Page images
[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]




110. k. 464.

ence of a long series of years; as also on the observations and remarks we have made on ancient and mo. dern churches.

We wish to see this little publication in the house of every Methodist, and the more fo as it contains our plan of Christian education, and the articles of religion maintained, more or less, in part or in the whole, by every reformed church in the world. We would likewife declare our real sentiments on the scripture doctrine of election and reprobation ; on the infallible, unconditional perseverance of all who ever have believed, or ever Mall; and on the doctrine of Christian perfection.

Far from wishing you to be ignorant of any of our doctrines, or any part of our discipline, we desire you to read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the whole. We know you are not in general able to purchase many books: But you ought, next to the word of God, to procure

the Articles and Canons of the church to which
you belong. This prefent edition is small and cheap,
and we can affure you that the profits of the sale of it
shall be applied to charitable purposes.
We remain your very affectionate brethren and paf-

tors, who labour night and day, both in public and
private, for your good,


Nov. 16. 1792


Advertisement to the Reader.

THE last General Conference desired the Bishops to draw up Annotations on the Forin of Discipline, and to publish them with the present edition : _The Bishops have accordingly complied, and have proved or illustrated every Abing by quotations from the Word of God, agreeably, also, to the advice of the Conference; and they fincerely pray thal their labour of love may be made a blefing to many.


[ocr errors]

CH A P. I.


Of the Origin of the Methodist Episcopal


HE preachers and members of our society in ge

neral, being convinced that there was a great deficiency of vital religion in the church of England in America, and being in many places destitute of the christian facraments, as several of the clergy had for faken their churches, requested the late Rev. Fohn Wesley to take such measures, in his wisdom and prudence, as would afford them suitable relief in their distress.

In consequence of this, our venerable friend, who, under God, had been the father of the great revival of religion now extending over the earth, by the means of the Methodists, determined to ordain ministers for America; and for this purpose, in the year 1784, fent over three regularly ordained clergy: but preferring the ep.Ccopal mode of church-government to any other, he colemnly fet apart, by the imposition of his hands, and prayer, one of them, viz. Thomas Coke, Doctor of Civil Law, late of Jesus-college in the university of Ox ford, and a presbyter of the church of England, for the episcopal office; and having delivered to him letters of episcopal orders, commiffioned and directed him to fet apart Francis Afbury, then general affiftant of the Methodist fociety in America, for the fame epifcopal office, he the said Francis Asbury being first ordained deacon and elder. In consequence of which, the faid Francis Asbury was folemnly fet apart for the said episcopal office, by prayer and the imposition of the hands of the faid Thomas Coke, other regularly ordained ministers assisting in the sacred ceremony. At which time the gee

neral conference held at Baltimore, did unanimously receive the said Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury as their bishops, being fully fatisfied of the validity of their cpiscopal ordination.


It cannot be needful in this country, to vindicate the right of every christian society, to possess, within itself, all the privileges necefiary or expedient for the comfort, instruction, or good government of the members thereof. The two sacraments of baptism and the Lord's fupper have been allowed to be effential to the formation of a christian church, by every party and denomination in every age and country of christendom, with the exception only of a single modern society: and ordination by the imposition of hands has been allowed to be highly expedient, and has been practised as universally as the former. And these two points as above described, might, if need were, be confirmed by the Scriptures, and by the unanimous testimony of all the primitive fathers of the church for the three first centuries; and, indeed, by all the able divines who have written on the subject in the different languages of the world down to the present. times.

The only point which can be disputed by any sensible person, is the episcopal form which we have adopted; and this can be contested by candid men, only from their want of acquaintance with the history of the church. The most bigotted devotees to religious establishments (the clergy of the church of Rome excepted). are now ashamed to support the doctrine of the apoftolic, unintera rupted. fucceffion of bishops. Dr. Hoadley, bishop of Winchester, who was, we believe, the greatest advocate for episcopacy, whom the protestant churches ever produced, has been so completely. overcome by Dr. Calamy, in respect to the aninterrupted succeffion, that the point has been entirely given up. Nor do we recollect that any writer of the protestant churches has since attempted to defend what all the learned world at present know to te utterly indesensible.

And yet nothing but an apoftolic, uninterrupted fucceffion can poffibly confine the right of episcopacy to any particular church. The idea, that the supreme magistrate or legislature of a country, ought to be the head of the church in that nation, is a position, which, we think, no one bere will presume to assert. It follows, therefore, indubitably, that every church has a right to choose, if it please, the episcopal plan.

The late reverend John Wesley recommended the episcopal form to his societies in America ; and the general conference, which is

the chief fynod of our church, unanimousy accepted of it. Mr. Wesley did more. He first consecrated one for the office of a bishop, that our epifcopacy might descend from himself. The general conference unanimously accepted of the person fo consecrated, as well as of Francis Asbury, who had for many years before exercised every branch of the episcopal office, excepting that of ordination. Now, the idea of an apoftolic succession bee ing exploded, it follows, that the Methodist church has every thing which is scriptural and essential to justify its epifcopacy. Is the unanimous approbation of the chief fynod of a church neceffary? This it has had. Is the ready compliance of the members of the church with its decision, in this respect, necessary ? This it has had, and continues to have. Is it highly expedient, that the fountain of the episcopacy should be respectable? This has been the case. The most respectable divine since the primitive ages, if not since the time of the apostles, was Mr. Wesley. His knowledge of the sciences was very extensive. He was a general scholar: and for any to call his learning in question, would be to call their own. On his death the literati of England bore testimony to his great character. And where has been the individual so useful in the spread of religion ? But in this we can appeal only to the lovers of vital godliness. By his long and incessant labours he raised a multitude of societies, who looked up to him for direction: and certainly his directions in things lawful, with the full approbation of the people, were sufficient to give authenticity to what was accordingly done. He was peculiarly attache ed to the laws and customs of the church in the primitive times of christianity. He knew, that the primitive churches universally followed the epifcopal plan : and indeed bishop Headley has demonstrated that the episcopal plan was universal till the time of the reformation. Mr. Wesley therefore preferred the epifcopal form of church government; and God has (glory be to his name!) wonderfully blessed it amongst us.

To the observations above made, we would add, that it must be evident to every difcerning reader of the epistles of St. Paulto Timothy and Titus, that Timothy, who was appointed by St. Paul, bishop of the Ephesians, and Titus, who was appointed by the same apostle, bishop of the Cretians, were bishops in the proper episcopal sense, and that they were travelling bishops. The epifcopal office in all its parts was invested in them. Timothy is charged (1) to be attentive to the teachers, respecting the purity of their doctrine, and to regulate every thing with due authority: “ I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus,--that thou mightest charge fome, that they teach no other doctrine, &c.” 1 Tim. i. 3, &c. “ these things command and teach.” iv. 11. (2) To superirtend the elders of the church : “ Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father," v. 2. “ let the elders that rule well, be counted

« PreviousContinue »