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Transcribed by Wayne Kempton, 2007

[2] When the publication of the following Sermon was at last assented to, the writer felt inclined to treat more at large several of the subjects he had merely glanced at; but this he found would be to convert a trifling affair into a volume, and to detain it too long from the press. Numerous authorities and quotations, sustaining the positions taken in the Sermon, which he had begun to collect, and which would not have been without there interest, at the present crisis, are omitted for the same reasons.




Albany, 26th July, 1843

Reverend and Dear Sir,
The subscribers, members of the congregation of St. Peter's Church, having had the privilege and happiness of hearing the Sermon preached by you on Sunday the 23rd inst., from Isaiah 30th chapter and 15th verse, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength;" and very sincerely uniting with you in sentiment, in regard to the general purport and scope of that Sermon, cannot allow the occasion to pass without an earnest and respectful request, that you will have the goodness to place a copy of it in our hands for the purpose of publication. While we solicit this favor, for the particular edification and peace of our own immediate communion, we believe that, at this juncture, when no little excitement prevails, in consequence of the injudicious and perverted statements and animadversions of the secular press, its publication would be very satisfactory and acceptable to the Church at large. We beg to avail ourselves of this opportunity to add, that we entertain and cherish entire, unhesitating, and most affectionate confidence, in the sound judgment, devoted fidelity, and valid decision, of the constituted authorities of our revered Church; and in the unity and purity of its ministry.

We are,
Reverend and dear sir,
With very great respect and regard,
Your obedient friends and servants,


Albany, July 29, 1843

Your request for a copy of my Sermon, preached on last Sunday, comes to me very unexpectedly, and invites me to a step, which, on some accounts, I could have wished to avoid. But personal feelings, arising from the imperfection of a hasty performance, and from my reluctance to appear to address the public at large on topics of an exciting nature, ought, I am persuaded, to give way before the considerations you suggest, and especially before the wishes of persons so competent, from their position and from their intelligence, to judge what is likely to be useful. Sympathizing too, as I do most heartily, with the spirit in which you refer to the authorities and ministry of the Church, I am glad, I confess, to avail myself of any fit opportunity of giving publicity to your words. The Sermon is therefore placed at your disposal. Thanking you, gentlemen, for the sentiments which you express, and which I trust will soon become universal in our communion,

I remain, with great respect and regard,
Your affectionate friend and pastor,





In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.

These words (selected before I was aware they had been referred to on a recent occasion,) express with singular aptness and beauty the spirit which should characterize the Christian in times of obloquy and persecution. When the testimony borne to great, but misunderstood and hated truth has awakened hostility, and stirred up round about him a vehement conflict between opposing principles, when nevertheless he has good reason to feel assured, that the cause most dear to him is a righteous cause, armed with invincible strength, and when, above all, he clearly perceives, that, in spite of clamor and misrepresentation, the march of that cause is onward and upward, that it is daily becoming a more powerful instrument of good to the world, he may well be content to leave passion and prejudice to expend and exhaust themselves as they may, while he moves steadily forward in silence, in quietness [5/6] and in confidence, to discharge the duties, which pertain to that cause and to the other relations of life. To spend time in endeavoring to reason with those, who are in no condition to reason, or in opposing prejudices, whose extravagance is harmless, whose violence will speedily exhaust itself, is to waste that energy, which should be reserved for efforts more important to the truth we love and to the well-being of our fellow men, as well as more conducive to the peace and improvement of our own spirit. The primitive Christian saw that the Church grew and extended herself even while her members were being destroyed; the blood of her martyrs turned into seed, from which she reaped new harvests of converts. Instead therefore of vainly attempting to clamor as loudly as her adversaries, she perceived that her strength lay "in quietness and in confidence;" while unbelievers assailed her with misrepresentation and violence she took little pains to resist or to answer, but went steadily on her way, speaking the truth to those who had ears to hear, sending her teachers to distant provinces to turn them from dumb idols to serve the living God, and presenting in her meek, holy, unfaltering children illustrious examples of Christian character, which could not but arrest attention and force conviction into the hearts of multitudes round about her.

