Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church
in the State of New-York
Printed by T. & J. Swords, No. 160 Pearl-street
[Transcriber's note: Appended to this ADDRESS is a letter from AN EPISCOPALIAN, on the subject of the American Bible Society, as reprinted from The Courier, and dated New-York May 18, 1816.]
It appears from the public prints of this day that an "American Bible Society" has been organized in this city. Before you connect yourselves with this institution, permit me, in a sincere solicitude for the interests of our Church, and for the extension of the Gospel in its primitive purity, to call your attention to the following considerations; which the urgency of the occasion compels me to address to you through the same medium. Permit me to ask. What is the necessity for this institution? There are Bible Societies already instituted in every part of the United States, and others are constantly organizing. These institutions, I presume, are fully adequate to all the purposes for which Bible Societies are wanted. The idea of a National Bible Society, which is, in fact, to represent every part of this extensive country, is perfectly visionary. It will be, in its spirit and management, the Bible Society of the particular city or district where it is established. This is already proved by the circumstance that the persons named as managers of the "American Bible Society," with two or three exceptions, reside in the city of New-York, or its vicinity.
But what necessity can there be for another Bible society in this city. There already exists here "The New-York Bible Society," "The New-York Auxiliary Bible Society," "The New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society," [3/4] "The New-York Auxiliary Bible and Common Prayer Book Society:" And besides these, it is believed that there are Bible Societies, or Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies, in almost every county of the state. What necessity, I ask again, can there be for the establishment of another; particularly in a city where four already exist?--Zeal in a good cause is always commendable; but it is in the nature of zeal, like every thing else, which excites the passions of our nature, to run into excess. Is there any great object to be accomplished, to which these institutions, separately, are inadequate? Let any one of these institutions propose this object; and the others will cooperate in it to the extent of their means. This has already been done. The "New-York Bible Society" proposed the publication of a French Bible, and they received aid from other institutions. The "New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society" aided them, to a small amount, indeed, but with the utmost cordiality, and to the extent of their means.
2. It ought to be known that there is not a perfect accordance of opinion even among the Bible Societies and their friends, as to the necessity of this national institution. The Bible Society in Philadelphia, for zeal, for numbers, and for usefulness, ranks decidedly among the first in the United States. But this institution, at the head of which is the venerable Bishop of our Church in Pennsylvania, is opposed to this national institution, and has sent no delegation to it. They must have been influenced by a conviction that an institution of this kind is not necessary or expedient; and possibly the Episcopalians, the Baptists, [4/5] and the Methodists, members of that institution, feared that there was something of a spirit of proselytism in the measure. It was proposed more than a year since, and the meeting was fixed at Philadelphia, about the time of the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The measure then failed, owing to the opposition of the Bible Society in Philadelphia.--If, indeed, this national society is to be national in any thing more than in name, it can be so only by delegation; and who will believe that gentlemen will come from every part of the United States to the city of New-York, or any other city merely to hear a report from the managers of a society, which they may all afterwards see in print? No, they must have some other business; some more powerful motive. The present measure of a national Bible Society, was proposed last year in the manner already stated, and then, and since, pressed with great zeal, by a respectable Presbyterian gentleman of New-Jersey. The present time of meeting was again fixed so as to happen about the time of the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, which will take place in a few days. And some of the most active members of the present Convention in this city are delegates to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. But if there is no delegation sent to this society, at an annual meeting, it cannot be, in any sense, a national society. If the annual meeting takes place at any other time, than about the time of the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, to which body Clergymen and Laymen come from every part of the United States, I venture to predict there will be no general [5/6] national delegation. And if the meeting should be held at the time mentioned, then, I venture to predict, that however others may be honoured with offices, the spirit and influence, and the credit of the institution will eventually be that of the very numerous and respectable Presbyterian denomination.
But if this denomination and others think proper to institute another Bible Society, you can have no objection to the measure.--Indulge me while I state some further considerations which should deter you from engaging in it.
3. Your patronage, your wealth, your influence, and your exertions, are wanted for similar institutions in your own Church. The "Auxiliary New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society," recently instituted by Episcopal young men, calls for the support and countenance of Episcopalians in this effort of commendable zeal. The "New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society" was instituted, it is believed, before any Bible Society in the United States. And though it has received very respectable patronage, yet its funds are by no means commensurate to the demands upon its benevolence. Its managers have only been deterred, by the pressure of the times, from an appeal to public liberality. Here then, Episcopalians, are institutions in your own bosom which need your patronage, your influence, and your bounty. By these institutions you may distribute the Bible, and, in addition to this, the Liturgy of your Church. These institutions need, and can usefully employ, all that you can spare for this species of benevolence. Why, then, should your bounty be bestowed upon others?
