« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
successful experiments have confessedly multiplied,* they continually bring out new editions to meet perpetual new demands for the standard works of the Connexion. The publications of the book. room are put into circulation through the superintendents, who have 124 per cent. on all sales effected. The number of religious tracts, on which no profit is allowed to the superintendents, issued in 1841, was 1,326,049. All aspiring Wesleyan authors who seek denominational patronage, are glad to bring out their brochures with the official imprimatur; but it is by no means granted indiscriminately. Some of the finest works that ever came from a Wesleyan pen are in the index expurgaterins of the book-committee. They may perhaps sell, but they certainly declined publishing, Dr. Adam Clarke's Commentary. Their refusals are not always taken very quietlygenus irritabile tatum! Brother B-M, who was a rather osten. tatious gentleman, had written a book about something or other, which he offered to the book-room. After waiting till his patience was fairly exhausted for an answer, he made peremptory application for the return of his manuscript, declaring, rith manifest indignation, that he would publish it on his own bottom. The official of that day, who was a bit of a wag, drily replied, that, in his opinion, he could not do better!
We close our enumeration of the economical arrangements of Wesleyanism, by mentioning the Committee of Privileges, with which the successful opposition to Sir James Graham's Factories Education Bill and to Lord Chancellor Lyndhurst's Charitable Trusts Bill, has made the public familiar. This important and watchful body enjoys the able assistance of several gentlemen learned in the law, among whom we have no difficulty in recognizing some who may, perchance, have robbed a bird's nest in Esholt Wood, or bathed in the fast-flowing Aire.
The Wesleyan Methodists are strongly attached to their own modes of worship and means of grace; and, in this respect, there yet exists considerable, perhaps insuperable opposition of sentiment, between the bulk of the people and at least their leading ministers. The ruling party have long cherished a desire to introduce into all the chapels the regular church service. In the metropolis, and in some of the chapels in a few large towns, the morning service is constantly used, but nowhere the evening. So sensible is the Conference that read prayers are generally obnoxious to the Wesleyans, that it has never yet ventured to go beyond a recommendation' of their adoption. Various indications show, however, that its motto is Nil desperandum. Portions of the burial, baptismal, marriage, communion, and
Early Days' has already reached 50,000 monthly: what may it not be in later times!
-ordination services, are used on appropriate occasions; and, by way of accustoming the people to the full service, its use has by recent enactment been made obligatory, on certain great occasions during the sittings of the Conference, when those two-grand metropolitans of all the tribe,' the president and the ex-president, are the principal officiators. The stealthy multiplication of organs, and the gradual introduction of chants in the form of tunes adapted to metrical hymns, are also probably designed to pave the way for the more complete churchification of the body. The genius of the Methodist people, however, must be wholly changed before this can be effected. Even in City-road chapel, where, until within a few years, the prayers had been read from the beginning by ordained clergymen, it has never been found possible to get the congregation together much before the conclusion of the prayers and the commencement of the extempore services. No class of nonconformists are more strongly attached to free prayer than the Methodists, whose notions of its exercise, moreover, are such as to make it more difficult for them than for any other class to reconcile themselves to forms of prayer. Let any man enter a Wesleyan chapel in those districts where Wesleyanism has its strongholds; and the tone of the minister's prayers, with the multiform responses of the congregation, will convince him that they could not easily be drilled into the icy fervours of a tautologous litany. The wrestling style of the minister, excited to a pitch of agony by the sympathetic interjections of his hearers, forms the greatest possible contrast to the parrotlike monotony of a decent liturgy. Nor is it always necessary that the minister should himself be loud and obstreporous, to inspire the people with enthusiasm. We remember being in Brunswick Chapel, Liverpool, (a very elegant structure, and filled with a very genteel congregation,) when the late Mr. Pipe, a remarkably mild and quiet man, was offering up the concluding prayer. In a strain of deep solemnity he was imploring the Divine Being to assist the congregation in repelling the assaults of Satan, when a man, in a conspicuous part of the place, shouted out at the top of his voice, Ey! punch him i't'guts, Lord !' Such naïve and energetic comments are frequent and diversified during prayer; nor, even during sermon, can the warm and simple-hearted people always restrain themselves from throwing in an approving observation. A minister was one day preaching to a country congregation, in Yorkshire, on the forgiveness of injuries, and had just remarked, that the best way of disposing of one's enemies was, not to slay them with the sword, but to kill them with kindness, when an honest man in the gallery rapturously exclaimed in a loud voice, 'Ey! that 's t’ reight way, lad! But this feature in the Wesleyan characteris most fully brought out at love-feasts. These gatherings are exceedingly popular in most parts of the Connexion, and many a Wesleyan will, in all weathers, walk a dozen miles rather than miss a lovefeast. What renders them attractive is, the sort of saturnalian license allowed in them. Any person present, male or female, is permitted to rise and make a declaration of personal experience. Some of the narratives thus given are deeply affecting, others are rather grotesque. In many circuits, there is a class of people who seize upon these occasions for cutting a figure. While one of them tells his oft-repeated tale, the rest, like claqueurs at a play, support him with their plaudits. We have more than once heard ‘loud cheering at a Wesleyan love. feast, intermingled with individual cries of 'Weel dune, Joe, lad!' 'Praise God, Thomas ! We scarcely dare give speci. mens of the more outré speeches uttered on these occasions, lest too extensive an inference should be drawn from them. Let one suffice. A woman, with every appearance of sincerity as well as earnestness, was relating, that, on the morning of that very day, she had risen betimes for private devotions, which she conducted so audibly as to wake her husband, who upbraided her with having got up at a needlessly early hour, and desired her to return to bed. She continued, however, in prayer, and presently, to conclude the narrative in her own words, 't Holy Sperrit cam intul my sowl like watter gangin' out o’n a bottle, goggle, goggle, goggle!' 