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William Evans.

The Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) online

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of land or other real or personal estate of the
Society, and give such advice to subordinate
meetings thereon as may appear requisite.

Fourth, To receive and examine the ac-
counts of distraints from Friends on account
of our testimony against war, and also memo-
rials concerning deceased Friends.

Fifth, To advise and assist Friends under
suffering for our religious testimonies, and if
necessary to apply to the officers of govern-
ment in their behalf.

The Meetings for Sufferings usually consist
of twelve members chosen by the Yearly Meet-
ing, and four chosen by each Quarterly Meet-
ing constituting the Yearly Meeting. In some
cases the members are chosen exclusively by
the Yearly Meeting. That of Philadelphia



was instituted in 1756, and for several years
continued by an annual appointment, but in
1768 it was made a permanent body.

Having given an account of the establish-
ment of the Discipline in England, it seems
necessary to say something of its introduction
into America. Most of the early regulations
are found embodied in the Epistles of George
Fox, and in this manner were probably first
transmitted to this country. In an epistle of
1668, already quoted, he mentions having
written to his transatlantic brethren to insti-
tute men's and women's Monthly Meetings ;
" for," he observes, " they had their Quarterly
Meetings before." From this, it is evident
that the subject of such meetings and their
duties had at an early period obtained the at-
tention of American Friends.

The first Yearly Meeting settled in this land
appears to have been that for New England,
at Newport, on Rhode Island. John Burnyeat
mentions in his Journal, that after attending
" the Half-Year's Meeting at Oyster Bay," on
Long Island, he " took shipping for Rhode
Island, and was at their Yearly Meeting in
1671, which begins the 9th* of the fourth
month every year, and continues for much of
a week, and is a General Meeting once a year
for all Friends in New England." He attended
it again in the following year, and observes, " it
began the 8th day of the fourth month, which
was the sixth day of the week. At that Gene-
ral Meeting there were many Friends from
most places in New England where Friends
dwelt, and abundance of other people came
into our public meetings. We had meetings
for eight days together, every day a meeting,
some public, and others men's and women's
meetings for settling the affairs of the churches
in the order of ti'uth, that all things might be
kept sweet, clean and well."

It is evident from these statements, that the
Yearly Meeting for New England existed prior
to 1671.

Previous to attending this meeting in 1672,
he was in Maryland, visiting Friends there,
and makes these observations: "In the second
month I appointed a meeting at West River,
in Maryland, for all the Friends in the pro-
vince, that I might see them together befoi'e I
departed, for I was determined to go as soon
as I could after that meeting. And when the
time appointed came, and Friends from all
parts began to come, George Fox, with seve-
ral brethren, came from Jamaica, and landed
at Patuxent, and from thence came straight to
the meetincr. And there were Friends from



* It is probable the day of the week fixed for
the Yearly Meeting to begin, fell that year, on the
9th, and sometimes on other days of tlie month.



120



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



all parts of the province where they dwelt,
and we had a very large meeting, which con-
tinued for several days ; and a men's and wo-
men's meeting for the settling of things, that
men's and women's meetings might be estab-
lished in the province, according to the blessed
order of the Gospel of Christ Jesus, which
Friends, by the power thereof, were gathered
into in most places."

Respecting this meeting George Fox has
the following observations in his Journal ; viz.
" Here we found John Burnyeat, intending
shortly to sail for Old England, but upon our
arrival he altered his purpose and joined us in
the Loi-d's service. He had appointed a gene-
ral meeting for all the Friends in the province
of Maryland, that he might see them together
and take his leave of them before he departed
out of the country ; and it was so ordered by
the good providence of God that we landed
just time enough to reach that meeting, by
which means we had a very seasonable op-
portunity of taking the Friends of the province
together. A very large meeting this was, and
held four days ; to which, besides Friends,
came many other people, divers of whom
were of considerable quality in the world's
account ; for there were five or six justices of
the peace, the speaker of the assembly, one of
their council, and others of note, who seemed
well satisfied with the meeting.

" After the public meetings were over, the
men's and women's meetings began, wherein I
opened to Friends the service thereof, to their
great satisfaction."

