Distinguishing Marks not Applicable to the Church (3)

“Fifthly, the succession of bishops and other members of the clergy is deemed to be as such a distinguishing mark. This is unfounded, for:

(1) whatever is a mark of the true church must always and uniquely be true. This succession is, however, not a unique distinction of the church for there was no succession of the apostles. Such succession is not unique to the church, for Mohammedan and heretical teachers also have their successors. Thus, doctrine is once more the real issue, for what is the value of succession without truth?

(2) Individual churches, in which there has been a good succession since the times of the apostles, can degenerate. A ‘wolf,’ that is, a heretic, can take the place of an orthodox minister, so that subsequent succession is tainted by heresy. To what avail then is succession? The papists who deem succession as one of the distinguishing marks of the church, condemn themselves, being unable to prove infallibly their succession. Particularly in the first two centuries, the succession which they did have has degenerated and become heretical” (Wilhelmus a’Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service).