Our Church is already sufficiently advised of the first-named document above, which was preferred to the House of Bishops at the last General Convention, and which will be found in the Journal at page 181. We did not see the Exposition till this article was completed and ready for the press; and although we have thought proper to notice it, as will be seen at the end, we have found no reason for any alteration in our review of the Memorial.
We remark, in the first place, that the Memorialists have asserted an undoubted truth, when they express their belief, that "the subject is participated in by many of their brethren, who may not have seen the expediency of declaring their views," or, as we suppose, of joining in the Memorial. We are frank to say, that we could not ourselves join in it in form, as there are things in it which we could not subscribe to. We think, for example, that they have confessed more than is true of the defects of our Church--more, even, than our opponents, in non-Episcopal churches, are accustomed to find and declare against us. Nevertheless, these Memorialists have told a great deal of truth on this point, as well as on others; and we are glad that the House of Bishops has seen fit so far to entertain, [3/4] their address, as to appoint a Commission to consider it, and that that Commission has invoked, by a circular in the form of interogatories, the expression of opinion and advice on the general subject, from the Bishops, Clergy, and, as we suppose, from the Laity of the Church.
But let us see what these Memorialists have confessed. They say: "The divided and distracted state of our American Protestant Christianity, the new and subtle forms of unbelief adapting themselves with fatal success to the spirit of the age, the consolidated forces of Romanism bearing with renewed skill and activity against the Protestant faith, and as more or less the consequence of these, the utter ignorance of the Gospel among so large a portion of our population, making a heathen world in our midst, are among the considerations which induce your Memorialists to present the inquiry, whether the period has not arrived for the adoption of measures to meet these exigencies of the times, more comprehensive than any yet provided for by our present ecclesiastical system. In other words, whether the Protestant Episcopal Church, with only her present canonical means and appliances, her fixed and invariable modes of public worship, and her traditional customs and usages, is competent to the work of preaching and dispensing the Gospel to 'all sorts and conditions of men,' and so [whether for these defects it is] adequate to do the work of the Lord in this land and in this age? This question [these two questions?] your petitioners, for their own part, and in consonance with many thoughtful minds among us, believe must be answered in the negative. Their memorial proceeds on the assumption, that our Church, confined to the exercise of her present system, is not sufficient to the great purposes above mentioned."
This, as can not but be seen, is a very broad and sweeping confession; and we wonder somewhat, that our Right Reverend Fathers did not pause a little before they allowed it to be spread out in their Journal, without some qualification. Possibly, neither the Memorialists, nor the House of Bishops, were quite aware of its profound import and great scope. The case is well put, the questions are clear, and the negative is a [4/5] flat one. The Memorialists were respectable--too respectable to be altogether disregarded-- their purpose was evidently sincere, and they did not, perhaps, think what an immense stride they had taken. They saw that something was the matter, and they were clearly desirous that the evils should be rectified. The House of Bishops, too, probably felt, that something was the matter, and they also were willing to do something. They appointed a commission to consider the subject. That commission has had one session, and propounded a series of interrogatories to the Church, invoking opinion on the various points they have made. The ship is launched, and embarked on her voyage. What returns she will bring back, remains to be seen.
There is another recognition in this Memorial--confession if you please--and not ungrateful in our esteem, which we desire to notice. The Memorialists speak of "the divided and distracted state of our American Protestant Christianity," by which we understand them to acknowledge some fraternity among Protestants of different denominations. It is clear enough they mean so to be understood, when they speak of other Christian bodies as "sound in the faith," and of other Christian ministers as "having the gifts of preachers and pastors, and as able ministers of the New Testament," who should not be refused Holy Orders, "for the sake of conformity in matters recognized in the book of Common Prayer as non essentials; and who, though differing in name, yet hold to the one faith, the one Lord, and the one baptism." They speak also of this measure as "an important step towards the effecting of a Church unity in the Protestant Christendom of our land, and as a bond of closer and more primitive fellowship."
Clearly, this is a new dialect in the high places of our Church, and one which we would fain trust is of great hopefulness. How pleasantly does it contrast with the customary language of some of our Church journals, and of some of our clergy, who speak of all without our pale, as out of the pile of the Church Catholic! Here, in this Memorial, Christians, "differing from us in name," are recognized as a part of "American Protestant Christianity," as "sound in the faith," whose clergy [5/6] not only "have the gifts of preachers and pastors," but they are acknowledged to be "able ministers of the New Testament, holding to the one faith, the one Lord, and the one baptism." "To the one baptism." That is a great point, and it determines who are members of the Church Catholic. A moiety of our clergy, more or less, and some of our Bishops, have had no other baptism than that which was obtained from ministers without our pale, on whom Episcopal hands were never laid. The charity of this Memorial, surely, is broad enough for the lowest kind of Churchmen, and any thing less than this would unchurch our own Church. For, if the baptism of non-Episcopal ministers does not make members of the Church Catholic, what position do a large portion of our clergy, and some of our Bishops occupy, who have never had any other baptism? And what is the position of their administrations in the Church, or out of it? Will it be said that Episcopal ordination repairs this defect? Still, according to the High-Church doctrine, these ministers and Bishops are unbaptized; and, if baptism is the only act--and we know of no other--which inducts into the Church, and confers membership, still these unbaptized Bishops and clergy are outside of the Church, while they are recognized as her ministers, and while they are discharging ministerial functions. If this doctrine is not included in the reductio ad absurdum, we know not where to find it. But we are happy to say, that the mantle of this Memorial has ample folds for these unfortunate Bishops and clergy. It even proposes a "Church unity in the Protestant Christendom of our land."
Suffice it to say, that this Memorial, the manner of its reception by the House of Bishops, and the use that is being made of it there, constitute an epoch in the history of our Church. It is an entering-wedge to something. What log it will split, we can not now say. But it is in fairly, and no power of man can get it out. The whole transaction is a demonstration of some great sentiment at work in the Church; and the substance of that sentiment is declared in the Memorial itself. We, however, are not prepared to go the entire length of these Memorialists in declaring that "the Protestant Episcopal [6/7] Church" in the United States has proved herself "incompetent to the work of preaching and dispensing the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men;" though we admit and believe, that something is the matter; and we shall proceed, by and by, to specify what we think the matter is. One specification of these Memorialists, as a defect "in our present ecclesiastical system," is our "present canonical means and appliances," explained by them as not being sufficiently broad and "comprehensive to meet the exigencies of the times, and the great moral and social necessities of the day." We are not disposed to dissent from this proposition in the abstract, however we might differ from these Memorialists in the application of it, and in the remedy proposed. We should make a broader application, and, perhaps, we should not dissent from their remedy if it were practicable. But we do not think it is. To supply the well-known deficiency of ministers in the Church, they invoke the Bishops to lay their hands on men outside of the Church, and having ordained them, to leave them outside, if they do not choose to come in. The objections to this, we think, are insuperable. First, it assumes, that the Bishops have an independent or inherent power to do a thing of this kind; whereas, as we think, they have no such power. They can only act, as Bishops, within the Constitution and Canons of the Church. Nor is it reasonable to expect that the Church will adopt a canon to confer Holy Orders on men, and then leave them outside of the Church, without any responsibility to her disciplinary economy. In this, therefore, these Memorialists have proposed a thing utterly impracticable, as well as unreasonable and absurd. We have never heard of a sect of Christians, however loose in their practices, who were as loose as this. If this is Churchmanship, it is certainly a lower descent than our appetite can relish.
