The following Letters are given to the public, with the hope that they may lead to a more thorough examination of the nature of the Episcopal Church, and also to furnish some brief and comprehensive arguments by which Christians may be enabled to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the Saints.
The reader is desired to throw aside his prejudices for a moment, and exercise the candour of the writer.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
YOU have expressed your surprise at what you are pleased to term my apostacy from the faith of my ancestors, in having joined the Episcopal Church in this place, and have requested me to give a full statement of the reasons by which I have been governed in this, to you, unexpected and extraordinary proceeding. Convinced as I am of your candour and sincerity, and knowing that the discovery and support of truth are with you paramount to every other consideration, I am confident that you will not condemn, until you have thoroughly and without prejudice investigated the subject, and that you will not the less respect my vindication of myself, although it should be presented to you in the style of a plain and an unlearned man. I am sensible that I am not sufficiently qualified to engage in religious controversy, nor have I a wish to possess such ability; still I think it a duty incumbent upon every one, not only to examine and to think for himself, unbiassed by interest or fashion, but to be able to give a reason for the faith which he has adopted.
I was educated, as you know, a Congregationalist, and it was not until I arrived at the years of manhood that I understood any thing of the various sects into which the Christian world is divided. I do not recollect ever hearing the Episcopal Church mentioned, and I had no doubt but that the only sure way to heaven was that pointed out by the clergyman upon whose ministrations I always attended. His faith I considered to be the faith of the Gospel; his explanations were to me authoritative and infallible, and it never entered my head that it could be possible for the Church to exist in any other form, either as it respects discipline or worship, even to the minutest particular, than it appeared in the place of my nativity.
At the time the Episcopal Society was established in this place, my ideas had, it is true, become somewhat enlarged. I had been in the habit of thinking more for myself, and the course of religious reading in which I indulged was considerably extended. I had learned that a very small portion [3/4] of the Christian world was, in government or worship, such as I had been used to; and I even dared to suspect that my belief was not necessarily right, merely from the circumstance that I had received and encouraged it from my infancy. I found that religion, in all its parts, was to be supported by the sure test of scripture and of reason, and I could not conceive how the man who advocated a particular system only because he had been educated in it, differed from the disciple of Mahomet or the worshipper of Jugernaut. In the course of my reading and conversation, I had also learned that the divines of the Episcopal Church had been distinguished for their learning and piety; that the best systems of divinity, and the most useful dissertations upon the several articles of Christian faith and practice, had come from their pens; and I was not a little surprised to hear our ministers frequently quoting them as authorities in the pulpit, and to see their libraries filled with the books they had published.
As I had become considerably acquainted with the clergymen in the neighbourhood, I perceived too that they expressed to each other a good deal of dissatisfaction in regard to the government of their own church, and some would even go so far as to recommend and vindicate the use of forms in worship. This convinced me that there was something wrong in the system, though I could not tell precisely what it was; and from all that I saw, and heard, and read, I felt it my duty, as a man who was to give a strict account of the improvement of his talents, to examine faithfully and impartially the nature of the Episcopal Church, when it was brought to my door, and to act according to my convictions. This examination I pursued to the best of my ability and opportunity, and the result has been a full and an unshaken belief that the government of the Church by bishops, priests, and deacons, and the worship by forms, is of ancient and divine institution, and that every other mode is an innovation, not known to the apostles and their successors for many ages, but of recent date, and fatal tendency.
In my examination of the subject, I first made myself acquainted with the Constitution and Canons of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America. I also attended the worship of the Church, and although I was a little confused at the variety of form, yet there was an appearance of solemnity and an engagedness in devotion, which was peculiarly impressive. My confusion I knew was owing to my having been used to a different mode, and did not, therefore, discourage [4/5] me from a renewed attendance, until I was satisfied with the beauty and propriety of all. Every person will, I think, on first coming to church, especially if he has been acquainted with none but the Congregational mode, be unfavourably impressed with the service. The cause of which is, that he attends as a spectator, and does not perceive the reasonableness of the several prayers and praises which are intended only for pious and devout worshippers. They are not, like extemporaneous prayers, to be heard, but to be offered; and the humble Christian who has long given vent to the emotions of his soul in their fervent strains, would deem it his greatest loss to be deprived of their use.
After I became acquainted with the government of the Church, I considered first, whether it was good in itself, and calculated to preserve unity and peace. I had heard much said of the power of bishops, and their infringement of the rights of the people; but I soon learned that the charge was groundless, and that there was more true Christian freedom in the Church than in any other denomination with which I was acquainted. The bishop has the power of ordaining deacons and priests, after they have been suitably recommended, with the assistance of his presbyters; he confirms those who have been baptized; he consecrates chapels and churches; and, when present, he presides in convention. But he has nothing to do with the votes of a people in the settlement and support of their minister; the clergy only are subject to his advice and direction; and I have sometimes thought that the opposition to bishops was on account of a due subordination in the ministry, which did not give individuals of that order a right to tyrannize over the consciences of the people. All acts in relation to the Church are passed in convention, where the power of the bishop is equal only to that of the presbyter, the deacons or even the lay delegate. He can prescribe no new service; he can make no alterations in the old; and in every respect there is the same check upon the Episcopacy as is possessed, in a civil view, by the legislature over the president. But there is a permanent and visible head to the Church; there is an authority to which offenders may be brought; there is a bond of union which strengthens and supports the whole; and although all the bishops in America can exercise no more power than a single presbytery or association of Congregational ministers, there is, nevertheless, a source from which power emanates, and without which all would be confusion and anarchy.
