« PreviousContinue »
“2. The act of the majority in number of the Conference assembled as aforesaid, shall be had, taken, and be the act of the whole Conference, to all intents, purposes, and constructions whatsoever.
“3. That after the Conference shall be assembled as aforesaid, they shall first proceed to fill up all the vacancies occasioned by death or absence, as after mentioned.
“4. No act of the Conference assembled as aforesaid, shall be had, taken, or be the act of Conference, until forty of the members thereof are assembled, unless reduced under that number by death since the prior Conference, or absence as after mentioned; nor until the vacancies occasioned by death or absence, shall be filled up by the election of new members of the Conference, so as to make up the number one hundred, unless there be not a sufficient number of persons objects of such election; and during the assembly of the Conference, there shall always be forty members present at the doing of any act, save as aforesaid, or otherwise such act shall be void.
“5. The duration of the yearly assembly of the Conference shall not be less than five days, nor more than three weeks, and be concluded by the appointment of the Conference, if under twenty-one days; or otherwise the conclusion thereof shall follow of course at the end of the said twenty-one days: the whole of all which said time of the assembly of the Conference shall be had, taken, and considered, and be the yearly Conference of the people called Methodists; and all acts of the Conference, during such yearly assembly thereof, shall be the acts of the Conference, and none other.
“6. Immediately after all the vacancies occasioned by death or absence are filled up by the election of new members as aforesaid, the Conference shall choose a president and secretary of their assembly
out of themselves, who shall continue such until the election of another president or secretary in the .next, or other subsequent Conference; and the said president shall have the privilege and power of two members in all acts of the Conference during his presidency, and such other powers, privileges, and · authorities, as the Conference shall from time to time see fit to entrust into his hands.
“7. Any member of the Conference absenting himself from the yearly assembly thereof for two years successively, without the consent or dispensation of the Conference, and be not present on the first day of the third yearly assembly thereof, at the time and place appointed for the holding of the same, shall cease to be a member of the Conference from and after the first day of the said third yearly asssemly thereof, to all intents and purposes, as though he was naturally dead. But the Conference shall and may dispense with or consent to the absence of any member from any of the said yearly assemblies, for any cause which the Conference may see fit or necessary, and such member whose absenee shall be so dispensed with or consented to by the Conference, shall not by such absence cease to be a member thereof.
“8. The Conference shall and may expel and put out from being a member thereof, or from being in connexion therewith, or from being upon trial, any person, member of the Conference, admitted into connexion, or upon trial, for any cause which the Conference may see fit or necessary; and every member of the Conference so expelled and put out, shall cease to be a member thereof, to all intents and purposes, as though he was naturally dead. And the Conference, immediately after the expulsion of any member thereof as aforesaid, shall elect another person to be a member of the Conference, in the stead of such member so expelled.
"9. The Conference shall and may admit into connexion with them, or upon trial, any person or persons whom they shall approve, to be Preachers and Expounders of God's holy word, under the care and direction of the Conference; the name of every such person or persons so admitted into connexion or upon trial as aforesaid, with the time and degrees of the admission, being entered in the Journals or Minutes of the Conference.
“10. No person shall be elected a member of the Conference who hath not been admitted in connexion with the Conference, as a Preacher and Expounder of God's holy word, as aforesaid, for twelve months.
“11. The Conference shall not, nor may, nominate or appoint any person to the use and enjoyment of, or to preach and expound God's holy word in, any of the Chapels and premises so given or conveyed, or which may be given or conveyed upon the trusts aforesaid, who is not either a member of the Conference, or admitted into connexion with the same, or upon trial, as aforesaid ; nor appoint any person for more than three years successively, to the use and enjoyment of any Chapels and premises already given, or to be given or conveyed upon the trusts aforesaid, except ordained ministers of the Church of England.
“12. That the Conference shall and may appoint the place of holding the yearly assembly thereof, at any other city, town or place, than London, Bristol, or Leeds, when it shall seem expedient so to do.
