« FöregåendeFortsätt »
(disciple) trespass against thee, go, &c. &c.-and if he neglect to hear the church,” &c. &. The General Conference, as we have said, decided, by a large majority, upon this point, upon the principle that the members of the church ought, of right, to be judged by their peers; and, in 1808, this act was made unrepealable by the delegates of the annual conferences. One of the proofs of the correctness of this decision, we draw from 1 Corinthians, chap. vi. in which we have a clear and full view of St. Paul's conceptions of the judicial attributes of the saints. “Dare any of you, (says he) having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things pertaining to this life ?” We deem it highly worthy of remark, that, while our Lord officiated as a teacher among his disciples, he did not direct them to appeal to him in cases of trespass by their brethren; and, also, how exactly St. Paul enters into his master's spirit in this respect; he neither constitutes himself nor any of his brother apostles judicial officers; but, considers that the powers of the church are plenary. Let any man, not biassed by an invincible attachment to ministerial prerogative, read the first verses of this chapter, and then say, if the binding and loosing power, or the judicial authority, is not given by our Lord to the church, in Matthew xviii. 18.
Thoughts upon the origin and power of offices in the Church.
“I've found out a gift for my love !" In the notes on the discipline, we are told that what Mr. Wesley said of experience and expediency in Europe, is applicable to presiding eldership; that it came into being by degrees. If we understand their intentions correctly, the first presiding elders were elders; or, in other words, that all the first elders who were ordained, were, in effect presiding elders ; only, that there were no elders for them to preside over.
Mr. Wesley, it seems, recommended that no more elders should be ordained than were strictly necessary (to preside), but that afterwards the bishop, in the little conferences of those days, ordained more, and Mr. Wesley as.
sented. In 1792, the office of elders, to preside over elders, was fixed by statute, nearly on its present footing. Is not positive proof still wanting, whether Mr. Wesley really approved of the present plan ? So we suspect. But what particularly struck our attention in this note, was, the power which it assumes for the annual conferences over this order of men—they may try them; expel them; or suspend; or reprove them for mal-administration, &c. &c. The notes on the bishop's power are no less remarkable for the full powers which they claim for the General Conference to take them to task. Nay, the authors pray that if ever they abuse their power, the General Conference may almost annihilate it; or something like it. Was it foreseen in those notewriting times, that before the generation should pass away, the text would be altered? We wonder how those gratuitous prayers would tally with certain episcopal measures, which report says, came to pass A. D. 1820 ? Never was there a maxim or a usage more favorable to the advancement of power, than "by degrees, or by little and little.”
Wesleyan Repository, vol. iii. June, 1823, No. ii. page 69. A Review of the first and second volumes of the Wesleyan
Repository. To reform and not divide, is much more difficult in church than in state. But the term reform, is too general and indefinite in its common acceptation, to express or embrace all the changes which may be attempted in religious matters. The discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in its present form, is not an innovation, or a corruption, of some more ancient and correct system of discipline, either in the society, or in the church. But one change in principle seems to have taken place from the beginning, and that is favorable to liberty, viz: the transferring the trial of a member from the preacher to a committee of private members. The plan, to be sure, halts by the way, but still it is founded on a change of principle. It is giving a member a chance to be judged by his peers; and but for the influence of one man, there would have been no drawback. As the case now stands, the prerogative of the preacher to appeal the
case, or carry it to the quarterly meeting conference, seems not to be liable to much abuse, and will seldom be resorted to, perhaps, save in doubtful instances.
The idea then of bringing the discipline back again to its primitive principles, is out of the question in our case; nor is there any complaint that the execution of the discipline is not sufficiently strict, or less so than formerly.
The principle contended for by the Repository, is a principle of right, which has never been yielded to the Methodist Episcopal Church by the travelling preachers—the right the members have to be represented, or to represent themselves in the legislative department of the church, and thus have a voice in the making of the rules by which they are to be governed.
The right of suffrage, is the original and fundamental principle which has been extended through two volumes of the Repository. How then can it be said that this publication is full of lies and misrepresentations? That it is opposed to government and leads to anarchy and division, &c.? Is it a lie, a falsehood, a misrepresentation, to say that the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church have not now, and never had a voice in the General Conference? Is it a lie, a misrepresentation, to say that it is their right—that they ought to be represented in the legislative councils, which make laws or rules for the government of the church? If not, then the Repository is not full of lies and misrepresentations; and, it does not favor anarchy and division. Some among the most fierce and inveterate opposers of the Repository, do not hesitate to declare that they never read it; and, in one instance, we are told, a local preacher, who brought forward a resolution in a district conference, the purport of which was to condemn the work, was compelled to acknowledge that he had never read it; and it came out pretty plainly that he was put up to the thing for party pur. poses, by a man who had the assurance to say, that the less people knew of church matters the better for them.
