DELIVERED BEFORE THE
TRUSTEES, FACULTY, AND STUDENTS
GENERAL THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH
In Christ Church, New-York, on the Occasion of the Delivery of the
To the Students who had completed the Course of Studies, July 26, 1823.
RIGHT REV. WILLIAM WHITE, D. D.
Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the State of Pennsylvania.
Published at the Request of the Trustees and Faculty.
PRINTED BY T. & J. SWORDS,
ON the receipt of the request of the Professors of the Institution, to be present, and to address the Students at this their first Commencement, there arose in my mind a contrariety of drawing between respect for the quarter from which the request came, and the local duties lying on me, of late much broken in on by calls connected with the general interests of the Church. If, in complying with what had been proposed, there was any sacrifice of personal convenience, it is repaid by what has passed in my presence, evincing the progress of education in the Seminary; the exercises having terminated so honourably to the Students, to the Professors, and to those of the Trustees whose residence has permitted their bestowing of more attention than can be afforded by him who is now seen among them as their President.
Being expected to address himself to the late and the present Pupils, he does not know how he can better accomplish the purpose, than by submitting his sentiments relative to some of the studies in which they have lately been, or are now, engaged; and, although in respect to those who have finished their course, what is to be said may be no more than has been comprehended, and often insisted on, in the instructions delivered by their Professors; yet, as they have thought fit to call in this extraneous aid, he may hope, that when given, it will come clothed with the weight of their authority.
 YOUNG MEN, THE LATE AND THE PRESENT STUDENTS IN THIS SEMINARY,
The Address to be delivered to you, may seem too limited in one respect, and too extensive in another. The points to be presented, are a few of those brought before you in the course of your studies; and yet many, compared with the time which can reasonably be occupied on this occasion. They must, therefore, be treated with brevity; and the most aimed at, will be the suggesting of some hints; with the hope of influence, in proportion as they shall be thought worthy to be retained in your recollection.
The first remark to be made is, that you have need to look to a higher source of knowledge than any within the walls of the Seminary. It is said under the impression of preeminent importance; yet not as derogating from the talents of the learned Professors present; but, on the contrary, with confidence of their assent to what is to be delivered on the subject. It is, however, liable to be abused by enthusiasm; and even to be an excitement to deeds of great atrocity.
That there is such an agency on the human mind as that of the Holy Spirit of God, is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. We read of being "led by the Spirit," and of there being "the fruit of the Spirit;" and, on the other hand, of "resisting," of "grieving," and of "quenching the Spirit." There is no truth, which our Church more explicitly affirms, or more frequently recognises; especially in her devotional services; as where, in addresses to Almighty God, we say,--"by whose holy inspiration we think those things which are good, and by whose merciful guiding we perform the same;" and from whom all holy "desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed." The fact is too well known to need enlargement.
But, the operation of the High Agent is through the medium either of information received by the channels of the senses, or of the exercises of the mind, on the materials so [4/5] furnished. It is similar, in this respect, to the agency of the Providence of God; and the one may be made an illustration of the other.
We believe that the Providence of God extends to all the concerns of men; there being no distinction, as to this point, between what we esteem the greater events of life, and those comparatively minute incidents on which the others are dependent. We remark a relation between a cause and its effect; becoming itself a cause, and going on in a chain in which the absence of a single link would arrest the whole process. Yet, the result must have been in the contemplation of the Divine Mind, and has been the work of his Divine Hand. In like manner, the supposition that the Holy Spirit accomplishes his object through the instrumentality defined, does not represent any impressed truth as the less his work on that account. This appears to have been the view taken of the subject in our services; since, while there is nothing which may not be resolved into the interpretation, it is in many places distinctly in view. In the Collect for Whitsuntide, after referring to the miraculous agency of the Holy Spirit, we pray--"grant that we, by the same Spirit, may have a right judgment in all things;" which supposes an operation of the human intellect, distinct from immediate illumination. In a prayer commonly used after the conclusion of a sermon, there is--"grant that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through thy grace, be grafted inwardly in our hearts." And, in our service for the consecration of a church, there is--"grant that by thy holy word which shall be read and preached, and by thy Holy Spirit grafting it inwardly in the heart of the hearers, they may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and may have power and strength to fulfil the same."
