PREACHED IN ST. MARK'S CHURCH, NEW-YORK,
On Sunday, November 24, 1816,
THE REV. WILLIAM HARRIS, D. D.
President of Columbia College.
PUBLISHED BY REQUEST
WARDENS, VESTRY, AND CONGREGATION
ST. MARK'S CHURCH,
DELIVERED BEFORE THEM,
Nov. 24, 1816,
IS MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED,
BY THEIR LATE
THE following Correspondence, between the Vestry of St. Mark's Church and their late Rector, is published at the request of the Vestry of said Church.
The information communicated by you to the Vestry of St. Mark's Church, of your intention to resign the pastoral charge of that Congregation, was received by them with unfeigned emotions of sorrow and regret. Their feelings and sentiments on that painful occasion are recorded in the minutes of their proceedings, an extract from which is inclosed. The duty of making this communication, is there assigned to us, and though painful the task of separating from our beloved Pastor and Friend, we derive some consolation from the reflection, that our loss may result in his benefit, and that we shall not be totally deprived of the gratification of occasionally hearing his salutary and enlightened doctrines, from that pulpit which he has, for fifteen years, so ably and respectably filled.
With sentiments of sincere regard,
We have the honour to be,
Your affectionate friends,
and humble servants,
MANGLE MINTHORNE, EDWARD LYDE, NICHOLAS FISH.
THE REV. Dr. HARRIS.
Nov. 14, 1816.
At a meeting of the Vestry of St. Mark's Church.
The Rector announced to the Vestry his acceptance of an appointment in Columbia College, which makes his resignation of the Rectorship of this Church necessary, before he can commence the duties of that appointment; [v/vi] that he will, however, continue his parochial functions until Sunday, the 24th inst. when it will be incumbent on him, to part from his Parish.
Whereupon, resolved, that the Vestry deeply regret the necessity which will deprive them, and the Church, of the valuable services, of their highly esteemed and much beloved Rector; and that Mr. Minthorne, Mr. Lyde, and Mr. Fish, be a committee to express to him, the affectionate and grateful acknowledgments of the Vestry, of his able and faithful performance of his parochial duties; of the high sense they entertain of his virtues, his piety, and exemplary deportment; of their sincere regard and personal attachment, and of their fervent wish, that his useful life may be long preserved, in the enjoyment of health, happiness, and every temporal blessing, and that he may hereafter receive the reward of his labours in the service of the Redeemer.
NOVEMBER 24, 1816.
To the Honourable the Wardens and Vestry of St. Mark's Church.
In consequence of a late resolution of the Board of Trustees of Columbia College, I am under the necessity of resigning the Rectorship of St. Mark's Church. You will, therefore, from the date of this letter, consider the Rectorship as vacant, and are at liberty, when you shall think it expedient, to choose a successor to the office, which I now resign.
Permit me, gentlemen, to tender you my most grateful acknowledgments, for the assistance and support which you have so constantly and so obligingly afforded me, and to assure you, that the remembrance of your kindness, of your candour, and of your many respectful attentions, shall be cherished with the most lively gratitude, while it shall please God to [vi/vii] continue me in life. With my earnest wishes and prayers, for your health and happiness, and for the prosperity of the Church, with which you are connected, I subscribe myself, gentlemen, your late affectionate Pastor, and now greatly obliged and faithful friend,
NOVEMBER 28, 1816.
To Nicholas Fish, Mangle Minthorne, and Edward Lyde, Esquires, Committee of the Vestry.
The perusal of your very affectionate letter, covering a late resolution of the Vestry of St. Marks Church, was a cordial to my heart. To be assured from you that my services were acceptable encourages me in the hope that my labours have not been altogether in vain. Happy for me, if it shall so be found in that solemn hour, when I shall be called to give an account of the manner in which I have discharged the duties of my late awfully responsible trust. If, by occasionally preaching at St. Mark's, I shall in any respect gratify the wishes of those whose happiness, both temporal and eternal, is so near my heart, what greater pleasure can I desire? My imperfect services, whenever you have need of them, are always at your command. I inclose a communication to the Vestry, and beg you will have the goodness to lay it before the board at their next meeting. That you, and your families, may long enjoy the divine protection and favour, and that, as members of the Vestry, you may be directed to consult the true peace and prosperity of the Church, is, gentlemen, the sincere prayer of your obliged, affectionate, and faithful friend,
NEW-YORK, Nov. 28, 1816
To the Honourable the Wardens and Vestry of St. Mark's Church.
