Project Canterbury








THE 28th OF MAY, 1787;









Rector of St. Paul's Church, and Vice-Provost of the University,







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



AGREEABLE events, and the opening prospects which they give rise to, naturally produce a pleasure more than common, in the mind; and sometimes excite a confidence, which would otherwise be totally unknown to it. On grounds of this sort, and with a sensibility corresponding, I venture to send abroad the following Discourse. The occasion which required its being delivered, was great and delightful. Though, in respect of weight and correctness, it falls exceedingly short of what it ought to be; yet, as it was most sincerely intended; I trust, it will be favoured with your indulgence; and indulgence is, at least, allied nearly to protection.

[iv] Permit me to take my part in the universal satisfaction expressed on your appointment to the Episcopal Chair. Happy we are in seeing distinguished amiableness of Temper, and intire consistency of Character combined with all the Talents meet for such a Station.






2 TIM. ii. 24, 25.

OUR Religion, in all its parts, bears the image and superscription of its blessed Author. Its object, its means, and its end, are each exceedingly important. In the same spirit only which it uniformly breathes, and in the manner that corresponds therewith, can we contribute to the furthering of its efficacy.

Among the glorious consequences of the ascension of Christ--and the "sending the light of the Holy Spirit," (the memory of which we have been particularly recognizing in our religious offices lately) some of the most distinguished, were those miraculous endowments with which the early messengers of the Gospel were honoured. But the virtues of the heart, in them, and in the people,--those gifts that constitute the renovation of the human mind;--their assimilation to their Saviour in divine charity and goodness--was the [5/6] blessed end; to produce and accomplish which, all the other gifts were appointed as means.

"When he ascended up on high he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men: And he gave some to be Apostles; and some Prophets; and some Evangelists; and some Pastors and Teachers; for the perfecting of the saints; for the work of the Ministry; for the edifying of the body of Christ."

The Supreme Head of the Church constituting such Orders of Ministry as appeared to him most suitable; furnished them, during the first period of the propagation of his gospel, with a diversity of gifts, which were miraculous; as well as with an eminent measure of the moral qualifications, and sanctifying graces of his Spirit.--In the minds of some was revealed, almost instantaneously, the whole system of evangelical doctrines, and a thorough understanding of every particular thereof. With some, God was present "in signs, and wonders, and divers operations, according to his own will."--"To one was given the word of wisdom; to another, the word of knowledge; to another, the gifts of healing; to another, the working of miracles; to another, prophecies; to another, discerning of spirits; to another, divers kinds of tongues; to another, the interpretation of tongues."

[7] These powers were necessary in the circumstances which attended the introduction of Christianity. Its intrinsic excellency, men were not capable, at once, of discerning. Natural, and contracted prejudices very numerous, opposed its reception. All the strength and devices of the earth, and all the powers of darkness were combined against it. Therefore, to destroy the force of such hindrances;--to afford the most speedy propagation to divine truth;--to produce the most sensible, convincing evidence, That the teachers of this religion had their commission from above; and, in order that this evidence might be handed down to every future generation, clear and decided,--God was pleased to give immediately these extraordinary attestations.

As the Gospel gained footing, and became established among the nations, the miraculous gifts ceased; some sooner, others later; according as the purposes for which they had been conferred, were fully answered. We have well confirmed accounts, that about the close of the fourth century, there were no appearances of them among the Rulers and Pastors, much less, among the private members, of the Church. St. Chrysostom taking notice particularly of this matter, subjoins the reason--"That christianity being now already [7/8] established by miracles, there was no ground to expect the continuance of them."

It is reasonable also to suppose, that, if there were any Offices in the Church, peculiar to the introductory stage of things, and, on that account, of a temporary nature, they would be superseded too, as soon as their purpose was fulfilled.--But it is unquestionably clear, that such offices must always continue, as are implied in the very being of a Church; such, as are always necessary to the dispensing of its Ordinances; the celebration of its divine Worship; and the continued propagation of its blessed truths, agreeably to the promise of our Lord, That he would be with his Ministers always, "even unto the end of the world."

