Project Canterbury

The Unity of the Church: The Ministry: The Apostolical Succession:
Three Discourses

By James Hervey Otey.

New York: Daniel Dana, Jr., 1845.

A. p. 60. "I allow that each state ought to have one bishop of its own by divine right; which I show from Paul, saying for this cause left I thee in Crete.'" M. Luther.

"The bishops might easily retain the obedience due unto them, if they urged us not to keep those traditions which we cannot keep with a good conscience." Melancthon.

"We have often protested that we do greatly approve the ecclesiastical polity and degrees in the church, and as much as lieth in us, do desire to conserve them." Melancthon.

"I would to God it lay in me to restore the government of bishops. For I see what manner of church we shall have, the ecclesiastical polity being dissolved. I do see that hereafter will grow up in the church a greater tyranny than there ever was before." Melancthon.

"By what right or law may we dissolve the ecclesiastical polity, if the bishops will grant to us, that which in reason they ought to grant? And if it were lawful for us to do so, yet surely it were not expedient. Luther was ever of this opinion." Melancthon.

"Zuingle has sent hither in print, his confession of faith. You would say neither more nor less, than that he is not in his senses. At one stroke, he would abolish all ceremonies, and he would have no bishops." Melancthon.

"If they will give us such an hierarchy, in which the bishops have such a pre-eminence as that they do not refuse to be subject unto Christ, I will confess that they are worthy of all anathemas, if any such there be, who will not reverence it, and submit themselves to. it with the utmost obedience." Calvin.

Of Calvin's Episcopal opinions, Mons. Daille, a French protestant divine thus writes--"Calvin honored all bishops that were not subjects of the Pope, such as were the prelates of England. We confess that the foundation of their charge is [73/74] good and lawful, established by the Apostles according to the command of Christ." Bingham's French Church's Apology for the Church of England.

Mons. De L'Angle, another divine of the same church, thus writes to the bishop of London: "Calvin, in his treatise of the necessity of the Reformation, makes no difficulty to say, that if there should be any so unreasonable as to refuse the communion of a church that was pure in its worship and doctrine, and not to submit himself with respect to its government, under pretence, that it had retained an Episcopacy qualified as yours is, there would be no censure or rigor of discipline that ought not to be exercised upon them." Stillingfleet's unreasonableness of separation, at the end.

"It was essential that by the perpetual ordination of God, it was, it is, and it will be necessary, that some one in the presbytery, chief both in place and dignity, should preside to govern the proceedings, by that right which is given him of God." Beza.

"In my writings touching church government, I ever impugned the Romish hierarchy, but never intended to touch or impugn the ecclesiastical polity of the church of England." Beza.

If there are any, as you will not easily persuade me, who would reject the whole order of bishops, God forbid that any man in his senses should assent to their madness--"Let her (Church of England) enjoy that singular blessing (Episcopacy) of God, which I pray may be perpetual." Beza.

"By the perpetual observation of all churches, even from the Apostles' times, we see, that it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, that among presbyters, to whom the procuration of churches was chiefly committed, there should be one that should have the care or charge of divers churches, and the whole ministry committed to him; and by reason of that charge he was above the rest;. and therefore the name of bishop was attributed peculiarly to those chief rulers." Bucer de curs, &c.

Of the Episcopate, therefore, that is, the superiority of one Pastor above the rest, we first determine that it is repugnant to no divine law. If any one think otherwise, that is, if any one condemn the whole ancient church of folly or even of impiety, [74/75] the burden of proof beyond doubt lies upon him; &c. The very ministry instituted by the Apostles sufficiently proves that equality of the Ecclesiastical offices was not commanded by Christ. We, therefore, first lay down this, which is undoubtedly true, that it, (viz: the Episcopate or superiority of one Pastor above the rest,) neither can or ought to be found fault with; in which we have agreeing with us, Zanchius, Chemnitius, Hemmingius, Calvin, Melancthon, Bucer, and even Beza, as thus far he says, that one certain person chosen by the judgment of the rest of his co-presbyters was chief over the presbytery and was permanently so.

