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fundamentally right, inasmuch as its first principles are agreeable to the New Testament. It recognises government in the church to be an appointment of God, to “banish strange doctrines, to uphold God's ordinances, to reprove and rebuke, and, finally, to put away evil doers.” It also acknowledges the right of ministers to administer this discipline for and even with the people, in such a manner as shall constitute a sufficient guard against abuse, without preventing the legitimate and efficient discharge of pastoral duties, as they are written in their divine charter. These grand elements of scriptural dominion in the associations of Christians are the foundation on which the structure of Wesleyan Methodism has been erected : and the more carefully we examine it, the more cordially we esteem it, and the more faithfully are we resolved to maintain its simplicity unimpaired. We know that a class of men who call themselves Methodists, hate the government of our connexion as intensely as we love it, and are using means, some of which are a disgrace to Christianity, to revolutionize its character. Their plan of reform, or more properly of revolution, is published to the world ; and we are fully persuaded that it will never be accepted by the Conference. It must-it shall be rejected, for the following among other reasons:
The proposed change in the polity of Methodism would be unscrip. tural in its nature.
The primary principles of church order as laid down in the holy scriptures, would be completely swept away. Government in a religious community would be considered not as the ordinance of God, but as the creation of man, to be moulded according to his fickle and lordly pleasure. The divine appointment of the ministry, with all its highly important and responsible duties, and with all its equally momentous powers which are essential to their fulfilment, would be “ set at nought;" and the office must be conveyed to persons of competent gifts by the laity who shall, in all things, control it by their suffrages. The people under this system would not be content with a co-administration of the laws of Christ in the church, for they would claim, as was the case in another connexion, the entire administration of them through the preachers as the passive agents of their will. Now, such a new order of things would not "quadrate with the New Testament.” To what extent it would be unscriptural, we have before proved in the Illuminator ; and, therefore, we shall not repeat the evidence.
Again. The demanded alteration in the government of Methodism woulă be mischievous in its influence on the religious condition of the body.
The end of Christian fellowship is edification which consists in having the soul built up in the three cardinal graces of faith, hope, and charity. A Methodist society is “a company of men, having the form and seeking the power of godliness : united in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.” This vitally important design, ought to be steadily kept in view, and every facility should be afforded for its accomplishment. And this desideratum will be best attained in a Christian community that is favoured with a settled government, and is, consequently, most free from the occasions of political excitement. Such a connexion is the Wesleyan with the government as it is. But radicalize it, and the revolution will have a withering influence upon the personal piety of multitudes, as well as in
troduce among the societies an unnatural state of things. With these sentiments, we can heartily subscribe to the truth of the subsequent paragraph, to which we beg the attention of our readers :
“ To raise into legislators and censors all the members of a church, the young, the ignorant, and the inexperienced, is to do them great injury. It is the sure way to foster debates, contentions, self-confidence; to open the door to intrigue and policy; to tempt forward and conceited men to become a kind of religious demagogues ; and entirely to destroy the salutary influence of the aged, experienced, and gifted members, by referring every decision to numbers and suffrages, and placing all that is good, and venerable, and influential among them, at the feet of a democracy."
And again. The required innovations in Methodism would be injurious by impeding the progress of its triumphs in the world.
The justly celebrated Robert Hall is reported to have said in his lat. ter days that, in reference to systems of ecclesiastical polity, he had begun to think, “whatever works best, is best.” Many great and good men who have diligently studied the scriptures, the history of the church, and the condition of mankind, have been of the same mind. It is a test by which the opponents of Wesleyan government know we have not any objection to be tried. It can most nobly endure its application.We may remind our readers that Methodism began its career in 1739, since which period it has “increased abundantly, and multiplied and waxed exceeding mighty,” for at the Conference of 1834, it was ascertained, that the total number of Wesleyan Methodists in the four quarters of the globe, amounted to a million and upwards! Well may such a result fill us with wonder and love, and praise ; and constrain us to exclaim, “What hath God wrought!”
