We had now six bishops, and twenty-two annual conferences to be attended in the course of twelve months. But as the health of Bishop McKendree was fast declining, no dependence could be placed on him for effective service, and accordingly the General Conference, as we have seen, released him from that responsibility. The effective labor, therefore, devolved upon the remaining five bishops, who accordingly had each four conferences and a fraction to attend every year, besides the duty of ranging through their respective districts of labor -- as far and as frequently as practicable.
The unanimity and energy with which the late General Conference entered into the missionary cause, gave it a new impulse, and inspired its friends with courage to persevere in their exertions to urge it forward.
Liberia had, for several years, been selected by the managers of our Missionary Society as a suitable place for missionary enterprise, and much had been said and written in favor of sending laborers into that distant and destitute field. Hitherto, however, the bishops had not been able to select such a man for the work as they considered suitable. Some had offered and been rejected, and those who were considered best qualified, were unwilling to go. At the late General Conference the subject was pressed upon its attention with renewed zeal, and the bishops were then, particularly by a committee from the Young Men's Missionary Society of New York, who pledged money for its support., to use their influence to send one missionary or more to this inviting field of labor.
That the reader may understand the high demands which this place had upon the exertions and benevolence of our Church, for a supply of its spiritual wants, the following particulars respecting the settlement, and present state and prospects of Liberia are given.
Slavery in the United States may be considered the remote, and Christian philanthropy the proximate, cause of establishing the colony in Africa, now known as Liberia, under the auspices of the American Colonization Society. This society was formed in 1816, by some benevolent individuals, with a view to transport to Africa such free people of color from the United States as might consent to emigrate, and establish them as a colony, with all the rights and privileges of freemen. Though at first the society was viewed with suspicion by some, fearing it was designed chiefly to rivet the chains of slavery yet tighter on the slave, by removing the free colored people out of the land; yet as its character was gradually developed, the public confidence was acquired, and its friends and supporters were daily increased. The first experiment, however, to establish a colony on the coast of Africa proved unpropitious. The society was unfortunate in the selection of the site for this important colony. This was at the mouth of the Sherbro river, which separates the country of Sierra Leone from the Grain coast, on the western shores of Africa, latitude seven north, in the province of Guiana. The country is generally flat, exposed to the most intense heat from October to March, when violent and almost uninterrupted rains descend until the month of June, when the heat again commences and continues until July, and this is followed by rain until October. An atmosphere created by such physical causes must be extremely unhealthy to either Europeans or Americans, and so it proved in the present instance.
In 1818, a number of emigrants sailed from the port of New York, in the ship Elizabeth, accompanied by that eminent philanthropist and Christian minister, the Rev. Mr. Bacon, whose commendable zeal in the cause of African colonization led him to embark in this hazardous undertaking, as the principal agent of the society. Many of these voluntary exiles from their country were truly pious, some of whom were members of our Church. The fate of this infant colony is well known. The place selected, as before said, for their residence proved insalubrious, and the poisonous malaria soon swept them from the face of the earth and among the dead was the pious and self sacrificing Bacon himself. This spread a temporary gloom over the prospects of this society, and furnished its enemies with renewed arguments against the enterprise. Opposition, however, awakened new energies in its behalf, and led to more vigorous measures to insure its success. New resources were called into existence, men and means were multiplied, and a more powerful pulsation was felt in the American community in favor of the sons and daughters of Africa.
To avoid the results of the former experiment, another and a more salubrious site was selected for the colony in contemplation. In 1821 the society purchased of the native chiefs a district of country on the western coast of Africa, two hundred and eighty miles in length, and from twenty to thirty miles in breadth, on the Grain coast, in about six degrees north latitude, including the cape of Montserado. A site for a town was laid out between the Mesurado and St. Paul's rivers, both of which empty into the Montserado bay, which opens into the Atlantic Ocean. Here a settlement was commenced under favorable circumstances, and the town was called, in honor of the popular chief magistrate who then occupied the presidential chair, Monrovia. These emigrants were accompanied and headed by the pious and lamented Ashman, who finally fell a victim to his zeal in striving to build up a colony in this place.
The prosperity which attended this second attempt at African colonization, strengthened and fortified the hearts of its friends and patrons, at the same time that it disarmed its opponents of many of their arguments against the enterprise. Hence it was patronized by some of the most benevolent spirits of the age, by most of the ecclesiastical bodies in the Union, and by many of the state legislatures, and therefore seemed to promise a most happy issue. The colonists were generally happy and contented, and invited their brethren in America to come over and join them. Hence many masters liberated their slaves on condition of their emigrating to Liberia, and others, already free, accompanied them to this home of their fathers.
Nor were the churches inattentive to these movements. Even foreigners were attracted by the spirit of Christian philanthropy to this place, and several Swiss missionaries had already laid their bones in the soil of Liberia, while attempting to convey to the inhabitants the glad tidings of salvation.
As before said, our Missionary Society had not been an indifferent spectator to the spiritual wants of these people. They had gone from our shores; many of them were members of our Church, some local preachers of reputable standing; and they all sent a cry to us for help. The subject had been before the General Conference from time to time, and the board of managers had passed resolutions at several different times in favor of establishing a mission in Liberia. At length our hopes were realized by the offering of the Rev. Melville B. Cox, at the late General Conference, as a missionary to Africa, and his services were accepted by the bishops. After making the needful preparation, on the 6th of October, 1832, Mr. Cox set sail in the ship Jupiter, from Norfolk, Va., and after a long and tedious voyage, in which he stopped at St. Jago, the Cape of Good hope, and at Sierra Leone, he arrived in Liberia on the 8th of March, 1833, and was most cordially received by the acting governor, Mr. Williams, who was a member of our Church, and a local preacher of reputable character in the colony.
The heart of brother Cox seemed to be set upon Liberia from the hour of his appointment, and he accordingly records his great joy at finding himself safely landed upon its shores, and was much delighted at the prospect before him. But alas! he scarcely had time to mature his plans for future usefulness, before the fatal malaria of the place infused its poison into his system, and he soon fell a victim to the ravages of the African fever.
That he was eminently qualified for his station, so far as mental and spiritual attainments are concerned, is abundantly attested by his intimate friends, and by the monuments of his talents and piety which he has left behind. I say so far as mental and spiritual attainments are concerned, for his physical constitution had been much weakened by disease before he embarked on this mission, and he was, therefore, by no means able to withstand the shocks of an African climate.
But though he thus fell a martyr to the work of introducing the gospel into that part of Africa, yet he laid the foundation for a missionary establishment in Liberia, on which his successors have reared a noble superstructure, to the glory of the God of missions. The letters which he transmitted to the managers, describing the state and prospects of the colony, were of such an encouraging character, that a new impulse was given to the holy cause in which he had embarked, and inspired its friends with renewed zeal to prosecute it with more vigorous exertions. And the inspiring language of Cox to a friend on the eve of his departure for Liberia, operated as a charm upon the hearts of all who were engaged in this work. Being asked what should be written upon his tombstone, should he die in Africa, he replied, Let thousands fall before Africa be given up!| This noble declaration when repeated to the congregation at time his funeral discourse was preached in the John Street church thrilled through every heart, and no doubt inspired others to enter the ranks which had been weakened by the death of Cox.
Though his death occurred in 1833, it may be as well to say all that is necessary of brother Cox in this place. On his arrival in Liberia, he set himself immediately at work, of preparing for preaching the gospel to the colonists, and establishing a church according to the regulations of the Methodist discipline. He was much aided and cheered in his work by the Rev. Mr. Pinney, a Presbyterian minister, who had preceded him in the service of the American Colonization Society, as the governor of the colony. Finding missionary premises at Monrovia, prepared by the Swiss missionaries before mentioned, but which were now vacated by their death, Mr. Cox made a purchase of them for five hundred dollars, which was afterward sanctioned by the board of managers. The house he occupied both for domestic purposes and for holding meetings.
It has been already remarked that there were in Liberia members of our Church, and others, who, though not of our communion, held to our doctrines, and dissented only on some points of Church polity. These were convened by Mr. Cox to when he presented his credentials, and he was nearly unanimously acknowledged in his proper character, and on the ninth day of April, 1833, the following articles of agreement were adopted as the basis of their future action: --
|Whereas the Methodist Church in Liberia, West Africa, is yet in its infancy, poor and in need of aid, inexperienced and in need of counsel; and whereas, by our direction a correspondence was opened with the Young Men's Missionary Society of New York, and a missionary desired to be sent over to our help from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America, which we ever wish to acknowledge as our parent church; -- and whereas the said Methodist Episcopal Church has kindly sent to our aid a man whom they have adjudged to be fitted for the work, therefore: --
1. That we resign the superintendency of all our churches in Liberia to the care of the said missionary, and that we will do all in our power to aid him in promoting the work of God among ourselves, and in extending the interests of his mission among those around us.2. That we will adopt the |Articles of Religion,| the |General Rules,| and the moral discipline in general of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States of America; and that we will follow its 'spiritual| and |temporal economy,| both to the letter and the spirit, as far as our changed circumstances will possibly allow us so to do.
3. That, though we regret exceedingly that the said missionary has not come out properly authorized to ordain and set apart others to the office of deacons and elders in the church of God, we will nevertheless patiently wait until Providence shall bring us this great blessing, and that hereafter none of us will administer the sacraments unless we have been, or until we shall have been properly authorized so to do by the regular episcopacy of the parent Church in America.
4. That we acknowledge the authority of the General Conference of the said Methodist Episcopal Church and that, considering our isolated situation, the wide distance between us and them, and the rapid accession that we confidently hope will attend the growth of our ministry here, we desire, as soon as may be, to be acknowledged by it as one of its annual conferences but that we will leave it entirely with the General Conference to say whether we shall be considered as a missionary station, as an annual conference, or as an independent Methodist Episcopal church in Africa.5. That in view of the hazard of life which always must attend a change of our climate for another -- of the mortality which has attended most of the white missionaries who have nobly come to our aid, and of the fact that we have not in our church a single regularly ordained colored elder in the colony, we earnestly request any one of our bishops, and they are hereby requested, to ordain to the offices of deacon and elder our brother, A. D. Williams; a man whom we judge to be well qualified for said offices, and who has been duly elected to these offices by our conference, and who, moreover, has been well acclimated and a long resident in the colony.
6. That, in view of the great responsibility of the ministerial office, and of the loud and increasing calls for constant labor in the churches and among the pagans around us, we will, as soon and as fast as the wants of our families will justify it, leave the service of tables, and give ourselves wholly to the work of the ministry.|
The reasons for the third article. In the above agreement are, that some of the colored preachers in Liberia had taken upon themselves the right of administering the ordinances without having been regularly ordained for that work. Unwilling at first to relinquish the exercise of this right, and Mr. Cox refusing to acknowledge it, or to recognize them as regularly ordained ministers, there was danger at the interest of unhappy collision among the few who were desirous of worshipping God in the spirit, and of building up a pure church in Liberia. This breach, however, was thus prevented, as all, both preachers and people, set their names to the above articles of agreement. On beholding this happy result of their proceedings, Mr. Cox exclaimed, with pious gratitude, |The Lord has done it -- the Lord has done it -- Satan is disappointed, and the church of God triumphs.|
Having thus arranged matters to the mutual satisfaction of all concerned, Mr. Cox set himself to work in the most ardent manner for the enlargement of the field of labor in different parts of the colony. On the 9th of March, he held at Caldwell the first camp meeting ever attended on the continent of Africa; called the brethren together for mutual consultation and prayer; appointed days of fasting and thanksgiving, and planned several missions in other places contiguous to Monrovia and finally on the 6th of April he opened a sabbath school, consisting of seventy children.
These active labors, however, were destined soon to be interrupted, for on the 12th of April he was seized with the African fever, which raged to such a degree that he was soon so prostrated, that for twelve days he was confined to his bed. And, although he so far recovered from this severe attack as to be able to walk around his room, and to record in his journal his uninterrupted peace with God, and his firm hope of eternal life, yet he soon suffered a relapse, which, from the violence of its character, cut off all hopes of recovery. He lingered in great pain and weakness, sometimes reviving, and then again sinking, until the 21st of July, 1833, when he sunk into the arms of death, in the full hope of immortality, aged thirty-three years.
This sketch of his proceedings fully shows the predominant disposition of his mind, and evinces the most ardent spirit of devotion to the best of all causes. From the moment he had consecrated himself to this mission, his whole soul seemed to be absorbed in the contemplation of Africa, and he bent all his energies to make his mission prosperous. Aided as he was by the managers if the Missionary Society, and cheered on by the prayers and benedictions of the Church, he threw himself into the arms of divine Providence, determining to hazard all upon the altar of his God, whether for life or death, if he could only be the honored instrument of planting the gospel in the soil of Africa. At a missionary meeting held in the city of New York, on the eve of his departure, he remarked, in substance, that having embarked in this enterprise, the thought of treading upon the shores of Africa, even though it might be at the sacrifice of his life, was the most sweet and delightful of any thing else he could possibly contemplate. In this self-sacrificing spirit, he went -- he fought -- he sickened -- he died. And in his death, so peaceful and triumphant, he reared a monument in Monrovia which has apprised all future travelers to that sacred spot, that the founder of the Methodist missions in Western Africa |counted all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ,| and for the rewards of a life devoted to so holy and glorious a cause.
In Melville B. Cox were united a firmness of purpose, with a meekness of disposition and amiability of manners. which at once endeared him to his friends, and commanded the respect and confidence of all who knew him. Nor were his talents small. |The Sketches of Western Africa,| which he wrote, show the pen of a ready writer, and a mind accustomed to close and accurate observation. These, united with genuine, deep piety, and a disposition naturally amiable, and rendered much more mild and meek by the refining influence of divine grace, qualified him to be eminently useful in that department of labor which he had chosen for himself, and which was evidently designated to him by the Head of the church.
While therefore his mortal remains repose upon the soil of Africa, his friends may comfort themselves with the reflection that his soul, purified by the fire of the Holy Spirit, is now reaping the ample reward of his labors and sacrifices in the paradise of God. And though he fell an early sacrifice to the cause of missions, his bones have but fattened the soil in which they were entombed, and animated many a weary missionary to diligence and perseverance in his work of faith and labor of love.
Through the influence of the Rev. Mr. Spaulding, who succeeded brother Cox as a missionary to Africa, some generous individuals in Boston contributed a sum for the purpose of erecting a monument over his grave. This was transported to Monrovia, and there it stands, with the following inscription engraven on three sides, in the words prepared by Mr. Spaulding: --
To the Memory of the Rev. MELVILLE B. COX, the first Missionary from the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States to Liberia, Western Africa. He arrived in Monrovia on the 9th of March, 1833, where, having organized a branch of the same Church, he died in the triumphs of the Christian faith on the 21st of July of the same year, aged 33 years. He was a truly amiable man, a devout Christian, and an able and successful minister of Jesus Christ.
Another important mission was established this year at Green Bay, about five hundred miles from the city of Detroit, in Brown county, in the state of Michigan. This spacious bay is on the west side of Lake Michigan, and the country was inhabited chiefly by Indians, though the United States had established here a military post, and an Indian agency. To this place a number of the converted Indians of the Oneida tribe had removed, and they were very desirous of having the gospel preached to them and to the neighboring tribes; the enterprise was also highly favored by the United States government, particularly by then agent, Mr. Schoolcraft, who resided there.
Good impressions had been already made upon the minds of some of the Indians through the labors of John Sunday, who had been raised up from Heathenism to a preacher of righteousness during the great revival of religion among the aborigines of Upper Canada. He, and some of his brethren, had traveled into the country bordering on Lake Huron, had visited Machinaw, and the neighboring villages, and preached to their native brethren with great power and success, and a considerable number of these degraded people had been brought to the knowledge of the truth. The good work thus begun, had attracted the attention of many of the Indians in that region of country, and as they were accustomed to wander about from place to place in their hunting excursions, those who embraced the gospel went from tribe to tribe, and told their brethren |what great things the Lord had done for them,| and they also believed unto eternal life. In this way the work of reformation spread among the several tribes; and though the Indians in the territory around Green Bay were separated some distance from the immediate scene of John Sunday's labors, yet, by the means already suggested, they had received the impressions of truth, and were in some measure prepared to welcome the missionary of the cross.
The Rev. John Clark, of the New York conference, was appointed a missionary to this region of country. He was received with much affection and respect by Mr. Schoolcraft, by the inhabitants generally, and more especially by those converted natives who had removed from the Oneida mission in the western part of the state of New York. he therefore entered upon his work with a fair prospect of success, and laid his plans for establishing schools by erecting houses, and employing teachers, as well as fixing regular appointments for preaching. And though the mission has not resulted in the conversion of many of the natives, it is to be hoped that a foundation has been laid, which, by addressing gospel truth directly to the understanding and heart, may be productive of their salvation.
Several other missions were commenced this year in the bounds of the Illinois conference, in the new settlements which were filling up with great rapidity. Among these were Rock Island, in Adams county, South Bend, Chicago, Fort Clark, Macoopin, and Fort Wayne. A mission was also established this year in the bounds of the Tennessee conference, in Madison and Limestone counties, for the special benefit of the people of color. All these new fields of labor were cultivated with success, however unpromising they might have been in the beginning.
Somerset and Port Carbon, in the bounds of the Philadelphia conference, embracing destitute settlements which could not be supplied in the ordinary way, were blessed with missionary labor, and supported by the Philadelphia C. M. Society. An effort was also made to establish preaching at West Point, where the military school is located, in the state of New York, and which is quite remote from any circuit, by means of missionary labor. It did not, however, prove successful.
