Apostolic Succession

 

Hezekiah Harvey

 


 

...This view of ordination is opposed by the theory of an historic succession in the ministry by successive regular ordinations from the apostles. According to this, a twofold grace is conferred in ordination: 1. The power of consecrating, offering, and ministering the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and 2. The power of absolution, or the remission of sins. The authority to confer this virtue in ordination is vested in the bishops, by whom it was received from the apostles, and has been transmitted through successive ordinations to the present day. As the result, ordination not received in this regular succession is invalid; and where there is no valid ordination there is no true ministry, no effectual preaching, no sacrament, no church, and no salvation.

To this theory I propose the following objections: 1. The sacerdotal powers, here said to be transmitted through apostolic succession, were never conferred on the apostles, much less have they been transmitted through the ages from them to us. 2. The Scriptures are silent as to any such succession and the necessity of it to a valid ministry; but surely, if this necessity existed, so momentous a fact would not only be stated, but emphasized. 3. Ordination did in fact confer no gift or power, for "the seven" were "full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom" before their election, and were chosen on account of their fitness for the office. Barnabas and Saul were called of the Holy Ghost to the missionary work before their ordination, and that act only recognized this divine call, and dedicated them to their work. The ordination of Timothy was attended with exceptional circumstances; for, when he was ordained, a distinct prophetic utterance predicted his future eminence in the ministry, and Paul, as an apostle, united with the presbytery in the laying on of hands, so that Timothy received the supernatural gift or charism of the Holy Ghost (1 Tim. iv. 14; 2 Tim. i. 6). But neither prophets nor apostles are now present at ordinations, and the special charisma of the Spirit have ceased in the church. 4. If this theory of apostolic succession be admitted, there is no evidence that a valid ministry now exists on earth; for an historic succession of ordinations from the Apostolic age cannot be proved in any individual case. Even were such a succession promised, it would then be wholly uncertain in which of the several lines claiming it this suecession has descended. Archbishop Whately justly said: "There is no Christian minister now existing that can trace up with complete certainty his own ordination, through perfectly regular steps, to the times of the apos tles," 5. Finally, it is incredible that God has made the salvation of souls dependent upon this mysterious invisible virtue in the ministry - a condition as to which there is scarcely one chance in a thousand that it is met in any minister in Christendom; and if met, the proof of it cannot be made out. Such a supposition is repulsive, not only to the whole tenor of Scripture, but also to our most fundamental conceptions of God.

 


The Church; its polity and ordinances. Hezekiah Harvey. Backus Bllk Publishers; P.O. Box 17274, Rochester, NY 14617. Pages 82-87.