Leonard Woolsey Bacon.

Church papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... online

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it has been made in your recent volume entitled u Apollos.'*
The attempts at solving it seem to me to have been made
with no adequate understanding of the differences
involved, or else with no respect for them. Permit me to
say for myself, in apology for this new Eirenikon, that I
have no disrespect even for the exclusivism of High
Church Episcopalians. I regard it as the only effective
practical protest extant against the prevailing "evan-
gelical " heresy that the normal state of the Church
universal is schism ; that sects are a good thing, so that
the more sects you can have (within reasonable
limits) the better; and that the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints, consists properly of a series
of strenuously competing denominations, maintaining

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diplomatic relations and exchange of pulpits ; u sinking
their differences " in a Tract Society that agrees to
be mum on all controverted points ; and meeting
occasionally in an u Alliance." So long as this con-
tinues to be the highest prevalent conception of
Christian fellowship, we need the protest of High
Churohism, in its most uncompromising form, in favor oi
the organic unity of the Christian Church. I would not
have that protest made one whit less effective. I do not
believe that a protest against schism is less effective for
not being made in a schismatic spirit. I do not believe
that the usefulness or the dignity of the Episcopal Church
{as represented in its dominant party) would be in the
least impaired by its asserting its principles courteously
aad affectionately towards other Christians, with some
•expression of regret when difference of principle seems to
involve the necessity of separation ; and by its doing its
best to free itself from the reproach of being the most
pushing, elbowing, scrambling, and unscrupulous of all
the sects. I believe that its best mission, that of asserting
the necessity of appointed forms of permanent Christian
fellowship, can be fulfilled in snch wise as not to offend
the spirit of Christian fellowship. I have often found
much of the poetry and theory of Christian communion
among Episcopalians, and always a great deal more of
the practical spirit of it among non-Episcopalians. The
former have so worthy a desire for fellowship with the
Church of the Fourth Century that they are ready, for the
sake of it, to live in practical isolation from the actual
Church of the Nineteenth Century. They are so earnestly
{though hitherto vainly) desirous to open some special
relations of communion with Qld Catholics, or Greeks, or

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Armenians, three or four thousand miles away, that they
tear themselves asunder with alacrity from their own
fellow-countrymen and fellow-Protestants.

The things which hinder Episcopalians from common
worship with their fellow-Christians generally, may be
summed up under three heads: 1. Conditions of Com-
munion. 2. Ritual. 3. Authority of the Ministry.

1. In respect to the conditions of communion, the only
thing of the nature of a principle that need be waived by
Episcopalians is waived already, in their actual practice.
I refer to that expressed in the rubric at the end of the
Confirmation-service, to the effect that u there shall none
be admitted to the Holy Communion until such time as he
be confirmed, or be ready and desirous to be confirmed."
The effect of this rubric, if followed, would be to make
the Episcopal Church a close-communion corporation,
like the American Baptists. By a happy inconsistency,
which shows how easy it is to find a way through a rule,
if there is only a will, this rubric is commonly, not to say
generally, Bet aside whenever it is found to work incon-
veniently. On the other hand, the pernicious use of
formularies of dogma as a ritual for receiving candidates
for the Lord's Supper, which has spread from the Con-
gregationalists into so many of the Evangelical commu-
nions of America, is practically abandoned by them
whenever occasion requires.

2. The subject of ritual might seem to be one of great
difficulty. If Episcopalians can not agree about it among
themselves, how can they hope to agree with the rest of
the Church ? But I believe that practically there is no
serious difficulty about it. There was once a difference
of principle between the parties. That was when it was

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held by all Puritan, churches that human compositions in
divine worship were forbidden. The contest over this
tenet was fought out for American Christendom a hundred
years ago, on the question of using Watts' Hymns. It
lingers among us to-day only in a dwindling sect of
Scotchmen, and in a few feeble minds which are capable
of believing that what is tolerable and even edifying in
verse, becomes an offense in prose.

On the other hand, is there anything of the nature of
principle to forbid Episcopalians from joining in worship
otherwise than in their own forms? A canon (i, 20)
indeed forbids Episcopal ministers ever to preach or to
conduct worship except with the use of the Common
Prayer without interpolation. But it does not appear
that even the letter of this regulation, far less anything
worthy to be called a principle, forbids the use of other
acts of worship after the u Common Prayer " is ended*
The only thing which excludes these, is the excessive
length of the three services in one which are prescribed
for every Lord's Day ; and the ingenuity of Episcopalian
ministers has not been employed in vain in discovering
ways of keeping the law and shortening the service at the
same time. Doubtless there are Episcopalians who with-
out due reflection have adopted the notion that the
Prayer-Book, as they have become accustomed to it,
together with the pattern of a black and white gown, was
showed to Moses in the Mount. But happily, in the case
of congregations of Americans abroad, it is not with
minds of this class that one has chiefly to do. The
travelled or travelling Christian is ordinarily of a more
liberal mind than the average domestic parishioner
Christians of the non-liturgical denominations have shown