Those considerations have weighty bearings, as well on our improvement of the means of grace, as on the question of our independent sufficiency for the work. In regard to the former, we have the Holy Scriptures, given to make us [5/6] "wise unto salvation," and comprehending whatever is necessary to "furnishus for every good work." God has also adorned our nature with an intellectual faculty; in reference to which it is said of him--"who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth, and maketh us wiser than the fowls of heaven." Yet, how liable is reason, by a single false step, to wander wide of its object! What is worse, how often is it misled by passion! to such an extent, as that sophistry, under the show of argument, shall reconcile to the conscience, and even justify to the world, deeds of the blackest dye. But, on the ground of there being the affirmed operation of the Holy Spirit, correcting the springs of action in the moral constitution of the mind; although, by the intermediate agency of a natural talent, the source of the benefit is placed beyond the possibility of contradiction.
Further; we may have received instructions agreeable to the same Scriptures, from parents, from pastors, and from others. Books, or religious conversation, may have served to the same effect. All these helps are liable to be perverted to the most malignant purposes. If, then, we conceive of a holy agency applying what is thus received, not irresistibly, but by an operation consistent with freedom "preventing us, that we may have a good will and working with us when we have that good will," the consequent work of grace may consistently be ascribed to the Holy Spirit of God; by whose agency it has been begun and carried to perfection.
The view now taken of the subject, if carried to its correspondent sensibilities, cannot fail to produce humility in the relation in which we stand to the Creator. Its immediate operation is against self-sufficiency; and, ultimately, it bars all claims, grounded on the imagined merit of our works. It is another inference from the premises, that the sincere inquirer should live in the holy exercise of prayer--the mean of obtaining the agency, seen to be so necessary in the search of truth; so that if there should be any portion of life disengaged from that sacred duty, then is the time when error is the most likely to be successful.
 If the question should be moved--by what test shall we know that we are under the guidance here affirmed; the answer is, we may know it exactly in proportion as it is discoverable in holy habits, manifesting themselves in holy actions. By nature we are destitute of religious affections; agreeably to what is said in our 9th Article, that "man is far gone," or, as some translate the Latin copy, "as far as possible gone from original righteousness." [* Although the view here entertained of the subject is consistent with either of the copies of the Articles, the English copy is the standard in this country; no Latin translation having been yet framed or adopted. In inquiring into the sense of the Reformers, the English is of the most authority, having been formed in the reign of Edward VI and not rendered into Latin until the reign of Elizabeth.] Of course, if there be a renewal in this important particular, it ought not to be contemplated in a severance from its procuring cause, whatever there may be of intervening instrumentality, all of the divine bestowing.
It is hoped that the interpretation given has been perceived to be different from those suggestions which are supposed to proceed from the Holy Spirit, without the association of any other agency, whether of nature or of grace. A man, in the management of his temporal or spiritual concerns, may have kept his mind in the posture of expected receiving of some such impression; which, occurring, is received as an answer to his prayers. Now, setting aside, that God has subjected his case to the decisions of natural discretion, with the accompanyment of virtuous inclination, and sometimes with the aid of friendly counsel; although all under a divine government, only to be perceived in its effect, it must be evident that a latent bias to one side of an alternative, escaping the observation of the agent, may induce a course of conduct injurious to his conscience, and perhaps ensnaring to his integrity. This is not the worst. The liveliness of an impression may impel to actions contrary to justice and humanity. On some occasions it has guided the hand of an assassin; and in many other ways it has introduced to a deluded conscience the author of all evil, in the garb, of "an angel of light." [7/8] These, and all other abuses of the principle treated of, should have the effect of showing the importance of right apprehensions of it, and the duty of esteeming and of teaching it, in proportion to the prominent place which it holds in the system of religious truth. Perhaps there is no point the absence of which from the pulpit, so unequivocally proclaims to the hearers the unsoundness of the religious creed of the preacher; this being the consequence of their so frequent meeting of it in the Scriptures, in the prayers, and in the relation which it bears to all the subjects which come either under the head of Devotion, or under that of the Graces of the Christian Character.
