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giance to their monarch, and entertaining conscientious scruples against the use of the Liturgy as amended, not only refused to officiate, but many of them sought an early opportunity to return to their own country. Thus the doors of the far greater number of the Episcopal churches were closed for several years.
Under these circumstances, the procurement of the episcopate, as a matter of course, became indispensable to the well-being of the church, in this country. For this purpose several applications were made to England, especially by the clergy of the northern colonies, for a supply of bishops from that quarter. This, however, only tended to awaken the jealousies of the people of other communions, founded upon the apprehension that they might be clothed with powers inconsistent with the principles on which the settlement of the colonies had taken place. And, although the clerical applicants of the colonies disclaimed all such intention, their endeavours met with the most determined opposition.
But this was a matter in which the society of Methodists also felt an interest. Nor, on the principle of their admission, as above, of the episcopal constitution of the church, and of their reiterated declarations of attachment to "the Church of England," and of their unwillingness to be separated from her, could it be otherwise. For it is obvious that, whatever change might be brought about in the political relations of the Episcopal Church, consequent upon the colonies having become independent of Great Britain, in the event of that church becoming possessed of the episcopate, there could be nothing to prevent the perpetuity of their connexion with her, either similar to that already existing, or perhaps one much better calculated to cement more closely the bonds of Christian union of the whole. Nor can it be doubted that this sentiment pervaded the minds of a large portion of that respectable body of Christians, at the period of which we now speak. Still, it is not to be denied, that during this unsettled. state of affairs in the ecclesiastical condition of both bodies, the seeds of disunion had taken deep root. On this subject Drs. Coke and More, in their "Life of Wesley," state that:
"During the civil war the societies were destitute of the sacraments, except in two or three of the cities. They could not obtain baptism for their children, or the Lord's Supper for themselves, from the Presbyterian, Independent, or Baptist ministers, but upon condition that they would join those churches respectively; and many of the clergy of the Church of England had left the country. The societies in general were so grieved on this account, and so influenced the minds
of their preachers by their incessant complaints, that in the year 1778, a considerable number of them earnestly importuned Mr. Asbury to take prompt measures that the people might enjoy the privileges of all other churches, and no longer be deprived of the Christian sacraments. Mr. Asbury's attachment to the Church of England was at that time exceeding strong; he therefore refused them any redress. On this, the majority of the preachers withdrew from him, and consequently from Mr. Wesley, and chose out of themselves three senior brethren, who ordained others by the imposition of their hands. The preachers thus set apart administered the sacraments to those they judged proper to receive them, in every place where they came."
Thus originated, in the Methodist society, the first notable schism which marks their history in the American colonies. We have, however, the joint authority of the Rev. Mr. Coleman, in his "Life of Mr. Jarrat," and of Drs. Coke and More, certifying that this schism was finally suppressed by the agency of Mr. Asbury, he having procured a vote of one of the conferences, invalidating the above ordinations, at which time "a perfect reunion took place."
A review of the above transaction very naturally suggests an evident impropriety in these members of the Episcopal Church seeking the sacraments at the hands of those who, according to their avowed principles, were not of their communion; and especially when it is considered that the ground upon which they sought them was rather imaginary than real, there being at this very time in the province of Maryland at least eighteen clergymen of the English Church, and in that of Virginia many more.
Upon the elevation of the provinces into independent states in 1776, an intercourse was opened between the societies of both countries; and with it commenced a new era in the history of Methodism in this country. Alluding to this period, Dr. Coke and Mr. More inform us that, "Mr. Wesley received from Mr. Asbury a full account of the progress of the work during the war; and especially of the division which had taken place, and of the difficulties he met with, before it was healed. He also informed Mr. Wesley of the extreme uneasiness of the people's minds, for want of the sacraments; that thousands of their children were unbaptized; and that the members of the society in general had not partaken of the Lord's Supper for many years."
Upon the receipt of this communication, the above writers inform us that," Mr. Wesley considered the subject, and informed Dr. Coke of his design of drawing up a plan of church government, and of
establishing an ordination, for his American societies. But cautious of entering on so new a plan, he afterwards suspended the execution of his purposes, and weighed the whole for upwards of a year."
It is here proper to observe, that Dr. Coke was at this time a presbyter of the Church of England, having received his ordination at the hand of the Bishop of London. Mr. Wesley was also a presbyter of the same church. And, upon the principles of Episcopacy, they were clothed with equal powers; but neither with the power to ordain others. But, as we are informed, "At the conference held in Leeds, 1784, he (Mr. Wesley) declared his intention of sending Dr. Coke and some other preachers to America. Mr. Richard Whatcoat and Mr. Thomas Vasey offered themselves as missionaries for that purpose, and were accepted. Before they sailed, Mr. Wesley abridged the Common Prayer Book, and wrote to Dr. Coke, then in London, desiring him to meet him in Bristol to receive fuller powers; and to bring the Rev. Mr. Creighton with him.”
But the question presents itself: From whom was Dr. Coke to receive these fuller powers? Had the Bishop of London volunteered his services to that end? The following quotation from the same writers as above will decide:
"The Dr. (Coke) and Mr. Creighton accordingly met him (Mr. Wesley) in Bristol, July 27th, 1784, when, with their assistance, he (Mr. Wesley) ordained Mr. Richard Whatcoat and Mr. Thomas Vasey, presbyters for America: and he (Mr. Wesley) did afterwards ordain Dr. Coke, superintendent, giving him letters of ordination under his hand and seal, and at the same time a letter to be printed and circulated in America."
