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The General Conference of 1828

This conference convened in the city of Pittsburgh, May 1, 1828. Five bishops, namely, McKendree, George, Roberts, Soule, and Hedding, were present, and the conference was opened by Bishop McKendree, with reading the Scriptures, singing, and prayer, after which Dr. Ruter, book agent at Cincinnati, was elected secretary.

The following is a list of the delegates who composed this conference: —

New York Conference:2525Freeborn Garrettson was elected from this conference, but deceased before the meeting of the General Conference. Heman Bangs, Nathan Bangs, Thomas Burch, Laban Clark, John Emory, Buel Goodsell, Samuel Luckey, Stephen Martindale, Daniel Ostrander, Lewis Pease, Phineas Rice, Marvin Richardson, Peter P. Sandford, Arnold Scholefield, Tobias Spicer, Henry Stead, John B. Stratten, James Youngs.

New England Conference: John Adams, Lewis Bates, Isaac Bonny, Daniel Dorchester, Daniel Fillmore, Wilbur Fisk, John Hardy, Benjamin Hoyt, Edward Hyde, John Lindsey, John Lord, Joseph Merrill, Timothy Merritt, George Pickering, Thomas Pierce, Jacob Sanborn, Joseph White.

Maine Conference: David Kilbourn, Stephen Lovell, Heman Nickerson, Elisha Streeter, Eleazar Wells, Ephraim Wiley.

Genesee Conference: Horace Agard, Israel Chamberlain, John Dempster, Isaac Grant, Loring Grant, James Hall, George Harmon, Jonathan Huestis, Josiah Keyes, Gideon Lanning, Ralph Lanning, Seth Mattison, Edmond O’Fling, Zechariah Paddock, Robert Parker, George Peck, Morgan Sherman, Manley Tooker.

Canada Conference: Samuel Belton, Wyatt Chamberlain, John Ryerson, William Ryerson, William Slater.

Pittsburgh Conference: Henry B. Bascom, Charles Elliott, Thornton Fleming, Henry Furlong, William Lambdin, Daniel Limerick, James Moore, David Sharp, Asa Shinn, William Stevens.

Ohio Conference: Russel Bigelow, John Brown, John Collins, Moses Crume, James B. Finley, Greenbury R. Jones, James Quinn, Leroy Swormstedt, John F. Wright, David Young, Jacob Young.

Missouri Conference: Jesse Haile, Andrew Monroe.

Illinois Conference: James Armstrong, Peter Cartwright, John Dew, Charles Holliday, John Strange, Samuel H. Thompson.

Kentucky Conference: William Adams, Peter Akers, Benjamin T. Crouch, George C. Light, Marcus Lindsey, Henry McDaniel, George W. McNelly, Thomas A. Morris, Jonathan Stamper, Richard Tidings, John Tivis.

Holston Conference: James Cumming, William S. Manson, Samuel Patton, William Patton, Elbert F. Sevier, Thomas Stringfield, Thomas Wilkerson.

Tennessee Conference: Joshua Butcher, James Gwin, John Holland, James McFerrin, William McMahon, Francis A. Owen, Robert Paine, Ashley B. Roszell, Finch P. Scruggs.

Mississippi Conference: John C. Burruss, Benjamin M. Drake, Thomas Griffin, Robert L. Kennon, Barnabas Pipkin, William Winans

South Carolina Conference: Robert Adams, James O. Andrew, William Arnold, Henry Bass, William Capers, Samuel Dunwody, Andrew Hamill, George Hill, Samuel K. Hodges, William M. Kennedy, Malcom McPherson, Lovick Pierce, Elijah Sinclair.

Virginia Conference: Moses Brock, Joseph Carson, Thomas Crowder, Peter Doub, John Early, Daniel Hall, Henry Holmes, Caleb Leach, Hezekiah G. Leigh, Lewis Skidmore.

Baltimore Conference: John Davis, Christopher Frye, Joseph Frye, Job Guest, James M. Hanson, Andrew Hemphill, Marmaduke Pierce, Nelson Reed, Stephen G. Roszel, Henry Smith, Beverly Waugh, Joshua Wells.

Philadelphia Conference: Walter Burrows, Ezekiel Cooper, David Daily, Manning Force, Solomon Higgins, William Leonard, Joseph Lybrand, Lawrence McCombs, Thomas Neal, Charles Pittman, John Potts, James Smith, John Smith, Lot Warfield, George Woolley.

After the organization of the conference the following address was received from the bishops, and referred to appropriate committees: —

“Dear Brethren: — It is our bounden duty to join in devout and grateful acknowledgments to the Father of mercies, whose gracious providence has preserved us in all our ways, and especially through the toils and dangers which have attended our journey from different and distant parts of the United States to this place. And while we acknowledge with gratitude the past interpositions of divine agency, let us unite in humble and fervent prayer for the influence of the Holy Spirit to guide us in all our deliberations, and to preserve us and the whole Church in the unity of the Spirit and in the bonds of peace.

“During the last four years it has pleased the great Head of the church to continue his heavenly benediction on our Zion. The work has been greatly extended; many new circuits and districts have been formed in different parts of our vast field of labor; but yet there is room, and pressing calls for much greater enlargement are constantly made.

“The great and extensive revivals of religion which we have experienced the last three years through almost every part of the work, furnish additional proof that God’s design in raising up the preachers called Methodists, in America, was to reform the continent, and ’spread Scripture holiness over these lands.’ These revivals have been the nurseries of the Church and of the ministry.

“Perhaps it deserves to be regarded as an extraordinary interposition of the divine mercy in behalf of the Church, that the year ending with this date has been peculiarly distinguished by the abundant outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and the increase both in the ministry and membership.

“While we are fully persuaded that, under God, our itinerant system has been the most effectual means of carrying on this great and blessed work, we recommend it to you to guard against whatever measures may have a tendency to weaken the energies of this system, or to locality in any department of the traveling ministry.

“Our missionary work has been greatly increased since the last session of the General Conference. Many parts of our extensive frontiers and newly acquired territories have received the gospel of salvation by the labors of missionaries. The importance and necessity of maintaining this efficient missionary system are sufficiently demonstrated by the blessed effects which it has produced. vast regions of country, almost entirely destitute of the gospel ministry, have by this means, and at a small expense from the missionary funds, been formed into circuits, and embraced in our regular work.

“Missions have been established in several Indian nations, most of which have succeeded beyond our highest expectations. And although, in some cases, we have had much to discourage us, and many difficulties to encounter and overcome in the prosecution of this work, we consider it of indispensable obligation to continue our efforts with increasing interest, for the salvation of this forlorn and afflicted people.

“Our attention has been called to South America, and to the American colony and surrounding nations in Africa. But hitherto we have not been able to send missionaries to either place.

“We invite the attention of the General Conference to this important subject. And while we cannot but regard the Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church as a very efficient auxiliary to our itinerant system, and happily calculated to diffuse the blessings of the gospel among the poor and destitute, we recommend it as a subject of inquiry whether it be necessary to adopt any further measures to render this important institution more extensive and harmonious in its membership, and more abundant and permanent in its resources; and if any, what measures will be best calculated to promote these desirable ends.

“Since the last session of this body, the ‘Sunday School Union and Tract Societies of the Methodist Episcopal Church have assumed an important and interesting character, and appear to promise great and lasting benefits to the community in general, and to the rising generation in particular. Your wisdom will dictate wherein it is necessary to give any additional direction and support to these benevolent and growing institutions.

“As the right of all the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church to trial and appeal, as prescribed in the form of Discipline, is sacredly secured by the acts of the General Conference of 1808, it may not be improper to institute an inquiry, at the present session, whether any rule in the Discipline may be construed or applied so as to militate against suck acts; and if so, remedy the evil.

“We invite your attention to a careful examination of the administration of the government, to see if it has been in accordance with the strictness and purity of our system.

“Through a combination of circumstances, we have failed to comply with the instructions of the last General Conference relative to the appointment of a delegate to the British conference. We deeply regret this failure. And it would be far more afflictive were we not assured that it has not been occasioned, in the least degree, by any want of affection and respect for our British brethren, or any indisposition to continue that medium of intercourse with them. We therefore recommend it to you to supply our lack of service by appointing, in such a manner as you shall judge proper, a representative and messenger to visit the British conference at its next session.

“May the God of peace be with you, and with the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ committed to your care.

“Yours with affection and esteem in the bonds of the gospel.”

There were several important matters which came up for adjudication before this conference, affecting both the doctrines and government of the Church, as well as the character of some individuals. The first — that which affected the doctrines of the Church — was presented in an appeal, by the Rev. Joshua Randell, from a decision of the New England conference, by which he had been expelled for holding and propagating doctrines inconsistent with our acknowledged standards

  1. In denying that the transgressions of the law, to which we are personally responsible, have had any atonement made for them by Christ.
  2. Maintaining that the infinite claims of justice upon the transgressor of the divine law may, upon the condition of the mere acts of the transgressor himself, be relinquished and given up, and the transgressor pardoned without an atonement.”

On these two specifications, both of which the defendant acknowledged that he held, the New England conference had first suspended him, and given him one year to reflect, and, if convinced of his error, to retract; and then, on finding that, at the end of the year, he persisted in his belief in these two propositions, and had endeavored to sustain them, both from the pulpit and the press, they had expelled him from the Church. From this solemn decision he had appealed to this General Conference, where he appeared in his own defense, and was allowed to vindicate his views to his entire satisfaction, it being stated in the journal of the General Conference that “he considered the case as having been fairly represented, and that he had nothing in particular to add.”

The respondent to Mr. Randell, on behalf of the New England conference, was the Rev. Wilbur Fisk, whose able argument carried a full conviction to the judgments of all, with one solitary exception, that the above propositions contained doctrines adverse to the doctrines of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and that the proceedings of the New England conference on the case had been legal and orderly. After a full, and, as was acknowledged by the defendant himself, an impartial examination and hearing of the case, the decree of the New England conference was affirmed by a vote of one hundred and sixty-four out of one hundred and sixty-five who were present and voted on the question, two members, at their own request, being excused from voting either way.

