William Stevens Perry.

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BR 45 .B63 1890 nooo

Perry, William Stevens, 1832


The general ecclesiastical

constitution of the •

;^ i \s


\t J>flljbn Jbtiures, 4§9e




American Church




Delivered in the Church of the Holy Trinity,

Philadelphia, in April and May,




2 and 3 Bible House
I 89 1


John Bohlen, who died in Philadelphia on the
26th day of April, 1874, bequeathed to trustees a
fund of One Hundred Thousand Dollars, to be
distributed to religious and charitable objects
in accordance with the well-known wishes of
the testator.

By a deed of trust, executed June 2d, 1875, tne
trustees under the will of Mr. Bohlen transferred
and paid over to ''The Rector, Church Wardens,
and Vestrymen of the Church of the Holy Trin-
ity, Philadelphia," in trust, a sum of money for
certain designated purposes, out of which fund
the sum of Ten Thousand Dollars was set apart
for the endowment of The John Bohlen Lect-
ureship, upon the following terms and conditions :

The money shall be invested in good, substantial, and
safe securities, and held in trust for a fund to be called Tbe
John Bohlen Lectureship, and the income shall be applied
annually to the payment of a qualified person, whether
clergyman or layman, for the delivery, and publication of
at least one hundred copies, of two or more lecture-ser-
mons. These Lectures shall be delivered at such time and
place, in the city of Philadelphia, as the persons nominated
to appoint the lecturer shall from time to time determine,
giving at least six months' notice to the person appointed

The Bohlen Lectureship.

to deliver the same, when the same may conveniently be
done, and in no case selecting the same person as lecturer
a second time within a period of five years. The payment
shall be made to said lecturer, after the lectures have been
printed and received by the trustees, of all the income for
the year derived from said fund, after defraying the expense
of printing the lectures and the other incidental expenses
attending the same.

The subject of such lectures shall be such as is within
the terms set forth in the will of the Rev. John Bampton,
for the delivery of what are known as the " Bampton Lect-
ures," at Oxford, or any other subject distinctively con-
nected with or relating to the Christian Religion.

The lecturer shall be appointed annually in the month
of May, or as soon thereafter as can conveniently be done,
by the persons who, for the time being, shall hold the
offices of Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the
Diocese in which is the Church of the Holy Trinity; the
Rector of said Church ; the Professor of Biblical Learning,
the Professor of Systematic Divinity, and the Professor of
Ecclesiastical History, in the Divinity School of the Prot-
estant Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

In case either of said offices are vacant, the others may
nominate the lecturer.

Under this trust, the Rt. Rev. William Stevens
Perry, Bishop of Iowa, was appointed to deliver
the lecture, for the year 1890.

Bishop's House,

Davenport, Iowa, Easter, 1891.


Delivered in the Church of the Holy Trinity,

1S77. By the Rev. Alexander H. Vinton, D. D.
Inaugural Series.

1878. By the Rt. Rev. Frederick D. Huntington, D. D.,
LL. D., Bishop of Central New York.

The Fitness of Christianity to Man.

1879. By the Rev. Phillips Brooks, D. D., Oxon.

The Influence of Jesus.

1880. By the Very Rev. John F. Howson, D. D., Dean of
Chester, Eng.

The Evidential Value of the Acts oj the Apostles.

1881. By the Rt. Rev. Thomas U. Dudley, E. D., Bishop
of Kentucky.

The Church's Need.

1882. By the Rt. Rev. Samuel S. Harris, D. D., LL. D.,
Bishop of Michigan.

The Relation of Christianity to Civil Society.

1883. By the Rev. Alexander V. G. Allen, D. D.

The Continuity of Christian Thought '.

1887. By the Rev. Joseph F. Garrison, D. D.
The American Prayer Book.

1890. By the Rt. Rev. William Stevens Perry, D.D., Oxon.,
LL. D., D. C. L., Bishop of Iowa.

Constitutional History of the American Church.


