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"Methodism." The Edinburgh Review 154:1 (1881) 1-37.


        Between the Church (1) and Orthodox Dissent (2) lies Methodism, a body of Christians allied with both, but separated by differences stronger than the affinities which connect it with either of the cognate forms of religious organizations.  Methodism is mindful of its obligations, yet jealous of its independence; it has therefore adopted the tautological watchword, “The friends of all, the enemies of none.”  We propose to lay before our readers, in some detail, the organization, belief, and results of Methodism, as a distinct domain of the religious life of Englishmen.  The attempt to indicate the influence of sporadic Methodism would lead us too far afield, and we therefore purpose to confine our attention to Methodism as it has crystallized into distinct communities.  It will further be necessary to restrict our observations in a great degree to the parent stem, and simply indicate, in passing, the salient points of difference between the Wesleyan and other branches of Methodism. With the exception of the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists (3), all the different Methodist societies hold the same doctrines, which they expound with substantial agreement. Their disputes, many of which have been intensely bitter, have arisen solely on questions of government, and in this they range from the episcopal (4) form in America to a most democratic system in the United Methodist Free Churches; while between the extremes are the Wesleyans, whose polity is a heterogeneous compound of Presbyterianism (5) and of original devices for the government of religious corporations.           


    The line of demarcation between Dissent and Methodism has been well defined from the beginning. Methodism sprang from a sense of personal guilt before God; Dissent arose from the conviction that Episcopacy (6) was wrong. The quarrel of the former was with irreligion, of the latter with prelacy. Dissent discussed theories of Church government as though the salvation of the world depended upon the adoption of some particular scheme. Methodists declared that their prime purpose was “to reform the nation, more particularly the 'Church, and to spread Scriptural holiness over the land.’ “Dissenters,” said Wesley, “begin everywhere with showing their hearers how fallen the Church and ministers are; we begin everywhere with showing our hearers how fallen they are themselves.” Dissent magnified the congregation and made it honourable; Methodism originated the “United Societies” which were to have close connexion with one another, and always to act in unison. Dissent boldly separated from the Church; the Methodist leaders declared that they “obeyed the bishops in all things indifferent, and observed the canons as far as they could with a safe conscience.” Their separation was gradual; it continued through many years, it was accompanied with fond regrets, and it has tinged, though with gradually fading tints, the intercourse of the Church and Methodism.                   


    Methodism arose in the darkest days of the Reformed Church of England and in the most dismal of English Dissent. At the head of the movement were Whitefield (7) and Wesley (8). The former broke through all trammels and brought the tidings of the Christian faith to the Kingswood (9) miners and similar men by means of field preaching. His passionate oratory took their hearts by storm, and when he found himself unequal to the demands created by his own success he called John Wesley to his aid. At first sight this seemed an unhappy choice. Wesley was a scholar and a gentleman, logical and incisive in his style of address, cool and unimpassioned in his utterances.  As a Fellow of his college he left nothing to be desired, but it was another thing to confront unwashed colliers.  But from the moment he faced those eager crowds his soul awoke, ecclesiastical prejudiced melted, the man overpowered the priest, and the master of the movement was felt to have come upon the field.  One gift he had, and no one shared it with him – he was a born administrator of spiritual forces.  Whitefield’s power ceased when his glowing periods were ended; Wesley’s followers boast that twenty millions of people call him their “venerable founder.”  The marks of its birth have grown dim, but the Methodism of today testifies to the genius of the most practical of English Churchmen.  He systematized everything he touched; and that not through a vulgar ambition to found a spiritual despotism, but through the constraint of a nature which impelled him, as it does the bee, to store treasure only in symmetrical forms.



    Methodism is built upon the class meeting as its germ cell.  This is a meeting which is held weekly, generally under the direction of a layman (10), for religious conversation.  It numbers from twelve to fifteen individuals, not necessarily of the same sex.  Its adoption marks the true inventor in religious dynamics.  Wesley gives several accounts of the origin of this meeting.  “In 1739,” said the founder of the “United Societies,” “eight or ten persons came to me in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin.  They desired that I would spend some time with them to advise them….  I appointed a day when they might all come together.”  This was the beginning of the Methodist societies.  But it was soon seen that many professed Methodists were unbecoming in their conduct.  No way of correcting abuses presented itself.  “At length,” says Wesley, “while we were thinking of quite another thing, we struck upon a method for which we have had to thank God every since.  I was talking with several of the society in Bristol concerning the means of paying the debts there, when one stood up and said, ‘Let every member of the society give a penny weekly till all are paid.’  Another answered, ‘But many are poor, and cannot afford to do it.’  ‘Then,’ said he, ‘put eleven of the poorest with me, and if they can give anything, well – I will call upon them weekly.’”  The men that undertook the collecting reported evil-doers to Wesley.  He saw in a moment that he had hit upon an effective plan of supervision.  Instead of the leaders, as these collectors were called, going to the members, the latter were to come to them weekly.  Prayer and religious counsel preceded the contribution of the pennies. Religion and finance were wedded, and the system of Methodism became a living thing.



    The next thing was to form rules for the societies which were composed of these classes. This exactly suited Wesley's mind. Beginning with the comprehensive maxim that “the sole condition required in those who desired admission into the societies was a desire to flee from the wrath to come,” he proceeded to enclose the whole domain of life with a network of regulations.  Nothing escaped the meshes.  Their duties as citizens, their diversions, their dress, their trade, their religious observances—all are reduced to method. It is as though one would combine the fervour of an enthusiast with the rigour of an ascetic. The concluding words showthe resolute character of early Methodism: “These are the rules of our societies. All these we know that the Holy Spirit writes on every truly awakened heart.   If there be any amongst us who observe them not . . . we will admonish him of the error of his ways. If he repents not, he hath no more place among us.” The Methodist type of religion is emotional, and the class meeting was intended to be practical. In many respects it has accomplished its aim. It has brought some degree of religious instruction to all Wesleyans. It has furnished an easy and effectual means for dealing with immorality in its members. It has provided a furnace in which the raw material has been fused till it could take the Methodist stamp. In skilful hands it has combined the results obtained by well-conducted confirmation classes, communicants' classes, and Bible clashes, adding a social and fervent spirit peculiar to itself. A large staff of zealous and able men have in it found occupation and an outlet for the energy of religious life; while the personal contact of men in the smaller circles it has formed has removed religion from the isolation of the pulpit, and brought it to the home and the heart. Its small weekly contributions have provided principally for the support of the ministry. It has so approved itself to the ruling minds of Methodism that they can  speak of what Wesley called “this little prudential regulation:” “Watch over class meetings with holy jealousy; use every effort to maintain them strictly in all their efficiency.” The class meeting is a test of membership. The Holy Table (11) cannot be approached, as a matter of course, by any except those “who meet in class.” Every holder of office of any kind must be found using this prudential regulation. Multitudes put attendance upon it in place of the holiest rites of Christianity.  It sometimes fails of attaining its best type; and then the class meeting degenerates into a religious club, where the strain of religious exercises is tempered by social gossip.  Fluent talkers gain an audience duly attentive, because each hopes in turn to take up his parable.  Great boldness is developed in discussing the most delicate phases of religious life, and all that is undemonstrative is in danger of being despised.  Educated Methodism grows weary of this peculiar institution, and therefore its membership is declining, even while the numbers of Methodist chapels may be on the increase.



    Once in the Methodist net, and the neophyte is watched carefully.  The leader of his class notes every idiosyncrasy; and when the regular minister comes once a quarter to inspect the class, and give each member a ticket of membership (12), he is duly informed of every promising name.  At the same visit the leader is himself inspected, and is induced to keep accurate returns of all contributions to the funds, and the names and addresses of all members.  In the days of Wesley members were expelled at a word, but many struggles between the people and the ministers since his days have resulted in a compromise.  The ministers in theory and in practice maintain the sole right to receive and expel members; but a regularly graduated series of courts now consider the facts of any charge, while the sentence is reserved for the ministry.  This, at least, is the Wesleyan rule; the minor sects give equal rights to the laity with the ministry.  In conformity with the strict view of Wesleyanism, a private member counts for no more in governing the societies than a private soldier in governing the army.  The part of each is simple obedience. No question in Welseyanism is put to the popular vote; no officer is ever chosen by unofficial voters.  The richest of layman can only give his vote when clothed with the rope of officialism.  The minor Methodists are more democratic; but the “old body” maintains that shepherds gather sheep, and that they are either led or driven.



    It is not surprising that Methodist writers on ecclesiastical matters who follow their founder’s hints should endeavor to draw a parallel between the primitive diaconate (13) and the class leaders of their system.  Nor would the parallel be altogether deceptive.  The Methodist class leader in his best type has been a devout man, not devoid of practical shrewdness.  He has made a study of his Bible, especially the New Testament.  He has endeavoured to instruct his members in the essentials of religion, and has had many devotional aids put within his reach. He has sedulously watched over his class, sympathized with them in their troubles, advised them in their difficulties, visited them and consoled them in the hours of sickness and death. In country places he has gathered a few simple souls together, and preserved alive a flame of devotion in obscure hamlets. It is to him that we owe the piety Leigh Richmond has drawn in the “Dairyman's Daughter (14),” and to him many a young man in a large city has been indebted for the first words of counsel when he was a stranger in a strange place. When the spiritually gifted Tholuck (15) resided in London, busy with the thoughts that he has given to the world in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount (16), he is said to have been greatly charmed by the piety of a Methodist class leader, and to have sought his counsels. We are far from suggesting that perfection has been ordinarily achieved; but it is fairest, in judging systems, to take cognisance of some of their best fruits as a whole. Class leaders have not forgotten to magnify their office. They have, however, never won the rank of co-pastor, and the leader is, therefore, never anything but an assessor when the minister sits in judgment upon offenders. But in Methodism finance is always allied with religion—a fact which has been embodied in the saying of that famous old lady, who, when called upon to state the items of her creed, summed it up in the four particulars of “repentance towards God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, a penny a week, and a shilling a quarter.”  The last items were her contributions to the support of the ministry. There are, however, many other financial questions connected with Methodism besides the support of ministers, in all of which regular officers are appointed with definite duties and privileges.



    All the societies in a certain area are grouped together in what is called a “circuit,” to which one or more ministers are appointed for one year at a time, and none are to continue for more than three years, except ordained ministers of the Church of England.  Each circuit has a meeting once in three months of its regular preachers, lay preachers, and various officials. It has certain functions in matters of discipline when specially constituted for that purpose, receives reports of the societies in its area and of all schools, approves or rejects candidates for the ministry, provides the funds for the support of the ministry, and invites, subject to control, the ministers that are to conduct its affairs.  The chief minister, who is called “superintendent,” is always in the chair, and he can immediately bring the proceedings to a close by vacating it.  This system of semi-local government under central control develops strong interest in the minds of resident laymen, and invests them with privileges that are far from lightly esteemed.  It is this employment of laymen in matters of importance that gives Methodism its hold on the middle and lower middle class.  What the Rochdale Pioneers (17) applied to manufactures, the Methodists have exemplified in the creation of religious communities.  It is mutual co-operation in another department of life.



