PROGRESS OF WESLEYAN METHODISM
UNDER QUEEN VICTORIA, 1837-1897. [Footnote]
[Illustration: Wesley preaching on his father’s tomb.]
When the Queen ascended the throne Wesleyan Methodism in this country was recovering from the effects of the agitation occasioned by Dr. Warren, who had been expelled from its ministry; the erection of an organ in a Leeds chapel had caused another small secession. But the Conference of 1837, assembled in Leeds under the presidency of the Rev. Edmund Grindrod, with the Rev. Robert Newton as secretary, had no reason to be discouraged. Faithful to the loyal tradition of Methodism, it promptly attended to the duty of congratulating the young Sovereign who had ascended the throne on June 20, a few weeks before.
[Footnote: The writer desires to acknowledge special obligation to the Rev. J. Wesley Davies for invaluable aid rendered by him in collecting and arranging the material embodied in this chapter.]
We may read in its Minutes of the vote in favour of an address, which should assure the Queen of the sincere attachment cherished by her Methodist subjects for her person and government, and of their fervent prayers to Almighty God “for her personal happiness and the prosperity of her reign.” By a singular coincidence, it will probably be one of the first acts of a Leeds Conference in 1897 to forward another address, congratulating Her Majesty on the long and successful reign which has realised these aspirations of unaffected devotion. The address of 1837 had gracious acknowledgment, conveyed through Lord John Russell.
[Illustration: Group of Presidents Number One]
At this time Methodism had spread throughout the world. Its membership in Great Britain and Ireland numbered 318,716; in foreign mission stations 66,007; in Upper Canada 14,000; while the American Conferences had charge of 650,678 members; thus the total for the world, exclusive of ministers, was 1,049,401.
Of ministers there were 1,162 in the United Kingdom and 3,316 elsewhere. It will be obvious that British and Irish Methodism even then formed a body whose allegiance was highly valuable.
The 1837 Conference had to discuss the subject of the approaching Centenary of Methodism, which had for years been anticipated with great interest. With Mr. Butterworth—a Member of Parliament and a loyal Methodist and generous supporter of our funds—originated the idea of commemorating God’s goodness in a fitting manner, not in a boastful spirit; a committee which had been appointed reported to the next Conference “that the primary object of the said celebration should be the religious and devotional improvement of the centenary”; and that there should also be “thank-offering to Almighty God” in money contributions for some of the institutions of the Church. The Conference approved these suggestions, and appointed a day of united prayer in January, 1839, “for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit” on the Connexion during the year.