« הקודםהמשך »
the districts of those meetings, and to meet more frequently; from whence arose Monthly meetings, subordinate to those held quarterly. At length, in 1669, a Yearly meeting was established, to superintend, assist
, and provide rules for the whole; previously to which, general meetings had been occasionally held.
A Monthly meeting is usually composed of several particular congregations, situated within a convenient distance from each other. Its business is to provide for the subsistence of the poor, and for the education of their offspring : to judge of the sincerity and fitness of persons appearing to be convinced of the religious principles of the society, and desiring to be admitted into membership; to excite due attention to the discharge of religious and moral duty; and to deal with disorderly members. Monthly Meetings also grant to such of their members as remove into other Monthly meetings certificates of their membership and conduct; without which they cannot gain membership in such meetings. Each Monthly meeting is required to appoint certain persons, under the name of overseers, who are to take care that the rules of our discipline be put in practice : and when any case of complaint, or discrderly conduct comes to their knowledge, to see that private admonition, agreeably to the gospel rule beforementioned, begiven, previously to its being laid before the Monthly meeting
When a case is introduced, it is usual for a small committee to be appointed, to visit the offender, to endeavour to convince him of his error, and to induce him to forsake and condemn it. If they succeed, the person is by minute declared to have made satisfaction for the offence; if not, he is disowned as a member of the society.
In disputes between individuals, it has long been the
o Fox, 390.
f Where this is the case, it is usual for the members of each congregation to form what is called a Preparative meeting, because its business is to prepare whatever may occur among themselves, to be laid before the Monthly meeting.
& On application of this kind, a small committee is appointed to visit the party, and report to the Monthly meeting; which is directed by our rules not to admit any into membership, without allowing a seasonable time to consider their conduct.
This is generally done by a written acknowledgment, signed by the offender. i This is done by what is termed a Testimony of denial; which is a paper reciting the offence, and sometimes the steps which bave led to it ; next, the means unavailingly used to reclaim the offender; after that, a clause disowning him ; to which is usually added an expression of desire for his repentance, and for his being restored to membership.
decided judgment of the society, that its members should not sue each other at law. It therefore enjoins all to end their differences by speedy and impartial arbitration, agreeably to rules laid down. If any refuse to adopt this mode, or, having adopted it, to submit to the award, it is the direction of the Yearly meeting that such be disowned.
To Monthly meetings also belongs the allowing of marriages; for our Society hath always scrupled to acknowledge the exclusive authority of the priests in the solemnization of marriage. Those who intend to marry, appear together, and propose their intention to the Monthly meeting; and if not attended by their parents and guardians, produce a written certificate of their consent, signed in the presence of witnesses. The meeting then appoints a committee to inquire whether they be clear of other engagements respecting marriage; and if at a subsequent meeting, to which the parties also come and declare the continuance of their intention, no objections be reported, they have the meeting's consent to solemnize their intended marriage. This is done in a public meeting for worship, toward the close whereof the parties stand up, and solemnly take each other for husband and wife. A certificate of the proceedings is then publicly read, and signed by the parties, and afterward by the relations and others as witnesses. Of such marriage the Monthly meeting keeps a record; as also of the births and burials of its members. A certificate of the date, of the name of the infant, and of its parents, signed by those present at the birth, is the subject of one of these last-mentioned records; and an order for the interment, countersigned by the grave maker, of the other. The naming of children is without ceremony: Burials are also conducted in a simple manner. The body, followed by the relations and friends, is sometimes, previously to interment, carried to a meeting; and at the grave a pause is generally made; on both which occasions it frequently falls out, that one or more friends present have somewhat to express for the edification of those who attend; but no religious right is considered as an essential part of burial.
Several Monthly meetings compose a Quarterly meeting. At the Quarterly meeting are produced written answers from the Monthly meetings, to certain queries respecting the conduct of their members, and the meetings' care over
them. The accounts thus received, are digested into one, which is sent, also in the form of answers to queries, by representatives, to the Yearly meeting. Appeals from the judgment of Monthly meetings, are brought to the Quarterly meetings; whose business also it is to assist in any difficult case, or where remissness appears in the care of the Monthly meetings over the individuals who compose them.
The Yearly meeting has the general superintendence of the Society in the country in which it is established ;k and therefore, as the accounts which it receives discover the state of inferior meetings, as particular exigencies require, or as the meeting is impressed with a sense of duty, it gives forth its advice, makes such regulations as appear to be requisite, or excites to the observance of those already made; and sometimes appoints committees to visit those Quarterly meetings which appear to be in need of immediate advice. Appeals from the judgment of Quarterly meetings are here finally determined ; and a brotherly correspondence, by epistles, is maintained with other Yearly meetings.'