"Her fixed and invariable modes of public worship, and her traditional customs and usages," are specified by these Memorialists, as one of the obstacles in the way of the usefulness of our Church. We are far from supposing, that these gentlemen had any such purpose as to dispense with our liturgical services, as prescribed in the Prayer Book, and to adopt the modes of worship practised by Presbyterians, [7/8] Congregationalists, Methodists, and others, though such language would seem to have that aspect. We should rather suppose they would think it expedient to have more liberty in our modes of worship, and that ministers should have a wider discretion in the use or omission of prescribed forms, than custom and canonical rules would seem to authorize. In this, these Memorialists have doubtless given expression to a widely extended sentiment, not only in our own Church, but in the Church of England. The recent report of a Committee to the House of Convocation, for the province of Canterbury, England, is in accordance with this sentiment. It may be hoped, that the Commission of our House of Bishops, who have this Memorial in charge, will take this matter under grave advisement, and recommend something to meet this profound feeling, so that our clergy shall not be so tied up to rule, as to tie up their hearts, and interfere with their usefulness. These Memorialists evidently saw and felt what all who have experience on the subject see and feel, that there are numerous occasions, ever varying, when a clergyman, for the best effect of his ministrations, has need of a larger discretion than the "traditional customs and usages" of our Church award to him. The great majority of English and American Episcopalians would welcome most heartily an occasional abridgment of the morning services; and this, if we mistake not, is one of the points recommended by the Committee of the British House of Convocation. There are times and occasions when a clergyman can not do all which the canons and rubrics seem to require, and when he is forced to use his discretion. Better, doubtless, to authorize discretion, as to the quantity and parts of appointed services for particular occasions, than to force a disregard of authority in the use of it, the latter of which is frequently, and in some cases habitually done, till canons and rubrics lose their force. The spirit of adaptation is the demand of the times, and the wisdom and propriety of it, even in Church affairs, are, we believe, universally conceded. Such, at least, appears to be the aim of these Memorialists, and the House of Bishops have given it the sanction of a respectful consideration.
"Our Memorial," say these gentlemen, "proceeds on the [8/9] assumption, that our Church, confined to the exercise [use] of her present system, is not sufficient to the great purposes above mentioned;" that is, "preaching and dispensing the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men," etc. This is rather a humiliating confession. Nevertheless, coming from such a quarter, and sanctioned by such treatment as it has received from the House of Bishops, it becomes a very grave subject of consideration. We suppose that we look at this whole subject through a somewhat different medium from that which these Memorialists held up before their eyes, and that we see different objects. Although we can not go so far as they have gone, in confessing to the defects of our Church, we agree with them that the exigencies of the times demand a more direct adaptation of our ecclesiastical system. There was evidently a like diversity of views among those who put their signatures to this Memorial. For we find in the list the names of High and Low-Churchmen, and about an equal number of both. The Low-Churchmen were probably glad enough to find the High-Churchmen moving and taking the lead in such a matter, though for their own objects and for their own reasons. It was not the fault of the former, nor by any artifice of theirs, that the latter were walking into a trap of their own setting, or plunging into a depth from which they could not easily recover. The High-Churchmen, in this case, would seem evidently to have changed places with the Low, and to have become the most radical of radicals. For what Low-Churchman ever before found such defects in his own Church, or proposed such radical measures of reform? But these Low-Churchmen knew very well that something was the matter with the Church, and reserving their own views of the difficulties as their own right, they consented to subscribe to the document submitted, without perhaps reflecting on the extent of its import or its bearings. There was some good in it, and it proposed some good things. It can not be denied that it put High-Churchism in a very awkward position.
We join, heart and hand, with these Memorialists, first, in promoting an alliance with "American Protestant Christianity" against Romanism; next, in a charitable regard for all American orthodox and Protestant Christians, of whatever name; [9/10] thirdly, in all endeavors "toward the effecting of a Church unity in the Protestant Christendom of our land;" and fourthly, in the adaptation of our entire Church economy, theoretical and practical, as far and as fast as can safely be done, without a sacrifice of principle, for the more thorough working of our Church machinery on the American mind and heart. These, we think, are the most important points put forward by these Memorialists. They have suggested other things to which we could not fully subscribe, and some from which we should dissent, one of which, not mentioned before, is the apparent recognition of the principle, that the Bishops of our Church must necessarily take the initiatory step in all measures of the kind proposed. This very Memorial is a violation of that principle. But the Bishops have taken no exception to it. On the contrary, they have treated it with the most respectful consideration. It is very proper, doubtless, to treat our Bishops with a respectful deference, but we never approach them as our masters. They are the servants of the Church, and we are not aware that they have any powers not delegated by the. Church. It is as much the right of a layman, as of a presbyter, or as of a bishop, to propose any measure in our Church, to stand or fall by its merits. If this principle, against which we protest, were a sound one, these Memorialists have manifested great arrogance, and stand rebuked by their own doctrine, in what they have proposed. We trust we shall not fall behind them in all proper respect for our Right Reverend Fathers; nor will we affect a deference in that direction to the sacrifice of principle.
But it is time we should approach that higher ground of argument, which lies before us in the consideration of this Memorial. It is conceded on all hands, and this Memorial, in connection with other things, proves the fact, that something is the matter with our Church, which has put it in check, as compared with its former growth, and awakened so much concern in all who love it; and we think it pertinent, in view of the character of the document under consideration, and the action of the House of Bishops that has grown out of it, to give our opinion as to what the matter is, and as to the remedy. The [10/11] matter is mainly divided into two great parts, each of which we shall consider separately.
All persons, conversant with the subject, know very well that no Christian denomination of the country was in a more healthful condition, or in more rapid growth, positive and comparative, twenty years ago, than the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States. It was then in great popular favor, and scarcely a pen was employed, or a tongue wagged against it; and so far as it was opposed, the very opposition strengthened her claims, multiplied her communicants, and brought in candidates for holy orders from numerous quarters, as the result of the debates generally excited. But for some cause or causes, that state of things and those prospects have entirely changed within the period above named, and chiefly within the last twelve or fifteen years, the change being constantly augmented in the same direction by the lapse of time. We do not say that our Church has actually gone backward, or that her communicants have not been increased in numbers; but that her position and prospects twenty years ago were of the most auspicious character, promising a rapid growth in the number of her adherents, and in the ranks of her ministry; and that position and those prospects were of a nature to prove that the obstacles to her growth have not been without but within the Church. The temper of the American people and of all classes of Christians was at that period favorable to her.
It is not to be concealed, however, that the American Episcopal Church had been doomed from the commencement of her history as an independent branch of the Church Catholic, to struggle against the greatest disadvantages, arising from prejudices deeply implanted in the American mind, regarding her origin as a scion of the Church of England, her supposed sympathy with that Church, and her rites and ceremonies so different from those of the Puritans, and of the great body of American Protestants. Nevertheless, after a long period of conflict, these deeply-rooted prejudices had been measurably overcome. The surplice and gown had, for the most part, ceased to be called rags of Popery, and the rites and ceremonies of the Episcopal Church were not only tolerated, but [11/12] they began to be thought well of. It began to be seen that an Episcopalian could not only be an American, but an American republican. The charge of Popery had nearly died away, at least it produced no visible effect on the popular mind. It was a victory gained at great expense and by a long trial. Toleration in the public heart was secured, and God bless the Episcopal Church! was sometimes heard from the lips without her pale, and not a few of the members and ministers of other denominations of Christians had begun to look up to the Episcopal Church as the standard of orthodoxy against the religious free-thinking of the age. Our Church was then in a more rapid career of growth, relatively to the increase of the population of the country, than any other denomination of Christians among and around us, and the graduates of colleges desiring the Christian ministry, and of theological seminaries without our pale, were very extensively looking to the Episcopal Church as the future field of their labors. Besides this, ministers of other denominations not unfrequently solicited and obtained Episcopal orders. Such was the position of our Church twenty years ago, such were its prospects, and such the general respect rendered to it.
