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they received them as helpers in the work, or they never should have admitted them.

That they were itinerant preachers in the primitive church, who travelled from place to place preaching the gospel without interfering with the duties of the established pastors, does not admit of much doubt. We may venture to say, that one part of the Methodist economy approached nearer to this primitive practice, than any thing which has taken place in the christian church since the days of the Apostles. I have long been persuaded, that no religious establishment, whether national or otherwise, ever did, or ever will, keep up the original spirit of its institution without an itinerant ministry connected with it. This however is certain, that the Church of England, of which most of the Methodists are members, might have received a vast accession of strength from the labors of the Methodist preachers among the middling and lower orders of the people, had the rulers of that church understood in time, how to have estimated them. At present it is not probable, that either the bishops, or the clergy in general, will know or believe what advantages they might have gained from the labors of the Methodist preachers (if numbers of pious people be an advantage) till their losses have fully convinced them.

Notwithstanding Mr.'Wesley's ordinations, it is manifest that he had no intention or wish, that the great body of the people should separate from the church or change their relative situation to other denominations of Christians in the land. This appears evident from the following paper which he wrote in December, 1789; and from the cxtracts from his last Journal, which I sball subjoin.

"1. From a child I was taught to love and reverence the Scrip ture, the oracles of God: and next to these, to esteem the primitive fathers, the writers of the three first centuries. Next after the primitive church, I esteemed our own, the Church of England, as the most scriptural national church in the world. I therefore, not only assented to all the doctrines, but observed all the rubric in the liturgy: and that with all possible exactness, even at the peril of

“ 2. In this judgment, and with this spirit, I went to America, strongly attached to the Bible, the primitive church, and the Church of England, from which I would not vary in one jot or tittle on any account whatever. In this spirit I returned as regular a clergyman as any in the three kingdoms: till after not being permitted to preach in the churches, I was constrained to preach in the open air.

“3. Here was my first irregularity. And it was not voluntary, but constrained. The second was extemporary prayer. This likewise I believed to be my bounden duty, for the sake of those who desired me to watch over their souls. I could not in conscience refrain from it: peither from accepting those, who desired to serve me as sons in the gospel.

“ 4. When the people joined together, simply to help each other to heaven, increased by hundreds and thousands, still they had no more thought of leaving the Church than of leaving the kingdom. Nay, I continually and earnestly cautioned them against it: re

my life.

minding them, that we were a part of the Church of England, whom God had raised up, not only to save our own souls, but to enliven our neighbors, those of the Church in particular. And at the first meeting of all our preachers in Conference, in June, 1744, I exhorted them to keep to the Church, observing, that this was our peculiar glory, not to form any new sect, but abiding in our own Church, to do to all men all the good we possibly could.

“ 5. But as more Dissenters joined with us, many of whom were much prejudiced against the Church, these, with or without design, were continually infusing their own prejudices into their brethren. I saw this, and gave warning of it from time to time, both in private and in public. And in the year 1758, I resolved to bring the matter to a fair' issue. So I desired the point might be considered at large whether it was expedient for the Methodists to leave the Church? The arguments on both sides were discussed for several days; and at length we agreed, without a dissenting voice, ' It is by no means expedient, that the Methodists should leave the Church of England.'

“6. Nevertheless, the same leaven continued to work in various parts of the kingdom. The grand argument (which in some particular cases must be acknowledged to have weight) was this: . The ininister of the parish wherein we dwell, neither lives nor preaches the gospel. He walks in the way to hell himself, and teaches his flock to do the same. Can you advise thein to attend his preaching?! I cannot advise them to it. What then can they do, on the Lord's day, suppose no other Church be near? Do you advise them to go to a Dissenting meeting? or to meet in their own preaching-house?' Where this is really the case, I cannot blame them if they do. Although therefore I earnestly oppose the general separation of the Methodists from the Church, yet I cannot condemn such a partial separation, in this particular case. I believe to separate thus far from these miserable wretches, who are the scandal of our Church and nation, would be for the honor of our Church, as well as to the glory of God.

7. And this is no way contrary to the profession which I have made above these fifty years. I never had any design of separating from the Church. I have no such design now. I do not believe the Methodists in general design it, when I am no more

I do and will do all that is in my power to prevent such an event. Nevertheless, in spite of all I can do, many of them will separate from it: (although I am apt to think not one half, perhaps not a third of them.) These will be so bold and injudicious as to form a separate party, which consequently will dwindle away into a dry, dull, separate party. In flat opposition to these, I declare once more, that I live and die a member of the Church of England: and that none who regard my judgment or advice will ever separate from it.



Extracts from the late Reverend John Wesley's last Journal.

1785-July 25-Page 9. “Our Conference began at Bristol; about eighty preachers attended. On Tuesday, in the afternoon, we permitted any of the society to be present: and weighed what was said about separating from the Church. But we all determined to continue therein, without one dissenting voice. And I doubt not but this determination will stand, at least till I am removed into a better world.

1786-August 25–Page 21. “I went to Brentford, but had little comfort there. The society is almost dwindled to nothing. What have we gained by separating from the Church here? Is not this a good lesson for others?

1787-January 2—Page 26. “ I went over to Debtford; but, it seemed, I was got into a den of lions. Most of the leading men of the society were mad for separating from the Church. I endeavored to reason with them, but in vain; they had neither sense nor even good manners left. At length, after meeting the whole soci. ety, I told them, 'If you are resolved, you may have your services in Church hours. But remember! from that time you will see my face no more.' This struck deep; and from that hour I have heard no more of separating from the Church. 1787–November 4-Page 85.

