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have no doubt but great numbers of persons, both in the establishment of the country and the dissenting bodies, have groaned beneath the pressure of their respective systems, when they have been called, by the Spirit of God and the exigencies of a dying world, to extend to them the blessed provisions of the gospel. The Wesleyans have never bound themselves to do good on an exclusive model. They hold themselves at liberty to approximate to the form of worship in the church, and use the liturgy and the organ-or to observe the more simple and naked service of the nonconformists; and in their exertions to extend the knowledge of the truth amongst the dark population of our own country, or the more needy tribes of foreign lands, to act as circumstances may require-keeping constantly to the all-important principle of teaching the true gospel. To bind the connexion down to any absolutely settled plan would greatly abridge this freedom, and prevent the good which is accomplished by its right direction.
Another reason against a sectarian alteration of the discipline of the connexion is, the difficulties it must throw in the way of a prompt and ready obedience to the calls of God, and the openings of divine providence, which it has hitherto been enabled to attend to. It seems to have been a settled principle with Mr. Wesley, in all his arrangements, never to go beyond the call of present duty and obligation, and to hold himself in readiness for the next. His legislation is founded on this rule. Hence, law of Methodism is perfectly simple, like the primary principles of truth and justice which laid the basis of the British constitution. On a careful examination of the writings of our great founder, and the minutes of Conference, it will be found that every new measure had its origin in some passing necessity of the moment, and was never prospective, except in that particular case. By this means the connexion was never in circumstances to refuse obedience to the calls of providence. No previously adopted scheme closed the door of access into any new field of usefulness. We are persuaded, the present race of Methodists will be wise in imitating their ancestors in this respect. The Conference will be urged, both by friends and foes, to alter and enlarge its code of laws; let them, however, be extremely moderate and cautious in this respect. If, when they assemble, they find a case of necessity exists to explain, amplify, or legislate, let them guard against going beyond the necessity of the case. The world is in progress-so is the church; and the safest and most advantageous position for Methodism is that which she has hitherto occupied, viz.-an unfettered state of free. dom which enabled her, at the call of God, to rush into every open door. - The case of the introduction of the American Methodist Episcopal Church into that country, finely illustrates our meaning. Other changes in the state of the nations, no doubt, will arrive; and it is most desirable that the Methodist connexion should be in circumstances to avail itself of all such changes, and introduce religion in such way as the case may require. If, however, her plans of operation are narrowed to some little, limited, sectarian scheme, how can she be prepared to operate on the grand and sublime movements of the divine providence, when that providence shall carry into effect the ultimate and universal designs of redeeming love. If the purposes of God are to be carried out by the church —which, no doubt, is the case—then many of the sects must greatly enlarge their creed and their scale of operation too, or they can have little to do in the work; and one of the most prominent effects of the
swell and force of truth and grace, to be expected in the latter day, is-the overthrow of many a' fondly guarded sectarian fence, and the enlargement of the Christian church to an elevation with the mercy, love, and greatness of the design. We believe Methodism has fewer littlenesses of this sort than most of the other Christian parties; and in this day of large expectation and exertion, it would grieve us beyond measure to see her throw obstacles in the way of her own future enlargement, usefulness, and glory.
Besides the reasons already adduced against the minifying process and sectarian movements of the party now agitating the connexion, we may mention its opposition to the spirit of the body in general. The Association is composed only of a small part of one class and section in the connexion. We have already stated that Methodism is so constructed as to admit of persons holding opposite opinions on the subject of church polity. The probability is, that many members of society are dissenters in opinion on the question of church government; but they are content to leave their brethren in the enjoyment of the same liberty they so fully possess themselves. But charged with a narrow, bigoted, and democratic zeal, a small portion of the dissenters of the connexion, are seeking to disorganize the whole frame-work of the system, and reduce it to the dimensions of their own ONE idea. The independence of circuits is the doctrine of the most moderate of the party. We should like to know how long the independence of circuits would last. It would, we apprehend, soon be followed by the independence of societies and congregations, and the Wesleyan connexion would, destitute of a common government, soon split into a thousand fragments.
