PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL SOCIETY FOR THE PROMOTION
OF EVANGELICAL KNOWLEDGE,
BIBLE HOUSE, NEW-YORK,
AND 1224 CHESTNUT STREET, PHILADELPHIA.
AN experience of some years in the ministry has convinced the writer that the Episcopal Church is little understood, not only by the great mass of our people, but even by many of the more intelligent among those who differ from us. Our efforts to save souls are sadly hindered by the prejudices and suspicions we are compelled to encounter. Our feelings are often sorely tried by remarks arising out of ignorance, or an entire misapprehension of our peculiarities. Hence it has been thought that a brief consideration of some of the more common objections to the Episcopal Church might subserve the cause of truth and peace. Many of our own members need to be better informed upon the subject, that they may give a sensible and scriptural answer to those who seek for information, or who [3/4] bring objections against the Church of our love. And should any of those who differ from us condescend to read these pages, the hope is indulged that they may be led to view us more kindly, when they find that our peculiarities are based upon Scripture, upon reason, and upon the practice of the Church in its earliest days. As the object of the writer is to prepare a useful tract, he does not aim at originality of thought or expression, but has made free use of all the materials within his reach, adding such remarks and inferences as have suggested themselves to him.
I. The use of Ministerial Garments.
Trifling as this objection may seem, experience teaches that this peculiarity is one which is frequently spoken against, and sometimes turned into ridicule. Our use of clerical robes is founded upon the custom, which has prevailed from the earliest periods of which we have any account, of distinguishing between the various offices of men by the difference in their garments. Over the whole world, and in every age, a difference of costume has marked a difference of office. In our own country, we have many illustrations in point. The Judges of the Supreme Court of the United States wear a black gown while upon the bench. Our army and navy adhere to a professional dress when on duty. Our public Societies and Orders are distinguished by scarfs, or badges, or regalia, which are designed to indicate the membership or offices of individuals. [4/5] All this is reasonable and proper, and naturally suggests itself to the mind. And is it not equally reasonable, and equally proper, that the minister of God should be clothed in a manner appropriate to his office, while he is engaged in its solemn duties? When objection is made to our Church on this ground, may we not fairly reply, that to be consistent, the objector must insist upon the officer's laying aside his uniform, he must oppose the badges and regalia of the different orders and societies, and when he has abolished all these, we shall be prepared to allow his objection some weight, but not until then?
But we have higher authority for this custom than its reasonableness; we plead for it the sanction of Scripture. Upon the only occasion where it has pleased the Almighty to regulate the minute details of earthly worship, he gave express directions for the garments in which his ministers were to be clothed. The ordinary priests under the Jewish dispensation, when performing service, were to wear a white linen ephod. Our argument is this: If there were any thing improper in the minister of God wearing these garments, would the Lord have given it his sanction? Clearly not. Again. If God commanded and prescribed these garments in one age of his Church, and if the reasons for their use were not peculiar to that dispensation, is it not natural to infer that they are highly proper now?
The history of the Primitive Church is clear in its [5/6] testimony to the prevalence of this custom, and we have evidence that for at least fifteen hundred years the surplice has been the dress of the minister in the performance of public worship.
Upon this subject I would refer the objector to the commentary of the learned Adam Clarke, so highly esteemed by our Methodist brethren. On Exodus 28: 2, he remarks, "The white surplice in the service of the Church is almost the only thing that remains of those ancient and becoming vestments which God commanded to be made for glory and beauty. Clothing as emblematical of office, is of more consequence than is generally imagined." I would also refer him to Dr. Chalmers, for the last fifty years emphatically the great light of the Presbyterian Church. In Vol. I. of his Scripture Readings, in commenting upon Exodus 28: 1-14, he holds the following language: "There is here a distinct sanction given to the association of outward splendor with the office of the ministry--if not such as to make it imperative or indispensable, at least as to condemn the intolerance of those who stand opposed to it. In the antipathy to priestly garments, and in the controversies which have been raised about them, I can take no share." Such is the candid testimony of this great man, recorded in the calm moments of his communing with God.
Thus, with reason, Scripture, the custom of the primitive Church, in favor of the use of clerical garments, we submit that we are right in adhering to them, and that the objection against them falls to the ground.
II. The use of Forms of Prayer.
 We often hear the remark, "I should attend the Episcopal Church, but I do not like the forms; they are tedious and wearisome." Others contend that all liturgies necessarily produce lifelessness and formality in devotion. Now, what say the Scriptures upon this subject? To the law and to the testimony we cheerfully go.
We find forms of worship in the oldest parts of the Bible. Moses and the children of Israel thanked God for their deliverance from Egypt in the words of a previously-written form, and this, too, was done responsively, as we use the Psalter in our service.
