VERY DEAR BRETHREN,
We feel it to be an important part of our duty, as Ministers who are pledged to do what we can to promote the interests of Wesleyan Methodism among the people of our charge, to address you on the subject of the great pecuniary difficulties in which the Douglas Circuit is at present involved. These difficulties have been increasing for a considerable length of time; and either must be effectually removed, or they will produce an increasingly painful influence upon the mind of every officer of the Circuit, who is anxious for the maintenance and extension of Wesleyan Methodism; and will- so far engage the attention of the Preachers as to interfere seriously with their valuable time-time which should be employed, not in contending with pecuniary difficulties, but in attending to the spiritual interests of the people. We adopt the plan of expressing our sentiments and wishes in a printed form, in preference to any other, in order that you may have the most favourable opportunity of considering the facts to which it is desirable that your attention should be directed.
There is now a heavy debt upon the Circuit Books of more than £100. The regular income of the Circuit is not equal to the necessary and unavoidable expenditure. The Circuit debt is gradually increasing in amount. Persons who are every way suitable to fill the office of Circuit Stewards become unwilling to accept of office. And the Conference, having already granted large sums of money, amounting to more than £3498 within the last forty-three years, towards the support of the Wesleyan Ministry in the Isle of Man, cannot reasonably be expected to continue these grants, unless the Manks Societies will faithfully observe our Rules, and in this way do what they can to help themselves.
The difficulties which exist in this Circuit do not arise from any insufficiency in the Plans of Methodism-nor altogether from the poverty of the people, considered as a whole-and certainly not from any thing like extravagance in the circuit expenditure which is much below what is usual in English circuits-but chiefly from an astonishing want (from some cause or other) of the carrying out of the plans of Methodism into practical operation. If that part of the Wesleyan economy which relates to the weekly and quarterly contributions of the members had been faithfully attended to in all our Classes, this Circuit would now have been able to maintain, not merely three preachers with great difficulty, and by the aid of a Conference grant, but five or six preachers, with comparative ease, and without any Conference grant at all, in which case all the Congregations and Societies would be much better attended to than they can be with the present number. And when it is understood that the Conference has already granted to the Isle of Man, from the Contingent Fund alone, an amount of money which, if we were to reckon the interest, would be equal to £8241, it is surely reasonable that, by this time, the financial state of the Manks Circuits should be such as to render them far more than independent of any of the connexional funds.
Now, in order that this may be speedily accomplished in the Douglas Circuit, we wish to remind you of the Rule which relates to the duty of contributing in the Classes, and to urge upon you, with affectionate fidelity and plainness, the importance of acting upon it forthwith.
The following are Mr. Wesley's own words on this subject, as published in the Minutes of the Conference of 1782 :-
" Q. 31.-Have the weekly and quarterly contributions "been duly made in all our societies ?
" A.-In many it has been shamefully neglected. To remedy this,
" 1. Let every Assistant remind every Society, that this was our original rule: Every member contributes one penny weekly, (unless he is in extreme poverty,) and one shilling quarterly. Explain the reasonableness of this.
" 2. Let every Leader receive the weekly contribution from each person in his Class.
" 3. Let the Assistant ask every person, at changing his ticket, can you afford to observe our rule ?- And receive what he is able to give."
To certain members of a Society in England, who had neglected to observe this rule, Mr. Wesley addressed the following admonition:-" It is not honest to profess yourself of a society, and not observe the rules of it. Be, therefore, consistent with yourself Never miss your class till you miss it for good and all. And when you meet it, be merciful after your power. Give as God enables you. If you are not in pressing want, give some thing, and you will be no poorer for it. Grudge not, fear not; lend unto the Lord, and he will surely repay. If you earn but three shillings a week, and give a penny out of it, you will never want."
N.B.-Seventy-five years ago, when Mr. Wesley wrote these words, the relative value of three shillings would be equal to our nine shillings; and, therefore, it would now require threepence (or rather threepence halfpenny in the Isle of Man) to equal the primitive contribution of 1 penny. Still, the average of one penny per member, as a weekly contribution, is all that is now required. Mr. Wesley goes on:-
Q' But I do not say this to you who have ten or fifteen shillings a week, and give only a penny! To see this has often grieved my spirit. I have been ashamed for you, if you have not been ashamed for yourself. Why, by the same rule that you give a penny, that, poor man should give a pepper-corn! "O be ashamed! Be ashamed before God and men! Be not straitened in your own bowels. Give in proportion to your substance. You can better afford a shilling than he a penny. This is more to him than that to you. Open your eves, your heart, your hand." Such was the magnanimous language of that great man, who spent his fortune and his life in the cause of Methodism.
The Scriptures represent the covetous member of society as a "wicked person " who should be put away from the church of God. St. Paul says, " I have written unto you not to keep company, if any that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, with such a one no not to eat. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person."- 1 Cor.v, 11, 13. In reference to this passage, Mr. Wesley says, " This is an express command: and it is of unspeakable importance. These money-lovers are the pest of every Christian society. They have been the main cause of destroying every revival of religion. They will destroy us, if we do not put them away. But how shall we know them, without the miraculous discernment of spirits ?
" A.-1. By their own confession.-2. By their fruits. For instance: A man not worth a shilling enters our society. Yet he freely gives a penny a week. Five years after, he is worth scores of pounds. He gives a penny a week still. I must think this man covetous, unless he assures me, he bestowes his charity some other way. For every one is covetous whose beneficence does not increase in the same proportion as his substance."-See Min. of the Con. of 1782.
In conclusion, we wish. to assure those of you who may hitherto have been defaulters, that we hate putting away; and would much rather entreat you, -so as to preserve your connexion with the Wesleyan body; and especially as we think it probable, that many of you have not had very favourable opportunities of understanding the financial department of our system. We accordingly request, with affectionate importunity, as a matter of importance to yourselves individually, as well as to the Circuit in general,-1. That you will attend your respective Classes every week, if possible.-2. That you will pay your class-money to your respective Leaders, every time you meet, instead of leaving it to the end of the quarter.-3. That you will endeavour to meet the Preacher at the time of the quarterly visitation, that you may receive your quarterly Tickets from the Preacher's own hand. -4. That you will, at the same time, pay your quarterage, whether it be much or little; or that, when this is not convenient, you will give it to the Leader in the course of the following week.-5. That those of you whom Providence-yes, whom Providence has placed in easy circumstances, will contribute according to your means, so as to make up for the deficiencies of those who are " in extreme poverty." If these things be attended to through the whole of the Douglas Circuit,_ you will very soon know nothing of a Circuit Debt. All the Stewards will cheerfully attend to the duties of their office. The number of Preachers will be speedily increased. The Country Chapels will be much better supplied. The time of the Preachers will not be necessarily taken up in attending ,to business which properly belongs to Stewards and Leaders. Pastoral intercourse with the members of our Societies will be more easily accomplished. And, by the blessing of God upon the united efforts of Preachers and People, Wesleyan Methodism in the Douglas Circuit will possess a life, and health, and increase, which will redound to the glory of God.
We remain your Servants,
For Christ's sake,
Douglas, February 5, 1839.