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found great enlargement, and humbly trust the people were profited.” His journal proceeds :
** Mon. 18.-I spent most of this day in reading, meditation, and prayer. I see I cannot make full proof of my ministry, unless I give attendance to reading, &c., according to the directions St. Paul gives to his son Timothy. Lord, help me!
“ Aug. 20.—I enjoyed much of the presence of God in study this forenoon. I can truly bless God for bringing me here, where I have an opportunity for much retirement, have a good library, provided by the Birstal Circuit for the use of the preachers, and, in short, every help I could desire.
Aug. 23.–For two days I have been much depressed and cast down. I thought it impossible to go through my work. I found no life or power in preaching, no pleasure in reading and meditation. I was ready to doubt whether I was called to the work or not; but found a willingness to be or do any thing, God would but grant me his presence.
“Sun. 24.-I found little liberty in preaching this morning at Gildersome; but at Morley had great enlargement; the Lord assisted me far beyond my expectations; and I was greatly encouraged to hope God would carry me through my great and important work. O that I may fully answer the character of a Christian minister. Walking in the fields alone, the Lord revealed himself to me in a wonderful manner. O how near did I feel him! My soul sank as it were into nothing before God, and I saw clearly, that if faithful to the grace then received, I never need lose the presence of God any
“Wed. 27.—Have enjoyed much communion with God for the last three days, and have had great liberty in preaching Oh! how easy it is to go through the work of God, when he is with us! O my God, may I ever keep humble at thy feet.
“Sun. 31.—This has been a day of great fear and trembling. I felt the importance of my work, and am convinced that a little grace will not suffice to enable me to go in and out before this people as I ought to do. I spent the evening in company with Mr. Pawson. His seriousness and gravity, his solid piety and profound
judgment, raised in me an earnest desire to be wholly devoted to God.
“Sat. Sept. 6.—I have been much exercised this afternoon. The occasion of the trial was this: hearing of a sick person, I went to a friend's house to make some inquiry where she lived. While I was there, an old professor and leader came in, who said, 'It is out of fashion for preachers to visit the sick now;' and some other words equally ill-natured. There is no escaping the censures of some men; but I have in that respect the testimony of a good conscience. Lord, help me to seek nothing but thy glory and the good of souls !
“ Mon. 15.—Got off my watch; lost that attention to God's presence I had retained for several days; felt pride and a worldly spirit. I almost envied some of my brethren who seemed to be more comfortably situated than myself; and found a strong propensity to be among the rich and great. Lord, keep me humble.
** Thurs. 23.—For seven days last past, I have been passing through deep waters. My trials have arisen partly from the misconduct of one very near to me; and partly from the divisions occasioned by the preachers' leaving Dewsbury, and Mr. Atlay's coming there. But I have found that all things work together for good.' My soul is more than ever weaned from earth. My late trials have had a good influence; they have made me more spiritual and heavenly-minded.
The division above referred to was a source of great distress to his mind, and created considerable uneasiness for some time in many parts of the Connexion, both on account of its unhappy influence on the societies in the Dewsbury and Birstal Circuits, and the importance of the principles involved in the dispute in which it originated. The facts were thus briefly stated by Mr. Wesley, in a circular addressed “ to the Methodist Preachers," and dated “ Redruth, Aug. 23, 1789.”
“Some years since, Mr. Valton wrote to me from Yorkshire, informing me there was great want of a larger preaching-house at Dewsbury, and desiring leave to make subscriptions and collections, in order to build one. I encouraged him to make them. Money was subscribed and collected, and the house built, which the Trustees promised to settle in the usual form. But
when it was finished, they refused to settle it, unless a power was given them to displace any preacher they should object to.” This was à concession which Mr. Wesley could not conscientiously make; for as he justly remarked, "If they have a power of refusing any preacher whom they disliked, I have no power of stationing the Dewsbury preachers; for the Trustees may object to whom they please. And themselves, not I, are finally to judge of those objections."
