JOHN A. GRAY & GREEN, PRINTERS, 16 & 18 JACOB STREET
This personal letter to the Bishop was read by me to the Clerical Association of the Protestant Episcopal Church, as having a common interest in its subject, and as suitable advisers to myself in its transmission. At their request, it has been printed, for their use and subject to their distribution, according to the vote unanimously passed at their regular meeting, June 12, 1865.
To the Right Reverend Horatio Potter, D. D.
RIGHT REV. AND MY DEAR BISHOP: I have received by mail a copy of a printed pamphlet purporting to be "A Pastoral Letter," from yourself to the Clergy of the Diocese of New-York. It has come to me with no additional means of identifying its authority, and I am therefore obliged to assume the reality of its character.
Canon third, section ten, prescribes that "every Bishop shall deliver a charge to the Clergy of his Diocese," and "shall address to the people of his Diocese, Pastoral Letters." As all the duties of the Episcopal office are defined by law, I am required further to assume, that this letter is not intended as an official Episcopal document, but as a personal communication addressed by you, for your own convenience in the form of a circular, to the clergy of the Diocese. As such I receive it with great respect. In a regular canonical address from a Bishop within his own jurisdiction, to those subject to his appointed oversight, I acknowledge a positive authority which would render questionable the right of criticism or reply.
But an address which is extra-canonical becomes merely personal and didactic, and not only permits, but seems also to invite individual conference and response. I hope, therefore, that I shall not be considered as deficient in due respect for my truly loved Bishop if in the frankness of affectionate freedom I offer such a reply.
I am not moved to this, because I feel myself to be one of those clergymen whom you describe "as conscious to themselves, that there has been something in their official proceedings, which may have had some influence in suggesting the propriety [3/4] and even necessity of these present observations." I feel compelled in honesty to say at the outset that I could not concede their propriety or necessity, as addressed to any of the clergy within my knowledge.
I am not incited by a desire in any way to assume an attitude or aspect, which shall even appear antagonistic to your judgment in the ecclesiastical administration which has been committed to you, and the great responsibility of which you bear. I trust that my whole life in the Church has shown me to be in no relation factious, or fond of dissension. I gladly reciprocate the assurances which your letter contains of personal kindness and respect, in the most unqualified terms.
I most gratefully bear witness that your administration of the Diocese has never been exposed, within my observation, to the charge of "any disposition on your part, to impose needless restraints upon the official conduct of the clergy, or to interfere, in any way, with their freedom of action." I have often thought, and have often testified, of the wisdom which has thus characterized your Episcopal action. And on that very account I do the more earnestly regret this new and most dissimilar step, which I cannot but think will prove a very sad and painful diversion from your long-continued and prospered course.
My dear Bishop, it was my privilege to give, and with great cordiality, my personal and parish votes for your election to the high office which you have so worthily and purely filled. And my whole experience of your administration has tended to satisfy me with the act then consummated, and to please me with the gentleness and impartiality of your subsequent career. I have had no complaint to make, no censure to express, no fault to find And I feel myself the more able, on this occasion, to speak with freedom, because I have an unbroken consciousness of my sincere affection for you, and an equal confidence in your true and, generous desire, in every thing, to promote the welfare of the Church, and the prosperity and happiness of the clergy over whom you have been placed in the Lord.
The occasion which has called for this response from me, I cannot but esteem a very trying, and to me a very painful one. I fear it will tend to array against yourself the feelings and judgments of many of the clergy, whose support of you, and respect for you, have been most cordial, and entire, and whose fraternal confidence must always be a fact of great value in your Episcopal relations. It opposes with admonitions, perhaps with threats, of [4/5] needless severity, a general tendency and spirit of our time, which is not only in itself harmless and entirely tolerable, but is, in its purpose and desire, manifestly in the line of divine truth and example, adapted to edify rather than destroy the best interests of the Gospel and the Church of God. It throws your influence and yourself on the side of an exclusiveness of partisan judgment and action, which I am sure is not the spirit of the New Testament; which can never be acceptable or welcomed in the Christianity of our land; and which, in its relations to our own Church, can only tend, as it has always tended, to retard its growth, to limit its influence, to discredit its character, and make it unpopular and repulsive in the apprehension of the people whom it seeks to gather and to bless.
And all this is to be done and borne, avowedly to meet supposed difficulties, which in your own view are so temporary and evanescent, that you say of them, (p.12,) "These movements will speedily come to nothing," and (p.15) "will be limited to a very narrow circle," "will be impotent and fugitive, as every thing must be impotent and fugitive, which is in the nature of a departure from a polity so reasonable and so well settled as ours."
My dear Bishop, perhaps Gamaliel would have counselled in such a case, that it would the part of a cautious and wise government to "refrain from these men and let them alone;" especially so, if your anticipations should be correct, that in attempting to "overthrow" them, "the Bishop himself will not escape the special outbreak of odium and censure," nor avoid "exposing himself to hard thoughts from within the Church, and to bitter denunciations from without." I most sincerely hope that neither of these painful results will occur.