What the Orders of this Ministry are,--And how they are, severally, to be appointed,--are matters resting on the Authority of holy Scripture. Yet, as this may not be thought to be explicitly declared, a great deal depends, in the way of explanation, on the example of primitive times. The several denominations of Christians, however, have been divided in their opinions on these subjects; owing to the different constructions they give to the sacred passages relating thereunto; and the divided conceptions they entertain [8/9] concerning the practice of the primitive Church. Our ideas, and usages herein, as a Branch of the Universal Church, are generally known. We are well persuaded in our minds on the subject: Yet would not, for a moment, encourage the illiberal idea of refusing to others, that privilege of examining and judging for themselves, which we claim, and rejoice in.

I proceed now to the subject, on which, I trust, there is a perfect consent among Christian people. It respects a few leading branches in the disposition and management of those who bear the sacred ministerial Character.

While I endeavour to give these particulars some illustration and enforcement; it is with the special view of their applying, on the present interesting occasion.

I. "The Servant of the Lord must not "strive."--By the Servant of the Lord, is meant, the Minister of Christ.--In what sense his not striving is to be understood, we can easily determine, by attending for a moment to the verse that immediately precedes, particularly the closing words of it: "But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strife;" that is, malignant and impetuous contention. Such as [9/10] the Strife is--such, without a doubt, will be the act of striving. The words, in the original, convey, each, the same exceptionable ideas; and differ essentially from those other original expressions in sundry passages of Scripture, which yet, agreeably to the idiom of our language, are rendered in the same manner: For, there is a striving against sin;--a striving to enter in at the strait gate;--a striving after spiritual masteries;--a striving for the faith of the Gospel;--a striving to propagate its truths;--a striving in prayer to God; all which imply the collected, noblest exertion of the human powers in the noblest cause; in things of the greatest consequence possible. Herein the Servant of the Lord must strive; but the other Strife he meddles not with.

It is unbecoming any sensible man, especially a Minister of religion, to contend eagerly about trifles; or violently even about matters of importance. Trifles can never compensate for such trouble; and matters of importance deserve a more respectful treatment.

Next to palpable error, or immoral conduct, hardly any thing hath been so hurtful to Religion, as the intemperate zeal and animosities of its professors. They darken the eye of Reason; they incapacitate the mind to distinguish aright; they sour the temper; they [10/11] harden the heart: Grounded on a misconception of the nature, and the spirit of the Gospel, they wound the very cause which they would seem to befriend.

The Minister of Christ is, indeed, to be zealous; but still according to knowledge; earnest, but not furious: careful; yet not indiscreet.--In spreading the truth, and pressing it home to human minds, he is to be "instant in season, and out of season (statedly and occasionally;) to reprove, to rebuke, to exhort with all long suffering and doctrine."--Still it must be in the spirit of Love and of a sound mind. For with this spirit only doth heavenly Power consociate.

In proselyting men to the truth, and rendering them Subjects of the kingdom of God--the Evangelical Charge is, "Compel them to come in:" But this compelling, or pressing, is solely to be effected by earnest invitation; by the offering and repeating of sound weighty Reasons; by proposing all the most winning motives; by every way and means convincing and persuasive.

II. The Servant of the Lord is to be "gentle unto all men:"--Gentleness forms one of the characters of "the Wisdom which is from above." This is not that weak ductility, [11/12] which indiscriminately follows the opinions of others; or bends to their encroachments. It is opposed to an harsh, overbearing, turbulent temper, not to a firm, determined, sensible, manly one. It hath respect to the state and infirmities of human nature. It keeps an eye on the forbearance and tenderness of God. It enters into the condescending, lovely spirit of the Gospel; and therefore, suffers long, like the great Father of all; and is kind, like the Redeemer, "into whose lips was poured grace" and whose whole manner was benignity and meekness.