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a cordial disposition to use liturgical forms, not, as I
think, from a mere willingness to humor the preferences
of others, but in part from a hearty appreciation of the
good that is to be found in such means of worship. It is
not too much to hope that, in assemblies for common
worship with other Christians, Episcopalians, although
trained habitually to look too exclusively on their own
things, and not on the things of others, might learn to
appreciate what it is in other modes of worship which so
holds the affection of the vast majority of American
Christians, including multitudes of those honored for the
highest culture, the deepest learning, the most fervid and
apostolic piety. I do not believe that any wider modifica-
tions of the Prayer-Book order of worship would be
needed to unite the prayers and praises of the great
multitude of American Christian travellers or sojourners
in Europe, as they find themselves together for a longer
or shorter time, than such modifications as are already
allowed and practiced in Episcopalian congregations,
together with such as you would yourself acknowledge to
be desirable for their own sake, or in view of the peculiar
circumstances and character of the congregations, to be
provided for. What these might be I will indicate by-

3. We come now to the only real difficulty in the case.
It is, of course, the claim, made in behalf of episcopally-
ordained ministers, of exclusive authority to administer
the word and sacraments of the New Testament. This
difficulty is real and great. It is not to be evaded by
pretending not to see it, or treating it otherwise than as
a serious and conscientious conviction in the minds of
many by whom it is alleged. Not the slightest progress

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towards the solution of it is made by means of occasional
departures from the ordinary Episcopalian usage on this
point by persons who do not feel the difficulty in their
own minds. But there is certainly no hope of solving it
by the process of persuading American Christians
generally to agree in putting any kind of slight or affront
upon the great body of the most beloved and honored of
American ministers of the gospel, and to enter into
arrangements by which they are to be forbidden to
minister in the congregations of their fellow-countrymen
abroad. The successful reconciliation must guard from
infraction the principles held by many Episcopalians,
without excluding from a share in the services of these
mingled congregations of sojourners the approved ministers
of other denominations. Such a reconciliation, if only
there is a will for it, is not impossible.

There are two suggestions, familiar already to thought-
ful minds in the Episcopal Church, which bear upon the
problem : (1) That the functions of teaching and leading
the worship of Christian assemblies are not necessarily a
pecidium of the priesthood. (2) That it may be possible
to confer the authority implied in Episcopal ordination
upon ministers of other communions. I may add to these
(3) that it might be possible for ministers of other com-
munions, in some circumstances, to accept episcopal
ordination, becoming loyally responsible to the bishop for
all such acts as they should perform by virtue of it, if
they were not thereby to be cut off from the general
fellowship of the Christian ministry ; and (4) that the
importance, especially in these foreign congregations, of
having some better guard against the intrusion of unfit
persons into sacred functions than is afforded by the

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ordinary constitution of a u Unison Church " would be
cordially appreciated by wise men of all the uniting con-
fessions, and most of all, I venture to say, by the foreign
chaplains themselves.

To bring all this down to practical details, let us take
the case of this little community of American Christians
in Geneva which it is proposed to split into two fragments,
competing, striving, advertising, bragging, quarrelling, —
for it is not easy to have two churches, in a community
which is barely large enough for one, without these
results. Let me sketch the outline of a practicable
union among them which would involve no sacrifice of

1. Let there be no u organizing of a church," according
to a practice very commonly followed. This useless pro-
cedure raises a great many questions which need not to be
raised at all — questions both dogmatic and ecclesiastical-
All that is needf ul, practically, is a house of worship and
a pastor for this group of travellers and sojourners. The
effort to bring the various Christians together for common
worship will be all the more fruitful if it is contented
with this one object, and seeks for nothing beside, except
what comes freely of itself. It is enough, to begin with,
that the congregation of believers meet every Lord's day
for the worship of Grod and the hearing of his gospel. If
that is all that they can agree upon, let us be thankful
for so much as that. It is not a small thing that they
should look one another in the facet as fellow-Christians,
and join their voices in common praise and prayer. If
for all the rest they must separate — if the old painful
experience of the Church through all the ages of its
captivity must.be renewed, and that rite which should

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have expressed the general fellowship of the Church — its
holy communion — must needs be used again as the occasion
and symbol of its dissensions — if when all the rest come
with one accord into one place to eat the Lord's Supper,
Episcopalians and Baptists must for conscience 9 sake
refrain, and assemble for their separate rites, — then let
us be thankful for so much of fellowship as we can attain
unto, and greatly honor the conscientious fidelity which,
having gladly conceded all it can to Christian love,
pauses where it must in obedience to Christian duty.

