Rector of Grace Church.
PRINTED BY GEORGE LONG, NO. 71 PEARL STREET.
This Sermon, the publication of which has been thought calculated, somewhat to prolong the impressions, which it was humbly hoped by its delivery to produce, is respectfully inscribed by their affectionate Pastor and friend--N. Bowen.
THAT the injunction of the Apostle in the first clause of this passage is retrospective, having reference to them who no longer were the rulers and guides of those whom he addresses, is admissible from the expression used in the latter; "who have spoken to you the word of God." Nor is there any thing to forbid our concluding with an ancient father, [* Vid. Mac Knight on the Epistles in loc.] that the objects of the remembrance which he enjoins, were principally those of the first twelve Apostles, who, in Judea, had already paid the forfeit of their fidelity to their master with their blood. If therefore, we consider the author of these words, as saying to the Hebrew converts, "remember them which had the rule over you," we shall, without any violence to the original, only vary the translated text in conformity with the obvious design [5/6] of the precept it conveys, and with the historical fact, that some who as heads and teachers of the Church, had had rule over the Christians of Judea, and had spoken to them the word of God, had by death, been already rendered only in remembrance objects of their reverence, their gratitude or love.
The Apostolic injunction of the text, then, understood as requiring of all the members of the Church of Christ, a due remembrance of those who in the higher departments of his ministry have had "rule over them," is as applicable to ourselves, as to those to whom it was originally addressed. And to day, my Brethren, I am confident, it finds your hearts peculiarly open to its influence. The dispensation, which has at length closed the interesting and affecting scene, which, for these five last years, the existence of your beloved Diocesan had exhibited, has disposed you for the full effect of the various considerations, which unite to enforce such an injunction. For various considerations there are, which demand, that, when they who have held the important relation to their Brethren, of "ministers to them in holy things," and especially those of them, who, clothed with the highest, the most complicated and arduous responsibility of the Sanctuary's service, have been seen faithfully endeavouring to fulfil their obligations to Christ and his Church; various considerations demand, [6/7] that when, their labour and work on Earth being done, they have gone, venerable in holiness as in years, to their rest in death, they should not be forgotten; but that, on the other hand, while affection hangs upon the flight of their departing spirits, with her fond regrets, and fervent aspirations, memory should prepare her tablets for the record, which shall cause their name, there deeply engraved, still to live, and their life and character still to instruct. In the office itself which they had sustained, and its work; in the services they had rendered to the best interests of the Church and society in the execution of that office; and in the virtues they may have personally exhibited, are circumstances which call for our remembrance of them, who, in the sense of the text, "had rule over us," with reverence, with gratitude, with esteem, and with tenderness.
A review of the subject of the text as thus stated, may not be an unprofitable occupation of your thoughts at present, nor unsuitable to the tribute of sensibility, which you have come hither prepared to render, to the memory of your late excellent and honored Bishop.
In the first place, then, the office of those who as the chief ministers of the Church of Christ, have "had rule over us," gives them a claim to remembrance, to which, in the minds of Christians, there cannot but be a ready and lively [7/8] sensibility. There is an emotion of respect, with which, the contemplation of peculiar eminence of character and station, even in the world is always, almost involuntarily attended. It comes of the general organization of human life, as divine wisdom and Providence have devised and ordained it, that they, who, as its chiefs and leaders, are charged with the interests of society, and influence its operations, should be objects, to the rest of men, of a reverent regard. In all ages the sentiment is found, and in almost all conditions of society, it is a spontaneous growth of moral nature. It comes not of the arrogance of superiors who exact it, so much as of the common consent of inferiors, who render it a voluntary tribute. In the civil state we readily recognize this sentiment, as an essential principle of its peace, its order, and its welfare. The ruler, whatever may be the title which designates his claim to it, and whether more or less surrounded with the splendors of station and the appendages of power, finds a homage attending him, which his office and its uses, readily induce, independent of any pretensions, which his character might personally carry with it, to the esteem of mankind. Even the abdication of power and authority, does not occasion the dismissal of this sentiment from the minds of men, with respect to any who had been its objects; nor does death itself destroy it. On [8/9] the memory of the sovereign, the magistrate or the chief departed, it will long be found to attend; and sometimes to plead for the oblivion of errors and vices, for the sake of an eminence, which has no advocate but the involuntary reverence it inspires.
