« PreviousContinue »
use all the means in our power. And though the bible be infie nitely preferable to all other books, yet we are, even on that very account, to study the writings of those fpiritual and great divines, who have by their comments, essays, fermons, or other labours, explained the bible: otherwise, we ought not to attend the preaching of the gospel ; for what is that but an explanation and application of the great truths contained in the bible. He, therefore, who has the charge of the circuit, is to be diligent in the sale of those books, which, according to the judgment of our conferences and bifhops, are deemed profitable for the souls of our people. St. Paul had need of books, otherwise he would not have carried them with him in his extenlive travels. « The cleak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comeft, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments,"
2 Tim. iv. 13. And to minds which are influenced by the love of Cod
the confideration that the profit of these books is wholly applied to the work of God, will be a further inåuce ment to them to purchase our books.
It is necessary that the yearly conference should have an exact account of the numbers in society, and of every thing material relating to each circuit under its controul, otherwise it could not poflibly judge of the progrefs of the work, and the fidelity of the preachers : nor could the episcopacy have otherwife such complete knowledge of every thing for the ftationing of the preachers. “Let all things be done,” says St. Paul,“ de cently, and in order.”
10. It is also necessary, that the prefiding elder should receive regular details of the proceedings of those who have the overlight of circuits, that he himself may have such a clear knowledge of the state of the district, as may enable him to fill up his important trust, and to give such information of his district to the bishops, as may afford them a conplete view of the. whole. Thus are many eyes opened upon the great work, and the wisdom of many united for the good of the whole. the multitude of counsellers,” says the wife man,” there is safety.”
11. The people of our special charge want all the advice we can give them: and their stations and circumstances are so different, ihat the rule of meeting the men and women apart, and, when the fociety is large, and the time will admit of it, the married and fingle men apart, and the married and single women apart, has been attended with many bleflings. Mr. Wesley, from happy experience, considered this as a very profitablc means of grace.
* i. e. The books, written on parchment, the art of printing not being known in thefe days.
Ministers of the gospel should think no labour lost, or means in vain, by which they may be enabled to give their whole Hock their due fpiritual portion. “The Lord faid, Who then is that faithful and wife steward, whom his Lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, That he will make him ruler over all that he hath,” Luke xii. 42–44.
12. As the public money should be applied with the greatest fidelity, the accounts should be examined with the strictest scrutiny: and, therefore, the preacher who has the charge of the circuit is to examine the stewards' accounts, as a preparative to their being laid before the quarterly meeting : and this not cut of difrespect to the stewards, whom we highly esteem for their disin. terested labours of love, but to prevent, as far as possible, even any plausible pretence for fufpicion. “It is required in stewards," says the apostle, “ that a man be found faithful.” No person of integrity (and such we have reason to believe all our stewards are, without exception) will object to this rule.
13 & 14. The quarterly collections in the classes, &c. according to the abilities of our friends, are the chief support of the work.
15 & 16. One of the greatest charities upon earth is the railing of buildings for public worship and the preaching of the golpel. “How shall they call on him," says the apostle, “in whom they have not believed ? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard ? and how shall they hear without a preacher ? and how shall they preach except they be sent ? as
it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach' the gofpel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things,” Roni. X. 14, 15. But the preachers who are sent of God, must have a place to affemble their hearers, otherwise they can bút feldom deliver their message. Little good will be done, if they can have only the open air to preach in : because the Lord will not work unnecessary miracles. Where a few persons, or many, have raised a house for God, and continue to live to God themselves, they will receive from the nature of diftributive justice, a propora tionable sbare of the reward, for all the fouls faved in or by the means of that building and the ordinances administered there, usbong as the building lasts. And though no finite being could make the due distribution in so intricate a cafe, yet he who is infinite Wisdom can do it, and will do it, when he fits on his great white throne.. And the preacher who has the charge of the circuit will also have, bis share of the reward, by ufing all his in-. Huence, on such occasions, to set on foot and recommend the per ceffary subscriptions and collections,
We are now to give the reasons for the further directions gita en in this section to him who has the charge of the circuit.
1. A Catalogue of the members of the society in towns, is highly necessary to enable the preachers to perform the great duty of visiting our people from house to house, But concerning this duty see the 15th section of this chapter.
2 & 3. If his successor have not an exact account left him of the state of the circuit, it will be impossible for him to be so extensively useful for a considerable time as he otherwise might be. Every preacher should enter upon his work on the fairest grounds and with the completest view possible of what was before him. “ Behold,” says the prophet, speaking of the Melliah, “ his work is before him,” Ifa. lxii. 11. And fo should it be with every minister of Christ, in his measure and degree.
4. The fourth direction is exceedingly weighty. It makes the principal part of his office. But on the rules of the society we shall speak largely, when we consider the Ist section of the ad chapter.
5. He is also to regulate all the bands in his circuit. See chap. 2. fec. 3.
6. In every thing there must be order ; though frequently what the world calls confufion, is order in the fight of God. However, the zeal of happy, pious souls may carry them to many extremes, if not under proper restriction. “Let your moderation be known unto all men,” Phil. iv. 5.
