Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

ministers, and their continuing under the superintendence then existing, and on the practices of their peculiar institutions. There was also suggested by him a propriety, but not a condition made, of admitting to the Episcopacy, himself and the gentleman associated with him in the superintendence of the Methodist societies. This intercourse was communicated at the time from Dr. Coke to Dr. Magaw. I do not know of any other person then informed of it, unless I may except the gentleman above alluded to, by whom, if I have been rightly informed, my letter to Dr. Coke was opened in his absrnce ; such a freedom being understood, as I supposed, to arise out of the connection between the two gentlemen. But for this part of the statement I cannot vouch. It was understood between Dr. Coke and me, that the proposal should be communicated to the bishops of the Episcopal Church at the next convention, which was to be in September, 1792, in New-York. This was accordingly done. After which, I perceived no use of further communication on the subject; and I have not since seen Dr. Coke, nor heard from him, nor written to him.

It appears to me that the above comprehends either explicitly or by implication, all the points to which your letter leads. It would have been more agreeable to me, if no occasion of this testimony had occurred; and it is now given, merely to prevent the matter being understood otherwise than it really is.

The above is what I have written to Mr. M'Claskey; and I re main, &c. &c.

Your affectionate brother,

WILLIAM WHITE. It is not at all material for me to enquire into the reasons why bish. op White was solicited to give this testimony ; since the person who gave it publicity declared he did so chiefly to cast some light on the subject of Methodist Episcopacy.

In which view alone, I stop to make a few remarks on certain passages which it contains.

A union we find is proposed between a society and a Church.

That body of men cannot justly be called a Church of Christ, which, though united under certain rules and regulations, and haring officers to see to the execution of those rules, has not, within its self, a valid Christian ministry to preach the word of God with authority, and to administer duly the sacraments of man's redemption. Ifa body be deficient in these essentials, and the object it has in view be the advancement of religion, it may be called a religious society, but not a church. This, however, is no detriment to the society so long as it preserves union and communion with a body which con. tains every essential of a church according to the divine institutions, of Christ and his apostles.

Now the Methodist society was in this situation before the schism, and it appears to have been the object of the proposed union to re. store matters to the same situation. It was a society applying for a readmission into the Church, and not two equally independent bodies that were to be considered as negociating terms of union. The society could, and did acknowledge the Church she applied to, as a truc Church of Christ ; but that Church could and did only took upon that

society, since the separation, as a schismatical body, not constituting any part of the Church of Christ. The Methodists, however, considered as a society, had peculiar rules and institutions, which, in case of a union, they were desirous of preserving; on this account, one part of Dr. Coke's outline was an article providing that the Methodists should retain their peculiarities : in so doing it would become necessary that they should be under the superintendance of some of their own members ; and certainly, none could be found so fitting, as they who for several years had enjoyed that office.

But, as many of the preachers of the society had received such a kind of ordination as we have given a history of in the preceding pages; and, as those ordinations could never be esteemed valid by the Church; a condition was proposed by Dr. Coke, that the Methodist ministers should be re-ordained. Consequently, if these were to be re-ordained in order to the union, the Wesleian bishops must have refrained from evet ordaining any person in future, till they were consecrated true bishops of the Church, by the bishops of the Episcopal Church; and in case this was not consented to by thie Church, they must have confined their superintendance solely to the peculiar institutions and regulations of the Methodist society. For should they have ordained even one person with their kind of ordination, they would have broke the union. Ordination, as lord Mans. field said, is separation.

The proposal therefore of Dr. Coke, respecting the re-ordination of the Methodist ministers, is in itself tantamount to an acknowledg'ment of the nuility of Wesleian ordination. It is, to say the least, an acknowledgment, by necessary implication, that Methodist ordinations are not Episcopal.

