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Protestant Episcopal Church


















We have been assembled together in the Triennial Convention of our Church under most afflicting circumstances. Hitherto, whatever our Church had to contend with from the fallen nature of man, from the power of this evil world, or the enmity of that mighty adversary who is called by St. Paul "the god of this world," her Chief Council has been permitted to meet amidst the blessings of peace within our national boundaries, and as representing a household of faith at unity in itself. Our last meeting was in the metropolis of a State which has long held a high place and influence in the affairs of our Church and Country. Long shall we remember the affectionate hospitality which was then lavished upon us, and the delightful harmony and brotherly love which seemed to reign, almost without alloy, in a Convention composed of representatives of all our Dioceses! Never did the promise of a long continuance of brotherly union, among all parts and sections of our whole Church, appear more assuring. But, alas! what is man? How unstable our surest reliances, based on man's wisdom or will! How unsearchable the counsels of Him who "hath his way in the sea, and his path in the mighty waters, and whose footsteps are not known"! What is now the change? We look in vain for the occupants of seats in the Convention, belonging to the representatives of no less than ten of our Dioceses, and to ten of our Bishops. And whence such painful and injurious absence? The cause stands as a great cloud of darkness before us, of which, as we cannot help seeing it, and thinking of it, and that most sorrowfully, wherever we go and whatever we do, it is impossible not to speak when we address you in regard to the condition and wants of our Church. That cause is all concentrated in a stupendous rebellion against the organic law and the constituted [3/4] Government of the Country, for the dismemberment of our national Union--under which, confessedly, all parts of the land have been signally prospered and blessed; a rebellion which is already too well known to you, brethren, in the vast armies it has compelled our Government to maintain, and in the fearful expense of life and treasure, of suffering and sorrow, which it has cost on both sides, to need any further description here.

We are deeply grieved to think how many of our brethren, clergy and laity, in the regions over which that dark tide has spread, have been carried away by its flood; not only yielding to it, so as to place themselves, as far as in them lay, in severance from our ecclesiastical Union, which has so long and so happily joined us together in one visible communion and fellowship; but, to a sad extent, sympathizing with the movement, and hiving it their active co-operation.

In this part of our address, we do not attempt to estimate the moral character of such doings. At present we, confine ourselves to the statement of notorious facts, except as to one matter, of which this is the convenient place to speak.

When the ordained Ministers of the Gospel of Christ, whose mission is so emphatically one of peace and good-will, of tenderness and consolation, do so depart from their sacred calling as to take the sword and engage in the fierce and bloody conflicts of war; when in so doing they are fighting against authorities which, as "the powers that be," the Scriptures declare "are ordained of God," so that in resisting them they resist the ordinance of God; when especially one comes out from the exalted spiritual duties of an Overseer of the flock of Christ, to exercise high command in such awful work,--we cannot, as ourselves Overseers of the same flock, consistently with duty to Christ's Church, His Ministry and people, refrain from placing on such examples our strong condemnation, We remember the words of our blessed Lord, uttered among His last words, and for the special admonition of His Ministers--"They that take the sword shall perish with the sword."

Returning to this great rebellion, with all its retinue of cost and sacrifice, of tribulation and anguish, of darkness and death, there are two aspects in which we must contemplate it, namely: as it comes by the agency of man, and as it comes from the Providence of God.

We desire, first, to call your attention to it as it proceeds from the Providence of God. So comprehensive is that Providence that it embraces all worlds and all nations; while so minute is it that not a sparrow falleth without the knowledge and will of our Father in [4/5] Heaven. In its vast counsels, this deep affliction has its place. God's hand is in it. His power rules it. It is His visitation and chastening for the sins of this nation. Who can doubt it? Just as the personal affliction of any of you is God's visitation to turn him from the world and sin, unto Himself; so is this national calamity most certainly His judgment upon this nation for its good. And we trust, dear brethren, we are in no danger of seeming, by such interpretation of our distresses, to excuse, in any degree, such agency as men have had in bringing them upon us. God's Providence has no interference with man's responsibility. He works by man, but so that it is still man that wills and works. The captivities of God's chosen people were, as His Word declares, His judgments upon them for their sins; while the nations that carried them captive were visited of God for heinous guilt in so doing. St. Peter declares that our Lord was "delivered" unto death "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God;" and that, nevertheless, it was "by wicked hands" that He was "crucified and slain." Thus we need be under no temptation to diminish our estimate of the present dispensation of sorrow, as coming from the hand of God, for the punishment of our sins, whatever the agency of men therein. It is our duty, as Christians and as patriots, so to consider it, that it may do us the good for which it is sent, and may the sooner be taken away.