The resolution of your honourable board, communicated to me by your Committee, was received with sentiments of unfeigned respect and gratitude. [vii/viii] Although I am sensible that your partiality and friendship have induced you greatly to overrate both my character and services, yet, as I doubt not your sincerity, I should be wanting both in gratitude and sensibility, were I not to acknowledge, that I entertain the highest sense of the value of the testimony you have been pleased to afford me; not, indeed, as an evidence of my desert, but of your sincere affection and friendship, than which (the Divine favour and blessing excepted) nothing could be more grateful to my heart. Permit me, gentlemen, to observe, that I feel a satisfaction greater than I am able to express, when I consider, that for fifteen years, between me and my Vestry, not an unpleasant, nor an unfriendly word has passed. In peace we have assembled; in peace we have consulted; and in peace we now part. That the God of love and peace may continue to be with you, and that in the peace of Zion you may long rejoice, is, gentlemen, the fervent prayer of your ever grateful, affectionate, and faithful friend,
Resolved, that the Rev. Dr. Harris be requested to furnish for publication, a copy of his affectionate Valedictory Discourse, delivered to this congregation on Sunday, the 24th instant, and that the Wardens be a Committee, to wait on him for this purpose, with authority to have five hundred copies thereof printed.
Extract from the minutes,
NICHOLAS FISH, Clerk.
MY CHRISTIAN BRETHREN,
IT is now nearly fifteen years, since, as your Pastor, I first addressed you from this sacred place. Every year has brought its changes, but little did I contemplate the change, which this day will produce. I had thought here to end my labours; to devote to you, my beloved friends, the sincere though imperfect services of the remainder of my life; and when my earthly course was finished, I trusted, that, with our departed fathers and friends, my flesh would rest in hope. Scarcely, even now, can I realize the fact, that when I shall have ended my discourse, and once more have blessed you in the name of the Lord, my pastoral relation to you is to cease. I well knew that this hour would call for more firmness than I possess, but, until this moment, I knew not how painful, how excruciating to me, would be the effort to bid you farewell. But since it must be done, I could think of no passage of scripture more appropriate to the present occasion, than those words of the Apostle, which you will find written in the 13th chapter of the Second Epistle to the Corinthians, at the 11th verse: "Finally, brethren, farewell; be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind; live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you." After having explained [9/10] the several branches of this valedictory exhortation, I shall conclude my discourse with a few reflections suited to our subject, and to the present (I speak in regard to myself when I add) most affecting occasion.
The first clause of the text, "Brethren, farewell," imports an affectionate and sincere desire of the welfare of those to whom it was addressed. About to conclude his epistle, we may suppose the feelings of the Apostle to have been similar to those which he would have experienced in taking a personal leave of his beloved converts. Their many kind attentions; the uniform candour and charity, they had exercised towards him--their respectful attention to his instructions, and the hope he entertained, that his labours among them had not been in vain; these, with many other affecting recollections, crowded upon his memory. In the fulness of his heart, he could not refrain from expressing his best wishes and prayers for their happiness--"Finally, brethren, farewell." All the happiness of this life and of that which is to come, may be included in this most comprehensive term, adopted by the Apostle. His kind wishes and devout prayers for their welfare, were not confined to the short scene of their existence on earth--no! His heart's desire, and prayer to God, when he took this affectionate leave of his spiritual children, was, that their souls might prosper. For what was his hope, his joy, his crown of rejoicing, were not even they, in the day of the Lord Jesus at his coming?
After he had thus affectionately expressed his earnest desire for their temporal and eternal happiness, the Apostle exhorts them to be perfect; that is, not to rest satisfied [10/11] with their present attainments, but to grow in grace, and continually to advance in their endeavours after the attainment of christian perfection. To their faith they were to add virtue, and to virtue knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity. In order to be perfect in the evangelical sense of the word, they were to be sincere in profession and practice, and as nearly conformed, as possible, to the blessed example of their Lord and Master. In their collective capacity, as constituting a part of the universal church, they were to hold the faith in unity of spirit, in the bond of peace, and in righteousness of life. Above all, they were to live in the exercise of that charity which is the bond of perfection, which, flowing from Him who is the blessed source of all spiritual influence, could not fail to unite them in holy affection to Christ their head, and to one another as members of his mystical body. This was the perfection after which the Apostle exhorted his converts to aspire.