The second matter to be recommended, is a diligent study of the Holy Scriptures; which is introduced not for the establishing of their claim to be a branch of theological education, that being supposed unnecessary; but to sustain for them the preeminence contemplated in the course of studies prepared by the Bishops. It makes the Scriptures the ground-work of the whole; and directs that the ground shall be repeatedly gone over, with the help of judicious commentators, before an entrance either on ecclesiastical history, or on systematic theology. The provision originated in knowledge possessed by the Bishops, that it was not uncommon to prepare a candidate for the ministry, by too early a filling of his mind with the tenets of an adopted system; doubtless, not without notice of the texts, by which the respective points are supposed to be supported; but the interpretation in a state of severance from the contexts, bearing a tinge of the colouring of the doctrines designed to be inculcated. The plan is radically wrong; and the mischiefs of it will doubtless be here guarded against, by due attention to the order of study, prescribed with a special attention to this point.
It will hardly escape the notice of any student in the frequent perusal which he ought to be supposed to give to the questions to be answered by him at his ordination, that the leading sense of them, so far as relates to the furnishing of the understanding, is a knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. [8/9] Among other references to them, in ordaining to the priesthood, the candidate is required to declare his persuasion, that they "contain all things necessary to salvation," and he is made to promise that he will be "diligent in the study of them, and in such studies as help to the knowledge of them." If it should be imagined, that this is imposing limits to the energies of vigorous and capacious minds; it may be answered, that there is no branch of general science which may not give its aid to the establishing of the truth of sacred writ, or to the explaining of it. To go no further than the defence of it against the assaults of the infidel, and the perverted learning which he brings from the store-houses of history, of astronomy, of geology, and of other sciences, it may be perceived, that a theological student, excited by an extraordinary thirst for knowledge, instead of being under the necessity of betaking himself to an extraneous field for the exercise of his active mind, has rather occasion to be admonished against too much devotion to such studies, as can be continued only in contemplation and retirement, to the neglect of such as are useful in the active service of the Church. The adage "Arslouga, vita brevis"--is perhaps not so applicable to any of what are called the learned professions, as to that of a clergyman; especially, as besides what has been suggested, the knowledge of the languages in which the Holy Scriptures have been delivered to us, and the applying of such knowledge to the investigating of the sense of passages becoming important in the course of inquiry, cannot but give an ample scope for the exercise of talent; not so much for the knowledge of words, as because of opportunities of directing them to their proper uses, and of guarding them against abuse.
It has been remarked by him who now addresses you, and by some of his brethren in the Episcopacy, that on some occasions of ordination, there has been discovered considerable deficiency as to the particular now treated of, after that the parties had been conspicuous for their volubility in quoting the Scriptures, in reference to a few favourite points. In this way a man may raise himself to the rank of an Apollos, [9/10] in the estimation of some, while he is unprepared for innumerable occasions, which may occur to him in the course of his ministry. The giving of a check to this evil, may be contemplated as one of the advantages of a regular education in theology. There is another of greater extent. It is that we sometimes hear the expression of sentiments, of which consequences, regularly deducible, are hostile to some of the doctrines of our Church; while yet, the consequences are with sincerity denied. This inconsistency is owing to partial attention to the contents of Scripture, and to the want of systematic arrangement of what had been gathered from that source. For, let it be mentioned, that what has been said is not in disparagement of the branch of instruction which has systematic theology for its object; but only a claim for the former, to be the foundation on which to build the latter. There may be beauty and use in all the materials prepared for a building; but for the applying of them to the contemplated purpose, there should be skill in the architect, for the placing of every article in its proper place.
Next to the importance of Holy Scripture, and the proper application of it, and this is the third remark, is that of the history of the early ages of the Church; it being especially understood of the first three centuries. In the fourth, the heresy of Arius, contradicted by the Council of Nice, whose creed may be considered as the testimony of Christendom, to the apostolic doctrine handed down in the various departments of it from the beginning, was followed by minute distinctions, the armour of the various combatants, and calculated rather to obscure than to elucidate the truths of Scripture. The persecutions which followed, are sufficient to render problematical, how far so gross a departure from the spirit of the Gospel, ought to permit, from that time, the mere testimony of the Church to be evidence of the purity of its doctrine. In the fifth century there succeeded the bold heresy of Pelagius; and although nothing can be more contrary to the evangelical doctrine of grace; yet the metaphysical refinements growing out of the controversy, have loaded [10/11] theology with doubtful disputations, continuing to produce embarrassment at the present day. The opinions of the prominent writers of controversy are not uncommonly quoted in alliance with, or in contrariety to, those of the preceding times; which cannot be correct, on the ground here taken--that neither the tone nor the other are evidence of the faith handed down by the Apostles, except as testimony; which ought to be esteemed, other circumstances being equal, in proportion to the nearness of the stream to its source.
