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No. 12. Page 123.
A Letler from Granville Sharp, Esq. to Dr. Benjamin
Franklin, with Extracts of Letters.
Exiract of a Letter from Granville Sharp to the Archbishop
of Canterbury, dated 13th September, 1785.
“ All these circumstances prove that the present time is very important and critical for the promotion of the interests und future extension of the Episcopal Church in America, and that no time should be lost in obtaining authority for the archbishops and bishops of England to dispense with the oaths of allegiance in the consecration of bishops for foreign Churches, that they may be restored to their unquestionable right as Christian bishops to extend the Episcopal Church of Christ all over the world.”
“ An immediate interference is become the more necessary, not only on account of the pretensions of Dr. Seabury, and the nonjuring bishops of Scotland, (to which, however, I hope my letters will have given a timely check) but also to guard against the presumption of Mr. Wesley and other Methodists; who, it seems, have sent over some persons under the name of superintendents, with an assumed authority to ordain priests, as if they were really invested with Episcopal authority."
“ Some accounts of this were read to the Society for Propagating the Gospel in May last, from the letters of their missionaries; and I have since heard that some Methodistical clergymen have procured consecration from the Moravian Churches, which the latter had received from the bishops of Poland. These attempts of the sectaries prove, however, that they perceive among the Americans an increasing inclination towards Episcopal government, of which they want to take an undue advantage; and consequently they prove, also, that the exertions of every sincere friend to the Church of England are peculiarly necessary at this time to counteract them, and to facilitate the communication of a pure and irreprehensible Episcopacy to America, by removing the obstacles which at present restrain the archbishops and bishops of England, from extending the Church of England beyond the bounds of English government."
“ I should also inform your grace, that America is not
the only part wherein Protestant Episcopacy is likely to be extended, when the rights of election are better understood : for had I been prepared, in the year 1767, on this point, as I am at present, I have reason to believe that a Protestant Episcopal Church would have been promoted in Holland, and in several parts of Germany and Switzerland, long before this time."
“ How I happened to be concerned in so important an affair, (if your grace should have lejsure and curiosity to be informed) I am ready to communitate on receiving your commands," &c.
E.xtract of a Letter from Granville Sharp to the Archbishop of
Canterbury, dated 17th of February, 1786.
“ Since I had the honour of speaking to your grace on this subject, I have perused Dr. Smith's sermon, which was preached before the convention at Philadelphia ; and though I have still great fears about the propriety of the alterations they have made in the liturgy, yet there seems to be some ground to hope that they will be able to assign a' reasonable excuse for the changes, without giving occasion to suspect any want of belief in the several articles which they have omitted; for Dr. Smith plainly insinuates, that they proceeded on the model of the alterations that were proposed to the English convocation in 1689; for which, several circumstances have induced me to entertain a favourable opinion. In looking over the MS. account of Archbishop Sharp's life, I find that he was one of the king's commissioners for that business, and took infinite pains therein, being sensible that some alterations might be made with advantage. He was also the person who first proposed, in convocation, that Dr. Tillotson should be appointed prolocutor, in order to favour the intended alterations. Dr. Nichols has given a short general account of that business in his 'Apparatus ad Defensionem Ecclesiæ Anglicanæ ;' but I never heard that the transactions at length were ever printed; and therefore am surprised to find that the convention at Philadelphia had a full account of that important business before them for their guidance. Dr. Nichols highly commends the alterations that were then intended, and few men were better qualified to be competent judges of that matter. If these circumstances be duly considered, there
. seems room to discriminate between the motives which
might induce the convention at Philadelphia to make suely large substractions from our liturgy, and the real propriety or impropriety of those substractions, at least so far that the latter need not be held forth as a ground of objection against the candidates for consecration, if in other respects the candidates themselves should be found unexceptionable, and should readily profess a sound and unequivocal belief in the fundamental articles of our faith; for this will surely justify their consecration before God and man; and more especially if they will previously engage and promise, that when they have received authority, they will not lay hands on any man except on the like Christian conditions, independent of all national forms and rituals of mere human authority, which cannot annul the necessity of maintaining an orthodox ministry in Christ's Episcopal Church, howsoever the governments under which they live, should think proper to model the public forms of worship for their respective jurisdictions. And therefore I beg leave humbly to submit to your grace, that if any notice is to be taken of the late rejection of creeds from the liturgy in your grace's intended answer to the American requisition, whether, instead of stating that measure as a just cause of refusal, it may not be more advisable to mention it rather as a just cause for your exhorting and giving them timely warning not to send over any candidates for consecration, but such as are known to profess a sound belief in the fundamental articles of the Christian faith? and more particularly in the scriptural doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and in the real personality and actual agency of the Holy Spirit as the Divine Comforter and Instructor to the end of the world? For these necessary articles of faith are not more perverted by the Socinians, than by a sect professing principles diametrically opposite to them, I mean the modern Mysticks, who assert that Christ is the only God; though the effect of these very opposite tenets is precisely the same, viz. that both sects are led to deny the personality of the Holy Spirit; and therefore, by what spirit they are so led, we may fairly judge by the fruits. Some Americans have lately adopted these strange notions, which is the reason of my mentioning them," &c.
Letter to Dr. Franklin.
Old Jewry, London, August 19, 1786. Dear Sir,
Nothing could have been more truly acceptable to me than your excellency's obliging present of the new American Prayer Book; and the more especially as I had the happiness of finding that the convention have retained, in the Jitany and other prayers, as well as in the articles of religion, an ample testimony to the most essential doctrines of the Church of England, and that they have really proceeded upon the plan laid down by the king's commissioners in 1689, of whom my own grandfather, (afterwards Archbishop Sharp,) was one, who took a very active part in that business, though he is not mentioned in the preface of the new Prayer Book. This I discovered by a MS. account of my grandfather's life, much about the time that many vague reports. were current here, of immoderate and unjustifiable changes made in the liturgy by the American convention; for the Socinians flattered themselves (through a mere mistake of Dr. Price, in a note which he had added to Dr. Rush's letter of October 25, 1785, as published in the newspapers) that the proceedings of the convention had been * similar" to those of one Episcopal congregation at Boston, which adopted a liturgy—" formed after the manner of Dr. Clarke and Mr. Lindsey." These reports would have given me much more uneasiness, if the perusal of Dr. Smith's sermon, (preached before the convention) had not induced me to hope that the plan of the year 1689 would really be adopted by the convention as a model of proceeding; and I was well satisfied that the said plan was sufficiently orthodox, because I was confident, that if it had been otherwise, my grandfather would not have endeavoured to promote it. Nevertheless, the reports of Socinianism gave great offence to many worthy people here, and more especially to the bishops, who had been sincerely disposed to promote the Church of America, as declared in my former letters; but on hearing of the confident reports of the Socinians, they seemed to give up all hopes of being able to hold any communication with the convention. In this state of the business, I thought it my duty to explain in writing to our worthy primate, the archbishop of Canterbury, my reasons for hoping that the convention would be able to assign such a reasonable excuse for the changes they were reported 19 have made, as might be sufficient to remove that ground of objection against the candidates for consecration, it, in other respects, the candidates themselves were found unexceptionable. An extract from that letter I have enclosed for your excellency's perusal, dated February 17, last; and I earnestly entreated that the bishops here might, at least, be prepared with authority to dispense with the oaths in giving consecration, a point which I had also previously solicited in a letter dated September 13, 1785. As the convention transmitted no account of their transactions, when they wrote to the two archbishops, there was no sufficient evidence for a direct confutation of the reports respecting Socinianisın; and therefore the great caution and reserve expressed in the joint answer of the archbishops, was unquestionably right and perfectly necessary, under such a state of uncer, tainty respecting Christian doctrine !
The archbishop of Canterbury, with his usual condescension and politeness, was pleased to communicate to me, very lately, the contents of that letter, as also the proposed forms of testimonials which it enclosed : and howsoever these may be received by the convention, I am bound to acknowledge my hearty approbation of them, being thoroughly convinced that they were dictated by the most unaffected sincerity of heart, and (I may even say) apostolical concern for the promotion of the true Catholic Church in America.
Nevertheless, the archbishops have not yet received any acknowledgment that their letter has reached America, except the short mention of it in your excellency's obliging letter to me. Had the gentlemen deputed by the conven tion to correspond with the archbishops, thought proper to send them a short general description of the new liturgy, with some account also of the plan upon which it was formed, they would have prevented the apprehensions and suspicions occasioned by the late reports about Socinianism, against which the liturgy itself bears ample testimony. I had hoped, however, that nothing would have been omitted therein, but the too frequent repetitions of our liturgy: and that if more creeds than one had been considered as falling under the same head of correction, that, at least the Nicene Creed might have been appointed to be used instead of the common creed, on some particular festivals, as Christmas day, or Trinity Sunday, with a discretionary power in the minister to use occasionally the Athanasian Creed, as all