Project Canterbury


A. D. 1889


Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2008

NEW YORK, October 24th, 1889.

I hereby certify that the following is the Pastoral Letter set forth this day by the House of Bishops, to be read by the clergy to their congregations, in accordance with Title I., Canon 17, ยง iii., of the Digest of Canons.
Secretary of the House of Bishops.


To our Well Beloved in Christ, the Clergy and Laity of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In the providence of God, it has been our great privilege to meet again with your representatives in the Triennial Convention of the Church, and to take council with them concerning many things of deep and sacred interest to us all. There is occasion for sincere thanksgiving in the fact that the sessions of this Council have been eminently marked by the spirit of "the sons of peace," the cordial fellowship of brethren dwelling together in unity, and that we are permitted to record, from statistics presented, gratifying evidences of distinct advance on the lines of our Christian endeavor. Especially is this latter to be noted in the remarkable increase in the number of Candidates for Holy Orders, and the steady expansion of the Body to which they will in due time be called to minister. But the satisfaction which we may rightly feel at the signs of our own ecclesiastical progress, we rejoice to say does in no wise lessen the ardent desire for unity among all Christians to which our Communion, both at Chicago and at Lambeth, has given notable expression. Indications of a like desire on the part of other bodies of Christ's people are, we thank God, not lacking; and it is with freshened hope for the future that we reach out hands of love to all who like us "pray for the peace of Jerusalem." Rejoicing with you over every new manifestation of the Divine care, especially as witnessed by the prevalence of fraternal feeling, and much godly zeal throughout our borders, we gladly avail ourselves of the opportunity given us to invoke your pious consideration of certain matters which strongly impress the minds of your assembled Bishops.

We desire to address you first in regard to "relief for infirm and disabled clergy, and for the widows and orphans of those deceased." Perhaps we cannot better indicate our sense of its capital importance than by placing it first among the themes of this Our Pastoral Letter to the faithful. We do so for the reason that our existing provisions in this behalf are confessedly inadequate, and for the further reason that we are not without good hope that our most emphatic and urgent appeal for larger provision will meet with quick and glad response from Churchmen who should not be any longer slow to recognize a real and pressing need. The existence of a Society especially and admirably constituted for the purpose of supplying aid to the spent soldiers of the Cross--and to those whom they have left to the Church's tender guardianship--is not and cannot be a fact of such slight import that we may thereupon address ourselves exclusively to other matters. It is not enough that faithful and godly men are giving their time and energies to make the Society charged with this work a living and beneficent power. There is needed the conviction in the minds of our brethren of the [3/4] household of faith that its work stands in the very forefront of the activities which distinguish the militant Church of God.

It is well for us to send our crusaders to do Christly battle with heathenism abroad and irreligion at home, but surely it is also well to take the stricken veteran to our hearts, to comfort him with our love, and when he has answered the last call of the great Captain of our salvation, to guard sacredly the home which he has left bare with an honorable poverty.

Let us, dear brethren, confess that we have been sadly remiss in this matter. Let us say and feel that we have not in this done that which it was our high duty and privilege to do; and let the awakened heart of the Church endeavor speedily to repair the wrong. Large and constant gifts are required for this holy treasury. It makes its godly demand and not only its pathetic appeal, that a too great neglect in the past shall be more than compensated by a new fidelity. Here, as in other places of the Christian life--the devout offering of the rich may win the gracious commendation given by the Master to the widow's mite. We are also persuaded that the measures taken to provide a "Retiring Fund" for clergymen worn with service should be generously encouraged. Nor can it be right that the contributions to such fund should be made from the scanty means of ministers themselves. The supply should come from the dutiful and thoughtful who have freely received, and can freely give. Every consideration of religion, of wisdom and of equity, adds emphasis to a recommendation which has in it, we doubt not, "the mind of Christ," and should have the answering consent of His true people.

A subject of scarcely less importance is that of Christian Education. It will be remembered that the Church of God has always, in greater or less degree, acknowledged its obligations to provide as it might for the training of the world in good learning, in all the culture that leads to "gentler manners, purer laws," wider intellectual illumination and power.

