Project Canterbury










FEBRUARY 4, 1887












WE are here to-day to commemorate the One Hundredth Anniversary of the gift of the Episcopate by the Church of England to the United States of America. My countrymen who have come here this morning, and you, who are his spiritual children, would have been glad if the words to be said in connection with this occasion could have been spoken by him who is the head of the Anglican Communion, and to whom Churchmen in both hemispheres are wont to look with equal loyalty and veneration. Since this, however, may not be, let me lighten the strain upon your patience by saying that it shall be as brief as I can make it.

It belongs to me, first of all, to acknowledge, as I do with sincere gratitude, the courtesy of his Grace the Archbishop, in arranging for this commemorative service, at a cost of personal sacrifice and inconvenience, how great one can at least partly know who has been pressed upon by similar, though far lighter burdens. The children grow to man's estate, and pass out from under the father's roof, but only to turn back again to the parental knee, too often bringing with them their own little interests and memories as though these were of substantial weight and consequence. Happy would be the world if all fathers thus intruded upon were as patient as he to whom some of us first came, now nearly ten years ago, or as his successor, who to-day sits in the throne of Canterbury, and who by his invariable courtesy and kindness to his large family beyond the sea has already made his name a perfume in many an American home!

It may be urged, however, that such kindness does not excuse a fussy and exacting obtrusiveness, but ought the rather to hinder and discourage it, and one can imagine the mild surprise with which kinsmen, who count their ecclesiastical history by nearly a score of centuries, look on at a new people who make so much of the completion of their first hundred years. The wonder is not unnatural, certainly, in this presence, nor in this ancient city. When one stands in the nobly restored choir of St. Bartholomew's, Smithfield, and is reminded that its beginnings go back to the eleventh century, or is told of those Greek coins dug up from among its foundations, and then of the tradition of the visit of those Byzantine Princes, from whom it has been suggested that its unique and strongly marked Oriental features of architecture might have been derived, he is not surprised that a Church or a nation only a hundred years old seems to many too new to have a history, or, if it has one, to have one that is worth remembering.

But we who are the children of the Church of England may at least plead that for us these hundred years stand for a new creation. At the close of our revolutionary war the Church in America was not merely enfeebled, it was almost extinct. In a hostile atmosphere, of divided counsels, its ministers largely withdrawn from it to the mother country, there seemed nothing for it but to die. That it did not die, that it lived and throve and grew, and that it has made a place in the respect and affections of multitudes who are not of its fold, is not less true than that if anyone a hundred years ago had so predicted of it, he would have been generally laughed to scorn. And that its growth has been so rapid, and its history has been so peaceful, has been largely due, under God, to one of the two men who, a hundred years ago, were consecrated at yonder altar.

On the 20th of November, 1786, there landed in Falmouth two clergymen of the Church of England, both natives of her American Colonies, who had sailed from New York eighteen days before. One of these was Dr. William White, rector of Christ Church, Philadelphia, and Bishop-elect of Pennsylvania. Dr. White had been educated for the ministry in England and ordained to the diaconate and priesthood respectively, some seventeen years earlier, by the Bishop of Norwich, Dr. Yonge, and the Bishop of London, Dr. Terrick.

The other clergyman was Dr. Samuel Provoost, rector of Trinity Church, New York, and Bishop-elect of the Diocese of New York. He was a native of New York, having been born there in the year 1742, and educated in England at St. Peter's College, Cambridge. Having been ordained deacon in 1766 by Dr. Terrick, Bishop of London, and priest in the same year, at the Chapel Royal, Whitehall, by Dr. Edmund Keene, Bishop of Chester, he returned to America, and was elected its Bishop by the convention of the Diocese of New York in 1786. Dr, Provoost, during the revolutionary war, was a conspicuous patriot, or a conspicuous rebel, according as judged from American or English point of view, and during the struggle of the Colonists had mainly lived in retirement from ministerial duty. He was a man of varied learning, and prompt and decided in action.