But within the period above named a great and alarming check to the relative increase of communicants and ministers in our Church has occurred, and chiefly within from twelve to fifteen years. The number of candidates for holy orders is not greater now than it was twelve years ago; and if we measure the increase of the Church by the increase of her ministers, and as compared with the increase of the population of the country, we shall find that the increase of our Church from 1800 to 1810, was at the rate of doubling in twenty-six years, while the increase of population for the same period was at the rate of doubling in twenty-seven years. From 1810 to 1820, the increase of the Church was at the rate of doubling in nineteen years, and that of the population at the rate of doubling in thirty-one years. From 1820 to 1830 the Church increased at the rate of doubling in sixteen years, and the population at the rate of doubling in thirty years. From 1830 to 1840 the Church increased at the rate of doubling in eleven years, and the population at the rate of doubling in thirty years. But [12/13] from 1840 to 1850 the increase of the Church fell back to the rate of doubling in seventeen years, while the population increased at the rate of doubling in twenty-seven years; and although we have not the data by which to determine the increase of the Church, relative to the increase of population, since 1850, the non-increase of candidates for holy orders for the last twelve years would seem to indicate that the comparative increase of the Church has fallen off much more in the last five years, than from 1840 to 1850, not less, probably, than to the rate of doubling from 1800 to 1810, or in twenty-six years. [For these statistics, see Church Review for January, 1853. We have made the above statements in round numbers, omitting fractions, except where the fraction was near to a whole number, in which case we have used the number nearest to the fraction.]
It can not be denied that this result indicates a very grave and startling fact. The American Episcopal Church, which in 1840 was in a most prosperous condition, and increasing at the rate of doubling in eleven years, while the population of the country was increasing only at the rate of doubling in twenty-seven years, has since fallen off to an increase which would double her numbers only in twenty-six years--probably more than that; and this, too, when she had gradually and constantly increased, from 1810 to 1840, at a rate to double her numbers at the end of this period in less than half the time which it took to double at the beginning. And this, too, when every thing outside of the Church was more favorable to her growth than previous to 1840.
We will here cite a few remarks on this subject from Dr. Colton's "Genius and Mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church":
"Every one," Dr. Colton says, "will naturally see that nothing but a special cause, or special causes, could have put the increase of the Episcopal Church so much in check as from 1840 to 1850. Going on under the same general influences, and at the same rate of increase as from 1810 to 1840, the rate of doubling in 1850 should not have been more than five or six years, instead of seventeen. This is truly an amazing falling off. There could have been no cause for it, evidently, but in the internal state of the Church. Every thing external has been even more favorable for the increase of the Episcopal Church since 1840 than before, if her internal condition had been equally favorable. [13/14] We are forced, then, to come to a scrutiny of the cause or causes. It need not be said that the questions raised by the Oxford Tractarian School, and the new practices, or revival of old ones, proposed and introduced by them, have not only produced great excitement, and entailed a lasting controversy in the sister churches of England and of the United States, but that they have excited the mind, and put in action the tongues and pens of the whole religious world, both in England and in this country--more especially, perhaps, in this. It was quite enough to have these matters to cope with in the Church; but the action from without has been even more noisy and more vigorous of its own kind. The enemies of the Episcopal Church in this country have been delighted to have such an opportunity as these events have given them, to renew and bring home the charge, before the public, of the affinities between the Episcopal and the Roman churches; and it can not be denied that the facts of the case, as they appear on the surface, especially to those who desired occasion, and who were willing to pervert the truth, and make the most of such appearances, have given great force to their arguments. The Protestant religious public of the United States, who are without our pale, have, for the most part, been made to believe that Puseyism and Romanism were about to swallow up the American Episcopal Church. Hundreds of young men, in a course of education in the colleges and theological seminaries of the country, who had meditated application for orders in the Episcopal Church, and who would have been useful there, have, no doubt, been startled by these appearances, and relinquished their purpose. They are, in consequence, lost to the Church for ever; and hundreds more of the same class will, doubtless, be influenced in the same manner, to the same result, before all occasion of these apprehensions shall have ceased. All these would naturally desire to serve in the Episcopal Church as it was; but they are afraid of it as it now is. They are Protestants, and fear to come in contact with any thing that looks like Romanism. In the eyes of the Protestant world around, the Episcopal Church has lost standing, reputation, confidence, by being supposed to be inclined to the Church of Rome. Previous to the introduction of those novelties in the Church, she was rapidly rising in general esteem, and scarcely a mouth was opened against her. The rate of her increase, compared with that of the country, exceeded by much the increase of any other religious body in the same comparison. But they who sought occasion to injure her, found it; and they have not been overscrupulous of the truth in their representation of the facts. They have magnified and perverted them, till they have made a wide-spread and deep impression on the public mind suited to their purpose--an impression which will require an age, perhaps ages, to controvert and overcome. If there be any truth in facts and figures, such as the table on which these remarks are founded, discloses; if we take into consideration not only the great falling off of the increase of our Church since 1840; and not only what she would naturally have gained, unassailed by these untoward influences; but the indefinite amount of her injury that must long time abide in consequence of them, we may, perhaps, fairly conclude that not less than fifty years of her legitimate [14/15] growth must be struck from the records of history by the operation of this single cause! What Churchman, with his eyes open to these facts, would dare to have even the smallest share of this responsibility?" (P. 244.)
In the above citation, we think, stands disclosed the chief, we might say, the only cause of the great falling off in the increase of our Church within the last few years. There is another obstacle to our legitimate growth, which we shall notice by and by; but here is enough to show what has put us back so far in the growth which we should have acquired by this time, "under our present ecclesiastical system," the defects of which, as we think, have been somewhat exaggerated in the Memorial which we have had under consideration. Who can deny, that we prospered well and greatly under that very system, down to 1840? Doubtless we should have prospered more, if there had not been another great defect in our Church, of which we propose yet to speak. We have only proposed first to show how wide of the mark these Memorialists have gone in their specifications. The fact of a great falling off in the increase of our Church, was indisputable. But it would be absurd to allege as a cause, that very system under which we had made such progress previously to the falling off. Must we suppose that these Memorialists did not see the real cause? or, that they did not dare to announce it? That something of a profound, deeply-seated, and all-pervading character--all-pervading in the Church and out of it--was the matter, they seem to have been quite aware; and we have sometimes more than half suspected, that the concoctors of this Memorial understood the real cause well enough, but having no small responsibility in putting it in force, they proposed to beat a retreat under a factitious guise, without confessing to their fault. Dr. Colton's "Genius and Mission," had told the whole story, and although they might not choose to be indebted to such a source for information, they might, nevertheless, profit by it in a movement of this kind. Consistency is a jewel of too high a price to be thrown away, without a very imperative pressure. But we think that, as conscientious men, they should have paused, before they attempted to rescue themselves from the grave responsibility of favoring Tractarianism, by [15/16] impeaching the Church before the world, and casting all the fault of this great and enduring check of her welfare on "her present ecclesiastical system, her canonical means and appliances, her fixed and invariable modes of public worship, and her traditional customs and usages"; and in that way out-Heroding Herod, and putting the opponents of our Church to the blush, because they had never accused her of half so great defects. We desire to know what is left in our Church worthy of respect, if this sweeping and comprehensive impeachment is to be entertained? In this line of movement, should we not expect to see the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States disbanded, and "our American Protestant Christianity" left in better hands?
But possibly these Memorialists will say, We did not mean so much. There is your language, gentlemen. Convince us, if it means less, and that our interpretation is not a fair one. Show that, if our opponents take your words, they have not greatly the advantage of us. We shall readily and cheerfully go with these Memorialists for the adaptation of our ecclesiastical system, of our canons, of our modes of worship, and of our customs and usages, to what they call "the moral and social necessities of the day, and the exigencies of the times." It is not unwelcome to us to see this great principle conceded in such a quarter, and so far entertained by our Right Reverend Fathers, as to have appointed a Commission to inquire in what manner and how far the principle should be applied to our Church economy. It is no small and no unimportant stage of progress, that the question should be started under such auspices. But we shall not be so radical as these Memorialists. Although we fully admit that "our ecclesiastical system" is defective, and that it can be improved in some important particulars, we do not think that these defects have had any agency in the check to the growth of our Church, except negatively, that it has not done so well as it would have done without them. No one can deny that her career was a triumphant and glorious one down to 1840, since which time, alas! we can not say so much for her progress; and she acquired all this success under "our present ecclesiastical system," though somewhat hampered by its tightness. We would loosen it only [16/17] with great circumspection; but still we would loosen it, because we believe it would be better.
