Wesleyans is a general name for all adherents or followers of John Wesley, the founder of Arminian Methodism; but by usage it is commonly limited to the regular Methodists of the British Conference, in distinction from those of the other kindred bodies in America, Great Britain, Ireland, and elsewhere, which in this Cyclopaedia are treated under separate heads.
I. History. — As much of this is the common property of all Methodist bodies throughout the world, we give it here somewhat in extenso.
Methodism in its origin was the child of Providence. Its founder, John Wesley, was also a child of Providence; and nearly the whole of his career on earth was marked by indications of the special and peculiar, sometimes marvelous, interposition of God in his behalf. In the origin, growth, and wide diffusion of Methodism, we can trace the evidence of the divine hand opening its way and directing its course. In all its past history, now covering a period of one hundred and forty years, when its movements were in accordance with the indications of Providence, it prospered; on the other hand, many of the changes in its operations, which were of human origin, and the outcome of expediency only, have been the cause of obstruction and often of painful disappointment and loss.
1. Inception of the Wesleyan Body. — The embodiment of Methodism is John Wesley; and during the fifty-one years of his life, which elapsed between its actual formation and the death of its founder, Mr. Wesley was its source and life. Born at Epworth in 1703, he entered the Charterhouse School, London, in 1714; in 1719 he was continuing his studies, under his brother Samuel, at the Westminster School; and in 1720 he entered Christ Church College, Oxford. In 1725 he was ordained deacon by Dr. John Potter, bishop of Oxford, who, in the advice he gave the young deacon, said, "If he wishes to be extensively useful, he must not spend his time in contending for or against things of a disputable nature, but in testifying against notorious vice, and in promoting real, essential holiness." Here were the germs of that life-work which produced Methodism. In 1729 John Wesley began to take pupils at Oxford, and some of the more serious of these united with their teacher in visiting the prisoners in the Castle and the sick poor in the city; and they commenced a systematic course of living, which soon led to their being called Methodists. That was the first origin of the Society so designated. Ten years elapsed. Both John and Charles Wesley had been out to America as missionaries in the mean time.
Returning to England in 1738, they were both introduced to Peter Bohler and other Moravian brethren, from whom they learned the way of salvation by faith; and themselves entering into the liberty of the children of God, in the month of June, 1738, were made so happy in their new experience that they began in great earnestness to preach that doctrine everywhere. In a remarkable manner the Spirit of God gave most convincing evidence of the completeness of the change, which had been wrought by faith in both the brothers. This was more distinctly and emphatically shown by the spiritual awakening which accompanied and followed the preaching of John Wesley. He had to preach in St. Mary's Church, Oxford, before the University. His text was, "By grace are ye saved through faith;" and he explained the new doctrine with a clearness, fullness, and force, which had not been known before in that famous seat of learning. That sermon was printed and widely circulated. It was followed by another on "God's free grace," in which, with equal lucidity and power, he set forth the doctrine "that the grace or love of God is free in all, and free for all." This sermon was printed in a cheap form; and those sermons, repeated in various forms and places, "gave birth to the greatest revival of religion" the world has ever known. He desired, in his own mind, to retire to Oxford to his beloved obscurity, but Divine Providence ordered otherwise; and John Wesley was detained in London and importuned to preach these new doctrines, in various churches, thrice every Sunday, and on week-days also. One source of attraction was that he had recently returned from America, which was considered a far country; and he related some of his experience in the course of his discourses. Multitudes flocked to hear him, and soon the churches were unable to hold the crowds which assembled. In a short time, partly be-cause of the large assemblies and partly owing to the new doctrines, he was excluded from one church, then from another, till at length he was shut out of all the churches. Not daring to be silent, after a short struggle between honor and conscience, he made a virtue of necessity, and preached in the open air-first in Moorfields, London, then at Kennington, and in many other parts of England Thousands upon thousands of persons — in some instances ten thousand, in others twenty thousand, and even more as computed by Mr. Wesley himself, and recorded by him in his Journals — attended his outdoor services. This step was not taken in any spirit of antagonism to the Church; quite the contrary. During one month in 1739, both John and Charles Wesley had interviews with the bishop of Gloucester, Gibson, bishop of London, and Potter, archbishop of Canterbury, to talk over their conduct; and with kindly results in each sense. Mr. Whitefield, also, had similar interviews with bishops respecting his preaching in the open air. It is plain, therefore, that the resistance these three clergymen met with did not proceed from the heads of the Established Church, but from those of the clergy who Were at ease in their comfortable livings, and who saw that their quiet enjoyment would be broken if the proceedings of these evangelists were not stopped. Hence it was that many newspapers and magazines were used by those clergymen to slander and misrepresent the work of the Wesleys and Whitefield.
During the summer and autumn of 1739, there were witnessed by thousands of persons most remarkable manifestations of divine power at many of the open-air services conducted by John Wesley. The preaching of George Whitefield and Charles Wesley, at the same period and to the same congregations, was quite as faithful and even more impassioned, at times, than was John Wesley's; but it was to the preaching of John Wesley only that those special manifestations were given. At London and at Bristol, on various occasions and at divers places, during the six months preceding the formation of the United Societies, scores of persons were smitten down under his preaching, in the open air and in small meetings in rooms; such signs had never been before witnessed since apostolic times. Mr. Wesley himself wrote: "More and more of the people were cut to the heart, and came to me all in tears, inquiring with the utmost eagerness what they must do to be saved." These penitents were counted by scores and hundreds during the autumn of 1739; and it was the witnessing of the deep agony of spirit and anguish of heart that awakened the sympathy of two gentlemen, who attended the preaching at Moorfields, to provide a place of shelter for those poor stricken ones. Northward of the preaching ground at Moorfields only a few hundred yards, but surrounded by fields — the Old Gunnery, or foundry for cannon, had stood in ruins for more than twenty years. Mr. Wesley was pressed to take the premises into his own hands; but he had to decline them, having no funds. Mr. Ball and Mr. Watkins, two kindly disposed friends, finding that the tenancy could be secured for £1.15, loaned that sum to Mr. Wesley; but, as the place was a vast heap of ruinous buildings, a large additional sum had to be spent to fit it up as a place for religious worship. The roofless building, with tottering walls, was first used by Mr. Wesley on Sunday evening, Nov. 11, 1739. The cost of fitting up the Foundry for worship was about £800, which sum was paid in three years by small subscriptions from many friends who had shared in the blessings, which came with the preached word.
The exact date of the origin of Methodism is not known; but it was within the three weeks embraced within the last week in November and the first fourteen days of December in 1739. A large number of persons had been converted within six months, who had been joined to the Moravians. In Mr. Wesley's works are found several allusions made by him to that period. The two Allowing passages convey the clearest account we have: "In the latter end of the year 1739, eight or ten persons came to me in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin and earnestly groaning for redemption. They desired I would spend some time with them in prayer and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come. That we might have more time for this great work, I appointed a day when they might all come together, which, from thenceforward, they did every Thursday, in the evening. To these, and as many more as desired to join with them, I gave those advices which I judged most needful for them; and we always concluded our meetings with prayer suited to their several necessities. This was the rise of the United Society; first in London, then in other places." The first meetings were class-meetings, and John Wesley was the leader. In another extract we find the following additional details: "The first evening about twelve persons came; the next week thirty or forty. When they were increased to about a hundred, I took down their names and places of abode, intending, as often as it was convenient, to call upon them at their homes. Thus, without any previous plan, began the Methodist Society in England a company of people associated together to help each other to work out their own salvation." Such is the account of the origin of Methodism from the pen of its founder, who, in a small tract which he is sued shortly before their organization, thus describes the character of a Methodist:
"A Methodist is one who has the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost given unto him; one who loves the Lord his God with all his heart, and soul, and mind, and strength. He rejoices evermore, prays without ceasing, and in everything gives thanks. His heart is full of love to all mankind, and is purified from envy, malice, wrath, and every unkind affection. His own desire, and the one design of his life, is not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him. He keeps all God's commandments, from the least to the greatest. He follows not the customs of the world; for vice does not lose its nature through its becoming fashionable. He fares not sumptuously every day. He cannot lay up treasure upon the earth; nor can he adorn himself with gold or costly apparel. He cannot join in any diversion that has the least tendency to vice. He cannot speak evil of his neighbor any more than he can tell a lie. He cannot utter unkind or evil words. No corrupt communication ever comes out of his mouth. He does good unto all men; unto neighbors, strangers, friends, aid enemies. These are the principles and practices of our sect. These are the marks of a true Methodist. By these alone do Methodists desire to be distinguished from other men."
2. Progress of the Wesleyans during Mr. Wesley's Lifetime. — For the first century of its existence the history of Methodism was a series of providences. In a condensed record, which this is required to be, these providential openings can be very little more than indicated.
From the time the Wesley brothers returned from America they were both closely connected with the Moravians, whose meeting-house was, and is still, in Fetter Lane. It is probably true that most of the accessions made to their society during the years 1738 and 1739 were the fruits of the labors of the two Wesleys and Whitefield. Even after Mr. Wesley began his own society, in December, 1739, he himself continued to meet with the Moravians; and he took with him many of those who adhered to him as the results of his ministry. As early as June, 1738, John Wesley visited the Moravian settlement at Herrnhut, Germany, where he remained three months, conversing freely with the Brethren on their doctrines and discipline. In December of the same year Mr. Wesley drew up for the society in Fetter Lane the rules of the Band Societies-companies of not less than five nor more than ten — who met together once a week for religious conversation and prayer. A series of nine questions were prepared and used on each occasion as helps and instructions; and the design of those meetings was embodied in a series often propositions and inquiries. These were the basis of the United Societies which began to meet under Mr. Wesley in December, 1739.
In April, 1739, John Wesley was excluded from the churches in Bristol, and a few months later he was also excluded from the London churches. Mr. Whitefield and Charles Wesley were also included in the prohibition. Mr. Whitefield commenced open-air preaching near Bristol, with such happy results that John Wesley soon saw a wide door of usefulness opened to him in that plan; and he readily adopted it, with such marks of divine approbation as had not been before witnessed. This led to the commencement of the system of the itinerancy, and necessitated the employment of lay helpers; hence lay preachers had to be engaged to watch over the new converts, gathered out of the world by the labors of those apostolic men. The earliest of these lay helpers were Joseph Humphreys, Thomas Maxfield, and John Cennick. The first named is thus introduced to us by Mr. Wesley himself: "Joseph Humphreys, the first lay preacher that assisted me in England in 1738. He was perfected in love, and so continued for at least twelve months. Afterwards he turned Calvinist, joined Mr. Whitefield, and published an invective against me and my brother Charles.
In a while he renounced Mr. Whitefield, turned Presbyterian minister, then received Episcopal ordination, and, finally, scoffed at inward religion — a catalogue of delinquencies long enough to cause his name to be excluded from the true friends of Methodism.
Thomas Maxfield was converted under Mr. Wesley's preaching, at Bristol, in. May, 1739. He had an excellent gift for preaching, and was very useful in keeping together and instructing the young converts in London during Mr. Wesley's absence. Some Churchmen raised a cry against Maxfield's preaching at the Foundry, and they sent their complaints to Mr. Wesley in the country, who hastened to London to silence him; but, on meeting his aged mother, who had heard Maxfield she desired her son to hear him and judge for himself if he was not qualified to preach as certainly as Mr. Wesley was That wise admonition of Mrs. Wesley led to the regular appointment of Thomas Maxfield early in 1740 to preach as a lay helper at the Foundry. He continued in office at the Foundry some twenty-three years, and after Mr. Wesley's marriage joined Mrs. Wesley in her prejudices; and in 1763 he separated from Mr. Wesley, taking with him one hundred and seventy members. He gathered an independent congregation in London, to whom he ministered for many years; but was reconciled to Mr. Wesley before his death, and Mr. Wesley preached in his chapel in 1783.
John Cennick joined Mr. Wesley at Bristol, and was very useful in that city and at Kingswood; but, not agreeing with Mr. Wesley's views on general redemption, he joined Mr. Whitefield, and became a useful minister in many parts of the United Kingdom.