Again. We find the High Priest blessing the people in a set form of words expressly dictated by the Deity. Moses prayed by a form at the setting forward of the ark, and at its setting down again. In the Book of Deuteronomy we find various forms which were to be used by the people on different public solemnities. Many of David's Psalms were written expressly for the service of the sanctuary. At the dedication of the Temple, Solomon, instead of trusting to the impulse of the moment, used a form which was evidently precomposed for the occasion. And thus we might go on to show that the Old Testament is decided in its testimony; that in it we have frequent commands and constant examples in favor of forms of worship.
But what was the character of the worship in the temple and in the synagogues? It was liturgical, or in a set form; and in all his messages to his people [7/8] by the mouth of his prophets, have we any word of disapprobation from God? Surely, had there been any thing wrong in this worship, he would have pointed it out to them; had there been a better way, he would have showed it to them.
We come now to the New Testament. It is urged by the objector that little is said in this part of the Bible upon the subject. Suppose we agree to the assertion, does it not admit of a satisfactory explanation. No one at that time had called the propriety of forms of prayer in question, and, therefore, it was not necessary to express opinions in their favor. Under such circumstances, the conduct of Christ and his disciples will go far toward deciding the whole question. What was that conduct? Did it indicate their approval or disapproval of forms of prayer? When our Lord entered the temple and drove out the money-changers, did he denounce forms of worship? No; Sabbath after Sabbath, he and his disciples attended and joined in the Jewish ritual. He never required his followers to abandon it; years after his ascension, as St. Luke tells us, they "were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God," in the forms, of course, used in that holy place. Could the Saviour have used any words more significant of his feelings than his habitual conduct? Would any thing that he might have said have given a stronger sanction to forms of prayer, than his constant attendance upon them?
But is there nothing explicit in the New Testament upon this subject? Yes; and all that we could [8/9] desire. When the disciples came to our Lord and asked to be taught to pray, he gave them a form of prayer. "When ye pray," said he, "say thus;" or, as another Evangelist has it, "After this manner, pray ye." And to show how this precept was understood by those nearest the days of the apostles and deriving their views from them, "it is evident beyond dispute," says the learned Bingham, "that the whole primitive Church constantly used it in all her holy offices, out of consciousness, and in regard to Christ's command."
To sum up the argument from Scripture.
1. We have forms prescribed by God to his people on several occasions, under the old dispensation.
2. We have forms sanctioned by the practice of our Saviour and his disciples.
3. We have a form given and commanded by our Lord himself.
We submit then to the objector, that we are worshipping as Christ worshipped, that we are following in his steps. Are we to be blamed for doing this? Could we, with our views, do otherwise?
But what was the practice of the Church in its earliest days? Pliny, in his famous letter to Trajan, which was written not much above ten years after the death of St. John, gives an account of the worship of the Christians. Of this, a distinguished non-Episcopalian remarks: "If we were asked at the present day to embody, in four Latin words, a description of a Christian litany, and the manner of saying it, we [9/10] should have difficulty in finding more appropriate ones than 'carmen dicere secum invicem.'" Again, we read of "common prayers," "constituted prayers," which terms can only be applied to forms of worship. In the early Churches there were controversies about other subjects, but none upon this; they all adopted forms of worship, and for the 1400 years preceding the Reformation, not a single Church can be pointed out which worshipped without a form. Are we wrong, then, in following in the footsteps of saints and martyrs in the earliest days of the Church? And will not the objector find in the universal testimony of the ancient Churches against him, reason to distrust the soundness of his opinions, and to lead him prayerfully to reinvestigate this whole subject?
But is it best to use a Liturgy now? We think so. It is a great mistake to suppose that the Episcopal Church is the only one which worships after a form. Every congregation worships after a form; it can not do otherwise. The people unite with and follow after the Minister, and receive the words as he dictates them; the prayer he makes is, for the time, the form by which they worship. They can not tell whether he invents it at the moment, or repeats it from memory, or reads it from a manuscript.
Besides, if you attend regularly upon the services of any minister, you will find that his prayers fall gradually into a form, and become substantially the same Sunday after Sunday, so that after listening to him for some time, you can tell when he is about the [10/11] middle, and when he is near the end of his prayer. If, then, every congregation necessarily worships after a form, the question comes up as to which is best, a premeditated or an extempore form--a prayer from the mind and heart of one person, conceived at the moment of utterance, or a prayer formed by the united wisdom and piety of the holy Church for ages past. The simple statement of the question seems to us to furnish the answer.
