraternal element in religion, who believe that God is present in the shop and in the street as well as in the church, who build no barrier between the sacred and the secular, and hold that God is served by serving man, who desire to bring religion into vital contact with the mind as well as with the heart, whose characteristic word is ministration. He is a good churchman who maintains [3/4] that there is maternal room and welcome in the Church for all these different people. He who would have a church with either high or low or broad left out is a partisan rather than a churchman. He has not yet learned the first lesson in the primer of churchmanship.

He is a better churchman still who believes that the ideal of the Church should be the ideal of everybody in it, and who endeavors to strengthen himself along the lines of his defects, so that he may be a high churchman and a broad churchman and a low churchman at the same time. The Church approves itself to Jesus Christ in proportion as the people who belong to it have confidence one in another, and learn from their neighbors, and so look up and in and out that controversy ceases and brotherly love prevails, and men put emphasis on likeness rather than on difference, and think more about real religion than about the shibboleths of churchmanship.

I purpose in this paper to note some changes of religious and ecclesiastical opinion in the Diocese of Massachusetts, beginning with the close of the War of Independence and continuing into this present.


IN 1797, when Dr. Bass of Newburyport became the first bishop of Massachusetts, the churchmen of New England were stout and devoted Anglicans. They looked with much suspicion upon their brethren in New York and Pennsylvania, accounting them to be lax in discipline and loose in doctrine. They could not be unmindful of the fact that Bishop White, before his consecration, had written a letter setting forth a proposition to organize the American Episcopal Church upon a Presbyterian basis; nor would it be forgotten in Boston that Mr. Freeman of King's Chapel had hoped for ordination, in spite of his avowed Unitarianism, at the hands of Bishop Provoost, and that the bishop's views were commonly reported to differ in no material respect from those which were preached, to the scandal of the town, from the King's Chapel pulpit.

The churchmanship of that day is well illustrated by the attitude of Massachusetts toward the Constitutional Convention of 1785. We declined to send a representative, and entered a protest beforehand against any action which the Convention might adopt. We maintained that the fact that there was as yet no bishop in this country made the proposed Convention an irregular and unchurchly [5/6] proceeding, that in the absence of a bishop no utterance could have authority, and that without him the meeting would be of no more moment than the session of a clerical debating society.

The Convention, however, proceeded to organize and legislate without heed to the protests of New England. Among other acts of importance, it revised the Book of Common Prayer. The revision was notable for its anti-sacerdotal and anti-dogmatic character. It has since been reprinted for the use of the Reformed Episcopal Church. It preferred to say "minister" instead of "priest"; it omitted the sign of the cross from the baptismal office, and ceased to give thanks "that this child is regenerate." It left out the Athanasian and the Nicene Creeds, and reduced to the lowest terms the recitation of the Gloria Patri. It was seriously debated in the Convention whether it would not be advisable to strike out of the Litany the invocations to the Son, the Holy Ghost and the Trinity.

This prayer book Massachusetts refused to touch. The Convention appears to have been influenced in these remarkable actions not so much by lack of faith as by distrust of dogma. It doubted the wisdom of defining the doctrines of the Church. In Massachusetts such a doubt was accounted to be near neighbor to heresy. Dogma was exactly what we wanted,

[7] So strong, indeed, was the feeling of high church New England against the latitudinarianism of the South and West, that it was seriously proposed to constitute an ecclesiastical province in these parts which should have no connexion with the low churchmanship of Pennsylvania or with the broad churchmanship of New York. Dr. Parker of Trinity Church, Boston, and Dr. Jarvis of Connecticut, were urged to go to England for episcopal consecration, in order that, with Bishop Seabury, they might constitute the necessary three to continue the apostolical succession. Massachusetts and Connecticut seemed to be the only places in which there prevailed a sound conception of the Church, together with an uncompromising orthodoxy.

This Massachusetts churchmanship was the outcome of various influences.

The churchmen of Massachusetts had from the beginning been separated from their Puritan brethren. They had been thoroughly disapproved of, partly by reason of their episcopacy, from whose ancient tyranny the settlers of the country had fled; partly by reason of their undisguised sympathy with England, the oppressor of the colonies; and partly on account of their whole conception of religion, which differed widely from that of their neighbors. The "great awakening," with Edwards for its theologian and Whitfield for its preacher, had [7/8] persuaded New England that religion is chiefly feeling. The Church taught that religion is chiefly living. The Church was therefore reviled by the good people who did not belong to it, as given over to mere morality, and wholly lacking in what they described as "vital piety."

