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From the close of the General Conference of 1828 to the beginning of the General Conference of 1832
Our last volume closed with an account of the doings of the General Conference of 1828, including a brief history of the radical controversy, and its results. With a view to give a consecutive narrative of that affair, the chronological order of the history, in relation to that controversy, was anticipated for three or four years; and therefore no more need be said in reference to that subject than merely to remark, that great peace and harmony prevailed throughout the bounds of the Church, and the work of God was generally prosperous.
The Oneida conference was formed at the General Conference of 1828, making in all nineteen annual conferences to be attended by five bishops. As, however, the health of Bishop McKendree was very feeble, the labor of the superintendency devolved chiefly on the other four bishops; and as Bishop George died early in 1828, the remaining three bishops had work enough on their hands for the three succeeding years. The manner, however, in which they fulfilled their high and weighty trusts gave general satisfaction to the Church, and tended powerfully to keep up its union, and to promote its peace and prosperity.
The cause of education was now advancing with much more rapidity than heretofore. A very able report was adopted at the last General Conference in favor of education, tending to show the great importance of this subject to the welfare of the Church, and particularly to the rising generation. In addition to three academies heretofore noticed, it appears that at this time the Mississippi conference had established the “Elizabeth Female Academy,” the name being given to it in honor of Mrs. Elizabeth Greenfield, who laid its foundation by the gift of a lot of land, and a building estimated to be worth three thousand dollars. Another had been commenced under hopeful prospects in Tuscaloosa, in the state of Alabama, and two others in Illinois, under the patronage of the Illinois conference, one in Green county, and the other in the county of St. Clair.
After some general statements on the number and character of the literary institutions then in existence under the patronage of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the report, the production of the late Dr. Fisk, contains the following very just and timely remarks: —
“In review of the whole, we find the efforts and successful operations in different conferences to promote the cause of literature and science have increased very considerably since the last General Conference. There are now six or seven promising institutions in successful operation, two of them having college charters, namely, Madison College and Augusta College, which are already prepared to take students through a regular course, and confer on them the ordinary degrees and literary honors of such institutions, and hold out encouragements and assurances that authorize us to recommend them to the patronage of our friends. Other institutions are advancing to the same standing, and several more are contemplated, and will probably soon be put into operation. And it is a matter that ought to be noticed as calling for special gratitude to God, that revivals of religion have been so frequent in our literary seminaries. And this, too, ought to stimulate our people to encourage and patronize these institutions. If God smiles on our undertakings, shall we not proceed? We have reason, indeed, to think that the minds of both ministers and people are more awake to this subject than heretofore. The importance of literary institutions is more generally felt than formerly, and a greater and more general disposition to aid in this work is manifested. But we are still too much asleep on this subject. We are in danger of not keeping up with the improvements of society. If we should fail of contributing our share in this work, we should not only fall short of our obligations to society in general, but to our own Church in particular. The subject of education ought to be considered of special importance and of special interest to Methodist preachers, both as it respects their own usefulness and the interests of their families. We do not, indeed, profess to educate young men and train them up specifically for the ministry. But it will be readily seen, that, as our ministers are raised up mostly from among ourselves, their literary character will vary according to the general character of the Church.
“We said this subject was of special interest to Methodist preachers’ families. We wish this to be deeply impressed on the minds of all, and we could wish every conference would by some means make provision for the education of the children of itinerant ministers. The changeable and uncertain life of a traveling minister, the duties which call him so much from his family and domestic concerns, all show the almost imperious necessity for such a provision. Posterity will hardly suppose we have conferred a great favor upon the world, if, in our zeal to benefit others, we suffer our own children to grow up uneducated and unrestrained, a disgrace to the gospel we preach, and a reproach to their parents. If we would save the itinerant plan from falling into deserved disrepute, we must see to it that our children be not neglected in their moral culture and literary instruction.”
There can be no doubt that this report gave a fresh stimulus to the cause of literature and science among us, and made many feel the obligations they were under to promote it, who had hitherto been indifferent to its success.
Such was the influence which the missionary cause was now exerting on the Church generally, that most of the new places which were occupied were entered under the patronage of the Missionary Society. This year the Red Hook mission, which embraced a territory lying on the east side of the Hudson River, the inhabitants of which were chiefly descendants of the Dutch, was undertaken in compliance with the earnest request of the late Rev. Freeborn Garrettson, whose widow contributed one hundred dollars a year toward its support.
In Steuben country, in the western part of New York, there was a considerable number of Welch people settled, who could not understand the English language; and the Rev. David Cadwalder, who was able to preach in Welch, was sent as a missionary among them. His labors were so blessed that be formed a society of sixty members, and also erected a house of worship for their accommodation.
In the western country new fields were constantly opening for gospel laborers. This year St. Marys mission was commenced. It embraced the new settlements in the northwestern counties of the state of Ohio. The labors of the missionary were blessed to the awakening and conversion of souls, and the work has gradually prospered and enlarged the sphere of its influence from that day to this. Another, called St.. Clair mission, in Michigan, was also begun under favorable prospects, and it was the happy commencement of a gracious work in all that region of country.
This year the “Publishing Fund” was established. This originated in a consultation with the book agents and the editor of the Christian Advocate and journal, the latter of whom had prepared a constitution for the contemplated Bible Society, at the suggestion of the late Bishop Emory, who was then the senior book agent. The object was to devise ways and means to enable the Book concern to publish Bibles and Testaments, Sunday school books and tracts, on the cheapest possible terms. When these societies were formed, the book agents had pledged themselves to furnish the books for the Sunday schools, and tracts for tract societies, as cheap as they could be purchased elsewhere; and as the American Bible, Sunday School, and Tract Societies, being largely patronized and aided by the public munificence, were able to supply the demand for their respective publications almost at cost, it was soon found that we could not compete with them in the market unless ways and means were devised to furnish the needful funds. Our Book Concern at that time was deeply in debt, and could not therefore, from its own resources, print and circulate the books for Sunday schools, and tracts, at as low prices as they were furnished by the American societies, without risking its own reputation, if not, indeed, its very existence. To remedy this defect, and to supply the deficiency in funds, at the consultation before alluded to, it was agreed to make an attempt to establish a “Publishing Fund,” in connection with the Bible, Sunday School, and Tract Societies of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was accordingly done, and the constitution, together with the address of the managers, was published in the Christian Advocate and Journal on the 17th of October, 1828.
The following extract from this address will more fully explain the principles and objects of this fund, and show that it was not intended to increase the actual resources of the Book Concern, or to add to its available funds, but simply to meet the extra expense incurred by furnishing publications on such terms as to enable our people to purchase books at their own establishment as cheap as they could be had elsewhere, without the hazard of being compelled to use books of which they could not approve. The following is the extract: —
“The managers of these societies, in conjunction with the agents of our General Book Concern, have resolved to make a joint effort for the efficient prosecution of our common objects. God has blessed us in all our borders, temporally and spiritually. A thousand times we have exclaimed, ‘What hath be wrought.’ And yet the fields are opening before us, and still whitening to the harvest. The vast extent and the immense improvements of our country; its rapid growth, both in population and resources; the great and steady increase of our own denomination as a body of Christians, and our consequent obligations as stewards of the manifold grace of Him whose we are and whom we serve, and who requires us to excel in good works; our own growing resources, which ought to be consecrated to the Author of our mercies; the wants of the millions, of every age and sex, who sit in darkness or in guilt, and who must increase with the rapidly and vastly increasing population, without increased efforts for their good; the zealous and highly liberal efforts of other denominations, and our own special call, as we have from the beginning believed to be the design of God in raising us up, to aid in spreading Scriptural holiness over these lands: — in a word, the cause of God and of our country, of the rising generation and of posterity, demand of us, at this crisis, an exertion bearing at least some ratio of proportion to our obligations and to our means.
“The present is an era in our history of unparalleled interest. In the great spiritual and moral objects avowedly contemplated by the benevolent institutions and the Christian movements of the day, we have repeatedly declared our cordial and entire concurrence. With regard to the means of accomplishing them, we have differed. For various reasons, repeatedly assigned, we have considered it our duty to decline the proposed ‘national’ combinations, which, in our view, threatened for a while to swallow up, and absolutely to annihilate, every other plan of operation in our country. Such a result we still believe would have been pregnant with hazard. This sentiment does not by any means necessarily imply an impeachment of the Christian motives of those who may have differed from us in judgment. Our resistance to the consolidation of denominations, in effect, has had, we believe, a happy influence. But does it free us from our responsibilities as stewards of the mysteries and of the mercies of God? Does it release us from our obligations to contribute our full share toward the great work of civilizing, moralizing, and Christianizing the world? It does not. On the contrary, it increases both, since, from the stand we have taken, it is peculiarly incumbent on us now to see to it that the great and common cause shall, at least, sustain no loss by our course. If we desire, indeed, to be ‘a peculiar people,’ ‘redeemed from all iniquity’ by the precious blood of HIM who, for this purpose, ‘gave himself for us,’ let us not forget that we cannot sustain this high character without being at the same time, and in a correspondent degree, ‘zealous of good works,’ for which also Christ died.
“The great object of the Methodist Book Concern, from the beginning, has been to serve as an auxiliary in spreading Scriptural truth and holiness. With this view it has been the medium through which our Sunday school books and tracts have been issued, and it is intended also to be the medium for the publication of our Bibles and Testaments. The well-known character and the established credit of this institution, under the direction of the General Conference, and, in the intermediate years, of the New York conference, is an ample guaranty for the faithful application of funds. Hitherto almost the whole business of our general benevolent associations has been performed through the agency of this concern, with the aid of its agents abroad. And whatever expenses, or risks, or losses have been incurred, either in the general depository, or by supplying the auxiliary depositories, were so extensive a country, have been wholly borne by this establishment. If it were practicable, as in ordinary cases, to establish the prices of such publications so as to cover all such expenses, and risks, and occasional losses, and to provide for such additional service as may be required, this might, perhaps, still be done. But the terms on which Sunday school books, tracts, Bibles, and Testaments are now expected will not admit of this; nor, in the prospect of the vastly increased demand, will it be possible for us, in this way, to maintain any thing like a fair and honorable competition with other institutions, which were originally endowed with large funds, and are still largely assisted both by regular annual contributions and by occasional donations; whose treasuries, nevertheless, we are assured, are still usually exhausted, and their calls for further aid are frequent and earnest. The consequence to us must be, either that the Methodist Book Concern, if left single handed and unaided, must be run down, and its great and benevolent objects be defeated, or our own publications, of the description mentioned, must be ‘forced out of circulation:’ to prevent which, if we mean to prevent it, ways and means must be devised to aid this establishment. It only remains for us, therefore, to determine whether we will aid our own institutions, or contribute our funds elsewhere. For give we must, somewhere; and continue to give, as God shall continue to bless us, and as occasions and objects continue to rise before us. Without this we cannot, we ought not to maintain our name or standing as a Christian people. Shall we, then, refuse to give at home, and suffer our own institutions to flag or fail; and, after all, from sheer shame, if from no better principle, be compelled to give elsewhere? We say, no.
