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esteemed, or the sentiments they contain less cordially adopted and firmly adhered to by his followers, according as they shall appear to agree with the word of God, and correspond with these principal works. But as it seemed necessary, in order to perpetuate the identity of Methodism as he gave it to the societies which he was instrumental in raising up, that some standard of faith and morals should be referred to which might always serve for a test to whatever should afterward claim to be essentially part and parcel of the original; and as this portion of his numerous productions has been selected for that purpose, we have his authority for giving them the pre-eminence in this respect.
The necessity of such an established standard of doctrine and morals, to be preserved as a standard in all ages, will naturally suggest itself to the mind of every reflecting person, from the fact, that a confused and imperfect understanding of the subject renders people exceedingly liable to be drawn into much unprofitable controversy, as destructive to their own spiritual enjoyment as it is to the peace and prosperity of the church. When restless individuals, ambitious for personal distinction, or impatient of moral restraint, thrust themselves forward to obtain an ascendency by gaining partisans to their particular views and measures, nothing is of more importance to them than to be able by any means to press into their service the opinions of men held in high veneration by the people they aim to influence in their favor. Hence in all the factions which have disturbed the quiet of the Wesleyan Connection, on both sides of the Atlantic, efforts have been made to persuade the credulous that the whole body have sadly departed from original Methodism; and the reform or revolution, as the case may be, proposed by the leaders of the party, is always represented as aiming at restoring first principles. To give efficacy to this kind of agitating process, the opinions of Mr. Wesley, as explained by the party, in whatever connection they are found, are held up as constituting the framework of the structure of Methodism; and a single isolated sentence, irrespective of the design of the author in writing it, is sometimes adopted and incessantly appealed to for this purpose. This, it must be evident, is calculated most effectually to deceive and mislead persons of little experience and knowledge in such matters. Mr. Wesley, like other great men, wrote on many subjects, such as philosophy, politics, &c. He wrote, too, tracts and essays on matters of local interest. And often, from the impulse of the moment, recorded his views and feelings respecting such topics as were introduced by individuals with whom he happened to come in contact. But it is unreasonable to suppose that on all these occasions he considered himself as writing institutes for his societies. Much that he has written has obviously little or no connection with elementary Methodism, and from the very nature of the subjects which he treated, cannot have. It would therefore be absurd to quote opinions expressed by him in these essays as exbibiting the fundamental principles of Methodism. We do not say that his miscellaneous productions contain any thing, when fairly construed, at variance with those standard works alluded to above. But our position is, if any thing quoted from his other works have the appearance of conflicting with these, and with the specific articles of faith and general rules, involving the terms of membership
in the church which bears his name, it must be expounded by these, and not the contrary; though it is believed that few things will be found in all Mr. Wesley's miscellaneous writings, which, if impartially examined and legitimately interpreted, have even the appearance of conflicting with what he has put forth as a summary of his doctrinal views and moral sentiments. But however this may be, (and it does not come within our design to inquire respecting it now,) the standard of primitive Methodism, in so far as it was the aim of Mr. Wesley to provide for perpetuating its identity by means of the ministry and institutions raised up through his instrumentality, is to be found in the works we have named, with the articles of faith and principles of church order forming the basis upon which the Wesleyan Conference in England, and the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States, were severally organized.
In extending our remarks on this topic we have in view another aspect of the subject. It is its legal bearing. It appears that in England this has been fully tested. It occurs to us, however it may appear to others, that the principles on which a decision was obtained in favor of the Wesleyan Conference, which secured to them the chapels for the use and benefit of those, and those only, who continue in connection with that body, are of universal application, at least wherever similar views of law and equity prevail. But whether we be right or wrong in our views, there is the same necessity that the subject, in all its aspects and bearings, should be understood in this country as in England, since there is the same liability to difficulty from similar causes. And the matter is certainly worth a passing thought. Not to be unnecessarily tedious where we should be brief, we will condense our remarks as much as possible. For the sake of unity in amplifying our thoughts we will limit the reference to the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States.
