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of those special features which distinguish it from other ecclesiastical bodies. They aver that it reflects in its constitution more exactly than any other religious corporation the fundamental principles which rule in our national government, and that it secures and expresses in things religious more completely than can be found elsewhere the essential spirit of our national life, “liberty protected by law.” “As a nation,” says Mr. George William Curtis, in his oration on Mr. Lowell, "we did not invent the great muniments of liberty: trial by jury, the habeas corpus, constitutional restraint, the common school, of all which we were the common heirs with civilized Christendom.” So the Episcopal Church did not create episcopacy, nor extemporize a liturgy, nor invent a creed. To apply to the church what Mr. Curtis again says of the state, “the higher spirit of conservatism was its own, and it cherished a reverence for antiquity, a susceptibility to the value of tradition, an instinct for continuity and development, an antipathy to violent rupture—the grace and charm and value of an established order."
Like the American people, who honor their institutions as the heritage of law and culture and liberty out of past ages, so the Episcopal Church prizes its peculiar and dominant features as the issue of a sound historic growth. It claims to preserve, and to have had preserved to it, the essential features of the church of apostolic times in continuous and legitimate succession. It grounds its dogmas on the original documents of the apostolic church contained in the New Testament, which is its final arbiter in all doctrinal statements. It holds its order of worship to be, in its structural features, identical with the liturgies of the earliest and best ages. Yet, while holding firmly to the past as the vindication of its foundation principles, its aim is, not to present or represent an anachronism or to recon
struct and reissue transient features and forms of life which the past has let die, but to vindicate and apply to the latest life of the latest nation the truths which have proved their essential vitality by their perennial influence. This church believes in its future because it believes in its past, and out of this tried faith comes the confidence of its present. It is a church in the nation; it would fain be the church of the nation, not as an enforced ecclesiastical establishment, but as the chosen religious home of willing souls, convinced of the truths which it proclaims, and intent on the life which it incites.
To describe the origin and trace the growth of this church is the object of the present volume.
In its composition the author has had the assistance of friends in the accumulation of material, which it is his pleasure, as it is his duty, to cordially acknowledge. His thanks are especially due to his diocesan, the Rt. Rev. H. C. Potter, D.D., Bishop of New York, for information, otherwise inaccessible, concerning certain periods and phases of church life and character; to the Rt. Rev. Leighton Coleman, D.D., Bishop of Delaware, for his courteous and ready help in furnishing proof-sheets of his own volume, “ The Church in America,” which was just issuing from the press as this volume was entering the printer's hands; to the Rt. Rev. T. M. Clark, D.D., Bishop of Rhode Island, for the loan of books from his library and pamphlets of his composition; to Dean Hoffman, for full access to the library of the General Theological Seminary, and to Mr. Bull, its accommodating librarian, for many civilities; to Mr. Edward Tiffany, assistant librarian of the Boston Public Library, for indicating and opening its historical treasures; to Mr. Thomas Whittaker, for the free use of many volumes from his valuable church bookstore, No. 2 Bible House, New York; to Mr. Little, librarian of the Astor Library, for cordial assist
ance; and, perchance above all, to the Rev. William Tatlock, D.D., rector of St. John's Church, Stamford, Conn., for the use of many valuable books from the Lloyd Library; to the Rev. William R. Huntington, D.D., rector of Grace Church, New York, for helpful information concerning certain periods of the legislation of the General Convention; to Professor F. B. Dexter, of Yale University, for his ready and gracious compliance with the request for the fullest information to be found in the college archives concerning the conversion of Rector Cutler; and to the Rev. Ralph H. Baldwin and the Rev. Edward L. Parsons, for invaluable assistance in compiling the Bibliography of the subject.
No one who attempts to write concerning the history of the Protestant Episcopal Church can fail to record his sense of the obligation which all historical students owe to the Rt. Rev. William Stevens Perry, D.D., Bishop of Iowa, for his laborious compilation of original material, and many valuable essays on special points of history, collected in the two large volumes of his “ History of the American Episcopal Church, 1587–1883," and in the four huge volumes of the Facsimiles of Manuscripts, wherein almost all valuable documents of the church's history find a place; and for his condensed records of the proceedings of the General Conventions, to be found in his “ Handbook of the General Conventions, 1785-1874," and for the fuller record, with historical notes and documents, contained in the three volumes of “A Half-century of the Legislation of the American Church." The value of the office of historiographer of the church is apparent as one scans these volumes, as well as when he studies the “ Contributions to the Ecclesiastical History of the United States” of the late Rev. Francis L. Hawks, D.D., in the two volumes which shed so much light on the history of the Episcopal
Church in Virginia and Maryland. Nor can one fail to recognize what flashes of light are thrown on certain phases of this church's history by the broad and brilliant generalizations of the Rev. S. D. McConnell, D.D., in his “ History of the American Episcopal Church,” which is as full of wisdom as of wit. The "History of the American Church," by Bishop Wilberforce, of Oxford and Winchester, is valuable in its account of the colonies, and is remarkable throughout as the production of one who never visited America. His unfamiliarity with our republican institutions, however, makes his account of the constitutional period of less value. Canon Anderson's “ History of the Church of England in the Colonies," in three volumes, is more full and instructive than Wilberforce, and the “Digest of the Records of the Venerable S. P. G.” is invaluable as a source of information concerning our colonial ecclesiastical history, while “The Colonial Era,” by Professor G. P. Fisher, D.D., of Yale University, gives a clear and impartial view of the early political events which so vitally affected the life of the church.
For the post-colonial period and the formation of the Protestant Episcopal Church, Bishop White's “Memoirs of the Church” furnish a running comment on the constitutional movement by the chief actor in it, which is a treasure-house of information, indispensable to the understanding of the time; and the “ Life of Bishop Seabury gives much interesting matter supplementary to Bishop White's volume. For the subsequent history the “ Journals ” of the General and Diocesan Conventions, together with the many memoirs of the chief actors in it, are the principal sources of information.