Project Canterbury

Obsequies and Obituary Notices of the Late Right Reverend Benjamin Tredwell Onderdonk

New York: H. B. Price, 1862.

Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2007








[173] The following discourse, intended only for parochial use, was delivered in the Church of the Annunciation on the Sunday following Bishop Onderdonk's death; and was repeated, with slight alterations, when at the request of his family and a number of his clergy, and with the sanction of the Bishop of the Diocese, it became the duty of the author to preach at his funeral in Trinity church. [The funeral was held on May 7, 1861]. It is now published at the request of the bishops and clergy who heard it, and in compliance with the following Resolution which the Vestry of Trinity Church, with characteristic liberality and with a laudable desire to honor the memory of their departed Bishop, adopted and ordered on their minutes:

Resolved, That a copy of the sermon on the death of the late Bishop Onderdonk be requested of Dr. Seabury for publication, and that one thousand copies be published for gratuitous distribution, and the expenses attending the same be paid by the comptroller.
A true copy. [Signed] G. M. OGDEN, Clerk

The relation in which Bishop Onderdonk was placed to the Church by the action of his Episcopal colleagues and in which he was allowed to remain till the day of his death, gives significance to the fact (which under other circumstances would be hardly worthy of note) that his funeral was the most imposing demonstration of respect and affection ever rendered to the memory of a Bishop in our Church. Several hundreds of the clergy from this and the neighboring Dioceses, many of them at great personal inconvenience, were present; and hundreds of laymen, some of whom had come for the purpose from distant parts of the State, sought in vain to gain admission into the church. An eloquent description of the funeral, taken from The Church Journal, will be found in an appendix to the discourse. [* The article from the Church Journal is printed in a previous page of this pamphlet.] In this description are inserted the Resolutions of the clergy of the Diocese and of its Standing Committee, and annexed to it are those of the Faculty of the General Theological Seminary; in which the Bishop retained his professorship to the day of his death, though debarred for many years past from inculcating on its students those sound views of the nature, ministry, and polity of the Church which he was known to entertain.

Next to the comfort inspired by the approbation of God and one's own [173/174] conscience, is that which is derived from the approbation of good men. It was the privilege of the deceased, if charity indeed may be allowed to draw from his words and actions a favorable judgment of his heart, to enjoy the former in no common degree; and few men more ingenuously coveted the latter when it could be honorably obtained, or smarted more poignantly under the want of it when it was unjustly withheld, or cruelly and capriciously withdrawn. I shall not violate in this brief note the reserve I have imposed on myself in the discourse which follows it: but this much I may say; that the good opinion of those of his own Communion, and especially of his Diocese, who, from the beginning of his troubles, confided in his integrity, or who were afterwards won over to respect him by the silent eloquence of his sufferings; and of the many others, in distant places and different communions, who were bound to him only by the ties of a common humanity and religion, and by that reverence for the safeguards of reputation which humanity and religion ought to inspire, was, next to the testimony of his conscience and the hope of again serving God in the duties of his ministry, the light of his darkness, and the solace of his sorrow. This assurance is due to all who extended to him, during the bitterness of his humiliation, just and generous thoughts, or spoke in his behalf kind and fearless words; offerings of small account with the world, but noted and treasured up by Him who has promised that a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple shall not lose its reward. The extent of this sympathy with the deceased, and the hold which he really had on the hearts of his clergy and people, were indeed unknown to him in life, and only revealed in all their depth and fulness after his death but it is all right; nor should we wish to change what Divine Providence has ordered; remembering that "men see the end of the wise and understand not what God in His counsel hath decreed of him, and to what end the Lord hath set him at rest."

S. S.

New York, Whitsun-tide, A. D. 1861.


"He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light."--John v. 35.

WHEN our Blessed Lord had wrought one of His miraculous cures, the Jews persecuted and sought to kill Him, because He had done it on the Sabbath day. Jesus replied: "My Father worketh hitherto and I work," thus intimating to them that though there had been a rest from the work of creation (which the Sabbath commemorated), there had yet been no rest from the work of Providence; and that the miracle He had wrought was only a continuance of that goodness and wisdom which He in unity with His Father had always exercised in the government of the world. The Jews then sought the more to kill Him, because He had not only broken the Sabbath, but had said also that God was His Father, in such sense as to make Himself equal with God. Our Lord embraced the occasion to declare to them more fully the nature of His office and mission, assuring them that His authority over mankind was not limited to this life; that He would be their Judge hereafter; and that in order to the consummation of His plans, all that were in their graves would arise; they that had done good to the resurrection of life, and they that had done evil to the resurrection of damnation. [*The introductory paragraph, and a few passages in the body of the discourse, not essential to the connection of thought, were omitted in the delivery.]

That none might reject Him for want of sufficient testimony our Lord then declared to the Jews, that He did not rest the proof of His authority on His own word alone, but on other grounds: His miraculous works, the types and prophecies of the Scriptures, and the voice from Heaven of the Father publicly acknowledging and proclaiming Him to be His Son. There was another proof of less consequence indeed, but one which those whom He addressed had no right to reject, because they had themselves appealed to it; and that was the testimony of John the Baptist. "Ye sent unto John," He said, "and he bare witness unto the truth" that I am the Messiah; and though I need not this testimony from man, yet I insist on it for your sakes that ye may be saved. "He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." Ye owned him for a just man and a prophet; [175/176] while he lived he testified of Me; do not therefore reject his testimony now that he is dead; but consider and lay it to heart that it may work in you that faith by which you may be saved.