If every minister was highly gifted and fluent, if every minister's heart was glowing with devotion each time that he appeared before God in prayer, then would there be some reason for dispensing with forms. "But (and here I quote Dr. Cumming, a distinguished Presbyterian minister, in London, who is pleading for forms in his own church) such men are few and far between. There is a mediocrity among clergy as among laity. Nothing can be more painful than to hear harangues instead of prayers, and preaching instead of simple petition." And while upon this point, I would quote from an able article in the Edinburg Review for April, 1852, in which the writer, who is evidently a Presbyterian, quotes and endorses the remarks of another Presbyterian, in discussing the rapid strides Episcopacy has recently made in Scotland. He says: "The source of the extensive alienation which has taken place, is to be found in the superior attractions of a more ritual worship; for certainly there is no more just exception against the worship of Scottish Presbytery, than its effect in placing the most devotional part of [11/12] Divine Service so entirely at the mercy of the individual minister who conducts it." Here then we have the want of forms lamented by three distinguished Presbyterians, and upon grounds so entirely reasonable that we are willing they should speak for us, and ask the objector that he would give their arguments the consideration they so well deserve.
We would call attention to this additional truth, that no objection can be made to forms of prayer, which will not hold good against singing Psalms and Hymns. What are Psalms and Hymns? Devotional pieces in the form of prayer and praise. They are therefore, forms of prayer or praise. When the first line is given out, it is probable that several persons in the congregation know, beforehand, every word they are to sing; and most of them have books open before them. Now, every one who joins in singing these verses, which express the desires of his heart to the Lord, prays; if he uses verses with which he was acquainted before, he prays by a form; he does the very thing which he objects to in our worship. The only difference is this, his prayer is in poetry. Now, unless it can be proven that the same petition is proper in poetry and improper in prose, which will not be pretended, then the practice in the one case will justify it in the other.
Crito freely will rehearse
Forms of prayer and praise in verse;
Why should Crito then suppose,
Forms are sinful, when in prose?
Must my form be deemed a crime,
Merely for the want of rhyme?
 But, says our objector, forms necessarily produce lifelessness and coldness; in other words, they lead to formality.
Would God have prescribed forms if this was to be their necessary effect? Take care you do not reflect on the Deity. Would the Saviour have sanctioned forms by his practice, and given one to his disciples, if formality was to be the necessary consequence? Take care that you do not condemn our Lord. Still you believe in the force of your objection; it is your opinion. Let us hear the opinions of some others entitled, as you yourself will admit, to at least equal respect. Says President Dwight, perhaps the greatest and best of the men Congregationalism has produced--"in both methods (formal and extempore) men may be excellent Christians, and worship God in an acceptable manner."
Says Robert Hall, the pious and distinguished Baptist minister, speaking of extempore praying, "God forbid that we should ever imagine this to be the only mode of prayer which is acceptable to God. We can not doubt that multitudes of devout persons have used forms of devotion with eminent advantage." Hear the Rev. Albert Barnes, an eminent and well-known Presbyterian minister in Philadelphia--"We have never doubted that many of the purest flames of devotion that rise from the earth, ascend from the altars of the Episcopal Church." Here, again, we are willing to leave the objector to the great and good men, whose opinions we have quoted, and ask, if with their opportunities of judging, [13/14] their sentiments will not lead him to reconsider his hasty charge. Before leaving this subject, I would ask if forms necessarily lead to coldness and lifelessness, how comes it that the Moravians are perhaps the most devoted of all Christians, with their missionaries from the snows of Greenland to the burning sands of the Tropics, and yet they worship after a form? Might we not turn the argument and cite these Christians of Apostolic piety, as an example in favor of a Liturgy's cultivating the highest grade of religious excellence? Besides, if our brethren of other denominations can sing with the spirit, when they sing out of a book, according to a form, can we not pray with the spirit, when we pray out of a book, according to a form? Every argument against the spirituality of our prayers, applies with equal force against the spirituality of their singing.
Many persons object to the length of our services; the services appear long, because the person objecting is often a mere spectator, and does not take a part in them. The fact is, that our congregations, as a general rule, are not longer in church than others. But, says the objector, your sermons are short; it is your service which takes up so much time. May I ask, what is our object in assembling upon the Sabbath? Is it simply to hear preaching? Are the other parts of the service to be mere introductions to the sermon? The Saviour said, "My house shall be called the house of prayer," and we hold it to be the great duty of the Sabbath to worship God. Now, examine our service, and you will find it about equally divided [14/15] between prayer, praise, and instruction. I submit whether this be not more in accordance with the true idea of public worship, than to make the sermon (important in its place) the great object in attending Church.
But it is objected, that forms, being fixed, are unfitted to the varying circumstances in which a people may be placed.
I answer, that all public prayer must be, in a measure, general. Our service has as much variety as can well be introduced into public worship, very much more than nine tenths of the extempore prayers we hear. As Dr. Paley justly remarks, "The enumeration of human wants and sufferings in the Litany, is almost complete. A Christian petitioner can have few things to ask of God, or to deprecate, which he will not find there expressed, and for the most part with inimitable tenderness and simplicity."
I beg the reader to bear in mind, that in arguing for forms of prayer, it is in reference to public worship; we do not insist upon forms in the closet or in the family.
