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Reverend Britton deliberates on the distinctions between a "high" and "low" churchman.
J.B. Britton, Reverend Britton, Philander Chase, Protestant Church, Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, Presbyterians, Methodists, high churchman, low churchman, Bishop White, Bishop Doane, religion, theology
Britton, J.B., "Letter to Philander Chase" (1847). Philander Chase Letters. 1290.
Chillicothe March 13th 1847
Right Rev’d & Dear Sit
I rec’d your letter this morning, & as so long a time has elapsed since it was mailed, I hasten to reply-- I have no wish to conceal my religious faith or opinions, & therefore although ignorant of your motive in asking them, do not hesitate to reply to you “in a free & confidential manner.”
You are right in supposing that I think as you do on many important matters, & although had I been on the scene of action, when you separated from your diocese of Ohio, I should have been puzzled to know how to act, yet it has always been a source of regret to me, that we lost you as Diocesan & I think I should have prefered[sic] to trust your veto power. But to your questions-- 1. In common parlance are you a high or low churchman? If by a high churchman, is meant one, who holds the views of Bp Doane, in his charge [?] to the body of Christ, or those of Bp Whittingham in the late trial of Mr Trapnell, then I am a low churchman, but if by a high C--- is meant, one, who believes in Church authority as of [?] obligation, when lawfully exercised & therefore regard the rubrics & canons as suspending my right of private judgment then I am high. I feel as one under authority, & acknowledge the law of the family, & the state as well as that of the Church, as of God. I do not however strain rubrics & canons & customs in order to apply them where liberty was not designed to be abridged, & I agree, if I mistake not with language of your own “that clerical garments ought not to be defiled by being worn in barns & school houses.”
2. In regard to the Carey ordination, I have agreed with Dr Tyng, & hold to the right of a candidate to receive orders, after he has complied with all the canonical requirement, but I think sentiments should have arrested him sooner, & that expediency would have been properly consulted by the delay of Bp O-- & I admire the spirit of Dr’s Anthon & Smith.
3. As to Apostolic succession, I hold it as a fact & designed by the Saviour, to secure the purity of the faith, & the unity of the Church, not as directly hearing on the gift of the spirit, & acceptance before God in individual cases-- I therefore hold that Presbyterians & Methodists are baptised & therefore members of the Visible Church, & if true believers, part of the [Epl] body. “the blessed company of All faithful people,” but their ministry & judicatures, I see no authority for. As to justification by faith, I hold the views of the “Judicious Worker,” & regard St James as teaching justification by works only as they are essential evidences of a true faith, but I dislike too close an adherence to system, & love to direct work of God, & to let them have their full force, without tying them too closely to a body of Divinity” -- Baptism I hold as regeneration, in the sense of placing every one in a new relation to God, but I hold also that every being who has sinned must be morally changed by the [?] of God, as well as ecclesiastically born of the spirit, by being made a member of Church that is, of his Church visible -- Sacraments I hold to be means of grace, only to those who rightly use them -- In regard to “Priest Altar & Sacrifice” I agree with Bp White-- & in a word -- I hold myself as, a high or low churchman, according to the latitude of Maryland or Virginia -- I send you a copy of my sermon, & wishing you good days & many of them & praying for the Lord’s presence & blessing to be vouchsafed You remain, Your Son in Christ, J.B. Britton