THE RT. REV. SAMUEL SEABURY, D.D.
FIRST BISHOP OF CONNECTICUT,
HELD HIS FIRST ORDINATION AT MIDDLETOWN,
AUGUST 3, 1785.
On the ninth day of June, 1885, the Diocesan Convention met in Hartford. Morning Prayer was read in Christ Church at 9 o'clock by the Rev. W. E. Vibbert, D.D., Rector of St. James's Church, Fair Haven, and the Rev. J. E. Heald, Rector of Trinity Church, Tariffville. The Holy Communion was celebrated in St. John's Church, the service beginning at 10-1/2 o'clock after the singing of the 138th Hymn. The Bishop was assisted in the service by the Rev. Dr. Beardsley of New Haven, the Rev. Dr. Seabury of New York, the Rev. Dr. Vibbert of Fair Haven, and the Rev. J. W. Bradin, Rector of the Parish. The sermon was preached by Bishop Williams, as follows:
THE WISE RULER.
"So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands."
The seventy-eighth psalm contains a rapid review of the history of the chosen people from the day when God led them out of Egypt "with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm," down to the time of David. The record of provocation and transgression on the side of Israel, and of mingled mercy and judgment on the side of Jehovah, ends with the reign of the shepherd-king. He who watched his flock as, centuries after, other shepherds watched theirs, on the hill- sides of Bethlehem; he who had risked his own life that he might deliver his charge "out of the paw of the lion and out of the paw of the bear," was now called "from among the sheep-folds" to the throne of Israel and Judah. He who had been "faithful over a few things" was made "ruler over many things" in a kingdom which was itself but a type of a mightier Kingdom wherein One who was not only the Son of David but the Son of God should reign forever and ever.
In describing the character of David as a ruler, which is done in the text of this discourse, it will be observed that the same qualities are emphasized that marked his shepherd-life. What he was in the narrower field, that he was also in the wider. What he had been in Bethlehem, that he continued to be in Jerusalem. What he had done for his flock, that he did for his people. "He fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands." Integrity in purpose and discretion in action are the two qualities here emphasized. The former without the latter makes the impracticable blunderer; the latter without the former makes the time-serving schemer; the two together make the wise ruler of men. Unless I greatly err, we shall see these two qualities strikingly illustrated in the story of that Episcopate of which I am now to speak to you.
We must still linger for a while with the newly consecrated bishop in that city on the German ocean where we last beheld him. For his consecration is not the only thing which occurred there that was to have an abiding influence on the future of our national Church. On the day following the consecration (Nov.15th, 1784), the Scottish bishops present and their American brother united in signing the important document known as the "Concordate." While this is not the place to speak of it at length, some of its positions and agreements ought not, in view of opinions then prevalent in Great Britain and of events soon to occur in this country, to pass unnoticed.
First of all, the document opens with a full and clear statement of the necessity, "before all things," of holding the "One Faith." As the Lord declared that on Himself, as confessed by His apostle, He would build His Church; as St. Paul, when he has spoken of "one Lord," speaks next of "one faith," so the framers of the "Concordate" -- invoking "the blessing of the great and glorious Head of the Church" -- declare their "earnest and united desire to maintain the analogy of the faith once delivered to the saints, and happily preserved in the Church of Christ."
This all-important and fundamental truth having been asserted, the document proceeds to declare that the Church of Christ is "a spiritual society," the powers and authority of which come from God and not from man; and which, as they are not given and cannot be given by any civil government, so neither can any civil government take away.
Does this statement seem a truism to us? Then let us remember that it was no truism in the days when it was made. "The Church as by law established" was then a phrase on everybody's lips in Great Britain; and, strangely enough, it meant, and still means, one thing in England and a very different thing in Scotland. Nor was that all; -- we may well fear that to many minds the weightiest and most important part of the phrase, lay in the words "by law established" rather than in the preceding words "the Church"; so that, in many instances, a mere accident in the Church's history displaced the remembrance of its divine constitution, and led on to the folly of supposing that the act of the State, human law, could create and constitute a Church! To assert the truth against so patent a delusion was timely, and indeed needful, a century ago. Would that it were needful nowhere now!
Following this declaration was the agreement that no "communion in sacred offices" should be held with clergy, of whatever ordination, who were officiating in Scotland without recognizing, or being recognized by, the national Episcopate.
Finally, passing from doctrine and organization to worship, the Scottish bishops, after speaking of the desirableness of "as near a conformity in worship and discipline between the two Churches as is consistent with the different circumstances and customs of nations," go on to say that, inasmuch as "the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, or the administration of the sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, is the principal bond of union among Christians, as well as the most solemn act of worship in the Christian Church,... though they are far from prescribing to their brethren in this matter, they cannot help ardently wishing that Bishop Seabury would endeavor all he can, consistently with peace and prudence, to make the celebration of this venerable Mystery conformable to the most primitive doctrine and practice." So far the Scottish bishops. On his part, the newly consecrated bishop agreed "to take a serious view of the Communion-office recommended by his brethren, and, if found agreeable to the genuine standards of antiquity, to give his sanction to it, and by gentle methods of argument and persuasion to endeavor, as they have done, to introduce it by degrees into practice, without the compulsion of authority on the one side or the prejudice of former custom on the other."
These are all weighty, wise, and noble words. I have quoted them at some length for two reasons. In the first place, they embody just those things which come to the front in St. Luke's description of the Apostolic Church in the full glow of its Pentecostal life: "They continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of the bread and in the prayers." The more carefully the document and the inspired statement are compared, the more clearly is this remarkable agreement seen. If this is the result of a conscious reference to the words of St. Luke, it shows how faithfully the venerable framers of the Concordate went back to the very sources of the Church's organic life. If the reference is unconscious, it shows, even more strikingly, how thoroughly they were imbued with the spirit of the apostolic age.
In the second place, unless I have greatly misread history, our first bishop, both in his work in this diocese and also in the part he took in bringing about for our whole Church the happy settlement of 1789, followed on the line of action indicated in the Concordate, patiently and unswervingly; and in following it, he was guided by that integrity in purpose and discretion in action which characterize the wise and efficient ruler.
Had Bishop Seabury carried out his original purpose, he would have sailed for his native land "in the ship Triumph, commanded by Captain Stout." He was, however, detained in London, and from that city he addressed what has been called "his first pastoral letter" to the representatives of the clergy of Connecticut. His detention was largely, probably not wholly, due to the necessity which came upon him of making, if possible, some provision for the future maintenance of the clergy. What little property he had acquired had all been expended in his two years' absence from his family and his residence in England; and the question whether or not the Venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel would or could continue the stipends hitherto appropriated to the clergy in Connecticut was a very pressing one. His admirable letter to the secretary of the society -- a letter which thoroughly reveals the man -- is too long to be given here, while it cannot be adequately represented by any quotations. He does not attempt to conceal the fact that the continuance of his own stipend would be a great relief to his anxieties, but he frankly adds that if it is "not continued" he "can have no right to complain." And then putting himself, as he always did, entirely to one side, and saying, what seems to have been ever in his mind, that "the fate of individuals is of inferior moment when compared with that of the whole Church," he draws attention to the calamity it will be "if proper steps be not taken to secure to the Church various property of lands, etc., in the different States (now indeed of small value, but gradually increasing), to which the society alone has a legal claim."
Under the terms of their charter, the society could employ missionaries only in "the plantations, colonies, and factories belonging to the kingdom of Great Britain"; while they seem not to have been ready to consider the question touching the lands. The timidity or the lack of appreciation of the purely spiritual and ecclesiastical character of the Episcopate as such, which then prevailed, is painfully noticeable in the fact that, in the letter which communicated the decision of the society, the secretary addressed the bishop as he would have done before his consecration -- "the Rev. Dr. Seabury."
On other trials and difficulties which he met in London I do not care to dwell. They all grew out of political jealousies, confused notions concerning connections of Church and State, or fears, which proved to be groundless, that the consecration sermon, to say nothing of the consecration itself, might somehow be disadvantageous to the Scottish Episcopate. One charge alleged is to us in this day simply amusing; namely, that the bishop had been "precipitate" in his application to Scotland. A precipitancy which patiently waits and labors for more than thirteen months to obtain the Episcopate in England, and only when all hope of so obtaining it is at an end applies for it in Scotland, is, to say the least, a very deliberate sort of precipitancy. And now we may pass from the old world to the new.
