Imágenes de páginas

We are anxious to complete our Episcopal system by means of the Church of England. We esteem and prefer it, and with gratitude acknowledge the patronage and favours for which, while connected, we have constantly been indebted to that Church. These considerations, added to that of agreement in faith and worship, press us to repeat our former request, and to endeavour to remove your present hesitation, by sending you our proposed ecclesiastical constitution and Book of Common Prayer.

These documents, we trust, will afford a full answer to every question that can arise on the subject. We consider your lordship's letter as very candid and kind; we repose full confidence in the assurances it gives ; and that confidence, together with the liberality and catholicism of your venerable body, leads us to flatter ourselves, that you will not disclaim a branch of your Church merely for having been in your lordship's opinion, if that should be the case, pruned rather more closely than its separation made absolutely necessary.

We have only to add, that as our Church in sundry of these states have already proceeded to the election of persons to be sent for consecration, and others may soon proceed to the same, we pray to be favoured with as speedy an answer to this, our second address, as in your great goodness you were pleased to give to our former one.

We are,

With great and sincere respect,
Most worthy and venerable prelates,
Your obedient, and

Very humble servants,*
In Convention,
Christ Church, Philadelphia, June 26, 1786.

[ocr errors][merged small]

No. 9. Page 120.

Communications from the Archbishops of Canterbury and


To the Commiltee of the General Convention at Philadelphia,

the Rev. Dr. White, president, the Rev. Dr. Smith, the Rev. Mr. Proroost, the Honourable James Duane, Samuel

Powell, and Richard Peters, Esqs. MR. PRESIDENT, AND GENTLEMEN,

Influenced by the same sentiments of fraternal regard, expressed by the archbishops and bishops in their answer to your address, we desire you to be persuaded, that if we have not yet been able to comply with your request, the delay has proceeded from no tardiness on our part. The only cause of it has been the uncertainty in which we were left by receiving your address unaccompanied by those communications with regard to your liturgy, articles, and ecclesiastical constitution, without the knowledge of which we could not presume to apply to the legislature, for such powers as were necessary to the completion of your wishes. The journal of the convention, and the first part of your liturgy, did not reach us till more than two months after our receipt of your address; and we were not in possession of the remaining part of it and of your articles, till the last day of April. The whole of your communications was then, with as little delay as possible, taken into consideration, at a meeting of the archbishops and fifteen of the bishops, being all who were then in London and able to attend; and it was impossible not to observe, with concern, that if the essential doctrines of our common faith were retained, less respect however, was paid to our liturgy than its own excellence, and your declared attachment to it, had led us to expect. Not to mention a variety of verbal alterations, of the necessity or propriety of which we are by no means satisfied, we saw with grief, that two of the confessions of our Christian faith, respectable for their antiquity, have been entirely laid aside; and that even in that which is called the Apostles' Creed, an article is omitted, which was thought necessary to be inserted, with a view to a particular heresy, in a very early age of the Church, and has ever since had the venerable sanction of universal reception. Nevertheless, as a proof of the sincere desire which we feel to continue in spiritual communion with the members of your Church it America, and to complete the orders of your ministry, and trusting that the communications which we shall make to you on the subject of these and some other alterations, will have their desired effect, we have, even under these circumstances, prepared a bill for conveying to us the powers necessary for this purpose. It will in a few days be presented to parliament, and we have the best reasons to hope that it will receive the assent of the legislature. This bill will enable the archbishops and bishops to give Episcopal consecration to the persons who shall be recommended, without requiring from them any oaths or subscriptions inconsistent with the situation in which the late revolution has placed them; upon condition that the full satisfaction of the sufficiency of the persons recommended, which you

offer to us in your address, be given to the archbishops and bishops. You will doubtless receive it as a mark both of our friendly disposition toward you, and of our desire to avoid all delay on this occasion, that we have taken this earliest opportunity of conveying to you this intelligence, and that we proceed (as supposing ourselves invested with that power which for your sakes we have requested) to state to you particularly the several heads upon which that satisfaction which you offer will be accepted, and the mode in which it may be given. The anxiety which is shown by the Church of England to prevent the intrusion of unqualified persons into even the inferior offices of our ministry, confirms our own sentiments, and points it out to be our duty, very earnestly to require the most decisive proofs of the qualifications of those who may be offered for admission to that order, to which the superintendence of those offices is committed. At our several ordinations of a deacon and a priest, the candidate submits himself to the examination of the bishop as to his proficiency in learning; he gives the proper security of his soundness in the faith by the subscriptions which are made previously necessary; he is required to bring testimonials of his virtuous conversation during the three preceding years; and that no mode of inquiry may be omitted, public notice of his offering himself to be ordained is given in the parish church where he resides or ministers, and the people are solemnly called upon to declare, if they know any impediment for the which he ought not to be admitted. At the time of ordination too, the same solemn call is made on the congregation then present.

