Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

tant service; they offered Dr. Coke £500 a-year if he would settle in Antigua ; and during his stay they welcomed and entertained him. Though Dr. Coke would not remain, he left behind him one of the preachers who accompanied him; set apart Baxter as another; visited other West-India islands then, as well as in his visit in 1788; and settled Methodist preachers in the islands which belonged to England and Denmark. The Dutch authorities, to their shame be it spoken, expelled them. Every-where the missionaries were eagerly welcomed by the susceptible negroes. For them it was the first sign of admission into the family of civilized man.

To them it opened, what was yet better, the glorious hopes of the Christian. The colonial authorities, with the single exception of Jamaica, received the Methodist teachers with respect. In Barbadoes the higher classes welcomed them, and the Governor of Grenada sent for them. But the favor of the planters was not lasting. The vices, in which many of them indulged, were condemned by the preaching of Christian morals; and their habits of criminal indulgence were interfered with by the new sentiments of chastity implanted in the slaves. Baxter was assaulted in Antigua at the stair of the chapel, by a mob of drunken planters. The chapel at St. Vincent's was broken open. At Kingston, attempts were made to pull down the chapel; the preacher's life was in danger, and many

of the Methodists had a narrow escape.

Yet, in spite of this, Dr. Coke and his colleagues persevered.

The funds, needful for the support of these missions, were collected by Dr. Coke's zeal in England. Methodism spread among the negroes, and numbered 6000 members before Wesley's death. Its subsequent progress, its sufferings, and its perils have been made known to us in our own time, by the researches of travellers, and by the eloquence of some of the most eminent of our Parliamentary debaters : and they supply many thrilling narratives of suffering and zeal.

CHAPTER XI.

THE NECESSARY TENDENCY OF METHODISM.

WHILE Methodism was thus spreading itself over our colonies and the American continent, it was gradually changing its position at home.

However sincerely Wesley desired to keep his society within the sphere of the church, circumstances were too strong for his resolutions. The causes, which had directed its course in America, began to operate in England. The earnest among the Methodists sought religious ordinances, and sought them naturally from those whom they loved as teachers. They could not see why they should be told to seek ordinances of religion from strangers; and from strangers who often withheld them.

Dissenting ministers would not baptize or give the sacrament to Methodists, unless they would abandon the connection. The clergy sometimes did the same. Even, where they admitted to ordinances, it was done grudgingly, and was often accompanied by taunts and

jeers. It was not likely that such a state of things should endure. A relation so unnatural could not be maintained.

Nor did the preachers bear this state of matters better than the people. They felt it hard to be obliged to refuse ordinances which they longed to confer, and to drive away flocks which gathered to their pastoral care. Their feelings were pained, their ambition was mortified, and their consciences perplexed. What was this stern system which at once elevated and degraded them ; placed them in a function of confidence, yet denied them its privileges ? Some complained; others rebelled : some chafed at the curb; others broke it. The ferment and excitement grew.

In London there was a remedy; for there were ordained clergymen at hand to baptize and administer sacraments. But the example of London only stimulated the provinces. Charles Wesley refused concession. He held Methodism to be a revival within the church, not an outbreak from its pale. He left the Conference, when it entered on this delicate ground. John Wesley viewed the matter differently; he looked at it all round, as was his habit. He too wished that Methodism should remain within the church ; but above all, he would have the country reformed. The work needed teachers, and at any price teachers must be had. Their difficulties therefore, and their grievances, went to his heart.

What was to be done? Methodism was the union

of earnest enquirers after truth. Must it lapse into a schism ? Yet this seemed unavoidable ; for the following consequences had already ensued.

Methodism had been joined by Dissenters as well as by churchmen. Dissenters brought into the new connexion their peculiar opinions. The Wesleys maintained their own views on the subject of the Church. Why should their Dissenting associates conceal theirs? They had learned from Dissent not to like episcopal ordination; they did not believe in the supreme validity of church ordinances,

In proportion as the numbers of Dissenting teachers increased, these sentiments began to tell. At the same time, as the movement grew, their flocks became larger; and the disciples, attached to their teachers, refused to desert them. Such feelings became stronger than churchmanship, whose ties began to give way. Wesley might point to the parish-church, and seek to group his disciples round the parish altar; but careless clergymen did more to scatter the flock, than his arguments availed to retain them. The contest was unequal ; it was evident how it must end. Charles Wesley could not be brought to admit this; Mr. Grimshaw concurred with him. John Wesley hoped to postpone the crisis during his lifetime, but it came earlier.

The Church and her authorities have often been blamed for allowing the Methodists to separate from her. I doubt if this charge is well founded. The

« VorigeDoorgaan »