« PreviousContinue »
that they are men “singularly fitted for these great actions." Especially, let them not consider themselves the imitators of the venerable Wesley, whose only obiect was “to spread scriptural Christianity through the world." No: if the Reformation was a divine work--if original Methodism, in its spirit and objects, was benevolent and Christian-and, especially, if the doctrines and examples of the New Testament are a directory to all succeeding' Ministers and Christians, then this agitation must stand branded as a profane and wicked mission, instigated by base and irreligious motives, and prosecuted by men otherwise inspired than by the Spirit of God. If our holy and zealous predecessor's accomplished the will of God in preaching the gospel through the nation, leading sinners to Christ, establishing the fellowship of the Societies, instituting amongst them a godly discipline, and training them up for heaven;—then these men must be fighting against God in his own work. Before his tribune the final issue must be tried, and let our readers ask, which class they would wish to be numbered amongst in that day, the BUILDERS or the DESTROYERS of the Church of God?
THE RIGHTS OF MAN; THE RIGHTS OF METHODISTS; THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ILLUMINATOR. Sir-It was with a degree of consistency which is far more natural than religious, that the author of “The Age of Reason” should also have been the author of « The Rights of Man;" for the man who allows his reason to carry him beyond religious control will generally indulge its freaks on the subject of human government. We hear a great deal of "The Rights of Man,” for this, too, is “ The Age of Reason ;” and I propose to consider our “Rights,” under the three different aspects proposed at the head of this article.
1.-The Rights of Man.—The word “rights,” however, conveys such a very different idea when considered abstractedly or relatively, that it is needful we should remember, that the man who claims the right to indulge his thoughts and passions, and to speak and act, disrespective of all control, should first prove his independence of God, and then retire into some desert and exist alone; and he would then feel that he was unable either to do, or to enjoy, what is right. In order to do this he must exist in society; and society necessarily implies government-and government as necessarily implies that, what are called man's natural rights, can only be conventionally exercised. Savages are the nearest to a state of nature; but still they exist in society; and as the depravity of man leads himn to violate the rights of others, and sometimes to lose sight of his own, he finds it most congenial with his enjoyments and privileges to submit to some species of government. A very feeble man may have a very just idea of his rights, but he has not the physical ability to enforce them, and to defend himself against the powerful aggressor by whom they may be assailed; and therefore he is obliged to call in the assistance of others to enable him to execute what he can perhaps very easily convince them is right. But men found legislative as well as executive societies ; and unite for counsel as well as defence; for, as a great writer has said, “ Truth is not the product of a single mind; it is the fruit of intercourse and collision.” This of necessity implies the right of the majority to govern the minority, where, as in savage clans, all can be consulted. This species of government, however, is too imperfect for an extended society; and therefore the general sense of mankind has been in favour of submitting to a government, however it might be constituted, whose edicts should be binding on all, and be executed by those who were the authorised inspectors of their conduct, and executors of the laws. This being the only means of securing their comfort, their property, their lives, they owe obedience to these laws as the price of the protection they enjoy; and therefore, in society, whatever is legal is held to be right, and in such a state of society, a man can have no right which is opposed to lau. But, as man has not the choice of being born under any form of government, he cannot be considered a voluntary member of the state to which he belongs; and if he should discover that the laws are opposed to the rights of the nation of which he is a member, he has a right to use his influence to obtain a reform. But, then, it must be such influence as does not destroy the ends for which the laws exist, and for which reform is proposed to be sought ; for he has no right to encroach upon the rights of others in order to secure what he may think to be his own. The laws exist for the purpose of controlling a selfish or a passionate exertion of physical force; and attempts to set law righ: by physical power, and exertions which menace or destroy the lives of those who are attacked, are, in general, nothing more than the successes of a few daring spirits who have plotted in secret to take the peaceable by surprise, and to supplant the existing government by one which is more congenial to their own interests. A subversiou, by any government, of the ends for which it exists, can alone justify its subversion; and then it should not be by force of arms, but by the force of reason-or what is commonly called public opinion, legally expressed, and calmly considered The cases are by no means so numerous as is generally supposed, in which civil war is justifiable; and even the success of such a war in the extension of liberty is not always a proof of its lawfulness; for the most infamous of men have frequently been the usuipers, and have been the most disposed to pander to the passions of the multitude, and even to redress some of the grievances under which they complained, as the price of the authority after which they themselves aspired, and an apology for their usurpation. But if the immense mischiefs of those civil commotions could now be put into the scale against their subsequent benefits-as at the bar of God they most assuredly will be-it would probably be seen that the balance is against their patriotic leaders. Thousands of lives are sacrificed, and millions of property alienated, under a profession of securing the rights of man; and those who have survived dare not complain—not because, in many cases, they have not abundant cause, but for the reason contained in the following epigram :
“Treason can't prosper, some say; what's the reason ?