These antagonisms naturally emphasized the points of disagreement. The apostolic succession was the subject of endless sermons and controversies. Church people were made particularly aware of the positions wherein they differed from their neighbors. The petition of the clergy of Massachusetts for a bishop, addressed in the year 1725 to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, sets forth the attitude of the Church in plain speech. The petitioners are moved by "all possible Loyalty to his Most Sacred Majesty King George ... a Zeal towards our most excellent Church .... and an offensive demeanor towards those who are without." To influences such as these, which affected, though in less degree, all churchmen in the colonies, was added another which belonged only to New England. In 1722, Dr. Timothy Cutler, President of Yale College, astounded the trustees of that institution by announcing his intention to apply for orders in the Church of England, and shortly after became the first rector of Christ Church, Boston. The effect of this step upon the mind of New [8/9] England has been compared to the consternation which would arise to-day if the president and faculty of Princeton should submit to the obedience of Rome. In the Church, the consequences were immediate and great. Dr. Cutler was the first of the long succession of honored men in our ministry who have read themselves into the Church. He was a churchman by dint of reasoned conviction. The Church gave him that which he desired, an authorized commission to the work of the ministry. He came into it because he believed in its apostolic succession and in the validity of its sacraments. He was a high churchman. Others followed his example, and the consequence was that in Boston, and elsewhere in New England, there was sound instruction given every Sunday in the doctrine, the history and the tradition of the Church. The age was a disputatious one; men and women were daily called upon to meet the contradictions of their acquaintance. The rector of Christ Church and his brethren taught them what to say.

This stout, intelligent churchmanship did much to preserve the Church amidst the troubles of the time. It was occasionally of a cold temper; sometimes there seemed to be more of the shell than of the kernel of religion in it; but it served its protective purpose.

[10] Presently, however, there began a change. Massachusetts churchmanship, as it had been expounded by the fathers, failed to satisfy the needs of their sons. These alert young people grew weary of the preaching of the apostolical succession. They listened, at first with indifference, afterwards with disapproval, to sermons in which the Prayer Book seemed to be exalted above the Bible, and the Church appeared to have taken the place of Christ, and "Blessed are the respectable" was the first of the beatitudes. The friends of these young men and maidens were taught in their meeting-houses that the supreme purpose of the Christian religion is to make men Christians; what sort of churchmen they were, good or indifferent, mattered much less. And that doctrine commended itself as being both good sense and good Christianity. And when the same doctrine began to be taught by churchmen themselves in England; and Romaine, and Venn, and Milner, and Scott, and Simeon, began to be read by their brethren in the American Church, the hard, narrow and controversial features of the old high churchmanship began to pass away. And presently it came about that the leading men in the Church in Massachusetts were low churchmen.


The typical figure of this period is Bishop Griswold. Griswold was a man of the people. He got his learning, which was considerable, by arduous study after his day's work on the farm, stretched out on the hearth with a book between his elbows, and a pine knot blazing beside him. After he became a clergyman, he still followed the plow. "The Parson and myself," said one of his neighbors, "have often worked out together as hired men, in harvest time, at seventy-five cents per day. He was a hard worker, among the best day-laborers in town; and one of his day’s-works was worth as much as that of two common men." When he was called to be rector of the church at Bristol they sent a team to fetch him, and found him, like Elisha, in the field, under a broad-brimmed hat, and in patched short-clothes, coarse stockings and heavy shoes.

Such was the man who now followed with stout steps after Parker and Apthorp and Gardiner, and the other courtly and cultured clergy of the Tory time. When he was consecrated—or ordained as he preferred to say, having a dislike for the more stately phrase,—an incident occurred in which we get a swift glimpse of the conditions of the time. Bishop Claggett of Maryland had fallen ill upon the [11/12] journey and had turned back. Bishop Madison of Virginia had written that he could not leave his college, though the suspicion was current that he had lapsed into infidelity. There remained to complete the necessary three only Bishop Provoost of New York; and Bishop Provoost for the space of ten years last past had not only neglected utterly the duties of his high office, but had absented himself both from the Holy Communion and from the services of the Church. He was occupied with a microscope and a dictionary, studying botany and translating Tasso. The bishop, however, had been awakened to a sense of the need of his services upon this occasion, and had appeared in the vestry room of Trinity Church, New York, garnished with a wig. The other bishops had but their natural hair. Whereupon it was debated whether so solemn a function could be properly performed without a wig. Finally, the bishop with the wig, and the two bishops without, laid their hands upon the head of Alexander Viets Griswold.

