SermonIndex Audio Sermons
Promoting Authentic Biblical Christianity.
Looking for free sermon messages?
Sermon Podcast | Audio | Video

SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : CENTENARY COMMEMORATION OF THE CONSECRATION OF BISHOP SEABURY. 1884.

The Sermons And Addresses At The Seabury Centenary by Various

CENTENARY COMMEMORATION OF THE CONSECRATION OF BISHOP SEABURY. 1884.

THE RT. REV. SAMUEL SEABURY, D.D.

WAS CONSECRATED FIRST BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT AT ABERDEEN,

NOVEMBER 14, 1784.

The Diocesan Convention of 1884 met on the tenth day of June in St. James's Church, New London.

Morning Prayer was read at 9 o'clock by the Rev. William B. Buckingham, Rector of the Parish, the Rev. Samuel H. Giesy, D.D., Rector of Christ Church, Norwich, and the Rev. Storrs O. Seymour, Rector of Trinity Church, Hartford. At 10-1/2 o'clock, after the singing of the 138th Hymn, the service of the Holy Communion was begun. The Bishop was assisted in the service by the Rector of the Parish, the Rev. E. E. Beardsley, D.D., LLD., Rector of St. Thomas's Church, New Haven, the Rev. Samuel F. Jarvis, Rector of Trinity Church, Brooklyn, and the Rev. James Stoddard, Rector of Christ Church, Watertown. After the Nicene Creed the Bishop preached the Sermon as follows:

THE STONES REVIVED. NEHEMIAH IV.2.

What do these feeble Jews? Will they fortify themselves? Will they sacrifice? Will they make an end in a day? Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are burned?

It is difficult to imagine a more hopeless undertaking -- as men's eyes looked on it -- than the attempt to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple at the close of the captivity. For seventy years their ruins had lain in the condition which Isaiah describes in such impressive words: |Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation; our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised Thee, is burned up with fire; and all our pleasant places are laid waste.| Jerusalem was indeed |a heap of stones.|

And who were they that should undertake to bring beauty, strength, and order out of all this ruin and desolation? A small and despised remnant of a once powerful people straggling back, as it might seem, in handfuls, from their seventy years' captivity.

Follow Nehemiah in his lonely night-ride as he makes his solitary circuit around the broken walls. Look at the scattered companies of the re-builders as they set about their work; so separated from each other, on that long line of ruined towers and bulwarks, that a trumpet must be sounded to gather them together, should they be attacked by enemies. Think of the sinking of heart with which the first stone to be relaid must have been lifted; think of the scorn with which they who hoped to see the failure of the forlorn attempt must have looked on him who lifted it; and you can then make real to yourselves the greatness of the undertaking and the apparently hopeless inadequacy of the means at hand for its accomplishment. No wonder that the enemies of Judah and Jerusalem cried, |What do these feeble Jews?| No wonder that |Judah said, The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed and there is much rubbish; so that we are not able to build the wall.| No wonder that the provincial Jews -- as they have been termed -- sent |ten times| to recall their brethren aiding those who were laboring at Jerusalem, No wonder that Nehemiah |made his prayer unto God,| and said, |Hear, O our God, for we are despised!|

Taking up, as I am to do to-day, the narrative of the events which followed on, and were the outcome of, the election of our first Bishop of which I spoke to you last year, and which gather round, and centre in, his consecration at Aberdeen a hundred years ago, I seem, as I try to reproduce those days and make them real to our minds, to hear Words uttered so like to those which have just been brought together that they appear to be the very echoes of that far distant past. Enemies are crying, |What do these feeble Jews?| Timid friends are saying, |The strength of the bearers of burdens is decayed| -- we cannot do the work. But brave hearts and loving hearts murmured to themselves, |Our God shall fight for us|; and among them all there was no truer, braver heart than that of Seabury, as, taking up the burden laid on him, he set forth on his quest -- nobler than the knightliest of olden times -- for that sacred Deposit which he was to bear to our western world.