Indeed, I greatly doubt their occurrence, for however the clergymen whose course of ministry has thus been made the subject of your very serious reprehension, may be, and often have been, the objects of reproach and censure, as violating law, when in the mere exercise of their indubitable liberty, I have not been accustomed to hear from them the language of bitterness in return. They are the very men who have always sought for peace, and have made peace in the Church, in the whole field of my observation, whose conduct in the ministry is held up to such grievous censure, in the language of your letter. To secure the peace of the Church, and because they believed that your administration would promote this peace, they cordially united in your election; and in the accomplishment of [5/6] that result, which could only have been accomplished by their united fidelity to you as their choice, through intense opposition from the dominant party in the Diocese, and by a long protracted canvass of votes, they secured the issue of a united Church and a satisfied people. To your administration they have given an unshrinking and unqualified support; nor have you ever found them arrayed among your opposers, or caballing for schemes of division or irregular influence to annoy or resist you.
My dear Bishop, you say that you have "been again and again appealed to by both clergymen and laymen, (who are not apt to be busy-bodies or censorious,) to do something to check the evil" which you censure. Of course I have no means to identify these individual persons. I am not surprised at the caution of your parenthesis in speaking of them, for in some cases known to me, I should have called them excessively both busy-bodies and censorious. In those cases, I was gratefully impressed with the wisdom which declined to be harnessed to the wheels of persons of their habit and propensity. I have but little doubt that, among these "clergymen and laymen" referred to there would not be found a single person, who cordially gave his vote for your election. On the other hand, I am aware of some, who have urged you to your new relation to the clergymen now arrayed for censure, who set themselves, at the time of that election, with united purpose and determination to defeat it, that they might place the government of the Church in other hands, more likely to rule according to their will.
They were defeated in their attempts to prevent your accession to the Episcopal office; but they have not hesitated to censure your administration; in the convention to thwart your wishes; in private in no way to advance your influence; and they now combine to separate you from the real friends and supporters of your important ministry; to array you in apparent hostility to them, and thus to break up the peace of the Church, the quietness of your own Episcopate, and your confidence in those who have most truly loved and upheld you. I must be permitted to speak of this whole development, as a most painful result in the influence which it is likely to exercise over the future welfare of our Church and of this Diocese.
My dear Bishop, had these interfering "clergymen and laymen" left you free from their impertinent control, and had you addressed "a charge to your clergy" of your own monition, however I might not have agreed with you in sentiment, I should [6/7] have suffered in silence. But when your serious censure, and, as I think, needless and unwarrantable censure, of a large portion of your clergy, and that the portion the most habitually friendly and loving toward yourself, is avowedly upon the ground of the repeated appeals of "clergymen and laymen," combining to "separate chief friends," I must frankly say that I cannot acknowledge the wisdom of the course, the justice of the proceeding, or the expediency either of the time, or method selected for their gratification. And I feel compelled from my age and relation to do what I can to vindicate myself, to guide and protect my younger brethren, and to maintain the long-accredited and acknowledged liberty of the Church, thus unexpectedly restricted and refused.
The practical character of your letter in its inevitable conclusions, involves the most serious charge against a large portion of the clergy under your oversight which can be made against intelligent men. It is simply the charge of a life of deliberate and conscious perjury. You remind them (page 4) that when they became the ministers of the Church in which they serve, they "bound themselves, with all the solemnities of an oath," to a line of conformity which they have systematically refused. You accuse them of doing this in a trifling and irreverent spirit, (page 12,) when you speak of their course as a "violation of engagements generally deemed sacred." I do not see how in respectful terms you could intensify the solemnity of this charge. To me it is my Bishop's description of my forty-four years pastoral ministry, in the Church in which I was born, from a family never out of this Church, and from whose fold I shall never voluntarily stray.
That I should silently rest under the charge of a life of perjury could not be expected. That my Bishop, with whom I have never taken any but "sweet counsel," should have made it, would have been to me incredible had I not thus been compelled to meet it. That I should shrink in silence under it, and go down to that grave which is now so near me, practically acknowledging it, is utterly impossible. That I should take any other than a frank, open, and personal notice of it, would be equally unbecoming and unlike myself.
I therefore address you personally, as I should always desire, but upon a stand of self-defence, which I never anticipated as a requisition from you. I cannot address you with disrespect, for I have the most sincere and affectionate respect and love for [7/8] you. But I feel bound to declare myself in my whole ministry open to all the imputations of your letter. I deem the things complained of a personal liberty which Christ has given to me, and which the Church has never taken away; and though I should freely say of some of the illustrations which you have introduced, that I did not deem them expedient, I cannot say of any of them that I think them unlawful, still less that I can esteem them as the open career of perjury
My dear Bishop, there is nothing new to me in the subject of your letter. It is a ground which I have been compelled frequently to traverse. But I confess with sorrow that the stand which you take in regard to it is new, and to me wholly unexpected. I see no path to a result of peace, if it is your purpose to maintain it as a stand of authority, but the alternative of an excision of all who have been thus guilty from the Church, or their renunciation of the principles and practices of a life, as a submission to that which they must esteem an extra-official authority The one would drive the persons from the Church, the other would banish the manhood from the persons.