Before closing this branch of the subject, it may be well to state that many non-Episcopalians have practically admitted the importance and necessity of a Liturgy. Luther and Calvin both composed forms of prayer for the churches which they founded. In Germany, Sweden, Denmark, at Geneva, and among the Protestants in France, Liturgies are now used.
Baxter prepared a Liturgy for popular use.
 Wesley, the father of Methodism, prepared a Liturgy for his followers in America, and proposed it for their adoption.
John Knox, the Scotch reformer, prepared a Liturgy, which was used for several years in the Church of Scotland.
The Wesleyan Methodists, in England, use the Church service.
The French Huguenots, in Charleston, have a Presbyterian for their minister, but use a Liturgy.
A Presbyterian church, built within a year, in Western New-York, has introduced a Liturgy.
The General Assembly in Scotland, four years ago, appointed a committee to prepare a Book of Devotion, with a series of scriptural lessons, for the use of colonists who have no minister within reach, people at sea, and others similarly precluded from public worship.
The Dutch Reformed Church, a highly respectable body of Christians in this country, have a Liturgy, which is used in many places, and which many are desirous of having generally adopted.
The Presbyterian Board, in Philadelphia, have issued a Book of Devotions for the sick-room, and for persons in affliction.
The truth is, that this whole subject is occupying the minds of many of the most thoughtful and influential Christians of the present day; and as one of the ablest of their number has said, "though no prudent man would expose himself or his cause to the torrent of abuse which the sudden proposal of [16/17] the subject would bring down upon him, yet numbers believe that the judicious use of a form of prayer is not only consistent with the purest teaching of Christian doctrine, but with the universal usage of the Reformed Churches in their purest days."
But is there now in existence, or can there be framed a Liturgy better adapted to the purpose of public worship, than that of the Episcopal Church?
We are willing that the most distinguished men who have adorned the denominations around us, shall answer this question. Hear their testimony. The pious Doddridge says: "The language is so plain, as to be level to the capacity of the meanest, and yet the sense is so noble as to raise the capacities of the greatest."
Hear John Wesley: "I believe there is no Liturgy in the world, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of solid, scriptural, rational piety, than the Common Prayer of the Church of England." And Adam Clark, the most learned of Wesley's followers, says, "the Liturgy is almost universally esteemed by the devout and pious, of every denomination, and is the greatest effort of the Reformation--next to the translation of the Scriptures into the English language. As a form of devotion, it has no equal in any part of the Universal Church of God. Next to the Bible, it is the book of my understanding and of my heart."
Read the following from the North British Review, established by Dr. Chalmers, and now conducted by Dr. Hanna, his son-in-law, if I mistake not: "It is [17/18] a striking testimony to the intrinsic excellence of the Liturgy, and to the fidelity and purity with which it expresses the genuine spirit of Christianity, that though descended from such remote antiquity, it has lost none of its original freshness. It is as serviceable for the present generation, as thoroughly adapted to the utterance of our profoundest, as also of our most delicate and varied feelings, as if it had been composed in our own day. Nay, it is more so. What English prose will venture to challenge a comparison with the majesty and melody of the Collects? Shakspeare and Milton may have equalled them by the happiest efforts of their genius; we know of no prose writing that could bear such a trial.
"The cause of this superiority is plain. The Liturgy is the choicest selection of what has proved to be best during a long lapse of time. Its Litanies and its Collects are the fruit of the most sublime piety, and the noblest gifts of language, tested by long-sustained trial. No single generation could have created, or could replace the Liturgy. It is the accumulation of the treasures with which the most diversified experience, the most fervent devotion, and the most exalted genius, have enriched the worship of prayer and praise during 1500 years. Who, then, can over-estimate its influence in perpetuating the sacred fire of Christian love and Christian faith among a whole people, or exaggerate its power in conserving the pure and apostolic type of Christian worship?" The length of this extract will be pardoned, when [18/19] we consider the beauty of its diction, and its important bearing upon the subject before us.
III. It is objected that the Episcopal Church does not teach the necessity of a change of heart, is unfriendly to revivals, indifferent to the cause of Missions, and deficient in vital piety.
Grave charges these. Are they warranted by facts? Let us see. Admit that the phrase, "change of heart," is not found in the Prayer-Book; neither is it found in the Bible. But is the renewing of the heart by the Spirit of God taught in the Prayer-Book? Let any candid man read the Prayers, the Offices, the Articles, the Hymns, and he will be forced to admit that if the necessity of a change of heart be not taught in the Prayer-Book, it is not taught in the Bible. What is the meaning of the popular phrase "change of heart"? St. Paul expresses its meaning under the terms, "repentance towards God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ." Does our Church teach these doctrines? Read the qualifications she prescribes to candidates for Baptism, and to those who would partake of the Communion. They are such as the Apostles required, expressed in scriptural language. And while we hold, and teach, and require the thing, ought we to be blamed for not using a particular phrase, which is of recent origin, and not found in the Bible?
