[From Grindrod's Compendium, 1842]
The Local Preachers'-Meeting-Held quarterly-Its Business-Manner of admitting Local Preachers-Discipline-Trustee Meeting-Remarks.-Rules relating to Trustees--Special Circuit-Meeting-Its Origin Design, and Constitution-Summary, of the Duties of a Superintendent.
THE Local Preachers'-Meeting is held once in the quarter, at which the Superintendent institutes inquiries into their moral and religious character, soundness in the faith, and attention to the duties of their office; examines Probationers, and proposes new Candidates. He also inquires into the state of those congregations which are supplied chiefly by their labours on the Sabbath-day; and consults them as to what new places shall be added to the Plan. Local Preachers are responsible to their own Meeting, for every part of their official conduct; but for all acts affecting their character and standing as members of the society, they are subject to the jurisdiction of the Leaders'-Meeting to which they respectively belong. There are but few positive laws relating to this useful class of officers recorded in our Minutes. Much of the discipline by which they are governed, and especially that by which they are admitted into office, is determined by common usage.
When a member of our society is impressed by a persuasion, that it is his duty publicly to exhort his fellow-sinners to flee from the wrath to come, before he acts upon this conviction, he is required to converse on the subject with the Superintendent Minister of the Circuit in which he resides; whose duty it is, first, to examine him relative to his conversion to God ; his present Christian experience ; his motives and reasons for wishing to engage in the work of a Local Preacher; the degree of his theological knowledge; his belief of our doctrines, and attachment to our discipline; and then to inform himself, as far as possible, of his character and general fitness for the office, by inquiries of his Class Leader, Or others who have long known him. If the result prove satisfactory, it is customary for the Superintendent to give him a note, to certify his approval of the individuals making trial of the talent which he believes God has intrusted to him; and assigning to him a few appointments to preach to small congregations, in the presence of one or more senior Local Preachers; who are. desired to report to the Superintendent the impressions made on their minds by these first efforts of the Candidate. When the report is favourable, the Superintendent, or one of his colleagues, hears him preach; and if, after these preliminaries, he is deemed suitable, he is, at the ensuing Quarterly-Meeting of the Local Preachers, proposed to be admitted on trial. In all cases it is the sole right and duty of the Superintendent to nominate the Candidate, whether for admission on probation, or to. a place upon the Plan as an accredited Preacher ; and the approval or rejection rests with the majority of the Meeting. The Superintendent cannot place any one upon the Plan " without the approbation of the Meeting;" and the Meeting cannot oblige him to admit any one of whom he disapproves.
The Conference has never determined what shall be the term of a Local Preacher's probation, and the usage is not uniform : the term, in most Circuits, is six months. During that period, many of the Local Preachers have opportunities of forming their judgment of the talents of the Candidate; and before its close the Superintendent is bound in duty to hear from him a trial sermon. At the ensuing regular Meeting he is examined as to his conversion, his personal piety, his soundness in the faith, and his views of the Wesleyan economy. If, after having passed through these ordeals, the Superintendent is persuaded that the Candidate possesses suitable qualifications for the office, he proposes him to the assembled Meeting, which approves or rejects the nomination, according to the views entertained by the majority of its members.
1. Respecting the admission of persons to be Local. Preachers : Let the Superintendent regularly meet the Local Preachers once a quarter; and let none be admitted but those who are proposed and approved at that Meeting ; and if in any Circuit this cannot be done, then let them be proposed and approved in the general Quarterly-Meeting.*
This clause was introduced to meet the case of those Circuits so widely extended, that the Local Preachers could not be brought together in a Quarterday-Meeting. Probably there is not in Great Britain one Circuit so circumstanced in the present day ; and if not, the clause is obsolete ; for it would be a violation of the spirit of it, to propose Local Preachers in the regular Quarterly-meetings of Circuits, in which the necessity supposed does not exist...
2. Every Local Preacher shall meet in class, and conform to all our rules of discipline. Let none be excused in this respect.
Let no Local Preacher be permitted to preach in any other Circuit, without producing a recommendation from the Superintendent of that Circuit in which he lives; nor suffer any invitation to be admitted. as a plea, but from men in office, with the consent of the Superintendent of that Circuit The design of this rule is to prevent any, under the character of a Local Preacher, from burdening the people, either by collecting money, or by living upon them ; and to prevent improper persons, who bear no part of the expense, from inviting Local Preachers to visit them. But it never was intended to reflect the least disrespect on any of our worthy brethren, the Local Preachers : whom, considered as a body, we greatly respect.