He was a burning and a shining light; a lamp or candle as the original word signifies, and as the English word light often means; a lamp kindled at the fountain of Light and diffusing the radiance of Him who revealed Himself as the light of the world. Or to express the same idea without the metaphor, we may say that St. John the Baptist bore, during his whole life, a distinct and impressive testimony to the truth and heavenly origin of the doctrine that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Saviour of mankind.

This testimony of St. John the Baptist consisted both in what he did and in what he suffered for the religion of Jesus Christ. During part of his life he bore testimony to Christ in the active duties of his ministry; and when his boldness in preaching repentance, and rebuking vice, had provoked the malice of implacable enemies and led to his imprisonment, he then continued to bear witness to the truth in a life of retirement from the world and of suffering for his Master's sake.

The words which our Lord applied to the Holy Baptist, have been often applied, in a qualified sense, to the ministers of God and other Christians, who in their several generations, have been lights of the world. All such, while strength and opportunity were given, have served God in the active duties of their several vocations; and when debarred from these they have continued to serve Him in the passive duties of resignation and submission to His blessed will. From Christ the light which enlivened their labors and sufferings is derived; for Christ the light of their example is manifested to the world. However eminent or however humble their station in the Church, their life, if they sincerely believe and practice the Christian faith, is a testimony for Christ; a light to the generation in which they live, burning and shining in proportion to the sincerity of their faith and the vigor of their charity.

The life of the venerable Bishop, who has recently been taken from among us, like that of every good Christian, has been a testimony to the truth and efficacy of the religion of Jesus Christ. But unlike that of most others his life has been divided into two distinct portions; the one marked chiefly by resolute action, the other exclusively by patient suffering. He is now beyond the reach of human praise: and I need not tell you that the object of a funeral commemoration is not to eulogize the dead but to benefit the living. Such honor as is due to the departed and as serves to promote this end, it is meet and right for us to render. Such praise and commendation as would defeat this end, and stir up the smouldering embers [176/177] of strife and jealousy, even though justly due, it were needless to utter and better to restrain. Guided by this principle, which I know would not only be sanctioned but imperatively enjoined on me by our departed father were he to direct my speech, I ask your attention on this occasion, to a brief review of his life; his acts and sufferings for the sake of Christ; in the simple desire to promote the Christian edification of us, the clergy and people who were committed to his charge. The tie which bound us to our Bishop was never wholly severed until it was severed by death; on his part it was always, even to his latest breath, tenderly and affectionately cherished; and its providential continuance, long after he was restrained from the active duties of his ministry, if it do not increase, will not, it may be hoped, diminish the influence which the example of his virtues ought to have upon our hearts and lives.

His father, a much respected physician of this city, his mother, a woman remarkable for strength of character, dignity of deportment, and Christian virtue; both communicants of the Church, and of high social position, it was the happiness of Bishop Onderdonk to be devoted to God in infancy, and to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Distinguished in childhood by piety and devotion, by sincerity and truthfulness, and by a sobriety and gravity above his years, he did but fulfil the expectations of all who knew him, when on leaving college he set himself, in dependence on the grace of God, to prepare for the duties of the Holy Ministry. The foundation which he laid and fortified at this time was the same on which he ever afterwards stood. The fall of man by sin; his redemption by the voluntary humiliation and sacrifice of the Son of God to the capacity of pardon and eternal life; and the establishment of the Church of Christ on earth as the means of preserving the true religion, and of deriving from its Head in Heaven that spiritual influence which is necessary to open to men an access to the Father through the Son and by the Holy Spirit on the prescribed conditions of the Gospel covenant; these were the principles on which indeed his youthful character had been formed, but which in his preparation for the Holy Ministry, under the supervision of one of the brightest luminaries of the Church, became distinctly defined to his consciousness, and intimately in-wrought with all the fibres of his mind and heart. From these principles he never swerved; in all that he taught and did for the sake of Christ, they were his constant guide; in all that he suffered for the same cause they were his unfailing support. His discourses, both oral and published, were an expansion of these principles; his government of his diocese, and his agency in the general councils of the Church were an application of [177/178] these principles; and his patient submission to her discipline was the legitimate fruit of these principles. His whole life, so far as it was devoted to Christ at all, was a consistent development of the one grand truth that the institution of the Church on earth, with its ministry and sacraments, in dependence on and communion with its Head in Heaven, is the divinely appointed and only authorized means of recovering mankind by repentance and faith in the second Adam, from that state of utter ruin in which they were involved by the apostacy of the first Adam.

Admitted in the twenty-second year of his life to the Holy Order of Deacon, he was soon afterwards chosen an assistant minister of Trinity church. On attaining the canonical age he was ordained priest at Newark, N. J., in company with his fast friend, the late Dr. Bayard, the ordination being held by Bishop Hobart, who had also admitted him to the Diaconate.

My personal knowledge of our departed Bishop began soon after this time; and though then a child, I still remember with gratitude the pious and affectionate counsel which I received from him. From that time to the present I have known him as well and as intimately as it is often permitted one man to know another, and I have no hesitation in saying that in all the freedom of private intercourse, I have never heard from him a word which might not have been uttered before the angels of Heaven, or which he will, in my opinion, wish unsaid at the day of judgment. I mean by this to affirm that in all my intercourse with him the strictest moral purity has governed his words, and as far as I could see his thoughts and affections.

During his connection with Trinity church, or at least until his consecration to the Episcopate, Bishop Onderdonk was chiefly distinguished for his fidelity as a Parish Priest. His labors in visiting the people committed to his charge, particularly the poor, the sick and afflicted, and in instructing the young, were systematic and assiduous, and won for him great commendation. [* FOOTNOTE #1]

In the pulpit, Dr. Onderdonk was at that time overshadowed in popular estimation, by the more brilliant, animated and [178/179] persuasive eloquence of Bishop Hobart. His pulpit discourses, however, were always acknowledged to be sound, judicious and instructive; nor were they ever wanting in those earnest and pathetic appeals which are designed to awaken the conscience of the hearer, and to impress on him the distinctive truths of the Christian Faith in connection with its awful sanctions, and under a deep sense of personal responsibility.

