BOSTON, MASS., ON
DEAR BRETHREN OF THE CLERGY AND LAITY:
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all the Israel of God. We, your bishops, assembled in greater numbers than ever before, complying with the request of the House of Deputies, and impressed with a sense of our responsibility to our Lord Christ, set forth and address to you this, our Pastoral Letter.
Our clerical brethren will bear in mind that our address to them flows from hearts full of sympathy and affection, as bearing the same commission under the same Captain of our salvation.
Permit us, then, to remind you; whose representatives we are, with what message we are intrusted, and for what end. Is it not to repeat, as far as we can, to every dweller on this earth, the story of the Cross? We dwell in the midst of those whom we know to be lost sinners; but who amongst listless crowds, or throngs of busy men, feels this truth? Until men realize it, in vain we offer to them the gospel of a divine, compassionate, all-sufficient Saviour. This is the message the apostles bore, and this the secret of their wonderful success. We received it from our Lord and His apostles, through our fathers of three hundred years ago; and we renew the charge to-day, preach "Christ, and him Crucified, the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."
But you will vainly endeavor to impress upon others a sense of the value of this gospel, unless your own lives are examples of its power. With what face can you exhort others to become new creatures in Christ Jesus, unless the mind which was in Him be also in you? Character is the true source of ministerial influence. Only character renewed by the Holy Ghost, [1/2] and moulded after the image of Christ, can secure for a minister the fullest success. Therefore, we remind you, that on the power of your personal religion and that of your families, as well as on your fidelity in preaching the pure principles of our holy religion, our Church must depend, in great measure, for its success in impressing the obligations of personal holiness.
On this topic of personal holiness, which concerns every member of the church, we address ourselves with all affectionate earnestness to our dear brethren of the laity, not less than to the clergy.
Any true church is a light in a dark place; but our ancestry runs so high that, in this country, we stand like a city set upon a bill, which cannot be hid; and by every claim which we put forth, our responsibility becomes the more manifest to testify what is Scriptural, what is wise, and what is holy.
In the name by which the Church Catholic is commonly known, one august epithet is especially impressive. The Church is "Holy." That term not only marks the divine origin, the sinless headship, and the glorious consummation of this body of our Lord, but it points to a personal obligation laid on every one of its members. Holy, in Him who planted it, loves it, and nourishes it, its holiness is to be manifested in the human lives it consecrates and fashions. The unbelief of our time in the supernatural elements of the Gospel, is largely due to the want of a visible and vital connection between that which comes down from above, and the daily life of men on the earth. Plainly, therefore, it becomes a direct duty of our ministry, to proclaim, with its utmost energy, that the law of holiness in the New Testament, is a law of holiness for men under all conditions, and under all circumstances of life. Many of the religious guides and teachers of the people address themselves too little to the conscience, and aim at other ends, than the formation of character in the principles of Christian righteousness; therefore, the land is daily humiliated by financial crimes, frauds, defalcations, and betrayals in its trusted citizens. Patriotism fails to restrain men from robbing their country, or natural pity from ruining the orphan, the widow, the Indian. Violated contracts, fiduciary perversions, forgery and perjury make up the alarming records of the public press. Nothing will prevent these crimes but a fearless affirmation of the commandments of the Most High, with all their sanctions and penalties. We are to follow the steps and deliver the message of the Great Shepherd, as well as to [2/3] sit at His feet. We are not to rest until a "Holy Church" reaps its fruit in a holy nation, whose God is the Lord, doing the things which the Lord says.
The church of God needs a high standard of morals and a pure practice as urgently as it needs an increased Episcopate or multiplied missionaries. We exhort those of you who preach Christ, to preach right living, and to preach it not in generalities, but in definite particulars. Multitudes in all communities weigh our work, and learn the claims of our system, not from our literature, but from the lives of those whom we baptize and confirm. We are sent to call sinners to repent of specific sins of dishonesty and double dealing, of lying and cheating, of slander and swearing, of lust and idleness, of excesses in eating and drinking and dress, of gambling and rioting, of desecration of the Lord's day; and of the beginnings of all of these iniquities. We are to uncover all their modifications, disguises, and apologies. We are to rebuke selfishness in all its ungodly shapes, impiety in all its practical profanations; and on the other hand we are to instruct in, and encourage by precept and consecrated lives, all the virtues of a godly character; honesty and truthfulness, sincerity and constancy, moderation, sobriety, and purity of life, gentleness, compassion, and charity. Brethren of the laity, we beseech you so distinctly to practise the precepts of our holy religion, that men who see your manners, may be able to gives names to the graces and virtue, which you illustrate. Let your holy living be outspoken, and never justly liable to misinterpretation, nor marred by inconsistencies.
