Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub

and his people should think it arbitrary; or that a small minority should become dissatisfied without cause, and should stir up other ministers to say " he has been there long enough," what then? Suppose that his friends should say, " We have stood by you, and you must stand by us," and his wife, with her social relations, and his children in the schools, were to chime in, what would be the result?

There has been but one kind of " loyalty" thus far—loyalty to the Methodist Episcopal Church; every Methodist minister "to the manner born," and all who have selected the Denomination on reflection, have been educated to such loyalty to the whole Church. This in ministry and laity is the centripetal tendency which holds the body together. But a sentiment of loyalty to the local Church, which the abrogation of a time limit would make possible and stimulate, is antagonistic to the other, and to rely on the loyalty now existing to protect the Denomination from the evils arising from another kind of loyalty is not reasonable.

Surely the American people need no lessons on the baleful effects of a conflict of loyalty. General Robert E. Lee originally had no heart in secession. He was loyal to the Union, and would have fought for it. Why, then, did he reluctantly go with the South % Because his education and associations had developed a sentiment of loyalty to the State in distinction from that to the Federal Republic, until the former surpassed the latter.

V. We affirmed that " the history of the introduction of the 'timelimit' confirms all that has been set forth." And in supporting that position, we charged the "Brooklyn Society for the Promotion of a more Effective Working of the Itineracy" with putting forth "an amazing, though no doubt unintentional, misrepresentation." The editor of the " Methodist" avows himself the author of the paragraph, the accuracy of which we impeached, and made answer in his paper of January 17:

The paragraph attacked as "an amazing misrepresentation" is this:

"Up to 1804 the pastorates were all short—shorter than now; but they were made so by a judgment annually exercised by those who made them. We are quite willing that the pastorates should be short, provided that they be made short by the judgment which annually fixes them. In 1804 the pastoral limit was fixed at two years of continuous service, and this limit was in the law for sixty years. Since 1864 the limit has been set at three years. I ask you to notice that the men who fixed upon two years in 1804 were large-minded, and set the mark up to the highest demand of any Church under their care. Two-years'pastorates, in 1804, met the extremest city want. If a General Conference were now to imitate the men of 1804, it could not fix the limit short of ten years. John-street, in 1804, was provided with a pastoral term up to its largest ambition; no one, remembering all the changes that have occurred, would think of a less term than ten years, if he wished to meet the largest ambition of St. Paul's in 1880."—P. 18.

The leading statement here is that, up to 1804, the pastorates were made short by a judgment annually exercised; a subordinate statement is, that the two-years' limit met the extremest city want. Dr. Buckley does not deny either statement, but he attacks the details of the latter one with considerable vigor, as follows:

"Nearly every statement in that passage is incorrect. 'Up to 1804 the pastorates were all short—shorter than now.' This is not correct. 'Two-years' pastorates, in 1804, met the extremest city want.' This is an error. 'John-street, in 1804, was provided with a pastoral term up to its largest ambition.' This is wholly wrong. Joining issues so positively on these statements, it behooves the writer to furnish irrefutable proof of the errors charged, or submit to be convicted of assailing the accuracy of another's affirmations without due care and candor. The facts are that, though for some time previous to 1794 the general custom had been for the preachers to change every six months, (albeit this was only required 'when convenient,') between 1794 and 1804 the terms greatly lengthened. Many remained two years, and several stayed three years, and Francis Asbury could not prevent it." ".

To substantiate this charge of inaccuracy, the following proof was furnished:

1. The Annual Minutes for the years between 1794 and 1804. These show many appointments for two years, and several for three—John-street and Baltimore, among others, having had pastors appointed for three successive years.

2. Stevens' "History of the Methodist Episcopal Church," vol. iv, p. 178: "They were not allowed to appoint preachers for more than two successive years to the same appointment; hitherto there had been no restriction, and some had been three years in one appointment. Asbury rejoiced in the new rule as a great relief to the appointing power.,"

3. Dr. Stevens is generally thoroughly reliable; but for details it is well to go to primary sources. Jesse Lee's "History of the Methodists" was published in 1810. He says, pp. 298, 299: "The following rule was also formed, 'The Bishop shall not allow any preacher to remain in the same station or circuit more than two years successively.' In some cases, prior to that rule, the Bishop had appointed a preacher or preachers to the same place for three years together. He now determined on a better plan, and formed this rule to prevent any preacher from wishing or expecting such an appointment in future."

An important typographical error occurred in the extract from Lee's " History." It reads: "We [not he] now determined on a better plan, and formed this rule to prevent any preacher from wishing or expecting such an appointment in future."

