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and peril. The question of union between the Bible Christians and ourselves had been agitating the Connexion. Between the two denomi. nations there had been affectionate glances and intercourse which to some betokened an early union. The banns had been published. An authoritative voice forbade them; and the matter ended, with goodwill, however, on both sides. · There is no contagion of organic Methodist union in the air just now; though a few people, as we may gather from the Editor's notes last month, have been attempting to diffuse it. What is in the air just now, and is likely to keep permeating it, is the true catholicity, the brotherly helpfulness, and the spiritual oneness between the different Evangelical denominations, of which we find increasing signs every day. May this continue, and may it lead whither the One Head of the Church has the mind to lead it!
It is, however, a thing which it concerns us to know if we would be abreast of the times, that the Methodist Recorder, which, though far from unfriendly, is still very Wesleyan in complexion, has recently had an interesting leading article on the question, OUGHT THE METHODIST CHURCHES IN GREAT BRITAIN TO UNITE? After observing that the spirit of the age is one of union, and that for the first time in the history of the Christian Church the centripetal forces are proving themselves to be more powerful than the centrifugal, the article refers to actual move. ments toward union on the Continent, in Ireland, in Canada, and to the aspirations kindled in some hearts by the Methodist Ecumenical Confer. ence held in London the year before last, which it considers gave an immense and incalculable impetus towards every kind of Methodist co-operation and union; and it concludes by saying :
“Under all these circumstances the question at the head of this article will certainly force itself more and more upon the minds and consciences of Methodists everywhere. It must be discussed, and the sooner the actual facts and conditions of the problem are known, the more calmly and the more satisfactorily can the great question be answered. We are not aware that any of the English Methodist Churches have yet considered the subject at an official meeting, but there has been a considerable exchange of private and unofficial opinion in some circles. It is widely believed that a large number of distinguished ministers and laymen of the New Connexion would give a decidedly favourable consideration to & well-arranged scheme for reunion with us, now that the only essential difference has been removed by the admission of laymen to Conference. We have reason to believe that many of the most prominent of our own ministers and laymen reciprocate that sentiment. It is said that there has been some significant sign of a similar disposition in the United Methodist Free Churches, but that the feeling in favour of union is not yet by any means so marked or widespread as in the New Connexion. We do not know what is the attitude of the Bible Christians, and our Primitive Methodist brethren are so numerous and so widespread that they will be the last to realise the inestimable advantages of union. That the advantages of union are inestimable no rational being could deny, but whether under existing circumstances organic re-union or brotherly co-operation would be preferable is a point upon which we must expect, at least for a time, a great diversity and vehemence of opinion. One thing is certain : at present Methodism in small towns, and above all in villages,
is most painfully crippled, and even paralysed, by the existence of two, or even more, Methodist chapels, where only one could really flourish. It is also certain that at a time when superstition and infidelity are making immense efforts Methodism ought to present a united front to both foes, and do her utmost to remove any removable cause of internal weakness. Thoughtful Christian men of all the Methodist communions could not give their attention too earnestly or too prayerfully to this momentous subject."
It is quite clear that the writer has a very imperfect comprehension of the points at issue between the Wesleyans and ourselves if he imagines that “the only essential difference has been removed by the admission of laymen to Conference." Wesleyan laymen are not yet admitted to the pure Wesleyan Conference. They are only admitted to a mixed" affair, a fading semblance of it, a secular assembly, after all the vital spiritual functions of the real Conference have been fully discharged. It is not long since we saw in a Methodist journal a long letter from a Wesleyan layman on *Causes of Dissatisfaction with the present system of Lay Representation.” For ourselves, we quite agree with the sentiments expressed by our President last Conference, in his inaugural address. They have not been quoted in this Magazine before, and they are worthy of re-psrusal just now. After saying that there were sufficient reasons at the time the Connexion was originated to justify its separate and denominational existence, that in his judgment nothing had yet come to exist to urge to speedy self-dissolution, and that the relation between all denominations, and especially Methodist denominations, should be one of fervent goodwill and kindly co-operation, he is reported as having said :
“He did not conceal that he had regarded with interest the recent ecclesiastical development in the Wesleyan body; first, because the changes were, he thought, & clear vindication of the past existence of the Methodist New Connexion, as in name and in form those changes made a fair approach to their ecclesiastical platform. Speaking for him. self, without committing the judgment of the Conference, he would express his regret that those changes had led to the adoption of two Conferences: one mixed Conference, with narrow functions and restricted very much to material and financial interests, and the other Conference being exclusively ministerial with final and entire control over the doctrine and discipline of the Church. He could not think that those very sharp distinctions and differences between clerical and lay functions were wise, or likely to be permanent. The probability was that with increasing experience there would be growing confidence; and he trusted the time was approaching when the two Conferences would be amalgamated into one. So far as the minor Methodist bodies were concerned, there was very much practical similarity, and he did not know, save in one or two instances, there was any theoretical distinction or difference which necessitated permanent separation. Personally, he held to the hope that, by honourable concessions and equitable arrangements, the time might come when the number of the Methodist denominations might be lessened. He thought, however, that hasty and ill.considered proposals for union were to be deprecated, as tending to do harm rather than good, in frustrating the purpose many of them had in view. Such proposals irritated rather than healed, and tended to drive the denomina. tions farther asunder, rather than to draw them nearer. He was sure
there were lessons taught them by the experience of the past which should be useful to them in the future."
