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dissatisfied, say they, the only liberty or remedy he has, is to withdraw, &c. It is not lawful to call brethren by hard names, but there is one part of their conduct calculated to render the mind a little querulous. If they admit the right of expatriation, ought they not also to admit that it is equally right, to seek citizenship elsewhere, and not to indulge quite so liberally in their censures of those preachers, and people who join other churches ? But it ought to be well understood that the Methodist Episcopal church in this country is not a society within any other church, and the principle ought never to be lost sight of, or abandoned, that it is an independent church, and that if it has not certain rights and privileges, it is entitled to them; for, the right upon which it became a church, originates and secures to it, the means of obtaining all others. There was a time when all the rights and privileges now enjoyed in the Methodist Episcopal church, did not exist in it
, nor were they gained without opposition. Names dignified with office, appeared as usual to vindicate primitive Methodism, and to oppose innovation. Plans were laid, arguments were used, and the alarm bell ("the travelling plan is in danger") was rung; but none of these things moved the champions of church rights from their just purpose. Do not the venerable lead. ers of the boundless prerogative plan remember, when by an act of a conference, not a general one, the name of John Wesley, as first bishop, was struck off the minutes; and when the next highest bishop on the list attempted to rebuke the conference for so doing, the preachers and people frowned him into silence? Do they not recollect when the exclusive power of trying members was deemed so necessary to the travelling plan, that a vindication of this part of the prerogative of itinerancy was written by the bishop in the commentary on the book of discipline; but the General Conference judged otherwise, conceiving that the travelling plan would do better without this power, than with it; and accordingly gave it to the members of the church? From the year 1785 to 1792, there was no General Conference; strong objections were made to one. A council was then thought to be more favorable to the travelling plan. 'May be the council was chosen by the bishop; be this as it may, nothing short of a General Conference would satisfy the preachers, and the council had to go to the wall, yet not so itinerancy, all the predictions to the contrary notwithstanding. Predictions which have been often falsi. fied, ought to lose their credit.
It is consoling to reflect, that what have been deemed innovations, have favored the liberties of the church. If the opinions of certain men had prevailed, preachers, and members who conceived that their rights and their privileges were withheld, or violated, might have quietly withdrawn, and left the bishops and council, and an indefinite number of Annual Conferences, to cut the knots they could not untie; and the members of the church would have remained to this day at the mercy of the travelling preachers. Although the efforts of those who have maintained the long and ardent struggle have not been crowned with complete success, yet have their labors been not in vain. They have maintained a powerful minority in the General Conference, and it is to be hoped that their example will finally operate upon the preachers who are dispersed through the wilderness of the west and the south. Could any thing but the insulated condition of those men, their want of social intercourse, and those views and feelings, which can only be produced by a collision of ideas, have kept them so long from claiming the rights of an independent church, instead of cherishing self complacency in acting the humble part of mere subserviency to executive will? Will they not recover from the bewildering effects of power, and free themselves from ignoble prejudice? A moment's reflection must open their eyes to see, and their minds to perceive, what a solemn farce the General Conference would have become, if the northern preachers, like themselves, had ieft it quietly in possession of presiding elders, favorable to the power of bishops. A legislative and judicial body composed of a majority of officers of executive appointment and under executive patronage? Such a conference ought to have its right name. It is a bishop's conference. The council was not more exceptionable than a conference of executive men of the appointment of bishops. The trial of bishops by a council, might be as impartial as before a hundred men, sixty or seve enty of whom might be his servants, and the rest, men who have never thought upon church matters without such prompters. A council too, as well as such a General Con. ference, might expel a bishop for improper conduct, if it should judge it necessary, provided he was made amenable to it for his conduct. And we may be sure that when a man's own dependents judge it necessary to expel him he will deserve to be expelled. It is impossible but that if the southern and western preachers will consider the case, they must be convinced that either the presiding elders should become accountable to the Annual Conferences, or that a rule should be made to prevent them from becoming members of the General Conference. What liberty can there be, either in church or state, if the legislative, executive, and judicial power, is in the hands of the same men? What should we think of an American, who should wish to vote for a man holding an office of executive appointment for his representative? What should we think of a Congress composed of a majority of members under executive patronage? This writer does not hesitate to declare, that in such an event, he should view the liberties of his country on the same level with the liberties of the Methodist Episcopal church, with a General Conference, depending on the will of the bishops. In either case all but the name of liberty would be lost. How wonderful, how alarming, is this blindness and presumption in the minds of good men. Do they suppose they can reverse the immutable decree,“no man can serve two masters?” Dare they to trust themselves upon the giddy heights and slippery precipices of power, with the bones and mangled limbs of myriads of victims of