There are three views under which the charges and the demands of your letter present themselves to my consideration. First. In their own history. Second. In my personal history as connected with them. Third. In the merits of the claims in themselves.
There is, First, The history of the claims which are pressed in your letter as a scheme of facts. They constitute that which has always been known as the High Church scheme in the later years of our Church. The two main facts habitually designated and opposed by this scheme, as practised and encouraged in our Church, have been the use of extemporaneous prayer, and the union with other denominations of Christians in religious worship.
The controversy concerning these things in our Church, has been wholly within the line and field of my own personal observation, and in all its leading facts thoroughly known to me, in that observation. In the earlier years of our Church history, there was no discussion or discrepancy upon this subject. Not one of our earlier bishops, from the English consecration, assumed this High Church ground. Neither White, nor Madison, nor Bass, nor, so far as I have known or heard, Provost or Moore, professed to stand upon that platform. The open and earnest vindication of the scheme began with Bishop Hobart, who was [8/9] consecrated in 1811. It was commenced by him mainly in reference to the formation of the American Bible Society in 1816. The first knowledge publicly given to the Church of this scheme as such was in Bishop Hobart's celebrated charge to the Conventions of New-York and Connecticut, entitled, "The High Churchman Vindicated." The, principles of the scheme were expanded and applied in Bishop Hobart's controversy with Judge Jay upon the Bible Society, and with Dr. Miller and Dr. Mason upon the Claims of Episcopacy.
From Bishop Hobart, this scheme became a formal system, the practical influence and operation of which were afterward found in every diocese, and came in a degree to be a ruling power in many. Prayer-meetings, private informal lectures, revivals of religion, union societies of all kinds for religious objects, all acknowledgment of the ministry, or of the right to minister in other churches of the Lord Jesus not episcopally constituted, were the objects of special hostility and assault.
Bishop Griswold, who was consecrated at the same time with Bishop Hobart, and Bishop Moore of Virginia, were as steadfast and earnest in their opposition to this scheme of exclusion and discrimination, as Bishop Hobart was in favor of it. Bishop White, who was personally friendly to each, and a lover of all good men, was eminently moderate in his utterances, but never, in his teachings or his conduct, sanctioned the claims of the High Church scheme. Dr. Milnor, in New-York, the particular personal friend and the parishioner of Bishop White, was a zealous and uncompromising antagonist to it. The younger clergy divided under these leaders according to their connections or affinities.
The warfare for this excluding scheme, and the warfare against it, made the history of our Church during the lifetime of Bishop Hobart. Since his death, though on each side the dividing principles have remained, the controversy, as a general fact, has been withdrawn, and the whole Church has settled down into an acknowledgment of the "liberty of prophesying," involved in the previous discussion.
When this High Church scheme found as its outgrowth, the vagaries of the Oxford illumination, and claimed the toleration of them, it could no longer denounce or threaten what it still deemed the errors of the "Evangelical" scheme. Mutual consent has given us mutual peace. I hoped it would be acknowledged that "God had given peace in our time." I least of all [9/10] expected, my good Bishop, that one so mild in temper and moderate in government as yourself, should again awake the spirit of controversy; or that one so se1f-controlled and wise should have suffered himself to yield to the "appeals" of "clergymen and laymen" to rebuke those who were truly prophesying in the Lord's name, or to condemn those whom the Lord hath not condemned.
The coming history can only be a repetition of the past. We can never concede the exclusive interpretation which your letter appears to claim for alleged law upon this subject. The forcing of your views, as you seem to intimate by the capital letters on your eighth page, can only result in dividing the Church, destroying much fruit of the ministry therein, driving valuable ministers therefrom, or constraining into a selfish hypocrisy for bread, those whom power may have the opportunity to oppress, and whose earthly condition is without a comforter. That any circumstances shall be found sufficiently constraining to lead you to this course, or that any courts shall be found sufficiently partisan and blind to sustain such a system of wholesale excision from the Church, I can only believe, when the facts shall give their indubitable demonstration.
You will pardon me for this freedom of speech. But Bishop Hobart was never willing to carry out the practical logic of his principles, though he openly threatened to bring them to their test, in preventing Bishop Meade's consecration; and Bishop Ravenscroft urged him to exercise them in the punishment of Dr. Milnor.
We can only say now, what we have been compelled always to say: Superior power can have our places, but no earthly power can have our principles.
We are perfectly willing that this High Church scheme should be assumed, pressed, vindicated, by individual opinions among the clergy and laity as they please. But we shall protest, as we have always protested, against its inauguration as a principle of government by our bishops. The liberty which we have enjoyed, we claim as our inherited and indubitable right. And while we truly love you as our Bishop, we cannot concede, even to your wish, that which is to us a dear and valued principle of the doctrine of Christ.
