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CATECHISM

OF

ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY

 

Methodist Episcopal Church

     Question. What does the above name signify?
     Answer. It means a church with special methods, having the Episcopal form of government—that is, ruled by bishops.
     Q. Of what church is it a branch?
     A. The Protestant Episcopal.
     Q. When was it established?
     A. This is a little difficult to answer. It had its first movement “in November, 1729, in Oxford, when four students met together.” The second epoch was in April, 1736, when “twenty or thirty persons began to meet in Wesley’s house in Savannah” (Georgia). “The third was May 1, 1739, when Wesley and others began to meet at Fatherlane.” The fourth stage was in the latter part of 1739, when the “United Society” was consummated. “The fifth was July 20, 1740, when they became “A Wesleyan Methodist Society.” This latter has been styled the “real rise and commencement of the Methodist Societics.”—See McTyeire’s Hist. of Methodism, p. 177.
     The first annual conference was held June 25, 1744—Ibid, p. 211.
     But it would seem that the real launching of Methodism proper dates to 1784, when the first bishops or “superintendents” were ordained and authorized to administer the ordinances as a separate institution.—Hist. Methodism, p. 343.
     Q. Who was the founder of Methodism?
     A. John Wesley.
     Q. Who, and what was John Wesley?
     A. He was the son of Samuel Wesley, a rector in the Episcopal Church at Epworth in Lincolnshire, England, and was born at that place June 17, 1703. Religiously, he was an Episcopalian and became an eminent minister
in that denomination.
     Q. Did he ever leave the Episcopal Church?
     A. No. He lived and died a member of the Episcopal Church. and went to St. Paul’s Church, England, to commune.
     Q. Did he start Methodism as a church?
     A. lie did not, but simply as a society in the Episcopal Church to foster good morals, and a holier state of living, and a greater zeal in Christian work.
     Q. Was John Wesley a great and good man?
     A. He was a great man intellectually, and a good man from a moral point of view, though he was not a converted “New-life” man when he started Methodism.
     Q. You do not mean to say that John Wesley began to preach, and started the great Methodist movement when he was yet an unconverted sinner, do you?
     A. Yes, I mean to say that very thing.
     Q. How long after he started Methodism until he was genuinely converted?
     A. Eight and one-half years. He began Methodism in November, 1729, and he dates his own conversion May 24, 1738, “about a quarter before nine o’clock.” He says: “Till then (May 24, 1738) sin had dominion over me. I, who went to America to convert others, was never myself converted to God. I had the faith of a servant, though not of a son.” “I am ‘a child of wrath,’ an heir of hell.” These things John Wesley said of himself, eight and one-half years after he started Methodism. (See McTyeire’s Hist. Methodism, p. 126).
     Q. If Wesley did not intend the Methodist Society to become a church, how did it happen?
     A. By force of circumstances, the isolation of the societies of America, and a desire on the part of certain ones to become leaders. With these two influences brought to bear upon Wesley, he consented to the ordination of the first bishops in 1784.
     Q. Where did the Methodists get their autority to administer the ordinances?
     A. From the Episcopal Church.
     Q. And where did the Episcopal Church get her authority?
     A. From the Roman Catholics — the “mother of harlots.”
     Q. Did John Wesley consider this Roman authority essential?
     A. He did. He would neither accept as valid the baptism, nor admit to the communion table any one unless they had been baptized by this authority, coming down through Rome. I will let Bishop McTyeire, one of the leading bishops of the M. E. Church, South. state this matter as he takes it from Wesley’s own writings: “No baptism was recognized as valid (by John Wesley) unless performed by a niinister Episcopally ordained; and those who had allowed their children to be baptized in any other manner were earnestly exhorted to have them re-baptized. His rigor extended even so far as to refuse the Lord’s Supper to one of the most devout men of the settlement, who had not been baptized by an Episcopally-ordained minister; and the burial service itself was denied to such as died with what he deemed unorthodox baptism.”—Hist. Methodism, p. 90.
     Q. Where did Wesley do these things?
     A. Both in England and America; notably in Savannah, Ga.
     Q. Did Wesley ever actually re-baptize any OflC to get this Episcopal authority?
     A. He did. We will let Bishop MeTyeire speak again: “Incredible as it may seem, John Wesley, in that very church (Islington), a few days afterward, solemnly and rather demonstratively re-baptized five Presbyterians, who had received lay baptism in their infancy—that is, in the jargon of apostolic succession, they had been baptized by Dissenting ministers—possibly by his own grandfather, Dr. Annesley.” —Hist. Meth. pp. 147, 148.
     Again: “He (John Wesley) maintained the doctrine of apostolic succession (through Rome) and believed no one had authority to administer the sacraments (baptism and Lord’s Supper) who was not Episcopally ordained. He religiously observed saints days and holidays, and excluded Dissenters from the holy communion on the ground that they had not been properly baptized.”—Hist. Meth. p. 62.
     Q. How did Wesley perform the rite of baptism?
     A. He baptized adults as they desired, but infants he would not baptize in any way but immersion, unless the parents would certify the child was unable to be immersed. We will let Bishop McTyeire speak again on this question:
     “Following a primitive but obsolete rubric, he would baptize children only by immersion nor could he be induced to depart from this mode unless the parents would certify that the child was weakly. Persons were not allowed to act as sponsors who were not communicants.”—Hist. Meth. p. 90.
     Charles Wesley “baptized children by trifle immersion—plunging them three times into the water.”—Hist. Meth., p. 90.
     Q. How came the church to be divided into two bodies, or rather the formation of the M. E. Church, South?
     A. In 1844, the Methodists in the slave states separated from the main church on account of a difference growing out of the question of slavery, and formed themselves into the M. E. Church, South. They are still essentially the same in doctrine, and discipline, but distinct as a people, and often have churches coyen ng the same territory.
     There are several other minor branches of Methodism which have sprung from the main body. These differ slightly in doctrine.

 
 
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