    Before reviewing the constitution of Methodism, we pause to consider some of its peculiar institutions.  Prominent amongst them stands the Lovefeast.  Wesley witnessed amongst the Moravians (18) an attempt to revive the ancient Agapae, and it was one of his most fixed ideas that his peculiar practices would be more seemly if he could contrive to present them under the authority of antiquity.  He therefore appointed Lovefeasts, and from his time the Methodist rite has preserved a shadow of the antique custom.  Grace is said before meat and thanks are returned, but the members find themselves at a Barmecide (19) banquet.  The meal consists of buns and water which is to be drunk out of huge cups passed from hand to hand.  After this grotesque formality has been observed, the Lovefeast becomes a kind of gigantic class meeting under the direction of a minister.  Many features lingered here of old Methodism after they had died out elsewhere.  The Methodist women who wore the half-Quaker costume so dear to Wesley still haunted these assemblies; and a chance attendant in Cornwall or in certain parts of the North of England might yet meet many men who would pass muster for models to the illustrations for Bunyan’s most popular work.  In such a meeting, the excitement of the more impressible portions of the audience, the racy wit of the speakers, the appreciation of their points shown by pious ejaculations, the narration of the conflicts with the tempter whose temptations are conveyed in the undiluted Doric (20), the relation of a dream to the evident discomfort of the presiding preacher, the old world-tunes surging up spontaneously from different parts of the crowd, the unexpectedness of some picturesque phrase, the shrewd utterance of some clever business man, the evident fervour of the elders, the half-amused wonder of the new converts, the humour, the pathos, the Puritanism, the mysticism, the healthy piety – form a whole not easily forgotten when once witnessed, and defying analysis whenever it may be recalled.



    One custom that was originally Methodistic has now passed far beyond its limits. The Kingswood colliers before their evangelisation by Whitefield were wont to spend their nights in the public-houses; afterwards they gathered in their schoolroom and spent one night in the week in prayer.  This was reported to Wesley, and he was asked to put a stop to it. With his usual caution in dealing with popular movements, he considered it carefully, and, after he had compared it with the customs of the ancient Christians, he gave his consent for the meetings to be continued; and the vigil of Latin Christianity became the watchnight of Saxon Methodism.   The practice is now accepted in churches that have more sympathy with Catholic ritual than with the watchnights of converted colliers. But Wesley was many-sided; he was content with connecting his societies with the past by the revival of primitive customs, and justifying the use of his prosaic “tickets (21)” by the Apostolic ETTto-ToXai a-va-TaTitcai (22); yet he must boldly borrow from a Puritan divine (23) the most impressive Methodist function. This divine, Richard Alleine (24) by name, had composed an extended form of vow to be taken by individual Christians, as a species of Puritan equivalent to the rite of Confirmation.  This Wesley adopted, and it is now as peculiar to Methodism as the Commination service is to Anglicanism.  On the first Sunday of the year the members of society, and those specially admitted by the minister, gather together for what is termed the “renewal of the covenant.” The hymns chosen are solemn in their matter and in their music. In the most profound silence portions of this Puritan document are read, containing the strongest denunciations of self, couched in the figurative language of that day. An appeal is made to “act as if God were visibly present.” The whole congregation kneels and repeats the words of the “covenant.” The stringency of the terms would be considered sufficient in the case of a religious order.  A hint is given, of which many avail themselves; that the promise “may be made in these or the like words;” but when the form is concluded assent is signified by all who are present originally by standing up, but now mentally in most cases. The silence is broken, by the singing of Doddridge's hymn, “O happy day that fixed my choice, (25)” or some other specially adapted to the occasion.  The celebration of the Eucharist completes the impressive rite. We are not aware that the devotional aspect of the older Puritanism is presented so clearly in any Dissenting service as this; but, even here, we are at one with an anonymous Wesleyan essayist. “Without doubt there is much that is exquisitely beautiful in that service, but there is an unfortunate mixture of what is faulty in expression, and unbecoming to Christian lips.”  Despite all drawbacks, this service has produced much true religious life.



    When Methodists erected a tablet to their founder’s memory in their mother chapel in London, they called him “the patron and friend of lay preachers, by whose aid he extended the plan of itinerant preaching through Great Britain and Ireland, the West Indies, and America with unexampled success.”  The words are not more reticent than we expect to find in epitaphs, but we gather from other sources that the patron of lay preachers witnessed their advent with anger.  It required his mother’s common sense to reconcile him to their existence; and, though he gladly availed himself of their assistance, he kept them within the narrowest limits of authority.  In one of the last sermons he wrote, on “The Ministerial Office, (26)” he “flames with indignation against unauthorized intruders into the office of the priesthood….  They had presumed to administer the sacraments when he had not appointed them.”



    However, patrons have always had their humours, which clients have condoned for the sake of doles; and Wesley’s preachers, ignoring his illogical theories, took the position he assigned them, and on their dead selves stepped to higher things.  The lay preachers fell into two classes – the itinerant, who now receive Presbyterian ordination and go from circuit to circuit; and the “local” preachers, who are simple laymen.  In times of chaos after Wesley’s death lay preachers administered both sacraments, and considered themselves entitled to rank equally with itinerants.  Gradually but surely Wesleyanism broke down that assumption; and in the person of the second great legislator of Methodism was known, Dr. Bunting (27), the itinerants claimed, when put on their trial, “to be tried by their peers.”  These were the members of their own order, and from that time forward all aspiring to greater dignities while they remain laymen must seek their fortunes amongst minor Methodist bodies.  In Wesleyanism the superintendent minister nominates every local preacher, presides over the periodical examinations of their characters, and appoints them to such chapels as he sees fit.  By the labours of these layman Methodism is maintained in the rural districts.  According to the historians of Methodism, local preachers have been of various grades in social life.  Country gentlemen, members of Parliament, representatives of the learned professions, substantial tradesmen, mechanics, and farm labourers have figured amongst them.  Ex-local preachers are to be found in unexpected places.  They have harangued Chartist (28) mobs, organized secularist associations, directed trades' unions, ministered in fashionable Nonconformist (29) chapels, and found a home in the priesthood of the National Church. At present the work of lay preachers seems rather endured than valued; and while the Church is anxious to promote the resuscitation of a lay diaconate, Wesleyanism is apparently supplanting its irregular agents by its trained ministry.



    In former days women preached amongst Methodists; and the figure of Dinah Morris (30), modelled by the most sympathetic of modern novelists, rises before the mind at the mention of these female preachers. However admirable they may be in a novel, they were not acceptable in Methodism. Some assailed them with banter, as witness this extract from a sermon of the time: “Balaam, said the preacher in a funeral oration, was converted by the braying of an ass (31), Peter by the crowing of a cock, and our lamented brother by the preaching of a woman.” Others appealed to apostolic prohibition, but the women preachers did not withdraw at the command of venerable men. At this juncture the highest authority in Methodism deliberately forbade their ministrations.   The grounds were clear, and ought to have been convincing: “(1) because a vast majority of the people are opposed to women's preaching: (2) because there is a sufficiency of preachers whom God has accredited.” Unabashed by this judgment, they finally took refuge with the Primitive Methodists (32).



    The buildings in which Methodist services are held were originally called preaching-houses; chapels is their usual style in this country, but in America and the colonies they are termed churches. The first Methodist preaching-house was built in Bristol in 1739; but the first opened was in Moorfields, London, being a disused foundry altered for the purpose. The description of it, given in Tyerman's “Life of Wesley (33),” affords an interesting glimpse of early Methodist practices.  A bell summoned the people to early preaching at five o'clock in the morning, and again at nine for family prayers, as several person had rooms in the foundry. There were no pews in the chapel, but a dozen seats for women had backs.  Free seats (34) were under the front gallery for them, and also the front gallery. The men were consigned to side galleries. Classes met in a room behind the chapel, and prayers were read on the Wednesdays and Fridays. One end of this room was a school; at the other Wesley's books were sold, over it were his apartments, and in a dwelling-house by the side were the domestics and assistant preachers. Wesley laid down strict laws for his preaching-houses, including their shape, the way their windows were to open, the absence of all pews, “Chinese palings, and tub pulpits.”  The men and women must sit separately according to the practice of the Primitive Church; and “if I come,” he says, “into a new preaching-house, and see the men and women sitting together, I will go out.”  He drew up a plan of legal settlement for his chapels, and issued the peremptory order, “Not a stone shall be laid till the house is settled on the Methodist plan verbatim.  N.B. – No lawyer is to alter one line, neither need any be employed.”  But even in Wesley’s days the division of the sexes was overthrown, and his act of uniformity was speedily inoperative.  At present the chapels of every Methodist sect must be as ecclesiastical as an architect of the nineteenth century, chosen by a committee after open competition, can contrive to make it.



    In reading the architectural reports on Wesleyan chapels, we are struck with the fact that very minor modifications in the majority of cases, and no modification at all in very many, would render the buildings perfect for the celebration of most advanced Ritual.  nor does the desire for expensive and ornate chapels confine itself to Wesleyans; all Methodist bodies appear to yield to the same impulse, till we come to American and Canadian Methodism, where the churches vie with the architecture of the most ecclesiastical of their neighbours.  The aestheticism of the age has proved too strong for the vaunted plainness of the Methodist precisians.



    Contentions for power to appoint preachers to these chapels and to have the legal possession of them arose at an early stage.  The first deed was drawn in accordance with the provisions of the old Presbyterian meeting-house settlements.  It was the shrewdness of Whitefield, strange to say, that drew Wesley’s attentions to the dangers of this mode of settlement, and, after his alarms had been excited, he consulted “three eminent counselors.”  By their ingenuity a legal form was prepared that steered clear of all the difficulties.  the crucial point was grasped clearly by Wesley; for he says: “If you give trustees powers to eject ministers, their power will be greater than the king’s.  Where he is patron he can put in a preacher, but he cannot put him out.”  The Conference (35) was first strictly defined, and then to it was given full power over all appointments of preachers, with the proviso that its power was not to be operative as against Wesley during his lifetime.  During that period and afterwards, the trustees contended for the forbidden domination.  They were gradually defeated, partly because in some cases their pretensions were illegal, and were so declared by the civil courts: partly because the general feeling of the Methodists resented the power of trustees; and most of all because the preachers, believing that their autonomy was essential to the well-being of the societies, resolutely set themselves to break their power, and to reduce them practically to a position in which they hold the legal right to the property without great capability of affecting the religious policy of the denomination. A very strict oversight is maintained over each chapel, its income, its expenditure, and its capacity. Statistics on these points are carefully compiled every year, and they are collected and preserved under the direction of a special office.  These statistics are all read over at an annual meeting of the trustees of each chapel, and are verified by the signature of the minister in charge of the circuit.



    In deciding on the conflicting claims of the Conference and of trustees, Caesar has frequently decided upon things which extreme religionists are not usually content to give to Caesar.  The most important case which Methodism ever submitted to the decision of the civil courts came before Lord Lyndhurst (36) in 1835 on appeal from Vice-Chancellor Shadwell (37). The cause of the dissension appears to have been that proposals had been made to found a theological college for the better training of candidates for the Wesleyan ministry. The project met with considerable opposition; for though Wesley had endeavoured to impress upon his preachers the necessity of reading, and taught his people to pray, “Unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety,” a large section of the community entertained a strong objection to the regular training of the ministry. By some oversight, Dr. Warren, an apparently able man, and of more than ordinary culture, was omitted from participation in the arrangements. He became the chief of the opposition, and gathered round him many adherents who were by no means congenial companions. A satirical poem published on the Conference side termed them “the radicals, shirtless and thin.”  The quarrel assumed larger dimensions, and it was evident that the exclusive power of the ministry over spiritual affairs was the real grievance. In the course of the conflict. Dr. Warren was suspended by what was really a committee of the Conference. He persisted in occupying chapel in Manchester. The trustees were divided, some siding with the Conference and some with Dr. Warren. In the course of the trial, which turned upon the course pursued in Dr. Warren's suspension, the discipline of Wesleyanism and its regulations were put in as evidence, and reviewed by the Lord Chancellor in his judgment.