In 1740 Mr. Wesley preached against predestination, and Mr. Whitefield published a reply to it in 1741, in which he advocated unconditional election, irresistible grace, and final perseverance. Charles Wesley's Hymns and John Wesley's Sermons being directly opposed to Mr. Whitefield's doctrinal views, a separation took place, which continued for many years; but Providence brought good out of what appeared to many, at the time, a serious evil.
July 23, 1740, Mr. Wesley separated from the Moravians. In December, 1741, several disturbances having taken place at the services held by Mr. Wesley, one of the leading London magistrates voluntarily waited on the king, George II. In a few days, Sir John Ganson called on Mr. Wesley on behalf of the city magistrates, and reported "that the Middlesex magistrates had received orders from above to do you justice whenever you apply to us." That spontaneous kindness checked the disturbances, and the London societies had peace ever afterwards.
In 1742, the societies having greatly increased, and numbering several thousand members, they were formed into classes of twelve or more persons, with a properly qualified person to lead them. In February, at Bristol, the same year, the debts on buildings were mentioned, and offers were made to contribute a small sum weekly as the best way of paying the debts. Leaders were desired to collect what each member would give weekly, and a steward was then appointed to receive these amounts from the leaders weekly. Class-leaders and stewards were thus early chosen and appointed. The Select Society, or Band Society, consisting of justified persons only, was established in 1742. Members meeting in band had on their quarterly ticket, besides the usual distinguishing marks, a large B.B. and tickets have been provided in England regularly each quarter ever since, but they are usually given now as ordinary tickets. Indeed, some of the preachers do not know what the letter B on the ticket represents.
Watch-night services began as early as April, 1742. The converted colliers at Kingswood first began them as a substitute for their midnight meetings held at the ale-house. They began at eight or nine o'clock, and continued until midnight. Mr. Wesley at once approved, and fixed them, first monthly, at the full of the moon, then quarterly, and recommended them to all his societies. They are now held only on the last night of the year.
Quarterly society tickets were first given in 1742. For over twenty years these were issued in three or four localities, each having a different design. Inconvenience having arisen from these varieties, the ticket of one district not being known or recognized in another, the Conference in. 1765 ordered a uniform ticket to be issued from London, the first of which is dated February, 1766. For fifty years these tickets were only about an inch square-a very simple record-containing the date, a text of Scripture and a large capital Roman letter enclosed in a simple border, with the member's name written by the preacher who gave it on the margin. In 1816, at the suggestion of the Rev. Jabez Bunting, the ticket was a little enlarged to give space within the border for the member's name. In 1822, when Mr. Bunting was Connectional editor, he again altered the ticket, making it twice as large as before, and adding the name and origin of the society at the head. The design was thought by the Conference too fanciful, and three tickets only of that kind having been issued, it next was printed with a ray border around it in 1823, and in that form it has appeared ever since. The tickets were used to admit the members to love feasts, society meetings, and the Lord's supper. The addition of a few lines by the preacher at the back of the ticket made it a passport for a member to any society of Methodists either in England or the colonies. Recently a proper form for the removal of members has been provided.
In 1742 Mr. Wesley and John Nelson itinerated through parts of Yorkshire and Cornwall, establishing Methodism in many places. During that year the organization of Methodism was nearly completed.
On May 1, 1743, the rules of the society were first published in a small tract of eight pages, with the title: The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies in London, Bristol, Newcastle-on-Tyne, etc. They recite briefly the origin of the societies, and then describe the objects and characteristics of Methodism. Twenty editions of that tract were issued during Mr. Wesley's lifetime. In 1743 sick-visitors were appointed, the leaders of classes furnishing the names of persons to be visited, and the stewards supplying pecuniary aid when needed.
In June, 1744, the first Conference was held. Mr. Wesley invited six clergymen and five lay preachers to meet him in London, at the Foundry, and five days were occupied with its deliberations. The first included preliminary plans and a discussion on justification; the second, a discussion on sanctification; the third, on the Church; the fourth, on discipline; and the fifth was de-voted to the appointment of officers and defining their duties. A full record of their deliberations was preserved, and it shows how completely the whole scheme of Methodist discipline was outlined in their earliest deliberations. It came almost perfect from the first deliberative assembly.
The year 1745 was memorable for the inquiry made in the Conference, Is Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Independent Church government most reasonable? The unrest of Mr. Wesley's mind was deepened by correspondence with the Rev. Westley Hall, who had urged him to renounce the Church of England. At that time, Mr. Wesley believed in apostolical succession and the offering of an outward sacrifice by the priest. These dogmas were soon afterwards given up by him. On his journey to Bristol, in January, 1746, Mr. Wesley read lord King's Inquiry into the Constitution, Discipline, Unity, and Worship of the Primitive
Church. As the result of the discussion held in the Conference of 1745, Mr. Wesley considered his lay helpers as deacons and presbyters, and himself as a scriptural bishop. Lord King's book confirmed those opinions. He took time to consider the whole question; and at the Conference of 1747, in a series of nine questions and answers, he states plainly his acceptance and adoption of a Presbyterian form of Church government. He renounced all his High-Church notions, and his legislation in Conference after that date was based upon the convictions wrought in his mind by lord King's work. Even apostolical succession had to go. Of that, some years afterwards, he wrote, "I never could see it proved, and I am persuaded I never shall." His preference for the Church of England remained, but his practice was in accordance with the Dissenters in Church polity. Although Mr. Wesley did not for forty years after that period resort to the imposition of hands in ordination, yet the preachers he employed were solemnly set apart to the pastoral office; and the fact of his laying-on of hands shortly before his death was more a matter of form than the conferring of any special grace or qualification. He founded societies or churches all over the land, and he solemnly set apart godly men as their pastors. If there was some inconsistency in Mr. Wesley's adhesion to the Church of England, and his establishing a separate Church in the land, it was more the result of necessity than design.
In 1746 England was divided into seven circuits, for the better carrying-on of the itinerancy and the systematic government of the societies. Circuit stewards were that year first appointed and quarterly meetings first held. At that meeting all the finances of the circuit were reported, receipts and expenses, and those reports were carried up to the yearly Conference. In 1747 a tract society was commenced in Methodism. Mr. Wesley had himself written and published a dozen tracts, the wide distribution of which was made a blessing to many people.
The wisdom and forethought of Mr. Wesley were clearly shown in June, 1748, when he opened a large school on the top of Kingswood Hill, Bristol, for the education of the children of his preachers. That school still exists; but nearly a quarter of a century since it was changed in its character to a Reformatory School, and a much larger and more convenient establishment was erected near Bath as the School for Methodist Preachers' Children, which is known as New Kingswood. In 1813 a second school for the same purpose was purchased and opened at Woodhouse Grove, near Leeds, Yorkshire. For some years, the latter has been the juvenile school and New Kingswood, the finishing school, and it has taken high rank among the first-class classical and mathematical schools in England There is a scheme under consideration for the union of these schools, or for some enlargement which will admit of the larger number of preachers sons, owing to the greatly increased number of Methodist preachers. These schools have each a history full of interest, at least to Methodists; but no friendly hand has yet undertaken to be the chronicler' of their instructive records. From those schools have gone forth youths who have risen to the highest positions in law, theology, and medicine; while in commercial life Methodist preachers sons take rank with the best in the land. In the present years (1880-81), the son of an Irish Methodist preacher is the lord mayor of London, he having been also sheriff of London and Middlesex. Among the senators in the House of Commons are sons of Methodist preachers, who are distinguished as accomplished speakers and able legislators. No less than ten sons of Methodist preachers have been presidents of the Methodist Conference. While much of this distinction is doubtless due to natural genius and persevering effort, yet these owe their inception, growth, and success largely to the excellent training obtained in the schools for preachers' children. A public collection is made through all the societies once in the year for these schools it was appointed by Mr. Wesley when the first school was opened, and it has been continued ever since. The collection was instituted when the salary of a preacher was not more than £12 a year.
In January, 1750, a union took place between Mr. Whitefield and Mr. Wesley. Doctrinal differences separated them ten years previously; but they began this year by preaching in each other's chapels, and so, records Mr. Wesley, "one more stumbling-block is removed." In 1751 the first disruption in Methodism took place. John Bennett, who had been a preacher for eight years, separated from Mr. Wesley, charging him with being a pope and preaching popery. During the same year, James Wheatley, another preacher, was expelled by the united voice of both John and Charles Wesley. Both these men for a time created prejudice against the Wesleys, but the societies soon recovered their lost ground.
The Conference of 1752 agreed that the preachers should receive a stipend of £12 per annum to provide themselves with necessaries. Previously no money salary was given, the stewards supplying the preachers with what they wanted. In the year 1800 the finances had improved sufficiently to allow the preachers £4 each quarter. Ten years later that amount was doubled in some circuits, and by the end of the first hundred years (1839) most of the preachers received £1 per week or more, besides a residence rent-free. In 1880 single young preachers receive as a minimum salary £80 a year, while some of the leading ministers receive a total annual salary which ranges from £250 to £350 from their circuits. Many excellent preachers left Mr. Wesley during his lifetime because no provision could be made for their wives and children, or for men worn out in the service.
In August, 1755, Mr. Wesley held the first covenant service in London. The form of service used is that written by that eminently holy Puritan Richard Alleine. The sacrament of the Lord's supper formed the closing part of the service. It has for many years been the custom to hold the covenant service in the afternoon, or during some part, of the first Sunday in each year, in all societies belonging to English Methodism. It has usually been a solemn but very interesting and profitable service.
The Conference of 1756 ordered a collection to be made yearly in all the societies, which for a century was known as the yearly collection, to assist in paying chapel debts, to help poor circuits, to pay the preachers small salary, to encourage the opening of new preaching stations, and to pay legal costs when Methodists had to defend their rights against men who interfered with them. The debts on chapels in 1756 were £4000, and in 1812 they reached £100,000. Regulations made during the last quarter of a century provide against any such accumulations of debt. The yearly collection is made in the society classes among members only, and in 1880 it realized more than £8000. The General Fund, as first originated, has changed its name into Contingent Fund, or Home Mission and Contingent Fund. The several objects at first to be assisted by the fund have now each a separate collection for their support.
On several occasions evil-disposed persons had spoken against the moral character of some of the preachers. Mr. Wesley, hearing of these complaints, caused each preacher to be examined at the Conference of 1759, and such examination has been continued at each successive Conference. The punishments for offenders are a rebuke from the president before the whole Conference, being put back on trial, suspension for a year, or expulsion. One result of the first examination of character was a great revival of religion, which spread over most parts of England and into Ireland In 1762 Thomas Maxfield and George Bell separated from Mr. Wesley, and took with them a large number of members in the London society. This led Mr. Wesley, in 1763, to devise a plan for the union of all the societies in England, and to establish a Connectional principle, which should be a bond of union and mutual help. The duties of assistants and helpers were defined, and the twelve rules of a helper written and published. The same year the preachers received instructions to sell the books issued from the book-room, and the first preacher in each circuit has acted as Connectional bookseller ever since.
The Conference of 1763 observing that some of the preachers were almost worn out and unable to itinerate, it was recommended that a fund be established to relieve the urgent needs of such as were obliged to rest. Each traveling preacher was desired to contribute ten shillings yearly to that fund. For forty years the provision thus made was utterly inadequate for the purpose designed. In 1807 the Conference reported that the fund was not sufficient to provide the superannuated preachers and their widows with even the necessaries of life. Dr. Adam Clarke drew up a plan that year for increasing the fund. Subsequent conferences improved upon that plan, and for a time it was known as the Supernumerary Preachers and Preachers Widows Fund, then it was named the Auxiliary Fund, and in 1838 it was further improved and called the New Auxiliary Fund. The preachers contribute liberally to it, and a collection is made once a year in all the classes, so that the fund now yields a sum which enables each preacher and widow to receive from it a yearly sum that fully meets all the necessaries of life and places each above want. The Rev. John Rattenbury devoted the last years of his valuable life to perfecting the resources and administration of that fund. In 1793 the Conference resolved that a preacher unable longer to itinerate should become a supernumerary, and at the end of four years he should be superannuated. Rules were afterwards made for permitting some supernumeraries to enter into business in which case their names were removed from the list of preachers belonging to the Conference. In this way the Rev. Thomas Rankin, who presided over the first Methodist Conference held in America, having entered into business, had to suffer the removal of his name from the Conference roll, and his death was not recorded in the Minutes when he died.
