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narrative of facts, whereby the actual state of things among our brethren may be learnt.
1. Methodists. The first disciples of John Wesley appeared in the American colonies in 1766, a few years prior to the revolution. Their royalist prepossessions which were strong, and almost universal, greatly impeded their progress during the commotion ; and several of the preachers were obliged to return to Europe to avoid the dangers to which their avowed principles exposed them. Mr. Asbury, however, withstood the storm, and surmounted all opposition.
After the capture of Cornwallis, when the war on the land was terminated, and a feeling of security and peacefulness returned, religious exercises became more regular, and the efforts to extend divine truth were more active and uniform. Many local preachers appeared in the scattered Methodist societies, and a correspondence with Mr. Wesley was opened in reference to the general interests of Methodism in the United States. The members had continued to receive the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper from Episcopalian ministers, where those persons were resident; but during the war they had nearly all disappeared. In this condition of affairs Mr. Asbury represented to Mr. Wesley the urgent necessity of devising some means to supply the deficiency, and to organize the societies into a separate confederacy of disciples.
John Wesley instantly resolved to enact a system for America, which he could not bave organized in Britain. He decided for a prelatical oligarchy, as the corner-stone of the Methodist community in the United States—commingling ecclesiastical power entirely independent of the people, a clerical aristocracy amenable only to their own order, and a gradation of dignitaries assimilated to the English state church. There are deacons and priests ; archdeacons under the name of presiding elders; and bishops like our diocesan prelates, only without the throne and mitre, and that they travel, and preach, and labour; and are not clothed in a 'goodly Babylonish garment.'
To effect this scheme, Mr. Wesley abridged the thirty-nine articles of our Establishment to twenty-five. He also adapted the liturgy to his own taste, and arranged a plan for the conferences, and all their temporal and spiritual economy. When all these preliminaries were executed, he selected Thomas Coke, a priest of the Church of England, as his substitute, to execute the whole scheme; and “consecrated 'him First Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. He also appointed Francis Asbury his colleague; and having commissioned two other priests for his new hierarchy, despatched Mr. Coke and them to ordain Mr. Asbury as deacon, elder, and bishop for
America, with a commission to ordain as priests and deacons all the local preachers whom they might deem it proper to admit as members of the first General Conference, which they were directed by Mr. Wesley instantly to assemble. Thus John Wesley laying his hands on the head of Thomas Coke, said, 'Receive
thou the Holy Ghost for the office and work of a bishop, com'mitted unto thee by the imposition of my hands. Whether John Wesley, Thomas Coke, and Francis Asbury, with their existing prelatical successors, believed that they bestowed and received the Holy Ghost for the discharge of their official functions is a topic of grave consideration, the decision of which cannot be determined by us, who are not initiated into the mysteries of consecration according to the Corpus Juris Canonici.
The first general conference of the Methodists was held at Baltimore in 1784, after the Wesleyan model. Those assemblies were perfect conclaves, composed only of preachers. No person knew their proceedings, except by their printed Minutes. All the houses of worship and other property, by their formal deed of trust, were actually vested in the Conferences, so that a more irresponsible power and a more abject dependence could not exist consistently with the lowest grade of Protestantism; but their deficiency in numbers and wealth then rendered these Assemblies mild and conciliating. As their societies and the opulence of their disciples increased, the Conferences gradually assumed more power, and became more haughty and lordly in their claims and acts. For some years a growing dissatisfaction was felt, although it did not assume a distinct form and an audible voice. But in 1824, a decisive restlessness was apparent. Circumstances of an exciting character produced a solicitude to hear the discussions of the General Conference, which that year assembled in Baltimore. After considerable agitation, lay members of the church were admitted to listen to their debates. Several instances of glaring clerical oppression occurred about this period; and it was consequently resolved to obtain, if possible, indemnity for past despotic grievances, and security against future encroachments.
A proposition was therefore made to reform the constitution of the Methodist church by the admission of lay officers to the Conferences. This attempt was followed by a long and general warfare among the American Methodists, which was terminated in the usual manner. The conclaves issued their anathemas against the schismatical rebels, who would not bow down to their jure divino authority ; which fulminations were despised and ridiculed; and a secession was formed under the name of the Protestant Methodist Church, without prelates. They have been gradually and constantly extending their influence and enlarging their
numbers, until they form an efficient and valuable portion of the American religious community.
Several years now elapsed, and the strong man armed kept his goods in peace. The Methodist Episcopal Conferences had partially relaxed in their overbearing demands, and they were all chanting lullaby,' when a storm suddenly burst upon them, the effects of which will not speedily pass away,
In the year 1833, some of the New England Methodists, both preachers and members, began seriously to inquire into the consistency of the testimony and practice of their church concerning slavery. The American Methodists, in their book of doctrines and discipline, from 1784 to the present day, declared that all persons who hold or traffic in slaves, all slave-drivers, and slavedealers are sinners who by their practice evince that they have no desire to flee from the wrath to come, and that every member of their societies shall exhibit his Christian solicitude by not buying, selling, and holding slaves. In addition to these requirements, their standard volume of faith and rules announces
We declare that we are as much as ever convinced of the great evil of slavery.' Notwithstanding this unequivocal announcement, vast multitudes of Methodists, with hundreds of their preachers, are slave-holders; and the enormities of that system, in their utmost atrocious form, are constantly perpetrated and connived at by the Members of the denomination in the North American States, without remorse, and with perfect impunity.
