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assumptions that have been so haughtily, and with as much truth as charity, advanced, we have promptly repelled; and we have done this on grounds which recognised and upheld the church character of Congregationalists, as well as of Presbyterians.
To what, then, are we to ascribe the unrelenting hostility, often personal and acrimonious, to which, from this particular quarter, we are exposed ? We do not wonder at attacks from those high Episcopalians who have, though owing their social position and their variously-remunerating stipends to the honours and wealth which a Protestant Establishment bestows, adopted the essential and characterising principle of Popery, that of a Primary Externalism, working from without to within. But even the abettors of this scheme, though knowing well that Methodism furnishes a scheme of direct antagonism, a direct logical contradictory, to their own, scarcely assail it with that pertinacity and warmth which mark the hostility in question. They attack our system, our doctrines; but this is all. With administrative details, with internal disputes, they never intermeddle. At all events, none of respectable name among them do this.
There still lurks among Calvinists something of the old feeling which absolutely identifies their peculiarities with the entire Gospel system. Instead of regarding them as being, in reference to a large number of Christians, moot points, which, though conscientiously believed by those who hold them, are as conscientiously disbelieved by those who do not, they have so accustomed themselves to assign to them a particular place, in which they are connected with what goes before and follows after, as to view them as incapable of separation from the whole, and thus to regard the Wesleyans as undoubtedly heretical : heretical, it is true, in connexion with much that is good both in feeling and teaching, but not less heretical. In some this sort of undefined impression has great force; and in all it possesses an influence sufficiently strong to make them ready for overt acts of hostility against those who have departed so widely from the truth. Bishop Horsley's advice to certain anti-Calvinistic Church writers, who, in attacking Calvinism, had attacked the Gospel as held by all evangelical Protestants, is well known. Since his day, Bishop Tomline (among others) has furnished an instance of the soundness of his advice. Such writers identify with Calvinism the Gospel as received, likewise, by evangelical Arminians; but their mistake, though not to be excused, may be explained and extenuated by the fact, that their opponents advanced as a claim what they charged as an error. The Gospel according to Mr. Scott, was neither more nor less than the Gospel according to John Calvin.
A feeling stronger than this, however, is produced by the views of church government taken by the Congregationalists. Here, even more than in questions of doctrine, they appear to suppose that they must be entirely right, and their opponents entirely wrong. Instead of allowing that among differently-constituted minds the great objects of church union may be secured by different forms of ecclesiastical polity, looking at the Connexional arrangements of Methodism, and having little knowledge of its interior operations, they assume that the system is one of ministerial despotism, and popular bondage and degradation. Even Popery does not go so far. Rome has but one Pope : Methodism has a whole Conference of Popes! The unhappy vassals of this fettering systein are addressed with expressions of sympathy for grievances which they never experienced, and hear themselves called to cast off a yoke whose existence they never suspected! To their Connexional system the Wesleyans are more strongly at
tached than our Congregational brethren-if so we may call them-generally suppose. They approve of it on principle. They experience its benefits. It is the object of their decided preference. Occasionally some inconveniences may result from its various operations ; but they are far outweighed by the advantages which it naturally and constantly affords. They enjoy as large a measure of Christian liberty as can be enjoyed by Congregational churches: and they enjoy this not at the expense of the order, without which no church can present an appearance truly Christian, but in strict and guarded association with it. The Wesleyans do not seek to force their own Connexionalism on Congregationalists : why, then, should the Congregationalists seek to force on Wesleyans their own Independency?
We incline to think that the Wesleyan Connexion has given mortal offence in some Dissenting quarters, by refusing to join, as a Connexion, in the fierce crusade that has been directed against ecclesiastical Establishments. Wesleyans are united as a Connexion for purposes strictly religious, and for these only. To political questions individual Wesleyans attend as citizens, forming their judgment, and acting, we trust, in consistency with their Christian profession; that is, conscientiously. Undoubtedly, the Conference does not repudiate the Establishment principle, any more than enjoin and enforce it. The Ministers differ in opinion, and so do the members, on this disturbing subject. Practically, the Conference says, Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind; and in all public proceedings let the constant endeavour be to have a conscience void of offence toward God and man. One of the strongest tracts ever published in favour of the Establishment principle was written by one whose name is often even exultingly connected with the cause of religious and civil liberty. We refer to John Owen. But not even casually will we, on either side, enter into the dispute. We are only expressing an opinion, that because the Wesleyans did not, as a body, enter into this campaign, they have been regarded with hostility by those who were engaged in it, but whose conduct, by its results, has amply justified those of whom they complain. The spirit of politics, as the phrase is now understood, is evidently a portion of the spirit of the world. It eats religion out of the heart. None ever yielded to its influence without immense spiritual loss.