3. Let no Local Preacher keep love-feasts without the consent of the Superintendent, nor in any wise interfere with his business. Let every one keep in his own place, and attend to the duties of his station.*
* Large Minutes.
THE Meeting of the Trustees is held in accordance with the provisions1 of their respective Deeds, and its business relates exclusively to the execution of their different trusts. It is required, that all persons who are appointed to the office should be members of our society, selected and nominated by the Superintendent of the Circuit in which their appointment takes place. They hold. the public property in trust for the use and enjoyment of the.Conference, according to our general rules and usages, and have no power to appoint Ministers, to officiate in the chapels of which they are Trustees, except in the extraordinary emergency provided for by the Plan of Pacification;2 and the still more extraordinary case supposed by the Poll-Deed, the possible extinction of the Conference ; in which latter case the trusts would vest in the Trustees, for the time being, and their successors, for ever, who should and might appoint such persons to preach and expound Gods holy word therein as they deemed proper. In all other cases, the right to appoint Ministers and Preachers rests with the Conference, at its annual sessions, and with the Superintendent, as the representative of that assembly during the intervals of its sessions3. For the time being, he is the Chairman of all the Trustee-Meetings in the Circuit of which he is put in charge; and in case of unavoidable absence, he has power, under his handwriting, to appoint a deputy to preside and exercise all the powers which would vest in him were he present. In the exercise of their official rights and functions the Trustees are subject to the general rules, usage, and practice of the whole body of the people called Methodists throughout Great Britain, as the same general rules appear in the,annual Minutes of the Conference, from time to time published by them, under the authority of the Poll-Deed.4 " It is to be observed, that the deeds of trust are not to be construed. merely with regard to the words which may happen to be contained in the deeds themselves; but, must be construed and looked at as part and parcel of the sole machinery by which the great body of Wesleyan Methodists is kept together, and by which Methodism itself is carried on4.
The ecclesiastical powers of the Trustees are defined in the Plan of Pacification, and their guards and indemnities against pecuniary liabilities and issues are contained in their respective deeds ; besides which in the General Minutes the following enactments relating to them are recorded; namely
The Trustees, in conjunction with the Superintendent, who shall have one vote only, shall choose their own Steward; who shall receive and disburse all seat-rents, and such collections as shall be made, for the purpose of paying interest of money due upon the premises, or for reducing the principal of all such moneys, so received and disbursed. The aforesaid Steward shall keep proper accounts in books, provided for that purpose ; which books shall be open for the inspection of the Superintendent, and audited in his presence once every year or oftener, if convenient. Provided always, that when the necessities of the work of God require. it, the Trustees shall .allow quarterly, what may appear requisite for carrying on the work, so that it be not cramped: provided, that if -the seat-rents and collections fall short of what will be sufficient to discharge the rents, interest of money, and other necessary expenses of the chapels, the deficiency shall be made good,out of some other revenue of the society ; and that books shall be provided, wherein shall be inserted all the accounts, both of the Trustees and the Stewards of the respective societies, which shall be open for the inspection of the Trustees and others, and that the said account shall be annually audited in the presence of the Trustees : provided also, that nothing in these Resolutions shall be construed to extend to alter any of the powers contained in the trust-deeds.
No Trustee (however accused, or defective in conforming to the established rules f the cociety) shall be emoved from the society, unless his crime or breach of the rules of the society, be removed in the presence of the Trustees and Leaders 6
*0 See pp. 111-116. + Model Deed.