Why, when it prospers, none dare call it treason." The conclusion, therefore, seems to be irresistable, that a social state being the natural state of man, conventional rights alone are natural. The world has gone the round of every possible experiment, and yet some suppose it scarcely old enough to settle the question by experience; and the history of nearly 6000 years does not abate the confidence of even those
" Clubs up stairs,
To which the unwashed artificer repairs;" and that mixed form of government which unites all the excellencies of each, is, by these modest reformers, treated as a nuisance; and there are even Methodists who join in the yell of execration against existing men and measures; and that against their own ministers, in the open street, and in God's house, on the Lord's day, because they refuse to assist in the destruction of our admirable constitution; and to join in clamours for “equal rights.” “ Name it not in Gath!" Oh, that they would “mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the 13th chapter of the Epistle of St. Paul to, perhaps, the Antinomian reformers in the Church at Rome.
2.—THE RIGHTS OF METHODISTS.—Methodisn. exists for ends which are purely religious; it has no direct design to secure the natural rights of men-to reform human governments or even those which are ecclesiastical. As far as the individual is concerned it meets him : “ Fleeing from the wrath to come, and desiring to be saved from his sins,"'* and it points him to the Lamb of God-to the means and influences of grace mand to the duties he owes to God and man; not losing sight of “the powers that be." As far as the community is concerned, its design is to “spread scriptural holiness through the land.” Its itinerant ministry accords with this design; this fixes its Connexional character; and both are perpetuated by Mr. Wesley's Poll Deed—the legality of which (thanks to those who designed pothing less !) has lately been established beyond the power of controversy. Those who join the Methodist Society, therefore, ought to join it under the pressure of spiritual wants-on purely religious principles; for the purpose of being instructed and assisted to "flee from the wrath to come.” Contrary to the case of those who are political subjects, however, they make a voluntary choice of the government which they will obey; or if we take birth into the account, the birth is a spiritual one; and its accomplishment by Methodistic means, accompanied by heavenly influences, is the strongest possible argument in favour of the correctness of the principles of Methodism. A system which, for nearly a century, has every where justified, and every succeeding year additionally justifies, the exclamation ". Thanks be unto God who always causeth us to triumph”-may scripturally require obedience of those whom it “saves from the wrath to come;" and its ministers may urge these apostolical reasons :-“The seals of our apostleship are ye in the Lord ; if we are not apostles unto others, yet doubtless we are to you." The choice is voluntarily made for religious purposes, and these purposes are graciously attained ; and pray, What right has this man to complain of Methodism-or to seek the reform of its doctrines or its discipline? He has no right to bring in his political analogies here-and to talk of the natural rights of man-or of the conventional rights of man ; of his rights as a man, or of his rights as a Briton : he has to talk, if talk he will, of his rights as a Methodist; for supposing there be any thing in Methodism which requires the sacrifice of his conventional rights, for the good of his soul, he voluntarily made the surrender when he began to seek its salvation by.Methodistic agency and Methodistio means. If his rights as a Methodist are infringed, let him complain Methodistically for complain he may, and his complaints will be heard; but let him not lift up his murderous hands against the means and instruments used and honoured, by the parent of his spiritual being, “lest haply he be found to fight against God.” If a man join the Methodist Society merely as a judge, for the purpose of governing-or as a legislator, for the purpose of reforming Methodism itself-or any other system by its agency-he quite mistakes his character; or if, after his conversion, he take up these ideas, and become chiefly, or solely, an ecclesiastical reformer, his mistake is equally great, with the superadded guilt of apostasy; and perhaps it is not sufficiently understood, that Antinomianism