 And let me ask you, my friend, whether it is not necessary that to every body there should be a head? The Church is a society which can exist only under a regular government, and how can this be administered without an authorized governor? And does not experience show that where all assume to be rulers, in an equal degree there is disorder and every evil work? What government ever existed long where there was not a due gradation in its officers? And how can it be expected, when mankind are so various in their tempers, passions, and pursuits, that one uniform course should be pursued, and the same end accomplished, where there is no subjection and no controul? Let the history of dissent, and the public declaration of Congregational reports, furnish the answer.
From considerations like these I soon became satisfied that the Church was in itself the best mode of which I had any knowledge, so far as respected the orders of its ministry. It then became necessary to inquire whether it was agreeable to the will of God; for however useful and proper it might appear, still, if it was contrary to his commands, I knew it must be rejected, and the views which I had entertained set aside as deceptions. To ascertain this, it seemed important to advert to the ministry which he himself established with the Jews, and here I found a striking similarity to the orders of the Church in the several offices of high priest, priest, and levite. This, however, has been said to be nothing to the purpose, because the Jewish dispensation was done away upon the coming of Christ. But such does not appear to me to be the case. It was not done away, but changed and extended; and is it not reasonable to suppose, that where there were once types and emblems, there must now be the substance and reality? Although circumcision was no longer to be continued as a token of the covenant between God and His people, yet baptism was substituted in its stead; and for the same reason, the offices which had before prevailed must have something corresponding to them in the Christian Church: and what is there that answers to the high priest, if it be not the bishop--to the priest, if it be not the presbyter--and to the levite, if it be not the deacon? But the argument is not, as some pretended, that there must of necessity be bishops, priests, and deacons in the Christian, because there were high priests, priests, and levites in the Jewish Church. It is shown from this that a diversity and an inequality of orders are not contrary to the will of God, but [6/7] agreeable to his own government; and until there is some express command to the contrary, I think, if there were no other reason, it is better to endeavour to imitate the divine conduct than to adopt the inconsistent and unprofitable inventions of men.
But I did not rest my belief upon my view of the subject thus far considered. Although I found Episcopacy good in itself, and as I thought from the divine institution, agreeable to the will of God, I proceeded to discover, if possible, what ministry was established for the Church by Christ and his apostles. The three orders we find existing while the Saviour was upon earth, consisting of himself, the twelve apostles, and the seventy disciples. This seems an intimation, at least, that he intended the form of the ministry which had prevailed among the Jews, to be continued so far as related to the number and gradation of its offices; and after his ascension, it appears to me evident, that the three orders still remained. Of the appointment of the deacons, we have a particular account; and that they preached and baptized, whether as deacons or evangelists, matters not; for their being deacons made them evangelists; and we have a history of their being solemnly ordained by the laying on of the hands of the apostles to the office of the former and not the latter. The term evangelist did not point out the nature of the office, but merely signified that the person to whom it was applied was a preacher of the Gospel. In regard to the office of presbyters there is no question; and what is the testimony in proof of the superior order of bishops?
All the apostles were bishops, and as such received their commission from Christ, and under this commission they could exercise equal powers, plant churches, and ordain teachers as they thought necessary. But it does not follow, that because they received but one commission, and were alike authorized to perform all the duties of the apostolical or episcopal office, that the same equality descended to all that they ordained. We know it did not in regard to the deacons; for Peter and John went down from Jerusalem to Samaria, to confirm the converts whom Philip had baptized, which it seems he had not the power to do. And there are very strong circumstances which show also a difference in respect to presbyters. Timothy was the bishop of Ephesus; and I do not see how any candid person can read St. Paul's Epistles to him without being satisfied that he had the sole government of the Church in that place, as it respected the [7/8] ordination and reproof of presbyters, and many things relating to the worship and conduct of the flock. Now, had the presbyters at Ephesus equal authority with Timothy? We read in the 20th chapter of the Acts, that St. Paul called together the elders or presbyters of this Church, and addressed them in the most affectionate language for the last time. And is it not surprising that he does not say one word to them about the government of the Church, ordaining, reproving, &c. when he never expected to see them again, and when, according to the system of parity, this was as much their duty as it was that of Timothy? He tells them to "feed the flock of God;" but to Timothy he points out the qualifications of those whom he was to ordain, and directs him to "lay hands suddenly on no man." Is there any reasonable person that can say Timothy was not superior to these presbyters? and if so, to what order did he belong, if it were not to that of bishops? The directions given to him are such as are followed by the bishops of the Episcopal Church at the present day; nor do they, so far as I am acquainted, exceed the duties which he was commanded to perform; and so strong is the evidence from this particular, that it was said by a celebrated divine, "that he who could not find a bishop in Ephesus, would be puzzled to find one in England."
