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energy seldom seen in those days, soon attracted such numbers to hear that the place could not hold them. A rigging loft* in William-street was next rented, which also being soon filled, they were obliged to think of erecting a church. Here difficulties presented themselves on account of their fewness and poverty. "For some time a painful suspense seemed to occupy their minds. But while all were deliberating upon suitable means to accomplish an object so desirable, and yet to them so difficult, an elderly lady," the Mrs. Hick before mentioned, I suppose, "one of the Irish emigrants, while fervently engaged in prayer for direction in this affair, received with inexpressible sweetness and power this answer: I the Lord will do it! At the same time a plan presented itself to her mind, which, on being presented to the society, was generally approved. Accordingly they issued a subscription paper, and went to the mayor and other opulent citizens, to whom they explained their design, and from whom they received liberal donations."+
Thus encouraged, they succeeded in purchasing two lots of ground in John-street, for six hundred pounds, on which they erected a house of worship, of stone, forty-two by sixty feet, which they named, from respect to the venerable founder of Methodism, Wesley Chapel. In order to avoid a certain municipal law of New-York, they were obliged to erect fireplaces in it, as though it was not used exclusively for religious purposes. This was in 1768. This church was not finished till several years after; and finally, in 1817, was supplanted by the present larger and more splendid edifice.
About the same time_Robert Strawbridge, another local preacher from Ireland, settled in Frederick county, Md., and formed a society at Pipe Creek and several other places. Here we may remark that it is somewhat singular that this great work in America was begun and sustained for three years by local preachers alone. And in tracing the history of Methodism through all its succeeding periods we shall find that this same class of men have founded and sustained, during their infancy, and until they were taken into the general work, a very considerable portion of all our societies. This is especially the case in the west, where the foundation of that beautiful superstructure which has since been reared was laid by the same men. And it is also worthy of note, that Embury and Strawbridge were from the same land which gave birth to Thomas Walsh and Adam Clarke.
In 1769 Richard Boardman and Joseph Pillmoor came to the assistance of the infant societies. These were the first regular traveling ministers on the continent. They meeting with much success, and being able to report great openings for the spread of the gospel in America, in 1771 Francis Asbury and Richard Wright were sent over. Before this, the work had been principally confined to the cities; but Mr. Asbury, perceiving that the country people more readily received the truth than those in the cities, led the way into the towns, villages, and sparsely populated places in the interior, in which he met with anticipated success; and it may justly be remarked that, to this day, the Methodists have met with more success, and are more numerous,
This rigging loft is still standing as a memorial of by-gone days. It is situated No. 120 William-street, between Fulton and John, and is now used as a shop. Its original length was sixty feet; but it is now not more than half that length,
+ Methodist Magazine, vol, vi, p. 386.
in the country than in the cities. These latter in all ages have been the pest houses of vice, and certain portions of their population, especially, it is almost impossible to reach by ordinary methods.
Soon after this, Messrs. Boardman and Pillmoor were recalled, and in 1773 Thomas Rankin and George Shadford were sent in their places. Mr. Rankin was endowed with certain disciplinary powers for the regulation of the societies by Mr. Wesley, as none others had possessed before him. Of this there was much need, for before this, discipline was almost wholly neglected, and many persons were connected with the societies who were not heartily attached to Methodism, of which things Mr. Asbury very much complains before this. These men were made a very great blessing to the people-Mr. Rankin, as a superintendent, in introducing discipline into the societies, and reducing confusion to order; and Mr. Shadford, in calling many sinners to repentance and in building up believers in their most holy faith. A divine blessing attended them wherever they went, and many were added to the Lord.
In 1775 Martin Rodda and James Dempster were sent over; but the success of these men was not as great as could have been desired. They soon returned to England.
So we see that Mr. Wesley's plan was to send two preachers every two years, which continued till eight were sent, and then the war prevented more. These preachers, turning south from New-York, with immense rapidity spread themselves through New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, forming societies in all these states, each of which was a centre from which they continually diverged in every direction, in almost every place finding a people made ready of the Lord. Indeed, it could hardly have been supposed that so few men could have accomplished so much in so short a time, in the face of many obstacles, and on a self-supporting missionary plan. But their zeal and spirit of self-sacrifice was great, and so was their success; for God was with them.