The next passage I shall notice, is that where Dr. Coke is said to have “suggested a propriety, but not a condition made, of admit“ ting himself” and Mr. Asbury " to the Episcopacy;" Now there is no way whereby a man can become capable of being admitted to the episcopacy, or to exercise the work and office of a bishop in any true Episcopal Church, but by a consecration to that work and office by other true bishops : and Dr. Coke knew very well that neither himself nor Mr. Asbury had ever been consecrated bishops, by any persons whom the Episcopal Church could acknowledge as true bishops : for if they had, the re-ordination of those whom they had ordained would not have been necessary. Therefore this bare suggestion of being admitted to the episcopacy, implies a desire and willingness to be consecrated : a willingness to be consecrated, im, pilies a readiness to relinquish aļl powers supposed to be conferred by any prețended prior consecration, till re-consecrated : a re-consecration implies that the former act called consecration was invalid. Now no person who is acquainted with the tenets of all true Episcopalian Churches, can hesitate a moment to believe, that Dr. Coke hava ing suggested the propriety of his admission, &c. must be supposed to have admitted all the consequences which naturally and necessarily flow from such a suggestion ; and that he must have had some doubts respecting the validity of his Wesleian consecration, by being willing it should be set aside as null; which it must have been, had he

Ccc

been admitted to the episcopacy of the Protestant Episcopal Church and indeed, had the union taken place without his admission to the episcopacy, it must have met with the same fate. This is necessarily implied, as was observed, in the condition for the re-ordination of the Methodist ministers.

But as this admission was not to be made a condition of the union, it follows that the union was not to be prevented by the refusal to admit Dr. Coke and Mr. Asbury to the episcopacy : so that, in that case, had the union taken place, the Methodist superintendants must have confined their superintendance to their own society, merely as presidents and managers, and not as bishops truly consecrated, or invested with any of those powers which Episcopalians believe are peculiarly and exclusively given to bishops truly consecrated.

These consequences seem to have sufficiently proved to have flowed from Bishop White's letter in the course of the controversy to which I have more than once alluded, and which gave rise to the present publication. But as they were denied by the writer on the Methodist side, who put many far-fetched and forced constructions on the letter, resorted to deistical historians, and made many bold assertions respecting the proposed union, for which he was not able to produce a single proof, and also endeavored by mere quibbling and cavilling to make this letter speak a language favorable to the cause of Methodist Episcopacy; it was thought proper by a gentleman who felt an interest in the result of the contest to inform Bishop White of the use of the advocate for Wesleian Episcopacy had made of his letter, and at the same time to request from him a more explicit account of Dr. Coke's application and avowed motives. To that gentleman the bishop very politely sent the following letter.

PHILADELPHIA, September 13, 1806. Rev. and dear Sir, I received your letter this day, and answer it immediately.

In compliance with your desire, I send you the following information taken from Dr. Coke's letter now before me.

His plan was that all the ordained ministers then in the Methodist connection should receive Episcopal Ordination. Of these, he says, that they will not, and ought not to give up their right of admninistering the sacraments; but he thinks that the generality of them would not refuse to be re-ordained, and that perhaps none would šo refuse.

Of the other preachers, he says, that they would hardly submit to a re-union, if the possibility of their rising up to ordination depended on the present bishops of America. The difficulty which he foresees on this score, is grounded on their not being acquainted with the learned languages. What was his intended mean of removal of this difficulty does not appear in the letter. It may have been a promise on the part of the bishops, that the ordination of the persons in question should not be prevented by that circumstance. Or, it may have been the coNsEcRATION of himself, and the gentleman connected with him ; for this measure was hinted in a conversation that afterwards took place between us, although he desired me to remark, that it was not made a condition of the union.

The motive of Dr. Coke in this business, as stated in his letter, seems to have been an apprehension that he had gone further in the separation than had been intended by Mr. Wesley, from whom he had received his commission. Mr. Wesley himself, he was sure, had gone further than he would have gone, if he had foreseen SOME EVENTS which followed. The Dr. was certain, that the same gentleman was sorry for the separation ; and would use his influence to the utmost, for accomplishing a re-union.

Perhaps it may be proper to add, that Dr. Coke expresses himself certain that the gentleman connected with him in the superintendance would be adverse to the contemplated measure ; and gives it as a reason for accomplishing it before the death of Mr. Wesley.

It is on my part a matter of justice to your opponents to make the offer of shewing Dr. Coke's letter to any gentleman, who at their desire shall apply for an opportunity of perusing it. You will be so good as to cause this to be inade known to them.

