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spirit of the declaratory Resolutions. They can never be abandoned without “apostasy and unbelief” indeed ;-apostasy from a position long consecrated by the Divine blessing ; and unbelief, as regards the truth.
But yet what more is wanted ?—And now the painful truth must come out; and the Meeting of Delegates, falsely so called, must give the answer. The Resolutions of that Meeting, and the subsequent public speeches of its leaders, may be taken as the exponents of the desired reform. It embraces the abolition of the pastoral office, as a distinct and Divine institution, the throwing open of all its functions to Christian tradespeople, (a result which the immense majority of them would repudiate and abhor,)—the change of our Societies into independent churches, in which officers shall be appointed by general suffrage, and censures inflicted in like manner; the Minister standing by as a preaching member, not to watch over souls in the relation of an under-shepherd of Christ, but left with the whole weight of his New Testament responsibility, and yet without a particle of power to fulfil it,-and yet a loving, vital, and energetic union is demanded for the whole! The wildness and suicidal character of this scheme must be its own refutation; and it would not deserve a moment's notice, but for the sake of the simple and unthinking whom it may delude. People, and Preachers too, now understand the character of the movement. If our constitution is essentially unscriptural, let it be given up at once ; for, in such a case, Christ can never be truly served by it. If scriptural, let us repeat the proof, and show that we have more reverence for the Word of God, and the past teaching of a vocal providence, than for ten thousand political theories, or the unsettling spirit of the age. It is not for paltry, selfish, or personal interests that we contend; but for a scriptural and Christian institution, the fall of which, if permitted, would only be the prelude to the fall of the truth. But it cannot fall : its existence is guaranteed to the end of the world. Whatever personal trials we may undergo, our main concern is to warn and recover the deluded from this specious snare. At the Meeting of “ reformers,” it was not even pretended that the Conference had corrupted the truth, tampered with our doctrines, or lowered the spiritual tone of original teaching; that it had failed in its anxious care for the young, or for the diffusion of evangelical truth among the Heathen, or for the cause of general religious education. It was not charged with conniving at sin in its own members, or with suffering immorality of life in any,—whereas, with real church-reformers, these are the very first subjects of inquiry. A church which stands in the condition indicated is one which answers its New-Testament conditions, and fulfils the end of its institution. It is surely in a better position to reform its malcontents, than they are to reform it.
There were no considerations drawn from the spirit of our Lord's teaching, no references to the entire mass of precept in the New Testament, with a view to show that the Conference had violated it. But there were certain complaints of bondage, which those amongst us who had done most, and given most, had never felt; and notions of individual and collective liberty were reported as becoming current in this enlightened age, and as utterly at variance with our usual Christian restraints. On these grounds the basis of reform was projected. Wisdom, experience, and Scripture were alike neglected. What was spiritually best was not made a question. In the rhetoric of one speaker, the progress of public opinion was compared to the swelling of a collected flood, which ere long was to sweep even the mildest pastoral rule away. But this was a mistake. The same public opinion, in the sense in which alone the speaker could intelligibly use it, has often risen and swelled against the institution,-as, for instance, in the days of Moses, St. Paul, the early Bishops, and Mr. Wesley; and it has as often receded. There is nothing new in this matter.
Methodism, no doubt, exercises its constraints, and imposes its burdens : but do the Preachers lay these upon others, and refuse to touch them with one of their little fingers ? Are they not equally submissive with any of their people? What shall be said of the constant breaking-up of their domestic quiet by removal, the severing of their individual friendships, the necessary concession which they must make to local habits and prejudices, the contributions they must furnish out of a limited income, towards established funds, and the like? Do not these imply as entire a course of opposition to personal liberty, as any in which a member of Society or office-bearer has to walk? Yet it is cheerfully acquiesced in for Christ's sake. Let no man cry out, Bondage! until he has examined whether there are not others who bear the yoke with him; and haply he may discover, if he be sincere and simple-minded enough, that it is a common yoke, imposed by a wonderful and merciful Providence upon us all, for the purpose of uniting us in the attempt to extend Christ's kingdom.
Suppose the proposed reform were conceded, the Societies made independent,--the pastoral ministry no more distinctly recognised, and interference with Circuits or Societies disallowed. The first result would be, the secession of tens of thousands of the wise and good, who are seeking their own salvation, and that of their families; who not only believe the scriptural authority of the stated ministerial function, but who are resolved to have it, and who, in such a case, would seek it elsewhere. Then for the rest, agitation and strife would be legalised. There would be the perpetual excitement of election, the ceaseless tug for distinction and power. The ministry would be deprived of all motive for a holy competition. A striving for the best gifts” would sink into hopeless inanity, except so far as party motives might quicken it ; and soon the remains of spiritual Christianity would perish in a war of worldly elements, and in those incursions of sin and infidelity which are coming in so fast. Fathers would look around for gifted guides and teachers for their sons and daughters; the timid would anxiously ask for direction and repose, but all in vain : the weary would seek rest, and find it not; and, amid the subversion of all authority and the scorn of the ungodly, the half-awakened and the unconverted would give up the truth itself, and treat religion as a fable. This has been done ; but it is not now my calling to write the fearful and monitory history of church-agitators. In such a state of things, the irreligious and profane would mock at all attempts to convert them, having themselves been appealed to in the struggle against scriptural restraints.
