Autobiography of Peter Cartwright
In the fall of 1836, our conference was holden in Rushville, lllinois State. Bishop R. R. Roberts attended and presided. My field of labor had for four years been the Quincy District. My constitutional time was out, and I was again appointed to the Sangamon District, which was composed of the following appointments: Jacksonville Station, Jacksonville Circuit, Winchester, Springfield Station, Sangamon, Flat Branch, Athens, Pecan Mission, Beardstown Mission, nine in all. It will be perceived that Beardstown was this year first formed into a distinct station, and Dr. P. Akers appointed missionary. It will also be noticed that the Illinois Conference, at this date, not only reached to the northern limits of the State, but had spread with the constantly increasing population into Wisconsin and Iowa Territories, and covered, in its missionary stations, almost the entire unbroken Indian country, now called the Minnesota Territory, and we had thirteen presiding-elder districts, and at our annual conference, held in Jacksonville, Morgan County, September 27th, 1837, we had over one hundred and thirty traveling preachers, and over twenty-one thousand members. Any one of our traveling preachers was liable to be sent from the mouth of the Ohio and Wabash Rivers nearly to the head waters of the Mississippi, a thousand or twelve hundred miles, and all the northern part of our conference was frontier work or Indian wilds. Hard were our labors, but glorious was our success.
This year, 1837, J. T. Mitchell was appointed to the Jacksonville Station, and we had a blessed revival of religion in the station, and a number were added to the Church. At one of our quarterly meetings there was a minister who was what was called a New-School minister, and he was willing to work anywhere. When the mourners presented themselves at the altar of prayer, he would talk to them, and exhort them to "change their purpose," and assured them that all who changed their purpose were undoubted Christians. I plainly saw he was doing mischief, and I went immediately after him, and told them not to depend on a change of purpose in order to become a Christian, but to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a heart unto righteousness, and they should be saved. Thus I had to counteract the false sentiments inculcated by this New-School minister. It is very strange to me to think these educated and home-manufactured preachers do not understand the plain, Bible doctrine of the new birth better. They say man is a free agent in so far as to change his purpose, and in changing his purpose he is constituted a new creature. Thus he makes himself a Christian by his own act without the Spirit of God.
This year we had a gracious work of religion in the town of Winchester, in the Winchester Circuit. We had no meeting-house or church built there at this time to worship in, and when our quarterly meeting came on the friends had procured an unfinished frame building, large and roomy, to hold the quarterly meeting in. There was a very large concourse of people in attendance. The house was crowded to overflowing; our seats were temporary; no altar, no pulpit, but our meeting progressed with great interest. The members of the Church were greatly revived, many backsliders were reclaimed, and scores of weeping and praying sinners crowded our temporary altar that we had erected.
There happened to be at our quarterly meeting a fresh, green, live Yankee from down East. He had regularly graduated, and had his diploma, and was regularly called, by the Home Missionary Society, to visit the far-off West--a perfect moral waste, in his view of the subject; and having been taught to believe that we were almost cannibals, and that Methodist preachers were nothing but a poor, illiterate set of ignoramuses, he longed for an opportunity to display his superior tact and talent, and throw us poor upstarts of preachers in the West, especially Methodist preachers, into the shades of everlasting darkness. He, of course, was very forward and officious. He would, if I had permitted it, have taken the lead of our meeting. At length I thought I would give him a chance to ease himself of his mighty burden, so I put him up one night to read his sermon. The frame building we were worshiping in was not plastered, and, the wind blew hard; our candles flared and gave a bad light, and our ministerial hero made a very awkward out in reading his sermon. The congregation paid a heavy penance and became restive; he balked, and hemmed, and coughed at a disgusting rate. At the end of about thirty minutes the great blessing came: he closed, to the great satisfaction of all, the congregation.
I rose and gave an exhortation, and had a bench prepared, to which I invited the mourners. They came in crowds; and there was a solemn power rested on the congregation. My little hot-house reader seemed to recover from his paroxysm of a total failure, as though he had done all right, and, uninvited, he turned in to talk to the mourners. He would ask them if they did not love Christ; then he would try to show them that Christ was lovely; then he would tell them it was a very easy thing to become a Christian; that they had only to resolve to be a Christian, and instantly he or she was a Christian. I listened a moment, and saw this heterodoxy would not do; that it produced jargon and confusion. I stepped up to him, and said:
"Brother, you don't know how to talk to mourners. I want you to go out into the congregation, and exhort sinners."
He did not appear the least disconcerted, but at my bidding he left the altar, and out he went into the crowd, and turned in to talking to sinners. There was a very large man, who stood a few steps from the mourners, who weighed about two hundred and thirty pounds; he had been a professor, but was backslidden. The power of God arrested him, and he cried out aloud for mercy, standing on his feet. My little preacher turned round, and pressed back through the crowd; and coming up to this large man, reached up, and tapped him on the shoulder, saying,
"Be composed; be composed."
Seeing, and indistinctly hearing this, I made my way to him, and cried out at the top of my voice,
"Pray on, brother; pray on, brother; there's no composure in hell or damnation."
And just as I crowded my way to this convicted man, who was still crying aloud for mercy, the little preacher tapped him again on the shoulder, saying,
"Be composed; be composed, brother."
I again responded:
"Pray on, brother; pray on, brother; there is no composure in hell."
I said to the throng that crowded the aisle that led to the altar,
"Do, friends, stand back, till I get this man to the mourner's bench."
But they were so completely jammed together that it seemed almost impossible for me to get through with my mourner. I let go his arm, and stepped forward to open the way to the altar, and just as I had opened the aisle, and turned to go back, and lead him to the mourner's bench, the Lord spoke peace to his soul, standing on his feet; and he cried, "Glory to God," and in the ecstasy of his joy, he reached forward to take me in his arms; but, fortunately for me, two men were crowded into the aisle between him and myself, and he could not reach me. Missing his aim in catching me, he wheeled around and caught my little preacher in his arms, and lifted him up from the floor; and being a large, strong man, having great physical power, he jumped from bench to bench, knocking the people against one another on the right and left, front and rear, holding up in his arms the little preacher. The little fellow stretched out both arms and both feet, expecting every moment to be his last, when he would have his neck broken. O! how I desired to be near this preacher at that moment, and tap him on the shoulder, and say, "Be composed; be composed, brother!" But as solemn as the times were, I, with many others, could not command my risibilities, and for the moment, it had like to have checked the rapid flow of good feeling with those that beheld the scene; but you may depend on it, as soon as the little hot-bed parson could make his escape, he was missing.
Our annual conference was held in Alton this fall, September 12th, 1838. Owing to the low stage of water in the Ohio River, Bishop Soule was detained on the way, and did not reach Alton till the fourth day of the Conference. He not being present when we organized, I was elected president of the Conference till the bishop arrived.
In the fall of 1839, our Illinois Conference was held in Springfield, Sangamon County; here we elected our delegates to the eighth delegated General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. I was one of the delegates, and this was the seventh General Conference to which I was elected. Our General Conference sat in Baltimore, May 1st, 1840. At this Conference, the unhappy agitation of slavery was revived. The two ultra parties had their representatives there. The slavery party from the South contended that slavery was no disqualification for the episcopal office. The abolitionists from the North contended that slavery was a sin under all circumstances. This party was led on by O. Scott; and they urged that it should not only be a test of office, but of membership, in the Methodist Episcopal Church in the slaveholding states, as well as the free states. Our Committee on Episcopacy had recommended the election of two more bishops; believing that if we went into an election of these officers of the Church, a conflict on the subject would ensue, and believing that the then present incumbents of that office could discharge all the labors necessary for the healthy action of the Church, I flung myself against the election of any more bishops at that Conference. In this, nearly all the conservative members of the General Conference joined me, and thereby defeated the designs of both the ultra parties, and every aspiring expectant for that office, for the time being, and, in all probability, a rupture in the Church. At this General Conference, the following additional annual conferences were formed: Rock River, North Ohio, Memphis, and Texas, all in the West and Southwest. Rock River Conference was stricken off from the Illinois Conference, and consisted of the following presiding-elder districts: Chicago, Ottawa, Mount Morris, Burlington, Iowa, Indian Mission, Plattville, and Milwaukie; eight in number.
The Illinois Conference consisted of the following presiding-elder districts, namely: Danville, Mount Vernon, Vandalia, Lebanon, Jacksonville, Springfield, Quincy, Knoxville, and Bloomington; nine in number. We had in Rock River Conference, 6,585 members, and 75 traveling preachers; in Illinois Conference, we had 24,687 members, and 103 traveling preachers. North Ohio Conference was stricken off from Ohio Conference; the Memphis Conference was stricken off from the Tennessee Conference; the Texas Conference was taken from Mississippi Conference, and had three presiding-elder districts, namely: San Augustine, Galveston, Rutersville; having 18 traveling preachers, and 1,853 members. Thus you see in the two original divisions of the work, namely, East and West, the East had sixteen annual conferences; and the West, with her enlargements, had sixteen annual conferences; making, in all, thirty-two, besides the Liberia Mission Conference and the Canadas, which were under foreign governments.
The Eastern division of the work had, in members, 466,561; in traveling preachers, 3,125; the membership in the West was, 375,433; traveling preachers we had, 1,447. Total in members, 841,994; in traveling preachers, 4,572. Increase in four years in the East was, in members, 60,500; in the Western division was over 11,200.
Here I wish to remark that the abolition party up to this time had universally, as far as I knew, opposed most strenuously the Colonization Society; and it really appeared to me that if they could not effect an immediate emancipation, and a restoration of the people of color to equal rights and privileges with the whites, they did not care what became of them. I will state a case. In Natchez, Mississippi, the Methodist Episcopal Church had erected a good, substantial church at a considerable cost. The galleries of the church were appropriated for the use and benefit of the colored people. Some time in 1839 or 1840, a fearful tornado had swept over the town of Natchez, and done a great deal of damage; and among the rest, it had well-nigh overturned the Methodist Church, so that it was not safe to worship in it. The society was weak, and comparatively poor. In this situation they were deprived of any suitable place to worship in, either the whites or blacks.
The delegates from the Mississippi Conference came on to the General Conference, and asked aid of their Eastern brethren, and of the members of the General Conference, to rebuild, or refit their church; and a collection was taken up in the Conference for this purpose; and if my memory serves me, the members of the General Conference gave them over one thousand dollars; but our abolition brethren would not give anything, alleging that the Church or the Gospel could do no good to either the slaves or slaveholders, so long as slavery existed among them. I went to those members of the General Conference who refused, and tried to reason the case with them; but all in vain. I urged that these poor slaves could not help themselves; they were in bondage, not of choice, but from circumstances beyond their control; and we ought not to withhold the Gospel from them, for it was all the comfort these poor slaves could have in this life, or to fit them for happiness in the life to come. But no; it was upholding and countenancing slavery, and, therefore, their consciences would not let them contribute anything. Now look at it; who does not see that there was a wrong and fanatical spirit which actuated them, and that their consciences, for solidity and rotundity, very much resembled a ram's horn. But this false view has prevented many, very many, from doing their duty by these poor children of Ham.
In the fall of 1840-41, I was appointed to Jacksonville District; and on September 15th, 1841, our annual conference was holden in Jacksonville. Bishop Morris presided. The Jacksonville District embraced the following appointments, namely: Carrollton Station, Carrollton Circuit, Grafton, Whitehall, Winchester, Jacksonville Station, Jacksonville Circuit, and Manchester, eight appointments. In the course of this year, we had a camp quarterly meeting, for the Winchester Circuit, in what was called Egypt. We had a beautiful camp-ground, a few miles from Winchester. There was a general turn-out among the members, who tented on the ground. William D. R. Trotter was the circuit preacher.
We had been threatened by many of the baser sort, that they would break up our camp-meeting; and there was a general rally from the floating population of the river, and the loose-footed, doggery-haunting, dissipated renegades of the towns and villages all round. They came and pitched their tents a few hundred yards from the camp ground. Many also came in wagons and carriages, bringing whisky and spirits of different kinds, pies, cigars, tobacco, etc. We had many respectable tent-holders and proper officers on the ground, but I plainly saw we were to have trouble, so I summoned the tent-holders and friends of good order together, and we adopted rules to govern the meeting, and then urged them, one and all, to aid me in executing those rules for the maintenance of good order. But. I thought there was a disposition in some of the friends to shrink from responsibility, and that they must be roused to action.
When we were called to the stand by the sound of the trumpet, I called the attention of the congregation to the absolute necessity of keeping good order. I stated that my father was a Revolutionary soldier, and fought for the liberties we enjoyed, and all the boon he had left me was liberty; and that, as the responsible officer of the camp-meeting, if the friends of order and the sworn officers of the law would give me backing, I would maintain order at the risk of my life. My lecture roused the friends of order, and they gave me their countenance and aid; but the whisky sellers and whisky drinkers, nothing daunted, commenced their deeds of darkness. Some were soon drunk, and interrupted our devotions very much. I then ordered several writs, and took into custody several of those whisky venders and drunken rowdies; but these rowdies rose in mob force, and rescued the whisky seller and his wagon and team from the officer of the law. The officer came running to me, and informed me of the rising of the mob, and that the whisky man was given up, and was making his escape; and it appeared to me he was very much scared. I told him to summon me and five other men that I named, and I would insure the re- taking of the transgressor, in spite of any mob. He did so. We rushed upon them and stopped the team. The man that had transgressed drew a weapon, and ordered us to stand off; that he would kill the first man that touched him: and as one of the men and myself that were summoned to take him rushed on him, he made a stroke at my companion with his weapon, but missed him. I then sprang upon him and caught him by the collar, and jerked him over the wagon bed, in which he was standing, among his barrels. He fell on all-fours. I jumped on him, and told him he was my prisoner, and that if he did not surrender I should hurt him. The deputy sheriff of the county, who was with the mob, and a combatant at that, ran up to me, and ordered me to let the prisoner go. I told him I should not. He said if I did not, he would knock me over. I told him if he struck to make a sure lick, for the next was mine. Our officer then commanded me to take the deputy sheriff, and I did so. He scuffed a little, but finding himself in rather close quarters, he surrendered.
We then took thirteen of the mob, the whisky seller, and the sheriff, and marched them off to the magistrate, to the tune of good order. They were fined by the justice of the peace; some paid their fine, some appealed to court. This appealing we liked well, because they then had to give security, and this secured the fine and costs, which some of them were not able to pay.
This somewhat checked them for a while, but they rallied again, and gave us trouble. There was one man, a turbulent fellow, who sold whisky about a quarter of a mile off. He had often interrupted us by selling whisky at our camp-meetings. He generally went armed with deadly weapons, to keep off officers. I sent the constable after him, but he had a musket, well loaded, and would not be taken. He kept a drinking party round him nearly all night; however, toward morning they left him, and went off to sleep as best they could, and he lay down in his wagon, and went to sleep, with his loaded musket by his side.
Just as day dawned, I slipped over the creek and came up to his wagon. He was fast asleep. I reached over the wagon bed and gathered his gun and ammunition; then struck the wagon bed with the muzzle of the musket, and cried out, "Wake up! wake up!" He sprang to his feet, and felt for his gun. I said, "You are my prisoner; and if you resist, you are a dead man!" He begged me not to shoot, and said that he would surrender. I told him to get out of the wagon, and march before me to the camp ground; that I was going to have him tried for violating good order and the laws of his country. He began to beg most piteously, and said if I would only let him escape that time, he would gear up and go right away, and never do the like again. I told him to harness his team, and start. He did so. When he got ready to go, I poured out his powder, and fired off his musket and gave it to him; and he left us, and troubled us no more.
On Sunday night, the rowdies all collected at the Mormon camp. It was so called, because some Mormons had come and pitched a tent a quarter of a mile from our encampment, with whisky and many other things to sell. They ate and drank; and by way of mockery, and in contempt of religion, they held a camp-meeting; they preached, prayed, called for mourners, shouted, and kept up a continual annoyance. They sent me word they would give me ten dollars if I would bring an officer and a company to take them; that they could whip our whole encampment. They fixed out their watchers.
I bore it, and waited till late in the night; and when most of our tent-holders were retired to rest, I rose from my bed, dressed myself in some old shabby clothing that I had provided for the purpose, and sallied forth. It was a beautiful moonlight night. Singly and alone I went up to the Mormon camp. When I got within a few rods of their encampment, I stopped, and stood in the shadow of a beautiful sugar-tree. Their motley crowd were carrying on at a mighty rate. One young man sprang upon a barrel, and called them to order, saying he was going to preach to them, and must and would have order, at the risk of his life. Said he, "My name is Peter Cartwright; my father fought through the old war with England, and helped to gain our independence, and all the legacy he left me was liberty. Come to order and take your seats, and hear me!"
They obeyed him, and took their seats. He then sung and prayed, rose up, took his text, and harangued them about half an hour. He then told them he was going to call for mourners, and ordered a bench to be set out; and it was done. He then invited mourners to come forward and kneel down to be prayed for. A vast number of the crowd came and kneeled, more than his bench could accommodate. This self-styled preacher, or orator of the night, then called lustily for another bench; and still they crowded to it. A thought struck me that I would go and kneel with them, as this would give me a fine chance to let loose on them at a proper time; but as I had determined to rout the whole company and take their camp single-handed and alone, I declined kneeling with the mourners. So this young champion of the devil called on several to pray for these mourners; he exhorted them almost like a real preacher. Several pretended to get religion, and jumped and shouted at a fearful rate. Their preacher by this time was pretty much exhausted, and became thirsty. He ordered a pause in their exercises, and called for something to drink; he ordered the tent-holder to bring the best he had.
Just at this moment I fetched two or three loud whoops, and said, "Here! here! here, officers and men, take them! take them! everyone of them, tent-holders and all!" and I rushed on them. They broke, and ran pell-mell. Fortunately, five or six little lads were close by, from our encampment, who had been watching me raise the shout, and rushed with me into their camps; but all the motley crowd fled, tent-holders and all, and the lads and myself had not only peaceable, but entire possession of all their whisky, goods, chattels, and some arms, and not a soul to dispute our right of possession. Thus you see a literal fulfillment of Scripture, "The wicked fleeth when no man pursueth;" or, "One shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight."
There are but very few hardened wretches who disturb religious worship but what at heart are base cowards; this I have proved to my entire satisfaction throughout my ministerial life, for more than fifty years. I will here say, on Monday, the day after the rout of the Mormon camp, the power of God fell on our congregation, and the whole encampment was lighted with the glory of God. The Church, or members of the Church, were greatly blessed, and felt fully compensated for all the toil and trouble that they had been at in pitching their tents in the grove and waiting upon the Lord a few days and nights. Hardened sinners were brought to bow before the Lord, and some of them were soundly converted. And I will record it to the glory of the stupendous grace of God, that the young man who had been the ringleader in the ranks of these disturbers of God's people, and the mock preacher in the Mormon camp the night before, was overtaken by the mighty power of God, and awfully shaken as it were over hell. He fell prostrate before God and all the people he had so much disturbed and persecuted, and cried for mercy as from the verge of damnation, and never rested till God reclaimed him, for he was a wretched backslider. I had known him in Tennessee, and had often preached in his father's house.
Of the disorderly fellows who had been arrested and fined, and had appealed to the court, hardly one of them came to a good end, or died a natural death; some ran away to Texas, some were stabbed in affrays of different kinds; it seemed as if God had put a mark on them, and his fearful judgments followed them even into strange and distant lands. When their appeals came on for trial in court, there were two distinguished lawyers who volunteered to conduct the prosecution against them; one of them was the lamented General Hardin, of Morgan County, who afterward fell in Mexico in General Taylor's army, at the memorable battle of Buena Vista, while fighting, or contending with Santa Ana's unprincipled minions; but he died like a brave soldier and subordinate officer. Peace to his memory! He was considered a worthy member of the Presbyterian Church, and a stanch friend to good order.
other lawyer, Mr. Sanbourn, though somewhat dissipated at times, was a
talented gentleman of the bar, and a friend to religious order. These
gentlemen, without fee or reward, volunteered their services to
prosecute these wretched disturbers of the worship of God, and by their
eloquent appeals to the jurors made these transgressors quail before
the public bar of their country; and these suits, first and last, cost
those offenders against the morals of their country over three hundred
dollars, showing them clearly that the way of the transgressor is hard.
I must remark here that I was much pleased with the decision of Judge
Lockwood, who presided at the trial; his decision was substantially
this, that no matter what the articles were that were sold at a place
of worship, if it disturbed the peace and quiet of the worshipers, it
was punishable by the statute that was enacted for the protection of
worshiping assemblies; that as a free people, where there was no
religious test, we had a right to assemble and establish our own forms,
or rules of order, and that anything which infracted those rules of
order made to govern a worshiping congregation, the law made a high
misdemeanor, and therefore those who transgressed those rules were
punishable by the law. Our present law to protect worshiping
congregations is too loose and obscure. In the hands of good officers
of the law, the present statute will protect people in the sacred right
to worship God; but in the hands of corrupt officers it is often
construed to screen offenders, and thereby give encouragement to
disorderly persons to trample with impunity on the rights of religious
people. I have often wondered why legislative bodies of men should be
so reluctant to pass a stringent law on this subject. If people don't
like the forms of worship of any religious denomination, let them stay
away; but if they will attend their religious assemblies, they ought to
behave themselves; and if they will not behave and conform, they ought
by law to be compelled to do it, or punished severely for trampling
under foot the rights of a free people assembled for the express
purpose of peaceably worshiping God. The good book is right when it
declares, "When the wicked bear rule the land mourneth," and that
"righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people;"
but we still hope to see better days, better laws, and better
administrators of law. The Lord hasten it in his time.
In the fall of 1842 our Illinois Conference was holden in Winchester, Scott County, September 14th; Bishop Roberts presided, and I was continued on the Jacksonville District. The reader will indulge me in saying a few things about my own immediate neighborhood. When I settled here in 1824, there was no society nearer than five miles on Rock Creek, to which place my family had to go for circuit preaching and class-meeting every Sunday, if they attended anywhere. There was in my immediate settlement but one single member of the Methodist Church, besides my own family. This member was a widow lady, a very fine woman, and I think a consistent Christian.
The country was entirely new and almost in a state of nature: we had no churches to worship in; nearly all the citizens lived in newly-built cabins. We thought we would open our cabin for preaching, and did so, and invited the neighbors to come and hear the word of God, and worship with us. I formed a small class of about twelve, including three of my own family, and we kept circuit preaching in our humble dwelling for fourteen years, during which time our little class continued with various successes and depressions from year to year. Sometimes by emigration we increased considerably, and then, when these new emigrants would select homes for themselves, and move off, we would be reduced almost to the number with which we started.
About this time my wife's health was very poor, so that entertaining preaching every two weeks, and class-meeting every Sunday, became a little too much for her strength. I determined to build a church; but how was it to be done? The society was small and poor, the citizens outside of the society were comparatively poor, and not friendly to the Methodists; but I determined to build a house to worship God in, and accordingly I opened a subscription, had trustees appointed, gave a lot of ground to build the church on, and subscribed one hundred dollars toward its erection. But when I presented my subscription paper to neighbors round, there were many objections and excuses; some wanted it for school purposes as well as a Church; some said if I would make it a Union Church for all denominations, they would then help, but they would not give anything if it was to be deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church. To these objections I answered, No, friends; a church should never be a school-house; and as for a Union Church, I never knew one built on this principle but what became a bone of contention and created strife, and ended in confusion; that a church should always belong to some religious denomination that would take care of it, and I was going to build a church for the Methodists; if they would help me I would thank them; and if they did not see proper to do so, I would try without their help as best I could. Our help amounted to but little, but we commenced, and finally succeeded in building a neat little church, twenty-four by thirty feet, which cost us about six hundred dollars, of which I had to pay about three hundred. I struggled hard, and sometimes thought my load was too heavy to get along with, but my creed was never to back out unless I found myself wrong.
Shortly after we finished the house, Brother Heath, now of California, and Brother H. Wallace, of the Griggsville District, Illinois Conference, were our circuit preachers, and it pleased the Lord to pour out his Holy Spirit upon our congregation and settlement generally, and we had a glorious revival, resulting in about forty conversions and accessions to the Church. I then thought that the use I had made of the $300 in building the church, was the best investment I had ever made in all my life. We called the house "Pleasant Plains Church."
