Project Canterbury

Memoir of Bishop Seabury

By William Jones Seabury, D.D.

New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1908.
London: Rivingtons, 1908.

Chapter XV. The Free, Valid, and Purely Ecclesiastical Episcopacy. 1784.

THE title of this chapter constitutes a phrase which is of frequent occurrence in the writings of those who were interested in the original settlement of Bishops in this Country. I cannot ascertain by whom it was first used, but it was very common in the days with which we are now concerned, and had been so for many years. It well expressed the substance of the desire of those who sought to have the Episcopate planted in this Country; and was designed to indicate the absence of intention to introduce with the Episcopate any of those worldly associations which have been the bane of that Divine Institution since the Church ceased to be persecuted, and the Enemy of Mankind became content to work its injury by the slower, but more effectual, process of connecting it with the State, or otherwise corrupting it with the influences of temporal power and wealth and social prestige.

The Episcopate which the Connecticut Clergy sought to procure was to be free, as being entirely distinct from the State, and subject only to the obligations of its own Divinely given charter of spiritual authority; it was to be valid, as having been derived by direct transmission from Christ through the Apostles and the Bishops successively tracing back to them; and it was to be purely ecclesiastical, as being wholly without any of those powers which had been legally and technically called spiritual, but which were essentially civil in their character. In the application to the English Establishmentarian Bishops, what was sought from them was merely the Episcopal character; and this, if obtained, was designed to be used simply for its own spiritual ends. But the English Episcopate though valid, was neither free nor purely Ecclesiastical; and therefore was incapable of communicating its own validity, without the permission of those to whom it had forfeited its freedom.

That permission being refused, and the Church of England Bishops deprived of the happiness of being the first to transmit to this Country the Apostolic Succession, it was necessary for the man chosen by the Connecticut Clergy to be the Bishop of the Church in that State, to seek this Episcopacy in another quarter.

The choice before him appears to have been practically limited to two lines of the Episcopate then existing in Great Britain, and distinct from the Establishmentarian line. These two lines were those of the Scottish Church, and of the non-juring Bishops of the Sancroft succession residing in England. There were other Bishops of course to whom access could have been had; but these were such as would not have communicated the succession to the applicant without requiring him to abandon allegiance to the Anglican Communion--as in the case of Bishops of the Greek or Roman obedience; or they were such as he could not have sought the Episcopate from, without recognizing the validity of that which they possessed, probably not capable of proof in his view,--as in the case of the Danish succession. So that practically he was to choose between the succession of the Scottish Church, and the English non-juring succession. He received an offer of consecration at the hands of Bishops Cartwright and Price of the last named succession: but this offer was declined on the ground that application had already been made by him to the Scottish Church, and that the application had been granted. Dr. Seabury's letter to Bishop Cartwright, of October, 1784, printed by Dr. Beardsley (p. 135) contains the following passage, which may suffice to show his action in regard to that offer:

"Till within a few days I have had no decided answer from the North, and therefore did not sooner write to you because I could make no certain reply to your letter. But as the issue of the negotiation I was engaged in is such that I cannot in honour retreat, I can only at present return you my hearty and unfeigned thanks for the candid communication and liberal sentiments which your letter contained; and assure you that I shall ever retain the highest esteem and veneration, both for yourself and Bishop Price, on account of the ready disposition which you both show to impart the great blessing of a primitive Episcopacy to the destitute Church in America." [The word "to" appears before the words "assure you" in the latter part of this sentence, both in Dr. Beardsley's reprint, and in Bishop Seabury's letter book: but it is so manifestly an inadvertence that I have taken the liberty of omitting it from the above text.]

It is very difficult to reconcile the expressions in Dr. Seabury's letters to Connecticut, in reference to his application to the Scottish Bishops, with a consciousness on his part of an obligation to follow instructions already received to resort to Scotland in case of his failure in England. Mr. Fogg's letter, above quoted, plainly asserts that the Connecticut Clergy had instructed Dr. Seabury if he could not obtain consecration in England to seek it in Scotland: yet Dr. Seabury repeatedly submits the question of such procedure to the Connecticut Clergy, as if he had received no instructions. Either the instructions had not in fact been communicated to him, although the Convention ordered that they should be; or he had not remembered them; or he thought that the members of the Convention ought to have another and later opportunity of expressing their will if it had remained unchanged.

