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have, in many an age, presented illustrations of this remark. But it is equally certain, that despotism loses as speedily as it makes conquests. So with Methodism. It bas rapidly and widely spread; but the causes of its speedy progress, will prove causes of its rapid decline. Despotism, whether in temporal or spiritual matters, contains the elements of its own fall
. If this remark be true generally, it must be emphatically true, when made in relation to a country which, as ours, possesses free civil institutions.
The supreme power beld by Mr. Wesley, he transferred to a chosen body of preachers, legally designated the Conference. These, consisting of one hundred persons, were, therefore, the rulers of the people. Had the real power been divided among so many, the effectiveness of the operations of the body might have been impaired. But this was not so, or, at least, not for long. A few leading preachers, united by a community of interests, bave for years governed the whole connexion, and carried on the work of proselytism to an amazing extent. But if the signs of the times are to be trusted, the days of their supremacy are numbered, and the augmentation of their subjects stayed. The power of the Methodist preachers is most extensive. Nor is it power modestly exercised, but boldly vindicated. The possessors claim it as their right. They have the presumption to put themselves on a par with Paul, and Timothy, and Titus, and whatever Apostles enjoyed, they demand. They have a right divine-albeit to govern wrong. Mr. Beecham, a recognised defender of their claims, makes it bis object to show, that all the Societies in the Methodist connexion, are and were, originally placed under the supreme control of Conference; that all the laws and regulations, for the government of the whole body, emanate from that source; and that the people have no independent rights, or rights of any kind, but what are conceded by authority of Conference. The Rev. Daniel Isaacs, himself a priest, prefers and labours to establish the following claims, for the Methodist priesthood: to be in the first rank of permanent officers to administer baptism
to admit candidates into societyto expel improper persons—to appoint elders-to try and judge elders to restore, at their discretion, those elders who had been expelled—to appoint deacons or poorstewards—to appoint others to the evangelical office-to have control over the funds of the Society - to have the power to order and settle EVERY THING in the churches, both as regards the appointment of officers, and the removal of abuses. In agreement with these pretensions, the Methodist preachers have assumed powers equal to those of the Pope, in the plenitude of papal domination. They make laws to bind thousands upon thousands, who have not, either directly or indirectly, a single vote in the enactment such laws. They levy taxes upon the people, without their consent, to an enormous extent. True; they cannot enforce them by the arm of civil power, but they do it as effectually, by imposing upon the credulity and good nature of the weak, by truckling to the rich, and by various other - arts equally disgusting and disgraceful. They control all the meetings of the churches, and all proceedings are void unless one of their body presides. They declare all meetings to be irregular and censurable, to which they do not consent. They render liable to expulsion, all who meet together to take into consideration any part of their conduct. They distinguish and barass, as a marked man, the person who disapproves of their all-grasping assumptions, or whose principles are, in any respect, as they are pleased to term it, anti-methodistical. They admit and exclude the members of the Society. They appoint the pastors of the people. They remove, at their discretion, these pastors, however devotedly the people may be attached to them. They claim the power of depriving the local preachers—who are their equals in office, and their superiors, for that they labour without reward—of the right of preaching in those very chapels which they and their friends have built.
Against these unlawful assumptions, a stand bas been made. Throughout the connexion, every one among the people who dares to read and think, is more or less discontented. In several circuits, the discontent has openly showed itself. The whole body is in a ferment—the timid are alarmed—the bold active—the despots in agitation. At Leeds, a considerable schism has taken place. In the early part of the year 1827, a few Trustees in that town wished to introduce an organ into Brunswick Chapel, in opposition to the decision of the leader's meeting (the recognised authority), expressed by a majority of sixty against it, to one in favour. A strong memorial was also prepared, and signed by sixty, out of the sixty-two local preachers who were waited upon, and was presented to
the leader's meeting, expressive of their disapprobation of the proposed measure; after which, a regular district meeting of travelling preachers, decided against it, by a vote of thirteen against seven. Notwithstanding this decisive expression of feeling, the Conference, in violation of its own laws on the subject, granted permission to erect the organ; and the organ was erected. The society, thus insulted, and its decisions treated with contempt, both by the Trustees and the Conference, convened frequent meetings of official characters; for which offence, one of the local preachers was suspended from his office by the superintendent, or deputy of the Conference, in direct opposition to the expressed opinion of the local preachers' meeting. This stretch of authority was deeply felt and properly resented, by the whole body insulted ; and so strong and general was this feeling, that the superintendent found it necessary to summon a special district meeting, for the purpose of crushing the spirit of liberty, and establishing the will of the preachers as the sole legislative