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1794 and 1804 the terms greatly lengthened. Many remained two years, and several stayed three years, and Francis Asbury could not prevent it. The proof of these statements is as follows:
1. The Annual Minutes for the years between 1794 and 1804. These show many appointments for two years, and several for three-John-street and Baltimore, among others, having had pastors appointed for three successive years.
2. Stevens' “ History of the Methodist Episcopal Church,” vol. iv, p. 178:
They were not allowed to appoint preachers for more than two successive vears to the same appointment; hitherto there had been no restriction, and some had been three years in one appointment. Asbury rejoiced in the new rule as a great relief to the appointing power.
3. Dr. Stevens is generally thoroughly reliable; but for details it is well to go to primary sources. Jesse Lee's “ History of the Methodists” was published in 1810. He says, pp. 298, 299 : “ The following rule was also formed, “The Bishop shall not allow any preacher to remain in the same station or circuit more than two years successively. In some cases, prior to that rule, the Bishop had appointed a preacher or preachers to the same place for three years together. He now determined on a better plan, and formed this rule to prevent any preacher from wishing or expecting such an appointment in future.”
The rule was not, therefore, formed to give a few stations" pastoral term up to their largest ambition,” but to render such a thing impossible. And the conclusion is, that if the iron hand of Asbury, when the Churches were weak and the discipline strong, could not maintain the itineracy without a time limitation, it is certain that, considering all the changes that have transpired, if the limitation by law were removed, the itineracy would at once and forever break down. When the proposition was first presented to the mind of the writer several years ago, in connection with the great embarrassments of a few Churches, it seemed quite plausible. But after pursuing that course which alone can lead to a safe conclusion, namely, to re-read the history of the denomination and submit the theory to unprejudiced analysis, he has been led irresistibly to the conviction that the proposition is impracticable, and that its adoption would
prove fatal to the Denomination as an organic unity in harmonious action. It is for these reasons that he feels obliged reluctantly to take issue with those who advocate this proposition, some of whom have been as useful to the Methodist Episcopal Church as he can ever hope to be.
It is also clear to his mind that to substitute four or five years for three would be open to grave objections; the most serions of which would be that it would make unnecessary re movals at the end of the first year, and that many who ought to be transferred at the end of two or three would make it a matter of honor to stay for four or five. But he by no means despairs of all modification whereby occasional highly important exceptions may be provided for without overthrowing the general law.
Under the present system a pastor may return for a second term of three years in every six. This has not yet been tried on any large scale. And it certainly requires great caution. But it is a possibility, with its peculiar advantages and disadvantages, under the existing plan. However, it is obvious that in the most pressing cases it could afford but little relief, and in many none at all.
In conclusion, the writer will suggest an amendment to the rule for the consideration of those who desire some modification and yet would rather things should remain as they are than to jeopard the inestimable advantages guaranteed by the itineracy.
A PossibLE AMENDMENT. Methodism has now spread to "earth’s remotest bounds,” and the author has recently received from Melbourne, Australia, a copy of the “Spectator" of July 25, 1879, from the editorial page of which the following is taken:
“The last Conference appointed a committee 'to prepare x report bearing on the itinerant system of Methodism, with a view to a modification of the present triennial period. The committee has met, and nothing, of course, can be officially known as to the result of its deliberations until its report is laid before the next financial district meetings. But it is understood that it recommends the present maximum term of three years to be lengthened to six years. The appointments are to be annual, as at present, and the modification is guarded by the provision that no appointment beyond the present limit of three years is to be made except by a two thirds vote of the Conference, and on a request sustained by a two thirds majority of the Quarterly Meeting. Thus, a minority of one third in the Conference or in the Quarterly Meeting will have an absolute veto; and the present term can only be exceeded when the reasons for it are so strong as to make both the circuit concerned and the Conference practically unanimous. The change proposed, therefore, is of only homeopathic proportions, and is fenced by such guards as may soothe the apprehensions of the most timid. Ilow this change can be carried into effect is a question for lawyers to decide. An Act of Parliament, possibly of the Imperial Parliament, will be required; and it must take the form of an Enabling Act-an Act, that is, which will enable trustees to vary the condition of their trust so as to permit the appointment of a minister beyond the present limits. The change, therefore, even if decided upon by Conference and sanctioned by Parliament, will only take effect, as it ought only to take effect, in the exact degree in which the Church desires it.”
This proposition has these essential advantages : 1. The itineracy is still “ limited by law.”
