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America to convert others, was never himself converted to God. On his voyage out, he had formed a favorable opinion of the piety of the Moravians, and meeting with a band of them soon after his return, in London, he conversed much with them, adopted their peculiar views of true faith, as a belief that our sins are pardoned, accompanied with constant dominion over sin; and, in one of their assemblies, gained, as he thought an assurance of the forgiveness of all his sins, and everlasting peace. Desirous of visiting the place where this favourite people lived, he went into Germany, to the settlement of the Moravians. He returned to London in 1738, and began to preach with great zeal and success. The multitudes who gathered around him, were not equal to those which followed Whitefield ; but the impressions and outcries, exceeded any thing which had been witnessed.
Mr. Whitefield returned again to England, in 1741, after a still more popular and successful tour through North America, than before. But alas! with Wesley he was no longer to cooperate. These two men were found to be possessed of very different systems of theology. Whitefield had preached and printed in favour of election, and Wesley, in favour of universal redemption and sinless perfection. Their different views were communicated to their hearers, and two great parties were at once formed. Whitefield preached once for Wesley, and no m' re. “ You and I,” said he, “ preach a different Gospel.” Boib continued to labour with astonishing success, and became the heads of large and powerful sects.
WESLEYAN OR ARMINIAN METHODISTS.
Mr. Wesley, at once found himself at the head of an immense body of people, all in the church of England, as he himself was, yet looking to him as their spiritual guide. Leave them to the ministers of the establishment he could not, for they excluded him from their pulpits, and reviled him as an enthusiast. Nor could he expect preachers from the learned universities, for they wouli neither supply present exigences, nor meet his views, por be ever sufficient in number. Whitefield had set him the example of raising up lay preachers. And he now thought it his duty, to put any man into the ministry who desired the office, provided he gave evidence of piety,
had a good understanding and clear utterance, and was successful in converting souls. Numerous men possessing these qualifications, he sent from the most ordinary employments of society into various parts of the kingdom, and such was the credit of his name, and to such a degree did they adopt his dispassionate manner, and “ infantile simplicity,” that wherever they came, they were received, supported, and listened to, with the greatest deference.
Their fundamental principles were, they declared, in the liturgy, homilies and articles of the Church of England, but to these they gave a broad Arminian interpretation. Against personal election, the point on which Mr. Wesley broke with Mr. Whitefield, and the Saints, certain perseverance, they were violent. They also maintained that perfectinn is attainable in this life. In his views of faith, their great leader coincided, as has been remarked with the Moravians; considering it, as he said, “ not only a divine evidence or conviction that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, but a sure trust and confidence that Christ died for my sins, that he loved me, and gave himself for me. And the moment a penitent sinner believes this, God pardons and absolves him; and as soon as his pardon or justification is witnessed to Him by the Holy Ghost, he is saved."
As the mass of preachers and converts grew, it became unwieldy, and Mr. Wesley called all his preachers to an annual conference. This conference first met in 1744.
In this conference a general view was taken of doctrine, discipline and moral conduct. The whole kingdom was divided into circuits. Fifieen or twenty societies which lay around some principal towns formed a circuit. In each circuit was stationed two, three, or four preachers, according to its extent and importance, who were to labour in it for one year. The eldest was called the assistant or superintendent, who directed the labours of his associates. Each, having his place assigned him, was to begin a progressive motion round the circuit ; perpetually travelling and preaching, as the superintendent directed. Each therefore had his daily work before him, and knew where his brethren were labouring. They were to have no regard for any other sect or people, but to preach in their place to all who would hear them, and gather into their society all who would join them.
The days of bloody persecution for religious dissent had passed away.
The Puritans had fought the battle, and gained a general toleration of all religions. The Methodists therefore grew up without opposition from government. Indeed when their meetings were threatened, as they often were by the mob, the government usually protected them.
From England they soon passed to Ireland, America, the Indies, Africa, and the continent of Europe, maintaining every where, as far as possible the same system.
Mr. Wesley lived to see the 88th year of his age, and 65th of hs ministry. He died March 2, 1791. He maintained to the day of his death a perfect ascendency over the vast body that had adhered to him. He was remarkably neat in his person, exact in his babits, simple in his style of speaking and writing ; a man of great ardour ; confident, bold, and of unparalleled diligence. He is supposed to have travelled near 300,000 miles, and to have preached more than 40,000 sermops. He presided at forty-seven annual conferences.
