« PreviousContinue »
couraging description. And whatever may be thought respecting the diminished ardour and self-denial of the preachers, the Connexion has never wanted men, ready to sacrifice country, kindred, and all the privileges of a regularly settled state of church communion, to preach the “unsearchable riches of Christ” in every part of the world, although it was next to certain, that they would be called upon to sacrifice their lives in the attempt. The silent and solitary graves of many of our martyred brethren, marked by no sculptured stone or mournful cypress, but watched by the eye of heaven, attests the truth of this. In the midst of the most astonishing enterprizes which ever men witnessed in the church on earth; the finest and most extended scenes of triumph ever granted by the God of heaven, to any portion of his people; the rising civilization of the rudest tribes of barbarism, as well as the joyful shouts of the tens of thousands of converted heathens, in every quarter of the world; it is asserted, that the primitive spirit of Methodist enterprize has evaporated. Not in the language of boasting, but of glorying in the cross of Christ, and the goodness of God, we rejoice that this imputation is met by facts open as day-light, and within the reach of every candid mind, fully confirming our position, that the original spirit of Methodism still lives and breathes in the system and the ministry.
But, it may be replied, the objection is not made against the foreign, but the home department; and, with an air of triumph, it is asked, where now is your out-door preaching? Where now do you find Preachers riding fifty miles a-day as your first itinerants did ? We say nothing against preaching out of doors ; nay, we think it might be now usefully engaged in-time, ability, and strength, allowing men to do it. But why did many of the old preachers preach out of doors ? For the very substantial reason, that they had no chapels to preach in. As soon as they obtained places of Worship, they ministered in them the word of life, and made their out-door preaching only occasional. And why did they travel fisty miles a-day ? For the very simple reason that the Societies were so thin and widely scattered over the country, that they were obliged thus to travel, to reach them. As the Members increased, the Circuits became contracted; but because the duties of the ministry lie within a less compass, it does not follow that they require less physical and it is certain that they require much more mental-exertion. It is quite obvious, that the incidents connected with the working of a regularly established system, must be less striking than those associated with the early progress of a work of religion, amidst difficulties and opposition; but that, of itself, does not prove that the work of God is less real, effective, and deep, or that its agents are less faithful and laborious.
However, we readily admit that in a peaceful state of things there is much more danger of ministers settling down into a state, especially, of mental indolence. We know many noble examples of an opposite nature. It would be invidious to mention their names; but it is not too much to affirm, that, in most of the circuits of the Connexion, to fervent desires and prayers, the Preachers add zealous and laborious exertions, that God would “revive his work." The new state of feeling wbich is rising up against the brethren, will, we trust, tend to fan their love and draw out their souls in more fervent supplications and extended labours. The Preachers and people have only to act together, on the acknowledged and universally-recognised principles of the Wesleyan faith, and a glorious extension of religion will take place. These principles are, the freeness of the divine grace for all—the availability of the atonement to all—the promise of a present pardon held out to all-the presence of the Holy Spirit to afford aid and bestow faith on all-together with the gracious right of all believers to enjoy the witness of the Spirit and perfect love. Only let these simple verities of the gospel be clearly, fully, and broadly announced, in the midst of a peaceful and praying people, and God will set his seal to the truth, in such manner as will soon turn our inourning into gladness and joy. There is this peculiarity in Methodism: that, be the state of religion what it may, either as it is personally experienced, or in the Societies, it always urges to new attainments and larger conquests. But, in the expectation of this, we must remind our readers that two parties are concerned—the Preachers and people both. Truth is immutable in itself, but it is not necessary in its operation; and as this infallible gospel may be read without producing any enlightening and saving effects, so, for the same reason, it may be heard, and yet leave the hearer in his sins. It follows i hat, as in individuals there is a state of mind conducive to its reception, so there is also a state of religion in churches favourable to its progress and triumphs. That we have been in an unfavourable position, cannot be denied; but we trust the storm of discord is passing away; and when this is the case in any particular place, it becomes the special duty of the brethren to attempt, by all the means in their power, the extension of the true work of God in the conversion of sinners. Prayer, especially, must be made for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit ; and under
