ORIGIN AND CHARACTER
Wesley says: “In the year 1729 two young men in England, reading the Bible, saw they could not be saved without holiness; they followed after it and incited others to do so. In 1737, they saw, likewise, that men are justified before they are sanctified; but still holiness was their object. God thrust them out to raise up a holy people.”
¶ 2. Methodism spread through England and America, and in other countries. From time to time different bodies arose bearing the Methodist name. As they became popular there was more or less departure from the original principles and practice of Methodism.
¶ 3. In the Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, about the year 1858, several preachers and many members were excluded from the church on various charges and allegations, but really for their adherence to the principles of Methodism; especially to the doctrine and experience of entire sanctification.
¶ 4. Appeals were made to the General Conference, which were denied. Those excluded could not join any other Methodist body, for there was none that agreed with them on the issues on which they were thrust out. Therefore they felt compelled to form a new organization.
¶ 5. The Free Methodist Church was organized by a convention of lay members and ministers, which met at Pekin, Niagara County, New York, on the 23rd day of August, 1860. The first General Conference met on the second Wednesday of October, 1862, at St. Charles, Illinois.
¶ 6. The Free Methodists are a body of Christians who profess to be in earnest to get to heaven, by conforming to all the will of God, as made known in His Word. They do not believe that either God or the Bible has changed to accommodate the fashionable tendencies of the age. They solemnly protest against the union of the church and the world. The conditions of salvation, as they teach, are the same now that they were in the days of the apostles. He who would be a Christian in reality, as well as in name, must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Jesus. He must come out from the world and be separate, and touch not the unclean thing.
¶ 7. In doctrine they are Methodists. They believe in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, in a general atonement, in the necessity of the new birth, in the witness of the Spirit, and in future rewards and punishments. They insist that it is the duty and privilege of every believer to be sanctified wholly, and to be preserved blameless unto the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every one who is received into full connection, either professes to enjoy that perfect love which casts out fear, or promises diligently to seek until he obtains it.
¶ 8. They look upon practical godliness as the never failing result of a genuine religious experience. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Hence they insist that those who profess to be the disciples of Christ should come out from unbelievers and be separate, abstaining from connection with all secret societies, renouncing all vain pomp and glory, adorning themselves with modest apparel, and not with gold, or pearls, or costly array. We have no right to abolish any of the requirements made by Christ and the apostles; or to make Obedience to them a matter of small consequence. The golden rule, they hold, applies equally to all mankind.
¶ 9. The government is not aristocratic, but the members have an equal voice with the ministers in all the councils of the church. Both the annual and the general conferences are composed of as many lay as ministerial delegates, who have an equal voice and vote in all the proceedings. The stationing committee, by which the appointments are made, is composed of the district elders and an equal number of lay members chosen for that purpose. The official boards are selected by the members of circuits, and not appointed by the preachers. They have district elders, who may be appointed to circuits the same as the rest of the preachers. They have bishops elected once in four years, whose duty it is to preside at the annual conferences, and travel through the connection at large. The rights of the members are carefully guarded.
¶ 10. They endeavor to promote spirituality and simplicity in worship. Congregational singing is universal, and performances upon musical instruments and singing by choirs in public worship are prohibited. They believe in the Holy Ghost. If men are really converted and sanctified, it is through the Spirit of God. When He works there is a stir. As President Edwards said, “Eternal things are so great, and of such vast concern that there is great absurdity in men being but moderately moved and affected by them.” “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” The Free Methodists, while they do not believe in any mere formal noise, yet, when the Spirit comes, like “a rushing mighty wind,” as on the day of Pentecost, do not dare to oppose the manifestations of His presence. As Edwards says, “Whenever there is any considerable degree of the Spirit’s influence upon a mixed multitude, it will produce, in some way, a great visible commotion.” To resist His operations is to hinder the work of God.
¶ 11. They do not believe in resorting to worldly policy to sustain the gospel. Christ has said that whosoever giveth a cup of cold water in His name shall in no wise lose his reward. But it is the motive. and not the amount done, that secures the divine approbation. There is no more virtue in giving to the cause of God for carnal pleasure than there is in any other purely selfish action. Hence they give no countenance to modern expedients for promoting Christianity, such as selling or renting pews, lotteries, fairs, sales, or other like expedients for raising money. To say that the Church cannot be sustained without these contrivances to beguile the world into its support is to confess that professing Christians are “lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.” It is to pronounce Christianity a failure. The gospel possesses an inherent power that will not only sustain itself, but make its way through all opposition, wherever its advocates live up to its requirements and rely upon its promises.
¶ 12. They believe the Church of Christ is a soul-saving institution of divine origin for holy purposes, therefore they prohibit festivals and donation parties, such as include anything in the line of entertainments contrary to the spirit and letter of our Discipline, and all other forms of worldly amusements in their church buildings or by their church organizations.
¶ 13. All their churches are required to be as free as the grace they preach. They believe that their mission is twofold—to maintain the Bible standard of Christianity, and to preach the gospel to the poor. Hence they require that all seats in their houses of worship shall be free. No pews can be rented or sold among them. The world will never be converted to Christianity when the churches are conducted upon the exclusive system. It has always been contrary to the economy of the Christian Church to build houses of worship with pews to rent. Such renting of pews is a corruption of Christianity. Free churches are essential to reach the masses. The provisions of the gospel are for all. The “glad tidings” must be proclaimed to every individual of the human race. God sends the true light to illuminate and melt every heart. To savage and civilized, bond and free, black and white, the ignorant and the learned, is freely offered the great salvation.
But for whose benefit are special efforts to be put forth? Who must be particularly cared for? Jesus settles this question. “The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up,” and, as if all this would be insufficient to satisfy John of the validity of His claims, He adds, “and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” This was the crowning proof that He was the One that should come. In this respect the Church must follow in the footsteps of Jesus. She must see to it that the gospel is preached to the poor. Thus this duty is enjoined by the plainest precepts and examples. If the gospel is to be preached to all, then it follows, as a necessary consequence, that all the arrangements for preaching the gospel should be so made as to secure this object. If it be said that seats would be freely given to those who are unable to pay for them, they answer that this does not meet the case. Few are willing, so long as they are able to appear at church, to be publicly treated as paupers.
We do not wish any to subscribe to it unless they believe it will be for the glory of God and the good of their souls. We have no desire to build up simply a large church; but we do hope that our societies will, be composed, exclusively, of those who are in earnest to gain heaven, and who are determined, by the grace of God, to live up to the requirements of the Bible.
It is of the greatest importance that those who come into this organization shall he of one heart and one mind.