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Discourses Illustrative of the Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
by the Reverend Samuel Seabury.

edited by William Jones Seabury

New York: 1874.


In presenting the following pages to the perusal of those who desire to make trial of them, it is proper that I should say that the responsibility for their publication belongs only to myself, since the Author left no direction and expressed no desire for the publication of his manuscripts. In publishing the present collection I have been influenced by the desire of complying, at least in part, with the wishes of some who have requested me to publish my Father's Discourses, and whose requests could hardly fail to have weight with me, inasmuch as I believed them to be based not only on motives of affectionate regard for the Author, but also on intelligent convictions of the value of his teachings to the Church.

In regard to the matter of the Discourses selected, I have been guided by the consideration, that for the solution of some questions at present agitating the Church, nothing is more important than a just view of the nature and work of the Holy Spirit; and that nothing is better fitted to promote a correct understanding of the nature of the Church itself, and of the Christian Sacraments, and their bearing upon the personal holiness and personal development of individual Christians. Upon these points the following Discourses seem to me to shed great light, because, in so far as they endeavour to explain them, they do so by reference to the agency of the Holy Spirit: and while these Discourses do not pretend to be a treatise upon the nature and work of the Holy Spirit, yet I think I am. right in saying that they illustrate the subject, and that in such a way as shows it, when rightly understood, to be the key to the true understanding of the whole system of the Church, and particularly to the meaning of the Holy Eucharist.

It sometimes happens, if it be not always the case, that pulpit Discourses have a certain generality of statement which prevents them from communicating such information on particular points connected with the subject of them as is desirable, and as is perhaps intended by the author. The discussion of such points is almost necessarily left to productions of a different kind, which are called forth by especial occasions or in intercourse with individual minds, and which are therefore likely to be ephemeral. Nevertheless, such productions often elucidate principles which continue to be of value after the especial occasion has passed away and when the individual inquirer has been answered. With this feeling, I have included in the present volume several papers, the subjects of which naturally connect themselves with the subjects of some of the accompanying Discourses, and which supplement and apply the teaching contained in those Discourses. The papers marked XI. and XIII. are abstracts of several articles which the Author contributed to the Church Journal, in 1869 and 1870, either editorially or in his own name; the one on the questions involved in the proposed removal of the Filioque from the Nicene Creed of the Prayer Book, the other in reference to the Holy Eucharist, and intended to be in refutation of such theories of the presence of our blessed Lord therein as, in the judgment of the Author, implied or involved the adoration of the Sacrament. In making these abstracts, I have omitted some parts of the several articles which did not appear to be necessary to the connection of their subjects with the subjects of the Discourses with which they are now printed, but I have, of course, adhered to the Author's own words, and have retained them in the order in which they were written. The date of the article, or of the number of the Journal in which it was printed, is appended to each extract, so that it can be verified by reference to the files of that paper. The subject of the first of these papers is of interest in this position, as connected with the subject of the relation of the Holy Spirit to the other Persons of the Blessed Trinity, touched upon in the first Discourse; the subject of the second does not connect itself with any one of the Discourses in particular, but with such of them as bear upon the Holy Eucharist: and the same may be said of the papers marked XII. and XIV., of which the former is a letter to a friend on the meaning of the words of the Institution, and the latter is an examination of the question of non-communicating attendance at the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.

This last paper, as it was left by the Author, contains its own history, and there is nothing which I need say in regard to the circumstances which occasioned it, except that the Author of it was the mover of the resolutions of the Faculty of the General Theological Seminary, to which it refers, and as such felt himself concerned to put on record the principles upon, which those resolutions and the consequent action of the Faculty were based, since not only had that action been met by the protest of some of the students whose case it was intended to cover, hut the attitude of these protestants had been approved by two of the Bishops of the Church in the case of their own Candidates, and the intention had been expressed, in certain quarters, of bringing the action of the Faculty before the Board of Trustees, to procure their condemnation of it. I am aware, of course, that my publication of this paper is a different matter from the Author's composition of it, and may not, in the opinion of all, be so justifiable an action. But as the last work of the Author's life, and as containing a lucid exposition of important principles not seldom overlooked, the paper has possessed an interest for me which I believe will be shared by many. I might, perhaps, have avoided the disapproval of some if I had printed the arguments of this paper without the story of the circumstances which occasioned them. But this, I think, would have been unfair to the Author, both as weakening the force of the paper and as keeping out of sight the limitations under which he discussed its subject; and, considering that there have already been made public several versions of those circumstances, and these not entirely fitted to give a correct impression of the facts, it has seemed to me that there would be no disadvantage to the cause of truth in the publication of the whole paper, and no breach of the law of charity, unless that be accounted such which gives an opportunity to those who were concerned in the matter at issue to see that some reasons existed for the withdrawing as well as for the making of protests in the premises.

