« ElőzőTovább »
life; that he has acted contrary to all his declarations, protestations and writings; robbed his friends of their boasting; realized the nag's head ordination; and left an indelible blot on his name, as long as it shall be remembered.”
We now proceed to a brief allusion to the events which followed, upon the arrival of the newly consecrated superintendent (alias bishop) of the American Methodists in the States, accompanied by his two ordained missionaries. This was in the year 1784. To Mr. Dickens, the Methodist preacher then stationed in New York, Dr. Coke first opened Mr. Wesley's new plan of operations in America; and he earnestly pressed him to make it public. A few days after, the deputy and Mr. Asbury met for the first time; and upon a private disclosure of Mr. Wesley's new plan to him, Dr. Coke was not a little surprised to find Mr. Asbury expressing considerable doubts about it. Perhaps that gentleman had not yet lost all his exceeding strong attachment to the church. Nor, as it would seem, does the Doctor's mind appear to have been entirely free from doubts on this subject. Being exposed to considerable danger in crossing a broad ferry, Dec. 6th, of this year, he “prayed that God would drown him and take him to himself, if the peculiar work in which he was engaged was not for his glory."
However, the calling of a conference of all the preachers on the continent, at Baltimore, on the approaching Christmas Eve, resolved all doubts. This conference remained in session for ten days. Hampson, in his “Life of Wesley,” records, that in a sermon preached on that occasion by Dr. Coke, was the following passage: “ Though we admire the liturgy of the Church of England, and are determined to retain it with a few alterations; we cannot, we will not hold communion with them, till the holy spirit of God has made them see the evil of the practices and the importance of the doctrines above mentioned. And as for this schism, if it must have the name, we are cheerfully ready to answer for it at the bar of God.”
A liturgy was accordingly appointed to be read on Sundays. (See Coke's Jour., Am. Mag. vol. i. p. 294.) But it was soon judged expedient to cast it aside as a dull, dead, lifeless form. In the above sermon they also rejoice that one “happy consequence” of the revolution “was the expulsion of most of those hirelings (the clergy of the Church of England), of which the society of the Methodists have till lately professed themselves a part.” And, in respect to Mr. Wesley's authority, they say, “We are fully persuaded there is no church office which he judges expedient for the welfare of the people entrusted to his charge, but, as essential to his station, he has power to ordain."
In accordance, therefore, with this last sentiment, at this same conference, Dr. Coke, in the exercise of his “fuller powers," as received from Mr. Wesley, raised Mr. Asbury to the order of deacon; and, after two short intervals, to that of elder or presbyter, and superintendent or bishop. The derivation of the above order of bishops in the line of succession from the apostles, therefore, stands thus:-Mr. Asbury received his episcopal powers from the hands of Dr. Coke; Dr. Coke received his from the hands of Mr. Wesley; and Mr. Wesley received his from the hands of Mr.
Hence the origin of Methodist Episcopacy in America. The above conference unanimously received Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury as their bishops!
During the progress of these events, as a late writer remarks, “ The situation of the Episcopal Church was imminently critical. Deprived of some of her best clergy, depressed, and in some places obnoxious, serious were the apprehensions concerning her which agitated the bosoms of her friends. Jarring opinions also were to be reconciled. While some of her members were the zealous friends of Episcopacy, others of them were more lax in their opinions on this subject. The distressing situation of the church was increased by the doubt whether it would be in her power, for some considerable time at least, to obtain the episcopal succession. Two objects, therefore, appeared of consequence: to reconcile the dissonant opinions of her members on the subject of Episcopacy, and to preserve the church until the episcopal succession could be obtained.”
Under these circumstances, Dr. White, of Philadelphia, in the year 1782, published a pamphlet entitled, “ The case of the Episcopal Churches in the United States considered.” In this pamphlet, he declares it as his opinion, " that their future continuance ca be provided for only by voluntary associations for union and good government.” With this view, and to meet the exigencies of the times, he offered the following, as “the outlines of a frame of church government.” Dividing the continent into larger and smaller districts, he recommends the smaller to elect a general vestry or convention, consisting of a convenient number (the minister to be one) from the vestry or congregation of each church, or of every two or more churches, according to their respective ability for supporting a minister ; that " they should elect a clergyman their permanent president, who, in conjunction with other clergymen, to be also appointed by the body, may exercise such powers as are purely spiritual, particularly that of admitting to the ministry.” Some other plans for ecclesiastical legislation, not material to our present purpose, were also proposed. He proceeds to say: “ The other part of the proposal, was an immediate
execution of the plan, without waiting for the episcopal succession. This,” he says, “is founded on the presumption that the worship of God, and the instruction and reformation of the people, are the principal objects of ecclesiastical discipline; if so," he adds, “to relinquish them for a scrupulous adherence to Episcopacy, is sacrificing the substance to the ceremony." He continues, " It will be said, we ought to continue as we are, with the hope of obtaining it hereafter. But,” he asks, “are the acknowledged ordinances of Christ's holy religion to be suspended for years, perhaps as long as the present generation shall continue, out of delicacy to a disputed point, (Episcopacy,) and that relating only to externals ? It is submitted, how far such ideas encourage the suspicion of want of attachment to any particular church, except so far as it is subservient to some civil system. All the obligations of conformity to the divine ordinances, all the arguments which prove the connexion between public worship and the morals of a people, combine to urge the adopting some speedy measures to provide for the public ministry in these churches.” And he closes by saying, “ It would be to the greatest degree surprising, if the Church of England, acknowledged by all Protestant Churches to lay a sufficient stress on the essential doctrines and duties of the gospel, should be found so immoderately attached to a matter of eternal order, as must, in some cases, be ruinous to her communion. But, far from this, it will not be difficult to prove, that a temporary departure from Episcopacy, in the present instance, would be warranted by her doctrines, by her practice, and by the principles on which episcopal government is asserted.”
