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Doc. 185.-Bishop Whittingham's Pastoral letter. August 14, 1861.

Beloved Brethren:--Eight months ago, at the call of the Chief Magistrate of the country then in office, I invited you to the earnest observance of a day set apart for united appeal, by public humiliation, fasting, and prayer, to the pardoning mercies of God in behalf of this sinful and chastised people.

We have too much reason to fear that the humiliation of the nation at that time, however general and loud in profession, was not of the kind which is effectual to stay the course of chastisement. We had grievously sinned in proud self-sufficiency, boasting complacency in our institutions and their attendant prosperity, and arrogant disregard of justice to the weak and courtesy to the strong, in our national relations. We were startled, rather than humbled, by the outbreak of our great calamity. We yet failed to be duly impressed with a sense of its fearful import, and the insufficiency of our own might or wisdom for our deliverance from the impending evil. [529]

In a quick succession of thronging horrors, those evils have come upon us; and from a land red with the best blood of its inhabitants, arrayed against each other in hundreds of thousands on scenes of battle-fields,we are called on once more to send up the voice of supplication to the God to whom vengeance belongeth, in entreaty that he will withhold his avenging hand, and deliver us from the just judgment of our sins.

In the fulfilment of my office it is incumbent on me again to lead you in the discharge of this solemn duty by the provision of appropriate services.

Remembering the example and injunction of the Apostle of the Gentiles, “with the weak” to “become as weak,” I have made little change from the Form of Prayer set forth in December last. The state of the nation has changed since then. The relative position of this State is ascertained. The duties of residents in Maryland, as citizens, are clear. The authority by which we are now invited to approach the throne of grace, is that which God has set over us, and which he bids us recognize as his, or resist only at the awful peril of rendering account to him. By his express command we are bound to make in its behalf our “supplications, prayers, and intercessions,” and in that way seek the attainment of a “quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” Other courses involve us in the condemnation which the Word of Truth denounces against those who in “perilous times” show themselves “traitors, heady and high-minded.” In the present circumstances of citizens of the United States in Maryland, there can be no reasonable doubt in what direction our allegiance is solemnly pledged to the Searcher of hearts when we pray to him to deliver us from sedition, privy-conspiracy, and rebellion.

Nevertheless, being painfully sensible how largely even honest and pious men, in the pitiable weakness of human judgment, hoodwinked by natural affection, social relations, and surrounding influences, may be hindered from the perception of the strongest obligations of religious duty; and desiring that in this our common access to the throne of grace there may be no stumbling-block at which any may have occasion to take offence; I have taken care to prescribe no petition in which all who believe in the just government of God, and truly desire the accomplishment of his righteous will, may not from the heart consent without mental protest or reservation. If there be any among us still disposed to cast in their lot with those who are in arms against their Government, my office concerns itself not with their political tenets or their social bias, further than to warn them to take good heed lest they be fostering in themselves a delusion, the not unguilty fruit of self-abandonment to the trammels of party, and to the voluntary blindness of prejudice, nursed by pride of station, of influence and of connection.

Now, I ask their prayers with those of their brethren, that God would be pleased to open all our eyes to the perception of the truth, as it concerns our duty to our country; and all our hearts to the reception of his grace, in order to our true repentance and sincere amendment of life, each in his several place and station, and all of us conjointly, as a greatly sinning and greatly punished people.

What we want is faith; faith, to perceive that God is, and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him; faith, to believe in him and in Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent; faith, to find out that there are better things to labor for than the good things of this present life, better uses of our days and means than making haste to be rich; faith, to lay the evil secrets of our hearts before our merciful Redeemer, and claim the cleansing influences of his precious blood-shedding and prevalent intercession.

After the great gift of faith, let us jointly implore the blessing of humility, true humility, which shuns pride of opinion as self-idolatry, and can bear to forego its own for others' good. “Each esteeming other better than themselves,” let us strive together who shall most perfectly copy in his own life the lowly meekness which our Master sets before us as his example.

In faith and humility only can we honestly seek peace and consistently ensue it; and they, to be true, must be given us of God, and sought of him in earnest supplication, with hearty avowal of our need.

To that, therefore, brethren, I affectionately invite you; and implore you, not only in public assemblage on the day set apart for national observance, but also continually, in every mode of approach to God in prayer, before and after the set time of solemn service, to supplicate our Father in Heaven for the bestowal upon this people of his unspeakable blessing of godly quietness in public peace.

Affectionately and faithfully, your servant in Christ,

William Rollinson Whittingham, Bishop of Maryland. Baltimore, August 14, 1861.

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