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Memoir of Bishop Seabury

By William Jones Seabury, D.D.

New York: Edwin S. Gorham, 1908.
London: Rivingtons, 1908.

Chapter XVI. The Mediation of the Scottish Episcopate.

WE certainly have good authority for the saying that "A Mediator is not a Mediator of One:" and if mediation may be attributed to the Scottish Episcopate in respect to the matter of the succession, it will be apparent that it must be because of its relation to the Episcopate from which it was derived, and to that to which it contributed. The title, at any rate may serve to suggest the purpose of the present chapter; which is to give, at least in outline, an account of the Episcopate of the Scottish Church in its relation to that of the English Church, and to point out the distinctive influence of the Scottish Episcopate upon the American succession.

Although the churches in England and Scotland had no dependence upon each other, yet they belonged by reason of their common inheritance to the one Catholic Communion, and lived at the time which we have been considering under the same civil government. Theoretically they were in communion with each other; but practically there was a serious division between them, to the extent at least that each was rather afraid of compromising itself by acknowledging that the other was what it should be. Before the Reformation each of these Churches was in possession of a regular Episcopate. In the troubles which grew out of the Reformation both severely suffered: but while the Church of England preserved unbroken the continuity of its Episcopal succession, the Church in Scotland was not so happy. The Reformation in Scotland--if the shocking experience of the Scottish Church may be properly so called--proceeded after a very disorderly fashion, and resulted in the failure of the Episcopal succession, and in the spoliation and misappropriation of the revenues of the Church. A remnant of the Bishops, escaping the fury which had been raised against them fled to the Continent, but made no attempt to continue their succession; and this line came to an end in the person of Archbishop Beaton, of Glasgow, who died at the court of France in 1603. [Skinner's Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, vol. II, pp. 226 and 242. See his judicious remarks on the failure of these Bishops to continue their succession, pp. 226-228.]

In the same year James VI of Scotland became James I of England; and he, having in view the welfare of his Scottish subjects, used his influence to procure the restoration of the Episcopate to the Scottish Church. The confusions in Scotland had led to the establishment of what were called titular Bishops, i. e., Superintendents exercising some authority without consecration. [Skinner, II, 236-7.] James had already done what he could for the Church by transferring to these titulars a part of the revenues which belonged to the Dioceses for which they were appointed, but which had been hitherto otherwise appropriated, or misappropriated. After coming to the throne of England he called three of these titulars up to London that they might receive Episcopal consecration from the English Bishops: and thus, in 1610, Abbott, Bishop of London; Andrewes, Bishop of Ely; and Montague, Bishop of Bath and Wells; conferred the Episcopate on Spottiswood, Archbishop of Glasgow; Lamb, Bishop of Brechin; and Hamilton, Bishop of Galloway; and these consecrated their former titular brethren. [This consecration was per saltum, October 21, 1610. Percival's Apology on the Apostolic Succession, p. 182; Skinner, II, 251-3.]

Owing, however, to the troubles of the Rebellion, this line also became extinct, or practically so, being represented in only one superannuated member, Sydserf who died about 1662. [Skinner's Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, II, p. 458.] The process of 1610 was repeated in 1661 under Charles II, and by four of the Scotchmen who came up to London to receive consecration from the Bishops of the English Church, the line was again restored, and the vacant sees were filled once more with lawful Bishops. [At Westminster Abbey, December 15, 1661, Sheldon of London, Morley of Worcester, Sterne of Carlisle, and Lloyd of Llandaff, consecrated James Sharp Archbishop of St. Andrew's, Andrew Fairfoul Archbishop of Glasgow, Robert Leighton Bishop of Dunblane, and James Hamilton Bishop of Galloway. Of these four Fairfoul and Hamilton were in Priest's Orders before they came to London, but Sharp and Leighton, not having received Episcopal ordination were, previous to their consecration, ordained both Deacons and Priests. Stephen's History of the Church of Scotland, vol. II, pp. 446-451.] This line survives unbroken to the present day, and it was from the representatives of it that the Bishop of Connecticut received his consecration in 1784. So that it will be seen that the Bishop of Connecticut, although consecrated in Scotland and by Bishops of the Scottish Church, traced his Episcopate through the same English succession from which were derived the orders of those who afterwards consecrated Bishops for Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia.

Why then--since the Church in Scotland was not only a fellow member of the Catholic Church of Christ, but also under the oversight of a line of Bishops which had been received from the Church of England itself--was this Church to be ignored by that of England, and its consecrations to be either disregarded, or, as it were, received on sufferance? There is no reason why it should have been so; but there is a reason why it was so, as I will now endeavour to explain.

