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meet. These unwarrantable claims were preceded and followed by the expulsion of nearly eighty ministers and members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in different parts of the United States, who advocated a change in the church government, and opposed the Popish claims of the itinerant ministers and bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The above cited claims and expulsions produced numerous secessions in different parts of the United States, and the organization of several annual conferences, of associated churches. These, respectively, elected their representatives, who assembled as above stated in the city of Baltimore, and framed a constitution and discipline for the government of the entire association. The basis on which the government is founded, embraces two very important particulars : First—" The Lord Jesus Christ is the only Head of the Church, and the word of God is the sufficient rule of faith and practice, in all things pertaining to godliness.” Secondly—“A written constitution establishing the form of government, and securing to the ministers and members of the church, their rights and privileges, on an equitable plan of representation, is essential to, and the best safeguard of Christian liberty."
The constitution is preceded by a set of elementary principles, which may be viewed as a bill of rights. These bind the church to the laws of Christ ; secure the rights of private judgment and the expression of opinion ; protect church membership; declare the principles on which church trials shall be conducted, and guard against unrighteous excommunications; point out the residence of legitimate authority to make and enforce rules and regulations, for the proper and wholesome government of the church. The constitution recog. nises the rights and secures the interests of both ministers and laymen, and grants an equal representation to both. By this provision, made permanent under constitutional law, the entire association is fairly represented in the General Conference, which is the legislative department of the church. The executive, legislative, and judicial departments are kept distinct, and in each and all of them, the laity have their due weight, and equal power with the ministers. The government is, therefore, representative, and admirably balanced in
all its parts.
The General Conference is assembled every fourth year, and consists of an equal number of ministers and laymen. The ratio of representation from each annual conference district, is, one minister and one layman for every thousand persons in full membership. This body, when assembled, possesses power, under certain restrictions, 10 make such rules and regulations for the government of the whole church, as may be necessary to carry into effect the laws of Christ; to fix the compensation and duties of the itinerant ministers and preachers, and the allowance of their wives, widows, and children; and also the compensation and duties of the book agent, editor, &c., and to devise ways and means for raising funds, and to define and regulate the boundaries of the respective annual conference districts.
The respective annual conferences assemble annually, and are composed of all the ordained itinerant ministers; that is, all ministers properly under the stationing authority of the conference; and of one delegate from each circuit and station, within the bounds of the district, for each of its itinerant ministers. The annual conferences respectively are invested with power to elect a president annuallyto examine into the official conduct of all their members-to receive by vote such ministers and preachers into the conference as come properly recommended by the quarterly conference of their circuit or station to elect to orders those who are eligible and competent to the pastoral office—to hear and decide on appeals from the decisions of committees appointed to try ministers—to define and regulate the boundaries of circuits and stationsto station the ministers, preachers, and missionaries--to make such rules and regulations as may be necessary to defray the expenses of the itinerant ministers and preachers and their families. The annual conferences, respectively, have authority to perform the following additional duties: Ist. To make such special rules and regulations as the peculiarities of the district may require; provided, however, that no rule be made inconsistent with the constitution—the General Conference to have power to annul any such rule. 2d. To prescribe and regulate the mode of stationing the ministers and preachers within the district; provided always, that they grant to each minister or preacher stationed, an appeal, during the sitting of the conference. And no minister or preacher to be stationed longer than three years, successively, in the same circuit, and two years, successively, in the same station. 3d. Each annual conference is clothed with power to make its own rules and regulations for the admission and government of coloured members within its district; and to make for them such terms of suffrage as the conferences may respectively deem proper. Each annual conference is required to keep a journal of its proceedings, and to send a copy to the General Conference.
The quarterly conferences are the immediate official meetings of the circuits and stations, and assemble quarterly, for the purposes of examining the official character of all the members, consisting of the trustees, ministers, preachers, exhorters, leaders and stewards of the circuit or station; to grant to persons properly qualified, and recommended by the class of which he is a member, license to exhort or preach; to recommend ministers and preachers to the annual conference to travel, and for ordination; and to hear and decide on appeals made by laymen from the decision of committees of trial.
The leaders' meeting is peculiar to stations, and is composed of the superintendent of the station, the stewards and the leaders. The superintendent is the minister who has the charge of the station. The stewards are appointed by the male members of the station to receive and disburse the collections made in the classes and the church. The leaders are elected by their respective classes, and represent them in the leaders' meeting. This meeting is the organ of reception of members into the church, and the dispenser of relief to the poor through the hands of the stewards. In the circuits, persons are received into
, full membership by vote of the society. Class leaders, stewards, trustees, exhorters, and private members, when charged with immorality or neglect of Christian duty, are duly notified by the superintendent, sufficient time being allowed to make preparation for their defence, and the right of challenge is granted to extend to any number of the committee not exceeding the whole number originally appointed. The committee of trial is appointed in the following manner. The superintendent nominates two persons in full membership and good standing, over the age of twenty-one years. The class, of which the accused is a member, nominates two more male members in like standing, those four persons select a fifth, and the five persons thus chosen, constitute a competent court of trial.
The above particulars constitute a brief sketch of the origin and system of the Methodist Protestant Church. She has progressed with an even steady pace, maintained peace in all her borders, and has contributed her share of usefulness towards the general good. As a seceding church from the Methodist Episcopal, she entertains no unfriendly feelings to that denomination of Christians. The doctrines taught by both churches, the means of grace and mode of worship being similar, the only difference lies in government: the Methodist Episcopal Church rejecting lay representation and adopting an unlimited episcopacy; while the Methodist Protestant Church admits lay representation and a parity in the ministry. These points
of difference, though very great, are deemed not sufficient to justify an alienation of Christian affection; therefore, the two churches are one in Christ Jesus, and are both labouring to promote the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom among men, and are to be viewed as two branches of the great Methodist family in Europe and in this country.
For further particulars, the reader is referred to the Discipline, to Williams's History of the Methodist Protestant Church, and to Samuel K. Jennings' “ Exposition.”
REFORMED METHODIST CHURCH.
BY REV. WESLEY BAILEY,
UTICA, NEW YORK.
The writer, in the following article, can give but an outline, a brief and hasty sketch of the history of the body of Christians with which he stands connected, viz. : The Reformed Methodists. Want of time and documentary facts prevent, at this time, his laying before the public as extended and correct a view of this branch of the Methodist family, as he could wish for the excellent forthcoming “history of the whole Church."
The Reformed Methodists took their origin from a feeble secession from the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the towns of Whitingham and Readsborough, Vermont, January 16th, 1814. We say feeble secession, because their entire number did not exceed fourteen persons, and these in no way distinguished for talent or learning; but were plain, unassuming mechanics and farmers, none of whom held any higher relation to the Methodist Episcopal Church, than that of local preachers and exhorters.
We trust the first Reformed Methodists entered upon the work of reform with lowliness of mind, and not through strife and vain-glory. They felt straitened in their religious rights and privileges under the Episcopal mode of church government. The gospel precept is: to “ Esteem each other better than ourselves;" but they feared that this precept of humility, under the practice of the Episcopal mode of church government, had been lost sight of, and that this anti-democratic form of church organization tended to beget its own likeness on the hearts of the itinerant superintendents. And in order to regain, and, if possible give a more abiding effect to the true and free spirit of the gospel, which, in their belief, had been departed from in praclice; to remove every inward and outward obstruction, and in hope of establishing rules of discipline and self-government more in conformity with the simple principles and primitive method prescribed in