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and expedience. The history of such institutions, from their earliest establishment, admonishes us that the speculators of human science have but too frequently obscured and adulterated the doctrines of the revelation of God, and that, in many cases, where they have been commenced on evangelical ground, in their onward course they have wandered into the wilderness of metaphysical disquisitions, or been lost in the still darker regions of "rational Christianity." When the history, doctrines, evidences, and duties of the revelation of God shall form a distinct and primary department of study in our institutions of learning our children be dedicated to God, and trained up in his knowledge and fear, and the whole church united in devout and fervent prayer that God would raise up, and send forth into his vineyard, men of his own selection, and Scriptural proofs required of those who profess to be called to preach the gospel, it is believed that human agency will have reached its legitimate bounds in the premises, and that this great concern will be perfectly secure with the supreme Head of the church, to whom alone belongs the authority to perpetuate the ministry of his gospel to the end of the world. But should this body differ from us with regard to the expediency of establishing institu tions for theological education separate from our literary establishments, and for the exclusive purpose of preparing the students for the work of the ministry, we cannot too strongly recommend to you the propriety and importance of having the whole subject under the direction and control of the General Conference. We are well persuaded that your wisdom and experience will lead you to apprehend the great impropriety of sectional institutions in the church for such purpose. To intrust a matter of such vast moment to a self-organized association, or to an annual conference, or connection of annual conferences, we apprehend would be a precedent of dangerous tendency, which might ultimately affect the church in matters of vital im. portance.
A regular and uniform course of study for the under graduates in the ministry has, in our judgment, a special claim to your attention at your present session. At a former session it was made the duty of the general superintendents to point out a course of study for the candidates, preparatory to their admission into full connection, with dis. cretionary privilege of appointing a committee for that purpose. By this rule, no provision is made for a course of study for preachers for the two years previous to their induction to the office of elders. This has been thought to be a defect in the system, and, at the request of many of the annual conferences, an advisory course has been prepared, embracing these two years. The result, as far as we have knowledge, has been very advantageous in the improvement of the ministry. And we recommend to the General Conference to extend the course so as to embrace the whole period from the time of admission on trial until the full powers of the ministry are conferred. The situation of the superintendents is such, in visiting all parts of the work, extending over all the states and territories, as to render it extremely difficult, and for the most part impracticable, without great labor and expense, to meet for consultation with each other on this, or any other, important interest of the church; and their duties are so various and weighty as to incline them to the opinion that the
great object contemplated in this provision would be better accomplished by a uniform course of study prepared by this body, and published in our form of Discipline.
The local ministry is to be regarded as forming an important department in our system. They are truly helpers in the work of the Lord. As such we should always esteem them. And nothing should be neglected which has a tendency to preserve and strengthen the bonds of affection and confidence between them and the itinerant connection. Many of this useful class of ministers have deeply felt the necessity of a regular system of study, adapted, as far as prac ticable, to the condition and circumstances of local preachers, embracing studies preparatory to their receiving license, and extending to the time of their graduating to the office of elders. Many and great advantages might doubtless be derived from such a course, judiciously formed in adaptation to the circumstances of our local brethren, whose time must necessarily be employed, to a greater or less extent, in secular avocations. We recommend the subject to your deliberate consideration.
