A name applied to different sects, both Papists and Protestants.–1. The popish Methodists were those polemical doctors who arose in France about the middle of the seventeenth century, in opposition to the Huguenots, or Protestants. These Methodists, from their different manner of treating the controversy with their opponents, may be divided into two classes. The one comprehends those doctors whose method of disputing with the Protestants was disingenuous and unreasonable; and who followed the example of those military chiefs, who shut up their troops in intrenchments and strong holds, in order to cover them from the attacks of the enemy. Of this number were the Jesuit Veron, who required the Protestants to prove the tenets of their church by plain passages of Scripture, without being allowed the liberty of illustrating those passages, reasoning upon them, or drawing any conclusions from them; Nihusius, an apostate from the Protestant religion; the two Wallenburgs, and others, who confined themselves to the business of answering objections; and cardinal Richlieu, who confined the whole controversy to the single article of the divine institution and authority of the church.–2. The Methodists of the second class were of opinion, that the most expedient manner of reducing the Protestants to silence, was not to attack them by piecemeal, but to overwhelm them at once by the weight of some general principle, or presumption, or some universal argument, which comprehended or might be applied to all the points contested between the two churches; thus imitating the conduct of those military leaders, who, instead of spending their time and strength in sieges and skirmishes, endeavoured to put an end to the war by a general and decisive action. Some of these polemics rested the defence of popery upon prescription; others upon the wicked lives of Protestant princes who had left the church of Rome; others, the crime of religious schism; the variety of opinions among Protestants with regard to doctrine and discipline, and the uniformity of the tenets and worship of the church of Rome; and thus, by urging their respective arguments, they thought they should stop the mouths of their adversaries at once.
Origin of. It is not generally known that the name of Methodist had been given long before to a religious sect in England, or at least, to a party in religion which was distinguished by some of the same marks as are now supposed to apply to the Methodists. John Spence, who was librarian of Sion College in 1657, in a book which he published, says, “Where are now our Anabaptists and plain pike staff Methodists, who esteem all flowers of rhetoric in sermons no better than stinking weeds?”–But the denomination to which we here refer, was founded, in the year 1729, by one Mr. Morgan and Mr. John Wesley. In the month of November that year, the latter being then fellow of Lincoln College, began to spend some evenings in reading the Greek Testament, with Charles Wesley, student, Mr. Morgan, commoner of Christ Church, and Mr. Kirkham, of Merton College. Not long afterwards, two or three of the pupils of Mr. John Wesley obtained leave to attend these meetings. They then began to visit the sick in different parts of the town, and the prisoners also, who were confined in the castle. Two years after they were joined by Mr. Ingham, of Queen’s College, Mr. Broughton, and Mr. Hervey; and, in 1735, by the celebrated Mr. Whitfield, then in his eighteenth year. At this time their number in Oxford amounted to about fourteen. They obtained their name from the exact regularity of their lives, which gave occasion to a young gentleman of Christ Church to say, “Here is a new sect of Methodists sprung up;” alluding to a sect of ancient physicians who were called Methodists because they reduced the whole healing art to a few common principles, and brought it into some method and order.
At the time that this society was formed, it was said that the whole kingdom of England was tending fast to infidelity. “It is come,” says Bishop Butler, “I know not how, to be taken for granted by many persons, that Christianity is not so much as a subject of enquiry; but that it is now at length discovered to be fictitious; and accordingly they treat it as if, in the present age, this were an agreement among all people of discernment, and nothing remained but to set it up as a principal subject of mirth and ridicule, as it were, by way of reprisal for its having so long interrupted the pleasures of the world.” There is every reason to believe that the Methodists were the instruments of stemming this torrent. The sick and the poor also tasted the fruits of their labours and benevolence: Mr. Wesley abridged himself of all his superfluities, and proposed a fund for the relief of the indigent; and so prosperous was the scheme, that they quickly increased their fund to eighty pounds per annum. This, which one should have thought would have been attended with praise instead of censure, quickly drew upon them a kind of persecution; some of the seniors of the university began to interfere, and it was reported “that the college censor was going to blow up the godly club.” They found themselves, however, patronized and encouraged by some men eminent for their learning and virtue; so that the society still continued, though they had suffered a severe loss, in 1730, by the death of Mr. Morgan, who, it is said, was the founder of it. In October, 1735, John and Charles Wesley, Mr. Ingham, and Mr. Delamotte, son of a merchant in London, embarked for Georgia, in order to preach the Gospel to the Indians. After their arrival they were at first favourably received, but in a short time lost the affection of the people; and, on account of some differences with the store-keeper, Mr. Wesley was obliged to return to England. Mr. Wesley, however, was soon succeeded by Mr. Whitfield, whose repeated labours in that part of the world are well known.