4. But further; by encouraging these institutions, [6/7] and by not connecting yourselves with this proposed Bible Society, you will avoid the hazard, to say the least, of occasioning very serious injury to the interests of your own Church, in this diocess; of interrupting her harmony; arresting the spirit of zeal for her principles, which is now leading her to prosperity; and of wounding the feelings, and diminishing the influence of those entrusted with the management of her concerns, to whom your countenance, one of their most grateful rewards, is essential to the successful discharge of their arduous duties. Listen dispassionately and seriously to the following statement; and then determine whether there is not cause for this solicitude and alarm.
Before any Bible Society was established in the United States, the "New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society," was organized in this city, during the administration of the late Bishop Moore. The union of the Liturgy with the Bible, as the object of distribution, by societies consisting of Episcopalians, was the result of much serious reflection and consultation of that venerable Bishop with the Clergy and others. The course then adopted by him, it has been deemed by his successor an act of duty to pursue; both in accordance with the opinion of the Clergy of the diocess generally, and of many respectable laymen of the Church. It has appeared to them, that Episcopalians, managing all their religious concerns by themselves, would be in no danger of unpleasant collision with others; [* In consequence of a collision of this kind, Bishop Dehon, and the Episcopal Clergy and Laymen, of Charleston have withdrawn from the Bible Society in that city.] of committing their principles in [7/8] any degree; or of having in any measure relaxed a spirit of attachment to the distinctive principles of their own Church. This attachment may exist in perfect charity for others, and with due respect for their rights; and when it operates with zeal, firmness, and perseverance, experience proves that the Church will flourish--and in proportion as this attachment sinks into that "indolent indifference which some men dignify with the name of moderation," will the Church decline.--Those who instituted Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies were of opinion that an association of Episcopalians among themselves for religious purposes, was the mode best calculated to preserve this distinctive attachment so essential to the prosperity of their Church. They considered that the spirit which pervades all indiscriminate associations for religious purposes, affects to place all denominations on the same level, and denounces all differences among them as non-essential, as the "Shibboleths of sect," as promoting "the views of party." Episcopacy, as their Church declares in her ordination services, is derived from "the apostles' times," and instituted "by God's providence and his holy spirit;" and her Liturgy they value as a preservative of evangelical doctrine, and sober devotion. These are the points of difference between them and others. And they were not willing to be placed in situations, in which the inculcating these peculiarities should be considered as "pronouncing the Shibboleths of a sect," and as "advancing the views of a party." Their apprehension of danger from these indiscriminate associations to their Church, was not diminished by reflecting, that in all similar associations, it is the invariable tendency of the more numerous [8/9] and more powerful party to break down the spirit, and the distinctive principles of the less numerous and the less powerful; and that, therefore, while in England, the numbers, the wealth, and the influence of the Episcopal Church might, in an association with Dissenters, not only secure her from injury, but increase her numbers, the effect would be directly the reverse in this country, where the Presbyterians are by far the most numerous and most powerful. They also perceived that precisely by this system of association that respectable and influential denomination was amalgamating with itself, the various subordinate sects of Presbyterians, and the numerous body of Congregationalists, and was rapidly extinguishing the ancient peculiarities of the Dutch Reformed Church. Pure and apostolic as is our Church, she is to be preserved, under God, by the instrumentality of human means. In such circumstances, to fear these associations, seemed a dictate of prudence; and those, therefore, whose duty it was in the first case to act, and who feels the interests of their Church pressing on their consciences with awful weight, deemed it their duty to organize "Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies," and to urge Episcopalians to connect themselves exclusively with these institutions. These institutions have accordingly been established, two in this city, and others in various parts of the state. In order to excite a zeal in their favour, it seemed necessary that the principles on which they were instituted should be explained and supported; and in the discharge of my official duties, this has been accordingly done on various public occasions; I trust not in a manner incompatible with a sincere respect for the rights and opinions of others.
 In this state of things, a plan which has been for a long time organizing, and which was arrested last year, only through the opposition of the Bible Society at Philadelphia, is about to be carried into effect in this city; and a vigorous attempt is making to engage in it almost all the respectable and influential laymen of the Episcopal Church in New-York, and many of other diocesses. With regard to these latter I have nothing to say--I have always thought that between the Church in different states, there might in this respect, be a difference of opinion and of operations, without any serious hazard to her union and strength. I must, indeed, be permitted to lament that some Episcopalians of the Church in other diocesses, and for whom I entertain very sincere respect, knowing the ground which had been taken by those who have the responsible charge of the Church in this diocess, should have deemed it their duty here to assume, publicly and actively, an opposite ground.