However, the practical treatment of this unhappy but (as we believe) transient schism, on our part, is all-important. It is no matter for light or flippant disquisition. Tender regard should be shown to all who, through misinformation or want of knowledge, are subject to doubt or prejudice. The weak should be borne with, according to apostolic advice and admonition. Kindness and reason will easily reclaim them. But the guiding consideration, in all future legislation, will have to be, not what are worldly theories of government, but what is needful for the unity, purity, and nurture of God's people among us ; with the final -aim, so far as this world is concerned, of firmly establishing and energetically diffusing that Christianity which is dearer than life. Party passion must be abandoned : we must be calm and wise, acting in view of the final account which we all shall have to render. We are warned by human and Divine wisdom against rash innovation ; and the words of Lord Bacon, on this subject, are not to be lightly treated :-“ It were good, therefore, that men in their innovations would follow the example of time itself, which indeed innovateth greatly, but quietly, and by degrees scarce to be perceived.......... It is good, also, not to try experiments in states, except the necessity be urgent, or the utility evident; and well to beware that it be the reformation which draweth on the change, and not the desire of change which pretendeth the reformation.” (Essay xxiv.) The Conference will always be anxious to do everything consistent with its high and paramount duty, to remove needless restraints on individual movement, as well as to afford every guarantee for the faithful appropriation of funds, and every reasonable guard against the possibility of pastoral misrule or oppression; to seek for the influence and co-operation of laymen, which Wesleyan Ministers rejoice to have in a larger degree than the Ministers of any other church ; and in other ways quietly to adapt the administration of Methodism to the necessities of society. But to sacrifice a ministerial order which the church of Christ has held in all ages, and which nearly all other Christian bodies hold in common with ourselves,-to give up the spiritual oversight of the Societies, -and to abandon a high trust which both the Word of God and the law of the land have sanctioned,—this they never can, they never will do. Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, unborn, will reap the benefit of the stand which they are thus providentially called to make. Amendment itself, where it could be attempted, would succeed better in calmer times. Let us be led, as our fathers were led, by some necessity, growing out of a deepening or extension of the work of God. But let us not make a man of clay, in the heathen fashion, and then try to steal fire from heaven to animate the fabrication. If men have tried experiments with Wesleyan church-order, altering and re-modelling it, let us ask how they have succeeded ; and we may, perhaps, gain another lesson for our own guidance.
Lastly,-(for I hasten to the close of this sorrowful task,)-may I ask permission to tender a few respectful suggestions to ministerial readers and brethren? I do it with much deference and self-distrust.
1. This is a time to examine ourselves, to bring ourselves to the touchstone of the sanctuary, and humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.—Had we been more prayerful, serious, and diligent, much of what we deplore might not have happened. However we may justly defend ourselves against the injurious calumnies of false brethren, we are verily guilty on numberless points before God, and our unfaithfulness is great. If He should mark iniquity, who could stand? We deserve all this at His hands, and more than this. Let us bow to the rod, and revere Him who hath appointed it. If these lines suit the case of a few, rather than of the many, still let them stand. Our place is the dust.
2. Let us recur, more than ever, to those principles of brotherly union which are a sure source of strength ; and let us act upon them. Our sins against brotherly confidence and love have been many and grievous. The avoidance of mutual detraction, and of everything like the depreciating of each other's gifts, especially in mixed companies, the adoption of a frank, faithful, confiding, and respectful demeanour, both to fathers and brethren,
-a generous course of strengthening the hands of our colleagues, and thereby strengthening our own,-these are the principal forms of this duty. Had we been uniformly affectionate and deferential, many grievous offences had been avoided. Had we been strictly faithful, some distressing cases of discipline might have been prevented. We are bound too closely together to live and labour on any other terms than those of NewTestament amity.
3. In such times, too, the need of exhibiting “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” is abundantly apparent.—Let us refrain from wilful tempers, unnecessary acrimony, and all needless parade of official authority or personal right. If we are not better in these respects than our people, we have no right to be where we are.
4. An intelligent union with our friends and co-workers is, likewise, of great importance. Let us acknowledge and affectionately recognise our faithful Leaders and Local Preachers as fellow-helpers in the work of the Lord, and give them to feel the advantage of having pastoral counsellors and guides. Those who have been less faithful must be won by other means than those which themselves would recommend ;-by a course which is as far from compromise as it is from uncharitableness and anger. It is useless and unwise to speculate on changes which cannot be conceded.
