Horatio Potter.

A pastoral letter [to the clergy and laity of the diocese of New York] with the replies of S.H. Tyng, E.H. Canfield, J.C. Smith [and] W.A. Muhlenberg online

. (page 13 of 13)
Online LibraryHoratio PotterA pastoral letter [to the clergy and laity of the diocese of New York] with the replies of S.H. Tyng, E.H. Canfield, J.C. Smith [and] W.A. Muhlenberg → online text (page 13 of 13)
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surely it is better that they should be really worshipping in their
own way, than seeming to worship in our way. Our service used
under such circumstances, is not likely to be a reality and the
homeliest reality in worship is better far than the goodh
reality.



25

There is another consideration. Non-Episcopal congregations
in their organized capacity you deem scliismatical ; why then are
our ministers allowed to preach to them at all, except for the
avowed purpose of reclaiming them from schism ? How does the
use of the Prayer-Book mend the matter ? Rather it makes it
worse, so far as reality, again, is concerned. It looks as if you
were quite at peace with them, and considered them altogether
qualified for the worship of those who are in full communion with
the Church. Or has it the special virtue of making them good
Churchmen, for the nonce ? Is such the opus operatum of the
Prayer-Book ?*

When some of us officiated in our neighbors' pulpits, we con-
fined ourselves to the duty of the pulpit ; we did not go to litur-
gize to do the office of a bishop, priest, or deacon, but simply
and exclusively to deliver a sermon.f We minded our own busi-
ness. The worship was in other hands. If they did not conduct
it canonically, they, not we, were to be called to account. But
for this we are called to account. This is the gravamen of our of-
fence. " There seemed," says the Pastoral, " to be an express
design to unite with the ministers of other bodies in the same
services." Unquestionably there was such design. Our object
was to show openly our communion w r ith our brethren holding
and declaring with us " the faith once delivered to the saints."

"Can you" (as one facetiously remarked, alluding to the Evening Prayer on
fly-leaves scattered through the pews) "lay the schism devil with a little printer's
ink?"

f One of these occasions was Good Friday afternoon, 1864. For a fortnight
previous I had spent much time in obtaining the signatures of a large number of
the clergy of various denominations, to a circular recommending the observance of
that day, both for its commemoration and for the purpose of manifesting the unity
of Christians in the doctrines of the Cross. Nearly everywhere I met with the most
cordial welcome. A few days before the fast, Dr. Adams, who had taken a lead,
in furthering the movement, said to me : " Will you not now come and finish your
work by preaching in my church on Good Friday afternoon, when a number of
clergy and people of other congregations will be present ?" A small reply would
it not have been had I said : " Yes, on condition that you allow me to conduct all
the worship myself, and according to the forms of my own Church." I shall never
forget that solemnized and thronged assembly. Never did I so feel the reality of
my office as a preacher of the Crucified. It was the happiest Good Friday of my
life. Subsequently, I preached twice on Sunday evenings in the same church, leav-
ing the service to the pastor. This I was aware the Bishop did not affection ; but
I had no idea that he thought it unlawful. I was greatly surprised to find him,
considering it such in his Pastoral.



26

What canon does that break ? Perchance it violates one of those
principles of the Church which the Pastoral so frequently refers
to, as well as to its laws ; but as it specifies only laws, I do not
know which principle of the Church is here concerned.

After all this explaining away of the canon, as it may seem,
you may ask, What does it amount to ? what is its purpose ? A
very important one, namely, to establish the Prayer-Book to ob-
ligate the clergy to the use of it. Without this act of legislation
I do not know that we should be bound to it as we now are in
conducting public worship. In that view, it is one of the most im-
portant of the canons ; and such it is, considered as an imperative
law for all the times and occasions to which the Prayer-Book is
adapted, and for which it shows itself to be designed. Thus un-
derstood, the canon has all its scope without being strained in its
application to times, circumstances, and places beyond the con-
templation of those who enacted it, and beyond the capabilities
of the Book. Those capabilities it may be presumed have a limit,
notwithstanding the opinions of some that they are universal.