Dean Burgon, whose judgment on all points is worthy of the most respectful consideration, affirms very positively that the suggestion of the resort to the Scottish Bishops was first made to Dr. Seabury by the venerable Dr. Routh, President of Magdalen College, Oxford, then a young man of twenty-nine, but then, as always, a prodigy of learning; and that Dr. Routh at the same time disabused the mind of Dr. Seabury as to the validity of the Danish succession. It is possible that Dr. Seabury at that time was not as accurately informed in regard to the Danish succession as Dr. Routh was; and that the stricture of Dr. Routh may have removed from Dr. Seabury's mind any question which might have arisen there as to a resort to that succession, which it was understood at the time might have been imparted. It is possible also that Dr. Routh's reference to the Scottish succession might have been received by Dr. Seabury as a renewed assurance of what he had already understood, and of what he knew the Connecticut Clergy were also aware of. But, considering his former residence in Scotland, and his former associations with the Church there, it seems hardly probable that Dr. Seabury then for the first time learned of the existence and validity of its Episcopal succession. However, it certainly does not seem that he thought himself bound by the Connecticut instructions to resort to Scotland; and it certainly is proved that Dr. Routh suggested that resort; and the reader, if he is curious enough to consult Dean Burgon's account of the matter will at least find it most interesting and instructive, and may determine the questions raised according to his own judgment. [Burgon's Lives of Twelve Good Men, vol. I, pp. 29-35, and Appendix C. in the same volume.]

It does not appear that Dr. Seabury received any answer from Connecticut to his requests for instructions; and it is to be presumed that, having heard nothing to the contrary, he assumed that it would be agreeable to the Connecticut Clergy, as it accorded with his own judgment, that he should prefer his request to Scotland. This he did, after informing the Archbishops of Canterbury and York of his intention to pursue that course.

It appears that the idea of the derivation of an American Episcopate from the Scottish Bishops, had been entertained by the Rev. Dr. Berkeley, and by him suggested to Bishop Skinner of Scotland, some months before the same idea was broached by the Connecticut Convention. Possibly it may have occurred to others. Dr. Berkeley, however, a son of the illustrious Bishop of that name, seems to have been the one who first brought the matter home to the consciousness of the Scottish Bishops. To Bishop Skinner he wrote in October, 1782, hoping "that a most important good might erelong be derived to the suffering and nearly neglected sons of Protestant Episcopacy on the other side of the Atlantic from the suffering Church of Scotland ... I would humbly submit it to the Bishops of the Church in Scotland (as we style her in Oxford), whether this be not a time peculiarly favorable to the introduction of the Protestant Episcopate on the footing of universal toleration, and before any Anti-Episcopal establishment shall have taken place. God direct the hearts of your prelates in this matter." Bishop Skinner's judgment in regard to the suggestion was that the Scottish Bishops could not move in the matter until the British Government had committed itself irrevocably on the question of independence. After that had taken place, Dr. Berkeley again addressed him on the subject, speaking in one of his letters as follows:

"I have this day heard, I need not add with the sincerest pleasure, that a respectable presbyter, well recommended, from America, has arrived in London, seeking what, it seems, in the present state of affairs, he cannot expect to receive in our Church.

Surely, dear sir, the Scotch prelates, who are not shackled by any Erastian connection, will not send this suppliant empty away."

And about the same time, November 1783, the question was proposed to the Scottish Primus by Mr. Elphinstone, the son of a Scotch clergyman--"Can consecration be obtained in Scotland for an already dignified and well-vouched clergyman now at London, for the purpose of perpetuating the Episcopal reformed Church in America, particularly in Connecticut?" [Cf. Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 126-130.]

