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will become beneficial, when acted upon, both to individuals and to States; or that legislators cannot raise a constitution upon so fair and firm a foundation, as upon the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Monthly court or meeting-constitution of this meeting—each county is usually divided into parts-in each of these parts or divisions are several meetinghouses, which have their several congregations attached to them—one meeting-house in each division is fixed upon for transacting the business of all the congregations in that division-deputies appointed from every particular meeting or congregation in each division to the place fixed upon for transacting the business within it-nature of the business to be transacted-women become deputies, and transact business, equally with the men.
I COME, after this long digression, to the courts
of the Quakers. And here I shall immediately premise, that I profess to do little more than to give
a general outline of these. I do not intend to explain the proceedings, preparatory to the meetings there, or to state all the exceptions from general rules, or to trouble the memory of the reader with more circumstances than will be sufficient to enable him to have a general idea of this part of the discipline of the Quakers.
The Quakers manage their discipline by means of monthly, quarterly, and yearly courts, to which, however they themselves uniformly give the name of meetings.
To explain the nature and business of the monthly or first of these meetings, I shall fix upon some county in my own mind, and describe the business, that is usually done in this in the course of the month. For as the business, which is usually transacted in any one county, is done by the Quakers in the same manner and in the same month in another, the reader, by supposing an aggregate of counties, may easily imagine, how the whole business of the society is done for the whole kingdom.
The Quakers (v) usually divide a county into a number of parts, according to the Quaker-population of it. In each of these divisions there are usually
() This was the ancient method, when the society was numerous in every county of the kingdom, and the principle is still followed accor ding to existing circumstances.
several meeting-houses, and these have their several congregations attached to them. One meeting-house, however, in each division, is usually fixed upon for transacting the business of all the congregations that are within it, or for the holding of these monthly courts. The different congregations of the Quakers, or the members of the different particular meetings, which are settled in the northern part of the county, are attached of course to the meeting-house, which has been fixed upon in the northern division of it because it gives them the least trouble to repair to it on this occasion. The members of those again, which are settled in the southern, or central, or other parts of the county, are attached to that, which has been fixed upon in the southern, or central, or other divisions of it, for the same reason. The different congregations in the northern division of the county appoint, each of them, a set of deputies once a month, which deputies are of both sexes, to repair to the meeting-house, which has been thus assigned them. The different congregations in the southern, central, or other divisions, appoint also, each of them, others, to repair to that, which has been assigned them in like manner. These deputies are all of them previously instructed in the matters, belonging to the congregations, which they respectively represent.
At length the day arrives for the monthly meeting. The deputies make ready to execute the duties com. mitted to their trust. They repair, each sett of them, to their respective places of meeting. Here a number of Quakers, of different ages and of both sexes, from their different divisions, repair also. It is expected that (w) all, who can conveniently attend, should be present on this occasion.
When they are collected at the meeting-house, which was said to have been fixed upon in each division, a meeting for worship takes place. All persons, both men and women, attend together. But when this meeting is over, they separate into different apartments for the purposes of the discipline; the men to transact by themselves the business of the men, and of their own district, the women to transact that, which is more limited, namely such as belongs to their own sex.
In the men's meeting, and it is the same in the women's, the names of the deputies beforementioned, are first entered in a book, for, until this act takes place, the meeting for discipline is not considered to be constituted.
(w) There may be persons, who on account of immoral conduct cannot attend.
The minutes of the last monthly meeting are then generally read, by which it is seen if any business of the society was left unfinished. Should any thing occur of this sort, it becomes the (x) first object to be considered and dispatched.
The new business, in which the deputies were said to have been previously instructed by the congregations which they represented, comes on. This business may be of various sorts. One part of it uniformly relates to the poor. The wants of these are provided for, and the education of their children taken care of, 'at this meeting. Presentations of marriages are received, and births, marriages, and funerals are registered. If disorderly members, after long and repeated admonitions, should have given no hopes of amendment, their case is first publicly cognizable in this court. Committees are appointed to visit, advise, and try to reclaim them. Persons, reclaimed by these visitations, are restored to membership, after having been well reported of by the parties deputed to visit them. The fitness of persons, applying for membership, from other societies, is examined here. Answers also are prepared to the (y) queries
at the proper time. Instructions also are given, if
(x) The London monthly meetings begin differently from those in the country.
(1) These queries will be explained in the next chapter.