As to the penalties attached to the breaking of this or any of
the canons in question, we need not have been reminded of them.
We are law-abiding men, and that for conscience' sake. We have
no dread of admonition, suspension, or degradation, though in fact
the first we have had already. For any such offences as we are
charged with, or for any repetition of them, we have no fear that
we shall be " ungowned " for a while or for ever. The time has
gone by for that ; indeed, in our Church it has never been. Im-
agine it otherwise, dear Doctor, if you can. Imagine a number
of brethren accused, tried, and convicted of the offences in ques-
tion. Bring the court before your eyes. The convicts are at the
bar a waitin^ their sentence. As in civil courts, the impartial

O *

judge will give the culprit the benefit of all that can be said in
his favor, the judge ecclesiastical in this case could not do less.
On the contrary, he would give the offenders their utmost due.
Fancy him, then, addressing them somewhat thus : We do not
charge you with any want of fidelity in your ministry ; you have
preached no unsound doctrine ; you have declared the truths of
the Gospel, and doubtless not in vain ; you have been faithful and
diligent pastors ; you have (in different degrees, according to
your several gifts) fed and tended your flocks with a loving care,
for which you have their love in return. As to your Sunday serv-
ices, we cannot deny that you have conducted them uniformly, ac-



27

cording to the Liturgy some of your congregations are remarka-
bly well trained to its order. Your candidates for confirmations
have been well prepared ; your communicants are numerous, and
we believe as exemplary as any others. Nothing can .be said
against you on any such score. In justice, too, we must add that
you always liberally aided the missions and charities of the
Church. Indeed, your whole clerical and pastoral career has had
our approbation. But not having the fear of the canon before
your eyes, and instigated by " the mere prompting of sentiment
and self-will," you have brought men with no orders into your
pulpits ; or you have put up prayers not found in the liturgy, nor
set forth by the Bishop ; or you have preached while ministers
unknown to this Church have prayed, and that " with the express
design of uniting with them in the same services." For these
acts, especially for that first mentioned " a flagrant violation of
the spirit and intent of our law" you are sentenced to a suspen-
sion of your ministry for months. That is, (if the judge has

the grace to go on and say what the sentence means,) you must
cease preaching the Gospel ; you must forbear calling sinners to
repentance, and seeking to save the lost ; stop at once all minis-
terial teaching, warning, and exhortation ; separate yourselves from
your flocks, though you leave them like sheep without a shepherd ;
quit every Church work you have begun ; above all, dare not to
touch the altar with hands which you have given in fellowship to
schismatics ; open not in the sanctuary the lips that have been
profaned with self-dictated prayer. Retire into solitude, and may
it lead you to see the error of your ways. To that end we pre-
sent each of you with a Digest of the Canons, and may you in-
wardly digest it yourselves.

" Devoutly read therein by day,
And meditate by night."

" Quite amusing," you say ; " but what sort of Christian minis-
ters," you ask, " would they they be who would give up preach-
ing, the care of their flocks, and all that, though only for a period,
rather than some notions or practices, for which they can hardly
plead a sense of duty? Strange consciences theirs, if for the sake
of such things they could be reconciled to a suspension of their
sacred calling."

I grant it, if that was their only alternative ; but the Acts of
the Apostles suggests another. " They which were scattered



28

abroad upon the persecution which arose about Stephen, went
every where preaching the Word." So these ministers, silenced
at home, might at once set out as missionaries, supported, us
doubtless they would be, by their people. They would not for
the while be priests or deacons in the Church ; but what would
hinder their being evangelists at large ? They might labor in
destitute regions gather congregations for the Church or de-
vote themselves to making collections, say for Diocesan Missions,
or the Episcopal Fund, for all which the Bishop would not think
them so very naughty as to prolong their suspension. .If on re-
suming their places they also resumed their irregularities, it is not
likely he would try them over again and suspend them unless he
thought it a good way of making missionaries or Church agents.
'But my pen won't keep serious, so I had better stop.

No. VI.

