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No. 160 Pearl-Street.
BEING assembled in General Convention, with the Clerical and the Lay Deputies of our communion, we embrace the opportunity of addressing you on its concerns. But before we proceed to the subjects of advice contemplated by us on this occasion, we lift up our hearts to the Father of mercies, thanking him for our being in possession of all that we esteem necessary for the professing of his holy and eternal truth. And while we ascribe this benefit to his unbounded goodness, we recognize in it the truth of the promises made to the Church by her divine Head, of being with her to the end of the world.
It is within the memory of many of you, that when these States, in the course of divine Providence, became elevated to a place among, the nations of the earth; and when, in consequence, our congregations, planted under the jurisdiction of the Church of England, were withdrawn from it, they had no longer any common centre of union; being not only without an entire Ministry, but severally in a state of sepal rate independence, inconsistent with the Catholic principles which they had inherited from their founders. Under these circumstances there was required no small measure of faith, as well in the integrity of our system, as in the divine blessing on any endeavours which might be begun, to elevate us [3/4] above those apprehensions which described the continuance of our communion as problematical, if not to be despaired of.
From correspondence in some instances, and from personal communications in others, it soon appeared that there was at least so much attachment to the religious principles of our Church, as ought to prevent our considering of her cause as desperate. The correctness of this sentiment became confirmed, by connections speedily created, of our Churches, until then detached from one another, on terms which contemplated the perpetuating of the communion, with all the distinguishing properties of the Church of England. And the unanimity with which this was accomplished, afforded a pleasing presage of whatever else we now gratefully remember.
We were, however, without that order of the Ministry, which we had learned from Scripture and primitive antiquity, to be essential to the due conducting of ecclesiastical concerns; and to the clothing of others, with authority to preach the word and to administer the sacraments. The effects of this had become conspicuous, during the war then recently ended; in the course of which the greater, number of our congregations had become deprived of their Ministers, without opportunities of replacing them. Matters were approaching to the extreme in which the voice of a duly authorized ministry would not have been heard within our walls. And what deepened the gloom of the prospect, were the restraints laid on our former ecclesiastical superiors, by the establishments under which they held their stations; and which, unless removed by authorities to which we could not with propriety apply, might prevent them from extending to us that aid, which, it was presumed, their Christian charity would otherwise dispose them to bestow.
Under these circumstances, recourse was had to the Archbishops and Bishops of England, who best knew the [4/5] nature, of any civil impediments in their way, and were the best judges of the means expedient for the removing of them. That we now address you in our official characters, is an evidence of the success of the application. And it ought not to be noticed in this place, without the record of a debt of gratitude to the Prelates of England generally, and to their lately deceased venerable Primate in particular, who exerted all the influence of his high station, to accomplish the wishes of this Church; and who, at last, carried them into effect, with a deportment which endeared his character to those who received the succession from his hands. [The Most Rev. John Moore, D. D. late Archbishop of Canterbury.] While we thus do justice to the source to which we principally looked in, consequence of past habits and a sense of past benefits, it is with pleasure we acknowledge a similar debt of gratitude to the Episcopacy which, in Scotland, survived the Revolution in that country in the year 1688. Although the succession from thence derived is now incorporated with that obtained from England, yet we retain a sense of the benefit, and offer up our prayers for the perpetuity and the increase of the Episcopal Church of Scotland.
Even when the succession had been obtained, there was far from being a certainty of combining our Church throughout the Union. An important step for the accomplishing of this, was the uniting in a common Liturgy. And although there was reason to believe that the Liturgy of the Church of England was substantially acceptable to us all; yet there were some parts of it utterly inconsistent with the new relations in which we stood; while, in regard to the rest, there was room for considerable difference of opinion, on points confessedly within the sphere of human prudence. The case was full of difficulties; which were at last removed by that consent in all things necessary, and that temper of concession in matters subjected to discretion, which led to [5/6] the establishment of the Book of Common prayer, now the standard of the public worship of our Church.