No “ BURNING QUESTIONS " will inflame the next Conference. There was only one at the last. It was the Australian Mission. To all present appearances, that is practically settled. The wonderful unanimity with which Dr. Ward's official report and proposals have been received are an augury, we believe, of the concord and energy with which the entire Conference and Connexion will work the Mission with a view to its speedy self-sustentation, and its vigorous extension to other towns in that growing colony. It is a question of finding suitable men; and in that there should be no difficulty after Dr. Ward's promising view of the Mission, and his glowing appeal to loyal men and true.
We said there are no burning questions. Many minds, however, will burn with eager interest and desire until the question is answered, Who is to be the President ? And there may be-wh knows?-a slight difference of opinion : some pleading for honoured age and service, and others for pulpit genius and younger worth. But what of that? We are loyal to each other and to our common bond. As soon as the fina numbers are announced-whether there have been competition or notthe whole of the Conference will cordially settle down, as is its wont, to obey its new President and to honour him, whoever he may be. May he be the man whom God and man shall afterwards approve as having been the right man in the right place!
A GREAT SPIRITUAL FORCE.-It is of prime importance that the Con. ference should nurture the spiritual life of the Connexion, and insist upon faithfully devoting a part of its time to this end. We thoroughly agree with the following remarks :
"The purely legislative functions of the Conference merit and absorb a considerable share of the time at its disposal, and wield a mighty influence on the destinies of our Church. But the Conference is not merely a legislative assembly; it is a great spiritual force ; and it is that which constitutes its paramount importance, and, all things being equal, it is that which sends through the arteries of Methodism those energies which are essential to its well-being and success. Hence it often happens that a good Conference is the beginning of a good year. The Conference of 1882 was a good Conference. It was a source of spiritual blessing and revival. The large increase of members was properly the ground of devout thanksgiving to God, and the occasion of much encouragement."
The more vitally stimulating we can make this annual assembly of the Churches the better. From the President, and through every representative, let there go forth again the motto, A revival in every Circuit !
At one of the Colonial Conferences, the President was able to say of the membership that a more satisfactory return had never been made to the Conference. Their class-meetings had never been attended better than they were now, and whatever doubt there might be as to the desirability of making the attendance at class a test of membership, it was undeniable that as the spiritual life of the Churches rose or fell, so did the attendance at class-meetings.
The Glass: Weefing is the barometer of Methodism. It is the indicator of our various changes in Church-life. It is the gauge of our power to affect the world, for it shows how we are being affected from above. We are delighted that Dr. Cooke, whose ardent zeal in seeking to advance the spiritual growth of the Connexion no one can doubt, is arranging for the gratuitous distri. bution of his admirable pamphlet on "The Class-meeting,” to every one of our ministers, local preachers, and class-leaders. His object is “to revive this precious means of grace, so providentially originated, and so well adapted, by promoting Christian communion, to foster pure spiritual religion.” We fervently pray that his object may be accomplished. We invite each minister and representative to see to the faithful distribution of the pamphlet in their Circuit. And we should be glad if after. wards some wealthy friend will put it in the power of the Doctor to issue a cheap reprint of it for free circulation among all the neglecting members of our classes, and among that numerous host in our congregations who hesitate to join our Churches, through some nervous or misapprehensive fear of the class-meeting system. If they would only try the system they would be surprised how freely a discreet leader can apply it to the stimulus and nurture of their religious life.