Another is, that that Episcopate, which we treat of, was received by the universal church. This appears from all the councils, whose authority now likewise is very great among the pious. It appears also from an examination of the councils either national or provincial, of which there is almost none which does not show manifest signs of Episcopal superiority. All the fathers, without exception, testify the same, of whom he who shows least defference to the Episcopate is Jerome, himself not a bishop, but a presbyter. Therefore the testimony of him alone is sufficient: "It was decreed through the whole world that one chosen from the presbyters should be set over the rest, to whom all care of the church should belong." Indeed this error of Aerius was condemned by the whole church, that he said that a Presbyter ought to be distinguished from a bishop by no difference. Jerome himself, in reply to him, who had written that there is no difference between a bishop and a presbyter, answered, this is unskilfully enough to make shipwreck in port, as it is said. Even Zanchius acknowledges the agreement of the whole church in this matter.

The third thing is this, that the Episcopate had its commencement in the time of the Apostles. The catalogues of the bishops in Irenaeus, Eusebius, Socrates, Theodoret, and others, all of which begin in the 'Apostolic age, testify this. But to refuse credit in a historical matter to so great authors, and so unanimous among themselves, is not the part of any but an irreverent and stubborn disposition. For that is just as if you should deny that it was true, what all histories of the Romans declare, that the consulate began from the expelled Tarquins. But let us hear Jerome again: "At Alexandria," he says, "from [75/76] Mark the Evangelist the presbyters always named one chosen from themselves, placed in a higher degree, bishop."

Mark died in the 8th year of Nero: to whom succeeded Anianus, to Anianus Abilius, to Abilius Cerdo, the Apostle John being yet alive. After the death of James, Simeon had the Episcopate of Jerusalem: after the death of Peter and Paul, Linus, Anacletus, and Clemens had the Roman; and Euodius and Ignatius, that of Antioch, the same Apostle still living. This ancient history is surely not to be despised, to which Ignatius himself, the contemporary of the Apostles, and Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who followed him next, afford the most open testimony which there is no need to transcribe. 'Now indeed,' says Cyprian, 'bishops are appointed in all the provinces and in every city.'

Let the fourth be, that this bishop was approved of by the Divine law, or (as Bucer says) it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that one among the presbyters should have special charge. The divine revelation affords to this assertion an argument not to be withstood; for Christ himself commands it to be written to the seven angels of the Asiatic churches. Those who understand the churches themselves by the angels manifestly contradict the sacred writings. For the candlesticks are the churches, says Christ: but the stars are the angels of the seven churches. It is wonderful whither the humor of contradicting may not carry men, when they dare to confound those things which the Holy Spirit so evidently distinguished. We do not deny that the name of angel may be suited to every Pastor in a certain general signification: but here it is manifestly written to one in every church. Was there therefore only one Pastor in every city? No, indeed. For even in Paul's time many presbyters were appointed at Ephesus to feed the church of God. (Acts xx. 17, 18.) Why, therefore, are letters sent to one person in every church, if no one had a certain peculiar and eminent function?" After showing that some of the, ancient Fathers, and among the Reformers, Bullinger, Beza, Rainoldus, agree with him in the representation: he says, "Christ, therefore, writing to those bishops, thus eminent among the clergy, undoubtedly approved of this Episcopal superiority." Grotius.

To the statements and argument of this learned presbyterian, [76/77] 'we need not add any thing: They must be hard indeed to convince who are proof against the facts and reasoning of Grotius.

The foregoing extracts are quoted from a small but exceedingly valuable compilation by the bishop of New-Jersey, entitled "a word for the church," to which the reader is "benevolently" recommended. To obtain it, will cost very little, and its perusal may confer lasting and inappreciable benefit.

B. p. 63. "Despairing of justifying their ordinations from the scriptures, the resort of dissenters is to a denial of the episcopal succession. But by this very denial they show how important it is. Now that there has been a body of men in the world called bishops ever since the days of the Apostles, is as undeniable as that there has been a body of christians. One may as well deny the continuance of the human race, or the succession of the generations of men as the continuance and succession of bishops. The succession of bishops as a body of men, then, has never been broken. But it is alledged that the succession has been vitiated by irregular admissions, thus violating the law upon which it depends. But what if the allegation were true? Suppose there have been men professing and acknowledged to be members of the christian church, who have never been baptized, is not he who is truly baptized, now a member of the church? Suppose that men have occasionally assumed the office of a presbyter, and been allowed to exercise the duties and functions of that office without any ordination at all, is he who is regularly ordained in this age any the less a presbyter on that account? Does the invalidity of his orders or the fact of his having had no orders, annihilate the order in the ministry to which he pretended to belong I Most certainly not. Neither could the fact (if there were such an one) that some men have been received as bishops without a regular ordination to the Episcopate, destroy the order of bishops, or make him who is regularly ordained in this age any the less a bishop, than if no such irregularity had ever occurred. But suppose they could prove that the order was lost, what would they gain? Simply a freedom from the restraint of God's laws, a liberty to follow the decrees and desires of their own hearts.

