following: among the negro slaves in the three Danish West India islands; in Jamaica, St. Kitts, Antigua, Barbadoes, Tobago, and in Surinam, among the same description of persons; in Greenland, among the natives of that desolate region; in Labrador, among the Esquimaux; at the Cape of Good Hope, among the Hottentots and Caffres; and in North America, among the Delaware Indians in Upper Canada and in the Indian Territory, and among the Cherokees in Arkansas. It is a general principle of the society, that their social organization is in no case to interfere with their duties as citizens or subjects of governments under which they live, and wherever they are settled. They have always supported a good reputation, and been generally considered valuable members of the community, on account of the moral and industrious habits successfully inculcated by their system.





This society was first composed of a number of members seceding from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the city of New York, in the year 1820, together with several of the trustees. It had its origin from the circumstance of the ruling preacher, so called, insisting on receiving the money collected in the different churches under his charge, through stewards of his own appointment, instead of by the trustees appointed according to law, and in accordance with the practice of the church in all time previous, together with certain resolutions passed by the New York Annual Conference of Ministers, to petition the legislature for a law recognising the peculiarities of the church discipline, by which the whole properties of the church would have been placed under the supervision and control of the body of ministers, who according to their discipline, from the bishop, downwards, are to take charge of the temporal and spiritual business of the church. A church was erected, and about 300 members organized, under one preacher, the Rev. William M. Stilwell, who withdrew from the travelling connexion, and assumed the pastoral charge of them, which he retains until this present year, (1843.) In the course of the three years following, they had erected two other places of worship, and formed a discipline, in which the general principles, as taught by the Methodists, were recognised ; but in the government of the church there was a difference: 1. No bishop was allowed, but a president of each annual conference was chosen yearly, by ballot of the members thereof. 2. All ordained ministers, whether travelling or not, were allowed a seat in the annual conferences. 3. Two lay delegates from each quarterly conference could sit in the annual conference, with the ministers. 4. No rules or regulations for the church could be made unless a majority present were lay members. 5. A preacher could remain with a congregation as long as they agreed. 6. Class meetings, love feasts, &c., were to be attended ; the leader of each class being chosen by the members. 7. The property of the societies, to be vested in trustees of their own choice, and the ministers to have no oversight of the temporal affairs of the church. They prospered greatly for a few years, when some of the preachers and people, being desirous to have a more itinerant connexion, thought it best to unite with a body of seceders from the Methodist Episcopal Church, who held a convention in Baltimore, and took the name of Protestant Methodist Church: since which the Methodist Society have not sought to enlarge their body so much, as to supply such congregations as may feel a disposition to enjoy a liberty, which the other bodies of dissenting Methodists, as well as the Methodist Episcopal Church, do not see fit to grant to the laity. At the present time they have three annual conferences, and are prosperous according to the efforts made, perhaps as well as other churches. The above may be considered a sufficient notice of the “Methodist Society," and persons wishing farther information will find it in a small work entitled “Rise and Progress of the Methodist Society," printed in New York, 1822.




It is well known that the founder of Methodism, under God, was the Rev. John Wesley, a presbyter in the Church of England, who, after his own conversion, set out with a simple desire to revive pure and undefiled religion in the church of which he was a member and a minister. Of the several steps by which he was led to adopt the measures he did, it is not necessary particularly to mention; as in this sketch it is designed to notice those events only which more especially relate to the rise and progress of Methodism in America. It is therefore sufficient for our purpose to remark, that John Wesley commenced his work in the University of Oxford, where he had been educated, in the year 1739, and that from there it spread in different directions throughout Great Britain and Ireland, until by one of those providential occurrences, which mark all human events from which great results have their origin, it was introduced into this country

That Mr. Wesley was actuated by a pure desire to revive and spread experimental and practical godliness, is most evident from all his actions, from his numerous writings, and much more from the following general rules which he drew up for the government of his societies in 1743, and which still remain the same in Europe and America, except the item on sluvery, which was inserted by the American Conference in 1784, and the one on drunkenness, which has been altered for the worse it is believed, as it does not probibit "the buying or selling of spirituous liquors," as Mr. Wesley's Rule did.


1. In the latter end of the year 1739, eight or ten persons came to Mr. Wesley in London, who appeared to be deeply convinced of sin, and earnestly groaning for redemption. They desired (as did two or three more the next day) that he would spend some time with them in prayer, and advise them how to flee from the wrath to come, which they saw continually hanging over their heads. That he might have more time for this great work, he appointed a day when they might all come together, which, from thenceforward, they did every week, viz., on Thursday in the evening. To these, and as many more as desired to join with them, (for their number increased daily,) he gave those advices from time to time which he judged most needful for them; and they always concluded their meetings with prayer suited to their several necessities.

2. This was the rise of the United Society, first in Europe, and then in America. Such a society is no other than “A company of men having the form, and seeking the power of godliness, united, in order to pray together, to receive the word of exhortation, and to watch over one another in love, that they may help each other to work out their salvation."

3. That it may the more easily be discerned, whether they are indeed working out their own salvation, each society is divided into smaller companies, called classes, according to their respective places of abode. There are about twelve persons in a class; one of whom is styled the leader. It is his duty,

I. To see each person in his class, once a week, at least, in order, a. To inquire how their souls prosper;

b. To advise, reprove, comfort, or exhort, as occasion may require ;

c. To receive what they are willing to give, toward the relief of the preachers, church, and poor.*

II. To meet the minister and the stewards of the society once a week, in order,

a. To inform the minister of any that are sick, or of any that walk disorderly, and will not be reproved;

b. To pay to the stewards what they have received of their several classes in the week preceding.

4. There is one only condition previously required of those who desire admission into these societies, viz., " a desire to flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins ;” but wherever this is really fixed in the soul, it will be shown by its fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their desire of salvation,

* This part refers to towns and cities, where the poor are generally numerous, and church expenses considerable.

« ElőzőTovább »