Examination, subscription, and testimonials are not in



deed repeated at the consecration of an English bishop, because the person to be consecrated has added to the securities given at his former ordinations, that sanction which arises from his having constantly lived and exercised his ministry under the eyes and observation of his country. But the objects of our present consideration are very differently circunstanced; their sufficiency in learning, the soundness of their faith, and the purity of their manners, are not matters of notoriety here; means therefore inust be found to satisfy the archbishop who consecrates, and the bishops who present them, that, in the words of our Church, “ They be apt and meet for their learning and godly conversation, to exercise their ministry duly to the honour of God, and the edifying of his Church, and to be wholesome examples and patterns to the flock of Christ."

With regard to the first qualification, sufficiency in good learning, we apprehend that the subjecting a person who is to be admitted to the oflice of a bishop in the Church, to that examination which is required previous to the ordination of priests and deacons, might lessen that reverend estimation which onght never to be separated from the Episcopal character: we therefore do not require any farther satisfaction on this point, than will be given to us by the forms of testimonials in the annexed paper; fully trusting that those who sign them will be well aware, how greatly incompetence in this respect must lessen the weight and authority of the bishop, and affect the credit of the Episcopal Church.

Under the second bread, that of subscription, our desire is to require that subscription only to be repeated, which you have already been called upon to make by the tenth article of your ecclesiastical constitution. But we should forget the duty which we owe to our own Church, and act inconsistently with that sincere regard which we bear to yours, if we were not explicit in declaring, that, after the disposition we have shown to comply with the prayer of your address, we think it now incumbent upon you to use your utmost exertions also for the removal of any stumblingblock of offence, which may possibly prove an obstacle to the success of it. We therefore most earnestly exhort you, that previously to the time of your making such subscription, you restore to its integrity the Apostles' Creed, in which you have omitted an article merely, as it seems, from misapprehension of the sense in which it is understood by our Church; nor can we help adding, that we hope you will

[ocr errors]

think it but a decent proof of the attachment which your profess to the services of your liturgy, to give to the other two creeds a place in your Book of Common Prayer, even though the use of them should be left discretional. We should be inexcusable too, if at the time when you are requesting the establishment of bishops in your Church, we did not strongly represent to you that the eighth article of your ecclesiastical constitution appears to us to be a degradation of the clerical, and still more of the Episcopał character. We persuade ourselves, that in your ensuing convention, some alteration will be thought necessary in this article, before this reaches you; or, if not, that due attention will be given to it in consequence of our representation.

On the third and last head, which respects purity of manners, the reputation of the Church, both in England and America, and the interest of our common Christianity, is so deeply concerned in it, that we feel it our indispensable duty to provide, on this subject, the most effectual securities. It is presumed, that the same previous public notice of the intention of the person to be consecrated will be given in the Church where he resides in America, for the same reasons, and therefore nearly in the same form, with that used in England before our ordinations. The call upon the persons present at the time of consecration, must be deemed of little use before a congregation composed of those to whom the person to be consecrated is unknown. The testimonials, signed by persons living in England, admit of reference and examination, and the characters of those who give them are subject to scrutiny, and, in cases of criminal deceit, to punishment. In proportion as these circumtances are less applicable to testimonials from America, those testimonials most be more explicit, and supported by a greater number of signatures. We therefore think it necessary that the several persons, candidates for Episcopal consecration, should bring to us both a testimonial from the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, with as many signatures as can be obtained, and a more particular one from the respective conventions in those states which recommend them. It will appear from the tenour of the letters testimonial used in England, a form of which is annexed, that the ministers who sign them bear testimony to the qualifications of the candidates on their own personal knowledge. Such a testimony is not to be expected from the members of the General Convention of the Episcopal

« AnteriorContinuar »