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they and the group to which they belonged differed from the Church, and this consciousness came to its own in their many pronounced expressions of opinion concerning the life about them, for nearly all Methodists were dissatisfied with the state of the Church and vital religion. And the very opposition they received, stiffened their convictions so that this consciousness, which was at first somewhat vague, developed into a more or less definite emotion of mutual sympathy.
This type of sympathy among them was nothing abstract or unreal. “It is a power as real as that consciousness of disciplined strength which fights victorious battles, or as that consciousness of weakness and demoralization which hastens inglorious retreat." 3 It made the Methodists wish to organize more intensively to attain their common ends and to promote those beliefs and acivities which they felt England badly needed. No uniformity either of time or place characterized the steps they took; but before Wesley's death a vague consciousness had clarified itself into a distinct desire for greater combination to achieve Methodist purposes.
Yet Wesley, who in other respects was such a keen observer of the life about him, seemed not to understand the direction which the Methodist movement was surely taking; neither did he seem acquainted with this desire for greater unity and independence among the Methodists that so clearly marked the conduct of his followers. That the Methodists were becoming a distinct social entity, he repeatedly professed not to believe. Nor did he in the least desire the Methodists to be formed into a body separate from the Church, and his personal actions neither sanctioned nor countenanced the taking of any steps connected with his organization that would result in separation. He was frankly opposed to leaving the Church.
Wesley professed great loyalty to the Church of England. “I live and die a member of the Church of England.” 4 This
2 Vide, chap. i.
* Lecky: Hist. of Eng. in 18th Century, vol. ii, p. 688.
loyalty did not hinder him from advocating for his followers a higher type of piety than was commonly practiced by the members of the Church.10 In a phrase that must have been irritating to the clergy he said: “It is very possible to be united to Christ and to the Church of England at the same time. . . . we do not need to separate from the Church in order to preserve allegiance to Christ; but may be firm members thereof, and yet ‘have a conscience void of offense toward God and man.'"11
To be sure, he did write to his brother saying, “I do not at all think (to tell you the truth) that the work will ever be destroyed, Church or no Church."12 Yet this attitude is outdone when it is remembered that he was quite particular to bury his mother according to the rites of the Church of England. 13 In 1758, a tract entitled, Reasons Against a Separation from the Church of England was published. Here, Wesley gave twelve reasons why the Methodists should remain within the Church. So heartily was Charles Wesley—the High Churchman-in accord with this statement that he seconded it with his signa
Wesley showed that he assumed the Methodists to be members of the Church, when in an address to the king on March 5, 1744, he asserted : “that we are a part (however mean) of that Protestant Church established in these kingdoms.”'15 He also approved Middleton's Essay on Church Government; because it neither exalted nor depressed the regal power; but kept the middle way.16 All of this sounded much like good churchmanship, and when as late as 1782 he was asked, “Is it your wish that the people called Methodists should be, or become, a body separate from the Church?”—he answered as upon former occasions, "No."17 Mr. W. E. H. Lecky, authority on Irish affairs and the writer of those famous volumes, England in the Eighteenth Century, was correct when he said, “Nothing can
Jour., vol. ii, p. 86.
Ibid., vol. iii, p. 42.
be more unjust than to attribute to him the ambition of a schismatic, or the subversive instincts of a revolutionist."18
Since Wesley, as leader, felt thus loyal to the Church, one is not surprised to find that he and others worked for the unity of the Methodists with it. Between Wesley and Mr. Walker, of Truro, there was much correspondence on this head. Walker said that Wesley intended to be a schismatic; but Wesley answered Walker to the contrary by saying, “Tell me what, and I will do it without delay, however contrary it may be to my ease or natural inclination."19 Here Wesley said he would do anything save give up his flock in order that he might not be schismatic. At another time he wrote to Walker saying that the clergy were all too worldly and inefficient to meet the needs of the day; and that while such a condition lasted, the Methodists could not more heartily unite with the Church.20 Mr. Walker also came forth with the suggestion that Methodist lay preachers be ordained in the Church; not as preachers, but as inspectors and readers. These he would have stationed in certain societies. Wesley objected that the lay preachers had not enough talent to remain in one place for a long period of time—fixed lay preachers became dead and inefficient.21 Walker continued this matter and urged Wesley to do away with his lay preachers, saying that there could be no unity while lay preachers were used by the Methodists. To this persuasion Wesley replied, “I am still desirous of knowing in what particular manner you think the present work of God could be carried on without assistance of lay preachers.”22 He would not give up his lay preachers to gain unity.