“In view of the facts and premises above stated, the managers of the Bible, Sunday School, and Tract Societies of the Methodist Episcopal Church have resolved, jointly, to co-operate with the agents of the Book Concern, and their auxiliary agencies, to raise a fund to be vested in that concern, as a permanent and certain resource for the accomplishment of their common objects. And they have resolved to aim at a foundation broad and strong, in view not only of the wants immediately pressing on us, but also of those of which the vast prospect opens before us; and to erect a superstructure from which, with the divine favor, streams of blessing may flow to generations yet unborn.
For the buildings requisite for depositories, agents’ offices, printing office, bindery, and for the transaction of the general business of the three societies, and for stereotype plates, binders’ and printers’ presses, and all the requisite apparatus for printing and binding, on the scale contemplated, a sum not less than fifty thousand dollars will be requisite. For these objects a debt of nearly one fourth of that sum has already been incurred by the Book Concern, without any charge whatever for personal services And yet we can scarcely be said to have more than commenced in the operation of these Societies; and with regard to the Bible Society, hardly to have made a beginning, except in the preparation of a few sets of stereotype plates, in anticipation. To conduct our operations to the extent intended, and to which, with united exertion, we are amply adequate, much greater sums must yet be raised. It will doubtless be found necessary to introduce power presses, with other improvements, both to increase the rapidity of publishing, and to reduce the prices. In view of all which, after conferring together, in deliberate consultation, we are of opinion that it is not safe, for the purpose of enabling the three societies to make the necessary preparations, to name to our friends a less sum than that above mentioned. After these preparations shall have been made, it must be recollected, however, that considerable annual and current expenses still must necessarily be incurred, in the service necessary for preparing, packing, carting, and forwarding books and tracts, with the requisite clerkship, fuel, lights, insurance, ground rent, and postage, the latter item of which alone will probably increase to perhaps not less than from one thousand to fifteen hundred dollars per annum. All such expenses have heretofore been borne by the Book Concern, which, consequently, has been obliged to fix the prices of the publications so as, in a measure at least, to cover those expenses, or else to sustain heavy actual loss. With a view, therefore, still further to lessen the prices, by having respect, in fixing them, to the actual cost of paper, press-work, and binding only, on the most economical principles, it is judged indispensable that a fund be raised, and be vested in the Book Concern, the use or interest of which shall be permanently appropriated to cover the above or any other unavoidable items of current expense and in consideration of which investments, when made, the said concern has pledged itself to submit to the managers of the above societies respectively, in conjunction with the agents, the determination of the prices at which their respective publications shall be furnished, on the principles above stated. And on this plan only, in our opinion, can they be furnished at the very low rates at which they are called for, and must be supplied. The further sum necessary for these purposes, on the enlarged and extensive plan contemplated, cannot be safely estimated at less than fifty thousand dollars, the interest of which alone, namely, three thousand dollars per annum, it will be observed, is to be applied to cover the items of annual and contingent expenses above-mentioned, or which I may unavoidably occur in the course of business. In all of which, however, it may be proper to mention, that it is not intended that an addition of one cent shall be made, out of any of these funds, to the support already allowed, agreeably to Discipline, to the regular agents of the Book Concern; and that they are intended solely to cover the extra expenses incurred by the extra business of these societies, whose publications are issued in connection with that concern. It was with a view to the extra labor caused by such publications, in part, that an additional agent was appointed at the last General Conference; and as our operations shall be extended, further help, in various ways, will undoubtedly be found indispensably requisite.”
It will be perceived that this fund was to be vested in the Book Concern, and the interest alone used to meet the unavoidable expense of publishing the requisite books for the above-mentioned societies. And though it was in contemplation to raise one hundred thousand dollars, the fund, even now, (1841,) amounts to only about forty thousand. Comparatively small, however, as it is, it has done much good, and the Book Concern has been enabled to fulfill its obligations in supplying the books on as low terms as they could be purchased at other depositories. The dissolution of the Bible Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, by which the concern has been relieved from publishing Bibles and Testaments on those terms, will be noticed in its proper place.
Twelve deaths are recorded; fifty were located; seventy returned supernumerary; one hundred and one superannuated; and three had been expelled.
Among those who had died this year was Enoch George, one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The following is taken from the Minutes of the Conferences for 1829: —
“He was born in the state of Virginia, Lancaster county, in the year 1767 or ’68. His mother died when he was young, and he was left in the care of an elder sister. During his minority his father removed to the state of North Carolina. At about the age of eighteen or nineteen he became, through the instrumentality of the Methodist ministry, deeply convinced of sin, and sought and obtained the pardoning mercy of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. He was soon called to the exercise of public prayer and exhortation; and after fruitless struggles to suppress the impression of duty which increasingly rested upon his mind, with great diffidence he entered the field of labor as a preacher. He traveled a short time with Philip Cox, and was then sent, by Bishop Asbury, to assist Daniel Asbury in forming a circuit on the head waters of the Catawba and Broad Rivers.
“In 1790 he was received into the itinerant connection on trial, and appointed to Pamlico circuit; and in 1791 to Caswell. In 1792 he was admitted into full connection, ordained deacon, and appointed to Guilford circuit; and in 1793 to Broad River. In 1794 he was ordained elder, and appointed to Great Pee Dee. The next year he was appointed to Edisto, with instructions to labor three months in Charleston, South Carolina; and the two years following he filled the office of presiding elder.
In 1798, on account of ill health, be traveled to the north as far as New York. Having measurably recovered his health, in 1800 he resumed his labors, and was appointed presiding elder of Potomac district, in the Baltimore conference. His health failed a second time, and he located in 1801. In 1803 he again entered the itinerant field, and was appointed to Frederick circuit; in 1804 to Baltimore district; 1805, Alexandria district; 1807, Georgetown, D.C.; 1808, Frederick; 1809, Montgomery; 1810, Baltimore circuit; 1811, Potomac district; and in 1815 to Georgetown district.
“At the General Conference held in Baltimore, May, 1816, he was elected and ordained bishop. In the active discharge of the arduous duties of this highly responsible office he continued until his death. He died at Staunton, Va., August 23, 1828, in the peace and triumph of gospel faith, and with his latest breath giving ‘glory to God.’
Bishop George was a man of deep piety, of great simplicity of manners, a very pathetic, powerful, and successful preacher, greatly beloved in life, and very extensively lamented in death.”
A more minute and extended memoir of this servant of God may be seen in the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review for 1830.
That which distinguished Bishop George among his fellows was the warmth of his zeal, and the quickness of his movements. This no doubt arose from the depth of his piety. He seemed, indeed, to live and walk in God. This was evident from the uniformity of his devotions, as well as from his general deportment, both before the public and in his more private intercourse with his friends. He always lose early in the morning, and, if circumstances permitted, would spend the morning before breakfast in a solitary walk in the field, for meditation and private devotion; and in these lonely rambles he delighted in the contemplation of the Deity, as he is seen in his works and ways, and in holding communion with him in praise and prayer.
He was naturally eloquent, and his eloquence was all natural. He never sought to embellish his subjects with those artificial tinsels of pulpit oratory substituted by some for those overflowings of the heart which proceed from being filled and fired with the truth which the lips utter. Hence his “preaching was not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom,” but it was in “demonstration and power,” and “with much assurance in the Holy Ghost.” He was more distinguished, however, for affecting the heart and moving the passions, than for enlightening the understanding and informing the judgment. Whenever, therefore, you saw him begin to rub his eyes with his fingers, as if wiping thence the gushing tear, you might expect a pouring forth of those streams of gospel truth, generally of that declamatory or hortatory character, which were calculated to move the hearer to weep or shout, according to his predominant feeling. And he seldom concluded a sermon without greatly moving his audience in either of these ways, because he was first moved himself by those sacred and heavenly emotions which were evidently produced by the energetic workings of the Holy Spirit.
Viewing him, therefore, simply as an ambassador of God, sent peculiarly to awaken the conscience of the sinner, and to alarm or to strengthen the faith of the believer, and quicken him in the divine life, he was most eminently qualified for his great work. In addition to the holy pathos with which he breathed out the “words of truth and soberness,” his voice was exceedingly musical, shrill, and clear, his action natural, and expressive of the feelings of his heart, and all calculated to impress the hearer with the solemn truths which fell from his lips. If, however, we were to judge him by other tests of a pulpit orator, we should detect some defects. In education he was quite deficient, and his general reading was very limited. For this lack of acquired knowledge he might be considered as furnishing more than a substitute in the pointedness of his appeals, and the manner in which he fortified all his positions by direct appeals to the sacred Scriptures. And if he dealt in detached sentences instead of following a consecutive order and arrangement of argumentation, he was abundantly compensated in the blessed effects which he saw produced in the hearts of those who heard him, and knew how to appreciate the value of a sermon more from its unction than its argument. His premises were found, where every minister of Christ should find them, in the Bible; and his conclusions were thence drawn without much regard to logical arrangement, and certainly without any circumlocution, direct, and with a force it was hardly possible to resist. And from the earnestness of his manner, some have entirely mistaken his objects and motives. Beholding the emotions which were very generally produced in the pious part of his hearers, sometimes expressed in loud shouts of praise, those who were mere outward court worshipers, or uninterested hearers, have retired from the sanctuary under a conviction that Bishop George was acting the part of a mountebank, speaking for the purpose of gaining shouts of applause. A sad mistake this. He ascended the pulpit, not as a stage-player mounts the stage, but as an ambassador of Christ, commissioned to declare his counsel unto the people, and to negotiate a
“Peace ‘twixt earth and heaven.”
And in the fulfillment of this commission he did not trifle with the awful realities of time and eternity, but poured forth from a full heart the solemn truths of God, in a manner which penetrated the conscience and drew forth the confession, by sobs and shouts, that God was with him of a truth.
Such was Bishop George in the pulpit. In the chair of the conference he was less acceptable. Though he was always intent on accomplishing the greatest amount of good by the best possible means, he often defeated his purpose by the haste with which he endeavored to dispatch the business. His manner, also was sometimes abrupt and undignified, and of course did not always command that respect which every conscientious mind would wish to feel and pay to a superior. Nor were his decisions always made with that wisdom and deliberation needful to produce a conviction of their correctness in all cases. He appeared, therefore, to much greater advantage in the pulpit than its the chair of the conference; and had he lived and died simply as an itinerant Methodist preacher, he had commanded more respect than was felt for him as a general superintendent of the church. These defects, however, detract nothing from his moral worth, nor render him less worthy of affection as a Christian bishop, or as a man deeply and seriously devoted to the best interests of the human family; for who is perfect in every respect?
But in whatever light we view him, he will long be remembered with affection, as one of our early pioneers in the ranks of the itinerancy, as an indefatigable laborer in his Lord’s vineyard, who won many sinners to Christ, and was always a son of consolation to God’s believing people.
The warmth of his affections won him many friends, and the affability of his manners endeared him to them as a brother beloved, who might be approached at all times with a cheerful confidence.