How fared he in his quest? In the answer to this question we shall find the topic that invites attention now. And first of all, something must be said of the documents and testimonials which he carried with him. These were, so far as the clergy of Connecticut were concerned, prepared by the secretary of the meeting held at Woodbury (afterwards our second bishop), the Rev. Abraham Jarvis. They are quite too long for reading here; but it must be said of them that they are admirably conceived and expressed, and set forth a much truer and sounder ideal of the Church of God in its obligation to the State on the one side, and its spiritual duties, under the one Headship of Him Whose |kingdom is not of this world,| on the other, than seems to have then prevailed in the mother country. Two passages from the letter of our clergy to the Archbishop of Canterbury, I venture to quote in proof of what has just been said.

|America is now severed from the British empire; by that separation we cease to be a part of the national Church. But, although political changes affect and dissolve our external connection, and cut us off from the powers of the State, yet, we hope, a door still remains open for access to the governors of the Church; and what they might not do for us, without the permission of government, while we were bound as subjects to ask favors and receive them under its auspices and sanctions, they may, in right of their inherent spiritual powers, grant and exercise in favor of a Church planted and nurtured by their hand, and now subjected to other powers.|.... |Permit us to suggest, with all deference, our firm persuasion that a sense of the sacred Deposit committed by the great Head of the Church to her bishops, is so awfully impressed on your Grace's mind, as not to leave a moment's doubt in us of your being heartily disposed to rescue the American Church from the distress and danger which now, more than ever, threaten her for want of an Episcopate.|

To the same purpose they spoke in their letter to the Archbishop of York. |This part of America is at length dismembered from the British empire; but, notwithstanding the dissolution of our civil connection with the parent State, we still hope to retain our religious polity, the primitive and evangelical doctrine and discipline, which at the Reformation were restored and established in the Church of England.| And then they go on to say that, to complete and perpetuate this polity, |an American Episcopate| must be secured.

How clearly the men who used this language shewed that they fully comprehended the position and rights of a National Church; the obedience which |in all things temporal| the Church owes to the powers that are ordained of God; her complete independence and autonomy |in things purely spiritual|; and the great fact that by no political changes was this Church severed from the Church of England or from the historic Church of all the ages, so long as she continued |stedfast in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread and the prayers!|

The testimonials and letters thus furnished by the clergy of Connecticut were strengthened by similar documents signed by the venerable Leaming and by the rector and the assistant minister of Trinity Church, New York, and others. [Footnote: These testimonials, bearing date April 21, 1783, have misled some persons into the idea that Seabury was elected on that day in New York. This is a mistake easily made if one carelessly glances at the documents, but impossible if the documents are read.] Armed with these testimonials, and bearing a letter from the clergy of Connecticut to the Venerable Society imploring the continuance, at least for a time, of their stipends, the Bishop-elect reached London on the seventh day of July, 1783.

And now began the wearisome and wearing delay of all those slowly- passing months, during which the postulant for the Episcopate was hoping against hope for an enabling act of Parliament, under which the bishops of England might proceed to consecrate him to the office of a Bishop in the Church of God.

It forms no part of my purpose to enter into all the details of that most unattractive period; but I may not pass by the different obstacles to action which presented themselves, or were presented with whatsoever purpose, as those months dragged their slow length along. I know how difficult it is to carry one's self back into a distant period of time and to surround one's self with its real circumstances and conditions, especially when these are connected with what were then new and perplexing civil and ecclesiastical relations. But I cannot wonder that, looking back on so many failures in regard to an American Episcopate, and the apparent inability of those whose aid was invoked to grasp the issue presented with all its grand possibilities -- I cannot wonder that the clergy of Connecticut should have said: |We hope that the successors of the Apostles in the Church of England have sufficient reasons to justify themselves to the world and to God. We, however, know of none such, nor can our imagination frame any.| [Footnote: Address of the Connecticut Clergy to Bishop Seabury, 1785.]

I name first, among the difficulties urged, the fear |that there would be no adequate support for a bishop|; and I name it first simply because it was, probably, the least. The answer to it that came from our clergy was dignified and conclusive. |We can contemplate,| they said, |no other support for a bishop than what is to be derived from voluntary contracts, and subscriptions and contributions, directed by the good will and zeal of the members of a Church who are taught, and do believe, that a bishop is the chief minister in the kingdom of Christ on earth.... A bishop in Connecticut must, in some degree, be of the primitive style. With patience, and a share of primitive zeal, he must rest for support on the Church which he serves, unornamented with temporal dignity, and without the props of secular power.| Whether the English prelacy did or did not grasp, and acquiesce in, this ideal of a bishop and his office, I cannot find that they pressed this objection further.