[78] But let us haste to notice the alledged breaks in the succession.

1. "It is not enough to state the fact in a general manner; you must trace the succession in every individual case. You are a priest: I go to you for baptism, for instance. I must closely examine your authority: by whom were you ordained? By the Bishop of Vermont. By whom was the Bishop of Vermont ordained? (consecrated.) And by whom was that individual ordained? and so on. Are you prepared to answer these questions? Have you the documents to prove your legitimate pastoral descent from Jesus Christ? Can you establish your ecclesiastical pedigree beyond all controversy? I ask nothing unnecessary.

1. To this, I reply that it is not necessary to trace the succession in every individual case, because every bishop had three to ordain him, and they had nine, and so on. Thus the individual succession becomes, in two or three generations, merged in the general succession, and if there were but one sound and valid Bishop in a nation or a church a few generations back, all their bishops would be sound and valid now. For instance: it appears from an actual comparison of the table of the American succession, that if only one of the bishops in this country forty years ago had been valid, all would be so now; for they can all trace their succession to him.

2. I can give the succession in the individual case, taking only one in the line, whereas there are in fact never less than three. HOPKINS, GRISWOLD, WHITE--MOORE of Canterbury in England; thence by the line of Canterbury, eighty-seven names, to AUGUSTINE, A. D. 596. From Augustine, through Lyons, to POLYCARP of Smyrna, thirty-one names, and Polycarp was ordained by ST. JOHN, and St. John by JESUS CHRIST. Again, by the same line, I go back to Theodore, ninth archbishop of Canterbury, A. D. 688, eighty-nine names from Bishop Hopkins: and thence, by the Bishops of Rome, seventy-six names, to ST. PETER, who was ordained by CHRIST. Again, by the same line, I go back to CHICELY, A. D. 1414, twenty-nine names; and thence by St. Davids to DAVID, A. D. 519, sixty-six names, thence by Jerusalem to ST. JAMES and the rest of THE APOSTLES, fifty-one names.

Thus Bishop Hopkins, from whom I had my orders is the [78/79] 121st from ST. JOHN, giving about 14 years for each bishop: 165th from ST. PETER, about 10 years for each bishop: 146th from ST. JAMES, and the rest of the apostles at Jerusalem about 12 years for each bishop.

I have omitted the names in each line of succession for brevity's sake; but if my friends' incredulity will not be overcome without, I will furnish every one." REV. W. D. WILSON. Banner of the Cross, June, 10, 1843.

"But the question is often asked can the succession be traced up step by step to the Apostles? Is there no breach in it which would invalidate the whole? The Master's promise 'lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world,' is enough to assure the humble believer, that no such breach has, occurred, or can occur to the end of the world. Besides, the utmost pains have always been taken in every branch of the church to keep the succession regular and pure. Diocesan succession and Apostolical succession are two distinct things. As in Maryland, for example, we have had four Bishops, but no one of them has been concerned in the consecration of his successor. So that a vacancy or interregnum in a particular Diocese-or in fifty or an hundred dioceses, even of long continuance, does not affect the succession in the least. One of the Apostolical canons enjoins, that two or three Bishops, at least, shall unite in every consecration. The succession therefore does not depend upon a line of single Bishops in one Diocese running back to the Apostles--because every Bishop has had at least three to ordain him' either one of whom had power to perpetuate the succession. How rapidly do the securities multiply as we go back! Bishop Whittingham had three to ordain him; his ordainers had nine; at the third step there were twenty-seven: at the fourth eighty-one: at the fifth two hundred and forty-three: and so on increasing in a three fold proportion. Now if any one of the entire number to whom Bishop W's. consecration may be traced back had a valid ordination, the succession is in him, and he can transmit it to any other in whose consecration he may assist.

The securities therefore are incalculably strong, and the claim of any duly consecrated bishop to the Apostolic succession, is more certain than that of any monarch upon earth [79/80] to his hereditary crown. Lists of the Apostolical succession, in descent from the different Apostles, have been carefully preserved by Eusebius and other early writers--and they have been continued in different lines down to the present day. Any reader who desires to consult them, is referred to Percival on Apostolical succession, and Chapin's primitive church. Rome may trace its line to St. Peter--the Greeks, to St. Paul--the Syrians and Nestorians to St. Thomas and the American Episcopal church to ST. JOHN.