“13. And for the convenience of the Chapels and premises already, or which may hereafter be given or conveyed upon the trusts aforesaid, situate in Ireland, or other parts out of the kingdom of Great Britain, the Conference shall and may, when and so often as it shall seem expedient; but not otherwise, appoint and delegate any member or members of the Conference with all or any of the powers, privileges and advantages, herein before contained or vested in the Conference; and all and every the acts, admissions, expulsions, and appointments whatsoever of such member or members of the Conference, so appointed and delegated as aforesaid, the same being put into writing, and signed by such delegate or delegates, and (entered in the journal or minutes of the Conference, and subscribed as after mentioned, shall be deemed, taken, and be, the acts, admissions, expulsions, and appointments of the
Conference, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever, from the respective times when the same shall be done by such delegate or delegates: notwithstanding any thing herein contained to the contrary.
“14. All resolutions and orders touching elections, admissions,"expulsions, consents, dispensations, delegations, or appointments and acts whatsoever of the Conference, shall be entered and written in the Journals or Minutes of the Conference, which shall be kept for that purpose, publicly read, and then subscribed by the President and Secretary thereof for the time being, during the time such Conference shall be assembled : and when so entered and subscribed, shall be had, taken received, and be, evidence of the said Conference, and of their said delegates, without the aid of any other proof; and whatever shall not be so entered and subscribed as aforesaid, shall not be had, taken, received, or be, the act of the Conference : and the said President and Secretary are hereby required and obliged to enter and subscribe, as aforesaid, every act whatever of the Conference.
" Lastly-Whenever the said Conference shall be reduced under the number of forty members, and continue so reduced for three yearly assemblies thereof successively, or whenever the members thereof shall decline or neglect to meet together annually for the purposes aforesaid, during the space of three
hen, and in either of the said events, the Conference of the people called Methodists shall be extinguished, and all the aforesaid powers, privileges, and advantages shall cease, and the said Chapels and premises, and all other Chapels and premises, which now are, or hereafter may be settled given, or conveyed, upon the trusts aforesaid, shall vest in the trustees, for the time being of the said Chapels and premises respectively, and their successors for ever : UPON TRUST that they, and the survivors of them, and the trustees for the time being, do, shall, and may appoint such person and persons to preach and expound God's holy word therein, and to have the use and enjoyment thereof, for such time, and in such manner, as to them shall seem proper."
2. Some responsibility, it will appear, arises out of this instrument, and evidently a responsibility affecting the very existence of Methodism. The identity of Conference -the persons of whom it shall for ever consist their title to appoint preachers to the chapels—the manner of their proceedings—the duration of their sittings--the binding nature of their majorities—the record of their deliberations—the offices and powers to be created-and the conditions of its extinction, are all subjects of legal enactment.-In this view the Conference is not a voluntary association of ministers; who, being bound by no previously existing laws, are at perfect liberty to act as they please; but of the nature of a chartered body united and bound by the laws and regulations of the institution. The ramifications of this instrument extend to almost every thing affecting the interests and even existence of Methodism. The security of chapel property -the doctrines taught in our pulpits—the general rules and discipline for the government of the preachers and the identity and even existence of the body as “united societies.”
Destroy the legal constitution of the Conference, and you remove the key-stone from the arch, and the whole structure of Methodism must fall. Then, when it is affirmed that the Conference is an irresponsible body, the reply is—that it exists on the basis of law-that its members are answerable to these rules—that their violation would annul its existence and that, of consequence, it is, in the highest sense possible, a responsible body. These responsibilities may not be of a nature to meet the taste of our reformers; for we all know what they mean it is responsibility to themselves.