The work in general throughout the bound of the several annual conferences, both on the older circuits and stations, and on the mission, was in a prosperous state, and the spirit of revival, and of liberality in support of our various institutions, was evidently rising and prevailing more and more.
For the last two years, through the instrumentality of protracted meetings, there had been a powerful revival in the city of New York. This work commenced in the Allen Street church, and spread more or less in the different congregations in the city; but its most powerful effects were felt and seen in the church in Allen Street, where the meetings were continued for upward of forty days, and in the evenings for nearly three months; so that the |revival in Allen Street| became notorious all over the country, and the increase during the two past years was not less than one thousand four hundred. This extension of the work created the necessity of having an additional number of churches, which eventuated, in the course of a few years, in the erection of seven, making in the whole twelve, in two of which the slips were rented, and three of the old ones were rebuilt.
Our preachers and people more generally began to feel the necessity of building larger and more commodious houses of worship, and of providing parsonages for the married preachers, as well as of contributing more liberally for the support of our infant colleges, missions, and Sunday schools. Indeed, such had been the hallowed an happy influence of these institutions thus far, that opposition to them was mainly disarmed of its power, and success spoke loudly in their behalf.
Thirteen preachers had died during the last year, one hundred and forty-three were returned superannuated, and seventy-eight supernumerary; sixty-three had located, two had withdrawn, and three been expelled.
Among those whose death are recorded, are two among the oldest preachers in the traveling ministry, namely, Lemuel Green, of the Philadelphia, and William Phoebus, of the New York conference.
The former, Lemuel Green, was born in Maryland, about fourteen miles from the city of Baltimore, in the year 1751. When about twenty-five years of age, in the year 1776, while war was raging in our country, he was made a partaker of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and immediately attached himself to a Methodist society. At that time the Methodists were but few, numbering only four thousand nine hundred and twenty-one, and there were but twenty-four preachers. At what time he commenced preaching we have no means of ascertaining; but in 1783 we find his name on the Minutes of conference, and he was stationed on the Yadkin circuit, and in 1785 we find him in the Allegheny circuit, at that time a new region of country, but rapidly filling up with inhabitants. he was, therefore, among the pioneers of Methodism in that new country, and he continued his labors in various places, sometimes filling the office of presiding elder, until 1800, when he located, and settled in the city of Philadelphia, and entered into mercantile business, by which means he acquired considerable wealth. While in this relation he continued to preach occasionally, generally every Sabbath, and by his example to aid the cause of religion. His heart and house were ever open to receive his brethren, and he always made them welcome to his hospitable table.
In 1823 he was readmitted into the Philadelphia conference in the relation of a supernumerary, in which he continued until his death, which was peaceful and triumphant. His preaching is said to have been characterized by clearness and soundness, and attended with the energies of the holy Spirit. Had he continued exclusively devoted to the work of the ministry, instead of departing from it |to serve tables,| he doubtless would have shone much brighter, and diffused his light much more extensively among his fellow-men. But having become the head of a family, and hence feeling the pressure so common to itinerant ministers in those days, arising from the scanty support afforded them, he thought it his duty to exchange a traveling for a located ministry; and though he acquired a competency for a season, yet, by adverse circumstances, he was, a few years before his death, reduced to poverty, so that his declining days were overcast with temporal affliction. But whether in prosperity or adversity, he maintained his integrity, and bowed submissively to the will of his heavenly Father, exemplifying the virtues of humility and patience in an eminent degree.
This short record is made as a memento of that Christian friendship and fellowship which the writer enjoyed with his deceased brother, and in the hope of sharing with him in the blessedness of immortality and eternal life.
William Phoebus was also a native of Maryland, and was born in Somerset county, in the month of August, 1754. Though the exact time and means of his conversion are unknown to us, yet it appears from the record that he was brought to the knowledge of the truth in the early days of Methodism, became a member of its society and in 1783 he was admitted on trial in the traveling ministry. His first appointment was on Frederick circuit and in 1784 he attended the Christmas conference, when the Church was organized under the superintendence of Coke and Asbury, and the direction of Wesley.
After this he traveled in various places, sometimes contending with the hardships and difficulties of the new settlements in Green Briar, and other places no less rugged and destitute, where he accredited himself as a |good soldier of Jesus Christ,| fighting the battles of the Lord, and conquering souls by the power of gospel truth. In this good work he continued until the year 1798, when he located, and entered upon the practice of physic, in the city of New York, preaching, in the mean time, generally every sabbath, in the pulpits, with good effect.
He continued in this local sphere of action until 1806, when he was readmitted into the New York conference, and was stationed in the city of Albany. Thence he was removed in 1808 to Charleston South Carolina, and in 1811 was returned to the city of New York. From that time he continued to fill various stations until the year 1821, when he was returned a supernumerary, and in 1824 a superannuated preacher, in which relation he continued until his death, which occurred at his residence, in the city of New York, November 9, 1831.
Though a man of great integrity of character, and strongly attached to the Church of his choice, and a lover of the itinerancy, he pleaded the necessity of the circumstances in which he was placed for his partial locations. Having entered into the marriage state about the year 1791, while traveling on Long Island, he soon found, as he thought, such difficulties besetting his path as an itinerant minister, as to justify him in restricting the sphere of his ministerial labors, that he might more effectually provide for himself and his own household.| These difficulties arose out of a want of adequate means of support, the lack of parsonages to accommodate his family, and the being dissatisfied, whether with or without reason, as he frequently affirmed with the office of presiding elder. Though it is believed that most of those who took this step did it unadvisedly, yet it is manifest that they had many arguments in its justification, arising out of the causes already enumerated; and the Church by this neglect toward her servants, incurred a fearful responsibility from which, however, she has been for some time endeavoring to relieve herself by a more liberal course in this respect.
Dr. Phoebus, for so he was called from his having been in the practice of physic, had acquired a large stock of useful information from his various studies and general intercourse with mankind. He lacked, however, that systematic arrangement of knowledge, which characterizes a mind that has been more early imbued with classical studies, and was therefore distinguished by certain eccentricities in his public administrations, conveying instruction more by detached sentences than by a chain of consecutive reasoning, or discoursing in a regular didactic manner. His style, however, was plain and perspicuous, his manner solemn and impressive, and he evinced on all occasions a mind familiar with the holy Scriptures, and deeply devoted to his work. He delighted much in the study of old authors, in examining the primitive records of the church, in analyzing the different modern systems of church order and government, and comparing them one with another, and with the primitive model. Having formed some acquaintance with the original languages in which the Scriptures of truth were written, he was extremely fond of deciphering the radical import of the sacred text, and thence sifting out the exact scope and design of the writer.
His veneration for antiquity led him, we think, into the error of undervaluing the discoveries of modern days and of treating with too much neglect the improvements in the various departments of science and of theological knowledge. Hence a criticism by Clarke, or Benson, or even Wesley, whom he venerated as the greatest of modern divines, was not treated by Dr. Phoebus with half the deference as if it were made by some of the older divines, such as Poole, Henry, or Gill and the reasoning of a Reid or a Stewart would be rejected if contradicted by Locke. He never could pardon Dr. Adam Clarke for his ingenious speculations on the character of the serpent, or for his rejection of the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ and the antipathy he imbibed against this learned, pious, and useful commentator, seemed to unfit him for a due appreciation of his merits in other respects, as one of the most profound expositors of God's sacred word. He, indeed, claimed the liberty of thinking for himself on all subjects, and perhaps in the exercise of this noble independence of mind, the birthright of every intelligent being, he sometimes manifested too little deference to others for his own benefit. Hence an air of dogmatism obtruded itself in the social circle which wounded the feelings of others, without exalting, in their estimation, the value of his own aphorisms and opinions.
He was a great admirer of Baxter. From his voluminous and pious writings he had treasured up many sayings, with which he endeavored to fortify his own positions, whenever assailed by an opponent; while Wesley and Fletcher furnished him with argument, in time of need, to defend experimental, practical, and polemical divinity. Being thus furnished with knowledge from various sources, and having a fund of anecdote at command, which he had treasured up from various reading and extensive intercourse with mankind, his conversation was always instructive and lively, and his judgment on topics of importance was listened to with becoming deference, by his friends in the ministry, as well as by others who sought his instructions. And those who were intimate with him were generally careful how they provoked a controversy on those subjects with which he was familiar, lest they might be reduced to a mortifying defeat in entering the lists with one who well understood how to foil an adversary, or who could not easily brook a contradiction.
He held in suitable contempt those artificial decorations with which some young men were wont to adorn themselves, and all those tricks of oratory by which they attempted to gain a momentary and popular applause. Being asked by a friend |how it was that some preachers who seemed to have not much weight of character, and but a slender title to the merits ascribed to them by their fond admirers, gained so much attention,| he replied with an air of contempt not easily forgotten or imitated, |Pugh! If I were to pull off my old boot, and throw it up into the air, and cry, hurrah hurrah! I should soon collect around me a more numerous crowd than any man in the city.|
He had a deep insight into the human character, and hence was not easily imposed upon by the artful and designing. This enabled him to manage difficulties which occurred between brethren in the Church to great advantage, and to bring them to an amicable adjustment. In regard to all such things he was |the wise man who keepeth the matter till afterward,| never uttering his opinions to the disparagement of either party before the subject of dispute had been fully investigated.
It cannot be said that he was a popular preacher, in the common acceptation of that term, though he certainly commanded the respectful attention of the more weighty part of the community. A reason for his want of general popularity may be found rather in the dry and monotonous manner of his preaching than in the want of the depth and solidity of his matter. He often dealt, both in his private conversation and public addresses, in pointed apothegms [a terse saying or maxim] and short enigmas, not easily comprehended by the mass and often perplexing even those who were among the more thoughtful and deeply read.
As an instance of his enigmatical manner of speaking, the following may be mentioned: -- At the conference of 1823, when addressing his brethren on the improbability of his being able to serve the Church much longer, he remarked, that the lease of his house had expired, and therefore he could not tell how soon he might be called to remove, as he was not certain that he could procure a renewal of his lease for any particular length of time; hence he could not pledge himself for any special service in the ministry.|
On hearing this, an aged minister, and one by no means deficient in mental sagacity, said to the writer of this, I thought the doctor owned the house in which he lives but it seems he was under a mistake, as he says that the time of his lease is run out.| To this it was replied, |You do not understand him. He speaks in parables. He is now threescore years and ten, the common age God has allotted to man, and, therefore, cannot calculate on living much longer at most, and even that little time must be considered as an act of God's grace, over and above what he usually grants to men.| This, indeed, was his meaning from his own subsequent explanation.
These remarks apply to him more appropriately at an advanced stage of his ministry than in his younger days, as it is asserted by those who heard him at that period that he was ardent, vigorous and often very fluent in his addresses to the multitude, deep and searching in his appeals to the conscience. He was certainly successful in those days in enlarging the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He always manifested the deepest reverence whenever the name of the Supreme Being was introduced in conversation. At all times, when he had occasion to mention the name of the Saviour of the world, he would do it by a gentle inclination of the head, and if covered, by lifting the hat, and coupling with it the qualifying term, adorable thus, |the adorable| Saviour, or, |The adorable| Jesus -- thereby acknowledging the divinity of his character, and his profound reverence for his supreme Godhead. Indeed, all his discourses were richly interlarded with the names, the offices, the atoning merits, and the interceding work of Jesus Christ making him, as he justly ought, the alpha and omega of all his sermons, and as the only foundation of man's hope, and medium of access and reconciliation to God. He thus very properly considered the |adorable| Jesus as |the light of the world,| the divine |Sun| whose effulgence reflected light upon the types and shadows, the sacrifices and prophecies of the Old dispensation, and whose rays penetrated the gloom of moral darkness, and opened up to the sinner the only sure path to immortality and eternal life.
Though this certainly was not a peculiarity of Dr. Phoebus, as every true minister of the gospel must make |Jesus Christ and him crucified,| the beginning and ending of his discourses, and the only medium of reconciliation to God, yet in the doctor it seemed ever to be his peculiar delight and his studied aim to hold up Christ most prominently before his hearers, in all the glories of his character, and in all the endearing relations he held to God and man as the REDEEMER OF THE WORLD.
The position which he occupied sometimes exposed him to the shafts of enemies. His apparent eccentricities provoked the ridicule of some, while his good sense, varied knowledge, and equanimity of temper, enabled him to repel their assaults with good effect, and to bear the sneering scoffs of fools with exemplary patience. And though on some occasions he may have returned the repartee with an air of severity calculated to provoke the feeling of hostility, yet he knew well how to disarm an adversary by the gentler rebukes of love, and the blandishments of fraternal regards. In all these respects the fear and love of God were eminently exemplified, and the dignity of the Christian minister generally maintained.
Dr. Phoebus lived to a good old age. After having served the Church as a minister for about forty-eight years, eight of which as a located preacher, he fell asleep in Jesus, in the seventy-eighth year of his age, in the midst of his friends, and in the full hope of eternal life. He retained his mental faculties to the last, and on his dying bed discoursed in an edifying manner upon the merits of Jesus Christ, and the prospect he had, through him, of everlasting life. Patience in suffering, and submission to the divine will, were remarkably exemplified in the midst of his bodily pains, while he gradually and peacefully sunk into the arms of death. A short time before he died, he quoted the words of St. James, |Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking nothing,| and commented upon them with much apparent pleasure, and with great clearness of apprehension, exhibiting, at the same time, a lively exposition of the meaning of those expressive words in his struggles with his last enemy.
Having thus filled up the measure of his days, |as a ripe shock of corn,| he was gathered into the garner of God, to enjoy the rewards of his labors and sufferings in the world above.
After recording the death of those two aged veterans of the cross of Christ, we may be allowed to add that of a young minister of the sanctuary, who, though less distinguished for his long services in the church militant, was still more eminently characterized by the brilliancy of his talents, and his attainments in literature and science, and equally so in the depth of his piety. I allude to Nathaniel Porter, a member of the Philadelphia conference.
He was a native of Worcester, Mass., and was born in the year 1800. When about nineteen years of age he was made a partaker of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, and became a member of our Church. The Wesleyan Seminary had just been established in the city of New York, and as one object of it was to give an education to pious young men whom we had reason to believe God had called to preach, brother Porter, soon after his conversion, entered as a student in this seminary, where he made rapid advancement in the knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages, and in mathematics, giving evidence, in the mean time, of his deep piety, and exercising his gifts occasionally in the pulpit, after having received license as a local preacher. In the spring of 1823 he was received on trial in the New York conference, and he soon gave satisfactory evidence of his call to the work of the ministry, and of his qualification for the faithful and successful discharge of its duties.
But as our brethren of the Genesee conference had resolved upon establishing an academy at Cazenovia, at the urgent request of the trustees of that infant institution, brother Porter was transferred to that conference, and appointed principal of the Cazenovia Academy. He entered upon his duties with great ardor and diligence, and succeeded to the satisfaction of all concerned, rising very high in the estimation of the people as an accomplished teacher, as an able minister of the New Testament, and as a deeply pious man. Such, however, was the character of the duties he had to perform, and the assiduous manner in which he applied himself to his vocation, that at the end of two years he found his health declining, and was obliged, with much reluctance to himself and the friends of the academy, to resign his office, and seek to reinvigorate his constitution by a cessation from labor, and a residence in a milder climate. He accordingly spent some time in the city of Baltimore, where he measurably regained his health, so that in 1828 he was transferred to the New York conference, and was stationed in Poultney, in the state of Vermont. There his labors were highly appreciated and greatly blessed. This cold climate, however, not agreeing with his feeble constitution, he was, in 1829, removed to the Philadelphia conference, and stationed in Morristown, New Jersey. In this place there had been a remarkable revival of religion for the past year, and brother Porter entered upon his labors with all that ardor of soul for which he was eminently distinguished, and with an ability which the times peculiarly called for in the defense of Methodist doctrine and usages. Here he felt himself compelled, by the force of circumstances, to buckle on the armor of a polemic, for the peculiarities of Methodism were assailed with much ingenuity and force of argument by the Presbyterian minister of the place, the Rev. Mr. Barnes, who had espoused the New School divinity, and arrayed himself in this new armor with a view, apparently, to put down the Methodism which had made, and which was still making, such powerful inroads into his parish.
With a view to sustain himself in this spiritual warfare, and to defend the doctrines, discipline, and usages which he believed to be Scripture, brother Porter wrote and published a pamphlet, in which he showed himself to be |a workman that needed not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.| Through the influence of his labors, this revival, which had commenced under Methodist preaching, the Rev. Mr. Atwood being stationed there at the time, was kept up, and the cause amply defended against its assailants, and he had the happiness of rejoicing over the conversion of souls, and the building up of believers |in their most holy faith.|
The next year he was stationed in Newark, New Jersey, where he closed his labors and life in the peaceful triumph of faith, and the firm hope of an eternal inheritance. His death indeed had long been anticipated by his friend, as he had been gradually wasting away with lingering consumption, whose insidious attacks, though fatal in the estimation of all who saw him, flattered him with the deceptive hope of regaining his health. But when at length he was compelled to resign his hope as delusive, he calmly submitted to the mandate of his rightful Sovereign, and looked forward with a believing eye to the issue of his struggles, as an entrance, through the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, into the everlasting kingdom of God.
