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rally held by the religious body to which he belongs, under an idea that the public might impute his peculiar notions to all the preachers, and thus include them in the censure, if censure be incurred, which is due only to himself; he wishes it to be distinctly understood, that in publishing this piece, he is not the organ of his brethren in the ministry, and that the praise or blame which may be awarded, belongs to himself alone.
If it should be objected that the liberty contended for in the following pages is not enjoyed by the Methodist societies, the author thinks the objector is mistaken. The present members were perfectly at liberty in joining the societies; and they have the same liberty to withdraw, whenever they think proper. They are the guardians of orthodoxy; for if they are of opinion that their ministers preach false doctrines, live wicked lives, or neglect discipline, they have a power of dismissing them. With
respect to the choice of ministers, the members prefer the itinerant plan, as they find it more edifying to have a succession of preachers, than to be restricted to the labours of an individual for life. Upon this plan it is impossible for the people to have a liberty of choice as to particular preachers, because two or more societies might wish to have the same man; they therefore choose to receive such as are appointed by Conference, rather than be confined to a single stated minister.
The liberty pleaded for in these sheets is not a liberty in behalf of individuals to infringe upon the rights of societies. Every member of a society ought to conform to its regulations, or quietly withdraw. Imposition is more hateful in individuals than in communities, as it is more unreasonable for a hundred to yield to one, than for one to yield to a hundred. This is so generally admitted, that factious persons seldom forget to plead, that they are acting in behalf of the people, and that their wishes are the wishes of the people. *
When it is asserted, that every man has a right to be of what religion he pleases, it is not meant that he has this right independent of God, but merely independent of his fellow creatures. Every man is responsible to God, and is obliged in conscience to be guided by his word in religious matters. If he takes up with a false religion, he will have to suffer the consequences of it in another world ; but that is surely enough, without his being subjected to pains and penalties in this. He does not sin against man, by adopting an erroneous creed, and worshiping with ridiculous rites and ceremonies; but he sins against his Maker, and ought to be left to the judgment of God.
The strictures on the clergy in this little book are not intended to apply to the moderate party; for with some of them the author is acquainted, and the whole of them he highly respects; but to the highflyers, who are for driving to the devil in a chariot of fire, all who refuse subjection to their spiritual authority. Some readers will perhaps blame the author for not writing with perfect calmness and gravity. The fact is, he has a great dislike to writing controversy; and as the subject was unpleasant, it may possibly have had an unhappy influence upon his temper. In walking through a village his pleasing meditations on rural scenery have sometimes been interrupted by the barking of little insignificant curs ; and while the noisy animals have kept at a respectful distance, he has walked on, regardless of their anger; but when they have grown bolder, and have attempted to bite, he has felt indignant and kicked them away. Bigots have been long barking, and he took no notice of them; but as of late, they have attempted to bite, it became necessary to chastise their folly; but it was neither
* A few turbulent spirits, some years ago, agitated the Methodist societies. The burden of their song was, that the preachers were tyrants, and the people suffering the most grievous oppressions; that nothing could save the connexion but a new constitution, founded upon, what they termed, more liberal principles, etc. The preachers, conscious of their own integrity, and of the attachment of the members in general to the old plan, refused to concede what was so peremptorily demanded. The frienils of the people, as they styled themselves, separated, formed their new constitution, and invited the people to enter into the glorious liberty of the children of God. It turned out that about one in eighteen joined the new connexion; so that one was the people, and the other seventeen were nothing at all! History furnishes innumerable examples of this kind. The one had a right to withdraw if he felt dissatisfied, but he bad no right to attempt the imposition of his new yoke upon the necks of his brethren.
easy, nor necessary to do this with much sweetness of temper. Persecution is a furious, impudent fiend, which cannot be driven away with a few fine, soft words. The language of these sheets, however, is courtly, when compared with the anti-methodistical publications of the day. Till the enemies of the sectaries learn better manners, they must submit to a little rough usage: “A whip for the horse, a bridle for
and a rod for the fool's back."
Since these sheets were ready for the press, the author has seen a well written pamphlet by Mr. Hare, on “ The exclusive claims of Episcopal Ordination examined and rejected.” As the subjects discussed in both works are in some particulars the same, the reader will not be surprised to find that both writers have, in some instances, employed the same arguments. The points of resemblance, however, are not very numerous ; and where the arguments happen to be the same, they are set in different lights ; the author, therefore, did not deem it necessary to make any alterations.
He has several quotations from the Homilies, and one from Dr. Doddridge, which adorn Mr. H.'s pages; but these are so excellent, that he could not find in his heart to draw his pen through them. He has not borrowed a single sentiment from Mr. H.'s performance, nor altered a single line since reading it. He is sensible that he might have improved his work by adopting some of Mr. H.'s masterly reasonings ; but he is too honest and too idle to do it.