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"A. No question. I cannot guide any soul unless he consent to be guided by me; neither can any soul force me to guide him, if I consent not.
"Q. Does the ceasing of this consent on either side dissolve this relation?
"A. It must in the very nature of things. If a man no longer consent to be guided by me, I am no longer his guide; I am free. If one will not guide me any longer, I am free to seek one who will. "Q. Does a church in the New Testament always mean a single congregation?
"A. We believe it does; we do not recollect any instance to the contrary.
"Q. What instance or ground is there, then, in the New Testa ment for a national church?
"A. We know none at all; we apprehend it to be a merely political institution.
"Q. Are the three orders of bishops, priests, and deacons, plainly described in the New Testament?
"A. We think they are, and believe they generally obtained in the church of the apostolic age.
"Q. But are you assured that God designed the same plan should obtain in all churches, throughout all ages?
"A. We are not assured of it, because we do not know it is asserted in Holy Writ.
"Q. If the plan were essential to a Christian church, what must become of all foreign reformed churches?
"A. It would follow they are no part of the church of Christ } a consequence full of shocking absurdity.
"Q. In what age was the divine right of episcopacy first asserted in England?
"A. About the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign: till then all the bishops and clergy in England continually allowed and joined in the ministrations of those who were not episcopally ordained.
"Q. Must there not be numberless accidental variations in the government of various churches?
"A. There must, in the nature of things. As God variously dispenses his gifts of nature, providence, and grace, both the offices themselves, and the officers in each, ought to be varied from time to time.
"Q. Why is it that there is no determinate plan of church government appointed in Scripture?
"A. Without doubt, because the wisdom of God had a regard to that necessary variety.
"Q. Was there any thought of uniformity in the government of all churches, until the time of Constantine?
"A. It is certain there was not, nor would there have been then had men consulted the word of God only."
Mr. Wesley and his associates followed the great principles of church polity as they were contained in Scripture, and practised by the primitive and modern well-regulated churches. Perhaps, however, it was going sufficiently far to affirm, that no determinate plan of church government was fixed on in Scripture. To some extent the doctrine is true; but to a considerable extent it is dangerously
false. The following outlines or principles of church government appear to us as strictly Scriptural:-1. Mutual consent between pastors and their flocks, on gospel principles. 2. A pious, good man only can be made a minister. 3. Possessors or seekers of religion only can be members of Christ's church. 4. The supreme power is vested in the body of elders or presbyters. 5. Some men may be overseers, being constituted such by the body of elders, and accountable to them. 6. The word of God is the supreme rule of a Christian's conduct. Such principles appear to us to be clearly laid down in God's word as great fundamental rules of church government. There are other principles that have been adopted as ecclesiastical regulations that are clearly contrary to Scripture. Among many that might be named, the following are given:-1. The supremacy of the pope, or of any individual king, or queen, or minor. 2. The vesting prelates with powers by which they are not accountable to the pastors, or by which the pastors are stripped of their inherent powers. 3. That a parliament or political body should be the supreme ecclesiastical legislature for the church. 4. To lord over God's heritage. 5. A wicked man can be a minister of Jesus Christ. 6. Wicked men may remain in the church. 7. Ecclesiastical synods have no power to convene or act without the king's consent, &c. Such principles as these are clearly condemned in Scripture; and were the English Church to reject them, she would soon be under the same necessity that Mr. Wesley labored under, viz., to return to the word of God as he did, and reject the commandments of men, whether they be enjoined by parliaments, kings, or popes. Indeed, we can never apply the term necessity, except in a very qualified sense, to Mr. Wesley and the Methodists; seeing all the necessity under which they labored was simply this: that, having received the word of God as the only rule of their faith and practice, they must, of necessity, in adhering to Scripture, reject many commandments and institutions of parliaments, kings, and popes. It was this kind of necessity by which Mr. Wesley was urged; and this was the kind of necessity that compelled the Methodist Episcopal Church to act, and form a church polity which can challenge the world to furnish such a specimen of well-ordered ecclesiastical government. Wesleyan Methodism, only, is second to the American Methodist Church. But we must again revert to the doctrine of necessity, which has become, in church polity, a substitute for misrule and unscriptural encroachment.