Being thus sincere in profession and practice, the holy Apostle would persuade them, to be of good comfort, to take courage from a consciousness of their sincerity, and from the assurance they had of the divine assistance and blessing. Let no present or apprehended difficulties distress your minds; remember, that to walk uprightly is to walk surely; that God is with you while you are with him; that while you have the testimony of a good conscience, and seek his favour with your whole heart, he is engaged by promise, not only never to leave nor forsake you, but to cause all things to work together for your good.
Having exhorted them to be of good comfort, the Apostle [11/12] next advises them to be of one mind--With one mouth, in their christian assemblies, they were to give glory to God. In order to this, it was necessary that they should be of one mind with respect to the great doctrines and duties of that religion, which they professed to believe.
Brethren, if you indulge the hope that the Spirit of God should abide with you, be of one accord, of one mind. It was when the Disciples were worshipping with one accord, in one place, that the Holy Spirit descending, filled them with all joy and peace in believing. All the holy Angels and blessed spirits in Heaven, with united hearts and voices, present their homage--they rest not day nor night, saying Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.
But further, to be of one mind implies unity of affection. In things of secondary importance, Christians may disagree, and yet their difference of opinion may afford no just ground of discord. In order to promote unanimity, the Apostle exhorts the strong to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please themselves; let every one please his neighbour, for his good to edification. Now, the God of patience grant you to be like minded one towards another; that ye may, with one mind and one mouth, glorify God. In regard, however, to a holy life, and to a careful imitation of the example of Christ, be ever of the same mind. In whatever other respects you disagree, differ not in this. Consider it of the last importance, and on which your salvation essentially depends, that the same mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus, and that you live as becometh the gospel.
 In the next clause of our text, the Apostle exhorts his converts to live in peace. It was the source of deep affliction to him, that contentions and divisions had prevailed among them. In the former part of his epistle, he severely reproves them for their inconsistent and unworthy behaviour. He now affectionately exhorts them, to repress their angry passions, to cease from contention, and to study the things that make for peace. Not only is he desirous, that they should be of one mind, that hereafter there should prevail among them the greatest unanimity, but that they should also live together in peace. With a view to this desirable end, let each one be less solicitous for his individual interest and gratification, than for the general welfare and prosperity of that body, of which he constitutes a part. By thus yielding to the prejudices and wishes of each other, whenever it could be done consistently with the faith and character of a Christian, much animosity and sinful emulation might be prevented. In the exercise of this mutual condescension, they, who acknowledged the same authority, and were governed by the same laws, would be perfectly joined together, not only in the same mind and judgment, but in their constant endeavours to advance christian love and harmony.
When the members of a Christian society cherish this peaceful spirit, and habitually endeavour to show forth, in their life and conversation, that meek and humble disposition which the gospel inculcates, they may be said, to live in peace.
Brethren, if you cultivate this pacific temper, and live in peace, then may you confidently hope for the presence [13/14] and blessing of the God of peace--the God of love and peace will be with you. The legacy of our Divine Redeemer to his followers was: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you. In the world there is discord and confusion, but with you, there should be nothing discordant. Live in love and peace, and the God of love and peace shall shortly bruise Satan, the author of all discord, under your feet; and when all the enemies of your peace are overcome, you shall enter upon that rest which remaineth for the people of God.
From what has been said, you perceive, my Brethren, that in order to advance the interest of any society, and more especially the interest of the Church of Christ, unanimity and harmony are necessary. Every member must be possessed of a peaceable temper, and have a lively interest in whatever relates to the common good. But, in order to be of one mind, and to live in peace, it is not necessary that in all your opinions, there should be an exact harmony and agreement. All cannot think alike in every instance, but all should endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Each one should regard, not so much his individual interest, as the interest and prosperity of the church of which he is a member; when the interest of a part, and not of the whole body is consulted, there is then a breach of that peace, which the Apostle recommends. Wherefore, in this respect, my brethren, study to be perfect; be of one mind; live in peace. While you are thus engaged; while you are thus knit together in unity of faith, affection, and charity, fear not, little flock; be of [14/15] good comfort, you are in the path of duty, and can therefore cheerfully and safely repose your confidence in Him, who is head over all things to His church.
Again, from what has been offered, you perceive the great attachment, and ardent affection of the Apostle, towards those among whom he had laboured, and to whom he had preached the glad tidings of the gospel. About to close his epistle to them, how full of affection, of salutary counsel, and of the most seasonable consolation, was his parting address! An example worthy the imitation of every faithful minister of Christ, when about to resign his pastoral charge. Where we have laboured; where we have sown the good seed of the word, accompanied it with our fervent prayers, and watered it with our tears, it is natural, my Brethren, that we should indulge the hope of beholding its flourishing growth and increase. Bear with me, I entreat you, while I briefly recapitulate a few of the most important truths, which, during my pastoral relation to you, I have inculcated from this sacred place. You are my witnesses, that I have not preached myself, nor sought my own glory, but Christ Jesus, and him crucified. My chief object has been, as, on the one hand, to humble the sinner; so, on the other, to exalt the Saviour. If my labours have not been altogether in vain, it is to be attributed, through the Divine blessing, to the sincere desire which I have had to preach unto you, the pure and uncorrupted word of God. I have never taught for doctrines the commandments of men, nor have I ever entered upon those intricate points in divinity, the discussion of which, could contribute little to your edification. The fall of man, and [15/16] his consequent depravity; his restoration by Jesus Christ justification through faith in his atoning blood; the indispensable necessity of the renewing influences of the Holy Spirit to sanctify the heart; the awful punishment that awaits the impenitent, and the glorious recompense prepared for the righteous; and, finally, as the condition, though not the meritorious cause of salvation, a godly and a christian life. These, my Brethren, as you well know, have been the themes on which I have most frequently discoursed; and the duties and obligations resulting from these most important doctrines of the gospel, to the extent of my ability, I have endeavoured to enforce.
We are now parting from each other; my pastoral relation to you is this day to cease; but let us bear it in mind, that when a few years shall have intervened, our connexion will again be renewed. At the bar of judgment, I must be answerable for the doctrine I have taught, and the example I have given; and you, my beloved flock, you must be accountable for your attention and improvement under my ministry. If I have endeavoured your edification in the gospel; if I have laboured to establish you in the true faith and fear of God; if I have set before you both the promises and the threatenings of the gospel; if I have warned you of the danger and deceitfulness of sin; and, as Christ's ambassador, earnestly besought you, by repentance, to be reconciled to God; if I have showed you the path of duty, and have set before you the obligations and rewards of a godly and a christian life; then may I look back with pleasure on the years in which I have served you; "and if the power of the gospel has been manifested [16/17] through my weakness, and the word sown has brought forth its genuine fruit, the glory will belong to God, the reward to your own souls in the day of the Lord Jesus, when he cometh to render to every one according to his works." What holy joy and transport shall I then experience, if, with truth, I may be able to say, Behold, here, Lord, am I, and the spiritual children, the people thou hast given me!
Having for so many years laboured among you, and sought your spiritual and eternal welfare, you will not, my Brethren, doubt the cordiality of my affection, or consider as unseasonable the advice which a sense of duty, a regard to your best interest, and gratitude for your many favours, now prompt me to impart.
When the Vestry of this church shall deem it expedient to proceed to the choice of my successor in office, let them be careful to seek a man of pious character, of good capacity, of competent education, of correct behaviour, and of evangelical principles. Let his attachment to the doctrines, discipline, and worship of our excellent church, be firm and unsuspected; and, to these essential requisites, let me add another, and perhaps of greater importance than any that have been mentioned, let him be a good man, apastor after God's own heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding. If you should be so happy as to find a man of this description, and should be united in calling him to the rectorship of this church; should he accept your call, and consent to take the charge over you, in the name of the Lord, then, my Brethren, let me entreat you, to receive him in love. Cordially welcome him, as an [17/18] ambassador of the Prince of peace; let him be among you without fear; esteem him highly for his work sake; strengthen his hands, and encourage his heart, by a devout and constant attendance on his ministry; pray for him that he may have grace to be faithful, and that at all times he may come to you in the fulness of the blessing of the gospel of peace.
