John Ireland.

A second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author online

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Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 1 of 51)
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Duplex libelli dos est : quod risum movet,

Et quod vitam monet. Phosd.

Let the righteous smite tne friendly, and reprove me :
But let not their precious balms break my head.


— Frenzy to their hearts was given,

To speak the malison of heaven. Campbell.





judges righteous judgement : such a censure as this cannot
be bound in heaven." But when a stattr of things arrives
which could not have been anticipated ; when subjects of
compudnt are accumulating v/ithout end ; when new acts
of oppression grow out of former attempts at despotism ;
when the very garb of decency is laid aside, and tyranny
stalks abroad without disguise ; when every prescribed
mode of redress has been tried in vain ; then, I humbly
conceive, we have reached the point at which longer for-
bearance would be criminal, and a deviation from the
established rule is imperiously demanded. " The once
famous controversy on passive obedience and non-resist-
ance (observes an eminent modern divine,*) seems now
in this country to be pretty much over. When power,
tvherever lodged^ comes to be exercised in a manifestly
tyrannical manner, the party oppressed may certainly resist
it : to deny this inherent right in every man is to establish
injustice and tyranny, and to leave a good citizen as a
tame prey to the ambition of others/' If resistance be
justifinble when every avenue to redress is barred up, (and
where is the man in this country who will controvert the
doctiine ?) can it be improper for one, who is groaning
under a load of oppression, to pour out his complaints
before the public, to excite their sympathy, and to prevent
as much as in him lies a recurrence of similar outrages ?
Were I allowed to judge of my own heart, I would boldly
assert, \hat I am the last man in the world who could
take pleasure in exposing the nakedness of the land ; in
lifting the robe and thereby disclosing the defbrmities of
any member of our church. But concealment is now no
longer practicable ; the doors have already been thrown
open ; the curtain has been raised ; the public have been
invited to survey all that is passing behind the scenes ; the
dressing room will be ransacked ; every mask and garb
will be turned inside out ; every crevice of the building
explored ; every stage trick detected ; and I much doubt
if the uproar will cease, until some of the managers aiid
principal actors be driven irciva the boards.
■ But, much as I deplort- the present evil, I foresee that
good will result from it : ambitious .rscn wili b'r deterred
Cor some time to comi^ from d!»Dlaving that furious "last-

""■ • Witherspoon


of power" which has excited such a commotion in the dio-
cese ; and the Park may, for some years, be exempt from
the disgrace of being converted into a second Smithfield,
for the good of the church and for the glory of God.

I should not have hazarded an attempt to justify an ap-
peal to the public in a case of this nature, had I not been
assured that several lay-members of our church, distin-
guished by their station iu society, their influence, their
talents, their piety, and their firm attachment to our doc-
trines and discipline, concur with me in sentiment on this
subject. I regarded the opinions of those clerical gentle^
men, with whom I am in the habit of conversing, with a
jealous eye, lest they might have some interest in their
decision : but neither the sincerity nor the judgement of
those disinterested hy-gentlemen, to whom I allude, can
be questioned.

Let it not be supposed, because I have adopted the title
of a noted pamphlet now current through the diocese,
th^t I have any connection with either that performance
or its author. Mr. Jones was too long and too actively
engaged in that system of proscription, which he now so
loudly condemns, to have inspired me with any respect
for his late character or conduct. Too often have I wit-
nessed with pity and surprise, his amazing ductility and
malleability : too often have I seen him, red hot, under the
hammer of our ecclesiastical Vulcan, delighted with the
sparks which issued at each stroke, and seemingly un-
conscious that every scintillation contributed to the dimi-
nution of his weight. His deportment towards myself
in particular, previously to and during my trial, was not
merely reprehensible ; it was so excessively indecent as to
have excited the indignation and disgust of many.^' I
am unwilling, however, to indulge any unnecessary re-
sentment towards him: he has manifested signs of con-
trition ; he has departed from the tents of his former
ungodly assccmtes; he has developed sc^ii? of their stra-

