Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

amongst" them, “ either as a leader or a local preacher.” A spirited resistance, however, being made by some individuals to these hostile proceedings, another meeting was called at Hull, which declared the former one, at which Mr. R. had been condemned, to have been illegal; and expressed its opinion that, even if the former meeting had been legal, he had not been fairly heard. A protest was also drawn up by the principal members of the Beverley Society, and letters were written to the President of the Conference, complaining of the proceedings against Mr. R.; but these remonstrances were all treated, it seems, with neglect. We afterwards find one of the authors now before us, Mr. Galland, in his capacity of Beverley Superintendent, endeavouring to detrude Mr. R. from his place as a Class leader, by appearing himself in Mr. R.'s stead. A curious altercation ensued on that occasion between the said Mr. Galland and the Class, which is given in the “ Address”; but our readers will not regret our passing it over. Suffice it to say, that Mr. R. (thanks to his class) maintained his ground in the chapel on that occasion, though he was at length compelled to leave it, Mr. G. having succeeded in driving him from his post by dint of " singing and playing on a bass viol.” The result was, that Mr. Robinson, with “ about forty members in Beverley, and a number in other places, withdrew from the Conference Methodist Connexion, and formed themselves into a body of Church Methodists."

Now we may ask, in what society, in which there was not an absolute power, could such arbitrary measures against an individual have been adopted? Was John Wesley degraded, or even suspended from his ministerial functions, much less excommunicated from the Church, for writing, and preaching, and acting, in opposition to the doctrines, and discipline, and practice of the Established Church? Was he, even when he assumed the authority of a bishop, by sending Dr. Coke, with imposition of his hands, as bishop to America, cited before the ecclesiastical powers, and condemned for his daring intrusion into an office to which he had not been called by the proper authority ? But here we have Methodist Superintendents acting with a high hand, and fulminating the bolts of Conference without stint or remorse on the hapless head of a sincere and genuine son of Methodism : whose only error in their estimate can justly be, that he differs from them in regard to the materials of which the Conference ought to consist, and that he loves the Church more than Conference.

Mr. Galland throughout his pamphlet does not attempt to deny the extravagant power which Mr. R. had pointed out as belonging to the present system of Methodism. He is only busied in shewing that he has acted perfectly in order" in his own proceedings;—the laws of Conference requiring him so

to act; and that he has erred, if any where, on the side of “ peace and conciliation." As to his mode of stating the facts in whichhe was implicated, we are unable to forin any judgment, whether his description of the circumstances is more or less correct than that given by " the Class.”

“ the Class.” But it is plain from both statements, and it is all that is material to the point,) that the power of the Conference and its officers is excessive.

“ You ought further to have known, that our rules vest the regulation of all religious meetings in the superintendent. Did not your solemn engagements, then, to the Methodist public, implied in your assunnption of the office of trustees, bind you to uphold me in my efforts to discharge my duty as a religious instructor in a chapel so settled, and in which Mr. R., even had he continued an acknowledged leader, required my sanction for the exercise of his functions ?”Galland, p. 7.

What stronger illustration can Mr. R. want of the existence of that spiritual tyranny which he wishes to remove, than this very power of the Superintendent under which he has smarted ? The Superintendent is an officer appointed by the Conference; he presides as chairman at the quarterly meetings,-his veto is .sufficient to prevent any motion being brought forward at a meeting he can remove any member from the society,--no preacher can officiate without his leave,-all good and true Methodists are bound to support him in his measures. Granting these prerogatives to this more than episcopal office, we must also grant that Mr. Robinson, as a good and true Conference Methodist, had nothing to do, but to submit tamely to the orders of his superiors; he was bound to obey them implicitly. But how strong, be it observed, must be that coercion, against which it is even treasonable for the subject to raise his voice, however severely it may press upon him!

