« IndietroContinua »
if he care to and can, but the reputation of uttering unsound sentiments will follow him from place to place, and his influence will wane.
Evils Incident To The Syste.ii.
But great as these advantages are, we cannot close our eyes to the fact that there are certain evils incident to the system. It is necessary, however, that in contemplating evils we should ascertain the value of any compensations which may exist. It is said that the arbitrary removal of ministers frequently terminates revivals and leaves young converts uncared for; the minister is preparing to leave and the people to receive a new pastor, and that the departing pastor is unable to transfer the mental and moral history of converts from his own mind to that of his successor. It must be admitted that this liability exists, and that sometimes there is a serious loss here. But where the converts are placed under proper leaders in classes, and are converted to Christ and to his Churches rather than to the pastor, this loss can be made very small. Many revivals also would terminate, in any event, very soon, and many revivals are caused by the extra efforts occasioned and the greater interest of the people and the pastor enkindled by the knowledge that they must soon separate. It must also be remembered that where there has been no revival and no probability exists of one at that time, the coming of a new pastor often arouses the whole community, and great arc the results in the first year. Then ample opportunity is afforded to train converts. It is not denied that there is a loss, but affirmed that it is not necessarily large, and that these compensations are important.
It is alleged that it lays a burden upon thoughtful and modest men, and offers a premium to the flippant and superficial, and enables indolent men, secure in the certainty of a place, to repeat their old routine of sermons. Concerning this it may be said that the itineracy bears heavily upon diffident men, but the contact with the world which it requires tends to remove the defect, so that the Methodist minister is proverbially free from diffidence. And the superficial certainly have wme advantages in a system of change. But it is not a paradise for the indolent man, whose old sermons, grown stale to himself, are flat to the people, and in a little while he is stationed with difficulty and moved annually, increasing the rapidity of his revolutions with the diminution of his orbit, until hiB natural inertia brings his career to an end.
It may with truth be said that there is some loss of power when those who are succeeding are removed. The knowledge of the persons composing a Society, except as it reflects light on human nature in general, ceases to be of use. It requires a long time to become acquainted with a new congregation. After men pass forty years of age the difficulty of remembering names and faces becomes very great. Habits of study are broken up, and a great amount of otherwise superfluous calling is required. This, however, is not in practice as serious an evil ■as it seems. The class-meeting affords great opportunities of rapidly forming acquaintances. The writer is pastor of more than a thousand communicants, yet by visiting the fifteen classes of the Church, he met, under the best circumstances, in six weeks, more than three hundred members. The identification of individuals is greatly facilitated by the same institution. The people, under the requirements of the case, are social, and meet the pastor fully half way, while a promptness of approach on his part is not only permitted but expected. As the retiring pastor endeavors to correct his records and atone for any apparent neglect, and the new-comer must become acquainted, the whole people are quite sure to be visited at least twice in every two or three years, even if pastors were disposed to neglect this duty. We do not deny a loss of power, but admit it to be in some instances very serious. Yet it is not as great as it seems, and he who guards against it may reduce it very much. And in genuine Methodist Churches, where the class-meeting, that great " compensator," is maintained, it becomes still less.
The gravest charge made against the system is, that it renders local influence impossible. It will be found, however, when a comparison is made to our disadvantage, that some such man as Dr. Storrs, of Brooklyn, who is of transcendent ability, has grown up with the city, is pastor of a congregation of great wealth and commercial, professional, political, and social influence, is compared with an ordinary pastor of a Methodist Church. But let the comparison be made fairly, and several things will be observed. 1. That when a minister has been stationed for many years in the same city, and is adapted to it, he can attain great local influence, which he does not lose by being transferred from one Society to another. The influence of Dr. A. S. Hunt, in the directions in which his tastes led him, was and is second to but few ministers of any standing in the city of Brooklyn. The number of men in other denominations of great local influence is not very large^though particular instances are conspicuous. It is not maintained that we have as many, but our average ministers have more influence of this local kind than that large proportion of settled ministers who are supposed not to be succeeding, and have a hostile minority ready to make capital against them out of the smallest error they may commit. But in a republic there is another kind of influence than that just referred to. It is the power of arousing and stirring the people. Into that power enter enthusiasm, facility in speech, novelty of method, fearlessness, experience in various emergencies, and close connection with the masses of the people. It is this which promotes revivals, all reforms which spring from the impulses of men, great temperance movements, and which resists the insidious encroachments of Romanism or Communism. This kind of influence the Methodist preacher can attain anywhere, and he and his brethren are leaders in these movements every-where. "How is it," said an eminent citizen, referring to a minister of our Church, " that he has a greater hold of the people than those who have lived here all their lives?" "Thank God," said a distinguished professional man in New York, a warden in an Episcopal Church, "we have one Denomination in this country that can be relied on to check the Romanists whenever they show their teeth." And thus the sum total of ten pastorates of three years in as many places may be greater than that of a successful man in one position, and is certainly immeasurably greater than that of an ordinary man.