“ London: The congregation was as usual, large and serious. But there is no increase in the society. So that we have profited nothing by having our services in Church hours; which some imagined would bave done wonders. I do not know that it has done more good any where in England. In Scotland, I believe it has.

1788–August 4–Page 122. “ London. One of the most important points considered at this Conference was, that of leaving the Church. The sum of a long conversation was, That, in a course of fifty years, we had, neither premediately nor willingly, varied from it in one article, either of doctrine or discipline. 2. That we were not yet conscious of varying from it in any point of doctrine. 3d. That we have, in a course of years, out of necessity, not choice, slowly and warily varied in some points of discipline, by preaching in the fields, by extempore prayer, by employing laya preachers, by forming and regulating societies, and by holding yearly Conferences. But we did none of these things till we were convinced we could no longer omit them but at the peril of our souls.

1789—July 3—Page 162. “Our little Conference began in Dublin, and ended Tuesday the 7th. On this I observe, 1st. I never had between forty and fifty such preachers together in Ireland before: all of them we had reason to hope alive to God, and earnestly devoted to his service. 2d. I never saw such a number of preachers before, so unanimous in all points, particularly as to leaving the Church, which none them had the least thought of. It is no wonder that there has been this year so large an increase of the society.”




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It has already been observed, that the minutes of Conference have been printed every year: but it was not, so far as I can find, till 1765, that the stations of the preachers were inserted in them. And it does not appear, that any regular account of the number of people in the societies through the three kingdoms, was obtained till 1767. From the Minutes of the yearly Conference since these dates, I have been enabled to draw up the following table; showing the increase of the itinerant preachers, and of the members of the Methodist societies, till the last Conference in 1795.

Years. No. of itinerant Preachers, People in the Societies, 1765

92 1767


25,911 1770


29,046 1775


38,150 1780


43,830 1785


52,438 1790


71,568 1795


83,368 This increase of the Methodists, is, I apprehend, much beyond the increase of any other denomination of Christians, which have ever appeared in this or any other country, since the days of the A postles, not immediately supported by the state or civil power. Prudence would direct, that in every large associated body of Christians, the number of people should increase in a greater proportion than the preachers among them: because one man may preach to a congregation of a thousand persons, as well, or better, than if it consisted only of one hundred. But we may observe among the Methodists, that the preachers have increased in a greater proportion than the people. The reason of this is evident enough, to those who have carefully attended to the governing principles of the ruling preachers among them They have been afraid'lest the local preachers should acquire any great degree of inAuence in the societies where they reside; and have increased the number of itinerants, that the local preachers might be thrown into the shade, and be kept as much as possible from preaching in the principal congregations. This, in my opinion, is both unjust, and bad policy. The local preachers are a useful body of people: the work could never have been carried on among the Methodists to the extent it has without them. Nor could the societies at present, be regularly supplied with preaching without their assistance, not to mention, that the itinerants themselves are taken from this body. And if any of the local preachers have superior talents to command a congregation, or to acquire influence by their usefulness, who receives the benefit?. Certainly not the local preachers, whose labor is gratis; but the itinerants. It is indeed evident, that

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if this practice of the itinerants be pushed much further, the head will become too heavy for the body to carry.

Curiosity has led many persons to conjecture, what could be the reasons of the rapid increase of Methodism. No doubt but several circumstances, by which the Methodists have been peculiarly distinguished.from all other denominations of Christians, have had a considerable influence on their increase. Their being of no party, but holding a friendly relation to all: the itinerancy of the preachers: their times of preaching: their class and band meet- . ings, &c. &c. But the artless simplicity, the zeal and integrity, of the preachers at their setting out to travel; and their manner of preaching, have, under the blessing of God, had the most extensive influence on their affairs. They not only preached the grand truths of the gospel, but they brought them home to every man's actual state and condition, however ignorant or wretched. They showed the necessity of repentance to prepare the heart for Christ; the necessity of faith in him to be personally interested in the benefits of his death; and then urge the necessity of going on to purity of heart, and holiness in all manner of conversation. They constantly spoke of these things in this order, and almost in every discourse. The people rapidly emerged out of darkness into light, learned how to judge of their own spiritual state, and of the degrees of christian experience; and by the influence of Divine grace, were happily led on through the different stages of the christian life.

It is not necessary to add much on the general tendency of Methodism. This will appear evident, from what has already been said in this volume. Methodism has had some influence in meliorating the spirit of controversy; it has diffused knowledge, and proinoted industry and good order among the lower classes of the people: it has enlightened the most ignorant, and reformed the most wicked. These effects, through the blessing of God on the labors of the preachers, have been so conspicuous in many parts of the kingdom, that the bitterest enemies of Methodism, have been forced to acknowledge them. It has had a happy influence on the temporal concerns of the Methodists themselves; many, who before were in want, can now afford to contribute liberally for the relief of others. In judging of the tendency of Methodism, we are not to look at the conduct of two or three preachers, or of a few individuals in the societies, but at its general influence on the great body of the people. Thousands and tens of thousands of these, have been ornaments of their christian profession: and have died rejoicing in God their Saviour: many tens of thousands are now running the christian race set before them, endeavoring to be followers of the humble, holy Jesus. The Methodists are not angels, but they are in general what they profess to be, pious Christians, striving to escape the pollutions that are in the world, and to save their own souls. May Methodism be preserved in its original integrity: may what is wrong in the general system, be corrected; and what is praiseworthy be established and improve ed: and may its beneficial influence on the people, extend wider and wider, till, “the whole earth be filled with his glory," who is the Author of 'all our mercies. Amen.

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