Gentleness in a Minister, gives him a readier access to the hearts of the people, as well as to their understandings.--Other circumstances being equal, it disposes him best to bring forward his reasonings with clearness, solidity, and proper force. He is collected: He is composed: he is more himself, than if under the influence of an assuming spirit, or precipitate manner. Meanwhile, what he offers, carries its recommendation with it in the very first instance; and gains a proportional consideration afterwards. It is from Gentleness that his reproofs are to take a heavenly seasoning; then will they be the precious balm of the righteous. It is from Gentleness, his Words of consolation are to receive their power and charm. It is by being; "gentle unto [12/13] unto all men," that he will win, and be made an essential blessing to many.

While the disposition here recommended, is indispensible in each Order of the Christian Ministers; may I not observe for a moment, with what peculiar comeliness it clothes the Deacon!--A Deacon is of that Rank of Ministers in the Church, whose business it is, generally, to assist the Minister of the next Degree, or the Bishop, occasionally, in the administration of the divine Ordinances; to inquire after, and visit, the sick and destitute; to dispense to them, as opportunity may enable, the charitable contributions of the Church: also, to preach the divine Word, under the direction of the Bishop, Presbyter, or Presbyters, within whose district he may have his appointment. "They that have used the Office of a Deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the Faith which is in Christ Jesus." They who continue in that office for any considerable time, are usually young men. Now, from the nature of their station, and rising prospects of increasing usefulness,--is it not clear, that the divine quality which we have been recommending, eminently becomes them?

--Thou Young Servant of the Lamb of God,--rise, and come forward in the gentle spirit [13/14] of thy Master. Let this his temper be thy temper: Let it endue thee, in thy preparations to speak in his Name: Let it accompany thee in every exhortation and address: Let it sweeten thy soul in the blessed hour of Prayer: Let it go with thee to the Widow in her affliction: Let it tell thee what thou must speak, and how, to the destitute, and fatherless: Let it lead thee to the Prisoner's cell, and lessen his distress: Let it make thy counsel medicine to the sick; and thy presence the ministering of an Angel to the dying--

This, while "the Servant of the Lord" must be "gentle unto all men;"

III. He must be "apt to teach."--This implies the following particulars;

A good Capacity: Competent improvements in Learning; especially in that which is of a religious nature:--the application thereof to the great business of divine instruction:--Prudence withal:--Pureness of manners;--and a fervent, manly piety constituting the life and soul of every thing he engages in.

I shall offer a few considerations on these heads severally.

[15] 1. With respect to a good capacity: How requisite this is, must be obvious to every one. The business of a Minister of the Gospel, is very arduous. The subjects he is to be conversant with, and which he must have a competent understanding of, or he cannot represent them to others, are the very greatest that can come before the mind;--great, in their nature; great in their extent--their variety--their influence--their end. He hath also to explain truths, and persuade to a compliance with duties, against which, (from the corrupt state of human nature) the most rivetted prejudices and habits obtain, and strive to hold their footing. His Counsel is often called for likewise, in matters of general concern to the Church, as well as in cases deeply and peculiarly respecting one, or another member, of his Flock. Are inconsiderable or weak talents suited to such weighty affairs;--such interesting objects;--such diversified circumstances? They are not. Doth not every one see how necessary a good understanding, and even peculiar abilities, are, in all other occupations and professions of importance? Can they be less necessary here?--

2. As to Improvements in Learning, or what is termed acquired capacity: Certainly, if original abilities are useful; the improvement [15/16] of them must be so. All those branches of knowledge should be regarded, (as far as opportunity will allow,) which have a tendency to strengthen the mental powers; which open the way, particularly, to the understanding of the Scriptures; which lead to an acquaintance with the human Mind;--the general condition of the world; the works and ways of Divine Providence; and the methods by which Virtue and Happiness may be most certainly promoted. Especially, must the Science of Religion be well understood. This cannot be, without due pains.--The divine plan of Redemption and Life through the Son of God, his Minister must have studied deeply and affectionately. He must have comprehended the tenour and plenitude of the Covenant of Grace. He must have rendered familiar to his mind, the System of Gospel duties; have attained to a distinct, full view of the divine promises and denunciations; of the motives that are held out in favour of obedience; the aids of grace; the hopes of glory.--In a word; the Sacred Books must be, in preference to all other writings, his Classics.--Here, I am happy, that while, with regard to the Candidates [* Mr. Joseph Clarkson, of Philadelphia, and Mr. Joseph Coudon, Maryland.] for holy Orders [* Deacon's Orders], now present, it is in my power, from a personal acquaintance, to report things very honourable respecting their abilities, [16/17] and general learning; so in particular, can I apply to each, the testimony which St. Paul gave to his beloved Timothy; "From a Child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith in Christ Jesus."

