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by any higher standard, or contemplating them in connexion with more permanent results. In this sense, Wesleyan Methodism, under its founder, was not a Church, and did not profess to be a Church, but only an Institute, regulated in its arrangements by present and temporary circumstances, and supplementary to the Church of England, for promoting the Christian good of the community.
We have no disposition to object to Wesley's plans and arrangements, on the ground that they are unwarrantable and incompetent, because not expressly sanctioned by Scripture, and all the less would we object to them on this ground, because he did not profess to be organizing a Church, according to the scriptural standard. We have somewhat higher views than Mr. Taylor seems to entertain, of the extent to which the constitution and organization of the Church are determined in Scripture, and made imperative upon Christians. But we have no sympathy with those whom he describes (p. 216) as entertaining the belief, that no means or devices, intended for securing the maintenance of visible Christianity, or for effecting its spread, can be lawfully employed, other than those which are verbally and specially defined in the Scriptures." We can concur in the ridicule which he pours upon systems professedly based upon this principle, under the designation of “Text-made Churches," and “Churches of Texts,” though really we are not aware that this belief has ever been professed to such an extent, or by such persons, as to make it worth while to expose it. The plans and arrangements of Wesley were, in their general character, quite warrantable and competent; and as he did not profess to proclaim or impose them as a part of the scripturally determined constitution of the Church, they ought to be judged of as human expedients, just by their apparent soundness and wisdom, by their fitness to promote, temporarily or permanently, the interests of true religion. Mr. Taylor has applied this test to them, and has shown, we think, in several important instances, that, however naturally they arose out of existing circumstances, however well fitted they might be to exert for a time a wholesome influence, they were not adapted for all times and conditions of society, and were not likely to take a permanent hold of the minds of men. Human wisdom is incompetent to devise permanent arrangements, adapted to all times and circumstances. Divine wisdom alone is adequate to this, and we enjoy the guidance of divine wisdom in this matter, only in so far as the constitution and arrangements of the Church or Christian society have been determined in Scripture, and in so far as we have rightly understood and applied the indications given us there of the way in which the Christian religion is to be promoted. This principle does not preclude
the adoption of many plans and arrangements of a subordinate character, which may seem fitted, at the time and in the circumstances, to operate beneficially. But these, of course, are the results merely of human wisdom, they are likely to partake largely of imperfection, and they are most unlikely to be fitted for permanence. Wesley did not profess to be organizing a Church upon a Scriptural basis. His Institute was the product of his own wisdom and sagacity, and must be subject to the fluctuations and instability of all merely human things. Independently of this general consideration, and independently of the actual over-sights and errors which Mr. Taylor has pointed out in some of Wesley's arrangements, we reckon it a sufficient proof that he had not wisdom and sagacity adequate to devise a permanent Institute, that, while he did not profess to be organizing a Church upon a Scriptural basis and in accordance with Scriptural directions, he adopted such stringent measures for giving it permanence by means of legal provisions, by subjecting the tenure of the whole property of the connexion to the perpetual maintenance of his own opinions and arrangements.
There have indeed been some changes introduced into Wesleyan Methodism since the death of its founder. These changes we believe to have been judicious and necessary. They have broken off the peculiar relation which Methodism occupied during Wesley's life to the Church of England, but they have not given it a full and proper Church organisation. The principal changes which have been introduced are, the general authority given to all Wesleyan preachers to administer the Sacraments, the practical extension of the authority, both in ecclesiastical and in secular matters, which Wesley vested in the s legal hundred,” to all the ministers of the connexion, and the admission of laymen to a prominent and influential place, by means of committees, in the management of the financial affairs of the body. These changes were all good and right, and they have tended, we doubt not, to preserve Wesleyanism in vigour and efficiency till the present day. But though Wesleyanism has thus ceased to occupy the position of a mere supplement or appendage to the Church of England, and now supplies to its people all Church ordinances and privileges, it has not yet even professed to adopt a complete Church organisation. The Conference, in introducing these improvements, did not profess, any more than Wesley had done, to be following fully even what they themselves regarded as the intimations of Scripture, as to the way in which a Christian Church ought to be organized and regulated. Wesleyans of course believe that there is nothing in their arrangements which Scripture condemns, and nothing which is not warrantable, right, and useful. But, if we do not greatly misunderstand the matter, they do not contend that Wesleyanisi embodies all the principles and provisions which Scripture sanctions as applicable to a Church. Some leading Wesleyans have always, we believe, been Episcopalians in their theoretical views of Church government, and yet British Methodism has no prelates. They would probably allow the scriptural authority of the office of deacons, but they have no such functionaries. Some of them, we presume, would admit that the Christian people, by themselves or their representatives, had much more prominence and influence in the apostolic and priinitive Churches, than they are allowed to have in Methodism. These different considerations seem to shew, that Wesleyanism, even yet, scarcely professes to be a scripturally-organized Church, and if so, it must be, in respect to its organisation, a device of human wisdom, and therefore not destined to perpetuity, not fitted for permanence.
In treating of Wesleyan Methodism“ as a hierarchy or scheme of spiritual government,” Mr. Taylor brings out some very important views in regard to the fundamental principle of the organisation, which vests the whole real control of the society in the ministers, and excludes the Christian people from any recognised or effective influence in the management of its affairs. We quite agree with him in thinking that such a constitutional arrangement is utterly indefensible in theory, and that, though it may be somewhat modified in practice, it must operate injuriously upon the permanent influence of the body. We believe this to be the most ominous feature in the constitution of Methodism, and we cannot but fear that, unless it be essentially modified, it will bring about its dissolution.