And the case of Titus is, in my mind, no less demonstrative than that of Timothy. He was sent to Crete, where St. Paul had previously established the Gospel; and what was his business? "To ordain elders in every city." Was this the office of a bishop, or a Congregational minister? It appeared to me the former; and I thought also, that as St. Paul was in great need of the assistance of Titus with him at that time, it was strange he did not direct him to return after having ordained two or three presbyters, enough to constitute a council, and leave them to ordain the rest, if they had the power: instead of which, he himself was to go through the whole hundred cities of Crete. It seemed also probable, that as St. Paul had been there before, and converted the island to Christianity, he had left some presbyters; and if such were the case, why did he send Titus for the express purpose of ordaining elders in every city?
A further testimony from scripture, in support of Episcopacy, I thought I perceived in the direction to the angels of the seven churches of Asia, in the Revelation. These angels I suppose were bishops, who had the jurisdiction over all the churches in the cities where they respectively dwelt. These [8/9] were large places, containing many thousand Christians. In the Church at Ephesus were probably many societies, and consequently a considerable number of presbyters. Still, one person is addressed as the angel or bishop of the Church at Ephesus; and so at Smyrna, Thyatira, and the rest. But if there were no distinct order of bishops superior to that of presbyters, all the latter were angels, and had equal power to reform abuses and confirm piety. The Church collectively, as including all the different societies in a city, is called a candlestick, to which one star is attached. To me, this intimates, at least, diocesan Episcopacy, and seems in perfect agreement with the instances to which I have before alluded.
Now, what is there to counteract all this scripture evidence, and to establish congregational independence, or parity? It is said that the words bishop and presbyter are indiscriminately applied to the same persons; and that Timothy was ordained with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. But what does all this prove? In regard to the first, it is not the name, but the thing for which the Church contends. The word bishop, I am told, literally signifies an overseer, and may as well be applied to a presbyter as a bishop. The present bishop of New-York is the overseer of his diocese, as extending through the State; and the rector of St. Stephen's or Christ Church, is the overseer of his particular flock. But because one term is applied to both, does it therefore follow that they are equal in office? The presbyters of Ephesus were all bishops or overseers of single societies; but had they therefore the same power with Timothy, who had the oversight of them all? It is from the duties attached to the office, and not from the name, that we are to argue the superiority; and of these I think there are sufficient scriptural examples to set aside the doctrine of ministerial parity.
In regard to Timothy's being ordained with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery, it is undoubtedly true. But St. Paul tells him that be was also ordained by the laying on of his hands. And so every presbyter in the Episcopal Church is ordained by the bishop, with the assistance of his presbyters. This is therefore a circumstance in favour of Episcopacy, rather than against it. St. Paul himself, as bishop, ordained Timothy; but there were elders or presbyters present, assisting him in the work; and these, for aught we know, might have been bishops or apostles.
From the testimony of scripture, which is to me as clear as the light of the day, I proceeded to the history of the [9/10] Church; and here I discovered such confirmation as I should hardly think scepticism itself would deny. All the ancient writers speak of Episcopacy as the universal government of the Church, and but one solitary instance of dissent is mentioned previous to the fourth century. Particular persons are also styled bishops, not of single societies, but of cities comprehending many churches, and thus forming dioceses, as the bishop of Jerusalem, of Antioch, of Alexandria, &c. An author who wrote in the beginning of the fourth century, gives a history of the Church down to his own times, and names all the bishops, in succession, of four principal cities. And it is an indisputable fact, which even the greatest opponents of Episcopacy admit, that in two hundred and fifty years from the time of Christ, the whole Christian world was Episcopal, and so continued until the sixteenth century. And did Christ and his apostles establish Congregationalism or Presbyterianism, which was so inefficient that no vestige of it was to be discovered after the short space of two hundred and fifty years? If this were the case, it is wonderful, it is miraculous, that a universal change should have been so soon effected; and this too without opposition or notice. I find in ecclesiastical history an account of all the sects and heresies from Cerenthus down to Calvin; but I see no relation of a change from the original government of the Church to Episcopacy. And yet, in the beginning of the third century it was episcopal in every country and in every society throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa. Can it therefore be that any revolution actually took place? Is it possible that a few ambitious men should rise up against the great body of presbyters, and take from them their rights, without meeting with resistance--their power of ordaining and of governing the Church? And not only this, but assert also, that they had always had this supremacy in one order from the foundation of the system? And who were these assuming men who aspired to the office of bishop, contrary to the word of God and the institution of Christ and his apostles? Their names are not given us, nor the time when they lived, nor the manner in which they accomplished their end. It is said that the change was gradual: but when did it begin, and where was its progress? It aimed at the subjection of all the presbyters and deacons in the world, and it effected it too in the short course of two hundred and fifty years. This could not be by very slow degrees. And in regard to ordaining, it was an assumption of power which must have taken place at once; [10/11] and this could not have been done without opposition; and if opposition had been made, we should now be able to find some record of it in history. It is indeed incredible. Such as the Church was at the commencement of the third century, in regard to the nature of its government, it was in the beginning, or Congregationalism was changed into Episcopacy by as great a miracle as that which was manifest on the day of Pentecost. But the burden of proof lies with the Congregationalists; and if they cannot show that they had any existence in the Church until sixteen hundred years after its establishment, they must be content with the name of innovators. And if they had, let them point out the time when, and the place where. It was not in Jerusalem, for there James was the first bishop; it was not in Antioch, for from thence Episcopacy was transplanted to the East-Indies, and has been continued in the Syrian Church, discovered by Dr. Buchanan ever since. It was not in Rome nor in Greece, in Spain, nor the islands of the sea; and Congregationalists are challenged to produce any one instance of their existence as a society previous to the union at Geneva, which took place in the sixteenth century, and which has since degenerated into more open and avowed heresy. Is it not passing strange, that we can point out the rise and progress of all other sects and denominations, while in regard to Episcopacy, the farther we go back, the more extensive we find it until at last it pervades the whole Church; and we read and hear of nothing else from the establishment of Christianity? Taking all these circumstances together, the propriety of the episcopal government, its agreeableness to the will of God, its support in the apostolic age, and its universality for sixteen hundred years after, can you wonder at my having renounced the system in which I was blindly educated, and attached myself to that which is so ancient, so pure, and so divine?
