Methodism

METHODISTS. The original Methodists are the Wesleyans, but already this sect has split up into numerous sections, or "Churches," as they call themselves. The leading sub-divisions will each have a separate notice. The leading idea of Methodism is a revival of religion by a free appeal to the feelings, and the method adopted is an elaborate system of "societies," and preaching the doctrine of "sensible conversion."

The "people called Methodists," or Wesleyans, are the followers of John Wesley, who was born in 1703. He took his degree at Oxford, and was ordained in 1725. He held a Fellowship at Lincoln College until his marriage in 1752. While at Oxford, he, with his brother Charles, of Christ Church, and his friend Whitefield, of Pembroke, and some twelve others, determined to live under a common rule of strict and serious behaviour; to receive frequently the Holy Communion; and to adopt a methodical and conscientious improvement of their time. After ordination, these two brothers, John and Charles, set to work to revive a spirit of religion in the Church of England, of which they were priests, and were aided by the good-will and sound paternal advice of some of the Bishops.

In 1735 John Wesley went out as a missionary to Georgia, in America, but the settlers rejected his services, and his mission to the Indians was a failure. On his voyage out, he unfortunately came under the influence of some Moravians; and on returning to England, after a three years' absence, he became a regular member of the Moravian Society in London. It was here he learnt the two peculiar doctrines of subsequent Wesleyanism, viz.: (1) instantaneous and sensible conversion, (2) the doctrine of perfection, i.e., of a Christian Maturity, on attaining which, he that is (in the Wesleyan sense) "born again," "born of God," sinneth not. If, however, we take into view Wesley's own persistent affirmation in later times, "I have uniformly gone on for fifty years, never varying from the doctrine of the Church at all;" and many other such passages, we cannot escape the inevitable conclusion that the very doctrine on which his modern followers have built their separation from the Church, is nothing else than a transient and foreign  element in their great founder's teaching.

In 1744 Wesley called around him his most trusted friends,—six clergymen of the Church of England and four lay preachers, and held what we should now call a Retreat ; this meeting, however, is regarded by the Wesleyans as the first regular "Conference" of the Methodist Societies. It was in 1784 that Wesley drew up a "Deed of Declaration," which was formally enrolled in Chancery, establishing Methodism in the eye of the Law. This was an unintentional  step on the part of Wesley towards an ultimate separation from the Church. Now it was too that he made his second great mistake of consecrating an English Clergyman as bishop, and two laymen as presbyters of the American Societies. This was the origin of the Episcopal Methodists of America. John Wesley died in 1791, almost his last printed utterance being, "I declare that I live and die a member of the Church of England; and none who regard my opinion or advice will ever separate from it." (John WesleyArminian MagazineApril, 1790.)

Four years after his death, in 1795, the separation took place, and the Conference allowed the preachers to administer the Lord's Supper. No sooner was the severance complete than the punishment followed. In 1795 the Methodist New Connexion  split away from them, under a man named Kilham. In 1810 the Primitive Methodists  caused another schism. In 1815 the Bible Christians seceded, and so on. What would John Wesley have thought of all this? Only nine months before his death, he had solemnly charged his preachers: "In God's name, stop there! Be Church of England men still!" (Wesley, Sermons, iii. 268). And his dying breath was spent in a prayer for the Church!

The Minutes of the Wesleyan Methodist Conference for the year 1883-4 give the following statistics:—

Members. 1. In Great Britain 407,085 2. In Ireland & Irish Missions 24,384 3. In Foreign Missions 70,747 4. South African Conference 20,739 5. French Conference 1,856 Total 524,811

On Trial. 1. In Great Britain 34,399 2. In Ireland & Irish Missions 668 3. In Foreign Missions 5,299 4. South African Conference 9,093 5. French Conference 168 Total 49,627

Ministers. 1. In Great Britain 1,545 2. In Ireland & Irish Missions 181 3. In Foreign Missions 285 4. South African Conference 93 5. French Conference 28 Total 2,137

                                On probation.
  1. In Great Britain 91
  2. In Ireland & Irish Missions 16
  3. In Foreign Missions 98
  4. South African Conference 74
  5. French Conference —
     Total 279

                                Supernumeries.
  1. In Great Britain 284
  2. In Ireland & Irish Missions 42
  3. In Foreign Missions 9
  4. South African Conference 10
  5. French Conference 3
     Total 348

Ministers and full members in the Australian Wesleyan Methodist "Church," and in the Methodist "Church" of Canada are under their respective Conferences, and consequently are not enumerated above.

Whitaker's Almanack for 1883 gives the following statistics for Wesleyan Methodism in Great Britain. It will be seen that its figures are slightly larger than those given above.

  Ministers. 2,170
  Lay Preachers. 15,450
  Members. 418,229
  On Probation. 40,653
  Chapels. 6,978
  Sunday Scholars. 829,666

The finance of Wesleyan Methodism for 1880 was nearly as follows:—

  Missionary Fund L138,346
  Home Mission Income 34,210
  Education of Minister's Children 22,036
  Chapel Building 292,599
  Training Candidates for Ministry 12,130
    Total L499,321

During the past four years the Wesleyan Methodists have raised a
"Thanksgiving Fund" amounting to L303,600.