II. Methodists, tenets of. After Mr. Whitfield returned from America in 1741, he declared his full assent to the doctrines of Calvin. Mr. Wesley, on the contrary, professed the Arminian doctrine, and had printed, in favour of perfection and universal redemption, and very strongly against election, a doctrine which Mr. Whitfield believed to be unscriptural. The difference, therefore, of sentiments between these two great men caused a separation. Mr. Wesley preached in a place called the Foundery, where Mr. Whitfield preached but once, and no more. Mr. Whitfield then preached to very large congregations out of doors; and soon after, in connection with Mr. Cennick, and one or two more, began a new house, in Kingswood, Gloucestershire, and established a school that favoured Calvinistical preachers. The Methodists, therefore, were now divided; one part following Mr. Wesley, and the other Mr. Whitfield.
The doctrines of the Wesleyan Methodists, according to their own account, are the same as the church of England, as set forth in her liturgy, articles, and homilies. This, however, has been disputed. Mr. Wesley, in his appeal to men of reason and religion, thus declares his sentiments: “All I teach,” he observes, “respects either the nature and condition of salvation, the nature of justifying and saving faith, or the Author of faith and salvation. That justification whereof our articles and homilies speak signifies present forgiveness, and consequently acceptance with God: I believe the condition of this faith: I mean not only that without faith we cannot be justified, but also that, as soon as any one has true faith, in that moment he is justified. Good works follow this faith, but cannot go before it; much less can sanctification, which implies continued course of good works, springing from holiness of heart. But it is allowed that sanctification goes before our justification at the last day, Heb. xii. 14. Repentance, and fruits meet for repentance, go before faith. Repentance absolutely must go before faith; fruits meet for it, if there be opportunity. By repentance I mean conviction of sin, producing real desires and sincere resolutions of amendment; by salvation I mean not barely deliverance from hell, but a present deliverance from sin. Faith, in general, is a divine supernatural evidence, or conviction of things not seen, not discoverable by our bodily senses: justifying faith implies not only a divine evidence or conviction that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And the moment a penitent sinner believes this, God pardons and absolves him; and as soon as his pardon or justification is witnessed to him by the Holy Ghost, he is saved. From that time (unless he make shipwreck of the faith) salvation gradually increases in his soul.
“The Author of faith and salvation is God alone. There is no more of power than of merit in man; but as all merit is in the Son of God, in what he has done and suffered for us, so all power is in the Spirit of God. And, therefore, every man, in order to believe unto salvation, must receive the Holy Ghost.” So far Mr. Wesley. Respecting original sin, free will, the justification of men, good works, and works done before justification, he refers us to what is said on these subjects in the former part of the ninth, and tenth, the eleventh, the twelfth, and thirteenth articles of the church of England. One of Mr. Wesley’s preachers bears this testimony of him and his sentiments: “The Gospel, considered as a general plan of salvation, he viewed as a display of the divine perfections, in a way agreeable to the nature of God; in which all the divine attributes harmonize, and shine forth with peculiar lustre.–The Gospel, considered as a means to attain an end, appeared to him to discover as great fitness in the means to the end as can possibly be discovered in the structure of natural bodies, or in the various operations of nature, from a view of which we draw our arguments for the existence of God.–Man he viewed as blind, ignorant, wandering out of the way, with his mind estranged from God.–He considered the Gospel as a dispensation of mercy to men, holding forth pardon, a free pardon of sin to all who repent and believe in Christ Jesus. The Gospel, he believed, inculcates universal holiness, both in heart and in the conduct of life.–He showed a mind well instructed in the oracles of God, and well acquainted with human nature. He contended, that the first step to be a Christian is to repent; and that, till a man is convinced of the evil of sin, and is determined to depart from it; till he is convinced that there is a beauty in holiness, and something truly desirable in being reconciled to God, he is not prepared to receive Christ. The second important and necessary step, he believed to be faith, agreeable to the order of the apostle, ‘Repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ,’ Acts xx. 20,21. In explaining sanctification, he accurately distinguished it from justification, or the pardon of sin. Justification admits us into a state of grace and favour with God, and lays the foundation of sanctification, or Christian holiness, in all its extent. There has been a great clamour raised against him because he called his view of sanctification by the word perfection; but he often explained what he meant by this term. He meant by the word perfection, such a degree of the love of God, and the love of man; such a degree of the love of justice, truth, holiness, and purity, as will remove from the heart every contrary disposition towards God or man; and that this should be our state of mind in every situation and in every circumstance of life.