3. But in its legislative capacity the Conference is not irresponsible. In the Leeds Regulations is the following respecting new rules-Minutes, vol. 1, 376 :
“It is determined, that if at any time the Conference see it necessary to make any new rule for the Societies at large, and such rule should be objected to at the first quarterly meeting in any given circuit; and if the major part of that meeting, in conjunction with the preachers, be of opinion, that the enforcing of such rule in that circuit will be injurious to the prosperity of that circuit; it shall not be enforced in opposition to the judgment of such quarterly meeting, before the second Conference. But, if the rule be confirmed by the second Conference, it shall be binding to the whole connexion. Nevertheless, the quarterly meetings, rejecting a new rule, shall not, by publications, public meetings, or otherwise, make that rule a cause of dissention; but shall strive, by every means, to preserve the peace of the , connexion.” - We never heard the binding nature of this rule brought into question. We know that Dr. Warren, and, under his guidance, the Grand Central Association, have charged the Conference with disregarding it in the case of the Theological Institution. The question is-whether that Institution falls under the proper meaning of the rule, The rule itself is-" It is determined that if at any time the Conference see it necessary to make any new rule for the societies at large, and such rule should be objected to at the first quarterly meeting," &c. We ask whether the establishment of the Theological Institution for the improvement of the junior preachers, is a rule for the societies at ' large? Is it proposed to send the societies at large to this obnoxious School ?. Then it would be a rule for them. But as no such thing is in contemplation, these societies
are perfeetly free from the tyranny of this rule so far. Is it proposed to support this Institution by a new rule of finance, demanding from the societies at larye a tas for that purpose? No such impost is laid either on the societies or any other person. If this had been done, and an expression of opinion on the part of the Quarterly Meetings denied, then the rule would have been broken. But, as it is, the societies at large are perfectly free from the tyranny of taxation without representation, for the Institution is to be supported by the voluntary contributions of those who are favourable to its objects. It might with as much candour and truth be said that the rule directing the chairmen of districts to require a list of the books read by young men on trial, together with esaminations and advice respecting the best and most useful modes of study, was as much a rule for the societies at large as this latter. Nothing but the most tortuous special pleading could possibly press this case into a breach of the above law. When elected to the office of a travelling preacher by the Quarterly Meetings, the direction of his studies and his guidance in the ministerial work have been in the hands of his brethren, and what is the new institution but an enlargement of the same principle? The dispute on this question can deceive no one ; it is evidently only a part of a grand and united plan te bring down the ministerial office; and, instead of leaving it to prosecute its useful and holy purposes, free and unfettered, to place it, as the late lamented Mr. Watson remarked, “in commission."
But to return to the question of legislative responsibility. We hold decidedly, that a religious community ought to assent to the laws and discipline under which they place themselves. As obedience is a question of conscience, they cannot be bound without their own consent; they cannot consent, except the rules which they are expected to regard, are presented for their consideration. Hence it is most reasonable that any new rule binding on the societies at large, should be presented to some competent tribunal: the Quarterly Meetings are considered so in our legislation, and in the case specified, it is law that they should, if they think proper, act according to the above regulation. Happily for the peace and stability of the connexion, the rules of the societies have been fixed from the beginning. The Conference has neither added to, nor deducted from, this excellent and scriptural code, and, we are persuaded, are under no temptation to do so. Legislation, since then, has been limited to some minor economical arrangements; and, as long as the body remains in its presedt state, it is not likely to go beyond this. The societies have ever reposed in a state of perfect peace and liberty, except when disturbed by designing agitators. No new yoke has been placed upon them, and though great changes have taken place in the state of society and the value of money, even the penny-a-week and shilling-a-quarter system still remains untouched.
Then we hold, on the ground of the above regulation, that the Conference is responsible to the societies, through the Quarterly Meetings, for any rew rale to be binding on them on the principle that they are the parties intended. But it is obvious that other interests may be made matter of regulation as well. The body of trustees, local preachers, leaders, travelling preachers, and the great missionary department, have duties, interests, and privileges distinct, as officers, from the societies at large.Any one of these offices and interests may be made subject to regulation; experience may shew the necessity of something additional; or new exigencies may arise in the state of the church or of the world to require some change, and will it follow that the Conference has violated the above rule? The establishment of the Theological Institution is in point. The legislation related solely to one point-the improvement of the preachers in Theological knowledge. The societies and congregations, it is true, will be affected by it, viz.by enjoying, we trust, a much more clear and efficient ministry.
4. In the circuits the preachers are responsible, as they are under laws, on account of their morals, doctrines, and observance of the rules propounded by the Plan of Pacification, and a mixed court, consisting of preachers, trustees, stewards, and leaders, is constituted, to which they are answerable.[See Plan of Pacification, Minutes, vol. 1, 323.]
