« PreviousContinue »
tianity, simply by the study of the Scriptures. He had, I think as early as 1819, published in Calcutta, The Precepts of Jesus the Guide to Peace and Happiness, extracted from the books of the New Testament.' This he had thought the most effectual means he could employ to call the attention of his countrymen to the religion of Jesus. Yet, instead of being hailed as a coadjutor in the cause of missionaries, he was considered and treated by them as a heathen opposer to their cause. did our religion manifest itself to him in an essentially more attractive form, in the general character of the other English residents in Calcutta. Yet, in reply to his opposers, he had published three successive Appeals in Defence of the Precepts of Jesus.'
Under the most unfavourable circumstances, he had continued to believe, and to live, as a Christian. Now, however, he was in the bosom of Christendom. He was surrounded with Christian institutions. He was in the very midst of that people, to whose zeal to Christianize India he was indebted for his very knowledge of the Christian Scriptures. He had come to England, indeed, as the ambassador of the King of Delhi; but I was quite sure that one of the highest objects of interest to his mind would be, a comparison of Christians, as he would see them there, with their religion. I very soon led our conversation to this topic. He said that he found society there, to a great extent, to consist of two classes. First, of those so bigotedly attached to the distinctive peculiarities of their faith, or forms of worship, that they were not only wholly indisposed to look beyond them, but that they could not conceive of any religion, or could not admit that there was any, without the bounds of their own faith, or of their own forms. And, secondly, of those who knew little of Christianity, and cared less for it as a divine dispensation; many of whom were yet scarcely less solicitous than the most bigoted believers to uphold the church-exclusively, however, as a part of the enginery of government. Of religion itself, and of Christianity, he spoke with great sensibility, with strong emotions of reverence, and with great natural eloquence. I think I have never seen stronger indications of religious feeling in any one. He spoke of man, unaffected by religion as a personal concern, as an animal far more dangerous than wild beasts, and as sinking himself lower than the brutes; and he said he should much prefer at once to bury his son, than to have him grow up and live without a just sense of his relation to his Heavenly Father, and of the interest and character which are proper to man as a subject of the moral government of God. It is quite impossible to give you a conception of the manner in which he spoke upon these subjects; of the uncharitableness of certain classes of Christians towards each other; of the indifference to their religion among many who call themselves, and are called, Christians; and of the unchristian principles and lives of professed believers. In this first interview which I had with him, no distinct expression was given, I think, of his own views of any particular doctrine of our religion. My object was attained in the clear and full judgment which he expressed of the religious and moral state of society around him. This was to me greatly interesting and deeply affecting, as the judgment of a most intelligent and impartial observer. It was, too, the judgment of an observer, who, having been converted from heathenism to Christianity-having first opened his eyes to the light of Christian truth, holiness, and love, in the full maturity of all
his power-and having received the religion of Jesus, not through the medium of any uninspired teacher's mind, but directly and exclusively from the New Testament, seemed to me qualified to give a fairer and a more unprejudiced estimate of what we call Christian society, than is least ordinarily to be looked for from those who have been educated from their infancy under Christian institutions. He seemed to me to look at Christendom with the eyes and the sensibilities of an apostle. I can only say, had you heard, as I heard him, in tones the most touching, and alternately of admiration and grief, now deploring the unchristian temper, interests, principles, and lives of Christians, and now giving full expression to his own sensibilities with regard to the interests and claims of the Gospel, you would have left him with the feeling that you had been with one who had himself been with Jesus.
(To be Continued.)