R. Y. COOK, Esq., M. A.,










" the case of the episcopal churches

^HE leading incidents of the history of our
ecclesiastical organization centre around
a single man, — a single name. The story of
our progress from a condition of dependency
upon the Mother Church of England, to inde-
pendence and autonomy as a branch of Christ's
Holy Catholic Church, is told in the life-his-
tory of William White, who for upwards of
half a century was the guiding spirit and the
judicious head of the Communion he had done
so much to found and shape. It is with the
purpose, — as we enter upon the second cen-
tury of our united independent existence as a
Church, — of recalling attention to the wise
master-building of the first Bishop of Pennsyl-

The General Ecclesiastical

vania that we would review the history, and ex-
amine the underlying principles, of our Eccles-
iastical Constitution — that instrument which,
with but trifling changes, has been our bond
of union and our bill of rights for one hundred
years. To trace the gradual development of
the principles which have guided our ecclesi-
astical legislation and shaped our ecclesias-
tical condition during these years of growth
and prosperity is a duty, owed to the memory
of those who have secured for us these privi-
leges. To find in the broad, comprehensive
and logical statements of an almost forgotten
pamphlet, — the production of a young man, —
rector of the United Congregations of Christ
Church and St. Peter's, Philadelphia, the germ
of an ecclesiastical system so full as to require
but little change to make it adapted to all the
needs of a century of life and constant in-
crease, is surely a matter of interest to those
who care at all about the foundation princi-
ples of our ecclesiastical government and the
philosophy of our history. To learn that we
have yet to reach, as a Church, in its fulness
the entire system thus indicated with far-

Constitution of the American Church. 3

seeing astuteness and consummate wisdom,
should lead us to recognize the great ability
of this leader of our Israel from the state of
pupilage to ecclesiastical independence and
autonomy. Our theme, then, is The History
and Rationale of the Ecclesiastical Constitu-
tion of the American Church. We propose to
treat it in the following order:

First, William White and his pamphlet, The
Case of the Episcopal Churches Considered.

In considering this, the first ecclesiastical
state paper of the period of our Church's or-
ganization, we shall examine the positions, and
trace the development of the principles, set
forth in this pamphlet written by William
White at a period of the Church's depression
and partial overthrow, — prepared and pub-
lished at a juncture in civil and ecclesiastical
affairs when other men's minds failed them for
fear and for looking for that which was so
likely to come — the utter extinction of the
Church which had been planted on American
shores two hundred years before.

Secondly, we propose to review the meth-
ods and plans for organization taken by the

The General Ecclesiastical

Churchmen in the Northern States and by
those of the Middle and Southern States, no-
ting the gradual recognition and adoption of
the principles so clearly set forth in The Case
of the Episcopal Churches Considered, and nec-
essarily bringing into prominence as a leader
and guide the author of this remarkable eccle-
siastical state paper.

In this connection we shall naturally reach
the question of the nature of the Episcopate
sought and secured by our fathers; and it will
be the object of our investigations to ascertain
the scope and powers of the Episcopal Office
as revealed by the history of the measures
through which this office and administration
was obtained.

Our next purpose will be the consideration
of the union of the Churches in 1789, and the
influence of this confederation on the Ecclesi-
astical Constitution which now took its final
shape and is, with slight variations, the charter
of our Church organization to-day.

And lastly, we shall consider the rationale
of the Constitution — noting its dominant ideas;
tracing its successive modifications; and con-

Constitution of the American Church. 5

sidering the suggestions of William White as
to its further development and its adaptation
to the Church's needs in the time to come.

In this order, and with these purposes in
view, we propose to treat the theme we have
chosen as a contribution to the centenary lit-
erature of the American Church.

The eminently wise and judicious Bishop
Alonzo Potter, in his sketch of William White,
uses this language respecting his predecessor
in the see of Pennsylvania: —

"The peace of 1783 had not been concluded
before he had sketched out, in a pamphlet entitled
'The Case of the Episcopal Churches Considered,'
a plan for the organization of our infant Commun-
ion, which shows the comprehensive skill of a
statesman, and which ultimately commended itself
to general acceptance. The essential unity of the
whole American Church as a national Church; its
independence of any foreign jurisdiction; the en-
tire separation of the spiritual and temporal au-
thority; the participation of the laity in the legis-
lation and government of the Church, and in tin-
election of its ministers of every grade; the equal-
ity of all parishes, and a threefold organization
(diocesan, provincial, and general), were funda-

The General Ecclesiastical

mental principles in his plan, as they were in that
which was finally adopted.