A second obstacle was thus expressed: |It would be sending a bishop to Connecticut, which they [the bishops of England] have no right to do without the consent of the State, and such a bishop would not be received in Connecticut.| The phrase |consent of the State| is ambiguous. It may refer to the Continental Congress or to the authorities of the particular State concerned. If, however, there were any who gave to the phrase the first of these interpretations, they appear to have speedily abandoned it and to have adopted the second. Apparently they supposed that the civil authority in Connecticut might claim the right, and exercise the power, to forbid a bishop to come within the limits of the State, and to set him adrift with |the wide world before him where to choose,| a veritable bishop in partibus, without home, habitation, or name. There can be little doubt that these fancies were pressed by, if they did not originate with, persons belonging to the so-called |Standing Order| in New England, under the lead of a prominent minister in Connecticut.

To meet the difficulty, it was stated that a committee of the Convention of the clergy of Connecticut had consulted with leading members of both Houses of Assembly touching the |need, the propriety, or the prudence of an application to government for the admission of a bishop into the State,| and that the result of the conference showed that no such Act was needed, inasmuch as the Assembly had already given all needful |legal rights and powers| to all bodies of Christians of whatever name, and, therefore, to the Church among them; that, if not needed, there could be no propriety in applying for it; and, finally, that any such application would be imprudent and unwise, in that |there were some who would oppose it, and would labor to excite opposition among the people, who, if unalarmed by any jealousies, would probably remain quiet.| How far these wise and reasonable conclusions commended themselves to the bishops of England I am unable to state.

A third difficulty remained; and this, it must be owned, had more substance to it than those just considered. It related to the oaths in the Ordination Office. These could not, of course, be taken by the person seeking consecration; nor could the consecrating bishops dispense with them on their own authority; nor would the dispensation of the sovereign suffice, even should it be given, unless with, at least, the concurrence of the Privy Council, or -- and this seems to have been the final conclusion -- an Act of Parliament.

When we remember how potent an element in bringing on the Revolution of 1688 -- a revolution which had placed the House of Hanover on the throne of Great Britain -- the question as to the sovereign's dispensing power had been; what an engine of tyranny in the State and of destruction to the Church James II. had intended to make it; and how offensive, if not dangerous, any revival of it might well appear, we need not wonder that the bishops of England should have declined to act under it, or that the sovereign should have declined to give it, unless it could be guarded and supported by forms and sanctions of unquestionable legality.

All this is clear enough. But what does not appear is, why a more hearty and earnest effort was not made to secure the needed legislation. No such effort could have been expected from the authorities of the State. They who cared nothing for an Episcopate in America before the War of the Revolution, were not likely to care more for it after the war was ended. If, as they had all along been led to believe, the idea of an Episcopate was offensive to the Colonies, it could hardly, they would say, be less offensive to the States in the first flush of their acknowledged independence. Nor were influences lacking, either in England or in America, which were brought to bear in blocking that legislation without which the English Prelacy declined to act. It is, therefore, easy to understand the apathy of government. But it is not so easy to understand, and it is far less easy to justify, the apparent apathy of those who, it might justly have been thought, |in view of the sacred deposit committed by the great Head of the Church to her bishops,| would have been heartily disposed to avert the dangers which darkened the future of the Church in America. What makes the inaction more inexplicable is, that while these negotiations were pending, an Act of Parliament was actually passed which enabled |the Bishop of London to admit foreign candidates to the order of deacon or priest, but gave no permission to consecrate a bishop for Connecticut or for any of the American States.| Who can wonder that Seabury was, at last, driven to say, |This is certainly the worst country in the world to do business in; I wonder how they get along at any rate|! [Footnote: Letter to Mr. Jarvis, May 24, 1784.]

As I have read, time and again, the record of that weary waiting, the story of that hope perpetually deferred, I have always risen from the reading with the profound impression that I have been brought into contact with a bravely patient and an utterly unselfish man.

Alone in what was now to him a foreign land, separated from his family which had been left here in New London, seeing his worldly means which were |all embarked in this enterprise| rapidly wasting away, without any influence to back him but the righteousness of his cause, with his very loyalty to the crown made an objection to him where one might have expected the precise opposite, he never bated one jot of effort -- however it may have been as to heart and hope -- but met difficulties, answered objections, dealt with obstacles with a brave patience that marks him as a veritable hero. [Footnote: A story was set about by Granville Sharpe, whose prejudices led him to be unjustly credulous, that at his first interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Seabury, in answer to the objections raised by his Grace, turned abruptly on his heel, saying, |If your Grace will not grant me consecration, I know where I can get it|; and so set off for Scotland. There is no truth whatever in the story. Seabury's letters, as well as all the circumstances, completely disprove it. Nor does the fact that Sharpe believed it, excuse his biographer, who might have known better, for giving it currency.]

