Project Canterbury

The Church and Its Apostolic Ministry
A Course of Lectures delivered in St. Mark's Church, Denver, in January, 1887.

By John Franklin Spalding

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1887.

Lecture VI. The Apostolic Succession Unbroken.

THE promise of Christ, made when He gave to the Apostles His great Commission, to be with them alway, even unto the end of the world, is a promise that the Apostolic Order and office should be continued, the perpetual source under Christ Himself of all Ministerial power. It is the promise of an Apostolic Succession and an effectual presence with the Ministers of such Succession and those by them commissioned unto the end of the Christian dispensation.

This Succession has its fountain Head in Jesus Christ the Apostle from God to a lost world. It begins in the sending of the Twelve, "as My Father hath sent Me"; in the ordination of Matthias to the place of Judas; in the independent call and consecration of the great Apostle to the Gentiles; in the Apostle James with his Diocesan Church of Jerusalem, presided over by him from the time the Apostles separated, each for his chosen field of labor, and in the Apostolic College, after his martyrdom, consecrating to his office Symeon, son of Cleopas, and probably a cousin of Jesus; in the Apostle Paul, the great Missionary Bishop to the Gentiles, when, by [127/128] reason of age and growing infirmities, the care of all the Churches pressed too heavily upon him, commissioning his trained assistants and fellow-laborers to different portions of his widely extended field, as Epaphroditus to Philippi, Timothy to Ephesus, Titus to Crete, and others to other Jurisdictions; in St. John the Evangelist, long residing at Ephesus, the metropolitan city of Asia Minor, exercising a patriarchal oversight in the Churches of the East, and writing, in the name of Christ and by inspiration, Epistles to the Angel-Bishops of the Seven Churches of Asia Minor, whose accession to their office had been with his concurrence and not improbably by the laying on of his hands.