With this significant scene the old regime came to an end and the new order of things began.

The Pastoral Letter of the House of Bishops for the year 1820 sounds the note of the new era. All members of the Church are enjoined to have due regard to "our system of Evangelical doctrine; the fall of man from original righteousness; the consequent [12/13] depravity of his nature; his utter inability by any act of his own, to recover from the privations of the apostacy,... and that we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not of our own works or deservings."

Partly due, no doubt, to the confusion of the time, yet evidencing also the great change which had come upon the Church with the new century, is the condition of things which prevailed at Salem after the death of the rector, the Rev. Mr. Fisher. At his funeral, the Congregational ministers of the town acted as pall bearers; and, there being no regular successor for a good while, they kindly officiated Sunday by Sunday, each in turn, in the Episcopal Church.

In the year 1828, the change was already so great that the bishop must needs defend the diocese against the charge that it was "a sort of hot-bed for the production of lax principles and loose attachments on the subject of our Church and her institutions."

In his Address to the Diocesan Convention of 1835, he rejoices over the universal reign of "sound Evangelical and Episcopal views" throughout not only the diocese, but the general Church. "Piety, love, and a zeal for the spirituality of religion," he says, "are evidently increasing among our people. That [13/14] system of Evangelical truth and of the doctrines of eternal life, which have long appeared to me the most essential to the Gospel of our blessed Saviour, is now received in our Churches more generally than, twenty years ago, I had any hope of living to see." And he is ready to sing his Nunc dimittis.

Bishop Griswold died in 1843, leaving behind him the memory of a saintly life. In the next year, the Church of the Advent held its first service. Twenty-five years later, in 1869, Phillips Brooks began his ministry in Boston. Thus appeared the two influences which are most potent in Massachusetts churchmanship to-day.

Already, in Bishop Griswold's time, the discussions which began at Oxford had stirred the minds of men on this side of the ocean. "I am well aware," writes the bishop, "that there is a new sect lately sprung up among us, called Puseyites, or Low Papists, who have, chiefly in England, written and preached and published much against the Reformation and are endeavoring to bring back into the Church of England many of those superstitious mummeries and idolatrous practices for protesting against which so many of her pious bishops and other ministers have been burnt at the stake."

Bishop Eastburn continued this stout assault. Year after year, the new ideas from Oxford were attacked in his Convention Addresses. In 1845, he [14/15] issued a pastoral calling public attention to the state of affairs at the Church of the Advent, and detailing its" various offensive innovations upon the ancient usage of our Church." In 1846, he declined any longer to visit the parish, and for ten years refused to give it his official recognition.

Nevertheless, the church survived, and even prospered. In spite of episcopal opposition and of general dislike for its teachings and its manners, it continued to grow, chiefly by reason of the devotion, the self-sacrifice, and the manifest piety, of its clergy. They made themselves respected.

The high churchmanship which thus re-appeared after a lapse of nearly half a century, differed in several respects from that which had marked the church of the Tories. Much attention was now paid to forms and colors, to music, to the shape of vestments, to the arrangement and decoration of the chancel, to the adorning of the altar. And along with this went a kind of preaching to which the old high churchmen had seldom listened. The minister, who at the altar seemed a kind of Papist, in the pulpit exhorted the congregation with all the fervor of Methodism. The old emphasis upon the historic position of the Church, the old insistence upon the institutional side of religion, was revived in the new parish, but it was stirred now with a new life. The people who attended the services, and [15/16] most of the priests who ministered to them, had been brought up in the evangelical atmosphere of the days of Bishop Griswold, and had learned lessons which they had not forgotten.

The low churchmanship of the first half of the century had paid scant attention to the distinctive principles of our communion. It had been understood in some quarters that a Congregational or Baptist society was as good as the Church. In Ohio it was an article of episcopal administration not to start a parish in a town which was already ministered to by a Presbyterian or Methodist preacher, it being considered that the spiritual needs of the people were sufficiently fulfilled. The low-church service was sometimes conducted with small heed to the proprieties and dignities of ritual; the sacrament of the Lord's Supper was but infrequently administered. There was opportunity for amendment. From the Church of the Advent came an influence which in time affected the whole life of the diocese.

Greater still was the effect produced by the preaching of Phillips Brooks. In 1872, Trinity Church, in Summer Street, was burned to the ground. It had been consecrated by Bishop Griswold; it had been hallowed by the ministry of Bishop Eastburn. Its grim walls were a symbol of the stern truths to which they echoed, speaking rather of the wrath [16/17] than of the love of God, and of the fallen helplessness of man rather than of his blessed possibilities. Its battlemented tower and close-shut pews typified the ecclesiastical and defensive narrowness which still held possession of the Church. In the interval between the old church and the new, on the way from Summer Street to Copley Square, the services were held in the hall of the Institute of Technology. The preacher could address his message to the people of Boston.

The broad churchmanship, thus splendidly preached, emphasized the love of God. It declared that the supreme revelation which Jesus taught was that which showed God as the Father, and that nothing is true in theology which contradicts the best ideal of fatherhood. Thus it opposed itself to some of the harder aspects of the old Calvinism. The new teaching laid great stress also upon the Incarnation; treating it however, not from the technically theological point of view, but in its bearings upon present human life, and dwelling chiefly on the human side. God became man, and thereby all humanity is glorified. The supreme fact of the Atonement was at the heart of the new preaching, but without theory, without attempt at explanation in terms of either law or metaphysics; Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, and thus made pardon possible for us; whoever will may be saved in Him.

[18] This broad church presentation of religion differed from the hard-and-fast systems of the time as the statement of the doctrine of the Trinity in the Church Catechism differs from the articles of the Athanasian Creed, or as the Epistle to the Romans differs from the pronouncements of the Westminster Assembly of Divines. It was profoundly orthodox, but so alive, so spiritual and practical, so in sympathy with high thinking, so close in contact with the tasks and temptations of the day, that it was listened to with amazement, or with-suspicion, or with deep gratitude, according to the mind and heart of the listener. Its speech was with authority,—with the authority of personal conviction seeking to arouse personal conviction,—and not as the scribes.

The new teaching was intensely ethical; but not in the old way. The morality which the fathers taught in the eighteenth century was now touched with life by its interpretation into terms of social relationship. It was full of the spirit of service. It was no longer the amount which must be paid for salvation, but the fulfilment of the life of Christ among the sons of men.

It was full of hope, and had a high confidence in man. It was distinctly masculine; not puerile, nor—in the bad sense—feminine. It made naught of attitudes and colors, cared little for the dress of the [18/19] priest or of the altar, except to insist upon simplicity. It spoke in the earnest voice of common life, with no conventional accent or "holy tone." With its strong faith in the goodness of man it made much of human reason, and resisted all endeavors of theologians and ecclesiastics to shut the doors against inquiry. It was full of hospitality to all new teachers, read new books, interested itself in new ideas; believing that while the faith was once delivered to the saints, the saints are only by little and little coming to understand and apply it; and holding that the formula of the Council of Jerusalem—"it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us"—ought still to be the sanction under which every company of scholars or of churchmen may assemble. It listened every day for the voice of the Holy Spirit.

During the wise and just administration of Bishop Paddock, these two kinds of churchmen lived side by side, disagreeing sharply, yet learning more and more, under his leading, to respect each other.


THUS we arrive at our own day. These two influences, one represented by a parish and the other by a preacher, the influence of the Church of the Advent and the influence of Phillips Brooks, largely determine the ecclesiastical attitude, the theological position, and the spiritual life of the Diocese of Massachusetts. Low churchmanship as the principle of a party is no longer to be found. It has bequeathed to the high churchmen its zeal for definite doctrinal statement, and to the broad churchmen its insistence upon the right of private judgment.

Between the two kinds of churchmen there is at present some misunderstanding. The situation arises mainly from the difficulty, which all enthusiastic people know, of appreciating the real position of those from whom they differ. Most of us are deficient in sympathetic imagination. We do not find it easy to put ourselves in the place of our brethren, and to look at truth out of their eyes. We attend a service in which the ritual is more elaborate than that to which we are accustomed, and we are annoyed and distressed. The strange garments and foreign intonations and unwonted furnishings distract and perplex us. Or we hear a sermon in which the present appears to be preferred before the past, and [20/21] men are urged to do their own independent thinking, and nothing is said about the Church or the sacraments, and the speech of the preacher is not in the words of our accustomed theologians; and we are amazed and afraid.