generally consists in zeal for the doctrines, and circumstantials, of whatever we may consider to be religion, as the fatal substitute for the comforts, and principles, and practices of religion. Ou what other principle can we account for those rapid altercations of fervid devotion and beastly howling which have recently characterized " The Grand” reformers of Methodism? Some of these men probably joined us as theoretical Dissenters, because we are practically such; and now they affect to be astonished at our “inconsistency,” forsooth, because we do not declare ourselves to be what they have misunderstood we are. They cannot see that our practical condition is the mere imposition of circumstances which could not be controlled ; whereas, were we voluntarily to become Dissenters in theory, we should, in consistency, be bound to carry our theory out, and become ecclesiastical reformers. This woulil delight them, I know; but then, it would be a violation of one of the first principles of Methodism. It knows nothing of exclusive views of church government; it knows nothing of the “ Divine right of church government; it never profesed to be the church. It leaves the high churchman and the low dissenter, bristling at each other, “just like the fretful porcupine,” and acts as if it believed that “the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost;" and it says with the Apostle“ he that in these things serveth Christ, is accepted of God, and (ought to be) approved of men.”* A Methodist has no right to touch the discipline of other churches ; he stands committed to let them alone; " he has nothing to do but to save souls,” and to "spread scriptural holiness through the land;"-he is the friend of all, and the enemy of none.” Others of these reformers have been educated among us, and have become, in theory and in practice, opposed to the very system to which they owe their religious education. It is the glory of Methodism, that it takes its officers from “ the people;"> but this ought to make it very careful of the training of the people; and this leads me to consider
* See Rules.
3.-The Rights of CHILDREN.-I have been much astonished that some of the children of some of our more respectable friends have been allowed to make as free as sometimes they have done, with the defects of the very men to whose instrumentality their fathers owed their conversion. As the Methodist Body never provided literary institutions for their ministers, they have no right to expect a literary ministry ; ard the consequence has been, that some of their ministers, and especially their local preachers are defective; not in sound sense; not in rich, soul-saving theology; not in the ability to set this forth, in artless, simple, attractive eloquence; so much as in literary attainments. Another drawback on their literary accuracy is--they are required to preach extempore; and God forbid that it should ever be otherwise! This, however, precludes the possibility of many of them speaking with that literary correctness which will suit the itching ears, and the fastidious tastes of many who are politely educated; and who hear a sermon on a Sunday, perhaps, under the same ideas, as they read some exciting novel, or florid periodical, on the previous day. The defects are not those of the men so much as of the system; but the men are made to suffer for it; and their juvenile hearers, like the fastidious “scorners” whom the prophet Isaiah devotes to destruction, “make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate.” God sends them ambassadors to save them from their sins; they hear them as scholars, rhetoricians, and orators! It gratifies their parents, perhaps, to to hear the acumen of their very clever sons and daughters displayed, in turning the sermon into a literary exercise : it proves that the hundreds which have been expended in their education have not been thrown away; and it may afford an agreeable recreation to them and a party of their young friends, in the intervals of service. But ought not this time to be spent in religious conversation, and private and family devotion?
* Romans xiv. 17, 18. I wish this chapter were more studied than it is; the zealots perhap might be brought to see, that the practices in dispute were those of an established church, which was even placed under the ban of heaven for its apostasy; and yet such was the Apostle's language even to the Roman Gentiles; and to the Roman Gentile armies, not the Christian churches, the avenging God left its deetruction.