Such is the beginning of the Apostolic Succession. It is a good beginning. For even while St John was alive, and living contemporaneously with him, as we learn from Eusebius and many other competent writers, the Mother Church of Jerusalem has had as its Bishops, James the brother of our Lord, and Symeon, and the latter has been succeeded by Justus. Antioch has had its Bishops, Evodius and Ignatius. Annianus has been made by St. Mark Bishop of Alexandria; Onesimus has followed Timothy at Ephesus. In Rome, Linus has been succeeded by Cletus, and Cletus by "Clement, whose name is in the Book of Life" (Phil, iv, 3). So in all the Churches of Apostolic origin, the succession of Bishops passes on. Hertnas, an Apostolic Father, testifies to the three orders, as [128/129] does Clemens Romanus of the first century. Ignatius says: "As there is no Church where there is no Order, no Ministry; so where the same Order and Ministry are, there is the same Church." "Without Bishop, Priest and Deacon there cannot be said to be a Church." "If any one is not with the Bishop he is not in the Church." [Ad. Trall.] Irenaeus was consecrated Bishop by Polycarp, who was made a Bishop by St. John, and had long been associated with Pothinus, Bishop of Lyons, who perished as a martyr after passing his ninetieth year. These, not to mention Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tortullian, Cyprian, indeed all the writers of those times, who, in discussing other subjects refer incidentally to the government of the Church and its Divine Orders of Ministry, all bear unmistakable and irreproachable witness to the succession of Bishops in the Church. It is curious to see how fully writers on the Canon confirm this witness of the second century Fathers, to Apostolic succession in the Bishops. There could scarcely be a better defense of the position of all Churchmen on this subject than Prof. Fisher's argument for the authenticity of the fourth Gospel in his "Supernatural Origin of Christianity" (pp. 39-83). Treating of the moral impossibility of supposing that this Gospel first saw the light in 160, 140 or 120, he says: "We have spoken of Irenaeus and of his testimony to the undisputed, undoubting reception by all the Churches of the fourth Gospel. If this Gospel first [129/130] appeared as late as A. D. 120, how did it happen that he had not learned the fact from the aged Presbyters (i. e., Bishops) whom he had known in Asia Minor? Irenaeus, before becoming Bishop, was the colleague of Pothinus at Lyons. He was a man whose active life extended back well nigh to the beginning of the century, who was born before St. John died. Supposing St. John's Gospel to have appeared as late as 120, Pothinus was then upwards of thirty years old. Did this man, who loved Christianity so well that he submitted to torture and death for its sake, never think to mention to Irenseus an event of so great consequence as was this late discovery of a Life of the Lord from the pen of his most beloved Disciple and of its reception by the Churches? Polycrates,. Bishop of Ephesus, at the time of his controversy with Victor (Bishop of Rome) described himself as being 'sixty-five years of age in the Lord,' as having 'conferred with the brethren throughout the world and studied the whole of the Sacred Scriptures,' as being also of a family, seven of whose members had held the office of Bishop or Presbyter. How is it that Polycrates or his family appear to have known nothing of so startling an event as the late appearance of this wonderful Gospel? Clement of Alexandria had sat at the feet of venerable teachers in different countries, of whom he says that 'they had lived by the blessing of God to our time, to lodge in our minds the seeds of the ancient [130/131] and Apostolic doctrine.' Justin (Martyr) says that in the Churches there are many men and women of sixty and seventy years of age, who had been Christians from their youth. So at every preceding and subsequent moment of the first half of the second century, there were many old persons in every larger Church whose memory went back far into the Apostolic age. Now, if the statements of Irenaeus and his contemporaries as to the composition of the fourth Gospel were false, and this work in reality saw the light not long after St. John's death, when some forger offered it for acceptance, how is it possible that there should be none to investigate its origin when it first appeared, and none afterwards to correct the prevalent opinion concerning it?" (pp. 77-80). Again he says: "The main, most convincing argument for the genuineness of this Gospel, is drawn from the moral impossibility of discrediting the tradition of the early Church. Let us consider for a moment the character of this argument. On matters of fact in which men are interested, and to which, therefore, their attention is drawn, and in regard to which there are no causes strongly operating to blind their judgment, the evidence of Tradition is, within reasonable limits, conclusive. An individual may perpetuate his testimony to one who long survives him. The testimony of a generation may in like manner be transmitted to and through the generation that comes after. Next to the testimony of one's own senses, is the testimony of another [131/132] person whom we know to be trustworthy. And when instead of one individual handing over his knowledge to a single successor, there is a multitude holding this relation to an equal or greater number after them, the force of this kind of evidence is proportionately augmented. Moreover) the several generations do not pass away like the successive platoons of a marching army, but the young and old, the youth and the octogenarian, are found together in every community: so that upon any transaction of public importance that has occurred during a long period in the past [such as would be the change from Presbytery to Episcopacy], witnesses are always at hand who can either speak from personal knowledge or from testimony directly given them by individuals with whom they were in early life familiar. Few persons who have not specially attended to the subject are aware how long a period is sometimes covered by a very few links of traditional testimony. Lord Campbell remarks of himself that he had seen a person who had been a spectator of the execution of Charles I. in 1649. A single link separated Lord Campbell from the eye-witnesses of an event occurring upwards of two hundred years before. Supposing this intervening witness to be a discriminating and trustworthy person, and we have testimony that is fully credible. And Prof. Fisher goes on to cite two suggestive examples from Palfrey's History of New England. The first relates to the preservation of the knowledge of the landing place of the Pilgrims. [132/133] "Plymouth Rock is now imbedded in a wharf. When this was about to be built in 1741, Elder Thomas Faunce, then ninety-one years old, came to visit the rock, and to remonstrate against its being exposed to injury; and he repeated what he had heard of it from the first planters. Elder Faunce's testimony was transmitted through Mrs. White, who died in 1810 ninety-five years old, and Deacon Ephraim Spooner, who died in 1818 at the age of eighty-three. Again, when Josiah Quincy of Boston was twelve or thirteen years old, Nathaniel Appleton was still minister of Cambridge and a preacher in the Boston pulpits. Appleton, born in Ipswich in 1693, had often sat on the knees of Governor Bradstreet, who was his father's neighbor, and Bradstreet came from England in John Winthrop's company in 1830. Eyes that had seen men who had been founders of a cis-Atlantic England, have looked also on New England as she presents herself to-day. Mr. Quincy died in 1864. Every man of seventy who can unite his memory with the memories of the individuals who had attained the same age when he was young, can go back through a period of more than one hundred years. He can state what was recollected fifty years ago concerning events that took place a half century before. If, in reference to a particular fact, we fix the earliest age of trustworthy recollection at fifteen, and suppose each of those whose memories are thus united, to give their report at the age of eighty, there is covered a period of one hundred [133/134] and thirty years. We can easily think of cases where, from the character of both the witnesses, the evidence thus received would be entirely conclusive. But traditionary evidence had a special security and a special strength in the case of the early Christian Church. The Church, as Mayer forcibly observes, had a physical and spiritual continuity of life; there was a close connection of its members one with another. 'Like a stream of water such a stream of youths, adults and old men is an unbroken whole.' The church was a community, an association. A body of this kind, says Mayer, recognizes that which is new as new. It is protected from imposition. How would it be possible, he inquires, for a now Augsburg Confession to be palmed off on the Lutheran Church as a document that has been generally accepted?" Of course it would not be, and still more impossible to palm off Episcopal government if the church had been constituted Congregationalist or Presbyterian! Wonderful trustworthiness of tradition concerning New England Puritanism! Why is the tradition less trustworthy which vouches for the Apostolic origin of Episcopacy?

