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E. Page 23. Of Proceedings in sundry States, previous to
the Meetings in 1784, at New-Brunswick and at NewYork.
As this convention acted by delegation, an account of the said proceedings seems to form a part of the present work.
The principles agreed on, at the said meetings, were analogous to those in the several states; with the exception of what was done by the clergy, individually, in Connecticut.
In Massachusetts there was held a meeting of the clergy at Boston, September 8, 1784. In a letter received by the author from the Rev. Mr. Parker, at the time, it appears, that the principal business of this meeting was the passing of the following resolves, which have evidently an allusion to what had been done in Philadelphia in the preceding May, and communicated to Mr. Parker. The articles agreed on in Philadelphia will appear lower down. Those of Boston are,
1st, That the Episcopal Church in the United States of America is, and ought to be, independent of all foreign authority, ecclesiastical and civil. But it is the opinion of this convention, that this independence be not construed or taken in so rigorous a sense, as to exclude the churches in America, separately or collectively, from applying for and obtaining from some regular Episcopal foreign power, an American Episcopate.
2dly, That the Episcopal Church in these states hath, and ought to have, in common with all other religious societies, full and exclusive powers to regulate the concerns of its own communion.
3dly, That the doctrines of the Gospel be maintained, ag now professed by the Church of England; and uniformity of worship be continued, as near as may be, to the liturgy of the said Church.
4thly, That the succession of the ministry be agreeable to the usage which requireth the three orders, of bishops, priests, and deacons; that the rights and powers of the same be respectively ascertained; and that they be exercised according to reasonable laws, to be duly made.
5thly, That the power of making canons and laws be vested solely in a representative body of the clergy and the laity conjointly; in which body, the laity ought not to exceed, or their votes be more in number, than those of the clergy.
6thly, That no power be delegated to a general ecclesiastical government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the clergy and vestries, in their respective congregations.
The only points in which the above differ from those which will be recorded as laid down in Philadelphia, are, that in the former they provide for an application to a foreign quarter; which was agreeable to intentions entertained in framing the latter, although not expressed; and that in the fifth article of the former it is specified, that the clergy and the laity ought to have an equal vote. This matter was afterward settled to mutual satisfaction, in the meeting at New-York. It is here taken notice of, because there was afterward manifested a disposition in Massachusetts, to depart from the principles agreed on; that the clergy of that state, instead of sending a deputation to Philadelphia in September, 1785, held a meeting of their own, about the same time, in Boston, in which they made considerable alterations in the liturgy. Although they doubtless acted agreeably to what seemed best to them at the different times; yet this fluctuation of counsels is recorded, lest the latter measure, contemplated singly, should seem to do away the weight of the principles antecedently estabJished.
In Connecticut there was a meeting of the clergy, in March, 1783, the principal measure of which, was the recommending of Dr. Samuel Seabury to the English bishops for consecration. This was an act of the clergy generally in that state, and of a few in New-York; and is rather to be considered as done by them in their individual capacities, than as a regular ecclesiastical proceeding; because, as yet, there had not been any organized assembly, who could claim the power of acting for the Church in consequence of either the express or the implied consent of the body of Episcopalians. They who consider the bishop of a diocese as related to its clergy alone, may differ from the author in this remark. But although he has heard such an opinion advanced in conversation, and even remembers it to have been sometimes published in the former controversies concerning American Episcopacy; yet it is so evidently contrary to the system as gathered from scripture and primitive antiquity, that he does not suppose it will be maintained in deliberate argument. His recording of this circumstance is not designed, either in disparagement of the personal character of Bishop Seabury, or as doubting of the approbation of the measure by the whole Church, in which he has since presided. In regard to the former, the author entertained for that bishop much affection and respect, the result of what was afterwards perceived in person, of his good sense and Christian disposition. As to the latter, it is believed from what has been since learned, that no man could have been more acceptable, independently on the inclination said to have been afterward manifested, of leaving all ecclesiastical matters to the clergy: which was done for a while, although the laity have been since introduced into the convention, as in the other states. But the subject is here noticed, as one cause accounting for the failure of the application in England; a sentiment confirmed by subsequent information, as will appear in its proper place.
From letters in possession of the author, he finds, that in Connecticut, the idea of lay representation in ecclesiastical legislation, became associated with that of the trial and the degradation of clergymen by the same authority. That there is no such necessary association, is evident in the English system.
In Pennsylvania there was a convention of the Church, which began on the 24th of May, 1784. The steps leading to this convention were originated by the author, in the vestry of the churches under his parochial care, in consequence of a previous agreement with the Rev. Dr. Magaw, the rector of St. Paul's Church, and the Rev. Mr. Blackwell, assistant minister to the author. The said vestry opened a communication on the subject, with the vestry of St. Paul's Church, and by agreement of these two bodies, in conjunction with their clergy, notices were given, and suitable measures were taken, for the obtaining of the meeting of the convention.
The result of their deliberations was the establishing of the following principles, as a foundation for the future forming of an ecclesiastical body for the Church at large.
1st, That the Episcopal Church in these states is, and ought to be, independent of all foreign authority, ecclesiastical or civil.
2dly, That it hath, and ought to have, in common with all other religious societies, full and exclusive powers to regulate the concerns of its own communion.
