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There was no formal discussion of the subject, in the House of Bishops, but they negatived the question of reference to a future convention, when it became the subject of conference between the two houses. The negative happened by Bishop Seabury's, Bishop Claggett's, and the author's votes, against Bishop Madison's in the affirmative; so that the president was not called on to vote. The author takes notice that this transaction is not recorded on the journal of the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. But it happened as recorded on that of the bishops, who, by their negative vote, only showed their willingness to undertake the subject; for the postponement took place of course, as the other house, immediately after the conference, determined to dismiss it for the present.
It may be proper to mention a proposition made by the bishops, but not entered on the journals.
Bishop Madison had communicated to the author, on their journey from Philadelphia to New-York, a design which he had much at heart-that of effecting a re-union with the Methodists: and he was so sanguine as to believe, that by an accommodation to them in a few instances, they would be induced to give up their peculiar discipline, and conform to the leading parts of the doctrine, the worship, and the discipline of the Episcopal Church. It is to be noted, that he had no idea of comprehending them, on the condition of their continuing embodied, as at present. On this there was communicated to him an intercourse held with Dr. Coke, one of the superintendents of that society, which might bave showed to Bishop Madison, how hopeless all endeavours for such a junction must prove. Nevertheless, he persisted in his well meant design. The result of this, was his introducing into the House of Bishops of a proposition, which his brethren, after some modifications, approving of the motive, but expecting little as the result of it, consented to send to the other house. The proposition is as follows:
“ The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America, ever bearing in mind the sacred obligation which attends all the followers of Christ, to avoid divisions among themselves; and anxious to promote that union for which our Lord and Saviour so earnestly prayed; do hereby declare to the Christian world, that, uninfluenced by any
This was the name that was then borne by those who presided in the Methodist communion.
other considerations than those of duty as Christians, and an earnest desire for the prosperity of pure Christianity, and the furtherance of our holy religion; they are ready and willing to unite and form one body with any religious society, which shall be influenced by the same Catholic spirit. And in order that this Christian end may be the more easily effected, they further declare, that all things in which the great essentials of Christianity or the characteristic principles of their Church are not concerned, they are willing to leave to future discussion; being ready to alter or modify those points, which in the opinion of the Protestant Episcopal Church, are subject to human alteration. And it is hereby recommended to the state conventions, to adopt such measures or propose such conferences with Christians of other denominations, as to themselves may be thought most prudent; and report accordingly to the ensuing General Convention."
On the reading of this in the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies, they were astonished, and considered it as altogether preposterous; tending to produce distrust of the stability of the system of the Episcopal Church, without the least prospect of embracing any other religious body. The members generally mentioned, as a matter of indulgence, that they would permit the withdrawing of the paper; no notice to be taken of it. A few gentlemen, however, who had got some slight intimations of the correspondence between Dr. Coke and the author, who would have been gratified by an accommodation with the Methodists, and who thought that the paper sent was a step in measures to be taken to that effect, spoke in favour of the proposition. But it was not to be endured; and the bishops silently withdrew it, agreeably to leave given.
To guard against misconstruction, at some future time, of the correspondence between Dr. Coke and the author, he records it here.
In the spring of the year 1791, the author received from that gentleman a letter, containing a plan of what he considered as an union of the Methodistical society with the Episcopal Church. The plan was, in substance, that all the Methodist ministers, at the time in connexion, were to receive Episcopal ordination, as also those who should come forwards in future within the connexion; such ministers to remain under the government of the then superintendents and their successors. Dr. Coke's motive to the proposed union, as stated in his letter, was an apprehension entertained by him, that he had gone further in the separation than had been designed by Mr. Wesley, from whom he had received his commission. Mr. Wesley himself, he was sure, had gone further than he would have gone, if he had foreseen some events which followed. The doctor was certain, that the same gentleman was sorry for the separation, and would use his influence to the utmost, for the accomplishinent of a re-union. Dr. Coke's letter was answered by the author, with the reserve which seemed incumbent on one, who was incompetent to decide with effect on the proposal made.
It happened that Dr. Coke, before he received the arswer to his letter, hearing of the decease of Mr. Wesley, the news of which reached America during the short interval between the dates of the two letters, set off immediately froin Baltimore for Philadelphia, to take his passage for England. On reaching this city and calling on Dr. Magaw, he was much disappointed on hearing of the carly answer, lest it should fall into the hands of his colleague-Mr. Asbury. lle visited the author, in company of Dr. Magaw; and in speaking of the above incident, said, that although he hoped Mr. Asbury would not open the letter; yet he might do so, on the supposition that it related to their joint concern. The conversation was general; and nothing passed, that gave any ground of expectation of a re-union, on the principle of consolidation; or any other principle, than that of the continuing of the Methodists a distinct body and self-governed. In short, there were held out only the terms of the letter; in which there does not seem to be contemplated' any change in the relation of the Episcopal Church to that society, except the giving of them access to the Episcopal congregations, while there was sufficient seeurity provided, to prevent the clergy of the latter from having access to congregations of the Methodists. At least it is here supposed, that these things would have been unavoidably the result.
