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Mr. R. answer one serious question :— In what way can the Conference preserve this scriptural superiority, and come nearer to equality?'” p. 51.
The following statement, were it not excused in some measure by its nonsense, could not be too severely reprobated. In order tó magnify the office of the Preachers, the author puts their influence on the same ground with that (will it be believed ?) of the crucified Redeemer of mankind.
" In a religious community, did the Minister first draw the people, or did the people draw the Minister? The Saviour of the world observed, ' And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.', A portion of the same attractive property attaches to the ministerial character; the influence will vary in degree as the individual, professing to sustain such a character, developes in his life and conduct an appropriate consistency, sanctity, and dignity.” P. 10.
Wesley himself, indeed, required a degree of deference and submission to his preachers, which, if the Ministers of the Establishment were to claim, they would be denounced as ambitious, and charged with a lust of power. “It is the duty,” said he once, "of every private Christian to obey his spiritual pastor, by either doing or leaving undone anything of an indifferent nature, anything that is no way determined in the word of God." No wonder, therefore, that in the quarrel between Mr. Robinson's Class and the Beverley Superintendent, Mr. Galland, the latter “ warned them in the name of God of the awful account they would have to give at the bar of God for their opposition to him." (Address to Methodists, p. 39.) In the same spirit of lofty pretension, the same Superintendent, not satisfied with his earthly importance as the organ of Conference, acknowledges, when “ freed from a little of its gloss,” the doctrine, that turning members out of the Society may exclude them also from heaven. · Mr. Welch goes on to talk a great deal about oligarchies and aristocracies, and the balance of power, and contends that Mr. R.'s theory of lay-representation - is lost to all intents and purposes," because it is impossible in fact; as, however democratic the system be rendered, it will in practice revert into the management of a few. For" it is questionable,” he shrewdly observes, whether there was ever any other than an oligarchical power in the world."
He proceeds to state his opinion of the Conference power, and accounts for Mr. R.'s views of it from that gentleman's "misconception of the term.” “ Power," he says,
appears resolvable into two classes ; 1. The power of influence, arising from moral or intellectual suasion; 2. The power of compulsion, arising from superior bodily prowess, or physical force." P. 18.
He gives this methodical statement for the purpose of shewing that the Conference power can never be oppressive, because it can command no external force, and that the very exclusion of lay-representatives cuts off “ the only medium by which the political power could be obtained.” But here Mr. Welch is quite at fault: Mr. Robinson's concern, as far as we apprehend, is only with the internal system of Methodism,--its power over its own liege subjects ---its influence within its own sphere of action. If the Conference has the sole power to say-"Obey, or be no longer a Wesleyan,” surely it has arbitrary power within its own dominions at least.
Now if Mr. R. had argued the danger arising to the liberties of his Majesty's subjects at large from the Conference power, Mr. Welch's observations respecting the counteracting influences of the Church of England, and the various dissenting societies, and religious institutions, might be something to the purpose. But when the only question is about the internal economy of Methodism, they are obviously quite irrelevant. Nor does it signify more to shew, as he afterwards endeavours to do, that the power of the preachers has been acquired by successive concessions on the part of the people; the question not being, concerning the mode of acquisition, but the fact. But we find ourselves so perpetually enveloped in fog, as we attempt to explore Mr. Welch's profound thinkings, that we are forced to abandon our voyage of discovery, and must return from our arduous undertaking, content with having collected a few curiosities which fell in our way. One observation, however, we would make upon the whole. Why, we would ask, is all this parade made about the power of the preachers, as distinct from that of the people? As far as we can perceive, Wesley did not consider his preachers, unless they were clergymen who had been ordained in the Church of England, as any thing more than laymen: he calls them“ lay-preachers;" so that those who now lift themselves up above the people, in his estimation belonged to the people. The power, therefore, which they have assumed as a ministerial body, does not descend to them upon Wesleyan principles. In fact it cannot be exercised by them as a body distinct from the people, unless Methodism be considered as constituting a distinct Church. Methodists, as Methodists, ought not to differ from one another as laymen and ecclesiastics differ. The preachers, in fact, should be only the orators of the “ Connexion," ---the mouth-pieces of their meetings. And the question of lay-representation comes to this:--Ought Methodist mouths exclusively to be represented, and Methodist ears to be deprived accordingly of their right to appear in due form by their delegates in Conference?