We object to this, not merely on account of the principles involved, but also on account of its injustice to that numerous portion of the community, who have united with us because of the connexional, liberal, and enlarged form of the body. What right have the democrats the least party, in intelligence, in numbers, in pious respectability and standing, to require the rest of the body to yield to their sectarian notions ? If we are not much mistaken, great numbers of the noble spirits of the connexion spurn this attempt to lower them from the eminence they hold, to the swampy bogs of a religious democracy, with feelings of unmingled indignation. These gentlemen of the Association assume a tone of importance and dictation, as if they were the only persons interested in the questions in dispute, and as if they possessed the unquestionable right to give law to the whole connexion. We take leave to remind them, that there are other parties who, to say the least, are entitled to a hearing; and whose principles, whose numbers, whose wisdom, whose rank and influence, whose devoted attachment to Methodism as it is, will throw up an effectual barrier against their rude assaults.
Our reformers profess liberal principles in religion, and yet they would so re-construct the Wesleyan polity as only to allow of persons holding one class of opinions being united to the societies. This is their liberality-it is not our'smit is not that of the bigoted Conference !-it is not that of truly enlightened Methodists in any part of the world. The perfection of Christian liberality with these gentlemen of the Association is, to frame a system of government of such pure and exclusively sectarian independency, as effectually to shut out all persons who cannot bring their minds to believe in the divine right of this form of religion. That truly Catholic model which we sce was left by Mr. Wesley, and has hitherto been adhered to by his followers, it is now proposed to exchange for a bigoted fellowship founded on the lowest notions of religious democracy. They would exclude all who cannot conform to their notions; or join in a union having, as its basis, principles which, to say the least, thousands must doubt to be of divine authority. We object, on conscientious grounds, most fully, against so narrowing the Wesleyan communion, as to make it an exclusive church-a close-borough for religious and national radicalism. Persons holding our sentiments, have been denominated Tories. Tories though we be, we beg to remind those who use this term to designate us as persons of narrow views and oppressive practice that our principles will not allow us to consent that any portions of inankind shall be excluded froin the Methodist societies for holding non-essential opinions on questions of church government. To which party the reproach belongs, let all impartial men judge: the Conference, who are desirous that Methodism shall exist on so broad a foundation as to admit persons holding different sentiments at the same time living peaceably in the societies ; or, those who are anxious to throw the connexion into a purely dissenting form, and, by this means, exclude all persons holding opinions of an opposite nature. It is beyond our capacity to perceive any real difference betwixt this kind of bigotry and the exclusive spirit of church Toryism of the highest grade. So to narrow the conditions of communion in a church; or so to construct its economy as only to admit Christians holding one class of opinions, is the height of sectarian bigotry, and the charge is as applicable to these gentlemen of liberal principles as it is to the most ranting claimant of episcopal supremacy. That reforming fanatics do not perceive this, we fully believe; for it is in the nature of party zeal to blind the understanding. While they are taking measures, which, if carried, would most assuredly so alter the tenure of the Christian ministry as to make it obligatory on vast numbers of the present race of preachers to resign their office, and seek to exercise it in some other line; and also, to exclude from the body a large portion of its most pious, aged, and influential members, they call their proceedings liberal! Yes, it is the liberality of an ambitious party, who, to attain their own aggrandisement, push themselves into public notice and render their notions paramount, would trample all other rights and immunities in the dust. We happen to know too much of the spirit of the faction, to have much respect for what they call principle. Principle with them is mere party ambition, and to gratify that, they would have no objection to sacrifice the most liberal ecclesiastical polity in the world. But we detect bigotry of another kind in the spirit and proceedings of the Association. Besides narrowing the foundations of the connexion to the dimensions of pure dissent, they would also break up the magnificent communion existing in Methodism. Their beau ideal of a Christian church is, a little knot of Christians united in one society; or, at most, the independent fellowship of the societies of a single circuit, meeting together to wrangle and debate respecting matters connected with their own puny being and interests. Every thing with them is to be final. They propose never to go beyond the threshhold of their nicely defined fellowship, and no interference is to be allowed from without. Really we beg pardon, for in writing the word “ interference” we are reminded that the first
-the primary principle-adopted by the delegates, is the right of interference on the part of all the members of society with the operations of the whole system. We are, consequently, wrong in one part of the above statement; they do propose to go beyond their own little inclosure, to interfere with the whole measures of the connexion-but mark, they tell us at the same time that no foreign interference shall be allowed in respect of themselves their own measures are all to be final. They are to discuss freely, and act indepandently, as in their wisdom they may see fit, in every thing connected with Methodism in any part of the world; but no Conference, district meeting, or any other power is to interfere with them. This is their reciprocity-their free trade-in religion.