The official subscription of the Pastoral (the Bishop of New-
York) is consistent and significant. It is not an abbreviation oi
"Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in New-York."
It is designed. Had the author adopted the latter title, it
would have been a tacit recognition of other Protestant churches
round about those "respective churches," referred to in the
Preface to the Book of Common Prayer. Now, if these be
really churches of Christ, their ministers must also be minis-
ters of Christ; and any act of fellowship with them en our
part would be a violation only of our peculiar laws. Granting
that for the present, still they would be nothing more. They
would be minor illegalities, but not grave transgressions. They
would be offences against conventional order, and would be
estimated differently by different minds. A Bishop, looking at
them in that light, would not characterize them as a disregard of
solemn obligations. He would know how to understand them
without such severity of judgment. He would never think of
issuing pastorals against them that is, supposing he considered
himself the chief pastor and overseer of but one communion of
Christ, in the midst of others the Bishop of one church, having
the episcopate, aside of other churches not having that govern-
ment and order, yet, nevertheless, true churches. But suppose
the Prayer-Book (the preface is placed among its contents) is
wrong. Suppose that these non-episcopal churches are on that



29

account no true churches of Christ their ministers no ministers
of Christ then our fraternizing with their ministers, our con-
sorting with them, are something else than infractions of order.
They are that ; but they are vastly more. They show a fellow-
ship with bodies which are in a state of schism, continuing in it,
persistently separating themselves from the Church. Our counte-
nancing them, our bringing their preachers into our pulpits, is to
encourage them in their alienation from the one fold of Christ.
Canonical delinquencies in the premises become ecclesiastical
crimes and partake of the guilt of schism. Now, this is the
hypothesis of the author of the Pastoral, which he indicates by
signing himself " Bishop of New-York." To leave us in no doubt
he says, that " in his official capacity he knows no ministers out-
side of the Episcopal Church ; " and what his official capacity is,
appears from his title Bishop of New-York that is, Bishop of
the Church in New- York. Accordingly, the Episcopal Church
is the Church in New- York all the other Protestant bodies
(however sound in the faith and Scriptural in doctrine) are as
bodies out of the Church. Their ministry is no true ministry of
the Church. The Bishop will not know it. He believes it has
no authority from Christ. No wonder then that he deprecates
any thing that looks like an acknowledgment of it. No wonder
he does all he can to prevent it that he puts the strictest sense
on the law. He would thus strengthen the safeguards of the
Church. Pie Avould protect his clergy and people against the sin
and peril of that against which, together with heresy, we are
continually putting up our prayers. He practically carries out
his theory. He is consistent on the ground which he occupies.
He is unquestionably right.

But now the question occurs, How does he come to occupy
that ground ? In other words, How has he become Bishop of
New-York ? Let it be granted, if you will, that he is a Bishop
in virtue of apostolical descent, who has given him " New- York "
(whatever geographical territory that includes) for his jurisdic-
tion ? How has that been made the province of his Episcopal
rule ? Has it been with the consent, or by any action of The
Church, that is, the whole body of the baptized, or the whole con-
gregation of the faithful in New-York? Certainly not. They
do not know him, or any one else, as their Bishop. Whatever be
his jurisdiction, he has derived it from those who elected, or
those who consecrated him Bishop, or from both together. But



30

these were delegates and Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal
Church only, who therefore could not convey jurisdiction beyond
the bounds of that Church, and who have nowhere put it on re-
cord that they meant to convey such jurisdiction. A Bishop's
letters of consecration certify to his being duly made the Bishop
of a certain Diocese which is the aggregate of the Protestant
Episcopal congregations within a certain State or part of a State
which gives the name to the Diocese. When he writes himself
Bishop of the Diocese of- , it is the same as Bishop of the
Protestant Episcopal Church in - . To assert himself Bishop
of a region in which there are hundreds of thousands of Christians
with their churches and ministers, who have never placed them-
selves, nor been placed by any authority, civil or ecclesiastical,
under his jurisdiction, is simply an assumption of course not
personal assumption. I need not stop to disclaim the thought of
imputing anything of that kind to our Diocesan among his
clergy ever modestly primus inter pares. It is an official or
rather theoretical assumption. It belongs to a school or party in
the Church, one of whose distinctive principles is the denial of
the authority of all ministers not episcopally commissioned, and
who carry it out in claiming for our Bishops (what, however, they
do not all claim for themselves) the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the
States in which they have been made Bishops of the Protestant
Episcopal Church. This is their dogma and their application of
it. It is that of the author of the Pastoral. He conscientiously
believes in it, and accordingly writes himself Bishop of New-
York. It is no dogma of ours. We believe that there are true
ministers of Christ who have not had Episcopal ordination or com-
mission, and who are rightfully independent of him whom we own
as lawfully " over us in the Lord." Now, our acting on this belief
would not, in itself, be a cause of offence to a Bishop simply of
the Protestant Episcopal Church, but very naturally it is an
offence to the Bishop of New-York, for it acknowledges men to
be ministers of Christ who do not acknowledge him their Bishop.
Hence the present trouble. Evidently it comes from the Bishop's
actin^ on a creed which is his, and not ours. If we believed
with him, we should require no canons to keep us apart from our
non-Episcopal brethren. The law of Christ would restrain us.
So on the other hand, if he believed with us, while he might
counsel us against infringements of our rules, (if so they be,) he
would not condemn them as things essentially wrong. He would