We invite your particular attention to a review of the process prescribed in the Discipline in the provision for locating a preacher without his consent. The course directed in case of the trial of a superannuated preacher, residing without the bounds of the annual conference of which he is a member, is found to be attended with great inconvenience, and is liable to result in injustice to the accused, or injury to the church. A considerable number of superannuated preachers (and the number is constantly increasing) have their residence many hundred miles from the bounds of the conferences where they hold their membership. The consequence is, that it repeatedly occurs, that the communications which the Discipline requires them to make to their own conference fail to be received, in which cases the passage of their characters may be involved, and they are liable to be deprived of their regular allowance, even when they sustain the fairest reputation, and when they are in real need of the amount to which they have a lawful claim. But these points are far from being the most important, though they are certainly entitled to consideration. The subject embraces deeper interests, both to the individuals and to the church. In case of the trial of a superannuated preacher within the bounds of a conference remote from his own, as provided for in the Discipline, there are several difficulties which experiment can hardly fail to make obvious. It is provided that the presiding elder, in whose district the accused may reside, shall bring him to trial, and in case of suspension, shall forward to the annual conference of which the accused is a member exact minutes of the charges, testimony, and decision of the committee in the case, and on the testimony thus furnished, the conference must decide. The great difficulty of deciding important cases equitably, from minutes of testimony thus taken, is well known. This difficulty is increased in proportion to the complexity of the case, and the conflicting character of the testimony. Add to this, that it will rarely be practicable in such cases for the accuser and accused to be brought face to face, or for either to be present to plead in the premises. Distance of place, length of time required, and the labor and expense involved, would, in most cases,
form an insurmountable obstacle to the parties being heard before the tribunal where judgment must finally be given. And, farther, in cases of this kind it must frequently happen that the testimony will be voluminous, and the difficulty and expense of its transmission very considerable. And, finally, documents forwarded a great distance are very liable to fail of reaching their place of destination, in which case the administration of justice might be delayed, if not finally defeated, and the church suffer reproach. Besides, the present provision in our Discipline is, in our opinion, too liable to abuse. Should any one of the annual conferences think it proper to enter upon any favorite enterprise, for the success of which they might conceive it necessary to have agents operating without their own bounds, it would be no difficult matter to place such brethren as would very well serve their case in a superannuated relation. And if the object to be accomplished was of very deep interest, the liability of their agents to trial and suspension by a committee would hardly form an obstacle, especially as the final decision of the case would be in their own power.
In view of all the difficulties to which the present provision is liable, we are inclined to the opinion that a different course might be devised, by which the ends of justice might be obtained more readily, and with greater certainty, and in perfect accordance with our system of government. As the trial and expulsion of a preacher are not to be regarded simply as processes affecting only his relation to the conference where he belongs, but are to all intents and purposes an expul. sion from the itinerant connection, and from the church; and as the same rules for the trial of preachers must govern the action of all the annual conferences, and the same rights and privileges are secured to all by the constitution and discipline of the church, we are not ap. prised of any valid objection to the trial of traveling preachers by the annual conferences in which they may reside at the time of the occurrence of the offence of which they are accused. Indeed, it would seem that the principle of constitutionality in such a course is fully recognized by the General Conference in the present provision: for if a presiding elder may have jurisdiction over a superannuated preacher, residing within his district, and out of the bounds of his own conference, so as to suspend him from all official acts and privileges, which is the utmost extent of his authority in regard to the preachers stationed in his district, it will be difficult, it is presumed, to raise valid constitutional objections to the jurisdiction of an annual conference to prosecute such cases to a final issue. And it can hardly be doubted that these two great advantages would be secured by such a process-it would secure a more ready and easy access to testimony, especially such as might be presumptive and circumstantial, on which, it is well known, the final issue may materially depend, and afford the accuser and accused the opportunity of appearing face to face, to plead their own cause. And we respectfully suggest whether a provision in some respects similar might not be made for the trial of local preachers in the circuits where they are charged with committing offences. With these views we submit the subject to your consideration.