As we have said, we are glad that the principle of amendment and adaptation is conceded in such quarters. All know that we adopted our ecclesiastical system and our Prayer Book as a compromise, in trying times, because, from the excited and exciting spirit of that period, there was danger of carrying change too far, if any great change were admitted. From that time to this, our Church has doubtless labored under great disadvantages for want of adaptation to the genius of the American people and of American institutions--of adaptation, we mean, in non-essentials. There has been a want of the statesmanship of churchmanship--for doubtless there is such a thing--and it consists in the science and tact of adaptation. There are parts of our Prayer Book not adapted. We have canonical regulations, and several things in our ecclesiastical economy, not adapted; and, as our Memoralists allege, we have "traditional customs and usages" not adapted. Hence the embarrassments and want of uniformity in the use of the Liturgy, and in the administration of the rites and ceremonies of the Church. It is, perhaps, for the want of such adaptation, which could not be effected when the Prayer Book was adopted, that the Tractarians among us affect to find a justification in reviving the usages of the Papal Church, in the extreme importance attached to saints' days, fasts, festivals, and other customs, which have never been made incumbent by canonical authority, and which have not been generally practised by the American Episcopal Church.
But the Tractarians have gone beyond the record, and revived usages nowhere to be found in any authority of the American Church--even against her authority--as, for example, the custom of turning to worship towards the wall, where the Communion-table is, with the back towards the congregation. The ordination-vows are two: First, "I do solemnly engage to conform to the doctrines;" and, next, "to the worship of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States." Worship, doubtless, includes modes. This turning to the wall in prayer violates both doctrine and prescribed mode: doctrine, because our XXVIIIth Article repudiates the [17/18] idea, that there is any thing in that direction to worship more than anywhere else. The reason in the Church of Rome of turning towards the altar to worship, is the dogma of Transubstantiation, and there was never any other reason. But our XXVIIIth Article expressly repudiates this doctrine, and calls the practice idolatry. And it violates prescribed mode, because, in the first place, there is no rubric to authorize it; and next, because the exceptional rubric in the Communionoffice, directing the priest to "stand before the table, that he may with more readiness and decency break the bread," etc., establishes a general rule, that in no other case shall this position be taken, as in no other case is it prescribed.
This turning towards the wall to worship is a very serious matter, because, in the first place, it connives at the doctrine of Transubstantiation, and as such "is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions," as alleged in our XXVIIIth article. Or, if it be not an idolatrous conformity to the Church of Rome, then is it idolatry in a worse sense by a recognition of the pagan idea, that the Deity resides at his shrine. On one or the other of the horns of this dilemma, they who turn to worship towards the wall, with their backs towards the people, must hang. If they are not Romanists, they are Pagans, quo ad hoc. Let them choose. Is not this a serious matter? With such practices--and this is only one of many, though perhaps the worst of all--does any one imagine that our Church can prosper among American Protestants? It is death to us, and it has proved so. Every body sees through it all, and every body knows that these are practices of the Church of Rome, and not of a Protestant Church. The American people are Protestants, and they will never entertain these usages. They know that Rome has got into the Episcopal Church by Tractarian influences, and that is the reason why our growth has been so much retarded. There is not a child, well-informed, that does not understand this matter.
Why did not these Memorialists come to the point, and tell the whole truth? They knew perfectly well what was the matter. But, peradventure, they were too far committed to [18/19] the system to be willing to indicate its faults. We mean, of course, those who conceived the document, and who drafted and submitted it. We are quite aware that some of the names attached to it had no other aim than to promote an inquiry on the general subjects, hoping for good. Peradventure, also, the originators of this movement were convinced of the unhappy condition into which the Church had been plunged, and of the importance of doing something for her rescue. They might even have thought that the bold allegations of the defects of the Church, as made by them, would lead to a disclosure by inquiry--as in fact it has, at least in part--of the true cause of the difficulty, though they were too timid, and too much implicated, to point it out themselves. There was certainly some virtue in such a motive, admitting the fact. How could it be expected that men would impeach themselves?
But, in all frankness, we fear they are not quite prepared to acknowledge their participation in so great a responsibility. Let an American Churchman, of twenty years ago, or one who knows nothing of the changes since taken place in our Church, attend public worship in the Church of the Holy Communion, in the city of New York, the amiable rector of which is understood to have taken the lead in this movement--will he find himself at home there? If he has ever witnessed the service of the Church of Rome, will he be able to tell the difference? We know there is a difference, but would an unsophisticated man see it? [We have been told, by an authority which puts the fact beyond doubt, that a stranger in New-York (a Churchman) inquired the way, on a Sunday morning, to St. Peter's Church, Twentieth street, and on his way made a mistake by going into the Holy Communion. After service, he asked what church it was; and declared that he thought it was a Papal church.] Rely upon it, his impression will be the impression of the whole American Protestant mind, in the presence of these exhibitions; and yet the mission of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States--if she has any mission from God--is to the Protestant mind of this country. Nothing can be more delicately sensitive than religious sensitiveness, and the only safeguard of Protestantism is a jealousy of Rome. We would not have it otherwise, and we [19/20] thank God it is so. Much as we love the Episcopal Church, and much as we deplore the check she has encountered, by means of Romanism, and semi-Romanism, which has insinuated itself into her frame-work within the last few years, we should much more deplore that lack of Protestant feeling in the country, which would not be alarmed at these encroachments on Protestant faith and practice. We desire and pray for the growth of our own Church, but we do not desire it at the expense of Protestantism. We are perfectly convinced that it can not grow largely on American soil, so long as she is suspected of Romanism; and we are sorry to be obliged to say, that this suspicion is not without foundation. The whole American Protestant mind is perfectly aware that Romanism has entered our pale, and we are doomed in consequence--not to extinction, but to a very limited expansion, until we can recover public confidence again by the expurgation of these pernicious elements. No matter what confessions are made of the defects of our Church, by memorials to the House of Bishops, or by other means, so long as the real truth is not told. Your Commissions of Inquiry will lead to no result, so long as they are turned away from the right direction. This factitious zeal for some new measure without a definable object is all a mockery--while the sore festers in the body, and is not probed. The body is diseased evidently, but what is the use in convoking a council of doctors, if all their heads put together fail to give you the true diagnosis? Not a single hint has yet been given, officially, of the real difficulty. Shall we say, they dare not give it? Is the whole head sick, and the whole heart faint? But if man will not do it, God will do it. God has done it, in part, already. But His is always a strange work, and disappoints man's expectations.
We have already expressed our gratification, that these Memorialists have so distinctly recognized the fraternity of "our American Protestant Christianity," and that they look forward to "a Church unity in the Protestant Christendom of our land." They also speak respectfully of all those who "hold to the one faith, the one Lord, and the one baptism." They also find "the gifts of preachers and pastors, and able ministers of the New Testament" outside of our own pale. Time was, [20/21] when this excellent gift of charity was not so exuberant. But we are in difficulty now. Something is the matter with our Church machinery, and it does not work well. They even acknowledge that our Church is "incompetent to preach and dispense the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men;" and although they do not directly invoke external aid, while it is external, they seem to desire the benefit of external agencies, and they propose to loan those Episcopal authority, that they may do the work which the Episcopal Church is unfit to do! Or, since the Episcopal Church can do no good at all, let us throw the Episcopal mantle over the shoulders of men who can do something.
