BEHOLD HOW GREAT A MATTER A LITTLE FIRE KINDLETH."
James, chap. iii. ver 5.
THE uncommon agitation that has of late been manifested in the conduct and conversation of many of our serious and high church members, concerning certain matters in controversy, has communicated itself throughout the congregations, and awakened and startled the most supine and indifferent. Among the rest I, who humbly confess myself to be but an unwatchful disciple, have been roused by the universal alarm. Having long considered the church to which I belong as peculiarly characterized by the peacefulness and harmony of its ministry, by the mildness and liberality of its doctrines, and by that pure and temperate spirit which makes religion amiable, I had blessed my stars "that the lines had fallen to me in such pleasant places." While other shepherds, said I to myself, are driving their flocks to sandy desarts and to barren wastes, exposing them to the scorching heats of bigotry, or the gloomy lowerings of despondency and superstition, we are gently led to feed among green pastures, "by the still waters" on the banks of a pure and a refreshing stream. Thus lulled into security, I, easy Christian [3/4] that I am, had sunk into passive repose, when I was unexpectedly aroused by the clamours which have of late prevailed around me. I lifted up my eyes to inquire into the cause, and found the turmoil was raised by the dissensions of our own shepherds, and beheld, with grief of heart, that while they were engaged in worldly bickerings, the wolf was looking with malignant joy over the pales of the fold, and preparing to make a fatal inroad.
That the members of a church, so happily situated as ours has been, should feel great alarm at any thing that threatens its tranquillity, is not to be wondered at; neither are we to be surprised that a great degree of honest zeal should manifest itself, to sooth the angry feuds that have arisen, and to restore harmony to the household of God;--neither would we be surprised at such laudable zeal--we are only surprised that such zeal has not been manifested--that on the contrary there has been a zeal to pour oil into the flame, rather than on the wound--to irritate rather than to appease, and to punish rather than to extend the hand of meekness and forgiveness. These circumstances a little clashed with my ideas of christian conduct, and finally induced me to take a closer investigation of the subject.
.And here let me solemnly declare, that in entering upon this matter I am conscious of no improper interest or bias. I am intimate with neither of the parties in difference, I have no selfish purpose to serve by the advancement or degradation of either of them, nor is either of them or any of their friends privy to the writing of this pamphlet. I have undertaken it [4/5] merely from the dictates of my own mind, and in the sincere wish of doing good and promoting the peace of the church. I hope therefore my intention may stand justified to others, as it truly is to my own conscience--but at all events, I explicitly avow, that I alone am responsible for all that I am about to write--let no one else therefore be censured for my errors.
I am well aware, from the plan I am about to adopt in discussing this subject, that it will be the clamour of many, that I am hostile to Bishop Hobart. This I thoroughly deny, and here before hand declare, that I have no personal animosity or dislike to him--that on the contrary I respect his character and his talents, and reverence his station. But it seems to be the ultimatum of many zealous partisans, that there shall be no medium--it is either "for the Bishop, or for Mr. Jones." Now, I utterly renounce such alternative; I am neither "for Paul nor for Apollos," but for fair, mild, and candid judgment: that this may be obtained, I deem it necessary we should inquire what can be said in favour of Mr. Jones--nor let this be censured as undue partiality. The civil law allows to the accused the common benefit of counsel, and certainly spiritual law is not behind hand in merciful indulgence. Did the Bishop stand in need of vindication, I would be equally-prompt to offer it, but in the present case it would be idle and superfluous. Troops of friends always surround the powerful, and he is sure of a multitude of champions, whose station places him above the need of their assistance. Are there not numbers of zealous admirers daily engaged in spreading his [5/6] reputation? Do not all the younger clergy laud him?--and are there not hosts of the worthy matrons of the congregation constantly engaged in singing his praises? What need then is there of my vindicating his character?--.Besides, the character of Bishop Hobart is no longer the question--it is merely "shall Mr. Jones, or shall he not, be destroyed." This is the question which for some time past has constantly been sounding in my ears, and whenever I have doubtingly ventured to put the question, "why, what evil hath he done? they cried out the more exceedingly, crucify him! crucify him!"
Suffer me then, beloved brethren and sisters, merely to try if any thing cannot be said in mitigation of his grievous punishment, and whether the wounds of the church may not be more readily healed by the emollient than the cautery; but if not,--if the safety of the church require his ruin, there will be time enough, in all conscience, to effect it hereafter. Fear not, fellow-members of the tabernacle, your love of justice shall be satisfied; let it not therefore outrage your feelings nor grieve your pious impatience, if we follow the course generally observed in civil cases--try him first, and execute him afterwards.
Indeed, after due consideration, and giving proper weight, to every argument and observation made by the friends of Bishop H. and allowing their charges against Mr. Jones to be substantiated in their fullest latitude, I have been led to conclude, that there is an undue severity of opinion and censure indulged towards him, by many of our ardently pious and over conscientious Christians--and too laborious and minute [6/7] an inquisition instituted against him; induced, no doubt by an earnest, but, it is to be feared, mistaken desire of promoting the good of the church. It has unfortunately been the case in all ages, as the history of the church too plainly manifests, that the rigidly righteous (laying aside every personal consideration, whether of profit or revenge) have taken alarm for the safety of the church, and in the blindness of their headlong zeal have ran into the most furious excesses, and committed the most unheard of cruelties, merely for the love of God. The church is in danger! has been the signal for many a Smithfield conflagration; and the good of the church is to this day the opening chant with which every persecution begins. For my part, I am willing to allow all the praise due to the zealous alarmists, who are thus "blowing the trumpet in Zion;" but I cannot help feeling distrust, when I hear this ominous prelude sounded in my ear. Indeed, sinner that I am, I cannot pretend to those constant alarms that I hear fellow Christians indulging around me, for the safety of the church. I cannot admit that its stability is menaced by every insignificant wind of doctrine, or its foundation shaken by every trivial internal commotion; I have too firm a faith in the strength and permanency of our religion, since God himself has assured us that it is "founded on a rock, against which the gates of hell shall never be able to prevail."
When Mr. Jones's "appeal to the church" made its first appearance, I heard but one opinion--that it was an ill-timed publication; that the charges exhibited in it, with one solitary exception, amounted to [7/8] nothing; and that it ought never to have been published. In this opinion, all considerate, thinking men seemed to agree. The consequence was, not a single friend was weaned from Bishop H.; and to the complete mortification and defeat of Mr. Jones, his head was incircled with the mitre. The fact is, Mr. Jones's book is either true or it is false. What are the consequences in either case? If it is true, it only proves that Bishop Hobart is no saint; that he unfortunately possesses some of the frailties attached to human nature; that he is quick tempered; that when irritated he delivers his sentiments with acrimony and irony; and, that towards those with whom he is displeased he is apt to bear himself with somewhat of a haughty demeanour. This is the amount of all the charges made by Mr. Jones against Bishop Hobart: for as to the case of Mr. Feltus, it is more particularly put home to the Bishop by that gentleman himself. These to be sure, are weak charges; and it seems to have given no little umbrage to the great host of Bishop Hobart's friends that they should be so small. The world is eternally fond of the marvelous--it never can forgive a mountain that brings forth a mouse; and, indeed, it would really appear from the conversation of many of our ardent churchmen, that they are more offended that so little should have been said, than at the publication of that little. Had he denounced the Bishop for some enormous sin,--some startling transgression, the honest multitude would have forgiven him sooner, than for merely saying, as he has said, that the Bishop is an irritable man.
 But we will reverse the case, and say that the book is false. What then? Does it follow inevitably that Mr. Jones is guilty of falsehood? No.--It only follows that Mr. Jones, like Bishop Hobart, is no saint. That he also possesses human frailties: that he also, perhaps, has been ambitious of church preferment: and, with the self-love too common to us all, has prided himself secretly in the opinion that he was as eligible in point of standing and ability as Doctor H. He may, possibly, have beheld with an envious eye, the Doctor's growing popularity in the church; he may, owing to the irritability induced by such a state of mind, have been easily affected by any observations of Doctor H.; and regarding his words and actions through a jaundiced and distorted medium, may have magnified trifles, worthy of no regard, into affairs of mighty importance, wounding to his feelings, and derogating from his consequence. But, nevertheless, these causes of complaint, though false, or nearly so in fact, may have appeared important truths in the eyes of Mr. Jones. An imagination, perturbed by jealousy, may have given them being and magnitude. Who also can tell what may have been the tone and manner in which these things may have been said and done? How much does the force and meaning, the kindness or bitterness of every expression, depend upon the voice, the look and gesture with which it is delivered? These constitute the sting; these dwell in the mind of the sufferer, and give the shape and complexion of his wrong. But when he comes to reduce it to writing, the shape and feature, the sting [9/10] and poignancy are gone--the mere caput mortuum of the offence remain^. What was tauntingly ironical, appears to be the very language of kindness and regard--what was bitter scoffing, appears friendly admonition. The silent page presents neither voice, nor countenance, nor gesture; these doubtless exist in the painful recollection of the writer, but the reader sees and hears them not: and thus, very probably, many of the observations, which from the mode of their delivery may have had a highly galling significance to Mr. Jones, appear of but small importance in print.
