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of a Wesleyan Proprietary School at Sheffield. The combination of a sound classical and literary education with a religious and Wesleyan training, was felt to be a great want by Methodist parents. No institution of the kind was then in existence; and the Conference hailed with pleasure the inauguration of a scheme so full of promise for the youth of our people. The subsequent history of this establishment, its connexion with the London University as a college, the financial, educational, and moral improvement attained under the able management of its late and honoured governor, Dr. Waddy, and the influence generally exercised upon those educated there, are sufficiently well known to give Wesley College an honourable position among similar institutions.
The late Thomas Farmer succeeded Lancelot Haslope as one of the General Treasurers of the Wesleyan Missionary Society in 1836. Mr. Haslope had rendered able and highly valued service to the Missionary Society since its formation in 1817; but a successor equally worthy and devoted was found in Mr. Farmer, who continued in this office until his death. Methodism owes much to her many generous and liberal-minded laymen. They have bravely fought her battles, borne her reproach, struggled with her difficulties, as well as advanced her institutions and aggressions by costly sacrifices and services. Their names are inseparably associated with her history, and are enshrined within the affections of a grateful and admiring church.
During this year, the now venerable Thomas Jackson was re-appointed editor of our Connexional literature for a third term of six years. It is gratifying to find Mr. Jackson, after the lapse of nearly thirty years, still aiding the cause of truth by his pen. His continued and able service to the literature of Methodism is well known and highly appreciated. May he be spared for many years to enjoy the blessings of a good old age ! Mr. Cubitt was associated with Mr. Jackson as assistant editor this year, an office then created for the first time. Methodism has always exerted considerable influence upon the religious literature of this country. Fol. Jowing the noble example bequeathed by Wesley, his many sons in the Gospel have continued to watch jealously over this department of Christian work. The peculiar complications and diversified agencies of the Wesleyan Church generally oblige anxious and prolonged attention from most of her leading ministers. But notwithstanding these claims, their contributions, alike honourable to the writers and their denomination, have often enriched the stores of sacred literature. And these are not the times when we can afford to stay our hand, or lose our influence upon current thought and opinion. Never in modern times has the duty of the church in this respect been more clear, or the needs of the people more imperative and urgent.
Among the legislative acts specially distinguishing the second Birming. ham Conference, held eight years after the first, the appointment of the July Committee for examining candidates for the ministry was the most important. Something of the kind had been in operation previously, but the resolution of Conference gave this Committee a definite work and place among the regular courts of Methodism. Many difficulties encompass the legitimate duties of this Committee. It has been feared lest the literary tests adopted to ascertain the qualification of candidates should hinder Divinely-called young men from entering the ministry ; but any one acquainted with the practical working of the plan must know how groundless are such apprehensions. The exclusion of incompetent men from this office is necessary to the preservation and permanent prosperity of the church. If educated as well as pious individuals were ever needed to occupy this high and influential position, certainly it is now, when scepticism has assumed an appearance of friendliness with the truth. Blunt, open, and repulsive infidelity belongs to a bygone age. Error is now robed in apparel that attracts, and able men are required to expose its pretensions and resist its encroachments.
Ten years elapsed between the second and third Birmingham Conferences, Hull and Bradford having been placed on the list of Conference towns for the first time during this decade. The year 1854 was generally regarded as a period of transition. The Connexion was slowly recovering, financially and numerically, from its recent trials. Greater hopefulness pervaded the Societies, and encouragiog indications of a change from strife to aggressive spiritual work were almost everywhere prevalent. During the Preparatory Committees of this year, the Rev. John Scott found opportunity for propounding a scheme to carry on and extend the work of God in destitute parts of Great Britain. His suggestions were heartily received, and two years later the Home-Missionary movement, now so popular, was fully organized and matured. Methodists, whilst remaining true to their responsible trusts, can never be indifferent to the wants of the home population. There are parts of our large towns and cities as dark and depraved as the worst portions of heathen lands. Vice flourishes there in shameless riot. Guilty pleasures dull the moral sense, and peril the immortal souls, of multitudes around us. Iniquities, as vile and unblushing as imagination could conceive, are daily perpetrated in Christian England. Surely, if spiritual need and destitution are sufficient to constitute a claim upon the sympathy of the church, the black spots in Britain appeal loudly for help.