It is not possible for us, in this address, to set before you, in detail, or in their true proportions, all the national and other sins which make us, as a people, deserve, and need, the chastisements of a holy God. It needs no Daniel, inspired from on high, to discover them. Surely you must all be painfully familiar with many of them, in the profaneness of speech with which God's name and majesty are assailed; in the neglect of public worship which so dishonors His holy day; in the ungodliness of life which erects its example so conspicuously; and especially in that one great sin for which Jerusalem was given over to be trodden down by the heathen, and the people of Israel have ever since been wanderers and a by-word among the nations, namely, the rejection, whether in positive infidelity, or only in practical unbelief, of God's great gift of grace and mercy, His beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to be a sacrifice of propitiation for our sins, and an all-sufficient and all-glorious Saviour of our souls.

But there is a passage in the Scriptures which is of great use as a guide in this consideration of national sinfulness. It is a warning to the nation of Israel, and found in the eighth chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, as follows: "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy [5/6] God, in not keeping His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I command thee this day, lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses and hast dwelt therein, and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied, then thy heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth. And it shall be, that if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God--as the nations which the Lord destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish, because ye would not be obedient to the voice of the Lord your God."

Now it was because that nation was guilty of precisely such self-glorying, and such forgetfulness of its indebtedness to God and dependence on His favor, as this warning describes, that the grievous calamities which so fill its history, before the advent of Christ, were brought upon it. And it is because there is so much agreement between this description and the aspect which we, as a people, have presented before God, that we place the passage before you.

Marvellously have we been prospered in every thing pertaining to national prosperity, riches, and strength. God has loaded us with benefits; and with our benefits have grown our ingratitude, our self-dependence, and self-sufficiency, our pride, our vain-glorying, and that sad deficiency, so much felt, in the representative acts and voices of the nation as to all adequate acknowledgment of God and of the Gospel of Christ. Let us mark the words of the prophet Jeremiah: "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me that I am the Lord which exercise loving-kindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth."--(Jer. ix.; 23, 24.) How remarkably do these words exhibit our sin as a nation! How seldom, in any thing of a representative character, or any thing that speaks for the nation, especially in the counsels of our chosen rulers, or in the enactments of our legislatures, do we see any such reference to God, as is here required as the basis on which He blesses a nation! How literally have we gloried in our wisdom, and power, and wealth; and said in our hearts, Our power and our hand have gotten us all these things!

Dear brethren, can we consider these things, so palpable to every eye, and not acknowledge that we deserve God's anger, and need, for our good, His chastening Providence? Is it wonderful that this tribulation hath come upon us? O, that when thus His judgments are [6/7] upon the land, the inhabitants may learn righteousness! We exhort you, brethren, that, as citizens and as Christians, you will take these things seriously to heart. Search and try yourselves, that you may duly humble yourselves under God's mighty hand, and He may, in due time, exalt us out of the present distress. Such a spirit of humiliation, taking wide possession of the people, especially of those who, as members of the Church of Christ, profess to be His disciples--above all, such a spirit appearing among those whose official position makes their words and acts of eminent weight and responsibility in determining the nation's standing before God--would more encourage us concerning the prospect of a happy removal of our national afflictions, a happy future of stability in our civil institutions, and of peace in the whole land, than if many signal victories were given to our honored armies. Let us pray earnestly and constantly for that spirit, which, above all things, is a nation's wealth, and strength, and praise. "The Lord's hand is not shortened," that it cannot thus bless us. "His ear is not heavy, that it cannot hear" us when we seek so great a blessing. He is "able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think;" and prayer is the arm that places our wants on His mighty power.

Let us turn now to the other aspect of our great trial; namely, as it comes from the agency of man. We deeply feel, dear brethren, how momentous is this portion of our subject, and with what carefulness and charity, and at the same time with what decision and plainness of speech, with what faithfulness to Church and Country, and to those arrayed against us, as well as to ourselves, it becomes us to speak. Gladly would your Bishops avoid a subject so painful. But there is no possibility of avoiding it. Should we keep silence, we should not avoid it. Our silence would speak far and wide, and with a meaning by which we are not willing that our minds should be interpreted. At such an alarming crisis of our national and ecclesiastical union, as well as of our whole welfare, when a voice from such a body, occupying such intimate relations to a wide-spread communion, may be of such importance to the strength of the public counsels, through the guidance of the people of that communion,--should we address you on other topics of less prominence at the present time, and yet keep silence on that one which banishes almost every other from the thoughts of the nation, we should not only neglect an opportunity of usefulness which ought to be improved, and subject ourselves to imputations which we are not willing to bear, but we should inflict a serious injury upon a cause we are bound to aid.