While we concur in the substance of Mr. Taylor's views upon this point as affecting Methodism, and think them deserving of serious consideration, we are somewhat surprised at his attempt to shew that the principles on which he condemns Methodism do not apply to the Church of England. He seems to think that that Church enjoys, in the ecclesiastical supremacy of the Crown, and in the control which Parliament and public opinion exercise over the regulation of its affairs, a very good substitute for the preserving and strengthening influence, which the position assigned to the Christian people in the Apostolic Church is fitted to exert. This is really too like Hooker's “ derivation unto the patron by orderly means” of the people's “ ancient and original interest” in the appointment of their pastors. The supremacy of the Crown, and the control of Parliament, cannot be said to form a constituent part of the constitution of the Anglican Establishment as a church; but rather to be accidents superinduced upon it, which the Church has submitted to froin
necessity, rather than approved of from choice, and which those of its own members, who have had right notions of the principles by which a Christian church ought to be regulated, have regarded with jealousy and dislike. The proper ecclesiastical constitution of the Church of England as thoroughly excludes the Christian people from their rightful place, and as fully vests all ecclesiastical power in the clergy as Wesley's Deed of Declaration does. No real benefit can accrue to a church, as such, from the unwarrantable introduction of the Crown and the Parliament, as a compensation for the unwarrantable exclusion of the Christian people from the place they are entitled to occupy. These influences may have, in point of fact, contributed to strengthen and preserve the Church of England. But they could strengthen and preserve it, not as a church, but only as a great secular corporation. It is impossible that they can have contributed to strengthen its legitimate influence as a church, upon the understandings, the consciences, and the affections of Christian men.
We have now explained the peculiar and very limited sense in which we concur with Mr. Taylor in believing that Wesleyan Methodism is not a church; and the only inference we draw from this position is, that unless it be materially modified in its constitution and arrangements, it is not likely to have a very protracted existence. Indeed, we are of opinion generally, that Wesleyan Methodism bears about it all the marks of having been raised up in Providence to serve most important and useful purposes for a time, but that it does not exhibit indications of permanence, and that it carries within it the seeds of dissolution. We have the highest respect for the piety, the wisdom, and the ability of the venerable men who, in our own day, have chiefly regulated the administration of the affairs of Methodism. Their successors will have a difficult and perplexing part to act. We earnestly hope they may be wise men who know the times, and what Israel ought to do."
The fourth and last part of Mr. Taylor's work is entitled 6. The Methodism of the time coming," or of the future, and he could not have given a more distinct intimation of the high place he assigns to Methodism as a great religious movement, than by describing under the name of a New Methodism, yet future, the mode of teaching Christianity, which he considers best adapted to maintain the cause of true religion against its now formidable enemies, Romanism or Ritualism, and Pantheism, and to revive and diffuse a deeper interest in divine things. Our space prevents us from considering the interesting subjects which are discussed under this head, or quoting any of the important views which are here enforced. We can only say that it presents some considerations well worthy of being seriously VOL. XVI. NO, XXXII.
pondered, concerning the strength and formidableness in the present day, of the two great adversaries of true Christianity, Romanism or Ritualism, and Pantheism, singly and in combination, and concerning the best way of preparing to encounter them. We meet, indeed, occasionally with a certain vagueness of statement which we find it rather difficult to penetrate, especially in regard to the character and amount of the changes which it will be necessary, in the coming generation, to introduce into the mode of representing, expounding, and applying Christian truth. Sometimes Mr. Taylor scouts the presumption and folly of expecting, that the friends of true Christianity are to resist their opponents and to revive and strengthen their cause, by getting up a new mode of explaining and applying Christian truth, more fully adapted than any that has yet been employed, to the tendencies and spirit of the age. And in all that he says to this effect we cordially concur. But sometimes he writes almost as if he thought that some new mode of representing Christianity was necessary and practicable. A deeper study of this part of Mr. Taylor's work might perhaps enable us to perceive the harmony of his statements upon this subject; but the harmonizing principle, if there be one, does not appear upon the surface, and certainly it has not occurred to us.
There is one view set forth by him in unfolding the Methodism of the future, which we believe to be very just and very important. It is in substance this, that the most essential objects to be aimed at in the training and preparing of ministers for the time coming, so far as concerns the furnishing of their understandings, are, that they should be thoroughly established in sound views of the Inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures, and then, should be fully equipped with everything that may be necessary for fitting them to prove against all gainsayers, that the doctrines which they inculcate upon men, are indeed sanctioned by the infallible standard of truth. This view, we think, pre-eminently deserving of the immediate and serious attention of all the Churches of Christ.
We have given, we fear, but a meagre view of the contents of this important and interesting work, and an inadequate impression of its value and excellence. But we have now only space again to commend it earnestly to the perusal and study of our readers.
We are delighted to learn from the preface to this work, that Mr. Taylor is preparing a similar one on the Non-Conformists of the past age. We trust he will ultimately embrace in his plan some of the other leading sections of the ecclesiastical world; for we are satisfied, that there is no living man who is better entitled and qualified to speak with authority and effect to the churches of our day.