The case was argued four days; the court was thronged; the interest of the spectators was intense; the grey heads of many of the veterans of the Methodist ministry and laity – men who had battled through long and weary lives for their beloved cause – were distinguishable in the crowd.  When it was perceived what the Lord Chancellor’s conclusion must be, deep but controlled emotion spread through the assembly, tears flowed from many eyes, and when he finally pronounced judgment, it was felt that a momentous era in Methodism had been reached; that the broad seal of English law had been stamped upon the legislation of John Wesley; that the chapels, funds, and all the fundamental authorities of Wesleyan Methodism were secure for ages.  In their authoritative review of this occurrence the Wesleyan Conference does not scruple to recognize Lord Lyndhurst “in his official capacity as minister of God for good.”


    This Erastian estimate of a Lord Chancellor sounds strangely from the upholders of the “Power of the Keys” as entrusted to Wesleyan ministers, and provokes a momentary question whether it would have been as high had the judgment gone in favour of Dr. Warren.  It is, however, but fair to say that Wesleyan authorities seem generally content with legal decisions; for in a similar case submitted in the Court of Chancery concerning the use of a chapel for the Wesleyan as against the “New Connexion” Methodists (38), Dr. Bunting’s biographer writes: “Some very obvious propositions puzzle those who do not wish to understand them; and it is often well that they should be sifted through the intellects of great lawyers and judges, and there presented in their simple verity to those who have doubted them.”



    The public worship celebrated in Methodist chapels has fallen into two distinct types.  On the one side stand the Liturgical Wesleyans; on the other the non-Liturgical Wesleyans and all other Methodist communities.  Wesleyanism combines both, and rejoices in a variable ritual.  It retains in many of its congregations the traditions of its fathers, and Anglican rites still witness to the old alliance between it and the Church.  The Book of Common Prayer (39) is found in the hands of worshippers in many of its metropolitan chapels, and in some old Methodist centres in the provinces.  A stranger attending these chapels in the morning would notice two striking divergences between morning prayer in an ordinary parish church and a Wesleyan chapel.  The minister would wear no distinctive dress, neither gown nor bands being permitted (40), and he would employ two extempore prayers, one before and one after the sermon. A few smaller variations would strike him, A word or two in the Absolution might be omitted: the Queen might not be termed “most religious,” “bishops and curates” would give way to “ministers of Thy Gospel,” but there would be no other striking alteration of importance. Were he to attend a celebration, he would find the celebrant standing on the north side, and giving out hymns during the celebration. The phrase “the burden of them is intolerable” would be omitted; but in every other respect, except perhaps the manual acts, everything would follow the rubrics of the Anglican office. If he witnessed a public baptism he would find no sponsors, an extempore address to the parents taking the place of the instructions for them in the Prayer Book. The young Christian would not be signed with the sign of the cross, but the rest of the service would be familiar. Were the same visitor to be present at the evening service, he would find no Liturgy, but a Presbyterian form of worship—hymns, extempore prayers, a long sermon, and perhaps a public prayer meeting or an evening Communion.  In the non-liturgical chapels both morning and evening service-is of the same character. The afternoon service, which used to be a feature of Methodism in large towns, seems to have fallen into desuetude (41) there, though it lingers in the country parishes.  No minor Methodist, sect retains the use of the Liturgy, nor does the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, although it was organised on a liturgical basis. The forms for the ordaining of ministers and the Office for the burial of the dead are borrowed from the English ritual.  Attempts have frequently been made to revise the Prayer Book for Methodist use, Wesley commenced these fruitless labours; and the statute law of Methodism orders in its Wesleyan discipline that “when service is held in Church hours either the English Liturgy, Wesley's abridgment of it, or at least the lessons appointed for the day shall be used.” But Wesley's revision was not popular; so that Adam Clarke (42), when consulted on the introduction of a Liturgy into a Wesleyan chapel, replied: “Introduce the Church service in God's name, not in any abridgment (sic), but in the genuine original.”  But there has always been a Dissenting element in Methodism, and this has clamoured for revision mainly on the old Puritan lines.  Even where the Liturgy has not been used by themselves, these congregations have resented the adoption and approval by Wesleyanism of a form of words which they hold to be unsound and unsafe. To gratify this feeling, a committee of the Conference has been endeavouring for some time to revise the Liturgy.  The result is thus summarized in the chief literary organ of the Wesleyans:

“It seems useless,” says the “London Quarterly,” “to perservere in what seems to bring out so clearly division of sentiment.  There are great numbers of ministers who would deprecate the alteration of a word in the communion service, and there are not a few who believe that the general tendency of the changes proposed in the office of baptism is to take out of it the doctrine which Methodism has always held.  The introductory words of the baptismal service assert what Mr. Wesley asserts in his “Note” on John iii. 5, concerning “Water and the Holy Ghost;” let that be retained.  They contain, however, a few words which the whole connexion would agree to change.



    Another anonymous writer says there are those in Wesleyanism “whose passionate love for the Liturgy can find no fainter expression than this: ‘I find no fault in it at all.’”  It is apparent that many Wesleyans agree with their founder, who asks: “Who denies that ye were then” (i.e. in Baptism) “made children of God?”  but the majority would repudiate the sentiment.  Methodism in Great Britain has never attempted to organize a Church, although, se we see, it has continually assumed an independent position.  It has, therefore, ignored the position of baptized children, and, having made “meeting in class” the test of its membership, it has exalted the “ticket on trial” into the gateway to the mystical body of Christ.  Individuals have attempted to remedy this by devices of a more or less ingenious character.  But they are all based on the idea that baptism must be brought into some sort of relationship to the class meeting.  The Methodist Episcopal Church has endeavoured to rectify this, but without success.  Hints are found in some Methodist publications that Confirmation as administered in the Church would be advantageous if introduced into Methodism; but beyond the formation of catechumen classes, with the inevitable ticket of membership, nothing has been accomplished in this direction.



    While Wesleyans alone of all cognate societies retain the Book of Common Prayer, they have all practically a Liturgy in the Wesley hymn-book, the different communities varying in the proportion of genuine Wesleyan hymns, the oldest body having retained more of the distinctive hymns than the other sects.  While we gladly acknowledge that many noble lyrics, the product of the muse of Charles Wesley (43) and of the felicity of metrical translation that was the special endowment of his brother, have become the common heritage of English-speaking Christians, though once peculiar to Methodists, we must remark on the many weak and unreal compositions that disfigure this collection of hymns. Many of those most highly prized by Wesleyans are descriptive of such abnormal phases of experience as to render them alien from the commonwealth of Christendom.  A cursory glance at the whole shows marked faults in spite of the curiously self-laudatory preface to the original edition, in which Wesley declares: “1. In these hymns there is no doggerel, no botches, nothing put in to fill up the rhyme, no feeble expletives, 2. Here is nothing turgid or bombast on the one hand, or low and creeping on the other. ... 4. There are, allow me to say, both the purity, the strength, and the elegance of the English language, and at the same time the utmost simplicity and plainness suited to every capacity.” But it must not be supposed that this was an original work. It contains survivals of various theologies. Here lie side by side Watts and Doddridge (44), with their Nonconformity lost in Christianity; Ken, with his calm and sober piety; Brevint's (45) high sacramental theories done into rhyme; Moravianism speaking through its best minstrels; the German pietist school with awe-struck recognition of the Divine Presence and profound thoughts of the primeval beauty of the Source of all being. Charles Wesley's lilting songs of triumph over persecuting mobs and many an echo from ancient victories stir the heart of the soldiers of Christ; while the Calvinist controversialist, Toplady (46), and Thomas Olivers (47), his opponent, unite to inspire Methodists with deep spiritual feelings   Other hymns, however, in the “Collection” tempt one to retort upon Wesley his own criticism upon certain Davidic psalms, and label them as “unfit for the mouths of Christian congregations—bitterly sarcastic, they are stinging epigrams, not spiritual songs. Some are intensely morbid, and a few offensively Pharisaic (48). But when all the deductions are made, there are reasons why Methodists should consider it a “priceless treasure.” It is Methodism in metre, and a. man who has analysed it knows the secret, of the Methodist revival.  A Wesleyan quotes from it with as keen a relish as a High Churchman quotes the Fathers.  It is the end of all controversy to him, as the Tridentine (49) decrees are to a Romanist (50).  He reproduces it with the accuracy of a well-taught Presbyterian repeating the Catechism.  He sings its jubilant iambics in enthusiastic missionary meetings in Yorkshire; he shouts its stanzas with startling emphasis above the roar of a Cornish revival—that fearful and wonderful product of spiritual emotion and Celtic ardour; and when he makes the last confession of his faith amongst many witnesses, it is often in the words that the well-loved hymn-book supplies.



    Methodism has an unmistakeable type of theology, although Wesleyanism has never drawn up either a Confession of Faith, after the fashion of the Reformed Churches (51) on the Continent, or a creed rivaling in energy and compactness the well-known Roman Catholic symbols.  The derived bodies in England have in some instances attempted in a loose fashion what their prototype has rather indicated than attempted; but Methodism has not imposed a creed upon its adherents.  Wesley himself wrote upon theological subjects in a manner that sets all rules of dogmatic science at defiance.  Since his day we have become accustomed to hear very unguarded utterances made by professed theologians, but even now it is startling to read such sentences as these in the writings of a teacher with pretensions to orthodoxy: “One of the best tracts that great man, Dean Swift, wrote was his ‘Sermon on the Trinity.’ Herein he shows all who endeavoured to explain it have utterly lost their way….  It was in an evil hour that these explainers began their evil work….  I dare not insist on any man’s using the word Trinity or Person.”  In a similar strain, he says in another sermon: “Neither does true religion consist in orthodoxy or right opinions….  A man may consent to all the creeds, and yet it is possible he may have no religion at all….  He may be almost as orthodox – as the devil; not indeed altogether, for every man errs in something, whereas we cannot well conceive him to hold any erroneous opinions.”  In another passage, having enumerated all the essential points of difference between Churchmen and Dissenters, he dismisses them with a nonchalant farewell: “Let these stand by; my only question at present is this, ‘Is thine heart right?’”  Not that he held his own opinions lightly, for he draws a strong contrast between himself and those who called themselves of a catholic spirit only because “they were of a muddy understanding.”  One pious wish in the preface to those “Notes on the New Testament” which a grateful people have exalted into a standard of belief, is fraught with the spirit of true charity: “Would to God that all the party names and unscriptural phrases and forms which have divided the Christian world were forgot; and that we might all agree to sit down together as humble loving disciples at the feet of our Master, to hear His word, to imbibe His spirit, and to transcribe His life into our own!”  Once, in an outburst of liberality, he boasted: “Methodists alone do not insist on your holding this or that opinion, but they think and let think.  Neither do they impose any particular mode of worship….  Now, I do not know any other religious society wherein such liberty of conscience is now allowed, or has been allowed since the days of the Apostles. Herein is our glorying, and a glorying peculiar to us.” But in his writings Wesley displays a most perplexing eclecticism. His “Christian Library: and his “Arminian Magazine” contain extracts from the most opposite divines.  His design was “to separate pure, genuine divinity,” and to leave “the huge mingled mass of baser mixtures to their own obscurity.” So, with the self reliant air which was so natural to him, he sat in judgment upon Anglican divines, Puritan ministers, Apostolic Fathers, Cambridge Platonists, and French Mystics. He taught his congregations to sing—