The Second view which I desire to take of this subject, is my own personal history in connection with it. It is my own ministry which I am called to defend. That ministry has been unchanged [10/11] in its principles from its commencement. I was born and educated in the Episcopal Church. But these High Church principles I never heard, or heard of, in my youth. So far as I know, they were introduced into Boston and Massachusetts by Dr. Jarvis, who came to Boston in 1820. Bishop Bass and Bishop Parker had been of the old moderate stamp of Churchmanship. Bishop Griswold, who succeeded them in 1811, added to their conservative quietness and impartiality, a vigorous and faithful preaching of the Gospel, to which we were in a great degree strangers before.
In his retired parish in Bristol, Rhode Island, Bishop Griswold's ministry had been very remarkably blessed with revivals of religion. His people were much accustomed to conference meetings, prayer-meetings, and familiar lectures, in all of which the Bishop greatly delighted and excelled. In these meetings, though they were always opened with a short selection from the Prayer-Book, the privileges of extemporaneous prayer, and of lay exhortation in a variety of forms, were freely and habitually adopted by the people, in the presence and with the approval of the Bishop. The first public display of the High Church scheme was in a series of attacks in The Gospel Advocate, a periodical established by Dr. Jarvis in Boston, which, were written by him. The Bishop defended himself in some essays, the publication of which was refused in The Gospel Advocate, but which were afterwards published in a Tract on Prayer-Meetings.
This struggle to establish the High Church scheme in Massachusetts was ineffectual at that time. I am thankful to say, it has never succeeded since. The successors of Dr. Jarvis in St. Paul's have been advocates of a very different system from his.
By Bishop Griswold I was prepared for my ministry. I was instructed by him in the system of faithful ministration which he practised, and which I have endeavored faithfully to maintain. The Prayer-Book and the Canons generally, were the same then as now. If my life has been a life of perjury, so was the life of Bishop Griswold. In the free use of extemporaneous prayer on all other occasions than the regular public worship of the Church, in preaching without restraint wherever he was invited to preach, in invitations to ministers of other churches to preach in his church, in a free and friendly union in religious exercises with all who loved the Lord Jesus, Bishop Griswold set me the example, and gave me my direction. I adopted his system of ministry, [11/12] and I have endeavored to carry it out in all my subsequent career.
Forty-four years ago, I commenced my ministry in the District of Columbia, Diocese of Maryland. Then I came under a High Church Bishop, who had himself been brought in from the Scotch Presbyterian Church. Bishop Kemp was a good man. But he idolized Bishop Hobart and the New-York scheme. In this he was an entire contrast to his predecessor, Bishop Claggett. My opening ministry in Maryland was distinguished by a letter from Bishop Kemp, whom I had never seen, on this subject. It was enough for him that I had come from Bishop Griswold. This was the beginning of a warfare for years, around the same great principles of contest which distinguish your letter. They were principles which we could not relinquish. We were made able then to vindicate and maintain our freedom. With the Rev. brethren Henshaw, Johns, McIlvaine, and Hawley, and many others of similar character, I was called to stand in defence of the Gospel in its doctrines and its liberty. It was my first encounter with this High Church scheme, which, in my unhesitating judgment, then and now, wars with both. This contest taught me thoroughly its character, its spirit, its tendency, and its result. That controversy passed by, I am grateful to say, without compromising our liberty, or violating in the end our kind and friendly relations with Bishop Kemp; and the later years of my ministry in Maryland, though unchanged in principle and habit, were passed in peace.
Thirty-six years ago I was called to the city of Philadelphia, in the midst of a large population of our Church with whom I sympathized entirely. This exclusive system had never ruled in Pennsylvania. I was received with a paternal kindness by Bishop White, which I can never forget. To him I submitted personally the very questions which are now discussed: Shall I accept invitations to preach in churches which are not Episcopal? In what way shall I use our forms of prayer on such occasions? Preach for all who invite you, if you can and desire to do it. Employ the Prayer-Book as much as you can usefully and consistently with their habits; was the substance of his replies. Thus I did probably in more than fifty cases in the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
Bishop White was the President of the Pennsylvania Bible Society, as well as of some other union societies. I have often attended these meetings with him. I have heard him invite ministers of other denominations to pray, and to address the congregations [12/13] assembled. They preached the Gospel in his presence and under his sanction. He was acknowledged and received not merely as the Bishop of the Episcopal Church, but, as Dr. Sharp in Boston said of Bishop Griswold, "as the father of us all." My ministry in Philadelphia encountered much opposition and complaint from some of the High Church portion of the Church. But from its commencement, to his death, Bishop White was my steadfast and unyielding friend. He was in the habit of coming to my church on Sunday evenings with great frequency, to manifest the spirit with which he stood by me in the very course which others opposed and censured.
