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They, however, still deferred any definite action in the premises, till duly informed of the nature of the alterations made in the Book of Common Prayer. Such information having been collected soon after, by their inspection of a copy of that book, as demanded by the convention, the two archbishops again wrote to the committee, that besides some smaller alterations, they were particularly dissatisfied with the omission of the Nicene and the Athanasian Creeds; and of the descent into hell of the Apostles' Creed. And also of an article in the proposed constitution, which seemed to them to subject the future bishops to trial by the presbyters and the laymen, in the respective states. These points satisfactorily explained, the committee were notified of the probable passage of an act of Parliament, authorizing them to consecrate for America, any clergymen bearing the proper credentials as to character, faith, learning, &c.
At a meeting of the second General Convention in Philadelphia, June 20th, 1786, together with an adjourned meeting held on the 10th of October following, the above objections of the English prelates were removed, by the assurance, that in reference to the article in the constitution respecting the trial of bishops, the provision for the presidency of a bishop in conventions and in ecclesiastical trials, more than done away the ground of that censure. That the Nicene Creed had been restored. Also, the clause in the Apostles' Creed, of the descent into hell. But, that they still persisted in the rejection of the Athanasian Creed: all of which had been preceded by the declaration of their determination not to depart from the doctrines of the English Church, nor to make any further alterations than such as appeared conducive to union.
Having received intelligence from the Archbishop of Canterbury, of the passage of an act by Parliament, authorizing the consecration of American bishops, the following persons were duly chosen for that office, viz.:
Dr. Samuel Provoost, Rector of Trinity Church, New York; Dr. Wm. White, Rector of Christ Church, and of St. Peter's, in the city of Philadelphia; and Dr. David Griffith, Rector of Fairfax Parish, Virginia, each by their respective conventions. This latter gentleman, owing to occurrences in his domestic situation, resigned. The two other clergymen embarked for London early in November of 1786, and were consecrated in the Chapel of the Archiepiscopal Palace of Lambeth.
Thus the episcopate, in the line of succession from the English Church, was finally secured to the American branch, of which the following is a tabular view, from A. D. 1784 to A. D. 1843, inclusive:
SUCCESSION OF BISHOPS IN THE AMERICAN CHURCH-CONCLUDED.
The third General Convention (triennial), composed of the States of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, was held in Philadelphia, July 28, 1789, which sat for ten days. Bishop White only was present, Bishop Provoost being detained by sickness. The first act of the convention was, to recognise the consecration of these two bishops. The next, to perpetuate the succession. This matter again involved the question of the validity of Bishop Seabury's consecration, a test of which was furnished at hand, by the election of the Rev. Edward Bass, rector of St. Paul's Church in Newburyport, their bishop, and requesting the bishops of Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, to unite in consecrating him. But, though the convention, with their president, voted an opinion in favour of the validity of Bishop Seabury's consecration; still, before they felt themselves warranted in conferring the office upon an American candidate, they awaited the return from England of the Rev. Dr. Madison, who had been sent thither for consecration as the bishop elect of the Convention of Virginia. Before the adjournment of the convention, however, an invitation was given to Bishop Seabury, and the eastern brethren generally, to attend the next session, to be held on the 29th of September ensuing, with a view to a permanent union; which invitation was accepted. The credentials of Bishop Seabury's consecration were presented and acknowledged, and after one alteration of the constitution at their desire, they declared their acquiescence in it, and gave it their signatures accordingly. Suffice it to add on this subject, that
after Bishop Madison's return from England, the first consecration which took place in the American Episcopal Church, was that of the Rev. Dr. Thomas John Claggett, elected by the Convention of Maryland in 1792, and that Bishop Seabury united with Bishops White, Provoost, and Madison, in that act.
During the convention of 1789, the constitution formed in 1786 was reviewed and new modelled. The principal feature now given to it, was a distribution into two houses; the House of Bishops, and the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, who were to vote by orders when required. The convention was to meet triennially, on the second Tuesday in September.
At this convention the Liturgy was reviewed and amended as we now find it. Some canons previously passed were also reconsidered and adopted or amended; and others were added from time to time at subsequent conventions, till they have assumed the form in which they now appear in the "Journal of the General Convention, together with the Constitution of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States," for the year 1841. It is, however, perhaps, worthy of observation, that at the General Convention of 1792, the greater part of the time of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, was taken up with debates on the proposed absolute negative of the bishops. This fact, however, is not recorded in the journal for that year. Why not? And then, in addition, we are told, that the debates were conducted without any interference on the part of the bishops. How modest! The final determination of the question was deferred to the next convention.
From the preceding, the attentive reader cannot fail to discover the existence, prior to the introduction of the episcopate in the American Church, of an "excessive fear," even amongst churchmen, of episcopal domination, so that there was at first absolutely a vigorous opposition to having any bishops established on this side of the water. Such would also do well to "remember the time when the bishops were not allowed to constitute a co-ordinate branch of the general legislature of the church at all." That "they were only private members of the General Convention;" and "that even after the House of Bishops was established, it was by slow degrees, and in the face of wakeful opposition, that they attained a legislative equality with what has since been called the lower house.' An arrangement by which three men could counterbalance, at any time, the assembled representation of the church at large."
The closing events of this compend will furnish occasion for further remarks on this subject.