The Unitarian fiend expel

And chase his doctrine back to hell; (52)

but he published a life of an eminent Unitarian (53), with the frank preface: “I was exceedingly struck at, reading the following life, I dare not deny Mr. Firmin (54) was a pious man. In another thing he showed his superiority to the narrow pietistic spirit that condemned fiction.  Finding a novel of which he approved, he condensed it, cutting out much of the “goody” padding, by which he awoke the ire of the author, and recommended it to “all who are already or desire to be lovers of God and man.” This book, edited by Kingsley as “The Fool of Quality (55),” has beguiled the hours of many a Methodist schoolboy who was strictly forbidden to read novels, but was permitted to revel in the very mild sensationalism of Wesley's “Henry, Earl of Moreland.”  Indeed, Wesleyans have broken away from his teaching on many points.  He dreamt of a Broad Church society, liberal, in theology, evangelical in doctrine, disciplined with the rigour of a religious order, and burning with the zeal of Redemptorist Fathers (56) in a mission. The wrecks of his ideas encumber modern Methodism.  It appoints quarterly fasts, which are as much observed as Lenten abstinence is practiced by ultra Protestants.  Wesley drew up sumptuary laws against “lapelled coats, short sleeves, long-tailed gowns, and a superfluity of Buttons and ribbons;” but the “people called Methodists” do not seem to give special directions to their tailors and milliners to observe these regulations.  He desired breadth of thought amongst his people, but Methodist preachers do not play the role of liberal theologians He gloried in their liberty: the chief literary organ of Methodism has discovered another and quite different ground of boasting.  “Methodism,” we find, “has assumed all the characteristics and responsibilities of an organic Church of the Presbyterian type; it has its ministry and its sacraments and its catechism, and all that goes to the perfection of ecclesiastical organization.  Perhaps there is no denomination or Christian Church existing which can send forth so unanimous and therefore so strong a voice on any question of ethics or doctrine.”  The self-assertion of this passage rivals the most unblushing avowals of priestly dignity to be found in any manifesto; but the following extract displays the dexterity of a practiced apologist who knows how to press every feather into the scale he desires to load.  In the preface to Winer’s “Confessions of Christendom,” Dr. Pope (57), the most cultivated theologian in Methodism, gives the following account of Wesleyan doctrines from the standpoint of a scientific student of creeds:

English Methodism has no distinct articles of faith; at the same time it is undoubtedly true that no community in Christendom is more effectually hedged about by confessional obligations and restraints.  Methodism combines creeds, confessions, and standards, in its doctrinal constitution, after a manner on the whole peculiar to itself.  Materially, if not formally, its theology is bound by the ancient ecumenical creeds, by the articles of the Church of England, and by comprehensive standards of its order.  It holds fast the Catholic symbols; the Apostolic and Nicene (58) are extensively used in its liturgy, and the Athananian, not so used, is accepted so far as concerns the doctrinal type.  The doctrine of the Articles of the Church of England is the doctrine of Methodism.  The assertion must of course be taken broadly.  The “Connexion” has never avowed the Articles as its confession of faith; some of these Articles have no meaning for them in its present constitution; others of them are tolerated in their vague and doubtful bearing rather than accepted as definitions; and, finally, many Methodists would prefer to disown any relation with them.  Still the verdict of the historical theologian would locate the Methodist community under the Thirty-Nine Articles….  Where they diverge from the Westminster Confession (59), Methodism holds to them…. Finally, we have the Methodist standards belonging to it as a society within a Church, which regulate the faith of the community, but are binding only upon its ministers.  Those standards, more particularly, are some sermons and expository notes of John Wesley’s; more generally, these and other writings, catechisms, and early precedents of doctrinal definition.  Taken as a whole they indicate a standard of experimental and practical theology, to which the preaching of its ministers is practically conformed.

Suffice it to say:

that the Methodist doctrine is what is generally termed Arminian (60), as it regards the relation of the human race to redemption; that it lays great stress upon the personal assurance which seals the personal religion of the believer; and that it includes a strong testimony to the office of the Holy Spirit, in the entire renewal of the soul in holiness (61) as one of the provisions of the covenant of grace upon earth. It may be added that a vigorous maintenance of this common standard of evangelical doctrine has been attended by the preservation, of a remarkable unity of doctrine throughout this large community.



    Whether we accept this statement an pied de la lettre or not, it shows a marked development of doctrine when compared with Wesley's “Plain Account of the Methodists” and a still more skilful change of front to attack a new generation which more or less consciously rejects the isolation of a society, and claims affinity with the Catholic Church.  In one item, however, we must correct Dr. Pope's description. In accordance with Wesleyan usage, he confounds Methodism with his own community. Now there are thousands of Methodists who are not Wesleyans.  None of these hold the Thirty-nine Articles, and they never rehearse the Apostolic, and Nicene Creeds in worship.  But they have incorporated their belief in bald enumerations of “doctrines,” as amongst the Primitive Methodists; or placed it under the protection of the Court of Chancery, as the United Methodist Free Churches (62) in their Foundation Deed.  All these epitomes are loosely worded, but curiously enough they all insist upon the endless duration of the punishment of the wicked as an article of faith. Even these formularies are not imposed upon private members, only upon “preachers and expounders of God's Word,” or, as an extreme case, upon class leaders. The American Episcopal Methodist Church has, owing to its founder's determination to create a Church in America, articles and creeds that are obligatory on the ministry.  But for England, Wesley forestalled Neander's maxim, Pectus facit theologum (63).  “We believe Methodists boast that all their commentators and theologians hold exactly the same system in every point.  Dr. Adam Clarke occupies a bad eminence in one point. He held peculiar views about the person of the tempter in Paradise, and the application of the title of Son to the second Person in the Trinity. The first was condoned with a happy bon mot (64). “Who knows who tempted Eve better than Adam?” the second was refuted by a ponderous treatise; and lest any nascent Wesleyan theologian should ever be tempted to stray in this by-path of obscure dogmatics, a question on the Eternal Sonship is put to every aspirant to the Wesleyan ministry. The minor Methodist communities have not produced any theological writer known beyond their own confined circle.  A hint of novelty of belief is sufficient to injure any Wesleyan minister.  At least so we gather from the following semi-inspired remark in the “London Quarterly Review.”  It appears that a minister elected to the “Fernley Lectureship” – a sort of Methodist “Bampton (65)” – gave room for the suspicion that in some particular his pronunciation of the denominational Shibboleth (66) was defective.  “Everybody,” says the reviewer, “knows the excitement produced by the promulgation of what were held to be new and doubtful views; views which, though they are not regarded as endangering any fundamental doctrine, and therefore do not impeach the orthodoxy of their promulgator, have probably kept him out of a theological chair, which seemed otherwise naturally to wait for him.  Rumour also asserts that the only Wesleyan minister who has ever achieved the slightest distinction in the scientific world is debarred from the same lectureship through a suspicion that he leans to the doctrine of evolution.  Ministerial sameness is the necessary result of the Wesleyan system, and proportionately of all Methodist organization.  There is not only the esprit de corps that prevails in every order, but there is a deliberate direction of means to produce this result.  It commences from the moment that the superintendent of a circuit nominates a candidate for the ministry, and though after his ordination he is delivered from all formal theological examinations, yet twice every year, till he dies or leaves Wesleyanism, the orthodoxy of his belief is challenged.  Twice every year the opportunity or resigning his position on a change of sentiment is afforded.  The door stands open for him, simply guarded with the knowledge that if he abandoned that brotherhood, it would be curtly said of him, as it has been said in his hearing of others who have renounced their allegiance, “Methodism can do without him, better than he can do without Methodism.”  Yearly a small band goes forth; but the remainder maintain the same unbroken traditions in theory, if not in practice.  There are shades of difference between the ministers of course, and individuality of character gives rise to small divergences; but these bear the same relation to the wide limits of thought in the Church, that the all but imperceptible rise and fall of Mediterranean waves bear to the mighty Atlantic tides.



    We now pass to consider how the units are welded into one whole, which Methodist writers term “the Connexion (67).”  Again taking Wesleyanism as the typical form, and premising that, in proportion to its age, each offshoot retains more of the original impress of Wesley, till the latest is reached, in which doctrines alone remain to connote the common Methodism, we find all the chapels in a neighbourhood grouped into a “circuit,” under a minister termed the “superintendent.” The circuits are thrown into districts under the oversight of a “chairman.” Twice every year the ministers in each district meet with certain laymen. These meetings are really committees of the annual assembly, or Conference.  A form has been compiled, called the “Order and Form of Business,” and on its lines every committee in Great Britain transacts its business. The proceedings of each are recorded under exactly the same headings in an undeviating order, and summarised in stereotyped tables.  The character and efficiency of the ministers, their support, the support and education of their children, their relief in cases of extraordinary personal or family affliction, the distribution of public moneys, the erection and enlargement and sale of every chapel, school, and minister's house, the number of members, teachers, scholars, and local preachers, the working of Home and Foreign Missionary Associations, and all contributions to the various connexional funds, together with detailed reports on every minute point of discipline, and suggestions for the alteration of laws and usages—all in prescribed succession pass in review before these committees. Three full and accurate copies of proceedings are preserved, and separate reports sent to central committees. But, throughout all, a marked distinction is maintained between ministers and people. The ministers alone consider spiritual matters, and decide on all questions touching their own character; the ministers and laity decide on financial questions. The only time when voting takes place by orders is for representatives to the Conference, when each sends its own to the mixed Conference, as will be presently explained.  By this system strict uniformity is secured, and all business is prepared for the consideration of the supreme legislative body. In English Methodism all other bodies efface the marked division between ministers and laity.     