Bishop Henry Onderdonk succeeded him in the Episcopate, not only in fact, but in principles of government. The Church has had few wiser or more moderate rulers than he. Complaints were made to him of certain facts in my ministry, particularly of the giving the use of my church for the meetings of union societies and promiscuous prayer-meetings. But he constantly refused to entertain them, or to interfere in any way with what he deemed the liberty of the ministry. He answered on one memorable occasion, that the fault was not in doing these things, but in making a disturbance about them. Instances of this kind of ministration I need not detail.
This was my experience in Philadelphia. I am thankful to know that Pennsylvania has met with no change in this relation. In the eminent Bishops who preside over that Church, the principles and practices of Bishop White are still maintained, and the great body of the churches and of the clergy are conformed to them. Bishop White was not in the habit of making extemporaneous prayers; but he frequently, perhaps habitually, wrote the prayer after his sermon, and on many occasions defined and defended this habit, as the liberty which was secured to the ministry by the Canon.
My dear Bishop, I have now been twenty years in the Diocese of New-York. In Bishop Wainwright, my first Bishop here, I found the friend of my youth, whose moderation and wisdom shone as the preeminent qualities of his short Episcopate. These ten years past, I have been happy in the tranquility and consideration of your government in the same spirit. I have supposed that the days of Church warfare were over, at least for me. I fondly believed that in the advancing liberality, good sense, and civilization of the country and the age, the elements of ecclesiastical discord were so well understood and so justly weighed, that [13/14] we might be permitted hereafter to work in our own way, in mutual toleration and forbearance, to edify the great cause of our common Lord, and to edify the Church we love. I truly regret my disappointment, as much for the sake of others as for my own. I cannot but feel and think, if the principles and practices of my ministry, so much prolonged, and so publicly known, have borne or deserved to bear the imputation and character from which I am now compelled to defend them, a watchful Episcopate should long since have visited me with a proper penalty.
But, my good Bishop, you have visited my church, and my chapels. You have confirmed more than five hundred new candidates for Christian fellowship under my ministry. You have addressed my people in words far too flattering for me, unreservedly commending my work and my ministry to them. And you have never, to me or to my people, uttered the warning which fidelity in duty certainly required, against a ministry which you have now felt compelled to characterize by terms of such severity. You came again and again, according to the canon, in your official visitations, to "inspect the behavior of your clergy," and you have ministered to me or my people no reproof. I had learned from you to expect none. I have been led, in my confidence in your feelings and purposes, to say and to hope that I should go down to my grave in peace, "my people blessing, by my people blest," when, most unexpectedly, I find my whole course publicly arraigned and condemned, untried and unheard, in a way which must result, in your own language, "not in augmented tendency to union and harmony, but an unusual rising up of disturbance and division."
I am compelled to look back upon my whole career and say: Neither the spotless Griswold, nor the patriarchal White, nor the intelligent and logical Onderdonk, nor the generous and openhearted Wainwright, ever denounced or reproved me; but justified and encouraged me with paternal and brotherly support. If I have been wrong in my principles or conduct, they were eminently so. If they have been just, and to be justified, then have the principles of my ministry been canonical and correct; and I have "ministered the discipline of Christ as this Church hath received the same." You leave me no other recourse in earthly determination, than to throw myself back on this whole complete career of ministry, and to avow its rectitude, in the theories of its guidance, and in the facts which have distinguished it; and to commit myself for the future to my Master and His Church, [14/15] while I say, humbly but solemnly, I can do no otherwise in time to come.
The personal aspect of this response to your letter, my dear Bishop, I greatly regret; but you have compelled me. And I now turn to consider the Third view which I proposed to take of the subject, in its own merits. In doing this, I will respectfully follow the course of your own selection, of what you describe as "some of the principles and laws of the Church, which we accepted when we became her ministers, and which, with all the solemnities of an oath, we bound ourselves to observe." (Page 4.)
I have no objection to make to your selections, and willingly consider them all with you. But in this consideration of the selected passages from the Prayer-Book and the Canons, I must be permitted to remark, that the whole discussion is upon the particular interpretation to be given to the selected expressions adduced. Your letter assumes an interpretation entirely peculiar, the history of which I have already exhibited, as if this interpretation were the undoubted meaning of the law. I am not able to agree with you in your interpretation of the language presented, and cannot, therefore, hold myself responsible for the conclusions which you deduce therefrom. But I will proceed to consider your selections under their enumerated heads.
I. I did "deliberately write and pronounce to the Bishop, the emphatic declaration, 'I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines and worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States.' " In fulfilling this declaration, I have most earnestly endeavored to maintain these doctrines, and to conform to this worship, for near forty-five years of ministry in the Church. I am not aware that in any single instance or fact, I have ever broken this solemn engagement. I have sincerely given the best powers of my mind, and all the energies of my life, to carry out this declaration, in an earnest, practical fidelity, the history and the proof of which have been before the view of the Church. For the facts of this ministry, I ask the most thorough examination, as they have passed under the knowledge of my brethren, and in the midst of the various congregations of the people of Christ, which have been committed to me. Of my labors in teaching and edifying the people of my charge, in the doctrines and worship prescribed, appointed, and received by the Protestant Episcopal Church, in its institutions, observances, distinctive [15/16] principles, ordinances, and rites, I challenge, before the Great Head of the Church, an impartial scrutiny; being persuaded that, however infirm and incompetent in many things, I have never been a hypocrite, an idler, or a self-indulgent and perjured man, in the house of God.
