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Conference Minutes, between 1753 and 1763.
14. Preachers on probation were not to ramble up and down, but to go where the assistant directed, and there only.”]
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.?
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."
17. “ Has the office of an assistant been thoroughly executed ?
“Answer. No; not by one assistant out of three. For instance, every assistant ought (1) To see that the other preachers behave well.' But who has sent me word whether they did or no ? (2) 'To visit the classes, regulate the bands, and deliver tickets quarterly.' How few have done this! (3) Lovefeasts for the bands have been neglected. (4) Nor have persons been regularly taken in, and put out of, the bands. (5) I fear many of the quarterly meetings are formal, not spiritual. (6) The societies are not half supplied with books; not even with 'Kempis,' 'Instructions for Children,' and 'Primitive Physic,' which ought to be in every house.
And why should not each of you do like William Pennington-carry books with you through every round? selves in this. Be not ashamed. Be not weary. Leave no stone unturned. And let none print anything of his own, till it has been approved by the conference. (7) How few accounts have I had, either of remarkable deaths or remarkable conversions ! (8) How few exact lists have we received of the societies ! Take more time and more pains in preparing them. (9) Who of you has met the married and single men and women once a quarter, even in the largest societies ? (10) You have not provided a private room everywhere for the preacher ; nor a bed to himself ; neither the Library,' for want of which some still read trash. Till this can be done, let there be, immediately, in every place, at least the Notes,' and the tract on original sin.” 4 18. “Is there any other 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 the
1 “Minutes of Several Conversations,” etc.
3 Ibid. pp. 20–22.
2 Ibid. p. 19.
1763: 12mo. 30 pages. P. 19.
pp. 23, 24.
1763. prayers of the Church. (6) Against calling our society a church, or the Age 60
church. (7) Against calling our preachers ministers, our houses meetinghouses (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: 20. 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."
21. "How may provision be made for old or worn out preachers ? “Answer. As to their employ, they may be supernumerary preachers,
1 “Minutes of Several Conversations,” etc. 1763: 12mo. Pp. 24, 25. ** Ibid. pp. 25-27.
3 Ibid. pp. 27-30.
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.” 2
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.
; Methodist Magazine, 1804, p. 269.
3 Ibid. p. 30.
1763 one of the most elegant places which I have seen in Wales. Age 60 The little chapel, and all things round about it, are finished
uncommon taste; and the gardens, orchards, fishponds, and mount adjoining, make the place a little paradise. He thanks God for these things, and looks through them. About sixscore persons are now in the family ; all diligent, all constantly employed; all fearing God and working righteousness."
Wesley continues : "August 20.—We took horse at four in the morning, and rode through one of the pleasantest countries in the world. I will be bold to say, all England does not afford such a line of fifty miles' length, for fields, meadows, woods, brooks, and gently rising mountains, fruitful to the very top."
On completing his Welsh tour, Wesley wrote : "I was more convinced than ever, that the preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened, and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire ! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection ; and the consequence is, that nine in ten of the once awakened are now faster asleep than ever."
These are weighty words, and well worth pondering by those, in modern days, who advocate a revision of the laws respecting Methodists meeting together in weekly class. Wesley spoke from experience ; these are theorists, who, in the absence of experience, will do well to hesitate before they step.
During his journey in Wales, Wesley informed himself respecting a Welsh extravagance, referred to in the following letter, published in Lloyd's Evening Post, for June 27, 1763.
“There is here” [at Lancroyes] “what some call a great reformation in religion among the Methodists; but the case is really this. They have a sort of rustic dance in their public worship, which they call religious dancing, in imitation of David's dancing before the ark. Some of them strip off their clothes, crying out, Hosannah, etc., in imitation of those that attended our Saviour when He rode into Jerusalem. They call this the glory of the latter day; and when any person speaks to them of their extravagance, the answer they give is, 'You have the mark of the enemy
in your forehead.' Such are the delusion and uncharitableness of this people.”
These Welsh jumpers are called Methodists; but they were Methodists over whom Wesley had no control. He writes :
“1763, August 27.—Mr. Evans gave me an account, from his own knowledge, of what has made a great noise in Wales. It is common, in the congregations attended by Mr. W. W., and one or two other clergymen, after the preaching is over, for any one that has a mind, to give out a verse of a hymn. This they sing over and over with all their might, perhaps above thirty, yea, forty times. Meanwhile the bodies of two or three, sometimes ten or twelve, are violently agitated ; and they leap up and down, in all manner of postures, frequently for hours together.' I think, there needs no great penetration to understand this. They are honest, upright men, who really feel the love of God in their hearts. But they have little experience, either of the ways of God, or the devices of Satan. So he serves himself in their simplicity, in order to wear them out, and to bring a discredit on the work of God.”
Strangely enough this jumping in public worship found an advocate in good William Williams, the Welsh hymnist, who wrote a pamphlet in defence of it. To the injury of religion it was perpetuated for many years.
At the end of August, Wesley came to Bristol, in the neighbourhood of which he remained a month, frequently preaching out of doors, and expressing the opinion, that in no other way could the outcasts of men be reached. He cautioned the Bristol Methodists, not to "love the world, neither the things of the world”; and writes, in language and tone which ought to be a warning to the Methodists of the present day: “This will be their grand danger; as they are industrious and frugal, they must needs increase in goods. This appears already; in London, Bristol, and most other trading towns, those who are in business have increased in substance sevenfold, some of them twenty, yea, an hundredfold. What need, then, have these of the strongest warnings, lest they be entangled therein, and perish !”
On October 1, he returned to London, and says: “I found our house in ruins, great part of it being taken down, in order to a thorough repair. But as much remained
1 Evans's “ Sketch of all Religions.”