I might here close my discourse, and with it my pastoral relation to you, but I persuade myself, that you will a little longer indulge me with your attention, while I call to your remembrance scenes that are past, and events which, both to you and to me, have been deeply interesting. In this holy place, I have consecrated your children to God in baptism, and received them into the congregation of Christ's flock. How often from this altar (at which I shall never again serve as your pastor) have I fed you with the bread of life, and administered to you the cup of blessing. Here, while devoutly worshipping, and meekly kneeling before the Lord our maker, how often have our souls been refreshed with the most seasonable consolations from the God of our salvation; in answer to our fervent prayers, how often have our sins been forgiven, our diseases healed, and our lives redeemed from destruction. Here, we have tasted that the Lord is gracious, and by happy experience, have found it good for us to draw near unto God. O, my Brethren, dearly beloved, and earnestly longed for in Christ Jesus, if ever you have attended these my ministrations, with spiritual delight and improvement, ascribe the glory to God, and favour the unworthy instrument by [18/19] whom you have been edified and comforted, with your good wishes and prayers.
I have now to return my grateful acknowledgments to those who are heads of families, for the respect and hospitality with which they have ever received me; I have shared with you in your joys; and in your afflictions, I have also been afflicted. Permit me, before we part, to remind some of you, of the solemn scenes of sickness and mourning which have called me to your habitations. You will never forget that I have visited the dying beds of your fathers, friends, and children; in the chambers of death, with what holy fervour have our mutual prayers ascended. To that God, with whom do live the spirits of the just made perfect, I have commended their departing spirits. Over their loved and venerated remains, I have pronounced the last consoling office of the church, committing their bodies to the grave, in the hope of a glorious resurrection to life and immortality.
While some have thus gone the way whence they shall not return, others among you, raised from dangerous sickness and deep distress, have been restored to the comforts of health and the endearments of friendship. What, in the near view of death, were your feelings, when, with our united prayers, we fervently implored the God of mercy, to bring you back from the gates of the grave? Did you not resolve to devote yourselves to the fear and service of Him, who should redeem your lives from destruction? Your prayers were heard. You are the living--the living this day! O, forget not to praise your Almighty Preserver.
Lend me your attention a little longer, while, for the last [19/20] time, as your affectionate pastor, I offer a few words of friendly advice to the younger part of this congregation. My young friends, you will believe me when I say, that your happiness is very near to my heart; but what, on the present occasion, can be said that I have not already repeatedly inculcated? Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. Devote yourselves to God in the morning of life. Consecrate to Him the first and best of your days. Hallow His sabbaths. Reverence His sanctuary. Be daily conversant with His word. Pray, earnestly, for the renewing and sanctifying influences of His grace. Obey those who have the rule over you in the Lord. Hearken to the counsel of your parents. Be not ashamed to confess the faith of Christ crucified. With humble, penitent, believing hearts encompass His altar, and receive with gratitude the memorials of His dying love. Forget not the vows that are upon you. Live mindful of your solemn engagements. Consider whose you are; you are bought with a price; you are no longer your own; live therefore no longer to yourselves, but to Him who died for you. Receive in love the friendly advice I have given, and remember, that on "the course you now take, your own happiness, and the happiness of thousands, may depend."
Brethren, in resigning my charge over you, I trust you will do me the justice, to believe that I am influenced by a sense of duty. I have not proceeded without advice, nor without asking that direction, destitute of which, all human undertakings are but rashness and folly. I considered it an incumbent duty to accept the trust that has lately been committed to me. The duties of that trust I could not [20/21] perform, and at the same time be faithful to you. I have therefore the only alternative of bidding you an affectionate farewell.
Permit me to add, that, while I live, I shall never cease to think of you with affection and gratitude. Your many and unmerited favours I never can forget. How often has your generous bounty anticipated my wants! How soothing to my heart have been your many kind attentions, in times of sickness and affliction! How consoling to me is the thought, that we have lived together in love, and that we now part in peace.
I am not conscious of having intentionally offended even one of the least of my Brethren, but I am sensible that many have been my failings, and sinful omissions of duty; for these I entreat your pardon, and cannot but indulge the hope, that you will favour me with your prayers, that they may not hereafter be laid to my charge.
As for me, God forbid that I should cease to pray for you; that your love may abound yet more and more; that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offence till the day of the Lord, being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
And now, Brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among them that are sanctified. May the God of peace make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you, that, which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ our Lord.