Long since our little church became too small, and we have enlarged it so that it is now thirty feet by fifty. Our society increased so that a division has taken place, and another very respectable church has been built a few miles off, and the two societies number near one hundred and eighty members, and the time is not distant when another church must be erected a few miles south of the old stand. See what the Lord has done for us, under all the forbidding circumstances that attended our little history in the last thirty years. Praise the Lord!
I beg leave here to say that the first church, as far as I know, ever built in Sangamon County and Sangamon Circuit, was on Spring Creek, six miles west of Springfield. It was really a log-cabin, about eighteen feet by twenty, with a log partition cutting off a small part of it for a class-room. Here was one of the oldest classes ever formed in Sangamon Circuit. In this little house the society met and worshiped for many years; and, on the lot donated for the church and burying-ground, the circuit erected a large and comfortable camp ground, and many, very many, glorious camp-meetings were held here, and I may safely say that hundreds of souls were born into the kingdom of God on this consecrated ground; and many of those who sung and shouted the high praises of God on this ground have long since fallen victims to death, and are now employed in singing praises to God and the Lamb, around the throne in heaven.
This camp ground was called "Watters's Camp Ground." He lived near it, but years gone by he left the Church militant for the Church triumphant above. This spot is sacred to me, as several of my children were converted on it, and many of my best friends in heaven, as well as on earth, were converted here, and we have sung, and prayed, and shouted together, and I have a strong hope that we shall shortly sing together in heaven, and this singing and shouting will last forever. Amen.
In 1840-41, Alton Station, that had been attached to the Lebanon District, Charles Holliday presiding elder, was attached to the Jacksonville District, N. Hobart in charge. In the fall of 1842-43, N. S. Bastion and C. J. Houts were appointed to Alton. Our quarterly meeting came off in the dead of this winter; and although it was bitter cold weather, we had a good congregation, and Divine power was present to heal. Many were converted and deeply penitent, and we found it necessary to protract the meeting. Mourners, in crowds, came to the altar for the prayers of the Church. Right in the midst of our revival, the keeper of the Eagle Tavern took it into his heart (not head, for that was nearly brainless) that he would stop our revivals; so he proclaimed that he was going to have a splendid free ball the next evening at the Eagle Tavern, and dispatched his runners and ticketed nearly the whole city. Among the rest he sent me a ticket to the church, where we were having a very good meeting. Just before the congregation was dismissed I rose in the pulpit and read my ticket to the ball, and then announced that I could not attend the Eagle Tavern ball, for the reason that I was going to have a Methodist ball in the church the same evening, and requested the whole congregation to attend the Methodist ball, and get as many more to come with them as they could; that my invitation they might consider as a free ticket; that I was sure we would have a better fiddler than they possibly could scare up at the Eagle Tavern. The thing took like wildfire. The wickedest persons in the congregation electioneered for the Methodist ball, and cried out shame on the tavern-keeper. When the evening came, after all the drilling and drumming of the tavern-keeper, he could not get ladies enough to dance a four-handed reel. He succeeded in getting two little girls and some men, and these mean fellows had well-nigh danced the children to death. Our church was crowded to overflowing. That night the arm of the Lord was made bare, and the mighty power of God was felt through the numerous crowd. Many came to the altar as weeping penitents, but rose therefrom with triumphant shouts of "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good-will toward men."
I now beg leave to relate an incident which occurred at this meeting; I will do it as delicately as I well can. Among the crowd that came to the altar there were many women, and among them two good-looking, well-dressed young ladies, who were deeply affected; it seemed as if the great deep of their hearts was broken up. I was informed that they were under ill-fame, and an old sister in the Church was so disturbed about them that she wanted me to drive them from the altar, for fear we should be reproached and bring down persecution on the Church. I told her to be quiet, and let them alone, "For," said I, "they must have religion, or be lost forever." But the old sister would not rest; she ran to Brother Bastion and told him. He was a very sensitive man. He came to me and whispered, telling me they must be ordered away directly; it would ruin our meeting and stop the work. I begged him to let them alone. "Now," said I, "brother, on the other side of the altar there are a dozen men that, in all probability, are guilty of as base conduct as these young women; why don't you go and drive them from the altar? Do let them alone. Do you go and talk to the men, and I will attend to these females; they must not be driven from the altar of prayer." But two of our old, squeamish sisters, when I turned away from Brother Bastion, renewed their importunities with Bastion, and, while my attention was called to regulate the congregation, Bastion went and ordered these two women from the altar. They retired away back to a vacant seat and sat down, and wept bitterly. As soon as I discovered what was done, I followed those women to their seats, and talked with them and encouraged them, saying, "Although you may be rejected by mortals, God will not reject or spurn you from his presence. Mary Magdalene had seven devils, yet Christ cast them all out; the man in the tombs had a legion of devils in him, but Christ dispossessed them all." They asked me to pray for them. "Yes," said I, "with all my heart," and we knelt down and prayed. It seemed as if their hearts would break with the sorrow and anguish they felt; and then, to punish those sensitive old sisters, I went and made them come and pray for them, and before we closed our meeting one of them professed to be converted, and I have no reason to doubt it. The other left the house weeping. She never returned to our meeting. Perhaps she was forever lost on account of this uncalled-for rebuke.
The next time we opened the doors of the Church, to take in members, a number came and joined. This young woman, who had experienced religion, advanced to the foot of the altar, but would not come and give me her hand. I saw she wanted to join, but was afraid, not having confidence to do so; and she said, afterward, she thought the Church would not receive her. I went to her, took her by the hand, and asked her if she did not desire to join the Church. She said, with streaming eyes, "Yes, if the Church can possibly receive me, and grant me the lowest seat among God's people."
I lived to see this woman in other and after years, and with firm and unfaltering steps she lived up to her profession, and thoroughly redeemed herself from degradation, in the estimation of all who knew her. Now, dear reader, think of it. Did Christ reject the woman taken in adultery, or the woman of Samaria at the well, or any other poor wretched sinner, male or female, that ever came to him with a broken and contrite heart? Think of the significant words of the poet,
"None are too vile, who will repent.
Out of one sinner legions went,
The Lord did him relieve," &c.
It is a little singular why men, and women too, should feel such sensitiveness concerning females of ill-fame more than they do in relation to men; especially when they make efforts to reform their lives and live religious, but it is so, though I cannot see any just reason for it.
This conference year, 1842-43, was a memorable one in many parts of our beloved Zion. Jacksonville District shared largely in revival influences. Several hundred were soundly converted, and over five hundred joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in the bounds of the district. We not only had the above-named revival in Alton, but Brother Bird had a prosperous year on the Carrollton Circuit; Brother J. B. Houts considerable prosperity on the Whitehall Circuit; Brother Grubbs had a fine revival in the Jacksonville Station, but perhaps it was a jubilee to the Winchester Circuit, under the labors of Brother Norman Allen, and those that worked side by side with him pretty near the whole year.
Naples, a beautiful little town on the east bank of the Illinois River, was one of the appointments in the Winchester Circuit. The citizens were kind and friendly; but, with a few exceptions, they were very wicked, and had long resisted and rejected the offers of mercy; but at a protracted meeting gotten up and superintended by Brother Allen, this wicked little town was awfully shaken by the power of God; many tall sons and daughters of dissipation were made to quail under the power of God. From day to day, from evening to evening, they crowded the place of worship, and, with unmistakable signs of penitence, prostrated themselves at the mourners' bench. The cries of the penitent and the shouts of the converted were heard with awe and wonder by the wicked multitude that stood around. Deism gave way, Universalism caved in, skepticism, with its coat of many colors, stood aghast, hell trembled, devils fled, drunkards awoke to soberness, and, I may safely say, all ranks and grades of sinners were made to cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" The cries of penitents were not only heard in the church, but in the streets, in almost all the houses, by day and by night. Many were the thrilling incidents that attended this revival in Naples. More than one hundred were converted, and joined the Church, and the whole face of the town was changed; and although some of them fell back into their old habits of vice, yet many of them stood firm as pillars in the house of God. The subjects of this revival were from the child of ten or twelve years to the hoary-headed sinner that stood trembling on the verge of the grave.
Before this meeting closed in Naples, which was crowned with such signal success, our quarterly meeting commenced in a little town in the same circuit called Exeter. There Satan had long reigned without a rival, wickedness of all kinds abounded, and what made it the more deplorable, the wickedness of the people was sanctified by a Universalist priest or preacher, who assured them all of eternal salvation in heaven, irrespective of their moral conduct here on earth. I have thought, and do still think, if I were to set out to form a plan to contravene the laws of God, to encourage wickedness of all kinds, to corrupt the morals and encourage vice, and crowd hell with the lost and the wailings of the damned, the Universalist plan should be the plan, the very plan, that I would adopt. What has a Universalist, who really and sincerely believes that doctrine, to fear? Just nothing at all; for this flesh-pleasing, conscience-soothing doctrine will not only justify him in his neglect of duty to God and man, but gives fallen nature an unlimited license to serve the devil with greediness, in any and every possible way that his degenerate, fallen soul requires or desires.
A few years ago I had a neighbor who professed to be a confirmed Universalist. He contended with me that there was no devil but the evil disposition in man, and that there was no hell but the bad feelings that men had when they did wrong; that this was all the punishment anybody would suffer. When this neighbor's father lay on his dying bed, (a confirmed Universalist, professedly,) there was a faithful minister of Christ believed it his duty to visit this old Universalist, and warn him of his danger, and try to awaken his conscience, if not seared, to a just view of his real situation. The minister, however, failed in his faithful attempt and well-meant endeavors; for the old man, then on his dying pillow, was greatly offended at the preacher, and told him he did not thank him for trying to shake his faith in his dying moments. This neighbor of mine, and son of this old, hardened sinner, was greatly enraged at the preacher, and cursed and abused him in a violent manner. A few days after the demise of the old man, he, in a furious rage, began to abuse and curse the preacher in my presence, and said,
"D----n him, I wish he was in hell, and the devil had him."
I stopped him short by saying, "Pooh, pooh, man, what are you talking about? There is no hell but the bad feelings that a man has when he does wrong, and no devil but the evil disposition that is in man." Thus answering a fool according to his folly.
"Well," said he, "if there is no hell, there ought to be, to put such preachers in."
"Now, sir," said I, "you see the utter untenableness of your creed, for a man, even in trying to do good honestly, draws down your wrath, and, in a moment, you want a hell to put him into, and a devil to torment him, for giving you an offense, and for doing what no good man ought to be offended about. But God must be insulted, his name blasphemed, his laws trampled under foot, yet he must have no hell to put such wretches in, no devil to torment him. Now I would be ashamed of myself if I were in your place, and let the seal of truth close my lips forever hereafter."
Although he was confounded, he still clave to his God-dishonoring doctrine, waxing worse and worse, till it was generally believed he was guilty of a most heinous crime.
But to return to the narrative. From the first sermon in Exeter, at the quarterly meeting, there were visible signs of good, and although the weather was intensely cold, yet our Church was crowded beyond its utmost capacity. The power of God arrested many careless sinners, and waked up many old formal professors of religion. There was a large company of young unfledged Universalists who came to look on and mock; and so ignorant were they, that they did not imagine they would run into any possible danger of taking these "Methodist fits," as they called the exercises that were going on. There were two sisters, young ladies, carried off with the soul-destroying doctrines of the Universalists, in attendance. In pressing through the crowd, I saw one of them was deeply affected, and weeping. I went and talked with her. She saw her wretched condition. I invited her to go to the altar with the mourners; she consented, and I led her there. I talked and prayed with her; she was deeply engaged. Her sister did not know for some time that she was at the mourners' bench, but presently some one told her. At this she flew into a violent rage, and said, at the risk of her life, she would have her out of that disgraceful place. I happened to turn my face toward the door, and saw her coming; the house was very much crowded; some tried to stop her, but she rushed on. I rose and met her in the crowded aisle, and told her to be calm and desist. She made neither better nor worse of it than to draw back her arm and give me a severe slap in the face with her open hand. I confess this rather took me by surprise, and, as the common saying is, she made the fire fly out of my eyes in tremendous sparkling brilliancy; but collecting my best judgment, I caught her by the arms near her shoulders, and wheeled her to the right about, and moved her forward to the door, and said, "Gentlemen, please open the door; the devil in this Universalist lady has got fighting hot, and I want to set her outside to cool." The door was opened, and I landed her out with this assurance, that when she got in a good humor, and could behave herself like a decent lady ought to do, then, and not till then, she might come in again. I then closed the door, and set a watch to keep it to avoid further disturbance.
I had hardly returned to the altar when the young lady I had led there rose and gave us a heavenly shout, and then another, and another, till five in rapid succession raised the shout. It ran like electricity through the congregation; sinners wept, quaked, and trembled, and saints shouted aloud for joy. Thus our meeting continued for a number of nights and days, and many souls were born into the kingdom of God. The whole country around for miles came to our meetings, were convicted and converted, and great was the joy of the people of God. Over one hundred professed religion, and nearly that number joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.
There was a gentleman in this place who had been very wicked, a noted gambler, by the name of W----t; he was an esquire. He got under serious concern for his salvation, and sent for me; I went and prayed with him. After talking with him a little he got up deliberately, went to his desk, took out his cards, stepped to the fire, and pitched them in, making a whole burnt-offering of them. Shortly after this he found peace, and was, as I believe, soundly converted to God. He seemed to have the innocence and simplicity of a child. He was very zealous for God, and gave great promise of doing good. He had a brother-in-law and sister in Nauvoo, among the self-deluded Mormons. His sister professed to have the gift of tongues, and his brother-in-law the gift of healing all manner of diseases, and the interpretation of tongues.
This brother, in his zeal for God, was impressed that he must go to Nauvoo to convince his brother-in-law and sister, and all the rest of the Mormons, that they were wrong. I tried to dissuade him, knowing they were artful and cunning, and adepts in practicing frauds and religious jugglery, and that he was just in a state of mind to be deceived, without any experience of the devices of the devil, especially of his power to transform himself into an angel of light; but, despite all my remonstrances, go he must, and go he did; and, as I predicted, they were ready for him. They told him that he was just right as far as he had gone; that the Methodists were right as far as they had gone, and next to the Latter-day Saints alias Mormons, were the best people in all the land, but they had stopped short of their grand and glorious mission; that they were afraid of persecution, and had shrunk from their duty; that if they had followed the light they would have taken the world, and that the best and holiest men and women among the Mormons had been members of the Methodist Church. They told him if he would join the Mormons and live faithful, that in a very little time he would have the gift of tongues, and the gift of healing, so that by faith he would raise the dead as did the first Christians. The fatal bait was gulped down; they took him to the river and ducked him; and when I last saw him he was in daily expectation of these, great gifts. I told him he would never receive them; and he promised me if he did not, he would leave them. What has become of him I know not, but it is probable he is at Utah, and has fifteen or twenty wives.
I will name another incident connected with this revival. There was an interesting young man, well educated, and gentlemanly in all his conduct, from some of the Eastern states. He boarded at a house I frequently visited. He was serious; I talked to him, and he frankly admitted the real necessity of religion, and said, for his right hand he would not lay a straw in the way of any person to prevent him from getting religion; but he said he was not ready to start in this glorious cause, but that he fully intended at some future time to seek religion. I urged him to submit now; that in all probability he never would live to see so good a time to get religion as the present. He admitted all I said, and wept like a child; but I could not prevail on him to start now in this heavenly race.
As our meeting was drawing to a close, I was uncommonly anxious to see this young man converted, but I was not permitted to see it. Some little time before we closed the meeting, a messenger arrived for me to go to another town where the work of religion had broken out, and they greatly needed ministerial aid. The day after I left this young man he was taken violently ill. His disease was rapid, all medical aid failed, and he was shortly given over by his physicians to die. He sent post-haste for me to come to him. I hastened to him, but never to the last moment of my recollection shall I ever forget the bitter lamentations of this young man. "O!" said he, "if I had taken your advice a few days ago, which you gave me in tears, and which, in spite of all my resistance, drew tears from my eyes, I should have now been ready to die. God's Spirit strove with me powerfully, but I was stubborn, and resisted it. If I had yielded then, I believe God would have saved me from my sins; but now, racked with pain almost insupportable, and scorched with burning fevers, and on the very verge of an eternal world, I have no hope in the future; all is dark, dark, and gloomy. Through light and mercy I have evaded and resisted God, his Spirit, and his ministers, and now I must make my bed in hell, and bid an eternal farewell to all the means of grace, and all hope of heaven; lost! lost! forever lost!"
In this condition he breathed his last. It was a solemn and awful scene; mournfully I turned away and wept bitterly. I never think of this scene but with mournful feelings. God forbid that I should die the death of such a one! But how many are there that have lived and died like this pleasant young man; approve the right, but choose the wrong; put off the day of their return to God; wade through tears and prayers of ministers and pious friends; till they make the dreadful plunge, and have to say, "Lost! lost! lost! forever lost!" O, sinner, stop and think before you further go! Turn, and turn now.
I hastened to Winchester, where the brethren had rallied, and were engaged in a glorious revival of religion. They had sent off for Brother Akers, who had been with them several days, battling successfully for the cause of true religion, and was made the honored instrument of much good to many souls. I met Brother Akers between Jacksonville and Winchester; he was compelled to leave for his regular field of labor. When I met him, he exclaimed, "One woe is past, and behold, another cometh!" The Campbellite preachers, and many of their members, had rushed into our meeting, and tried to hinder or stop the blessed work by drawing our people into foolish controversy. Brother Akers had used the artillery of truth very successfully against this false form of religion. To this he referred when I met him as he was leaving and I was hastening to the field of battle.
When I got to the meeting, I found a blessed work in prosperous progress. It really seemed to me that the Campbellites, and especially their preacher, were as restless as fallen demons. They tried to draw off our laboring members into vain and hurtful debates; and instead of encouraging mourners to seek on, they tried to confuse their minds, and throw doubts and difficulties in their way; and all round, and in the congregation, they were busy in this way, to confuse the minds of the people, and draw them off from seeking God. At once I saw through their plan, and the bad effects of such a course, if permitted to be carried on. When, at our first coming together after my arrival, I forbade all controversy of this kind, and told our brethren they must not indulge in it any more, and said to all that were opposed to the glorious work in progress, if they did not like it they must and should desist from entering into debates about it in the congregation, the most of the Campbellites desisted, or slily opposed; but their preacher continued boldly to provoke debate. He rudely attacked, in the time of our altar exercises, one of our local preachers.
When I was informed of it, I went straight to him, and told him he must not do so. He said he was a free man, and would do as he pleased. "Now," said I, "Mr. S., if you do not desist, and behave yourself like a decent man ought to do, I will have you arrested as a disturber of our religious order."
He said that all this work was wrong; that it was undue excitement, and it was his duty to oppose it; and he would like to attack it at head-quarters, and just then and there to debate the question with me.
"Now, sir," said I, "if you think to provoke me to condescend to turn aside from carrying on this glorious work to debate with you, the evil spirit that prompts you does but deceive you; for it seems to me it would be like loading a fifty-six to kill a fly; and if you don't like the work and our meetings, go away and stay away; your room will be better than your company."
I nonplused him considerably, and measurably silenced his batteries, but he was very restive. At length the power of God arrested some of the members of his Church. A very fine and meek woman in their Church, who had been baptized for the remission of sins, but never felt any evidence of her acceptance with God, and was not satisfied with her condition, became very much affected, and wept bitterly on account of her unconverted state. I went to her, at the request of her husband, who, though not at that time a professor of religion, had been raised by Methodist parents, and was friendly. I asked her if she was happy.
She said, "No, far from it."
I asked her if she was willing to go and kneel at the altar, ask God to bless her, and give her a sensible evidence of the pardon of her sins.
She said, "Yes."
I started to lead her to the altar, when one of her Campbellite sisters took hold of her, and said, "What are you going to do?"
She said, "I am going to the altar, to pray for religion."
"O," said the other, "you have religion. You were baptized, and in that act of obedience your sins were all washed away; and you ought to be satisfied with your religion, and not disgrace your Church by going to a mourners' bench, among the deluded Methodists."
She replied, "I know I was baptized for the remission of sins, and you all told me that in this act of obedience to Christ I should be forgiven, and be made happy; but I know it is all a deception, and false, for I know I have no religion; and I am determined to seek it with these Methodists, for if I die as I am, I must be lost forever."
"O," said the Campbellite lady, "you must not go."
I then interposed, and said to the lady, "Let her go. She shall go to the altar if she wants to;" and I accordingly led her there. She dropped on her knees, and shortly afterward her husband kneeled at the same altar, with the great deep of his heart broken up; and they never rested till they were both soundly converted to God, and were enabled to sing,
"How happy are they, who their Saviour obey,"
with a zest which they had never felt or enjoyed before.
The work of God went on with great power, and the slain of the Lord were many. Presently, in going through the congregation to hunt up the wounded sinners and lead them to the altar, to my great astonishment and surprise I found my Campbellite lady, who tried to prevent the one I had led to the altar first, sitting down with her face in her hands, and her eyes suffused in tears. She was much agitated. I laid my hand on her shoulder, and said to her, "Sister, what is the matter? Have these deluded Methodists got hold of you? or have you got a Methodist spasm?"
She screamed right out, and said, "God be merciful to me, a poor, deluded, Campbellite sinner!"
"O," said I, "will not water save you?"
"O, no, no," she responded; "I am a poor, deluded sinner, and have no religion, and if I die as I am must be lost, and lost forever. Will you pray for me?"
"Yes," said I ; "but now you must go to the Methodists' despised mourners' bench."
"With all my heart," said she; and I partly led and partly carried her there, and if I ever heard a poor sinner plead with God for mercy, she was one.
When it was known that Mrs.---, a Campbellite, was at the mourners' bench, it awfully shocked some of her fellow-members in that watery regiment. She was in such an agony and such good earnest, I almost knew it would not be long till she found the blessing, and while I was leading some other convicted persons to the altar, the Lord powerfully converted this Campbellite heroine. She sprang to her feet, and shouted over the house like a top, and she fell directly to pulling and hauling her Campbellite friends to the Methodist altar, exhorting them to come and get religion, and not for a moment longer to depend on water for salvation, but come and try the Methodist fire, or the fire of the Holy Ghost, and the way she piled up the Campbellite friends at the altar was sublimely awful. After she had got a great number there, she took after her preacher, and exhorted him to come and get religion, "For," said she, "I know you have none," but he resisted and fled. Several of his members' children had obtained religion, and several more were seeking it. He then started a meeting in his own church to draw off his members and others from the Methodist meeting, and if ever you saw a water divinity grow sick and pale, it was just about this time. Things were so cold at his church that the little effort soon failed. There were over one hundred and twenty professed religion and joined the Methodist Church during this meeting, and, according to my best recollection, thirteen of them were Campbellites.
And now let me say, my little experience and observation for many years goes to establish the following fact: Whenever and wherever the ministry and membership of the Church live faithful, and keep alive to God, and enjoy the life and power of religion, they can bid an eternal defiance to all opposition, schism, divisions, ceremonial diversities, and all the false prophets that may arise can never stop, to any great extent, the heavenly march and triumphs of true religion; but when we have a formal, negligent ministry, that wish to substitute education for the power of faith, and our members begin to ape the world, or even other proud and fashionable Churches, you may depend upon it that, like Samson with his eyes put out, we shall make sport for the Philistines. For however education may be desirable, and however much the progress of this age may demand an improved ministry, especially an improved pulpit eloquence, I would rather I have the gift of a devil-dislodging power than all the college lore or Biblical institute knowledge that can be obtained from mortal man. When God wants great and learned men in the ministry, how easy it is for him to overtake a learned sinner, and, as Saul of Tarsus, shake him a while over hell, then knock the scales from his eyes, and, without any previous theological training, send him out straightway to preach Jesus and the resurrection. When God calls any man to preach his Gospel, if he will not reason with flesh and blood, but do his duty and live faithful, my experience for it, God will qualify him for the work if he never saw a college.
