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The separation of the Methodists from the Church of England was a real separation. The large majority of the Methodists, in the beginning, were members of the Church of England. To be sure, there were some Dissenters among their numbers; but in most localities they constituted a very small proportion of the whole. The authorities upon the history of Dissent, say almost nothing about the numbers of Dissenters who joined the Methodist movement, indicating that the number was small enough to be quite ignored. Without any proof, one is conservative in estimating that less than one tenth of the Methodists came out of the ranks of the Dissenters. Primarily, Methodism was not a movement among Dissenters.
Wesley ever claimed to be a good Churchman and that his societies were composed of members of the Church. "We are not Dissenters in the only way our law allows, namely, those who renounce the service of the Church. We do not, dare not separate from it.
What they do in America, or what their minutes say on that subject, is nothing to us. We will keep in the good old way.” 2 Professor Faulkner, nevertheless quite correctly says: “But, as a matter of fact, Wesley had in effect separated himself from the Church." 3 To be sure, the Methodists would not take advantage of the Act of Toleration. But this refusal was not due to a loyal desire to adhere to the Church, and John Free objected to them on this very score, that they were in reality Dissenters, and yet refused to register themselves as such.5
The Church too, considered the Methodists in their early days as a part of itself. Bishop Gibson objected to the whole of the Methodist organization, categorically taking up each point,
Vide Waddington, Ivimey, Bouge and Bennett, Wilson.
such as: exhorters, bands, societies, and denied that they were legal or warranted in the law. Such criticism would not apply to out-and-out Dissenters. Thus both Wesley and Churchmen in the early days considered the Methodists as part of the Church.
Wesley's idea, however, was to found a society within the Church of England with rules, organization, and discipline and even in a sense, a doctrinal emphasis all its own. According to the law there could be no such society, for the parish was the unit, and all such bodies made a church within a church. This was schismatical from the standpoint of legalism. The attitude of Bishop Gibson was the purely legal one. If a Churchman built a meeting house, he defied the law and the only way of legalizing such a meeting house was to declare it a chapel under the Toleration Act. One could not be a Churchman with a private conventicle such as the Methodists habitually held. To persist in this line was to be a Dissenter. The Churchmen were quite independent, sadly shortsighted, shamefully illiberal; but their position was legal. When the spirit of Methodism broke with the spirit of legalism within the Church, Methodists became Dissenters.
“The question of the separation of the Methodists from the Church of England was a question in perpetual discussion in the Conferences from the first Conference almost to the close of Wesley's life.” 6 This showed a growing antipathy toward the Church. Some of the preachers wished for a separation and worked hard for it.? Wesley maintained the upper hand and kept these in the Church. Had the Methodists considered themselves not members of the Church, and had their enemies considered them not to be members of the Church, then there would never have been this discussion. One is safe in thinking that a large majority of the Methodists were members of the Church of England when Wesley died. After the terms of the Plan of Pacification and The Regulations of Leeds went into effect, one is not correct in thinking that either temperamentally or sociolog
• Faulkner: Op. cit., p. 174.
ically the Methodists were part of the Established Church. There was, to be sure, no formal declaration of the severance of relationships with the Established Church; but the separation was an accomplished fact.
When the discipline of the parent church was defied, and when an admirable and distinct organization was formed, the destiny of the Methodists was to separate.' If Wesley and his followers had not been thrust out of the Church, the very spirit and power of their movement, the nature of the work to be done, the somewhat unusual methods which they were compelled to adopt for its accomplishment would have taken them out. They were of the Church neither by adoption nor by spirit.10 But this separation was not in vain, for the movement contributed more to the reviving of religion among the lower classes of England than any other since the days of the Friars, while up to the present it has carried, as widely as Christianity is known, its message for the moral transformation of the individual and for the reformation of society.
LIBRARIES CONSULTED Columbia University Library. Drew Theological Seminary Library has many good secondary works, many
pamphlets, and contains the Tyerman Collection which is rich in the
material of Methodism for the 18th century. General Theological Seminary Library holds many Methodist works; but
is especially rich in about 150 volumes of anti-Methodistical publications
known as the Cavender Collection. Union Theological Seminary Library contains helps to bibliography, many periodicals, biographies, pamphlets, and secondary works.
BIBLIOGRAPHICAL HELPS Archbald, F. A. Methodism and Literature. Cincinnati, 1883. Brown, William. Wesleyan Methodism-a catalogue of books. London,
(after 1826). Cavender, Curtis H. Catalogue of Work in Refutation of Methodism, from its Origin, 1729 to the Present Time.
New York, 1868. 2nd ed. Green, Richard. Anti-Methodist Publications Issued During the 18th Cen
tury. London, 1902. Green, Richard. The Works of John and Charles Wesley. A Bibliography.
London, 1906. Jackson, Francis M. Index to Library Edition to Thomas Jackson's Life
of Charles Wesley. 1899. Lee, Sidney. Dictionary of National Biography. New York, 1897. Lloyd, F. E. J. American Church Directory. Uniontown, Pa., 1905. Osborn, G. Articles of Wesleyan Bibliography; or a Record of Methodist
Literature. London, 1869. Townsend, William John, Workman, H. B. and Eayrs, George. A New History of Methodism. London, 1909.
SECONDARY WORKS Abbey, C. J. The English Church in the 18th Century. London, 1878. 2 vols. Banfield, Frank. John Wesley. Boston, 1900. Barr, Josiah Henry. Early Methodists under Persecution. New York, 1916. Bogue, David and Bennett, James. History of Dissenters from the Restora
tion. London, 1809. 4 vols. Burckhardt, J. G. Vollständige Geschichte der Methodisten in England aus
glaubwürdigen Quellen. Nürnberg, 1895. Cadman, S. Parkes. The Three Religious Leaders of Oxford.
New York, 1916. Corrie, G. E. Homilies of the Church of England. Cambridge, 1850. Davenport, F. M. Primitive Traits in Religious Revivals. New York, 1905. Davis, C. H. The English Church Canons of 1604. London, 1869. Faulkner, John Alfred. The Methodists. New York, 1903. Faulkner, John Alfred. Wesley as a Churchman. American Society of
Church History. Papers, 1897. Vol. viii, pp. 163-178. Fitchett, W. H. Wesley and His Century. London, 1906. Gee and Hardy. Documents Illustrative of English Church History. Lon
don, 1914. Giddings, Franklin H. Readings in Descriptive and Historical Sociology.
New York, 1911. Ivimey, Joseph. History of English Baptists. London, 1814. Vols. ii and iïi. Jacoby, L. S. Geschichte des Methodismus, seiner Entstehung und Ausbrei