We are aware, that this is not precisely the shape in which this proposal is presented; but there is evidently a deep and profound consciousness of distress, of some great need; and since they chose to be blind to the real difficulty, it is not surprising, that they should express themselves in somewhat extravagant terms. They have acknowledged a difficulty, and we have endeavored to show what it is, in one great particular. The American Episcopal Church, though not at a dead stand, has for the present lost her prestige of eminent success and rapid expansion, by inclining to the deadly embraces of Rome. Though a Samson in herself, she will be shorn of her power, while her head lies on the lap of Delilah. The reason is, that the American Protestant mind, on which our Church is dependent for all her accretions, is not only now extremely sensitive to all appearances of Romanism, but it is becoming more and more so every day. It is well advised of the entrance and progress of this element in the Episcopal Church, and turns away from it, not only with concern, but with disgust. So long as the accusation can be brought with truth, or even with the appearance of truth, it is in vain to prescribe a remedy for its effect on the general mind. The Episcopal Church is doomed under these circumstances, and no one can tell when she will find relief. These Memorialists saw the doom, and ascribed it to other causes. With a consciousness of misfortune, but unwilling to confess the truth, they have made a proposal, which we acknowledge may be worth something, applied in a limited extent against other bad influences; [21/22] but which is worth nothing as a cure for the mighty evil that has come upon us. It is altogether too radical, and if carried out would amount to a revolution in the Church. We hope, however, that something good will come of it.
Evidently, the spirit of ultra conservatism in our Church is now invaded, and to a certain extent has yielded. Even the House of Bishops have given in so far as to entertain this extraordinary proposal. It is singular indeed, that it should never have been seen before, that an adherence to old things involves a choice against an alternative, and a choice that implies judgment. There is, doubtless, as much responsibility in choosing to stand still, as in choosing to go forward, and either is equally voluntary. It is a question of judgment. He who elects the authority of precedent, elects something; and he who rejects authority, does no more. The great question is, whether men are always to use their judgment, or whether there ever was or can be an age or a generation of men entitled to settle all things for all men, of all ages. This latter is the rule of authority. Another question arises in this connection, suggested by this abstract principle, whether, while all other forms of society are adapting themselves to time, circumstance, and events, and going forward, the Church must stand still, or, which is the same thing, fall behind? It is simply a question of adaptation in social economy, and so far as the Church is concerned, in ecclesiastical polity. Thanks to our Memorialists and to the House of Bishops, they have both manifestly made a movement for adaptation and progress. They are doubtless right, that something in this line is required. The Tractarians, as we know, all tread backward. They turn their backs on the future, overlook the present, and are now bending over the sewers of antiquity with rakes in their hands, working lustily to fish up whatever they can find there; and it can not be denied, that they have found many things to recommend to us. But these are not men of progress. They are fossils, and should be placed on the shelves of a museum, as curiosities. Give us, rather the Memorialists and the Bishops, to put us forward in a career to overtake the age in which we live.
Although we are not prepared to go the length of the [22/23] Memorialists in finding so many and so great defects in our Church, or in advocating measures which would revolutionize it, we nevertheless agree with them, that some changes are required to adapt our "canonical means and appliances," and our modes of worship to "the moral and social necessities of the day, and to the exigencies of the times," and we sincerely hope the Commission of the House of Bishops appointed to consider the subject, will report and recommend something fit for the times. They can not fail to see that a like movement is going on in the Church of England, entirely independent of us, which would seem to prove, that like thoughts and feelings have arisen from the same necessities in both quarters. The spirit of charity breathed in the Memorial towards orthodox American Christians of other denominations, and the desire manifested to be co-workers with them in the great cause of Protestantism, so far as we can be, without impairing our own ecclesiastical system, evinces, as we are disposed to believe, a general sentiment of our Church; and the distinct call made for the adaptation of our canons and rubrics, so that we can "dispense the Gospel to all sorts and conditions of men" with out impediment, is, we think, worthy of the gravest consideration. Possibly, too, it may be found expedient to make some well-considered adaptation in our Liturgy. The ministers of our Church are evidently too much embarrassed by rule, and perhaps we might say by forms; and by this means they are subject to great disadvantages, when brought in contact with the ministers of other denominations. It is impossible to avoid this contact in the social intercourse of life, nor do we think it is desirable; and occasions not unfrequently occur, when our clergy are obliged to go in publicly in religious offices with ministers not of our Church. In all such cases, we want the authority of canons and rubrics, not only to disembarrass the minds and conscience of our own clergy, but to evince a liberal and charitable disposition towards other denominations. All know that this can be done without a sacrifice of principle. We might add, that Christian principle requires it. Much of late has been said on the subject of popularizing our Church, and this is one of the ways of accomplishing this end. Let every Episcopal clergyman be put in a position by our polity, [23/24] that he can say to all "who hold to the same faith, to the same Lord, and to the same baptism," I love you, God bless you! and it will serve the interests of our Church more than can be estimated.
But it is time that we come to the second part of the argument which we have proposed to consider, and that is, evangelical preaching. Some are disposed to speak lightly, even in ridicule, of what they are pleased to call the "Evangelicals." Now it happens that the term Evangelical, like that of Catholic, is too pure in its origin and import, to cast contempt upon it, and there will always come a reaction on those who attempt to asperse it. It implies the Gospel of Jesus Christ--nothing more, nothing less. It is a rock on which those who stumble will be broken, and on whomsoever it falls, it will grind them to powder. It is sad enough to think, that there should be so much alienation from the Gospel of Christ in our Church, as to induce any. of her members or ministers to speak in disrespect of evangelical religion. What is more evangelical than the Prayer Book? Is not the whole Gospel there? If not, the sooner we set ourselves to put in the part left out, the better. No person can safely speak in derogation of evangelical doctrine, or of evangelical religion. It is the standard of the cross, and nothing else can save the sinner. They who stand on this platform occupy impregnable ground.
In every Church whose public worship is under the guidance of a Liturgy, there have ever been two classes, formalists and true 'worshippers. The first are content with observing the forms, while the latter endeavor to imbibe the spirit of the Liturgy, and to be devout in their worship. We hardly need say, that there is a radical difference between these classes. Unfortunately we find formalists in the clergy of every such Church. It is convenient for such persons to invest themselves with the mere mechanism of the Church, and ordinarily, just in proportion as they want the spirit of religion, will they become zealous for its forms. They have all the more need of it, as they depend on form. They have never attained to the discovery that the purpose of form is to regulate the spirit of religion, not to quench it; to prompt devotion, not to dispense with it. But clerical formalists are professional [24/25] formalists. It becomes not only a theme of study, but a theme of teaching. Those are the worst kind of formalists--the worst for themselves, and the worst for others. They are blind leaders of the blind, and both parties must necessarily fall into the ditch. Nothing is more evident than that mere form in religion is not only of no account, but that it is injurious, and leads to fatal error. Without it, one might have a chance of salvation. Belying upon it, he has no chance.
But a clerical formalist does not usually stop at the point of observing form, and teaching to observe it, but he thinks it necessary to endow it with a saving power, and then the system is complete. He becomes at last a mere machinist, and is nothing more. A Church machinery is all he requires, and all he employs. Consequently, in his theory, the rites and ceremonies have in them an operative virtue, and baptism is regeneration. This Church machinery is very convenient to him. He has only to set it a-going, and keep it a-going, and all put into it will come out Christians, and go straight to heaven. The affections have nothing to do with it, except to trust in the system. There is very little trouble in managing such a machinery, when it is well set in order. It goes of itself, and all are taught to be content with its operation, and not to doubt in its saving power.