But there is a peculiar character in the attacks made on Methodism within the last fifteen years, for which none of the reasons to which we have referred can account. Its primary source is evidently different. Those circumstances have only contributed to swell the streams, or to direct them in different channels. It is impossible to look on the two Eclectic papers which have suggested these observations, without remembering the “ Christian Advocate” and the “ Patriot” newspapers. Polemic remarks may be made by authors whose characters command a respect in which their very writings will share. If men like Pye Smith, or Angell James, or Thomas Binney wrote against Methodism, their names would be a guarantee of their sincerity. It might be that misapprehensions had led them into controversy ; but no one would suspect them of any motive at all akin to personal animosity. They would write with earnestness; but they would write without bitterness. They would employ argument; but they would scorn to use sarcasm. They might see it to be their duty to show that the principles of our institutions were erroneous ; but they would reject, as utterly unworthy of their character and standing in the church of Christ, the plan of condemning institutions by applying to them the standard of their own principles. Did we say that their names would furnish a guarantee for their sincerity? We go farther. We add --for their honour, likewise. Articles written by them would not be prompted by disappointed vanity. Nothing of the renegade would be apparent in them. Nothing would be seen to excite the suspicion that they had been brought up in the midst of those whom they now assailed, and that they were employing their more accurate knowledge of various details to make their attacks more pointedly personal: nothing to show that the dislikes and prejudices of party to which they had yielded among their former associates, and with which, after their separation, they had no more concern, still survived, and constituted the life and soul of their hostility, Controversy conducted in the spirit in which men like those to whom we have referred would conduct it, could scarcely fail to be beneficial. Personal respect would remain undiminished. They would write for the purpose of exposing what they honestly believed to be unsound or misapplied principles ; and this they would do by the employment of what they honestly believed to be legitimate arguments. They would assail the position of their opponents: there would be no personal reflections ; much less would sneers, and taunts, and distorted facts, and the cherished animosity of faction, and the reiterated misrepresentations of party, be permitted to furnish the great bulk of their compositions. To foment intestine broils for the purpose of lessening the powers of resistance to external attack, even in earthly wars, is always considered as doubtful morality at best ; and if to such writers as we have supposed, it had been suggested, in the course of the controversy, that their opponents might be weakened by giving their countenance to some small but angry party, and thus giving them the show of a respectability and strength of which, if left alone, they would be utterly destitute, we believe such suggestions would be at once and indignantly rejected, as proposing what was utterly inconsistent with the spirit and manner in which controversies on Christian subjects should be conducted by Christian writers. They would say, with a tone which would plainly render the repetition of the suggestion impossible, “What, are there no discontented, factious minorities in our churches, too,-men who do all things with murmurings and disputings,—whose aptitude for strife and debate, so far from being counteracted by the most eminent talents connected with the most saintly virtues, is rather aggravated and irritated by them? Were there not such even in the churches of the New Testament, whom neither a Paul, with all his noble magnanimity and divine and holy zeal, nor a John, with all his profundity of truth and love, could satisfy and reconcile? If we employ such auxiliaries, our opponents may do the same. Our controversies would become nothing but an angry, envenomed strife, and our churches scenes of contest affording pleasure only to the enemies of truth on earth, and to fallen and malignant angels ever prowling after prey, and ready to swoop down like vultures on souls deeply wounded in such conflicts, and left perishing in the battle-field, to become the victims of the birds and beasts of rapine, ever at hand to devour them.”
When such opponents challenge to the combat, their character, their uprightness of intention, even though themselves should be labouring under mistake, demand that a challenge given by them—and it will always be respectfully given-should be respectfully acknowledged, too; and if declined, that reasons for declining be stated. Several cases have occurred within the last few years, in which opportunity has been given for the revival of the Calvinistic controversy. We have not embraced them. We have on one or two occasions alleged our motives. In noticing Dr. Payne's work on “ Election,” &c., for instance, we expressed our belief that there were at the present day controversies of far greater importance, and that the circumstances in which the British churches now stand, call for a union among Protestants which the revival of polemic hostilities between Calvinists and Arminians might materially disturb. We believe that the true policy of the British churches is peace, and we have refused to enter upon discussions which might interrupt it. We are not ashamed to say that, while we are as fully persuaded as ever of the truth and value of our own system, we think we are better employed in endeavouring to carry it out practically, than in seeking to establish it against those who think differently from us, by controversial discussion. They who wish to study the subject need be at no loss for materials.