It would seem that the reply to these suggestions was affirmative, and that Dr. Seabury was made aware of the willingness of the Scottish Bishops to consecrate him, since, in his letter above cited of June 26, 1784, referring to Scotland, he wrote, "there I know consecration can be obtained." His own first move in the matter seems to have been by a letter to his friend Dr. Cooper at Edinburgh, which appears to have been intended to be submitted to the Scottish Bishops, and which was so submitted by its recipient. A copy of this letter in his own handwriting is contained in his manuscript letter book, being the first of the letters copied into that book, and is as follows:

"Copy of a letter from Dr. Seabury to Dr. Cooper, Dated London 31st, August 1784 My dear Sir

I hope this letter will find you safe at Edinh, in good health and spirits. Here everything in which I have any concern continues in the same state as when I saw you at your Castle. I have been for some time past, and yet am, in daily expectation of hearing from Connecticut; but there have been no late arrivals, nor shall I wait for any, provided I have any favorable account from you, but shall hold myself in readiness to set off for the North at 24 hours notice. With regard to myself, it is not my fault that I have not done it before, but I thought it my duty to pursue the plan marked out for me by the Clergy of Connecticut, as long as there was a probable chance of succeeding. That probability [This word is mistakenly printed "probably," in Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 136.] is now at an end, and I think myself at liberty to pursue such other schemes as shall ensure to them a valid Episcopacy; and such I take the Scotch Episcopacy to be in every sense of the word; and such I know the Clergy of Connecticut consider it, and always have done so, but the connection that has always subsisted between them and the Church of England, and the generous support they have hitherto received from that Church, naturally led them, though now no longer a part of the British Dominions, to apply to that Church in the first instance, for relief in their spiritual necessity. Unhappily the connection of this Church with the State is so intimate that the Bishops can do little without the consent of the Ministry, and the Ministry have refused to permit a Bishop to be consecrated for Connecticut, or for any of the i'3 States, without the formal request, or at least consent of Congress, which there is no chance of obtaining, and which the Clergy of Connecticut would not apply for, were the chance ever so good. They are content with having the Episcopal Church in Connecticut put upon the same footing with any other religious denomination. A copy of a law of the State of Connecticut, which enables the Episcopal Congregations to transact their ecclesiastical affairs upon their own principles, to tax their members for the maintenance of their Clergy, for the support of their worship, for the building and repairing of Churches, and which exempts them from all penalties and from all other taxes, on a religious account, I have in my possession. The Legislature of Connecticut know that a Bishop is applied for, they know the person in whose favour the application is made, and they give no opposition to either. Indeed were they disposed to object, they have more prudence than to attempt to object to it. They know that there are in that State more than 70 Episcopal Congregations: many of them large: some of them making a majority of the inhabitants of large towns; and with those that are scattered through the State, composing a body of near or quite 40,000: a body too large to be needlessly affronted in an elective government.

On this ground it is that I apply to the good Bishops in Scotland, and I hope I shall not apply in vain. If they consent to impart the Episcopal succession to the Church of Connecticut, they will, I think, do a good work and the blessing of thousands will attend them. And perhaps for this cause, among others, God's Providence has supported them, and continued their succession under various and great difficulties--that a free valid and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy may from them pass into the western world.

As to anything which I receive here, it has no influence on me, and never has had any. I, indeed think it my duty to conduct the matter in such a manner as shall risk the salaries which the Missionaries in Connecticut receive from the Society here as little as possible; and I persuade myself it may be done, so as to make that risk next to nothing. With respect to my own salary--if the Society choose to withdraw it, I am ready to part with it.

It is a matter of some consequence to me that this affair be determined as soon as possible. I am anxious to return to America this autumn, and the winter is fast approaching, when the voyage will be attended with double inconvenience and danger, and the expense of continuing here another winter is greater than will suit my purse. I know you will give me the earliest intelligence in your power, and I shall patiently wait till I hear from you. My most respectful regards attend the Right Reverend Gentlemen under whose consideration this business will come, and as there are none but the most open and candid intentions on my part, so I doubt not of the most candid and fair construction of my conduct on their part.

Accept, my dear Sir, of the best wishes of your ever affectionate &c

S. S."

The next entry in the letter book is as follows:

"Copy of a card from Dr. Cooper to Bp. Kilgour

Dr. Cooper presents his most respectful compliments to Bishop Kilgour, and begs leave to acquaint him, that to Dr. Cooper's knowledge, Dr. Seabury is recommended by several worthy Clergymen in Connecticut as a person worthy of promotion, and to whom they are willing to submit as a Bishop. Dated Edinh. 13th September 1784 Postscript by another hand

Dr. Berkeley, in consequence of some fears suggested by Bp. Skinner, wrote the present Archbishop of Canterbury, that application had been made by Dr. Seabury to the Scottish Bishops for consecration, and begged, that if his grace thought the Bishops here run any hazard in complying with Dr. Seabury's request, he would be so good as [to] give Dr. Berkeley notice immediately, but if his Grace was satisfied that there was no danger, there was no occasion to give any answer.

