A Course of Study for Methodists

The following outline is taken from the “Course of Study for Probationers and Traveling Deacons” in the Doctrines and Disciplines of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1848). Note the priority that is given to the systematic reading and thematic marking of Scripture, to systematic theology, to the sacraments, to essay or sermon writing, and to general learning. While some works are outdated, many are still relevant.

First Year

The Bible — Doctrines

The Existence of God; the Attributes of God, namely, Unity, Spirituality, Eternity, Omnipotence, Ubiquity, Omniscience, Immutability, Wisdom, Truth, Justice, Mercy, Love, Goodness, Holiness; the Trinity in Unity; the Deity of Christ; the Humanity of Christ; the Union of Deity and Humanity; Personality and Deity of the Holy Spirit; Depravity; Atonement; Repentance; Justification by Faith; Regeneration; Adoption; the Witness of the Spirit; Growth in Grace; Christian Perfection; Possibility of Final Apostasy; Immortality of the Soul; Resurrection of the Body; General Judgment; Rewards and Punishments. 

[The examination on the above to be strictly Biblical, requiring the candidate to give the statement of the doctrine and the Scripture proofs. To prepare for this, he should read the Bible by course, and make a memorandum of the texts upon each of these topics as he proceeds.]

Systematic Divinity

Watson’s Institutes, First Part; Wesley’s Plain Account of Christian Perfection.

Common English

English Grammar; Mitchell’s Geography.


Essay or Sermon. 

[Read Wesley’s Sermons and Notes; Watson’s Life of Wesley; and Watson’s Apology.] 

Second Year

The Bible — Sacraments

The Sacrament of Baptism — Its Nature, Design, Obligation, Subjects, and Mode; The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper — Its Nature, Design, and Obligation. 

[Mode of study and examination same as upon the Bible in the first year.] 

Systematic Divinity

Watson’s Institutes, Second Part; Peck’s Christian Perfection, new 12 mo. edition; Fletcher’s Appeal.

Church Government

Methodist Discipline; Stevens’s Church Polity.*


Olmstead’s Natural Philosophy;* Dymond’s Moral Science. 


Essay or Sermon. 

[Read Bishop Emory’s Defense of our Fathers; Powell on Apostolical Succession; Dr. Emory’s History of the Discipline; Wesley’s Theological Works; and Burnet on the Thirty-nine Articles.]

Third Year

The Bible — History and Chronology

Candidates to be prepared upon the leading events recorded in the Old and New Testaments. Reference Books: Horne’s Introduction and Mitchell’s Ancient Geography.

Systematic Divinity

Watson’s Institutes, Third Part; Butler’s Analogy; Peck’s Rule of Paith;* Hibbard on Baptism.* 


Ruter’s Church History; Tytler’s General History;* Newman’s Rhetoric; Hedge’s Logic; Mitchell’s Ancient Geography.*


Essay or Sermon.

[Read Bangs’s History of the M. E. Church; Elliott on Romanism; Eletcher’s Theological Works; Rollin’s Ancient History;* Smith’s Sacred Annals;* Hallam’s Middle Ages;* Russell’s Modern Europe.*]

Fourth Year

Review of the whole Course.

Systematic Divinity

Watson’s Institutes, Fourth Part 


Claude’s Essay on the Composition and Delivery of a Sermon. 

Biblical Criticism

Horne’s Introduction. 


Essay or Sermon.

[Read Bancroft’s History of the United States;* Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History;* Townley’s Illustrations of Biblical Literature; and Watson’s Sermons.] 

*Those marked with an asterisk are optional with the annual conferences.