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TO THE EDITOR OF THE ILLUMINATOR. Sir-The grievous errors, both theoretic and practical, into which the agitators of our Connexion have fallen, furnish matter of unfeigned grief to every true Wesleyan; and did not the cause of truth, and the welfare of immortal souls, require their exposure, you would doubtless throw a vail, thick as sackloth, over their naked deformity. If it were only as a matter of history, that posterity might know the rocks on which others have split, and thus “made shipwreck of faith and of a good conscience,” it would be . your duty to record the “sayings and doings” of the Association. But there is a hope, however faint, that the “deceived,” if not the “deceivers,” may, by your labours, be convinced of their errors, and induced to return to the fold from which they have strayed. From many of the unhappy men who have taken such prodigious pains to defame the characters of the Wesleyan Ministers, and misrepresent the nature of our excellent discipline, and thus injure the cause of Methodism, you have nothing to expect but bitter enmity and deadly hatred ; but there need be no fear entertained of your allowing the sea of their gall and bitterness to drown in you the love of their immortal souls. Many of these persons are so destitute of education, of knowledge, and of sound principle, and their conduct is so revolting to a well-disciplined mind, that one is tempted to turn away from them in disgust, or utter words of indignant rebuke and reproach. But Hooker says" There will come a time when three words, uttered in charity and meekness, shall receive a far more blessed reward than three thousand volumes written with disdainful sharpness of wit." Would that this beautiful remark were more considered in the present day!
You have justly observed in one of your numbers that, “ some centuries ago, the two spirits of lying and liberty, of falsehood and freedom, appeared in a state of alliance. What has happened once may happen again.” Alas! your prediction has been awfully fulfilled by some of the leading Associators of Bury. One would certainly have thought, that if these people had no regard for truth themselves-if they had no scruple in their own minds as to the promulgation of impudent and barefaced falsehood, they would have been deterred by a fear of the certain exposure awaiting the offence. But whether they think there is no disgrace in lying against the Wesleyan Ministers, or whether they conceive that the advantage to the cause of agitation will be sufficient to outweigh the discredit consequent upon detection, or whether, burried away by their passions, their understanding is so darkened that they can no longer distinguish truth from falsehood ; certain it is, they still continue their system of gross misrepresentation. Mr. Livsey, of Bury-a man who has been set forth by the Asso. ciation as a rare example of truth, meekness, and generosity-has recently published a letter containing statements, which, while he penned them, he knew, or ought to have known, to be gross falsehoods. He begins this letter by asserting that the disturbances in the Wesleyan Society, Bury-which he, with fearful leyity, denominates “bustle "_"commenced by one of the Preachers calling a Society meeting, and telling the members, if they did not pay as usual, their tickets would be withheld.” A statement more calculated to mislead, or even farther from the truth, can hardly be conceived. What will your readers, what will the Christian world think, when they are informed that what this gentleman calls “bustle,” commenced with himself ? It originated in his taking the chair and sanctioning the proceedings of the meeting of agitators held in Rochdale, in October last, in furtherance of the objects of the Association. From the last Conference up to that time, the congregations in the Bury Wesleyan chapel were unusually large; the seats were all occupied, and more were in demand; many persons were under serious impressions; there were pleasing indications of an extensive revival; and those official persons who, before the Conference, had expressed dissatisfaction with some parts of the Wesleyan discipline, had agreed to abandon their opposition, and unite with their Preachers (of whom they spake in the highest terins) in seeking the prosperity of Zion. But Mr. Livsey could not withstand the temptation of presiding at a great public meeting; and, contrary to the advice and entreaty of the person whom he acknowledged as his pastor-in opposition to the opinion and counsel of the very men who are now united with him, who disapproved of the step he was about to take; yea, contrary to the misgivings of his own mind, he ventured into the fire of agitation at Rochdale, and thence, whether intentionally or not, threw into the Bury Circuit “ firebrands, arrows, and death.” From that day, peace again took her departure from our Society; the tongue of slander was let loose, and there followed in her train, “confusion and every evil work.” Mr. Livsey, who had been borne with nearly a whole vear-notwithstanding the leading part he had taken in the Associatiou, by attending the meetings of delegates in Manchester and Sheffield, and by fostering op
