Theo. Myers (Theodore Myers) Riley.

A memorial biography of the Very Reverend Eugene Augustus Hoffman : D.D. (Oxon.) D.C.L., L.L.D., late dean of the General Theological Seminary (Volume 1) online

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Online LibraryTheo. Myers (Theodore Myers) RileyA memorial biography of the Very Reverend Eugene Augustus Hoffman : D.D. (Oxon.) D.C.L., L.L.D., late dean of the General Theological Seminary (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 28)
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Christians attempt to sell seats in the Houses of God.

"The first enclosed pew that was ever known in a
church dated back, says the author of the History and
Statistic of Pews^ only to the early part of the seven-
teenth century, half a century or more later than the
Reformation in England. And they were never ex-
tensively introduced until the time of the Puritan Re-
bellion, and then in opposition to the Bishops of the
Church, by men who wished to conceal from the con-
gregation that they refused to kneel during the prayers
or thought themselves too good to pray by the side of
those who were poorer than themselves. So that, if
we have read history aright, the pew system was intro-
duced in the darkest hours of our Mother Church,
when her Archbishop was murdered and her king
martyred by men who turned the noblest cathedrals
into stables for their horses, the fonts into watering-
troughs for their cattle, and the holiest vessels of the
altar into cups for their drunken debauches.

**II. Again, The pj'inciple of selling or renting seats in
the House of God is in itself wrong, because we therein sell
that which does not belong to us, and we introduce the system
of merchandise and bargaining where we ought not.

" We sell that which does not belong to us. When a



church or chapel is to be consecrated, our Church is
singularly careful that the property shall legally be
secured to her. When the Bishop comes to perform
the holy office, he must, as the rubric directs, *be re-
ceived at the entrance of the church, or chapel, by the
church wardens and vestrymen, or some other persons
appointed for that purpose,' to show their consent to
his ad:.

"When he has entered within the rails of the chan-
cel, before the sentence of consecration can be read,
* the instruments of donation and endowment, if there
be any,' must be presented to him, bequeathing the
building, and whatever appertains to it, in trust for
the Church, to him and his successors in office for
ever, and thus securing to the Church peaceable pos-
session of the property for all times.'

"As the office of consecration proceeds, we join in
the prayer that God would 'graciously accept the dedi-
cation of this place to his service.' Then the Bishop is
directed to read from the Gospel, as though to rebuke
the very spirit of which we have spoken, those indig-
nant words of the Saviour when he drove out them
who bought and sold in the temple, * Make not My

I "When churches are built, they ought to have a greater value and esteem
derived upon them by some peculiar consecration ; for by these solemnities the
founders surrender all the right they have in them to God, and make God Him-
self the sole owner of them," and so strictly was this guarded in former times
that, in some portions of the early Church, "no man was to begin to build a
church before he had given security to the Bishop of a maintenance for the minis-
try and the repairs of the church, and whatever was otherwise necessary to up-
hold divine service in it," "which were necessary rules to preserve churches
from falling to ruin, and their ministry and service from contempt and disgrace."
(Wheatley on the Common Prayer, ii, sec. 2, 6. Hooker V, xii, 3. Bingham,
Christian Antiquities, Book VIII, ix, sec. 2.)



Father's House a house of merchandise.' And having
made the matter, humanly speaking, sure, we beseech
God to ' bless the religious performance of the day, and
grant that in that place now set apart for His service.
His holy Name may be worshipped in truth and purity
through all generations.' And who that has listened to
these holy words and joined in these pious prayers, can
witness on the morrow after the service, in those now
sacred courts, without a sense of profanation, the auc-
tioneer's hammer, asking, as has been forcibly said, *of
the hungering souls how much they would give for
salvation ? ' and the same spirit of competition and bar-
gain and sale being introduced as that with which we
would buy or sell a house or a horse.

"Surely, my brethren, that were a strange giver who
would give away to-day that which he intends to
sell to-morrow. The principle is all wrong, and has
brought forth in too many cases its evil fruits. It has
made the whole matter of the seats in the House of
God a matter of merchandise. It has prostituted the
whole subject of erecting churches for public wor-
ship to the question, not whether they are surrounded
by sheep wandering abroad without a shepherd, but
whether they can be made to pay.