It appears that Bishop Hedding had been misrepresented in a paper published by the Reformers, called “Mutual Rights.”2626This being the name by which those brethren chose to designate themselves, I have used it as a term of distinction, without allowing that they were in reality reformers, either in or of the Methodist Episcopal Church. To reform is to make over; and they seem to have become convinced themselves of the inappropriateness of the term, by dropping it, and substituting in Its place Protestant Methodists, implying, that though they could not reform us — that is, make us better — they could at least protest against our peculiarities. This arose out of an address which he delivered to the Pittsburgh conference, in Washington, Pa., August 22d, 1826, on the duty of its members in reference to the discussions with which some portions of the Church were then much agitated on the subject of a church reform, then in contemplation by a number of individuals. This address, which gave offense to those who were in favor of the proposed measures of the “Reformers,” so called, had been reported by one of the members of said conference, in the “Mutual Rights,” and sentiments imputed to Bishop Hedding which he disavowed, as injurious to his character. He had accordingly written to the “Mutual Rights,” contradicting the slanderous misrepresentation, and demanding reparation. This not being satisfactorily done by the offending brother, the bishop felt it to be his duty to present the subject to this General Conference, and to request that it might be investigated; and hence the whole affair was referred to the committee on the episcopacy, before whom the bishop, the writer of the offensive article, and the delegates of the Pittsburgh conference appeared; and after a full examination of the entire subject, they came to the following conclusion: That, after an interview with the person who wrote the article in the “Mutual Rights,” and the delegates of the Pittsburgh conference, in whose presence the bishop had delivered the address respecting which the offensive article had been written, and hearing all that could be said by the parties concerned, it was believed that the writer had injuriously misrepresented Bishop Hedding in what he had published. This the writer himself; after hearing the explanations of the bishop, frankly acknowledged, and acquiesced in the decision of the committee respecting its injustice, and the propriety of making reparation by publishing the report of the committee, which report concludes in these words: — “That the address of Bishop Hedding, as recollected by himself and the delegates of the Pittsburgh annual conference, not only was not deserving of censure, but such as the circumstances of the case rendered it his official duty to deliver.”

As an act of justice to Bishop Hedding, the entire report, as adopted by the conference, was published in the Christian Advocate and Journal, and may be seen in that paper for May 30, 1828.

Another subject of a more general character, and of no little importance, came up for consideration before this conference. We have already seen that the Canada brethren had manifested much dissatisfaction on account of the relation which they sustained to us, and the desire they had manifested at times to become independent. This desire, however, did not arise out of any dissatisfaction with the conduct of the brethren in the United States toward them, but chiefly from the opposition evinced by statesmen in Upper Canada to their being subject to the control of a foreign ecclesiastical head, over which the civil authorities of Canada could exercise no jurisdiction; and as most of the preachers in Canada were formerly from the United States, and all of them subject to an ecclesiastical jurisdiction in another nation, it was contended by the Canadian authorities that they had no sufficient guarantee for their allegiance to the crown of Great Britain, and to the civil regulations of Canada; and hence the Methodist ministers in Canada had suffered civil disabilities, and had not been allowed to celebrate the rites of matrimony, not even for their own members.

These arguments, and others of a similar character, had induced the Canada conference, which assembled in Hallowell, in 1824, when Bishops George and Hedding were both with them, to memorialize the several annual conferences in the United States on the subject of establishing an independent church in Upper Canada, requesting them to recommend the measure to this General Conference. Accordingly, the subject came up at this time by a memorial from the Canada conference, which was presented by its delegates, and referred to a committee.

The deliberations of the conference resulted in the adoption of the following preamble and report: —

“Whereas the Canada annual conference, situated in the province of Upper Canada, under a foreign government, have, in their memorial, presented to this conference the disabilities under which they labor, in consequence of their union with a foreign ecclesiastical government, and setting forth their desire to be set off as a separate church establishment: and whereas this General Conference disclaim all right to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction under such circumstances, except by mutual agreement: —

  1. Resolved, therefore, by the delegates of the annual conferences in General Conference assembled, that the compact existing between the Canada annual conference and the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States be, and hereby is, dissolved by mutual consent.
  2. That our superintendents or superintendent be, and hereby are, respectfully advised and requested to ordain such person as may be elected by the Canada conference a superintendent for the Canada connection.
  3. That we do hereby recommend to our brethren in Canada to adopt the form of government of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, with such modifications as their particular relations shall render necessary.
  4. That we do hereby express to our Canada brethren our sincere desire that the most friendly feeling may exist between them and the connection of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.
  5. That the claims of the Canada conference on our Book Concern and chartered fund, and any other claims they may suppose they justly have, shall be left open for the negotiation and adjustment between the two connections.”

It was afterward resolved that the managers of our Missionary Society should he allowed to appropriate the sum of seven hundred dollars annually for the support of the Indian missions in Upper Canada.

There is an important principle involved in the above agreement to dissolve the connection which had so long subsisted between the Methodists in the United States and Upper Canada, which it seems expedient to explain. When the subject first came up for consideration it was contended, and the committee to whom it was first referred so reported, which report was approved of by a vote of the General Conference, that we had no constitutional right to set off the brethren in Upper Canada as an independent body, because the terms of the compact by which we existed as a General Conference made it obligatory on us, as a delegated body, to preserve the union entire, and not to break up the Church into separate fragments. Hence, to grant the prayer of the memorialists, by a solemn act of legislation, would be giving sanction to a principle, and setting a precedent for future General Conferences, of a dangerous character — of such a character as might tend ultimately to the dissolution of the ecclesiastical body, which would be, in fact and form, contravening the very object for which we were constituted a delegated conference, this object being a preservation, and not a destruction or dissolution of the union. These arguments appeared so forcible to the first committee, and to the conference, that the idea of granting them a separate organization on the principle of abstract and independent legislation was abandoned as altogether indefensible, being contrary to the constitutional compact.

But still feeling a desire to grant, in some way, that which the Canada brethren so earnestly requested, and for which they pleaded with much zeal, and even with most pathetic appeals to our sympathies, it was suggested by a very intelligent member of the General Conference, the late Bishop Emory, that the preachers who went to Canada from the United States went in the first instance as missionaries, and that ever afterward, whenever additional help was needed, Bishop Asbury and his successors asked for volunteers, not claiming the right to send them, in the same authoritative manner in which they were sent to the different parts of the United States and territories; hence it followed that the compact between us and our brethren in Canada was altogether of a voluntary character — we had offered them our services, and they had accepted them and therefore, as the time had arrived when they were no longer willing to receive or accept of our labors and superintendence, they had a perfect right to request us to withdraw our services, and we the same right to withhold them.

This presented the subject in a new and very clear light, and it seemed perfectly compatible with our powers as a delegated conference, and their privileges as a part of the same body, thus connected by a voluntary and conditional compact, either expressed or implied, to dissolve the connection subsisting between us, without any dereliction of duty or forfeiture of privilege on either part. It was on this principle alone that the above agreement was based.

It will be perceived, therefore, that this mutual agreement to dissolve the connection heretofore subsisting between the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States and the Canada conference cannot, with justice, be pleaded for setting off any one conference or any number of annual conferences in the United States, as their relations to each other and to the General Conference are quite dissimilar to that which bound the Canada conference to us. The conferences in the United States are all bound together by one sacred compact, and the severing any one from the main body would partake of the same suicidal character as to sever a sound limb from the body. The General Conference has no right, no authority, thus “to scatter, tear, and slay” the body which they are solemnly bound to keep together, to nourish, to protect, and to preserve in one harmonious whole. If an annual conference declare itself independent, out of the pale of the Methodist Episcopal Church, it is its own act exclusively, and therefore the responsibility rests upon itself alone, for which the General Conference cannot be held accountable, because it was not a participant in the separation. I do not say that the General Conference may not disown an annual conference, should it become corrupt in doctrine, in moral discipline, or in religious practice. Should, for instance, an annual conference, by an act of the majority of its members, abjure any of our essential doctrines, such as the atonement of Christ, or justification by faith, or should renounce the sacrament of baptism or the Lord’s supper, or strike from its moral code any of the precepts of morality recognized in our general rules, it might become the duty of the General Conference to interpose its high authority, and cut off; or at least to withdraw its fellowship from, the offending members. Yet such an act of excision, or of disnaturalization, if I may so call it, could be justified only as a dernier resort, when all other means had failed to reclaim the delinquents from their wanderings-just as the surgeon’s knife is to be withheld until mortification endangers the life of the patient, when death or amputation becomes the sole alternative. How else can the Church be preserved-supposing such a case of delinquency to exist — from a general putrefaction? For if a majority of an annual conference become heterodox in doctrine, or morally corrupt in practice, the minority cannot control them, cannot call them to an account, condemn, and expel them. And in this case, must the majority of the annual conferences, and perhaps also a respectable minority of that very annual conference, be compelled to hold these apostates from truth and righteousness in the bosom of their fellowship, to treat them in all respects as brethren beloved, and publicly to recognize them as such in their public and authorized documents? This would be a hard case indeed! an alternative to which no ecclesiastical body should be compelled to submit.

These remarks are made to prevent any misconception respecting the principle on which the above connection was dissolved, and to show that it forms no precedent for a dissolution of the connection now subsisting between the annual and General Conferences in the United States. Analogical arguments, to he conclusive, must be drawn from analogous facts or circumstances, and not from contrast, or opposing facts or circumstances. And the relation subsisting between the annual conferences in the United States to each other, and between them and the General Conference, stands in contrast with the relation which did subsist between the Canada and the General Conference; and therefore no analogical argument can be drawn from the mutual agreement by which this relation was dissolved in favor of dissolving the connection now subsisting between the annual conferences in the United States, by a solemn act of legislation on the part of the General Conference, except for the reasons above assigned; and those reasons, let it be remembered, make the contrast still greater between the two acts, and justify the difference of the procedure; for the dissolution of the compact between us and the Canada brethren from the jurisdiction only, Christian fellowship still subsisting — while the supposed act of excision would be a withdrawing of Christian fellowship from the offending members.

There were also other great principles of ecclesiastical economy involved in the above resolutions, which it may be well to develop and dwell upon for a moment.

It has been seen that the General Conference authorized our bishops, or any one of them, to ordain a bishop for Upper Canada. It was also provided that if such bishop should be so ordained his episcopal jurisdiction should be limited to Canada — that he should not be allowed to exercise his functions in the United States. In favor of both of these positions, namely, the ordaining a bishop for Canada, and then restricting him in his episcopal functions to that country, or the not allowing him to exercise them in the United States, the following precedents were adduced

It was pleaded that the bishops of England ordained bishops for the United States exclusively: that when Wesley and others ordained Dr. Coke, it was only for the United States: and hence neither of these functionaries was allowed to exercise his episcopal powers in Great Britain. Here, then, were precedents, from our own and another church, both for consecrating men for other countries, and for restricting them, in the exercise of their official duties, to the countries for which they were designated in their certificates of ordination. It was furthermore stated — and truly too — that when it was contemplated to consecrate the late Rev. Freeborn Garrettson a bishop for Nova Scotia and the West Indies, it was proposed to withhold from him the privilege of being a bishop, by virtue of that election and consecration, in the United States.

And as to ordaining men for foreign countries, on special occasions, church history was full of examples, all which might be adduced as sound precedents for the authority conferred upon our bishops in regard to ordaining a man on whom the choice of the Canada conference might fall for their superintendent.

There was one other subject disposed of at this conference, more important, in many respects, than either of those already mentioned, inasmuch as it involved principles and measures which must, had they been carried into effect, have produced a radical change in both the legislative and executive departments of our church government, and were therefore considered revolutionary in their character and tendency.

That this subject may be placed in such a point of light as to be clearly understood, it is necessary to enter into some historical details.

