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Wesleyan Repository, vol. iij. November, 1823, No. viii. page 296.
“ The Church is in danger!” VERY HIGHLY IMPORTANT.-We have received a letter from a source of intelligence almost equal to official, which, though it is not confidential, yet we are not authorised to publish it; but some items of information are of such vast importance that we lose no time in laying them in substance before our readers for the benefit of all concerned. A sto. ry, the writer says, has been some how gotten up, that those preachers who are in favor of the "conciliation plan," or the suspended resolutions of the General Conference of 1820, are friendly to the plan of reform contained in, or advocated by the Wesleyan Repository. And this the writer thinks, though he believes it to be false, is the greatest hindrance and is likely to prove a final one in the way of the harmony and peace of the travelling preachers who are divided in opinion about the election of presiding elders. Our correspondent sincerely believes, and he has extensive means of information, that nine-tenths of the preachers and people are opposed to the plan of reformation contained in the Repository; and yet, if the church is blown up, scattered and dispersed, as it respects its union, peace, and usefulness; it must be charged upon that mischievous publication, the Repository, and the aforesaid opinion of those who consider the election of presiding elders unconstitutional in regard to those of the opposite way of thinking.
We have carefully and repeatedly read over the Wesleyan Repository, and we know of no other plan of reform in the Repository, but to give the whole of the ministry and the church a representation in the General Conference, or a voice in our ecclesiastical legislature. We do not believe that any writer for the Repository or any of its friends, intend to dictate to the representatives of the Methodist Epis. copal Church what they shall do, or leave undone; they only contend that the church and the local preachers have a right to be represented as well as the members of the annual conferences. Now if the information of our letter writer is to be relied upon, one of two things must follow; either those preachers do not know what the contents of the Wesleyan Repository are, or they will have no fellowship with those of their travelling brethren who are friendly to church representation. But the story, which is gotten up, pretty plainly indicates that those who propagate it and believe it, are ignorant of the contents of the Repository; and that our correspondent has taken more of his information through his ears than his eyes. It is only necessary for us to refer to the article contained in the second volume, entitled
Warring in a triangle," to show how free we are of any participation in this dangerous crisis to the final peace and harmony of travelling preachers. We there express our belief that the two parties were so wide that they would not unite even to crush us, though we did not suppose that either of them had any very good liking for us.
It is true that the Repository has always advocated the cause of the election of the presiding elders; but, it by no means follows that this regard to the liberty of others has been reciprocated, or that we really expected it. On the contrary we have deplored the fact, that not a few were only mindful of their own rights. Did the men who got up this story know that the principal writer who has entered the list against the Repository was one of the champions who contended in General Conference for the election of presiding elders ? Did they know that this mischievous publication contained a series of letters from Nicholas Snethen, advising the friends of representation, &c. not to send agents to the General Conference of 1824, in order that they might remain unbiassed, &c. The presumption still is, we think, that the fears of our writer will be realized so far that the opposers of the conciliation or suspended resolutions will not unite with its friends; but the cause will not be in the Wesleyan Repository; but ignorance of its contents. We have been grieved exceedingly to be obliged again and again to correct the misapprehensions even of those who have professed to read this mischievous publication, as it is called.
We now take it upon ourselves in the name of the edi. tor and all the writers and friends of the Repository to address travelling preachers upon the momentous subject of their own union.
Dear brethren, you disputed, you divided among yourselves without our instigation or privity. We came forward to advocate and defend our own rights and privileges according to the maxim, he who wont help himself shall have help from nobody. It came in our way, it fell in with our views, to take part in favor of the election of presiding el
ders; but we made no bargain—we asked no favors for so doing; and some who supported this question volunteered their service and employed their tongues and pens to put the Wesleyan Repository down, or to destroy it in its infancy. As we courted neither party, so have we not indentified ourselves with either party: we have spoken of you both on all occasions as an independent or a third party would speak We have seen no reason, nor do we now see any, why a preacher may not oppose the suspended resolutions and yet be in favor of the suffrage of the church. The presiding elders are executive officers and the representatives might perhaps see cause to leave their appointment in the present hands, or modify it, or place it under some arrangement entirely new, or abolish the office.
Now, brethren, unite and agree among yourselves if you can; but in the name of mercy and truth spare us the blame of the beginning or the continuance of your divisions. We are innocent of this thing. We sowed not those seeds of discord among you.