But I cannot view, without the most serious emotions, an attempt made to induce the great body of the respectable Episcopalians of this city, also to place themselves on this opposite ground. I confess the apprehension of this has frequently occasioned me great affliction; that, in my estimation, a sacred regard for the distinctive principles of the Church compelled to the course which has been adopted. The same sentiment of duty now impels me earnestly and respectfully to entreat Episcopalians to pause, before they take measures, which, without their designing it, may seriously affect the interests and the harmony of their Church, and the influence of those who have the management of its concerns. Their Bishop, [10/11] and the great body of their Clergy, supported by many respectable laymen, have advocated the institution of "Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies," and have called on Episcopalians to connect themselves exclusively with these institutions, believing great danger was to be apprehended from the contrary course, to the principles of the Church. Admitting that they were in error, is the error of such a nature as to demand decided opposition? If the course to which Episcopalians have been urged, involved any sacrifice of principle, no human regard ought to silence opposition. But in connecting themselves exclusively with "Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies," there can be no sacrifice of principle or of conscience. In this mode they may circulate Bibles, and follow, also, the scriptural and apostolic plea of extending, with the Word of God, the Church of God, as exhibited in primitive purity in the Liturgy. In this mode they will act in unison with many of their brethren, with the spiritual guardians of the Church in this diocess, and avoid the humiliating and injurious spectacle of a divided household. It was the duty of the guardians of the Church in this diocess to make known their views on this subject. They have done so, with much solicitude and reflection. Admitting they have been mistaken, is their mistake so fundamental as to demand the public and decided disapprobation and opposition of a respectable portion of their brethren of the Laity, of the same diocess? Will this disapprobation and opposition advance their means of usefulness; hold them up to confidence and respect; remove all cause of triumph from those unfriendly to the Church; and tend to promote the harmony and prosperity of the diocess? [11/12] "The beginning of strife is like the letting in of water;" and no one can calculate the strength of the flood, or the extent and deepness of its ravages.
Some Episcopalians have been placed on the board of managers, without their knowledge. An individual, who stands on the highest eminence of public and private worth, and whose name appears on this list, has not, it is believed, returned to this state. What course he may pursue, with regard to this Bible Society, it would be presumption for me to say. But I deem it my duty to state, that the course adopted with respect to "Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies," received his decided approbation and countenance.
My brethren of the Laity--when I commenced writing this address to you, it was my intention that it should be anonymous. But I deem it more consistent with honourable frankness to annex my name. I am aware that I may be exposed to unworthy imputations. But if I am charged with an illiberal or uncharitable spirit, he who knows my heart, knows, I trust, that the charge is unfounded. I think I am doing my duty--and my duty, "through good report, and through evil report," I ought not to fear to perform. I think I am doing my duty to my Master--to the Church, a portion of which, in his Providence, is entrusted to me--and whose interest I would most solicitously guard, in the firm persuasion that she is a pure branch of his mystical body, which is finally to convey the blessings of grace and redemption to every quarter of the world.
JOHN HENRY HOBART.
New-York, May 11, 1816
From the Courier. AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY.
Those who may not be convinced by the reasoning in the communication in the Courier of this day, signed Presbyter, must, however, acknowledge that his opinions are conveyed in unexceptionable language.
There are two objects which the writer appears to have in view--One is, to prove the necessity of the National Bible Society; and the other is, to excite Episcopalians to unite in it.
With regard to the first object. The practicability of a General Bible Society on the only principle on which it can exist, by delegation, may fairly be doubted; unless in the manner which is suggested in the address of Bishop H.--by employing as delegates some of the clergy and laity who annually come from all parts of the United States, to attend the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The American Bible Society is not constituted on the principle of delegation; and is therefore general or national only in [1/2] name. We see in the list of delegates to the convention that formed this Society, a number of the most active members of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. The time of the annual meeting is appointed about the time of the annual meeting of the Presbyterian Church.--With the two secretaries, one for the foreign correspondence, and the other for the domestic, will rest no small share of the influence and credit of this institution, and of the management of its concerns.--And these secretaries are two Clergymen [* The Rev. Dr. Mason and the Rev. Dr. Romeyn.] of eminent talents and character, who may be considered as leaders in the Presbyterian denomination. It is easy to foresee who will have the principal direction of the institution, and whose influence will be promoted by whatever credit may be attached to it, and whatever benefit may result from it.