"Bishop Seabury landed at Newport, R. I." -- where Berkeley had landed more than half a century before -- "after a voyage of three months,[Footnote: This period, however, includes some stay in Nova Scotia.] on Monday, June 20th, 1785, and the next Sunday he preached in Trinity Church the first sermon of an American bishop in this country." [Footnote: The text was Heb. xii.1, 2. The sermon was afterwards published in the Bishop's Discourses on Several Subjects, vol. ii., serm. xvi., "The Christian Race." ] On the 29th he reached New London, which from that time was to be his home. While he was still at sea a Boston newspaper, which had received the intelligence of his consecration, exclaimed: "Two wonders of the world, a Stamp Act in Boston and a Bishop in Connecticut!" [Footnote: Boston Gazette, May 30, 1785. ]
Two things instantly demanded the most careful attention and most earnest efforts of the one American bishop: the condition and needs of his own diocese, and the all-important question as to the future of the scattered congregations of what had been the Church of England in the thirteen colonies. The stoutest heart might well quail before the difficulties that rose up before him on every side. But Seabury's principle of action was ever found in the twofold rule always to "do the next thing," and when all cannot be done that one fain would do, then to do the best one can. And that twofold rule will enable any man who acts under it, in the fear and strength of God, to overcome difficulties by patient perseverance or to accept disappointments in unrepining submission. Faith and patience may not make their voice heard much in the streets, but they accomplish results at last.
Did he look at his own diocese? There he saw many obstacles and few, very few, encouragements. Five, at least, of the small number of the clergy and considerable numbers of the laity had "emigrated, or were soon to emigrate, to Nova Scotia and the adjoining territory." Aside, then, from those whom he might ordain, not more than eleven clergymen, and with them not more than two hundred and eighty families, composed the diocese. It is due to this ancient State, and it should ever be remembered to her praise, that the loyalists within her borders suffered no political oppression after the war of the Revolution had ended. Nor can we forget that she sent as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1784, and afterwards, in 1787, to the convention which framed our federal constitution, one who in 1779 had been, however unreasonably, arrested for treason to the United Colonies, William Samuel Johnson. Still it is none the less true, and it can occasion little wonder, that loyalists, and therefore Churchmen, "were not in good repute with the public authorities, and scorn was likely to attend many of them for years to come."
To these diminished numbers of clergy and people must be added the loss of the stipends hitherto allowed by the Society in England, and the poverty which made it next to impossible to replace them. Add, moreover, to these things the doubts and uncertainties, the break-up of old associations and habitudes, the manifold perplexities of which we now know nothing, and which we could not enumerate if we did know them, and what a troubled scene was that on which our first bishop, who stood alone in his order in these United States, cast an anxious eye! "The children were come to the birth," but would there be "strength to bring them forth"?
One discouragement -- and that would have been greater than all the others -- Seabury was not called to meet. He did not come to a disunited and divided body. His diocese stood together as a unit. They stood where they did because of convictions, than which none could be stronger or more abiding. When they said: "I believe in the Holy Catholic Church," they uttered no unreal words, no words that habits of careless utterance had made unmeaning. They meant just what they said. And that strong and united conviction gave hope and comfort for the future. Clouds and darkness were about them. But on those clouds there was seen the bow of promise, while beyond them stood -- what they might obscure but could not remove -- the "city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."
On Wednesday, the third day of August, the bishop met his clergy at Middletown, received their address of congratulation and recognition, and made his reply to it. On this day was also held the first ordination administered by a bishop within the limits of the United States. On the day following, the Rev. Samuel Parker, who came as the appointed representative of the clergy in Massachusetts, [Footnote: The Rev. Dr. Moore of New York was also present, but not, apparently, in any representative capacity.] made a communication which, we are told, "was received with the warmest expressions of welcome," setting forth his instructions "to collect the sentiments of the Connecticut clergy in respect of Dr. Seabury's episcopal consecration and the regulation of his episcopal jurisdiction," and intimating the intention of those who sent him to connect themselves with their brethren here by coming under the charge of their bishop.
On this day, also, Bishop Seabury delivered his first charge. In it, after rehearsing with earnest expressions of gratitude to the bishops of Scotland the steps which he had taken to secure the Episcopate, and modestly referring to his own new position, declaring that next to the grace of God he relies, in carrying on the work committed to him, on the "advice and assistance" of his brethren, he dwells on three important topics. First, he urges on himself and them the duty of taking "heed unto the doctrine" as well as to themselves, saying, in words which are not unneeded how: "The first instance of fidelity is, that the pure doctrines of the Gospel be fairly, earnestly, and affectionately proposed, explained, and inculcated, and that we suffer nothing else to usurp their place and become the subject of our preaching." Next, he presses carefulness in recommending persons for ordination, enlarging not so much on "literary accomplishments, though these are not to be neglected, as aptitude for the work of the ministry." And, lastly, for obvious reasons, he treats, at length, "of the old and sacred rite, handed down to us from the apostolic age by the primitive Church -- the laying-on of hands." The document shows, so far as a document can, that its writer possessed in himself the qualifications which he regarded as necessary "to make a useful clergyman -- good temper, prudence, diligence, capacity, and aptitude to teach."
On the third day of its session, the convocation appointed a "committee to consider of and make with the bishop some alterations in the Liturgy needful for the present use of the Church." [Footnote: Mr. Parker of Massachusetts was appointed on this committee.] The matter was entered on with caution, and the only changes then and there ordered were those which changed political relations made necessary in the State prayers and services. These were immediately set forth by the bishop in an "injunction," by which he "authorized and required" the clergy to follow them. Some other changes were proposed and reserved for future consideration; but as nothing seems to have been done about them in this diocese, they need no special mention.
The bishop, however, was not unmindful of his promise given in the Concordate, and in the year following (1786) published his adaptation of the Scottish Communion-office. This he did not, as in the case of the alterations agreed to in convocation, "enjoin" or "require." He simply "recommended it to the Episcopal congregations in Connecticut."
I am quite conscious that this is a very brief summary, a very meagre outline, of acts and events each one of which is most important and suggestive. It is all, however, that time and space allow, and it brings into strong relief some things which ought not to be forgotten.
The reverent care and caution with which the offices of sacred worship are approached are apparent. These are no signs of a hesitancy which is doubtful of its position. They indicate rather the strength of assurance which hesitates to touch the gift entrusted to it lest touching may end in tampering. In the same year in which these careful steps were taken, another convention, in six days, revised the entire Book of Common Prayer, with all its Offices and with the "Articles of Religion"; the result being a book which underwent amendments in four States, had its ratification postponed in another, was rejected in still another, and was not considered at all in five. The contrast in results is quite as striking as that in spirit and methods of action.
We also see, unless I greatly err, in his action in regard to the changes in the State prayers and his own office for the Holy Communion, Bishop Seabury's ideal of the position of a bishop in the Church of God. And this view is confirmed by the entire course of his Episcopate. What was established by competent authority, he "required." What was not so established, however much his own heart might be set upon it, he "recommended." When the first great Bishop of New Zealand met his first synod, he uttered these noble words: "I believe the monarchical idea of the Episcopate to be as foreign to the true mind of the Church as it is adverse to the Gospel doctrine of humility. I would rather resign my office than be reduced to act as a single isolated being. It remains, then, to define by some general principle the terms of our co-operation. They are simply these: that neither will I act without you, nor can you act without me." Of course, a bishop who takes this line must lay his account with the charge that he seeks to avoid responsibility. But he may comfort himself with the recollection that had he taken the other line, the same persons who lament his timidity would be sure to charge him with arrogant assumption. If Seabury did not utter Selwyn's very words, he acted them. Nor is it more or less than the very truth to say that in all his Episcopate he exemplified the counsel of the Son of Sirach: "If thou be made the master, lift not thyself up, but be among them as one of the rest" [Footnote: Ecclus. xxii. I.]
The story of that Episcopate cannot be told here. It has been written in a faithful record accessible to all, and with which most of us must be familiar. For almost twelve years the parish priest in New London did his pastor's work, the humble-minded bishop went, in homely ways, [Footnote: In a book published some years ago, it was said that all clergymen in Connecticut travelled, at the period spoken of, on horseback, "except, perhaps, Bishop Seabury, who rode in a coach," He may have "ridden" in a stage-coach, or in a coach belonging to some wealthy layman; but the only vehicle which he ever possessed was a "one- horse chaise."] in and out among his people, feeding the flock "according to the integrity of his heart, and guiding them by the skilfulness of his hands." And when God took him to his rest, the mourning of his diocese was like the "mourning in the floor of Atad," and the poor and the suffering, the widow and the fatherless followed him to his grave, and wrote his epitaph in their tears.
