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“The Sacred dignity of the Christian Priesthood Vindicated," was published in 1751, and produced a great excitement among the opposers of Episcopacy, and called forth several pamphlets and rejoinders. It was about this time that public feeling was aroused by fears of the spiritual jurisdiction of English Bishops. “The controversy as to the American Episcopate was fresh, and the eloquent and denunciatory pamphlets of Chauncey and Mayhew were part of New England household literature." But the chief object of the Sermon as described by Dr. McSparran himself in his “ America Dissected," was to correct certain irregularities which had crept into the worship of his own communion, and “which, when they are coeval with the Church, are hard to be reformed.” In the autumn of 1754, he and his wife "embarked for England, to visit his friends and native country, and to improve his health, which had become impaired by the severity of the climate and the arduous duties of his missions." Tradition says that he had another object in view, even to be consecrated Bishop, but the strong opposition at home to the reception of an English prelate, together with the sudden and afflictive death of his pious consort, led him to return from his sorrowful voyage with a conclusion as sage as it is comforting," that he had rather dwell in the hearts of his parishioners, than wear all the Bishop's gowns in the world.” Before his embarkation for England, his “ America Dissected,” with a long and quaint title prefixed, had been published in Dublin, "as a caution to unsteady people who might be tempted to leave their native country.” It is a literary curiosity,-a keen and caustic description of the principles and manners of the age in which he lived. But we place less reliance upon its statistical and geographical information, because the author wrote from memory. In a paragraph towards the close of the longest letter, he says—* Thus have I, in a very cursory and incorrect manner run over the English plantations, without observing, however, the thousandth part of what deserves notice. I write from memory, though in the style of truth; and flatter myself
, from the candor so peculiar to the Carys, that you will overlook the faults of this indigested letter."
Dr. McSparran's constitution now began to exhibit symptoms of rapid decay, but he continued to minister to his people till the winter of 1757, when he was suddenly called to render an account of his stewardship. “As he was never," to quote his own words, “a father in any form, he devised his landed estate for the use and support of a resident English Bishop, provided his jurisdiction should include the Narragansett county, and provided, further," he came within seven years after the death of his wife.” Of course the conditions were not fulfilled, and the property passed to other heirs. He was buried under the communion table of his Church, with appropriate marks of lamentation and respect, and the historian dismisses him with the following just reflections.
“ Thus ended the pilgrimage of the most able Divine that was sent over to this country by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. With manly firmness, and with the undaunted courage of the Christian soldier, ready to combat and die in the hallowed cause, he triumphed over all the difficulties of this laborious and untried mission.
• Conscience made him firm,
And bids him on, and fear not.' “ Clad in gospel armor, and inspired by a supreme love to God, he succeeded in planting the Church of the Redeemer here, and gathered numerous devoted followers around the altar. A visit to this Church, spared to stand unaltered by modern hands, is fitted to revive in the hearts of all who assemble to worship within its venerable_walls, the most interesting recollections and associations. There is the Pulpit, and there the Desk, from which, more than a century ago, this pious Presbyter, and Johnson, Honyman, Seabury, and Bass, declared the sacred oracles of God; and there, too, the altar from which they distributed to their humble communicants the consecrated elements of salvation.” (pp. 260-61.)
The Church in Narragansett, sought the appointment of Mr. Jeremiah Leaming, then a catechist at Newport, to succeed Dr. McSparran; but the Society for Propagating the Gospel sent the Rev. Mr. Fayerweather, a New England man, and earlier in life, a Congregational divine, but at that time an Episcopal missionary in Wineyaw, South Carolina. He was no less faithful than his predecessor, in recording his clerical acts and noticing occurrences which concerned the welfare of the Church. Mr. Updike, too, continues his faithful family sketches and his miscellaneous researches. The record of a baptism, in which the old Saxon word Gossip is used instead of sponsors, brings out a curious and interesting literary paper, prepared by an officer in the U. S. Navy.
