3. Rule-Making Extraordinary

Transcription of article published in the Primitive Methodist Magazine by H Bickerstaffe Kendall in the series “One Hundred Years Ago”

PRIMITIVE METHODISM had been in existence two years before the United Societies woke up to the fact that the time had fully come to have a code of rules prepared and printed for their own regulation and discipline. Before this, as Hugh Bourne says, “The Connexion, being begun in the order of Divine Providence, was held together by a zeal for the Lord of hosts. This formed its bond of union; this pervaded every part, and kept the whole united.” The societies were so engrossed in the day’s work as to have little time to look to the future and make provision for their own perpetuity. It might be said that they were too busy soul-saving to turn aside to rule-making.

Hugh Bourne has a shrewd observation to the effect that this pushing aside the business of rule-making for a couple of years raises a strong presumption that those who directed the movement called Primitive Methodism had but little of human ambition or calculation about them. They would not have done as they did, had they been actuated by these inferior motives. They would, first of all, have constructed their “platform” and invited men to stand thereon with them. They would have formulated their scheme, and drawn up their rules, and asked men to subscribe to the same. As it was, our founders, like Wesley, at first thought of little except getting men saved, and then as was sure to be the case, the time came when they were half startled to realise that those who, by their instrumentality, were “in the way of salvation,” needed to be safe-guarded and shepherded, or their own work would not abide.

Such a time comes sooner or later in the history of every spiritual movement. It is inevitable, and it is critical, for, from this time, the element of danger is never wanting—the danger lest organisation should get the upper hand of life. But the danger must be met, and it may be overcome by a vigilant maintenance of a just equilibrium between spiritual life and what are but its instruments and safeguards.

So the societies which unitedly made up the Primitive Methodist Connexion were from March greatly pre-occupied during the year 1813 with rule-making. At the Quarterly Meeting held March 22nd a strong and very general desire found expression that a code of rules for the regulation and discipline of the societies should be prepared, and J. Steele, H. Bourne and E. McEvoy were appointed to draft the said rules. But the brethren named, after trial, felt themselves unequal to the task. They underrated their abilities, with the result that the Midsummer Quarter Day came and went with nothing really done. Disappointment among the societies was wide and deep, and it found voice at the Quarter Day of October 14th, which insisted that the draft should be at once drawn up, and be read before all the societies, in order that objections might be heard and amendments duly considered. Hugh Bourne was now put on his mettle and found himself. The instructions of the superior court were carried out to the letter, and at the Quarterly Meeting held January 3rd, 1814, the order was given that the Rules in their amended state should be printed forthwith.

It is fortunate that these first Rules are given in extenso in the Magazine for 1821; and it would be well if they could be reprinted, for they have many points of interest, and constitute an important historical Connexional document. So, behind our Consolidated and Conference Minutes there is a long history, which had its beginning on March 22nd, 1813.


Primitive Methodist Magazine 1913/172

No Comments

Start the ball rolling by posting a comment on this page!

Add a comment about this page

Your email address will not be published.