The urgent importance of the consecration of these two presbyters was by this time abundantly evident to the authorities of the Church of England. Indeed, the question of an Episcopate for America had engaged their attention at different times for the greater part of a century, and it contributes still more to endear to American Churchmen many eminent names in the Anglican Episcopate, that they are so conspicuously associated with labours and gifts to this end. As early as 1638 plans had been matured for sending a Bishop to the "American plantations," which, however, were frustrated by the outbreak of the troubles in Scotland. In 1673 the Rev. Dr. Alexander Murray was nominated for that purpose by Lord Chancellor Clarendon and approved by King Charles II.; but again the plan was defeated by circumstances beyond control. Yet again, in 1713, Queen Anne responded favourably to the request of that venerable society to which the American Church owes, and gratefully owns, so large a debt for the appointment of Bishops for the Colonies, and the society actually purchased a residence for a Bishop at Burlington, in New Jersey; but the death of the good Queen put an end to the whole matter. Later still, Dr. Gibson, Bishop of London, Archbishops Secker and Tillotson, Bishops Louth, Butler, Benson, Sherlock, and Terrick, all of them at various times, and some of them by personal munificence, testified to their sense of the great need to be supplied.

The rebellion of the Colonies put a stop to these efforts, and when the war had ended, the relations of the American people to the Church of England were wholly altered. Many of the loyal clergy returned to their mother country, and, on the other hand, those who remained behind found themselves in an atmosphere bitterly antagonistic. The Church was associated, in the popular mind, with a yoke that had been broken, and with traditions which, to Republican tastes, were most offensive. The proposal to introduce bishops into America was confused, whether purposely or no, I will not undertake to say, with a design to erect among an independent people a foreign hierarchy. The same spirit which, in the breasts of Englishmen long before, and on English soil, resented an alien ecclesiastical domination, found a new if mistaken expression among their children, and the Puritan dread of prelatical invasion took on forms of protest as violent, sometimes, as they were grotesque. This had, indeed, been the case with the Puritans of New England and elsewhere before the separation, and that event, instead of allaying such a spirit, in many instances intensified it.

Again, there were those who believed that the issue of the struggle in America was not yet finally settled. They believed that the Colonies might yet be won, or coerced, to return to their allegiance, and they pointed out the embarrassments which out of the creation by the Church of England of an Independent Episcopate in America would inevitably arise. Finally, there was the still graver problem of the due guardianship of the faith. When the revolutionary war had ended, the Churchmen of America, with the exception of some of those in New England, set about the formation of an independent organisation. In this, so far as its independence of civil control and its admission of the laity to a share in its legislative counsels were concerned, they departed widely from the traditions of the Church of England. But they did more. They were not wholly superior to the spirit of the age, and that tended towards relaxation, nay, laxity, in matters of the faith. And so the revision of the Prayer-book, which was early undertaken in the American Church, proceeded so far, at one time, as to threaten the excision not only of certain of the Articles, but also of the Athanasian and Nicene Creeds, and even of an article in the Apostles' Creed. At this point, that gentle but firm refusal to proceed in the matter of the gift of the Episcopate, which marked the action of the Archbishop of Canterbury and his associates upon the bench of Bishops, was of inestimable value. The issue of their action is well known. The Church in America yielded, after a brief hesitation, and though the Bishops did not secure quite all that they desired, Anglican Christendom may well rejoice that they were unwilling to be contented with less. Looking back upon their action today it deserves to be said, and, though I could wish that it might have been said by a voice which would have carried far greater weight than mine, I am thankful for the privilege of saying in this place, that what they did, and the deliberation with which they did it, alike attest the wisdom and the generosity of ecclesiastical rulers who combined statesmanlike prudence with unflinching loyalty to the Faith. Their hesitancy, it is true, turned the footsteps of the ardent Seabury to the Scottish Church, and in 1784, three years earlier than the event which we commemorate to-day, he had been consecrated by Bishops of that Church in an upper room in Aberdeen. But the delay of the Church of England in following that precedent gave time for action in America, which, while securing a great gift for its people, guarded its exercise from the gravest abuses. It was a fitting question for English prelates to ask, and it was no less fitting to insist upon its explicit answer--"Not merely what Church, so far as its nominal designation is concerned, do you design to perpetuate in America, but in submission to what Catholic symbols of the faith is it to be founded and maintained?" Never was there a land in which clearness and definiteness on this point were more urgently demanded. God be praised for the paternal decision and patience that secured them.

