DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT.
DIOCESE OF CONNECTICUT.
SERMONS AND ADDRESSES
WITH AN APPENDIX.
CENTENARY OF BISHOP SEABURY'S ELECTION:
Thanksgiving, Easter-Day, March 25, 1883, Service at Woodbury, March 27, 1883 Bishop Williams's Address, Dr. Beardsley's Address, Diocesan Convention, 1883, Bishop Williams's Sermon,
CENTENARY OF BISHOP SEABURY'S CONSECRATION:
Diocesan Convention, 1884, Bishop Williams's Sermon, Service at Hartford, November 14, 1884, Dr. Tatlock's Address, The Bishop's Reply, Dr. Beardsley's Address, Mr. Nichols's Address, Mr. Hart's Address, Bishop Williams's Address, Exhibition of Seabury Relics,
CENTENARY OF BISHOP SEABURY'S RETURN:
Diocesan Convention, 1885, Bishop Williams's Sermon, Service at Middletown, August 3, 1885, Bishop Williams's Address, Dr. Beardsley's Historical Sketch,
APPENDIX—COMMEMORATION AT ABERDEEN, 1884:
Bishop Williams's Sermon, Presentation of Paten and Chalice, Presentation of Address and Reply, Presentation of Pastoral Staff, Dr. Beardsley's Address, Address from St. Andrew's Church,
DEUS, AURIBUS NOSTRIS AUDIVIMUS, PATRES NOSTRI ANNUNTIAVERUNT NOBIS, OPUS QUOD OPERATUS ES IN DIEBUS EORUM, ET IN DIEBUS ANTIQUIS.
In his address to the Diocesan Convention of 1881, Bishop Williams suggested the appointment of a committee to provide for the appropriate commemoration of the centenary of the election of the first Bishop of Connecticut in the last week of March, 1783. On motion of the Rev. Dr. Beardsley, this suggestion was referred to a committee of three clergymen and two laymen, with the Bishop as chairman. The Bishop appointed on the committee the Rev. Dr. Beardsley, the Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis, the Rev. Samuel Hart, the Hon. F. J. Kingsbury, and the Hon, H. B. Harrison.
At the Convention of 1882, on recommendation of this committee, the following resolutions were adopted:
Resolved, That the Bishop be requested to set forth a special thanksgiving to be used throughout the Diocese on the one- hundredth anniversary of the election of Bishop Seabury, March 25th, 1883, being Easter-Day and also the Festival of the Annunciation. Resolved, That a memorial service, with addresses, be held in St. Paul's Church, Woodbury, on Tuesday in Easter-week, March 27th, 1883, for which the Bishop be desired to make the necessary arrangements.
Resolved, That the Bishop be further requested to provide for a commemorative service with an historical discourse at the opening of the Annual Convention of 1883.
It was also, on motion of the Rev. S. F. Jarvis,
Resolved, That a committee consisting of the Bishop, three priests, and two laymen be appointed,.....to present to the Diocesan Conventions of 1883 and 1884, if they shall deem it expedient, a detailed plan or plans for the further special observances as a Diocese of the centenary commemoration of Dr. Seabury's Consecration, of the first Convocation summoned by him, of the first Ordination on this continent, and of any ecclesiastical events which are specially and historically connected with this Diocese and which it may be deemed desirable to celebrate.
The committee appointed under this resolution was the same as that appointed in 1882. In accordance with resolutions recommended by this committee in 1883 and 1884, the Convention requested the Bishop to make arrangements for commemorative services on the fourteenth day of November, 1884, the hundredth anniversary of the Consecration of Bishop Seabury, and on the third day of August, 1885, the hundredth anniversary of the first ordination held by him.
The Bishop having delivered an historical discourse at the opening of the Convention of 1883, commemorative of the election of Bishop Seabury, on motion of the Rev. Dr. Giesy, the thanks of the Convention were tendered to him, and he was "respectfully and earnestly requested" to preach a sermon at the next Convention in commemoration of Bishop Seabury's Consecration. A like vote was passed in 1884, desiring the Bishop "to supplement the sermons delivered at this and the preceding Conventions with a third at the Convention of 1885, necessary to the historical completion by the same hand of the centenary commemoration of the Consecration of the Rev. Samuel Seabury, D.D., as the first Bishop of Connecticut."
This volume contains a report of the Centenary Commemorative Services held in accordance with the resolutions, and also the historical sermons preached by the Bishop at the request of the Convention. In the Appendix will be found Bishop Williams's sermon preached at the commemoration in Aberdeen in October, 1884, with an account of the part which the delegation from Connecticut took in that commemoration, including the Rev. Dr. Beardsley's paper on "Seabury as a Bishop."
"NOVI ORBIS APOSTOLI SIT NOMEN PERENNE."
OF THE ELECTION OF BISHOP SEABURY.
THE REV. SAMUEL SEABURY, D.D. WAS ELECTED FIRST BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AT WOODBURY, MARCH 25, 1783.
The one-hundredth anniversary of the election of Bishop Seabury fell on Easter-Day (being also the Festival of the Annunciation), 1883. In accordance with the request of the Diocesan Convention, the Bishop set forth the following special Thanksgiving to be used throughout the Diocese, immediately after the General Thanksgiving at Morning and Evening Prayer on that day:
ALMIGHTY GOD, Who by Thy Holy Spirit hast appointed divers orders of ministers in Thy Church, we give unto Thee high praise and hearty thanks, that Thou didst put it into the hearts of our fathers and brethren to elect, on this day, to the work and ministry of a Bishop in Thy Church, Thy servant, to whom the charge of this Diocese was first committed; and that Thou didst so replenish him with the truth of Thy doctrine and endue him with innocency of life, that he was enabled, both by word and deed, faithfully to serve Thee in this office, to the glory of Thy name, and the edifying and well-governing of Thy Church. For this so great mercy, and for ail the blessings which, in Thy good Providence, it brought to this portion of the flock of Christ, we offer unto Thee our unfeigned thanks, through Jesus Christ our Lord, to Whom, with Thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honour and glory, world without end. Amen.
On Tuesday in Easter-Week, March 27th (the day of the week on which the Festival of the Annunciation fell in 1783), a commemorative service was held in St. Paul's Church, Woodbury, at 11 o'clock A.M. The Bishop began the Communion-service, the Rev. S. O. Seymour of Litchfield reading the Epistle, and the Rev. E. E. Beardsley, D.D., LL.D., of New Haven reading the Gospel. After the Nicene Creed, a part of the 99th hymn in the old Prayer-Book collection was sung; and the Bishop then made an address based on the closing words of the Epistle: "I work a work in your days, a work which ye shall in no wise believe, though a man declare it unto you."
The Bishop spoke of the faith and the courage which inspired the clergymen who met a hundred years ago in that quiet village to elect the first bishop of Connecticut. They felt that they owed a sacred duty to God; and, not stopping to speculate upon the needs of some imaginary Church of the future, they did what was specially needed for the welfare of the Church in their own day. At the beginning of the war of independence there had been twenty missionaries of the mother Church of England laboring in the colony. They were in great part supported by the Venerable Society in England, and they were under oaths of loyalty to the Crown; it was not strange, therefore, that their sympathies were not on the popular side. They were obliged to suffer great hardships; and the end of the war found the Church in Connecticut in a very depressed condition, with the clergy and people scattered and some of the parishes quite broken up. Fourteen clergymen were left, and of these ten met in the study of the Rev. John Rutgers Marshall on the Festival of the Annunciation in 1783, to take counsel as to what was to be done. Peace had not been proclaimed, but it was known that the war was at an end; and the circumstances of the times were such that they thought it necessary to take action at as early a day as possible. And they instructed their candidate that if he should fail to obtain consecration in England, he should seek it at the hands of the bishops of the disestablished church of Scotland.
Men had very real thoughts about Holy Orders then, when they were obliged to cross the ocean for what they believed to be valid ordination, and when one man out of every five who sought ordination in England lost his life from shipwreck or disease. The results of their faithfulness have been far greater and more wide- reaching than they could have imagined. They would not have believed it possible that at the end of a century there would be in Connecticut nearly two hundred clergymen and twenty-two thousand communicants, the Book of Common Prayer being used by devout congregations throughout the limits of the State; and that not only would this Diocese bear witness to God's blessing on their faithfulness, but that there would be a united and prosperous Church throughout the land, owing to them much of its unity and prosperity. The lesson which we learn from them is that Christ's work is to be done in Christ's own way, and that, thus done, it will certainly abide.
The Rev. Dr. Beardsley, after a brief introduction, added substantially as follows:
It is very evident that the clergy who met here on the Festival of the Annunciation, 1783, were full of earnestness and the spirit of self-sacrifice in their efforts to organize the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and provide for her completeness and continuance under a changed form of civil government. The seven years' struggle of the Thirteen Colonies for independence of the power of Great Britain was ended, and the poor people exhausted on every side, were at a loss to know what methods should be adopted to rise from their depression and recover in any degree their former prosperity. The Missionaries of the Church of England—of whom fourteen were left in Connecticut at the close of the Revolutionary War—- had been aided by stipends from the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, but these stipends, by the Constitution of the Society, ceased when the separation finally took place. Of the fourteen Missionaries, all save two [Footnote: The Rev. John Rutgers Marshall was born in the city of New York, 1743, was an alumnus of Columbia College, ordained 1771, and died 1789. The Rev. Daniel Fogg was a native of New Hampshire, a graduate of Harvard College, ordained 1770, and died 1815.]