In the ages past it has been the gracious office of Christian hands to unlock the treasures of knowledge for men, and with self-sacrificing urgency, to offer them as a supply of human want. However, in time past, the Church itself, in any of its branches, may have been involved in the prevailing ignorance of the day, it is nevertheless true, that even in the midst of dire disorder and barbarous illiteracy, the priest's lips still kept knowledge, the monastery preserved in its library the monuments and relics of a vanished learning, and the quiet cloisters of cathedral and abbey still echoed to the footsteps of the musing scholar, who, bending over the opened page of his book, builded visions of a brighter day.

The noble dreams at last found realization in school and university; and Christian munificence, revering reason and intellect in the light of its faith in the Divine Perfect Manhood, laid the large and solid foundations of the structure of modern scholastic enlightenment, placing the halls of studious life and labor under the protecting benediction of the Cross of Christ.

It is not strange, therefore, that in our own time and country Christian men have so often found in institutions of good learning fitting objects of their praiseworthy [4/5] liberality during their life, and, dying, constituted them the inheritors of their consecrated wealth. Churchmen, members of our own communion, have not been behind others in such undertakings, nor have they confined their generous gifts to colleges and universities under the Church's control and fostering care. We rejoice always over the establishment and prosperity of any seat of higher education, where the best culture of the age finds an honored and protected home, and where elevated, refined and worthy character may be fashioned. At the same time we deem it not unfit that we should with earnest emphasis, remind the sons of the Church that institutions of our own eminently demand their interest and aid, their gifts and their encouragement. It is not so much that the college or university is to be made the means of ecclesiastical extension, nor that we are greatly concerned that the Church should receive honor and recognition from men as being the nourishing protectress of science and arts and letters; but rather this, that the student's life should be in contact with that broad, Catholic spirit, which the Church takes with her and manifests wheresoever she goes. It is the glory of that Church, the heir of all the Christian ages, that by the very character she has historically inherited, she is in sympathetic touch with all the aspiration, struggle and attainment of men, striving, under the Divine impulse of the Incarnation, to build here the Kingdom of God--the kingdom of liberty and reason and truth, even as it is the kingdom of piety and faith. Wherefore, we would fain believe that the type of character moulded by the influence and spirit of the Church must be, not fragmentary and contracted, but wide in its comprehensive sympathies, quick in its appreciation of all the manifold life and thought of humanity, patient and calm in its firm hold upon the abiding, eternal things, and joyous in its hope and expectation of the new day of the Son of Man. Surely the Church of our love and faith has some precious gift to bestow upon those who, prosecuting their studies, offer their opening manhood, their minds and hearts, to impressions that shall be lasting and powerful. Under influences such as have been suggested, the social body shall be enriched by the presence in it of members of exalted worth; intellectual life shall find itself amplified by a generous and balanced wisdom, and the State shall rejoice in citizens friendly alike to the reformation of every wrong, and the maintenance of all that is just and right. Let the Church University be liberally endowed, and let the Cross, as ever before, still point the way to a gracious, godly and high civilization. The Church that speaks to men in their sin, speaks for them in their need.

Nor may we forget the due supply of the means of the secondary education of the young. Private enterprise or righteous zeal have already, in this field, won the grateful recognition of those who would carry on into the school life of son or daughter the wholesome and Christian influences of the home. It is greatly to be desired that schools for the young should be multiplied, wherein the faith, the worship and the habitudes of the Church may be commended by use and wont. But in the very necessity of the case, such schools cannot be [5/6] numerous or available as private undertakings. They involve large expenditure, if real and excellent. And the pressing need is that inexpensive schools of the best character, of high purpose, and adequate equipment, shall be added to the Church's instrumentalities. When it is asked how they may be procured, and sent on their high mission, we are constrained to believe that the way is open here, for a Christian sacrifice and a Christian beneficence to achieve a mighty and far reaching good. The ample endowment of such schools by pious and earnest Churchmen, would bring their advantages within reach of those who need them most, and now vainly desire them.

