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Conference Minutes, between 1753 and 1763. 475
stewards, leaders, nor people. Whenever the weather will permit, go out in God's name into the most public places, and call all to repent and believe the gospel. Every assistant, at least, in every circuit, should endeavour to preach abroad every Sunday; especially in the old societies, lest they settle upon their lees." 1
3. In order to prevent strangers being present more than twice or thrice at society meetings, "See that all, in every place, show their tickets before they come in. If the stewards and leaders are not exact and impartial herein, employ others which have more resolution."2
4. "Examining and instructing the people" [under our care] "at their own houses, at times set apart for that purpose, has never been effectually done yet; though Thomas Walsh took some steps therein. Who will take up that cross? It will be of great use to others, and a blessing to his own soul. Do all you can herein, if not all you would. Inquire in each house, 'Have you family prayer? Do you read the Scripture in your family? Have you a fixed time for private prayer?' Examine each as to his growth in grace, and discharge of relative duties." "3
5. "Should we insist everywhere on the band rules? particularly that relating to ruffles?
Answer. By all means. This is no time to give any encouragement to superfluity of apparel. Therefore, give no band tickets to any in England or Ireland, till they have left them off. In order to this, (1) Read, in every society, the 'Thoughts concerning Dress.' (2) In visiting the classes, be very mild, but very strict. (3) Allow no exempt case, not even of a married woman; better one suffer than many.
"To encourage meeting in band: (1) In every large society, have a lovefeast quarterly for the bands only. (2) Never fail to meet them, apart from the society, once a week. (3) Exhort all believers to embrace the advantage. (4) Give a band ticket to none till they have met a quarter on trial." 4
6. "At each meeting of children, in every place, we may first set them a lesson in the 'Instructions,' or 'Tokens for Children.' (2) Hear them repeat it. (3) Explain it to them in an easy, familiar manner. (4) Often ask, 'What have I been saying?' and strive to fasten it on their hearts." 5
7. "Ought any woman to marry without the consent of her parents? "Answer. In general she ought not. Yet there may be an exception. For if (1) a woman be under necessity of marrying; if (2) her parents absolutely refuse to let her marry any Christian: then she may, nay ought, to marry without their consent. Yet even then a Methodist preacher ought not to marry her."6
8. "Read the sermon upon evil speaking, in every society. Extirpate smuggling, buying or selling uncustomed goods, out of every society;
"Minutes of Several Conversations," etc. 1763 12mo. 30 pages. P. 3.
1763 Age 60
particularly in Cornwall, and in all seaport towns. Let no person remain with us, who will not totally abstain from every kind and degree of it. Extirpate bribery; receiving anything, directly or indirectly, for voting in any election. Show no respect of persons herein, but expel all who touch the accursed thing. Let this be particularly observed at Grimsby and St. Ives."1
9. Let every preacher in town "examine carefully what state the sick is in; and instruct, reprove, or exhort accordingly."
10. "Rarely spend above an hour at a time in conversing with any one. Earnestly recommend the five o'clock hour to all." 3
II. The preachers were requested to offer constantly and fervently, at set times, private, family, and public prayer; consisting of deprecation, petition, intercession, and thanksgiving. They were to forecast, wherever they were, how to secure the hour at five in the evening, and the hour before or after morning preaching, for private devotion. They were constantly to read the Scriptures, Wesley's tracts, and the Christian Library. They were to devote their mornings to reading, writing, prayer, and meditation. They were always to have a New Testament in their pockets; and were to see that Wesley's Notes thereon were in every society, and were to explain them to the congregations. They were devoutly to use the Lord's supper at every opportunity. They were advised to fast every Friday, Wesley avowing his purpose generally to eat only vegetables on Friday, and to take only toast and water in the morning. They were to meet every society weekly; also the leaders, and the bands, if any. They were diligently to inquire into the state of the books, to do all they could to propagate them. They were to keep watchnights once a month, and lovefeasts twice a year for the whole society. They were to visit every society once a quarter; to take a regular catalogue of the members, at least, once a year; and to write Wesley an account of all the defects of "the common preachers," which they could not themselves cure. They were steadily to watch against the world, the devil, themselves, and besetting sins; and to deny themselves every useless pleasure of sense, imagination, and honour. They were recommended to use only that kind and that degree of food, which was best both for the body and the soul; to eat no flesh and no late suppers; and to take only three meals a day.1
12. What can be done to make the people sing true?
"Answer. (1) Learn to sing true yourselves. (2) Recommend the tunes everywhere. (3) If a preacher cannot sing himself, let him choose two or three persons in every place, to pitch the tune for him." 5
13. "What is it best to take after preaching?
"Answer. Lemonade; candied orange peel; or a little soft, warm ale. But egg and wine is downright poison. And so are late suppers.”
1 "Minutes of Several Conversations," etc. 1763: 12mo. Pp. 7, 8.
3 Ibid. p. 11.
Ibid. pp. 12-15.
2 Ibid. p. 9.
30 pages. Ibid. p. 18.