Since the General Conference provided for the appointment of
preachers to the charge of seminaries of learning, many institutions for the education of youth of both sexes have sprung up, preferring their claims to such appointments. Most of these schools have been originated by individuals, or associations of individuals, having no other connection with an annual conference than such as consists in the courtesy of patronage, connected with the annual visits of a committee appointed for the purpose of attending their examinations, and reporting the results. In discharging the important and responsible duties of their office, your superintendents have not been so happy as to avoid difficulty from this department; and, in some cases, their convictions of the limits of their authority, in connection with their judgment of expediency, have compelled them, though with the most friendly, reciprocal feelings, to differ from the views, and decline to meet the expressed wishes of annual conferences. And it is with the most sincere satisfaction that they refer their opinions and acts to this body, that if in error, as they are certainly liable to be, they may be corrected, and the whole body harmonized on all material points. There are two distinct cases in which the superintendents are authorized to appoint preachers to institutions of learning. The one respects such institutions as are or may be under our superintendence, and the other, such as are not. Out of these cases several important questions have originated, which have been the ground of the difference of opinion of which we have just spoken. These questions may be stated as follows:-1. What is necessary to constitute a seminary of learning so far under our superintendence as to bring it fairly within the rule of the General Conference authorizing the appointment of a preacher to it? 2. What classes of literary institutions was it the intention of the General Conference to embrace in this provision? 3. In providing for the appointment of preachers to "seminaries of learning" not under our superintendence, was it the intention of the General Conference to include all classes of literary institutions, if the appointment was requested by an annual conference, or to limit the appointment to seminaries of collegiate literature? 4. Is an appointment under this provision discretionary with the superintendent, or does the request of an annual conference create an obligation as a matter of duty, as in the case of appointments in the districts and circuits? There are principles and interests, in our opinion, involved in these questions, which have a special claim to the deliberate consideration of this body. From the numerous applications which are made for the appointment of preachers to be school teachers, and agents for various institutions, it is to be feared that unless the subject be clearly defined, and carefully guarded by suitable limitations and restrictions, our grand itinerant system may be impaired by a virtual location of many valuable ministers, and the church suffer in spiritual interests from the loss of useful labors. There are at this time about seventy of the effective traveling preachers employed as presidents, professors, principals, and teachers in literary institutions, and as agents devoted to their interests. These ministers are selected from the several annual conferences with reference to their qualifications for the duties of their station. They are men of talent, science, and learning, and many of them ministers of age and experience. And the calls for such appointments are constantly mul
tiplying on our hands. While we readily and thankfully acknowledge the usefulness of brethren employed in this important department of our great work, we must be permitted to doubt whether the cause of God might not be more effectually and extensively promoted, if, to say the least, a very large proportion of these able ministers of Christ were exclusively devoted to the work of the gospel ministry. And we respectfully suggest the inquiry whether pious and learned men may not be obtained from the local ministry, or from the official or private membership, well qualified as teachers to advance the cause of education, and by this means bring into the regular field of itinerant labor a great weight of talent and influence now almost confined to the precincts of academies and colleges.
At the last session of this body, the publication of three religious periodicals was provided for, in addition to those previously established. They have now, it is presumed, been before the religious community a sufficient time to enable you to form an opinion of their intrinsic merits as official papers, going forth to an enlightened and reading people under the authority and patronage of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and of their usefulness in promoting the great enterprise in which we are engaged, by spreading abroad the light of gospel truth, advancing the interests of our important institutions, and strengthening the bonds of peace and harmony in the church. The influence of the periodical press, either for weal or wo, is too well ascertained to render it necessary for this body to be reminded of the importance of throwing around it, so far as it is under their direction and patronage, those safeguards which shall preserve its purity, and render it subservient to the promotion of intellectual, moral, and religious improvement. We have no doubt but you will agree with us in sentiment, that our religious papers should take no part in the political warfare of the day-that they should never interfere with the civil institutions of the country-that they should pro. mote, as far as practicable, quietness, peace, and love among all Christian people, and especially in the church, by whose authority and patronage they exist, and whose interests they are particularly de signed to serve. Whatever might have been the views of the General Conference at the time of the establishment of these papers, it did not occur to the superintendents that they were to be mediums of mercan. tile or professional advertisements; and we respectfully submit it to your enlightened judgment, whether it is consistent with the character of the church, and the grand designs of her religious institutions, among which the periodical press is one of the most efficient, to make them such. We are not apprised whether recourse has been had to this measure from courtesy to friends in secular occupations, or for the purpose of realizing funds sufficient to meet the expenses of publi. cation. But with due deference, we must be permitted to doubt whether the credit, or the general interests of the Methodist Church will be promoted by the publication of a paper under the official sanction of the General Conference, which cannot obtain a patronage sufficient to meet its expenses without devoting its columns to business advertisements. Your timely and judicious advice to the annual conferences not to establish any more conference papers has been respectfully regarded, so that no new paper has been published by any