Does this critical hearing and conversation create that respect for God's word which it ought to meet with from his sinful creatures? Is the treasuring up of a few defects to be the subject of a witty, a critical, and an uncharitable conversation a proper employment for God's day, and God's house ? Is it bringing up these children in that respect for their ministers which is conducive to their salvation through their instrumentality, and their pastoral influence, if ever they should have to exercise it on these children becoming Members of Society ? It is capable of proof, Sir, that this was the juvenile conduct, as it is the present curse, of those wicked wits, who are now a pest to Methodism, and whose unblushing falsehoods and unsparing satires, are periodically dealt out, to the eternal undoing of many souls, against some of the wisest and holiest men on earth. They began by railing at individuals, they now malign the class. Children claim the "right,” however, to pass their opinions on public men,” though God has sent them, and set his seal to the divinity of their commission; and this claim is at least tacitly allowed; and many of them, subsequently, claim the right to go and join other churches; or to insult and oppose their ministers, if they continue among us; or to go-first into the world, and then---! And let parents make up their minds to one of these alternatives, if they will allow, perhaps even encourage, their children to trifle with the labours and characters of these men of God. And yet some of these triflers oppose the Theological Institution; and, judging by the use which they have made of the Methodist ministry, one is almost tempted to think the reason must be, lest it should deprive them and their children of a favourite Sabbath amusement. A far greater number, however, are happily of another mind; and believing that, as Methodism under God has sanctified the greatest talents, and kept even self-taught men humble and useful, it will sanctify the education intended to be conveyed, and make the next generation more abundantly so!
But the children whose "rights” are most seriously pleaded, are those who are brought up in our Sunday Schools, and almost in official connexion with us. A great number of them enter these schools as teachers, or are called out of the classes at a very early age, to be employed in teaching the younger children. But they are “teachers," and at our teacher's meetings in general, “ all the teachers have a right to vote on every question that comes before the meeting;" and wo be to the preacher who shall call in question their “right” so to do. In some cases their influence is even more seriously extensive, and they either constitute a part of the standing committee, or are present to vote with the committee on the most important questions. Many of them are children of no religion, none of them have much; their age prevents their having experience; but “they are teachers, and they have a right to vote;" and, in more than one instance, the sober and aged official members of our schools have been out-voted, at the beck of a political Sunday School superintendent, by these ju. venile authorities ! I know a case in which one of the leaders of these official children, took upon himself to exclude the travelling preachers from the “anuual treat.” He argued that “the preachers took no interest in their official meetings,” though he knew that, owing to their onerous circuit duties, they were always otherwise engaged. “ Besides, the day was a day of festivity, not of worship; and he submitted whether they ought to have any service; for, if they had, their time would in part taken up with a dry lecture. Indeed, he thought the very presence of the preachers would damp the innocent hilarity of the children, and he submitted whether they ought to be invited even to attend.” He knew his children, and they liked the prospect of an unrestrained frolic; the thing was put to the vote, and the preachers were ousted. This was one of the advocates for “universal suffrage,” and he knew how to train up these children in the doctrine. It does not destroy the evil to say, that this is an ex. ception, or to admit that the more serious part of the teachers and society took the part of their preachers, and made this politician and his children eat their vote; that the preachers were invited, and the lecture delivered. Had they not been invited, they could have had no "right” there; for they had nothing ex-officio among them, every thing originated and ended among themselves.” I need not add, that one such school as this is a nuisance, and in time might possibly become the “grand centre” of an Association, for those who, while children have been taught to vote their preachers from their counsels, and virtually depose them from their pastoral office, are not likely to do other. wise when they become men and women. Such schools as tbis, Sir, are the very nurse ries of democratic rebellion; and where they will make one humble, teachable Christian, they will make a hundred of those politico-ecclesiastical reformers, whose very atmos. phere is as fatal to the life of God in the soul, as that of the Upas of the Javanese has been reported to be to human existence. I wonder not at the misunderstandings which sometimes arise between our Sunday School authorities and their ministers, or that the yells of children have mingled with those that have recently insulted God and his ser