Perhaps I may say a few things right here that may be of some little benefit to my brethren in the ministry. You know these are the days of sore throats and bronchial affections among preachers. Some have laid the predisposing causes to coffee, and some to tobacco; some to one thing, and some to another. Now, without professing to have studied physiology, or to be skilled in the science of medicine, I beg leave, with very humble pretensions, to give it as my opinion that most cases of these diseases are brought on by carelessness and inattention of public speakers themselves. I had, for several years previous to this great revival of which we have been speaking, been greatly afflicted with the bronchial affection; so much so that I really thought the days of my public ministry were well-nigh over. This revival lasted near five months, through a hard and cold winter. I preached, exhorted, sung, prayed, and labored at the altar, I need not say several times a day or night, but almost day and night for months together. With many fears I entered on this work, but from the beginning I threw myself under restraint, took time to respire freely between sentences, commanded the modulation and cadence of my voice, avoided singing to fatigue, avoided sudden transitions from heat to cold, and when I left the atmosphere of the church, heated by the stoves and breath of the crowd, guarded my breast and throat, and even mouth, from a sudden and direct contact with the chilling air, or air of any kind, got to my room as quick as possible, slept in no cold rooms if I could help it, bathed my throat and breast every morning with fresh, cold water from the well or spring, wore no tight stocks or cravats, breathed freely, and, strange to tell, I came out of the five months' campaign of a revival much sounder than when I entered it. The only medicine I used at all was a little cayenne pepper and table salt dissolved in cold vinegar, and this just as I was leaving a warm atmosphere to go into the cold air or wind; and although several years have passed since, I have been very little troubled with that disease, and can preach as long and as loud as is necessary for any minister to be useful. Keep your feet warm, your head cool, and your bowels well regulated, rise early, go to bed regularly, eat temperately, avoiding high-seasoned victuals, pickles and preserves, drink no spirits of any kind, and there will be no need of your ever breaking down till the wheels of life stop, and life itself sweetly ebbs away.
Our conference this year, 1843, was held in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, September 13th. Bishop Andrew presided. This was the only annual conference that Bishop Andrew ever presided in with us. The Illinois Conference was now large, and there were some men of fine talents among us. Bishop Andrew presided with great acceptability, and had, among our preachers, many fast friends. At this conference we elected our delegates to the ninth delegated General Conference, that was to sit in New York, May 1st, 1844. P. Akers, J. Vancleve, J. Stamper, N. G. Berryman, and myself were elected, which made the eighth General Conference that the brethren saw proper to send me to, to represent their interests and the interests of the Church generally. Up to this General Conference, there were thirty-three annual conferences, beside Liberia. Seventeen in the old Eastern boundary, and sixteen in the Western division. The seventeen Eastern conferences had a membership of 599,322; of traveling preachers, 2,400. The sixteen conferences in the Western division had of members, 550,462; of traveling preachers, 1,862. Total membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1,171,356; total traveling preachers, 4,282; total increase in members in four years, 276,287; of traveling preachers in four years, 774.
It will be seen from the foregoing statistics, imperfect as they are, that the Methodist Episcopal Church, as one branch of the great Protestant family, prospered in these United States without a parallel in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, since the apostolic age. Only think of it; in despite of all the imperfections that attach to human institutions, the apostasy of some of our ministers, (and it is a mercy of God there were not more,) the backsliding of many of our members, the schisms created by O'Kelly, Hammett, Stillwell, and the self-styled Protestant Methodists, the True Wesleyans--hush! O, mercy, save the mark!--in about sixty years, more than a million of members had been raised up and united in Church fellowship in the Methodist Episcopal Church; and this, too, by a body of uneducated ministers. Perhaps, among the thousands of traveling and local preachers employed and engaged in this glorious work of saving souls, and building up the Methodist Church, there were not fifty men that had anything more than a common English education, and scores of them not that; and not one of them was ever trained in a theological school or Biblical institute, and yet hundreds of them preached the Gospel with more success and had more seals to their ministry than all the sapient, downy D.D.'s in modern times, who, instead of entering the great and wide-spread harvest-field of souls, sickle in hand, are seeking presidencies or professorships in colleges, editorships, or any agencies that have a fat salary, and are trying to create newfangled institutions where good livings can be monopolized, while millions of poor, dying sinners are thronging the way to hell without God, without Gospel; and the Church putting up the piteous wail about the scarcity of preachers. And now, in the evening of life, at the dreadful risk (dreadful to some, not to me) of being called an old fogy, and pronounced fifty years behind the times, I enter my most solemn protest against the tendencies of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Congregationalism, for it seems to me wrong that the ministers of God, Divinely called to the holy work of saving souls, should leave that sacred work, and go and serve tables; wherefore, let the Church look out competent and well-qualified lay teachers and officers for our literary institutions, who can build them up just as well as preachers, and make "a scourge of small cords," and drive these buyers and sellers out of the temples of learning, editorships, and agencies, into the glorious harvest-field of souls. No man, or set of men, in the same sacred sense, is called of God to these institutions and offices, as they are called of God (if called at all) to preach the everlasting Gospel to dying sinners that are so fearfully thronging the way to hell. Christ had no literary college or university, no theological school or Biblical institute, nor did he require his first ministers to memorize his sayings or sermons, but simply to tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high, when, under the baptismal power of the Holy Ghost, should be brought to their remembrance all things whatsoever he had commanded them.
I will not condescend
to stop and say that I am a friend to learning, and an improved
ministry, for it is the most convenient way to get rid of a stubborn
truth, for these learned and gentlemanly ministers to turn about and
say that all those ministers that are opposed to the present abuses of
our high calling, are advocates for ignorance, and that ignorance is
the mother of devotion. What has a learned ministry done for the world,
that have studied divinity as a science? Look, and examine ministerial
history. It is an easy thing to engender pride in the human heart, and
this educational pride has been the downfall and ruin of many
preeminently educated ministers of the Gospel. But I will not render
evil for evil, or railing for railing, but will thank God for
education, and educated Gospel ministers who are of the right stamp,
and of the right spirit. But how do these advocates for an educated
ministry think the hundreds of commonly educated preachers must feel
under the lecturcs we have from time to time on this subject? It is
true, many of these advocates for an improved and educated ministry
among us, speak in rapturous and exalted strains concerning the old,
illiterate pioneers that planted Methodism and Churches in early and
frontier times; but I take no flattering unction to my soul from these
extorted concessions from these velvet-mouthed and downy D.D.'s; for
their real sentiments, if they clearly express them, are, that we were
indebted to the ignorance of the people for our success.
At the General Conference of 1844, a solemn dispensation came upon the Methodist Episcopal church, then having more than a million of members in her communion. Up to this time no very destructive divisions had taken place among us. The small parties that had filed off, had rather been a help than a serious injury to the Church. No division in doctrines had ever taken place, and, as a large body of ministers and members, there was great unanimity on the Discipline of the Church; and now the division was narrowed down to a single point, namely, slavery in the episcopacy. It is well understood by those who have studied the government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, that she has adopted an itinerant or traveling plan of ministerial operation, as the best and most Scriptural mode of successfully spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and although we believe there are but two ministerial orders, namely, deacons and elders, and finding nothing in the Scriptures contrary thereto, the Methodist Episcopal Church in her early organization saw proper to create a separate office, not order, of superintendent, or bishop. By the consent of all our traveling preachers, the bishop appoints from year to year every traveling preacher to his field of labor; this saves a vast amount of time and trouble in the ministry, in running about and seeking to contract with congregations for a specified time and stipulated amount of salary; moreover, it cuts off the temptation of selling the Gospel to the highest bidder, and giving the Gospel exclusively to the rich, and leaving the poor to perish without the means of salvation; and the poor under this arrangement find the fulfillment of the promise of Jesus Christ, more fully than they can on any other plan, namely, "Blessed are the poor, for they have the Gos pel preached unto them." Moreover, it is the disciplinary duty of our bishops to ordain our deacons and elders, and to travel at large throughout all our conferences, and to have a general supervision of the whole work; and in order to qualify them to act wisely and prudently in changing and appointing the thousands of itinerant preachers to their respective fields of labor, it is required of our bishops to be constant itinerants themselves; and according to the provisions of the Discipline of the Methodist Episcopal Church, if our bishops at any time cease to travel at large throughout the connection, supervising and superintending the general interests of the whole Church, they shall forfeit the right to exercise the duties of their office.
And right here it may not be amiss to notice, in a few words, the supremely ridiculous and slanderous statements that are constantly emanating from the pulpits and presses of some of the prejudiced denominations, against the absolute and despotic power of our bishops. They state that our bishops give all the law of the Church, and that our preachers and people are bound to bow to their dictum, under pain of expulsion; and that all the Church property is deeded to the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Now, so far from this charge being true, I assert, without any fear of successful contradiction, that a Methodist bishop has not even a vote in any of the rules or regulations of the Church, nor even a veto power on any rule passed by the General Conference; and as for the charge of the bishops having all the property of the Church deeded to them, this old, stale falsehood has not now, nor ever had, the least foundation in truth to rest upon; for I will venture to say that if the whole United States and territories were examined with a search warrant by the entire marshaled hosts of the bigoted and malicious propagators of these falsehoods, that not one solitary case can be found where the Church property is deeded to the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Why do our opponents so constantly and so recklessly persist in reiterating these false charges? Have they no sense of honor or of shame left them? But none are so blind as those that will not see; and I solemnly fear that those wretched editors and pamphlet writers will have a very fearful account to render in the day of retributive justice. But they cannot meet us in the open field of manly and honorable debate, and therefore they resort to the pitiful fabrication of false statements in hope of gulling the ignorant part of mankind.
We have said, up to this time, 1844, no very serious division had taken place in the Methodist Episcopal Church. It is true, there were a few restless spirits, ministers, that had filed off and raised little trash-traps called Churches, such as O'Kelly, Stillwell, Hammett, the Radicals, or self-styled Protestant Methodist Church, and the Scottites, or, as they call themselves, the True Wesleyans. But in all these secessions, there never had been a difference of opinion on the cardinal doctrines of the Gospel propagated by Mr. Wesley, and unanswerably defended by the sainted Fletcher. So may it continue to the end of time!
The Methodist Episcopal Church, from its first organization, was opposed to slavery; and from 1784 to 1824, in her various rules and regulations on slavery, tried to legislate it out of the Church; and she succeeded in getting many of the slaves set free, and bettering the condition of thousands of this degraded race. But the legislatures of the different slave states greatly embarrassed the operations of the Church by narrowing the door of emancipation, and passing unjust and stringent laws to prevent manumission. At this course of legislation, many of the citizens of the free states took umbrage, and commenced a dreadful tirade of abuse on the South, and threw the subject into the arena of politics. This unholy warfare of crimination and recrimination has been carried on with unjustifiable violence, until we are almost brought to a civil war, and the integrity of our happy Union is in imminent danger. How it will end, God only knows.
On the first of May, 1844, our General Conference met in New York. From 1824 to this time, our rules on slavery had remained the same. The Northern preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, some of them, had taken the ultra ground that slaveholding, under all circumstances, was sinful, and therefore, law or no law, practicable or impracticable, all slaveholders, under all circumstances, should be expelled. However, the more prudent and far-seeing part of our ministers and members of the Church saw that this was totally wrong, and threw themselves into the breach, and prevented a fearful division of the Church; and the fog and smoke of run-mad clerical abolitionism ended in a feeble secession under Scott & Co., and a few of the same cloth and kidney.
In the meantime, slavery in the South had been rapidly gaining strength, by stringent legislative acts and ministerial advocacy. More and more did the legislatures of the South block up the way to practicable emancipation. This threw the North into a fearful rage; hence there was a mutual crimination and recrimination, and both ultra parties threw the subject into the political arena, and appealed to Caesar instead of going to God in humble prayer, and asking Divine direction on this fearful question.
There had at no time been a slaveholding preacher elected to the office of bishop in the Methodist Episcopal Church, nor was there ever a time within my remembrance when a slaveholder, as such, could have been elected bishop without giving strong assurances that he would emancipate his slaves; for the plain reason, to say nothing about the evil of slavery, he never could travel at large through the connection, as the Discipline required, acceptably, as a slaveholder. There were many eminent and distinguished ministers in the Southern conferences, some of whom would, no doubt, have been elected to the office of bishop but for their being slaveholders. Bishop Andrew had been elected to that office in 1832, by the General Conference, but it was because we verily believed him free from the evil of slavery; and but for the same cause of slavery, I have no doubt others of our Southern ministers would have been elected to that office. When we met in General Conference in New-York, Bishop Andrew, by marriage and otherwise, had become connected with slavery. This fact came upon us with the darkness and terror of a fearful storm, and covered the whole General Conference with sorrow and mourning. Those of us who believed slavery an evil, though not sinful in all cases, saw at once that it was utterly impossible for Bishop Andrew to travel at large through the Methodist connection, and discharge the important duties of that office with acceptability and usefulness, unless he would give the General Conference assurances that he would, as soon as practicable, free himself from this impediment. But this he absolutely refused to do. Our Southern brethren took the strong ground that slavery was no impediment to the official relation of a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The true course that the General Conference ought to have pursued toward Bishop Andrew, was to have arraigned him for improper conduct, as the Discipline provides for the trial of a bishop, and suspended him from all official acts; and then, if they of the South were disposed to secede, let them secede and set up for themselves. Then all the humbuggery about a division line, and of the Church property, would have been saved. And if the division or secession of the Church had been left to the vote of our Southern brethren, it would have been a poor little thing; and I think that every unprejudiced mind must see clearly that the secession from our beloved Church was brought about by a set of slaveholding Methodist preachers, and not by slaveholding members, led on by a slaveholding bishop; and everyone acquainted with the circumstances of this dreadful rupture in the Church, and with the actions and course of Bishop Soule, will see that he was the leading spirit in the whole affair.
However I may forgive, I shall never forget the unjustifiable course that Bishop Soule took in dividing the Methodist Episcopal Church.
To talk about the General Conference having power to divide the Church and to form a division line, that the ministers from either side should not cross to bear the tidings of salvation to their dying fellow-men, is certainly the climax of absurdity; and then to force the members on either side of this line, north or south, to hold their membership in a division that was not of their choice, is despotism in the superlative degree. Could the Pope of Rome more completely demand passive obedienee and non-resistance than did the General Conference of 1844 in this monstrous act? And yet the very ministers composing the General Conference who, in conjunction with their fellow-laborers in the ministry, had praised the Methodist Episcopal Church as the best Church in the world, and had taken an active part in taking into said Church the hundreds of thousands that composed her membership, assumed to themselves the power to divide said Church, and draw a line, and say to preachers and members, "Thus far shalt thou come, and no further."
I sincerely thank God, upon every remembrance of the acts or doings of the General Conference of 1844 on this matter, that my little abilities were put forth to prevent this catastrophe, though I was found greatly in the minority. Yet, I am glad to say, it was an honorable minority, which, by the whining sycophancy of the South, and uncalled-for sympathy of the North, were overwhelmed by the vote of the majority.
I say here again, as I have elsewhere said in this narrative, that the General Conference of 1844, and all the General Conferences that ever existed, had no more power to divide the Church than I, as an individual, had; and it is my deliberate opinion that the members of the General Conference who concocted and completed this measure of so-called division of the Church, ought to refund the whole amount of money gained by the South in the Church suits, and let the poor, superannuated preachers, their wives and children, and the widows and orphans of our ministers that have been left nearly destitute of the means of living since the death of their faithful husbands and fathers, have it as a fund for their support.
It is as clear to me as a sunbeam that the General Conference had no constitutional right to form this sham line of division that they did, and thereby force thousands of our pious and devoted members south of that line to take their membership in an openly avowed slaveholding Church, or remain forever without Church privileges; and when the piteous wailings of these forsaken members, thus cut off from the Church of their early and only choice, came up for four years, is it any wonder that the General Conference of 1848, that sat in Pittsburgh, should virtually declare the action of the General Conference of 1844 unconstitutional, and declare that line null and void, to all intents and purposes, and once more authorize our preachers to go, without limitation or restriction, "Into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature." Now, although this is not to be wondered at, when we consider the sympathetic, religious appeals made to that body from our lost members in the dreadful wilderness of slave territory, still there is a wonderful and marvelous thing that confounds all my sense of justice, truth, and righteousness, still existing in the Methodist Episcopal Church; that is, that there are to be found members, preachers, and editors of our Church papers, that, with run-mad violence, oppose the reorganization of conferences in slave territory, and are unwilling to send, or support our preachers that are sent to preach, the Gospel of the Son of God to these misguided and blind slaveholders, or to the poor, degraded, ignorant thousands of slaves that have souls to be saved or lost forever. I am fully aware that here I tread controverted, enchanted, and disputed ground; but, perhaps, as this may be the last opportunity that I may have this side the grave to be heard on this subject, I beseech my readers, whether they agree or disagree with me in my sentiments on this vexed question of slavery, to hear me for a few moment without "malice prepense" or aforethought, as to the history of the rupture in the Methodist Episcopal Church, at the General Conference of 1844. I beg leave to refer all concerned in this matter to the most excellent history of the great secession, published by Dr. C. Elliott; a book which, large as it is, ought to have a place in every library of the Methodist Episcopal Church. If they will get this book, and turn to chapters xx, xxi, pages 286-318, they will find all the facts concerning the acts and doings of the General Conference of 1844, detailed with an impartial and truthful particularity worthy of all commendation; and, indeed, the book throughout is a valuable work, and should be in the hands of every preacher in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
I wish to say here, I was born and raised in a slave state, or states, and for more than sixty years have been acquainted with the sentiments of the Methodist Episcopal Church preachers and members on the subject of slavery. I have seen thousands of poor slaves converted to God; I have, I verily believe, also seen thousands of slaveholders soundly converted to God, whose fruit in after life gave ample evidence of the genuineness of their religion; and since I have had a mature judgment on the subject of slavery, I have steadfastly believed it a great evil, and without boasting I will say, I have been the agent or instrument of freeing scores of the poor slaves, and not only of their emancipation, but also of the colonization of many of them, returning them to their own country free and happy. But this all took place before the legislatures of the slave states blocked up the way, by stringent laws, to practicable emancipation. These stringent laws of the legislatures of slave states were passed chiefly from two causes: first, their inherent love of oppression; and, second, from the extreme and violent manner of intermeddling with the legal rights of the slaveholders in the South by the rabid abolitionists of the North. And now, I would soberly ask, What has all this violent hue and cry of proscriptive abolitionism done for the emancipation of the poor degraded slaves? Just nothing at all; nay, infinitely worse than nothing. It has riveted the chains of slavery tighter than ever before; it has blocked up the way to reasonable and practicable emancipation; it has engendered prejudice; it has thrown firebrands into legislative halls, both of the state and general governments; millions are expended every year in angry debates; laws for the good of the people are neglected; time, talents, and money thrown away; prejudice, strife, and wrath, and every evil passion stirred up until the integrity of the union of our happy country is in imminent danger; and what has it all amounted to? Not one poor slave set free: not one dollar expended to colonize them and send them home happy and free; and such is the unchristian, excited prejudice, that mobs are fast becoming the order of the day. Presses demolished; preachers of the Gospel, hailing from free states, are hunted down by blood-hounds in human shape; they are tarred and feathered, and threatened with the rope if they do not leave in a few hours; and such is the prejudice produced by the angry and unchristian fulminating thunders of this one-eyed and one-idead, run-mad procedure, that the Gospel is well-nigh totally denied in slave states to both owners and slaves in many places.
But I think I hear you say, Let slaveholding preachers preach to these slaves and slaveholders. But if slavery is a sin in all circumstances, how can slaveholding preachers successfully preach the Gospel to these poor sinners? Well, say you, let the devil take them all. O no, God forbid! there surely must be a better way; these poor slaves surely are not to blame for their condition. Are there no bowels of mercy to yearn over them? Many of these slaveholders, from circumstances beyond their control, are not radically slaveholding sinners; above all men that dwell in the South, they are entitled to our pity and commiseration, and we should surely carry the Gospel to them, and our skirts will not be clear of their blood if we do not.
Do we reclaim drunkards by telling them that they steal their rum, and lie in the meanest way of all men to get their intoxicating beverages? No, verily; we pity them, reason with them, and knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men; and when all moral suasion fails, do we say drunkenness is the open door to all sins, and therefore it is the sum of all villainies, and that they cannot be made Christians? No. When all moral suasion fails we try by legal enactments to put the temptation out of their way, and urge them to become Christians. Do we induce sinners to reform, repent, and be converted, by abusing them, and telling them of all their dirty deeds, and saying it is impossible for persons guilty of such dirty crimes to become Christians? No, we warn them, in a Christian spirit and temper, to flee the wrath to come; we assure them that the happy gates of Gospel grace stand open night and day, and that Christ will turn none away empty that will come unto him; for whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. And we urge them to seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.
I blame no man for believing that slavery is wrong and a great evil, and every reasonable man must deprecate its existence; and I know that there are thousands of our Southern slaveholding citizens that not only believe, but know from daily experience, that it is a great evil, and would willingly make any reasonable sacrifice to rid themselves and their happy country of it. And I believe, from more than twenty years' experience as a traveling preacher in slave states, that the most successful way to ameliorate the condition of the slaves, and Christianize them, and finally secure their freedom, is to treat their owners kindly, and not to meddle politically with slavery. Let their owners see and know that your whole mission is the salvation of the slaves as well as their owners, and that you have not established any underground railroad, and that it is not your mission to abduct their slaves. In this way more is to be done for the final extirpation of American slavery than all others put together, for these ultraists breathe nothing but death and slaughter.
I will further state that it is my firm conviction that every Methodist preacher sent as a missionary herald to labor in slave territory, ought to be instructed by the ruling authorities of the Church not to meddle with slavery, but to attend strictly to his spiritual mission. This is the way the Wesleyan mission committee instructed their missionaries sent to labor in the West Indies, where slavery abounded in its worst forms; and if those missionaries were known to disobey those instructions, they were immediately recalled; and although these missionaries were tied up to the one grand object of Christianizing the people, yet finally the Gospel leaven so mightily worked, that slavery was abolished, and universal freedom triumphed and prevailed. Let us hope that this will be the case with American slavery; and after having expended all our wrath without availing anything worth talking about, let us now henceforth use Christian weapons, and Christian weapons alone, and the mighty monster will fall.
I do solemnly declare, that no circumstance ever occurred concerning the welfare of the Church, which afflicted me so sorely as the transactions of the General Conference of 1844. It seemed to me that I could not survive under the painful fact that the Methodist Church must be divided, and all the time of the protracted debates I knew, if the Southern preachers failed to carry the point they had fixed, namely, the tolerance of slaveholding in the episcopacy, that they would fly the track, and set up for themselves. And in that event, many souls would be injured, and perhaps turn back to perdition; and that war and strife would prevail among brethren that once were united as a brotherly band, and that they must of necessity become a slavery Church. And I the more deeply regretted it because any abomination sanctified by the priesthood, would take a firmer hold on the community, and that this very circumstance would the longer perpetuate the evil of slavery, and perhaps would be the entering wedge to the dissolution of our glorious Union; and perhaps the downfall of this great republic. And though I stood alone among the delegates, my colleagues, of my own beloved Illinois Conference, in my vote against all these revolutionary and divisive measures in the General Conference, it afforded me great pleasure to learn that my course in the General Conference was approved by an overwhelming majority of the preachers and members of our conference. And it still affords me unspeakable pleasure to know that I shall not have to answer before my final Judge for the sin of dividing the Methodist Episcopal Church, a Church that, under God, I am indebted to for all I have and am; a Church that I have spent a long life in trying to build up, and for the prosperity of which I have made sacrifices, and in the communion of which I have enjoyed so many unspeakable privileges, and all the comfort and pleasure, worth calling so, in this life.
Church I love, and want no other on earth, and in her fellowship I hope
to live and die, and with her members, and all other fellow-Christians,
I hope to spend a blissful eternity in adoring God the Father, God the
Son, and God the Holy Ghost, in the enjoyment of redeeming grace and
In the fall of 1844, our conference was held in the town of Nashville, Washington County, Illinois. Here the concurrence of the Conference was asked in the measures of the General Conference. Brother Stamper and Brother Berryman, who had voted with the South, took their stand for concurrence, and I took my stand for non-concurrence; and after we had debated the subject fully, the vote was taken, and there was a handsome majority in favor of non-concurrence. So the measure failed in our conference, and it failed throughout all the annual conferences of obtaining a three-fourths vote for concurrence; and the restrictive rule remained as it was, the recommendation of the General Conference to the contrary notwithstanding.