There remained a work, in itself more fruitful than ally hitherto noticed, of discord and dissent. Our Church had not made a profession of Christian doctrine, with a reference to the points on which it has been contradicted, by what we conceive to be dangerous error. It is true, that the Articles of the Church of England, except the parts of them abrogated by the Revolution, might still be considered as binding on Churches, which had been founded on a profession of them. There was, however, wanting an explicit declaration to silence all doubt, in regard to their binding operation. And this, although a matter encumbered with much embarassment, was at last happily effected.
Whatever labours, and whatever cares there may have been bestowed for the accomplishing of the objects stated in this address, there must have been an ample compensation for them, in an observation of their effects. These are, indeed, far short of our wishes, and of what should still be the object of our endeavours: yet it must be confessed that there has not only been an arresting of the state of decline which threatened a dissolution; but such a religious prosperity in many places, and such a prospect of it in many more, as are at once a reward of teal and an incentive to it. By communications made to us from the Church in several States, in obedience to the 11th Canon of the last General Convention, we have been favoured with a more satisfactory view of this subject than had been before possessed by us. While we record this, we take occasion from it to express our expectations that similar reports will be more generally transmitted to the next triennial meeting. For we have to lament that the communications exacted by the said canon, have not been universal; owing, perhaps, to its not having been sufficiently made known; or, perhaps, to there not having been sufficiently understood the object of it. We are [6/7] not to learn how far such returns must be, from an exact measure of the power of godliness. Yet, where there is a growth of the profession of religion, there is occasion for charity to hope, and even ground in human nature to justify the belief, that there must be, in some proportion, an increase of its holy influence over the heart.
While we look back with gratitude on the blessings of Almighty God vouchsafed to our communion, it is for the purpose of a due improvement of them that we now present them to the view of its members; and, for the accomplishing of this, we invite their attention to the resulting considerations, as they affect doctrine--worship--discipline--and the end of all, an holy life and conversation.
In regard to doctrine; although it would be foreign to the design of this address, to display to you the whole body of Christian Truth, as affirmed in the Articles of our Church; yet we think ourselves called on by the occasion, to refer to some points; the contrary to which are the most apt to show their heads, among persons calling themselves of our communion. For the guarding of you, therefore, against that great danger, we affectionately remind you, that whatever derogates from the divinity of our blessed Saviour, or from the honour due to the Holy Spirit, with the Father, and with the Son, divine; that whatever detracts from our Lord's sufferings on the cross, as a propitiatory sacrifice for sin; that whatever supposes man in himself competent to his salvation, or to any advance towards it, without the grace of God going before to dispose him to the work, and concurring with him in the accomplishment of it; also, that whatever describes the favour of God in this life and the happiness which he offers to us in another, as the purchase of human merit, or any thing else than of the free grace of God in Christ, and through the merits of his death; still, in connection with its end, which is the bringing of us to be holy in heart and in conversation; in short, that whatever is in the [7/8] least degree infected with the poison of the recited errors, was intended to be guarded against by our Church, in her decisions in regard to doctrine.
We are not ignorant of the prejudices which represent all ecclesiastical decisions on these and the like points, as the arbitrary acts of man, interfering with the word of God, revealed in Scripture. And we are ready to acknowledge that, did this charge lie, the matter censured would be not only presumptuous in itself, but especially inconsistent in a Church which has so explicitly declared her sense, that the Scriptures contain all things necessary to belief and practice. Let it then be understood, that we disclaim all idea of adding to the word of God, or of its being infallibly interpreted by any Authority on earth. Still, it lies on the Ministers of the Church to open to their flocks the truths of Scripture, and to guard them against interfering errors. What then is the making of a declaration of the sense of the Church, but her doing that as a social body, which must be done by her Pastors individually; although, as may be supposed in some instances, not with due judgment and deliberation? It is evident, indeed, that this does not answer the objection, in another shape in which it meets us--the supposed hardship laid on those who are otherwise, minded, than as the standard may have prescribed. Still, the Church exercises in this matter no power, but such as must be exercised by every Minister, in his individual capacity, under the danger of great abuse; the effect of there being always the interference of discretion, and sometimes that of passion. To go no further than to the few, evangelic truths which have been referred to: there is no faithful Minister of Christ who will endure the denial of them, in a Church under his pastoral care, and in circumstances in which there shall be no authority superior to his own, for the remedying of the evil, and not exercise that authority, within its reasonable limits, in order to defend his flock from errors. Thus, there would and [8/9] ought to be accomplished by the individual, in the event of the silence of the Church, what she has rescued from arbitrary Will, and made the subject of deliberate law.
