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to on any question of the kind. They were, indeed, the grand objects of assault, and any warning of what was about to be concocted, would not have squared with the purposed exposure of such men to public execration.
We merely ask, did these Associates deliberate with their brethren, the official members of the laity, before they assumed this power? No; they had no great liking, we presume, for a committee of the whole house, but claiming the authority to form themselves into a committee, they retired from the public arena of affairs; and, returning from their secrecy, presented their report on very grave subjects, questions quite unmooted by their brethren, and thereby with a gravity most marvellous, proclaimed their own despotism. And thus we have a junto of dictators lustily denouncing tyranny, yet attempting to force their lay companions throughout the connexion, into measures not at all congenial with the views of the great body of the people. Nay, the people—yes, we say the people-still continue to reject, either by their decided declarations, or their tacit acknowledgements, those measures as destructive, they conceive, to the inestimable Methodism which they hoped to enjoy without the interference of such unauthorised assailants.
We say their brethren of the laity; for though the designed effect of the Association is, no doubt, chiefly directed against the Conference, yet the evil, we contend, would not resi here! It must finally crash upon the heads of the Wesleyan people at large. “Oh! but you mistake; the changes we demand are for the benefit of the people.” It is sufficient for this part of our argument, that the people do not think so; and so long as they continue in that mind, should the other party (to suppose a thing impossible), still fight and prevail, the very contest itself, to say nothing of the intended measures, would be ruinous to the spiritual, and, by consequence, to the temporal interests of multitudes; who, notwithstanding our alleged pernicious and intolerable corruptions, have long continued happy and prosperous in the enjoyment of genuine piety. Whatever may be said of those measures, we deem the commencement of this menacing confederacy an insult to the entire brotherhood of the Wesleyan connexion. What should be thought, if in a dissenting congregation, some few persons fancying, or even knowing their church to be corrupt, should secretly form themselves into a coercive committee to effect a remedy, without consulting either their pastor or their brethren ? By what law, either statute or common, in the government of Methodism, have the Associates assumed this power ? Law! “ they are a law unto themselves.” It is not indeed rebellion of the same character ; but the Association is no more countenanced by any positive rules in the system of Methodism, than the mutiny at the Nore was sanctioned by the laws of the land. How then was the Association formed? We answer-by gross misrepresentations of the points at issue, especially of the preachers as a body of Christian ministers. Many of these misrepresentations we have already pointed out and confuted. If, for instance, presenting blank papers to the poor people for signatures, which afterwards should constitute them members of the Association ; if various incorrect statements, prejudicial to the character of the preachers; and if, at the same time, assurances seriously given, that the opposition is intended to shew great love to the preachers, to starve and humble them for the good of their souls; and many other winning methods of address; if these, we observe, be honourable methods of enlisting partisans to this new fraternity, we confess ourselves unable to trace out any clear distinction between what is proper and what is improper.
We inquire, in the second place, whether this new company was not formed in direct opposition to existing rules-rules sufficiently plain and positive to regulate the conduct of all unbiassed persons, who love a Christian and trank impartiality, and hate the trickery which catches at á plan to serve a purpose.
The rule itself we have quoted on a former occasion. We then showed that the question, or preamble, by which the rule is introduced, proves it to be applicable to all such meetings as those of the Association.
The expression, “ we think,” has been strangely interpreted to imply, that though the Conference thus expresses an opinion on the subject of such meetings, leave is given to the people to think just the contrary, if they please, and to act accordingly. In this case the passage would contain no rule at all, or rather it would be a full permission to any members of the society to hold any meeting at any time, in any place, on any subject they thought proper; which, we scarcely need to observe, would be destructive of all rule and government, in any conventional community whatever. On this point the Association reminds us of the boy, who, being asked by his father if he would go to church, fancied, from this optional form of expression, that he might do as he thought proper, and refused; till he found the words were not intended to convey this meaning, when he yielded without objection to paternal authority. Had no rule at all, indeed, been found in Methodism, opposed to the Association, one would think it almost impossible that rational and pious men could fail to discover, as by intuition, the absurdity and perniciousness of such combinations. It is said there is no law against blanketstealing. Should the opportunity, however, be presented, we trust our good old friends of the Association would pause a little and consider what would be the opinion of the judges in this case. For our own part, we hold it as our firm conviction, that if ever there was disobedience in domestic life, or' schism in a church, or rebellion in a state, this coercive opposition must rank among these evils, as founded more or less upon their principles, and animated by their spirit.
