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bly, be attended by more prefiding elders, elders, and deacons, than the conference which is authorized to try a bishop, the yearly conferences consisting of from thirty to sixty members: And we can, without scruple, assert, that there are no bishops of any other epifcopal church upon earth, who are subject to so ftrict a trial as the bishops of the Methodist episcopal church inr America. We trust, they will never need to be influenced by motives drawn from the fear of temporal or ecclesiastical punishments, in order to keep from vice : But if they do, may the rods which hangs over them have its due effect; or may they be expelled the church, as “ salt which hath lost its favour, and is thenceforth good for nothing but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men !"
3. Mr. Wesley had the entire management of all the conference-funds and the produce of the books. It is true, he expended alt upon the work of God, and for charitable purposes; and rather than appropriate the least of it to his own use, refused, even when he was about seventy years of age, to travel in a carriage, till his friends in London and Bristol entered into a private subscription for the extraordinary expense. That great man of God might have heaped up thousands upon thousands, if he had been so inclined; and yet he died worth nothing but a little pocket money, the horses and the carriage in which he travelled; and the clothes he wore. But our American bishops have no probability of being rich. For not a cent of the public money is at their disposal : the conferences have the entire direction of the whole. Their salary is fixty-four dollars a year; and their travelling expenses are also defrayed. And with this falary they are to travel about fix thousand miles a year,“ in much patience, and sometimes“ in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in labours, in watchings, in fastings,” through “honour and dishonour,
report and good report : as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold,” they “ live; as chastened, and not killed; as forrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing; and yet possessing all things; and, we trust, they can each of. them through grace fay, in their small meafure, with the great apostle, that they are determined not to know any thing, fave Jesus Christ, and him crucified; yea, doubtless, and count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jefus their Lord: for whom they have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that they may win Chrift."
We have drawn this comparison between our venerable father and the American bishops, to shew to the world that they poffefs not, and, we may add, they aim not to possess, that power which he exercised and had a right to cxercise, as the father of the connection : that, on the contrary, they are perfectly de
pendent; that their power, their usefulness, themselves, are 411-7 tirely at the niercy of the general conference, and, on the charge of immorality, at the mercy of two-thirds of the little conference of nine.
To these observations we may add, 1. That a branch of the episcopal office, which, in every episcopal church upon earth, fince the first introduction of christianity, has been considered as essential to it, namely, the power of ordination, is fingularly limitedin our bishops. For they not only have no power to ordain a person for the epifcopal office till he be first elected by the general conference, but they possess no authority to ordain an elder or a travelling deacon, till he be first elected by a yearly conference ; or a local deacon, till he obtain a testimonial, fignifying the approbation of the society to which he belongs, counterligned by the general stewards of the circuit, three elders, three deacons, and three travelling preachers. They are, therefore, not under the temptation of ordaining through interest, affection, or any other improper motive; because it is not in their power fo to do. They have, indeed, authority to suspend the ordination of an elected perfon, because they are answerable to God for the abuse of their office, and the command of the apo tle, Lay hands suddenly on no man,” is absolute : and, we truit, where conscience was really concerned, and they had sufficient reason to exercise their power of sufpenfion, they would do it, even to the loss of the esteem of their brethren, which is more dear to them than life, yea, even to the loss of their usefulness in the church, which is more precious to them thau all things here below. But every one muit be immediately sensible, how cautious they will necer.. farily be, as men of wisdom, in the exercise of this fufpending power. For unless they had such weighty reasons for the exera. cise of it, as would give some degree of satisfaction to the cona ference which had made the election, they would throw themselves into difficulties, out of which they would not be able to extricate themselves, but by the meekest and wiseft conduct, and by reparation to the injured person.
2. The bishops are obliged to travel, till the general conference pronounces them worn-out or superannuated : for that certainly is the meaning of the answer to the 6th question of this section. What a restriction! Where is the like in any other episcopalchurch? It would be a disgrace to our episcopacy, to have bishops settled on their plantations here and there, evidencing to all the world, that instead of breathing, the fpirit of their office, they could, without remorse, lay down ibeir crown, and bury the most important talents God has given to men! We would ram ther choose that our episcopacy should be blotted out from the face of the earth, than be spotted with such disgraceful conduct ! All the episcopal churches in the world arc conscious of the dig:
nity of the episcopal office. The greatest part of them endeavour to preserve this dignity by large falaries, splendid dreiles, and other appendages of pomp and fplendour. But if an episcopacy has neither the dignity which arises from these worldly trappings, nor that infinitely superior dignity which is the attendant of labour, of fuifering and enduring haruihip for the cause of Christ, and of a venerable old age, the concluding scene of a life, devoted to the service of God, it instantly becomes the disgrace of a church and the just ridicule of the world !