At the Conference of 1765 it was resolved to issue from London one uniform society ticket of membership for all the societies. The first ticket so issued is dated February, 1766. The tickets have been printed and sent out by the book-room ever since. At the same Conference it was recommended that in speaking to and of the members of society the words "brother" and "sister" should be uniformly used as far as practicable. Those terms are still used by the older preachers and members.
The Conference of 1767 made a regulation that the same preacher shall not be sent above one year, never above two years, to the same circuit. The time has since been extended to three years. Once, by special request of the Bible Society, Dr. Adam Clarke was appointed a fourth year to the same circuit. Preachers who have ceased to itinerate, that they may occupy official positions in the Connection, are appointed by the Conference to the duties for a period of six years, which may be renewed at the discretion of the Conference. There are about eighty preachers located in office; The question was agitated in 1768, Are the Methodists Churchmen or Dissenters? To this Mr. Wesley replied, "We are neither the one nor the other, but irregulars." A century later the same question was often asked, and answered in the same Way. The position Methodism is now taking in the religious world is one which is securing for it the character of a Church, independent of all others, complete in its organization, and fast assuming a dominant place among the churches of Christendom.
In 1769 the Conference expressed its joy at hearing of the establishment of Methodism in America, and sent two of its preachers, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor, to adjust the new society, and to convey to them a substantial proof of its sympathy.
The Conference of 1770 was a very memorable one in Methodism. To raise a defense against Antinomianism, Mr. Wesley published a series of eight propositions respecting doctrine. These aroused a fierce controversy, Lady Huntingdon, Rev. Walter Shirley, and others using their most vigorous efforts against Mr. Wesley. Convinced that Mr. Wesley was right, all his preachers defended the propositions, and the Rev. John Fletcher wrote and published his Checks to Antinomianism, a masterly work, in defense of the Arminian doctrines of the Methodists.
The Rev. George Whitefield died in America in the September of 1770, and Mr. Wesley preached his funeral sermon in both Mr. Whitefield's tabernacles in London.
The year 1777 was memorable in Methodism as that in which the foundation of City Road Chapel was laid in London.
On Jan. 1, 1778, Mr. Wesley issued the first number of the Arminian Magazine, a work in defense of general redemption. It has appeared monthly without any interruption for one hundred and three years, and is nearly the oldest serial magazine in England Its price for thirty-two years was sixpence each issue; in January, 1811, the price was raised to one shilling monthly, and so continued till it had completed a century of years, when the price was again reduced to sixpence. Soon after Mr. Wesley's death the title was changed to Methodist Magazine, and in 1822 the Rev. Jabez Bunting, as editor, changed it again to Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, which it still retains. When there were but few magazines in England, its highest circulation was about twenty-six thousand monthly; in 1880 the circulation was only eleven thousand, but it has many rivals. It has been a source of much revenue to Methodism, and an able and powerful defender of its doctrines, agencies, and experience. Its pages are richly stored with valuable history, and instructive and precious biography.
The Rev. Dr. Thomas Coke, an ordained clergyman who had joined Mr. Wesley in 1777, was sent by him to preside at the Irish Conference in 1782, and for nearly thirty years continued to preside over their deliberations, his visits to that country being, on the whole, a great blessing to the people. In 1784 Dr. Coke traveled over England to examine the trust-deeds of the chapels, and to get them settled on the Conference plan.
The last day of February, 1784, was a memorable one in the history of Methodism. To perpetuate the system of Methodism as it had been formulated by the experience of forty-three years, Mr. Wesley had drawn up a deed of declaration, which was enrolled in the Court of Chancery, by which one hundred ministers are to form the Annual Conference of Methodism, and the survivors are to fill up all vacancies once a year. The deed limits the sittings of the Conference to not less than five, nor more than twenty-one, days, and by that deed Methodism may be perpetuated till the end of time. Several preachers whose names were not included in the first selected hundred took offence and left the Connection, among whom were John Hampson, senior and junior, and Joseph Pilmoor, who went to America and did useful work in the Church.
The Conference of 1784 fixed the time for a preacher to remain on trial at four years; it had been less. Soon after the Conference Mr. Wesley ordained Dr. Coke, and sent him out to America to be joint superintendent over the Methodist brethren in that country with Francis Asbury. He also wrote and sent an important letter to the American societies, dated Bristol, Sept. 10,1784, in which he embodied what to him seemed sufficient instructions for the establishment and perpetuation of a Methodist Church, and he sent them also an abridged liturgy for their use.
Sunday-schools were systematically commenced by the Methodists about the year 1784. Mr. Wesley himself had conducted a Sunday-school in Georgia, America, as early as 1736. In 1769 Hannah Ball, a young Methodist lady, conducted a Sunday-school tell years before Mr. Raikes began the work in Gloucester. Mr. Wesley early approved of the system, and one of the earliest letters written by Robert Raikes was published in the Arminian Magazine for January, 1785. That led the way to their general adoption by the Methodists. In 1812 the number of scholars in Methodist Sunday schools was about 60,000; in 1889 the number was 928,506, with 129,472 teachers in England, and a union was established for the Connection.
The action taken by Mr. Wesley in 1784 in ordaining Dr. Coke as superintendent or bishop to officiate in America, and ordaining Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vascy to act as elders or deacons, was repeated in the following year, 1785, when he ordained John Pawson, Thomas Hanby, and Joseph Taylor to administer the sacraments in Scotland In 1786 he ordained Joshua Keighley, Charles Atmore, William Warrener, and William Hammett; the two latter were for mission stations abroad. In 1787 Duncan McAllum, Alexander Suter, and Jonathan Crowther were ordained by him, and in 1788 John Barber and Joseph Cownley were ordained elders, and Alexander Mather a superintendent. In 1789 Henry Moore and Thomas Rankin were ordained to have special charge of the London, Bath, and Bristol societies, and to administer the sacraments. Mr. Moore's parchment of orders was long in the possession of the writer. Mr. Rankin, five years previously, had convened and presided over the first Conference of Methodist preachers in America. These acts of ordination were strongly opposed. by Charles Wesley, but such a proceeding on the part of John Wesley was justified by the surrounding circumstances of the time. It was one of those pacificatory measures which prevented what threatened to be a separation and loss of members, The conferences after Mr. Wesley's death did not recognize the "orders" thus given as conferring any superiority of position to the preachers thus ordained, excepting that some of them were permitted to administer the Lord's supper before other preachers could do so. Mr. Moore maintained his supposed rights to the end of his days, but the Conference did not regard them. The Conference began to ordain preachers by the imposition of hands in 1836, but Mr. Moore was not invited to take part in the ceremonial. The three ministers who first laid hands on the heads of young men received into full connection in 1836 were Jabez Bunting, president of the Conference; Richard Reece, ex-president; and Robert Newton, secretary of the Conference. Ordination in this way has been continued at every subsequent Conference, the officiating ministers being the president and secretary of Conference, the ex-presidents, some chairmen of districts, and occasionally the father, if a minister, who has a son to be ordained. The president, in giving a copy of the Bible to each, says, in substance, "Take thou authority to preach the word and administer the sacraments." This takes place not till after four years satisfactory probation, and a thorough examination.
During the life of Mr. Wesley, preaching by the Methodists was held at five and nine in the morning, five in the afternoon, and eight in the evening, so as not to prevent any from attending service at Church. The Conference of 1786 gave consent to hold Methodist services in church hours when the minister was a wicked man or preached Arian doctrines, or when the churches could not contain half the people, or when the church was three miles distant. In such cases the preacher was directed to read the Psalms. Lessons, and part of the Church Prayers. All this was changed soon after Mr. Wesley's death, and more liberty was given to the preachers.
March 29, 1788, was a memorable day in the history of Methodism; Charles Wesley, the poet, entered into rest. He had no disease; "the weary wheels of life stood still." He was born in December, 1707, consequently was aged eighty years and three months. He wrote fully six thousand five hundred hymns and poetical pieces, but left his widow in such moderate circumstances with her three children that William Wilberforce, the Christian philanthropist, sent her yearly the sum of £60 as a gratitude offering for the soul-comfort he had derived from her husband's hymns and sermons, and this was continued till her death, in December, 1822, at the age of ninety-six years. The death of Charles-Wesley was more deeply felt by the founder of Methodism than any other event in the history of the Connection.
At the Conference following the death of his brother, Mr. Wesley took a review of the fifty years that had passed since his conversion, which event he considered to be the real beginning of Methodism. The sum of a long conversation was that the Methodists, in the course of fifty years, had neither premeditatedly nor willingly varied from the Church in one article, either of doctrine or discipline. That out of necessity, not choice, they had slowly varied in some points of discipline, by preaching out-of-doors, using extemporary prayer, employing lay preachers, forming societies, and holding annual conferences. These were all commenced as Providence opened the way.
The Conference of 1790 was the last presided over by Mr. Wesley. As if premonitory of his death, two committees were appointed, one to manage the mission newly established in the West Indies, and one to superintend the erection of chapels both in England and Ireland A plan of the order of business in conducting the Conference was drawn up and published in the Minutes.
3. History of the Wesleyan Body since Mr. Wesley's Decease. — The death of John Wesley, in March, 1791, was a blow so heavy when it occurred that it produced a feeling of awe and submission among the preachers, which prevented the introduction of various reforms for several years which had been contemplated and were required. During the whole year the Arminian Magazine scarcely named Mr. Wesley; more important duties devolving on both preachers and officers of the Connection. It was resolved to elect a president from the senior preachers at each Conference, and in other respects to carry on the Connection on the plan previously observed. England was divided into districts, and chairmen appointed to superintend them. The number of districts were, England, nineteen; Scotland, two; Ireland, six. By this plan the best possible arrangement was made for giving to the societies that careful oversight which they had previously received from Mr. Wesley himself. Each district was required to meet its own expenses.
A spirit of restlessness soon appeared among some of the societies after Mr. Wesley's death. William Hammeth, whom Mr. Wesley had ordained to labor in the West Indies, went to America in 1792 in search of health. He made a division in the society at Charlestown, appealed to the English Conference, and the result was his exclusion from the ministry. In England, one at least of Mr. Wesley's ordained preachers assumed the title of reverend, wore a gown in the pulpit, and administered the Lord's supper without the consent of the Conference. During the three years following, much unrest was manifested in many parts of England by the people asking to have the Lord's supper administered by their own preachers instead of having to go to Church for the purpose.
In 1794 the trustees of some Methodist chapels, especially in Bristol, refused to allow any preacher to officiate in their chapel who had not previously been approved by them for that purpose. The dispute at Bristol ran so high as to threaten a division of the whole Connection.
In 1795 the dispute with the Bristol trustees, and the question of the preachers administering the Lord's supper to the societies, had created so much painful unrest that, to save a disruption, a plan of pacification was drawn up by nine preachers, which, when approved by the Conference, was submitted to the discontented trustees, and when accepted by them was sent to the societies, and was the means of averting for that year any division. The plan included nine points concerning public worship, and nine points concerning discipline. The concessions consisted mainly of authorizing the continuance of sacramental services by the preachers where they had been practiced without the consent of the Conference. Preachers and officers who spoke for or against the introduction of the Lord's supper were to be subject to trial and penalties. That clause was resisted so determinedly by a few preachers and by very many members, both in public addresses and by the wide distribution of pamphlets, chiefly written by Mr. Alexander Kilham, one of the preachers, that at the Conference of 1796 the first business done was the trial, and finally the expulsion from the ministry, of Mr. Kilham. Those who had the direction of the affairs of the Connection acted with determination in this matter, but many of the junior preachers and several thousand members considered that decision unjust, unwise, and impolitic.
