Project Canterbury

A Letter from Bishop DeLancey of Western New York, to Bishop Potter, of New York, Relative to the General Theological Seminary.

No place: no publisher, 1864.




GENEVA, Jan. 23, 1864.


My old enemy has placed my physical understanding in such a state, that I cannot leave home, to attend the meeting in New York; I write you, therefore, my views of the present emergency of the General Seminary.

The Treasurer's statement shows that we need thirteen thousand dollars of additional income, annually, to carry on the Seminary, and pay the professors.

The Board have invested all their personal estate in the compulsory improvement of their real estate, the value of which they have thereby doubled, but from which, in these times, they can derive no income. These war-times could not have been foreseen by any one. Nine persons out of ten would have invested in the same way, and especially under the compulsory action of the city authorities. The Standing Committee and Treasurer have, year after year, urged upon the attention [1/2] of the Board, in vain, this gradual diminution of income, and the need of collections to meet it.

Both the Board and the Church have composed themselves to sleep on the matter, and paid no attention to the warning. Both the Board and the Church thought we had property enough to meet all difficulties; and that they would be met, in some way. And now Providence sounds an alarm to waken both the Trustees and the Church. We must do something. We need an additional income of, say fourteen thousand dollars per annum. It can be raised in two ways: 1st, as the income of a capital of $200,000, raised and invested; and 2d, as an annual contribution of the Church for three or four or five years, as the case may require.

The easiest, promptest and most practical way is the last. Let us raise fourteen thousand dollars at once and put it in the hands of the Treasurer, to meet this year's demands upon us. This can be done, and I know of no valid objection to the movement.

It is said there are prejudices against the Seminary, because the Trustees have mismanaged the property in investing the personal estate in the improvements of the real estate. But this was compulsory, by city demands, and is what every real estate man would have done, what I should myself have advised; and as to the Brooklyn investment, as I understand, the treasury was cheated; and New York is not a place to refuse to help a man because he has been cheated; and besides, there is no investment needed here; the money goes into the Treasurer's hands, to be paid out. As I understand it, there has been no abuse of the money trust, but a compulsory investment [2/3] in one instance, and a mistaken over-confidence in the other.

It is said there are prejudices against the Seminary, for its alleged High Churchmanship, and want of Evangelical truth. The Churchmanship of the Seminary is the same as it was in the beginning, and as it ever has been. On such questions there has been no essential change in its instructions. It goes on, in that respect, as it was started. Its students and its graduates, high and low, have all along been intermingled. At this time among its graduates or alumni are a leading Low Church Bishop, and leading High Church Bishops; and in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Baltimore, are leading clergymen, its graduates, of both sides. The Seminary commands the confidence of the Bishop of the Diocese, who has about forty candidates under its guidance and preparation for the ministry. The Rev. Dr. Tyng informed me that the great body of the students of the Seminary had attended a course of lectures adapted to young men preparing for the Ministry, delivered by him at St. George's.

If the prejudice against the Seminary be founded on the fact that the Institution is not an Evangelical Institution in the party sense, it can only be said, it was not originally designed so to be, and that making it such, would be an obvious violation of its constitution, and of the views of the General Convention in founding it, not for a party, on one side or the other, but for the Church at large, for which it has provided instruction for 874 students, of whom 560 are Alumni.

If the prejudice against the Seminary be founded on the belief that its system of instruction as established by the Church, is such, and so wanting in evangelical truth, [3/4] that it will not secure the salvation of sinners who obey it, then we must consider the whole body of the Church, outside of "the evangelical party, "who have confided in it, taught it, and enjoined it on the young candidates, as without hope of salvation, and must lament over the final condemnation of Bishops White, Hobart, Bowen, Moore, Brownell, and Ravenscroft, and the great body of our clergy and laity, as well as of our humble selves. Ought such a prejudice to destroy the Seminary or mar its usefulness? Ought we to stand by and see the Seminary crushed for such a reason? Will our Low Church brethren justify us in such a course? Can we ourselves justify it before conscience, and before God?