* It is exclusively owing to Mr. Jones's pamphlet and Dr. Ho-
hart's reply, that I am thus compelled to obtrude myself on public
notice. A reluctance to hazard the peace of the church had hith-
erto deterred me from taking this step ; but were I noio to keep
silence, those who are strangers to my real character might be in-
duced to believe, that I am indeed such " a wretch" as a certain
-everend ruffian represents me to be-

tagems and intrigues ; and he has, perhaps, smarted suf-
ficiendy for the acts of violence in which he was so re-
cently engaged. " Fas est et ab hoste doceri :" let Mr.
Jones then take advice from one to whose injury he has
contributed no small share; — never to lose sight of that
inestimable rule " do unto others as you would have others
do unto you ;" — never to go with the multitude to do
evil ; and whenever his indignation rises against the puny
oppressors of the day, to remember the passage " Quo-
rum pars magna feci.''

This gentleman's pamphlet is generally considered,
with respect to its construction, as a contemptible per-
formance : but I cannot, injustice, admit that it is
wholly devoid of merit. It furnishes, for instance a
further proof (as if further proof were necessary) of
the truth of the poet's remark

"Nee quemquam jam ferre potest Caesarvepriorem
Pomp^iusve parem."

that two ambitious men, having the same object in view,
cannot long live together in harmony ; it serves to shew
that men of unsanctified tempers cannot be restrained,
even by the solemnity of a funeral, or during the sacred
services of th«; Altar, from betraying the ungodly emo-
tions of their hearts : it serves, above all, as a "■ lengthy"
peg, on which the Rev. Mr. Feltus has hung up to the
public gaze a half-length* portrait of a Right Rev.
Father ik God. Gracious heaven, how my hand trem-
bles while it traces these last awful words !

It will be observed that I have, as usual, prefixed to my
name the title of Reverend. This I feel myself justified
in doing for several reasons. It will not be denied that
a bishop may commit an unjust act : " it is possible" (says
Potttr) " for one to be excommunicated from the church's
outward communion, and at the same time to maintain an
iminterrupted communion with Christ; which is the case
of dl those who are unjustly excommunicated." Nor will
it be denied that an unjust act, an act which is committed
even by an authorised bishop in direct violation of the

* The remainder of the picture is said to be under the pencil of
the same masterly painter

letter and spirit of the gospel, fails to be binding in the court
above : " such an act" (says Burnett) " can not be bound in
heaven." Precisely such is the nature of the transaction
whi -h I shall proceed to detail in the sequel.

The late proceedings against mc were in direct violation
of the letter of the gospel.

The mode of proceeding against an offender, prescrib-
ed by the benevolent author of our religion, is first to
attempt his reformation by private admonition^ by telling
h !« his fault between the parties concerned alone. Should
this gentle procedure fail of the desired effect, if it did
not bring him to repentance, then was he to be reproved
in a more public manner, before two or three witnesses.
If this second attempt should be equally unsuccessful, the
last step was, to lodge a formal complaint against the re-
fractory delinquent before the church. Neither of the
two former attempts to reclaim a supposed offender was
made with respect to myself; neither admonition nor
reproof (nor indeed any thing else) was ever tried ; but
resort was had at once to that measure, which Dr. Potter
styles the last remedy.

I am fully aware that some divines have regarded the fore-
going directions of our Saviour, as referring exclusively
to such private differences as might arise between individ-
ual members of the church. But I am disposed to believe
that the weight of authority is greatly in favour of the con-
trary 9pinion ; and that whoever will read the 18th ch. of
St. Matt, with a mind devoid of prejudice and partiality,
will concur with Dr. Potter in the sentiment — that " what
*' is there said manifestly applies to something to be done
" by the churchy and not by any private members of it ; for
" 'tis the chv.rcfi's sentences of binding and loosing which
" our Lord promiseth to ratify in heaven, and the prayers
" which he promiseth to answer are those which the
" congregation makes in his name : — that from the whole
" passage together it appears, that our Lord thereby
" instructed his church to exercise a judicial power over
" its members ' — that this is a manifest description of a
" judicial process ; he who has been injured is first
*' directed to tell the offender of his fault privately be-
'' tween themselves; if that have no effect, to admonish
" him before witness; if this admonition also prove un