But, with such controversial writings as we have just been supposing, we do not class those belonging to that series of attacks on Methodisın, towards the close of which the two articles of the Eclectic Review are to be found. They not only come after the “Christian Advocate” and “Patriot” attacks, but are evidently connected with them, and as evidently proceed from the same source. It is not Congregationalism, by its respectable representatives, assailing Presbyterianism or Connexionalism ; it is not Calvinism assailing Arininianism. It is the representative-beyond the pale of Methodism—of the knot of agitators who, with their younger successors, have, from the days of the Leeds Organ disputes, through Warrenism, to the present disturbances in favour of “Wesleyan Reform" and the “Expelled,” sought to keep the United Societies in continual turmoil. The views of Methodism and of Methodistical proceedings, therefore, given in these articles, are not calm, dispassionate representations of fact,—the question stated fairly previously to its discussion ; but are such descriptions as angry and factious partisans choose to give. Facts are misrepresented ; institutions and proceedings are distorted, because seen through the medium of party and hostile feeling. It is not Methodism as it really is, but Methodism as its insurrectionary opponents say that it is, that is presented for discussion in these articles. A caricature is first given; and because we do not choose to enter into a controversy of which the ground-work is to be a collection of statements, the truthfulness of which, considered as that whole which is designed to make an impression, we do not acknowledge, victory is claimed as if we were silent because we had nothing to say. We are willing, if peace must give way to controversy,—and this, perhaps, would be preferable to a state which is neither one thing nor the other,to contend for Wesleyanism both in doctrine and discipline. But let it be Wesleyanism fairly stated ; not the representations of factious spleen and party anger, handed down to the “ Eclectic Review” from the “ Christian Advocate” newspaper.
A scrap of paper thrown up may show the direction of the atmospheric current. A single word may show the real spirit of what is, ostensibly, a description of facts. Can there be any doubt that the following sentence is expressive of the hostile feeling of the writer, or that it was designed to express this, rather than to describe with the cool, steady accuracy of the draughtsman, the object respecting which information was intended to be given? The italics are our own.
“ The people, in their several Circuits, are indeed permitted to petition the Conference for this Minister or against that; but their petitions are not always regarded, and they have ultimately no choice but to receive and support such Ministers as it may please the Conference to send them.”
We just pause to request the reader who knows what stationing really is among the Wesleyans, to note well the tone which this sentence breathes. Is it prompted by a simple design to state the truth as it is, or by the strong dislike of an adversary who has embraced an opposite system, and wishes to state even truth of fact in connexion with the colouring which it receives in his own disapproving mind? The people, it seems, are just permitted to petition. Did not the writer know that petitioning was the legally recognised work of Quarterly Meetings? But “their petitions are not always regarded." The term is ambiguous. It may mean that sometimes no attention is paid to them. That they are disregarded; that is, slighted. In this case it states what is untrue. Or it may signify that they are not always granted. This, of course, is true. But why is not the term “granted,” or one of similar import, employed, rather than “regarded ?” Several Circuits may petition for the same man. All cannot have what they ask. Besides, Methodism is a Connexion. The stations of the Ministers are regulated, too, by the established system of the itinerancy. The Conference, checked by the voluntariness of the funds by which the ministry is supported, and by the powers given to the Chapel Trustees, has to decide in the last resort, and in reference to the good of the whole. In such a united Connexion there must of necessity be somewhere a power of definite appointment. That it implies arbitrary power, selfish, and negligent of the interests of the people, is not true. The various circumstances in association with which this power is exercised, and by which it is checked and limited, must always be taken into the account; and will be stated by those whose descriptions are designed to communicate correct information. Such language, assuming the validity of the objections which dwell in the mind of the writer, and give form to his statements, remind us of the remark of Seckendorff on the one-sided narrative of Maimbourg. He who writes thus, assumes the office of censor rather than of historian. But we give the remainder of the quotation. The reader will see the same spirit throughout.
“This unique body reigns equally supreme in all other Connexional concerns ; enacting new laws, or repealing old ; determining finally every question of doctrine, discipline, or finance; appointing to every ministerial office; and, in short, exercising a sovereign sway in all the affairs of the community.” (Methodism as it is, &c., p. 4.)
If visible and final administrative acts are alone regarded, there might seem to be, to a superficial observer, an appearance of vraisemblance in all this. But so might the Sovereigns of Great Britain be described as exercising an absolute monarchy. A law is presented to the Queen. She “wills that it should be so.” She makes the law! Look at all other the acts and prerogatives of royalty. She makes or breaks alliances. She appoints Judges and Magistrates. She distributes honours. She commands the army, and commissions its officers. The taxes are raised by her authority, and are even called “Queen's taxes.” In short, she is found “exercising a sovereign sway in all the affairs of the community!” Is not such a monarchy absolute? Are not the people kept back from all share in the government? What Englishman does not know that in this case a part is put for the whole, and that that is adroitly omitted which entirely alters the character of that which is advanced ? Just so is it in this writer's statement respecting the power of the Conference. Can it enact new laws at pleasure? Is it supreme in all questions of doctrine, of discipline, of finance ? Can it raise what money it pleases, and direct expenditure as it