We have already seen that there had been considerable uneasiness manifested in some portions of our Church on the subject of a lay representation in the General Conference. At first the discussions upon this subject were confined to private circles, though some of the traveling and more of the local preachers, as well as a few of the lay members, had been and were now of the opinion that such a representation ought to be granted. At length, however, those who were most zealous for this measure commenced a periodical publication, called the “Wesleyan Repository,” in which they began, at first with apparent moderation, to discuss the principle of lay representation. The headquarters of this publication, which was commenced in 1820, were Trenton, in the state of New Jersey; and though its editor was known, the greater portion of its writers appeared under the mask of fictitious signatures, by which they eluded individual responsibility. The strictures upon our church government, which became uncommonly severe, were more calculated to irritate the passions than to convince the judgment, and they soon degenerated into personal attacks, in which some of our bishops and chief ministers were dragged before the public in a way to injure their character, and consequently to circumscribe their usefulness. And though we had a monthly periodical, it was thought, by the most judicious among our ministers and people, that its columns ought not to be occupied with such a thriftless controversy, much less as the writers in the Repository lay concealed beneath fictitious signatures; and moreover, instead of sober argument, they frequently resorted to biting sarcasm, to personal criminations, and to a caricature of some of those institutions which we, as a church, had long held sacred. Though it was believed that most of the writers in the Repository were local preachers and laymen, yet it was known that several of the traveling preachers themselves were favorable to the proposed innovation, and therefore lent the weight of their influence in its behalf by writing occasionally for its columns.

With a view to concentrate their strength and harmonize their views as much as possible, the friends of the innovating measures formed a “Union Society” in the city of Baltimore, elected officers and a committee of correspondence, inviting all who were with them in sentiment to form auxiliary societies throughout the country, that there might be a general cooperation among the advocates of lay representation.

Things went on in this way until near the meeting of the General Conference in 1824, when the male members of the Church in the city of Baltimore, which had now become the center of operations for the “Reformers,” with a view to allay, if possible, the heat of party spirit, were called together for the purpose of attempting to effect a compromise. This effort grew out of the fact that there were many conflicting opinions among those who were favorable to “reform,” and a strong desire among the warm friends of the Church to avert the calamities of a separation, which they saw must inevitably result from this feverish excitement, unless some pacific measures could be adopted to cool it down. In this meeting it was proposed, as the basis of the compromise, to memorialize the General Conference on the subject of a lay delegation, provided the question of a right to such representation were waived, and the privilege should be asked on the ground of expediency alone. This was assented to by the leading men among the “Reformers,” and a memorial was accordingly prepared in accordance with these views, the part relating to lay representation being expressed in the following words

“Under these views we have been led to turn our attention to the subject of a lay delegation to the General Conference. In presenting this subject to your consideration, we would waive all that might be urged on the natural or abstract right of the membership to this privilege. We are content to admit that all governments, whether civil or ecclesiastical, ought to be founded, not on considerations growing out of abstract rights, but on expediency, that being always the right government which best secures the interests of the whole community. With regard to the expediency of the measure, then, we may urge that such a delegation would bring into the conference much information with regard to the temporal affairs of the Church which the ministry cannot well be supposed to possess. They would feel less delicacy in originating and proposing measures for the relief of the preachers’ families than the preachers themselves, as they could not be subjected thereby to the imputation of interested motives, and they would, by being distributed everywhere among the membership, and, by their personal exertions and influence, the success of such measures. and awaken, more generally than has hitherto been done, the attention of the Methodist community to the great interests of the Church.

“We are aware of the constitutional objections to this change in our economy. We know that you are clearly prohibited, by the very first article of the constitution under which you act, from adding to the conference any delegation not provided for in that rule; but we believe that an Opinion expressed by the conference, and approved by the episcopacy, would induce the annual conferences to make the necessary alteration in the constitution: and we submit the consideration of the whole matter to the calm and deliberate attention which we are persuaded its importance demands, and which we do not doubt it will receive, determined cheerfully and cordially to submit to your decision.”

During the session of the conference in May, 1824, some of the “Reformers,” becoming dissatisfied with the principles of the compromise, formed a separate society, and claimed a representation in the General Conference as a natural and social right, deprecating its rejection by the General Conference as an evidence of a spiritual despotism utterly unworthy the character of the ministry of Jesus Christ. To effect their objects with the greater certainty, they immediately issued proposals for establishing a new periodical, called “Mutual Rights,” its title being well calculated to impress the unwary reader with the erroneous idea, so much harped upon in those days of agitation, that the “Reformers” were the exclusive advocates of the “rights” of the lay members of our Church.

The formation of these societies, and the publication of this periodical, in which most inflammatory declamations were poured forth against our ministry and established usages, were considered, by the more sober and thinking part of our community, as incorporating the very schism in the Church which they deprecated as one of the worst evils with which it could be afflicted, except, indeed, its inundation by immorality. The fate, however, of those measures, so far as the General Conference was concerned, has been seen in the account given of the doings of the General Conference in 1824. The prayer of the memorialists was rejected, and the ground of right to a lay representation denied.

It is not necessary to trace the history of this unpleasant affair, in all its minutiae and various ramifications over different parts of the country, from that time until the secession was fully consummated, and a separate community established. Suffice it therefore to say, that matters went on from bad to worse, until it became necessary, in the opinion of those who watched over the Church in Baltimore, to save it and its institutions from dissolution, to call the malcontents to an account for their conduct.

At the Baltimore conference, in 1827, the Rev. D. B. Dorsey, who had connected himself with the “Reformers,” was arraigned before his conference for recommending and circulating the “Mutual Rights;” and during the course of his trial he avowed such principles, and made such declarations respecting his independent rights, as could not be approved of by the conference; and they therefore requested, as the mildest punishment they could inflict, the bishop to leave him without an’ appointment for one year. From this decision be took an appeal to the General Conference; but, instead of waiting patiently until this ultimate decision could he had, he loudly censured the acts of the Baltimore conference in reference to his case, through the columns of “Mutual Rights,” thus appealing from the constituted authorities of the Church to the popular voice, invoking from this very equivocal tribunal a decision in his favor. All this had a tendency to widen the breach, and to make a reconciliation the more hopeless.

One of the leading champions of this “reform” was the Rev. Nicholas Snethen, who had been a very useful and influential traveling preacher for many years, but was now located, and lived in the neighborhood of Baltimore. He was recognized as the writer of several articles, under fictitious signatures, in the “Wesleyan Repository” and “Mutual Rights,” in which severe strictures were made upon our economy; and now, since action had commenced against the malcontents in the Baltimore conference, by which it was foreseen that others, implicated in the same warfare against the authorities and usages of the Church, would be called to answer for their conduct, Mr. Snethen avowed himself the author of these pieces, vauntingly placed himself in front of the reforming ranks, shouting, “Onward! brethren; onward!” pledging himself to suffer or triumph with them-thus exhibiting a spirit of moral heroism worthy of a better cause, and more befitting other times than those which called only for a bloodless warfare.

This conduct, however, brought forth a champion from the ranks of the local preachers, who, as he himself acknowledged, had been friendly to some slight changes in the structure of our church government, provided such changes should be thought expedient by the General Conference, and could be effected by pacific measures, without producing a convulsion in the body. He had long been an intimate and personal friend of Mr. Snethen, and therefore it was with some reluctance that he yielded to the paramount duty of sacrificing his personal friendship for the purpose of defending the “ancient landmarks,” and of placing himself in opposition to the innovations in contemplation by the “Reformers.” I allude to Doctor Thomas E. Bond, of Baltimore. In 1827 he published his “Appeal to the Methodists, in Opposition to the Changes proposed in their Church Government,” which was prefaced by an epistolary dedication to the Rev. Nicholas Snethen. This appeared to take Mr. Snethen and his friends by surprise, as they seemed to expect least of all such an appeal from the source whence it came, while it acted as a charm upon the minds of those who loved the institutions and prayed for the perpetual union and prosperity of the Church. The able manner in which Dr. Bond treated the subject, and refuted the arguments and exposed the pretensions of the “Reformers,” showed that he had thoroughly digested the questions at issue, had “counted the cost,” and was prepared to abide the results of the contest. Having, therefore, balanced the weight of the arguments for and against the proposed innovation, and fully made up a judgment in favor of the Church and its institutions, he wrote from the fullness of his heart, and the following passage from his “Appeal” will show the confident manner in which he anticipated the result of this severe and long-protracted struggle. After giving the outlines of our church government, and the general system of itinerant operations, he introduces the following spirited remarks

“It is this system of church government, so simple in its structure and efficient in its operation, so tested by experience and justified by success, and, withal, so sanctified in the feelings and affections of our people by the endearing associations with which it stands connected, that we are now called upon, not to modify, but radically to change; not to mend in some of its less important details, but to alter in its fundamental principles, and to substitute for it a speculative scheme of government, inapplicable to our circumstances, and therefore impossible to be effected; — a scheme founded on abstract notions of natural rights, but which none of its advocates have attempted to exhibit in any visible or tangible shape or form, and therefore they have carefully avoided the discussion of the parts most important in any system, namely, its practicability and expediency. Happy for us, the scheme is not new. In Europe it has had its day of noise and strife, and has ceased to agitate the Church; and in this country Mr. O’Kelly started it more than thirty years ago, left the Church, and drew off several of the preachers with him. He lived to see the ruins of the visionary fabric he had labored to erect, and to mourn over the desolation which he had brought upon that part of the vineyard, where, as a Methodist preacher, he so faithfully and usefully labored, but which he had afterward turned out to be ravaged and destroyed by “republican Methodism.” The formidable phalanx now arrayed against us may, it is feared, do us much harm, but we will take protection under that strong Arm which has heretofore defended us. Hitherto our history has shown that the great Head of the church had appointed us for a special work in his vineyard, and that he superintended and directed the labor, opening the way before our ministry, qualifying and sustaining them in their arduous labors, under circumstances which would have discouraged any but such as were assured of divine support, and who were prepared to believe in hope against hope. Great conflicts await us, but out of all the Lord will deliver us: while he is with us, the more we are oppressed, the more we shall multiply and grow. Let us be faithful to our calling — let us watch unto prayer. The present revolutionary scheme of our disaffected members will share the fate of all the similar projects which have preceded it. Our children will read of it in history, but, ere they take our places in the Church, the troubled waters shall have heard the voice of Him who says to the winds and the waves, Be still, and they obey his voice.”

This strong appeal, written throughout with a spirit and a style of argument which did honor to the head and heart of its author, exerted a most salutary influence upon all who had not fully committed themselves to the principles and measures of the “Reformers.” While it drew the lines more distinctly which divided the contending parties, it tended to cement closer together those who had so long cherished the institutions of Methodism, and to arm them with weapons of defense. Hitherto there had been some neutralists, who were looking on, not indeed with cold indifference, but with an anxious suspense, watching the result of the movements, and weighing the respective arguments, for the purpose of forming an intelligent decision. These acknowledged themselves much indebted to Dr. Bond for throwing additional light upon this subject, and thus saving them from lapsing into the sickly spirit of “reform:” and the Appeal doubtless had the greater weight for having been issued from the local instead of the traveling ministry, because it was supposed that the former had identified themselves more generally than the latter with the reforming party.

