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DESIGNED TO EXHIBIT THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF THE WESLEYAN CONSTITUTION; · TO VINDICATE THE CHARACTER OF ITS AUTHORITIES; TO GUARD
THE MEMBERS AGAINST THE ATTEMPTS MADE TO SEDUCE THEM · FROM THE SOCIETY; AND EXPOSE THE SPIRIT AND OBJECTS OF THE SO CALLED “GRAND CENTRAL ASSOCIATION."
TO BE PUBLISHED EVERY FORTNICHT.
LIVERPOOL, NOV. 18, 1835.
AN APPEAL TO THE WESLEYAN SOCIETIES, IN REFUTATION OF THE MISREPRESENTATIONS OF “AN APPEAL TO THE BRITISH
PUBLIC, ON THE PRIESTLY AND POLITICAL POWER OF THE CONFERENCE."
BRETHREN-An appeal having been published in many of the London papers, and also in other periodicals, entitled, “ An Appeal to the British public against the priestly and political power of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference," bringing many grave and serious allegations against the Body to which you belong, we take the liberty to address you on the subject. • The opening paragraph of this "Appeal” assumes, that the avowed purposes of your communion is a deception on the British public: “Very few are aware of what Wesleyan Methodism actually is. It has hitherto been looked upon, for the most part, as an extraordinary means employed by the providence of God in the spread of truth and holiness amongst the poor, the wicked, and the wretched of our home population, and has been acknowledged, accordingly, as a branch of Christ's church here upon earth, the efforts of which he has been pleased signally to bless and prosper.” You will perceive from the manner in which the subject is stated, that a doubt is now intended to be thrown on the truth of these opinions entertained respecting that system of religion which you profess. If the Association question whether Wesleyan Methodism has been “an extraordinary means employed by the providence of God in the spread of truth and holiness,” you can have no hesitation on the subject. Although these parties may affect to doubt whether the great Head of the Church has employed Methodism in its career of success. We only know of two unseen spiritual influences—the one providential, and the other diabolical; and if the effects produced by Methodism cannot be classed with the former, they of necessity belong to the latter. Have “truth and holiness” been extended through the country, and, we may add, other parts of the world ? If so, we should imagine, that the “father of lies” would, neither by his own direct influence, or by the agency of his emissaries, perform this good work. These parties do not say, indeed, that “truth and , holiness” have not been promoted amongst the poor of this country; but, although they do not affirm it for themselves, they evidently, to gain some ulterior end, and rouse the public to aid them in their revolutionary movements, wish to insinuate and excite doubts on the subject in their minds. Mark, brethren, the Appeal is not made to you, on the subject of a providential designation and employment of Methodism to extend truth and holiness, who are the proper and legitimate judges on the matter; but to the British public. `Is there not enough of doubt and infidelity in the public mind already on religious subjects? Do not the periodical press and the ephemeral publications of the age supply sufficient nutriment to the scepticism, so rife and fashionable amongst us? Is not the transfer from a philosophical, metaphysical, and erudite unbelief, to a fierce and deadly hatred of the name, forms, and institutions of religion, sufficiently powerful ?-It seems not; for the leaders of the Association now drag Methodism into the arena of strife ; and their very first words are an attempt to impress the public with the belief, that they have been deceived in supposing it to be an instrument of providence. They could have no doubt themselves, except they doubt whether it was providence which brought them within the light of truth and the influence of Christian holiness, for they know that they owe to Wesleyan agency all the knowledge of religion which they have attained, and all the experience of its comforts and purity they have enjoyed. And, also, being aware that you possess an evidence, clear as the light of heaven, in your own knowledge and enjoyments, that Wesleyan Methodism is a work of God, they did not dare to insinuate any suspicion into your minds; but with great adroitness carry the question out into the world, and invite persons who, they are aware, are already predisposed to question the truth of all religion, to add to their stock of unbelief and hatred, by lampooning Methodism, as a system of deceit and hypocrisy. We ask, can any conduct be imagined more abhorrent to every thing honest and holy than this? When a cowardly Italian wishes to despatch his enemy, he usually hires a wretched bandit to assassinate him in the dark; and, in like manner, these gentlemen, not choosing boldly and broadly to assert and maintain themselves, that the Connexion to which they once belonged is not a true Christian church, raised up by providence to spread “truth and holiness," put the doubt into the minds of others, and, then, giving them the clue to the chase, call up the blood-hounds of infidelity and anarchy to join in hunting down Methodism as an ungodly “usurpation.” The call has already been obeyed by certain portions of the public press; and now the character of the work of God is placed before that tribunal, which, as a first principle, scorns all religion.