Bishop Hobart was called to administer the affairs of this diocese at a time when, owing to the laxity in doctrine of one of his predecessors and the amiable forbearance of the other, the real nature of the Christian Church, as a society divinely appointed for the preservation of the true religion and the salvation of mankind, was very imperfectly understood. The intrepidity and learning with which he avowed and inculcated the true principles of the Church; the piety and eloquence with which he recommended them; the measures which he originated in his diocese for giving them practical operation [179/180] and effect; the occasions which occurred, in the Providence of God, for their enunciation and defence; the courage, promptitude, and ability with which he met these occasions and turned them to the advancement of the great end and object of his life; the controversies which were thus awakened and the hostility which was provoked; all this is well known to those (and it startles me to think how few they have now become!) whose memory reaches back to those times. Dr. Onderdonk, from the steadiness of his judgment, and from the studies to which his mind, in a manner quite independent of Bishop Hobart, had in early life been providentially directed, [* FOOTNOTE #2] was eminently fitted, in every trial and peril of the faith, to help his spiritual father, and to ward off the shafts which were aimed at him. Nor was he ever backward in the discharge of this duty. The press as well as the pulpit attested his ability; and the pamphlets which he put forth, in defence of his Bishop, with and without his name, were highly satisfactory to his friends, and conceded by all to be able and dignified. The sermons, too, which he published on several important occasions added to his reputation as a sound and able divine. His stated and occasional contributions also to periodical journals, through the whole of his ministry, were of immense service in diffusing a just knowledge of the Church, and creating a healthy and conservative tone of piety among her members. He was indeed a divine lamp, illuminating the hearts of the faithful with the true light of Holy Writ. [* FOOTNOTE #3] Essays on the institutions and usages of the Church, opinions that will have the weight of authority on her rubrics and canons, and expositions of her doctrines, designed to exhibit their scriptural warrant, and their practical and devotional efficacy (and volumes of these fugitive publications might be collected), are [180/181] proofs of a zeal and ability in the cause of Christ and His Church, which have been rarely equalled.

At the time of which I speak the cause of the Church was exceedingly unpopular. It was impossible to stand up fully to her principles without forfeiting reputation for liberality of sentiment and evangelical piety, and incurring the imputations of intolerance and bigotry, and of spiritual blindness and apathy. The desolation and distractions which were afterwards produced in this State by what were called revivals of religion, and the remarkable movement which began about the same time in favor of Church principles and usages, and of a piety, steady, substantial and unobtrusive, in place of that which was fitful, erratic and demonstrative, have had the effect to raise the character of the Church in public estimation. But in the days of Bishop Hobart, it was some trial of a man's courage to avow principles which he has now no temptation to conceal. In times like these, Dr. Onderdonk was inflexible; firm as an anvil [* FOOTNOTE #4] under the strokes of heresy and schism. He gave his Bishop, both in public and private, no evasive and shuffling support. He was never charged with being a time-server, nor with diluting his principles to suit the popular taste. He was never charged with indiscreet or intemperate zeal in the advocacy of his principles. The only charges brought against him were the stale ones of bigotry, narrow-mindedness and servility to his Bishop; and the contempt implied in such reproaches, he estimated at its true value: desiring no higher honor of the world than to be counted a bigot in an heretical and degenerate age.

On the death of Bishop Hobart, in 1830, Dr. Onderdonk was universally regarded as the man best adapted to administer the Diocese on the principles which Bishop Hobart had so fearlessly inculcated. He was accordingly chosen, with a good degree of unanimity, to become its Bishop, and was in due time consecrated to that exalted office. To the neglect of his worldly affairs and the sacrifice of domestic comfort, and with a generous and guileless confidence in the affections of his people, he devoted himself anew to the Church of the Redeemer. He concurred in all general and authorized measures for its advancement, but sought especially, after the example of his predecessor, to give efficiency to the several societies of the Diocese; not merely because they were Diocesan institutions, but because they concede less than those of a more general nature [* FOOTNOTE #5] to the spirit of the age and are more rigidly [181/182] adapted to disseminate the Word of God in connection with the Church of God. In all parts of the Diocese, which during a portion of his Episcopate was coterminous with the entire State, his appointments were numerous and punctually fulfilled; and his services, especially his discourses from the pulpit, were highly acceptable and satisfactory. His annual addresses to the Convention of his Diocese, while they prove the extent of his labors, abound with suggestions of practical wisdom; while his charges and occasional papers, brought out by remarkable events, are eminently worthy of their place in the archives of the Church.