3. All a Minister's abilities, both natural and acquired, whether he be Deacon, or Presbyter, must, in steady application, be directed to the important work of divine Instruction. In this they must concentrate; else the Aptness to teach, on which so much stress is justly laid, fails. He must make the Conversion of men, and the building of them up in the most holy faith, his leading aim. This must direct his preparations, and constitute the very essence of his preaching. He must declare all the counsel of God; hold out the gracious terms of acceptance; make every duty plain; every denunciation awful; every promise encouraging. He will alarm; convince; persuade; console. He must accommodate his subjects, and his manner, to the different classes of men; and particularly, to their various spiritual circumstances, "commending himself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." He is to "watch in all things;" to be continually looking out, guarding, and giving proper notices in the spiritual Zion. He is to do the work of an Evangelist, and make [17/18] full proof of his Ministry; not to give any new doctrine or revelation; but to recommend and enforce that which hath been already given by Christ and his Apostles: to recommend and enforce it by the purity of his interpretations, and (as I shall observe presently) by the sanctity of his life. Thou Servant of the Lord! Being allowed of him to be put in trust of the highest concern, even with the precious Gospel, thou art "so to speak, not as pleasing men, but God, who trieth the hearts." Thy exhortations are not to be of deceit, nor of sensuality, nor in guile; thou art not at any time to use flattering words, nor a cloak of covetousness; but in the spirit of thy station, in the temper of thy Master, uncorrupt, sincere, disinterested, benevolent--to speak the words of truth and soberness; to hold up the message of salvation, the language of grace and everlasting felicity--

Human souls are very important: Immortal happiness is exceedingly grand and glorious. Though men are not by nature born the immediate heirs of this happiness; yet they are born capable of it; they are intended for it. Jesus, the Restorer of life, the Purchaser of immortality, now offers pardon, and a title to the heavenly inheritance, to every one who is penitent, and thirsteth after this perfection [18/19] and blessedness. His Ministers have commandment to declare these happy terms; to publish every where, the law and plan of celestial loving-kindness. They indeed are quite upon a level with others, in respect of natural imperfection and frailty; but yet, in the order of divine Providence, have this business and department assigned to them. "We have this treasure," saith an Apostle, "in earthen vessels, that the excellency may be of God, and not of us."

Brethren! the awful call to the unconverted,--the carnal expostulation with inconsiderate and careless sinners--the solemn address to the awakened--the pressing invitation to the weary and heavy laden, to come for rest to the compassionate Deliverer--the language of complacency directed to the pure and pious,--the tears of pity shed for the afflicted,--the sinile of congratulation expressed for the conquerors over Self, and the World;--all these do come within the practical experience of the Servant of the Lord, who is "apt to teach." Finding a supreme delight in God, he can rejoice in all who rejoice in him: And cultivating still a mild, a tender sensibility of soul,--that gentleness unto all men, which hath been mentioned before--he shares in each known sorrow of God's people, and in all their affliction, he is afflicted.

[20] 4. I mentioned also, in the distribution of particulars that come under the article of aptness to teach, Prudence;--an endowment which ought to characterise every Minister. Prudence is a term of wide extent; and in that view, takes in a great deal of what hath been intimated already. It is a component part of all good qualities: there is not one of them whose efficacy and direction it may not further considerably. It is not requisite here to be very explicit in defining or analysing it. In general, it is practical Wisdom; having a reference principally to actions to be done; and the due means, order, time, and way of doing, or omitting them. Even the negative branch of it, namely, the avoiding of improprieties in conduct and manner, is no small attainment: The active part is still higher. What I mean especially now, is, that attention to fitness, that observance of season and circumstances, in a Minister's conversation, deportment, method and address, which, other things corresponding, bids fairest to render him truly useful. He must take care, as much as possible, that his Good be not evil spoken of. He must abstain from every thing that hath the appearance of evil. He must combine the wisdom of the serpent with the harmlessness of the dove. The ark of God hath often suffered by the hands of unfaithful Managers, who needed to be ashamed; and a great [20/21] deal more by such as were impure: but possibly, not much less, from merely the imprudent.