^' successful, to complain to the chuixh ; then, if he neglect
" to hear the church, follows the church's censure ; which
" being decreed by virtue of Christ's commission, he
*' promiseth to ratify it in heaven." It may be ne.cessary
to inform some of my readers, that '' Potter on church
government'' is a book of the highest authority among
us; and that every candidate for priest's orders is required,
previously to his ordination, to be examined therein. If
then we may rely on the judgement of such men as Potter,
Hammond, and the most celebrated divines who have
discussed this subject, the late proceedings against me
are invalid, because they were a direct inversion of the
order prescribed in the written rule of the gospel. This
rule, it must universally be admitted, is paramount to all
rules, regulations and practices whatsoever. " It is not
"lawful, say the canons, forthe church toordain any thing
" contrary to God's written word : an assembly of men,
"whereof all be not governed with the Spirit of God, may
" err, and sometimes have erred : wherefore things ordained
'' by them have neither strength nor authority, unless it be
" declared that they are taken out ofthe holy scriptures."

The proceedings against me, are no less opposed to the
spirit of the gospel.

Perhaps I might justly be charged with travelling out
ofthe record, were I here to attempt a description of all that
the genume spirit of our religion inculcates. Let it suf-
fice then to say, that it breathes peace upon earth, good
will among men, gentleness, forbearance, long suffering,
moderation, justice, readiness to forgive the offences of
our brethren ; in one word, every thing that is venerable,
lovely, and of good report. Was any one of these chris-
tian virtues displayed in the late conduct of my christian
brethren towards me? Did they do to me as they would
wish others to do unto them under similar circumstances ?
Did they once reflect that '•'' the authority which the Lord
hath given to his vicegerents, was given for edification, and
not for destruction ?*' Did they once consider that mercy
is more acceptable to the God of mercy, than sacrifice t
I will not multiply these interrogatories, because I feel
compassion even for my enemies, persecutors and slan-
derers ; and because every such question must, I know,
(unless their consciences be seared as with a hot iron,) go

like a dagger to the heart of each of them. I will there-
fore dismiss them for the present with this assurance, that
if, after taking a serious retrospect of their conduct to-
wards me, they can lay their hand on their heart, and
solemnly aver before God-^that they were actuated by no
unworthy motives— that they were as truly solicitous to
substantiate my innocence as to prove my guilt — that for
their deportment previously to, during, and subsequendy
to my trial, their own consciences do not condemn them-—
neither will I condemn them : I will endeavour to culti-
vate a grateful remembrance of those their labours of
love, to correct my past and present erroneous notions of
right and wrong, and to adopt the modern interpretation
of that apostolical advice — ^" Love as brethren, be pitiful,
be courteous.''^ In the mean time, by way of extenuating
the guilt of having entertained, for almost half a centui-y,
mistaken opinions of the real design of church discipline,
. I will subjoin a short extract from some of those wicked
authors, who have contributed so egregiously to misguide
me. " In pronouncing the censures of the church," (says
Bishop Burnett in his celebrated exposition of the arti-
cles,) " great care and tenderness ought to be used :
" nothing but a wilful obstinacy in sin, and a deliberate con-
" tempt of the rules and orders of the church, can justify
" an extremity, which, like punishments inflicted by the
" civil power, is not to be proceeded to but upon great
" occasi )ns, roAen mz/i/er censures xvill not prevail ; like a
" parent's disinheriting a child, it ought to be proceeded
" in with that slowness and upon such considerations as
" may well justify the rigour of it. To admonish offen-
'' ders as brethren, and not to use them as enemies, this
'' is suitable to the designs of the gospel, both for preserv-
'' ing the church pure, and for reclaiming transgressors :
" all affectation of excessive severit) looks like pharisaical
" hypocrisy ; whereas the spirit of Christ, which is
" made up of humility and charity, will make us look so
'*■ severely to ourselves, that on that very account we shall
" b';" gentle to the failings of others." " The discipline of
'* the church," says Bingham, " being a mere spiritual
" power, was confined to these following acts — -first ^ the
" admonition of the offender, which was solemnly repeated
^' once or twice, before they proceeded to greater severi-


