« PreviousContinue »
ISAAC TAYLOR ON METHODISM.
- p. 268.
Wesleyanism excepted; on the other side stands the Church of Rome, with its sympathizing adherents—the malcontents of the English Church, and the Wesleyan Conference! This position, maintained alone by a Protestant body, must be regarded as false in principle, and as in an extreme degree ominous.'
It would be very easy to show that the Wesleyan Doctrine of the Pastorate,' upon which the Conference takes its stand in opposition to the liberties of its people, is totally unscriptural. The arguments of its apologists rest upon a series of assumptions, and our astonishment is that the writers should appear so uncon, scious of their own fallacies. The attempt to sustain Conferential authority by an appeal to the New Testament is preposterous; and the bold assertion that the Wesleyan Connexional Church is conformable to the model
of apostolic times almost furnishes its own confutation. Mr. Taylor has expressed himself most decidedly on this point in the next part of his third section. We notice, in passing, something very like a burlesque of voluntaryism. But as it is introduced incidentally we shall not pause for its examination. From several passages in this volume we gather that Mr. T. leans towards a congregational constitution in churches, though he favours at the same time a thorough Church and State system. Our immediate purpose does not require us to join issue with him on this question. We have to do simply with his estimate of Wesleyanism. That the Conference is sustained by the writings of its founder in its lofty ministerial pretensions might be easily shown.
Nothing in the compass of literature can be at once more sharply logical,* or more thoroughly unphilosophical, than are Wesley's reasonings in support of ministerial absolutism, and in enforcing the duty of popular submissiveness. With a heart that would have grieved to injure any man in the smallest matter, he upheld a Church theory on the ground of which heretics in troops might consistently be burned. This misunderstanding of the first principles of apostolic Christianity came in his mind to an awkward misadjustment with his determination not to construct a church, but a society only; and so it was-strange medley of incongruities that he left in the hands of a body of preachers, whom he would not consent to think of as clergy, a power as irresponsible and absolute as that which the most despotic hierarchy has ever challenged as its right, by ordinance of heaven !'-p. 281.
Mr. Taylor regards the Wesleyan institute as a widely-extended spiritual charity. Its legal form is that of an hospital having a clerical conclave as trustees, governors, and physicians; the people receiving its benefits on given terms. Under this view the whole
The logical validity of these reasonings we wholly deny.
affair is intelligible, and the peculiarities of the system accord well with its design.
Hopeless must be the endeavour to expound the Wesleyan establishment on any principle that is purely and properly religious, or that is distinctively Christian. It is a charitable foundation, supported in part by voluntary contributions, but governed absolutely by a close corporation, perpetuating itself by its own acts from within. Thus considered, we ought neither to wonder nor to complain if the ‘patients' or people find no place in the charter.—p. 287.
* Nothing is intelligible, nothing in the social and political structure of this scheme consists with the admitted principles of social justice; by no ingenuity, by no refinements of interpretation, can Wesleyanism be brought into harmony with the unquestionable rudiments of the Apostolic Church system, if we are resolved to consider and to defend it as if it were intended to be a Church, or an equipoised association of Christian men, ministers, and people.'--p. 285.
Viewing Methodism as an establishment—that is, as a holder of goods, and lands, and revenues, recognised by the civil law, Mr. Taylor apprehends that the conditions of its legal documents will forbid any important modifications in the system. This will, of course, become the subject of consideration to the Conference, should that assembly be induced, by the pressure from without, to entertain any project of modification. At present there seems little likelihood of such an issue. The preachers have with unfaltering pertinacity held to their avowed principles, and while they can make good their ground no concession to the demands of the people must be expected. If the wealth of the lay aristocracy should be withdrawn, and if no regium donum be procurable, they may be led to reconsider their principles, and to effect some change, by obtaining parliamentary permission to infringe upon the literal terms of their deeds. But so long as Conference retains its convictions—if convictions they should be calledunaltered, and refuses to repudiate its ultramontane claims, there will be no interference with its deed of declaration, or the trust deeds' of its chapels. But in this case everything is risked, and we must augur ill for its prospects.
•Might we suppose that the instinct of self-preservation, prompted by the ominous indications of popular feeling, not to mention religious motives of a higher order, would bring about, sooner or later, and before it be too late, such a reconstruction of Wesleyanism as a hierarchy as might at once give reasonable contentment to the laity and bring the body clean over from its present false position upon ultramontane ground, and place it where it should stand-in contiguity with other Protestant communions ? But here we are peremptorily told, that no such reformatory movement, even although seen to be indispensable to the preservation of the society, is, in the very nature
METHODISM MAY YET ADJUST ITSELF.
of things, possible ! The very idea of change should therefore be dismissed as chimerical The Wesleyan laity petitions; the Wesleyan
. ministry, let us suppose, would gladly yield itself to be constituted anew for its own sake even; but itself, and the people, and the Court of Chancery, and Parliament are, in this unparalleled instance, alike powerless! We assent, then, to this lamentable decision; and, ceasing to indulge fruitless regrets, turn for a moment to consider the instructive fact, that a mind such as that of John Wesley should thus, while intending to secure the permanence of his institute, so far have misapprehended the constant and inevitable tendency of human affairs as to have rendered its continuance every year more and more difficult and precarious from the moment of his death up to the present time.'—p. 277.