    We now come to the real power in Wesleyanism. This is the assembly called the Conference, a name dearer to the Methodist heart than any other. The term “Conference” is, in the most recent Wesleyan Handbook, qualified by three adjectives, and is Legal, Ministerial, and Representative, according to circumstances. The Legal Conference was a creation of John Wesley's to secure the chapels he had built and the perpetuity of his system. It was clearly defined by him in a “Deed Poll,” and enrolled in Chancery. It consisted of himself his brother Charles, and ninety-eight of his preachers.  They were constituted a body corporate, and a general method of procedure was made binding upon them.  The law knows no other Conference than the legal representatives and successors of these “ministers and gentlemen.”  But on their first meeting after Wesley’s death a letter was read to them requesting them to consider their brethren as their equals in every respect.  They wisely adopted the advice; and, while they allowed equal privileges to all, put themselves within the law by adopting formally and explicitely, all the acts of the General Conference as their own acts and deeds.  This body was heir to Wesley’s spiritual despotism and irresponsible power.  Immediately on his death a large section of his followers determined to throw off a yoke which respect and gratitude rendered tolerable while imposed by the hand of a benefactor, but which was intolerable when that benefactor was dead.  In 1797, six years after Wesley’s death, a secession took place, prompted by a desire “to introduce a more liberal system of Church polity into Methodism, by associating laymen with ministers in its government and administration and to supply its people with every scriptural ordinance by the hands of their own ministers.”  In a word, the Dissenting element in Methodism desired a democratic government, and the administration of the sacraments by Methodist preachers.  The latter the Wesleyans granted under a “plan of pacification;” but to the former they would not yield.  For eighty years the demand for the admission of the laity into the governing Conference was reiterated in various forms, and each new secession made it a prominent part of their programme that they would admit the laity to equal rights; but Wesleyanism stood firm by is bolted doors.  An attempt was once made to starve the Wesleyan Conference into submission, and 100,000 members withdrew from its communion.  It did not yield – a fact greatly to its credit – but gradually gave increasing powers to committees composed of ministers and laymen.  In 1877 a new constitution was given to Wesleyanism, in which the ministers still retain their ecclesiastical privileges, but have offered the laity a larger share in the governing of temporalities.  The Legal Conference remains intact; but a Ministerial Conference meets which deals with spiritualities only, then a Mixed or Representative Conference assembles “in which other subjects come before it.  During the Pastoral Session the Conference consists of the Legal Conference, and all the ministers who have permission from their respective district committees to attend its sittings and during the Representative Session, it consists of the Legal Conference, and the ministerial and lay representatives who have been elected, 240 of each order.  The acts of this Conference in this wider sense, both during its Pastoral and Representative Sessions, are confirmed by the vote of the Legal Conference.”  It will be seen that the keys are still in the hands of the ministers; like Thomas a Becket they will only permit clerics to try clerics, and to admit into the Church and expel from it.



    The Wesleyan Conference meets annually in some large and generally antique chapel, the doors of which are jealously guarded. No layman, no representative of the public press, no unaccredited minister can enter; but the Conference will, through its official “minutes” and through privileged ministers, furnish such accounts of its proceedings as it thinks fit to the public.  The floor of the chapel is occupied by non-official members, the galleries are the haunt of very young ministers, and a platform supports the president, ex-presidents, secretaries, and a few officials.  The atmosphere of the assembly is unique. The business is transacted with the precision of a merchant's office under the religious sanctions of a synod. Accounts of moneys paid and received are examined, while pastoral addresses to various foreign conferences are read, and priestly benedictions roll over the chinking of the coins on the money-changers' tables. A Church congress talks in hopes that some grains of wheat may be fanned from the chaff: the Wesleyan Conference talks that it may legislate. Convocation debates with a haunting and irritating remembrance of past power; the Wesleyan Conference argues and decides with an increasing confidence in the acclamations that will meet its decisions. Representatives find their way into the Methodist assembly from affiliated and derived communities in France, Canada, the United States, and Australia, and the preacher from an obscure country circuit, seeing them in the flesh, grows proud of a community on which the sun never sets.  In the ordinary course of things, the subjects of debate are mere matters of routine, and only interest the Connexion; but occasionally matters of more general importance are discussed—such as an eirenicon (69) from a zealous Churchman, which is sure to awaken the old controversies; the attitude of the Wesleyan denomination towards education; or the imperilling of the unity of the ministry by the over-ardent action of some eccleslastico-political preacher who contends that his absorption in the Wesleyan system does not militate against his taking part in some momentous question of a national character.  The ablest speakers generally figure in such encounters, and the training of a lifetime in the art of impromptu debate bears its fruit.  The Representative Conference is younger, its numbers are fluctuating, and, though it moves very much on the lines of the older assembly, its speeches are less concise and more rhetorical than are usually delivered in the ministerial assembly.



    It is extremely difficult to assign this Conference to its proper place in a catalogue of ecclesiastical organizations.  All its preachers are of one order; but while on trial they are forbidden to marry, they may not administer either sacrament, except baptism privately in cases of emergency, nor may they vote in the Conference.  The president is supposed by Wesleyans closely to resemble that primus inter pares (70), whose portrait has so often been drawn by theorists on the primitive government of the Church; but his primacy is ended with his year of office.  The “chairmen of districts” may be the modern descendants of the Chorepiscopi (71); but who can attach Episcopal dignity to such work-a-day titles as these?  “Superintendent of a circuit” may be the Latinised equivalent for bishop of a diocese and may in reality approach Ussher’s (72) idea of prelacy; but the title is too redolent of police supervision to contract prelatical associations.  Lay representatives may be “ruling elders;” but they are only elected pro hac vice (73), and are discharged from duty and from office by the rising of Conference.  Yet this nondescript Presbytery writes its priest very large.  It does not attempt to attach itself to any ancient and apostolic seat, yet it asserts that it is composed of “ministers and pastors empowered not only to preach the Gospel, but to administer the sacraments of our holy religion, and charged with all responsibilities of the Christian pastorate.”  What is included in this the Conference showed, when it refused to receive, “any proposal which would go to transfer, altogether or in part, the responsibility of the sentence in disciplinary cases from the pastorate to the lay officers.  To adopt such a course of procedure would be to give up a principle which, in the judgment of the Conference, is essentially inherent in the pastoral office.”  It is not a century and a half old, and yet it scarcely allows a session to pass without administering a rebuke “to the pretensions of sacerdotalism (74), and combating the hard materialism, the fleshly philosophy, the sensuous worship of our time.”  Its younger members are taught to notice the defects of all other communions – Roman, Lutheran, Anglican, Reformed, Friends, Brethren, and minor Methodist bodies – and then their tutor utters this panegyric (75) over “Methodism proper, which is eminently at once high and free – Presbyterian as to the basis of its theory, Episcopal after the earliest type; employs the laity in every diaconal function, and more carefully than any other religious community distinguishes the functions of the pastorate and of the laity; reserving for the final ministerial jurisdiction all questions that affect the power of the Keys as left by Christ in His Church. The Methodist doctrine is that our Lord left the Keys—the general government of His Church, and special binding and loosing of its members—to the Church itself, as represented, however, by the men whom the Spirit would raise up with the Church's concurrence to represent its authority.”  Englishmen generally suppose that no man should be permitted to criminate himself, but the Wesleyan Conference knows no such scruple. Not content with all the means at their disposal for the discovery of lapses and offences against morality and the laws and usages of their societies, they say: “Not the Conference only, but all its district committees possess the undoubted right of instituting any inquiry or investigation which they may deem expedient into the moral, Christian, or ministerial conduct of the preachers, even though no formal or regular accusation may have been previously commenced on the part of any individual.”  This is termed “friendly examination,” and has been used with effect when all other means of discovering supposed delinquents failed.  The Free Church of Scotland (76) in its struggles against the arbitrary power of patrons found few warmer friends than the Wesleyan Conference; yet it maintains its right to appoint any preacher to any circuit in spite of the protests of its recognised officials, and to take away any minister from his flock, however much they may desire to retain him, or even to suit their convenience to send him by a stroke of the pen from Cornwall to Caithness.  Good Wesleyans are those, who, closing their eyes to these and many other anomalies, consider the Conference as the bright, consummate flower in the paradise of Christendom, and put down all attempts at reforming it in the same category as painting the lily. It is not to be wondered at, that the minister loves the Conference early and never ceases to praise it. If the French private soldier carries the marshal's baton in his knapsack from the hour he joins the colours, the young Wesleyan minister reads the insignia of presidential honours in his ordination Bible. The Conference is to him what the House of Commons is to the rising member anxious for official employment.  Every distinction, every employment, every honour is in the hands of this body, from the appointment as a “deputation from the parent society” to the most responsible office. Every three years, at the longest, every circuit is abandoned by its former minister, and Conference appoints his successor.  If his early dreams are unfulfilled, Conference bears the burden of the unsuccessful man, and finds him a home every year of his itinerant life.  He may be unable to afford any change in the autumn; but at Conference time it will go hard with him if he cannot cast all his troubles aside, and for three weeks share the ungrudging hospitality of a willing host, and be surprised for that brief space to find himself of some importance in the world.  The Conference is to its members a refuge in trouble, a meeting-place for friends, a sanctified tribunal, a holy convocation, a solemn synod.  The hand that would assail its privileges or its powers is sacrilegious in the sight of its members.



    It may interest clerical readers to know how Wesleyans vindicate the validity of their orders (77).  The answer to this is found in their history.  In the first place, Wesley early enunciated a principle which has been firmly held by his followers: “Uninterrupted succession from the Apostles I know to be a fable.”  He accepted with this Stillingfleet’s (78) conclusion in his “Irenicon” – “neither Christ nor His Apostles prescribe any particular form of church government, and the plea of divine right for diocesan episcopacy was never heard of in the primitive church.”  In accordance with this a late Wesleyan authority lays it down that “the notion of a succession of bishops conveying by digital contact from age to age the whole volume of divine grace… is as contrary to the letter as to the spirit of the New Testament.”  It will be seen that these principles, if granted, permit the formation of new religious societies and their organization, provided sufficient cause is shown for their creation.  Wesley believed that the state of the Church and the nation permitted him to create such societies.  In 1741 he called out lay preachers to do nothing but preach and visit amongst such societies.  He saw his difficult position, and puts his perplexities in a nutshell.  “Soul-damning clergyman lay me under more difficulties than soul-saving laymen.”  Every step saw the new body rising into legal existence and into ecclesiastical importance.  The societies were repelled from the Church by individual clergymen.  The law forced them to register their chapels as “Protestant Dissenting” meeting houses, or else to forego all the benefits of the Toleration Act (79).  No one could hit upon a modus vivendi.  The societies wanted religious services and sacraments; Wesley gave them all he could by the hands of ordained clergymen.  More were required.  Wesley had read Lord Chancellor King’s work in the Primitive Church (80). “I firmly believe I am as much an episcopos as any man in England,” he said, and, in conjunction with other arrangements, ordained certain of his preachers to all ministerial functions.  He did this tentatively, ordaining for America in 1784; Scotland, l785; England, 1787. It was plain that now one of two things must happen—either after Wesley's death Methodists would form independent congregations and gradually become extinct, or they must produce the line Wesley had begun to draw, and give the sacraments by the hands of their own ministers to their societies. After many struggles—to quote from an author whose statements have been reproduced in this paragraph substantially, though not always literally— the Wesleyan Conference recognised and provided for the actual condition of ecclesiastical independency into which the Connexion had been brought only when that condition had long existed; and Methodist preachers abstained from using the style and title appropriate to ordained ministers, and from assuming in any way collectively the language of complete pastoral responsibility, until by the universal action of the Connexion the “societies” had, of their own will, practically separated themselves from the Church of England, and forced their preachers into the full position and relations of pastors (81).



    This champion of Wesleyan polity leans more to the Liberal view than Dr. Pope; and, reading this Saul-like impeachment of the action of the people by the light of the official utterances of the Conferences, it would appear that the High Church views of Wesley on the priesthood were modified by circumstances, and, working in connexion with the popular desire for separation from the Church, ended in producing a system that in its development tends to create a marked individuality and belief in its own excellence, but which all must allow to have attained its objects with a fair amount of success.  Ordination is now administered by the President of the Conference, assisted by the older ministers, and the ordinal is an adaptation of the Anglican form.  The other Methodist bodies have from the first taken a more independent position, and approximated more to the standpoint of Dissent than their Wesleyan brethren.



