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the New Testament narratives are charged in no case
IV. — SOME FACTS RESPECTING ENGLISH DISSENT ERS.
In the controversy over the administration of the sacraments which followed the death of Wesley, one of the most active agitators was Alexander Kilham. He took the popular side of the question, and mingled with his advocacy of democratic principles in church affairs some severe reflections on his brethren in the ministry. At the conference of 1796, he was deposed. Soon after, he began the formation of the Methodist New Connection. A distinctive feature in the polity of the seceding body was the share in governing functions accorded to the laity. Between 1807 and 1810 a second schism occurred, the advocates of camp-meetings, which at that time were discountenanced by the general body, forming a separate denomination styled Primitive Methodists. The growth of this body, to which the “ Bible Christians” are closely allied in character, was destined to be larger than that of any other of the separating parties. Another schism occurred in 1835–36, the occasion of which, apart from personal factors, consisted in differing views respecting the project of a theological school which had recently been inaugurated. The seceders were called the Wesleyan Association. Ultimately they united with a part of those who left the main body after the Conference of 1850, and so helped to constitute the Methodist Free Church. The serious defection which occurred at this time taught the Conference the need of a more liberal polity. Some steps were taken in 1852 and in 1861 towards enlarging the share of the laity in church administration, and in 1878 it was provided that
lay representatives should sit with the ministers for the discharge of certain departments of the work of the Conference. The “legal hundred” confirms the action of the mixed body, as also of the purely ministerial; but its consent is understood to be only for the sake of giving formal legality to action that is practically final.
For twenty years after the death of Wesley a prominent place among English Methodists was held by Thomas Coke. From the time that he cast in his lot with Wesley, in 1777, he was one of the most untiring and devoted servants of Methodism. Animated with the same restless temper and zest for change of scene which appeared in Whitefield, he was ever on the wing. He crossed the Atlantic eighteen times.
More than any other he was the founder and superintendent of early Methodist missions. Though the General Wesleyan Missionary Society was not fully constituted till 1818, the Wesleyans had been engaged in genuine missionary work for more than a quarter of a century prior to that date, and in that work Coke was the leading spirit. His last labor was a striking tribute to his zeal in this line of Christian enterprise. He died in 1814, on his way to plant a mission in India. Coke, no doubt, had his infirmities, among which an undue willingness to be a bishop in the Anglican succession has perhaps elicited most comment. Still, his record is one that provokes esteem. His expenditure of his ample fortune and of all the energies of his manhood in the interests of Christian benevolence and enterprise entitles him to be ranked among men of singular devotion.
Among the survivors of Coke an eminent place was maintained by Joseph Benson, Adam Clarke, Richard
Watson, Jabez Bunting, and Robert Newton. Both in the ordinary labors of the ministry and in the literary field Benson acquitted himself with much credit. Clarke, by virtue of extraordinary industry, was able, notwithstanding the pressure of his ministerial labors, to place himself in the front rank of the Biblical and Oriental scholars of England in his day. Watson was entered on the roll of the Conference in 1796, when but sixteen years of age. His ability in the pulpit, his merits as a theological writer, and his services to the cause of missions, will long secure to his name a place of special honor. In intellectual strength and in symmetry of character he stands at an enviable height among Methodist worthies. Bunting was for a long time a master spirit in the legislation and the administration of the Wesleyan Connection. The finished, eloquent, and thoughtful discourses of Newton commanded for him great popularity as a preacher.
Among the later representatives of the English Wesleyans, William Arthur, James Rigg, W. B. Pope, and Luke Tyerman are well known in the Methodist world through the medium of their writings.
According to the report made at the Ecumenical Conference in Washington, the Wesleyan Methodist Church in England contained 486,950 members in 1891. If to this number are added the adherents of the Irish Conference and Wesleyan Methodists in the mission field, Australia, and France, the total is raised to 700,810. The other Methodist churches of Britain were reported at the same time as having an aggregate membership of 346,253, of whom 192,652 were credited to the Primitive Methodists.
A general bond of connection between the Baptists in Great Britain and Ireland is found in the “Baptist Union,” which dates, in its original form, from 1813. That this bond is not close enough to qualify the essential character of the congregational polity may be judged from the following authoritative statement of principles : “In this Union it is fully recognized that every separate church has liberty to interpret and administer the laws of Christ, and that the immersion of believers is the only Christian baptism.” According to a declaration of 1888, the following points of belief are commonly held by the churches of the Union: “1. The divine inspiration and authority of the Holy Scripture as the supreme and sufficient rule of our faith and practice; and the right and duty of individual judgment in the interpretation of it. 2. The fallen and sinful state of man. 3. The deity, the incarnation, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His sacrificial and mediatorial work. 4. Justification by faith, - a faith that works by love and produces holiness. 5. The work of the Holy Spirit in the conversion of sinners, and in the sanctification of all who believe. 6. The resurrection; the judgment of the Last Day, according to the words of our Lord in Matt. xxv. 46.”
Since the days of Robert Hall the most conspicuous light of the Baptist pulpit in England has been Charles H. Spurgeon. Inducted into his work in London in 1853, before he had yet reached his twentieth year, he .became immediately one of the most famous preachers of the metropolis. Moving wholly in the circle of evangelical thinking, combining a good fund of common sense with a certain wealth of manly feeling, and exhib