Historically, Yearly Meetings issued epistles of advice to subordinate meetings. These epistles were sometimes issued annually, other times sporadically. More often than not, in Ohio the women's yearly meeting was more active in sending such epistles down.
The following is the text of the epistle of advice issued by the men's yearly meeting in Ohio in 1813, the inaugural year of that body. The minutes of the women's yearly meeting have been lost. The initial minute book (1813-1825) was taken by Jane Plummer, one time clerk of the Ohio Women's Yearly Meeting, who left Friends in the mid-19th century.
As a caution, readers should be aware that this is a typical epistle of advice (having read some from the yearly meetings of Ohio, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and North Carolina, this assessment is based on some hands-on experience). It is being offered here simply due to its nature as the one approved at the first session of Ohio Yearly Meeting. The spelling has not been altered, a decision influenced by a desire to enhance the historic flavor of the text. The last paragraph concerns the War of 1812, then under way.
The epistle is offered here not as a critique of any person or body of people but simply for its historic value. The ideas expressed herein stand on their own, and I leave it to thee & the enlivening Light of Christ Jesus to discern whether something here may leaven thy spiritual life.
20th of the month [Eighth Month, 1813] and 6th of the week.
The state of Society as contained in the reports from the Quarters being now brot. into view, friends were deeply exercised on account of the weakness and deficiencies existing among us, and in order that these may be removed, it was earnestly recommended that all friends become so exercised in the Spirit of their minds, as to be qualified to worship the Father of Spirits, whereby we may experience his love operating in us; the blessed effects whereof would not only be joy and peace, but carefulness and circumspection in all our ways, whereby our hands would be strengthened and we enabled to labor in the spirit of meekness and restoring love, with those in whom deficiencies appear.
We should be so far persuaded from the spirit of talebearing and detraction, that in conversing, even among our friends, we should be careful to avoid expressing our opinions too freely, or in an improper manner, which, though it may be done without an evil intention, may have a tendency to destroy the unity and harmony that ought to subsist among us. And friends are desired to keep to plainness in dress and address; for altho these things may in the view of some appear small, they have in the experience of many been found to be as the "little foxes that spoil the tender vine," and we are persuaded that where the light of the blessed principle is attended to, all our defects will be manifested to us, and that the right government of our families is indeed of very great importance. It has been sorrowfully observed that the general round of business, or too frequently things of a temporal nature, are the principal things conversed of in families; but it is most assuredly believed, that as parents are brought under the Divine Government they will find their minds drawn to discourse of higher objects, whereby the minds of their children may be instructed. But for want of this care, it is greatly to be feared, there are many amongst us who are far short of their duty to their children, many of whom would be much at a loss if they were asked a reason of the hope that is in them; and it ought to be an alarming consideration, that unless there is more care on the part of these, they will find themselves encompassed with clouds of darkness in a trying time.
And lastly in regard to the commotions which are in the World: "Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves." Friends are earnestly entreated to take no part in political concerns and avoid the expression of sentiments in relation thereto. "And when ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars, see that ye be not troubled:" but trust in the Lord Jehovah, in whom there is everlasting strength. And then, altho ye may be tried, and sifted as wheat, ye shall be preserved.
Horton Howard, Clerk