From my view of the subject, I must confess to you, my friend, that I did entertain doubts of the validity of any ministry, excepting that derived from the apostles through the succession of bishops. [* The arguments of the author against Presbyterians and Congregationalists are equally applicable to the Methodists, as to the origin of their Church government and the validity of their ministry. For although their Church government is nominally that of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, yet as the authority of these has been derived from Presbyters, and not from Bishops, who alone, according to scripture and ecclesiastical history, have the power of ordination, it is evident, that by whatever name they may call their Church government, it is not truly Episcopal, nor is their ordination more valid than that of others, who have separated themselves from Episcopacy.] For I could not conceive that two [11/12] modes had been pointed out to convey the same office and authority; and it appeared to me as improper and unauthorized to depart from the line, as it would have been for the descendants of Simeon to have assumed the priest's office, which was appropriated to the tribe of Levi. Where there is authority to perform the duties of an office, it must have been received from a source where it really exists; and if the power of ordination was for sixteen hundred years confined to bishops, it is absurd to suppose that it may at liberty be assumed by any other order of men. Involuntary ignorance I believe God will pardon; but where men persist in their prejudices, when the means of information are presented to them, there is danger. The sacraments, administered by unauthorized hands, may be blessed to those who, from their education and circumstances of life, have known but one way; but a plea in excuse will hardly be admitted from such as pursue the path of error, when passion only prevents their examining its course.
Among the collateral evidences which have confirmed me in the belief of the apostolic origin of Episcopacy, there is nothing which has had more weight upon my mind, than the history of the Syrian Church, to which I have before alluded. This little society was discovered some years ago by Dr. Buchanan, the celebrated missionary, in Asia, and traced its records back to the time of its establishment by one of the apostles. For more than thirteen hundred years it had held no communication with any foreign church, and yet was found under a regular episcopal government. Now, whence did it derive this, if not from the original source? It could not have been from the Greek or the Romish Church, for it had never been connected with either until after its discovery by the Portuguese; nor did it receive the Episcopacy from England, a country of which it was altogether ignorant until Dr. Buchanan came amongst them. This church has since been visited by the American missionaries, whose accounts do not materially differ from those of Dr. Buchanan.
A similar argument may be produced from the history of the Greek and Romish Churches, which, though in many essential points opposed to each other, have nevertheless always maintained Episcopacy. That the incumbrances of pope and patriarch should have grown out of it, furnishes no greater objection to it than may be urged against Congregationalism, from the circumstance that, according to the assertions of its advocates, this gave rise to an unscriptural prelacy.
 In conclusion, I will venture to say, that if a sect were now to spring up, similar in every particular to the Congregationalists when they first appeared, there is not, even in New-England, one man in ten thousand who would join their society. Length of time has effaced many absurdities, but their distance from the truth is the same. They have thrown off the only valid ministry, and the evil cannot be removed until they return to the Church which they have unjustifiably deserted.
Having stated to you, as fully as I am able in the compass of a single letter, my reasons for joining the Church, I will now dismiss the subject, so far as its government is concerned, and, in my next, will endeavour to satisfy you that I am upon equally as good ground in regard to its forms. In the hope that you will in the mean time enter into a closer examination, towards which I have only given the outlines,
I remain, with respect and affection, your friend,
I NOW proceed, agreeably to my promise, to a vindication of the forms of the Church; and I trust that I shall make it appear to your satisfaction, that these are good and proper in themselves, and agreeable to the practice of the Church in all ages. I had heard it frequently said, that in the reading of prayers there could be little or no devotion; and without much reflection on the subject, it seemed as if there must be some truth in the assertion. The custom was so different from that to which I had been used, and my mind was so habituated to an entire dependence upon the invention of my minister, that I did not dare to suppose that there could be any such thing as prayer where the language was premeditated. The supposition even carried with it the idea of profanity, and I was almost ready to condemn, unequivocally and without examination. But when I attended upon the worship of the Church, and noticed the appearance so different from that in Congregational societies--every knee bent, and every heart and voice seemingly engaged, I could not but think that the spirit of supplication was there, in a greater degree than I had ever before witnessed in any other place, and that if the blessing of God was ever granted to a [13/14] human petition, it would not be withheld from those who manifested so much apparent fervency and sincerity.
