Dr. Wainwright



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Dr. Wainwright describes the conferral of honorary degrees at Oxford University's Commemoration ceremony.




London June 25th 1852

Rt Rev. & Dear Sir

When I first arrived here I intended after the Jubilee celebration to give you a full account of all that took place upon that interesting occasion, for although I never for a moment assumed that I stood in relation to the Church in what could strictly be called an official capacity, yet I felt that I had been placed in a highly honourable and prominent position, and that it would be incumbent on me to give some account of my mission--and to whom could this be done with much propriety as to the presiding Bishop? From this duty however I have been most happily relieved by the presence of Bishops McCoskey and DeLancey. I assure you that it is hardly possible to overestimate the importance of their coming. Every day convinces me that the beneficial effects of it in promoting mutual knowledge, mutual confidence, and a zealous cooperation in carrying on the great work of missions between the two Churches will be soon and long manifested. This however and much more the Bishops will tell in their own way to the Church at home, and it is proper for me to learn it to them. I cannot however, dear Bishop, refrain from writing to you a few lines to express my own feelings in regard to what I have experienced of the kind feelings of our mother Church towards us, and of the deep interest she takes in our welfare, and the joy with which she hears of our growth and prosperity. Nothing could exceed the cordiality with which I was received by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, and that simply because I was in some sense the representative, however inadequate and unworthy, of the American Church. I sent over an account of the proceedings upon that occasion & I presume it has appeared in some of our religious journals, and that you have seen it. Because I was regarded in this light I was at once invited to preach the sermon on the closing evening of the Jubilee year at St James’s Church Westminster, and also the sermon on the day after at St Paul’s Cathedral, on the anniversary of the Society. Immediately however upon hearing the welcome intelligence that by the postponement of the trial of the Bishop of New Jersey, the delegated Bishops would be able to come, I informed the Archbishop of Canterbury, and withdrew my acceptance of their honourable appointment. I have the satisfaction of feeling that they have been discharged in a manner far superior to what could have been done had they remained in my feeble hands, but moreover an effect has been produced by Bishops of our Church appearing upon such important occasions which could not have followed the appearance of any Presbyter. I have been invited upon many other occasions to preach and to say something in relation to our Church and give information in regard to it, which I have done. I could not possibly embrace all the opportunities that have been offered, but wherever I have been the liveliest interest has been felt to know more about our Church and how its organization works with us. Especially has there been a great desire to hear how the lay element as it is termed, has answered with us. I have always said that we esteem it a most valuable part of our system and would on no account relinquish it. The great body of the laity we have ever found the supporters of sound doctrine and primitive discipline. In a word I may say that there is throughout the Church of England at the present time a strong desire to know more of us than they have done heretofore, and a deeper interest in our welfare than has been felt heretofore. And this visit of the Bishops will tend greatly to promote these sentiments. A crowning proof of what I have said in regard to the feeling excited by our coming has first been given at Oxford. We went there to attend the Commemoration, which every third year is celebrated with more than common observances and is therefore called the Grand Commemoration. And such it was this year. The prominent object is to commemorate the benefactors of the University but occasion is taken to confer some honorary degrees. Upon the two Bishops and myself was conferred the degree of Doctor in Civil Law which in this University is the same as L.L.D. in other Universities. We certainly have reason to look upon this as a very high distinction for it is by no means a common one. But it is of the American Church rather than of ourselves that this honourable notice has been taken. There was also another and a more general expression of good will. A very superb and large plate, silver gilt, and embossed with a scripture design, had been purchased by members of the UNiversity of Oxford to be presented to the American Church. There was a large assemblage of the most distinguished persons in Oxford at Exeter College, and amongst them the Bishops of London Oxford Exeter and Chichester, and also the Bishop of Argyland the Isles, from Scotland, together with many heads of houses, as the principal officers of the Colleges are called collectively. These with many distinguished strangers, and a large number of ladies formed a brilliant assemblage. The piece of rich and handsome plate as a token of affectionate trust on the part of Oxford in the American Church was then presented in a formal manner in a speech to which the Bishops made a reply. Afterwards there was a very handsome entertainment in the noble hall of Exeter College, and over the principal table in gilt letters was the inscription “Ecclesia Americana.” In the speeches delivered on the occasion frequent allusions were made to our Church which were always received with a most hearty welcome. Upon the whole this venerable University has given as strong a demonstration as could well be desired of her affection for the daughter Church in the far west.

But dear Bishop, I must not longer trespass upon you. Further and more minute accounts will doubtless be given by the Bishops. This I believe you will not be displeased of receiving from your old friend. You have been most kindly inquired after by many persons who knew you personally when [here] only reputation since. The venerable Dr McBride the Principal of Magdalen Hall inquired about you particularly, and I was rejoiced to be able to give him such good accounts of you as we received from Bishop McCoskey. As Bp. McCoskey & I walked about Oxford we talked of you, and your noble efforts in the West. It seemed quite an appropriate topic of conversation, which we were looking at the magnificent spectacle of this glorious University, to dwell in anticipation upon what might in future ages be erected upon the broad and solid foundations you are & have been laying, and all both here and there to extend the knowledge and promote the glory of the [?] God whom we worship, and to whom we can under back only his own free gifts. Would that we may all serve and adore Him more & more. I am deeply grateful that He has permitted me, unworthy as I am, to see what I have seen and to hear what I have heard. But nothing that I have seen or heard has in the least diminished my love of my own land & my beloved Church yea rather I love them the more, I covet for them nothing, of the wealth & splendour I see about me, but rejoice in their simplicity, & can say from my heart the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. God of his mercy grant that I may use my privileges to the honor of his holy name. Ever dear Bishop your affectionate son in Christ

[?] Wainwright

Letter to Bishop Chase



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