In estimating the force of this reasoning Dr. Fisher, in an equally convincing way, remarks: "We must take notice of the number of the early Christians at the close of the first century. Christianity was planted in all the principal cities of the Roman Empire. It was in the great cities and centers of intercourse, as Jerusalem, Antioch, Ephesus, [134/135] Corinth, Alexandria, and Rome that Christianity was first established," and he goes on to give Pliny's statement of the Christians in Bithynia in Trajan's time. They were so numerous that "the Temples were almost deserted." Tacitus says that as early as Nero's persecution, A. D. 64, the Christians condemned constituted "a great multitude." Tertullian testifies how greatly the Christians had increased. Now, is it not perfectly evident that the grounds of this invincible argument for the authenticity of St. John's Gospel, are the grounds also of a much stronger argument, if possible, for the Divine Institution, Apostolicity, continuance and succession of the Ministry of Apostles, or Bishops, Priests and Deacons in the Church?

In the light of this argument of Prof. Fisher, hear Irenaeus saying: "We can reckon those who were ordained Bishops in the Church by the Apostles and their successors even to our own age." And Tertullian, writing against the heretics: "Let them show the originals of their churches. Let them number the order of their Sees, so derived by succession from the beginning that their first Bishop had one of the Apostles or Apostolic men for his author and antecessor. After this manner do the Apostolic Churches bring in their accounts." And again he speaks of them "who were placed in the Bishops'office by the Apostles." [Bishop Bilson's Perpetual Government of Christ's Church, p. 341.] Many other like testimonies might be given. It was the Apostolic succession in the Church that handed on the true [135/136] Faith and the writings of the Apostles. To use the Apostolic succession to vindicate the Books of Holy Scripture and then deny the succession that preserved these Books is a too evident inconsistency.

The succession then is proved from the Apostles on through the first and second centuries. After that there is no difficulty. The Church is well established in every country. Christendom is a fact. Episcopal government prevails everywhere. The succession as a matter of course continues uninterruptedly, and without a break has come down to us. The identity and continuity of the Church with its Apostolic Ministry may be fairly assumed.

But difficulties are alleged. Grounds of objection are sought. The succession is still disputed. We must consider the objections that stand in the way of the general acceptance of the Divinely constituted Ministry, and the return of all Christians now unhappily separated to the unity of the Church Catholic.

The first difficulty which I find in some minds lies in the theory of the impossibility of more than twelve Apostles. There were twelve sons of Jacob and twelve tribes of Israel to which the "twelve thrones" on which the twelve Apostles were to sit as Judges, were to correspond. It is this theory that has led to the strange and unwarrantable assumption already disposed of, that in electing Matthias to the place of Judas, the Apostles acted hastily and without Divine sanction, and that Matthias was not "numbered with the [136/137] eleven Apostles," as the word of God assures us (Acts i, 26) but that St. Paul was made by Christ Himself the twelfth Apostle--a fact of which there is certainly no intimation in the Acts of the Apostles nor in any of St. Paul's Epistles, and of which the Church has always been ignorant until this preposterous theory of the last two or three hundred years made the assumption necessary!

That there were but twelve original Apostles may well be admitted. The symbolism of the number is preserved if we suppose the twelve, Matthias being one, were Apostles to the Circumcision. If the twelve must stand alone, St. Paul, the thirteenth Apostle, is the beginning of a new series. St. Paul is the first or the most prominent of the Apostles to the Gentiles. From him chiefly proceed the secondary Apostles, or the Apostles of the second generation. And yet, according to the testimony of the ancient Church, St. Peter commissioned other Apostles, and St. John in his old age was careful that Bishops should be placed over the many Churches of the East of which he was the Metropolitan. And doubtless all of the Apostles perpetuated their Order in the countries where they planted the Gospel.