position to genuine Methodism in every possible was-was now called to account, at a ineeting of Leaders and Trustees; and on the evidence of two living witnesses, found guilty of aiding and abetting the ringleaders of the Association in the work of agitation, and of countenancing the vilest calúmnies against Methodism. And although his friends wished to make it appear that he was not previously aware of the nature of the meeting at which he had presided, he declared before them all that he went with his eyes open-he knew he was breaking the law of the Connexion, and did not intend to keep it; he expressed no regret, and would make no promise of future peaceable conduct; and because the Superintendent of the Circuit would not, at once, in violation of the law to prevent rash and hasty judgment, pronounce what was the penalty incurred, Mr. Livsey on the spot resigned his offices among us, and retired from the Society. Mark! he was not expelled, though his friends have said so; he voluntarily retired. Dr. Warren and his associates were forthwith invited to Bury, to hold a public meeting, at which the usual speeches were delivered in the most inflammatory style, and a resolution was passed expressing sympathy with Mr. Livsey, and a determination to support him; and the farce was concluded by the Association cry of “stop the supplies.” Mr. Livsey immediately formed a new Society, to which the discontented among us gradually united themselves, and every means was adopted to secure as large a secession from our Society as possible. Many of those whose names were still on our classbooks ceased to contribute to the support of the Preachers in the Circuit, and were constantly urging those Leaders who were known to favour the Association principles to leave our Body and join the new party. A paper was clandestinely carried about for signature through the Circuit, of a similar import to the resolution passed at the public meeting; and although it was falsely represented as designed to induce the Superintendent to restore Mr. Livsey to his place among us, its authors knew it would operate as a bond to hold all who signed it to support his proceedings.
It is true that one of the Preachers called a Society meeting, not, as Mr. Livsey has stated, at the commencement of the "bustle ;” but in the midst of it, with a view to undeceive the unwary; and many persons who heard him, have repeatedly declared that he did, in a very lucid and affectionate manner, point out the evils of agitation, and especially the great sin against Christ and Methodism, of which certain persons in the Society had for some time been guilty, in withholding support from the men whom they acknowledged as their Ministers; and, by “stopping the supplies,” endeavouring to starve them into a compliance with their demands. Such persons were indeed informed that if they persisted in disobeying the ordinance of Christ, and the rule of Methodism, they could not be recognised as members of our Society; but they were distinctly reminded, that if they felt themselves aggrieved by the Preachers with holding their tickets the only course that was left open-Methodism had given them the right of appeal. How Mr. Livsey, with these facts before him, could assert that the “bustle” in the Society here "commenced by one of the Preachers holding a Society meeting,” which did not take place until the bustle had been continued for several weeks, and which was designed to bring it to a termination, can only be accounted for by a reference to the demoralizing influence of the cause in which he is engaged. .
The next misrepresentation in Mr. Livsey's letter relates to the effects which he attributes to the Preachers address, referred to above. " This,” he writes, “instead of frightening the people, produced an opposite effect; many determined to make the experiment, and see whether the Preachers were indeed more willing to give than to receive.” Many, however, can testify that the language of the address in question was not calculated to frighten, but to instruct and persuade-the Preacher who delivered it treating his hearers as "rational creatures, freemen, and Christians.” And if Mr. L.will maintain that there are many who determined, in consequence of hearing that address, to do what they had not previously determined to do, “stop the supplies,” he may be safely challenged to prove the assertion. On the contrary, many might be mentioned, who, as the class-books show, did, shortly after hearing that address, pay up their usual contributions, being doubtless convinced of their previous error. But let iinpartial men say, whether it be consistent with either Christian charity or common honesty to insinuate, that if a Preacher considered himself bound to withhold the usual Society ticket from persons who, as he conscientiously believed, were acting contrary to the laws of Christ and the rules of the Society—offering them, at the same time, the fullest right of appeal-such refusal would prove that he was not more willing to give than to receive; or indeed would prove any thing, except that he was determined to do his duty, though he knew that for doing it he should receive nothing but abuse. No unprejudiced person needs to be told, that it is not a love of filthy lucre, but of souls, which has actuated the Preachers against whom Mr. Livsey writes. Had they been influenced by a motive less pure than the love of truth, and of the cause of God, they would have yielded, for the sake of personal ease and quiet, to the torrent of opposition they have met with in the discharge of their duty. Both Mr. Livsey and many other members of the Association in Bury know that these same calumniated Preachers have repeatedly declared that it afforded them the greatest pleasure to give the right hand of fellowship to the pious poor of the Society who did not and could not contribute to their support; and he knows that he cannot produce a single instance in which a ticket has been refused to any member on the ground of inability to "give.”
