« ElőzőTovább »
be broken of adhering strictly to personal memories. An exception must be made, however, for the purpose of introducing one of the most striking incidents in the earliest years of his Episcopate, related so often by the Rev. Thomas Carlile, as to assume much of the distinctness of a memory. The occasion of his first allusion to it was this: we were together upon some diocesan business, at the house of the Rev. Dr. Morss, of Newburyport, when, upon a question of the interpretation of a canon, some one present mentioned his having corresponded with the then Bishop of New-Jersey, in order to arrive at a just solution of the difficulty. The gentle Bishop felt the discourtesy of such a course to the very quick, he himself not having been consulted; and not less sensitive to the rudeness of alluding to it in such a presence, was our refined and tenderhearted friend, Mr. Carlile. The moment we were alone, he adverted to it in terms of severe reprehension, and then added that one case of undesigned disrespect towards his Bishop was enough for him. The letter of gentle reprimand which he had received, had, he hoped, effectually checked all such proclivity in him—if any such there were—more especially towards one so meek and unpretending as our Bishop.
The case which he thereupon related was on this wise : he was the youngest of some four or five resident graduates at Cambridge, amongst whom the distinguished names are remembered, of Wainwright, Boyle, Gibbs, and Otis, who, in the then exceeding dearth of clergy, were in the habit of filling the pulpits of the neighborhood very much as if they were clergymen in full orders, and at about the English rates, a guinea a service. And as, up to that time, “there had been no king in Israel, and every man did very much as seemed best in his own eyes,” to give more dignity to the practice, they wore the black gown, ascended the pulpit, and drawing forth a manuscript--not indeed of their own composition, but a neat transcript of the sermon of some more able divineproceeded to declaim with an unction greater, probably, than they would have dared to attempt to infuse into more juvenile productions. Whether rumors of these irregular proceedings found their way or not to the doors of the General Convention at which Bishops Hobart and Griswold were consecrated, is not known ; but certain it is that at that session the Canon was passed which, in substance, has ever since been the law of the Church, regulating the practice of lay readers under like circumstances. Immediately upon his return to Rhode Island, our good Bishop wrote to Dr. Eaton, of Christ Church, Boston, to make the facts known to the young gentlemen at Cambridge, intimating to them in the most kindly manner that he should expect immediate compliance; at the same time, however, giving them plainly to understand that non-compliance would present a very serious bar to their ordination. No explosive, in any camp, ever produced greater consternation. Amid the comments of that community, to come down from their high pedestal and to strip themselves of their borrowed plumes, and that, too, as they at the time supposed, at the behest of an obscure country parson, just made Bishop, (for the functions of General Convention were at that time very inadequately compre. hended,) why, it was not to be thought of for a moment. An indignation meeting was held, and the youngest of the fraternity was appointed to pen a remonstrance. The reply made him fully aware of the superior wisdom of his elders in performing such offices by an inexpert deputy; awakened him at once to the impropriety of the whole transaction, inspired him with unbounded respect and veneration for his Bishop, drew from him a heartfelt apology, and so put an end to the whole affair. It is believed that no candidate for orders since then has assumed the dress and place of a clergyman, though writ. ten sermons have sometimes been carried indiscreetly into the reading-desk instead of the printed copy.
To illustrate the then prevailing ignorance of Canons, and for some time after, a brief account will here be given of what occurred at the writer's own admission to the order of priests. Previous arrangements had been made for its taking place in old St. Michael's Church, Marblehead, of which he then had charge. The assisting clergymen were to be the Rev. Thomas Carlile, of Salem, and the Rev. Charles Burroughs, of Portsmouth, N. H., who, almost alone of all the clergy of that period, still survives, was to preach the ordination sermon. Brief space was given to the examination, on the evening of the twenty-third of June, 1818. Next morning, about breakfast-time, one of the very hottest days that ever glowed in June, it was found that no one had ever thought of the Standing Committee
Papers. A majority of the Standing Committee resided in Boston. Up to this time the irregular practice existed of signing such testimonials without convening the body. A special messenger was dispatched to Boston, with directions by no means to kill a horse, as was said to have been done under similar circumstances in the case of the Rev. Titus Strong, of Greenfield, (though a hundred miles then intervened, instead of fourteen,) but to spare no expense, and to be back in time for morning service. Some idea may be formed of the nervous condition of body, and distracted state of mind, on the part of the candidate, on this sacred occasion, until, early in the service, the Senior Warden handed the papers to the Bishop within the chancel.