No answer came."

The postscript here copied is said to have been a memorandum in the handwriting of Bishop Skinner on Dr. Seabury's letter of application.

With regard to the question of risk in the contemplated action of the Scottish Bishops, it is to be observed that the whole Scottish Episcopal Church had been for many years, ever since the first session of King William's Parliament in Scotland, proscribed by law; Episcopacy being then abolished, and in the next session the Presbyterian government being established, and Presbyterian Judicatories being erected which had authority to fine, imprison and punish the Episcopal Clergy even if they held any private congregations, or meetings with people of their own Communion and opinions; and to shut up the doors of all their meetings, not allowing them the least toleration. Such is, in part, the account given by Granville Sharp of the "persecution" of the Episcopal Clergy in Scotland, in a letter written by him to the Revd. Mr. Manning, to which we shall probably have occasion to refer hereafter, and which is here cited only for its testimony as to this particular. The situation as described by Dr. Beardsley was that the Clergy were forbidden to officiate except in private dwellings, and then only for four persons beside the household; or if in an uninhabited dwelling, for a number not exceeding four. In many rural places their houses of worship were burnt by military detachments; and in towns where burning was unsafe, they were shut up or demolished. A clergyman violating these laws was liable, for the first offense, to six months imprisonment, and for the second, to transportation for life. [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 144.] And although in the lapse of time the harshness with which these laws had been enforced was somewhat abated, yet the laws remained unrepealed, and were very liable to be enforced if any influence near the Court should on account of some special grievance set their machinery again in motion. Hence the caution used by Bishop Skinner in feeling the pulse of the Archbishop of Canterbury through Dr. Berkeley.

It was on account of these persecutions that the worship of the Episcopal Church was conducted with that secrecy which we have had occasion to notice in an earlier chapter of this work while Dr. Seabury resided in Edinburgh as a student of medicine before his ordination; and for the same reason that Bishop Skinner had been obliged to make provision for the worship of the congregation in Aberdeen to which he ministered, by setting apart for the purpose the two upper floors of his private dwelling house in an obscure part of the town called Longacre.

The next entry in the letter book is a copy of a letter--

"From the Rt. Revd. Bp. Robert Kilgour of Aberdeen to the Revd. Mr. John Allen of Edinburgh. Revd, and Dear Sir,

I acknowledge by first opportunity the receipt of yours of the 14th ult. enclosing Dr. Seabury's letter to Dr. Cooper which I doubt not you have received in course.

Dr. Seabury's long silence after it had been signified to him that the Bishops of this Church would comply with his proposals, made them all think that the affair was dropped and that he did not chuse to be connected with them, but his letter and the manner in which he accounts for his conduct give such satisfaction that I have the pleasure to inform you, that we are still willing to comply with his proposal; to cloath him with the Episcopal character, and thereby convey to the Western World the blessing of a free, valid and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy: not doubting that he will so agree with us in Doctrine and Discipline as that he and the Church under his charge in Connecticut, will hold communion with us and the Church here on Catholic and Primitive principles; and so that the members of both may with freedom communicate together in all the Offices of Religion.

We are concerned that he should have been so long in determining himself to make this application and wish that in an affair of so much importance he had corresponded with one of our number. However as he appears open and candid on his part, he may believe the Bishops will be no less so on their part; and will be glad how soon he can set out for the North.

As I cannot undertake a journey to Edinburgh, and it would also be too hard on Bp. Petrie in his very infirm state, the only proper place that remains for us to meet in is Aberdeen.

How soon Dr. Seabury fixes on the time for his setting out or at least how soon he comes into Scotland, I hope he will advise me; as the Bishops will settle their time of meeting for his Consecration as soon thereafter as their circumstances and distance will permit. With a return of the Bps. most respectful regards to Dr. Seabury, please advise him of all this.

May God grant us a happy meeting, and direct all to the honour and glory of his name and to the good of his Church. To his benediction I ever heartily commend you and am

Revd and dear Sir Your affect Brother

and humble Servt.