While we exhort all to sustain the evangelic truths found in the Articles, as deduced from Scripture and attested by the earliest ages of Catholic Christianity, we would particularly impress on the Clergy, not only a sufficient frequency in professedly stating to their hearers the same truths, but also to manifest their salutary influence on all the other subjects of their public administrations. We are aware of the interference of this advice with the opinion that mere morals are the only suitable topics of discussion, and the only ends of exhortation, in discourses from the pulpit. Far be from us the thought of assigning to morals, considered as comprehending not only a correct course of conduct, but an holy state of heart, a subordinate rank in the scale of Christian endowment. For what is morality, thus defined, but "the living godly, righteously and soberly in this present world," which an Apostle has pronounced the very end for which "the grace of God, bringing salvation to all men, hath appeared?" But when we take in connection with the subject, the depravity of the human heart; when we recollect the influence of this, wherever the Gospel is unknown, as well on the theory of morals as on practice; and when there are many evidences before our eyes, how little there is in the world adorned by the attribute of moral virtue, in any other association than as embodied with, and growing out of the high and leading sense of Revelation, we suppose a fallacy in every modern scheme of religion, which professes to make men virtuous without the motives to virtue supplied to them in the Gospel; and we think, that, in every endeavour of this sort, in which infidelity is not avowed, we discover it in disguise.
Let there not be thought an objection to what we advise, in the unreasonable conduct of those, who, in their zeal for [9/10] unprofitable speculation, lose sight of every practical use for which Christian light has been bestowed. We believe that from this there have arisen many errors, and much mischief. But we are so far from admitting it to be a reasonable cause of dispensing with the matter of our present exhortation, that we perceive, even in the errors the nearest allied to the truths of Scripture with which they are confounded, a motive to the laying of a due stress on these truths.
We shall say no more on the present branch of this address, except to assure our brethren of ease description in the Church, that as, according to our judgment, any preaching, falling short of what is here held up, is not that which the Gospel calls for; so, according to our experience, neither is it of any considerable use. It has but little effect on the morals of society; still less in the excitement of piety; and least of all, in enlarging the bounds of the kingdom of the Redeemer, which is established on quite another basis, and has always been extended by quite other means.
When we bring before you, Brethren, the subject of public worship, you will of course suppose that it is principally with a view to the devotions, which, with an extraordinary degree of harmony and much previous deliberation, have been constituted our established Liturgy.
Independently on the admirable prayer prescribed by our Lord himself, there is no fact equally ancient, of which we are more fully persuaded, than that the having of [10/11] prescribed devotions is a practice that has prevailed from the earliest origin of our religion. We mean not that there were the same forms of prayer in all Churches; but that every local Church had its rule, according to the suitableness of time and place, and under the sanction of the Episcopacy of the different districts. And, we are further persuaded that the Christian economy in this matter was no other than a continuation of the Jewish, as prevailing in that very worship which was attended on, and joined in, by our blessed Saviour and his Apostles. This is a mode of worship that has been handed down to us through the channel of the Church of England; and we suppose that we may affirm, as a notorious fact, its being acceptable to our communion generally. ["The Lord's Prayer is given to us by St. Luke (chap. xi. 2.) under the injunction--"When ye pray, say"--which is evidently language expressive of the appointment of a form. But the construction has been thought to sustain an abatement of its force by the words in the parallel place of St. Matthew (chap. vi. 9.)--"After this manner pray ye." There is, however, no difference of sense in the two places. The Greek word outwV, translated "after this manner," may be rendered "thus;" that is, "in these words." For that either of the two phrases would have expressed the meaning, appears from chap. ii. 5, of the same Evangelist. When Herod had demanded of the Sanhedrim,--"Where Christ should be born," they made answer--"In Bethlehem of Judea; for thus [outwV] it is written by the Prophet." Then they go on to repeat the Prophet's words--"And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, who shall rule my people Israel."]