Our opponents think themselves justified in their hostility, even in the teeth of rule and order; firstbecause of the magnitude of our corruptions as a body; and, secondly-because, as they affirm, they are not allowed freedom of discussion, and access by appeal to the Conference. But what are those corruption's—who has interfered with their spiritual privileges, or in any wise attempted to hinder their growth in grace, or their usefulness? If the burden was so intolerable, why did they not cry out, and shew their bleeding shoulders long ago ? That some few persons did this, fancying themselves aggrieved, and even agonized, by terrible op. pressions, we all know. So far they claimed our pity as great sufferers, for imaginary pain is real pain. But that all this was fictitious is evident from this, that multitudes of those who have lately joined them were then quite happy and contented, though actually bearing the same burdens with the others. But now the genius of the Association has let fall the healing drops of her inestimable magic on their distorted vision, and they are enlightened all at once. We verily believe that the great majority of the members of the Association were perfectly satisfied with the connexion, till, since last Conference, certain individuals seduced them from their due regard, not only to the preachers — their legitimate instructors; but also to all persons in the body, however numerous and respectable, who should differ in opinion from those new doctors in the canon law of Methodism. And with regard to the complaint, that no freedom of discussion is permitted in the body, nothing can be more incorrectly affirmed. Discussion, in the several meetings of the people, has always been allowed ; only, it is reasonable to suppose that this must have its limits. To allow any subject, however revolutionary-however obviously out of the proper business of such meetings—however hostile, for instance, to the doctrines preached in the body; would be altogether wrong on the part of the minister. He must determine, taking counsel with his brethren and other friends, as his prudence shall dictate to him, what, and how far, any given point shall be the subject of inquiry or debate at these meetings. If he should be guilty of indiscretion, either on the one side or the other, he is amenable to the district meeting and the Conference. To say that no member of quarterly or leaders' meetings would, of course, propose an improper subject of debate; and that the meeting should itself force its own measures on the official consideration of the preacher, is a manifest begging of the question; and to affirm that it is of no manner of use to charge a preacher in this case before his brethren because they are all corrupt together, is so false and impudent a slander, as to merit no reply. • Thirdly, we ask, what are the objects of the Association ? These must reflect much light on its character. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” They are of two sorts : the ultimate designs included in the revolution of the system which they call reform—the introduction of lay delegates, and of the public itself into Conference—and of other matters with which most probably the reader is acquainted ; and the means they have chosen to effect these purposes. As, at present, we confine ourselves chiefly to the Association itself, it is not our intention to touch the former class of topics. That has been done by Messrs. Vevers, Crowther, and Cubitt, and lately by the judgment of both Chancellors, we think, with the spear of Ithuriel; to say nothing of our own former papers on the subject. What, then, are the means employed to carry these designs into accomplishment ? Hear it, ye sons of freedom ! Is it calm and courteous appeal? Is it argument? Is it the friendly debate which Christian charity inspires ? Is it the constitutional and common method, in this land of liberty, by which public questions are debated and agreed upon; and which combines sufficient independence and firmness of thinking, with the rejection of all claim to infallibility, and the admission that the truth may possibly be found on the other side ? Is it the dignified example of peaceable separation from a body of men monstrously, incorrigibly corrupt! No-gentle reader. It is agitationit is force—it is starvation--and a pertinacious adherence to the system, with a view to perplex and rend it, under the sanctimonious name of Christian reform. All this is very kind. But in the mean while, those profound menders of systems do not seem to be aware of the manifest impolicy and futility of the scheme, as tending to destroy itself. They have not an eye to see the reaction it produces on the sound part of the connexion, who seem resolved to support the whole of their valued instilutions with more than their former zeal and liberality. They seem insensible to this, that if the Contingent Fund, for example, and other funds amongst us, were destroyed, the consequence would be, not the starvation of the preachers; but the narrowing of our plans according to
our means; the refusal to take out more preachers than the people could or would support, and, by consequence, the souls of multitudes, quite innocent of the corruptions referred to, would be the chief sufferers beneath the blows of this new enginery, to force people to be virtuous. The same might be said of the missionary establishment. And suppose this force could succeed in producing a change of opinions in the Conference, what would be the value of those opinions ? What, even in the estimation of the fathers of this reform, would be the moral character of the Conference? The Conference has already, we are told, “ sealed its own disgrace by its public declaration;" but surely the turning round at the mere command of the Association, and merely for a “ piece of bread,” would doubly seal that infamy. As to the missions, we indignantly deny the charge of an improper use of its funds; and where, on the one side, mere affirmation is advanced, the laws of reasoning require nothing more than a negative reply. But should we, for the sake of argument, admit the charge, it would not follow that measures ought to be resorted to, which would issue in the damnation of thousands of unhappy pagans. And if all terrestrial institutions with which any fault can be found, ought to be instantly and entirely deprived of support, we should like to know how many would remain to adorn the Christian and civilized world?