In the mean time a pamphlet had been issued, as was erroneously supposed at the time under the sanction of the Union Society, by Rev. Alexander McCaine,2727The author would gladly draw a veil over this affair, were it consistent with historic truth; but Mr. McCaine has so linked himself with this controversy that it is not possible to narrate the facts in the case without an exposure of the absurdities of his pamphlet; and hence his name is given to the public in connection with a transaction and as a voucher for declarations which have been as discreditable and false as they were injurious to the reputation of some of the purest men the world ever saw. in which he attempted to prove that surreptitious means had been used in the establishment of our Church; that our episcopacy was spurious, gotten lip against the wishes and without the knowledge of Mr. Wesley thus impugning the motives and impeaching the honesty of such men as Coke, Asbury, Whatcoat, and all those venerable men who composed the General Conference of 1784, and assisted in the organization of our Church. This appeared to be the climax of absurdities in the doings of the adverse party, and to reveal designs upon the integrity and the very existence of our episcopacy, and all those regulations and usages which connected themselves with that feature of our Church economy, which could not be any longer tolerated with impunity. It was therefore thought, by the friends of order and the advocates of our Church authorities, that the time had fully come for action — for such action as should test the solidity of our ecclesiastical structure, and the permanency of its foundation.

Indeed, these ungenerous attacks upon the best of men, most of whom were now dead, and therefore could not speak for themselves, aroused the spirits of those who had hitherto stood aloof from this controversy, and decided some who had been supposed to be friendly to the spirit of “reform” against the measure, inasmuch as they judged — most conclusively, it is thought — that a cause which could enlist in its behalf such unjustifiable means of attack and defense, could not be holy and good. This brought forth the late Bishop Emory, who was at that time an assistant book agent; and the Defense of our Fathers” proved his competency to defend those venerable men from the aspersions thrown upon them by the author of the “History and Mystery of Methodist Episcopacy.” This masterly defense of the men who organized our Church, and of ‘he organization itself, its principles, measures, and results, procured for its author that need of praise that is justly due to a faithful son of the Church, to an acute and able reasoner, and to one whose industry in collecting and arranging facts for the basis of his argumentation evinced the depth and accuracy of his research. This production was therefore hailed with delight by the friends of the Church, and tended, with some others of a similar character, published about the same time, to prove that the theory of the “Reformers” was a visionary scheme, indefensible by any arguments drawn from Scripture, from the ancient records of the Church, from the analogy of things, or from any improper means used in either the organization or naming of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This complete refutation of the groundless assumptions of Mr. McCaine’s book was read with great avidity, and procured for its author the thanks of all who wished well to our Zion.

But while these things tended to calm the fears of the timid, to confirm the wavering in the truth, and to strengthen the hearts of all who had heretofore reposed in the wisdom and integrity of our fathers in the gospel, they by no means satisfied those who appeared bent on carrying their measures at all hazards. On the contrary, their leaders seemed to struggle hard under disappointment, and to redouble their efforts in rallying their forces, and preparing them for victory or defeat, whenever the warfare should terminate. They had heretofore most evidently calculated on carrying with them many who now took a decided stand against them. This was a source of severe disappointment.2828In the second volume of this History I have given an account of the discussions upon the presiding elder question. There is reason to believe that the leading men among the “Reformers” calculated largely on the support of many, if not indeed most of those who favored the election of presiding elders; and it is probable that some of these would have gone with them had they kept within the bounds of moderation in their demands. Yet it ought to be remembered that the two questions had no necessary connection — that the one did not involve the other — and hence it is not surprising that some of the most firm, able, and successful opposers of this innovation were among those who bad favored the election of the presiding elders, and making them jointly responsible with the bishops for the appointments of the preachers. These showed, when the alternative was presented to their choice, that they loved Methodism better than its proposed substitute. The former they had tried, and found savory and healthful; the latter was an untried experiment, and judging from the fruit it had already produced, that it was not “good to make one wise, they declined the proffered boon as unworthy of their acceptance.

But, as before remarked, things had arrived at such a crisis in the city of Baltimore that it became necessary, in the opinion of those to whom the oversight of the Church was committed, to call some of the most prominent lenders in the work of “reform” to an account before the proper tribunals. Hence eleven local preachers and twenty-five lay members were regularly cited to appear before the preacher in charge of the Baltimore station, the Rev. James M. Hanson, to answer to the charge of “inveighing against our Discipline,” “speaking evil of our ministers,” and of violating the rule “which prohibits the members of the Church from doing harm, and requires them to avoid evil of every kind.”

This general charge was amply sustained by a reference to the Constitution of the Union Society, by numerous quotations from “Mutual Rights,” and from other sources. The delinquents were therefore found guilty, the local preachers were suspended, and the lay members expelled. While, however, these transactions were pending, before any decision was had, Dr. Bond once more threw himself in the gap, and endeavored to avert the suspended blow by acting the part of a mediator between the parties, and, if possible, thereby to prevent the storm from bursting on their heads. His efforts, however, were unavailing; the trials proceeded, and the penalty of the Discipline was finally inflicted, though with great reluctance, upon all those who had been summoned to trial, with the exception of two lay members.

One of the specifications which was adduced to sustain the general charge was their advising and requesting the publication of the “History and Mystery of Methodist Episcopacy;” but as it was found, on further examination, that its author alone was responsible for writing and publishing that work, this specification was withdrawn in reference to all the accused except Alexander McCaine; and he therefore was summoned before another committee of local preachers, tried separately, found guilty, and accordingly suspended.

As the district conference of local preachers had been dissolved, the trial of those who had been suspended by the committee of inquiry was brought before the quarterly meeting conference of the Baltimore station. But before the trial proceeded to an issue, Dr. J. C. Green, of Virginia, volunteered his services as a mediator between the parties, and the trial was postponed for the purpose of giving ample time to test the result of the negotiation. It was, however, unavailing, and the trial proceeded, and terminated in finding guilty, and the consequent expulsion, of the accused local preachers; and as they did not appeal, as they might, to the annual conference, they were finally considered no longer members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

To the lay members who had been found guilty before the act of expulsion was consummated, and with a view, if possible, to save himself and those concerned from the sad alternative which awaited them, Mr. Hanson sent each of the persons the following letter:—

“Baltimore, Nov. 23,1827.

“Brother: You are hereby informed that the committee appointed to investigate the charges and specifications lately preferred against you as a member of the Union Society, have, by a unanimous decision, found you guilty of said charges, together with the first and second specifications.

“Most willingly, my brother, would I now dispense with the painful duty which devolves upon me, could I do so as an honest man, and without abandoning the interests of the Church. Or had I cause to believe that the course now about to be pursued would lead you to make suitable reparation to that Church whose ministers and discipline you have assailed and misrepresented, and to abstain from the like offenses against the peace and harmony of said Church in future, it would tend more than any other consideration to diminish the painfulness of the obligation which my present situation imposes upon me. For, be assured, whatever my own opinion may be in regard to the course you may have pursued, as a member of t Union society, I most devoutly wish and pray that you may be led by the good Spirit of God to take those steps which will leave you still in the possession of all the rights and privileges of church fellowship.

“You must be considered as the arbiter of your own destiny, my brother, in this matter. Your brethren of the committee, men who fear God, whose characters stand fair in the Church, and who have disclaimed all feeling of personal hostility against you, have pronounced you, as a member of the Union society, guilty of endeavoring to sow dissensions in the society or Church of which you are a member, and of speaking evil of the ministers of said Church. To this conclusion they have been conducted by a careful and patient examination of the documents put into their hands as evidence in the case. You must, therefore, plainly perceive, that the only ground on which expulsion from the Church can be avoided is an abandonment of the Union Society, with assurances that you will give no aid in future to any publication or measure calculated to cast reproach upon our ministers, or occasion breach of union among our members.

“Be good enough then, my brother, to answer in writing the following plain and simple questions: —

  1. Will you withdraw forthwith from the Union Society?
  2. Will you in future withhold your aid from such publications and measures as are calculated to cast reproach upon our ministers, and produce breach of union among our members?

“Yours, &c. James M. Hanson.

“P.S. Your answer will be expected in the course of four or five days.”

After allowing sufficient time for deliberation, and receiving no answer, nor discovering any symptoms of reconciliation from any quarter, Mr. Hanson was compelled to the act, so exceedingly painful to an administrator of discipline, of pronouncing them excommunicated from the Methodist Episcopal Church. Thus was the separation, so long and so painfully anticipated, notwithstanding all the means used to prevent it, finally consummated, and the Church left to bleed under the wounds afflicted upon her by those whom she had once delighted to honor.

In the mean time similar proceedings were had in other places. We have already seen that the Union Society of Baltimore recommended that societies of the like character should be organized wherever a sufficient number ‘of persons could be found friendly to the measures of the “Reformers.” This recommendation had been complied with in a number of places; and wherever these societies existed, agitations and commotions, similar to those in Baltimore, had been the painful results. Hence, in the states of Tennessee and North Carolina, several members of these Union Societies had been tried and expelled from the Church for their refractory conduct, and for inveighing against the discipline and aspersing the character of the ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church. And in addition to those eleven local preachers and twenty-two laymen who were expelled in Baltimore, about fifty females, friends of the excommunicated brethren, addressed a letter to the ruling preacher, Mr. Hanson, expressing their desire to withdraw from the Church, which they were permitted to do without further trial.

It may be necessary here to correct an erroneous opinion, which prevailed to some extent at the time, respecting the cause of complaint against the “Reformers,” as they chose all along to call themselves.

Whoever will consult the writings of those days, in reference to this subject, will find complaints, on the part of the “Reformers,” that an attempt was made, by the advocates for the present order of things, to suppress inquiry, to abridge the freedom of speech and of the press, and that these trials were instituted, in part at least, as a punishment for exercising this freedom on the subjects that were then litigated. This was a great mistake. It was for an abuse of this freedom, for indulging in personal criminations, injurious to individual character, that the delinquents were tried and finally condemned. This will appear manifest to every person who will impartially inspect the charges, the specifications, and the testimony selected from the “Mutual Rights” to support the accusations, and also from the report of the General Conference on petitions and memorials. It was, indeed, expressly is avowed at the time by the prosecutors, and by all who had written on the subject, that they wished to suppress freedom of inquiry, either in writing or speaking, provided only that the debaters would confine their discussions to an investigation of facts and arguments, without impeaching the character and motives of those from whom they dissented.2929All these matters were set in a just point of light soon after these trials were closed, in a pamphlet which was published in the early part of the year 1828, entitled “A Narrative and Defense,” under the signatures of the prosecuting committee and the preacher in charge, the Rev. Mr. Hanson This “Narrative and Defense,” being supported by ample documentary testimony, is entitled to credit; and hence it is from this able defense of the authorities of the Church, and their proceedings in the cases at issue, that I have drawn the principal facts contained in the above sketch of this affair. From the Discipline afterward adopted by the “Reformers” I have taken some facts respecting their secession and subsequent transactions.

