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Section V. Of Proceedings of Conventions in the States
subsequent to those of the General Convention.
For a while there was felt the evil of the mistake made in the beginning, of not forwarding copies of the alterations : a mistake, less to be imputed to the committee than to the convention, who had given no order on the subject; but who, perhaps, presumed on the editing of the book, before the other conventions could be held. They were held in the months of May and June, 1786; very soon after the arrival of the letter of the bishops. In New-York the question of ratifying the Book of Common Prayer was kept under consideration. In New-Jersey they rejected it, expressing at the same time their approbation of the other proceedings of the convention, except of the constitution. İn Pennsylvania some amendments were proposed. The same was done in Maryland. No convention met in Delaware. In Virginia it was adopted, with the exception of one of the rubrics, and with some proposed amendments of the articles; many dissenting from such adoption; not, as the author was well informed, because of the alterations made, but because they were so few.' It is strange to tell, that the rubric, held to be intolerable in Virginia, was that allowing the minister to repel an evil liver from the communion. The author, some time after, held serious argument on the point, with a gentleman who had been influential in the state convention. The offensive matter was not the precise provisions of the rubric, but that there should be any provision of the kind, or power exercised to the end contemplated. In South-Carolina the book was received without limitation. On the whole, it was evident
. that, in regard to the liturgy, the labours of the convention had not reached their object. It did not appear that the constitution was objected to in any state, except in that of New-Jersey The propriety of the application to the English bishops was not contradicted any where, except in South-Carolina : and even in this state there was carried an acquiescence in it. Under the circumstances stated, the convention to be held in June, 1786, was looked forward to, as what would either remedy the difficulty or increase it.
There has been given an account of the proceedings of sundry conventions in the different states, prior to the meeting in New-Brunswick, in May, 1784. At that period no convention had assembled in Virginia. But in May, 1785, there was one in the city of Richmond; of the proceedings of which there shall be here given a general account; for the same reason as in reference to the proceedings for the organization of the other churches comprehended within the union.
There had been previously passed, in the year 1784, an act of the legislature, incorporating the Episcopal Church in the respective parishes individually, and as existing throughout the state; that is, not only in each parish, the minister and vestrymen chosen by the members of the church were a body corporate for their own appropriate church and glebe; but the act recognized a convention consisting of the settled ministers and deputies from the different vestries, competent to self-government. In this act, there was no vestige of the former establishment : on the contrary, it contained provisos, guarding against all claims tending to that point. Nevertheless, the current set so strong against the Episcopal Church, from the enmity of numerous professors of religion, not a little aided by opinions inimical equally to the Church and to the societies dissenting from her, that in the year 1786, the law was repealed, with a proviso saving to all religious societies the estates belonging to them respectively. In the year 1798, this statute also was repealed, as inconsistent with religious freedom.
In this convention, the recommendations passed in NewYork, in October of the preceding year, were adopted, with two exceptions. They refused the acceptance of the fourth, concerning the liturgy, until it should be revised at the expected meeting in Philadelphia ; and in respect to the sixth article determining the manner of voting, they objected to it as a fundamental article of the constitution; but acquiesced in it as regarded the ensuing convention, reserving a right to approve or disapprove of its proceedings.
Their opinions, as to the principles which should govern in the proceedings, were detailed in instruction to deputies appointed by them to the General Convention, and are as follows:
“ Gentlemen, during your representation of the Protestant Episcopal Church, we commend to your observance the following sentiments concerning doctrine and worship. We refer you, at the same time, for these and other objects of your mission, to our resolutions on the proceedings of the late convention in New-York.
* A law, substantially the same as that of 1784, so far as it incorporated the Church throughout the state, was passed by the legislature of Maryland in the year 1802, in favour of the Roman Catholics, which does not appear to have given offence, or to have been productive of bad effects; although the like favour has been refused to the Protestant Episcopal Church in the same state.
“Uniformity in doctrine and worship will unquestionably contribute to the prosperity of the Protestant Episcopal Church. But we earnestly wish that this may be pursued with liberality and moderation. The obstacles which stand in the way of union among Christian societies, are too often founded on matters of mere form. They are surmountable, therefore, by those who, breathing the spirit of Christianity, earnestly labour in this pious work.
“From the Holy Scriptures themselves, rather than the comments of men, must we learn the terms of salvation. Creeds therefore ought to be simple : and we are not anxious to retain any other than that which is commonly called the Apostles' Creed.
“ Should a change in the liturgy be proposed, let it be made with caution: and in that case, let the alterations be sew, and the style of prayer continue as agreeable as may be to the essential characteristics of our persuasion. We will not now decide, what ceremonies ought to be retained. We wish, however, that those which exist may be estimated according to their utility; and that such as may appear fit to be laid aside, may no longer be appendages of our Church.