Thus lived and thus died, Nathaniel Porter, a young minister of eminent endowments, whose piety and talents gave promising indications, had he lived to a mature age, of future usefulness to the Church of his choice. But,
Nipt by the wind's untimely blast, Parch'd by the sun's directer ray, The momentary glories waste, The short-lived beauties die away.|
So, indeed, died away the beauties, and faded the glories of our beloved brother ere he had attained that maturity of experience and usefulness in knowledge which might have exhibited him as a |master workman| in the |building of God.| And in his death we are called upon to adore in solemn submission, the inscrutable ways of divine knowledge, in thus taking from his Church one of its most promising sons in his youthful days and in the midst of his usefulness, with high hopes of future eminence. But the wisdom of God shines not less conspicuously in its actings when the hopes of men are disappointed than it does in unfolding plans in conformity to their pious wishes and holy aspirations. Nor does the grace of God appear less powerful and energetic in ripening the early fruits of its creation, than in sustaining others for a series of years amid the toils, the sufferings, and useful pursuits of life.
Brother Porter was certainly a young man of more than ordinary talents and attainments. Though his early education was not thorough, yet his attainments in literature and general knowledge were rapid and constantly improving, and the more meritorious because they were chiefly the fruits of his own industry, after he was brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Feeling it to be his duty to devote himself to the work of the ministry, and trembling under an apprehension that he might enter upon this work without due preparation, he applied himself with all his might to the acquirement of useful knowledge, that he might be able to read, compare, and judge for himself in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And the short time he remained a student in the Wesleyan Seminary, under the tuition of the Rev. John M. Smith, by an assiduous attention to his studies, he laid the foundation for his future usefulness, as a sound scholar, and as an able minister of the New Testament. The manner, also, with which he afterward pursued his studies, in the midst of the active duties of his stations, as principal of the Cazenovia Academy, and then as an itinerant minister, evinced the unquenchable thirst of his soul for the acquisition of knowledge, and the practicability of attaining it even while discharging other indispensable duties.
With a mind thus stored with various sorts of knowledge, and a heart deeply imbued with the Spirit of Christ, brother Porter went forth into the vineyard of his Lord, thoroughly furnished unto every good work. Nor was he less distinguished for his meekness and humility than for his learning and science. This was manifest from the deference he had to his seniors in the ministry, from the trembling manner in which he arose to express his opinions and from the diffidence he manifested in the decision of his own mind yet he exemplified the perfect compatibility of uniting, in the same mind and heart, meekness and firmness, diffidence and decision; for no man was more determined in his purpose, or more persevering in his work, when convinced of truth and duty, than was Nathaniel Porter; nothing, indeed, could turn him aside from a straight forward course in the pursuit of good, when convinced of the right way and means to attain it. These commendable virtues shone out in his life, and exhibited him as a worthy by example for the imitation of those who may come after him.
In conducting the controversy which his situation called him to manage, he exhibited at once great clearness of perception, acuteness of intellect, and comprehensiveness of argument, united with an ardent love of the truth, and a firmness of purpose in its defense. But in all his actions, whether in the pulpit, the use of his pen, or in his more private intercourse in society, the love of God and man appeared to be the predominant principle of his heart, and he breathed it out in accents of charity toward his fellow-men. If at any time there appeared a tartness in his expression, it was because he thought the honor of truth was insulted in a manner which fully justified the severity to which he reluctantly yielded. And though he exhibited evidences that he belonged to human beings, of whom it must be often said, |The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,| yet he has left behind him no less convincing proofs of his unreserved devotion to the best of all causes, and of his preparedness to |enter into the joy of his Lord.|
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 472,364; Last Year: 437,024; Increase: 35,340 -- Colored This Year: 73,817; Last Year: 71,589; Increase: 2,228 -- Indians This Year: 2,412; Last Year: 4,501; Decrease: 2,089 -- Total This Year: 548,593; Last Year: 513,114 -- Increase: 35,479 -- Preachers This Year: 2,200; Last Year: 2,010; Increase: 190.
The work of God this year was generally very prosperous. The agitations which resulted from the radical controversy had generally ceased, both institutions had been successfully defended against their rude assailants, and hence all went forward with alacrity and delight in the discharge of their respective duties. In addition to the ordinary means used for the promotion of the cause of Christ, the |protracted meetings| contributed much, for they were now very generally adopted throughout our bounds; and the circuits and stations, particularly in the older parts of our work, were brought into more compact order, so that pastoral duties could be more conveniently performed. But that which contributed still more to enlarge our borders, more especially in places before unoccupied by our ministry, and in the frontier settlements, was the energetic action of the Missionary Society.
A new mission was opened this year in the bounds of the Pittsburgh conference, called Braddock's Field, in consequence of its embracing a tract of country comprehending the place where Braddock suffered such a disastrous defeat from his own headstrong and imprudent valor, and the impetuous onset of his savage foes. A warfare of a different character was now commenced upon the people by the missionary of the cross, and so successfully was it prosecuted, that in 1834 not less than one hundred and fifty were returned as belonging to the Church, and the next year it was numbered with the regular circuits, supporting itself and contributing its quota for the support of others still more destitute.
Within the bounds of the Mississippi conference several new places were occupied as missionary ground, and they were generally cultivated with encouraging success. The La Fourche mission, in the neighborhood of New Orleans, was undertaken chiefly for the benefit of the slave population, though the whites shared in the labors of the missionary. In 1834 there were returned on this circuit sixty-two members, eleven whites, and fifty-one colored.
There was an extensive tract of country, thinly populated, among the bayous and swamps bordering upon the banks of the Mississippi river, for whose spiritual benefit a mission was this year established. Into this unhealthy climate, the missionary, desirous only to save as many souls as possible, entered in the name of the Lord, and succeeded in calling the attention of the people to the things of eternity, and in forming several flourishing classes.
In the bounds of the Alabama conference the Taladega mission was commenced under favorable auspices, there being one hundred and fourteen members returned the first year, and the next two hundred and eighty-six. Noxabe, including a destitute population in the frontiers of Tuscaloosa district, was also brought under spiritual culture this year, with some degree of success.
In the state of Maine the Mattanawcook and Houlton mission, embracing a new and destitute population, was successfully established there being returned not less than seventy souls in Church membership in 1834.
The constant and rapid emigration to the west, as well as to the southwest rendered it indispensable, that the people might be supplied with the ordinances of religion, to enlarge the boundaries of our work in proportion to the increasing extent of our settlements. And the chief points of attraction in the west at this time were the states of Illinois and Michigan. Hence to supply them with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Peoria, Fort Edwards, Henderson, and Blue river missions were established this year and by an inspection of the Minutes for the subsequent years, it will be found that all these places have yielded a rich harvest of souls as the reward of our labors; that they have not only supported their own institutions, but have contributed to send the gospel still further into the more remote settlements of the far west.
The Upper Wabash, Kalamazoo, and La Porte missions, included within the bounds of the Indiana conference, and embracing the frontier settlements in the state of Indiana, had been, as before mentioned, also recently established, and the labor of those men of God to whom the oversight was committed were accompanied by the Spirit of God, as was manifested in the awakening and conversion of sinners. These, like the others before mentioned, have prospered abundantly, and are ministering to their own and the wants of others, regular circuits having been established, and churches erected to the honor and for the worship of Almighty God.
The encouraging success which had attended the labors of our preachers among the slave and free black population of the south, stimulated our brethren in the southwest to imitate their example by opening missions for the special benefit of this class of people. Hence, at the last session of the Tennessee conference, the African mission, embracing the colored population of Nashville and its vicinity, was commenced; a regular four weeks' circuit was formed, and the good work was prosecuted with such success, that in 1834 there were reported eight hundred and nineteen Church members.
It should be remarked that these domestic missions, as they have been called, to distinguish them from the aboriginal and foreign missions, differ in nothing from the ordinary new circuits, only in their receiving a support, whether in part or in whole, from the funds of the Missionary Society; for as soon as they become able to support themselves, they are struck from the list of missions, and supplied in the usual way. By this wise policy, we have been enabled continually and gradually to enlarge both our regular work and the number of missionary stations, with comparatively a small amount of money, considering the extent of our field of labor. And that this had a happy effect upon the missionary cause and religion generally, is manifest from the fact that this year the funds of the society had increased about seven thousand dollars over what they were last year, and that they have gone on increasing from that day to this.
This year two other colleges were founded under the patronage of our Church, the one in Carlisle, and the other in Meadville, in the state of Pennsylvania. For want of patronage they had both gone down in the hands of those who had established them at first, and were conveyed gratuitously to our Church, on condition that an attempt should be made to resuscitate them and give them a permanent existence.
The first, located in the town of Carlisle, Cumberland county, Pa., called Dickinson College, was founded by the Presbyterians, and was incorporated by the state in 1783. Its location is pleasant and healthy, and its property, at the time of its transfer to the present board of trustees, including the lot, buildings and apparatus, was estimated to be worth about [USD]40,000. The Baltimore and Philadelphia conferences took it under their patronage, appointed agents to collect funds for its endowment, and called the Rev. J P. Durbin, then editor of the Christian Advocate and Journal, to its presidency. Having procured about [USD]45,000 in donations and subscriptions, the college was opened for students in the summer of 1834 under favorable circumstances. It has thus far continued to answer the expectations of its founders and patrons, not only by imparting sound learning to its pupils, but also in blessing its youth with the principles, experience, and practice of Christianity. It has a law and preparatory school attached to it, and is daily acquiring more and more the confidence of the public. It has a charter from the state, and an annuity of [USD]1,000.
The Allegheny College is located in Meadville, Crawford county, a very thriving village on French Creek, three hundred and thirty-four miles northwest of Philadelphia. This institution received its first charter from the state in 1815, but for want of adequate support, it was suffered to languish and die in the hands of its former patrons and supporters. With a view to its resuscitation, the entire premises were given to the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Pittsburgh and Erie conferences took it under their patronage. The Rev. Dr. Ruter, who had retired from the presidency of Augusta College in Kentucky, was appointed the first president of this institution, and it went into operation this year under his direction, with promising hopes of success. It has continued, though sometimes embarrassed for want of more ample funds, to bless the youth intrusted to its care with its wholesome instructions, and many of them have dated their conversion to God in this seat of learning and religion. It is said that i ts library is by far the largest and best of any in the western country, and its buildings were ample and in excellent order. Though Dr. Ruter retired from its presidency in 1836, it has gone on prosperously under his successor, the Rev. H. J. Clark.
Another academy had been established at Lima, Livingston county, N. Y., under the patronge of the Genesee conference, and Dr. Samuel Luckey was appointed the principal, and professor of moral science. It has prospered abundantly from that day to this, and exerted a most salutary influence upon the youth intrusted to its care, and upon the Methodists of the Church generally, in that region of the country.
Sixteen preachers had died in peace during the past year; seventy-two were located, eighty-nine returned supernumerary, one hundred and sixty-eight superarannuated, four expelled, and two had withdrawn.
Much might be said in favor of all those whose deaths are recorded, as men of God, who had devoted themselves to his service, and ended their labors and days in the full assurance of hope. But as there was nothing special to distinguish them from others of a similar grade and character, it is thought not expedient to fill these pages with a mere repetition of what may be said of every good and evangelical minister. Of one, however, I feel it a duty to make honorable mention, because he was a young man possessed of some peculiar excellences and traits of character, worthy of remembering and imitating.
John M. Smith was the son of an old member of the Church in the city of New York, long distinguished as one of the most devoted and active trustees, class leaders, and sabbath school superintendents, as well as an indefatigable laborer at our camp meetings. Those who live in the city of New York, or its vicinity, will readily recognize, in this allusion to the father of John M. Smith, Joseph Smith, recently gone to his rest in heaven, whose active labors for the good of the Church will long be remembered by his surviving brethren with gratitude and fraternal affection.
His son John was born in the town of Brooklyn, N.Y., October 10, 1795, and in his fifteenth year was brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, while a student in Columbia College. Notwithstanding he was surrounded with all the gayeties of the city, and the daily temptations to vain amusements by his connection with thoughtless young men in the college, he maintained the purity of his Christian character through his college course, and graduated with honor to himself, and to the satisfaction of his friends. On leaving college he entered upon the study of physic, intending to devote himself to the practice of the healing art. Being, however, soon impressed that it was his duty to call sinners to repentance, he relinquished that design, and entered upon the duties of a traveling preacher in 1817, and was stationed on Jamaica circuit, on Long Island, as a helper to Dr. William Phoebus, an old and intimate friend of his father. He continued in the work of an itinerant preacher, in which he gave evidence of deep piety, chastened zeal, and useful talents, until in the month of September, 1820, he was elected by the New York conference principal of the Wesleyan Seminary, in the city of New York, in which he continued until that institution was removed to White Plains, of which he also took the oversight. From this he was transferred, in May, 1832, to the Wesleyan University, as professor of languages. He entered upon the duties of his professorship with great ardor of mind, and promising hopes of distinguished usefulness; but alas! his days were soon cut off, for he died on the 27th day of the following December, aged thirty-seven years, two months, and seventeen days.
Mr. Smith was a diligent and successful student. In addition to the prescribed course of studies in the college, and this was by no means superficial, and the progress be made in the science of medicine, he acquired the knowledge of the Hebrew, French, and Spanish languages, was a proficient in botany, and other useful branches of polite literature. He appeared, indeed, to possess a peculiar aptitude of mind to acquire the knowledge of languages, both ancient and modern, of the dead and the living, for he studied them thoroughly, and could read and translate them with ease and accuracy.
As a preacher he was sound and systematical, arranging all his discourses with great accuracy and in regular order, this being characteristic of his mind. Habituated from his youth to pursuing all his studies in consecutive order, nothing was done slovenly or negligently, but every thing had its appropriate place, and was made to suit the place it was designed to occupy. When you heard him preach, you could hardly avoid the impression, that his sermons partook of the character of scientific arrangement, and were the result of much thought and previous preparation, and they were delivered in language plain, elegant, and energetic, without any superfluous ornament, or the artificial graces of oratory. In this respect he seems to have taken Wesley for a model, an exemplar worthy the imitation of all who wish simply to do good to their fellow-men, by preaching the gospel of the Son of God. Instead, therefore, of aping the foppery of those who seek to gain a temporary applause by the sparklings of wit, or the mere flights of oratory, he seemed to |study to show himself approved of God,| and to penetrate the heart by the plain truths of the gospel, expressed in language which the learned could not condemn, and which the illiterate common-sense hearer might understand, feel, and appreciate. For style and manner, therefore, brother Smith may be held up as an example for those who aim, as all should, to be useful, instead of affecting to be great.
His mind was enlightened with various sorts of knowledge, and his heart |seasoned with grace;| meek, modest, and diffident, he appeared in the circle of his friends to |take the lowest seat,| at the same time that others considered him as |worthy of double honor.| Here the grace of humility shone out in all his word and actions, and set off the other qualities of his mind to the greatest advantage.
But with all these qualifications, he was not considered a great preacher. Many who were far inferior to him in learning and science, who understood no other language than their mother tongue, and who went out into the field of itinerancy from the common avocation of life, far outshone him as preachers of the gospel, and much exceeded him in winning souls to Christ. Though greatly beloved by all who knew him, for the urbanity of his manners, the meekness of his mind, the gentleness of his deportment, and highly esteemed by those who were acquainted with his attainments, with his worth of character as a man of learning and sound judgment, yet there were those, as before said, who could claim none of these literary advantages nor scientific attainments, who rose higher than he in popular favor, and were more eminently distinguished as able ministers of the New Testament.
May not this be accounted for from the diversity of his studies and duties? While the others we have alluded to were men of one work, and hence gave their individual attention to their high and holy calling, Mr. Smith's mind was occupied with a great variety of subjects, more especially after he commenced the duties of a teacher, and could not therefore give himself |wholly to these things.| Hence, while some shine out brilliantly on one subject, or rise high above their fellows in the exhibition of some peculiar excellence, we behold the graces clustering around him in the sweetest harmony, balancing one another, and each lending to the other the benefit of its strength and beauty. Instead, therefore, of overwhelming you suddenly with the effulgence of light on a favorite topic, he gently enlightened your mind with the radiations of truth, which fell upon your understanding and heart like the orient beams from the morning sun, and softly insinuated themselves into your affections, drawing them almost imperceptibly toward Jesus Christ, as the source and center of all blessedness. These things gave a polish and a finish to his character, uniting those graces which eminently fitted him to act with becoming dignity and usefulness in the various walks of life in which he was called to move and to exercise his gifts.
He has left, therefore, a sweet odor behind him, which it is hoped will invite others to follow his track, and profit by the brightness of his example.
By one of those providences which it is more easy to acknowledge and adore than it is to comprehend, his father was much reduced in the decline of life in his worldly circumstances, and the son was called to share in the father's misfortunes. This compelled him to observe that rigid economy which induced some to suspect him of an unjustifiable penuriousness in his temporal matters, not duly considering that economy, in such a case, may become as much a duty as it is to be liberal in our gifts under more favorable circumstances. This affliction, however, he bore with Christian fortitude and submission and while it became a means of lessening his pecuniary resources, it no doubt tended to wean his affections from terrestrial, and to fix them more permanently on celestial objects.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 519,196; Last Year: 472,364; Increase: 46,832 -- Colored This Year: 78,293; Last Year: 73,817; Increase: 4,476 -- Indians This Year: 2,247; Last Year: 2,412; Decrease: 165 -- Total This Year: 599,736; Last Year: 548,593 -- Increase: 51,143 -- Preachers This Year: 2,400; Last Year: 2,200; Increase: 200.