“After this,” says Mr. Livsey, “the prayer leaders were called together, and 31 out of 40 were dismissed from duty, for being without the Society tickets, which the Preachers had refused to give without pay; thus saying, in language well understood, "We want not you but yours.'” In all probability, this statement has been made on the authority of two or three bold and impertinent youths, who had either joined the Association or intended to do so, and who came to the meeting in question expecting to be told they could not remain on the Wesleyan prayer-leaders' plan, as they were mot members of the Society. But Nir. Livsey has made himself responsible for its accuracy, and therefore the whole weight of the falsehood must rest upon his head. Thirty-one out of forty prayer leaders dismissed from duty for not having Society tickets, which the Preacher had refused to give without pay! O truth! whither art thou fled? What are the facts of the case? Meeting after meeting of the prayer leaders was called in the usual way, by announcement from the pulpit; but few, if any, of the thirty-one, who, Mr. Livsey says, were dismissed from duty, for some time made their appearance. At length, however, two or three of them came, and were informed that as they were not members of the Society, they could not be continued on the plan, according to a rule on which the prayer leaders had always acted. And these persons had not been refused tickets; but, after receiving, had voluntarily returned them. There were indeed many others on the printed plan whose names, when called over, were struck off, not “ because they had not tickets, which the Preachers had refused to give,” but because some had signified their desire to withdraw; others had ceased for some time to attend to their duty; some had joined other religious bodies, and many of the famous 31 were then actually forming a prayer leaders' plan in connexion with the Association !!
On passing to the business of the Sunday School, Mr. Livsey aims a blow at the gentlemen, who, to release him from his responsibilities, took upon themselves a debt of more than £3000. He calls them, ironically, 'trustworthy Trustees.” This is truly harmless when applied to such men as P. Rothwell, Esq., of Bolton, and R. Bealey, Esq., of Radcliffe ; but it manifests the spleen which rankles in the breast of the writer. The case of the Sunday Schools shall be stated in as few words as possible. The rules of the school, though drawn up many years ago by the Preachers then stationed in the Circuit, bave since been frequently revised and altered, until at last, the Preachers were excluded from any share in the government of the school, were deprived of their right to attend Committee and other meetings, and were not so much as recognized in any way, in the last edition of the rules. The school had been conducted in such a manner, that nearly all the genuine friends of Wesleyan Methodism had retired from it in disgust. Writing was indiscriminately taught on the Sabbath day, and in a word, the only choice left to the Trustees was, either to reform the old, or commence a new school upon the premises, or else suffer them to be used clandestinely for the benefit of the Association. Under these circumstances, certain propositions were by them submitted to a deputation from the School Committee, and after hearing their objections, were modified so far as the Trustees deemed to be at all consistent with Christian principle. To the whole of the modified propositions, with one exception, and that not affecting any fundamental principle, a majority of the deputation agreed, and left the meeting of Trustees, apparently in a most conciliatory tem.per, some of them expressing their surprise and pleasure on finding the Trustees so willing to meet their wishes. The same evening a copy of the modified propositions was handed to one of the deputation, who forth with repaired to the school-room to meet the Committee convened for the purpose of considering them. The result was, that the Committee resolved on calling a meeting of the teachers on the following Sabbath. That meeting was accordingly held, when the whole of the propositions were unceremoniously rejected—voted against by some of the very persons, who, at the meeting of the Trustees had declared their approbation of the greater part of them; and so destitute of courtesy were the persons who conducted this opposition, that no official answer has been sent to the Trustees or Preachers, nor was any hint given at the meet. ing that any such answer was necessary. Nay, some of these persons have actually attempted to defend in person their own inconsistency and dissimulation. It is only due, however, to the characters of some of the members of the Committee and teachers’ meeting, that they proposed the adoption of the propositions, and have now united to carry them into effect. The