It was some eight or ten years after his induction into the Episcopate when the extraordinary impulse which had been given to Church principles in England began to be felt in this country. By Church principles I mean, as I have explained, those principles which represent the Church of Christ to be not merely a national establishment, nor yet a Christian association [182/183] formed by pious and learned men for the diffusion of the Scriptures and for the promotion of a holy life agreeably to the Scriptures; but an orderly and visible society of heavenly nature and origin; planted on earth by Christ himself; propagated, by laws which Christ had given, to later ages and distant countries so as never to lose its identity and union with its divine Head; appointed by God himself to preserve and transmit true religion and to be the means to the latest times of recovering fallen man from his apostacy and of restoring him by the energy of the Holy Spirit, on his repentance and faith in Christ our only Saviour, to the communion of the Blessed. These principles were at that time wonderfully resuscitated; and they were eloquently and vigorously proclaimed, though in connection, it must be admitted, with opinions and usages of doubtful or pernicious tendency. The heavenly seed was plentifully scattered; but with the wheat, tares and weeds sprang up, as they are wont, from the soil of our degenerate nature. As an inevitable result the Church, especially in this Diocese, was shaken with the winds of controversy. On the one side the principles were vigorously maintained in despite of the errors that were mixed with them; on the other side the errors were assailed for the very purpose of stifling the principles which they encumbered and deformed. Of these principles Bishop Onderdonk showed himself at this time, what indeed he had always been, the uncompromising advocate. Applying his favorite canon of antiquity, universality, and consent, explained and inculcated by him, after the example of Vincentius Lirinensis in a discourse published years before the Oxford movement was heard of in this country, he discriminated the opinions and usages; commending those which stood the test of the canon of Vincentius, and repudiating and condemning without stint those which were of later growth. In his own Diocese he was sustained with enthusiasm by a very large majority of the clergy and a majority of the laity. To true Churchmen throughout all the Dioceses of the Union, and by true Churchmen I mean those who adhered to the principles I have defined, his name was a tower of strength; while to all others, the Bishop of the Diocese of New York was a stumbling block and a rock of offence.

In October, 1844, Bishop Onderdonk was at the zenith of his fame; surrounded by a body of clergy who admired his courage and firmness, and to whom he was at that moment especially endeared by the noble stand he had taken in the Convention of the week previous, in behalf of the Liturgy of the Church, and in opposition to the changes which were then beginning to be advocated in order to bring it down to the [183/184] level of the times. [* FOOTNOTE #6] At the expiration of two months after this, our Bishop was BURIED ALIVE: accused by the Bishops of three remote Dioceses before a court of their order, and by that court suspended from the exercise of his ministry and from the office of a Bishop in the Church of God. I leave therefore the active portion of his life with the simple remark, that the feeble outline I have given of his services, but for the event which arrested his active career, and which fell upon the Church like a thunder clap in a clear sky, would have eminently justified the application of the text: "He was a burning and a shining light, and ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light." Now as then, it can be no harm, I hope, to recount his services and to rejoice in them, so that our joy [184/185] in his virtues lead us to imitate them, and to serve and glorify Him from Whom alone all Christian virtues proceed.

In passing to the other portion of Bishop Onderdonk's life, I must be permitted to call your attention to two facts. The first is that the verdict of the court that tried him was not unanimous, six of the Bishops wholly exonerating him from the charges of which the majority convicted him. The other is that although suspended by the court from the Holy Ministry on the charge of immorality and impurity, he was not suspended from the Holy Communion. On the contrary, he was permitted to live, and did live from his suspension to the day of his death, in the Communion of that very Church, and consequently in the Communion of those very Bishops, who had deprived the Diocese of New York of his services, and banished him from the General Councils of the Church. I do not impeach the consistency of his judges; they kept in this respect within the limits of the canon; I merely wish the fact to be noted, that though in the declared judgment of the Church he was unworthy of the Holy Ministry; yet with the full knowledge and implied approbation of the Church he was at once, publicly and with express Episcopal sanction, [* The Communion was administered to him, the first Sunday after his suspension, in his parish church, by the late venerable Bp. Gadsden, of South Carolina] accounted, [185/186] and to the day of his death continued to be accounted worthy of the Holy Communion. [* FOOTNOTE #7]

In anguish of soul, but with characteristic promptitude, our Bishop at once marked out for himself the road he was to travel in the bleak and inhospitable region on whose coast he was wrecked. He bowed to the authority of the Church, received his sentence with humble and submissive temper, and resolved to conform to it in its spirit as well as its letter. He not only sought no opportunity to exercise his office, but he withdrew from the world, that he might devote himself in retirement to the duties of a holy life. The treachery of professed friends, the neglect and ingratitude, the violations of decorum and charity, or what he esteemed such, he could not but deeply feel, and in some marked cases resent; but his resentment was that of sorrow, not of anger or revenge. The spirit of meekness and forgiveness dwelt in his heart, and distilled from his lips. Of his accusers and of his judges who [186/187] condemned him (and from whose condemnation no appeal could be taken save to the judgment seat of God), [* The decision of the Court in Bishop Onderdonk's case was final. The Church had provided for no appeal; and an appeal from her decision to that of a civil court, though often urged on him, was steadfastly rejected as inconsistent with his sense of duty and submission to the authority of the Church.] he uniformly spoke with all the respect and kindness that were possible for one who felt himself injured by their decision. He said all in their favor that truth would allow and charity dictate. He made no unworthy concessions, no mean compliances; though he never affected to disguise the gratification which he felt at the visits of his numerous friends, and their expressions or messages of regard and confidence. The hope that he might again be permitted to exercise the duties of his ministry was the solace of his life. All else on earth he could relinquish, but the extinction of this hope was death. To realize it he was content to make every admission which ingenuity could devise, consistent with the protestation of substantial innocence. Every repression of this hope on the part of those who had it in their power to gratify it, led him to examine more deeply the recesses of his soul, and stirred him up to new acts of self-abasement and penitence, new resolutions of watchfulness and self-control, in order that he might make himself, through God's grace, more and more fit by the arts of holy prudence and circumspection to guard against even the appearance of evil in the exercise of his ministry whensoever the good Providence of God should permit him to resume it. And when at last this hope was quenched, and he realized what he had been slow to believe, that his Master, had no further work for him to do on earth, and that there was really [187/188] nothing left to him but that confidence in God, of which he was always humbly resolved never to be robbed, it can be no wonder that his bodily health began visibly to decline. The refusal, after fifteen years of prayer and suffering, to permit him to exercise the Christian ministry on earth, seemed to be a summons to exchange the Bishop's mitre for the Confessor's crown, and to pass from the Church militant to the Church triumphant.