The reader will perceive that, while the aggregate increase this year is unusually large, the revivals having been very general and powerful during the past year, there was a decrease of one hundred and sixty five among the aboriginal converts. This was owing chiefly to the continual agitations and troubles arising out of their removal west of the Mississippi. For, though our missionaries did all in their power to keep them together, and to preserve them from backsliding from God, and even went with the immigrating parties to their new abodes, yet the distractions introduced into their councils, together with the embarrassments and such things attendant upon their removal, created a most deleterious influence upon their religious character and enjoyments.
We have heretofore noticed the improvements that were gradually making in building churches and parsonages in many parts of our work. The enlargement of our borders on every hand, and the increase of membership in the other circuits and stations, generally created an ability in our brethren and friends to supply the means to furnish accommodations for the people and their preachers and the necessity for these things, together with the urgent calls from the pulpit and the press, particularly in the columns of the Christian Advocate and Journal, excited them to activity in the discharge of these duties. Hence churches more commodious and central than heretofore were erected and erecting, parsonage homes built or rebuilt, and partially furnished; by which means the difficulties and expenses of removing were very much lessened, and the congregations became more numerous and permanent. It will be seen, therefore, that our increase this year and last was unusually large, and the missionary work went on most delightfully and prosperously, the whole being aided by protracted meetings, missionary anniversaries, and prayer meetings. These things, by diminishing the inducement to desist from traveling, lessened the number of locations.
We have already noticed the commencement of the Liberian mission, its incipient prospects, and its disastrous results upon the life of the missionary, the Rev. Melville B. Cox. but, though he had thus fallen a martyr to his work upon that distant and desolate shore, others were found to fill his place. At the call of brother Cox, and of the Missionary Society the Rev. Mssrs. Rufus Spaulding and Samuel O. Wright, with their wives, and Miss Sophronia Farrington, a female teacher, volunteered their services for this hazardous enterprise, and were accordingly appointed by the proper authorities of the society in 1833. While waiting for an opportunity to embark, the missionaries traveled as extensively as possible through different parts of the country, held missionary meetings, and thus contributed much to awaken and to diffuse the missionary spirit among the people. At length they set sail from Norfolk, Va., on the sixth day of November, 1833, and landed in Monrovia on the first day of January, 1834. They were received by the brethren with great cordiality, who hailed them welcome to their shores, bidding them |God speed| with all their hearts. They immediately entered upon their work with energy, and a most inviting prospect of success, the fields before them appearing already |ripe for the harvest.| But alas! they, too, were destined soon to feel the corroding effects of an African climate; for amidst the plans of usefulness which they had in contemplation, and the active discharge of the arduous duties of their station, on the 9th of February brother Spaulding was seized violently with the fever, and the rest of the mission family were soon prostrated with the same disease, to some of whom it proved most fatal. On the first day of March, when so far recovered from his first attack as to be able to write, he says, |Sister Wright is dead! She left us on the morning of the fourth ultimo, and we have no doubt but that she is in heaven, while we are left to suffer yet longer on earth.|
Brother Wright soon followed his beloved wife to the eternal world. He survived the first attack, and was so far restored as to be able to walk about, read, and write, and probably through premature exertion brought on a relapse, which soon terminated fatally, and his mortal remains sleep beside those of his wife on the shore of Africa; the bones of Cox having first sanctified the soil.
Nothing daunted, however, by these disasters with death thickening around them, and staring them in the face, the survivors persevered in their work believing that Africa would yet be redeemed. Miss Farrington especially, though much enfeebled by disease, manifested all the heroism of a martyr: having laid her soul upon the altar of her God, she seemed determined to brave every danger rather than relinquish the work in which she had engaged. But who can resist the course of events? Such were the corroding effects of the malarian fever, and so frequent and violent were its attacks, that brother Spaulding and his wife found themselves so much reduced, as to be unable to pursue their calling; and having but little prospect of regaining their health in Liberia, they resolved, as the only alternative left to their choice, to return to the United States. This they accordingly did, leaving, however, behind them evidences of their piety and zeal, and much to be hoped for as the result of future laborers. Under another date we shall endeavor to give a consecutive account of the progress of this mission, from the time it was committed to the oversight of brother Seys, the present superintendent of the mission.
Another very important mission was commenced about this time. This was the Flat Head, or Oregon mission.
That our readers may understand the character of this mission, it is necessary that they should know something of the situation and state of the country in which it was established.
The vast territory now known as the Oregon, in which the present mission is located, was but little known before it was visited by Lewis and Clarke in the year 1805, under a commission from the United States government. With immense labor and no little privation, they penetrated the wilderness west of the Missouri river, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and descended the Columbia river to its mouth, or where it discharges itself into the Pacific ocean, in about the forty-sixth degree of north latitude. It is true that the mouth of this noble river had been entered by Captain Gray, of Boston, Mass., in the ship Columbus. Having been the first modern navigator who entered the river, hitherto distinguished as the Oregon, or River of the West, Capt. Gray called it the Columbia, after the name of the ship in which he entered its mouth.
This extensive territory lies west of the Rocky mountains a high ridge stretching through the western part of North America, from the frozen ocean to Mexico, where it is connected with the Cordilleras, or Andes, which continue their course from the isthmus of Panama to the straits of Magellan. From its eastern boundaries on the Rocky mountains, the Oregon territory extends to the Pacific ocean west, and from the Russian and British dominions on the north to the northern line of Mexico and California, in about the forty-first degree of north latitude. This entire country is claimed by the United States, though its exact limits have not yet been ascertained and settled by the respective governments who claim jurisdiction over these western regions.
The Hudson Bay Company, incorporated in 1670 for the purpose of carrying on the fur trade at Hudson's Bay, had extended their trading posts to the Columbia river, and had established a depot at Fort Vancouver, which is about one hundred miles from the mouth of the Columbia, a very fertile region of country. Here the governor of the company resides, the public store is located, and it is the center of trade in all that region of country. A large farm, belonging to the company, is under cultivation, and they have plenty of horses and cattle for domestic uses, and every thing is in a nourishing condition. This company is supposed to be extremely rich, having accumulated their property by the immense profits accruing from the fur trade which is carried on extensively with the Indians.
The company, however, instead of improving the moral condition of the natives, have exerted an opposite influence, unless it may be indirectly, by opening the way for the introduction of the gospel, and the arts of civilized life. Many of the agents and clerks connected with this establishment have been in the habit of marrying, some of them but temporarily, with the native females, and at the termination of their service of leaving them and their children to all the miseries of a semi-barbarous state, and to the poverty and wretchedness consequent upon their want of industry, and their great aversion to agricultural pursuits. Hence, the vices of licentiousness, of intemperance, and domestic feuds and quarrels, superadded to their heathenish practices, had made their condition even worse than it was in their state of entire barbarism; while most of the half-breeds grow up in a state of heathen ignorance, irreligion, and immorality.
In 1811 John Jacob Astor, Esq., of the city of New York, commenced a trading establishment near the mouth of the Columbia river, and the fort which was erected was called, in honor of its founder, Astoria. But the war between Great Britain and the United States commencing soon after, through the timidity or unfaithfulness of the agents employed by Mr. Astor, the entire establishment was sold for a trifling consideration to the Hudson Bay Company, and the project of the North American Fur Company was abandoned.
With the exception of a few white men introduced into the country by these trading establishments, the whole territory was in the occupancy of the native tribes, who roamed at large, living upon the fruits of hunting and fishing, and the trade they carried on with the Hudson Bay Company, and some few American traders, who casually visited these regions either for the sake of gain, or from a roving disposition. These consisted of a great number of small, insulated tribes, who, in addition to their sufferings from poverty and idleness, were almost perpetually annoying each other by war and bloodshedding. The whole number of the Indians inhabiting this dreary region has been variously estimated, from sixty to one hundred and fifty thousand; probably the latter is nearest the truth.
Those who live on the shore of the Pacific, and along the banks of the Columbia river know the great Falls, have become very much deteriorated in their physical and moral condition by their proximity to and intercourse with the trading establishment and other white people who have occasionally visited the country, more especially by the introduction of intoxicating liquors, and those evils growing out of a promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. These sad fruits of that state of civilization which is unaccompanied with the blessings of pure religion, fix a fearful responsibility upon the white population who have made inroads upon the Indian settlements, and they present one of the strongest barriers against the entrance of the gospel by the missionaries of Jesus Christ. We shall see, however, in the progress of this, as well as in the other aboriginal missions which have been conducted under the auspices of our Society, that this and other impediments have been overcome by the power of gospel truth, and even these heathen, debased and corrupted as they were, have been given to Christ for an inheritance. This seems, indeed to have been |the set time| for God to visit these outcasts of men with the renovating power his religion, by those means which, while they confound the wisdom of the wise, plainly show the wisdom of God, and the power of God.
And although the consequences above mentioned followed the introduction of the trading establishments in Oregon, and the intermixture of white men among the natives, yet may we not trace the workings of benignant Providence in opening the way, that the voice of God's messengers might be heard in this wilderness, |crying, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight, that he Himself may enter among them and make them a people for his glory! The perilous journey of McKenzie, from Montreal, and the subsequent one of Lewis and Clarke, though undertaken under the patronage of their respective governments for political purposes, for enlarging the boundaries of geographical knowledge, and the benefits of trade, were no doubt rendered subservient to God's designs of mercy toward these wandering sons of the forest. Even the |axe and the saw,| in the hands of men, may be so used as to answer the ends of divine wisdom and love toward the human race.
The truth of these remarks we may see exemplified in the events connected with the Oregon mission. These we shall now more particularly endeavor to present to the reader. Among the various tribes inhabiting this territory, one was distinguished by the name of |Flat Heads,| because they flattened their heads in the manner presented in the following likeness. [graphic not included with the electronic edition -- DVM]
The circumstances which led to the establishment of the Oregon, first called the Flat Head, mission, were as follows: It seems that two of the Indians belonging to the Flat Head tribe had received an education at a school in the city of Montreal, then elder the charge of Roman Catholic priests. After the return of these youths to their tribe, they endeavored, according to the dim light they had, to instruct their heathen brethren in the truths of Christianity. This imperfect instruction, mixed, as it was, with the superstitious notions of the Roman Catholic Church, awakened a spirit of inquiry among the Indians, and a great desire to know something more respecting the God of the Christians. This desire was afterward much increased by the conversation of a white man who had penetrated into their country, and was present at one of those religious ceremonies which they scrupulously perform at stated times and in which they exhibit no little of their heathenish folly and ignorance of spiritual and divine things. This man, after attentively observing their manner of worship, told them that they were wrong in their notions of the Supreme Being and of their modes of conducting religious services, -- that there were a people who lived toward the |rising sun| who had the knowledge of the true God, which they received from a book he had given them.
On receiving this information, they convened a council to deliberate upon the propriety of sending a deputation to the people of whom they had heard, for the purpose of obtaining a more accurate knowledge of these things. This consultation resulted in dispatching four of their principal men on a journey over the Rocky mountains, to make the needful inquiries. After traveling about three thousand miles, they arrived at St. Louis, and were introduced to General Clarke, the Indian agent, and the colleague of Lewis in his tour of observation over the Rocky mountains to the north Pacific. They immediately unfolded to him the object of their mission, and he gave them such information as he was able respecting the birth, works, character, doctrine, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, together with the objects he designed to accomplish by coming into the world, and other such Scriptural information as he thought might answer their inquiries.
The general facts being communicated to the world through the Christian Advocate and Journal, in the number for March 1, 1833, accompanied with a facsimile of the head of a Flat Head Indian, a most lively sensation was produced in the Christian community, and a great interest excited in behalf of these wanderers of the desert, who had manifested such an eager desire to become acquainted with the God of the Christians as to travel through a wilderness of about three thousand miles for the sole purpose of realizing the object of their desire. And the interest became yet more intense when it was ascertained that two of these noble chiefs had fallen victims to death in St. Louis, in consequence, it was supposed, of the change of climate and mode of living to which they were subjected while they were upon the very threshold of obtaining the object of their pursuit.
Soon after the announcement of these facts to the public, the excitement was raised still higher by a most touching appeal, made through the columns of the Advocate, by the late Dr. Fisk, whose soul ever burned intensely in the cause of missions, and who exerted himself in every possible way to help it forward. In this spirited appeal he inquired whether there were any young ministers who were willing to devote themselves to this work -- to brave the dangers of the wilderness -- to submit to the privations and sacrifices of a missionary among those Indians, and at the same time to reap the rewards of such an undertaking! This call was soon answered by two young men, brought up in Lower Canada, one of whom had been partially educated at the Wilbraham Academy, and they had both recently entered the traveling ministry. Having been inured to hardships from their youth, and now giving evidence of their piety and call to the Christian ministry, their services were accepted by the proper authorities of the Church, and Jason and Daniel Lee, uncle and nephew, were appointed missionaries for the Oregon territory, and they immediately set about preparing themselves for their journey across the Rocky mountains. As it was desirous to have a school teacher accompany them on the mission, Cyrus Shepard, a young man of deep piety and competent talents, volunteered his services, and was accepted by the board of managers.
On the eve of the departure of Mr. Lee and his companions, it was ascertained that Captain Wythe, who had before visited that country on a trading expedition was about to return with a large company by the way of St. Louis, over land to the Columbia river. This seemed another providential indication in favor of the mission, and Mr. Lee, in conformity to the advice of the board of languages, embraced the earliest opportunity for an interview with Captain Wythe and it resulted in an arrangement to accompany him in his journey over the Rocky mountains; in the mean time sending his heavy baggage, consisting of some farming and domestic utensils, clothing, &c., by way of the Sandwich islands. [Hawaiian Islands -- DVM]
The projection of this important mission had a most happy effect upon the missionary cause generally. As the entire funds of the society, up to this time, had not exceeded eighteen thousand dollars a year and as this mission must necessarily cost considerable, with a view to augment the pecuniary resources of the society, a loud and urgent call was made, through the columns of the Christian Advocate and Journal, on the friends of missions to |come up to the help of the Lord| in this emergency; and to assist in this benevolent work, the Messrs. Lees were instructed, while remaining in the civilized world, to travel as extensively as possible, hold missionary meetings, and take up collections; and the |Flat Head| mission, as it was then called, seemed to possess a charm, around which clustered the warm affections of all the friends of the missionary enterprise, and special donations for the |Flat Heads| were sent to the treasury with most cheering and delightful liberality and avidity. As an evidence of the beneficial result of these movements, the amount of available funds had risen, in 1834, from [USD]17,097.05, the sum raised in 1833, to [USD]35,700.15. So true is it that those who aim at great things, if they do not fully realize their hopes, will yet accomplish much.
Being thus cheered on by their friends, buoyed up by the prayers of God people, and animated by the prospect of speedily planting the standard of the cross for the first time in that distant and desolate part of our continent, the company left St. Louis, Missouri, on the 10th of April, on horse back intending to make their first stopping place for recruiting their stores, and taking their final leave of civilized society at Liberty, about three hundred miles from St. Louis. Here they were joined by Capt. Wythe and his company, whence they started for the wilderness about the first of May, 1834. In their company were two Indian youths, one of the Flat Head tribe, about thirteen years of age, and the other of the Pierced Nose Indians, about twenty-one years of age, both of whom were brought, at their request, from beyond the Rocky mountains, by Captain Wythe, in a former journey through their country. They had expressed a wish to be conducted to the abodes of white people, with a view to become instructed in their language and modes of living. While here they had made considerable progress in learning, and were now taken back by Captain Wythe to assist him as interpreters in his intercourse with the Indians.
The distance from St. Louis, by the most direct route, was estimated to be about two thousand three hundred miles; but in consequence of the zig-zag course they were obliged to make, to shun steep mountains, and to cross livers, &c., it was not much short of three thousand miles, which, by traveling at the rate of twenty miles a day, would require one hundred and fifty days to reach the place of their destination.
In this tedious journey, after exhausting the stock of provisions they were enabled to carry with them on packhorses, they were obliged to live chiefly on buffalo meat, which they procured by hunting the buffalo on the extensive prairies east of the Rocky mountains, in which fatiguing work the missionaries had to share equally with the rest of the company. They, however finally arrived in safety, and without any serious accident, though not without much suffering from hunger, and other incidents of traversing a wilderness infested with ferocious savages, beasts of prey, and in many places, particularly on the treeless plains, from the scorching beams of a summer sun, to the place of their destination. On arriving at the country of the Flat heads, about which so much had been said and written, they found them to be few in number, and these few of such a migratory character that they concluded it best to select some other place as the center of missionary operations. They therefore proceeded on to Fort Vancouver, the principal depot of the Hudson Bay Company, where they arrived in the month of September 1834. They were received and treated with great kindness and hospitality by Dr. McLaughlin, the company's agent, and governor of the colony. On sabbath, the 28th of September, brother Jason Lee preached the first sermon ever delivered in that part of the country, to a very attentive audience, composed of whites, half-breeds, and Indians, who listened with much apparent interest to the truths of the gospel.
With a view to recruit their exhausted strength after such a toilsome journey, and to collect all the information they could respecting the state of the country, and particularly the most eligible situation for commencing the mission, they remained at Fort Vancouver and its vicinity for several weeks, and on the 14th of December brother Lee preached a second time, after which he baptized four adults and fifteen children. This was a solemn and deeply interesting season, being the first time this holy ordinance was ever administered in the Oregon territory, and therefore seemed like the opening of their commission as Christian missionaries in heathen lands.