" ties, according to that injunction of the apostle — a man
" that is an heretic, after the first and second admonition,
^' reject. After this manner St. Ambrose represents their
" proceedings ; a putrified member of the body is never
'' cut off but with grief ; we try a long time whether it can
*' not be healed by medicines ; if not, then a good physician
" cuts it off. Such is the affection of a good bishop ; he
*' is very desirous first to heal the infirm, to put a stop to
** growmg ulcers, to burn and sear a little, and not cut off j
" at last he cuts off with grief what cannot be healed ; for
" they that being long endured, and often kindly admo7iished^
*' will not be corrected, must he cut off as putrified mem-
" bers. An over rigorous severity is a great offence and a
" manifest abuse of power ; it is not the true exercise of
" discipline, but imperiousness and humour, and a mere
*' domineering over God's heritage by an exorbitant
"stretch of ministerial power." I shall close this part
of the subject with another quotation from the same res-
pectable author, conveying a sentiment from which I
have drawn repeated consolation. " An an^thama ill
" founded cannot hurt him against whom it is thundered."

The late proceedings against me are invalid, not only
because they militated against the letter and the spirit of
the gospel, but for this farther reason— ^that none of the
parties concerned in the prosecution, the trial, or the sen-
tence, had any authority to act.

1 will not undertake to say that the consecration of Dr.
B. Moore was invalid : but I venture to assert that he was
5;onsecrated to an office to which he was not elected. The
case was this. Dr Provoost, the bishop of this diocese,
was desirous of resigning his ecclesii^stical dignities and
retiring from his official duties. Dr. B. Moore was
chosen to fill the station supposed to be thus vacant. The
house of bishops decided that a bishop could not resign his
episcopal charge j.but that, in the case of his inability to
perform the duties of his office, he might be aided by a
riuffragan who should be ordained for that purpose. Had
Dr. Provoost been timely informed of this decision, it is
possible that he might have resumed the exercise of his
functions, and required no assistant. But he. was never
consulted on the occasion : delay might have been dange-
rous : and he was thus •compelled to take assistance which


fie did not claim and might not have wanted. It is well
known to those who are conversant with church history,
that the office of an assistant bishop did not exist in the
days of primitive Christianity: "Post primum, secundus
esse not possit : quisquis post unum (qui solus esse debeat)
factus est, non jam secundus ille, sed nuUus est :" that i&,
after the first there can be no second ; whoever is made a
bishop after the first, is not a second bishop, but no bishop.
So that to have two bishops at once in one place is (in St.
Cyprian's opinion) utterly inconsistent with the constitu-
tion of the Christian church. How the electron of a third
bishop, of an assistant to an assistant^ is to be reconciled
with this venerable father's opinion, I leave to the decision
df those who have introduced the innovation. Will they
say, that because the second was nobody, they therefore
chose a third who would doubtless make himself somebo-

Be this as It may, an assistant bishop has no authority,
except such as has been expressly delegated to him by his
principal or diocesan. I have heard it said, that one of
the most (if not the most) respectable lay members of our
church has expressed his doubts, whether the convention
were authorised by the constitution of the church to create
the office of an assistant bishop; and that he is decidedly
of opinion that the powers and duties of the assistant ought,
at least, to have been expressly defined. Much as I am
disposed to respect the opinions of that learned, judicious,
and pious gentleman, I am equally disposed to believe
that those powers and duties are sufficiently declared and
defined, in the rules and practice of that church from the
bosom of which our own has immediately sprung. In G.
Britain the statute of Henry 8th, is still in force and ob-
ligatory : it enacts that "any infirm and sick bishop in any
" of the King's dominions may, if he desire it^ have a
" suffragan ; but that such suffragan, or coadjutor, shall have
" no jurisdiction in the diocese of him whose suffragan he
'' may be, save what said bishop shall by commission-under his
" seal allow him, and only for such time as said bishop shall
" allow: that such suffragan, for his better maintenance may
"hold two livings, &c. but then, he who desires a sufFr'.gan
" is to name two to the king, and he ( the king) is to apr
„" prove one who is then to be consecrated by the metropoU-
'■' fanJ'^ «« If" (says an.erainent prelate on this subject) '• if Ije



