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ORIGIN OF METHODISM IN AMERICA.
llow little we know of the ultimate results of our en deavors! In crossing the Atlantic, to trace the history of Methodism in the new world, we are first of all met with the interesting fact that the handful of seed scattered in Ireland by Mr. Wesley and his helpers germinated a Christian family in America, that, in little more than half a century, was unequalled in numbers and moral influence by any other in the catalogue of evangelical denominations.
The first Methodist society in this country was organized in the city of New York, in the year 1766. posed of emigrants from Ireland, who had been converted at home and joined the Wesleyans. Coming among strangers, when vital piety was at a low ebb, and sinful pleasure the idol of all classes of the community, they turned away from the simplicity of the cross, drank into the spirit of the world, and commenced to run after its vanities. But another family arrived, in which there was a “mother in Israel," whose heart was grieved at the recreancy of her fellow pilgrims. Learning at a time that they were engaged in vain amusements, and feeling that their course demanded a rebuke, trusting in their respect for her age, and in God for the success of the measure, she rushed into the room whore they were assembled, seized the cards with which they were playing, and threw them into the fire. She new exhorted
ther to desist from their backsliding, and return unto the Lord. To Mr. Philip Embury, one of the party, but for. merly a preacher, she said, “ And you must preach to us, or we shall all go to hell together, and God will require our blood at your hands !” When he objected that he had neither house nor congregation, she replied, in the true spirit of Christian enterprise, “ Preach in your own house first, and to our own company.” The duty was too obvious and important to be resisted, and he yielded to importunity and preached the first Methodist sermon ever delivered in the country, “ in his own hired house," and to a congregation of five persons.
This opened the way for other meetings, in which the little band exhorted each other to faith and good works, and revealed to the few who condescended to notice them the spirit of vital religion. However, they did not attract much attention, or attain any great achievements, though they gradually increased, and found it necessary to obtain a larger room. Here they assembled regularly, and Mr. Embury led their devotions. But not being a man of much talent, and having to follow his secular calling for a livelihood, he did not make a great impression. Something a little startling was necessary to call the people out. And this, Divine Providence was about to introduce.
In the year 1765 an officer in the English army was awakened and converted under the ministry of Mr. Wesley, at Bristol. Such was the grace of God in him that he felt constrained to declare what the Lord had done for his soul, and to warn his fellow soldiers to flee from the wrath 0
About this time he was constituted barrack-master at Albany, New York. Hearing, on his arrival, of the little Bociety in the city, he soon appeared in the midst of them, in his official costume, and awakened no little interest. A
converted soldier was a novelty, but not quite so great as a minister of Christ preaching the gospel in regimentals. But Capt. Webb had other charms; he spake the word withi power and with the Holy Ghost.
Thus the new room was soon overflowed, and the society was obliged to seek other accommodations. This led to the hiring of a rigging-loft in Williams street, which, however, did not answer the purpose long. There was too much of novelty, and too much evidence that God was in the movement, to allow the matter to pass unnoticed! The people would come to hear for themselves, though the established ministry.warned them against it; and many became alarmed about their souls, turned to the Lord and joined the society, so that the loft became too strait for them. This suggested a meeting-house, which, after much prayer, planning and begging, resulted in the erection of the old John Street Church, the modest picture of which so often appears in our books and papers. This was the first Methodist meeting. house in America, and it was dedicated to God Oct. 30, 1768, about thirty years after the birth of Methodism in England, and two years after its appearance in this country. The services were performed by Mr. Embury.
This interesting event was too good to conceal ; and as one supply usually creates another necessity, so it did in this case.
Mr. Wesley would rejoice to hear of what was doing, and another preacher was necessary to occupy the new house. Mr. Wesley was, therefore, addressed upon the subject, and immediately acquiesced in the wishes of the society so far as to send them fifty pounds sterling toward their debt, and two missionaries, Richard Boardman and Joseph Pillmore. They arrived in Philadelphia, Oct. 24, 1769, when Mr. Boardman repaired immediately to New
York, and commenced his labors in the city and the sur Counding country.
But while the society was reaching this advanced point, there were influences at work in other parts. Capt. Webb nad been reconnoitering Long Island, and other places, even as far as Philadelphia, and had succeeded in laying the foundation of a good work. In the meantime, Robert Strawbridge, another local preacher from Ireland, arrived in Maryland, and commenced preaching in his own house, and other places, in “ demonstration of the Spirit,” raised up a society, and built a log church. Mr. Pillmore entered at once into the labors of the former, finding about one hun dred in society at Philadelphia, and visited and strengthened the latter in the work that filled his heart. He also went into Virginia and North Carolina.
The ministry was soon strengthened by the arrival of Messrs. Robert Williams and John King, local preachers from England. October, 1771, Messrs. Francis Asbury and Richard Wright arrived, as missionaries sent out by Mr. Wesley. They found about six hundred members in society, and entered into the harvest in good cheer, and with a single eye. Mr. Asbury labored in New York and its vicinity during the winter, and displayed itinerant enterprise by penetrating all parts of the country. In the summer of 1773 two other missionaries arrived, Messrs. Thomas Rankin and George Shadford. The former, having travelled considerable longer than Mr. Asbury, was made general Assistant, or Superintendent, in his place.
Up to this period no regular Conference had been holden, and little conventional business had been done. The preachers were scattered about in different States, and were appropriating their labors as circumstances seemed to require. But now, Mr. Rankin, having received authority from Mr. Wesley, summoned a Conference of the preacher 8 in Philadelphia, to commence on the fourth of July. Her ? it was agreed that Mr. Wesley ought to exercise the same u authority over the preachers and societies in this country he did in England, and that the doctrine and discipline contained in the Minutes should be the rule of their action. It was further agreed that the ministers should not administer the ordinances, and the people should be encouraged to receive them at the Episcopal Church. The societies embraced ten itinerant preachers and eleven hundred anit sixty members. The appointments of the preachers made at this Conference may be of some interest. They were as follows:
New York Thomas Rankin. To change in four
Baltimore - Francis Asbury, Robert Strawbridge, Abraham Whitworth, Joseph Yearbry.
William Waters was the first native that joined the itinerancy, and he continued in it till he entered into his Master's joy.
From this period to the Conference of 1784, when the society was organized into a separate and distinct church, it was subjected to various conflicts, which at times threatened its existence. One class of these arose from the revolution ary struggle, which commenced in 1776 and continued to 1783. War, in any circumstances, is disastrcus to religion and virtue in the community at large. Where armies are marching and counter-marching through the country, and