A sufficient proof to me that the book of Mr. Jones is not false, is in fact the smallness of the charges it contains. Had he really felt disposed to resort to falsehood to asperse the character of Doctor Hobart, he would no doubt have told a blacker tale. To my mind, and I judge of this matter from no out-door gossipings, or extrinsic evidence, the book contains internal proof of its authenticity. It presents tome the sad writhings of a mind lacerated by unkindness, and rendered sore by frequent irritations. It may be imputed to me as a heinous sin, but I confess I cannot read these records of mental suffering, without some sympathy for a man who seems to have been lonely in his labours--to have borne about with him in his weary vocations the sad burthen of a wounded spirit--to have stood in some need of that mutual assistance and community of affection from his brethren in the ministry, which make labour sweet and wayfaring pleasant, and to have looked in vain for such spiritual solace. I do not imply that [10/11] the irritations of Mr. Jones were all inflicted by Doctor H. they may have come from different quarters, while he possibly attributed them all to Doctor H. as the original instigator. It may be said, Mr. Jones is of a suspicious temper--of this I know nothing, but of one thing I am sure, his vexations and grievances could not have been produced by the amiable deportment and brotherly love of those around him. Few men complain of good treatment, or take offence at the infliction of benefits.
Now then, as the book, if true, ought not to have defeated Doctor H.'s exaltation, what ought to have been its effect if untrue? Why the one it has had, to have recoiled on Mr. Jones, and completed his defeat. Thus, Mr. Jones, granting the very worst, has experienced ample retribution: If he had misrepresented the conduct of Doctor H. he had the mortification to see that his statement was of no avail: if he cherished envy of Doctor H. it was punished by seeing him elevated above his head: if he was guilty of the deadly sin of ambition, it was severely chastised by seeing the coveted mitre removed beyond his reach, and placed on the brows of his rival. Here then the matter on both sides ought to have ended. However much it may have been taken up and entangled and connected with church matters and religious feelings, it was originally and is intrinsically a mere dispute between Mr. Jones and Bishop Hobart, with which the church has nothing to do. These gentlemen, notwithstanding their clerical dignities, being now and then afflicted with the same passions that laymen are so [11/12] frequently afflicted with, unfortunately disagree; they have not the caution to keep their own secret, their contention is promulgated to the world; a mere personal dispute, in which neither the doctrines, nor the regulations of the church are involved, and the congregation in consequence of it, rises in her majesty, exalts the one to the pinnacle of honour, and hurls with her thunder the other to the dust!
It may be observed that Mr. Jones, by publishing the book and appealing to the church, gave them a right to judge between him and themselves. The answer is, that Mr. Jones had a specific intention in doing this--whether true or false in his premises, he honestly believed Doctor H. an unfit person for the Episcopate, and he might honestly, though in error, have conceived it his duty to express publicly this opinion. Like all other zealous Christians, and with equal sincerity, although equally wrong, he might have thought that the good of the church demanded such an exposure. His opinion, however, was conceived to be erroneous, his evidence insufficient, and accordingly Doctor H. was elected; and that ought to have been considered punishment enough for an erroneous opinion. But it seems that nothing can satisfy the indignation of the opponents of Mr. Jones but his absolute dismissal from the church: no less a punishment indeed for disliking a Bishop, than that which is inflicted in Great Britain on those who commit treason and felony, TRANSPORTATION!--indeed, much greater, for it is in a manner CONFISCATION and TRANSPORTATION, the visiting the iniquities of the father upon the children! He must be stripped of his salary--he must be banished from the state of New-York, so at least says Bishop Hobart--"he must go out of the diocese" are his own words. And this has immediately become, in the eyes of the panic-struck congregation, the only possible means by which safety can be restored to the church. The unfortunate Parson Jones is the Jonas of the church; it is only by throwing him overboard that the present tempest can be allayed; and whether there be a great fish at hand or not to save him, I fear enters but little into the thoughts of those who are so clamorous for his expulsion.
Is it possible that our good churchmen think nothing less can atone for disliking Doctor H. than having a living worth three thousand dollars a year taken away from a respectable and hitherto exemplary clergyman:--all the little comfortable arrangements he had made for the future settlement of his family--all the soothing prospects he had fondly painted to himself of living at peace in his native city, among a people that he loved--of passing the evening of his days among the friends of his youth, and of being gathered to the same sepulchre with his fathers--are all these to be laid desolate with one rude sweep? Is every comfort to be trodden under foot--every expectation blasted, and all merely because Parson Jones dislikes Bishop Hobart? Surely, if I do not egregiously mistake, the punishment exceeds the offence--it reminds me of the prophecy of our blessed Saviour, concerning the treatment of his ministers; [13/14] "some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city."
Another circumstance that is to be added to the weight of punishment, is the absolute interdict of the communion by Bishop Moore to Mr. Jones--almost excommunication. Nothing is further from my intentions than to point any reflections at the conduct of that worthy and truly exemplary father of our church; but I cannot but consider it as highly reprehensible for any one to have tampered with his feelings while suffering under the present afflictive dispensation of Providence. From the nature of the malady under which he has laboured, it must be evident to every person the least acquainted with the complaint, that his mind cannot, at this moment, be in such a state, as to bear being troubled with unpleasant controversies; or to decide with perfect clearness on the merits of a cause, discoloured as the present one is, by prejudice, and individual animosity. Nevertheless, every thing must bend to the exigency of the moment--the good of the church requires it, and accordingly they have broken in on his moments that should be those of tranquillity, to force on a mind enervated with disease, the necessity of interdicting the communion to one of the clergy. Now where was the absolute necessity of this interdict? Let the fact be admitted that Mr. Jones is an unworthy communicant--so much the worse for himself: if evil arises to any person, it must be to him. It certainly cannot be injurious to the worthy partaker--neither reason nor example enforces such a doctrine. Our Saviour himself, who [14/15] instituted the supper, did not refuse to partake of it, even with the disciple whom he knew was to betray him.
If, however, it was the wish of those who were to commune, to have Mr. Jones excluded, lest he should ruffle the tranquillity of their tempers, and disturb the pure current of their thoughts, in those hallowed moments--if they distrusted their own forbearance and meekness when the object of their dislike was present, and feared that instead of raising their souls to heaven, they would remain groveling below, wrestling with earthly resentments; in such case I grant there was some pretext for wishing to banish him from the altar; but it was a pretext, which though it may exculpate their motives, speaks but little in favour of their knowledge of human nature. Did they think the evil was removed by having Mr. Jones kept out of sight? Did not the same bad passions exist in their bosoms when the object of hostility was absent, as when present? Did they forgive and forget as soon as he was from before their eyes; and did all anger, animosity, and ill will, at once vanish from their minds? If not, their precaution was of no avail. God judges the heart,--it is not necessary for him, as for short-sighted man, that anger and animosity should be made visible in looks and actions. He searches into the inmost recesses of our bosoms; and if any un-christian-like passion be lurking there, if the heart be not pure and holy, depend upon it, that outward piety will profit us nothing. If they were conscious of retaining a spirit of resentment towards Mr. Jones, [15/16] should they not first have discarded it from their own breasts, and piously forgiven him, before they ventured to approach the altar?--But alas! how exceedingly prone are we to be over anxious about "the mote in our brother's eye," without considering "the beam that is in our own."
But what says the rubric? Touching animosities between applicants for the communion, it observes, "and if one of the parties, so at variance, be content, to forgive, from the bottom of his heart, all that the other hath trespassed against him, and to make amends for that wherein he himself hath offended; and the other party will not be persuaded to a godly unity; but remain still in his frowardness and malice; the minister in that case ought to admit the penitent person to the holy communion, and--not him that is obstinate." Here then is a special provision, that the parties should be applied to, and admonished to forgiveness. The proper mode, therefore, in my opinion, would have been to have summoned Mr. Jones before the Bishop in the presence of Doctor Hobart. To have counselled the parties to mutual reconciliation and forgiveness, and to a communion of that brotherly love which is the very cement of the Christian church. Had this precaution been observed, there would have been no further difficulty. Doctor H. certainly could retain no implacability in his heart: and Mr. Jones, I am credibly informed, expressed a perfect willingness to meet on amicable terms, and submit to Doctor H. as his superior in the Church. As to those communicants who could not prevail upon their consciences to appear at the [16/17] altar with Mr. Jones, they should have been mildly admonished, to beware that the evil existed not in their own overweaning righteousness, or, too scrupulous delicacy. They should have been informed of the greatness of the sacrifice they required to be made to their own fastidiousness, and should have been told, that too great caution could not be observed, before proceeding to the heaviest deprivation of the church, and one so deeply wounding to the dignity and sacred character of a clergyman--that of exclusion from the altar.