'''■ demean himself pioualy and diligently in his office as
'' suiFragan, it vviil be a great and most probable means to
'-''prefer him to a bishopric of his own: which to many may
" be A great encouragement to undertake the office of a
" sufFr dgan.'* From the foregoing extract and the bish-
op's observation upon it, we may fairly infer that the
offices and powers of a bishop, and those of his assistant,
are essentially different. The ordination of a bishop is
to be periormtd by three offiriating bishops : but an assis-
tant may be ordained by one bishop only, viz : the bishop
of the diocese to whose jurisdiction he belongs* I'hat I
have good authority f>r this assertion will appear from
the following extract. — " Those canons which require three
" bishops to impose hands in the orcination of a bishop,
" speak of such bishops only as were to be absolute and
" supreme governors of their own diocese ; and not of suf-
** fragans (or coadjutt^s) or such as were subordinate,
" whom the diocesan bishops might ordain at their own
*' discretion,'' It cannot, indeed, be unknown to some of
my readers, thai from the limited authority of assistant
bishops it was inferred, by many intellig^^nt writers, that
they were not virtually bishops, but merely presbyters
invested with enlarged authority. Their office was to
preside over the country clergy, to enquire Irom time to
time into their behaviour, to make report thereof to the
bishop, and to provide suitable persons for the inferior
service and ministry of the church. They had /^otyer to
minister confirmation to such as were newly baptized, and
to grant letters dimissory to the clergy who desired to
remove from one diocese to another : but they had no
power to ordain either presbyters or deacons. The fol-
lowing quotation from Bingham will justify me in saying
so : — " The council of Antioch gave tiicm (assistant
" bishops) a general commission to ordain all under pres-
'' byters and deacons, such as readers, subdtacons, &c.
*'• without consulting the diocesan upon every such occa-
** sion : and for presbyters and deacons they might ordain
'' them too ; but not without the special leave of the bishop
" under whose jurisdiction they were. And this (con-
'* tinues ht) is the meaning of the toum il of Ancyra,
** which says — suffragan bishops shall not have power to
'* ordain piesbyteis or deacons : which must be interpreted
'* by the explication given in the council of Antioch, that


»•* they should not be authorized to do it without the
** particular direction of the diocesao ; but by his leave
*' they might." ** Next to the bishop" (says the same
author on another occasion) "there were a sort of ecclesias-
*'tical persons, called suffragans or coadjutors, who offici-
" ated in certain episcopal duties, under the bishop. These
*' acted by a limited and dependant power ; but many
" times were inclined to a^ssume a power to themselves
*' beyond their commission. The church was therefore
" obliged to make certain laws and rules to restrain their
'' usurpations. These men might ordain subdeacons,
" readers, &c. by a general commission ; but not presby-
" ters or deacons without a special license : yet sometimes
*' they would take upon them to do that also, without
" consulting the bishop : for which offence they were lia-
*' ble by the canons to lose their office and be degraded.'^''

And now let me ask — tf an assistant bishop have no
jurisdiction in the diocese of him whose assistant he may
be, save what his bishop shall^ by commission under his seal,
allow him, by what authority can he, without such com-
mission, appoint jurlges, direct the attendance of witnesses,
summon a presbyter to trial, and exercise the highest prero-
gative of a real bishop ? If he have no authority to ordain a
presbyter, or even a deacon, without the special leave of
his superior, by what authority can he, without such leave,
proceed to degrade a presbyter, to take back a commission
which he cannot grant ? These are very serious enquiries ;
and their importance to myself must be the apology for
making another observation on the subject.

If the opinions of such men as Bingham, Burnett, Bar-
low, &c. or if the established practice of the church of
England, should be said to have no weight in these states,
what say the canons of our own church ? "Every trial of
*' a clergyman shall be on presentment made to the bishop; —
*' the bishop shall nominate — -the bishop shall appoint — de-
'' cision shall be communicated to the bishop — ^proceedings
*' shall be laid before the bishop — his judgement is to be
'^ final — sentence shall be pronounced by the bishop only.''''

Online LibraryJohn IrelandA second solemn appeal to the church : containing remarks and strictures on the late violent proceedings of a pretended ecclesiastical court against the author → online text (page 1 of 51)