It would appear from these accounts, that
this meeting was not properly a Yearly Meet-
ing, but one of similar character and design
with the Quarterly and Monthly Meetings.
This opinion is confirmed by the subsequent
remarks of George Fox. He says, " After
this [meeting at West River] we went to the
Cliffs, where another general meeting was ap-
pointed." — " To this meeting came many who
received the truth with reverence. We had
also a men's and a women's meeting. Most
of the backsliders came in again, and several
of those meetings were established for taking
care of the afl^airs of the church."

These several meetings being all in the pro-
vince of Maryland, it is obvious they could
not have been Yearly Meetings in the present
sense of that term. The precise period at
which Baltimore Yearly Meeting was estab-
lished we cannot now state. Its limits, how-
ever, must have been small, for as late as the
year 1790 the Quarterly Meetings of War-
rington and Fairfax were constituent branches
of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting ; and they,
with the extensive Quarterly Meeting of Ches-
ter, embraced nearly all the meetings subse-



quently included in Baltimore Yearly Meeting.
In 1764 it applied to become joined to Phila-
delphia, and in the following year this was so
far assented to, that it was agreed representa-
tives should be sent from it to the latter Year-
ly Meeting. It was then held alternately at
West River and Third Haven ; and from that
time up to 1790, representatives were accord-
ingly sent to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting,
with accounts of the state of Society, both as
related to Meetings for Discipline and those
for Ministers and Elders. The names of
such representatives regularly appear on the
minutes ,* and they, in common with the other
members, were appointed to services in the
meeting.

In 1786 the representatives from Maryland
applied to Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for a
new arrangement of the constituent branches
of the two meetings, which resulted some years
after in setting off Warrington and Fairfax
Quarters to Maryland, and attaching the
members on the Eastern Shore and in the
lower parts of Delaware to Philadelphia.
The latter Yearly Meeting appointed a large
committee to carry the changes into effect,
and to attend at the opening of the Maryland
Yearly Meeting under the new organization,
which was thenceforward to be held at Balti-
more.

Prior to 1672 if does not appear that there
were any Meetings for Discipline in those
parts of the country now comprised in Vir-
ginia Yearly Meeting. William Edmundson
says in his Journal, " I took boat and went to
Virginia, where things were much out of or-
der ; but the Lord's power and testimony went
over all. When I got several powerful meet-
ings among them, and their minds a little set-
tled, so that truth had got some hold, I ap-
pointed a men's meeting for the settling of
them in the way of truth's discipline." This
was in 1672.

John Burnyeat had visited them in the pre-
ceding year, and " advised them to have a
men's meeting, and so to meet together to set-
tle things in good order amongst them ;" but
it does not appear that his recommendation
was carried into effect until William Edmund-
son travelled among them.

At this time the number of Friends in North
Carolina appears to have been very small.
After settling the above mentioned meetings
in Virginia, William Edmundson set out to
visit the few residing there, and after encoun-
tering many difficulties from the wilderness
state of the country, reached the house of
Flenry Phillips near Albemarle River. " He
and his wife," says WilUam, " had been con-
vinced of the truth in New England and came
to live here, and not having seen a Friend for



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



121



seven years before, they wept with joy to see
us." Subsequently to this, many were con-
vinced in that province by the labours of faith-
ful Friends, and meetings settled, which were
eventually included in the Yearly Meeting of
North Carolina.

Pennsylvania and West Jersey being grant-
ed to William Penn and Robert Barclay, the
principal part of the early settlers were mem-
bers of the Society of Friends. Having been
acquainted with the order of the Discipline,
and the benefits resulting from it, previous to
leaving their native land, they soon establish-
ed a similar system, after reaching their new
homes. One of the first steps appears to have
been the institution of Monthly or Quarterly
Meetings. The records of Burlington Monthly
Meeting commence with the following minute,
viz. —

" Since, by the good providence of God,
many Friends with their families have ti'ans-
ported themselves into this province of West
Jersey, the said Friends in these upper parts,
have found it needful, according to the prac-
tice in the place we came from, to settle
Monthly Meetings, for the well ordering of
the affairs of the church, it was agreed that
accordingly it should be done, and according-
ly it was done, the 15th of the fifth month,
1678."

