ANOTHER triennial Convention enjoins on us the duty of another Pastoral Letter, agreeably to the forty-fifth Canon.
During the session, our attention has been seriously occupied by the reports from the church in the different states, made to the house of clerical and lay deputies, and by them submitted to our perusal.
A prominent event conspicuous in them, is the organization of our church in the state of Ohio; and the extending to it of the episcopacy: a measure which had been contemplated in four conventions, and is at last happily accomplished. It is not the state of Ohio only, to which we anticipate resulting benefit: but it is the whole of the western territory; over the extent of which there are scattered members of our communion, to whose wants the urgent claims of destitute congregations in the Atlantic states have prevented ministerial supplies. We may now hope to see the evil remedied, by the educating of ministers among themselves: since what has been accomplished has a tendency to this effect also; not only by saving the trouble and the expense of long journeys for ordination, but by the engaging of the zealous endeavours of the Right Reverend Bishop, and of the few clergymen who have migrated from the eastern side of [3/4] the mountains, for the furnishing of candidates with suitable opportunities of preparation.
In the last general Convention, it was highly gratifying, that there had been such an organization of the church in North Carolina, as entitled them to be recognised in that character. On the present occasion, our satisfaction has been increased by the appearance of two clerical and one lay deputy from that part of the union; and still more by finding from the report before us, that there is a good prospect of the stability and the increase of our church, where it had been so long prostrate.
Another source of satisfaction to us, is, that when the District of Maine, took its station in the union in the character of a state, there was a sufficiency of the members of our communion, for an organization as a diocesan church. We anticipate, in hope, an increase of this distant part of our communion.
We go no further in remarks on the details of the report, as it describes the condition of the church in the various states: any further than to express our satisfaction at the encouragement which it supplies, and at the prospects which it opens, with our wishes that they may be realized.
The report concludes with a call on the house of bishops, to declare their sense on two interesting subjects--the carrying into effect of the provision of the Rubrics relative to public baptism, there being understood; the exception of cases of "great cause and necessity," and the qualifications of sponsors.
On the first of these subjects, we give our opinion, that it is the duty of the clergy, in their respective cures, to endeavour by argument and persuasion, to [4/5] accomplish a strict conformity to the Rubric: and we know not on what principle it can be dispensed with, except on that admitted in all jurisprudence ecclesiastical and civil--prevalent and long custom, not censured by those whose office it is to call to ac count for the violation of law. In the present case, the toleration of the departure from the Rubric in our mother church of England, for a long course of preceding years, and generally in the United States before and since the revolution, has weight on the present question.
It is worthy of notice, that between these two countries there is a great difference of circumstances operating against a strict observance of the Rubric in our case. In every part of England, there is easy access of the people to their minister, in the public performance of the service of the church; whereas, in consequence of the scattered residence of a great proportion of our episcopalian population in numerous districts of the United States, it is difficult and often impossible for people to bring their children very many miles for the purpose of their being baptized; or even to present them for reception after private baptism; which of course will be the whole received by them: and this, although an entire baptism, is short of what was contemplated by the Rubric.
These are considerations, which make us hesitate to aim at a degree of discipline, found to be unattainable in our parent church, although so much more favourably circumstanced for such an object. They are, however, what would have no weight with us, had the necessity of public baptism been enjoined on us by the word of God. This is not the case; as is [5/6] attested by St Philip's baptising of the eunuch, recorded in the eighth chapter of the Acts; by the narrative of the baptism of St. Paul, in the ninth chapter; by that of Cornelius and his household in the tenth, and by that of the jailer and his family in the sixteenth.
However weighty these facts, they do not render us insensible to the reasons, on which public baptism was introduced by ecclesiastical legislation, at an early period of the church. Accordingly, we again hold up to the conscience of every minister, the duty of his endeavouring to induce to it by argument and by persuasion. But we hesitate to enjoin strict conformity to the Rubric, when we know, that the consequence would be the leaving of a great proportion of the rising generation unbaptized; and the surrendering of another great proportion of them to the being baptized under circumstances, which would tend to attach them to communions differing from our own.
On the other question, the qualifications of sponsors, we have in the first place to remark, that, in the service, there are made very solemn appeals to the consciences of those who answer for a child: such, that if they can reconcile themselves to false professions in this shape, it does not appear, why they need to hesitate to extend the falsehood further. Independently on this, we should fear to authorize the minister's scrutiny into the movements of the mind of the party, which would make an inquisitor and a tyrant of every minister, whose constitutional character might incline him to the taking of such a stand.