But if this feature of our system is to be retained, we cannot but perceive that the order of divine service must be directed, not by individual discretion, but by public counsel: If, on the contrary, this principle is to cease to govern; we know of no plea for deviation tolerated in any Minister, which will not extend to the indulgence of the humour of every member of his congregation. For this is a necessary result of that property of our ecclesiastical system, which contemplates the exercises of prayer and praise as those of a social body, of which the Minister is the leader.
If there should be in any a rage for innovation, it would be the more deplored by us, from the circumstance that it often originates in the affecting of an extravagant degree of animal sensibility; which, it most be confessed, will not be either excited or kept alive by the temperate devotions of our prescribed Liturgy. There are but few prayers handed down to us in the New Testament: If, however, any who may be advocates of an enthusiastic fervour would duly [11/12] contemplate the spirit that animates these prayers,--they would not, we think, undervalue those of the Church, as though they were uninteresting to the best affections of the human heart.
It is impossible that there should be composed forms for public use, and yet that individuals should not perceive instances in which, according to their respective habits of thinking, the matter might have been more judiciously conceived, or more happily expressed. It is, however, evident that this, far from being prevented, would be much increased, by removing the subject from the controlling authority of the Church, to that of her Ministers, in their respective places. The cause of the supposed evil is an imperfection in human affairs, to which they will be always liable and a temper to accommodate to it is an essential circumstance of a worthy membership of society, whether civil or religious. The dissatisfaction alluded to may affect either circumstantials, or the essence of the established Liturgy. If it apply to the former, submission of private opinion is one of the smallest sacrifices which may be exacted for the maintenance of order. But if any should lightly esteem the service, from the opinion, that it is below the dignity of the subjects comprehended in it, and unequal to the uses which prayers and praises point to, we have so much to oppose to such a sentiment, in the sense of wise and holy men of our communion in former ages, still shining as lights to the world in their estimable writings; se much, also, in the acknowledgment of judicious persons not of our communion, both in past ages and in the present; and so much of the effects of the habitual use of the Liturgy, on the tempers and on the lives of persons, who, in their respective days, have eminently "adorned the doctrine of their God and Saviour," that, if we spare an appeal to-the modesty of the complainants, we are constrained to make a demand on their justice; and, in the name of all true [12/13] members of our communion, to insist on being left in the secure possession of a mode of worship, which has become endeared to us by habit and by choice. It is on this ground that we consider every Churchman as possessing a personal right to lift up his voice against the intermixture of foreign matter with the service; rendering it such, as can never be acceptable to the same judgments, or interesting to the same affections.
In regard to any license which may be taken of another kind, that of varying words or phrases, for an accommodation to the reader's ideas of correct expression; to any Minister who may be tempted to this fault, we intimate, that it has the effect of subjecting him to the imputation of a species of levity, which breeds contempt. Certainly, every consideration which should relieve him from the charge of error, would proportionably expose him to that of vanity. But, whether it be error or vanity, the fault of wanton irregularity is attached to it.
Under the operation of the sentiments which have been delivered, we should be especially grieved to hear of any Ministers, that they make the services of the Church give way to their own crude conceptions. We call them such, because it may be expected, from experience of former times, that a practice to irregular in itself, would be generally found in those who have the most moderate share of the knowledge and the discretion, qualifying for a judicious exercise of the authority thus arrogated. While we earnestly admonish all Ministers against this assumption of a power not committed to them, we also exhort the laity to avoid encouragement of the delinquency should it happen, and, much more, inducement to it. We know that the most intelligent and best informed lay members of our communion, if this, license should be obtruded on them, would disapprove of it; and, if they did not complain in public, would mourn in private. Even of those who, in any way, [13/14] might countenance the irregularity, we should hope that they either did not know or did not recollect the sacred promises which would be hereby broken. And, on the whole, we announce, both to the Clergy and to the laity, our utter disapprobation of the irregularity here remarked on; calling on every one of them, in his place, to give his aid to the guarding against the evil, both by persuasion and by every other temperate expedient provided by the Canons of the Church.