If a way be found by which the fellow-worshipers can
also, with a safe conscience, be fellow-communicants,
there need be no provision or local rule for u admitting to
the church " by public rite. If penitent believers bo
invited, any penitent believer may come to the Lord's
table. And nothing need hinder any new communicant
from seeking preparatory counsel from ministers of his
own preference, or confirmation from a bishop when
opportunity should offer.

All subordinate organization — for Sunday school, for
charitable work, etc.; might be left to grow up of itself,
allowing perfect freedom and every facility for division
whenever it was found difficult to work together. With
such freedom, divisions would rarely occur, and when
they did occur would not necessarily involve a general
split of the whole community.

2. In the matter of Ritual, something would have to be
conceded by Episcopalians, I do not say to the prejudice
or preference, but to the conscience of Christians generally.
As a matter of conscience, these would not ordinarily be
contented with forms which, compiled in an age before
the awakening of the missionary spirit among Protestants,

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make no adequate provision for prayer for the extension
of the Church, and the conversion of the world to Christ ;
and which interdict the congregation from. u praying the
Lord of the harvest that he would send forth laborers
into his harvest." I do not think that they would do right
to be satisfied without the privilege of praying for the
supreme civil authority of their own country. The
mistake made by the American editors of the Common
Prayer, of substituting for the prayer for the King a
prayer for the President, as if that were equivalent,
would have to be rectified in some way. For especially
at those times of solemn election at which the power
delegated for awhile to temporary functionaries reverts
to the hands of the supreme People, and great issues^
involving even the interests of the kingdom of Christ, may
be hanging upon their imperial decision, the conscience of
a Christian citizen craves the privilege of praying,
according to the spirit of the apostle's injunction, for the
People u as supreme, as well as for presidents and
governors who are sent by " the People. I might cite
another instance of the need of larger liberty of prayer,-—
I mean the case of times of financial anxiety and distress,
which are to modern society what drought and famine
were to the old world. But for all these and other like
cases no other provision would perhaps be necessary than
such a provision for time, as is already available even
under the strictest letter of your law*

The principal change necessary in order to give full
scope to all needful accommodation, is that already author-
ized by a multitude of precedents in the Episcopal Church,
both American and English,*— to have the Litany, or the

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Ante-communion service, or both, at a different hour from
the Morning Prayer and Sermon.

Some changes would commend themselves, I am sure,
to your own mind, as desirable in view either of the
fluctuating character, or of the mixed character of such a

For instance, in a fluctuating congregation, the com-
pensating advantages of a systematic lectionary, which
gives to a stable company of regular church-goers the
substance of the Bible in the course of a year's morning
and evening lessons, entirely disappear, leaving only the
serious inconveniences of it. Furthermore, in a com-
munity in which (as often in these American communities
in Europe) more than one formal service on the Lord's
day may seem inexpedient, it would be mere servitude to
some people's usage to take half the psalms in the Psalter
at hap-hazard, and read these to the exclusion of the
others. It would be equally u decent and in order " and
much more u to the edification" of all parties, in the
circumstances, to leave the selection of lessons and of
psalms to the discretion of the minister.

And so in view of the mixed character of the congrega-
tion, could the highest " churchmanship " imagine a reason
why the Psalter should be read in the quaint old u Bishops'
Bible" version, familiar only to Episcopalians, instead
of in the version which is both familiar and dear to all
English-speaking Christians? — or why it should be read
in alternate verses, instead of in responsive parallelisms?
Or is there any divine authority in the new Hymnal of
the Episcopal Church which would make it binding on
a congregation made up in large part or members of
other communions, in case that congregation, on the whole,

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should find it too great a departure from their customary
hymnody ?

These are some of the amendments which suggest them-
selves when the question is how to adapt the Anglo-
American order of worship to the best edification of
such a mixed and fluctuating congregation as that of an
American colony in Europe. They are certainly nothing
very startling. If assented to by the proper authority
in the Episcopal Church, would they sacrifice one atom
of principle held by Episcopalians, or let go any thing
that intelligent Episcopalians hold dear? They would
make barely difference enough to show that the congre-
gation was not a parish of the Episcopal Church in the
United States; and this is just the fact which it would be
important to have distinctly understood, on all hands.

3. The difficulties growing out of the claim of exclusive
authority for episcopally ordained ministers are of two
sorts : they relate either (1) to the stated pastorate, or
(2) to occasional services.

(1.) With a nawete which always wins my affectionate
admiration, some Episcopalian clergymen suggest that the
difficulty touching the pastorate may be completely solved
by always giving that office to an Episcopalian — u He is
acceptable to every one, you know, and nobody else
would be acceptable to our people." I need hardly
explain to you why this solution does not strike all minds
as completely satisfactory.