The secondary school that shall fashion a godly mind and habit on any large scale, must be the school that has its best welcome and its highest place for the pupil of moderate or narrow means. We cordially and earnestly commend to our brethren this method of active and productive beneficence, and we look forward hopefully to the day when the Church's schools shall be at once inexpensive and admirable. And in order that this may be, in order that the wealth of the pious and generous may be invited into these channels, it is of high importance that the teaching Church shall be represented actively by those, both men and women, who shall in Christ choose for themselves this special way of devoted life. If common reason did not--then easy observation would--persuade us of the immense value and power of a body of teachers for the young, whose incentive to labor and whose reward for it shall be, not earthly gain but the honor of God and the heaven-taught grace of immortal spirits. We are accustomed again, after long disuse, to the consecrated activity of those who, in the Master's Holy Name, minister gladly, lovingly and habitually even to "the least" of His brethren--to the poor, the sick, the prisoned, and the wretched. We know well what organized Christian sympathy has wrought for the hospital, the gaol, the tenement house and the sorrowful, sinful city street. The same Christian sympathy embodying itself for the purposes of education--and content to be forever unrewarded of men--might and doubtless would command a divine success by a divine self-abnegation. We must believe that when a loving piety shall build the hall, a kindred piety will be there to consecrate and use it. The secondary school of the Church requires endowment to make it accessible, and self-devoted teachers to make it worthy. Let the Church of Christ give to it both the one and the other.

The subject of education and training of the young leads us naturally to a consideration of some striking features in the life of our day. In a country such as ours, distinguished among the nations by institutions which presuppose the liberty, intelligence and civic virtue of the citizen, it is of the utmost importance that men should feel and recognize their political responsibility. And while the Church of God--the kingdom not of this world--does not undertake to wage the warfare of the partisan, it is nevertheless charged with the duty of establishing and maintaining principles which shall find expression in the political as well as in the social and family life. The Incarnation would be emptied of a large part [6/7] of its significance if it were supposed to leave untouched and uninfluenced the life of men under the ordered polity of the Commonwealth. To "render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's" is surely more than the due payment of the tribute-money which supports the public action of the State. It is, no less, the righteous and godly exercise of all the functions of the citizen. On account of the dangers which beset all government, the far-seeing founders of the Republic rested their hopes for its welfare and success upon the civic fidelity of the people--not upon the excellence of our governmental methods. Those methods make possible among us gross and shameful perversions of political right and authority. It has come to pass in the heat and eagerness of party struggle, that vicious and corrupt conduct is largely condoned, and the standards of political morality are sensibly and dangerously lowered. We are confronting a great peril--and one which must excite the fears of Christian men--lest character fashioned in the working of free institutions be irretrievably damaged, and the poison entering here spread itself throughout the entire life of the nation. Purity and integrity in the administration of public affairs are strenuously demanded by the religion of Christ, as well as by all patriotic aspiration. Official place, in morals and in politics, is not the prize won by a vulgar selfishness, nor the refuge of patronized incompetence, nor yet the barter price promised or paid for political influence, but the place in which a righteous man may serve his fellow-men, and advance the reputable interests of his country. The emoluments of office are derived from a fund contributed to the State by the loyal obedience and patient toil of the industrious masses: to say the very least it should be distributed so as to secure the most efficient and economical conduct of public affairs. The honors of office are the legitimate rewards bestowed by popular confidence upon upright citizenship. It must be an evil day for our country when both emoluments and honors are made the prey of a partisan activity which often discards all honesty in its methods and renounces all shame in its corrupt and corrupting success. The religion of Christ is "for the healing of the nations" sick with sin and wrong; and the Church of Christ, while holding itself aloof from the strife of faction and party, is yet called upon in the persons of its members to guard jealously the great heritage which God's providence has bestowed, and to maintain earnestly the beneficent ideals of political life and action. To answer that call with ready mind and will is the becoming office of faithful men who would promote the righteousness which "exalteth a nation," and invite still further blessings from Him who "hath brought us forth into a wealthy place" among the peoples of the earth.