Practical thinkers in these days are looking to the Church for a visible Gospel. They will not shut their ears to the blessed tidings of God's mercy if they see with their eyes, that it is working out holiness in the character of those who possess it.
Closely following on this line of thought is the subject of practical religion.
Religion in action has more force in this world than religion in theory. The life of God, if it be in a church, will manifest its vital activity through the members thereof. If it flows through means of grace, it will flow into persons. It will show its power in the individual, as well as by the organized parish. Living members will not be content with cultivating personal holiness, but will work for Christ by every means which the church sanctions.
 We rejoice with you, beloved, that under the impression of these truths our Church has recognized the value of lay agency; and is rapidly systematizing it. Our pulpit fails to reach a large class of the community, but the Gospel can be successfully carried to them, as has been proved by well-tested experience, by lay people, through men's and women's Bible classes, mothers' meetings, church guilds, workingmen's clubs, industrial schools and Parish missions. We particularize these instrumentalities not to exhaust the enumeration, but to emphasize the methods. In the full work of such instrumentalities opportunity is offered to all our lay people, both men and women, and all peculiarities of disposition, and of taste, may find occupation. But we caution you that this field of labor is so nearly allied to the responsible labor of your ministers, that it will be most successfully occupied by those whose religion has become experimental, and whose spiritual character has been tested, developed, and well rounded.
In pressing these duties we exhort you, brethren, to remember your self-consecration. The breadth of your sacramental vows is the measure of your duty.
We are reminded by our Brethren of the house of Clerical and Lay Deputies of this General Convention, who have asked oar counsel in the matter, that on one point cautions may be expedient to guide the enthusiasm of your Christian zeal. We speak plainly, for it has become necessary to warn the men and women in our congregations, against any measures, in the management of ecclesiastical or charitable affairs, which are liable even to the suspicion of moral ambiguity. There are easy opportunities in our parishes for devices which in secular business are barely tolerable, but which in the Church have nothing whatever to excuse their Sordidness or their vulgarity, except that they bring needed money to a worthy cause. It is not necessary to specify these abuses, or to characterize them as they deserve. It is enough that they lie close to the border of forbidden ground. If associations with the gaming table, the lottery, the race-course, the playhouse, are inconsistent with Christian character, how much more when a church thus associates itself for the purpose of advancing the interests of Christ's kingdom!
They put upon the lips of scoffers and apostates the sneer, that the people of God, to compass an inferior end, are as ready as men of the world to postpone duty to expediency, or to sell truth and honor in the markets. It [4/5] becomes you, brethren, to hold our church life and church economy aloof from these unhallowed concessions. We may well walk long with our Master in His path of poverty, and bide our time. We can suffer no real defeat if we cling to the rules of His kingdom. True charity can never be made one thing with self-indulgence, or turned into a thrifty traffic. As soon as we are ready to welcome the principle of sacrifice as the Saviour has revealed it, bringing the due proportion of all we have to His service, these dubious resorts of a half-faithless policy will disappear, and the kingdom will come with power.
It has been our habit on these occasions, to warn you against any danger which seems imminent, especially if it be a lurking danger.
Accordingly we utter our solemn warning against the dangers which now threaten Religion and Society, from want of fidelity to sacred obligations.