In any case in which an infant may be presented by a person who is an "open and notorious evil liver," [6/7] the fact being known to the minister, with such evidence as that he can commit his conscience and his character on the issue, we think that the rejection would be laudable, and indeed a duty. But we do not carry this matter so far, as might be an incitement to the minister to hazard the incurring of the guilt of slander; perhaps to the putting of himself in danger of legal punishment: for although we suppose our courts to have great indulgence to the plea of the conscience of a clergyman, when its dictates are grounded on the institutions of his church; yet, where no such sanction can be perceived, but rather a contrariety, we think it probable, that there cannot be an inquiry into the private lives of people, without its being followed by very unhappy consequences.
How far it would be expedient to require that the sponsor should be a communicant, may be thought deserving of consideration. Both rubrics and canons are silent, as to this point: so that if the minister should exact such a condition, it would be a passing of the limits of his authority. If it should be held, that the state of the church is such as to render the expedient desirable, it should be by a concurrent act of the two houses. But we doubt of the expediency of this, in the present circumstances of the church; when there are so many, who are kept from the holy communion by prejudice and by misapprehension. We rejoice in what we know of the gradual decline of this restraint, from the most unequivocal form in which the profession of the name of Christ can be made before the world. Perhaps it may be thought, that the expedient now in question would tend to the same desirable issue. We are persuaded of the [7/8] contrary; and having witnessed the bad effects of all measures of this sort which will bear the appearance of denunciation or of exposure to public censure, and knowing that they have a tendency to the reverse of their designs, we wish on this point, as on the other, that there may be wielded no other arms than those of argument and persuasion.
We will conclude our remarks on both the subjects with stating, that our attention having been called to them by the representatives of the clerical and the lay deputies of our church; the occasion has been fraught with the advantage to us of a free comparing of our respective experience; and the consequence has been unanimity, in this free delivery of our resulting opinion.
It seems to have been expected of the house of bishops, that in their triennial address, they should present to the consideration of their fellow-members of the church, some subject or subjects called for by existing circumstances. We wish to bring forward, on the present occasion, what may be called the evangelical doctrine of our church; not as detached from her moral requisitions, but as including them; yet in opposition to every scheme which affects to do honour to the latter, by disparaging or dispensing with the other. There is no point, which it more concerns her to maintain, or that more distinguishes her from many human institutions, directed perhaps to laudable ends, but not claiming to be divine establishments, and therefore subjected to the determinations of human prudence.
The subject might be branched into a great variety of particulars, but we shall confine our view to the evidence of the property affirmed, and to the result of [8/9] it on our ecclesiastical concerns: and let it be remarked, that whatever may be the ground proper to be occupied on these points, they concern not the clergy only, but all whose religious states may depend in any degree, on the instructions which the clergy are to deliver.
In the display of the evidence of the evangelical character of our church, there will be no necessity of tracing the sentiment through all her doctrines and all her services; although on all of them the property in question has a discernible influence. It will be sufficient to delineate a few prominent truths of scripture, as professed by her in explicit terms; and to appeal, for the rest, to her unimpeached consistency of profession.
One of the truths which we present, as born witness to by our articles, and not by them only, but by innumerable passages in our prescribed devotions, is the natural state of man in the apostacy: as being that of alienation from God, not only in the forfeiture of immortality annexed to his original creation, but in a deterioration of his nature, in consequence of which its properties, in themselves suited to the purposes of his being, run wide of their appropriate uses; except so far as they may be restrained by worldly motives, having in them nothing of religious affection; or else subjected to a principle originating not in nature, but in a dispensation succeeding that which ended in Paradise.
We do not know, in what terms our church could have declared her sense more explicitly, than in those adopted by her. She begins her series of the doctrines of grace, by laying down the point of original sin; that is, the sin attached to our origin: according to which [9/10] the first man forfeited, for himself and his posterity, the gratuitous gifts which might have been originally denied to him without in justice, and conditionally held by him until his apostacy; and further, became subject to want and to disease, and to the temptations incident to them; and thereby to a natural tendency to sin.