There are three periods of history in which the destruction of the Church of England, and of Scotland as well; and the consequent silencing of the peculiar witness of the Anglican Communion to the true faith and order of the Church of Christ, have been well nigh accomplished.

Two of these periods, that of the Reformation and that of the Rebellion, this Anglican Communion-- for the cause of England and Scotland was one--survived, though it was saved so as by fire. The third period was that of the Revolution of 1688; and through that too it lived, though at the cost of some ghastly wounds.

The Revolution of 1688 resulted in what was called the resettlement of the Royal Succession, which was, being interpreted, the placing upon the throne, by act of Parliament of a new line which would have had no right to the throne without such parliamentary action. With the right or wrong of this change we have at present no concern. Whether James II abdicated, or was ejected, or both,--and indeed each event occurred--in point of fact William and Alary came to the throne and required the allegiance of all. The oath, however, which it was thought necessary to exact as the proper evidence of the acknowledgment of that allegiance was not in all cases taken. Sancroft, Archbishop of Canterbury, and seven other of the English Bishops, declined to take it, on the ground that they had already taken such an oath to James II, and that they could not forswear themselves. [The seven Bishops above mentioned were Lloyd of Norwich, Turner of Ely, Frampton of Gloucester, Ken of Bath and Wells, White of Peterborough, Thomas of Worcester, and Lake of Chichester. The last two, however, died before deprivation. Percival's Apology, p. 222.] These nonjurors, as they were hence called, were thereupon deprived of their Sees by William, and others more compliant were appointed in their places; by reason of which Dr. John Tillotson was consecrated Archbishop of Canterbury.

Now, certainly, Tillotson began his Arch-Episcopal career as an intruder, Sancroft being still the Archbishop of Canterbury, so far as any action of the Church was concerned. Had Sancroft been sustained by the Bishops of his Province, and the body of the Clergy and people, the unity of the Church would have been with him, and Tillotson and his followers would have been schismatics; and in all probability the cud of the English Establishment would have been the result. But success has its power in ecclesiastical, as well as in worldly matters. In point of fact Tillotson was sustained not only by the public opinion of the day, but--which is more to the point--by the majority of the Bishops of his Province; in consequence of which Sancroft and his few followers were looked upon as schismatics. The division thus created continued for a considerable time, and the non-juring Bishops consecrated others, who, in turn, endeavoured to continue the line by consecrating successors; but eventually all the surviving adherents to this party were reconciled to the existing state of things, and were merged into the body of the Church again; although, as we have seen, there was still a remnant of the non-juring succession in England at the time of the Connecticut application for the Episcopate.

Thus it became a tradition in the Church of England to regard the non-jurors as schismatical. The piety and devotion of these men were indeed so marked, and their sacrifices for conscience sake were so great, that they commanded universal respect and sincere compassion; but they were regarded as misguided men in respect of their attitude toward the rest of the Church. And it was perhaps not unnatural that the same opinion should prevail in the Church of England with respect to all who were classed as non-jurors, although the Church of England properly so called had no claim upon their allegiance. Hence it came to pass that the Scottish Bishops, who were non-jurors also, were considered to be schismatics as well; or, at least, they were looked upon with that sort of doubtful regard which we are apt to bestow upon those whose virtue we cannot directly impugn, but who consort with people whose virtue we do decidedly question.

Yet most unjustly. For the case of the Scottish non-jurors was quite different from that of the English non-jurors. The Scottish non-jurors were not a fractional minority of the body of a National Episcopate, but the whole body itself: and when they were called upon to suffer the penalty of their faithfulness, there was no one among them found willing, for the sake of preserving the worldly power and wealth of a State Episcopate, to leave his brethren to carry on without him the burden of a "free, valid and purely ecclesiastical Episcopacy." So there was no schism in the Scotch Church, for they were all cast out of the sunlight of royal favour together, and together were burdened with the heavy penalties of a persecuting legislation.

"I hope," said the politic William (who valued no principle that stood in the way of his own interest, and was as ready to use Bishops, as he was Presbyters, if they would but help to settle him in his newly taken seat upon the throne)--addressing the venerable Bishop Rose of Edinburgh--"I hope you will be kind to me "in Scotland" and follow the example of England." "Sir," said Rose--confessor rather than courtier--"I will serve you so far as law, reason or conscience shall allow me." The King turned coldly away, and the fate of the Scottish Church was sealed. Law, reason and conscience were inconvenient qualifications, at least for the allegiance of Scottish Churchmen.

Bishop Rose relates this incident in a letter to Bishop Campbell which is quoted by Stephen in his History of the Church of Scotland, and he gives in the same connection an account of the overtures which had been made to him just before his interview with William, by Compton, Bishop of London, which is extremely interesting and suggestive, and especially worthy of consideration in the present connection.

