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Here we will read to you the 3d chapter of the epistle to the Ephesians.*
How is it possible to set the privileges of all christians in a stronger point of light. Again, in the fourth chapter, as far as the 16th verse ; we will read the whole passage. But to put this mutual and reciprocal relation of all believers, beyond all doubt and contradiction, we will also read the whole of the 12th chapter of 1st Corinthians. Is it not evident to you, that all the diversities of gifts, all the differences of administration, all the diversities of operations, are not only in the same body, the body of Christ, of which we are members; but that the agents and operators themselves belong to this body as members, and not as heads. All the offices, from that of the apostles down, are set in the church, and they are all ministerial. Not one among them is sovereign. But to make laws for men, or for christians without their representatives, is the highest possible act of sovereignty. I know, my brethren, it has been argued that the travelling preachers are indirectly the representatives of the church. But in point of fact and form, the General Conference is placed at a distance, the most remote from the church. All the members of the annual conferences must serve a probation of two years, and undergo three elections of itinerant preachers, and then they elect one seventh part of their own number, to compose a General Conference, together with their presiding bishop, chosen by themselves for life. How church legislators can be more independent of the church, or less accountable to the people, we cannot conceive. If this law making office is min. isterial, in relation to the members of the church, then we do not understand the meaning of the word ministerial, and we are no less ignorant of the word sovereign. Do the men who are born, as they believe, to govern those who exist under the political and religious establishment of the eastern “Casts” make a much greater distinction between the rulers and the ruled, than our travelling preachers do, between the rule makers and those for whom the rules are made ? Have they not placed a gulph between them, which it is thought almost as impious and presumptuous to attempt to pass, as that between the rich man and Lazarus?
As friends of reform, or advocates for the right of repre
*Here we necessarily lose much of the fine comment made at the time of delivering the discourse.
sentation in the church, we have been accused of ambition. The most serious charges of this kind have been urged against your speaker. Some have said, that he aspires after the highest offices. How little, my brethren, do these men know of my views of the dignity of the christian calling? How little do they understand the value I attach to the relation I hold to my Redeemer as a member of his body, &c. How insignificant is the title of bishop, or arch-bishop, in my estimation, when compared with that of king and priest unto God ? My brethren, I am not conscious of any higher ambition than this. The greatest dignity and distinction I can conceive of, I have in common with you and with all believers. Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Head, hath loved us, and washed us from our sins, in his own blood, and made us kings and priests unto God and his Father.
And now brethren, I declare to you, that there is no one action of my life, upon which I have reflected more deliberately, than the taking a part in this convention, and there is no one among them, within my recollection, of which I find a more conscientious approval in my own breast. That I am acting up to my privilege and my duty, and not beyond them, I have no doubt. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ; as a christian, not to say a minister, I am fully persuaded in my own mind, that I have a right to be present personally, or by my representative, in the law making department of the church, of which I am a member.
The office of a representative, in a legislative body is strictly ministerial. The man that is sent is not greater than the sender. While the church is legislated for without its representatives, to say the least of it, it is in its nonage, and is under tutors and governors. The danger of this state of things can no more be concealed, than the humiliation. We look in vain among absolute legislators for those sym• pathies and fellow feelings, so finely described in the 12th of 1st Corinthians. The whole history of this monopoly goes to prove, that when men make laws for themselves and others, if their own interests and the interests of those for whom they legislate come in collision, the former prevails over the latter. God knows, and every body knows, how much misery and calamity have been entailed on the church and the world, by the exclusive legislation of priests ; and while human nature continues true to itself, we have no reason to expect that it will be otherwise. Concerning the operations and the effects of the power of our own General Conference, we could say much; but lest we might, by the strength of our excitements, be-tempted to speak unadvisedly with our lips, we have habitually restrained our feelings, and we restrain them now. We know, that government is necessary to the peace and well being of every community; and happy will it be for those who administer the govornment of any church, if when the master shall come to call them to account, they shall be found in the capacity of servants, and not of lords of God's heritage.
Mutual Rights, vol. iii. March, 1827, pp. 181, 184, 186, 239.