This, with some other circumstances, soon effaced my previous impressions in regard to the reading of prayers, as the effect of early prejudice, and led me to consider the assertions which had been made as the ebullitions of ignorance and bigotry. I found that there were some Congregational ministers who were always in the habit of using a form; that whole associations united in publishing and recommending volumes of written prayers for the use of their people; and that family devotions, in most instances, were carried on in this way; and upon reflection, I could not consider the singing of psalms as usually practised, and without any doubt of its propriety, to be any other than praying to God and praising him by forms. These are precomposed in all congregations; and if a general union is intended in the part of worship which they compose, as they partake, in a great measure, of the nature of prayer, it seemed to me that what was right in the one case could not be wrong in respect of the other. Besides, I found that extemporaneous prayers on the part even of ministers, generally fell at last into a form; and that, indeed, such they must always be considered in regard to those who join in the petitions they contain. Public prayer, whether precomposed or extempore, is unavoidably a form to all by whom it is not originated, in as much as they receive words which are dictated to them; and if they are intent only upon their devotions, it is impossible for them to determine whether the minister invents at the moment, repeats from memory, or reads from his half-concealed manuscript. I knew also, that as respected myself, I had too generally been a hearer of prayer, rather than a devout worshipper, and the appearance of a great portion of the congregation intimated a similar condition on their part. I found that they were ready to criticise the language and style of prayer in the same manner they did the sermon; to admire every beauty of expression, and to applaud all the minutiae of detail to which the occasion led.
With these views, which satisfied me at once that there could be no rational objection to forms even on the part of those who rejected them, I proceeded to consider whether they were not, from the nature of prayer, and in order to the suitable edification of the people, far preferable to the extemporaneous mode. It is the design of public worship, that the united wants and feelings of a whole congregation should [14/15] be expressed. And how is this to be done, unless some method be adopted, of which there may be a previous general knowledge, and in the form and order of which all may agree? If the petitions and praises be not uniform throughout the whole assembly, the devotions are no longer public but private, and in this case there is danger of the same confusion as that which the apostles reproved in the Church at Corinth, where the unlearned, although they gave their assent, could not understand that to which they said Amen. If we have true devotion of heart, we may always worship God with the spirit, but this of itself does not answer the end of our religious public assemblies. It is, indeed, essential to our acceptance with God, but unless it be united with reason and reflection, and thus assisted by the understanding, although there be, so far as it relates to individuals, internal-piety, there will be little edification produced to the Church as a body, and its members might as well confine all their devotion to their houses and their closets. The minister, at the moment, can speak only for himself; he can express only his own feelings, and offer up his own supplications. There may be partial agreement with him; but unless there be a blind submission, or an enthusiastic imagination, which is mistaken for the influences of that divine Comforter, by whom the reason and the will are directed as well as the passions engaged, the people will be content with hearing, (for it may be admiration) but there will be but little union in devotion.
Is it to be expected that any man should be able, from the mere impulse of the moment, to offer up petitions so suitable for the Church at large, and in which all the people can so well agree, as a common form, prepared after much study and deliberation, accompanied with earnest prayer to God for guidance and direction, by the greatest luminaries which the Christian world has produced since the days of the apostles? And is there not as much Christian liberty in the use of a form thus prepared and established by the common consent of the Church, as in the prescription of an individual, whose blunders, hesitations, absurdities, and vulgarisms amuse or mortify his hearers according to their several characters, bringing ridicule upon the sacred cause which he professes to support, and destroying all the solemnity of worship?
It is said that the cases of individuals are not particularized in forms, and that prayer cannot be varied according to circumstances which are often taking place. And is this, indeed,
necessary? These cases and circumstances are all included [15/16] in general petitions and thanksgivings; and does any one suppose that the mind, while a general request or ascription of praise is uttered, cannot revert to a particular occurrence which it may properly include; or that God, in order to the bestowment of his favours, requires from his creatures an exact history of all things that fall under their observation? He knows what we need, and how we are situated and although he will be inquired of in a suitable way, he does not ask for those minute definitions which are too often made to gratify vanity, to display a variety of talent, and thereby to gain popular applause. It appears to me that the particular cases of individuals are proper subjects for closet devotion; but that nothing should be introduced into the temple of God, excepting that with which every person is or may be acquainted, and in which every one ought heartily and spiritually to join.
There is, I think, a great advantage in having a form of prayer for the whole Church, as it constitutes a bond of union which cannot be broken, and tends to the preservation of the faith in its purity. Not only the members of one society or congregation unite in their prayers and praises to one common Father, but the same petitions and thanksgivings are ascending to the throne of grace from the Church universal. And if Christ has promised to hear the requests of two or three when gathered together in his name, how much more will he grant their petitions when presented in the same way by the thousands and millions who kneel before his altar?
That forms of prayer are of ancient and divine institution is to me evident from scripture. The first piece of solemn Worship recorded in the Bible is a form--the song of Moses and the children of Israel, after the destruction of Pharaoh and his host, which was first repeated by the men, and afterwards responded by Miriam and the women. Forms also were given to Moses and Aaron in the wilderness; one in relation to the atonement to be made for the expiation of an uncertain murder; another to be used when the ark rested, and when it set forward; and a third for the blessing of the people by the priest. Besides, the whole book of Psalms are forms of prayer and praise, which were used in Jewish worship, and are still retained in the Church; and the following injunction of the wise man seems intended for the express purpose of discountenancing extemporaneous prayer:--"Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God; for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth; therefore, let thy words be few."