A few more words will complete the story of this day. On landing in England Drs. White and Provoost waited upon the American Minister (the Honourable John Adams), and were by him presented to the Primate. Their consecration was appointed for the 4th of February, and on that day, their testimonials having been submitted and approved, they were consecrated in this chapel by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. John Moore; the Archbishop of York, Dr. William Markham, acting as presenter, and the Bishops of Bath and Wells and Peterborough, Drs. Moss and Hinchcliffe, uniting in the imposition of hands. The chronicler of the time rather pathetically records that "there was a very small congregation present, composed mainly of the Archbishop's household," and adds, that the newly consecrated Bishops dined at the conclusion of the service with the Archbishop, and left the next day for their distant homes."

It may be well to add here, as completing the historical sequence in the matter of the American Episcopate, that, on the 19th of September 1790, Dr. James Madison was consecrated in this chapel Bishop of Virginia, and that, in 1792, Bishop Provoost, as consecrator, united with himself Bishops White, of Pennsylvania, and Seabury, of Connecticut, in consecrating Dr. Thomas John Claggett as the first Bishop of Maryland. Thus and thenceforward the English and Scotch lines of succession in America were united. It is a grateful recollection to one, at least, of those who have come here from beyond the sea to take part in this service, that the scene of this consecration was the city of New York, and that through it were united, not merely the thitherto disassociated and somewhat antagonistic American Episcopates, but through them the "somewhat divergent lines of Sancroft and Tillotson." [Dr. W. J. Seabury's 'Memorial Discourse,' 1885.]

It was a discouraging prospect which awaited the newly-consecrated Bishops on their return. In the convention that elected White there had sat less than a score of clergymen and lay representatives from still fewer parishes. The convention of the Diocese of New York, which chose Provoost for its Bishop, included five clergymen and the representatives of seven parishes. In all the thirteen American Colonies there were only about 200 clergymen, and but few more congregations. Today, the original Diocese of Pennsylvania has grown into three dioceses, with five Bishops, with 400 clergy, 300 parishes, 50,000 persons who regularly commune at its altars, and with voluntary offerings for the past year of a million and a half of dollars, or 300,000l. The Diocese of New York has become five dioceses, with 800 clergy, 700 congregations, over 100,000 communicants, and with voluntary offerings during the past year of nearly $5,000,000 or 1,000,000l. sterling.

During the same period of time the American daughter, including all the dioceses, has multiplied her three Bishops until they are seventy, her 200 clergy until they have become 4000, her parishes until they have become 3000, her flocks until they include a cure of some two millions of souls, and her gifts until they amounted for the past year to $10,000,000. She has seven colleges and ten theological seminaries in various parts of the country, and Church Schools for both sexes, both parochial and diocesan, in large numbers and in almost every diocese. In the single Diocese of New York she has four sisterhoods, four hospitals, and churches and chapels ministering in six different languages, and to as many different nationalities. A single parish in New York expends 100,000l. upon what is distinctly Mission-work, and in a single chapel has some 2000 children under instruction. The Church sustains fifteen Missionary Bishops in as many jurisdictions at home and abroad, and is to-day represented by Bishops and missionaries in Africa, China, Japan, and Haiti. Her spirit was never more united or aggressive, and the outlook for her future, even in the judgment of impartial observers not of her communion, never so full of promise.

Is it strange that she should wish, then, to come back to this sacred and venerable shrine in which, by the consecrations which we commemorate, the completion of her organic life was effected? Here she drew her first breath as a daughter of the Anglican communion. From that communion she has derived her English Bible, her Book of Common Prayer, and her most sacred traditions. In the language of the Preface to her own Prayer-book she declares--"This Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England in any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship;" and in the same Preface she records her indebtedness under God for her first foundation and for a long continuance of nursing care and protection, to her whom John Winthrop, Governor of Colonial Massachusetts, was wont to call "our dear mother, the Church of England." And it was in this spirit that that great prelate, William White, first presiding Bishop of the American Church in the Anglican Succession, planned and wrought. I would that his venerated successor, my father and brother, the Right Rev. Dr. Stevens, Bishop of Pennsylvania, were here to tell you as I may not hope to do, of the influence of that rare man who, a hundred years ago to-day, knelt before this altar.