The following minute of Philadelphia Quar-
terly Meeting further illustrates this subject ;
viz. —

" The friends of God belonging to the meet-
ing in Philadelphia, in the province of Penn-
sylvania, being met, in the fear and power of
the Lord, at the present meeting-place in the
said city, the 9th day of the eleventh month,
being the third day of the week, in the year
1682, they did take into consideration the set-
tlement of meetings therein for the affairs and
service of truth, according to that godly and
comely practice and example which they had
received and enjoyed with true satisfaction
amongst their friends and brethren in the land
of their nativity : And did then and there agree
that the first third-day of the week in every
month shall hereafter be the Monthly Meeting
day for the men's and women's meetings for
the affairs and service of ti'uth, in this city
and county, and every third meeting shall be
the Quarterly Meeting of the same."

In 1685 the Quarterly Meeting assumed the
character of a representative body. Friends
appearing in that capacity from each of the
Monthly Meetings, whose names are entered
on the minutes, which continues to be the
practice to the present time. At the same
meeting, viz., the 12th of seventh month, 1685,
representatives were appointed to attend the

Vol. I.— No. 4.



Yearly Meeting, a practice which still con-
tinues.

The business of the Quarterly Meetings ap-
pears to have been principally, the care of
widows, orphans and the poor, the adjustment
of differences which might arise among the
members, and the oversight of the Society
generally, that all might walk worthily and
consistently with their religious profession. —
There were, however, other subjects, of much
moment to the rising colony, occasionally
transacted.

In 1687, William Bradford, printer, laid be-
fore the meeting proposals for printing the Bi-
ble, and it was directed that " each Monthly
Meeting in the county should use their endea-
vours to forward the same."

In 1689 the Monthly Meeting of Philadel-
phia applied to the Quarter for their concur-
rence and encouragement in opening a school
for the education of the youth ; to which the
meeting " readily agreed," and directed a sub-
scription to be set on foot for the purpose.
This was done accordingly, the school estab-
lished, and the amount subscribed paid to
the teacher quarterly, by a committee of the
Meeting. The school was continued in this
way until 1690, when, by a minute of the
Quarterly Meeting, it was made a free school
for all that chose to come, " little children ex-
cepted who are learning their primers ;" and
the branches agreed to be taught were " read-
ing, writing, arithmetic, merchants' accounts,
Latin, Greek and Hebrew, with the mathe-
matics."

In the year 1690, William Bradford applied
to Friends for assistance to enable him to con-
tinue his printing-press in Philadelphia, and
the Yearly Meeting recommended to Friends
to subscribe for that purpose. This subject is
noticed on the Quarterly Meeting minutes in
1691, and attention to it enjoined on the
Monthly Meetings ; in conformity with which,
report was made to the next Quarter that such
subscriptions had been forwarded.

These circumstances are interesting and im-
portant, inasmuch as they evince the early
care of Friends not only to promote the cir-
culation of the Bible and education, but also
the diffusion of information through the medi-
um of the press — and they may serve to cor-
rect the groundless charges which have been
brought against the Society of being inimical
to the spread of useful knowledge.

In the sixth month, 1681, the first General
or Yearly Meeting was held at Burlington, in
West Jersey, at which it was agreed thai wo-
men's meetings be established and held month-
ly at the same time as the men's. Several
other conclusions were come to respecting the
16



122



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



good order of the Society : one directed each
Monthly Meeting to appoint two Friends to
inquire for and deal with such as raised or
spread false reports ; another, that such Friends
as proposed to travel in the service of the Gos-
pel, should first lay their intentions before the
Monthly Meeting for its approbation ; and a
third, that if differences arose between Friends
they should not go to law with each other, be-
fore endeavours had been used by the Month-
ly Meeting for settling the dispute. It was also
concluded to hold the next Yearly Meeting at
Burlington, in the seventh month of the fol-
lowing year.