But the original Apostles, and we must include St. Paul among these, must have a marked distinction over those who succeeded them. The beginning of a series must be peculiar in that it is the beginning. The twelve with St. Paul were chosen by our Lord in Person to lay the [137/138] foundations of the Church, to reveal, confirm and establish its doctrines, its polity, rites and discipline. This fact must give to them a marked peculiarity. Their successors cannot be what they were, from the fact that they are their successors. So the first Presbyters and Deacons, and indeed the first Christians, have a like peculiarity distinguishing them from those that follow. It was necessary that the first Apostles should have seen the Risen Lord because the burden of their preaching must be "Jesus and the Resurrection." It was necessary that they should work miracles, because they were inaugurating a now dispensation and a new era, and must prove that they are divinely sent. But in these things they were not alone. The whole Church of the Pentecostal times was supernaturally endowed, and miraculous powers were common to "them that believed" (St. Mark xv, 17). So, too, it was not the exclusive privilege of the Apostles to have seen "Christ risen;" "more than five hundred brethren" saw him at once, alive after his passion. (1 Cor. xv, 6). These things were the result of their position in relation to Christ and of the times in which they lived. The essential parts of the Apostolic office, aside from what was peculiar to them, as inspired, to teach authoritatively the whole Church in all ages and to lay its foundations of Faith, and Order, and Polity, were ordaining, governing, supervision, discipline. Their powers for such ends must be transmitted if the Church was to continue in its identity, and be ever the same which they founded. Their [138/139] successors must be the same as themselves in all respects except only as they were their successors and were not gifted with the same infallible guidance of inspiration in teaching and in work. And such are and must be their successors at whatever remove from the original Institution.

It is not a little absurd and does not evince a very accurate knowledge of Holy Scripture, when our Bishops are called upon to prove their Apostolic claims by working miracles and teaching infallibly by inspiration. It is making them responsible for not living in the Pentecostal times 1 But where is it told us that miracles or inspiration were peculiar to the Apostolic office? These things are not even alluded to in the great Commission by which they were empowered for their work (St. Matt, xxviii, 18,19,20). They were to teach, baptize, govern, extend and perpetuate the Church. They were to do what must be done in all times till the end of the Dispensation. If it were the case that the Apostles had no successors because Bishops in the present day do not work miracles, etc., it would also follow that there is no succession of true believers: for, "These signs shall follow them that believe," etc. (S. Mark xvi, 17).

The Apostles, then, may and must have successors if the Ministry is to be perpetuated. It is as necessary indeed that the Church should have its succession of officers as that a Nation should have a succession of Rulers. A regal government must have a Kingly succession. A [139/140] government like ours must have a Presidential succession. An Apostolic government, which was certainly originally given to the Church, must have an Apostolic succession. If the succession breaks continuity is lost, authority ceases and can only be revived by restoring the original government. It is not merely the recognition of the government, the willing obedience of its subjects, that makes it legitimate. The entire subsidence of partisan feeling between the North and the South may make a very striking illustration appropriate. It is the case of the Confederate States during our late war. What were we, of the North, fighting against? Was it not what we regarded as resistance to legitimate authority? We were fighting against an. authority illegitimate and wrongfully recognized by those whom we held to be in rebellion. Suppose you secede from the government Jesus Christ and His Apostles established for His Church, and which has the prescriptive rights of Apostolic and primitive precedent and of fifteen centuries of undisputed sway. Suppose that having established your secession, you organize it, give it a government, institute its Ministry, is it not a new Church? It may become a de facto government and Ministry. But is it dejure? Is it of right? Is it Christ's government? Has it the Ministry of Christ's Church? The analogy may give food for reflection.

But here the great difficulty arises. Has the Apostolic succession been actually preserved? Was there no break [140/141] in what are sometimes ignorantly called the "dark ages," when it is alleged boys were sometimes made Bishops; when it could be believed, however erroneously, that there could be a female Pope; when ungodliness is said to have abounded and the Church to have been involved in corruptions and superstition? How can we feel sure that we have the Ministry of the Apostolic and primitive ages? [See Maitland on the Dark Ages.]

