Obrázky na stránke

suaded that there is less ground to doubt the validity of Wesley's ordination of Coke on ecclesiastical grounds than of many and vital episcopal ordinations during the Elizabethan days of the Reformation in England.

We are persuaded, also, that it were better to frankly admit, in company with many of the most devoted and learned ministers and theologues in the Church of England, that the succession is one of the errors and assumptions of the papal Church, and should not be included among the doctrines of Protestantism—Continental, English, or American. Papal writers on the one hand, and many and distingnished Church of England writers on the other hand, unite in the declaration that episcopal succession is not a doctrine of the latter Church. A statute in the time of Elizabeth was to the effect that those who had received ordination in forın other than that of the Church of England might have Church preferment upon signing the Articles of Religion. Many having only presbyterian ordination actually did obtain preferment in the English Church. Hooker, whose eminence needs no statement, has said that there may sometimes be “very just and sufficient reason to allow ordination made without a bishop.” Now we hold that Wesley had that “very just and sufficient reason ” to authorize him to ordain Bishop Coke, and thus begin a line of Methodist Episcopal bishops under whom our Church work and success would seem to have the sanction of the great Head of the Church.

This general statement of our relations to the historic episcopacy must suffice, with a few points of summary and inference.

1. We hold that we are an episcopal Church as to our genuine origin, our methods of work, and our ecclesiastical conformity to the primitive Church model of the year 84 A. D. While we are as presbyterian as presbyterisın in theory, we prefer a system of scriptural superintendency which, though it began as late as 1784, is derived from as genuine sources as any in church history. Though short, it is pure, to our certain knowledge, as is any on record. Moreover, the chain is complete and continuous beyond challenge.

2. Our episcopacy has competent jurisdiction. Our bishops who receive ordination have universal, and universally admitted, authority. They are never outside their world-wide or legally

prescribed fields. We make no distinction between their “habitual” and their "actual” jurisdiction. Moreover, we obtain detailed, minute, and effective local episcopal oversight through presiding elders; our diocesan bishops who, in a substantial sense, feed the flock, and illustrate the fundamental sincerity of our views as to the parity of bishops and elders by retiring at the close of their term of office—to which they are not ordained.

3. For the sake of the old principle above credited to Ignatius, but often re-affirmed, we practically restrict ordinations to our bishops, but only that they may be “centers of unity," and that we may keep our temporal law. At the same time, any elder has divine right to ordain elders or bishops. Admitting this, we yet deny that he at present has ecclesiastical right to ordain until legally authorized. While the historical bishop in all Churches may have abused his office over and over again, he has also contributed to save the Church more than once.

4. At times it has been illegal for presbyters to ordain, adıninister the sacraments, or pronounce absolution, unless by permission of the presiding bishop. However, they have always had inherent and divine right to do all these things. In process

of time all these rights have been regained and restored save that of ordaining. Wesley, therefore, completed the Reformation in England by re-asserting and illustrating presbyterial right and authority to also ordain elders and bishops.

5. It is sometimes suggested that our Church should thoroughly vindicate and harmonize its presbyterian theoretical polity by electing bishops to serve for only four or eight years, and that they should not be ordained or consecrated. We affirm, however, that such a step would be a departure from primitive Christian practice, and that it would mar the consistency of our symmetrical scriptural scheme.

6. He who correctly reads our Methodist history, and knows the record of the primitive Church, will not be over ready to re-affirm once in four years by General Conference resolution that Methodism is not a high church, and in danger from “Romanizing germs.” A deliverance on vital themes, when attered too often, begets a persuasion that somebody is in doubt. What would be the effect of too frequent affirmation of the divinity of Christ? Future readers of history would be sure to conclude that that divinity has been often and fiercely doubted within our Church. As a safe-guard, if there is danger from super-episcopalianism in our Church, we should prefer that the personal offenders be allowed to ripen for the day of mundane wrath, and thus receive the inevitable lesson which would avail far more than a folio of resolutions.

