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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.
“ Tenth. 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.
“ Eleventh. 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.
“ Twelfth. 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.
“ Thirteenth. And for the convenience of 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 as 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 Journals 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.
“ Fourteenth. 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 the acts of the Conference; and such entry and subscription as aforesaid shall be had, taken, received, and be evidence of all and every such acts 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. Vol. II.
“ 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 years, that then, 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."
The second occurrence, for which the year 1784 is remarkable, was, as already intimated, the advancement of the spiritual interests of the connexion, by giving a full Christian ministry to the Societies in America, just then become independent of the mother country. In this transaction, Dr. Coke, already mentioned, bore a prominent part, and, in consequence, had to endure much obloquy. Dr. Whitehead seems to take pleasure in heaping upon him the grossest calumny. Having been favoured with a much more intimate knowledge of Dr. Coke, and of the business in which he was employed, than Dr. Whitehead ever had, or could have, I think it my duty to state the facts as they occurred: And, in order to elucidate those facts, it is necessary that I should give the reader a short account of that eminent man, who acted so conspicuous a part in the Methodist connexion for many years.
The Rev. Thomas Coke, LL. D., of the University of Oxford, already mentioned, had joined Mr. Wesley about six or seven years before this period. It was at first thought, that, like some other pious Clergymen, he would act as an assistant to Mr. Wesley, in those chapels in London where the prayers were read and the Sacrament administered, according to the form of the Church of England, every Lord'sday; but the warmth and energy of his mind soon led him to take part in the whole work, wherever Mr. Wesley had need of such an active assistant.
His Life has been published by Mr. Drew; who, for some years before the Doctor's decease, assisted him in his literary labours. His biographer, who has executed his task with considerable ability, has, however, given his readers, not only a very defective, but, (through wrong information,) an erroneous view of several important particulars in the Memoirs which he has given to the world. A short view of these facts will not only, it is apprehended, be interesting, considering what a prominent part the Doctor acted in the work, during the latter years
of Mr. Wesley; but it is absolutely necessary, in order to account for the obloquy which Dr. Whitehead has cast upon him, respecting those events which I have now to relate in these Memoirs of Messrs. John and Charles Wesley.
Dr. Coke, as his biographer truly observes, was infected with infidel
principles while at the University, in which he was unhappily strengthened by his ungodly Tutor.* From this perilous infection he was, in a considerable degree, delivered, by reading the works of Bishop Sherlock and some other divines ; but he continued a mere theoretic believer till some time after his connexion with Mr. Wesley.
He was, as his biographer acknowledges, naturally ambitious and aspiring ; and, for some years, had made great efforts to obtain preferment in the Church; but finding himself disappointed, and at length shut up in the curacy of South Petherton, in Somersetshire, he became very unhappy, and felt the want of that real good, which, as yet, was unknown to him. At this time, he found some comfort by reading, in secret, the prayers composed for King William, by Archbishop Tillot
Those gracious drawings, I have reason to believe, from his own account, was all the experience which he had of divine things, till after his union with the Methodists.
About this time, the Doctor became acquainted with the Rev. Mr. Brown, of Taunton, an old friend of Mr. Wesley. (See the Note in page 167.) From this gentleman, he received some of the writings, both of Mr. Wesley and Mr. Fletcher, which opened to his view scenes of usefulness, accompanied with labour and suffering, to which, till then, he had been a stranger. All that was of God, in his naturally aspiring mind, eagerly seized these openings of a new life ; and “the ambitious stirrings” which Mr. Southey has imputed to Mr. Wesley, (not only without, but contrary to, all evidence,) was realized in the active mind of Dr. Coke.
Hearing soon after, that Mr. Wesley was on his way to Cornwall, and would be at Mr. Brown's on a particular day, the Doctor resolved to visit that gentleman, and thus obtain an introduction to the great founder of Methodism, whom he now admired above all men.
He found Mr. Wesley, as usual, mild and easy of access, with an appearance of happiness that exceedingly impressed him. The Doctor staid all night; and, in the morning, Mr. Wesley having walked into the garden, he joined him there, and made known his situation and enlarged desires. Mr. Wesley, with marked sobriety, gave him an account of the way in which he and his brother proceeded at Oxford, and advised the Doctor to go on in the same path, doing all the good he could, visiting from house to house, omitting no part of his clerical duty; and counselled him to avoid every reasonable ground of offence.
The Doctor was exceedingly surprised, and, indeed, mortified. “I thought," said he when he related the account to me," he would have said, Come with me, and I will give you employment according to all that is in your heart.” But to be thus put off, and confined still to the work of a parish, while such extensive labours and usefulness passed in visión before him, was a disappointment he could hardly bear.
He, however, began, and his warm and active mind gathering strength in its progress, he proceeded to turn the parish into a kind of Methodist Circuit. He visited and preached in every part of it; and, as some showed signs of dissatisfaction, and spoke against his proceedings, he cast off all restraint; and, after the second lesson, on the Sunday morning, he commenced the practice of reading an account of his intended labours for the week to come, to the amazement of his audítory.
* It was chiefly in his cups that this gentleman administered the poison. -"Eh! Coke," he would then say, as well as he could, “ do you believe the Adam and Eve story, Eh?"And thus get rid of the Bible with a fool-born jest.