The full list includes the Rev. Messrs. Samuel Andrews of Wallingford, Gideon Bostwick of Great Barrington (reckoned ecclesiastically as in Connecticut), Richard Samuel Clarke of New Milford, Ebenezer Dibblee of Stamford, Daniel Fogg of Brooklyn, Bela Hubbard of New Haven, Abraham Jarvis of Middletown, Richard Mansfield of Derby, John Rutgers Marshall of Woodbury, Christopher Newton of Ripton, James Nichols of Plymouth. James Scovill of Waterbury, John Tyler of Norwich, and Roger Viets of Simsbury. ] were born in the Colony of Connecticut, and all had been compelled to cross the ocean to obtain Holy Orders—there being no bishop in this country—though the boon had often been solicited from the English Church and as often denied. The trammels of State alliance and the policy of preferring political expediency to religious right prevented the authorities from venturing upon a spiritual act and granting the prayer of the petitioners. The clergy had ministered to their flocks all along in the face of intolerance and bitter opposition from the Puritan body, and the war for independence had subjected them to peculiar trials and reduced them to the verge of ruin. But, without thinking of themselves, or how they should be supported in the broken and disastrous condition of their cures, their first effort or chief anxiety was to provide for the now entirely headless Church; and so in Mid- Lent, on the Festival of the Annunciation, March 25th, one hundred years ago, ten of the fourteen clergy remaining in Connecticut quietly assembled in this place, and, after careful, and, we must believe, the most prayerful deliberation, they selected two persons—the Rev. Jeremiah Leaming being the first choice, and then the Rev. Samuel Seabury—as suitable, either of them, to go to England and obtain, if possible, Episcopal consecration. It was a secret meeting so far as giving any public notice of it was concerned, and it was confined to the clergy, perhaps, among other reasons, for fear of reviving the former opposition on this side to an American Episcopate, and thus of defeating their plan to complete the organization of the Church and secure its inherent perpetuity in this country. The times were troubled, and the establishment of peace with a foreign power did not necessarily produce tranquillity and happiness at home. Mischiefs and jealousies still lingered with those who had contended for liberty, and the chief Protestant sects, which have all erected their banners and had their camping-ground in the Church of England, were ready to welcome her weakness and overthrow because her priests and her people, for the most part, had been on the side of the Crown during the long struggle for independence. But it is not possible to destroy what God holds in His hand. The passions of men work vast evil till, in calmer moments, they subside and a better light shines through their principles and their actions.
The outcome of the meeting at Woodbury, after many hindrances and perplexities, was the consecration by the non-juring Bishops of the Church of Scotland of the Rev. SAMUEL SEABURY as the first Bishop of Connecticut and of the Episcopal Church in the United States. We owe to this consecration some of the best features of our Book of Common Prayer. We owe to it the compactness and unity of our great American Communion, and surely it was well to have what we used on Sunday last—a form of thanksgiving for this our hundredth anniversary of the election of Bishop Seabury that God did "so replenish him with the truth of His doctrine and endue him with innocency of life that he was enabled, both by word and deed, faithfully to serve Him in the office of a bishop to the glory of His name and the edifying and well-governing of His Church."
The Bishop then proceeded with the office of the Holy Communion, being assisted in the service by the Rev. Professor Hart of Trinity College, and in the administration to the clergy and a large number of the laity by the Rev. Dr. Beardsley, the Rev. T. B. Fogg of Brooklyn, and the Rev. J. F. George, rector of the parish. Before the benediction, the Bishop read the special thanksgiving set forth for Easter-Day.
After the service the clergy and other visitors were hospitably entertained by the ladies of St. Paul's parish in the house in which the Rev. J. R. Marshall lived in 1783, and in the very room in which the ten clergymen met to elect the first Bishop of Connecticut.
The following is a list of the clergymen who were present:
The Rt. Rev. the Bishop; the Rev. Dr. E. E. Beardsley, New Haven; the Rev. Messrs. H. A. Adams, Wethersfield; R. R. M. Converse, Waterbury; W. C. Cooley, Roxbury; T. B. Fogg, Brooklyn; J. F. George, Woodbury; Prof. Samuel Hart, Hartford; J. G. Jacocks, New Haven; E. S. Lines, New Haven; R. W. Micou, Waterbury; S. O. Seymour, Litchfield; James Stoddard, Watertown; Hiram Stone, Bantam Falls; Elisha Whittlesey, Hartford; Alex. Mackay-Smith, New York City.
On the twelfth day of June, 1883, the annual Convention of the Diocese met in Trinity Church, New Haven. The opening service was made a formal commemoration of the election of Bishop Seabury.
Morning Prayer was begun by the Rev. Samuel Fermor Jarvis, Rector of Trinity Church, Brooklyn, grandson of the Rev. Abraham Jarvis who was Secretary of the Convention in 1783 and afterwards the second Bishop of the Diocese; the First Lesson (Isaiah lxi.) was read by the Rev. George Dowdall Johnson, of the Diocese of New York, great-grandson of the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson, "the Father of Episcopacy in Connecticut"; the Second Lesson (Ephesians iv. to verse 17), by the Rev. Thomas Brinley Fogg of Brooklyn, grandson of the Rev. Daniel Fogg who was one of the electors of Bishop Seabury; and the Nicene Creed and the Prayers, including a special Thanksgiving, by the Rev. Samuel Hart, Seabury Professor in Trinity College, great-great-great-grandson of one of the five who with Johnson and Cutler signed the paper touching their ordination, which was presented to the "Fathers and Brethren" in the Library of Yale College on the thirteenth day of September, 1722. The Bishop began the office of the Holy Communion, using the Collect for St. Simon and St. Jude's Day; the Epistle (that for St. Matthew's Day) was read by the Rev. Edwin Harwood, D.D., Rector of Trinity Church, and the Gospel (that for St. Barnabas's Day), by the Rev. E. E. Beardsley, D.D., LL.D., Rector of St. Thomas's Church, New Haven, Historian of the Diocese and Biographer of its first Bishop. The Sermon was preached by Bishop Williams, as follows:
MEN FOR THE TIMES. I. CHRON. xii. 32.
Men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do.
I know no better words than these to give direction to our thoughts in the service of this day. It is a service of deepest thankfulness and of most sacred memories. It takes us back over the years of a century. It brings to our remembrance the story of the more than threescore previous years which led up to the event that we commemorate. It awakens hope and trust for a coming and unknown future. It binds those memories of the past and those hopes for the future into one living body of thanksgiving, which, for all who have gone before us, for ourselves, and for those who are to follow us, must find utterance in the words of the Psalmist: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give the praise, for Thy loving mercy and for Thy truth's sake."
Go back with me, brethren, in your thoughts, to the beginning of the century the close of which we commemorate. It is the Festival of the Annunciation in 1783; and we find ourselves in an inland village of what was, ere long, to become the Diocese of Connecticut, the village of Woodbury. It was not then the village of our time, the long street of which, with its venerable elms and well-kept homesteads, nestles beneath the craggy heights that overlook it, or spreads out in peaceful loveliness towards stream and valley. Things were on a smaller scale then, rougher and ruder than they now are. One house, at least, still stands that was standing then; and if we enter it we shall find ourselves in the "glebe-house" which is the abode of the missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and in the presence of ten of the fourteen clergy of Connecticut who were ministering in their cures at the close of the War of the Revolution. Neither history nor tradition has preserved to us all the names of these true- hearted men. We know, however, from written records, that Marshall, in whose house they met, Jarvis of Middletown, who was their secretary, and Fogg of Brooklyn, whose correspondence tells us what we should not otherwise have known, were among them. [Footnote: It is more than probable, I think, that Mansfield of Derby, Hubbard of New Haven, Newton of Ripton, Scovill of Waterbury, Clark of New Milford, Andrews of Wallingford, and Tyler of Norwich were also present.] Beyond these we are left to conjecture.
We may imagine, though we can never fully enter into, the deep anxiety of the hour, with all its doubts and fears so far surpassing its hopes and encouragements. We remember how they felt themselves compelled to meet in the utmost secrecy, not, as has been sometimes unworthily intimated, because they feared their own people, but because they knew not what interference might befall them from the powers that were should their purpose be made known. We think of them as, on that Festival of the Incarnation, they knelt down in an isolation and desolation of which we can have no knowledge, to implore the guidance of the Heavenly Wisdom in their counsels and efforts for that Divine Institution which, because of the Incarnation, is the Body of the Lord Jesus Christ. We recognize what a venture of faith they were about to make in sending one forth to seek consecration to the Episcopate, that so he might discharge the office of the Bishop in the Church of God to a flock weak and despised, "scattered and peeled"; and what a greater venture of faith he would make who should go forth on that errand, so doubtful and uncertain. We picture to ourselves all the conditions of difficulty and discouragement by which they were surrounded. We remember that the story of succeeding years, familiar as household words to us, was hidden from them in the darkness that veiled an unknown future. We know that they could not even have dreamed of all that was to come out of that day's doings. We think of all these things and many others, which I will not attempt even to suggest, leaving it to your own thoughts to fill out details that are omitted, and the one conclusion to which all our thoughts and all our ponderings must bring us is, that those ten men of whom the great world knew nothing then, of whom it takes no thought now, were, nevertheless, "men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do."