Brethren, it is not for us, as Christians, to entertain this just and proper sentiment, with respect to those who have the rule over us, in things earthly and temporal, and not in at least as strong a degree entertain it, with respect to those who rule over us in "the ministration of the Spirit."
I am not unaware that the feeling I would inculcate is liable to much and pernicious perversion; and that it has often been abused, on the one hand, to the exaction, and on the other prostituted to the proffer, of an outward homage to the ministers of religion, as dishonourable to Christ, as disgraceful to the rational nature of its authors. It is still, however, a sentiment which the enlightened Christian cannot be disposed to reject, and by which he cannot refuse to be affected. In his estimation, no office of human power or authority, can be more worthy of this reverence of feeling, than that of the chief ministers of the household, and kingdom, and Church of Christ. For he is assured, that "no man taketh this office to himself, but he who is called of God," and at the hands of him whom he hath made "head over [9/10] all things to the Church," holds his commission to fulfil it.
It is not to be apprehended, that any whom in this place I can address, are inclined to question, that when "the author and finisher of our faith," ordained the original heads and governors of his followers, he invested them with an authority, which, transmitted in unbroken succession from them, still exists, and until "he shall come again in the clouds of heaven" to proclaim time to be no longer, shall remain, in those who preside in the councils and government of his visible Church. The office of a Christian Bishop, is not a creation of human vanity. It is not an assumption of human arrogance or pride. It is not a provision, which originating in considerations of local expediency, or temporary convenience, may be dispensed with, as human expediency or convenience may be supposed to require. It was Christ himself who originally created it. It was Christ himself, who by the Spirit of truth, wisdom and counsel, given to his apostles, clothed it with its prerogatives and prescribed its obligations. The origin and the ends of its institution, are heavenly and divine; and it is with things heavenly and divine, that it is concerned. The things which pertain to the kingdom of heaven, are its business and its care. It is with its interests, that they who are invested with it are charged. It is to its [10/11] honour, its glory, its happiness, that all the duties to which they are appointed, tend. In ministering to men, it is for Christ they do so. It is in his name, by his command, and with reference to the account which he at the last shall require of them, that they "feed the Church of God, of which the Holy Ghost hath made them overseers."
Thus sacred in its origin and design, how sacredly important are the duties, and unspeakably solemn the responsibilities, of those who administer this office. To them it mainly appertains to watch and labour for the interests of the truth and the faith as it is in Jesus; with a constant eye to the welfare of the souls of men, to guard the doctrine and the ministry of Christ, against the unhallowed obtrusions of human caprice, and passion, and vice; to be eminently, examples to their brethren in the ministry and out of it, of the prudence, the purity, the piety, the industry, the zeal, the uprightness, which the law of Evangelical obedience requires; and command the honor of the world in their persons, and all things, of which they have the conduct and direction, to the religion and Church of the Redeemer. Surely, when we thus consider it, we must feel that in its arduousness and dangers, chiefly consists the dignity of this elevated rank in the ministry of Christ. It is, indeed, obviously true, as by some one of old, was said, that they who are appointed to it, [11/12] "find in their obligations and their cares, a counterpoise to their honours."
But not to insist on the particulars which constitute the administration of the Episcopal office, a scene continually replete with care and labour, it is enough to enforce the reverent estimation and remembrance, of those to whom it is committed, on the hearts of Christians, that all their care and labour, tends to "the edifying of the body of Christ;" to the advancement of the best interests of their fellow creatures; and their encouragement and assistance to seek the happiness that is reserved in heaven, for faithful disciples of the Son of God. Shall they not, then, be honoured, living, with our reverence; and, when called away from Earth, to render up an account of their awful responsibility; as teachers, rulers, guides, and examples of the flock of Christ, shall they not in their death be honoured, and, with honour, be had in lasting remembrance, of them that were round about them?
In the next place, they who in this highest office of the Christian ministry, have had rule over their Brethren, should be remembered, because of the services, which in the execution of its duties, they have rendered.