It is obvious to all that the design of Mr. Wesley in sending preachers to America, and in subsequently organizing a church here, was to introduce and perpetuate in this country that form of Christianity called Methodism, with all its distinctive and fundamental peculiarities, and nothing else. The idea of its obtaining root, and afterward becoming so vitiated and changed as to be something else directly opposed to its original self, would have been sufficient to deter him from taking a single step in this work. To him, then, and all who co-operated with him in this enterprise, it must have been a primary consideration so to organize the church, and settle all the institutions designed to promote its objects, that they should be incapable of being employed for another or contrary purpose.
The design of the institutions of the Methodist Episcopal Church is exceedingly simple and explicit. It is to spread Scriptural holiness through the land.
In the organization of the church which was established in Mr. Wesley's day, and at the head of which he stood for a time as a general superintendent, the powers and prerogatives of its different judicatories, as well as the duties and responsibilities of its officers, were so arranged and adjusted as to farther the grand object in the best possible way; while at the same time care was taken to guard against the possibility of any so using their authority as to invade the rights of a single member, or employ its institutions for any purpose adverse to Methodism.
To come directly to the point we have in view, the houses of worship erected for the accommodation of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church are presumed to be intended for the sole purpose of promoting the cause of Christianity in that form in which they of choice have received it; as those who contribute for the building of such houses are supposed to understand the object, and to give from a desire to promote it. Whether, then, those who afterward occupy those houses think Methodism the best system of religion or not-whether they adhere to the principles and practice of their benefactors, or address themselves to the work of innovation and reform-it does not alter the case. The houses were erected for-the support and advancement of Methodism, as presumed to be understood by those who built them; and they cannot be wrested from such as continue in the principles and practice of Methodism so understood, to be used for the inculcation of opinions and the promotion of measures adverse to its standard of doctrines and instituted authorities by even a majority of the society and congregation worshiping in them. This seems to be the principle upon which the case referred to by Dr. Fisk, in regard to the British Conference, was decided in favor of the conference.
In any case of dispute respecting the proprietorship of a house of worship erected for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, where a majority of the society worshiping in it become factious, and array themselves against the instituted authorities of the church, the issue of a litigation would turn, if the principle in question be a correct one and generally applicable, upon this point, which party adhere to the true principles and authorized practices and usages of Methodism? Which have a majority of votes, would, we conceive, have no weight in deciding the matter.
The sources of evidence in such a case would be, the approved doctrines and discipline of the church; authorized and acknowledged usages, not of that individual society, but of the whole body; and the acts of the General Conference made in conformity to the powers and prerogatives with which that judicatory is invested by the Discipline. The party showing that they had acted in conformity to these would secure the premises. That shown to have assumed an antagonist position, and adopted principles or measures hostile to either of these, would be ejected. Local majorities, or fiscal officers, obtained by local majorities, would not be taken into the account. This, we say, so far as we can see, would be the legitimate operation of the principle in question.
How far the records of jurisprudence throughout this country will go to show a correspondence between this principle and the practice of the courts on this subject, we are not prepared to say. But within the range of our own experience and observation the principle has been admitted as a rule of procedure. We have witnessed its application in a few instances, and traced its recognition in others. It is evidently the basis of that most lucid opinion given by the chief justice of Upper Canada, on the chapel question, lately litigated in that province, as it appeared not long since in our public journals. It pervaded the decision by which the Unitarians in London were, some three or four years ago, dispossessed of a legacy bequeathed by a wealthy English lady for the promotion of evangelical godliness. It was plainly recognized in the decision lately made in this
country upon the conflicting claims between the Hicksite and the Orthodox Quakers. And at this moment, if we are correctly informed, there is pending between these parties a controversy in law, the issue of which is suspended upon evidence of what are the genuine opinions of the primitive Quakers; and for this evidence reference is had to the records of the London yearly meeting, it being by common consent admitted that the works which that body have officially sanctioned, and they only, are to be appealed to for the purpose of settling this question.
One conclusion to which we are brought by this train of reflections is, that as the writings of Mr. Wesley referred to in the chapel deeds in England are made the standard of Wesleyan Methodism to the English Connection, in so far as doctrines and morals are concerned, they are to be received as such by all the branches of the Wesleyan family.
