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To remedy these difficulties, and equalize the exper se of supporting the children of the preachers among the circuits, the District Meetings entered into an arrangement to require each circuit to pay the allowance of its proportion of all the children in the Conference, according to the numbers in society and their financial ability. This measure met with genera, favor, both among the preachers and the people. The operation of it is this: the rich circuits, having less children among them to support than is their equitable proportion, pay the claims of their preachers for such as they have, and pay over the balance to the treasurer of the 56 Children's Fund ; " while the poor circuits, having more preacher's children to support than properly belongs to them, draw upon the “ Children's Fund” for the amount of their claims.
Thus all the preacher's children are provided for; and that there may be no failure in the operation of the plan, each circuit is required to pay its annual apportionment to the Fund before it can receive any assistance, whatever its necessities.
6 THE GENERAL CHAPEL FUND was instituted in the year 1818. Owing to various causes, that can easily be imagin.d, many of the chapels were considerably involved in debt. The Conference had often been called upon by the trustees of different circuits for assistance, and had assigned them certain territory in which to solicit donations. But this measure was not equal to the demand. Therefore the Conference determined to establish this Fund, to be sup. ported by private subscriptions, by public collections, by legacies, and by annual grants from the trust-funds of the chapels.
Accordingly, the preachers were required to apply to
their people for subscriptions in the month of February of each year, and close their efforts with a pablic collection. The trustees of every chapel in the connection were to be “ respectfully and earnestly solicited to evidence their readiness to concur in the measure, by paying to the fund a sum not loss than one guinea for each chapel, and more if they were able.”
These measures were urged upon those who would be most likely to neglect them; and the fund was guarded against becoming a scurce of vain confidence to poor societies by the adoption of the most salutary regula. lations. It is required of societies about to make application for assistance, that they first make an effort among themselves --- that they shall have adopted the practice of anniversary sermons and collections, and of sending at least one guinea from the trust-estate to the treasurer and shall not have solicited subscriptions for their relief beyond the limits of their own particular circuit. The wisdom of these arrangements must be recognized at a glance.
Another arrangement intimately related to this fund, is the appointment of a “chapel-building committee.” Though this committee was actually appointed prior to the establishment of the chapel fund, and might have been very useful had no such fund been created, this fund gives it peculiar influence. The object of the committee is to prevent the contraction of unreasonable debts. Church building is a business with which few are acquainted. In new Methodist Bocieties it is rarely the case that there is a man who is ca pable of preparing a suitable model of a house, or of arrang ing a practicable plan of paying for one. Nor is the preacher of a circuit always wise in this respect. Indeed, both he and the people, however intelligent, are in a most unfortunate condition to think closely and judge discreetly in the case. They are excited -- they cannot look soberly
and impartially into any plan. Hence, they often rush upon the most unwarrantable speculations.
Men of the least experience in business become the agents of pecuniary transactions beyond their capacity, and, as might be anticipated, plunge the society into trouble.
Hence, Mr. Wesley exhorted “ that all preaching houses should be built plain and decent, not more expensively thar is absolutely unavoidable.” In the year 1815 the Conference advised the societies to remember Mr. Wesley's advice, “ Beware of building expensive chapels,” and entreated them not to contract debts they could not manage without aid from other societies. Two years after, this committee was appointed, consisting of five brethren, to whom all plans of new chapels, with their locations, subscription lists, &c., &c., were to be submitted for consideration and deliberate judgment as to the propriety of the undertaking.* This committee has its regular times of meeting, and receives and considers proposals for building, altering, or selling, and approves or disapproves, as they judge proper. society chooses to go on with their project, notwithstanding the disapproval of the committee, they forfeit all claim upon the “chapel fund,” and are left to bear their own burdens. This arrangement has, no doubt, saved the connection much mortification and financial embarrassment, and added greatly to its chapel accommodations.
THE PREACHERS' AUXILIARY FUND is designed to meet the necessities of supernumerary preachers, and the widows and children of deceased preachers. At the Conference of 1763 some of the preachers were found to be nearly worn out, and unable to travel any longer. This originated the question, “How may provision be made for the old and worn out preachers?" and it was answered, “As to their eniployment, they may be supernumerary preachers in those circuits wherein there is most need. As to their subsist. ence, 1. Let every travelling preacher contribute ten shillings yearly at the Conference. 2. Let this be lodged in the hands of three stewards approved by the majority of the preachers. 3. Out of this, let what is needful be allowed yearly, 1. For the old and sickly preachers and their families; (if they have any.) 2. For the widows and childrer of those that are dead."
* The number has since been increased to tventy-four, thirteen of whom are laymen.
The fund thus formed was called " The Preachers Fund ;” but it proved insufficient. In the year 1799 il was, therefore, superseded by what was called 66 The Itin erant Methodist Preachers' Annuity.” This aimed at the same objects, and was supplied by the preachers' subscrip tions, by a portion of the profits of the book-room, and by occasional donations and bequests of special friends. The same year several leading members in London started “The Preachers' Friend Society," for the relief of itinerant preachers in great emergencies. It was well sustained, but met with serious difficulties, and ran down. After that, the contributions of the people went to form what was called the “ Methodist Preachers' Merciful Fund," which was distributed among the preachers according to their necessi
In the year 1813 these funds were denominated " The Preachers' Auxiliary Fund," in reference to the 6i Annuity” before named ; but it did not meet the demand and the pressing wants of the worn out preachers was a sub ject of painful consideration. In the year 1839 the Con ference adopted the same plan for raising supplies they had previously devised for the children's fund, and determined upon a scale of general disbursement, graduating the appropriations according to the number of years the claimant had devoted to the ministry, varying from ten to fifty pounds sterling per annum. As, for example, a preacher who had travelled thirty-nine years and upwards was to receive fifty pounds, while one who had travelled under twelve years was to receive but fifteen pounds; and the widow of such an one but ten pounds. These are the two extremes of the scale, which divides the claimants into seven classes.
The plan of the Conference also provides for giving each preacher, on his becoming supernumerary, and each preacher's wife, on her becoming a widow, the sum of thirty pounds sterling to buy furniture, they having been supplied this necessity by the several circuits where they have labored up to that time. It provides, too, for the children of deceased preachers, for their education as well as their support, and for special emergencies either among the supernumeraries, the widows, or the fatherless. The means of meeting these several claims, the first year after the adoption of the plan, were chiefly obtained of the centenary committee, which, in accordance with the design of the donors, appropriated about forty-five thousand dollars of the centenary collections to this object.
The aggregate amount contributed to these funds the last year cannot be specifically stated, as these funds have been somewhat complicated with new ones for their better management, but it is safe to say it shows a liberal advance on previous collections. Add to this more than six hundred thousand dollars raised for missions, the salaries paid to the preachers, and various other regular and occasional collections, and the liberality of the Wesleyans will be seen to exceed that of any other church in Christendom.
A few remarks in relation to the various measures referred to in the foregoing pages will close the present