The two events round which all the memories, the associations, the details, of this and next year's commemorations group themselves, are the election of our first Bishop in 1783, and his consecration at Aberdeen in 1784. It seems to be my duty, to-day, to limit myself strictly to the first of these; to what led up to it and to the event itself; leaving it to whoever shall preach the sermon of next year to speak of what followed the election, of the consecration itself, and of its outcomes for this Church.
It seems a narrow field—that to which I find myself limited—but, unless I am greatly deceived, it presents to us topics which will deserve careful consideration.
First, then, let me say something of what led up to the election of 1783. In doing so I must go back to the primordia of the Church in this Diocese.
It ought never to be forgotten that the first missionary—if I may so speak—of our Church in Connecticut was the Book of Common Prayer. Keith and Talbot had, indeed, preached at New London in 1702. Muirson had organized the few churchmen at Stratford into a parish in 1707. Different clergymen had, from time to time, through the watchful care of Caleb Heathcote—a name that we ought never to forget—ministered to that little band in their sore trials and vexations. One, Francis Phillips, had come to them and, after six months of neglect and carelessness, departed, leaving only confusion behind him. But long before anything like permanent ministration was begun at Stratford by George Pigot on Trinity Sunday in 1722, Samuel Johnson at Guilford had been diligently studying the Book of Common Prayer put into his hands by Smithson— another name never to be forgotten—and in those studies we find, it seems to me, the true beginnings of what was to become the Diocese of Connecticut. The old Faith enshrined in the historic creeds of the Prayer-Book; the law and life of worship embodied in its formularies, all leading up to and centering in the highest act of Christian worship, the Holy Eucharist; its ideal of the Christian life taught in its Catechism and carried out in all its offices from baptism to burial; on these foundations, no broader and no narrower, was our Church here built up. God grant that on these foundations it may stand till time shall end!
I protest against the narrow and unhistoric idea that Johnson and those who labored with and after him conformed to the Church of England only because of their convictions touching Holy Orders. No doubt those convictions were a factor, a most important factor, in the change they made. But there was a great deal more involved than that one question. Men who had gone from the dry bones of Ames's Medulla and Wollebius to the "fresh springs" of Hooker and Bull and Pearson, must have found how utterly unlike to the Catholic Faith which they there were taught, were the "distributions and definitions" of that "theoretical divinity" in which they had been trained. It was indeed, as one of them said, "emerging from the glimmer of twilight into the full sunshine of open day." Men who had unlearned their prejudices against "pre-composed forms of prayer" by the study of such books as King's Inventions of Men in the Worship of God and the fifth Book of Hooker's immortal work, and above all of the Book of Common Prayer itself, must have reached another and a loftier ideal of worship than any they had known before. Men who had passed from the narrow, cramped, and often conventional theories of Christian living to which they were accustomed, to the reading of Scott's Christian Life [Footnote: I have often been told, by the late Dr. Jarvis, that Scott's Christian Life was a favorite book with our early clergy, especially with Johnson and Beach.] and the works of Hammond and Ken, had, surely, found something totally different from anything to which they were wonted. The question, as it presented itself to them, took on no narrow shape, ran in no single groove. It covered the Orders, the Faith, the Worship of the Church of God, and it took in with them the ideal of the Christian Life. It was no narrower than that; and they who assume that it was, contradict the conclusions of reason and the testimony of history. The pioneers of our Church were sometimes, in their own days, called by their opponents "covenant-breakers." If, however, they withdrew from covenants entered into by men with each other, it was only that they might attain the fulness of the New Covenant in the Blood of the Incarnate Son of God.
I cannot refrain from quoting here the words of the able author of the History of the Colonial Church. Looking back to the period of which I have been speaking, he says: "The feeling which prevails over every other, at this present moment, and which alone I wish to leave on record, is the feeling of deepest gratitude to those men of Connecticut, who, not from a mere hereditary attachment to the Church of England, or indolent acquiescence in her teachings, but from a deep abiding conviction of the truth that she is a faithful 'Keeper and Witness of Holy Writ,' have shown to her ministers in every age and country, "the way in which they can best promote the glory of their Heavenly Master's name, and enlarge the borders of His Kingdom." [Footnote: Anderson's History of the Colonial Church, iii. 444.]
While, however, the question of ordination was only one out of many things that drew our fathers and pioneers back to the Church from which their fathers had gone out, it must, from the very exigencies of the case, have come into great and constant prominence. It could not be otherwise. The relations of our missionaries to the Bishop of London—who had, by what may almost be called an accident, acquired jurisdiction over English congregations outside of England [Footnote: It was obtained by Laud in 1634; see Anderson, i. 410.]—was little more than nominal. There could be no "well-governing of the Church." If Orders were sought, "the dangers of the sea, sickness, and the violence of enemies" must be incurred, and one in every five that went out sacrificed his life in the attempt to obtain his ministerial commission. Confirmation was an impossibility; and our clergy and people were taunted with the solemn mockery—for it was hardly less—of reading the direction to bring baptized children to the bishop when there was no bishop to whom they could be brought.
That there was no bishop in America was not due to our clergy or people here. [Footnote: Possibly Virginia and Maryland are to be excepted.] The reason must be sought elsewhere. In the second year of its existence, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel had entertained the idea of sending a Suffragan to America; and, even then, the bishops of Scotland "were regarded as the channel through which that assistance could most readily be obtained." [Footnote: Anderson, iii. 36.] The project came to no result. If there is any truth in the tradition that, had it been carried out, Dean Swift would have been sent as Bishop of Virginia, we may be thankful that it failed.
It was renewed from time to time, from the reign of Queen Anne to that of George III., but always without result. Petition after petition, appeal after appeal was sent from America; the Episcopate of England was implored to secure the appointment of "one or more resident bishops in the colonies, for the exercise of offices purely episcopal—offices to which the members of the Church of England have an undoubted claim, and from which they cannot be precluded without manifest injustice and oppression." [Footnote: Bishop Lowth, Sermon before the Venerable Society.] The colonial churchmen found, indeed, some zealous friends in the English Episcopate; and one's heart warms as one reads the names of Sharpe and Berkeley and Butler, of Gibson and Sherlock and Seeker. But I fear it might be truly said of the majority of the bishops of England in those days, "that they thought more of the Acts of Parliament than they did of the Acts of the Apostles."
From Parliament or the English Ministry nothing could be hoped, so long as Sir Robert Walpole or the Duke of Newcastle controlled the action of the State; the name of the first of whom is the synonyme of private profligacy and public faithlessness, while of the latter an English historian [Footnote: Lord Macaulay. Nor was much, if any, more to be hoped for from Pitt, afterwards first Earl of Chatham.] has said that his selfish ambition "was so intense a passion, that it supplied the place of talents and inspired even fatuity with cunning." Not under such auspices was the Episcopate to be given to America.
To these causes of failure must, doubtless, be added the opposition of the dominant religious bodies in the colonies. But here it must, I think, in all fairness be said, that this opposition was largely due to the fear that, were bishops sent to America, they would, somehow and at some time, be "invested with a power of erecting courts to take cognizance of all affairs testamentary and matrimonial, and to enquire into and punish all offences of scandal"; [Footnote: See Minutes of Convention of Delegates from the Synod of New York and Philadelphia and from the Associations of Connecticut, held annually from 1766 to 1775 inclusive (Hartford, 1843). It is now a rare pamphlet, but very valuable for its revelations touching men and measures.] in other words, that they would be, or would become, officers of the State as well as bishops in the Church. No such purpose, it is almost needless to say, was in the minds of those who sought the establishment of a colonial Episcopate. All they desired was a bishop or bishops invested with those powers—and no others— which were recognized in "Holy Scripture and the ancient Canons." But this was just what some would not, and many others could not, be brought to understand. The idea of the officer of State, invested with civil powers and functions, was the vision that disturbed more minds than we can readily imagine now. Says the elder Adams, writing in 1815: "Where is the man to be found who will believe... that the apprehension of Episcopacy contributed, fifty years ago, as much as any other cause, to arouse the attention, not only of the inquiring mind, but of the common people, and urge them to close thinking on the constitutional authority of Parliament over the colonies?" [Footnote: All parties agreed that bishops could be sent out only under an act of Parliament; and there seems to have been no doubt that by such an act they would be divested of all civil powers and functions. But it was said, that such an act could be at any time repealed; and if it were repealed, then, under the common law of England, bishops in the colonies might hold their courts, and exercise such functions as were ordinarily exercised by them in the mother country. The danger may have been largely imaginary; but it was certainly within the limits of possibility, and must, in all candor, be fairly considered.]