Now , the plain state of fact was this: The main body of the members of the General Conference knew, and many of them openly said on the General Conference floor, both Northern and Southern members, that the General Conference had no power either to divide the Church, or the property or avails of the Book Concern, or the Chartered Fund, and the act of the General Conference to divide the property or funds of the Methodist Episcopal Church was only passed provisionally. They knew it was unconstitutional, and their design was to change the restrictive rule, or constitutional clause of the Discipline, so as to allow this division of the property, and proceeds of the Book Concern, and Chartered Fund of the Methodist Episcopal Church. But how was this change to be brought about in a constitutional way? Answer. See Discipline, Part I., Chap. ii, Sec. ii, Ans. 6, thus: "They (the General Conference) shall not appropriate the produce of the Book Concern, nor of the Charter Fund, to any purpose other than for the benefit of the traveling, supernumerary, superannuated and worn-out preachers, their wives, widows, and children. Provided, nevertheless, that upon the concurrent recommendation of three fourths of the members of the several annual conferences, who shall be present and vote on such recommendation, then a majority of two thirds of the General Conference succeeding shall suffice to alter any of the above restrictions, excepting the first article: and also, whenever such alteration or alterations shall have been first recommended by two thirds of the General Conference, so soon as three fourths of the members of all the annual conferences shall have concurred as aforesaid, such alteration or alterations shall take effect."
The General Conference of 1844 recommended an alteration in this sixth restrictive rule of the constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and sent round to all the annual conferences for a three-fourths vote of concurrence. Now, notwithstanding this was the favorite measure of the South, and notwithstanding every member of all the seceding slave-holding Conferences, save a solitary one, voted a concurrence with this unreasonable recommendation, yet when the votes of all the annual conferences were counted, they fell far short of a three-fourths vote of concurrence.
Does it not, therefore, shock all the honorable, high-minded feelings of mankind, to know that the public functionaries of justice could be so corrupt as to decide against the Methodist Episcopal Church in those Church suits in favor of the Southern seceders, the self-styled and self-constituted Methodist Episcopal Church, South? I hope I may be indulged in a few remarks on this vexed question of slavery. I hold myself to be an unflinching conservative Methodist preacher. I know that slavery is an evil, and a great evil, and although the South denies this ground, and their interested cry is abolition! abolition! that is, with many of them, this cry has never moved me one inch. I can only pray, "Lord, forgive them; they know not what they do."
Nine tenths of them, members and preachers, came into the Methodist Episcopal Church with their eyes open, with our General Rules, and other rules, all open before them; if they did not like them, they should not have joined the Church. If they joined not knowing the rules, when they came to the knowledge of them, and then thought them radically wrong, they should have peaceably retired, or withdrawn, and not have rended the Church, and thrown her into violent commotions; and turn round and abuse the Church that under God, was the means of their salvation. They always had tangible evidence that the Methodist Episcopal Church would never tolerate slavery in one of her bishops, and they had no just right to complain when the General Conference arrested Bishop Andrew, and gave as the sense of that respectable body, that he should desist from the exercise of his episcopal functions, until he rid himself of that impediment. As a prudent Christian bishop, he should have done this of his own accord.
On the other hand, the ultra abolitionists of the North, or anywhere else, have no right to complain of me and others, and deny us the dignified privilege of being conservatives, and hurl their anathemas against us, and bring a railing accusation against us of "pro-slavery, pro-slavery!" And, indeed, they treat us with less decent respect than God permitted Michael the archangel to treat the devil, for he did not allow Michael to bring a railing accusation against his Satanic Majesty; but permitted him only to say, "The Lord rebuke thee." Mr. Wesley never made slave-holding a test of membership; and when, in 1784, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, slavery was not made a test of membership; it never has been a test of membership, from the apostolic day down to the present. I ask, then, what right have these Babel builders to introduce a new test of membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church? They, like the South, joined the Methodist Church under her present rules on slavery, and did it with their eyes open. Why did they join her? And, if they were ignorant of our rules on slavery when they joined, after they informed themselves, and did not, and could not, become reconciled to those rules or the Church, why did they not peaceably withdraw or leave, and not keep the Church in an eternal agitation and confusion? thereby prejudicing the slaveholders in the South, cutting off our access to them and their slaves, rending the Church, embroiling the whole nation, which threatens a rupture of our national union, and the destructive ravages of civil war. Before, and at the time of the Southern secession, there were three of our Church papers, with three Methodist preachers as editors of those papers, in the South, paid for their services out of the funds of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They were elected and paid to spread religious knowledge, and defend the doctrines and the usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church; but how did they act, and discharge the highly responsible duties of their office? It is true, they wrote many good things; but it is also true, that they put into requisition all their tact and talent to abuse the Church which was giving them their bread, denouncing her as an ultra abolition Church. Now, was this the course that honorable, high-minded Christian ministers should have taken? Surely not. Well, since this glorious inconsistency attached to the South, we have elected editors in the North and Northwest, under precisely the same circumstances as the Southern editors who have lived on the pap of the Church; and they have opened their batteries, denouncing her as a pro-slavery Church. "O Consistency, thou art a jewel!" If these editors were conscience stricken on these subjects, why did they not resign their editorial offices, and set up independent sheets, and vent their spleen against the Methodist Episcopal Church on their own responsibility, and support themselves?
The middle ground between these ultra extremes is what I call conservative ground; that is, we say, in the language of our most excellent Discipline, that slavery is a great evil; and the grand question is, What shall be done for its extirpation? Now, I suppose it will be admitted on all hands, that to do as the Southern preachers have done, that is, to plead that it is right, and justify it by the word of God, is not, and cannot be the way to extirpate this evil.
On the other hand, if we inquire, what has ultra abolition done to extirpate this great evil, what must be the truthful answer? It is simply this: With the exception of a few negroes that they have abducted, enticed to run away, or have been transported on their underground railroads to Canada, to starve, and to be degraded worse than with their lawful owners; and the very few runaway slaves that, by mob violence, and in contravention of law, they have kept from their legal owners, they have not secured the emancipation of a single slave, from Passamaquoddy to the Gulf of Mexico; nay, so far from it, they have greatly retarded the efforts of the colonization societies everywhere; they have poisoned the minds and inflamed the wrath of slaveholders in the South, until a decent man, and especially a minister, hailing from a free State, can hardly pass, or repass, in a slave territory, without the risk of a suit of tar and feathers, and even pulling hemp by the neck occasionally. And this mighty mountain of the North, that for years, yea, many years, has been heaving, bellowing, and groaning, in mighty pain, to be delivered, has brought forth; and what is it? a poor little, insignificant m-o-u-s-e; while conservative Methodist preachers, in many instances, who have inherited slaves, have set them free, or colonized them in Africa. We have gone to slaveholders in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Missouri, in a peaceful Christian way; and while we never ceased to bear an honest testimony against the moral evil of slavery, (but did not meddle with it politically,) we successfully persuaded many of these slaves and slaveholders to turn to God, and obtain religion; and we got hundreds and thousands of these poor slaves set free. Let the many emancipated slaves, and their former owners in the above-named states, bear witness to the truth of what I here record. This is the firm and impregnable ground for a true conservative to stand upon; and this ground will save the Church, the Union, the slave, and the slaveholder; and I would not exchange it for all the ultraisms of the North and South put together, and a thousand such.
In connection with this subject I wish to say a few things concerning a meeting I accidently fell in with in Cincinnati, I think in 1848; I do not think I heard the name of the meeting; if I did, I have forgotten it; but when I give a very feeble description of it, perhaps some of my readers may be able to christen the brat, for it was surely begotten in the regions, or sprang from the soil of "Bigheadism," and the little thing's disease had turned to the "Stiff complaint;" or, in other words, I found the meeting to be composed of a heterogeneous mass of disaffected, censured, or expelled preachers, that is, the speakers were mostly from the Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist Churches. The house was filled with almost all sorts, sizes, and colors; black, white, and yellow, men, women, and children. They had called to the chair one of their number as moderator. If my memory is correct, the first speaker that rose and addressed the motley crowd, said he had been so many years a regular pastor of a Baptist Church in Kentucky, that he had used all his talents and influence to resist the damning influence of slavery, but was overruled in every attempt. He stated that the ministers and ruling members had often met, conversed, and debated the subject, but he was overruled every time. They would not turn slaveholders out of the Church, nor make slaveholding a test of membership; and after having his righteous soul vexed for years with their filthy conversation and conduct, he felt it was his duty to come out of the Baptist Church. He then warned the members of said Church, and all others, to come out of all slaveholding Churches: "Come out, come out; touch not, taste not, and handle not the unclean thing." This speech was received with applause by the listening crowd of many colors.
Next arose a Mr. S-----h. He said he was a Protestant Methodist, but had been a member and minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and traveled as such for years. He had also fought slavery for a long time to get it out of the Church, but always failed, for they loved the accursed thing; and that the Methodist Episcopal Church was, to all intents and purposes, a slaveholding and a slavery-approving Church. The crowd clapped him while he cried, "Come out, come out of her, my people," and his speech was greatly applauded by the mixed multitude, colored and all.
The third speaker was a Presbyterian preacher. He said he had experienced the same trials, conflicts, and debates with his brethren in the Church, that his two brethren who had spoken before had waded through, but all of no avail; his conscience would not let him remain a member or minister of a slaveholding Church any longer; he must come out; and exhorted all people to "Come out, and be ye clean, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, saith the Lord, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people, saith the Lord."
After this there arose on the floor a very respectable-looking man, and replied to most of the statements of these three come-outers, and he showed very clearly, and by irresistible arguments, that the ground they took was a false ground, and that they, or the principles they advocated, were clearly disorganizing and revolutionary in their nature, and in all their tendencies. There was a clerical gentleman sitting at my side, who said that from personal knowledge he could say that all three of these men who first addressed the audience, were under charges of immorality when they pretended to come out of their Churches on account of slavery.
I have seen a great many such preachers as above described. When their bad conduct could not be borne with in their respective Churches any longer, and the disciplinary excisions were about to be inflicted on them, they fled, picking some flaw, or alleging some dreadful wrong in the Church as they ran and cried, "Come out, come out of her!" O, the infant Church of Christ, how it suffered in its very minority by the unfaithfulness of its ministers. In the very first little conference of preachers that was organized, Judas turned traitor and betrayed the blessed Saviour. Peter, perhaps the boldest of the twelve, denied him with horrid oaths and bitter curses. What do you suppose the astonished ten thought under these appalling circumstances? Judas relented, and hung himself for the dreadful wrong he had done against the innocent Saviour. Peter felt compunction and wept bitterly; was mercifully reclaimed or converted from his apostasy, and, for many years of persecution and trial, strengthened his brethren. What a fearful account will unfaithful preachers, who have torn, rent, and divided the Church of God, have to give in the day of judgment, when the blighting curses of Heaven shall fall on their unfaithful and devoted heads. Lord, save us from unfaithfulness.
On my way to conference at Nashville in the fall of 1844, I was suddenly taken ill with a real shaking ague in a large, extensive prairie, ten miles across, and shook so severely that I could not sit in my sulky. I got out and lay down on the grass and really thought I should die for want of water. No house or water near, no human being approached me to aid me in any way; but after about two hours my shaking abated, and I traveled some ten or twelve miles to a camp-meeting which was in progress at Brother Gilham's camp ground, where I lingered a day or two. There was a botanic doctor on the ground, who lived in Alton City. He kindly took me to his house, and, in a few days, checked my disease. The preachers all left me, being anxious to be at conference, which was to commence on the Wednesday following. They, as well as myself, were totally in despair of my reaching the conference. I was very anxious to get there, for the great question, so far as our conference was concerned, was to be settled of concurrence or non-concurrence with the recommendation of the General Conference.
I waited till Friday morning. I prayed for strength to go to conference, and, while praying, a strong impression was made on my mind that I could get there. I rose from my knees and determined to try. The doctor remonstrated against my attempting to go, but I deliberately told him I was going if I died in one mile. When he saw I was determined to try it, he put up some medicine, and I got a good brother to drive my horse for me and started, and, strange as it may appear, I mended every mile, and on Sunday morning I reached the conference, and was able to attend to business the balance of the session, and especially to take a part in the debates, and carry the vote in favor of non-concurrence. This circumstance I have always looked upon as a kind interposition of Providence; and, indeed, the defeat of this project by the annual conference was directed by God himself; and could the Methodist Episcopal Church have gotten justice in the civil courts, according to the true merits of the case, the ill-gotten gains of the Southern secession would have been small; but I predict that it will not prosper with them.
My appointment this fall was to the Bloomington District, which was composed of the following appointments, namely: Bloomington, Mount Pleasant, Monticello, Clinton, Havana, Fancy Creek, Decatur, and Postville. This was a gloomy conference year. We had very little revival influence in our district, or in the conference, and, indeed, scarcely any throughout the Methodist Episcopal Church. The delegates of the General Conference from the Southern conferences returned home, and appointed mass meetings in every direction, and poured out the vials of wrath upon the Methodist Episcopal Church, especially the majority of the members of the General Conference. They declared that we were all abolitionists, and drummed up a convention of the preachers from the slaveholding conferences. Bishop Soule presided in it, sitting calmly on the ignited clouds, and directing the thunder-storm; and though that convention, by solemn vote, renounced the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and formed themselves into a separate organization; and though Bishop Soule declared in the General Conference of 1844 that he would not be immolated on a Northern or Southern altar, but on the altar of the Methodist Episcopal Church; now, notwithstanding all this and a thousand times as much, he had the very uncommon hardihood to come round and preside in our conferences which had not seceded, and persisted in this course, lending all his aid and influence to the secession, until the Ohio Conference gave him a glorious ouster, and refused to let him preside over them. I had prepared this dose for his honor if he had attended the Rock River or Illinois Conferences, but after the rebuff the Ohio Conference gave him, prudence, with him, for once prevailed, and he did not attend our conferences, but Bishop Morris attended and presided in them.
There never were more unfair and foul means resorted to by any set of ministers to divide and destroy a Church, than was resorted to by many of these slaveholding preachers in the South; and I cannot help blaming Bishop Soule more than all the rest. I shall always believe that the goodness of Bishop Andrew's heart was such that he would have voluntarily pledged himself to the General Conference that he would, as soon as practicable, remove the impediment; and if he had done this, it would have been hailed, and hailed with a shout, by the delegates from all the adhering conferences, the few ultra-abolitionists not excepted. If he had done so, how much better would it have been for himself, for the South, for the Methodist Episcopal Church, and, indeed, for our distracted country at large! and perhaps the blessedness of such a course in Bishop Andrew would have told with thrilling effect on the surrounding millions in other governments; and unborn millions, of future generations, would rise up and call him blessed. Though he might be dead, and gone to heaven, yet his noble, magnanimous, Christian example would have told in tones of thunder on an ungodly and oppressive world; and the lucid light of his Christian example would have shone with brilliant splendor, and the example thus set by a Methodist bishop would have said to all the world, "Follow me, as I have followed Christ."
The bishop in this case should have known no man, or set of men, after the flesh. I know the preachers friendly to slavery clung to him and his case as a forlorn hope, and as the last resort to carry their point with; namely, slavery in the episcopacy; and a fairer subject they never could have had; for although we think Bishop Andrew did wrong in this matter, and greatly erred, yet we love him, and think him a good man, and that he was every way worthy of the office of a bishop, slavery excepted.
My heart has bled at every opening pore, at the untold mischief this rupture in the Methodist Episcopal Church has and will produce, from the very nature of things, (I mean fallen nature.) The Southern preachers will, in self-justification, throw the blame on the preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and thereby poison the minds of a great majority of the slaveholding South; for they are as rabidly in favor of slavery as the extravagant abolitionists are against it. With the two extreme parties there is no middle ground; for each of them, assuming that they are infallibly right, cry out, "They that are not for us are against us." I have contended with these two extremes for many years, as a preacher of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and I have often been astounded beyond measure at the absurdities and inconsistencies of these extreme belligerent parties; but why should I? It is as certain for extremes to engender absurdities, inconsistencies, and self-evident contradictions, as for effects to follow causes, or for like to go to like philosophically. As one of these extremes has renounced the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, leaving the middle ground ministers and members of it completely and altogether in the range and raking fire of the artillery of the Northern ultras, I have indulged in the fond hope that these Northern abstractionists would, if they cannot be reconciled to conservative, consistent Methodism, as it was from the beginning, go and set up for themselves, and let the old, conservative Methodist Episcopal Church alone; but no, they seem determined to agitate, and keep on agitating, till they drive us into another inglorious secession, and they remain in peaceable possession of the hard earnings of all the labors of conservative Methodist members and preachers from the beginning. But no, I can tell them for their comfort, if they are within the reach of comforting considerations, if this is their aim, they need not put any flattering unction to their souls on this ground, for the Methodist Episcopal Church
"Has fought through many a battle sore,"
"Expects to fight through many more,"
and will stand as she is, and as she has always been; and while there is a splinter from a shattered plank of the old Methodist ship Zion, I intend to hold on to her with a dying grasp, and if necessity compels, with our dying breath cry to all around, "Don't give up the ship!"
I am devoutly glad that there is an overruling Providence, where we may place our hope and confidence; and though we cannot see through or comprehend the permissive providences of God, yet if we can, under all circumstances, trust God aright, we are assured that "all things shall work together for good to them that love him." May not this slavery secession from the Methodist Episcopal Church be overruled by a Divine Providence, and react, and show that the wisdom of men is foolishness with God? and under the overruling interpositions of the Almighty, hasten in its time the total extinction of slavery, that has so long placed a foul blot upon the fair escutcheon of our country? Who knows, or can divine? Let us look to God, and constantly and ardently pray, "Thy kingdom come; thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven;" use spiritual weapons, and leave all events to God.
It will be
found, on an examination of our Minutes, that the year before the great
Southern secession, the increase of membership in the Methodist
Episcopal Church was over one hundred thousand; that in the year of and
after the secession there was a decrease of over thirty-one thousand
members. A great many of these were along what was called the line, in
the border conferences, who were not numbered in either division; and a
great number, from the confusion and dissatisfaction that arose in the
Church from this rupture, attached themselves to other Churches; and
perhaps many went out that never returned to either division, nor did
they seek membership in any other branch of the Christian Church, and
perhaps were lost forever. What an awful thought! These were the
fearful, legitimate results of schism; and, indeed, this dreadful
rupture in the Methodist Church spread terror over almost every other
branch of the Church of Christ; and really, disguise it as we may, it
shook the pillars of our American government to the center, and many of
our ablest statesmen were alarmed, and looked upon it as the entering
wedge to political disunion, and a fearful step toward the downfall of
our happy republic; and it is greatly to be feared that the constant
agitation and unscrupulous anathemas indulged in by frenzied preachers
and unprincipled demagogues, political demagogues, that seek more for
the spoils of office than the freedom of the slave or the good of the
country, will so burst the bonds of brotherly love and the real love of
country, that all the horrors of civil war will break upon us shortly,
and firebrands, arrows, and death, be thrown broadcast over the land,
and anarchy, mobs, and lawless desperadoes reign triumphant; and then
the fair fabric of our happy republic will be tumbled into ruins, and
the liberties that our fathers fought for, and that cost the blood and
treasure of the best patriots that ever lived, will be lost forever. I
would beg imploringly all honest-hearted lovers of their country, and
the liberties we enjoy, to unitedly stand up against every device,
stratagem, and political combination, whether secretly or openly
carried on, by dishonest intriguers, to ruin our country.
In the fall of 1845, our Illinois Conference was held in Springfield, September 3d; Bishop Morris presiding. I was returned to the Bloomington District, which remained pretty near as before. This district lies in a vast, fertile prairie country, interspersed with delightful groves, and at this time was but sparsely populated; but since has rapidly filled up and improved. The district then extended from the mouth of the Sangamon River, where it empties into the Illinois River, and up said river to near the mouth of the Mackinaw River; thence east to Bloomington, and still east to the head of the Sangamon River; thence with said river to its mouth. There was also a part of the Decatur, and the entire of Monticello Circuits, south of this river, appended to the district. In the dead of winter, or in the spring floods, it was tolerably hazardous to go through and around this district, and very laborious to go round it four times in the year.
In the winter of 1845-46, my round of winter quarterly meetings commenced; there had fallen a deep snow turned warm, and rained in torrents; then suddenly turned intensely cold; the streams mostly froze over, and nearly the whole face of the country was one continued sheet of ice. This storm came upon me at or near Bloomington, the north edge of my district. My next quarterly meeting was south of the Sangamon River, sixty or seventy miles distant. My friends dissuaded me from making even an attempt to go to it. I well knew it was hazardous in the extreme; but I, as a traveling preacher, had from the beginning of my itinerancy, seldom ever made a disappointment, and had a very great aversion to these disappointments, having always made it a determined point, if possible, to fill my appointments; and if difficulties surrounded me, I never knew whether I could overcome them or not, till I tried; so to try was my motto; and if, after using due diligence in trying, my way was so insurmountably hedged up that I could not accomplish impossibilities, I in the main felt contented and happy; for, in my early career as a traveling preacher, I learned this happy lesson not to fight against Providence. So in despite of the importunities of my friends I set out.
My way lay mostly through a dreary and uninhabited prairie, with a small blind path, which, in many places, was rendered invisible by the snow and ice; but, fortunately for me, my way led south, between two large branches, not far to my right and left; and these being considerably swollen by the late rains, and then suddenly frozen over, I found to be a better guide than my blind path; for when I would miss my path, and veer too much to the right, I would meet my branch frozen over, and wheel to the left again; and so it would be when I would get off the track to the left hand. Thus guided, I measured about twenty miles, and about one o'clock I hove up to a point where these two branches met and formed a large creek, which was overflowing its banks, and was swimming from bank to bank. For many miles back I had not passed a solitary house, but right here was a little, old, solitary smoky cabin, and a poor, dirty, ragged family, hovering and shivering over a small fire. The man, the head of the family, was gone out hunting. I was hungry, and asked for food; but the good woman informed me she could not give me anything to eat, for the best of reasons, they had nothing for themselves. I looked around, and plainly saw I could not quarter there that night. But how to get on to the settlement about six miles ahead was the question. The woman informed me, if I could cross the branch which had guided me to the right as I came there, and then would take the timber along the margin of the large creek, into which my branches emptied, for my guide, in about seven miles I would come to houses. But how to get over this branch was the puzzle. It was at least one hundred yards across, being swollen with the last rains, and it was frozen over, but would not bear my horse. So I paused a minute, and thought over my condition. I plainly saw I must retrace my steps till I could cross this branch, and if I could not cross it at all, I must return to the settlement from whence I had started. So I got in my buggy, cracked my whip, and started back. In the course of a mile or two, my branch narrowed considerably, which inspired me with cheering hopes.
I made several attempts to cross the branch, but my horse broke through, and with great difficulty I would retreat; and after retreating four or five miles, my branch spread out largely, and became very shallow; so in I ventured. My horse broke through, but from the shallowness of the water, I got safely across; and leaving the branch to the left, and wheeling again south, took it for my guide, and presently came to the main creek, which leaving to my left, urged on my way for the settlement; and though I had to cross many ponds frozen over, and many branches in the same condition, my horse nearly worn down, and myself cold, hungry, and much fatigued, about dark I came up to a cabin, and it looked so much like the one I had left in the point that I passed on. The second cabin I came to, looked better; and though a total stranger in this region of the country, when I hailed at the gate, who should come out but an old class-leader and exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church, whose acquaintance I had made some time before at a distant quarterly meeting. He saluted me as one blessed of the Lord, bid me a cordial welcome, and so did his fine sisterly wife and children. My horse was put up, and well cared for; and soon a good backwoods supper that abounded in all the substantials of life, was on the table. We sat down, and I partook with a relish only known to a weary, hungry man. We had prayers, and the most of us got shouting happy; and one of his interesting sons, while we were all engaged in prayer, was solemnly convicted, and after praying in mighty agony for several hours, the Lord blessed him with a powerful sense of the forgiveness of his sins. For hours we sung, prayed, and shouted together, then I retired to rest, and I slept as sweet and sound as if I had been bedded on a divan of King Solomon's palace. This young man shouted and praised God nearly all night.