His death was sudden and unexpected. Its announcement, therefore, spread a temporary gloom over the Methodist community. But death did not find him unprepared. He met this “last enemy,” not only with meek submission, but with a holy triumph, and a well-grounded hope of eternal life. As the words, “Glory to God!” had often fell from his lips in the pulpit, so in his last moments, in full view of the invisible world, he shouted forth the praises of God, and no doubt went to the abodes of bliss and immortality.
The following statement of the numbers will show that the work was generally prosperous.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 359,533; Last Year: 327,932; Increase: 31,601 — Colored This Year: 58,856; Last Year: 54,065; Increase: 4,791 — Indians This Year 4,501; Last Year 4,209; Increase: 292 — Total This Year: 418,927;11The total number in the printed Minutes is set down as being 421,156, which is, 2,229 more than it should be. See Methodist Magazine, and Minutes of Conferences for 1828. Last Year: 382,520 — Increase: 36,407 — Preachers This Year: 1,642; Last Year: 1,576; Increase: 66.
We have before alluded to a controversy which arose between us and some other denominations of Christians; and as it came to its height during this and the two following years, that the reader may have a clear and full understanding of its character and results, it is thought expedient to give a short account of it in this place. It has been before remarked, that for a long time after our establishment in this country, very little was done to enlighten the public mind from our press, except the republication of some of Wesley’s and Fletcher’s sermons, Checks, and tracts, and the biographies of a few eminent servants of God. But in 1818 the Methodist Magazine was resumed and in 1826 the Christian Advocate and Journal made its appearance. The extensive circulation of these two periodicals, and the publication of numerous tracts, of a doctrinal, experimental, and practical character, and the continual augmentation of books on a variety of subjects, together with the prosperous state of our missions in various parts of our country, seemed to awaken the attention of others, and to call forth strictures upon our doctrines and general economy, of such a character as called for defense on our part.
Another thing seemed to put us in somewhat of an awkward position before the public. The organization of a separate sabbath school for the Methodist Episcopal Church made it necessary to provide means to supply our schools with suitable books. This led to the preparation and publication of sabbath school books from our own press; but as Bibles and Testaments formed the principal basis of sabbath school instruction, and as the American Bible Society was an institution in which all denominations were supposed to have an equal interest, it was thought that we had a right to claim a share from that society, in Bibles and Testaments, for the use of our Sunday schools. We accordingly petitioned the “Young Men’s Bible Society” of the city of New York, which had been constituted for the express purpose of supplying sabbath schools gratuitously with the Holy Scriptures, and to which the Methodists, as well as others, contributed, for a supply of Bibles and Testaments for the use of our sabbath schools but our petition was rejected, merely because, as was stated by the secretary of that society, we were sectarians, and therefore came not within the legitimate range of their charities.
This rejection of our petition compelled us, either to suffer our schools to languish for want of suitable books, or to devise ways and means to supply them from our own resources; and hence a proposition for forming a separate Bible Society was submitted to the General Conference of 1828, and the conference recommended its organization in the city of New York. In conformity with this recommendation, the Bible Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church was formed, with the view of obtaining a supply of Bibles and Testaments for our sabbath schools, and for the poor members of our own congregations. This separate organization, together with the steps which led to it, provoked no little opposition from various quarters, particularly from writers in the Presbyterian and Congregational Churches, by whom our motives, being misunderstood, were misrepresented. These things tended to keep alive the spirit of controversy. And as religious newspapers were now very generally patronized by the several Christian denominations, and agents employed for the several societies now in operation were traveling extensively through the country, each one zealous for his own sect, many things were written and published in those periodicals, implicating our character, impugning our motives, denouncing our doctrines and usages, and calculated to bring our institutions into contempt.
As Dr. Adam Clarke’s Commentary had obtained an extensive circulation, and Wesley’s translation of the New Testament, accompanied with his notes, was also published and circulated by our Book Concern, an attempt was made by a writer in the west, and his efforts were seconded by several editors of the periodical press, to bring these two writers into disrepute, by endeavoring to prove that they had altered, with a view to sustain their peculiar tenets, the sacred text, and thereby corrupted the word of God. As this was a heavy charge, and, if sustained, must impeach their moral character and Christian integrity, it was considered no more than a sacred duty we owed to their characters, and to the Church which delighted to honor them, to rescue their memories from this undeserved reproach.
Indeed, we had reason to suspect that there was a combination among certain sects, if possible, to destroy our influence. This we inferred from the fact, that the presses under the control of Calvinistic editors, in different parts of the country, almost simultaneously uttered the same language against Methodism, without at all mitigating the severity of their censures by an acknowledgment of the good we had been instrumental in accomplishing. The Christian Spectator, a Quarterly Review conducted by an association of gentlemen connected with Yale College, in a “Review on the Economy of Methodism,” commenced a rude and unprovoked attack upon our doctrine, discipline, and general economy, which was copied into other papers, accompanied with remarks as hostile to our Church, as they were untrue and unkind. This systematical and simultaneous attack upon us as a church was conducted with unsparing severity, and led us to conclude that a war was commenced upon our economy, as unjustifiable as it might be injurious in its results. Indeed, it was by no means confined to argumentative assaults upon our doctrines and usages, but the character of our ministers was assailed, their motives impugned, and they were represented as even hostile to the civil institutions of the country, and also of exercising a lordly despotism over the consciences of our own people.
Let us, however, classify these objections, and notice the answers to them.
- Dr. Adam Clarke was accused of introducing into his Commentary unauthorized criticisms upon the original text.
To this it was answered, that he scrupulously followed, throughout, the present authorized version; and if at any time he dissented from it, he very modestly did it in his notes, assigning his reasons, and leaving every reader to judge for himself of the correctness of his opinions. But even allowing that he had altered the common English Version in some obscure places, with a view to render the text more intelligible, he did but follow the example of such men as Campbell, Houbigant, Macknight, and others, most of whom were Calvinistic commentators. This, therefore, was a groundless accusation, only calculated to raise the popular prejudice against Dr. Clarke, for the purpose of circumscribing his usefulness as a most able and pious commentator of the Holy Scriptures.
2. Wesley also was accused of mutilating the sacred text in such a glaring manner as to make “nonsense of some of the plainest texts in the Bible,” and several instances were adduced to sustain this heavy charge. And as this controversy may be revived at some future time, or may be referred to in an unfavorable point of light, I think it proper to insert here the answer to these objections to Mr. Wesley’s translation of the New Testament. It is as follows: — -
“The following texts are produced by the Religious Intelligencer, to show that Wesley ‘has made nonsense of some of the plainest texts in the Bible:’
COMMON VERSION: — But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
WESLEY’S ALTERATION: — But there are some of you who believe not. (For Jesus had known from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who would not betray him.)
COMMON VERSION: — For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel. were gathered together, for to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.
WESLEY’S ALTERATION: — For of a truth both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel before determined to be done.
COMMON VERSION: — For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and Our Lord Jesus Christ.
WESLEY’S ALTERATION: — For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old described before, with regard to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
COMMON VERSION: — And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
WESLEY’S ALTERATION: — And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part of the tree of life, and the holy city, which are written in this book.
COMMON VERSION: — But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; who Verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
WESLEY’S ALTERATION: — But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot; who verily was foreknown before the foundation of the world. but was made in the last times for you.
“Now whether Wesley’s translation be more in accordance with the original or not, we believe it is at least equally plain, and easy to be understood.
“In respect to the first cited text, the chief difference is in the last clause, ‘and who would not betray him,’ though even this is very far from making ‘nonsense.’ Having never noticed this variation before we saw it produced in the Charleston Observer, we were not a little surprised that it should exist. To ascertain whether Mr. Wesley so translated the passage — knowing that the original would not admit of it — we searched the different editions of his Testament, with notes, and the result is that it is a mere typographical error. In the English edition, printed in London in the year 1795, the negative particle (not) is not found. Neither is it found in the American edition, containing his notes, which was printed in the year 1812 — three years before the Testament which contains the error was printed.
“In regard to the second and following passages, we wonder not that our Calvinistic friends are offended at the version made by Mr. Wesley, for some of them strike at the root of the peculiarities of their creed. To be satisfied whether Wesley can be justified in his translation, it is necessary to examine the original Greek text.
“In the first mentioned text, ‘For of a truth both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and people of Israel, were gathered together against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel before determined to be done,’ although the difference is very considerable, we think Mr. Wesley is fully sustained by the original text. The Greek verb “poiasai” is in the infinitive mood, and therefore may agree with either Herod, Pontius Pilate, &c., or with the singular, thy holy child Jesus. Allowing this to be correct, it does not follow that the inspired penman meant to say that those wicked people were gathered together to do what the hand and counsel of God before determined should be done; but that it was ‘the holy child Jesus whom God had anointed to do’ what he had before the foundation of the world determined he should do, for the redemption and salvation of mankind.
“The whole context requires this interpretation, we will not say to prevent its speaking ‘nonsense,’ but from speaking blasphemy. According to the present rendering and the Calvinistic interpretation of the text, it is brought to prove that Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the people of Israel who clamored for the life of Christ, in all their wicked and blasphemous conduct, did nothing more than fulfill the eternal and unalterable counsel and will of God! The reader may now see the reason why our Calvinistic friends are so exceedingly displeased with John Wesley, merely because he has so rendered this text that we need not necessarily infer that all this evil conduct of the persecutors and murderers of Jesus Christ was according to the predetermination of God — although in doing so he has only followed the Greek text, by preserving the infinitive form of the verb “poiasai,” to do; — whereas had he done otherwise he might justly have been accused, as we shall presently see Beza may be, of corrupting the text. Although it does not appear from his comment on the passage that Wesley made the transposition from a conviction that it materially affected the sense, yet the zeal of his opposers seems to be kindled into a flame whenever such an interpretation is given, however fairly, which goes to question their favorite theory respecting God’s having determined, and as now influencing, men to all their sinful actions.
“We said that the context requires that the text should be so construed as to attribute the works which God had before determined should be done, to Jesus Christ, and not to Herod and his wicked associates. Those who ‘lifted up their voice’ on this occasion said, quoting from the second Psalm, ‘The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord.’ Now if those infatuated people were acting against the Lord, how could they at the same time be fulfilling his counsel and will? Do people fulfill the counsel of the Lord in acting against him? And must they be consigned to eternal burnings for thus acting? This would be a hard case indeed.
“Look also at the 29th and 30th verses, — ‘And now, Lord, behold their threatenings; and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, by stretching forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.’ The true state of the case appears to be this: God had ordained that when Jesus Christ should be manifested in the flesh, in addition to his dying for the sins of the world, ’signs and wonders should be done’ by him; that he should ’stretch forth his hand to heal’ the sick, to restore sight to the blind, raise the dead, &c; for this purpose he had been anointed, that he might do the things thus before determined in the eternal counsel should be done; and hence the apostles, after stating that Herod and his wicked associates had gathered together to oppose the Lord’s anointed, and to frustrate this gracious determination of God, pray that as their malevolent attempts had been so far defeated by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that even now ’signs and wonders’ may be done; that thus a full demonstration may be given to all that Jesus is the Christ, the true Messiah promised in the Old Testament.
