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HISTORY OF THE DISCIPLINE.
HISTORY OF THE DIFFERENT EDITIONS.
The Methodist Societies were originally governed by the General Rules, drawn up by the Wesleys, in 1743, and by the regulations adopted in the conferences, which were held yearly from 1744. These regulations were first published in the Minutes from year to year. They were afterward collected together and printed, with some slight alterations, in a tract entitled “The Large Minutes." The same rules and regulations, so far as applicable to their condition, governed the Methodist Societies in America, from the time of their first formation in 1766. At the first conference, in 1773, the preachers formally recognized “the doctrine and discipline of the Methodists,” as contained in the English Minutes, to be “the sole rule of their conduct.” They adopted, however, at successive conferences, some additional regulations, rendered necessary by their peculiar circumstances. These were inserted, from year to year, in the Annual Minutes, until 1784, when the Methodists in America ceased to constitute mere societies, and were duly organized into a church. To learn, then, what was the Discipline of the Methodist Societies in America, prior to 1784, the Large Minutes must be compared with the Annual Minutes of the American conferences. The Large Minutes will be found below, in connection with the Discipline of 1784. Those portions of the Annual Minutes which relate to discipline are as follows :
1773. At the first conference, held in Philadelphia, June, 1773, “the following queries were proposed to every preacher :
Quest. 1. Ought not the authority of Mr. Wesley and that conference to extend to the preachers and people in America, as well as in Great Britain and Ireland ?
Quest. 2. Ought not the doctrine and discipline of the Methodists, as contained in the Minutes, to be the sole rule of our conduct, who labour in the connection with Mr. Wesley in America ? “ Ans. Yes. Quest. 3. If so, does it not follow, that if
any preachers deviate from the Minutes, we can have no fellowship with them till they change their conduct ?
“ Ans. Yes.
“The following rules were agreed to by all the preachers present
“1. Every preacher, who acts in connection with Mr. Wesley and the brethren who labour in America, is strictly to avoid administering the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper.
“ 2. All the people among whom we labour, to be earnestly exhorted to attend the Church, and to receive the ordinances there ; but in a particular manner, to press the people in Maryland and Virginia to the observance of this minute.
“3. No person or persons to be admitted into our love-feasts oftener than twice or thrice, unless they become members; and none to be admitted to the society meetings more than thrice.
“4. None of the preachers in America to reprint any of Mr. Wesley's books, without his authority (when it can be gotten) and the consent of their brethren.
“5. Robert Williams to sell the books he has already printed, but to print no more, unless under the above restrictions.
“6. Every preacher who acts as an assistant, to send an account of the work once in six months to the general assistant."
1774. In 1774 the following regulations were adopted :
“All the preachers to change at the end of six months.
“ This conference agreed to the following particulars :
“1. Every preacher who is received into full connection is to have the use and property of his horse, which any of the circuits may furnish him with.
2. Every preacher to be allowed six pounds, Pennsylvania currency, per quarter, and his travelling charges besides.
“ 3. For every assistant to make a general collection at Easter in the circuits where they labour, to be applied to the sinking of the debts on the houses, and relieving the preachers in want.
“4. Wherever Thomas Rankin* spends his time, he is to be assisted by those circuits."
1775. In 1775 the following directions are added:
“ Thomas Rankin* is to travel till the month of December, and then take a quarter in New-York.
“The preachers in New-Jersey to change in one quarter.
“Webster and Cooper to change with Gatch and Watters at the end of six months.
" The preachers in Brunswick and Hanover to change as the assistant thinks proper.
“ Thomas Rankin's deficiencies to be paid out of the yearly collection.
“The preachers' expenses from conference to their circuits to be paid out of the yearly collection.
* The general assistant.