« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
'The purchasers of the glebes have, in every instance where a sale has been made, paid, as it were, almost nothing for them.'† 'After all that has been done, how has the public been benefited, either in a moral or pecuniary way? If it has been benefited, let those who can, show it. It is denied that the public has in any way derived the least benefit from the sale of any of the glebes which have been sold. It is well known that in some counties the money has got into the hands of some of the overseers of the poor, and there it has remained.'‡
Nay, at this moment, should we ask where are the vessels which were once consecrated to the service of Almighty God, to be used in that holy sacrament which the Redeemer instituted for a perpetual memory of his death and sacrifice, until his coming again,' what must be the answer? The sacred vessels of the temple have been scattered; they have passed, in some instances, into impious hands. Within our wn times has the fact occurred that the reckless sensualist has administered the morning dram to his guests from the silver cup which has often contained the consecrated symbol of his Saviour's blood! § In another instance, the entire set of communion plate of one of the old churches is in the hands of one who belongs to the society of Baptists. It has fallen to the lot of the Bishop of Virginia, in the course of his visitations, to witness the conversion of a marble baptismal font into a watering-trough for horses."
In this apparently hopeless situation, the members of the Church, though "troubled on every side," and "perplexed," were "not in despair." "Persecuted" they were, "but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed." They recollected the promise of their divine Head, and felt assured that the gates of hell could never prevail against the principles which they professed. Accordingly, soon after the cessation of hostilities, several gentlemen embarked for England, and applied to Dr. Lowth, then Bishop of London, for orders. As the bishop could not ordain them without requiring an oath of allegiance inconsistent with their American citizenship, he applied for an act of parliament allowing him to dispense with requisitions of this sort. In the mean time, however, the church of Denmark manifested a most gratifying readiness to supply the wants of America. The bishops of that kingdom declared their willingness to ordain episcopalian candidates, on the condition of their signing such of the Thirty-nine Articles of the church of England as are purely theological. This well-intended offer was declined. The British Parliament consented to the request of Bishop Lowth; and the candidates obtained their commission from that episcopacy, under which the American churches had been planted.
* Lee's Review of the Chancellor's opinion in the case of Selden et al. vs. the overseers of the poor of Loudoun county et al. p. 15.
+ Ibid. p. 26.
Ibid. p. 16.
§ MS. letter, in the author's possession, from one of the Virginia clergy. || Ibid.
The scattered condition of the Church rendered it now absolutely necessary that some bond of union should be created, which should prevent the adoption of varying measures, and secure the unity of the congregations and clergy that remained. Proceedings to this effect were accordingly commenced in Connecticut and Maryland, in 1783, in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, in 1784, which resulted in the framing of sundry articles of agreement among the respective clergy of these several states. But the first step towards the formation of a collective body of the Church in the United States, was taken in May 1784, by a few clerical gentlemen of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, at a meeting held in New Brunswick, (New Jersey,) in reference to a society for the relief of the widows and children of deceased clergymen. On this occasion it was determined to procure a larger meeting for the purpose of agreeing on some general principles of union. Such a meeting was accordingly held in New York, on the 5th of the ensuing October; and although the members composing it were not vested with powers adequate to the present exigence, they happily laid down a few general principles to be recommended in the respective states as the ground on which a future ecclesiastical government should be established. These principles were approbatory of episcopacy, and of the book of Common Prayer; and provided for a representative body of the Church, consisting of clergy and laity, who were to vote as distinct orders. There was also a recommendation to the Church in the several states, to send clerical and lay deputies to a meeting to be held in Philadelphia, on the 27th of September, in the following year.
In the mean time, the Rev. Samuel Seabury, formerly a missionary on Long Island, had been elected to the episcopate by the clergy of Connecticut, and had proceeded to England for consecration. Not meeting with success in that country, he had applied to the bishops in Scotland, and had there received the apostolic succession. In the beginning of the summer of 1785, he returned to America, and entered on the exercise of his new function. Thus, at length, an American bishop had been obtained, and the Church, in one state, appeared in a complete form. But what was necessary in Connecticut, was equally necessary in other regions; and although episcopalians generally respected the new bishop, and few alleged any thing against the validity of his episcopacy, they still thought it most proper to direct their views towards that country from which they derived their origin as a people and as a church.
On the 25th of September, 1785, the first General Convention was held in the city of Philadelphia. Seven states were represented, viz. New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. The Church had been thrown entirely on its own resources, like an infant
deprived of the sympathy and guidance of a careful parent. It might, therefore, be expected, that many crude opinions would exhibit themselves in this assembly, and that little unanimity would prevail in regard to the course necessary to be taken in future. The former was actually realized; the latter was providentially averted. In the north, the ideas of Churchmen, on the subject of episcopacy, were generally correct and well defined. This may be ascribed to their frequent collisions with the dominant body of congregational dissenters. In the south, where church government had not been so much a subject of controversy, many singular views existed. In Maryland, for instance, and elsewhere, the doctrine was held, that a presbyter possesses all the powers of a bishop excepting those of confirmation and ordination. Again, it was a common opinion in the middle states, that the laity ought to be allowed to sit in convention with the clergy. This was defended as a natural consequence of the principle of following the church of England; and it was pleaded, that in no other way could a substitute be provided for the parliamentary sanction to legislative acts of power. On the other hand, it was maintained that the admission of the laity to an ecclesiastical synod was incongruous with every idea of episcopal government. This latter sentiment was held by Bishop Seabury and his clergy, in common with the episcopal church of Scotland. Some again were anxious to defer all measures towards the organization of the church until a regular episcopate had been obtained; while others were ready to establish an ecclesiastical system under the control of presbyters alone, until bishops could be procured. The moderate and conciliatory measures of the Îate venerable Dr. White, the Cranmer of the American church, then President of the Convention, the presiding bishop, contributed much towards the settlement of difficulties, and the first Convention was concluded with a degree of harmony greater than, under existing circumstances, could have been anticipated. During this Convention the articles of union were ratified, which had been proposed in the informal meeting at New York. An ecclesiastical constitution was likewise framed, which provided for a convention of the Church in each state, and also for a triennial general Convention, consisting of a clerical and lay deputation from the several states. Considerable alterations in the Prayer Book were also proposed, of which some were in accommodation to the new government of the country; others were perhaps expedient as improvements, and a few not only unnecessary, but improper. Finally, a document was drawn up by unanimous consent, addressed to the English archbishops and bishops, acknowledging the past favours received from them through the Propagation Society; declaring the desire of the Convention to perpetuate in America, the principles of the church of England; and requesting the prelates to consecrate
to the episcopacy those persons who should be sent with that view from the United States.