We may reply, first, that these are only conjectures calculated to throw doubt upon, the subject. The presumption is the strongest possible in favor of an uninterrupted succession. The burden of proof rests upon its impugners. Instead of saying a break may have occurred, a link somewhere may be wanting, they must prove what they merely hint at. They must show just where, when and how the succession was broken, and how one or any number of broken links could affect the question. It is a matter of fact, of recorded history. When a fact is alleged as probable it should be cited. It should be shown to be real. It should be proved. It is a now and strange logic that would set a lately suggested plausible conjecture against the undisputed fact of the whole stream of history, which witnesses to the Church's continuity in every country where it has been planted, and whose continuity depended upon an uninterrupted succession of the Orders of the Ministry. Had there been at any time any suspicion of a break in [141/142] any of the numerous Dioceses, surely there were vigilant Churchmen enough to have noted the fatal irregularity. There has been no time when a pretended Bishop, irregularly or invalidly consecrated, would not have been summarily driven from the See he had usurped, and a valid consecration of a true Bishop would not soon have supplied his place.

Lord Macaulay is largely responsible for the shallow argument from conjecture, against presumptive and universally recognized fact. The ridicule heaped by him in his "Essay on Ranke's History of the Popes," upon the idea of an uninterrupted succession of Bishops in the Middle Ages, rebounds upon himself. His brilliant imagination was playing upon the surface of a subject to which he had given no real thought. No genuine historical student and thinker could regard his argument, if it could be called an argument, as worthy of a moment's consideration.

To the Christian the positive promise of Christ that the Apostolic succession should not be broken ought to be sufficient to allay all doubts. It was spoken to the Apostles as Apostles, not as individuals. His "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world," did not pledge the continuance of their natural lives. They were to continue as Apostles. As Apostles His presence should be with them through all ages to come, until the end. The promise, therefore, did guarantee the succession. It was the great reliance of themselves and their successors in [142/143] teaching, administering the Sacraments, and fulfilling all their duties. If you suppose a break you must hold that it occurred without Christ's knowledge that it would occur, or in spite of His will to prevent it. No Christian should think so lightly of His ability to keep His promise as to doubt that He has preserved the essential polity of His Church and Constitution of its Ministry. It is certain to Faith whatever doubts may have been suggested. [Bp. McIlvaine's Sermon at the Consecration of Bp. Polk.]

Again, such supposed break is not only rationally inconceivable, it is in the highest degree incredible. It is laid down by Bishop Butler in his Analogy that "there is in every case a probability that all things will continue as ive experience they are, in all respects, except those in which we have some reason to think they will be altered." If you take in the full meaning of this profoundly suggestive remark you will find it to contain an important principle. It will help you to expose a great many sophistries on various subjects as well as this one now under consideration. A familiar illustration or two will show its application. You experience that the sun rises and sets every day, morning and evening, with precision and regularity. Suppose some one conjectures that four or five thousand years ago it was otherwise. Is it not superfluous to imagine it in the absence of all proof? You have a friend who is known to you and to others to have been from his youth a person of unsullied honor and scrupulous integrity. This is your [143/144] invariable experience of his character. But some one hints that in instances unknown to you he may have acted dishonorably. Are you to believe it without evidence? Again, the infidel may suggest that the Books of Holy Scripture may have been essentially modified and corrupted in the hands of innumerable transcribers. Will such a conjecture destroy your confidence in your Bibles? We find in our own experience that the Bible does not change essentially in a long period. We have in this country the identical King James version. Compare new with old editions and you will find no material change, though the spelling of the words be modernized. The text of the Greek (textus receptus) is the same substantially as at the Reformation period, and you have the means of correcting all variations. The masters of criticism inform us that the great manuscripts and versions are uncorrupted. Westcott and Hort, with their new theory of genealogy and families of manuscripts, which leads them possibly to place an undue reliance on certain old manuscripts, the Sinaitic, the Vatican, do not, nevertheless, give us a text in which a single fact or doctrine of the New Testament is changed. There is no ground whatever for doubt whether we read the same Bibles as did the early Christians. The infidel conjecture, unsupported as it is by proof, is unworthy of the slightest attention. So, in general, it is utterly frivolous in any case to object: this or that thing may have happened, unless there is proof or probable reason to think it did happen.

[145] Now, is there the slightest probability that there has been any break in the Apostolic succession of the Ministry? It has always and everywhere been the custom to perpetuate the succession in all dioceses from Bishop to Bishop by ordination and consecration. What reason is there to think that men would innovate on the established order of things? Indeed, there is every reason to believe the contrary, especially as any fraud or invalidity would have imperiled official rights and jeoparded interests held sacred. Admit that the Church has been corrupt and that bad men have been sometimes made Bishops. The personal character of officers does not invalidate their official acts. A bad man as judge, legislator or governor, legally in office and performing its functions, is invariably held to perform valid acts in his official capacity, acts which are as legal and binding upon all concerned as if he were personally a paragon of virtue. The doctrine of intention in the individual is rightly rejected. Every official work of Bishop or Priest is an act of the Church of which he is an officer. The Church's intention is effectual, her formularies being observed. Whatever he may be or intend, he performs a valid Baptism, gives a true Eucharist, the laying on of hands for Confirmation or Ordination confers what the Church intends thereby. Any other view is not only irrational, but would lead to consesequences manifestly absurd and impossible.

