Doctrines and Discipline of the Free Methodist Church of North America - 1939 Edition



I. The Call to Preach

     ¶ 182. Examination of Those Who Think They Are Moved by the Holy Ghost to Preach.—1. The following questions shall be asked the candidate, namely: Do you know God as a pardoning God? Have you the love of God abiding in you? Do you desire nothing but what is the will of God? Do you believe that entire sanctification is the work of God wrought instantaneously upon the heart of the consecrated, believing soul subsequent to justification? Do you believe you are called of God to preach the gospel?

     2. The following questions shall be considered by the quarterly conference: Have they gifts as well as grace for the work? Have they in some tolerable degree a clear, sound understanding, a right judgment in the things of God, and a just conception of salvation by faith? Has God given them any degree of utterance? Do they speak justly, readily, clearly? Have they fruit? Are any truly convinced of sin, and converted to God by their preaching? And are they holy in all manner of conversation?

     As long as these marks concur in any one, we believe he is called of God to preach. These we receive as sufficient proof that he is moved by the Holy Ghost.

II. Rules for a Preacher’s Conduct

     ¶ 183. Be diligent. Never be unemployed; never be triflingly employed. Never trifle away time; neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.

     Be serious. Let your motto be, Holiness to the Lord. Avoid all lightness, jesting and foolish talking.

     Converse sparingly and conduct yourself prudently with women (1 Tim. 5:2). Take no step toward marriage without first consulting your brethren.

     Believe evil of no one without good evidence; unless you see it done, take heed how you credit it. Put the best construction on everything. You know the judge is always supposed to be on the prisoner’s side.

     Speak evil of no one, because your word, especially, would eat as doth a canker. Keep your thoughts within your own breast, till you come to the person concerned.

     Tell every one under your care what you think wrong in his conduct or temper, and that lovingly and plainly as soon as may be; else it will fester in your heart. Make all haste to cast the fire out of your bosom.

     Avoid all affectation. A preacher of the gospel is the servant of all. Be ashamed of nothing but sin.

     Be punctual. Do everything exactly at the time. And do not mend our rules, but keep them; not for wrath, but for conscience sake.

     You have nothing to do but to save souls; therefore, spend and be spent in this work; and go always not only to those who need you, but to those who need you most.

     Observe, it is not only your business to preach so many times, and to take care of this or that society, but to save as many as you can; to bring as many sinners as you can to repentance, and with all your power to build them up in that holiness without which they cannot see the Lord. And remember that a Free Methodist preacher is to mind every point, great and small, in the Free Methodist Discipline! Therefore, you will need to exercise all the sense and grace you have.

     Act in all things not according to your own will, but as a son in the gospel. As such it is your duty to employ your time in the manner in which we direct; in preaching, and visiting from house to house; in reading, meditation and prayer. Above a]l, if you tabor with us in the Lord’s vineyard, it is needful that you should do that part of the work which we advise, at those times and places which we judge most for His glory.

     ¶ 184. The following smaller advices may be of use:

     Be sure never to disappoint a congregation.

     Begin at the time appointed.

     Always suit your subject to your audience.

     Choose the plainest texts you can.

     Take care not to ramble, but keep to the text, and make out what you take in hand.

     Avoid everything awkward or affected, in your gesture, phrase or pronunciation.

     Do not usually pray more than eight or ten minutes, at most, without intermission.

     Frequently read and enlarge upon a portion of Scripture; and young preachers should often exhort without taking a text.
     Always avail yourself of the great festivals, by preaching on the occasion.

     Let your deportment be serious, weighty and solemn.

III. Spiritual Qualifications

     ¶ 185. A preacher is to be qualified for his charge by walking closely with God, and having his work greatly at heart; and by understanding and loving discipline, ours in particular.

     ¶ 186. We should frequently ask each other the following questions:

     Do you walk closely with God? Have you now fellowship with the Father and the Son? At what hour do you rise? Do you punctually observe the morning and evening hours of retirement? Do you spend the day in the manner which the conference advises? Do you converse seriously, usefully and closely?

     To be more particular, you should use all the means of grace yourself, and enforce the use of them on all other persons.

     They are either instituted or prudential.

     The instituted are:

     1. Prayer—private, family and public; consisting of deprecation, petition, intercession and thanksgiving.

     Do you use each of these? Do you forecast dally, wherever you are, to secure time for private devotion? Do you practice it everywhere? Do you ask everywhere, Have you family prayer? Do you ask individuals, Do you use private prayer every morning and evening in particular?

     2. Searching the Scriptures—reading regularly, some part every day; regularly, all the Bible in order; carefully, with notes; seriously, with prayer before and after; fruitfully, immediately practicing what you learn there; meditating, at set times and by rule; hearing the Word at every opportunity, with prayer, before, at, after. Have your Bible always about you.

     3. The Lord’s Supper. Do you use this at every opportunity? With solemn prayer before? With deliberate self-devotion?

     4. Fasting. Do you use as much abstinence and fasting every week as your health, strength and labor will permit?

     5. Christian conference. Are you convinced how important and difficult it is to order your conversation aright? Is it always with grace, seasoned with salt, meet to minister grace to the hearers? Do you converse too long at a time? Is not an hour commonly enough? Would it not be well always to have a determined end in view, and pray before and after?

