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would naturally dispose all who wish to be on the safe side in their religion, to go over to the church of Rome.
II. The succession cannot be proved. Its advocates are obliged to trace it through children, heretics, schismatics, infidels, idolaters, simonists, drunkards, adulterers, sodomites, and murderers; but after raking through all this filth, they cannot make it out. The pretence then of being in the succession is a mere arbitrary assumption ; there is not a minister in Christendom who can demonstrate, upon this principle, the legality of his orders. Here all sects are upon a level; bishops, priests, and deacons, do not stand on an inch higher ground, than tailors, coblers, and tinkers; they may all talk about the succession, but not one of them can prove that he is in it. If it were true, therefore, which in fact it is not, that a dissenting minister can furnish no evidence of having the Spirit immediately from God, an episcopalian has no right to complain; the mere pretence of a sectarist is entitled to as much credit as that of a churchman.
III. Strong evidence has been produced that the succession has been interrupted ; I have a right, therefore, to assume this as the fact, till episcopalians prove the contrary. But if the chain of succession has been broken, some one, at least, must have intruded into the sacred office, from whom our high churchmen derive their spiritual powers.
If this man had a right to assume the priesthood, so has any other man; distance of time can make no difference in the right; it is as legal to intrude into the ministry now, as it was five hundred or a thousand years ago. Call a dissenting minister, therefore, an intruder, or what you please, yet you cannot deny his right to the office, or the validity of his ministrations. If this man's assumption of the priesthood were illegal, his ordinations were illegal also; for no one can give what he does not pos
He who holds an estate by a bad title, cannot transfer it to another with a good one. Hence it follows, that the orders of our episcopalians are good for nothing, and those of the dissenters cannot be worse.
IV. No man, it is presumed, will have the temerity to controvert the fulness of evidence produced in this inquiry, that the course of the Spirit, through the ordinations of prelates, has been interrupted many centuries ago. If there were, therefore, no possibility of receiving the Holy Ghost, but at the hands of bishops, it is certain that he has long since left the church; and this makes the ministrations of both churchmen and dissenters equally useless. As this conclusion will not be admitted, it must follow, that some person or other, after the interruption, received the Holy Ghost directly from God. But this spoils all; for admit that “ heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him ;” (Luke xi. 13;) and it must be very foolish to apply to bishops for it, when it is so very uncertain, upon their own principles, whether this invaluable gift be at their disposal.
Since it cannot be denied that the course of the Spirit has been interrupted, the succession of ordination is a matter of no importance at all; because the succession of ordination is contended for, on the presumption that it is the only medium through which the Holy Spirit is conveyed to the church. If the succession of ordination were proved ever so clearly, it amounts to nothing; ordination is reduced to a mere unmeaning ceremony, since the Holy Spirit has either left the clergy, or is conveyed to them through some other medium than the hands of prelates. The regularity of ordinations is no proof of the divine influence being attached to the ministrations of the clergy.* Barclay, the quaker, makes a just observation upon this subject: “ The Spirit,' says he, “ speaking to the church at Laodicea, because of her lukewarmness, (Rev. iii. 16,) threateneth to spew her out of his mouth. Now, suppose the church of
* Our author undoubtedly is right in calling the ordination of all sticklers for the uninterrupted succession “ a mere unmeaning ceremony,” amounting to nothing; but surely ordination, rightly viewed and administered, cannot be so spoken of, without reflecting on the practice of the primitive and of molern churches, in a way which christian modesty forbids. - EDIT.
Laodicea had continued in that lukewarmness, and had come under that condemnation and judgment, though she had retained the name and form of a church, and had had her pastors and ministers, as no doubt she had at that time, yet surely she had been no true church of Christ; nor had the authority of her pastors and teachers been to be regarded, because of an outward succession, though perhaps some of them had it immediately from the apostles.
V. We have seen that the sentiments of our reformers were very different from those which are now so strenuously maintained. They did not compliment the church of Rome as a true church, but pronounced her to be anti-christian ; and, instead of attempting to show that the popish bishops were inspired of God, they proved them to be full of the devil. At present, no minister is permitted to officiate in the church of England who has not received episcopal ordination; whereas the reformers admitted those who had no other ordination than the hands of presbyters, or the suffrages of the people. We boast of the reformation ; but how far have we retrograded towards popery !
Lastly. Having shown that the chain of succession is broken, the exclusive power claimed by priests of adding to their own body must be given up, and the right of the laity to assume, or confer the holy office must be granted.
ORDINATION is the act of conferring holy orders, or of initiating a person into the ministerial office. High churchmen hold, that the
of ordination was vested by Jesus Christ in the apostles, and that the apostles limited the exercise of this power to their successors,
Apology, p. 287, 8th edition.
the bishops. It is inferred from this, that the assumption of the office, or the reception of it from laymen or presbyters, is illegal.
If it were true that bishops are the successors of the apostles, it would not follow, that they only have the right to ordain ministers, unless a restrictive clause to that effect could be found in the New Testament; but the chapter and verse have never yet been produced.
But the bishops are not the successors of the apostles. They do not possess apostolical qualifications. They can neither work miracles, nor predict with certainty future events, nor discern spirits. They do not discharge the duties of the apostolic office. The Greek word apostolos signifies “a messenger, person sent by another upon some business. Jesus Christ sent his apostles to the whole world to preach the gospel and baptize their converts :
therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; and he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Matt. xxviii. 19, 20. Mark xvi. 15, 16.) They were chosen by him for this express purpose; “ And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach.” (Mark iii. 14.) Preaching and baptizing, therefore, are the two great duties of the apostolic office; but our bishops seldom * do either; these
* Dr. Markham, the late archbishop of York, preached part of a sermon in the cathedral many years previous to his death, and promised to finish it at some future opportunity, but never made good his engagement. Though this successor of the apostles has not favoured the church with any religious publication, he has en. riched the republic of letters with a spelling book. “ On the Christmas before his decease, he is said to have given £1,000, to each of his grand children, amounting to the number of forty-seven; and he is reported to have left the sum of £100,000 in legacies.' See Lit. Pan., vol. iii., p. 1367.
Who does not long to be a successor of the apostles, when he
duties are performed by others; and their lordships do little else than ordain ministers, and confirm children.
The government of the church is supposed to be one part of the apostolic office; and the bishops, as governors, are said to be the successors of the apostles. But this can give them no exclusive right to ordain; because those who succeed to any other part of the same office, have on this ground, an equal right with themselves to confer holy orders. All preachers must be qualified to ordain, since it has been shown, that preaching is an important and essential part of the apostolic office. The same remark applies to those who perform the rite of baptism.
But the apostles were not governors of the church, at least not in the sense our bishops are. To have been the fixed and stated governors of particular churches, would have been inconsistent with their general commission, to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. And they could not be constituted governors of the universal church, for this plain reason, because it was impossible for them to execute ecclesiastical discipline in every christian society which they formed. For instance : consider for a moment the astonishing travels and labours of the apostle Paul; how could he exercise episcopal jurisdiction over the churches he planted, when he was generally some thousands of miles distant from some of them ? and how could remote churches know where to find him, when he was perpetually changing his residence ?
The practice of the apostles was, when they had planted a church, to appoint governors, or leave the brethren to manage their own affairs, according to circumstances. It does not appear that any officers were appointed in the church of Corinth; because the discipline of it was executed by the whole society. In the may live like a prince, and save nearly one hundred and fifty thousand pounds ?
who was under so great obligations to the state, did not surely give away £47,000 just before his death, with a view to evade the legacy duty !