THE extraordinary movement amongst that extensive religious communion, the Methodists, has assumed a character interesting not merely to those connected with the society, but to all classes of the community. It manifests the regular workings of human society, and is well calculated to afford instruction. Painful as it is to see discord shedding her baneful influences and disrupturing the ties of religious friendship and communion, it is still instructive to trace her in her progress, and gratifying to witness her power exerted, when she is the only auxiliary by whose means subject multitudes may be rescued from an enthralling bondage. The spirit of peace is the spirit of Christianity. But peace consists not in a tame surrender of our privileges to those who have the temerity to wrest them from us. The lover of peace is he who would entirely eradicate the principles which tend to generate discord; and it is frequently his imperative duty strenuously to exert himself in opposition to those arbitrary principles which have uniformly been the producers of discord in society. And yet, he who raises his voice or his hand against established usurpations is immediately railed against as the disturber of peace, the introducer of discord, and the adversary of the Gospel of his Saviour. Yet, in reality, these characteristics are much more applicable to the opposite party, who, by their tenacious adherence to established abuses, carefully preserve the seeds of discord, which are certain, sooner or later, to germinate and yield a full crop of their deleterious fruits. The same parties too, lovers of peace and harmony,' are by no means sparing of efforts, illiberal censures, abuse, when exposing the supposed corruptions and abuses of older institutions. This ardent affection for tameness and submission is a new-born zeal, springing up only when their own corruptions are attacked, and carefully suppressed when the errors of others are assailed. Who, for instance, would imagine that so much meekness, so great a dread of injuring the feelings of others, and of preserving harmony and good-will, resided in the breasts of the Conference preachers, when descanting on the abominations of Popery, or the God-denying and blasphemous Socinian, as has recently displayed itself when a portion of the scarlet robe was suspected to be in their own possession.
In respect to the present dispute among the Methodists, it is a great mistake to suppose that it originates in the question of a Theological Institution. The introduction of this question was only the occasion of the breaking forth of a spirit which had long brooded in silent indignation. The principal grounds of disaffection in the Methodist body are the assumption of irresponsible power on the part of the Conference, and the exclusive character of that body. By these the power of regulating their own affairs is taken completely from the people and vested in the clergy.
In the most recent case, for instance, Dr. Warren, the great leader of the movement party, was himself an advocate for the Theological Institution, until he discovered that it was disliked by the body of the people for whose benefit it was intended, and by whose contributions it was to be supported. Then, finding the Conference party determined to carry their point, in opposition to the will of their subjects, he boldly and manfully opposed the project of a college. His feelings on this subject will be perceived by the following extract:
'It ought to be universally known, that the objections on the part of Dr. Warren, and the principal persons acting with him, are not so much against the employment of means to secure to pious and promising young men increased capabilities of usefulness, as against a separate establishment used by a dominant party to increase its own power, by admitting and recommending only such ministers and missionaries as might be moulded according to its views, and imbued with its spirit, and who would therefore assist in the more entire subversion of the liberties of the community. Till Dr. Warren saw, or thought he saw, this to be the design, he voted for the institution, and even for the appointment of Dr. Bunting as its president. But when that conviction flashed upon his mind, then, and not till then, did he stand forward as its opposer. Convinced, too, after what he had seen, that there was no alternative between an institution which should be thus subservient to party purposes, and no institution at all, he set himself to show that it was not essential to the prosperity of the body; and that some at least of the proposed advantages, might be secured without it."*
Mr. Greenhalch, of Manchester, who was expelled from the Methodist body, on account of his opposition to the Theological Institution,
We protest against it as a serious innovation on Wesleyan Methodism; tending entirely to subvert its original intention and design, and investing its officers, and particularly its president, the Rev. Jabez Bunting, with an amount of power and authority dangerous to the peace and prosperity of the Connexion. These and such like are the reasons for our opposition to this bold and reckless measure, a measure which we believe has been concocted and carried for party purposes; and which, unless we conscientiously and fearlessly do our duty, as Christians and Methodists, will ruin a system to which we are sacredly attached, and which we were fondly hoping, and ardently praying, would be transmitted in its native simplicity, and majesty, and power, to our children and children's children, until all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'+
The following extracts will show the encroaching spirit of the Conference, and the grounds of complaint amongst the people :
'For several years past, many of your Leaders have watched, with anxious and foreboding feelings, the proceedings of a ruling party in the Conference, perceiving in their conduct an evident intention to depart from that simplicity which was formerly the chief glory of Methodism, and the means, under God, of its rapid increase. The arbitrary attempts at Leeds, in the year 1827, to introduce an alteration in the mode of public worship in direct opposition to the wishes of the people, as expressed by their representatives, the Leaders, formed the first open demonstration of the determined intention of this party to carry into effect their views, in defiance of the laws of Methodism, and at any sacrifice of the numbers and peace of the Society. The lamentable consequences which ensued, the unhallowed feelings excited, and the secession from our body of many most valuable and useful officers and members,-must be fresh in the recollection of you all.