It was a high gratification to Mr. Lee and his worthy companions, to find themselves so hospitably entertained and respectfully treated by Dr. McLaughlin and his associates. And after collecting all the information they could from them and others respecting the state of the country, and particularly the aboriginal tribes by whom it was inhabited, they finally concluded it to be most advisable to locate the missionary establishment on the Williamette river, about twenty-five miles from its junction with the Columbia, and sixty from where the latter empties its waters into the Pacific ocean. Here they found a small settlement of white people, composed of French voyagers, who had been in the service of the Hudson Bay Company, and some Americans from the United States, who had wandered into that distant region. Many of them had married native females, and their children were growing up in heathenish ignorance and immorality, while the parents themselves were fast assimilating to a state of barbarism.
Being entirely dependent upon their own exertion for accommodations and a livelihood, the missionaries were compelled to go to work with their own hands, and fell the trees of the forest, and prepare the ground for cultivation, and they soon succeeded in erecting a log house thirty-two by eighteen feet, one story and a half in height. They then proceeded to the cultivation of a farm, plowing, and sowing grain and such vegetables as they could procure for culinary purposes. On examination they found that they and selected a healthy place, and fertile soil, which promised abundantly to reward the labor of their hands. Having procured these temporary accommodations, they commenced a course of religious instructions among the people and as soon as practicable opened a school for the instruction of the youth, and all things seemed to promise a happy result.
At the request of the head of department at Fort Vancouver, brother Shepard was left there in charge of a school which had been commenced two years before by a Mr. Ball, whose letters concerning the state of the country had been published and read with interest, but who had discontinued his services as a teacher of youth. The school consisted chiefly of half-breeds, collected from the vicinity of the fort, and the children of those belonging to the company. These, together with two Japanese youth to whom he imparted instruction in the evenings, soon made encouraging improvement in reading, writing, grammar and a few in geography and the first principles of mathematics. The labors of brother Shepard, therefore, were of the most useful character, and were highly appreciated by those concerned.
The information contained in this sketch of the state of things in Oregon having been communicated to the Missionary Society, and the prospects arising from these incipient steps toward establishing the mission, and the crying wants of the many heathen in that wild region, induced the board of managers, and the bishops, to adopt measures to send, as speedily as possible, a reinforcement to the mission. Accordingly a physician and blacksmith, with their wives and children, a carpenter, a single man, and three female teachers, in all thirteen, including the children and domestics, were selected for the mission, and they sailed from Boston in the month of August, 1836, by the way of the Sandwich islands. With these was sent a quantity of household furniture, about twenty boxes of clothing of various sorts and sizes, valued at not less than two thousand dollars, and also agricultural, mechanical, and surgical instruments, as well as an ample supply of medicine.
This family arrived in June at the Sandwich islands, where they were treated with great kindness and hospitality by the missionaries of the American Board, and after waiting some time for a passage, they set sail, and finally arrived at the mission house on the Williamette about the last of May, 1837, where they were hailed with great delight by those already on the spot. They had the unspeakable satisfaction of finding the two Lees in health, and pursuing their work with unexampled diligence, and great success. They had succeeded in procuring the confidence and affection of the natives, and the other settlers in the neighborhood; had a large farm under cultivation, and in addition to the log house before mentioned, erected a convenient home for preaching and for teaching the school, consisting of three rooms, well arranged, though but indifferently furnished. To the superintendence of this school, Mr. Shepard had been removed from Fort Vancouver, that he might more properly fulfill the object of his appointment as a missionary teacher among the heathen of Oregon. And before the arrival of the last-mentioned family, having no females attached to the mission, the brethren were compelled not only to raise their own provisions by cultivating the ground, but also to work for themselves, to make and mend their own clothes, and for the children committed to their care, as well as to be their own doctors and nurses. From a part of these onerous duties they were glad to be relieved by the arrival and timely services of the females attached to the last family, to one of whom, Miss Maria Ann Pittman, of the city of New York, a young lady of eminent piety and respectable attainments, Mr. Jason Lee was married soon after her arrival and she soon became no less useful to the mission generally than she was every way agreeable and happy in her conjugal relation, though she lived but a short time to adorn her profession, and to comfort her husband in his labors and sacrifices.
Being convinced, from the representations made to the board by brother Lee, that more help was needed to carry on the mission with energy and success, measures were adopted to send two additional missionaries, and accordingly, on the 24th of January, 1837, the Rev. David Leslie, wife and three children, and the Rev. H. K. W. Perkins, accompanied by a pious young lady as a teacher, sailed from Boston, in the brig Peru, for the Sandwich islands, whence they found a passage in a short time to the mouth of the Columbia, where they arrived in safety after a voyage of about ten months. They immediately entered upon their work, and soon found the blessing of God upon their efforts.
Before their arrival, however, brother Lee, with a view to furnish the farm with stock, had sent, in conjunction with others who had united in the enterprise, to California, and purchased about six hundred head of domestic cattle, oxen and cows, about five hundred of which they had driven through a wilderness of nearly six hundred miles, the rest having perished or strayed away on the journey. This, though attended with great labor and hardships, enabled them to stock the farm with milk cows for the use of the missionary family, and with oxen for plowing, carting, etc., and to provide for replenishing themselves with all necessary food hereafter, as well as to keep up such an ample stock of cattle as their means of sustaining them and their accumulating wants might warrant and require.
But a more important achievement than even this had been effected. A project was formed by some individuals who had recently become domiciled in the settlement, to set up a distillery. Knowing that if this succeeded, all their efforts for the moral renovation and religious instruction of the people would be unavailing, Mr. Lee set himself to work to prevent the project from being carried into execution. He called the people together, and gave them an address on the evil effects of intemperance, and proposed the formation of a temperance society, under a pledge of total abstinence from all intoxicating liquors as a beverage, which the people almost unanimously signed and as the gentlemen concerned had already expended some money in preparing for their contemplated establishment, the same people who had joined the temperance society subscribed more than a sufficient amount to remunerate him for their pecuniary loss, at the same time presenting an earnest, but respectful remonstrance against their project, urging the mischief it must, if carried into operation, bring upon the infant settlement. This had the desired effect. The distillery was abandoned; and, greatly to their honor its projectors politely declined the proffered remuneration, and heartily united with the others in the cause of temperance.
By this means a foundation was laid for the future well-being and prosperity of this little colony, and very soon God bore testimony to the zealous efforts of his servants, by pouring out his Spirit upon the people. The work commenced among the children in the school, and extended to the adults in the settlement, including some of the different nations, French, English, Americans, half-breeds, and Indians, who were grouped together in the village, molding their hearts into the image of Christ, and filling them with love to God and one another. Upward of forty were the subjects of this glorious work. This was most cheering to the missionaries, and as an evidence of their gratitude to God, they formed themselves into a missionary society and three hundred and forty-eight dollars were subscribed toward the support of the cause. This was a glorious beginning, being the |first-fruits| of a more plenteous harvest which they hoped yet to reap from among the heathen of that land of darkness and desolation.
Several other new places were occupied this year, chiefly west of the Allegheny mountains, under the auspices of the Missionary Society. Smethport and Sinnamahoning, in the bounds of the Pittsburgh conference, were successfully cultivated; and King's River, in the Missouri conference. In the northwestern section of the Indiana conference, the Tippecanoe and Eel River, the Mississinewa and Maumee missions were commenced among the scattered settlements in that new and thriving country. Point Rock, in the bounds of the Tennessee conference, and Yalo Bush and Tallahatche missions, in the Mississippi conference, were commenced this year, and prosecuted with success. Several additional missions were also begun for the special benefit of the slaves in the neighborhood of New Orleans, and on the cotton plantations in the bounds of the Georgia and South Carolina conferences, which have proved highly beneficial to that class of our population.
As the lands formerly occupied by the Cherokee Indians were filling up rapidly by white people, that they might not be allowed to grow into a community destitute of the gospel, four missions were established in this territory, and they returned the next year four hundred and seven members of the Church. Mattawoman mission, in the Baltimore conference, embraced a population not hitherto supplied in the regular way, and one hundred and fifty-four members were returned in 1835, one hundred and nine of whom were colored.
The Philadelphia Conference Missionary Society, in addition to assisting largely in support of the aboriginal missions by the appropriation of its funds, exerted itself efficiently to supply destitute places within its own bounds, and Southwark, in the vicinity of Philadelphia, was added to those heretofore undertaken and supported by this society, and one hundred and fifty-eight members were returned the next year as the fruit of the labor bestowed upon it by the missionary.
The successful manner in which these new fields of labor were cultivated, together with the prosperous state of the work generally, tended to enlarge the sphere of our usefulness, as well as to increase the number of preachers and members. It was evident, also, that the ministry was improving in learning and general knowledge, and consequently in usefulness and respectability, while the continuance of the revivals was sure indication that they were not retrograding in piety and zeal.
Another college was founded this year in Lebanon, Illinois, under the patronage of the Illinois conference. It has gone on prosperously from that day to this, being under the presidency of a graduate of the Wesleyan University, a son of one of the old preachers of the New England conference, the Rev. Joseph A. Merrill. This institution is exerting an improving and hallowing influence on the present generation of that new and growing country, by calling into action their intellectual resources, and it promises stability and usefulness under the superintendence and patronage of its zealous friends and supporters.
The academies already established, now amounting to about twenty, were in successful operation, and becoming prolific feeders to the higher seminaries of learning. These all, no doubt, were exerting a most salutary influence upon our community, and tended to create among our people generally a more just appreciation of sanctified learning, and useful, scientific improvement.
A controversy had arisen in the course of this year respecting the collections which had been ordered by the General Conference, and were therefore recognized by the Discipline of the Church, which were made for specific purposes: such as for the support of the ministry, for missionary objects, etc. It seems, that some boards of trustees claimed the right, by virtue of their corporate powers, to take possession of all the moneys which might be collected in the churches, whether in the classes or otherwise, whether for specific objects or in the ordinary way, and appropriate them as they pleased. It was at once seen, that if this claim were yielded to the trustees, our discipline, providing for a board of stewards and their duties, would be rendered entirely nugatory, and the collections made for missionary or any other specific object, might be diverted from their original purposes, and applied as the common revenues of the Church.
In opposition to this claim, it was pleaded, --
1. That the constitution, both of the general and state governments, secured to religious denominations all their peculiar rights and privileges, both as it related to doctrine, rites, ceremonies, and practice, whether this practice relates to moral, religious, or pecuniary matters, provided only that they do not contravene any law of the state, or are not guilty of licentiousness. On this broad principle of constitutional right, it was contended that those peculiarities growing out of the Church economy were recognized by legal enactments, and we were therefore protected by the strong arm of law in the peaceable exercise of all our rights, privileges, and usages.
2. Hence it followed, that no board of trustees could be authorized, even were such a disposition manifested by any state legislature, to trample upon the discipline of their own Church, to nullify a regulation or usage peculiar to their own denomination, if for no other reason than because it would be empowering trustees to defeat the object of their appointment, which was not to annihilate, but to support the institutions of their Church.
3. Inasmuch, therefore, as our Discipline had provided for the appointment of stewards, to whom all Class money and quarterly collections were to be intrusted, as well as the alms of the Church for the benefit of the poor, the trustees had no right of control over such collections, because they were made for specific objects, pointed out and prescribed by the Discipline, namely, the support of the ministry and the poor.
4. And as to moneys raised for missionary purposes, as it was always notified when collections or subscriptions were taken, that they were designed for that specific object, and the people gave accordingly, no board of trustees, nor any other person or persons had a right to appropriate them for any other than the objects for which they were given.
5. The duties of trustees were specific and well defined, and they did not, in either the Discipline or the law of the state, include the receiving or appropriating the moneys so collected, but they related altogether to the temporalities of the Church, the taking care of the real and personal estate by means of money raised for that object alone, and so specified in the Discipline of their Church, and the law of the land.
These plain, common-sense views, however did not satisfy those individuals who had set up the claim contended for; and to put the matter at rest, the questions were submitted to two eminent lawyers in the city of New York. Their opinion, given entirely independent of each other, the one not knowing that the other had been consulted, was as follows, which put an end to the controversy. Lawyer Jay, a son of the late eminent Governor Jay, after stating the questions at issue, and assigning sundry reasons for his opinions, decided as follows: --
|The stewards, after paying the allowance to the preachers, send the surplus to the annual conference. Other collections and subscriptions are directed or authorized, but in all cases the money raised is subject to one or other of the conferences, and generally is to pass through the hands of the stewards.
|Now, the moneys thus collected are not the property of the corporation in this city. The money, before it was contributed, certainly did not belong to that corporation, nor has it been given it.
|The corporation are trustees only for the congregations who meet in their churches. The money has been given for the use of all the congregations under the jurisdiction of the conference.
|The stewards who have received it are not officers of the corporation, which can neither appoint nor remove them, nor call them to account. But the trustees or corporation may, if they please, solicit subscriptions or make collections for the purpose of defraying their debt or the interest due upon it.
|The money thus raised will be under their own exclusive management, and the clergy will have no control over it.
|The only question, then, which requires further consideration, is, whether the corporation can prohibit the collections directed by the book of Discipline from being made in their churches? I think they cannot.
|The act of 1784, under which the Methodist Episcopal Church in this city is incorporated, is its charter, which is not altered by the act of 1813. The eleventh section has been already explained. By the act of 1784, the trustees are authorized to take possession of all property already belonging to the society; to purchase and acquire other property; to lease and improve land; to erect meeting houses, parsonage houses, school houses, and other buildings for the use of the society; to make rules for managing the temporal concerns of the congregation; to have the sole ordering of payments of the moneys belonging to the congregation; to appoint a clerk, treasurer, and collector; to regulate the renting of pews, and the fees for burials, and all other matters touching the temporal concerns of the congregation.
|These temporal concerns relate only to the property vested in the corporation.
|The right of the incorporated trustees to forbid the collections (if they possess it) must be derived from the right of property. Being the owners of the meeting houses it may be thought that they are authorized to control the use of them, and either to prohibit the preachers from entering them, or to admit them under such conditions as the trustees shall see fit to prescribe. And is would be true if they held the meeting houses for their personal benefit but they hold them, as their name imports, as trustees. What, then, is the nature of the trust?
|In the first organization of the Methodist society by Mr. Wesley, he established it as a principle, that the preachers should be independent of the people; for that, as well as for other reasons, he permitted none of them to be stationary, or to derive their support from any contract made with particular congregations and he framed the system of collections to defray expenses. In this state Methodism was introduced into America, and at the time when the law of 1784 was passed, the ministers were appointed and paid as they are at present. The design of that act was, not to alter the doctrine, discipline, or worship of any denomination but, on the contrary, to sustain such doctrine, discipline, and worship, by enabling each congregation to manage its property through the agency of a corporation, instead of managing it as they had previously done, through the less convenient agency of private trustees.
|By the act of 1784, the incorporated trustees have certain powers granted to them -- and these powers cannot be exercised by the conferences. But the trustees themselves must exercise them so as not to defeat the very end and purpose of their incorporation.
|They cannot exclude from their meeting houses the preachers appointed in the manner prescribed by the constitution of their Church, nor impose upon them conditions inconsistent with it.
|I do not mean to say that the conference have unlimited authority. But I am of opinion that, in directing their preachers to solicit from the liberality of their hearers the accustomed contributions, without which their system could not subsist, they have not exceeded their proper limits, and that the trustees ought not to resist them.
|My answers to the questions proposed to me are as follows: -- 1. The religious societies incorporated under the law of 1784 are to be governed by that law, and not by the act of 1813.
|The eleventh section has been already explained.
1. The framers of the discipline of a church can make no rule contrary to the law of the land. Such a rule would be a dead letter. But I do not think that the rules in question concerning collections are of that nature.
2. With respect to the third question, I understand that previous to the year 1820 the trustees acted as stewards, and received and paid over the money raised by collections, in the manner prescribed in the book of Discipline, and that in 1820 they consented that other stewards might be appointed, which was done accordingly. This act of the trustees would not abridge the legal rights of their successors, and therefore has no influence on my opinion in relation to the other questions.