We pass on to a kindred topic. It is inevitable that the Church of God shall be profoundly concerned at the disturbed relations of what are commonly called the "industrial classes"--the wage-workers, and the employer, of human labor. The spirit of our holy religion forbids indifference, on our part, to any actual trials, oppressions or sufferings of men, and its due practical operation has tended always to do away with jealousies, suspicions and antagonisms between [7/8] the children of the One Father of us all. We may confidently claim for the Church of Him who by His presence consecrated the carpenter shop of Nazareth, that however at any time or place it may have been tempted to shelter itself under the patronage or protection of earthly power and wealth, nevertheless its deep, constant purpose has been to soften asperities of feeling, to promote mutual good will, to curb injustice, as between man and man. And if there be, as unhappily there often is, a forgetfulness by many, of the blessed changes wrought in human conditions by Christ's religion, we may not ignore the significant truth that the unchallenged claim of men of our day to considerate justice and all righteous recognition by their human brothers, rests finally and completely upon the dignity and sacredness of the humanity taken into the Godhead by the Word made Flesh, and by Him redeemed unto the liberty of the children of God.

It is painfully evident that the existing industrial system is subjected not only to vehement criticism, but to perilous strain; and one of the most discouraging elements of the situation seems to be the hopeless or despairing tone of those who deal with the overshadowing questions which throng so persistently upon the mind and heart of our generation. It seems scarcely to be expected by many, that a solution of the problems can be reached by applying to them any devices of human sagacity or any reconciling principles of economic science.

It is often assumed without question, alike by reckless passion, and thoughtful earnestness, that there is no soothing for the uneasy world; that opposing interests and aims are here met in mortal strife. We do not venture to intimate that we have any swift and potent cure for the evils which we must and do deplore. But we are confident that it is a fallacy in social economics, as well as in Christian thinking, to look upon the labor of men, and women and children, as a mere commercial commodity to be bought and sold as an inanimate and irresponsible thing. It is the employer who seeks and finds the inner soul of the operative, who respects his manhood, and perhaps translates for him into fact the inarticulate longings of his better nature; it is the master whose watchful sympathy finds room and play in the cottages of his wearied workmen, and in all the life which has its centres there--it is he who has found the open secret of a wisdom that is "peaceable" because it is "from above," and is "pure," "gentle" and "easy to be entreated." Any social philosophy which eliminates from its consideration the value and significance of human feeling, or human susceptibility to the influence of kindness, justice, and loving manliness, has surely left itself fatally maimed and incomplete. The heart and soul of a man cannot be bought or hired for money in any market, and to act as if they were not needed, in the doing of the world's vast work, is as un-Christian as it is unwise. We may not therefore omit to urge upon all those to whom our words may come, the profound need of a righteous and full appreciation of the moral and spiritual factors which enter into industrial questions. To bear in mind the hardships and heavy cares of our brother men, to remember our common kinship in the great family of God, to ponder their necessities, to [8/9] stand ready and glad to plead their cause, to brighten their lot and comfort their distresses--this is the exalted office of Christian men--it is the hopeful method of peace and good will. And let it never be forgotten that there is here a reciprocal obligation laid upon labor--a duty defined by every principle of righteousness and truth. That duty--a duty fully and fitly recognized by large numbers of Christian workingmen--plainly is to treat the employer, in his most difficult position, with all considerate and thoughtful regard. His legitimate interests may not be ignored, and it should be the steadfast will and purpose of his working associates to protect those interests, and defend them against all unjust aggressions. He is frequently placed in situations of great embarrassment, and the kindly patience and sympathy of his workmen may bring relief. He is always entitled to that, and there is grave injustice when it is withheld. Combinations which cripple or hinder his rightful freedom or action, unreasonable demands concerning the hours and compensation and division of labor--these are not in the way of substantial right, and any temporary or passing triumph for them is but the delusive promise of a method bad in morals which really invites and compels disaster. The stars in their courses through God's sky of truth fight against ungodliness and wrong, and they who would claim equity must do equity. In considering these relations between employers and employed, we desire to express our profound interest in the provisions that may be and should be made for penetrating the life of the great masses of men with positive Christian influence. If the world's exacting labor is to be done, in any accord with the principles of the Kingdom of God, there must of necessity be, on the part of employers, a distinct and unqualified recognition of the spiritual needs and claims of the workmen whose toil they control or direct.