The year between the expulsion of Mr. Kilham and the Conference of 1797 was passed by him in visiting the societies in various parts of England, to ascertain their views respecting the action of the Conference in his case. The result was the formation, in the summer of 1797, of a new Methodist Connection, which included at least three preachers from the old body and about five thousand members. That was the first division of the Methodist people after Mr. Wesley's death, and in thirty years it was followed by three others, all which might have been averted by the exercise of more Christian forbearance and the concession of points of discipline deemed "non-essentials," which have in later years been nearly all conceded by the Methodist Conference. The New Connection Methodists ought to be now united with the parent society, from which they should not have been separated. The three preachers who separated themselves from the Conference on that occasion were William Thom, Stephen Eversfield, and Alexander Cummin, all of whom assisted in forming the New Connection. The Conference of 1797 issued a pastoral address to the societies, to allay as much as possible the spirit of unrest which so widely prevailed. For over sixty years a pastoral address has been annually issued by the Conference, commencing with the year 1819.
The foreign missions of Methodism were considered and recognized by the Conference of 1798. Those missions were commenced by Dr. Coke in 1786, and were entirely under his direction and management till 1791, when the Conference appointed a committee of nine of the brethren to assist him in examining candidates for foreign service, and also the accounts and letters relating to the missions. The Conference of 1793 appointed the first general collection to be made throughout the Connection in support of the missions. The second collection was made in 1796, and it has been continued yearly ever since. These missions were under the control and management of Dr. Coke, with the aid, though little more than nominal, of a committee, until the year 1813, when he arranged with the Conference for his journey to India. The doctor closed his earthly pilgrimage while crossing the Indian Ocean, and in the following year the Foreign Missionary Society was originated at Leeds, since which time it has become one of the most useful and important missionary organizations in the world, with nearly five hundred ministers and one hundred thousand members in society at then Conference of 1880; the voluntary contributions reported at the annual meeting that year in support of the foreign missions being £165,498, while the expenditure of the year was £190,686.
A Committee of Privileges was appointed by the Conference of 1803, which then consisted of ten of the principal preachers and laymen in Methodism. Its origin dates from the threatened invasion of England by Bonaparte in 1802, when an act was passed in Parliament to raise a regular corps of militia. This included some Methodists; and a clause was introduced to exempt the Methodists from drill on the Sabbath. The Committee of Privileges was at first intended to act in defense of those rights. Its scope and numbers were enlarged in 1811, when the committee was appointed to have the direction of any lawsuit which in any way related to the Methodist Connection. Circuit collections were ordered to be made to meet the outlay which might occur in consequence of such legal proceedings. In 1853 the committee was established on a broader and more permanent basis, so as to include any legal contingency which might arise. It is now divided into two parts, one for guarding our privileges, the other for cases of exigency.
The Conference of 1804 resolved that any itinerant preacher who carried on any trade should, on proof thereof, be excluded from the "Itinerant Plan," and forfeit his connection with the ministry. This regulation excluded from the ministry the Rev. Thomas Rankin, one of the most respected and most prominent of Mr. Wesley's preachers, who, seeing that the allowance made to supernumerary preachers was wholly inadequate to their support, preferred to enter into business and become a coal-merchant rather than impoverish a fund already overtaxed. That act excluded him from the ministry, and at his death he had no record in the Minutes of Conference. An interesting memoir of him was printed in the Methodist Magazine.
A series of nine new minutes were agreed to by the Conference of 1807, the fifth of which was to the effect that camp-meetings may be allowable in America, but they are highly improper in England; and the Conference disclaimed all connection with them. Some of the earnest Methodists in Staffordshire were of opinion that if camp-meetings were good for America, they were equally good for England; accordingly, at Mow Coss, in. that county, camp-meetings were held; and for taking part in them William Clowes, Hugh Bourne, and other Methodists were deemed unworthy of membership; and on being excluded several of them united in forming the Primitive Methodist Connection in 1810, which has since become the most prosperous and most numerous offshoot from the parent society. Its members in 1880 numbered 190,800.
The first Methodist missionary was sent to Africa in the year 1811. Some Methodists had settled in the colony of Sierra Leone about the year 1792. Early in this century a colored man, named Mingo Jordian, preached to the people, gathered a society, and wrote to Dr. Coke and Dr. Adam Clarke, asking for help. The Conference of 1811 sent out George Warren as the first missionary to that colony. Some Methodists, having made their way to the colony of Australia, formed a class, and found in one of the penal convicts who had become converted the first Methodist preacher in that vast country. The Conference of 1812 sent out Samuel Leigh, who laid in Australia, broad and deep, the foundations of a great Methodist Church, which numbered in 1880 fully 69,000 members.
In 1813 Dr. Coke started with a small band of missionaries to found the Methodist Church in India; and although it has been of slow growth, its branches are rapidly stretching over the continent of India. The work assumed wider proportions, and found many new fields after the Missionary Society was fully organized in 1813-14; since Which time the agents of the society have found their way to nearly every country under heaven; and, aided by the American Episcopal Church and the Church South, Methodism is establishing itself in every land.
In October, 1815, what is now known as the Bible Christian Society was founded at Lake, near Shebbear, Devonshire, by William O'Bryan. He had been a very zealous Methodist local preacher had visited many places in that country where the Gospel was not preached, and gathered the people together for religious worship. For doing just what Mr.Wesley had done seventy years before, an injudicious Methodist preacher expelled Mr. O'Bryan from their community; and he, not feeling at liberty to discontinue his evangelistic work, gathered some of his converts into a small society in Devonshire; and in one year their members numbered more than 500. In the year 1880 their membership in England was 21,292; in addition to those in Canada, 7254; and Australia, 3605. Mr. O'Bryan died in America a few years ago at an advanced age. Their membership is largely confined to the west of England, where the society originated.
In 1818, what is known as the Children's Fund was instituted. Previously to that date, each preacher having a family was allowed £6 per annum for each child, which sum was found to be inadequate. New arrangements were made in 1818 for raising more money, and for the better management of the fund. The allowance has been £7 for each child for half a century; but some circuits, by a special effort, make up the sum to £10.
In 1819 important improvements were made in the system of finance, and the Conference resolved that in future a financial district meeting should be held in the early part of the month of September in every district, at which all the preachers and stewards who could were to be present, to make whatever financial arrangements were required for each circuit in the district, for one year prospectively.
One of the most important acts done at any Methodist Conference was the passing of what have since been known as the Liverpool Minutes of 1820-a series of thirty-one resolutions, the design and purpose of which was "the increase of spiritual religion among our societies and congregations, and the extension of the work of God." The reading of those resolutions to the society at any time since has usually been followed by renewed spiritual activity and success.
The year 1820 was memorable also for the resolution then passed to secure every four years an exchange of delegates between the English and the American Methodist Churches. The first delegate from America was John Emory, who was presented to the Conference at Liverpool in July, 1820; and who, in his address sketching the progress of Methodism in his own country, said, "The two bodies would yet compass the world, and shake hands at the Pacific." That prophecy has been realized. Emory was a thin spare man of about thirty-five, but his presence and words made a deep impression on the Conference. He was the guest of Dr. Adam Clarke at Millbrook, who was then working hard at his Commentary. The first delegates from the British Conference to America were Richard Reece and John Hannah, who attended the General Conference held at Baltimore in 1824, where they met bishops McKendree, George, and Roberts, and one hundred and twenty-nine delegates.
The missions to the Shetland Islands were commenced by Dr. Adam Clarke in 1822, who found the chief means for their support for ten years, when he ceased from his labors. They now (1880) number more than twelve hundred members.
What is known as the Leeds organ dispute arose from the introduction of an organ into Brunswick Wesleyan Chapel in 1828 against the wishes of a large majority of the leaders and other officers of the society. The result was that more than one thousand members left Methodism, and formed the Society of Wesleyan Protestant Methodists. They existed as a useful, laborious Church for about eight years, when they united with a much larger secession from the old body. In the Conference of 1834, the question of commencing an institution for the education and training of young ministers was considered and decided upon. Among the advocates for the measure were Messrs. Reece, Bunting, Newton, Subcliffe, Gaulter, Scott, Lessey, and one hundred and fifty other preachers. Against the proposal were James Wood, Dr. Samuel Warren, James Bromley, Henry Moore, and about thirty old preachers; one hundred other preachers remained neutral. Dr. Warren took the lead in the opposition; wrote and published a pamphlet against the proposal, which was considered by those friendly to the project to be such a misrepresentation of the facts as to bring the doctor to trial before a special district meeting. Dr. Warren was the superintendent preacher of the Manchester first circuit. The circuit defended their minister; the special district meeting tried, and suspended him from office as a preacher. An appeal was made to the Court of Chancery, when the vice-chancellor, Shadwell, declared against Dr. Warren; in consequence of which, at the Sheffield Conference of 1835, Dr. Warren was expelled from the Conference and the Connection. Having many friends and followers who sympathized with him, they left the Connection, and formed the Wesleyan Methodist Association, which, ten years afterwards, numbered 21,176 members. In 1857 they were united with the Reform Methodists of 1849-50.
The resolution of the Conference of 1834 to found a theological institution was carried into effect by the Conference of 1835-36. A committee was formed to complete the proposed scheme. An old Congregational building, known as the Hoxton Academy, was rented, and used with advantage for several years. In 1839, Abney House, in Stoke Newington, long the residence of Sir Thomas Abney and of Dr. Isaac Watts, was taken as a branch establishment; and both were used to their fullest capacity until the year 1841-42, when the handsome college at Richmond was completed; and about the same time the commodious institution of Didsbury, near Manchester, was also ready for occupation, when both were tenanted by the removal of the students from the two London buildings. Since then another college for the same purpose has been built at Headingly, near Leeds, and occupied fully; and a fourth college is now in course of erection at Handsworth, near Birmingham, which is to be opened in 1881.
The centenary of Methodism was celebrated in all parts of the world during the year 1839. The Conference of 1837 appointed a committee of ministers and laymen to prepare a report of the best way of observing the occasion. The report was presented to and accepted by the Conference of 1838, and a great Connectional representative meeting was gathered in Oldham Street Chapel, Manchester, Nov. 7, 1838, comprising two hundred and fifty preachers and laymen, and was the most imposing assembly of Methodists which had ever been held. Its deliberations were continued for three days. To commemorate its proceedings a large picture was painted, engraved, and published by Mr. Agnew, in which were included one hundred and four portraits. It is generally known as "The Centenary Picture." Thomas Jackson presided. It surpassed all previous meetings for Christian feeling and pious beneficence. A Thanksgiving Fund was recommended as an acknowledgment for the great mercies of the past, and £80,000 was at first fixed upon as the limit expected from it. No less than £10,000 was promised at the meeting held in the City Road Chapel, London. Ireland generously promised £14,500; and by the opening of the centenary year the promises had reached £102,000; by March they were £150,000; and, by the time the celebration was to be observed throughout the Connection- namely, Friday, Oct. 25-the promises had reached £200,000. Before the find, was closed, it amounted to £216,000. The objects to be benefited by the fund were: the erection of two Theological Institutions; the purchase of a Centenary Hall and Mission-house in London; the relief of distressed chapels; the better support of worn-out preachers and their widows; the building of a Centenary Chapel in Dublin; and to make provision for promoting day-school education. The Centenary Conference, 1839, reported an increase of membership of over 16,000, and 118 candidates for the ministry. The year after the death of Mr. Wesley, i.e. in 1792, the Methodist family numbered 550 itinerant preachers and 140,000 members in Great Britain and America: in 1839 these figures were raised to 5200 itinerant preachers and 1,171,000 members in society. In 1889 the total number of itinerant ministers throughout the Methodist world was 41,056; the total of ministers and members, 6,331,112. This record may be very appropriately closed with she memorable words of the dying Wesley: "What hath God wrought!" In 1841 the Centenary grant of £2500 for educational purposes was made available for the founding of a training institution for elementary teachers and the establishment of primary schools throughout the Connection. The necessary funds for developing the work came in slowly. The Normal Training Institution and practicing schools in Westminster were opened in 1848. In 1857 there were 434 day-schools connected with Methodism, in which 52,630 scholars were taught. Ten years later there were 640 schools and 100,000 scholars. In 1889 there existed 847 schools and no less than 179,578 scholars. An additional training institution has also been established at Shortlands, Battersea, for females. The first principal of the Westminster institution was the Rev. John Scott, and the present principal is the Rev. Dr. Rigg. The principal at Shortlands is the Rev. G. W. Oliver, A.B.
The disruption which took place at the Manchester Conference of 1849 was the most sad and painful event that ever occurred in Methodism. A growing feeling of discontent had for some years been manifested by some of the preachers at what was considered by them a policy of dictation by some of the senior preachers, more especially by Dr. Bunting; and certain fly-sheets were printed and circulated throughout the Connection, in which the causes of complaint and dissatisfaction were embodied. The fly-sheets were anonymous. About the same time there was published a volume entitled Centenary Sketches of One Hundred of the Prominent Ministers of the Connection. That also was anonymous. The Conference of 1849 resolved to ascertain, by a system of rigid questioning, who among the preachers were the authors of the said publications. Several of the preachers refused to answer the question, Are you the author of the fly- sheets? Suspicion was mainly fixed on the Rev. James Everett, one of the senior preachers. He most resolutely declined to answer to the question of authorship of the delinquent publications, and he was excluded from the Connection for contumacy. The Rev. Samuel Dunn, another minister of about thirty years standing, had commenced in 1849 a new monthly magazine, with the title of The Wesley Banner. He had not complied with an obsolete Methodist Conference rule, which requires every preacher to publish works only through the book-room. The question of the authorship of the fly-sheets was put to him, and also the question whether he would discontinue The Wesley Banner. For refusing to answer those questions, he also was excluded from the Connection. The Rev. William Griffith, Jr., also refused to answer the question of authorship of the fly-sheets, and he also declined to promise that he would not report the proceedings of the Conference to a Wesleyan newspaper. For those offences he also was excluded. To those three ministers were afterwards added the Rev. James Burnley, the Rev. Thomas Rowland, and others. One result of those proceedings was that within two or three years tore than 120,000 members of society had left the Connection, and had formed a new one under the designation of Wesleyan Reformers. During the same time, the funds of the Connection had suffered so severely that the arrears three or four years afterwards amounted to about £100,000. The total membership of English Methodism in 1850 was reported at 358,277. It was not until twenty-five years afterwards that the membership again reached those figures, so that it required the labors of over one thousand paid ministers to recover the ground lost by those expulsions. Such a painful and costly experiment as was that of the Conference of 1849 is not likely to be ever again repeated. The Wesleyan Reformers had a separate existence until the year 1857, when they united with those who separated in the Warrenite division of 1835, and formed together the United Methodist Free Churches, having a membership in 1880 of 79,477. A few societies, which, refused to amalgamate, form the Wesleyan Reform Union, with a membership of 7728. Two of the originally expelled ministers in 1849 — Mr. Dunn and Mr. Griffith-still survive, enjoying a contented and happy old age. Thousands of members were altogether lost to Methodism and to the Christian Church in consequence of that disruption. The Reformers have uniformly laid the chief blame of the expulsions to the Rev. Dr. Bunting, but other prominent preachers were equally concerned in the business. One of the difficulties arising from the disruption was owing to so many trustees of chapels being severed from the society, and, further, the withdrawal of so large a sum of money from Connectional objects. To meet that emergency, the Conference of 1854 inaugurated what is now known as the Connectional Relief and Extension Fund. One hundred thousand pounds was promised to that fund ins 1854, and the money was to be appropriated as loans to trustees of such chapels as were in difficulties, as gifts, and loans to improve Church property, and to aid in the erection of new Methodist churches. The fund is now known by the title of Extension of Methodism in Great Britain, and at the Conference of 1880 the committee reported having assisted ninety-one chapels either in their erection or enlargement.
At the Conference of 1854 the Wesleyan Chapel Fund was established on a new and separate basis. The committee has to consider and determine all matters relating to the trust property of Methodism, and it carries out as far as possible the recommendations of the Extension Fund committee.
An important change in the management of the great sectional departments of Methodism was inaugurated when affiliated conferences were introduced. The first action was taken in 1847, when the two sections of the Methodist family in Canada were united and made into an independent Conference, but affiliated with the British Conference. The New Connection Methodists of Canada have since joined with them so as to make one united family in Canada. The French Methodist Church was made into an independent ecclesiastical organization in 1852, but affiliated to the British Conference. Australia, including New Zealand, Polynesia, and the islands of the Pacific, was in 1854 created an independent Conference, but affiliated to the British Conference. The provinces of Eastern British North America were created into a separate Conference in 1854, but affiliated to the British Conference.
In 1861 the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund was inaugurated for the purpose of securing the erection of fifty new Methodist churches in and near London within the period of twenty years. Sir Francis Lycett (then Mr. Lycett) gave the princely sum of £50,000 to commence the fund, with the proviso that a similar amount should be contributed throughout the Connection for the same object. The full number of fifty were not erected within the period specified, but the good work was so far advanced that Sir Francis generously gave a further £5000, shortly before his sudden death, Oct. 29, 1880, for securing the erection of five more chapels. One condition was that at least one thousand sittings were to be provided in each chapel.
The Conference of 1873 received under its fostering care an institution called- the Children's Home, which was originated in Lambeth in 1869 by the Rev. Thomas Bowman Stephenson, A.B., and which had steadily developed into a large establishment for the education and training of destitute children. Its origin and history abound in interesting incidents. Having been originated by a Wesleyan minister, and supported mainly by the benevolence of the Methodist people, it began to be considered as a great Methodist orphanage, or home for the destitute. As an independent organization, it had expanded into four separate establishments the Central Home, in Bethnal Green, London; a training institution at Gravesend; a farm school in Lancashire; and a Home in Canada, to which the children, when trained, are sent to be placed in service, and to get a good start in life. The Conference of 1873 recognized the institution as belonging to Methodism. Its Report is yearly presented to the Conference, and the same body appoints its officers. There were 489 children in the Homes at the Conference of 1880, and a new branch was to be opened at Birmingham. Its proper designation now is the Children's Home and Orphanage. At the Conference of 1873 the Committee for the Promotion of Higher Education in Methodism was instructed to take the requisite steps for founding a college for Methodist children in the university city of Cambridge. The institution has been successfully founded, under the management of the Rev. W. F. Moulton, D.D., with the modest designation at present of the Leys School. It reported 100 pupils at the school in 1880, and its prosperity was most satisfactory.
Arrangements were made by the Conference of 1875 for the founding of a Wesleyan Methodist Sunday school Union. The varied advantages of such an institution were recognized by the Conference, and during the year following the Union was formed, which established itself in 1876 in new premises in Ludgate Circus, London. At the Conference of 1880, the committee reported 6376 Methodist Sunday-schools in the Union increase of fifteen percent in ten years; 119,911 officers and teachers twelve percent increase; and 787,143 scholars an increase of twenty-four percent in ten years. It is in contemplation to erect larger and more convenient premises for the Union at an early date. The Rev. Charles K. Kelley is the clerical secretary of the Union, and its chief advocate and representative.
The most important historical event of the present generation of Methodists is the introduction of lay representation into the Conference. That was first determined upon by the Conference of 1877, and the whole scheme of the new arrangement occupies nineteen pages of the Minutes of that year. The Conference cannot legally extend beyond twenty-one days yearly. The first fourteen days are to be devoted to the Ministerial Conference, and, the six week-days following, the Conference is to consist of 240 ministers and 240 laymen. All the members of the legal hundred are entitled to be present, and also secretaries of departments in Methodism, some chairmen of districts, and others. The lay representatives are to be all members of society and members of a circuit quarterly meeting. The conditions are specified with great care and minuteness. Fifteen subjects are reserved for the consideration of the ministerial conference only, and sixteen other subjects, chiefly of a financial character, are reserved for the consideration and determination of the Mixed Conference. The order and form of business are agreed upon, which embraces all the subjects likely to come under their consideration. The Conference of 1878 was the first at which the new plan was adopted. The harmony was complete. The experiment of ministers and laymen working together was a success of the highest character. As a mark of gratitude to God for the success of the first Representative Conference, four months after its close the Thanksgiving Fund was inaugurated, which has now reached in promises £292,000, but it is hoped the fund will reach £300,000. The conferences of all the offshoots of Methodism have from their origin consisted of ministers and laymen. The parent society was the last to try the experiment, and some persons were surprised that it was not a failure. This action, on the part of the Wesleyan Conference was the first really aggressive step towards the union of universal Methodism. The (Ecumenical Methodist Congress of 1881, to be held in London, will be the next important step towards the accomplishment of that object.
There are many minor points of Methodist history, which the limited scope of this article cannot include.
II. Doctrines. — The following brief outline contains a summary of the principal doctrines believed and taught by the people known as Wesleyan Methodists.
1. That there is one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things.
2. That the Scriptures of the Old and New Tests. are given by divine inspiration, and form a complete rule of faith and practice.
3. That three Persons exist in the Godhead — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost —undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory.
4. That in the person of Jesus Christ the divine and human natures are united, so that he is truly and properly God, and truly and properly man.
5. That Jesus Christ has become the propitiation for the sins of the whole world; that he rose from the dead; and that he ever liveth to make intercession for us.
6. That man was created in righteousness and true holiness, but that by his disobedience Adam lost the purity and happiness of his nature, and in consequence all his posterity are involved in depravity and guilt.
7. That repentance towards God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ are necessary to salvation.
8. That justification is by grace through faith; and that he that believeth hath the witness in himself, and that it is our privilege to be fully sanctified, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
9. That man's salvation is of God, and that if he is cast into hell it is of himself; that men are treated by God as rational, accountable creatures; that it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure; and that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling; that it is possible for man to fall finally from grace.
10. That the soul is immortal, and that after death it immediately enters into a state of happiness or misery.
11. That the observance of the Christian Sabbath is of perpetual obligation.
12. That the two sacraments, baptism and the Lord's supper, are institutions of perpetual obligation.
The doctrines of Methodism are explained' in Mr. Wesley's Sermons, and in his Notes on the New Test., which, with the small volume known as the Large Minutes, form the authorized standards of both doctrine and discipline. The doctrines preached by Mr. Wesley were those of the Church of England. When it became necessary for him to make a selection of them for the use of his followers, he printed them in a tract with the title Appeals to Men of Reason and Religion. — The most complete summary of them, with Scripture proofs, will be found in the catechism used by the Methodists.
III. Constitution and Polity. — The Members of Society are the basis of Methodism. From among them are selected the preachers and all the officers of the Church. The preachers may be classed under the following heads: the president and secretary of the Conference, chairmen of districts, financial secretaries, official or located ministers, superintendents of circuits, ministers in full connection, ministers on trial, supernumeraries and superannuated ministers, local preachers and exhorters.
Official lay members are classified under the following beads: trustees, local preachers, class-leaders; circuit, society, chapel, and poor stewards; treasurers, secretaries, and members, of committee of various institutions, superintendents and teachers of Sunday-schools, missionary collectors, and others.
The various meetings or assemblies recognized by the Methodists are: the Conference, which is Connectional; district and minor district meetings; and the following local or circuit meetings; namely, quarterly, leaders, local preachers, band, class, society, and prayer meetings, and love-feasts. These in addition to the usual public worship.
(I.) Officers. —
1. Ministerial. —
(1.) The president of the Conference is chosen annually. The names of three or more preachers who are members of the legal hundred are placed before the Conference, a ballot is taken, and the preacher having the highest number of votes is named to the legal hundred, by whom the choice is confirmed. The secretary is elected in the same manner. Both retain office till the next Conference, when the secretary may be re-elected. The president cannot be re-elected until after the lapse of eight years. The Rev. John Farrar is the only president re-elected during the past thirty years. The president is invested with the power of two members; he presides at all official meetings, supplies vacancies in the ministry, sanctions changes in appointments, and exercises a similar authority when the Conference is not sitting to that of a bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church of America. He is the chairman of the district where he is located, a member of the Stationing Committee, and has an assistant appointed by the Conference to aid him in any possible duty.