A certain writer who is exceedingly hostile to the polity of our connexion, and who is evidently wounded with the proverb, that “it works well,” has recently endeavoured to diminish the force of this practical argument in its favour. As he cannot deny the sun is in the heavens at noon-day, so he cannot assert that the body has not prospered. He tells us, however, that the success of Methodism is only “ comparative": for there are some places and Liverpool is given as an instance-where the number of members in society has not increased for the last ten years; and this want of prosperity is assigned to “despotic government.” Now, admitting this want of Methodistic growth in Liverpool, what then ? Will it follow that if our societies in that town had been under the dominion of lay delegation, they would have appeared more healthy and fruitful? If this question (as we know it will), be met with an affirmative reply, we would ask, how is it that the new connnexion in Liverpool cannot report any progress? Why has that body retrograded there during the last dozen years ? According to the minutes of 1822, the number in society was 337; and at the Conference of 1834, it was only 274 ! We trust these facts will demonstrate that a want of increase to the Wesleyan connexion in Liverpool, has arisen from some other cause than its “despotic government.” We have no doubt that Methodism, in this great and populous town will assume, during the next half-score years, a widely different aspect. We cherish a sanguine hope, that the recent storms with which it has been visited will have the same purifying and reviving effect upon its energies, as similar tempests have, by the blessing of God, produced upon it in some other towns, within the last few years.
The writer, who has selected Liverpool to prove his principle that the success of Methodism is only “comparative,” is under promise to give other instances from the minutes of Conference. We are not going to deny that some other circuits can be found whose numbers, in 1834, are about what they were in 1824; but we shall boldly contradict the inference which is to be deduced from the facts. Whatever the amount of such circuits may be that do not appear stronger now than they did ten years since, we shall not, for we cannot allow, that the cause of their non-advancement is “despotic government.” Are not all the circuits in the connexion under a coinmon polity? How is it then that some circuits increase while others are stationary ? The same laws have been in force in Liverpool as have been in operation in Leeds and Sheffield ; yet how different have been the reports to Conference from these circuits year after year ? If “ despotic government” has prevented an extension of the work of God in Liverpool and some other circuits, that are to be exhibited to the public, how happens it that Leeds and Sheffield, and other towns have gloriously prospered ?
Moreover, the writer on whose sentiments we are now animadverting, loves the New Connexion and wishes our form of government to be assimilated to the polity which characterises that body; but does he think, if this change were to be effected, that circuits would never be found for a number of years without numerical prosperity ? The last ten vears have been selected as the golden period of New Connexion success. Allowing his statement to be true, still it will be found, on examination, only a “comparative prosperity,” though the body has not many circuits, yet we may select some that have not increased either by the conversion of sinners out of the world, or the accession of proselytes from other communities. London, Glasgow, Hull, Thorne, Macclesfield, Lane-End, Sunderland, &c., are less in the number of their members as reported in the Minutes of 1834, than they were in 1824! Is this decrease owing to “despotic government on the part of the prenchers ? We trow not.
Again. We are informed that the success of the Wesleyan connexion is very far. from being what it would have been under a more liberal polity; the prosperity which it has already realized is to be attributed to its doctrines, to the piety and zeal of its members, and in no degree to its government; because this has been “a clog to the wheel ” of its moral machinery; and had Mr. Wesley formed the Conference on the plan of the New Connexion, Methodism would, ere this, have occupied “the world, and its blessings be carried and distributed through all lands." We may say of this argument against Wesleyan polity as it was said of the state of the Israelitish church, in the days of Isaiah, " there is no soundness in it;" and for the truth of this declaration we can appeal to those “ stubborn things” which facts are felt and acknowledged to be. Had Methodism been from the beginning associated with republicanism, we are warranted to assert, that its success, so far from being greater, would have been very considerably less than the measure with which it has been sanctioned and endeared to us. The New connexion has for nearly forty years made the trial, and what is the result ? With five thousand members to commence, and with numerous accessions from other churches during its progress, it numbered at the Conterence of 1834, only about fifteen thousand souls !
The New system is said to contain all that is excellent in the old connexion, and to be entirely free from its “despotic government,” which is “a clog to the wheel ;" it possesses a polity more liberal, more reasonable, more English, more scriptural, more adapted to promote peace in the church and religion in the world; mar we not then fairly inquire why has its progress been so small? And why in years that we can name has it decreased ? Though “comparisons are odious,” we are compelled, in defence of principles which are dear to us, to follow the example of those writers who, in their ungracious attacks upon Wesleyan Methodism, have been forward to institute them. As they have compared the two systems of church order, in their practical results, for ten years—though not with that degree of honesty which ought to have marked such a procedure, as will be seen by reference to No. 6 of the Illuminator-let us pursue the comparison for a few years beyond that period.