These bold advances soon brought matters to a crisis. The Doctor was dismissed from his curacy; and, as his' opponents found out the day on which he was to leave the town, the bells were rung, and some hogsheads of cider were brought into the street, that those who were so disposed might rejoice over the deliverance of the parish from its Methodist Curate.
On Mr. Wesley's next visit to that part of the kingdom, Dr. Coke joined him, and accompanied him to Bristol. In this city, among a people established in the true faith of the Gospel, the Doctor's gentlemanly manners, his manifest zeal for religion, and his attachment to Mr. Wesley, gained him universal love and esteem. His biographer, however, has manifested very little knowledge of Mr. Wesley's character, in supposing that he kept the Doctor under his own eye for some considerable time, fearing that he might be tempted to turn back, and that be should thus lose a helper, that promised to be so useful. In all those things, Mr. Wesley always kept his mind perfectly free, knowing his high responsibility. Speaking of his own constant fellow labourers, to whom under God he was indebted for his great success, he observed many years before this time, “ The desire of serving me, as sons in the Gospel, was on their part, not mine ; my wish was to live and die in retirement.” He was still more cautious with respect to the Clergymen who joined him. He well knew, that only those whom the Lord of the harvest thrusts forth into the work, would be permanently useful in it; and he certainly was in no bondage respecting Dr. Coke. Upon Mr. Wesley's going to London, he left the Doctor at Bristol, where he remained a considerable time.
While Dr. Coke continued in that city, he became more fully acquainted with the rules of the Society into which he had entered. The discipline, which has been detailed in these Memoirs, it now became his duty to maintain, and consequently to be present at all the meetings of the Society. In these meetings, he listened to Christian experience, to which he was himself a stranger; and not unfrequently, without being conscious of the cause, he found himself in that embarrassing situation, described by Dr. Edwards, of New England, in his “ Considerations on the Work of God,” in that province: “How melancholy," observes that great man, " is the case of one who is to act as a shepherd and guide to a people, many of whom are under great awakenings, and many are filled with divine light, love, and joy; to undertake to instruct and lead them all, under those various circumstances; to be put to it to play the hypocrite, and force the airs of a saint in preaching, and, from time to time, in private conversation ; and, in particular dealing with souls, to undertake to judge of their circumstances; to talk to those who come to him, as if he knew what they said ; to try to talk with persons of experience, as if he had experience as well as they ; to force a joyful countenance and manner of speech, when there is nothing in the heart. What sorrowful work is here! O how miserable must such a person feel! What wretched slavery is this! Besides the infinite provocation of the most high God, and displeasure of his Lord and Master !"
The case of Dr. Coke, who truly wished to do good, was, however, not so lamentable. He was not in the condition of an ungodly minis
ter, who, for a living, undertakes such a work. The Doctor had no stipend, his own fortune being sufficient for his support ; and, not being convinced of sin, he felt no such misery. He did not, indeed, like Mr. Southey and others, suppose that those people laboured under a mental disease ; on the contrary, he supposed them sincere and of a sound mind: but he comforted himself with his own supposed advantages. “ They have,” he said to himself, “ a knowledge of God among them which is strange to me; but in philanthropy, and in large views for the good of mankind, I am superior to them.”
Dr. Coke had not those advantages in early youth with which Mr. Wesley was so eminently favoured. He had not been brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;' his parents being only attached to the forms, but having no knowledge of the power of religion. He was also an only child, and greatly indulged. I have not, therefore, to trace in him that early work of grace which was so conspicuous in the great subject of these Memoirs ; rather, I have to represent him as “a brand plucked from the burning,' from the fire of ambition, and the intoxicating love of the world, so natural to man. He seems to have 'been altogether ignorant of the higher principle of the Gospel, when his long-suffering God directed his steps to a people who were prepared of the Lord' to direct him to that fountain opened for sin and for uncleanness,' and to a principle of action wholly unknown to the natural man, whatever his talents may be,— faith that worketh by love. In this respect he had an advantage which Mr. Wesley had not : he was received, not into the wide field, where he might possibly find the pearl of great price, but into the garden planted by the Lord, where gold, silver, and precious stones,' all the holy fruits of faith, were common to those who believed. •
Being called to London, an event which happened on the road was a mean in the hand of Him who • numbered the hairs of his head,' — who worketh all in all, and who compassionated his ignorance, of teaching him how little real cause he had of self-preference. One of the passengers in the coach in which he travelled, was taken with a fit; and, as there was an immediate cry for water, the Doctor ran to a brook which he saw at some distance. Having no vessel, he thought of his hat ; but on beholding the fine new beaver, decorated with an elegant rose, then common among clergymen, his heart, which he had supposed so large, instantly failed him, and he returned in haste to the scene of distress. A gentleman, who was assisting the afflicted man, and had observed with pleasure the Doctor's design, exclaimed with surprise and indignation, "What, Sir! have you brought no water ?" and instantly ran himself to the brook, and returned with his hat full.
The Doctor felt his situation, in the presence of the passengers ; but his inward mortification was inexpressible. He was deeply wounded in the very part where he supposed himself invulnerable. He had trusted in himself that he was righteous, on a high scale, and had despised-or lightly esteemed—others. That scale now kicked the beam, and the convicted sinner felt the truth of that word, · He that trusteth his own heart is a fool, — he knoweth nothing as he ought to know.' With his spirit thus wounded he arrived in London.
The Doctor was now prepared to attend more seriously to what he heard among a people, who were well acquainted with those teachings