Nor was this the persistence of a self-seeking and ambitious man, bent on attaining something for himself. It occurred to him, not unnaturally, that possibly if the State of Connecticut were to be asked to give permission for a bishop to reside within its borders, it might be easier to secure such permission for another than for one who had been imprisoned in New Haven for his loyalty. Accordingly he wrote to his friends here: |I beg that no clergyman in Connecticut will hesitate a moment on my account; the point is to get the Episcopal authority into that country|; and then he went on to say that, if another is designated, |he shall have every assistance in my power.| These are not the words of a self- seeking man -- a man of low ambitions. But they are the words of a man filled with a great purpose, inspired with a great thought, ready to do and to bear and to wait, so the purpose can be accomplished and the thought take shape. All is summed up by him in a single sentence: |Believe me, there is nothing that is not base that I would not do, nor any risk that I would not run, nor any inconvenience to myself that I would not encounter, to carry this business into effect.| [Footnote: While these negotiations in England were in progress, an application was made, without Seabury's knowledge, to Cartwright of Shrewsbury, an irregular non-juring bishop. As, however, this was subsequent to the opening of negotiations with Scotland, nothing, fortunately, came of it. It has been said that an application was made to, or an offer received from, the Danish government, looking to a consecration by Danish bishops. This, however, is a mistake. No application was ever made for consecration in Denmark; while the offer of the Danish government, made through Mr. Adams, our then Minister to England, related only to the ordination of candidates for the diaconate and priesthood. The passage of the Act of Parliament, mentioned above, prevented the necessity of acting on the offer; and fortunately so, for the Danish Episcopate is only titular.]

Nearly fourteen months had now elapsed since Seabury arrived in London. It was clear that consecration must, if obtained at all, be obtained elsewhere than in England, and naturally his thoughts reverted to Scotland. So careful, however, was he to consult in all things those who had elected him, that he would take no decisive step -- notwithstanding the instructions given from Woodbury in March, 1783 -- till they had been communicated with, and their views obtained; so that it was not till August 31, 1784, that he wrote to Dr. Myles Cooper. The letter is creditable alike to his head and his heart. No word of personal disappointment and vexation, no line of reproach finds place in it is the letter of a manly man, too strong in faith and purpose to waste time in complaints and repinings. He applies through his friend to the bishops of Scotland, and adds: |I hope I shall not apply in vain. If they consent to impart the Episcopal succession to the Church of Connecticut, they will, I think, do a good work, and the blessing of thousands will attend them. And perhaps for this cause, among others, God's providence has supported them and continued their succession under various and great difficulties; that a free, valid, and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy may from them pass into the Western world.|

Let me pause, just here, to remind you that this was the third time that men's minds were turned to the Scottish bishops in connection with an American Episcopate.

When, in 1703, the Venerable Society had it in mind to send out to America a Suffragan to the Bishop of London, it was thought that consecration could be most readily obtained from the bishops of Scotland.

In the autumn of 1782, one year after the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown -- an event which practically settled the question of the independence of the thirteen colonies -- the Rev. Dr. George Berkeley, a son of that great prelate who sang of the |westward course of empire,| addressed a letter to Bishop Skinner, coadjutor to the Primus of the Scottish Church, suggesting that the bishops of Scotland should consecrate a bishop for America, and saying, |had my honored father's scheme for planting an Episcopal College, whereof he was to have been president, in the Summer Islands, not been sacrificed by the worst minister that Britain ever saw, probably under a mild monarch (who loves the Church of England as much as I believe his grandfather hated it) Episcopacy would have been established in America by a succession from the English Church, unattended by any invidious temporal rank or power.|

No doubt the question thus proposed to the Scottish bishops was carefully considered, but the result was unfavorable to Dr. Berkeley's wishes. Bishop Skinner wrote: |Nothing can be done in the affair with safety on our side, till the independence of America be fully and irrevocably recognized by the government of Britain; and even then the enemies of our Church might make a handle of our correspondence with the colonies as a proof that we always wished to fish in troubled waters, and we have little need to give any ground for an imputation of this kind,|