Under all the circumstances, then, it is no wonder that when the War of the Revolution ended, and the question came to the minds of thoughtful churchmen how the Church should strengthen "the things that remained that were ready to die," their first thought should have been for the Episcopate. The Faith of the Universal Church they had in the historic Creeds. Its Worship was preserved for them in the Book of Common Prayer, But how to provide for the perpetuation of the "Doctrine and Sacraments and the Discipline of Christ as the Lord had commanded and as this Church had received the same," that was the great practical pressing question with which they were brought face to face. Ordination, Confirmation, and the government of the Church must of need be secured. Nor can we greatly wonder if what no entreaties had been able to obtain while the colonies were a part of the British Empire, seemed now to many an almost hopeless undertaking. The surrender at Yorktown in 1781 was to many American churchmen the death-blow to their hopes for an American Episcopate. There were men enough to see the difficulties and discouragements, to talk and write and speculate about them; but where should those men be found who would grapple with them, and by grappling with them overcome them? I answer, they were found in those ten clergymen who met at Woodbury in 1783, "Men that had understanding of the times." And is it not always somewhat after this sort, when any great step is to be taken, and there are manifold difficulties in the way? Do not men dwell on the difficulties, and exaggerate the dangers, and suggest expedients and makeshifts, till some one, without fuss or noise, takes the step, and lo! the mountain has been levelled and the way lies open? Depend upon it, there is a wealth of wisdom in these simple lines:
"From an old English parsonage down by the sea, There came in the twilight a message to me; Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven, Hath, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven; And all through the hours the quiet words ring, Like a low inspiration: 'Doe the nexte thynge.'"
And what the next thing was for this Church when these western colonies became a nation, we have already seen.
The need of some decided and vigorous action was made more obvious by the fact that one of those makeshifts, just alluded to, by which difficulties are evaded and not met, had been proposed in the emergency, and was not unlikely to be adopted. In the summer of 1782 a pamphlet had been published in Philadelphia, the author of which, impressed with "the impossibility and present undesirableness of attempting to obtain the Episcopate from England," proposed "the combining of the clergy and of representatives of the congregations in convenient districts with a representative body of the whole." This representative body was to issue "a declaration approving of Episcopacy, and professing a determination to possess the succession when it could be obtained"; but, meantime, permanent presidents were to be elected from among the clergy with powers of supervision and ordination. "An exigence of necessity" was pleaded in justification of this extraordinary proposition.
On what possible ground an "exigence of necessity" could be asserted or assumed when no attempt to obtain the Episcopate had been made, it is very difficult to see. How completely is the fallacy and unwisdom of the assumption exposed by the clear, straightforward words of the reply sent from Woodbury on that memorable twenty-fifth of March: "Could necessity warrant a deviation from the law of Christ and the immemorial usage of the Church, yet what necessity can we plead? Can we plead necessity with any propriety till we have been rejected? We conceive the present to be a more favorable opportunity for the introduction of bishops than this country has before seen. However dangerous bishops might have been thought to the civil rights of these States, this danger has now vanished, for such superiors will have no civil authority. They will be purely ecclesiastics... equally under the control of civil law with other clergymen; no danger, then, can now be feared from bishops but such as may be feared from presbyters." And then they further say, how wisely! "Should we consent to a temporary departure from Episcopacy, there would be very little propriety in asking for it afterwards, and as little reason ever to expect it in America."
The men who wrote those words grasped the real exigency as they who spoke loudest about exigencies and impossibilities did not. They foresaw, moreover, with the intuition of true wisdom, the danger of resorting to the temporary expedient that had been proposed. For, in truth, all history proves that such expedients and makeshifts always exhibit a tendency to become permanent, and very soon challenge for themselves a character, as legitimate and ultimate, which is not claimed for them when they are adopted. Then that thing, whatever it may be, to which they profess to lead men up, drops out of sight, and they themselves fill the field of vision. Had the plan of the Philadelphia pamphlet been adopted, such I fully believe, such the clergy of Woodbury believed, must inevitably have been the result. That it was not adopted, that the dangers inherent in it were avoided, was largely owing to the action of the day which we commemorate.
In what simplicity and godly sincerity of heart they took the step that lay right before them, met the difficulty from which others shrank, did "the next thing," and, therefore, wrought for a marvellous future! Says a thoughtful writer: [Footnote: Aubrey de Vere, Sketches in Greece and Turkey.] "Men of ambitious imaginations retire into their study and devise some magnum opus which, like the world itself, is to be created out of nothing, and to hang self-balanced on its own centre; after much puffing, however, the world which they produce is apt to turn out but a well-sized bubble. Men of another order labor but to provide for some practical need; and their work, humble, perhaps occasional, in its design, is found to contain the elements that make human toils indestructible."
It was fortunate for all who were to come after them that those men of whom I speak were no dreamers or doctrinaires, and rode no "half-saddled hobbies" of their own construction. They did not undertake to formulate a creed adapted to the wants of the American mind and the demands of the eighteenth century; they had that which was for every mind and all time, in the One "Faith once delivered to the Saints." They did not attempt to compose a Liturgy or Forms for Sacred Rites and Services; these they also had, capable (doubtless) of adaptation and change "according to the diversity of countries, times, and men's manners," but still complete for all purposes of worship or ministration, being, indeed, the growth of all the Christian ages. They did not set themselves to create a new Church, or even to reason out just what might possibly be dispensed with here or omitted there because of "the present distress"; all they had to do, in that little secluded room where they were assembled, was to provide what was lacking in that organization which they had received; even as in that secluded "upper room" in Jerusalem where the eleven were assembled with the disciples, the vacant place in the Apostolate was filled up in anticipation of the mighty Pentecostal gift. And because they were humble enough, and therefore wise enough, to do just what they did, they "builded better than they knew"; builded on that only foundation that can be laid, even Jesus Christ; builded, also, as "wise master-builders," not with the "wood, hay, stubble" of man's gathering, but with the "gold, silver, precious stones" of the "New Jerusalem that cometh down from heaven."
There is another thought that ought not be passed by. Says an old Father, speaking of the Episcopate: "_Nomen oneris non honoris"; "It is the name of a burden rather than of an honor." So here, the question was not, To whom shall we give the honor? but, Who can best take up and bear the burden? And what a burden it was! The wearisome quest for consecration, sure to be protracted and doubtful as to its result; the insufficient provision—if indeed any provision at all was made—for the maintenance of the bishop- elect during the period of his anxious waiting; [Footnote: Bishop Seabury wrote under date of Jan. 5, 1785: "Two years' absence from my family, and expenses of residence here, have more than expended all I had."] the return, if unsuccessful, with the certainty of being told that another might have succeeded where he had failed; if successful, with the alternative certainty of coming to a weak and despised Church, poor in this world's goods and "everywhere spoken against"; the life-long struggle with its tremendous uncertainties; surely, he who should undertake the burden of these things and many more besides, would need not only the "_robur et aes triplex circa pectus_" of the heathen poet, but the faith that "could remove mountains" also. Who was to be the man?
"All eyes were turned to the venerable Jeremiah Leaming, who had defended the Church with his pen, and suffered for her in mind, body, and estate," and he was the first choice of the clergy at Woodbury. It was felt, however, that his acceptance was doubtful, and the difficulties which might prevent it were fully recognized. The original draught of the letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury places the election and the recognition of the difficulties attending it beyond all doubt, by a passage, which, when Leaming declined the undertaking, was, of course, omitted. These are the words: "His age and infirmities, we confess, were objections on his part we felt the force of. His yielding to our desires, to encounter the fatigues and dangers of such a voyage, which (free from all motives for personal ambition, for which in our situation there is very little temptation) nothing but a zeal almost primitive would lead him to do, much the more endears him to us. He is indeed a tried servant of the Church, and bears about him in a degree the marks of a Confessor." [Footnote: That Leaming was the first choice of the clergy at Woodbury has been questioned. But three things put it beyond doubt: (1) The original letter quoted in the text; (2) Bishop Jarvis's sermon, preached before a Special Convention, May 5, 1796, called to elect a successor to Bishop Seabury, in which the fact is distinctly asserted; (3) Bishop Seabury's letter to Dr. Morice, Secretary of the Venerable Society, under date Feb. 27, 1785, which, when read in the light thrown on it by the original letter and the sermon, can admit of only one interpretation.]
Leaming was not there to speak for himself; and the contingency of his declining to accept the burden was too pressing not to be provided against. Wherefore another was designated, one whose name is forever shrined in the deep love and reverence of this Diocese, and held in grateful remembrance in this Church, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Seabury. Who doubts that in this two-fold designation earnest prayer was made to Him "Who knoweth the hearts of all men"? Who doubts that though no lots were cast, it was left to the ordering of Providence to "show whether of those two the Lord had chosen"? That ordering, as we all know, laid the burden upon Seabury. The brave step was taken, the venture of faith was made. God provided the man to assume the weighty charge; and for that and all that came of it, we offer him to-day "high laud and hearty thanks."