In 1773 the first conference was held in Philadelphia. There were now 10 preachers and 1,160 members in the societies. At this time American preachers were raised up and called into the work. Among these the names of William Watters, Philip Gatch, William Duke, Daniel Ruff, Edward Drumgoole, and others, appear first; so that in 1774 there were 17 preachers and 2,073 members in society, "so mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed." It literally "ran, had free course, and was glorified," and "not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the Lord."
But in 1775 those combustible materials which had been collecting and preparing for ten years, since the "stamp act" of 1765, now exploded. The nation awoke to arms, and the war began. As the leading preachers were Englishmen, and avowedly attached to the interests of the mother country, they all left the country before the close of 1778, except Mr. Asbury, who, being ardently attached to the infant societies, now deserted by their chief shepherds, resolved to remain with them through those troublous times. And happily was it for the cause, under God, that he did; for it now devolved upon him to superintend the societies, and give direction to the movements of the young and inexperienced preachers who had been raised up on this continent, and to whom this glorious work, now surrounded with dangers, was committed.
We should naturally have supposed that at this juncture, when the nation was involved in a war with the mother country, when Mr. Wesley was known to be a stanch tory, and hostile to the interests of the colonies; when the English preachers had all left the work, except Mr. Asbury, and the American preachers were young and inexperienced, Methodism, then in the weakness of infancy, would have been prostrated. But not so. God seeth not as man seeth. He had before built the church upon a rock, and had declared that "the gates of hell should not prevail against it." And it is worthy of remark, that war, which is generally so very destructive to the interests of religion, was not so upon this occasion. The tree of life grew and flourished in the midst of the storm, and thousands ate of its fruit, and drank of the stream of life which flowed by its side, and live for ever.
It was in the years 1775 and 1776, in the beginning of the war, that one of the most glorious revivals of religion that this country ever saw in any period of its history, was promoted by the joint labors of the Methodists and the Rev. David Garratt, of Bath, Dinwiddie county, Va., and who was the only clergyman of the Church of England who heartily co-operated with the preachers in their work, although there were several others who were friendly to them. This man God highly honored in the conversion of a great multitude of souls; and as "those who turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever," David Garratt may be known in heaven by the superior brightness of his crown. Bishop Asbury has been careful to preserve a very particular account of this great work, which may be seen in his Journals, vol. i, pp. 157– 175. The history of this revival shows how much might have been done if the colonial clergy had all followed the example of Mr. Garratt, which would have saved the church, in Virginia especially, from that desolation which afterward came upon her. But, alas! the most of them were even worse than those in England.
At this time, owing to the laws of most of the states, which required an oath that the consciences of the preachers would not permit them to take, and the persecutions of the multitude, who were exceedingly mad against all tories and Methodists, who, in their estimation, were identical, the preachers suffered much; and as for Mr. Asbury, who was an Englishman, he was obliged to confine his labours to the state of Delaware alone, the laws of which were more liberal in their character. During this period he found an asylum in the house of Judge White, an ardent friend of the cause of God, and whose influence and protection, under God, contributed in no small degree to the establishment of Methodism in that state.
Lee, in his History of Methodism, intimates that Mr. Asbury was quite inactive during this time, and this has been the general impression respecting this matter; but Mr. Asbury's journals of those times give quite another view of his labors, and finally, in 1810, after the publication of the above work, the bishop thus speaks of it:
"I have seen Lee's History for the first time. It is better than I expected. He has not always presented Methodism under the most favorable aspect. But we are all liable to mistakes; and I am unmoved by his. I will correct him in one fact. My compelled seclusion in the state of Delaware, in the beginning of the war, was in nowise a season of inactivity. On the contrary, except about two
months of retirement, from the direst necessity, it was the most active, the most useful, and the most afflictive part of my life. If I spent a few dumb Sabbaths; if I did not, for a short time, steal after dark, or through the gloom of the woods, as I was wont, from house to house, to enforce that truth I (an only child) had left father and mother, and crossed the ocean to proclaim, I shall not be blamed, I hope, when it is known that my patron, good and respectable Thomas White, who promised me security and secrecy, was himself taken into custody by the light-horse patrol. If such things happened to him, what might I, a fugitive and an Englishman, expect? In those very years we added eighteen hundred members to the societies, and laid a broad and deep foundation for the wonderful success Methodism has met with in that quarter. The children and the children's children of those who witnessed my labors and my sufferings in that day of peril and affliction, now rise up by hundreds to call me blessed."