When the last effort [* FOOTNOTE #8] was made, some two years ago, to induce the Bishops of the Church to use the power vested in them by the General Convention for our Bishop's relief, the vestry of his parish church united in the movement. They sent a memorial to the House of Bishops representing to that venerable body "That Bishop Onderdonk for nearly fifteen years, or ever since his suspension, had been a member of their parish and a constant attendant of Divine Service, both on week days and Sundays. From this circumstance it has happened," they say, "that some or other members of our parish have been, during the whole of this time, in habits of daily intercourse with our Bishop, and that we its representatives, have had opportunities not possessed by others, of observing his deportment; and we have no hesitation," they added, "in bearing our unequivocal testimony to the purity and holiness of his life and conversation during the whole time of his connection with our parish. In the sanctuary, we have been impressed and edified by his humble and reverential deportment. In his social intercourse we have seen no levity in his manners, nor any evidence of impatience or discontent under his sufferings; nor have we ever heard from his lips the words of murmur or reproach. Degraded in the Providence of God to the rank of those over whom he once used to preside, he has set us a bright example of self-respect as a man, and of quiet and uncomplaining submission as a Christian; and though debarred from the exercise of his office, he has uniformly displayed the gravity and dignity that are fitted to adorn it." This testimonial was signed by all the members of the vestry; and I have read this extract because it goes to show that they who knew him best, loved and revered him most; and because also in this brief passage you have, as it were, a portrait of the man in his retirement from the world. A strenuous advocate on principle for the daily service of the Church, he was also a [188/189] constant and punctual attendant on it: neither heat, nor cold, nor storm kept him from his place: beside this there is little variety of incident to recount, and the last seventeen years of his life may be briefly summed up in the words, "He departed not from the temple, but served God day and night with prayers." Sequestered from this troublesome world, he lived but to converse with God, and to meditate on that blessed place to which, we trust, he has now arrived, and on that blessed company to which we humbly hope he is now united. [* See Bishop Horne's Life and Death of St. John the Baptist, sect. vii]

Although the health of the Bishop had been during the winter visibly declining, yet it was his own opinion and the opinion of those around him, that it would be in some measure renewed by the return of the genial season which renews the face of nature. He understood that the disease under which he labored would be ultimately fatal, but he looked forward, until a few days before his death, to a partial recovery. It fell to my lot to undeceive him in this respect, and to assure him that the hand of death was upon him. [* This interview was on the morning of Thursday, April 25th] He received the communication with the utmost calmness and seriousness, but with a full sense of its importance. He felt, he said, the solemnity of death, but it was an event on which his mind had been habitually fixed; he expressed surprise that there should have been any hesitation in speaking plainly to him on the subject, and thanked me for my Christian kindness, as he was pleased to call it, in making to him the announcement. After a brief conversation, I proposed to him the reception of the Holy Communion. He seemed to have anticipated the suggestion; spoke of it as the closing act of his life, and one which ought to be preceded by a special preparation, and promised to appoint a time for the purpose. On the Sunday following I administered to him the Blessed Sacrament in the midst of his family, all of whom, as many as were present, united with him in the participation. He received the Holy Mysteries with his accustomed evidences of earnest penitence and deep humility; of lively faith, of fervent charity, and of sincere and unreserved forgiveness as he hoped to be forgiven. Nothing occurred to mar the quiet joy of the heavenly scene unless it were his expression of regret that, through some misunderstanding, two of his old and dear friends whom he had expected were not present on the occasion. (The Rev. Dr. M'Vickar and the Rev. Dr. S. R. Johnson) [* FOOTNOTE #9]

[190] On the following morning I visited him again, but found him, though in full possession of his mental powers, yet too weak for conversation. I may here mention that immediately before administering to him the Holy Communion I had asked him if he wished me to use in connection with the Communion Service, any part of the Office for the Visitation of the Sick. He answered, "Yes; use the prayer in which we beseech God to continue this sick member in the unity of the Church;" adding that it had always been with him a favorite prayer; "and use also," he said, "the Collect for all present at the Visitation." On this occasion, finding him as I said too weak for [190/191] conversation, I could only ask him to unite with me in these and other parts of the same office. This he did with great composure and fervor of mind. It was not my privilege to see him again. Early the next day he expired.

Few men have passed through such a fight of afflictions, and had so many trials, so many opportunities to exemplify the highest graces of the Christian character [* FOOTNOTE #10] as our deceased father in God. To those of his clergy and people who have adhered to him through good and evil report, who have steadfastly believed in the unblemished purity of his character; or who believing that he had erred, loved him for the many beautiful traits which his sufferings developed, it is a matter of heartfelt satisfaction to believe that in him, as far as human eye can discern, patience, charity, and brotherly kindness had their perfect work. The graces and virtues brought out by his sufferings in his retirement from the world, no less than the extraordinary abilities displayed in the active duties of his eminent station, prove him to have been indeed "a burning and a shining light." They who do not appreciate his example, of course cannot imitate it. But let us who have rejoiced in his light be guided by it to Christ our Saviour; that copying the patience and humility, the faith and charity, the courage and constancy, and the noble and forgiving temper of our departed father, we may be preserved in the unity of the Church in this world, and admitted to the company of the blessed in the world to come, through Jesus Christ our only Saviour and Redeemer; to Whom in unity with the Father and the Holy Ghost be all glory now and forever! Amen.