The same wise and prudent forecast which provided against one possible contingency provided also against another, and in its provision exhibited a truer comprehension of what the Church of Christ, as a spiritual Kingdom, really was than any statesman and many prelates in England seem to have then attained. Says one who was present at Woodbury, writing to a friend who became the second Bishop of Massachusetts: "We clergy have even gone so far as to instruct Dr. Seabury, if none of the regular bishops of the Church of England will ordain him, to go down to Scotland and receive ordination from a non-juring bishop." [Footnote: Letter of the Rev. Daniel Fogg to the Rev. Samuel Parker; Connecticut Church Documents, ii. 213.] I am in no wise concerned to deny that the thought of applying to the Scottish bishops may have been an entirely original thought in the mind of more than one person in England in the years 1783 and 1784. But there can be no doubt—for the fact is proved, not by unwritten reminiscences after a lapse of years, but by contemporary documents—that this purpose was in the minds of our clergy long before it could have been conceived in England; before, indeed, it was known there that Seabury would seek consecration at the hands of the English prelacy.
The line and limits which I have prescribed to myself in this discourse forbid me to speak as I fain would speak of my great predecessor. That privilege will belong to the preacher of next year. But I may say, and say it with all reverence, that if ever in our eventful history the guiding hand of God appears, it seems to me to manifest itself in the election of our first bishop. Doubtless brave men lived before Agamemnon, but Agamemnon was not the less brave for that. Doubtless there were strong men and true men here before Seabury—had there not been, there would have been no place for him—but there was none stronger and none truer than himself. He was misrepresented by some and misunderstood by others in his lifetime. He has been misunderstood and misrepresented since. But all that is over. Thanks to his careful biographer and to his own unstudied revelations of himself, men know him better now. The voice of detraction is silent, and there are none to contradict us when we say of him: "His body is buried in peace, but his name liveth forevermore."
My brethren, we shall have lingered to little purpose among these memories of the past, unless we take away with us something for the present hour with its duties and responsibilities. Two thoughts seem to me to rise prominently to view from the survey we have been making; two voices speak to us from those past years.
First we learn the lesson—it has already been spoken of—that only by the true-hearted and faithful discharge of the lowly duty, can we rise up to, or make real, the lofty aim. Said pious George Herbert:
"Pitch thy behaviour low, thy projects high, So shalt thou humble and magnanimous be."
The roots and foundations of all great things, in nature or in the buildings that man rears, lie underground and out of sight. Thoughtless gazers may think little of them; but no towering oak, no stately temple, can stand without them. Above all, in the Church of God, he who works on any other rule than this will lose his labor, it may be will lose himself, and find written at last over his most cherished plans the woeful words: "All is vanity."
Another thought presents itself, another voice is heard full of the inspiration of faith and hope, telling us of the abiding presence of the Lord with His Church, carrying us back to those two unfailing promises: "I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter that He may abide with you forever"; "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world!" In very truth, in that day of doubt and dismay this Church was "as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city." To-day we look upon her as "she hath sent out her boughs unto the sea and her branches unto the river," and we bless God for the greatness of "His goodness" and the greatness of "His beauty."
Do we rejoice, dear brethren, in all this with trembling? Do we seem to hear, from the not distant horizon, the muttering of storms which are gathering around us and may burst upon us? Do we see tokens not only of assault from without, but of betrayal from within? Then let us take courage from our past; let us do what those who went before us did; let us, like them, "keep that which is committed to our trust"; and if "evil men and seducers wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived," let us, as they did, "continue in the things which we have learned, knowing of whom we have learned them."
And finally, let us give these thoughts—the lesson of the one and the inspiration, not without warning, of the other—shape and utterance in the prayer, more full of meaning to us than it could have been to the people of the elder covenant:
"The Lord our God be with us as He was with our fathers; let Him not leave us nor forsake us; that He may incline our hearts unto Him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep His commandments, and His statutes, and His judgments which He commanded our fathers."
The Bishop then proceeded with the Communion-office, being assisted in the service by the Rev. William Jones Seabury, D.D., Professor in the General Theological Seminary and Rector of the Church of the Annunciation, New York, great-grandson of Bishop Seabury, and in the administration by the Rev. Drs. Beardsley, Harwood, and Seabury, and the Rev. Dr. W. E. Vibbert, Rector of St. James's Church, Fair Haven. Among the sacred vessels used in the service were the Paten and Chalice used by Bishop Seabury in St. James's Church, New London.
CENTENARY COMMEMORATION OF THE CONSECRATION OF BISHOP SEABURY. 1884.
THE RT. REV. SAMUEL SEABURY, D.D.
WAS CONSECRATED FIRST BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AT ABERDEEN,
NOVEMBER 14, 1784.
The Diocesan Convention of 1884 met on the tenth day of June in St. James's Church, New London.
Morning Prayer was read at 9 o'clock by the Rev. William B. Buckingham, Rector of the Parish, the Rev. Samuel H. Giesy, D.D., Rector of Christ Church, Norwich, and the Rev. Storrs O. Seymour, Rector of Trinity Church, Hartford. At 10-1/2 o'clock, after the singing of the 138th Hymn, the service of the Holy Communion was begun. The Bishop was assisted in the service by the Rector of the Parish, the Rev. E. E. Beardsley, D.D., LLD., Rector of St. Thomas's Church, New Haven, the Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis, Rector of Trinity Church, Brooklyn, and the Rev. James Stoddard, Rector of Christ Church, Watertown. After the Nicene Creed the Bishop preached the Sermon as follows:
THE STONES REVIVED. NEHEMIAH IV. 2.
What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?
It is difficult to imagine a more hopeless undertaking—as men's eyes looked on it—than the attempt to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple at the close of the captivity. For seventy years their ruins had lain in the condition which Isaiah describes in such impressive words: "Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation; our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant places are laid waste." Jerusalem was indeed "a heap of stones."
And who were they that should undertake to bring beauty, strength, and order out of all this ruin and desolation? A small and despised remnant of a once powerful people straggling back, as it might seem, in handfuls, from their seventy years' captivity.
Follow Nehemiah in his lonely night-ride as he makes his solitary circuit around the broken walls. Look at the scattered companies of the re-builders as they set about their work; so separated from each other, on that long line of ruined towers and bulwarks, that a trumpet must be sounded to gather them together, should they be attacked by enemies. Think of the sinking of heart with which the first stone to be relaid must have been lifted; think of the scorn with which they who hoped to see the failure of the forlorn attempt must have looked on him who lifted it; and you can then make real to yourselves the greatness of the undertaking and the apparently hopeless inadequacy of the means at hand for its accomplishment. No wonder that the enemies of Judah and Jerusalem cried, "What do these feeble Jews?" No wonder that "Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall." No wonder that the provincial Jews—as they have been termed—sent "ten times" to recall their brethren aiding those who were laboring at Jerusalem, No wonder that Nehemiah "made his prayer unto God," and said, "Hear, O our God, for we are despised!"
Taking up, as I am to do to-day, the narrative of the events which followed on, and were the outcome of, the election of our first Bishop of which I spoke to you last year, and which gather round, and centre in, his consecration at Aberdeen a hundred years ago, I seem, as I try to reproduce those days and make them real to our minds, to hear Words uttered so like to those which have just been brought together that they appear to be the very echoes of that far distant past. Enemies are crying, "What do these feeble Jews?" Timid friends are saying, "The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed"—we cannot do the work. But brave hearts and loving hearts murmured to themselves, "Our God shall fight for us"; and among them all there was no truer, braver heart than that of Seabury, as, taking up the burden laid on him, he set forth on his quest—nobler than the knightliest of olden times—for that sacred Deposit which he was to bear to our western world.
How fared he in his quest? In the answer to this question we shall find the topic that invites attention now. And first of all, something must be said of the documents and testimonials which he carried with him. These were, so far as the clergy of Connecticut were concerned, prepared by the secretary of the meeting held at Woodbury (afterwards our second bishop), the Rev. Abraham Jarvis. They are quite too long for reading here; but it must be said of them that they are admirably conceived and expressed, and set forth a much truer and sounder ideal of the Church of God in its obligation to the State on the one side, and its spiritual duties, under the one Headship of Him Whose "kingdom is not of this world," on the other, than seems to have then prevailed in the mother country. Two passages from the letter of our clergy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, I venture to quote in proof of what has just been said.
"America is now severed from the British empire; by that separation we cease to be a part of the national Church. But, although political changes affect and dissolve our external connection, and cut us off from the powers of the State, yet, we hope, a door still remains open for access to the governors of the Church; and what they might not do for us, without the permission of government, while we were bound as subjects to ask favors and receive them under its auspices and sanctions, they may, in right of their inherent spiritual powers, grant and exercise in favor of a Church planted and nurtured by their hand, and now subjected to other powers.".... "Permit us to suggest, with all deference, our firm persuasion that a sense of the sacred Deposit committed by the great Head of the Church to her bishops, is so awfully impressed on your Grace's mind, as not to leave a moment's doubt in us of your being heartily disposed to rescue the American Church from the distress and danger which now, more than ever, threaten her for want of an Episcopate."