“Very few are aware of what Wesleyan Methodism actually is.” How so? In another part of this Appeal it is asserted that a million of persons belong to the classes and attend the worship. Do not these persons know what it is ?-Oh, no: it is elegantly said of you, our beloved brethren, that you are a “beguiled and beblinded” race. It so happens that some of you are blessed with a liberal education-belong to the learned professions—are well acquainted with general knowledge are read in the science of law, government, and ecclesiastical history; others of you are gentlemen of large commercial dealings—have enjoyed long and large experience in the world—have moved in general society with discriminating attention, and manifested for a long series of years, in all states of the world, more than an average share of judgment and prudence; and the most common class amongst you are persons enjoying human faculties--are well acquainted with your Bible and the general subjects of religious truth, as well as possessed of that fine shrewdness and common sense which is so characteristic of vast masses of the working classes of this country; and yet it is here asserted in your presence, and before the British public, that you are so “beblinded” as not to be aware of the nature of the religion you profess. You will have the kindness to mark the dif. ference between yourselves and the Preachers; they are the rogues, and you are the fools. Then we ask you, whether you are, or are not, so besotted as not to comprehend the principles and nature of the system of religion you profess? Mark, this is the opinion entertained of you by the Association; it is not ours. On the other hand, we believe you have examined the foundations of your faith-the principles of the economy under which you choose voluntarily to live-are convinced of the truth, and, despite of the semi-infidel contempt of these Associationists, of the divine origin and providential designation of Methodism, and that the religion you have professed, and long enjoyed, you know to be no “cunningly devised fable.” Moreover, we consider you to be men of competent understanding to judge of truth, of honesty in following your convictions, and you would not surely, for the sake of pampering a proud priesthood, and supporting a form of religion which infringed upon your freedom, forfeit your rights as English citizens. This is our opinion of your character and independence; and although, in a truly Christian and British spirit, you allow the rights of others, whilst you claim your own, yet, you are not the men to bow to a vile “usurpation.” To you belongs, if we do not greatly mistake your feelings, the desire to allow and respect the scriptural office of the Ministry, as well as to assert and maintain your own freedom as Christians. And, unlike the deeply prejudiced parties now agitating the Body, you have discernment sufficient to perceive, that to uphold the due and proper functions of the pastoral office, in fact, is to augment your own respectability—the comfort and probable Chr stian edification of your children and families, as well as to promote the moral influence and efficiency of our general Christianity. The agitators consider this folly, and represent you as “beblinded” for entertaining these sentiments, and acting on the honest convictions of your mind. Time, and eternity too, will settle the question, which are the wise, and which the mistaken men. When these anarchists lie prostrate beneath the ruins, occasioned by their own intemperate zeal-as Samson in the ruins of the temple-you, we verily believe, will find yourselves, and your children after you, in a temple of truth and religion-firm in its foundations—majestic in its aspect-edifying in its services, and giving utterance to the oracles of sacred truth.
It is next insinuated that the objects proposed, and the fellowship established, by Mr. Wesley, have not merely been lost sight of, but other principles have been adopted by his successors in the Ministry. That he established a Catholic and edifying communion, and that, on this foundation, the Conference has reared a vile “ usurpation.” “Men of all sentiments," it is said, “religious and political were his brethren and allies, if, with him, they strove to flee from the wrath to come, and to lay hold on endless life; to save their own souls, whilst they were instrumental in assisting others also to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. This was the great, the only bond of his confederated or United Societies,' and, 'himself a churchman (as to its doctrine and discipline generally), he applied himself to the reformation of mankind, according to the light and help which God was pleased to afford ; determined, in the mean time, to know no man after the flesh; but thankfully to avail himself of the aid of all, and never to rest until the heavenly character of the church of Christ should be seen and acknowledged, and every thing worldly and unholy out of the way.” This statement, it must be again recollected, is made to the British public, and not to you our brethren. Inuendo is again employed, and nothing positively affirmed. The design is most clear, namely, to insinuate to the people who have no means of setting themselves right, that the primary principles, rules, and objects, proposed by Mr. Wesley, have been abandoned by modern practice.