“It is probably on account of the manifest absurdities involved in the contrary supposition, that led Episcopius and many other commentators to adopt a similar construction to that of Wesley’s. And to show that Wesley is by no means singular in his translation, we may observe that the French version of the New Testament, ‘printed from the London stereotype edition, and according to the edition of Paris for the year 1805, said to be ‘reviewed and compared with the Hebrew and Greek texts,’ and ‘printed under the inspection of the New York Bible Society, renders this text precisely as Wesley has done. The following is the translation
“‘Car en effet Herode et Ponce Pilate, avec les Gentils et le peuple d’Israel, se sont assembles contre ton saint Fils Jesus, que tu as oint, Pour faire toutes les choses que ta main et ton conseil avoient auparavant determine’ devoir etre faites.’ It will be perceived by those who understand the French, that the translators have transposed the sentences in the same manner that Wesley has done, preserved the infinitive form of the verb “ποιασαι,” by rendering it ‘pour faire,’ to do, and connected it closely with the nonn, ‘ton saint Fils Jesus,’ “thy holy on Jesus,” thereby allowing us to refer the works to be done to Jesus Christ, and not necessarily to his enemies who were gathered together against him.
“The Latin version of Montanus follows the common English version, and preserves the infinitive form of the verb, Facere quaecumque, “to do” whatsoever, &c.
“It is somewhat singular that Beza, to whom we referred in our former number as having been accused by the indefatigable Macknight of corrupting the sacred text to support his own contracted Calvinistic views, in the translation of the passage under consideration, has changed the form of the verb from the infinitive to the subjunctive plural, (facerent,) with a view to make it agree exclusively with Herod, Pontius Pilate, and the people of Israel!
“Beza also introduces a clause — which, to be sure, is not of much consequence, either way — into his version not found at all in the common Greek text, in hoc civitate, ‘in this city.’ The following is his translation of the two verses under consideration . —
“‘Coacti sunt enim in hac civitate vere adversus sanctum Filium tuum Jesum quem unxisti, Herodes et Pontius Pilatus cum Gentibus et populis Israelis, Ut facerent quaecumque manus tua et consilium tuum prius definierat ut fierent.’ By thus rendering the verb in the plural number, making it to agree only with a plural nominative, Beza’s translation amounts to a comment on the text, which, to those who understand no other language than the Latin, is a manifest deception. We grant, indeed, that the grammatical construction of the sentence, as the infinitive mood of the verb may agree with either a singular or plural noun, does not necessarily require our interpretation or the contrary, but leaves the reader to adopt that which from the context appears most agreeable to the analogy of faith; and this consideration makes the conduct of Beza the more censurable; it is the same as if any one on the opposite side should render the passage thus — Thy holy child Jesus, whom thou host anointed that he might do the things thy hand and counsel before determined should be done; — and although we believe this is the genuine sense, we are far from thinking ourselves warranted in taking such liberties with the sacred text. However Calvinistically inclined our English translators may have been, they did not feel themselves authorized to follow Beza’s translation, but have given a literal rendering of the verb “ποιασαι,” to do.
“Now could Wesley be convicted of such rashness as Beza was guilty of, his enemies might well triumph. But Beza was a Calvinist. and therefore, in the estimation of his followers, who approve of his translation, he may be considered guiltless. Perhaps they may think that, being of the elect, God did not ‘behold iniquity in’ him; but poor John Wesley, being an Arminian reprobate, must have his name blotted from the book of life! For what, think you, gentle reader? For altering the sacred Scriptures? No, surely. This he never did; but for abjuring Calvinism — for taking off the mask by which its modest friends had endeavored to conceal its haggard visage. This is his sin — the offense for which he is now so severely castigated.
“But whatever corrections Mr. Wesley may have introduced in his version, we are persuaded that they do not affect, in the smallest degree, any fundamental doctrine of Christianity. To this sentiment we think all will subscribe except those who believe that the distinctive feature of Calvinism, namely, unconditional predestination, comprehending unconditional election and reprobation, is a fundamental doctrine.
“And although some have affirmed, in the heat of controversy, that unless we believe that doctrine according to the Calvinistic interpretation, we cannot be in a state of grace, yet we can scarcely persuade ourselves that any one, in his calm and sober moments, I say that all who demur at receiving this doctrine, thus explained, must inevitably be condemned at last. If any should assume such a position, we should despair of reasoning with him with any hope of success.
“When we speak of fundamental doctrines, we mean those by which the Christian system is eminently distinguished from all other systems of religion; but more especially the fall and depravity of man; the redemption of the world by the atoning merits of Jesus Christ; the necessity of regeneration by the Holy Spirit; holiness of heart and life, and all those collateral truths which are connected with or necessarily accompany these doctrines. Now if any man will show us a single text in Wesley’s translation which invalidates, or in the smallest degree weakens any one of these essential truths of Jesus Christ, or strikes at his real Godhead, or at the unity in trinity of the Deity, we will in that particular abandon him as our leader; we will believe in that instance he was under a mistake, and that he deserves the severe criticisms and censures of his adversaries.
“Believing that we shall not be called upon to controvert this point with our polemical friends, we proceed to notice the other texts which have been produced to prove that Wesley has made ‘nonsense of some of the plainest texts of the Bible.’ The first in order is,
COMMON VERSION — For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
WESLEY’S TRANSLATION — For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were of old described before, with regard to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.
“Now we presume that the material words in Wesley’s translation to which our opponents in this controversy object, are, ‘of old described before,’ which Wesley has substituted for ‘of old ordained,’ in the common version; which is much nearer the original than the other.
The Greek text reads, “οι πυλαι προγεγραμμενοι,” the most literal translation of which would be, ‘of old before written;’ for the word “προγεγραμμενοι” is derived from “προ,” before, and “γραφο,” to write, or “γραμμα,” a letter or character of writing; though some have supposed that it means here, before proscribed, believing that the apostle meant to say that the ungodly characters he was about describing assimilated in their character and conduct to those ungodly persons who had long since, in the sacred writings, been proscribed and condemned. Whichever of these meanings may be put on the word here, it cannot be made to mean foreordained, as the word justly so translated has an entirely different meaning, and comes from a totally different root. The word which the lexicons and our translators have rendered foreordained, comes from “προοπιζω,” and this from “προ,” before, and “οπιζω,” to bound, limit, or decree, and hence the compound word signifies to limit, bound, or decree beforehand, or, as very properly translated in the sacred Scriptures, to foreordain, or before appoint.
“Macknight, whom we have before quoted, and who was a professed Calvinistic minister in the Church of Scotland, gives the following translation of this passage: ‘Who long ago have been before written.’ His comment upon the passage is thus: ‘Jude means that those wicked people had their punishment before written, that is, foretold in what is written concerning the Sodomites and rebellions Israelites, whose crimes were the same as theirs, and whose punishment was not only a proof of God’s resolution to punish sinners, but an example of the punishment which he will inflict on them. According to some, the words have an allusion to the ancient custom of writing laws on tables, which were hung up in public places, that the people might know the punishment annexed to breaking the laws.’
“To this rendering of Macknight the French version agrees: ‘Dont la condemnation est escrite depuis longtems,’ — whose condemnation has been written a long time since.
“The Latin version of Montanus, which usually accompanies Leusden’s Greek Testament, translates — ‘Olim praescripti in hoc judicium,’ the literal English of which is, “of old before written, or described,” which is a faithful translation of the Greek, and a justification of the version of Wesley.
“It is somewhat of a singular coincidence, that in this passage Wesley and Beza exactly agree in their translation; so that if Wesley has had his name blotted from the book of life for altering the sacred Scriptures in this place, he will be in the company of one of the leading champions of the Calvinistic forces. Beza translates, ‘prius jam olim descripti ad hanc damnationem,’ ‘before of old described to this damnation.’
“None of the versions, indeed, to which we have had access, except our English translation, have rendered the word in question ordained; and we may say with Dr. Adam Clarke, that it is as ridiculous as it is absurd to look into such words for a decree of eternal reprobation, &c., such a doctrine being as far from the apostle’s mind, as that of Him in whose name he wrote.’
“As to the text in Rev. xxii, 19, the only material deviation from the common version is, that Wesley translates, ‘his part of the tree of life,’ and the common version, the ‘book of life;’ and how this can affect the meaning at all we are at a loss to see, as the person who has not his part in the tree of life, will hardly have his name in the book of life. Wesley, however, is sustained by Griesbach, who gives the word “ξυλον,” tree, as the true reading, referring to the margin for the word “βιβλον,” as being according to the commonly received text. We trust, therefore, that neither justice nor candor requires Wesley to be condemned for this emendation, especially as it does not at all affect the sense, and is justified by so high an authority as Griesbach.
“The only remaining text to be examined is 1 Peter i, 20, where Wesley translates the word “προεγνωσμενου,” foreknown, instead of foreordained, as it is in the common version. On this we need not say much, as the merest tyro [beginner, novice] in the Greek language knows that this is the literal, grammatical meaning of the word; and that there is no more authority for rendering it foreordained, than there is for saying that because I know that this rendering of Mr. Wesley is accurate, I therefore decreed it; for the radix [origin] for the above word, “γινωσκω,” signifies to know, and can never be made to mean to ordain, or decree.
Is it not a little strange, that those Calvinists who contend that there is so slight a difference between foreknowledge and decree, that the one necessarily implies the other, should so vehemently reprimand Wesley for giving the literal translation of this word? If there be no difference between knowledge and decree, as they contend, how has Wesley altered the meaning of Scripture, even allowing that the original word here had been “προοριζω”, which it is not, by translating it foreknown?”
3. Not only were the characters of Wesley and Clarke thus ungenerously assailed, but the integrity of our ministry also was called in question. The Christian Spectator had said, “Nor can we here so much as begin to speak of the misrepresentations, and the many cunningly devised artifices, by which the doctrine and discipline of Methodism are so assiduously propagated.” This, indeed, was a grievous accusation. But how did they attempt its support? How! Why, by merely vague conjectures. It was wittingly surmised that we had immense funds at our command, by which our ministry was supported independently of the people; that even these funds were so dexterously managed that our own people themselves did not know; being kept in ignorance by our “cunningly devised artifices,” either their extent or application. This unfounded and cruel charge was met, refuted, and fully put down, by an appeal to facts. It was demonstrated that the funds of the Church — derived, as was alleged, from the Book Concern and Chartered Fund — so far from being immense, did not yield over three dollars a year to each claimant; and that those supernumerary and superannuated preachers, widows, their children and orphans, who were the legal claimants upon these funds, did not receive, including what they derived from the voluntary contributions of the people, over 25, 50, or seventy-five percent of that which was allowed them by the Discipline, which was one hundred dollars for such preacher or widow, and not over twenty-four dollars a year for each dependent child; and that, so far from concealing from the people either the amount of the revenues of the Church, or their application, the whole was annually published in the Minutes of our conferences.
This complete refutation of such a groundless charge seemed to silence our inconsiderate opponents, and to make their friends ashamed of their temerity in bringing it against us in so public a manner.