     The prudential means we may use either as Christians, as Free Methodists, or as preachers.

     As Christians, what particular rules have you in order to grow in grace? What arts of holy living? As Free Methodists, do you never miss your class? As preachers, have you thoroughly considered your duty? Are you conscientious in executing every part of it? Do you meet each society and its leaders?

     These means may be used without fruit. But there are some means which cannot; namely, watching, denying ourselves, taking up our cross and living always as in the presence of God.

     Do you steadily watch against the world? Yourself? Your besetting sin? Do you deny yourself every useless pleasure of sense, imagination, honor? Are you temperate in all things? Instance, in food? Do you use only that kind and that degree which is best both for body and soul? Do you see the necessity of this? Do you eat no more at each meal than is necessary? Are you not heavy or drowsy after dinner? Do you use only that kind and degree of drink which is best both for the body and soul? Db you choose and use water for your common drink? And only take wine medicinally or sacramentally? Wherein do you take up your cross daily? Do you cheerfully bear your cross, however grievous to nature, as a gift of God, and labor to profit thereby? Do you endeavor to set God always before you? To see his eye continually fixed upon you? Never can you use these means but a blessing will ensue. And the more you use them, the more you will grow in grace.

IV. Matter and Manner of Preaching

     ¶ 187. The best general method of preaching is:

     1. To convince. 2. To offer Christ. 3. To invite. 4. To build up. 5. To do this in some measure in every sermon.

     ¶ 188. The most effectual way of preaching Christ is to preach him in all his offices, and to declare his law, as well as his gospel, both to believers and unbelievers. Let us strongly and closely insist upon inward and outward holiness in all its branches.

V. Where to Preach

     ¶ 189. We do not deem it advisable to preach in as many places as we can without forming societies. We have made the trial in various places, and that for a considerable length of time. In all cases the seed has fallen by the wayside. There is scarcely any fruit remaining.

     1. We should endeavor to preach most where there is the greatest number of quiet and willing hearers, and where there is most fruit.

     2. We ought diligently to observe in what places God is pleased at any time to pour out his Spirit more abundantly; and at that time to send more laborers than usual into that part of the harvest.

VI. Pastoral Visitation and Enforcement or Practical Religion

     ¶ 190. We should endeavor to assist those under our care, and to aid in the salvation of souls by instructing them in their own homes. What unspeakable need there is of this!

     We can but just touch on a few particulars. How little faith is there among even professing Christians! How little communion with God! How little living in heaven, walking as for eternity, deadness to every creature! How much love of the world, desire of pleasure, of ease, of getting money! How little brotherly love! What continual judging one another! What gossiping, evil-speaking, tale-bearing! What want of moral honesty! To instance only one particular: Who does as he would be done by in buying and selling?

     Family religion is wanting in many branches. And what avails public preaching alone, though we could preach like angels? We must, yea, every traveling preacher must instruct the people from house to house.

     Our religion is not sufficiently deep, or universally uniform. It is superficial, partial, uneven. It will be so until we spend half as much time in this visiting as we now do in talking uselessly. Can we find a better method of doing this than Mr. Baxter’s? If not, let us adopt it without delay. His whole tract, entitled, “The Reformed Pastor,” is well worth a careful perusal. Speaking of this visiting from house to house, he says: “We shall find many hindrances. both in ourselves and the people.

     1. “In ourselves there is much dullness and laziness, so that there will be much ado to get us to be faithful in the work.

     2. “Some of us have a foolish bashfulness. We know not how to begin, and blush to contradict the devil.

     3. “But the greater hindrance is weakness of faith. Our whole motion is weak, because the spring of it is weak.

     4. “Lastly, we are unskilled in the work. How few know how to deal with men so as to get within them, and suit all our discourse to their several conditions and tempers; to choose the fittest subjects, and follow them with a holy mixture of seriousness, terror, love, and meekness?”

     Undoubtedly this private application is implied in those solemn words of the apostle: “I charge thee before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and kingdom, preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering.”

     O brethren, if we could but set this work on foot in all our congregations, and prosecute it zealously, what glory would redound to God! If the common lukewarmness were banished, and every shop and every house were busy in speaking of the Word and works of God, surely God would dwell in our habitations and make us his delight.

     ¶ 191. It is objected, 1. “This will take up so much time we shall not have leisure to follow our studies.” We answer, (1) Gaining knowledge is a good thing, but saving souls is better. By this very thing you will gain the most excellent knowledge, that of God and eternity. (2) You will have time for gaining other knowledge, too. Only sleep no more than you need; “and never be idle or triflingly employed.” But, (3) If you can do but one, let your studies alone. We ought to throw by all the libraries of the world, rather than be guilty of the loss of one soul.

     It is objected, 2. “The people will not submit to it.” If some will not, others will. And all the success with them will repay all your labors. Oh, let us herein follow the example of St. Paul! (1) For our general business, Serving the Lord with all humility of mind. (2) Our special work, Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock. (3) Our doctrine, Repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (4) The place, I have taught you publicly, and from. house to house. (5) The object and manner of teaching, I ceased not to warn every one night and day, with tears. (6) His innocence and self-denial herein, I have coveted no man’s silver or gold. (7) His patience, Neither count I my life dear unto myself.