Let us now turn to Mr. Charles Welch, and inquire what he has to say in defence of the power of Conference. The sun of his argumentation amounts to this, that the power possessed by Conference cannot be oppressive, because it cannot bring physical force to support its dictates, and because any member may quit the Society if he dislikes the system. This is the point of the pamphlet, so far at least as we can collect his meaning through the midst of the verbiage in which his thoughts are clothed. We should judge, indeed, that he had studied under a master of kindred spirit with that philosopher of old, who indoctrinated his pupils in the art of darkening a subject. We can Lancy we hear such a preceptor often applauding Mr. Welch's juvenile exercises with the merited compliment-"tunto melius, be ego quidem intellexi.” But we have no wish to criticize him severely, as he candidly acknowledges, that “ he has done his best under present circumstances,"--that “ he hopes to submit

FUL. VIII. NO. I.

D

with decorum to the fate of all controversial writers, in the conflicting and contradictory opinions of the public on his motives, tempers, capabilities, and arguments,"—that “ he has aimed to convince, not to amuse, or defend principles, not to chase circumstantial wanderings,"—that “the work is his own spontaneous, unsolicited, unaided publication,”---expressing also his diffidence in approaching the subject as "in itself profound," and requiring “patient and intense thinking." We should have been glad to have found him equally moderate towards his opponent, but he is too indignant towards him, for only“ very faintly touching on the cognate duties of veneration and esteem which the people should manifest towards their minister ; at least, so as to balance the reciprocal duties of preachers and people equilibrially before the public,"—to allow him that equitable consideration which he expects for himself. In his opinion," occasional assurances of pure motives, good tempers, and pious feelings, yield a very feeble apology for an ex parte attack on a system which is not exceeded, if equalled, on the face of the globe, for correctness of principle, diffusion of happiness, and energy of action.” Mr. Robinson's motives, and tempers, and feelings, would all have been right and good in his estimation, had Mr. R. shewn the bearing of " layrepresentation” on the “ moral state of the country," and “ the personal piety of its members," or closely confined his views to the Church, “to have still awakened more of her energies,—to have marked her growing renovation to original purity of practice;"---but an ex parte attack on the system is an offence which he cannot readily tolerate;---as if a reformer of any system could make any other than " an ex parte attack” on it.

Come we, however, to the arguments which he brings for the continuance of the present system of Conference Methodism.

His first plea for the present power of the Itinerant Preachers is, that the theory of lay-representation proceeds on the

ground of personal and indefeasible rights. Having raised this fantasy of his own, he proceeds to exorcize it.

With Cocker in hand, he enters upon the task of calculating the number of lay representatives who would be returned to Conference, and the expense of their return. He states, that if Inverness, which is the smallest circuit, be taken as the ratio, there would be 8105 members in the lower house of representatives, and that the expense of them, at 121. a man, would be 97,2601., which would tax each member of the Connexion favourable to the method of representation, in the sum of 481. 12s. 7d. ---or that, if, on the contrary, Leeds, which is the largest circuit, be taken as the ratio, Inverness must return

STOJ,

or about the 190th part of a man. What would be the result if Mr. W.'s calculation were applied to the

