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gated by the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, it will be expected, of course, that a small portion of my journal should be devoted to the official doings of this body. To avoid, however, such details as would be at best only interesting to those of the same denomination, I shall touch only upon those points that will serve to show the general constitution and present condition of this very efficient branch of the Christian church; a subject which, to the philosopher and the politician, the observer of man as a social and a religious being, must, in any event, be one of deep interest.
"The most perfect exemplification of this system is in England, for this is the parent stock, and here the system has, in its practical operations, ripened into its greatest maturity and acquired its greatest vigor.
"Methodism in the United States has become more extended than the British Connection, including all their missions, in the ratio of two to one. But the peculiarities of our country, connected with the fact of the more recent establishment of the cause in America, has prevented that practical perfection of the organization that is exhibited in England. The present is the ninety-third Annual Conference of the British Connection; whereas the first Conference in the United States was held in 1773, only sixty-three years since. At that time there were but ten preachers in the connection, and for the ten following years, in consequence of the revolutionary war, there was very little increase comparatively: so that the principal gain of the Methodist cause in the United States has been in a little over half a century."
In concluding his remarks on the British Conference, Dr. Fisk adverts to a question often asked, "What are the points of difference or coincidence between English and American Methodists ?" To this he replies:
"I answer, that in every thing essential they coincide; in doctrine and moral discipline, perfectly; in all the ceremonies and general usages they are the same. The English are more systematic than we are; every thing is in order; every thing is done at the time and in the manner the rule proposes. This is a commendable trait, and is in a great measure the secret of their success. In this re.spect the inconveniences of a new country have contributed to lead us to relax too much from the rules of our great founder, who left on all the institutions of Methodism the stamp of his methodical mind.
"The character of their ministry, intellectual and theological, and, indeed, for general pulpit qualifications, does unquestionably, in the great whole, exceed ours. I do not mean that we have not as many of what would be called superior preachers as they have, but the great body sinks below theirs, and that for very good reasons. Many of our most promising men have been compelled, or, at any rate, induced, for the want of competent support, to leave us and join others; or, what is more common, go into the local ranks and engage in some secular calling. To this, in England, there is no temptation. In addition, their ministers increase faster than their calls for them. The consequence is, they are not obliged, in order to fill up or enlarge their work, to take any but the best; the barely passable they pass by, whereas our great call for ministerial
labor leads us to take all who offer that are judged barely passable."
It will be perceived that in the comparison instituted between. English and American Methodists, in the paragraphs just quoted, the former are represented as excelling in several respects. To say nothing at present of those remarks in which he throws the balance in the opposite scale, it may not be unprofitable for us carefully to examine such features of their system of operations as can be safely and successfully adopted in our own. That it can be copied in all respects, no one acquainted with the different circumstances in which the two Connections are placed, will pretend. The groundwork of the general system of American Methodism is unquestionably best for this country. And with precision and care in carrying out its principles in all the departments of practice for which it provides, it will naturally acquire more consistency and a higher degree of perfection. But a neglect of first principles, or habitual looseness in the administration of the rules it prescribes, must, in the nature of things, have a deleterious tendency, and result in a derangement of the whole system, if not in a subversion of its high and holy purposes.
True it is, that the extension of our country, the constant changes which are going on in the state of society by removals from one section to another, the institution of new circuits in following the tide of emigration, and the necessary changes in circuits and districts in the older portions of the work, all which tend to keep societies, quarterly meeting conferences, &c., in a perpetually unsettled condition, form a serious obstacle against the establishment of that order and uniformity in practice which characterize the operations of our British brethren. But we cannot resist the conviction that there are other causes which contribute very much to the sa effect. Among these we reckon first a prevailing disposition to cut up districts and circuits, and to establish stations, beyond what the nature of the case requires. The English Connection have, properly speaking, no stations. All their work is arranged into convenient circuits, each having a regular superintendent, with a suitable number of associate laborers, and all the regular institutions necessary to carry on their work in form and order. These are very seldom changed, so that their judicatories, records, &c., become permanent; and those accustomed to act together acquire the habit of doing their business with greater uniformity and exactness. On the contrary, there is a prevailing disposition among American Methodists, in some parts at least, to cut up the work by narrowing down the circuits as much as possible, and establishing stations wherever the people will furnish only a meager support to a preacher, irrespective of the injury it may do to the circuits from which they are taken. Thus every thing is constantly in a state of fluctuation, In many places the quarterly meeting conferences are constituted of very few members, and but a small portion of them at all experienced in the business connected with these important judicatories of the church. While things remain in this unsettled condition, we cannot expect even an approximation to that systematic order in conducting our affairs which is so desirable, not to say necessary, for preserving peace and promoting prosperity in the church.