It is obvious, if these extremes are acted upon, they must dissolve our bond of union, and reduce the Methodist societies to independent churches. To say the least, this would be to break up the greatest religious fellowship existing in the world; or, that perhaps ever did exist. But this is a trifle compared with the gratification of party passion, and that the Association is prepared to go this length, in their bigoted zeal, we have ample proof. What was their boasted heroism in stopping the supplies, but a separation of themselves from the communion of the body, and an attempt to break it up, by throwing every separate society on its own resources. Surely, after this charitable and Christian act, these “long-suffering” gentlemen will not say they intended to continue their spiritual communion with the body!—that they continued to love the brethren—to be one in spirit with them to pray for the progress of the Word of God, and the enlargement of the kingdom of our Lord! Such, however, is this “deceivableness of unrighteousness,” that we believe the great majority of those who had been guilty of this barbarous atrocity, continued to dream that they really belonged to the communion in spirit, and offered up the mockery of prayer for the prosperity of a connexion, whose fellowship they were endeavouring to sever in the most iniquitous manner. Such a mixture of folly, impiety, and bigotry, we believe, has rarely been witnessed in the annals of religious faction. But we venture to tell these fond friends of little things, that, though they have not the wisdom to discern the advantages of a great communion, or hearts large enough to respond to the joys and sorrows-the happiness and interests--the growth and enlargement of such a body as our's-others have. The tens of thousands of our Israel are not prepared to prefer the
Jimited fellowship, charity, and glory of an isolated society, however independent it may be, to that great Catholic communion which they now enjoy. Whilst the bigots confine themselves in their shell, or draw their puny spirits through the slime of faction, the true Methodist identifies himself with every thing wise, good, and great, in every part of the church and of the world.
THE METHODIST NEW CONNEXION AND ITS GOVERNMENT.
(Concluded from our last.) As men advance in life, they ought to increase in knowledge. Dr. Warren is growing old, and he has recently been progressing in wisdom with a sort of railway rapidity. When we first read his published “speech and remarks,” we saw that he was so unsettled and excited in the state of his mind, that he would, ere long, be driven and tossed with the winds and waves of radicalism, and would, during the course of the tempest, persuade himself that he had made some valuable discoveries in political science, for which his popularity would be vastly augmented among a numerous class of men who are “ given to change.” After itinerating in the Methodist body between thirty and forty years, he begins to see the folly of Mr. Wesley in composing the Conference exclusively of preachers; and that unless lay delegation be henceforth forced into that assembly, though it might even “ destroy Methodism,” it will not "quadrate with the New Testament.”
On this question we are at issue with the Doctor, his party, and the New Connexion. These unite in saying, that the Conference, as constituted by Mr. Wesley, is unscriptural. We deny the charge, and call for the evidence. It is said to be contained in Acts xy., which we have carefully perused. That chapter informs us of the first council held in the Christian church to determine a point purely doctrinal, whether it was necessary for the disciples to be circumcised in order to be saved. The council was composed simply of “the Apostles and Elders,” who “considered the matter.”We admit that it was “ an open Conference,” for a “multitude” of believers were present. And for what purpose ? To speak and vote on the doctrine in dispute ?-No! The speaking was confined to the Apostles and Elders, and the “matter” was not determined by votes.” The whole business was transacted under special divine guidance. The Eternal Spirit, speaking by the Apostles, authoritatively decided, that the rite of circumcision is not binding upon Christians, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. Hence their decision is thus emphatically expressed : “ It seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us." The people listened attentively to the debate, offered their prayers to God for his direction, were satisfied with the sentence pronounced by James, who seems to have been president of the council, and concurred in the appointment of Judas and Silas, as a deputation to accompany Paul and Barnabas unto Antioch, to deliver unto the church in that city “the decrees for to keep that were ordained of the Apostles and Elders which were at Jerusalem.” In this whole transaction we can no more see the plan of lay delegation, than we can discover London in the moon. The Conference of the New Connexion in its formation, its object, its mode of proceeding is essentially different from the council held in the primitive church. If there be no other text from “ the sacred page” to prove that the venerable Wesley fell into a serious error when he legally excluded delegates from Conference, the charge preferred against him is without foundation. He certainly understood the scriptures as well as any, and far better than most, of his accusers !
Lay delegation is demanded for the sake of ulterior measures. “Let that be conceded, and every thing else will follow to place Methodism on a scriptural basis.” Our readers will give us credit for saying, we hold no sympathy with this statement. We believe “every thing else would follow to place Methodism on an” unscriptural “ basis.” Having proved this position to some extent in a former article, we proceed to specify another measure at variance with the New Testament, that will inevitably grow out of lay delegation.