Robert Kilgour."
Peterhead 2nd Octr 1784

This letter to Mr. Allan was communicated to Dr. Seabury, and the following is a transcript of his copy of the letter written by him in response to it:

"From the Revd Dr. Seabury to Rt. Revd Bishop Kilgour.
London October 14th. 1784

Right Revd Sir

Three days ago I was made happy by the receipt of a letter from my friend in Edinburgh, inclosing one from you to the Revd Mr. John Allan signifying the consent of the Bishops in Scotland to convey through me the blessing of a free, valid and purely Ecclesiastical Episcopacy to the Western World. My most hearty thanks are due to you, and to the other Bishops for the kind and Christian attention which they show to the destitute and suffering Church in North America in general, and that of Connecticut in particular; and for that ready and willing mind which they have manifested in this important affair. May God accept and reward their piety; and grant that the whole business may terminate in the glory of his name and the prosperity of his Church.

As far as I am concerned, or my influence shall extend, nothing shall be wanting to establish the most liberal intercourse and union between the Episcopal Church in Scotland and in Connecticut, so that the members of both may freely communicate together in all the offices of religion, on Catholic and Primitive principles.

Whatever appearances there may have been of inattention on my part they will I trust, when I shall have the happiness of a personal conference, be fully, and to a mind so candid and liberal as yours, satisfactorily explained.

I propose, through the favour of God's good providence, to be at Aberdeen by the 10th of November, and shall there wait the conveniency of the Bishops who have so humanely taken this matter under their management. My best and most respectful regards attend them.

Commending myself to your prayers, and good offices, I remain Right Revd Sir, with the greatest respect and esteem your most ob'. and humble serv'.

S. S."

At this period the Bishops of the Scottish Church were four in number: viz; The Right Reverend Robert Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Primus; the Right Reverend Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Ross and Moray; the Right Reverend Charles Rose, Bishop of Dunblane; and the Right Reverend John Skinner, Coadjutor Bishop of Aberdeen.

By agreement of these Bishops, and arrangement with Dr. Seabury, the consecration was appointed to take place at Aberdeen in the chapel of Bishop Skinner, on Sunday the 14th day of November, 1784; and at that time and place the consecration of Dr. Seabury to the Episcopate was accomplished by the act of the Right Reverend Bishops Kilgour, Petrie and Skinner above named. Bishop Rose of Dunblane, the fourth of the existing Scottish Bishops is recorded in the Minutes of the Proceedings as "Having previously signified his assent, and excused his absence by reason of his state of health and great distance." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 147.]

Nothing can exceed the orderly care which characterized all of the proceedings incident to the solemnity of the performance of this consecration; and the most methodical precision appears to have been observed in placing upon record the facts of the consecration, the grounds upon which the action of the Scottish Bishops therein was based, and the motives and principles by which they were led to the performance of it.

The Bishops who were to officiate in the Consecration, convened for conference with Dr. Seabury on the day before the consecration, and received from him the evidences of his election by the Clergy of Connecticut, the testimonials as to his character and fitness for the office which he had been sent to seek, and other papers bearing upon the case; and all of the proceedings of this Episcopal Conference, with a detailed statement of the evidences laid before it, were duly recorded in the "Minute Book of the College of Bishops in Scotland," together with the historical declaration of the fact and manner of the Consecration itself. In addition to this careful record there was signed and sealed by the consecrating Bishops the formal letter of consecration, certifying the promotion of Samuel Seabury to the Episcopate; and there was also, on the 15th of November, signed and sealed in duplicate by the consecrating Bishops and by the Bishop just consecrated, an Instrument setting forth the agreement of these Bishops upon certain articles, designed to serve as a "Concordat, or Bond of Union, between the Catholic remainder of the ancient Church of Scotland, and the now rising Church in the State of Connecticut." There was also a letter signed by the consecrating Bishops, and addressed "to the Episcopal Clergy in Connecticut, in North America."

All of these documents have been carefully preserved and are still extant. They are all printed in Dr. Beardsley's Life (pp. 146-156.)

And so, at last, was procured for the Church in the Western World, through the instrumentality of the Connecticut Clergy and their chosen Bishop, and by means of the courageous Christian charity of the Bishops of the Scottish Church, that which had been for more than a century desired and sought after with unabated zeal, and undiscouraged though futile persistence, the blessing of a free, valid and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy.

