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The Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion: Articles and Plan of Association

Pages 88-95

Two Calvinistic Methodist Chapels 1743-1811 the London Tabernacle and Spa Fields Chapel. Originally published by London Record Society, London, 1975.

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I. The Fifteen Articles of the Countess of Huntingdon's Connexion

The Fifteen Articles were drawn up in 1783 and read at the first ordination of the Connexion. In 1793 they were enrolled in Chancery as a schedule to Cheshunt College trust deed, from which this copy (Cheshunt MS. C16/3) is taken.

252. I. Of God.

That there is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker and Preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of the Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

II. Of the Scriptures.

That it pleased God, at sundry times and in divers manners, to declare His will, and that the same should be committed unto writing; which is therefore called the Holy Scripture, which containeth all things necessary to Salvation. The authority whereof doth not depend upon the testimony of man, but wholly upon God, its Author; and our assurance of the infallible truth thereof is from the inward work of the Holy Ghost, bearing witness, with the Word, in our hearts.

III. Of Creation.

It pleased God, for the manifestation of His glory, in the beginning, to create the world and all things therein; and having made man, male and female, after his own image, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; he gave them a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, with a power to fulfil it, yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change.

253. IV. Of the fall of Man from Original Righteousness.

Our first parents sinned in eating the forbidden fruit; whereby they fell from their original righteousness, and became wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. And being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.

V. Of Original Sin.

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, as the Pelagians do vainly talk; but it is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is, as far as possible gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit; and, therefore, in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated, yet without dominion; and although there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, yet sin in them is evil, as much as in others, and as such receives Divine, fatherly chastisement.

VI. Of Predestination and Election.

Although the whole world is thus become guilty before God, it hath pleased Him to predestinate some unto everlasting life. Predestination, therefore, to life, is the everlasting purpose of God whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) He hath constantly decreed by His counsel, secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which are endued with so excellent a benefit of God, are called according to God's purpose, by His spirit working in due season; they, through grace, obey the call; they are justified freely; they are made sons of God by adoption; they bear the image of Christ; they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.

254. VII. Of Christ the Mediator.

It pleased God in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, to be Mediator between God and man, the Prophet, Priest, and King, the Head, and Saviour, of His church; unto whom he did, from all eternity, give a people to be His seed, and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. He, therefore, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, yet without sin, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin Mary; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead, and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. This office of Mediator and Surety He did most willingly undertake; which, that he might discharge, He was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it by an obedience unto death; by which perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself on the cross, which He, through the Eternal spirit, once offered up unto God, He hath fully satisfied Divine Justice, and purchased not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven for all those whom the Father hath given Him. To all of whom He doth, in His own time, and in His own way, certainly and effectually apply His purchased redemption; making intercession for them; and revealing unto them, through the Word and by His Spirit, the mysteries of Salvation; effectually enabling them to believe unto obedience; and governing their hearts by the same Word and Spirit; and overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power.

255. VIII. Of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost is the third person in the adorable Godhead, distinct from the Father and the son; yet of one substance, glory, and majesty with them, very and eternal God; whose office in the church is manifold. It is He who illuminates the understanding to discern spiritual things, and guides us into all truths; so that without His teaching, we shall never be effectually convinced of sin, nor be brought to the saving knowledge of God in Christ. And His teaching, whether it be by certain means which He ordinarily makes use of, or without means, is attended with an evidence peculiar and proper to itself, therefore styled the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. By which divine power He not only enlightens the understanding, but gives a new turn or bias to the will and affections, moving and acting upon our hearts, and by His secret, energetic influence effecting those things, which we could never attain or accomplish by our own strength. Nor is His guidance less necessary in our lives and all our actions. Without His assistance we know not what to pray for, or how to pray aright. He confirms us in all grace; and He is the author of all holiness. It is He that assures us of our personal interest in Christ, and that sheds abroad the love of God in our hearts. He seals believers unto the day of redemption; and is Himself the earnest of their future inheritance. He administers comfort to us in our temporal and spiritual distresses, by applying to our minds seasonable promises of God in Christ Jesus, which are yea and amen; and, by receiving the things of Christ, and shewing them unto us. Thus He encourageth and refresheth us with a sense of the favour of God; fills us with joy unspeakable and full of glory, and is to abide with the church for ever.

IX. Of Free Will.

The condition of man after the fall of Adam, is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and good works to faith and calling upon God; wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will.

256. X. Of Justification.

We are accounted righteous before God, only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore that we are justified by faith alone, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort. And this is done by pardoning our sins, and by accounting our persons as righteous by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto us, which is received and rested upon by faith; which faith we have not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God.

XI. Of Sanctification and good Works.

They who are effectually called and regenerated, having a new heart and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ's death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them; the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified, and they are more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces to the practice of true holiness; without which no man shall see the Lord. Works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, though they cannot put away our sins nor endure the severity of God's judgment, yet are pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith; insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known, as a tree discerned by the fruit.