3. No law gives to the trustees the control of the collections made in the classes.
|Revenue is the produce of taxes, &c., or the rents and profits of real or personal estate. In a loose sense, it may denote income of any kind. But in no sense can the voluntary contributions of individuals for the general benefit of all the clergy and institutions of a church be considered as the revenue of any particular congregation or corporation.|
To the two following questions he says, |I answer in the negative, for reasons already sufficiently explained.| These are the questions: -- 1. Does the law make it obligatory on the trustees to take the voluntary contributions made in the congregations and classes which the Discipline assigns to the stewards for specific purposes? 2. Can the trustees, by virtue of their corporate powers, compel the stewards to relinquish the voluntary contributions made in the congregations and classes in opposition to their official duties, as defined in the Discipline?|
The other attorney, no less eminent than Mr. Jay for his sound legal knowledge, David B. Ogden, returned the following answers: --
|My opinion has been requested by some of the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church in this city upon the following questions: --
|First. Are religious societies incorporated under the law of 1784 to be governed by that law, or by the act subsequently passed in 1813? If by the former, what construction is to be put upon the eleventh section of that act?
|Second. Have the framers of a discipline of a church the right to ordain provisions which are contrary to the laws of incorporation; and is the discipline in such a case a dead letter?
|Third. Does the fact that the society submitted to the appointment of stewards to take charge of part of its funds in 1820, prevent the present board of trustees from assuming the duties enjoined upon them by statute?
|Fourth. The funds collected in classes are devoted to the use of the ministry. Will the fourth section of the act of 1813, giving to the trustees the control of the temporal concerns and revenues of the Church, include such collections in the classes?
|Fifth. Are voluntary contributions to be considered as revenues of a church? And have the trustees the power to prevent collections in churches under their charge by others, without their consent?
|Sixth. Does the law make it obligatory on the trustees to take the voluntary contributions made in the congregations and classes which the discipline assigns to the stewards for specific purposes?
|Seventh. Can the trustees, by virtue of their corporate powers, compel the stewards to relinquish the voluntary contributions made in the congregations in opposition to their official duties, as defined in the Discipline?
|I give the answers to them, which are according to the best of my judgment.
|First. As to the first question there can be no doubt. The powers of this religious society as a corporation being derived wholly under the act of 1784, the corporate powers are under that act, and to be looked for in it only.
|The object of the incorporation is to enable the society to held property, and to hold it down to their successors, to sue and be sued, and in effect to give it a personal power, or the power of holding property, of suing and being sued as if it was an individual. The law never intended further to interfere with the society, but to leave its doctrine, its discipline, and form of worship untouched. These are considered as matters with which the law has nothing to do. This is what the legislature intended to declare by the eleventh section of the act.
|Second. The framers of the discipline of a church certainly have no power to ordain provisions contrary to the law of the incorporation. They have no right to say that the property of the corporation shall not vest in the trustees under the law in whom the law has vested it, but shall vest in some other persons -- any such ordinance would be absolutely void.
|Third. I think the trustees are bound to take charge of all the temporalities of the church, and if they have omitted to do so heretofore, they are bound to do it now.
|Fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh questions --
|The answer to these questions must depend upon one and the same principle.
|The trustees are to possess and enjoy all the temporalities of the society, by which I understand all its real and personal property: I do not think money raised in the congregations for special and particular purposes as forming any part of the property of the Church or society. Suppose a collection made for the use of the Orphan Asylum, for instance; it seems to me that the money raised by such a contribution is the property of the Orphan Asylum, and not of the trustees of the religious society by which it is raised.
|What collections are to be made in the churches, and for what purposes they may be made, seem to me to be matters with which trustees have nothing to do, but belong to those who manage what is called in these questions |the discipline| of the society. If moneys are raised by contribution, or in any other way, as part of the general property of the society, the trustees take them, as a matter of course, for the use of the society. But moneys raised for special purposes must be held for the use of those purposes by those in whose hands the discipline of the church chooses to place them. I do not think the act of incorporation intended or can in any way affect those moneys. This matter must depend upon those who manage and control the discipline of the Church.|
These decisions had a very happy influence upon the Church, as they tended to set the mooted question at rest, and to confine the litigating parties to their appropriate duties, without attempting any longer to interfere with each other.
Sixty-eight preachers had located the last year, seventy-five were returned supernumerary, one hundred and sixty-seven superannuated, and thirty-four had died.
Among those who exchanged the scenes of labor and employment in this world for the rest and pleasures of the next, were two of our eminent preachers, who had labored long with an unblemished reputation to build up the walls of our Zion.
Barnabas McHenry, of the Kentucky conference, entered the traveling ministry in 1787, only three years after the organization of our Church. He will be long remembered in the west, the scene of his youthful labors, as the pious and diligent servant of the people, to many of whom he was indeed a messenger of peace and good will. And though he was compelled, in consequence of debility brought on by excessive labors and sufferings, to intermit his itinerant ministry from 1796 to 1819, yet he again entered the work, to which he devoted himself as an effective preacher only two years, when he was returned superannuated.
It is said that he lived for several years in the enjoyment of |perfect love,| giving evidence of it by the tempers of his mind, and the deportment of his life. To the doctrines and discipline of the Church of his choice he adhered with a firm and commendable tenacity, making them the subjects of his private meditation and public advocacy, and, withal, feeling their solemn and saving efficacy upon his mind and heart.
He finally ended his days in peace, and, we trust, rests from his labors.|
Seely Bunn, of the Baltimore conference, was a native of Poughkeepsie, N. Y., and was born August 1, 1765. After the family settled in Henley county, Virginia, in the twenty-fourth year of his age, he was made a partaker of justifying grace, and in 1792 entered the field of itinerant preaching.
In these early days of Methodism in this county, he partook of his quota of obloquy and privations, more especially when engaged in carrying the gospel into the new settlements, where accommodations were coarse and poor, and the work of a traveling preacher laborious and fatiguing. In traversing the wildernesses of the west, from one new settlement to another he was often exposed to savage cruelty, had frequently to sleep in the woods, exposed to the pelting storms, to hunger and cold, and all those privations incident to the state of the country, and to the life of a Methodist itinerant. But in the midst of all, his soul was borne up by the promises and presence of God, and by seeing the fruit of his labors in the awakening and conversion of sinners.
In this good work he continued until 1814, when he was compelled, from debility, to take a superannuated relation. He bore his afflictions with exemplary patience, and finally departed in peace and triumph in the full prospect of entering into life eternal.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 553.134; Last Year: 519,196; Increase: 33,938 -- Colored This Year: 83,156; Last Year: 78,293; Increase: 4,863 -- Indians This Year: 2,494; Last Year: 2,247; Increase: 247 -- Total This Year: 638,784; Last Year: 599,736 -- Increase: 39,048 -- Preachers This Year: 2,625; Last Year: 2,400; Increase: 225.
The General Conference of 1832 recommended to the bishops and the managers of our Missionary Society South America as a proper field for missionary enterprise; and with a view to ascertain the state of things more accurately from personal observation, that some person should be sent to explore the accessible parts of the country, and report on the prospect and feasibility of establishing missions among the people in that populous region.
It is well known that from the time of the conquest of this country by the Portuguese and Spaniards, the Roman Catholic religion had been established by law, and had, therefore, incorporated itself into all the civil institutions and regulation of the country nor was it less intolerant toward Protestants than it was cruel toward the natives at the time of its conquest over their liberties and independence. After, however, the liberation of the provinces from the dominion of Spain and Portugal, a more tolerant spirit was gradually diffusing itself through the community, and it was hoped that the time had arrived when, by the use of suitable means, an impression might be made, at least upon some minds, favorable to the propagation of a purer form of Christianity.
South America, at this time, was divided into no less than nine distinct governments, the largest of which is the empire of Brazil, belonging to the Portuguese; while Guiana belonged to the English, Dutch, and French; and Patagotna is possessed by the aborigines; the remaining republics though wrested from the domination of the kingdom of Spain, were under Spanish rule and government. But though the several colonies had succeeded, after various struggles and sanguinary conflicts, to emancipate themselves from foreign dominion, they were yet in an unsettled state, and much harassed with intestine divisions and civil commotions, one party succeeding another often after bloody contests, in supreme power and influence. Since their disenthralment, however, from the potentates of Europe, many foreigners from Great Britain, Germany, France, and the United States, had settled in some of the principal cities, for the purposes of trade and commerce, and were supposed to be accessible to Protestant ministers; and being near neighbors to us, inhabiting a part of the American continent, and assimilating their civil institutions, as nearly as their circumstances would seem to allow to those of the United States, it was thought to be our duty to make an effort to establish our religious institutions in that country.
To this were much encouraged soon after the adjournment of the last General Conference, by a letter received from a Christian gentleman, a member of our Church, who had resided for some time at Buenos Ayres, in which we were informed that he had succeeded in forming a small class, and that they were quite desirous of having a missionary of our denomination sent among them. His letter was submitted to the board of managers, and after due deliberation, it was most heartily recommended to the bishops to select some suitable person and send him on a missionary tour to South America, making Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Ayres the chief points of observation. Accordingly Bishop Andrew appointed the Rev. Fountain B. Pitts, of the Tennessee conference, for this important service, and after traveling through various parts of the country, holding missionary meetings and taking up collections, he set sail in the month of July, 1835, for his place of destination. He visited Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Ayres, Monte Video, and several other places, and was generally received, more particularly by the English and American residents, with great affection and respect, and the object of his mission was highly appreciated. Brother Pitts wrote that he found a few pious persons both in Rio do Janeiro and Buenos Ayres, to whom he preached with lively satisfaction, and was much encouraged with the prospect of establishing missions in both these cities, and probably also in other places of less note. These encouraging representations led to other measures of a mole important and permanent character, which with be noticed hereafter.
The unusual peace and harmony prevailing in our ranks for the five years past, and the zeal exemplified by ministers and people for the promotion of the cause of God by the ordinary means of the gospel; as well as by institutions of learning, sabbath schools, and the distribution of Bibles and tracts building churches and parsonages seemed to awaken new energies, and to call forth the resources of the Church in a much more liberal manner than heretofore for the extension of the work on every hand, but more particularly by means of missionary labors. We did not know, indeed, how much could be done until the trial was made. And the several institutions above alluded to, instead of weakening one another, acted reciprocally upon each other; the one tending to excite the other to more vigorous action, and all uniting to produce the most salutary and happy results. This was seen in every department of our extended work, and the truth of the inspired declaration was exemplified by every days experience, |He that deviseth liberal things, by liberal things shall he stand,| and |he that watereth shall be watered again.|
In the same proportion that we enlarged the sphere of our operations for the conversion of the world, did the means accumulate for carrying on our work; and by inducing all to contribute something, none were oppressed, while each one felt that he had an interest in the general came he was aiding to support. By means of these appliances the field of missionary labor especially, both in the new countries and the hitherto unoccupied places in the older settlements, were constantly supplied with gospel ordinances, the vigorous action of the heart of the Church sending out, through these main arteries, the life-blood to every limb and member of the spiritual body, and they in return, by a lively exercise of their functions, sending it back to the center, thus keeping up that constant circulation which is essentially the health and growth of the entire system.
Hence, while a number of the places heretofore supported by the Missionary Society had so far prospered as to be taken among the regular circuits, new ones were this year established and prosecuted with vigor and success. Brazderville, High's River, and Smithport, in the bounds of the Pittsburgh conference, and Ripley, Port Washington, Thenton, Calhoun, Cold Water, and Saganaw, under the patronage of the Ohio conference, were all established this year, and the men of God who were sent to these places had the happiness to rejoice over sinners converted to God. Highland, Litchfield, Mount Pleasant, Barbersville, Manchester, and Pikesville, with in the bounds of the Kentucky conference embraced new tracts of country, hitherto unsupplied with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and they amply repaid the labor bestowed upon them.
But the mot extensive field was spread out within the bound of the Illinois conference, as the streams of emigrants were flowing into that state about this time with great rapidity in addition to the missions before mentioned undertaken by the Rev. John Clark, the Menominee was opened for the benefit of a tribe of Indians in the neighborhood of Green Bay the Milwaukee and Rock River, both of which extended far into the northwestern boundaries of that conference, besides various others, as Alton, Flat Branch, Pecan, Quincy, Knoxville, Iowa, Peoria, Bureau, and Ottowa; all of which embraced newly settled territories, fast rising in strength and importance, and the most of them have so prospered, that they have been taken into the regular work, are supporting their own institutions, and contributing to aid others.
But to carry the blessings of the gospel still further into the western regions, the Rev. Alfred Brunson was appointed to explore the country, and ascertain the feasibility of establishing missions among the Indian tribes on the upper waters of the Mississippi, and in the neighborhood of St. Peters, where the Sioux and Fox Indians have their habitations. Into these wild regions he penetrated, sometimes paddling his canoe over lakes and on the rivers, at other times wending his way through the trackless deserts or wide-spread prairies, on horseback, sleeping on the ground or in log cabins, with a view of conveying to these destitute people the blessings of salvation. He was generally received favorably by the few white people who had preceded him, by the agents of the government, and by the Indians, though he encountered some difficulties among the latter in consequence of wars which they were waging against each other. He finally settled at Prairie du Chien, at the confluence of the Wisconsin and Mississippi rivers, making it the center of missionary operations in the various settlements just then forming in that new country, and among the Indian tribes in the neighborhood. Several missions were begun, and though they have not been attended with which immediate fruit, when compared with our other Indian missions, yet it is hoped that a foundation has been thus laid for the future salvation of these people, and that the ordinances of religion, and religion itself, shall grow up with the growth of the settlements. As a means of accomplishing this very desirable object, schools were opened for the instruction of youth, and the good will of several chiefs was conciliated, who manifested a disposition to cooperate with the missionaries in striving to improve the condition of their people.
In the bounds of the Holston conference a missionary district was formed called Newton, in which there were no less than eight missions, employing nine preachers, including an Indian interpreter by the name of J. Fields, who had been converted to the Christian faith, and was now engaged in promoting the cause among his brethren, the Cherokees, of whom seven hundred and fifty-two were members of the Church. These several missions, though spread over a thinly settled country, were greatly blessed of God, as they returned the next year six hundred and sixty-five Church members.
The Henpeth mission, for the benefit of the colored population, Mountain, Holly Fork, and Centreville missions, established by the Tennessee conference, were commenced this year, and prosecuted with vigor and success.
Several new missions were begun this year in the bounds of the Mississippi conference, mostly for the benefit of the colored people, and they have been a means of conferring invaluable blessings upon them. And in the new territories embraced in the Alabama conference, in addition to those heretofore mentioned, the Nanny Warrior, Canebrake, Clayton, Lime Creek, Uchee, and Will's Creek, were this year brought under spiritual culture by means of missionary labor, and they have yielded an abundant harvest as the reward of our exertions.
The work was also enlarged in the same means, chiefly for the salvation of the slaves on the rice and cotton plantations, in the bounds of the Georgia and South Carolina conferences, much to the gratification of the masters, and to the joy of the slaves, who were brought to the knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus. Some others, in the older conferences, were undertaken, with various degrees of success and perhaps, in some instances, these domestic missions were increasing faster than our means would justify, though it as perfectly within the original scope and design of the Missionary Society to fill up, as far as practicable, every vacant place where the people were either too poor, or too indifferent to their spiritual interests, to provide for themselves. And that these exertions resulted highly favorable to the cause of Christ, has been abundantly manifested from the pleasing fact, that whole districts, and even annual conferences, have been raised up by means of these labors; and in the old and populous town of Worcester Mass., in which we had no standing until it was occupied as mission ground in the year 1831, we have now a society of upward of four hundred members and Worcester is the seat of the New England conference for 1841. Such results speak volumes in favor of the policy pursued by the Missionary Society. Indeed, nearly every new circuit was now formed under its auspices, by which the preacher was relieved from suffering, and the people from pecuniary burdens. Thus the more wealthy and older societies were blessed with the privilege of helping the poorer, and all in their men were contributing something for the general good.
Thirty-four preachers had died during the past year, eighty-nine located, one hundred and nineteen were returned supernumerary, one hundred and fifty superannuated, six had been expelled and two had withdrawn.
The Church was this year called to mourn over the death of two of her bishops, namely, William McKendree, the senior, and John Emory, the junior bishop, both of whom had filled their office with dignity and usefulness, the one for about twenty-seven years, and the other only about two years and six months.
Of the former, Bishop McKendree, we have already spoken when giving an account of his election in 1808. Of his early history, therefore, and of his labors in the ministry up to the time he entered upon the duties of the episcopal office, it is needless to say any thing here and nothing more than a sketch of his character and of his subsequent labors will now be attempted, nor indeed could more be accomplished, as the public have not yet been gratified with any published account of his life and death, except what is contained in his funeral sermon by Bishop Soule.
From the time of his entrance upon the arduous duties of his office until his death, he labored most assiduously to fulfill his high trust in such a manner as to preserve the unity, the purity, and integrity of the Church, and thereby to promote the cause of God among his fellow-men. In some of the first years of his labors as an itinerating superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church, he was in the habit of traveling from one end of the continent to the other on horseback, frequently exposed to the hardships and privations incident to the new countries, and to the fatigues of preaching every day, besides giving attention to the numerous calls arising out of his official relation to the Church. His perpetual labor so wore upon his constitution, which had indeed been severely tried by his great exertions in the western country previous to his election, that even at the end of four years, when he was deprived of the able counsel and services of Bishop Asbury, he was scarcely adequate to the duties of his station. He, however, so far recovered as to pursue his calling with his accustomed diligence and fervor until the General Conference of 1820, when he was released from the responsibility of discharging regularly the duties of a general superintendent; but only |so far as his health would prudently admit of it,| he was affectionately requested to |exercise his episcopal functions and superintending care.| In conformity with this request, he moved from one annual conference to another, as his strength would permit, presiding in the conferences occasionally, assisted in stationing the preachers, and gave his counsel on all matters pertaining to the welfare of the Church. Such, however, was the character of his complaints, a rheumatic affection, with frequent attacks of the asthma, attended with great prostration of strength, that he traveled often with great pain, passed sleepless nights and wearisome days; but be was borne up by a consciousness of the divine approbation, cheered by the affectionate greetings of his friends, and the prospect of that ample reward which awaited him in another world.
