« AnteriorContinuar »
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 committee, 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 having 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 secing 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 letter, 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
permission of the use of either. The clause in the latter creed, of the descent into hell, occasioned considerable debate, but it was finally restored. The restoration of the Athanasian Creed was negatived. The result of the deliberations of the convention was addressed to the two archbishops, with thanks for their fatherly attention to the Church, especially in procuring legal permission for the conveying of the succession.
The deputies from the several states were called on, beginning from the northward, for information, whether any persons had been chosen in them respectively, to proceed to England for consecration: when it appeared, that the Rev. Samuel Provoost, D. D. rector of Trinity Church, in the city of New-York, had been chosen for that purpose by the convention in that state; that the Rev. William White, D. D. rector of Christ Church and St. Peter's, in the city of Philadelphia, had been chosen by the convention in Pennsylvania; and that the Rev. David Griffith, D. D. rector of Fairfax Parish, Virginia, had been chosen by the convention there. Testimonials in their favour from the conventions in the respective states, agreeable to the form prescribed by the archbishops, were laid before the General Convention, who immediately signed, in favour of each of the bishops elect, a testimonial, according to the form prescribed to them by the same authority.
The two former of the above-named clergymen, having embarked together early in the next month, arrived at Falmouth, after a passage of eighteen days. On their reaching of London, they were introduced to his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, by his Excellency Mr. Adams, who, in this particular, and in every instance in which his personal attentions could be either of use or an evidence of his respect and kindness, continued to manifest his concern for the interests of a church, of which he was not a member.
Before the accomplishing of the object of the voyage, there occurred the delay of a few weeks; owing to the archbishop's desire of previously laying before the bishops the grounds of his proceeding to the accomplishment of the business, in the early stages of which they had been consulted. The greater number of them were at their diocesses, but were expected to be in town at the ensuing opening of parliament, appointed for about the middle of January. Very soon afterwards, the 4th of February, was appointed for the consecration.
On that day, and in the chapel of the archiepiscopal pa
lace of Lambeth, Dr. White and Dr. Provoost were ordained and consecrated bishops, by the Most Rev. John Moore, archbishop of Canterbury. The Most Rev. William Markham, archbishop of York, presented. And the bishops who joined with the two archbishops in the imposition of hands, were the Right Rev. Charles Moss, bishop of Bath and Wells, and the Right Rev. John Hinchliff, bishop of Peterborough. Before the end of the same month, the newly consecrated bishops sailed from Falmouth for NewYork, where they arrived on Easter Sunday, April the 7th, and soon afterwards began the exercise of the Episcopacy in their respective diocesses. H.
On the 28th of July, 1789, there assembled the Triennial Convention, by whom the Episcopacy of Bishops White and Provoost, of whom the former only was present, the latter being detained by sickness, was duly recognised. At this convention, there naturally occurred the importance of taking measures for the perpetuating of the succession: a matter, which some circumstances had subjected to considerable difficulty. The Rev. Dr. Griffith had been prevented by occurrences in his domestic situation, from prosecuting his intended voyage to England, and had given in his resignation to the convention in Virginia. In consequence of their direction, the resignation was notified to the General Convention, on the first day of their entering on business. The doctor himself had come to attend it, as one of the deputies from Virginia; but his attendance was prevented by sickness, which ended in his dissolution during the session. The subject of perpetuating the succession from England, with the relation which it bore to the question of embracing that from the Scotch Episcopacy, was brought into view by a measure of the clergy in Massachusetts and New-Hampshire. This body had elected the Rev. Edward Bass, rector of St. Paul's Church in Newburyport, their bishop; and had addressed a letter to the bishops in Connecticut, New-York, and Pennsylvania, praying them to unite in consecrating him. The last of these bishops, being the only one of them now present in convention, laid the letter addressed to him before the body, intimating his sincere wish to join in such measures as they might adopt, for the forming of a permanent union with the churches in the eastern states, but at the same time expressing his doubt of its being consistent with the faith impliedly pledged to the English prelates, to proceed to any consecration, without first obtaining from them the number held in their Church.