Autobiography of Peter Cartwright
At the close of this conference year, 1806, I met the Kentucky preachers at Lexington, and headed by William Burke, about twenty of us started for conference, which was held in East Tennessee, at Ebenezer Church, Nollichuckie, September 15th. Our membership had increased to twelve thousand six hundred and seventy; our net increase was about eight hundred.
This year another presiding-elder district was added to the Wester Conference, called the Mississippi District. The number of our traveling according to the printed Minutes, this was placed in 1807, but it was in the fall of 1806. Two years before there were eighteen of us admitted on trial; that number, in this short space of time, had fallen to thirteen; the other five were discontinued at their own request, or from sickness, or were reduced to suffering circumstances, and compelled to desist from traveling for want of the means of support.
I think I received about forty dollars this year; but many of our preachers did not receive half that amount. These were hard times in those Western wilds; many, very many, pious and useful preachers, were literally starved into a location. I do not mean that they were starved for want of food; for although it was rough, yet the preachers generally got enough to eat. But they did not generally receive in a whole year money enough to get them a suit of clothes; and if people, and preachers too, had not dressed in home-spun clothing, and the good sisters had not made and presented their preachers with clothing, they generally must retire from itinerant life, and go to work and clothe themselves. Money was very scarce in the country at this early day, but some of the best men God ever made, breasted the storms, endured poverty, and triumphantly planted Methodism in this Western world.
When we were ordained deacons at this Conference, Bishop Asbury presented me with a parchment certifying my ordination in the following words, namely:
"Know all by these presents, That I, Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, under the protection of Almighty God, and with a single eye to his glory, by the imposition of my hands and prayer, have this day set apart Peter Cartwright for the office of a DEACON in the said Methodist Episcopal Church; a man whom I judge to be well qualified for that work; and do hereby recommend him to all whom it may concern, as a proper person to administer the ordinances of baptism, marriage, and the burial of the dead, in the absence of an elder, and to feed the flock of Christ, so long as his spirit and practice are such as become the Gospel of Christ, and he continueth to hold fast the form of sound words, according to the established doctrine of the Gospel.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal this sixteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and six.
I had traveled from Zanesville, in Ohio, to East Tennessee to conference, a distance of over five hundred miles; and when our appointments were read out, I was sent to Marietta Circuit, almost right back, but still further east. Marietta was at the mouth of the Muskingum River, where it emptied into the Ohio. This circuit extended along the north bank of the Ohio, one hundred and fifty miles, crossed over the Ohio River at the mouth of the Little Kanawha, and up that stream to Hughes River, then east to Middle Island. I suppose it was three hundred miles round. I had to cross the Ohio River four times every round.
It was a poor and hard circuit at that time. Marietta and the country round were settled at an early day by a colony of Yankees. At the time of my appointment I had never seen a Yankee, and I had heard dismal stories about them. It was said they lived almost entirely on pumpkins, molasses, fat meat, and bohea tea; moreover, that they could not bear loud and zealous sermons, and they had brought on their learned preachers with them, and they read their sermons, and were always criticizing us poor backwoods preachers. When my appointment was read out, it distressed me greatly. I went to Bishop Asbury and begged him to supply my place, and let me go home. The old father took me in his arms, and said, "O no, my son; go in the name of the Lord. It will make a man of you."
Ah, thought I, if this is the way to make men, I do not want to be a man. I cried over it bitterly, and prayed too. But on I started, cheered by my presiding elder, Brother J. Sale. If ever I saw hard times, surely it was this year; yet many of the people were kind, and treated me friendly. I had hard work to keep soul and body together. The first Methodist house I came to, I found the brother a Universalist. I crossed over the Muskingum River to Marietta. The first Methodist family I stopped with there, the lady was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, but a thorough Universalist. She was a thin-faced, Roman-nosed, loquacious Yankee, glib on the tongue, and you may depend on it, I had a hard race to keep up with her, though I found it a good school, for it set me to reading my Bible. And here permit me to say, of all the isms that I ever heard of, they were here. These descendants of the Puritans were generally educated, but their ancestors were rigid predestinarians; and as they were sometimes favored with a little light on their moral powers, and could just "see men as trees walking," they jumped into Deism, Universalism, Unitarianism, etc., etc. I verily believe it was the best school I ever entered. They waked me up on all sides; Methodism was feeble, and I had to battle or run, and I resolved on the former.
There was here in Marietta a preacher by the name of A. Sargent; he had been a Universalist preacher, but finding such a motley gang, as I have above mentioned, he thought (and thought correctly too) that they were proper subjects for his imposture. Accordingly, he assumed the name of Halcyon Church, and proclaimed himself the millennial messenger. He professed to see visions, fall into trances, and to converse with angels. His followers were numerous in the town and country. The Presbyterian and Congregational ministers were afraid of him. He had men preachers and women preachers. The Methodists had no meeting-house in Marietta. We had to preach in the court-house when we could get a chance. We battled pretty severely. The Congregationalists opened their Academy for me to preach in. I prepared myself, and gave battle to the Halcyons. This made a mighty commotion. In the meantime we had a camp-meeting in the suburbs of Marietta. Brother Sale, our presiding elder, was there. Mr. Sargent came, and hung around and wanted to preach, but Brother Sale never noticed him. I have said before that he professed to go into trances and have visions. He would swoon away, fall, and lay a long time; and when he would come to, he would tell what mighty things he had seen and heard.
On Sunday night, at our camp-meeting, Sargent got some powder, and lit a cigar, and then walked down to the bank of the river, one hundred yards, where stood a large stump. He put his powder on the stump, and touched it with his cigar. The flash of the powder was seen by many at the camp; at least the light. When the powder flashed, down fell Sargent; there he lay a good while. In the meantime, the people found him lying there, and gathered around him. At length he came to, and said he had a message from God to us Methodists. He said God had come down to him in a flash of light, and he fell under the power of God, and thus received his vision.
Seeing so many gathered around him there, I took a light, and went down to see what was going on. As soon as I came near the stump, I smelled the sulphur of the powder; and stepping up to the stump, there was clearly the sign of powder, and hard by lay the cigar with which he had ignited it. He was now busy delivering his message. I stepped up to him, and asked him if an angel had appeared to him in that flash of light.
He said, "Yes."
Said I, "Sargent, did not that angel smell of brimstone?"
"Why," said he, "do you ask me such a foolish question?"
"Because," said I, "if an angel has spoken to you at all, he was from the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone!" and raising my voice, I said, "I smell sulphur now!" I walked up to the stump, and called on the people to come and see for themselves. The people rushed up, and soon saw through the trick, and began to abuse Sargent for a vile impostor. He soon left, and we were troubled no more with him or his brimstone angels.
I will beg leave to remark here, that while I was battling successfully against the Halcyons, I was treated with great respect by the Congregational minister and his people, and the Academy was always open for me to preach in; but as soon as I triumphed over and vanquished them, one of the elders of the Congregational Church waited on me, and informed me that it was not convenient for me to preach any more in their Academy, I begged the privilege to make one more appointment in the Academy, till I could get some other place to preach in. This favor, as it was only one more time, was granted.
I then prepared myself; and when my appointed day rolled around, the house was crowded; and I leveled my whole Arminian artillery against their Calvinism; and challenged their minister, who was present, to public debate; but he thought prudence the better part of valor, and declined. This effort secured me many friends, and some persecution; but my way was opened, and we raised a little class, and had a name among the living.
I will here mention a special case of wild fanaticism that took place with one of these Halcyon preachers while I was on this circuit. He worked himself up into the belief that he could live so holy in this life, that his animal nature would become immortal, and that he would never die; and he conceived that he had gained this immortality, and could live without eating. In despite of all the arguments and persuasion of his friends, he refused to eat or drink. He stood it sixteen days and nights, and then died a suicidal death. His death put a stop to this foolish delusion, and threw a damper over the whole Halcyon fanaticism.
I will here state something like the circumstances I found myself in, at the close of my labors on this hard circuit. I had been from my father's house about three years; was five hundred miles from home; my horse had gone blind; my saddle was worn out; my bridle reins had been eaten up and replaced, (after a sort) at least a dozen times; and my clothes had been patched till it was difficult to detect the original. I had concluded to try to make my way home, and get another outfit. I was in Marietta, and had just seventy-five cents in my pocket. How I would get home and pay my way I could not tell.
But it was of no use to parley about it; go I must, or do worse; so I concluded to go as far as I could, and then stop and work for more means, till I got home. I had some few friends on the way, but not many; so I cast ahead.
My first day's travel was through my circuit. At about thirty-five miles' distance there lived a brother, with whom I intended to stay all night. I started, and late in the evening, within five miles of my stopping-place, fell in with a widow lady, not a member of the Church, who lived several miles off my road. She had attended my appointments in that settlement all the year. After the usual salutations, she asked me if I was leaving the circuit.
I told her I was, and had started for my father's.
"Well," said she, "how are you off for money? I expect you have received but little on this circuit."
I told her I had but seventy-five cents in the world. She invited me home with her, and told me she would give me a little to help me on. But I told her I had my places fixed to stop every night till I got to Maysville; and if I went home with her, it would derange all my stages, and throw me among strangers. She then handed me a dollar, saying it was all she had with her, but if I would go home with her she would give me more. I declined going with her, thanked her for the dollar, bade her farewell, moved on, and reached my lodging-place.
By the time I reached the Ohio River, opposite Maysville, my money was all gone. I was in trouble about how to get over the river, for I had nothing to pay my ferriage.
I was acquainted with Brother J. Armstrong, a merchant in Maysville, and concluded to tell the ferryman that I had no money, but if he would ferry me over, I could borrow twenty-five cents from Armstrong, and would pay him. Just as I got to the bank of the river he landed, on my side, with a man and a horse; and when the man reached the bank, I saw it was Colonel M. Shelby, brother to Governor Shelby, of Kentucky. He was a lively exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and an old acquaintance and neighbor of my father's.
When he saw me he exclaimed:
"Peter! is that you?"
"Yes, Moses," said I, "what little is left of me."
"Well," said he, "from your appearance you must have seen hard times.
Are you trying to get home?"
"Yes," I answered.
"How are you off for money, Peter?" said he.
"Well, Moses," said I, "I have not a cent in the world."
"Well," said he, "here are three dollars, and I will give you a bill of the road and a letter of introduction till you get down into the barrens, at the Pilot Knobb."
You may be sure my spirits greatly rejoiced. So I passed on very well for several days and nights on the colonel's money and credit, but when I came to the first tavern beyond the Pilot Knobb my money was out. What to do I did not know, but I rode up and asked for quarters. I told the landlord I had no money; had been three years from home, and was trying to get back to my father's. I also told him I had a little old watch, and a few good books in my saddle-bags, and I would compensate him in some way. He bade me alight and be easy.
On inquiry I found this family had lived here from an early day, totally destitute of the Gospel and all religious privileges. There were three rooms in this habitation, below--the dining-room, and a back bedroom, and the kitchen. The kitchen was separated from the other lower rooms by a thin, plank partition, set up on an end; and the planks had shrunk and left considerable cracks between them.
When we were about to retire to bed, I asked the landlord if he had any objection to our praying before we laid down. He said, "None at all;" and stepped into the kitchen, as I supposed, to bring in the family. He quickly returned with a candle in his hand, and said, "Follow me." I followed into the back bedroom. Whereupon he set down the candle, and bade me good night, saying, "There, you can pray as much as you please."
I stood, and felt foolish. He had completely ousted me; but it immediately occurred to me that I would kneel down and pray with a full and open voice; so down I knelt, and commenced praying audibly. I soon found, from the commotion created in the kitchen, that they were taken by surprise as much as I had been. I distinctly heard the landlady say, "He is crazy, and will kill us all this night. Go, husband, and see what is the matter." But he was slow to approach; and when I ceased praying he came in, and asked me what was the cause of my acting in this strange way. I replied, "Sir, did you not give me the privilege to pray as much as I pleased?" "Yes," said he, "but I did not expect you would pray out." I told him I wanted the family to hear prayer, and as he had deprived me of that privilege, I knew of no better way to accomplish my object than to do as I had done, and I hoped he would not be offended.
I found he thought me deranged, but we fell into a free conversation on the subject of religion, and, I think, I fully satisfied him that I was not beside myself, but spoke forth the words of truth with soberness.
Next morning I rose early, intending to go fifteen miles to an acquaintance for breakfast, but as I was getting my horse out of the stable the landlord came out, and insisted that I should not leave till after breakfast. I yielded, but he would not have anything for my fare, and urged me to call on him if ever I traveled that way again. I will just say here, that in less than six months I called on this landlord, and he and his lady were happily converted, dating their conviction from the extraordinary circumstances of the memorable night I spent with them.
I found other friends on my journey till I reached Hopkinsville, Christian County, within thirty miles of my father's, and I had just six and a quarter cents left. This was a new and dreadfully wicked place. I put up at a tavern kept by an old Mr. M'. The landlord knew my father. I told him I had not money to pay my bill, but as soon as I got home I would send it to him. He said, "Very well," and made me welcome. His lady was a sister of the apostate Dr. Allen whom I have elsewhere mentioned.
Shortly after I laid down I fell asleep. Suddenly I was aroused by a piercing scream, or screams, of a female. I supposed that somebody was actually committing murder. I sprang from my bed, and, after getting half dressed, ran into the room from whence issued the piercing screams, and called out, "What's the matter here?" The old gentleman replied, that his wife was subject to spasms, and often had them. I commenced a conversation with her about religion. I found she was under deep concern about her soul. I asked if I might pray for her. "O, yes," she replied, "for there is no one in this place that cares for my soul."
I knelt and prayed, and then commenced singing, and directed her to Christ as an all-sufficient Saviour, and prayed again. She suddenly sprung out of the bed and shouted, "Glory to God! he has blessed my soul." It was a happy time indeed. The old gentleman wept like a child. We sung and shouted, prayed and praised, nearly all night. Next morning the old landlord told me my bill was paid tenfold, and that all he charged me was, every time I passed that way, to call and stay with them.
Next day I reached home with the six and a quarter cents unexpended. Thus I have given you a very imperfect little sketch of the early travel of a Methodist preacher in the Western Conference. My parents received me joyfully. I tarried with them several weeks. My father gave me a fresh horse, a bridle and saddle, some new clothes, and forty dollars in cash. Thus equipped, I was ready for another three years' absence.
Our Conference, this year, was held in Chillicothe, September 14, 1807. Our increase of members was one thousand one hundred and eighty; increase of traveling preachers, six. From the Conference in Chillicothe I received my appointment for 1807-8, on Barren Circuit, in Cumberland District, James Ward presiding elder, who employed Lewis Anderson to travel with me. This brother is now a member of the Illinois Conference. It was a four weeks' circuit. We had several revivals of religion in different places. The circuit reached from Barren Creek, north of Green River, to the head of Long Creek, in Tennessee State. I received about forty dollars quarterage. We had an appointment near Glasgow, the county seat of Barren County. A very singular circumstance took place in this circuit this year; something like the following:
There were two very large Baptist Churches east of Glasgow. These Churches had each very talented and popular preachers for their pastors, by the name of W. and H. The Baptists were numerous and wealthy, and the great majority of the citizens were under Baptist influence. The Methodists had a small class of about thirteen members. There lived in the settlement a gentleman by the name of L., who was raised under the Baptist influence, though not a member of the Church. His lady was a member of one of these large Baptist Churches. Mr. L. was lingering in the last stages of consumption, but without religion. These Baptist ministers visited him often, and advised, and prayed with, and for him. Learning that I was in the neighborhood, he sent for me! I went; he seemed fast approaching his end, wasted away to a mere skeleton; he had to be lifted, like a child in and out of the bed. I found him penitent, and prayed with him, sat up, with him, and in the best way I knew I pointed him to Jesus. It pleased God to own the little effort, and speak peace to his troubled soul; he was very happy after this. He told me the next morning that he wished to be baptized, join the Church, and receive the sacrament. In the meantime, the Baptist ministers came to see him, and as I knew he was raised under Baptist denominational influences, I was at a loss to know how to act. I took the two Baptist ministers out, and said to them: "This afflicted brother has obtained religion, and he desires to be baptized, join the Church, and receive the sacrament. And," said I, "brethren, you must now take the case into your own hands, and do with it as you think best. He was raised a Baptist, and, as a matter of course, he believes in immersion. And," said I, "my opinion is, if he is immersed, he cannot survive it; and as you are strong in the faith of immersion, you must administer it."
"No, no," said they; "he is your convert, and you must do all he desires. We believe, as well as you, that he cannot be immersed."
"Now," said I, "brethren, he wants not only to be baptized, but wants to join the Church, the Baptist Church of course; and if I baptize him by sprinkling or pouring, you will not receive him into the Baptist Church; or, in other words, if I do, will you receive him into your Church?"
"Well, no," said they; "we cannot do it."
"Now," said I, "brethren, this is a very solemn affair. You will not baptize him and take him into your Church; and if I baptize him, still you will not receive him. There must be something wrong about this very solemn matter."
They then said they would have nothing to do with it; that I must manage it in my own way. I then went and consulted the wife of the sick man. I told her what her ministers had said. "Now," said I, "sister, what must I do?"
Said she, "Go and ask my husband, and do as he wishes, and I will be satisfied."
I went, and said, "Brother L., if I baptize you, it must be by sprinkling or pouring; you cannot be immersed."
Said he, "I know I can't, and I am willing to be baptized in any mode; it is not essential."
As soon as preparation was made, I baptized him by sprinkling, and then proceeded to consecrate the elements and administer the sacrament. I turned and invited both of the Baptist ministers to come and commune with the dying saint, but they refused. Then I turned to his wife, and invited her to come and commemorate the dying sorrows of her Saviour with her dying husband. She paused for a moment, and then, bursting into a flood of tears, said, "I will;" and came forward, and I administered to them both.
After this I said, "Brother L., do you wish to have your name enrolled with the members of the little class of Methodists that worship in the neighborhood?"
He said, "O, yes;" and then added, "before you get round your circuit, I shall be no more on earth, and I wish you to preach my funeral."
After consultation with his wife, I left an appointment for his funeral. In a few days he breathed his last, and went off triumphant.
When I came to the appointment, there was a vast crowd. We had a very solemn time. I stated all the circumstances above narrated, and at the close I opened the door of the Church, and Mrs. L., and six others of her relatives, all members of the Baptist Church, came forward and joined the Methodists. This circumstance gave us a standing that enabled us to lift our heads and breathe more freely afterward.
In the course
of this year we carried Methodist preaching into a Baptist congregation
on Bacon Creek. A great many of their members gave up Calvinism, close
communion, and immersion, and joined the Methodist Church; and we took
possession of their meeting-house, and raised a large society there
that flourishes to this day. Out of this revival several preachers were
raised up that trained and blessed the Methodist Episcopal Church for
Owing to the newness of the country, the scarcity of money, the fewness of our numbers, and their poverty, it was a very difficult matter for preachers to obtain a support, especially married men with families. From this consideration many of our preachers delayed marriage, or, shortly after marriage, located. Indeed, such was our poverty, that the Discipline was a perfectly dead letter on the subject of house rent, table expenses, and a dividend to children; and although I had acted as one of the stewards of the Conference for years, these rules of the Discipline were never acted upon, or any allowance made, till 1813, when Bishop Asbury, knowing our poverty and sufferings in the West, had begged from door to door in the older conferences, and came on and distributed ten dollars to each child of a traveling preacher under fourteen years of age.
After mature deliberation and prayer, toward the close of my labors on the Barren Circuit, I thought it was my duty to marry, and was joined in marriage to Frances Gaines, on the 18th of August, 1808, which was her nineteenth birthday; and we had our infare at my father's, on the 1st of September following, which was my twenty-third birthday.
The Conference, this fall, was held at Liberty Hill, Tennessee, on the 1st of October, 1808. Our increase in members this year was about one thousand three hundred and fifty; our increase of traveling preachers was ten. We had three new presiding-elder districts formed this year, namely, Indiana, Miami, and Muskingum, making seven presiding-elder districts in the Western Conference.