Trustees had only one course left, to take possession of the premises, and not allow the occupation of them by persons who are known to be hostile to Methodism, and ceaseless in their efforts to promote the objects of the Association. Notice was accordingly given to the parties who had rejected the propositions, and on the Sunday but one following, a school was established on the principles of the Connexion-which will doubtless prove a blessing to thousands yet urborn. There are already in the school nearly 200 children, 60 of whom are taught to write on week day evenings; and there are 60 efficient teachers. The change which has taken place in this school is one of the most pleasing features in the present aspect of Methodism in Bury. Formerly the bulk of the teachers were the avowed opponents of the Conference, and because the Preachers as a body, had declared that it would be for the interest of the children, as well as more consistent with the sanctity of the Sabbath, not to teach the art of writing on that day, but to employ one or more evenings in the week for that purpose, they were held up to the children, their parents, and the public at large, as enemies to the education of the poor, lest they should approach to the attainments of their own children. To this calumny is mainly attributable the bad feeling manifested in Bury against the Preachers. But truth is great, and will prevail; and the public will soon see by facts, not reasoning or assertion, that the Preachers are the friends of the poor, and the promoters of education on the largest scale. The week night schools are working well; and it is hoped, at no distant period a day school will be established in connexion with our Society in Bury. Were the character of many of the “ noble spirits” who voted against the propositions of the Trustees, exhibited, the Wesleyan Methodists throughout the kingdom would rejoice that they had Aed to the Association warehouse-yclept a tabernacle—where they will doubtless find other spirits like their own, and there blend their friendly souls together, in opposition to every thing which bears the stamp of the Conference. But Methodism needs not such help to support her claims; and if offered, it would be disdainfully rejected. A certain individual belonging to the Association in Bury, may, however, be assured, that a portion of light will be thrown upon his conduct in purloining about £9 from another Sunday School in the Circuit, unless that sum be speedily restored to the school for which it was collected.
Mr. Livsey boasts that eleven Leaders and Local Preachers, with more than one-half of a Society, consisting of little more than 300, have declared in favor of the Association. This is almost the only statement in his letter which bears the stamp of truth. But what wonder that 150 members should have joined the Association ! Hooker has justly remarked—“He that goeth about to persuade a multitude that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favorable hearers.” The men who rail at established authority, and profess singular freedom of mind and liberality of sentiment, in this age of liberalism, are sure to have admirers. “That which is wanted in the weight of their speech is supplied by the aptness of men's minds to accept and believe it.” Besides this, parental authority, business connexions, interest, matrimonial ties, threats, persecution-every means, have been used to induce persons to join the Association. Some of these Associators, like the Pharisees of old, compass sea and land to make one proselyte. Having fixed upon some member of our Society as likely to be led aside, they supply him with books-retail in his hearing the slanderous reports contained in certain publications-follow him with teazing importunity-tell him he can never have any peace of mind while he is in the old Connexion
-represent the Preachers as tyrants, despots, supporters of Conference-misrule, ene. mies to the poor, &c. All these, and a thousand other things, equally well founded, are daily buzzed in his ear; and to conclude, he is assured that if he join the Association, he will be treated “as a rational creature, freeman, and Christian;" and there find the life and power of religion which the old Body has lost. “Nothing,” says Mr. James, “can be more despicable than the conduct of these spiritual kidnappers, who are ever decoying unwary children from their homes." And yet many are so much children in understanding that they allow themselves to be deceived by such persons, upon the most easy terms. If there are persons who cannot conscientiously continue with us, they have no right to endeavour to make others dissatisfied. “This is a step,” says the writer just quoted, (to whom we would refer these parties,) “which is not unfrequently taken by some to justify their own conduct, but which is attended with more guilt than words can describe.”
