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which I have been as careful as possible to state dates and facts, such as I think will be for the information and consolation of pious people.
The materials from which I have chiefly com. piled this work, are the Minutes of the Annuat and General Conferences. The Societies having been formed by the labours of the preachers, they have also been preserved as one body, united by one spirit, by the blessing of God, by our rules and regulations formed at those conferences. The origin, increase, and establishment of the Societies, must therefore be sought fór chiefly in these records.
I have inserted all the Minutes of importance. 1. Those which relate to Doctrines. 2. The rules by which the preachers are called to, and directed in, the work of the Ministry. 3. Those which were made at different times for the regulation, and avell-ordering of the societies. And, 4. Those which concern strangers, or persons not of our society. I have noticed these things at the times and places when they occurred.
I have also taken notice of the increase and decrease of Methodism ; and in some cases have spoken of the places where the greatest revivals have been: and also of particular declensions, and the causes which produced them.
I have consulted every author that I could find, which I thought would afford information on this subject ; especially Wesley's Journals, his Ecelesiastical History, and his Life, written by Dr. Coke and Mr. Moore, and that by Dr. Whitehead. Also, the Methodist Memorial, published by Mr. Atmore. Mr. William Myles's Chronological History of, and Mr. Joseph Benson's ABology for, the people called Methodists. Mr. Francis Asbury's Journals, bound, and unbound. And he Magazines published by the Methodists.
Also, Mr. Freeborn Garrettson's Travels, and William Waters's Life, published by himself. I have also read over more than 2000 pages of my own manuscript Journals, and consulted many of the travelling and local preachers, in order to ascertain historical facts, and to find out useful things which have never yet been published.
There has been, in general, very many errors and imperfections in the Minutes of the Annual Conferences ; but I have used my utmost endea. vours to avoid those errors, and to send into the world the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. In order that every one may under. stand what the principles, doctrines, and disci. pline of the Methodists are, and what is the economy and government of their Church and Society. I also wish the Methodists to see what great things the Lord has done for them, and for their fathers and friends before them.
I desire to shew to all our societies and friends, that the doctrines which we held and preached in the beginning, we have continued to support and maintain uniformly to the present day. We have changed the economy and discipline of our church at times, as we judged for the benefit and happiness of our preachers and people ; and the Lord has wonderfully owned and prospered us. It may be seen from the following account, how the Lord has, from very small beginnings, raised as up to be a great and prosperous people. It is very certain, that the goodness of our doctrine and discipline, our manner of receiving preachers, and of sending them into different circuits, and the frequent changes among them from one circuit to another, not allowing them in general to stay more than one year in a station or circuit, and in no case more than two years, has greatly contributed to the promotion of religion, the in
crease of our societies, and the happiness of our preachers.
I have in some cases stated things which took place among us, that were not approved of by all the preachers, and that were afterwards given up. I have likewise made mention of some of the errors of the conferences and COUNCILS ; and of the preachers who continued among us, as well as those who separated from us: that it may be seen and understood, that I have not written with partiality, and thereby kept back things necessary to be known.
I am sorry to say, that some of the preachers who separated from us, became bitter enemies to us, and wrote and spoke many things against us which were not true : which things did no honour to the inventors or retailers of them.
I have been particular in collecting the names of all the travelling preachers who have been itinerants, and have been so entered on the annual minutes, with the dates when they began to travel, and also when they stopped ; shewing at the same time, by certain marks, whether they were expelled or located ; or whether they died in the work, or left the connection.
Withal, I have set down in it's proper place, an account of the number of members in society for each year, with the increase or decrease of every year from the beginning of Methodism in the U. nited States to the present year, as far as I have been able to ascertain it.
Whatever defects are found in this history, (as there will likely be some) I hope will be considered as owing to the want of better information ; as some improper information may have been obtained from some imperfect publications. I sin. cerely wish that it may be rendered a blessing to
those who read it, and to the Methodists in partiticular.
May the Lord redeem us from all iniquity, and make us meet to be partakers with the saints in light for Christ's sake. Amen.
JESSE LEE. Petersburg, Virginia.
October 28, 1809