It has been observed in the previous chapter that no personal objection was ever made against Dr. Seabury by the English Bishops from whom he sought consecration, and the same observation may be made with reference to the Scottish Bishops from whom he ultimately received it. [Bishop Rose, however, did qualify his general approval by saying that the only objection he had to the American Doctor was that he had got his orders from the Schismatical Church of England!" Dowden's Annotated Scottish Communion Office, p. 60.] There was, however, an attempt made in one quarter to influence the Scottish Bishops against consecrating him; and also an attempt made to prejudice the English Bishops against him after his consecration had been accomplished; and, along with this last, an effort made to foment opposition against him in this Country after he had brought to it the Episcopal character: which backbiting endeavors may perhaps properly be noticed in concluding this chapter.

The attempt to influence the Scottish Bishops came in the form of a letter from the Rev. Dr. William Smith, a Scotchman by birth, formerly provost of the College and Academy of Philadelphia but then at the head of Washington College in Maryland. "He had," says Dr. Bcardsley, "views of his own to promote, and hoped and made efforts to be raised to the Episcopate in Maryland, which he seems to have feared that the consecration of Seabury might frustrate. The Scottish Bishops had too many evidences of the Christian character of the Candidate, and were too well persuaded of the unreasonableness of not complying with his request, to be hindered by such a communication." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 143.] It is pleasant to remember at this time that friendly relations afterward subsisted, nevertheless, between Bishop Seabury and Dr. Smith, in the organization of the Union of the Dioceses in this Country; and that Dr. Smith was especially serviceable in promoting the adoption by the House of Deputies of the General Convention of the Prayer of Consecration, which Bishop Seabury was at the same session presenting in the House of Bishops.

The other personal attack upon Bishop Seabury, proceeded from Mr. Granville Sharp, a grandson of Dr. John Sharp sometime Archbishop of York. Some days after the consecration in Scotland, he wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury regretting the limitation of the late act, authorizing only the ordination of priests and deacons for independent States.

"I should not," said he, "have troubled your Grace with so long a letter on this subject, had I not lately been informed that an American Clergyman, who calls himself a Loyalist is actually gone down to Scotland, with a view of obtaining consecration from some of the remaining nonjuring Bishops in that kingdom, who still affect among themselves a nominal jurisdiction from the Pretender's appointment; and he proposes, afterwards, to go to America, in hopes of obtaining jurisdiction over several Episcopal Congregations in Connecticut." [Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, pp. 164, 163.]

Perhaps this letter may have added to the annoyance which the Archbishop of Canterbury and others probably experienced at the independent and resolute course pursued by Dr. Seabury after he had finally abandoned the hope of an English consecration. And perhaps, Mr. Sharp may be regarded as one of the nettles which stung the English Bishops, and others, into the consciousness that a grave mistake had been made in excluding Bishops from the privilege given to priests and deacons in the late act. Mr. Sharp is said by Dr. Beardsley to have afterwards used his good offices to the end that Episcopacy should be obtained from English Bishops, as some three years after was actually accomplished in the consecration of Bishops White and Provost, and, later, of Madison. It was no doubt most consonant with the dignity of the English Episcopate to refuse the consecration of an American Bishop, and plead the legal disability for that action; but it did not conduce to the dignity of the English Bishops that such consecration should be received without their performing it. And so, "lest the City should be taken by another and called by his name," it became necessary to speak "with great delicacy of Dr. Seabury," and, with some painful surprise, of the recent event; and that measures should be taken to extend the operation of the law; and that a sufficient number of Bishops to carry on the American succession should be carefully supplied by an English consecration; so that the Scottish consecration should be made to appear as an over zealous, and "precipitate" action and quite unnecessary--all of which before long came to pass; with the result that a prejudice was implanted in the minds of those who sympathized with the full fed dignity of the English Establishmentarians, against the man who had presumed to accomplish his end without their gracious permission, which has not to this day been wholly overcome. [The Rev. Dr. George Home, Dean of Canterbury, writing to Bishop Seabury in reference to his consecration in Scotland, says, January 3, 1785, "There is some uneasiness about it, I find, since it is done. It is said, you have been precipitate. I should be inclined to think so, too, had any hopes been left of obtaining consecration from England. But if none were left, what could you do, but what you have done?" Ms. Letter. Bishop Madison writes to Bishop White that while he was in London the Archbishop, having requested a particular interview with him, "said he wished to express his hopes, and also to recommend it to our Church, that in such consecrations as might take place in America, the persons who had received their powers from the Church of England, should alone be concerned. He spoke with great delicacy of Dr. Seabury; but thought it most advisable that the line of Bishops should be handed down from those who had received their commission from the same source." Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 143, note.]