We scarcely need say that the case is not so—that, on the contrary, when the will comes the change will come. we leave this subject for the present with our readers; having done enough, we hope, to show that pious and intelligent Wesleyans may wish to infuse a little of the congregational spirit into their system; and that congregationalists may wish those persons God-speed in their efforts toward that end; and neither party become thereby so delinquent as to be justly exposed to the ban under which it seems we are to be alike placed by the champions of the Conference. We do not wish the extinction of Methodism; we rather wish it to be so reformed as to live, as to become consistent with an enlightened Christian liberty, and fruitful of good to the church and to society at large.
ART. III.—(1.) Khartoum, and the Blue and White Niles. By
GEORGE MELLY. 2 vols. London: Colbur and Co. 1851. (2.) Golden Dreams and Waking Realities ; being the Adventures of
a Gold-Seeker, in California and the Pacific Islands. By WILLIAM
Shaw. London: Smith, Elder and Co. 1851. (3.) 4 Trip to Mexico; or, Recollections of a Ten Months' Ramble in
1849-50. By A BARRISTER. London: Smith, Elder and Co.
1851. (4.) Across the Atlantic. By the Author of 'Sketches of Cantabs.'
London : George Earle. 1851. (5.) Kossuth and Magyar Land; or, Personal Adventures during the
War in Hungary. By CHARLES PRIDHAM, Esq., B.A., F.R.G.S., late Correspondent of The Times' in Hungary. London: Madden. 1851.
EVERY appliance which tends to increase our interest in distant parts of the world, deserves to be regarded as productive of permanent and general utility. Its other uses may be important or trifling, fugitive or lasting ; but if it furnishes only a fibre in the cord of human sympathy, it discharges functions for which all men owe it thanks. In our times these appliances are as various as they are numerous; and with our ample apparatus for communicating thought and combining the most fleeting glimpses of observation into the durable forms of systematic knowledge, none of them is likely to fail of perpetuating its beneficent influence. The "blade of grass' which the benefactor to his species of trite reputation, has planted in the wilderness, may wither and die before it becomes serviceable to his fellows; but the blade of human interest which the historian or geographer, or even the novelist, has caused to grow in those dreary places on our Atlas, where longitude and latitude were wont to have it all to themselves—or where the prevailing blank was diversified only by a dotted coast line or a river vanishing in sand or mountains, will not disappoint the philanthropic intentions of its promoter.
The thrill of kindly association between different parts of our planet is sometimes conveyed through media of the most alien and unpromising order ; as little akin to the genial influences which they are destined to extend, as is the impassive metal of the conductor to the electric shock which it transmits. Even the most abstract of the natural sciences has done good service in this particular. While it has brought wandering comets into a kind of distant relationship to our solar system, and promises to dis
REMOTE REGIONS ASSOCIATED BY SCIENCE.
cover for the whole of the starry legions a central sun-at an earlier date, perhaps, than German politicians can fairly promise as the era of Teutonic Unity—the labours of the astronomer have been equally successful in furthering kind offices and sympathies Dearer home. We are on far more amicable terms with our antipodes, now that we are assured not only that the sun is the warm and impartial friend of both, but that in spite of our distance, our perpetual contrariety of direction, and our pertinaciously viewing material things in an exactly opposite fashion, (in reference to one of their most important predicaments,) we are tending with all the force of gravitation towards the same centre. It would be easy, moreover, but quite superfluous, to enlarge upon the grave difference that exists between that trust in chart and compass which makes our modern sailor at home on the wide, wide sea' in almost every maritime region, and those fearful surmises regarding silent seas, declivitous
oceans, and terrestrial laws reversed, -to say nothing of portentous 'skiey influences,'—which filled the imagination of the ancient mariner.
Geology, again, while it has exhumed and revivified long-buried worlds,-peopled with strange forms in which we can feel little more than a speculative interest, and compared with which the most savage dweller in the wilderness of the nodern periodjackal or hyæna, or obscene vulture, is as a cherished pet and bosom friend: to whose nova monstra' the querulous imaginations of some grudge their centuries of slime and the fat weeds or luxuriant land-growths on which they battened, while our high-mightinesses were held back in the womb of creation to bide our time,-even this science of cold and comfortless generalizations, by not a few looked upon as a mere philosophical specus,' for foul toads (of labyrinthodon enormity) to knot and gender in,' has made for us new bonds of connexion between remote regions of the earth as it is, on account of which we owe it a proportionate share of gratitude. Who would not greet with satisfaction the coral limestone of his birth-place on the farther side of France, or the new-red-sandstone cropping out across the Atlantic in the valley of the Connecticut? A world of novel relationships is created for us at once; and should the uses of adversity' ever be furthered in our experience by an exile more secluded than that of Jaques in the forest of Ardennes, we may chance to find in stones and running brooks' a companionship more genial, if not more profitable, than the homilies with which they edified the exile of our forefathers. In short, the suggestions of geology may teach us to recognise old faces and to renew old acquaintances where they might have been least expected.
It is not the least honourable of those indispensable offices