No one who recalls the frightful provisions of the penal acts of Parliament passed in 1746 and 1748, which were plainly intended to annihilate the Scottish Church, and were unrepeated when Bishop Skinner wrote the words just quoted, can wonder at the hesitation of the Scottish bishops. For in executing these laws in days not long passed, |so vigilantly were the Scottish Episcopal clergy watched...that it was with the utmost difficulty they could celebrate any of the services of religion. There are instances of individual clergymen performing public worship no less than sixteen times in one day.....The service was often performed in farm-houses, or in the out-houses of the farmhouse, if these were conveniently constructed. In either case the clergyman, the family, and four persons were in the apartment, and dozens or hundreds of others stationed themselves in as favorable positions as they could, to listen to the prayers of the Church. Sometimes divine service was celebrated under a shed, in which was the number allowed by law, while the people stood at a small distance in the open air. At times, again, when there was no apparent danger; pastor and people met in the recesses of woods, in secluded glens, and on the sides of sequestered mountains, where the vault of heaven was their covering, the moss turfs their humble altar, and perhaps a solitary seat their pulpit.| [Footnote: John Parker Lawson's History of the Scottish Episcopal Church, pp.300-302. See also the Rev. W. Walker's most interesting Life of John Skinner of Linshirt, chap. iii. To make the general statements in the text plainer, I add, in a foot-note, some details which time forbade me to introduce into the sermon. By the Act of 1746, |every person exercising the function of a pastor or minister in any Episcopal meeting in Scotland, without registering his letters of orders, and taking all the oaths prescribed by law, and praying for his Majesty King George and the royal family by name| was |for the first offence to suffer six months' imprisonment; and for the second, or any subsequent offence, was to be transported to some of his Majesty's plantations in America for life; and in case of his return to Great Britain, to suffer imprisonment for life.| All chapels were to be closed; and even in a private house only four persons besides the family were allowed to be present at any service. In 1748, no letters of orders, not given by some bishop of England or Ireland, were allowed in Scotland; and no persons were allowed to officiate as chaplains in private families, or to preach or perform any divine services in houses of which they were not the masters, unless they belonged to the Presbyterian establishment. These atrocious acts were, undoubtedly, intended to destroy |root and branch| the Scottish Church. Happily some laws are so stringent that their very stringency prevents their thorough execution. It should never be forgotten that the English Episcopate unanimously opposed the Act of 1748 in the House of Lords.] In very truth, so far as the worship of God was concerned, |they wandered| -- these churchmen of Scotland -- |in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth.|

We may not sympathize with the political scruples of the non- jurors of Scotland. But any men who so possess the courage of their convictions as not to shrink from loss of goods and danger of life, and who accept the trials of martyrdom without posing as martyrs in personal comfort and security, deserve and will receive the veneration of all true-hearted and right-minded men. And in this matter, |let all history declare whether in any age or in any cause, as followers of Knox or of Montrose, as Cameronians or as Jacobites, the men -- aye and the women -- of Scotland have quailed from any degree of sacrifice or suffering.| [Footnote: Lord Stanhope, History of England, in.210.]

To return: -- The correspondence between Bishop Skinner and Dr. Berkeley was continued through the winter of 1782-1783, but without any actual result. [Footnote: Scottish Church Review, i.36-43.] In the autumn of 1783 -- some four months after Seabury's arrival in England -- a letter was sent to the Scottish Primus by Mr. Elphinstone, a man of literary reputation, the son of a Scottish clergyman, in which the following question was put: |Can consecration be obtained in Scotland for an already dignified and well vouched American clergyman, now in London, for the purpose of perpetuating the Episcopal reformed Church in America, particularly in Connecticut?| [Footnote: Wilberforce, American Church, p.205.] At the same time Dr. Berkeley renewed his correspondence with Bishop Skinner in these words: |I have this day [Nov.24] heard (I need not add with the sincerest pleasure) that a respectable Presbyter, well recommended from America, hath arrived in London, seeking what it seems in the present state of affairs he cannot expect to receive in our Church. Surely, dear sir, the Scotch prelates, who are not shackled by any Erastian connexion, will not send this suppliant empty away. .... I scruple not to give it as my decided opinion that the king, some of his cabinet counsellors, all our bishops (except, peradventure, the Bishop of St. Asaph [Footnote: Dr. Jonathan Shipley.]), all the learned and respectable clergy of our Church, will at least secretly rejoice if a Protestant bishop be sent from Scotland to America -- more especially if Connecticut is to be the scene of his ministry.| [Footnote: Scottish Church Review, i.106; where the rest of the correspondence is also given.]