At this Conference I was elected and ordained an elder by Bishop M'Kendree. The parchment reads as follows, viz.:
"Know all men by these presents that I, William M'Kendree, one of the bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America, under the protection of Almighty God, and with a single eye to his glory, by the imposition of my hands and prayer, (being assisted by the elders present,) have this day set apart Peter Cartwright for the office of an Elder in the said Methodist Episcopal Church; a man whom I judge to be well qualified for that work; and I do hereby recommend him, to all whom it may Concern, as a proper person to administer the sacraments and ordinances, and to feed the flock of Christ, so long as his spirit and practice are such as become the Gospel of Christ.
"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and seal, this fourth day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and eight.
My appointment, this year, was to Salt River Circuit, Kentucky District, James Ward presiding elder. This was a part of the circuit I had traveled in the years 1804 and 1805.
In the course of this year my father died, and left me to settle his little estate, which, owing to the forms of law, took me several months, which was the longest time I have ever had from the regular work of a traveling preacher in fifty years; but upon a proper presentation of the case to my presiding elder, he gave me liberty to go and attend to this business. Giving me this liberty by the presiding elder was then according to Discipline.
At the close of the conference year 1808-9, I attended conference at Cincinnati, and there reported myself ready for regular work, and my appointment was to Livingston Circuit. Our increase of membership was four thousand and fifty-one; our increase of traveling preachers was twenty-one.
Livingston Circuit was in the Cumberland District, Learner Blackman presiding elder. This was my first field of labor as an exhorter; which circuit I had formed in the days of my boyhood, and had then returned to J. Page, presiding elder, seventy members. They had increased now to four hundred and twenty-seven; a good increase for six years.
We had not a very prosperous year, but we had some gracious outpourings of the Spirit of God. I held a camp-meeting this year, which lasted four days and nights, without any ministerial aid, save one little exhorter and an old drunken Baptist preacher, who preached for me once, on Sunday. He then and there confessed his dissipation, and wept bitterly, and made us all cry. We had about thirty converts at this meeting. At the close of the meeting we had many seekers who had not obtained comfort. Twelve of them got into a two-horse wagon, and myself with them. We had to go about fifteen miles, but before we reached our home everyone of them got powerfully converted, and we sung and shouted aloud along the road, to the very great astonishment of those who lived along the way. That night the whole neighborhood gathered in, and we had a glorious time. Several more were powerfully converted, and many deeply convicted. The work broke out around the settlement, and scores were brought to a saving knowledge of the truth.
I will here relate an incident that took place this year, concerning one of our Methodist preachers; his name was J. D. He was raised a very bigoted Dunker, or, as they are sometimes denominated, Seventh-day Baptists. When the Methodist preachers came into his settlement he violently opposed them, asserting the Dunkers were right and everybody else wrong. After a while, however, he either really or pretendedly got under deep conviction and professed religion. (This was when the Methodists had borne down all opposition and become popular.) He joined the Methodists, and they soon licensed him to preach. Now he had found the right way, and all the rest were wrong. He had considerable talent, but was a very lazy man. However, the Methodists got him on a circuit a while, and he was popular, but did not get money enough to support him; so he located, and went into land speculations, and got under par as a good man. This year he moved into the bounds of my circuit, and we renewed our former acquaintance, preached together often, and really we were in a fair way of doing much good. We broke into a very large Free-will Baptist settlement, where the preacher was a very weak brother. We rose high in public opinion, and the Baptists offered us a good salary if we would join them and become their pastor. This was a little too much for my Brother D. He came to me one day and said, "Brother Cartwright, you and I have young and growing families: if we would join these Baptists they would give us a handsome support, and as they have no preacher in all this country of any talents, we could sway a mighty influence, getting hundreds into our Church, and secure a good living for our families in all time to come. Don't you think," said he, "it would be best to do it?" I replied: "Brother D., 'Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou art an offense to me.' If money, sir, or a good living, had been my prime object in joining a Church, I should never have joined the Methodists; but when I joined them I joined them from a firm conviction, believing them to be the best people in the world; and the longer I live with them, and the more I understand of their doctrine and system of Church government, the more firmly I am settled in mind to abide my choice; and this world has not treasure enough to allure me from the Methodist Church."
Poor human nature! The temptation was too strong. Brother D. yielded, joined the Free-will Baptists, and was soon installed their pastor. Well, now, he proclaimed, he had certainly found the right way, and all the world was wrong. Well, it was not long before he was caught in a criminal act, ruined his moral character, and was dismissed from his pastoral charge. I will here say that this said J. D. was formerly my armor-bearer in the great contest I had with the Shakers at Busroe, in Indiana, mentioned elsewhere in this narrative. What next? Why, J. D. went and joined the Shakers; and now from heaven God had revealed it to him that he was right and everybody else wrong. The Shakers, hearing of his instability of character, had very little confidence in him. They put him to hard labor to try him. This he could not stand; and presently left them, took up with a scattered band of New Lights, moved to Texas, and I expect the devil has got him in safe keeping long before this time.
Our increase for 1809-10 was 1,950. Increase of traveling preachers, fifteen.
At this conference I was returned to Livingston Circuit, Cumberland District; Learner Blackman presiding elder. At the close of this year, 1810-11, we met at New Chapel, Shelby County, Kentucky, November 1st, 1810. Our increase of members, this conference year, 4,264; increase of traveling preachers, thirteen.
The Western Conference met the last time as the Western Conference, at Cincinnati, October 1st, 1811, and our increase this year was 3,600. Our increase in preachers was ten. Our strength of membership in the entire Western Conference at its last session as a Western Conference, was 30,741. In 1787 we had but ninety members that were officially reported from the West; and if, as we have elsewhere stated, that at the General Conference of 1st May, 1800, in Baltimore, the Western Conference was regularly organized, with about two thousand members, the reader will plainly see what God wrought in eleven years by the pioneer fathers that planted Methodism in this vast Western wilderness; and of the little band of traveling preachers that then plowed the wilderness, say twelve men, none are now living save Mr. Henry Smith. In the fall of 1804, when I joined the Conference, there were a little over 9,000 members in the Western Conference; in 1811, 30,741. There were then a little over forty traveling preachers, and in 1810 over one hundred; and yet, at this time there are not more than six of us left lingering on the shores of time to look back, look around, and look forward to the future of the Methodist Episcopal Church, for weal or for woe. Lord, save the Church from desiring to have pews, choirs, organs, or instrumental music, and a congregational ministry, like other heathen Churches around them!
In 1804, the membership of the whole Church was 119,945, traveling preachers 433, throughout the United States, territories, and Canada. Their increase this year, throughout the Union, was 6,811. In 1812, when the Western Conference was divided into Ohio and Tennessee Conferences, our entire membership had increased to 184,567; increase of members in eight years, near 65,000. Traveling ministers in 1804, 433; in 1812, 688.
In 1811 we elected our delegates to the first delegated General Conference ever holden by the Methodist Episcopal Church. This General Conference was holden in New York, 1st May, 1812. At this General Conference, the Western Conference, which had existed some twelve years, was divided into two annual conferences, called Ohio and Tennessee. The Ohio Conference was composed of the following presiding-elder districts, namely: Ohio District, Muskingum District, Scioto District, Miami District, Kentucky District, and Salt River District: six. Tennessee Conference was composed of the following districts, namely: Holston District, Nashville District, Cumberland District, Wabash District, Mississippi District, and Louisiana District: six. It will be seen that the State of Kentucky was divided between the two conferences. There were members in Ohio Conference, 23,284; in Tennessee Conference, 22,700. There were in Ohio Conference, traveling preachers, sixty-four; in Tennessee, sixty-two. These statistics are for 1812.
I was appointed to Christian Circuit, Wabash District; James Axley presiding elder. This was a four weeks' circuit, most of it parts and fragments of other circuits. I formed it into a four weeks' circuit. We had some splendid revivals this year, and took in some three hundred members. We had two or three very successful camp-meetings; at one of them I baptized one hundred and twenty-seven adult persons and forty-seven children, all by sprinkling, save seven adults, whom I immersed. One of them was the daughter of a very celebrated Baptist minister.
In the north end of my circuit there was a district of densely-populated country, about thirty-five miles across. A Methodist preacher had seldom, even if ever, preached in this district of country. About midway of it there lived a Baptist minister, with a large society and a large meeting-house. He, at an early day, had settled among them, and prejudiced nearly all the country against the Methodist preachers and people.
I had to make a day's ride through this settlement every round, and thought it singular that no Methodist preacher, as I could learn, had ever made a break in it; and I determined to make one in this region somehow or somewhere. While riding through, I stopped at many houses, and asked for the privilege to preach among them. They looked shy, and denied me. I prayed God to open my way; and at length, through an acquaintance I had made, left an appointment to preach at the Baptist meeting-house on my next round.
The Baptist minister publicly warned the people not to hear me; but somehow the novelty of the thing excited their curiosity, and though a weekday, a large congregation turned out, and among the rest, their preacher. He told me he should not hinder me that time from preaching in his meeting-house; "but," said he, "you must leave no more appointments at my church, or if you do, you will find the doors barred against you." Well, I had to submit. I went in, and preached as well as I could, and the congregation were considerably affected, even to weeping. I called on the Baptist minister to conclude, but he refused; so after closing the services, I told the congregation that I could preach to them every round, but that their minister had forbidden me the use of his meeting-house any more; but if there was any man present that would open his private house for me to preach in, I would leave an appointment. A gentleman rose up, and tendered me the use of his house, and invited me home with him for dinner; so I left an appointment, and went with this man and partook of his hospitalities.
When I came round to my appointment, the house was filled to overflowing, though large. While I was preaching, near the close of the discourse, suddenly the power of God fell on the congregation like a flash of lightning, and the people fell right and left; some screamed aloud for mercy, others fell on their knees and prayed out aloud; several Baptist members fell to the floor under the power of God. There was a Baptist preacher present. After I had talked, and exhorted, and sung a long time, I called on this preacher to pray, but he was so astounded that, he told me, he could not pray. Our meeting lasted nearly all night. About twelve persons were converted in the good old way, and shouted aloud the praises of God. I opened the doors of the Church, and thirteen came forward and joined. From this time the work broke out and many professed religion, and we succeeded in planting Methodism on a firm footing here. The Baptist minister who was pastor of the congregation that worshiped at the meeting-house where I preached, had a dreadful rude set of children, especially a daughter whom they called Betsy. She would stand on the seats, point and laugh, and when any would fall under the power of God, she would say it was nothing but a Methodist fit.
At a camp-meeting this summer, held on the land of R. Dellam, Esq., now of St. Louis, a fine man, old Valentine Cook, of precious memory, attended with me, and labored like a true minister of Christ. There was a large crowd of people, and mostly raised under old Baptist influence and prejudice, and as ignorant of Methodism and the power of religion as the beasts that perish. There were several preachers to aid Brother Cook and myself, but all our preaching seemed powerless. The meeting dragged heavily till Sunday. Brother Cook and myself walked out to pray; when we arose from our knees, Brother Cook said to me:
"Brother, have you any faith?"
"A little," I replied.
"I have some," said he.
We were both to preach in succession, commencing at eleven o'clock. He was to preach first, and I to follow. Said he to me:
"If I strike fire, I will immediately call for mourners, and you must go into the assembly and exhort in every direction, and I will manage the altar. But," said he, "if I fail to strike fire, you must preach; and if you strike fire, call the mourners and manage the altar. I will go through the congregation, and exhort with all the power God gives me."
We repaired to the stand. He preached; it seemed as if every word took effect. There was no outbreak; the vast crowd were melted into silent tears. When he closed, he bade me rise and preach. I did so. Just as I was closing up my sermon, and pressing it with all the force I could command, the power of God suddenly was displayed, and sinners fell by scores through all the assembly. We had no need of a mourners' bench. It was supposed that several hundred fell in five minutes; sinners turned pale; some ran into the woods, some tried to get away and fell in the attempt, some shouted aloud for joy; among the rest my Baptist preacher's daughter, whom we have called Betsy. As I went through the assembly I came across Betsy, who had fallen to the earth, and was praying at a mighty rate. When I came to her, she said to me:
"O, do pray for me; I am afraid I am lost and damned forever!"
I said to her, "Betsy, get up; you have only got a Methodist fit," (using her former language;) but she roared the louder two or three times. I bid her get up, saying to her, "You are playing the hypocrite, and have only got a Methodist fit; get up, Betsy." But I assure you she was past getting up. Just hard by I saw her father, the Baptist preacher. He was crying, and shaking every joint in him. I went to him, and said, "Brother A., come and pray for Betsy." He replied:
"Lord, have mercy on me! I cannot pray."
"Amen," said I. "Pray on, Brother A., the Lord will have mercy." I then exhorted Betsy, and prayed for her. If ever I saw the great deep of a sinner's heart broken up, hers was. She wrestled and prayed all night. Next morning, about sunrise, the Lord in a powerful manner converted her. She rose and went over the camp-ground like a top. She at length met her father, the preacher, and of all the exhortations that I ever heard fall from the lips of a mortal, hers was the most powerful to her father. She said to him:
"You, father, have taught me from my childhood to hate and despise the Methodists till my soul was well-nigh lost and ruined forever!"
She then assured him that he had no religion at all, and begged him to repent and get his soul converted. She made him kneel down, and she engaged for him in mighty prayer.
About eleven o'clock on Monday I opened the doors of the Church, and forty-two joined, and among the rest, Betsy. From this meeting a revival spread almost through the entire country round, and great additions were made to the Methodist Church. The circuit was large, embracing parts of Logan, Muhlenburgh, Butler, Christian, and Caldwell Counties in Kentucky, and parts of Montgomery, Dixon, and Stewart Counties in Tennessee.
On the west part of Red River there was a Presbyterian minister settled, who had a large brick church. He had settled at an early day, and the few scattered Methodists who lived in the bounds of his congregation, having no Methodist preaching, had joined his Church rather than live out of Church altogether. I was invited to preach about five miles from this minister's church. I sent an appointment. At the time a large congregation turned out; the people were deeply affected. When I closed, I stated to the assembly that I could preach to them every four weeks, if they desired it. They told me they did, and I accordingly left another appointment. When I came the house was crowded, and the Presbyterian minister came. I preached, and there was a general weeping all through the congregation. The minister concluded for me, and I left another appointment. The minister stayed and dined with me. After dinner he asked me to walk out with him. I did so. When we had seated ourselves, he told me he wanted to talk to me about my preaching in that neighborhood. He said that this neighborhood was in the bounds of his congregation; that I was heartily welcome to preach but, said he, you must not attempt to raise any society. I told him that was not our way of doing business; that we seldom ever preached long at any place without trying to raise a society. He said I must not do it. I told him the people were a free people and lived in a free country, and must and ought to be allowed to do as they pleased; that I should never condescend to try to proselyte; but if I continued to preach there, and if any of the people desired to join the Methodist Church, I should surely give them the privilege to do so; and that I understood there were ten or twelve members of the Methodist Church had joined his Church as Methodists, with the fair understanding that if the Methodists ever organized a society convenient to them, they were to have the privilege of joining their own Church without any hard thoughts or censures. He said that was true; but if we raised a society it would diminish his membership, and cut off his support. "Well," said I, "my dear sir, if the people want me to preach to them I shall do it, and if they desire to join our Church I shall take them in; and I intend, when I come next time, to organize a class, for several have desired me to do so." Said he, "I will be here, and will openly oppose you." Said I, "If you think that the best way, do so." While I was absent for three Sabbaths successively, he opened his batteries on me, told them what I had said, and warned them not to attend my meeting. This roused the whole country, and made me many fast friends; even his own members remonstrated against his course, saying to him, nobody was obliged to join the Methodists, and if they preferred the Methodist Church to his, it was their right to join it.
When I came round
we had a vast crowd out, but the minister did not appear. At the close
of my sermon I read our General Rules, and explained our economy. I
then told them that my father had fought in the Revolution to gain our
freedom and liberty of conscience; that I felt that my Presbyterian
brother had no bill of sale of the people; that I was no robber of
Churches; but if I had any members in my Church that liked the
Presbyterians better than the Methodists, I wanted them to go and join
them; but if there were any there that day that believed the Methodist
doctrine, and were willing to conform to the Discipline of the
Methodist Church, and desired to join us, let them come and give me
their hand, and I would form them into a class and appoint them a
leader. There were twenty-seven came forward; thirteen of them were
members of this minister's Church. I publicly ascertained this fact,
and then told the thirteen that I did not want to give any offense, and
that I wanted them all to go to their next meeting, and ask a letter,
stating their reasons, and I would receive them into full membership at
once. One of them, a fine, intelligent man, and an elder, said that he
knew they would not give them letters. I remarked, "Go and ask for
them; and if they refuse, come back, and I will receive you anyhow."
They went, but the Church would not give them letters, although there
was nothing against their moral characters. After that I received them
into the Methodist Church. Public opinion was in my favor, and many
more of this preacher's members came and joined us, and the minister
sold out and moved to Missouri, and before the year was out I had
peaceable possession of his brick church.
SLAVERY IN THE CHURCH
In the fall of 1812, our Tennessee Conference was holden at Fountain Head, State of Tennessee, on the first of November. At this first session of the Tennessee Conference the Illinois District was organized, and J. Walker appointed presiding elder. The Illinois Circuit, as a mission, was formed in 1804, and Benjamin Young appointed to it. It was attached to the Cumberland District, L. Garrett presiding elder. Brother Young returned sixty-seven members.
At this Conference I was appointed by Bishop Asbury to the Wabash District, which was then composed of the following circuits, namely: Vincennes, in the State of Indiana; and Little Wabash and Fort Massack, in Illinois. These three circuits were north of the Ohio River; the balance of the district was in Kentucky, namely, Livingston, Christian, Henderson, Hartford, and Breckenridge Circuits. In traveling the district I had to cross the Ohio River sixteen times during the year.
I told Bishop Asbury that I deliberately believed that I ought not to be appointed presiding elder, for I was not qualified for the office; but he told me there was no appeal from his judgment. At the end of six months I wrote to him, begging a release from the post he had assigned me; but when he returned an answer, he said I must abide his judgment, and stand in my lot to the end of the time. I continued accordingly in the service, but the most of the year was gloomy to me, feeling that I had not the first qualification for the office of a presiding elder. Perhaps I never spent a more gloomy and sad year than this in all my itinerant life; and from that day to this I can safely say the presiding elder's office has had no special charms for me; and I will remark, that I have often wondered at the aspirations of many, very many Methodist preachers for the office of presiding elder; and have frequently said, if I were a bishop, that such aspirants should always go without office under my administration. I look upon this disposition as the out-cropping of fallen and unsanctified human nature, and whenever this spirit, in a large degree, gets into a preacher, he seldom ever does much good afterward.
We had through the summer and fall of this conference year some splendid camp-meetings, many conversions, and many accessions to the Church. In the fall we met at Conference, October 1st, 1813, at Rees's Chapel, Tennessee. The name of Wabash District was changed to Green River District, and Vincennes, Little Wabash, and Fort Massack Circuits, north of the Ohio River, were stricken off and attached to the Illinois District, and Dixon and Dover Circuits, south of the Cumberland River, that had belonged to Nashville District, were attached to Green River District. I was appointed by Bishop Asbury presiding elder of this district, some time in the course of the summer of this conference year, 1813. We had a camp-meeting in the Breckenridge Circuit, and a glorious good work of religion was manifest throughout the meeting. It was at this meeting that Benjamin Ogden, one of the early preachers sent to the West, who became disaffected, and left the Methodist Episcopal Church under the secession of J. O'Kelly, and backslid, professed to be reclaimed, and returned to his mother Church.
