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TO EXHIBIT THE TRUE PRINCIPLES OF THE WESLEYAN CONSTITUTION;
TO VINDICATE THE CHARACTER OF ITS AUTHORITIES; TO GUARD
TO BE PUBLISHED EVERY MONTH.
No. 26. LIVERPOOL, MARCH 23, 1836. Price 2d.
THE ROCHDALE PROCEEDINGS.
In page 293 of this publication, we thought it our duty to expose, in as brief a manner as our limits allowed, the gross hypocrisy and reckless proceedings of certain individuals closely allied to the Grand Central Association in Rochdale. That the observations we made, and the conclusions at which we arrived, excited the tumultuous ire of the reformers of Methodism in that place we fully expected; and the result of the whole has positively confirmed us in the opinions which we then gave, and to which we must refer our readers.
The appointment of the Rev. John Sumner, the Rev. John M‘Owan, and the Rev. Samuel Allen, by the last Conference, to labour in the word and doctrine in the Rochdale Circuit, was hailed, by many, as one of the most felicitous which took place. Their amiable spirit—their uniform Christian deportment—their unsullied honor-their laborious services, and their universal kindness and courtesy, appeared amply to qualify them for extensive usefulness in a Circuit where the seeds of discontent and dissension had been scattered with liberal hands, by certain characters whose names are but too well known as intimately associated with unfaithfulness, hypocrisy, slander, and lies. Depending on the assistance of divine grace, and on the presence of the great Head of the Church, these devout and zealous Ministers entered on the duties of the Circuit; fully expecting, from what they had heard and what they then saw, to combat with difficulties of no common or ordinary kind.
From the testimony of several persons who mingled in the controversy, and of others who stood aloof, we are informed that the entrance of Mr. Sumner and his colleagues upon the scene of their future labours, was of the most peaceful and conciliatory character; they evidently purposed doing all the good in their power; they commingled with the people of all classes in the most pastoral and affectionate manner-their conversation was such as became the gospel of Christ, and themselves, His Ministers ; the unruly were kindly exhorted ; and at the quarterly visitation of the classes, which commenced shortly after the arrival of the
Preachers on the Circuit, tickets were not withheld from any of the members on the ground of disaffection toward the Wesleyan Body; in fact, the inquiry was not instituted, whether or not they belonged to the Association. Nevertheless, while these excellent men were pursuing a plan so gentle and forbearing, they were cruelly and maliciously assailed by a few-in whose bosoms all noble and disinterested feelings were destroyed —who told them, in the hearing of many who were receiving at their hands the word of life, that as Methodist Preachers they durst not do their duty; for if they were to act as the laws of Methodism required, they must exclude hundreds from all association with the church of God. How true the saying—"A guilty conscience needs no accuser !”.
It is much to be regretted that the forbearance manifested by Mr. Sumner and his colleagues produced no permanent good effect. Plans of agitation, varied indeed in their mode of operation, but all intended to be subversive of Wesleyan Methodism, were deeply laid, and carried into effect with a zeal and determination worthy of a better cause; so that before Mr. Sumner had been in the Circuit three days, one of the ringleaders in those disgraceful transactions which subsequently took place, said to him, when in company with a colleague—“ Reform meetings will be held in this Circuit, and I believe, in the chapels too; and there is no more prospect of peace being established than there is of the gospel being preached to Beelzebub!” It ought to be known that the author of this speech, which partook so much of the spirit of the infernal regions, was a Heywood-man.
When the excellent Superintendent of the Rochdale Circuit discovered the animus of those people with whom he had to deal, he, in conjunction with his colleagues, very judiciously set himself to counteract, as much as possible, the injurious consequences of those arrows, firebrands, and death, which the disaffected were so industriously spreading around them. He fearlessly, and in the strictest accordance with truth, declared that the Conference had never violated its own engagements or laws, affecting the rights and liberties of the people, either in reference to the admission or expulsion of members, proof of which he was able to adduce from documents of very authentic and indisputable character; but of what use are authorities of the most respectable kind, when brought to bear upon men who have recklessly determined to throw all authority to the owls and the bats, and especially such men as those whom we shall shortly exhibit before our readers; men, with whom division in the Societies, of the most devastating order, was the object in view ? The under-current of agitation was flowing with the swelling rapidity of a mountain torrent; of this Mr. Sumner was aware, and consequently prepared for its emerge, with all human prudence and foresight. Prior to his arrival on the Circuit, but subsequently to the termination of the sittings of the Conference, a meeting had been held in Rochdale, at which certain obnoxious resolutions were adopted, but which were not made public until Mr. Sumner assumed the pastoral office in that place; then they were printed, and industriously circulated among the classes by their respective unfaithful Leaders. This meeting appears to have been the first public act of aggression toward the Conference, from the abettors and supporters of the Grand Central, in Rochdale. It was held on August 19, 1835, ostensibly for the purpose of receiving a report of the proceedings of a deputation, which was appointed on the 15th of the preceding month, to present an address to the Conference, and of considering what further measures
should be adopted. We insert the result of this meeting, embracing a string of seven resolutions, all of which are subversive of the constitution of Methodism, and highly calculated to injure the cause of vital godliness wherever their withering influence is directed. The addresses of the persons who took an active part in the proceedings of that meeting were distinguished by that vulgar and vituperative conduct by which our modern Wesleyan reformers have rendered themselves notorious, and are utterly unworthy of notice. The resolutions are as follow :
“1. That this meeting hears with surprise and sorrow, that Conference will not grant what we conceive to be the just and reasonable demands of the people.
