Since our last Pastoral Letter to you, our Heavenly Father has seen fit, in his mysterious providence, to take from us two of our number, our venerable presiding brother of the Eastern Diocese, and the no less highly esteemed Bishop of Virginia.
Very worthy persons having succeeded in their respective Dioceses, the tears which their deaths occasioned were, in a measure, dispersed by the hand of Divine Mercy which often strikes but to heal.
The association of States which had composed the Eastern Diocese over which the Right Rev. Alexander V. Griswold presided, has, by his death, been dissolved, and three others consecrated to take the pastoral charge of separate portions of the same flock, viz: the Rev. Doctors Manton Eastburn, over Massachusetts; J. P. K. Henshaw, over Rhode Island; and Carlton Chase, over New Hampshire.
Thus the spirit of heaviness at the loss of our Senior Bishop, has been exchanged for the "garment of praise;" and the same may be truly said of Virginia. "In the place of mourning" for good Bishop Moore, the oil of joy has brightened the face of that beloved Diocese, and caused all hearts to rejoice in the consecration of the Rev. Dr. John Johns, to be the Assistant Bishop, and the elevation of the Right Rev. William Meade, D. D. to be the Bishop of that Diocese. Two other Bishops have been consecrated during [3/4] this Convention, viz: the Rev. Nicholas H. Cobbs, to fill the Episcopate of Alabama, and Cicero Stephens Hawks, that of Missouri. Thus are we comforted in announcing to you the decease of our beloved brother prelates. As with Elijah and Elisha of old, the mantles of those whom God hath taken to himself, we trust, have fallen on others whom He hath left with us.
Brethren,--In the pastoral letter of the House of Bishops, issued Anno Domini, 1835, from the pen of good Bishop White, it is thus recorded:
"It has been the practice of the Bishops, that in each of their triennial addresses, they have taken occasion to call your attention to some point or points characteristic of our Church, and attention to which is especially invited in existing circumstances."
The points to which the present House of Bishops, under existing circumstances, would most respectfully invite your attention, are such, as we trust, will tend to settle and strengthen your minds on the true principles of our holy religion, viz: Faith in Christ, as distinct from merit in man; and obedience to the will of God, as evidence of the truth of that faith.
Thus guarding you from the errors of Rome on the one hand, and those of the Antinomians and Solofidians on the other. In short, it shall be our aim to show you that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth," and that "if you will enter into life ye must keep the commandments."
Nothing is more characteristic of our Church than these Scriptural truths: "The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ."--St. John, i. 17. And again, "The Scripture foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the Gospel unto Abraham."--Gal. iii. 8.
 "The Covenant" made with Abraham, called here "the gospel," or good ridings, was not "a covenant of works," as the unbelieving Jews asserted. It was a covenant of grace, mercy and truth, through faith in Jesus Christ, whose "day Abraham saw and rejoiced." It was a Gospel covenant which the ceremonial law could not disannul. Four hundred years passed between this Gospel covenant with Abraham and the setting forth of the law as given by Moses. "Therefore," saith the Apostle, "the law given by Moses, could not make the promise of salvation through the Messiah of none effect." It remained in the Apostles' days the same as in the days of Abraham, and it remains the same now as then. It was and is a Gospel covenant of unbounded love and free grace, through the atonement of the Son of God. The only difference between Abraham and ourselves, is in that he looked forward, and we, in point of time, look backward. He to the Saviour then afar off to come, and we to the Saviour, the same Saviour, who hath come, now eighteen hundred years and more, to suffer once for all upon the cross for the sins of men. He in the dawn, we in the evening of the day of grace.
The covenant made with Abraham to give him the kingdom of heaven or everlasting life, signified by the appellation "of that better country," (and the earthly Canaan as type of it,) was a distinct thing from that which was "added afterwards by reason of transgression."
Just as distinct from each other were these, as the firm foundation rock is distinct from any frail temporary superstructure. The Jewish ceremonial law, although itself built on the promise of the Messiah, was frail in itself, and served only a temporary purpose. It consisted of types and allegories, alluding solely to the Messiah and fulfilled in him.
