Page images

results which Mr. Wesley declared would follow. It is, however, lamentable to find that some of the persons, to whom this description formerly applied, seem to be, at present, determined, in the plenitude of their angry zeal for certain peculiarities of theological opinion, to frown down the faithful men who were in the field before them, and to whom they themselves are under the deepest obligations. These are not now the ministers whom Mr. Wesley describes. The apostles loved all the friends of their great Master, and rejoiced whenever he was preached. Had Mr. Wesley's sug. gestions been generally regarded at an earlier period, many of the evils which have afflicted Ireland would have been happily prevented. His labours were as patriotic as they were benevolent and pious.

Though the personal ministry of the Wesleys was confined to the United Kingdom, their influence soon extended to distant nations. Philip Embury, a local preacher from Ireland, having emigrated to America, settled in New York, where he began to preach the truth of God. In the year 1766, he formed a society there, consisting doubtless of persons who had been converted through his labours. They erected a chapel for their own accommodation, and that others also might statedly hear the word of life. Ahout the same time, Captain Webb, an officer in the British army, and a zealous preacher, visited New-York and several other places, where the people wondered to see a man in mili. tary uniform, and bearing a sword, occupying the pulpit, and with great power and earnestness calling sinners to repentance. Many were deeply impressed under his word. Some time after, Mr. Strawbridge, ano. ther local preacher from Ireland, settled in Maryland, where he pursued the same course as that which his brethren had adopted in New York and its neighbourhood. He preached to the people with holy unction, formed a society, and, with the assistance of its members and of other well-disposed persons, built a log chapel for the public benefit. He was followed by Mr. Williams, who travelled largely through the country, spreading the Wesleyan publications wherever he went; and by Mr. John King, from England, who publicly


enforced the truth which he had received. The unpretending labours of these devout men were crowned with

Several were convinced of sin, and brought into Christian light and liberty ; and some of the young converts, constrained by the love of Christ, began to teach others the nature and blessedness of true religion, and the way to attain it.

In the year 1769 we find the following entry in the Minutes of Conference :-“We have a pressing call from our brethren at New York, (who have built a preaching house,) to come over and help them. Who is willing to go ? A. Richard Boardman and Joseph Pilmoor. Q. What can we do further in token of our brotherly love ? A. Let us now make a collection among ourselves.

This was immediately done ; and out of it fifty pounds were allotted toward the payment of their debt, and about twenty given to our brethren for their passage.'

This was in all probability the very first collection ever made among the Methodists for a directly missionary purpose. It was raised in the conference, and amounted to the goodly sum of se. venty pounds, which was applied in the manner here specified. It is worthy of remark, that in the old chapel at Leeds the first Methodist missionaries received their appointment, and the first missionary collection was made; and that, after a lapse of more than sixty years, the first Methodist missionary meeting was held under the same roof.

Messrs. Boardman and Pilmoor, with those who were in the field before them, went abroad in various directions preaching the word. Yet they were not able to meet the spiritual necessities of the people ; so that in the Minutes of 1771 it is said, “ Our brethren in America call aloud for help. Who are willing to go over and help them ? A. Five were willing. The two appoint. ed were Francis Asbury and Richard Wright." Within a few years they were followed by George Shadford, Thomas Rankin, Martin Rodda, and James Dempster ; some of whom returned to England on the breaking out of the revolutionary war. Mr. Asbury found an asylum in the house of a powerful and influential friend ; and the native preachers pursued their evangelical la.

[ocr errors]

bours, with zeal and perseverence, unappalled by either local opposition, or popular alarm. One of their num. ber, Mr. Freeborn Garrettson, a man of a fine spirit, and of apostolic piety and zeal, says, “ Amidst the clash of war, God in a glorious manner prospered his work in awakening and converting thousands of souls ; so that in process of time the peninsula became comparatively as the garden of the Lord. There was a blessed work among the African slaves ; and in no part of my labours have I had more delightful seasons than I had in preaching to them." Thus “they went forth in the power of the Spirit, disseminating divine truth, and suffering much persecution, and many privations."