XII. Of Works before Justification.

Works done before the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of His spirit, are not pleasant to God; for as much as they spring not of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; neither do they make men meet to receive grace; yea, rather, for that they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin.

257. XIII. Of the Church.

The Catholic or universal Church, which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect, that have been, are, or shall be gathered into one, under Christ the head thereof, and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The visible church consists of all those throughout the world who profess the true religion, together with their children. To which visible church Christ hath given the ministry and ordinances of the Gospel, for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life, to the end of the world; and doth by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise, make them effectual thereunto.

There is no other head of the church but the Lord Jesus Christ; nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof, but is that Antichrist, the man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalteth himself in the church against Christ, and all that is called God.

XIV. Of Baptism.

Baptism is a sacrament of the New Testament ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church, but also to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, to be continued in the church until the end of the world; which is rightly administered by pouring or sprinkling water upon the person, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This sacrament ought to be administered but once to any person; and we also hold, that infants may, and ought to be baptised, in virtue of one or both believing parents; because the spiritual privilege of a right unto, and a participation of the initial seal of the covenant, was granted by God to the infant seed of Abraham; which grant must remain firm for ever, without the Lord's own express revoking or abrogation of it; which can never be proved from Scripture that He has done.—Again, they that have the thing signified, have a right to the sign of it; but Children are capable of the grace signified in Baptism. And some of them, (we trust) are partakers of it; namely, such as die in their infancy; therefore they may and ought to be baptised. For these and other reasons, we believe and maintain the lawfulness and expediency of infant baptism.

258. XV. Of The Lord's Supper.

The supper of the Lord is not only a sign of the love that Christians ought to have among themselves one to another, but rather it is a sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, and of our redemption thereby, called the Lord's Supper, to be observed in His church to the end of the world, for the perpetual remembrance of the sacrifice of Himself in His death; the sealing of all benefits thereof to true believers; their spiritual nourishment and growth in Him; their further engagement in, and to all duties which they owe unto Him; and to be a bond and pledge of their communion with Him and with each other as members of His mystical body. Insomuch that, to such as rightly and with faith receive the same, the bread which we break is a partaking of the body of Christ, and likewise the cup of blessing is a partaking of the blood of Christ; though in substance and nature they still remain bread and wine as they were before. Those, therefore, that are void of faith, though they do carnally and visibly eat the bread and drink the wine of this sacrament of the body and blood of Christ, yet they are in no wise partakers of Christ; but rather to their condemnation do eat and drink the sign or sacrament of so great a blessing.

II. The Plan of Association, 1790

The first version of this plan does not seem to have survived, but the second version was printed in March 1790, of which a copy has been bound into Cheshunt MS. D3/2.

259. Plan of an Association for uniting and perpetuating the Connection of the Right Honourable the Countess Dowager of Huntingdon, 1790

In consequence of an invitation from the Right Honourable Selina Countess Dowager of Huntingdon, several ministers and laymen, who wish well to the cause of Christ and her Ladyship's connection, have formed themselves into an Association, called 'The London Acting Association'; for the purpose of assisting her Ladyship, during her life-time, as far as she shall be pleased to accept of their services, in carrying on the work of the Gospel of Christ in her connection; and, as far as they may be enabled, for perpetuating the same after her Ladyship's decease. Being desirous of using such means as appear to them (under God) most likely to carry the same into effect, they beg leave, with all deference, to submit the following Plan to her Ladyship's consideration; which, if approved, they further beg may be printed, and a copy thereof sent to every Congregation in her Ladyship's connection; not doubting but they will cheerfully unite and engage with them in their feeble attempts to carry on the great and important work.

260. Plan

I. That a General Association be formed, entitled 'The Countess Dowager of Huntingdon's General Association.'

II. That the whole connection be divided into proper Districts.

III. That the Districts be as follows, viz.

1. London District: Spa Fields Chapel, Mulberry Gardens, Sion Chapel, Holywell Mount Chapel

2. Reading District: Reading, Wallingford, Goring, Rickmersworth, Basingstoke

3. Feversham District: Feversham, Dover, Milton, Tunbridge Wells

4. Brighthelmstone District: Brighthelmstone, Lewes, Chichester, Oat Hall

5. Ely District: Ely, Chatteris, Ramsey (Huntingdonshire), Peterborough

6. Sudbury District: Sudbury, Fordham, Woodbridge

7. Bath District: Bath

8. Bristol District: Bristol, Swansea

9. Wincanton District: Wincanton, a horse ride, (fn. 1) Froome

10. St Columbe District: St Columbe, a horse ride, Star Cross

261. 11. Gloucester District: Gloucester, Hereford, Coleford, Banbury

12. Worcester District: Worcester, Evesham, Kidderminster

13. Monmouth District: Monmouth, Broad-oak, Langadock

14. Birmingham District: Birmingham, West Bromwich, Handsworth, Edgebaston

15. Wolverhampton District: Wolverhampton, Dudley, Bilston

16. Ashby de la Zouch District: Ashby de la Zouch, Ashbourn

17. Wigan District: Wigan

18. Ulverstone District: Ulverstone, Whitehaven

19. Norwich District: Norwich

20. Lincoln District: Lincoln, Gainsborough, Newark

21. Haxey District: Haxey, Pinchbeck, Partney

22. York District: York, Hull, Helmsley

23. Morpeth District, Morpeth.

262. IV. That a committee be formed in each country district: consisting of the ministers for the time being, together with two laymen from each congregation; and that they be called 'The Committee of the Countess Dowager of Huntingdon's Association for the District of'.