Of the advantages to be derived from the records of the first three centuries, it is not the least that they afford unanswerable proof of the absence of what are exclusively the tenets of the Roman Catholic Church. Not a vestige do we find of the authority of the Bishop of Rome, beyond what was attached to the respect paid to the dignity of his see, in the capital of the empire; at that time comprehending almost the whole of Christendom. No intimation is found of the worship of images, of purgatory, of transubstantiation, or of other matters, which afterwards crept gradually into the Church. That these things should have been maintained, and even held preeminently important, and yet not show their heads in books written for the declaring of the Christian faith, is contrary to our knowledge of human nature.
Further; when we meet with doctrines of modern times, zealously maintained, and conceived to be of the essence of Christian faith; yet, for anything that appears, unknown to the prominent persons of the ages in question, it is a proof of their nullity more decisive, than if they had been introduced for the purpose of contradiction; since, in that case, it might be pleaded, that there may have been opposite statements, not descended to us. But no: on the contrary supposition, divine truth was buried in the grave of the last of the Apostles.
The document to be especially recommended to attention is the history of Eusebius; a work referred to by writers of all persuasions, as an authentic record of the transactions of the ages specified. It would be an important service to our [11/12] Church, if that work were published from the most modern of the translations of it made in England, and detached from the larger histories of succeeding times usually bound up with it. In that case, there would be a volume of moderate size, to which there might be given an extensive circulation.
One of the uses of the measure would be a more general conviction of the existence of the Episcopacy from the beginning to the end of the time in question. According to the scheme of those of the greatest name among the advocates of Presbytery, it gave way to Episcopacy towards the end of the second century. Now, although it is observed with truth, in regard to the time specified, that there is among the moderns a scarcity of documents; there must have been an abundance of them within the knowledge of Eusebius. Yet, the alleged fact must have been unknown to him; and this is a consideration, bringing additional weight to our argument, of the impossibility that so great a change should have taken place over the whole face of Christendom, among churches not subjected to a common government, and without evidence of such opposition, as is always produced by great changes in government of churches, especially in resistance of the usurpation of power.
The fourth matter intended to be recommended, is that in travelling downward in the history of the Church, there be especially noticed the rise, the progress, and the full growth of those errors of the Church of Rome, against which, as Protestants, we are bound to caution our flocks. It is an effectual way of exposing the nakedness of an opinion, not only because, on the present subject, novelty must be itself a proof of error, but because there will be found accompanying incidents, which aggravate. The introduction of image-worship was, by Boniface III Bishop of Rome, early in the seventh century; and was contrary to the judgment of his predecessor, the first Gregory, given but a few years before, censuring such worship. The same Boniface was the first in his see who took the stand of universal Bishop. But the same predecessor, Gregory, had decided against the usurpation of [12/13] such a character, in the person of a cotemporary Bishop of Constantinople; denying that it belonged to any one. When, at last, so great a prerogative became established, it had grown out of the rival claims of the two principal cities of the empire; of which one was the more ancient, and the other was the seat of imperial residence. To the rest of the errors of the middle ages, there are attached circumstances which manifest the corruptions by which they were favoured at their origin and in their progress.
There is the more need to be attentive to these circumstances, because of the reproach cast on our mother Church, of her having been planted by missionaries from the Bishop of Rome. They were sent by the same Gregory, and therefore, before the entertainment of at least many and the worst of the errors, on account of which the authority of his successors has been subsequently rejected. Even in regard to the jurisdiction of Gregory over the Church planted by his care, he was contemplated not as a spiritual sovereign over the whole Christian world, but as having under his superintendence the Churches in the west; the like being exercised by the Bishops of Constantinople, of Antioch, and of Alexandria, within their respective spheres. If ecclesiastical descent involve the obligation of being subject, what might have been the claims of the Church of Jerusalem? concerning which St. Paul says to a Gentile Church--"went the word of God out from you, or came it to you only?" No such claims were made, although they might have been bottomed on so much more specious ground.