Although our church considers the progeny of Adam as destitute of religious affections, and at the same time possessed of properties, which for want of the restraints of such affections, and because of exposure to temptation, have a tendency to all evil; yet she has not announced the many opinions which human ingenuity has founded on the premises. While we see no cause to acknowledge any defect in her institutions in this particular; we lament any representations of them, which make abatement from her decision, that man "is far gone from original righteousness" and is of his own nature inclined to evil. [Some prefer the Latin copy, which has "quam longissime," in English, "as far as possible." On the ground taken, there can be no objection: entire destitution of religious affections being affirmed. However, the English article is of the most authority, being the act of the earliest reformers, and not rendered into Latin until the reign of Elizabeth.]
Another doctrine of our Church, and what is a consequence of that already stated, is the utter inability of man, by any act or endeavour of his own, to recover from the privations of the apostacy. She could not have expressed herself in stronger language, than when she says--"The condition of man, after the fall of Adam, is such that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith and calling upon God: wherefore, we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by [10/11] Christ preventing that we may have a good will; and working with us, when we have that good will." When the articles were formed, there was an especial call for this explicitness; because of a species of pretended ability set up, by which the mind might prepare itself for grace, which could not be denied consistently with congruity: and this led to the notion of a further measure of grace, the fruit of the grace before given, and therefore now claimable on the ground of condignity. In contrariety to this curiously wrought theory, our Church teaches concerning even the preparatory exertions spoken of, that they proceed from grace bestowed on the part of God, and submitted to and improved on the part of man. This view of the subject, devests him of every pretence for trusting in his own strength: the vanity of which is fully established by consciousness of frailty, and by the inefficacy of mere resolution for the encountering of the temptations of the world; at the same time, that it abounds with incitements to the encouraging of every holy thought, and for the carrying of every good desire into effect. The contrary is the resistance of an agency, the discontinuance of which would render our condition desperate.
While each of the truths stated is big with improvement, especially attaching to itself; they combine in establishing as a third truth, what the church teaches in another article,--that "we are accounted righteous before God, only for the merits of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings." The truth is laid down in few words, but is amplified in one of the homilies, which, on that account, is referred to in the article, for a more frill disclosure of the sense entertained concerning [11/12] this subject of the highest importance. While it appears from the homily, that there is a disclaiming of merit, as attaching to any action which can be performed by man, faith is discoursed of, as containing in itself the seed or principle of every religious grace, and, of course, as manifesting itself in the conduct. This bars all pretence of approach to the solifidial scheme; whether shewing itself in the undisguised shape of antinomianism, or rendering this a natural although unperceived inference from a mistaken method of magnifying the grace of God in Christ. So that if we compare the eleventh article, with the homily on salvation or justification, we shall perceive the consistency of what the church says in her twelfth article,--that "although good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit." There is entire consistency, in the affirming in the most unqualified terms, of acceptance only through the merits of the Redeemer; and yet, in defining the end of the acceptance to be, the bringing to the state of mind which will manifest itself in a holy life and conversation. This is the double head of instruction, in the passage in which it is said--"who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
We have stated only a few, and them with brevity, of what we name the evangelical principles of our church. That they are few, is owing to their being [12/13] so far sufficient, as that they cannot consistently be held in alliance with any opinion, dissonant from the truth that salvation is of grace. Our brevity, is owing to the desire which we entertain, of noticing principally the result of the principle on our ecclesiastical concerns: the existence of the principle, being considered as a matter hardly liable to be denied or doubted of.
First, There is no truth more prominent in scripture, or that more deserves to be kept in view in our meditations on its contents, than what is affirmed where it is said--"that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God:" that is, not seem to rest on the former ground, because it is a foundation too slight for the superstructure; but maintaining its place on the latter--a revelation established by an omnipotent agency. If so, consistency dictates the position, that christian doctrine and christian morals should go hand in hand, for the accomplishing of their common object, the reformation of mankind. The imperfection of the moral system of the wisest among the heathen, is so clearly resolvable into the corruptions of their theology, that if there could be proved to have been among them any knowledge of God and of his attributes independently on revelation, of which however we entertain doubts, it would still follow, that the morals of christianity are essentially dependent on the disclosures which it makes of the divine economy in redemption. In addition to this, there is the notorious fact, of a deterioration in the principles and in the conduct of every body of men, from whom, in any country professedly christian, the scriptures are concealed, or suffered to [13/14] be only partially communicated, in consequence of a corrupt policy; and of the other description of persons, who desert the standard of Christ and enlist under that of infidelity.