To the same purpose they spoke in their letter to the Archbishop of York. "This part of America is at length dismembered from the British empire; but, notwithstanding the dissolution of our civil connection with the parent State, we still hope to retain our religious polity, the primitive and evangelical doctrine and discipline, which at the Reformation were restored and established in the Church of England." And then they go on to say that, to complete and perpetuate this polity, "an American Episcopate" must be secured.
How clearly the men who used this language shewed that they fully comprehended the position and rights of a National Church; the obedience which "in all things temporal" the Church owes to the powers that are ordained of God; her complete independence and autonomy "in things purely spiritual"; and the great fact that by no political changes was this Church severed from the Church of England or from the historic Church of all the ages, so long as she continued "stedfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread and the prayers!"
The testimonials and letters thus furnished by the clergy of Connecticut were strengthened by similar documents signed by the venerable Leaming and by the rector and the assistant minister of Trinity Church, New York, and others. [Footnote: These testimonials, bearing date April 21, 1783, have misled some persons into the idea that Seabury was elected on that day in New York. This is a mistake easily made if one carelessly glances at the documents, but impossible if the documents are read.] Armed with these testimonials, and bearing a letter from the clergy of Connecticut to the Venerable Society imploring the continuance, at least for a time, of their stipends, the Bishop-elect reached London on the seventh day of July, 1783.
And now began the wearisome and wearing delay of all those slowly- passing months, during which the postulant for the Episcopate was hoping against hope for an enabling act of Parliament, under which the bishops of England might proceed to consecrate him to the office of a Bishop in the Church of God.
It forms no part of my purpose to enter into all the details of that most unattractive period; but I may not pass by the different obstacles to action which presented themselves, or were presented with whatsoever purpose, as those months dragged their slow length along. I know how difficult it is to carry one's self back into a distant period of time and to surround one's self with its real circumstances and conditions, especially when these are connected with what were then new and perplexing civil and ecclesiastical relations. But I cannot wonder that, looking back on so many failures in regard to an American Episcopate, and the apparent inability of those whose aid was invoked to grasp the issue presented with all its grand possibilities—I cannot wonder that the clergy of Connecticut should have said: "We hope that the successors of the Apostles in the Church of England have sufficient reasons to justify themselves to the world and to God. We, however, know of none such, nor can our imagination frame any." [Footnote: Address of the Connecticut Clergy to Bishop Seabury, 1785.]
I name first, among the difficulties urged, the fear "that there would be no adequate support for a bishop"; and I name it first simply because it was, probably, the least. The answer to it that came from our clergy was dignified and conclusive. "We can contemplate," they said, "no other support for a bishop than what is to be derived from voluntary contracts, and subscriptions and contributions, directed by the good will and zeal of the members of a Church who are taught, and do believe, that a bishop is the chief minister in the kingdom of Christ on earth.... A bishop in Connecticut must, in some degree, be of the primitive style. With patience, and a share of primitive zeal, he must rest for support on the Church which he serves, unornamented with temporal dignity, and without the props of secular power." Whether the English prelacy did or did not grasp, and acquiesce in, this ideal of a bishop and his office, I cannot find that they pressed this objection further.
A second obstacle was thus expressed: "It would be sending a bishop to Connecticut, which they [the bishops of England] have no right to do without the consent of the State, and such a bishop would not be received in Connecticut." The phrase "consent of the State" is ambiguous. It may refer to the Continental Congress or to the authorities of the particular State concerned. If, however, there were any who gave to the phrase the first of these interpretations, they appear to have speedily abandoned it and to have adopted the second. Apparently they supposed that the civil authority in Connecticut might claim the right, and exercise the power, to forbid a bishop to come within the limits of the State, and to set him adrift with "the wide world before him where to choose," a veritable bishop in partibus, without home, habitation, or name. There can be little doubt that these fancies were pressed by, if they did not originate with, persons belonging to the so-called "Standing Order" in New England, under the lead of a prominent minister in Connecticut.
To meet the difficulty, it was stated that a committee of the Convention of the clergy of Connecticut had consulted with leading members of both Houses of Assembly touching the "need, the propriety, or the prudence of an application to government for the admission of a bishop into the State," and that the result of the conference showed that no such Act was needed, inasmuch as the Assembly had already given all needful "legal rights and powers" to all bodies of Christians of whatever name, and, therefore, to the Church among them; that, if not needed, there could be no propriety in applying for it; and, finally, that any such application would be imprudent and unwise, in that "there were some who would oppose it, and would labor to excite opposition among the people, who, if unalarmed by any jealousies, would probably remain quiet." How far these wise and reasonable conclusions commended themselves to the bishops of England I am unable to state.
A third difficulty remained; and this, it must be owned, had more substance to it than those just considered. It related to the oaths in the Ordination Office. These could not, of course, be taken by the person seeking consecration; nor could the consecrating bishops dispense with them on their own authority; nor would the dispensation of the sovereign suffice, even should it be given, unless with, at least, the concurrence of the Privy Council, or—and this seems to have been the final conclusion—an Act of Parliament.
When we remember how potent an element in bringing on the Revolution of 1688—a revolution which had placed the House of Hanover on the throne of Great Britain—the question as to the sovereign's dispensing power had been; what an engine of tyranny in the State and of destruction to the Church James II. had intended to make it; and how offensive, if not dangerous, any revival of it might well appear, we need not wonder that the bishops of England should have declined to act under it, or that the sovereign should have declined to give it, unless it could be guarded and supported by forms and sanctions of unquestionable legality.
All this is clear enough. But what does not appear is, why a more hearty and earnest effort was not made to secure the needed legislation. No such effort could have been expected from the authorities of the State. They who cared nothing for an Episcopate in America before the War of the Revolution, were not likely to care more for it after the war was ended. If, as they had all along been led to believe, the idea of an Episcopate was offensive to the Colonies, it could hardly, they would say, be less offensive to the States in the first flush of their acknowledged independence. Nor were influences lacking, either in England or in America, which were brought to bear in blocking that legislation without which the English Prelacy declined to act. It is, therefore, easy to understand the apathy of government. But it is not so easy to understand, and it is far less easy to justify, the apparent apathy of those who, it might justly have been thought, "in view of the sacred deposit committed by the great Head of the Church to her bishops," would have been heartily disposed to avert the dangers which darkened the future of the Church in America. What makes the inaction more inexplicable is, that while these negotiations were pending, an Act of Parliament was actually passed which enabled "the Bishop of London to admit foreign candidates to the order of deacon or priest, but gave no permission to consecrate a bishop for Connecticut or for any of the American States." Who can wonder that Seabury was, at last, driven to say, "This is certainly the worst country in the world to do business in; I wonder how they get along at any rate"! [Footnote: Letter to Mr. Jarvis, May 24, 1784.]
As I have read, time and again, the record of that weary waiting, the story of that hope perpetually deferred, I have always risen from the reading with the profound impression that I have been brought into contact with a bravely patient and an utterly unselfish man.
Alone in what was now to him a foreign land, separated from his family which had been left here in New London, seeing his worldly means which were "all embarked in this enterprise" rapidly wasting away, without any influence to back him but the righteousness of his cause, with his very loyalty to the crown made an objection to him where one might have expected the precise opposite, he never bated one jot of effort—however it may have been as to heart and hope—but met difficulties, answered objections, dealt with obstacles with a brave patience that marks him as a veritable hero. [Footnote: A story was set about by Granville Sharpe, whose prejudices led him to be unjustly credulous, that at his first interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Seabury, in answer to the objections raised by his Grace, turned abruptly on his heel, saying, "If your Grace will not grant me consecration, I know where I can get it"; and so set off for Scotland. There is no truth whatever in the story. Seabury's letters, as well as all the circumstances, completely disprove it. Nor does the fact that Sharpe believed it, excuse his biographer, who might have known better, for giving it currency.]
Nor was this the persistence of a self-seeking and ambitious man, bent on attaining something for himself. It occurred to him, not unnaturally, that possibly if the State of Connecticut were to be asked to give permission for a bishop to reside within its borders, it might be easier to secure such permission for another than for one who had been imprisoned in New Haven for his loyalty. Accordingly he wrote to his friends here: "I beg that no clergyman in Connecticut will hesitate a moment on my account; the point is to get the Episcopal authority into that country"; and then he went on to say that, if another is designated, "he shall have every assistance in my power." These are not the words of a self- seeking man—a man of low ambitions. But they are the words of a man filled with a great purpose, inspired with a great thought, ready to do and to bear and to wait, so the purpose can be accomplished and the thought take shape. All is summed up by him in a single sentence: "Believe me, there is nothing that is not base that I would not do, nor any risk that I would not run, nor any inconvenience to myself that I would not encounter, to carry this business into effect." [Footnote: While these negotiations in England were in progress, an application was made, without Seabury's knowledge, to Cartwright of Shrewsbury, an irregular non-juring bishop. As, however, this was subsequent to the opening of negotiations with Scotland, nothing, fortunately, came of it. It has been said that an application was made to, or an offer received from, the Danish government, looking to a consecration by Danish bishops. This, however, is a mistake. No application was ever made for consecration in Denmark; while the offer of the Danish government, made through Mr. Adams, our then Minister to England, related only to the ordination of candidates for the diaconate and priesthood. The passage of the Act of Parliament, mentioned above, prevented the necessity of acting on the offer; and fortunately so, for the Danish Episcopate is only titular.]