The expelled members in the city of Baltimore immediately formed themselves into a society, under the tide of “Associated Methodist Reformers;” and in the month of November, 1827 a convention assembled in that city, composed of ministers and lay delegates who had been elected by the state conventions and Union Societies. This convention prepared a memorial to the General Conference. The memorial was presented, read, and referred to a committee, and the following report, drawn up by the late Bishop Emory, and unanimously adopted by the conference, will show the result:

“The committee to whom were referred certain petitions and memorials, for and against a direct lay and local representation in the General Conference, submit the following report: —

“Of those which propose this revolution in our economy, that which has been received from a convention of certain local preachers and lay members, held in the city of Baltimore in November last, is presumed to embody the general views — of those who desire this change, and the chief arguments on which they rely. In framing a reply, in the midst of the various and pressing business of a General Conference, it cannot be reasonably expected that we should enter into minute details. Our remarks, of necessity, must be confined to a few leading topics, in condensed, yet, we trust, an intelligible form.

“As to the claim of right to the representation contended for, if it be a right which the claimants are entitled to demand, it must be either a natural or an acquired right. If a natural right, then, being founded in nature, it must be common to men, as men. The foundation of rights in ecclesiastical bodies, in our opinion, rests on a different basis. If it be alleged to be an acquired right, then it must have been acquired either in consequence of becoming Christians or of becoming Methodists. if the former, it devolves on the claimants to prove that this right is conferred by the holy Scriptures, and that they impose on us the corresponding obligation to grant the claim. That it is not’ forbidden’ in the New Testament is not sufficient; for neither is the contrary ‘forbidden.’ Or if the latter be alleged, namely, that it has been acquired in consequence of becoming Methodists, then it must have been either by some conventional compact, or by some obligatory principle in the economy of Methodism, to which, as then organized, the claimants voluntarily attached themselves. Neither of these, we believe, either has been or can be shown. And until one at least of these be shown, the claim of right, as such, cannot, we think, have been sustained.

“But do the memorialists mean to say that they are entitled to their claim, as a matter of right, against the judgment and the voice of a confessedly very large majority of their brethren, both of the ministry traveling and local, and also f the lay members? or that in these circumstances, on any ground, the claim ought to be admitted?. We Could not have believed them capable of so Strange a position, had they not declared the opinion as prevailing among themselves, ‘that the extension of the principle of representation to the members and the local preachers of the Church, by the General Conference, in compliance with a petition of this kind, at this conjuncture of time, would do more toward conciliating good feeling, restoring lost confidence among brethren, and confirming wavering minds, on all sides, than any other measure which can be adopted.’

“Now we ’speak advisedly’ when we say, that, in our judgment, such a measure, ‘at this conjuncture of time,’ would have a precisely contrary effect. The ministers assembled in General Conference, coming so recently from all parts of the great field of our missionary labors, and having had, throughout its whole extent, free and constant intercourse both with traveling and local preachers, and also with our lay members, are, certainly, at least as well prepared as the memorialists could have been to form L correct judgment on this point; and their calm and deliberate judgment is clearly and unhesitatingly as above-stated. This we believe, too, to be the true state of the question, after it has been so zealously discussed, on the side of the memorialists, for now nearly eight years’; during almost the whole of which time, until very recently, the discussion has been conducted almost exclusively by their own writers.

“We are aware that it has been assumed, by some at least of those writers, that this repugnance to the change proposed, on the part of so great a proportion both of our local preachers and lay members, to say nothing of the itinerant preachers, is the result of ignorance or want of intellect. This we conceive to be at least not a very modest assumption. Our opinion, on the contrary, is, while we freely admit that there are men of respectable information and intelligence who desire the change, that there are, nevertheless, very many more, of at least equally respectable information and intelligence, who are opposed to it, whether on the ground of right, of consistent practicability, or of utility.

“With regard to our local brethren particularly, it is our decided judgment that the privileges and advantages in which they have participated, in this country, have much rather exceeded than fallen short of what was contemplated in their institution, in the original economy of Methodism, as founded by the venerable Wesley, either in Europe or in America. We cannot but regret to perceive, that the addition of privilege to privilege seems only to have had the effect of exciting some of our brethren to claim still more and more; and now to begin to demand them as matters of positive and inherent right. We are happy to be able to say ’some’ only of our local brethren; for of the great body, even of themselves, we believe better things, though we thus speak. If; indeed, our members generally are tired of our missionary and itinerant system, and wish a change, then we could not be surprised if they should desire to introduce into our councils local men, whose views, and feelings, and interests, in the very nature and necessity of things, could not fail to be more local than those of itinerant men. And if to so powerful a local influence should be added, as would be added, the tendencies and temptations to locality which, in despite of all our better convictions, too often exist among ourselves, from domestic and personal considerations of a pressing character, we are free to confess our fears of the dangers to our itinerant economy which, in our opinion, could not fail, in time, to be the result. Now the preservation of the great itinerant system, unimpaired, in all its vital energies, we do conscientiously believe to be essential to the accomplishment of the grand original design of the economy of Methodism, to spread Scriptural holiness over these and other lands.

“The memorialists, we know, disavow any intention or desire to impair those energies, or to injure this system. Be it so. They can, however, only speak for themselves. They know not what may be the views of those who may come after them. And, in any event, our argument is, that the change proposed would, in its very nature, and from the inevitable connections of causes and effects, tend, gradually perhaps, yet not the less uncontrollably, to the results which we have mentioned.

“We know also that it has been insinuated that we adhere to the continuance of our present polity from motives of personal interest. For protection against such unkindness and injustice we rest on the good sense and candor of the community. It cannot but be well known that our present economy bears with a peculiar severity upon the personal and domestic comforts of the itinerant ministry. And even an enemy could scarcely fail to admit that, were we really ambitious of worldly interest, and of personal ease, and domestic comfort, we might have the discernment to perceive that the surest way to effect these objects would be to effect the changes proposed, and thus to prepare the way for the enjoyment of similar advantages, in these respects, to those now enjoyed by the settled ministry of other churches. And, indeed, were such a change effected, and should we even still continue itinerant, considering that, from the necessity of things, our wealthy and liberal friends would most generally be selected as delegates, we do not doubt that the change proposed might probably tend to increase our temporal comforts. We think this the more probable, because, if such a direct representation of the laity were admitted, their constituents might ultimately become obliged, by some positive provisions, fully to make up and pay whatever allowances might be made to the ministry; which allowances, in this event, might also more properly acquire the nature of a civil obligation. At present our economy knows no such thing. The great Head of the church himself has imposed on us the duty of preaching the gospel, of administering its ordinances, and of maintaining its moral discipline among those over whom the Holy Ghost, in these respects, has made us overseers. Of these also, namely, of gospel doctrines, ordinances, and moral discipline, we do believe that the divinely instituted ministry are the divinely authorized expounders; and that the duty of maintaining them in their purity, and of not permitting our ministrations, in these respects, to be authoritatively controlled by others, does rest upon us with the force of a moral obligation, in the due discharge of which our consciences are involved. It is on this ground that we resist the temptations of temporal advantage which the proposed changes hold out to us.

“On this point we beg, however, that no one may either misunderstand or misrepresent us. We neither claim nor seek to be ‘lords over God’s heritage.’ In the sense of this passage, there is but one Lord and one Lawgiver. We arrogate no authority to enact any laws of our own, either of moral or of civil force. Our commission is to preach the gospel, and to enforce the moral discipline, established by the one Lawgiver, by those spiritual powers vested in us, as subordinate pastors, who watch over souls as they that must give account to the chief Shepherd. We claim no strictly legislative powers, although we grant that the terms ‘legislature’ and ‘legislative’ have been sometimes used even among ourselves. In a proper sense, however, they are not strictly applicable to our General Conference. A mistake on this point has probably been the source of much erroneous reasoning, and of some consequent dissatisfaction. Did we claim any authority to enact laws to affect either life or limb, to touch the persons or to tax the property of our members, they ought, unquestionably, to be directly represented among us. But they know we do not. We certainly, then, exercise no civil legislation. As to the moral code, we are subject, equally with themselves, to one only Lord. We have no power to add to, to take from, to alter, or to modify a single item of his statutes. Whether laymen or ministers be the authorized expounders and administrators of those laws, we can confidently rely on the good Christian sense of the great body of our brethren to judge. These well know, also, that whatever expositions of them we apply to others, the same are applied equally to ourselves, and, in some instances, with peculiar strictness.

“No man is obliged to receive our doctrines merely because we believe and teach them, nor unless they have his own cordial assent. Neither is any man obliged to submit himself to what we believe to be the moral discipline of the gospel, and our duty to enforce, unless he believes it to be so also. In this view, at least, it cannot require any great share of either intelligence or candor to perceive some difference between our spiritual and pastoral oversight and the absolute sway of the ancient ‘Druids,’ and of the despots of ‘Babylon and Egypt,’ and of ‘India and Tartary.’ The subjects of their lawless power became so not by choice, but by birth. Neither had they the means, whatever might have been their desire, of escaping its grasp. Even in more modern days, and under governments comparatively free, the right of expatriation, without the consent of the government, has been denied. We do not subscribe to this doctrine, if applied to either church or state. The right of ecclesiastical expatriation, from any one branch of the Christian church to any other which may be preferred, for grave causes, we have never denied. Nor can we keep, nor are we desirous to keep, any man subject to our authority one moment longer than it is his own pleasure. We advert to this topic with great reluctance, but the memorialists compel us. If they will cease to compare us to despots, to whom we bear no analogy, we shall cease to exhibit the obvious distinction. Till then it is our duty to repel the imputation, so obstructive of our ministry. Expatriation, either civil or ecclesiastical, if we may continue this application of the term, may be painful, and attended with sacrifices. But we should certainly think it preferable to perpetual internal war. If our brethren can live in peace with us, in Christian bonds, we shall sincerely rejoice, and be cordially happy in their society and fellowship. But we entreat them not to keep us embroiled in perpetual strife. Our united energies are needed for higher and nobler purposes.

“We have been repeatedly told, in effect, that the doctrines, the moral discipline, and the peculiar Christian privileges of class meetings, love feasts, &c., in the Methodist Episcopal Church, are approved and esteemed, by the various memorialists themselves, above those of any other branch of the Christian church. Does it not then clearly follow, by their own admission, that, with all the faults of our government, this state of things has been preserved and maintained under the peculiar administrations of our itinerant system? And who will undertake to say that, under a gracious Providence, which has thus led us on, this has not, in a great measure at least, been the result of the distinctness of our polity from that of most other churches? And who will undertake to say that, were the changes proposed adopted, we should not gradually, though at first perhaps almost imperceptibly, begin to go the way of others? We speak to Methodists. They will judge what we say. The moral results of our past and present polity have been tried. Its fruits are before us, and confessed by the world. The experiment proposed, in connection with an essentially itinerant system, is untried. Its results, at best, must be problematical; and, in our opinion, there is no prospect of gain that can justify the hazard.