–He maintained that God is a God of love, not to a part of his creatures only, but to all; that He who is the Father of all, who made all, who stands in the same relation to all his creatures, loves them all; that he loved the world, and gave his Son a ransom for all without distinction of persons. It appeared to him, that to represent God as partial, as confining his love to a few, was unworthy our notions of the Deity. He maintained that Christ died for all men; and that he is to be offered to all; that all are to be invited to come to him: and that whosoever comes in the way which God has appointed may partake of his blessings. He supposed that sufficient grace is given to all, in that way and manner which is best adapted to influence the mind. He did not believe salvation was by works. So far was he from putting works in the place of the blood of Christ, that he only gave them their just value: he considered them as the fruits of a living operative faith, and as the measure of our future reward: for every man will be rewarded not for his work, but according to the measure of them. He gave the whole glory of salvation to God, from first to last. he believed that man would never turn to God, if God did not begin the work: he often said that the first approaches of grace to the mind are irresistible; that is, that a man cannot avoid being convinced that he is a sinner; that God, by various means, awakens his conscience; and whether the man will or no, these convictions approach him.” In order that we may form still clearer ideas respecting Mr. Wesley’s opinions, we shall here quote a few questions and answers as laid down in the Minutes of Conference. Q. “In what sense is Adam’s sin imputed to all mankind?” A. “In Adam all die, i.e. 1. Our bodies then became mortal.–2. Our souls died, i.e. were disunited from God. And hence,–3. We are all born with a sinful, devilish nature; and reason whereof,–4. We are children of wrath, liable to death eternal.” Rom. v. 18. Eph. ii. 3. Q. “In what sense is the righteousness of Christ imputed to all mankind, or to believers?” A. “We do not find it expressly affirmed in Scripture that God imputes the righteousness of Christ to any, although we do find that faith is imputed for righteousness. That text, ‘As by one man’s disobedience all men were made sinners, so by the obedience of one all were made righteous’ we conceive, means by the merits of Christ all men are cleared from the guilt of Adam’s actual sin.” Q. “Can faith be lost but through disobedience?” A. “It cannot. A believer first inwardly disobeys; inclines to sin with his heart; then his intercourse with God is cut off, i.e. his faith is lost; and after this he may fall into outward sin, being now weak, and like another man.” Q. “What is implied in being a perfect Christian?” A. “The loving the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our mind, and soul, and strength.” Q. “Does this imply that all inward sin is taken away?” A. :Without doubt; or how could we be said to be saved from all our uncleannesses?” Ezek. xxxvi. 29. Q. “How much is allowed by our brethren who differ from us with regard to entire sanctificatio?” A. “They grant, 1. That every one must be entirely sanctified in the article of death.–2. That till then a believer daily grows in grace, comes nearer and nearer to perfection.–3. That we ought to be continually pressing after this, and to exhort all others to do so.” Q. “What do we allow them?” A. “We grant, 1. That many of those who have died in the faith, yea, the greater part of those we have known, were not sanctified throughout, not made perfect in love, till a little before death.–2. That the term sanctified is continually applied by St. Paul to all that were justified, that were true believers.–3. That by this term alone he rarely (if ever) means saved from all sin.–4. That consequently it is not proper to use it in this sense, without adding the word ‘wholly, entirely,’ or the like.–5. That the inspired writers almost continually speak of or to those who were justified, but very rarely either of or to those who were sanctified.–6. That consequently it behoves us to speak in public almost continually of the state of justification; but more rarely in full and explicit terms concerning entire sanctification.” Q. “What then, is the point wherein we divide?” A. “It is this: Whether we should expect to be saved from all sin before the article of death.” Q. “Is there any clear Scripture promise of this, that God will save us from all sin?” A. “There is, Ps. cxxx. 8: ‘He shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.’ This is more largely expressed in Ezek. xxxvi. 26,29. 2 Cor. vii. 1. Deut. xxx. 6. 1 John iv. 17.”