and executive authority in the Connexion. At this tribunal, two official characters were summoned to take their trial, for what was termed “factious opposition to the proceedings of the preachers." To give some colour of justice to this illegal act, the leaders were summoned to be present on the occasion; and each leader, as the condition of bis permission either to vote or speak in the meeting, was required to sign a document, pledging himself to support the preachers. These proceedings terminated in the expulsion, from the society, of the persons accused, together with about thirty leaders who would not sign the test. In this extremity, an appeal was made to the Conference; but in vain. Instead of doing justice to the injured parties, the Conference passed a vote of thanks to the despots who had acted in the affair; and, by this means, separated from connection with it, upwards of one thousand members of the Leeds societies. Against this decision of the Conference, the seceders protested, and took therefore the name of Protestant Methodists. They immediately framed a code of laws for their government, in which due provision is made for the rightful independence of the ministry, the liberties of the people, and the effectiveness of co-operation. The secession at Leeds, has occasioned many others, in different towns of the empire, and fos
tered, in other places, the spirit of liberty which is now in birth in the Methodist body. An extensive change is at hand, it appears to us, either in the powers of the Conference, or the state of the connection. The eyes of the friends of liberty, among the Methodists, are not yet fully open to the nature and extent of the people's rights. They yield much to their priestly opponents, when they recognise the appeal these opponents make to the New Testament. It seems not to have occurred to them (as it ought to have done), to deny the justice of such an appeal. Let Paul have possessed whatever power they please, how does it follow that the Conference may hence lord it over God's heritage? Peter and Paul were apostles of Jesus Christ. Are Bunting and Newton so? The first had a special commission. Have the second? The first evidenced the validity of their claims by miracles. Is this true of the dominant party in the Conference? Let the friends of liberty put these aspirants upon proof of their pretensions; let them be called on to show why and how it follows, that because Peter punished Ananias and Sapphira-Jabez may excommunicate. Let the friends of liberty act a bold and upright part—a part worthy of the cause in wbich they are engaged; let them distrust all priestly encroachments and pretensions, and vindicate for themselves and fellows, the full liberty wherewith Christ hath made them free,--and then, whether they adhere to an improved form of Conference Methodism, or leave it to perish in its corrupt domination, they will deserve well of their children, their country, and their species.
G. C. S.
Dr. Channing's Election Sermon.
(Concluded from page 50.)
I have spoken of Religion; I pass to Government, another great means of promoting that spiritual liberty, that moral strength and elevation, which we have seen to be our supreme good. I thus speak of government, not because it always promotes this end, but because it may and should thus operate. Civil institutions should be directed chiefly to a moral or spiritual good, and, until this truth is felt, they will continue, I fear, to be perverted into instruments of crime and misery. Other views of their design, I am aware, prevail. We are sometimes told, that government has no purpose but an earthly one; that whilst religion takes care of the soul, government is to watch over outward and bodily interests. This separation of our interests into eartbly and spiritual, seems to me unfounded. There is a unity in our whole being. There is one great end for which body and mind were created, and all the relations of life were ordained; one central aim, to which our whole being should tend; and this is the unfolding of our intellectual and moral nature; and no man thoroughly understands government, but he who reverences it as a part of God's stupendous machinery for this sublime design. I do not deny that government is instituted to watch over our present interests. But still it has a spiritual or moral purpose, because present interests are, in an important sense, spiritual; that is, they are instruments and occasions of virtue, calls to duty, sources of obligation, and are only blessings when they contribute to the health of the soul. For example, property, the principal object of legislation, is the material, if I may so speak, on which justice acts, or through which this cardinal virtue is exercised and expressed; and property has no higher end than to invigorate, by calling forth, the principle of impartial rectitude.
Government is the great organ of civil society, and we should appreciate the former more justly, if we better understood the nature and foundation of the latter. I say, then, that society is, throughout, a moral institution. It is something very different from an assemblage of animals feeding in the same pasture. It is the combination of rational beings for the security of Right. Right, a moral idea, lies at the very foundation of civil communities; and the highest happiness which they confer, is the gratification of moral affections. We are sometimes taught, that society is the creature of compact, and selfish calculation; that men agree to live together for the protection of private interests. But no. Society is of earlier and higher origin. It is God's ordinance, and answers to what is most godlike in our nature. The chief ties that hold men together in communities, are not self-interest, or compacts, or positive institutions, or force. They are invisible, refined, spiritual ties, bonds of the mind and heart. Our best powers and affections crave instinctively for society as the sphere in which they are to find their life and happiness.