But there is every probability that care would be [145/146] exercised even in the worst times to avoid any error or flaw in the conveyance of the Episcopate. Selfish aspirations for the Episcopal dignity would be a safeguard. Bad men would not be satisfied without certainty that they were receiving the honor and prerogatives they sought. In times when externals are unduly exalted, as popularly supposed in the Middle Ages, it is in the highest degree improbable that the lawful mode of conferring orders would be undervalued or neglected. The uninterrupted succession is therefore fairly assumed as certain.

But we may go further than this. We may prove any break in the succession to have been impossible. From the earliest times it has been the custom for at least three Bishops to unite in every consecration of a Bishop. The Council of Nice, A. D. 325, by enacting this custom as a law, recognized it as already of force. The Canon was intended to prevent its violation. As if with the prevision that the succession might be at some future time disputed, it would provide that there never should be grounds for raising such a question. The custom and law have been scrupulously adhered to everywhere and in all times.

See the security that lies in this: Every Bishop to-day is proof of the three or more who ordained him. Those three are proof of their nine consecrators. Those nine of twenty-seven; those twenty-seven of eighty-one before them, supposing all the ordainers to be different, and so on in geometrical progression. Suppose, if you will, [146/147] improbable as it is, that in any consecration only one Bishop participating was a true Bishop, the consecration is of course valid. Suppose at any one period, that, (impossible as you must see it to have been,) of all the consecrations in twenty Dioceses only one was validly performed. The one true Bishop would perpetuate the true succession by joining m consecrating other Bishops, and by him alone and those consecrated by him in the course of two or three generations every Diocese would have a valid Episcopate. Our American Episcopate came through Scotland and England. Suppose Bishop Seabury was not validly consecrated. Every one of our seventy Bishops can trace his orders through Seabury, or through White who was consecrated in England. Bishop Seabury only consecrated one Bishop, three others assisting, but through that one consecration all of our Bishops possess the Scottish Orders. The Bishop of Montreal, in 1854, assisted in the consecration of Bishop Potter, of New York. Bishop Potter took part in the consecration of several Bishops, and they, of others, so that today there are few of our Bishops consecrated subsequently who cannot trace their Orders through Bishop Fulford, of Montreal.