"Then the Bishop, directing his discourse to me, said--"My Lord, you see that the king having thrown himself upon the water, must keep himself a-swimming with one hand, the Presbyterians having joined him closely, and offered to support him, and therefore he cannot cast them off, unless he could see how otherwise he could be served. And the king bids me tell you, that he now knows the state of Scotland much better than he did when he was in Holland; for while there he was made believe that Scotland generally all over was Presbyterian, but now he sees that the great body of the nobility and gentry are for Episcopacy, and it is the trading and inferior sort that are for Presbytery; wherefore he bids me tell you, that if you will undertake to serve him to the purpose that he is served here in England, he will take you by the hand, support the Church and (your) order, and throw off the Presbyterians."

Thus it is evident that had the Scottish Bishops been content to take the oath, and stand on the ground which the English Bishops held, they would have been protected and strengthened in their worldly position, as their English brethren were. But then, they must have held that position under the same restrictions. And, when the Bishop-Elect of Connecticut had come to apply to them for consecration, they could but have given him the same answer as the English Bishops did, advising him to wait--and to keep on waiting--for a Parliamentary permission which in all human probability would never have been granted: and the Churchmen in this Country would have been fain at last to take up with some poor scheme of elected Superintendents, or titular Bishops, having the form of godliness without the power thereof.

What did in fact happen was, as we have seen, that not only the Bishops, but the whole Scottish Church as well, were delivered over to the tender mercies of the Presbyterians, with the result that in William's first Parliament in Scotland Episcopacy was abolished; and in the next session Presbyterian government was established. And a systematic course of legal persecutions then began, which was for many years continued with great severity.

In all this there was nothing inconsistent with the preservation of a valid succession of Order, or the continuance of a regular jurisdiction in Scotland. The order was transmitted with a scrupulous regularity; and the jurisdiction had the essential attributes of assignment by the Episcopate in a country not previously occupied by any other line of Bishops, and of the concurrent consent of the Clergy and people over whom it was exercised. If the absence of appointment by the civil authority constituted a defect of jurisdiction, then the defect was one which had existed also in the jurisdiction of the Apostles, and their successors in the Primitive Church. The Scottish Bishops held their Order and their jurisdiction in right of the Divine authority of the Episcopate; a right which was wholly independent of the sanction of any civil power, and which, if need were, was to be asserted in spite of proscription by the civil power.

The Scottish Bishops were indeed non-jurors, as were the English Bishops in the line of Sancroft. That peculiarity these two classes of Bishops possessed in common: but in respect of the transmission of their order and jurisdiction they were totally different from each other. The Scottish non-juring Bishops were the Episcopate of a National and independent Church, having no other Episcopate opposed to them; their consecrations were regular, and their general Episcopal jurisdiction was lawfully localized in distinct Sees or Dioceses. The English non-jurors were separate in fact from the recognized Episcopate of their own Province and Nation, were either without, or had but a quasi-local jurisdiction, and were conspicuously irregular in the transmission of their order, their consecrations being sometimes by two Bishops, and sometimes even by only one. These characteristics were of course known in England, and naturally lacked the approval of the Bishops of the English Church. But although none of the reasons which justified those Bishops in disapproving of the English non-jurors were in the least applicable to the Scottish non-jurors, yet it would seem that they were both included in a common reprobation. At any rate, had Bishop Seabury accepted Bishop Cartwright's offer to consecrate him, his consecration could not have been more studiously, more elaborately, ignored than it was in the subsequent Establishmentarian policy. He was not received, or his consecration in any way recognized by any English Bishop when he passed through England on his return home; he was spoken of by the Archbishop of Canterbury afterwards "with great delicacy" as Dr. Seabury; and the Secretary of the Society for propagating the Gospel, of which the English Bishops were the most influential members, in acknowledging a communication from him, addressed him simply by his academic title, with the apparent purpose of refusing to allow even the fact of his consecration.

And later when Bishops were consecrated by the Establishmentarians for Pennsylvania and New York, it was with the understanding that they should not join with the Bishop of Scotch consecration in conferring the Episcopate upon any one else, until another person should have been sent to England to be consecrated; and when the other person was sent, Dr. Madison from Virginia, the same lesson, as we have already seen, was particularly taught to him.