The increase of members in the Wesleyan connexion amounted in 1822, to 11,588; in 1823, to 9659; and in 1824, to 8678; making a total addition for three years of 29,925 !! During this time of Methodist peace and prosperity, what was the state of the New Connexion ? Was this body enlarging the place of its tent and stretching the curtain of its habitation ? Did its government evince its special adaptation to “ carry and distribute the blessings of the gospel through all lands ?” No; some "clog was in the wheel.” The Minutes of 1822, report a decrease of 51. The Minutes of 1823, announce a further decrease of 62. The Minutes of 1824, declare an increase of only 31;* so that there was a decrease on the three years of 82! It is only justice
* This trifling addition was joyfully recognised in the New Methodist Magazine. It contains an article on the Conference, which is signed “T. A." and it shows how eloquence can sometimes enrich poverty and adorn deformity. The writer says-“The vessel said by its enemies to be 'water logged,' is now making way, acquiring strength,"!! &c.
to say that this decrease is not large in its amount; but if the polity of the New community had been what its panygerists have recently represented it, these years of humbling and painful adversity could never have occurred; and the body, instead of being one of the least among the thousands of Judah, ought to have been a great people, the praise of whose works of pious enterprise should have sounded to the ends of the earth.
Having a knowledge of the preceding facts, it is impossible for us to believe that the government of Methodism is an impediment to its universal diffusion, and if it were to give place to one of a more democratic complexion, the prosperity of the connexion would be vastly augmented. By this radical change, the body would lose that compactness for spreading Christianity among the masses of people that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, by which, according to the candid and honourable testimony of James Montgomery, Esq., given at a late Missionary anniversary in Sheffield, it is distinguished from every other religious denomination in Christendom. To perpetuate this peculiar glory to the connexion, its present constitution, whatever may be the immediate consequence, must be preserved from falling into the hands of the self-styled “ Grand Central Association,” who commenced their revolutionary career under the taking profession of requiring nothing new in Methodism,” for we are confident that their way of reforining it would crush its catholic spirit, paralize its powers, and “singularly” unfit it “for great actions.” And one of Dr. Warren's reasons against the Theological Institution is, in our judgment, most powerful against his own designs and those of his partizans to subvert the government of the Wesleyan Methodists :-" That the signal success with which it hath pleased Almighty God to own the course hitherto pursued indicates rather the wisdom of walking by the same rule, and minding the same things than of commencing a new course, however small the divergency may seem at the outset.”
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ILLUMINATOR. SirThe agitation and differences which have of late unhappily pervaded certain portions of our once united societies cannot but have excited the deep regret of every one solicitous for the extension of the work of God amongst us. The idea of any circumstance arising to retard the progress of Methodism, which has for its ultimate object the salvation of the whole human race, involves a responsibility of the most awful kind on those tu whom such impediment is attributablema responsibility, too, be it remarked, to be accounted for, not to fallible men like themselves, but to that Great Shepherd who gave his life for his sheep, and to whom the salvation of one such redeemed soul is of infinitely more moment than are all the petty interests of men, connected, although they may be, with the revolutions of kingdoms, or the fate of empires.
It is not my intention, Mr. Editor, to enter into the question of ecclesiastical polity agitated by the parties in the present disputes. It is enough for my purpose to know that such discussions have produced, and are producing incalculable injury to precious souls; that not a few simple ones have been turned aside from the right way; and that a spirit of suspicion and jealousy of their spiritual guides has been infused which, while it continues, must, to a great degree, neutralize the efficacy of their ministrations, as it respects those under its baneful influence.
Various causes have been assigned for the existence of the evils now referred to. The Leeds case--the suspension of Dr. Warrenthe defectiveness of our Methodistical con. stitution and I know not what besides, have been adduced by the leaders of the Association as the root and spring of the dissatisfaction now existing. To none of these alleged sources am I disposed, primarily, to ascribe the present agitations; I believe their exciting cause lies much deeper, and it is with the view of attempting to trace this cause to its root that I have ventured to trouble you on the present occasion.