When the student shall have reached the period of the Reformation--this is the fifth remark--besides his attention to the causes and the dependences of that great event, it will surely be especially an object with him, not only to be familiar with the grounds of the English establishment, as it was constituted in the reign of Edward VI but to avail himself of whatever light can be obtained from cotemporary works, and from such as were dictated by the same views of religious subjects in the reign of Queen Elizabeth. The [13/14] present speaker never looks back on these periods, without admiration of the wisdom displayed in the documents handed down from them. Those of the former period, he considers as claiming a preference, in an inquiry into the sense of the eminent men who took the lead in the Reformation of the Church of England; and consequently into that of the institutions framed by them. Among those of the latter period, he would hold up, in a conspicuous point of view, the great work of Richard Hooker; which may be applied to the correcting of prevalent errors in the two succeeding reigns; some of them exterior to the establishment, and some of them within it.
One of the classes of error referred to was brought in from the Continent, and made some progress during the reign of Elizabeth; and increased under her two next successors, in a great measure owing to their mismanagement; until, at last, they prostrated for a time the Church. The other, tending to the same effect, on the principle, that extremes contribute their mutual aids, was a retrogade movement towards Popery by some Churchmen high in power, and holding opinions different from what had been taught by such men as Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer. The notions referred to, combining with political opinions brought in under the same reigns, and hostile to the constitutional rights of Englishmen, inherited by them from their Saxon ancestors, produced a conflict of opposite doctrine within the pale of the establishment; but for which, it is here believed, the system might have continued as constituted in the reign of Edward. The view taken of the latter subject, is so consistent with the principles which pervade the work of Hooker, as ought to endear the possession of it, independently on the light thrown on other properties of the system, which it is his glory to have defended with consummate ability and great extent of learning.
After having reached the point of time, considered as bringing with it the standard of our present ecclesiastical institutions, there may be the readier compliance with the admonition suggested by the lapse of time; not without remarking [14/15] to the students, that the whole of the history of the Church of England ought to be with them a subject of attentive study, on account of the bearing which it will always have on the concerns of our Communion. It may be added, that this is a matter of justice to the parent Church, on account of the circumstances of the American Colonies, in their original settlement; giving popularity to books, in which there is much aggravation of facts, and even much of what is untrue. Let not him who says this, be considered as denying that there is misconduct chargeable both on Statesmen and on Churchmen possessed of power. On the contrary, he has been in the habit of believing, although he wishes to express the sentiment with diffidence, that there were at least two periods, in which, had temperate counsels prevailed, there would have been broken the force of an opposition to the establishment, continuing to this day to be armed with danger to its existence. ["The two periods alluded to, were the beginnings of the reigns of Elizabeth and of Charles II. At the first of these periods, a moderate accommodation would have prevented that identifying of the cause of puritanism with attachment to the principles of the English constitution, which came into collision with the notions of the Stuart kings. At the second, it failed in consequence of a concealed hostility to whatever might strengthen the cause of Protestantism."] All contended for is, that the demerits of opposing parties should be weighed in an equal balance; and that to be prepared for this, is a matter worthy of attention, in a course of theological study.
[* The history of Daniel Neal has been especially instrumental in giving erroneous views of the transactions of which he wrote. The correctives of it are by Bishop Maddox, as regards the reign of Queen Elizabeth; and by Dr. Zachary Grey, for the succeeding times. Although the work of the Bishop was reviewed by Daniel Neal, the review does not seem to have obtained much notice. The Rev. Joshua Toulmin, D. D. a dissenting minister in England, in his edition of the history, professes to give in the notes, the substance of the defence in the review. As there exhibited, it leaves untouched the leading facts alleged by Bishop Maddox; which are sufficient to shake the credit of the history. In reference to the contemplated transactions, the work of Dr. Peter Heylin on one side, and that of Daniel Neal on the other, are specimens of such history-writing, as requires no small exercise of charity, to excuse the writer from the charge of wilful misrepresentation.]