2. It is so protected that it must be exceptional. It would be better to make the rule three fourths of the Quarterly Conference instead of two thirds. Then the proposal for an improper case would seldom or never pass beyond that meeting. But if it did the Annual Conference could and would check it.
3. It should be so arranged as to read the Bishop " may appoint.” Then there would be no pressure upon the free action of the appointing power, and the exception would be analogous to others.
4. It would compel influential congregations to show a little more respect to the Annual Conferences than they sometimes do. Secure in their power to obtain transfers, they have been known to isolate themselves almost entirely. But if a vote of two thirds of the Annual Conference were a pre-requisite to the retention of a pastor whom their exigencies rendered necesbary to them, they would cultivate closer relations than they think important now. Such power given to the Annual Conferences would not be an innovation, as we have at present in the Discipline the following grants from the General Conference: “And also, when requested by an Annual Conference, to appoint a preacher for a longer time than three years to any seminary of learning not under our care;” also, “He shall have anthority, when requested by an Annual Conference, to appoint” agents, etc. See Discipline of 1876, pp. 102, 103.
If some, on being refused, were to secede with their pastor, their fate in attempting to stand alone would soon work a cure. There is, however, no necessity for great haste. It is desirable to provide for exceptional cases. It would be better not to attempt it than to jeopard the wonderful and complex mechanism which we now possess. This plan, which comes from the “ends of the eartlı,” may be feasible. Let it be thoroughly considered. For in some such direction as this, if at all, must relief be obtained.
NOTES TO EDITOR IN REGARD TO THE OLD
HYMN BOOK. Mr. EDITOR: The review of “The Revised Methodist Hymnal," by Dr. Wheatley, in the July issue of the METHODIST QuarTERLY, did not meet the eye of the writer until recently, which may explain the delay in sending you the following notice of some of the errors into which the reviewer has fallen.
Referring to the former alterations of the Hymn Book, Dr. Wheatley says: “The fifth revision, though nominally the joint work of the Revs. D. Dailey, J. B. Alverson, J. Floy, D. Patten, Jun., and F. Merrick, with whom were associated Messrs. R. A. West and D. Creamer, was mainly the product of Dr. Floy's tireless energy and assiduous application.”
The completed volume, in allusion to Dr. Floy, is said to have left "his hands," and it is designated as “Floy's revision," and "Floy's version " ! On what ground rests this bold assumption ? Did Dr. Floy himself aspire to any such distinction above his confrired? Does Dr.Wheatley profess to speak from personal knowl. edge? The whole force of his words is in their truthfulness.
What are the facts relative to the method that was pursued in the "fifth revision" of the Hymn Book? The General Conference of 1848 appointed a committee of seven persons, whose names are given above by Dr. Wheatley, for the accomplishment of that work, in connection with certain other agencies referred to subsequently.
After the adjournment of the General Conference the IIymnBook Committee at once entered earnestly upon their labors in the city of New York, where all their meetings were held, and Dr. Floy and Mr. West, who resided in that city, were appointed a subcommittee to act as secretaries. Their duties embraced whatever legitimately belonged to the revision and was matter of record, as, correspondence, (which was very extensive,) arrangement of the hymns chosen by the Committee according to an adopted plan, and correcting the proof-sheets of the work as they came from the press.
The Committee had three sessions, and nine meetings at each session, making twenty-seven meetings in all, in the course of which the old book was examined throughout three times, and a separate vote was taken upon every hymn before it was admitted into the revised version. There were six members, out of seven, present at every meeting of the Committee.
Besides the labor expended in committee, much more was accomplished by the members at their homes; and Dr. Floy probably traveled considerably in visiting various libraries in pursuit of his portion of the work. Ile thus spent several days in the library of the writer, at Baltimore, which were industriously devoted by both of us to the selection of hymns for the revised book ; where, twenty-nine years afterward, in 1877, Dr. Wentworth spent nearly two weeks in a similar employment with the writer and his son.
Professor Merrick, who attended only the first session of the Committee, comprising three days and nine sittings, compensated for his absence from the subsequent meetings by sending to the Committee at its second session a valuable manuscript criticism upon the whole book to be revised, which was carefully consulted both in committee and by the several members thereof. There were also similar criticisms forwarded to the Committee by outside parties, from which much useful information was derived.
The distant members of the Committee were in constant correspondence with the subcommittee or secretaries, and no new hymns, as in the case of the old ones, was allowed to be entered into the revised book until it had received the approval of a majority of the Committee.
And it is but fair to assert that every member thereof has left his impress upon that work.
Within a year from their appointment, the Committee having completed their labors, in accordance with the directions of the General Conference, submitted their work to the Book Commit.