Need we say that this is not the Gospel, nor any approximation towards it? It is, indeed, going directly the other way. The Gospel requires a religion of the heart. It is a direct appeal to the affections, both of the sinner and of the saint; of the sinner, to convince him of sin, and of a judgment to come--and of the saint to edify him in the hope of heaven. The difference is heaven-wide--precisely that--between preaching the Gospel, and preaching a religion of form.
But since Tractarianism has entered the field of our Church, wherever it has obtained a hold, it has set up the Papal system of preaching, which is, that the machinery of the Church is every thing. Be exact in all ceremonial observances, keep the saints' days, festivals, and fasts appointed by the Church, attend the public morning and evening prayers, use the sacraments as ordered, and obey the priest in all things, and thou shalt be saved. This is the top and body of formalism, and there is no [25/26] other religion in it. The difference between this kind of religion and that which the Gospel of Christ aims to establish in the heart, is immense. There is no likeness between them. And the latter is evangelical religion.
The Protestant Reformation was a great endeavor of Christian society to rescue the Church from a religion of mere form and ceremony, and to reestablish evangelical piety. It was equally an object to break the chains of a religion of form, as to break the chains of Papal despotism. Since the days of the Apostles, the Christian world has never displayed a more active and a more energetic piety than that of the days of the Reformation, and under its influence, both on the Continent, and in England. It was literally a great revival of religion. The spirit of Luther electrified all Germany; and the English Reformers, under Edward VIth, electrified all England. The whole Christian world was electrified by the spirit of the Reformation. That was a religion of the heart, which went deep into the soul, and called out repentance and faith as evangelical sentiments. The Protestant Reformation was an epoch, which introduced a new era in Christendom--an era chiefly remarkable for the revival of evangelical religion, and just in proportion as this kind of religion fails to operate, the Protestant Reformation is a failure. The throwing off of the shackles of Popery was the work of a day; but the reestablishment of a vital Christianity, of a religion of the heart, of evangelical religion, was the work of an age, of centuries, we might say. For it began with Wickliff, and ended not with the Reformers of Germany and of England. In England, more especially, it took root in a deep and prolific soil. The literature of the Christian world, if we except the inspired records, has never yet been blessed with such soul-stirring writings as those of the English Reformers, and their martyr-spirit has kindled a flame which will never be extinguished. It burns in England still, and has never ceased to burn there. It is the fire of evangelical religion, and nothing else. It has blazed forth in the Church and out of it, in the hearts of Churchmen and in the hearts of Puritans. Cranmer and Latimer, Baxter and Bunyan, Wesley and Whitefield--a host of Churchmen and a host of Dissenters--have been animated by this fire, and their [26/27] example and influence will live to animate others by the same fire, so long as the Gospel shall triumph. It is evangelical religion, in distinction from a religion of mere form. It is the religion of the Protestant Reformation, and it will stand, and prevail, and be respected, till that Reformation dies out.
The Gospel addresses itself to the heart of man, saint and sinner. It is adapted to it. If it does not stir the heart, then it has no effectiveness. The heart is the best judge of what the Gospel is, because it was made for nothing else. It is sure to take effect on the heart, whenever and wherever it is faithfully preached. This is the great secret and great power of evangelical religion.
Now we have to say, what we believe is true, and what all Episcopalians, if they love their own Church, and desire its prosperity, will do well to observe. It is this: that American soil is the best in all Christendom for evangelical religion, and that no other religion can grow and prosper here, against the agencies which God has planted on this ground. If this is true, and we believe it is, it is a great fact, worthy to command the attention of the men of our Church. We are not only doomed by Tractarianism, if that must prevail, to remain a small and comparatively uninfluential religions body in the land; but we are also doomed to the same destiny for the want of evangelical religion and of evangelical preaching, if this must be our condition and character. It is not less certain, that moral laws will have their appropriate influence and effect than physical, and a moral certainty is equally reliable as a physical one. God has transplanted evangelical religion from the soil of England to the soil of this country, and it has taken deep root here. Our state of society is also favorable to it. But when other things are equal, as they are not in this case, evangelical religion always has this advantage, that, being the Gospel--for that is the meaning of the term--it will always find its way to the hearts of men, when there are agents abroad to carry it there. It is adapted to the human heart, and it is sure to take effect when it is preached. God has ordained it, and it can not miss the mark. The cross of Christ is the great theme, and the lost condition of the sinner is the application of it. In view of these two facts, the doctrine is, repent and [27/28] believe. That is all. This is the Gospel. This is evangelical religion.
Now it happens in the providence of God, if happening and providence are consistent terms, that this country is largely supplied with evangelical preachers of different denominations, and not a little flooded with evangelical agencies by the press. And these preachers and agencies are increasing every day in number and influence. There is no resisting the tide, and God forefend that it should be resisted. For it is the Gospel, and because it is the Gospel it will prevail. No matter how mean the agents--the Apostles were very mean men when they were elected--God has ordained that the Gospel, or evangelical religion, where preached, shall take effect; and American society is a glorious field for the Gospel. In no part of Christendom is it so well entertained.
What is Tractarianism, on American soil, where Protestantism has taken such deep root, and in the presence of such agencies as the preachers of evangelical religion have at work, and in presence of such a general, influence of evangelical doctrine? It is a mere feather in the wind. And what is a religion of mere forms, in the same circumstances? A feather in the wind. If the American Episcopal Church should elect to die of her dignity, as Bishop Griswold said there was some danger of, the way is open. She can doubtless live a long time in her dignity, and grow somewhat. But if she desires to be useful, to extend her borders among the American people by absorbing them, and to fulfill a great mission on this continent, she must, beyond all question, adapt herself to the providential position she occupies. She must away with Tractarianism, and Pusseyism, and every thing of the kind lately imported. It was hard enough to overcome the prejudices against the rites and ceremonies with which she started. But if a feather will break a camel's back, when he stands under the utmost burden he can bear, twice that burden would assuredly crush him to the earth. In the same manner, when our Church had as much of the burden of prejudice as she could bear before, Tractarianism has come in to double the burden; and she, too, will be crushed, if this additional load can not be thrown off. Instead of turning their faces to the [28/29] wall to pray, and their backs to the people, her ministers had better be quite sure that their faces are toward the throne of God, and that it is God they worship, and not a table, or a point of the compass. We do not exhort them to fear the American people more than God, if they really think this is the way to worship God. But we will tell them that the American people are very observing, and that they think this is Popery. Beside, how came they to find out so lately, that this is the way to worship God?
But leaving these things aside, we are more anxious to say, and that very emphatically, that if our Church wishes to prosper among the American people, her ministers must preach the Gospel; and by the Gospel, we mean evangelical religion. We have already given our reasons why nothing else will do in this country. God has sent the Gospel here, and he has sent men to preach it; and the Gospel will be preached, and will prevail. Nothing can prevent it, because this, and nothing else, under the garb of religion, will reach and touch the heart of man. The appointed prayers and other prescribed services of our Church are good; though the morning services are too long to be obliged to go through them on all occasions; and this is one of the points worthy of consideration for amendment.
We have observed with regret, since Tractarianism came among us, a disposition to depress the relative importance of sermons, and to depend chiefly on the services ordered in the Prayer Book for instruction and edification. Without derogating from the excellence, or depreciating the importance of those services, it is nevertheless true, that preaching in Apostolic times, and ever since, has been one of the chief means of good to the souls of men; and as long as we read in the inspired word, that "it hath pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe," we think it would be very presumptuous to regard preaching as of small importance. The Liturgy was made by man, but preaching is the ordinance of God, and God has supplied the text-book. The Liturgy is familiar to all persons accustomed to the services of our Church, and therefore less striking; but the preacher can a bring forth out of his treasures things new and old," and he can exhibit [29/30] them in diversified forms. Both are important in their places, and for their purposes; and it is not too much to say, that preaching is very important. But the kind of preaching is still more important.