These considerations prove that there is an intimate connexion between the truths and the duties of our holy religion. Let it be acknowledged, that moral perfection, comprehending the state of the affections as well as the exterior of the conduct, is the ultimate end to which all religion should be considered as subservient. Still, taking into view the human character on which the dispensation is to operate, we may pronounce, that it will never accomplish its intended effect, independently on the high truth, that "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself."
In giving expression to our sentiments on this subject, we would be far from countenancing that love of speculation, which leads to the display of ingenuity in unprofitable controversy. Equally far would we be from countenancing the cast of character, which does not look either for instruction or for edification in religious inquiries, otherwise than through the medium of the agitation of our animal mechanism. Further, we wish to guard every conscientious professor, against the speaking disparagingly of moral worth. In its strict meaning, it implies a right state of the inward man: and in its extent, it comprehends whatever is an imitation of the holiness of God. But there is an imperfection in language, which has occasioned the use of the word morality, as if it were no more than the being free from outward and flagitious sin. To deny the sufficiency of this for the constituting of acceptableness with God, is certainly the [14/15] indispensible demand of evangelical truth. But in doing this, there is need of caution; lest the unwary hearer should be led to low conceptions of duties, resting on the double ground of reason and revelation; considering material deficiency in them as made amends for, by the occasionally possessing of warm feelings of devotion. We have been mourning witnesses of the bad consequences of this, in its sanctioning of the want of government of the passions, and in its being a hindrance to the good offices which the social relations call for.
We have even reason to fear, that, as in a certain species of superstition, the stated performance of appointed acts of external devotion, is a mean of reconciling to the conscience all intermediate deviations from the divine law; so, a similar effect is produced even by inward sensibilities of the animal organization, in their being a palliative for a like laxity in some one or another of those offences against christian morals, which cover themselves under a pharisaical profession.
Hitherto, the subject has been spoken of generally, and without a special reference to the exercises of the pulpit: but, its bearing on these is too important, as well to hearers as to preachers, not to be particularly attended to.
Therefore, secondly; If the ground taken be correct, there should be frequently laid before congregations, with the suitable proofs and illustrations, the truths of the gospel the most prominent, and such as it cannot be devested of, without its being left a mere collection of moral precept, and a thread of historic record. We esteem it an advantage, that there is the appointed observance of certain days, to which those [15/16] subjects are peculiarly appropriate: for although the pastor of a congregation ought not to need such incitements to so unquestionable a duty; yet it may be of use to them both, to have so distinct a call to subjects, which might otherwise be in danger of being regarded too slightly. We do not mean to intimate, that these are the only occasions, on which the truths referred to may be at large stated from the pulpit; much less would we imply, that they are not to be discoverable, except when made the professed subjects of discourse.
For this reason we go on to remark, thirdly, that if a minister should explain to his flock any passage of sacred history, or, if he should define and incite to the attainment of any religious grace, or if he should delineate and exhort to the practice of any of the moral duties; in each of these departments, and in any other that might be named, there opens an opportunity of explaining, of proving, of illustrating, and of persuading in such a manner, as shall show an infusion of the virtue of evangelical truth, into the discussion of every topic. In an especial manner, the motives to duty shew this dependence on the spirit of the system. There can be no reasonable objection, to the proposing of motives resulting from moral fitness and from the dictates of prudence: Saint Paul himself having thought it worthy of his notice, to hold up to view "the promise of the life that now is." But the force of this will be feeble, unless we go on with him to "the life that is to come." The hope of the latter cannot be proposed with such evidence as shall render it "an anchor to the soul, sure and steadfast," except as it is furnished by the dispensation [16/17] which "hath brought life and immortality to light" But the dispensation must be taken in its full scope; since otherwise, the light is wanting, by which the life and the immortality are assured to us.
We are now entering on a subject of considerable delicacy: but it is forced on us by the preceding train of our reflections. The subject is--do the clergy of this church, in their ministerial exercises, give sufficient manifestation of their being under the influence of what we have shewn to be the evangelical spirit of the communion. In consequence of our own engagements, we are imperfect judges on this question: but we grieve, when we hear of deficiency in this particular; warranting the charge, that the desk and the pulpit are at variance. We bear our solemn protest against inconsistency of this description. We hold up to all our brethren of the ministry, what we conceive to be their and our duty in this matter. And we feel consolation in being in possession of a liturgy, which continually sends forth its protest, not only against error, but against suppression of material truth; and which, even as used by an unfaithful pastor, has sometimes preserved a hearer from being misled by him, or from being ignorant of the truths on which he is silent.