[8] It is the first time this Convention has met since these troubles began. God grant they may be ended long before it shall meet again! Ever since our Church had her Litany, we have been praying for deliverance "from sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion." And now that all the three are upon us, and in a depth of scheme, a force of action, a strength of purpose, and an extensiveness of sway such as the world never before saw united for the dismemberment of any government, shall we refuse to tell you in what light we regard that gigantic evil?

We are moved the more to speak, because we believe that you, brethren, desire it of us. You feel bound, by your views of duty, to take a position and manifest principles, too decided to be mistaken, in support of the national Constitution and Government in this day of their peril. Our communion is nobly represented wherever the nation's cause has dangers to brave, difficulties to be surmounted, sacrifices to be made, or sufferings to be borne. In the ranks, and through all the grades of command, our Church testifies her loyalty by the devotion of her sons. Many of them are her choice young men, whom it is hard to spare from works of Christian well-doing at home. Many of them are her Sunday-school teachers. They have gone to her armies, not in any bitterness of feeling toward those who have brought on us this war, but in a ready mind to love their enemies and to do good to those who hate them, as well as out of a well-considered and conscientious conviction of duty to their Country, to their Government, and to God. They look to us, their chief Pastors, especially as we are now gathered together here, to give them the support and comfort of our approbation, if we think they have rightly judged the great question of duty to the Government in the present struggle. Amidst the perils of battle, in hospitals and prisons, under privations and wounds, they feel the preciousness of such comfort. Acknowledging the reasonableness of such desires, we have pleasure in complying with them; not apprehending that in touching on this subject it can with reason be objected that we enter amidst questions with which, as Ministers of Him whose "kingdom is not of this world," we have nothing to do. Whatever the Apostles of Christ were inspired by the Holy Ghost to teach the Church; the Ministers and Stewards of that Church are bound to illustrate and enforce, for instruction of her members. "All Scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof correction, and instruction in righteousness." Whatever is contained therein is part of what has thus been "written for our learning "part of that spiritual provision which you, brethren, are to "read, mark, [8/9] learn, and inwardly digest;" and which, therefore, God's Stewards must distribute, as varying circumstances shall make it "a word in season."

Then what say the Scriptures touching the subject before us? We have no need to go beyond the words of St. Paul, in the thirteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans--"Let every soul be subject to the higher powers. For there is no power but of God. The powers that be are Ordained of God. Whosoever, therefore, resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation."

Now, it is the application of these words to our duties, under present circumstances, of which we have need to inquire, if we would use this portion of Scripture as "a light to our feet." Where, then, do we find those powers and ordinances to which, as "ordained of God," we, recognizing the great truth that "there is no power but of are bound, for His sake, to be subject? We answer, In THE CONSTITUTI0N AND GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES. Under them, the people of all the States, now resisting them, were just as much bound to render obedience, when such resistance began, as we, whose allegiance is still unbroken. According to the Scriptures, that resistance, so far from making null and void those powers, is a resistance to ordinances of God still in force; and, therefore, brings His condemnation on those so engaged.

When St. Paul, in direct connection with the words just cited, exhorts us to "render to all their dues, tribute to whom tribute is due, custom to whom custom, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor," and that "not only for wrath, but for conscience' sake;" we have no hesitation in teaching that the claim to all these duties and manifestations of allegiance and loyalty from us, and from all those States so recently united in rendering them, is rightfully in that Government which is now by force of arms maintaining such claim. The refusal of such allegiance we hold to be a sin; and when it stands forth in armed rebellion, it is a great crime before the laws of God, as well as man.

Thus, brethren, your Bishops teach, as official expositors of the Word of God. Less, they believe, they could not teach without unfaithfulness to the Scriptures.