It will not fail, indeed, to be observed by those who examine the question, that a misconstruction of their true character as
Methodists, by setting up for themselves as an independent Church, is a fundamental fallacy which pervades all the arguments of Mr. Robinson's opponents. Upon what other grounds can they apply the charge of schism to those who separate from their body?---as a body of Methodists, they ought to exist only as the circulating medium of all sects and denominations of Christians (if they would be Wesleyans indeed), and members should be suffered to come in and go out with all the facility imaginable, as they may judge the interests of piety to be best subserved. Conference should only address its votary with
“ Laudo manentem : si celeres quatit
Pennas, resigno." How fearfully, on the contrary, they shrink from the danger of schism within themselves, will appear from the circular letter addressed, in December, 1817, to a certain Christian community, warning them against " the desolation of separation” in these strong terms:---"To endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, is a duty enjoined by the Holy Ghost, and we do not hesitate to say to you, however specious, however apparently pious the professions of any man may be, that none but an enemy would attempt to divide the indivisible body of Christ." (Conference Reviewed, p. 46.) Whose language is this? what voice is it that lifts itself up so loud against schism ? Is it the expostulation of the Church of England to her wayward children? is it the earnest remonstrance of some prelate charging his flock to avoid divisions? Incredible as it may sound, it is the language of those whose very existence is owing to schism; it is the angry protestation of the Methodist preachers in Dublin, against those who refused to join them in separation from the Church. Further, when a determined stand was made against those who raised the flag of independence, their adversaries were accused of “ resorting to the dreadful issue of a schism in the body, so repugnant to the word of God, and to a desperate effort which was identified with their system to outrage the people against their preachers.” (P. 55.) A melancholy instance indeed of human inconsistency, when the same men are found defending schism and denouncing it; justifying their departure from the Church, but warning professors of all denominations against a seceding and contentious spirit; tremblingly alive to the danger of assailing a body of Christian ministers, occupying so important a station as the Methodist Conference, (Galland, p. 52,) and jealous of the respect due to them, but yet not scrupling to assail the ministers of the Establishment with charges of " worldly conformity, lax morals, and unscriptural doctrines.” (Galland, p. 40.)
Mr. Humphry Sandwith has written a more temperate and judicious pamphlet than either of the other antagonists of
Mr. R. n. In the first part of his." Apology” he discusses the justice of Mr. Robinson's strietures on the law of Conference before alluded to, and contends, that Mr. R. has not fairly inferred, that the law in question was only a delusive surrender of power into the hands of the people. But we see nothing in his arguments to make us alter the opinion which we had formed of the correctness of Mr. R.'s view of the subject. In pursuing the defence of his party, he has fallen into the like palpable inconsistency with the others. He asserts the validity of Conference Ordination, and attributes the separation of the Methodists from the Church, to the want of an evangelical and holy priesthood in the Establishment, (p. 53); acknowledging at the same time that “Christ instituted a distinct order of men to be the pastors and executive rulers of his Church,” (p. 35,) and agreeing with Lord Bacon, that "heresies and schisms are, of all others, the greatest scandals, yea, more than corruption of manners." (P. 83.) Strange it is, that these principles, which are so obvious to them as Methodists, should be utterly unknown to them as members of the Church.