The power and value of an Episcopate like his cannot be measured by immediate results -- though such results were not lacking -- which are visible along its progress and at its close. Not only was it not his peacefully to build on undisturbed foundations; it was not even his to lay in peace original foundations. His was the harder, the more hopeless task, to re-lay foundations which had been torn up and scattered, and then begin to build upon them. And under what discouragements was the task to be undertaken and prosecuted: with diminished and diminishing numbers of fellow-workers; with narrow resources and restricted means; amid manifold and unexpected difficulties; amid jealousies that not infrequently deepened into scornful enmity! How often must he have cried from the depths of his heart: "Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not?" Only a brave and genuine man, a man of prayer and faith and love, could have borne up under such wearying burdens. But he was all that, and even more than that. And, therefore, to us who look back upon our history as a diocese from the close of one century, to those who shall look back upon it from the close of another, nay, in all time, its central figure must be that massive one with which the limner's skill has made us all familiar, as it stands facing wind and storm, supported by the Word of God, which, in its turn, rests on the everlasting rock; the figure of him by whom the God of our fathers said to our "Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid." [Footnote: Isaiah xliv]
But it is time to turn to the second of the two things of which mention was just now made; the future, namely, of the scattered fragments of what had been the Church of England in the thirteen colonies. To unite and consolidate these into one national Church was the difficult problem to be solved; a problem, we may say with reverent thankfulness, that never could have been solved had there not come to the solution a stronger than any human strength, and a wiser than any human wisdom. To bring about this blessed consummation, the first two bishops consecrated for America labored, if not always with accordant views, yet ever with united hearts. The time has long gone by. and it ought never to have been, when to give his due meed of praise to Bishop Seabury, and to recognize his share in the great work accomplished, could be thought in any way to carry with it disparagement to the eminent services of Bishop White. Nothing can ever change or obscure his prominence in the history of this Church. Surviving as he did the darkest days of her trial and depression, living to see her enter on wider lines and vaster fields of action, and enter on them with a deepened spiritual life, he went to his rest in an old age that was brightened with the reverent love of "all the churches," and from which there was shed upon those churches the gracious light of a gentleness, a meekness, and a charity, the memories of which will never pass away. He is, he always must be, our St. John.
The two great obstacles in the minds of Bishop Seabury and his clergy -- and I think I may add the clergy of New England generally -- to the union and consolidation so earnestly desired, were found in certain omissions in what was known as "The Proposed Book," adopted at a convention composed of deputies from seven States in 1785, [Footnote: The seven States represented were: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina. No deputies were present from New England.] and published in 1786; and in certain provisions of an "Ecclesiastical Constitution" first agreed to in the same convention of 1785, and afterwards altered in some particulars in 1786.
The insurmountable difficulties which arose out of the Proposed Book were the entire omission of the Creed commonly known as the Nicene Creed, and the equally entire omission of the article, "He descended into hell," in the Apostles' Creed. I do not at all mean to say that these omissions constituted the only objections in the minds of Bishop Seabury and those who acted with him. But these were fatal. As long as these omissions remained, it was useless to consider any other matters. Our fathers could never have united with any body which deliberately rejected the Catholic Faith. For, as has been well said, "a Church is not Catholic merely from having an Apostolic ministry; the Catholic Faith is as essential as Catholic Institutions." Nay, I think we may say even more than that; namely, that to put the ministry first and the faith next is to reverse the order established by the Lord. For surely, of those to whom was given the commission to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," it can never be said that the Name, which is the original and the summary of every Catholic Creed, was given for and because of them, but rather it must be said that they were instituted for and because of it. To reverse this order is to make the messenger of more importance than the message; is to make the vase that holds the perfume of more importance than the perfume held.
Happily the difficulty was not long in its continuance. In the course of the negotiations for the Episcopate, which began in October, 1785, it became very evident that the bishops of England were not inclined to accede to the application for it so long as the omission and mutilation just mentioned were adhered to. Accordingly, on the 11th of October, 1786, in a convention held at Wilmington, Delaware, the omitted clause was restored in the Apostles' Creed, and the Nicene Creed was reinstated in its proper place.
The other obstacle, however, remained untouched; and, in fact, it was twofold. In the Constitution agreed upon by the representatives from seven States in 1785, there was not only no provision for a House of Bishops, but it was not even provided that the one House should be presided over by a bishop, if one of that order were present. The Episcopate was utterly ignored. Besides this extraordinary omission, every clergyman, of whatever order, was made amenable to the convention of the diocese to which he belonged in regard to "suspension or removal from office," while, for all that appeared, the sentence of suspension or deposition must have been pronounced by the convention itself. In a Church regulated by rules and ordinances like these, there might be a nominal Episcopate, but it would be only nominal. The Ordinal might be retained, but it would cease to have any meaning. The Primitive Church might be spoken of, but every trace of primitive order and administration would have disappeared.
It has often been said that Bishop Seabury objected to any admission of the laity to the councils of the Church. But this is one of the cases in which, unless we distinguish things that differ, we shall certainly go far astray. Legislation is one thing; the judicial exercise of discipline in the Church is quite another thing. Now, I do not find that Bishop Seabury was set against recognizing the right of the laity to a share in the legislation of the Church, on the principle laid down by Hooker, that laws which are to bind all orders should have the consent of all orders. On the contrary, he admitted the principle when he set his name to the Constitution of 1789 which provided for this very thing; a provision the value of which has been fully demonstrated by the first century of our history as a national Church.
Touching his views concerning the judicial exercise of discipline, I need only cite his own words: "I cannot conceive that the laity can with any propriety be admitted to sit in judgment on bishops and presbyters, especially when deposition may be the event; because they cannot take away a character which they cannot confer. It is incongruous with every idea of episcopal government. That authority which confers power can, for proper reasons, take it away. But where there is no authority to confer power, there can be none to disannul it. Wherever, therefore, the power of ordination is lodged, the power of deprivation is lodged also." Concerning the absolute irrecognition of the Episcopate, as entitled to any share in either legislation or discipline, by the Constitution of 1785, I need only cite, again, the bishop's words: "In so essential a matter as Church government is, no alterations should be made that affect its foundation. If a man be called a bishop who has not the episcopal powers of government, he is called by a wrong name, even though he should have the power of ordination and confirmation."
The position assumed by our first bishop in regard to both these matters was justified and sustained by the action of this Church in 1789, when the Constitution, as amended, was made to provide for a House of Bishops, "with power to originate and propose acts," and also for the administration of discipline by the Episcopate alone. This was the Constitution to which -- "on a dingy half sheet of paper" -- Bishop Seabury and Drs. Jarvis and Hubbard, as representatives from Connecticut, and Dr. Parker, as deputy from Massachusetts and New Hampshire, set their hands in October, 1789, and by their act effected the consolidation of our Church.
I will not say that a victory was thus gained, for it was not victory that was sought. But we may say that something far better than a victory was attained, in that a great principle was accepted. Nor has the lapse of time raised any doubt as to the rightfulness and wisdom of the acceptance. [Footnote: It is worth while to state the steps by which final action was reached:
1. The Constitution adopted in 1785 took no account of the Episcopate as a possible component part of the General Convention. In 1786 provision was made that "a bishop should always preside in General Convention, if any of the episcopal order were present." In August, 1789, it was agreed, with certain limitations and restrictions, that "the bishops of this Church, when there shall be three or more, shall, whenever a General Convention shall be held, form a House of Revision; and when any proposed act shall have passed in the General Convention, the same shall be transmitted to the House of Revision for their concurrence." Obviously the House of Revision is not here regarded as a component part of the General Convention. Finally, in October, 1789, it was ordered that "the bishops of this Church, when there shall be three or more, shall, whenever General Conventions are held, form a separate house, with a right to originate and propose acts for the concurrence of the House of Deputies, composed of clergy and laity." Certain restrictions, which have since been modified, were added. But clearly the great principle contended for by Bishop Seabury and those who acted with him is here admitted.
2. As to the other point insisted on: In 1785, article viii. of the Constitution read: "Every clergyman, whether bishop or presbyter or deacon, shall be amenable to the authority of the convention in the State to which he belongs, so far as relates to suspension or removal from office; and the convention in each State shall institute rules for their conduct, and an equitable mode of trial." Here there is not even an allusion to the Episcopate, and each convention is recognized as absolutely supreme. In June, 1786, the following sentence was added to article viii. of 1785: "And at every trial of a bishop there shall be one or more of the episcopal order present, and none but a bishop shall pronounce sentence of deposition or degradation from the ministry on any clergyman, whether bishop, presbyter, or deacon." Here is an advance in the right direction. In August, 1789, the first sentence of the foregoing article disappears, and in its place we read: "In every State the mode of trying clergymen shall be instituted by the convention of the Church therein." The last sentence of the article remains unchanged, and the second principle contended for is accepted.]