FOOTNOTE #1: In reference to this point it cannot be deemed inappropriate to introduce the following testimony from the venerable Rector of Trinity Church:

"In 1836, the Episcopal Fund having reached the point which was deemed requisite for the support of the Bishop of the Diocese, Bishop Onderdonk's connection with Trinity Church was consequently dissolved. The deep humiliation to which he has since been reduced and the obloquy, the scorn and contempt with which he has been loaded, will not prevent me from exhibiting him as he was in the estimation of his friends and in his relation to this Parish.

"I had been at that time in habits of the closest and dearest intimacy with him for thirty years. I became acquainted with him at college in early life, he was my fellow student in Divinity, and as soon as he was ordained, he was associated with me in the same Parish, from opening manhood till he had considerably passed the period of middle age. From our common duties and our mutual regard, we were brought into constant intercourse with each other, so that all his infirmities and faults, as well as his virtues and graces, were laid open before me.

"In his very youth he was grave, sedate, and thoughtful, to a degree which is seldom seen; correct in his principles; pure in heart, and unspotted in life. In his academic pursuits and in his preparation for the ministry, he was so unwearied in his diligence and so laudable in his ambition as to have distinguished himself greatly in both. And when he at length entered upon the exercise of his office, it was with such a devout temper of mind, such a conscientious view of his duties, and such a fixed determination to discharge them as within the range of my observation, at least, has never been surpassed. These duties, in the very outset of his course in this extensive Parish, were exceedingly heavy. But he never shrunk from any labor; he never tired in his own work, nor hesitated in an emergency to help his brethren.

"He had at once the physical strength which enabled him to bear the utmost degree of labor, and the ready will to perform it with cheerfulness.

"But he was not only indefatigable in the performance of his public duties, but most assiduous and faithful as a pastor, going about continually doing good, and especially among the sick and the needy, the afflicted and distressed.

"This pastoral attention to the members of the Parish was a duty to which I had always attached the greatest importance myself, and which, according to my ability, I had endeavored to discharge. I was constantly among the people, where he was held in the utmost respect and affection, and where, until several years after his entrance into the Episcopate, the breath of reproach had never reached him.

"They are witnesses with me how holily and unblamably he behaved himself among us. I doubt not that 'we may depart from grace given,' yet still I have great confidence in the general truth of that promise of God, 'The Lord ordereth a good man's going and maketh his way acceptable to Himself.' And I can never be brought to believe, except on more convincing testimony than I have yet met with, that one, who in early life and in riper years delighted in His ways, and who so highly adorned the vocation wherewith he was called, has fallen into such 'wretchlessness of living' as is ascribed to him, on the very verge of old age."--[Historical Sketch of Trinity Church, New York, by the Rev. William Berrian, D.D., the Rector of the same, pp. 313--15.]

FOOTNOTE #2: He once told me that about the time he began his theological studies, a clergyman from the South, then sojourning in New York, called on him and requested him to purchase a few volumes which necessity obliged him to part with; that he purchased them to relieve the wants of the applicant, and without at the time any knowledge of the character of the books and their authors. The books were Johnson's Unbloody Sacrifice, Hickes's Christian Priesthood, and others of like character. These, he said, he carefully studied; and no one familiar with his writings can doubt that they had great influence in forming his theological opinions.

FOOTNOTE #3: "Wherefore the persecution being at present somewhat abated, he rejoiced greatly at the tranquillity of his Church; yet was troubled as to himself that he had not attained to a true love of Christ, nor was come up to the pitch of a perfect disciple. For he thought that the confession which is made by martyrdom would bring him to a yet more close and intimate union with the Lord. Wherefore continuing a few years longer with the Church, and after the manner of a divine lamp, illuminating the hearts of the faithful by the exposition of the Holy Scriptures, he attained to what he desired."--Relation of the Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, Archbishop Wake's translation.

FOOTNOTE #4: GREEK TEXT FOLLOWED BY Sti. Ignatii ad Stum. Polycarpum Epistola, Cap. iii

FOOTNOTE #5: No allusion is here made to the associations, outside of the Church, which are designed to combine in the dissemination of religious knowledge all those who, whatever be their other differences of opinion, agree in a profession of faith in the Holy Scriptures. With these associations, how much soever he might respect the individuals that compose them, it was impossible for Bishop Onderdonk to unite, inasmuch as the principle on which they are founded is antagonistic to that which had been the guide of his professional life; and which supposes the Church of Christ to be divinely instituted and perpetuated in order to preserve the Holy Scriptures, not only in their letter, but in their true sense and meaning; to guard them from the perversions of error, and to witness to each successive generation the true faith and doctrine which they contain. [See this principle, as distinguished from the infallibility of the existing Church on the one hand and latitudinarianism on the other, very ably elucidated by Bishop Onderdonk in his primary charge to the clergy of his Diocese, A. D. 1831.]

By institutions of a more general nature I mean those "authorized measures," which are mentioned just before, and which are designed to unite Churchmen of different shades of opinion in the diffusion of religious knowledge. These as well as our Diocesan societies are formed on the principle of responsibility to the constituted authorities of the Church; the difference being that they are held responsible to the General Convention and not to the ecclesiastical authority of a particular diocese. Bishop Onderdonk cooperated with the former and helped to give them a conservative direction and influence; but he sought especially to give efficiency to the latter, not from local feeling or a desire of personal distinction (of which motives he was incapable), but because, in the existing state of opinions and parties, he believed them to be his best auxiliary for diffusing the Gospel without depressing the ministry and sacraments of the Church on which the Gospel rests for support. He was proud of the Diocese of New York, not for its wealth, its numbers, or its relative position, but because of its distinct testimony and steadfast adherence to those principles of the nature and polity of the Christian Church which had been inculcated by his predecessor, and which were regarded by himself as part of the "sacred deposit" committed to his trust.