vants, and desecrated his sabbath and his house. I wonder more on what authority such a state of things is allowed in any one instance, to exist among us. Is there any thing in support of this chillish authority in the Bible ? Is there any thing in its fa. vour in either the spirit or the rules of Wesleyan Methodism? I am just as though I saw John Wesley-peace to his manes, while I make the supposition !-asking a group of these juvenile authorities to hold up their hands, perhaps agairst Methodists of 50 years' standing! He would have said, “Go home, my dwar children, and obey your parents inthe Lord.' Don't mend my rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience sake.” Yes, Sir, and so would St. Paul; and so ought those who are now the conservators of Wesleyan Methodism. But, as though God had appointed no authorities, had given no rules, had appointed no examples for church government, every thing is now to be settled by political analogies; and that by men who cannot themselves rise, or give others credit for being able to rise above political considerations on any subject; by men who invest their preachers individually, and the Conference collectively, with a merely political character; hy men whose notions of “universal suffrage” make the rights of children equal to those of the grey-headed ornaments of our Societies, and superior to those of the holy and laborious men by whose exertions chiefly Methodism has become what it is ! May the work of God still more abundantly appear unto his servants, and his glory unto their children !-I am, Sir, yours truly,
The “ ineffable hypocrisy" of the “Grand Central" has been again manifested in the published accounts of the Association meeting, at Prescot. We had supposed that the plain uncontradictory exposures we have so repeatedly made of our contemporary's mis-statements and falsehoods, would have deterred him from inserting accounts, when the veracity of his correspondent could not be depended upon. However, in this case, we find, “though we should bray him in a mortar, yet will not his foolishness depart from him."
We are obliged to our “ Prescot Friend" who has favoured us with a true account of the present state and prospects of the Wesleyan Society in that town.
The Lantern states, in effect, that the congregation of the chapel “ kindly lent" (to spread discord and confusion ?) was overwhelming; while at the old place it amounted to about twenty persons. On the authority of our “ Friend," we assert, that nearly four times that number of persons were counted in the lower part of the chapel only: and a smaller congregation than was then present has been frequently observed, when the anniversary Sunday School sermons were to be preached at St. Helens, in the immediate vicinity-as was the case on that day. Further, the friends of the Association have asserted, that “a Majority" of members had left the Old Connexion and joined the Warrenites, and that only one of the original leaders was left. We deny this; it is not the case. Again, in speaking of the " Long Room," which has been so recently consecrated (!) by Dr. Samuel Warren's presence and benediction, they say “that Mr. Wesley preached in it"--and what of this? Had it been the case, we think, had the spirit of that departed saint been permitted to speak to its
a saint been permitted to speak to its new occupants, it would have been in an admonitory tone. However, even this circumstance is untrue-the place having be
nce is untrue-the place having been built about the time, or, perhaps, since, Mr. Wesley's death.
We are happy to find that the Wesleyan Society at Prescot is in a good state. “The spies have brought an evil report of the land." Although bereft of one or two of their old friends, the true disciples are more united to each other than ever; the various means of grace are attended with an especial unction from above; and prayer and supplication is fervently made to the God of all grace—that his spirit may be poured out in this place in a more abundant manner.
On account of the length of the first and second articles in this number, we are unable to attend to other very interesting communications.
We quite agree with “ Discipulus,” in his remarks on Urbane's letter in the last Illuminator. Our Societies, generally, would do well to attend to the advice there given.
Communications have been received from “Philagathos,"_“Urbane,"—from Sheffield—“J. T. D." "A Local Preacher in the Huddersfield Circuit,"—and “W. J.," in the Warrington Circuit.
Printed and Published by R. DICKINSON, 67, Pool-lane, Liverpool, to whom all communications (post
paid) to the editor, are to be addressed; Sold also by J. MASON, 14, City-road, J. HUTTON, 16, City road, and WHITTAKER and Co., Ave Maria-lane, London ; LOVE and BARTON, Manchester; SPINK and CULLINGWORTH, Leeds ; DEARDEN, Nottingham; ATKINSON, Bradford ; SAXTON and CHALONER, Sheffield; the CHRONICLE OFFICE, Chester; PEART, Birmingham; OGLE, Bolton; Wilson, Whitehaven; JEFFERSON, Carlisle; DICKINSON, Workington; and may be obtained, by means of the Methodist Preachers, or respectable Booksellers, in any part of Great Britain and Ireland.