Slavery had long been agitated in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and our preachers, although they did not feel it to be their duty to meddle with it politically, yet, as Christians and Christian ministers, be it spoken to their eternal credit, they believed it to be their duty to bear their testimony against slavery as a moral evil, and this is the reason why the General Conference, from time to time, passed rules and regulations to govern preachers and members of the Church in regard to this great evil. The great object of the General Conference was to keep the ministry clear of it, and there can be no doubt that the course pursued by early Methodist preachers was the cause of the emancipation of thousands of this degraded race of human beings; and it is clear to my mind, if Methodist preachers had kept clear of slavery themselves, and gone on bearing honest testimony against it, that thousands upon thousands more would have been emancipated who are now groaning under an oppression almost too intolerable to be borne. Slavery is certainly a domestic, political, and moral evil. Go into a slave community, and you not only see the dreadful evils growing out of the system in the almost universal licentiousness which prevails among the slaves themselves, but their young masters are often tempted and seduced from the paths of virtue, from the associations in which they are placed; and there is an under-current of heart-embittering feeling of many ladies of high and noble virtue, growing out of the want of fidelity of their husbands, and the profligate course of their sons. Let anyone travel through slave states, and see the thousands of mixed blood, and then say if I have misrepresented the dreadful causes of domestic disquietude that often falls with mountain weight on honorable wives and mothers. And although, in the infancy of this republic, it seemed almost impossible to form a strong and democratic confederacy, and maintain their independence without compromising constitutionally this political evil, and thereby fixing a stain on this "Land of the free and home of the brave," yet it was looked upon as a great national or political evil, and by none more so than General Washington, the father of the republic. I will not attempt to enumerate the moral evils that have been produced by slavery; their name is legion. And now, notwithstanding these are my honest views of slavery, I have never seen a rabid abolition or free-soil society that I could join, because they resort to unjustifiable agitation, and the means they employ are generally unchristian. They condemn and confound the innocent with the guilty; the means they employ are not truthful, at all times; and I am perfectly satisfied that if force is resorted to, this glorious Union will be dissolved, a civil war will follow, death and carnage will ensue, and the only free nation on the earth will be destroyed. Let moral suasion be used to the last degree for the sake of the salvation of the slaveholders, and the salvation of the slaves. Let us not take a course that will cut off the Gospel from them, and deliver them over to the uncovenanted mercies of God, or the anathemas of the devil. I have had glorious revivals of religion among the slaves, and have seen thousands of them soundly converted to God, and have stood by the bedside of the dying slave, and have heard the swelling shout of Christian victory from the dying negro as he entered the cold waters of the river of Jordan.
At our Breckenridge Circuit camp-meeting the following incident occurred. There were a Brother S. and family, who were the owners of a good many slaves. It was a fine family, and Sister S. was a very intelligent lady, and an exemplary Christian. She had long sought the blessing of perfect love, but she said the idea of holding her fellow-beings in bondage stood out in her way. Many at this meeting sought and obtained the blessing of sanctification; Sister S. said her whole soul was in an agony for that blessing, and it seemed to her at times that she could almost lay hold, and claim the promise, but she said her slaves would seem to step right in between her and her Saviour, and prevent its reception; but while on her knees, and struggling as in an agony for a clean heart, she then and there covenanted with the Lord, if he would give her the blessing, she would give up her slaves and set them free. She said this covenant had hardly been made one moment, when God filled her soul with such an overwhelming sense of Divine love, that she did not really know whether she was in or out of the body. She rose from her knees, and proclaimed to listening hundreds that she had obtained the blessing, and also the terms on which she had obtained it. She went through the vast crowd with holy shouts of joy, and exhorting all to taste and see that the Lord was gracious, and such a power attended her words that hundreds fell to the ground, and scores of souls were happily born into the kingdom of God that afternoon and during the night. Shortly after this they set their slaves free, and the end of that family was peace.
There was another circumstance happened at this camp-meeting that I will substantially relate. It was one of our rules of the camp-meeting that the men were to occupy the seats on one side of the stand, and the ladies the other side, at all hours of public worship. But there was a young man, finely dressed, with his bosom full of ruffles, that would take his seat among the ladies; and if there was any excitement in the congregation, he would rise to his feet, and stand on the seats prepared for the occupancy of the ladies. I reproved him several times; but he would still persist in his disorderly course. At length, I reproved him personally and sharply, and said, "I mean that young man there, standing on the seats of the ladies, with a ruffled shirt on." And added, "I doubt not that ruffled shirt was borrowed."
This brought him off the seats in a mighty rage. He swore he would whip me for insulting him. After a while, I was walking round on the outskirts of the congregation; and he had a large company gathered round him, and was swearing at a mighty rate, and saying he would certainly whip me before he left the ground.
I walked up, and said, "Gentlemen, let me in here to this fellow."
They opened the way. I walked up to him, and asked him if it was me he was cursing, and going to whip.
He said it was.
"Well," said I, "we will not disturb the congregation fighting here; but let us go out into the woods, for if I am to be whipped, I want it over, for I do not like to live in dread."
So we started for the woods, the crowd pressing after us. I stopped and requested everyone of them to go back, and not a man to follow; and assured them if they did not go back, that I would not go another step; they then turned back. The camp-ground was fenced in. When we came to the fence I put my left hand on the top rail and leaped over. As I lighted on the other side one of my feet struck a grub, and I had well-nigh sprained my ankle; it gave me a severe jar; and a pain struck me in the left side from the force of the jar, and involuntarily I put my right hand on my left side, where the pain had struck me. My redoubtable antagonist had got on the fence, and looking down at me, said,
"D--n you, you are feeling for a dirk, are you?"
As quick as thought, it occurred to me how to get clear of a whipping.
"Yes," said I; "and I will give you the benefit of all the dirks I have;" and advanced rapidly toward him.
He sprang back on the other side of the fence from me. I jumped over after him, and a regular foot race followed. I was so diverted at my cowardly bully's rapid retreat that I could not run fast; so he escaped, and I missed my whipping.
There was a large pond not very far from the camp-ground, and what few rowdies were there, concluded they would take my bully and duck him in that pond as a punishment for his bad conduct; so they decoyed him off there, and they got a long pole, and stripped some hickory bark, and securing him on the pole, two of them, one at each end, waded in and ducked him nearly to death; he begged and prayed them to spare his life; he promised them that he would never misbehave at meeting again, and that he would immediately leave the ground if they would let him go. On these conditions they released him, and I got clear of my ruffle-shirted dandy.
It may be asked what I would have done if this fellow had gone with me to the woods. This is hard to answer, for it was a part of my creed to love everybody, but to fear no one; and I did not permit myself to believe any man could whip me till it was tried; and I did not permit myself to premeditate expedients in such cases. I should no doubt have proposed to him to have prayer first, and then followed the openings of Providence.
This year there was a considerable decrease in membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, owing chiefly to the war with England; and we felt the sad effects of war throughout the West, perhaps as sensibly as in any part of the Union. A braver set of men never lived than was found in this Western world, and many of them volunteered and helped to achieve another glorious victory over the legions of England, and her savage allied thousands. Of course there were many of our members went into the war, and deemed it their duty to defend our common country under General Jackson.
In the fall of 1813, October 1st, our Conference was held at Rees's Chapel, Tennessee, and for 1813-14 our appointments remained pretty much as they were before. I was returned to the Green River District; this year the Missouri District was formed, and admitted as part of the Tennessee Conference. In the course of this year, or about this time, there were new fields of labor entered by our preachers along the Cumberland River, near the line between Tennessee and Kentucky. We preached in new settlements, and the Lord poured out his Spirit, and we had many convictions and many conversions. It was the order of the day, (though I am sorry to say it,) that we were constantly followed by a certain set of proselyting Baptist preachers. These new and wicked settlements were seldom visited by these Baptist preachers until the Methodist preachers entered them; then, when a revival was gotten up, or the work of God revived, these Baptist preachers came rushing in, and they generally sung their sermons; and when they struck the long roll, or their sing-song mode of preaching, in substance it was "water!" "water!" "you must follow your blessed Lord down into the water!" I had preached several times in a large, populous, and wicked settlement, and there were serious attention, deep convictions, and a good many conversions; but, between my occasional appointments, these preachers would rush in, and try to take our converts off into the water; and, indeed, they made so much ado about baptism by immersion, that the uninformed would suppose that heaven was an island, and there was no way to get there but by diving or swimming.
Among the Baptist preachers that rushed in on us in this new settlement there came along a lank, long-legged, and extremely illiterate and ignorant old preacher by the name of H---s, and he was as impudent as a wolf. He sent an appointment, and he was to blow the Methodists skyhigh. I had never seen him, nor had he ever seen me. I heard of his appointment, and concluded that I would go; and if he really killed all the Methodists, if I could muster force enough I would bury them out of the way. The time came on, and this mighty Goliath appeared, with two armor-bearers. I stayed out until he commenced the battle, then I moved into the congregation, and took my seat with pen, ink, and paper; thinking if I was to be killed, and he did not dispatch me too suddenly, I would at least try to write my will. He commenced the battle by warning the people to take care of these Methodist preachers that wore black broadcloth coats, silk jackets, and fair-topped boots, and a watch in their pockets; that rode fine fat horses, &c. He then said he would tell them how these Methodist preachers got the money to buy all these fine clothes and horses. He said, that in order to join the Methodist Church, the preacher received twenty-five cents for everyone that they took into the Church, and twenty-five cents for every baby they sprinkled, and that these babies were considered members of the Church, and thus that every member, adult or infant, had to pay a dollar a head annually; and that these moneys constituted a large fund, and the Methodist preachers could well afford to dress fine and ride fat horses. But, said he, here is poor old H---s, (alluding to himself,) if he can get a wool hat and a wallet of dumplings he is content, and thinks himself well off. Now, said he, my dear brethren, these Methodist preachers often remind me, in the doctrine they preach, of the manner of certain men that catch monkeys in certain countries. The monkeys are very fond of black haws; the monkey-catchers go and scatter these black haws around the roots of the trees in which the monkeys are, and then they retire: the monkeys come down, and devour the haws. The next time these monkey-catchers come they bring sheep-saffron, that very much resembles black haws. They scatter the sheep-saffron around the roots of the trees and retire, and the poor, simple monkeys eat up the saffron, and it makes them so sick they cannot climb, but lie down, and then these men rush out and catch them. So it is, said he, my brethren, with these Methodist preachers. They preach some truth, which takes with the people; then they come with their sheep-saffron, or rotten doctrine, and the poor, simple people, like the foolish monkeys, swallow down these false doctrines, and it makes them sick, and then these Methodist preachers catch them. He then compared Methodist preachers to a boy climbing a pole, &c. You may be sure this was a deadly shot.
As soon as he was done, to keep up appearances, he said, if there was anyone present that wanted to reply to him, let him come forward. I arose, and marched up, and took the stand, and in a very little time nailed all his lies to the counter; and by respectable gentlemen out of any Church proved his statements to be false, and poured round upon round on him so hot and so fast, that he started for the door. I ordered him to stop, and told him, if he did not, I would shoot him in the back for a tory; he got out at the door. He was taken so at surprise, and charged on so suddenly, that he forgot his hat, and he peeped round the door-chink at me. I blazed away at him till he dodged back, and started off, bare-headed, for home, talking to himself by the way. As he retreated in this situation he was met by a gentleman, who hailed him, and said, "Mr. H---s, what is the matter? where is your hat?" "O Lord!" he exclaimed, "that Methodist bull-dog Cartwright came to my meeting, and opened a fire on me that no mortal man could stand, and I left." "Come," said the gentleman, "go back and get your hat." "No," said he, "I will not go back, if I never see another hat on earth." This encounter blowed this proselyting, sheep-stealing preacher to never, where another Baptist preacher that I once heard of would have gone to, if he had jumped off.
Now I must explain this allusion a little. At an early day I heard a Baptist preacher preach, and toward the close he alluded to his own experience. When in a state of conviction, he said he was in great distress; he sought relief on the right and left, but found none, and at length he said he thought he would start off and travel to the ends of the yearth, and when he got there that he would jump off; and now stopping suddenly, he asked his congregation, "Where do you think I would have gone to?" and answering for them, said he, "I should have gone to NEVER."
While I am giving a few strictures on the unworthy conduct of a few preachers of this denomination. I will state another incident that occurred about this time. I settled on a little new place, near the road leading from Hopkinsville, Christian County, to Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky, and was destitute of stabling. Presently there rode up an old gentleman and a youth he called his son.
He asked me if Peter Cartwright, a Methodist preacher, lived there.
I answered he did.
He asked, "Are you the man?"
I answered, "Yes."
"Well," said he, "I am a Baptist preacher, have been to Missouri after this my sick son, and I have called to stay all night with you." I told him to do so, and alight and come in. I disposed of their horses as best I could, supper was prepared, and they partook of our fare. After supper they both stepped into the other room, and when they returned I smelled whisky very strongly; and although these were not the days of general temperance as now going on, yet I thought it a bad sign for a preacher to smell very strong of whisky, but said nothing. When we were about to retire to bed, I set out the books and said, "Brother, it is our custom to have family prayer; take the books and lead in family prayer." He began to make excuses and declined. I urged him strongly, but he refused, so I took the books, read, sung, and prayed; but he would not sing with me, neither did he, nor his son, kneel when we prayed. Next morning the family was called together for family prayer; again I invited him to pray with us, but he would not. As soon as prayer was over he went into the other room, and brought out his bottle of whisky; he asked me to take a dram. I told him I did not drink spirits. He offered it to all my family, but they all refused. After breakfast he and his son harnessed up their horses to start on their way home.
"Perhaps, brother," said he, "you charge?"
"Yes," said I, "all whisky-drinking preachers, that will not pray with me, I charge."
"Well," said he, "it looks a little hard that one preacher should charge another."
"Sir," said I, "you have given me no evidence that you are a preacher, and I fear you are a vile impostor; and when any man about me drinks whisky, and will not pray with me, preacher or no preacher, I take a pleasure in charging him full price; so haul out your cash." He did so, but very reluctantly.
I am glad these unworthy examples of these
preachers do not apply to the Baptist ministry generally, but many of
them are friends of temperance, and scorn the contemptible business of
proselyting members from other Churches. So may they continue, and give
up their exclusive baptism by immersion.
On the 29th September, 1814, our Tennessee Conference commenced its session at Kenerley's Chapel, nine miles north of Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky. Bishop Asbury and M'Kendree were both present. These two venerable bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church were both single men, and lived and died without ever marrying. There is no doubt but the scanty means of a support, and the vast field of their pastoral labor, induced them to remain unmarried, and devote their whole time to the building up the Church. Their field of ministerial labor was from East to West, from North to South, all over these United States and Territories, and the British Provinces in Canada. The Union itself was in its infancy. When these men bestowed the most of their ministerial labor, we had just thrown off the yoke of the British government, just ended a bloody war; great scarcity of money prevailed; the Methodist Churches were few, feeble, and poor; a single man in that early day was only allowed sixty-four, eighty, and never more than one hundred dollars, and the bishops no more than any other single traveling preacher, and always dependent on the voluntary contributions of the people for this small pittance. Many of our married preachers had been starved into a location, and many more, during their illustrious sacrificing lives, were actually compelled to desist from traveling for want of means of support for their families. From the poverty of the Church, and the vastness of the field of their itinerant life, Mr. Asbury, and Bishop M'Kendree too, advised the traveling preachers to remain single; but a few years proved to these devoted bishops themselves that Methodist preachers were but men, subject to like passions with other men. The various courtships and marriage contracts, to be consummated at some future and distant day, satisfied these devoted men of God that it was better for even Methodist preachers to marry than to remain single, after they had formed a ministerial character and although I had traveled ten years, had a wife and two children, and had acted as steward of the Conference for several years, yet up to this time, as I have elsewhere stated in this narrative, no allowance had been made for me, or any other traveling married preacher, for house rent and table expenses, or for our children.
At this conference, Bishop Asbury came with ten dollars for every traveling preacher's child or children born in the traveling connection. This money he had begged from door to door down East, in the older and wealthier conferences, for the suffering children of the married traveling itinerants in the West. This, indeed, was a fatted calf to many of us, who had received hardly enough to keep soul and body together. At this conference the stewards were instructed to settle all the claims of the preachers and their families, as the Discipline provides.
By an examination of the Minutes, it will be seen that the Ohio Conference still had its six presiding-elder districts, and Tennessee eight districts, (for 1814-15.) For several years, about this time, our increase of members was small, owing to the war and rumors of war. The traveling preachers in the Ohio Conference had increased to sixty-three, and in the Tennessee Conference to sixty-six.
At a camp-meeting holden this year, in the edge of Tennessee, for the Christian Circuit, there were a great many people attended, and among them a gang of rowdies. The ringleaders of the rowdies went by the names of J. P. and William P., two brothers; their parents were fine members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. I found it would be hard to keep order, and I went to J. P., and told him I wanted him to help me keep order. Said I, "These rowdies are all afraid of you; and if you help me, you shall be captain, and choose your own men."
He said he did not want to engage in that way; but if I would not bind him up too close, but let him have a little fun, away off, he would then promise me that we should have good order in the encampment through the meeting.
I said, "Very well; keep good order in the congregation, and if you have any little fun, let it be away off, where it will not disturb the worship of God."
There came into the congregation a young, awkward fellow, that would trespass on our rules by seating himself all the time among the ladies. It was very fashionable at that time for the gentlemen to roach their hair; and this young man had a mighty bushy roached head of hair. I took him out several times from among the women, but he would soon be back again.
I told J. P. I wished he would attend to this young man. "Very well," said he; and immediately sent off and got a pair of scissors, and planted his company about a half mile off; then sent for this young fellow, under the pretense of giving him something to drink. When they got him out there, two of them, one on each side, stepped up to him with drawn dirks, and told him they did not mean to hurt him if he would be quiet; but if he resisted or hallooed, he was a dead man. They said they only wanted to roach his hair, and put him in the newest Nashville fashion. The fellow was scared almost to death, but made no resistance whatever. Then one with the scissors commenced cutting his hair, and it was haggled all over at a masterly rate. When they were done shearing him, they let him go; and he came straight to the camp-ground. Just as he entered it, I met him; he was pale as a cloth. He took off his hat, and said, "See here, Mr. Cartwright, what them rowdies have done!" I had very hard work to keep down my risibilities; but I told him he had better say nothing about it, for if he did, they might serve him worse. He soon disappeared, and interrupted us no more during the meeting.
Our camp-ground was right on the bank of a creek. Just behind the preachers' camp, there was about room enough to place two or three carriages; then the bank of the creek, which was about ten feet high. Not far from the shore was a deep hole of water, about six feet deep. William P., the brother of my captain of order, was very rude, and I reproved him sharply. I understood that he swore he would run my carriage (which I had placed behind the preacher's tent, right on the bank) into the creek. There was but one way to pass to my carriage. At night I lay watching, with a good stick in my hand; and presently I saw William take hold of my carriage, and begin to turn it, in order to run it down the bank into the creek. I slipped out, and rushed upon him with my cudgel. I was in the only pathway; and he, fearing a good knock-down, leaped over the bank right into the deep hole of water, and came out on the other side, and ran off.
It made him very angry that he was defeated. He swore that he would have satisfaction out of me before the meeting was over. In the meantime, the power of God fell on the people gloriously; many hardened sinners were arrested, and a great many were converted; and on Sunday the mighty power of God was felt to the utmost verge of the congregation. On Sunday night, our altar was crowded with weeping penitents. While I was in the altar, laboring with the mourners, I saw William come up and lean on the pale, on the outside of the altar. I kept my eye on him; and suddenly he leaped over into the altar, and fell at full length, and roared like a bull, in a net, and cried aloud for mercy. While I was talking to and praying for him and others, I trod on something near where he had been standing that felt soft. I stooped down and looked, and lo and behold, what should it be but a string of frogs, strung on a piece of hickory bark! I took them up, and carried them into the tent, not knowing what it meant.
Just about daybreak, Monday morning, William P. raised the shout of victory, after struggling hard all night. Our meeting went on gloriously all that day, and for several days and nights, with very little preaching or intermission; and many were the happy subjects of converting grace. Some time on Monday, my notorious William came to me, and told me, that he gathered and strung that batch of frogs, and brought them to the altar, intending, while I was stooping and praying for the mourners, to slip them over my head and round my neck; and while he was seeking an opportunity to do this, the mighty power of God fell on him. He said he never wanted to be any nearer hell than he felt himself to be when the power of God arrested him. Many of the very worst rowdies that attended this meeting were struck down and converted to God; and thus ended the Frog Campaign. About seventy joined the Church.