But it is said we are unfriendly to Revivals. What is a Revival? It is an increased interest in religion, manifested by the more holy walk of its professors, and by a greater number of conversions to God than usual. [19/20] If this be taken, as I presume it will, as a tolerably fair definition, then I assert that it is not true that the Episcopal Church, or any part of it, is opposed to Revivals. Now as to the means of bringing about these results, I admit that we doubt the propriety of some of the measures used, for exciting and deepening religions feeling. And there are Christians of every denomination who think as we do.
The Methodist denomination, who deserve great praise for their zeal and labor, and who, more than any other, have engaged in these religious excitements, are beginning to have misgivings as to the policy and propriety of them. I quote from the New-York Christian Advocate and Journal, the ablest paper of the denomination: "It can not be denied that the system of recruiting our Church by revivals has been seriously abused, and that the faith of our preachers and people in the benefits of such religious excitements has been very much shaken. The plan of forcing a periodical excitement by the aid of professional agitators or revivalists, has been fraught with consequences most disastrous to the Church. Machine-made converts were found to have a very ephemeral life, and the successful labors of the reviver to fill the classes of probationers, were generally followed by the more laborious and very ungrateful efforts of the regular preachers, to rid them of careless and irreligious members. Camp-meetings, too, from a variety of causes, have become very unproductive, and many of our most thoughtful preachers and members have found it necessary to discourage [20/21] attendance upon them." I should have been considered uncharitable had I used language such as the above, nor could I have adopted some of its terms; but I quote it to show that the Episcopal Church, in disapproving of certain measures, is not opposed to revivals of religion.
But it is said we are indifferent to the cause of Missions. I admit that we fall very short of our duty, but it should be considered that the Episcopal Church is comparatively a small body in this country. To show that we have not entirely forgotten this duty, read the following statement, taken from the able work of Dr. Baird, of the Presbyterian Church, entitled "Religion in America," published in 1844. The contributions of the Episcopal Church in the United States to Foreign Missions, in proportion to the number of her communicants, were, as compared to other churches, setting aside decimals, as follows: As compared with the Presbyterian, as one dollar and twenty cents to one dollar; as compared with the Methodist, as ten dollars to one; as compared with all others together, as two dollars to one.
It may be news to the objector that we have nearly thirty Missionaries, male and female, upon the coast of Africa, in the deadliest climate in the world.
When singing that noble hymn, "From Greenland's icy mountains," has he remembered it was written by an Episcopal Bishop who died in a distant missionary field? Does he know that the oldest Protestant Missionary Society in the world had its origin among Episcopalians, and that the same [21/22] Church in England and America, is doing more than all else of Protestant Christendom beside, to carry the Gospel to every creature? Surely these facts are sufficient to relieve us from the charge of indifference to the cause of Missions.
But it is said we are deficient in vital piety. This is a sweeping charge, and yet in one form or another, it is frequently made. We are called fashionable, aristocratic, etc. This charge of want of piety is a very indefinite one, and therefore difficult to answer. Besides, it would be unbecoming in us to say much about it, for religion is not a thing to be boasted of. We may be allowed to quote again from Dr. Baird, whose testimony will be the more valuable as he is not one of us. "It (the E. Church) possesses a degree of life and energy throughout all its extent, and an amount of vital piety in its ministers and members, such as it never had in its colonial days. It is blessed with precious revivals, and flourishes like a tree planted by the river of waters. The prospects of the Episcopal Church in the United States are certainly very encouraging. The friend of a learned and able ministry, to form which she has founded colleges and theological institutions, she sees, among her clergy, not a few men of the highest distinction for talents, for learning, for eloquence, and for piety and zeal."
But, says the objector, your Church allows too much liberty to its members, and there is too much worldly conformity among them. So generally is this charge believed, that weak-minded persons, [22/23] unacquainted with our Church, have at times expressed the desire to come among us because they could have more latitude of conduct allowed them than among others. They have soon discovered their mistake. It is an expressed condition of Church-membership, that each one in the presence of witnesses shall formally and solemnly "renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh." The same renunciation is made at Confirmation. Our House of Bishops, at the suggestion of the house of clerical and lay delegates, has, in one of its pastoral letters, warned against those "worldly pleasures which may tend to withdraw the affections from spiritual things." It especially designates "gaming, amusements involving cruelty to the brute creation, and theatrical entertainments."
Suppose, then, that there are worldly-minded persons among us, is it not clear that they are violating the express conditions of their membership? that they act in direct opposition to the authority and teachings of the Church? Their inconsistencies can no more be urged as an argument against the Episcopal Church, than the faults of professors generally can be laid at the door of Christianity itself.