In the law of God there is a day which He calls His own, and by the declaration of the Lord Jesus Christ it was "made for man." It is doubly protected then by the sovereignty of GOD, and by the everlasting sanctity of a human right; the Holy Day--thus guarded and shielded against invasion--is the day for worship and for rest. To rob it of its character at the demand of greed, to make labor so weary under its daily burden that it is tempted and almost forced to change its day of high and holy refreshment into a day of reckless indulgence or soulless apathy, is grievous sin. We are enabled to thank God for the good examples of some of our brethren, who have been forward to minister graciously and helpfully to large bodies of operatives in their employ. They have provided for needed rest, for helpful and elevating recreation, for due demands of human frame and human spirit. Let the examples be multiplied, and let the Church of God interpose its protest against oppressive wrong.

And to this end, we would say also that a high duty rests with all those who are of the flock of Christ. In days of self-will and self-indulgence, there are too often found those who, forgetting obligation and privilege, disparage the sacredness of the Lord's Day by choosing it for the purposes of amusement or mere social entertainment. They know not what they do, for their action poisons the [9/10] springs of holy living, and pollutes the pure stream whose flowing waters make glad the city of God.

We beseech you, brethren, by the tender mercies of our God that you think upon these things, and do what in you lies to reclaim for men and for their Lord the peace and power of His Holy Day, and all the treasures of His compassion. The slighting or contemning of God's hallowing institutions has led, as it needs must, to a deplorable decay of personal faith in all Divine things. It is a day of doubt and denial.

It is certainly no new thing in the experience of Christianity to find itself assailed by unbelief. It was cradled in storm, and as it took its stately way down the opening track of history, it evermore encountered antagonism in a world to which it brought only the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ. Learning and ignorance, power and weakness, philosophy and folly, bewildered virtue and lawless vice, have given it challenge and battle on many a field. Time and again its final overthrow has been loudly and complacently announced, and yet here in the closing years of its nineteenth century it stands resolute, unshamed, and mightier than ever in the souls and homes of believing men. It is true that the forms of faithless hostility have changed in some measure; and some names of great distinction in the intellectual world lend their support to the anti-Christian position. But let it be noted well that the Cross still remains firm and unshaken in the midst of our modern life. Wisdom still bends reverently before it; learning the most illustrious is still glad to bring its treasures there, and science that with clearest vision reads the record written on the world of nature, is still willing and ready to render its homage to the Lord of Nature, the Logos, the Reason of the universe. But beyond all this, nay better than this, the Lord of Life and Truth still comes in the majesty and might of His Divine human character to conduct His own great argument with the masses of mankind, and vindicate His right to their loving and trusting allegiance. Where human thought grows dizzy on the far borders of speculation, the voice of the Son of God is there to claim and steady it: "Ye believe in God, believe also in Me." When human weakness staggers and bends under its sore weight of sorrow, He who wept with the desolate here, is present to say: "Let not your hearts be troubled;" "My peace I give unto you." Where human sin trembles and grieves in its guilt, the Redeemer of men is there to say: "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." And the Christ wins the soul in the nineteenth century as in the first. The marvellous heart of man, in its depths, is in league with the religion and the Saviour of man.