We cannot be on this subject without lamenting, that, of a service in itself so full of edification, a considerable proportion of the due effect should be defeated, in consequence not of disapprobation or dislike, but of neglect of joining in it, as in heart, so likewise audibly and in the prescribed postures. We pray you, Brethren, not to impute what we say on this point to a zeal for mere decorous appearance. We do not, indeed, hesitate to acknowledge, even of this, that it is a laudable object of endeavour. But the matters on which we have laid a stress are supposed by us to be considerably connected with the devotion of the inward man. It is one of the properties of social worship, that, of those engaged in it, every one may excite and receive excitement from the others. And, indeed, when we open the uses of such worship, in order to demonstrate the reasonableness of its being required, this is the point on which the weight of the argument principally rests. If the present view of the subject be correct, the omissions complained of reach much deeper than to the deforming of the service, and disclose to us how much there may be imputed to this cause, of the entire neglect of it by many. And even if the other only were the consequence, it ought to have great weight; especially since, if the omission were defensible, the service has been constructed on a mistaken plan, which occasions its excellency to be in a great measure lost sight of, in the ins consistent manner of the performance.
 There is another department of our religious worship necessarily left in some measure to discretion, which we know to be much abused in many places, and have reason to believe to be so in many more, not intentionally, either by Ministers or by their congregations, but probably to the dissatisfaction of both, yet too patiently endured by them. What we allude to is the manner in which there is sometimes conducted the otherwise pleasing and edifying exercise of Psalmody. In this line there are employed persons who, being regardless alike of godliness and of decency, presume to set themselves in contrariety to all the uses for which alone the art of music can with propriety display its charms within the house of God. Thus, there are outraged the feelings of all devout persons; and not of them only, but of all who entertain a sense of consistency and propriety. On the ratifying of the Book of Common Prayer, an endeavour was made to give a check to this enormity, by the Rubric preceding the Psalms in metre. We desire to recal the attention of the Church generally, and of the Clergy in particular, to the provisions of that Rubric. And we further recommend to all those who have the appointment of performers in the musical department, that, if possible, none may be appointed in whom there are not found a visible profession of religion, in alliance with an irreproachable conversation. But if, in any instance, it should be thought that the profession must of necessity be dispensed with, let it at the most be in favour of persons who are not capable of dishonouring the worship of Almighty God, and of disgusting those who join in it: for this is a censure which we do not hesitate to lay on the conduct which has been referred to.
From worship we proceed to discipline. And here we wish our clerical and our lay brethren to be aware, as, on one hand of the responsibility under which we lie; so, on the other, of the caution which justice and impartiality require. The Church has made provision for the degradation [15/15] of unworthy Clergymen, It is for us to suppose that there are none of that description, until the contrary is made known to us, in our respective places, in the manner which the Canons have prescribed: And if the contrary to what we wish is in any instance to be found, it lies on you, our clerical and lay brethren, to present such faulty conduct; although with due regard to proof; and, above all, in a temper which shows the impelling motive to be the glory of God and the sanctity of the reputation of his Church.
While we are not conscious of any bias, which, under an official call, would prevent the conscientious discharge, of duty, we wish to be explicit in making known to all, that we think it due to God and to his Church, to avoid whatever may sanction assumed power, however desirable the end to which it may be directed. We have at least as weighty reasons to restrain us from judging without inquiry, and from censuring without evidence of crime. These are ends to which men of impetuous spirits would sometimes draw. But we would rather subject ourselves to the charge of indifference, however little merited, than be the mean of establishing precedents, giving to slander an advantage, against which no innocence can be a shield; and leaving to no man a security either of interest or of reputation. Although we have no reason to complain, that sentiments in contrariety to these prevail among us to any considerable extent, yet we freely deliver our sentiments on the subject, in order to give us an opportunity of calling on all wise and good men--and we shall not call on them in vain--to aid us in resisting, wherever it may appear, that mischievous spirit which confounds right and wrong, in judging of the characters and of the rights of others.