5. We must not omit what is indispensibly requisite here,--sublime servent Piety, consociated with every thing that is good and pure,--pervading all the conversation, life, and spirit of the Preacher. Without Piety; whatever may be his accomplishments in other respects, he will be but a dead letter. Without an exalted measure of it, he cannot be a burning and shining light.--Under the head of Piety, as the important matter is here stated, we comprehend universal goodness and purity, invariably referred to, as well as proceeding from that Almighty Father, whom he supremely adores,--that Saviour, who is infinitely precious to him; that Spirit of Grace, whose influences he continually pants after.

As a man cannot teach what he does not know; so he cannot enforce what he does not feel: nor can he, to any purpose, recommend, what he doth not exemplify in his life. If he be deficient here, he is deficient in the very essence of the business. All the endowments in the world, separated from this, could never make up for the absence thereof. "Though he understood all mysteries, and all knowledge; [21/22] and could speak with the tongues of men and angels;" yet wanted purity and heart-felt goodness, he could not be "apt to teach."

We must have the Kingdom of God within us, which is "Righteousness, and Peace, and Joy in believing;" or we cannot be Ambassadors of any influence to recommend that kingdom to others. There is a power in example that conciliates, and commands. If men see the efficacy of Redemption and Grace in their Minister,--sinners will stand reproved tenfold more forcibly; and the virtuous be more sweetly encouraged. Whatever page he opens of that sacred Book,--the people see in the man, its LIVING COMMENT.

In a word, Whether he holds up "the terrors of the Lord;" or his amazing lenity and goodness: Whether Judgment be the theme, or Mercy; whether the Love of Christ to perishing sinners be set forth;--the Glories of his Character described;--his Commandments enforced and recommended;--his Promises reported in their fulness and excellency; --and some prospects opened, of the "eternal Weight of Glory;"--all along, the hold which these grand matters have taken of the mind, and life of the Minister himself, will be a blessed attestation to all around, of their truth and efficacy.

[23] IV. With respect to the other particulars of a Minister's temper and duty, taken notice of here--his patient endurance of difficulties; and even of unfriendly treatment, it may be, from some, whom he is endeavouring to make happy;--as also, his "Meekness in instructing those who oppose themselves,"--they are anticipated in some degree, by implication at least, in the considerations which have been already offered. They intimately coalesce with the other parts of this subject: so that it is unnecessary at present, to proceed any farther.

From this Sketch of a Christian Minister's temper, and series of Duties, it is clear, that the Department is very arduous: "Who is sufficient for these things?"--We stand in need then of the beloved people's tender good-will and help. The difficulties diminish in our account, when we think of the aids that are promised to us from above; being confident also that you will join us, in fervently soliciting their gracious communication.

To encourage each faithful Minister; and to justify You, in being the Friends of such,--mark the Character by which they are designated, "The Servants of the Lord."--The Lord will support in them his Cause, and his [23/24] Authority: And You will always look on them with tender affection, for his sake. We are comforted in the view that the salvation of God is now manifesting its glory to so many of the people, and that its power will be yet more widely extended than ever. We know well, that the eternal plan of Providence and grace will have its thorough process and completion. Such as oppose, never can defeat it; though in the attempt, they may destroy themselves. You, Beloved! will associate, not with its opposers; but with its Friends. Those who in sincerity advance and further it, will be accounted fellow-workers with the most divine Orders of Being, and with God himself.

Let us, every one, acquit ourselves with zeal and unintermitted diligence. Let truth, uprightness and benevolence, invariably compose and guide our conduct. In our several departments, let an unshaken fidelity, an enlightened and enlarged generosity of soul--and a purity, if possible, unsuspected and unblamed, distinguish every thing we do. Let undefiled Religion--the speedy progress of moral and divine goodness--the welfare of immortal souls, be nearest to our bosoms.