If it be said there is a political prejudice against the Seminary, because three of its Professors are Republicans and two are Democrats, I must reply,

1st. That I regard the Democrats as fixed and decidedopponents of the rebellion as the Republicans.

2d. The Church has never looked to a clergyman's political opinions as a test of his fitness for an ecclesiastical office.

3d. That the young men in the Seminary, whom I have asked, tell me, that the Professors never give them political lectures or instructions.

4th. That if they have done so, or evince a desire or disposition to do so, the Board of Trustees have only to inhibit it and prevent it.

In. this nation, as in every nation, we have three elements:

1. The Political.

2. The Educational.

3. The Religious.

[5] The political is the governing power, supreme over all. It extends tolerance to all religions. It affords support to none. In the emergency of war or rebellion, it has a right to call upon its citizens to assist, and also religious men whom it protects, to assist it. It selects them by lot or draft. It says, and I think leniently, to religious men, whether students or clergymen, or Quakers, you must FIGHT, find a substitute, or pay the government $400. If they do either, they fulfil the law and do their duty. The Church has hitherto paid for her students and clergymen, and doubtless will continue to help them.

Our Southern slavery in the United States is a political question, upon which opinions are very different. I differ from Bishop Hopkins, Dr. Seabury, and possibly from yourself.

I regard our Southern slavery as contrary to the will of God. I argue about it in this way:

God's will is the law to all his creatures. He makes known his will by a written word. I, my friends, family and dependents, must do God's will. But before I attempt to do it I must know what it is, and before they attempt to do it, my children and dependents must know it. As a slaveowner, I do not and dare not teach my slaves to read God's will in His word; and thus by the slavery system in the South, man cannot do his duty as God requires him to do it. Hence the system is against God's will, and I shall rejoice in its suppression. I omit the consideration of its other evils; this is enough. I do not think that the Church meant we should. intermingle, with these political questions, and I cannot deem the views held upon these subjects should be made the reasons for refusing to [5/6] aid the Seminary, under the providential distress and want brought upon it.

In the country, we think, that the claims on New York city, to take the lead in this matter, are very urgent. The Seminary is here, the students are here, the management has been here. Its incumbrances are here. The ability is here, the money is here, the friends are here. Its Alumni are here, the Professors are here, the Library is here. The Bishop is here. Shall the Seminary be shut up for the want of $13,000 to carry it on? Will the city churches allow it? Will the 12,000 communicants of New York allow it? Will the 80 clergymen of New York and Brooklyn allow it? Will the 469 congregations in the State allow it? Will the 40,800 communicants in the two Dioceses allow it? Shall the seventy young laymen aspiring to the ministry, be excluded from the Seminary for such a reason, because it would cost the communicants of this State thirty cents each to sustain the institution? No! Bishop! Let us bring the necessities of the case before the Laity. They have never refused to give when the calls of duty have been fully explained to them. They know who gave them the wealth which they possess. They know that God established the Church. They know that this Seminary is an institution of one part of the Church of Christ. They can know the emergency which Providence calls upon it to meet. Let us appeal to them for the aid which they can give. I will unite with the Laity in this movement, and become responsible personally for raising one thousand dollars, that the Seminary may be kept open to educate the students sent to it; and the teachers be sustained in their efforts. The Trustees have adequate means to meet interest and taxes, and take [6/7] care of the estate. Let us give the Treasurer the means to pay the Teachers and secure the education of seventy young men sent there for the purpose. If churchmen will not do this, it will be as fearful a blow, self-inflicted, as ever fell upon the Church, upon the Diocese, upon the clergy, upon the congregations, upon our common sense, upon our obligations to the Church, and our duties to Christ our Master, and to the perishing souls of men!

Faithfully, your friend and brother,



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