5. We need, moreover, to mind the Christian duty of striving and labouring after unity.-The fashion of the day is indignantly to assert and defend the right of every man to hold his individual opinion; which, indeed, is only asserting and defending a truism. But how often, in practical Christianity, have abstract rights to give way to duty! How often do the Apostles beseech Christian believers to “ be of the same mind in the Lord !”-implying that this sameness of mind is a Christian grace, and attainable through simplicity, prayer, and self-denial. Let us be humbled to think how seldom, in some of our discussions and debates, has the acquisition of this grace been our object! We must acknowledge it to be attainable, or else plume ourselves upon an individual infallibility, which is worse than a Popish or aggregate one.
6. And, lastly, everything suggests the need of adopting a stricter, rather than a laxer, discipline.- We have need to ascertain, whether those who seek to be admitted to our United Societies are really actuated by “a desire to flee from the wrath to come;"—that is, to take pains in obtaining satisfaction on this point, and not yield to a desire of swelling the numbers by the accession of the doubtful and the unawakened. We have need doubly to guard the entrance into office. On this point, the events of the day speak volumes. The part which is now taken by scores of the uninformed, the inexperienced, and the youthful, against Christian order, and against those monuments of piety and wisdom which Providence has preserved to us, will be proof clear enough, and sad enough. Fidelity and duty are ours : results are with the Lord. Many movements, like this, are gathering against the central fortress of Bible truth ; and even the feebly good, and the well-meaning, are sometimes drawn aside. But those who go over to the Moabite, must take their lot with him. We have no feeling opposed to charity and love, with regard to them all : but one great duty must now engage us,-that which was solemnly enjoined on Timothy by the great Apostle,—to continue in the things which we have learned, and have been assured of, knowing of whom we have learned them; and that, too, not only as it respects doctrine, but godly discipline also.
COUNT GIACOMO LEOPARDI. When we regard Leopardi in his character of a poet,-in which no Italian of the present generation, we conceive, except Manzoni even approaches him, and he in a different order, and perhaps but in a single piece,-it is not difficult to perceive that he was endowed in a peculiar degree with most of the faculties which belong to the highest excellence. We shall note two exceptions. The first is the solid and consistent wisdom which can have no other foundation in the heart of man than the Gospel revelation : without which, even while we feel the poet to be an enchanter, we cannot accept and trust him as a guide ; and of which Wordsworth is an example unequalled probably in our age, and unsurpassed in any age preceding ours. Nor let it be said that this is not properly a poetical defect; because the highest functions of the human being stand in such intimate relations to one another, that the want of any one of them will commonly prevent the attainment of perfection in any other. The sense of beauty enters into the highest philosophy, as in Plato. The highest poet must be a philosopher, accomplished, like Dante, or intuitive, like Shakspeare. But neither the one nor the other can now exist in separation from that conception of the relations between God and man, that new standard and pattern of humanity, which Christianity has supplied. And although much of what it has indelibly impressed upon the imagination and understanding, the heart and life of man, may be traceable and even prominent in those who individually disown it-although the splendour of these disappropriated gifts may in particular cases be among the very greatest of the signs and wonders appointed for the trial of faith, there is always something in them to show that they have with them no source of positive and permanent vitality ; that the branch has been torn from the tree, and that its life is on the ebb. There is another point in which Leopardi fails as compared with the highest poets. He is stronger in the reflective than in the perceptive, or at any rate than in the more strictly creative powers. Perhaps these latter were repressed in their growth by the severe realities of his life. It is by them that the poet projects his work from himself, stands as it were completely detached from it, and becomes in his own personality invisible. Thus did Homer and Shakspeare perhaps beyond all other men ; thus did Goethe ; thus did Dante when he pleased, although his individuality is the local centre, so to speak, of his whole poem ; which is only to say in other words that by this gift the poet throws his entire strength into his work, and identifies himself with it ; that he not only does, but for the time being is, his work ; and that then, when the work is done, he passes away, and leaves it: it is perfect in its own kind, and bears no stamp or trace of him ; that is, of what in him pertains to the individual as such, and does not belong to the general laws of truth and beauty. Thus all high pictorial poetry is composed ; thus every great character in the drama or romance is conceived and executed.
It is the gift of inagination in its highest form and intensity which effects these wonderful transmutations, and places the poet of the first order in a rank nearer to that of creative energies than anything else we know. Next, perhaps, to him comes the great intuitive discoverer. These are the privileged children of nature, who walk a royal road, and constitute the signal exceptions to that broad and general law of human knowledge : Homo, naturæ minister et interpres, tantum facit et intelligit quantum de VOL. VI.-FOURTH SERIES.