“2. That though the result of our application to Conference is highly unsatisfactory, yet we do not despair of obtaining a reform in Wesleyan Methodism, based on the Scriptural principle, that the express concurrence of the people is necessary in all important matters such as legislation, finance, and the administration of discipline. We therefore pledge ourselves to persevere in the use of all Christianlike means for the attainment of such reform.
"3. That should an attempt be made in this Circuit (which has been in others) illegally to expel any from Society who take an active part in Wesleyan reform, we now record our firm determination neither to submit to, nor acknowledge, any expulsion which is not in accordance with the following good old Methodist rule: No Leader or Steward can be put out of his place but by a majority of Leaders, or a Quarterly Meeting. Nor can any member of the Society be excluded but by a majority at a Leaders' Meeting.'
«4. That this is, and was intended to be, a fundamental and unalterable rule of Methodism, is most certain; and for these reasons: (1.) It is in perfect harmony with the spirit of the regulations of 1797, at which Conference the Methodist constitution was, in its leading principles, settled on a permanent foundation. (2.) The Conference of 1797, after concisely stating to the people the sense of what had been agreed upon, promise that the rules shall be published for the benefit of the members, when they will have the whole at large. And in accordance with this promise, the rules were so published by the Conference agent, G. Story, in 1798; of which rules, the one we have quoted is a most important one, as it respects discipline. (3.) This edition of rules having been all distributed throughout the Connexion, a second was published, in 1800, by the said G. Story, who was still the Conference agent; and in this second edition this same important rule is found, and the whole of these rules were sold or given by the Travelling Preachers, as the acknowledged and settled rules of the Connexion. This shows, beyond dispute, what was, and therefore still is, the rule respecting expulsions, as finally agreed upon by the Preachers and people in 1797.
“5. That many of us having accepted office, and become responsible for large sums of money, in the full belief that this was an essential and unchangeable rule of Methodism, and such being still our conviction, we shall be traitor's to ourselves-to our office to the cause of God-and to posterity, if we were to suffer it to be violated. It will, therefore, be with us a matter of conscience (and being so, we will never swerve) to resist to the utmost any one who dares to break or evade this good old rule of genuine Methodism.*
“6. That should any member be illegally expelled in this Circuit whose moral character is unimpeached, we hereby assure such person that we will feel towards him, and in every respect treat him as a brother beloved. And should the whole, or the major part of us, be so expelled, we are deliberately determined still to consider ourselves Wesleyan Methodists. We will still cleave to each other, as members of the same persecuted portion of the Christian church. We will, as formerly, meet together in all the social means of grace. And as the Trustees have power to bring to trial any Preacher, who is immoral—who breaks our rules-who is deficient in abilities-or whose doctrines are not Wesleyan; and as our attachment to those doctrines is unshaken and unabated, we will not leave the chapels which we and our fathers have reared. Nor will we be driven away from the sanctuaries under the droppings of which we, and our families, had so often and so greatly profited. Whilst, on the one hand, we relax not in our efforts to obtain Wesleyan reform-on the other, we will studiously avoid all unseemly excitement, all angry feeling, and all attempts at separation from the church. We will stand in our lot-confidently believing and praying that He, in whose hands are the hearts of all men, will speedily restore peace to our Zion
stand in our lot_cor
and prosperity to our Jermane nands are the hearts of all
*7. That these resolutions be printed, and distributed to all the members in this Circuit."
These resolutions bear the signature of a Mr. Samuel Heape, who styles himself, a Circuit Steward, Leader, Local Preacher, and Trustee! Of upwards of seventy persons who attended the meeting, only three were “ faithful found among the faithless, and opposed their adoption. There is much in the above proceedings of what is so unscriptural and anti-Methodistical, that it would have been our duty to expose the dangerous principles therein inculcated, had not these subjects been frequently, and most triumphantly refuted in the Illuminator ; we therefore pass on by merely referring our readers to those papers.
A similar meeting was held at Heywood, on the 3rd of September, and again on the 7th, at the same place. Another was convened at Rochdale, on the 11th, composed of various official characters in the Circuit, at which meeting it was determined, that public Wesleyan reform meetings should be forthwith held, both at Rochdale and
* The religious public are well aware how much the Rochdale Trustees heeded rules, whether promulgated in 1797 or 1798, when they determined to bring into the chapel in that town the Grand Central Association, with the expelled Dr. Warren at their head, in the very teeth of the provisions of their own Deed, which they had actually signed, and in good faith promised to observe; and when nothing could check these mad and reckless measures but a legal process!
Heywood. We need scarcely observe that all the above meetings were called, not merely without the sanction, but without the knowledge of the Superintendent of the Circuit.
Affairs now assumed a decided form, so that Mr. Sumner determined that no longer delay should take place in reading the pastoral address of the Conference to the Societies. 'It was, consequently, read to the Rochdale members, by the Rev. John MʻOwan, on the evening of the 13th of September. This circumstance gave considerable offence to the belligerent parties, who, sapiently enough, declared, that because the Preachers read this address, according to the express order of the Conference, they were the aggressors, and had cast the first stone." In consequence thereof, ulterior proceedings of agitation were resorted to; and on the following day, a circular, signed by one of the Trustees, and announcing that a public meeting would shortly be held, in order to give Wesleyan reformers an opportunity of explaining their views, was extensively circulated, and even distributed at the chapel doors after the usual week-night service.' On Thursday, the 17th, a meeting of the Trustees was held, of which ineeting Mr. Sumner bad no notice, neither was he requested to attend ; and here it was that the majority of six or seven to three of the Trustees resolved, that a public meeting to state the grievances of Methodists, and to advocate the principles of Wesleyan reform, should be held in the Rochdale Wesleyan chapel, on the 1st of the ensuing October, and that Dr. Warren, David Rowland, and James Livsey should be invited to attend; the last of whom should be requested to preside on the occasion. Of these proceedings Mr. Sumner received but casual information, on the following forenoon.
The despicable hypocrisy of these Trustees will be apparent :o all who look into the affair, and recollect the tenor of the resolutions of the meetings of August 19, carried by such a sweeping majority on that occasion. Nevertheless, these mep talk of honor, good faith, and Christian integrity, in all their proceedings ! We say, let our readers judge; they declare, “we will not be driven away from our sanctuaries”“we will studiously avoid all unseemly excitements "_"and all attempts at separation from the church.” What dependance ought to be placed on their printed resolutions will appear, when we assert that those very men, of their own accord, have left the chapel, s which they and their fathers reared;" they have invited revilers from a distance, to rail against their own Ministers, in public assemblies convened by themselves, and then two of the Trustees—as a a token of their acquiescer.ce in all that these wholesale slanderers declared-formally, publicly, and most cordially shook hands with one of these strangers in the middle of his speech; we allude to the contemptible agitator from Liverpool, who has lately gained a deplorable notoriety by exhibiting his wife from platform to platform, as a victim to Methodistical tyranny and priestcraft; these Trustees attempted to hold this meeting for those iniquitous purposes, on their own Trust premises, in direct violation of the express provisions of their own Deed; they have endeavoured by means the most insidious and base, (and in a manner altogether becoming Absalom of old, who was also engaged in a similar bad work,) to alienate the hearts of the Societies and congregations from those who were appointed to labour among them and for them in the word and doctrine, and when they were enabled to ascertain that a majority were ready to act upon their request, they demanded to be freed from a yoke, of the existence of which they had never before dreamed; and commenced a system of the most aggressive measures, all of which were intended to force the Preachers into compliance with their views, under the intimidation of stopping supplies, and starving them and their families; during all this period, with daggers in their hands and words of poison in their mouths, these worthy Trustees of Rochdale, actually expected to be treated as dearly beloved brethren by their pastors !! This was indeed rather too much!
As soon as Mr. Sumner was fully acquainted with the nature of those proceedings which had taken place on the preceding evening, he, in company with his colleague, Mr. M'Owan, waited upon several of those who had been present, and enquired more particularly into the truth of the report; and finding the case to be as we have already stated, he urged them in the most conciliatory and courteous manner, immediately to rescind that resolution, and not desecrate the chapel premises by such a proceeding, The mild and peaceable demeanour of Mr. Sumner met with a perfect contrast in the conduct and spirit of many of those whom he visited, and he was most unhesitatingly assured, that, as a majority of the Trustees had agreed to hold a meeting for such purpose, the meeting would be held accordingly.