When one, who, in this distinguished capacity, had served the Church of Christ, is no more, it is natural to review the scenes, in which he was so [12/13] intimately associated with the interests, to which we have learned, as Christians, to attach value, and contemplate the benefit they have derived, from his conduct and his labours. In the administration of such an office, it is not easy for a man to be unprofitable to his fellow creatures. It is not easy, so to estimate its obligations, as not to act under their influence, for the good of men. They have a solemnly constraining power, which, he whose conscience had not forbidden him to assume them, must feel continually impelling him, in some useful degree, to fulfil them. It is their absolute profanation only, (a guilt of which it is scarcely possible to form a conception) that can make them wholly unproductive of good. Imperfectly and with obvious defects performed, they still must bring before the view of men, the authority of Christ, must acquaint them with the apostolically instituted discipline of his Church, and be instrumental to them of the blessings of his grace. Even under circumstances of unworthiness, which it were painful to suppose, the minister of Christ, in the exercise of this high office of his Priesthood, might, in the course of his ministrations, become the instrument of good to many; and to many, might associate permanently, recollections of unspeakable interest, with his name. With what fond gratitude, then, may not memory linger in the inspection of a life, in [13/14] all whose steps, it finds the strong characters of a conscientious fidelity to the obligations of this high stewardship of the household of Christ. He, in whom, having the rule over us, we had been accustomed to recognize the servant of God, ever with pious and affectionate solicitude, watching and labouring for our good, bearing on all his actions and all his purposes, the legible stamp of "HOLINESS TO THE LORD;" with a steady view to the glory of Christ in the prosperity of his Church, and the happiness and salvation of men, pursuing the constant tenor of a ministry, as pure as devout, as blameless as zealous, as evangelical as enlightened, as condescending as dignified, as impartial as exact, he, who is thus remembered, wholly dedicated to the high objects of his calling of God, should be remembered with a gratitude durable as his name. It is not easy, indeed, for the grateful sense of the good, of which such a minister of Christ had been the consecrated means, to be lost from the minds of such as Providence had permitted to be its subjects. The impression of him will long be found in many a heart, inseparably blended with that of the vows by which, he in Christ's behalf and stead, had made it a living sacrifice to God. Families will delight in his memory, as that of the beloved and honoured instrument of the happiness they have learned to find in the statutes and ordinances of their God; [14/15] and society will not soon forget its obligations, to the teacher, by his life and character and doctrine, of a righteousness, from which, it derives, much of what it may possess, of moral soundness and stability.
Again, we should remember those who have "had the rule over us," for the sake of the virtues they may personally have exhibited, to our esteem and imitation.
To practise the virtues of the Gospel, and, "whatsoever things are true, honest, just, whatsoever things are pure, lovely and of good report," to make these the fixed characteristics of their lives, is the bounden duty of all "who name the name of Christ." To expect, however, a combination of all the graces and virtues which belong to the Christian character, in an unexceptionable excellency, in any individual, is more than the corruption and frailty of our nature, will warrant. There are circumstances which in the situation of every one, render some species of obedience to the perfect law of heaven, more or less, difficult to be practised. How far, in consideration of such circumstances, the divine clemency may dispense with the necessity of any virtue to salvation, it is not for us to know. We only know, that everything which God's word enjoins, every one who hopes for his acceptance, is bound with constancy and with sincerity, to strive to perform and to [15/16] fulfil. Yet, according to the circumstances, which render the acquisition or practice of particular virtues, laborious and difficult, we may reasonably proportion our esteem for their possession; and the excellency in any property of the Christian character, that is the result of successful struggle against temptations attaching themselves to the condition of its possessor, may adorn him with a peculiar lustre in our eyes. In the station of the chief ministers of the Church of Christ, you will find, my Brethren, much of incitement, for some of the dispositions of our nature, which are most foreign to the spirit of the religion, which, both "by their life and doctrine" they are required to teach and to defend. Here, therefore, the virtue which consists in the reduction of all such dispositions of the human heart, under the power of conscious duty to God and men, and exhibits them habitually subjugated to the spirit that rules to the divine glory, in the hearts of the children of obedience, demands the ample homage of our esteem. It is an error, my friends, to say there is no merit in virtue, where the motives and obligations to be virtuous, are so multiplied and strong. The merit of virtue, humanly speaking, (for we pretend not to attribute any merit, in a strict sense, to men, at the best sinful, unprofitable, and unworthy of acceptance, in the sight of God) is to be estimated as much by difficulties and temptations [16/17] overcome, as by inducements to it, followed; and the meekness, the humility, the gentleness, forbearance, and condescension, which in the Episcopal station, make you forget the provocations there are in that elevation, to every corresponding unchristian quality of temper and behaviour, certainly give to them who with those graces of character, eminently adorning them may have filled it, a claim to be remembered by their Brethren, with the warmest, the most affectionate esteem. At the same time, there is in the circumstances of this dignity, you will permit me,
Lastly to observe, that which entitles them who in it "have had rule over us," to be remembered with a candid and indulgent tenderness.
