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Upon Trick, was given at Newcastle. It was not a success, because the beams supporting the theater gave way soon after the play had started.91 Many foul and bitter attacks were made upon the Methodists even at the beginning of the movement. Wesley's and Whitefield's journals were raked over and attacked. It is not our purpose to bring in all the evidence for this persecution; because that is not the purpose of this work and has been done more adequately elsewhere. 92 is simply to note that opposition was the historic fact. Wesley did not desire “that anyone who thinks us heretics or schismatics, and that thinks it his duty to preach or print against us, as such, should refrain therefrom, so long as he thinks it is his duty. Although in this case the break can never be healed."93 Wesley saw where this opposition was leading.
Other opposition came because the Methodists would not declare themselves Dissenters. Either they must close their meeting houses, or else they must have them licensed as Dis
The Methodists would do neither. Sermons were preached against them to the effect that they sailed under false colors, inasmuch as they did not come out as Dissenters.95 The Methodists would not take advantage of the Act of Toleration, for so doing would make them ipso facto Dissenters.
They proposed rather to be fined for holding conventicles before they would dissent. 96 Yet the Methodists stoutly maintained their antipathy to Dissent: “We are not Dissenters in the only way our law acknowledges, namely, those who renounce the service of the Church. We do not, dare not, separate from it. We are not seceders nor do we bear any resemblance to them. We set out upon quite opposite principles. . . . They (the seceders) begin everywhere with showing their hearers how fallen the Church and ministers are: we begin everywhere by showing how
Ibid., vol. iii, p. 110.
”? I refer to Barr's Early Methodists Under Persecution. This is the latest and best account of this opposition and for fuller evidence should be consulted at length.
** Jour., vol. iii, p. 168.
our hearers are themselves. What they do in America, or what their ministers say on this subject, is nothing to us. We will keep in the good old way.”97 The Methodists desired to stay in the Church.
So far, we have seen that the Methodists faced opposition in connection with their doctrine, their practices, their organization, and that the bishops opposed them and confused them with Roman Catholics. We have seen that Wesley and others professed a desire to remain in the Church and stay loyal to it; but that in spite of this, a separation from Oxford took place, and the opposition in the forms of mobs, riots, persecutions, continued unabated. According to sociological laws, there could be but one result from all this.
Opposition caused “concerted volition” to further develop." A considerable majority of the Methodists had reacted similarly to the stimulus of this opposition and the resemblance among them resulting from this reaction is called "like-mindedness.” Opposition resulted in making the Methodists more or less "likeminded."99
At first the Methodists were like-minded in their sympathies; but as the opposition continued they became impatient of criticism and less and less disposed to be conciliatory. Their like-mindedness was becoming “formal.”100 Still the opposition continued and this like-mindedness became “deliberate,” that is, the Methodists were "characterized by critical thinking, and moderate, well-coordinated action.”101 Methodists had discussed their grievances, fought off their adversaries, faced their opponents; but in doing so they had developed from a scattered, unorganized number of people into a group who were alike in mind and purpose, and who were alike because they had thought and reasoned. There can be, sociologically, but one outcome from such a development; the Methodists would be obliged to cooperate. "If consciousness of kind exists, then cooperation is
Large Minutes, Works, vol. v, p. 227. 98 See above, p. 140.
Giddings: Op. cit., p. 332.
Ibid., Op. cit., p. 339.
sure to follow." This cooperation had much opportunity ahead of it. “The highest development of cooperation is seen in the formulation of certain great policies through deliberation upon the character, the composition, and the circumstances of the community, and in efforts, both public and voluntary, to carry them to realization."103
This is just what happened with the Methodists. They drew closer and closer together as a result of this opposition, and finally their sense of solidarity was so keen that they here and there began to cooperate to further their solidarity. When they reached this stage of action and of thinking, they did not feel the need of the Established Church. They could get along with it. Opposition had made them strong, and more or less of a unit. The fact to make clear is: That the Methodists had reached that point of sociological solidarity where they felt able to conduct the affairs of their group in a manner satisfactory to themselves and without outside intervention.
THE ACTUAL SEPARATION AFTER THE
DEATH OF WESLEY
It must not be assumed from the discussion of the previous chapter that the development of solidarity among the Methodists was evenly uniform in every separate society and at every stated epoch. This sense of solidarity varied in proportion to the amount of opposition which the Methodists of any given place had felt themselves to have experienced at the hands of the Established Church. Hence the situation was complex: some felt strongly the unity of the Methodists, and possessed also the resulting strong desire to get away from the Church; others felt this solidarity less, and had less desire, if any at all, to get away from the Church. With such different points of view, unity of action could come only after struggle.
SECTION I. PATERNAL GOVERNMENT The first intimation that the Methodists were not uniformly alike in their thinking came from within their own ranks and against their own leader. The government of the Methodists had been quite paternal, for Wesley was an autocrat in the most correct sense of that word. He claimed the absolute right before the society of Bath to appoint exactly whom he wished to serve them, and did not exercise this right in the most diplomatic manner. When this question arose again, Wesley said, “To me the preachers have engaged themselves to submit; to serve me as sons in the gospel. To me the people in general will submit; but they will not yet submit to any other.” Wesley clearly pointed out that this submission was purely voluntary; nevertheless, he frankly admitted his power.2
It was undoubtedly Wesley's aim to keep this paternal form of government perpetual. In 1773 he wrote a long letter to John
Tyerman: vol. iii, p. 305.
Fletcher, urging him to head the Methodist movement when Wesley died. Fletcher being much younger than Wesley, it was to be expected that Wesley should die first. Wesley asserted that Fletcher was qualified to fill this position better than anyone else in the connection, but Fletcher was of a different mind and refused to accept this future position.3
Not all Methodists enjoyed this paternal government. Alexander M'Nab rebelled against it; whereupon, Wesley expelled him from the Methodist ministry. Wesley here intended to put down a real rebellion and maintain a central authority in Methodism; yet Tyerman deems it an injustice to M'Nab, for the way in which he was treated. If there were murmurings against the Methodist system as it existed while Wesley was alive, when he died it was to be expected that these complaints would increase.
On Wesley's death, many issues which had been smouldering, broke into flame. The strong central figure was no longer there to place his weighty influence where it would most steady that good ship—Methodism.
SECTION II. THE EUCHARIST
The Church of England in its effort to meet the worldliness of the 18th century was urging its members to a more frequent communion. Archbishop Tillotson in A Persuasive to Frequent Communion represents this trend.5 Wesley vigorously supported this view and continually preached upon the duty of constant communion, insisting that yearly communion was not enough. The duty of every Christian was to communicate as often as he could. Wesley constantly administered the communion to his societies and kept up this habit to the end., "After reading prayers, preaching, and administering the communion at Bristol, I hastened away to Kingswood.” ? These services were well attended. At London between 1600 and 1700 persons
* Letter, Works, vol. vi, p. 688.
Sermon, Works, vol. ii, p. 349ff.