Philander Chase



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Chase responds to a letter from Kellogg regarding Chase's letter to his Clergy. Chase clarifies that in that letter, he did not mean to demean religious dissenters.




Christianity, religion, Episcopal church, Noah Webster, H. H. Kellogg



To the Rev: H.H. Kellogg.

Jubilee College Jan: 25, 1843

My dear Sir

Your favour of the 20th inst: did not reach me till this day by the return post from Peoria, else I should have given it an earlier answer. I thank you most sincerely for the kind manner of your address. Instead of that belligerent attitude assumed by many in these days of unhappy difference among christians, your letter bespeaks the suavity which becomes the Christian Gentleman, and commands my unfeigned respect. You seem to think that I have in my letter to my Clergy; used the word “Dissenters” in an arrogant, and reproachful sense, or that I may be so understood by my readers. Be assured Rev & Dear Sir, this was & is far from my design. The tenor of my whole letter was intended to evince the contrary of this; It was more apologetic than criminating. As to the propriety of Episcopalians making use of the word “Dissenters” when speaking of Non Episcopalian Denominations it depends entirely on the question, who were first in order of time! If it can be proved from the word of God, and Ancient history, that the Polity & groundwork of the Visible Church of Christ was Episcopal-- if we hear of no Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists nor Methodists, for fifteen hundred years, or more from the days of the Apostles, one would think that the several classes of Christians however respectable for their numbers or orthodoxy might with propriety and Truth be called “Dissenters”: And surely your candour will allow that what is consistent with these ought not to give offence to any one. Let then the matter be examined (for sure ‘tis important) Who are of primitive and who of modern origin! Episcopalians, or the denominations mentioned. According to the answer given to this question will be the propriety or impropriety of my use of the word “Dissenters.” As to what you say of Epsiscopalians arrogating or being supposed by the use of the word in question to arrogate to themselves any temporal favours from the civil government or the community at large, there is nothing more foreign from their thoughts. Truth does not depend on the world or worldly things: nor on the opinions of men; nor on any supposed divine approbation attached to the numbers or popular applause. The favours of the civil government and the applause of the multitude may be witholden [sic] from the Apostolic Church and their numbers may be few, and on that account “despised & rejected of men” as in the primitive ages was the case: Or on the contrary, as in the days of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor, the visible Church may be the object on which the Civil government pours its favours. Yet in neither case, is there; or of right ought to be, any alteration in the nature and constitution of the Church of Christ. She is the Bride of the Redeemer whether she be clad in Jackcloth & bleeds & weeps in the days of persecution: or Kings be her nursing fathers or Queens her nursing Mothers. And now dear Sir, I cannot conclude my long & I fear tedious letter without adding a few words expressive of the solemnity of my feelings on this all important subject, for I have no right to say, that what God hath appointed may be willfully passed by with impunity. If I be wrong in my views I hope to be set right by your superior learning in sacred and divine history, and confirmed in the truth by your superior abilities in applying facts, (for they are Gods footsteps) to the conviction of my mind, With me the time is short to find the truth, repent & amend: and if being in error, so great an error as this question implies: I do not use the means of bringing my mind to the knowledge of the truth, I neglect & bury my talent & must of course receive the frowns & woeful sentence of our Heavenly Master. That God may be Glorified in leading all to the Truth in doctrine, & righteousness of life, is the prayer of your faithful Friend & servant (signed) Philander Chase.

Postscript on 2’d Letter in answer to Mr Kellogg’s letter

Rev. and D’r Sir

After writing my answer to your letter I carried it across the way to my son Dudley’s dwelling to be copied. Bringing it back he observed that perhaps you would wish a more specific reference to the definition of the word “Dissenter” given by my wife’s uncle, the Venerable Noah Webster L.L.D. which as you have quoted him, is “one who separates from the Service and workshop of an Established Church.” This strictly is an English definition being national & local and of course differs somewhat from the general sense in which I used the word. If by the words “Established Church” the learned Dr. had given us to understand a Church established by Christ and exemplified by the practice of his apostles and their successors in office, my meaning would have concurred with his giving a liberal interpretation to the words “Service & Worship” signifying thereby such as the divinely Authorized governors of the Church sh’d establish in any country according to the written word of God[.]

From hence it is plain that in using the word “Dissenter” I had no reference to a temporal establishment of the Church of Christ. I meant those only who dissent from the government of the primitive Church which all correct and consistent Churchmen believe was Episcopal or in other words, a church governed by Divinely constituted officers superior to the Presbyters Deacons or the Laity.

Now as there are many in this country who dissent from this divinely [constituted] Church (as we believe unwittingly) who yet have retained the true and Orthodox faith in Christ and manifest the same by a pious life, it was the object of my pastoral letter (having occasion to name them) to hear their characters and profession with great respect and not consider them on a level with those who have relinquished the essentials of revealed truth.

My clergy I have reason to believe understand me as I have explained my views to you. We retain our charity while we maintain, I hope with Christian modesty, our well-founded principles touching the nature & [constitution] of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth. Many of us were once dissenters in the sense herein named entertaining the vague opinions, or rather no fixed opinions, at all of the authority of the Christian Ministry: as many seem now to do. But a careful study of the word of God & the pages of ecclesiastial [sic] history accompanied by [constant] & fervent prayer for the guiding grace of God to lead us into [all] truth, - these joined with the melancholy consideration of the neverending dissent from Episcopacy have made us flee to the standard of [primitive] truth and order as tho’ a peaceful refuge and an Ark of safety. That the like examination may have the like effect on you[r] pure mind and honest heart is the devout prayer of [Mrs] & Dr [M],

Your faithful Friend

& Humble servant in Christ

Phil’r Chase

Letter to H. H. Kellogg



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