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Archbishop of York, convey the divine gift when they consecrated bishops? Nay, I would ask if a link of this chain was unbroken in the consecration of a late Bishop of Clogher, or of Bishop Atherton, who was hanged at Dublin in the reign of Charles I.? If then the fingering of the head fails in doing that to which it pretends, it does nothing at all for the argument; or rather it materially injures it, for it acts a bold lie, inasmuch as this is part of the ceremony of consecrating bishops.
"Rubric-Then the Archbishop and Bishops present shall lay their hands upon the head of the elected bishop, kneeling before them upon his knees, the Archbishop saying, 'Receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a bishop now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands, in the name of the Trinity, Amen; and remember that thou stir up the grace of God which is given thee by this imposition of our hands.
"A right view, therefore, of the succession doctrine makes it of not so much value in the eyes of a Christian as the mystery of carnal reproduction; for it proves nothing but this, that he who is a bishop is a man, and that his head has been touched by the hand of another man who can boast the like privilege before him, and so on through the wars of the Crusaders, and the dark ages— through the sanguinary strifes of the Arians and Athanasians—through all the various heretics that
have ever swarmed in the Church up to the first touch where your theory commences. If I see a
new-born infant or a little child, he is indeed a child of wrath, and original sin has made him guilty at the bar of divine justice; but his mould has been curiously wrought by the hand of the Great Artificer, and he is a production of the wisdom of omnipotence, and culture may make him wise, and a holy education may train him up in the fear of the Lord, and thus finally he may become wiser than the ancients, because he keeps God's statutes; but what is there divine in a bishop, viewing him as a bishop and not as a mere man? and what is there to admire in him, or how is he, in his episcopal attributes, any way to be deemed holy, or as a production of omnipotent wisdom? All I know of him is this, that on a certain day the King ordered the Archbishop and Bishops to consecrate him, to put their hands on his head, and to say that they gave him that which most assuredly they cannot give, and which he has not received from them. I see in him, therefore, nothing but a solemn deception decorated in lawn; and I neither love him nor reverence him, whether he be making speeches in parliament, or smiling at the levee, or sitting on his throne; and I as little believe that he has power to give grace by his finger-ends as to raise the dead by his voice, nor will I believe the one till I see him do the other.
"But they who are genuine Episcopalian Successionists are bound to believe, that on a certain day the King, in compliance with the wishes of his prime minister, named a Dr. Phillpotts, a Dr. Maltby, or a Dr. Allen, to receive the mystical influence from the hands of the prelates-and that it must be so, for if the bishops refuse to exert their inherent virtue they will incur the penalties of a Præmunire, be prosecuted by the Attorney-General and ousted of their bishoprics: moreover this their virtue must emanate upon the bishop elect, be he who he may, be he Whig or Tory, Arminian or Calvinist, Trinitarian or Socinian; whoever the King commands to be consecrated must be consecrated-no question can be asked, no difficulty started; the Archbishop must impart grace to any one the prime minister of the day sends to him, for the King is the head of the Church, and there is no appeal from Cæsar. What monstrous, yea, profane deductions are inevitable from this idle notion! This profaneness, however, is not to be charged to the account of those persons who expose the delusion, but to those who seek to perpetuate it and to profit by it.
"Can any one, then, deny this consequence of the succession theory, or rather, does not the Vicar openly assert it, that any clergyman, whether they have the fit qualifications or not for the Christian ministry-whether they have any design or no to pursue the ends of the solemn
office which they take upon them in consecration --whether their consecration be for love or money—— to manifest the power of a cabinet minister or to fill their own pockets-yet all is one, being any way prelatically ordained bishops they may ordain others, and so the successive ordination is preserved and the Church of Christ glorified.
"And whilst these violent clergymen are thus ranting about their 'succession,' what do they not say, on the other hand, against those who reject their system? For let a Dissenting minister be ever so godly-let him be eminently blessed in the conversion of sinners-let his sermons be judicious, eloquent, and full of the Gospel-let the people unanimously express their affection for him as a minister and a man let him fulfil all the requisites prescribed by the Apostle Paul, such as being blameless, the steward of God, not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, nor given to filthy lucre, but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers-yet all this would go for nothing with the Vicar of Tuddington; he would call him only a 'teacher of schism;' declare 'he had no pretension to be called a Christian;' denounce him as the fautor of wickedness, licentiousness, and rebellion,' and, finally, find no better place for him than
the company of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram: and all for what? because he had not had his head touched by a Parliamentary Prelate, and had not, on a certain day, according to the King's mandate, sworn a solemn oath on his knees to obey the Archbishop and Metropolitical Church of Canterbury;' though of a truth it would puzzle all the bishops in Christendom to find in Scripture any allusion to an Archbishop or a Metropolitan See, and though it be most certain that the Metropolitan Sees of York and Canterbury were invented by the Church of Rome, which the Homilies of the Church of England have somewhat uncivilly termed a foul, filthy, old withered harlot.'
"If, then, it be true, as Bishop Burnet justly remarks, that the spirit of Antichrist is a conspirity to exalt the power of the clergy, even by subjecting the most sacred truths of religion to contrivances for raising their authority, and by offering the world another method of being saved besides that prescribed in the Gospel,' what must we say to the Gathercoalians who thus rattle their stage-thunder about Bishops and Apostolical Succession, the King's mandate and obedience to Canterbury, as if men could not possibly be saved who are not under the jurisdiction of a Parliamentary Prelate? In what part of Scripture will they find this doctrine? How will they churn this venom out of the sincere milk of the word?