Bishop White, the head of the American line of bishops was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury We will therefore present a list beginning with St. John, and coming through the Episcopate of Lyons, in France or Gaul, and that of Canterbury in England, till it connects with ours in the United States of America.

The compilers of the lists from which the above was taken have consulted the best authorities, and no more doubt of its authenticity can be entertained, than of any chronological table of historical events, or list of the sovereigns of any country, drawn from its official registers and archives. The dates attached to the names of the Archbishops of Canterbury, indicate, in several instances, not the time of their consecration but of their translation to that see." REV. DR. HENSHAW.

C. p. 69. The following extracts will not be without interest to those concerned to investigate the claims of Methodist Episcopacy.

"To all [to] whom these presents shall come, John Wesley, [81/82] late fellow of Lincoln College in Oxford, Presbyter of the Church of England, sendeth greeting: Whereas many of the people in the southern provinces in North America, who desire to continue under my care, and still adhere to the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England, are greatly distressed for want of ministers to administer the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's supper according to the usage of the same church; and whereas there does not appear to be any other way of supplying them with ministers--

Know all men, that I, John Wesley, think myself to be providentially called at this time to set apart some persons for the work of the ministry in America. And therefore, under the protection of Almighty God, and with a single eye to his glory, I have this day set apart as a superintendent, by the imposition of my hands and prayer, being assisted by other ordained ministers, Thomas Coke, doctor of civil law, a presbyter of the Church of England, and a man whom I judge to be well qualified for that great work. And I do hereby recommend him to all whom it may concern as a fit person to preside over the flock of Christ. In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this second day of September 1784. JOHN WESLEY.

Mr. Wesley being only a Presbyter, and Thomas Coke being also a Presbyter of the Church of England, we may surely with reason ask, what additional power or authority could Wesley's imposition of hands confer on Coke? Might not Coke, being a Presbyter, just with the same propriety have laid hands on Wesley? If presbyter and bishop, be the same order, as is contended, then what use or reason was there for ordaining poke? If presbyter and bishop be not the same, then Wesley being no bishop could not confer the episcopal office on Coke.

Under the commission of Wesley as above, Dr. Coke came to America and met the Methodist conference at Baltimore. In the space of forty-eight hours he ordained Mr. Asbury deacon, presbyter and bishop, and afterwards united with him in an address to General Washington--Coke and Asbury signing the address as bishops.

In what light Mr. Wesley regarded this assumption of the [82/83] title of bishop by his superintendents may be seen from the following extract of a letter addressed by him to Mr. Asbury, under date of September 20th, 1788.

"One instance of this, your greatness, has given me great concern. How can you, how dare you stiffer yourself to be called bishop? I. shudder and start at the very thought. For my sake, for God's sake, for Christ's sake, put a full end to this."

Let us now see what estimate Dr. Coke himself put upon his ordination as a Bishop. In a letter addressed to Bishop White of Pennsylvania, dated April 24, 1791, nearly two months after the death of Mr. Wesley, an event of which he had not then heard, he proposes a reunion of the Methodists with the church, and says "I do not think that the generality of them, (the Methodist Ministers) perhaps none of them would refuse to submit to a re-ordination, if other hindrances were removed out of the way." If Dr. Coke thought that he was really invested with power to ordain ministers in the church of God and had so ordained them, how could he for a moment tolerate the idea of a re-ordination? In a letter addressed to Bishop Seabury of Connecticut, dated May 14, 1791--only three weeks after that to Bishop White, he is more full and explicit. He says, "for five or six years after my union with Mr. Wesley, I remained fixed in my attachments to the Church of England: but afterwards for many reasons which it would be tedious and useless to mention, I changed my sentiments, and promoted a separation from it as far as my influence reached. Within these two years I am come back again: my love for the Church of England has returned. I think I am attached to it on a ground much more rational, and consequently much less likely to be shaken than formerly. I have many a time run into error; but to be ashamed of confessing my error when convinced of it, has never been one of my defects. Therefore when I was fully convinced of my error in the steps I took to bring about a separation from the Church of England, in Europe, I delivered before a congregation of about three thousand people, in our largest chapel in Dublin, on a Sunday evening, after preaching, an exhortation, which, in fact, amounted to a recantation of my error. Sometime afterward, I repeated the same in our largest chapels in London, and in [83/84] several other parts of England and Ireland: and I have reason to believe that my proceedings in this respect have given a death blow to all the hopes of a separation which may exist in the minds of any in those kingdoms.