But why should not piety flourish in the Episcopal Church? Is there any thing in her worship unfavorable to its growth? Is there not every thing to foster it? Look at the Church of England, hampered as it is by its connection with the State; cumbered as it [23/24] is with abuses, yet has it brought forth the choicest fruits of piety. Dr. Dixon, a distinguished Wesleyan Minister, son-in-law of Rev. Richard Watson, writing to a Methodist paper in Boston last year, says, "There is more true religion in the Church of England, than anywhere else in the country. This Church is the only Protestant body which is making progress in Evangelical labors and prosperous advances."
Will the objector remember that it was the Episcopal Church which translated the Bible he reads? Has he a Commentary? Is it Scott's? Then is he indebted to an Episcopalian for it! Is it Clark's? He was brought up in the bosom of the Church, and at the age of seventy still considered himself a thorough member of it. Take the list of publications of the American Tract Society, and of the American Sunday-School Union, and you will find quite a number of their most useful works to be written by Episcopalians. You will recognize the names of Bishops Hall, Hopkinson and Mcllvaine; of Legh Richmond, Wilberforce, Hannah More, Charlotte Elizabeth, and others. Is it fair or just to charge a Church which produces such fruits as these, as being deficient in vital piety?
IV. It is objected that the Episcopal Church closely resembles the Roman Catholic, and that its tendencies are all towards Popery.
The charge of Romanism has so frequently been brought against us, that multitudes believe it. Among the ignorant, especially, Episcopalians are looked upon as but little different from [24/25] Roman Catholics; and it is to be feared that this impression is fostered by many who, to say the least, ought to know better.
Let us dwell for a moment upon some of the grounds upon which this charge is based. It is said we believe in the Holy Catholic Church, and therefore we are Romanists.
But does the objector know what Catholic means? It means the universal Church, all of Christ's people, wherever they may be dispersed through the world. The term Catholic was first applied to the Christian Church to distinguish it from the Jewish: the latter being confined to a single nation, the former being open to all who should seek admission into it. The whole weight of the objection lies in a misapprehension of the meaning of the term. You will find in the Confession of Faith, that the Presbyterian believes in the Holy Catholic Church, and in the Methodist books the same language is used. So if there be Romanism in the Episcopal Church on this account, others are equally obnoxious to the charge.
But it is said we have crosses on our churches, and this shows in what direction our sympathies lie.
I might answer, that the practice is by no means general. But suppose it were universally the case that the cross surmounted every church, where would be the harm? Is not the cross a touching emblem of our faith, and would it not furnish a far more appropriate finish to our steeples than the arrow, the fish, or the cock, that are now used? [25/26] Our brethren of other denominations are beginning to acknowledge the propriety of this emblem; in the North and West, Baptist, Presbyterian, and, if I am not misinformed, Methodist Churches can be found with the cross upon their steeples. Are they tending toward Romanism? Surely not. Neither are we.
But these priestly garments are relics of Popery. Has the objector ever seen a portrait of Wesley, or Adam Clark, as they appeared in the pulpit? And was there any Popery about them, because they wore a becoming ministerial robe? Presbyterian and other non-Episcopal ministers in various parts of the country, in many cases, officiate in gowns.
But your prayers are Romish, for they are taken from the Missal, (the Romish Prayer-Book.) Such is not the fact. The originals of our services can be traced back for fourteen or fifteen hundred years; they were used centuries before Popery had an existence.
But the Roman Catholics have robes and forms of prayer. But does this make them wrong? And shall we throw them aside for no better reason than that the Church of Rome adopts them? Then we must discard the doctrine of the Trinity, the rite of baptism, for she retains these. We must not sing, nor pray, nor use houses of worship, for Roman Catholics do these things.
The question for us to determine, is whether an observance is scriptural, sanctioned by the usage of the ancient Church, right and proper in itself; the [26/27] practice of the Church of Rome has nothing to do with it; it can neither make it right nor wrong.
But, says the objector, several of your ministers have gone over to the Roman Catholics. And we ask, who are they that have gone? In a large majority of cases, they are individuals who have been educated among our Protestant brethren. They are men of unstable minds, who have come into our Church, and then passed on to the other extreme. Why should we be held any more responsible for their vagaries than the denomination in which they received their early training? But some of your own ministers, trained up in your Church, have gone over. Admit the fact. Does the conduct of a few individuals prove that the tendency of the whole Church is toward Romanism? This is a sort of logic which, like a two-edged sword, cuts both ways. Look over the list of the Episcopal Clergy in the United States, and you can find there the names of more than three hundred, who have come over to us from our Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist friends. Now, does this fact prove that the tendency of all these religious bodies is towards the Episcopal Church? We do not say it does, but we affirm that we have far more ground for the assertion, than the objector has for his charge. The conduct of individuals can never be cited against the body to which they belong, unless there can be shown something in the teachings of that body leading to such conduct. Otherwise, Christianity must be responsible for the treason of Judas, the [27/28] falsehood of Ananias and Sapphira, and for all the crimes which its professed disciples may have committed.