The author saw Dr. Coke twice after this; once, by appointment at Dr. Magaw's, where nothing material passed'; and again, alone at the author's house, where Dr. Coke read a letter which he had written to Bishop Seabury, similar to that which he had written to the author ; but with the difference of his suggesting to Bishop Seabury as follows—That although the Methodists would have confidence in any engagements which should be made by the present bishops; yet there might in future be some, who, on the arrival of their inferior grades of preachers to a competency to the ministry, would not admit them as proposed in the letter—that to guard against the danger of this, there would be use in consecrating Mr. Asbury to the Episcopacy—and that although there would not be the same reasons in his (Dr. Coke's) case, because he was a resident of England; yet, as he should probably, while he lived, occasionally visit America, it would not be fit, considering he was Mr. Asbury's senior, that he should appear in a lower character than this gentleman. These were, in substance, the sentiments expressed; and on reading this part of the letter, he desired the author to take notice, that he did not make a condition of what he had there written. There was no comment, and he proceeded.
In this conversation he said, that Mr. Asbury had opened his letter, but he had heard nothing from him on the subject. With this interview, all intercourse ended. Dr. Coke soon afterward embarked for England; and was reported to have had an interview with Mr. Asbury somewhere down the river, on his journey to the ship. The author avoided speaking on the subject, until the convention in 1792; and then mentioned it only to the bishops; towards whom there was understood to be a latitude. It was evident from some circumstances which passed in conversation with Dr. Coke, that there was a degree of jealousy, if not of misunderstanding, between him and Mr. Asbury. Whether this had any influence in the enterprise of the former; or he perceived advantage likely to arise to him, under the state of things which would take place in England on the decease of Mr. Wesley; are questions on which there is no judgment here formed. The determination was adopted, not to hinder any good which might possibly accrue hereafter; although it was perceived, that this could not be on the terms proposed.
of the letter of Dr. Coke, and the answer to it, see the Appendix, No. 21.
Perhaps it may not be foreign to the present subject to take notice, that the author, when in England, entertained a desire of seeing the late Mr. John Wesley, with the view of stating to him some circumstances, of wbich he might be uninformed, in reference to the design then lately adopted of withdrawing the Methodist societies in America from the communion of the Episcopal Church. Under this idea, there was obtained a letter to him from the Rev. Mr. Pilmore, which the author left at the house of Mr. Wesley,
For a copy
when he was from home; but no notice was taken of it. Before the author's departure, intending to go on a certain day into the city, he sent to that gentleman a letter by the penny-post, expressing, that he would on the same day stop at his house, if convenient to him. An answer was received, and is still in possession, the purport of which is, that Mr. Wesley was then engaged in a periodical duty of an examination of his society, but that in the case of a stay
а of a week or two, he would derive pleasure from the interview proposed. As the stay was only ten days after, and the latter part of the time was taken up by the business of the consecration and in returning visits, there was no renewal of the proposal of an interview, especially as doubts were entertained of the delicacy of doing so; the resting of an hour's conversation on the event of a stay of a fortnight longer, having very much the appearance of a declining of the visit. This may have arisen from the supposition, that the object was to impugn a measure hastily adopted by Mr. Wesley, and not intended to be relinquished.
The author had also carried a letter from the Rev. Mr. Pilmore to the Rev. Charles Wesley, and had a conversation with him on the same subject. He expressed himself decidedly against the new course adopted, and gave the author a pamphlet published by his brother and himself, ir the earlier part of their lives, against a secession from the Church of England; which, he said, was at that time proposed by some. And he remarked, that the whole of the pamphlet might be considered as a censure on what had been done recently in America.
L. Page 31. Of the Convention in 1795.
Bishop White presided in the House of Bishops, and the Rev. Dr. Smith, of Pennsylvania, in the House of Clerical and Lay Deputies. The secretaries, were the Rev. Joseph Turner, of the former house, and the Rev. James Abercrombie, of the latter.
The preacher on this occasion was Bishop Provoost.
Before the assembling of this convention, there took place an incident, threatening to produce permanent dissatisfaction between Bishops Seabury and Provoost, which, however, was happily prevented. Although Bishop Seabury had been chosen bishop of the Church in Rhode Island, the