his gracious influence, the gospel word will be attended by a divine and saving power, - A thorough attachment on the part of the Preachers to the economy and discipline of the Connexion, is, undoubtedly favourable to its stability. Various causes have concurred to produce this loyalty to the system. Perhaps particular forms of sentiment and opinion are transmissable, and the circumstance that, in the main, the discipline of the Body is that which was left by Mr. Wesley, has had its effect. We have remarked, that the elder Preachers, who knew this extraordinary man personally-hail the benefit of his example, advice, and friendship-were blessed with his fatherly counsels, kindness, and affection and beheld his saintly and apostolic labours-were most ardently and enthusiastically attached to his person, and paid a profound respect to his opinions and advice. These men on whom the mantle of Wesley fell, as he ascended to heaven, became, in their turn, the fathers and guides of the Connexion ; and his views, habits of thought, opinions on church polity, as well as his written code, through them were transmitted, as a legacy to the Societies. Hence, in seasons of trial -such as soon came after his death, and have been followed at different intervals since --this deference to the opinions of the great founder of the Community, proved as a sheet. anchor in the storm. His name, and well known views on litigated subjects, have proved a rallying point, when, without their influence, all would have been disorder and chaos. We are not amongst those who despise experience, history, and authority. What is history but the record of events from whence a discriminating judgment may receive useful lessons, and deduce the most valuable principles and rules of action ? It is remarkable that the world owes all its valuable institutions
-its wise and useful principles its most equitable codes of law-its erudite and profound systems of science, and the arts—its admired productions of genius, learring, and eloquence as well as its stupendous moral and religious movements, to single and individual minds. Assemblages and masses change, alter, reform, and destroy, but they never create. They can operate on the science of things, discovered and made plain to their hands—as builders can erect a palace on the specifications of the architect—but they cannot discover and elucidate the science itself." No union of minds could have laid the platform of Wesleyan polity, or have agreed to work out the great plans of piety and good contemplated in the first instance. The world owes the existence of this system to one mind-who, himself, following the light of Scripture, and the openings and calls of providence, formed the nucleus of the grand moral operation, and then guided and directed the work itself. His knowledge was profound-his deference to truth most entire-his views, motives, and principles were, beyond suspicion, disinterested and benevolent-his piety towards God, warm, devout, confiding; but infinitely removed from any thing approaching to fanaticism-his respect for antiquity, and the authority of the church, great, as a guide to his own proceedings, without being put in the place of the law of God and of dutyhis mind, pre-eminently practical and every measure he adopted was done deliberately, and only after a careful consideration of the divine authority and will. Besides, he lived long to conduct and witness the working of his own plans of piety, and, as occasion might arise, to alter and adjust the different part of the machine to the exigencies of the case. He took others into his counsels, not to govern himself by their opinions, but to receive the benefit of their advice, and, chiefly, to initiate them into his own views, and to prepare them to carry on the same glorious work. Is it not most fitting that the de. scendants of such a man as this, should reverence his name, and respect the doctrinal and disciplinary system he bas left as their inheritance ? It may be much more glorious, for every hair-brained theorist to employ his time in building castles in the air, which he dignifies with the name of legislation, but truth lies within a very limited compass, and the principles of a useful and practical working of Christianity are yery few, and are, we fully believe, found in the economy left us by Mr. Wesley.