Thus I have endeavoured to give a view of the tenets of the Wesleyan Methodists; and this I have chosen to do in their own words, in order to prevent misrepresentation.
As to the doctrines of the Calvinistic Methodist, they need not be inserted here, as the reader will find the substance of them under the article CALVINISTS.
III. Methodists, government and discipline of. A considerable number both of the Calvinists and Arminian Methodists approve of the discipline of the church of England, while many, it is said, are dissenters in principle. Mr. Wesley and Mr. Whitfield were both brought up in, and paid peculiar respect to that church. They did not, however, as it is well known, confine themselves to her laws in all respects as it related to discipline.
Mr. Wesley having formed numerous societies in different parts, he, with his brother Charles, drew up certain rules, by which they were, and it seems in many respects still are governed. They state the nature and design of a Methodist society in the following words:
“Such a society is no other than a company of men having the form and seeking the power of godliness; united, in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation.”
“That it may the more easily be discerned whether they are indeed working out their own salvation, each society is divided into smaller companies, called classes, according to their respective places of abode. There are about twelve persons (sometimes fifteen, twenty, or even more) in each class; one of whom is styled the leader. It is his business, 1. To see each person in his class once a week, at least, in order to enquire how their souls prosper; to advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require; to receive what they are willing to give to the poor, or toward the Gospel.–2. To meet the minister and the stewards of the society once a week, in order to inform the minister of any that are sick, or of any that walk disorderly, and will not be reproved; to pay to the stewards what they have received of their several classes in the week preceding; and to show their account of what each person has contributed.
“There is only one condition previously required of those who desire admission into these societies, namely, A desire to flee from the wrath to come; to be saved from their sins: but wherever this is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its fruits. It is, therefore, expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation.
“First, by doing no harm; by avoiding evil in every kind; especially that which is most generally practised, such as the taking the name of God in vain; the profaning the day of the Lord, either by doing ordinary work thereon, or by buying or selling; drunkenness; buying or selling spirituous liquors, or drinking them, unless in cases of extreme necessity; fighting, quarrelling, brawling; brother going to law with brother; returning evil for evil, or railing for railing; the using many words in buying or selling; the buying or selling uncustomed goods; the giving or taking things on usury, i.e. the unlawful interest.
“Uncharitable, or unprofitable conversation; particularly speaking evil of magistrates, or of ministers. “Doing to others as we would not they should do unto us.
“Doing what we know is not for the glory of God; as the putting on gold or costly apparel: the taking such diversions as cannot be used in the name of the Lord Jesus.
“The singing those songs, or reading those books, which do not tend to the knowledge or love of
God; softness and needless self-indulgence; laying up treasure upon earth; borrowing without a probability of paying; or taking up goods without a probability of paying for them.
“It is expected of all who continue in these societies that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation.
“Secondly, By doing good; by being in every kind merciful after their power, as they have opportunity; doing good of every possible sort, and as far as possible to all men; to their bodies, of the ability which God giveth; by giving food to the hungry, by clothing the naked, by visiting or helping them that are sick, or in prison; to their souls, by instructing, reproving, or exhorting all we have any intercourse with; trampling under foot that enthusiastic doctrine of devils, that, ‘We are not to do good, unless our hearts be free to it.’
“By doing good, especially to them that are of the household of faith, or groaning so to be; employing them preferably to others; buying one of another; helping each other in business; and so much the more, because the world will love its own, and them only; by all possible diligence and frugality, that the gospel be not blamed; by running with patience the race set before them, denying themselves, and taking up their cross daily; submitting to bear the reproach of Christ; to be as the filth and offscouring of the world, and looking that men should say all manner of evil of them falsely for the Lord’s sake.
“It is expected of all who desire to continue in these societies, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,
“Thirdly, By attending on all the ordinances of God: such are,–The public worship of God; the ministry or the word, either read or expounded; the supper of the Lord; family and private prayer; searching the Scriptures; and fasting and abstinence.