    It has lately become a favourite dream with Churchmen that the mistaken policy of the past might be reversed, and Methodism reincorporated with the Church. This is a baseless vision. All who have followed this article will see that the tendency of Methodism, even in the form most closely resembling Anglicanism, is to separate more and more from every other church.  Formerly the Conference held the Church in great honour, not only because of the hallowed dead, but through their hopes of the living; but in 1868, when Dr. Pusey’s letter to the then President of the Conference gave a fair field for the discussion of the relations between the two, the result was summed up in the Wesleyan Magazine by a minister who never fails to appear as a friend of the Church in Wesleyan circles.

We hope it now appears that in every point of view these proposals for unions are impracticable, ill-considered, and inexpedient.  If those who make them would expend their time and talent in maintaining the Protestant character of the Established Church, they would do more (though indirectly) towards accomplishing their object than by any such overtures as we have lately heard of.  They would conciliate the feelings of many now grieved, beyond expression, at the unfaithfulness of those who claim to be the only authorized guides and instructors of the English people (82).



    At one period of their history Wesleyan ministers expelled an able man from their community because he joined the Liberation Society of his day.  No power could carry such a sentence through the Conference of 1882.  Once the criticisms offered by Wesleyans upon the Church were regretful; now the critics are friends who pour the contents of their alabaster boxes from such a height of superiority that the precious balms break the heads of the recipients of their favours.  What will the authors of some of these overtures for the reunion think of the answer?

It is just as likely that Methodism should absorb Anglican episcopacy as that Anglican episcopacy should absorb Methodism.  Methodism has already, within the network of its own sister or daughter churches, a more widespread and a more numerous “Connexion” and community of churches – a vaster host of adherents – than Anglican episcopacy can sum up in all its branches and correlatives.  As a world-power Methodism is much more the potent in its operation and influence.  For the Church of England (so called) now to absorb Methodism would be a portentous operation.  It would be more hazardous than to put new wine into old bottles.



    The Conference fairly disclosed the cause of its antagonistic policy in a manifest on the education question put forth in 1843.  They opposed, they say, certain bills on the ground that they would give the clergy undue influence in educational affairs, and justify their action on these grounds:

We have: been hitherto accustomed to regard the Established Church as one of the main bulwarks of the Protestant faith; but her title to be so regarded has of late been grievously shaken. Opinions concerning the insufficiency of Scripture as the sole, authoritative, and universal rule of faith and practice, the exclusive validity of Episcopal ordination, and the necessarily saving efficacy of the sacraments . . . are now held by a large number of the Established clergy ... an exclusive and persecuting spirit has appeared in many parts of the land. . . the common offices of good neighbourhood are often denied to all but strict conformists; and every approach to Christian intercourse and co-operation, for religious purposes, with those beyond the pale of episcopal jurisdiction, is repudiated, almost with indignation. A preference for papists over their brethren of the Reformation is in some cases openly avowed, and feelings of tenderness, and even veneration, for the Church of Rome, are carefully cultivated by this party. The simple worship hitherto practised in this country is deprecated by them in comparison with the gorgeous ritual of Rome. . . . We are aware that there is a numerous and powerful body of holy and faithful men in the National Church, and we cherish the hope that they, and the authorities of the Church, may, by a more vigorous, explicit, and united assertion of the doctrines of the Retormation, purify their branch of the Christian community from the evils which at present threaten its destruction.

In the forty years which have elapsed since this was written many things have happened, and, were circumstances to call forth a declaration of policy, every phrase in the preceding document would be strongly accentuated. One of the fruits of the so-called Catholic revival in the Church has been to awaken an undying hostility in the most friendly of Non-conformist bodies; and while individuals in the Establishment will always be regarded with esteem for their works, their learning, or their social influence, the day of semi-alliance with the Church is hastening to a close.



    It is not, however, to be assumed that Wesleyanism will coalesce with Dissent, especially political dissent. If anyone wishes to know how philosophic Wesleyans bear themselves towards other Nonconformists, he has only to read Dr. Riggs “Connexional Economy of Wesleyan Methodism (83).”   Dissenters, as a rule, do not love Wesleyans. In every disagreement within Methodism the malcontents have found ready help and advocacy from Dissent. The non-political character of Methodism in its corporate capacity irritates and puzzles the Dissenter, who approves of the aims of the Liberation Society.  On the other hand, the dislike is reciprocal. It began in Wesley's days; it smoulders on in times of quiet; but it will break out on slight provocation. Unable to cast in its lot heartily with either the Church or Dissent, Methodism stands proudly aloof.  In contemptuously rejects absorption into the one or alliance on equal terms with the other.  in the meanwhile it consoles itself with such flattering interpretations of history as these, and draws the robes of its dignity more closely around its figure:

We can well imagine the Methodist society to have acted on the original intentions of its human founders, and to have continued as an accepted order within the nation Establishment.  However, the will of the Divine founder of Methodism has manifestly been otherwise.  The Head of all churches has thrown around the Methodist societies their own church, perfect and complete, lacking nothing for diffusion at home or propagation abroad.

The italics are our own; but we use them to draw attention to the fact that inchoate Methodism has crystallized into hard and every hardening forms, till all its founder’s hopes of a new spirit of Christian love and life to animate all existing forms have proved utterly baseless.  it is increasingly evident that Methodism has become a constant factor in English religious life, and the statesman will reckon on it as a separate source of influence in national life.  Its operations will be capricious.  They will always be controlled by religious considerations, but it is quite within the range of practical politics that the leaders of this community may bring their minute and all-prevalent organization to bear as a whole upon some urgent question.  The result would, in such a case, be very considerable, especially if it were one that commanded the assent of the whole Methodist people, irrespective of their various differences.



    We have hitherto regarded English Methodism only, but American Methodism presents peculiar features.  The most striking of its peculiarities arises from its adopting the epispocal form of government (84),  It was organized by Wesley on his own principles in a field where he believed himself free from the considerations of expedience that fettered him in England.  the American colonies had been the scene of the labours of his preachers at a very early date, and their efforts had been followed by great success.  A need arose for the administration of the sacraments, and, when these Methodists turned to the English clergy, it was evident that the population had outgrown the means of supplying their spiritual destitution.  The evils were intensified by the revolution; and when the independence of the United States was secured, it was held that the Church of England no longer existed in the States.  The Methodists naturally looked to Wesley for help.  At first he had turned to the English Church, and begged the Bishop of London (Lowth (85)) to ordain one presbyter who might travel amongst his societies in American and administer the sacraments.  The bishop refused on the ground that “three ministers were in that country already.”  Wesley hesitated for a long time, but in 1784 he took decisive step.  He first consulted with Dr. Coke (86), and laid before him the proposal to ordain men for supplying the needs of his followers. His old belief that he was an episcopos strongly upheld him, and he further fortified his decision by the precedent of the Alexandrine Church, which “for two hundred years provided its bishops through ordination by its presbyters.” Coke hesitated, but at last yielded; and at Bristol, met Wesley, with the Rev. James Creighton, another presbyter of the Church of England.  These three first ordained two of Wesley's preachers as deacons; on the next day, they were ordained presbyters; on this day Coke was ordained superintendent or bishop of the Methodist societies in America.  They proceeded to their destination, and ordained Francis Asbury (87) superintendent or bishop for the same societies. The American Conference “agreed to form a “Methodist Episcopal Church, in which the Liturgy (as presented by the Rev. J. Wesley) should be read and the sacraments administered by a superintendent, elders, and deacons.”  The American ear, fond of sonorous titles, rejected superintendent, and, to Wesley's illogical chagrin, adopted the style of Bishop, and in 1788 published, in' their minutes the following curious question and answer: “Who are the persons that exercise the episcopal office in the Methodist Church?  John Wesley, Thomas Coke, and Francis Asbury, by regular order and succession.”  In their manifesto, the American Methodists say: “Following the counsel of Mr. John Wesley, who recommended, the episcopal mode of government, we thought it best to become an Episcopal Church, making the episcopal office elective.”  The Liturgy is no longer employed in American Methodism; but the Articles of Religion are in force, though binding on ministers only.  The terms of membership are identical with those of English Methodism, but attendance on the class meeting is not obligatory. Bishops are not ordained to a diocese; but their duties are to preside  over Conferences, form districts, appoint ministers, to travel through the country, to ordain bishops, elders, and deacons.  Annual Conferences meet under the presidency of “presiding   ‘elders,’” elders having displaced presbyters in their nomenclature.  General Conferences meet once in four years.  No other branch of Methodism has adopted Episcopacy in any form; and there are in the United States four other Episcopal Methodist Churches, and five non-episcopal, which will allow the American Methodist much latitude of choice in the matter of his religion.



    We are now at liberty to enquire what are the results which Methodism has achieved?  In order to answer this question we have minutely investigated the reports of the Mehtodist Churches, and have endeavoured to hold a just balance between opponents and the self-laudation which does not hesitate to say: “The Bible Society, the Missionary Society in the modern Protestant form, those great publishing institutions misnamed Tract Societies, the adoption of Sunday schools by the Church, the religious periodical publication, and most other characteristic religious agencies of our day, sprang directly or indirectly from Methodism.”  With strong confidence in the accuracy of our statements, we compute the adherents of Methodism at five millions in connexion with the Bristol Conferences and fourteen millions with the American.  The ecclesiastical property in Great Britain may be calculated at eleven millions, and in America at eighteen millions sterling.  The annual contributions for purely Methodist purposes in Great Britian amount to two and a half millions sterling, and the rest of Methodism to three times that amount.



    Wesleyans are the only branch of Methodists in England that have busied themselves with primary education.  The success that has followed them in this is apparent in their annual Government grant-in-aid, which amounted in 1879 to 96,700l.  They have training colleges for their teachers, and have expended much pains upon them.  At the last change in the educational policy of the country Wesleyans showed much division of feeling.  On the one hand they had never subscribed to the doctrine that the State acted beyond its legitimate powers in dealing with education; but, on the other, they were alarmed and irritated at the growth of Ritualistic intolerance in national schools, but could not embrace the theory dissolving the alliance between religious instruction and secular knowledge for fear of playing into the hands of the secularists.  Mr. Forster’s proposals afforded a ground for compromise, and Wesleyans, while retaining denominational schools, have generally used all their influence to secure Board schools with Biblical instruction.  In the course of the controversy, a marked hostility was exhibited towards the high Church party, and the old traditional policy of Methodism was much strained.  Middle-class schools are to receive more attention at the hands of Wesleyans, who have recently apportioned 10,000l. to this purpose.  The higher class of the laity have a Methodist education provided for them in two colleges affiliated with the London University, and in a recently erected high School at Cambridge.  The Primitive Methodists are showing much activity in education, and are proud of the successes achieved by their pupils.  In America and Canada, Methodists have been behind no religious community in similar efforts.  The removal of religious disabilities in the English has thrown them open to Methodist parents (88).  We find a few Oxford and Cambridge graduates entering the Wesleyan ministry, while those who remain among the laity show a preference for more ornate services, and for the alteration of various points of the ancient discipline; but, on the whole, it is yet too early to say what the influence of University culture will be on Methodism.