No other foundation we are to lay, than that which is already laid: And regarding the Essentials [24/25] of our holy Religion, with a supreme invariable attachment, we are to allow whatever is in any wise subservient to these, to have its proper place and consideration.

In conducing our affairs as a Church, a few leading points have been steadily kept in light, as essential to the soundness and permanency of our Ecclesiastical Constitution in America; and order hath been taken to render us as independently and fully competent to the purposes of our religious government, discipline, and Offices, as other Churches are.

The Political Governments which we, with other numerous fellow-citizens, have contented unto, and now live under, maintain an equal liberty; hold up a sweet equality of personal and civil privileges; countenancing in all respects, both temporal and eternal happiness. We wish them perpetuity, and additional rising glories. We wish especially, the progress of the Redeemer's kingdom, to secure and heighten that glory; that it may appear indeed, and be recorded for ever, that we are a "People saved by the Lord."--

The state of things, whether viewed on a more general scale; or considered with respect to particular circumstances, gives ground for very pleasing expectations: The advanced degrees [25/26] of civilization that have obtained among men;--the diffusion of general knowledge;--greater liberality of sentiment; and a more tolerating disposition towards each other, than people were accustomed formerly to indulge;--sounder ideas and principles of government; a fuller acquaintance with the rights of human nature;--and (what we are particularly interested in) the singular events relative to this country, which, we trust, will have the happiest consummation;--all these matters, notwithstanding incidental evils, and the opposing views and vices of some; bear an aspect that favours the establishment of the kingdom of God.

While we, in our religious character, wish prosperity and saving health to all mankind; and heartily congratulate every denomination of Christians, upon the manifold blessings in which they have fellowship with us; and we with them: and while we view the distinctions subsisting between them and us, with respect to some particulars, in such a light, as does by no means weaken our feelings of charity, or injure its sacred bond;--it is not without sufficient grounds, that as members of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we acquiesce with peculiar satisfaction in its System of doctrines; Mode of Worship; and venerable Ordinances. Our giving this preference, or yielding [26/27] to such a predilection, is the result of due experience, and a full persuasion in our own minds. Here we use just that freedom which all men claim; and which happily, in the land we inhabit, is open to all.

It is with pleasure we consider the steps that have been taken in our churches severally, as well as in their General Council, in order to bring about the great matters we most devoutly wished for;--a union of hearts,--a consent of wills,--a uniformity of worship,--an entire enjoyment and participation of spiritual privileges among the members of our Communion. These steps have been accompanied with duel caution; and it hath pleased the Almighty in his divine Providence, thus far, to countenance them eminently. In every particular of a nature purely religious, we continue altogether the same we ever were; things merely local easily admitting of a change accommodated to time and circumstances. "We hold the same essential articles of faith and discipline with the Church of England." In one matter, of very great importance, The having among ourselves, the ministerial Succession in its respective Orders,--we are on a much better footing, than, probably, we should ever have been, if our former political connexion had continued.

[28] A new era hath opened in our Church that will be remembered for ever. Our Episcopal system is completed: and in a manner that we perfectly rejoice in; and which (we are happy to understand) is looked upon in friendship by so many of our fellow-christians: in a manner withal, that reflects lustre on the attention, and benignity of the English Prelates. The first Fruits of so distinguished an event come forward on the present day.--I join with thousands to meet, and welcome the Blessing.

May we be continually looking to the Great Head of the Church, in humble submission, and the spirit of prayer, for the speedy extension of his divine Reign upon earth! May we rejoice in full assurance, That Goodness, Perfection, and Felicity, are the darling objects of the heavenly care; that the system of Jesus the Mediator, doth confirm an everlasting participation in these, to all believers;--that the Period is fast approaching, when "The kingdoms of this world, shall become the Kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ;"--when, in the completed sense, "Jerusalem shall be a Praise in the Earth;" the Righteousness thereof going forth as Brightness, and the Salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth!

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