The instructors of men in righteousness, and, in an especial manner, those whom the Church clothes with most distinction, are not easily excused by men, for the want of righteousness in themselves. The intimate knowledge and the deep impression, which their separation to this office, is considered to imply, of all the principles, the obligations and the sanctions of holiness and virtue, are thought justly to preclude, in their case, the ordinary plea of human infirmity and frailty. God forbid, that they should be found, my Brethren, to insist on the admission of this plea, to the dimunition of the obligation of their voluntary vow, which, in heaven, has [17/18] been witnessed and recorded, to be in all things "examples of good works to others, that the adversary may be ashamed, having nothing to say against them!" But may God, also, forbid, that their Brethren should be unkindly forgetful, that, as men, they are of a like nature with themselves, and have need of their candour and their prayers, for human imperfections!
The uncharitableness, however, with respect to the ministers of Christ, which is patient of no defect in them, and the censoriousness, which is in haste to attach to them the reproach of faults or errors, for which the eye of malicious vigilance is ever looking in their character or actions, belong not to the sound and faithful members of his church. These dispositions and habits, may accompany the ever busy officiousness of his mistaken friends, or the ever busy enmity against him, of those who are not, and who wish not to be, of the household of his faith. But they would be erroneously ascribed, to his true and acceptable disciples. They, on the other hand, are found to cherish the charity for his ministers, which rejoicing in their good, would not magnify their evil. They look with an eye of pious and generous solicitude, to the trials, the cares, the conflicts, through which, their path of duty lies, and while through these, the interest of their Master's [18/19] cause is steadily pursued, and with integrity maintained, would have their way unobstructed by the discouragements and perplexities, with which a malignant, unchristian captiousness, would encumber it. Duly mindful of the difficulty, with which, in their own case, the warfare of obedience is sustained, they cannot be insensible to that which they encounter, who have to watch and strive both for "their own souls, and the souls of them that bear them."
This reasonable and consistent candour for the ministers of Christ, which characterises the sentiments and conduct of the faithful towards them, living, fondly attends upon their memory, when the day of their toil in his vineyard has expired, and death has fixed the seal of eternity to its consequences. Then, it delights in the indulgent estimation of their errors; and if the world has faults to alledge against them, pleads with it to merge the memory of them, in that of the high standard of duty and of virtue prescribed for them that serve the altar, in that of the labours, the solicitudes, the dangers incident to their station, and in that of the good, of which, by their means, however imperfect may have been their execution of obligations, for which no human strength or resources could be faultlessly sufficient, many immortal souls have been partakers.