Conference Minutes, between 1753 and 1763. 477
14. Preachers on probation were "not to ramble up and down, but to go where the assistant directed, and there only.” 1
15. No one was to exhort in any of the societies without a note of recommendation from the assistant, which was to be renewed yearly.2
16. To make the Methodists sensible of the excellency of Kingswood school, every assistant was to read an account of it yearly; to exhort parents, who were able, to send their children thither; to answer all their objections, and refute all the lies they had heard about it; and to make a collection for it, at Midsummer, in every preaching house throughout England.3
17. "Has the office of an assistant been thoroughly executed?
"Answer. No; not by one assistant out of three. For instance, every
'To visit the classes,
this! (3) Lovefeasts for the bands have been neglected. (4) Nor
18. "Is there any other advice which you would give assistants
"Answer. Yes. In every place, exhort those who were brought up in the Church, constantly to attend its service. And in visiting the classes, ask every one, 'Do you go to church as often as ever you did?' Set the example yourself. And immediately alter every plan that interferes therewith. Is there not a cause for this? Are we not unawares, by little and little, tending to a separation from the Church? Oh remove every tendency thereto with all diligence. (1) Let all our preachers go to church. (2) Let all our people go constantly. (3) Receive the sacrament at every opportunity. (4) Warn all against niceness in hearing; a great and prevailing evil. (5) Warn them likewise against despising
1 "Minutes of Several Conversations," etc.
1763: 12mo. 30 pages. P. 19.
1763 Age 60
1763. prayers of the Church. (6) Against calling our society a church, or the church. (7) Against calling our preachers ministers, our houses meetingAge 60 houses (call them plain preaching houses). (9) Do not license them as such. The proper form of a petition to the judge is, 'A. B. desires to have his house in C. licensed for public worship.' (10) Do not license yourself, till you are constrained; and then not as a Dissenter, but a Methodist preacher. It is time enough when you are prosecuted, to take the oaths. Thereby you are licensed.”
19. "What do you advise with regard to public buildings?
"Answer. (1) Let none be undertaken without the consent of the assistant. (2) Build, if possible, in the form of Rotherham house. (3) Settle it in the following form."
Here follows the trust deed for the chapel. in Manchester, to the effect that, during their lifetime, Wesley, his brother, and Grimshaw of Haworth, and others, whom they might appoint, should have the use of the said chapel; and that, after their death, the trustees should permit such persons to preach in it as were appointed by the yearly conference ; provided always, that such persons preach no other doctrine than is contained in Wesley's Notes upon the New Testament, and his four volumes of sermons; and provided also, that they preach evenings in every week, and at five o'clock on each morning following.2
How may we raise a general fund?
"Answer. By a yearly subscription, to be proposed by every assistant when he visits the classes at Christmas, and to be received at the visitation following."
To this end, the assistant was to enlarge on the following hints. (1) That the debts on the chapels of the Connexion amounted to about £4000. (2) That God had raised up preachers, and that they were greatly needed; but could not be employed for want of money to find them food. (3) That, in order to quell riotous mobs, it was necessary to have recourse to the King's Bench, and that a suit there usually cost £50 or £60, which must be met by a general contribution.3
21. "How may provision be made for old or worn out preachers?
1 "Minutes of Several Conversations," etc. 1763: 12m0. 30 pages. Pp. 24, 25. 3 Ibid. pp. 27-30.
2 Ibid. pp. 25-27.
Conference of 1763.
or assistants, in those circuits wherein there is most need. As to their subsistence, (1) Let every travelling preacher contribute ten shillings yearly. (2) Let this be lodged in the hands of three stewards, approved of by the majority of the preachers. (3) Out of this, let what is needful be allowed yearly; first for the old or sickly preachers and their families; then for the widows and children of those that are dead."1
22. "If God should call you away, what would be the most probable means of preventing the people from being scattered?
"Answer. Let all the assistants, for the time being, immediately go up to London, and consult what steps are fittest to be taken. And God will then make the way plain before them." "
We have thus endeavoured, in as brief a form as possible, to embody all the points, in the Minutes published in 1763, that are not contained in the previous publication of 1753. Some of these are curious, and others of the greatest consequence. Three connexional funds are sanctioned and recommended. A trust deed for chapels is supplied. Continued union with the Church of England is strongly urged. To say nothing of the discipline prescribed for the preachers, and for the people, these were matters of the utmost moment, and deserve more attention than we have space to give them. Facts are furnished; the reader himself must ponder them.
Before leaving the conference of 1763, it may be added, that its sessions were held in the chapel at Spitalfields; and that Howel Harris was present, and exhorted the preachers to have faith in God, and whenever they met a man, in any of their journeyings, to speak to him about his soul. "If I meet a poor man," said he, "I give him a halfpenny, if I have one; but I always remember that the man has a soul as well as a body, and therefore I say something to him respecting his salvation. And if I meet a rich man, why should I be afraid of him? For aught I know, he may be worse than the beast he rides upon. Perhaps the beast carries the devil upon its back." 3
The conference being ended, Wesley set out, on the 15th of August, perhaps in company with Howel Harris, to the principality of Wales. At all events, four days afterwards, he reached Trevecca, and wrote: "Howel Harris's house is
1 "Minutes of Several Conversations," etc. 1763: 12mo. 30 pages. P. 30.
1763 Age 60