The ministers and laymen, who in 1833, commenced the investigation of this heart-rending theme, speedily discerned that the discrepancy between their professions and their acts was scandalous and criminal. Instantly on the discovery, they sounded an alarm throughout their Zion. For a brief season their voice was unlieeded; but their blast was so long and loud, and became so dread, that the resolutely deaf at length were startled, and the affrighted oppressors having rallied, returned the threat of defiance and extermination.
Almost all the religious denominations in the United States have a miscellany devoted to their peculiar interests. The Christian Advocate, issued in New York, is the chief official journal of the Methodist General Conference. This paper became the opponent of the enemies of slavery ; and for the last five years has demonstrated the peculiar fitness of its conductors for the cause which it maintains. Misrepresentation and concealment of facts; vituperative charges and insinuations against the friends of liberty; malevolent attempts to disgrace and injure the antagonists of slavery; and ruthless persevering contrivances to criminate and to silence all Methodist preachers who will not basely
aver that man-stealing is Christian, have almost continuously marked its disgraceful course.
The collision, however, extended, until that paper evinced a determination to crush all the ministers who contend for the expulsion of slavery from their church. A ceaseless stream of calumny was effused against their character, and every opportunity to refute that injustice was denied. No alternative existed, but submission to the galling yoke of ecclesiastical bondage and proscription, or to justify their measures and demonstrate the truth of their principles, and the rectitude of their claims. Another paper consequently was established in New York, called · Zion's
Watchman; and Solomon's doctrine has been verified the fire does not go out for want of wood. The belligerents arrayed themselves for war, and the dissension will not end until slavery has ingulfed the church, or the church .by prayer and fasting' has cast out the incarnate fiend.
This controversy has elicited some almost incredible specimens of prelatical arrogance and chicanery: The Methodist General Conference of 1836, permitted individual slave-drivers in that body most offensively to bully and vilify the advocates of emancipation, and actually censured some ministers for praying at a public meeting. The narratives of this fact which we have read, reminded us of the · Shaver's Sermon,' upon the expulsion of six young men from the University of Oxford, for praying and reading the Scriptures. At subsequent annual Conferences, the Methodist prelates who ex officio preside, have usurped the authority to refuse petitions which have been presented. They have rejected reports which were prepared by order of the Conference. Resolutions proposed in due form have been indignantly repelled, so that they have not been read. Even after debate upon a topic which has been introduced, the lordly master of the assembly has refused permission, that the motion should be propounded for decision. Thus, in truth, arresting all business, silencing free discussion, and defrauding the members of their right; the prelate scoffs at the responsibility of his brethren, perplexes their consciences, and renders the Conference a mere servile tool to sanction his anti-christian compliance with the mandates of slave-holders.
In this agitation the Methodist Episcopal church in the United States is now involved, and except in isolated portions, no efficient and extensive good to the souls of men can be achieved. The spirit of sectarian proselytism may increase their nominal members, and secure them the plaudits of the wicked, but they have cause to anticipate the dread denunciation which the prophet Hosea pronounced against the ancient idolaters : 'I will be unto Ephraim as a moth.' At the late Conferences avowals have been made, and measures
have been adopted which evince that a radical change is essential throughout the whole confederacy. They have exemplified two of the most useful characteristics which were unfolded by the ancient Israelites. They have openly denied and denounced the self-evident truths of their own authorized standard of faith and practical piety; they have changed the truth of God into a lie,' by perverting the right ways of the Lord, so as to contend that the most flagrant iniquity is an inherent part of Christian morals.
Not content with thus desecrating pure and undefiled religion during more than two years, they have wantonly and systematically persecuted, maligned,
and cast out of their synagogues, the unimpeachable servants of Christ, for no other cause than this those followers of Jesus have asserted the truth of their own articles of religion, have been anxious to disconnect their church from slavery, and will not solemnly deny their own ordination vows, and betray the kingdom of light and liberty to the minions of corruption and darkness. This ungodliness is fast extending. In all these things we see the downward course of backsliders from the truth; so that unless divine mercy interpose, Christians, and especially ministers of the gospel who wilfully and pertinaciously distort the sacred oracles, to the sanction of oppression, fraud, and licentiousness, may justly and fearfully anticipate that the time will come when judgment must begin at the house of God.'
II. PRESBYTERIANS. Speedily after the termination of the war in 1783, the scattered Presbyterians began to combine their efforts, and to re-establish their churches. In 1788, on account of their wide dispersion, it was deemed requisite to subdivide their large Synod into smaller bodies, who should annually meet by delegation in a General Assembly, after the Scotch prototype. They experienced, however, a difficulty in the subject of slavery. The Presbyterians of New York, Jersey, and Pennsylvania who then constituted the immense majority of their churches, not willing to have an open collision with the few congregations in Virginia, were induced, from mistaken and delusive notions of expediency, not to make slave-holding a barrier to communion; having been intimidated by the threats of separation, and by the hopes which the slave-holders encouraged, that if they would let the delicate subject alone, the evil would soon
cure itself. Fascinated by that syren song, the majority consented. The subject was introduced to their consideration a few years after, but the viper which in its primitive weakness could have been easily destroyed, was now become too strong to be expelled from his domicile, and the General Assembly proclaimed that although slavery was inimical to Christianity, it must be tolerated, and they implored the anti-slavery Christians and the slave-trading professors to live in peace and harmony