I am sorry you should be exposed to the inconvenience of a controversy on the subject, but trust you will manifest a Christian temper in the management of it. We too often find, on such occasions, a disregard of the admonitions of the apostle, that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

The use of this letter is submitted to your discretion, and I remain your

Affectionate Brother,

WILLIAM WHITE. From this second letter, we learn, that Dr. Coke's plan was, “ that

all the ordained ministers then in the Methodist.comection should 4 receive Episcopal Ordination.

This itself amounts to a confession on the part of Dr. Coke, that their former ordination was not Episcopal. And why? Because neither Mr. Asbury, himself, nor Mr. Wesley were ever truly consecrar ted bishops.

But, as these ministers had received a kind of ordination, Dr. Coke says," they will not, and ought not to give up their right of ad“ ministering the sacraments."

By the doctrine of Episcopalians, they had no right whatever, in virtue of that ordination, to administer the sacraments. But Dr. Coke, probably, like some others, who might be called tertium quid Episcopalians, might think, that though that ordination was not Episcopial, yet it was Presbyteriatı ; and that Presbyterian ordination was not altogether nugatory. However, the meaning of this passage appears plainly to be this ; that these persons having received a kind of ordination; and having, in consequence thereof, been in the practice of acting as presbyters and deacons, would not consent, nor ought they to be degraded to the rank of lay-preachers; and, as an expedient to prevent the necessity of such a measure, he proposed, that they should receive Episcopal ordination : and declared his opinion that the generality of them would not refuse to be re-ordained, and probably none would so refuse.

A question rises from this point of the proposed union, viz. What would have been thc situation of those who might refuse to be re-or

dained, or to receive Episcopal ordination ? 'the answer is plain and evident, viz. They could not possibly be admitted into the union, as clergymen, nor could their ministrations have been sanctioned as valid, by those who were included in the union. They must, there fore, have been considered as abiding still in schism, and in a state of separation from the Church.

The next paragraph of the letter requires no comment. It is no more than an explanation of that passage in the first letter, which respected the suggestion made by Dr. Coke, of admitting himself and Mr. Asbury into the Episcopacy, by a true and valid consecration to the work and office of bishops in the Church of God. It is, however, equivalent to a concession on the part of Dr. Coke, that the ordination conferred on him by Mr. Wesley, was not efriscopal; and that it did not make him any wbit a bishop, more than he was before.

In the paragraph following, the separation is acknowledged; and Dr. Coke seems to apprehend he had gone further in it than Mr. Wesley designed. But be this as it will, we do not find that Mr. Wesley ever expressed his disapprobation of it, till after the rejeca tion of his nomination of Mr. Whatcoat to the superintendency,

But Dr. Coke proceeds and says, that Mr. Wesley himself bad gone farther than he would have gone, had he foreseen some evente which followed. This itself is a sufficient evidence that Mr. Wesa ley acted not in that affair by the peculiar direction and inspiration of the holy spirit of God, but according to the dictates of his own fallible judgment, will and inclination.

One of those events which followed, we presume, was that we have just mentioned, and which deprived him of the implicit obedience of his children in America. Indeed, we doubt whether ever this confession would have been made, had it not been for that event. “Mr. “ Wesley is sorry for the separation, and will use his influence to the “ utmost to accomplish a re-union."

His influence !-How art thou fallen, O John! a few years ago, thy determinations were sufficient : now, thou art obliged to have de. pendence on weakened and dying influence for the accomplishment of thy designs. Alas! I fear it was still weaker than either Dr. Coke or thyself imagined. Thou now findest that thy example has been followed, and that those whom thou, by thy deputies didst ordain, will not obey the power that ordained them. This comes from thy own violation of order. Thy right hand man in the United States, thou now perceivest, is, as it were, in league against thee. He will be adverse to the measure. So says Dr. Coke ; and so we believe he would have been. However, the convention of the church on the one hand, and the death of Mr. Wesley on the other, put a stop to all further proceedings on this subject: and the Methodists still continue in a state of schism and separation from the church. And having only the same kind of orders they received at the time of the separating conference, their ministrations are, and must be, esteemed null and void, and to rest solely on the insufficient ground of mere human device, by all true Episcopalians.

[To be continued.]

« ZurückWeiter »