(5.) Mr. Wesley gave up some things belonging to the English Church as indefensible from Scripture, reason, or utility, such as many of the laws, customs, and practices of the ecclesiastical courts. He also maintained that the National Church was a mere political institution, and had no foundation in the New Testament. He believed that the doctrine of the divine right of episcopacy was first asserted in the middle of Queen Elizabeth's reign. He furthermore rejected the authority of parliament, of the king, and of bishops to control where the word of God was plainly declarative of what was right. These, and such things belonging to the establishment, Mr. Wesley and his associates considered as untenable; and, as far as they interfered with the requirements of the New Testament, they were considered, justly, as of no authority. When they went no far
ther than human requirements, which did not interfere with the injunc tions of the Bible, the Methodists cordially submitted to them. On this point Mr. Wesley declares,-"We profess, 1. That we will obey all the laws of that church, (such we allow the rubrics to be, but not the customs of the ecclesiastical courts,) so far as we can with a safe conscience. 2. That we will obey, with the same restriction, the bishops, as executors of those laws. But their bare will, distinct from those laws, we do not profess to obey at all."*
(6.) Mr. Wesley practised and defended other things in open contradiction to the regulations of the Church of England; such were field preaching, employing lay preachers, extempore prayer, formation of societies, rules and directions for their government, refusing to admit immoral persons into his societies, excluding those who walked disorderly, &c. To these several others, under the head of discipline, may be added.
In regard to discipline, in general, it was shown already that the discipline of the gospel does not exist in the Church of England. A kind of order existed, which churchmen are pleased to dignify with the name of discipline; but it is any thing else than the discipline that is authorized by the New Testament. On this subject we will quote Mr. Wesley's own words, given in his appeal as an answer to those who were loud in favor of order, but worse than latitudinarian in reference to gospel discipline :
"What is this order of which you speak? Will it serve instead of the knowledge and love of God? Will this order rescue those from the snare of the devil who are now taken captive at his will? Will it keep them who are escaped a little way from turning back into Egypt? If not, how should I answer it to God, if, rather than violate I know not what order, I should sacrifice thousands of souls thereto? I dare not do it. It is at the peril of my own soul.
"Indeed, if by order were meant true Christian discipline, whereby all the living members of Christ are knit together in one, and all that are putrid and dead immediately cut off from the body; this order I reverence, for it is of God. But where is it to be found in what diocess, in what town or parish, within England or Wales? Are you rector of a parish? Then let us go no farther. Does this order obtain there? Nothing less. Your parishioners are a rope of sand. As few (if any) of them are alive to God, so they have no connection with each other, unless such as might be among Turks or heathens. Neither have you any power to cut off from that body, were it alive, the dead and putrid members. Perhaps you have no desire; but all are jumbled together without any care or concern of yours.
“It is plain, then, that what order is to be found is not among you who so loudly contend for it, but among that very people whom you continually blame for their violation and contempt of it. The little flock you condemn is united together in one body, by one Spirit; so that if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one be honored, all rejoice with it.' Nor does any dead member long remain; but as soon as the hope of recovering it is past, it is cut off.
"Now, suppose we were willing to relinquish our charge, and to give
* Wesley's Works, vol. iii, p. 362.
up this flock into your hands, would you observe the same order as we do now with them and the other souls under your care? You dare not; because you have respect of persons. You fear the faces of You cannot; because you have not overcome the world. You are not above the desire of earthly things. And it is impossible you should ever have any true order, or exercise any Christian discipline, till you are wholly crucified to the world; till you desire nothing more but God." ***
In every parish where Mr. Wesley was curate, he observed the rubrics with scrupulous exactness; and even subsequently, as far as was consistent with the station of an unbeneficed clergyman, or a private member of the church. Indeed, he observed the rubrics sometimes at the hazard of his life.t
As it regards the laws of the church, including the canons and decretals, both which are received in the courts ecclesiastical, we ob serve, 1. The decretals are the very dregs of popery. 2. Many of the canons of 1603 are grossly wicked and absurd. 3. The spirit which they breathe is, throughout, truly popish and antichristian. 4. Nothing can be more diabolical than the ipso facto excommunication so often denounced in them. 5. The whole method of executing these canons, the process used in the spiritual courts, is too bad to be tolerated among any Christian or civilized people. 6. The canons were never legally established by the church or convocation, and, therefore, not binding. Indeed, the Church of England is without disciplinary law to God; and it is absurd to charge Mr. Wesley with schism because he did not obey laws that were not in existence, or were not observed by the church, or were contrary to the express laws of God.
