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the wish of Moses, that all the Lord's people were prophets, they are all legislators ! all kings! JESUS CHRIST hath made them free indeed! To those delegates who sustain the ministerial character, and through them to their brethren, whom they represent, I feel constrained to say well done! You have, my brethren, the proofs around you, that you are the dispensers of power, not the monopoliz.
God be praised, that you have these witnesses to demonstrate that you have taught the brethren liberty, and not to use liberty as an occasion to the flesh. Your converts are not in bondage to you, nor are they converts of licentiousness and anarchy, but of law and order. These delegates of the church, who sit on this floor upon a footing of legislative equality with you, enjoying a power you have voluntarily surrendered to them, will vindicate you from all charges of priestly ambition and love of domination, and inspire the public mind with a confidence in your regard for religious liberty, which shall go on increasing as long as the church continues to be represented.
Christian delegates, your ministerial brethren are Christians in common with you, and as such you might represent each other's interest reciprocally; but they have an office which you cannot fully represent, and as this office exposes them to a temptation to make your interests subservient to theirs, they cannot safely be trusted on all occasions, and under all circumstances, to represent you. Your constituents have rights and privileges which they cannot alienate or transfer to others. So long as by-laws and rules are necessary for the government of a church, (and they must not contravene the principles laid down in the New Testament) and so long as religious liberties may be jeopardised by those who shall make those by-laws and rules, so long will the church be sacredly bound to hold its law-makers responsible to itself. You see, then, what an important trust is committed to you, and how great is your responsibility. You are the natural guardians of the liberties of your brethren; as all the laws to which you here assent, must act upon yourselves, and it is fairly presumed that you will not make laws to injure your own selves. The case is different with your ministers, if you should leave the power in their hands, they might oppress you with heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, without touching them with one of their fingers. There have not been wanting those, who say that the church has neither ability, nor disposition to take care of its own rights, and therefore it is a matter of necessity, that the ministry should do this work for them. You have now an opportunity to prove the truth or the falsehood of this charge, as far as it respects yourselves ; and, I trust, brethren, that you will shew to them, and to the world, that you are neither wanting in wisdom nor in will, to take care of this inestimable treasure, which next to the gospel of the grace of God, ought to be dear to every good man's heart.
And now, brethren, in order that I may fulfil the important duties assigned me, as the president of this deliberative body, rules and orders must be strictly and religiously regarded. We must all be bound by them. I now entreat you while we are cool, to coerce the chair by them, if in the heat of debate, it forgets what is due to impartiality.
Wesleyan Repository, vol. ii. December, 1822, No. viii. page 318.
Thoughts on serving Two Masters. “No man can serve two masters," &c. To most of our local preachers it has been matter of surprise, that the members of our church should, in many instances, manifest pot only indifference toward their order, but something like contempt and hatred also. They do not consider that the travelling preachers are the actual masters of the church ; and that the members of the church are so conscious of this, that they naturally associate the idea of two masters with the two orders, itinerant and local; and in so far as they hold to the former, they will despise the latter. Now, if it is really a fact that the local preachers have the same notion of ministerial prerogative, upon which the government of our church is founded, they are indeed only another race of masters; and if the members of the church should by any means come to love them, the travelling preachers would have to take their place. It behooves all the local preachers deeply to consider this point. Every man among them who defends the divine right of preachers to make laws for the church, and to govern it without its consent, is a master of the church in principle, and ought to be regarded by the members of the church as such.
It is a duty, therefore, which those local preachers who hold to the rights of the church, owe to themselves and their brethren, to avow their principles, as they have no other way of extricating themselves from this dilemma of two masters.
It is a curious and interesting fact, in the history of all absolute governments, that though they are more subject to convulsions and revolutions than any other, yet the people are never benefited, they only experience a change of masters. The members of our church would gain nothing by substituting local rulers of the same principles as the travelling ones, in their place; they would only forsake the one and hold to the other. It behooves our local preachers, to a man, to imbibe just and liberal views of church government, and to let it be known that it is unjust and cruel in the members of the church, to consider them in the light of would be masters. They will thus not only rescue themselves from the odium of the members, but the jealousy of the travelling preachers likewise, who are, in many instances, under the most fearful apprehension of putting power into their hands. They ought to say to these monopolisers of power, brethren we do not want your power, we will not have it; it belongs to the church in common with us, and God forbid that we should covet what is another man's due.