 If we come to New Testament times, we find Christ providing a full and ample form for the use of his disciples, even as John also had taught his followers the manner in which they were to pray. And when, after the ascension of Christ, the apostles were gathered together, they lifted up their voices with one accord, and united in a solemn form of prayer, the words of which are given to us in the 4th chapter of the Acts.
The example of Christ furnishes a strong argument in favour of forms. When he was in the garden, he repeated the same words three times; and upon the cross he addressed the Father in language which had been prepared many ages before. He always attended the worship of the Jewish synagogue, which was carried on altogether by forms; and had there been any impropriety in the mode, he would not, certainly, have withheld his reproof. From the time of Christ and his apostles, forms in public worship were universal in the Church until the sixteenth century; and the same arguments are to be produced in their favour from ecclesiastical history, as in regard to Episcopacy.
When I had satisfied myself of the superior excellence of forms over extemporaneous prayers, and become convinced that they had prevailed in all ages of the Church, and been sanctioned by the example and precept of its great Head and his apostles, as well as by Moses and the prophets, I proceeded to the consideration of the Episcopal Liturgy, which I found so rational, so comprehensive, and so well adapted to the expression of public wants and feelings, that I could not for a moment withhold my approbation. The language is scriptural and solemn, the arrangement excellent and instructive, and it may well be said that in the Prayer Book the Bible is discovered in a devotional form.
The morning and evening prayers are commenced by the reading, on the part of the minister, two or three selections from scripture, intended to call the people to a sense of their condition, and to prepare their minds for the solemnities in which they are about to engage. Then follows an earnest Exhortation, setting forth the duty of the worshipper, and inviting all present to unite in an humble confession of sin, which is the first thing necessary when we come into the temple of God. We have no praises to offer, no favours to ask for ourselves or others, and no consolations and encouragements to receive from the holy writings, without first acknowledging our transgressions, and sincerely supplicating for the pardoning mercy of God.
 After the exhortation, in which the minister acquaints the people with the necessity and qualifications of Confession, they all unite, each one for himself, in bewailing their sins, and imploring the forgiveness of their Maker. And if this confession be made from the heart; if this supplication proceed from a sincere desire of pardon, and be accompanied with strong resolutions of obedience, then are the people encouraged to hope that their iniquities are blotted out; and this encouragement is conveyed to them by the minister in the Declaration of Absolution which follows. He is authorized by that Almighty Being from whom he derives his commission, to declare, that if they be truly penitent, their sins are forgiven; and, on their bended knees, they are to receive the joyful declaration.
After this, as the restored prodigal, as the pardoned sinner, as the humble disciple, they are permitted to call God "Our Father," and to unite in that comprehensive form which Jesus Christ has commanded us always to use, and by which we acknowledge ourselves as his followers.
After repeating the Lord's Prayer, and in view of the great privileges received in the forgiveness of sins, and the permission through Christ to call God Father, the whole congregation unite in solemn ascriptions of praise; the people performing their part as well as the minister his, and thus manifesting their common interest in the whole service.
When the daily course of praises is ended, a Lesson is read from the Old Testament, which is followed by a hymn of thanksgiving, with reference to the goodness of God in all his revelations to the children of men, and including the most devout adoration of his righteous attributes. To this succeeds a Lesson in the New Testament, which is followed by another hymn of praise, called forth by a sense of fervent gratitude for the interesting truths of the Gospel of his dear Son.--And what can be more proper than, after hearing those truths which are able to make us wise unto salvation, for the whole congregation to rise and exclaim with one voice, "We praise thee, O God, we acknowledge thee to be the Lord;" or, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he hath visited and redeemed his people"?
Having heard the word of God as contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, we proceed to acknowledge that our faith as Christians is founded thereon; and in union with the Church universal in heaven and upon earth, we declare the several articles of our belief, as contained in the Apostles' Creed.
 Then, having first petitioned for mercy and salvation, we proceed to the collects or prayers, which are arranged agreeably to St. Paul's direction to Timothy--"I exhort therefore, that first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men, for kings, and for all in authority," &c. The service, by being thrown into short collects, instead of one continued prayer, is better calculated to keep up the spirit of devotion, and to prevent the mind from losing sight of the subject before it. Our natures are such that we cannot confine our attention to any one thing for a great length of time; and the variety in the devotions of the Church is admirably adapted to afford that relief which the mind requires.
In the morning service, the Litany, or general supplication, is introduced, which is the most solemn and affecting composition that can well be conceived. Throughout the whole, our appeal is to the Divine mercy, flowing through Jesus Christ our Saviour; and in the language of Dr. Paley, there is nothing which a Christian petitioner can wish to ask or deprecate, that is not there expressed with admirable solemnity and simplicity.