We should not discharge our consciences, could we be on this part of the subject; without declaring unequivocally our hope, that the time will come; when there shall not be acknowledged, even as nominally of our society, any person [16/17] of an immoral life and conversation. We are not unapprized of the property of the Christian Church, stamped on it by the hand of its holy Author, that it was to comprehend the opposite characters of good and bad until the appointed time of an eternal separation. But this, as is evident, relates to the hearts of men, which cannot be known to one another. Every notorious sinner is a scandal to the Church of Christ; although, he may be less guilty in the sight of God than some hypocrite, whose depravity lies concealed within her pale. Still it must be acknowledged, that there is no Christian work more full of embarrassment, than the one here referred to: And we freely confess that it were better left undone for ever, than to be accomplished at the expense of the violation of impartiality, much more of the gratification of malice. Still, the presenting of this object to your view is what the integrity of the Christian economy requires of us. Until it can be brought about, let us at least fence the table of the Lord from the unhallowed approach of every ungodly liver. And while we address this admonition especially to our brethren of the Clergy, we rejoice in the conviction that there is no part of their duty which they can execute, if it be done with a good conscience and with prudence, to the more entire satisfaction of the people generally: For there are few, perhaps none, disposed to tolerate the profanation of an ordinance, of which there is, on the part of so many, a neglect.
But while we thus admonish our brethren of the ministry to guard against the profanation of the Eucharist, we ought not to lose the opportunity of exhorting them to increase the number of the attendants on it, as by all proper means, so especially, by opening, the nature of the Apostolic rite of confirmation, and by persuading to an observance of it. Were it an institution of human origin, we should admire it for its tendency to impress, on persons advancing to maturity, a sense of obligations resting on them, independently on their [17/18] consent, in this ordinance voluntarily given. But we remind our brethren, knowing that they agree with us in the opinion, that it was ordained, and practised by: the Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and that in the ages immediately subsequent to the age of the Apostles, it was one of the means of exciting to the sublime virtue which adorned them. Let us remember that the same grace, first given in baptismal regeneration, is increased and strengthened by confirmation. And let us extend the use of this holy and Apostolic rite, as one of the first principles of the Christian Religion, and a great mean of leading on towards that perfection of Christian morals, which is its object.
When we look back on the subjects of this address, we find ourselves impelled, by their united force, to direct our attention to an object deeply interesting to us, as members of the Episcopal Church, of the Catholic Church at large, and of civil society, with a due regard to its prosperity and its peace. What we mean is the taking of our share of the work of extending Christian preaching and worship to the States recently risen, and to these still rising, within our Federal Republic. It is an effect of the civil privileges which we enjoy, and of the honourable exertions which they prompt, that useless forests become changed to cultivated fields, and that the reign of science and civilization supplant that of ignorance and barbarism. But this will be far from an addition to the stock of human happiness, if, on such improvement, there be entailed the effect of a population let loose from the restraints of religion; without which, the most estimable refinements of society only make men the more ferocious and the more mischievous to one another. We have, however, no considerable apprehension that this will be the result. The progressive property of the kingdom of the Redeemer, stamped on it by his own unerring hand; and, harmonizing with this, the consent of prophecy, as well under the Law as under the Gospel, make us believe [18/19] the contrary: And, on the ground of the designs of Providence, disclosed in Scripture, we look forward to the time when, over the whole extent of the regions beyond us, there shall ascend to Heaven the incense of evangelical prayer and praise; and there shall be presented the peace-offering of the commemorative sacrifice of the passion of the Redeemer. But while we rejoice in all suitable means conducted with a view to this end, under any systems, not so agreeable as we suppose our own, to the word of God, we are urged to an extension of the latter, by every consideration which is an evidence to us of its superior usefulness: If, in reference to those regions spoken of, there be wanting any further inducement to a compliance with this Gospel call, we may remind you of some extravagances which we have heard of as there prevalent; assuming the name of the religion of Jesus, but alien from its blessed nature; and tending, as we presume to say from observation of the same cause, and its effects more within the spheres of our observation, eventually to increase that infidelity, which wages open war on whatever piety holds sacred; and which is covertly pernicious to whatever humanity has reason to esteem. During the present session, our minds have been much impressed by a sense of what is due from us to our western brethren, and especially to those of them professing themselves of our communion. We wish to extend to them the Episcopacy and the celebration of the worship of this Church: And we invite all our brethren now addressed to aid us in the accomplishment of these objects; and, until it shall be found practicable to avail themselves of any opportunities occurring, to encourage the settlement of suitable Ministers of this Church, who may be disposed to remove from the elder States, into that vast field of labour. And we further invite Ministers and other Members of our communion, who may be already seated in those districts, to aid us in carrying our [19/20] purposes into effect; and, in the mean time, if it be practicable; to make such internal organizations as may conduce to it.