A more complete solution may be sought in the sug-
gestion, made long ago in the Episcopal Church apropos
of a certain u Memorial," and repeated almost impor-
tunately since, in behalf of the Episcopal Church, in the
interest of Christian Union — that the element of apostolic

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authority derived from succession should be introduced
into the ordination of ministers of other communions. In
the form in which this was first suggested — the grafting
upon the stock of the American Episcopal Church of vast
branches, bigger than the stock itself — it was doubtless
open to practical objections from both sid^s. But to the
plan of extending this offer of ordination to u godly and
well learned men," designated to the exceptional duty of
foreign chaplaincy, in order that they might be enabled
to minister orderly and to edification to Episcopalian
travellers and sojourners, as well as to others, there
could be few objections from your side which would not
also be objections to every act of Christian comity.

And the difficulties from the other side, which were
obvious in the case of the u Memorial " proposals, would
not prevail in the present case supposed. It was an un-
likely thing that a great religious body, like the Methodist
Church, for instance, after negotiation, deliberation;
discussion, and vote, should come bending to its little
sister consenting to have its illegitimate ministry
validated by an improved mode of ordination. But it
is not in the least unlikely that individual clergymen,
and those of the highest worth, might gladly receive a
special ordination for a special work. There are some
few, indeed, who hold to a theory of apostolical succession
through the presbyterial line, and to these few the proposal
of an Episcopal ordination would seem like a disparage-
ment of their former commission. But for my part, to
receive the benediction of one of the chief pastors of
another communion, with his commission to care for
members of his own flock scattered abroad, would seem
to me no more sacrilegious than for Paul and Barnabas,

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after years of apostolic and prophetic ministry, to
receive the laying on of hands of their brethren when
sent to the Jews of the dispersion.

It has never been claimed that belief of the special
validity of Episcopal ordination was necessary as a con-
dition of receiving such ordination.

Will you not explain to me wherein consists the good
faith of those urgent invitations and expostulations
repeated by high representatives of the Episcopal Church,
yourself among others, to their brethren of other
ministries, to remove the one great hindrance to Christian
Union by accepting the free gift of the laying on of
apostolic hands, which would make it right in conscience
to recognize them as belonging to the true ministry of
Christ's Church? I am persuaded that there was an
honest meaning in it, as in everything that I hear or read
from you. It is impossible to think that all that was
intended in that affectionate appeal in behalf of Christian
Union was simply an invitation to come out of Babylon,
pass a year's quarantine, and then reappear as one of the
u inferior clergy " in search of an Episcopal parish. I am
bound to presume that it contemplated some way in
which one could share the fellowship of the ministry of
the Episcopal Church without renouncing that of the
Church Catholic,

I would fall back on this for a solution of the difficulty.
Let the person designated as pastor of a foreign American
congregation, when he happens to be of some other
ministry than that of the Episcopal Church, on giving
satisfactory evidence of his fitness, and satisfactory
evidence that his special commission will be exercised in
a generous and loyal spirit, be ordained — be reordained,

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if you like (the word need not scare any one) — to his
special mission in the Episcopalian part of his flock.

(2.) The difficulty which relates to the occasional
services of ministers of various Christian confessions, who
from time to time may be sojourners at the place of the
chaplaincy, is one not less important than that which
relates to the pastorate. To you it is not necessary to
explain the importance of it. No man feels it more
distinctly. But I have no doubt that there are those in
your denomination who in all simplicity and sincerity
fail to understand why any should refuse to be satisfied
with an arrangement on this basis : that the Reverend
Mr. Cream Cheese,* stopping over upon the grand tour,
should be recognized as a clergyman, and that the most
illustrious saints and teachers of the American Church — a
Stoddard or a Schauffler on his return from apostolic toils
and triumphs in the mission-field, a Woolsey, or a Hodge,
a Simpson or a John Hall, rich from the exploration of
Christian truth, or glowing with the joy of successful
preaching — should be required to sit dumb, as not being
validly ordained. If there be such, they ought to be
made to understand that, even if it were an easy and
graceful thing for their Christian brethren to repudiate
beloved and venerated preachers of the Grospel for others
just as good, the actual question would he on repudiating
them for others admitted to be inferior. For on this
point, although I purposely refrain from pressing it
invidiously, I suppose that there is really no doubt what-
ever. It has been remarked on to me, not long ago, with
great emphasis, by each of two of the most eminent
dignitaries of the Church of England : The importance of
this question, then, is clear. Happily, the solution of it

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is not far to seek. It lies in recognizing these two
points :

First : That ordination to office in one church does not
make a man minister of another church. Our principles
do not differ with regard to this. When you and I were
neighbor pastors in If ew York and Brooklyn, if I had
come into your church, I should have been a layman
there ; and if you had come into my church you would

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconChurch papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... → online text (page 9 of 26)