It has always appeared to me that the spiritual profit of the attendants on a gospel ministry is in no small measure dependant, under God, on the degree of estimation in which they hold the office and character of those who administer to them the word of life. The force of this position is so obvious to common apprehension as to render illustration almost unnecessary. To judge of its applicability, we need only refer to any subject connected with human affairs. If I am led to question the due appointment to office, or to distrust the skill or ability of the individual who undertakes to be my instructor in any department of science, that very suspicion must tend powerfully to neutralize the beneficial tendency of his teaching as it respects myself. If such be the result in matters of mere temporal concerns, its prejudicial effects in those connected with
our spírítual welfare will be so much the more aggravated in the proportion in whichi the interests of the latter transcend those of the former. The Apostle of the Gentiles was fully aware of the eyils arising from a depreciation of the ministerial character. Even he, divinely and specially cominissioned as he was, found it necessary, again and again, to combat the disposition to lower the sacred office, which, even in that age of the church's first love, began to exhibit its pestiferous influence.
It was, however, only in some very isolated cases that the Apostle had to complain of a deficiency of respect or attachment from his converts. The instances to the contrary afford a contrast of the most delightful kind. It will be sufficient to mention that beautiful exemplification of affection between pastor and people pourtrayed in the affecting narrative of his last interview with the members of the church at Ephesus. See Acts xx. 17, to the end. His strong testimony also, as to the degree of respect in which he was held by the Galatian converts, evinces the strength of attachment which should always subsist between the faithful pastor and his flock. The Apostle remarks, Galatians iy. 15—" For I bear you record that if it had been possible you would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me.” In addition to these instances, we have the strong and oft-repeated injunctions of inspired truth as our directory. I would refer to 1st Tim. v, 17, 1st Cor. iv. I, Heb. xiii, 7 and 17, Phil. ij. 29, and 1st Thess. v. 12 and 13. On the two last passages, I beg to offer one or two brief remarks. The original of that in Phillipians is scarcely adequately rendered by the English phrase, "hold such in reputation.” The margin has it, “honour such.” The literal rendering is, "hold (i. e. esteem) such honourable.” The passage in Thessalonians still more forcibly expresses the estimation due to the ministers of Christ's flock. Our English rendering is, “esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake.” The expression - very highly” however, fails to convey the force of the Greek (UTER ÉLTERIODOW), which denotes the superlative degree in its highest sense.Perhaps it might be translated, “Let your esteem for them, grounded in love, be of the higbest possible kind.”
So far as my observation has extended, I have for years been of opinion that, generally speaking, we do not, as a body, hold the ministerial office in that estimation which is due to those who sustain the awfully responsible character of “ambassadors for Christ.” Not that I believe the Wesleyan Methodists alone are in fault in this matter; a pretty general acquaintance with professing Christians of other denominations leads to the conclusion that a too low estimate of the pastoral office and by consequence, an undervaluing of its ministers-is one of the besetting sins of our age. It is then to this disposition, Mr. Editor, that I am inclined mainly to attribute the dissentions which have agitated our societies. Had our people generally, in Liverpool and Manchester, been duly attached to their ministers, it is quite impossible that they should, for any matters of mere opinion, have been induced to go to such lengths as they have done, in systematic attenipts to coerce into their own views those to whose ministrations they owe, under God, so much of the spiritual good which they possess. Had the Methodists generally been actuated by the spirit of attachment to their mipisters which characterized the Ephesian converts, the attempts of some factious individuals to sow disunion among them, would have passed away innocuously.
But it must not be overlooked that the duty of attachment from the people to their pastors, pre-supposes that the latter are likewise alive to the responsibilities attached to their sacred office. If the people are exhorted to esteem their spiritual instructors yery highly, it is “for their work's sake.” The attachment of the people must, therefore, owe its continuance to the faithfulness and devotedness of those who are set over them in the Lord; and it is evident that where such qualifications are wanting, the tie of affection must be loosened. My remarks, however, do not apply to such a case. The charge of neglect or inattention to the duties of their office, certainly applies less to the ministers of our body generally, than to any other sect of Christian teachers with which we are acquainted-our opponents themselves being judges.
I am quite aware that in stating my opinion of the existence of a want of due respect among some of our people for the sacred office, I am bringing forward a charge of no common magnitude; and it is with much regret that I feel compelled conscientiously to do so. I am aware, too, that I am open to the retort" Why, if your ministers are such as you describe, does it happen that any of their people should be found capable of holding them in such slight estimation ?" It is certainly not very easy to account for so unnatural a course of conduct. I may, however, be permitted to mention some circumstances which may unhappily have concurred to produce this lamentable feeling.
1. The proneness of not a few among us to rest in mere excitement, to the neglect of the requirements of self-examination and the careful perusal of the Iloly Scriptures, may, by its tendency to antinomianism, have led some to a dis