[7] It is not often that I can prevail upon myself to direct your attention in this sacred place to any other subjects than such as I deem to be of vital consequence to your duty and your everlasting welfare. Accidents by flood and field, wars and rumors of wars, exciting controversies on questions of morals, politics and religion, injurious representations respecting the Church of our affections, in short topics of ephemeral interest, which appear today and pass away to-morrow, all these are things which may help to relieve the tedium of a vapid existence, but are unworthy to find a place in the sanctuary of the Most High. Guided by these views of ministerial duty and by my conviction of the inherent strength and stability of our altars, I should treat the noisy discussions which events have recently directed toward our communion with the neglect they seem to merit, were it not, that certain persons, who are warmly attached to our Church, but imperfectly informed respecting the origin of the rumors they hear, are liable to become alarmed at the idea, that the peace for which our borders have been so long remarkable is to be seriously disturbed, that the divisions which have distracted other religious bodies are to be introduced into the Church, and that some important change has taken place, or is about to take place in that scriptural, time honored [7/8] doctrine and discipline, which came to us sealed with the blood of the martyrs, first of the primitive age and then of the Reformation. If I can say any thing to quiet these groundless apprehensions, and to confirm the attachment and reverence with which we have wont to look upon our communion, if I can dissuade any individual from allowing himself to be drawn into unprofitable debate with persons whose erroneous conceptions he may not be capable of correcting, whose prejudices he certainly will not be able to overcome, if I can make it apparent to those who hear me, that, not in strife and debate, not in extraordinary efforts to vindicate or to propagate our opinions, but "in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength," in the steadfast, noiseless performance of our ordinary duties, irrespective of all that may be passing around us, shall be our surest hope of saving our own souls, of honoring the Church and of benefitting the world, I shall feel, that though I may not have touched the subjects most appropriate to this place, or most prominent in my own thoughts, yet I shall not have spoken entirely in vain. And may that blessed spirit, whose gifts are truth and peace, stand by us, and save us from all evil and mischief and disquiet; from all pride and uncharitableness; from all false doctrine, heresy, and schism; from hardness of heart [8/9] and contempt of God's commandments, and enable us to let our light so shine before men, in meekness and quietness, that they may see our good works and glorify our Father which is in Heaven.

Whoever will examine either the history of our Church, or the principles on which it is founded, will be constrained to admit that it is not given to change, nor very liable to be distracted by internal dissensions. Such as it was established in this country, soon after the American revolution, such has it remained ever since, without the slightest alteration in its principles or in its practices, in its doctrines or in its discipline and worship; and that, too, with a degree of internal harmony and peace, which is without parallel in any other denomination in this country. While other religious bodies have undergone vital changes, have fallen away in doctrine from their own standards, as might easily be shewn; while some of them have been rent into two or more hostile parties, which have been seen arrayed against each other; while the supreme legislative assemblies of all of them have been convulsed from time to time by questions of local and temporary interest, our beloved Zion has continued steadfast to her ancient faith and ritual, not a single change being perceptible, and our ecclesiastical assemblies have been conspicuous, not less for the wisdom with [9/10] which they have excluded from their councils all extraneous questions of an agitating nature than for the dignity, moderation and general unanimity with which they have conducted their deliberations. Many of the difficulties that have occurred in other religious bodies have arisen from the attempt to enforce exact uniformity of opinion on subordinate questions of doctrine. Our Church adopts the wiser and more scriptural course of requiring assent to the great leading articles of faith, such as are included in the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds, and then in regard to minor points of doctrine allowing ample room for the exercise of private judgment, for difference of opinion. This policy secures the welfare of the body by promoting essential agreement and harmony, and at the same time provides for the comfort of the individual. It, together with other safeguards, such as the use of a liturgy, which engraves on our minds and embalms in our affections the vital truths of our holy religion; these, added to the respect which our Church pays to the early Church, as a witness to the sense in which scripture was first interpreted--as a witness to the interpretation derived from the Apostles--have been found abundantly sufficient to repress within our borders any tendency to change.