But we concede that certain things can be done more efficiently under a settled ministry than under an itinerant . Churches can be sustained in certain localities in cities where, under our plan, it is difficult, if not impossible. We hold, nevertheless, that if the incidental disabilities were "ten times greater than they are" the advantages of the system would far outweigh them.
Proposal To Remove The Limitation.
There are those among us who come forward with a plan which they claim will remove at once every disadvantage and secure to us all the advantages of an itineracy, and those also of a settled ministry. They affirm that the only thing that needs alteration to effect this result is to remove the limitation. Let all things remain as they are, let the appointments be made annually, but let pastors be reappointed for successive years as long as the Bishops think it best. This proposition has the merit of simplicity, and would require nothing but a vote of the General Conference to render it legal. There are no constitutional restrictions to prevent it. A majority of one can make it possible for any minister to spend his life where he is, providing that at the successive Annual Conferences the Bishops should re-appoint him.
In attacking the time-limit principles are advanced identical with those urged against the itineracy as a whole. But those who favor the proposition affirm that they love the itineracy, and hope that it will be maintained. One position taken strikes the writer as most singular, and implying a remarkable view of "Providence." "The present rule sets aside the indications of Providence, and substitutes an unbending iron rule of man's device. You may follow Providence within the limit of three years, but after that no call or demand of a providential character can be heeded."
But is not an annual appointment making a limit for Providence? Ten thousand men are appointed for a year. Nothing but immorality, insanity, heresy, voluntary withdrawal, or disease, or death, can remove them. There they must remain.
No man can vote till he is twenty-one years old, yet some are better qualified at sixteen than others at forty. Is not an heir born in this country "providentially" prevented from controlling his property till he is twenty-one, even if man devised the restriction? Judges are retired at seventy, and ineligible to reappointment. When a limit is a fact Providence takes cognizance of it. This limit of three years was made, as was supposed, in harmony with providential indications drawn from the state of the whole Church. The thing to be done is to show that those indications have changed. A man may follow the indications of Providence till they lead him to make a contract which he cannot, without immorality, folate.
The proposition to remove the limitation, simple and harmless as it seems, contains in it elements which woald render many of the advantages now guaranteed impossible, and in a short time put an end to the itineracy. It has been said by an advocate of the removal of the time restriction: "I realize that thousands of old men feel that the itineracy is bound up with this restriction. In the Church South, the restriction was repealed, (I believe in 1868,) but the majority were so moved by the tears of the fathers (who felt that Methodism had been stabbed to the heart) that they repealed their action before the session ended. I perceive and honor this feeling; but I know that it is only feeling. In a short life I have witnessed great changes of feeling in men and bodies of men."
The writer neither feels nor thinks that the itineracy is bound up with this restriction. But he believes that it is bound up with a restriction, a " time-limit" of some kind, contingent up to a certain point, but at that point invincible. And if he should prove to be "old " enough to attempt to substitute feeling or unsupported assertion for facts and reasoning, it will not be difficult to satisfy the Church of it. Indeed, no service can be rendered to a reform greater than a full statement of the views of its opponents. At the same time, to expose the fallacies in impracticable theories serves the cause of truth. The proposition we maintain is this: a limitation by law is essential to the successful working and permanency of the itineracy.
1. Under a limitation the appointments are made in the discretion of the appointing power until the limit is reached. The will of the Bishop determines when the pastor shall go, whether he shall return once or twice. Loyalty requires him to go or stay. But, according to his appointment, when the constitutional limit is reached the Bishop becomes "weak as other men." It is now the whole Denomination which compels the incumbent to move, and he cannot resist. If the Bishop, the Minister, and the Church, should combine, it would avail nothing. Hence it is impossible for the man to stay, and though he may go with the tears of the people mingling with his own, there is no outcry against the Bishop. But let all limitation be removed, and the exercise of Episcopal discretion is the