(2.) The chairman of the district exercises the authority of a bishop, or overseer, in the locality to which he is appointed. He convenes and presides over the annual district meeting held in May, and the financial one held in September, at both which all the preachers residing in the district are expected to attend. He is responsible for the carrying out of all the rules and usages of the Connection, the proper conduct of religious worship, the care of all the Methodist Trust property in the district, the payment of the preachers salaries, the making of public collections and their proper distribution. He has to examine candidates for the ministry, and to direct what ministers are to attend the Conference. He has authority to visit any part of his district. He is chosen annually.
(3.) The financial secretary has to assist the general treasurers of the various funds to transact all the financial business of the district to which he belongs.
(4.) Official or Located Ministers. — These are principals or professors and tutors in colleges and seminaries, book stewards, missionary secretaries, secretaries of other Connectional agencies, editors, and house governors of theological colleges.
(5.) Superintendents are those ministers whose names stand first in the list of appointments to a circuit. The office constitutes such a minister chairman of all the circuit official meetings. He is responsible to the district meeting for the maintenance of order and discipline, and the administration of all its affairs. He admits and excludes members with the consent of the leaders, directs all the public services, meets the classes quarterly-and gives each member a ticket, keeps a list of all the officers and members in society, registers deaths of members, collects statistical information, makes circuit plans, examines his colleagues in the ministry as to their religious experience, examines and instructs candidates for the ministry, has to distribute the books published at the book-room and to pay for the same quarterly, to appoint the collections, and see all moneys collected transmitted to the treasurers; and is responsible for every breach of discipline in the circuit.
(6.) Ministers in full connection are appointed annually to a circuit, but may be reappointed a second or a third time to the same circuit. They must not return to a circuit till they have been absent six years. They have to preach twice or thrice on the Sabbath, and on such week evenings as may be fixed by the superintendent on the circuit plan. They administer the sacraments, visit the members at their homes, especially those who are sick or infirm, and assist the superintendent in the general work of the circuit. They are entitled to be present at all society and district meetings. All such ministers were designated as Helpers during the lifetime of Mr. Wesley.
(7.) Ministers on Trial. — When a young man has been examined by the quarterly meeting and recommended there from as a minister on probation, he is sent usually to the district meeting, thence to the Conference, and, if accepted there, he may be sent for training to one of the four theological colleges, where he may remain one, two, or three years. A course of study is marked out for each year. He must pass a yearly examination and be well reported of by his examiners The Conference has made satisfactory provision for his having a supply of suitable books and proper instruction in pursuing his studies. Probationers may attend quarterly and district meetings, but they may not vote. They may not administer the sacraments, excepting baptism in a case of great emergency. They may not marry while on trial. They are specially under the care of the superintendent until received into full connection, which is not till they have completed four years of probation. The act of being received into full connection is one of the most important in the career of a minister. Having passed several examinations with a good report, he is presented to the Conference. Two evenings during each Conference are set apart for this work. On the first the young men give an account of their conversion and call to the ministry, experience which is often attended with the manifest outpouring of the Divine Spirit on the audience, and they answer a few questions asked by the president. The young men are then formally and publicly received by the imposition of hands of the president, secretary, and several senior ministers in the legal hundred, the president saying, "Mayest thou receive the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a Christian minister, now committed unto thee by the imposition of our hands. And be thou a faithful dispenser of the Word of God and of the holy sacraments, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." After each young man has received the gift of a small Bible, the president says, "Take thou authority to preach the Word of God, and to administer the holy sacraments in our congregations." Shortly after that service, each preacher receives, as a certificate of his admission into full connection, a copy of the Large Minutes, in which are inscribed the following words, signed by the president and secretary of the Conference: "As long as you freely consent to, and earnestly endeavor to walk by, these rules, we shall rejoice to acknowledge you as a fellow-laborer." On the second evening, the ex- president delivers to the newly ordained a ministerial charge, which is usually printed. Most of the young ministers enter the married state a few days afterwards.
(8.) Supernumeraries. — Ministers who either from age or infirmity are unable to perform their circuit work are placed in this class. Many ministers are obliged to retire from the full work for one or more years to rest, and after recovery of strength resume circuit work. At the Conference of 1793 it was resolved that "every preacher shall be considered as a supernumerary for four years after he has desisted from traveling, and shall afterwards be deemed superannuated." All supernumerary or superannuated ministers are required to meet in class to retain their membership in the Methodist society. A superannuated minister ceases to be a member of the legal hundred; but this rule has been set aside by special vote of the Conference in recognition of some important Connectional service. A supernumerary who enters into business is not entitled to have his name retained on the journal of the Conference as a minister, and his death, if occurring while he is in business, is not recorded in the Minutes. The provision now made for supernumerary ministers and their widows is one of moderate competence.
(9.) Local Preachers, or Lay Preachers. — This class of workers is as old as Methodism itself. As early as the year 1738, Mr. Wesley had a lay helper named Humphreys, who left in 1739. In May, 1739, Thomas Maxfield was converted; he became Mr. Wesley's first lay helper in London, and John Cennick was the first lay helper in Bristol. From this body of men nearly all the ministers have been selected. Local preachers must be accredited members of society, men of piety, of consistent life, of good understanding, and fair ability as speakers. They generally begin by exhorting in cottage meetings or mission rooms, and when considered capable of addressing an audience they are, after preaching a trial sermon before a competent judge, admitted on trial and have appointments on the plan. They are examined as to their knowledge of doctrine and Church government and their call to the work. After a year's probation, and having passed satisfactory examinations at the local preachers' meeting, and been passed by the quarterly meeting of Church officers, they are received as accredited local preachers. Many, by the exercise of their gifts, soon qualify themselves for a wider sphere of ministerial work; others remain at home, following their daily occupations, and preach every Sabbath, often to large congregations, without any financial consideration. Lay preachers have always been held in much esteem in Methodism, and were thought so highly of when Mr. Wesley died that they had special notice in the inscription on the monument erected to the memory of the founder of Methodism, where he was described as "the patron and friend of lay preachers." Methodism for a full century was greatly indebted to the lay preachers for their services, valuable as teachers of divine truth, but especially so because rendered gratuitously. They have hitherto looked alone to God for their reward, and through their labors thousands of sinners have learned the way to God and heaven who would otherwise have lived and died destitute of the knowledge of both.
2. Official Lay Members. —
(1.) Trustees. — The office of trustees in Methodism is one of great responsibility. They hold the property, mostly freehold, belonging to the Connection, in trust for the Conference, and are themselves responsible for the discharge of the debts connected with their respective trusts. During the lifetime of Mr. Wesley, there was diversity in the drawing of the trust- deeds, and, consequently, in the powers conferred thereby. All the property of the Connection is slow vested in trustees according to the form of a model deed, which has been prepared with great care, and corrected from time to time so as to meet all emergencies which are likely to arise. Some trustees have had power to refuse the admission of any preacher to their pulpits whom they did not appoint or approve. The ecclesiastical powers of trustees are defined in the Plan of Pacification drawn up and published in the Minutes of Conference for 1794-95. The superintendent-minister is ex officio the chairman at all meetings of trustees, and has a casting vote. Trustees appoint their own stewards; they disburse seat-rents and collections taken in behalf of the trust, and keep the property in satisfactory repair.
(2.) Class-leaders. — These are persons of piety, intelligence, and ability, who are appointed to take charge of classes. The classes consist of the members of society divided into small companies, varying in number, according to circumstances, from six to sixty persons, either male or female, or sometimes mixed. The simple condition of membership is "a desire to flee from the wrath to come." Mr. Wesley himself was the first class leader. The office of leader was not instituted until February, 1742, when the necessity for it was shown during a providential conversation at Bristol. During that year, leaders were appointed in London and elsewhere. The business of a leader is thus defined by Mr. Wesley, and published by him in the Rules of the Society:
1. To see each person in his class, once a week, at least, in order
2. To inquire how their souls prosper. To advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require.
3. To receive what they are willing to give towards the support of the Gospel.
4. To meet the ministers and the stewards of the society once a week, in order
5. To inform the minister of any that are sick, or of any that walk disorderly, and will not be reproved.
6. To pay to the stewards what they have received of their several classes in the week preceding, and
7. To show their account of what each person has contributed.
The original rule of Methodism was that each member contribute one penny weekly, and one shilling quarterly when the tickets of membership were given. Even at the beginning of Methodism, and throughout its whole history, there have been members who gave sixpence, or even one shilling, weekly, and five or ten shillings quarterly, some twenty shillings. Among the poor the original rule is the standing order. As early as 1748, leaders were recommended to meet in other classes to promote growth in grace. Leaders are really resident local pastors, and, as such, have in thousands of instances witnessed many most glorious and triumphant deaths. Leaders are chosen by the superintendent-preacher, and nominated by him at a leaders meeting, the vote of the meeting fixing the appointment. Some good and useful leaders have been appointed at as early an age as sixteen years in times of special revival. Leaders are members of the quarterly meeting of society officers.
(3.) Circuit Stewards. — The most important of the circuit officers is the circuit steward, who manages all the finances. There are generally two in each circuit. They receive and pay all accounts, and report the items to each quarterly meeting. They are expected to attend the district meetings held in May and September. When ministers are invited to travel in a circuit, the steward makes the necessary arrangements. He is the official channel through which communications from a circuit are transmitted to the Conference. According to rule, the office of steward ceases at the end of the year, and no steward is to remain in office above three years in succession, except in some extraordinary cases. They are appointed to office by the quarterly meeting, on the nomination of the superintendent- minister.
(4.) Chapel stewards are appointed by the trustees to let and re-let the sittings in a chapel, to receive the money for the same, and pay it into the hands of the treasurer for the trustees. They are expected to see that the chapel is kept in proper repair, to have it made ready for public worship, and to transact any business connected with the chapel, which can be done without calling the trustees together.
(5.) Society stewards are entrusted with the financial affairs of a particular society. Where the members are few, only one is appointed, but two is the usual number.
Their business is:
1. To attend the leaders meetings; to examine the books of the leaders, and to receive the moneys which their members have contributed since the last leaders' meeting.
2. To prepare proper notices for the pulpit of all that is advertised upon the circuit plan, and to take care that other pulpit notices are duly signed.
3. To receive the preacher in the vestry before public worship, and to make such arrangements for the service as may be necessary, providing for the due celebration of the sacrament of baptism when it is appointed to be administered.
4. To see that the collections are made at the time specified upon the circuit plan, and to take charge of them until they can be delivered into the right hands.
5. To provide suitable homes, where needed, for preachers who officiate in their respective chapels, and to see that their expenses, if any, are paid. They are chosen yearly on the nomination of the superintendent-minister, the leaders' meeting approving or rejecting as they see best. It is recommended that each society steward may be either changed annually, or one each year alternately, so as to retain one who knows the duties.
(6.) Poor-stewards receive and disburse the moneys given for the poor. The collections taken at the Lord's supper, and at love-feasts of the society, are thus distributed. They attend the leaders' meeting, and pay to the leaders any sums which are voted for needy or sick members, monthly or quarterly. A special collection is often taken on the first Sunday of the New Year, which yields from five to ten shillings-for each poor member. The poor-stewards provide the bread and wine for the Lord's supper, and the bread and water for the love-feasts. Preachers who have wine after preaching are supplied by the same stewards.
(7.) Treasurers, secretaries, and members of committee of the various institutions connected with Methodism are, to some extent, offices held by intelligent and' respectable members of the congregations, who are not always members of society, but persons of integrity, whose consistent Christian conduct entitles them to the confidence thereby reposed in them. Many persons and families are by these means retained in Methodism who would be likely to drift into other communities of Christians, but for their being thus employed in the work. Persons so occupied generally find their way into society classes, and so become recognized members.
The teachers and elder scholars in our Sunday-schools render important services as collectors for the Foreign Missionary Society. Forty years ago a special effort was made to secure the services of the Sunday-school children as collectors, first of Christmas offerings. In this way, £4000 and £5000 was soon raised as free-will offerings at Christmas and at New- year's. Afterwards, those young persons were organized into a Juvenile Missionary Society, and by their aid a considerable sum is brought into the funds of the society. No less a sum than £16,567 was collected by the juvenile associations for 1880, which was one sixth of the entire ordinary income for foreign missions in that year.