And, if we turn to consider our present condition [10/11] and prospects, while we would avoid every thing like vain boasting, we cannot but acknowledge with thankfulness that we find cause, not of grief and fear, as some would insinuate, but of joy and hope; we find that never, since the first establishment of the Church in this country, has she extended herself so rapidly, never has she been so true to her own principles, never has she applied them so vigorously, in a practical way, to the spiritual improvement of her members, never has she gathered so largely from other religious bodies, into her ministry and into her lay communion, as during the last three years. These are no fancies of mine--they are facts, abundantly attested by the statistics of the Church, and by the testimony of her Bishops and Pastors. When, then, we consider the effect with which her distinctive principles have been put forth, can we wonder that she should have become the object of general attention, or that the opinions and acts of individuals, things of temporary interest, should have been treated as matters of gravest import, should have been misunderstood and misrepresented, and commented on with affected alarm, or with open hostility? And should not this view of the origin of much of the clamor by which we are surrounded induce us to regard it and its authors with the greatest patience and indulgence? If we add [11/12] to these considerations the notorious fact that theological learning is at a low ebb among us, so low, indeed, that the plainest distinctions are perpetually confounded, we shall scarcely be surprised that such things as preferring the cross (before symbols the most incongruous) to be the crowning object on the Christian spire, and such things as asserting the real spiritual presence of Christ in the sacrament of his body and blood, should be regarded in certain quarters as indicating a tendency to Romanism.

Of real tendency to Romanism it may be safely affirmed that, within our Church, there is none. There is not a clergyman in our communion who would not regard the errors of that Church, her idolatrous worship of a human being, her invocation of saints, her mutilation of the sacrament, her sacrifice of masses, her doctrine of purgatory and of transubstantiation, her claim to infallibility and her assertion of the Pope's supremacy, as interposing between her communion and ours an impassable gulf. Though well acquainted with the Bishops, and a large proportion of the clergy of the Church in this country, and though not unacquainted with the condition of the established Church in England, I am unable to perceive that either communion is nearer to a union with the Church in Rome, unless she shall renounce her pretensions and her errors, [12/13] than they were fifty years ago. The most powerful and convincing exposures of the corruptions of the Papal religion that the theological learning of the last hundred years has produced, are to be found in the writings of the very men who are charged with a design to bring in the errors of that system, [a] and I hazard nothing in affirming that if the day shall ever come when it shall be necessary to battle against the armies of Rome, the most invincible champions of the truth will be found, not among the sects who are most vehement in their assaults upon the Papal Church, not among those who rely confidently upon unaided private judgment in matters of religion, but among those profound scholars and thinkers who are familiar with the nature and use of historic evidence. I pretend not to vouch for the entire soundness of the views of any set of theological writers who may have appeared in the English Church within the last few years. Like other mortal men, they probably have their weak side. They are to be ranked along with other private authors, for whose opinions, especially on subordinate points, the Church is in no degree [13/14] responsible, and who must stand or fall by their own merits. Setting out, as they did, to oppose what they deemed to be the errors of one extreme, the extreme of impulse, irreverence, latitudinarianism, it would not be very strange if they should be found to have been carried, in some things, somewhat too far in the opposite extreme. Nor can it be deemed very surprising that among their readers here and there an individual of weak mind and superficial information should have rushed from one extreme to the other, from low views of the ministry and the sacraments to the Romish communion. These things, however, affect not the great body of the English and American Churches. They were never farther from Romanism, or from any danger of serious change, than at the present moment. For every single individual who has been weak enough to embrace the errors of Rome, and a few such persons are to be found in every age and Church, we can point to hundreds who have renounced those errors and come in to kneel at our altars.