Is there any thing in the teaching of the Episcopal Church which would lead to Romanism? Turn to the Prayer-Book, our standard of doctrine and worship. By whom was it compiled? By the English Reformers. Cranmer and Ridley were among the principal persons who compiled the Liturgy. They were both burnt at the stake in the reign of Queen Mary, and for no other crime than their unflinching opposition to the Romish Church. Now I ask the objector, in all fairness, is it to be supposed that these Reformers would incorporate in the Prayer-Book the errors which they opposed even, unto death, and which, for refusing to admit, they perished in the flames? No, it was by the Episcopal Church that the great battle of the Reformation was fought in England. She was the first to protest against the corruptions of Rome, and hundreds of her noblest sons sealed their testimony with their blood. Every probability is against the assumption that the Prayer-Book is Romish. Nay, I go farther and assert, that, being compiled by martyrs and leaders in the Reformation, it is morally impossible that it should be other than thoroughly Protestant. And what is the fact? Read the thirty-nine articles; fifteen of them bear distinctly against the errors of Rome. No other denomination of Christians has ever borne such decided, unequivocal testimony against every error of Romanism, as the Protestant Episcopal Church.
 What Church has furnished the ablest champions of Protestantism, and has dealt the heaviest blows upon the Church of Rome? Let Dr. Chalmers answer: "Under her venerable auspices the battles of orthodoxy have been fought: (he is speaking of the Episcopal Church) in this holy warfare they are her sons and her scholars, who are ever foremost in the field, ready at all times to face the threatened mischief, and by the weight of their erudition to overthrow it." What arguments have ever been brought against Romanism, which will compare with those of Barrow, and Chillingworth, and Hooker, and Taylor, and Jewell?
But what Church is doing the most at the present day in the conversion of Romanists? Has the objector heard of that great work which is now going on in Ireland? A work so wonderful in its results, that it has been well called the New Reformation; for never, since the days of Luther, has there been such a casting off of the yoke of superstition. A single fact, from the correspondence of the New-York Observer, will illustrate the character of the work. "In a district in West Galway, where there were not five hundred Protestants, there are six thousand converts, and five thousand children attending Scriptural Schools." Dr. Tyng, of New-York, who visited Ireland to satisfy himself by personal inquiry and observation, as to the character and extent of the work, bears testimony of the most encouraging nature, in respect to it. And this great work is mainly carried on by the Episcopal Church.
 One of our Bishops has recently visited Ireland and made careful inquiries into this movement. The result is presented in the great fact, that within the last five years sixty thousand Roman Catholics, including those in Ireland and those who have emigrated, have dissolved their connection with the Roman Catholic Church, avowed their Protestantism, and joined, the most of them, the Episcopal Church.
And now I will briefly sum up the argument for the Protestant character of our Church.
1. The English Reformation was the work of Episcopal Bishops and Martyrs, and of no others.
2. The Prayer-Book was compiled by these martyrs and faithful witnesses of the truth.
3. No Church protests more decidedly in its standards against the errors of Rome, than the Episcopal Church.
4. No Church has protested at a greater expense; nor can exhibit a longer list of martyrs for the truth.
5. No Church has furnished abler champions of Protestantism.
6. No Church is doing more at the present day to convert Roman Catholics, or with as much success, as the Episcopal Church.
I submit the case to every intelligent and candid mind, and have no fears of the verdict.
V. It is objected that the government of the Episcopal Church is tyrannical, and that it is unsuited to a Republican country.
This is a charge often made, but more frequently [30/31] insinuated. It is one which we love to meet face to face, so thoroughly convinced are we of its gross injustice.
A degree of plausibility is attempted to be given to this objection, by quoting the fact that at the period of the Revolution many of our clergy took sides with England. And does not this fact admit of a very easy explanation without involving the Church? Most of these clergy were Englishmen by birth; in some cases their families were in the mother country; their interests lay there; they were mostly dependent on her for their support. It is not strange, then, that when the war broke out, most of them should return home; for England was still the home of most of them. But it was by no means all of the Episcopal clergy who acted thus; there was a highly respectable minority who were staunch republicans. These things were understood in those days. If there had been any thing in the Episcopal Church unfriendly to freedom, would the Congress which declared our Independence have had Bishop White, an Episcopalian Minister, for its chaplain?
But the clergy do not constitute the whole Church; the laity form a most important part of it. What was the conduct of the Episcopal laity in the Revolution? Who was it that, by the clarion-notes of his eloquence, roused the colonies to resistance? Patrick Henry, an Episcopalian. Who led the armies of his country through that long and glorious struggle? Washington, an Episcopal layman.