“With regard to our local brethren particularly, they have themselves explicitly said, that they ‘ask for no distinct representation of the local preachers.’ So far as this question is concerned, therefore, by their own consent, they can only be regarded as amalgamated with the laity: and our lay brethren, we apprehend, would not readily consent to its being considered in any other light.

“Were we disposed to retort the insinuation of sinister personal motives, how easy would it be for us to suggest that some of our local brethren who have deserted the itinerant field, (perhaps from its toils and privations,) and others who have never been pleased to leave domestic comforts and temporal pursuits to encounter its labors and sacrifices, may be so zealous in accomplishing the proposed change in order to cut up, or to bring down, the itinerant system to a nearer approximation to their temporal convenience. So that, in time, they might come, without the sacrifices at present necessary, to participate both in the pastoral charge, and, alas! in the envied pittance of those who now devote themselves wholly to the work, and are absolutely dependent for daily subsistence on the mere voluntary contributions of those whom they serve: (a check on their power indeed!) Such an imputation would be quite as kind and as true as many of those which are so liberally heaped on us. This course of argumentation, however, we deem unworthy of Christian brethren, and shall leave it for those who think their cause requires it. The man who can believe, or who can endeavor to persuade others, that we adhere to our present itinerant system for the sake of personal convenience, ease, or interest, or with the view of benefiting our posterity more than the posterity of our brethren, maybe pitied, but he places himself beyond the reach either of reasoning or of rebuke.

“The memorialists were sensible that ‘a plan’ of their proposed changes had been urgently called for, and seem to have been well aware that rational and conscientious men could not feel free to enter upon so great a revolution, in a system of such extent and of such connections, without a plan, clearly and frankly developed, and bearing the marks of having been carefully and judiciously devised. The memorialists indeed say, that, ‘independently of other considerations,’ they were ‘disposed to avoid the attempt to form a plan, out of deference to the General Conference.’ It would have been more satisfactory to us to have known what those ‘other considerations’ were. From some other circumstances, we cannot but apprehend that they probably had more influence in keeping back the expose of ‘a plan’ than the one mentioned here, of — ‘deference to the General Conference.’ On our part, we frankly confess ourselves incompetent to form any satisfactory plan, on any principles which we believe to be equal and efficient, and consistent with the energies and greatest usefulness of our extended missionary system. We think it, therefore, unreasonable, at least, to ask of us to contrive a ‘plan.’

“So far as we can judge from any experiment that has been made, in Europe or in America, we cannot perceive any great advantages which could be promised to the Church from the proposed change. Nor has the late convention in Baltimore afforded to our understanding any additional argument for its efficient practicability. Agreeably to the journal of that convention, one hundred persons were appointed to attend it, of whom fifty-seven only did attend, namely, from the state of New York, one; North Carolina, two Ohio, four; District of Columbia, four; Pennsylvania, seven; Virginia, ten; and Maryland, twenty-nine. Now that convention had been urgently called, by repeated public advertisements, and was expected to be held but a few days, to discuss subjects represented as of great importance and deep interest. Liberal invitations were given, and comfortable and free accommodations pledged. Yet, notwithstanding the novelty of the assembly, the pleasantness of the season, and other inviting circumstances, a very few more than one half of the whole number appointed attended. And had it required two-thirds of that number to constitute a quorum, as in our General Conference, after all their labor and expense, no business could have been done, for there would have been no quorum. Of the number that did attend, too, it will be perceived that a majority of the whole were from the state of Maryland, within which the convention was held; and, including the neighboring District of Columbia, a decisive majority. This exhibits a practical proof that, were a lay delegation even admitted, the consequence would be, that the extremities of our Church would not be, in fact, represented at all, but would be subjected to the overwhelming control of those within the vicinity of the seat of the conference; a state of things which, we believe, is not desirable. This may serve also, perhaps, to account, in some measure, for the great zeal which some of our brethren have exhibited in this cause, particularly in the state of Maryland and the adjoining district, and in the city of Baltimore, where the General Conference has usually been held. Were it established that the General Conference should always be held in St. Louis or New Orleans, or any other remote part, we cannot but think that the zeal of some, in that case, would probably be very much abated. Even they would scarcely be willing to travel so great a distance, at so much expense and loss of time, to remain three or four weeks at a General Conference.

“In another document, issued by the convention above alluded to, they say, ‘We have been laboring with great attention and perseverance to put the public in possession of our views as fast as we can.’ They have also had in circulation for many years a monthly periodical publication, for the express purpose of diffusing their views and advocating their cause, besides the institution of what have been called Union Societies, and of late a convention. Yet, after all these exertions, the great body of our ministers, both traveling and local, as well as of our members, perhaps not much if any short of one hundred to one, still oppose their wishes. This, as before said, has been assumed to be from ignorance or want of intellect, or from some worse principle. But we believe it to be the result of a firm and deliberate attachment to our existing institutions and economy an attachment which we have the happiness of believing to be increased, rather than diminished, in proportion to the development of the details of any plans which the memorialists have yet seen fit to exhibit. We put it, then, to the good sense, to the Christian candor, and to the calmer and better feelings of our brethren, whether it be not time to cease to agitate and disturb the Church with this controversy? — at least, if it must be continued, whether it be not time to divest it of that acrimony and virulence which, in too many instances, we fear, has furnished fit matter for the scoff of the infidel and the reproach of common enemies? If this state of things be continued, how can it be said, ‘See how these Christians love one another!’ It grieves us to think of it. We weep between the porch and the altar; and our cry is, ‘Spare, O Lord! spare thy people, and give not thine heritage to this reproach.’

“We know that we have been charged with wishing to suppress free inquiry, and with denying to our ministers and members the liberty of speech and of the press. Our feelings, under such reiterated and widely circulated charges, would tempt us to repel them with strong expressions. If reviled, however, we are resolved not to revile again. But the charge we wholly disavow. Our ministers and members, of every class, are entitled to the full liberty of speech and of the press, equally with any other citizens of the United States, subject solely to the restrictions and responsibilities imposed by the laws of the land, by the obligations of Christianity, and by the existing regulations under which we are voluntarily associated, as Methodists and as Methodist ministers. The rule in our Discipline, ‘sec. 7, p.91,’ (new edition, p. 88,) of which some of the memorialists complain, never was intended (and we are not aware that it has at any time been officially so construed) to suppress such freedom of inquiry, or to deny such liberty of speech and of the press; provided such inquiry be conducted, and such liberty be used, in a manner consistent with the above-mentioned obligations. The design of the rule was to guard the peace and union of the Church against any mischievous false brethren, who might be disposed to avail themselves of their place in the bosom of the Church to endeavors to sow dissensions, by inveighing against our doctrines or discipline, in the sense of unchristian railing and violence. Any other construction of it we have never sanctioned, nor will we. In this view of this rule, we cannot consent to its abolition. On the contrary, we regard it as a Christian and useful rule, and particularly necessary, at the present time, for the well-being of the Church. It is aimed against licentiousness, and not against liberty. In the state, as well as in the church, it is found necessary to subject both speech and the press to certain legal responsibilities, which undoubtedly operate as restraints, and tend to guard against licentiousness, by exposing offenders to penalties corresponding to the extent of their abuse of liberty. And we confess ourselves among the number of those who, with statesmen and jurists, as well as divines, maintain that even a despotic government is preferable to a state of unbridled anarchy.

“By insinuations of the above description, and by others of an analogous character, attempts have been made to excite against us the jealousy and suspicion of statesmen and politicians, and of the constituted authorities of the civil government. This low stratagem we have always regarded as peculiarly deserving the rebuke of every generous mind, even among our opponents: and we cannot believe otherwise than that it had its origin either in some distempered mind or some perverted heart. The memorialists wish the government of the Church to be assimilated to that of the state. We think, on the other hand, that as there neither is nor ought to be any connection between church and state, so neither is there any obligation or necessity to conform the government of the one to that of the other. That both their origin and their objects differ; and that to aim at conforming them to each other would be more likely, in the course of human events, to terminate in their amalgamation, than the course of denying such analogy, and maintaining the two jurisdictions on their peculiarly distinctive bases, under regulations adapted to the objects for which they were severally designed. In the instances of civil and religious despotism alluded to by the memorialists, as recorded in history, the powers of church and state were combined, and no means were left to the people of appealing or of escaping from the one or from the other. The first step toward producing such a state of things would be to bring ministers of religion and officers of state into a nearer alliance with each other, and thus gradually to effect an assimilation of views, and feelings, and interests. The way being thus prepared, politicians and statesmen might be introduced into our ecclesiastical councils, and, by a ‘mutual’ combination, aid each other in the accumulation of power and influence. We do not affirm that any of the memorialists seriously meditate such designs. But we do say, that, according to our understanding of the natural tendency of things, the change proposed is just such a one as would be most likely to be adopted by men of policy for the accomplishment of such an object; and that, in the present state of the world, nothing would be more impolitic than the continuance of our present economy with any such ambitious schemes in view as some, we fear, and must say, have malevolently insinuated.

“With regard to what have been called ‘Union Societies,’ we consider the organization of these distinct bodies within the bosom of the Church as the baneful source of the principal evils which of late have so painfully afflicted and distracted some portions of our charge. Such associations, within the pale of the Church, have arrayed and combined all the workings of the spirit of patty in their most pernicious and destructive forms. They have drawn a line of separation between those who compose them and their brethren, as organized and systematic adversaries. They have separated chief friends; they have severed the most sacred and endearing ties; and have caused and fomented discord and strife in circles before distinguished for peace and love. And under whatever plausible pretexts they may have been instituted, the Church generally, we believe, has regarded them as calculated, if not designed, either to obstruct the due administration of discipline, by overawing the administration of it, or to prepare an organized secession, in case they should fail in modeling the Church according to their wishes. With these associations numbers, we have no doubt, unwarily became connected at first, from various views, who now feel a difficulty in disentangling themselves. If, however, the real object of their original institution was to secure an identity of views in the communications to be presented to this General Conference, that object having been now accomplished, we affectionately and respectfully submit it to the peacefully disposed among our brethren who may yet compose them, whether there can yet be any remaining obligation to continue in them; and whether, in fact, they ought not now to be dissolved. In our opinion, considering what have been their past operation and effects, the general peace of the Church can never be restored and settled on any firm and lasting basis till this shall be done.

“We might add much more, but the time fails us. We entreat our brethren to be at peace. It is our earnest and sincere desire. In order to it, on our part, we have advised, and do hereby advise and exhort all our brethren, and all our ecclesiastical officers, to cultivate on all occasions the meekness and gentleness of Christ; and to exercise all the lenity, moderation, and forbearance which may be consistent with the purity of our institutions, and the due and firm administration of necessary discipline, the sacrifice of which we could not but deem too costly, even for peace.