Unity of effort in any important object among the various Bible Societies, could be secured without this General Bible Society. Let any one of the Bible Societies now existing, propose this object, and it would be immediately promoted to the extent of their means by [2/3] the others. This argument for unity of effort, used by the Presbyter, proves too much. It proves that there ought to be an union of the societies in the United States as auxiliaries with the British and Foreign Bible Society. For there is quite as much danger of "discrepancy" between the efforts of this Society and the American Bible Society, in their object of disseminating the Bible, as there is between the Bible Societies now existing in the United States.
With regard to the union of Episcopalians in this general society--one ground of opposition stated in the address of Bishop Hobart is--That all the patronage, resources and influence of Episcopalians are required for the Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies already existing among themselves. The New-York Bible and Common Prayer Book Society was the first organized in this city, and it is believed in the United States. Episcopalians took their ground in the first instance. Is this ground improper or untenable? Can it be improper to distribute the Book of Common Prayer in conjunction with the Bible? The advocates for Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies are not enemies to the distribution of the Bible. Bishop Hobart, in his "Pastoral Letter," and in his recent "Address to the New-York [3/4] Auxiliary Bible and Common Prayer Book Society," advocates, in the strongest terms, efforts for this purpose. But he very properly urges the union of the Book of Common Prayer with the Bible. And this he does on the principle that the mode pursued by the Apostles, and justified by reason and common sense is to spread the Church of God in union with the word of God--And this Church, as to its doctrines, ministry, and worship, Episcopalians conceive, is exhibited in the Book of Common Prayer. How did the Apostles convert the world? By exhibiting the word of God alone? No. What was their language?--"Believe and be baptized,"--"Repent and be baptized." What is the record of the progress of the Gospel? "The Lord added to the Church such as should be saved." "They continued stedfastly in the Apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers." The Church of God was made known in conjunction with the word of God. This apostolic mode of propagating the Gospel is the mode advocated by the Episcopalians who support Bible and Common Prayer Book Societies. Why should any of them depart from this apostolic mode? It is not true that the Church of England has departed from it. I wish not to enter [4/5] into the question of the expediency or inexpediency of the union between Churchmen, and Dissenters in the British and Foreign Bible Society under the peculiar circumstances of the Church in that country. But it is a fact, that only a very small proportion of the Bishops and Clergy of the Church there have united with that Society, and they are supported in sentiment by a numerous body of the Laity. While the two venerable societies for propagating the Gospel in foreign parts, and for promoting Christian knowledge, which are organized on the principle of extending the Church of God in union with the word of God, receive the cordial support of the members of the Church in that country.
Why then, I repeat the question, should Episcopalians in this country, depart from the apostolic mode of propagating the Gospel? When in this manner they may employ all their resources, why should any or these resources be diverted in another channel? Where indeed the Book of Common Prayer will not be received, there let the Bible alone be distributed. But let no efforts be wanting to distribute them in conjunction. In fact, there must be Ministers to preach the word, and to administer the sacraments, and to conduct public worship [5/6] in order to render the distribution of the Bible effectual; and these ministers will have their formularies of faith and modes of worship.
With regard to the tendency of these indiscriminate associations to break down distinctive principles; this may be their operation tho' the design is not entertained or avowed. But this effect is anticipated and declared. "Sectarian littleness and rivalries," says the address of the American Bible Society, "can find no avenue of admission." Now, applied to Episcopalians, what does this mean? Can there be any doubt that he who would defend Episcopacy and the Liturgy, would be considered as displaying "sectarian littleness," and "sectarian jealousies?" In the course of time, the spirit and the language of these associations may have the effect of bringing such odium on the advocates of the distinctive principles of the Episcopal Church, as to place these principles entirely out of view. And who does not see, that if these distinctive principles are rendered odious or unpopular, the Episcopal Church will decline in that characteristic spirit which constitutes her resemblance to the Church in the first and purest ages.
The argument that if the Episcopal [6/7] Church accords with the Bible, she will make her way by her own intrinsic force and excellence, is absurd. The same argument would prove that because the Christian Religion is divine, there is no fear of its declension in any particular place or among any particular people; and that human efforts to preserve its purity are unnecessary. In both cases, human means must be employed, and human prudence exerted. Then, and not till then, may we confide in the goodness of our cause, and leave the issue to an over-ruling Providence.
Let then the friends of the Episcopal Church avoid the hazard of endangering her distinctive principles by departing from the apostolic mode of propagating the Gospel. Let "the charities of life," be sedulously cherished, but not so as to keep out of view, or to subject to odium and hazard, those peculiar features of the Church which Episcopalians have inherited from apostles and martyrs; and which they ought to defend as the characteristics of the Church in her first days, and which are destined, they believe, to constitute a portion of her latter glory.
New-York; May 18, 1816.