This is the way God converts sinners in the backwoods, and a very faint specimen of the way that Western pioneer Methodist preachers planted Methodism in the valley of the Mississippi. This good old brother remained a few years among us, and witnessed a good confession; left the world with a triumphant shout, fell asleep in Jesus, and went home to glory!
Next morning I started on to my quarterly meeting, and just as I got to the bridge, on the main Sangamon River, the high water had surrounded it, but not deep enough to swim my horse, who waded through, and I passed over safely, and got to my quarterly meeting in good time; and although the weather was disagreeable, yet the people crowded out. The word of God took hold on sinners, many of them wept, and cried for mercy, and found by happy experience, that Christ had power on earth to forgive sins. About twenty-eight were soundly converted to God, the most of whom joined the Church, and Methodism was planted here firmly, never to be destroyed, I humbly trust. I have often thought of this scene, and many similar scenes through which I have passed, during my protracted ministry; and when I look back on them my heart grows warm, and swells with gratitude to my heavenly Father for the sanction he has given to my poor little ministry amid all the sacrifices and sufferings through which I have passed, as a Methodist itinerant preacher; and to his holy name be all the glory, both now and forever!
In the Bloomington District I had many warm personal friends, many members that I had received into the Church in Kentucky, and some, in whose houses I had preached in the days of my comparative youth; and although it was a hard district for me to travel, my family living entirely beyond its bounds, yet I was much attached to this field of labor and the brethren, preachers, and people. Some of these old members had fought side by side with me in Kentucky and Western Tennessee, where and when Methodism had many glorious triumphs over slavery, whisky, and superfluous dressing. These were her internal foes; but she not only triumphed over these enemies, but she triumphed over her combined hosts of inveterate and uncompromising sectarian enemies, and attained an elevated position in the affections of very many of the best citizens of those states. Now, many of those brethren who sung, prayed, and preached to and with us, have fallen asleep in Jesus, and sing and shout in heaven; while a few, and comparatively very few of us old soldiers, linger on the shores of time, still fighting under the banners of Christ; and our motto is, "Victory, or death!"
Our next annual conference sat in Paris, Edgar County, Illinois, September 23d, 1846; Bishop Hamline presiding. Our next, at Jacksonville, Morgan County, Illinois, September 22d, 1847; Bishop Waugh presiding. During the three years I was on the Bloomington District we had general peace and some considerable prosperity. During the last conference year that I was on this district, some incidents occurred, which I will relate.
My winter's round of quarterly meetings commenced at Bloomington; Brother Samuel Elliott was preacher in charge, and it was his second year. There had fallen a very deep snow, which had greatly blocked up the roads; and by some strange forgetfulness in me, I started for my Bloomington quarterly meeting a week too soon; it was very cold, and I had an open bleak prairie to travel through. The first day, I rode about forty miles, and late in the evening I arrived at a very friendly brother's house, but, behold! when I went in, I found a large company, consisting of parts of several families, that had taken shelter under this friendly roof, from the severe cold and pitiless storm of snow that had fallen; but all was as pleasant as could be expected in a crowd, in very cold weather. When we came to retire to rest, it was found that all the beds had to be put into requisition, to accommodate the females; what was to be done with the five or six men of us that composed a part of the company? Our accommodation was cared for in something like the following way. A large fire was made up, and plenty of wood brought in to keep it up all night. Large buffalo robes and quilts were spread down before the fire, and plenty of blankets and quilts for covering; and after praying together, we all retired to rest, and though our bedding was hard, we slept soundly.
Rising early next morning, I mounted my horse, and started on my way to Waynesville, a little village which gave name to one of my circuits. Brother John A. Brittenham was preacher in charge. He saluted me in good brotherly style, and inquired which way I was traveling. I informed him I was bound for the Bloomington quarterly meeting. He said, "That meeting is not till Saturday week; so Brother Elliott informs me."
I was surprised, and immediately turned to the District Book, and found it even so. Well, what was now to be done? Shall I retrace my steps, two days back home; and then travel over this dreary cold road here again? Or what shall I do? Said Brother Brittenham, "Stay with us, and let us have meeting every night till just time for you to reach your quarterly meeting in Bloomington."
"Agreed," said I.
This was a very wicked little village. The Church was feeble, and greatly needed a revival. We sent out, and gathered a small congregation, and tried to preach to them; and there were some signs of good. Next night our congregation was considerably larger, with increasing evidences of good. The third night our house was not sufficient to hold the congregation; and there were mighty displays of the power of God. Some shouted aloud the praise of God; some wept. Our altar was crowded with mourners, and several souls were converted; but, notwithstanding, the place was made awful by reason of the power of God; some mocked, and made sport. Among these were two very wicked young men, ringleaders in wickedness. After interrupting the congregation, and profanely cursing the religious exercises of the people of God, they mounted their horses, and started home. After, or about the time of their starting home, they made up a race for a trifling sum, or a bottle of whisky, and started off, under whip, at full speed; but had not run their horses far, till the horse of the most daring and presumptuous of those young men flew the track, and dashed his rider against a tree, knocked the breath out of him, and he never spoke again. Thus, unexpectedly, this young man, with all his blasphemous oaths still lingering on his lips, was suddenly hurried into eternity, totally unprepared to meet his God.
The tidings of the awful circumstance ran with lightning speed through the village and country round; an awful panic seized upon the multitude, and such weeping and wailing among his relatives and people at large, I hardly ever beheld before. There was no more persecution during the protracted meeting, which lasted for many days; and it seemed, at one time, after this calamity had fallen on the young man, that the whole country was in an agony for salvation. Many, very many, professed religion and joined the Church, but the exact number I do not now recollect.
Before our meeting closed here, Brother Elliott, who had kept up a series of meetings in Bloomington, preparatory to the quarterly meeting--which meetings had been greatly blessed--met me in Waynesville, and we returned to the battlefield in Bloomington again. Our meetings were recommenced, and, with constantly increasing interest, were kept up night and day for a considerable length of time. Many were convicted, reclaimed, converted, and built up in the most holy faith. Of the number of conversions and accessions to the Church I do not now remember, but it occurs to me that it was seventy or eighty. Brother Elliott's labors were greatly blessed in this charge, the last year of his pastoral labors there.
Another incident occurred, while I was on this district, which I feel disposed to name. There were a good many settlements and neighborhoods in the bounds of the district where the people had become, in opinion, Universalists, and, judging from their morality, or rather their immorality, this doctrine suited them well; and it is a little strange, but no stranger than true, I say, without any fear of contradiction, the most of these Universalists had been members of some Christian Church, and had backslidden and lost their religion, if ever they had any. In the course of my peregrinations I fell in with one of their preachers, who really thought himself a mighty smart, talented man, and was ready for debate, in public or private, on all occasions. His assumed boldness gave him great consequence with his hoodwinked disciples. He was very loquacious, and had some clumsy play on words. After conversing with him a few minutes, I took my line, common sense, and sounded him. He affectcd to have great veneration for my gray hairs; but I soon found his veneration for my gray hairs arose more from a fear of my gray arguments than otherwise. He was a man of slender constitution, and had been, and was then, greatly afflicted with sore eyes, and was threatened with the total loss of sight. He, in the course of our conversation, said there could not be any such being as a personal devil, who could be everywhere present at one and the same time, tempting mankind to evil; and as for a future place of punishment called hell, there was no such place; that the temptations of man arose from his fallen nature and not from the devil, and the punishment that man would suffer for his evil doings he suffered in this life, and these sufferings consisted in the compunctions of conscience for his moral delinquencies, and in his bodily afflictions.
"Well," said I, "my dear sir, if your argument is a sound one, I must draw very unfavorable conclusions in reference to the magnitude of your crimes."
"Why so?" responded he.
"Well, sir, for a very good reason. As to your moral delinquencies, and your compunctions of conscience, they are best known, perhaps, to yourself; but as to your bodily afflictions, as a punishment, I think I can draw very fair inferences, for I cannot conceive of a greater bodily affliction than the loss of sight; and as your vision is almost gone, and you have expressed your firm belief that you will lose your sight altogether, I must, if your doctrine be true, number you among the greatest sinners on earth, for God is too wise to err, and too good to inflict undeserved punishment." I tell you his stars and stripes were not only dropped to half mast, but trailed in the dust.
There were some evil reports about this preacher and a certain landlord's lady who kept public entertainment. Another Methodist minister and myself called to stay all night at this house, as we were on a journey. The landlord was from home. We were known to this lady, but she charged us tolerably high, and, Universalist as she was, I think her conscience smote her a little for charging preachers, and she began to make a kind of apology for doing so. She said, "Mr. Cartwright, I suppose you will think it a little strange that I charge Methodist preachers, but you need not, for I charge my own preacher, Mr.----."
"O, no, madam," said I ; "not at all, not at all. If reports about you and Mr.---, your preacher, be true, such a course, perhaps, is right, and I have money enough to pay all Universalist bills, and they ought to have it, for all the happiness they will ever see is in this life; there is none for them in the life to come." You may depend upon it apologies ceased, and a dumb dispensation came over our fair hostess.
Now, who does not see, from these rather desultory incidents, the legitimate fruits of a false foundation that proposes to save all mankind, irrespective of the moral temperament of the heart? or, in other words, who does not see the fatal error of the fallacious arguments that go to prove the final salvation of all mankind, without repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ? How many poor, self-deluded souls are leaning on this broken staff, and will never be awakened to a sense of their true condition till they hear the dreadful communication: "The great day of His wrath has come, and who shall be able to stand?"
In the fall of 1847, at our annual conference, in Jacksonville, our election of delegates to the General Conference that sat in Pittsburgh in 1848, came off, and, for the ninth time, it pleased the members of the conference to return me one of its delegates. This General Conference was, on many accounts, a very interesting one, and especially on account of the state of things that had grown up under the late rupture in the Church. The Southern preachers had gone from the General Conference of 1844, with predetermination to renounce the jurisdiction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which was all planned and determined on before the delegates left New-York. This is a fact clearly settled, and admits of no doubt. But how does this course of conduct agree with the solemn pledges publicly given to the General Conference by the Southern delegates, that, on their return home to their different fields of labor, they would, if possible, allay the agitation in the South? and if there was a rupture, it should be of imperious necessity, and not of choice? Did they do this? Was there a single Christian effort put forth to accomplish this? O, no! never, never! But a very different course was pursued. The tocsin of war was sounded; the Methodist Episcopal Church was denounced as an Abolition Church, and the cry of self-defense was heard everywhere, from Virginia to Florida and Louisiana. To arms! to arms! ye great American people, or these abolitionists of the Methodist Episcopal Church will be down upon you, and come and steal all our negroes!
The convention at Louisville was called, a convention of delegates from the slaveholding conferences; and the delegates appeared in regular uniform, equipped and armed according to law. The yoke of the Methodist Episcopal Church, a rampant abolition Church, was thrown off; a separate organization was formed; their General Conference was appointed; Bishop Soule seceded from the Methodist Episcopal Church, went over and joined them, and acted as generalissimo. Bishop Andrew, unhurt by the dreadful extra judicial act of the abolition General Conference of 1844, appears with all his pontifical robes, shining rather brighter by the abolition rubbing that he had gotten; two more slaveholding bishops elected; a jubilant song was sung to the tune and words of, Farewell to abolitionists, negro stealers, and all the croakers of the North. And, after heaping upon the Methodist Episcopal Church all kinds of abuse, and every opprobrious epithet that the fiery burning vocabulary of the South could afford, the Southern General Conference, in the plenitude of their goodness and wisdom, sent a delegate to the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, held in Pittsburgh, in 1848, asking a mutual and reciprocal fraternization between the Church, North, as they misnamed us, and the Church, South. Now, unprejudiced reader, what do you think of this? A better man and better Christian gentleman the whole South did not afford than Dr. Pierce, their messenger on this embassy; but the Methodist Episcopal Church was caricatured, abused, slandered, and in every sense maltreated by the South; and while they were wounded and bleeding at every pore, is it to be wondered at that this embassy failed, and that every single member of the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 1848, voted against fraternization? If they would undo the wrongs they had inflicted, and take back their hard speeches, and bind themselves to a Christian course in future, then, and not until then, could the Methodist Episcopal Church think of a Christian fraternization.
The constitutional vote having failed to be obtained from the annual conferences, in order to render valid an alteration of the sixth restrictive feature of the Constitution, laid down in our Discipline, all the doings of the General Conference of 1844, with respect to a division of the Church, the property or funds of the Church, or a line of separation, were, to all intents, purposes, and constructions, null and void; but still the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church of 1848 were unwilling that any act on their part should be wanting, to settle peaceably these Church difficulties; they, therefore, asked again the concurrent three-quarter vote, of all the annual conferences, to a peace measure, to stop all, or prevent any litigation on the property question; but before our bishops had time to submit this measure to the annual conferences that remained firm in the union of the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Southern commissioners commenced a suit, thereby rendering all peaceful constitutional efforts on her part vain. The unjust decisions on these suits are well known, and will form part and parcel of the history of our country, and especially of the unjust judicial decisions of the court against the Church.
At the conference held at Jacksonville, September 22d, 1847, my appointment was to the Springfield District, which was composed of the following appointments, namely: Springfield Station, Taylorsville, Sangamon, Petersburgh, Beardstown, Carlinville, Hillsborough, and Sharon Mission. During this conference year, 1847-48, we had some splendid revivals, and an increase of over five hundred members in Springfield, under the faithful labors of Brother J. F. Jaquess. Great good was done, and many souls were converted, and added to the Church; and, although some of these promising youths that joined the Church, under hopeful prospects, through persecution and other unfavorable causes, fell back into their old habits, and made shipwreck of faith, a number stood firm, and ornamented their profession, and one of them is now an acceptable traveling preacher in the Illinois Conference. Taylorsville Mission shared, in a considerable degree, this year, in revival influence, under the labors of L. C. Pitner, preacher in charge. In Petersburgh, there was also a good work, and a considerable number converted, and a very neat church erected, that does honor to the village, under the industrious efforts of Benjamin Newman, preacher in charge.
In the fall of 1848, our conference was held in Belleville, St. Clair County, Illinois; Bishop Morris presiding. In the course of this year, there was a good religious influence felt in the Sangamon Circuit, especially in several of the Southern appointments, that are now included in the Chatham Circuit. W. S. M'Murray was very successful here in winning over to Christ many precious souls. There were many conversions, and large additions to the Church; and though he has gone to his reward, he will long live in the affections of many in the bounds of the then Sangamon Circuit. He succeeded in erecting a decent church on Sugar Creek, and the Society honored him in calling it, "M'Murray Chapel."
Brother M'Murray, his wife, and three of his children, were all violently attacked with the cholera, and in a few days of each other, they fell victims to its violence; but he will long live in the affections and remembrance of many, especially of those whom he was the instrument, under God, of converting. Peace to his memory! and may the Lord take care of, and provide for the three orphan children that Brother and Sister M'Murray left behind.
In the fall of 1849, our conference was held in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois; Bishop Janes presiding. This year I was returned to the Springfield District. There were no great revivals in the bounds of the district this year, though the Church in the main was in a peaceful, healthy condition; some conversions, and some increase in the membership.
I beg leave here to devote a few lines in giving a small sketch of our German work. It is only a few years since it pleased God to awaken and convert Dr. Nast, now editor of the German "Apologist." He came to America a German rationalist, or infidel. He was awakened and converted under the labors of the ministry of the Methodists. He was soon licensed to preach, and was the first German missionary to thousands of our foreign German population. God soon gave him seals to his ministry; sent his awakening, convincing power, and powerfully converted some of his countrymen. He also raised up some of these new converts to preach the Gospel to the Germans; and with Dr. Nast and his co-laborers the German Mission started. Soon, circuits were formed, and the work of God spread through Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, and Illinois. God raised up faithful and able German preachers, to carry the tidings of salvation to their perishing countrymen that were here, or coming by the thousand to America. Many who were Catholics, Lutherans, rationalists, and infidels, were happily converted to God; the work spread and increased, till stations, circuits, and districts were formed, and are still forming; and they come the nighest to old-fashioned, or primitive Methodism, of any people I ever saw.
I was once in conversation with Brother Jacoby, and advising him to Americanize his German Methodists, when he said to me, "There are three things that must be done to a German before you can get him right. He must first be converted in his head, for his head is wrong. Secondly, he must be converted in his heart, for his heart is wrong. Then, thirdly, he must be converted in his purse, for his undue love of money makes his purse wrong. If," said he, "we can convert him in all these respects, we can soon Americanize him and make a good Methodist of him, and then he will stick."
It will be remembered that these Germans in the West all belong to the Ohio, Indiana, Rock River, and Illinois Conferences. They are doing great good, and have been greatly prospered by the Lord. Thousands of the Germans can be reached by preachers of their own language, that can never be reached by English preachers. They need our aid and encouragement. Let us hold them up, and the good they are destined to do, and the hundreds of thousands that they may be, and will be, instrumental in bringing to the knowledge of the truth, are far beyond our most sanguine calculations. Many of them are poor, and many avaricious, and either cannot or will not support the Gospel till they are converted; then they will gladly and cheerfully give according to their ability, and by our aiding them now, and supporting missionaries to labor in those missionary-fields till they are converted and able to become self-supporting, we shall do a good work.
What a blessing it is to have ministers to meet those foreigners when they land on our shores, and tender them salvation in their own language. I do not believe we can invest our missionary donations so as to do as much good anywhere else as by applying it to the support of ministers to preach to all foreigners that are crowding to our happy country; and, by the by, this is a much cheaper plan than to fit missionaries to go to foreign lands, and there undergo the tedious process of learning their languages, or of preaching to them through an interpreter; and our missionary appropriations will go further, and accomplish more good. And when I consider the good already done among the foreign population that are here in our midst from different nations, it gladdens my heart. I have been a close observer of the effect the Gospel has had upon these foreigners, so far as they have come under the influence of the usages of the Methodist Church. Their close attendance on and attention to class-meetings, prayer-meetings, love-feasts, family prayer, and, in a word, all the means of grace, are worthy of all commendation; for I know close attention to these means of grace, is the reason of the great success of the Methodist Church in other and former years; and the want of attention to these duties in our members now, is the grand cause of the deadness and barrenness of the Church.
In the fall of 1850, September 18th, our conference was held in Bloomington, M'Lean County, IIlinois; Bishop Hamline presiding. During this conference year one of our old, well-tried, and faithful preachers, Charles Holliday, had fallen a victim to death. I had been long and intimately acquainted with him. We had long lived and labored together, and nothing contrary to Christian love ever existed between us that I know of. I was called upon to preach his funeral sermon before the Conference, and did so as best I could from the short and unexpected notice given me that I had it to do, and perhaps I cannot say anything about this good old brother better than to transcribe, substantially, what is said in his obituary, printed in our General Minutes, namely:
"Rev. Charles Holliday died March 8th, 1850, in his seventy-ninth year. He was the son of James and Mary Holliday, and was born in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, November 23d, 1771. His parents were members of the Presbyterian Church. They not only trained him up in its doctrines and moral discipline, but his education was conducted with special reference to his entering the ministry in that Church. His parents dying while he was in his minority, he abandoned the idea of entering the ministry, and turned his attention to secular pursuits. At what age he became pious we have no specific information. In the month of May, 1793, he was united in marriage to Miss Sarah Watkins, a lady of good understanding, sound and discreet judgment, who afterward became a devoted, and faithful Christian. The day after they were married, they, in company, united with the Methodist Episcopal Church, and commenced family devotions the same evening. In 1797 he received license as a local preacher. His license was regularly renewed annually from that time until September 30th, 1809, at which time he was admitted on trial in the traveling connection in the Western Conference, and appointed to the Danville Circuit. In October of the same year he was ordained deacon by Bishop Asbury. In 1810 he was appointed to the Lexington Circuit, where he remained two years, and was ordained elder by Bishop M'Kendree, October 11th, 1811; in 1812 he was appointed to Shelby Circuit; in 1813 he was appointed Presiding Elder of Salt River District, where he remained three years; in July, 1816, being bereaved of his pious and faithful wife by death, who left him with nine children, he found it necessary to locate. The certificate of his location is dated September 7th, 1816, signed by Bishop M'Kendree. In the former part of the year 1817, he entered into a second marriage with Miss Elizabeth Spears. This lady, who still lives, proved to be a devoted woman and wife, and a kind mother and faithful guardian to his children. His family being now provided for, he was readmitted into the traveling work in 1817, and appointed to the Cumberland District, Tennessee Conference, where he remained four years. From 1821 to 1825, he labored as presiding elder on Green River District, Kentucky Conference; in the fall of 1825 he took a transfer to the Illinois Conference, and was appointed to the Wabash District, where he continued to labor till the meeting of the General Conference of 1828, at which time he received the appointment of book agent at Cincinnati, in which he continued eight years. At the close of his term of service as book agent he was transferred to the Illinois Conference, and, in 1836, was appointed presiding elder of the Lebanon District, where he continued two years. He was appointed presiding elder on the Alton District in 1838, which was the last district on which he labored. He continued in an effective relation to the Conference, filling such small appointments and doing such work as his declining strength would permit, until 1846, when he was granted a superannuation, and in this relation he remained until the close of his useful life. He attended the conference in Quincy in September, 1849. On his way to that conference he was attacked with disease of the kidneys, from which he never recovered. Although his sufferings in this his last illness were extreme, he frequently exulted in the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which enabled him to bear so much suffering without complaining. He retained his reason to the last. It had been his practice, for thirty years, to pray three times a day in his family, and from his devotional spirit we wonder not that his sun of life set in great peace."
In summing up the chracter of our lamented Brother Holliday, we may say, that there are few traits of real excellence that he did not possess in an eminent degree. As a preacher he was clear, sound, and practical. When he indulged in doctrinal controversy, although he was decided, and expressed his views in a strong language, he was always kind and loving to his opponent; in all the relations of life, as a husband, a father, a pastor, a friend, a companion, he was a most lovely and interesting man, and in the sufferings and disappointments of life, his conduct was characterized by that "charity that suffereth long and is kind." His end was peace, and many in the day of eternity will rise up and call him blessed. Thus lived and thus died, one of our old members of the Western Conference, the only conference, at the time of our brother's commencing his itinerant life, that was in this natural as well as moral waste, or in the valley of the Mississippi. The death of Brother Holliday was a solemn dispensation to me, and having to preach his funeral sermon to the whole conference, as well as many others, and having but a few minutes' notice, and no time to prepare, it was a tremendous cross, and I have always feared that I did not do justice to the life, labors, and Christian virtues of this man of God; but under the circumstances I did the best I could, and ask a kind indulgence of the congregation for all the defects of that performance. Let us unitedly join, and devoutly pray, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his," as said the text on that occasion; and if this prayer is answered, we shall soon reach the place where funeral dirges are never sung, and death never enters.
In the fall of 1851, September 17th, our conference sat in Jacksonville; Bishop Waugh presiding. Here we elected our delegates to the General Conference which was to sit in Boston, May 1st, 1852; and although the Indiana Conferences, Rock River, Iowa, and Wisconsin, had grown up, and were organized into separate conferences that once belonged to the Illinois Conference, yet, from the rapid increase of population in the state, and from the increase of members, and especially the increase of preachers, both English and German, it was found indispensable to divide again, and form a Southern Illinois Conference; and the delegates were instructed accordingly. It pleased the Conference to elect me as one of this delegation. This was the tenth time I had been honored with an election by the several annual conferences, of which I was an humble member, to represent the interests of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the General Conference.