“Gossip. This word is frequently found in the Church Records. It is used in its old Saxon meaning, for sponsors and sureties at baptism. This use of the term gossip, as well as the usage which formerly prevailed at baptisms of giving spoons, is referred to in the following extract from Hone's 'Every Day Book,' vol. I, p. 175:
“This is an opportunity for alluding to the ancient English custom, with sponsors, or visitors at christenings, of presenting spoons, because the fige
ures of the twelve Apostles were chased or carved upon the tops of the handles. Brand cites several authors to testify of the practice. Persons who could afford it, gave the set of twelve, others a smaller number, and a poor person offered the gift of one, with the figure of the saint after whom the child was named, or to whom the child was dedicated, or who was the patron saint of the good natured donor.'
“ Ben Johnson, in his Bartholomew's Fair, has a character, saying, and all this for the hope of a couple of Apostle's spoons, and a cup to eat caudle in.' In the chaste Maid of Cheapside, by Middleton, 'Gossip' inquires•What has he given her? What is it Gossip ?' Whereto the answer of another Gossip,' is- A faire high standing cup and two great 'postles spoons, one of them gilt.' Beaumont and Fletcher, likewise, in the Noble Gentleman, say,
“1'll be a gossip, Bewford,
I have an odd apostle spoon.'
" It seems from a Poem by Shipman in 1666, that the usage of giving Apostle spoons at christenings, was at that time on the decline.
"Formerly when they used to trowl
Gilt bowls of sack, they gave the bowl
"T is well if now our own be left.' "An anecdote is related of Shakspeare and Ben Johnson, which bears upon the usage. Shakspeare was godfather to one of Johnson's children, and after the christening, being in deep study, Johnson cheeringly asked him why he was so melancholy. Ben,' said he, 'I have been considering a great while what should be the fittest gift for me to bestow upon my godchild, and I have resolved it at last.? I pray thee, what?' said Ben. I faith, Ben,'answered Shakspeare, “I'll give him a dozen good latten spoons, and thou shalt translate them.'
"The word latten,' intended as a play upon the word latin, is a name for the iron tinned, of which spoons and similar small articles of household use are sometimes made. Without being aware of the origin, it is still a custom with many persons to present spoons at christenings, or on visiting 'the lady in the straw, though they are not now adorned with imagery. (pp. 347–49.)
The times grow more eventful as the period of the Revolution approached. Mr. Fayerweather and his flock were not exactly of the same mind as to the controversy between the colonies and the mother country. Or at least, he could not, consistently with his oath or ordination, omit the prayer for the King and Royal Family, and, therefore, he was compelled to desist from public services, and the Church was closed. He still retained the affections of his people, and occasionally officiated in private dwellings. He died in the summer of 1781, and was buried by the side of his venerated predecessor. The establishment of the independence of the colonies stopped all benefactions from abroad, and hence Mr. F. was the last missionary to the Narragansett Church.
There is another name frequently introduced into Mr. Updike's work, and so interwoven with the ecclesiastical history of Rhode Island, and the life of Dr. McSparran, that it deserves a passing notice at our hands. The Rev. James Honyman was sent over to Newport in 1704, by the Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts, and for nearly half a century, he dispensed the bread of life, not only to the flock of his charge, but as opportunity offered, to the scattered sheep in the wilderness. He was an “excellent scholar, a sound divine, and an accomplished gentleman.” To entire faithfulness and diligence, he joined conciliating manners, and a large Christian charity. He clearly saw the great disadvantages under which the Church was laboring in the colonies for want of a superintending head; and so early as 1709, he expressed his earnest conviction to the Society, that if a Bishop was sent hither, “these infant settlements would become beautiful nurseries, which now seem to languish for want of a father to oversee and bless them.” His own vineyard, however, was well cultivated and yielded plentiful fruits, for in 1732, when applying for a small increase of his stipend to enable him to provide for his family, he thus writes:
" I take the pleasure of telling you this known truth, that betwixt New York and Boston, the distance of three hundred miles, and wherein are many missions, there is not a congregation in the way of the Church of England, that can pretend to compare with mine, or equal it in any respect; nor does my Church consist of members that were of it when I came here, for I bave buried them all; nor is there any one person now alive that did then belong to our Church, so that our present appearance is entirely owing to God's blessing upon my endeavors." (p. 455.)