But whatever credit one may be disposed to give Mr. Sharp for his influence in the promotion of English consecrations, I confess that I find it difficult to credit him with any good motive or influence in endeavoring to prejudice the American mind against the validity of the Episcopate conferred by the Scottish Bishops, and against the fitness for it of the man upon whom it had been conferred.

Three months after the Consecration he wrote to the Rev. James Manning, a Baptist Minister and President of the College of Providence in the State of Rhode Island, setting forth his dissatisfaction with the consecration and with the man consecrated, a dissatisfaction resulting, as he does not scruple to confess, from his own ignorance as to both particulars. ["Has Mr. Sharp no correspondence with any Clergyman of the Episcopal Church in this country," wrote Mr. Thomas Fitch Oliver, "that he writes on a subject of that nature to a Baptist minister?" Beardsley's life of Bp. Seabury, p. 242.] From this letter, which I find among Bishop Seabury's papers, I quote a passage which may suffice to show the supercilious and meddlesome spirit of the writer, and his confused ideas on the subject of the Scottish Episcopate:

"I know nothing of Dr. Seabury's character, or qualifications, nor of the present state of the nonjuring Bishops in Scotland, nor how their pretentious to a due succession of Episcopal authority are supported; but I think it cannot be too carefully investigated, lest Episcopacy (the just and primitive rights of which are highly worthy the attention and support of all sincere Christians) should be brought into disrepute by any undue mode of obtaining the dignity; either by "the laying hands suddenly" on persons whose moral characters and qualifications are not sufficiently proved and known, or who do not produce unexceptionable certificates of being duly elected to the pastoral inspection of a competent provincial Church: or, on the other hand, by any defect in the supposed authority of those who pretend to confer the dignity. The original Nonjuring Bishops, who were actually ejected from their Sees in England for refusing to take the oaths to King William and Queen Mary, after the revolution, had certainly a right to ordain or consecrate such proper persons as were legally appointed to an Episcopal charge, they themselves having been duly consecrated by "the laying on of hands" in a succession of Authority that is unquestionable; but it seems very doubtful how a succession of their authority could be continued for a number of years after their death, amongst persons who have no real Congregation or Charge, but only a nominal or mere titular appointment over an invisible Church, and that granted by the pretender; a foreign Prince, who has no authority whatsoever in these Kingdoms. This must be the case, I fear, with the present Scotch Bishops if they are really what they are called, only the successors of the Nonjuring Bishops."

For Mr. Sharp to consider election to a competent Provincial Church as a requisite for jurisdiction under circumstances which were as primitive in their character as those of the Church before Provinces were constituted; and to regard the Scottish Bishops as Titulars of the Pretender's appointment; and to question the validity of their Orders because it was doubtful whether they were successors of the English Nonjuring Bishops, was to display an ignorance of the whole matter which quite justified his profession that he knew nothing of the subject on which he was addressing Mr. Manning. No doubt Mr. Manning was duly edified; and no doubt too, Mr. Sharp may be credited with having done what he could slanderously to extend wrong impressions in regard to matters as to which he might easily have better informed himself if he had thought it worthy of his dignity to take the trouble to ascertain facts which were accessible to any one who cared to look for them.

I have quoted the passage, however, not only to show the ignorance of Mr. Sharp, but also because the confusion of mind which it indicates in regard to the true position of the Scottish Episcopate has unhappily been largely shared by many who have not enjoyed Mr. Sharp's neglected opportunities for a more accurate information. In the next chapter an effort will be made to contribute something to the better understanding of matters which have sometimes been misunderstood, and sometimes misrepresented, to the disadvantage, or disparagement, of the Scottish succession.

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