I plead not, my Brethren, in these reflections [19/20] for charity to the memory of him for whom the Church has, this day, put on the habiliments of mourning. Were I to insist on your tenderness for his errors or defects, I should use language you would not readily understand. I should use language, at the same time, for which there were no authority in my own sentiments. I know not what were the defects, for which, it were necessary to ask a place for a feeling of indulgence, amidst those of reverence, of gratitude, and of affection, which crowd to the consecration of his memory in your hearts. Accustomed, only, to contemplate the purity of his holiness, to delight in the charm of his virtues, and recognize, on every hand, the good of his labours and his example, I know of nothing else, of which, to speak to you concerning him. Yet let me not be thought to profane his memory with the language of adulation. However unknown to one, to whom it was permitted to experience, but for a very short period, [* The author removed into this Diocess in 1809, and in 1811 Bishop Moore was affected with the paralysis from which he never recovered sufficiently to admit of such intercourse of his Clergy with him, as they had before his sickness.] the happiness inseparable from the relation which the Clergy of this Diocess, bore to this venerable and beloved object of their regrets, imperfections he must be granted to have had, for he [20/21] was human; errors he may have committed; for there is none but God, of whom it can be said, he cannot err. Yet whatever may have been the imperfections of his character, or the errors of his ministry, it is not left for us, in this place, to testify, that the sense of them was always wholly lost, in that of the excellency of his virtues, the value of his services, and the beautiful lustre of his life.
It has rarely, indeed, been permitted to the so distinguished minister of God, to pass the severe ordeal of human opinions, with so universal an acquittal from reproach. It has been rarely, I doubt not, my Brethren, that you have witnessed so universal a concurrence of the sentiments and feelings of men of all ranks and of all descriptions, in the honours, with which, the remains of a minister of God, have been borne to the house of death.
What need, however, is there here, of the outward testimony, which the world may have given, to the justness of the claim of this our beloved father, to be had in honourable and grateful remembrance? In your own bosoms, there is a testimony, stronger than all the world could render. Perhaps there is not a disciple of Christ, in this assembly, who finds not some trace of him, in the record which memory keeps, of the stages and circumstances of his religious [21/22] life. Certain I am, that there is not one present, who, whether sensible of it, or not, is not, this day, in the enjoyment of some of the happy effects of his long, faithful, admired, and honoured ministrations. Whom, then, may I not call upon to remember him; rather whom need I call upon to remember him, with reverence, with gratitude, and with affection? Whose heart has not anticipated the call, which it belongs to the ministers of the Sanctuary, to make, on the feelings with which the dead are honoured, in behalf of the memory of this its distinguished servant? You all, my friends, bear his strong impression on your hearts. You all will carry with you to your graves, his interesting impression. You all will often delight to recall his image to your minds, and associate with it, the memory of the counsels and instructions [* It must afford great satisfaction to the members of the Church in this city and diocess, to learn, that a publication of select sermons from the manuscripts of Bishop Moore, is contemplated, in two volumes.] to which you were wont so fondly and reverently to listen, in the accents of his eloquence, so chaste, so impressive and affectionate; and the virtues he exemplified, in manners and a deportment, always bespeaking the kindly, gentle, purifying, all adorning influence of "the Spirit that is from above."
 In whatever view, and in whatever relation we contemplate this beloved and lamented prelate, we find, my Brethren, much to esteem and admire. He was marked, in every respect, public and private, official and individual, moral and intellectual, with excellencies of no ordinary kind, in no ordinary degree; and it were pleasant to me to dwell upon the character, as long as your patience would bear with the poor, unworthy eulogy, with which my heart would bid me endeavour to do it honour. But the remaining services of the day, [* Sacrament Sunday] warn me to have done. Let me then, only repeat in your ears, the apostolic injunction of the text, applied to the subject of our Church's present mourning; remember him who had the rule over you, and long spoke to you the word of God. Remember his piety as fervent as unaffected, as warm and glowing from the soul, as discreet and chastened on his tongue. Remember his brotherly kindness and charity, as ready to bless and do good, and diffuse his benevolent sympathies and prayers to all men, as fervent and solicitous towards "such as were of the household of faith." Remember his zeal for the Church of his divine Master, as enlightened as animated; as judicious as active, as prudent as faithful. Remember his faith unfeigned, unwavering, "in the form of sound words once delivered [23/24] to the Saints;" in which, and for which, he so eminently lived; through which, we confidently trust, he has become "partaker with the Saints in light;" and in which may God grant us grace, like him, so continually to stand, that, bringing forth, more and more, "its fruits unto holiness," we also, may find its end to be, everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord. To whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be ascribed all honour, praise, dominion, power and glory--now and forevermore. Amen.