5 Judgment of the Vice-Chancellor in Dr. Warren's Chancery Suit. See Appendix, No. 111.
6 Large Minutes
THE peculiar business of a Superintendent is to see that the other Preachers in his Circuit behave well, and want for nothing. He should consider these, especially if they are young men, as his pupils; into whose behaviour and studies he should frequently inquire.1 He is made responsible for the maintenance of every branch of Christian order and discipline in all the societies of the Circuit with which he is put in charge. It is his place to preside, not as a mere Chairman, but as the chief Pastor, in all the Circuit courts;' and in all Committee-Meetings of those local institutions, which are in connexion with Wesleyan Methodism in his Circuit.2 In case of unavoidable absence, he has authority to depute one of his colleagues to preside in his stead. At the Quarterly-Meetings he is to inquire diligently into the temporal and spiritual state of the societies; and at Christmas, to take care that the Stewards are changed, or re-elected, upon his own nomination. He is to arrange the plan for the quarterly visitation Of the classes, by himself and his colleagues, allowing sufficient time for making those inquiries into the spiritual state and Christian experience of each member; and for administering those pastoral admonitions, counsel, and encouragements, which our rules direct. And he is not to give, or permit to be given, tickets to persons who have ceased to meet in class; nor allow any Leader, on his own authority, to give notes of admission on trial.3 In visiting the classes, he and his colleagues are charged to be very mild, but very strict; and to give no ticket to any who follow the foolish fashions of the world.4
The Superintendent is charged to keep watchnights and love-feasts, not allowing the latter to continue more than an hour and a half; to meet, and cause his colleagues to meet, the societies, in town and country, regularly; and to meet the married men and women, and the single men and women, apart, in the large societies, once a year. He is also to read, in every considerable society, annually, the " Thoughts on Dress," and the "Pastoral Address of the Conference to the Methodist Societies ;" and everywhere to recommend decency and, cleanliness:. cleanliness being next to godliness. He is to take an exact list of all the members of the several societies in his Circuit, once in the year; and from time to time give notice in the society-meetings, that no member should remove from one society to another, without a certificate of his membership, duly signed by himself, or one of his colleagues. He is farther to exhort the members of the society to meet in band, and as soon as there are four men and women believers, in any place, to form them into bands; to see that every Band-Leader has a copy of the Band Rules; to meet the Body-Bands once a week; to keep a love-feast for them, separately, once a quarter; and not to give a band-ticket to any person until he has met in band one quarter on trial; calmly and vigorously to enforce the rules concerning needless ornaments, drams, snuff, and tobacco; and to give no band-ticket to any person who does not promise to leave them off+
Acting in united counsel with his colleagues, the Superintendent is to be careful not to introduce to the notice of Class-Leader, any but persons of sound judgment who are truly devoted to God; and, in conjunction with the Leaders'-Meeting, he is authorized to change improper persons from being Leaders. He is to observe which of the Leaders are the most useful, and appoint these to meet the other classes as often as possible. He is regularly to meet the Leaders, both in town and country, and to overlook the accounts of the Stewards of each society. He is to meet the Local Preachers according to rule; and he, or his colleagues, must always make the Preachers Plan for the Circuit. He is to take care that all the chapels in his Circuit are properly settled, and that no collections by foreigners, or others, be made in them, without the sanction of the Conference ; and he is directed to be punctual in making the general collections which are requisite for the support of the work at large, at those times of the year at which they are regularly appointed to be made; and, in unison with the Committees or officers of our local charities, so to arrange the times of their anniversary collections, as not to interfere with measures which are essential to the very existence of Methodism.* These general collections he is required to remit to the respective Treasurers of the funds to which they belong, at the times specified in the Annual Minutes.
The Superintendent is still farther directed to see that every society in his Circuit be well supplied with those religious and literary works which issue from the Methodist Book-Room, first established by the Rev. John Wesley; to transmit annually to the Book-Steward, in detail an account of stock on hand, in his Circuit; finally, to settle his book-account for the preceding year, at each Conference; and, during the year, to remit the money in his hands, without any reserve or deduction whatever, to the Book-Steward at Christmas, Lady-Day, Midsummer-Day, and as much oftener as possible.* The profits accruing to this establishment are applied to the support of an extensive system of village preaching, in Great Britain and Ireland, and in the Shetland Isles.
The particular duties of those Preachers who do not act as Superintendents, are, to feed the flock, by constantly preaching morning and evening; to meet the society and the bands weekly; to meet the Leaders weekly; to preach every morning where they can have twenty hearers, but where they cannot, then to sing and pray with them ; and to do any other part of the work which their Superintendents may desire them to do.+ They are reverently to obey their, chief Ministers, unto whom is committed the charge and government of them, following, with a glad mind and will, their godly admonitions, and submitting themselves to their godly judgments.++ The Conference insists that no Helper shall countenance or encourage any person who opposes the Superintendent in the proper discharge of his official duties according to our Rules.§
1 Large Minutes. See also pp. 19-21. 2 Minutes, 1820. 3- Ibid., 1810.
1 Large Minutes. t Ibid. * Minutes, 1815.
Minutes, 1816 and 1821. t Large Minutes.
See p. 17, and also "The Twelve Rules of a Helper," pp. 46,47.
9 Minutes, 1806.