3dly, That the doctrines of the gospel be maintained as now professed by the Church of England, and uniformity of worship continued, as near as may be, to the liturgy of the said Church.
4thly, That the succession of the ministry be agreeable to the usage which requireth the three orders, of bishops, priests, and deacons; that the rights and powers of the same, respectively, be ascertained, and that they be exercised according to reasonable laws, to be duly made.
5thly, That to make canons or laws, there be no other authority than that of a representative body of the clergy and laity conjointly.
6thly, That no powers be delegated to a general ecclesiastical government, except such as cannot conveniently be exercised by the clergy and laity, in their respective congregations.*
* The steps preparatory to the resolves were as follow:-they were the first advances towards a general organization, and are copied from the original journal in possession.
Philadelphia, March 29th, 1784. At the house of the Rev. Dr. White, rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's. In cousequence of appointments made by the vestry of Christ Church and St. Peter's, as followeth :
“ The rector mentioned to the vestry, that he lately had a conversation with the Rev. Dr. Magaw, on the subject of appointing committees from the vestries of their respective churches, to confer with the clergy of the said churches, on the subject of forming a representative body of the Episcopal Church in this state, and wished to have the sense of the vestry thereon. After some consideration, the vestry agreed to appoint Matthew Clarkson and William Pollard for Christ Church, and Dr. Clarkson and John Chaloner for St. Peter's;” and by the vestry of St. Paul's Church, as followeth:-“ A copy of the minute of the vestry of Christ Church and St. Peter's, of the 13th of November last, was, by the Rev. Dr. Magaw, laid before this vestry, and is as follows, (here follows the above minute) The above minute being taken into consideration, and this vestry concurring in opinion thereon, unanimously appointed Lambert Wilmer and Plunket Fleeson, Esquires, on the part of this church, to carry into execution the good intentions of the said minute.”
The clergy, together with the gentlemen named in the said appointments, (except Matthew Clarkson, Esg, and Dr. Clarkson, who were detained by sickness,) assembled at the time and place above mentioned.
The body thus assembled, having taken into consideration the necessity of speedily adopting measures for the forming of a plan of ecclesiastical government for the Episcopal Church, were of opinion, that a subject of such importance ought to be taken up, if possible, with the concurrence of the Episcopalians of the United States in general. They, therefore, resolved to ask a conference with such members of the Episcopal congregations of the counties in this state as were then in town; and the clergy present undertook to converse with such persons as they could find of the above description, and to request their meeting the body at Christ Church, on Wednesday evening at seven o'clock.
Christ Church, March 31st. The clergy and the two committees assembled, and elected Dr. White their chairman.
The clergy reported, that agreeably to their promise, they had spoken to several gentlemen, who readily consented to the conference proposed.
The meeting continued for some time, when it was signified to them, that several gentlemen who had designed to attend, were detained by the unexpected sitting of the hononrable House of Assembly, they being members of that house. The Hon. James Read, Esq. attended, according to desire. After some conver
As this was the first ecclesiastical assembly in any of the states, consisting partly of lay members, and as the author was considered at the time to be the proposer of the measure, the principle of it having been advocated, about a year before, in a pamphlet known to be his, he thinks it proper to give, in this place, a short statement of his reasons, in its favour.
From what he has read of primitive usage, he thinks it evident, that in very early times, when every church, that is, the Christian people in every city and convenient district round it, was an ecclesiastical commonwealth, with all the necessary powers of self government, the body of the people had a considerable share in its determinations. He is not setting up Lord King's plea, of the people's having been a constituent part of the ancient ecclesiastical synods, for which there does not seem to be any ground; the passages quoted to the effect by his lordship proving no more than that some of the laity were occasionally present at the deliberations. But there is here spoken of the practice which was prevalent before the introduction of ecclesiastical synods, of the holding of which there is little or no evidence, until the middle of the second century. The same sanction which the people gave originally in a body, they might lawfully give by representation. In reference to very ancient practice, it would be an omission not to take notice of the council of Jerusalem, mentioned in the 15th
sation on the business of this meeting, it was resolved, that a circular letter be addressed to the wardens and vestrymen of the respective Episcopal congregations in the state, and that the same be as follows, viz. Gentlemen,
The Episcopal clergy in this city, together with committees appointed by the vestry of Christ Church and St. Peter's, and another committee appointed by the vestry of St. Paul's Church, in the same city, for the purpose of proposing a plan of ecclesiastical government, being now assembled, are of opinion, that a sulject of such importance ought to be taken up, if possible, with the concurrence of the Episcopalians of the United Staies in general. They have therefore resolved, as preparatory to a general consultation, to request the church-wardens and vestrymen of each Episcopal congregation in the state, to delegate one or more of their body to assist at a meeting to be held in this city on Monday, the 24th day of May next; and such clergymen as have parochial care in the said congregations to attend the meeting, which they hope will contain a full representation of the Episcopal Church in this state. The above resolve, gentlemen, the first step in their proceedings, they now respectfully and affectionaiely communicate to you,
Signed, in behalf of the body now assembled,
WŃ. WHITE, Chairman. In consequence of the above circular, the contemplated meeting was held in Christ Church, on the 24th of May, 1784. The minutes of the meeting are in the printed journals of the Church in Pennsylvania. The principal result was communicated, a few days after, to the moeting in New-Brunswick.