But while Mr. Asbury thus confined his labors to Delaware, where the Methodists were protected by both the laws and the magistracy, the American preachers, among whom Freeborn Garrettson shone most conspicuously, carried on the work in other parts of the country, particularly in Virginia, with great success-passing through the land as flames of fire, diffusing the light of life and the warmth of love upon all around them. Their zeal and courage seemed to rise in proportion to the troubles and dangers by which they were surrounded. The Rev. Freeborn Garrettson, nearly fifty years after, thus speaks of these times :
"Political troubles were very great. The Methodists were a small and despised people, and the wicked, for a pretext for their own base conduct, falsely branded them with the name of tories. John Cooper was sick, and unable to preach; Littlejohn, under persecution, returned to Virginia; and the court prohibited Hartley from preaching. However, he went about and prayed with the people, and some of them said he preached on his knees.* I was advised to retire, which I did for two days; but I was pressed in spirit, and came out determined, whether for life or death, to go forth in the name of the Lord. I formed a circuit, to comprehend, as nearly as possible, the whole work; and though buffeted and abused, the Lord was with me.
"My field of labor for more than two years was in the peninsula, a tract of land lying between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, including the state of Delaware, eight counties of Maryland, and two of Virginia-a fertile, rich, and thickly inhabited country, immersed in luxury and pride, and supported by the toil of slavery. For a while I was very much alone; but I was young, inured to hardship, and able to travel from twenty to forty miles, and to preach from one to four sermons a day. I never expect to be in such a field of labor again, though I would gladly go many thousand miles to get into one like it; for sinners were crying for mercy on every hand, and large societies were formed.
"I was pursued by the wicked, knocked down and left almost dead on the highway, my face scarred and bleeding. This was humi
Lee states that this was actually the fact. His words are, "He would attend his appointments, and after singing and prayer, he would stand on his knees and exhort the people, till his enemies said they were as willing he should preach on his feet as on his knees."-History, p. 65.
liating to me, but it was loud preaching to the people. I did not court persecution; but I gloried in the cross of Christ. Toward the latter end of this year we began to have considerable assistance. Brother Asbury (whom I sometimes visited in his retirement) preached in the neighborhood to which he was confined, and the Lord thrust out several laborers into his vineyard, among whom was Philip Cox, a zealous and useful preacher. Brother Hartley had his bands loosed, and the Lord was with him. Soon after, his enemies caught him again, and cast him into Talbot jail, but did not confine him long; for they feared, if he continued in prison, he would convert the whole town and country, so amazingly did the people crowd around his prison; and even the magistrate who committed him, when he was taken very ill, sent for Mr. Hartley from the prison to pray for him, and some time before he died gave him a charge concerning his family, and requested his wife and children to embrace Methodism; 'for,' said he, 'they are in the right way: and even when I put Mr. Hartley in jail my conscience told me I was doing wrong.'
"A little after this, they imprisoned me in Cambridge; but after detaining me about sixteen days, they willingly released me, for I suppose my imprisonment was the means of my doing more good in those few days than I otherwise should have done in treble the time. The whole country seemed ripe for the harvest. The people flocked from every quarter to hear the word. Good brother Pedicord came from the western shore to help us in Dorchester, and was met on the road by a Mr. one of my adversaries, who, when he discovered him to be a Methodist preacher, beat him till the blood ran down his face. He went to the house of a friend, and while they were washing his stripes the brother of the persecutor rode up, and understanding the preacher had been wounded by his brother, he said, 'I will go after him and chastise him.' So saying he galloped away, and overtook and beat him until he promised never to meddle with another Methodist preacher.
'My manner was, when the circuits could be supplied, to go out and form new ones; and amid the clash of arms God, in a glorious manner, prospered his work in the awakening and conversion of thousands of souls, so that in process of time the peninsula became comparatively as the garden of Eden, and the Lord thrust out many faithful, zealous, and useful young men. There was also a blessed work among the African slaves, and in no part of my labors have I had more precious seasons than in preaching to them."*
But notwithstanding the general prosperity of the work during the war, yet in some particular instances it suffered greatly in some parts of Virginia, which was the principal scene of the war in the south. These cases are thus mentioned by Lee :
"There was a decrease in the members in several circuits to the north, principally owing to the spreading of the wars in those parts, where the preachers found great difficulty in keeping their stations, and some were forced to be given up, so that some of the classes were entirely abandoned.
"It might be well said during this year that 'without were fightings, and within were fears.' War and the shedding of blood were heard in all directions. Armies were marching back and forth one * Semi-centennial Sermon.