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clergymen, in consequence of prior correspondence, had met for the purpose of consulting, in what way to renew a society that had existed under charters of incorporation from the governors of the said three states, for the Support of Widows and Children of deceased Clergymen. Here it was determined, to procure a larger meeting on the fifth of the ensuing October, in New-York; nnt only for the purpose of reviving the said charitable institution, but to confer and agree on some general principles of an union of the Episcopal Church throughout the states. C.
Such a meeting was held, at the time and place agreed on: and although the members composing it were not vested with powers adequate to the present exigencies of the Church, they happily, and with great unanimity, laid down a few general principles, to be recommended in the respective states, as the ground on which a future ecclesiastical government should be established. These principles were approbatory of Episcopacy and of the Book of Common Prayer; and provided for a representative body of the Church, consisting of clergy and laity; who were to vote as distinct orders. There was also a recommendation to the Church in the several states, to send clerical and lay deputies to a meeting to be held in Philadelphia, on the 27th of September in the following year. D.
Although at the meeting last held, there were present two clergymen from the eastern states; yet it now appeared, that there was no probability, for the present, of the aid of the churches in those states, in the measures begun for the obtaining of a representative body of the Church at large. From this they thought themselves restrained in Connecticut, in particular, by a step they had antecedently taken, for the obtaining of an Episcopate from England. For until the event of their application could be known, it naturally seemed to them inconsistent to do any thing which might change the ground on which the gentleman of their choice was then standing. This gentleman was the Rev. Samuel Seabury, D. D. formerly missionary on Staten-Island; who had been recommended to England
; for consecration before the evacuation of New-York by the British army.
On the 27th of September, 1785, there assembled, agreeably to appointment, in Philadelphia, a convention of clerical and lay deputies, from seven of the thirteen United States, viz. from New-York to Virginia, inclusive, with the addition of South-Carolina. They applied themselves
to the making of such alterations in the Book of Common Prayer, as were necessary for the accommodating of it to the late changes in the state; and the proposing, but not establishing, of such other alterations in that book and in the articles, as they thought an improvement of the service and of the manner of stating the principal articles of faith; these were published in a book, ever since known by the name of the proposed book. E.
The convention entered on the business of the Episcopacy, with the knowledge that there was now a bishop in Connecticut, consecrated, not in England, but by the non-juring bishops of Scotland. For Dr. Seabury, not meeting assurance of success with the bishops of the former country, had applied to the latter quarter for the succession, which had been there carefully maintained; notwithstanding their severance from the state, in the revolution of 1688. Bishop Seabury had returned to America, and had entered on the exercise of his new function, in the beginning of the preceding summer, and two or three gentlemen of the southern states had received ordination from his hands. Nevertheless, the members of this convention, although generally impressed with sentiments of respect towards the new bishop, and although, with the exception of a few, alleging nothing against the validity of his Episcopacy, thought it the most proper to direct their views in the first instance towards England. In this they were encouraged by information which they thought authentic, assigning for Dr. Seabury's failure these two reasons; that the administration had some apprehension of embroiling themselves with the American government, the sovereignty of which they had so recently acknowledged; and that the bishops were doubtful how far the act of some clergymen, in their individual capacities, would be acquiesced in by their respective flocks. For the meeting of the former difficulty, it was thought easy to obtain, and there were afterwards obtained, from the executive authorities of the states in wbich the new bishops were to reside, certificates, that what was sought did not interfere with any civil laws or constitutions. The latter difficulty was thought sufficiently obviated by the powers under which the present convention was assembled.
Accordingly, they addressed the archbishops and bishops of England, stating, that the Episcopal Church in the United States had been severed, by a civil revolution, from the jurisdiction of the parent Church in England; acknow
ledging the favours formerly received from the bishops of London in particular, and from the archbishops and bishops in general, through the medium of the Society for Propagating the Gospel; declaring their desire to perpetuate among them the principles of the Church of England, in doctrine, discipline, and worship; and praying, that their lordships would consecrate to the Episcopacy those persons who should be sent, with that view, from the churches in any of the states respectively.
In order that the present convention might be succeeded by bodies of the like description, they framed an ecclesiastical constitution, the outlines of which were, that there should be a triennial convention, consisting of a deputation from the Church in each state, of not more than four clergymen, and as many laymen; that they should vote statewise, each order to have a negative on the other; that when there should be a bishop in any state, he should be officially a member of the convention; that the different orders of clergy should be accountable to the ecclesiastical authority in the state only to which they should respectively belong; and that the engagement previous to ordination should be a declaration of belief in the holy Scriptures, and a promise of conformity to the doctrines and the worship of the Church.