Another evil resulting from this very cause is a too rapid increase
of the traveling ministry. We believe, indeed, that extremes are possible in this as in almost every other matter. We may lay out our work on too large a scale, and require so much of the preachers that it may not be in their power to cultivate their several fields as they ought. But it is equally certain that we may make the sphere of their action too limited. It strikes us as unreasonable that the entire services of a preacher should be required for from fifty to two hundred members, and they possibly all within a single township, when fifteen or twenty years ago there was twice that average number on the circuits, throughout our work, and these extended over some dozen or fifteen towns. This, it appears to us, is carrying matters to extremes; and whatever may be offered in justification of it, there is little, we believe, in the economy of the Methodist itinerancy which will go to favor it. It may tend to order of a certain kind to Congregational order for example-but not, if we judge correctly, to Methodistical order. There is still another item in this business which merits attention. It is this. In the excess of dividing circuits and instituting stations, and the necessary increase of preachers to fill up the work, it naturally occurs that many are called to take the charge, and administer the discipline, while yet too young and inexperienced to have a clear and comprehensive knowledge of the rules they are called to administer. Besides this, the limited means of support given to the preachers, occasioned in part by narrowing down the work, compels many to locate when they are best qualified for efficient service in the itinerant work. In England this is not the case. The competent and sure support given to their traveling preachers removes all ground of complaint, and consequently lays the preachers under a sort of obligation to continue in the field, which obligation the Conference finds it both consistent and practicable to enforce. By consequence the British Conference has in it, to balance its decisions and regulate its transactions, an amount of experience and practical intelligence which keeps every thing in subjection to instituted order and established usages But the numerous locations and extensive calls for preachers, occasioned by dividing the work, &c., among us, tend to render our conferences of a different description. In most of them majorities are made up of preachers of comparatively short standing in the ministry. In this state of things uniformity and order are slowly attained, even with the greatest care to avoid or overrule the hindrances we have named; and without this, the prospect is still more discouraging.
We may trace to the same general causes the comparative absence of another excellence which Dr. Fisk noticed in the British Methodists. We mean the deference paid to age and office. "I was pleased," says Dr. Fisk, "at the deference paid to seniority and to office in the British Wesleyan Conference; and not only here, but in all the social and domestic relations in this country. Honesty and candor oblige me to say it is the contrast of what we see in America; and it is but candid to acknowledge that this difference is doubtless owing, in a great measure, to the difference in the influence of the political institutions of each country respectively upon social and domestic habits." This is no doubt true to some extent. But we are persuaded that the circumstances we have named above, and especially the causes of the numerous locations of the more
aged preachers and the premature investment of the younger ones with all the prerogatives and functions of ruling ministers, has more influence in this matter than any thing else. Were these causes removed, as, indeed, they may be if the people will, and our venerable men retained in the itinerant ranks to mingle with their younger brethren in their work, and aid them by their counsels, a respectful regard would be paid to age and to office in the church, as well in America as in England.
With respect to the means of improving the ministry by the institution of a theological school, we know not how it may answer for our British brethren, controlling it, as they may, by an individual incorporated conference; but it possesses nothing, in our estimation, which we can borrow or in any way improve for our benefit in this country. We have ever been favorable to raising the standard of education in the church, by the establishment of literary institutions of the higher order under the direction and control of one or more of the annual conferences. But we believe that no better system of theological instruction can be devised for us than that which has been recommended by the General Conference, and is now in general practice-none, certainly, liable to less abuse, or better calculated to preserve the unity of the body in doctrine as well as in discipline. It is calculated to keep the theology of the church under the control of the whole united body, where it should be kept, and not to subject it to the capricious management of a few professors, who may shape it to suit their own fitful fancies.