The Apostle, speaking of Abraham, said, "The promise that he should be heir of the world was not given to [5/6] Abraham and his seed through the LAW, but through the righteousness of faith. For, if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise of none effect." [Rom. iv. 13.]
Let it here be asked: On what was this "faith" based but on the promise of the atonement to be made through a then FUTURE REDEEMER?--a faith as firm as the promise was sure, that God would certainly fulfil the same, in his good time; as the same faith in His word was firm, that God would raise Isaac from the dead the moment after he was slain.
In this tremendous transaction, "Abraham saw Christ's day and rejoiced. "God will provide himself with a lamb," saith he. In his own faithful mind, he saw this "Lamb of God," "slain from the foundation of the world," and looking on the promise, that if he slew his son Isaac, God would raise him instantly from the dead. In him he saw, as Jesus denominated himself, "THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE." Yea: in this transaction Abraham saw Jesus Christ overcoming death, man's greatest enemy, and his greatest punishment: he saw him rise from the dead for the justification of all who should believe on his name. In this sense "he received his son Isaac in a figure" of Christ risen from the dead.
The Jews were blind to this blaze of divine truth. They shut their eyes to its divine instruction. They "loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil." "The chief corner-stone, elect and precious, the builders refused." Utterly rejecting him their true Shiloh, the sum and substance of all their religion, they fell back on the frail fabrics of their ceremonial law, declared by the Apostle to be only "shadows," "types" "of good things to come," and to be fulfilled in Christ.
 From this source, as from one fountain head, were all the religious errors of the Jewish faith derived. They vainly supposed that their sacrifices ATONED for sin, by inherent and appointed virtue. And it is remarkable, that in this respect, they are imitated so closely by the members of the Romish communion, who affirm that their sacrifice in the mass, atones for sins. Nothing can be more evident than that they are both in deadly error; both blind to this everlasting truth, viz: THAT GOD NEVER ACCEPTED ANY SACRIFICE, OFFERING, OR ATONEMENT FOR SIN BUT THAT WHICH WAS MADE BY THE MESSIAH, HIS SON JESUS CHRIST, "ONCE FOR ALL, ON THE CROSS." A truth so plain that it is matter of wonder that any, who know the Scriptures, should be ignorant of it, and at the same time a truth so necessary, that all religion is vain without it. The ordinances of God before the coming of his Son, adumbrated for the most part, not Gospel ordinances, but the Saviour himself upon the cross: and Gospel ordinances, commemorate the same Saviour. Both receive their plenitude in Christ Jesus. The former in the morning: the latter in the evening of the day of grace; both being shadows on the dial of time, during the day of probation allotted to the Church of God. Jesus Christ himself, is the true and the only Gnomon, marking every moment by his ordinances, from the creation to the end of time.
On this dial at high noon, emphatically styled "the fulness of time," when the Sun of Righteousness was at his own meridian, no shadow was cast on the dial. All, all was fulfilled. "It is finished," said the spotless Lamb of God, as he poured out his life-blood for sinners. "It is finished," the atonement is made, which nothing else could or can make, from the beginning to the end of time.
The supper of the Passover, did faintly shadow this, in anticipation. The supper of the Cross, by reason of greater light, casts a deeper shade to commemorate the same. In [7/8] neither case was there, or can there be a REAL ATONEMENT, but by involving the blasphemous doctrine of Transubstantiation, and the abominable idolatries of the mass.
"It is finished," said our dying Saviour, when "he gave up the Ghost." How many errors of the most deadly nature have crept into the Church by perverting this fundamental truth sealed by the blood of Christ! The Jews, by reason of their carnal hearts, departed from the faith of Abraham and depended for salvation on the outward ceremonies of their law, believing that their sacrifices of themselves atoned for sin. How widely spread among the Romanists is a similar opinion, that the sacrifices of the Christian altar atone for sin! Yea, not only in the Roman Church, but in some who pretend to have rejected her errors, the same dreadful perversion of the truth seems to prevail. And will not God visit his Gentile Church, as he did Jerusalem of old, for this sin? The Jews for this sin were rejected of God, and ever since have become outcasts from the divine favour. They leaned on that false principle, that broken reed, that dangerous supposition, in believing that their sacrifices and ritual solemnities atoned for sin; and, in consequence of this, they rejected their true Messiah, and were and are still rejected of Him. In this condition of excitement, they will remain until they repent and believe the gospel, which unto Abraham their Father was "preached before," and for this reason was called "the everlasting gospel"--viz: that by the blood of the "Lamb of God, slain from the foundation of the world, and once for all poured out upon the cross, is the atonement made and sinful man justified." Till they believe in this true foundation of all true religion, they remain in their sins.
