« VorigeDoorgaan »
the disinterested, the contented, the generous, the modest, the heroic, not to express my admiration of this remarkable passage.
Scarcely had this new association been formed ere they received an affectionate invitation to return to the Methodist body from which they had separated. This, after much reflection, consultation, and prayer, they respectfully declined, thinking it would be for the general good and their own freedom of action, to remain as they were. Mr. Clowes and his coadjutors, and he above and beyond them all, continued in labours more abundant. Not confining themselves to their own neighbourhood, they went every where preaching the word. In cottages, in barns, in theatres, in public houses, in market places, in streets, in lanes, and in fields, they held meetings for prayer and exhortation. They were assailed by mobs and by magistrates; they were interrupted by bands of music, by vociferation, by pelting with eggs and mud, by the turning loose of animals into the midst of their assemblies, and by the playing of water engines; their preachers were assailed by personal violence, and put in peril of their lives : but they persevered in meekness and in gentleness, and have conquered by their passive power.
The first Conference was held at Hull, in 1820, when the number reported to be in society was 7,842; the last was held at Sunderland, 1849, when, as we have already seen, 95,557 were reported, being an increase during the past year of 6,166.
Such is the account, as furnished by their own documents, of this body of professing Christians. In doctrines they are identified with all the other branches of Methodism, so that they have not excited attention nor acquired popularity by any alleged new revelations,
like Joanna Southcote, or the apostle of Navoo. In their general machinery they copy the Old Connexion Methodists, and in the composition of the Conference they imitate the New Connexion, and the Association, in the admission of lay delegates.
It is neither slander, nor intentional insult, nor depreciation, to say that their preachers are uneducated, and their members generally poor. They feel it to be their vocation to go out into the highways and hedges, and to labour on the great waste of ignorance, poverty, and crime, whose moral cultivation is, to a considerable extent, neglected by others. Their sermons as compositions, and their modes of delivering them, will not be relished by the educated classes, and many wish they were somewhat different for the uneducated. It would be easy, without any extraordinary degree of fastidiousness, to raise ojections, not only on the ground of taste and decorum, but of piety, against their too familiar mode of addressing the Supreme Being in their prayers. Their audiences are, however, not such as would have their ears annoyed by too loud speaking, or their sense of propriety wounded by illustrations unclassic and vulgar. Moreover, in all these things they will improve and are improving as education diffuses its influence over those among whom they chiefly labour. That they have turned multitudes from sin to righteousness, (and what could the loftiest eloquence, and the most finished elegance do more ?) cannot be doubted. Ninety thousand members attest this fact. Make what allowance we may for the insincerity and deep delusion which too extensively prevail, not only among them, but among all denominations, there must be a vast amount of Christian morality in these myriads of professors. No religious community can long exist in a state of organization, of which a manifested propriety of conduct is not the term of communion, and the bond of fellowship. It may be assumed as a fact, that neither drunkard, swearer, fornicator, adulterer, nor thief, known to be such, would be allowed to retain his membership in this body for a single day. This is saying something, and indeed not a little for the usefulness of a body which counts nearly a hundred thousand members, won not from other bodies of professing Christians, but from the great moral waste. There are not wanting those who, in the success of this denomination, see a striking proof of the power of religious truth, of the great fundamental truth of the evangelical system, to effect under the most disadvantageous circumstances, the ends for which it is granted from heaven the conversion of the soul to God—the refor. mation of the human character—the promotion of domestic comfort, the support of social order, and the happiness of our species.
The introduction of the Primitive Methodists to Birmingham, appears to have taken place in the year 1824, when a room was opened in Moor-street, where they continued to worship till 1826, and then removed to Balloon-street, where is still one of their chapels, in which they have one hundred and ten members, and a school of one hundred and ten children. In March 1831, they opened Inge-street chapel, which they still continue to occupy, with a membership of one hundred and eighteen persons, and a Sunday school of one hundred and fifty children. In the year 1834, the Conference was held in this town, of which Mr. Clowes, in his journal, gives the following account : “On Sunday, June 25, the camp meeting day, we sang through the streets to the Bull-ring, and here brother B. preached a sermon. We then sang to the camp ground, and truly the Lord was in the midst of us to bless us. Six sermons were preached in the forenoon by brothers W. Morgan, Hallam, Turner, Heslar, and myself. I was endued with considerable liberty, and cries for mercy broke forth. In the afternoon the concourse of people was so great, that we were obliged to have two preaching stands. Brothers H. and J. B. were appointed to conduct the services, held at one, and brother Garner and J., those held at the other; so that there were delivered ten sermons, besides the holding of praying services. At the evening's love-feast many souls were converted. After the business of the Conference closed, I and a few friends were asked to the house of a person residing in the vicinity of the town, to enjoy the breezes of the country air, and hereby recover our strength.” This gives a tolerable idea of the modes of acting carried on by this body. They are still increasing in this town, and are now building another and larger chapel in New John-street West, which is soon to be opened for worship.
In glancing back upon the past history of Methodism, and surveying its present condition, including all its four divisions, we must be powerfully struck with the expansive power of religious zeal, and the wonderful consequences which sometimes result from individual effort. Nor is it the Church of Rome only that can exhibit instances and proof of this, she has reason to be proud of her Loyola, considering the services he has rendered by the order he founded, and which threatened at one time to hold a large portion of Europe in the deepest slavery beneath the papal yoke. But while the Jesuists have been plotting against the liberties of nations, and forging chains for their consciences, the followers of Wesley have been diffusing the blessings of spiritual freedom, and emancipating millions from the thraldom of sin and Satan. Including the Methodists of the United States, and all the sections of the body, there are nearly two millions in the membership of this community; and perhaps fifty thousand voices, if we comprehend the local preachers, which are every Sabbath lifted up to publish the glad tidings of salvation to a perishing world. What a result, if we look only to the past and the present, from the life and labour of one man; and who can predict the future? What intense bigotry must pervert the judgment and petrify the heart of that individual, who in his devotedness to ecclesiastical system, whether Episcopal, Presbyterian, or Independent, can dwell upon such a scene with other feelings than those of delight and gratitude.*
THE SCOTCH PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.
THE government of the National Church of Scotland, as set up by John Knox, at the Reformation, and, after bloody struggles by the Stuarts to subvert it, confirmed at the Revolution 1688, was Presbyterian. At the time of the union of the two kingdoms all the privileges of the church were guaranteed in their inviolability. Among these was the right of every congregation to have a voice in the choice of its own minister. During the latter part of the reign of Anne, the system of
* For the account of Mr. Wesley's labours in Birmingham, and the statistics of the Old nexion in thị town, I am indebted to Mr. Edmund Heeley.