In the early history of the Church in America there is another name associated later in time with the Diocese of New York--I mean that of John Henry Hobart, which no annalist of American Church history can afford to under-estimate. But great as Hobart was, and powerfully as he stamped his impress upon the Diocese of New York, and through it upon the whole Church in the United States, I may not forget to render that tribute to William White which my brother of Pennsylvania, had the infirm condition of his health not prevented his presence here to-day, would have most surely paid to the saint and sage who was his first predecessor. His hand it was which determined most largely the lines on which the ship of the Church should be builded and launched, and, departures though some of them were from your own national traditions, I may, perhaps, venture in this presence to say that time and experience have abundantly vindicated them. That feature of our organisation which at the first view excited most apprehension in Anglican minds--I mean the admission of the laity to our synodical bodies--has, it would seem, come to wear, to many of the best minds in the Church of England, a very different aspect. Surely, if the experience of a hundred years counts for anything, it may well be so. And if it be so, that may be sung of England and of White which Wordsworth sang of White and the Western world

"To thee, O saintly WHITE,
Patriarch of a wide-spreading family,
Remotest lands and unborn times shall turn,
Whether they would restore or build: to thee
As one who rightly taught how zeal should burn,
As one who drew from out faith's holiest urn
The purest stream of sacred energy."

[Wordsworth's 'Ecclesiastical Sonnets,' Part III., Sonnet 15.]

And therefore, as the children come to-day to kneel at their mother's knee, they thank her first for that godly and far-seeing man whom she gave back to them as their first Primate. But most of all they thank her for those spiritual gifts and graces with which she endowed those to whom she handed on and down the succession of the Anglican Episcopate. Wayward children though many of her sons and daughters may a hundred years ago have seemed, they revered her then, and their children revere her still. Never were her influence and her example more potent in America than now. Never was the memory of her saints and martyrs and doctors more reverently cherished than at this hour.

And so, across the sea to-day those children send the greeting of their homage and their love. Surely as they do so, they too, may be permitted to remind themselves that this Jubilee year of yours is this morning doubly theirs, that half their first century has been covered by the reign of a single Sovereign, who, whether as wife, mother, or ruler, has endeared herself to the people of two hemispheres, and who, in each of these relations has pre-eminently illustrated those distinctive traits of fidelity to duty, of reverence for the right, and of exhaustlesss sympathy with misfortune and sorrow, which have been among the chiefest graces of the Church of England. For that Church their supplications will ever ascend; and as some of them come back to this historic spot to keep this their first centennial birthday, this is the prayer they breathe:--

"Honoured mother; hitherto you have been pre-eminent in Christendom for a Scriptural faith, for sound learning, and for pure manners. Already you have borne witness in many lands to the Catholic doctrine in all its primitive simplicity and power by lives of unselfish and heroic devotion. May it be so more and more in all the centuries to come. And when another hundred years are gone and children's children gather here, may you still be found in all the plenitude of yet-advancing triumphs, rich in the gifts and treasures of your Heavenly Lord and Head, with no stinted hand dispensing them, in ever-widening circles of beneficence, to all mankind."


The Archbishop was assisted by the Bishops of London, New York, and North Carolina in distributing the Holy Sacrament. After the benediction, the hymn, "Jesu, gentlest Saviour" was sung, and the Archbishop added a collect from the Ordinal. The Offertory, at the request of the American Bishops, was presented to the Church House Fund. The almsdish, which was presented by the American Bishops who attended the first Lambeth Conference was used. The following telegraphic message was received by the Archbishop of Canterbury:--

"The Diocese of Pennsylvania sends cordial thanks for the Canterbury Memorial Service at Lambeth."

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