After his death, his followers were much divided on points of government. Wesley had ever closely adhered to the church of England. He did not permit his travellog preachers to preach in church hours, or administer baptism or the Lord's supper, but directed all his people to attend the church worship, and receive the ordinances from the hands of the regular clergy. At his decease, many united in publishing a declaration that they would adhere to his system, but others revolted and established a new connexion in which they have preaching in church hours, and the ordinances administered by their own preachers and in which also, the people have a voice in the temporal concerns of the societies, and the election of church officers.
The Methodists under the care of the British apå Irish con. ferences, which includes all excepting those in the United States, are about 300,000. Their travelling preachers, about 1100.
A Seminary was established by Mr. Wesley at Kingswood, for the education of the children of preachers.
A few Methodists came to New-York from Ireland in 1766, and through the labours of a Mr. Embury, so increased, that they erected a meeting house in John street in 1768. The next year two preachers were sent over by Mr. Wesley from England. And in 1771 came over Francis Asbury and Richard Wright Thomas Rankin was also sent over by Wesley to take the gen
eral superintendance of the American churches. Through the exertions of these and other zealous labourers, the number of the Methodists was soon greatly increased, and in 1773 a regular conference was held in Philadelphia.
Until the close of the revolutionary war, the system of Methodism was according to the plan of Wesley. The preachers were not empowered to administer ordinances, and the people were obliged to go to other churches. As the United States had now become independent of Great Britain, Wesley determined to make the American churches independent, and sent Dr. Thomas Coke, commissioned as a superintendent or bishop, to constitute the American churches independent; to raise Mr. Asbury to the same office, and to ordain preachers and elders. He arrived in 1784, and on the 25th of Dec., consecrated Mr. Asbury to the office of bishop. The number of members in America then, was 14,988, and of preachers 83. Universal satisfaction was expressed at the procedure; and the general cause was revived and strengthened. Bishop Asbury initated Wesley in his diligence and labour, and a vast increase of numbers was soon gained to the Methodist cause.
The Methodist Church, in the United States, like that in Great Britain, is Episcopal. Its clergy consist of bishops, presiding elders, elders, deacons and unordained order of licensed preachers. Its preachers are also divided into itinerant and local, or such as travel at discretion of the ecclesiastical authorities or such as perform duty only as opportunity offers. Its great ecclesiastical authority, is the General Conference. Previous to 1808 it met annually. It was then agreed, on count of the the extent of the country, that there should be several annual conferences in the United States and one general conference of delegates from these subordinates; in the ratio of one delegate for every seven itinerant preachers which should meet once in four years. The General Conference elects Bishops and makes rules and regulations for the Church. On some points, however, it can legislate only by the joint recommendation of all the annual conferences and by a vote of two thirds of the general conference. In the United States there are seventeen annual conferences consisting of all the travelling preachers in full connexion and no others. They perpetuate themselves by the election of their own members, and hold the exclusive right of sitting in judgment on the character and conduct of their members. No itinerant preacher can make any appeal from their decision, except to the General Conference,
The Bishops, who are five in number, ordain elders and deacons, preside in the conference, appoint presiding elders, assign to every preacher the circuit or station in which he shall labor, for a term not exceeding two years in sliccession and take the general oversight of the spiritual and temporal concerns of the church.
Presiding elders are assistant bishops, who preside each over a particuiar district. There are several districts in each cónference. The travelling preachers are independent of the people to whom they are sent, and have much authority over them. They appoint the class leaders and remove them at pleasure, nominate the steward, license exhorters, and have the principal management of all cases of discipline. Their stipend is regular and ordinarily sufficient. They are supported also, when superannuated or laid aside by infirmity.
Every methodist meeting house and parsonage in the United States belong to the General Conference.
The clergy are supported and other expenses are defrayed by “the chartered fund," by a profitable book concern, and the voluntary contributions of the people. The Wesleyans in America maintain sentiments similar to those in England. They value highly Adam Clarke's commentary on the Bible. They have class meetings, band meetings, love feasts, quarterly meetings for communion, and camp meetings. Revivals have been frequent among them, and excitements are great. Learning has not been sought. They are now however opening a University at Middletown, Ct. to be called the Wesleyan University.
Their conferences comprise 1573 preachers. Of these 1239 are travelling, and as every seventh member is sent to the General Converence, that consists at present of 177 members. The methodists number about 420,000 members in the States.
No denomination is so well organized for increase. But it is splitting on the subject of Episcopal government. Some wish to change the government now confined to the travelling preacher and ultimately centering in the bishops, so as to give the local preachers and private members a voice. These have seceded from the main body, and are called The SSOCIATED METHODISTS. They embody about 25,000 members.
WHITEFIELDIAN OR CALVINISTIC METHODISTS.
After his separation from Mr. Wesley, Mr. Whitefield continued to go through England, Scotland, and America, like a flame of fire, every where melting thousands by his eloquence,