From some of the records it appears that a
Yearly or General Meeting was also held in
Philadelphia, in the seventh month — but in
1683 a proposal was made for uniting all the
members of the Society residing in the section
of country between New England and North
Carolina in one Yearly Meeting, of which the
following minute was recorded : viz. —

" Whereas this meeting has judged it requi-
site for the benefit and advantage of truth and
the mutual comfort of Friends, that a general
Yearly Meeting might be established for the
provinces in these parts, northward as far as
New England, and southward as far as Caro-
lina, that by the coming of Friends together
from the several parts where truth is profess-
ed, the affairs thereof may be the better known
and understood ; and to the end the same may
be assented to by Friends in those parts and
places above mentioned, it is agreed that Wil-
liam Penn, Christopher Taylor, Samuel Jen-
nings, James Harrison, Thomas Olive and
Mahlon Stacy, do take such methods, by wri-
ting to Friends or speaking, as may best fall
out for their conveniency, in order to have the
same established."

The subject being thus brought before the
Society in those parts, met with general ap-
probation ; and at a Yearly Meeting held in
Philadelphia, the 15th of the seventh month,
1685, an epistle was received from the meet-
ing at Flerring Creek in Maryland, containing
their consent ; and Friends attended from
Rhode Island, East and West Jersey, and
Choptank in Maryland, and expressed the
unity of Friends in those places with the pro-
posal of having one Yearly Meeting. The sub-
joined minute was accordingly made : viz. —
" It was therefore unanimously agreed and
concluded, that there be but one Yearly and
General Meeting in this province and West
Jersey, one year at Burlington and another at
Philadelphia, and to be held the next year at
Burlington, on the f^^^^it first-day of the seventh
month, and *o continue first, second and third-
days of the seventh month for worship, and
the fourth-day to be for the men's and wo-



men's meetings. The next year after, to be
at Philadelphia, on the same day of the same
month, and to continue the same time. This
agreement to continue until further orders.

" It is further agreed, that Friends in the
ministry do meet together on the first-day
morning, at the seventh hour, before the pub-
lic General Meetings, in such place as shall be
prepared by the public Friends in each town
where the meeting shall be kept that year."

This is the first account of the holding of a
Yearly Meeting of Ministers preceding that
for business. At that time there was no ap-
pointment of Elders, but in 1714 the Quarter-
ly Meeting of Chester proposed to the Yearly
Meeting " that some Elders or ancient Friends
be appointed by every Monthly Meeting, to sit
with the ministers in their meetings ;" which
being fully considered, it was agreed that each
Monthly Meeting choose two or more prudent
solid Friends for that service.

After this period those meetings took the
title of Meetings of Ministers and Elders.

Although George Fox, in one of his epistles
written in 1666, had recommended the appoint-
ment of suitable Friends as overseers of the
church, yet it appears not to have been fully
complied with in all the meetings ; and in
1695 the Yearly Meeting of Philadelphia re-
newed the recommendation to its subordinate
branches, viz., " that two or more Friends,
"men and women, out of their respective meet-
ings, be from time to time chosen for that ser-
vice, and such as will not receive their admo-
nition, on their report to the said meetings, to
be further dealt with as Friends in the wisdom
of God shall see meet."

In the early minutes of most of the meet-
ings, mention is made of Epistles received from
George Fox, containing disciplinary regula-
tions, and also from the Yearly Meeting in
London, all of which appear to have been
adopted by such meetings as obligatory upon
them. These regulations having increased in
number as the circumstances of the Society
called them forth, in the year 1703 the Yearly
Meeting appointed a committee to examine and
revise the whole, and collect them into one
code. This committee reported the amended
rules to the meeting in the following year,
when they were deliberately read over and
adopted, and copies directed to be made out
for each Quarterly Meeting.

The Flalf- Year's Meeting on Long Island
appears to have existed some years before the
Yearly Meeting for New York was established.
John Burnj^eat speaks of attending it as early
as 1671. It was held in the second and eighth
months, at Oyster Bay, " the first and second
days for public worship, and the third day for
the men's and women's meetings about the af-



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



123



fairs of the church." In the fourth month,
1695, the Yearly Meetings of London and
New England established the Yearly Meeting
for New York and parts adjacent, to be held
on Long Island ; since which time it has been
regularly continued ; the place of holding it
being changed to the city of New York.