In regard to doctrines, it is a known principle of the Church of England, that nothing is to be received as an article of faith which is not read in the Holy Scriptures, or to be inferred from them by just and easy consequence. Mr. Wesley and his associates received the arti cles of the Church of England; and when they assembled in conference, it was not to draw up new articles of faith. Their principal object was, to ascertain how several of the doctrines relative to experimental Christianity, which they found stated in substance in the Articles, illustrated in the Homilies, and referred to or expressed in the Liturgy, were to be understood and explained. This light they sought from mutual discussion, in which every thing was brought to the standard of the word of God. On the doctrines we remark as follows:
1. The pure Arminianism of the Anglican Church, which goes to form her fundamental doctrines, as contained in her leading Articles, her Homilies, and Liturgy, was received ex animo by Mr. Wesley. These, too, were clearly defined and amply defended by the Methodists.
2. The Calvinism of the English Church, contained in her 17th article, and held by many of her divines, was rejected and confuted by the Methodists. The article, however, is one of compromise, of union or expediency, inconsistent with the other and fundamental ones, and contrary to the doctrines of the Homilies and Liturgy.
3. The fundamental articles and doctrines were so explained and defended as, by consequence, to repudiate and guard against Pelagian. + Idem, vol. v, p. 26.
* Wesley's Works, vol. v, p. 159. VOL. IX.-January, 1838.
ism, Socinianism, and kindred doctrines, and to prevent all tendency towards them.
4. In doctrines, therefore, Mr. Wesley was agreed with all those who held to the true and fundamental doctrines of the English Church. 5. But he and Methodism differ, especially from the Pelagian views of many divines in the Church of England; and these were neither few, nor wanting in influence.*
It has been sometimes said, that the doctrines of the English Church need not be any cause of difference. Nevertheless, the article of expediency, which admitted or tolerated Calvinism, and the Pelagianized doctrines of many divines, called aloud for the interference of Wesley, Fletcher, and others, to defend the pure principles that were embraced in the fundamental and leading articles. To guard on the one hand, and reject on the other, as well as to explain and enforce the sound and good, needed such expositors as the great Wesley. And the religious world still needs much, even doctrinally, the lucid and Scriptural doc. trines of Methodism, which rejects the Calvinism of the Anglican Church, and guards against and shuts out the Pelagianism of her lax, unorthodox divines.
In regard to the use of extempore prayer, against which there was a canon, Mr. Wesley makes the following reply:- "That canon I dare not obey, because the law of man binds only so far as it is consistent with the word of God."†
The introduction of what has been improperly called lay preachers, was another deviation from the regulations of the English Church, which gave as great offence as several other things that were taken from the New Testament, incorporated into Methodism, though not found in the English Church. Of this we will speak hereafter.
Obedience to bishops was thus defined at the conference held in 1744 : "Q. 6. How far is it our duty to obey the bishops? A. In all things indifferent. And, on this ground of obeying them, we should observe the canons, as far as we can with a safe conscience." Mr. Wesley obeyed the bishops in all things wherein he did not apprehend there was some law of God to the contrary; and, even in such cases, he paid them all the deference he could, and endeavored to act as inoffensively as possible. But he believed it his duty to preach the gospel, to form societies, employ preachers, reject unscriptural rules of discipline, adopt a Scriptural discipline; because the word of God explicitly required this at his hands.
(7.) The original Methodists were all of the Church of England, and zealously adhered to it in every point of doctrine and discipline. Hence, among the first rules of the Methodist societies it was inserted, "They that leave the church, leave us." And this was adopted, not as a point of prudence, but a point of conscience. They believed it unlawful to separate from the church, unless sinful terms of communion were imposed.
In the conference held in 1744 the subject of their connection with the Church of England was discussed. They considered the visible Church of England, according to her twentieth article, to be a congregation of English believers, in which the pure word of God was
* See Wesley's Works, vol. iii, p. 153.
+ Idem, vol. v, p. 86.