4. Another complaint was brought against the manner in which our Church property was held. It was alleged that it was deeded to the General Conference, and that therefore the people had neither a right in nor control over it. To this it was replied, that the statement was false in point of fact. Church property, instead of being secured to the conference, and therefore the property of the preachers, was held by trustees appointed by the people — where the laws of the states in which the property was located provided for that manner of their appointment, and in other places as the Discipline of the Church directs — in trust for the use of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in that place. This, it was justly contended, placed the legal right of the property where it should be, in the hands of the people, and not in the conference, as our accusers had asserted.
5. Our mode of Church government was represented, not only as unscriptural, but as being set up and vindicated in “contempt of Scripture authority.” This led to a Scriptural defense of our Church government, of our itinerancy, and general method of conducting our affairs; and finally to a comparison between Methodist Episcopacy and Presbyterianism and Congregationalism, as well as a defense of our entire economy.22Those who wish full information on this subject may consult the “Defense of our Fathers,” “Reviewer Reviewed,” and “Original Church of Christ.”
6. Another subject of controversy arose out of the representations of the state of things in the valley of the Mississippi. We have before noticed the origin of the society for the education of pious young men for the gospel ministry. Out of this arose the “American Home Missionary Society,” which was organized in 1826. This society was composed of members and friends of the Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and Congregational Churches, and as altogether a voluntary association; that is, it was not a church organization, not being recognized as the exclusive property of any particular denomination, nor under the control of its church judicatories. And as the missionaries who were in the employ of this society were taken from either or all of the above-mentioned denominations, they were instructed to form churches according to the principles of either the Presbyterian or Congregational plan of church government, as might best suit the people; and to give greater efficiency to their labors, and a wider range to their operations, a “Plan of Union” was formed between these two denominations, so as to admit commissioners into the General Assembly from those churches which might be established on Congregational principles.
Comprehending these three large denominations in this society, under the name of American Home Missionary Society, its patrons gave it the name of a national institution, as though in it were represented the Christianity of America. To this assumption of a national society, we of course, entered our protest because it was calculated to mislead the public mind, especially in foreign countries. To say nothing of the Baptists, who were more numerous than either of the above denominations, the Protestant Episcopalians, the Lutherans, and numerous other sects, all of whom were exerting less or more influence in favor of Christianity, the Methodists were more numerous than either. It seemed, therefore, unjust to select a single society, made up of those three denominations, which represented not one fourth of the Christians in the United States, and call it a national society, thereby accounting all the others as nothing.
We had other objections. This society, by assuming a national character, was contrary to the genius of American institutions, which acknowledged no national religion. It seemed, therefore, like an effort to force public opinion to recognize the existence of a national church, in direct opposition to the declared intention of all our civil institutions.
This assumption of a national society, together with the avowed intentions of some of the reports of the American Sabbath School Union, respecting the circulation of their books, and the influence which it might have upon our state and general elections, excited an alarm in some minds, lest comprehensive plans were forming to secure the patronage of the state for the support of those denominations which were committed for the support of this society. And though this might have been a groundless alarm. it tended to awaken attention to the subject, and led other denominations to look about them, and watch over the welfare of their own institutions. And it is somewhat remarkable, that the very measures which were taken by this society to combine so many discordant materials in the range of their operations, and to make an impression abroad of the nationality of its character, should have led eventually to the dissolution of the union of the Presbyterian Church; for there can be no doubt that the Plan of Union,” by which that church permitted Congregational principles to become incorporated into their judicatories, was the entering wedge which finally split that church asunder; so that the means adopted to make themselves great, and to impress upon the minds of others that they represented the religion of the nation, were the very means of lessening their number and influence, and of creating one other instead of combining three into one sect.
But the means used by those missionaries who were sent out by this society to enlist the sympathies of the church and the public mind in favor of their vast project gave great and very just offense. At the time of the organization of this society, a periodical was commenced, under its immediate patronage and control, called the “Home Missionary and Pastor’s Journal,” in which the reports of these missionaries were, from time to time, published. These reporters very often gave such a description of the moral wastes and religious destitution of the countries where they traveled, as was truly alarming to the real friends of the country and of Christianity. On examination, it was found that many of those places which were thus represented as entirely destitute of the gospel, had been regularly supplied for years by our ministry, and that there existed in them large and flourishing societies. The fact was, that our ministers had penetrated every part of that country, had kept pace with the progress of the new settlements, had gone to the Indian tribes, hundreds of whom had been converted to the Christian faith, and had carried the glad tidings of salvation to the black population of the south and southwest, entering every open door, and preaching the gospel to all to whom they could have access. Yet these were represented as being totally destitute of the gospel and of Christian ordinances. These things were thought to be unjust and unchristian, as well as unwise and impolitic. We therefore considered it a duty which we owed to ourselves to expose them, and to enter our protest against them. This was done, principally, through the columns of the Christian Advocate and Journal, both by the editors, and those correspondents who were on the spot, and who therefore spoke from what they had seen and felt. And so palpable were the facts, that few undertook to justify the proceedings of these missionaries. Indeed, their own friends became convinced of the impolicy of such statements, and advised them to refrain; and hence, instead of saying that there were no ministers, they afterward reported that there were no Presbyterian ministers in such and such a place. To this manner of reporting there could be no objections.
The following extract from the Christian Advocate and Journal for this year will show how these objections were met and refuted: —
“Every year, from the time that Schemerhorn and Mills made their missionary tour to the west and south, and published their famous journal of observation, the thrilling note of complaint has been heard echoing from one end of the continent to another, about the paucity of ‘educated ministers,’ ‘competent ministers,’ &c., and the people have been called upon in no ordinary strains of mournful eloquence to exert themselves to replenish the funds of education societies, that the number of these ministers might be speedily increased; that the nation, to adopt the language of the Rev. Dr. Beecher, might ‘arise and save itself by its own energies.’ To keep up the stimulus thus excited, — to continue the language of the last cited author, — ‘the trumpet must sound long and press must groan,’ and utter in the ears of our countrymen the story of their miseries, or the ‘nation is undone.’ And from the time this note of alarm was sounded by Dr. Beecher, it has continued rolling through our country, until the doleful ditty of the ‘moral desolations of the vast valley of the Mississippi’ has reverberated from hill to valley, with a sickening repetition. Yes, this fertile numerous, valley, where, besides the Baptists, who are the Protestant Episcopalians, and other denominations, we have no less than seven annual conferences, composed, according to the Minutes for 1829, of 516 traveling preachers, and probably more than twice that number of local preachers, and 128,316 church members, has been, and is still, represented as being in such a fearful state, that unless mighty exertions are made to replenish the funds of the national societies, it is apprehended that such a swelling tide of immorality will flow back, and cross the Alleghenies, as to sweep away pure religion from the Atlantic states and every succeeding year, from that time to this, our ears are stunned with the deafening cry, ‘The treasury is empty!’ ‘the committee are in advance’ for so many hundreds or thousands of dollars. To add energy to this voice of distress, all other ministers are deposed as ‘incompetent,’ ‘uneducated,’ ‘inefficient.’ To say nothing respecting the truth or falsity of these statements, we would ask whether it is becoming in gentlemen who utter this doleful cry of distress, with a view to replenish their exhausted treasuries, while it would seem that their funds are already so great that some think that the people ought to be warned against lavishing any more into their hands, to accuse us of accumulating funds dangerous to the state?”
It is by no means intended to say that there was no call for additional laborers either here or elsewhere. No doubt there were many moral wastes, both in the west and in the east, in the populous cities, in the villages, and country places, which needed the reforming influence of the gospel, and more active laborers to effect it. We could therefore have no objection to an increase of zealous and holy ministers. Our objections were to the unwillingness manifested to acknowledge the gospel character and labors of others, and to recognize the good which had been most evidently effected by them, and particularly by the self-denying exertions of our ministry in the western country. Indeed, in many of these reports there seemed to be a desire manifested to depreciate those who had long since planted the gospel in those very places now represented as destitute, and where our preachers had labored with great success, amid hardships and privations to which few were willing to submit; and these things are here recorded, that those who shall come after us may know to whom they are indebted for the first promulgation of the gospel in our western wilds.
It is believed that this discussion did good. At any rate, it tended to enlighten the public mind on these subjects, to make our doctrines, usages, labors, and success, more generally known and more justly appreciated, and thus strengthened the hands and cheered the hearts of the members and friends of our Church. It tended likewise to convince our opponents, that if they presumed to misrepresent or to slander us, we had the means of self-defense, and an ability and disposition to use them; and that when the facts were clearly stated, our doctrines and manner of propagating them fully explained, we should not be considered such dangerous heresiarchs as we had been represented to be. We are glad know, however, that these days of strife are past, and that a more friendly and amicable spirit prevails. We hope, therefore, that hereafter we may mutually strive only to provoke one another to love and good works.”
Another subject was agitated about this time which gave no little uneasiness, and occasioned much discussion. I allude to the Temperance reformation. The American Temperance Society had commenced its powerful operations in 1826, and was now doing much good to the souls and bodies of men both in and out of’ the churches. A proposition had been submitted to us to unite with that society, and on such terms as we did not think it expedient to accept. It was proposed to raise a permanent fund of twenty thousand dollars for the support of an agent or agents, who should be exclusively devoted to the temperance cause. To this it was objected, because it was thought that a permanent fund was unnecessary for the success of the enterprise, as the money needed to carry it forward might be better raised as it should be wanted. It was moreover urged that we had always been a temperance society, having made abstinence from intoxicating liquors as a beverage a term of church communion and therefore to come into the measures of the American Society would be a virtual acknowledgment that we, as a church, needed such a reformation.
This occasioned no little discussion, and gave rise to some heart-burnings on both sides of the question. By some, whose zeal was not always tempered with knowledge, it was contended that, because we did not unite in the society, and co-operate with it in all its plans and movements, we were opposed to the cause of temperance itself, and therefore stood in the way of its success. To this it was replied, that being already the friends and advocates of temperance, having, as a church, recognized the practice of total abstinence from intoxicating liquors as a common drink, it was unjust to accuse us of a want of friendship for the men engaged in this enterprise of benevolence, or of zeal in promoting their objects.
This was the true state of the controversy; but the manner in which it was conducted elicited facts and brought forth light which had been dormant, or had not been perceived for though it had been made it a term of church communion by one of our general rules, it was found, on a closer inspection, that the rule itself had been softened down, and that in many instances even this had been suffered to remain as a dead letter. In consequence of these things, it was clearly discovered that members of our own Church were in the daily habit using intoxicating liquors, and that the Discipline, at best, had been but partially enforced. This discovery led to important results. For though our opinion remained unchanged respecting the inexpediency of some of the measures of the American Temperance Society, particularly as regarded raising a permanent fund, yet the necessity of the reformation, even in our own Church, notwithstanding our prohibitory rule, became very apparent. Hence temperance societies were formed, and our preachers and people very generally fell in with the temperance measures, greatly to the edification and benefit of the Church, and to the cause of God generally.