In this confidence, let the people of God be shaken by no fears of final disaster to their Ark, and let the Church of God, as in the past, so now, but with larger, fuller tone, repeat the creed of the ages: "We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life." But while the Catholic body steadfastly enunciates, and day by day declares the unchanging [10/11] belief, it is needful in a restless age that the peculiar place of that belief should be distinctly and thoughtfully recognized. Resting upon most certain warrant of Holy Scripture, it is "the faith once (for all) delivered to the saints," and is not to be confounded with the doctrinal statements of theology, with mere passing phases of religious thought. However valuable and venerable the theology may be, it should not complicate and endanger the defence of essential Christian unity. It is the region of a Catholic freedom. And in this connection, we would urge upon our brethren of the clergy especially the necessity of a wise prudence in the setting forth of doctrinal views. It too often happens that a zealous persuasion is substituted for authoritative certainty, and definitions are issued in extreme, unqualified and objectionable form, with the implied assumption that the Church of God has made itself responsible for the rash speculation. Manuals and pamphlets, often anonymous, abound in our day, dealing with sacred mysteries and holy things, in a tone, and often in language which invites condemnation. Especially does this seem to be the case in the doctrine of the Holy Communion, wherein the most unguarded phrase, and discredited terms, are lightly used in the explication of that Holy Sacrament. It is, perhaps, sufficient for the needs of this hour, that we remind you, brethren beloved, that the Anglican Communion has never found reason to modify the language of that Article, the 31st, which declares that "The offering of Christ once made is that perfect redemption, propitiation and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifices of masses, in which it was commonly said, that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead to have remission of pain or guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits."

In a time when the hearts of Christian people seem to be drawing all one way, and mourning, as well they may, over the "unhappy divisions" of the kingdom of peace, it is the part of a wise and holy charity to place no new barriers in the path of those who are seeking a common home and rest. The very instinct of the Church of Christ forbids the harsh and heedless dogmatizing which would measure the worth of its utterances by their extravagance and vigor. The History of the Church arraigns and condemns it, and every reasonable hope for the future discourages it. Even as it also discourages and condemns that dogmatism of denial and negation which counts it a small thing to bring into question and dispute the settled convictions or pious persuasions of the Christian world. If we are patient and gentle, as we ought always to be, with the doubts and difficulties of those who cannot as yet see the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ--if even non-Christian thought challenges and receives our tender and considerate treatment--then, assuredly we may not innocently place a stumbling-block in the way of any who, with us, pray to the Father in the Name and faith of our Blessed Lord, and share, with us, the glorious hope which He has given.

We would not close our brief consideration of the Faith, its securities and [11/12] its relations to modern life, without most grateful reference to our enlarged opportunities for the study and understanding of God's Holy Word. We hail with deep, heartfelt satisfaction every pious undertaking by which the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures is brought home to men. The advances made in biblical research have added a holy splendor to the crown of devout scholarship; and the wide distribution of the oracles of God must forever mark with gracious distinction this Christian century. The merciful marvel of the great Pentecost is, in a sense, repeated, when multiplied versions of the Bible enable the scattered nations to read in their own tongues the wonderful works of God. This priceless possession, this heavenly manna of the pilgrim Church, is the people's Book, open and free to all men. As it is impossible to estimate the blessed influence which it has already exercised upon the life and character of our English-speaking race, so let us readily believe that it has a similar mission for all to whom it shall come in its living power.

There dwells on its sacred pages a light from beyond this world. May that light never be obscured by any earth-born clouds, either of shrinking superstition or of irreverent self-will. Let it be still the Book of the home and the family, that its noble and pathetic language may mingle itself purely with the common speech of the worshipping household; and that minds filled with its lofty images and unearthly tone may be bound, as under God they will be, firmly and lovingly to the Faith which it enshrines. No method so potent as this to frame in the soul a vision of eternal truth which shall live there to hallow the life, to resist doubt and disbelief, and point the way to God's perfect peace. Here, as always, your Bishops and fellow-servants in Christ commend the Holy Scriptures to your faithful, reverent love, and constant daily use.

And now, dear brethren in the fellowship of our Catholic and Apostolic Church, Farewell. "Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God, even our Father which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and stablish you in every good word and work." Amen.

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