"To conceive such a plan, however, was much
easier than to secure its adoption. The difficulties
which had to be encountered were such as might
well have appalled any spirit less calm and patient,
less resolute and trustful than his own. This is
not the place, nor is now the time, in which to set
forth the unyielding serenity of soul, the unfailing
courtesy and kindness, the true modesty and self-
forgetfulness, the calm sobriety of judgment, the
independence of personal considerations, and the
straightforward honesty and zeal which gradually
won to him the confidence of all hearts, and which
enabled him at length to secure the cordial accept-
ance of every important feature in his original
plan. To develop these services in full will be the
duty of the future historian; and upon that histor-
ian will devolve the grateful task of showing how
his steady hand guided the system as it went into
operation; and how, through the gracious good-
ness of God, he was permitted for more than forty
years to be in every emergency its most honored
and trusted administrator."*

*Discourses, Charges, Addresses, Pastoral Letters, cte.,
etc., by Alonzo Potter, D.D., LL.D., Bishop of the Diocese
of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, 1858; pp. 209, 210.

Constitution of the American Church. 7

It is in the spirit of these well-considered
words, and in memory of Bishop White's own
claim that the "incipient measures" were
taken by himself "for the organizing of our
Church out of the wreck of the Revolution,"
and that ''those measures began with the au-
thor's pamphlet, entitled 'the Case of the
Episcopal Churches in the United States Con-
sidered,'""" that we would attempt to give the
history and rationale of the General Ecclesias-
tical Constitution of the American Episcopal

The condition of the Church of England in
the confederated American States, as the war
for independence wore to its close, is summa-
rily expressed in Bishop White's own words:

"The congregations of our Communion
throughout the United States were approach-
ing to annihilation. Although within this city
(Philadelphia) three Episcopal clergymen, in-
cluding the author, were resident and officiat-
ing, the Church over the rest of the State had

*Vide MS. Note on The Cttitrch in America, by William
White, published in photo- lithography by Thos. II. Mont-
gomery, Esq., of Philadelphia.

8 The General Ecclesiastical

become deprived of their clergy during the
war, either by death, or by departure for En-
gland. In the Eastern States, with two or
three exceptions, there was a cessation of the
exercises of the pulpit, owing to the necessary
disuse of the prayers for the former civil rul-
ers. In Maryland and in Virginia, where the
Church enjoyed civil establishments, on the
ceasing of these, the incumbents of the par-
ishes, almost without exception, ceased to
officiate. Further south, the condition of the
Church was not better, to say the least. At
the time in question, there had occurred some
circumstances which prompted the hope of a
discontinuance of the war; but, that it would
be with the acknowledgment of American
Independence, there was little reason to ex-
pect. - *

"It was an opinion commonly entertained,
that if there should be a discontinuance of
military operations, it would be without the
acknowledgment of independence, as hap-
pened after the severance of the Netherlands
from the Crown of Spain. Of the like issue
there seemed probable causes, in the feelings

Constitution of the American Church. 9

attendant on disappointed efforts for conquest;
and in the belief cherished that the successes
of the former colonists would be followed by
dissentions, inducing return to the domination
of the mother country. Had the war ended
in that way, our obtaining of the Succession
from England would have been hopeless. The
remnant of the Episcopal Church in Scotland,
laboring under penal laws not executed, would
not have ventured the bringing down on them-
selves of the arm of government. Fear of the
like offence would have operated in any other
quarter to which we might have had recourse.
In such a case, the obtaining the Succession
in time to save from ruin, would seem to have
been impossible."*

* Vide MS. Note on the Church in America, by William

Bishop White begins the concluding paragraph of his
" Episcopal Charge on the Subject of Revivals, delivered
before the Forty-eight Convention of the Diocese of Penn-
sylvania," with the following words: —

" Brethren, it is bordering on the half of a century since
the date of the incipient measures of your bishop, for the
organising of our Church out of the wreck of the Revo-

On a copy of this charge in the possession of Thomas H.

io The General Ecclesiastical

It was under these circumstances that there
appeared in Philadelphia, from the pen of
William White, then a young man of thirty -
four years of age, a pamphlett which exerted a

Montgomery, Esq., of Philadelphia, the Bishop has added
on the last blank pages the following note : —

" Those measures began with ye Author'6 Pamphlet, en-
titled 'The Case of ye Episcopal Churches in ye United
States Considered.'