The question now brought before the Scottish bishops, was, as will be readily seen, a different one from that proposed nearly two years before. Then they were asked to originate action and to send out a bishop, selected by themselves, to take his chances of being received by the clergy and church-people in America. Now the proposition was to complete action already begun, and to invest with the Episcopal character a person selected in America and sent out to obtain consecration. Wisely did the Scottish prelates decline to take the former course, which could only have increased the difficulties of the situation. As wisely, and with a noble recognition of the importance of what they clearly regarded as the great responsibility and solemn duty laid upon them, did they decide to adopt the latter. Said one of them: |Considering the great Depositum committed to us, I do not see how we can account to our great Lord and Master, if we neglect such an opportunity of promoting His truth and enlarging the borders of His Church. |These words have in them the ring of a firm conviction of duty, and a thorough understanding of the true character and position of Christ's kingdom upon earth.

Still, ready as they were to take the responsibility, and even the possible dangers, of consecrating the applicant for the Episcopate, there were some further questions to be asked, and at least one doubt to be removed. They owed it to themselves, and to the Church of God, to be well assured of |the candidate's learning, piety, and principles,| and also |to know whether the proposal was only from himself, or if it was a plan laid with his American brethren, and if he was recommended and his consecration solicited by them.| It is needless to say that ample and entire satisfaction was given on both these points.

One thing -- and it brings out the doubt just alluded to-the Scottish bishops could not quite comprehend. Says Bishop Skinner, speaking for his brethren as well as for himself: |I should be glad to know why he [Dr. Seabury] has been refused consecration in England; as I cannot conceive any good reason for denying this, after what Government has already yielded to the United States. The Bishop of London, I presume, does not now think of exercising any spiritual jurisdiction where the secular power of Britain is no longer acknowledged. And if all the respectable characters you mention would secretly rejoice at the establishment of Protestant Episcopacy in America, even through Scotland, there must be some ostensible reason for their withholding that confidence and support they would otherwise give to this proposal.| [Footnote: Letter to Dr. Berkeley, under date of Nov.29, 1783.]

Long years of suffering had taught the Scottish bishops caution, nor can it be wondered at that while they were |keenly alive to the necessity of preserving the Scottish Church from the odium that would have been incurred by any hasty or mistaken step,| they were also |utterly at a loss to understand why considerations of a purely political kind should have had such enervating influence on the English bishops as to render them passive spectators of the destitution of their American children.| Brave men, men ready to run needful risks and meet unavoidable dangers, are not the men who are willing to be made cat's-paws. How the doubt was resolved I am unable to say. That it was resolved is certain; since on the 8th of December, 1783, it was known that consecration could be obtained in Scotland.

Just here the questions arise: Why, if the Scottish bishops were ready to proceed to consecration in December of 1783, was that solemn act deferred for near a twelve-month -- till November of the following year? And why did Seabury himself delay his application to Scotland till August of the same year? The answer is found in Seabury's own letter of August, 1784, already quoted, in which he formally applies to the bishops of Scotland. He says: |With regard to myself, it is not my fault that I have not done it before, but I thought it my duty to pursue the plan marked out for me by the clergy of Connecticut, as long as there was a probable chance of succeeding.| [Footnote: Seabury's letter to Dr. Cooper of August 31, 1784. On the back of this letter there is a note, written either by Bishop Skinner or, more probably, by his father, the Rev. John Skinner of Linshart, in these words: |Dr. Berkeley, in consequence of some fear suggested by Bishop Skinner, wrote the present Archbishop of Canterbury [Dr. John Moore] that application had been made by Dr. Seabury to the Scottish bishops for consecration, and begged that if his Grace thought the bishops here ran any hazard in complying with Seabury's request, he would be so good as to give Dr. Berkeley notice immediately; but if his Grace was satisfied that there was no danger, there was no occasion to give any answer. No answer came.| Scottish Church Review, i.113. In view of all these facts and circumstances, how utterly preposterous is the gossiping story retailed by Granville Sharpe!]