We cannot but know, that the distinction between evangelical and merely moral preaching is often misapplied to discourses, which sustain christian morals in alliance with the ground of them, in the truths of the ever blessed gospel: for there are some, who confound with the latter systems of human fabrication; and some who deem nothing evangelical, that stops short of the extravagances of enthusiasm. There are [17/18] many such instances, each of them contradictory to all the others; and all of them, wide of the simplicity of scriptural truth. The sincere minister of the gospel, may derive profit from what he hears and sees of this description: since he may be admonished by it, to be the more definite and the more earnest in inculcating what is thus perverted and abused. In doing this, he cannot too carefully regard an admonition, given by a venerable prelate long since deceased, to certain American missionaries of his day. They had been accused to him of not preaching the truths of the gospel. Without presuming the justice of the accusation, of which no evidence had been transmitted to him, he advised them to be the more attentive to the preaching and the clearing of the truths, which had been misrepresented or misapplied by others. The prelate, was Archbishop Seeker; than whom there was none in his high station, who had been more attentive to the concerns of the then infant churches of our communion.
The weight which ought to be allowed to the admonition of that eminent person, may be estimated by the fourth consideration to be now offered, the interest which should in reason be taken in the sustaining of the point proposed by us in this address.
It ought to be sufficient for the purpose, that the losing of sight of it has a strong tendency to infidelity: to which, we think it leads by a process of the mind not easily prevented. That the scriptures say much of the character of the divine author of our religion, of his being a sacrifice for sin, of the benefit of his redemption, and of the need of it in the state of man, is what even a superficial reader of them can [18/19] hardly fail to have remarked. But if these are to be overlooked, under pretence of respect for the sanctity of christian morals, it seems to follow, that, the world being in possession of the latter, we are but little concerned in the question, by what channel of communication we have become possessed of them: any more, than if a like question were to be raised in reference to the instructions of the heathen sages. It is true, as we have already remarked, that christian morality is not long sustained in its integrity, when it has become severed from christain doctrine. But the deterioration is induced gradually, and without men's being aware of the inconsistency of their profession in this respect. Were this not to happen, the severance must at least take away the sanction of divine command, than which there is no other motive sufficient to the resistance of human passion, and to be a counterpoise to the temptations of the world. In short, it was set forth by Christ in the beginning, that "the gospel of the kingdom should be preached in all the world, for a witness unto all nations." It is, therefore, to be taken in its full latitude, and cannot be narrowed by any expedient, which will not at last destroy it.
Accordingly, there is another motive to the taking of a deep interest in the subject: we mean, that wherever there is the separation here censured, it disqualifies the discourses of the pulpit from being any considerable mean of the conversion of sinners. This is a fact, which may be confirmed to us by observation. The fact may be accounted for, from the genius of the christian system: for, as there can be no conversion of the heart from sin. Without a beginning in repentance [19/20] and humiliation; and as these would be fruitful of despair, unless met by the consolations which the gospel only can supply; the removal of the truths of the system must be a bar to reformation, and to the means by which it is to be accomplished.
We do not doubt, that the consolations of the gospel are often brought home to the awakened heart, by the edifying matter of our common prayer. But, when this is done independently on aid from wholesome instructions of the preacher, he is without an agency in any good which may be thus achieved; and not only so, there it lost, through his insufficiency, the influence of an important institution appointed by divine wisdom for the salvation of mankind. It will be in vain, that we may be told of the tumults of passion, which are sometimes produced by a zealous preaching of the gospel. When this happens, it is owing to errors unhappily associated with the truth. Even then, although the effects are often evanescent, yet instances occur of sinners thus converted from the error of their ways: which shows, how much more lasting benefit may be accomplished by the same truths as declared in the gospel; but proclaimed to sinners in such terms, as shall cause them to reach their hearts through the medium of their understandings. Let saint Paul be attended to, giving a lesson as to this point. He could not have delivered a more complete code of morals, than when he stated that of christianity, to be the living soberly, righteously, and godlily in this present world." And yet, he began with laying the ground-work of this exhibition of christian morals, in the "grace of God to all men," which had "appeared."