7. We are but one body of people, one grand fociety, whether in Europe or America, united in the closest fpiritual bonds, and in external bonds as far as the circumstances of things will admit. And as our numbers have increased exceedingly both in Europe and America, it is necessary we should be particularly cautious inre: riving strangers into our society, under the pretext of their h ving been members in other places; as the one end of our whole pia is to raise a holy people. On this account all our conferences throughout the world mutual y require, that every member of our fociety who changes his place of abode, fhall previously obtain a çertificate from the preacher who has the charge of his circuit, who is most likely to be acquainted with his character, his own relations excepted; and that without such certificate he ihall not be received into any other society. Even in the primitive church, St. Paul saw it necessary to write to his Philipians, “ Brethren,
- Mark them which walk so, as ye have us for an ensample. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ," Phil. iii. 17, 18. How much more then is it our duty to use every precaution to preserve the purity of our church, in these days, when perfecution has ceased, and it is the interest of many to be united to a religious party. Nor is it sufficient for the pes-
fon removing to carry bis ticket with him, as he might have been expelled from our communion, and yet have preserved his ticket.
8. The 8th direction is of great moment, especially to profeffors of religion, that the gospel be not blamed that the world may not have it in their power to accuse pure religion with making men careless or negligent of themselves. “ Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God? and ye are not your own, bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body, and in your fpirit, which are God's," i Cor. vi. 19, 20.
9. We do nothing secretly. We wish the whole world to know every part of our economy, and more especially the rules of our society, fo necessary for every member of it at least to be thoroughly acquainted with. We have also enacted this rule, that christian fellowship in general, and particularly that mode of christian communion which has proved so beneficial to ourfelves and to myriads now in glory, may be strongly and repeatedly recommended to all who truly fear God. “ Ye know,” says the apostle to the elders of the church of Ephesus,“ how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you,” Acts xx. 18—20. where the apostle by the word you means the whole church, of whom the elders were the chief organz.
10. For christians to appeal to the judges of the world in mata ters of controversy or litigation, is strongly censured by the word of God. “ Dare any of you,” says the apostle, “ having a matter against another, go to law before the unjuft, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we fall judge angels ? how much more things that pertain to this life? If then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are leart esteemed in the church. I SPEAK TO YOUR SHAME. Is it so that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother go. eth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now, therefore, there is UTTERLY a fault among you, becaufe ye go to law one with another: why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded ?" I Cor, vi. I--7. But as we would by no means wish that ministers of the gospel should interfere as judges of fuch affairs, it is directed, that the preacher who has the oversight of the circuit fhall (after confulting the leaders and stewards, if agreeable to their advice) recommend a seriptural arbitration to the contending parties : and as our rules declare that “ Brother shall not go to law with brother," he shall exclude that party which refuses fo equitable a proposal. And we will take the liberty of adding, that where the contending parties are of two different religious focicties, the only chriftian method we know of, on which they could proceed, would be for each of them to choose an arbiter out of his own fociety, and for those two to choose a third; or to proceed on some similar plan.
11. The authority of appointing prayer-meetings will not, we think, be disputed by any. Many of our greatest revivals have been begun and chiefly carried on in our prayer-meetings. We wish that the utmost zeal might be manifested by those who have the charge of circuits in the execution of this direction. The sacred writer describing the effects of the day of Pentecost, observes, “ Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand So ls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Acts ii. 41, 42. There is no doubt but those words refer to social worship. O that every family in our connection had occasionally a prayer-meeting at stated times for the benefit of their neighbours! There would be no danger of wanting persons to pray: God would pour forth the spirit of grace and fupplication; and soon the flame of divine love would glow through every civilized part of this vast continent. The Lord hasten the day!
12. Public fasts are to be appointed by him at the regular times, and he is of course to take care, that himself and his helpers not only set the example, but also render those days peculiarly profitable by public meetings for the fervice of God. 2 Chron, XX. 3. Jehoshaphat-proclaimed a faft throughout all Judah. Ezra. viii. 21. Ezra proclaimed a fast at the river Ahava. Ifa. lviii. 3. In the day of your fast, you find pleasure. Jer. xxxvi. 9. They proclaimed a fast before the Lord to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem. Joel i. 14. Sanctify a faft, call an assembly: and ii. 15. Jonah iii. 5. The people of Ninevah believed God, and proclaim
Matt. ix. 15. Jesus said unto them, can the children of the bride-chamber mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then sball they faft. See alía Mark ii. 1820. and Luke 33–35.
13. The whole organization of our church depends on an exact attention to all its distinctions and orders.
“ I am with you in the Spirit.” says St. Paul to his Colossians, "joying and beholding your order," Col. ii. 5. The Lord wills that we should fight in his great cause lawfully: “ if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully,”' 2 Tim. ii. 5. Therefore the church of God is compared to an army with ban. ners : Cant: vi. 4, “ Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah; comely a Jerusalem ; terrible as an army with banners.” It has been, we coubt not, the close order and organization of our.
ed a fafl