In noticing this subject, I am very desirous of correcting an error respecting the course taken by the official organ of the Church, the Christian Advocate and Journal, then under the editorial control of the writer of this History. It was alleged frequently, and is sometimes even repeated now, that the paper opposed the cause of temperance. This was and is a sad mistake. It never, intentionally at least, opposed either the principles or practice of temperance. It did oppose some of the measures of the American Temperance Society, and advised our brethren and friends not to contribute their money to raise the contemplated fund; but its opposition was directed chiefly to the misrepresentations which were made of our real position, namely, that we were enemies to temperance, merely because we pleaded that our Church had favored the principles and practice of temperance from the beginning, and therefore had no motive to join the American Society.
This is the ground we took. And though afterward convinced we were in error in supposing that the strict principles of temperance were generally exemplified in practice by all the members of our Church, and therefore lent our aid to exterminate the evil from among us, yet we remain unchanged in our views respecting the impolicy of some of the measures of the American Temperance Society, while we hail with delight the onward march of the temperance reformation. And if any of our sayings or measures were construed into opposition to this reformation at the time, through misapprehension or otherwise, we think sufficient has been said and done since to convince all candid and unbiased minds of the rectitude and consistency of our course; and I here record my most solemn conviction that the temperance cause should be ranked among the most benevolent and efficient means now in use for the benefit of mankind. And this is recorded with the more pleasure from the fact that John Wesley was the first in modern days to proclaim a war of extermination upon the use of all intoxicating liquors, “except in cases of extreme necessity.”
The Oneida mission was commenced this year. This tribe of Indians were settled on an Indian reservation in the western part of the state of New York. They had been partially civilized, and some of them were cultivators of the soil, and had adopted the habits of civilized life. Though the Protestant Episcopalians had had a mission among them for several years, they were in a deplorable state as to religion and morals. Like most of the semi-civilized barbarians who skirted our states and territories, they were deeply debased by habits of intoxication, and all those degrading vices, which connect themselves with a course of intemperance. By these means, instead of being in a thriving condition, they were diminishing in numbers, and deteriorating in property and morals.
In this state they were when visited by a young man of the Mohawks, of Upper Canada. This man had been converted in the revival which had taken place among that tribe of Indians, and was now impelled by his thirst for the salvation of others to make known the way of peace and reconciliation to these people. Being able to speak to them of the things of God in their own language, and from his own experience, they received the tidings with penitent and believing hearts, and a work of reformation commenced among them, which eventuated in the conversion of upward of one hundred. A school was also established for the education of the children, and those adult Indians who were desirous of learning. This good work has steadily gone on to this day, and a number of the converted Indians have emigrated to Green Bay, who became the nucleus of a flourishing society in that place.
Through the example and teachings of these people, the Onondagas, a neighboring tribe, received the gospel, and twenty-four of them were converted to God and brought into church fellowship.
Several other missions were commenced this year in the new and destitute settlements in our western regions. St. Joseph’s mission embraced a tract of country on the St. Joseph’s river, which flows into Lake Michigan in Berrien county, Michigan. Among these new settlers the missionary found his way, and conveyed to them the glad tidings of salvation, and was instrumental in establishing several societies, which have continued to increase and flourish to this day.
In the frontier settlements of the states of Indiana and Illinois, on the waters of the Fox river, between that river and the lake Winnebago, the Rev. Jesse Walker, one of our old and experienced preachers, was sent as a missionary. Into this new and thinly settled country he penetrated, and succeeded in establishing several societies, and opening the way for the continued preaching of the gospel in that new country.
The country on the head waters of the Wabash was fast filling up with inhabitants from the older states, and therefore greatly needed the gospel. Hence a mission was commenced this year for the benefit of these people; and the missionary, the Rev. S. R. Beggs, so far succeeded, that through his and the labors of his successors, in 1831 there were returned one hundred and forty-six Church members.
Galena mission was begun this year. This was in the state of Illinois, on the banks of Fever or Bean river, upward of four hundred miles above St. Louis. Though Galena has since become a considerable town and a seat of justice, in the midst of the rich lead mines in that region, yet, at the time of which we now speak, it was but thinly settled, and its resources were just beginning to be known and appreciated. Though the people were generally so taken up in their speculating concerns — the mines presenting a fascinating temptation for obtaining wealth — as to manifest much indifference for religious things, yet a few were brought to the knowledge of the truth, and the cause has continued to advance steadily from that day to this.
Another mission, called Providence, was opened this year in the new settlements on both banks of the Mississippi river, from Vicksburgh to Lake Washington, and the adjacent settlement along the bayous and little lakes. The nature of the country and the condition of the settlers were such as to require great labor and many privations to carry the gospel to them. The self-denying exertions of God’s servants, however, were owned and blessed, so that in 1832 there were returned on the Minutes one hundred and sixty-six members, sixty-seven of whom were colored, and the good work has prospered from that time onward.
We have already noticed the exertions that were making in behalf of seamen, and particularly the establishment of the Mariners’ Church in the city of New York. The example thus set excited benevolent Christians to adopt similar plans in other places for the melioration and salvation of this class of our fellow-citizens. Accordingly, about this time, the “Boston Port Society” was organized, and the Rev. Edward T. Taylor — who, before his conversion to God, had followed the seas — a member of the New England conference, was employed to preach to seamen, in the city of Boston. He commenced his labors this year, under the parsonage of this society, in the old Methodist meeting-house, the first built in Boston, and which was afterward purchased for the special use of seamen. Having been accustomed to the sea-faring life, and now thirsting for the salvation of seamen, Mr. Taylor was able to sympathize with them in a very peculiar manner, and to preach to them with energy and effect. And such has been the success of his labors, that a large and commodious house of worship has been erected, in which the word of God is preached to these sons of the ocean, a sailors’ boarding-house established, on both of which floats the Bethel flag; — a clothing store and a school for the education of seamen’s daughters, have also been opened, as most useful appendages to this institution of benevolence. A ladies’ society has been organized for the purpose of aiding in this good work, by furnishing employment to the poorer class of females, wives and widows of seamen, and the garments thus made are deposited in the store, sold to those who are able to pay for them, or given away to such as are most indigent.
This, altogether, is a noble charity; and the wealthy merchants of Boston know how to appreciate its worth. The manifest improvement, through the agency of the gospel, in the lives and general deportment of the seamen who attend the Bethel meeting, convinces all of the beneficial influence of the institution, and has prompted some individuals to give largely of their wealth for its support.
The spiritual interests of the congregation, and we may say its temporal interests too, are mainly intrusted to Mr. Taylor, and he has the satisfaction to see his house well filled, from sabbath to sabbath, with attentive hearers, who receive the word with joy; and the serious part of his hearers, as well as the sailors generally, look up to him with the utmost affection and confidence. In addition to administering to them the word and ordinances — for the ordinances of the Church are regularly attended to — Mr. Taylor is in the habit of visiting the ships in the harbor, and especially on their arrival, or on the eve of their departure on a voyage to a foreign port; of praying with them, and furnishing them with Bibles and tracts, and giving them words of admonition and encouragement. His congregation is indeed a floating one; and thus., while their pastor is stationary, they are the means of carrying the word of God to every port, and of exhibiting the blessed effects of experimental religion wherever their lot may be cast.
The sailors’ boarding-house connected with the establishment is of great use, as it is kept on strictly religious and temperance principles, and is designed as a refuge for them, while on land, from the temptations to those vicious indulgences so common to this class of men, as well as from the rapacious grasp of those who delight in cheating them out of their hard earnings when they come on shore. These “land sharks,” as they have been not unaptly called, are ever ready to open their jaws whenever a ship arrives, that they may readily and remorselessly devour the earnings of the unsuspecting sailor, by presenting to him the intoxicating cup, and enticing him to haunts of gambling and licentiousness.
That these exertions in favor of seamen have done and are still doing much good, is evident to all who are acquainted with the extent and influence of their operations. Instances of most powerful conversions, both on the land and on the water, have been recorded, and since the temperance reformation has been pushed forward with so much energy and success, many merchants have banished the use of inebriating liquors from their ships, greatly to their own advantage, and to that of those who manage their affairs. By these means the word of God and religious tracts have been substituted for the gambling table and the sailor’s grog, and the voice of prayer and thanksgiving has been heard instead of the voice of profane mirth and revelry, on board many of our merchant ships. And in some sense many of our seamen have become missionaries, by carrying the glad tidings of the gospel into the ports they have visited, thus teaching foreign nations that our God and his Christ are acknowledged and worshipped even by the hardy sons of the ocean. These floating Bethels, have therefore become, to some extent, itinerant ministers to foreign countries; and if the good work shall spread, as it may and will if suitable means are used, our sailors will become the connecting links between the several missionary stations in the different parts of the globe.
About this time the general work was much aided by means of what were first called “four days’ meetings,” and have since been known as “protracted meetings,” because they were appointed to be held at first for four days, and afterward for an indefinite length of time, to be determined by the probabilities of effecting good to the souls of the people. Such meetings, to be sure, were not new among us. We have before recorded several instances, in seasons of great revivals, when meetings of this character were held from three to sixteen days, while the camp meetings were always continued from four to eight days in succession. But at this time they were introduced in a more formal manner, and instead of inviting people from abroad, they were held from one neighborhood to another, with a view to awaken a more general and individual attention to the concerns of eternity.
They were commenced by the Rev. John Lord, of the New England conference, in the month of September, in the year 1827; and such were their good effects, that they soon spread through the country, even among other denominations, particularly the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists. They are generally conducted in the following manner: — Meetings are held morning, afternoon, and evening, opened with a sermon, and closed with a prayer meeting, during which penitent sinners are invited to come to the altar, to receive the benefit of prayer and exhortation; and they are continued from three to ten, and even twenty days, according to the nature and strength of religious excitement which may be produced; though generally, when they are lengthened out beyond four days, the exercises are confined chiefly to the afternoon and evening. These meetings, in some places, have nearly superseded camp meetings, and probably will, if continued, in many other places. That in some instances they have run into excesses, is no more than what might be expected, constituted as human nature is; but this is no more an argument against their continuance, than it would be to infer that any other good thing should be laid aside because of its abuse. As a means of awakening sinners to a sense of their sinfulness, and leading them to Jesus Christ for life and salvation, they have been abundantly blessed and owned of God, and should therefore be kept up so long as they are productive of these results.
Forty-two preachers received a location, sixty-seven were returned supernumerary, and one hundred and twenty superannuated; seventeen had died, three had withdrawn, and four had been expelled.
Among those who had died this year, all of whom departed in peace, we may notice particularly Samuel Doughty, of the Philadelphia conference, who died in the thirty-fifth year of his age and the fifth of his itinerant ministry. Though young in the work of the ministry, he had established a character which, had it pleased God to lengthen out his life, would doubtless have shone forth with a peculiar brightness before the Church and the world. The following testimony to his worth is taken from the account of his death in the Minutes for this year: —
“Brother Doughty, as a preacher, was popular and useful. His discourses were frequently truly eloquent; and had his voice been equal to his other qualifications as a speaker, he would have attained much greater eminence. His literary and theological acquirements were highly respectable, of which his sermons in the Methodist Magazine, particularly that entitled ‘Instability in religion,’ afford satisfactory evidence.
