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How far is it expedient that each Diocese should have its own constitution and canons, on subjects for which the canons of the general Church might provide as well? I have often thought that the analogy which is supposed to have governed the establishment of our American Church Polity, has introduced a needless degree of confusion into the business of ecclesiastical legislation, neither desirable in itself, nor justified by the nature of the subject.

The Federal compact between the several States of the Union is so guarded, that the State legislatures and the Federal legislature can seldom come into conflict. The subjects for the action of Congress, are expressly defined, and all other subjects are reserved to the States respectively.

But this principle of analogy does not apply fairly to the constitution of the Church. The subjects on which our General Convention may legislate, are not defined; nor is there any express reservation of all not therein contained, to the dioceses severally. So loose and general, indeed, is this matter, that some of the most profound and able jurists have contended, that the rights of the dioceses are to be gathered from the express language of the general constitution; instead of the contrary principle, namely, that the dioceses possess all the powers which that constitution has not taken away.

However this point may be, one thing is certain: that the primitive Church allowed the particular dioceses a greater measure of control than our general constitution sanctions, because the bishops, (at least in the larger sees, i. e. the metropolitans) exercised the right of arranging their own declaration of faith, and modifying their own form of worship. Whereas our constitution does not allow of any change whatever in the articles or the liturgy, by the action. of any other body than the general convention; and our general canons have legislated upon almost every subject that could form the topic of diocesan legislation. And, assuredly, no lover of union and order would desire to have it otherwise. Better, for every possible reason, does it seem, that the Church should have but one legislature, and should present but one aspect; so that a clergyman should have only a single system of canons to study, and that one bearing on every diocese alike, from Maine to Florida.

The Diocesan conventions would still have enough to do, if they were relieved of the burthen of canonical regulations. The admission of Churches, the parochial reports, the raising of revenue, the adoption of measures in aid of theological education, domestic missions, and ministerial support, and the carrying into execution whatever design might seem necessary for the prosperity of the diocese, would still form,-as they now do the chief subjects of their attention. Is it not then, desirable, that the general system should be perfected as soon as practicable, especially in those particulars which concern the Judiciary of the Church, and that it should be placed on such a foundation, as should extend the perfect unity of our faith and worship, to every other topic of practical importance to our ecclesiastical peace and welfare?

I suggest these hints, to more learned and wiser intel

lects, in the humble hope that they may assist in some measure to direct attention towards the completing of a work, so admirably planned, and thus far, so happily executed. And I only add my fervent prayer, that the peace of Christian affection, and the strength of Christian unity, may so characterize this favored branch of the primitive Church, as to make it a glory and a praise to the end of the world.


SOME of my readers may be disposed to censure the views of ecclesiastical justice presented in the foregoing pages, on the ground that they bear too strong a resemblance to our civil system. Perhaps they may be aided in their judgment by reflecting, that no plan can possibly be adopted which is not in accordance, to an equal degree, with some worldly institution, while this seems the only one, justified by scriptural and primitive principles. The mode of trying clergymen now established in many of our dioceses, is in fact a perfect copy from the military code of the land. The court martial consists of officers appointed by the Secretary of War, their sentence is transmitted to the President, who confirms it, and decides accordingly, or who orders a new trial, as to his judgment may seem best. And this is in complete concord with the ecclesiastical plan, by which the bishop appoints presbyters to try their brother clergyman, and receives their opinion in writing, and pronounces his sentence thereupon, or directs a new trial if he thinks proper. It may surely, then, be called a strange preference for the Church to avow, of the military over the civil system—a strange course for those who dread episcopal power, to fly from the mode of Scripture, of the primitive Church and of the Church of England, and take refuge under the shelter of martial law.

To others, it may not be acceptable to find such frequent reference to the Church of England, as an authority on

the subject of our ecclesiastical system, lest it might serve as a handle to our Christian brethren of other denominations, who are so fond of using this title for the sake of exciting against us the ignorant prejudice of political antipathy. But to this apprehension, I reply, that the intelligence and good sense of the American people cannot be abused in this way, much longer. They know that almost every religious sect in the country is as perfectly foreign in its origin and principles as the Episcopal Church. We have indeed, the honor of producing a few originals in this department, -the Mormonites for instance, and some modern compounds of European notions, which I shall not name, and which it is very likely, may multiply in these days of strenuous innovation. But all the important branches of Christianity have a foreign root, and many of them are establishments of monarchical governments as well as the Church of England. Whence came our Presbyterian brethren ?our Baptist brethren ?-our Methodist brethren ?-our Lutheran brethren? Whence came the Convenanters, the Seceders, the Dutch Reformed, the Associate Reformed, the Society of Friends, the Swedenborgians? Nay, whence came the Congregationalists themselves? Germany, Holland, Sweden, Scotland, and England, are the soils-all equally foreign-all equally monarchical-from which the whole of these and other sects have been transplanted to this country. And are we, alone, to be twitted with our origin? Is the descent from England to become a reproach to us alone? Or is the English Episcopalian forbidden, by some hidden law of his moral constitution, to change his relations from monarchy to republicanism, while the English Methodist, the English Baptist, the English Presbyterian, with all the rest of our modern sects, shall pass free from all impeachment or suspicion?

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