The explanation was satisfactory, and on the 2nd of October, Bishop Kilgour, the Scottish Primus, wrote: |Dr. Seabury's long silence, after it had been signified to him that the bishops of this Church would comply with his proposals, made them all think that the affair was dropped, and that he did not choose to be connected with them; but his letter, and the manner in which he accounts for his conduct, give such satisfaction, that I have the pleasure to inform you that we are still willing to comply with his proposal to clothe him with the Episcopal character, and thereby convey to the Western world the blessing of a free, valid, and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy; not doubting that he will so agree with us in doctrine and discipline, as that he and the Church under his charge in Connecticut will hold communion with us and the Church here on catholic and primitive principles; and so that the members of both may with freedom communicate together in all the offices of religion.| Reasons are also given why the consecration should take place in Aberdeen.

To this letter of the Primus, Seabury replied at once, expressing to the Scottish bishops his thankfulness |for the ready and willing mind which they manifested in this important affair,| and giving utterance to the prayer -- how wonderfully answered! -- |May God accept and reward their piety, and grant that this whole business may terminate to the glory of His name and the prosperity of His Church!|

The way seemed now to be cleared; and the 5th of November found Seabury in Aberdeen. One might reasonably have supposed that all difficulties were now surmounted. But it was not so. It is not necessary to go into details; they would simply set forth a painful story of human infirmity and self-seeking. It is enough to say that while Seabury was travelling northward a letter -- inspired at least by a clergyman in America -- was sent from London to the Scottish Primus, containing a personal attack on the bishop-elect, and warning the Scottish bishops of the unknown evils that would follow on his consecration. The manly uprightness and good sense of Bishop Skinner dispersed these unsubstantial mists of detraction if not of malice, and he thus disposed of the unworthy attempt to injure Seabury and intimidate his consecrators: |I cannot help considering the whole of this intelligence as a mean and silly artifice of some enemy to Dr. Seabury, who secretly envies us the introducing such a worthy man into America in the character of a bishop, a character I am fully satisfied he is in every way qualified to support with honor to himself and all concerned with him. For if there be truth and candor in man, I honestly declare I think it is in Dr. Seabury.| [Footnote: The letter to the Primus with the other correspondence is given in the Scottish Church Review, i.111-118.]

We have reached, at length, the consummation of this more than knightly quest, this veritable pilgrimage, the story of which I have tried to tell. When I began it last year, I asked you to go with me, in thought, to a secluded inland village in our own Diocese. Now I must ask you to go with me to a grey old city, the capital of northern Scotland, which looks out upon the German ocean. It is a place of old renown, for it had a name before one civilized man had set foot on this northern continent. Did time permit, much might be said about it; for it was once the home of Hector Boethius, praised by the great Erasmus, and in far later times the home, also, of Forbes of Corse and Henry Scougal; and its clergy and people in 1639 refused the |solemn League and Covenant| until it was forced upon them at the point of the sword, and renounced it when the pressure was withdrawn. It is sometimes called |the city of Bon-Accord,| from the legend of its arms. And that legend must always for us have a higher than any earthly application, for it must always speak to us of |the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.| Nor ought another thing to be forgotten to-day. The first place in which a clergyman in English orders ever officiated in Connecticut -- as a clergyman of the Church of England -- was here in New London, destined to be the home of our first bishop; and that clergyman was the Rev. George Keith, a native of Aberdeen. [Footnote: He was the guest of the Rev. Gurdon Saltonstall, minister of the town, who afterwards presided at the discussion in the Library of Yale College in 1722. The service in New London was Sept.13, 1702.]

Passing into the part of New Aberdeen known as the Long Acre, and ascending to |a large upper room| in the house occupied by the Coadjutor-Bishop of the Diocese, we find ourselves in the midst of a large congregation of the clergy and the faithful and in the presence of the three officiating prelates. Two [Footnote: Robert Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Arthur Petrie, Bishop of Moray. ] are men far on in years; one [Footnote: John Skinner, Coadjutor of Aberdeen.] is in the full maturity of his manhood, and to him is committed the office of the preacher. As the sermon ends, we hear the words of the concluding verses of the ninetieth Psalm, in the version of Tate and Brady -- the last two of which, as we read them with the story of the succeeding century in mind, may also seem a prophecy:

|To all Thy servants, Lord, let this Thy wondrous work be known; And to our offspring yet unborn, Thy glorious power be shewn

|Let thy bright rays upon us shine, Give Thou our work success; The glorious work we have in hand, Do Thou vouchsafe to bless,|

The supreme point of the solemn office is reached. A young priest, who has not yet seen thirty summers, holds the book from which the aged Primus reads the awful sentence of ordination and the charge which follows it; that youthful priest is Alexander Jolly, afterwards the saintly Bishop of Moray. The imposition of Apostolic hands is given; the work begun here in 1783 is consummated, and our Diocese rejoices in its first bishop.