But, Brethren, we wish it to be understood, in what we have brought before you, relative to doctrine, to worship, and to discipline, that it is all with a view to practice, in order to call on and entreat you, as a religious body, to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called; illustrating the evangelic properties of your religious system, in its being seen to be productive of a religious life and conversation. The Clergy in particular, we exhort to remember the holy walking attached to the heavenly designation of their ministry, and with this their own assent, in the promises made by them at ordination, to the responsibility in which they stand. And we remind the laity, that, in respect to the obligation of Christian morals, there is no difference of extent over the different orders in the Church, whatever aggravation there be of delinquency in some, in consequence of the especial obligations which they have assumed.
In thus exciting you to Christian virtue, we find ourselves drawn to the contemplating of it, in an alliance with the more conspicuous relations in which the providence of God has placed you.
And, first, when we consider you as citizens, and in relation to the state, Ave exhort you not to view your character in this respect, as if it were unconnected with Christian obligation; not only that which Christianity enjoins, under all circumstances, of submission to law and government, and of reverence of those who are cloathed with its authorities; but also the temperate exercise of the rights provided for by the liberal genius of the constitutions under which we live. It is a property of the course of divine Providence, that there can be no temporal mercy of Heaven, without the attendant danger of its being abused by us, to our moral loss; which should be an admonition to us, in respect to the [20/21] civil privileges which we enjoy, not to exert them in such a manner, as to add to the mass of inordinate ambition, of fierce contention, and of intemperate revilings, by which we observe the concerns of the commonwealth dishonoured and her peace occasionally disturbed. If provision for the public weal must necessarily open a field, on which the worst passions of human nature are to display themselves in all their enormity and outrage, let them be exclusively characteristic of those who live professedly without God in the world; being as much lost to the forms of piety as they are strangers to its spirit. Then will they of a contrary character, in the more reasonable exercise of privilege, hold out a standing protest against the licentiousness which irreligion begets and fosters; while there will also thus be moderated the unhappy effects resulting from it. And if, under this call to an holy care, lying on all professors of Christianity, differing as they do in the forms of their profession, it should appear of our Church in particular, that her sons, in proportion to their subjection to the duties of devotion which; she enjoins on them, are also observant of the duties of which the objects are the peace of society, the safety of the state, and the faithful administration of law and justice; there will result from it no inconsiderable presumption, that their principles bear on themselves the evidences of having had their origin in divine illumination.
If in your several relative situations of a civil nature, there be a demand for the forbearance and the charity which have been recommended, how much more evidently are the same exacted by your respective standings in the Church of God; which was founded on a new law of love; and of which one of the most illustrious properties is the "keeping of the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace!" In this line, also, we blame no man for maintaining his just claims, or for expressing his opinions on subjects which are within its sphere. But we blame him, if, in the exercise of these his [21/22] rights, he break loose from the restraints of the wisdom from above; of which we are told that it is "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated." When in the line of right, and even in that of duty, there is so much of "the wrath of man," which a worketh not the righteous ness of God," how much more distant should every Christian keep himself from that contentious spirit which seeks occasion to excite and to foment division; which so conceives of its own privilege to think and speak, as to leave no liberty elsewhere to do the same; and which is impatient of all government, except such as is vested in itself, or which it can over-rule! Be assured, Brethren, of the love of strife, wherever it shows its head, that it falls under that censure of holy writ--"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish." Much more consistent would it be, to deny the existence of the Church of Christ, as a social body, divinely instituted, than to imagine it divested of the properties found to belong to society, in all the variety of its forms; and to suppose that in this instance, although in no other, the individual is left to govern himself; and to incommode others, according to his own opinion or caprice.