In a copy of the “ Private Minutes,” (for, it seems, private, as well as public Minutes are published, for the benefit of a favoured few,) of the New Connexion, which we perused a short time ago, we were astonished to find a resolution of Conference, that the name “Wesley," should be discarded in all their future proceedings.They legislatively determined that they would renounce the name as obnoxious. The reason of this is obvious : it stood in the way of their system and proceedings. This is fair enough, only they ought to have published the resolution in their public, instead of their private Minutes, that the world inight know that they renounced all identity with “ Wesleyan” Methodism. The day is very distant, we hope, before that endeared and venerated namne, to which they owe their existence, will be cast out as a thing of nought by the old Connexion. If, however, the present revolutionary faction gained their point, in all human probability this would soon be done ;-and, we add, it ought to be done. We admire honesty; and as the New Connexion found themselves drifting far from the polity of Wesley, they did right in renouncing his name. A superstitious feeling will, no doubt, be attributed to us; but, notwithstanding, we do hope, that his name, bis opinions, his doctrines, his economy, will long exist as the centre of attraction and union-a basis of fellowship and communion--and as a palladium of economy and government, amongst both Preachers and people, for many ages to come. That 'name has hitherto been the security of the Connexion. All parties remaining, agreeing to defer to it. Once abandoned—and we split into a thousand fragments, or only exist as a putrid, political party, devoid of the life of religion ; retainedman obligation rests on the great body of both ministers and people, to promote, by all means in their power, the purely religious ends of the community.
But it would be a perfect calumny on the great body of Preachers, to affirm, or insinuate, that they are kept in a state of union by the mere influence of a name, however great. The operation of the doctrines and system of Methodism has been before the world for nearly a century, and their attachment is founded on a conviction of its utility. If they were persuaded that another form of economy would secùre the successful preaching of the gospel to as large an extent preserve the doctrines of Mr. Wesley, pure and entire-promote as fully as the present mode the conversion of sinners and the peace and holy living of the people, no reason can be imagined for their obstinate attachment to the present. The ministers of the Connexion know very well, that, if its structure were altered, they would be parties in the change, and also, be transferred to the new state of things. But in meditating any great and organic alteration, they are met with the astounding circumstance, that the system, as it is, has been, under God, the instrument of originating, promoting, and perpetuating the most extensive revival of religion which has taken place in modern times. If the indirect inAuence which it has exerted on other bodies the number of ministers and agents it has supplied-the noble Missionary field it has opened and richly cultivated, as well as the giving birth to the great American Methodist Episcopal Church, be taken into account, it will be found that our estimate of the moral glories and triumphs of Methodism is not at all overrated. No doubt, the present race of Preachers feel an awful responsi. bility resting on them, in relation to the charge deposited in their hands. As men of common reflection and sensibility, it must be a matter of serious concern to attempt, essentially, to alter and impair a system of religion coming to them crowned with ten thousand triumphs, and marked in a very special manner as the chosen me. dium of heaven, to bestow salvation on myriads of immortal men. The puppet demagogues and reformers of the day would, with perfect sang froid, and unfeeling temerity, overthrow the whole economy, for the sake of exerting their own unfledged skill in building a new fabric-for what is the wisdom of Wesley, and the old school, compared with theirs ?—but men of conscience and reflection must pause and hesitate, before they can give themselves to so presumptuous a task. As Methodism is not the work of man, but the gift of God, and has grown up under his fostering care, it cannot be the duty of any parties belonging to it to pull down and destroy that which he has built up. This sentiment, we doubt not, enters very deeply into the feelings of the preachers. The question respecting the change of the constitution, is not, to them, a matter of taste, but of principle. Those who are urging on the reformation, as it is called, must recollect, that they are pressing their views on the conscience of a thousand ministers, as well as tens of thousands of pious people, who are pledged by every consideration of obligation, duty, and religion, to resist the assauli. As external pressure on the surface of a globular body only renders the centre more firm, so, we are persuaded, the harsh, cruel, and anti-christian means, resorted to, to coerce the conscience and religion of so large a body of men will only rouse them to greater resolution, decision, and unbending determination to maintain the truth against all aggression.