While the years between 1785 and 1789, with their discussions, doubts, and difficulties, were wearing away, the general acceptance of the great principles on which I have been dwelling seemed always uncertain, and sometimes hopeless. Steps were accordingly taken to provide for a possible emergency of rejection -- an emergency which cannot be contemplated without a shudder. It was decided in the convocation which met at Wallingford in February, 1787, to send, should it become necessary, a "presbyter to Scotland for consecration, as coadjutor to Dr. Seabury." The purpose no doubt was, should such necessity arise, to secure the number of bishops canonically requisite to continue the succession. It was wise to provide for all contingencies; but it was equally wise, and as much a matter of duty, to take no actual steps till contingencies arose, and, meantime, to make all possible endeavors to avert them. The prudent counsels of the Scottish bishops, and the conciliatory and patient action of Bishop White on the one side and Bishop Seabury on the other, did avert the contingency; and by the year 1789 all danger of the separation, so much feared and deprecated, had passed away. It was of God's good providence that, in the General Convention of that most memorable year, 1789, there was found in the House of Bishops no root of bitterness, no disturbing element growing out of political prejudice or personal animosity. When, on the fifth day of October, the House was, for the first time, constituted, Bishops Seabury and White composed its membership.
The great subject which occupied the attention of the bishops, as well as that of the House of Deputies, was the Book of Common Prayer. This is neither the time nor the place to speak at length of what was then accomplished. But I must not omit to state, even at the risk of saying what is familiar to us all, that in that book, as we then received and still have it, the Order of the Holy Communion stands -- and, please God, will ever stand -- the great memorial of Seabury's share in framing our sacred offices, the memorial, also, of the faithfulness with which, if not in the very letter, yet substantially and in spirit, he redeemed the pledge which he had given in the Concordate. Let me also add Bishop White's own words touching the intercourse -- for in a house consisting of two members, one can hardly speak of debates -- of himself and his brother of Connecticut. He says: "To this day are there recollected with satisfaction the hours which were spent with Bishop Seabury on the important subjects which came before them, and especially the Christian temper which he manifested all along." For the results of that memorable Convention, in which so much was gained -- may we not say so little lost? -- we are mainly indebted, under the overruling wisdom of the Holy Spirit, to the stedfast gentleness of Bishop White and the gentle stedfastness of Bishop Seabury.
And here, since mention has been already made of Seabury's work in his own diocese, and of his departure, when "he was not found" because God had taken him, this historical review may end. Does it not tell what he was? Does it not clearly reveal his character? If it does not, then no words of mine can do it. Strong in faith, patient in hope, humble and self-sacrificing in charity, he stands out as a man "that had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do"; as a builder able to "revive the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which were burned"; as a wise ruler who "fed" those over whom the Holy Ghost had made him an overseer, "according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands." Therefore for him and for his work, we praise and magnify God's holy Name!
I cannot close without some mention of two scenes, in both of which it was my privilege to share, More than fifty years had passed since our first bishop was borne to his grave. In the town in which, during his entire Episcopate, he had fulfilled the lowlier duties of a parish priest, a stately church had replaced the humble temple in which he ministered, and it was felt in all our borders that under its altar his honored remains should find their final resting-place. Reverently gathered, they were carried by the clergy through crowded streets, and laid down where we trust they may abide till the judgment of the great day.[Footnote: "Ut in loco quietis ultimo usque ad magni diei judicium," are the words of the epitaph on the altar-tomb in St. James's Church, New London.] As we stood around his sepulchre there rose from every lip the words of the symbol of Nicaea, for which he had striven so faithfully, and which he had urged his clergy as faithfully to teach, saying, in words which now seem prophetic, that he foresaw the day when in New England there would come a widespread lapse from the ancient faith. That was a scene which none who shared in it can forget.
A hundred years had gone. In that city where he sought his consecration to the Episcopate the little upper room had disappeared, and six churches had arisen. In one of these, the successor of the humble "oratory in the house of Bishop Skinner," there are gathered seventeen bishops and near two hundred clergy, together with a vast congregation of the faithful. What do they represent? Not what those who came together a century before had represented; not one Church brought almost to the verge of extinction, and another threatened with even deeper ruin. No! but they represent a Church that has emerged from the darkness that shrouded it in Scotland; a Church that has risen from what seemed but shattered fragments in the United States; the great Mother Church of England; the national Church of Ireland; and the Churches in communion with them on the Continent of Europe, in the dependencies and colonies of the empire of Great Britain, on this Western Continent, in India, Australia, Southern Africa, and the islands of the sea. "A little one has become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation."
What has brought them together? Not merely to do honor to the memory of one man or of several men, though their memories are inseparably blended with the thoughts and associations of the occasion. "In many centenaries the dominant interest is the personal. The birthday of the 'monk that shook the world' is a handy peg on which to hang the whole of his marvellous career, and the massive personality of the man is never absent from view. But in the consecration of Bishop Seabury the Churchman beholds, not the preponderance of an individual, but the birthday of a Church. The difference is suggestive, and illustrates the radical divergence between the Catholic and the sectarian frame of mind. When the ideal of the one Body of Christ is strongly realized, the Church will overshadow the individual; when it is little cherished, the individual will eclipse the Church. We may be content to be of those who think that, as the State is greater than its worthiest citizen, so the Church should take precedence of its greatest member."[Footnote: These admirable words are quoted from the Scottish Church Review for November, 1884, p.749.] Who would have more gladly owned all this, who would have been more thankful for it, than he who gave its name to that centenary? For, indeed, it was this which swelled the tide of emotion to its height. It was because of this that men felt in their hearts, and said with their lips, "Glorious things are spoken of thee, thou City of God."
One closing word, dear brethren, and the duty that from time to time you have laid upon me will be accomplished; not as it should have been, but as I have been able to accomplish it. The great principles on which they of whom I have been speaking placed themselves, are as lasting and as unchangeable as the everlasting hills. The lines on which they wrought have borne the trial and stood the test of all the Christian ages. Are we tempted, in a spirit of self-sufficiency or of doubt or of impatience, to forsake them? Then let us put the temptation firmly to one side. Only by so doing shall we maintain for ourselves, and hand on to others, who shall then in coming years rise up and call us blessed, the precious deposit that has come down to us, and for which we bless those who have gone before us. Christianity is not one of the religions of the world, but it is the one religion for the world. Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, and King, our sufficing Sacrifice and our living Lord, is not the ideal man, the product of the growth, circumstances, and conditions of one nation or of the whole human race, but He is the "Son of God with power," miraculously conceived by the Holy Ghost, miraculously born of the Virgin Mary, dying for our sins and rising again for our justification. "A Christianity," I use the words of Coleridge, "without a Church exercising spiritual authority, is vanity and dissolution."[Footnote: Aids to Reflection, p.224, note (fourth edition).] The Church is not an aggregation of persons agreeing in certain doctrines or practices, but it is the "Body of Christ," perpetuated in accordance with the laws of its organism. "The fellowship of kindred minds" is not the Communion of saints. A certain "continuity of Christian thought" is not the same thing as the Faith once and forever given to the saints.
If we fling away these truths to which our predecessors clung so firmly, if they who shall come after us fling them away, then on us and on them will come the shame and the woe of making the well- ordered "city of the living God," the walls of which are salvation and its gates praise, to be "like a city that is broken down and without walls." On the other hand, if we, and they who shall come after us, hold them, teach them, act on them, then, and only then, shall we and they, in very deed, "grow up into Him in all things, Which is the Head, even Christ, from Whom the whole Body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the Body unto the edifying of itself in love."
A SPECIAL service was held in the Church of the Holy Trinity, Middletown, on the one-hundredth anniversary of the first Ordination held by Bishop Seabury, August 3, 1885, at 11 o'clock A. M. The processional hymn being ended, Bishop Williams began the Communion-service, the Collect being that for St. Simon and St. Jude's Day. The Epistle (that for St. Mark's Day) was read by the Rev. Prof. Samuel Hart of Trinity College, and the Gospel (that for St. Matthias's Day), by the Rev. Sylvester Clarke, Rector of Trinity Church, Bridgeport. After the Creed, the Bishop delivered this address:
The third of August, 1785, was a memorable day for this diocese and for our whole Church. For the first time an American Bishop was to hold an ordination in the United States. The event carries us back, in thought, to Apostolic days. The first act of ordination by the Apostles at Jerusalem, after the miracle of Pentecost, was the laying on of hands upon the seven deacons. The first ordination ministered by him who first bore the Apostolic commission to this nation, was an ordination -- not of seven indeed, but of four -- to the diaconate. The authority, the ministration, and the order imparted were in both cases the same, separated though the acts were by the great chasm of seventeen centuries. It is good to commemorate such an event. It is right to commemorate it in the place in which it occurred. Such a commemoration fitly ends the series of centenary observances which we began in Woodbury in the spring-tide of 1883. For the act of this day certified our fathers that what they had sought and cried out for through long and weary years was gained at last; that no longer did three thousand miles of ocean separate them from the possibility of admission to the "ministry of Christ, and the stewardship of the mysteries of God."