Some may think, that the mode of travelling, which the bishops are obliged to pursue, is attended with little difficulty, and niuch pleasure. Much pleasure they certainly do experience, because they know that they move in the will of God, and that the Lord is pleased to own their feeble labours. But if to travel through the heat and the cold, the rain and the snow, the fwanip3 and the rivers, over the mountains and through the wildernefs, lying for nights together on the bare ground and in log-houtes, open to the wind on every fide, fulfilling their appointments, as far as possible, whatever be the hinderance, if these be little difficulties, then our bishops have but little to endure.
We have already quoted so many texts of Scripture in defence of episcopacy and the itinerant plan, that we need only refer our reader to the notes on the ist' and 3d sections. The whole tenor of St. Paul's epifles to Timothy and Titus clearly evidences, that they were invested, on the whole, with abundantly more power than our bishops : nor does it appear that they were responsible to any but God and the apostle. The texts quoted in the notes on the 3d section, in defence of the itinerant plan, we would particularly recommend to the reader's attention; as we must infist upon it, that the general itinerancy would not probably exist for any length of time on this extenfive continent, if the bishops were not invested with that authority which they now potsess. They alone travel through the whole connection, and, therefore, have such a view of the whole, as no yearly conference can polibly have.
One bifhop, with the elders present, may confecrate a bishop who has been previously elected by the general conference. This is agreeable to the Scriptures. We read, 2 Tim. i. 6. “I put thee in remembrance, that thou stir up the gift of God which is in thee, by the putting on of my hands :" here we have the impofition of the hands of the apostle. Again, we read, 1 Tim. iv. 14. “ Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery : here we have the laying on of the hands of the elders. And by comparing both passages, it is evident that the imposition of hands was, both in respect to the apostle and the elders, for the Jame gift. Nor is the idea, that three bishops are necessary to
consecrate a bishop, grounded on any authority whatever, drawn from the Scriptures, or the practice of the apostolic age.
The authority given to, or rather declared to exist in, the ge. neral conference, that in case there shall be no bishop remaining in the church, they shall elect a bishop, and authorize the elders to confecrate him, will not admit of an objection, except on the supposition that the fable of an uninterrupted apostolic suceeflion be allowed to be true. St. Jerome, who was as strong an advocate for episcopacy as perhaps any in the primitive church, informs us, that in the church of Alexandria (which was, in ancie ent times, one of the most respectable of the churches) the college of presbyters not only elected a bishop, on the decease of the former, but consecrated him by the imposition of their own hands folely, from the time of St. Mark, their first bishop, to the time of Dionysius, which was a space of about two hundred years : and the college of presbyters in ancient times answered to our general conference.
SECTION V. Of the Presiding Elders, and of their Duty,
, . Queft. 1.
Y whom are the presiding elders to be
chofen? Answ. By the bishop. Quest. 2. What are the duties of a presiding elder? Answ. 1. To travel through his appointed district.
2. In the absence of a bishop, to take charge of all the elders, deacons, travelling and local preachers, and exhorters in his district.
3. To change, receive, or suspend preachers in his district during the intervals of the conferences, and in the absence of the bishop.
4. In the absence of a bishop, to preside in the conference.
5. To be present, as far as practicable, at all the quarterly meetings : and to call together at each quarterly meeting all the travelling and local preachers, exhorters, stewards, and leaders of the circuit, to hear omplaints, and to receive appeals.
6. To oversee the spiritual and temporal business, oli the societies in his district.
7. To take care that every part of our discipline be enforced in his district.
8. To attend the bishop when present in his district; and to give him when abfent all necessary infor, mation, by letter, of the state of his district.
Queft. 3. By whom are the presiding elders to be ftationed and changed ?
Answ. By the bishop.
Queft. 4. How long may the bishop allow an elder to preside in the fame district ?
Antw. For any term not exceeding four years success sively.
Quefi. 5. How shall the presiding elders be supported?
Answ. If there be a surplus of the public money, in one or more circuits in his district, he shall receive such surplus, provided he do not receive more than his annual salary. In case of a deficiency in his falary, after such surplus is paid him, or if there be no surplus, he shall share with the preachers of his district, in proportion with what they have respectively received, so that he receive no more than the amount of his salary upon the whole.
NO TE S.
We have already shewn by Scripture and argument, in our annotations on the twenty-second article of religion, that every church must necessarily be invested with the authority of ordaining rites and ceremonies in refpect to all uncffential matters, that is, respecting every thing which is not contrary to the Word of God. The same arguments will hold with exadly equal force, in respect to the powers which any church may think proper to invest in its public officers. The New Testament is almost entirely filent about all such things, as they depend so much on the circumstances of the churches, and the customs and manners of different nations.
• However, there are some fundamental principles and general data* afforded us in the New Testament (to which alone we can have recourse on this subject) on which we may build ac
* Points which are granted, and perfcally evident.