During the preceding year Mr. Wesley had had similar contests with the Trustees at Birstal, Bradford, and other places. He felt that the permanency of that great work which he had been instrumental in effecting, depended in a high degree upon the maintenance of the principles for which he was now contending. And he was especially influenced by these two considerations : first, that it was essential to the independence and the free action of the preachers, that the power of appointing, removing, and trying them should be vested in himself, and the Conference after his death ;—and that they must inevitably be in bondage to the Trustees, if the latter had the power now claimed by those of Dewsbury: secondly,—that the concession of this
would be fatal to the itinerant system, which he regarded as an important arrangement of Divine Providence for maintaining the efficiency of the ministry, the edification of the people, and the unity of the Connexion. His own words
Whenever the Trustees exert their power of placing and displacing Preachers, then 1. Itinerant preaching is no more. When the Trustees in any place have found and fixed a preacher they like, the rotation of preachers is at an end; at least, till they are tired of their favourite preacher, and so turn him out. 2. While he stays, is not the bridle in his mouth ? How dares he speak the full and the whole truth, since, whenever he displeases the Trustees, he is liable to lose his bread ? How much less will he dare to put a Trustee, though ever so ungodly, out of the society ?"
Some objected that by his insisting upon this mode of settling the chapels, he “occasioned endless strife, animosity, and confusion, and destroyed the work of God.” Mr. Wesley replied, “No; not I. It is these Trustees
that occasion all the strife, animosity, and confusion, by insisting upon a right to place and displace preachers. I go on in the old way, as I did at Bristol, Kingswood, and Newcastle. It is they, that by obstinately going out of it, hinder, yea, destroy the work of God. And I charge them with the blood of all those souls that are destroyed by this contention. It is they that do the wrong,—that will place and displace preachers,—who bawl and pour out bitter words. But let them take care; for God heareth. And he will arise, and maintain his own cause !"
Mr. Wesley deemed it quite necessary that this important question should be definitively settled while he was living. Some of his friends tried to persuade him to leave its decision to his successors. They said,“ Since this power will not commence till your death, why should you oppose it? Why should you not keep yourself out of the broil, and let tbem fight it out when you are at rest? Why should you pull an old house upon your own head, when you are just going out of the world? Peace be in your days. Why should you take upon yourself the burden which you may leave to your successors ?"
He answered, “ In this very respect I have an advantage which my successors cannot have. Every one sees, I am not pleading my own cause; I have already all that I contend for. No: I am pleading for Mr. Taylor, Mr. Bradburn, Mr. Benson, and for every other travelling preacher, that you may
be as free, after I am gone hence, as you are now I am at your head ; that you may never be liable to be turned out of any or all of our houses, without any reason given, but that so is the pleasure of twenty or thirty men. I say any; for I see no sufficient reason for giving up any house in England. Indeed if one were given up, more would follow : it would be • as the letting out of the water.'
The great object for which Mr. Wesley was now contending, was :- 1. That all the preaching-houses might be settled on such a plan, as would secure them for ever, so far as human arrangements could do this, for the purposes for which they were originally intended: and 2. That the independence, the purity, and the fidelity of the ministry might be maintained by establishing it as a principle, that they should be tried by their peers only,
and that no body of Trustees should have the power of removing a preacher against whom they might have unreasonable objections.
There was no dispute about the property in these chapels. Mr. Wesley never claimed either for himself or the Conference any right to the property; but merely the power of appointing and removing ministers; and that not arbitrarily and capriciously, but on clearly defined and scriptural principles. His thorough knowledge of human nature, his extensive acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, his observation of many instances in which chapels built by the pious Nonconformists had been grievously alienated from their original purpose, and his clear insight into the tendency of the principles adopted by the dissentient Trustees, all combined to produce a deep conviction that it was his duty now to make a stand for principles essential to the permanency and purity of the Connexion.
Some good men doubted at the time whether it would not have been better to leave the chapels unsettled, than to encounter so much opposition, and risk the consequences of the divisions which took place; and feared that the highest interests of the church were sacrificed to those which were of minor importance. But many of these lived long enough to see and admire the practical wisdom which characterized Mr. Wesley's proceedings on this occasion: and during the agitation of the Connexion by Mr. Kilham and his party in 1797—8, and more recently by others in 1829 and 1835, they were constrained gratefully to acknowledge the wise and gracious providence of God by which Mr. Wesley was led to the adoption of plans which effectually secure the Connexion from evils which have been very injurious to other sections of the Christian church.
Many attempts were made to bring the Dewsbury Trustees to a right mind. Preachers of the highest character and influence in the Connexion were deputed to negociate with them. Various conciliatory measures were proposed and rejected; but every attempt proving ineffectual,—the Trustees still insisting upon the power of refusing or removing any preacher they disliked, and seizing upon the new chapel built by the contributions of the people (the Trustees themselves not contributing