V. That the London Acting Association be considered the committee for the district of London.

VI. That each committee shall meet once a quarter, or oftener if necessary: the members thereof determining the time and place of their meetings.

VII. That they at such meetings take into consideration and deliberate upon all matters which concern the cause of Christ in her Ladyship's connection within their district.

VIII. That within ten days after every such meeting the committee shall transmit an account of their proceedings to the London Acting Association, who shall lay the same before the General Association at their annual meetings.

IX. That no Congregation nor District Committee contract any debt, but what they agree to discharge, without the consent of the General Association previously obtained.

X. That one or more of the ministers present do preach at each meeting of the committees.

XI. That all the ministers in her Ladyship's connection, together with the laymen who compose the District Committees, be considered as members of the General Association.

263. XII. That, in order to avoid unnecessary expense and trouble, and also to prevent the congregations being unsupplied if all the members were obliged to attend, it is proposed that a minister and two laymen from each District Committee be deputed to meet the London Acting Association in London once in every year; who, together with the Trustees of her Ladyship's College for the time being, shall compose the General Association.

XIII. That each district pay the expense of its deputation attending the General Association.

XIV. That a minister be appointed to preach every day during the meeting of the General Association.

XV. That the state and concerns of the connection at large be laid before the General Association at their annual meetings.

XVI. That all disputed matters, which cannot be otherwise settled, shall be finally adjusted by the determination of the General Association.

XVII. That a delegated power from the General Association shall constantly reside in the London Acting Association, to transact the concerns of the connection during the intervals of the annual meetings; and all their proceedings be laid before the General Association.

XVIII. That every minister, offering himself to join the connection, shall, if approved of, be received by the General Association.

XIX. The Lord having in the present age much blessed itinerant preaching, it is proposed that circuits be formed in different parts of the kingdom, for the further spread of the Gospel of Christ; and that preachers be sent out and supported by the connection, as collectively considered, so far as the Lord enables and their finances will allow.

264. XX. That every minister and student in the connection, who may be in town at the time of the meeting of the General Association, be at liberty to attend the same; but the latter not to have a voice in their deliberations and determinations.

XXI. That the minutes of the General Association be printed, and a copy of them sent to every District Committee.

XXII. That an account of the names and places of abode of all the ministers and students in the connection be entered in a book kept for that purpose.

And, in order more effectually to carry this plan into execution, it is proposed

XXIII. That a fund be raised, separate and distinct from the supplies raised by congregations for the support of their respective places of worship, and also from the fund called the Travelling Fund and the Fund of the Apostolic Society. (fn. 2)

XXIV. For this purpose, the members of the Societies in particular, and the friends of the connection in general, are invited to contribute an assistance of not less than a penny a week each person.

XXV. That this fund be called 'The General Association Fund.'

XXVI. That the money contributed be received by a treasurer, appointed by each district; who shall nominate and appoint such persons, at each chapel or place of public worship, as may be necessary to collect it. The money to be transmitted by the treasurer after each quarterly meeting of the district to the treasurer or treasurers of the London Acting Association.

XXVII. That books, agreeable to a plan now used by the London Acting Association, be recommended to the treasurers and collectors of the districts.

XXVIII. That collecting the subscriptions and contributions be ever considered as a labour of love and free service.

265. XXIX. That the disposal of the money be restricted solely to the determination and appointment of the General Association, for such purposes as they shall think proper, provided the same be for the benefit and sole use of the connection.

XXX. That no money for new buildings, or erection of galleries, be taken from this fund without the concurrence of at least seven-eighths of the General Association.

XXXI. Should a division of the connection at any future period be attempted, it is proposed that, so long as eleven members of the General Assembly continue united to carry on the cause of Christ in this connection, agreeable to the foregoing rules, they shall be considered not only competent, but fully empowered, to conduct the same.

It is requested, if any alterations in the districts be thought necessary, that the London Acting Association may be acquainted therewith.

By order of the Countess of Huntingdon, and the Association,

Spa Fields, March 3, 1790.

Geo. Best, Sec.

Footnotes

  • 1. A horse ride consisted of a series of preaching places which a student might visit in succession on horseback. The Countess usually provided the horse.
  • 2. The travelling fund was established for the support of itinerant preachers and the Apostolic Society for the support of Trevecka College.