While we are thus inviting your attention to the duties attached to your Church-membership, it may, perhaps, be expected that we should dwell on the magnitude of some objects which require expense. But we wave all particular discussion, at the present, of matters of this sort. It is not, however, that we conceive of reasonable pecuniary contribution, as any other than a Christian duty; in the extent, not only of the provisions essential to public worship, but also of those which make it venerable and comely. And, indeed, it is a duty especially incumbent in a country of increasing population, which, of course, frequently exacts contributions for new houses of worship and new provisions for their support. But we put these things out of view, because of a persuasion in our minds, that the true mean of [22/23] accomplishing the end, is the possessing of men with an adequate sense of the uses for which such accommodations are designed. For if any one feel the weight of the obligations of Christianity on his conscience, and the enlivening influence of its consolations on his hopes, and, at the same time, be sensible how much the welfare of civil society and of families require the restraints on passion, and the incitements to virtue, which the Gospel only can supply, and which nothing but its authenticity can sustain, there will be no danger of his hesitating to give of his substance, according as God, in his bounty, may have bestowed on him. And there is no instance, in which God's protecting and perpetuating of his Church has been more conspicuously displayed, than in his thus disposing of his professing people to contribute to her according as her exigences have required. Yes, Brethren, let us, in the rearing of our spiritual fabric, reject the untempered mortar of worldly policy and of passion in every shape which it may put on, and we need not fear the failure of the outward means, by which Christ's kingdom is to be made visible on earth; until it shall exchange its properties in this respect for those of a better kingdom in the Heavens.
Finally; in regard to domestic and personal conduct, we desire to be considered as addressing ourselves to every individual of you in particular, and as admonishing that individual to act under the influence of the Christian name; to remember that even so far as the good of the Church is involved in the conduct of its members, no zeal in her cause, and no apparent services in support of it, can balance the disgrace brought on her by a licentious life; and yet, that the responsibility created by a religious profession towards man is but an image of the higher responsibility, which it increases towards the King of the whole earth; who, in the sentence which he will at last pronounce on the barren and false professor, may well say, with a reference to the inconsistency [23/24] between his profession and his practice--"Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant."
But we do not dwell on dissuasives from immoralities, which are a disgrace to Christianity, when there is before us the more pleasing duty of inciting you to the graces and to the works by which it may be adorned. It is by the being faithful and affectionate in the relations of husband and wife; the being kind and provident on one hand, and dutiful and grateful on the other, in those of parent and child; and the being in the exercise of justice and of mercy from masters to their servants, and of fidelity and obedience from these to them: it is further, by righteous and equitable dealings in all those intercourses with our fellow men in which there are so many temptations of rapacity impelling to wrong, and so much influence of self to seduce to it under the appearance of right; in addition to these things, it is by the being liberal to the poor, in contributing a full proportion to the tax laid by Providence on those who have, in favour of those who want, for the relief of misery in all the variety of its forms; and, finally, it is by the government of the appetites, those foes of the household, which, unless subdued by religion's all conquering power, breed conflict within, and very often impatient of the restraints of considerations from any other source, break forth into deeds of disorder and big with temporal ruin; it is, Brethren, by such a discipline in all its branches, that there must be felt the energy of a religion which is described to us as "the power of God unto salvation."
But, Brethren, the only way in which that power can be effectual, is in holiness of heart, under the operation of the divine Spirit, known no otherwise, than by the precious fruits which it produces. Independently on the grace of God, through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, our desires and our pursuits, besides being productive of guilt and misery in their progress, look no further than to the objects of the [24/25] present world; the very shadow of which is daily passing away from us. Whatever elevates our minds with an hope full of immortality, much more whatever prepares us for it by transforming us to the image of him who is "the pattern of all goodness, and righteousness, and truth," can come from nothing else, as we are assured in scripture, than from his own holy influence, which must be cultivated by devotion, and carried into effect by a continual "pressing forward to the mark for the prize of our high calling."
That this grace, freely bestowed on all, may be improved by all, to our comfort in the present life, and to the consummation of our happiness in Heaven, is the fervent prayer of those who fill the Episcopacy of this Church. And, with this assurance, we commend ourselves to the prayers of all her members.
Signed by order of the House of Bishops, in General Convention, at Baltimore, May 23, 1808,
WILLIAM WHITE, Presiding Bishop.
JAMES WHITEHEAD, Sec'ry.