Virginia and South-Carolina were Episcopal colonies; [31/32] did they lag behind the Puritan colonies of New-England? Were they not as decided in their patriotism, and did any men in all our land enter more warmly into the Revolution, or fight its battles more bravely, than did the Episcopalians of Virginia and South Carolina? Where then is the objection, that our Church is unfriendly to free institutions? The conduct of some of the clergy was owing entirely to incidental causes; the laity not being under the influence of these causes, were the leading men in the Revolution, wherever they were.
But your government is tyrannical, your Bishops have so much power! Now, so far from this being the case, there is no form of Church government in the United States, which harmonizes so completely with our civil institutions as the government of the Protestant Episcopal Church. And this will be easily accounted for when it is remembered that, to some extent, the same men framed both governments, that is, the men who framed the constitution of the Episcopal Church, aided directly or indirectly in forming our Federal Constitution.
What is the object of all government? To secure the highest degree of efficiency, consistent with a due regard to the rights of the people. It is acknowledged that there must be a head to every body, whether it be a family, a state, or a confederacy; unless there be some such executive officer, there can be no efficient administration of the government. We have such an officer in our Bishops.
But do we regard the rights of the people? Yes, [32/33] in every department of government. Every Parish elects its own Minister. In making the laws for a particular Diocese, each Parish sends its delegates, elected by its Vestry, from the laymen, to represent it in the Convention, which meets once every year. In this body the Clergy also sit, and over it the Bishop presides. No law can be passed without the concurrence of the laity. Here is a close resemblance to our State Legislatures.
But the different Dioceses, like the different States, are united by a federal constitution, which provides for a general convention, once in three years. This body corresponds to our Congress, the Bishops sitting together in one chamber in analogy with the Senate of the U. S., while the lower house consists of four clergymen and four laymen from each diocese, elected by its Convention. Here too the rights of the people are guarded; no measure can pass the lower house without the vote of the laity, nor can any law be made without the sanction of both houses. Now I ask if here is not the model of a republic, of just such a republic as we live under in our civil government?
But where is all that power of the Bishop? He can make no law or canon. He can only expound and apply them, when already made. He can appoint no officer of the Church by his single authority. It has been well said, there is a vast deal more power of appointment and of patronage in any single presiding officer of our democratic government, than is possessed by all of our Bishops put together.
Thus do we believe we have gained the true objects [33/34] of government. We have efficiency. Mr. Barnes, the Presbyterian Minister, says of our Church: "She is consolidated, well-marshaled, under an efficient system of laws, and preeminently fitted for powerful action in the field of Christian warfare." We have safety, for the rights of the people are carefully guarded throughout, even the Bishops being elected, and no law allowed to pass without the assent of the people, expressed through their representatives.
I ask then if there be any religious body in this country, whose government so completely harmonizes with our civil institutions, as that of the Episcopal Church? And yet it has been called aristocratic and monarchical. Strange that Washington, Madison, Monroe, Jay, Marshall, Kent, Clay, Calhoun, Webster, should have sanctioned by their support, and several of them by actual profession of religion, a Church of such a character! Were these great men too dull to detect our anti-republicanism, or were they too unpatriotic not to denounce it? The objector must take one horn of the dilemma. It has required considerable patience to dwell thus long upon an objection, which, though it may serve to excite popular prejudice among the ignorant and unreflecting, ought never to be advanced by one who has not examined our government, and can not for a moment be sustained either by facts or arguments.
IN answering the objections above named, the writer has been led into a defence of some of our peculiarities. He has endeavored to discuss the several points in a spirit of Christian kindness. He would not wantonly wound one of those who belong to other folds; his dearest friends upon earth are among them; and some, now in heaven, upon whose memory he loves to linger, lived and died among them. Conscientiously believing the Episcopal Church to be most in accordance with Scripture and primitive practice, he should be false to his convictions, and wanting in duty, were he not to labor to recommend her to others. He is not one of those who believe in the often-quoted maxim: "It matters not to what Church we belong, provided we are Christians." He believes it to be a matter of great consequence. It is a question to be seriously weighed--where can piety be most developed, matured, and strengthened? where and by what means can the most be accomplished for the glory of God in the salvation of souls? The writer honestly believes that with the same amount of effort, zeal, and energy, the Episcopal Church would be the instrument of the greatest amount of permanent good to the individual soul, and to the world at large. If others, after careful examination, think differently, we do not condemn them.
It has been said that Episcopalians are given to proselytism. This charge is unjust. True, many [35/36] have come to us from the denominations around us, but it has not been because they have been sought after, but because they have examined for themselves, or have been thrown into positions where they have had opportunity of seeing and knowing the Episcopal Church as she is, and not as she is represented by those who, through ignorance or wilfulness, convey a false impression of her doctrines, discipline, and worship. It is a significant fact, that as a general rule, the more persons know of the Episcopal Church the more they love her, and those who know her best, love her most.
The writer sends forth this tract with the prayer that God will bless what is good in it, pardon what is wrong, and overrule all to the advancement of his glory.