" Nevertheless, if the majority of the Trustees, or the majority of the Stewards and Leadersof any society, believe that any Preacher appointed for their Circuit, is immoral, erroneous in doctrines deficient in abilities, or that he has broken any of the rules above-mentioned, they shall have authority to summon the Preachers of the district, and all the Trustees, Stewards, and Leaders of the Circuit to meet in their Chapel on a day and hour appointed (sufficient time being given). The Chairman of the District shall be President of the assembly : and every Preacher, Trustee, Steward, and Leader shall have a single vote, the chairman possessing also the casting voice. And if the majority of the mecting judge tbat the accused Preacher is immoral, erroneous in doctrines, deficient in abilities, or bas broken any of the rules above mentioned, he shall be considered as removed from that Ciscuit : nod the District Committee shall, as soon as possible, appolpt another Preacher for that Circuit Instead of the Preacher 8o removed: and shall determine among themselves how the removed Preacher shall be disposed of illl the Conference, and shall have authority to suspend the said Preacher from all public duties, till the Conference, if they judge proper. The District Committee shall also supply, as well as possible, the place of the removed Preacher, till another Preacher be appointed. And the Preacher thus appointed, and all other Preachers, shall be subject to the above mode of trial. And if the District Committee do not appoint a Preacher for that Circuit, instead o the removed Preacher, within a month after the aforesaid removal, or do not fill up the place of the removed Preacher, till another Preacher be appointed, the majority of the said 'Trustees, Stewards. aod Leaders, being again regularly summoned, shall appoint a Preacher for the said Circuit, provided he be a member of the Methodist Connexion, till the ensuing Conference."
Here is responsibility on the only points on which a minister can be held accountable, except it should suit the taste of the Association to place them under restraint, on questions not falling under the heads of morals, ability for their work, doctrinal purity and fidelity, and observance of the rules. It is strange, if the preachers have so glaringly violated the rules of the connexion in the late transactions in Liverpool and other places, that the aggrieved parties have not sought redress by an appeal to a District Meeting, constituted as above. "If we recollect right, on the first trials which took place at Leeds-street, the superintendent challenged Mr. Rowland and his companions to such a trial. This was met by some scarrilons epithets respecting a trial by such men as himself, when, in fact, Mr. Rowland must have known that an appeal to snch a tribunal would be an appeal to a mixed court, consisting, most likely, of a numerical majority of laymen.
To render this responsibility doubly binding, the four subjects contained in the Plan of Pacification are usually made a prominent part of the settlement of the chapels, and have consequently all the force of a legal provision. The preachers are, no doubt, bound by the Chapel Deeds to a strict observance of the duties of their office, and these guardians of our economy as well as of doctrinal purity, can appeal to the courts for the protection of law in cases of malversation. On this principle Dr. Warren, and the trustees who favour his cause, have appealed to a court of equity, and the admissability of their plea disproves most fully the hacknied assertion that the preachers are irresponsible. However this trial may terminate, it goes to shew the responsibility of the position in which, not only individual preachers, but some of our local jurisdictions are placed.
5. Besides the particulars already noticed, the subject of funds is often introduced to shew that the preachers are irresponsible on this as on other questions. We are told again and again, that the people ought to have a share in the management of the temporal business of the connexion, implying that the preachers take the whole burthen of this on themselves. How stands this question, for instance, in the circuits ? Does not the management of the circuit funds rest in the hands of the stewards, subject to the controul of the meetings? Have the preachers any concern in this except in making the collections; which, as soon as done, are handed over to the proper treasurers or stewards, and never come into their hands at all, till one of these officers pay them their regularly appointed stipend. In a very clear statement of the manner in which the general funds of the body are disposed of, and the management of the several institutions, Mr. Vevers remarks
“Let any man examine for bimself the Minutes of Conference (I appeal to a Published docu. ment), and he will find that on the four Committees just mentioned, who have the charge of the Missions, Chapel fund, Loan fund and School fund, there are one hundred and seven Lay Gentlemen, who for true Christian independence, liberality, piety, and personal honor, are and confidence of our societies, and of the Conference. And if to these Ge
f the Conference. And if to these Gentlemen we add the Circuit Stewards throughout the connexion, to whom is entrusted at the District Meetings, in conjunction with the Preachers, the appropriation of the Contingent Fund; as there are three hundred and sixty-nine Circuits in Great Britain, and forty-two in Ireland, each of which las two Stewards, there are eight hundred and twenty-two Stewards, making an aggregate of nine hundred and twentynine Laymen, who are actually entrusted with this charge, in conjunction with the Preachers, who at the last Conference, excluding Missionaries, Superannuated Preachers, and Supernumeraries, in the aggregate amounted to eight hundred and eighty-four,-leaving an actual majority of Laymen to the number of forty-five!