This note which is meant to be merely explanatory is offered with a view to guard against misapprehension on the part of those Christian brethren who, as they do not belong to our Communion, may be supposed without offence to be unacquainted with its distinctive features.

FOOTNOTE #6: Towards the conclusion of Bishop Onderdonk's Address to the Convention of his Diocese, A. D. 1844, pp. 96 and 97 of the Journal, occurs the following passage:

"I have now, my brethren, completed all I have to report of a statistical nature. I have not much else to add. Something, however, I must, in reference to a new development which seems to have taken place in the quarter whence, within a few years, anxiety has been given, though no serious fears have been occasioned, to the true friends of Christ and the Church. Throughout much of the agitation which has existed in the Catholic portion of the Christians of our country, the CHURCH AS IT IS has been the motto adopted by all. To many this seemed strange indeed, convinced as they were that THE CHURCH AS IT IS was anything but favorable to much of the agitation which has been going on. It now begins to appear that they were right. The truer and more sensible ground is taken that the Church as it is will not answer. The Liturgy is beginning to be disparaged as a standard of Faith. Changes in the Liturgy are beginning to be advocated as necessary to bring it down to the times. This too, not by open enemies; but professed companions and friends--from quarters whence 'the Church as it is' was lately heard as all that was wanted.

"I am not surprised at this. Nor do I regret it. It is the beginning of that righteous balancing by which He who is Head over all things unto His Church makes all things ultimately work together for good. The true issue is now beginning to be known. IT IS THE PRAYER BOOK--FOR IT OR AGAINST IT. Brethren, you know on which side I would have my Diocese enlisted. Go FOR THE LITURGY. It is the great exponent of our faith. It is the work of no sect-leader. It is the work of no one man, however good and holy. It is the work of no one age. It was got up and set forth for no one special purpose. It has come down to us from the purest ages of the Church. It has been proved by the safety and purity with which it passed through the trying fires of Rome's wicked hostility to the Catholic evangelical system.

"I exhort you therefore, brethren, to a cordial, enlightened, and strict adherence to the Liturgy. Be, as ye ever have been, jealous, with a godly jealousy of every system and every act, which tend to diminish confidence in that pure and holy standard of our faith. That confidence there is now an effort to shake. Take ye good heed that ye be not thus turned from your steadfastness.

"Brethren of the clergy: I would especially commend to your enlightened confidence, and your pious adoption as a rule and measure of ministerial fidelity, our Liturgy's holy teachings--as God's Word hath taught it--touching the sacramental character of the evangelical system, and the Apostolical succession of ministerial trust and agency which it embraces. I would have you reverently receive its teachings respecting the awful mysteries of our faith: be they in doctrine touching the nature of the Holy and Undivided Trinity Whom it leads us to adore, and His gracious acts and dispensations towards our race; or be they included in the homage and duties required in our devotion to Him. I would that in your teachings you would impress upon your people the near relation to them of the Church as it is, in reference to their steadfast adherence to the true faith, their safety from being driven about by every wind of doctrine, and their repose under the shadow of the great rock which the Gospel provides in the weary land of life's pilgrimage.

"To these ends, dear brethren, as means at hand, worthy of your regard, and eminently fitted for efficiency towards the desired object, let me commend to your greatly increased patronage our diocesan agencies for disseminating the Word of God and the Holy Liturgy of the Church, for circulating sound and good religious tracts, for educating young men for the ministry, and for sustaining and encouraging missionary operations in our Diocese, in this great metropolis, and for the especial benefit of the seamen here congregating, and for good or ill to our Saviour's cause, carrying to barbarous and unchristian lands what is there regarded as a token of what Christianity is worth.

"We are much behindhand, brethren, in our duty in these respects. I would I could make you feel it! Can the love of Christ constrain you as it should constrain those whose hearts are truly moved by the Holy Ghost, while you suffer these instrumentalities and agencies for good, which God by His Holy Church has laid before you, to be so sorely let and hindered in their blessed efficiency? Answer this, brethren, as members of Christ, children of God and heirs of a kingdom which will be conferred on none but good and faithful servants, those who turn their Lord's talents to the account which He requires--those who are willing to give, and glad to distribute, and are mainly devoted to laying up for themselves treasures in Heaven."

FOOTNOTE #7: The supreme legislative power of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States is lodged in the General Convention, which meets triennially, and is composed of two houses; the one consisting of Bishops having jurisdiction in the United States, and the other consisting of Clerical and Lay Deputies elected by the several Dioceses.

The first canon ever enacted by the General Convention, looking towards the trial of a bishop, was canon 4th of 1841. This canon was entitled indeed "On the Trial of Bishops" but contained not a word on the subject indicated by the title. It provided for the presentment of a bishop, and for nothing else. See the canon. It was expressly and wholly repealed by the next Convention, or that of 1844.

The canon under which Bishop Onderdonk was tried was enacted in October, 1844, and has been since repealed.

The alleged offences for which Bishop Onderdonk was tried were alleged to have been committed at different times between June, 1837, and July, 1842. All of them, therefore, if committed at all, were committed before the enactment of the canon under which he was tried, and all but one before the enactment of the canon of 1841.

The presentment was made by the bishops of the dioceses of Virginia, Georgia, and Tennessee, after the refusal of his own diocese to entertain the charges that were made against him.

The canon under which Bishop Onderdonk was tried, enacts that if the accused be found guilty, the court shall "pass sentence of admonition, suspension, or deposition, as to them the offence or offences may seem to deserve."