You may apply the same reasoning to any period. The dates of consecrations and the names of the consecrators are to a large extent of record all through the darkest of the Middle Ages. Augustine, first Archbishop of Canterbury, was consecrated A. D. 596 by Virgilius, twenty-fourth [147/148] Bishop of Arles. Aetherius, thirty-first Bishop of Lyons assisted. The names of all in the succession in both Aries and Lyons are given in trustworthy records. The Bishops of Lyons begin with Pothinus. Irenaeus, long his contemporary, succeeds him. Of Aries, Trophimus was the first Bishop, and we have the names of all in both Sees through whom Augustine's orders were derived. Augustine consecrated Lawrence to be his successor at Canterbury, assisted by Mellitus and Justus. From this time on there is no difficulty. Through the worst times--Norman, Early English, Mediaeval--dates and names are given, not only of the succession of Canterbury but of other Dioceses, so that it is impossible without the greatest credulity to suppose that any break could have occurred in any part of the Church of England. And there is the same assurance of uninterrupted succession in France. Germany, Spain, Italy, and in every part of Europe, as also of the East. Take as one example of many the year 830. Theogild, elected May 7, was consecrated June 9 by the Bishops of the Province of Canterbury. Who were these? They were Osmund of London, Herewin of Litchfield, Cedd of Hereford, Adelstan of Salisbury, Humbert of Norwich, and Gadwin of Rochester, "all of whom had been consecrated by Wulfred and his Suffragans." [Chapin's Primitive Church, p. 299.] Take any of the Bishops of the Canterbury line down to Thomas Cranmer or Mathew Parker, and you generally find sufficient [148/149] particularity in the historic record. And it is the same in other Dioceses. Cranmer is the 99th from St. John and 67th from St. Augustine. Though consecrated before the Reformation had been consummated, nobody doubts that Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and all the reforming Bishops were in valid Episcopal orders. The Jesuits have tried to invalidate Parker's consecration. But since "Haddan's Apostolic Succession in the Church of England," "Bailey's Defense of English Orders," (in which is given the Photozincographic reprint of the official record of the consecration,) and other exhaustive works on the subject, the question is put forever at rest. Lingard, the Roman Catholic Historian of England, and Courayer and other fair-minded Roman Catholic writers, have sufficiently vindicated its validity. The attempt now to set it aside on any pretense is but the audacity of ignorance and prejudice, and the proof of a bad cause. It may be said that William Barlow was consecrated and confirmed in the See of St. Asaph, Feb. 23, 1535-6. He was translated to St. David's, April 21, 1536. He was translated to Bath and Wells, Feb. 3, 1548, and became the forty-sixth Bishop of that See as he had been the eighty-first of St. David's. On the accession of Mary he fled to Germany and lived there in exile and poverty till Elizabeth recalled him. While Bishop of St. David's he had on Feb. 19, 1541, assisted in consecrating Bulkley of Bangor. All through his eighteen years as Bishop he had sat in Parliament and engaged in Episcopal duties. [149/150] Christopherson, forty-first Bishop of Chichester, having died Jan. 1st or 2d, 1557-8, Barlow was elected his successor. Cardinal Pole, the Archbishop, having died Nov. 17, 1558, the day of the death of Queen Mary, and the Metropolitan See being vacant, he could not be confirmed until Elizabeth's accession, so that when consecrating Parker, Dec. 17, 1559, he acted as Bishop elect of Chitfhester. "All the consecrations of the time of Mary were uncanonical, having been made by authority of the Bishop of Rome, whose authority had been renounced by the Synods of the Anglican Church. Consequently these had no canonical right to consecrate in England. The Bishops, therefore, who alone could canonically consecrate Parker, were Salisbury of Cnetford, Barlow of Chichester, Hodgkin of Bedford, Bonner of London, Thirlby of Ely, Kitchen of Llandaff, Coverdale, late of Exeter, and Scory, late of Bath and Wells. Of these Bonner and Thirlby were incapacitated, having been concerned in the murder of their Metropolitan, Cranmer. The remainder assented to the consecration and four of them (Barlow, Hodgkin, Coverdale and Scory), performed it. [Chapin's Primitive Church, p. 314.] The form used has been objected to, but it is enough to say that if it was not valid, no consecration was valid for 1,000 years. According to Mr. Hugh Davey Evans, in his "Proof of the Validity of Anglican Ordinations," a most competent and careful writer, whose work on this subject, for accuracy and [150/151] thoroughness of research, compares favorably with those of Haddan, Stubbs or Bailey, it is an "indisputable fact that the present Bishops of the Anglican Communion in Ireland are the genuine successors of the ancient Bishops who, before the English invasion, upheld the cause of true Catholicity in Ireland against the Bishops of Rome, and that not only in doctrine, but as receiving both orders and succession through them by an unbroken chain of consecrations." [Second Series, Vol. I, p. 201.] He shows it to have been a fact that "Elizabeth had seventeen Irish Bishops at her command "for the consecration of Parker, had there been a failure to secure true Bishops in England for the purpose, so that "the difficulty of procuring consecrators for Parker must have been entirely imaginary and the actual consecrators were not selected from necessity, but from preference" (p. 202). He gives the names of the Irish Bishops who sat as Bishops of Sees from 1551 to long after the date of Parker's consecration, accepted the Reformation and continued the Episcopal order and the Church's identity through that period of change. That Irish Bishops have subsequently participated in consecrations of English Bishops no one will question, so that apart from the validity of Parker's consecration, the English Episcopate is valid through the Irish. Bailey, in the preface to his "Defense of Holy Orders in the Church of England," gives it as an "extra [151/152] ordinary yet most important fact, that at the consecration of Archbishop Laud, three separate lines of orders, viz., the English, the Irish and the Italian, met together. For Laud was consecrated to the See of St. David, Nov. 18, 1621, by George Monteigne, Bishop of London; John Thorn-borough, Bishop of Worcester; Nicholas Felton. Bishop of Ely; George Carleton, Bishop of Chichester; John Howson, Bishop of Oxford, and Theophilus Field, Bishop of Llandaff. Of these, Monteigne and Felton were consecrated by George Abbot of Canterbury, Mark Antony, De Dominis, Archbishop of Spalato in Dalmatia, and by four other Bishops. Field was consecrated by Gray, Bishop of Deny in Ireland, and four other Bishops; and Thornborough was consecrated to the See of Limerick in Ireland." So, too, Hampton, Archbishop of Armagh, who was consecrated by four Irish Bishops, assisted in consecrating Morton to the See of Chester, July 7,1616, and Morton pined in the consecration on May 9, 1619, of Howson, Bishop of Oxford, who was one of Laud's consecrators. Again, Wickham was consecrated to the See of Lincoln, Dec. 6, 1584, by Middleton, Bishop of St. David's, who had himself been consecrated to the See of Waterford in Ireland, in 1579. [Bailey, pp. iv, v.]