The character of preaching in our Church is, generally, not so direct to the heart as that of Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Methodists, and some others. Some of our ministers abstain almost entirely from any direct appeal to the morale of man's nature. If they warn the sinner of a judgment to come, or rebuke the Christian for his shortcomings, it is neither in a very earnest or very effective manner. No body is much stirred up by their preaching, but people go away as they came, with the comfortable feeling of having rendered a decent observance to the forms of religion, and a respectful attention to the preacher, if indeed they have been kept awake. The dignity of the Church has been maintained; but sinners are not converted, and saints have not been disturbed on their easy cushions. Is it not true that many people go to the Episcopal Church, because they expect to escape from what is called close preaching? Many of our clergy scrupulously avoid preaching any thing like a Presbyterian or Methodist sermon. Is it not sad, if by this care they fail to preach the Gospel?
The Gospel, faithfully preached, is always effective on human hearts. Look at the effects of the preaching of Massilon before the king and court of France. Look at the effects produced by the preaching of the Reformers. Look at the new world of Christians, still extending over the wide circuit of the globe, that has risen up under the preaching and discipline of John Wesley. They may have defects, but they always have earnestness; and who will say they do not preach the Gospel? Look at the vast multitudes who thronged at the heels of George Whitefield, during his short but earnest career. He preached the Gospel. Look at the crowded churches of the Establishment in London, where what are called "the endowed lectures" have been preached for generations on every Sunday evening. It is the Gospel, of which the people never tire. The same thing might be done by Trinity Church, in the city of New-York, so that Trinity and each of her chapels would be so crowded once a week, that they who should not go early [30/31] could not find a standing-place, if the Rector and Vestry of that church should engage, as in the endowed lectures of London, the most earnest and most eloquent preachers of the land to preach the Gospel and nothing but the Gospel. It would do more to build up the Episcopal Church in the United States, than any other measure that ever has been or can be taken. It is because the Gospel is adapted to the heart of man. The daily prayers of Trinity Church, with all her staff of clergy, as now administered, attract no attention, and never will, except from a few strangers, who go in to see the Church. It is a failure, and demonstrates a want of tact in adapting the ministrations of the Church to the demands of the times. If the American people want the Gospel in the form of preaching, and will have it, why should not the Church give it? One would think it her appropriate function.
Never has an earnest and faithful preacher of the Gospel, of evangelical religion, appeared, either in the Ancient Church, or in the Papal Church, or in the Protestant Church, or in any Protestant denomination of Christians, who has not drawn crowds after him, and thus proved that the Gospel is what men want. This is especially true in this country. There is a public conscience here, which instinctively determines where the Gospel is to be found. The American Episcopal Church can doubtless maintain her stately dignity, if that is all she wants. But, if she wishes to save souls, and expand her limits by absorbing the American population, she must preach the Gospel, she must preach evangelical religion, in a manner so earnest, that her elevated Christian character shall never be drawn in question by any religious sect, by saint or sinner; for sinners, however low and degraded, know what the Gospel is. It was given for them especially and expressly, and He who adapted it to their wants has not made a mistake.
Instead of avoiding that style of preaching practised by ministers of other denominations, so far as it is earnest and evangelical, the clergy of our Church should endeavor to excel them. There is no other way for our Church to prosper in this land. She is inevitably shut up to this destiny, and must stand or fall by the measure of her fidelity to this rule. Or, if she does not fall by her lack of fidelity, she will never rise to that [31/32] height, nor expand to those dimensions, which are now within her reach on the two great contingencies of our arguments; one of which is, the putting away of Tractarianism, and the other, evangelical preaching. The destiny of the American Episcopal Church is yet a glorious one, if she will eschew Rome altogether, cleave unto her Divine Head, and preach his Gospel faithfully. The doctrine, discipline, and order of our Church are wanted in this land. With the single exceptions of Tractarianism and unevangelical preaching, found in her to a certain extent--too largely doubtless--she is the best fitted of any Church in the land to go in and possess it. Her mission is divine; and, if Providential indications are worthy of respect, her credentials to this vast field constitute a Providential certificate.
But, if other counsels should prevail, if the doctrine and practices introduced by Tractarianism must continue to be advocated, and if our clergy can not be induced to preach the Gospel in all its purity and pungency, we wipe our hands of all responsibility for these fatal defects, and must await in silence and sorrow the doom which we believe awaits the American Episcopal Church, to wit, the failure of her providential mission on this continent. She will live, doubtless. She will grow some, if she should not die of her dignity. But she will never become a great and influential body. As we have seen, she has already fallen back in her growth to nearly a dead stand; and, while the same causes of this check remain, no power on earth or in heaven can put her forward. None on earth, because the American social state will not favor it; and none in heaven, because it would be in violation of the counsels of heaven to favor them, as a Church which is afraid to preach the Gospel.
But we shall look for the result of the action of the Commission of the House of Bishops, appointed to consider the Memorial which has occasioned these remarks. We have, perhaps, no right to expect or claim that the Committee shall act on our views of this subject; but both we and the Church have a right to expect, if not to claim, that they shall do something more than to consider the subject. The Memorialists, conscientiously no doubt, have alleged some very grave defects [32/33] in our Church, which, as they say, render her incompetent to fulfill her appropriate mission, and they have suggested some remedial measures; and the House of Bishops, acting on this address to them, has, by a Committee, entered the field of inquiry which the Memorial opens. Having taken this step, we do not see how they can tread back, or excuse themselves from reporting and recommending some practical measures of reform or improvement in our Church machinery and polity. In the step they have taken, for the reasons set forth in the Memorial, the Bishops occupy a very responsible position in relation to the Church and to American Protestantism, for this latter interest is made very prominent in the Memorial. As before stated, we do not entirely agree with the Memorialists, either as to the nature of the evils or as to the remedy proposed. But we welcome the movement, and are glad for the action of the Bishops taken upon it. As the Commission has invoked the expression of opinion from the Church on the subject, we give ours in the form of this review; and we can not refrain from expressing the earnest hope, that we shall witness some result. A sympathy with the common Protestant Christianity of the country, such as we observe in the Memo rial, can be formally declared by the Church, without compromising the strictest Churchmanship; and we do not see why our Church can not with propriety make some advances, as is also suggested in the Memorial, toward American orthodox Christianity without our pale, to propose terms of united action, so far as may be consistent with the position occupied by the respective parties; and there are numerous particulars in which our internal economy may be modified for the better. The rubrics prescribing the use of the Liturgy may be improved, so as to afford a wider discretion in abridging the service on some occasions, and in selecting parts adapted to particular occasions. A liberal discretion, we think, should be allowed to our clergy, as to the services they shall employ, as chaplains of legislative and other public assemblies, and when called upon, as they often are, to officiate in public, in company with the ministers of other denominations, that they may not be forced to violate the rules of Christian courtesy, or [33/34] offend the public and injure our own Church, by refusing to act on such occasions.
These Memorialists have evidently launched out boldly on the ocean of expediency, and the Rouse of Bishops seems to have followed in their wake. The deference which the latter have shown to the former in entertaining the Memorial, bespeaks a deference to the whole Church, when her wishes shall be disclosed. It can hardly be doubted that the Church will desire that something should be done in the line of this movement, though not probably the precise things specified by these Memorialists. We shall await the sequel with profound attention and interest.