House of Commons ? Old Sarum (it is said) has a representative for two persons: since, therefore, it follows, that for every two persons throughout England, there must be one representative, or “ the proportion essential to representation is destroyed,” we confidently conclude, that the population being taken at ten millions, there must be five millions of representatives in the House of Commons, --- at least, according to Mr. Welch, there ought to be; and, therefore, the inhabitants of Westminster or Yorkshire are quite in the wrong, if they imagine, as we suspect they do, that they are quite as well represented as Old Sarum. To use Mr. W.'s own words: "Is not this an unaccountable aberration of principle ?"---Is not this an argument fitted to impose on "the understandings of hundreds who have not leisure or education to discern its futility ?"---Is this the result of his “deep attention” and profound thinking? But the most remarkable specimen of his skill in calculation, is that mockery of a proportion which is stated in these terms:---as 21} : 325 :: 121 : 1808476. With all this parade of fractions of a circuit and fractions of a man, what will his fourth proportional prove, when his first term is an average number,- his second, a specific number,-and his third, a total? No one of the three has any correspondence with either of the others :---the first is the average number of circuits in the New Connexion (which has tried the expedient of lay-representation] for twentytwo years past; the second is the actual number of circuits in the Old Connexion last year; the third is the total of preachers, who in twenty-two years have been delegated to Conference instead of laymen in the New Connexion; and, apparently, the last is intended to represent the number likely to be delegated in one year to the Old Connexion Conference. It is true, the second term is assumed to be an average for twenty-two years to come :this is a very convenient assumption certainly; but if the average is prospective in one case, so it must be also in the other: if the numbers in 1824 furnish the basis of calculation in the one case, so they should in the other. But the introduction of the second term is the worst blunder of all; for it is not, as it should have been, an average of the number who have acted in a double capacity, but the total in twenty-two years. If it had been openly stated, that the fourth term, 18087%!, was to be considered as spread over a surface of twenty-two years, it would indeed have been mere trifling; but, at least, there would have been some fairness in the statement. The only thing that could serve his argument was, to shew, to what extent, at any meeting of Conference, the theory of layrepresentation was likely to be defeated practically by the preachers becoming delegates: taking, then, the returns of

1824 for the basis of a calculation, (for we have no data for an average of years for the second term of the proportion,) the numbers will stand thus--as 28 circuits : 325 :: 4 : 46,5; that is, it is probable that, among the delegates to Conference intended to be laymen, there would be about forty-six preachers.

But Mr. Welch is singularly unhappy; whatever he aims at establishing, he generally proves the reverse. Thus he wishes to argue against any resemblance between Papal supremacy and Conference supremacy; but the result is what he might call " anomalous;" for the root of Papal power is infallibility, and this is exactly what Mr. Welch claims for Conference, since nothing can be more infallible than the decisions of a body guided by “a special Divine Providence:” (p. 23) nothing can be more absolute and perfect than a system which “ the Almighty is shewing to the nations of the earth.” But the strangest part of this argument is, that Conference is supposed to have been specially directed by the Almighty to resist lay-delegation, because the measure itself “ appears to the natural mind so reasonable.” Mr. W. says, their resistance can be accounted for on no other principle. But that no doubt may remain of the supremacy against which he argues, he proceeds, in the next page, to mention some collateral facts, all tending to the same point, and calculated to give the preachers " a greater command and ascendancy over the people ;" such as the petitioning for particular men. “ In fact," says he, “ the whole goes to prostrate the people at the feet of men who, a short time before, were such as themselves.” (p. 25) Before! may we venture to ask, what they are after? are they not such as themselves ? No, Mr. W. would say, they now belong to a holy conclave of pastors, having a " scriptural superiority over the people. One or two passages in which he asserts this superiority ought to be submitted to the reader, as specimens of Mr. Welch's High-Conference Methodism.

" Mr. R. has a peculiar gust or relish for every thing purely Wesleyan. Can he hold the validity of these two authorities of the Scripture and of Wesley, and the absurd cant of equality at the same time? Mr. R. must either admit, that the Wesleyan preachers are not the pastors of the Wesleyan Societies; or acknowledge their authority as divine and Wesleyan. The Conference reserves to itself the superiority of prescribing the mode ; the people have the power to accept or reject the mode. If the people solely prescribed the mode, they would be the pastors, instead of the Conference; if the Conference and people conjointly prescribe the mode, then there is no superiority in the case; it is strict equality; but no such equality can be found in the sacred writings, or in the works of Wesley. If the Conference had the power to enforce the mode against the general wish of the people, as was the case in Mr. Wesley's life, then such power would be capable of extensive abuse by a degenerated PRIESTHOOD. Let

« ПредишнаНапред »