7. It is not the part of Methodism to be forever disavowing

prelacy,” but rather to rest in the scriptural origin and quality of her genuine episcopacy. Thereby shall we best protect the Church from the one extreme of super-episcopalianism, and the other extreme of hap-hazard and non-historical episcopacy. Some among us deem it their duty, and a proof of their horror of “prelacy,” to “define" our episcopacy and deprecate the growth of its power and perhaps final rebellion against, and disregard for, the Church. The results are loss of corps spirit and measurable disaffection, which bode no good. The implied danger, suggested by the timid, is certainly not in our theory of the episcopacy. Our only possible danger respects the personnel of our future superintending presbyters. Therefore, let precautions be personal, and let not a mistaken defense Irasten to tinker our explicit and safe law. While we remain low church, as we must, let ns be sure to be sufficiently high church in the fearless use of our low church munitions.

No declaration, or disavowal, or deprecation, or protest, or explanation, or manifesto of any kind whatsoever can more clearly detine our univocal theory of church polity and of onr episcopacy. In the light of that paragraph let us make the very most of our bishops while we have them, and should they, perchance, all disappear at once, let us reverently proceed according to this law to get some more.





In the old New England Conference, an important center of thonght, activity, courage, and radicalisin, James Porter long remained a conspicuous historic figure.

He was in every movement of the period. He always marched in the van. In the pulpit he occupied an enviable position; and on the platforin, the scene of some of the most stirring and famous debates of the century, he was invariably prominent. Without hiin no Methodistic circle was complete; and in the circle he could not be hidden. His tact, good sense, rare knowledge of men and things, were seen on all sides; and, however we may account for it, he held a high place of honor among the most distinguished men of his generation, a fact which makes his life worthy of consideration and study. In an important sense he was a self-made man, the architect of his own fort

He was not lifted into fame by friends or accident; he rose by the persistent and wise use of the powers originally conferred by the Creator. The diligent use of the five talents made them ten.

Though not born to fortune or title, James Porter caine of good Paritan stock, tracing his lineage back to Richard Porter, who settled in Weymonth, Mass., in 1635, and thus secur. ing connection with a Pilgriin fainily whose abilities, virtues, and services have left visible and notable traces on the history, literature, religion, legislation, and institutions of the Eastern States. Tact and push were in the blood; and back of these was a susceptibility to moral and religious motives, and a deep sense of duty to God and mankind. Though, like most of their neighbors, in moderate worldly circumstances, his parents, William Porter (born in Middleborongh, Mass., February 1, 1763) and Rebecca (Wood) Porter (born in Middleborough, March 31, 1772) were highly respectable people, retaining and training their children in the faith, virtues, and aspirations of their ancestors.

In this Puritanic home, characterized by simple tastes, habits of economy, industry, and a spirit of enterprise and adventure, the future itinerant was born, March 21, 1809, and passed the years of preparation for the duties of later life. In the humble community there was little to rouse the soul or stir aspiration. The quiet virtues were in demand. The church under whose influence he was trained, but into whose inner fold lre never entered, was the leading institution of the tocn; and the minister was the most conspicuons man, the patriarch of the parish. Next to the church was the public school to him, as to inany another New England boy, an almu mater, a source of instruction, inspiration, and guidance; an armory hung abont with most curious weapons, from which the initiated could furnish themselves for the hard contests of life. Of this rare institution our subject made good use in securing the mastery of rudimentary knowledge and a facility in bandling simple English. Besides attendance on the public school, he passed several terms for advanced studies at Pierce Academy, located in the vicinity, attaining the ineasure of mental training and knowledge deemed adequate for entrance upon business. The business chosen by him was manufacturing; a kind of indnstry then rising to importance in the State. From the first he aspired to be a inaster in his department; and to secure this high end he was quite willing to begin at the bottom. Entering a woolen mill, he devoted himself so intelligently and persistently to the duties assigned Iríin that he was able, in a brief period, to become a manager in the department where he served, thus cariy evincing the tastes, aptitudes, and capacity for business which becaine so conspicuous in his later life. But, arnply as he was qualified to enter a business career, he was destined to another course; his own predilections and plans were traversed by the higher order of Providence; and so, instead of becoming, as he had anticipated, one of New England's princely manuiacturers, he, by a strange turn of affairs, became an itinerant minister--an ontcome which neither he nor any of his family had anticipated.


Methodism, though comparatively new in the State, was then sweeping like a warm wave over the Puritan churches of Plymouth and Bristol Counties, and awakening in many hitherto dead or dormant a sense of spiritual unrest or of fresh vitality. In 1827 the Rev. Ebenezer Blake, a “son of thunder" and a successful evangelist, traveled the Easton circuit, including Middleborough, the home of the Porters, and,

« PredošláPokračovať »