The same may be said of those who believe in the false atonement set forth by the Romish mass in the decrees of the Council of Trent. By these decrees that whole communion was thrown into a condition similar to that of the Jews: [8/9] both the one and the other held and still hold that the sacrifice itself and the ritual solemnity do atone for sin. The articles of our Church afford us stable ground on which to stand in guarding you from these errors of the Church of Rome. Take these articles in the sense of their framers and as set forth and investigated by the most distinguished divines, and there can be no mistake. These articles thus interpreted, we hold in great reverence, and entreat you to consider them in the same light, listening to no interpretation that will draw you from the Protestant faith. Besides the articles, we commend to your serious consideration the Homilies of our Church; and next to these the pastoral letters unanimously adopted by this House of Bishops, and set forth to the whole Church. Examine these pastoral letters and you will see how decidedly they condemn all leaning to papal Rome on the one hand, and Antinomian errors on the other. How they warned you against the over-valuation of the Fathers, so as to rank with the Holy Scriptures as a joint rule of faith, and at the same time how they freely admit their authority as evidence in matters of fact when determining what are the books of Holy Scripture, and what were the primitive worship of the Church. Nothing can be more decided than the testimony of disapprobation borne by these pastoral letters against the Romish doctrine of purgatory, the invocation of saints, the supremacy of the Pope, and the idolatries involved in the doctrine of Transubstantiation.
Being pledged by our consecration vows to drive from the Church all false doctrine, that the pure faith of our fathers may be transmitted to our descendants as we received it, we cannot but feel deeply anxious concerning the ordination of candidates for the ministry; for on these the character of our Protestant Church, in future ages, entirely depends. We feel it our duty to declare, that no person should be ordained who is not well acquainted with the land-marks which [9/10] separate us from the Church of Rome; and being so, who will not distinctly declare himself a Protestant, heartily abjuring her corruptions, as our Reformers did: and it is our solemn counsel to all professors in our Theological Seminaries and all others who are concerned in the preparation of candidates for Holy Orders, to be faithful in their duties, that neither Romanists on the one hand, nor the enemies of the Episcopal Church on the other, may have cause to boast that we have departed in the slightest degree from the spirit and principles of the Reformation, as exemplified in the Church of England.
To keep the principles of our reformation from contamination, a careful reading of the Holy Scriptures is a sure means; and we do think it our bounden duty to enjoin this practice of our reformers on all, especially heads of families. The Old Testament being read with the New, as appointed in our Calendar, is here alluded to. We have taken them in connection, as you see, in this Pastoral; and we hope with good effect, in imprinting the truths of our Holy Religion on our minds, with a view to holiness of life.
We have maintained that the covenant made with Abraham is an evangelical covenant. It must follow, therefore, that all things which attended it, as to its operations in Abraham and his immediate descendants, are of great importance to us. If we be children of Abraham's faith, in us will be seen the same fruits as in Abraham. God called him out of Urr of the Chaldees, from his country polluted by idolatry, and from his wicked kindred there. And to induce him so to do, he set before him the land of Canaan:--a land as yet unknown to him, but by Divine promise. Abraham believed this promise and obeyed this call. He went out from his country and kindred, and proceeded on his journey, "whither he knew not." And having arrived in Canaan he reposed on its soil, though as yet having no possesions in it--[10/11] no, not so much as a burying-place. These things teach us that he "sought a HEAVENLY COUNTRY," and considered the earthly only as an emblem thereof. Thus the whole becomes, as the apostle teaches, "an ensample unto us." We also are called out of a wicked and idolatrous world, and from "our kindred in transgression unto a land of promise," not enjoyment; into a Church militant, not yet triumphant. In this Church we are to live the life of faith and hope, as Abraham did. The unbelieving inhabitants of the land saw this holy man of faith among them; but they never thought of his being, at that very time, heir to the whole country: least of all did they dream that he had set his affections on a heavenly country, of which the earthy Canaan was only a type. The case is the same at the present day. When ungodly men see true Christians renounce the world in their baptism, and freely give up its pomps and vanities, in order to inherit the promise now, and hereafter to enjoy the REALITY of a Heavenly Canaan, a land of rest and peace, all is an enigma--an unexplained thing:--a matter of doubt, if not of ridicule and contempt. But let not true Christians be discouraged. Like Abraham's, their gains shall be greater than their losses; and our blessed Lord hath said, "Whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it:" "for what shall a man give in exchange for his own soul?"