(II.) Official Meetings. —
1. The Conference is the highest court, and the only legislative body in Methodism. During forty years, all the power of the Conference was vested in Mr. Wesley. By the Deed of Declaration enrolled in chancery in 1784, the Conference was made to consist of one hundred preachers in connection with Mr. Wesley's society. In 1791 was held the first Conference after Mr. Wesley's death, and was the first organized according to the deed. By the provisions of that deed Methodism is made perpetual. The resolution of the Conference of 1791 was "to follow strictly the plan which Mr. Wesley left." This was done until the year 1814; when the Conference resolved upon two changes: first, to fill up one vacancy in four in the legal hundred, not by seniority, as previously, but by nominations from the whole body-of preachers who have traveled fourteen years or upwards. Second, to give preachers of fully fourteen years' standing authority to nominate a preacher for election into the hundred, and also to vote in the election of Connectional officers. The legal hundred alone has to confirm such elections. From the time of Mr. Wesley's death to the year 1878, only preachers were permitted to be present at the Conference. Following the example so successfully set them by the General Conference of the M. E. Church in America, the English Conference of 1877 resolved to admit laymen to participate in their proceedings in such matters only as did not strictly belong to the ministerial office. The time for continuing the deliberations of the Conference is limited to twenty-one days. Two weeks are now devoted to the Ministerial Conference, and the third week to the Mixed Conference. This is composed of an equal number (240) of ministers and laymen. In this brief summary only an outline of the business of each Conference can be given.
The Ministerial Conference embraces the following items of business, namely:
1. Filling up vacancies in the legal hundred. 2. Election of president and secretary. 3. Appointment of Conference officers. 4. Public prayer-meeting for one hour. 5. Reports on probationers and candidates for the ministry. 6. Reception of representatives from other conferences. 7. Consideration of cases of character and discipline. 8. Appointment of committees. 9. Appeals, memorials, notices of motion. 10. Ordination of young ministers. 11. Supernumeraries. 12. Obituaries of ministers, with reminiscences. 13. Alterations and divisions of circuits. 14. Stations of ministers. 15. Statistics: reading pastoral address. 16. Conversation on the work of God. 17. Pastoral reports of colleges, schools, etc. 18. Book affairs, and review of literature. 19. Addresses to the Conference and replies. 20. Official appointments and deputations. 21. Reports and miscellaneous business.
The business of the Mixed Conference may be thus summarized:
1. Calling the roll, and address of the president. 2. Reception of memorials, and notices of motion. 3. Consideration of home and foreign missions. 4. Schools for ministers' children. 5. Extension of Methodism. 6. Funds relating to chapels. 7. The Children's Fund. 8. Home missions and Contingent Fund. 9. District sustentation funds. 10. Worn-out Ministers and Widows' Fund. 11. Theological Institution. 12. Education: General Committee, Sunday school Union, and Children's Home. 13. Higher education. 14. Committee of Privileges and Exigency.
15. Conversation on the work of God. 16. Religious observance of the Sabbath. 17. Temperance. 18. Reports on memorials. 19. Miscellaneous business. 20. Reading and signing the Conference Journal.
2. District meetings originated at the first Conference after Mr. Wesley's death in 1791. They correspond overmuch to the annual conferences in the M. E. Church. Their deliberations occupy from two to five days. The business transacted may be thus briefly stated. At the session in May, when ministers only are present, inquiries are made regarding each minister and probationer as to moral and religious character, adherence to doctrine, attention to discipline, ability to preach, marriages, deaths, resignations, and whether fully employed; number of members in society; reports from Home Mission stations; conversation on the work of God; reports of examination of preachers on trial; examination of candidates for the ministry; who shall attend Conference. When the circuit stewards join the ministers, the funds are separately brought under consideration, much in the same manner as at the Mixed Conference, each circuit being brought under consideration. The district meeting is usually closed by a sermon from one of the leading preachers, and by the administration of the Lord's supper. The financial district meeting, held in September yearly, was originated at the Conference of 1819, when important changes were introduced into the system of finance, finances of each circuit are arranged and determined for a year at that meeting.
3. Quarterly meetings, as their name indicates, are held in each circuit once in three months, about the time of the usual quarter days. All the stewards, class leaders, and local preachers of at least one year's standing may attend. The superintendent-minister presides. A secretary records the names of those present, and the resolutions adopted, and any other business transacted. The statistics of membership are read; the stewards report the amount of moneys received from the classes the salaries paid to the preachers, house rent, and other expenses, and the accounts are balanced each quarter. Conversations are held upon the progress of the work in each society, and reports of pioneer work detailed. The quarterly meeting may be called a circuit Conference. The origin of these meetings dates from the first ten years of the history of Methodism; but the first time they were introduced by Mr. Wesley was at the Conference of 1749, though stewards were appointed and changed several years previously. After 1749 they became part of the economy of the Connection.
4. Leaders' meetings were originally, and for half a century, held weekly. Their purpose was to pay to the steward what money they had received from the members. For many years that money was distributed by the stewards among the poor. It now goes towards the support of the ministry. The meetings were used for receiving reports of sick and poor members, and also for giving such counsel and directions to the leaders as would be likely to promote the spiritual welfare of their classes, and the spread of the work of God. The superintendent-preacher presides, and no meeting of the leaders is legal without a preacher is present to preside. Since the death of Mr. Wesley the powers of the leaders have been increased considerably; they can veto the admission of members; leaders and stewards can be appointed or removed only with their consent; they also give consent for the administration of the Lord's supper, and for making special collections on the Sabbath for any benevolent purpose. In some circuits the leaders meet only once a quarter; where that is the case, they know but little of spiritual prosperity. The poor fund is distributed here,
5. Local preachers' meetings are usually held seven days before the quarterly meeting of the circuit. They are occasions of pleasant and profitable intercourse. After an hour spent in taking tea together, the superintendent-preacher presides, a secretary records the names of those present, and a summary of the proceedings. The names are called over, and inquiries made as to their appointments, especially when neglected. Probationers receive every kind of help and encouragement; any revivals, or evidences of either prosperity or adversity, are reported and considered. Occasionally new preaching stations are accepted, and young men are examined before them before being received on trial, and again before they are received on full plan. The services of local preachers are all gratuitous. A Yorkshire country local preacher, when asked what reward he received, said, "I preach for nothing a Sunday and keep myself." Local preachers are expected to confine their labors to their own circuits; they are all to meet in class, and are allowed to have from the book-room publications at the trade discount. According to rule, they may not hold love feasts, but the rule is often broken.
6. Band meetings are the oldest society meetings connected with Methodism; but they have quite changed their original design. Band societies were established before Methodism had a separate existence. In December, 1738, Mr. Wesley drew up the Band Rules, which were printed and circulated. All who were justified by faith, who knew their sins forgiven, were urged to meet in band, and "to confess their faults one to another, and to pray for each other." It was a more strict or searching form of class meeting. For more than sixty years they were kept up in England; but in 1806 the Conference complained that fellowship meetings were taking the place of band meetings, and gradually they have done so band meetings for personal examination and confession are almost unknown now; the meetings now held under that name are generally on the evenings of Saturday, as a preparation for the Sabbath, and they consist of singing, prayer, and the relation of personal religious experience. They are led by one of the ministers, and usually continue one hour from eight to nine o'clock.
7. Class meetings may be said to be the origin as well as the life of Methodism. The first little company of persons who came to ask advice about their souls were met weekly by Mr. Wesley himself. This kind of meeting of persons who were desirous to "flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins," were continued through the years 1740- 41, and till February, 1742, when classes were organized, first at Bristol, then at London, and soon after throughout England Their original purpose was to raise funds to discharge a chapel debt; then to help the poor; but their weekly meetings were productive of so many spiritual blessings that Mr. Wesley introduced them wherever a society could be formed. In May, 1743, he published the first edition of the Rules of the society. Class meetings are under the direction of a leader who has under his or her care from six to twenty, or even as many as sixty persons, who meet once a week for mutual edification and encouragement. The members relate their religious experience, hear each other's progress in the divine life, and receive from the leader suitable counsel and direction. These meetings have no resemblance to the confessional of secret orders. The meetings are of a purely social character, and, to render them profitable, candor and simplicity are blended with faithfulness and affection. The members contribute each at least one penny weekly towards the support of the ministry.
8. Society meetings are convened by the preacher, and consist of members of the society usually. After singing and prayer, the preacher delivers an address respecting their religious duties, Christian experience, and general conduct. The rules of the society are occasionally read and expounded, and their principles enforced. Seriously disposed persons are permitted to be present, and they are invited to become members of society. These meetings are frequently held on Sunday evening after the usual public worship. They are held to stimulate members to meet in class when there have been neglect and indifference manifested.
9. Love-feasts are a revival of a custom practiced by the early Christian Church. They are conducted by a minister, who, after singing and prayer, desires the stewards to give to each person a small piece of bread or cake and a drink of water, after which a collection is made for the poor. The minister then relates his Christian experience, and those present follow him in giving their own experience. About two hours are occupied for these meetings; they are usually held quarterly, soon after the visitation of the classes, when the tickets of membership are given. Those tickets entitle their owners to attend class and society meetings, band meetings and love feasts.
10. Prayer meetings are appointed by the superintendent of each circuit. They are open to the public, and are held at such times as best suit the convenience of each locality. One should be held in each society at seven o'clock on Sunday morning; in some places one is held for half an hour before the evening service, and again after the evening service. One weekday evening is devoted for one hour for public prayer, and once a month, generally the first week of the month, home and foreign missions are specially prayed for. Much good has been done by holding such meetings in cottages, with the permission of their occupants. A monthly prayer meeting held by Sunday-school teachers and the older scholars has been a great blessing in many schools; and in other ways the union of officers and members with the public in such meetings has been the cause of many revivals. The first meeting in the month of society classes is generally a prayer meeting instead of an experience meeting; by this means many gain that confidence which they need to encourage them to pray in the larger gatherings. In some places members are employed as prayer- leaders, to conduct such meetings in cottages, halls, warehouses, and factories. Cases are on record of very poor persons, who had a remarkable gift in prayer, acquired by close and frequent communion with God in private, having been made a special blessing in the locality where they resided, and often revivals of religion have resulted from their persistent devotion to prayer. Any church, which has well attended prayer meetings, and earnest short prayers from many members, is sure to be in great prosperity. Prayer is power, and gives courage and strength.
These notices on the rules and ordinances of Methodism are an original compilation from William Peirce's Principles and Polity of the Wesleyan Methodists; Minutes of Conference; and the personal experience of a fifty years' membership in the society.
IV. Statistics (numbers of members, etc.). —
1. Statistics of English Methodism. — During twenty-five years from the origins of Methodism no records or "Minutes" of Conference were published; and if any statistics were taken of the societies generally, they have not been printed, excepting part of those relating to the society in London. The year 1766, which witnessed the commencement of Methodism in America, was memorable also as that in which the first record was printed of the number of Methodists meeting in class in England From that year we have a continuous record to the present time.
Institutions and Funds. —
(I.) Schools. — There are four theological institutions in England for the training of young men for the ministry. In official documents they are described as institutions, but they are commonly called colleges. Their names are as follows:
1. Richmond Branch was erected in 1840-41 largely out of the Centenary Fund, and opened in 1842. It is a very handsome range of buildings, situate on the top of Richmond Hill, about twelve miles from London. Its officers are as follows: J. A. Beet, D.D., systematic theology; Daniel Sanderson, house governor; biblical literature and exegesis, W. T. Davidson, M.A.; classics and mathematics, J. G. Tasker; assistant tutor, E. O. Barratt, M.A.
2. Didsbury Branch, erected 1842-43, partly out of the Centenary Fund, is situated a short distance from Manchester, and was opened in 1843. The following are its officers: Marshall Randles, theology; Richard Green, house governor; W. F. Slater, M.A., biblical literature and exegesis; classics and mathematics, R. W. Moss; assistant tutor, A. H. Walker, B.A.
3. Headingly Branch was erected in 1866-67 (and opened 1868), partly by a grant of £12,000 from the Jubilee Fund of the Wesleyan Missionary Society. It is situated a short distance from Leeds, Yorkshire, and was at first intended for the training of young men for the foreign missionary work. That design has since been changed, and the Richmond Branch is now used for missionary students, as being nearest to the Mission House in London. Its staff is as follows: J. S. Banks, theology; G. S. Rowe, house governor; G. G. Findlay, B.A., biblical literature, exegesis, and classics; assistant tutor, J. A. Barnes, B.A.