In John Burnyeat's Joui'nal, he observes
that at the Half- Year's Meeting at Oyster Bay,
on Long Island, in the eighth month, 1671,
Friends were much troubled with " several
who rose up in a wrong spirit, against the
blessed order which Friends were gathered
into and sweetly settling in : And their envy
and bitterness was chiefly against George Fox
and his papers of wholesome advice, which, in
the love of God, he had sent among Friends."
These papers were doubtless the Epistles is-
sued by that eminent man on the subject of
Discipline, which were received in this coun-
try and noticed on the minutes as authoritative
in the Society. That the Discipline as insti-
tuted by him, was substantially the same as
that now existing, at least in its principal fea-
tures, the following extracts will illustrate.
They also evince the comprehensiveness of
his mind, which, with no other external guide
than the New Testament, marked out a sys-
tem of church government embracing so many
important points, and so completely adapted
to the various circumstances of the Society,
that, through all the changes which have oc-
curred in a period of more than one hundred
and seventy years, it has been found adequate
to meet the wants of the church. These ex-
tracts are rendered more interesting also, by
the view which they give of the amiable and
excellent traits of his character. Love to
the brotherhood and to all mankind — a de-
sire to promote peace and happiness among
his brethren ; sympathy for the afflicted ;
care for the destitute ; liberality to the needy ;
tenderness and forbearance toward the erring,
and kindness and courtesy to all, are strong-
ly marked throughout the whole. No man
of unprejudiced mind and competent judg-
ment can peruse the disciplinary regulations
made by George Fox, without being struck
with the wisdom, moderation, and Christian
dignity and propriety which distinguishes them.
" There is no character in Christian history
since the days of its divine Founder," says
the ' Annual Review and History of Litera-
ture,' " more free from spot or stain than
that of George Fox. It is not less absurd
to pronounce him insane from his writings,
than it would be to pronounce Cromwell a
fool from his speeches. By their actions they
are to be judged. No form of civil polity
so unexceptionable in its means and end, so



beautiful in all its parts, so perfect as a whole,
has ever been imagined in philosophical ro-
mance or proposed in theory, as this man con-
ceived, established and reduced to practice."

Such is the opinion respecting George Fox
and the Discipline,- expressed by persons not
members of the Society of Friends, and con-
sequently not likely to be influenced by sec-
tarian partialities. It is not surprising if
those who enjoy the privileges of membership,
and realize the beneficial and happy effects
resulting from the institution which he was
the instrument of establishing, should love
the character of the man, and cling with
religious veneration to the principles and prac-
tices of their forefathers, from which they
have derived superior advantages for so many
generations.



EXTRACTS FROM EPISTLES.
meetijvgs for worship.

" Friends, meet together — waiting upon the
Lord, that nothing but his life may reign
among you, and that you may grow up in
love and wisdom. All of you wait in the
measuj-e of the grace of God received, that
by it your minds may be guided up to God.
And I lay it upon you to see that all your
meetings be kept in order : and the Lord God
Almighty keep you all to his glory and in his
wisdom unto himself." 1655.

" Friends, forget not the assembling of your-
selves together, as the manner of some is, lest
there be an evil heart of unbelief in departing
from the living God ; but exhort one another
daily ; and so much the more as the day doth
appear, exhort one another the more in the
light and spirit, in fellowship one with an-
other." 1667.

" My dear Friends, when you were former-
ly professors you took your servants, appren-
tices, and children along with you to your
places of worship. And now that you are
come to the truth, and are convinced that the
same is the Truth of God, through which you
come to have a portion and inheritance of life
and salvation, and of a kingdom and world
which have no end, and are in possession of
that which formerly you did profess in words,
and go into the assemblies of the people of
God ; is it not more reputable for you to take
your servants, apprentices, children and maid-
ens along with you, to be partakers of the
truth, that they may have a possession with
you ? For if you leave them behind and be
careless of them, there are many of them apt
to run into liberty and looseness, and plays
and tippling-houses, and so into loose compa-
ny : such liberty hath been a great hurt to



124



INSTITUTION OF THE DISCIPLINE.



Online LibraryWilliam EvansThe Friends' library : comprising journals, doctrinal treatises, and other writings of members of the religious Society of Friends (Volume 1) → online text (page 27 of 105)