페이지 이미지
[merged small][ocr errors]

allude to the proviso which obliges the Conference not to appoint any preacher to the same chapel for more than three years successively, thus binding an itinerant ministry upon the societies for ever. Whether this system of changing ministers be essential to the spiritual interests of the body or not, or whether it might not be usefully modified, will be matters of opinion; but the point ought, perhaps, to have been left more at liberty.” (Watson's Works, vol. v. p. 260.)

3d, The leading ground on which Mr. Taylor bases his conviction that Wesleyan Methodism, in its present form, will not have a very protracted existence, is embodied in the position, that it is not, in its constitution and arrangements, a church. We believe this position to be true in itself, and quite adequate to support the conclusion which Mr. Taylor deduces from it. This position, as maintained by Mr. Taylor and onrselves, is of course essentially different, in the meaning attached to it, in the grounds on which it is based, and in the spirit in which it is advocated, from the common unchurching doctrine of Romanists and High Churchmen. The principle of these men is, that a church consists of, or at least is constituted and characterized by, its officebearers, and that no society is entitled to the name of a church unless it has a threefold order of office-bearers, bishops, priests, and deacons, all deriving their official authority by an unbroken series of ordinations from the Apostles. With these views we have no sympathy. We believe them to be inconsistent with the doctrines of Scripture, the dictates of cominon sense, the testimony of history, and the voice of experience. We are persuaded that Wesley and his successors, the Wesleyan ministers of our own day, are just as fully authorized to preach the Word, and to administer the sacraments, as any other ecclesiastical functionaries in Great Britain. We believe that Wesley was as well entitled to make bishops as Luther was, and that the men whom the Methodist and his associates appointed in that character for the United States, were just as good bishops as those whom the Reformer and his friends appointed for Denmark. Mr. Taylor, indeed, in a striking and important passage, adduces the case of Methodism as conclusively fatal to the High Church view of Prelacy and apostolical succession.

6 Yet there is one plea on the ground of which, if it be valid, the Methodistic company might be cast down from the place of honour which is now claimed for it. This ground of exception is that occupied by those who, with strictness and consistency, hold the doctrine that, apart from the line of episcopal ordination, unbroken in its descent, there is and can be no Church, no ministry, no sacraments, no salvation. It is much to be desired that those who profess thus to think would take up the case of Methodism, and deal with it thorough

ly, Ainching from no consequences toward which their theory may lead them. The instance is every way well adapted to such a purpose; nor does it offer any colour of evasion, nor admit of any way of escape from the one conclusion which the premises demand, if those premises be valid. The conditions of this very definite case preclude an evasive reply, such as this—. We cannot tell whether Methodism was from Heaven or of men.' Neither Wesley's episcopal ordination, nor Whitefield's, could, on the ground of the « historic succession,' carry with it a power of ordination; and certainly it could not excuse or palliate their insubordination, as presbyters of the established Church. It is not as if Methodism had sprung up in some remote quarter of Christendom, where it could not have connected itself with the Apostolic line, or where ignorance, on questions of this sort was involuntary. Nor is it as if Methodisın had been a revival, taking place within a body which claimed for its ministry a high ecclesiastical ancestry, so that its original irregularity was shrouded by the mists of centuries. Methodism took its rise in the very bosom of the Apostolic succession; and it was carried forward by men who were fully informed as to all subjects bearing upon the course which they pursued. The offence-if an offence-was committed in broad day, by men with their eyes open; and these men had cut themselves off from the benefit of pleading an abstract conscientious opinion, analogous to that of the Presbyterians or Independents: they declared themselves Churchmen and Episcopalians.

“ On every side, therefore, this Methodistic problem is clearly defined; and the more we think of it, the more exempt will it seem from ambiguities, or ways of escape. No one who is accustomed to pursue principles with logical severity into their consequences, will deny that the Apostolic-succession theory, such as it has been enunciated and defined of late, must either break itself upon Methodism, or must consign Methodism and its millions of souls to perdition, in as peremptory a manner as that in which the Church of Rome fixes its anathema upon heretical nations.

“No doubt there are more than a few sincere, seriously-minded, and kind-tempered persons, holding this theory, who would find themselves wanting in the nerve and hardihood required of them, on an occasion like this, when challenged, by the clearest rule of consistency, to take their places, as spectators, while men, such as Wesley, Whitefield, Fletcher, with millions of their proselytes and spiritual progeny, are to be sent down alive into the pit! The one precise ground of this auto de fé should not be lost sight of. Let it be stated :the Methodistic preachers, even if they held some questionable subsidiary notions, yet professed, in the most decisive terms, their adherence to the doctrine of the Three Creeds: therefore they were not heretics. They declared their approval of the Thirty-Nine Articles: they threw themselves upon the Book of Homilies : they frequented the liturgical worship of the Church ; they partook of its sacraments; they acknowledged its orders.

" It can never be thought a Christian-like act to consign masses of

[merged small][ocr errors]

men to perdition on the mere charge of enthusiasm, or of some extravagance in behaviour. As to the general good conduct of the Methodistic converts, it is not pretended that it was not fully equal to that of other men-reputed Christians. Nevertheless, there remains this one ground of exception against the Methodistic body, which the Apostolic-succession theory brings forward, and which it must continue to bring forward and insist upon. Whoever, while he holds this theory, flies off from its application in a case so flagrant and so thoroughly unambiguous as this, implicates himself in the sin of schism, and comes within range of that anathema to which he has not the conscience and the courage to respond.”—Pp. 132-134.

