Page images
PDF
EPUB

boly. Whilst sufficient scope has been given for the exercise of those various gifts and talents which God has, from time to time, conferred on his servants, it has been the constant aim of the Conference, after the example of Mr. Wesley, to keep the preachers devoted fully to the work of saving souls. By the establishment of their excellent discipline over the ministry, through the Districts, they will be still able to secure this benefit to the church ; had Dr. Warren succeeded in gaining the establishment of his new tribunal, we believe in our consciences, that in a short time this advantage would have been endangered and ultimately lost. We now return to give our reasons for believing that the judgment of the two Chancellors has established the pastoral and spiritual authority of the Conference through the medium of its Districts.

1.-It has been clearly demonstrated, especially by the Lord Chancellor, that the Plan of Pacification did not annul the other rules, on the subject of Districts ; that those rules related to a particular point of discipline only; and on this opinion, he founded his judgment, affirming the legality of Dr. Warren's trial. This has been strenuously denied by Dr. Warren in his pamphlet, relied upon by his adherents, and has often been argued in our meetings, in this town, in relatior. to other subjects. We have heard it asserted, again and again, that the Plan of Pacification abrogated all the other rules of the Connexion ; but now, on the opinion and decision of an impartial judge, the contrary is affirmed, establishing the principle that all preceding laws for the appointment and regulation of these meetings remained entire.

2.-The trial of preachers is only one particular of a general provision ;. but it has. been affirmed by the courts that this one particular, drawn from this general provision, is valid; and if so, then the whole series must be so too. If, as adjudged by the Lord Chancellor, the rules of 1791–2-3, appointing and regulating the functions of Districts remain in force, then it follows that their entire provisions do so. It will be found, on examination, that these rules only relate to the trial of preachers incidentally, and as one article of jurisdiction, which the exercise of a spiritual supervision contemplated. On the establishment of Districts, we find this was the avowed reason: • “Question—What regulations are necessary for the preservation of our whole economy, as the Rev. Mr. \Vesley left it? Answer-Let the three kingdoms be divided into Districts.” The establishment of these local jurisdictions then, it is here seen, had relation to the " whole economyof Methodism. It is decided by the Lord Chancellor that the Plan of Pacification did not annul any of the laws on the subject and consequently, that they still relate to the “whole economy" of Methodism. The subsequent enactments of Conference regulate these meetings, as to the manner of their proceedings, but nothing has been done to alter their original design.

3.--The deed of Declaration which is now recognised as a legal document, expressly provides for the exercise of this disciplinary power, through its President and officers. After making provision for the election and duties of the President, the Deed enacts, that, he shall possess “such other powers, privileges, and authorities, as the Conír.once shall from time to time see fit to entrust into his hands." It is clear from this that ine Conference may entrust its President to hold districts; and, if instead of existing in the regular form in which they have been long arranged, still the whole nation being divided into circuits alone, it would be competent to give the Presi. dent a power in “any critical case,to form a District or Committee for the occasion. "If instead of the wise and salutary exercise of discipline intrusted to a number of preachers united on the present plan, the power had been left solely with the Presi, dent, there would have been a much greater probability of its abuse. The division of authority amongst many is much more likely to be justly and liberally exercised than by one.

We have not space to enter at greater length into this subject; and have been induced to make these remarks to show that another topic of agitation on the part of the Association, may be abandoned as hopeless. We only wish that the “ Leeds Case" had been taken before the courts of law in conjunction with the Warren case. We have no fear as to the result. Our opinion, of course, will not be taken by the Association ; but we are bold to affirm that no transgression of law took place in that case ; and it would have afforded us the highest gratification to have seen the Lord Chan. cellor's; or, indeed, the judgment of any competent and impartial tribunal, on the question. Then, on this principle it follows, that our circuit meetings can never become independent judicatories. This is the favourite object of many of our reformers. The genius of Methodism as well as its legal constitution is opposed to the notion.Such a principle could not be adopted without splitting the connexion into indepen. dent churches. A common system of laws and mutual aid and co-operation, presupposes a common government. Ours has been established for us by our founder

and it is not in the power of any of its disciples, preachers, or people, to alter its essential principles. To those who have a fondness for novelties, this will be considered a great defect; but those also who, like ourselves, have some respect for the evidence of past ages, the safeguards of law, and the repose of religion on a well-considered and well-adjusted platform, it will be felt an advantage. Experience shows that our foundation can bear a noble structure, and those who would alter it for some untried scheme of their own, are possessed of more courage than happens to actuate us. We quarrel with no man, or number of men, for thinking well of the independent mode of church government; but as so many tens of thousands prefer the Wesleyan form, from witnessing its efficiency, as well as being edified by its ordinances; why will those gentlemen disturb us in our if they please, inglorious-adherence to this old and venerated mansion.

