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Secondly, open the words of my text. And thirdly, delineate the character of a Christian bishop. The Church of England, of which the society of Methodists general, have till lately professed themselves a part, did for many y groan in America under grievances of the heaviest kind. Subject a hierarchy which weighs every thing in the scales of politics most important interests were repeatedly sacrificed to the supp advantages of England. The churches were, in general, filled the parasites and bottle companions of the rich and the great. humble and most importunate entreaties of the oppressed flocks, the representations of a general assembly itself* were contemned despised'; every thing sacred must lie down at the feet of a party,
* The Assembly of Virginia. Vol. XI.-July, 1840.
DR, COKE'S SERMON AT THE ORDINATION OF BISHOP ASBURY. The Substance of a Sermon, preached at Baltimore, in the State of Maryland,
before the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on the 27th of December, 1784, at the Ordination of the Rev. Francis Asbury to the Office of a Superintendent. Published at the Desire of the Conference.
BY THOMAS COKE, LL.D., SUPERINTENDENT OF THE SAID CHURCH.
“ To the angel of the church in Philadelphia, write, These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth. I know thy works ; behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee. Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold fast that which thou hast, that no man take thy crown,” Rev. iii, 7-11.
The most important part of a minister's duty is to insist on the great fundamental truths of Christianity. But he is called occasionally to consider subjects of a more confined and peculiar nature; and the intention of the present meeting more especially requires such an attempt. I shall therefore, with the assistance and blessing of God,
In the first place, vindicate our conduct in the present instance.
The Church of England, of which the society of Methodists, in general, have till lately professed themselves a part, did for many years groan in America under grievances of the heaviest kind. Subjected to a hierarchy which weighs every thing in the scales of politics, its most important interests were repeatedly sacrificed to the supposed advantages of England. The churches were, in general, filled with the parasites and bottle companions of the rich and the great. The humble and most importunate entreaties of the oppressed flocks, yea, the representations of a general assembly itself* were contemned and despised'; every thing sacred must lie down at the feet of a party, the
* The Assembly of Virginia. VOL. XI.-July, 1840.
holiness and happiness of mankind be sacrificed to their views; and the drunkard, the fornicator, and the extortioner, triumphed over bleeding Zion, because they were faithful abettors of the ruling powers. But these intolerable fetters are now struck off, and the antichristian union which before subsisted between church and state is broken asunder. One happy consequence of which has been the expulsion of most of those hirelings* " who ate the fat and clothed themselves with the wool, but strengthened not the diseased, neither healed that which was sick, neither bound up that which was broken, neither brought again that which was driven away, neither sought that which was lost,” Ezek. xxxiv, 3, 4.
The parochial churches in general being hereby vacant, our people were deprived of the sacraments through the greatest part of these States, and continue so still. What method can we take at this critical juncture ? God has given us sufficient resources in ourselves, and, after mature deliberation, we believe that we are called to draw them forth.
“But what right have you to ordain ?" The same right as most of the reformed churches in Christendom : our ordination, in its lowest view, being equal to any of the Presbyterian, as originating with three presbyters of the Church of England.
“ But what right have you to exercise the episcopal office ?" To me the most manifest and clear. God has been pleased, by Mr. Wesley, to raise up in America and Europe a numerous society, well known by the name of Methodists. The whole body have invariably esteemed this man as their chief pastor, under Christ. He has constantly appointed all their religious officers from the highest to the lowest, by himself or his delegate. And we are fully persuaded there is no church office which he judges expedient for the welfare of the people intrusted to his charge, but, as essential to his station, he has a power to ordain. After long deliberation he saw it his duty to form his society in America into an independent church; but he loved the most excellent liturgy of the Church of England, he loved its rights and ceremonies, and therefore adopted them in most instances for the present case.
Besides, in addition to this, we have every qualification for an episcopal church which that of Alexandria (a church of no small, note in the primitive times) possessed for two hundred years. Our bishops, or superintendents, (as we rather call them,) having been elected or received by the suffrages of the whole body of our ministers through the continent, assembled in general conference.
“ But don't you break the succession ?" The uninterrupted suc. cession of bishops is a point that has been long given up by the ablest Protestant defenders of episcopacy. Bishop Hoadley himself, in his celebrated controversy with Dr. Calamy, allows it to be unnecessary. His words are, “ To the thirteenth question I answer, that I think not an uninterrupted line of succession of regularly ordained bishops
* I am deeply conscious that the observation by no means reaches to the whole body of the clergy of the Church of England. There are many of them whose characters I greatly esteem, and at whose feet I should think it an honor to sit.