Under these circumstances we may profitably consider two things: first, that people are different; and second, that some of them are very different. The service or the sermon from which we go away indignant may bring to our next neighbor the fullness of the blessing of God. Because we are different. One is helped by the music, and the lights and colors, and the smoke of incense of elaborate ritual. Another is helped by an appeal to reason, by a setting forth of truth in its larger aspects and in contemporary speech. There are honest people who get no uplift from the services at the Church of the Advent; there are also honest people who get no help from the sermons of Phillips Brooks. All that we can do is to look at those who differ from us with natural wonder at their extraordinary position but without the possibility of argument. Shall we debate as to which is the better churchman and Christian, Maurice or Keble? We may as well discuss the relative beauty of a sunrise and a mountain. Let us be thankful that the church is able to minister to all manner of honest people; that she has a blessing for us and another for our neighbor; that in [21] any way, whether in the pulpit or at the altar, Jesus Christ is preached and His truth commended to the hearts and consciences of men. If we were all alike we might demand that the Church should do all things always to our mind. Because we are different, it follows logically that we cannot all be pleased with everything.

Some of us, indeed, are very different. Every school of thought has its "advanced" men, and we fall easily into the fallacy that the extremes represent the class. As a matter of fact, the great body of the laity and a large company of the clergy belong to no party, and are not led away by extreme opinions of any sort. The aggressive partisans are few in number, and though they say much, and seem at times to represent large sections of the Church, they are not greatly followed. Neither the higher critics nor the higher sacramentarians make much impression upon the preaching and the living of the Church at large. Every movement, every party, every opinion, has its zealous adherents who put the cause in danger. Sometimes from temperament, sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from the light-hearted audacity of youth, they rush from premise to conclusion, and give the enemy occasion to blaspheme. There are services in which the ritual intention of this Church is contradicted; almost any high churchman will confess it. There are utterances in which [22/23] the lips speak unadvisedly, grave matters are handled lightly, theological doctrines are stated with small heed to accuracy; almost any broad churchman will admit it.

Occasionally we fall into needless alarm by reason of our failure to make allowance for the temporary vagaries of impulsiveness, and enthusiasm, and youth. These things, if discreetly left alone, will right themselves. Nothing is gained by attacking them in such pugnacious fashion as will naturally determine the defendant to stand strongly by his absurdest statement.

It would be well also if we could more frequently interpret the position of our brethren, from whom we differ, upon the basis of a greater confidence in their honesty, their faith, their loyalty, and their right intention. We all make blunders. I recall, for instance, a Church Congress paper, in which the writer set forth the opinion that one who regards the Church as a divine institution, and yet comes to the conclusion that the Church in some particular has fallen into error, ought to stay in and do his best to convert the Church, leaving it to the Church to put him out. The writer felt that the hypothesis of a strong doctrine of the Church was a sufficient safeguard of the statement. He had not at all in mind a departure from the great truths of the creed. The liberty which he meant to defend was no more [23/24] than that which was exercised in old time by Athanasius, and in our own day by Keble and Pusey.

They stayed in the Church, despite the fulminations of the bishops and the brethren. The writer had no intention to defend the dishonest position that a man may recite the Church creed with an interpretation which diverts it of its proper meaning. The critics, however, gave him no credit for any sort of decent intention. It was, no doubt, his own fault. Nevertheless, the critics were somewhat hasty in their adverse judgment. And that same sharp mis-reading of ill-guarded or ill-considered statements, that prompt and cheerful pronouncement of condemnation upon brethren is forever going on.

Massachusetts churchmanship at this present needs three things, which I will simply mention and be done. It needs more openness of mind: that we may each of us listen without prejudice and opposition of controversy to the serious criticism of those who differ from us. Probably they speak the truth. It needs more of the spirit of brotherliness; that we may put away all mean suspicion, and make a wider Christian allowance, and take things at their best instead of at their worst. And it needs broadening out into a truer catholicity; that such party barriers as still exist may be broken down, and that the high churchman's spirit of reverence and the broad [24] churchman's intellectual hospitality, and the low  churchman's emphasis upon personal piety and the supreme doctrines of the Christian religion, may universally prevail among us. Our conservatism and our liberalism alike need to be uplifted, vivified and spiritualized by an evangelical revival. Rationalism and ritualism have touched high-water mark in the Episcopal Church. The Pastoral of Doctrine, of 1894, and the Pastoral of Ritual, of 1895, have spoken the mind of the Church in respect to theological and liturgical looseness and extravagance. We are at the turn of the tide. The present is the day of fraternity, and the future is full of hope. Everything depends upon our maintaining a sincere Christian spirit. United in loyalty to our apostolic Church, and in love and allegiance to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, we shall be blessed like our fathers of old time with a Pentecostal benediction of the Holy Ghost.


Project Canterbury