It may not be amiss to examine into the reasons given by many, why they are so angry with Mr. J. on account of his book, which really is so harmless in itself, in addition to the reason already given--to wit--its being so harmless. And one reason is the publishing of it at all. The cry of introducing discord in the church is immediately set up; but instead of looking into the moving cause, these deep inquirers inquire only into the effect. In their pious indignation they vent their spleen on Mr. Jones who was compelled to cry out; and seem to attach no blame to those whose conduct occasioned the complaint. For my part, I make no hesitation in saying, that the publication was ill judged and much to be regretted; but at the same time, it appears to me that Air. Jones is not entitled to the whole odium of the transaction. Did he resort to no means to avoid this publication? What are the express directions of our Saviour in such cases. "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him of his fault between him and [17/18] thee alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother; but if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established. And if he shall neglect, to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Did Mr. Jones neglect then to follow these directions?--"What were his coin plaints repeatedly to the Bishop? What was his proposition to leave all matters in dispute between Doctor H. and himself, to the decision of three gentlemen belonging to the church, and to submit to their decision? By whom was this proposition refused? Is it required by our churchmen that a clergyman is never to complain when he considers himself oppressed? or, can they suppose that Mr. Jones was guilty of so preposterous a thing', as publishing his book, at a moment, when no unpleasant feelings existed in his own bosom? Certainly no person, as I have before observed, can for a moment suppose; that he did not feel aggrieved, and that whether he was correct or not in his feelings, it, was from the abundant cause that, he felt existing there, that he was forced to speak out.
Another reason given is--his harbouring animosity for live or six years, and his noting down conversations, with an intention of laying them by, to be of service at some future occasion. In this particular, Mr. Jones is treated with a great deal of unfairness by his opponents; for this charge is in fact not true; and shews that the complaints he has made [18/19] have not been read with due attention. Some of the injuries of which he has complained, have indeed been of six years standing; but they have been in some instances canvassed over, and by mutual agreement were dropped, and were for ever to be buried in oblivion--and it was not until after these unpleasant offences had been repeated by Dr. H. and after old differences were again and again recalled by him to mind; and after things had been for a considerable time growing from bad to worse, and began in the opinion of Mr. Jones to threaten an open rupture, that he resorted to the expedient of noting down conversations: and this was only about two years ago, since which time Dr. H. and himself have lived in no friendly intimacy. It was then, as his appeal informs us, that he recalled conversations that had happened long before, and noted them down, as they dwelt upon his mind, and entered into the resolution, of being prepared for such an event as he contemplated must come. It therefore appears, that it took four years of casual bickerings, and occasionally sharp treatment, to bring the mind of Mr. Jones up to so high a pitch of precaution, or, as some will have it, malice, as to take notes; and that it was not until he had exhausted forbearance, and saw himself driven to extremities, that he resorted to this expedient.
All this we are told too, was done at a time when Doctor Hobart, who is represented to be of an open, though ardent temper, was suspecting nothing, and was in fact eulogizing Parson Jones. Two things here present themselves, the one relating to the [19/20] temper of Doctor Hobart; and the other to the eulogies passed on Mr. Jones. With respect to Dr. H's. temper, his friends all observe that he is a man possessed of a quick temper--that he is often betrayed into a little intemperate warmth--that at such moments, he is apt to utter unguarded expressions, and to say things rather harshly; but that what he says is immediately forgotten; and, possibly the minute after he has said them he is sorry for it. This I believe to be the truth. I have no more acquaintance with Bishop Hobart, than I have with Parson Jones, but I sincerely believe him to be a worthy, amiable, upright man. The warmth of his temper is no disparagement in my eyes, well knowing that temper? of this kind arc fruitful of the most generous qualities; and that such is the case with Bishop Hobart, I am satisfied, by the general tenor of his conduct, wherever it has come to my knowledge, and by the universal attachment and thorough devotion of his friends. Even in the case of Mr. Jones it is manifest, for we frequently find him frankly, and amiably, apologizing for the wounds he occasionally inflicted on his feelings. But it ought always to be remembered, that the sharp things said at such moments, cut deep, and frequently sorely wound. Doctor H. in these intemperate and unguarded moments, which his friends assure us, arise from the goodness of his heart, has perhaps said many severe and afflicting things, that have wrung the bosom of Mr. Jones--been as a moth on his peace of mind, and have festered and rankled in his breast; while Doctor H. good easy man, as he never felt the sting he had [20/21] inflicted, immediately forgot the whole affair. Like the sword that pierces the bosom, is wiped dry, and remains bright, unconscious of the wound it has inflicted--while the poor unfortunate victim that was wounded, languishes and dies. This is exactly human nature in both gentlemen. We forget the injuries that we do ourselves, but we eternally treasure up the wounds that we receive from others.
Let us next inquire into the cause of Doctor Hobart's eulogies. In mentioning these, it is probable the opponents of Mr. Jones are not aware that they are here bringing Bishop H. himself as a witness in favour of Mr. Jones. Why should Bishop H. be the eulogist of Mr. Jones? Certainly because the Bishop believed him deserving of his praise. It can hardly be supposed that the Bishop was passing base coin upon his congregation; was praising Mr. Jones at the very moment that he believed in his heart that he did not deserve it. This would be charging the Bishop with double dealing;--and would, in fact, be defeating that very character, for openness and frankness which his friends have advanced, and to which I firmly believe him entitled. These eulogies must have proceeded from Dr. H's. intimate knowledge of his character; and because he believed him a worthy man, deserving of his praise. He only bore testimony, in common with us all, to the exemplary character of Mr. Jones, which previous to the publication of his appeal, stood unimpeached in the congregation.
The truth of the matter in all probability is, that gentlemen are both wrong; and this, in my [21/22] opinion, is the true ground on which the question ought to be taken up, by the members of the respective churches. But this medium, for which, I understand, the friends of Mr. Jones contend, will by no means be admitted by the opposite party; nay, they seem to have taken the moderation of the friends of Mr. Jones, for a complete concession--as admitting the justice of the mighty load of odium heaped upon him, and the perfect exculpation of Bishop Hobart; and so far has this thing been settled, no doubt by spiritual conviction, in their own eyes, that it has been confidently asserted, that the committee of the vestry, appointed to investigate this matter, had calmly made up their minds at the last meeting, to report a dismissal instanter of Parson Jones,--unheard--and with as little ceremony, as a man would dismiss his hired servant. I was slow to believe the truth of this report. I confess I had too high an opinion of the respectable characters, who form the vestry of Trinity Church, to suppose that any one among them could be found to suggest so startling a proposition. Is it possible that any member of so grave a body, having only heard the complaint of Mr. Jones--without giving him an opportunity of substantiating his charges, provided they think them of importance--without confronting him and the accused; or, if he is himself charged with any specific offence, without, in fact, calling upon him to vindicate himself therefrom--could coolly propose to the vestry, to blast in one sweep, the fortunes, the hopes, and the standing, of a respectable clergyman, who had been labouring among them in word [22/23] and doctrine, with unimpeached zeal, and, as far as I can judge, with equal talent to his successful opponent, for nearly eleven years of his life? I again repeat, that I was very slow to yield my belief to this report, and, even now, am satisfied that the business has been conducted with somewhat of precipitation, so as not to allow time for cool, dispassionate judgment. Had they taken time, calmly to discuss the charges against Mr. Jones, and to estimate the magnitude of the punishment they were about to recommend, I am convinced that their knowledge of equity, and of common legal maxims and practice, would have revolted at it. They would have recollected, that in no civil court is it admitted, that complaint is a crime--that the accused, and not the accuser, is always held in judgment; and that, at any rate, neither are punished, until after strict trial, and due examination. They would have shrunk from the thought of recommending, that the most terrible punishment of Great Britain, should be inflicted on a man, unheard, merely for the crime of disliking a Bishop--namely, the punishment of confiscation and expatriation, after he had already suffered the sufficiently heavy one of excommunication. Such I am sure would have been their feelings, had they not have been rather precipitate in their measures;--and, what makes me certain of this is, that I am told one of the leading members of the committee, is an eminent lawyer of this city, whom I have ever heard eulogized for the mildness and correctness of his deportment. Surely this worthy gentleman, had he taken time to consider the matter properly, would [23/24] have given them the above advice, or, at least, have drawn back from joining in the infliction of so overwhelming a penalty; ever mindful lest ho come under that warning denunciation pronounced by our Saviour, "woe unto you also, ye lawyers! for you lade men with burdens grievous to be borne, and ye yourselves touch not the burdens with one of your fingers.' But if indeed he has given a thorough or even passive sanction to these proceedings, I would only put the case to such worthy civilian's own bosom, and ask him, how he would like "the same measure to be meted to himself?" How he would like a court, to pronounce on him the judgmeut of transportation, merely, because he had differed with another gentleman of the Bar, who had since been elevated to the Bench? He has in all probability never made this appeal. Alas! with what wonderful facility do we accommodate ourselves to the evils we inflict upon others, ever forgetful of that glorious rule of our holy religion, "whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them."