. Do not “men of all sentiments, religious and political,” live in alliance with the Methodist Societies at present, “if they strive to flee from the wrath to come ?” You who are the Members of these Societies can reply to this. You know that the Rules of the “United Societies,” which were framed and published by the two Wesleys, nearly a century ago, remain unaltered to the present day; and that these very regulations were placed in your hands when you entered the Society, That no new or altered test has ever been adopted; and, instead of requiring adherence to a new creed, it is now only necessary that Members of Society, have a “desire to free from the wrath to come,” without any subscription to “ speculative doctrine" at all. In addition to this, no avowal of opinion on points of church government, is ever required; some of you are, in principle, favourable to the Episcopal model, and others to the Independent; and the only requirement expected is, that all parties will agree to live in peace with their brethren. The catholicity of the communion has never been narrowed, and such an attempt has never been made from the moment of Mr. Wesley's death to the present period. Then what can this insinuation mean, but to injure the Connexion in public estimation; and, through the agency of the newspapers, spread the notion through the nation, that the Wesleyan Societies are founded on some narrow, illiberal, and sectarian principles; and demanding subscription to articles of faith, or submission in practise, such as were never required in the time of their great founder. You know, as well as we do, that this is most false and calumnious; and, also, that in all the proceedings of the Body, the most friendly and fraternal feeling has been cherished, and, especially, in modern times, with all orthodox Christians. For several years past, up to the present dreadful confusion, have not the Wesleyan Ministers and other bodies of officers, actually sought an interchange of kind offices amongst all parties ? A dissenting Minister has generally been engaged at the great London Missionary Anniversaries, and in the principal country Auxiliaries, and even village Societies, this has, as often as possible, been done. Where, then, is the proof of unfaithfulness towards you, the Members of Society, or of the indulgence of a less catholic spirit than in times of yore? The truth is, that there has been a growing improvement in the Connexion, in all these respects; and, as the Association choose to appeal to the British public, for the purpose of insinuating their injurious slanders ; through you, we make our appeal to the same parties, and tell them most unhesitatingly that, instead of the Wesleyan Connexion being less, it is much more bland and catholic in its spirit.
· But men of all sentiments, "political,” as well as religious, it is said, were the allies of Mr. Wesley. This is evidently affirmed, in order to insinuate that men of all political opinions, are not now, the allies of the Wesleyan Connexion ; but that some political dogmas are made the condition of church communion. You, who are cur brother Methodists, know best whether this is true or false. Many of you are now in possession, like the rest of your countrymen, of the elective franchise, and it is known to yourselves how you use it. Do you all vote one way, or, are you led to the hustings like a band of Romanists, by a Methodist priest ? Has the Conference issued its manifesto, ordering you, on pain of damnation, to give your suffrages in favour of some favourite political opinions? You know the opposite of this to be the case, and that your freedom of choice has never been, directly, or indirectly, interfered with, and also that the Wesleyan Conference has never on any occasion, or at any time, propounded any political creed. Like other persons, the Wesleyan Preachers entertain certain opinions on these questions, but as far as our knowledge goes, they are just as diversified as those of other men, with the exception, perhaps, that they are rarely held in the extreme on either side. But it is not against individual opinion, but the public sentiment of the Conference, that this calumny is levelled. It so happens, however, that this body, never went further than an address to the throne, on some public occasion; and, in no instance, interfered in any purely political question whatever. We believe if the subject were gone into, but we have no desire to enter into it at all, it would be found, that, on all the great questions now agitating the public inind, your suffrages would be found marshalled on different sides a proof of the exercise of free and independent thought and judgment. Inour conscience, we believe that the cause of offence to this junto of agitators, is, not that the Methodist Conference and the great body of the best informed friends, is a political body, but that it is not; and, consequently, refuses to lend itself to their reforming projects.