Regulations were passed at the Conference of 1854 amalgamating the various Committees to whom the oversight and management of chapel affairs had previously been intrusted. The “ Wesleyan Chapel Committee" continues to exercise its important functions with great energy. The business of this department has increased with astonishing rapidity during the last few years, and perhaps no part of Methodist enterprise has undergone such changes and improvements. The policy of earlier times has been condemned, as unsuitable to the present; and under existing arrangements a still more prosperous future may be anticipated in this branch of Christian activity. The Connexion is largely indebted to the ability and perseverance of the Rev. William Kelk, the first Secretary of this Committee, for its cheering success.
The approaching Conference will meet under circumstances peculiarly mournful. During the year, one has been called suddenly away who occupied, for the time, the most prominent place in our ministerial ranks. Largely gifted with natural abilities, which a careful culture had successfully developed, enriched with a well-informed mind, bland in manner, genial in disposition, and strictly conscientious in practice, our late President, the Rev. W. L. THORNTON, M.A., lived in the general esteem and regard. The blow that laid him low in death was felt in every Methodist home. Honoured in life by receiving the highest token of respect and admiration Methodism can confer upon her Ministers, he was deeply lamented when taken from our midst without warning. It will be impossible for Conference to assemble without affecting and suitable reference to this afflictive dispensation of Providence, which, happily, has been so rare in our history.
Another well-known form will be missed this year from the Preparatory Committees of Review. Eleven short years ago the eloquent tongue of Edward Corderoy, now silent in death, was heard at Birmingham, advocating or debating questions of Connexional importance. His manly bearing and persuasive speech will linger now only in the memories of his friends. It is not our intention here to eulogize his goodness, or review the noble deeds of his consistent life ; but the loss of such a man cannot be passed by unnoticed. He has left his impression upon the Methodism he loved and cherished, and long will his honoured name be held in affectionate remembrance. Reference to other worthy laymen, whose loss Methodism mourns, could appropriately be made here, if there were not a danger of giving pain through the undesigned omission of some names that might justly claim an allusion. It would be unpardonable, even after this excuse, to forget Sir John Ratcliffe, who, had he lived, would have been among the foremost generously to welcome the Conference to Birmingham.
In reviewing the events of the year, special attention will naturally be directed to the numerical returns. The exceptional circumstance of last year has aroused the interest of the Methodist public in this subject. The first decrease reported in the numbers of the Methodist Connexion was in the year 1820, when domestic troubles disturbed the national mind, and operated unfavourably upon the religious interests of the country. Fiftyfour years of uninterrupted prosperity had been previously enjoyed. The next loss occurred in 1835, from causes not difficult of explanation. Two years later another decrease was returned, which was remarkable as happening during the celebration of the Centenary movement. Whether any cause might be satisfactorily assigned for a numerical deficiency being reported during the Centenary as well as the Missionary Jubilee year, may be worth considering : the coincidence at least is singular. The official returns of members can be accurately ascertained only at the Conference; but it appears probable that an increase will be reported this year. Whilst no ground for alarm exists, it is only right that deep anxiety should be felt about the comparatively small addition made to our numbers in Society. Greater
personal devotion to Christ, and more active zeal in His service, are required to gather in the waiting harvests.
After the regular and ordinary business of the Conference has received attention, the important questions upon which legislative action was taken at Bradford must necessarily come under review. A report may be looked for from the Minister set apart to visit and study Wesleyan Sundayschools. We have no means of ascertaining accurately the nature of that report. It would be unwise, however, to expect much more than a collection of facts and experiences, out of which something definite may ultimately grow. Sunday-school regulations vary so much, and the modes of instruction are so distinct and numerous, that it would be practically impossible for one person, within a single year, so thoroughly to inform himself of the subject as to be able to present anything approaching a complete and comprehensive view of it. It is generally agreed that our Sundayschools do not sustain their proper relation to the church ; and that the number annually gathered from this source into the fold of Christ bears a very unsatisfactory proportion to the half-million of scholars connected with these institutions. We hope to know something about the hindrance to their more efficient organization, and to their attainment of more gratifying spiritual results, after the report of the Sunday-school visiter has been given to the Connexion.