This address was forwarded to the Archbishop of Canterbury, through the American minister John Adams, afterwards the distinguished President. Early in 1786, an answer was received, signed by the two archbishops, and eighteen of the twenty-four bishops of England, in which, they declared their wish to comply with the request, but stated that they must delay measures to that effect, until they should have become fully acquainted with the alterations proposed by the Convention. A letter soon afterwards arrived from the two archbishops expressing their disapproval of several alterations, but stating that they expected to obtain an act of Parliament, under which, if satisfaction should be given, they would feel at liberty to consecrate for America.
In consequence of the receipt of these communications, two special general Conventions were held in 1786, in the course of which, the constitution framed in the preceding year was adopted with some amendments; a second address was directed to the English prelates, and several objectionable alterations in the Prayer Book were removed. It also appeared that Dr. Provoost had been duly elected to the episcopate for New York; Dr. White for Pennsylvania; and Dr. Griffith for Virginia. The two former embarked for England in November in the same year; and on the 4th of February, 1787, were consecrated according to an act of Parliament, by Dr. Moore, archbishop of Canterbury, and soon afterwards returned to America. Dr. Griffith was prevented, by domestic circumstances, from prosecuting his intended voyage, and tendered his resignation to the Convention, by which he had been elected.
The triennial Convention assembled again in 1789, and was followed by a special Convention in the same year. During these sessions, the constitution formed in 1786 was reviewed and new-modelled. The principal feature now given to it was a distribution into two houses, one consisting of the bishops, and the other of the clerical and lay deputies. Bishop Seabury and the northern clergy attended on this occasion, and a permanent union of the Church was happily consummated. The Prayer Book was arranged as it now stands, with the exception of a few minor alterations, and the addition of some occasional services. The canons were also established in a form which still continues substantially the same; and the year 1789 must ever be considered an important era in the history of the Church.
In the year 1790 the Rev. Dr. Madison, of Virginia, was consecrated bishop of that diocese, by the Archbishop of Canterbury. The canonical number of bishops necessary for transmitting the English succession was now complete, and accordingly Dr. Claggett was consecrated in New York as bishop of Maryland; in
Philadelphia Dr. Smith, of South Carolina, and Dr. Bass, of Massachusetts; and in New Haven, Dr. Jarvis, of Connecticut, after the decease of Dr. Seabury in 1796. In the mean time a circumstance occurred which is worthy of notice. In 1791, Bishop White received a letter from Dr. Coke, a superintendent of the Methodist Connexion in America, proposing a union between that society and the Church. Dr. Coke stated his motive in this proposal to be an apprehension that he had gone farther in the separation than Mr. Wesley had designed. Mr. Wesley himself, he was sure, went farther than he would have gone, if he had foreseen some events which followed. Dr. Coke's plan, however, was impracticable; and although a prudent answer was returned by Bishop White, the negotiation was soon broken off.
At the termination of the 18th century, the Church was completely organized, and was gradually recovering itself from the tremendous shock sustained during the revolution. Its members had learned in some measure to rely on their own resources, and its ministers were supported in some instances comfortably, by the voluntary contributions of their flocks. Yet the number of clergy little exceeded 200; and these were widely scattered through the country bordering on the Atlantic. No great enterprises were undertaken, because a hard struggle was necessary to maintain the ground already occupied. It was reserved for another century to witness the rapid development of the energies of the Church, and the consequent increase of its numbers, its piety, and its zeal.
At the first General Convention held within the present century, a question was raised which created much discussion. Bishop Provoost, of New York, informed the House of Bishops that, on account of ill health and domestic affliction, he had resigned his episcopal jurisdiction at the last meeting of his diocesan convention. It appeared also that, in consequence of this resignation, another person had been elected to succeed to the episcopacy. The House of Bishops, doubting the propriety of sanctioning resignations within their body, declined acting to that effect; but consented to consecrate an assistant bishop, who might discharge any episcopal duties with the consent of his senior prelate. Conformably with the line of conduct thus laid down, several assistants have at different times been consecrated, who have succeeded to the entire episcopate at the dissolution of their respective diocesans. In the same Convention, after repeated debates, the thirty-nine Articles of the church of England were for the first time ratified, without any change in their diction.
At the General Convention of 1808, the House of Bishops acquired the full power of a negative upon the acts of the lower House. Previous to this, four-fifths of the clerical and lay delegates could accomplish a measure without the concurrence of the