But I have been influenced, also, by other considerations in making the present collection, which will, perhaps, appear from the following statement:

In the latter part of my Father's life he was a good deal troubled at certain teachings which appeared in the Church, and at the influence which they seemed to have and to be likely to have. It is difficult to give briefly an idea of his views, because it is difficult to describe briefly the teaching to which he objected. If I understood him, his feeling was that those who were responsible for it had lost, or were in danger of losing, their hold upon principles of teaching which, as Churchmen, should have guided them. The effort seemed to be not so much to hear the Church as to fault the Church; and the consequence seemed to be a growth of individualism, not only in manner of worship but also in matter of faith. The mainspring of this movement, manifesting itself in different directions, lay, as he conceived, in the desire to bring about the intercommunion of the Anglican with the Roman and Eastern Churches; and while he honoured the desire, he thought that its fulfillment was being sought, perhaps unconsciously in some cases, at the expense of justice to the Anglican Church, and, by consequence, at the expense of the maintenance of Scriptural and Primitive truth. Much as he would have delighted in such a consummation, supposing it possible, he believed, that to have anything real or permanent in it, it must be brought about by a conformity to Scriptural and Primitive principles on all sides, and not by a series of concessions on the part of the Anglican Church which would involve the admission that it had been guilty of a steadfast and schismatical misrepresentation of Scriptural and Primitive truth, and which would inevitably entail upon posterity the necessity of another Reformation. And as to what constituted Scriptural and Primitive truth, he thought the judgment of the Anglican Church at least as good evidence as that of any of the individual seekers after the visible unity of the Church. Hence he accepted and defended the judgment of that Church, not only with reference to points in dispute between it and the Roman Church, but also in reference to a point in controversy between it and the Eastern Churches, in which the latter seemed to have the advantage of a more literal though not of a more substantial agreement with the Primitive Church: believing, at the same time, that the cause of Christian unity would really be retarded rather than advanced by a verbal agreement with the Eastern Churches, as to one out of several points of difference between them and the Anglican Church, since that agreement could be accomplished, as he feared, only at the ultimate cost of a substantial difference of faith as to the same point between the Anglican and the other Western Churches.

In the course which the Author adopted, under the influence of such views as these, he was so unfortunate as to lose the sympathy of some who had hitherto felt themselves at one with him on Church questions, and so unfortunate, also, as to become obnoxious to some who would fain, have been able to cite his authority for teachings which they presumed to deduce from the Catholic principles which, years before, he had boldly and conspicuously enunciated: and on the other hand, that which such men have regarded as his inconsistency has been, I believe, regarded by some of the opposite faction as at least his partial conversion. [See a pamphlet entitled "Notes on the State of the Church, also on the Question of Revision," by O. W. Andrews, D. D., p. 12.] The venerable and beloved Presbyter also, who was appointed to deliver a Discourse commemorative of him, while alluding, as in duty bound, to the charge of inconsistency, which was brought against him, lost the opportunity of refuting that charge, and though not admitting it, seemed, nevertheless, to treat it as if he himself did not wholly disbelieve it.

The question thus set on foot I have desired to answer, not by my own affirmation and arguments, but by affording an opportunity for the comparison of the Author's later writings with some of earlier date upon kindred subjects. It is one of the aims of the present volume to afford such an opportunity, and to place within a reasonably small compass sufficient evidence of the unity of the Author's teachings. Whether the selection which I have made is fitted to meet the end which I have had in view, I am not, perhaps, so well able to judge as others may be. It is manifestly impossible to reproduce all that has been written, and I have therefore thought that such a selection as would show the principles upon which the Author formerly dealt with the subjects of later controversy would be the most satisfactory selection which could be made in view of the end proposed. The papers which are here collected appear, from the Author's memoranda, to have been written at various periods during the last thirty-two years of his life, from 1840 to 1872. They are not arranged in the order in which they were written, because another order seemed likely to make the volume more readable; but they should in fairness be taken as evidence of the principles of the Author at the times when they were produced, and so taken, they seem to me to exhibit, on such fundamental and test questions as they cover, a unity of principle which is entire and unmistakable.

On the part of those who may examine the present volume in that aspect of it which I have suggested, I desire only to bespeak, what those who are capable of forming an impartial judgment can hardly fail to render, namely, such a candid consideration of what they may read as is due to sentences which the Author never intended for the press, and as is obviously called for by the fact that the Author, at different periods of his life, contended against errors appearing in different quarters of the Church and leading in opposite directions.

W. J. S.

Annunciation Rectory, New York,
Feast of St. Bartholomew, 1874.

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