Bishop Hedding, our honorable senior bishop, who died April 9th, 1852, was at the date of our Conference, lingering, with no hope of surviving but a few days. Bishop Hamline's health also being extremely precarious, all the efficient work of superintending the interesting concerns of the whole Church, devolved on Bishops Waugh, Morris, and Janes. We all knew that several additional bishops must be elected at our General Conference of 1852. From this view, together with the infirmities of increasing years of Bishop Waugh, he delivered us a very impressive address at the close of the Illinois Conference, stating that it was probable this was the last time he should ever preside in our midst. This address greatly affected the whole Conference, for the bishop had presided among us with great acceptability, and we honored and loved him greatly. We all remembered that our beloved Bishop Waugh had gone in and out among us blameless, and that we had been greatly benefited by his counsels, and the impartial manner in which he had presided among us; and we always found him orthodox in the doctrines and discipline of the Church. He was always accessible to the humblest preacher or member among us, and we found him to be what I believe constitutes an old-fashioned Methodist bishop; he raised no new standards in doctrine or discipline, but urged us to "mind the same things, and walk by the same good, old Methodist rules." So may all our bishops do.
In the fall of 1851, my four years having expired on the Springfield District, I was appointed to the Quincy District, where I had traveled fifteen years before; then my district extended from the mouth of the Illinois River to Galena, and, indeed, as far north as was inhabited by the whites; and yet further still, into the Indian country, where I superintended the mission among the Pottawattomies. My district was then between four and five hundred miles from north to south, and I suppose would average one hundred miles from east to west. I then thought the district a small one, for when I was first appointed to a district in the Illinois Conference, in the fall of 1826, my district commenced at the mouth of the Ohio River, and extended north hundreds of miles, and was not limited by the white settlements, but extended among the great, unbroken tribes of uncivilized and unchristianized Indians; but now in 1851 how changed was the whole face of the country. The district was composed of the following appointments, namely: Quincy Station, Columbus, Warsaw Mission, Chili, Pulaski, Rushville Station, Rushville Circuit, Havana, and Beardstown Station, about one hundred miles from east to west, and I suppose would average from thirty to forty from north to south. There was no district parsonage and accommodations near its center. I lived entirely out of its bounds, and had the Illinois River to cross and recross five or six times each quarter, and the ravages of many years were upon me, so that I found it as hard to travel this small district as I did my first district in the Conference, which covered more than two thirds of the geographical boundaries of the state. The country had not only greatly changed, in rising glory and strength, but I had greatly changed also; my strength was failing, so that I dreaded a journey of one hundred miles more than I formerly did one thousand. I was well pleased with my appointment on many accounts. I was much gratified to see the growing improvements of the country; the dense population; the great increase in the membership of the Church; the large spacious churches that were built; and in addition to all this, I met hundreds that I had taken into the Church in former years, when a new country tried men's souls. They gave me a cordial reception, and welcomed back their old presiding elder, and gave me unmistakable evidences of their friendship and brotherly love.
But, notwithstanding all this, and a thousand good things that I could say with truth and sincerity, I found that Methodism, in some places, had gone to seed, and was dying out, and, to use our back-woods language, some of the prominent and leading members of the flock had become butting rams, or jumping ewes, or sullen oxen, or kicking mules. These things gave us trouble. One of my preachers, for some cause unknown to me, had become greatly prejudiced against me; he was appointed this year to the Warsaw Missionary Station. This young, flourishing little city of Warsaw stands on the eastern bank of the Mississippi, hard by the Fort Edward military post. We had a small, though respectable little society here, but no church to worship in. The brethren had rented a little, old, dilapidated frame, every way unsuitable, and in an out-of-the-way place. The Presbyterians had a small church; and when our quarterly meeting came on, they offered it for our use. The preacher in charge accepted the offer, but said perhaps we might protract the meeting. They replied we might have it as long as we pleased; we might go on and protract the meeting if we saw proper. The family of my preacher I was not acquainted with; and he, being prejudiced against me, had made a bad impression on the mind of his wife against me. However, she came to meeting, and the Lord blessed her, for she was a very good woman. The Lord also reached the heart of their interesting little daughter, and she joined the Church. After this, the preacher's wife expostulated with him, and told him to lay aside his prejudices against me, alleging that I must be a good man, for the Lord had blessed and was blessing my labors in a powerful degree. The old brother surrendered, and gave up his prejudices, and we became very friendly.
The power of God fell on the congregation almost every coming together; and we had crowded congregations by day and by night. Several were awakened and converted. We protracted the meeting, and intended to extend it over several Sabbaths; but were cut short by official information that the congregation who owned the church wanted to use it themselves after Friday night. We concluded our meeting, thankful for small favors; but did firmly believe that this unceremonious deprivation of the Presbyterian or Congregational church arose from jealousy, or fear of our success. If we judge wrong in this matter, we devoutly hope to be forgiven by the Lord.
The quarterly meeting which we have been speaking of was holden the first days of February, 1852. Our expulsion from the church, in the manner above stated, created considerable dissatisfaction, and produced a determination, both in and out of our little society, to build a church that we could call our own, without the danger of being turned out of it at any time. Accordingly, a lot was selected, and a subscription opened to accomplish this desirable object, and from the amount subscribed by the citizens, together with several hundred dollars obtained abroad, we succeeded the next year in erecting a neat little brick church to worship in; and our quarterly meeting the next year was held in it, namely, the first Sabbath in February, 1853. This meeting was attended with great power. James I. Davidson was preacher in charge this year, whose labors were greatly blessed and owned of God. I tried to preach during our protracted quarterly meeting about ten times, to large and crowded congregations. Sinners were deeply convicted, and a great many, I verily believe, obtained religion. Over twenty joined the Church, among them some good, respectable citizens, whom we hope to meet in heaven, and unite in praising God forever.
But right here I wish to say, that in most of our revivals many men and women of bad habits and ill-fame become operated on, profess religion, and join the Church. This has long been, and now is, a great objection by many to these revivals, and it has been the cause of considerable persecution to the Church. But it should be remembered that the economy of the Church, in saving souls, is compared by Jesus Christ himself to a fisherman casting his net into the sea, and inclosing a multitude of fish, both good and bad. But who ever condemned the fisherman, because his net gathered bad as well as good fish? or who ever drew the erroneous conclusion that the net was bad, because there were some bad fish inclosed in it? The net is to be thrown, the fish, bad and good, are to be inclosed, and then the net is to be drawn to shore, on dry land, and all alike, both good and bad, taken from their natural element. Then, and not till then, the process of assorting them is to commence.
The Methodist Church, in our humble opinion, stands, in this respect, on preeminently Scriptural ground. They give every sinner a chance, and take them on probation for six months, not as members, but under the care of the Church, on trial for membership; and surely, if they do not in that time give satisfactory evidence of their sincerity and fitness for membership, it is not likely they ever will. Well, if they do not in that time give satisfactory evidence that they are in good earnest in seeking their salvation, what then? Expel them? No; for they are not members to expel. What then? We simply drop them, and consider them no longer probationers for membership; leave them where we found them; we have at least tried to do them good, and have done them no harm. This is the safety-valve of the Methodist Episcopal Church; six months on trial for membership. How dreadfully have other sister Churches been troubled in their mode of operation! They generally believe that a Christian can never fall away so as to be finally lost, and that it is wrong to receive any into the Church who are not Christians. Well, in order to get people into the Church, they are often found hurrying them into a profession of religion when they have none; and then, when such fall away, with what astonishing mortification they have to confess they were mistaken; that these souls were deceived; that they never had any religion! and yet they hurl their anathemas at Methodist preachers for taking persons as probationers for membership without religion, while they have actually done infinitely worse, for they have taken them into the Church as full members, and as Christians too, when they were not. Now, if our economy is wrong, what must theirs be?
God bless the citizens of Warsaw, and increase their mercies a hundred-fold, for the many acts of kindness shown to me the two years I was laboring among them.
In the fall of 1841, Milo Butler, a transfer from the Michigan Conference, was appointed to the pastoral charge of the Quincy City Station. It was constituted a station under my former presidency in the Quincy District, and had existed as a station for more than fifteen years. The Church had ebbed and flowed, sometimes in prosperity and sometimes in adversity. There were some fine, substantial members here; but they at this time, 1851, were in a cold state, evidently on back ground. Brother Butler was greatly afflicted, and so were his family, this year. He labored faithfully, according to his strength.
We had a small refreshing in the Church this winter, chiefly under the acceptable labors of Brother Wilson, brother-in-law to Doctor Butler. L. C. Pitner was appointed to Quincy Station in the fall of 1852; and during the months of December, 1852, and January, 1853, a glorious revival broke out, such as had never been in Quincy before. It really seemed as though it would at times overwhelm the whole city. High and low, rich and poor, old and young, bowed before the mighty power of God. Many of almost all kinds of education became the subjects of the converting grace of God, and joined the Church; and when our second quarterly meeting came off, in January, our Church, though large, was filled at love-feast to its utmost capacity. The city mission charge, under the pastoral care of James L. Crane, belonging to the Griggsville District, shared largely in this blessed revival, and our German Methodist Church caught the holy fire; and it was supposed that over one thousand were converted and added to the different charges and Protestant Churches in the city of Quincy during this happy year. Most of them have proved faithful, and are honoring the profession they have made; but; some of them have fallen asleep in Jesus, and are numbered with the Church above.
During the two years I was on this district, we had good times in Rushville Station and Rushville Circuit, Ripley Mission, Pulaski, and Columbus Circuits; a number were converted and joined the Church in all these places. About the 20th of September, 1852, we had a camp-meeting at Sugar Grove, in the bounds of the then Columbus Circuit. Brothers J. I. Davidson, Butler, and Pitner came to our aid, and labored like men of God; but what was better still, the Lord came and made one in our midst. The word was preached in demonstration of the Spirit and the power of God; the Church was greatly built up, and many sinners were convicted and soundly converted, and about sixty were added to the Church.
This conference year was a great and prosperous one to the Church; and the two years I spent on the Quincy District, I number among the most pleasant of my life. Still we had some trials and disputes in the Church which gave us trouble, but the Lord, we trust, overruled all, and great good was done; the Church increased in numbers, in deep piety, in close attention to her peculiar institutions that God has so long blessed and prospered. My strength was failing from increasing years, and long and constant itinerant labors; I lived on the east end of the district, and I had to cross the Illinois River very often, which in winter was frequently frozen over for months, and in spring the banks were overflowed; and I had often to ferry five miles across the water extending from bluff to bluff; and when the winds were high, I have been detained for days together, causing me to risk my life, and to miss my appointments. Under these circumstances, I was impelled to ask the bishop to change the form of the district, and make the river the line.
Our Conference in the fall of 1852 was held in the town of Winchester, Scott County, Illinois; and in the fall of 1853, the 12th of October, at Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois. Bishop Scott was our presiding bishop, and a pleasant president he was. It was at this Conference the above alteration in the Quincy District was made, and the Pleasant Plains District formed. This district was composed of the following appointments, namely: Beardstown Station, Meredosia (now Concord) Circuit, Havana, Jacksonville Circuit, Sangamon, Virginia, and Island Grove; a very pleasant, convenient little district indeed.
I had now been a traveling preacher for more than forty-nine years, and was sixty-eight years of age. I had been appointed presiding elder by Bishop Asbury, at the first Tennessee Conference, held in Fountain Head, in the fall of 1812, which is now forty-three years since; and in all these forty-nine years of my life as a traveling preacher, I had never asked of the appointing power of the Church for any appointment, nor for any accommodation in an appointment; and although some of my brethren have thought that I was greatly favored with accommodating appointments, I here call upon all the bishops that have given me my appointments for more than fifty years to bear me witness that the appointments given me by them, were unasked for by me.
At this conference at Beardstown, in the fall of 1853, for the first time in my life, I did ask to be appointed to the Pleasant Plains District, if appointed to a district at all, but at the same time said I would greatly prefer a small circuit. Let Bishop Scott and his council bear witness in this matter. There was another strong reason, aside from my age and infirmities, that urged me to ask this accommodation; namely, that I might gain some time to write this sketch. But, alas! leisure time to write seems to be almost out of the question with me; I am appointed on so many conference committees, have to attend so many dedications of churches, to preach so many funeral sermons, besides all the important duties of the district, that leisure time with me is a very rare thing. And such have been my Church engagements, and such the length of time between the occasional hours or days devoted to this narrative, that when I have recommenced writing I had entirely forgotten what I had written last, especially the connection of subjects; and this has cost me a great deal of labor and loss of time; hence if there are some repetitions, unconnected incoherencies, I hope they will be regarded and inspected with this motto:
I think it about time now to return and say a few things about our General Conference of 1852, which sat in Boston. When in Pittsburgh, at the General Conference of 1848, the New-England brethren pleaded hard for the General Conference of 1852 to be appointed in Boston, they alleged that New-England had never had a General Conference. I observed to Brother Crandall, and other New-Englanders, rather jocosely, that, judging from the Yankees that I had seen out in the West, I was a little afraid to venture myself in the General Conference among the Bostonians; for almost all that I had seen in the West had assumed such high ground, professed such mighty educational attainments, that we poor illiterate Western backwoods preachers could hardly hold an intelligible conversation with them; and that we were afraid to start any proposition whatever; and when we met them, we could only stand and look at them, and make ready to answer questions.
To this, Brother Crandall pleasantly replied, "Why, sir, you have never seen a genuine Yankee in the West; those you have seen are runaways, or pretenders or impostors; they are an adulterated set of scapegallows fellows; but come to Boston, and we will show you a real live, green Yankee."
"Very well," said I, "we'll go for Boston."
When a number of the delegates from different Conferences met in New-York, on their way to Boston, we took the cars, a crowd of us together, and on our iron horse snorted toward the land of the Puritan metropolis, leaving the Empire City and State far behind.
Just about the time we entered the limits of the State of Massachusetts, our conductor proclaimed a halt of ten minutes; I dashed out without my hat; I wanted water, and as I had no relish for being left by the cars, I ran and watered, and with a quick step returned, and took my seat. I discovered that a good many of the preachers were indulging in a hearty laugh, and, as I thought, at my expense.
Said I, "Gentlemen, what are you laughing at?"
One, somewhat composing his risibilities, answered,
"How dare you enter the sacred, classic land of the pilgrims bareheaded?"
"My dear sir," said I, "God Almighty crowded me into the world bareheaded, and I think it no more harm to enter Massachusetts bareheaded than for the Lord to bring me into the world without a hat."
There were several ladies sitting hard by, though I had not observed them; they pulled down their vails, and chuckled over my speech for miles. When we got to Boston, I expected to see no one that I had ever seen but a few of the Methodist preachers that I had become acquainted with at the General Conferences of former days; but I was very agreeably disappointed in this respect, and especially when I learned that Mr. Merrill, with whom I had formed a pleasant acquaintance at M'Kendree College, Illinois, some years past, was then living in Boston, and had petitioned for Dr. Akers and myself to board with him during General Conference. This Brother Merrill was the son of Rev. John A. Merrill, a fine old Methodist preacher of olden times, with whom I had been long acquainted, who had borne the glad tidings of the Gospel successfully to thousands; witnessed a good confession, lived faithful, died happy, and has gone safe home to heaven. I found myself very agreeably situated in this kind and generous family. Brother MerrilI was intelligent, easy, and pleasant in conversation. His friendly little wife was kind, courteous, and easy in her manners; and her mother, a fine, intelligent old lady. All were easy, familiar, and agreeable. We were also favored with the company of Brother J. F. Jaquess, who was collecting books for the female college in Jacksonville. My fear was, that I would get into a family that were cold, stiff, and distant in their manners. One of these formal, distant, ceremonious families was always a prison to me, and well calculated to make me feel unhappy, and far from home; but it was otherwise here.
The second Sabbath in Boston, I was appointed to preach at Church-street Church at eleven o'clock. I took for the text, Hebrews x, 22. We had a large congregation; several preachers present; and supposing that most of my congregation had hardly ever seen or heard of me, and that they were an educated people, and had been used to great preaching, I put on all the gravity that I well could command; I tried to preach one of my best sermons, in a plain, grave, sober manner; and, although I never thought myself a great preacher, yet I really thought I had done very near my best that time. Well, when I came down from the pulpit, a brother preacher introduced me to several of the prominent members of the congregation; and as I was introduced to them, they asked me very emphatically,
"Is this Peter Cartwright from Illinois, the old Western pioneer?"
I answered them, "Yes, I am the very man."
"Well," said several of them, "brother, we are much disappointed; you have fallen very much under our expectations; we expected to hear a much greater sermon than that you preached today."
"Well, brethren," said I, "how can it be helped? I did as well as I could, and was nearly at the top of my speed."
I tell you this was cold encouragement; I felt great mortification; I hastened to my room and prayed over it a while. That night they had appointed me to preach at North Russell-street. There was a full congregation, and a good many preachers present. I read for the text, Job xxii, 21. I had asked God for help; and when I took my text, I determined to do my very best, and did so; but failed, as in the forenoon, to meet the expectations of the people. And as I came down into the altar, I was again introduced to some of the brethren; and although they did seem to doubt that I was Peter Cartwright from the West, the old pioneer, yet they, in cold blood, informed me that I had fallen under their expectations, and as good as told me that my sermon was a failure. Now was not this too bad? I tell you they roused me, and provoked what little religious patience I had; and I rather tartly replied to one, that I could give people ideas, but I could not give them capacity to receive those ideas, and left them abruptly; and in very gloomy mood retreated to my lodgings, but took but little rest in sleep that night. I constantly asked myself this question, Is it so, that I cannot preach? or what is the matter? I underwent a tremendous crucifixion in feeling.
The next day, I told Dr. Cummings not to give me any other appointment in Boston during the General Conference, "for," said I, "your people here have not sense enough to know a good sermon when they hear it."
The Sabbath following I spent in Lynn, and had good meetings; then I went the next Sabbath to Fall River, and preached for Brothers Allyn and Upham, and had a pleasant time. Some time in the following week, old Brother Taylor came to me and told me I must preach at his church the next Sabbath, at the Bethel Charge; and said, Dr. Akers and Brother J. F. Wright had both tried to preach in his church, and both failed; "and," said he, "you are the forlorn hope. If you flash, no other Western preacher shall preach in my church any more during the General Conference."
Said I, "Brother Taylor, you need not think that any of us Western men are anxious about preaching to you in Boston; your way of worship here is so different from ours in the West, that we are confused. There's your old wooden god, the organ, bellowing up in the gallery, and a few dandified singers lead in singing, and really do it all. The congregation won't sing, and when you pray, they sit down instead of kneeling. We don't worship God in the West by proxy, or substitution. You need not give yourself any trouble about getting a Western man to preach in your church; we don't want to do it, and I do not think that I will try to preach in Boston any more, unless you would permit me to conduct the services after the Western manner."
Said Brother Taylor to me, "Brother, you must preach to us at the Bethel; and," said he, "roll up your sleeves, and unbutton your collar, and give us a real Western cut."
My reply was this: "If you will let me regulate your congregation, and preach as we do in the West, I have no objection to preaching to your congregation, or anywhere in Boston."
"Very well, at it you go," was his reply.
In the meantime, I had learned from different sources, that the grand reason of my falling under the expectations of the congregations that I had addressed was substantially this: almost all those curious incidents that had gained currency throughout the country, concerning Methodist preachers, had been located on me, and that when the congregations came to hear me, they expected little else but a bundle of eccentricities and singularities; and when they did not realize, according to their anticipations, they were disappointed, and that this was the reason they were disappointed. So on Sabbath, when I came to the Bethel, we had a good congregation; and after telling them that Brother Taylor had given me the liberty to preach to them after the Western fashion, I took my text Matthew xi, 12; and after a few commonplace remarks, I commenced giving them some Western anecdotes, which had a thrilling effect on the congregation, and excited them immoderately, I cannot say religiously; but I thought if ever I saw animal excitement, it was then and there. This broke the charm. During my stay after this, I could pass anywhere for Peter Cartwright, the old pioneer of the West. I am not sure that after this I fell under the expectations of my congregations among them.
I will say that a more generous, hospitable, and social people I never found anywhere than in Boston. Their sociability and friendly greetings reminded me more of our Western manners than anything I ever found among total strangers, and many of them are sincere, devout Christians; but their mode of worship I do most solemnly object to, so far as their pews, promiscuous sittings, and instrumental music are concerned. The salaries of their organists and choirs are expenses unjustified by the word of God. I also take exceptions, in many instances, to the moral character of the persons employed in these departments. The evils that result from mixed sittings of male and female, which are always attendant on the pew system, are neither few nor small. The choir practice destroys congregational singing almost entirely, and has introduced the awkward and irreverent practice among congregations of turning their backs on the sacred desk, and facing about to the choir, and this whole system has a tendency to destroy the humble practice of kneeling in time of prayer, and contributes largely to the Church-dishonoring practice of sitting while the prayers of the Church are offered up to God. I shall not attempt a labored argument here against these evils, for I suppose, where these practices have become the order of the day, it would be exceedingly hard to overcome the prejudice in favor of them, though I am sure, from every observation that I have been able to make, that their tendencies are to formality, and often engender pride, and destroy the spirituality of Divine worship; it gives precedence to the rich, proud, and fashionable part of our hearers, and unavoidably blocks up the way of the poor; and no stumbling-block should be put in the way of one of these little ones that believe in Christ.
I found the Bostonians to be a liberal people in their contributions for benevolent purposes. It fell to my lot to be a solicitor for pecuniary aid to erect a church in Warsaw , Quincy District, Illinois Conference, and the members of the General Conference and citizens of Boston gave me several hundred dollars for that object.
I will close this chapter by saying that the
General Conference that sat in Boston, in 1852, was the tenth General
Conference which I attended, or was elected to. These General
Conferences had sat in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Philadelphia,
and New-York; and though we were treated very friendly in all these
cities, yet the General Conference in Boston was more highly honored by
all classes of citizens than any that I ever attended; and, sure
enough, to use the trite saying of Brother Crandall, I found live,
green Yankees by the thousands, and some of them very talented, and
most, of them well educated; the poor among them are cared for, the
children are gathered up in all directions and sent to school; but,
after all, it would make a Western man laugh, in spite of his gravity,
to hear a New-Englander talk of his great farm, containing all of two
acres, and hear him tell how much it cost him to remove the stone off
the farm, how much to manure it, how much to cultivate it; then the
sowing of the products, the marketing of it, and the real product in
cash. They will really talk scientifically about it. I could not but
think of the contrast, for we have some farmers in Illinois that have
from one to five thousand acres in their farms, in active, actual,
productive, profitable cultivation. Hail, Boston! live forever.
The General Conference of 1852 was held in Boston. Our old beloved Bishop Hedding had just died and left us. From the precarious state of Bishop Hamline's health, and despairing of a recovery, he tendered to the General Conference his resignation of the office of bishop, to which we had elected him in 1844, and we accepted his resignation, and, as we have elsewhere said, we had but three bishops left. Brothers Waugh and Morris were getting pretty well advanced in life, and Bishop Janes, though in the prime of life, was failing from his excessive labors. Our Church was extending throughout this vast continent, and in Liberia, Germany, South America, and other different and distant nations; and as our Discipline very properly provides that our bishops should travel at large throughout the connection, it was clearly seen that we must strengthen the episcopacy by electing a sufficient number to visit, personally, all parts of our widely-extending connection. Accordingly, a resolution was adopted with great unanimity, that we elect four additional bishops; and after exchanging and interchanging our opinions and views concerning the men proper to be set apart to this office, it was declared, with great unanimity, that Brothers Scott, Simpson, Baker, and Ames be elected.
