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Art. I.-SUCCESSION OF THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
BY REV. CHARLES ELLIOTT.
1. The claims of the Church of England to an apostolical and uninterrupted succession from the apostles have been reiterated and pressed with considerable confidence during this and the last century. She not only makes these high pretensions in behalf of herself; but, what is stranger, excludes from the character of true churches all the reformed that have not an episcopal form of government, or such an episcopacy as she thinks must be derived from the apostles. As these pretensions go so far, and unchurch a great part of the Protestant world; it is worth while to give them a careful examination. It is true she does not consign them all to perdition, any more than she does Heathens, Jews, or Mohammedans; yet their proper character, as churches of Christ, is denied.
Notwithstanding all these high and extensive claims of the Anglican church, it may perhaps be shown that her glorying is too much after the manner of Rome, without the same grounds, in many respects, that Rome hath for her boasting.
2. Twenty years ago, when the writer of this article emigrated to the United States, he supposed this talismanic succession was confined to Britain and Ireland, and that it could find no place among Americans as he imagined they did not believe that parliaments, by divine right, had sovereign authority in all matters as well ecclesiastical as civil, and could at pleasure alter their religion; or that kings could be supreme head of the church under Christ, and so could appoint, suspend, or depose bishops; or that convocations or ecclesiastical bodies had no power to convene, deliberate, prorogue, or make canons, unless a king gave them leave, though this permission should be withheld one hundred years or more, as has been the case with the English convocation. Previously to the time alluded to above, the writer, though a member of the Established Church, into whose ministry he had an opportunity of entering, chose, in preference, to exercise the Christian ministry as a Wesleyan Methodist preacher. And this he did because he became convinced it was more consonant with Scripture, and the character
Vol. VIII, April, 1837. 11
of the apostolic ministry, than that in which he had been instructed, and was found in the bishops, priests, and deacons of the Irish Establishment. And all he has read, seen, and thought on this subject until now has confirmed him in the correctness of his choice.
3. In his native country he was convinced, on proper examination, that this boasted succession, alike claimed by Romanists and Churchmen, was a fable; and he really supposed for several years that the invention was to remain on the other side of the Atlantic, and there, in time, undergo the fate of kindred monarchical, popish, feudal, and legendary customs and doctrines. Some intimations however of its cisatlantic existence came within his notice about fourteen years ago. Shortly after, he found that Rev.·N. Bangs had, in a very modest and kind manner, written an excellent little book on this subject, under the name of " A Vindication of Methodist Episcopacy,” which he supposed would teach the successionists that there was something in Christ's religion more important than this lineal descent which no man can trace, and when found, in their way of finding an irrecoverable thing, it was not worth the search. But the men would not receive instruction. They would not learn, though they could not teach the very thing on which they so much insisted. Indeed their claims became even more bold, and were pressed with more confidence. Argument, and Scripture, and antiquity, they could not soberly call to their assistance; but the lack of these was made up by dogmatism, and a constant persistance in their claims. They seemed to think that Methodist preachers, who were engaged in the great work of reforming the people, and could not come down to them, had really conceded to the successors of the nonjuring Seabury, that there was nothing valid in the Methodist ministry, though it was the instrument of salvation to thousands. This led the author of this article to examine the whole ground over again, which he did by committing his thoughts to writing in this and a number of essays on the different branches of the succession. When he finished them he really thought it would be useless, and therefore foolish, to trouble the public with any thing respecting this popish and monarchical succession; as the whole appeared to him entirely fabulous, and therefore needed no serious rebuke. Accordingly, his essays have been laid past for nine years, and consigned to the moles and bats.
During the last few years, however, the successionists have been inspired with new life and activity. Ever since the American prelates commenced visiting Britain, they seem to have caught a good portion of the style and manner of, His Grace and Most Reverend Father in God by divine providence, Archbishop of Canterbury, Metropolitan and Primate of all England; His Grace, and Most Reverend Father in God by divine providence, Archbishop of York, Primate and Metropolitan of England; the Bishops, Lords, Lords Spiritual, Right Reverend Fathers in God by divine permission, fc. fc. And though our American bishops, in consequence of having obtained an invalid ordination from the British parliament, through the king as supreme head, and the archbishops of Canterbury and York as the creatures of the king and parliament, were not permitted to preach or pray in any church, yet they carried home with them, as was natural, a new and complete edition of the succession, as if they were deter
mined to establish in America what they could not have part or lot of in Britain. Hence, to make the thing certain, two very handsome volumes on the succession have been published by the Protestant Episcopal Press. They are made up of Dr. Bowden's work, which was begun, continued, and finished in an angry and supercilious mood, though, it is said, he spent twenty years in its composition; of Mr. Cook's "Book of Scraps," collected from every quarter, and thrown together without judgment, study, or order and of Bishop Onderdonk's “Episcopacy Tested by Scripture,” written in a courteous style and manner, and the subject treated with a becoming dignity, and therefore deserving of respect and consideration. The New-York Churchman” too bestows more attention to the succession than any other topic whatever.
5. These and other considerations have induced the .writer of this article to give a new edition of his “ Essays on the Succession," draw them from oblivion, and present some of them to the public. And as proofs and arguments will be called for as well as mere narrative, he will now proceed to give these, so as to prove what has been barely asserted in these prefatory remarks. The subject is the succession of the English Church, from which Mr. Wesley and the Methodist Episcopal Church are said causelessly to have dissented, and are therefore pronounced guilty of schism; and that before the Protestant Episcopal Church had an existence, either in name or reality ; though the Methodists are also accused of having been guilty of schism in the latter church before she had any being ! We will range our remarks on this subject under the following heads :
1. ORIGIN, FORMATION, AND CONSTITUTION OF THE ENGLISH
1. In the time of the apostles, the church was governed by the presbyters, under the immediate direction of the apostles themselves, and that of their assistants, Timothy, Titus, &c. In the age succeeding the apostles, the church was governed by the body of presbyters, who selected persons to preside, whom they denominated bishops or overseers, but of the same order with themselves, and accountable to them for the proper discharge of their duty. They were not distinguished from their brethren as a distinct order of clergy, but as possessing jurisdiction or superintendency among their equals. They were primi inter pares, first among their equals. In the third and fourth centuries, the bishops obtained the principal rule, and stripped the body of elders and people of a great portion of their proper powers and privileges. When kings and emperors became Christians, they exercised supreme power in the church, and in some degree interfered with the privileges of the bishops ; but the scriptural powers of the pastors and people were almost entirely destroyed as it regarded the government of the church. To the regal government, which flourished iņ the fifth and sixth centuries, the papal usurpation succeeded; and came in direct conflict with the regal and prelatical systems, but it entirely destroyed the presbyterial or pastoral authority, as well as the rights of the people, as to church government. Here are successive forms of church government, viz. 1. The apostolical. 2. The presbyterial or pas