« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
our hands, that we cannot enter into particulars, and must therefore only give it a passing notice, allowing ourselves the liberty, should it be deemed advisable, and should Providence permit, to resume the sub. ject at a future time. We will, therefore, only observe now that we were very much disappointed and not a little mortified, when we cast our eye upon that paper, and saw some portions of the proceedings of the Conference and speeches of its members. For the editor of that paper, notwithstanding we had differed and do still differ from him widely in respect to abolition measures and movements, we had enter. tained a high regard, so much so that we could hardly believe our own eyes when we read his report respecting the speeches of certain mem. bers of that body of ministers. That a man professing an enlarged philanthropy towards the human race, and particularly towards the slave population of our country, and editing a paper called the Philanthropist should pollute the columns of that paper with a view to ridicule a man's person, to caricature his speeches, to put words and sen. timents into his mouth which he never uttered, was an event so unexpected from such a source, that it was with the deepest concern for the reputation of our common nature that we did read and now look over that mischievous publication. According to that print, Mr. Scott and his partizans are every thing that is praiseworthy, both in argument and manner, "calm and dignified," while their opponents displayed "passionate declamation," "delivered themselves of excitable combustibles," were "unskilful reasoners," guilty of "begging the question," &c., &c.
But we have neither time nor inclination to follow him through that tirade of abuse he has so liberally bestowed upon those who felt it their duty and privilege to dissent, and freely and publicly to express that dissent from him on the subject then under discussion. The responsi bility for the manner in which that discussion was conducted must rest on those who conducted it, and for the manner in which it has been reported to the puplic by the Philanthropist, we hold the editor accountable, nor shall we on the present occasion descend to an enumeration of the miserable caricatures by which he has attempted to render some men ridiculous. Such puerile attempts to pour contempt upon antagonists are utterly unbecoming either a Christian, gentleman, or a philanthropist, much less one who professes to combine all these in one, with a view to rescue his fellow-men from bondage. We have sometimes thought that there are some men who have so entirely exhausted their philanthropy upon colored people, that they have not one spark of love left for their white brethren, but think it need. ful to load these with reproach in order to render service to those-to make the characters of their white brethren as black as are the faces of those whom they wish to emancipate-and thus bring about an amalgamation as offensive to good taste, and as heterogeneous in its admixtures, as would be the literal intermixture of the blood of the two nations.
With these general remarks upon this branch of our subject, we take our leave of the topic which has called them forth; reminding the reader that our object has been to state truly the doings of the General Conference, and not to enter into the inquiry whether slavery be morally right or wrong—that is a totally different question-although
it must be perceived that we have made no sickly attempts to disguise our sentiments on the subject of abolitionism. To this we are, ex animo, opposed. But this term has now a fixed, technical meaning, and must not be confounded with opposition to slavery; nor must those who A oppose abolitionism be necessarily classed with pro-slavery men. man may oppose slavery, or he may not oppose it, and yet not be an abolitionist. And hence those who assert that because the General Conference proscribed abolition measures they were therefore pro-slavery, do them great injustice; and this is the injustice of which we complain.
III. We have taken so large a space on the two leading topics we designed to present to the reader, and particularly the latter, that we must dispose of the temperance question with a few brief remarks. It is known to most of our readers, doubtless, that the question had been submitted to the several annual conferences whether they would petition the General Conference to restore to our General Rules Mr. Wesley's rule on temperance. That our readers may see the difference, we will here state the two rules, and then give them a little historical information on this subject. As the rule now stands in our Discipline, it reads as follows:
"Drunkenness, or drinking spirituous liquors, unless in cases of necessity."
Mr. Wesley left it thus :
"Drunkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity."
We have italicised the words in Mr. Wesley's rule not found in ours, that the reader may at once see the difference; and it will be perceived that this difference, though small in respect to the number of words used, is very material as to meaning. Mr. Wesley's rule not only forbids drinking spirituous liquors, unless in cases of extreme necessityby which he undoubtedly meant such cases of disease as might require them medicinally-though this, he affirmed, was not necessary except through the ignorance of the practitioner-but also prohibits the buying or selling them; thereby striking a death-blow to all traffic in those poisonous liquids. Whereas the rule, as it now stands in our Discipline, only forbids the drinking them, except in cases of necessity; leaving every one free to traffic in them as much as he pleases, and to make out his case of necessity according to the promptings of his inclination or appetite. That the General Conference had so interpreted this rule, so injuriously mutilated from what it was as it came from the pen of Wesley, is evident from the following regulation, which was incorporated in the Discipline in 1796, in reference to this subject:
"If any member of our church retail or give spirituous liquors, and any thing disorderly be transacted under his roof on this account, the preacher who has the oversight of the circuit shall proceed against him as in the case of other immoralities."
Here is an allowance to the members of the church to "RETAIL or give spirituous liquors ;" and some had given such a construction to the rule as to take the liberty to vend them by wholesale in any quantities, or to retail them also to be drank in the streets or in the buyer's own house, without coming under the penalties of this regulation! So
easy is it to evade the strict letter of the law, when men's inclination and interest both prompt them to the violation of its spirit!
In this state of things was the church when the temperance movements commenced. And we must confess that we were asleep upon this subject, thinking that the Methodist Church was a strict temperance society; and that our rules were sufficient of themselves, without any extraneous efforts, to preserve us from the contaminating influence of spirituous liquors. We soon found, however, to our great mortification, that we were under a delusion that intemperance was, in fact, making fearful inroads upon the church-that our rule was inefficient in itself-that such a loose construction was given to it by rum-sellers and rum-drinkers as to threaten to deluge the church with these destructive "fire waters." When aroused to a knowledge of these astounding facts, we fell in with the temperance measures; and many appeals were written and published, with a view also to arouse the Methodist community to the importance of attending to this subject. Indeed, both the pulpit and the press, as well as the stage erected for temperance advocates, rung with the warnings to the intemperate, and with most heart-stirring appeals to all who felt for the welfare of the church and the country, to induce them to enlist in a general crusade against the inroads of this desolating monster. Success crowned these efforts so far as to bring before the General Conference of 1832 numerous petitions for that body to take measures for the restoration of Mr. Wesley's rule against drunkenness. The subject was referred to a committee, which reported favorably to the prayer of the petitioners, and likewise a very able address to our people, which was ordered to be published in the form of a tract, as well as in the Christian Advo. cate and Journal. These proceedings were hailed by the friends of temperance as the harbinger of a triumph in the cause of temperance which should confer enduring benefit and honor upon the church and the world.
As it was necessary for the several annual conferences to petition the General Conference to restore the rule in question previous to the assembling of the latter in 1836, the subject had been submitted to the former; and it was expected by most of the friends of the measure that there would be no, or at least very little opposition from any quarter for the restoration of Mr. Wesley's rule. They were, however, sadly disappointed. Opposition sprang up from a quarter least of all expected; and the report of the committee in favor of the prayer of the petitioners was finally referred to the bishops, for their opinion on the constitutionality of the alteration prayed for.
From this it appears that there were constitutional scruples in the minds of some delegates respecting restoring the rule of Mr. Wesley, and these arose from a doubt whether a sufficient number of the voters in the annual conferences, namely, "three-fourths of all the members who shall be present and vote on" a recommendation to alter any rule, had concurred in recommending this proposed amendment. The doubt, indeed, might have been removed at once, but for the absence of the records of one of the annual conferences, which, unhappily, had not been forwarded.
It is due, therefore, to the General Conference to say, that the
report of the committee failed to pass into a rule, not because there were a majority opposed to temperance, even in the strictest sense of that word, but because they doubted their constitutional powers to act in the premises; nor do we believe that any set themselves against it, because, as some have affirmed, they loved this "wages of unrighteousness." As much, therefore, as we regret the failure of this measure, and as ardently as we hope for the restoration of Mr. Wesley's rule, we cannot join with those who have censured the Conference as abettors of the traffic and use of intoxicating liquors. To clear them from this foul imputation has been the chief object of introducing the topic in this place, as well as to record our earnest prayer that another General Conference will put their veto upon this soul-destroying vice, and thereby render it as odious in the estimation of Christian people to make, vend, and drink spirituous liquors, as it is now to become drunk with ardent spirits.