There was another incident which occurred at this meeting that I will relate. Not very distant from Hopkinsville, near which town I lived, there was a very interesting, fashionable, wealthy family, who were raised with all the diabolical hatred that a rigidly enforced predestinarian education could impart against the Methodists. It had pleased God, at a camp-meeting near them, that I superintended, to arrest the wife and two of the daughters of the gentleman who was the head of his family, and they were powerfully converted, and joined the Methodist Church, and, as is common, they felt greatly attached to me as the instrument, in the hands of God, of their salvation. This enraged the husband and father of these interesting females very much. He not only threatened to whip me, but to kill me. He said I must be a very bad man, for all the women in the country were falling in love with me; and that I moved on their passions and took them into the Church with bad intentions. His eldest daughter, a fine, beautiful, intelligent young lady, wanted to attend the above-mentioned camp-meeting, and bespoke a seat in my carriage, in company with others going to the same meeting. At first her father swore she should not go; but on second thought he consented, but told his wife and daughter that he would go along, and that he would watch me closely, and that he had no doubt, before he would return, he would catch me at my devilment, and be able to show the world that I was a bad man, and put a stop to the women all running mad after this bad preacher. His daughter made ready, and we all started. We had about twenty-eight miles to go to reach the encampment. His daughter thought it her duty to tell me the designs of her father, and said she hoped I would be on my guard, for she verily thought that her father was so enraged that if he could not get something to lay to my charge to ruin my character as a preacher, that he would kill me from pure malice. I told her, of course, I was wide awake, and duly sober, and I had not the least fear but what God would give me her father as a rescued captive from the devil before the camp-meeting closed. Said I, "You must pray hard, and the work will be done." I said to her, "It is not the old big devil that is in your father; it must be a little weakly, sickly devil that has taken possession of him, and I do not think that it will be a hard job to cast him out. Now," said I, "if God takes hold of your father and shakes him over hell a little while, and he smells brimstone right strong, if there was a ship-load of these little sickly devils in him, they would be driven out just as easy as a tornado would drive the regiments of mosquitoes from around and about those stagnant ponds in the country. Cheer up, sister; I believe God will give me your father before we return." Seeing me so bold and confident she wept, and raised the shout in anticipation of so desirable an event. When we got to the camp-ground I had the company and their horses all taken care of, and then said to this man: "We have a large preachers' tent, well provided with good beds; come, you must go with me and lodge in the preachers' tent." He seemed taken by surprise, and hesitated, but I took him right into the tent. "Now, sir," said I, "make yourself at home, for I hope to see you soundly converted before this camp-meeting comes to a close." I saw his countenance fall, and perhaps this was the starting-point of his deep and pungent convictions. The trumpet sounded for preaching; I mounted the stand and preached; this man came and heard me. I saw clearly from his looks, that he was convicted, and had a hard struggle in his mind. He said to me, after the meeting was over, that my taking him into the preachers' tent and treating him so kindly, was the worst whipping he ever got; he could not sleep, he said. Sometimes he thought he was a poor mean devil to treat me as he had done; and surely I must be a Christian, or I never could treat him so kindly after he had said so many hard and bitter things about me. As the meeting progressed his convictions increased till he could neither eat nor sleep.
On Sunday night, when such a tremendous power fell on the congregation, and my gang of rowdies fell by dozens on the right and left, my special persecutor fell suddenly, as if a rifle ball had been shot through his heart. He lay powerless, and seemed cramped all over, till next morning; and about sunrise he began to come to. With a smile on his countenance, he then sprang up, and bounded all over the camp-ground, with swelling shouts of glory and victory, that almost seemed to shake the encampment. This was a glorious time for his daughter; she came leaping and skipping to me, and shouted out that those little mean and sickly devils were cast out of her father. He joined the Church, went home, and for days the family did little else but sing, pray, and shout the high praises of God.
From this family a blessed revival broke out and spread all round, and many were awakened and converted to God. O, how often the devil overshoots the mark by inducing his subjects to persecute preachers and the Church. God is above the devil, and the devil can never be cast out until he is first raised, or waked up.
Although I have never laid much stress on dreams, yet on Monday night of this camp-meeting I had a dream that made some impression on my mind. I here relate it and what followed, and let it go for what it is worth; for "what is the chaff to the wheat?" In my night visions I thought I went on a fishing expedition. I thought the fish bit well, and I drew up and threw out many excellent, fine fish. At length I felt that a large fish, or something else, had got hold of my hook. I began to draw whatever it was out, but it came slow and pulled heavy. At length I drew it to land, when behold, it was a large mud turtle. I awoke, and lo it was a dream; and I was glad of it.
There had been in attendance on our camp-meeting, an old apostate Baptist preacher, who had left his wife, who was yet living, and taken up with a young woman, and they were actually living in open adultery. He had, as he said, been awfully convicted during the meeting. He said he knew he had once enjoyed religion, but had lost it. He knew he had lost it all, and that, therefore, the doctrine of the unconditional perseverance of the saints, which he had preached for many years, was false; but he wanted to be saved, and he desired to join the Methodist Church. He said he belonged to a secret society, and they had not excluded him from that society, and they were honorable, high-minded men.
All this took place in the public congregation. I told him that if we, as a Church, could do him any good on fair Scriptural terms, we should be glad to do it. "But," said I, "you cannot be so ignorant as not to know that the word of God condemns your course, and if our sins are as dear to us as a right foot, or hand, or eye, they must be cut off, or plucked out, and cast from us, or we cannot enter heaven. Now, sir, are you willing, and will you give up this course of living, put away the woman with whom you are now living, and go and live with your lawful wife, and will you do it now?"
He burst into tears, wrung his hands in apparent agony, and said he wanted to be saved. "But will you not take me in on trial six months?"
"No, sir, we will not, unless you sacredly pledge yourself, before God and the Church, that you will, from this moment, abandon your present course of living."
He said he was afraid to promise this.
"Then," said I, "it is altogether useless to say another word on the subject, for we will not, under any consideration, receive you even on trial."
So we parted, and I fear he was eternally lost. Now whether this was my mud turtle or not, about which I dreamed, I cannot say; yet it really looked to me very much like it.
A few years before this, there had been transferred from the Baltimore Conference, a warm-hearted, lively, and zealous preacher by the name of James Ward. His labors were greatly blessed, and some very powerful revivals of religion followed. There was also a tolerably popular Baptist minister, by the name of J. V---n, who attended several of Brother Ward's meetings; and whether he was in reality stirred up, or from other considerations, I will not pretend to judge, but so it was; he started out on a large preaching scale. He was a tolerably good preacher, and he was popular, and he soon had a mighty stir in the Baptist Church, and hundreds joined that Church, and he baptized them. He greatly erred on one subject; that was, he took a great deal of pleasure in proselyting from other Churches and making them members of his Church, as he said, by "wetting their jackets," that is, immersing them. He had been very successful in the upper counties of Kentucky.
I had once accidentally fallen in at one of his appointments, and heard him preach, but had no introduction to him; and from this circumstance I knew him, but he did not know me. About this time he sent a train of appointments down in the southern parts of Kentucky and West Tennessee, about Nashville, etc., etc. I had been on to Baltimore, attending General Conference, and was returning home near Hopkinsville, in Southern Kentucky, in the month of June. We traveled in those days mostly on horseback. It was very warm, and dusty riding. When I got to Nashville I was informed that Mr. V. had just closed a protracted meeting in Nashville, and was to start for Hopkinsville that morning, and that it was probable I would fall in with him; and so it turned out. A few miles from Nashville I fell in with him. It being so warm and dusty I had pulled off my coat and neckerchief, and tied them on behind me, and of course I was very dirty, and looked, I suppose, very little like a preacher. I rode up and spoke to Mr. V., and he to me. I had, in one respect, the advantage of him. I knew him, but he did not know me, but I studiously avoided calling him by name. He was very familiar and loquacious.
"You are traveling, sir?"
"Yes, sir," was my reply.
"What parts are you from?"
"I am directly from the City of Baltimore," said I.
"Well, what is the news in that country ?', said he.
"Nothing very strange," said I.
"Well," said he, "what is the most prevalent religion, or most numerous denomination in that city?"
"Well," said I, "those despicable Methodists are the most numerous of any Protestant Church there," answering him with a view to draw him out.
"Well," said he, "that is a pity, for they are on a very rotten and sandy foundation."
"Yes," said I, "but perhaps the people might fall into worse hands."
"Hardly," said he. "But, sir, how are the Baptists prospering in and about Baltimore?"
"Well," said I, "the Baptists are hardly known in that country."
"Are you not mistaken, sir?"
"No, sir, I am not mistaken."
"Well, what can be the cause of that?"
"Why, sir, it is not strange at all; the Baptists are exclusive immersionists, and won't commune with any other Christian denomination; and they, on these principles, cannot flourish among an enlightened and intelligent religious community."
Just here the battle commenced, and this was what I wanted. He began to eulogize the Baptists, and contended that their mode of baptism was the only one that was Scriptural. The battle, or argument, lasted several hours, as we rode on side by side; but at length he showed unmistakable signs of confusion, for he left the field of argument, and began to boast of the hundreds of Methodists and Presbyterians that he had immersed, and said "he was on his way then to Hopkinsville, and expected to immerse many of the Methodists, the converts of Peter Cartwright, a Methodist preacher that lived down there; and, sir," said he, "there is no Scripture for infant baptism." I then asked the following questions:
"Do you believe that all children are saved, and go to heaven, and that there is not one infant in hell?"
"Certainly I do," said he.
"Well, if there are no children in hell, and all children dying in minority go to heaven, is not that Church that has no children in it more like hell than heaven?"
This question closed our argument, for he answered
not at all. Just then we came to the forks of the road; the right,
which he was to go, led to Russellville, and the left, my road, to
Hopkinsville. As we shook hands and parted, said I, "Mr. V., I know
you, and have the advantage of you; my name is Peter Cartwright; I live
two miles from Hopkinsville, where you are going next week to wet so
many of the jackets of my Methodist members; call and stay all night
with me; I will help you make out your notes, and will see to the
wetting of the jackets of my members." He promised to do so, but never
came to my house. He attended to his appointments, but wet no Methodist
jackets, and never succeeded in winning any great spoils in that region
of country. He flourished awhile; then joined the Campbellites; then
left them, and returned to the Baptist Church, as I am informed; then
moved to Missouri, and died. I hope his end was peaceful.
In the fall of 1815 our Conference was holden at Bethlehem Meeting-house, in Wilson County, Tennessee. Bishops Asbury and M'Kendree attended, though they were both in feeble health; and this was the last Conference in the West that we were permitted to see Bishop Asbury. He preached to us with great unction and power, though in extremely feeble health, not able to stand, and had to sit while he spoke to us for the last time. At this Conference we elected our delegates to the General Conference, which was to meet in Baltimore on the first of May, 1816. After the election was over, Bishop Asbury called us (that is, the delegates elected) to his room, and then and there told us about the dissatisfaction that had made its appearance among some of the preachers with the government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, explained the cause, and advised us to hold fast to the landmarks of Discipline with a firm grasp. His whole soul seemed to go out after the unity of Methodism, and to adopt every prudential measure to prevent any schism among us. He was very desirous to reach the General Conference; but the Lord ordered it otherwise; for after he left Tennessee to go to South Carolina, he was attacked with a complication of diseases; but still slowly moved on north, in hope of meeting the General Conference in Baltimore. On the 24th of March he reached Richmond, Virginia, where he preached his last sermon. Being too feeble to walk, he was carried in the arms of his friends to the house of God, and then propped on a table; there, as he sat, he delivered his last message to mortal man, hardly able to do so for want of breath. His sermon had a thrilling effect upon the congregation. After preaching he was borne back to his carriage, and still urged on his way toward Baltimore. But when he arrived at the home of his old friend, Mr. George Arnold, about twenty miles south of Fredericsburgh, Virginia, he could proceed no further.
It was on Friday evening, the 29th of March, when this man of God, who had traveled half a century near three hundred thousand miles, was taken from his carriage the last time. He lingered till Sunday, the 31st of March, in great distress of body. On that day, at the usual hour of religious worship, he requested the family to come together. The Rev. John W. Bond, who had been his traveling companion for two years, prayed, and read and expounded the twenty-first chapter of Revelation. During these exercises the dying man of God was calm, and much engaged in prayer. A few minutes after the close of these religious services, as he was sitting in his chair, with his head reclined on the hand of his faithful attendant, without a struggle or a sigh, he fell asleep in death.
He was buried in the family burying-ground of Brother Arnold, at whose house he died; but the General Conference, at its session on the 1st of May, 1816, at the request of the people of Baltimore, ordered his remains removed, and deposited in a vault prepared for that purpose beneath the pulpit of Eutaw-street Church.
The reinterment of this great and good man presented a scene of the most thrilling interest that I ever beheld. The body was followed from the Light-street to the Eutaw-street Church by a vast concourse of people. At the head of the procession marched Bishop M'Kendree, the faithful colleague of the departed Asbury; next followed the members of the General Conference, and last came the people in almost unnumbered thousands. Bishop M'Kendree pronounced the funeral oration, and many were the tears shed by the weeping attendants; and the mortal body of the venerable Bishop Asbury was laid to rest till the general resurrection.
Over the vault is inscribed the following epitaph:
I will here state a case, in reference to Bishop Asbury's transcendently superior talent to read men, which occurred at one of our western conferences. The conference had been preceded with glorious revivals of religion, and many of the wealthy, and some of the learned, had joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, among whom were two very learned young men; one of them the son of a very distinguished, learned teacher, the other the son of a general---a distinguished, wealthy man. Both of these young men professed to have a call to the ministry, and came with a recommendation to the Conference to be received on trial in the traveling connection. They were both present, and Bishop Asbury had narrowly observed their conduct and conversation. At the proper time Brother Learner Blackman, their presiding elder, presented their recommendations. He spoke of them in the highest terms, and considered them a great acquisition to the ministry and the Church. The Conference received them with great unanimity. Bishop Asbury had sat with his eyes nearly shut. After they were received he seemed to wake up. "Yes, yes!" he exclaimed; "in all probability they both will disgrace you and themselves before the year is out." And sure enough, in six months one was riding the circuit with a loaded pistol and a dirk, threatening to shoot and stab the rowdies; the other was guilty of a misdemeanor, and in less than nine months they were both out of the Church. Bishop Asbury would often say to the preachers, "You read books, but I read men."
We received our appointments for this conference year, 1815-16, with but little dissatisfaction. I was returned to the Green River District. Our increase of members or preachers, in the Ohio and Tennessee Conferences, was but small this year, though we had some increase.
In the spring of 1816 our General Conference convened, on the 1st of May, in the city of Baltimore. This was the second delegated General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the first to which I was elected.
We had no steamboats, railroad cars, or comfortable stages in those days. We had to travel from the extreme West on horseback. It generally took us near a month to go; a month was spent at General Conference, and nearly a month in returning to our fields of labor. How different the facilities of travel then and now.
Bishop Asbury being dead, and Bishop M'Kendree's health being poor, it became necessary to have two more bishops, and, accordingly, we elected Enoch George and R. R. Roberts, two good men, and talented, regularly drilled in the itinerant work, and well prepared, from experience and practice, to sympathize with the seven hundred traveling preachers they had to station every year, suiting their talents to over two hundred and fourteen thousand members in these United States and Territories, and the Provinces of Canada.
This was a year of general prosperity throughout the connection; over thirty thousand probationers had been added to the Church. Many of us feared that at the decease of Bishop Asbury, dissensions and divisions would arise and injure our beloved Zion; but we had no question that gave us much trouble at that time. It is true, slavery was a troublesome matter to legislate on; but the one-eyed creature called Rabid Abolitionism had, at that time, been just born, and had but just cut its teeth, and could not bite hard; and it is a notorious fact, that all the preachers from the slaveholding states denounced slavery as a moral evil; but asked of the General Conference mercy and forbearance on account of the civil disabilities they labored under, so that we got along tolerably smooth. I do not recollect a single Methodist preacher, at that day, that justified slavery. But O, how have times changed!
Methodist preachers in those days made it a matter of conscience not to hold their fellow-creatures in bondage, if it was practicable to emancipate them, conformably to the laws of the state in which they lived. Methodism increased and spread; and many Methodist preachers, taken from comparative poverty, not able to own a negro, and who preached loudly against it, improved, and became popular among slaveholders; and many of them married into those slaveholding families, and became personally interested in slave property, (as it is called.) Then they began to apologize for the evil; then to justify it, on legal principles; then on Bible principles; till lo and behold! it is not an evil, but a good! it is not a curse, but a blessing! till really you would think, to hear them tell the story, if you had the means and did not buy a good lot of them, you would go to the devil for not enjoying the labor, toil, and sweat of this degraded race, and all this without rendering them any equivalent whatever!
I will here repeat what I have elsewhere stated in this narrative: that I verily believe, if the Methodist preachers had gone on as in olden times, bearing a testimony against the moral evil of slavery, and kept clear of it themselves, and never meddled with it politically, and formed no free-soil or abolition societies, and given all their money and the productions of their pens in favor of the colonization organizations, that long before this time many of the slave states would have been free states; and, in my opinion, this is the only effectual way to get clear of slavery. If agitation must succeed agitation, strife succeed strife, compromise succeed compromise, it will end in a dissolution of this blessed Union, civil war will follow, and rivers of human blood stain the soil of our happy country.
At this General Conference I heard, for the first time in my life, whisperings and innuendoes against the government of the Church. I suppose radicalism had just pipped. Many of our preachers that had traveled had, as I said before, married into slaveholding and otherwise wealthy families. Some of the first order of talent, that had located, began to say that local preachers ought to have a voice in the lawmaking department of the Church; and in order to make friends, they said the laity ought to have a voice in all the Conferences; but there was no special outbreak at this General Conference. But the unhallowed leaven of disaffection spread; the friends of reform (so called) established a press, and formed what they called Union Societies; so that by public lectures, the Union Societies, and the press, by 1820, when the General Conference met again in Baltimore, it was astounding to see what evil disaffections had taken place.
They then came out boldly. They wanted to revolutionize the whole government of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Many of our old and talented preachers were loud and bitter in complaints against our Church government; and I was greatly alarmed to see so many strong, talented men carried away. Some of the hardest and bitterest things ever written or spoken against the power of the bishops, or the despotism of the itinerant preachers' administration, were spoken and written by men that were afterward made bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Southern Church. Motion after motion was made, resolution after resolution was introduced, debate followed debate, for days, not to say weeks. The radicals wanted to take away the power of the bishops to appoint preachers to their fields of labor; especially to deprive them of the power to appoint presiding elders, and make them elective by the annual conferences; to have a lay delegation, and many other things.
Finally, they concentrated all their arguments to make presiding elders elective; but on counting noses, they found we had a majority, though small; and rather than be defeated, they moved for a committee of compromise. Strong men from each side were chosen; they patched up a sham compromise, as almost all compromises are, in Church or State. The committee reported in favor, whenever a presiding elder was needed for any district, the bishop should have the right to nominate three persons, and the conferences should have the right to elect one of the three. This report passed by a vote of about sixty; there were twenty-three, if my recollection is correct, in the minority against it.
This report having passed, the radicals had a real jubilee. It was the entering wedge to many other revolutionary projects; and they began to pour them in at a mighty rate. I had, in my speech in debate on the subject, predicted that this would be the case. Our friends began to see their error, but it was well-nigh too late.
In the meantime Bishop Soule, now of the Church, South, had been elected to the office of a bishop, and he informed the General Conference, that he could not be ordained, because he could not conscientiously administer the government according to this inglorious compromise. (Perhaps this was the best act that Bishop Soule ever performed.)
In the meantime I visited the room of Bishop M'Kendree, who was too feeble to preside in the Conference. He wept, and said this compromise would ruin the Church forever if not changed, and advised that we make a united effort to suspend these rules or regulations for four years, and we counted votes, and found we could do it, and introduced a resolution to that effect. And now the war commenced afresh, and after debating the resolution for several days, the radicals found that if the vote was put we would carry it, and they determined to break the quorum of the house, and for two or three times they succeeded. Bishop Roberts at length rebuked them sharply, and said, "If you cannot defeat the measure honorably, you ought not to do it at all. Now," said he, "keep your seats and vote like men." This awed several of them, and they kept their seats; the vote was put and carried, and these obnoxious rules were suspended for four years.
But peace and harmony were very far from being restored to the Church. A strong and violent effort was made for the next four years by the revolutionists, to carry their radical measures, and thousands of our members became disaffected, and by their constant agitations disturbed the peace, and endangered the harmony of the Church, until it really became imperatively necessary to arrest these lawless disturbers of the peace of the Church. They were arrested, brought to trial, and expelled for rebellion against the constituted authorities of the Church.