Let me, first, say something of the place in which the service of ordination, and all the services and acts connected with it, were held. There stood, at that time, on what used to be called the South Green in this city, a small wooden church known as Christ Church. There are not many persons, probably, now living who remember it, but a rough sketch of it, which has been preserved, has given many who never saw it an idea at least of what it was. It was not an altogether ungraceful building with its arched windows -- regarded by many in those days as indicating Romeward tendencies -- and its pointed spire. And it had nothing in common with those hideous combinations of packing-box and Grecian portico, which prevailed many years later on; but which decay and fire and other merciful interferences and visitations have made things of the past.
It had a story of its own, too -- that old church -- to tell; a story of trial, perseverance, and success; a story exactly parallel to that of the clergy, and especially the bishop, who came together within its walls. About the middle of the last century, a number of persons who, in the exercise of that "freedom to worship God," which has been claimed as the peculiar glory of New England, had declared themselves to be attached to the Church of England, petitioned the town authorities to grant them a piece of ground on which they might erect a church. Their application was refused. After a time it was renewed, and refused again. At last, a building-place was granted them, the situation of which has just been mentioned. It was a marshy spot, on which few persons believed that any building could ever be erected. It is strangely noticeable, however, that a great many things which never can be done, are nevertheless somehow brought about, especially in the progress of the Church. So it was here. Careful drainage overcame the natural lack of adaptation, and, though the work met with delays and drawbacks, the church was completed in 1755. It is a tradition of the time that when the frame of the building was raised, the shout that burst from the lips of those engaged in or watching the work was so loud and joyous that it might have been heard for the distance of a mile. Verily, good people of this parish, if your predecessors could not say that they had been brought "through fire," they could at least say that they had been "brought through water to a wealthy place"; wealthy, not in this world's goods, but in those spiritual gifts which are the eternal dowry of the Bride of Christ.
So much for the place. Next let us look at those who came together. If the place of meeting had been hardly won, those men had "endured hardness as good soldiers of Christ." Foremost, in the full maturity of his manhood, stands the newly consecrated bishop. He is in his fifty-sixth year. And inasmuch as the picture with which we are all familiar was painted while he was in London, we no doubt see him there as he was here in Middletown, a century ago. And a goodly sight it is; the sight of one who looked, and was, every inch a bishop.
Jeremiah Learning comes next to view. But for his advanced age, and the fact that imprisonment in a damp and noisome cell had made him a cripple for life, he would have stood in Seabury's place as our first bishop. He is now in his sixty-eighth year, having been born in Durham in 1717. He lived to the age of nearly eighty- eight, and one who remembered him In his latest years says: "He rises to my mind the very ideal of age and decrepitude -- a small, emaciated old man, very lame, his ashen and withered features surmounted sometimes by a cap, and sometimes by a small wig -- always quiet and gentle in his manner." Such a condition as is here described is still, however, in the future for him. He is still vigorous enough to preside in the convention of the clergy, until the new bishop takes that place, and to preach what was called, in the quaint phraseology of the day, "a well adapted" ordination sermon.
We turn to the secretary of the convention, Abraham Jarvis, who will in time become the second bishop of this diocese. He has just entered on the twenty-first year of his rectorship of this parish, a position which he will hold for fourteen more years. He is described, by one who knew him, as having "an uncommon tact at public business, and in a talent at drafting petitions, memorials, etc., having few, if any, superiors."
Most, if not all, of the excellent papers connected with the negotiations for the Episcopate were drawn up by him, and on him devolved nearly all the correspondence to which the negotiations gave rise. Nine others of the clergy of the diocese were present, and with them two from other places -- the Rev. Benjamin Moore of New York, who came in no official capacity, and the Rev. Samuel Parker of Boston, who appeared as representing the clergy of Massachusetts. Dr. Moore was afterwards the second Bishop of New York, and Dr. Parker the second Bishop of Massachusetts. The clergy had assembled on the day previous, August 2nd, and Bishop Seabury had presented his letters of consecration. On the day we are commemorating, the services began with the reception and recognition of the bishop. Four of the clergy repaired to the parsonage, which stood nearly where the house of the Hon. Benjamin Douglas now stands, bearing with them the declaration of the clergy then convened, that "they confirmed their former election, and acknowledged and received Dr. Seabury as their Episcopal head. Two of the four immediately carried back to the convention the answer of acceptance by the bishop, while the other two followed in attendance upon him, and conducted him to the church." Here, sitting near the Holy Table, with the clergy gathered before him, he listened to their address, which was read by the Rev. Dr. Hubbard of New Haven. I quote from it three striking passages. Their recognition of their new bishop was made in these words: "We, in the presence of Almighty God, declare to the world, that we do unanimously and voluntarily accept and receive you to be our Bishop, supreme in the government of the Church, and in the administration of all ecclesiastical offices. And we do solemnly engage to render you all that respect, duty, and submission, which we believe do belong and are due to your high office, and which, we understand, were given by the presbyters to their bishop in the Primitive Church while, in her native purity, she was unconnected with, and uncontrolled by, any secular power."
After describing the earnest attempts to obtain the Episcopate from England, and the final failure of the attempts, they add: "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."
At the close of the address, after blessing God for the way opened in Scotland, whose bishops had freely given what they had freely received, they add, out of their full hearts, burning words of gratitude, and say: "Wherever the American Episcopal Church shall be mentioned in the world, may this good deed which they have done for us, be spoken of for a memorial of them."
To this address the bishop made a brief, but sufficient and dignified reply, expressing, among other things, his reliance on the "ready advice and assistance" of the clergy in the discharge of his office; so foreshadowing the character of his Episcopate.
The ordination was then proceeded with, and the four deacons were ordained. Dr. Leaming preached the sermon, as I have already said, and Mr. Jarvis "officiated as archdeacon" and presented the candidates. The order of service differed somewhat in arrangement, but in nothing else, from our order as it stands today. But the changes are not material enough to require any mention.
The ordination ended, the bishop dissolved the convention and directed the clergy to meet him in convocation at a later hour. This was the first convocation of the clergy of this diocese. They had before come together by their own agreement; now they were called together by their chief pastor. These meetings of the clergy continued till within my own memory, though they had ceased before I was consecrated, nor do I remember ever to have attended one as either deacon or presbyter. They were usually held. I believe, in connection with the sessions of the Diocesan Convention.
Of those who were admitted on that third of August to the diaconate, another will speak to you as I could not, so that little remains for me to add.
We can scarcely now imagine to ourselves the mingled joy and doubt, hopes and fears, thankfulness and uncertainty, that filled the minds and agitated the hearts of those who came together here a hundred years ago. The great point, no doubt, was gained; but what was to follow? Would the consecration of Seabury be everywhere accepted? or would there be those who would reject it because an Act of Parliament had established Presbyterianism in Scotland, and other Acts of Parliament had proscribed the Scotch Episcopate? Would all churchmen in all the thirteen States of the Confederation be united in one body? Or were there such discordant elements, that they who held to the Apostolic Faith and Order would be thrust out? Was there vitality enough in the Church in Connecticut to live and grow? Or, when they who composed it then were gone, would it dwindle and die out? No man could have answered those questions then; God has answered them since. And as we run back along the story of the years that have written out the answer which we read this day, we come at last to that day, so truly memorable, and to the bishop, the clergy, the candidates, who then assembled to take their several parts in the first Episcopal Ordination in America.
In the library of Trinity College is preserved -- many of us must have seen it -- Bishop Seabury's Mitre. I am sure I cannot better express what may be called our culminating thought today, than by quoting some lines written by the Bishop of Western New York on that venerable relic:
"The rod that from Jerusalem
"Go ask! a thousand tongues shall tell
"Aye! keep it for this mighty West
The Rev. Dr. Beardsley then read the following biographical account of the four candidates admitted to the diaconate by Bishop Seabury at his first ordination:
Of the candidates ordained in Middletown on the third of August, 1785, COLIN FERGUSON was the only one not of Connecticut. He came from Maryland, and the testimonials recommending him were signed by the Rev. Dr. William Smith, afterwards president of the House of Deputies, and others of that State. He was born in Kent County, and was the son of a Scotsman who emigrated to this country and maintained a respectable character but never rose to affluent circumstances. An opportunity occurred for the youth to accompany a Scottish schoolmaster about to return to Edinburgh, and he gladly availed himself of it and thus obtained a classical education without expense to his father. After several years spent at the University of Edinburgh, he came back to America with a good reputation for scholarship, but it does not appear that he had the ministry in mind so early as this. He found employment as an instructor, and upon the establishment of Washington College, Chestertown, Md., in 1782, he was chosen a professor in it, and held the place until Dr. Smith, the president or principal, returned to Philadelphia, when he was promoted to the headship of the institution. It was under the direction of Dr. Smith that he studied theology, and his ministerial labors were chiefly limited to St. Paul's Parish, Kent County, of which for sometime he had the charge in addition to his college duties. The degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred upon him shortly after his ordination by the institution with which he was connected, and was a deserved honor on the score of learning. He was a member of the August General Convention of 1789, and signed as one of the delegation from Maryland the "Resolves" of that body which led to the final union and settlement of the Church in all the States.
About the year 1804, the Legislature of Maryland passed enactments which deprived the college of the means of a liberal support, and Dr. Ferguson thereupon resigned his office and "retired to his farm in the vicinity of Georgetown Cross Roads, where he spent the remainder of his life." He died of paralysis on the 10th of March, 1806, in the 55th year of his age.
"As a preacher," says one [Footnote: P. Worth, in Sprague's Annals of the American Episcopal Pulpit, p.344.] who was his pupil for seven years and had constant opportunities to make observations upon his character, "I cannot say he possessed any remarkable power. His sermons, as specimens of composition, were of a high order, creditable to him as a scholar and a writer, but they were not strongly marked by an evangelical tone. Perhaps I should not do him injustice, if I was to say that his sermons, in this respect, were not very unlike those of the celebrated Dr. Hugh Blair."
I take the names of the candidates in the order in which they lie in the Registry Book of Bishop Seabury -- not that this order determines the actual order of ordination, for I am confident it does not.
HENRY VAN DYCK was born in the city of New York in 1744, and was the only son of his parents. He graduated from King's (now Columbia) College in 1761, when the institution was in charge of its first president, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson. After graduating, he studied law and located himself in Stratford, Conn., whither the family had removed and become settled. He married Huldah Lewis of that place, August 9, 1767, and on the sixth day of the ensuing month, he and his wife were admitted as communicants in Christ Church, which was then under the rectorship of Dr. Johnson for the second time, he having resigned the college and returned to Stratford.
It does not appear that he had much success in the legal profession, and he wrote his discouragements to William Samuel Johnson, special colonial agent from Connecticut, then in London, who confided in his integrity and had entrusted him with the collection of some debts that were his due. In his reply, Johnson said: "It gives me concern to find that you have not met with that obliging behaviour from the profession which you expected; those men at the bar have, I believe, most of them experienced the friendly assistance of those who have gone before them, and should not therefore in point of gratitude refuse it to help those who are coming forward and to succeed them, not to mention that it is exceedingly ungenerous and illiberal to endeavour to cramp rising genius, or use any attempts to monopolize a profession which should be ever open to men of merit, and especially those who enter into it in the regular methods of education. You will find, however, that nothing will so effectually overcome any difficulties, prejudices, or inconveniences of this nature as the course you say you are in, and in which therefore you will by all means persevere, of an assiduous, careful attention to your business and an upright, diligent conduct in every branch of your profession. This will secure you in the possession of the business you have, and increase it, enable you to transact it with ease and honor, and by degrees enforce the complaisance at least, if not the esteem, of those who by some slights and little negligences wished to have depressed you, and by that means perhaps secured to themselves a greater proportion of business.
"I sincerely give you and Mrs. Van Dyck joy upon your marriage, and hope you will long, very long, enjoy all the blessings of the connubial state, which I have ever esteemed essential to human happiness. It would have given me an additional pleasure to have known that your father had consented to it, and though it seems he would not, I still hope he may yet see such happy effects of the measure as to approve it and be convinced by its consequences that he ought not to have been so inflexibly averse to it." [Footnote: Ms. Letter, November 23, 1767.]
Mr. Van Dyck continued the practice of law until about the time of the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. He was brought forward as a lay-reader under the auspices of the Rev. Ebenezer Kneeland, successor in the Church at Stratford to the Rev. Dr. Johnson whose granddaughter, Charity, he had married. From the records of the Episcopal Church in the adjoining town of Milford, it appears that at a vestry meeting, held April 17, 1776, after electing wardens and vestrymen, Mr. Kneeland being present, it was "voted that Mr. Henry Van Dyke be desired to read prayers on such Sundays as Dr. Kneeland shall be absent, and that we will see him rewarded for his trouble." This was done with entire unanimity by the advice and consent of Mr. Kneeland. An item in a publication of the time, under date of August, 1779, though incorrect in reporting him as a clergyman, gives evidence that he had ceased to pursue the legal profession: "The Rev. Henry Van Dyke is at Norwalk, and wants to go to Long Island with his family."
After the independence of the colonies had been declared, the full use of the liturgy of the Church of England was no longer tolerated, and for ten years there was seldom any assembling for prayers or preaching or any new choice of officers in the Church at Milford. But in January, 1786, Mr. Van Dyck, being then in Holy Orders, proposed to take the care of the churches in Milford and West Haven, and his proposition was acceded to at a salary of 90 pounds per annum; Milford agreeing to pay two-thirds of it and West Haven the remainder. He removed with his family to Milford in the May following, and the church thought itself happily provided with a "pasture" for life.
In this, however, there was disappointment, for in February, 1787, "the appearance of a committee from Poughkeepsie" to secure him as rector in that place and Fishkill, made the people of Milford and West Haven somewhat indignant. They claimed that his engagement with them was for a longer period, while he affirmed that it terminated at the end of the year. He had been in treaty with the Church at Poughkeepsie for some time, and visited and officiated in it before he was in Holy Orders. The records show that he conducted divine service in Christ Church as early as June, 1784, and that the congregation desired the vestry to adopt such measures in conjunction with their brethren of Trinity Church, Fishkill, as might be proper for the settlement of Mr. Van Dyck. The arrangement was completed by offering him as compensation the use of the glebe, containing more than two hundred and fifty acres, and, 80 pounds New York currency from the parish in Poughkeepsie and 40 pounds from Fishkill. They wished him to come whether in orders or not, but nothing more was heard of him till he addressed a letter dated Stratford, May 22, 1785, to the vestry of Christ Church, requesting certificates and testimonials which would entitle him to ordination by Bishop Seabury who was already in Nova Scotia and "momentarily expected" in Connecticut.
"Our ordination," he said, "will take place immediately on his arrival, for which we are making all possible preparation, after which we shall repair to our several congregations as soon as we can." The preparation was probably under the direction and oversight of the Rev. Mr. Learning, the first choice of the clergy of Connecticut for bishop.
On the second Sunday after his ordination, in fulfilment of a promise which he had made, the Rev. Mr. Van Dyck visited the church in Fishkill, but he was only a bird of passage in doing this. His private affairs were in the way. He had become indebted to a gentleman in New York to the amount of L125, and under the trespass law of the State, if he entered it and remained, he was liable to arrest and imprisonment. The Legislature, by vote, permitted him to return, and finally an amicable adjustment was effected with the creditor through the agency of the vestry in Poughkeepsie, and he was established as rector of Christ Church, Whitsunday, May 27, 1787, and continued in charge till 1791. He then removed to New Jersey and became rector of St. Peter's Church, Amboy, and Christ Church, New Brunswick; but in July, 1793, he accepted the rectorship of St. Mary's, Burlington, which he held for three years. His residence in this place was saddened by painful domestic afflictions. The death of his widowed mother, who had been an inmate of his family for many years, followed by that of two of his daughters under peculiarly sorrowful circumstances, must have made him quite willing to leave Burlington, and assume, in 1797, the charge of St. James's Church, Newtown, L. I. Here he continued to officiate for five years, and he is said to have been the first clergyman who devoted his entire services to that parish. This was his last and longest rectorship, for he left Newtown in 1802, and on the 12th of September in that year he conducted the services in Grace Church, Jamaica, then vacant, "and offered to officiate further."
Davis [Footnote: John Davis, Travels of four Years and a half in the United States (1798-1802), p.155.], in his travels in the United States, speaks thus vividly of a visit he made to Newtown, and of his entertainment in the place: "I was fortunate enough to procure lodgings at Newtown under the roof of the Episcopal minister, Mr. Vandyke. The parsonage-house was not unpleasantly situated. The porch was shaded by a couple of huge locust trees, and accommodated with a long bench. Here I often sat with my host, who like Parson Adams always wore the cassock; but he did not read AEschylus. Mr. Vandyke was at least sixty; yet if a colt, a pig, or any other quadruped entered his paddock, he sprang from his seat with more than youthful agility, and vociferously chased the intruder from his domain. I could not but smile to behold the parson running after a pig and mingling his cries with those of the animal."
The New York Evening Post of September 17, 1804, contained this obituary: "Died early this morning, the Rev. Henry Van Dyck, aged sixty, one of the clergy of the Protestant Episcopal Church, and formerly rector of St. James's Church, Newtown. He was possessed of an affectionate heart and excellent understanding. He discharged with zeal, fidelity, and ability, the duties of his calling. In private life he was esteemed by all to whom he was known. Funeral this afternoon at five o'clock from his house, No.4 Cedar street, New York, where his friends and acquaintances are invited to attend."
It is stated in the Rev. Dr. Hills's History of the Church in Burlington, p.339, that two children survived him -- "a son and a daughter; Richard Vandyke married, had a large family, and lived to a good old age. He died in 1856." The death of the daughter, who never married, occurred thirty years earlier.
ASHBEL BALDWIN was born in a farm-house on the hills of Litchfield, Connecticut, March 7, 1757. His father, Isaac Baldwin, was a graduate of Yale College in the class of 1735, and an older brother, who bore the paternal name, was graduated in 1774. Ashbel was later, graduating in 1776, the year of the Declaration of American Independence. Isaac Baldwin the senior, on leaving college, began the study of theology and was licensed as a Congregational minister, and preached for a time in what is now the town of Washington, Conn. [Footnote: Dexter's Yale Biographies and Annals, 1701-1745; p.523.] But he soon relinquished the study, and turned his attention to agricultural pursuits, settling upon a farm in Litchfield, and becoming an eminently useful official in the public affairs of the town and county.
His son Ashbel contracted a lameness in boyhood by going into the water and imprudently exposing himself to a cold, which stiffened and shortened one of his limbs and made his gait ever afterward unequal and limping. He had not relinquished his attachment to the Congregational order when he graduated and subsequently took a temporary tutorship in a Church family in New York. Stanch churchmen in those days, if for any cause the parish church was closed on Sunday, turned their parlors into chapels, and had in private the full morning service. Mr. Baldwin, being the educated member of the household, was required to act as lay-reader, and not knowing how to use the Prayer-Book, and yet ashamed to confess his ignorance to the head of the family, he sought the assistance and friendship of the gardener, who gave him the necessary instructions, and very soon love and admiration of the Liturgy and conversion to the Church followed. How long he continued in his private tutorship is unknown.
For two or three years during the Revolutionary War he held the appointment of a quartermaster in the Continental army, and was stationed for a time at Litchfield, where there was a large depository of military stores, "principally taken at the surrender of General Burgoyne," and guarded by a considerable detachment of soldiers. For his services in this capacity he received a pension from government, which became his principal means of support in the last year of his life.
Upon the cessation of hostilities and the acknowledgment of Independence, he applied himself to theological studies, and though but a candidate for Holy Orders, he was an interested spectator at the meeting of the clergy in Woodbury on the Feast of the Annunciation, 1783, when choice was made of the first bishop of Connecticut.
On Monday, June 20, 1785, Bishop Seabury arrived at Newport, R.I., after a voyage from London of three months, including his stay in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and reaching his future home in Connecticut a week later, preparations were immediately begun to meet his clergy and hold his first ordination. Of the four candidates admitted by him to the diaconate in this city a century ago to-day, Van Dyck, Baldwin, and Shelton belonged to Connecticut, and were recommended by its clergy, of whom in convention assembled the Rev. Jeremiah Leaming was president. Mr. Baldwin was sent at once to his native place, and continued in charge of St. Michael's Church, Litchfield, till 1793, when he resigned and accepted the rectorship of the venerable parish at Stratford. He was instrumental in awakening the zeal of the Episcopalians of Litchfield county, and leading them to re-open their churches after the desolations of the war as well as to project new ones. His recognized position in the diocese was early one of influence and responsibility, and his energy and facility in the dispatch of business made him especially useful in the deliberative and legislative assemblies of the Church. He was chosen Secretary of the Convention of the Diocese of Connecticut in 1796, and continued to discharge the duties of that office for a period of nearly thirty years. He was a deputy to the General Convention for an equally long period, and held the office of Secretary in the House of Deputies, from which he retired in 1823 with the thanks of that body "for his long and faithful services."
As the General Convention of 1799 was the first which Mr. Baldwin attended in the capacity of a deputy, so that of 1823 was the last. He was conspicuous in that council for remarkable self- possession, and promptness and facility in giving expression to his opinions. The type of his theology led him to take the "old paths," and reverence for the memory of the bishop who ordained him held him up to a high standard of legislation for the Church. He would have her doctrines and discipline well defined and guarded, and his first action in the House of Deputies was to move a resolution to take into consideration the propriety of framing Articles of Religion. He lived at a period when Puritanism was rife in New England, especially in Connecticut, and while it was his policy to avoid being drawn into controversy, his devotion to the interests of the Episcopal Church never faltered or became doubtful under any pressure of circumstances. He was a parson without the smallest trace of bigotry, and attracted and retained the affections of all who was privileged to know him well in his private and official capacity. He was a good reader of the Liturgy, an instructive, if not a learned preacher, and had a clear, sonorous voice, and a persuasive manner which rendered his discourses acceptable to all classes of people. His best and happiest days were passed in Stratford, where for over thirty years he held the rectorship of the parish which had been served by those two eminent divines, Johnson and Leaming.
For a portion of the time he had this parish in connection with the neighboring one at Tashua, ministering to the latter every third Sunday, and holding frequent services in school-houses and private dwellings. His mode of travelling was in a chaise, and on one occasion he drove up rather hurriedly to meet an appointment at a house where the people had already assembled, and stepping nimbly down from his seat he was accosted by the host who was not a churchman: "I suppose, Mr. Baldwin, as it is the season of Lent, you will not take any refreshments before beginning the service." "No, nothing for me," was the reply; "but my horse is a Presbyterian; he must be fed."
Mr. Baldwin was a man of keen discernment, quick apprehensions, and ready retort. In social intercourse he had wonderful powers of adapting himself to circumstances, and was alike an acceptable visitor in the families of the wealthy and refined, the humble and the uneducated, and a welcome guest at their tables. It was his practice, as it was the practice of many of the clergy in that day, to administer baptism in private houses, using the occasion of a lecture to make the office a public one. Very often whole households were baptized in this way, and sometimes their connection with the Church was afterwards unfortunately lost through neglect to exercise a proper degree of vigilance and care.
Mr. Baldwin married Miss Clarissa Johnson of Guilford, a grand- niece of his predecessor in Stratford, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Johnson. She died childless many years before him, and he never married again. He was in the full possession of his mental faculties and blessed with a fair degree of health when he resigned, in 1824, the Rectorship of Christ Church. For a time he lingered in the neighborhood of Stratford, but could not be idle, and was soon in charge of the parish in Meriden, and afterwards officiated in several places, as Tashua, Wallingford, North Haven, Oxford, and Quakers' Farms. Ten years were thus passed, doing what he could for the Church which he had served so faithfully and loved so much; but in 1834 failure of eyesight and other infirmities obliged him to cease from all public service and go into retirement. It was natural for him to dwell for the rest of his days among or near his old parishioners, and for many years, as it suited his convenience, he resided at New Haven, Bridgeport, and Stratford. He was at the latter place in 1837, when he addressed a letter to Bishop Brownell, taking an affectionate leave of the Diocesan Convention then sitting in New Haven, and resigning the only office of trust in its gift which he had continued to hold.
The letter was characteristic of the man, chaste and beautiful in its style, and pathetic in its allusions. The concluding paragraph read:
"My dear Sir, when I first entered the Church her condition was not very flattering. Surrounded by enemies on every side, and opposed with much virulence, her safety and even her very existence were at times somewhat questionable; but by the united and zealous exertions of the clergy, attended by the blessings of her great Founder, she has been preserved in safety through every storm, and now presents herself with astonishment to every beholder, not as a grain of mustard seed, but as a beautiful tree, spreading its salubrious branches over our whole country. The Church, by a strict adherence to its ancient landmarks, its priesthood, its liturgy, and its government, has been preserved from those schisms which seem to threaten the peace of a very respectable body of Christians in our country. May the same unanimity and zeal which animated our fathers, still be preserved in the Church. My days of pilgrimage, I know, are almost closed, and I can do no more than to be in readiness, by the grace of God, to leave the Church militant in peace. May I be permitted, Sir, to ask the prayers of my bishop and his clergy, that my last days may be happy."
Mr. Baldwin went to Rochester, N.Y., a few years later, and became an inmate in the family of one who had removed thither from Connecticut, and who was under special obligations to him for kindness and care bestowed in previous years. He died in that city on Sunday, February 8, 1846, lacking twenty-seven days to complete his eighty-ninth year. There is a memorial window erected to him in the chancel of Grace Church, Long Hill, Conn., which occupies ground included in the scene of his early ministration.
PHILO SHELTON was a grandson of Daniel Shelton, the founder of the New England branch of the Shelton family in America. He was one of a family of fourteen children, and was born in Ripton (now Huntington) on the 7th of May, 1754. He received a classical education, and was the first alumnus of Yale College who bore the name of Shelton. He graduated in 1775, just after the outbreak of the Revolutionary war, and soon, as a candidate for Holy Orders, he acted in the capacity of a lay-reader in several places until his ordination. When a British expedition under the command of Gen. Tryon was fitted out at New York in 1779, to subdue the shore-towns of Connecticut, Fairfield was one of the places invaded, the torch was applied to the dwellings of the rich and the poor, and the Episcopal church there, the parsonage, and other property belonging to the parish were consumed in the general conflagration. This destruction impoverished and depressed the people as a whole, and many of them fled; but the few churchmen who remained rallied from all discouragement, rebuilt their houses, and met in them on Sundays to worship God according to the forms of the old liturgy, Philo Shelton having been secured for a lay-reader. He read at the same time for the Episcopalians at Stratfield, where a wooden church was built as early as 1748, and also for those in Weston, where the flock had not been broken up by the disasters of the Revolution.
While waiting for ordination, he settled in life and married, April 20, 1781, Lucy, daughter of Philip Nichols, Esq., of Stratfield (now Bridgeport), [Footnote: The marriage was undoubtedly solemnized by the Rev. Christopher Newton of Ripton, the only Church clergyman in the vicinity, and still Mr. Shelton's rector. He baptized the first child, Lucy, born June 27, 1782.] strong churchman and first lay-delegate chosen to represent the Diocese of Connecticut in the General Convention. In February, 1785, a formal arrangement was made that his services in each of the three places should be proportioned to the number of churchmen residing in them respectively, and until he should be in Orders it was stipulated to pay him twenty shillings lawful money for each day that he officiated. Ashbel Baldwin, his nearest neighbor in parochial work, and most intimate friend and associate in efforts to build up the Church in Connecticut, used to say that the hands of Bishop Seabury were first laid upon the head of Mr. Shelton on the 3d of August, 1785, so that his name really begins the long list of clergy who have had ordination in this country by bishops of the Protestant Episcopal Church. In the Diocesan Convention, under an established rule of that body, he invariably outranked Mr. Baldwin, and so was frequently the presiding officer in the absence of the Bishop, which is another proof that he was his senior by ordination as well as in years. At the first convocation of the clergy after the death of Bishop Jarvis, held in Stratford, June 1, 1813, Mr. Baldwin, as Secretary, entered the names of twenty-nine who were present, and then recorded: "The Rev. Doctor Mansfield desired to be excused from serving as President on account of his age and infirmities; which excuse was accepted by the brethren. The Rev. Philo Shelton, being the next oldest presbyter, took the chair." Should it be said that this does not refer to the diaconate, it may be answered that the obituary notice of his widow, who died in 1838, speaks of him as "the first clergyman ordained by the first American Bishop."
After his admission to Holy Orders, according to his own statement, Mr. Shelton took full "pastoral charge of the cure of Fairfield, including Stratfield and Weston, dividing his time equally between the three churches, with a salary of one hundred pounds per annum from the congregations and the use of what lands belonged to the cure." It was a small living for a clergyman who already had a wife and two children, but the Revolutionary War had so reduced the people and their resources, that it could not well be made larger. Five years passed away before the enterprise of building a new church in Fairfield was really begun, and then it was erected about a mile west of the site where the old one stood, and was only inclosed and made fit for occupancy at the time, and not finished and consecrated till 1798.
The population was drifting from Stratfield toward the borough of Bridgeport, and in 1801 it was deemed advisable to demolish the old church and build a new one in a more central situation. Mr. Shelton saw the wisdom of this movement and encouraged it, though it was attended very naturally with some painful considerations, and took away a pleasing picture from the landscape which filled the vision of Dr. Dwight when he wrote his poem entitled "Greenfield Hill":
"Here, sky-encircled, Stratford's churches beam, And Stratfield's turrets greet the roving eye."
The new church in the borough was so far completed as to be used for public worship in the beginning of Advent, 1801, and two years later "the ground floor was sold at public vendue for the purpose of building the pews and seats thereon, and finishing the church; and the money raised in the sale amounted to between six and seven hundred dollars." The cost of the building -- about thirty-five hundred dollars -- was over and above this, and was met by the voluntary contributions of the people. Mr. Shelton, in speaking of the completion of the whole work, said: "It has been conducted in harmony, with good prudence, strict economy, and a degree of elegance and taste which does honor to the committee, and adds respectability to the place."
For nearly forty years the scene of his ministerial labors was undisturbed, and he dwelt among his people in quietness and confidence, and had the satisfaction of seeing them attain to a high degree of worldly prosperity, and St. John's Church in Bridgeport, especially, to be one of the strongest and most flourishing in the diocese. The silent influence of a good life carried him along smoothly, and left its gentle impress wherever he was known. "A faithful pastor, a guileless and godly man," is a part of the inscription upon the marble monument erected over his ashes in the Mountain Grove Cemetery at Bridgeport, a few years since, by his son William, and these words sum up very appropriately his ministerial and Christian character.
While he confined himself closely to the duties of his cure, he shrank not from work put upon him by the diocese, and was for twenty-four years a member of the standing committee, and a firm supporter of ecclesiastical authority in seasons of trial and trouble. He was also several times chosen a deputy to the General Convention, and never failed to attend its sessions.
There were things that gave him great pain towards the end of his days, and "put his confidence in the providence of God to a severe test." He and Mr. Baldwin, so long earnest and friendly workers in adjoining fields of labor, appear to have reached the same determination at the same time, and probably they conferred together before resigning their respective rectorships, which they both did in 1824. Bishop Brownell, referring to this action in his address to the annual convention of that year said: "These clergymen were admitted to their ministry at the first Episcopal ordination ever held in America, and have served their respective parishes for more than thirty years. They have labored faithfully in the Church in this diocese during its darkest periods of depression, and through the progressive stages of its advancement they have taken an important part in its councils. They have 'borne the burden and heat of the day,' and are entitled to the gratitude of all those who enjoy the fruits of their counsels and labors."
Mr. Shelton confined his services after this wholly to the Church in Fairfield, but he did not long survive the change. He died on the 27th of February, 1825, and was buried under the chancel of the old church in Mill Plain, Fairfield, where he had ministered so many years, including his time as lay-reader, and a marble tablet was provided by the congregation to mark his resting-place, on which among other things were inscribed the date of his birth, graduation, admission to Holy Orders, and the words: "being the first clergyman episcopally ordained in the United States."
In 1842 the parishioners of Trinity Church, Fairfield, voted to remove all the public services to the chapel, which had been built seven years before in the borough of Southport, about a mile and a half distant from Mill Plain, and to transfer the site, title, and rights of the parish to that edifice. The old church was afterwards taken down and parts of it used to build the rectory in Southport. The memorial tablet was also transferred, but on the afternoon of March 11, 1854, the Southport Church was accidentally burnt, and the tablet destroyed. The remains of Mr. Shelton now have a final resting-place with his sainted wife and two of his daughters in the cemetery before mentioned. A monumental tablet in the wall of St. John's Church, Bridgeport, "bears an affectionate testimony to his Christian worth and ministerial fidelity." Bishop Brownell, in his address to the Annual Convention of the Diocese, said of him very truly: "He has faithfully and successfully labored for almost forty years in the parish from which his Divine Master has now called him to his rest. He has taken an important part in the ecclesiastical concerns of the diocese, from the period of its first organization, and the moderation and prudence of his counsels have contributed, in no small degree, to the welfare of the Church. For simplicity of character, amiable manners, unaffected piety, and a faithful devotion to the duties of the ministerial office, he has left an example by which all his surviving brethren may profit, and which few of them can hope to surpass."
His widow survived him thirteen years -- an intelligent and devout churchwoman who, as it has been said, "left a name only to be loved and honored by her friends." Two of his sons entered the ministry. The younger of them, George Augustus Shelton, a graduate of Yale College, died in 1863, Rector of St. James's Church, Newtown, L. I. The other, the late William Shelton, D. D., succeeded his father for a time in Fairfield, and then went to Buffalo, where for more than half a century he was the distinguished Rector of St. Paul's Church, the oldest parish in that city. Both died childless, and the name of Shelton has disappeared from the list of our clergy.
The Bishop then proceeded with the service, being assisted in the administration by the Rev. Dr. Beardsley and the Rev. Messrs. Francis Goodwin and S. O. Seymour of Hartford. After the service, the churchwomen of Middletown entertained the clergy and visitors at the Berkeley Divinity School.
The following is a list of the clergymen who were present:
The Right Rev. the Bishop; the Rev. Dr. Beardsley of New Haven; the Rev. Messrs. E. W. Babcock, New Haven; Prof. John Binney, Middletown; J. W. Bradin, Hartford; Sylvester Clarke, Bridgeport; Francis Goodwin, Hartford; F. D. Harriman, Middle Haddam; Prof. Samuel Hart, Hartford; J. W. Hyde, West Hartford; Prof. W. A. Johnson, Middletown; W. F. Nichols, Hartford; J. L. Parks, Middletown; Prof. F. T. Russell, Waterbury; B. S. Sanderson, Wethersfield; S. O. Seymour, Hartford; John Townsend, Middletown; S. H. Watkins. Bristol; W. W. Webb, Middletown; Charles Westermann, Middle Haddam; Henry Edwards, Hagerstown, Md.: W. B. Walker, Augusta, Ga.