« PreviousContinue »
A serious defect.
so small a portion that their introduction into the services seemed to be formal and constrained.
“On the general style of preaching, I hesitate not to say, that it was characterized by a spirit of piety and a directness of application that becomes this part of the public services. And yet it was alloyed by a very prevalent tone of controversy, which detracted much from the pleasure and profit of public worship. The difference in this respect between that denomination and ours, is tersely expressed in a remark made to me by a gentleman, who had been familiar with the usual style of preaching in other denominations, after he had become acquainted with that which prevails in the Episcopal Church. Sir,' said he, I hear nothing said in your church against other denominations. Your clergy seem to have but one common enemy to preach against, and that is sin.'
“But there was a more serious defect which often filled me with alarm for the cause of truth. There seemed to be, in an extemporan
aneous service, no barrier to prevent churches from degenerating into heresy, I observed that the church in which a venerated ancestor of mine had labored with abundant success and fidelity, had successively fallen into the hands of an Arian, an Universalist, and a Unitarian. This, I found, was not a solitary instance, but of very common occurrence. The great body of churches in Massachusetts are an example of it.-Indeed, under such a system of worship, a gradual change of sentiments in the clergy, to which a speculative and controversial spirit naturally tends, finds nothing to check it; and after making some progress, must terminate in one of two results—the total degeneracy of the church into error, or a division of the parish.--The latter is attended with serious unhappy consequences; and especially when we consider the inefficiency of discipline which characterizes the non
n-Episcopal churches. When differences arise, they are with great difficulty adjusted. The instances of this were so common as to compel notice. Religion has bled at every pore during the protracted ex-parte councils, and lawsuits, to which resort was had; and which, after all, usually resulted in the division of the parish, and the triumph of er. ror, besides the engendering of family and social feuds of long standing. The same difficulties, I found, resulting from ą want of discipline in minor departments of church affairs,
An unwarranted attack.
In the mode of admitting and excluding communicants by the co-ordinate authority of the Pastor and the church, an unfavorable influence was created on all the parties. The division of responsibility lessened the efficiency of the Pastor; and the participation of the church in the examination of candidates, and the cognizance of offences, led to a narrow and limited standard of christian character, as well as 10 make the whole community a party in question of a confidential, and often trivial nature.
“But I must pass on to notice the occasion of the transfer of my connection to the Episcopal Church. My junior Pastor preached a series of sermons against the Episcopal Church. In these he labored to fasten upon that church the brand of formalism, and the corruptions of popery.
The attack was wholly unprovoked ; nor could any occasion for it be surmised, that was creditable either to his charity or his judgment. The Episcopal Church in that place was spiritually prosper. ous, and increasingly popular, and the clergyman was a man of the most elevated and consistent christian character, and never known to utter an unkind sentiment respecting his fellow christians. This attack proved unpopular. It was deeply lamented by the best friends of our Pastor. The discourses embraced many aspersions which appeared to have no warrant from the practical character of the Episcopal Church, and which indeed were so evidently inconsistent with it as to arouse suspicion of their truth, and led to an investigation of the facts.-Among a number of members of his church, some of whom are now clergymen in the Episcopal Church, I examined the subject. I became perfectly satisfied that the charges were groundless, and the attack an unwarranted and uncharitable one.—And what very much strengthened this conviction was the following circumstance. The friends of our Pastor who were most anxious to sustain him and to relieve him from the odium he had brought upon his character, called and requested explanation, indulging the hope that they had mis-apprehended his meaning. He disavowed any intention to injure or defame the Episcopal Church, and to satisfy them and the public, consented to publish his sermons. But what was our surprise and displeasure when we found that those parts of the sermons, which when delivered were most offensive, and which were extemporaneous, but which were
Peculiarities of organization in the Episcopal Church. fresh in the memory of the hearers, were altogether omitted in the published sermons. This, together with the unsatisfactory views of the sermons as published, laid the foundation of a disaffection in the congregation, which soon led to his dismission. There was another circumstance, also, which was, in the course of public inquiry on the subject of this manifest hostility toward the Episcopal Church, brought to remembrance in the past history of the two churches; and which was not a little favourable to the cause of Episcopacy. The older inhabitants recollected an effort to repress and discourage Episcopal worship by an attempt to enforce the pay. ment of taxes for the support of this church on the Episcopalians who had begun to establish and support their own. In the course of this persecution several respectable members of the Episcopal Church were thrown into prison; and the son of one of them is believed to be now living whose christian name was given by his parents as a monument of the persecution of the father. He was christened by the name of Jail !
In the course of the inquiry which these circumstances excited, I discovered those peculiarities of organization in the Episcopal Church, which met and provided against the difficulties I had experienced as above narrated. I discovered in this church, in addition to sound doctrine, evangelical piety, and a truly catholic spirit, the appendages of a liturgy which furnished the worshipper with a medium of prayer that was appropriate, comprehensive, and spiritual, that afforded security against offensive additions, as well as defections and varia. tion, and that established a firm bulwark against any extensive or permanent degeneration into heresy: a form of public worship that
gave and secured to the Scriptures their deserved par. ticipation in the service of the Sanctuary; and a discipline which a succession of ages has proved to be an effectual preservation of union and subordination. I was not a little confirmed in my determination to make this the church of my choice by the approbation which intelligent and catholic spirited clergymen of my former communion awarded to the Episcopal Church; and among them, one who stands second to scarcely a clergyman in the land in point of influence, learning, and talent, assured me, that had he known as much of this church when he was a candidate for the ministry, as he now
did, he should without hesitation have made his election to be an Episcopalian.
“In conclusion, I will only add that nearly fifteen years of intimate acquaintance with this church has strengthened
bond of attachment; nor have I to record a single circumstance of a seriously adverse character, save this,—that Episcopalians in general do not rise up to the lofty standard, and sublime spirituality of the Liturgy, Articles, and Discipline of their apostolical church.
The palaces of Zion.
THE TENDENCY OF EPISCOPAL INSTITUTIONS.
• Let me with light, and truth be blest ;
It is not the tow and bulwarks of Zion alone that should attract our attention. Her palaces are not to be overlooked. They constitute no inconsiderable part of her splendor and glory. It must also be remembered that what constitutes their greatest charm and attraction, is the delightful fact that God is well known in them as a sure Refuge.
It is the presence of Christ, that gives to the church all its beauty and glory. The farther we proceed in our walk, the more reasons we discover for regarding the Episcopal Church with increased interest and attachment : and one of those rea. sons is, that we find written upon her every gate, and wall, and palace, and bulwark, and tower—“ HOLINESS TO THE Lord.” We find that God is in the midst of her—that Christ is well known in her palaces as a sure refuge. We wish, therefore, the reader to contemplate some facts which we shall spread before him, in relation to the tendency of her institutions.
Though the seal and impress of great antiquity are stamped upon all the institutions of our Zion, in many parts of the United States every attempt to establish the Episcopal Church is regarded as a movement hostile to the old and existing religious institutions of the land. The old religious societies, that have been in existence from the first settlement of the country, and which the pilgrim fathers planted here, are supposed to have undoubted claim to be ranked with the earliest forms of primitive christianity. And every departure, in relation to Church order, from those old landmarks is looked