These wholesome and salutary measures were, by these self-styled reformers, denounced as tyranny and despotism. At our next General Conference, in Baltimore, in 1824, the radical war against the Church still raged with unabated fury; but we still had a majority in favor of our old and well-tried government, and we succeeded, after long and tedious debate, in suspending those heretical rules for four years more. This was the death warrant to the revolutionists. From this time, many of the preachers and members began calmly to review their ground of reform, and became well satisfied that it was all wrong; and they retraced their steps, and became able and efficient expositors of the polity of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
The reaction threw death and destruction into the radical ranks, and created, as they thought, the necessity of a separate organization. Accordingly, they set to work, and formed what they were pleased to call the Protestant Methodist Church, in which they incorporated all those radical measures for which they so strenuously contended before their amputation or secession. They carried off thousands of our members, and many of our very talented preachers, and now they thought that they would sweep the world; and truly they have swept it, for they formed a complete trash trap, and a great many of our unfaithful members and preachers, that walked disorderly and would not be reproved or cured, have gone into it, and upon the whole they have saved the Methodist Episcopal Church a great deal of trouble in trying and expelling disorderly preachers and members; for whenever they were expelled or arraigned for misconduct, they fled to these seceders. They took them in, regardless of the crimes laid to their charge; and by 1828, when our General Conference sat in Pittsburgh, this little radical brat gave its last squeak among us, and we repealed those obnoxious rules and regulations. The Church was restored to peace and harmonious action, and we have done infinitely better without them than we did with them.
That this professed reform has proved, beyond any reasonable doubt, an entire failure, I think cannot be questioned by any impartial and unprejudiced mind. Over thirty years have rolled by since they organized. They boasted that they commenced with over twenty thousand members, headed by a strong corps of talented preachers; and after gathering up thousands of the expelled and disaffected members of the Methodist, as well as other Churches, their numerical strength at this day is not, perhaps, over seventy thousand. They have tried to their hearts' content their Presbyterian form of government and their lay delegation. Their operations remind one of an old horse-mill with about one third of the cogs out of the main wheel. There is a mighty jarring and jolting, and often a mighty strife about who shall be the big man. Woe to them that kick against the pricks.
And now I say, and I speak with a respectful deference, was there ever a heresy in doctrine or Church government that was not started by preachers? Look at the ten thousand and one erroneous doctrines, schisms, and divisions, that have sprung up almost in every country and clime, and in almost every age, and then ask, was there not a preacher or preachers at the head of it? And here I may speak with confidence, and say, so far as the Methodist Church is concerned, from the days of John Wesley down to the present, there never has been a schism or a division in our Church but it was headed by a preacher or preachers, that have become wise above what is written. Witness the seven divisions among the Wesleyan Methodists in England; then view the secessions in these United States, in the Methodist Episcopal Church. Look at Hammet in the South, at Stillwell in New-York ; see James O'Kelley in Virginia; then behold the radical secession from 1820 to 1828 throughout the length and breadth of the land; then come to the great secession of the South in 1844.
If these secessions had been left to the voice of our members, would they ever have taken place? No, verily, no, will be the answer of every intelligent man, woman, and child. But these preachers took an ungodly advantage of the members who stood firmly and strongly opposed to a division of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and now, to keep up appearances, these very preachers, with their bribed judges, sneeringly call the Methodist Episcopal Church the Methodist Church, North, and say we are all rabid abolitionists, when they do verily know it is all false. At their late General Conference they have fully disclosed the cloven foot of the Slavery-loving preachers, for they have stricken out of their Discipline every rule on the subject of Slavery, and had well-nigh stricken out that part of the General Rules that interdicts the slave trade, (according to their interpretation.) I should not be greatly surprised if, in a few years, this rule goes by the board, and some of these Slavery-loving preachers are engaged in importing them by the thousands into this land of the free and home of the brave. O, kind Heaven, prevent it, and reclaim these wretched wanderers!
And now, though we have spoken freely of preachers and their faults, their errors ought not to be concealed. But this fact is not, as we conceive, any triumph to infidelity, nor should it discourage the Church. Among the first twelve that Christ called to the blessed work of the ministry there were two that fatally erred: Judas betrayed and Peter denied him; the love of money and the fear of man were too strong for their religious attachment to Christ, and only proves the necessity of sacrificing everything for the immortal honors of the cross; and although our sins are as near and dear to us as a right eye, hand, or foot, they must be plucked out, or cut off, and cast from us, knowing it is better, infinitely better, to make these sacrifices than retain them all, and be cast into hell. What a sad account will many preachers have to give in the day of judgment, who have preached a free salvation to listening thousands, while their poor degraded slaves are deprived of many of the blessings of life, and privileges of civil and religious liberty. These preachers must and do know that slavery is at war with the attributes and perfections of God, who will never punish the innocent or let the guilty go free.
Who ever before knew of a
professed slavery Church? that is, one which justified slavery by the
word of God? Well may some of them be ashamed of their assumed name, Methodist Episcopal Church, South,
and wish to change it; for it is evident that they can never preach the
Gospel successfully in any country that opposes slavery; for they could
not, by possibility, have any confidence in such preachers; and the
poor slaves, in proportion to their capabilities of reasoning on the
subject, just in that ratio must they lack confidence in such
preachers. Nay, they must lack confidence in that God and religion that
these preachers recommend to them and I am solemnly afraid that
thousands of these poor slaves will be lost under the influence of
these slaveholding preachers; but I predict the downfall of such a
Church, and hope by other men and means God will yet save the thousands
of the South, and preserve our happy Union until it shall give liberty,
civil and religious, to unnumbered millions of the human family.
Our Annual Conference this year was held at Franklin, Tennessee, October 20th, 1816. Our increase this year in the West, including the Ohio and Tennessee Conferences, was 1,203. Our increase of traveling preachers in these two conferences was but two, owing to many locations for want of means of support. My four years on the Wabash and Green River District having expired, Bishop M'Kendree told me he desired me to go to the Holston District; but it was a long journey to move, and I had a young and increasing family, and I was poor. I asked him to be excused, but if he thought it best I would go; but he appointed me to the Christian Circuit, in the Green River District, James Axley presiding elder; this was the year 1816-17.
It must be borne in mind that in the West we always received our appointments for the year in the fall of the previous year, and it must also be remembered that the General Conference of 1816 formed the Missouri Conference, which covered that State, and Arkansas, Illinois, and Indiana States. Of course there was a considerable change in our work. They also, at the same General Conference, formed the Mississippi Conference. The Ohio Conference was composed of Ohio, Muskingum, Scioto, Miami, and Kentucky Districts, five in number. The Missouri Conference was composed of Illinois and Missouri Districts, covering the principal settlements in four large states, though only two districts.
It is probable that the first introduction of Methodism in the State of Indiana was in 1802 or 1803. In the fall of 1804 Clark's Grant, or the Illinois Grant, as it was called, which was opposite and north of Louisville, was then included in the Salt River and Shelbyville Circuits, and Brother Benjamin Lakin and myself crossed the Ohio River, and preached at Brother Robertson's and Prather's. In this grant we had two classes, and splendid revivals of religion; and if my recollection serves me correctly, this Illinois Grant was formed into a circuit in 1807-8, and Moses Ashworth was appointed to travel it; it was called Silver Creek Circuit. This was the first regular circuit ever formed in the State of Indiana, and composed of one hundred and eighty-eight members. The next circuit formed in the State of Indiana was called Vincennes Circuit, which I formed in 1808, at the time I fought the memorable battle with the Shakers, in the Busroe Settlement, elsewhere named in this narrative. This circuit was temporarily supplied probably till 1811; it then had 125 members, and Thomas Stillwell was its first regular preacher; it belonged to the Green River District. The first introduction of Methodism in the State of lllinois is hard to determine.
The real pioneer and leader of Episcopal Methodism in the State of Illinois was Captain Joseph Ogle, who came to Illinois in 1785, and was converted under the preaching of James Smith, (Baptist,) of Kentucky, who visited and preached in lllinois in 1787. The first Methodist preacher was Joseph Lillard, who visited this state in 1793, and formed a class in St. Clair County, and appointed Captain Ogle leader. The next Methodist preacher was John Clarke, who was originally a circuit rider in South Carolina, from 1791 to 1796, when he withdrew on account of slavery. He was the first man that preached the Gospel west of the Mississippi, in 1798. The Rev. Hosea Riggs was the first Methodist preacher that settled in Illinois, and he revived and reorganized the class at Captain Ogle's, formed by Lillard, which had dropped its regular meetings.
From 1798 there seems to have been no regular preacher in Illinois till 1804; then Benjamin Young was sent as a missionary. In the fall of 1805 he returned sixty-seven members, and Joseph Oglesby was appointed to succeed Brother Young on the Illinois Circuit. This circuit was in the Cumberland District, Western Conference, and Lewis Garrett presiding elder, though I think he never visited Illinois. In 1806 Charles Methany was appointed to the Illinois Circuit. In 1807 Jesse Walker was appointed to this circuit, and in 1808 John Clingan. All these early pioneer preachers have long since passed away and gone to their reward. "Blessed are the dead that die in the Lord; they rest from their labors, and their works do follow them."
The Tennessee Conference was composed of Salt River, Nashville, Cumberland, Green River, Holston, and French Broad Districts. The Mississippi Conference was composed of Mississippi and Louisiana Districts. Our old Western Conference had now, in four years from its first division, increased to four Annual Conferences, and they started in this form with the following ministers and members. According to the Minutes of 1817, Ohio had 22,171 members, and 62 preachers; Missouri had 3,173 members, and 23 traveling preachers; Tennessee had 19,401 members, and 53 traveling preachers; Mississippi Conference had 1,941 members, and 11 traveling preachers. Our four conferences now covered the following states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Western Virginia, and some appointments in North Carolina. In the fall of 1813 I had left the Christian Circuit for the District, with 743 members, and I now found 546, but parts of the circuit and membership had been merged into other circuits. I was without any helper, and it was a full four weeks' circuit.
This year we had some glorious revivals. There was a small society of good members some five miles north of Hopkinsville; one of our quarterly meetings was holden here, and a blessed work broke out; some seventy were converted and joined the Church. Several of these young converts made useful ministers in the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Down near the Tennessee State line, there moved and settled two wealthy Methodist families, but they were surrounded by a strong settlement who were very rigid Calvinists, raised to hate the Methodists. I took them in the circuit, but it being a week-day appointment, and strong prejudices against us, our congregations were small. These two families had over one hundred and twenty slaves, and the slaves were dreadfully wicked; they were a drunken, Sabbath-breaking, and thievish set of slaves. The masters were very humane and indulgent. There were but two, I believe, among them that were professors at all; two old gray-headed men. One of them was a Methodist, the other was a Baptist; both were exhorters among the people of color. The brother at whose house I preached was a plain, old-fashioned Methodist in almost everything save slavery. I was opposed to slavery, though I did not meddle with it politically, yet I felt it my duty to bear my testimony against the moral wrong of slavery. The old brother took some exceptions to my testimony against it. I saw very plainly that in all probability these slaves must be lost. On week days they were under an overseer, and not permitted to hear preaching. Sundays they were out drinking and trading, selling brooms, baskets, and the little articles they manufactured. I felt distressed at the thought that they would be lost. At length I asked the old brother to give me the privilege to go to their cabins and preach to them; he thought this too great a degradation for a preacher. I told him if something was not done for them they would all be lost, and that God held him in a strong sense accountable, and that something must be done. He said he was willing I should preach to them if I would preach to them in his house. I told him I had this objection to that: "You white people will be present, and your very presence will embarrass them and me both. I want to talk to them as ignorant negroes, and tell them of all their drunkenness, stealing, acts of adultery, and Sabbath-breaking; and I cannot do it if the white people are present." He then proposed to give the negroes the large room and entry, and that he and his brother-in-law's family would retire to another room. I said, "If you will let me lock you up, I will agree to it." He assented.
The appointment was made, and all the slaves of the two families directed to attend. I told John and Harry, the two black men that were exhorters, that if any impression was made on any of them, they must set out a mourners' bench, and assist me in talking to and praying with them.
The day rolled on; I attended; the room was full, and entry too. I locked up the white people in another room and went in and took my stand. There was belonging to the old brother, a large, likely mulatto man, the carriage-driver; he dressed much finer than his master; he came and took his stand in the door, his bosom full of ruffles. He looked scornfully on me, as good as to say, "Yes, you think you are going to do great things in preaching to us colored people." I sung and prayed; took my text; explained the plan of salvation through Jesus Christ; then told them of all their dirty deeds, in as plain language as I could command; and then, in as warm an exhortation as I could give, I warned them to flee from the wrath to come; and just as I closed, the large ruffle-shirted carriage-driver fell full length on the floor, and made the house jar and tremble. In a few minutes they fell right and left, till the place was strewed with them in every direction. John and Harry, my two armor-bearers, set out a bench, and gathered them to it till they could get no more, for the crowd; and the first thing I knew, here were the old brother and his wife, his brother-in-law and wife, talking to and praying with the negroes, and several of their children down with the negroes praying for mercy at a mighty rate. Our meeting lasted all the afternoon and night, and there were forty conversions; several of the white children among the rest. From this a blessed revival spread among the slaves, and many of them, I believe, were soundly converted. I took some seventy into the Church; baptized them and their children. Several of these colored men made respectable local preachers to preach to the slaves around the country.
These two old Methodist men said I had in a temporal sense bettered or enhanced the value of their servants more than a thousand dollars; they ceased getting drunk, stealing, and breaking the Sabbath. This revival among the slaves, with many others that I have been engaged in, fully satisfies me that the Gospel ought to be carried to slaves and owners of slaves; for if the religion of Jesus Christ will not finally bring about emancipation of the slaves, nothing else will. I am greatly astonished at many good Methodist preachers that say, "Don't carry the Gospel into slave states, but deliver over to the uncovenanted mercies of God slaves and their masters;" for they say virtually, none of them can be saved. But I know better; and unless freedom for the slaves is accomplished, under the redeeming influence of religion, this happy Union will be split from center to circumference, and then there will be an end to our happy and glorious republic. And if we do not carry the Gospel to these slaves and their masters, who will? surely not the ministers who justify slavery by perverting the word of God; and still more surely not abolition preachers, who by political agitation have cut themselves off from any access to slave-holders or slaves.
I wish we had a trained band of preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church who are willing to let our Discipline be as it is, to send into every slave state in the Union. Surely here is missionary ground that ought to be occupied with great care, for the salvation of the perishing thousands of the South, and for the final overthrow of slavery, under the benign influences of the Christian religion.
There was another incident occurred this year, that I will mention in this place. Many of the early Methodists somehow imbibed the notion that a quarter of a dollar meant what we call quarterage; and although many of them were wealthy, it was hard to convince them that twenty-five cents were not quarterage, and that every member should pay according to his ability. This was one cause why so many of our preachers were starved into a location, and of necessity had to retire from the itinerant field.
There were two wealthy families moved into my circuit from one of the old states, and settled in a very wicked neighborhood. They came to me, and insisted that I should take them into the circuit and preach to them. I did so; and formed a class of five white members, and one old black man. The round on the circuit before the next quarterly meeting I told them, as none of them would go to the quarterly meeting, that if they had anything to send up as their quarterage to support the Gospel, if they would hand it to me, I would credit it to their names on the class paper.
The old negro man stepped forward and laid down his quarter of a dollar. Next came his mistress; she handed me two dollars; then came her husband and the master of the old black man, and threw down twenty-five cents.
So I left the money on the table. "And now, sir," said I, "if you will not support the Gospel, I shall not leave any other appointment here, but will go and preach to those who are willing to support the Gospel."
The old brother was considerably riled. His good lady expostulated with him; but he was inexorable. The sister told me afterward that the colonel spent a sleepless night; he kept twisting, and turning from side to side, and groaning all night. She spoke to him several times, and told him if he would resolve to be more liberal, his bad feelings would go off, and he would sleep better. The old brother got up the next morning, and after family worship, he said to me:
"Brother, what ought I to give as quarterage?"
"O," said I, "brother, I can't answer that question; that is a matter between God and your conscience. But," said I, "brother, solve the following question, and you will know what you ought to give: If your old negro man, not worth ten dollars, gave twenty-five cents a quarter, what ought Colonel T., who has seventy slaves, two thousand acres of good land, several thousand dollars out at interest, and worth, at least, fifty thousand dollars, to give?",
The solving of this question stumped him, and his quarterage ever afterward, as long as I knew him, came by dollars and not cents. And when last I saw him, as I moved to Illinois, he stopped me in the road, and said:
"Brother, I owe you a thousand dollars, and here's part of it," handing me a fifty dollar bill.
His excellent wife, leaning on his arm, said to me, "I owe you as much as my husband, take a part," and handed me a twenty dollar bill. Thus I cured a quarter-of-a-dollar-quarterage member; and, my dear reader, if you are one of these old dispensationists, look out for a perfect cure, or come and be healed of this parsimonious leprosy.
In traveling the Christian Circuit, which crossed the Tennessee State line, and lay partly in Tennessee, and partly in Kentucky, in one of my exploring routes, hunting up new ground and new appointments to preach at, late one evening, in or near the Cumberland River Bottom, I called at a gentleman's gate, and asked the privilege of staying all night. The gentleman very readily granted my request. He was a wealthy farmer, the owner of several slaves. I found a mild, good, easy, fashionable family. After supper, several neighbors came in to spend an evening in social chat. Being a stranger among them, I turned the conversation on religious subjects; inquired if they had any preaching. I soon found they had very little preaching of any kind. I told the gentleman my business was to preach anywhere I could get peaceable and orderly hearers, and asked him if I might not leave an appointment to preach at his house. He pleasantly said, if he had heard me preach and liked my preaching, he could better determine whether to grant me the privilege to leave an appointment or not. I told him as he had a large family, black and white, and as there was some five or six visitors present, if he had no objections, and would call them together, I would preach to them, and he could the better judge how he liked my preaching, and determine whether I should leave a future appointment. He agreed to the proposition, and called all in. I sung and prayed, took my text, and preached to them about an hour as best I could. The colored people wept; the white people wept; the man of the house wept; and when I closed, he said, "Do leave another appointment, and come and preach to us, for we are sinners, and greatly need preaching." I left an appointment, but before I came round, the devil stirred up opposition. One man told the gentleman at whose house I preached, that if he let the Methodist preachers preach at his house, it would not be long before they would eat him out of house and home. He said his father had taken in Methodist preachers, and in a few years they ate him out, and brought him to poverty; and, besides, these Methodist preachers were a very bad set of men. Mr. B. told this man that he thought he could stand it a while, and if he found there was any danger of being eaten out, he would send us adrift.
When I came to my appointment there was a large congregation; the house and porch were literally crowded. I preached to them with great freedom, and almost the whole congregation were melted into tears. I sung, prayed, and went through the congregation, and shook hands with a great many of them. When I came to the man of the house, he wept, and fell on his knees, and begged me to pray for him. Soon his wife and children, and several others, knelt by his side, and cried aloud for mercy. It was late at night before our meeting closed, and not until the swelling, shouts of five or six went to heaven that the dead were alive and the lost were found. I opened the doors of the Church for the reception of members, and some ten persons joined, the man of the house, his wife, two children, and two servants. This was the first-fruits of a gracious revival, and a large society in this neighborhood; and while I lived in that country, we held a sacramental meeting at this place every year. After the first sacrament we held there, Brother B. rose and addressed the large assembly. He said, "Some of you kindly warned me not to take in these Methodist preachers. You said they would eat me out and bring me to poverty; but, neighbors, I have raised more corn, more wheat, more hemp, more tobacco, and never lived as well and plentifully in all my life. I could feed a regiment of Methodist preachers all the time, and then get rich, for God blesses me in my basket and in my store."
During this year, while on this circuit, something like the following occurred: An Englishman, a Wesleyan Methodist, moved into a very wicked and highstrung predestinarian settlement. He came several miles, and made himself known. He invited me to preach at his house. I told him the people were so prejudiced against the Methodists that we could not get them out to hear on a week-day; but he insisted, and I gave him an appointment. When I came there were only five besides the family. I preached; two of the little company wept. I left another appointment. For several times that I preached to them, my congregation increased, and were orderly and somewhat affected. At length the Englishman, being wealthy, told me he was going to build a church. I tried to dissuade him from it. I told him he could get no help to build; that there was no society, and not much probability that there would ever be a Methodist society there; but, he said, he thought a man lived to very little purpose in this world, if he did not live so as to leave his mark, that would tell when he was dead and gone. "Now," said he, "if you will promise me that you will hold a protracted meeting, and give us a sacrament, and get some help, and come and dedicate the church, it shall be up and finished in eight or ten weeks." I told him I would do so, if spared; in the meantime, while the church was in process of building, we had two or three conversions at our little meetings. The church being finished, I got the help needed, appointed a protracted sacramental meeting to dedicate the church, and invited people far and near to attend; and it being a new thing in the settlement, when the day came there was a very large concourse of people. The first sermon, on Saturday was attended with great power; that night there were several mourners and two sound conversions. On Sunday, under the sermon of dedication, the word was attended with great power; many fell under the mighty power of God. Our meeting lasted all that day and night, with very little intermission, and about twenty were converted.