In truth the evil that is here complained of, and which we are told the zealous committee are going so equitably to eradicate, is fixed in the present constitution of our church. A church, having so many clergymen acting in a subordinate capacity, with the rectory and episcopate as objects of their ambition, ought to expect ma ships. As these clergymen are only men; operated on, like all others, by interest and the desire of preferment, they ought to look there for the evil they are desirous to eradicate. What is it they wish to expel from the diocese? not in [24/25] simple fact Mr. Jones--by no means; Mr. Jones, considered simply as a private individual, cannot be an object of their animosity and resentment:--no, they wish to expel from the diocese all envy, ambition, ill-will, backbiting, bickering, reviling, and a host of other pitiful vices. And if these could all be gathered together and embodied; or if we could trace them all to their hiding places, and find them all housed in the brains of Mr. Jones, or lurking in his bosom, I would be among the first to cry "away with him;" let us clear the church of such pernicious inmates; neither would I repine at his being "thrust into outer darkness," provided the good of the church required his sacrifice. But, alas! Brethren, do ye really think that Mr. Jones is the sole deposite of all the sinful passions of the church; do ye think that all the legion of selfish, sordid, and unkind spirits are collected, and cooped up in his small body; that ye have only to cast him forth and all will be purity and peace? Believe me, no: you may thrust him forth, you may shut the door of the church, and double lock it, if ye please; aye, and stop up the very key hole, but be assured, after a little while, the same unclean spirits will be found skulking about in holes and corners of the tabernacle. The Rectory--the Episcopate, still remain to awaken emulation and rivalship, and however the good of the church, and the glory of God may be made the ostensible motive; take my word for it, the race will be, as it has lately most probably been, for these snug and comfortable dignities. It is almost impossible for the most sanctified not to look with strong desire to [25/26] those sacred honours which art; the trophies of faithful and spiritual warfare; and I fear we shall find but few with hearts so thoroughly purified from worldly feelings, as not to attach some little value to the earthly advantages connected with these stations, Impartial men will see the heart-burnings sometimes occasioned by these rivalships in their true light; and considerate, and charitable men, will lay the account to the imperfections of human nature, and not exclusively at the door of either of the contending clergymen.
Since then it does not appear that the abstract sins and evils I have mentioned, are likely to be banished out of the diocese in the person of Mr. Jones, I really cannot perceive the necessity of stepping out of the regular path of justice, equity, and amiable Christian charity, to make him an object of peculiar and overwhelming punishment. Aye, but we are told, that the grand reason given by the vestry, is that the irritated clergymen can never hereafter exist together in peace, and they do not so much turn Mr. Jones out of doors for what he has done, as for what he may hereafter do. This to me seems to be singularly odd kind of legislation: it is in fact the reverse of making an ex post facto law, it is a wholesale mode of preventing crime, by punishing it before it is committee, and, make the best of it, is what is termed in holy writ, to which, perhaps, the zealous devisers may not have sufficiently referred in their proceedings, "doing evil that good may come," and is there severely reprehended. It is founded on a sorry supposition, contrary too to all [26/27] experience, that the person once guilty of a transgression, and having been severely punished for it, is more likely to commit it again, than any other person. This would indeed, were it in all matters pushed to its extent, exclude the divine attribute of mercy from the world; and were the position true, atonement would have been made in vain for transgressors. We are told, in our religion, that there is a holy spirit that reclaims.
Were the singular rule I have here mentioned an established one, I do not dispute that it would completely exclude the publication of grievances; berfiu.se. according to this maxim, he who complains is sure to be condemned. We should indeed hear nothing more of complaint; but would not "the remedy be worse than the disease?" would it not allow full scope for abuses in the church? would it not allow hereafter, the haughty, the passionate, the overbearing (and alas! that there should be such among the clergy!) to lord it over the meek, the inoffensive, and the lowly minded? would it not oblige the humble and timid Christian, to bow beneath oppression, and to wink at abuses, knowing that it was less odious in the eyes of man, to commit offences than to complain of them?
We are told moreover, that this punishment of Mr. Jones in terrorem, will produce due subordination and prevent opposition to the Bishop, who is to be considered as the head of the church. It seems to be unfortunate that our good churchmen should have so many unnecessary fears about the church, when God himself has given us every assurance, that he has taken it under his peculiar care. But how is this [27/28] example going to operate? It is very true that it will be a powerful sample of, the dreadful effects of disliking a Bishop; and were Bishops, like justified spirits, incapable of doing wrong, it would be a happy rule; because then we would ever be certain that opposition is error. But this unfortunately is not the case. After all, Bishops are but men--sinful, erring men; and in proportion to their number, and in proportion also to their power, is it the duty of the church to guard against evils that may come from that quarter. No greater evils have existed in the world, than those that have been excited by high ecclesiastic characters; no greater cruelties than those perpetrated by the commands of the pontifs; none more dreadful, than the persecutions fulminated from the Vatican, by those who have falsely styled themselves the heads and fathers of the church. We have, it is true, been blessed with two Bishops, the mildness and amiableness of whose characters, have made our situation in the church a very pleasant one; and we have now one elected to that holy office, who I am sure, if left to the councils of his own understanding, and the instigations of his own good heart; and not goaded, and wrought upon, by those who seek to blow up the coals of anger into a flame, will do every thing that is just and christian-like. But may we not apprehend that some time or other, a prelate of different character may find his way into the sanctuary--one who may require passive obedience and non-resistance to his will, and who, if any one dare to murmur at his control, will point to the terrible fate of the degraded and expatriated Mr. Jones, [28/29] whose highest crime, was letting out the fatal secret, that a Bishop might be a quick tempered man!
It may not be improper here to question the delicacy of the vestry's acting oh this business, at this moment. It is now in agitation, we are told, to separate the churches, and that St. Paul's is to be given to Bishop Hobart. When this disposition takes place, the present vestry of Trinity Church will be dissolved; fifteen of its members, who belong to St. Paul's and St. George's must go to their respective vestrys and only seven will be left: namely, those who belong to Trinity Church, St. John's not having had the honour of a single person in the vestry to represent it. Is it not therefore, somewhat indelicate for these fifteen gentlemen to legislate for churches from which they are about to withdraw? ought they to take upon themselves, without consulting the general wishes of the churches they are about to withdraw from, to dismiss one of the most efficient remaining clergymen? why cannot these churches be permitted to decide for themselves on what are shortly to be exclusively their own affairs? and how do these departing vestrymen know, that a new vestry may not exactly do the very reverse of what they are contemplating to do? At any rate, why not leave them to judge of their own concerns? why should they act like indiscreet tenants about to leave an estate, who tear down the fences and set the establishment into confusion, purely to gratify their own improper indignation; without considering the trouble and injury they may cause to their successors?
But another heavy crime. I have heard alleged [29/30] against Mr. Jones, and which I cannot perceive has any bearing upon the question in controversy, is, the crying sin of economy! He is said to pay too much attention to the things of this world: "laying up treasures, which moth and rust may corrupt, and which thieves may break through and steal." Now we must recollect that Mr. Jones has to think and act in a two-fold capacity, as a pastor of the church, and as a head of a family. While tending to the household of faith, and feeding them with the bread of life; he must take care that the little flock at home do not starve, and that they have a little daily bread to satisfy their hunger. He has to attend to that part of his duty, the neglect of which, has been represented in scripture "as being worse than an infidel."