Besides the preceding principles, which have been elucidated by these law proceedings, it turns out that the Nonconformity of the Wesleyan connexion is not Dissent, in the strict and proper sense of the term. Dissent, in most of its forms, rests on the popular voice. The vote determines who shall be minister, who shall be member, and what shall be taught. If the latter is not done directly it is done indirectly. Instead of this being the case, by a most astonishing foresight, Mr. Wesley, in his own life-time established his whole economy on the basis of law. He himself formed the Conference, and then legalized it. He devised the Chapel Deed, and enrolled it in Chancery. He made it impossible that any other doctrines than his own should be taught in Methodist pulpits; and, in fact, established the system as it now exists in every thing essential. This, as far as we know, is an unexampled circumstance in the ecclesiastical history of the world. It shows clearly the leaning of Mr. Wesley's mind. He professed through life an attachment to the church and institutions of the country, and his resolution not to deviate from either any farther than imperious duty obliged him. Hence he adjusted all his plans on these principles, and made them as identical as possible with the established form of the government in church and state. The time has been when this would have been applauded as patriotic and Christian. That time, we fear, is gone. Infidelity, popery; democracy, have united to subvert those noble principles of freedom and law which have laid the foundation of our national greatness, liberty, and religion ; and reduce the whole to chaos, and be remodeled by living opinion, passion, and interest. The sweep of this storm has reached us; and we are not offended that the enemies of England should be the enemies of Methodism. If Methodism had the un-English character, which should recommend it to the Goths, who are now hewing down the noble and fair bulwarks of our country's past security and glory, it should be repudiated by us, and left as the inheritance of the men who are now seeking to make it the prey or the property of radicalism. When it is placed in company with the many-headed monster which is now yelling for the spoils of the church and the throne, we promise it shall not be troubled with our vindication. When it is made to speak the language of a false and infidel liberalism, and lowered down to the condition of a creeping co-partnership with the narrow sectarianism which, under the guise of setting up truth, is throwing it from its pedestal, to be torn and trampled in the dust.

We have one request to make to the politico-religious agitators of the connexion : it is, that when they are in possession of rule, and have reduced the body to a level with their own views, and made it the instrument of their purposes, they will be good enough to change its name. Let not the venerated name of Wesley be attached to a system which he would scorn to own; and instead of being the offspring of his sanctified wisdom, his diligent study of the Bible, the leadings of divine providence, and the feelings of his patriotic heart, is the offspring of that which he spent his life in opposing. No narrow, selfish, sectarian antipathies actuated him. He saw and deplored the de. fects and evils of the national institutions ; but instead of taking occasion from this to destroy them, he sought their improvement and perfection. This is genuine Methodism still. While it seeks, primarily and as its proper business, the religious improvement of the country and of the world, it forms its economy on the principle of respect to all, and an especial desire to promote the security, permanency, and glory of the institutions of the nation.

The stability given to the Wesleyan discipline, as it has ever been administered, by these decisions, is of great consequence to its well-being. We have no doubt but the friends of the connexion feel the security of their position much more than they did, and the best use that can be made of the triumph is to employ it as a means of increased zeal for the extension of religion and the work of God. We would not give a straw for the conservation of the Wesleyan economy, except as it is calculated to pro

mote and extend “pure and undefiled religion.” It has long been tried, and has succeeded. This is a proof of efficiency; and as the main questions of our disputes may be considered as settled, we earnestly entreat all lovers of Methodism now to turn their attention from the subjects of contention to the cultivation of a kind, affectionate. catholic, and sanctified spirit; and to devote their time, influence, and zeal to the extension and triumphs of true religion. The conversion of men to God is the legitimate calling of all the followers of Wesley; and rightly understood and used, the late decisions will increase their facilities for this. We must keep in mind the truth taught by all history, that it is not even a scriptural creed, a pure order of worship, a welladjusted economy, and the administration of the whole in an orderly manner, that can produce extensive spiritual results. The whole must be touched by affectionate, prayerful, believing piety; and especially the Spirit of God must be poured out in copious effusions. Let us all be found in more fervent prayer and zealous labours, that religion may be revived in its spirit, power, purity, and triumphs.

THE NEW CONNEXION AND ITS INDEPENDENCY.

We have in a former article avowed the apostolic Wesley to have been under the specially-directing hand of God, when he, by the Deed of Declaration, legally prevented the admission of lay delegates into Conference. We shall now assign a second reason to justify the assertion. By the exclusion of lay delegation, he constituted the Methodists not nominally, but really a Connexion.

A Connexion may be as “the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted” by common laws and common sympathies : or, a Connexion may be loose and feeble-possessing little sympathy, and having a diversity of usages, some in unison, and others in collision with general rules. The Wesleyan Methodists, by their freedom from the tyranny of lay delegates in Conference, are a Connexion of the former kind: they are strictly one family, under one government; and hence, they “ rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep”—they “bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” But the New Methodists, by the dominion of the laity, are a Connexion of the latter description. It is true, that the Conference, subject to certain restrictions, makes laws which are intended to be binding on the whole community; but it cannot always—even when the prescribed limits of legislative authority have not been at all transgressed-enforce its enactments. Independency peryades the body to such an extent, that the Conference, though constituted, in the estimation of the people, a pattern of persection in ecclesiastical legislation, is sometimes in a most painfully humiliating condition.