"It has taken away from the alms of the people the
character of free-will offerings to God, and there is
now brought into the treasury of the Lord not a tithe
of that which the faithful once offered for the relief
of the poor and for the support of the Gospel. The
Church, having thus parted with her property, has lost



all control over the very building which she erected
for God's worship forever. So that, should it happen,
as it has happened, that the majority of the pewholders
in any congregation become by any chance irreligious,
ungodly men, the building erected for such pious pur-
poses may be taken from God, taken from His Church,
and taken from His poor. The only church in this
country of our communion which the adversary has
been able to taunt with having deserted the faith —
King's Chapel, Boston,' so richly endowed by pious
Churchmen now gone to their reward that the Gospel
might have been preached there forever — has fallen
by the single circumstance that the majority of pew-
holders became those who denied the faith once deliv-
ered to the saints; has fallen into the hands of the
enemy; and now within its once hallowed walls is
weekly denied the Lord who bought them with His

"HI. And again. The principle of selling or renting
seats in the House of God is in itself wrong because it has
shut out the poor of the Church. While the rich, and
those who can afford to pay for them, have the best

^ King's Chapel was erected in Boston previous to the Revolution. During the
progress of the war the reftor and a majority of the pewholders left the place.
After peace had been declared their pews were confiscated, and bv adding the
privileges of the purchase of a vault under the church (then a valuable privilege)
to the proprietorship of a pew% numbers were induced to purchase them though
they did not attend the worship of the church. In this way a majority of the
pewholders were soon found to be Unitarians ; and in opposition to the majority
of the original proprietors who were remaining in the city, and the principles of
common justice, the hturgy of the Church was soon after mutilated by removing
from it everything that related to the doflrine of the ever blessed Trinity, and
a Socinian Society has since had possession of the noble stone building. (Bp.
White's Memoirs, Appendix II. Church Review, vi, 85.)



seats in the sancfluary, and have had because of their
wealth the privilege of entering the House of God, the
poor — God's poor — have been pushed into the back
seats, pushed into the galleries, pushed into the streets.
Look around in the churches where the pew sys-
tem exists, watch the assembly which gathers weekly
within their walls, and count, if you please, what pro-
portion there is of the poor. You will find that those
who can wear gold rings and goodly apparel have
monopolized the best seats to see and hear, and if by
chance there is a scarcity of church accommodation,
there will not be found a single seat which the way-
faring man and stranger, the widow and the fatherless,
may feel they have a right to occupy for the holy pur-
pose of prayer. Now it will not do to say that there
are some seats always set apart for such as these; for
if there are, they are generally in some dark corner
where they cannot be sold, and if they are not, there
is a natural pride in the human heart ( sinful I cannot
call it) which will not submit to be marked as the poor
in the House of God. So long as the pew system
exists, the poor, whom the Lord has told us shall
always compose the greater part of His kingdom —
the poor, who cannot afford to buy seats, much less
to build churches, must forever go without them. And
oh, who can wonder, while these things are so, that
there should be constant murmurings of the poor
against the rich ? Who can expect that they should
not harbor feelings of resentment against those who
have thus turned them from their Father's house, re-



quiring a degree of forgiveness which nothing but the
Gospel, which they do not hear, could teach them ?
For if these evils do continue, if these complaints in-
crease and the poor are still deprived of the Gospel, I
fear there will one day, perhaps not far distant, a storm
arise which shall shake our social system to its center,
and drive before it those who have brought it to pass
as the autumn leaves are driven before the whirlwind.

