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the eighty-seventh year of his age; and while in the town for that purpose makes the following entry—“Here I had a day of rest, only preaching morning and evening.” This for a man verging towards ninety years of age ! What then must have been his labour in his medieval life, if this at such a time was his rest? It is interesting to read his reflections on his last visit to our town: “1790, March 19, came to Birmingham. I think the town is thrice as large as when I first visited it fifty years ago. The behaviour of the rich and poor [referring to his congregation] is such as does honour to their profession; so decent, so serious, so devout, from the beginning to the end." Then referring to himself, he says—“I feel no pain from head to foot, only it seems nature is exhausted, and humanly speaking, will sink more and more till the weary springs of life stand still at last.” This soon happened. The vehicle which had so long borne his indomitable spirit in his holy and beneficent career, and which by the wear and tear it had so many times endured, proved the strength of its construction, was now ready to fall to pieces, and its worn and weary springs,” unable any longer to bear its weight or give it motion. He died March 2, the following year. All honour to the memory of this illustrious man, than whom comparatively few ever lived and laboured in our world with more wonderful results in the cause of
and undefiled religion. After Wesley's death, Methodism still continued to flourish in Birmingham, and the following chapels were successively added to the ones already named. Martinstreet, Islington, in 1825; Bristol-road, in 1834; Wesley Chapel, Great Hampton-street, in 1838; New Townrow, in 1837; besides some smaller places at Summerhill, Green Lanes, also at Balsall Heath, Nineveh, &c.
Birmingham has within the last few years been divided into two circuits, the east or Belmont-row circuit containing 1704 members, and the west or Cherrystreet circuit containing 1897 members. In all these various chapels are Sunday schools comprising upwards of 4000 children. To shew the increase of Methodism in the district of country to which Birmingham was attached before it was a circuit of itself, the following numbers may be given. In 1766, there were 836 members; in 1849, there are 16,968!! There was then only one chapel in this town, and there are now seven large ones, besides several smaller ones in the suburbs.
The following are the present statistics of what is denominated in common parlance the Old Connexion Methodists.
Preachers. Great Britain
1207 348,274 Ireland
22,221 Foreign Stations
It was not till the year 1836 that Methodism in Birmingham obtained its highest honour, in bringing to this town the Annual Conference of the Connexion. To accommodate the four or five, or six hundred preachers, which now usually assemble at this great convocation, and remain together for three weeks, it required, it was supposed, a greater number of members of a certain standing in society than the body in this town contained. The trial was made, when it was found that, by the aid of Catholic spirited members of other orders of professing Christians, who kindly opened their houses to accommodate the preachers, the friends of Methodism in this town though not equal either in numbers or in wealth to those of London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Leeds, or Hull, were not behind them in zealous and liberal attachment to their denomination, or in a generous ambition to have the honour of entertaining the Conference. This convocation has been now twice held here, and will in future visit Birmingham in regular rotation.
THE NEW CONNEXION OR KILHAMITE METHODISTS,
AS THEY HAVE BEEN SOMETIMES CALLED.
OXFORD-STREET AND UNETT-STREET CHAPELS.
It is pretty generally known that Mr. Wesley at the commencement of his career, like Luther, did not clearly foresee his future career, or whither his new views, principles, and modes were leading him and his followers. He had no thought, as we have already stated, of separation from the established church, and therefore directed his preachers neither to officiate in church hours of service, nor to administer the sacraments of baptism and of the Lord's Supper. In a sermon preached only a year before his death, speaking of the functions of his preachers he says “We received them wholly and solely to preach, not to administer sacraments.” Who that compares the present ecclesiastical practices of the great Wesleyan body with those laid down by their venerable founder, must not be constrained to admit that Methodism has very materially altered and that therefore all arguments and resistance against innovation and improvement founded on the principles and plans of their great founder are without force. The Methodists we repeat are now as fully in every essential feature separatists, and nonconformists, as the Dissenters. They have worship in church hours, they
alminister the sacraments, and they celebrate marriages, and they generally practice extempore prayer. They refuse to take our designation, and if indeed the term Dissenter necessarily implies, as perhaps it does, in modern use, one who in all circumstances disallows the union of the church with the state, the Methodists, who hold, many of them at least, the abstract principle of the lawfulness of state support of religion, cannot be thus designated. During Mr. Wesley's life, there were some who in their views of Christian liberty, especially in relation to the established religion, saw much clearer, and went somewhat farther than he did; and who felt his views on this subject a yoke grievous to be borne. This soon manifested itself after his death in an earnest desire to add the celebration of the Lord's Supper to the other ordinances of religion, which they observed in their own chapels. Marvellous it is that their good, great, and sagacious founder, who found himself before his death at the head of a connexion numbering nearly a hundred thousand members, with preachers, chapels, and a full ecclesiastical organization in other respects, and with all the means, motives, and energies of indefinite extension, should yet imagine that all this could remain long in connexion with the Church of England, or that so slight a tie could hold them to it as receiving baptism and the Lord's Supper at the hand of its ministers, revolted as they often were by the known ungodliness of those who thus administered them.
Mr. Wesley had not been more than a year in his grave when a controversy arose upon the right and propriety of the Methodists to observe the Lord's Supper among themselves. This brought into the field Mr. KIlham, then a very acceptable minister of about seven years standing, in the Newcastle circuit. He appeared as the advocate and the champion of Methodist liberty. The matter was brought into Conference, and there decided against the advocates for the celebration of the Lord's Supper. So warm was the contest that at one time it seemed almost to threaten the disruption of the Conference. Mr. Kilham was now become the leader of the liberty party, and very soon, as was not unnatural, had his views led onward to other points, especially to the right of lay delegation in the direction of the society's affairs.
Many, and those of no mean name or low standing, sympathised with Mr. Kilham in his views; and a conviction gained ground that the government of Methodism must be l'e-modelled, and such a constitution adopted as would unite the people with the ministers in the administration of affairs. At length appeared a pamphlet from Mr. Kilham's pen, and bearing his name, entitled " The Progress of Liberty." In this pamphlet he advocated the rights of the people to a full share of the power of government, and proposed a constitution embracing these views. For the publication of this pamphlet he was tried by the Conference in 1796, and expelled from the ministry.
Mr. Kilham's pamphlet had been widely circulated, and it was to be expected that his views would be embraced by many who read it. This, coupled with his expulsion, which it should be recollected was solely on the ground of his opinions and the manner of his expressing them, and not at all for immorality, made no small stir in the body. Various attempts were made to bring about a reconciliation between Mr. Kilham and the Conference, but these proving fruitless, a meeting was held in Ebenezer chapel at Leeds, on the evening of the 9th of August, 1797, which was attended by many of those who were favourable to a plan of church