You are aware, Mr. Editor, that it requires more words to state the truth than to tell a lie; and therefore, it will be necessary to trespass a little.longer on your time and patience. The next statemert in Mr. Livsey's letter which shall be noticed, is more flagrant than any that has preceded it. It is as follows: “Within the last few days, one of the leading singers, although placed in office by the Leaders, under a former Superintendent, has been expelled by the mandate of the present Conference despot.” By the "Conference despot,” we suppose, Mr. Livsey means the present Superintendent of the Bury Circuit. How rapid is error in its downward course! The present Superintendent expelled by his mandate one of the leading singers from the orchestra ! No, Mr. Editor'; this is a barefaced, shameless, impudent falsehood. He never so much as desired, either by word, or letter, or messenger, the individual referred to, to vacate his place as one of the leaders of the singing, and he challenges Mr. Livsey or any other person, to prove the contrary. Mr. Livsey concludes his singular letter, by saying of the Methodist Preachers, “their race is almost run; their power is fast declining, and they must see, ere long, unless given up to strong delusion to believe a lie, that the interests of the Preachers and the people are identically one." Poor, man ! how pitiable to see a person on the borders of the grave, fighting with a shadow! That the interests of the Preachers and the people are identically one is the very position which was exhibited to him, by the present Superintendent, as a safeguard to the pastoral authority placed in the hands of the Preachers. He was assured that the interest of the Preachers was so blended with that of the members that the former could do nothing against the latter, without committing an act of moral suicide. Whether the Preachers at present in the scene of action have nearly run their race is in the hands, not of Mr. Livsey or any of his friends, but of Him whose they are and whom they serve ; and when their course is finished, they hope to obtain the prize. But in despite of infidelity, and radicalism-of opposition from the world, and of the treachery of “ false breihren,” others will be raised up to fill their places; and in answer to the prayers of the faithful,
“As giants they will run their race, Exulting in their might,
As burning luminaries chase The gloom of bellish night." Mr. Livsey has for some time past been in the habit of predicting the downfall of Methodism; but time has proved, and will prove, that he is neither a prophet nor a prophet's son. He appears to fancy that he centres in himself the whole Methodistical world, and at his bidding can make the sun of Methodistical prosperity stand still. Such a man excites our pity rather than our ire. Since he left the Body, the work of God has proceeded with the same steady course as before. The amount of collections and subscriptions in behalf of the General Chapel Fund is upwards of one-fourth more than was sent from this Circuit last year. Souls have been converted—the little flock of the faithful has been led into green pastures and besides still waters, under the pastoral superintendence of the Shepherd and Bishop of souls ; and Mr. Livsey may assure himself that the division which has taken place in the Bury Society, so far from being a symptom of decline-though an evil in itse!f-will prove to be an evidence of vitality in the Body, and the forerunner of improving health. He will, perhaps, admit that “the occasional storm is less mischievous in its effects than the stagnant and quiescent atmosphere, which is purified by no breeze, and settles in the form of fever and pestilence on the face of the earth."-Yours truly, Bury, March 7, 1836.
WESLEYAN REFORM TACTICS. Among the dishonorable stratagems to which the Wesleyan reformers have had recourse, and by which they have sought to bring odium on the Conference, that of falsely quoting its Minutes, in some instances, and of perverting and distorting their sense, in others, is worthy of remark. One instance of each, from the Christian Advocate, shall suffice on this occasion. Any notice of its statements would, indeed, be unnecessary, but for the purpose of showing the animus of the “ Grand Central Association,” whose organ it is.* " In one of its leading articles, (Dec. 7,) an attempt is made to prove an inconsistency between the Minutes of 1825, and those of 1834; and this is done by falsely quoting the Minutes of the first-mentioned year. We shall exhibit in opposite columns, the passage as it stands in the Minutes, and as quoted by the Advocate.
* In proof of this, ( naugre its own denial of the fact, I refer to the report of the Sheffield meeting of delegates. Twice were the thanks of that meeting presented to the conducters of that paper.“ Dr. Warren admired the able and uncompromising manner in which the Christian Advocate had supported its principles. He admired also its disinterestedness.... At the same time, its correspondence was invaluable. Regarding it as one of the greatest bulwarks of the Association....He cordially supported the resolution." -The subscriptions of Dr. Warren, and the principal members of the Association, and the subscriptions of the different reform Associations, in their collective capacities, to the Christian Advocate begging fund, speak the same language. Dr. Warren said, he “had to thank God.... that They had the Christian Advocate." "Mr. Wood then proceeded to lay before the delegates a plan for the future operations of the Association;...he recommended that branch Associations should be formed, &c... that certain agents and lecturers should be appointed, who should hold public meetings, distributo tracts, recommend the Christian Advocate," &c.