Our meeting continued several days and nights; many were the happy conversions to God, and forty joined the Church. My Englishman was so happy, he hardly knew whether he was in the body or out of it. Methodism was firmly planted here. Long since my English brother died in great peace, and rests in heaven from his labors, and his works do follow him; but surely he made his "mark," and it will be owned in heaven.
From the earliest of my recollection, up to this time, 1816, there were scarcely any books of any kind in this now mighty West; but especially was there a great scarcity of Bibles and Testaments. We were young and poor as a nation; had but a few years gained our liberty; had hardly begun to live as a republic after a bloody and devastating war for our independence; and although Congress, the very first year after the declaration of our independence, had wisely taken steps for furnishing the struggling infant for independence with the word of God, and did order that precious book, yet there was a great lack of the Bible, especially in the wilderness of the West; but this year the Lord put it into the hearts of some of his people to organize a Bible Society, which was done on the 11th of May, 1816; and although at first it was a feeble concern, yet God has prospered it, and millions upon millions of this precious book have been printed and circulated, and it is pouring streams of light, life, and knowledge upon almost every nation of this sin-stricken world. The man of sin has quailed before it; the false religion of the God-dishonoring prophet is tottering before its mighty truths; the dying idolatrous pagan millions are receiving its soul-converting truths, and we hope for its universal spread till every crowned head shall be brought down to the dust, every oppressive yoke broken, universal civil and religious liberty enjoyed by our fallen race, and the benefits of the redeeming stream be enjoyed by all mankind.
but the principles of the Bible can save our happy nation or the world,
and every friend of religion ought to spread the Bible to the utmost of
his power and means. Then let us look for the happy end of the
universal spread of truth, when all flesh shall see the salvation of
The Conference was held in Franklin, Tennessee, October 30th, 1817. I was appointed to travel on the Christian Circuit, Green River District, James Axley presiding elder. Our increase this year was 5,163 members, and 7 preachers, in the four conferences. In the winter of 1812 we had a very severe earthquake; it seemed to stop the current of the Mississippi, broke flat-boats loose from their moorings, and opened large cracks or fissures in the earth. This earthquake struck terror to thousands of people, and under the mighty panic hundreds and thousands crowded to, and joined the different Churches. There were many very interesting incidents connected with the shaking of the earth at this time; two I will name. I had preached in Nashville the night before the second dreadful shock came, to a large congregation. Early the next morning I arose and walked out on the hill near the house where I had preached, when I saw a negro woman coming down the hill to the spring, with an empty pail on her head. (It is very common for negroes to carry water this way without touching the pail with either hand.) When she got within a few rods of where I stood the earth began to tremble and jar; chimneys were thrown down, scaffolding around many new buildings fell with a loud crash, hundreds of the citizens suddenly awoke, and sprang into the streets; loud screaming followed, for many thought the day of judgment was come. The young mistresses of the above-named negro woman came running after her, and begging her to pray for them. She raised the shout and said to them, "My Jesus is coming in the clouds of heaven, and I can't wait to pray for you now; I must go and meet him. I told you so, that he would come, and you would not believe me. Farewell. Halleluiah! Jesus is coming, and I am ready. Halleluiah! Amen." And on she went, shouting and clapping her hands, with the empty pail on her head.
Near Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky, lived old Brother Valentine Cook, of very precious memory, with his wife Tabitha. Brother Cook was a graduate at Cokesbury College at an early day in the history of Methodism in these United States. He was a very pious, successful pioneer preacher, but, for the want of a sufficient support for a rising and rapidly-increasing family, he had located, and was teaching school at the time of the above-named earthquake. He and wife were in bed when the earth began to shake and tremble. He sprang out of bed, threw open the door, and began to shout, and started, with nothing on but his night-clothes. He steered his course east, shouting every step, saying, "My Jesus is coming." His wife took after him, and at the top of her voice cried out, "O Mr. Cook, don't leave me."
"O Tabby," said he, "my Jesus is coming, and I cannot wait for you;" and on he went, shouting every jump, "My Jesus is coming; I can't wait for you, Tabby."
The years of the excitement by these earthquakes hundreds joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, and though many were sincere, and stood firm, yet there were hundreds that no doubt had joined from mere fright. My predecessors had for several years held the reins of discipline with a very loose hand, and when Bishop M'Kendree told me privately he wished me to go to the Red River Circuit at the Conference of 1817, my heart was troubled within me, for I knew the state of the circuit. There were many wealthy, fashionable families in the Church; slavery abounded in it, and the members had been allowed to buy and sell without being dealt with; moreover, these were the days of common, fashionable dram-drinking, before the great temperance reformation was started; and extravagant dressing was the unrestrained order of the day; and there were about twenty talented local preachers in the circuit, many of them participators in these evils, and I dreaded the war that must follow. Under this conviction I begged Bishop M'Kendree not to send me there. He very gravely replied: "There are many members in that circuit that may be saved by a firm, judicious exercise of discipline, that otherwise will be lost, and I wish you to go and do for them the best you can."
"Enough said," replied I; "I'll go."
At the upper end of the circuit, not more than eight or nine miles from Nashville, there was a large society and a meeting-house. My predecessor had left a conditional appointment for his successor. I was a total stranger in this region. The day of my conditional appointment was a dark day, misting with rain, but I got there in due time. After waiting till half past twelve o'clock one man came, who had had the misfortune to lose one of his eyes. We sat a little while, and I asked him if there was not an appointment for preaching that day.
"Yes," said he; "but there will be no preacher or people, I suppose." I saw from his answer he did not suspect me for the preacher.
He further said: "As it is late, and no preacher nor people, we had as well go. Come, go home with me and get some dinner."
"No," said I, "we must have meeting; and if you will preach, I will conclude after you."
"No, no," said he; "if you will preach, I will conclude after you."
"Agreed," said I, and up I rose in the stand, sung and prayed, took my text, and preached as best I could for forty-five minutes, and then called on him, and he rose, sung and prayed, and prayed well. I went home with my one man, my entire congregation, and found him to be a pious, religious elder in the Presbyterian Church. From the novelty of the effort of the day, my friend professed to think it was one of the greatest sermons he had ever heard in all his life.
I left another appointment, and went on my way round the circuit. For weeks my one-man congregation proclaimed and circulated my next appointment, telling the people what a great preacher had come to the circuit; and when I came to my next appointment, the whole hill-side was covered with horses and carriages, and the church crowded to overflowing. My heart almost fainted within me for fear I should not meet the expectations of the people; but the Lord helped me, and we had a mighty shaking among the dry bones, and a blessed revival broke out. Our meeting lasted several days and nights, and many souls were happily converted to God and joined the Church on my first round on this circuit.
When I got to the lower end of the circuit I found a large society, a fine class-leader, and a very pious, old, superannuated traveling preacher. He told me the society was in a most wretched condition; that there was a very popular local preacher in the society, who married a great many people, and was in the habit of drinking too much at almost every wedding he attended; and that he had a large connection, all in the Church, and that for years the preachers were afraid to do anything with him.
The next day, which was Sabbath, we had a large congregation, and after preaching, as my uniform custom was, I met the class. My popular local preacher was present. In examining the leader of the class I, among many other questions, asked him if he drank drams. He promptly answered me, No, he did not.
"Brother," said I, "why do you not?" He hesitated; but I insisted that he should tell the reason why he did not.
"Well, brother," said he, "if I must tell the reason why I do not drink drams, it is because I think it is wrong to do so."
"That's right, brother," said I; "speak it out, for it is altogether wrong for a Christian; and a class-leader should set a better example to the class he leads, and to all others."
When I came to the local preacher I said, "Brother W., do you drink drams?":
"Yes," said he.
"Well, brother, there are complaints that you drink too often and too much; and the Saturday before my next appointment here you must meet a committee of local preachers at ten o'clock, to investigate this matter; therefore prepare yourself for trial."
"O!" said he, "if you are for that sort of play, come on; I'll be ready for you."
I had hard work to get a committee that were not dram-drinkers themselves. The trial came on; the class-leader brought evidence that the local preacher had been intoxicated often, and really drunk several times. The committee found him guilty of immoral conduct, and suspended him till the next quarterly meeting; and then the quarterly meeting, after hard debate, expelled him. The whole society nearly were present.
After his expulsion, and I had read him out, his wife and children, and connections, and one or two friends, to the number of thirteen, rose up and withdrew from the society. I told the society if there was anything against their moral character, they could not withdraw without an investigation; but if there was nothing against their moral character, they could withdraw. The leader said there was nothing immoral against them, so I laid down the gap and let them out of the Church. They then demanded a letter. I told them there was no rule by which they had a right to a letter, unless they were going to move and join some other society of the Methodist Episcopal Church. They said they never intended to join the Methodist Episcopal Church again. I then told them that they came to us without a letter, and must go without a letter. I then read the rules; exhorted the leader to be punctual, faithful, and pious; the members I urged to attend all the public and private means of grace, especially class-meetings, love-feasts, and the sacraments, and to bring and dedicate their children to God, by having them baptized.
From this very day the work of religion broke out in the society and settlement, and before the year closed I took back the thirteen that withdrew, and about forty more joined the Church, and not a dram-drinker in the whole society; but the poor local preacher who had been expelled, I fear, lived and died a drunkard.
This was a four week's circuit, and I had no helpers; and on examination of the class papers I found over one hundred and fifty delinquent members; some, yea, many of them had not been in a class-meeting for one, two, and three years. I determined, with a mild and firm hand, to pull the reins of our discipline, and by the aid of the leaders, and by my personally visiting the delinquents, we managed to see every one of them, and talk to them.
Through the blessing of God upon our labors, we saved to the Church about sixty of them; the others we dropped, laid aside, or expelled. This was awful work, to turn out or drop ninety persons in about nine months; it bowed me down in spirit greatly; it looked like as if a tornado had fearfully swept over the Church; but there was a stop put to trading in slaves, and the dram-drinkers became very few, and many threw off their jewelry and superfluous dressing; prayer-meetings sprung up, class-meetings were generally attended, our congregations increased, our fasts were kept. Toward the last quarter of the year I beat up for a general camp-meeting, and there was a general rally. We had a large camp ground, seats for thousands prepared, a large shed built over the altar and pulpit that would shelter more than a thousand people. The square of our camp ground was well filled. The camp-meeting lasted eight days and nights; the preachers preached, the power of God attended, sinners by the score fell; the altar, though very large, was filled to overflowing; and while many managed and labored in the altar with mourners, we erected another stand at the opposite end of the encampment, and there the faithful minister proclaimed the word of life. The power of God came there as the sound of a mighty, rushing wind; and such was the effect, that crowds of mourners came forward and kneeled at the benches prepared, and, indeed, the work spread all over the encampment and almost in every tent. There were two hundred and fifty who professed religion, and one hundred and seventy joined the Church, besides about forty colored people. Glory to God! Zion travailed, and brought forth many sons and daughters to God.
Many of these converts and accessions to the Church were from different and distant circuits around; for people in those days thought no hardship of going many miles to a camp-meeting. I was continued two years on this circuit: the first year J. Axley, presiding elder; the second year M. Lindsey was my presiding elder. There were many interesting incidents that occurred during my stay on this circuit. A few I will name.
At Mount Zion Meeting-house there was a good class of poor, simple-hearted Methodists that desired to hold class-meetings according to rule with closed doors, admitting persons not members of the Church only two or three times, unless they intended to join. There was an old lady in the settlement, a New Light by profession, who hated the Methodists and despised class-meetings with closed doors, but would stay in in spite of the leader. She would take her seat near the door, and open it while the leader was speaking to the class. They had tried to stop her many ways, but did not succeed. When I came round the leader complained to me, alleging that they were greatly annoyed by her disorderly conduct. I preached, then read the rules, then requested all to retire but the class, or such as desired to join the Church, and then closed the door, and proceeded to examine the class. I knew this lady was in, and sat near the door as usual. I asked the leader if there were any in but members. He answered, "Yes, there are three that are not members." I told him to take me to them first. He did so. The first was a man. I asked him his intention in staying in class-meeting. He told me he wanted to serve God, and join the Church. "Very well," said I. The next was a woman, whom I questioned, and who answered in the same way. While I was talking to her my New Light got up and opened the door, and took her seat close by it. I approached her, and asked her what was her motive for staying in class-meeting.
She said she wanted to be with the people of God.
"You can't do it," she replied; and sprung to her feet, and began to shout and clap her hands; and as she faced to the door, I took hold of her arms behind her shoulders, and moved her toward the door. She threw up her hands against the cheek of the door, and prevented me from putting her out. I saw a scuffle was to take place, and stooped down and gathered her in my right arm, and with my left hand jerked her hand from the cheek of the door, and lifted her up, and stepped out and set her on her feet. The moment I set her down she began to jump and shout, saying, "You can't shut me out of heaven." I sternly ordered her to quit shouting, for, said I, you are not happy at all, you only shout because you are mad and the devil is in you. When she quit shouting, I said, "I knew you were not happy, for if God had made you happy I could not have stopped it; but as it was the devil in you, I have soon stopped your shouting." I then stepped back and shut the door, and met my class standing against it; and we had a very good time, and effectually foiled our old New Light tormentor, and she never troubled me any more during my two years on this circuit.
The Tennessee Conference sat in Nashville, October 1st, 1818, when I was reappointed to Red River. Our increase this year, in the four Western Conferences, was five thousand one hundred and sixty-four. Our increase of traveling preachers was only nine.
At the Nashville Conference an incident occurred substantially, as well as my memory serves me, as follows: The preacher in charge had risen from very humble beginnings, but was now a popular, fashionable preacher. We talk about "Young America" these times; but Young America was as distinctly to be seen in those days, among our young, flippant, popularity-seeking preachers, as now.
Brother Axley and myself, though not very old, were called old-fashioned fellows; and this popular young aspirant was afraid to appoint Brother Axley or myself to preach at any popular hour for fear we would break on slavery, dress, or dram-drinking. But at length the old staid members and the young preachers began to complain that Axley and Cartwright were slighted, and an under-current of murmuring became pretty general. The city preacher had been selected to appoint the time and place where we were to preach. Brother Axley and myself had our own amusement. At length, on Saturday of the Conference, this preacher announced that Brother Axley would preach in the Methodist church on Sunday morning at sunrise, thinking there would be but few out, and that he could do but little harm at that early hour.
When we adjourned on Saturday afternoon, I rallied the boys to spread the appointment; to rise early and get all out they could. The appointment circulated like wildfire, and sure enough, at sunrise the church was well filled. Brother Axley rose, sung, prayed, took his text: "Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your minds;" and if the Lord ever helped mortal man to preach, he surely helped Brother Axley. First he poured the thunders of Sinai against the Egyptians, or slave oppressors; next he showed that no moderate dram-drinker could enter heaven; and then the grape-shot of truth rolled from his mouth against rings, ruffles, and all kind of ornamental dress. Dr. Bascom was sitting right before him. He had a gold watch-chain and key, and two very large gold seals. The Rev. H. B. was so excited that unconsciously he took up one of the seals, and he began to play with the other seal with his right hand. Axley saw it, stopped suddenly, and very sternly said to him, "Put up that chain, and quit playing with those seals, and hear the word of the Lord." The claret rushed to the surface of his profile.
The sermon went off admirably, and really it seemed as though a tornado had swept the ruffles and vails; and the old members of the Church shouted for joy. Having achieved another signal victory over error and pride, the ministers and ruling elders of other sister Churches had opened their pulpits, and invited us to preach to their people during Conference. Among the rest, Dr. Blackbourn had opened his church. Dr. Blackbourn was a strong, popular Presbyterian minister.
In the course of the Sabbath, the city preacher informed me that I was to preach on Monday evening in Dr. Blackbourn's Church, and charged me to be sure and behave myself. I made him my best bow, and thanked him that he had given me any appointment at all; and I assured him I would certainly behave myself the best I could. "And now," said I, "Brother Mac, it really seems providential that you have appointed me to preach in the doctor's church, for I expect they never heard Methodist doctrine fairly stated and the dogmas of Calvinism exposed; and now, sir, they shall hear the truth for once." Said the preacher, "You must not preach controversy." I replied, "If I live to preach there at all, I'll give Calvinism one riddling." "Well," said the preacher, "I recall the appointment, and will send another preacher there; and you must preach in the Methodist Church Monday evening, and do try and behave yourself." "Very well," said I; "I'll do my best."
The preacher's conduct toward me was spread abroad, and excited considerable curiosity. Monday evening came; the Church was filled to overflowing; every seat was crowded, and many had to stand. After singing and prayer, Brother Mac took his seat in the pulpit. I then read my text: "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" After reading my text I paused. At that moment I saw General Jackson walking up the aisle; he came to the middle post, and very gracefully leaned against it, and stood, as there were no vacant seats. Just then I felt some one pull my coat in the stand, and turning my head, my fastidious preacher, whispering a little loud, said: "General Jackson has come in; General Jackson has come in." I felt a flash of indignation run all over me like an electric shock, and facing about to my congregation, and purposely speaking out audibly, I said, "Who is General Jackson? If he don't get his soul converted, God will damn him as quick as he would a Guinea negro!"
The preacher tucked his head down, and squatted low, and would, no doubt, have been thankful for leave of absence. The congregation, General Jackson and all, smiled, or laughed right out, all at the preacher's expense. When the congregation was dismissed, my city-stationed preacher stepped up to me, and very sternly said to me: "You are the strangest man I ever saw, and General Jackson will chastise you for your insolence before you leave the city." "Very clear of it," said I, "for General Jackson, I have no doubt, will applaud my course; and if he should undertake to chastise me, as Paddy said, 'There is two as can play at that game.'"
General Jackson was staying at one of the Nashville hotels. Next morning very early, my city preacher went down to the hotel to make an apology to General Jackson for my conduct in the pulpit the night before. Shortly after he had left, I passed by the hotel, and I met the general on the pavement; and before I approached him by several steps he smiled, and reached out his hand and said:
"Mr. Cartwright, you are a man after my own heart. I am very much surprised at Mr. Mac, to think he would suppose that I would be offended at you. No, sir; I told him that I highly approved of your independence; that a minister of Jesus Christ ought to love everybody and fear no mortal man. I told Mr. Mac that if I had a few thousand such independent, fearless officers as you were, and a well-drilled army, I could take old England."
General Jackson was certainly a very extraordinary man. He was, no doubt, in his prime of life, a very wicked man, but he always showed a great respect for the Christian religion, and the feelings of religious people, especially ministers of the Gospel. I will here relate a little incident that shows his respect for religion.
I had preached one Sabbath near the Hermitage, and, in company with several gentlemen and ladies, went, by special invitation, to dine with the general. Among this company there was a young sprig of a lawyer from Nashville, of very ordinary intellect, and he was trying hard to make an infidel of himself. As I was the only preacher present, this young lawyer kept pushing his conversation on me, in order to get into an argument. I tried to evade an argument, in the first place considering it a breach of good manners to interrupt the social conversation of the company. In the second place I plainly saw that his head was much softer than his heart, and that there were no laurels to be won by vanquishing or demolishing such a combatant, and I persisted in evading an argument. This seemed to inspire the young man with more confidence in himself; for my evasiveness he construed into fear. I saw General Jackson's eye strike fire, as he sat by and heard the thrusts he made at the Christian religion. At length the young lawyer asked me this question:
"Mr. Cartwright, do you really believe there is any such place as hell, as a place of torment?"
I answered promptly, "Yes, I do."
To which he responded, "Well, I thank God I have too much good sense to believe any such thing."
I was pondering in my own mind whether I would answer him or not, when General Jackson for the first time broke into the conversation, and directing his words to the young man, said with great earnestness:
"Well, sir, I thank God that there is such a place of torment as hell."