“These are the general rules of our societies, all which we are taught of God to observe, even in his written word; the only rule, and the sufficient rule, both of our faith and practice; and all these we know his Spirit writes on every truly awakened heart. If there be any among us who observe them not, who habitually break any of them, let it be made known unto them who watch over that soul, as they who must give an account. We will admonish him of the error of his ways; we will bear with him for a season; but then, if he repent not, he hath no more place among us: we have delivered our own souls.
May 1, 1743 John Wesley Charles Wesley.”
In Mr. Wesley’s connexion, they have circuits and conferences, which we find were thus formed:– When the preachers at first went out to exhort and preach, it was by Mr. Wesley’s permission and direction; some from one mission and direction; some from one part of the kingdom, and some from another; and though frequently strangers to each other, and those to whom they were sent, yet on his credit and sanction alone they were received and provided for as friends by the societies wherever they came. But, having little or no communication or intercourse with one another, nor any subordination among themselves, they must have been under the necessity of recurring to Mr. Wesley for directions how and where they were to labour. To remedy this inconvenience, he conceived the design of calling them together to an annual conference: by this means he brought them into closer union with each other, and made them sensible of the utility of acting in concert and harmony. He soon found it necessary, also to bring their itinerancy under certain regulations, and reduce it to some fixed order, both to prevent confusion, and for his own ease: he therefore took fifteen or twenty societies, more or less, which lay round some principal society in those parts, and which were so situated, that the greatest distance from one to the other was not much more than twenty miles, and united them into what was called a circuit. At the yearly conference he appointed two, three, or four preachers, to one of these circuits, according to its extent, which at first was often very considerable, sometimes taking in a part of three or four counties. Here, and here only, were they to labour for one year, that is until the next conference. One of the preachers on every circuit was called the assistant, because he assisted Mr. Wesley in superintending the societies and other preachers; he took charge of the societies within the limits assigned him; he enforced the rules every where, and directed the labours of the preachers associated with him. Having received a list of the societies forming his circuit, he took his own station in it, gave to the other preachers a plan of it, and pointed out the day when each should be at the place fixed for him, to begin a progressive motion round it, in such order as the plan directed. They now followed one another through all the societies belonging to that circuit, at stated distances of time, all being governed by the same rules, and undergoing the same labour. By this plan, every preacher’s daily work was appointed beforehand; each knew, every day, where the others were, and each society when to expect the preacher, and how long he would stay with them.–It may be observed, however, that Mr. Wesley’s design in calling the preachers together annually, was not merely for the regulation of the circuits, but also for the review of their doctrines and discipline, and for the examination of their moral conduct; that those who were to administer with him in holy things might be thoroughly furnished for every good work.
The first conference was held in June 1744, at which Mr. Wesley met his brother, two or three other clergymen, and a few of the preachers whom he had appointed to come from various parts, to confer with them on the affairs of the societies.
“Monday, June 25,” observes Mr. Wesley, “and the five following days, we spent in conference with our preachers, seriously considering by what means we might the most effectually save our own souls, and them that heard us; and the result of our consultations we set down to be the rule of our future practice.”
Since that time a conference has been held annually, Mr. Wesley himself having presided at forty-seven. The subjects of their deliberations were proposed in the form of questions, which were amply discussed; and the questions, with the answers agreed upon, were afterwards printed under the title of “Minutes of several Conversations between the Rev. Mr. Wesley and others,” commonly called Minutes of Conference.
As to their preachers, the following extract from the above-mentioned Minutes of Conference will show us in what manner they are chosen and designated: Q. “How shall we try those who think they are moved by the Holy Ghost to preach?” A. “Inquire 1. Do they know God as a pardoning God? Have they the love of God abiding in them? Do they desire and seek nothing but God? And are they holy in all manner of conversation?–2. Have they gifts, as well as grace, for the work? Have they, in some tolerable degree, a clear, sound understanding? Have they a right judgment in the things of God? Have they a just conception of salvation by faith? And has God given them any degree of utterance? Do they speak justly, readily, clearly?–3. Have they fruit? Are any truly convinced of sin, and converted to God, by their preaching?
“As long as these three marks concur in any one, we believe he is called of God to preach. These we receive as sufficient proof that he is moved thereto by the Holy Ghost.