--But let us trace this inconsistency a little further;" Christ," says Mr. Sandwith,“ has instituted an order of men to be pastors of his Church.” The question; therefore is, whether the Methodist preachers are an order of men instituted by Christ; for else the argument is irrelevant. Now privileges, claimed by virtue of Christ's institution, must be traced up to Christ through the intervening ages; and doubtless he did appoint, or ordain, his Apostles to be a distinct order of men, and gave them power to ordain their successors, and through them, to transmit the power of ordination to the latest generations. It is evident, that authority claimed in consequence of this institution, must be derived by lineal descent from the Apostles, and no man can delegate a power which has not been delegated to himself. If, therefore, Wesley claimed the power of ordination, he had it not: but some of his followers place him on the same footing as St. Paul;- and Mr. Galland shews what he means in calling him an apostolical man, by declaring, that he was evidently singled out by the providence of God, to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction in the Church of Christ. (P. 43.) : Surely, however, an Apostle ought to know the extent of his own commission. In 1789, the very year after that in which it is asserted by Myles, in his History of Methodism, that Wesley began to ordain ministers, he preached a sermon at Cork, (published in the following year;) in which he addressed the preachers thus :-"Did we ever appoint you to administer sacraments, to exercise the priestly office such a design never entered into our mind; it was the farthest from our thoughts; and if any preacher had taken such a step, we should have looked upon it as a palpable breach of rule, and consequently as a recantation of our con
nexion." Indeed, the whole scope of his sermon is to prove, that the office of an evangelist gives no man a right to act as a pastor. Whatever construction it may be convenient to put upon this matter now, the leading Methodists, even after Wesley's death, acquiesced entirely in his opinion, and the power of ordination is distinctly disavowed on the part of the Conference, in a circular letter issued by that body in 1793. How comes it, then, that Mr. Sandwith claims a“ valid Presbyterian ordination," as existing in the “Connexion ?" How can there be even Presbyterian ordination, where there are no Presbyters to lay on hands? That the ordination, indeed, here asserted by Mr. Sandwith, was never thought of by the original Wesleyan preachers, is also plain, from the attempt which was made by some of them to obtain episcopal ordination from à Greek, named Erasmus, who appeared in London, in the year 1764, under the title of Bishop of Arcadia*. And if it be also true, as it has been said, that Wesley himself was desirous of being consecrated a Bishop by the hands of this Erasmus, and was only not so consecrated, because the canons of the Greek Church required the presence of more than one bishop on such an occasion; it is still more clear that even their Founder did not consider presbyterian ordination as valid.
Another inconsistency of which Mr. Sandwith stands convicted, is his rebuking the sin of schism, as injurious among the Methodists, but commending it as vastly beneficial to the Establishment, and regretting the acrimonious dissent of some of his brethren, whilst yet he upholds secession from the Church, and would have dissent of every kind flourish triumphantly. He refers to Lord Bacon: we would remind him of what that writer
Mr. Southey, referring to Mr. Nightingale, inforins us, that inquiry was made concerning this Greek of the Patriarch of Smyrna, and that it appeared he really was Bishop of Arcadia iu Crete. The following is a specimen of the letters of orders, (a sort of roving commission,) which were given by him to the Methodist preachers whom he ordained, as translated from the original which was in the ancient Greek.
“Our measure from the grace, gift, and power of the all-holy and life-giving Spirit, given hy our Saviour Jesus Christ to his divine and hoy Apostles, to ordain Subdeacons and Deacons, and also to advance to the dignity of a Priest. Of this grace, which hath descended to our humility, I have ordained Subdeacon and Deacon, at Snow-fields Chapel, on the 19th day of Nov. 1764, and at West-street Chapel, on the 24th of the same month, Priest, the Rev. Mr. W. C., according to the rules of the holy Apostles and of our faith. Moreover, I have given to him power to minister and teach, in all the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, no one forbidding him in the Church of God. Wherefore, for that very purpose, I have made this present letter of recommendation from our humility, and have given it to the ordained Mr. W. C. for his certificate and security. “ Given and written at London, in Britain, Nov. 24, 1764,
“ Erasmus, Bishop of Arcadia." See Southey's Life of Wesley, Vol. II. p. 406.
VOL. VIII, NO. 1,