It is the characteristic of unbelief to rely on present appearances. But the word of God teaches a different lesson. This lesson Abraham learned from the manner of life which God caused him to lead. From its unsettled and wandering state, he learned that the earthly promises and possessions themselves were but shadows of heavenly things: that the land which God covenanted to give him was but a type of a heavenly country: and so long as he believed and had hope in that which was above, the full enjoyment of that which [11/12] was upon earth was, to his faithful mind, but of minor consequence.
As scholars in the same school of heavenly instruction, the Apostle comprehends both Isaac and Jacob, as heirs of the same promises with their father Abraham; though they, like him, never owned a foot of ground in Canaan: and he expressly speaks of their raising their hopes above this world to a heavenly country by faith in God's promises. "By faith Abraham sojourned in a land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundation, whose builder and maker is God. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off: and were persuaded of them; and embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth: for they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country, a better country, that is an heavenly, where God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city."
We have from this statement, the Church's doctrine concerning several particulars. The Abrahamical being a Gospel covenant, the same as the Christian--both resting on the atonement of the Messiah, as the only meritorious cause of proffered salvation--it is evident, that the institutions of both avail only when considered as representatives, and are accompanied by faith in their reception. The sacrifices of Abraham, and those commanded by the Law of Moses, had no value in themselves; and when performed without faith in the atonement of a coming Messiah, they had no efficacy. They were but as shadows to the substance; and when that substance was removed from the eye of faith, even the shadow was displeasing in the eyes of the Lord. "To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me?" saith the Lord. "I am full of the burnt offering of rams and the [12/13] fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs: bring no more vain oblations."--Isa. i. 11. Even so it is with the ordinances of the Christian covenant. "The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life." Hence the Church infers the true import of all those expressions in Scripture which tend to exalt faith and deny works: they are works of unbelief which she denies: Works done without faith in Christ. These she declares are not pleasing to God, in her xiii. Article.
But does she the same with the works of faith as in Abraham? By no means: she condemns such works as the Jews relied on: such works as the deluded Church of Rome relies on as meritorious and saving by their own operation--works as a cause, not condition of salvation; and such works also the Apostle condemns; such works every true Christian condemns. But in so doing, neither Abraham nor the Apostle, nor the reformed Church of England, nor the Protestant Episcopal Church of these United States of America, sets aside the necessity of works wrought through faith in Christ. Such "good works" as these, all branches of the Universal Church of Christ, as the Apostle exhorts, "are careful to maintain." (1 Titus iii. 8.)
Again: Contrary to the opinion of those who assert that the promises to the Patriarchs either failed in themselves, or were fulfilled to their posterity only in a temporal sense, you have seen, dear brethren, that they were all, in a due course of fulfilment even then, when it might be most truly said of them, that "they were strangers and pilgrims" in the very land of promise; for they sought another and "a better country," a reality of which Canaan was but the shadow. Even so now, we have a more during promise of a better land, compared with which the world and all its enjoyments are but as shadows. This land has been purchased for us [13/14] by the sufferings of the captain of our salvation, Jesus, our spiritual "Joshua."