" IV. And lastly. The principle of selling or renting
seats in the House of God is in itself wrong because it
destroys the missionary charaBer and one half the usefulness
of the clergy — no slight evil, when the Church is so

"The commission by which the ministers of the
Gospel act in this day is the same which the Apostles
had, ' Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel
to every creature' (St. Mark xvi, 15) — a duty which
is especially incumbent on them in this country where
the Church is yet so small and they are surrounded
by so many to whom the Gospel is yet an unknown
sound. Count the crowds which assemble in our pub-
lic places on the Lord's Day, even when His pub-
lic worship is celebrated. Mark the numbers which
throng the streets, even on that holy day, for the want
of something better to do. See the swarms which fill
the hovels and byways and lanes of our towns. All
these have immortal souls to be saved or lost. And it
is the duty of Christ's Church and Christ's ministers
to gather them all into His fold.

"But how — I ask it in all earnestness — how can



the ministers of God bring such to the knowledge of
Jesus, when all the seats in God's house, their Father's
house, are monopolized by those who can afford to pay
for them ? What success would a missionary in China
have in converting the nation, who should go there
and erect a church and preach in it until the Judgment
Day to those only who were willing to come and pay
for hearing the Gospel preached? And why should it
be different here? It is not, and will not be, I am
thoroughly convinced, until we throw our churches
open to the poor. Look at the case. The minister
enters the poor man's house. He, like the rest of his
brethren, does not despise the Gospel. Not a child has
he born to him that he does not bring to be baptised;
he would not be married without the Church's sanc-
tion ; and he always brings his dead to her burial ; and
yet he is never seen on any other occasion within her
walls. You ask him why it is, and the never varying
answer will be, 'I have no pew — I cannot afford to go
to church.' What a comment on a system introduced
into a Church whose glory should be that to the poor
the Gospel is preached, without money and without
price ! And what can we reply ? We have no seats to
offer where pews prevail. Our hands are tied and our
mouths shut, and we can go but sorrowing away.

" I know, however, that there will be objed:ions
made to all this. I know that the worldly-minded,
who prefer what they think their own convenience to
their brethren's good, will cry out against it. And I
know that there will be some well-meaning Christians



who have become so accustomed to the pew system
that they will be disposed to doubt the expediency of
free churches. The time will not permit me to enter
into all the objections that may be made. I pass di-
rectly to that which is considered the most formidable,
that the church cannot be supported. We answer that
it has never failed where it has been fairly tried. * I
have now for eight years tried the experiment of free
seats by a very severe test,' writes the energetic Bishop
of Fredericton in a late charge, 'and I am perfectly
satisfied with the result. Nor can anything convince
me that the sale of pews is agreeable to the will of
God, if the Bible be true,' . . . *and no reason ever
alleged on its behalf goes beyond a supposed conven-
ience resulting from the sale of seats. The evils of
the system are entirely overlooked.' And can we, my
brethren, for one moment be brought to admit that,
while the Jewish temple was fully supported while
w^holly free, while in the Greek Church the Emperor
of all the Russias stands side by side with the poorest
clad peasant, while the corrupt communion of Rome
opens her churches to all, while the Turkish mosques
are free to every follower of the false prophet, and no
idol temple was ever closed against the meanest of the
heathen, — that Protestant churches alone, of all relig-
ions, shall be the most inaccessible to the poor because
they cannot be supported without selling their seats?
Is it in vain that we have before us the example of the
early days of the Church, when the system of pews
was unknown, and when the offerings were so great



that no poor brother was ever left to want? Or shall
we refuse to learn from the Methodists, who have
adopted the free system, and than whose no ministers
are better paid, no services better attended, and than
whose, to our shame be it said, no poor are better
cared for? It is because that into their places of wor-
ship the poorest individual may enter freely and be at

" My beloved brethren, I have spoken to you fully
and freely on this important theme. I have plead in
plain and earnest language, it is true, a cause which is
nearest to my heart — for to it my life is given — the
cause of God's poor. If I have spoken strongly, it is
not that I would condemn those who are yet bound by
the pew system. It is a system with which the world
bound the Church — a system which many of our fore-
fathers, both yours and mine, adopted in all sincerity
of purpose ; and it is not for me to say when or how
this or that congregation shall be freed from its bonds.
It is not even expedient to sunder hastily such institu-
tions to which we have been accustomed. But for us,
a new congregation, who have now for nearly a year
tried so successfully the free system and seen the effedls
of the better way, it would have been a wrong to have
rented our pews and dispersed again our many poor."