In a retrospect of the series of sentiment, the deliverer of it is aware, that the number of the subjects may wear the appearance [15/16] of injustice done to many of equal importance, which have been omitted. But a track having been entered on, it was to be pursued, without adverting to collateral points; the introducing of which would have been a most unreasonable lengthening of what, it is to be feared, has been too long for the patience of the hearers. Accordingly, there shall be a conclusion, after soliciting the especial consideration of what has been delivered by those who, having finished their course of study, may be expected soon to enter on the active duties, for which they have been some years in preparation.
Young men, whom I hope to address as my brethren in the ministry, it may be expected that one fruit of your having devoted a considerable space of time to the studies of the Seminary, will be the conviction, that the attainments of theological literature are essential to respectability in the ministry; and that without them, there are many occasions, in which it will fall short of the accomplishment of its object.
You will, however, be aware, that what you possess is only a foundation, for the acquirements of future industry: and this needs not to interfere with active duties, if they have been begun with a sufficiency of information. For, in having the various subjects arranged in the mind by a systematic course of study, there is the advantage, that every subsequent attainment takes its proper station, among what are already in possession: while disregard of this obvious order, in being slenderly furnished in the beginning, even if the deficiency should be supplied by subsequent reading, sometimes causes, that a mass of learning lies an indigested heap; the possessor of it entertaining opinions not in harmony, although the fault may escape his notice.
It is to be lamented, although no more than what might be expected from the circumstances of our country, that young men, at their entrance on the ministry, knowing that there is a shorter road to popularity than along the path of study, and being possessed, or supposing themselves to be possessed of the requisites in this line, are tempted to relax in the pursuit [16/17] of what they know to be in itself estimable; but less likely to be beneficial, than accomplishments of a more showy kind. Far be it from the present design, to undervalue any gift, or the cultivation of any, tending to an honourable popularity--not for the value of this in itself, since nothing is more unsubstantial or fluctuating; but, for the better bringing home of the truths of religion to the consciences and the affections of men. The meaning is, that when for the attainment of this laudable end, there is a sacrifice of the other, it may be found too late to remedy the error, even in regard to those of a congregation, who set the least value on literary attainments; their opinion of their pastor becoming insensibly lessened, by his being found to be low in the estimation of persons, whom they know to be better judges than themselves of ministerial qualification.
There are some, however, who, from perverted habits of thinking, are seriously of opinion, that a gifted man is more worthy of attention, than one who addresses to them what has been the fruit of study; and in this their prejudice, they are strengthened by another--that literary attainments swell the possessor of them with pride; agreeably, as they think, to what St. Paul has said--"knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth."
It escapes the observation of these persons, that the comparison of the Apostle is of knowledge with something very different from ignorance; which is more congenial than its opposite, with self-importance. So far as can be judged by the present speaker, on the ground of observation and experience, it generally happens, that young men, under preparation for the ministry, or admitted to it, and below the ordinary standard in intellectual attainments, are oftener vain, oftener arrogant, and oftener apt to conceive of themselves as not needing the counsel of their seniors, than they whose minds had been chastened by habits of study and reflection; who had advanced so far in the acquisition of knowledge, as to have perceived that there are extensive treasures of it unpossessed, but to be diligently sought; and who, consequently, [17/18] are the most careful in forming their opinions, and the most modest in expressing them.
Still, let the saying of the Apostle have its weight in the line of its intendment; since it happens, that knowledge, not sanctified by the grace of God, may make the possessor of it insolent, intolerant, contentious, and overbearing; properties, which often seduce to grievous errors; while, if these should be avoided, truth will seem polluted by the channel through which it passes.
On the contrary, "charity edifies;" that is, builds up and strengthens, what ignorance and evil passion concur in weakening and pulling down--the Church of Christ. It is desirable that the student and the young divine may especially feel the influence of the heavenly grace, in these three departments--to his fellow Christians, exterior to our Communion; to those within, of whose principles or of whose practice he may not approve; and to those of the Clergy whom he may consider as incorrect, in either of these respects.