If godly submission to the laws and constitutional rulers of the country should be regarded as a matter of less than the most religious obligation; if it shall be held a thing of indifference whether the Government, given us in the Providence of God, be obeyed "for conscience' [9/10] sake," or be overthrown by conspiracy and armed rebellion, without the pretence of any existing and oppressive wrong, or of any wrong for which the remedy might not be found under, and by, provision of that very Government,--then all the horrors, of which such rebellion may be the prolific parent, may at any time be caused, and even intended, without guilt. But, let us hear what the Fathers of our Church, in one of those Homilies which our Articles declare to contain "a godly and wholesome doctrine," teaches on this head. We can well understand it now and appreciate it, as never before. In the Homily "Against Willful Rebellion" we have these wholesome words: "He that nameth rebellion, nameth not a singular, or one only sin, as is theft, robbery, murder, and such like; but he nameth the whole puddle and sink of all sins against God and man; against his country, his countrymen, his parents, his children, his kinsfolk, his friends, and against all men universally; all sins against God and all men heaped together, nameth he that nameth rebellion." In another passage, after speaking of the general miseries of all war, the Homily proceeds with a still darker description: "But when these mischiefs are wrought in rebellion by them that should be friends, by countrymen, by kinsmen, by those that should defend their country and countrymen from such miseries, the misery is nothing so great as are the mischief and wickedness where the subjects unnaturally do rebel * * ; countrymen to disturb the public peace and quietness of their country, for defence of whose quietness they should spend their lives;" "and, universally, instead of all quietness, joy, and felicity, which so follow blessed peace and due obedience, to bring in all trouble, sorrow, disquietness of minds and bodies, and all mischief and calamities; to turn all good order upside down; to bring all good laws into contempt, and to tread them under foot; to oppress all virtue and honesty, and all virtuous and honest persons; and to set all vice and wickedness and all vicious and wicked men at liberty to work their wicked wills, which before were bridled by wholesome laws; to weaken, to overthrow, and to consume the strength of the realm, their natural country, which, by their mischief weakened, is thus ready to be a prey and spoil to all outward enemies."

Such is the testimony of our Homilies against "Willful Rebellion."

The reasons which make this so great a crime are the same which make the constituted authority so indispensable to the very existence of human society. God has invested the magistrate with power, and given him the sword to be borne, "not in vain," because he is His [10/11] Minister "for good;" because, without him, all the floods of ungodliness would be set free; and the only remedy remaining for all social disorders would be that of force overcoming force, and of cunning overreaching cunning.

We have now, brethren, in strict confinement to the testimony of the Scriptures, ascertained a basis of principle and duty on which we may heartily rejoice in all the active and energetic loyalty with which the members of our Churches, in union with their fellow-citizens, of all classes and conditions, are sustaining the Government in its vast efforts to reinstate the rightful control of its laws, wherever they have been disowned. We bid them never to be weary of that well-doing; and particularly would we say to those who, out of love to their country, and not out of any vindictive exasperation towards her enemies, have gone in our armies, be of good cheer! Whatever the dangers you may have to meet, or sufferings to endure, let it be your consolation that you have gone to sustain the power, ordained of God, and which rightfully claims your most devoted loyalty.

And now, we can ask your further attention only to a few concluding words, touching great spiritual interests, which the absorbing claims and the strong excitements of these times endanger. No doubt, dear brethren, you have all been painfully conscious of the powerful tendency of the present anxieties and excitements to draw down your thoughts and affections from daily communion with God; to elevate earthly interests and duties into injurious rivalry with those of the soul and eternity; to carry your minds away on this powerful flood of feeling and active concern for our beloved country, till they become, in a great degree, separated from all earnest engagedness in God's service. With some minds, under divine grace, the tendency of these troubles is to lead them nearer to God; while with others it is to take them away from God, to make His Word less precious, His holy day less sacredly kept, secret prayer less faithfully observed, and less their refuge and consolation; Christian example less decided and exalted.

We desire affectionately to exhort you to increased watchfulness and prayer in consequence of such danger. Let not love of Country make your love to God and your gracious Saviour the less fervent. Immense as is this present earthly interest, it is only earthly. The infinitely greater interests of the soul and of the kingdom of God remain as paramount as ever. We counsel, not that you feel less concern for the former, but that you seek God's grace so to sanctify all its anxieties that it may constantly lead you to Him for refuge, and rest, [11/12] and peace; making you only the more earnest to secure, in exchange for this sinful and troublesome world, that inheritance which is incorruptible, that better country where "sorrow and sighing flee away."