But this reference to conscience, leads us to a much higher consideration than even the one we have mentioned. It is, the conformity of the Wesleyan system to the Holy Scripture's. Nothing can bind the conscience, but the truth and authority of God. Here conscience, properly speaking, begins its functions. We may be instructed and edified by the writings, opinions, and examples of wise and good men; but we are not obliged implicitly to adopt their sentiments, or imitate their conduct. But when we enter the field of scriptural truth, we change our ground altogether. This is sacred. God is the teacher, and his voice is heard. All that is left us is to learn his will. There is no room for philosophical discussion. Conscience here begins its sacred office, and the laws by which it is bound and ought to be governed, are the sacred laws of truth and God. Then the only question for discussion is Is Methodism scriptural, or is it not? In judging of this a full, and not a partial and limited view, ought to be taken of the matter. Are the great and essential doctrines and discipline of the Body accordlant with the truth? Some minor matters, now exalted into essentials, and made subjects of angry and contentious debate, are only considered as prudential regulations, calculated to promote edification, in the system of Mr. Wesley. At the present day, the rights of class-leaders and other officers to administer discipline, and exercise a co-pastorship with the Preachers, is a question of constant dispute, and forins the ground of the present agitation; whereas, Mr. Wesley states, that class meetings are only prudential means of grace; and, consequently, the very existence of the office contingent on these prudential means. We do not affirm, or intend to insinuate, that these meetings are unscriptural ; but we make the reference to show how dangerous it is to judge of a large system of religion in separate parts; or to exalt that which is a mere accident into the importance of an essential thing. Taking the doctrines, the discipline, the ministry, the spirit and objects, the communion and fellowship, together with the effects of Methodism-as a whole, and comparing it with scripture and the practices of the primitive church, down to the period when inspiration and authentic record terminated, we have no doubt, but it will be found true to the apostolic model; and, in fact, bear a nearer resemblance to the state of the first churches, than any thing existing in the world.
This circumstance has had the most weight with the Preachers. If they could have hesitated respecting the obligation to maintain a state of religion which had all the outward marks of being a work of God, they can have no doubt respecting the duty of walking by his word. The temptation to deviate is now very great. The age is liberal; and, amongst other indications of liberality, is a latitudinarian spirit on the subject of the authority of the scriptures, Principles of political science and human legislation, now so rife in general society, are adopted by politico-religionists, and made the constant ground of judgment in spiritual matters. It is thus attempted to erect the polity of the church, on the science of the world. The consequence of this is, to put away the authority of the Bible; and the maintenance of a purely scriptural rule or precedent in an argument on Christian polity, is to raise an outcry loud and vociferous. This might do for Rome and for some distant age, but it is totally inadmissable in this day and in this country. This is assuming that the truths of the word of God are variable; and although they might do for barbarous times, they must now be accommodated to the spirit of the age. In maintaining the contrary sentiment, that the Bible is immutable, and that we have no right to alter its principles and rules, a charge of bigotry is certain; and, in asserting that view of the case, the Methodist Preachers have been exposed to incessant opposition and reproach.
But the present unexampled union of the Wesleyan ministers, is also most hopeful, as regards the permanent interests of Methodism. This circumstance has, indeed, been construed into a symptom of evil and corruption, by our enemies. It may, however, be a sign of good, notwithstanding. Suppose it has originated in no higher a feeling than that of self-preservation, it is, even so far, a pledge of security. It is not unnatural, when the avowed agitators of the Connexion combined for the purpose of entirely subverting the insitutions of the Bo:ly, that its ministers and guardians should unite in self-defence, and in the support of that which they believed to be the ark of God. And will it be considered a crime, when a class of innocent and harmless men are hooted and hunted as animals to be worried and destroyed, that a sense of danger should drive them to a closer attachment to each other ? This shows most clearly that they had confidence in each other's integrity and honour. When they were invited and coaxed by the Association to come over to them, become their companions, and enjoy the felicity of their love, they turned away in utter disgust, and gave proof of a full and unlimited confidence in their own brethren. They knew them well; and is it within the possibility of things, that, in a time like the present, with so many allurements to a contrary practice, that the Preachers would have retired from the storins without to a more full and frank reliance on each other, had they not been persuaded, from the knowledge they had of each other, that, next to God, there was the place of safety ?