    It may be an object of curiosity with some as to what amount of learning can have been obtained by Wesleyan ministers since the Universities were closed to them, and they had not even theological schools till a late period of their history.  But in this respect they owed much to Wesley, who was a man of varied attainments and endeavored to impress his people and the preachers with a genuine love of learning.  He consulted with the most eminent Nonconformist minister of his time, and drew up a course of theological reading which has been well kept in view by these hard-working preachers and evangelists.  On the Old and New Testament revision committees, Wesleyan representatives have won the hearty recognition of competent scholars.  In the lists of missionaries are to be found names better recognized by Germans as masters of Easter idolatries and mysticism than by Englishmen.  Some of the grammars of barbarous dialects compiled by them have been highly praised by philologists, but as a rule they have excelled only in pietist literature.  The forte of the Methodist minister has long been held to be in his preaching: and yet there is no Methodist preacher to rival Spurgeon (89); there is no pulpit orator to emulate Farrar or to vie with Liddon (90); nor is there the memory of one to compare with Robert Hall (91).  Methodist chapels are often crowded to hear popular preachers, but the audience is almost exclusively Methodist.  Popular literature has caricatured the average Methodist preacher; but the accompanying sketch of a Wesleyan minister of the highest type is said to be drawn from real life:

He is a man of devout and earnest piety.  He loves supremely his proper work of preaching and of spiritual intercourse with his people.  He is generally bookish and studious, can find food for his public and private ministrations in other’s libraries, while his own is select, but various and extensive; bright with the presence of the fathers and saints of all ages, and of the thinkers, not always saints, of all schools.  His tastes, too, are in constant cultivation; they win the sympathy of spirits similarly constituted; they tell insensibly, but surely, upon the coarser humanity which generally surrounds him.  He is frank, open, unreserved, natural; never concealing the man, never forgetting the minister.  He studies human nature – human nature as it is to begin with, and as Divine grace develops, modifies, and sanctifies it.  He is loving and tender, and forbearing; but with no counterfeit amiabilities of demeanour and address.  He belongs in spirit to all Christian communities.  He takes pains to understand them.  He mingles largely in their society.  He reads their books and records.  He construes favourably their avowed opinions.  He is a politician too; not a busy, fussy politician, seen and heard, so often as he can get a hearing, at every gathering of partisans; but a calm watcher and patient helper of the sure processes by which the kingdoms of this world are becoming the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ; roused now and then – when some intolerable evil threatens – to fearless speech and action; always standing up for the wronged and wretched; never courting, never shirking, a contest for the truth (92).

It must be confessed that there is often as great a contrast between this sketch and reality, as between the ideal curate of the Archbishop of Canterbury and Charlotte Bronte’s “Malone (93);” but it is pleasant to see a faultless picture of what is fitting.



    From a list in the “Methodist Almanac” published at New York, we find that an immense stream of periodical literature pours from the united bodies of Methodists.  Four quarterlies are published in England and America, and one hundred and fifty periodicals in English, French, Italian, German, Swedish, Butch, and some other non-European languages.  The oldest of these is the “Wesleyan Methodist Magazine,” commenced by John Wesley, under the title of the “Arminian Magazine,” in 1777; the most recent is entitled “Experience,” apparently an expiring effort to represent early Methodist asceticism.  The number of Methodist biographies is enormous, commencing with “Lives of Early Methodist Preachers, principally written by themselves,” containing some of the most naïve revelations of earnest, simple, and frequently quaintly credulous piety, but rising occasionally into passages of description that Defoe would have been proud to write.  If the religious history of the English people is ever written, some of these biographies will be invaluable for the light they will throw upon religious feeling in these circles.



    Without any attempt to sit in judgment upon Methodism, we leave it to speak for itself.  The religious martinet may condemn it, because its drill is not conducted according to certain regulations.  The professed theologian may declare himself unable to find its raison d’etre in its tenets: but the fact of its existence, its organization, its adaptation to practical ends remains.  the heyday of its enthusiasm is over, but it will perpetuate itself by education and the working of its system.  It will increase the distance between itself and other Christian communities.  It will, in all probability, never see the days when it will be invited to share the editorial councils of a new “Eclectic Review,” nor will it throw open its chapels to the formation of a new Evangelical Alliance.  The gentler spirits in its borders will continue to entertain hopes of a Church of the Future with the disciples sitting at the Great Master’s feet in unbroken accord; but they will sadly acknowledge that the distinctiveness of Wesleyanism must be sacrificed before that consummation can be obtained.  The liberal theological will sorrowfully confess that Wesley’s dream of a Christianity which dwells more upon the most excellent gift of charity than the forms of polity, has gone away from men by the ivory gate; and, while he cannot but regret the share that Wesleyans have in this dislimning of the vision, will more deeply reproach those religionists who survey every prospect through the perplexing medium of a cathedral window, and can endure nothing unless traced with the medieval pattern that meanders round all their sacred things.


    What doctrinal conflicts await Methodist it is impossible to tell.  Whether its theology of the heart can withstand the assaults of the time, or whether it must change its front, are questions of the future.  But Methodism is plainly a middle-class form of faith.  It has not held its first conquests achieved amongst the upper classes.  Lady Huntingdon’s Connexion (94) has proved a successful rival in that respect.  And we are not aware that any person belonging to the higher ranks of the nation, either in station or in celebrity, belong to this persuasion.  Nor has it held the poorest classes in its meshes.  The long and fierce contests against popular control have weakened it.  Wesleyanism has never surmounted the difficulties thrown in its way when the tide of revolutionary ideas, which in 1848 swept over Europe, invaded its sanctuaries.  The working-classes fell away from it then, and have never returned to their allegiance.  The increased activity of the Church, coupled with its resources, and the undoubted devotion of the majority of the clergy in large towns to the interests of their flocks, has seriously crippled Methodism.  The lowest strata of English society are barely touched by it, either in rural or urban parishes.  The poor, the unfortunate, the miserable, and the vicious are the unquestioned objects of the clergyman’s care: the prosperous mechanic, the well-to-do tradesman, the manufacturer, for one or two generations, are the chief supporters of Methodism.  But Methodism has in its constitution a principle of strength and authority far surpassing the more lax and tolerant rule of the Anglican Church; it is one of the great bulwarks of the faith amongst the middle classes of this country, opposed alike to the secularism of one party and the Romanising tendencies of another party; and we are thankful that a movement which has so impressed the religious life of the country, is true to the fundamentals of Christian conduct, renders valuable services to the cause of virtue at considerable personal sacrifices, and deserves well of the commonwealth from its loyal adherence to counsels of justice and moderation in times of national disturbance.



               Notes on the Text


(1) The Church of England, officially established church of the nation, independent from the Roman Catholic Church since 1534 when Henry VIII broke away in order to divorce his first wife.



(2) Churches, such as Presbyterian, Baptist, and Quakers who broke away from the established Church of England and refused to take part in the Anglican Communion.  Originally punished and outlawed, they were eventually allowed to register and assemble after the Toleration Act of 1689.



(3) The Presbyterian Church of Wales, a Calvinistic Church native to Wales which sprung up prior even to Wesley’s work in England.



(4) Governed by bishops.



(5) Calvinist denomination which is governed by “presbyteries,” or representatives of local congregations.



(6) The Church of England



(7) George Whitefield (1714-1770), Fiery orator and preacher, early acquaintance of the Wesley’s who was instrumental in the founding of Methodism.  Famous for his revival meetings and role in the “Great Awakening.”  Traveled to America to evangelize several times.  Unlike Wesley, subscribed to Calvinistic doctrines.



(8) John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism.  Son of Samuel Wesley, an Anglican minister, and Susanna Wesley.  Attended Oxford, where he founded the “Holy Club” and traveled to America as an Anglican minister.  After a mystical experience at a religious meeting in Aldersgate, Wesley began to develop his doctrine of entire sanctification, or holiness, using the “free will” teachings of Jacobus Arminius, who opposed the predestination doctrine of John Calvin, as his basis while expanding upon and extending theme.  Sensing the need for reform in the Established Church, he and Whitefield formed Methodist meetings and societies which, while seeking to correct what they saw as faults in the Established Church, never officially separated from the Church of England.  Indeed, Wesley remained an ordained Anglican cleric throughout his life.



(9) A coal-mining town on the outskirts of Bristol that was one of the first places Whitefield and Wesley went to evangelize.  A number of Methodist chapels and other institutions were established here.



(10) A non-ordained member of a church.



(11) The Eucharist, or communion



(12) In other words, membership in these early Methodist societies was determined solely by attendance and participation in these class meetings.



(13) The system of deacons, who are unordained (in the Protestant tradition) but nevertheless have been given a greater amount of responsibility than the ordinary laymen and assist the ordained ministers in the affairs of the church.



(14) The Rev. Leigh Richmond was an Anglican minister who wrote an influential pamphlet titled “The Dairyman’s Daughter” which told the story of the religious experience of Elizabeth Wallbridge, a member of Richmond’s parish.  It was immensely popular during the 19th century. 



(15) Friedrich August Gottreu Tholuck, German theologian, preacher, and teacher who wrote extensively.  Among his many writings was a commentary on the Sermon on the Mount.



(16) Matthew 5-7



(17) The Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, founded in 1844 was one of the first co-operative movements in England.



(18) The Moravian Church was one of the earliest Protestant Churches, founded by Jan Hus.  Wesley met a group of Moravians during his journey to America and was greatly influenced by their ideas and practices.  One of these practices was the agape feast, based on the early Christian practice, which Wesley brought to Methodism in the form of the Lovefeast.



(19) Illusory and imaginary



(20) The dialect of the Lowland Scots



(21) The membership tickets given for attendance at the weekly meeting.



(22) Greek



(23) Influential writers whose works are considered standard.



(24) A Puritan divine who came up with a covenant prayer which Wesley adapted to Methodism.  This prayer was used for in services for the Renewal of the Believers Covenant with God, roughly equivalent to confirmation in other traditions.



(25) Philip Doddridge, Nonconformist leader and hymn writer.  View the text of this hymn here.



(26) Full text here.



(27) Dr. Jabez Bunting (1779-1858), 19th century Wesleyan divine and leader under whose authority Methodism began to break further away from the Church of England.



(28) Social reform movement in mid-19th century Britain which took its name from the People’s Charter, a document presented to the British Parliament asking for electoral reform.



(29) Churches which refused to follow the governance and practice of the Church of England.



(30) A Methodist lay-minister in George Eliot’s novel, Adam Bede.



(31) Balaam was a pagan prophet who was converted by his donkey, who was given the power of speech by an angel of the Lord. See Numbers 22:21-41.



(32) A breakaway community of Methodists founded in 1811 which disagreed with mainstream Methodism on many points, including the ordination of women.  Eventually reabsorbed into the main body of Methodism.



(33) Tyerman, L. The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A.: Founder of the Methodists. London: Hodder and Stoughten, 1876.



(34) In early churches, wealthy laypeople could “buy” pews for their families use.  Poorer families could sit in the “free” seats.



(35) The governing body of the Methodist Church in England.



(36) John Singleton Copley, 1st Baron Lyndhurst, The Lord Chancellor of England, presiding officer of the House of Lords and head of the judiciary.