Local preachers have been a kind of scape goats: the travelling preachers and the people have, in some sense, visited their mutual faults upon their heads. If the head goes wrong the tail can never go right. One of the deplorable effects of power is, that those who feel oppressed by it, without resisting it, have a strong propensity, generated by it, to oppress others. One of this humble order used to call himself, "Jack at a pinch.” But Mr. Asbury had no such contemptible opinion of them; he would earnestly and emphatically say in the annual conferences, that they were the body guards of our cause. One thing is certain, that where travelling preachers are not numerous enough to be in effect local, our members have but mighty little preaching, unless they have local preachers to give them Sabbath preaching, and the great body of the people hear no Methodist preaching at all.
A LOCAL PREACHER.
Wesleyan Repository, vol. ii. January, 1823, No. iz. page 339. Letters to a Minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church No.II.
DEAR BROTHER—I have intimated that those founders and leaders of sects, who resort to undivided and unqualified power, display no extraordinary wisdom or foresight; and of course, do not entitle themselves, in this respect, to the admiration, or the imitation of their successors. Among those tribes of men which approach nearest to a state of nature, while the natural love of liberty is but little controlled by education and circumstances, power is not artificially divided; but, in order to obviate its effects, it is made temporary; and when the common danger is past, becomes in a great degree nominal. But in the earlier stages of civilization, when the weaker tribes are subjugated by the stronger, power is rendered perpetual, and as arbitrary in peace as in war. That some great men, and a few good ones, have held the reigns of absolute sovereignty, is undeniable; but, that their wisdom and virtue died with them is equally so; for, their ignorant and vicious successors, found no principles to hold them in check. If the worst man in the world could be hypocritical enough to secure to himself the episcopal office over us, he would find the way plain, and the paths made straight, for the operations of despotism. The dead lions, the WESLEYs and ASBURYS, would be no impediment in the way of those living dogs. Their journals, to be sure, would tell pretty stories of their labours and sufferings, and humility, and self denial, and how they conscientiously used power, as they thought, without abusing it; but, what would a tyrant, in principle and inclination, care about journals. Even the dumb heads, who have been religiously bound, never to whisper any thing like "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further," would perhaps begin to stare with amazement to find that from the Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains, there is not one single fence or barrier to a wicked bishop's power to do mischief.
No one can donbt, but that, if the state governments in this union had been destroyed, and all power lodged in the hands of one undivided sovereignty, power might be made to act more efficaciously in given cases; but will any body say, that such an indivisibility, would have most effectually secured our civil liberties? The wisdom of our statesmen has been displayed in fabricating a general government, to bind and unite all the individual states and citizens, without infringing upon the liberties of either. I can conceive of no higher effort of political wisdom than this; it approaches nearer to the godlike, than any other with which I am acquainted. What kind of legacy Mr. Wesley would have left to the American Methodists, had the travelling preachers continued, to the day of his death, to have obsequiously followed his will, it is not in our power to say, we only know that he could not possibly have left them more completely in the power of the General Conference and the bishops than they are at present. You must pardon me, my brother, if I do not father our perpetual ministerial supremacy upon Mr. WESLEY. Though I have not the most exalted idea of his foresight, as a universal legislator, (with his English plans I have nothing to do,) yet, I am inclined to think, that if there had been wisdom and inclination enough in the men in power in this country, to have opened and maintained an official correspondence with him, upon the nature of our political institutions, and our civil and religious predilections, the venerable man would have yielded, at least a silent consent, to a church legislation among us. I never reflect upon the chapter in our history, which relates to the formation of our church, without feeling it in my heart, for the sake of those concerned, to wish that it were blotted out. It is a most mortifying monument of the want diplomatical ingenuity. An old preacher used to make himself merry with the case of the messenger, who was, "sent like an arrow through the south,” to call the preachers to conference in Baltimore. The occasion had certainly nothing in it to require bustle or haste. No time was left to think. If it had been a time of war, matters could scarcely have been hurried on faster to repel an invasion. And yet all this would have been tolerable, if it had been only a beginning, and a suitable preparation had been made for the reception of after thoughts; but, it seems, that nearly forty years of experience have shed no additional rays of wisdom over our legislative councils. No idea which relates to the dividing and balancing of power, can find any admission into our General Conference. The motto upon the door of this temple still is, “or Cæsar or nothing." Would to God that it might be changed for “My brethren, be not many masters. But, really, my friend, if I could be influenced by your implied advice, to call any man master, I should make my selection under the imposing aspect of that profound