Wesley also wrote a circular letter to the clergy, asking them to meet with him that they might discuss the basis upon which unity might take place. No attention was paid to this suggestion.23 The clergy knew Wesley's proneness to ask advice and not take it too well.
Lecky: Op. cit., vol. ii, p. 687.
Ibid., pp. 172-174.
Ibid., vol. vii, p. 281.
Some effort, however, was made on the part of the clergy to gain unity with the Methodists. One Churchman said that the Methodists had scant appreciation for the “necessity and indispensable duty of Church unity.” This lack of appreciation was the cause of dissent.24 Such scolding did not appeal to the Methodists. Zachary Grey urged Methodist laymen to stay within the Church, and pointed out the advantage of having a fixed liturgy about which the Methodists could rally their loyalty. But then, as now, there was no compromise. If the Methodists would enter the Established Church, they must adjust themselves to it. It would not adjust itself to them.?
The Mehodist writers, David Simpson and Samuel Bradburn, discussed this question of unity quite adequately. Simpson said that Methodist ministers should be held as helpers, coadjutors, and not as enemies of the Church. There could be no thought of unity until this was done. 26 Bradburn was more thoroughgoing; he advocated: that traveling preachers of long standing should be ordained in the Established Church; that no preachers be ordained by the bishops unless recommended by Conference; that the ordained Methodist preachers be permitted to bury, baptize, and administer the Lord's Supper, provided they receive no pay therefor; that the Church service only be used in meeting houses in Church hours; that the plan of itineracy, circuits, districts, Conferences, remain untouched; that the bishops of the Established Church be present at the Conference when the preachers and probationers have their characters examined, and that these bishops have the authority to bring charges against Methodist preachers. Bradburn would also have Methodist meeting houses registered and have them pay a yearly sum to the bishops. "Such are the rough outlines of a scheme, that if adopted, might bring half a million people into the strictest union with the Church. And if something of this kind be not done, will not those be to blame who oppose it-I am not one of these.”27 Thus earnest attempts were for Church unity.
24 The Question, P: 4;
Grey: Serious Address to Lay Methodists, p. 4ff.
SECTION II. BISHOPS OF THE ESTABLISHED CHURCH AND
METHODISM The attitude of the bishops of the Established Church alone would have made null and void any progress toward unity between the Churchmen and the Methodists.
It must not be supposed that there was no exception to this unfriendliness of the bishops. In Ireland, Wesley supported Archbishop Cobbe, when that prelate urged the formation of a society for the distribution of books among the poor. With the Bishop of Londonderry Wesley had a real friendship.29 This bishop manifested his friendliness toward Wesley in a letter saying, "It would have given me very sincere pleasure to have seen you during your stay in Dublin. . . Indeed, I did not expect your stay would have been so short."30 Wesley in turn showed his admiration for the bishop by noting: “The bishop preached a judicious, useful sermon on the blasphemy of the Holy Ghost. He is both a good writer and a good speaker; and he celebrated the Lord's Supper with admirable solemnity."31
The relationships between the Bishop of Londonderry and the Methodists were not characteristic of the times. Many bishops disliked the Methodists; William Warburton, Bishop of Gloucester, was extremely violent in his abuse of the Wesleys, and attacked them in a most personal manner. 32 Dr. Coke remodeled his parish of Petherton somewhat after the fashion of a circuit. On Sundays, after the second lesson, he would read a paper of his appointments for the ensuing week, with the place and time of his service.33 Because of this Coke was dismissed from his curacy by the bishop, and he resolved to cast his lot with the Methodists. Wesley thought this dismissal the deed of a bigot.34 Overton said: “It is fair to add that this dismissal from his curacy can hardly be regarded as an act of
Jour., vol. iv, p. 259.
Ibid., vol. v, p. 511.
Tyerman: vol. iii, p. 214.