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Friday, July 17, 2015

Companions on the Journey and Tools for the Task

John Wesley, Founder of Methodism, had much to say about the need for the minister to be well read but also thoroughly committed to the Bible.  Wesley spent his time on the long and frequent journeys he undertook riding the countryside of England and Ireland praying and reading.

Wesley wrote this letter to a pastor, John Trembath, of Cork, on August 17, 1760:
To John Trembath CORK, August 17, 1760.
MY DEAR BROTHER,--The conversation I had with you yesterday in the afternoon gave me a good deal of satisfaction. As to some things which I had heard (with regard to your wasting your substance, drinking intemperately, and wronging the poor people of Siberton), I am persuaded they were mistakes; as I suppose it was that you converse much with careless, unawakened people. And I trust you will be more and more cautious in all these respects, abstaining from the very appearance of evil. [See letter of Sept. 21, 1755.] 
That you had not always attended the preaching when you might have done it you allowed, but seemed determined to remove that objection, as well as the other of using such exercises or diversions as give offence to your brethren. I believe you will likewise endeavour to avoid light and trifling conversation, and to talk and behave in all company with that seriousness and usefulness which become a preacher of the gospel. 
Certainly some years ago you was alive to God. You experienced the life and power of religion. And does not God intend that the trials you meet with should bring you back to this You cannot stand still; you know this is impossible. You must go forward or backward. Either you must recover that power and be a Christian altogether, or in a while you will have neither power nor form, inside nor outside.
Extremely opposite both to one and the other is that aptness to ridicule others, to make them contemptible, by exposing their real or supposed foibles. This I would earnestly advise you to avoid.
It hurts yourself; it hurts the hearers; and it greatly hurts those who are so exposed, and tends to make them your irreconcilable enemies. It has also sometimes betrayed you into speaking what was not strictly true. O beware of this above all things! Never amplify, never exaggerate anything. Be rigorous in adhering to truth. Be exemplary therein. Whatever has been in time past, let all men now know that John Trembath abhors lying, that he never promises anything which he does not perform, that his word is equal to his bond. I pray be exact in this; be a pattern of truth, sincerity, and godly simplicity. 
What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps by neglecting it you have lost the taste for it. Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer. You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this. You can never be a deep preacher without it any more than a thorough Christian. O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or no, read and pray daily. It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher. Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow. Do not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross, and be a Christian altogether. Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular Yours, &c

It was in this spirit of continual professional and spiritual development that a later minister wrote. Rev. James Murray of the Methodist Episcopal Church noted in an address to the 1889 Conference of the Oklahoma Indian Mission that preachers should "let your library consist largely of the Bible, the Dictionary, the Discipline, the Catechism and the Hymn book..." (Brill, A History of the Methodist Episcopal Church in Oklahoma, 1939, pg. 27)
Early circuit rider of the Indian Territory, Rev. Albert S.J. Haygood always traveled with specific tools in his saddlebags. Thus the Methodist Episcopal Church, South minister carried with him a clean shirt, his Bible, a small edition hymn book, a Discipline, and a copy of the Methodist Armor.  (Turner, A History of Methodism in Holdenville, 1897-1957).

Many of the books are unknown, for example what dictionary did Murray prefer to carry? What versions were available? Where did they acquire them?  Others, thankfully, have been digitized so there is some ability to explore and enjoy the resources these early preachers used to improve themselves in mind and heart.

The Methodist Armor : or, A popular exposition of the doctrines, peculiar usages, and ecclesiastical machinery of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. (Hilary T. Hudson, 1882) is one example. This no doubt served as an ongoing classroom for the wide traveled minister and teacher, Albert S.J. Haygood.

The "Catechism" was most probably  Catechisms of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South , Thomas O. Summers. This 1861 work was widely used in schools, churches, and mission work by the M.E.S.

While it is unclear what copy of the Book of Discipline such ministers might have carried, they would have been similar for M.E.S. ministers to this 1856 version or this M.E. Church 1876 version.

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