First. From want of fidelity to parental obligations in the education of children. Fathers and mothers, charged of God with the duty of training children, are bound to a personal discharge of that duty, using such proper helps as may be furnished by Parish or Sunday Schools, and schools and colleges under our Church's care; nevertheless, the responsibility for principles imbibed, and habits formed by their children, rests on themselves as parents. They have accepted the sacred relationship, they must accept its obligations. Before God they are charged to employ every influence and instruction, to use every proper check, and all authority to fashion their offspring for usefulness in society, and for the highest service of Christ. Much of the corruption in public and social life which startles us, has its root in defective family training. Where instruction in regard to the baptismal covenant is infrequent, or is not given at all, while wealth, with its accompanying influences, is regarded as the chief good in life, the children of the Church cannot be expected to grow up into Christ in all things. When children must quit the family to enter school life, parents should provide against their exposure to flagrant contradictions of the truth which they have received at home, and which has been confirmed to them by this Church.
It is inconsistent to send your children to schools administered in the interests of Rome, or in sympathy with any of its dangerous errors. Your obligation is to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Let no man deceive himself with the thought that no influences will be [5/6] exerted by such schools to withdraw our children from the truth in which they have been nurtured. It would be as dishonest in Romish teachers, who believe that their salvation is imperilled by non-communion with the Church of Rome, not to influence the children committed to them, as it is sinful in you and perilous for them, to submit their susceptible years to such religious impressions. The perversion of your children is a predetermined end of receiving them into Romish schools. Your children will become negative Protestants, if not positive Romanists. Is it worth your while, for the sake of accomplishments in needlework, and painting, and music, and dancing which they offer freely, to invite your children to accept errors which your fathers escaped only at the price of blood? Hold fast, beloved, for your households and yourselves, the Faith once delivered to the Saints, recorded in the Scriptures of truth, and witnessed unto by the creeds of your church. Upon that faith, both we and ours may stand by the grace of God, unmoved as upon a rock.
Second. The danger to religion and society from want of fidelity to the sacredness of marriage. In giving these our counsels to the Church, we feel constrained to advert to a subject which is of painful interest to many persons, and which, from its very nature, we would gladly leave untouched, did our sense of duty permit us to be silent. That subject is the great and growing disregard in our country of the sanctity of marriage. The evil is shown in the levity with which marriage is contracted, in the unscrupulousness with which it is entered upon by men and women to whom it is forbidden, by the laws of the ancient Church of God, by the laws of the Christian Church, and, in some instances, by the laws of nature itself. The same unhappy tendency is shown in the readiness with which divorces are obtained on slight and insufficient grounds; and subsequent unions formed which are called marriages, but which our Lord has pronounced to be adulteries.
The baneful and unchristian state of public opinion which tolerates and frequently even legalizes such acts, is a portentous omen for the future of religion and society in our country. The sanctity of marriage is the moral power which mainly binds together and upholds the duties, the interests, the charities, and the decencies of social life. Without it conjugal love decays, parental love is weakened, the nurture and training of children are neglected or perverted; the purity and peace of the Christian home are exchanged for the corruption, the [6/7] strife, the frequent homicides, the anarchy of heathen society. All human history teaches us that in an age or country where marriage is lightly esteemed, the people become degraded, effeminate, and at the same time fierce, cruel, and lawless. The great nations, the heroic, the free, have been marked by this characteristic, that they honored marriage. And what is of immeasurably more importance, where marriage is disregarded, the souls of men are grievously imperilled and many times lost; for He who is our Judge as well as our Saviour, has distinctly forewarned us that he who marries after divorce obtained upon insufficient grounds, commits adultery, and, living and dying in that state, lives and dies in deadly sin. The Church has already forbidden her ministers to perform such marriages; and if fuller and more efficient legislation on her part be needed, it will no doubt be provided.
Meanwhile, we urge it upon our brethren in the sacred ministry to instruct the families committed to their charge, with renewed care and diligence, in those principles of moral purity which give honor and strength to Christian wedlock. We urge it upon parents to train their children to a clear knowledge of what the law of God requires in the relations of the sexes, as well as in guarded habits in whatever pertains to the manners and intercourse of social life; and we urge it upon all our people to preserve the chastity and constancy of that divine bond between husband and wife, which our Lord has chosen as a living image to represent the mystical union of Himself with His Bride, the Church.
Third. The danger of society, and the stability of the commonwealth, from the unsettled relations between the classes which represent capital and labor. To state the question is to expose the danger. We do not purpose to trace the causes of it. Our duty is to teach the rich and the poor, both the workman and his employer, their several obligations, not only to themselves but to each other. Our aim as a church is to bring these classes into harmony, upon the common plane of a redeemed humanity.