Our Church occupies, let it ever be remembered, a middle ground, in regard to its doctrines, discipline and worship, between Romanism on the one side and ultra Protestantism on the other, being very clearly and widely distinguished in its principles [14/15] from both. Now if we advert to a single fundamental principle, which is peculiar to our system, we shall perceive, I think, that there is a security for the stability of our views of truth, which does not belong either to the Papacy on the one side, or to the various sects on the other, who have renounced all deference to the early Church, as a witness to "the faith once delivered to the saints." These sects all rely, for the correct interpretation of scripture, upon their own private unaided judgment. They have no invariable standard of truth, since their private judgments may put different interpretations upon the same passages of scripture at different times. They may be carried along insensibly by circumstances, by the current of an age, from one theological position to another. Such progress is the more easy too, inasmuch as they are destitute of liturgies, which always render change difficult. But their peculiar liability to change results from unaided private judgment being their only standard of doctrinal truth. We should suppose that they would lack stability; and we know from their brief history since the Reformation that such has been the case. All of them have been undergoing constant and great changes. Romanism on the other hand is certainly more fixed in its character than are these sects; nevertheless it also [15/16] has entirely corrupted that great principle, which would have secured the correctness and the stability of its doctrinal views. Instead of relying on the private judgment of the individual, it places implicit reliance on its own infallibility as a Church, and that too irrespective of historic testimony. In virtue of this pretended infallibility it asserts its right and power to decree at any time new articles of faith, articles of faith which have no warrant in holy scripture and no sanction in that Christianity which was nearest to the Apostles. Being thus destitute of an unalterable standard of truth, and holding, as that Church does, that it has powered to add to the faith, that later decrees may even contradict the earlier, [b] there is nothing to prevent it [16/17] from taking the errors, which may happen to prevail in any age permanently into its system, and thus advancing from one form of error to another. History proves that this is not a mere theory. For several centuries previous to the Reformation and the Council of Trent the Papal religion was subjected to repeated additions and alterations.

Now the principle, which governed the Reformation in England, and which lies at the foundation of our Church, differs entirely from both these extremes. In the interpretation of scripture for the purpose of obtaining the great articles of faith, we trust, neither to the unaided private judgment of the individual, nor to any assumed infallibility of the Church, as a body, irrespective of historic evidence. The Preface to our ordination service declares, that "it is evident unto all men diligently reading holy scripture and ancient authors [c] (that is, [17/18] Christian writers of the first centuries) that from the Apostles' time there have been these three orders of ministers in Christ's Church, bishops, priests, and deacons." It is scripture then, not as interpreted by any man's private judgment, not as corrupted by a Church professing to be infallible and independent of antiquity, but scripture as understood and universally received in the ages nearest to the Apostles, while the Church had as yet been kept pure by persecution, when in fact there had not been time for any great and general changes of doctrine and discipline; it is scripture thus interpreted and attested that we appeal for evidence, that our faith and order were rightly settled at the Reformation, and that we have preserved them pure and unchanged ever since. It was by a "diligent reading of holy scripture and ancient authors" that the Reformers were enabled to purify the English Church from the corruptions of Romanism, to preserve it from the excesses and disorders of ultra Protestantism, and restore it as nearly as possible to a conformity in great and essential matters to the primitive model. [d] This primitive model, then, [18/19] i. e. the sense in which scripture was universally received by that early Church, which had the best right to know what it meant, constitutes an unalterable standard, with which we may always compare ourselves. Unless the Church shall relapse into ignorance of the primitive truth, it will always suffice to keep us steady. [e] It must forever prevent us from embracing the errors of Romanism; for the historic evidence to which we appeal shews, that there was a time, when those errors did not exist, it reveals the several periods when they were, one after another, introduced into the Church. The same standard of truth will be equally effectual to restrain us (if we continue faithful to the principle) from running into the disorders, excesses and heresies of other sects, because it qualifies and regulates the exercise of private judgment, and discloses to us the time and manner in which their multiplied changes have been brought about. As the application of this principle brought the Church back to the truth at the Reformation, and has kept it steady, unalterable ever since, we may reasonably hope, [19/20] that with the aid of our Liturgy, and the blessing of God, it will preserve us from open change, as well as from insensible corruption, hereafter. [f]

I have gone into these views in order to show you that all the predictions of approaching change, which you may hear applied to our communion are as it respects the essential articles of faith utterly groundless and irrational. As Churchmen, you [20/21] may rest "in quietness and in confidence" amid whatever clamors may be raised within or without our borders, trusting assuredly that there will be no serious interruption to the peace of the Church, no essential change in any part of its faith. Individuals may change, as here and there an eccentric individual always has been changing, but the Church, as a body, will remain steadfast to its principles, and, if we may judge from present appearances, will advance with a degree of prosperity hitherto unknown.