Indeed, I have found that pious and sensible men of all denominations, speak highly of the Liturgy of the Church; and this of itself is a convincing proof that it is an excellent form of sound words; and I trust that there are thousands and tens of thousands now in the paradise on high, crying with saints and angels, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts; and hymning praises to the Lamb that was slain, who knew no other services in the temple of God below, than those in which the members of the Episcopal Church unite. They were compiled by saints and martyrs, prophets and apostles; for many hundred years they composed the whole of the public devotions of the Church; and they still remain, having escaped the corruptions of popery, and the innovations of heresy, pure and unadulterated as the Holy Scriptures upon which they were founded. Cold then must be the heart, and lifeless the affections of those who cannot, in the worship of the Church, pray and praise with the spirit; who, in the prayers of saints, and the hallelujahs of angels, cannot rise above this fleeting, transitory scene, and hold sweet communion with their God and Saviour.
In vindication of the postures practised by the Church in public worship, I need say but little to you. They are so rational, significant, and scriptural, that the blindest bigotry [19/20] only can object to them. In prayer, churchmen kneel after the example of Moses and Solomon, Daniel, Paul, and Christ. It is said by some, that the posture is of no consequence, provided the heart be right. But this in my opinion is incorrect and absurd, and if carried to its full extent, would destroy every appearance of religion. The same assertion in regard to one external may be applied to all the rest; and with equal propriety can it be said, that if the heart be right, it is no matter whether a person attend public worship, receive the sacrament, or perform any other outward duty, although prescribed by the law of Christ. In this, as in all other things, scripture is to be the test of propriety as well as of truth; and I do not believe we shall find in the Bible a single instance of a prayer being offered to God in any other posture than that of kneeling. It is true, we read of some that stood and prayed. Solomon was one of these. "He STOOD before the altar of the Lord, in the presence of all the congregation of Israel," and prayed. "And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying, he arose from before the altar of the Lord, from KNEELING on his knees, with his hands spread up to heaven." This then was his standing,--not upon his feet, but upon his knees; and as the word expresses simply a general disposition of the body, and not the precise posture, we may from analogy suppose, while the universal custom in the east confirms the hypothesis, that in every instance where standing is mentioned, kneeling was practised. The heathen kneel before their deities of wood and stone; and shall Christians, when they address the God of heaven, show less respect than pagans, who worship at the statues of dumb and senseless idols!
Standing in praise is a posture observed in the Church. Prayer humbles us, and brings us upon our knees in view of our own unworthiness: praise exalts us in contemplation of the perfections of that God whom we adore. In the one, a sense of guilt and the need of pardon are expressed; in the other, we give vent to the grateful emotions of the soul, and rejoice before the Lord our King. When the scriptures are read, it is the custom of the Church to sit, which is the proper posture of hearing with attention, and one, in regard to which there is but little difference of opinion. These are all the ceremonies of the Church; and although they may appear strange and unpleasant to such as have always been used to a different mode, I trust they will be found, upon examination, proper in themselves, and agreeable to the will and the word of God.
 I had intended to make a few observations upon some of the offices of the Church, removing the objections which are made to the baptismal, confirmation, and ordination services. But as you have the Congregational and Presbyterian platforms of church government, and will perceive from them that every objection in regard to the word regeneration, and to the fancied power of forgiving sins, will apply to the dissenters, it is unnecessary that I should say any thing upon the subject. I think, however, that the objections would not be so frequently advanced, if the people generally knew that regeneration in baptism, and forgiveness of sins in ordination, are recognized by all the dissenting churches in the same manner as by the Episcopal.
I will conclude this letter with an extract from the celebrated Miss Hannah More, upon the service of the Church, and leave you to make your own comments, both upon that and upon what I have offered.
"Most sincerely attached to the Church myself, not, as far as I am able to judge, from prejudice, but from a fixed and settled conviction, I regard its institutions with a veneration at once affectionate and rational. Never need a Christian, except when his own heart is strangely indisposed, fail to derive benefit from its ordinances; and he may bless the overruling providence of God, that, in this instance, the natural variableness, and inconstancy of human opinion is, as it were, fixed and settled, and hedged in by a stated service so pure, so evangelical, and which is enriched by such a large infusion of sacred scripture. If so many among us contemn the service as having been to us individually fruitless and unprofitable, let us inquire whether the blessing may not be withheld because we are not fervent in asking it. If we do not find a suitable humiliation in the Confession, a becoming earnestness in the Petitions, a congenial joy in the Adoration, and a corresponding gratitude in the Thanksgiving, it is because our hearts do not accompany our words; it is because we rest in the form of godliness, and are contented to remain destitute of its power. If we are not duly interested when the select portions of Scripture are read to us, it is because we do not, as new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that we may grow thereby. Perhaps there has not been, since the age of the apostles, a church upon earth in which the public worship was so solemn, and yet so cheerful; so simple, and yet so sublime; so full of fervor, at the same time so free from enthusiasm; so rich in the gold of Christian [21/22] antiquity, yet so astonishingly exempt from its dross. That it has imperfections we do not deny; but what are they compared with its general excellence? They are as the spots on the sun's disk, which a sharp observer may detect, but which neither diminish the warmth nor obscure the brightness."
These are the sentiments of a person who, in the opinion of the serious of all denominations, has fought valiantly, through a long life, for the Lord her God, and who deserves for her labours in the cause of Christ, the highest honours of the Church militant. That they may have their due influence upon your mind, is the ardent prayer of your affectionate friend and well-wisher, S.
SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS.
The succession of the Bishops of the Roman church, especially of the earliest of their number, is full of intricacy. Little attention was paid to the minutiae of dates and successions by the earlier Christian historians, and the consequence is, that moderns are unable accurately to determine these particulars.
The best chronologers, such as Petau, Pearson, Marcel, Pfaff, and Papebroch, differ exceedingly in many particulars. The following list is drawn from a comparison of M'Laine, Schroeckh, and Fabricius.
It is agreed by all, that the Apostles Peter and Paul founded the Roman Episcopate. After their martyrdom, it is impossible to determine the dates of the Bishops before the close of the first century. It would appear, however, that the Jewish and Gentile converts were for a time under the government of distinct Bishops.
Linus, succeeded by Cletus or Anacletus, having the government of the Jewish Christians, while Clement bore the Episcopal rule over the Gentile converts. The latter probably survived the second or third of his contemporary Bishops (for it is uncertain whether the names of Cletus and Anacletus designate the same individual or consecutive Bishops), and united the government of both bodies of Christians, now sufficiently amalgamated to suffer a common discipline, in his own person. He was succeeded about A. D. 100 by Evarestus, who was succeeded by
108 Alexander; 117 Xystus or Sixtus I; 127 Telesphorus; 138 Hyginus; 150 Pius I.; 153 Anicetus; 162 Soter; 172 Eleutherius; 185 Victor I.; 196 Zephyrinus.
217 Calixtus I.; 222 Urban I.; 231 Pontianus; 235 Anteros; 236 Fabianus; 251 Cornelius; 252
Lucius I.; 255 Stephanus; 258 Sixtus II.; 259 Dionysius; 269 Felix I.; 275 Eutychianus; 283 Caius ; 296 Marcellinus.
308 Marcellus I.; 310 Eusebius; 310 Melchiades; 314 Silvester I.; 336 Mark; 337 Julius I.; 352
Liberius; 366 Damasus I.; 385 Siricius; 398 Anastasius I.
402 Innocent I.; 417 Zosimus; 418 Boniface I.; 423 Celestine I.; 432 Sixtus III.; 440 Leo I. or the Great; 461 Hilarius; 467 Simplicius; 483 Felix III.; 492 Gelasius I.; 496 Anastasius II.; 498
514 Hormisdas; 523 John I.; 526 Felix IV.; 530 Boniface II.; 532 John II.; 535 Agapetus I.; 536 Sylverius; 555 Vigilius; 556 Pelagius I.; 561 John III.; 575 Benedict I.; 578 Pelagius II.; 590 Gregory I. or the Great, who sent Augustine, a monk, missionary to England, and with the consent of Ethelbert, king of Kent, consecrated him first Archbishop of Canterbury in 597.
He was succeeded in 611 Laurence; 619 Melitus; 624 Justus; 627 or 634 Honorius; 654 Adeodatus; 666 Theodore; 690 Berthwald.
731 Tatwin; 735 Nothelm; 740 Cuthbert; 758 Bregwin; 762 Tanbert; 790 Athelard.
808 Wulfred; 830 Feologild; 831 Ceolnoth; 871 Athelred; 889 Plegmund.
923 Athelm; 924 Ulfhelm; 951 Odo; 957 Dunstan; 988 Ethelgar; 988 Siric; 996 Alfric.
1006 Elphege; 1013 Lifing; 1020 Athelnoth; 1038 Eadsy; 1050 Robert; 1052 Stigand; 1069 Lanfranc; 1089 Anselm.
1109 Rodolphus; 1122 William Corbeil; 1136 Theobald; 1162 Thomas a Becket; 1170 Richard; 1183 Baldwin; 1191 Reginald Fitzjocelin; 1191 Hubert Walter.
1204 Stephen Langton; 1228 Richard Wethershed; 1231 Edmund; 1242 Boniface, 1270 Robert Kilwardby; 1278 John Peckham; 1291 Robert Winchelsey.
1313 Walter Reynolds; 1327 Simon Mepham; 1333 John Stratford; 1348 Thomas Bradwardin; 1349 Simon Islip; 1365 Simon Langham; 1367 William Whittlesey; 1374 Simon Sudbury; 1381 William Courtney; 1398 Thomas Arundel.
1413 Henry Chicheley; 1443 John Stafford; 1452 John Kemp; 1453 Thomas Bourchier, 1486 John Morton.
1500 Henry Dean; 1502 William Warham; 1533 Thomas Cranmer; 1555 Reginald Pole; 1558 Matthew Parker; 1575 Edmund Grindal; 1583 John Whitgift.
1604 Richard Bancroft; 1610 George Abbot; 1633 William Laud; 1660 William Juxon; 1663 Gilbert Sheldon; 1677 William Sancroft; 1693 John Tillotson; 1694 Thomas Tennison.
1715 William Wake; 1736 John Potter; 1747 Thomas Herring; 1757 Thomas Secker; 1768 Cornwallis;
John Moore, who, with William Markham, Archbishop of York, Charles Moss, Bishop of Bath and Wells, and John Hinchliff, Bishop of Peterborough, in 1787, consecrated Wm. White, Bishop of Pennsylvania, and Samuel Provoost, Bishop of New-York.