A difficulty had taken place in the Ohio Conference concerning a pewed church. One of our good preachers, in aiding and defending those brethren that were in favor of the pew system, had been considered guilty of imprudence, and the Ohio Conference passed a vote of censure on this brother, and from this he appealed to the General Conference. The debates on this appeal brought on the controversy on the subject of pews. The General Conference cleared this brother from the censure. Then followed sundry motions to change the Discipline on the subject of pewed Churches; and, finally, our old, well-tried rule was changed to what it is in our Discipline now. This was a real Yankee triumph. However, many of the members of the General Conference voted for this change, hoping to stop one source of Church litigation hereafter, and they may so far succeed as to prevent any future appeals to the General Conference; but they have, at the same time, opened a thousand doors for strife and contention, in all cases where there is any considerable division or difference of opinion on the subject in our societies. The pew system is inevitably at war with the best interests of the Church, for no honorable, high-minded man, who is poor, and unable to buy or rent a pew, but will feel himself degraded to intrude himself into a pewed church; and that form of worship adopted in any Church which goes to exclude the poor, contravenes the Divine law, and prevents the realization of that blessedness that God has provided for the poor. Fifty years ago there was not a member or preacher among the thousands in the Methodist Episcopal Church that thought of having a pewed church. But since the Church has risen in numerical strength, and become wealthy, this system of pewed churches is fast becoming the order of the day. The pew system must necessarily be extremely offensive to the Lord's poor, and we should all remember the words of Jesus Christ, that it were better that a millstone were hanged about our necks, and we drowned in the depth of the sea, than that we should offend one of those little ones that believe on him. For my own part, I always feel embarrassed when, as a stranger, I enter a pewed church, and how mortifying it is to be directed by the sexton to some back, dirty, or dingy seat, and I involuntarily ask, "Are ye not partial?" Leaving the pew system for future adjudication of the Church, we sincerely hope that its evils will, with the pious, work its entire overthrow, and the restoration of free seats in all the Churches, which so admirably agrees with a free Gospel.
I hope, if I make a few remarks right here on the speculations published not long since in the National Magazine, by its talented editor, on the qualifications of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church, it will not be considered the unpardonable sin. Brother Stevens seems to think that our present bishops, at least some of them, have talents of too high a grade to be buried in the unimportant and comparatively small official duties of their office, and that it would be better to select men of less useful, business talents to perform the small duties of a bishop, reserving those men of a high grade of talent for more important business matters or interests of the Church. I must confess that the position my respected brother takes took me rather by surprise, but my surprise was not so much at the talented editor of the National taking this position, as at the position itself; but then, why should I be surprised at any position taken in this educational, advanced age of the world, seeing that I am an old dispensationist, and fifty years behind the times? I have been acquainted personally with every bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church (save Dr. Coke) from her commencement to the present, and though I have awarded to all of our bishops a high grade of talent, yet it never entered my mind for the first time that any of them had any talents to spare, or that were not necessary to be brought into requisition to superintend all the important interests of the Methodist Episcopal Church. When I consider the responsible duties of a bishop in our Church, to constantly travel at large throughout the entire bounds of our ministerial fields of labor, to oversee the temporal and spiritual interests of the whole Church, to assign, from year to year, the thousands of traveling preachers to their most appropriate fields of labor, and many other important duties too tedious to enumerate in this connection, I must frankly say I have never had the first spasm or fear of getting men of too high a grade of talent, yea, of business talent, to perform the functions of their office with credit to themselves and promotion of the best interests of the Church of God. Moreover, though I may not admire the manner of these speculations of my beloved and talented editor, yet, should they tend to check the high aspirations of disappointed expectants, some good may result.
It is a trite saying, that revolutions never go backward; but if the speculations of my brother are not driving things backward, then I must be very much in the dark. But the theory we have just noticed very forcibly reminds me of what is alleged to be the custom of the members of the Established Church of England, namely: If parents have a smart and promising son, or sons, he, or they are selected for the bar, or for the medical department, or some other prominent position, and they are educated accordingly; but if they have a stupid boy, that promises very little usefulness to the world, or at least promises to shine not very brilliantly, he is immediately designated for the ministry, for then he can be supported by the state, and not by his acceptable and useful talents. O, what a reproach to the Gospel of the Son of God, and what a withering curse to the Church!
At our conference at Beardstown, October 12th, 1853, as I have already said, I was appointed to Pleasant Plains District, and bade an affectionate adieu to Quincy District. I do not know that I was ever appointed to any field of labor that I felt more attached to than I did to the Quincy District, and should have been glad to have spent at least two years more; but the best of friends in this life must part; we part, however, with a blessed hope of meeting in another and better world. I hardly ever left a field of ministerial labor but I felt sorrowful, and indulged in very gloomy reflections. Here are hundreds of my best earthly friends, whom I have lived and labored with in great peace and harmony; we have preached and prayed together; often been happy and shouted the high praises of God together, many of whom are my spiritual children that God has given me. We have labored and suffered together, but now, for the last time, we splice hands, and bid each other finally farewell, till we meet in the general resurrection. When I remember how swift time flies, and how soon God will call his suffering children home, then and there let us meet, where painful separations forever cease.
Before I close this feeble sketch of my long life, I wish to give a very brief sketch of a few of my fellow-laborers who suffered long and endured much in spreading Methodism in these Western wilds, and thereby rescue from oblivion their names and worthy deeds, that generations to come may know their indebtedness to the early pioneer Methodist preachers, for the moral order in a great and good degree that prevails in the vast regions of the West. Whatever may be justly attributed to education and other instrumentalities, the present, as well as future generations, owe, and will owe, a debt of gratitude to the indomitable courage and pious labor of early suffering Methodist preachers for the great and good order of this vast wilderness. When they entered it as preachers of the Gospel, very few ministers of any other denomination would brook the hardships and undergo the privations that must necessarily be endured in preaching the Gospel in these sparsely populated and frontier regions. But hardly had the early emigrant pitched his tent, raised his temporary camp, or log-cabin, when the early Methodist traveling preachers were there to preach to them the unsearchable riches of Christ; and how many thousands who had withstood the offers of life in the old settlements or states, have been followed into the wilderness by these early Methodist preachers and won over to Christ. Many ministers of other Churches waited till flourishing towns, villages, and populous settlements had formed and improved the country, and could give them a good fat salary; and then they came and entered into the labors of these old pioneers. People, unacquainted with frontier life, and especially frontier life fifty or sixty years ago, can form but a very imperfect idea of the sufferings and hardships the early settlers of these Western states underwent at that day, when Methodist preachers went from fort to fort, from camp to camp, from tent to tent, from cabin to cabin, with or without road or path. We walked on dirt floors for carpets, sat on stools or benches for chairs, ate on puncheon tables, had forked sticks and pocket, or butcher knives, for knives and forks, slept on bear, deer, or buffalo skins before the fire, or sometimes on the ground in open air for downy beds, had our saddles or saddle-bags for pillows instead of pillows of feathers, and one new suit of clothes of homespun was ample clothing for one year for an early Methodist preacher in the West.
We crossed creeks and large rivers without bridges or ferry-boats, often swam them on horseback, or crossed on trees that had fallen over the streams, drove our horses over, and often waded out waistdeep; and if by chance we got a dug-out, or canoe, to cross in ourselves, and swim our horses by, it was quite a treat.
O, ye downy doctors and learned presidents and professors, heads of the Methodist literature of the present day, remember the above course of training was the colleges in which we early Methodist preachers graduated, and from which we took our diplomas! Here we solved our mathematical problems, declined our nouns and conjugated our verbs, parsed our sentences, and became proficient in the dead languages of the Indian and backwoods dialect.
Suppose these illiterate early Methodist preachers had held back, or waited for a better education, or for these educational times, where would the Methodist Church have been today in this vast valley of the Mississippi? Suppose the thousands of early settlers and scores of early Methodist preachers, by some Providential intervention, had blundered on a Biblical Institute, or a theological factory, where they dress up little pedantic things they call preachers; suppose ye we would have known them from a ram's horn? Surely not.
JESSE WALKER, known to thousands in Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, and Kentucky, was a native of Virginia. His age has gone from my recollection. His commencement as a preacher was in the local order, and as such he moved to West Tennessee. This was about the time of the great Cumberland revival; and though he had a very limited education, and his preaching powers were not very profound, yet he could preach a plain, practical sermon; and he was a powerful exhorter.
In the fall of 1803 Brother Walker was received on trial into the traveling connection, in the Western Conference, and appointed to travel the Red River Circuit, in Cumberland District; John Page was his presiding elder. He was this year blessed with glorious revivals, and received a great many into the Church. In 1804 he was appointed to the Livingston Circuit. This was a new field of labor which I had formed the year before under the elder. Here his family was greatly afflicted, and he lost by death two of his children; but Brother Walker's labors were greatly blessed, and many seals were added to his ministry.
In 1805 he remained on the same circuit, with Hartford Circuit attached to it. His labors this year were greatly blessed. A great number were converted and joined the Church. In 1806 Brother Walker was appointed to Hartford Circuit; this was also a prosperous year in many additions to the Church. In 1807 he was appointed to the Illinois Circuit, for it will be seen, that the Illinois and Missouri States both belonged to Cumberland District. Here he entered the prairie wilderness, and spent a successful year on that circuit. In 1808 he was appointed to Missouri, still further in the wilderness of the West; as usual, he had several revivals. In 1809 a new district was formed, called Indiana District, embracing Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri States, and J. Walker was appointed to Illinois Circuit. In 1810 and 1811, he was appointed to, and traveled with acceptability and usefulness, the Cape Girardeau Circuit, in Missouri. In the fall of 1811 the name of the Indiana was changed to Illinois District, S. Parker, presiding elder; and in 1812, Brother Walker was appointed to the Illinois Circuit again.
It should be recollected, that in 1812 the General Conference sat in New York; this was the first delegated General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At this General Conference, the Western Conference was divided into two, called Ohio and Tennessee Conferences. In 1815 the Missouri District was formed; and in 1817 he was appointed to that district. Right here it should be remembered, that the General Conference which sat in Baltimore, May lst, 1816, divided the Tennessee Conference, and formed a Missouri Conference. The Missouri Conference was composed of two presiding-elder districts, namely, Illinois and Missouri, though it embraced four states, namely: Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana. The Missouri District covered two states west of the Mississippi, Arkansas and Missouri. The Illinois District covered the states of Illinois and Indiana. These four states were all frontier ground; desperate, long, lonesome rides, and little or no support for preachers or presiding elders; and if our districts were as large and hard to travel now as then, we should not have as many young aspiring expectants for that office as abound in our conferences. In 1818 and 1819, he carried successfully the Gospel to thousands of the scattered frontier settlers in Missouri and Arkansas, and many in the day of judgment from those poor frontier regions will rise up and call him blessed.
I think it was in the fall of 1819 our beloved old Brother Walker, who had traveled all his life, or nearly so, came over to our Tennessee Conference, which sat in Nashville, to see us; but, O! how weather-beaten and war-worn was he; almost, if not altogether, without decent apparel to appear among us. We soon made a collection, and had him a decent suit of clothes to put on; and never shall I forget the blushing modesty and thankfulness with which he accepted that suit, and never did I and others have a stronger verification of our Lord's words, "That it is more blessed to give than to receive." In 1820 he was appointed Conference Missionary, and sustained the relation of missionary to the Missouri Conference from 1821 to 1824.
He was instructed, in 1824, to pay attention to the Indians in the bounds of Missouri. During these years of extensive missionary travel, he visited St. Louis, which was almost wholly given to Romish idolatry. There was no Methodist society or church in the city, and perhaps no Protestant church in the place. It had been settled from an early day with French Catholics. In his visit to this place he saw its deplorable moral condition, and resolved to seek a way to carry the Gospel to its perishing thousands. But how was he to do it? and how was he to be supported while doing it? Means of support he had none. He made it a matter of prayer, and asked aid of God. Accordingly, he made his stand in the city, and took up a day school of A, B, C scholars, by which he supported himself, and all he made over he applied to the erection of a small church, which, if my memory is not at fault, was the first Protestant house of worship in the city. God did not despise the day of small things, but crowned his efforts with signal success, so much so, that he not only succeeded in building a church, but gathered a congregation in it, and raised a Methodist Society which remains to this day; and Methodism has spread through the city, so that there are many charges, and a good many splendid churches erected, and several thousand members in the different branches of Methodism.
In 1824 the Missouri Conference was divided by the General Conference, which sat in Baltimore. The Illinois Conference was organized. Brother Walker was appointed missionary to the settlements between the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, and to the Indians in the vicinity of Fort Clark, (now Peoria.) He traveled extensively, and preached through this entire new country, raised several societies, one at Fort Clark, penetrated into the Indian country, visited their chiefs, made known his wishes to establish missions and schools among them, and met a friendly reception by their chief men, especially among the Pottawattomies; and in 1826 he was appointed missionary to that tribe of Indians. He was continued in this mission in 1827 and 1828, and having obtained a grant from the Indians to a section of land, he built houses, opened a farm, preached to the Indians through an interpreter, established a school, and had some prosperity; and had it not been for the corrupting influences of white men, in selling whisky to the Indians, and corrupt white men that cheated the Indians out of their annuities, there is no doubt but these Indians would have become civilized and Christianized. What a fearful account these unprincipled white men will have to render at the judgment for the demoralization and destruction of the Indians. I thank God, during my superintendence of this mission, while Brother Walker was missionary among them, we had the pleasure of seeing the hopeful conversion of several of them, and of baptizing them, and receiving them into the visible Church of Christ.
In 1828 Brother Walker was succeeded in the mission by Brother Isaac Scarritt, and was sent to the Peoria Circuit, where he labored with his accustomed usefulness and acceptability. In 1829 he was returned to the mission among the Pottawattomies, which was located on Fox River, about twenty miles from Ottawa, where it empties into the Illinois River. In the meantime, the government had bought out the Indian claim; and although the Church had spent some thousands of dollars in its establishment, we lost it. The mission premises were reserved for one of the half breeds, and Brother Walker was, in 1830, appointed to Chicago Mission, where he succeeded in planting Methodism in this then infant city. In 1831 he was appointed to the Des Plaines Mission, and organized many small societies in that young and rising country.
In 1832 there was a Chicago District formed, of mostly missionary ground. Brother Walker was superintendent of this missionary district, and missionary to Chicago town; and although he was well stricken in years, and well-nigh worn out, having spent a comparatively long life on the frontiers, yet the old man had the respect and confidence of the whole community; and in 1833 was continued in the Chicago Missionary Station. This year closed his active itinerant life. He had done effective and efficient service as a traveling preacher for more than thirty years, and had lived poor and suffered much; had won thousands of souls over to Christ, and built up and firmly planted Methodism for thousands of miles on our frontier border.
In 1834, he asked for and obtained a superannuated relation, in which relation he lived till the 5th of October, 1835, and then, being at peace with God and all mankind, and having fought a good fight, and finished his course, and kept the faith, he was ready for the messenger, and left the world in holy triumph; and his redeemed spirit rose triumphantly, and entered heaven, to be hailed and welcomed home by the thousands to whom, in the Divine economy, he had been the honored instrument of salvation; and I hope to meet him in heaven before very long. He was the first minister who, by the authority of the Methodist Church, gave me my first permit to exhort. We have fought side by side for many years; we have suffered hunger and want together; we have often wept, and prayed, and preached together; I hope we shall sing and shout together in heaven. Peace to his memory!
SAMUEL H. THOMPSON was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, March 16, 1786. He had a pious mother, who very diligently instructed young Samuel in the general principles of our holy religion, according to the Calvinistic views of the Presbyterian Church, for which Church through life he entertained a high regard, though he repudiated the Calvinistic doctrines. He received a good common English education for that early day, and was considered an honorable, high-minded young man. In his eighteenth year he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, as a seeker of religion. For two years he sought an experimental knowledge of the forgiveness of his sins; and while engaged in secret prayer, a peaceful answer was granted to him, though not such an evidence of pardon as he desired; but shortly afterward, during family prayer, he obtained a clear evidence of the regeneration of his fallen nature, and immediately commenced exhorting his associates to seek God, and was licensed to preach. In the fall of 1810 he was received on trial as a traveling preacher, in the Western Conference, holden at Cincinnati, which was then the only conference west of the mountains. He was appointed to the Whitewater Circuit, Indiana District, Ohio. Here young Thompson was received kindly, and preached successfully. In 1811 he was appointed to the Nolliechuckie Circuit, in East Tenneseee; in 1812, to Clinch River Circuit. In both these circuits he labored zealously, and was useful. In the fall of 1812, he was ordained a deacon. At the division of the Western Conference, he fell into the Tennessee part, and in 1813 was appointed to the Knoxville Circuit, where his labors were greatly blessed. In 1814 he was appointed to Christian Circuit, and there were in this circuit added to his ministry many seals.
In the fall of 1814 he was ordained an elder, and in 1815 he was appointed presiding elder of the Missouri District. He remained on this district in 1816. Vast was the frontier country that Brother Thompson explored on this district; and he successfully planted the standard of the Gospel and of Methodism in many log-cabins and frontier settlements, and won many laurels for his Master in this wilderness of the West, and the Lord gave him many souls for his hire.
At the General Conference of 1816, the Missouri Conference was stricken off from the Tennessee Conference; and in 1817 he was appointed to the Illinois District, which covered almost all the inhabited parts of the State of Illinois and Southern Indiana. He remained on this large district two years, and was aggressive in all his ministerial labors, organizing many societies in this new and rising country. In 1819 he was appointed to Shoal Creek and Illinois Circuits, joined together, where his labors were greatly blessed. Money was scarce through all this Western country, but Brother Thompson suffered on, through penury and want. In the meantime he had married, and had a young and growing family to provide for. In 1820 he remained on the Illinois Circuit, and was instrumental in greatly building up the Church. In 1821, Brother Thompson was again placed on the Missouri District as presiding elder, where he remained two years, still laboring and suffering for his Master, and planting Methodism in many new settlements, and many claimed him as the honored instrument of their salvation; and many were the thrilling shouts of new-born souls brought into the liberty of the Gospel on the tented camp-ground, as well as from the log-cabin. From 1823 to 1826, Brother Thompson was stationed on the Illinois District, Illinois Conference, which covered more than two thirds of the geographical boundaries of the state; but with unfaltering steps he traveled night and day, seldom missing his appointments, through cold and heat, floods or snow-storms. His labors were greatly blessed, and there is very little doubt that he was the most popular and useful preacher in the state. Hundreds, if not thousands, from the Illinois District, in the great day of judgment will hail our beloved brother, and call him blessed.
From the hard fields of labor occupied by Brother Thompson, his poor fare, the privations he underwent, and his extraordinary zealous pulpit labors, the very many hardships and sufferings he endured incident to a new country, his fine constitution began to give way, and he found it necessary to relax his efforts in some degree. Accordingly, he asked for and obtained a supernumerary relation, and in that relation, in 1827, he was appointed to the Illinois Circuit, where his labors were fully equal to his strength. In 1828 he was continued on the same circuit, and in 1829, having recovered his health a little, he was made effective, and appointed to the Shoal Creek Circuit. The Lord gave him a prosperous year, and made him a blessing to many souls. In 1830 there was a new district formed, called the Kaskaskia District, and Brother Thompson was appointed presiding elder. He traveled this district in 1831 and 1832, abundant in labors and usefulness. In 1833 he was appointed traveling agent for the Lebanon Seminary, and acquitted himself honorably. In 1834 he was appointed to the Lebanon Circuit, and although he had preached for many years to the most of his congregations, yet the Church hailed him as a brother beloved, and his ministry was profitable, and he proved a blessing to many. In 1835 Brother Thompson sustained a superannuated relation to the conference, and the rest from his energetic labors this year gave him some increase of strength, and he wanted to spend that strength in doing good, and his relation in 1836 was changed to supernumerary, and he was appointed to Alton Station. He was this year only partial in his labors; his constitution was fast giving way. Accordingly, in 1837 he sustained a superannuated relation again. But his soul was restless when out of his field of ministerial work; accordingly, in 1838, he asked to be made effective, but the Conference gave him a supernumerary relation, and he was appointed to labor in the towns of Vandalia and Hillsborough; in 1839 he was again appointed to Alton City Station, as supernumerary; in 1840 he was appointed to labor in the Belleville Station, where he labored but little. His physical powers evidently were fast giving way, and in 1841 he was placed in a superannuated relation, which relation he continued to sustain until his redeemed spirit returned to God who gave it, which happened on the 19th of March, 1842.
Brother Thompson labored hard, and suffered much, for more than thirty years. His field of labor for those years embraced large portions of Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, and Arkansas States, much of which was new and on the outskirts of civilization, destitute of means of comfortable support. In these respects his zeal, like a quenchless fire, urged him on night and day, over desert wastes, towering mountains, rapid rivers. He often suffered hunger and almost nakedness in quest of lost and wandering sinners to bring them back to God, and thousands now in heaven will praise God forever that this self-sacrificing Methodist preacher taught them the way to life in their mud hovels and smoky cabins. The last year of his eventful life, his health almost entirely gave way, and while confined to his bed, from which he never rose, such was his ardent thirst for the salvation of souls, that he requested to call in the neighbors, and to be propped up in his bed, and to preach one more sermon to them before he left for heaven. His desire was granted; the room was crowded, and such a sermon hardly ever fell from the lips of mortal man. The power of God fell on the congregation; they wept aloud, and fell in every direction, and many will date their start for heaven to that sermon. And now, having delivered his last message, he said, "My work is done, and I am ready to go at my Master's bidding."
During the few lingering moments that he remained he gave unmistakable evidence that he was at peace with God, and all mankind, and that he had a complete victory over the fear of death. He continued in this heavenly frame of mind until he sweetly fell asleep in the arms of Jesus, and quietly breathed his last and went up to glory. Brother Thompson was a gentleman as well as Christian. He was faithful in the administration of the Discipline of the Church; very firm, but mild. He was courteous in manner, had a nice regard to feelings, but remarkably faithful in reproving whatever he thought wrong in saint and sinner. He had but few personal enemies; his soul breathed the true spirit of Christian kindness and love. He has left behind him thousands that claim him as the honored instrument in their conversion, and if they are faithful I have no doubt will meet him in heaven with shouts of victory forever and ever.
JOHN DEW was born on the 19th of July, 1789, in the State of Virginia. In the days of his youth he embraced religion and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, of which he remained a worthy member during life, and being deeply impressed that it was his duty to preach the Gospel, he was recommended by his class, and obtained license to preach as a local preacher, and then joined the traveling connection in the Ohio Conference. In 1813 he was appointed to the Salt River Circuit, in Kentucky, and was blessed with success. The first year of his itinerancy, 1814, he was appointed to the Jefferson Circuit, and labored with acceptability and usefulness to the Church. In 1815 he traveled the Madison Circuit; here he gave good proof of his call to the ministry, and the Lord owned and blessed his labors. In 1816 he traveled the Guyandotte Circuit, and had seals to his ministry. This fall he located, and remained local for eight years, but was an industrious and useful local preacher, and was the means of doing much good in several parts that he visited. He preached with great acceptability in the southern part of Kentucky and the Illinois State.
In the fall of 1824, Brother Dew was readmitted into the traveling connection in the Illinois Conference, and he was appointed to travel the Illinois Circuit. Here he labored faithfully, and did good. In 1825 he was continued on the same circuit, and at the close of this year was transferred to the Missouri Conference, and appointed presiding elder of the Missouri District. In 1827 he was stationed in St. Louis City. In 1828 he was transferred back again to Illinois Conference, and appointed superintendent and conference collector for the Pottawattomie Mission on Fox River. He was active, vigilant, and useful in this field of labor. In 1829 Brother Dew was appointed to the Galena Station, in the extreme northwest corner of the Illinois State, at least four hundred miles from home; and such was the poverty of the country at that time, for it was new and just in its forming state, that he provided for his family where they were, and spent most of this year almost entirely from home. His labors were blessed in this new field of toil, and he was instrumental in planting Methodism firmly there.
In 1830 he was appointed to the Lebanon Circuit, and he acquitted himself as an able and useful minister of the Lord Jesus Christ; edified and built up the Church greatly. In 1831 he was appointed to Shoal Creek Circuit, with our beloved Bishop Ames, and long will he live in the recollection and Christian remembrance of the Methodists of Shoal Creek Circuit. In 1832 he was again appointed to the Lebanon Circuit, and though he had labored long and preached much to that people, yet they received him as a messenger from God and a brother beloved, and he was useful.
In 1833 he was appointed to the Kaskaskia Circuit, where he was the instrument of great good, and souls were converted to God. Brother Dew was continued on this circuit in 1834. From the hard fields of labor that he had occupied, and the little support he had received, with a young and growing family, in 1835 he located, to gather means of support, and to enable him to reenter the itinerant field, for his soul was filled with holy fire, and he longed to spread the news of salvation from pole to pole.