With a becoming economy, therefore, worthy of being" considered as a good example, he has so lived, as to save something- yearly out of the stipend he annually receives, which has enabled him to accumulate a little property:--but, on the whole, not more than an industrious artisan, of the humblest calling, would have saved in the same period of time. He has, like a good husband, and a pious father, provided something for those of his family, who might remain behind him, should God see fit to remove him from them for ever; and has not with pious resignation been contented to trust them to providence, and to that fund, religiously provided for the maintenance of clergymen's widows and orphans. He in fact, as became him, has lived within his income, and has provided something for "the rainy days" of declining [30/31] years. This, to be sure, he has done, while Doctor Hobart, as his friends assert, owing to the generosity of his character, has spent all his income; and, although blessed with an amiable and numerous family, has saved nothing; for they add, in triumph, he is now not worth a cent! Fie, fie upon it--thus is a man murdered in the house of his friends. Thus is it that a person's ignorant, but over zealous advocates, injure his character more than his adversaries--they are so anxious to make him free from the faults of his opponent, that they, unthinkingly, and untruly, make him guilty of errors equally inexcusable.
And this leads me to one of the most grievous sins alleged against Mr. Jones; which is that he is rich! or rather this is advanced as a reason, why there should be no ceremony used in depriving him of an income of three thousand dollars per annum. This argument, I confess, were it true in the extent to which it is pushed, would be conclusive, and ought to silence ail opposition,--for he is accused of the enormous guilt of being worth at least fifty thousand dollars. Now, certainly, there can be little or no turpitude in doing an act of oppression to a rich man; because, in fact, all rich men are great sinners: for what says the scripture? "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." Therefore, as a rich man is necessarily a great sinner, unless he repent and put away his wickedness, that is to say, his riches, he is unworthy of the household of God. Alas, alas! If wealth is so heinous a sin, how few of [31/32] our worthy vestrymen will stand justified! But the fact is, Parson Jones, in this particular, is not the wicked man he is represented: he is not cursed by heaven with the grievous load of wealth, that backbiters would fain lay at his door; and this is one of the sad slanders that have been levelled at the character of this poor man: on the contrary, independent of his salary, he has far from sufficient for the creditable maintenance of his family. What then can be the motive that has induced some intermeddling persons to magnify the riches of Mr. Jones? I sincerely hope it was not the very pitiful one of wishing to destroy all sympathy in his case; and to prepare the minds of the flock to look with apathy and indifference on his expulsion. Remember, pity is soothing to the afflicted: a mild and dispassionate judge would never seek to deprive even the condemned and punished, of the compassion of his fellow beings; and surely, if Mr. Jones must suffer the heart-breaking sentence, that is urged to be passed upon him, his judges cannot be desirous that even the comforting tear of friendly condolence and regret might be withheld from his cup of bitterness.
Another of the charges brought against Mr. Jones, and which I have heard discanted upon with great energy, is, his neglect of the advice of certain of his friends. This is doubtless, to many, the most galling part of his conduct: for I am well aware how difficult it is, to persuade any man, who sets himself up for a judge, that his judgment is wrong--and, I have lived long enough in this world to know, that no greater crime can be committed against a man, than [32/33] that of asking his advice, and afterwards neglecting to follow it. This very circumstance has occasioned many of his warm friends to be among the most vociferous of his enemies; and as this advice was asked of several of the vestry, he has unfortunately created some of the warmest of his adversaries among these very gentlemen. I have several times heard it advanced as one of their sweeping arguments, whenever their favour is asked for Mr. Jones.--"that he has brought all the evil on himself:--that he had gone contrary to their express advice, and must of course take the consequences of his indiscretion: that he had no excuse to offer:--that he had been sufficiently warned." In short, the greatest crime committed, in the eyes of these gentlemen, appears to have been, acting in opposition to their advice. Having decided, a priori, that Mr. Jones was wrong, there needs, of course, no further investigation. It may be observed, that it is a difficult thing for any man by reading a mere statement to enter into the wounded feelings of another. He himself, after all, must be the sole judge of these, and his feelings may possibly be so strong, as to overpower his own judgment, and lead him contrary to it, as well as to the opinions and advice of his friends. I cannot therefore admit this as a sufficient reason for his being sacrificed.
We come now to the last and heaviest charge of all, which is "that Mr. Jones is attempting to vindicate himself from the charges that are made against him!" It is asserted, that so far from acknowledging the deadly sin he has committed in publishing [33/34] his "Solemn Appeal," and confessing that all therein is false, and scandalous, (and suggested by the devil, he has the hardihood to maintain, that he published only what he believed, and what his conscience told him it was his duty to make known: nay, what is more, he has the effrontery to withstand the aspersions of the host of busy Christians, who are, daily, going on their pilgrimage of love, from house to house, and from tea-table to tea-table, gossiping forth his crimes and misdemeanours; and to plead not guilty to their accusations. This is clamoured at as a howling abomination; and the cry is, that he goes about "electioneering among the congregations." What then, is self-defence, that first law of our nature, interdicted to the unhappy man who falls under the censure of the Bishop? Is it a crime for him humbly to plead in exculpation of his character and conduct? While torrents of reproach and reviling are poured out upon him; and legions are busy in sounding his offences, is it really a sin, an electioneering artifice, for him to appeal to the few true friends he may love; the few kind hearts that may lean to him in the day of his troubles; and the few impartial minds that he may look up to with respect and confidence, to supplicate their candour, and to tell them with lowliness of heart, that "he is not really so bad a man as others would make him out to be?"
I am not speaking at random, when I say that torrents of reviling have been poured out upon Mr. Jones, neither do I mean to infer here, nor in any part of my work, that this has been the case with the great body of those who have disapproved of the [34/35] conduct of Mr. Jones. I speak only of those busy christians, who have entered into this affair with worldly rancour; who have gathered together in little knots at church doors; who have met in close divan at little tea convocations; who have issued out on morning crusades, travelling about from parlour to parlour, like righteous saint-errants, on these pious but unprofitable labours; who, instead of calmly arbitrating, have erected themselves into a party, and seemed, instead of listening to both sides, only anxious to repel every thing that could be said in exculpation of Mr. Jones; nay, who have even descended to gossip about his private character, and domestic concerns--matters totally unconnected with his parochial duties. Such are they who are severely noticed by the worthy apostle Timothy and withal, they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also, and busy bodies, speaking things which they ought not."
Sure I am, these mistaken intermeddlers are not countenanced in their language by Bishop Hobart, nor is he acquainted with the extent to which they have gone. I am satisfied he would rebuke them if he were. I will not repeat the harsh and improper things that have been said in my hearing; but really the zealous partisans seemed to gather warmth and bitterness as they talked on; and to grow more violent and peremptory from not meeting with opposition:--But the moment they heard Mr. Jones dared to say any thing in his defence, they were all in a flame of holy indignation. What then, has he [35/36] sinned beyond redemption? and must he sit down silently under censure and excommunication? He only asks for liberty to live. He asks only for the mitigation of punishment; and that our good churchmen would "in their wrath remember mercy."--This is exactly the reverse of his opponents--they are secure from any harm happening to themselves; their houses stand firm and are established for ever; and the holy work they have to pursue, is only that of pulling down their neighbour's. And can christians justify then, such illiberal and unreasonable attacks, and at the same time, consider it as an augmentation of crime in Mr. Jones to endeavour to palliate and soften down the excited indignation of his adversaries? Really this is carrying intolerance to its utmost stretch. His, indeed, is the unfortunate case of those who were thrown into the sea for witches--there was no alternative, sink or swim they must be witches; there was no escape from punishment. Had Mr. Jones gone about since Doctor Hobart's elevation, wishing to deprive him of the honours of his episcopacy, or to take from Mr. Howe his three thousand dollars a year, there would indeed be just cause for censure; but this poor man asks only to be spared; he offers to be reconciled; to submit to Bishop H. as his superior in the church; and to live, as far as his endeavours can effect it, in all kindness and charitable unity: but this his opponents strenuously oppose as a thing impossible. They insist that peace can only be restored by his expulsion--that the other clergy cannot live with him in harmony; thereby, unwittingly, and I am [36/37] sure unjustly insinuating, that the reverend Bishop, exalted to the highest honours of the church, cannot rest easy in his seat, so long as he beholds the unfortunate Parson Jones, sitting in comfort, like another Mordecai, at the threshold of the sanctuary.