In this place it is proper to add, that, as we believe women may be rightly called to the work of the ministry, we also think that to them belongs a share in the support of our Christian discipline; and that some parts of it, wherein their own sex is concerned, devolve on them with peculiar propriety; accordingly they have Monthly, Quarterly, and 'Yearly meetings of their own sex, held at the same time and in the same place with those of the men ; but separately, and without the power of making rules ; and it may be remarked that during the persecutions, which in the last century occasioned the imprisonment of so many of the men, the care of the poor often fell on the women, and was by them satisfactorily administered.
In order that those who are in the situation of ministers may have the tender sympathy and counsel of those of either sex," who, by their experience in the work of religion, are qualified for that service, the Monthly meetings are advised to select such under the denomination of Elders. These, and ministers approved by their Monthly
* There are seven Yearly meetings, viz. I London, to which come Representatives from Ireland, 2 New-England, 3 New-York, 4 Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 5 Maryland, 6 Virginia, 7 the Carolinas and Georgia.
See the last note. m Fox, 461, 492.
meetings," have meetings peculiar to themselves, called Meetings of Ministers and Elders ; in which they have an opportunity of exciting each other to a discharge of their several duties, and of extending advice to those who may appear to be weak, without any needless exposure. Such meetings are generally held in the compass of each Monthly, Quarterly, and Yearly meeting. They are conducted by rules prescribed by the Yearly meeting, and have no authority to make any alteration or addition to them. The members of them unite with their brethren in the Meetings for discipline, and are equally accountable to the latter for their conduct.
It is to a meeting of this kind in London, called the Second day's Morning meeting, that the revisal of manuscripts concerning our principles previously to publication, is intrusted by the Yearly meeting held in London; and also the granting, in the intervals of the Yearly meeting, of certificates of approbation to such ministers as are concerned to travel in the work of the ministry in foreign parts; in addition to those granted by their Monthly and Quarterly meetings. When a visit of this kind doth not extend beyond Great Britain, a certificate from the Monthly meeting of which the minister is a member is sufficient; if to Ireland, the concurrence of the Quarterly meeting is also required. Regulations of similar tendency obtain in other Yearly meetings.
The Yearly meeting of London, in the year 1675, appointed a meeting to be held in that cityg for the purpose of advising and assisting in cases of suffering for conscience sake, which hath continued with great use to the society to this day. It is composed of friends under the name of correspondents, chosen by the several Quarterly meetings, and who reside in or near the city. The same meetings also appoint members of their own in the country as correspondents, who are to join their brethren in London on emergency. The names of all these correspondents, previously to their being recorded as such, are submitted to the approbation of the Yearly meeting. Those of the men
Those who believe themselves required to speak in meetings for worship, are not immediately acknowledged as ministers by their Monthly meetings; but time is taken for judgment, that the meeting may be satisfied of their call and qualification. It will also sometimes bappen, that such as are not approved, will obtrude themselves as ministers, to the grief of their bretbren ; but much forbearance is used toward these, before the disapprobation of the meeting is publicly testified.
who are approved ministers are also members of this meeting, which is called the Meeting for Sufferings; a name arising from its original purpose, which is not yet become entirely obsolete.
The Yearly meeting has intrusted the Meeting for Sufferings with the care of printing and distributing books, and with the management of its stock ;" and, considered as a standing committee of the Yearly meeting, it hath a general care of whatever may arise, during the intervals of that meeting, affecting the society, and requiring immediate attention; particularly of those circumstances which may occasion an application to Government.
There is not in any of the meetings which have been mentioned, any president, as we believe that Divine Wisdom alone ought to preside; nor hath any member a right to claim pre-eminence over the rest. The office of clerk, with a few exceptions, is undertaken voluntarily by some member; as is also the kceping of the records.
Where these are very voluminous, and require a house for their deposite, as is the case in London, where the general records of the society in Great Britain are kept, a clerk is hired to have the care of them; but except a few clerks of this kind, and persons who have the care of meeting houses, none receive any stipend or gratuity for their services in our religious society.
Thus have we given a view of the foundation and establishment of our discipline ; by which it will be seen, that it is not, as hath been frequently insinuated, merely the work of modern times; but was the early care and concern of our pious predecessors. We cannot better close this short sketch of it, than by observing, that if the exercise of discipline should in some instances appear to press hard upon those, who neglecting the monitions of divine counsel in their hearts, are also unwilling to be accountable to their brethrer; yet, if that great, leading, and indispensable rule, enjoined by our Lord, be observed by those who undertake to be active in it, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," it will prevent the censure of the church from talling on any thing
u This is an occasional voluntary contribution, expended in printing books, house rent for a clerk, and his wages for keeping records, the passage of ministers who visit their brethreu beyond sea, and some small incidental charges.
p Matt. vii. 12: