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great religious organisers of the world. Towards the beginning of the eighteenth century Doctor Thomas Bray, — shocked and saddened by the stories of spiritual destitution, and clerical inefficiency, which arrived from across the ocean, — declined the offer of valuable benefices in England, sold all the goods that he possessed there, and sailed for America invested with the thankless office of Commissary to the Bishop of London in Maryland. Bray's services to the Church of his devotion extended far beyond the boundaries of the colony to which he was accredited; for he conceived the idea, and designed and constructed the machinery, of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Pa Those sagacious and earnest men, who guided the counsels and disbursed the resources of the lastnamed Association, laboured successfully to infuse vigour and purity into the Episcopalian Churches of America.1 The rise and spread of Anglicanism in Connecticut was due to their inspiration. Their missionaries, — chosen with care and on the spot, — exhibited an example which awakened the conscience, and stirred the zeal, of the better-intentioned among the parish clergy of the Southern provinces, and shamed the undeserving into decency of conduct; and their agents were the first to undertake, in any systematic way, the religious and the secular instruction of negro slaves. But this excellent corporation, under another aspect, was not blameless. Some of their clerical emissaries refused to work with, and not unfrequently or unwillingly worked against, those other religious denominations which already covered so large a field in the American colonies; and, above all, the annual meeting of the Society in London was an occasion
1 A letter to the Propagation Society, despatched in 1705, deplores the hostility evinced towards the English Church by the Puritans of Massachusetts. “They fail not to improve every little thing against us. But, (I bless God for it,) the Society have robbed them of their best argument, which was the ill lives of our clergy that came into these parts. And, the truth is, I have not seen many good men but of the Society's sending."
when Christianity did not habitually display a gracious and inviting countenance. The central event of these periodical gatherings consisted in a sermon from a bishop, who too often consumed much of his time, and almost all of his fervour and unction, in contending that no Gospel ought to be propagated except that which was taught by Anglican divines. Sometimes the preacher broadly and bluntly animadverted upon the doctrinal tenets and political tendencies of those whom, before that audience, he boldly and safely characterised as “the American Nonconformists;” but these direct attacks were less irritating, and incomparably less alarming, to New England public opinion than were the studied reticences of abler and more artful orators. A favourite method with the preacher of the Anniversary Discourse was to represent the whole American community, outside the circuit of the Anglican Church, as unbroken ground for religious propagandism and missionary enterprise; to describe the settlers as having relapsed into a condition of heathendom ever since they had deserted the ritual of their forefathers; and coldly, calmly, and deliberately to ignore the ecclesiastical existence of those Presbyterians, Independents, and Baptists who constituted the vast majority of the colonial population.
Such a sermon, never forgotten or pardoned by those against whom its implied censures were aimed, was delivered by Secker, then Bishop of Oxford, in the year 1742. A notable passage in that discourse solemnly lamented that many of the early emigrants to America carried but little of Christianity abroad with them, while a great part of the rest had suffered it to wear out gradually, until in some provinces there were scarce any footsteps of it left beyond the mere name. In those districts no religious assembly was held ; the Lord's day was distinguished from the remainder of the week only by more unbridled indulgence in vice and dissipation; and the Sacrament of Baptism had not been administered for near twenty years, nor that of the Lord's Supper for
fifty. Such, (ejaculated the bishop,) was the state of things in more of our colonies than one; and, “where it was a little better, it was lamentably bad.” The sermon was published in America, and read, - with what feelings and faces it is not hard to imagine, — by the Deacon and the Elders in many a strictly ordered New Hampshire and Massachusetts parish. The same line of unwarranted assertion, and uncharitable insinuation, was adopted by the Bishop of Gloucester in 1766, and by the Bishop of Llandaff in 1767. That was a time when the friendship between America and Great Britain had already, from other causes, been so seriously disturbed that a true patriot, (not to say a good Christian,) should have been scrupulously watchful to guard and moderate his utterances.