the same temerity before them? Are not the leaves of the Holy Bible and of profane history, written within and on the backside with the admonition, bewure of power ? If, in their eagerness to grasp at power, they cannot suspect their own wisdom and integrity, how is it, that they cannot at least reflect upon the sudden changes to which all men and all things are liable that depend on the human will; "New lords and new laws,” says the proverb, and even during the life-time of the old lords, "The times may change, and they may change with them." The power of the presiding elders, enormous as it is, and enviable as it may seem, is not well calculated to flatter the minds of thoughtful men. A short year may displace an officer, who holds the most potent office, at the will of another. It might gratify curiosity to know, whether in the answer to the question; "To whom shall the bishop be amenable for his conduct?” the words "to expel him if they judge it necessary," were added by accident, or by anticipation; but however they came to be inserted it happens most opportunely for a court of executors that it is left with their own judgment whether they shall be a court of executioners or not. How strange it is that such a clamor should be raised about responsibility to the General Conference. Surely there could be no danger of a conference composed of a majority of presiding elders (chosen in the manner proposed by the plan of conciliation) judging that a bishop had been guilty of improper conduct in nominating three elders, much less of its judging it necessary to expel him for it. But in fact, this seemingly insignificant concession, touched the prerogative in the apple of its eye. Every thing else had only brushed the hem of its garment, or occasionally put it to temporary inconveniece. The crisis has at length arrived. From henceforth the whole secret of this mysterious policy will be unveiled; every eye will see it; and every artifice to explain it away, will only serve to make it seven-fold more evident. May it not be presumed, that the friends of just principles of church government, have experienced their last defeat, and that their opponents will be no longer able to maintain their ground? At the end of two years will they not be confounded, if they are not convinced-and make some atonement for past errors, by their promptness to correct them; Will not amazement seize upon
the Annual Conferences when they come to consider the manner in which they have thrown away
their suffrages, a privilege next in importance to the Gospel itself? When the true spirit of American legislation shall arise in the majesty of its strength, and demand for the Methodist Episcopal church an independent legislature. Then will the government of the church repose upon the immoveable basis of a just division, and eternal distinction between executive, legislative, and judicial powers; then will the Methodist Episcopal church take her station among her sister churches in this free and happy land. The finger of scorn shall no longer be pointed at her. She shall no more be a by-word, and a reproach. Her friends will not blush to own her name. The zeal of her sons shall carry the gospel in one hand, and the principles of rational religious liberty in the other. The book of discipline will then become a fit companion for the bible, and the name of episcopacy will no longer frighten thousands from embracing Methodist doctrines.
The experience of all ages and countries proves that the science of government, though the first in importance to mankind, is the most difficult to be learned, and to be reduced to practice. Although the giving of the civil magistrate power to interfere in matters of conscience by uniting the church to the state, has justly met with infinite opposition in our country, it is not to be presumed that the principles of civil and religious liberty are no wise analogous. For, although the wants of civil and religious society may differ in form and detail, and may require different applications; yet the rights and privileges of both may be vindicated upon the same principles. Whatever may be the mode of government, the principles of freedom are fixed and eternal, and are entitled to consideration independent on the characters of rulers. It may be in some cases in the power of genius, guided by virtue, to give a temporary and limited control to erroneous principles; but no human art or effort, can prevent the effect they ever tend to produce; the ultimate ruin will be as inevitable as fate. An absolute or unlimited form of government may be traced to the authority of a father in his own family. The patriarch becomes the head of the tribe, and if circumstances require him to exercise it in arms, he loses none of his domestic authority in the camp, or in the field. The Emperor, the King, the High Priest, &c. cannot have more power than a father in his own family. Whoever succeeds to this kind of power, or rather usurps.it in a church or a state, needs no other to become the most desperate of tyrants. Fathers anciently, according to the testimony of history, exercised the power of excommunication, and of life and death over their children. If there could have been any true legal successor to the power of the primogenitor of the race, or the nation, his right to govern them absolutely would have been indisputable. It is in vain to contend for civil or religious liberty, unless it can be first demonstrated that the very doctrine of succession to patriarchal or paternal authority is wrong:-is contrary to nature. Parental affections are not transferable—no man can succeed to the feelings of a father. The absolute power of a parent can only be qualified by parental feeling. The cruelty of "step dames” has been proverbial in all times. Would it offend against the truth, to call those who arrogate to themselves the paternal attributes of government, political or ecclesiastical "stepfathers." Every matter of fact evidence, every argument aposteriori, goes to demonstrate that paternal power, as soon as it ceases to be qualified by parental affection, begins to degenerate into tyranny, and therefore ought not to be perpetuated beyond the life of the real father himself: "The government of China bears a strong resemblance to what has been called the patriarchal form, from whence it is supposed to have been originated. The emperor pos