On the same principles, I most cordially wish for a reunion of Protestant Episcopal and the Methodist Churches in these States. * * * How great, then, would be the strength of our church (will you give me leave to call it so? I mean the Protestant Episcopal) if the two sticks were made one? * * * * Now, on a reunion taking place, our ministers both elders and deacons, would expect to have, and ought to have, the same authority they have at present, of administering the ordinances according to the respective powers already invested in them for this purpose. I well know that they must submit to a re-ordination which I believe might be easily brought about if every other hindrance was removed out of the way. But the grand objection would arise from the want of confidence which the deacons and unordained preachers would experience."

The Dr's. plan for removing this objection is seen in the following: "But if the two houses of the Convention (he refers to the General Convention of the Protestant Episcopal Church) of the clergy would consent to your consecration of Mr. Asbury and me as bishops of the Methodist Society in the Protestant Episcopal Church in these United States, (or by any other title, if that be not proper,) on the supposition of the reunion of the two churches under proper mutual stipulations; and engage that the Methodist Society shall have a regular supply, on the death of their Bishops, and so, ad perpetuum, the grand difficulty in respect to the preachers would be removed--they would have the same men to confide in whom they have at present, and all other mutual stipulations would soon be settled." So. Churchman, June 9, 1843.

We offer but one more extract. In a letter addressed to Mr. Wilberforce, he says, * * "if his Royal Highness, the Prince Regent and the government should think proper to appoint me their Bishop in India, I should most cheerfully and most gratefully accept of the offer. * * * * * In my letter to Lord Liverpool I observed that I should, in case of my [84/85] appointment to the Episcopacy of India, return most fully and faithfully into the bosom of the Established Church, and do every thing in my power to promote its interests, and would submit to all such restrictions in the fulfilment of my office, as the Government and the Bench of Bishops at home should think necessary."--Ed. Rev., No. cxlv. 1840.

The preceding requires no comment. Conclusions against Dr. Coke's Episcopal authority or character are inevitable and irresistible.

D. p. 72. The subjoined extracts from a sermon preached by Mr. Wesley, May 4th, 1789, less than two years before his death, will show in what light he regarded the claim of his preachers to administer sacraments. The text is Heb. v. 4.

In 1744, all the Methodist preachers had their first conference. But none of them dreamed that the being called to preach, gave them any right to administer sacraments. And when that question was proposed, in what light are we to consider ourselves? it was answered, as extraordinary messengers, raised up to provoke the ordinary ones to jealousy. In order hereto, one of our first rules was given to each preacher, you are to do that part of the work which we appoint. But what work was this? Did we ever appoint you to administer sacraments? to exercise the priestly office? Such a design never entered into our mind; it was the farthest from our thoughts: and if any preacher had taken such a step, we should have looked upon it as a palpable breach of this rule end consequently a recantation of our connexion.

For supposing (what I utterly deny,) that the receiving you as a preacher at the same time gave art authority to administer the sacraments, yet it gave you no other authority than to do it, or any thing else, where I appoint. But when did I appoint you to do this? No where at all. Therefore by this very rule you are excluded from doing it, and in doing it, you renounce the very first principle of Methodism, which was wholly and solely to preach the gospel. I wish all of you who are vulgarly termed Methodists would seriously consider what has been said. And particularly you whom God hath commissioned to call sinners to repentance. It does by no means follow from hence, that ye are commissioned to baptize or administer the [85/86] Lord's supper. Ye never dreamed of this, for ten or twenty years after ye began to preach. Ye did not then like Korah, Dathan and Abiram, "seek the priesthood also." Ye knew no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God as was Aaron!" O contain yourselves within your own bounds, be content with preaching the Gospel; "do the work of Evangelists," proclaim to all the world the loving kindness of God our Saviour; declare to all, "The kingdom of Heaven is at hand: repent ye and believe the Gospel!" I earnestly advise you, abide in your place; keep your own station. Ye were, fifty years ago, those of you that were then Methodist preachers, extraordinary messengers of God, not going in your own will, but thrust out, not to supersede, but to provoke to jealousy the ordinary messengers. In God's name, stop there!"

Alas! this voice of warning and remonstrance was uttered in vain. The Methodists have long since, in this country at least, completed their schism, and though professing to derive ministerial authority from Wesley, and to be but slightly removed from the doctrine and government of the church, yet few others have found to manifest a more determined spirit of hostility to the prevalence of her worship, the spread of her principles, and the increase of her members.

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