" This is not a fictitious, but a plain unvarnished statement of matter of fact: it is gounded upon a published document, to which every man in the kingdom may have access. I appeal to every member of the “United Association " for its truth; and I solicit refutation if I give utterance to a falsehood. What becomes then of the false or disingenuous statements which are published with such professions of piety ! and credited apparently with such upholy delight ! that the Funds are under the controul (conveying the idea of sole controul) of the Conference? Would not the men who
deliberately publish such statements, avowedly with the design of lessening the pastoral influence of the Preachers, and alienating from them te affections of their flocks, and thus fixing between them a deep and impassable gulf, blush, if capable of shame :
“The admission of Laymen to a share in the management of the Funds, constituting, as they do in the aggregate, a positive majority, are, the “innovations" of modern Methodism! the "innovations" which the “United Association," either ignorantly or designedly, actually reprobale ! If I may, without subjecting myself to the imputation of vanity, or levity, be allowed to borrow from a book, the quotations from which ought always to be made with reverence, I would say, witbout any disrespect to the members of the "United Association," -The provisions made by the Diethodist Conference for the power of Laymen to assist in the management of its funds, of which ye are so palpably ignorant, " these we declare unto you."
What then becomes of Mr. Gordon's false and slanderous insinuation—"They have the interest of honour, and they have the interest which the money gives them (hear, hear). All the honour is confined to them-all the money directly or indirectly comes into their pockets (laughter and cheers).” We have nothing to do with the honour referred to jast now, but we ask the honourable and candid men who forrn the committees of our several funds, whether any of the connexion's money, “ directly or indirectly,” comes into the pockets of the Methodist preachers, except their salaries? The impression intended to be made on the minds of our people by this appeal to their passions, is evidently, that the noble sums contributed, are not for the public good—the extension of the gospel-and the salvation of the destitute, but for the aggrandisement of the preachers. No doubt it will succeed to some extent. Many of our people do not give themselves the trouble to examine into the manner in which their contributions are disposed of; but those who are acquainted with the nature of our system, know that hundreds of poor villages in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, are now blessed with religious ordinances, supplied from these funds; whilst the friends of missions can point to noble establishments in the four quarters of the globe, now rising up as the incipient nurseries of Christianity, to ignorant and ruined millions of the human race; or standing in moral majesty to attest the glories of the cross ;-all, the fruits of those charities, prayers and toils, which the connexion have consecrated to this glorious cause. And this faction can have the heartlessnes, in order to fix a stigma on the ministers of religion, to insinuate that they are the only persons benefited by these exertions. They would expose the souls of their own poor and benighted countrymen, as well as the heathen world, to the perils attendent on being destitute of the gospel, to gratify their revenge against a class of men who happen to be the objects of their hate. Can satanical malevolence go beyond this?
6. Then, in the face of all these facts, what can the sophism respecting the “irresponsible, absolute, and arbitrary” power of the preachers mean, except, that it is an office which is not conferred at the hustings, and renewable at the will of the constituency conferring it. That this is the notion of irresponsibility on the part of the Association, is evident from other parts of Mr. Gordon's speech: “ I know of no inherent rights of the preachers of the Gospel. They are given by the people ; how can they be otherwise ? The people choose a man as their minister.” Again—"What the people gives they can control; and what they can control, they can take away.” And_«There are po rights bat what you give.” This is a plain exposition of Mr. Gordon's notions of responsibility. Our space will not allow us to enter fully into this qnestion at present; but we take leave to ask Mr. Gordon whether, when he took upon him the ministerial office, that office was conferred by the suffrages and votes of any body of men whatever. Supposing his position true, that the people have a right to choose their own minister-does not that choice pre suppose his previous ministerial existence? Does it not imply moral fitness, spiritual gifts, the call to the office by the great Head of the Church, and consequently “a trust" from him, with all the rights and responsibilities of the gospel ? If this is admitted--and $t will be by all sober Christians, of every party--then it will follow that the ministerial office itself is not elective, and that there are rights inherent in the office. The discharge of the functions of the ministry amongst a people, may be made a subject of economical arrangement, but this arrangement does not confer the office, and it has no scriptural right to obštruct its full aud unembarrassed discharge. Independent churches claim the right of electing their own ministers, but they neither claim the power of conferring the office nor of depriving a person of its functions. Their claim is limited to two points: his election to the pastoral duties amongst themselves, and his dismissal from that relationship to their particular church. If he consider himself entrusted with a “ dispensation of the gospel,” by the great Lord of the harvest, when he cannot discharge his duties in one part of the field, he goes to another.
The doctrine held by our reformers goes many degrees beyond this : it asserts that the