* T. Allin's Letters to the Rev. John Maclean, p. 8. Note.
Recent occurrences have shown that the disposition to treat with contempt the established laws of Methodism, to change its principles of government, and to establish in their place a tame submission to the despotic will of a few, is more active than ever. The resolution of the last Conference to establish a College, or Theological Institution, which would inevitably alter the whole character of our ministry, without deigning to consult the people through their recognised organs, the Leaders, as required by the rules of 1797, and the illegal suspension of Dr. Warren for nobly daring to advocate the cause of the people, prove demonstratively, that the encroachments on our rights are advancing with an accelerated pace, and if not immediately and successfully counteracted, threaten speedily to destroy our remaining privileges, if not to cause our dissolution as a religious community. When we add to these things the want of that pastoral care and attention on the part of our preachers to the Society generally which the Scripture enjoins, and the suspicious jealousy with which every person advocating liberal sentiments is regarded, we cannot help feeling strongly that the time for action is fully come.'
We therefore require from the Conference,
1st. A revision of the rules of 1795 and 1797, to divest them, as much as possible, of all ambiguity and doubt as to their meaning with respect to the rights both of Preachers and people.
2nd. To obtain from the Conference their [its] consent to open all its sittings to the public, under the following restrictions:-first, that the people shall sit apart from the Preachers, and not be entitled to vote; and secondly, that each Travelling Preacher in full connexion be allowed to admit, by ticket, one person to each sitting of the Conference, excepting only when the characters of the Preachers are under examination, (!!) and when the Members of the Legalized Fund are transacting their own peculiar business."
The parties issuing the above also published an Address' in the form of a pamphlet; and then a 'Second Affectionate Address,' in which these things are more distinctly indicated. The Conference and the people having been at variance, A Plan of Pacification' was agreed on between the parties in the year 1795. This plan having failed, about 200 Trustees, delegates from all parts of the kingdom, assembled at Leeds during the sittings of the Conference, in the year 1797.
On this occasion, further important stipulations were conceded, touching financial and all other temporal matters, the admission and expulsion of Leaders, Stewards, Local Preachers, &c.'
These concessions provided for the publication and circulation amongst the members, of an account of various transactions.
The Plan of Pacification and these concessions have been not inapt'y termed the Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights of the Methodist Connexion. This solemn treaty was signed by 150 Preachers, at Leeds, August 1st, 1797.†
The introduction of an organ into the chapel at Leeds against the wish of the people, was considered an infringement of these concessions, and gave rise to a division, and the establishment of a distinct body under the appellation of the Protestant Methodists. I have lately been informed by a member in the Burnley district, that the Old Methodist Societies in that district contain 800 members, and that the Protestant Methodists have between 500 and 600. In other parts of the country similar progress has been made. The following account will display the arbitrary power of the Conference and the feelings of the disaffected portion of their subjects.
Before Brunswick Chapel was erected in Leeds, a pledge had been given by the superintendent and others to the subscribers, that neither an organ nor the Church service should be introduced into that chapel: with this pledge the subscribers were satisfied.
After the chapel was opened, two individuals commenced an active canvass among the scatholders, and got up a petition to the trustees, praying them to erect an organ. A
* Address of the United Methodist Association to the Societies at large. Published on a sheet at Liverpool, 1834, paragraphs 2, 3, 6, and 7.
+ Second Affectionate Address of the United Wesleyan Methodist Association, Manchester, 1834, p. 5.