Further, the convention appointed a committce, with various powers; among which was, that of corresponding, during the recess, with the archbishops and bishops of England; and they adjourned, to meet again in Philadelphia, on the 20th of June, in the following year.
After the rising of the convention, their address to the English prelates was forwarded by the committee to his Excellency John Adams, Esq. the American minister, with the request, that it might be delivered by him to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury. There were also forwarded certificates from the executives of the states in which there was a probability of there being bishops chosen. The executives who gave these certificates were those of New-York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. These evidences, agreeably to instructions of the convention, were applied for by the members of that body from the said states repectively. Mr. Adams willingly performed the service solicited of him, and in a conversation which he held with the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the subject of the address, gave such information, and expressed such sentiments, as were calculated to promote the object of it. F.
In the spring of the year 1786 the committee received an answer, signed by the two archbishops, and eighteen of the twenty-four bishops of England, acknowledging the receipt of what they were pleased to call the Christian and Brotherly Address of the Convention, and declaring their wish to comply with the desire of it; but delaying measures to the effect, until there should be laid before them the alterations which had been made by the convention: it liaving been represented to the bishops, through private channels, that the alterations were essential deviations from the Church of England, either in doctrine or in discipline.
Not long after the receipt of this letter, the committee received another from the archbishops of Canterbury and York, to whom the management of the business had been left by their brethren, after a second meeting of the body, informing, that they had received the edited Book of Common Prayer, in regard to which they declared, that besides their seeing of no occasion for some smaller alterations, which they do not specify, they are dissatisfied with the omission of the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds, and of the descent into hell in the Apostles' Creed. And they further declare their disapprobation of an article in the proposed constitution, which seemed to them to subject the future bishops to a trial by the presbyters and the laymen, in the respective states. This, however, does not seem to have been the meaning of the article alluded to; which expresses no more than that laws for the trial of bishops should be made, not by the general, but by each state ecclesiastical representative. The prelates went on to inform the committee, that they were likely to obtain an act of parliament, enabling them to consecrate for America. They, however, expected, that before they should proceed under the act, satisfaction should be given in regard to the matters stated. The same communication laid down what would be required, in regard to the characters individually, who should be sent for cousecration. As to faith, they were to make the subscription which the American Church had prescribed, to future candidates for orders. On the subject of learning, it was thought disrespectful to the persons to be sent, to subject them to an examination, it being at the same time trusted, that the American Church would be aware of the disparagement of the Episcopacy, which would be the result of its being conferred on persons not sufficiently respectable in point of literary qualification. In order to give satisfaction in regard to the religious and moral character of each person to be sent, the archbishops required, that it should be testified by the convention choosing him; and, in addition, that there should be a certificate from the General Convention, to the effect that they knew no reason why the person should not be consecrated to the Episcopal office. These determinations are given as the result of a consultation of the two archbishops and fifteen of the bishops, being all who were at the time in town. Soon after the letter from the two archbishops, there came one from the archbishop of Canterbury alone, enclosing the act of parliament.
After the receipt of the first of the letters of the English prelates, and before the receipt of the second, the General Convention assembled, agreeably to appointment, in Philadelphia, on the 20th of June, 1786. The principal business transacted by them, was another address to the English prelates, containing an acknowledgment of their friendly and affectionate tetter, a declaration of not intending to depart from the doctrines of the English Church, and a determination of making no further alterations than such as either arose from a change of circumstances, or appeared conducive to union; and a repetition of the prayer for the succession. Before their adjournment, they appointed a committee, with power to reassemble them, if thought expedient, at Wilmington, in the state of Delaware.
On the committee's receipt of the second letter, they summoned the convention to meet, at the place appointed, on the 10th of October following. The principal matter which occupied the body when assembled, was the question, how far they should accommodate to the requisitions of the English prelates.
The difficulty concerning the offensive article of the constitution had been done away before the arrival of the objection of the archbishops. This objection, as already observed, was grounded on a misapprehension of the design of the article. But another objection had been made within the American Church, on the score of there being no express provision for the presidency of a bishop in conventions and in ecclesiastical trials. This objection had gained so much ground, that, in the session of June, it had been fully satisfied; which had more than done away the ground of the censure of the prelates. The omission of the Nicene Creed had been generally regretted; and, accordingly, it was now, without debate or difficulty, restored to the Book of Common Prayer, to stand after the Apostles' Creed, with