Now, in view of the prescription of such a remedy for the prevalent evils of the Episcopal Church, one can scarcely resist the conviction, that the spirit of Wesley had descended upon Dr. White. At least, they will discover in it a sort of apology for the course pursued by the founder of Methodism and his adherents. It is undeniable that between the two schemes there are strong marks of resemblance. It must, however, be admitted, that in addition to many important differences in the circumstances of time, of place, and of persons, the latter scheme possessed at least one redeeming feature unknown to the former. Being based on the plea of necessity, it was only designed by its judicious projector as temporary. This is evident from various passages of Dr. White's pamphlet, and particularly from page 30, where, speaking of the opinion of Archbishop Usher, he says, “What part of the Christian world could the learned primate have named, of which it could have been so properly said as may be of ours, ‘that ordination of bishops cannot be had ?! ”
Additional confirmation of this fact will appear as we advance, from the repcated efforts made, and which finally proved successsul, to procure an episcopate for the American Episcopal Church, through the channel of the English succession.
Two years after the publication of the above pamphlet, on the 13th and 14th of May, 1784, the first step was taken towards the forming of a collective body of the Episcopal Church in the United States. A meeting for this purpose was convened at New Brunswick, N. J., composed of a few clergymen from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Their plans, however, were not matured till the 5th of October ensuing, when, at an adjourned meeting in New York, in accordance with the extent of their vested powers, they happily and with great unanimity, laid down a few general principles, to be recommended in the respective states, as the ground on which a future ecclesiastical government should be established. These principles were approbatory of Episcopacy, and of the Book of Common Prayer, &c.
It is as well to remark in this place, that upon the acknowledgment of the independence of the States by Great Britain, in 1783, an incident occurred which encouraged the expectation that the episcopate might be obtained from the Danish Church. Through the agency of Mr. Adams, then the minister of the United States at the Court of St. James, several young gentlemen from the south, who had been educated for the ministry, and who had repaired to England to obtain orders, owing to the procrastination of their object by the Bishop of London, were ordained by that church. And as no other condition was required of them than merely the signing of the Thirty-nine Articles of the Church of England, it led to the presumption that there would have been an equal readiness, if desired, to consecrate our bishops. It appears, however, to have been the general resolve, inasmuch as the American churches had been planted under the English Episcopacy, to rely upon that source for her supply.
The general resolve, we say,--not the exclusive; for about the year 1782, the clergy of New England, and particularly those of Connecticut, determined upon the obtaining the episcopate; and though having sent the Rev. Samuel Seabury, D. D., to England for consecration, yet on his return, about 1785, they received him as their diocesan, though consecrated by three non-juring bishops of the Scottish Church.
Soon after Bishop Seabury's return, the first General Convention of clerical and lay deputies from seven out of the thirteen states, met in Philadelphia, September 27, 1785. But so far as they entered on the business of the Episcopacy, although generally impressed with sentiments of respect towards the new bishop, thought it the most proper to direct their views in the first instance towards England; some even venturing to take exceptions to the validity of his Episcopacy !* The circumstance, however, that the consecrators of Dr. Seabury were refugee bishops from England, having been ejected their sees on account of their refusal to take the oaths of the new government under William and Mary, most probably satisfied the minds of a majority of the clergy of that convention on this point.
Having, therefore, determined upon a derivation of the Episcopacy of the American Church in a direct line from the English succession, the above convention proceeded to the appointment of a committee to correspond with the archbishops and bishops of that country on this subject; and, having certified to them in their address, that what was sought, did not interfere with any civil laws or constitutions of the States, and that consequently there was no danger of their embroiling themselves with the American government, the sovereignty of which they had so recently acknowledged, the apprehension of which on their part had constituted the main obstacle to the consecration of Dr. Seabury: they forwarded the same to the Archbishop of Canterbury, by the hand of his excellency John Adams, Esq., the American minister.
The address met with a favourable reception. And an answer was received by the committee early in the spring of 1786, signed by the two archbishops and eighteen of the twenty-four bishops of England.
* Quære. Could these gentlemen have fallen in with the following passage from Dr. Bernard, involving a doubt as to the consecration of the Scotch Bishops at their last restoration ? It is to be found in his illustrations of Archbishop Usher's “ Judgment of the Ordinations of the Reformed Churches," written in 1658. Ile says :
“ If the ordinations of presbyters in such places where bishops cannot be had, were not valid, the late bishops of Scotland had a hard task to maintain themselves to be bishops, who were not (even) priests; for their ordination was no other. And for this a passage in the history of Scotland, wrote by the Archbishop of St. Andrews, is observable ; that when the Scottish bishops were to be consecrated by the Bishops of London, Ely, and Bath, here at London House, Anno 1609, he saith a question was proved by Dr. An. drews, Bishop of Ely, touching the consecration of the Scottish bishops, who, as he said, 'must first be ordained presbyters, as having received no ordination from a bishop.' The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Bancroft, who was by, maintained that thereof there was no necessity, seeing, where bishops could not be had, the ordination given by presbyters must be esteemed lawful; otherwise that it might be doubtful if there were any lawful vocation in most of the reformed churches.' This, applauded to by the other bishops, Ely acquiesced ; and at the day, and in the place appointed, the three Scottish bishops were consecrated.”
Dr. Bernard cites, as his authority for this story, Archbishop Spotiswode's “ History of the Church of Scotland,” from A. D. 203, to the end of the reign of James I. (Chris. Obs. vol. i. No. 10, p. 611.)