The representatives of capital and labor are brothers, made in the same Divine image, amenable to the same Divine law, charged with different duties, but under the same responsibility, answerable to the same common Father, and bound by the same moral rule of right and wrong.
That social science which attempts to adjust the varying relations of [7/8] men, as to work and wages, rank and condition, but leaves out of view his relations to God, and to his brethren in the family of God, call never give a true philosophy of life, or furnish a remedy for the evil complained of. No legislation can satisfy this need which busies itself solely about restrictive laws or directive enactments touching labor and capital, but takes no cognizance of the Divine command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."
The Church of God presents this remedy. It lies in the practical application of these two truths: "God is no respecter of persons," and "Christ died for all." On that basis men's relations to each other may be satisfactorily readjusted. No reform can regenerate the surface of society that does not first regenerate its inner life. No power can grapple with that inner life but the power of the Holy Ghost. The basis of all reforms that shall meet the necessity of all times and all classes is a renewed life of the individual soul. Consequently the church must meet all the outcropping of evil, not by a new remedy, but by a more thorough application of the one only remedy, the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Personal efforts of pastors coming down from the pulpit into homes, and personal communication of Christian employers with the laboring classes, in practical manifestations of brotherly sympathy, the bridging over of the chasm between capital and labor by Christian brotherliness; such is the remedy. The defence of society is the magnetism of Christ's love in the hearts of Christ's children, attracting and drawing together those elements of human life which are antagonistic, or would otherwise be repelled.
We turn now from topics of social concern to a topic of imminent interest to our beloved Church.
On the subject of our missions, your bishops speak in earnest expostulation.
Whilst many occurrences awaken gratitude and hope, we are pained by the general apathy, which has prevented our Church, during three years past, from meeting opportunities and from facing its difficulties. Financial depression has disturbed the courses, and diminished the sources, of supply. We do not under rate this cause. But we deplore the fact, that neither the faith, nor energy, nor self-sacrifice, nor generous alms of the Church have adequately met the need. In hours of depression, faith should show its power. In emergencies, energy should be increased. When the exigencies of God's church call His missionary [8/9] servants to anxiety and suffering, they call all other members of the Body to self-sacrifice. When the missionary treasury is embarrassed, then God is bidding His people to more generous gifts. But we have not seen these results, beloved! Instead, we have seen that whilst luxuries have been scarcely diminished, your offerings for the Lord's work have sensibly decreased. We notice little change in your habits of easy living or ecclesiastical expense, but a marked change for the worse in your habits of giving for missions. Instead of cutting off extravagances, too many of our dear brethren in Christ have cut of their charities.
We might reprove this spirit of selfishness as the Lord hath given us authority. But rather we will put you in remembrance of what our gracious Lord hath said, that "it is more blessed to give than to receive": and we argue as the apostle did, "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich." Being therefore now enriched by Him in all things, we pray you, out of your abundance, to supply in all things the necessities of our missionary work.
With different emotions we address those members of our spiritual household, who, out of their abundance, have given liberally to missions, and those who, out of their poverty, have given still richer offerings to Christ. And our hearts have been much moved by the constancy with which the children of our Church have poured gifts into the treasury of the Lord. In the midst of much depression these things comfort our hearts.
But nothing yet done by our Church is commensurate with our duty and our opportunities. A living church is a missionary church. A church which feels the love of Christ must be busy in extending the area of that Divine love. True devotion of soul is thorough devotion of life. A church imbued with the Gospel manifests the power of the Gospel. We remind you, beloved, that the life and teachings of the Saviour were immediately followed by the acts of the apostles; and that the disciples to whom lie said, "Go, preach my Gospel, in all the world," obeyed and went. No Church can defend its apostolic claim which is not a missionary church. Therefore we beseech you to pray for and to encourage a missionary spirit. We entreat our brethren of the clergy to inform their people fully concerning [9/10] the principles, methods, claims, and success of our missionary work. We advise all theological seminaries of our Church to provide a thorough course of study of the history, condition, and obligations of missions. We counsel you all to read and ponder our missionary journal--"The Spirit of Missions." It furnishes information concerning opportunities opening before our Church in every part of the world. It records labors and sacrifices and successes of our fellow-helpers, Bishops and Presbyters, laymen and women, instant in season and out of season, at home and abroad. No intelligent interest or charity for the missionary work can exist, until Christian judgment has been enlightened and affections moved by facts which exhibit spiritual need, and by the motives which lie beneath them.