In the course of the debate which arose on this question, it became a subject of inquiry how and when this rule of Mr. Wesley was altered; some affirming that it was never introduced into the Discipline otherwise than as it now stands. We have recently found an old Discipline, said to be the fifth edition, printed in 1789, five years after the organization of the church at the Christmas Conference. In this edition the rule stands thus:
"Drunkenness, buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them." Here both the traffic and drinking are absolutely prohibited, not allowing any case of necessity, "extreme" or otherwise, as an excuse. In the Minutes for 1784 the following question and answer is found:
"Q. May our ministers or travelling preachers drink spirituous liquors ?
"A. By no means, unless it be medicinally."
Here the prohibition contained in the General Rules is enforced by a special minute, and in language which shows the sense in which the Conference understood the rule. But as far back as 1780, four years before we had any Discipline printed, we find the following question and answer :
"Q. Do we disapprove the practice of distilling grain into liquor? Shall we disown our friends who will not renounce the practice? "A. Yes."
In 1783, the subject is again brought forward in the following words:
"Q. Should our friends be permitted to make spirituous liquors, sell and drink them in drams?
"A. By no means: we think it wrong in its nature and consequences, and desire all our preachers to teach the people, by precept and example, to put away this evil."
These show the sense which the Methodists entertained at those times on this subject: they would not allow the people either to "make,” “sell," or "drink" spirituous liquors, because they considered it wrong in itself and pernicious in its consequences. The next year after the last-mentioned question and answer were recorded, namely, in 1784, the church was organized, when it is probable that the rule was adopted, as quoted above in the Discipline of 1789, five years after the organization, that being the fifth edition of the Discipline.
As we have not at hand a regular file of Disciplines, we cannot tell when the rule was altered so as to read as it now does; but we presume it must have been about 1796, as that was the year in which the rule was adopted* condemning "disorderly transactions" being allowed on account of drinking spirituous liquors in the house of him who sold it. When people begin to legislate with a view to regulate any thing or practice, it is substantial evidence that the practice is at least tolerated.
From this historical sketch it appears most evident, that at some time after the year 1789, the rule in reference to the manufacturing, vending, and drinking spirituous liquors, was so altered as to allow the practice in either form, provided it was so indulged as not to produce disorderly transactions ;" and hence it follows that in these particulars our church had departed from "old-fashioned Methodism;" and it therefore follows that those who are in favor of restoring the rule to its Wesleyan phraseology, are desirous of retracing their steps back to old Methodism, as it came pure from the mint at Oxford, and as it was recognized by our American fathers in the gospel. Nor can those who duly consider the destructive effects of spirituous liquors on community be uninterested in the success of those who labor for the remedy afforded by regaining what we have unhappily lost, by the speedy restoration of the Wesleyan rule. If we are truly thankful to God for any thing, we are more especially so for the blessed effects which have resulted from the temperance reformation; and though we did not at first clearly perceive its necessity, as it respected our own denomination, nor approve of some measures which were adopted at first, yet we are now fully convinced that the efforts were highly called for; that their effects have been most salutary in arousing the public mind to the importance of this subject, and in finally leading our own community to adopt measures to rescue themselves from the deteriorating influence arising from the use of intoxicating liquors. And notwithstanding we remain unchanged in respect to some of the measures which were at first adopted by the movers in this good work, particularly as it respects the establishment of a permanent fund for the support of temperance agents, we hail with unmixed delight the onward course of this cause, and hope it may not cease its forward march, whatever obstructions it may meet with, until every church in the land shall be purified from the contaminating influence of intoxicating liquor, and its traffic and use shall be banished from the habitations of men! Amen! A MEMB. OF GEN. CONF.
For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review
ART. III.-SKETCHES OF SOUTH AMERICA.
BY REV. J. DEMPSTER, A. M., MISSIONARY AT BUENOS AYRES,
As the North American churches are turning an anxious eye towards South America as towards a future field of large and promising missionary operations, it cannot be unimportant to extend the knowledge of
* See Lee's History, p. 247.