“His zeal for the glory of God and the welfare of men appeared in the interest which he took in the success of benevolent institutions. He was their eloquent advocate, and was particularly active in the promotion of Sunday schools, both before and after he became a minister of the gospel. Just previous to his death he was engaged, with others, in organizing and bringing into operation a Conference Sunday School Union, auxiliary to the Sunday School Union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which auxiliary he was corresponding secretary. In September, 1825, he was invited to assist in certain religious exercises at the enlargement of the church edifice in Wilmington, Delaware, and was there seized with the illness which terminated his life and labors on the seventeenth of that month, at the house of the Rev. Solomon Higgins. He died in great peace, rejoicing that death, to him, ‘had no terrors.’ He was highly respected and beloved, and the tribute of affection paid to his memory by the numerous and weeping members of his charge, who followed him to his grave, was gratifying to his brethren and to his surviving relatives.”
To those who knew him it is not necessary to add any thing more. Yet, having had the pleasure of his acquaintance, I cannot forbear saying that there always appeared in him a meekness of spirit and gentleness of deportment highly becoming the Christian minister, and which commended him to the affection and confidence of his brethren and friends. Though he possessed more than ordinary endowments as a preacher, and could convey his thoughts with a most graceful and easy elocution, yet he seemed unconscious of any superiority over others, and always put himself in the attitude of an humble learner, looking up to his seniors with diffidence, and to God by faith and prayer. He was therefore much beloved by his brethren, and hailed by the Church as a messenger of good tidings, and a willing and useful pastor to the flock of Jesus Christ.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 382,679; Last Year: 359,533; Increase: 23,146 — Colored This Year: 62,814; Last Year: 58,856; Increase: 3,958 — Indians This Year: 2,250; Last Year: 538; Increase: 1,712 — Total This Year: 447,743; Last Year: 418,927 — Increase: 28,816 — Preachers This Year: 1,817; Last Year: 1,642; Increase: 175.
The reformation which had been effected among the aborigines of our country seemed to awaken a most lively interest in their behalf throughout every department of the Church, and no less so among those of the natives themselves who had been truly converted to the Christian faith. For these converts were not merely nominal believers in Christianity. They had felt its renovating and transforming power upon their hearts, and this had produced a correspondent change in their habits, civil, domestic, and religious. By this means they presented in their own lives a living, palpable, and irrefutable evidence to all who beheld them, that the gospel of Jesus Christ is even now the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. These, therefore, were living epistles, written, not with pen and ink, but by the finger of the living God, and sent unto the other tribes that they might read with their own eyes of the wonderful works of Almighty God, and be convinced that Christianity is “not a cunningly devised fable,” but that it is still “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Acting under the sacred impulse thus produced, an effort was made this year to introduce the gospel among the Shawnee and Kansas Indians, and the Rev. Thomas Johnson was sent to the former, and the Rev. William Johnson to the latter tribe. These Indians inhabited the western part of the state of Missouri, and the missions were therefore undertaken by the Missouri conference. The Shawnees, especially, were found to be of a docile and tractable disposition, had commenced the cultivation of the soil, and manifested a great desire to be taught in religion, in literature, and the arts of civil and domestic life. Though the missionaries met with much difficulty, at first, for want of a qualified interpreter, yet a school was soon established for the education of the children, and a house erected for the accommodation of the mission. The commencement was small, and the progress slow, but success has attended the labors of God’s servants, and the mission has continued to flourish and enlarge its dimensions to this day. Many, indeed, have been raised up among these natives of the forests, who are now ornaments to their profession, bringing forth the fruits of righteousness to the glory of God.
This year also several missions were commenced for the special benefit of the slave population in the states of South Carolina and Georgia. This class of people had been favored with the labors of the Methodist ministry from the beginning of its labors in this country, and there were at this time 62,814 of the colored population in the several states and territories in our Church fellowship, most of whom were slaves. It was found, however, on a closer inspection into their condition, that there were many who could not be reached by the ordinary means, and therefore preachers were selected who might devote themselves exclusively to their service. A catechism was prepared for their use, in which they might be taught the leading doctrines and duties of Christianity, and many of these slaves have been brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This year a mission was begun on the island of New York, called the Harlem mission. This embraced a population in the neighborhood of the city, many of whom were but transient residents, and generally destitute of the means of grace. It has been continued on the list of missions to the present time, always yielding, however, a partial support to the missionaries. In the bounds of the mission four houses of worship have been erected, and a good foundation is thus laid for the future salvation of the people who may inhabit that part of our city and its environs.
Some of the old towns on the eastern banks of the Connecticut river were as yet unvisited by our ministry, and this year a mission was undertaken for their benefit. It was so far blessed that it soon became adequate to its own support, and has since remained among our regular circuits.
In the northwestern parts of the state of Missouri, on the several branches of the Sak river, Gasconade, and southern waters of the Osage river, there were extensive tracts of country, fast filling up with emigrants from the older states and territories. These people were “as sheep without a shepherd,” and therefore needed the gospel to bring them into the fold of Jesus Christ. Accordingly there were three missions commenced this year, namely, the Salt River, the Gasconade, and the West Prairie, for the benefit of these people. Notwithstanding the hardships and privations the missionaries had to endure in traversing this new country, they succeeded in raising up several societies and establishing regular circuits, which have continued to flourish to the present time, and are now aiding to send the gospel to other and more destitute place.
The Iroquois and Jonesborough missions, in the bounds of the Illinois conference, were likewise commenced this year. The former included the tribe of Kickapoo Indians, the condition of whom was somewhat singular. It seems that a prophet had risen up among them, who acknowledged the true God, and was zealously engaged in instructing his people in religious things. Whether he had acquired his knowledge of God by intercourse either directly or indirectly with the white people, or had been conducted along by the secret whispers of that “Spirit which giveth understanding to man,” it appears that, though mixed with many errors and superstitions, he had made considerable progress in divine things, and was piously engaged in his exertions for the temporal and spiritual benefit of his people. He was not averse to hearing the truths of the gospel, though it was some time before he fully gave up his peculiar notions, and came heartily to embrace Christianity in its fulness and power
The Jonesborough mission, which embraced a new country about one hundred and fifty miles from Vandalia, the capital of the state, was prosecuted with such success that it returned the next year two hundred and sixty-four Church members, and has since been numbered among the regular circuits.
Eleven preachers had died during the past year, and sixty-one had located; sixty-seven were returned supernumerary, and one hundred and twenty-two superannuated; four had been expelled, and four had withdrawn.
Among those who had taken their departure in peace was Henry Holmes, of the Virginia conference who died on the 27th of July, 1829, in the forty fourth year of his age, and the eighteenth of his itinerant ministry. The record of his death awards to him an eminent standing among his brethren in the ministry, as a man of deep piety, of unquestionable integrity and with rare qualifications as a minister of the sanctuary. In 1823 he was appointed to the office of presiding elder, which office he continued to fill with becoming dignity and great usefulness until he finished his work. He has therefore left a name behind him which will be remembered in connection with the progress of Methodism in that part of Virginia with pious gratitude by the people who were blessed under his ministrations. Though his death was sudden, it did not find him unprepared, for he met it with pious resignation and a joyful hope of future blessedness.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 402,561; Last Year: 382,679; Increase: 19,882 — Colored This Year: 69,383; Last Year: 62,814; Increase: 6,569 — Indians This Year: 4,209; Last Year: 2,250; Increase: 1,959 — Total This Year: 476,153; Last Year: 447,743 — Increase: 28,410 — Preachers This Year: 1900; Last Year: 1817; Increase: 83.
In consequence of the action of the General Conference of 1828, by which it was mutually agreed, that if the Canada brethren saw fit, they might form an independent conference in Upper Canada, of which they had availed themselves, the members belonging to the Church in that province are not included in the above enumeration. Had these been added, the actual increase would have been 37,935. This shows that, notwithstanding the secessions of the “Reformers,” so called, and the agitations which followed, the labors of our ministry were still sanctioned by the Head of the Church. Indeed, greater peace and harmony pervaded the ranks of our Israel than had been realized for many previous years, all being convinced that bold experimenters were not the most infallible leaders.
From the movements already alluded to in Upper Canada, the Indian missions in that province, including no less than ten stations, and 1,850 adult Indians under religious instruction, most of whom were members of the Church, were taken from our superintendence and put under the care of the Wesleyan conference in England. These missions, which had become endeared to us by such associations as could not be easily dissolved, and for the benefit of which we had expended so much labor and money, still clung to our affections and could not therefore be surrendered, even in the amicable manner in which the arrangement for their future supply was made, without feelings of regret. Knowing, however, that they would be provided for by our brethren in England with the same assiduous care with which they had been from the beginning, we withdrew our pastoral oversight with the less sorrow, still praying almighty God to bless and prosper them.
Hitherto our Indian missions in the United States and territories had been attended with unparalleled success. About this time, however, the action of the general government of the United States on the Indian settlements began to exert an injurious influence upon some of these missions, and even to threaten them with destruction. In 1821 the Rev. Dr. Morse made an extensive tour of observation among the western tribes of Indians, under the patronage of the general government; and, in his published report, gave it as the result of his observations, that, could an amicable arrangement be made between the government and the aboriginal tribes, for their removal west of the Mississippi, where they could live under the protection of the United States, and be taught the arts of agriculture and domestic life, it would be mutually beneficial. This opinion, which seems to have been adopted by the government, and by the leading men of the nation, was manifestly founded on the presumption that the Indians, while they remain under their own laws and usages, cannot flourish in the vicinity of the white population, nor yet so amalgamate with the whites as to become identified with them. And does not the painful history of these people fully justify this opinion? From the first settlement of the country until now, notwithstanding all the efforts which have been made by philanthropists and Christians to civilize and Christianize these people, they have gradually receded on the advance of civilized society, or melted away and become extinct. Why is this? Is it because they have refused to obey the original command given to man, that he must “dress the garden “and keep it,” and “till the ground whence he was taken?” Whatever may have been the cause, such are the facts in relation to their history thus far; and whether the efforts recently put forth and now using to save them from barbarism and destruction shall prove ultimately successful, we must leave for other generations to testify.
But whatever may be their future destiny, the general government have adopted the policy already suggested, of removing them from their present residences to the regions west of the Mississippi, with the promise of protection from future aggressions upon their rights, and the hope of bettering their condition. To effect this object, treaty stipulations were entered into with some of the tribes to purchase their lands, to indemnify them for their losses, and to aid in transferring them to their new habitation. As these treaties were often concluded in opposition to large minorities of the natives, they became difficult of execution, produced much irritation, and in some instances the hazard and even the loss of life.