It was in his time that Dean Berkley visited Newport, and attracted the attention of the inhabitants by his “complaisant manner” and his “eloquent and forcible” preaching. But let Mr. Updike tell the story in his own words.
“The connection of Dean Berkley with Trinity Church, calls for a pass. ing notice of his sojourn in Newport, where he arrived by a circumstance purely accidental. He, with other gentlemen, his associates, were bound to the Island of Bermuda, with the intention of establishing there a college for the education of the Indian youth of this country, a plan, however, which wholly failed. The captain of the ship in which he sailed could not find the Island of Bermuda, and having given up the search after it, steered northward until they discovered land unknown to them, and which they supposed to be inhabited by savages. On making a signal, however, two men came on board from Block Island, in the character of pilots, who, on inquiry, informed them, the harbor and town of Newport were near. That in the town there was an Episcopal Church, the minister of which was Mr. James Honyman; on which they proceeded for Newport, but an adverse wind caused them to run into the west passage, where the ship came to anchor.
The Dean wrote a letter to Mr. Honyman, which the pilots took on shore at Conanicut Island, and called on a Mr. Gardner and a Mr. Martin, two members of Mr. Honyman's Church, informing them that a great dignitary of the Church of England, called Dean, was on board the ship, together with other gentlemen passengers. They handed them the letter from the Dean, which Gardner and Martin brought to Newport in a small boat, with all possible dispatch. On their arrival, they found Mr. Honyman was at Church, it being a holy-day on which divine service was held there. They then sent the letter by a servant, who delivered it to Mr. Honyman in his pulpit. He opened it, and read it to the congregation, from the contents of which it appeared the Dean might be expected to land in Newport every moment. The Church was dismissed with the blessing, and Mr. Honyman with the wardens, vestry, Church, and congregation, male and female, repaired immediately to the ferry wharf, where they arrived a little before the Dean, his family and friends.” (p. 395.)
Other traditions slightly vary from this, but none in the judgment of the historian are so well connected or credible. The Dean purchased a farm of about one hundred acres in Newport, adjoining Mr. Honyman's, and built him a house for his residence, which he called White Hall, and which yet stands, and bears the original name.
* This White Hall estate he gave to Yale College in Connecticut, which still owns the fee. He built his house in a valley, not far from a hill commanding an extensive view of the ocean and country. He preferred the valley to the hill, as he said, for the following reasons—that to enjoy the prospect from the hill, he must visit it only occasionally; that if his constant residence should be on the hill, the view would be so common as to lose all its charms. During his residence at White Hall, he wrote his · Minute Philosopher,' and his celebrated poem, so oraculat as to the future destinies of America. These were written at a place about half a mile southwardly from his house. There he had his chair and writing apparatus placed in a natural alcove, which he found in the most elevated parts of the Hanging Rocks, (so called,) roofed and only open to the south, commanding at once a view of Sachuest Beach, the ocean and the circumjacent islands. This hermitage was to him a favorite and solitary retreat. He continued here about two years, perhaps, a little longer.
“ His preaching was eloquent and forcible and attracted large congregations to Trinity Church. When he was called to a sphere of greater usefulness in his native country, he was not forgetful of a residence which was endeared to him by many pleasing recollections; and which, moreover, possessed for him a melancholy interest, from the circumstance of containing the ashes of his infant daughters, that had died during his sojourn in Newport.” (p. 396.)
In taking leave of Mr. Updike's volume, we can not but repeat the expression of our gratification that it has been writ
With all its want of order, with its variety of narrative and reminiscences, it is a valuable book, and will be used by the future annalist, when he comes to write the more ample history of the Church in New England. It is a noble memorial of the author's industry and devotion to antiquarian reVOL, I.-NO. I.