     And among all other motives, let these be ever before our eyes: 1. The church which be bath purchased with his own blood. 2. Grievous wolves shall enter in; yea, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things.

     Write this upon your hearts, and it will do you more good than twenty years’ study. Then you will have no time to spare; you will have work enough. Then, likewise, no preacher will stay with us who is as salt that has lost its savor. For to such, this employment will be mere drudgery. And in order to do it, you will have need of all the knowledge you can procure, and all the grace you can obtain.

     ¶ 192. The sum is, Go into every house in course, and teach every one therein, young and old, to be Christians, inwardly and outwardly. Make every particular plain to their understandings. Fix it in their minds, write it on their hearts. In order to do this, there must be line upon line, precept upon precept. What patience, what love, what knowledge is requisite for this! We must needs do this, were it only to avoid idleness. Do we not loiter away many hours in every week? Each try himself. No idleness is consistent with a growth in grace. Nay, without exactness in redeeming time, you cannot retain the grace you received in justification.

     ¶ 193. Why are we not more holy? Why do we not live as for eternity? Why do we not walk with God all the day long? Why are we not all devoted to doing good, breathing the whole spirit of missionaries?

     Chiefly because we do not properly use the means. 1. How few wait upon the Lord in secret prayer until his blessing comes on the soul? 2. Do we know the obligation and benefit of fasting and abstinence? 3. How often do we practice it? 4. How little there is of self-denial? 5. How few bring their tithes and offerings into the storehouse of the Lord? 6. How much there is of consecration to our own wills instead of the will of the Lord? 7. How few manifest a disposition to submit themselves one to another? 8. What a want there is of properly governing the tongue. The neglect of these alone is sufficient to account for our feebleness and faintness of spirit. We should amend from this hour.

     ¶ 194. How shall we guard against Sabbath breaking, evil speaking, unprofitable conversation, lightness, expensiveness or gayety of apparel, and contracting debts without due care to discharge them?

     1. We should preach expressly on each of these heads. 2. Read in every society the sermon on evil speaking. 3. The leaders should closely examine and exhort every person to put away the accursed thing. 4. The preachers should warn every society that none who is guilty herein can remain with us. 5. Extirpate from our church all buying or selling of goods which have not paid the duty laid upon them by government. 6. Extirpate bribery, receiving anything, directly or indirectly, for voting at any election. 7. Strongly advise our people to discountenance all treats given by candidates before or at elections, and not to be partakers in any respect of such practices. Show no respect to persons herein, but expel all that touch the accursed thing.

VII. Employment of Time

     ¶ 195. We advise you, 1. As often as possible, to rise at five. 2. From five to six in the morning, and from five to six in the evening, to meditate, pray, and read the Scriptures with notes, and the closely practical parts of what Mr. Wesley has published. 3. From seven in the morning till twelve (allowing one hour for breakfast) read with much prayer, some of our best religious books.

     Other reasons may concur why the people under our care are not better, but the chief is, because we are not more knowing and more holy.

     But why are we not more knowing? Because we are idle. We forget our first rule, “Be diligent. Never be unemployed. Never be triflingly employed. Neither spend any more time at any place than is strictly necessary.” We fear there is altogether a fault in this matter, and that few of us are clear. Which of us spend as many hours a day in God’s work as we did formerly in man’s work? We talk— talk or read what comes next to hand. We must, absolutely must, cure this evil, or betray the cause of God. But how? 1. Read the most useful books, and that regularly and constantly. 2. Steadily spend all the morning in this employment, or at least five hours in the four and twenty. “But I have no taste for reading.” Contract a taste for it by use, or return to your former employment. “But I have no books.” Be diligent to spread the books, and you will have the use of them.

VIII. Union Among Ourselves

     ¶ 196. We should be deeply sensible, from what we have known, of the evil of division in principle, spirit, or practice, and of the dreadful consequences to ourselves and others. If we are united, what can stand before us? If we divide, we shall destroy ourselves, the work of God, and the souls of our people.

     In order to a closer union with each other,

     1. We should be deeply convinced of the absolute necessity of it. 2. Pray earnestly for, and speak freely to each other. 3. When we meet, let us never part without prayer. 4. Take care not to despise each other’s gifts. 5. Never speak lightly of one another. 6. Defend one another’s character in everything, so far as is consistent with truth. 7. Labor in honor each to prefer the other before himself. 8. We recommend a serious perusal of The Causes, Evils and Cures of Heart and Church Divisions.

IX. Union with Others

     ¶ 197. We have Christian fellowship and love for all persons of whatever denomination, who show by their lives that they “follow peace with all men, and holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” We will unite with all well-disposed persons, in an open, Christian manner, in promoting social and civil reforms. But we cannot unite, where we are required to compromise our principles, in holding union meetings with any person, or denomination, whose practical standard of Christian character and church fellowship, is obviously below that plainly set forth in the New Testament.