We have separated no chief friends. If you who are opposed to the conciliation will acknow. ledge no travelling preacher as a brother who espouses the cause of church representation, and if there be any who are disposed to make their peace with you by sacrificing the cause of the church, we say let him do so; and we believe that all the friends of the Repository, if it were put to vote would empower its editor to give him a certificate certifying his discharge in full of all obligations to us. O, if there be an American, native or naturalized, who can impose such monstrous conditions or comply with them, we will wash our hands in innocency.
N. B. The danger is, that nine-tenths of the members of the church and the preachers shall be blown,up, scattered and dispersed by the other tenth; and, that this blow-up, &c., is to be effected by a mischievous book which maintains that the best plan of reform is to make no laws or rules without the consent of the majority of the whole of the ministry and membership of the church.
Wesleyan Repository, vol. iii. November, 1823, No. viji. page 315.
All the divisions, in opinion, or in fact, among us, of a serious nature, have been as you know, some way connected with the measures or movements of our bishops. Thus the projected council of Mr. A. was not one of the least causes of the division in Virginia, and which proved so disastrous to our interests in that favored region. And at this moment all the travelling preachers and no inconsiderable number of local preachers and members are divided into two great parties, under their episcopal leaders, and might not inaptly be called McKendreeans and Georgians; but, in all these instances, the church has been only the tail. These are most important items in our history. The itinerant superintendancy, the soul and life, as it is supposed to be, of our cause; that intended centre and bound of our union, has become the source and fountain head of our dangers. I do not say that these results were intentional. Certainly they were not. But how stand the facts; the council project shook public confidence; and loss of confidence is the avenue to supicion and division. Mr. George, no doubt, rejoiced exceedingly at the effects of this meditation, as well he might. It was indeed a moment of infinite interest; but this transient feeling of delight served only to make the heart more exquisitely sensible and susceptible of the shock which was soon to follow. Mr. McKendree's measures convulsed the whole conference; wrought up party feeling almost to frenzy, and, as a correspondent expresses the present state of the connexion, "agitated all the widely extended circles of Methodism.”
From the suspension of the conciliatory resolutions, I date the commencement of the downfall of our bishops' power.
In several particulars it has been asserted by competent judges, that our system is nearly allied to, if not identical with, Popery. Amongst these, the following deserve a particular notice :- 1st. The popish clergy make laws for the laity without their consent.--So do the travelling preachers for the Methodist Episcopal Church. 2. The pastoral functions are all derived from the bishops, without whose au
thority or consent no flock can have a pastor.-So our travelling preachers and congregations depend upon our bishops, who have the sole power of all appointments. 3dly, The right of presentation to livings, which is sometimes in the bishops, or the governments, or the lay patrons, is wholly in our bishops. 4th. The generals or heads of the orders of friars or travelling monks, can send them where they please—so our bishops can send travelling preachers. Here let me observe once for all, that if it offend you to call these powers papal, you may name them yourself. I only assert that they existed in the Catholic church before the reformation, and exist there still; and that in every place where they have been in operation, and the spirit of religious liberty has put forth its energies, they have been opposed. This is the point in church history, to which I am anxious to call your attention. What has liberty done or always aimed to do with these high powers ? Curb and control them. The spirit of liberty has ever been found to be inimical to such powers and prerogatives as are exercised by our General Conference and bishops. Shall I be told that in this free country these powers have existed among free men for forty years ? Were, then, those points of resemblance, though so plain, unperceived all this while ?
Have travelling preachers any other alternative but to stand impeached of ignorance or of design? Humbling, as an acknowledgment of the former may be, will it not be preferred to a confession of knowingly and wilfully restoring powers which have ever been held obnoxious by the friends of liberty, and to suppress which, innumerable lives have been sacrificed? But the plea of ignorance, though it may extenuate the guilt of the past, cannot apologise for the future. Names alter not the nature of things. The shifting of a mass of matter into different hands, has no effect upon its gravity. The principles of power are not to be estimated by the professions of the men who hold them, but by their own intrinsic nature and tendency.
All the reformers and dissenters opposed the powers which are now in the hands of travelling preachers and bishops. And the measures pursued at the last General Conference have opened the eyes of many, and will open the eyes of many more, who never before thought sufficiently to examine for themselves.
It will become more and more evident to every reflecting mind, that we must change our ground, or renounce ali