“In conclusion, we say to brethren, ‘If there be, therefore, any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye our joy, that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let the peace of God rule in our hearts, to the which also we are called in one body; and let us be thankful. Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and any praise, let us think on these things. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking be put away from us, with all malice. And ‘nay the God of love and peace be with us.’”

The following resolutions were adopted also, nearly unanimously: —

“Whereas an unhappy excitement has existed in some parts of our work, in consequence of the organization of what have been called Union Societies, for purposes, and under regulations, believed to be inconsistent with the peace and harmony of the Church; and in relation to the character of much of the matter contained in a certain periodical publication, called ‘Mutual Rights,’ in regard to which certain expulsions from the Church have taken place: and whereas this General Conference indulges a hope that a mutual desire may exist for conciliation and peace, and is desirous of leaving open a way for the accomplishment of so desirable an object, on safe and equitable principles; therefore, Resolved, &c.,

“1. That in view of the premises, and in the earnest hope that this measure may tend to promote this object, this General Conference affectionately advises that no further proceedings may be had, in any part of our work, against any minister or member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, on account of any past agency or concern in relation to the above-named periodical, or in relation to any Union Society as above mentioned.

“2. If any persons, expelled as aforesaid, feel free to concede that publications have appeared in said ‘Mutual Rights,’ the nature and character of which were unjustifiably inflammatory, and do not admit of vindication; and that others, though for want of proper information, or unintentionally, have yet, in fact, misrepresented individuals and facts, and that they regret these things: if it be voluntarily agreed, also, that the Union Societies above alluded to shall be abolished, and the periodical called ‘Mutual Rights’ be discontinued at the close of the Current volume, which shall be completed with due respect to the conciliatory and pacific design of this arrangement; then this General Conference does hereby give authority for the restoration to their ministry or membership respectively, in the Methodist Episcopal Church, of any person or persons so expelled, as aforesaid; provided this arrangement shall be mutually assented to by any individual or individuals so expelled, and also by the quarterly meeting conference, and the minister or preacher having the charge in any circuit or station within which any such expulsion may have taken place; and that no such minister or preacher shall be obliged, under this arrangement, to restore any such individual as leader of any class or classes, unless in his own discretion he shall judge it proper so to do; and provided also, that it be further mutually agreed that no other periodical publication, to be devoted to the same controversy, shall be established on either side; it being expressly understood, at the same time, that this, if agreed to, will be on the ground, not of any assumption of right to require this, but of mutual consent, for the restoration of peace; and that no individual will be hereby precluded from issuing any publication which he may judge proper, on his own responsibility. It is further understood, that any individual or individuals who may have withdrawn from the Methodist Episcopal Church, on account of any proceedings in relation to the premises, may also be restored, by mutual consent, under this arrangement, on the same principles as above stated.”

This decision, so far as the General Conference was concerned, set the question at rest, giving all concerned distinctly to understand that such a radical change in our government could not be allowed, and therefore all efforts directed to that end were and would be unavailing.

Some have expressed their surprise that the General Conference was so unwilling to yield to the voice of the people! The answer is, that the voice of the people was yielded to, so far as it could be heard and understood. It is believed that nine-tenths of our people throughout the United States, could they have been heard, were decidedly opposed to the innovations which were urged. They were not only contented with the present order of things, but they loved their institutions, venerated their ministers, and were astounded at the bold manner in which they were both assailed from the pulpit and the press. In resisting, therefore, the proposed changes, the conference believed it went with, and not against, the popular voice of the Church; and the result has proved that it was not in error; for it has been fully sustained in its course by the great body of preachers and people in all the annual conferences and throughout the entire Church; and it has, moreover, had the sanction of at least some of the “Reformers” themselves, who have become convinced that they calculated on a higher state of individual and social perfection than they have found attainable, and that it is much easier to shake and uproot established institutions than it is to raise up and render permanent a new order of things truth which should teach all revolutionists the necessity of caution and moderation in their measures.

It will be perceived that one of the resolutions in the above report proposed terms on which the expelled members might be restored to their former standing in the Church. It is not known, however, that any of them availed themselves of this privilege; but, on the contrary, a very considerable number, both in Baltimore and other places, withdrew from the Church, and put themselves under the wing of “reform;” while a few, who still proved refractory, in Cincinnati, Lynchburg, and some other places, were tried and expelled. The exact number lost to the Church I have not been able to ascertain; but by turning to the Minutes of our conferences, and comparing the numbers for 1828 with those for 1829, I find the increase of members to be 29,305,3030This increase appears after deducting the members in the Canada conference, which were, in 1827, 8,595. Had these been included, the entire increase would have appeared, as it in reality was, 57,900, and of preachers 275. The reason why these were not included was, the Canada conference had become independent. and of preachers 175; for 1830 the increase of members is 28,257, and of preachers 83. And as this is quite equal to the usual increase from one year to another, the secession could not have included a great number of either members or preachers. In the cities of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati were found the greatest number of “Reformers.” 3131   Though I have earnestly sought, from various sources, to ascertain the exact number who were expelled and who seceded from the Church, as well as the numbers now belonging to the “Methodist Protestant Church,” I have not been able to obtain the information. If any one will furnish me with this very desirable information, from any authentic source, I will most gladly avail myself of it to perfect this account in a future edition. However, that the reader may perceive how far the Church was affected in the above-mentioned cities by the secession, I have prepared the following tabular view [not tabular in the electronic edition — DVM] of the number of white members in each of them from 1827 to 1831, inclusive:
   New York — 1827: 3,219; 1828: 3,416; 1829: 3,473; 1830: 3,866; 1831: 4,889.

   Philadelphia — 1827: 3,633; 1828: 3,882; 1829: 4,440; 1830: 4,678; 1831: 4,859.

   Baltimore — 1827: 3,631; 1828: 3,886; 1829: 4,119; 1830: 4,295; 1831: 5,059.

   Pittsburgh — 1827: 737; 1828: 655; 1829: 676; 1830: 630; 1831: 700.

   Cincinnati — 1827: 901; 1828: 915; 1829: 929; 1830: 1,171; 1831: 1,495.

   As the colored members were not much affected either way by these agitations, I have left them out of the estimate; and it will be seen that there was a gradual increase in all the above cities from 1827 to 1831, the years in which the “Methodist Protestants” were maturing their organization, except Pittsburgh, and the decrease here was only eighty-two in 1828, and forty-six in 1830. The number, therefore, who left us, instead of being from twenty to thirty thousand, as was reported at the time, must have been very few, or the rivals and admittances very considerable; and either alternative shows on which side of the question at issue the public mind preponderated; and if revivals of religion and an increase of membership may be relied on as an evidence of the divine approbation, we have had ample testimony in favor of our proceedings and general system of operations: we may therefore, with thankfulness, adore the God of our salvation for his unmerited goodness toward us as a people, even in the midst of our manifold failures and infirmities.

   It is a fact worthy of record, not, indeed, as matter of vain boasting but of humble gratitude to the Author of all good, that “no weapon” hitherto “formed against us has prospered” — nor will it, so long as we cleave unto God with full purpose of heart; but “if we forsake him he will cast us off for ever,” May we then take heed to our ways, that we sin not with our lips, nor charge God foolishly in any of our conduct!
Here they organized churches and established congregations in conformity to their improved plan of procedure: but it is believed that in all these as their influence has been on the wane for some time, and that, while several have returned to the Church which they had left, others have become wear and vexed with “reform,” being convinced that they calculated too highly on the perfection of human nature not to be disappointed in their expectations.

It seems right, therefore, that the reader may have an intelligent view of the whole matter, that he should be informed what their plans were, that he may perceive the improvements with which they designed to perfect the system adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church. In the month of November of this year the “Associated Methodist Churches” held a convention in the city of Baltimore, at which a provisional government was formed until a constitution and book of discipline could be prepared at a future convention. This convention assembled in the city of Baltimore on the second day of November, 1830, and was composed of an equal number of lay and clerical delegates from several parts of the Union, representing thirteen annual conferences,3232   Some of these conferences must have been very small, for in looking over the list of delegates I find them in the following proportions — From Vermont, two; Massachusetts, two; New York and Canada, one; Genesee, eight; New York, two; Pennsylvania, twenty-eight; Maryland, twenty-eight; Virginia, twelve; North Carolina, six; Georgia, four; Alabama, two; Ohio, sixteen; Western Virginia, two; in all, one hundred and thirteen. But as there were thirty-one absentees, the convention was composed of eighty-two.
   From the above the reader may see in what portions of our country the “Reformers” were the most numerous. Among those who composed this convention there were, I believe, but two, the Rev. Messrs. Asa Shinn and George Brown, both of the Pittsburgh conference, who were traveling preachers at the time they withdrew from us and joined the “Reformers.” The rest among the clerical delegates were all local preachers, some of whom had once been in the itinerant ministry, but had located, and two had been expelled. This shows how feeble an impression had been made on the traveling ministry in favor of “reform.”
and continued its sessions until the twenty-third of the same month. The convention proceeded to the adoption of a “constitution,” the first article of which fixed the title of the new “Association” to be “The Methodist Protestant Church,” and the whole community was divided into “districts,” “circuits,” and “stations;” — the “districts,” comprising the bounds of an annual conference, to be composed of an equal number of ordained itinerant ministers and delegates, elected either from the local preachers or lay members; — the General Conference was to consist of an equal number of ministers and laymen, to be elected by the annual conferences, and must assemble every seventh year for the transaction of business.

The offices of bishop and presiding elder were abolished, and both the annual and General Conferences were to elect their presidents by ballot to preside over their deliberations; and the presidents of annual conferences were also to travel through their districts, to visit all the circuits and stations, and, as far as practicable, to be present at quarterly and camp meetings; — to ordain, assisted by two or more elders, such as might be duly recommended; to change preachers in the interval of conference, provided their consent be first obtained. The chief points, therefore, in which they differ from us are, that they have abolished episcopacy, and admit laymen to a participation of all the legislative and judicial departments of the government. Class, society, and quarterly meetings, annual and General Conferences, and an itinerant ministry, they have preserved. They also hold fast the fundamental doctrines of our Church and its moral discipline. The verbal alterations which they have introduced into some portions of the prayers, moral and prudential regulations, will not, it is believed, enhance their worth in the estimation of any sober and enlightened mind. This, however, may be more a matter of taste than of sound verbal criticism, as it is hardly to be supposed that judicious men would alter “the form of sound words” merely for the sake of altering.