New Books and Connexional Literature. May we express the hope that the 900 local preachers who received copies of Dr. Cooko's work on the “ Unity, Harmony, and Growing Evidence of Sacred Truth," will hasten to purchase his new and excellent work on " The Miracles of Our Lord.” The price is only 2s., and it is well worth more than that. It has been written to fortify the minds of local preachers, class-leaders, and thoughtful young people against the scepticism 80 prevalent in the present day. The miracles are considered as an evidence of the Divine authority of the Saviour's mission; but they are also considered in many practical aspects which illustrate His character and the general truths of the New Testament. To this treatise is added an “ Inquiry into the Origin of Man, and the Period of his Existence questions on which sceptics often test our young people. All the young men of our Mutual Improvement Societies should read and discuss the book.
Another book that we would commend to our young men, our local preachers, and all who are called to the work of the Christian ministry, is the new “ Manual for Ministerial Candidates,” just prepared by the Rev. J. Hudston, in response to the request of our Conference. Whilst
especially designed for the use of those seeking entrance into the ministry of the Methodist New Connexion," it will, we believe, prove a valuable aid to local preachers, candidates of other Churches, and all young students who are aiming at self-improvement and the systematic study of theological truth. It should also be “ carefully conned by members of Leaders', Circuit, and District meetings." We have heard several of our leading ministers and laymen highly commend the work ; the Halifax Courier observes :
“We think the volume is fitted for and will serve a wider circle of students and others than that contained in any one Christian community, and therefore mention it in these columns, Not only is it designed to aid young men who have intentions of becoming ministers of the Gospel by giving methods of testing their fitness, but it gives ample and wise advice and directions as to study and the use of knowledge."
The Christian World says :
“ It marks a new departure in the mode of training and examining young men for the ministry, and the young men who are already on probation. The new syllabus of the subjects of examination recently prepared by the Theological Committee is given in an appendix. The work is edited by the Secretary of the Committee, the Rev. J. Hudston, Liverpool, and enters into detail on the processes of introduction into the ministry, the natural endowments necessary for the work, physical prerequisites, mental prerequisites, and the general educational and theological qualifications which are essential to success. It contains an outline of Biblical studies, and a chapter on learning Hebrew and Greek. In opposi. tion to reading, it advocates the free extempore delivery of sermons, and gives directions for the orderly and reverent conducting of Divine service. Altogether it is a clear and comprehensive Manual, and will be exceedingly useful to circuits in their choice of candidates, as well as to the candidates who are chosen." And a long article in the Methodist Recorder speaks of it as “ neatly bound and well printed, and very comprehensive in its plan.” Its price is only 25. 6d. Both it and Dr. Cooke's work may be had through our ministers from our Book-room. We are glad to hear that & well-known friend in London has sent fifty copies to Ranmoor College, to be given to present and future students there. By the by, visitors to Conference should remember that our Book-room clerk attends the Con. ference with an ample supply of all Connexional literature. Copies, too, may be had of the Rev. 8. Hulme's interesting Life of the Rev. Thomas Allin, 5s.; and the Rev. W. J. Townsend's Great School-men of the Middle Ages, 7s. 6d., both of which, we believe, have had a good sale. The New Mission Hymn Book, of which we have seen a specimen, con. taining 250 hymns of solid excellence and choice variety, is exceedingly well adapted for special services and cottage prayer meetings. It contains some of the best of Wesley's, Sankey's, and other modern revival hymns. Its cost is One Penny, and a suitable Tune Book to it may be had for 2s. The new Rules for our Sunday-schools, the Amended Rules of the Con. nexion, as adopted by last Conference, the New Sunday-school Hymn Book (a splendid collection of nearly 600 songs for teachers and scholars), and its particularly choice Tune Book, may also be had from the Book. room clerk at Conference. Friends who stay at home may send their orders through the superintendent ministers.
RAFFLES AND LOTTERIES AT BAZAARS.–Our readers will remember the decision of the last Conference on this subject. It solemnly pronounced its opinion that this habit has a most injurious influence on the spirituality of our Churches. We are glad that since then at several of our bazaars the advertisement has been boldly made beforehand, “ No Rafling Allowed,” and that in all these instances there has been an