« PreviousContinue »
FROM 1809 TO 1814.
The advantages and disadvantages of city and country charges respectively. Dr. Moore's call to St. Stephen's Church, New York. The state of the Church in that city. Ministry of Dr. Hobart. The depressed condition of St. Stephen's when Dr. Moore took charge of it. Its rapid increase. The active efforts of George Warner, recorded by Bishop Moore in a letter to his widow. Lecture-room services and prayer meetings. The opinion of Bishop Moore respecting them. Their propriety discussed. Approval of Nelson, Bishops Claggett and Kemp, and the present presiding Bishop. Letters on Prayer Meetings and Associations. Revivals of Religion and Clerical Associations. Letters to Bishops Meade and Bowen on Anxious Seats and Revivals. The course of Dr. Moore in reference to an unhappy controversy in the Church of New York. A succinct review of the effect of his ministry in St. Stephen's.
WHILE Dr. Moore was prosecuting that long career of success and duty which has been imperfectly sketched in the preceding chapter, the nature and effects of his ministry upon the Island were closely watched by multitudes in the neighbouring city. He enjoyed a high and enviable reputation for the meekness, benevolence and devotion of his character; for his bold and uncompromising exhibition of the great principles of evangelical truth; for faithfulness and assiduity in the performance of parochial duties; and for a powerful and persuasive eloquence, which riveted the attention, and moved the hearts of the auditories be addressed. If there were some who contemplated his course with an envious and malignant eye, there were others who gazed on it with admiration, and resolved to embrace the first opportunity which offered to procure his
removal to the city, which was then rapidly rising into importance, and has since become the commercial emporium of our country.
If a country parish, with its homogeneous society, fixed character, simple unsophisticated habits, and peaceful seclusion from the dissipations and vices of fashionable life, holds out the greater promise of personal comfort and happiness, it must be admitted that the large and crowded city opens a wider field of usefulness to the able and faithful minister of Jesus Christ. Large cities are the chosen theatres for the strife of covetousness, the emulation of vanity, and the struggles of ambition. There are concentrated pomp, and pride, and luxury. There is to be found every incentive to passion-every allurement to excess. There the polluted temples of pleasure throw open their gilded portals, through which multitudes of thoughtless votaries are lured to eternal ruin. There the din of incessant occupation, the exciting bustle of traffic, the ever-changing variety of scenes, combine with the pageantry and vanity of wealth to distract the attention and wean the thoughts of men from the great themes of morals and religion. There intemperance, debauchery, and impurity are exhibited in all their degrees, from decency to loathsomeness. There we behold an exhibition of all those varieties of profligacy and vice, which it is the design of the Gospel to eradicate, and which that divine system alone has the power to restrain and reform. There the enemies of our faith are combined in most formidable numbers; its advocates are required to grapple with the whole legion of adversaries, and are compelled to be incessantly engaged in close conflict with "the world, the flesh, and the devil." Is the Gospel to be preached to sinners? In large cities they are found in the greatest numbers. Are ministers "fishers of men?" Then, like
other fishermen, they may more successfully use their nets where there are shoals of fishes, rather than where only occasional stragglers are to be found.
But while we thus speak of the wider field of usefulness which the population of a large city opens to the ministers of Christ, we are far from believing that every clergyman should be desirous of a city charge. As in a great house there are not only different apartments, but different utensils-some of silver and gold, and others of wood, and brass, and stone-so is it in the Church; and God, in the wise economy of his providence and grace, has assigned to his servants not only various gifts, and tastes, and dispositions, but also different theatres of usefulness, where they may serve and glorify him, according to his will, in the exercise of their various qualifications. Many a servant of God may rise to high eminence and usefulness in the patient discharge of his duty as a village or country pastor, who would sink beneath the weight of discouragement and neglect, if he were exposed to the excitement and cares, the collisions and rivalries, the trials and disappointments incident to the charge of our city Churches. Even so, on the other hand, there are, doubtless, many who are successful pastors and popular preachers in city congregations, whose powers would be unknown, and their peculiar talents and capabilities for usefulness would never be brought to light, if they were required to labour amidst the quiet and unexciting scenes of a country parish.
The circumstances by which men are surrounded, in the providence of God, commonly bring into use the various gifts and qualifications by which He designs that they should glorify him in the spheres respectively allotted to them in his Church. Nevertheless, we now and then meet with a rare instance of one who seems to have risen above
the control of circumstances, and by the peculiarity of his talents, and the adaptation of his character, to be equally at home before a fashionable or a rustic congregation, and to be alike fitted for usefulness in any sphere.
Dr. Moore was one of this description. Having accepted a call to the Rectorship of St. Stephen's Church, in the city of New York, in the spring of 1809, he readily adapted himself to the duties of his new position; and the popularity which he had acquired upon Staten Island was fully sustained, and even increased, after his removal to the city of his nativity.
The condition of the Church in New York, at that day, was very different from what it is at the present time. The majority of the clergy were, perhaps, more orderly than zealous-more orthodox than evangelical-more distinguished for attachment to the ritual of the Church than for a fervent and edifying mode of performing it—more intent upon guarding their folds against the inroads of enthusiasm than upon the conversion of sinners and the making of aggressive movements upon the world. This is said without any design to disparage the characters or labours of the very respectable and worthy men who, as Rectors or Assistants, exercised pastoral supervision over the city congregations in that day. The design is merely to remind the reader of the existence of a calm, temperate, unruffled state of things among our Churches which would be likely to undergo some change, and, perhaps, be temporarily disturbed, by the introduction of a minister distinguished for evangelical boldness, and burning with zeal to promote the glory of Christ in the conversion of souls. The spirit of Dr. Moore's ministry, the measures he prosecuted for the spiritual edification of his people, and his style of preaching, (whether right or wrong, about which there will be various
opinions,) were undoubtedly different from those most prevalent among his clerical brethren in that city. It is true that Dr. Pilmore, who visited this country as one of the pioneers of Methodism, (having in early youth been en trusted by its founder with the oversight of all his societies in Ireland, and being afterwards selected, on account of his popular eloquence, to act as missionary in the American colonies,) had, after taking Episcopal orders, maintained in Christ Church a course of ministerial duty marked by its zealous and evangelical character, in which he was followed by his worthy successor, also a distinguished convert from the same sect. It is true that Dr. (afterwards Bishop,) Hobart, (who for eight preceding years occupied the station of an assistant minister in Trinity Church,) had, by his commanding talents, his habit of memoriter preaching, (giving to his sermons all the tenderness, pathos and unction of extemporaneous preaching,) and by his voice of various intonations and vast compass and power, employed, not in the delivery of cold, didactic, ethical essays, but of warm and impassioned appeals to the conscience and the heart, thrown high attractions about the art of preaching, and impressed a new character upon the pulpit exercises of that city. His was a genius which marked out a course for itself, breaking through the narrow restraints, and soaring above the grovelling axioms of the schools. He felt that his high duty was to preach, not the morals of Seneca, but the doctrines of redemption; that his ministry had to do with the affections no less than with the understandings of men. And while, unappalled, he was ready to break a lance with the giant of Presbyterianism,-in his "Apology for Apostolic Order"-through the press, he could no less easily maintain his claim to an equality with him as a preacher of Christ crucified, in the pulpit.