Among the notes appended to the above discourse is
one in which there are these words :

" So far as the author's experience extends in the
parish of which he is red:or, during the two years
which have elapsed since its foundation the offerings



have exceeded the sum which could have been realized
by renting all the pews ; and it is no uncommon thing
to see, especially on Sunday evenings, every available
seat of his chapel occupied principally by the poor and
those who do not attend church except where the free
system is used."

The subjed: of the free church system was evidently
imbedded deeply in the young red:or's heart. He re-
turns to it again and again in the annual addresses
which he made to his people during the ten years of
his incumbency. His conception of the subject, and
his reflediion and study upon it, made all that he had
to say most cogent and convincing. The points he
makes and the arguments he adduces in his various
addresses are not without their possibilities of most
valuable service even to-day; for while to the credit
of the American Church it is to be said that in most
of the country places at least and in the smaller towns
our churches are generally free, yet in our great cities
and the larger towns the pew system still largely pre-
vails, and the minds and consciences of a large portion
of our clergy and people need to be stirred and, one
may say, enlightened.

The pew system has intrenched itself even in the
Roman churches, which, like the Roman Church as
a whole, take opportunist views of this as of many
other subjed:s, and so shape their policy to meet pre-
sent and momentary exigencies. While it is never a
final argument for the rejection of any given thing that
the Church of Rome has adopted it or practices it,



neither is it a final argument in favor of any given
policy that the Church of Rome has accepted or
favored it.

The stain and shame of the pew system still, there-
fore, must be protested against; and the advocacy of
the free system, to which young Hoffman said he
had "given his life," we feel we should still carry
on through these pages, which are meant to com-
memorate and hand on his convictions and spirit.
Therefore we continue various quotations from the
utterances of the late Dean in his Christ Church ad-
dresses, feeling that they have still value in themselves
and may still have potency.

In the first annual address at Christ Church, which
was delivered on the Easter Monday succeeding the oc-
casion on which he had preached the sermon so largely
given above, he pursues the subject, and among other
things said the following in respect to the offertory as
a means of parochial support under the circumstances.

" Each Lord's Day, as the Apostle recommended, the
opportunity will be given you of contributing to the
support of the clergy and the various charities of the
parish as God has prospered you." ... " It is at once
the simplest plan, the easiest to all concerned, and the
surest to bring into the treasury of the Lord a constant
and steady flow of the church's charity. And herein
it must commend itself to every heart : It needs no
expensive agencies. It makes use of no shifting de-
vices. It burdens no one beyond his ability. It meets
no hard looks, as if it made a great demand. It is



doubly acceptable, because it takes from no one grudg-
ingly or of necessity, but as cheerfully given. It is the
flowing of the rills that fills the ocean. It is the drop-
ping of the dew that clothes the fields and makes the
hillsides one sea of emerald green. Only yield your-
selves up to its gentle persuasions; only resolve that
you will lay something by you in store, and let no day
of the Lord pass without having your alms ascend with
your prayers to the throne of God; only determine,
and act upon the determination, that you will devote
a certain portion of the bounty bestowed upon you to
the service of the Lord; then, as in God's sight, will
the offering of each one be according to his ability.
Then will this simple church-like mode suffice for
every one of the church's wants. All which may God
grant for His mercy's sake, through Jesus Christ, our

In this same address a glimpse is given of the wise
and thoughtful spirit in which the young priest began
to lay the foundations of his parish. "To build a new
church," said he, "even in an established congregation,
is no easy task. To found a second one in a town
where but one has existed for many years, is ever a
work of anxious care : — the anxiety of being satisfied
that the time has come when a second is actually
needed; the anxiety of so doing all things that there
shall be no feeling between the mother and the daugh-
ter church but that of the warmest love, and no jeal-
ousy but that which shall provoke each other to good
works; the anxiety which must ever attend the ar-



ranging and setting in motion of the numerous means
which a parish organization, to be useful, requires; and
the anxiety which will fill the hearts of all that are
actively engaged in it, that everything done may pros-
per in promoting the glory of God and edification of
His people.