While this work was in progress in America, Dr. Thomas Coke, a clergyman of the Church of England, and a member of the University of Oxford, resigned his curacy of South Petherton, and connected himself with Mr. Wesley, to serve him as a son in the gospel. His union with the Methodist body was most seasonable and advantageous. Under the direction of Mr. Wesley, he took the superintendence of the foreign work ; and for many years was such an example of missionary zeal and enterprise as the Christian church has rarely seen. His services in connection with the Me. thodist missions, were marked by an energy, disinter. estedness, and perseverance, which can never be forgotten ; and in importance and success they were second only to those of the venerated man whom he owned as his father in the Lord.

On the cessation of the American war, and the acknowledgment of the independence of the United States, Mr. Wesley gave to his societies there the form and character of a church ; having in itself all the ordinances of Christianity. For this proceeding he was severely censured at the time; but the result has shown that he was guided by a sound discretion, and formed a just estimate of the religious necessities of that coun. try. The measure has already been attended with the most important spiritual benefits to millions of people ; and unborn generations will doubtless derive from it * Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, vol. i, pp. 675, 676.

the highest advantages. The whole affair is thus recorded by himself in the Minutes of Conference :

6 What is the state of our societies in North America ? A. It may best appear from the following let. ter :

Bristol, Sept. 10, 1784. “TO DR. COKE, MR. ASBURY, AND OUR BRETHREN

IN NORTH AMERICA. “ 1. By an uncommon train of providences many of the provinces of North America are totally disjointed from their mother country, and erected into independent states. The English government has no authority over them, either civil or ecclesiastical, any more than over the states of Holland. A civil authority is exer. cised over them, partly by the congress, partly by the provincial assemblies. But no one either exercises or claims any ecclesiastical authority at all. In this pe. culiar situation, some thousands of the inhabitants of these states desire my advice; and in compliance with their desire, I have drawn up a little sketch.

“ 2. Lord King's • Account of the Primitive Church, convinced me many years ago, that bishops and presbyters are the same order, and consequently have the same right to ordain. For many years I have been importuned, from time to time, to exercise this right, by ordaining part of our travelling preachers. But I have still refused, not only for peace' sake, but because I was determined, as little as possible, to violate the established order of the National Church to which I belonged.

“3. But the case is widely different between Eng. land and North America. Here there are bishops who have a legal jurisdiction. In America there are none, neither any parish ministers. So that for some hun. dreds of miles together, there is none either to baptize, or administer the Lord's supper.

Here therefore my scruples are at an end: and I conceive myself at full liberty, as I violate no order, and invade no man's right, by appointing and sending labourers into the harvest.

*“If any one is minded to dispute concerning diocesan episcopacy, he may dispute. But I have better work."


“ 4. I have accordingly appointed Dr. Coke, and Mr. Francis Asbury, to be joint superintendents over our brethren in North America; as also Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey, to act as elders among them, by baptising and administering the Lord's supper. And I have prepared a liturgy, little differing from that of the Church of England, (I think the best constituted Na. tional Church in the world,) which I advise all the travelling preachers to use, on the Lord's day, in all the congregations, reading the litany only on Wednesdays and Fridays, and praying extempore on all other days. I also advise the elders to administer the supper of the Lord on every Lord's day.

5. “If any one will point out a more rational and Scriptural way of feeding and guiding those poor sheep in the wilderness, I will gladly embrace it. At present I cannot see any better method than that I have taken.

“6. It has been proposed to desire the English bish. ops to ordain part of our preachers in America. But to this I object, (1.) I desired the bishop of London to ordain only one; but could not prevail. (2.) If they consented, we know the slowness of their proceedings; but the matter admits of no delay. (3.) If they would ordain them now, they would likewise expect to govern them. And how grievously would this entangle us ! (4.) As our American brethren are now totally disen. tangled both from the state, and from the English hie. rarchy, we dare not entangle them again, either with the one or the other. They are now at full liberty simply to follow the Scriptures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that Jiberty wherewith God has so strangely made them free.”

From the time at which these arrangements were carried into practical effect, the work of God in America prospered beyond all former example. Every. where there was a rapid increase of native preachers, who followed the scattered population through immense districts of country, not forgetting the African slaves ; and outcasts, for whom no man had previously cared, were gathered into the church by thousands. 66 The wilderness and the solitary place” were literally " glad

[ocr errors]


« PreviousContinue »