This solemn declaration and engagement I did not subscribe with the added special interpretation of any Bishop; or, if of any one, then certainly that of Bishop Griswold, who Ordained me. Still less did I agree to receive as law, the successive Episcopal interpretations of the doctrines and worship which I adopted, as I might remove from one Diocese to another, or as succeeding Bishops might be placed over me in the wise providence of God; and thus to make the Episcopal opinion in reality the law of the Church. The Church left me, and commissioned me, to read these Doctrines and Law for myself. The Bishop and Presbyters appointed, examined me for my knowledge in the premises. And I was thenceforth intrusted, as an accepted and approved minister in the Church of God, to be myself, and for myself, the judge of my conformity to the doctrines, and worship, and the law of the Church; to edify the Church of God, and to serve her in the Gospel of her Lord, not in the mere bondage of the letter, but in the intelligent freeness of the spirit; not according to the opinions, prejudices, and whims of others around me, but in a good conscience before God. Thus have I endeavored faithfully to serve Christ and the Church, asking direction from no changing human dictation, but from the Holy Spirit of God, and from my own conscience in the sight of God.
II. "In the midst of the service of ordination, as I stood before the Bishop and before the Holy Table," and did say, "I will, by the help of the Lord, give my faithful diligence always so to minister the doctrines and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same, according to the commandments of God, so that I may teach the people committed to my care and charge, with all diligence to keep and observe the same." I have honestly and faithfully endeavored to do this.
But this High Church interpretation of doctrine, sacraments, and discipline, this Church had never received; neither had the Lord commanded it, in any information then given to me, nor in any further information which I have since been able to acquire. I regard it as a new doctrine, "unawares brought in, to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, and to bring us again [16/17] into bondage," to which I must say: We can "give place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel may continue" in the Church.
This new scheme of excluding and unchurching all "non-Episcopal divines," "excluding ministers and licentiates of non-Episcopal bodies, not only from administering the sacraments, but also from teaching within her fold, holding them to be "incompetent," I do not believe "the Lord hath commanded," or that it is "according to the commandment of God;" and I certainly know that "this Church hath not received the same," but has rejected it, and resisted it, and renounced it, always, on every occasion on which individual persons in the Church have attempted to enforce it, or assume it, as the doctrine and teaching of the Church.
The English Church at the Reformation certainly did not receive it. The divines of the Continental Reformation were freely acknowledged, consulted, referred to, and invited to teach and minister in her universities, and. among her people. Neither Cranmer, nor Parker, nor Whitgift, her first eminent and her abiding authoritative leaders, taught the excluding principles of this scheme. Bancroft was, perhaps, its originator in the English Church. At least, I have not been able to find a trace of it in the authorities of the English Church before him.
The Church of England did not receive this interpretation, when she sent Hall and. Davenant, and Carleton, to take counsel with the Synod of Dort, an assembly of Presbyterian divines, on terms of perfect equality and unrestricted freedom.
The English Church did not receive this scheme, when the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, the very Society which has been always counted the pattern and model of orthodoxy in the Church, commissioned Lutheran ministers, without Episcopal ordination, as competent to be the missionaries and representatives of this Church, in the introduction of the Gospel into India.
The English Church did not receive this scheme when, subsequently, the Church Missionary Society employed similar ministers and missionaries to propagate the Gospel in Africa and the East.
The English Church has never received this scheme, from the Reformation down to this day. Its introduction has always been opposed and contended with, as a novelty which the Church had never received. The character of the Archbishops of Canterbury in the whole line of their testimony from the Reformation, has been the solemn witness and token of the opposite decision. [17/18] From Cranmer down to Sumner, they have transmitted no such scheme to their successors. The only conspicuous name among them adopting the scheme is the ill-fated Laud. While all whose names have given honor to their station, like those whom I have mentioned, and Wake, and Moore, and Tenison, and Tillotson, and Secker, and others like them, have presented no such doctrine as the doctrine of the Church over which they so honorably presided.
The American Church did not receive this interpretation in her settlement of doctrine. Her opposing stand is as notorious as any fact in past human history. In the preface to her Prayer-Book, the key to its interpretation, she says: "This Church is far from intending to depart from the Church of England, on any essential point of doctrine, discipline, or worship, or further than local circumstances require." Her first generation of Bishops did not adopt it, nor transmit it. The great body of her ministers and people never have adopted it. The Church in the Eastern Diocese, comprising the five New-England States, in which I was ordained, had never received it. It was never, as a scheme of doctrine, delivered to me. I have not received it in the Church, or from the Church. I have always considered it as among the "erroneous and strange doctrines contrary to God's Word," which I promised, "the Lord being my helper," "with all faithful diligence, to banish and drive away from the Church." And I have always endeavored, in fulfilment of my promise, with "faithful diligence always to minister the doctrines and sacraments, and the discipline of Christ, as the Lord hath commanded, and as this Church hath received the same," but not as Archbishops Bancroft or Laud, or Bishop Hobart, have assumed to be its infallible interpreters.