" Beloved, you are engaged in a work which if you
prosecute with a proper spirit you will ever be blessed.
No man can build a church with a proper spirit with-
out being spiritually a better man. The very fad: that
he enters upon it shows that he realizes that he needs
something more than this life can afford, something
more than earth and the things that appertain to it.
And if we keep this in view, each stone we lay will
bring with it a blessing. ... It is, in truth, a blessed
work. It will bless others. And what can be more
blessed? — to build a fold where the sheep that are
wandering abroad without a shepherd may be gath-
ered; to erect a house where to the poor the Gospel
may be preached, the blessed terms of salvation con-
stantly proclaimed, the sacraments of the Gospel duly
administered, and the daily sacrifice of prayer contin-
ually offered ; to gather around the House of God
those institutions which make the Church doubly
blessed, and exhibit it to the multitudes who dwell
about it as divine, — as the fountain from whence flows
out all that ministers to their temporal and spiritual
necessities, a building where the lambs of the flock
may be brought up in the nurture and admonition of
the Lord, a house of refuge for the Magdalen and pen-



itent, a house for the orphan and the infirm, and a
house for one or more of the priestly Hne who shall
go out day by day into the streets and lanes of the city
and bring in the poor and the maimed and the halt
and the blind. These are the works which in faith we
have now begun."

There are certain statistics over and above those al-
ready given of this and the following years of the
young rector's pastorship. We will not burden these
pages, however, with details which belong rather to
the history of the parish than to the history of the
man. It is to the manifestation of the man, of the
man's mind and of the man's heart, that we have
mainly addressed ourselves in the preparation of this
memoir. Some data up to the Easter of 1866 may,
however, have interest here.

On July 13th, 1854, the chapel schoolhouse was
dedicated by the Bishop of the Diocese, assisted by the
Right Rev. Dr. Wainwright, Provisional Bishop of
New York. The cornerstone of the red:ory was laid
at 6 p. m. on the same day, with appropriate services.
On the following morning, July 14th, Mr. Hoffman
was instituted into the rectorship. At this time, also,
the daily Morning and Evening Prayer were estab-
lished, with three services on each Lord's Day.

On April 27th Hobart Chetwood, son of John J.
Chetwood, Esq., treasurer of the parish, was ordained
to the diaconate in the chapel by the Bishop of the
Diocese. In November the Rev. Joseph S. Mayers was
appointed as rector's assistant.



The service of Institution was specially notable for
being the occasion of the ordination to the diaconate
of Charles Frederick Hoffman, the reftor's brother. It
was notable also on account of the sermon preached on
this occasion by the Bishop, which was spoken of in
the press of the day in the following manner :

It was a terse and condensed summary of the do6lrine con-
cerning the Church of God on earth. The Bishop showed that
it must be visible, otherwise we would have no authority of
testimony, and could not be accessible to man for his sal-
vation. Saints could not be made without the help of its
prayers. They could not die without the comfort of its nour-
ishing sacraments. That it should be continuously transmitted
was necessary, otherwise it would be a dream of history; like
the Academy or the Stoa, without any connecting nerve to
make it one with our own times. This transmission must be
verifiable, otherwise we would all float, blown hither and
thither by every wind of do6lrine, and men would be as much
at a loss as if there were no Church at all. Christ came to
earth and took our nature upon Him in order that He might
thus save man, and His Church is bound to do the same. If
it cannot be adapted to the wants of human nature, it cannot
be divine. It has therefore a visible ministry, visible sacra-
ments, visible churches, fonts, altars, spires, and all that belongs
to the beauty of holiness. She is accessible to all men, and
even follows them. She has parish priests for those that live at
home, missionaries for wandering sheep and exiles, chaplains
for ship and camp, houses of prayer for all people, a pastor by
the gate of every fold, and nursing care for every lamb of His

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Online LibraryTheo. Myers (Theodore Myers) RileyA memorial biography of the Very Reverend Eugene Augustus Hoffman : D.D. (Oxon.) D.C.L., L.L.D., late dean of the General Theological Seminary (Volume 1) → online text (page 20 of 28)