This is but one example, showing "how impossible it is for the line of Episcopal succession to have failed in England, for even were it the case that there was a [152/153] weakness in one link in the chain, yet the chain itself is too strong to be affected by it." (p. v.)

But why call it a chain, as if made of single, successive links? It is a net-work. It is a perfect reticulation. The lines of succession are numerous. They constantly cross and re-cross each other. Their intersections are innumerable. A break in any one or even in many, if it could be supposed, for a break in any one is improbable, would not affect the continuity. The improbability becomes practically an impossibility. The idea of a general complete loss of the succession is preposterous. Thus, if any thing belonging to the past is susceptible of proof, it is proved that the succession has been uninterrupted. I can humbly say that I know, every Bishop can feel an absolute assurance, that his order is traceable through more than one line, yes, through many, back to St. John, St. Paul, St. Peter and the other Apostles. Is there not strength in this position? May we not rightly magnify our office?

It ought not, then, to occasion surprise that the Bishops of the American Church, in laying down the indispensable conditions of the restoration of Christian unity, should insist upon the acceptance of the historic Episcopate. We did not elect this Ministry; we received it. It is a sacred trust. We cannot surrender it. We cannot suffer it to be impaired. It carries with it, implicitly, the other conditions as well. The Word, the Faith, the Sacraments, we believe to be held and used in their full power and grace, [153/154] as ministered in the Church which is in historic continuity and oneness with that Church built upon the foundation of Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, and which through the Apostolic Ministry has preserved in their integrity the Word, the Faith and the Sacraments.

We could not, except upon principle and conviction, and in loyalty to the Church and her well-defined position from the beginning, refuse to admit to the Ministry, able, learned, godly non-Episcopal Ministers in any other way than is required by the Ordinal and the Canons of the Church. Coming to our Ministry they must be first tried, proved and examined, and then in accordance with our fundamental law be ordained first Deacon and then Priest. [Title I, Canon 2, ยง 7, and Canon 11.] While if one who has been already ordained by a Bishop of the Greek or Roman Catholic Church, come to us, we are required to receive him as Deacon or Priest on abjuring his uncatholic errors of Faith or practice. We are not responsible for this. It is involved in the nature and history of the Church. To change it, would be the abandonment of the Church's position and of the trust committed to her for the salvation of men. There can be no lack of Charity in adhering with love towards all men, to principle and law.

It is not a matter of principle to adhere to the forms [154/155] of Church order adopted for the first time at or since the Reformation. For all the adherents of these forms hold Episcopacy to be valid. They could surrender what they do not hold essential. We cannot surrender what we know is essential.

The currents of thought in Religious and Ecclesiastical things set strongly towards the past. Our brethren of different denominations are studying Church History and the Christian Fathers. They are investigating the great subject of Liturgies and the families of Liturgies. They are learning Christian Doctrine through its historic developments and applications in the first centuries. They are finding that the ancient and still universal Creeds are of a value and importance unsuspected before, in that they teach us to rise above Confessional Christianity and opinions about the Faith, to belief in and personal fealty to God, Father, Son and Spirit. They are finding that Christianity existed not only in the first and second centuries, but all through the ages, and was not re-discovered at the Reformation. The past is coming to be respected. It is seen that there is strength in the historic position. The continuity of Christianity in the Apostolic form is coming to be felt to be important. It is a time for the Church to teach, to hold forth her true position and claims. It is no time to give up or undervalue that which is coming to be, practically, as in fact, her strength and glory. It is through her preservation of the Apostolic or [155/156] Episcopal Ministry and whatever is essential in it, as being in all essentials the same Church that Christ founded and his Apostles planted, that she can be, as many even from without have asserted that she is to be, "the Church of the Reconciliation."

Project Canterbury