Nearly fourteen months had now elapsed since Seabury arrived in London. It was clear that consecration must, if obtained at all, be obtained elsewhere than in England, and naturally his thoughts reverted to Scotland. So careful, however, was he to consult in all things those who had elected him, that he would take no decisive step—notwithstanding the instructions given from Woodbury in March, 1783—till they had been communicated with, and their views obtained; so that it was not till August 31, 1784, that he wrote to Dr. Myles Cooper. The letter is creditable alike to his head and his heart. No word of personal disappointment and vexation, no line of reproach finds place in it is the letter of a manly man, too strong in faith and purpose to waste time in complaints and repinings. He applies through his friend to the bishops of Scotland, and adds: "I hope I shall not apply in vain. If they consent to impart the Episcopal succession to the Church of Connecticut, they will, I think, do a good work, and the blessing of thousands will attend them. And perhaps for this cause, among others, God's providence has supported them and continued their succession under various and great difficulties; that a free, valid, and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy may from them pass into the Western world."
Let me pause, just here, to remind you that this was the third time that men's minds were turned to the Scottish bishops in connection with an American Episcopate.
When, in 1703, the Venerable Society had it in mind to send out to America a Suffragan to the Bishop of London, it was thought that consecration could be most readily obtained from the bishops of Scotland.
In the autumn of 1782, one year after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown—an event which practically settled the question of the independence of the thirteen colonies—the Rev. Dr. George Berkeley, a son of that great prelate who sang of the "westward course of empire," addressed a letter to Bishop Skinner, coadjutor to the Primus of the Scottish Church, suggesting that the bishops of Scotland should consecrate a bishop for America, and saying, "had my honored father's scheme for planting an Episcopal College, whereof he was to have been president, in the Summer Islands, not been sacrificed by the worst minister that Britain ever saw, probably under a mild monarch (who loves the Church of England as much as I believe his grandfather hated it) Episcopacy would have been established in America by a succession from the English Church, unattended by any invidious temporal rank or power."
No doubt the question thus proposed to the Scottish bishops was carefully considered, but the result was unfavorable to Dr. Berkeley's wishes. Bishop Skinner wrote: "Nothing can be done in the affair with safety on our side, till the independence of America be fully and irrevocably recognized by the government of Britain; and even then the enemies of our Church might make a handle of our correspondence with the colonies as a proof that we always wished to fish in troubled waters, and we have little need to give any ground for an imputation of this kind,"
No one who recalls the frightful provisions of the penal acts of Parliament passed in 1746 and 1748, which were plainly intended to annihilate the Scottish Church, and were unrepeated when Bishop Skinner wrote the words just quoted, can wonder at the hesitation of the Scottish bishops. For in executing these laws in days not long passed, "so vigilantly were the Scottish Episcopal clergy watched...that it was with the utmost difficulty they could celebrate any of the services of religion. There are instances of individual clergymen performing public worship no less than sixteen times in one day.....The service was often performed in farm-houses, or in the out-houses of the farmhouse, if these were conveniently constructed. In either case the clergyman, the family, and four persons were in the apartment, and dozens or hundreds of others stationed themselves in as favorable positions as they could, to listen to the prayers of the Church. Sometimes divine service was celebrated under a shed, in which was the number allowed by law, while the people stood at a small distance in the open air. At times, again, when there was no apparent danger; pastor and people met in the recesses of woods, in secluded glens, and on the sides of sequestered mountains, where the vault of heaven was their covering, the moss turfs their humble altar, and perhaps a solitary seat their pulpit." [Footnote: John Parker Lawson's History of the Scottish Episcopal Church, pp. 300-302. See also the Rev. W. Walker's most interesting Life of John Skinner of Linshirt, chap. iii. To make the general statements in the text plainer, I add, in a foot-note, some details which time forbade me to introduce into the sermon. By the Act of 1746, "every person exercising the function of a pastor or minister in any Episcopal meeting in Scotland, without registering his letters of orders, and taking all the oaths prescribed by law, and praying for his Majesty King George and the royal family by name" was "for the first offence to suffer six months' imprisonment; and for the second, or any subsequent offence, was to be transported to some of his Majesty's plantations in America for life; and in case of his return to Great Britain, to suffer imprisonment for life." All chapels were to be closed; and even in a private house only four persons besides the family were allowed to be present at any service. In 1748, no letters of orders, not given by some bishop of England or Ireland, were allowed in Scotland; and no persons were allowed to officiate as chaplains in private families, or to preach or perform any divine services in houses of which they were not the masters, unless they belonged to the Presbyterian establishment. These atrocious acts were, undoubtedly, intended to destroy "root and branch" the Scottish Church. Happily some laws are so stringent that their very stringency prevents their thorough execution. It should never be forgotten that the English Episcopate unanimously opposed the Act of 1748 in the House of Lords.] In very truth, so far as the worship of God was concerned, "they wandered"—these churchmen of Scotland—"in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth."
We may not sympathize with the political scruples of the non- jurors of Scotland. But any men who so possess the courage of their convictions as not to shrink from loss of goods and danger of life, and who accept the trials of martyrdom without posing as martyrs in personal comfort and security, deserve and will receive the veneration of all true-hearted and right-minded men. And in this matter, "let all history declare whether in any age or in any cause, as followers of Knox or of Montrose, as Cameronians or as Jacobites, the men—aye and the women—of Scotland have quailed from any degree of sacrifice or suffering." [Footnote: Lord Stanhope, History of England, in. 210.]
To return:—The correspondence between Bishop Skinner and Dr. Berkeley was continued through the winter of 1782-1783, but without any actual result. [Footnote: Scottish Church Review, i. 36-43.] In the autumn of 1783—some four months after Seabury's arrival in England—a letter was sent to the Scottish Primus by Mr. Elphinstone, a man of literary reputation, the son of a Scottish clergyman, in which the following question was put: "Can consecration be obtained in Scotland for an already dignified and well vouched American clergyman, now in London, for the purpose of perpetuating the Episcopal reformed Church in America, particularly in Connecticut?" [Footnote: Wilberforce, American Church, p. 205.] At the same time Dr. Berkeley renewed his correspondence with Bishop Skinner in these words: "I have this day [Nov. 24] heard (I need not add with the sincerest pleasure) that a respectable Presbyter, well recommended from America, hath arrived in London, seeking what it seems in the present state of affairs he cannot expect to receive in our Church. Surely, dear sir, the Scotch prelates, who are not shackled by any Erastian connexion, will not send this suppliant empty away. .... I scruple not to give it as my decided opinion that the king, some of his cabinet counsellors, all our bishops (except, peradventure, the Bishop of St. Asaph [Footnote: Dr. Jonathan Shipley.]), all the learned and respectable clergy of our Church, will at least secretly rejoice if a Protestant bishop be sent from Scotland to America—more especially if Connecticut is to be the scene of his ministry." [Footnote: Scottish Church Review, i. 106; where the rest of the correspondence is also given.]
The question now brought before the Scottish bishops, was, as will be readily seen, a different one from that proposed nearly two years before. Then they were asked to originate action and to send out a bishop, selected by themselves, to take his chances of being received by the clergy and church-people in America. Now the proposition was to complete action already begun, and to invest with the Episcopal character a person selected in America and sent out to obtain consecration. Wisely did the Scottish prelates decline to take the former course, which could only have increased the difficulties of the situation. As wisely, and with a noble recognition of the importance of what they clearly regarded as the great responsibility and solemn duty laid upon them, did they decide to adopt the latter. Said one of them: "Considering the great Depositum committed to us, I do not see how we can account to our great Lord and Master, if we neglect such an opportunity of promoting His truth and enlarging the borders of His Church. "These words have in them the ring of a firm conviction of duty, and a thorough understanding of the true character and position of Christ's kingdom upon earth.
Still, ready as they were to take the responsibility, and even the possible dangers, of consecrating the applicant for the Episcopate, there were some further questions to be asked, and at least one doubt to be removed. They owed it to themselves, and to the Church of God, to be well assured of "the candidate's learning, piety, and principles," and also "to know whether the proposal was only from himself, or if it was a plan laid with his American brethren, and if he was recommended and his consecration solicited by them." It is needless to say that ample and entire satisfaction was given on both these points.