The sentence of the court, pronounced Jan. 3, 1845, was suspension; and that not only "from the office of a Bishop in the Church of God," which the canon authorized, but also "from all the functions of the Sacred Ministry."

The suspension was not limited either by a term of time or condition; nor was there any power in the Church (unless the General Convention itself be considered an exception) competent to revoke it.

In the next General Convention, or that of 1847, two canons having reference to this case were enacted. The first provided that "The Bishops of this Church who are entitled to seats in the House of Bishops, may altogether remit and terminate any judicial sentence which may have been imposed, or may hereafter be imposed, by Bishops acting collectively as a judicial tribunal, or modify the same so far as to designate a precise period of time or other specific contingency, on the occurrence of which such sentence shall utterly cease, and be of no further force or effect." The other enacted that "Whenever the penalty of suspension shall be inflicted on a Bishop, Priest, or Deacon in this Church the sentence shall specify on what terms, or at what time, said penalty shall cease."

From this statement it will be seen that Bishop Onderdonk suffered for more than sixteen years, or from January, 1845, to the time of his death, under a sentence which the Church, at the earliest possible opportunity for doing so after it was pronounced, repudiated and forbade to be pronounced in future on any clergyman under its jurisdiction. It will be seen also that Bishop Onderdonk suffered under this sentence for nearly fourteen years, or from October, 1847, to April, 1861, after the General Convention, by empowering the bishops to remit it, had done all that a legislative body could do towards its removal.

These facts are, I believe, without a parallel in history. The mention of them can now do no good to Bishop Onderdonk, who (God be praised!) is delivered out of the miseries of this sinful world; and I should rejoice to have them consigned to eternal oblivion, were it not that the memory of the past may serve as a beacon to the Church for the future.

FOOTNOTE #8: Reference is here made to the memorial which Bishop Onderdonk addressed to the House of Bishops in the General Convention of 1859. The prayer of the memorialist was supported by a resolution (qualified, it must be owned by a condition though of little practical value), which passed the Convention of his Diocese by a vote of 147 to 19 of the clergy, and of 75 to 46 of the laity; two parishes being divided.

FOOTNOTE #9: The following communication, which has been kindly addressed to me by the Rev. Dr. Francis Vinton, may be here properly inserted:


MY DEAR SIR:--I have been requested to write the statement which I made at the funeral of the late Bishop of New York, and from the pulpit of Trinity church. I add also a few particulars.

On Friday, April 26th, I called on Bishop Onderdonk, and went up stairs to visit him on his sick bed. His son was in the room, ministering his nursing care with tenderness, with whom it was my privilege to cooperate.

The Bishop, though very weak in body, was fully possessed of his mind, and conversed quite freely. Among the subjects of communication he spoke with ardent satisfaction of the visit just received from the venerable Prof. Clement C. Moore, whom he "had not seen," he said, "for fourteen years." He estimated his age, and spoke of his virtues and amenity of disposition.

When about to leave him, I suggested that if he desired prayers, it would be gratifying to me to minister to him.

He answered, "Do so, Doctor: it would be very comforting and desirable."

I used the "Office of the Visitation of the Sick" from the beginning to the end; adding the prayer for "A sick person when there appeareth but little hope of recovery."

The Bishop made every response audibly, while lying on his bed, with his hands clasped and eyes looking up to heaven.

Among the questions to be asked in the Examination of the Sick, are these, "Do you repent you truly of your sins? Are you in charity with all the world?" The Bishop closed his eyes while he spoke of himself as a sinner, both in thought, word, and deed; saying that "in his most earnest endeavors to live for Christ and the Church, as well as in exercising himself to have conscience void of offence towards God and towards man, he saw infirmity and pollution"--then, opening his eyes, he added, "But the holiest man, equally with the most sinful, finds, in the hour of death, that every hope on which he relies for salvation is dispersed, but ONE--all but ONE, our Saviour JESUS CHRIST--HE is the Rock of Ages." Then, looking me in the face, the Bishop said with solemn earnestness, "Of the crimes of which I have been accused and for which I have been condemned, my conscience acquits me, in the sight of God."

In answer to the other questions, the Bishop expressed charity with all; forgiveness, from the bottom of his heart, of all persons that had offended him: readiness to ask forgiveness of all whom he had offended: and willingness to make amends, to the uttermost of his power, where he had done injury to any.

The Bishop received the final invocation and blessing, in the Visitation Office, with the meekness of a quiet spirit--then extending to me his emaciated hand and pressing mine, thanked me, with fervor, and said, "God bless you, my dear Doctor." And so we parted. Very truly your brother,

To the Rev. Samuel Seabury, D.D

FOOTNOTE #10: The concluding paragraph of the discourse has been suggested by a letter received from one of the best and ablest of our clergy, the Rev. Dr. Wm. Shelton, of Buffalo. Having referred to the example of our good Bishop, Dr. Shelton adds: "It is painful to me to be taken leave of (as I am) by most of my old friends. I helped to make him Bishop (by my vote), and he was my superior for some eight years; and in all my intercourse with him, he was always the same. He was very high-minded, and above vile things and arts; self-denying and self-sacrificing. I part with him as from one of the old land-marks which I have looked upon since my early manhood. He was Professor of History, etc., to my class, and was one of the gentlemen of that day who entertained society, as well as devoted himself to the discharge of clerical duties with devotion and ability. That I shall see him no more forever is a thought that thrills my heart, and fills me with a flood of emotions and remembrances."

Dr. Shelton, I trust, will pardon the liberty I have taken in sharing with the sorrowful friends and sincere admirers of our departed father, this just and genial tribute to his memory.

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