WESLEYAN METHODISTS. Wesleyan Methodists or Wesleyan represent the parent body among a number of sects that arose as a result of the work of John Wesley. The term if ethodistes was used in France early in the seventeenth century to describe certain theologians who sought to reunite the Huguenots with the Church by stating precisely.and fairly the case on both sides. The name was not chosen or favoured by John Wesley. When, after having taken his Master's degree, Wesley returned to Oxford (1729). he attached himself to a number of students who with his brother Charles Wesley were in the habit of taking the Sacrament weekly. In this way and in other ways these students became noted for a certain seriousness and regularity, and by other students they were nick-named Methodists. They culti vated holiness. studied diligently the Bible, and devoted themselves to Christian and philanthropic work. "They were tenacious of all the doctrines and discipline of the Church of England, and were scrupulously strict in observing the rubrics and canons " (Prot. Diet.). At this time John Wesley, among other practices, " seems to have been in favour of the strict observance of saints' days and holy days, confession, constant communion, the mixture of water with the sacramental wine." In 1735 Wesley went to Georgia in America as a missionary to the Indians. On the voyage he was brought into contact with some Moravians (q.v.), and seems to have been much impressed by them. In America he met the Moravian pastor A. G. Spangenberg. Wesley returned to England in 173S. In London he met the 'Moravian pastor Peter Boehler, who had been ordained by Zinzendorf in 1737 for work in South Carolina. He became interested in a " Religious Society " founded in London by his friend James Hutton. For this society be and Peter Boehler drew up rules, and on May the 12th. 173S, it was organised more fully on the lines of the Herrnhut " Band " system. At a meeting of this society on May the 24th, 1735, Wesley had that profound religious experience which marked the great turning-point in his life. In July. 1740, Wesley withdrew from the Society. whose pastor at the time was Philip Henry Molther, and formed a separate society. The new society met in a preaching-house in Windmill Hill (now Windmill Street) called the Foundery. The service was very simple. But Wesley was accustomed to preach in the open-air in various parts of the country. Before the opening of the Foundery, the foundation-stone had been laid in Bristol of another " preaching-house." This involved Wesley in debt, and a meeting was held in 1742 to consider how the money could be raised. The plan adopted led to the institution of " classes." The classes were originally companies into which the Society was divided to facili tate the collection of money by " leaders of the classes." The members of the classes were visited by their respec tive leaders. In course of time, instead of being visited, each class met together, and the Class Meeting became an instrument for regulating Christian life and conduct and deepening religious experience. In this sense Class Meetings have not suffered much change. " They are usually small gatherings of some dozen to twenty people for strictly devotional purposes, and for giving and getting sympathy and mutual advice in leading a godly life. . . They vary as infinitely as the characteristic of the leader, or person who is accountable to Methodism for those put under his or her spiritual charge: as in finitely as the characteristics of the members. In some cases it is a stiffer, in some a more homely meeting. But in every case the word of God is accepted as the rule of life, and the little groups try to help each other to conform to it: and membership in one of these classes constitutes membership in the Methodist Society " (Mrs. Sheldon Amos). In 1743 John Wesley issued a document entitled " The Nature, Design, and General Rules of the United Societies in London. Bristol, Kingswood, and Newcastle-upon-Tyne." Full members of the Society of " the People called Methodists " were required to con form to these rules, though in course of time they were altered somewhat. Persistent failure to observe them meant exclusion from the Society. The institution of Classes led in time to the institution of smaller grows called " Bands." These submitted to even stricter rules. There arose further " Select Bands " with whom Wesley took counsel. The " Bands " met. together quarterly to observe " love-feasts," the food being only a little plain cake and water. The occasion was and has remained
one for recounting spiritual experiences. Speaking of such " love-feasts," Mrs. Sheldon Amos says : " As I remember them, they were occasions on which pieces of currant-bread and water were passed from pew to pew in the chapel, and then, interspersed with singing and prayer, one short speech after another was made by whoever chose, about the life of Christ in the heart. One would be full of joy and praise for help in trouble, or added and sharpened delight in happy circumstances. Another would tell of heavy-heartedness and clinging faith and hope in God. There was always a feeling of special approach to the presence of God, and I think these meetings were good." An interesting feature of Wes leyan Methodism is the extent to which laymen were invited to help Wesley. They were at first lay-helpers. Then the lay-helper became also a lay-preacher. " The pastoral office is shared with the men and women leaders of classes, the ecclesiastical rule of the Church is shared with laymen (and in the lower branches theoretically with women), and even the office of preaching is shared very largely with lay preachers who live by their own labour and give their Sundays to preaching in their own neighbourhoods, and sometimes in distant parts of the country. The office of a local preacher is one that has always been held by men of the most various attainments and positions in the world, and much of the vigorous life of the Methodist Society is owing to the fact that the ministry is thus felt to be not a far-off office, but one of the functions of the Christian life exercisable by any one whose capacity for teaching is recognised by a number of his fellows. Many a useful local preacher has wished to be a minister set apart and ordained, but his suitability for Orders has not been clear to the authorities" (Mrs. Sheldon Amos). In 1744 Wesley held a Conference of lay-preachers and sympathetic clergymen. This became a " Yearly Conference of the People called Methodists." In 17S4 Wesley drew up a " Deed of Declaration," which nominated one hundred preachers as the Conference, and provided for the filling up of vacancies as they occurred. This made Wesleyan Methodism a distinct denomination. This was not John Wesley's original desire. The beginning of the cleavage was made when in 1741, in consequence of exclusion from the Communion Table of the Church, Charles Wesley began to administer the Lord's Supper in " uncon secrated " preaching-houses. The Wesleys had intended their Society to work in connection with the Church. " In John Wesley's idea Methodism was not to found a Church. He permitted no Methodist service to be held in church hours, and even to the present day in quiet villages the same filial respect is shown to the National Church. The change came when the numbers of persons excluded from the Communion, and treated as pariahs by the clergy, grew so great that it was a practical incon venience for them to be unable to use the best hours of the Sunday for the services to which they were attached " (Mrs. Sheldon Amos). Mrs. Sheldon Amos thinks that " the spirit of dissent which now exists in Methodism is an unnatural excrescence, and will die down again as soon as fresh life in the Church of England causes the hand of brotherly love to be stretched out." John Wesley was himself an ordained clergyman of the Church of England. In 1763 Wesley ordained that the preachers should preach nothing contrary to the teaching of his four volumes of Sermons and his Notes on the New Testament. This is still the rule. Wesley believed that in the Primitive Church bishops and presbyters were the same order. Consequently he held that presbyters have the same right to ordain. To meet the needs of the Methodist missions in North America, in 1784 he ordained Dr. Coke. who was already a priest of the Church of England, " Superintendent " (virtually equivalent to Bishop), and Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey " Elders." In 1789 he ordained Henry Moore and Thomas Rankin " Presbyters " that the sacraments might be administered to the Methodists of England, and that the power to administer them might be transmitted to others. The members of Wesley's Society were called also Precisians. Wesley himself explains that a true Methodist is none other than a true Churchman : in his observance of the rules of the Church for the practice of personal piety he is precise and methodical. See J. H. Blunt; Prot. Diet.; J. A. Houlder.