I have thus noticed in a brief, and somewhat desultory manner, but with as much precision as time and circumstances will permit, the main charges that I have heard advanced against Mr. Jones, and the arguments in favour of his expulsion:--and these, as far as I can analyze them, appear to be merely the following: First, his having published his book: secondly, its being so harmless; thirdly, his precaution in noting down the naughtiness of others; fourthly, his having been eulogized by Doctor Hobart; fifthly, his being economical; sixthly, his being rich; seventhly, his not following the advice of others, who considered themselves wiser than he; and, eighthly and lastly, his attempting to vindicate himself from all the preceding charges. Such, after all, is the skeleton of this gigantic mass of accusation against Mr. Jones: and I have endeavoured to reduce it to its proper form and dimensions, not with any desire of prolonging controversy, but really with a wish to set matters in a right point of view; to dispel the clouds of prejudice and passion that have overhung this subject; and to bring our honest churchmen back to the point from whence they first started--and shew them that their anxiety and indignation, have been strangely wrought up, on matters of intrinsically no importance. I make no doubt, that many who are averse from having the controversy [37/38] exposed in its puny nakedness, will be ready to exclaim, that I have treated many points with levity, rather than argument. But, in truth, they appeared so very trivial in my eyes, that I knew not how else to treat them; and I could not but smile, to think that grave and sober thinking men, should ever dream of running a tilting with such bulrushes.
How often are we deceived by judging of things at a distance--by allowing ourselves to decide of matters by other peoples' representation! The true way to judge, is to bring every thing near, to analyze it--and we will often find, many a large body to be a mere inflation;--and, many a mighty affair, to have been made so, by the handling and false importance that has been given to it, by officious meddlers,--which, when traced to its origin, had a beginning no bigger than a grain of mustard seed. Thus, the great squabble that has agitated our churches, and indeed the Episcopal Churches in the state, for these two months, has been a mere misunderstanding about printing a catechism, or a religious tract. And the mighty crime committed by Mr. Jones, for which our church has rung for two months, with excommunication, confiscation, degradation, and transportation--and which has so violently offended the religious modesty of some of our over-pious Christians, that they could neither enter the sanctuary, or approach the altar, if Mr. Jones be there--is, merely his not thinking Doctor Hobart "a marvelous proper man" for a Bishop:--For, strain the matter which way you will, it all results in this.
I have before asserted, and, lest my intentions [38/39] should be mistaken, I here again assert, that I do not mean to lay the odium of the intolerance towards Mr. Jones at the door of Bishop Hobart. I consider him, as a kind hearted man; but, I fear, he is afflicted by bad counsellors and indiscreet friends. Let us not impute to him, therefore, the errors of others, who have made use of his name, and pretended to act under his banners. It is these overzealous friends, who have really done the worthy Bishop great disservice. By pushing matters to extremities, and insisting upon a punishment, far exceeding the enormity of the offence, granting it to be substantiated in its fullest extent, they have at length aroused the sleeping sympathies of the congregations. It appears to me, they must have imagined, at the onset, that Mr. Jones had no friends; and, having no friends, there was no need of conducting themselves towards him ceremoniously. He was, therefore, to be treated as all friendless beings are treated in this wicked world, when they happen to displease--turned at once out of doors: for where could be the harm, seeing there was no body to plead his cause. Or, perhaps, they argued, that every body was against him, "and what every body said must be true." This, in fact, must have been the soothing belief, that some of our vestry indulged; by which, they justified some of their proceedings to their own consciences, holding to that popular, but wretched adage, "vox populi est vox Dei." There is unfortunately for their cause, neither precept nor proof afforded, of the truth of the maxim, in the annals of our church, it was "vox populi" that [39/40] condemned the martyrs, stoned the apostles, and tied the blessed head of the church!
But mark the consequences that have resulted from this "heady, highminded" zeal of some of those advocates for strong measures, who have incorrectly called themselves the friends of the church, and of the Bishop. By the vehemence of their conduct and language, they have at length aroused the indignation of the friends of Mr. Jones, and displeased those who were neutral, or, who even thought Mr. Jones had been originally to blame. Considerate people begin to see something like persecution manifesting itself in these violent proceedings, and, doubtingly, to retrospect and ask, "may not the same spirit that perseveringly pursues, have originally given cause to the complaint?"--at any rate, they think it has been carried far enough. And now, having awakened the censures of the moderate and impartial, and finding, unexpectedly, many espousing the cause of Mr. Jones, his adversaries, by some curious logic, make this a cause of fresh accusation against him. They say he has, by his publication, occasioned the present distracted state of the church. The fact is directly otherwise. Mr. Jones, after his book had been published, and rendered of none effect, by the exaltation of Doctor Hobart, was willing, I am told, to give up the combat; and to submit, with all due deference, to Bishop H. (however ill he might formerly have thought of him,) as his superior in the church. And, had matters been allowed to end there, every thing would have been now at peace. But it was the unfortunate rancour with which Mr. Jones has been [40/41] pursued, that begat, in the first place, surprise, and at length, opposition; that rendered vindication first necessary; and, afterwards, expostulation--and thus was produced the present unhappy dissention. "Surely," says Solomon, "the churning of milk bringeth forth butter, and the wringing of the nose bringeth forth blood: so the forcing of wrath bringeth forth strife." The evil is not to be laid at the door of Mr. J. but of those, who by excessive bitterness of speech have disgusted the mild and dispassionate, and who, by urging the vestry, to severe and cruel punishment, have induced the real well-wishers of the church, to take the matter into their serious consideration; and by their temperate, but firm exertions, to save that respectable tribunal from being surprised, by some over-zealous Christians, into a measure that their cooler judgments would have sorrowed at.
I am sorry to say, that as far as my observation has extended, it appears to me, that this unfortunate difference has been injudiciously treated, and (though I hope and trust undesignedly) aggravated by some of the clergy themselves. It has been my lot occasionally to fall in the track of some worthy pastor, who was visiting the flock, and to find, that instead of attending to bind up the wounds, and comfort the consciences, of those confided to his care, he was rather busied, in enlisting their angry feelings in this wretched controversy, and endeavouring to make proselytes, to his side of the question. The saving of souls was laid aside, for the more immediately important concern of making partisans against Mr. [41/42] Jones. And is this party work the business of the Christian Minister? What is the solemn, the awful charge of the apostle, in matters of dispute between the servants of the sanctuary? "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality." Suffer me to hint to these erring, but, I hope, well meaning pastors, that their true duty was not to awaken the anger, and agitate the fears of the weaker vessels of the tabernacle; but to have met among themselves, and have counselled together, how, by mild mediation and godly advice, they might have healed the dissentions of their brethren--remembering that they are the followers and disciples of our blessed Saviour, who was emphatically called the Prince of Peace.
Nor, I confess, was I less displeased with the deportment of certain of the younger part of the clergy. Some of them, instead of remaining quiet in this affair, and behaving with that silence and modesty, which their youth and inexperience, and the deference due to their elders and superiors, required--they, likewise, took the alarm on account of the Bishop, and began to gad about with talebearings, as if really the character of the Bishop, which had scarcely been assailed, stood in need of their trivial vindications. With what contemptible stuff is the human heart debased! Has a man fallen into disgrace with the great ones of the earth, with the possessors of power, and the distributors of patronage? Every humble dependant aids in overwhelming [42/43] him. Is a man newly elected into station? The humble dependants worship the rising sun. The unfortunate outcast remains friendless, unpitied, and would be unheeded, did not the needy expectant think proper to trample on his shoulders, by way of elevating himself in to the notice and smiles of him who has the ability to patronise. "Many," said the wise Solomon, "will intreat the favour of the Prince; and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts."
I cannot help noticing here also, the conduct of certain others of the congregations, which has occasioned me much sorrow and blushing, and that on their own account. I allude to the very strange manner in which some have thought proper to express their disapprobation of Mr. Jones, by rising and leaving the church during worship. And here let me ask the real motives for this conduct. Did these timid, tender-minded people, think their piety in danger from listening to the doctrines of a man who did not believe in the Bishop? Surely it was paying their own stability of faith but a sorry compliment. Or, did they think their own weight in the congregation so great, as that this mark of disapprobation would, at once, leave Mr. Jones totally deserted? or, did they mean by this to vex the Preacher, or to increase the quantum of sad mortifications he was sufficiently suffering already? was it not rather neglecting the duties of worship to pursue worldly resentments? was it not literally going to church to serve God; and hurrying out to worry Parson Jones? or, was it not to have the pleasure of saying, at the next tea table, "how finely they had served the parson!" [43/44] I fear this was too truly the case.--Oh, there is something so delectable to, the petulance of human nature, to be able to treat with contumely and scoffing, those we have been accustomed to look up to with reverence and awe! Certainly these petulent Christians, at such moments, forget the purpose for which God's church was instituted--which was not, I am bold to assert, to afford an opportunity for bestowing either frowns or smiles upon preachers; but in order that frail and sinful mortals might assemble together, to offer up their oblations of mingled praise and thanksgiving for benefits received; to implore his mercy for all their own backslidings and, transgressions; to solicit that he would deliver them "from pride, vainglory, and hypocrisy; from envy, hatred and malice; and from all uncharitableness; and that he would take away from them their flinty hearts, and give them hearts of flesh." For my own part, whenever I have seen any of these worthy Christians rising up and parading out of church, I have always considered them as making a proclamation of their own sanctity: every step they took down the aisle, I thought I could hear them say, "Thank God, I am neither whisperer, backbiter, slanderer, or persecutor:--Thank God, I am charitable, forgiving, and tender-hearted:--Thank God, I am not as this man is!" Alas, alas, fellow members! so said the Pharisee when he turned his back on the poor publican: yet we are not told that he went to his home justified.