And this understanding was acted upon, to the great jeopardy of the perpetuation of the American Episcopate which had been obtained only after so many years of patient effort. For although there were in this Country in 1787, three Bishops, yet those of Pennsylvania and of New York-refused to join with the Bishop of Connecticut in consecrating another. And the Bishops who refused, gave their obligation to their English Consecrators as the reason for their refusal. Soon after the organization of the Church in this Country there was a movement for the consecration of the Rev. Dr. Bass as Bishop for Massachusetts, it being supposed by some who had not even yet lost all their illusions, that as there were three Bishops there was no reason why they should not unite in the consecration of a fourth. Bishop White of Pennsylvania told the reason, so far as he was concerned, viz; that such an act would involve "the breach of his faith impliedly pledged as he apprehended" to those from whom he had received his consecration. [Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 142.]

Bishop Provoost of New York told the reason, so far as he was concerned, writing to Bishop White--"As to what you style an implied engagement to the English Bishops, I look upon it in regard to myself as a positive one;" and referring, in another letter to Bishop White, to instructions given by the Convention of New York as having been worded at his particular request in a manner that was intended to prevent their accession to any scheme of union "which might endanger the preservation of the succession of our Bishops in the English line." [Connecticut Church Documents, Hawks and Perry, II, 350, 352.]

Bishop Madison, consecrated for Virginia in 1790, made the third Bishop of English consecration and instruction; and in 1792, the three Bishops of the English line were willing to act with the Bishop of the Scottish line in the consecration of Dr. Claggett as Bishop of Maryland.

Bishop White and Bishop Madison thought "that the sense of the Archbishop was fully accomplished by the presence and assistance of the canonical number in the English line." Besides, adds Bishop White "the question had changed its ground by the repeal of the laws against the Scotch Bishops; and by their reception in their proper character in England." [Bishop White's Memoirs, p. 144.]

No change in the laws of England could have had such retroactive effect as to make the Bishop consecrated by the Scottish Bishops in 1784, more rightly and lawfully a Bishop than he was at the time of his consecration and throughout the eight years in which the petty spite of English prejudice had caused to be suspended the perpetuation of the American line.

The real reason for admitting the Bishop of Connecticut to a share in the consecration of Bishop Claggett must be found in the supposition that it could do no harm, since the English three were sufficient without him.

But through Bishop Claggett every Bishop since consecrated in the American Episcopate traces his line of Episcopal succession; and thus every one of these Bishops derives his Episcopate from the Scottish line as well as from the English line.

So God overruled the malice of those Bishops who, having through their connection with the State been deprived of the opportunity of being the first to transmit the Apostolic succession to the Western World, sought to secure the credit of an action which they had been afraid to perform, by depreciating an Episcopacy which they knew to be as valid as their own. And so the act of the Scottish Bishops in consecrating a Bishop for Connecticut, has in the Providence of God stamped an impress on the American Episcopate which will last as long as the power of the American succession to perpetuate itself shall endure.

And in the preparation of the Scottish Episcopate for the fulfillment of that mission of mediation to which God had called them in respect of the American succession, the Scottish Bishops were made instrumental in the restoration of the broken unity of the Episcopal chain, by connecting one of the links of the English non-juring succession with their own. For among these English non-juring Bishops was one, Dr. George Hickes, who joined in the consecration of one of the Scottish Bishops in the line which led down to the Bishop of Connecticut, and remarkable to relate, every other branch of that English non-juring line (and there were several of them) died out without succession. [Bishop Gadderer was consecrated, February 24, 1712, by Bishop Hickes, Bishop Campbell, and Bishop John Falconer.] So that the Episcopal line which diverged with Sancroft, actually came back to the unity of the Church in the lawful line of the National Episcopate of Scotland: and thus through the Bishop of Connecticut, were transmitted to the American Episcopate both the line of the Scottish succession derived through English channels from pre-Reformation and primitive sources, and also the line of those who had been deprived in England by William III, after the Revolution of 1688.

Short sighted indeed was that prejudice which made the English Bishops, and those whom they consecrated for us in 1787, cast doubtful glances upon the consecration of 1784; and led them to such scrupulous circumspection lest they should seem to permit the American succession to depend for the completion of its canonical number of consecrators, upon the Bishop of Connecticut. And much reason have we to be thankful that the life of that Bishop was preserved until their scrupulous, though dangerous, nicety was satisfied: for had he died before the three Bishops consecrated in England were ready to perform their first consecration in this Country, we should indeed have had the Episcopal succession, but we should have been deprived of the happiness of tracing it through those who had lived to show to the world the possibility of maintaining the succession without the help of the Establishment, and in spite of tyrannical efforts to stamp it out of existence. Nor should we have had the privilege of showing the concentration of several lines sometime separated, but now in our succession united; and thereby symbolizing the true purpose and motive of the Episcopate as the Divinely appointed centre of unity in the Church of Christ.

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