+ Second Affectionate Address, p. 6.
meeting was called, when the subject was considered, and there was a majority of two in favour of it. Many of the trustees neglected to attend, (which they deeply regretted afterwards,) as it was supposed, if they had been at the meeting, there would have been a large majority against the organ.
Mr. Stanley, the superintendent, brought the case before a numerous leaders' meeting, on the 13th October, 1826, and the proposal was negatived by a large majority. A petition against the introduction of an organ, was signed by sixty local preachers, and sent to the meeting.
The trustees afterwards applied to the regular district meeting of preachers, for permission to erect the organ, and their application was negatived-there being 13 against it and 7 for it. The society now expected that all dissensions would cease; this was, however, not the fact; although, from the following rule, it might have been expected to be so:-In the Minutes of Conference, 1820, p. 66, on the subject of organs, it is stated-" but every application for such consent shall be made at the district meeting; and if it then obtains their sanction, it shall be referred to a Committee at the Conference, who shall report," &c. To the surprise of the society, the Trustees were still determined to have the organ, and applied to Conference for leave to erect one.
A deputation was sent to Conference with a petition on behalf of the society, and both parties were admitted to a conversation with a committee of preachers, at a late period of the Conference, when many members of the district meeting had returned to their circuits, Of this committee of preachers, there were only two who were unfriendly to the introduction of organs into our chapels, and the trustees had no difficulty with such a committee to gain their object.'
Is it to be wondered at that the deeply-wronged society at Leeds, under such circumstances, should manifest their displeasure at this contumacious violation of their rights? They, however, in the first instance, waited upon Mr. Grindrod, their new superintendent; and after a long conversation they received for answer, that it was deemed unnecessary to interfere in any way in the matter.'
"This was more than any society could bear; and, as might be expected, there were meetings held, and condemnatory resolutions passed.
At the local preachers' meeting, a charge was brought by one of the trustees against a local preacher, (without any previous notice being given,) for calling illegal meetings, He did not attempt to deny that he had called such meetings, to prevent the organ from being erected, and Mr. Grindrod suspended him from preaching three months. This outrage was resented by the local preachers, and from 50 to 60 of them resolved not to take their appointments until this illegal sentence had been revoked, which had been passed upon one of their brethren without their consent.
Having briefly detailed the circumstances of the Leeds case, up to this period, we will now show you how the Laws of Pacification bear upon this case. By these laws, the majority of trustees of any chapel, on the one hand, and the majority of stewards and leaders belonging to that chapel, (as the best qualified to give the sense of the people,) are to decide. Again, it is the same relative to baptism, the burial of the dead, and service in church hours; and the Conference have required that they should give their consent in writing, that they are persuaded that no separation will take place thereby.
Now if the stewards and leaders have a power to interfere in the Lord's Supper, baptism, &c. according to the Laws of Pacification, surely they have the power to interfere when an organ is to be erected. The Conference do not wish to divide a society in matters of more serious importance, even where the worship of God is concerned. How then is it, that Conference, in this instance, trampled upon its own laws, when for 12 years, from 1808 to 1820,* they actually prohibited the introduction of organs into our chapels? We answer, there is a certain leading church-party in the Conference, who, being anxious for church prayers as well as for organs, the opinions of any society, however numerous, are called heterodox by them; and if a few rich men are favourable to their introduction into any of our chapels, they are sure to have their wishes gratified. So it was in Leeds, and so it has been elsewhere, which we shall notice in another part of our address.
'A special district meeting was summoned at Leeds, and Mr. Grindrod took especial care that it should be one of the right sort. He had the power, according to the rule in the Large Minutes, vol. i, p. 379, to summon three of the nearest superintendents; which rule he violated, and requested preachers at a considerable distance to attend, passing over a considerable number of preachers in the circuits nearest to Leeds.
This district meeting was illegal; 1st, because several very influential preachers were
Minutes, vol. iii, p. 37.- The Conference judges it expedient to refuse their [its] consent to the erection of any organ.'