On taking therefore a full and impartial view of the whole affair, and I have endeavoured to do it [44/45] with honesty and sincerity of heart, it really appears to me that neither of the contending clergymen are to be charged with the present disturbance of the church. It is true, they may both have been originally in fault; but this only proves, what we ought all to have known long before--that they are both men, liable to error, and that it is in vain to look for perfection on this side the grave. Frailties and passions are implanted in our nature; and it is not these that constitute our sins, but the indulgence we allow to them: they are the touchstones of our virtues--the trials with which we are destined to contend; and, in proportion as we check our angry passions, and wrestle with the inordinate inclinations of our dispositions, do we practise righteousness, and entitle ourselves to favour from the Lord.
But the collisions of opinions and feelings, that may occasionally have elicited the sparks of anger between these clergymen, form really but a very trivial part of the present turmoil, and are by no means the great evils of which we have to complain. It is, that either bad hearts, or bad heads, or, to say the best of it, persons with more zeal than knowledge, should take occasion, from these petty bickerings, to work on the timid and the frail of mind among us, so as to induce a belief, that God's church is in danger. It is, that our irritable feelings are inflamed, and that men, whose duty it was to be umpires in the early stages of this dispute, and to have mediated a peace between these two erring pastors, have rather chosen to be partisans; have blown the trumpet to discord, and have acted as though they looked to [45/46] that metaphorical saying of our Saviour, rather than to the evidence of his life and doctrine--that he came upon earth "not to bring peace, but a sword." It is, that endeavours have been made to induce the vestry of the church, to pass a severe and unmerited sentence upon a man, whose life and conversation among us, has hitherto been without reproach. It is, that by these violent proceedings, we are to apprehend, that the things they are intended to prevent will more effectually be established, and discord be perpetuated in the church. They are mere tyros, in the science of human nature, who think that discord can be quelled by violence, in a community where all are free to think, and free to act, and where each member of the church has, by his elective power, an equal voice in its affairs. Where the strong arm of the civil power, accompanies the mandates of the heads of the church, such things may be effected; and whips and faggots may awe a man out of his opinions. But these things do not exist here:--and if our worthy churchmen hope to see the same unanimity exist in the church that has blest it heretofore; if they wish to prevent discordant parties, and infuriated zealots, from disgracing the elections of the church, they must set their faces against violence and injustice of every kind; and by all mild and persuasive means, endeavour to restore that godly harmony, from which we are now on the eve of departure. "Brethren," saith the apostle Paul, "if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted." If no [46/47] respect is to be shewn to Mr. Jones, let some be shewn to his respectable friends; equal members of the same church with themselves, equally partaking with them of its common benefits; and whose peace of mind, and whose liberty of opinion ought to be respected, "as members of the same household of Faith."
It appears to me that the present differences of the church are easily accommodated: and if those most busy in weeping, and deploring, and magnifying them, will but be content that they should be healed, I make no doubt but they would soon come to an end. "Where no wood is," says Solomon, "there the fire goeth out, so where there is no talebearer the strife ceaseth." The mode is simple enough--let things drop where they are; let the worthy clergymen meet again in peace; trust to their mutual forgiveness and forbearance, and in six months we shall hear no more of it. What is there to oppose such a general reconciliation? Are the peaceable and truly pious of the church opposed to it? No--they long only for harmony; that they may be suffered quietly to enjoy the green pastures and the cooling brooks of the Christian ministry; that they may hear again the words of life dispensed from peaceful lips; and no longer be called upon to suspect their preachers of recommending to them the duties of Christian charity and brotherly love, with tongues " laden with backbiting and slander," under which is " ungodliness, and the poison of asps."
Are the contending clergymen themselves opposed to it? God forbid! They do injustice to the characters [47/48] and professions both of the Bishop and Mr. Jones, who affirm that they cannot mutually forgive what is past, and live together in harmony. How are they to come before their congregations as the messengers of righteousness and peace, with bosoms filled with deadly animosities and dislikes? how are they to preach up among us the forgiveness of injuries, if they cruelly neglect to forgive one another? how are they to inculcate the doctrines of meekness, gentleness, temperance, and long suffering, if at the same time they are haughty, rude and impatient, one towards another--if at the same time, they intemperately hate and persecute one another? How are they to explain to us the divine doctrine of mercy, that darling attribute of the head of the church, if they themselves practise none? Is religion a farce? Are they to come before us with a lie in their mouths? To preach what they do not practise? To lay down precepts and belie them by their example? certainly not. Every feeling of the heart is in opposition to such a state of things. An unforgiving, persecuting Christian--is a solecism--a contradiction--there is no such thing. A Christian must possess a tender, forgiving disposition--"a conscience void of offence." He who does not possess these, may pretend to piety and holiness; but, he carries the conviction in his own breast, that he is not one of our Lord's disciples. "By their fruits ye shall know them," is an excellent rule, that our Lord himself has laid down, for our guide in judgments of this kind. Christians may momentarily err--they may be betrayed through the impetuosity of their tempers--[48/49] by the allurements of interest, and the deceitful hopes of exaltation, into errors and intemperance:--they may forget their high calling for a moment, and may disagree--but they never fail to forgive. They never fail to remember, that they are children of the same heavenly parent, "pilgrims and strangers upon earth;" that they are travelling to another and a better country; that they are candidates for a more glorious inheritance, "incorruptible, and undefiled, wherein dwelleth righteousness:" and, that while they are travelling through the wilderness of this world, towards their father's house, established in the land of promise--the heavenly Canaan, they should comfort and support each other by the way. The men of the world may be unforgiving and uncharitable; they may rancorously hate, and perseveringly persecute; but "children of light," have done with the resentments of this world. They have learned " to practise holiness," by subduing their unruly passions; " by putting away from them all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking, with all malice; and by being kind, one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake, hath forgiven them."
Such are the sweet allurements to quiet and holy communion in the Christian ministry, and such, lam sure, will have full weight upon the minds of the parties in difference, if left to their own hearts, or if none but the really mild and peace-making of the church would interfere, and admonish and persuade them to tranquillity. The real good of the church requires that they should set an example of moderation to [49/50] their flock, teaching them by their conduct to avoid "all strife, contentions, and evil speakings," and that by cultivating charity and brotherly affection, they are "to perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord;" thus evidencing to the world, the truth of their calling, and the uprightness of their own professions, by " demeaning themselves in all things by the doctrines of God their Saviour." So far from entering into dissentions among themselves, the pastors of the church are to be the vigilant and kind-hearted pacificators of the household of God; ever bearing in mind, that they are the trustees and guardians of that rich and perfect inheritance, which our blessed Saviour, when about to depart from a sinful world for his glorious mansion in heaven, bequeathed to all his followers--"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you."
What say the precepts of our church? "Take heed to yourselves: if thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him: and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying I repent; thou shalt forgive him:" hereby meaning that there should be no limit to our forgiveness. " Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, and pray for them who persecute and despitefully use you if it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. For the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law: But if we bite and devour one another, take [50/51] heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, vengeance is mine, I will repay saith the Lord." These are among the divine precepts of our religion; and under the full persuasion that his followers would practise them, our Saviour himself has taught us when we pray, to say, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us;" making the whole stress of our hope of forgiveness from God, to rest upon the condition of our practising the same principle of forgiveness towards others.
Do we want example as well as precept? Let us find it in the history of those champions of our church, "of whom the world was not worthy." In the meekness and mildness of the holy apostles, who spent their lives among a persecuting and thankless generation, doing them in dispite of stripes, of buffetings and deprivations, all manner of affectionate services; administering to them "every good and perfect gift," while they themselves, owing to the perverseness of the world, "were destitute--afflicted--tormented.