“ We need only add, that we shall expect a report of your proceedings, to be made to those whom we shall vest with authority to call a convention."
The intercourse with the court of Denmark, noticed in the proceedings of Pennsylvania, having been communicated by the governor of Virginia to the body now assembled; their deputies were instructed to lay the same before the General Convention
This convention of Virginia, issued an address to the members of the Episcopal Church throughout the state; in order to excite a zeal for the reviving of the communion.
They passed rules, forty-three in number, for the government of the Church in Virginia, extending to a great variety of particulars. In these rules they made direct provision for the trial of bishops and other clergymen by the convention: the matter concerning which there has been so much dissatisfaction, because of its not being directly provided against by the General Convention held within a few months after this convention held in Richmond. G. Page 27. Of the Convention in Philadelphia and Wil
mington, in 1786.
The Rev. David Griffith, D. D. rector of Fairfax parish, Alexandria, Virginia, who had been elected to the episcopacy in that state, presided in this convention. Francis Hopkinson, Esq. was the secretary. The convention was opened with a sermon by the president of the preceding convention.
The convention assembled under circumstances, which bore strong appearances of a dissolution of the union, in this early stage of it. The interfering instructions from the churches in the different states—the embarrassment that had arisen from the rejection of the proposed book in some of the states, and the use of it in others--some dissatisfaction on account of the Scottish Episcopacy-and, added to these, the demur expressed in the letter from the English bishops, were what the most sanguine contemplated with apprehension, and were sure prognostics of our falling to pieces, in the opinion of some, who were dissatisfied with the course that had been taken for the organizing of the Church. How those difficulties were surmounted, will be seen.
In regard to the interfering instructions, they were all silenced by the motion that stands on the journal, for refering them to the first convention, which should meet fully authorized to determine on a Book of Common Prayer. The instructions, far from proving injurious, had the contrary effect; by showing, as well the necessity of a duly constituted ecclesiastical body, as the futility of taking measures, to be reviewed and authoritatively judged of, in the bodies of which we were the deputies. Such a system appeared so evidently fruitful of discord and disunion, that it was abandoned from this time. The author, who had contemplated the meeting of the interfering instructions with the motion recorded as his own on the journal, was especially pleased with the effect of it-the silence of unnecessary discussion.'
Between the deputies of the churches which had received, and those of the churches which had rejected the proposed Book, or else been silent on the subject; the expedient was adopted, of letting matters remain for a time in the present state with both.
The question of the Scottish Episcopacy gave occasion
to some warmth. That matter was struck at by certain motions which appear on the journals, and which particularly affected two gentlemen of the body; one of whom the Rev. Mr. Pilmore—had been ordained by Bishop Seabury; and the other, the Rev. William Smith-the younger gentleman of the convention of that name-had been ordained by a bishop of the Church, in which Bishop Seabury had been consecrated. The convention did not enter into the opposition to the Scottish succession. A motion, as may be seen on the journals, was made to the effect, by the Rev. Mr. Provoost, seconded by the Rev. Robert Smith, of South-Carolina, who only, of the clergy, were of that mind.
But the subject was suppressed-as the journal shows—by the previous question, moved by the Rev. Dr. Smith, and seconded by the author. Nevertheless, as it had been affirmed, that gentlemen ordained under the Scottish succession, settling in the represented churches, were understood by some to be under canonical subjection to the bishop who ordained them; and as this circumstance had been urged in argument; the proposal of rejecting settlements under such subjection was adopted; although Mr. Pilmore denied that any such thing had been exacted of him. As the measure is stated on the journal, to have been carried on the motion of the author; he thinks it proper to mention, that he never conceived of there having been any ground for it, other than in the apprehension which had been expressed. Tbis temperate guarding against the evil, if it should exist, seemed the best way of obviating measures, which might have led to disputes with the northern clergy. The line of conduct taken, drew off from the meditated rejection some lay gentlemen ; who would otherwise have warmly pressed the objections which occur, against the circumstance that had been imagined
The letter from the English bishops, in answer to the address of the former convention, came to hand not long before the meeting of this. All that could be done in the present stage of the business, was to acknowledge the kindness of their letter, to repeat the application for the Episcopacy, and to re-assure them of attachment to the system of the Church of England. This was accordingly done, in a letter drafted by the Rev. Dr. Smith, but considerably altered on a motion of the Hon. John Jay, Esq. who thought the draft too submissive. It was in substance an expression of gratitude for the fatherly sentiments contained in the