The ministers of Christ will have no control over the appointment or removal of officers in the body.
The evidence of this declaration is abundantly furnished by the statute book of the New connexion. The divine and responsible office of the ministry was, so to speak, “put into commission;" and lay delegation confers it upon men divested of its scrip
tural rights. Itinerant preachers, even when honoured with the title of superintend. ents, are powerless as to the appointment of leaders, stewards, and local preachers. Let the following rules be read, and our remark will be justified. “When a leader is wanted, the circumstance shall be intimated to the leaders' meeting, which shall proceed to nominate a proper person to fill the office : this nomination shall be communi. cated first to the class, and then to the person proposed, for their concurrence. If either dissent, a second nomination shall take place, and so on, till both parties are satisfied. The society-stewards shall be nominated by a leaders' meeting, and appointed at a society meeting. It shall be the province of the quarterly meeting to take out exhorters as local preachers on trial, to pass them from stage to stage upon their trial, and finally to admit them into full connexion.”*
Ministers, too, under the dominion of lay delegation, are without authority to remove office-bearers; however richly such a proceeding may be merited by un-Christian conduct. The subjoined laws will confirm our testimony :-" It shall be the duty of a leaders' meeting to remove a leader from office. The leaders' meeting shall represent the case of unworthy stewards to the society, which shall remove them. The quarterly meeting shall have power to remove circuit stewards from office. The quarterly meet. ing, or special circuit meeting, shall be competent to inquire into any charge brought against a circuit preacher, in regard to immoral conduct-preaching false doctrine or gross neglect of duty: it shall hear the charge and evidence in the presence of the preacher who is accused, and also his defence against the same; according to which it shall determine, in the fear of God; and, if necessary, it shall suspend the said preacher until the ensuing Conference,
The principal objection which we have to the above rules is, that they are opposed to the "oracles of God.” The ministry is of divine institution, and it is one of the rights of its occupants to appoint the various classes of officers, that the exigencies of the church may require. Timothy had power to ordain ministers : “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” As this youthful evangelist could authorize men to fill the highest office in the church of Christ, he had, doubtless, a right to appoint suitable persons to sustain offices of less consequence. Individuals, it is well known, were fixed in official situations, by imposition of hands; and this investing rite was performed by those who were commanded to “make full proof of their ministry.”. On Timothy devolved this duty; and the inspired Apostle gave him directions how to discharge it in the most useful and acceptable manner. Not only did he describe the characters of the persons he was to appoint to offices, but enjoined upon him the greatest caution, Test, in the precipitant exercise of his ministerial authority, he should become a partner in the guilt and mischief of unworthy and unholy men in “high places.” St. Paul's commandment deserves to be well considered—“Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins.” Mr. Wesley's note is justly expressive of its import: “ Appoint no man to church offices without full trial and examination. Else, thou wilt be accessory to, and accountable for, his misbehaviour in office.”
Titus also had equal power in the church with Timothy. St. Paul said to him“For this cause left I thee in Crete: that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.”
To disprove the position which Paul's epistles to Timothy and Titus fully support, we are aware that passages are selected from other parts of the New Testament, especially from the Acts of the Apostles; and these it is our duty to examine. The transaction which is written in Acts i., it is said, sufficiently proves the right of the laity to elect persons to the office of the ministry. We are compelled to deny this proposition, because the appointment of Matthias“ to take part of this ministry and Apostleship” was decided by "lot,” and not by the suffrages of the people. As it was a matter of great moment, it was not determined by any ordinary method, but “committed to the divine decision.” Matthias, therefore, “was numbered with the eleven Apostles,” by “the Lord himself,” and not by the hundred and twenty disciples.
Again. The manner in which deacons were elected in Acts vi. 1-7, is affirmed to demonstrate the right of the laity to appoint men to offices in the church. Persons who thus interpret are chargeable with not having fully investigated the text on which
* The quarterly meeting has also power to control the preachers in their ministrations. “It shall,
on the persons who shall draw up the preachers' plan, and also upon the mode of drawing it up; it shall also fix the time that the preachers are to remain with each society." To this we may add the substance of another regulation. The quarterly meeting has power to fix what amount of money shall be deducted from a preacher's board-which is fourteen shillings per week-for the time that he is bound to remain from home with the societies! The law of Conference secures him only nine and fourpence!