And we also charge you, brethren, that you watch and pray, lest during this unhappy strife you should allow any bitterness of spirit to dwell in you toward those who, from whatever cause, have brought on us this war, with its great injuries and calamities, or who are now waging it against us. To hate rebellion, so uncaused, is duty; but to hate those engaged therein, is the opposite of Christian duty. Nothing can release us from the charge of our blessed Lord to love even our greatest enemies; do good to them that hate us, and pray for such as despitefully use us and persecute us. In this temper of mind let us be followers of Him who, when we were enemies, died for us.

We are pained to learn, from the reports of committees of our General Missionary Society, to what extent the means of pursuing their great work have suffered by reason of these times. We are aware how much of the contributions of our people have gone to the relief and consolation of our brethren who, in exposing themselves to the dangers of battle for our defence, have fallen under wounds or sickness. We rejoice in all that is done for them; and it is a vast relief from the horrors of this war to see what a spirit of self-denying and devoted benevolence has appeared all over the land, in men and women of all conditions, banding them together in labors of love, or scattering them abroad over the field of suffering, on errands of compassion and tender ministration to our sick, wounded, dying soldiers. God be praised for all this! It goes far to comfort us in the great tribulation. But the claims of the kingdom of God are not diminished. The calls for the labors of men of God to preach the Gospel in destitute places are as loud as ever. And we believe that while the ability of many to contribute of their substance to the missionary work has been greatly impaired and almost taken away by our national troubles, that of many others is not so diminished or so drawn upon by objects peculiar to these circumstances that they may not enlarge their gifts to the work of missions, and greatly supply what is lacking by the disability of others. We pray them, and all our brethren, seriously to review their duty in this respect. The missions in Africa and China are afflicted at the prospect of being painfully reduced for want of means to sustain them as they are. In the domestic field, the absence in missionary stations of the labors of the Minister of the Word and Sacrament, is even a greater evil in such times than when no great national affliction carries its sorrows [12/13] and clouds into every village of the land. Let us seek God's blessiwng upon our country's cause, by seeking to promote His kingdom and righteousness in all our borders.

But it is not merely for the support of our missionary work that we are concerned at this time. The ability of many a faithful parish Minister to continue his labor of love among a people beloved, is greatly endangered at this time for lack of the most slender pecuniary support; so that by the additional cause of Ministers feeling it their duty to see to the spiritual wants of our soldiers and taking service as chaplains in the army, we are increasing the number of vacant congregations to an alarming extent. We must therefore exhort our brethren to take heed and to do their utmost in their several parishes, that the blessing of a settled Minister be not lost for lack of the needed pecuniary support. If such privation, in ordinary circumstances, be of great detriment; much more is it so in days of affliction such as we have never known before. Never was it so important to all individual, domestic, and social interests, for the light of every household in a day of darkness, and the strengthening of every heart in a season of manifold burdens, that the lamp of the sanctuary should be trimmed and burning; that the precious "comfort of the Scriptures," through its appointed Messenger, should not be removed; that the soothing, purifying, governing, elevating influences of the public means of grace, under the hand of God's Minister, should be regularly enjoyed in the congregation. But if such cannot be the privilege, then we exhort vacant congregations that instead of forsaking the assembling of themselves together, as if, because they have no pastor, they could have no worship, one with another, they will take advantage of the great privilege of having our Book of Common Prayer, whereby a Church without a Pastor may still have `its public worship and the Word of God, in purity, in fitness, and in power. Meet together regularly, brethren; have the Morning and Evening Prayer, and some approved published sermon, read by one of your number. You will thus have much to enjoy, though not all you need and desire. Lose it not, because you cannot have more.

And now, praying a merciful God and Father soon to restore to our beloved country the blessings of peace, under the banner of our honored national Union, and with our wholesome laws and righteous liberties more than ever strengthened, defended, and established; praying that those who have sought to depart from us may speedily and happily be reunited with us in the bonds of Christian, as well as national, fellowship; and that all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking may be put away from us and them "with [13/14] all malice;" that we may "be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another even as we hope that God, for Christ's sake, hath forgiven us," we affectionately "commit you to God and the word of His grace." May the blessing of God so abide on you, beloved brethren, in all your families and congregations, that "your faith may grow exceedingly," "that your love may abound more and more," "that you may walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;" "to whom be glory in the Church, throughout all ages, world without end."

Presiding in the House of Bishops, pro tem.

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