Though a separate community was thus established, it was a considerable time before the agitations ceased. It was but natural for those who had withdrawn from the Church to attempt a justification of themselves fore the public by assigning reasons for their proceedings, and by an effort to put their antagonists in the wrong. And as they had a periodical at their. command, writers were not wanting to volunteer their services in defense of their measures, and in opposition to what they considered the objectionable features of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This called for defense on the part of those more immediately implicated by the writers in “Mutual Rights.” And as Baltimore had been the chief seat of the controversy from the beginning, and as it was thought not advisable to make the columns of the Christian Advocate and Journal a medium for conducting the controversy, the brethren in that city established a weekly paper, called “The Itinerant,” which was devoted especially to the vindication of the government, ministers, and usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church, containing, in the mean time, animadversions upon the newly constituted government, and a replication to the arguments of its advocates in its defense. Many very able pieces appeared from time to time in “The Itinerant,” in defense of the proceedings of the authorities of the Church in the city of Baltimore, of the General Conference, and those annual conferences which had acted in the premises. These contributed greatly to settle the questions at issue on a just and firm basis, and to show that these things were susceptible of a Scriptural and rational defense.

But the spirit of contention, which had long been impatient of control, at length became wearied, and the combatants gradually retired from the field of controversy, the Itinerant was discontinued, and the Christian Advocate and Journal, which had, indeed, said but little on the subject, proposed a truce, which seemed to be gladly accepted by the dissentient brethren, and they were left to try the strength of their newly formed system without further molestation from their old brethren.

On a review of these things, we find much to humble us, and yet much to excite our gratitude. In all struggles of this sort the spirits of men are apt to become less or more exasperated, brotherly love to be diminished, and a strife for the mastery too often usurps the place of a holy contention “for the faith once delivered to the saints.” That the present discussion partook more or less of these common defects, on both sides, may be granted, without yielding one iota of the main principles for which we contend. Indeed, truth itself may sometimes have cause to blush for the imperfect and often rude manner in which its disciples attempt to vindicate its injured rights; while error may be defended by the wily arts of its advocates with an assumed meekness and forbearance which may smooth over its rough edges by their ingenious sophistry so effectually as to beguile the simple hearted, until the serpent clasps them in its deceitful and relentless coils. But extricate yourself from its painful grasp, expose its serpentine course, and denounce, in just terms of reprobation, its delusive schemes, and it will throw off its disguise, and pour forth, in blustering terms, its denunciations against you, with a view to blacken your character, and render you odious in the estimation of the wise and good. It will then complain of that very injustice which it attempted to inflict on you, and will repel all complaints of its own unfairness by a repetition of its offensive epithets. Truth, however, has no need to resort to finesse, to intrigue, to epithets of abuse, in its own defense. Though it can never falsify its own principles, nor yield to the demands of error, either in complaisance to its antagonists or to soften the tones of honesty and uprightness with which it utters its sentiments, yet it seeks not to fortify its positions by a resort to the contemptible arts of sophistry, nor to silence its adversaries by a substitution of personal abuse for arguments. It expresses itself fearlessly and honestly, without disguise or apology, leaving the consequences to its sacred Author.

How far these remarks may apply to those who engaged in the present contest I pretend not to determine. But whatever may have been the defects in the spirit and manner in which the controversy was conducted, we rejoice that it has so far terminated, and that we may now calmly review the past, may apologize for mistakes, forgive injuries, whether real or imaginary, and exercise a mutual spirit of forbearance toward each other. For whatever imperfections of human nature may have been exhibited on either side, we have just cause of humiliation; and while they teach us the infinite value of the atoning blood to cover all such aberrations, they furnish lessons of mutual forbearance and forgiveness.

But while this humbling view of the subject deprives us of all just cause of boasting, we may, it is thought, perceive much in the result which should excite our gratitude. To the intelligent friends of our Church organization, of our established and long continued usages and institutions, it gave an opportunity of examining their foundation, of testing their soundness and strength, and of defending them against their assailants. Having proved them susceptible of a Scriptural and rational vindication; we have reason to believe that they became not only better understood, but more highly appreciated and sincerely loved. Experience and practice having furnished us with those weapons of defense to which we might otherwise have remained strange, we have learned the lessons of wisdom from the things we have been called to suffer, and an increased veneration for our cherished institutions has been the beneficial consequence. Greater peace and harmony within our borders succeeded to the storms of agitation and division. Our own Church organization and plans of procedure have been made to appear more excellent from contrasting them with those substituted by the seceding party; and so far as success may be relied upon as a test of the goodness and beneficial tendency of any system of operations, we have no temptation to forsake “the old paths” for the purpose of following in the track of those who have opened the untrodden way of “reform,” or to be shaken by the strong “protest” they have entered against our peculiar organization and manner of conducting our affairs.

In narrating the facts in this perplexing case I have aimed at historical truth. In doing this I may have wounded the feelings of some who were the more immediate actors in the scenes which have passed before us. This, however, was very far from my intention. I have, indeed, labored most assiduously to present the facts in as inoffensive language as possible, consistently with the demands of impartial history, and therefore hope to escape the censure justly due to those who willfully pervert the truth or misinterpret its language. No will I claim for myself any other apology for unintentional errors than fallible humanity has a right to exact from candid criticism. And now that the struggle is over, may we all, pursuing our respective modes of doing good, “as far as possible, live peaceably with all men.”

The cause of missions, of education, and of the American Colonization Society, was duly considered, and highly recommended to the approbation and support of our people; and the reports and resolutions in reference to these several subjects no doubt tended much to advance their respective claims upon the public munificence.

The constitutional term of Nathan Bangs, as editor and general book agent, having expired, he was elected editor of the Christian Advocate and Journal, and John Emory was appointed to succeed him in the general editorship and agency, and Beverly Waugh was elected the assistant of Dr. Emory.

The following provision was made respecting the appointment of trustees: — When a new board of trustees is to be created, it shall be done (except in those states and territories where the statutes provide differently) by the appointment of the preacher in charge, or by the presiding elder;” — thus approving the election of trustees according to the laws of the respective states and territories, and at the same time providing for the manner in which they shall be appointed where no such laws exist.

The Rev. William Capers was elected as a delegate to represent us to the Wesleyan Methodist conference in the succeeding month of July, and he bore with him the following address: —


Of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, to the Wesleyan Methodist Conference.

“Beloved Fathers and Brethren: — Having, by the mercy of our God, brought the present session of our General Conference near to a close, we avail ourselves of this opportunity to convey to you our Christian salutations. Our beloved brother, the Rev. William Capers, whom we have elected as our representative to your conference, will more fully explain to you the state of our affairs, the strong affection we bear to you as our elder brethren, and our fervent desire to preserve with you the bond of peace and the unity of the Spirit.

“Our present session, though laborious, and involving various and important points vitally connected with the interests of our Church, and of Christianity generally, has been marked with general harmony of feeling and mutual good-will; and we humbly trust it will tend to strengthen the bond of union among ourselves, more fully to combine our strength, to concentrate and harmonize our views and affections, and to give a new impulse to the great work in which we are engaged.

“To stimulate us to diligence in this most sacred of all causes, the bright example of your persevering efforts in the cause of God is placed before us. Deriving our doctrines from the same great fountain of truth, the Holy Scriptures, and admitting the same medium of interpretation, the venerated Wesley and his coadjutors, and, we humbly hope, pursuing the same great objects, the present and future salvation of souls, we desire ever to cultivate with you the closest bond of union and Christian fellowship. Under the influence of these views and feelings, we have rejoiced in your prosperity, and witnessed with unmingled pleasure the extension of your work, particularly in your missionary department.

“With you, also, we have our portion of afflictions. Through the disaffection of some, and the honest, though, as we think, mistaken zeal of others, in some parts of our extended work, the harmony of our people has been disturbed, and principles, to us novel in their character, and deleterious in their influence on the excellent system we have received from our fathers, have been industriously circulated. Though we may not flatter ourselves that these unhappy excitements are fully terminated, yet we presume to hope that the decided and almost unanimous expression of disapprobation to such proceedings by this General Conference, and among our preachers and people generally, will greatly weaken the disaffection, and tend to correct the errors of the wandering, as well as to confirm and strengthen the hands of all who desire to cleave to the Lord ‘in one faith, one baptism, and one hope of our calling.’

“Since our last session, we have witnessed, with joy and gratitude, an unusual effusion of the Holy Spirit. Revivals of religion have been numerous and extensive in almost every part of our continent. Upward of sixty-nine thousand have been added to our Church during the past four years, and the work is still extending. Stretching our lines over so large a continent, many parts of our work, particularly in the new settlements, require great personal sacrifices to carry to them the blessings of our ministry, and much diligence and patient perseverance to preserve our beloved people in the unity of the faith. For these great objects we are not sufficient — ‘our sufficiency is of God.’ But having devoted ourselves exclusively to this work, and confiding in the strength and goodness of Him whose we are, and whom we profess to serve in the fellowship of the gospel, we hope not to faint in the day of trial, but to persevere in conveying the glad tidings of peace to the destitute inhabitants of our land, until every part of it shall break forth into singing, and hail with joy the coming of the Lord.

“Cheered with this prospect, we are endeavoring to strengthen each other in the Lord. And the happy results of our missionary labors, both among the frontier settlements of our white population and the Indian tribes, particularly the latter, are pleasing indications of the divine approbation. It does, indeed, seem as if the set time had come to favor these lost tribes of our wildernesses, and to bring them into the fold of Christ. These natives, hitherto ‘peeled and scattered,’ in the United States and territories, as well as in Upper Canada, are bowing to the yoke of Christ with astonishing alacrity, and thus giving evidence that his grace is sufficient to convert even the heart of a savage, and to transform him to the gentleness of Christ. On this subject, however, we need not enlarge, but refer you to our periodical works — the extensive circulation of which among our people gives increased impulse to the work, carrying information, cheering and delightful, to many thousands, of the efficacy and triumph of redeeming mercy — and to our beloved brother and representative, the bearer of this address, who will more particularly tell you, ‘face to face,’ how much we rejoice to be co-workers with you in the extensive field of labor, and to witness such evident tokens of the divine goodness to our fallen world.

“Recollecting the Christian deportment, the ministerial gravity and dignity, and, what is more endearing to us, the brotherly affection of your late delegate to our conference, the Rev. Richard Reece, and his amiable companion, the Rev. John Hannah, both of whom have left a sweet savor behind them, we take much pleasure in giving to you this renewed assurance of our unabated attachment to those doctrines, and that discipline, by which both you and we are distinguished; to set our seal to the maxim, that ‘the Wesleyan Methodists are one throughout the world;’ and also our desire that the intercourse between us, by the mutual exchange of delegates, may be kept up and continued; and that, as a means of our edification and comfort, we shall be happy to receive whomsoever you may appoint to visit us at our next session.

“With sentiments of unfeigned respect and Christian affection, we are, dear brethren, one with you in the fellowship of Jesus Christ.

“Signed in behalf of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held at Pittsburgh, (Pa.,) May, 1828.

“Enoch George, President. “Martin Ruter, Secretary.”

Thus closed the labors of the General Conference of 1828, and here I close the third volume of this History, with an expression of gratitude to the Author of all good for sparing my life and health so far to complete my undertaking.

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