Our old side men conceive, that an opposition to representation gives them a title to all that is primitive and Wes. leyan in Methodism. And I feel persuaded in my mind, that if Mr. Wesley were now living in the United States, in the existing state of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he would have no objection to the extension of the principle of representation to the members of the church. Mr. Wesley has left behind him the most abundant evidence, that he was governed by circumstances; or in other words, that he suffered himself to be instructed by unforseen events. Lay preachers, and itinerancy, and class meetings, and ordinations for America, were predicated on unforseen events. The present state of the Methodist Episcopal Church was not forseen, -not anticipated by him. He opposed suffrage and representation in the members of his society, it is true ; but how could he have done otherwise and been consistent with himself, unless he had granted them to the preachers also ? While he put nothing to vote among the preachers in the conferences, it was not to be expected that the private members should be permitted to vote. Mr. Wesley blamed his general superintendents, for allowing the American preachers to vote. And it is due to Mr. Asbury to acknowledge, that though he was the first to offend, and thus procured his own election, he did all he could, to render the practice null and void. The council-plan will forever remain a proof of this. But finding that nothing short of the right of suffrage and representation, would satisfy the preachers, he granted the principle and yielded to its operation, as far as it regarded them. Before these events, Mr. Wesley's name had disappeared from the American minutes, and he was no longer numbered among the living.
I was ignorant of Mr. Asbury's sentiments, about a representative General Conference, when I broached the subject to him. We discussed the subject between ourselves, and it was agreed, that I should support it in the General Conference. The motion, however, was lost by a large majority; and when it was carried, (1808,) I was no longer a member of the General Conference. I will not take upon me to say, that Mr. Asbury had not the plan in his own mind, when I first made known to him my thoughts on the subject. It is enough to know, that it was not his first plan, to have any General Conference. The same may be said, of the manner of trying members; it was not Mr. Wesley's; it was not his American superintendants'; it did not obtain in the General Conferences of 1792 nor 1796.
Mr. Wesley innovated in principle, and practice; so did his general superintendants, in this country; and so have the General Conferences. It is of no consequence, to say, that Mr. Wesley never granted lay representation; for he did not allow the itinerant preachers a suffrage, in the choice of men or measures. The question is, if he had granted the principle to itinerant preachers, would he have restricted it to them, to the exclusion of the local preachers and the laity? I think he would not, for the same reason that he granted it to neither. Moreover, it is well known, that, the . refusal of the right of suffrage to the preachers and members by Mr. Wesley, as well as many other peculiarities in his economy, was predicated on his and their relation to the church of England; the national church, of which the king was the head. But in the present entire state of independence of the Methodist Episcopal Church, none of Mr. Wesley's fears of separation, &c. can have any place.
Now it is evident, to my mind, from the manner of speaking and writing, among old side men, that they seem not to be aware of the fact, that the General Conference itself, has conceded and sanctioned the principle of representation ; and that they cannot refuse it to the church, now, on any other ground than that of mere arbitrary power. So little do they reflect on this matter, that they do not suspect it to be incumbent on them, to produce Mr. Wesley's authority for the present organization of the General Conference, be
fore they can make it purely and exclusively Wesleyan. If the itinerant preachers in this country, had asked Mr. Wesley to grant them the right of suffrage and representation, he might have answered, that it would introduce new principles into Methodism. Did they ask, did they petition even the father of Methodism himself? They did not; and, so far from it, when he sent them another superintendant, they not only rejected him, but in an uncerimonious manner, dispensed with the old patriarch's name itself. We should have high times, if new side men, should do with the names of the present bishops, as the itinerant preachers once did with the name of John Wesley, A. M. There is a story, in the bible, of ancestors, who slew the prophets, and their successors who garnished their sepulchres. Is there any resemblance between that case and the eulogies of the venerable name, by the men, who are reaping the precious fruits of the acts of those who procured its erasure from the American minutes? When American itinerant preachers desired to vote, they did not send all the way to England 10 obtain leave. Well, what reason do they give why laymen should not vote with them? Why forsooth, dear, good old Mr. Wesley was not willing that laymen should vote. Ah! but he was not willing that itinerant preachers should vote, and yet they did vote themselves independent of him, and continue to this day to vote independent of every body else.
Old side brethren seem to feel the greatest self-complacency, in supposing that they are for all the world like Mr. Wesley. But suppose that new side men should attempt to imitate the actions of Mr. Wesley in some striking points. Why may not they, as well as Mr. Wesley, preach out of doors, if they are shut out of the churches ? Why may they not like him, too, build houses, raise congregations, have stationed and itinerant preachers, make collections, and even ordain, &c.? Will the mere accidental circumstance, that their object is representation, destroy all resemblance between his conduct and theirs ? When Mr. Wesley found, that a lawful thing was expedient, he would not refuse to do it. May not good examples be followed ? Is it not both lawful and expedient, to save even "a few local preachers and laymen? St. Paul seemed to think so, when he became all things to all men. When Mr. Wesley refused to let his preachers and members vote, he said he did them no wrong as they held their old church relation. But this is not true