Still desirous, if possible, of preventing a rupture, which he foresaw these revolutionary measures would produce if carried forward, and deeply impressed with the evil which would certainly follow the holding of the meeting in the chapel, he very kindly convened, by notes, a meeting of several of the Trustees, whom he believed to be principally concerned in the agitation, together with a few other friends, who had been accustomed to be consulted occasionally in the affairs of the Circuit. This meeting took place in the dwelling house of Mr. Sumner, on Saturday evening, September 19. It commenced with prayer, after which the Superintendent very freely and familiarly explained the nature and principles of the Wesleyan constitution and discipline, and particularly endeavoured to impress upon the minds of the Trustees who were then present, the illegality and inexpediency of holding the intended meeting in the said chapel, and the inevitable discord among the members of the Society which would be produced. Mr. Sumner and his excellent colleague continued for the space of four hours, reasoning with, and entreating these infatuated men, but without effect; they persisted in declaring their intention to hold the meeting. Anxious to ascertain what power the Trust Deed vested in his hands as the Superintendent, Mr. Sumner requested to have an opportunity of perusing that document, at the same time unequivocally stating to the persons then present, his positive intention of preventing to the utmost of his power, the assembling of that meeting in the Methodist chapel; at which, one of the Trustees, who the day previous had volunteered the loan of his copy of the Deed to Mr.'Sumner, exclaimed, “I object to Mr. Sumner having the Deed without an order from the Trustee meeting ;' the Trustees present promised to call a meeting of the Trustees for the purpose of considering the request of Mr. Sumner to inspect the Trust Deed. Prior also to the separation of the parties on that evening, the same individual who engaged to furnish Mr. Sumner with a copy of the Deed, and then retracted, openly stated as follows :-“I consider Mr. Sumner's announcement to oppose the meeting in the chapel sufficient reason for withdrawing my promise, and I object to his having the Deed; there being no cause why we should furnish him with weapons to contend against ourselves.” This wiseacre does not appear to have possessed wit sufficient to know, that Mr. Sumner as the representative of the Conference, had as just right to be acquainted with the contents of the Deed as themselves.
On Monday, September 21, the Trustee meeting was held, at which two subjects of discussion were introduced : Ist, whether Mr. Sumner should be allowed to peruse the Deed, and 2nd, whether the Trustees would rescind the resolution of the former meeting. After a protracted conversation it was agreed, that a copy of the Deed which Mr. Howard had in his possession, and which he testified to be an examined copy of the Trust Deed, should be furnished to Mr. Sumner for his inspection; but on the subjeci. of rescinding the resolution of the former meeting, Mr. Sumner prevailed nothing, inasmuch as the force of this question was evaded by the remark, that as all the Trustees were not present who had voted on that question, another meeting would be necessary for its discussion! No disposition, however, was manifested to call such a meeting. One of the disaffected Trustees feeling probably some qualms of conscience, on the gross indelicacy of the steps they were taking, thought, that out of respect for the feelings of Mr. Sumner, that part of the resolution which referred to the holding of the meeting in the chapel ought to be rescinded. The sincerity of this expression of regard for Mr. Sumner's feelings will appear, when we inform our readers, that this amiable Trustee was found on Tuesday evening with a coterie of Associationists, violating the engagement of the Monday evening, by concocting bills, announcing the reform meeting in the chapel! All that he obtained from them was a pledge, that they would not advertise the intended meeting, until he had perused the Deed. Mr. Sumner waited at home during the whole of the following day, the 22nd, for the receipt of the copy of the Deed, but it came not, until early on the forenoon of Wednesday, with the intimation, that it would be called for in the course of the evening of that day, to take to the Revising Barrister's court. As one among the many lamentable proofs of deficient integrity and base duplicity this party has displayed, we record the fact, that while Mr. Sumner was perusing this document, the bills advertising the objectionable meeting, were in the hands of the printer; and before seven o'clock, A. M., on Thursday, they were industriously circulated through the town, and upon the walls of Rochdale; and by nine, A. M., the same day, were placarded in Manchester.
At the meeting in which the question respecting a copy of the Deed to be fu.nished to the Superintendent was considered, Mr. Sumner was asked whether- he had any intention to take legal proceedings; he replied—“At present I have no such intentions, but cannot pledge myself to any future course of proceeding.” Nevertheless, the notorious Dr. Warren has had the unblushing effrontery to declare, in a meeting recently held in the metropolis, that “Mr. Sumner procured an inspection of the Rochdale chapel Deed, under a pledge that it should not be used for legal purposes.” A more false statement than this could not have been uttered! Mr. Sumner expressly told the Trustees who met at his house on the 19th, that he wished to peruse a copy of the Deed, in order that he might learn the nature and extent of his prerogative; and