In the fourth place, we ask, who are the persons that compose the Association? They cannot say the question is invidious, because they have asserted their own respectability, and high character in other respects, with no small self-congratulation. Whatever individual exceptions may be pointed out, we honestly believe, and this belief is founded, not on general testimony alone, but on some knowledge of the subject, that in the main, when compared with the connexion at large, they are not the most experienced, or elderly, or intelligent, or spiritual. Nor are they, by any means, the most respectable and wealthy, and, hence, it is a favourite topic with them to declaim against the rich. To “speak evil of dignities," is in the very spirit of their institution. Whether this arise from the insidiousness of an envious disposition, or from higher motives, they most determine for themselves. Nor are they, by any means, the largest in regard to numbers. Out of 400 circuits, we question whether there be 50 agitated at all. The Associates, in Liverpool, are not 1000 strong; while about 3000 still remain in the society. If the whole of the discontented party amount, as they affirm, to 40,000 which, we feel confident, is vastly overrated, still the connexion numbers more than 200,000 on the contrary side. Nor do they seem disposed, after looking at the question for nearly six months, to be convinced by the bold and numerous appeals of the Association. “True; but things will turn round, and we shall conquer in the end.” We have no doubt you think so. The followers of Johanna Southcote believed, for many years after her death, that the child would come notwithstanding, from some quarter or another; and among them were some sensible men-yes, and clergymen of the church of England!
But then, it will be said, what has all this to do with truth ?”— We reply, “much every way.” For though neither character nor numbers can determine truth, they are allowed in all countries to be, generally, a sign of truth; and hence the most important affairs in civilized society are settled by the number of voices—and we have reason to know that members of the Association, in some instances, set no small value on majorities.
But this point is of considerable importance in the case of many persons who-from their circumstances, their deficient information, and other disabilities-are perfectly incompetent to judge of certain questions in church government, and who, in some instances, have the candour to acknowledge this. Such persons must be guided by some authority. Pray, which authority is preferable—the Association, or the whole body of the people, with all their intelligence, piety, and respectability, leaving the preachers entirely out of question ? Yet, we see no reason why a poor man should not rather be directed in his judgment by the ministers who, under God, have been the means of saving his soul, and whose habits and abilities, we presume, have enabled them to judge of such affairs, than by the members of the Association. For in what respects are these members better qualified to judge? But, perhaps, it will be said—they do not pretend to superior powers of judgment, but deem that the preachers are not morally so qualified to judge as themselves. Then the preachers, it would seem, are consciously vicious, and sin against their better judgment, which is the reason, we suppose, they are called tyrants and oppressors—for mere mistake would not justify the use of such language; and in all this, it would appear, the people join the preachers to support a system of palpable wickedness. These are very modest allegations brought against a body of ministers and people, to whom the members of the Association have long professed to listen with much satisfaction and improvement, and with whom they have seemed to enjoy the most friendly communion, without ever naming those charges to the parties themselves.
(To be continued in our next number.)
THE NEW CONNEXION AND ITS PROFESSED BALANCE OF POWER BETWEEN THE PREACHERS AND THE PEOPLE.
“Prove all things."—St. Paul. The providence of God is particularly over good men. We believe it 'specially presided over the mind of the venerable Wesley when he drew up the celebrated “Deed of Declaration,” by which lay delegation is legally excluded the Conference as long as Methodism endures. We will give only one reason at present for our position. By excluding lay delegation from the Conference, he prevented the people from obtaining that overwhelming power which would have so prostrated the sacred office of the ministry in the dust, and so secularized the spiritual institutions of the body, as to have made them all comparatively inefficient. We admit the New Connexion professes to have escaped this serious evil by framing a constitution which secures a balance of power between the preachers - and the people. But this profession, like too many other professions, is not in strict accordance with the real state of the oase. Where shall we seek and find in that community this equality of power? Is it in the circuits? Have the preachers in all meetings an equal degree of authority with the people ? The general rules, which we have carefully perused, reply in the negative. These provide that admissions and expulsions nominations and appointments, &c. shall be decided, by the majorities of laymen. The preachers may give advice, and say whether the ayes, or the noes have the question at issue; but beyond this kind of interference, they seem to be powerless. Again—Is this balance of power in the Conference? When we see a preacher and a layman go from each circuit to Conference, we are free to confess there is apparent equality in the