The use of this deduction is, that it furnishes a rule by which to settle controversies which sometimes occur respecting what are the fundamental principles of primitive Methodism, in the manner we have already noticed. When men put forth their dogmas in the name of the venerable Wesley, it behooves them to show the autho. rity on which they do so. If they quote from these standard works, and make it manifest that what they quote, by a fair and unsophis. ticated interpretation of it, sustains, according to the evident intention of the writer, the positions they assume, the question is settled. They show, at least, that they are within the pale of Wesleyan Methodism. But if they quote from his other miscellaneous writings, which have never been officially wrought into the framework of the articles of faith, moral code, or systems of ecclesiastical order and government, bearing the sanction of his name, the evidence is not sufficient. It does not answer the purpose for which it is adduced. It may, indeed, present the views of the writer on the subject of which he was treating at the time he used it, and be so far entitled to respect. It may also serve to amplify a branch of the doctrines recognized in those theological productions to which he has been pleased to attach more particular weight and importance, and thus have their value in inparting instruction and promoting edification. It is possible, too, that it may be barely an expression of his private opinions, hastily formed, and in which he could not expect all even of his own widely extended flock to agree with him. But to make even his opinions essentially Methodism, and so to use them as to affect the claims of those who profess it as a system of religion, it is incumbent, as we humbly conceive, to show that the opinions advanced for such a purpose are clearly and unequivocally contained in those of his works which have, by the concurrence of himself and his followers, been officially recognized as constituting the basis of the general structure of that system. Were an eye always had to this distinction, which we cannot but consider one of importance, fewer would be influenced by an incessant cry of “ Wesleyan Methodism," to enlist in enterprises whose only tendency is to destroy what we would charitably hope they wish to
Another conclusion to which these remarks conduct us affects more particularly the practice of the societies in connection with the Methodist Episcopal Church. What Mr. Wesley's poll deed,
VOL. IX.- Oct., 1838. 58
and the British Conference, organized under its provisions, are to the Wesleyan Connection in England, the Discipline and the General Conference are to the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. In the former there can be no Methodism_none of the peculiar privileges of the Wesleyan institutions—to be enjoyed by any who are separated from the Conference, or arrayed in opposition against it, so long as it acts within the limits of the prescribed charter. The same is true with respect to American Methodism. It can exist only in connection with, and dependent on, the General Conference, acting under the provisions laid down in the Discipline. And the same principle which secures to the members in England the rightful possession and free use of the churches erected for their benefit, only in Connection with the conference, secures the same to the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, while they are in connection with the General Conference, according to the order and economy of the church, and no longer ; for this plain reason, that the same persons separating from that body, and repudiating its authority, divest the institutions which they assume to control of all Methodistical validity which that body alone can give them, and cease of course to be the people for whom the churches were built. Although the views we have here expressed are not the result of a superficial examination of the subject, we had no idea of devoting so much of this article to them when we commenced it. We perceive the subject will admit of much amplification, and it may indeed seem necessary even on the score of illustration; but we must drop it abruptly for want of room. If any consider it out of place, we shall not contend with them about that. In the work we are reviewing, it stands in immediate connection with a notice of a painful schism, characterized, as is common in both countries, by an array of opposition against the constituted authorities of the church, and efforts to turn the societies against them. Among the many things of interest to the cause of Methodism in England, Dr. Fisk has furnished us with the item we have quoted above. As a matter of information barely, it is interesting to all who sympathize in feeling with their English brethren; and on this account it claimed, in common with other things, a passing notice. But we have avowed our conviction, that for the reasons we have stated above, it possesses in our estimation a higher degree of importance on account of its bearing upon our own institutions. If in this others differ from us, it is a matter which gives us no uneasiness whatever. No harm can result from a calm and candid investigation of a question, a too imperfect understanding of which has already occasioned no small degree of controversy and evil in the church. And if our hasty remarks, unpremeditated as they were in this place, shall contribute, in any degree, toward exciting enlarged and liberal inquiry on this subject, and preventing unpleasant collisions which, it is to be feared, often occur for want of a more generally correct understanding of it, we shall be satisfied.
On meeting the British Conference, Dr. Fisk was received and treated with much Christian kindness and respect. The following were his reflections, as he has recorded them, on that occasion :
“Having arrived at the seat of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference, one of the most important purely ecclesiastical bodies in this or any country; a body, too, to which I had been officialy dele