Hence, they put the following words in italics.-"He" (Mr. Wesley) "applied himself to the reformation of mankind.”—And pray to what do the Wesleyan Preachers now apply themselves, but the “reformation of mankind ?"-But is the reformation of men that to which these parties refer? Do they not rather use this term for another purpose, viz.—as a catch word, with the intention to enlist the reformers on their side? We believe this is their drift. It is intended to be affirmed, that Mr. Wesley was a reformer; and insinuated that the Conference are not favourable to his views in this respect. We believe this to be a grouridless insinuation; and that the accused parties are as much in favour of the reform of mankind as Mr. Wesley himself. But why use this term in reference to the spiritual work undertaken by this great man ? His object was much higher than is meant by this expression. It was the salvation of mankind. He employed the whole period of his eventful life, in calling sinners to repentance, leading them to the faith of Christ, teaching the doctrine of the new birth, and training as many as he could bring under his influence, in the paths of Christian holiness. He rarely interfered in the business of secular politics the thing, we believe, to which this marked expression refers; but, when he did, it was in direct opposition to the views and proceedings of the disaffected and revolutionary spirit of his day. We express no opinion on the desire for change, now so prevalent in this country; but we take leave to remind you, that, at one time in Mr. Wesley's day, the rage for reform was, perhaps, as rife as at present. We refer to the American controversy. And how did Mr. Wesley act on that occasion ? Did he take-sides with the republican movement against the mother country and the English constitution ? No; he espoused the opposite side, and spoke often and largely against the revolutionary spirit; and, moreover, published an address to the revolted Colonies in vindication of the constitutional rights of England ;-consequently, if Methodist Preachers should feel it to be their duty to oppose revolution now, they would be countenanced by the example of their great founder. But it is not true, that they, as a body, have ever, opposed reform, or taken any active part in the questions which continue to agitate the country. They consider their calling to be purely spiritual; and, because they refuse to join in the debates and movements of the day, on the one side or the other, are they to be held up to public odium, as the enemies of liberty and the rights of mankind ? Their sole, and we may say, their only, business is, if the term is to be retained, the reformation of mankind. Let their labours and successes in the most destitute and neglected parts of this nation—their unparalleled sufferings and triumphs among the negroes of the West Indies, as well as their expensive and costly Missionary establishments in other parts of the world, bear testimony to this fact. 'l'heir object, indeed, is much higher than the reformation of mankind by changes of secular government. They leave that to those whom it may concern; their business is with the souls of men. To communicate saving knowledge-to proclaim the cross of Christ to lead men into the Christian faith-to communicate spiritual advice and consolation to bring them into a converted and holy state—and instrumentally to train them for the kingdom of God, they consider their vocation, and they cannot “come down” to “wallow in the mire” of secular politics. To do so would, no doubt, call forth the plaudits and hearty greetings of such men as now compose the majority of the Association, and some few who still remain in the Societies; but it would excite the indignation of the intelligent, the spiriually minded, and the peaceful of their own people. We put it to you, our beloved brethren, whether you would entertain the same regard and affection for your Ministers as you now do, if you alternately heard them on the hustings of some popular meeting, haranguing a crowd on some topic of excitable public interest; and, then, on the return of the Sabbath, addressing you on the solemn subjects of religion and eternity. We are persuaded, be your creed what it may on these points of dispute, you approve of the noninterference of those to whom you have to listen in the house and sanctuary of God.
In connexion with the last insinuation stands a series of most fearful charges, boldly and unequivocally stated. To prevent confusion and to bring the matters contained in these charges as clearly before your attention as possible, we shall endeavour to analyse and classify them in the best way in our power.
1.-We have an attempt to identify the Wesleyan Connexion with the Papacy.
The inventive faculty possessed by the Association, has at length led them to find the symbol of Methodism in one of the Beasts of the Apocalypse, whilst the application is furnished by Mr. Wesley himself: “In one short sentence he has left upon re. cord the full and settled judgment of his enlightened mind upon this fundamental sub