After the close of the General Conference of 1824, his constitution seemed to rally, and he went forward in the discharge of his duties with greater ease and cheerfulness, traveling extensively, preaching often at the conferences, attending camp and Quarterly meetings, and everywhere exhibiting an example of patience, diligence, and fortitude to all who beheld his perseverance in the work assigned him. To those unacquainted with the peculiar work of an itinerating superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church, it might seem strange that a man enfeebled by disease, oppressed by an accumulation of cares and labors, should, nevertheless, constantly move about from one part of the continent to another, cross and recross the Allegheny mountains, descend the valleys of the eastern rivers, preach to a few hearers in log cabins, to thousands under the foliage of the trees at camp meetings, and then visit the populous cities and villages, and make the pulpits sound with the voice of mercy and glad tidings. Yet such was the mode of life of Bishop McKendree. Habit had, indeed, rendered it necessary to life and comfort. So much so, that the very thought of being confined to one place was painful, and whenever such an event seemed inevitable, you might see the strugglings of a soul anxious to avert what he considered a calamity.
At the General Conference of 1828, which was held in Pittsburgh, Pa., though unable to preside, he was present in some of its sittings, and assisted by his counsel in those difficult questions which were then agitated, and finally adjusted in the manner heretofore related. To a man ever active to the interests of the Church, and who had devoted more than forty years of his best energies to promote its welfare, sharing alike in its weal or woe, it must have been highly gratifying to behold the issue of that convulsive struggle which so long agitated our Zion, and which, at one time, threatened a dissolution of its union. Bishop McKendree lived to see the portentous storm, which had been gathering in the heavens for about eight years, pass off without material injury, and to beheld peace and harmony serenely pervade the horizon, illuminated as it was by the mild beams from the |Sun of righteousness| which now shone out with renewed splendor upon the spacious fields which were whitening for the harvest.
From this time to the General Conference of 1832, which assembled that year in the city of Philadelphia, he continued his itinerary tours, often in the midst of such debility that he had to be assisted in and out of his carriage by his faithful traveling companion, through various parts of the continent, mostly in the south and west, enlivening the hearts of his friends by his cheerful submission to the divine will amidst the pains and afflictions of life, and receiving every favor showed him by the smile of gratitude and the embrace of paternal affection. At this conference he seemed to be tottering under the infirmities of age, and withering under the corroding influence of protracted disease, while his soul exerted its wonted energies in devising or approving of plans for the prosperity of the Church. Like a patriarch in the midst of his family, with his head silvered over by the frost of seventy-five winters and a countenance beaming with intelligence and good will, he delivered his valedictory remarks, which are remembered with lively emotions. Rising from his seat to take his departure from the conference the day before it adjourned he halted for a moment, leaning upon his staff; with faltering lips, but with eyes swimming in tears, he said, |My brethren and children, love one another. Let all things be done without strife or vainglory, and strive to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.| He then spread forth his trembling hands, and lifting his eyes toward the heavens, pronounced with faltering and affectionate accents the apostolic benediction.
This was his last interview with the delegates of the annual conferences in General Conference assembled, for a the next General Conference in 1836 his funeral sermon was preached by one of his surviving colleagues, Bishop Soule, who had attended him much for several of the last years of his life. He gives the following account of the last hours of Bishop McKendree: --
|In the spring of 1834 he returned to Nashville, visited and preached in different places through the summer, and in the fall attended the Tennessee conference. He preached for the last time in the new church in Nashville, on Sabbath, the 23d of November, 1834. Here ended the pulpit labors of this venerable minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who had traveled and preached for almost half a century. Here that penetrating, yet pleasant voice, which had been heard with delight by listening thousands, in almost all the populous cities of these United States, and which had sounded forth the glad tidings of salvation in the cabins of the poor on the remote frontiers, or to numerous multitudes gathered together in the forests of the western territories, and which savage tribes had heard proclaiming to them the unsearchable riches of Christ, died away to be heard no more. Here he finished the ministration of the words of eternal life, and closed his public testimony for the truth of the revelation of God. In the latter part of December he removed from Nashville to his brother's, which was his last travel. From this time it was obvious that he was gradually sinking to the repose of the tomb. But he had one more conflict before the warfare was accomplished. From the time that Bishop McKendree became unable to perform the entire effective work of a general superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church, his mind was frequently deeply exercised with the apprehension that he might become unprofitable in the vineyard of his Lord. And it would seem as if he sometimes thought nothing was done, unless he could compass the whole work, as he had been accustomed to do in the days of his strength and vigor. He had for many years moved with the foremost in activity and perseverance, and the idea of following in the rear, and being left behind, was painful to him, and frequently drew tears from his eyes. And this sentiment often led him to exertions and labors far beyond his strength. This fear that he should outlive his usefulness in the Church of God, and become unprofitable to his fellow-creatures, was the last afflicting exercise of mind through which he passed; and from this he was speedily and happily delivered by the prayer of faith. He sunk patiently and sweetly into all his heavenly Fathers will, and waited in lively hope and abiding peace for the hour of his departure. The inward conflict had ceased; his confidence in God was unshaken; faith, strong and unwavering stretched across the Jordan of death, and surveyed the heavenly country. With such sentiments, and in such a peaceful and happy frame of mind, the dying McKendree proclaimed in his last hours, All is Well.' In this emphatical sentence he comprehended what St. Paul expressed in view of his departure from the world and exaltation to an eternal inheritance: For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.' The last connected sentences which ever dropped from the lips of this aged and devoted servant of God, who for almost half a century had made Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and for ever, the end of his conversation, were All is well for time, or for eternity. I live by faith in the Son of God. For me to live is Christ; to die is gain.
|Not a cloud doth arise to darken my skies, Or hide for a moment my Lord from my eyes.| '
In this calm and triumphant state of mind he continued till he sweetly 'slept in Jesus,' at 5 o'clock, P. M., March 5th, 1835, in the seventy-eight year of his age.|
Thus closed the life and labors of this man of God. And though his death had been anticipated by his friends for some time, yet it seemed to create a vacancy in the Church not easily to be filled. He had gone in and out among us as a general superintendent for about twenty-seven years, as the immediate successor of the venerated Asbury, with whom he had labored as a colleague for about eight years, and from whose example of devotion and diligence he had learned the art of government, as well as the necessity of an active and vigilant oversight of the entire Church.
A brief sketch of his character will close what we have to say respecting him. And,
1. Bishop McKendree gave unequivocal evidence of deep piety, and of a mind and heart thoroughly imbued with gospel truth. This evidence is found in his entire life, in his words and actions.2. Having devoted the early days of his ministry chiefly to the new countries west of the Alleghenies, he had neither the time nor the means of acquiring much information from the study of books, though it was evident that he had stored his understanding with a variety of the most useful branches of knowledge for a minister of Jesus Christ. Had he been favored with the opportunity of a thorough education in his youth, and pursued the path of science in after years, he might have shone in the galaxy of literature and science; for he had an understanding sufficiently strong and acute to enable him to grapple with any subject within the range of the human intellect, and equal to the acquirement of any branch of human knowledge.
This was evident to all who were intimate with him and could duly appreciate his worth His mind, indeed, was capable of the nicest distinctions, of the most critical researches, and of the widest expansion. How often did he, by a well-timed and pointed remark, unravel the sophistry of the sciolist and confound the pedantic pretender to wisdom and science! As if by a sudden inspiration of thought, he could make a ray of light flash upon a subject, and then render that clear and intelligible which before was obscure and perplexed. It was once remarked by a preacher of no mean attainments, who was on intimate terms with the bishop, that he had often felt himself mortified and chagrined, when, endeavoring to let him into the secret of something of importance, he found that the bishop was already in possession of the facts in the case, and could therefore give more information than the other could impart.
His constant intercourse with all sorts of company in his various peregrinations through the country, enabled him to treasure up much useful knowledge from actual observation, and to suit himself, with an admirable adaptation, to the variety of classes and circumstances of the people with whom he came in contact. This also gave him a clear insight into the human character, and a comprehensive view of that character in all its variety of shades and distinctions. And though he did not |affect the gentleman| by an apish imitation of the fopperies of fashion, he was easy and polite in his manners, while he at all times maintained the dignity and gravity of the Christian minister. His perfect knowledge of the human character enabled him to wield with good effect the weapon of truth, and to apply it with admirable facility and exactness to the various cases which came up for consideration.
3. As a preacher of the gospel he was plain and pointed, and his sermons consisted chiefly in explaining and enforcing experimental and practical godliness. Though possessed of a mind extremely acute, which, had he been trained to metaphysical researches, would have been competent to the most abstruse subjects, yet he seldom entertained an audience with dry and monotonous disquisitions, but entered directly into the heart, laid open the secret springs of human action, and applied the truths of God's word to the understanding and conscience with powerful effect.
There was, indeed, great variety in the character of his sermons. Though he seldom failed to |make out what he took in hand,| yet he sometimes sunk rather below mediocrity, while at other times he soared, and expanded, and astonished you with irradiations of light, and with the power and eloquence with which he delivered the tremendous truths of God. On these occasions, assisted, as he most evidently was, by the Holy Spirit, he would carry you away with him on the eagle wings of truth, and then, having gently seated you on its firm foundation, melt you into the tenderest emotions by the sweet and gentle accents of affectionate entreaty, which poured from his ups in the most pathetic streams of gospel simplicity, truth, and love.
It was a sermon of this character which he preached before the General Conference in 1808, a few days previous to his election to the episcopal office, and which, no doubt, contributed much to his elevation to the station, more especially by securing the votes of those who were not personally acquainted with him. To give as fair a representation of this sermon and its effects as I am able, I will simply relate what passed in my own mind on that occasion.
It was the first General Conference I had ever attended, and the name of William McKendree was unknown to me, and I believe also to many other junior members of the conference. He was appointed to preach in the Light Street church on sabbath morning. The house was crowded with people in every part, above and below, eager to hear the stranger and among others most of the members of the General Conference were present, besides a number of colored people, who occupied a second gallery in the front end or the church. Bishop McKendree entered the pulpit at the hour for commencing the services, clothed in very coarse and homely garments, which he had worn in the woods of the west; and after singing, he kneeled in prayer. As was often the case with him when he commenced his prayer, he seemed to falter in his speech, clipping some of his words at the end, and hanging upon a syllable as if it were difficult for him to pronounce the word. I looked at him not without some feelings of distrust, thinking to myself, |I wonder what awkward backwoodsman they have put into the pulpit this morning, to disgrace us with his mawkish manners and uncouth phraseology.| This feeling of distrust did not forsake me until some minutes after he had announced his text, which contained the following words: -- |For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt; I am black; astonishment hath taken hold on me. Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? Why, then, is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?| Jer. viii, 21, 22.
His introduction appeared tame, his sentences broken and disjointed, and his elocution very defective. He at length introduced his main subject, which was to show the spiritual disease of the Jewish church, and of the human family generally; and then he entered upon his second proposition, which was to analyze the feelings which such a state of things awakened in the souls of God's faithful ambassadors; but when he came to speak of the blessed effects, upon the heart, of the balm which God had provided for the |healing of the nations,| he seemed to enter fully into the element in which his soul delighted to move and have its being, and he soon carried the whole congregation away with him into the regions of experimental religion.
Remarking upon the objections which some would make to the expression of the feeling realized by a person fully restored to health by an application of the |sovereign balm for every wound,| he referred to the shouts of applause so often heard upon our national jubilee, in commemoration of our emancipation from political thraldom, and then said, |How much more cause has an immortal soul to rejoice and give glory to God for its spiritual deliverance from the bondage of sin!| This was spoken with such an emphasis, with a soul overflowing with the most hallowed and exalted feelings, that it was like the sudden bursting of a cloud surcharged with water, and the congregation was instantly overwhelmed with a shower of divine grace from the upper world. At first sudden shrieks, as of persons in distress, were heard in different parts of the house; then shouts of praise, and in every direction sobs and groans, and eyes overflowing with tears, while many were prostrated upon the floor, or lay helpless upon the seats. A very large, athletic-looking preacher, who was sitting by my side, suddenly fell upon his seat as if pierced by a bullet; and I felt my heart melting under sensations which I could not well resist.
After this sudden shower the clouds were disparted, and the Sun of righteousness shone out most serenely and delightfully, producing upon all present a consciousness of the divine approbation; and when the preacher descended from the pulpit, all were filled with admiration of his talents, and were ready to |magnify the grace of God in him,| as a chosen messenger of good tidings to the lost, saying in their hearts, |This is the man whom God delights to honor.| |This sermon,| Bishop Asbury was heard to exclaim, |will make him a bishop.|
This was a mighty effort, without any effort at all -- for all seemed artless, simple, plain, and energetic, without any attempt at display or studied design to produce effect. An attempt, therefore, to imitate it would be a greater failure than has been my essay to describe it, and it would unquestionably very much lower the man's character who should hazard the attempt, unless when under the influence of corresponding feelings and circumstances.
It has been already remarked, that sometimes he fell below himself, when his mind appeared to be barren and unfruitful. Though this was the case, yet he always exhibited the powers of a |master workman,| even when these powers seemed to be cramped apparently for want of some internal energy to put them in vigorous motion, and make them play with ease and effect. But what added much to the force of the truths which he uttered, was his commanding appearance, the gravity of his demeanor, the sprightliness of his manner, the fire which shot from an eye which bespoke kindness and intelligence, and the natural gracefulness of his action in the pulpit. His voice was clear and musical, and the words which dropped from his lips fell upon the ear with delight, producing a harmony between the outward voice and the inward sensation.
His rhetoric was faulty. Either from an impediment in his speech, or from a habit induced from early usage, as before hinted, he would sometimes hang upon an unaccented syllable, as in the use of the word continually, on the penultima he would rest thus, al -- ly, as if unable to add the final syllable to the word. At other times he would clip a word in the middle or end, and leave it half enounced probably from some imperfection in the organs of speech. These however, are little things, like black specks in a diamond, which set off its beauties by contrast and were lost sight of whenever he so entered into his subject as he generally did, as to make you forget every thing but the truth he uttered, and the God he proclaimed.
There was also, at times, the appearance of affectation in his manner, and the modulation of his voice, which detracted, so far as it was apparent, from the reverence one wishes to feel for an ambassador of the Most High. Those, however, who may have observed this defect, -- and it is certainly a great defect wherever it is discovered, -- may have misjudged and taken that for art which arose mostly from the variety of emotions produced by the ebbings and flowings of a full heart, and the several aspects of the subjects occupying the speakers mind and tongue.
But whatever defects the eye of candid criticism might detect in Bishop McKendree as a public speaker, or as a sermonizer, judging from the rules of strict propriety, take him all in all as a preacher of righteousness, sent of God to instruct mankind in the pure and sublime doctrines of the gospel, he was a star of the first magnitude, and as such he diffused the hallowing and mellowing light of divine truth all around him wherever he went, and whenever he preached. In the west especially, whence he returned surrounded with a halo of glory which had been gathering around his character for several years, in the midst of the shakings and tremblings produced by the camp and other meetings, thousands could say that his preaching was not with the enticing words of man's wisdom, |but in power, and in much assurance, and in the Holy Ghost.| Nor were his labors in the pulpit unappreciated in the Atlantic states, after he passed through them in the character of a general superintendent, and had an opportunity to show himself to his brethren |as a workman that needed not to be ashamed.| His zeal rose with the dignity of his subject, and his mind expanded as he ranged through the spacious and prolific field of theological truth, while he chained and charmed his hearers with the melody of his voice, and penetrated their hearts by the energy with which he spoke in the name of God, and the directness of his appeals to the understanding and conscience. Such was Bishop McKendree in the pulpit.
4. He was an ardent friend and active promoter of all the institutions of the Church. When the Missionary Society was formed, he entered immediately into its spirit and design, gave it his hearty support, and defended its objects both by word of mouth and by his pen, as well as by liberal contributions. And after our aboriginal missions were begun with so much success, he visited them personally, preached to the natives, and held interviews with the chiefs and counselors with a view to obviate difficulties, and promote their welfare in every way within his power.
5. Let us now view him as a ruler in the Church. As has been already seen, he constantly set an example to his brethren in the ministry of unreserved devotion to the cause in which he was engaged, and of indefatigable labor, so long as his strength would sustain him, in the pursuit of good. This enabled him to silence the clamors of such as might be tempted to believe that in the exercise of his executive powers as the president of a conference, he was guilty of laying burdens upon others which he was unwilling to bear himself; and the writer of this article had frequent opportunities, during the five years in which he held the office of presiding elder under Bishop McKendree's administration, as well as at other times, to watch his proceedings, and though sometimes so placed as to have strong temptations to find just cause of censure, yet truth compels me to say, that I believe he was always actuated by the purest motives, and an enlightened desire to act impartially in all cases which came before him for decision. Whatever partialities he might feel for one in preference to another, arising out of personal friendship or otherwise, there is good reason to believe that he never willingly allowed these things to bias his judgment in the execution of his trust, or in the distribution of the preachers to their several stations and tasks. And who that understands any thing of the complicated machinery of Methodism but must know the extreme delicacy and perplexing difficulty of fixing so many men, some old and infirm, some young and inexperienced, others of mature age, judgment, knowledge, and influence, in their several stations, so as to meet, as nearly and justly as may be, the claims of all, and not disappoint the expectations of any, either among preachers or people! Such a man must be more than mortal. And hence the assiduity with which a conscientious bishop must needs apply himself to this difficult task, even to satisfy the dictates of his own judgment.