In conducting their financial operations, the British Conference, according to Dr. Fisk, are far in advance of us. They have every thing reduced to the most perfect system. And the people have so habitually accustomed themselves to the operations of this system, that they seem prepared to sustain it and carry out its objects, without the least indication of reluctance or dissatisfaction. In the perfection of their system, and the harmonious operation of all its parts, is to be found the reason of their being able to keep up all the branches of their extensive work with so much apparent ease. reference to this subject Dr. Fisk says:
"The most important parts of their business are arranged and prepared in committees that are appointed the year before, and meet several days before the session of the Conference for that purpose. At most of these committees, lay members are invited to be present to take part in the deliberations, and especially to assist in the arrangement of the financial concerns of the church.
"As this part of the system is a beautiful feature in the economy of Methodism, I will give some of its general features.
"Although the financial resources are altogether from the voluntary offerings of the people, yet they inculcate the principle that every one ought to do something; and the least that any one should do who is not absolutely a pauper is reckoned at a penny a week, and in addition one shilling at each quarterly renewal of the ticket of membership. All will do this much, it is calculated, and the money thus collected nearly meets the current expenses of the societies. But, in addition to this, there are several other sources of income, which are called funds; not that there is any money funded which is made available for the church, but moneys collected for specific objects are called the funds for those objects respectively:
such as the school fund; the contingent fund; the chapel fund; the children's fund; the preachers' auxiliary fund; the missionary fund," &c. A particular explanation of these several funds, and of the manner of raising them, which occupies a number of pages in the work before us, is worth the attention of all in this country who are concerned in supporting religious and benevolent institutions on the voluntary principle, and especially the ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
But we must bring these remarks to a close. It will not be inferred from what we have said, that Dr. Fisk saw nothing in England, or among English Methodists, which he did not approve. To suppose he did not, would be to ascribe to them a degree of perfection in their social order and general conduct which falls not to the lot of man in the present state of the world. There are those, we know, in whose estimation this circumstance will form an insuperable objection to the work. In all matters appertaining to the institutions, manners, and customs of their country, they are influenced more by feeling than by judgment. Their prepossessions are strong and ardent; and they are accustomed to take things in the aggregate, and to applaud or censure without discrimination. Such persons will never be pleased with a faithful detail of facts-a true picture of the state of society-in any country. Where they have located their antipathies, there they can see nothing good or praiseworthy. And, on the contrary, in every thing connected with their own country-the institutions and customs consecrated in their feelings by a thousand associations-they can see nothing wrong. Under the influence of such feelings, they are not prepared to examine with candor a correct delineation of the state of society in any community. Writers who study most to flatter their prejudices are sure to please them best. They cannot, in fact, be pleased in any other way. A fancy picture-the model of perfection and beautyon the one hand, and caricature on the other, fill their eye and gratify their taste completely; and nothing else will do it. Such persons- —(and there are some, though, for the honor of human nature, we hope not many of this description among us)—will find authors who will please them much better than Dr. Fisk. He neither approves nor condemns without discrimination. And this we deem one of the chief excellences of his work. Nor can we doubt that it will be so considered by the candid of all classes. He found, indeed, some things in England, as well as elsewhere, which he could not approve; and he was too honest to seem to justify what his judgment condemned. On the contrary, he found much, very much, to admire and applaud; and he was equally prompt in recording with expressions of high approbation those virtues and excellences which give character to the entire picture. As a whole, therefore, we hesitate not to believe that Dr. Fisk's Travels will be received, by all candid and intelligent readers, as the first work of its kind. Such we deem it to be; and with this view of it we take great pleasure in recommending it to the reading public.
We do not, indeed, pretend that the volume before us is faultless. There are in it some errors and mistakes-one or two of which have been corrected by the author through the public prints. But the only wonder is, that there are not more. To collect and arrange such a vast amount of matter in so short a time, and that, too, while