'Praise the Lord, lass ! immediately resounded from a hundred voices, while a sympathising murmur ran through the whole audience. Scenes like these, though not unusual enough, even in the largest towns, to occasion surprise, are, of course, much more frequent in rural districts, where language and manners are less polished and more simple. But they are not universal; still less are they universally approved. They meet with the most indulgent toleration from those ministers who are themselves warm-hearted men, while others of a graver character and more refined and dignified demeanour embrace suitable opportunities of keeping them in check. The late Mr. Stephens was a minister of this stamp. This excellent man, of whom we can give no better idea than by saying, that he much resembled the Rev. William Jay, was in the Leeds circuit during a period of religious excitement. Every night prayer meetings of an enthusiastic description were held in the chapel over which he had special jurisdiction, and were protracted to a late hour, a practice which he felt it his duty publicly to rebuke. Near midnight, his tall figure, crowned with an erect tuft of greyish hair, was seen rising above the pews, and, on a break in the rapid succession of spontaneous prayers, his solemn voice was heard pronouncing the Benedic
upon, wending the all and the
tion. This hiut not being taken, he followed it up with a strong intimation of his opinion, that it was more than time for the parties present to be surrounding their family altars. Even this was disregarded; when, quite losing patience, he declared it to be his conviction, that no good spirit could actuate heads of families in such neglect of domestic duties. The words were hardly uttered, when a pert little fellow, one of the foremost of the revivalists, jumped upon a bench, and, with his arms a-kimbo, called out, 'If t divvel be here, he's i' thy toppin'!' This impudent sally turned, as we say, the laugh against Mr. Stephens, who wisely ceased contending with them. Upon the whole, it may be doubted whether the Wesleyan ministers take sufficient pains to regulate the ebullitions of untutored zeal. We do not forget the depths of moral degradation from which Wesleyanism has raised the miners of Cornwall and the colliers of Newcastle; but, notwithstanding the rudeness of the materials to be wrought upon, we question whether the softening influence which true religion, still more than other civilizing agencies, must exert upon the human character, has in such quarters been exhausted. If, however, we wish to know what is the present feeling of the Wesleyan Conference with regard to scenes of noise and excitement under the notion of revivals, we have only to follow the peregrinations of the Rev. Mr. Caughey, whose religious orgies have attracted the ridicule of the gay and the lamentations of the serious. From the towns which he has visited,—Hull, Sheffield, Birmingham, Nottingham, and others,-it is evident, that his extravaganzas are sanctioned by authority. Now, we have read an account of his exhibitions at Birmingham, written, not by an enemy to religion, but by a devout Christian; and we affirm without hesitation, that scenes just as questionable are of familiar occurrence in most parts of the Connexion during periods of excitement. Mr. Caughey may regard himself as an extraor. dinary person; but we can assure him that his most wonderful exploits might easily be paralleled by incidents in the lives of such men as David Stoner, William Bramwell, and (the late) John Smith. Farbe it from us, however, to question the genuineness of Methodist revivals. There are tares among the wheat. Some hasty professions of conversion may be made, which are as hastily falsified. In other cases, hypocrisy may put on the garb of earnestness. But the more villainous the counterfeit, the more valuable the true coin. It is not worth while to imitate the less precious metals. The genuineness of Methodist revivals may be tested by their fruits; and we could easily put our fingers upon some of the most eminent men in
the body, who professed to be converted in boyhood at a revival, and who have never swerved from that profession.
Hitherto we have sketched only, or chiefly, the more obvious features of Wesleyan character. Let it not be supposed, that noise, bluster, and coarseness, are its predominant traits. While there is no lack of audible responses during public prayer, yet there is much also of the speechless awe that dares not move.' While Wesleyan ministers know how to preach excitingly, and possess a peculiar facility in getting at the hearts of their hearers, they are not less remarkable for being able to sound the depths of Christian experience, to elucidate and enforce the practical bearing of Christian doctrine, and to feed the church of God. And, after all that has been said to the contrary, much observation and some experience have convinced us, that the more private means of grace which the Wesleyan Connexion has more largely provided and more sedulously cultivated than any other modern denomination of Christians, are admirably adapted to promote the growth of religious character, and bring it to a ripe maturity. The Class-meeting has been much maligned by enemies and misunderstood by less unfriendly critics. It is as remote as possible from the popish confessional. It is neither more nor less than a meeting expressly for prayer and religious conversation. Much reason have we dissenters to regret that we have no similar means of mutual edification. We have our social parties, it is true; and religious topics are casually introduced; but, as it is not understood that we meet for religious conversation, we consume the hours in miscellaneous chat. Now, the Methodist class-meeting shuts you up to religious topics; and so, in general, the hour is well spent. A great deal, no doubt, depends upon the leaders"; and the ministers, by whom they are nominated, are under some temptation to select men who will be easily controlled, instead of looking wholly to their fitness for directing a religious conversation, and giving religious counsel in a diversity of cases. But, under the guidance of a judicious person, we cannot conceive of a device better adapted than the Methodist class-meeting to promote the ends of personal religion. We give equal praise to the Public and Private Bands. The public band (a somewhat neglected institution) meets weekly on Saturday, and is composed of those members of society who profess to enjoy a clear evidence of their acceptance with God.* It is, in point of fact, a minor love-feast, only far more quietly conducted. But perhaps the private
* No person, according to an old law, is allowed to meet in Band who does not leave off drams, snuff, and tobacco,-a trio which always go together in Wesleyan anathemas.