During some periods of his administration, Bishop McKendree had to encounter no small amount of prejudice, -- I trust honestly engendered -- in arising out of the presiding elder question, as he was strongly opposed to any innovation in this respect. On this account it was thought by some that he was actuated by a love of power, and that he sought to sustain himself in his position under the promptings of unjustifiable ambition. There was created for a time some uneasiness in my own breast, and dissatisfaction in the breasts of those who opposed him, which subjected his administration to a severe test, more especially in some of the northern conferences. Time, however, and more mature reflection, have softened whatever of asperities may have arisen out of these conflicting opinions, no doubt honestly entertained on both sides, and removed whatever erroneous views may have been imbibed regarding either the motives or conduct of Bishop McKendree. Indeed, even in the midst of the lengthened and sometimes wire-drawn discussions on the subject in controversy, most of those who stood opposed to the bishop's theory, whenever they spoke or wrote of him, such a strong hold had he upon their affections and veneration, that they called him the beloved, or the venerated bishop, for indeed he was affectionately loved and truly venerated by all who knew him, and by those most who knew him best. And there is little reason now to question that the present order of things is best adapted to preserve inviolate the unity, usefulness, and energy of the system, however heavily it may press upon either the episcopacy or the itinerancy to sustain and keep it in harmonious action.
As a general superintendent, therefore, Bishop McKendree was wise and discreet, pure and energetic, infusing into the general system of the itinerancy life and activity, and setting such an example to all, both preachers and people, as to acquire and maintain their affection and confidence.
6. Viewed as a man of God, he had many excellences and but few defects. He was naturally, as all men of genius are, of a warm temperament, his passions were easily moved, and he sometimes manifested a severity in his disposition and expressions which detracted from the general amiableness and dignity of his character, and sometimes wounded the feelings of his friends. Yet with these strong feelings to grapple with, self-knowledge was so deep, and grace predominated so powerfully, that he generally possessed his soul in patience, and even in the midst of conflicting sentiments and arguments, he had that perfect command of himself, or control over his feelings, that he seldom betrayed any thing inconsistent with the Christian bishop, evincing a philosophic gravity which indicated a soul calm and serene, while the storm might be raging around him. And with the exception of these slight aberrations from perfect equanimity of temperament, no one could exceed him in the kind and frank manner in which he treated his friends, |rendering to all their due,| and making every one feel easy and at home in his presence.
In the social circle he was free and accessible, often enlivening conversation with instructive anecdotes illustrative of the topics under consideration. In these seasons of relaxation from the severe duties of his station, he appeared indeed |gentle and easy to be entreated,| manifesting a suitable deference to others, frequently drawing out their opinions by respectful inquiries, and modestly proposing his doubts, that they might be solved. And in all these movements he never forgot his obligations as a Christian bishop, often taking pains to distinguish between the respect paid to him because the Church had honored him with his high office, and what was due to him merely as a man, thus throwing upon others the honor which seemed to be given to himself. While religious conversations seasoned and sanctified these social interviews, they were generally concluded with a few words of advice suited to the occasion, and an invocation to God for his blessing upon all present.
7. When compared with Bishop Asbury, in the performance of his official duties in consecrating men to the work of the ministry, the contrast was obvious. Though equally fervent, and at times manifesting much more of the |unction of the Holy One,| yet he fell much below his venerable predecessor in the dignity and solemnity of his manner, and in the authoritative manner in which he administered the holy ordinance. Equally impressed, however, with the imposing obligations of the sacred office, and of its weighty responsibilities, he neglected no convenient opportunity to impress both the one and the other upon all who took upon themselves the vows of their God. And sometimes, under the impulse of a sudden inspiration, he would offer up to God a fervent intercession for blessings to rest upon them and their labors, and conclude with a short and pithy admonition or exhortation suited to the occasion.
8. In presiding in the conferences, impartiality guided his decisions, and he introduced a more orderly manner of doing business than had heretofore characterized their proceedings. Bishop Asbury used to say, as an apology for the desultory manner in which he sometimes allowed the affairs of a conference to be conducted, |I was with you in weakness, and at first I had to be president secretary, and almost every thing; but now the days of your childhood are passed; you have a president who has grown up in the midst of you, and who therefore, understands your wants; let him, then, lead you forth as men of mature age, under the dictation of those rules of order you may mutually devise for youth regulation.| In conformity with this patriarchal counsel, under the advisement of Bishop McKendree, a set of by-laws were introduced and adopted for the more orderly manner of conducting the business of an annual conference. This wise arrangement prevented the appearance of arbitrary power on the one hand, and the irregularities of independent action on the other.
In the exercise of his prerogatives as president of the conferences, he was sometimes called upon to check the forwardness of some, to correct the wanderings of others, as well as to encourage all to a just and diligent performance of their respective duties. In administering admonition or rebuke, he sometimes did it with the keenness of a razor, and yet seemingly with the mildness of the dove. I remember, on a certain occasion, a young preacher of more confidence than prudence, who had left some small business to become an itinerant, was boasting of the great sacrifices he had made for the cause, when Bishop McKendree checked him by asking, in his peculiarly soft and mild manner, |Brother, have you made greater sacrifices than St. Paul resolved to do when he said, If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no more meat while the world standeth? Or than those which said, We have left all for thy sake?| I need not say, that a sense of shame sat on the countenance of this vain boaster.
But however mild and yielding he might appear in his general administration, there were times in which he thought the circumstances called for it when he could show all the firmness of a despot without any of his haughty and domineering feelings A debate once arose in the New York conference respecting electing a man to elders orders, who had been a traveling deacon only one year, because he had traveled for several years in connection with the Wesleyan conference in England, and he was finally elected. In the course of the debate, one of the speakers averse to the proposed election pleaded, that if elected, the presiding bishop would be compelled to assume the character of a pope, and refuse to ordain him. After the question was decided, the bishop arose and informed the conference, in mild but firm tones, that with all his respect for the decision of conference, he must decline to ordain the brother; |But,| said he, |in doing this I deny the imputation that I assume the character of the pope, for I act according to your laws, by which I am forbidden to consecrate a person to the office of an elder until he shall have traveled two years as a deacon, unless in case of missionaries, and this brother does not appear in the character of a missionary. Were I, therefore to ordain him according to your vote, I might be impeached at the next General Conference for an unconstitutional act, for which I could offer no reasonable excuse. Hence it is not an assumption of unauthorized power in imitation of the pope of Rome, in defiance of law and order, by which I refuse to comply with your request, but it is a deference I feel for constitutional law, made and sanctioned by yourselves, and from the infraction of which I am bound by my office, alike to protect both you and myself. Repeal your law, and make a different regulation, and I will bow to it with all readiness; but while the law exists I and bound to obey it, and to see that it is obeyed by others.|
This sensible appeal induced the conference to reconsider its vote, and the motion to elect was withdrawn. Thus the good sense of the bishop, united with such a commendable firmness, saved both him and the conference from perpetrating an unconstitutional act.
9. He was extremely sensitive, and acutely felt the slightest insult, while he would bear it without resentment. His discriminating mind enabled him to detect the slightest impropriety in the words or conduct of others, whether manifested toward himself or another person; and nothing seemed to give him more pain of mind or severe mortification than the exhibition of those weaknesses of human nature growing out of an ignorance of the common civilities and proprieties of life. To these, in his intercourse with his fellow-men, he was strictly attentive, considering it as much his duty to treat every person according to the claims which age, station, or office might give him, as it was to exact similar treatment from others. He thus gave a practical comment upon the maxims, |Tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.| And in the discharge of the relative duties of life, he set an example worthy the imitation of all, and rebuked especially those uninstructed and inexperienced youth, whose raw notions of independence led them to make no discrimination between the old and the young, the officer, the citizen, the minister and others.
10. I need hardly add, that all his actions were the result of a heart deeply experienced in the things of God. He lived, indeed, |as seeing him who is invisible,| and he was most evidently moved forward in the discharge of his various duties, whether official or otherwise, under the dictation of that Spirit which |searcheth all things, even the deep things of God.| This directed and sanctified his labors in the best of all causes, and gave a beauty and finish to his work in general. Having been thus |created anew unto good works,| and persevering under the influence of those holy feelings which were enlivened and purified by the blood of the covenant, he halted not in the day of trial, nor ceased his work until his divine Master said, |It is enough: come up higher.|
John Emory, the junior bishop, had also taken his departure to another world during the year; and his death produced the greater sensation on account of the sudden and unexpected manner in which it was brought about.
He was born in the state of Maryland, in the year 1788. He was destined by his parents for the profession of the law, and received an education accordingly. But God had other work for him to do. At the age of seventeen he was made a partaker of justification by faith in Jesus Christ, joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, and soon gave evidence of those talents by which he was afterward so eminently characterized. In the twenty-second year of his age, in the year 1810, he entered the traveling ministry in the Philadelphia conference, of which he became, in due course of trial, a distinguished member, filling the stations assigned him with ability and usefulness Though but a junior member of the conference, in 1816 he was elected as a delegate of the General Conference of that year, and was an active and intelligent promoter of its measures and objects.
When it was resolved, at the General Conference of 1820, to open a more direct intercourse with the Wesleyan Methodist conference in England, by a personal interchange of delegates, Mr. Emory was chosen as our representative to that elder branch of the Methodist family, and he accordingly visited England in that capacity. By his Christian and gentlemanly deportment, and the ability with which he conducted the mission, he won the affection and esteem of all with whom he had intercourse, and brought to an amicable adjustment the perplexing difficulties which had arisen in Upper Canada between the two connections.
In 1824 he was elected assistant book agent, and in 1828 the principal. While in this station, though his physical strength would not allow him, during some portions of the time, to perform much active service, yet he was wise in counsel, judicious in his arrangements of plans for carrying on that extensive establishment with energy and system, and he applied himself with diligence and success to accomplish its benevolent objects. But as all these things will doubtless be presented to the public in his biography now in press, I need not enter into particulars.
At the end of his term of service in this institution in 1832, he was, as has been intimated, elected a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He entered upon the labors of this station with an enlightened zeal, attending to its peculiar and onerous duties with diligence, with a sound judgment, and a discriminating mind; and had he lived to the common age of man, he might have infused into the system a spirit and energy highly beneficial to the present and future generations; for he was a warm friend and the advocate of all our institutions, those peculiarly Methodistic, as well as those relating to education, missionary, and Sunday school operations, likewise to the publication and circulation of books and general intelligence. But ere he had time fully to enter upon his high and holy duties, and to develop the energies of his mind upon these momentous subjects, he was suddenly called, by one of those mysterious providences not easily solved by human intellects, to give an account of his stewardship.
Early on the morning of Wednesday, December 16, 1835, he left home in a one horse carriage, for the purpose of visiting Baltimore on business connected with his episcopal office. His horse ran away with him, and he was violently thrown from the carriage, and received such a severe wound in the head, that he expired about seven o'clock of the same day. His death was the more melancholy to his friends because his fall, and the wound he received, deprived him of his senses, so that he was unable to converse with those who stood around his dying bed, though he was heard to respond an amen to one of the many prayers which were offered up in his behalf in this hour of trial and affliction. No one doubted, however, of his preparedness to meet his fate, and to enter into the joy of his Lord. He died in the forty-eighth year of his age.
Though the Church was thus deprived of the labors of him to whom she had awarded one of the highest offices in her gift, ere he had an opportunity of fully unfolding his capabilities to serve her interests in the capacity of a ruler, yet he had lived long enough to convince all with whom he had held intercourse, of the strength of his mind, the acuteness of his intellect, and of his ability to defend the doctrines and institutions of the Church of his choice. Hence the mournful tones of sorrow which were heard almost universally when the news of his sudden and unexpected death was announced, and the deep and heartfelt grief which was uttered by his surviving friends.
Bishop Emory possessed an acute and discriminating mind, a sound and comprehensive judgment. Having received a thorough education in his youth, and devoting some time of his more mature and vigorous days to the study of the law, his understanding had become accustomed to close thought and accurate research, and he could therefore quickly and easily distinguish between truth and error, between right and wrong, while his heart forsook the one and cleaved to the other.
During his connection with the Book Concern he was frequently called upon to exert his intellectual powers in defense of what he considered to be truth and duty. After he became the principal, in 1828, he conducted the editorial department of the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review, in doing which his abilities as a writer were fully tested, and the masterly manner in which he defended the doctrines, institutions, and usages of the Church against powerful, and, in some instances, malignant assailants, proved his competency to the task assigned him, as well as his love of the truth, as developed in the articles and General economy of the denomination to which he belonged. Though his writings are not numerous, yet they have reared for their author a lasting reputation for the accuracy of his researches, for his depth of thought, the soundness of his views, and for the conclusive manner in which he could wield an argument.
These same eminent qualities were equally displayed in the pulpit. Owing to physical debility, brought on perhaps by too much exertion in the early days of his ministry, at some periods of his public life he was compelled to remit the regular duties of an itinerant preacher; but whenever he did appear before the public as an ambassador of Christ, he always evinced a mind thoroughly imbued with his subject, familiar with the truth, and well trained to the exercise of its powers in weighing evidence and balancing the claims of the various subjects which might be presented for consideration. And the acuteness of his intellectual powers were in no instances more strikingly illustrated than in his capacity to distinguish the nicest shades of truth, to detect the smallest intrusions of error, and so to analyze a subject as to view it in all its parts, and then so to combine it as to grasp it in his mind as one undivided whole.
It is the easiest thing in the world to generalize, to dogmatize, and to denounce in strong terms of disapprobation any supposed error in theory and conduct; but it requires a well-informed and a well-balanced mind to enter into detail, to discriminate between one thing and another, to trace parallels, to mark contrasts or resemblances, and when a multitude of subjects come up for consideration, to select the best, the most fit, and then to follow out a thought by a regular induction of arguments from particular facts. Who may not say that truth is preferable to error? -- that the righteous shall be rewarded and the wicked punished? All this is easy. But it requires a mind accustomed to close thought to ascertain where the truth lies, to disentangle it from the knotty threads of error in which it often lies concealed, and to place it so plainly, and pointedly, and perspicuously before the reader or hearer that it may be seen and felt. Nor does it require less assiduity of mind and quickness of perception to trace out the windings of the human heart, to detect the characteristics of the sinner, to prove him guilty, and then to urge home upon him the tremendous consequences of his criminal conduct: yet Bishop Emory was fully equal to this task, and much more. He could, with all the ease imaginable, fix upon an antagonist the very point in which he erred, trace it in all its windings and shiftings, and then bring the whole weight of his powerful intellect to bear upon him with a force, collected by a regular course of argument, which he could not well resist.
But though thus furnished with material for a sound judgment, he was very far from possessing an overwhelming confidence in himself. He was in the habit of collecting information from every source within his reach, of consulting with his friends on all important occasions, and then following the best light afforded him. He did not, therefore, imitate those weak but self-confident persons who seem conscious that neither their productions nor opinions can bear the light of investigation, and therefore thrust that before thousands which they seem unwilling to submit to the inspection of a select few. Not so Bishop Emory. He generally strove either to strengthen his own opinions by the concurrence of others, or to have his errors corrected before they should be exposed to the multitude for indiscriminate condemnation. And such was his good sense, that he was always ready to hearken to all that could be said against as well as in favor of any of his positions, and it was by no means difficult to convince a man of his discernment of an error, should he have incidentally embraced one.
His education, refined as it was by the fire of Christianity, taught him how to estimate the relative claims of his fellow-men, and to yield to each his due, whatever might be his station or character. Though he was extremely sensitive, and could quickly perceive the slightest aberrations from the rules of strict propriety, he knew equally well how to make due allowance for human frailties, and to apologize for these faults in others which seemed the unavoidable result of either ignorance or inattention. Nor could he retain a spirit of resentment toward any man after discovering the slightest emotion of repentance; and he was as ready to make atonement for an offense as he was to accept it.
For many years he was the intimate friend, and for some time the traveling companion of Bishop McKendree, and I believe one of his most confidential advisers. It so happened, however, that in the midst of the controversy respecting the appointment and powers of the presiding elders, I think in the year 1822, brother Emory felt it his duty to call in question some of the positions of the bishop, which he had submitted to the annual conferences, and he did it in such a way as to wound the delicate feelings of friendship, and for some time thereafter an estrangement took the place of their former familiar intercourse. This, however, though painful to both, did not destroy mutual confidence and respect, a proof that a long intimacy had not detected in either any want of Christian integrity; and it is mentioned here merely for the purpose of illustrating that trait of character now under consideration; for the course of events restored mutual affection and confidence long before death introduced the spirits, first of the senior, and then, in about nine months, of the junior bishop, to each other in that world of glory where all these imperfections are remembered only to heighten the efficacy of that atoning blood which washes and fits the redeemed to |sing the song of Moses and the Lamb for ever and ever.|
The commanding talents of Bishop Emory, and his comprehensive judgment, gave him an influential position, more especially after his election to the episcopal office, which, had he lived in the faithful discharge of its duties, would have been extensively felt, and highly appreciated. But that God who |sees the end from the beginning,| saw fit to call him home ere he had time to immature his plans for future usefulness, and he no doubt |rests from his labors,| enjoying the rewards of his |work of faith and labor of love,| in the everlasting kingdom of God.
Numbers in the Church: Whites This Year: 566,957; Last Year: 553,134; Increase: 13,823 -- Colored This Year: 83,135; Last Year: 83,156; Decrease: -- Indians This Year: 2,436; Last Year: 2,494; Decrease: 58 -- Total This Year: 652,528; Last Year: 638,784 -- Increase: 13,744 -- Preachers This Year: 2,758; Last Year: 2,625; Increase: 133.