4. Birmingham Branch, erected partly out of a handsome gift of £10,000 by a gentleman residing in that locality, Solomon Jevons, is now (1880) in course of erection. The site of the new college is a fine estate of seventeen and a half acres, adjoining the suburb of Handsworth, in the midst of an undulating and well-wooded tract of country, about three miles from Birmingham. The college, of which the memorial stones were laid in June, 1880, by Sir Francis Lycett, William Mewburn, Isaac Jenks, and James Wood, was opened for the reception of students in September, 1881, at a cost of about £24,000. The buildings include studies and bedrooms for seventy students, a library, large lecture-hall and five smaller lecture- rooms, dining-hall, all necessary offices and servants' apartments, and a residence for the governor. Detached houses for the theological and classical tutors are also in process of erection on the site. The style of architecture is founded upon the Gothic of the 15th century. Faculty: F. W. Macdonald, theology; J. Hartley, house governor; R. N. Young, D.D., exegesis and classics; assistant tutor, R. M. Pope, M.A.
5. The Leys School (Cambridge). — This school has recently been established in the belief that a school in the immediate neighborhood of one of our great universities would enjoy special educational advantages. While the general teaching and discipline are in the hands of resident Wesleyan masters, classes in various subjects are committed to the care of able visiting masters. The Rev. Dr. Moulton, one of the New-Test. revisers, is the head master and principal.
6. Primary Education. — It was not until about the year 1846 that the Wesleyan Conference would take action in promoting the establishment of elementary day schools. In 1851 the first Normal College and Practicing School was opened in the city of Westminster. It has been a great success, and is now divided into two branches for male and female teachers.
7. Westminster Training College was opened Oct. 7, 1851, and adapted for male students only in January, 1872. During the year 1879 120 students were in training, all of whom passed the certificate examinations at Christmas, 1879. The college accommodates 131 students, and 117 are now (1889) in training. The expenditure of the college for the year ending Dec. 31, 1879, was £7984 Os. 3d., and of the practicing schools £2233 5s. 2d.
8. Southlands Training College (Battersea, near London), for female students, was opened Feb. 26, 1872. During the year 1879 106 students were in training, all of whom passed the certificate examinations at Christmas, 1879. The college will accommodate 109 students, and 109 students are now in training. 'The cost of the college for the year ending Dec. 31, 1879, was £4271 18s. 10d., and of the practicing schools £654 5s. 6d. The number of Wesleyan day-schools in England in 1889 was 857; the number of day scholars, 179,578.
9. Wesley College (Sheffield) was opened in 1838. In. 1844 it was constituted, by her majesty's warrant, a college of the University of London, and empowered to issue certificates to candidates for examination for the degrees of bachelor of arts, master of arts, bachelor of laws, and doctor of laws. The directors award a scholarship of the annual value of £40 (tenable for one year), to the youth who shall be certified as the best pupil of his year at Woodhouse Grove School. The Holden scholarship, also of £40 per annum, is usually given to Kingswood School. Two others of £20 a year each, given by the late P. Spooner, are open to boys resident in Sheffield. The late Sir Francis Lycett also established two scholarships (tenable for two years) of the annual value respectively of £50 and £30. These are held by the two students from Wesley College who stand highest in the honors list of the London University at the matriculation examinations coinciding with the time when the scholarships fall due. The college is examined and reported on biennially by the syndicate of Cambridge, which is appointed by the University for the examination of schools.
10. Wesleyan Collegiate Institution (Taunton). — This institution was founded thirty-eight years ago, in 1842, the object of its founders being to secure a sound literary and commercial education, combined with religious instruction in harmony with the principles of the late Rev. John Wesley. In 1846 it was also made, by royal charter, one of the colleges of the University of London, and degrees in arts and laws are open to all its students.
11. Schools for Ministers' Children. — The Schools' Fund was instituted by Mr. Wesley, in order to provide for the education of the children of Wesleyan ministers, and he commended it to the liberal support of his people in the most forcible terms. The collections and subscriptions for the Schools' Fund are made in the early part of November. Out of it the four schools for the education of ministers' children are supported, and an allowance is made for the education of those for whom there may not be room in the schools. These allowances are only made for children between the ages of nine and fifteen.
The general committee consists of the governing body of the New Kingswood and Woodhouse Grove School, the governing body of the School for Girls, and seventeen other ministers and laymen.
(1.) For Boys. — The governing body of the New Kingswood and Woodhouse Grove School consists of the president and secretary of the Conference, the ex-presidents, the general treasurers and secretaries of the Schools' Fund, the chairman of the Bristol, Bath, Halifax and Bradford, and Leeds Districts; the governors and the head-master of the school; and ten ministers and thirteen laymen named by the Conference.
New Kingswood School is situated at Landsdown,. Bath, and was opened in 1851. Old Kingswood School. near Bristol, was founded by the Rev. John Wesley, A.M., in 1748. It is now a Reformatory School for young criminals in connection with the nation.
Woodhouse Grove School was established in 1811.
(2.) For Girls. — The governing body of the Schools for Girls consists of the president and secretary of the Conference, the ex-president, the general treasurers and secretaries of the Schools' Fund, the general treasurers and secretary of the Children's Fund, the chairman of the Second London and Liverpool districts, the local treasurers and secretaries, and fifteen other ministers and laymen.
Queenswood School (Clapham Park) is near London. The executive committee consists of ten members.
Trinity Hall School (Southport) is near Liverpool. The executive committee consists of ten members.
(II.) Other Institutions. —
1. The Wesleyan Chapel Committee was instituted in 1818, and reconstituted in 1854. The committee, consisting of an equal number of ministers and laymen, usually meets on the first Wednesday of each month to dispose of loans and grants; to determine on erections, alterations, purchases, and sales of Wesleyan trust property, including organs; and to afford advice on difficult cases. The income from all sources in 1889 was £16,305 13s. 2d. The total number of applications for permission to erect or enlarge chapels, schools, and organs, which have received the conditional sanction of the committee in 1879-80, including 97 modifications of cases previously sanctioned, is 341. The estimated outlay is £253,655. Two hundred and ninety-seven erections and enlargements have been completed during the year at a cost of £318,175. The entire temporary debt left on this large outlay is £75,807, most of which will be paid off in a few years. The entire amount of debts, which have been discharged or provided for during the last twenty-six years, is £1,482,359.
2. Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund (instituted in 1862). — This fund originated from the generous gift of the late Sir Francis Lycett of £50,000 towards the erection of fifty Methodist churches in London during twenty years. Sir Francis in 1880 gave £5000 more towards the erection of ten additional chapels. Shortly afterwards he (lied, after only ten days' illness. The secretary of the fund is the Rev. John Bond.
3. Itinerant Methodist Preachers' Annuitant Salary. — This institution was formed at Bristol in 1798, revised in Leeds in 1837, and revised again in London in 1860, and is the same which is often called among the Methodists "The Preachers' Fund." It was formed by some of the preachers for the relief of supernumerary and superannuated preachers among themselves and of their widows, and is supported by donations and legacies, but chiefly by the payments of the members themselves. The annual payment is now by preachers on trial, £5 5s.; by ministers in the home work, £6; and by ministers on foreign stations, £10 4s.
4. Besides these agencies, there exists also a separate mission to seamen in London, chaplains to portions of the army and navy, and a lay mission, each under distinct management, for London, Manchester, and Liverpool.
Since 1875 the temperance movement has been recognized by the Conference, and circuit societies and bands of hope are rapidly forming throughout England There are also committees of privilege and exigency, and those for the promotion of the religious observance of the Sabbath.
5. A Sunday-school Union was established in 1874, and the total number of schools in union in 1880 was 2629 out of 6376 belonging to the Connection. The secretary is the Rev. Robert Culley. The office and 4depository for the present is situated at Ludgate Circus, in the city of London.
6. The Children's Home — Orphanage, Refuge, and Training Institute, originated at Lambeth in 1869, has mow four branches, and a fifth is in preparation.
London Branch. — Bonner Road, Victoria Park, E. Lancashire Branch. — Wheatsheaf Farm, Edgworth, near Bolton. Canadian Branch. — Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Certified Industrial Branch. — Milton, Kent. Orphanage Branch. — Birmingham, Preparing.
This institution exists for the nurture and education of orphans and destitute children. It has been sanctioned and commended to the Christian public by several resolutions of the Conference, to which body the commits tee of management is annually submitted for approval. At present five hundred children are in the Home, and nearly as many have been sent forth into the world, and the reports received concerning the great majority of them are highly satisfactory. The Home is also a training institute for Christian workers especially with the view of preparing godly men and women for work in orphanages, industrial schools, children's hospitals, and similar institutions.
7. Conference Office and Book-room (2 Castle Street, City Road, London) was instituted by the Rev. John Wesley. It was formed by him for the publication and sale of his works. On his death he vested his property in the book-room, consisting of books, copyrights, etc., in trustees "for carrying on the work of God in connection with the Conference." The whole of the proceeds of this institution is devoted to the support and extension of Wesleyan Methodism in Great Britain and Ireland
8. Wesleyan Methodist Missionary Society (Centenary Hall, Bishopsgate Street Within, London). — Missions were commenced in 1786, and the society organized in 1816. The committee of management consists of the president and the secretary of the Conference, the general treasurers, the general secretaries, the honorary secretary, the governor and tutors of Richmond College, the Connectional editor, the lay treasurers of the Richmond institution, the London district treasurer, and of fifty-two other members, viz., sixteen from the country circuits and thirty-six resident in London; four of the latter go out annually by rotation, and four of the former are also changed each year. Every person subscribing annually one guinea or upwards, and every benefactor of £10 and upwards, is deemed a member. The Wesleyan missions were commenced in 1786, and were, until 1813, confined chiefly to British North America and the West Indies. In the December of that year, however, Dr. Coke, accompanied by a band of young missionaries, embarked for India. Up to this period, Dr. Coke had mainly raised the funds needed to carry on the Methodist missionary operations. The additional evangelistic enterprise now entered upon made new arrangements and exertions necessary. Various plans were suggested; but that which originated with the late Rev. George Morley and the late Rev. Dr. Bunting, then stationed at Leeds, and sanctioned by several of the ministers in that town and neighborhood, was adopted by the ensuing Conference. That scheme has been greatly owned of God. In 1814 the income of the Missionary Fund was below £7000; there were 70 missionaries, and the number of members under their care was 18,747. Now there are, according to the last returns in 1889, 107,816 accredited Church members, besides 16,461 on trial for membership, under the care of 534 missionaries; and the income is 165,498 12s. 8d., inclusive of £37,622 4s. 2d. received from the Thanksgiving Fund. The expenditure in 1879 was £148,107 6s. 10d. The legacies for 1879-80 amounted to £4966 15s. 3d. The Ladies' Committee for Female Education in Heathen Countries expended £2296 is. 6d., besides supplying clothes, etc., for charitable purposes.
9. The Home Mission and Contingent Fund was instituted in 1756 and remodeled in 1856. The committee consists of the president and the secretary of the Conference, the ex-presidents, the treasurers, the general secretary and the financial secretary of the fund, the treasurers and secretary of the Fund for the Extension of Methodism in Great Britain, with fifteen ministers and fifteen laymen for London, and thirty-five ministers and thirty-five laymen for the country. The secretary is the Rev. Alexander McAulay. This fund is to assist the dependent circuits in maintaining the ministration of the Gospel, to provide means for employing additional ministers, and to meet various contingencies. It is mainly supported by the yearly collection, by the Home Missionary collections made after sermons and meetings, and by subscriptions, legacies, and juvenile associations. The total income of the fund in 1889 was £28,099 6s. 2d., and the total expenditure £11,770 19s. 3d.
6. Literature. This is copiously exhibited in Osborn's Wesleyan Bibliography (Lond. 1869, 8vo). See also Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis (Ottawa, 1867, 8vo); and SEE METHODISM. (G. J. S.)