Regularly as the year came round, the leaders of the principal Churches in America protested, before Heaven and man, against the injustice of denouncing their nation as, in the main, a depraved and unbelieving people. Doctor Chauncey of Boston eloquently complained that the colonists were accused of having abandoned their native religion together with their parent soil, and of living without remembrance or knowledge of God, without any Divine worship, in dissolute wickedness and the most brutal profligacy of manners. They had sometimes, (wrote the Doctor,) been blamed for having too much religion; but never, except by English prelates, for having no religion at all. Men recalled to each other's memory how Archbishop Laud, in a well-known phrase, had declared that he "could find no religion” in
1“A letter to a Friend, containing Remarks on certain Passages in a Sermon, preached by the Right Reve John Bishop of Llandaff, before the Incorporated Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, at the Anniversary Meeting in the Parish Church of St. Mary le Bow, London, Feb. 20, 1767 ; in which the highest Reproach is undeservedly cast upon the American Colonies. By Charles Chauncey, D.D., Pastor of the First Church of Christ in Boston." As also “A Letter to the Right Reverend Father in God, John Lord Bishop of Llandaff; occasioned by some Passages in his Lordship's Sermon, in which the American Colonies are loaded with great and undeserved Reproach ; by William Livingston of New York,"
Scotland, - at a period in history when, in the country which had produced John Knox and Andrew Melville, it was difficult for an unprejudiced observer to find anything else. Hardly less disdainful, on the eve of the Revolution in America, was the behaviour of English bishops towards every Church on that continent save and except their own. They were actuated, (so Congregationalists and Presbyterians sincerely believed,) by Laud's spirit; and, if ever they had the power and the opportunity, they would be only too eager to revive Laud's policy.
These mutual jealousies and suspicions had long ago been concentrated over the question of planting a bishop in America. The suggestion was heartily favoured by Churchmen in every colony abroad, and in the palace of every diocese in England. Archbishop Tenison, and Sir John Trelawney the Bishop of Winchester, had left a thousand pounds apiece towards the foundation and equipment of a Transatlantic see. Secker bequeathed a like sum ; and a substantial legacy was devised by a Lady of great family, who yet was "incomparably more eminent for her Virtues than her Quality.”
In the year 1697 a worthy Virginian divine exclaimed that, on the day when a Bishop landed in America, he would say, with Saint Bernard in his Epistle, that the finger of God was in it. Commissary Bray of Maryland, and Commissary Blair of Virginia, — who were the mainstay and ornament of the Anglican Church in their respective provinces, — had been instant with the Government at home to take steps for making Episcopacy in America a living reality; and their clerical colleagues and successors were universally of the same mind. The cry was swelled by the voices of lay partisans, some of whom did not know the difference between Presbyterians and Congregationalists, but who abominated both sects equally on account of the length of their sermons, the soberness of their manners, and the severity of their morals. In that way of thinking was Alexander
Macrabie, the brother-in-law and correspondent of Philip Francis. “Oh! Do let us have a bishop!” (Macrabie wrote in 1769). “Our clergy are quarrelling like dog and bear; and I fear the Presbytery get the better." “The Presbyterians," he said elsewhere, “ should not be allowed to become too great. They are of republican principles. The Bostonians are Presbyterians." 1
Anglicans, – good men, or less good, alike, — were for the appointment of a bishop; but that proposal was keenly resented by the mass of the American people. The colonists had no desire to oppress or starve the English Church within their borders, as the adoption of the Five Mile Act by Massachusetts and Connecticut unanswerably proved. Nor had they in principle any objection to a bishop as the adviser, the overseer, and the spiritual guide of his own clergy; but they would have none of him in the character of a State functionary. Reading the future by the past, all the great Evangelical organisations of America regarded the Anglican Church as an aggressive power. Within no very distant memory, Episcopalians had annexed New York and New Jersey, Georgia and Maryland. In those colonies where Congregationalism was established they received, without any sign of gratitude, their share of all the taxes imposed for purposes of religion ; but in Virginia and the Carolinas they kept the whole of those taxes for themselves. While religious persecution was dying out elsewhere, Baptists were still being punished for preaching in a colony where the English Church held sway. In the public assemblies of that Church, and in its printed literature, nine out of ten Americans were classified as schismatics; and it was impossible to contemplate without uneasiness a state of things under which the strategical operations of Anglicanism in
1 This gentleman, — who apparently was ignorant that the Established Church in Boston was Congregationalist, - hated Presbyterians because they had made one of his friends do public penance for gross profligacy; "and :h2 fellow,” said Macrabie "was worth upwards of ten thousand pounds !"