Shall we appeal to the head of the church? He descended from the skies, that his enemies might be made heirs with himself of his kingdom of glory. He took upon him the form of a servant, and "when reviled, reviled not again." He submitted to poverty and insult, and to all the ills that cruelty could heap upon an innocent head, in order that salvation might dwell among the sinful children of men. And after a life of suffering, in order that sinners (and enemies) might for ever be released from distress, he [51/52] submitted to death, that they might inherit eternal life; and yielded up the ghost, craving forgiveness for his persecutors, and pardon for a misjudging world. "Beloved, if Christ so loved us, that he gave himself for us, how ought we to love one another?" "How sweet a thing it is to see brethren agree in unity," it is sweeter than the perfume of Aaron's garments--sweeter than the dew descending on Hermon's hill. "Peace be within thy walls, O Jerusalem, and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and companions' sake, I will now say peace be within thee. Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God."
THE foregoing remarks were written, and actually in the printer's hands, when I understood that a pamphlet was about to be published by Bishop Hobart, in reply to that of Mr. Jones. This induced me to withdraw my work, and suspend its publication. After waiting, however, for several days, I again thought proper to send it to the press, and this, for the following reasons.--I perceived that the promised pamphlet would be so long in printing, that the beneficial effects, which, I trusted, mine was calculated to produce, would be completely defeated. The pamphlet of the Bishop would make its appearance just before the next meeting of the vestry, which, of course, would take up the question of the expulsion of Mr. Jones, before I could have time to lay before them the candid sentiments which are contained in the preceding pages. Besides, I could not see that it was necessary for me to wait for the expected pamphlet. The sole objects of my writing, were to recommend mildness, and, if possible, reconciliation; and to guard the vestry against the importunities of mistaken advocates for strong measures, who have evinced great impatience in this affair, and frequently censured the vestry for their laudable moderation, Now I could not see that the pamphlet [53/54] of the Bishop would in any wise diminish the importance and correctness of this advice. The chief purport of it, as I understand, is to prove by numerous certificates, that the Bishop has always been in the practice of eulogizing Mr. Jones, while Mr. Jones has often made heavy complaints of the conduct of the Bishop. Now, where is the use of proving this? Mr. Jones in his pamphlet has complained of the Bishop to the whole world; there is no need therefore, of proving that he had complained of him to a few individuals. The greater offence certainly swallows up the lesser: besides, Mr. Jones contends that he never gave Bishop Hobart cause to speak ill of him: there is no need then, for the worthy Bishop to prove that he did not speak ill of him; every body, who knows him, knows that he would not speak ill of any one, without a cause. But that Mr. Jones should have complained grievously of Doctor H. is natural enough, and needs no great proof to persuade us of the fact. He thought he was ill treated by Doctor H. He suspected (most probably without reason) that Doctor H. was prejudicing the minds of the younger clergy against him; and supposed it necessary to vindicate himself:--at all events, he had been wrought upon by the little bickerings that had passed between himself and his brother clergymen (who really appear not to have exerted all that forbearance that might have been used) and we all know that in " the fullness of the heart the mouth speaketh." Now then, where is the necessity for the Bishop's resorting to publication? To vindicate his own character? That has already been acquitted by his [54/55] consecration. To prove that Mr. Jones has been in the wrong? That is a point generally ceded; and it is only maintained, that he has erred in common with his brethren. Errors have honestly been entertained, at all periods, by good and conscientious men; and instances can be adduced, where some have suffered martyrdom for errors, with a constancy and firmness equal to those who have suffered for the truth. But his errors have been magnified into crimes, and great pains has been taken to convince us that he has sinned past all forgiveness. Indeed, I fear, that the Bishop in publishing, is about to do, not merely an unnecessary, but an impolitic thing--and I am confident he is acting, not from the sole direction of his own judgment, but from the ill-timed advice of weak and prejudiced counsellors. This I am convinced of, from his having, for a long time, expressed a determination not to answer the pamphlet of Mr. Jones--a dignified determination, for which all candid minds gave him credit. And, I will barely hint, that if Mr. Jones was wrong, in publishing to the world the private differences of the clergy--certainly the Bishop will be equally wrong in retorting the same measure. Mr. Jones doing wrong, will not justify another in doing the same--"two wrongs never made one right." Neither will a principle of retaliation exculpate it;--there is no such principle admitted in the Christian faith: on the contrary, we are repeatedly commanded to "repay evil with good."
If therefore, Bishop Hobart is right in publishing private grievances to the church, instead of bringing before the proper spiritual tribunal; Mr. Jones [55/56] stands certainly exculpated from the much talked of crime of having printed his book--more especially, as he previously endeavoured to have his cause arbitrated by proper church authority. If, on the other hand, Mr. Jones was wrong in so doing--surely the same judgment must be pronounced upon a similar action of Bishop Hobart.
I cannot neglect this opportunity of soliciting the readers of Bishop H.'s promised pamphlet, to remember that the Bishop and Mr. Jones do not stand on equal ground:--that while the ostensible object of Bishop H.'s book, is to vindicate his character, which no person, as far as I can learn, considers injured; the latent consequences some think it likely to produce, is the complete destruction of Mr. Jones:--no person wishes to injure a hair of the Bishop's head, or to take a penny from his purse--but his friends calculate that his book will completely root out Mr. Jones. So that the readers are not called upon, by the perusal of this book, to determine between Bishop H. and Mr. Jones; but whether Mr. Jones and his family, shall be driven from his native city and the bosom of his friends, or shall be suffered to remain among us. Let them remember also, that expulsion to him is ruin. It is completely degrading him in the church; for where shall the clergyman look for countenance, who has been declared too dangerous to be trusted, not merely in a single congregation or city, but a whole diocese! Thus it is shipwrecking the bark in which his fortune, his reputation, his laudable ambition, his whole hopes in life are embarked.
 I would, moreover, suggest the impropriety of calling upon the younger clergy to give certificates of private conversations. I am confident Bishop Hobart is not conscious of the mal-conduct which it occasions. This at once gives rise to a kind of inquisitorial search. The good Bishop sits at home, little dreaming of what is doing in his name, while every officious expectant, sallies out on the ransack and rummage, after little scandalous anecdotes. Scarcely an hour passes, but what some one or other comes buzzing in, like a busy bee, laden with his treasure of gossiping--and scarcely has the good man recovered from the visit of this "bearer of glad tidings," but another comes bolstering into his study, reeking and sweating from the chase, and exclaiming with exultation, "Lo! I too have caught a certificate!"--"Thus every gentle spirit comes flying on the wings of love" with his certificate in his hand. How much does this tend to bring the clergy into disrepute;--how much does it tend to promote a spirit of talebearing, to introduce jealousy, distrust, and rancour, among the brethren, and to destroy that perfect confidence and sincerity which are indispensable to holy fellowship? For my part, I frankly declare, I shall take up the certificates thus hunted after with infinite caution. I well know, what must be the trepidation of young dependant clergymen, when called upon to testify in favour of their Bishop. I well know, how apt the memory of the most correct is to be clouded and coloured, by interest, on the one hand, and apprehension on the other; and I well know, how startling is the appeal, when sounded in timid ears, and [57/58] thundered home to tender consciences, "the church is in danger;"--"choose your side, for the church and the Bishop, or, for Mr. Jones." I mean not to say, that these terms have been presented with the knowledge and consent of Bishop Hobart. I know, on the contrary, that he has disapproved of them; but I boldly affirm, that such have been made use of; and I notice them, as among the many ill-advised measures, that some of his over-zealous friends have resorted to; by which, unmerited blame has been drawn down on his cause and conduct.
From the foregoing remarks, the reader will gather my reasons, at once, for bringing forth my pamphlet; and I here again declare, that I have been actuated in so doing, by no anger or ill will to any one; that neither Mr. Jones, nor any of his friends, are in the least instrumental or knowing in the writing or publication of these pages; that I am conscious of no personal partiality to him, but that on the contrary, I bear both him and Bishop Hobart the same good will; the latter of whom has my perfect approbation of his advancement, and my hearty good wishes, both in his public and private walks through life. The only object of my pamphlet, if I know my own heart, is to shew that there is nothing of sufficient importance, in all that has passed, to prevent these worthy clergymen, (provided a meddling world will but give them leave,) from meeting together, once more, in brotherly fellowship--from sacrificing their worldly resentments at the foot of their master's cross--and from proceeding, hand in hand, hereafter, as champions of the faith, to build up God's kingdom [58/59] on earth. Thus lovingly "passing through things temporal," so that when they come to "lay hold of those things which are eternal," they may so have existed together in peace in this world, that they may be fitted to exist in joy together in a better.