Candor requires any one who charges another with serious error to pnblish his answer in full: we therefore transcribe as follows the defense of the editor of the " Methodist:"

"We answer: 1. Our leading statement is confirmed by Dr. Buckley, that the pastorates were made short by a judgment annually exercised. 2. The term "all" is seized upon, and bears the brunt of the criticism, though it is plain that the editor was speaking of the admitted fact (not denied by Dr. B.) that the general run of pastorates was shorter than now. The point is of little consequence to the argument, but, to answer a "smart" controversialist according to his smartness, we may say that if men "stayed" three years in John-street before 1804, they now "stay" four years in the New England Conference—and that is a complete answer to the purely technical objection on which Dr. B. founds the heavy charge of "an amazing misrepresentation." 3. Dr. B. furnishes no proof that any body was dissatisfied with the limit at two years. He proves that this limit had been reached and passed, but does not attempt to prove that any Church asked for a longer term in the rule. Respecting what some Churches might now ask, he is prudently silent.

On the answer but little need be said. The passage controverted declares that the "pastorates were all short, shorter than now," and holds up the men " who fixed upon two years" as "large-minded;" and declares that "if a General Conference were now to imitate the men of 1804, it could not fix the limit short of ten years." The spirit of the passage, as well as the letter, is a call to the men of 1880 to be as "large-minded" as the men of 1804. In answer, we proved that leading men had been appointed for three years, and that the men of 1804 made the rule solely to keep the limit down to two. We now leave the reader to form his own judgment as to the issue of fact. From the above premises "the conclusion is that"—

If the iron hand of Asbury, when the Churches were weak and the discipline strong, could not maintain the Itineracy without a time limitation, it is certain that, considering all the changes that have transpired, if the limitation by law were removed, the Itineracy would at once and forever break down.

On this the editor of the " Northern " remarks:

So positive and sweeping an inference should rest on an unquestionable basis. . . . That Asbury did not want the preachers to wish or expect to remain more than two years in the same place is, according to Lee's testimony, very evident, but that he recommended the rule because he "could not" make the appointments or maintain the Itineracy without it is an inference which the " iron-handed" Asbury would hardly have tolerated. Is it not a pure non sequitur?

We did not attempt to republish Asbury's " Journals," nor his letters to Francis Morrell, nor his valedictory to William M'Kendree, in which he bemoans the difficulties in his way of making changes and keeping the terms short, nor the quaint passage in which, under date of July 13, 1793, he says: "I am convinced there ought to be a change generally, presiding elders and others. This I aim at, but there are great difficulties. . . . All my woods and wilderness troubles vanish in a moment when I have to take one single grain of conference tartar."

We really supposed that every student of Methodist history knew Asbury's views on this subject, and that he was thoroughly opposed to long terms of service in one circuit or station. The question, however, is, what was made out in the article reviewed. It was clearly shown that Asbury could not move the presiding elders without the aid of a time limit; that as late as 1794 he desired the preachers to change every six months, and that in 1804 the General Conference was compelled to make a rule limiting the time to two years, because Asbury had not been able to withstand the pressure, and had appointed some for three years. If it is a non sequitur to conclude from such premises that Asbnry could not maintain the Itineracy against localizing tendencies, a true sequence in historical reasoning will be difficult to find.

Whatever view may be taken of our deductions thus far, we have it in our power to set this branch of the subject forever at rest, by giving, in the very words of the minister who proposed the adoption of the two-years' rule, a full account of all the circumstances which led to its enactment, extending even to the conversation with Bishop Asbnry on the subject.

History Of The Adoptign Of The Two-years' Rule, In The Words Of Its Mover.

The circumstances which led to the adoption of that rule are not fully known at this day. Soon after the commencement of the present century two or three cases occurred that gave the Bishop great annoyance. Some preachers finding themselves in pleasant stations, and by the aid of self-constituted committees— believing, of course, that they could do better in the place than any one else—objected to removal, while the more pious part of the society would have preferred a change; but the officious committee prevailed. One of these unhappy cases came under our personal knowledge when in company with the Bishop, which gave the venerable Asbury much anxiety, seeing that to remove the incumbent would rend the society, and to leave him would result in injury to the Church. Finally they prevailed, and evil followed. In conversation with the Bishop we suggested the above rule, to which he pleasantly replied, "So, then, you would restrict the appointing power?" "Nay, sir," was the reply; "we would aid its execution, for in the present case it seems to be deficient."

His laconic reply of "So, so," encouraged me at the ensuing General Conference of 1804, to present the resolution, which was signed and seconded by the Rev. Joseph Totten, of the Philadelphia Conference. ... Of course, it was laid on the table for thepresent. It was talked over out of doors, and scanned in all its bearings by the fireside, and when called up again, after somediscussion, it passed with a very general vote. Nearly fortyseven years of experience has proved its utility, and we believe it has saved the Bishops and the Church no little difficulty. Now, if nearly fifty years ago there were two or three such unhappy cases, might we not reasonably calculate on two or three score at the present day? And if Bishop Asbury, with all his fatherly influence and decision, needed the aid of such a rule,, how much more do our present Bishops 1 Indeed, we cannot conceive how an efficient systematic Itineracy can be sustained without some such rule; hence our English brethren have one of like import.

The author of the above passage, and the mover of the twoyears' rule, was the venerable Aaron Hunt, of the New York Fourth Seeies, Vol. XXXII.—22

« IndietroContinua »