Q. “What method may we use in receiving a new helper?” A. “A proper time for doing this is at a conference, after solemn fasting and prayer; every person proposed is then to be present, and each of them may be asked.
“Have you faith in Christ? Are you going on to perfection? Do you expect to be perfected in love in this life? Are you groaning after it? Are you resolved to devote yourself wholly to God and to his work? Have you considered the rules of a helper? Will you keep them for conscience’ sake? Are you determined to employ all your time in the work of God? Will you preach every morning and evening? Will you diligently instruct the children in every place? Will you visit from house to house? Will you recommend fasting both by precept and example?
“We then man receive him as a probationer, by giving him the Minutes of the Conference, inscribed thus:–‘To A.B. You think it your duty to call sinners to repentance. Make full proof hereof, and we shall rejoice to receive you as a fellow-labourer.’ Let him then read and carefully weigh what is contained therein, that if he has any doubt it may be removed.”
“To the above it may be useful to add,” says Mr. Benson, “a few remarks on the method pursued in the choice of the itinerant preachers, as many have formed the most erroneous ideas on the subject, imagining they are employed with hardly any prior preparation. 1. They are received as private members of the society on trial.–2. After a quarter of a year, if they are found deserving, they are admitted as proper members.–3. When their grace and abilities are sufficiently manifest, they are appointed leaders of classes.–4. If they then discover talents for more important services, they are employed to exhort occasionally in the smaller congregations, when the preachers cannot attend.–5. If approved in this line of duty, they are allowed to preach.–6. Out of these men who are called local preachers, are selected the itinerant preachers, who are first proposed at a quarterly meeting of the stewards and local preachers of the circuit; then at a meeting of the travelling preachers of the district; and, lastly, in the conference; and, if accepted, are nominated for a circuit.–7. Their characters and conduct are examined annually in the conference; and, if they continue faithful for four years of trial, they are received into full connection. At these conferences, also, strict enquiry is made into the conduct and success of every preacher, and those who are found deficient in abilities are no longer employed as itinerants; while those whose conduct has not been agreeable to the Gospel are expelled, and thereby deprived of all the privileges even of private members of the society.”
IV. Methodists, new connection of. Since Mr. Wesley’s death, his people have been divided; but this division, it seems, respects discipline more than sentiment. Mr. Wesley professed a strong attachment to the established church of England, and exhorted the societies under his care to attend her service, and receive the Lord’s supper from the regular clergy. But in the latter part of his time he thought proper to ordain some bishops and priests for America and Scotland; but as one or two of the bishops have never been out of England since their appointment to the office, it is probable that he intended a regular ordination should take place when the state of the connection might render it necessary. During his life, some of the societies petitioned to have preaching in their own chapels in church hours, and the Lord’s supper administered by the travelling preachers. This request he generally refused, and, where it could be conveniently done, sent some of the clergymen who officiated at the New Chapel in London to perform these solemn services. At the first conference after his death, which was held at Manchester, the preachers published a declaration, in which they said that they would “take up the Plan as Mr. Wesley had left it.” This was by no means satisfactory to many of the preachers and people, who thought that religious liberty ought to be extended to all the societies which desired it. In order to favour this cause, so agreeable to the spirit of Christianity and the rights of Englishmen, several respectable preachers came forward; and by the writings which they circulated through the connection, paved the way for a plan of pacification; by which it was stipulated, that in every society where a threefold majority of class- leaders, stewards, and trustees desired it, the people should have preaching in church hours, and the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper administered to them. The spirit of inquiry being roused did not stop here; for it appeared agreeable both to reason and the customs of the primitive church, that the people should have a voice in the temporal concerns of the societies, vote in the election of church officers, and give their suffrages in spiritual concerns. This subject produced a variety of arguments on both sides of the question: many of the preachers and people thought that an annual delegation of the general stewards of the circuits, to sit either in the conference or the district meetings, in order to assist in the disbursement of the yearly collection, the Kingswood School collection, and the preachers’ fund, and in making new or revising old laws, would be a bond of union between the conference and connection at large, and do away the very idea of arbitrary power among the travelling preachers. In order to facilitate this good work, many societies in various parts