Had we access to the private Minutes-(how long will this Christian people, who profess to hate whatever is close and secret in the church of God, continue to publish private Minutes ?)-our store of corroborative facts might be greatly enlarged. The public Minutes, however, furnish us with authentic intelligence of transactions, in which we feel ourselves to be as in “a tower of strength.”

As every circuit is authorised, by the general rules of the Connexion, to make by-laws, it seems that some circuit legislators who possess a con.

siderable portion of Ludependency, carry this right to an extreme which the Conference has to rebuke. Their independent and unconstitutional innovations are matters of loud complaint in the Minutes of 1824: “The Conference learns with regret that in some circuits the quarterly meetings are not regularly constituted;” and it directed the superintendents to suppress such irregularity. How far they would succeed in their commission we cannot ascertain ; one thing we know—the contest between the preachers and these independent circuits would be very unequal : the former would have to contend with words, and the latter with votesma majority of which decide all disputed questions.

The arbitrary encroachments of Independency are again the theme of bitter lamentation in the Minutes of 1834: “The Conference deeply regrets to learn that considerable irregularity prevails in some circuits, in regard to the preachers' salaries ;” and the Conference “ requires them, in justice to the preachers, to keep the rules of the Connexion.” It is evident from this Minute, that the Conference has to expostulate with a number of circuits, who please themselves to what extent they are subject to its authority. The Minute also shows how far the declared happiness of the preachers of this community is to be credited!

There is one point on which the Conference has been in unsuccessful conflict with the Independency of the body, upwards of a dozen years! We invite the attention of our readers to this fact—more especially the attention of all Methodist trustees, who have been urged to sanction the introduction of independency into the Old system. The healthful state of chapel trusts is necessary, not for the comfort of trustees and their relatives only, but for the prosperity of that Methodism which is “ Christianity in earnest.” Great zeal and liberality have been manifested in the Wesleyan Connexion to secure these important objects. From November 1832, to the Conference 1834, one hundred cases of embarrassed trustees have been relieved; and debts, amounting to upwards of £61,563, have been extinguished. This is a most honourable and triumphant evidence that the Wesleyan Methodists are a Connexion indeed! If lay delegation had swayed its iron sceptre over the body, the preachers would have had so little influence, and the trustees, together with the people, would have been so imbued with a freezing Independency, that these princely achievements of charity could never have been realised. Do any persons doubt, or deny this statement? Let them look at the New Connexion !

One of their more eminent letter-writers--whom it has been our duty to illuminate, and we hope he will excuse a little more light being thrown upon him—speaks of “well-tried institutions and established funds," as powerful attractions to gain proselytes to his community: but we take the liberty to ask this author-has the New Connexion any “well-tried institution, or established fund,” to save embarrassed trustees and their families from ruin? His reply must be, whenever he may choose to give it none whatever. Many attempts have been made to form one, but they

have all terminated in mortifying disappointment. As the history of these failures is both interesting and admonitory, we shall not make any apology for laying it before our readers. • A plan to form a Chapel Fund was published in the Minutes of 1821 : again it was inserted, with some improvements, in the Minutes of 1822. But the fund, thus sanctioned by two Conferences, soon expired; independency strangled it! The resistance to the plan was so vigorous that the Conference of 1823 enacted that “those circuits which have contributed thereto shall have their contributions returned.” After this failure, nothing more is said on the subject, until 1826, when “the Conference, having received various applications for relief from distressed chapels, is again compelled to refer the trustees of our chapels to the necessity of establishing a chapel fund; and the Conference particularly requests our trust bodies and circuit meetings to confer on the subject, and to report their wishes and opinions to the annual committee, by the 25th of December next ensuing.” “In a multitude of counsellors there is safety :-* except-it would seem—to sinking trustees, for they continued without relief. The Conference of 1827 appointed a small number of counsellors—"a committee to digest a plan for the relief of distressed chapels," immediately after the Conference, and “ to carry such plan into operation during the present year.”

As this committee was entrusted with very great power for the formation and execution of a scheme to benefit every oppressed trust estate in the Connexion—it is, probably, not unfair to inquire, of whom did it çonsist? Was this large grant of power balanced between the preachers and the people.--No. The balance theory of the constitution was, of course, inapplicable to the establishment of a Chapel Fund! An oligarchy, consisting of seven laymen, held the whole of this authority! Though three preachers resided in the town where these lay-lords were appointed to assemble, not one was allowed to be on the committee. Neither the councils, nor the suffrages, nor the prayers of ministers were at all necessary on such an occasion! Could any plan from these “seven wise men of Greece," who so highly esteemed their pastors as to have them excluded from their deliberations, work well ? Let us see. The Conference of 1828 adopted and recommended the plan to the Connexion; yet the Conference, as in former years, was unable to enforce it on the people. Independency struggled against the plan, and the Conference struggled for it; this conflict was maintained for five years, until Conference yielded to independency the palm of victory. It was found at the Conference of 1833, that one-half of the Connexion boldly resisted the measure, though their delegates - had approved of it; and that the other, where the claimants existed, had, on the whole, given it a cold reception, for the amount raised during the year, was only £71 13s. Od. The moans of the defeated Conference are truly pitiable !: “The Conference regrets that the plan acted upon for the last five years for the relief of chapels in

« PreviousContinue »