Let it be our care then, to keep ourselves "in quietness and in confidence," humble and diligent. What we have to do is to save our own souls, to glorify God, to do good to our fellow men; and no excellence of our privileges will have any effect, except to aggravate our condemnation, unless we use them faithfully according to the will of God. Let us also remember that charity is the end of the commandment, and the greatest of the Christian virtues. Without it, whatever may be our other gifts, we are, in the sight of God, nothing. Let us ever bear in mind that though other religious bodies may be inferior to our Church in privileges, in the purity and stability of their faith, yet that individuals in those communions may be greatly superior to us in every grace that can adorn and ennoble [21/22] the Christian character. Let us thank God for the gift of such men as Pascal and Fenelon, and Baxter and Doddridge, and a thousand others like them, in their respective communions, and let us learn humility and holiness from their bright examples. Above all, considering that while our Church demands an unquestioning reverential assent to the great articles of faith, which have ever been held essential, such as the divinity of our Lord, the resurrection of the body, the forgiveness of sin, and the life everlasting, she leaves room for much difference of opinion in more doubtful and less important matters of doctrine, such for example as many nice questions, touching the operations of grace, the nature and effect of the sacraments, the condition of departed souls between death and the resurrection; considering, I say, that the Church has thus ever joined strictness in matters of faith to liberal indulgence in matters of opinion, let us take heed how we denounce excommunication against those, who hold in common with us all the great verities of the gospel. Let us esteem it as the glory of our Church, that it has ever been found broad enough to hold men so holy and learned, but of such opposite tempers and tendencies as Laud and Usher, Hall and Hooker, Taylor and Leighton, Hobart and Griswold. Let us not seek to narrow our comprehensive fold. Leaving matters of church government to those to whom they belong, deprecating every thing that can have a tendency to transfer questions of discipline from their appropriate tribunals to the bar of a prejudiced, unenlightened, and ill-regulated public opinion, and inclining rather to the cordial support of, and submission to, rightful authority, than to a proud, factious and jealous spirit, let us remember that our rights, important as they may be, are less important than our duties; and that, not in strife and debate, not in noise and tumult, but in "quietness and in confidence," in a holy fidelity, shall be our strength. If you deem that this Church of our affections, as I have imperfectly presented her, is worthy of your confidence, your reverence, and your support; if you see reason to believe that these are times, and this is a country, in which her influence is preeminently needed, say so emphatically by your offerings [g]. May God pour into your hearts that most excellent gift of charity, and incline you to send the Gospel and the Church to others, as you would wish to have them sent to you, were you in need.

[24] O ALMIGHTY God, who hast built thy Church upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, JESUS CHRIST himself being the chief corner-stone; grant that, by the operation of the HOLY GHOST, all Christians may be so joined together in unity of spirit, and in the bond of peace, that they may be a holy temple acceptable unto thee. And especially, to this congregation present, give the abundance of thy grace; that with one heart, they may desire the prosperity of thy holy apostolic Church, and with one mouth, may profess the faith once delivered to the saints. Defend them from the sins of schism and heresy; let not the foot of pride come nigh to hurt them, nor the hand of the ungodly to cast them down. And grant that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordained by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; that so they may walk in the ways of truth and peace, and at last be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting, through thy merits, O blessed JESUS, thou gracious Bishop and Shepherd of our souls, who art, with the FATHER and the HOLY GHOST, one GOD, world without end. Amen.