This sudden answer, made with great earnestness, seemed to astonish the youngster, and he exclaimed:
"Why, General Jackson, what do you want with such a place of torment as hell?"
To which the general replied, as quick as lightning,
"To put such d-d rascals as you are in, that oppose and vilify the Christian religion."
I tell you this was a poser. The young lawyer was struck dumb, and presently was found missing.
In the fall of 1819, our Tennessee Conference sat again in Nashville. This year the Minutes show an increase of members in the four Western conferences of 5,085; of traveling preachers, 38: our whole membership in the West, 56,945; our traveling preachers, 194. Our Tennessee Conference lay partly in Tennessee and partly in Kentucky. In Kentucky our rules of Discipline on slavery were pretty generally enforced, and especially on our preachers, traveling and local. Whenever a traveling preacher became the owner of a slave or slaves, he was required to record a bill of emancipation, or pledge himself to do so; otherwise he would forfeit his ministerial office. And under no circumstances could a local preacher be ordained a deacon or an elder if he was a slaveholder, unless he gave the Church satisfactory assurances that he would emancipate at a proper time. In Tennessee some of our prominent preachers fell heir to slaves. They were unwilling to emancipate them, and they sought refuge in the plea of their disabilities, according to the laws of the State.
At this conference I complained of some of our strong preachers living in constant violation of the Discipline of the Church. They tried to make out a fair excuse, and to show that it was impracticable, according to the laws of the State, and I, in order to sustain my charges of violating the Discipline of the Church, had to show that they could at any time emancipate their slaves by becoming surety that their negroes, when emancipated, did not become a county charge. They employed a distinguished lawyer, F. Grundy, and I went to General Jackson for counsel. The case was fairly stated and explained in open conference, and these preachers were required to go to court and record a bill of emancipation.
When the great Southern secession took place in 1844-45, Dr. Bascom wrote a pamphlet, and there represents the circumstance above alluded to as a great abolition move. Now there is nothing more foreign from the truth. Ultra abolition was not then known among us in the West; and if it was, we never meddled politically with slavery, but simply required our preachers and members to emancipate their slaves whenever it was practicable, according to the laws of the state in which they lived, and which permitted the liberated slave to enjoy freedom.
The discussion on the subject of slavery waked up some bad feeling, and as we had at this conference to elect our delegates to the General Conference, which was to hold its session in Baltimore in May, 1820, these slaveholding preachers determined to form a ticket, and exclude every one of us who were for the Methodist Discipline as it was, and is to this day. As soon as ever we found out their plan we formed an opposite ticket, excluding all advocates of slavery, and, on the first ballot, we elected every man on our ticket save one, and he was a young preacher who had only traveled six years. He and their strongest man tied in the vote. Of course, we had to ballot again, but on the second ballot we elected our man by a large majority. This triumph made the slavery party feel very sore. They then went to work and wrote a very slanderous pamphlet, in which they misrepresented us, and sent a copy of it to each member of the General Conference. But they missed their mark, for instead of lowering us in the estimation of the members of the General Conference, that body approved our course fully.
It was at this General Conference of 1820, in Baltimore, that radicalism threatened to shake the foundations of the Church, but as I have freely spoken of these trying scenes to the Church elsewhere in this sketch, I forbear making any further remarks. At this General Conference, the Kentucky Conference was organized, which made five annual conferences out of the old Western Conference, namely:
1. Ohio Conference, composed of the following presiding-elder districts: Ohio, Muskingum, Lancaster, Scioto, Lebanon, and Miami; with a membership of thirty-four thousand one hundred and seventy-eight, and eighty-seven traveling preachers.
2. Missouri Conference, with the following districts: Indiana, Illinois, Cape Girardeau, and Arkansas; with a membership of seven thousand four hundred and fifty-eight, and thirty-nine traveling preachers.
3. Kentucky Conference, with five districts: Kenhawha, Kentucky, Salt River, Green River, and Cumberland; with a membership of twenty-three thousand seven hundred and twenty-three, and eighty-four traveling preachers.
4. Tennessee, composed of Nashville, Tennessee, French Road, Holston, and Duck River Districts; seventeen thousand six hundred and thirty-three members, and fifty-one traveling preachers.
5. Mississippi, with Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama Districts; four thousand one hundred and forty-seven members, and nineteen traveling preachers.
Making in 1820-21 our membership, eighty-seven thousand one hundred and thirty-nine, and our traveling preachers two hundred and eighty. See what God has done for our "far West." From the time I had joined the traveling ranks in 1804 to 1820-21, a period of sixteen years, from thirty-two traveling preachers, we had increased to two hundred and eighty; and from eleven thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven members, we had now over eighty-seven thousand; and there was not a single literary man among those traveling preachers.
In the fall of 1820, our Conference sat in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. I was reappointed to the Christian Circuit, M. Lindsey presiding elder. About this time, owing to my having reprinted and circulated two small pamphlets, one called, "The Dagon of Calvinism," and the other, "A Useful Discovery," both of them satires on Calvinism, some Presbyterian clergymen, judging me to be the author of these pamphlets, and not being willing publicly to debate the points at issue between us, concluded to take satisfaction of me by writing me a letter in the name of the devil, complimenting me for promoting the interests of his Satanic majesty's kingdom, by spreading the Arminian doctrine. Whereupon I wrote a rejoinder, and both these letters, the one to me and my answer, were published in pamphlet form, and created a considerable buzz for a while. Those clergymen called a council in order to answer me, but considering prudence the better part of valor, realizing that
they abandoned the project of answering me altogether. This was
regretted by many of my friends, who wanted them to speak out in their
own proper names, and not skulk behind the name of the devil to hide
their errors or malice. And perhaps it was best that they did not
answer back again.
I will now relate an incident or two that occurred in 1820-24.
Old Father Walker, of excellent memory, and myself, set out in the month of April, 1820, to the General Conference, in Baltimore, on horseback. We traveled hard all the week. Late on Saturday afternoon we came to the spurs of the Alleghany Mountains, and were within a few miles of the toll-gate, when a gentleman overtook us. We inquired of him if he knew of any quiet tavern on the road near by, where two weary travelers could rest over Sabbath, as we did not intend traveling on that day. He said there was no such house on the road for many miles; but if we would turn off the road a mile or such a matter, he could take us to a good, quiet, religious family, where we could rest till Monday very comfortably; for he, being a local preacher, had an appointment next day. We thankfully consented to go with this local brother, and following him, we soon came to a poor but decent house and family and were made very welcome. The brother, on learning that we were preachers, insisted that we should preach for the people in the morning and evening, to which we consented.
At eleven o'clock, Brother Walker held forth. The people were all attention, but there was no excitement. At night I tried to preach, and although I had profound attention from a cabinful of these mountaineers, yet the preaching did not seem to have any effect whatever. When I closed, I called on our kind local preacher to conclude. He rose and began to sing a mountain song, and pat his foot, and clap his hands, and ever and anon would shout at the top of his speech, "Pray, brethren." In a few minutes the whole house was in an uproarious shout. When Brother Walker and I got a chance to talk, I said: "Well, sir, I tell you this local preacher can do more in singing, clapping, and stamping, than all our preaching put together."
"Verily," said Walker, "he must be a great man, and these are a great people living here in these poor dreary mountains."
In passing on our journey going down the mountains, on Monday, we met several wagons and carriages moving west. Shortly after we had passed them, I saw lying in the road a very neat pocket-pistol. I picked it up, and found it heavily loaded and freshly primed. Supposing it to have been dropped by some of these movers, I said to Brother Walker, "This looks providential;" for the road across these mountains was, at this time, infested by many robbers, and several daring murders and robberies had lately been committed. Brother Walker's horse was a tolerably good one, but my horse was a stout, fleet, superior animal. As we approached the foot of the mountains, and were about two miles from the public-house, where we intended to lodge that night, the sun just declining behind the western mountains, we overtook a man walking with a large stick as a walking cane, and he appeared to be very lame, and was limping along at a very slow rate. He spoke to us, and said he was traveling, and a poor cripple, and begged us to let him ride a little way, as he was nearly given out, and was fearful he could not reach the tavern that night.
Brother Walker said, "O yes," and was in the attitude of dismounting and letting him ride his horse. Just then a thought struck me, that this fellow's lameness was feigned, and that it was not safe to trust him. I said to Walker: "Keep your horse; we are a long way from home, have a long journey before us; under such circumstances trust no man," and we trotted on down the hill, and thought we had left our lame man more than a hundred yards behind. Walker was rather ahead of me. All at once my horse made a spring forward; I turned to see what was the matter, and lo! and behold, here was my lame man, within a few steps of me coming as fleet as a deer. I grasped my pistol, which was in my over-coat pocket, cocked it, wheeled about, and rushed toward him; he faced about, and in a few jumps more I should have been on him, but he plunged into the thick brush, and I could not follow him. When we got to the tavern the landlord said we had made a very fortunate escape, for these robbers in this way had decoyed and robbed several travelers lately.
Brother Walker being the oldest man and rather infirm, we had agreed that he should conduct all religious ceremonies, and that I should call for lodging attend to horses, payoff bills, etc. When we had gotten down into Virginia some distance, we called one evening at a Mr. Baly's, who kept a tavern on the road; his wife and daughters were very kind and clever, but the man of the house was a drunken Universalist. He was not sober when we called, but granted us the liberty to stay all night. While I was out seeing to the horses, Brother Walker and the landlord got into a strong debate on the universal restoration plan. Brother Walker was very mild and easy in debate; the landlord was abrupt and insulting, as well as very profane. I stood it a good while, but at length I got tired of it, and said to Brother Walker that the way he debated was of no use; that it was casting pearls before swine. The old landlord at this let loose a volley of curses on me. I did not attempt any debate, but shook my brimstone wallet over him till he was sick and tired of it. The old lady and daughters were very much mortified at their husband and father. By this time it became proper that we should retire to bed. Brother Walker told the landlord that we were preachers, and asked leave to pray in the family before we went to bed. The landlord flatly denied us that privilege, and swore he would have none of our praying about him, saying he knew we only wanted to pray off our bill. Brother Walker mildly expostulated with him, and insisted on having the privilege to pray; but all in vain. He said he would have no praying about his house. I then asked him if he did not keep a house of public entertainment.
He replied, "Yes."
"Then," said I, "do you not allow men to curse and swear, and get drunk in your house, if they pay for it?"
He said, "Yes."
"Well, then, we have as good a right to pray and serve God in your house, if we pay for it, as they have to serve the devil and pay for it; and I insist that we have our rights. We have plenty of money, and don't wish to pray off our bill." So said I to Brother Walker, "Go to prayer, and if he cuts up any capers I'll down him, and hold him still till you are done praying; for," said I, "'the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.'" So Brother W. prayed, and I watched the old landlord, who sat very quiet and looked sullen. After this we retired to bed, and his wife and daughter made many apologies for him, and hoped we would not be offended. I told them no, not at all; that he was heartily welcome to all he had made of us. They laughed, and said they had never seen him so completely used up before.
In the morning we rose early; our horses were fed, and breakfast on the table. We prayed and took our meal, the old man still in bed. I then asked the landlady for our bill. She frankly said she would not have anything; that we were welcome to all we had from them, and invited us to call and stay with them as we returned. I insisted that she should receive pay; "for you know," said I, "the old gentleman said we wanted to pray off our bill;" but she utterly refused. So we bade farewell, and went on our way rejoicing, for we had said our prayers and prayed off our bill in the bargain.
On our return from the General Conference in Baltimore, in 1820, in the month of June, which was very warm, and we having to travel on horseback, it may be supposed that our journey in this way for a thousand miles was very fatiguing. When we got to Knoxville, East Tennessee, the following incident in substance occurred:
Brother Walker and myself had started early in the morning, had traveled about twenty-five miles, and reached Knoxville at noon. We rode up to a tavern with a view of dining, but finding a great crowd of noisy, drinking, and drunken persons there, I said to Brother Walker: "This is a poor place for weary travelers, and we will not stop here." We then rode to another tavern, but it was worse than the first, for here they were in a real bully fight. I then proposed to Brother Walker that we should go on, and said we would soon find a house of private entertainment, where we could be quiet; so on we went. Presently we came to a house with a sign over the door of "Private Entertainment, and New Cider." Said I, "Here's the place; and if we can get some good light bread and new cider, that's dinner enough for me."
Brother Walker said: "That is exactly what I want."
We accordingly hailed. The old gentleman came out. I inquired if we could get our horses fed, and some light bread and new cider for dinner.
"O yes," said the landlord; "alight, for I suspect you are two Methodist preachers, that have been to Baltimore, to the General Conference."
We replied we were. Our horses were quickly taken, and well fed. A large loaf of good light bread and a pitcher of new cider were quickly set before us. This gentleman was an Otterbein Methodist. His wife was very sick, and sent from the other room for us to pray for her. We did so, and then returned to take our bread and cider dinner. The weather was warm, and we were very thirsty, and began to lay in the bread and cider at a pretty liberal rate. It, however, seemed to me that our cider was not only new cider, but something more, and I began to rein up my appetite. Brother Walker laid on liberally, and at length I said to him: "You had better stop, brother; for there is surely something more than cider here."
"I reckon not," said he.
But as I was not in the habit of using spirits at all, I knew that a very little would keel me up, so I forbore; but with all my forbearance presently I began to feel light-headed. I instantly ordered our horses, fearing we were snapped for once.
I called for our bill; the old brother would have nothing. We mounted, and started on our journey. When we had rode about a mile, being in the rear, I saw Brother Walker was nodding at a mighty rate. After riding on some distance in this way, I suddenly rode up to Brother Walker, and cried out, "Wake up! wake up!" He roused up, his eyes watering freely. "I believe," said I, "we are both drunk. Let us turn out of the road, and lie down and take a nap till we get sober." But we rode on without stopping. We were not drunk, but we both evidently felt it flying into our heads; and I have thought proper, in all candor, to name it, with a view to put others on their guard.
We journeyed on till we came to the Crab Orchard, where was kept a toll-gate. This gate was kept at this time by two very mean men; they also kept a house of entertainment; and, it being late, we concluded to tarry all night. The fare was very indifferent. We asked the privilege to pray with them. It was granted, and we prayed with them night and morning; took breakfast, and then asked our bill. The landlord told us, and I drew out my pocket-book, in which I had several hundred dollars in good current bank bills. He told me he would not take any of them; he must have silver. I told him I had no silver, and no coin but a few cents. He very abruptly swore he knew better; he knew I had the silver. I assured him again that I had no silver, but he persisted in swearing he knew I had, and that we could not leave or pass the toll-gate till we paid our bill of fare. Our horses were all ready to mount, and I had fresh loaded my pistol over night, for I did not like the signs about the house; and as I had a good deal of money in bills about me, I had determined I would not be robbed without leaving my mark. Brother Walker tried to reason the case with him, but to no purpose. I then threw down the amount of his charge, and told him he had to take that or nothing, and mounted my horse and started. He ordered one of his servants to shut and lock the toll-gate, and not let me through. I spurred my horse, and was at the gate nearly as quick as his servant, and drew my horsewhip, and told the negro, if he attempted to close the gate I would down him. The negro took fright, and let go the gate, and took to his heels for safety. The moment I passed through the gate I wheeled my horse, and called for Brother Walker to come on; I would bear him harmless. The landlord called for his pistols, swearing he would follow me. I told him to come on, and wheeled my horse, and started on my way independently. But he took the "second, sober thought," and declined pursuing me. This was to me a pretty trying and tempting circumstance, but I survived it.
Shortly after this Brother Walker left me to visit some of his old friends and relatives in West Tennessee, and I journeyed on toward my home in Christian County, Kentucky. Saturday night came on, and found me in a strange region of country, and in the hills, knobs, and spurs of the Cumberland Mountains. I greatly desired to stop on the approaching Sabbath, and spend it with a Christian people; but I was now in a region of country where there was no Gospel minister for many miles around, and where, as I learned, many of the scattered population had never heard a Gospel sermon in all their lives, and where the inhabitants knew no Sabbath only to hunt and visit, drink and dance. Thus lonesome and pensive, late in the evening, I hailed at a tolerably decent house, and the landlord kept entertainment. I rode up and asked for quarters. The gentleman said I could stay, but he was afraid I would not enjoy myself very much as a traveler, inasmuch as they had a party meeting there that night to have a little dance. I inquired how far it was to a decent house of entertainment on the road; he said seven miles. I told him if he would treat me civilly and feed my horse well, by his leave I would stay. He assured me I should be treated civilly. I dismounted and went in. The people collected, a large company. I saw there was not much drinking going on.
I quietly took my seat in one corner of the house, and the dance commenced. I sat quietly musing, a total stranger, and greatly desired to preach to this people. Finally, I concluded to spend the next day (Sabbath) there, and ask the privilege to preach to them. I had hardly settled this point in my mind, when a beautiful, ruddy young lady walked very gracefully up to me, dropped a handsome courtesy, and pleasantly, with winning smiles, invited me out to take a dance with her. I can hardly describe my thoughts or feelings on that occasion. However, in a moment I resolved on a desperate experiment. I rose as gracefully as I could; I will not say with some emotion, but with many emotions. The young lady moved to my right side; I grasped her right hand with my right hand, while she leaned her left arm on mine. In this position we walked on the floor. The whole company seemed pleased at this act of politeness in the young lady, shown to a stranger. The colored man, who was the fiddler, began to put his fiddle in the best order. I then spoke to the fiddler to hold a moment, and added that for several years I had not undertaken any matter of importance without first the blessing of God upon it, and I desired now to ask the blessing of God upon this beautiful young lady and the whole company, that had shown such an act of politeness to a total stranger.
Here I grasped the young lady's hand tightly, and said, "Let us all I kneel down and pray," and then instantly dropped on my knees, and commenced praying with all the power of soul and body that I could command. The young lady tried to get loose from me, but I held her tight. Presently she fell on her knees. Some of the company kneeled, some stood, some fled, some sat still, all looked curious. The fiddler ran off into the kitchen, saying, "Lord a marcy, what de matter? what is dat mean?"
While I prayed some wept, and wept out aloud, and some cried for mercy. I rose from my knees and commenced an exhortation, after which I sang a hymn. The young lady who invited me on the floor lay prostrate, crying earnestly for mercy. I exhorted again, I sang and prayed nearly all night. About fifteen of that company professed religion, and our meeting lasted next day and next night, and as many more were powerfully converted. I organized a society, took thirty-two into the Church, and sent them a preacher. My landlord was appointed leader, which post he held for many years. This was the commencement of a great and glorious revival of religion in that region of country, and several of the young men converted at this Methodist preacher dance became useful ministers of Jesus Christ.
I recall this strange scene of my life with astonishment to this day, and do not permit myself to reason on it much. In some conditions of society, I should have failed; in others I should have been mobbed; in others I should have been considered a lunatic. So far as I did permit myself to reason on it at the time, my conclusions were something like these: These are a people not Gospel taught or hardened. They, at this early hour, have not drunk to intoxication, and they will at least be as much alarmed at me and my operations, as I possibly can be at theirs. If I fail, it is no disgrace; if I succeed, it will be a fulfillment of a duty commanded, to be "instant in season and out of season." Surely, in all human wisdom, it was out of season, but I had, from some cause or other, a strong impression on my mind, from the beginning to the end of this affair, (if it is ended,) that I should succeed by taking the devil at surprise, as he had often served me, and thereby be avenged of him for giving me so much trouble on my way to General Conference and back thus far.
The actions prompted by those sudden impressions to perform religious duty, often succeed beyond all human calculation, and thereby inspire a confident belief in an immediate superintending agency of the Divine Spirit of God. In this agency of the Holy Spirit of God I have been a firm believer for more than fifty-four years, and I do firmly believe that if the ministers of the present day had more of the unction or baptismal fire of the Holy Ghost prompting their ministerial efforts, we should succeed much better than we do, and be more successful in winning souls to Christ than we are. If those ministers, or young men that think they are called of God to minister in the word and doctrine of Jesus Christ, were to cultivate, by a holy life, a better knowledge of this supreme agency of the Divine Spirit, and depend less on the learned theological knowledge of Biblical institutes, it is my opinion they would do vastly more good than they are likely to do; and I would humbly ask, is not this the grand secret of the success of all early pioneer preachers, from John Wesley down to the present day?