(37) Sir Lancelot Shadwell, Vice-Chancellor of England starting in 1827.



(38) Another breakaway Methodist sect, founded in 1797, which eventually merged with the main Methodist body.



(39) The standard prayer book of the Church of England.



(40) “Nor shall gowns or bands be used among us; or the title of reverend used at all.” “Form of Discipline,” Pierce, p. 278.” – Author’s note.



(41) A state of disuse



(42) Methodist theologian and scholar, wrote an immensely influential Biblical commentary which became standard in Methodist circles.



(43) Charles Wesley (1707-1788), the younger brother of John, a key leader in the Methodist movement and an ordained Anglican minister.  Most famous for his voluminous production of hymns that continue to be used today in Methodist churches and other Wesleyan denominations.



(44) Isaac Watts, famous hymn writer and Philip Doddridge, see note 25.



(45) Daniel Brevint (1616 – 1695), Dean of Lincoln from 1682 to 1695.



(46) Augustus Montague Toplady, Anglican cleric and hymn-writer, Calvinist opponent of John Wesley.



(47) Methodist hymn writer



(48) Legalistic, like the Jewish Pharisees portrayed in the Bible.



(49) Of the Council of Trent, which set down important Roman Catholic doctrines.



(50) A Roman Catholic



(51) Protestant denomination which follows the doctrines of John Calvin.



(52) Hymn 442, for the Mohammedans, last edition but one; now expunged from the “Collection.” – Authors note.



(53) A denomination which believes in the single personality of God as opposed to the Trinitarian doctrine to which the majority of Christian traditions subscribe.



(54) A prominent 17th century Unitarian leader.



(55) The Fool of Quality; Or, the History Of Henry Earl of Moreland, by Henry Brooke and edited by novelist Charles Kingsley was a very popular sentimental novel which Wesley much admired.  He edited an abridged edition and sought to have it placed in many Methodist churches. 



(56) The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, a Catholic missionary order.



(57) William Burt Pope, 19th century Methodist theologian.



(58) The Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed, two of the most important statements of faith in most Christian traditions.



(59) The Westminster Confession of Faith, drawn up in 1643 by the Westminster Assembly, called by Parliament, which systemized the doctrine of the Church of England.



(60) Doctrine promulgated in opposition to the doctrines of John Calvin by Jacobus Arminius who believed that unconditional grace and atonement can be received by all people who choose Christ by their own free will as opposed to being predestined to election by God.



(61) Wesley taught that the purpose of the Christian live was to become sanctified and work towards Christian perfection or holiness, which he believed could be obtained in this life.  This became the foundation of his life, doctrine, and work.  For more on this very complex idea, see Wesley’s famous sermon on Christian Perfection.



(62) Another Methodist group which eventually merged with the United Methodist Church in 1907.



(63) Johann August Wilhelm Neander, German theologian, Pectus facit theologum, means “the heart is made a theologian.”



(64) “good word”



(65) The Bampton Lectures, an important series of lectures on Christian theology given yearly at the University of Oxford.



(66) A custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a certain class or group of people.



(67) The central organization of Methodism which is comprised of circuits, districts, and the annual Conference.



(68) Archbishop of Canterbury, assassinated in 1170 after coming into conflict with King Henry II.



(69) Proposal made in order to achieve peace or harmony.



(70) “first among equals”



(71) A rank of clergyman below bishop.  In other words, the Methodist Church in England did not use bishops, or an episcopal form of government



(72) James Ussher, Anglican Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland between 1625–1656.



(73) “for this occasion”



(74) An exalting of the clergy or priesthood at the expense of the laity.



(75) Published speech or text in praise of something.



(76) The Free Church of Scotland broke away from the Church of Scotland (which was Presbyterian) in 1843, before eventually reuniting with the official church in the early twentieth century.



(77) Though Wesley never officially left the Church of England, he ran into problems when it came to ordaining ministers and, in the case of America, bishops, which ordinary Anglican clerics did not have the power to do.  As will be expounded upon below, for a long time Wesley refused to ordain ministers and instead used ministers ordained by the Church of England, this became increasingly problematic, however, as time went on and what follows is an account of how Wesley attempted to justify his ordination powers.  For more on this question click here.



(78) Samuel Stillingfleet, whose Irenicon was influential in forming Wesley’s conceptions of episcopacy.



(79) The Act of Toleration of 1689 granted limited religious freedom to dissenting religious, excluding Catholics.  Nonconformist churches were allowed to own their own churches and have their own ministers as long as both were registered and licensed by the state.



(80) Another work which dealt with the question of episcopacy and church authority.



(81) Rigg’s “Churchmanship,” p.103 – Author’s note.



(82) Rigg’s “Churchmanship,” p.111 – Author’s note.



(83) James Harrison Rigg, Wesleyan writer and theologian, his Connexional Economy is an important and standard work on Wesley and his work.



(84) Whereas the British arm of the church eschewed the episcopal form of government due to lingering questions over episcopal authority.  The American Methodist Episcopal Church was, as its name indicates, episcopal in structure for many of the reasons discussed below.



(85) Robert Lowth, Bishop of London from 1777-1787.



(86) Thomas Coke, the first Methodist bishop in America.



(87) Francis Asbury, the second American Methodist bishop and an influential leader in the American church for many years.



(88) Though the Act of Toleration removed many restrictions on dissenting churches, members were still barred from political offices and universities for many years following 1689.



(89) C.H. Spurgeon, Baptist minister and gifted orator.



(90) Henry Liddon, Anglican clergyman and famous orator.



(91) An English Baptist minister.



(92) Memorials of Rev. W.M. Bunting, p. 22. – Author’s Note



(93) Peter Malone, unlikable clergyman in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley.



(94) A small society of churches associated with Methodism founded by Selina Hastings, Countess of Huntingdon in 1783.





                Commentary on the Text


Andrew Winckles, 2/25/08


    The case of Methodism in England is a unique one in that its rise lies somewhere in between the official high-church rituals of Anglicanism and the longstanding rejection of these rituals in Dissent.  It is perhaps this measured moderation and care that best defines its founder’s beliefs and the doctrines he laid forth.  Like Luther before him, John Wesley did not seek to break away from the Church of England, only correct what he saw as a cold and impersonal religion that (1) did not seem to be reaching common people, (2) did not inspire any sense of personal holiness or connection with God, and (3) did not fully enact Biblical care for the poor and downtrodden.  After his death, of course, the Methodist Church drifted further and further away from the Established Church while never really joining the ranks of the dissenters.  This particular article is interesting because it both shows the course of the church in the one hundred years after Wesley’s death and also indicates some of the Victorian attitudes towards Methodism, which had still yet to become mainstream.



    This particular author seems intent on defining Methodism in relation to the Church of England which suggests that, even in 1881, Anglicanism was still considered standard in England and churches like Methodism out of the norm.  Indeed, he spends so much time outlining the rituals and practices of Methodism, along with descriptions of how they are similar or different from those of the Established Church, that one cannot help feeling that the author expects his audience to find them strange.



    One of the main differences, of course, is the fact that the Methodist Church (in England at least) was not episcopal, it was not governed by bishops and was not structured in a traditional manner.  The “Connexion” as it was called, was made of several circuits which comprised a district, and many districts which comprised a Conference which met annually.  This conference, to which delegates were appointed decided all matters pertinent to the Church in a sort of representatively democratic way.  This may not, at first, seem like a major point – but it in essence defines what many people in the Church of England saw as the major sticking point between Anglicanism and this offshoot – it did not have the power to appoint bishops.



    This was something that Wesley struggled with throughout his career for, though he never desired to leave the Church of England, the Church of England increasingly did not recognize him.  And, though he strove only to employ clergy who were ordained by the Mother Church, this became increasingly difficult, especially in America after the Revolution.  Faced with a growing number of congregants but a paucity of clergy, Wesley was eventually forced to appoint Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury bishops in America though, strictly speaking he did not have the power to do this as a simple Anglican cleric.



    This, an many other differences eventually drove the two churches apart and, though there were attempts to bring them back into closer communion, by the middle of the nineteenth century they were too far asunder to ever be unified.  The author of this article seems to be sympathetic to some of the ways in which the vitality of Methodism has acted as a moderating force in the bitter social, political, and religious battles of the day and promoted a simple spirituality among its members.  Nevertheless, Methodism is still considered outside of the mainstream and he criticizes some of the pious practices (common in most evangelical traditions) which he sees as quaint.



    One of the most interesting elements of this particular article is the way in which the author attempts to portray Methodism and the religion of the middle class, claiming that it had little following among the gentility (probably true) and working class.  The evidence regarding this latter assertion is, however, suggests otherwise.  Indeed, it could even be argued that Methodism was a movement founded on and targeted at the working class who, for much of the early history of Methodism, were undergoing massive lifestyle alterations as the Industrial Revolution came into full swing.  Wesley had a tremendous heart for the poor and downtrodden and made them the target of much of his ministry.  Even this article mentions Whitefield’s ministry to the Kingswood colliers and both Whitefield and Wesley’s meetings were well attended by the working classes.  Some historians even partially attribute the fact that a revolution did not occur in England during this time to Wesley’s activity among the poor.



    All in all, this article provides a good glimpse at the history of one of the most important and unique religious traditions to come out of England.  It also provides and excellent outsiders view of Methodism and provides some important context on how the Victorians viewed the Methodists.  Though the author is undoubtedly biased at times and in other instances seems to misunderstand or misconstrue the tradition, this undoubtedly reflects some of the ways in which other Victorians did the same thing.  John Wesley and his movement provide a fascinating study religiously and socially and this article provides a good introduction.


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                Works Cited



Please be sure to cite reference works, including dictionaries, encyclopedias, scholarly articles, other 19th century sources, and other websites that you used in preparing this page.  In particular, it is extremely important to use quotation marks when copying material directly from another source, to provide a parenthetical citation to the source and relevant page number, and to include that source here.  If you do not know how/when to decide what to cite or how to format citations in MLA Style, please consult your instructor. [Please retain these directions.]


Doddridge, Philip. “O Happy Day.”



Halevy, Elie. The Birth of Methodism in England. Chicago, U of Chicago P, 1971.



John Wesley,” Wikipedia.



Neal, Gregory S. “Methodist Episcopacy: In Search of Holy Orders.”



Methodism,” Wikipedia.



Southey, Robert. The Life of Wesley and the Rise and Progress of Methodism. London: Frederick Warne, 1889.



Telford, John. The Life of John Wesley. London, Hodder and Stoughten, 1886.



Tyerman, L. The Life and Times of the Rev. John Wesley, M.A.: Founder of the Methodists. Hodder and Stoughten, 1876.




                For Additional Reading


This is the place to add bibliographic information for print OR online sources that usefully supplement your chosen text.  Please format entries for print sources in MLA style.  Please format links to websites using brief titles (e.g. The Charles Dickens Page) followed by a one-two sentence description of the contents of the site.  [For the benefit of future users, please do not delete these directions.]


Wesley Center Online - Excellent resource for information on the Wesley's, their theology, and the Methodist movement in general.  Includes the texts of all of John Wesley's sermons.


Works by John Wesley - A collection of several of Wesley's major works, including his letters on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library.


The Wesley's and Their Time - A collection of materials of and by Wesley on the official United Methodist Church website.




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