"The Circumstances attached to that Publication are
ye following: — "

The words we have quoted are from the photo - litho-
grapic reproduction by Mr. Montgomery of Bishop White's
MS. Note.

| Bishop White's account of the appearance of this pamph-
let is as follows: —

"On ye sixth of August 1782, ye Congress, as noticed on
their printed Journal of that Day, received a Communica-
tion from Sir Guy Carleton & Admiral Digby, dated ye 2d
of that Month, which gave ye first Opening of ye Prospect
of Peace. The Pamphlet had been advertised for Sale in
ye Pennsylvania Packet of ye 6th & some Copies had been
previously handed by ye Author to a few of his Friends.
This suspended ye intended Proceedings in ye Business;
which, in ye Opinion of ye Author, would have been justi-
fied by Necessity, & by no other Consideration."

Copies of this pamphlet were advertised for sale, as has
been stated, in the Pennsylvania Packet of August 6, 1782.
This statement is conclusive as to the original appearance
of the pamphlet. Bishop White tells us, in the paragraph
quoted above from the "MS. Note" reproduced by Mr.

Constitution of t lie American Church. II

most important effect on the organization and
the very existence of the American Church.
Eliciting", as it did, the most careful consid-
eration and the most unsparing criticism, it
secured for all but a single, and that an un-
necessary, feature, a general approval and the
final acceptance of the plan proposed. This
pamphlet was "The Case of the Episcopal
Churches Considered." It must be borne in

Montgomery from the original manuscript in his posses-
sion, that "some copies" had been previously handed by
the author to a few of his friends. Copies bearing the date
of 1782 are to be found in the public libraries in Philadel-
phia and elsewhere. Bishop White, in his Memoirs [second
edition, p. 89], speaks of the pamphlet as " published in the
summer of 1783," and the reprint by Stavely in 1827, to-
gether with that issued by Hamilton, in 1859, and that ap-
pended to Perry's Reprint of the Early Journals, iii. pp.
416-435, give the date of Claypole's edition as 1783. There
seems every probability that, since the prospect of peace
opened, as it did, almost contemporaneously with the first
appearance of this pamphlet, rendering its plea of necessity
no longer serviceable, its distribution was suspended, and it
was withheld from general circulation till the time named
in the Bishop's Memoirs, the summer of 1783. One of the
early copies must have fallen into the hands of the Con-
vocation of the Connecticut Clergy. The original editions
of 1782 and 1783 are exceedingly rare, and of the Stavely
reprint but few exist.

12 The General Ecclesiastical

mind that this paper was originally published
during the first week in August, 1782. When
it was written and even when it first appeared
from the press, there had been no acknowl-
edged negotiations between the contending
parties looking to an amicable settlement of
differences between the two countries on the
basis of a recognition of American independ-
ence. It was prepared at a time when the
author, in common with the great body of
American churchmen, both clergy and laity,
were "despairing of a speedy acknowledgment
of our independence although there was not
likely to be more of war."*
The communication of Sir Guy Carleton and
Admiral Digby to the American Congress
changed at once the aspect of affairs. The
pamphlet was at once withdrawn from sale,
and such copies as were within the author's
reach were destroyed. Some had been distrib-
uted among friends and were consequently in
circulation; and early the following year some
additional copies were issued from the press,
evidently to enable persons whose curiosity
* Bishop White's letter to Bishop Hobart.