 Further, we wish another motive to be considered as well by the laity as by the clergy; by both as affecting the consistency of their profession, and by the latter, as adding to this a failure of fidelity pledged under the most solemn promises, on their entering into the ministry. The motive, is that the said line of separation, drawn between christian doctrine and christian morals, is one of the most effectual means which could have been devised for the producing of the decline, and at last the destruction of this church: which indeed ought not to be lamented, on the supposition of the correctness of the distinction made; because there will be the obvious inference, that she teaches, with great zeal, many things which are irrelevant to the spiritual and everlasting happiness of men. We see no inducements to such severance, in any instances which are brought to our recollection of religious communion formed with an accommodation to the principle. We rather consider such associations, as opening an easy passage to infidelity. Still, there may be consistency between the profession and the practice. But when persons so disposed insidiously intrude into the ministry of our church, there is a difference in the two cases; like that between poison, so placed as that it may be mistaken for medicine, and the same substance insinuated into the constitution, and preying on its vitals.
While we are sustaining the evangelical character of our church, and tracing the effects which it should produce as well on the laity as on the clergy of her communion, we would especially impress on the consciences of the latter, the engaging in this part of their work, with a degree of zeal suited to its [21/22] importance the truths of the gospel may be correctly preached, while there is nothing in the matter or in the manner of the discourse, nor yet in the life and the conversation of the preacher, indicating a controlling ascendency of the truth over his affections. We would be far from estimating his character, in proportion to the degree of animal fervor either in his public or in his private exercises. We learn from the highest authority, and we see or hear of frequent verifying of the position, that there is "a zeal not according to knowledge." What is worse, there may be a settled cast of character, moulded to the temporary feelings attendant on the hasty judgment of two of the disciples of our Saviour, when they would have "called down fire from heaven," on the inhospitable inhabitants of a Samaritan village. Even when a man is "zealously affected in a good thing," and when his zeal is manifested in the sacred desk, and on subjects suited to it; however laudable this, and however necessary in a due degree to the evincing of his sincerity; it is impossible, that the degree should give a rule of measurement of the integrity of his mind: because, not knowing his heart, we cannot minutely perceive its movements; and because, so deceitful is the heart, that the agent himself may not be aware, in what degree the love of applause, or the love of rule, or some other frailty of nature, may associate itself with a general wish to promote the glory of God and the good of his fellow men. Thus, if it be not the dead fly that spoils the precious ointment of the word, yet it is a weed from nature's sour soil, causing a disrelish of the fruits of grace.
 For this reason, although we approve of all well tempered zeal in instructions delivered from the pulpit, and indeed, consider the absence of it as a proof of indifference stamped on the character of the instructor; yet we see a more unequivocal test of the purity of this affection, in habitual conversation seasoned with the salt of divine grace, unalloyed by vanity or by ostentation; in vigilance for opportunities of speaking a word in season; in reproof, so administered as not to be liable to the charge of arrogance, or of the love of censure; and in consolation conveyed under the various states of mind, which cannot but be often laid open to every minister of the gospel, who is qualified for such occasions, and who feels an interest in promoting the spiritual welfare of the applicants. We know, that a minister may be occupied in such employment, without the eclat which is sometimes attendant on very moderate talent, put forth to public view in the exercises of the pulpit: but while we know not how far the one is associated with vanity, either as its cause or as its effect; the other resolves itself into the sole cause of ministerial fidelity; and points to the effects of an approving conscience in the minister, and of edification to the people.
The result of the considerations which have been detailed, is a solemn call to be now made by us on the members of our church generally, and especially on her clergy; on the former, to sustain, in their respective spheres, the character of the communion which has been displayed; and to be on their guard against any professors under the name of churchmen, who would be thought to have in their hands the lamp of their profession, although they have [23/24] emptied it of its oil. Of clergymen of this description, we do not hesitate to say, that they are energies under the deceitful appearance of friendship. Saint Paul has described the essentials of christian doctrine under the image "of a foundation, other than which no man can lay," and he has represented instructions of various sorts, under the figure of materials laid on that foundation, differing in their respective value: as "gold, silver and precious stones" on the one hand, differ from "wood, hay and stubble" on the other. What we are here faulting, comes under neither of these heads, but is an abandoning of the foundation.
If there be any who make inroads on the order of the worship of our church, under the notion that they are thereby rising to a greater height of evangelism; we guard against being understood, as in any degree favouring such disorder. On the contrary, if it were given way to, there would follow the destruction of the characteristic features of our church, inherited by her from her mother church of England, It is the desire of the hearts of your bishops, to perpetuate the principles of that church as cleared from antiscriptural inventions at the reformation: and in this design, we invite the co-operation of all the membres of our communion.
Signed by order of the house of bishops,