Mr. Wesley, therefore, though himself but a presbyter in the English Church, raises two gentlemen to the order of presbyters not only, but also confers "fuller powers" upon a fellow-presbyter, by conferring upon him the order of superintendent: a superior or "fuller power," originating from a source inferior to itself!
Bearing in mind that the record of these events is framed in view of the principle of Episcopacy as already laid down, and to which Mr. Wesley and his followers professed so strong an attachment: there is certainly nothing unreasonable in the expectation, that some reasons should be offered in justification of the above measure, by the apologists of that order. Such apologies have been offered. One, by Mr. Wesley in his own behalf, as contained in the letter given to Dr. Coke at the time of his ordination, and which was printed and circulated in America upon his arrival here; of which the following
is an extract. Speaking of the provinces after their erection into independent states, he says:
"No one either exercises or claims any ecclesiastical authority (over them) at all. In this peculiar situation some thousands of the inhabitants of these States desire my advice; and in compliance with their desire I have drawn up a little sketch.
"For many years I have been importuned from time to time, to exercise the right of ordaining part of our travelling preachers. But I have still refused: not only for peace' sake, but because I was determined, as little as possible to violate the established order of the national church to which I belonged.
"But the case is widely different between England and North America. Here there are bishops who have a legal jurisdiction. In America there are none within any parish ministry. Here, therefore, my scruples are at an end: and I conceive myself at full liberty, as I violate no order, and invade no man's right, by appointing and sending labourers into the harvest," &c.
The misfortune, however, of this apology is, that though the exercise of these ordaining powers as assumed by Mr. Wesley were to take effect in America, yet they were performed in the presence, and consequently in direct violation of, laws, both legal and ecclesiastical, which his ordination vows as a presbyter of the English Church, bound him most solemnly to support. Above all, whatever changes might have been effected in the legal jurisdiction of the English bishops over the churches in the States, subsequently to their severance from Great Britain: the separation of the two countries by ten thousand oceans could never nullify his obligation to preserve inviolate an ecclesiastical constitution, to the scriptural and primitive character of which he had sworn allegianc e.
Nor was Mr. Wesley ignorant of the doctrine of Episcopacy, as is evident from the following incident. Early in the year 1763, Erasmus, Bishop of Arcadia, in Crete, visited London. "Mr. Wesley made inquiry concerning the reality of his office, and was fully satisfied that he was a true bishop. Mr. Wesley then applied to him to ordain Dr. Jones, in order to assist him in administering the Lord's Supper to his societies, which he did." It is clear from this circumstance, that Mr. Wesley was conscious of his want of power as a presbyter, to ordain Dr. Jones.
Again, as already observed, at the very time of the publication of the above circular, there were a considerable number of Episcopal clergymen in the States, at whose hands Mr. Wesley's societies might have enjoyed the sacraments.
Nor is this all. So far as the provision of an episcopacy for the States was concerned, it was well known, at the time of the Bristol ordination, that Dr. Seabury had been nigh two years in England, to solicit episcopal consecration; and though in consequence of some legal difficulties, he failed in obtaining it from the English bishops, yet, repairing to Scotland, he soon after obtained it at the hands of three Scotch bishops.
In view of these circumstances, therefore, if not upon the ground of necessity, it has at least been thought expedient to attempt a justification of this assumption of episcopal prerogatives by Mr. Wesley on other grounds. Hence, while some have advanced the plea of his superior holiness to this end, others, as Dr. Phœbus, formerly of New York, have claimed for him an extraordinary mission, as a new apostle, &c.
Without intending any thing invidious, we shall pass over these apologists, with a view to an introduction of the reader to the position held by the Rev. Charles Wesley, relatively to the above transaction of his brother John. They had now walked together as "friends for above seventy years, and fellow-labourers for above fifty." In the same letter to Dr. Chandler, already alluded to, speaking of the Bristol ordination, he holds the following language: "For fifty years we kept the sheep in the fold.". "I can scarcely yet believe, that in his eighty-second year, my brother, my old intimate friend and companion, should have assumed the episcopal character, ordained elders, consecrated a bishop, and sent him to ordain lay-preaching in America. I was then in Bristol at his elbow; yet he never gave me the least hint of his intention." And he then demands,-"How was he surprised into so rash an action?"
In Dr. Whitehead's "Life of Wesley," he affirms that Dr. Coke wrote to Mr. Wesley, "urging him to ordain him bishop," &c.; of which transaction he says, "That the person who advised the measure, would be proved to have been a felon to Methodism, and to have stuck an assassinating knife into the vitals of its body."
These facts, to our mind, tend but to show the influence and ultimate triumph of importunity of an ambitious ecclesiastic, over the better judgment of one bending under the infirmity of old age. Yet, the Rev. Charles Wesley would almost seem to withhold from his aged brother the advantages of these extenuating circumstances; for he adds:
"Lord Mansfield told me last year, that ordination (i. e. by a presbyter,) was separation. This my brother does not, and will not see; or that he has renounced the principles and practices of his whole