[a] See the works of Palmer, Pusey, and Newman. I may also refer to several editorial articles which have recently appeared in the N. Y. Churchman, and which, for cogency, I suspect, will compare favorably with any productions that have been put forth against the Papal Church, in this country, within the same period.

[b] This may seem strong language, but it is fully warranted by facts. The Roman Church does indeed talk much of Tradition and the Fathers; but her tradition is a corrupt one never reaching up to the first three centuries, and the fathers to whom she is fond of appealing are not the earlier but the later. When the elder Fathers have stood in her way her authorities have alledged that they contained errors and they have even presumed to put forth editions of their writings in which certain passages calculated to "infect the minds of the faithful with heretical pravity or turn them aside from the Catholic (Romish) and orthodox faith" have been corrected or suppressed! The infallibility of the existing Church is the grand dogma of Rome and belief in it appears in all that she says and does. Thus the Council of Constance decrees "that although in the primitive Church the sacrament was received by the faithful under both kinds, yet for the avoiding of some dangers and scandals, this custom has been reasonably introduced, that it be received by the consecrating persons under both kinds and by the laity only under one kind; since it is to be most firmly believed and in no wise to be doubted, that the entire Body and Blood of Christ is truly contained as well under the bread as under the wine." Cardinal Cusa justifies this decreee, declaring that "if the Church do expound any evangelical sense contrary to what the current sense and practice of the Catholic Primitive Church did, not that but this present interpretation must be taken for the way of salvation, for God changes His judgment as the Church does!" Those who wish to see more on this subject may consult Bishop Taylor on the "Power falsely pretended to by the Church of Rome," and the authorities referred to by him.
Works, v.10. p. 485

[c] Let it be particularly observed that the English Reformers formerly, and Churchmen now, appeal to the earliest Fathers, not in unquestioning reliance on their judgments as individuals, but in order to show from their testimony, from a comparison of all their writings, what was the universal faith and practice of the Church every where in the ages next to the Apostles. They are appealed to as witnesses, not as judges.

[d] The English reformers disclaimed the idea of trusting to their own private fancies, when engaged in the work of purifying and restoring the Church; and in their controversies with the partisans of Rome they challenged them to produce one plain passage from the primitive doctors, in favor of transubstantiation or of purgatory, or of any other of their distinctive doctrines--a challenge which was not and could not be answered.

[e] The fact that in the middle ages, when the early Fathers were generally unknown, or inaccessible, an usurping Church should have corrupted her doctrine and worship, cannot be deemed surprising, nor in any way inconsistent with the argument.

[f] Mr. Newman concludes a chapter "on Romanism as neglectful of antiquity," with the following passages found since the sermon was written: "I am led to this remark, because apprehensions have been felt, I would say causelessly, lest those who admit the existence of this primitive rule, or rather usage, were thereby making some dangerous concession to the Romanists; which it cannot be, if, as the latter avow, the Fathers, not merely fail to mention, but actually contradict the Roman peculiarities."

"I make one remark more. Enough has been said to show the hopefulness of our own prospects in the controversy with Rome. We have her own avowal that the Fathers ought to be followed and again that she does not follow them; what more can we require than her witness against herself which is here supplied us? If such inconsistency is not at once fatal to her claims, which it would seem to be, at least it is a most encouraging omen in our contest with her. We have but to remain pertinaciously and immoveably fixed on the ground of antiquity; and as truth is ours, so will the victory be also. We have joined issue with her, and that in a point which admits of decision--of a decision, as she confesses, against herself. Abstract arguments, original views, novel interpretations of scripture, may be met by similar artifices on the other side; but historical facts are proof against the force of talent, and remain where they were when it has expended itself. How mere Protestants (meaning ultra Protestants who reject any aid from antiquity in the interpretation of scripture,) who rest upon no such solid foundation, are to withstand our common adversary, is not so clear, and not our concern. We would fain make them partakers of our vantage ground; but since they despise it, they must take care of themselves, and must not complain if we refuse to desert a position which promises to be impregnable--impregnable both as against Romanists and against themselves.--Newman on Romanism and Popular Protestantism. p. 100.

[g] There was to be a collection.

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