Two important questions were remitted by the last Conference to the consideration of special Committees during the year. One of these affected the constitution of the present Book Committee. We must not attempt even to foreshadow the recommendations that will be made to the Conference relative to the Book-Room. Curiosity will be satisfied in due time. But with the discussions of twelve months ago fresh in the recollection of many, the report will be awaited with deep interest. Anything bearing upon so important a department of Methodist work claims, and will obtain, calm and serious consideration. The second question related to the appointment of a minister as Assistant Chapel Secretary.
Metropolitan Methodism, and the needs of London, will be considered when the gratifying report of the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund Committee is received. Seven handsome chapels have been opened in London during the year, affording accommodation for seven thousand persons. Wesleyans throughout the world are interested in the extension of Methodism in the English capital. Remembering that more than one half the adult population of the metropolis are born out of London, we may fairly assume that that proportion, at least, exists between the native and provincial Methodists now resident within its limits. London presents a field of labour more inviting and needy than any other to be found in the land, and it is cause for gratitude that so much has been done to meet the overwhelming moral wants of its vast population. Nor are signs of any abatement in chapel-building enterprise apparent, happily, throughout the Connexion, so that the general statistical returns on this subject may be looked forward to with hope.
The successful completion of the Jubilee movement, and character of the subscription-list, will call for devout acknowledgment of that Divine favour which has so manifestly accompanied every step. These voluntary offerings to the Lord's treasury are welcome proofs of the influence exerted by the Gospel of Christ upon the members of our church. His constraining love alone could prompt to these costly gifts. Opportunities are never wanting in Methodism in which generously-disposed persons can lay out their wealth for God; and it is cause for rejoicing that in times of remarkable liberality, like those recently witnessed, the ordinary and regular revenues of the church are not allowed to suffer through the large donations promised to special objects.
Undoubted signs of prosperity may be found in our churches. But there is one serious want under which our Connexion suffers equally with other denominations. For years past, Circuits have earnestly appealed for additional Ministers, but the supply has not been equal to the demand. These stations have, therefore, been left unoccupied, greatly to the detriment of the work of God. Nothing more painful to every well-wisher of our common Christianity could be imagined. Many fields are white unto harvest, but sufficient labourers are not to be found. What is the duty of the church in this extremity? Who calls and qualifies men for this sacred toil? Can any subject more appropriately engage our prayers at the throne of Divine
Central in position, easy of access from all parts of the kingdom, and within a short distance of several important Circuits, Birmingham possesses many requisites for a convenient Conference town. We may confidently predict a greeting as kindly and sincere as any that has formerly been afforded in this neighbourhood to both ministers and laymen. The sympathy and regard which have been apparent in the invitation, will also appear in fulfilling the promised welcome. Wesleyan friends, however, will do well not to be disappointed if their guests are unable to devote much time to the delights of social intercourse. The work necessarily compressed withiu the limited period allowed by law for the performance of Conference duties, is so varied and important, that the uninterrupted presence and attention of the majority of ministers attending its sittings are imperatively required. The arrangements prevailing in recent years have helped to give preachers more opportunities for acquainting themselves with their generous hosts ; but a long morning sitting does not always suffice for meeting the claims of Connexional business.
The Christian spirit, pervading the discussions in the Preparatory Committees and the Conference, exercises a salutary influence upon the Methodist public generally. In no aspect is it more pleasing to view thein than in this. Coming together to consider the best modes of carrying on the work of Christ, all things are done in charity, but with fearless fidelity. No acerbity or personality is tolerated. “The truth in love ” is the principle acted upon with most satisfactory results. Dependence upon Divine guidance, and trust in the God of providence, may always be recognised in tbe