III. The five particulars which your letter presents under this third head, including the Preface to the Ordinal, and the four Canons which are referred to, I have never known to be violated or disregarded in the Church. The ministers who have "officiated in its congregations" have been always "called, tried, and examined," so far as I know, before they were "accounted and taken to be lawful" ministers "in the Church," and "have had Episcopal consecration or ordination." This has been the governing rule, universal, unvarying, within my knowledge.
That the occasional ministering, or speaking, or preaching, in our churches by other persons, is a violation of this law, and an "officiating" in our congregations, cannot be maintained by the [18/19] general judgment and practice of the Church. I have known Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists, Roman Catholics, Russian, Greek, and German Lutheran ministers, all permitted to "officiate" by Bishops, if their occasional and exceptional exercises were "officiating," in the meaning of our law. Laymen, ordained by no one, have been invited to speak in our churches by Bishops. Laymen are authorized to read our whole regular Liturgy, by Bishops. And while, our Church has never deviated, and probably never will deviate, from her requisition of an Episcopal ordination for her ministers, this Church has never adopted the absolute exclusion of all others from occasional service in our congregations. Among those who have thus officiated in congregations committed to me, perhaps I could enumerate a dozen ministers of different denominations, and as many laymen, in an advocacy of different claims of religious benevolence and Christian duty. It has never been held, by the body of the Church, within my knowledge, that such an occasional allowance or invitation of ministrations, is the "accounting or taking" of such persons to be "lawful" ministers, in the sense of the preface and the canons; or an assuming to discuss the question of ordination in any way; or that such occasional ministrations were a violation, either of our principles or our laws.
But it is not my purpose or desire to discuss the question, what ought to be the interpretation of these laws. I merely undertake to give you the grounds of my own action. I consider myself in no way violating such prescriptions for our regular ministry and government, by an occasional act of official kindness and respect. I have often heard excited and assuming young men denouncing such a course as manifesting that I was "no Churchman." But I am now for the first time in my life, charged by a Bishop ruling over me, with being guilty of violating my solemn oath, in the pursuit of such a career.
I do not think a general mingling of the ministrations of different denominations of Christians to be wise, or likely to be effectual. I fear, with you, that such "efforts will tend to disorder and confusion, rather than to peace and harmony." But I cannot agree with you that the "proceedings" of which you speak, "are contrary to the usages and antecedents of the Church, and, contrary to the well-established judgment of the Church, as to the meaning and intent of her law." On the contrary, I fully believe that "the well-established judgment of the Church, as to the meaning and intent of her law," is, the preservation of absolute uniformity [19/20] as the rule of government in the stated and habitual ministry of our congregations, but not the prohibition of such occasional exceptions, as Christian kindness, and friendly relations among the "respective churches of the different religious denominations of Christians," as the preface to our Prayer-Book defines them, may require. The privilege of union on common ground with all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, for religious worship and Christian effort, is great and valuable; and it would be a very sad, and I think a very destructive day for our Church, if the affectionate and friendly participation in such an union should be acknowledged and denounced as a crime.
The High Church scheme has never yet succeeded in inflicting public penalties, so significantly described on the eighth page of your letter, upon those who have refused the adoption of its theories of interpretation. If your Episcopate should be allowed to select this as its crowning triumph, while it would be "a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear," it would be an appeal and reference to posterity and the future, which I fear would prove in its result, any thing but honorable and a success. I wish for you, my dear Bishop, a very different reputation, and one far more in the analogy of your past career, and I must be permitted to entreat you, whatever "clergymen and laymen" may appeal to you, not to suffer yourself to throw your effective influence finally on that side of this discussion. "If this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to naught; but if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it: lest haply you be found even to fight against God."
IV. Your fourth head of selection takes up the other subject in discussion--the use of the Book of Common Prayer. Upon this I need not dwell at much length. The principle involved has already been included in my previous remarks. The language of the Canon is very precise in its application to what are called "occasions of public worship," and "before all sermons and lectures." The use of the regular morning and evening prayer on such occasions, and in such antecedence, has been, accordingly, the universal habit of our Church. But the literal and absolute exclusion and inclusion which are involved in its forced interpretation, I presume to say, would not find an illustration of its obedience within the whole Church. I doubt if there be a single minister of the Church who has ever carried out this literal application of the canon, according to its strict interpretation.