Now I say for one, who has been trying to preach in the wilderness for more than fifty years, that I take no flattering unction to my soul from those who pretend to speak in such lofty terms of the old and early pioneers of Methodism, for in the very next breath they tell us that such preachers and preaching will not do now, and at one fell swoop sweep us, as with the besom of destruction, from the face of the earth.
I am often reminded by the advocates of learned and theologically-trained preachers, of a circumstance that occurred years gone by in Kentucky, after the wilderness state of the country had passed away, and the people had grown up into improved life, and many of them had become wealthy.
In the region alluded to there was a large and wealthy Presbyterian congregation that, by growing tired of their old and early preacher, had become vacant. They sought a popular successor, one that was up with the improved and advanced state of the times. They finally, by the offer of a large call, or salary, succeeded in engaging a very pious young minister as their pastor. At his first appointment, he took for his text, "Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Acts iii, 19. He preached an excellent sermon from this passage, in the judgment of the congregation, and they were very much delighted. The next Sabbath rolled on. Their new pastor rose in the pulpit and took the same text, and delivered substantially the same sermon. This produced a little whispering among their wise and knowing elders; but they attributed it all to absence of thought. The third Sunday rolled on, and up rose the preacher, reading off the same text and preaching the same sermon. Well, the elders concluded that this was outrageous and insufferable, and that they must really talk to him and put a stop to this way of preaching. So they called on their young pastor, and tabled their complaints very feelingly before him, asking him if he really had but the one sermon. If so, they must call the congregation together and dismiss him. To all of which the pastor responded, the Bible was full of as good texts as the one he had preached from, and he had an abundance of good sermons ready; but he thought that as the signs of this improved age, and state of society, required an improved and advanced ministry, so did the advanced age require that the congregation should fully keep up with an improved ministry; "and," said the minister, "do you really think the congregation has complied with the requirements of my sermon? If you think they have, and you shall be the judges, I am ready at all times to take another text and preach a new sermon."
The elders, at that moment, were possessed of a dumb devil, and they never afterward called their minister to chide with him. As the old truths of the Gospel were behind the times, the Lord did signally own and bless the labors of this young minister, and made him a savor of life unto life to many of his hearers, giving ample evidence that he will own and bless his word.
A few more incidents will close this chapter. It is very astonishing how easily and generally mankind fall into idle and sinful habits. I have often been astonished at the far-seeing wisdom of John Wesley. In the General Rules of his United Societies he interdicts dram-drinking; and while the whole religious world, priests, preachers, and members, rushed into this demoralizing practice, Mr. Wesley made desisting from dram-drinking a condition of membership in the Methodist societies; and although the Methodist Episcopal Church, in her organization, as a wise provision in her General Rules, forbids dram-drinking, yet how often and how long did it remain a dead letter! From my earliest recollection drinking drams, in family and social circles, was considered harmless and allowable socialities. It was almost universally the custom for preachers, in common with all others, to take drams; and if a man would not have it in his family, his harvest, his house-raisings, log-rollings, weddings, and so on, he was considered parsimonious and unsociable; and many, even professors of Christianity, would not help a man if he did not have spirits and treat the company. I recollect, at an early day, at a court time in Springfield, Tennessee, to have seen and heard a very popular Baptist preacher, who was evidently intoxicated, drink the health of the company in what he called the health the devil drank to a dead hog--Boo! I have often seen it carried and used freely at large baptizings, where the ordinance was administered by immersion.
In 1821, the last year I traveled the Christian Circuit, I took in a preaching-place in a densely-populated settlement that was long destitute of the Gospel, and had many notorious drunkards in it. Here the Lord owned and blessed my labors; religion spread through the settlement. Among the rest there was one interesting family; the man was a drunkard; the family became deeply interested about religion and joined the Church, and were remarkably friendly to me; the old man was also very friendly. On a certain occasion I met him in a store in Hopkinsville, and--although I was never intoxicated but once in my life, yet I had wholly abandoned the social glass, for according to my best conviction, it was a bad and dangerous habit, and that the rules of the Methodist Church required it--this drinking gentleman called for some cherry-bounce, and sweetened it for me expressly, out of pure love to me, as he said, and then invited me to drink with him. I declined. He urged me. I refused. I told him I had wholly given up the practice. Nothing would satisfy him; he said, if I did not drink with him, I was no friend of his, or his family, and he would never hear me preach again. I told him that it was all in vain to urge me; my principles were fixed, and that I would not violate my principles for the friendship of any man or mortal. He flew into a violent rage, and cursed and abused me. I walked off and left him in his glory. He never forgave me, I suppose, and made his family leave the Church, and would not let them come to hear me preach, and he lived and died a drunkard.
In 1824, Jesse Walker, Samuel H. Thompson, F. S., and myself, were elected delegates to the General Conference in Baltimore: the first three from Missouri, myself from Kentucky. We started on horseback, and traveled together. Two of the company would call for spirits when we stayed at public houses. Brother Thompson and myself would not drink spirits at all. We made it a rule to pray in families wherever we stayed, if it was agreeable. I felt hurt that two Methodist preachers, delegates to the General Conference, and our traveling companions, would call for and drink spirits in those public houses. Thompson and myself remonstrated with them. They defended the practice. I told them at length that if they did not quit practice I would not travel with them, and in this Thompson joined me. Brother Walker was a good man, and for our sakes he agreed to, and did quit it altogether, and we got along much better.
In the fall of 1821 our conference was held in Lexington, Kentucky, and I was appointed, by Bishop M'Kendree, to Cumberland District, containing the following appointments, namely: Green River, Somerset, Wayne, Roaring River, Goose Creek, Fountain Head, Barren, and Bowling Green Circuits; it lay partly in Kentucky and partly in Tennessee, and was a large and populous district, containing between five and six thousand members, many of whom had grown wealthy; there was also a great number of talented local preachers.
On my first round of quarterly meetings--I was on my way to Somerset Circuit, had rode, on Friday, about fifty miles, and my horse and myself were both very much tired--I called at several houses on the public highway, and asked to stay all night, but was denied. About dusk I hailed another house, and asked leave to stay. The man said I could not stay. I inquired how far to the next house where he thought they would take me in. He said, "Seven miles." Said I, "My dear sir, I have rode to-day fifty miles, and I cannot go seven more. If you will give me a fagot of fire, I will camp out rather than go any further."
He stepped into a little kitchen hard by for the fire, and I heard his old lady say to her husband, "You had better let that man stay. If he gets the fire he will burn up the barn because you turned him off." And as she spoke out loud, I replied, equally as loud, "Yes, you had better let me stay; if you don't, some mischief will befall you before morning."
He threw down his chunk of fire, and said, "Well, I suppose you must stay."
Down I got, stepped to the kitchen door, and said, "Good lady, will you give me supper quick? for I could get no dinner on the road to-day."
"O yes," said the old lady.
My horse put up, my supper eaten, I felt much better. Presently I began to inquire about religion and religious denominations. I soon found out that the old gentleman and old lady were real high-toned Predestinarian Baptists. The old gentleman informed me that, a few miles off, most all the people were Methodists, and that he was really afraid they would take the country, and that they had a quarterly meeting the next day, (Saturday,) a few miles from there.
Said I, " A quarterly meeting; what sort of a meeting is that?" He did not know, he replied.
Said I, "What did you call the name of this religious sect?"
Said he, "Methodist."
"Methodist," said I; "what's that? What sort of people are they?"
"Ah," said he, "they are the strangest people you ever saw; they shout and halloo so loud you may hear them for miles; they hold that all will be saved, and a man can live without sin in this life, and yet that a Christian can fall from grace; and all this," said he, "is not half; they are the worst people you ever saw. They had a camp-meeting just over here last year, and they had a tent they called the preachers' tent, and there, by night and day, the preachers carried on all sorts of wickedness; and," said he, "they are begging and taking all the money out of the country."
"Mercy defend us!" I exclaimed; "why don't you raise a company and drive them out of the country?"
"O!" said he, "they are too strong for us; if we were able to drive them they should soon go, you may depend."
Said I, "What a wretched set they must be; but it may be they are misrepresented, and are not as bad as you say."
"No, sir," said he; "I was there at the camp-meeting, and their bad conduct I saw with my own eyes."
"Well," said I, "if these things be so, it is too bad for a civilized country." By this time they thought that it was near bedtime, and he said, "If you wish to lie down, there is a bed."
"But," said I, "my friend, I learn you are a professor of religion, and religious people ought always to pray with their families. I am a friend to religion, and hope you will pray with us before we go to bed."
"Ah!" said he, "I am a poor weak creature, and can't pray in my family."
"O!" said I, "you must certainly pray for us; you ought to pray for the benefit of these interesting children of yours."
"No," said he; "I can't do it."
"Well, sir," said I, "we must have prayers before we lie down, and I am a weak creature, too; but if you will not pray, may I?"
"Do as you please," said he.
So I read a chapter, rose, gave out a hymn, and commenced singing. There were two young ladies present, one a daughter, the other a niece, of the old man; they both rose and sung with me. Finally, I knelt down, and so did the girls; I prayed, but the old man and old lady kept their, seats all the time. In prayer I told the Lord what a poor weak old man lived there, and asked the Lord to give him strength and grace to set a better example before his family. I also prayed the Lord to have mercy on those deluded Methodists, if they were half as bad as my old friend had represented them; but if he had misrepresented them, to forgive him, and prosper them. As soon as prayer was over the old gentleman and lady went into the kitchen, and the niece said to me, "You need not believe a word uncle has said about the Methodists, and the doings at their camp-meeting, for I was there, and they are a good people, and my uncle is prejudiced." His daughter said the same. Presently I stepped out at the door, and I heard the old lady say to her husband, "He is a Methodist preacher."
The old man said, "No, he is not."
"Well," said she, "he is, and you have done it now."
The old man said, "I don't care if he is; it's good enough for him."
Shortly after this I retired to bed, and the two young ladies began to sing some of the Methodist camp-meeting songs, and really they sang delightfully. I rose early next morning, and went on to my quarterly meeting, and we had a real good one.
I will just say here, in this connection, the next summer I held a large and splendid camp-meeting on the ground where this old gentleman had told me there was such bad conduct, and he and his family were out; and right in their presence I told the congregation what this man had said about them to me. The old man could not face it, and slunk off and went home. His daughter and niece both were powerfully converted, and joined the Methodist Church.
When I got over on the southern part of my district, the summer following, to a camp-meeting in the Roaring River Circuit, having been detained a little by affliction in my family, and not being able to reach my camp-meeting till Sunday, Brother Simon Carlisle was in the stand preaching. He was a real Boanerges, an able and successful New Testament preacher. The congregation was large and very disorderly. Brother Carlisle reproved them sharply, but they behaved very rudely. When he closed, I rose to preach, but the congregation was so disorderly that I found it would be very difficult for me to proceed; so at length I told the vast crowd if they would give me their attention a few moments, I would relate an incident or two worthy of their attention. I commenced by relating several short anecdotes. They began to draw up nearer, and nearer still; the anecdotes were well calculated to excite their risibilities. Right before me sat an old, gray-headed man, with straight-breasted coat; he did not like the laughter that my anecdotes produced, and he spoke out loudly to me and said, "Make us cry--make us cry; don't make us laugh."
As quick as thought I replied to him thus:
"I don't hold the puckering strings of your mouths, and I want you to take the negro's eleventh commandment; that is, Every man mind his own business."
"Yes, sir; yes, sir," said the old man, and sank down perfectly still.
This produced considerable mirth in the congregation, but by this time the vast crowd had gathered up as close as they well could, and were all eyes and ears. I then announced my text: "To the unknown God, whom ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you." And for two hours I held listening thousands spell-bound, while, to the very best of my abilities, I defended the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ, and riddled Arianism as best I could. Arianism was rife through all that country, although they called themselves "Christians," and were called by the world, New Lights, Marshallites, or Stoneites. (These were two leading Presbyterian ministers, that in the time of a great revival in Kentucky, were disowned by the Synod of Kentucky. They headed the New Light party, and gratuitously assumed the name of Christian, yet they evidently imbibed the Arian sentiment, and spread their errors, and did great mischief in corrupting the Scriptural doctrine of the true Divinity of Jesus Christ.) The two Baptist preachers that would not receive me into the Baptist Church without rebaptizing, in Stogden's Valley, at an early day, elsewhere stated in this narrative, were present on this occasion. The circumstance of that encounter was one of the incidents that I had just related to gain audience with the people, and the old man with strait coat bade me make them cry and not laugh, whom I had taken to be a Methodist from his strait coat, proved to be an old Baptist man that had long been in the habit of speaking out to the preachers in time of preaching; but, alas for these Baptist preachers! they, with many more of their co-laboring ministerial brethren, had been carried off into the whirlpool of Arianism. While I was preaching, I not only gained audience, but there was solemn silence and profound attention; for, by the blessing of God, I succeeded in interesting the whole congregation in the sublime subject under discussion. And when I came to show that if Jesus Christ was not the supreme God, that all heaven and earth was filled with idolatrous devotions, and that angels and men, and redeemed spirits had been, were now, and eternally would be, nothing more or less than gross idolators: "Now," said I, "if there is a single man, minister, woman, or child, in this assembly, that will dare to ascribe Divine honors to Jesus Christ and not believe in his supreme Divinity, let them show it by raising their hand."
I then paused, but not one hand went up. It was an awful solemn time; every soul seemed to feel that the supreme Divinity brooded over the assembly. I then said, I wanted one more triumphant testimony of our holy religion that should overwhelm all the legions of devils that rose from the stagnant pools of Arianism, Unitarianism, and Socinianism. I then desired that everyone in that vast crowd that believed that Jesus Christ was justly entitled to supreme honor and glory, and expected to get to heaven through his merits alone, to give me the sign by raising their right hand; the hands went up by the thousand, and with hands, triumphant shouts of glory ascended by hundreds, and many sinners were seen with streaming eyes, and even exulting shouts, giving glory to Jesus Christ. The vast multitude fell almost in every direction, and I sat down under a deep sense that God was there. Mourners were found all through the crowd, to be numbered by the hundred. Many of the Arians recanted; and after the legions that had distracted them for years were cast out, came to their right minds, were clothed, and once more esteemed in their highest honor to sit at the feet of Jesus Christ. There was no more preaching for that day and the next. The cries of the penitents, and shouts of the young converts and the old professors, went up without intermission, day and night. Two hundred professed religion, and one hundred and seventy joined the Methodist Episcopal Church before the close of the camp-meeting, and it was remarked by many, that it seemed the easiest thing for sinners to get religion here of any place or time they ever saw, and they could not account for it; but I told them that it was plain to me the Lord had given marching orders to the legions of little Arian devils to the lake, as he had done to the swine in the days of old, and when these were cast out it was quite easy to come to their right minds. Perhaps there never was a more manifest display of God's saving mercy on a small scale than on the present occasion, since the confounding of tongues at the building of the tower of Babel. Many Arians returned to their old folds, perfectly tired of their wanderings, and having cast anchor once more in a safe harbor, they gave their wanderings o'er. Those that remained among the New Lights so called, split into many factions, and fought each other till they ate each other up all to the tail, and that was immersion. This remains, and perhaps will, until the millennial glory shall inundate the whole world. A remarkable incident occurred on this occasion which I must not omit relating.
There was a very confirmed Arian lady in the congregation who denied the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ. Late on Monday, she professed to get very happy, and shouted out aloud; but said, while shouting, among other things, she knew I was wrong in my views of Jesus Christ, but she desired some one to go and bring me to her, for she wanted to show me, that though I was in error, she could love her enemies and do good for evil. At first I refused to go; but she sent again. I then thought of the unjust judge, and lest by her continual coming she might weary me, I went.
She told me she knew I was wrong, and that she was right, and that God had blessed her and made her happy.
Said I, "Sister, while I was preaching, did you not get mad?"
She answered, "Yes, very mad; I could have cut your throat. But I am not mad now, and love you, and God has blessed me."
Said I, "I fear you are not happy; you have only got in a little better humor, and think this is happiness. But we will test this matter. Let us kneel down here, and pray to God to make it manifest who is wrong."
"But," said she, "I don't want to pray; I want to talk."
"Well," said I, "I have no desire to talk; I always go to God in prayer; and I now believe God, in answer to prayer, will recover you out of the snare of the devil, for you certainly are not happy at all."
So I called upon all around (and they were many) to kneel down and help me to pray God to dislodge the lingering Arian devil that still claimed a residence in this woman's heart. We knelt, and by the score united in wrestling, mighty prayer; and while we prayed it seemed that the bending heavens came near; and if the power of God was ever felt among mortals, it was felt then and there. The woman lost her assumed good feelings, and sunk down into sullen, dumb silence, and so she remained during the meeting; and for weeks afterward many of her friends feared she would totally lose her balance of mind. She became incapable of her business till one night she had a dream or vision, in which she afterward declared she saw her Saviour apparently in all his supreme glory, and he told her she was wrong, but he frankly forgave her; and when she came to herself, or awoke, she was unspeakably happy, and never afterward, for one moment, doubted the supreme Divinity of Jesus Christ. She joined the Methodists, and lived and died a shining and shouting Christian.
There is another circumstance I wish to state before I close this chapter. The brother, Simon Carlisle, before mentioned, had been a regular circuit preacher somewhere down South, and there was a wealthy family at or near one of his appointments. The old gentleman and lady were members of the Church; but they had a very profligate son, who behaved disorderly at one of Carlisle's appointments, and Carlisle sharply reproved him for his disorderly conduct, at which the young man took great umbrage, and swore he would have satisfaction out of Carlisle. The house of the father of this young man was the preacher's home. When Carlisle came round next time he was, as usual, invited by this old brother home with him. Brother Carlisle said, as he had offended his son, perhaps he had better not go; but the old brother and sister insisted he should go; for they knew their son was to blame altogether, and that Carlisle had done nothing but his duty in reproving him; so he went. This young man was at home, but slunk about, and would not be social with Carlisle; and next morning, while Carlisle was fixing his horse to ride on to his next appointment, he took a brace of pistols, and slipped into the room where Carlisle's saddle-bags were lying, and put those pistols in the bottom of his saddlebags, unperceived and unsuspected by Carlisle, or anybody else. Shortly after Carlisle started, the young man pretended to miss his pistols, and declared he knew that Carlisle had stolen them. The old people remonstrated against any such imputation; but he persisted in affirming he knew that the preacher had stolen his pistols, and off he started, got a writ, and an officer, and pursued Carlisle, and before he reached his next appointment they overtook him. The officer informed him of the allegation, and that he had a writ for him, and that he was his prisoner. Carlisle, conscious of his innocence, told the officer that he was welcome to search him, and handed over his saddle-bags, when, lo and behold, there were the pistols at the bottom of them. What could he say? He protested his innocence, but submitted to the law, was found guilty, and only escaped being incarcerated in prison by the father of this mean young man going his bail till further trial.
We will not narrate the trouble and cost Carlisle was put to before he got clear of this malicious prosecution. Suffice it to say, during the pendency of this prosecution, the Annual Conference came on, and Carlisle had to answer to this criminal charge; but what could he say? He had no evidence of his innocence, and by possibility could have none. The Conference did not believe him guilty, but his guilt was sworn to by this young man. In this dilemma, into which the Conference was thrown, Carlisle rose and requested the Conference, for the honor of the cause of God, that they would expel him until God should, in some way, vindicate his innocence. He affirmed he was innocent, and that he believed God would shortly make his innocence manifest to all.
The Conference very reluctantly, and by a bare majority, expelled him. Able counsel, believing in his innocence, volunteered in his defense. He was here cleared. Believing it to be his duty and privilege, he married, and when I saw him he had an interesting rising family. The Church restored him to his former standing, offered him a circuit, but for the present he declined traveling, and went to work to support his family, and did it with credit to himself and them.
But the circumstance that
triumphantly vindicated his innocence remains yet to be told. The young
man who pursued him so maliciously, in about nine months after Carlisle
was arrested, was taken down with a fever common to that region of
country. The best medical aid was called in; he was faithfully attended
and administered unto. His parents were much alarmed for his safety and
his salvation. He was talked to and prayed with, but to no purpose. His
physicians told him he must die. He then said he could not die until he
disclosed one important matter. His parents were called in, and he
frankly told them and others that he put his pistols in Carlisle's
saddle-bags himself; and shortly after the disclosure he expired,
without hope of mercy.