Under the first of these heads, while we avoid the spurious liberality which affects to consider all opinions as on a level, and which generally betrays its unsoundness, by an inconsistency of practice with profession; let us be aware, how much diversity of opinion is the result of a different understanding of words; what a variety of character is seen in human nature, as constituted by the all-wise Creator; what allowances are to be made on account of the influence of education and early habit; and if there were nothing else, what a strong tendency there is in the contrary of the grace of charity, rather to confirm prejudice than to correct it.
In regard to persons within our Communion, the same considerations apply; with the addition, that we are in danger from self-love, of an over-weening attachment to our own views of subjects; and of abridging an allowed latitude, consistent with the maintaining of "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." It is not an enlightened zeal, but "the wrath of man," when every shade of difference is thought sufficient to break the bonds of Christian charity.It was an [18/19] outrage in Victor, a Bishop of Rome, within the times considered as primitive, when he excommunicated all the churches of Asia, for not submitting to his decision as to the time of keeping Easter. The spirit of Victor did not die with him, but displays itself in all times and places. There is no mischief to be more guarded against, in conducting the concerns of the Church. This is said without the thought of extending it to the surrendry of Gospel truth. The duty will be always binding of "contending earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints;" but not to the dispensing with the grace pronounced by an Apostle to be better than "the understanding of all mysteries and all knowledge."
In regard to brethren in the ministry, it is not recommended that there should be countenance given to any incorrectness in doctrine; or to any irregularity, moral or ecclesiatical, in practice. No; let us "walk uprightly; and according to the truth of the Gospel;" not only in act, but in argument; on whose ever contrary way of walking it may cast a shade. But when we extend the rule of our own conduct as a test of others, there should be a scrupulous caution against falling under the weight of the demand--"who art thou; that judgest another man's servant?" It may happen, that pride, like a poisonous weed, shall entwine itself with the plant of holy zeal; and the zealot may be assured of a fact, now declared to him from the experience of many years, that the case is not infrequent, when, faulty passion being permitted to intrude into the cause of God, there have been contracted habits of depreciating the characters of brethren in the ministry, not only contrary to the demands of charity and of justice, but ensnaring to the consciences of the censurers, and rendering them the more liable to a great variety of temptation. On an attention to human nature, this will be perceived to be natural. For in the exercise of the ministry, there are so many ways in which a collision of interests may happen; so many, in which the love of popularity may insensibly insinuate jealousies, for which other causes than the true may be imagined; so many avenues by which slanderous [19/20] reports may reach even unsuspicious ears; and besides all this, so much dependence of the success of our ministry on harmony subsisting among ourselves; that a Clergyman should keep a strict watch over himself, to avoid the being betrayed into unsocial feelings and behaviour; which may prove eventually to be uncaused; and which, when excited by a cause, would often be best suppressed by a moderate sacrifice of personal feeling and personal right; rather than commit the interests of religion on the issue.
It is hoped and believed, of the present candidates for the honours of the institution, that their claims to respectability will rest on higher ground, than that of comparison with their future fellow labourers in the vineyard; and that there will be a motive to this, in their being the first class of pupils from the school; in consequence of which, it may especially be expected to be either honoured or the contrary, by the stands which they may take in life. Not only their literature, but their piety, their views of religious subjects, and whatever else is comprehended in the idea of sufficiency for the ministry, will be in requisition for the bringing of either commendation or of reproach on the Seminary; which, by its act of this day, commits its rising reputation to the custody of some of its eldest sons. It would be uncharitable to suppose, that there are any who look with a malignant eye on its establishment. But if there be such, the halting of those now before us, would be a source of malevolent consolation. There are many, who have manifested their interest taken in it, by their pecuniary contributions; and, to them, disappointment would be a subject of deep regret, while it would be a discouragement of future patronage.
OUR YOUNG FRIENDS,
The contrary of these things is confidently anticipated by the Trustees, and by the Professors, who now, by my mouth, and, as is trusted, with the approbation of the respectable audience who have honoured us with their presence, [20/21] commend you to the blessing of God, and to the favourable reception of the Church; at the same time delivering to you, by my hands, these testimonies of your past good conduct in the Seminary, and of the proficiency which you have made in it.