Who is there that has never read any thing but the regular [20/21] morning or evening prayer before sermons or lectures? Who is there that has not introduced, and seen others introduce, missionary meetings and other occasions of benevolent associations, when there were many lectures, by a few collects, variously selected and put together, instead of insisting on the whole morning or evening prayer? Who is there in the ministry that ever pretended to carry out an obedience to all the rubrics of the Prayer-Book? What man, Bishop or Presbyter, has obeyed the first rubric in the office for the ministration of Private Baptism, "The minister of every parish shall often admonish the people that they defer not the baptism of their children longer than the first or second Sunday next after their birth"? Who is there that performs the office of Churching of Women, or obeys the rubric before that office?
Complete obedience to the Prayer-Book cannot be found in our Church. Unreasonable and unnecessary neglect of it can no more be found. The accredited usage of the Church is, general conformity to the letter of the canon in regular assemblies for stated worship in our congregations, and reasonable liberty and variety on all other occasions. Any other interpretation of the canon than this runs into inevitable absurdity. Accordingly, the law and habit of the Church are, throughout all our congregations, that our ministers prepare, or select from others, occasional offerings of prayer for multiplied occasions when the Prayer-Book leaves them completely unsupplied.
Bishops, who have no more authority in such cases than any others, have always followed in the same course, because the course is inevitable. Bishop Hobart's private prayers for funerals, for visitations of the sick and the afflicted, which are without the slightest claim to authority, and as really violations of the canons of the Church, (of which you say "the Church leaves nothing to the fancy or caprice of the officiating minister, will not allow her children to be disturbed in their solemn acts of worship by the intrusion of novel forms and expressions,") as any extemporaneous prayer which may be offered, are in the habitual use perhaps of half the clergy in your diocese, and they not the half to whom your present rebukes apply.
My dear Bishop, it is impossible that this shall be otherwise. As a general form, the Book of Common Prayer is adequate, and is regarded. As applying to all occasions, meeting all occasions, and excluding all other exercises, it is completely insufficient; it never has been, it never can be regarded. No ministry in our [21/22] Church can confine itself to the Prayer-Book in all the demands which it must meet. And when you attempt to charge a violation of a solemn oath upon those who do deviate from it, you really include in your accusation of perjury all the ministers of our Church. To carry out the literal, meaning of your own words--"the Church binds the conscience of every minister to a strict conformity," "within her fold she will endure no irregularity"--is simply impossible. I must take the liberty to doubt whether your own personal practice would not be found amenable for many inevitable violations of your own prescription.
For myself, the principles of my ministry are, first, to obey my Master's great injunction, "to preach the gospel to every creature;" second, to use the Prayer-Book before all sermons and lectures, and on all occasions of public worship; third, on every occasion of preaching to others than regular Episcopal congregations, to use as much of the Prayer-Book as I think appropriate to the occasion and consistent with the useful and impressive conducting of the worship of such occasion, and to add whatever other prayers I think adapted to be useful and a blessing; fourth, after all sermons and lectures, and on all other occasions which I think do not come within the reasonable application of the canon, to employ such prayers as I think suitable to the circumstances in which I am placed.
A reasonable and free interpretation of the canon, and not what you call a "severe" and excluding one, has been the habit of my work and the rule of my ministry. I have neither the ability nor the intention to change it. If this be a violation of my oath, I must bear the penalty and endure the guilt. To such a course I have habitually counselled younger brethren in the ministry, as the only way in which they will be likely to fulfil their ministry to the glory of God and the edifying the Church. I have endeavored to obey the canons and the rubrics, as far as such obedience appeared practicable and reasonable, trying never to forget the principle of interpretation given by Archbishop Tillotson to Bishop Beveridge: "Charity and common-sense are above the rubrics."
Such, as is my practice, I presume is the practice of the great body of our clergy. To change this practice and silence this universal freedom is beyond the power or the right of Episcopal authority. If you resolve to force the principles and conclusions of your letter to their utmost application, no one will envy you the [22/23] social influence you will have exercised in the Church, or the relations of trial and sorrow you will have created.
But to undertake a system of advice to you is not within my province. I do not design to have any controversy on the subject with any. I shall not give my time or thought to a discussion of the points involved beyond their application to myself. How sincerely I regret the course which you have now opened I could not perhaps describe to you. But so far as I am concerned, my personal feelings toward yourself will be as unchanged as my own principles of action. It has been the privilege and pleasure of my position under your oversight to maintain the most affectionate relations toward yourself. I trust nothing may interrupt this relation toward yourself while we live. But if persecution is to come for the truth's sake, and pains and penalties are to be inflicted, such as you italicize on the eighth page of your letter, I have no reason to expect immunity; I have no desire to present excuse; I have no ground to occupy differing from brethren whom I love, who are in the same condemnation; and I shall, in no way, shelter myself from the projected operation of authority or power, however unjust it may be esteemed.
My dear Bishop, my heart's desire and prayer is for the richest blessings of a Saviour's grace to rest upon you and your work for ever, hoping to dwell with you eternally where the one great law will be the universal law of love.
I am, with great respect, your servant and brother in Christ,
STEPHEN H. TYNG.
ST. GEORGE'S RECTORY, June, 1865.