of the kingdom, sent delegates to the conference held at Leeds in 1797; they were instructed to request, that the people might have a voice in the formation of their own laws, the choice of their own officers, and the distribution of their own property. The preachers proceeded to discuss two motions: Shall delegates from the societies be admitted into the conference? Shall circuit stewards be admitted into the district meetings? Both motions were negatived, and consequently all hopes of accommodation between the parties were given up. Several friends of religious liberty proposed a plan for a new itinerancy. In order that it might be carried into immediate effect, they formed themselves into a regular meeting, in Ebenezer Chapel, Mr. William Thom being chosen president, and Mr. Alexander Kilham, secretary. The meeting proceeded to arrange the plan for supplying the circuits of the new connection with preachers; and desired the president and secretary to draw up the rules of church government, in order that they might be circulated through the societies for their approbation. Accordingly, a form of church government, suited to an itinerant ministry, was printed by these two brethren, under the title of “Outlines of a Constitution proposed for the Examination, Amendment, and Acceptance of the Members of the Methodist new Itinerancy.” The plan was examined by select committees in different circuits of the connection, and, with few alterations, was accepted by the conference of preachers and delegates. The preachers and people are incorporated in all meetings for business, not by temporary concession, but by the essential principles of their constitution; for the private members choose the class-leaders; the leaders’ meeting nominates the stewards; and the society confirms or rejects the nomination. The quarterly meetings are composed of the general stewards and representatives chosen by the different societies of the circuits, and the fourth quarterly meeting of the year appoints the preacher and delegate of every circuit that shall attend the general conference. For a farther account of their principles and discipline, we must refer the reader to a pamphlet entitled “General Rules of the United Societies of Methodists in the new Connection.”
The Calvinistic Methodists are not incorporated into a body as the Arminians are, but are chiefly under the direction or influence of their ministers or patrons.
It is necessary to observe here, that there are many congregations in London, and elsewhere, who, although they are called Methodists, yet are neither in Mr. Wesley’s, Mr. Whitfield’s, nor the new connection. Some of these are supplied by a variety of ministers; and others, bordering more upon the congregational plan, have a resident minister. The clergy of the church of England who strenuously preach up her doctrines and articles, are called Methodists. A distinct connection upon Mr. Whitfield’s plan, was formed and patronized by the late Lady Huntingdon, and which still subsists. The term Methodist, also, is applied by way of reproach to almost every one who manifests more than common concern for the interests of religion, and the spiritual good of mankind.
V. Methodists, numbers, and success of. Notwithstanding the general contempt that has been thrown upon them, and the opposition they have met with, yet their numbers are very considerable. From the minutes of the conference of the Wesleyan Methodists held in London, July 30, 1810, it appears that the number of persons in their societies is as follows. In Great Britain, 137,997; Gibraltar 50; in the West Indies, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, 13,580. The Methodists in America are not in immediate connection with the Wesleyans here. Their church is Episcopal, and according to their account in 1809, contains 163,033 persons. Among the Calvinistic Methodists, there are also a considerable number of preachers, whose congregations and societies are very extensive: some of their chapels in London are the largest and best attended in the world: it is almost incredible to see the numbers of people who flock to these places. As to their success in doing good, it is evident, that though many ignorant enthusiasts have been found among them, yet no people have done more to moralize mankind than they: nor have they rested there; they have not only contributed to render thousands better members of society, but been the instruments of promoting their spiritual and eternal interests. Their simplicity of language, fervour of address, patience in opposition, unweariedness in labour, piety of conduct, and dependence on Almighty God, are certainly worthy of the greatest praise, and call for the imitation of many who unjustly condemn them. See History of Methodism; Gillies’s Life of Whitfield, and Works; Coke’s Life of Wesley; Macgowan’s Shaver; Wesley’s Works; Benson’s Vindication and Apology for the Methodists; Fletcher’s Works; Bogue and Bennett’s Hist. of the Dissenters, vol. iii; Walker’s address to the Methodists.
Charles Buck (1771-1815) was an English Independent minister, best known for the publication of his “Theological Dictionary”. According to the “Dictionary of National Biography”, a Particular Baptist minister named John C. Ryland (1723-1792) assisted Buck by writing many of the articles for the aforementioned publication. One may conclude, based not only Buck’s admiration for his friend Ryland, but also on the entries in his Theological Dictionary, that he stood head and shoulders with the High-Calvinists of his day.