This policy operated most injuriously upon the Cherokees, who were settled principally in the state of Georgia. Over these people Georgia undertook to extend her laws, and thus force them either to sell their lands and remove west of the Mississippi, or be deprived of the privileges of living under their own laws, as members of a separate community. As the project was resisted by the most opulent part of the Cherokees, and a considerable portion of the nation, a division of sentiment was created among themselves in regard to their removal, which excited much irritation of feeling, and operated injuriously on the interests of the mission. At this time there were no less than seventeen missionaries, including interpreters, and eight hundred and fifty Church members, and the prospects of extensive good were brightening until they were overcast by these movements. This year, 1831, the troubles increased, and one of our missionaries, the Rev. Mr. Trott, for refusing to take the oath of allegiance required by the state of Georgia, was arrested, imprisoned, put in chains, and otherwise maltreated. On promising, however., to leave the territory, he was pardoned by the governor and set at liberty. These proceedings greatly harassed the Christian Indians who resided within the chartered limits of Georgia, while those without the state were in a more prosperous condition.
Similar results were produced by similar movements among the Choctaws. This
mission had been remarkably owned of God, so much so that in 1830 there were
reported not less than four thousand Church members, embracing all the principal
men of the nation, their chief and captains, many of whom were eminently useful
in instructing their brethren by exhortation and prayer. They were, however,
less averse to being removed than the Cherokees, and finally, in a council which
was held in March, 1830,33 The following letter from an eye-witness of these things will show how matters
were conducted: —
“The Choctaw country is divided into three districts, called Lower towns, Six towns, and Upper towns. The Upper towns form the western district. Colonel Lefleur was formerly chief of the Upper towns, and Colonels Folsom and Garland were chiefs of the two eastern districts; until at a great council, held in March last, at which a majority of the warriors of the nation were present, Colonels Folsom and Garland [both Christians of the Presbyterian denominational resigned and Colonel Lefleur [a member of the Methodist Church] was chosen chief of the whole nation. This council, it will be recollected, also voted to offer their country for sale to the United States, on certain conditions, and to remove west of the Mississippi.
“The vote to sell the country excited so much dissatisfaction, that Mushulatubee, [the leader of the pagan party,] who formerly been chief of the Lower towns district, but had been deposed, availed himself of it to recover his fortunes. He placed himself at the head of his friends, and with the aid of Netockache, the leader of the Kunshas, a little pagan clan in the Six towns district succeeded in obtaining a temporary ascendency in the eastern part of the nation. The followers of Mushulatubee went through the form of appointing him chief of the Lower towns in the place of Folsom, and Netockache took the place of Garland as chief of the Six towns. They then combined their efforts tried all means in their power to put down religion, and becoming gradually more and more bold, at length threatened to drive out the missionaries out of the nation, and if they were compelled to emigrate west of the Mississippi, declared that not one should accompany them. They deposed the Christian captains throughout the two districts, and made use of threats, persuasions, and bribes, to induce those who had professed Christianity to cast off fear and live without God. It was now a time of great and almost constant alarm, and probably the only consideration which prevented the pagans from proceeding to extremities was the fear of Lefleur. At last, believing themselves sufficiently strong, they resolved ‘to break him,’ but in this they were disappointed, as will be seen in the sequel.
“At the time of the distribution of the annuity for the two eastern districts at the factory, Mushulatubee and Netockache surrounded the building with their men, and resolved to prevent the Christian party from receiving any part of the goods. For this purpose they stationed guards along the road, and had collected a body of fifty or sixty armed men. But what was their surprise when Colonel Lefleur suddenly appeared before them, at the head of eight hundred armed warriors! The truth is, he left home with the determination of settling the controversy. He had, therefore, made ample preparation, and on his arrival near the factory he sent to the pagans ‘a straight forward talk,’ and it was also a ‘hard talk,’ — ‘Mushulatubee must resign,’ and must make his decision in fifteen minutes. At the end of this period, receiving no answer, Colonel Lefleur, at the head of his mounted men, proceeded toward Mushulatubee’s quarters. It was now expected that there would be bloody work, but Mushulatubee had secreted himself; and Netockache, coming forward, offered his hand for peace and was accepted. Colonel Lefleur and Colonel Folsom, themselves unarmed, but at the head of their men, then pushed their way, in company with Netockache, through the guard, toward the body of the pagan party, who fled in all directions at their approach. Mushulatubee at length made his appearance, and, finding all resistance hopeless, consented to resign, and was told not to think of the office of chief for himself so long as Folsom or Lefleur lived.
“Every thing,” says the letter, “has turned out well. Lefleur has raised himself in the esteem of thousands. He was very prudent, but determined. His cause was good. Mushulatubee and Netockache were usurpers and bitter persecutors, but Mushulatubee has sunk, and although Netockache is at present acknowledged as chief of the Kunshas, he is ‘to walk straight.’ or he will himself sink. Another chief will soon be selected in Folsoms district. The United States commissioners will probably visit the nation to treat before long. What the Choctaws will finally do, I know not, or what troubles are before them. One thing is pretty certain, that they are threatened with a famine on account of the drought. Many will have no corn at all, and others only part of a crop.” they passed a resolution to sell their lands to the United States and emigrate to the west. This resolution, however, gave offense to a part of the nation, and furnished a pretext to the pagans to plot the destruction of the missionaries and Christian Indians. The treaty, however, was finally consummated, though with much difficulty, and the missionaries determined to accompany the Christian Indians to their new habitation. It should be recorded that the general government did all it could to mitigate their sufferings, by affording provision and protection to the emigrants, and securing to them their lands in the west.
Yet, with all the precautions which were used by the government and the missionaries, they suffered much in their religious enjoyments, became divided, some were disheartened, and not a few apostatized from Christianity. For these sad disasters there seemed to be no adequate remedy. The decree was passed, and remove they must; and the Rev. Alexander Talley, who had devoted his best days and energies to this mission, and that too with a rare success, accompanied them to their new residence; and in a letter dated Sept. 5, 1831, he states that about five hundred had arrived, most of whom were members of the Church. These, with others that occasionally arrived at their new home, attended regularly to their Christian duties, and they have prospered more or less to the present time. These movements may account for the diminution in the number of Christian Indians on these missionary stations.
The Wyandott mission, which now included two hundred and twenty-three Church members, and had attached to it a flourishing school, was this year extended to the river Huron, where, through the labors of the missionaries and some native exhorters, there was a reformation effected among a few families of the Wyandotts and Shawnees, ten of whom became members of the Church.
The western country was almost daily presenting claims upon the bounty and labor of the Church to supply its spiritual wants. This year a mission was undertaken in Jackson county, Illinois, with the encouraging prospects of success. Another, called Deplain, was commenced, and has since been prosecuted with diligence and success.
The Lee mission, which embraced a tract of country in the counties of Lee and Marion, west of the Flint river, was commenced this year. This new country was now filling up rapidly with inhabitants and they were thus supplied with the word and ordinances of the gospel. The missionary formed a regular circuit, having no less than fifteen preaching places and in the course of the year received one hundred and twenty-five into the Church, besides erecting two houses of worship.
The cause of education was advancing steadily among us since its late revival, so that during the present year no less than three collegiate institutions had been founded, and had made a promising commencement. One of these was in Middletown, in the state of Connecticut. The buildings, which were of stone, and the land connected with them, estimated at from thirty to forty thousand dollars, were presented gratuitously to the New York and New England conferences by the Literary and Scientific Society of Middletown, on condition that forty thousand dollars more should be raised for the purpose of establishing a literary institution to be under the control of the two conferences above named, and any others that might unite with them in the enterprise. These conditions being complied with, the premises were deeded to a board of trustees elected by said conferences, who have the sole management of the financial concerns of the institution; and it soon afterward received a charter from the legislature of the state of Connecticut, of a very liberal character.
The Wesleyan University, for this is its name, is located in a most delightful place, on an eminence in the western section of the city, having a commanding view of the Connecticut river, and the adjacent country east, north, and south, and is surrounded by a population noted for their steady, industrious, and religious habits, all zealous for the promotion of education, and most of whom take a deep interest in the university. The late Wilbur Fisk, D. D., was selected as its president, and, being aided by an able faculty, the university went into operation under favorable auspices, and has continued to meet the public expectation. Here, under the able guidance of its estimable president and his colleagues, many a youth has received his diploma in a manner alike creditable to himself and his instructors and what has tended to endear the institution to the Methodist Episcopal Church, a spirit of piety has pervaded its inmates, many of whom were born unto God during their sojourn in this young and rising nursery of learning and religion. It may be said in truth, that no place, in proportion to its numbers, has been more frequently or more generally blessed with revivals of religion than the Wesleyan University.
Another was established this year under the patronage of the Virginia and South Carolina conferences, in Boydston, Mecklenburgh county, Va., called the Randolph Macon College, under a charter from the state of Virginia. The Rev. Stephen Olin, favorably known to the public for his sound learning and deep piety, was elected its president, and he continued to discharge his duties with great satisfaction until his declining health obliged him to resign his station, for the purpose of making a voyage to Europe, in the hope of regaining his lost health.
This institution is also favorably located, and it went into operation under circumstances highly promising to its patrons and friends, having about sixty thousand dollars pledged to begin with. It has continued to fulfill public expectation, and, like the Wesleyan University, has been blessed with frequent revivals of religion, and has sent out sons imbued with sound learning and solid piety.
La Grange formed the third college which had been recently established under Methodist patronage. This was commenced under the patronage of the Tennessee and Alabama conferences, and was located in La Grange, in North Alabama, in a beautiful and healthy part of the country. Though its commencement was small, the whole property being estimated at only about twenty thousand dollars, yet it has gone on increasing in strength and patronage, commanding the public confidence and giving a useful education to its students. The Rev. Robert Paine was its first president, and he has proved his competency for the office by the satisfactory manner in which he has discharged its duties to this day. God has also smiled upon this institution, by pouring out his Spirit from time to time upon the students, and bringing them to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus.
In addition to these collegiate institutions, the several academies heretofore mentioned were in successful operation, and were so many feeders to these higher and larger fountains of learning and science. It would seem, therefore, that the Methodist Episcopal Church was determined to redeem its character from the foul blot cast upon it, not without some reason, that it had been indifferent to the cause of literature and science. And the experiments which had been recently made had thus far succeeded so well, that many who had hesitated concerning the propriety and feasibility of the enterprise seemed to be convinced that the indications of divine Providence spoke so emphatically in its favor that they felt it their imperative duty to come up to its help. And all that is wanting to establish these institutions upon a permanent foundation, is more ample endowment from the wealthy and benevolent. If supported and conducted as they ought to be, and certainly may be, they will become the fruitful nurseries of learning and religion, and tend to add strength and beauty to that Church, under the patronize of which they have been founded and thus far sustained.
The work of God this year was generally prosperous, as may be seen by a reference to the increase of membership.
Seventy preacher had located, two withdrawn. two had been expelled, seventy-six returned supernumerary, and one hundred and thirty-four superannuated.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 437,024; Last Year: 402,561; Increase: — Colored This Year: 71,589; Last Year: 69,383; Increase: 2,206 — Indians This Year: 4,501; Last Year: 4,209; Increase: 292 — Total This Year: 513,114; Last Year: 476,153 — Increase: 36,961 — Preachers This Year: 2,010; Last Year: 1900; Increase: 110.
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