What will the Bishops do? We think we do not exaggerate the importance of the position which they have consented to assume, when we say that they have to dispose of a great, vital, and momentous question, and to put it in some practical shape, in relation to the exigency submitted to their consideration, or else the question will dispose of them. We mean no more, of course, by this latter alternative, than that they must prove themselves equal to the exigency, or allow its treatment to pass into other hands, or be forced on them in a different shape. The American Episcopal Church must not, and will not be permitted to give up the field which Providence seems so evidently to have assigned to it. There is much Christian virtue and eminent practical talent in our Church. There is a laudable pride and a laudable ambition in the hearts of her members and ministers, both of which attributes, properly chastened, may, we think, be legitimately employed in her service. Our Church has a history, in which her members take pride, and a great Christian purpose which they are ambitious to promote. Can that pride or that ambition be either gratified or satisfied in a retrograde movement of the Church, or in presence of insuperable impediments to her advancement? If the averments of these Memorialists are to be respected, we have the great fact before us, that the Episcopal Church has proved unequal to her mission. Whether they have assigned the true causes or not, the fact of a great and serious check in the career of our Church is undisputed. We, in this article, have assigned other causes, not, however, [34/35] entirely setting aside their reasoning. Causes there must be, and it deeply concerns the Church to know what they are. We are perfectly willing to be convicted of error in our own theory, if any body will tell us where the real difficulty lies. But we insist, and we think the Church will insist, that a subject, so grave in its nature, and so momentous in its character, shall be treated with all that conscientiousness and fidelity which its importance demands. We insist that the Bishops can not retreat from this inquiry without declaring something and proposing something relevant to the case. The facts on which they are called to act being evident, they can not in honor or duty leave the case as it was before they took it in hand. If they fail to present the case in its naked aspects, their fidelity to the Church may be called in question, and their influence impaired. Once stirred up by a knowledge of the facts, the Church can not and will not remain indifferent.
The American Episcopal Church is a distinct commonwealth of Christians, in our esteem a branch of the Holy Catholic Church, having her own independent polity, and responsible alike for the purity of her doctrine, and for the effectiveness of her discipline. She is responsible, too, for the position she occupies on this continent, and in the midst of the American people, and for all her possible chances of influence and usefulness in this position. She can not discharge her obligations by saying, we will be content with a limited sphere of action and inflence, if we can only maintain a particular kind of churchmanship; but she is bound to adopt a churchmanship adapted to her Providential position, and which will secure her the widest sphere of influence. We may be wrong, but we are unable to see how churchmanship is any thing other than statesmanship in Church affairs; certainly not, if it concerns only Church polity. But if there be those who choose to make churchmanship extend to matters specifically ordered by the inspired word, we will have no controversy on that point. Only let us be understood. All we mean to say is, that a Church polity for one age and one country, can not be a standard for all ages and for all countries; but that the polity of every age and country must be adapted to that age and country.
 It is this great principle, if we mistake not, which should control the economy of the American Episcopal Church in the great matter which has been under consideration in these pages.
Since writing the above, we have read the "EXPOSITION" of the Memorial, a by one of the Memorialists," over the signature of "W. A. M.," in a pamphlet of eighty-four pages. We must confess that we have perused this document with very great pleasure; not that we agree with it any more than with the Memorial itself, or that we see any reason for making the least change in this article. But we are well convinced of the perfect sincerity of the author, and of the great thought which he has bestowed upon the subject, which, we think, fairly entitle him to a hearing. We think he has proved something from which it will be difficult for the Commission of the House of Bishops to escape without giving it grave consideration, and recommending some steps of adaptation, as proposed by him. Nevertheless we are of the same opinion still, as to the causes of the check to the growth of our Church; and we regret that lie who could think and write so well, as is proved by this Exposition, and who evidently has so much at heart the welfare of the Church--of our own Church in particular, and of the Church Catholic--should fail to see what mischief he himself has done, and is doing, by indulging in Tractarian fancies and tastes in the matter of symbols, ceremonies, and parochial economy in the Church of the Holy Communion. He is no Tractarian in doctrine or general sentiment, but he seems to have a fancy for some of the follies of Tractarians. It is a pity that one who could conceive so well the importance and necessity of adaptation, and who could make so good an argument upon the subject, should so far violate his own doctrine by his own practice. We are glad, however, to observe that he will be found on the side of evangelical Catholicism, which we ought to have known by the title and character of a public journal he once had a hand in.
The author of the Exposition has made a strong argument for the bestowment of Episcopal orders outside of the Episcopal Church proper. But his assumption that Episcopal prerogative, [36/37] in a constitutional and canonical Church like ours, comprehends this right, can not be conceded, and, we think, will never be tolerated. If the want of this power be an evil, it is a less one, in our esteem, than a recognition of the independent powers of bishops. The disciplinary economy of our Church has more than once settled the question, by judicial action, that a bishop has no power, except in trust from the Church; and for ourselves we will never consent that this principle should be disturbed. We do not think there is any danger of it. The only way, therefore, by which Episcopal orders can be conferred by our Bishops, outside of our Church, is by a special canon to authorize it.
We acknowledge that the heart of the author of the Exposition seems to us to be in the right place on this, if not on all questions. But we think his zeal overleaps his discretion, and his amiable trust that Bishops would always use such an independent power properly, argues more in favor of his affections than of his knowledge of human nature. But he has thought long and profoundly on the general subject, and has given reasons enough to impose a weighty responsibility on the Commission of the House of Bishops, if they shall rise and report without recommending something in accordance with what has been demonstrated in this and other quarters, as a want of the Church.
It is more especially hopeful that the Memorial and its Exposition--both from the same author, we presume--will lead to some result, as neither his motives nor his churchmanship will, in any probability, be impeached. Apart from the real causes of the check to the growth of the Episcopal Church, which, we think, he has entirely failed to show, and which, so far as we know, he did not undertake to show, he has nevertheless made out a case demonstrating the defects of our Church, which ought to receive attention, which, indeed, demand a remedy. We should be glad to see even some of his suggestions carried out, though ours should be entirely overlooked; but we do not believe that our Church can ever prosper in this country till she is purged of Tractarianism, and blessed with preachers of evangelical religion.
There is one feature--principle, we might say--of the [37/38] Exposition, very practical in its character, and worthy of special notice, as one which can, with propriety, and easily be reduced to practice--which, indeed, is extensively practical from necessity. But it ought to have a formal sanction. We mean, that Missionaries of our Church, laboring outside of our pale, to bring people in, should not be confined to the forms and rules of the Prayer Book, in conducting public worship in assemblies of such a class. The same principle is applicable to the regular ministers of the Church, whenever they are discharging proper missionary offices, as they often have occasion to do. It is absurd to oblige them to go through all the forms of the Prayer Book before an audience who are strangers to it, and when scarcely a response can be expected. It is requiring an impossibility. The responses are an integral portion of the service, as much so as the parts assigned to the officiating minister; and to require the one, when the other can not be performed, is certainly absurd, as every body will say, and as we all feel, when the thing is attempted. The Church ought not to expose herself to the accusation of violating the dictates of common sense, as in a case of this kind. It is not simply absurd, but ridiculously so; and it is always a failure of the intended effect of the offices of the Church. As an Episcopal minister, officiating before an Episcopal congregation, can not depart from the forms of the Church without disturbing the attention and devotion of the worshippers, so neither, when officiating as a missionary among those who are strangers to the services of the Church, can a rigid conformity to the rubrics, as they now stand, be for edification, or in any way produce a good effect. The effect is positively bad, because it is embarrassing both to the minister, and his audience. You might as well require children, in their A, B, Cs, to read without spelling. The whole structure of the Prayer Book supposes, that it is appointed for those who are used to it. On this point, as well as on many others, we think the author of the Exposition has made good the allegations of the Memorial respecting the defects of our Church, and we hope the Commission of the Rouse of Bishops, appointed to consider the Memorial, will report something to remedy this, and other evils.
 And will they overlook Tractarianism, and the importance of evangelical preaching? We hope not. By this movement, the whole Church is in a new position, and the House of Bishops have planted their feet on the platform. The eyes of the Church are upon them. Will they allow this very serious and grave Memorial, with all its grave allegations. which they have taken in hand, and which must now be disposed of, to fall dead on the threshold of inquiry? or will they show themselves brave enough to encounter it? That is the question.