Now, it could hardly be expected that 8 or 900 octavo pages could be written, in repeating over and over one or two simple and identical sentences. The main subject has, indeed, been ramified and extended in its details, causes and consequences; facts and circumstances have been brought into consideration; and men and measures have been made to pass in review. Will it be asserted, and can it be proved, that all these have been misrepresented ? In
writing essays, for a periodical work, about the transactions of half a century or more, and the opinions and actions of men scattered over this great republic, mistakes it was foreseen were unavoidable; and, therefore, the pages of the Repository have been kept open for their correction; but, its opponents have assumed that its writers and its editor were liars and deceivers, who set out with a view to propagate falsehoods and misrepresentations; and, of course, but few of them would condescend to disgrace or defile their pens by a contact with its pages. Now, is not this assumption, and all this kind of proceeding, nearly allied to persecution? Certainly the Repository is not infallible, and it never affected to be so; but the writers professed to be honest
Here we may mention a case. The editor published some account of the book concern, in which he stated what he had heard, namely, that the editors received the retail profits of the books sold at retail by themselves, and wrote to a correspondent to ascertain whether this had been the uniform usage. This correspondent replied, and he so published. It came out that one of the former agents did not receive those profits, and it afterwards appeared in evidence that the acting agent did not receive them. Now it happened that three successive agents were all together in an annual conference, and the agent in whose favor the correction was made, declared publicy, that the editor had libelled him! If the taking of these profits was wrong in itself, was not the declaration a libel upon his predecessors, who did take them? But neither the writer nor editor did say that it was wrong; they only stated the case as facts in which this ex-agent is not implicated.
Hitherto a few solitary writers, unknown to each other, under concealed names, have furnished all the original essays upon the great principles of church rights and privileges; in which all have an infinite interest, and yet the editor was left with his scanty subscription list to struggle against prejudice and all opposition, on his own responsibility. At one time he was brought so low as to be compelled to advertise that the work must stop; but by the timely aid of a few generous patrons, and the efforts of one man, he was not only enabled to proceed, but to obtain original matter more than sufficient for each succeeding number. In the annals of printing in this country, there is not perhaps an instance of a periodical work, which from so small beginnings and under so many discouragements, has risen by its own merits
to so great a degree of independence on borrowed matter. The first volume of the Wesleyan Repository, thanks to the enthusiasm of the editor, and the prompt and persevering efforts of a few writers, taught, and must long continue to teach, Methodist preachers and people in these United States, not to despise the day of small things, nor to despair of their own resources when the sacred cause of religious liberty is concerned. Several of the principal writers for the Repository, have determined to stand by the editor and supply him with matter for a third volume.
To the want of such an arrangement may be traced almost all the trifling errors and imperfections of the two first volumes, and the temporary advantages they have given to the opposers of the work. Let the candid reader consider that the Repository has been struggling for life-that its editor has had "fightings without and fears within." Let him bear in mind also that his correspondents were men in business, living remotely from each other; men who could only redeem a few hours from sleep, or labor, to write an essay which they could scarcely find time to transcribe into a legible hand. Love for a good cause, for the best of causes, and sympathy for the editor, and these alone, could have overcome the inconveniencies under which many a line in the Repository has been written. But these John Baptists in the cause of religious liberty, have lived to see those come after them, who were by official station preferred before them. They have wrestled till the break of day, and they hail its beams and exult in them. The three last numbers of vol. 2d, need only to be placed in comparison with the three first of vol. Ist, to prove that we have not run in vain nor labored in vain. The day, we trust, is not distant when the Repository will find patrons and writers enough among travelling preachers to give it an increased celebrity, and add new lustre to the principles it maintains.
Wesleyan Repository, vol. iii. June, 1823, No. ii. page 75. Letters from a Local Preacher to a Travelling Preacher. Letter i, p. 75. Letter ii, p. 92.
Letter ii, p. 92. Letter iii, p. 166. DEAR BROTHER,
I hope you will consider the inscription, and the subscription of these letters, as incidental. The almost in.