Constitution of the American Church. 13

had been excited, to judge as to the nature of
the propositions advanced by the writer of the

It does not appear that any pains were
taken by the writer to secure either the sale
or the further circulation of copies of this
pamphlet, which in its original form has be-
come one of the rarest of our Ecclesiastical
"Americana." While giving, as he did, his
best efforts to further the adoption of the
other measures so clearly set forth in this
pamphlet, William White recognized at once
the fact that, with the acknowledgment of
American independence, the expedient of a
temporary departure from the Church's rule
and practice "from the Apostles' times" of
the historic Episcopate, was no longer neces-
sary. The proposition advanced was confess-
edly an expedient. It stood alone on the
plea of necessity, and that plea failing, it was
never urged again. In fact, it is to William
White more than to any other man, and to his
unremitting labors in its behalf, that the cov-
eted "succession" in the English line was at
length obtained; and the "historic Episco-

14 The General Ecclesiastical

pate," in its completeness, was secured for the
infant American Church.

In the preface to this remarkable ecclesias-
tical state -paper the author assumes "that
the members of the Episcopal Churches, some
from conviction, and others from the influence
of ancient habits, entertain a preference for
their own communion; and that accordingly
they are not a little anxious to see some
speedy and decisive measures adopted for its
continuance." The writer "believes, there-
fore, that his undertaking needs no apology to
the public, and that those for whom it is de-
signed will give him credit for his good inten-
tions." He regards his purpose as "subser-
vient to the general cause of religion and
virtue; for a numerous society, losing the
benefit of the stated ordinances within itself,
cannot but severely feel the effect of such a
change, on the piety and morals of its mem-
bers." "In this point of view," proceeds our
author, "all good men must lament that
cessation of public worship, which has hap-
pened to many of the Episcopal Churches, and
threatens to become universal." The writer

Constitution of the American Church. 15

claims that his present work is "connected
with the civil happiness of the community."
He next strives to correct a popular fallacy.
"A prejudice has prevailed," he proceeds,
"with many, that the Episcopal Churches
cannot otherwise exist than under the domin-
ion of Great Britain." He therefore claims
that "A church government that would con-
tain the constituent principles of the Church
of England, and yet be independent of foreign
jurisdiction or influence, would remove that
anxiety, which at present hangs heavy on the
minds of many sincere persons." The writer
concludes with the expression of the hope
that if ''this performance" should "fail of
effect on account of the insufficiency of the
author, it may nevertheless be of advantage,
by drawing to the subject the attention of
others, better qualified for the undertaking."
Thus modestly introducing the work he has
taken in hand, the writer of "The Case of the
Episcopal Churches Considered," proceeds to
enable his readers "to form an idea of the
situation of the Episcopal Churches in the
present crisis" by calling their attention to

1 6 The General Ecclesiastical

"the change their religious system has under-
gone in the late Revolution." Laying down
the axiom that "on whatever principles the
independence of the United States may be
supposed to rest * * * * there results
from it the reciprocal duties of protection and
allegiance, enforced by the most powerful
sanctions of natural and revealed religion,"
the writer calls attention to the fact "that in
general, the members of the Episcopal
Churches are friendly to the principles on
which the present governments were formed,
a fact particularly obvious in the Southern
States, where the Episcopalians were," as he
asserts, "a majority of the citizens," and
"engaged and persevered in the war with as
much ardor and constancy as their neigh-
bors.""* "Many even of those whose senti-
ments were at first unfavorable to the Revo-

*This testimony to the patriotism of American church-
men from one who could not have been mistaken is con-
firmed by abundant evidence. The men who won for us
independence by their bravery on the field of battle or con-
tributed to the same result by their wisdom in the halls of
Congress, were largely members of our Communion, and
were as earnest Churchmen as they were patriots.

Constitution of the American Church, ij

lution," proceeds the writer, "now wish for
its final establishment as a most happy event;
some from an earnest desire for peace, and
others from the undistinguishing oppressions
and ravages of the British armies. Such
persons accordingly acknowledge allegiance
and pay obedience to the sovereignty of the

With this clear and concise statement of the
case of the Episcopal Churches, at the time of
his writing, the author proceeds to lay down
logically and forcibly the postulates on which
his further arguments depend.

"Inconsistent with the duties resulting from
this allegiance," he proceeds, "would be their
subjection to any spiritual jurisdiction, con-

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Online LibraryWilliam Stevens PerryThe general ecclesiastical constitution of the American Church : its history and rationale → online text (page 1 of 14)