31

not imply that they were violations of the law of Christ which
he does in his Pastoral.

In a word, it is a battle of opinions, and of the practical
applications of them. Which is right, the Church has left an
open question.

In conclusion, allow a few reflections suggested by our last
topic.

HOAV strange it seems, when we seriously think of it, that any
of our right reverend fathers should affect office beyond that
which by common consent is theirs ? Is not that full enough for
their ability ? Why do they claim the bishopric of great regions,
when in view of what they owe only to their own congregations
therein, they exclaim, " Who is sufficient for these things ? " Why
do they wish to increase so immensely their responsibilities ?
Surely it cannot be in view of the Day of account. Instead of
contending so earnestly that they alone have the rightful charge
of a flock of Christ, a tithe of which they can never know, one
would suppose it would be the contrary, and that they would be
glad to discover, if any how they could, that such charge is not
theirs that they would rather welcome than repel any arguments
to prove that others beside them and theirs have part in the
Gospel ministry, and so be relieved of a load of duty which, if
felt, must crush them to the earth. Well might they say nolo
episcopari, with such an episcopari.

But I may be reminded there is another view of the subject.
Our good fathers who believe that such exclusive authority is
theirs, feel bound to bear their testimony to the fact, whether
men will hear or forbear. In conscience they must assert their
Apostolic .rule over the population of their respective States,
although but a moiety thereof submit to it, patiently waiting for
the time when it will be duly acknowledged. It is theirs to bear
witness to the primitive and divine order of the Church, never
doubting its ultimate restoration.

Adopting that view of the subject, ought they then not to bear
their testimony in some living and practical way, which would
show them in earnest about it ? If they really want to convince
men of their apostolic rights, ought they to confine their minis-
trations to those who do not dispute them ? Desiring as small
dioceses as might be, ought they not to go freely among " all sorts
and conditions of men," and win them over by their apostolic
labors among them ? Instead of shunning all churches but their



82

o-wn, should they not seek and take every opportunity they can
get of visiting the congregations of " all who profess and call
themselves Christians," and of being heard in their pulpits not
just to declare the divine right of episcopacy, but the substance
of the faith, the great doctrines of the Gospel in which all are
agreed, and which, on their own showing, Episcopacy was or-
dained to propagate and conserve ? Instead of frowning on their
clergy preaching in " conventicles," unless with all their para-
phernalia, to look as Episcopalian as possible, ought they not to
encourage them to proclaim the Word of truth everywhere and
anyhow ; to be all things to all men for the great purpose of win-
ning souls to Christ, trusting that the souls so won would see in
them the Shepherds of the true Fold ? Would not this (if I am
not too bold in putting such questions) be a more hopeful method
of bringing men over to Episcopacy, than maintaining an attitude of
indifference toward them ; simply asserting its claims, or arguing
it from the Holy Scriptures and ancient fathers ; ignoring all
ministers, sound or unsound in doctrine alike, who lack episcopal
ordination; making apostolicity of orders, as it is called, the
sine qua non of the Gospel ministry; as if such apostolicity were
every thing, and apostolicity in faith and doctrine, apostolicity in
charity and good works, apostolicity in zeal and labors for Christ's
sake, apostolicity in turning sinners to righteousness, apostolicity
in life and conversation, and every thing of that sort, were all
comparatively nothing as notes of Christ's ministers notwith
standing it is thus that He himself teaches us to distinguish
them : " Ye shall know them by their fruits"

W. A. M.



A 001 008 821



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Online LibraryHoratio PotterA pastoral letter [to the clergy and laity of the diocese of New York] with the replies of S.H. Tyng, E.H. Canfield, J.C. Smith [and] W.A. Muhlenberg → online text (page 13 of 13)