But we believe this state of feeling demonstrates the absence of a selfish principle, to any extent, in the body of Preachers. Had factious men existed in any number in the Conference, they would assuredly have chosen this period, especially, to advance their own schemes and interests. Instead of this being the case, it has shown that no such spirit existed. If the brethren entertained any diversity of opinion on the polity and administration of the Body, they had the wisdom and piety to merge any little feeling on that score, and nobly to rally round each other to support a great public principle. This is a proof of their hearty disinterestedness. Little and factious minds seize every occasion to further their own selfish interests, although it may be by the costly sacrifice of religious and public institutions; but, instead of this, we behold the
largest assemblage of Preachers which ever met in Conference, unanimously plighting themselves in the most solemn manner, to support that cause to which they had devoted their energies and their lives. And yet we do not even attribute this delightful state of feeling to either a sense of danger or to human magnanimity, but to the blessing and Spirit of God. Religious love and purity is the only element in which such union can exist. This expels the selfish passion, and nothing else. Other motives and feelings might be auxiliaries ; but, had the Spirit and love of God been absent, inferior considerations could not have superinduced that which religion only could create. Our hopes are built on the assurance we have in this, and many other “signs,” that God has not left us. His presence and blessing are our security; and, as long as he graciously communicates a spirit of unity and power, so long the Connexion is perfectly safe. With a thousand faithful ministers placed in the country, pledged to a firm adherence to the system of Wesleyan Methodism-prayerfully and piously devoted to its great objects-actuated, notwithstanding the assertions to the contrary, with an affectionate desire to promote the best interests of their charge - zealously and broadly proclaiming to large congregations the great and saving truths of the gospel, and united to each other in the bonds of a confiding and fraternal affection ;=we say, a cause so supported, is not to be despaired of; and when the present dark and cloudy day clears up, its massiveness and beauty will be more distinctly seen than ever.
RICHARD BAXTER AND THE ASSOCIATION.
ON THE MINISTERIAL OFFICE.
“ The office of the sacred ministry is a mixed relation:
“I.-As the minister is related to Christ, he is his servant, or minister by office, that is, one commissioned by him for that sacred work. Note again, that by virtue of the general commission or institution of the office in specie, the power is conveyed from Christ to the individual person, and that the church (electors or ordained), are not the donors, authorisers, or obligers, but only instruments of designing an act recipient, and delivering him possession. The causation or efficiency of Christ in making any one a minister is lst, giving him competent knowledge-2d, giving him competent goodness, as love to God, truth, and souls, and willingness for the work-3d, giving him competent abilities for execution. 2.-The immediate conveyance or act of collation, is--Ist, an obligation laid upon the person to do the work--20, authority given him to warrant him, and to oblige others. The work is-1st, teaching--2d, ruling3d, worshipping. As to the object, it is-lst, the world to be converted—20, the converted to be baptized and congregated or ordered into particular societies (so far as inay be). The baptised and congregated to be-Ist, taught--2d, ruled-3d, guided in worship. Froin all which resulteth an office, which is ministerially subordinate to Christ, as-1st, the prophet or teacher—2d, the ruler--3, the high priest and lover of bis church; and it may be aptly called both a teaching ministry; a ruling ministry (not by the sword, but by the word); and a priesthood or priestly ministry
II.--As the pastor is related to the church, he is-Ist, a constituted part of political churches—20, he is Christ's minister for the church and for Christ, that is, to teach, rule, and worship, with the church. He is above the church, and greater than it, as to order and power, and not the minister of the church, as the efficient of the ministry ; but he is less and worse than the church finally and materially; and is finally the church's minister, as the physician is the patient's physician; not made a physician by him, but chosen and used as his physician for his cure. So that, to speak properly, he is not from them, but for them. He is Christ's minister for their good: as the shepherd is his master's servant for his flock, and su, finally, only the serva of the sheep.”- [Baxter's Christian Directory, page 792 Ed. 1673.] The following statements put forth by the Association, are somewhat different from the views entertained by this great divine :-"They tell you that God gives the power. I deny it. God gives a minister of the Gospel qualifications, and in the exercise of those qualifications he supports him ; but as the governor of the people he is to seek his power from them. If their origin be from the people, and if they are continued by the support of