« AnteriorContinuar »
The protestant episcopal church (of England) has probably increased more slowly, than any other denomination of Christians in the United States, in proportion to the number of their emigrants, and their wealth, intelligence, and the efforts which they have made. This has been owing partly to the form of their church government, whose hierarchy does not well accord with the genius of our republican institutions. It is a plan, that was originally modelled after the form of the Roman monarchy, and in monarchies it has always succeeded best. We have no instance of its ever flour. ishing to any great extent in a republic, and it is probable it never will. The slowness of its growth, has also in part proceeded from the general lukewarmness of its members, in relation to practical piety,--a lukewarmness which the more pious episcopalians always deplore.
Many of its clergy are men of learning and intelligence; many are of an opposite character; and they are all either in whole, or in part, disciples of the Arminian school. We know not a man among them all in America, who maintains a definite atonement.
In 1784, in a convention of the clergy and congregations of this church in Pennsylvania, an act was passed, adopting the thirty-nine articles of the church of England, and declar. ing that the doctrines of the church of England, as then pro. fessed, should form the creed of the episcopal church in America. Soon after, in the same year, a similar act was passed by a convention of the whole episcopal church in the United States.
The number of their clergy in 1814, without including those of Virginia, from which there were no returns, was one hundred and seventy-nine. Their vacancies are very numerous. They have probably upwards of two hundred mi. nisters, and near two hundred and fifty congregations. Their efforts to enlarge the boundaries of their church are great; and in this way, bishop Hobart has distinguished his zeal for the promotion of the interests of the church to which he belongs. They build splendid edifices, for places of worship, and endow them with great liberality, which is another
mode in which they exert themselves to increase their num. bers. In this way considerable effect has been produced, in the western part of the state of New York, among the emigrants from New England. A minister of the episcopal church goes into a neighbourhood in which there is no church; asks the people how much they will contribute to the erection of one; and proposes to make up the deficiency, provided they will accept of an episcopalian minister. Considering their wealth and activity, we can only account for the slowness of their growth, from the causes before mentioned.
In Pennsylvania, there is a society formed, for the propagation of episcopalianism, the annual contribution of whose members, is sufficient to support two or three missionaries; and with such funds, it must produce considerable effect, where there is a very extensive field to cultivate.
It is surprising that a body, possessing so much political wisdom, and such means, has never concentred its efforts for the formation of a theological school. In 1814, a proposition to that effect, was brought before the convention, but it was negatived. Should such a school be formed, and there can hardly exist a doubt but it will, one of two events will occur. Either the episcopal church will become Socinian, or more friendly to Calvinism. The latter event is more probable; as many of their clergy are latterly becoming more evangelical, and a spirit of practical piety begins to be awakened in some sections of the church. Whitby is recommended to their students of theology, and generally read, and approved. But should a theological school be established, and young men, from various and distant parts of the United States, be brought together, their minds would be expanded; some other books than the effusions of Arminians would fall into their hands; and a spirit of liberal enquiry would be awakened. They would read the works of the early reformers, and the yoke of bigotry, which is now bound on their shoulders, would be shaken off.
There have been very few theological writers in the episcopalian church of America. Bishop White, has lately pub
lished a small volume entitled “A Comparison between Calvinism and Arminianism." He calls the Calvinistic plan “ a gloomy system;" and no doubt it is to all who do not understand it; applauds Whitby, and exerts himself in the promotion of the Arminian system. Generally it is a very mild work as to the manner; just such as we should expect from the amiable man; but highly toned Arminianism in the sentiments which it contains.
Columbia college in New York, and the university of Pennsylvania, are almost exclusively in the hands of this church. The Rev. Dr. Harris, is president of the former, and the Rev. Dr. Beazely, provost of the latter. These are the only important colleges of which they have the chief direction. But the almost entire banishment of every thing like religion from nearly all our colleges, and grammar schools, except morning prayers, renders most of them nearly neutral as to the propagation of any religious creeds. Harvard university and Yale college, form exceptions to this remark. The minds of youth, however, may be expected to receive a tincture from the modes of thought, and the opinions of their teachers.
To conclude this sketch, a very large majority of the professors of religion in the United States, are either Hopkinsians, or entire Arminians, and as such opposed to the doctrine of a definite atonement. The wealth of the nation is in the hands of error; and the learning is pretty equally divided. Piety is on the side of Calvinism, in all cases, though many pious men are erroneous in some of their opinions.