Classic History Books


Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

the Australasian Conferences. American Methodism in all its branches, white and coloured, returns a
membership of 5,573,118, while the united Methodism of Canada shows 272,392, and the foreign

missions of British Wesleyan Methodism 52,058 members. These figures, giving a total of 6,978,404

members, exclusive of the ministers, estimated at 43,368, are sufficiently gratifying; yet they do not

represent the real strength of the Church at large, and give only a faint idea of its influence.

The Oecumenical Report gave the number of Methodist "adherents" as 24,899,421, intending, by the
term adherents, those whose religious home is the Methodist chapel, though their visits to it be

irregular. For the British Wesleyans the two millions of sittings were supposed to represent the number

of adherents (yet should all the occasional worshippers wish to attend at once, it may be doubted if they

could be accommodated); for the other branches of Methodism in the United Kingdom, four additional

persons were reckoned to each member reported. The statistics for Ireland and Canada were checked by

the census returns. Probably in the case of missions the adherents would be more than four times the

membership. Varying principles were adopted for the United States, and the adherents reckoned at less

than four times the members reported. Should we to-day treat the returns of membership on the same

principle (Sunday scholars being now as then included in the term "adherents "), we should find nearly

thirty millions of persons in immediate touch with Methodism and strongly bound to it. Compare these

figures with those of 1837, and we must exclaim, "What hath God wrought!"

Estimating the increase of British Methodism, we have to remember that the population has almost
doubled in the sixty years, while British Wesleyan Methodism has not doubled; but the great losses

occasioned by the agitations must be taken into account, and also the curious fact that the ratio of

increase for Methodism at large, in the ten years between the two Oecumenical Conferences, was thirty

per cent - twice as great as the increase of population in the countries represented; the Methodist Church

in Ireland actually increasing thirteen per cent, while the population of the country was diminishing and

the other Protestant Churches reported loss.

If the increase in Great Britain be proportionally smaller, this need not cause surprise, in view of that vast
development of energy in the Established Church which is really due to the reflex action of Methodism

itself; that Church, with all the old advantages of wealth and prestige and connexion with the universities

and grammar schools which she possessed in the days of her comparative supine-ness, with her clergy

roll of 23,000, and her many voluntary workers, having in twenty-seven years almost doubled the

number of her elementary schools, largely attended by Methodist children. But the indirect influence of

Methodism is such as cannot be represented in our returns; figures cannot show us the true spiritual

status of a Church. The total cost of the maintenance of our work in all its branches can be estimated; and

so able an authority as the Rev. Dr. H. J. Pope stated it at from L1,500,000 to L1,750,000 pounds

annually, a sum more than equal to a dividend on fifty millions of consols; but it is impossible to

compute the profit to the human race from that expenditure and the work it maintains. This may be said

with certainty, that other Churches have been greatly enriched thereby. We may just refer to that

remarkable religious movement, the Salvation Army, of Methodist origin, though working on new lines;

doing such work, social and evangelistic, as Methodism has chosen for its own, and absorbing into its

ranks many of our own trained workers. "The Salvationists, taught by Wesley," said the late Bishop of

Durham, "have learned and taught to the Church again the lost secret of the compulsion of human souls

to the Saviour."

"The Methodists themselves," says John Richard Green, "are the least result of the Methodist revival";
the creation of "a large and powerful and active sect," numbering many millions, extending over both

 

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