We know this is taught us through an allegory; but we are also sure this allegory is divinely appointed. God's word, like the rays of the sun, reveals this heart-cheering doctrine to us, that this life is but a journey to a land of everlasting rest. The light of God's word reveals it to us, by means of a mirror, which he holds up to us in his divine providence, with Abraham and his descendants, in a divine parable. [1 Cor. xiii. 12.] Thus, "the things of God are clearly seen," which, while in this world, would be otherwise out of sight; which same things, when we come to die, and enjoy the realities of another world," we shall see face to face."
Consisting of body and soul, this method of teaching is necessary to man. It is necessary now, as in days of old. God teaches us by visible ordinances to realize by faith heavenly blessings. The former are "outward and visible signs," and the latter "the inward and spiritual graces," given unto us. The former, being ordained by divine command, are the means whereby we receive the latter, and also pledges that the faithful shall receive them. None but infidels deny this. But we must receive the doctrine as a whole, not in parts. The very nature of it implies that we can receive the outward and not the inward part. The wicked children of Abraham, after the flesh, lived in great numbers in Canaan without bestowing one thought on that heavenly rest which that blessed Lamb represented. Even so we have too much reason to believe there are now many at the Gospel feast "who have not on the wedding garment" of faith in the King's Son, and his everlasting sonship with the eternal Father; but have clothed themselves with only a [14/15] garment from materials of their own framing, their own self-created opinions and wicked unavailing works, in many who are circumcised but not in heart nor in spirit; many "children of the promise," who by reason of their wicked lives, "will never inherit the promises," many "ingrafted by baptism" into the vine, whom the "husbandman will take away" because "they do not bring forth good fruit." All such, God will cast out in the great day. On the contrary, it is with equal truth asserted, that as he who uses the outward ordinance in faith, to the most evangelical and spiritual intent, is a true child of Abraham in the best sense; even so, he who despises the outward part, and disobeys the divine command to use it in faith, and gives for a reason of his conduct, his extraordinary love for the inward part, most dishonours God, who appointed the one and giveth the other, according to his promise. Let those think of this who talk of Abraham's faith, and do not as Abraham did.
Finally, dear brethren in the Lord, members of the family of the faithful: We, your spiritual Fathers, deeply conscious of our own unworthiness, while with the Apostle, we would "magnify our office," which we received of the Lord by the laying on of hands, most earnestly and affectionately exhort you not to be carried about by divers and strange doctrines, but that ye be stedfast in the faith once delivered to the saints. Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, whose work of redeeming love Abraham saw and rejoiced; whose "blood of sprinkling, speaketh better things than the blood of Abel," is the grand object of our faith and joy. "Let us then go forth with him without the camp, bearing his reproach, for here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come."
Like the holy Patriarch let us believe and obey. When God giveth us his promise, let us manifest our faith by our works. Let us, as he did, leave a wicked world and all its [15/16] sinful practices. Let us leave behind us our idolatrous relations, the Romanists, as he did his wicked kindred in Chaldea. Let us avoid every vice ourselves, and discountenance it in others to the utmost of our ability and influence. Let us love holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord; so shall our Apostolic Church distinguish herself as did Abraham and his family, from the nations around, by "A CLOSER WALK WITH GOD." Let us "follow peace with all men," being courteous to all, meek, gentle and "easy to be entreated," as he was: yet when the worshippers of idols would make war upon us, and take our "kindred and their little ones" in the true faith, from us, let us arm ourselves and our household with "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," and like Abraham go forth to their rescue. Let us dwell in this land, though "others claim to be Lords thereof;" and to all let us manifest that justice, mercy and truth, which that true charity more than all empty professions, will show that we are denizens of a better city, and inheritors of a better kingdom in heaven.
To conclude: The members of our communion in all places of our extensive country, have cause for fervent gratitude to the Great Head of the Church in heaven, that by the mighty power of His Holy Spirit the present Convention of a portion of His church here on earth, hath been over-ruled for good, and has concluded in great peace, especially in that He hath inclined the hearts of the members thereof to elect, with great unanimity, Missionary Bishops for Arkansas and other territories of the United States, and who is to exercise supervision over our missions in Texas; and also three brother Bishops to spread abroad, in foreign lands, the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Brethren, may the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.