In 1836 he was appointed President of M'Kendree College; and in 1837-38 he was readmitted into the traveling connection, and appointed to the Carlyle District as presiding elder. In 1839 he was appointed to the Lebanon District, where he finished his useful life, after an illness of about two weeks. On the 5th of September, 1840, he left these mortal shores for a better world, relying confidently on the goodness and mercy of God for his salvation. He left an amiable wife and seven children, and an extensive acquaintance and circle of devoted friends to lament their loss.
Brother Dew had a fine order of talent as a preacher, was a strong theological debater, had a clear and sound mind, and was well qualified to defend the doctrines of the Bible against infidelity, and the doctrines of Methodism against all sectarian assailants. He was popular, and useful as a preacher, labored hard, suffered much in spreading the Gospel, lived beloved, and died lamented by thousands; but his end was peace, and he has gone safe home to heaven, to reap his eternal reward. Chapter XXXI - General Conference in Indianapolis
In October, 1854, our Illinois Annual Conference was held in Springfield, the seat of government, and I was reappointed to the Pleasant Plains District. This was a year of general peace, and some prosperity to the Church. I think we numbered about four hundred conversions in the district this year; and nearly that number of accessions in the membership of the Church. In October, 1855, our annual conference was held in Paris, on the eastern side of the state, and I was returned for the third year on the Pleasant Plains District, which was now enlarged from seven to ten circuits and stations. Our districts in all the Western world are very different from down East and Northeast. There they have from thirty to forty appointments in one presiding elder's district; most of their quarterly meetings are held on weekdays or evenings, not embracing a Sabbath. The presiding elder goes round mostly to preside in trials of complaints or appeals, and as a kind of fiscal agent. Thus, no matter how talented he may be, his labors and usefulness as a preacher are thrown into the shade of comparative obscurity: and by the anti-Methodistic usages of these large districts the presiding elder's office is not appreciated, nor can it be on this plan: hence the hue and cry against the office. In the vast West there is a Sabbath embraced in every quarterly meeting appointment, and a presiding elder's services are properly appreciated; and if these Northern innovators would go back to the old landmarks of itinerancy, and not make so many little pop-gun, forty-dollar stations, the usefulness of presiding elders would now be as it was in the palmy, prosperous days of olden times. No wonder preachers and people complain under the circumstances; the regular work is cut up into so many little and comparatively unimportant stations, and so poor withal, that the support of the ministry is fast becoming burdensome. Go back to old Methodist preacher usage; let every quarterly meeting embrace a Sabbath, and then the old itinerant missionary will work well; but persist in cutting up the work, and making little stations, then appeal to the cupidity of these small fields of labor, and you may expect the table of the General Conference to groan under the petitions of the oppressed, to change the office of presiding elder, till congregationalism is the order of the day.
This annual conference was the fiftieth that I was entitled to a seat in, and during a half century I had never missed attending but one of our annual sessions, and I missed this one by sickness. At this conference we elected our delegates to attend the twelfth delegated General Conference, which sat in Indianapolis, May 1st, 1856. I was elected, among five other delegates, and this made the eleventh time I was elected to represent the interests of the Methodist Episcopal Church in that body.
There were over two hundred and twenty delegates in this General Conference, from California and Oregon, and all parts of the United States and territories. We had also delegates from the Wesleyan Methodists in England, and from Canada; also from Ireland; Brother Jacoby, from Germany, was also present.
From the unhappy political agitations of our country, we had anticipated troublous times in the General Conference, especially on the subject of American slavery. Many of our preachers who were strongly opposed to slavery, had suffered themselves to become too much excited by designing demagogues. Now it ought to be distinctly understood by all the people, and especially by Methodist preachers, that these demagogues care very little about human liberty, or the freedom of the poor down-trodden African. No; they are after the loaves and fishes, or the spoils of office; and while they are riveting the chains of the poor negro ten times tighter than ever before, and threatening to rupture this Union, what do they care, if they can ride triumphantly into office and suck the public pap? Just nothing at all. But on this, and almost all other long-tried and prosperous regulations of our beloved rules and disciplinary regulations, there were found aboard the old ship ministers enough to keep the old, well-tried vessel well trimmed, and leaving in the distance these innovators and spoilers of ancient Methodism. So may it ever be.
Just so sure as a leaden ball tends to the earth in obedience to the laws of gravity, so sure the multiplying of our stations tends to locality and congregationalism. Better, far better, for the Methodist Church this day that we never had a station. Put all the work in circuits, and put on as many preachers as the people need, and are able to support, and let the Church be blessed with the spice of variety and a constant interchange of preachers. There were several changes in the vital economy of the itinerant system of the Methodist Episcopal Church by which we have successfully spread the Gospel without a parallel in the history of any branch of the Christian Church since the apostolic day. I hope to be borne with while I make a few remarks on these matters.
At our late General Conference there were some of the preachers who wanted a change in the time a preacher might remain in a station or on a circuit, namely: from two to three years. They urged the propriety of this change; First: Because it would drive him to reading and study in order to keep up a variety for his hearers. Secondly: That two years was too short a time to become acquainted with his flock, so as to become a profitable pastor. Thirdly: They urged that the Canadian Methodist Church, our own child or the daughter of Episcopal Methodism in these United States, had lengthened out the time that a preacher might remain in the same charge from one to five years, and that the Wesleyan Methodist Church in England, who is the grandmother of the Canadian Methodist Church, had changed the term of service, and that it worked well; therefore it would work well among us.
To this I reply, First: That from fifty years' experience, I find that the return of a preacher, even the second year, to an appointment is not as profitable as the first. Secondly: If a preacher from sheer necessity is to be driven to his books, and study in order to keep up an interesting and profitable variety, there will be but little pastoral duty performed, and but little spirituality in these forced sermons, and a great deal of his preaching will be mere lecturing, and but little real spiritual sermonizing. Thirdly: The Canadian Methodist Church, our child or daughter, when she requested to be set off as a separate Church from us, on account of the civil disabilities under which she labored, instead of following the illustrious footsteps of her mother, the Methodist Episcopal Church in these United States, in relation to the time that her preachers might remain in a charge for consecutive years, flung herself into the arms of her grandmother, the Wesleyan Methodist Church in England, and as the grandmother is generally supposed to be somewhat in dotage, and seldom, if ever, qualified to raise grandchildren aright, it is reasonable to suppose that these Canadians borrowed this radical innovation on the itinerant plan of the Methodist Episcopal Church from a dotard grandmother; and however well it may work in Canada or old England, it can have no other effect in these United States but to localize our preachers, and finally destroy our itinerant system; and whenever this is done, farewell to the triumphant success of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
was another regulation introduced into our late General Conference on
which I wish to remark; I mean the admitting into membership and
ordaining preachers who are appointed to presidencies and
professorships in our universities, colleges, and various institutions
of learning, without having traveled a single day, or having a pastoral
charge as a traveling preacher; these men, without undergoing any of
the privations or sacrifices of an itinerant life, are settled down
with large salaries. Our colleges are rapidly multiplying, and I hope
they will continue to do so, but who does not see that in a few years
our local agents, presidents, and professors may form even a majority
of our annual conferences, and then the itinerant system will be very
much like a man riding a race with the reins of his horse's bridle tied
to a stump. It is wrong, fundamentally wrong. The itinerant should be
kept pure and unencumbered and we should look out men to serve tables,
or education if you please, but our itinerant men should give
themselves wholly to the ministry of the word. These are politically
and religiously perilous times, and there is a solemn crisis on the
Church, but I hope God will guide the ship of State and Church. But
surely this is no time to abandon old and long-tried usages for novel
Somewhere about thirty-five years ago, while I was traveling on the Cumberland District, in West Tennessee, there lived a Dr.----, who was wealthy, and immensely popular as a practicing physician. He had a large practice; he was gentlemanly in his manners, hospitable, and kind. His family were very respectable; his wife was a devoted Christian and a faithful member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They lived in affluence; they were benevolent and liberal in the support of the Gospel. I was introduced to the doctor and his amiable family at a camp-meeting, which was held a few miles from his residence. Having a few days to rest between my camp-meetings, the doctor and family cordially invited me to spend those rest days at his house, and I consented to do so. When our camp-meeting closed, in company with several other preachers, I repaired to the doctor's habitation. We were received cordially and treated princely. There was everything earthly to make one comfortable. The family, black and white, were called in to family worship night and morning, and when we surrounded their bountiful table we were invited to ask a blessing, and to return thanks. The next morning, after we had breakfasted, as we were seated in the parlor, the doctor informed me that he was a total unbeliever in the Christian religion; that he had read the Bible through and through again and again, and that he could not receive it as a revelation from God; that he liked the morals that the Christian system inculcated; he liked to encourage the Gospel, because of the good moral influence it had upon mankind; that he felt it not only a charity, but a positive duty to support the Gospel; first, because it taught a pious reverence toward God; secondly, because it breathed peace and good will to all mankind; thirdly, because it taught truth, virtue, honesty, and benevolence in all the civil, social, and moral relations of man as he stood accountable to his God, and as he stood connected with or related to all mankind.
Now, my gentle reader, you may well imagine that I felt a little surprised, and that I felt greatly the need of right words, or rather strong arguments and soft words, and, after pausing for a moment, I looked the doctor full in the face and said.
"Doctor, I hope you believe there is a God. Do you?"
"Certainly," was his reply.
"Doctor, do you believe that God is too wise to err, and too good to inflict pain or misery of any kind on his innocent and unoffending creatures?"
"Certainly I do, sir."
"Well now, doctor, will you be good enough, laying the Bible aside, to tell me how a wise and good God could push into existence a race of human beings, subject to all kinds of mental, moral, and physical wretchedness, misery, and woe? If he is wise, just, holy, and supremely good, how could innocent man, coming immediately from the plastic hand of his God, be filled with so many unholy and impure passions as we see human nature heir to?"
"I must confess," said the doctor, "I cannot account for it; it is wrapped in inexplicable mystery."
"Well, doctor, seeing God is supremely good and wise, and seeing that man is limited in all his powers of mind and body, and subject to so much misery and so many errors in judgment and practice, can we not well imagine that God, who is the supreme source of all moral excellence, and whose tender mercies are over all his works, would be moved by the benignant laws of his own eternal nature, after having created man for his own pleasure, with all his liability to err and his susceptibility to evil, would be prompted to give to this feeble race a rule of faith and practice? And what else is the Bible? Nay, would it not throw eternally into the shade all the perfections of God, at whose almighty fiat teeming millions of erring human beings have taken their existence in the world, and who have no power to control or prevent their own existence, if that God should leave these millions to wander in the mazes of animal passion without a well-defined revealed rule of faith and practice?"
The doctor paused, and made a sorry reply. I saw I had made a breach in his supposed impregnable wall, behind which he had intrenched himself, with all his boasted infidelity. I saw there was not a moment to be lost; and with haste I commenced readjusting my battering-rams, that in my next onset I might widen the breach, and enter the citadel, and take my infidel doctor prisoner, and silence all his opposition to truth, when all of a sudden he said, "Mr. Cartwright, I know you are a man of reason and good sense; and I think I can prove to you, beyond the power of successful contradiction, that there is no such thing as experimental religion, and that it is all imagination and delusion."
"Very well, doctor; try it."
"Well, sir," said he, "does not all knowledge, either human or Divine, depend upon sensible evidence?"
"Does not faith, human or Divine, depend on credible evidence?"
"Well," said he, "I will state a plain, unsophisticated case. Suppose you were called upon, as a judge or juror, to decide a case in litigation, and there were five witnesses introduced, all of them honorable, high-minded men, whose veracity was never called in question, and who stood unimpeached and unimpeachable everywhere; whose known integrity and intelligence were admitted on all sides; and suppose a matter in controversy was brought before you, and these five witnesses were introduced as credible evidence; and one of the witnesses deposed to the facts as stated by the plaintiff, A., and then the other four came forward, and with equal clearness deposed to the facts as claimed by the defendant, B. Now, sir," continued the doctor, "all things being equal, so far as the intelligence, truth, and veracity of the witnesses are concerned, how would you decide the case? Would you not instantly decide that all the probabilities and all the possibilities were in favor of the four who deposed to the facts stated by the defendant, and that the one lone witness who deposed to the facts claimed by the plaintiff must, to a certainty, be mistaken?"
I replied, "It is altogether likely I should give judgment for the defendant, B."
"Well, now, sir," said the doctor, "you contend that the Christian religion is an experimental fact, and that all Christians have sensible evidence of a change of heart, which you call religion. Man has five senses, namely, seeing, hearing, tasting, smelling, and feeling. On the united and concurrent testimony of these five senses, or witnesses, all knowledge of experimental religion depends; and all professions of the knowledge of facts that cannot be proved by these witnesses, must be fallacious, and, therefore, a deception. Now, sir," said the doctor, "permit me to ask you a few serious and solemn questions; and I demand honest and unequivocal answers, direct. Did you ever see religion?"
I answered, "No."
"Did you ever hear religion?"
"Did you ever smell religion?
"Did you ever taste religion?"
"Did you ever feel religion?"
"Now, then," said the doctor, with apparent triumph, "I have proved, beyond a doubt, by four respectable witnesses, that religion is not seen, heard, smelled, or tasted; and but one lone, solitary witness, namely feeling, has testified that it is an experimental fact. The weight of evidence is overpowering, sir, and you must give it up."
I paused, and seemed to be astonished, and greatly perplexed; but recovering myself a little, I said, "Doctor, are you willing that your principles and professional practice shall be tested by the same array of testimony as you have adduced to overthrow revealed religion?"
"Well, sir, you profess to understand the science of medicine. You have had, and now have, a large and lucrative practice. You profess to have cured various and complicated diseases, and to have relieved and removed many pains, in the complicated forms in which they have attacked the human system; and you have amassed a princely fortune by your successful practice."
"All true," said the doctor.
"Well, sir, do you not know that you have been playing the hypocrite, and practicing a most wretched fraud on the gullibility of the people?"
"No, sir," he replied, very fiercely.
"Why, doctor," said I, "a man of your profound science and research must certainly know that there is no such thing as pain in the human system; and though ignorant people have thought so, yet you know better; and whenever you have visited poor dupes, that thought they were in great pain, and administered medicine to them, and thus persuaded them that you, by your medical skill, had removed their pain, and charged them large bills, you certainly knew you were practicing a fraud on them, and getting their money under a false pretense; for you certainly knew that there was no such thing as pain."
Said the doctor, rather fiercely, "I certainly know no such thing, sir."
I replied, "Well, doctor, I will ask you a few questions if you please, and I demand honest and prompt answers."
"Very well, sir," said the doctor.
"Well, sir, did you see a pain?"
"Did you ever hear a pain?"
"Did you ever smell a pain?"
"Did you ever taste a pain?"
"Did you ever feel a pain?"
"Certainly I did, sir."
By this time I had well-nigh taken the wind out of the doctor's sails, and his countenance betrayed confusion, but I rallied him, and said, "Do not be alarmed, doctor; four respectable witnesses have testified that there is no such thing as pain in the human system, and but one lone witness has deposed that there is; therefore, the idea of there being pain in the physical system of man is fallacious, and there is no reality in the thing; and you ought to go and restore the money you have taken from them, and acknowledge the fraud you have practiced on them, and do so no more; and I charge you, as an honest man, to do it, and quit those fraudulent practices."
During almost all this conversation with the doctor, his wife and family sat around and listened with profound attention, and I frequently saw the tears coursing down the cheeks of the doctor's wife. The doctor became mute, and remained silent for a considerable time. I turned my conversation to the doctor's wife and children. Just at that moment the Lord, in a very powerful manner, blessed the pious wife of the doctor, and she shouted aloud and blessed God for revealed religion. She ran and threw her arms around her husband's neck, and exhorted him, with streaming eyes and words that burned, to be reconciled to God. I said, Let us all kneel and pray. The doctor fell on his knees and wept like a child, and prayed fervently. The great deep of his heart was broken up, his infidelity gave way, and, for the first time in his life, he wept and prayed. All day after this he seemed to be melted into childlike simplicity. He fled to the woods, and earnestly sought salvation. That night, after prayer, he retired to bed, but not to sleep, for he prayed as in agony; and about midnight God spoke peace to his troubled soul, and we all awoke and got up, and joined in prayer and praise. Such thrilling shouts I seldom ever heard from the lips of mortal man. His conversion was the beginning of a glorious revival of religion in the settlement, and many were the souls saved by grace. Many of the doctor's slaves obtained religion, and many others of the slaves in the neighborhood. The doctor fitted out and sent most of his slaves to Liberia. Thank God that I ever had the privilege of preaching the Gospel to slaves and slaveholders. Religion always makes better slaves and better masters, and will secure the freedom of more slaves than all the run-mad abolitionism in the world. The doctor shortly after was licensed to preach, and lived a pious, useful life. God gave him many seals to his ministry. He has long since fallen on sleep, and gone home to Abraham's bosom, while I am left to linger on the shores of time a little longer; but while I pen this little sketch my heart grows warm with holy fire; and I hope soon to meet the doctor and his lovely family in heaven, with many, very many, of the spiritual children God has given me. Amen.
I wish to say a few things in this chapter on the usages of the Methodist Episcopal Church. When I joined the Church, her ministers and members were a plain people; plain in dress and address. You could know a Methodist preacher by his plain dress as far as you could see him. The members were also plain, very plain in dress. They wore no jewelry, nor were they permitted to wear jewelry, or superfluous ornament, or extravagant dress of any kind, and this was the rule by which we walked, whether poor or rich, young or old; and although we knew then as well as we do now, that the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ did not consist in dress, or the cut of the garment, yet we then knew and know now that extravagant dress and superfluous ornaments engender pride, and lead to many hurtful lusts, directly at war with that humility and godly example that becomes our relation to Christ, that so preeminently becomes Christians. Moreover, when we look around us, and see the perishing millions of our fallen race dying in their sins for the want of a preached Gospel, and that this Gospel is not sent to them for want of means to support the missionary, may we not well question whether we are doing right in the sight of God in adorning our bodies with all this costly and extravagant dressing? Would it not be more godlike or Christianlike to give our money, laid out in these unnecessary ornaments, to send the Gospel to the poor, perishing millions that have souls to be saved or lost forever, and will not God hold us accountable for the use of those means and moneys that he has given us? and would not the simple fund that might be created by disposing of the ornaments of the members of the Methodist Church alone, send the Gospel to hundreds of thousands, who must perish in all probability for the want of this little Christian sacrifice by the professed lovers of Christ? The apostle James says, "Whether ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God." Now apply this rule to your consciences, and I have no doubt your piety will decide in favor of the sacrifice you ought to make, and the good example you ought to set.
The duty of family prayer is a very important one to the Christian. God has given the head of the family a very important and responsible position. It is a question very fairly settled, that from the early ages of the Christian religion, family prayer was required and expected of all who professed godliness. If we are to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and if we and our household are professionally bound to serve the Lord, how can we be innocent before God and our families, and habitually neglect this duty? One of the great wants of the Church at this day is the want of more family religion; and has not God threatened to "pour out his wrath and fury upon the families that call not on his name?" How many happy thousands of children will bless God forever for family prayer, or, in other words, for praying parents, who, morning and evening, called their little ones around them, and bowed down before God, and prayed with and for them. O, parents, think of the happy results of the discharge of this duty! Many of your children will thank you in heaven forever, for praying for them in your families.
And yet I am sorry to hear that many of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church shamefully neglect this sacred duty of praying in their families. How shall we answer it to God? Is not this one among many other reasons, why so many of our members feel almost entirely unprepared to enter into the work of the Lord in times of revival, when God pours out his Spirit and convicts sinners among us? and perhaps if we prayed more at home, we would be better prepared to hear the Gospel of our salvation when we attend Church. Let no business, let no company that visits you, turn you away from or cause you to neglect this duty; have your family altar firmly fixed, and your sacrifice always on it, and then look up, and in the very act of asking, expect God to send down the holy fire and consume your sacrifice, be it great or small. I long to see the time come when God shall abundantly revive family religion in the Church; then and perhaps not till then, shall we see better and more glorious times of the work of God among us.
Prayer-meetings have accomplished great good, as practiced in the Methodist Episcopal Church; but are they not growing into disuse among us? Some of my earliest recollections are those Methodist prayer-meetings, where men and women, young and old, prayed in public. We know there have been fashionable objections to females praying in public, but I am sure I do not exaggerate when I say I have often seen our dull and stupid prayer-meetings suddenly change from a dead clog to a heavenly enjoyment, when a sister has been called on to pray, who has reverently bowed and taken up the cross, and utterance was given her that was heavenly, and she prayed with words that burned, and the baptismal fire rolled all around, while the house and all the praying company were baptized from heaven, many sinners, tall and stout-hearted sinners, have been brought to quake and tremble before God, and have cried for mercy, and while crying have found peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Many weeping mourners in those prayer-meetings have found the blessed pardon of all their sins; the members of the Church have also been greatly blessed and have gone on their way rejoicing in the Lord.
One of the best revivals I ever knew was commenced and carried on by a prayer-meeting among the members of the Church without any preaching at all. The society felt that they were on back ground, and they covenanted to meet every evening for a week, and have public prayer and pray for a revival. The first night God met them and blessed many of their souls; the second night the Lord very powerfully converted two souls; the meeting went on then for about twenty days and nights, and from one to twelve were converted at every coming together. The Saturday and Sunday on which their meeting closed, they sent for me to gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost. On Saturday I read our General Rules, and explained them, and showed the principles of the Methodist Episcopal Church. On Sunday I preached on baptism, and opened the doors, and received one hundred and nineteen into the Church, and baptized forty-seven adults and thirty children in the altar, and then marched off to the creek and immersed twenty-seven, making in all one hundred and nineteen accessions on trial, and one hundred and four baptized; this was the fruit of a prayer-meeting.
Class-meetings have been owned and blessed of God in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and from more than fifty years' experience, I doubt whether any one means of grace has proved as successful in building up the Methodist Church as this blessed privilege. For many years we kept them with closed doors, and suffered none to remain in class-meeting more than twice or thrice unless they signified a desire to join the Church. In these class-meetings the weak have been made strong; the bowed down have been raised up; the tempted have found delivering grace; the doubting mind has had all its doubts and fears removed, and the whole class have found that this was "none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven." Here the hard heart has been tendered, the cold heart warmed with holy fire; here the dark mind, beclouded with trial and temptation, has had every cloud rolled away, and the sun of righteousness has risen with resplendent glory, "with healing in his wings;" and in these class-meetings many seekers of religion have found them the spiritual birth-place of their souls into the heavenly family, and their dead souls made alive to God.
Every Christian that
enjoys religion, and that desires to feel its mighty comforts, if he
understands the nature of them really, loves them and wishes to attend
them. But how sadly are these class-meetings neglected in the Methodist
Episcopal Church. Are there not thousands of our members who habitually
neglect to attend them, and is it any wonder that so many of our
members grow cold and careless in religion, and finally backslide? Is
it not for the want of enforcing our rules on class-meetings that their
usefulness is destroyed? Are there not a great many worldly-minded,
proud, fashionable members of our Church, who merely have the name of
Methodist, that are constantly crying out and pleading that attendance
on class-meetings should not be a test of membership in the Church? And
now, before God, are not many of our preachers at fault in this matter?
they neglect to meet the classes themselves, and they keep many
class-leaders in office that will not attend to their duty; and is it
not fearful to see our preachers so neglectful of their duty in dealing
with the thousands of our delinquent members who stay away from
class-meetings weeks, months, and for years? Just as sure as our
preachers neglect their duty in enforcing the rules on class-meetings
on our leaders and members, just so sure the power of religion will be
lost in the Methodist Episcopal Church. O for faithful, holy preachers,
and faithful, holy class-leaders! Then we shall have faithful, holy
members. May the time never come when class-meetings shall be laid
aside in the Methodist Episcopal Church, or when these class-meetings,
or an attendance on them, shall cease to be a test of membership among
us. I beg and beseech class-leaders to be punctual in attending their
classes, and if any of their members stay away from any cause, hunt
them up, find out the cause of their absence, pray with them and urge
them to the all-important duty of regularly attending class-meeting.
Much, very much, depends on faithful and religious class-leaders; and
how will the unfaithful class-leader stand in the judgment of the great
day, when by his neglect many of his members will have backslidden, and
will be finally lost?