On this occasion it was that the candidate first saw a Presbyter of the Church in full canonicals, cassock and all. Approaching the Rev. Mr. Burroughs, he said: “ This is a cassock, I believe. I think I know the names of scarf and bands, but what is the name of this around your waist ?” “Indeed I don't know," said he, “ all that I know is, if it were on a horse it would be called a circingle!” Distinctions in such ecclesiological niceties were little known in those rude working days. The scenes have often been described by many writers, which accompanied that remarkable attention to religion in Bristol, R. I., in which the ministry of the late Bishop Henshaw, then a very young man, was much more immediately employed than that of Bishop Griswold, who was much absent on visitation. It was a real work of God, wholly unaided by human artifices, and more free than usual from censurable extravagances; and the good fruits remain unto this day. The remote human instrumentality, as far as the episcopal portion of the community was concerned, most unquestionably was the long years of faithful scriptural instruction of their rector, and the influence of week-day evening meetings for familiar religious instruction.
Other services, at that time, made a deeper impression upon the writer's mind and heart, for as yet he was comparatively a stranger to the worship of the Episcopal Church. Still the impressions are very vivid of the tender seriousness, the subdued fervor, the heart-searching faithfulness of the preaching and exhortations of Bishop Griswold during that remarkable
season. He showed himself preëminently to be a wise masterbuilder.
During the winter of 1816-17, a class of four young men, for the purposes of study, under the instruction and guidance of our good Bishop, were daily assembled in the same room. By far the most highly gifted of the class, a brother of the present Bishop of Massachusetts, soon paid the sad penalty of over-devotion to the muse and to his books; and after com. mencing his ministry in Virginia with the most animating prospects of success, was called to put off his armor before he had fairly girded it on. Two others have attained to the honors of the Doctorate, and now, in a green old age, (old age ! it does not seem possible !) are still preaching the “ Gospel of the grace of God;" one of them having for years held aloft the Gospel banner in a foreign land, constrained by “the love of Christ," and strongly feeling that he was “a debtor to the Greeks." We had regular seasons for calling-separately, or in company—upon the Bishop, and often has he been addressed by his friend Eastburn, “ Come, you must call with me, or else we shall have a Quaker meeting ;" for the one was diffident, the other decidedly taciturn; and it required some little acquaintance with the good Bishop's peculiar ways to draw him out, when few could prove as entertaining-none as in. structive.
His qualities as a guide and teacher, however, were rather negative and incidental than direct. At the time, there was a deep feeling of want both of positiveness and of interest. And it was only later in our ministry that we became fully aware how much we were indebted to our wise and experienced teacher, for a ready solution of some hard polemic difficulty, the guidance of some apt and pithy maxim, and the suggestion of some discreet course of action under certain contingencies. His moderate but decided churchmanship; his happy distance from either extreme of a cold formalism or a wild enthusiasm; the prominence he gave to the simple preaching of the cross ; the wise rules he enforced and so discreetly acted upon, of commending the Church to those without, at the same time that no needless offense was given, made an impression upon his many students far more valuable than any amount of mere book-learning
Some years later, on a certain occasion, the writer was the companion in travel with the Bishop in a stage-coach from Bristol to Boston. His usual gravity was observed to amount even to sadness and profound depression of spirits. At length he stated its cause. An ecclesiastical council had lately given a decision in a difficulty which had arisen between the Rev. Dr. Jarvis and the Vestry of St. Paul's Church, Boston; which, in the exercise of a wise discretion, he had seen fit so to modify as to make it bear as lightly as possible upon the Parish. Convention was about to meet, and he had reason to fear that this action of his would be discussed in no very friendly spirit. If not sustained, he entertained serious fears whether it would not tend materially to weaken the just powers of a Bishop, in such cases. It was then he was first heard to utter a sentiment, afterwards often repeated by him, in various forms, or perhaps then for the first time the expression of it made an indelible impression : "I have long since observed that those who entertain very exalted ideas of the respect and deference which should be paid to a Bishop, always mean provided I were Bishop.” So much sympathy was aroused by this conversation, that early the next morning the Bishop was called upon at his lodgings, which on this occasion were with the Rev. Dr. Gardener, who, in this matter, was warmly on his side-a private interview was solicited, and the offer of services made, if they could be of any use. "No," replied the calm and courageous man of God, “I never employ concerted action in such emergencies; I choose to commit my way unto the Lord, and to trust only and wholly in Him !” Accordingly he was fully and nobly sustained.
We were met in Boston by a small one-horse carriage, in which the Bishop was to make a partial visitation of portions of New-IIampshire and Vermont. Communications made under such circumstances, in a journey of two hundred miles, are often more free and unrestrained than during a whole lifetime, of somewhat intimate intercourse, besides. One of these was so characteristic as to have been recorded at the time, though that record has been mislaid. The Bishop spoke of his first settlement. Great was the want of clergy in Connecticut, at the time; but small indeed was the pecuniary inducement to choose the sacred profession. Three calls were before him