Your Bishops regard the missionary work as at this time demanding of every member of our Church renewed consecration and concentrated effort. Systematic giving and systematized labor are pressing needs, together with unanimity in both. Parochial systems differ, but no parish is properly organized which has not some defined and established system in these charities.
It is a critical period in the moral history of the world.
At this moment commercial activity has opened avenues for Christianity into every nation. Even the interior of Africa has now been traversed by Christian exploration. Ease of communication and constant intercourse are rapidly dissolving barriers between heathen and christianized peoples.
Heathen nations are curious as to the source of our civilized superiority. At this moment Indians, Chinese, and Africans, by peculiar providences, are brought into immediate relations to our Christianity. They expect to find in our Western and Southern Missionary Districts the same religion which our missionaries carry to their ancestral homes. Domestic missions and church extension become all the more engaging, because of the imminent pressure of foreign missions. Our emigrants should carry, and immigrants should find, the pure Gospel of Christ, within the safeguards of our Communion, in every State and Territory of our country; and this Christianity should meet these heathen inquirers everywhere, and everywhere the same.
This is our opportunity, as a Church, in a nation whose commerce binds it to every people on the earth.
 It has pleased Almighty God, in His wise and wonderful providence, to place side by side on this continent two colonies of the most vigorous race of men. Coming to America at periods somewhat distant and under very unlike circumstances, yet they are contiguous to each other, and their territories reach through many degrees of latitude, and stretch from ocean to ocean across the continent. The Churches of the United States and of the Dominion, both deriving their origin through the Church of England, and adopting from her Reformation their government, ministry, and liturgy, form two branches of the same Church of Christ, in North America, which traces its history back to the apostles' times. The last twenty-five years have brought us very near together; never so near as during this session of our General Convention. The delegation from this sister Church, you have received with the honor and warm affection due alike to their mission and their personal character; and we feel that they have left a benediction behind them.
It has pleased the Great Head of the Church to place in the hands of the two branches thereof, the sacred deposit of His word, His sacraments, and His ministry, to be used for the benefit of the millions who are crowding into North America. Well may we exclaim "Who is sufficient for these things?"
By the help of Almighty God, and in the power of His Spirit, we may present the Church in her life, her services, and her teachings, purely, simply, and with effect, in every portion of this continent. In our North and South western States and Territories, and in the Dominion of Canada, every acre of land is now covered by the jurisdiction of a Bishop of the Anglican Communion. Our Episcopal organization affords us great advantages. Every movement is guided by a wise forecast, and experience teaches us that the rough miner, and the bold huntsman of the West, when aroused to a sense of the value of his soul, easily learns, and soon prefers to worship his reconciled Father in the forms of our liturgy.
Up then, brethren! The land is large, and it is a goodly land which the Lord hath blessed. Up! enter in, and possess it.
These triennial assemblings of our College of Bishops, and this closing hour of the session, remind us of that solemn occasion when the Apostles gathered around our blessed Lord, to listen to His last words and hear His last [11/12] command. We have been greatly refreshed by communing with our brethren of the clergy and laity, and taking counsel with them of the things which concern the gospel of the grace of God, and the Church which Christ hath purchased with His most precious blood. But we hear again His command, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." We, your Bishops, and these your Ministers are obedient to that sacred word. We are going from this place north, south, west to the Empire of China, and east even to the shores of Africa, each on his several errand. Every State and Territory of our own country, Japan, China, Greece, Liberia, Haiti, and Mexico, in foreign lands, our Freedmen and our Indians, will witness to the fidelity of our Church to that command. We beseech you, beloved in the Lord, to follow us with your faith and charity, your hope and sympathy, your prayers and alms.
And now, dear Brethren, we commend you to God, and the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance amongst all those who are sanctified through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all glory, dominion, and power world without end!