Nor is this all. The golden chain of the succession that starts from the Master's hand is stretched westward across an ocean. The

|Church of Jesus Christ, The blessed Banyan of our God,|

sends out a branch to root itself in our western world; a branch which our eyes have seen |rise, and spread, and droop, and root again,| until in its self-repeating life it has crossed this continent, and is firmly rooted on our, then unknown, Pacific coast.

|Long as the world itself shall last, The sacred Banyan still shall spread; From clime to clime, from age to age, Its sheltering shadow shall be shed; Nations shall seek its pillared shade, Its leaves shall for their healing be; The circling flood that feeds its life, The blood that crimsoned Calvary.|' [Footnote: Bishop Doane of New Jersey; Ficus Religiosa.]

And here I pause to-day. Another year, please God, we must bring to remembrance what followed the consecration in Scotland, the newly-consecrated bishop's return to America, and the share that he and his Diocese had in organizing this Church in the United States.

Here and now it is enough to have told the story -- not as it should be told, but as I have had power to tell it -- of his consecration. Standing above the honored sepulchre [Footnote: Bishop Seabury's remains rest under the chancel of St. James's Church, New London. ] that holds the mouldered remains of him who a hundred years ago knelt down in that distant land to receive the warrant of his high commission in the Church of God; in this fair temple, which replaces the far humbler one in which he ministered as a parish priest; beside that monument, which attests the loving gratitude of a Diocese that will never let his memory be forgotten; two thoughts -- bringing with them a thankfulness too deep for utterance -- fill mind and heart alike: the first, the thought of that brave, patient, self-sacrificing soldier of the Cross, who dared all and gave all, that he might win for us the precious gift that binds us to the historic Church and through it to the great day of Pentecost and the mount of the Ascension; the second, of those venerable fathers who, to communicate this gift, rose above all personal considerations, and put aside possibilities that might have daunted many a brave soul, because on their hearts was written -- as with a pen of iron on living rock -- that charge to all Christ's ministers which comprehends and covers all duties and responsibilities: |It is required in stewards that a man be found faithful.|

THE Centenary of the Consecration of Bishop Seabury was commemorated in Aberdeen by services on the seventh and eighth days of October, 1884, at which the Bishop of Connecticut and a delegation of the clergy attended. In the appendix will be found an account of these services, including Bishop Williams's sermon, Dr. Beardsley's historical paper, and other addresses.

The anniversary was observed by the Diocese of Connecticut on the fourteenth day of November, 1884, at Christ Church, Hartford. The Church was decorated with flowers and ferns; Bishop Seabury's mitre was placed on the right of the Chancel, and a facsimile of the Concordate which he made with his consecrators was hung opposite. At 11 o'clock a long procession of the clergy entered the Church, followed by Bishop Paddock of Massachusetts and Bishop Williams, before whom the Rev. W. F. Nichols carried the pastoral staff presented to him at Aberdeen; the processional hymn was |The Church's One Foundation.| Bishop Williams began the Communion-office, using as a Collect that for St. Simon and St. Jude's Day. The Epistle (that for St. Mark's Day) was read by the Rev. W. B. Buckingham, successor of Bishop Seabury as Rector of St. James's Church, New London (wearing a surplice which once belonged to Bishop Seabury); and the Gospel (that for St. James's Day) was read by the Rev. J. J. McCook, Rector of St. John's Church, East Hartford. After the Nicene Creed, the latter part of the old metrical version of the ninetieth psalm was sung, as it had been sung at Aberdeen a hundred years before: --

To satisfy and cheer our souls, Thy early mercy send; That we may in all our days to come In joy and comfort spend.

To all Thy servants, Lord, let this Thy wondrous work be known; And to our offspring yet unborn, Thy glorious power be shown.

Let Thy bright rays upon us shine, Give Thou our work success; The glorious work we have in hand Do Thou vouchsafe to bless.

<<  Contents  >>





©2002-2019 SermonIndex.net
Promoting Genuine Biblical Revival.
Privacy Policy