We have expressed our conviction that the present Wesleyan ministers are as fully authorized to preach the word, and to administer the Sacraments, as any ecclesiastical functionaries in this country. This, however, is ascribing to them merely the power of order (potestas ordinis), which does not include the whole of the power or authority usually ascribed to ministers, even in the limited and strictly guarded sense, in which alone true Protestants concede power or authority to ecclesiastical office-bearers. There is, in addition to this, the power of jurisdiction (potestas jurisdictionis). This implies the right of exercising a certain limited and ministerial, i.e., not lordly, authority over a certain flock or society of professing Christians. From the way in which Wesleyan ministers are appointed to their stations, i.e., merely by the authority of the Conference, there might be reasonable ground for doubting, whether they legitimately possess a power of jurisdiction over the societies they superintend. The principle on which this doubt might rest is, that there is good ground for maintaining the position, that ecclesiastical office-bearers have no legitimate right to exercise any authority over a particular Christian flock or society, unless that flock or society has consented to the formation of that relation between the parties, on which the right to exercise authority is based. This position has been conceded by some of the most distinguished defenders of the Church of England. Thus Hooker says, (Eccles. Pol., B. VII., Sect. 14), “ The power of order I may lawfully receive without asking leave of any multitude, but that power I cannot exercise upon any one certain people utterly against their wills." If this principle be true, as we think it is, it ought to be carried into effect, and the only reasonable and honest provision for carrying it into effect, is to make the consent of the Christian flock or society an indispensable preliminary to a minister exercising any pastoral authority over them. It is true that Wesleyan preachers usually assume the character rather of evangelists or missionaries, than of pastors properly so called. But it is also true, that they are really the bishops or overseers of Christian societies, and that they claim and exercise over these societies all the legitimate authority of pastors, not only preaching the word and administering the Sacraments, but exercising discipline, or admitting to, and excluding from, the society and its privileges. Hooker's principle, therefore, is applicable to them, and there is nearly as much difficulty in shewing that it does apply to them, as in shewing that it applies to the clergy of the Church of England. The way in which Hooker gets over the difficulty, as applicable to the Church of England, is sufficiently amusing and ridiculous. It is, that the people's “ ancient and original interest in the appointment of their pastors), hath been, by orderly means, derived unto the patron, who chooseth for them.” We do not know whether our Wesleyan friends would be disposed to substitute the Conference for the patron, and to allege that the people's "ancient and original interest” in this matter “ hath been by orderly means derived unto” that body, “who chooseth for them.” But we think a much more plausible defence of the position, both of Anglican and Wesleyan ministers, is to be found in the consideration, that in many cases the people, though their consent was not asked beforehand, as it should have been, have virtually and practically consented afterwards to their exercising pastoral authority. This is, of course, a very defective and unsound state of matters constitutionally. But the consideration we have stated is sufficient, in the case of the Wesleyans generally, and of some ministers of the Church of England, to save us from the necessity of denying the validity of their right to exercise pastoral authority over the Christian societies which they superintend.

We may admit, then, that Wesleyan ministers are legally entitled to exercise the power of jurisdiction as well as the power of order, to exercise ecclesiastical discipline, as well as to preach the word and to administer the Sacraments. We admit also, that Wesleyan societies fulfil the scriptural and Protestant definition of the visible Church of Christ,” as given in the 19th Article of the Church of England--viz., “A congregation of faithful men in the which the pure word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly administered according to Christ's ordinance;" and that, of course, they are fully entitled to the character, and to all the ordinary rights and privileges, of Churches. As we have no hesitation in making these admissions, it can be only in a very limited and peculiar sense that we adopt Mr. Taylor's position, that Wesleyan Methodism is not a Church. He, too, would concur in these admissions, and he denies to them the character of a Church, only in the very limited and peculiar sense that is consistent with them.

In explaining this point, we do not need to refer to the question, which has been so largely discussed between Romanists Wesley's Original Design.

531 and High Church Prelatists, on the one side, and true Protestants on the other, as to what is the proper scriptural definition or description of the Church, for we have already admitted that, tried by this standard, Wesleyan preachers and societies are entitled to all the rights and privileges of Ministers and Churches. We have to refer merely to Wesley's leading object in constructing his Institute, to the position which he wished it to occupy in relation to the Church of England, and to some features of the formal organization which these causes impressed upon it, and which it still retains. It is certain that Wesley originally did not wish or intend his Institute to be a distinct Church, but merely a supplement or appendage to the Church of England, and that he was led on gradually by unforeseen circumstances, especially by his extraordinary success, and the violent opposition he met with from the Church, to modify his plans and arrangements. For a long time, even after the societies under his care had become very numerous, he would not allow his preachers to assemble their people during the ordinary hours of public worship on the Lord's day, and to the last, he refused to give to them a general permission to administer the Sacraments. The people who joined him he wished to remain still members of the Established Church, to attend upon her worship, and to receive sealing ordinances in her communion. This is the position still maintained by that section of his followers who call themselves Primitive Methodists. They continue to avow that they do not constitute a distinct Church, and maintain that they are members of the Church of England. Wesley's great object was the conversion of the ungodly.” His plans and arrangements were directed to the accomplishment of this object, and then to that of affording to those who joined his society, advantages for growing in grace, for adorning their profession, and for promoting the interests of religion, additional to those they might possess as members of the Church of England, and attenders upon her ordinances. He did not intend to form a distinct or separate Church, and, in point of fact, he did not do so. He does not seem to have ever reached any convictions, which appeared to him to make it men's duty to disapprove of the constitution of the Church of England, or to separate from her communion. He does not appear to have ever investigated the question—What is the scriptural constitution and organization of the Church ? with the view and for the purpose of bringing the conclusions he might be led to form upon this subject, to bear upon the regulation of his own Institute. When the extraordinary success he met with in converting sinners, and in forining them into societies, suggested to him new plans and arrangements, he seems to have considered only, whether they were lawful in themselves and expedient at the time, without trying them

« 이전계속 »