One thing—and it brings out the doubt just alluded to-the Scottish bishops could not quite comprehend. Says Bishop Skinner, speaking for his brethren as well as for himself: "I should be glad to know why he [Dr. Seabury] has been refused consecration in England; as I cannot conceive any good reason for denying this, after what Government has already yielded to the United States. The Bishop of London, I presume, does not now think of exercising any spiritual jurisdiction where the secular power of Britain is no longer acknowledged. And if all the respectable characters you mention would secretly rejoice at the establishment of Protestant Episcopacy in America, even through Scotland, there must be some ostensible reason for their withholding that confidence and support they would otherwise give to this proposal." [Footnote: Letter to Dr. Berkeley, under date of Nov. 29, 1783.]
Long years of suffering had taught the Scottish bishops caution, nor can it be wondered at that while they were "keenly alive to the necessity of preserving the Scottish Church from the odium that would have been incurred by any hasty or mistaken step," they were also "utterly at a loss to understand why considerations of a purely political kind should have had such enervating influence on the English bishops as to render them passive spectators of the destitution of their American children." Brave men, men ready to run needful risks and meet unavoidable dangers, are not the men who are willing to be made cat's-paws. How the doubt was resolved I am unable to say. That it was resolved is certain; since on the 8th of December, 1783, it was known that consecration could be obtained in Scotland.
Just here the questions arise: Why, if the Scottish bishops were ready to proceed to consecration in December of 1783, was that solemn act deferred for near a twelve-month—till November of the following year? And why did Seabury himself delay his application to Scotland till August of the same year? The answer is found in Seabury's own letter of August, 1784, already quoted, in which he formally applies to the bishops of Scotland. He says: "With regard to myself, it is not my fault that I have not done it before, but I thought it my duty to pursue the plan marked out for me by the clergy of Connecticut, as long as there was a probable chance of succeeding." [Footnote: Seabury's letter to Dr. Cooper of August 31, 1784. On the back of this letter there is a note, written either by Bishop Skinner or, more probably, by his father, the Rev. John Skinner of Linshart, in these words: "Dr. Berkeley, in consequence of some fear suggested by Bishop Skinner, wrote the present Archbishop of Canterbury [Dr. John Moore] that application had been made by Dr. Seabury to the Scottish bishops for consecration, and begged that if his Grace thought the bishops here ran any hazard in complying with Seabury's request, he would be so good as to give Dr. Berkeley notice immediately; but if his Grace was satisfied that there was no danger, there was no occasion to give any answer. No answer came." Scottish Church Review, i. 113. In view of all these facts and circumstances, how utterly preposterous is the gossiping story retailed by Granville Sharpe!]
The explanation was satisfactory, and on the 2nd of October, Bishop Kilgour, the Scottish Primus, wrote: "Dr. Seabury's long silence, after it had been signified to him that the bishops of this Church would comply with his proposals, made them all think that the affair was dropped, and that he did not choose to be connected with them; but his letter, and the manner in which he accounts for his conduct, give such satisfaction, that I have the pleasure to inform you that we are still willing to comply with his proposal to clothe him with the Episcopal character, and thereby convey to the Western world the blessing of a free, valid, and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy; not doubting that he will so agree with us in doctrine and discipline, as that he and the Church under his charge in Connecticut will hold communion with us and the Church here on catholic and primitive principles; and so that the members of both may with freedom communicate together in all the offices of religion." Reasons are also given why the consecration should take place in Aberdeen.
To this letter of the Primus, Seabury replied at once, expressing to the Scottish bishops his thankfulness "for the ready and willing mind which they manifested in this important affair," and giving utterance to the prayer—how wonderfully answered!—"May God accept and reward their piety, and grant that this whole business may terminate to the glory of His name and the prosperity of His Church!"
The way seemed now to be cleared; and the 5th of November found Seabury in Aberdeen. One might reasonably have supposed that all difficulties were now surmounted. But it was not so. It is not necessary to go into details; they would simply set forth a painful story of human infirmity and self-seeking. It is enough to say that while Seabury was travelling northward a letter—inspired at least by a clergyman in America—was sent from London to the Scottish Primus, containing a personal attack on the bishop-elect, and warning the Scottish bishops of the unknown evils that would follow on his consecration. The manly uprightness and good sense of Bishop Skinner dispersed these unsubstantial mists of detraction if not of malice, and he thus disposed of the unworthy attempt to injure Seabury and intimidate his consecrators: "I cannot help considering the whole of this intelligence as a mean and silly artifice of some enemy to Dr. Seabury, who secretly envies us the introducing such a worthy man into America in the character of a bishop, a character I am fully satisfied he is in every way qualified to support with honor to himself and all concerned with him. For if there be truth and candor in man, I honestly declare I think it is in Dr. Seabury." [Footnote: The letter to the Primus with the other correspondence is given in the Scottish Church Review, i. 111-118.]
We have reached, at length, the consummation of this more than knightly quest, this veritable pilgrimage, the story of which I have tried to tell. When I began it last year, I asked you to go with me, in thought, to a secluded inland village in our own Diocese. Now I must ask you to go with me to a grey old city, the capital of northern Scotland, which looks out upon the German ocean. It is a place of old renown, for it had a name before one civilized man had set foot on this northern continent. Did time permit, much might be said about it; for it was once the home of Hector Boethius, praised by the great Erasmus, and in far later times the home, also, of Forbes of Corse and Henry Scougal; and its clergy and people in 1639 refused the "solemn League and Covenant" until it was forced upon them at the point of the sword, and renounced it when the pressure was withdrawn. It is sometimes called "the city of Bon-Accord," from the legend of its arms. And that legend must always for us have a higher than any earthly application, for it must always speak to us of "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Nor ought another thing to be forgotten to-day. The first place in which a clergyman in English orders ever officiated in Connecticut—as a clergyman of the Church of England—was here in New London, destined to be the home of our first bishop; and that clergyman was the Rev. George Keith, a native of Aberdeen. [Footnote: He was the guest of the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, minister of the town, who afterwards presided at the discussion in the Library of Yale College in 1722. The service in New London was Sept. 13, 1702.]
Passing into the part of New Aberdeen known as the Long Acre, and ascending to "a large upper room" in the house occupied by the Coadjutor-Bishop of the Diocese, we find ourselves in the midst of a large congregation of the clergy and the faithful and in the presence of the three officiating prelates. Two [Footnote: Robert Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Moray. ] are men far on in years; one [Footnote: John Skinner, Coadjutor of Aberdeen.] is in the full maturity of his manhood, and to him is committed the office of the preacher. As the sermon ends, we hear the words of the concluding verses of the ninetieth Psalm, in the version of Tate and Brady—the last two of which, as we read them with the story of the succeeding century in mind, may also seem a prophecy:
"To all Thy servants, Lord, let this Thy wondrous work be known; And to our offspring yet unborn, Thy glorious power be shewn
"Let thy bright rays upon us shine, Give Thou our work success; The glorious work we have in hand, Do Thou vouchsafe to bless,"
The supreme point of the solemn office is reached. A young priest, who has not yet seen thirty summers, holds the book from which the aged Primus reads the awful sentence of ordination and the charge which follows it; that youthful priest is Alexander Jolly, afterwards the saintly Bishop of Moray. The imposition of Apostolic hands is given; the work begun here in 1783 is consummated, and our Diocese rejoices in its first bishop.
Nor is this all. The golden chain of the succession that starts from the Master's hand is stretched westward across an ocean. The
"Church of Jesus Christ, The blessed Banyan of our God,"
sends out a branch to root itself in our western world; a branch which our eyes have seen "rise, and spread, and droop, and root again," until in its self-repeating life it has crossed this continent, and is firmly rooted on our, then unknown, Pacific coast.
"Long as the world itself shall last, The sacred Banyan still shall spread; From clime to clime, from age to age, Its sheltering shadow shall be shed; Nations shall seek its pillared shade, Its leaves shall for their healing be; The circling flood that feeds its life, The blood that crimsoned Calvary."' [Footnote: Bishop Doane of New Jersey; Ficus Religiosa.]
And here I pause to-day. Another year, please God, we must bring to remembrance what followed the consecration in Scotland, the newly-consecrated bishop's return to America, and the share that he and his Diocese had in organizing this Church in the United States.
Here and now it is enough to have told the story—not as it should be told, but as I have had power to tell it—of his consecration. Standing above the honored sepulchre [Footnote: Bishop Seabury's remains rest under the chancel of St. James's Church, New London. ] that holds the mouldered remains of him who a hundred years ago knelt down in that distant land to receive the warrant of his high commission in the Church of God; in this fair temple, which replaces the far humbler one in which he ministered as a parish priest; beside that monument, which attests the loving gratitude of a Diocese that will never let his memory be forgotten; two thoughts—bringing with them a thankfulness too deep for utterance—fill mind and heart alike: the first, the thought of that brave, patient, self-sacrificing soldier of the Cross, who dared all and gave all, that he might win for us the precious gift that binds us to the historic Church and through it to the great day of Pentecost and the mount of the Ascension; the second, of those venerable fathers who, to communicate this gift, rose above all personal considerations, and put aside possibilities that might have daunted many a brave soul, because on their hearts was written—as with a pen of iron on living rock—that charge to all Christ's ministers which comprehends and covers all duties and responsibilities: "It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful."