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(title page) A Plain Account of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America. Being an Outline of Her History and Polity; Also, Her Prospective Work.
F. M. Hamilton
Southern Methodist Publishing House
Call number BY5528 H217p (Methodist Center, Drew University, Madison, NJ)
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CONGRATULATORY LINES by Prof. Solomon G. Brown,
With an INTRODUCTION
By Right Rev. L. H. HOLSEY, one of the Bishops of the
C. M. E. Church.
ALSO CONTAINING A PAPER ON
"METHODISM IN ITS INFANCY,"
By R. T. Moss, Esq. Read before the Centennial Meeting at Israel C.
M. E. Church, Washington, D. C.
MEN AND WOMEN
Colored M. E. Church in America,
WHO ARE LABORING, BY THE HELP
OF GOD, TO CARRY THIS,
THE CHURCH OF
ON TO A GLORIOUS CONQUEST, AND
GATHER IN SOULS FOR THE
KINGDOM OF GOD,
THE AUTHOR HAS THE HONORED
Dedicating This Volume.
GREAT God, be thou our help,
Our cause defend;
O let us in all things
On thee depend!
Bring around us more friends;
Lovers of thy cause send;
Thy Spirit be our guide
Unto the end.
FOR some time I have thought of the propriety of writing this little volume, in order to diffuse certain information among the members and friends of our Church, and others, who have a desire to know something concerning the Church.
It is evident that many things have been said and done to place the C. M. E. Church in a "false light" before the religious world. It is expedient, therefore, that some one step forward and speak in defense of her cause, her good name, and her divine objects.
This is a progressive age. All things seem to be on an onward march. New developments are being made daily. There is much information to be gained from all sources. Ample fields are spread before us, in which we can labor and learn much to our own benefit, as well as for future generations.
Persons wishing to become members of any organization should, in the first place, know its name, and, as far as practicable, acquaint themselves with the benefits to be derived therefrom, learn of its requirements, decide as to whether or not it will suit their ideas. Having done this, they can then decide whether or not they will conform to such regulations. With such information, they can be fully prepared to exercise a proper judgment in their choice.
In this little volume I have tried to be as plain as possible, and to so arrange every thing as to make it easily understood by all. I desired to have a brief sketch of all the Annual Conferences; but, failing to receive the information desired, I was (to my regret) compelled to omit some of them, and leave off the statistics altogether.
The paper prepared by Brother R. T. Moss cannot fail to give general satisfaction to all who read it.
I respectfully submit this little volume to the kindly consideration of all in whose reach it may come, hoping they will read and carefully consult the truths herein contained.
Your humble servant,
F. M. HAMILTON.Jackson, Tenn.
BY SOLOMON G. BROWN.
A NEW-BORN child in the Methodist family
Came into being a few years ago;
She lived and grew in the same old polity,
Behaving precisely as Methodists do;
Adopts as her method the same style of preaching.
She is Episcopal, but ordains no priest.
The Methodist rule is the ground of her teaching;
Her communion is open, and love at her feasts.
Holds weekly class-meetings, exhorting each other,
Relate their experience, their crosses, and fears;
Know all their members as sisters and brothers,
The same as her mother, for one hundred years.
Her quarterly board is leaders and preachers,
Trustees and stewards, to attend her affairs;
Provides Sabbath-schools, and provides them with teachers,
Prints her own books, without written prayers.
Was born in the South; there starts on her mission
Now spreading her borders away to the North,
She is watched by her sisters with curious suspicion,
They treat her unkindly, and stand her far off.
She sends forth God's servants to publish salvation,
Point sinners to Christ, and show them the way;
Planting her churches, her missions, and stations,
Point children to Jesus, and teach them to pray.
Four Christian Bishops preside o'er her meetings;
A large number of preachers are traveling abroad.
Her members are loyal--hold brotherly greetings,
Trusting in Jesus, and serving the Lord.
We hail with pleasure this Methodist daughter,
Now a young sister, seventeen years old.
Through many rough scenes the Master has brought her;
She still continues her mission--saving man's soul.
Washington, D. C.
NOTHING shows more clearly and decisively the vigor and moral power of Methodism than its frequent rich and profound production in religious literature. Mr. Wesley himself was a most industrious worker, and a most voluminous writer on those subjects which tended to promote the religious, moral, and social interests of men; and in this respect his spiritual progeny has largely followed him in every branch of the Methodist Church.
The various ramifications into which Methodism is divided are like so many limbs of a great branching tree, composed of many parts, but all drawing sap, vigor, and sustenance from the original trunk. Every branch, leaf, and bud bears the likeness, vigor, and fragrance of the parent.
In every land, language, nation, and people where the Methodists have proclaimed the "gospel of grace," they show from whence they are and what their aims and objects.
Divisions upon the subject of Church polity have never affected the germ and inherent spiritual life of any of the branches. They all "continue to hold fast the form of sound words." Upon all those great subjects that have agitated and moved the public heart "as the trees of the wood," and that have entered the
moral and religious arena, there has been a singular, if not a peculiar blending of feeling, thought, and co-operative action, as if the Universal Spirit had stirred and inspired the whole moral mass, and assimilated every sentiment and impulse of the heart to meet the exigencies of the day and face the angry storm of a frowning world. Methodists are Methodists wherever there are any Methodists. True, some bear the name, but disown the life of holiness and purity of character that should distinguish them as Methodists; of these we do not speak.
Whatever effect, therefore, is produced upon one people or race by the preaching of the "gospel of free grace," the same or similar effects will follow in the other case. Men are alike in many things, and continually man is man. The same moral disease has touched, corrupted, and contaminated all hearts, and in every case the same remedy must be applied; otherwise there can be no healing, no process of spiritual renovation, and no moral cleansing.
The man of African descent has not only entered the ranks of the Methodists, but is beginning to act and think for himself. When the archives of heaven shall be opened, and the record of the ages read, then it shall be seen that the man of African blood has written his name upon time's ample scroll, and has learned to tell with pen and ink the story of the cross and the historical facts of his day. It is true he is in a transition state--going "out of Egypt" into the promised land--but he is nevertheless being developed in interest, moral suasion, and experience; and a desire
to save others, all, nerves him for the conflict of life and the glory of the cross of Christ.
Church organizations are in his hands; schools and institutions of learning are being controlled by him; and being clothed with all the rights of citizenship brings to him most weighty responsibilities. Whether he will prove true to the trust, or false to God and to himself and to progeny, must yet be seen. That he has the capacity, when properly developed (and that is being done), is a fact not to be ignored. That he will adhere to the truths of Christianity and purity of social life may not be doubted.
This volume is a manual history and an account of the latest organization of the Methodist Church, and an organization that seems destined to play a valuable part in the uplifting and evangelization of the Africo-Americans. Its mission in the world is recognized, and its power and influence for good is being felt. Its origin is peculiar, in that it was ordained to be set apart by its mother, the M. E. Church, South. Its history is necessarily short; but it is a history nevertheless. Age does not make organizations better, and youth does not invalidate them. In either case they may be good or bad. This little history or account is an earnest one, and an indication of what is to follow.
It may be proper to state that this is the first attempt to write the history or give an account of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America. It is correct, though succinct in its parts. Its style is plain and instructive; and, until another is produced, the history of the Methodist Church cannot be complete without
it. It fills a gap of seventeen years of Methodist history that has long been needed, and supplies a link in the great chain of ecclesiastical history that must unite us to the great past and bind us to the unknown future. No student for the ministry, especially for the Methodist ministry, can finish his preparation for the pulpit without it. And, above all, the ministers and members of the Colored M. E. Church in America should have it, read it prayerfully, and inwardly digest the whole. Brother F. M. Hamilton, the author, deserves the thanks of the entire Church for the ceaseless and untiring energy and industry which he has exhibited in collecting material for its composition. We would appreciate more fully his labors if we knew how hard it has been for him to produce truthful and proper information in reference to the leading events, men, and the times and places and by whom the various Annual Conferences were organized. It is true that all the Annual Conferences have had their official journals from the beginning; but in a majority of instances these have been inaccessible, while many of them were not written very legibly.
We trust that a blessing may rest upon the author, upon the Church of which the book is an account and history, and upon all who read it.
L. H. HOLSEY.Augusta, Ga., April 25, 1887.
Preliminaries--Important Questions--Why Not Answer?--What Some Have Said--The Important Question (From Whence Came They?) Answered--General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, 1866-70--Communication from Colored Members--The Organization--Members Present--The Name of the Church Chosen--First Bishops Elected--Bishop Simpson's Great Mistake--A Correction--Summary--What Some Men Have Said.
METHODISM has long since arose to recognition among the denominations of the religious world. Her position among other religious bodies is very conspicuous.
Though once few in number, despised and forsaken by many; ridiculed, troubled on every side, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; she lives to-day, and has already been an instrument in God's hand of saving millions of precious souls. No one can examine the great work accomplished by and in the Methodist Church, without readily acknowledging
that among them God has wrought a good work. We can look back with pride to the days of Mr. Wesley and his coadjutors, and all along the line, down the declivities of the ages to the present day, and see that the Great Head of the Church has wrought a wonderful work among those of the Methodist faith.
Methodism has always been noted for its doctrine and polity, which at all times is adapted to the wants of those whose prime object is eternal life. This, undoubtedly, has had a great deal to do with her success and rapid growth. It is already an established fact that there are several branches of the Methodist family. Of the many members that compose this great family, many have accepted and cast their lot with that branch known as the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America and have resolved that
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my cares and toils be given
Till toils and cares shall end.
Would it not be well, therefore, to give a
brief account of this branch of God's Zion? There can be no doubt that there are many who are exceedingly anxious to learn more about the Colored M. E. Church.
Many have asked: From whence came they? What are they doing? Who are their Bishops? Will they ever accomplish any good? etc. In answer to the above queries they have been told that the Colored M. E. Church is a "Southern Methodist Church," a "democratic rebel concern," that they were only "trying to lead the colored people back into slavery," that they "had no Bishops," and "could never accomplish any good." It is true the above questions are all very important, and demand the careful consideration of all concerned or unconcerned. Anxious inquirers after truth must lay aside all prejudice and consult those things in which the precious jewel may be found, however distasteful the thing searched for may be. Why not let some one arise and answer these important queries just as they should be answered? Why not lift a blazing torch--truth--and let the light so shine that all
may see just who we are, where we came from, what we are doing, and what constitutes our highest aim? Why not answer all the questions asked concerning ourselves, and let it be known to the world that we expect to do, and are doing something in the great work of ameliorating the condition of mankind, religiously, morally, intellectually? Why not let them know that we are not a set of "ignoramuses," as some have called us? Why not let it be known that the Colored M. E. Church is something more than "a shadow without substance," as a good brother (?) in Richmond, Va., said it was in 1884. We cannot see the harm it will do to give an outline of the organization, growth, and other things of importance connected with the Colored M. E. Church. It has often been said by many (who were unacquainted with the Church, or for other purpose), "They are seceders," a "democratic" and "rebel concern." "Their aim is to lead the colored people back into slavery." "They can never accomplish any good." In short, almost every thing has been said and done (seemingly) to impede
the progress and, if possible, destroy the Church. But, thank God, we still "live and move and have our being," and are destined to live on and on till we become a "mighty power for good" in this world. It is very necessary that every member and friend make themselves more acquainted with every department of the Colored M. E. Church. It is right just here to give an account of the organization of the Colored M. E. Church. To this we invite the careful consideration of all anxious inquirers after truth. We will try and answer the important question, "From whence came they?"
When Methodism was first introduced into this country the Society was quite small indeed. Philip Embury, the name of a humble local preacher, is held in honored remembrance as the "father of American Methodism." In the autumn of 1766, at the urgent request of Barbara Heck, he began the great work of preaching the gospel. His first congregation consisted of only five persons. These constituted the first congregation of Methodists in this country.
It was here he organized the first class-meeting. This small congregation grew rapidly in numbers and interest, till there were a sufficient number to necessitate the erection of a chapel. This chapel was erected on John Street, in the city of New York, and the first sermon was preached in it October 30, 1768, by Philip Embury. Congregations were formed in other places, and they continued to grow until a Conference was organized.
At first the Methodists in this country were known as the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. It seems that some time after a change took place, and it was known as the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States. The Church continued to grow in numbers, both white and colored being added thereto.
There arose a very serious trouble, which caused considerable agitation. Mr. Wesley, the founder of Methodism, "took a bold stand against the evils of slavery, and published a tract condemning it and its abettors. His followers, emigrating to this country or coming as missionaries, could
not treat such a practice (slavery) with any degree of moderation. Hence the first Conference denounced it vehemently, and declared it to be contrary to the laws of God, man, and nature; contrary to the dictates of conscience and pure religion, and "doing that which we would not that others should do to us."
Here the controversy began, and continued until it finally led to the division of the Church, which took place in 1844. This division was regarded as "legal and constitutional." Whether this division was legal and constitutional it is not for us to discuss here. Prior to this division there had already been two secessions from the M. E. Church. Both were colored--the A. M. E. and the A. M. E. Zion Churches.
The A. M. E. Church, or its organizers, seceded from the M. E. Church, as they say, on account of "unkind treatment by their white brethren." They accuse them of "pulling the colored members from off their knees while at prayer," and "compelling them to take the back seats, and insisting upon their going to the gallery." Such
things, even in that day, were intolerant; but it was practiced all along the declivity of years, months, and days, until better things were brought forward. Yet this was not the prime cause of the organization of the Colored M. E. Church.
The division of 1844 is the most noted in the history of American Methodism, on account of its being accomplished under such peculiar circumstances, and upon a question that not only agitated the Church, but the States also. It must be remembered that prior to this great separation there were a number of colored members who still remained with the M. E. Church--some from choice, others from compulsion.*
After the division of 1844 the colored members in the South had no choice as to what they would do, or where they would place their membership. There were only two things to be done. If they desired to remain members of the Methodist family, they must remain in the same Church with
the whites, and consequently endure whatever treatment they may see fit to give--whether it be to take the "back seats," sit "in the gallery," to be "pulled off their knees while at prayer," or any thing else. They must submit to this, or forfeit their claims as Methodists, and join some other denomination, only to receive the same treatment.
They had not the privilege to go to themselves and organize a "separate" and "distinct" body of Methodists, or any thing else. If they seceded from the Church secession would have been all. Hence, the colored members of the South unavoidably formed a part of that division known as the M. E. Church, South.
Some people, viewing the Colored M. E. Church from the above stand-point, have attempted to ostracise her and regard her as being a stigma upon the Methodist family. Many of her members have been looked upon with contempt because they were once slaves. Why should this be so? Is it a disgrace to have once been a slave when you could be nothing else? While some
look upon this union with contempt, we cannot see where it has proven to be a stigma upon the colored people. But we can see where good has resulted therefrom, which will be seen in this volume before we close.
This relation was sustained until the organization of the Colored M. E. Church. When we take into consideration the condition of affairs at that time and since, and the very peculiar circumstances and disadvantages in which the colored members would have been placed if set apart to themselves, we can but say it was well they did remain with the M. E. Church, South. Why not? They had not one foot of land they could claim as their own; not a house; they were unable to attend to their own "affairs;" yea, more than this, they had not so much as the privilege of going to church, or anywhere else, without the consent of their "masters."
Again, it was during the time when a great battle, both social and political, as well as ecclesiastical, was in operation. This was destroying the peace and prosperity
of both Church and State, and in many instances disturbing the happiness and comfort of families, the effects of which are seen and felt to-day. Hence, the retention of the colored members, under such circumstances, with the M. E. Church, South, was more of a blessing than a curse, and thousands have been benefited thereby.
God has various ways of accomplishing his designs. The future only can reveal the results of such a relation, let them be good or bad. The question may arise: If it was such a blessing at that time, if it was so desirable then, and the plan worked so well, why was there a separation? why were the colored members organized into a separate and distinct body?
We answer in this way: What would prove to be a good and safe plan at one time may prove to be a very bad and dangerous one at another. When a man is bound hand and foot his best policy is to remain still, or he may fall and injure himself. But when he is loose and from under restraint he can go where he pleases, do as
he pleases, and stay as long as he pleases. What is the use of making an attempt at "kicking" when both feet are in stocks? Better remain still until your chains are taken off. Abraham and Lot once lived together, but after awhile they found it better to separate, using these words, "Let there be no strife between me and thee." When Paul went on his first missionary tour Mark accompanied him; but when he started the second time he was unwilling to have Mark go--hence himself and Barnabas separated. This separation resulted in general good to both Jew and Gentile.
God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
While at one time it was well, a good plan, to remain in the M. E. Church, South, it did not signify that such would always be the case. Hence by the change of things it was made necessary that a separation take place in the M. E. Church, South, and a new organization set up. There are some persons who seem to labor under the mistaken idea that the Colored M. E. Church "seceded" from the M. E. Church, South,
on account of the "ill treatment" they received from their "white brethren;" that they exercised such a "tyrannical spirit" over their "brother in black," or became "tired of him and thrust him out from among them." Of course people will have their thoughts--it is their right--so we must not interfere. But, whatever the opinion of men may be, we believe that the separation was a God-directed plan, and that by the act hundreds of colored people have been reached and blessed who otherwise would have been still in darkness and yet on their road to ruin. The circumstances which led to the separation of the M. E. Church, South, and the organization of the Colored M. E. Church, can be seen in the following pages.
We have mentioned the great controversy which agitated the Church and State for many years. At the close of the late war, and after Abraham Lincoln had issued the emancipation proclamation, and thereby abolished slavery, as we trust, forever in this country, the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, met in New Orleans,
La., April, 1866. This Conference found that by revolution and the fortunes of war a change had taken place in their political and social relations, which made it necessary, also, that a change be made in their ecclesiastical relations. At this same Conference provisions were made for the organization of the colored members into separate congregations, District and Annual Conferences, if they desired it. They also agreed that when two or more Annual Conferences were formed, if it was the wish of the colored members, and met the approval of the Bishops of the M. E. Church, South, they should have a General Conference organization like that of the M. E. Church, South; and that their preachers should receive ordination according to the requirements and regulations of the M. E. Church, South, as deacons and elders; and, should a General Conference be organized, and suitable men elected to the office of Bishop, that the Bishops of the M. E. Church, South, should ordain and set them apart as chief pastors among them. It was also determined that, should the time arrive
when the colored members should be formed into a separate and distinct organization, all the property which was intended for the use of colored members, held by the trustees of the M. E. Church, South, should be transferred to the trustees appointed by the new organization, to be held forever by them and their successors in office for their use and benefit. To make the above plainer, it will be remembered that during the General Conference above mentioned the question was asked: "What shall be done to promote the religious interests of the colored people?" The following is the answer as reported from the Committee on Religious Interests of Colored People.
1. Let our colored members be organized as separate pastoral charges, wherever they prefer it and their members may justify it.
2. Let each pastoral charge of colored members have its own Quarterly Conference, composed of official members, as provided for in the Discipline.
3. Let colored persons be licensed to preach, and ordained deacons and elders according to the Discipline, when, in the judgment of the Conference having jurisdiction in the case, they are deemed suitable persons for said office and order in the ministry.
4. The Bishop may form a district of colored charges and appoint to it a colored presiding elder, when in his judgment the religious interests of the colored members require it.
5. When it is judged advisable by the College of Bishops, Annual Conferences of colored preachers may be organized, to be presided over by our Bishops.
6. When two or more Annual Conferences shall be formed, let our Bishops advise and assist them in organizing a separate General Conference jurisdiction for themselves if they so desire, and the Bishops deem it expedient, in accordance with the doctrine and Discipline of our Church, and bearing the same relation to the General Conference as the Annual Conferences bear to each other.
7. Let special attention be given to Sunday-schools among the colored people.
The above chapter is recommended by the Committee on the Religious Interests of the Colored People to the General Conference for its adoption.
J. E. EVANS, ChairmanApril 13, 1866.
From the above it will be seen that in answer to that question, the Bishops of the M. E. Church, South, were authorized to advise and assist the colored members in organizing a General Conference jurisdiction for themselves if they desired it, and the Bishops deemed it expedient, in accordance
with the doctrines and Discipline of the M. E. Church, South. In May, 1870, when the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, met in Memphis, Tenn., it was found that among the colored members five Annual Conferences had been formed, and that it was their unanimous wish to be set apart and organized into a separate and distinct body. This was acquiesced in by the Bishops of the M. E. Church, South, and recommended to said General Conference in their address, whereupon a committee was appointed on the religious interests of colored people. Said committee brought in the following report, which was adopted:
The Committee on the Religious Interests of Colored People beg leave to submit their report.
We have had under consideration that part of the Bishops' address and all other papers referred to your committee, and, after mature deliberation, we submit the following resolutions for the adoption of Conferences:
1. Resolved, That the action of the last General Conference in reference to an ultimate organization of the colored people of the M. E. Church, South, into a separate Church is complete, and therefore no additional legislation is necessary to the end intended.
2. That we fully approve the purpose of the Bishops, as expressed in their address to this Conference, at an early day to call a General Conference for our colored members, to organize them into a separate Church, as provided in the Discipline.
3. That we respectfully suggest to the Bishops to take measures to organize other Annual Conferences whenever it may be proper to do so, that they may be represented in the contemplated General Conference, provided the time for holding the said General Conference shall not be delayed thereby.
4. That we appreciate the services rendered in this cause by Brother Thomas Taylor, and we do hereby commend him to the Bishops should his services be needed in the further prosecution and consummation of this organization.
5. That all trustees now holding Church property for the use of our colored membership be instructed to make titles to said property to the properly constituted trustees of the Colored M. E. Church, according to the Discipline of said Church when organized.
Whereas applications have been made by certain parties for the transfer of the title to property belonging to the M. E. Church, South, to congregations who have withdrawn from our Communion; and,
Whereas we regard the property conveyed to our trustees, for the use of the colored congregations of our Church, a sacred trust to be held for them; therefore,
6. Resolved, That it is the settled conviction of this body that the M. E. Church, South, has neither the legal
nor moral right to transfer any property thus held to those who have withdrawn from our Church.
7. That the disinterested service rendered our colored people in a time of need by Rev. Samuel Watson, in the publication of the Christian Index, deserves and receives the warmest commendation of this Conference, and we do hereby recommend that paper to our colored members as worthy of their patronage.
8. That we commend the Colored M. E. Church, when formed, to the warmest sympathies, earnest prayers, and support of the people of the South.
J. E. EVANS, Chairman.
After the adoption of the above it was no longer a doubt as to the speedy organization of the colored members into a separate and distinct body. The following memorial from a number of the colored ministers was presented to this Conference by Rev. J. E. Evans:
To the Bishops and General Conference now Assembled.
We would respectfully solicit your honorable body to appoint a delegation--say five--to meet the call of the Bishops on the 15th day of December, 1870, at Jackson, Tenn., to confer with our delegates in organizing our contemplated Colored General Conference. If you approve our request we would sincerely ask that you appoint the Rev. J. E. Evans, of Georgia; the Rev. Dr. S. Watson, of Tennessee; the Rev. Dr. Sehon,
of Kentucky; the Hon. Thomas Whitehead, of Virginia, and one other lay member as said delegation.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
T. N. STEWART,
B. S. NEWTON,
J. F. THOMAS,
J. CLOPTON, and others.
Accordingly, a committee, consisting of the Bishops and other members of the said Conference, was appointed to assist in the organization of the contemplated Colored M. E. Church.
This arrangement having been perfected, Rev. J. E. Evans presented the following memorial from the Colored Georgia Conference of the M. E. Church, South:
To the Bishops and Members of the General Conference in Conference Assembled.
Dear Fathers and Brethren: The undersigned, as representatives of the Georgia Annual Conference of the M. E. Church, South, for the colored people, take this method to express our high appreciation of the interest you have manifested in our race; and also our entire approval of the plan adopted by the General Conference of 1866, and perfected by this, to organize the colored members of the M. E. Church, South, into a separate Church at an early day.
The provision made to transfer the property held
for our use to trustees that may be appointed by the Colored Church, when formed, is without a parallel for magnanimity and confidence; and we pledge that, so far as in us lies, the confidence and trust reposed shall never be betrayed, but the property shall be held sacred to the use intended.
While we thus express ourselves to the Bishops and Conference as a whole, allow us, as Georgians, especially to express our high sense of obligation to Bishop Pierce for the interest he has manifested in our cause, and for the services rendered in organizing and holding our Conferences for us, which have enshrined him in the hearts of our people.
And, in the same connection, we cannot forbear to mention the name of another Georgian--the Rev. J. E. Evans, who, as Chairman of the Committee of the General Conference of 1866, and also at the present Conference, has perfected the plan for organizing the Colored M. E. Church, South, and who, at home as well as here, is our fast friend and counselor.
Finally, though we be separated into two bands, that our common Christianity and Methodism may thereby be promoted, may the prayer of the Saviour be fulfilled in us, that we may be one, even as he and his Father are one. Respectfully yours in Christ Jesus,
R. H. VANDERHORST,
R. J. BROWN,
I. H. ANDERSON,
Presiding Elders Georgia Conference.
At the succeeding session of the five Annual
Conferences of the colored members, delegates were elected to attend the General Conference of the colored members, according to the Discipline of the M. E. Church, South, for the purpose of organizing the contemplated new Church.
On the 15th day of December, 1870, the delegates assembled in what was known as the "First Church," M. E. Church, South, Church Street, Jackson, Tenn., now known as Liberty Street Colored M. E. Church. This day was spent in prayer and supplication to Almighty God, that his blessings might rest upon the new body about to be organized.
On the next day (December 16) Bishop Robert Paine, D.D., of the M. E. Church, South, opened the Conference with divine services, after which he made some very appropriate remarks, setting forth the object of the meeting and the great work to be done.
The following are the names of some of the brethren who took part in the organization: From the M.E. Church, South--Bishops Robert Paine and H. N. McTyeire; A. L.
P. Green, Samuel Watson, Thomas Taylor, Edmund W. Sehon, Thomas Whitehead, and B. J. Morgan. From the Colored Conference--Richard Samuels, Solon Graham, Anderson Jackson, R. T. Thiergood, L. H. Holsey, I. H. Anderson, R. H. Vanderhorst, W. H. Miles, W. P. Churchill, Isaac Lane, John W. Lane, Job Crouch, F. Ambrose, and William Jones.
Rev. A. L. P. Green, by request of Bishop Paine, read the action of the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, respecting the organization of the colored members of that Church into a separate and distinct body.
At this Conference one of the first things in order was to obtain a name for the new organization. For this and other purposes a committee on organization was appointed. Said committee wisely considered the matter, and reported as follows:
Mr. Chairman: We, your committee from each Annual Conference represented in this body, do unanimously desire and respectfully request to be set apart, according to the agreement of the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South; and whereas the Methodist
Episcopal Church in America was the name first given to the Methodist Church on this continent by its founder, Mr. Wesley; and whereas we are a part of that same Church, never having seceded from her, but in the division of the Church by the General Conference in 1844 we regularly belonged to the South; and as we belong to the colored race, we simply prefix our color to the name; and as we are in fact a part of the original Church, and as old as any in America; therefore,
Resolved, That our name be the "Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America."
This report, it is believed, was unanimously adopted. This name seems to be very applicable, and we cannot see why any one should find fault with it. Surely there is nothing wrong in it; if so we fail to see it. We are colored, no matter where we are placed on the roll. Again, we are citizens of America. We were born and reared here; helped to fell the timber, till the soil, build cities and towns--in short, helped to do every thing that has made this country what it is. Hence no one should dare deny us the right of citizenship here. With ono stroke of the immortal Abraham Lincoln's pen we were made citizens of this country, with all the rights and privileges of any one
else. We are members of the great Methodist Episcopal family, having conformed to all the requirements for membership; and that we are colored no one will deny. Again, our citizenship is not in Africa, nor Europe, nor Asia, but in America. Wherever we go abroad we are recognized as Americans. With these facts in the premises, we can see no impropriety in being named the "Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America."
Another important matter in this Conference was that of electing suitable men to the Episcopal office. This was done by electing Rev. W. H. Miles on the first ballot; afterward Rev. R. H. Vanderhorst. These men were elected and consecrated as the first Bishops of the Colored M. E. Church in America. They were ordained by Bishops Robert Paine and H. N. McTyeire, of the M. E. Church, South.
Bishop Simpson, in his "Cyclopedia of Methodism," gives the following account of the Colored M. E. Church:
"The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America" is the title of an organization formed in 1874.
Prior to the civil war a large number of the colored people were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. Their statistics for 1860 report over 200,000 members. Nearly all of these were in slavery, and in many of the Southern States they were forbidden by law to hold meetings among themselves. At the close of the war, having been emancipated, and having acquired rights as citizens, they preferred to organize in separate societies and conduct their own services. Some of them united with the African M. E. Church, and others with the Zion Church; while some preferred a union with the M. E. Church, which established schools and services among them. The leading ministers of the Church, South, thought it was wiser for the colored people who remained with them to constitute separate Churches.
The General Conference of 1870 authorized the Bishops to organize Annual Conferences among the colored ministers, and in 1874 they authorized the Bishops, should a General Conference be constituted, to ordain Bishops elected by them. Accordingly, in December, 1874, a General Conference of colored ministers, representing the five Annual Conferences organized under the patronage of the Church, South, assembled at Nashville, and organized an independent Church, assuming the name of "The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America," and they elected two Bishops--Revs. W. H. Miles and R. H. Vanderhorst. Since that time three additional Bishops have been elected--viz., L. L. Holsey, J. J. Beebe, and Isaac Lane.
This Church harmonizes perfectly with the M. E. Church, South, in doctrine and discipline. They have purchased grounds for institutions of learning in Louisville and in Mississippi. They publish a paper in Louisville, called the Christian Index. Their Annual Minutes have not been published, so that their statistics in detail are not before the public. They report the aggregate of 17 Annual Conferences, 687 traveling preachers, 1,123 local preachers, 92,558 members, 30,769 Sunday-school scholars, with 827 churches, valued at $952,027.
In constituting them a separate Church the M. E. Church, South, gave to them their interest in all the churches occupied by the colored people. As some of these churches had attached themselves to other branches, litigation has occurred in several places.
The above is taken from the fourth revised edition of Bishop Matthew Simpson's "Cyclopedia of Methodism," published in 1881.
It is indeed strange that such grave mistakes as are contained in the above should be made at so late a date as 1881. To us, as a Church, as well as Methodism generally, it is very unfortunate that such information should be given to the public, and received by them as of authority. It undoubtedly places the Colored M. E. Church in a false light before the eyes of the
world, while at the same time it causes quite an error in the history of Methodism.
These mistakes should not be allowed to go unnoticed and without correction. Believing that it cannot be done in a better place, neither too early, we venture to correct the same, with all due respect to the author of the above-named volume, who is now resting with the saints in the bright and happy land, for we truly believe that the errors were unintentional. Before attempting to correct them, we will note the various errors:
1. He says the Colored M. E. Church was formed in 1874.
2. He says the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, 1870, authorized their Bishops to organize Annual Conferences among the colored ministers, and in 1874 authorized said Bishops, should a General Conference be constituted, to ordain Bishops elected by them.
3. He says in December, 1874, a General Conference of colored ministers, representing the five Annual Conferences, . . .
assembled in Nashville, and organized an independent Church.
4. Since that time three additional Bishops have been elected--viz., L. L. Holsey, J. J. Beebe, and Isaac Lane.
5. He says they report the aggregate of seventeen Annual Conferences.
1. As to his first mistake, it is sufficient to say that the Colored M. E. Church was organized in 1870.
2. (a) It was in 1866 that the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, authorized their Bishops to organize Annual Conferences among the colored ministers, and not 1870, as Bishop Simpson records. (b) It was in 1866, also, that said Bishops were authorized to ordain Bishops for the Colored M. E. Church, should a General Conference be constituted.
3. It was not in December, 1874, that the General Conference convened; neither did they assemble in Nashville to organize an independent Church. The time was December 15, 1870; place, Jackson, Tenn.
4. The three additional Bishops were
elected and ordained in March, 1873, at Augusta, Ga., one year earlier than he says the Church was organized; their names are L. H. Holsey, J. A. Beebe, and Isaac Lane.
5. The Connection did not report seventeen Annual Conferences until the meeting of the General Conferences in Washington, D. C., May, 1882, one year after the publication of his "Cyclopedia."
From the foregoing one can readily see how far mistaken Bishop Simpson was in his knowledge of the Colored M. E. Church. His information, however, has gone forth, and no doubt is accepted as being correct.
We trust that it can now be seen that the record of the organization of the Colored M. E. Church is clear; that there was a mutual agreement all along the line. Nothing was done without an understanding from both sides; and, the best of all, with an eye single to the glory of God, and the advancement of the cause of Christ among both races.
Notwithstanding many of our white brethren desired to see the colored people
make advancement in the work of religion, yet they could not reach the masses as could one of their own color. Circumstances, which are needless to mention here, prevented them from doing the good they so much desired. Consequently, by a separation each party could have a better opportunity to labor with and for their people. We think the separation a very wise act, but we don't think our white brethren were as careful as they should have been in seeing that the property belonging to us was properly placed into our hands. By failing in this we lost thousands of dollars worth of property.
It can be seen now clearly why, when, and where the Colored M. E. Church was organized into a separate and distinct body. It can be seen that she is a legally organized body; that she descended from the very father of Methodism regularly down the line without one broken link, or turning this or that way on account of trouble. She bore her burden, although the yoke was hard, until her deliverer came. Yes, her organization is both legal and constitutional.
Her aim is not, nor never was, to "lead the people back into" that cursed monster "slavery." She is not a "democratic and rebel concern;" but she had in the beginning, and still possesses, for her prime object the salvation of souls.
It can be seen also that the separation did not take place until after mature consideration, and it was thought that such steps would be the means of promoting the religious interests among the colored people. Let us, therefore, continue to pray that God's blessing may still rest upon us. Many of the faithful brethren who assisted in the organization of our Church have finished their work on earth and gone home to rest for evermore. Their names are fresh to many of us, and will always be cherished with fond remembrance. The good work begun by them is still going on, and must inevitably go on until our Zion do her part in evangelizing the world.
In writing of the Colored M. E. Church, Bishop Geo. F. Pierce said: "The Colored M. E. Church is composed largely of our
own members who adhered to us under very trying circumstances. The negroes generally had gone into other Methodist bodies managed by themselves. Our people very naturally (it was instinct of race) desired a separate and independent jurisdiction, hence the Colored M. E. Church was organized. We did not intend to set them off as though we had no interest in them, but aimed to promote their growth and prosperity. The scheme has worked well; we have nothing to complain of as to their spirit and conduct." Dr. W. C. Dunlap, M. E. Church, South, has said: "We were once in the same Church, but the time came when it was necessary to have two organizations to represent the two people. Sometimes I think we were led by the hand of the Lord to the organization of the Colored M. E. Church. You began under very unfavorable circumstances, but you have been faithful to your work, to your Church, and to your God. I rejoice to-day to know that you have not gone backward, but onward and upward in fulfilling the great work for which you were commissioned.
I believe that the organization of the Colored M. E. Church was under the direction of God, in order that there might be one colored Church in the land that would not turn aside for politics or any thing contrary to their high calling. In this you somewhat excel the mother. The child in this respect gives the mother an example. I have never heard of your Church or ministers turning aside for politics; I have never heard of political meetings being held in your churches."*
Many troubles have we seen,
Many conflicts have we passed;
But still we on the Lord doth lean;
He will guide us to the last.
Conferences--Bishops--Elders--Deacons--Officers, Their Duty--Bishops--Presiding Elders--Pastors in Charge--Local Preachers--Exhorters--Classleaders--Stewards--Trustees--Reception of Members, etc.
THE term polity is used here to designate that form of rules and regulations by which the affairs of our Church are conducted. The polity of any denomination should be that which is best adapted to meet the conditions of the masses, and which will not throw too great a restraint upon the communicants, yet will have sufficient reins to carry all things along in a systematic form, keeping down all confusion and strife. This, however, should always be in keeping with the will of God.
There should be some definite form of government to manage the affairs of the Church, in order to insure the religious, moral, intellectual, and social advancement of its votaries. To do this great care should
be exercised. Mr. Porter said: "Discipline is as necessary as instruction. To live together in Church-fellowship; Christians need to agree as to the import of Scripture, both as to doctrine and polity in regard to each other as well as to him whom they serve. Otherwise no one will understand his duties or privileges, and all will be in danger of serious mistakes and punishments."
What form of Church government to adopt is not at all times easy to determine, as the Scripture does not specify any particular form, but rather, as we believe, leaves it to the Church to adopt such as in its judgment will be the best to promote the cause of true religion and holiness. In a special sense there are but three forms of Church government--viz., Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Independent. Of the three forms there seems to be more latent mischief in the Independent form than any other. In a great many instances it causes the breaking up of congregations, uncalled for disputes, and unusually sinful tempers and angry words--all of which are contrary to the divine law. By this form churches
are often left without pastors, because the congregation is divided as to who they will have to serve them. Some want Rev. A., some Rev. C., while there are others who are in favor of Rev. B. It is often the case that because they cannot agree great dissatisfaction is brought about, anger kindled, and finally, before one party will be overcome, they will withdraw from the congregation, form a new "independent" congregation, and call one of their choice. Any one who has any knowledge of independentism in Church government knows something about the so-called "splits." Independent congregationalism in the circles of the Episcopal Methodist family is a thing uncalled for. It is mischievous and ruinous to the Church, to the cause of Christ, to the general spread of Christianity, to the growth of religious principles, social intercourse, and even domestic happiness. It often results in a dissolution of friendship; brings on a series of quarrels, and sometimes "fights." The whole affair is generally attended with a falling away from grace. We have a knowledge of just such as is described herein.
We have often heard the expression from many in the Methodist family, thus: "Our Church has a republican form of government." We think such is trivial; yea, verily so. The Church can live without such high honors. The Church should have influence enough of its own to attract the attention of individuals without calling upon the form of national government for aid in the way of making known its polity, because the two are very different, especially as to the intent. One pertains only to the things of this world, and to that part of man that must return to dust, is patronized by the world, indorsed by the world; while the other pertains to things not only of this world, but of things above. It has a tendency to direct the attention of mankind to God and his laws, and teaches him that, above all things else, he must "obey God rather than man."
Having descended from the father of Methodism without any broken links or "side-issuing," we have the Episcopal form of Church government.
Mr. Wesley said: "As to my own judgment,
I still believe the Episcopal form of Church-government to be scriptural and apostolical. I mean, agreeing with the practice and writings of the apostles."
The General Rules formed for the "United Societies" are just what they should be, and are just what we are taught of God to observe. They are easy, but solid and strict. If there are any who desire salvation, who wish to be numbered with the people of God, if their "heart is fixed," they will find no great difficulty in keeping these rules. Let a person turn to and read them carefully, think of their essential importance, and then inquire within if they are too hard. They are so carefully collected and arranged as to be adaptable to or for any denomination whose propensity is to live consistent Christians. If any one expects to live a good Christian, no matter what denomination he or she belongs to, these rules must inevitably be observed, from the fact that they are according to the teachings of God's Word, and must therefore be observed. Hence, we reiterate, they are just what they should be.
In our Church we have five Conferences--viz., General Conference, Annual Conference, District Conference, Quarterly Conference, and Church Conference. Besides these there is a weekly meeting of the officers with their pastor of the various pastoral charges, known as the "Official" or "Leaders'" Meeting.
This Conference meets every four years. It is the highest judicatory of the Church. It possesses full power to make rules and regulations for the Church under certain restrictions and limitations. All the other Conferences work under the rules and regulations made for them by this Conference. It is composed of all the Bishops and a certain number of ministerial and lay delegates chosen by the various Annual Conferences. The delegates to this Conference are elected as follows: Each Annual Conference is entitled to one delegate for every twenty-eight members of their clerical number, and an equal number of lay delegates, one-fourth of whom may be local preachers. An Annual Conference, however, shall not be
denied the privilege of two representatives, according to the present reading of our law.
In order that safe and reliable men may be selected to attend, this legislative body is so arranged that a clerical member must have stood a "satisfactory probation" in the traveling connection, and the lay delegates are required to be twenty-five years of age and members of the Church for at least six years previous to their election. This Conference is not permitted to revoke, alter, or change the Articles of Religion, or establish any new standard or rule of doctrine to the present existing and established doctrine. It cannot change or alter any part or rule of Church government so as to do away with Episcopacy or destroy the plan of our itinerant general superintendency. It is not allowed the privilege of revoking or changing the "General Rules of the United Societies." The above restrictions and limitations were made in order to give firmness to the institutions of the Church. This body regulates the entire Church.
This Conference, as its name implies,
meets once a year at such places as the Conference may from time to time designate. It is composed of all the traveling preachers in full connection with it, and four lay representatives (one of whom may be a local preacher) from each presiding elder's district. All preachers on trial, and those to be admitted on trial, are requested to attend the session, but are not allowed to vote or speak on any question unless by consent of the Conference. The lay representatives are permitted to participate in all the business of the Conference except such as involves ministerial character. The boundary of each Annual Conference is fixed by the General Conference.
We have at present twenty Annual Conferences, named as follows: Alabama, Arkansas, East Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indian Territory, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas, North Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Georgia, South-east Missouri and Illinois, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Texas, and West Tennessee.
These Conferences are divided into districts,
and the districts divided into circuits, stations, and missions.
In the regular order of business in an Annual Conference there are thirty-three inquiries made, which are laid down in our Book of Discipline. Answers to these inquiries are furnished by the members and delegates. To this regular order of business very often others are added, such as the appointment of committees on Sunday-schools, education, temperance, literature, Missions, etc. An Annual Conference has the right to receive and try complaints presented against any of its members, and to reprimand, suspend, or expel them as the nature of the case may require. Here reports are received from the several circuits, stations, and missions within the bounds of each presiding elder's district. An account is taken of all Church-buildings, parsonages, and other Church property within its bounds. Each Annual Conference is required to keep a record of all its proceedings, which is to be signed by the President and Secretary. Said records are required to be sent to the General Conference,
where a committee is appointed to examine them and report any irregularity they may find. By this method there can be a uniformity of proceedings throughout the entire Connection.
In each presiding elder's district there is held annually a Conference called the District Conference. It is composed of all the preachers in the district, both local and traveling, and of laymen, one or more from each charge. The time of meeting is fixed by the presiding elder, and the place by the Conference. A Bishop, or, in his absence, the presiding elder, presides. In case both are absent, the Conference elects a President pro tem.
This Conference should be very interesting, as it is required to inquire particularly into the condition of the several charges of the district--as to their spiritual state and the attendance upon the ordinances and social conditions of the charge; missions, Sunday-schools, and the manner of conducting them; education, financial systems, the contribution to Church purposes, and
the condition of meeting-houses and parsonages.
It is in this Conference that lay delegates are elected to the ensuing Annual Conference. The business to be transacted in a District Conference should create considerable interest, from the fact that it has a tendency to make known the real condition of every charge within its bounds, as to their spiritual and temporal success or failure; for here the laity and clergy meet, and both alike are permitted to speak, offer suggestions, and discuss important subjects respecting the future progress of the Church. The Quarterly Conference journals are to be carried to this Conference for examination, and thus give an opportunity for correcting any mistakes that may have occurred, thereby giving great aid in keeping that important journal correct.
Again, prominence is given to religious exercises, such as preaching, prayer-meetings, love-feasts, and the administration of the sacraments. These very often result in great revivals and the conversion of a great number of souls[.]
These Conferences are held, as their name implies, every three months, in each presiding elder's district, in every circuit, station, or mission. They are composed of all the traveling and local preachers, exhorters, stewards, and class-leaders, together with Sunday-school superintendents who are members of the Church, and secretaries of Church Conferences.
The work of this Conference is to receive and try appeals, examine Church Conference records, hear complaints, license proper persons to preach and to exhort, and to renew their license annually, when, in its judgment, the applicant's gifts, grace, and usefulness will warrant such; recommend suitable persons to the Annual Conference for deacon's or elder's orders in the local rank, and for admission or re-admission into the traveling connection; elect stewards and trustees for that charge; try, suspend, or acquit any local preacher in that charge against whom charges may be brought; inquire into the financial affairs of the charge, and superintend the interests
of Sunday-schools. This Conference also is of very grave importance, and when it is properly conducted results in much good.
The proceedings of a Quarterly Conference are ordered to be kept by a secretary chosen for that purpose, and must be read and approved before the Conference adjourns. Such proceedings serve as a history of that charge.
The importance of this Conference can be more fully realized when it is remembered that it is here the minister of the gospel first begins his work; here the layman of the Church has the first voice in recommending any one to the itinerancy; they here cast their vote as to who shall be permitted to go before the Annual Conference for admission on trial into the traveling connection. It is of the highest importance that all its members should attend the sessions.
The Church Conference is composed of all the members of the Church and resident members of the Annual Conference.
They are called to meet once a month, or at least once a quarter. These include only those of a certain charge.
In these Conferences the roll of members is called, and the names of all who have been lost sight of for twelve months are stricken off. These Conferences are designed to impart to all the members certain information as to what is being done in the Church, and what is needed to be done. The condition of the poor of the Church is considered; the cause of Missions, Church enterprises, and the collections ordered by the Annual Conference, all receive attention. Inquiries as to the circulation of religious literature are made. Also, if there is any probability of extending the work by establishing additional prayer-meetings, Sunday-schools, etc.; or if any thing can be done to strengthen and build up the Church in the community.
All these matters are discussed by the members of the charge, which often results in the adoption of many advantageous plans that will result in abundant good for every department of the Church.
The advantage of this Conference is: It permits all the members of the Church to participate and assist in shaping the many plans for the promotion of the work of the Church.
This is simply a meeting of the officers of a charge with their pastor once a week. Here the pastor is informed of any who are sick; any who walk disorderly, and will not be reproved. The class-leaders pay over to the stewards the amounts they have received from their several classes during the preceding week, the stewards pay the pastor what they have collected for his support, etc.
Before the meeting of the last General Conference there was little or no uniformity in these meetings, as no regular method of holding them had been ordered printed in the Book of Discipline. But the General Conference, held May, 1886, caused to be published a regular order of business for the conducting of these meetings, as follows:
They are to be held weekly in each pastoral
charge wherever practicable. They are composed of the pastor in charge, all the stewards, class-leaders, and local preachers of the charge. The pastor, or some one appointed by him, presides. The following is the general order of business:
1. Are there any sick?
2. Are there any who require temporal relief?
3. Are there any who walk disorderly, and will not be reproved?
4. Are there any who willfully neglect the means of grace?
5. Are there any to be recommended for license to preach or exhort?
6. What amount has been raised for the pastor in charge and his assistant?
7. What amount has been raised for the presiding elder?
8. Is there any other business?
Our Bishops are constituted by election by the General Conference, and the laying on of the hands of three Bishops, or at least of one Bishop and two elders. Elders are constituted by election by a majority of
the Annual Conference, and the laying on of the hands of a Bishop and some of the elders present. They shall have passed an approved examination upon a course of study prescribed by the Bishops; shall have exercised the office of a deacon two years before they are regarded as eligible for said orders, except in the case of missionaries, when the Annual Conference shall have authority to elect to the elder's office sooner, provided it is judged expedient. An elder is authorized to administer the sacrament, perform the office of matrimony, and all parts of divine worship. Deacons are constituted by election by a majority of the Annual Conference, and the laying on of the hands of a Bishop. Before this is done, however, the applicant shall have passed an approved examination upon a course of study prescribed by the Bishops. He shall have been one year in the regular itinerant work, except such as shall be selected by the Bishop for missionary work; then the Conference may elect to deacon's orders sooner, if it is thought necessary. It is a deacon's duty to
administer baptism, perform the office of matrimony in the absence of the elder, assist the elder in administering the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and to do all the duties of a traveling preacher.
The regular officers of our Church are Bishops, presiding elders, pastors in charge, local preachers, exhorters, class-leaders, stewards, trustees, editor, and Book Agent.
It is the duty of Bishops to preside in General and Annual Conferences; to fix the appointments of the pastors in the Annual Conferences under certain restrictions and limitations; to form the districts, circuits, and stations; choose the presiding elders, fix their stations; ordain Bishops, elders, and deacons; change, receive, or suspend preachers during the interval of the Annual Conference; decide all questions of law coming before them in writing in the regular business of the Annual Conference; hear and decide appeals coming from the Quarterly Conference on questions of law when presiding in an Annual
Conference; see that the districts are formed according to their judgment; travel during the year, as far as practicable, through each presiding elder's district which may be included in their episcopal districts; to oversee the temporal and spiritual affairs of the Church. It is their duty to see that all the rules and regulations enacted by the General Conference are faithfully carried out in every part of the Church.
The presiding elder is appointed by the Bishop. He has an appointed district through which he has to travel as often as practicable during the Conference year, to preach and oversee the spiritual and temporal affairs of the churches included in his district. In the absence of the Bishop he is to take charge of all the traveling and local preachers and exhorters in his district; hold Quarterly Conferences; change, receive, and suspend preachers during the interval of the Annual Conference; do what he can to promote the cause of Missions, Sunday-schools, and the circulation of religious
literature; decide all questions of law in his Quarterly Conference when submitted to him in writing, subject to an appeal to the president of the next Annual Conference. He is to see that every part of the Discipline of the Church is enforced, and report the state of his district to the Bishop. The office of presiding elder is of very great importance, and cannot well be dispensed with without doing or causing a great injury to the Church. Should a pastor neglect his duties, the presiding elder is to remedy the evil, and have a practical knowledge of the life and official administration of every pastor in his district in order to report to the Annual Conference any who are delinquent. Should a pastor be accused of immorality during the interval of the Annual Conference, the presiding elder must have him brought before a committee for investigation, where he (the accused) is to be examined, and, if found guilty, be suspended until the sitting of the ensuing Annual Conference. If there are any candidates for admission on trial into the traveling connection or for ordination,
the presiding elder is required to direct their attention to the necessary studies prescribed by the Bishops, that they may be prepared for examination as to their fitness for such. In short, he is a representative of the official authority of the Bishop within his district, and attends to all his duties except that of ordination.
A preacher in charge is one who is legally authorized by a Bishop or presiding elder to take charge of a circuit, station, or mission. He has the oversight of all the preachers, exhorters, and members in his charge, and is to attend to the spiritual and temporal affairs of the same. In the absence of the presiding elder he is to hold the Quarterly Conference. It is his duty to receive, try, and expel members according to the provisions of the Discipline, appoint and change class-leaders, and attend to all matters necessary to the success of his charge and the advancement of the cause of Christ.
A local preacher is one who receives his
license to preach from the Quarterly Conference, and exercises the functions of his office only on the circuit, station, or mission of which he is a member. He is not engaged in the regular itinerant work; is not amenable to the Annual Conference, but to the Quarterly Conference from whence he obtained his license, for his conduct; however, he is granted the right of appeal to the Annual Conference. Before being eligible to the office of deacon he shall have served a term of four successive years. After his election to deacon's orders he is required to serve four more years before becoming eligible to elder's orders. After receiving orders he is then known as local elder, or deacon, as the case may be. It is his duty to assist the preacher in charge in supplying the ministry of the word. A local preacher is often called upon to supply a circuit, station, or mission, in which case he becomes pastor in charge.
An exhorter is one who is supposed to have gifts and graces adapting him for the work. It is very necessary that he be a useful
man. His license is also received from the Quarterly Conference. Said license, like that of a local preacher, must be renewed annually, when, in the judgment of the Quarterly Conference, the applicant's gifts, grace, and usefulness will warrant the renewal. It is an exhorter's duty to hold prayer-meetings, and exhort whenever occasion requires it and opportunity is afforded, according to the rules and regulations of the Discipline, and as the pastor in charge may direct.
This office is of vast importance, and has a great deal to do with the well-being of the Church. The Discipline directs that the membership of every charge, wherever it is practicable, shall be divided into small companies, called classes, according to their respective places of abode, and that one of their number shall be appointed leader thereof. Said leader is required to see the members of his class weekly, in order to give them advice in religion; to inquire how their souls prosper; to reprove and comfort as occasion requires, and encourage
them to perform all their duties, etc. By a leader's faithfulness to his duty and obligations he can cause the members to become more faithful, useful, and willing workers in the Church. The members of his class will always be glad to meet, and will willingly converse with him with great interest upon the subject of religion and the things pertaining to the welfare of the Church. They will make known to him their standing and willingness to do what they can for the cause of Christ and his Church. Through this medium the pastor can learn the exact condition of his charge--will soon learn what is most requisite for its prosperity. They can become revived, souls converted, and all things will indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit in that charge. Truly, then, class-leaders ought to be of sound judgment and truly devoted to God. They ought to love the cause of Christ, and be willing to sacrifice their time and talent for the sake of this great work.
The office of stewards in the Church is of great importance and indispensable. Without
them the Church would be greatly crippled and unprepared to do her full work. It is their duty to provide the elements of the Lord's Supper; make an estimate of expenses and provisions for the support of the ministry and gospel; take an accurate account of the moneys and other provisions for the support of the ministry, or the relief of the poor or sick; seek and comfort the needy and distressed, and to keep the pastor informed of all sick or disorderly members of his charge.
Having these and other responsibilities upon them, it is very necessary that the stewards be men of "solid piety and sound judgment, who both know and love the doctrine and discipline of the Church," and also possess good natural and acquired ability to transact the business that may come before them from time to time. It is also very important that they be pretty well informed in the charge--i. e., have a knowledge of the members, their ability or condition, and also of the affairs of the Church. It must be remembered that not every man in the Church will make an efficient steward.
Great caution should be used, for fear of confirming careless and inefficient men into this office, who will do more harm than good. As the pastor has the right of nomination, and the Quarterly Conference the right to confirm or reject, it is sufficient here to advise both to be careful and guard well this office. There are in the Church, as well as in the State, many office-seekers, who would do more good to remain just as, or where, they are.
This class of officers are those to whom we, having placed confidence in them, intrust our property. They usually number from three to nine, and have full power to hold the property for the use of the charge to which they belong, under certain restrictions, according to our Discipline. They are responsible to the Quarterly Conference of the charge to which they belong, and are required to report to that Conference at least once a year. They have no authority to close the doors of our churches or parsonages against a duly appointed minister; neither can they dispose of the
property at their own discretion, but in all cases they are to be governed by the Discipline of the Church. Great care should be had in selecting trustees, for sometimes they thoughtlessly, or from some other cause, attempt to, and often do, transcend their bounds, and do things which are contrary to the law, or even common respect.
With a good set of class-leaders, stewards, and trustees, a pastor in charge may do well, provided he is "all right." He should be sure nothing is wanting on his part.
The General Conference of 1886, held at Augusta, Ga., elected an Editor and Book-agent, whose duty it is to "edit the Christian Index, and bring out all the literature necessary for the use of the Church and Sunday-school, with the imprint of our Church." This same Conference decided to locate the publishing department at Jackson, Tenn.
Our itinerant system is unequaled. It gives to every pastor a charge, and to every
congregation a pastor. Its operation, strictly speaking, is full of the missionary spirit. By this system the ministers obey the command, "Go ye into all the world," etc. They are kept "running to and fro," spreading scriptural knowledge, enlightening the minds of the people, calling them from "darkness to light," and pointing them to the "Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world."
Again, this system does not allow a minister to remain a "burden" upon a congregation till they are forced to vote, sometimes quarrel and divide, in order to get rid of him. It does not allow him to remain until, apparently, himself and congregation are dead, but always moves him in time to keep life in existence. In many instances it keeps down confusion and strife, and many other things which would impede the progress of the Christian religion.
When we consider the officers, and the relation they sustain to the necessities of our various congregations, etc., we feel that our Church is pretty well prepared for work. With these various officers the
whole machine is kept in operation, skillful men are always on watch, keeping every thing in place, and, with Christ as our great Captain and Pilot, we will continue to steer in the right way.
The mode of receiving members is as follows: When persons offer themselves for Church-membership, it is the duty of the pastor in charge to inquire into their spiritual condition, and receive them into the Church only when they have given satisfactory evidence of their desire to "flee from the wrath to come, and to be saved from their sins." Also of the genuineness of their faith and of their willingness to keep the rules of the Church. [It is very necessary for the pastor to see that the rules are read and explained before the applicant promises to keep them, for it is hard for one to promise to do that of which he has no knowledge.] When he is satisfied on these points, he is to bring the applicants before the Church whenever practicable, and receive them according to the prescribed form. This is done as follows: The pastor,
having received satisfaction as to their fitness for membership, brings them before the congregation, where he administers to them the baptismal vow, which is a promise to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the carnal desires of the flesh; acknowledge their faith in God the Father Almighty, in Jesus his only Son; his conception by the Holy Ghost, being born of the Virgin Mary; his sufferings under Pontius Pilate; his death, burial, and resurrection, and his ascension into heaven, etc. They agree to be baptized in this faith; also promise to obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of their lives.
After receiving baptism, they are again brought before the Church, when they solemnly, in the presence of God and the congregation, ratify and confirm the promise and vow of repentance, faith, and obedience contained in the baptismal covenant; promise to be subject to the discipline of the Church, attend upon its ordinances,
and support its institutions. They are then commended to the love and care of the brethren, and receive the hand of fellowship and recognition as members of the Church.
If members in good standing from any other Christian Church desire to unite with us, such applicants may, by giving satisfactory answers to the usual inquiries, be received without the above formalities.
With this brief reference to our polity, it can be seen that there is a system of laws governing every department of the Church; that all our officers are under obligations to obey the law; that our legislative body is under certain restrictions and limitations upon which they may not infringe; that each officer is clothed with a power equal to the work assigned him, and is bound to exercise the functions thereof according to specific rules and regulations, and with reference to a certain purpose, and he does not divert it to another; also, all are held accountable for the faithful performance of their duty.
Another feature of the polity of the Connection
is: Her members are not burdened down with so many heavy and unnecessary assessments, which would cause them, in many instances, to neglect their families, take bread almost out of their children's mouths, and the garments off their person, in order to keep up unnecessary claims.
Again, there is no chance for tyranny or slave power among the leaders, thereby crushing the poor, and causing those in better circumstances to stand in fear lest they be hurt also. Among us there are no "big I's and little u's." One man is not placed above another, because he happens to be in better circumstances than his neighbor.
A man is looked upon as a man; a Christian as a child of God, and consequently our brother or sister, and are treated accordingly. Our polity is so arranged as to know no man who habitually breaks the laws of the Church and fails to live as he should.
Rev. G. W. Usher, on the subject of the Church, etc., writes: "With these substantial advantages; with a plain and comprehensive Book of Discipline, void of galling
dogmas, stubborn edicts, and over-taxation, by which the people are pauperized to fill Church treasures; with a congenial and well-adapted polity, unburdened with State, complicated, and incompatible ceremonies, but one single and comprehensive to the most humble worshiper, yet of a high Episcopal order--a polity equitable in adjustments, binding and protecting alike Bishops, preachers, and people; one by which every member is secure in his Church relations, and his character shielded against every attack, with the right of appeal secured to all, and thus every person is protected; a polity not perfected by, or the result of spontaneous Episcopal edicts and clerical digests, made only for pernicious purposes and pecuniary emoluments; but one perfected by over one hundred years' experience, and attained and shaped by the ripest minds found in the Methodist family."*
Results Which Followed the Organization--Educational Work--Lane Institute--A Letter to Bishop Lane--Paine Institute--A Brief Sketch of Some of the Annual Conferences, etc.
"Hitherto hath the Lord helped us."
Let us take a view of the past, and see if, after an existence of sixteen years, we have accomplished any thing for our heavenly Master and our fellow-men. It must be remembered that in the organization of this Church or Connection the object was to promote the religious interest of the people. At the time of the organization the numbers were few, inexperienced, without churches, parsonages, or schools. Numbers of our members and friends can tell with pleasure of the happy times they had, the interesting sermons they have listened to, and the number of converts they have seen--all under brush arbors. The little "handful" started out upon the deep with
opposition on all sides; were called all sorts of names; property that was intended for them was seized by others, some of which has never been recovered. Many of the ministers were ridiculed, reviled, and abandoned by many who at one time claimed to be their friends; many incredible things were said of them, but notwithstanding all they held on to their convictions, and with the help of Him who has said, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," they pressed forward, meeting with many things that tended to discourage them; but to fail they felt determined not to do. We started with two Bishops, but the little vessel had not proceeded very far before God in his wisdom called Bishop R. H. Vanderhorst away, thus leaving the great and weighty responsibility upon Bishop W. H. Miles, who has ever proved himself equal to the task. He was the pioneer and organizer. With him the few faithful ministers continued to make their way from house to house, and from town to town, and from State to State. Although this great and good man met with many difficulties--sometimes
his life was in great peril; sometimes heavily burdened with the cares both of home and of the Church; often meeting with great disappointments and many things of a discouraging nature--yet he continued to pursue his course.
Because the Church was organized in the South, with many of their members living near their old "masters," many still on the "old plantation," this served to cause a great deal of the uncalled-for hard sayings and untrue reports. The organization was looked upon with contempt, regarded as being low, insignificant, and dishonorable. However, our Saviour was born low. He was poor, despised; but "he grew and waxed strong," and finally overcame all his enemies.
At one time the followers of Christ were few, despised, and looked upon with comtempt; but by faithfulness upon their part, and with the assistance of God, they increased and spread so rapidly that their enemies looked upon them with great wonder and amazement for such rapid growth from so small a beginning. By the untiring
efforts of Bishop Miles and the traveling preachers with him, with an unshaken confidence in God, the Church soon began to spread. So rapid was her growth that it became necessary to have a called session of the General Conference, one of the prime objects being to elect more Bishops to assist in meeting the many demands of the Church. The Conference convened in Augusta, Ga., Wednesday morning, March 19, 1873, with Bishop Miles presiding. Much interest was manifested. It was composed mostly of the delegates who took part in the organization at Jackson, Tenn., in 1870.
The following is a synopsis of a report made by Bishop Miles:
My Dear Brethren: I hereby inform you that the rapid spread of this Connection has made it necessary that other Conferences should be organized that were not provided for by the General Conference of 1870.
Since that time I have organized the following Conferences, and will submit them, with their delegates, to you, hoping that you will recognize them as my labor, and admit them into your General Conference:
The North-west Texas Conference, including North-west Texas, was organized in October, 1871, with ten traveling preachers, three hundred and seventy-one
members, five Sunday-schools, eight teachers, and one hundred and five scholars.
The Lousiana Conference was organized in January, 1872. Thirty-five traveling and sixty-two local preachers, three thousand five hundred and eighty-seven members, seven Sunday-schools, twelve teachers, and one hundred and fifty-two scholars.
The Missouri and Kansas Conference was organized in September, 1872. Ten traveling and thirteen local preachers, six hundred and seventy members, five Sunday-schools, sixteen teachers, and one hundred and fifty-three scholars.
The North Carolina Conference was organized in March, 1872. Seventeen traveling and four local preachers, five hundred and ninety-six members, six Sunday-schools, twenty-three teachers, and three hundred and fifteen scholars.
The preceding is very indicative of the rapid spread of the Church, and shows that Bishop Miles spared no time nor pains in laboring for the good of the Church of which he was the only chief pastor.
The Committee on Episcopacy, in one of their reports, submitted the following:
In consequence of the death of the lamented Bishop Vanderhorst, and the rapidly extending character of our work, and the vast territory over which it spreads, we recommend that the Conference elect three more Bishops.
On Monday morning, March 22d, the Conference proceeded to elect the new Bishops.
Bishop Miles urged upon the delegates the importance of choosing men whose Christian character and other qualifications would adorn the high office of the Episcopacy and advance the interests of the Church.
Bishop Geo. F. Pierce, being present, led the Conference in prayer, after which the election began. The first ballot resulted as follows: L. H. Holsey, 39; J. A. Beebe, 39; W. P. Churchill, 18; Isaac Lane, 18; T. N. Stewart, 9; B. E. Ford, 5; I. H. Anderson, 3; Wm. Taylor, 3; R. T. White, 2; Stokes Steel, 2; Alfred Alston, 1; blank, 1. Whole number of votes cast, 41. Necessary for a choice, 21. J. A. Beebe and L. H. Holsey having received the necessary majority, Bishop Miles, the Chairman, declared them duly elected Bishops of the Colored M. E. Church.
The second ballot was cast with the following result: Isaac Lane, 26; W. P. Churchill, 13; T. N. Stewart, 2; Stokes Steel, 2; B. E. Ford, 1; Wm. Taylor, 1; R. T. White,
1. Isaac Lane having received the necessary majority, the Chairman declared him elected one of the Bishops of the Colored M. E. Church.
On Sunday, March 23d, at 3 o'clock P.M., the ordination of the Bishops-elect took place. The ordination sermon was preached by Bishop Geo. F. Pierce, of the M. E. Church, South, and the following elders assisted Bishop Miles in the ordination: B. S. Newton, Job Crouch, Stokes Steel, and Wm. Taylor.
Bishop J. A. Beebe was born in Fayetteville, N. C.; was ordained deacon by Bishop J. J. Clinton, of the African M. E. Zion Church in 1865; ordained elder in 1866, and joined the Colored M. E. Church in 1871. At the time of his election to the Episcopal office he was presiding elder of the Edenton District, in North Carolina. Age, forty years.
Bishop L. H. Holsey was born in Sparta, Ga.; ordained deacon by Bishop Geo. F. Pierce, of the M. E. Church, South, in 1869, and ordained elder in the latter part of the
same year. At the time of his election to the office of Bishop he was only thirty-three years old, and pastor of Trinity Church, in Augusta, Ga., and had already become very popular.
Bishop Isaac Lane was born in Madison County, Tenn.; was ordained deacon by Bishop Robert Payne, of the M. E. Church, South. At the time of his election he was thirty-nine years old, and pastor of Liberty Street Church, in Jackson, Tenn.
At this General Conference there were reported 635 traveling preachers, 583 local preachers, 67,889 members, 440 Sunday-schools, 1,389 teachers, 25,552 scholars.
By the election of the three above-named Bishops the number was increased from one to four, which remains till now. So praiseworthy have their labors been in the different departments of the Church that they are often spoken of as follows: W. H. Miles, the "Organizer;" J. A. Beebe, the "Counselor;" L. H. Holsey, the "Orator;" Isaac Lane, the "Sympathizer." These four men of God have proven themselves equal to the task and worthy of their high position.
They have labored day and night in private and in public, with many inconveniences, deprivations, and encountered many difficulties to build up the cause of our blessed Redeemer among the down-trodden race. Who will dare say their labors have not been crowned with abundant success? The results can be seen in every direction. Our numbers are steadily increasing; the facilities are constantly improving; the ministers are much better prepared than they were at the beginning; the congregations are learning to worship with more consistency; the members and friends are making rapid improvement religiously, morally, socially, and intellectually; darkness, superstition, and ignorance are fast yielding to the light of knowledge and truth; the gloomy clouds that so long hung over our heads are fast dispersing; and, best of all, the power and influence of the Holy Ghost is being felt and appreciated by thousands who adhere to the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God by the ministers who are connected with this branch of his Church.
How truthful the saying that "the organization of this branch of Methodists marks an important epoch in the history of American Methodism." How she glided over the rocks, climbed mountains, crossed mighty streams, baffled her friends and foes to understand. To see a people who a few years previous were in bondage now taking upon themselves the obligation to administer ecclesiastical laws for the good of God's Church was watched with eager anxiety by many. Will they have a pure ministry that will be instrumental in building up the kingdom of God and promoting his glory among men? Will they be successful in managing their own affairs? These and many other questions were pondered over again and again in the minds of many who desired that success may attend the Church, while the opposers made many unpleasant statements to impede the progress. It was said that her object was to reenslave the emancipated slaves. These and other statements were held out as facts, and through excitement hundreds were made to believe that the Colored M. E. Church
was an enemy to the colored race. Thus their minds were poisoned against a Church whose object was to assist in saving immortal souls. But "truth crushed to earth will rise again." God has allowed the Church to live to prove these and other statements untrue. Though her faith has been tried by the fire from the furnace of opposition since her organization, lightnings have flashed, thunders have been heard whose muttering voice seemed to shake the Church from center to circumference, amid all these God has been her shield and stronghold in every difficulty; and, despite the opposition, she has continued to organize and build churches, which are instrumental in the conversion of thousands, and has made herself known to the religious world. She has left the shores of doubt and fear, with her banners unfurled to the breezes, and with the burning light of success shining all along her pathway.. . . . . . . .
One thing that contributed much to our success was a consecrated ministry, whose
object has always been to build up the Church of God. They have not only preached in cities and towns, but have gone into the rural districts, among the illiterate and poor, and preached to them the glad tidings of joy with abundant success. We have every reason to feel encouraged with the results of the past few years of our Colored American Methodism, and to have a stronger desire to labor on for the upbuilding of God's Zion in our midst. Our numbers have been constantly on the increase, and our borders extending. The Connection is quite young yet (only in her seventeenth year), but her growth has been surprisingly rapid. Our Bishops have proven themselves to be able and energetic workers in the Master's cause. We don't think any Church (considering the circumstances under which we had to labor) has made greater progress in so short a time. When emancipated, many were without homes, property, or education; but all were not without the religion of our Lord Jesus Christ. While some were striving to secure homes for themselves, others were advocating
the cause of Christ. While some men were seeking for some vocation in life, God was endowing others with the spirit of the ministry. Hence the gospel continued to spread. It is still spreading, and the Colored M. E. Church is a part of the great army, battling against the wickedness of this world, and moving onward and upward toward that city made without hands.
Let the brethren be diligent and vigilant, always engaged in the work of the Lord. Let them ever remain "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and continue to spread the gospel throughout the land. The Colored M. E. Church has her part to perform. There are many souls to be saved. In hundreds of places they are calling for the ministry. Let the Colored M. E. Church do her whole duty.
During the past we have been able to do but little in the way of education. Until very recently we have been able to do nothing in that direction, want of means being the real cause. Many have been exceedingly anxious to do something toward
building up this department of the Church. The General Conference of 1878 made it the duty of Quarterly Conferences to inquire, What is doing for the cause of education? Many of the Annual Conferences have striven to build up schools in their midst. At this writing we have only two institutions of learning in operation: Paine Institute, at Augusta, Ga., and Lane Institute, at Jackson, Tenn.
Paine Institute takes its name in honor of the late Bishop Robert Paine, of the M. E. Church, South, who, with the assistance of Bishop H. N. McTyeire and others, aided in the organization of the Colored M. E. Church.
The school was properly organized January 2, 1884, by Revs. Morgan Callaway and G. W. Walker, of the M. E. Church, South. It is supported and governed by a Board of Trustees appointed jointly from the M. E. Church, South, and the Colored M. E. Church. It is to be so equipped that the highest branches of education can be taught. The site is a very beautiful one.
This enterprise seems to be the result of
a paper read by Bishop Holsey before the General Conference of the M. E. Church, South, in Atlanta, Ga., in 1878. In this paper he asked for assistance toward the education of our people. At that time they felt unable to respond.
During the General Conference in Nashville, Tenn., May, 1882, Bishop Holsey again made the same request, which met a favorable response. The Bishops, in their address to the Conference, said: "The Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America, organized by us a decade ago at the request of the remnant of our colored membership, has maintained its integrity and made some progress. They are in great need of facilities for providing themselves with suitable pastors and teachers of their own race. Whatever assistance we can give them in this respect especially will be well bestowed, and we invite to this subject your favorable consideration." In accordance with this recommendation the General Conference adopted the following resolutions:
1. Resolved, That our Bishops be authorized and requested to appoint, after consultation with the Bishops
of the Colored M. E. Church in America, a preacher or layman of our Church, properly qualified for the work, who shall be a Commissioner of Education in aid of the Colored M. E. Church in America, whose duty it shall be to solicit subscriptions, contributions, donations, and bequests, from whatever source he may find accessible, for the purpose of creating an educational fund for the benefit of said Colored M. E. Church in America.
2. That our Bishops be also authorized and requested to appoint three members of our Church, who, together with the Commissioner of Education and three members of the Colored M. E. Church in America, to be appointed by their Bishops, shall constitute a Board of Trustees for the custody and control of this educational fund when it shall have been raised.
Thus it is that Paine Institute has been opened with encouraging prospects. She sent out her first graduates in June, 1886, consisting of seven. Much credit is due Bishop Holsey for his incessant labors for this institution of learning. We should feel proud of its success and future prospects. It has received an endowment of $25,000 from W. M. Payne, of Missouri.
Lane Institute is named in honor of Bishop Isaac Lane, who has labored so untiringly for its success. This was opened November 6, 1882, by Miss Jennie E. Lane,
daughter of the Bishop. She taught the first two months, after which Mr. J. H. Harper taught the remainder of the term. On the 3d of September, 1883, Rev. C. H. Phillips, A.M., M.D., took charge, and then the school was permanently organized. The establishment of this school is due to the constant efforts of Bishop Lane, who continued to wrestle and would not let go till something was accomplished. The following letter will give some idea of his labors and their appreciation. It should be read by every member and friend of the Church:
To Rev. Bishop Lane, of the colored M. E. Church in America.
My Dear Bishop: I have read with much satisfaction and solicitude your appeal in this paper (Nashville Christian Advocate) of the 8th of September, in behalf of your school at Jackson, Tenn. It is modest, graceful, and sufficiently earnest; and if the people of this country who handle money knew as much about you and your Church and the good you are doing--and likely to do--as I do, you could not long continue your appeal for that particular object. I regret that I am not able to assist you much instead of little. Most earnestly do I say to my white brethren: "Send some money to Bishop Lane for his school at Jackson." Our people will notice and appreciate the way in which you ask
for assistance. You do not ask us to do for you, but ask us to help you to do for yourselves. That is legitimate and proper. It is the way we all do.
Setting out as you did, on the true ground of independent Churchhood, you are doing well to keep clear of entangling alliances with other Churches. You need no protectorate. It would ruin you. "A sort of protectorate"--any sort--will first degrade, and then annihilate your independence, which is so necessary to ecclesiastical prosperity.
Some of us well remember the big ground you assumed at first. You never had a better friend, nor one more highly appreciated, than the late Rev. R. V. Taylor. He labored for you more than almost anybody else. You declined his offer to join your Church. Why? You saw in it a possible future entangling protectorate of "some sort," and you wisely said to him, "No, sir; with many thanks."
I saw you elected and ordained to the high office you now hold, and well remember the tone of Church independence and freedom from protectorate oversight and obligations then freely expressed on every hand. I believe I made some congratulatory remarks myself to your General Conference on that occasion. Bishop Miles said to the white part of the audience: "Now we are fully set up a housekeeping. Brethren, call in and see us as you pass by." And Bishop Pierce replied: "Yes, sir; we will do so with pleasure."
Neither is there any Abrahamic Hagarism in your Church relations. I see no similarity. We know very little about Hagar, her condition or circumstances;
but we know this, by divine approval she was thrust out against her will for violent and hostile conduct, disturbing and threatening the peace of the Church. On the contrary, you and ourselves were at peace, and we were content. You said, and said it wisely, I think: "Brethren, we think we can do better by ourselves. Please let us go with your blessing and assistance." And we said: "Go, and the blessings of God be with you;" and we helped you to go. You did the going for your own advantage, and did it well. We did the helping, and now we are co-ordinate and fraternal branches of the great Christian brotherhood. Better not disturb that relation. Protectorates of any "sort" are dangerous to the "protected." There are two sides of it. Independence is the safe and natural order.
When you need help, come to us and solicit boldly and squarely; get all you can; ask strongly, for we are not a liberal-hearted people. Your claims of this sort upon us are large and just, and I most earnestly hope that we will not fail to meet your just and reasonable expectations. . . . . . . . . . .
Most truly, my dear Bishop, your friend and fellow-laborer in the gospel of Christ,
R. ABBEY.Yazoo City, Miss., Sept. 13, 1883.
By carefully reading the above letter one can form some idea of our relation to other Methodist bodies, so far as independence is concerned. It goes far toward confuting the many hurtful things said concerning
the Colored M. E. Church from time to time.
Lane Institute is in a very hopeful condition. There are other schools projected in some of the Conferences, which no doubt will soon be in operation. This department of the Church is receiving much earnest attention, and we may reasonably expect a rapid growth soon.
At this writing we have twenty Annual Conferences, as follows: Arkansas, Alabama, East Texas, Florida, Georgia, Indian Territory, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Kansas, North Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, South-east Missouri and Illinois, South Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Tennessee, and West Texas.
Arkansas Conference.--This Conference was organized in November, 1871, at El Dorado, Union County, Ark., by Bishop W. H. Miles. The following ministers were present, and participated in the organization:
Richard Samuels, John Jackson, Boston Wilburn, R. Carter, sr., Richard Bunting, Frank Walker, Peter Gentry, Benjamin Hannah, Jacob Hill, Douglas Thomas, George Bailey, and Prince White. This Conference has made steady progress since the date of its organization. It started upon its career with the number of ministers that characterized the beginning of the gospel Church--the twelve disciples--and about four or five hundred members. Its number has increased very much. It has four presiding elders' districts and forty-four pastoral charges. Many of the members who belonged to this Conference moved away to other States, but the Conference continued to grow in the estimation of the people. There are thirty-five traveling and one hundred and three local preachers, and over three thousand members.
Alabama Conference.--In the autumn of 1869, Bishop H. N. McTyeire, assisted by Revs. L. M. Wilson and Daniel Duncan, of the M. E. Church, South, organized this Conference in Talladega, Ala. It then included that part of the State not then included
in the Mississippi and Tennessee Conferences. It now includes that part of the State south of Black Warrior River. Revs. Anderson Jackson, H. W. Seay, E. Reynolds, J. P. Potts, and R. Brooks were those present at the organization. This Conference has made rapid progress. Her ministers, most of them young men, are very active and studious, and give promise of useful "builders" in the future. During the General Conference of 1882 it was divided, and the northern portion added to East Tennessee, to form the North Alabama and Middle Tennessee Conference, which was organized in 1882, and is now doing well.
North Carolina Conference.--This Conference was organized March 7, 1873, at Edenton, N. C., by Bishop W. H. Miles. Revs. J. A. Beebe, John Williams, Reden Spright, and W. D. Hodges were present, and assisted in the work. This Conference was for some time connected with the Virginia Conference. It was separated from the Virginia Conference at the General Conference of 1874, held at Louisville, Ky. Owing
to much opposition, her progress has been slow, but the future is brightening with glorious prospects.
Tennessee Conference.--The first session of this Conference was held in Memphis, Tenn., in 1868. Bishop Robert Paine, D.D., of the M. E. Church, South, presided. It was then known as the Mississippi and Tennessee Annual Conference. After three years it was separated from Mississippi, and was called the Tennessee Conference. Among those who were active workers during those days may be mentioned Revs. Edmond Foster, Joseph Stump, and F. Daniels. The two former have long since fallen asleep in Jesus, but Rev. F. Daniels still lives in Nashville. He is probably in his eighty-sixth year. It can be no impropriety, we think, to mention a few of the noted dead of this Conference--viz., Revs. H. Nelson, G. Atwater, George Snowden, W. H. Hurt, John Moore, J. H. Ridley, J. W. Lane, Job Crouch, A. Boykin, Colman Skane, R. P. Newton, G. H. Walker, and Cyrus Leath. These were servants of God, and of good moral and religious character.
During the session of the Conference at Nashville, Tenn., in 1878, a series of resolutions were offered, urging the establishment of a school in Jackson, Tenn., to be known as the High School of the Tennessee Annual Conference. Through the earnestness of the ministers and members of this Conference, with Bishop Isaac Lane in the lead, this school is now in operation, and growing in favor more and more each day. The name has been changed from "Jackson High School" to "Lane Institute," in honor of Bishop Lane.
In 1882 the General Conference divided this Conference, making a West Tennessee and a North Alabama and Middle Tennessee Conference. They are doing well.
East Texas Conference.--Bishop Wightman, of the M. E. Church, South, organized this Conference at Carthage, Texas, in 1870. The following brethren were present, and took part in the organization--viz., Daniel Mimms, Wm. Leroy, Wm. Taylor, Cyrus Wolf, Caleb Wells, and others, all of whom have passed away except Mimms and Taylor. Bishop W. H. Miles presided at
the second session, which was held at Henderson in 1871. He was the first Bishop of our Church to preside in Texas; hence great interest was manifested by the public.
In this Conference the Church had to start from the ground, not even having a house of our own in which to organize. Bishop Miles displayed a great deal of business tact. This session assembled such men as Alfred Alston, J. Taylor, Moses Butler, and C. Ingram. None of them are members now. Some have fallen asleep, and others retired.
The most interesting session of this Conference was held in Marshall, by Bishop Miles, in 1872. Having no church in Marshall, Bishop Miles obtained the use of the M. E. Church, North, and when the Conference assembled they were set upon by a number of women, who charged them with being "Democrats," etc. These women raised such an uproar that Bishop Miles and the brethren were driven out. However, the several churches belonging to the whites were placed at their disposal. They
assembled in the Cumberland Presbyterian church, and had a pleasant time. A lot was bought and paid for, and a building erected. The foregoing will give some idea of how our ministers were treated in many places. In some places the Kuklux were a common enemy. They rode from church to church, and often from house to house, and our preachers and people have been forced to leave church and home and run for life. They have been met on the highway, and had their lives threatened; but they bore it all, and the Lord brought them through.
Georgia Conference.--The Georgia Conference was organized by Bishop George F. Pierce, of the M. E. Church, South, in the city of Augusta, Ga., January 4, 1869. I. H. Anderson was secretary. Some of the most prominent men of this session were E. S. West, R. J. Brown, I. H. Anderson, John Zorn, Wyatt Lowe, L. H. Holsey, George Simmons (a great man), J. P. Anderson, J. F. Phillips, Paul Barnett, M. B. King, E. Asbury, E. B. Oliver, W. M. Payne, R. T. White, B. J. Allen, Monday
Cook, and Joshua Anderson. In December of the same year the Conference met in Macon, Ga., Bishop Pierce presiding. There was very little change in the number of preachers and members, save a falling off in membership, due to the war made upon us by some of the representatives of the African M. E. Church. In January, 1871, Bishop Miles held the Conference in Augusta; in 1872 he held the session at Columbus, Ga. At this session delegates were elected to the called session of the General Conference, held in Augusta in 1873. Since then it has been presided over alternately by Bishops Beebe, Lane, and Holsey.
Florida Conference.--This little Conference was organized at Tallahassee, in 1873, by Bishop L. H. Holsey, and its sessions were held by Bishop Holsey consecutively from 1873 to 1879, when, by order of the General Conference of 1878, the South Georgia Conference was organized, which includes Florida.
South Georgia Conference.--This Conference was organized by Bishop L. H. Holsey, in the city of Americus, Ga., in 1879. It includes
the entire State of Florida, and all that part of the State of Georgia not included in the Georgia Conference. Some of the leading men in this Conference organization were James D. Smith (a great man), J. S. White, J. H. Mitchell, R. T. Bass, C. A. Allgood, Elijah Horn, Benjamin Mitchell, J. J. Everett, Paul Barnett, jr., Seaborn McCullers, R. S. Bass, J. S. Wallace, J. H. Lockhart, Daniel Tolson, and Hector S. Toomer, the "Nestor" of the Conference.
It can be said of the Georgia and South Georgia Conferences that they are growing very rapidly. These two Conferences have suffered much from the enemy and the many false statements made concerning our Church.
North-west Texas Conference.--We are not certain as to the time and place of the organization of this Conference. Bishop Miles must have organized it at Waco, Texas, in 1871. Some of the men present were A. B. Prince, Willis Pickard, W. H. Coker, and others we cannot call to mind just now. This Conference, like the East Texas, is growing very rapidly. It
has made wonderful progress since its organization. It has one paper published in its bounds--The Colored Methodist--edited by Rev. J. A. Viney.
Virginia Conference.--At first this Conference was connected with the North Carolina Conference, and known as the Virginia and North Carolina Conference. It was organized by Bishop Miles at Petersburg, Va., December 13, 1861. Among some of the members present may be mentioned J. A. Beebe, John Williams, Reden Spright, B. W. Mann, and others.
The second session met at Edenton, N. C., with Bishop Miles presiding. Although the minutes do not show it, it seems as if Rev. J. A. Beebe was elected a delegate from this Conference to attend the called session of the General Conference, which met at Augusta, Ga., in 1873, where he was elected and ordained Bishop. It appears that the General Conference of 1874 separated the two Conferences, making the Virginia Conference include only the State of Virginia. Bishop J. A. Beebe presided at the first session after the division. Although
this Conference labored under many disadvantages, which we will not mention, it has made some progress. The General Conference of 1878 annexed the Washington Conference--which includes the District of Columbia and Maryland--to this Conference, which made it much stronger. Since then it has been on the increase steadily. It being one of the border Conferences, and where opposition seemed to be the strongest, it has caused considerable labor to succeed at all. It can be seen from the journal that this Conference, in its incipiency, began energetically to advocate the claims of the different departments of the Church. We feel safe in saying that, if they had only possessed the proper material, this Conference would have been among the leading Conferences of the Connection.
The idea with many is that "the Colored M. E. Church [as a noted minister of another Church said] is nothing more than a form without any substance;" but they are learning better.
Much credit is due to Revs. W. H. Young,
J. S. Smothers, and J. M. Mitchell for the success of this Conference in the District of Columbia during the days of its incipiency. These men have labored untiringly and under many disadvantages to build this Conference up.
Lately other ministers from some of the stronger Conferences have been transferred here, who, by the help of God, are laboring to make Colored Methodism understood by every inquirer. The clouds are disappearing rapidly, and the enemies thinning out fast.
Of the remaining Conferences we are not well enough informed to attempt to write any thing of them, only to say they are all in a hopeful condition, and are making rapid improvement. Truly can we say, "The Lord hath helped us."
And still he doth His help offer,
And hides our life above.
From our small beginning--insignificant, worthless, "without substance," and many other things that our enemies felt disposed to say of us--we have continued to put our trust in God, who has sent us increase on all sides, enabling us at this day to sail
smoothly along, the wind being in our favor, and pushing us heavenward. Since writing the above the Florida Conference has been separated from the South Georgia.
Recent Indications--No Cause for Discouragement.
"The God of heaven, he will prosper us."
FROM all prospects the future of the Colored M. E. Church in America is brightening with glorious prospects. Many of the inconveniences, prejudices, and other obstacles are fast removing, Many persons who once stood afar off are coming nearer and nearer; many joining the Church; yea, they are falling in rank all along the line, saying as they come, "We will go with you, for we see the Lord is with you." The dark and stormy clouds of strife and opposition are fast disappearing, and the bright sunlight of prosperity is beginning to shine upon our pathway with greater vigor than at any previous time. We feel proud to say that in the midst of opposition our Zion has held to her integrity, and is still advancing onward to a glorious victory, winning souls for Christ. Such advancement is inevitable, so long as our ministers
retain the same working spirit. Although at one time forts were built, artillery planted, and every thing was done seemingly to impede the progress of our Church, yet our soldiers, being filled with the Holy Ghost, and armed with moral courage, were undismayed, and continued marching on, with Christ as their leader. Our Church being liberal, our preachers humble, and our Bishops' sole aim being to advance the cause of Christ, will have a great deal to do with our future success. "May God speed you on!" can be heard on all sides. "We bid you welcome in our midst, and in the name of God," say some here and there. "Here is my hand, here is my heart," says a faithful brother. All we need do, brethren, is to "trust in God, and do the right."
Then let us still work on,
Depending on the Lord;
He'll help us stand the storm,
If we trust in his word.
No one can find so great a fault, if any, in our polity as the reader no doubt has already seen. The itinerant system is good
enough. To continue to prosper, both spiritually and temporally, much is required of those who have, or may have, charge of the different departments of the Church.
We have been doing a good work. How are we to continue it? First, we are to depend upon the great "Head" of the Church. We are to depend upon no class of men solely, but upon God. We need in the future, as we had in the past, a strong confidence in Christ. Many men boast of their own strength and works, and have no fear of God. But those who would do good,--who are earnest and true--consider their weakness and the power and faithfulness of God, thus learning to confide in him. Great and precious are the promises of God to the faithful servant. Many are the blessings that await the true workman.
It is true our enemies have been many, causing us to watch both day and night; and if God had not been for us, and prospered us, long ere this we would have failed, and our Church been only a thing of the past. Having been for us in the past, we feel sure he will be for us in the future,
and we shall conquer though some of us die.
"As prosperity is sometimes dangerous, we may ask ourselves the question, Will the Church be as prosperous in the future as in the past? This depends upon the course pursued. We believe the Church prospers in proportion to the interest manifested in its designs, which is to be instrumental in saving immortal souls. If this be true, let our ministers seek to know more of our Saviour. Much is said about what the Church needs in the future. Some tell us we must have a more united ministry; others an educated ministry; but above all let us have a God-sent ministry, which is burdened with the worth of souls." (Rev. A. H. Jones.)
Brethren, we have no cause to be discouraged. To accomplish great results requires much labor. Our history as a Church is short but interesting, especially when we consider how some of us have toiled to get where we are. Let us labor on till the Master comes. Let us be true to our God, true to ourselves, our trust, and our Church,
and never forsake her for any cause. If there be any wrongs, let us get them right. As a people working for God, let us go on; and, as we go, know nothing but "Christ, and him crucified." We believe this is the foundation upon which we must build to prove ourselves true ministers of God. Let us be as "wise as serpents, bold as a lion, and as harmless as doves." Let us resolve that any thing we can do toward raising our people from their degraded condition shall be done cheerfully and willingly. Let us, with renewed and hopeful vigor, put our shoulder to the wheel. Amid our toils, inconveniences, and trials let us remember that "we are the Lord's." Yes, our future is hopeful. As we now see it the way is clear, and our pathway is marked with success.
THAT our ministry has made rapid progress no one can truthfully deny. In this department great improvement has been made; still, there is room for greater improvement. As Bishop Holsey said, "We want a holy ministry, a pure Church." We want good men, men who live right and present a holy ministry, as this is the groundwork of success. We want men who feel an interest in the Church; men who are Connectional, and who are interested not only in one particular charge or Conference, but in the entire Connection; men who desire to see every Conference prosper, and every department of the Church built up. The Church of Christ is composed of good Christians, no matter what their condition in life is or may have been. Among all the important positions of life, among all the officers of trust, that of the minister of the gospel of Christ is the most important
to man. The preaching of the gospel of the Son of God is indispensable. It must necessarily go on in all ages and seasons. Men must be warned of coming danger; they must be told of the dismal ruin that awaits them, and what they must do in order to shun it. This must be done by those who have been called to the ministry by the great I Am.
O how excellent! You see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called, but God hath even chosen you as ministers to go and teach the nations. What a grand calling! While men of the world boast of their election or appointment as governors or some other position of honor, you can with humility accept a greater, yea, the greatest of all appointments--a minister of the gospel of Christ.
In the political world men are appointed by executive authority as ministers to foreign countries, and there they must remain until their successors are appointed; but God commissioned his ministers, not to one country alone, but to "go into all
the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," to bid all men to come to Christ and receive eternal life.
The duties of a minister! How binding and yet how indispensable! The Apostle Paul's exhortation to Timothy was to "preach the word." This must be done unmixed with error. To do this much study is required; mere reading is not at all sufficient; there must be a real searching of the Scriptures, accompanied with prayer. "Preach the word, be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," etc., is the apostle's exhortation. How weighty are these words! How important the work of the ministry! How absolutely necessary to accomplish it! Yet its accomplishment is impossible without keeping the above charge. All Christians are commanded to watch, but most especially must a minister of the gospel watch at all times, and shun all evil temptations and the snares of the evil one. It is his duty to labor incessantly for the advancement of the cause of
Christ, and to spread scriptural holiness throughout the land. To do this he must "watch," so that if at any time something should arise to impede the progress of the above essentials, together with others, he can readily overcome them. He must guard against all the vain pursuits of life, all those habits and practices which are inconsistent for a minister of the gospel. Too much gayety and carelessness, slothfulness, negligence, and non-interestedness are great sources of errors, and should be avoided. Ministers of the gospel should be very careful how they conduct themselves; they should try at all times to imitate Christ. Prayer is essentially necessary. Any one attempting to be successful in his ministerial affairs without prayer will often find himself on a "drag."
The Sunday-school is an important institution connected with our Church, and therefore needs to be noticed. The instruction of our youth should demand a great deal of our thought. "What will become of the children?" has often been asked, and we
think it a very important question. The training of our children in ways suitable for them to go through this world with honor to themselves, their parents, and their Church is essentially necessary. When we say honor, we do not mean such as the world, and it alone, will boast of, but that which would meet the approval of our heavenly Father. That the future destiny of our Church and children, as well as our domestic happiness, depends largely upon the perpetuity and growth of our Sunday-schools cannot be denied. The Church that would grow and prosper must have a source from which she may continually obtain such force as is needed. We know of no better source than the Sunday-schools.
The community that would have peace and prosperity, the family that would live happy, must have some source from which such blessings and pleasures will flow. Believers in Christ must continually be received into the Church, despite the efforts of infidelity, skepticism, and many other "isms," united to throw in the way their obnoxious doctrine to stop up the stream,
and turn our children into that way which leads to destruction. Let us offer two or three plain suggestions concerning our Sunday-schools.
In our Sunday-schools there are three persons who have a great responsibility resting upon them--the pastor in charge, superintendent, and teacher. The pastor should see that the school is fully organized. He should engage the co-operation of the members and friends. He should visit the school as often as possible, give pastoral instructions, see that the school is furnished with proper material--in short, he should be an active worker in the school. It is not enough for him to visit now and then, but whenever opportunity presents itself (and that is nearly every Sabbath) he should be found one of the first to get there. We remember hearing a pastor of a large congregation say: "I hardly ever miss the Sunday-school; I always manage to get there in time to dismiss them." He seemed to think that was sufficient. But we think he was quite mistaken. We fear there are a great many like him; however, we
hope they will soon see their error, and study reformation. We need the right kind of officers and teachers. For one to have the name of an officer, and never know or perform the duty, is of little consequence. What we want is Christian teachers who love the cause of Christ, and will labor earnestly for its propagation.
The superintendent should place himself at the head of affairs. He should be busily engaged, seeing that every thing is done accurately and at the proper time. Punctuality has a great deal to do with success of any kind. The superintendent should place himself centrally, and thus have the advantage of seeing every thing that takes place; his motives should be pure; his manners, conversation, and instructions should be such as would make a lasting impression for good upon the mind of all present, not only in the school-room, but throughout the community. He should see that the teachers give their classes the proper instructions, for many teachers are not careful concerning this matter. Hence the superintendent should see that such classes are
furnished with proper teachers who are capable of teaching, whose morals will warrant their appointment, and whose highest aim is to lead the little ones to Christ. To obtain this kind it requires great care. A few hints concerning the qualifications of teachers may prove lucrative.
First, their morals. A teacher in Sunday-schools should, above all things, possess good morals. Great attention should be given to this demand of the Sunday-school by both pastor and superintendent. It will not do to trust our children to the care of teachers who are only prepared to lead them astray. A teacher's practices should, as far as possible, be right, at home or abroad, as well as in the school-room on Sunday--in fact, a Sunday-school teacher should be a devout Christian. There are many teachers in our Sabbath-schools who have never made any profession of religion whatever; yet they are great Sunday-school workers, teaching the children the way to heaven, and don't know it themselves. It is like the blind leading the blind--both are liable to fall in the ditch. We repeat it: Our Sunday-schools
want earnest, devoted, pious Christian teachers, who love God and his cause, and are always trying to do right.
Second, intellectual qualifications. It is important that the teacher of a class understands what to teach, not only knows what to teach, but has a knowledge of what he or she teaches. Another thing of importance is the ability to communicate this information to the pupils. They want to teach something that is beneficial, which will do the pupils good, not only in this present life, but more especially in that which is to come. To teach one to read the Bible and answer a few questions from the Catechism is by no means sufficient. The lesson must be made plain, so that all can understand it. It must be so impressed upon the scholars' minds as to cause them to think of it when away.
As a faithful minister feels it his duty to preach the word of God in its purity, and warn men to "flee the wrath to come," so must a Sunday-school teacher feel the great responsibility of teaching the youths to remember their Creator while young. They
must feel that in this great work they must do something to lead the children to Christ.
The Sunday-school needs to be made more attractive and interesting. It should be a power in the land in overthrowing the works of the wicked one, despoiling his kingdom, and causing the kingdom of Christ to be established in our hearts, in our different communities, cities, towns, and throughout the country, until all the world becomes converted to God.
We can say but little concerning this department. A great deal has been said about "Missions," but until recently little has been done. In this respect our Church has not been as wide-awake as was necessary. Now she is shaking off her "drowsy powers," and bringing herself into active work.
Were we to consider the number of fields lying uncultivated, the number of places where our Church is called for in cities, towns, and villages, North and South, East and West, we would not solace ourselves
with mere talk. Since seeing the great need of activity in this direction, many have gone to work, and the missionary spirit seems to grow stronger and stronger. As a Church, we should know no such thing as East or West, North or South, but include all as within our bounds. To say, "We ought to be in this place," "We ought to go yonder," or "We ought to send some one there," will not suffice. If we know these things "ought" to be done, just leave out the word "ought," and insert the word shall, and some one will soon be there. Our missionary cause must receive more attention. Many persons close around us need the gospel. Let all arise and do something for this great cause.
WHILE Mr. John Wesley was attending the College at Oxford, he and other worthy young men were in the habit of meeting together once a week for mutual improvement--moral as well as intellectual. These young men visited the jails to read the Bible to the prisoners, and the poor to administer to their wants. For these, and many other works of love, they were singled out by the other young men of the college as objects of ridicule, insinuations, and sneers. They called them "Sacramentarians," the "Godly Club," and finally "Methodists"--a term of reproach then; an honor now, after a lapse of one century and three-quarters.
Mr. Wesley neither gave a name to the society which he founded, nor originated its rites, forms, and ceremonies.
In 1699, four years before Mr. Wesley's birth, a number of young men met weekly to strengthen each other by speaking, and by making some effort to do good among the poor. Knowing each other's disposition, they were prepared to admonish and to watch over one another. They had communion, stewards, days of fasting and self-examination, and even discouraged public amusements. From the forms and ceremonies
which these young men used Mr. Wesley formed the body of Methodism. But it was a body without a soul. No man is justified by good works. This fact Mr. Wesley found out after having preached many years. He soon learned that neither his preaching nor his good works would save him. He needed a regenerated heart, and he continued to seek until the mystery was made plain.
To the Moravians belong the honor, through Christ, of giving a soul to Methodism. These people are Germans, on the border of Bohemia, in Austria. They were pious, godly, and zealous Christians. Their religion beamed forth from their countenances, and like the Quakers of our day they were respected as a class for their general goodness and integrity. They made a lasting impression on the heart of Mr. Wesley, and to one of their number, Peter Bohler, was given the honor to point him the way to heaven--a way which he never lost, but traveled until he passed into the skies.
Mr. Wesley was a member of the Church of England--a Church in union with the state of wealth and influence, containing many pious and able ministers of the gospel, and one that ought to have been able to advance the Master's kingdom in the Island of Great Britain and in distant countries. Conscious of this, Mr. Wesley lived and died loyal to the Church of England. His aim was to carry on a reformation in the Church which he dearly loved, and not to attempt to form a new sect. This fact being borne in mind, it will not be out of place to consider the question
whether it was proper and right that Methodism should have been brought into existence.
If the Church of England was doing all that a Church could do to advance Christianity, promote morality, and discourage vice, the founding of another Church was not only improper, but in every way hurtful.
The best test of the influence of a Church for good is the moral state of those who are its members and regular attendants upon its ceremonies. This is the thermometer by which we can truthfully arrive at a conclusion as to the usefulness of such an institution. Christianity did not come until God had given the heathen to understand that their gods had eyes but saw not, ears but heard not. It did not come until the heathen had long since lost faith in their gods, and virtue had taken unto itself wings and flown away. Superstition, ignorance, and vice, and every kind of crime, reigned in its stead. At this hour of the world's black darkness and misery God sent forth his Son, that the world through him might be saved. Thus it was when the Church forsook God, and so mingled with the world as to lose its identity, God sent forth Martin Luther to proclaim a clear doctrine and a humble faith. If a similar state of things existed when Methodism sprung into existence, its birth was a necessity.
The reader of English history can scarcely realize that the England of to-day was the England of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Pope complains that honor, virtue, and reputation are laid aside as crumpled ribbons. Lord Chesterfield bears witness
to the decay of virtue and morality among the people. One who took part in the services of those times uses the following vigorous words: "A thick gloominess hath overspread our horizon, and our light looks like the evening of the world. Vice and wickedness abound in every place; drunkenness and lewdness escape unpunished. Our ears are filled with imprecations of damnation, and on the corners of our streets everywhere are the horrible sounds of oaths." Not only were these things true of the people of England but of the government also. Sir Robert Walpole was Prime Minister--a man most selfish and unscrupulous. Under his administration a historian declares that "all spirit of integrity was laughed out of the kingdom--patriotism ridiculed, and venality practiced without shame." It can easily be seen from these facts that England needed reformation, and that the Church of England had been "weighed in the balance and found wanting." It was to supply this want that Methodism came forth in due season. In the beginning the early members formed themselves into a Society, which met once a week, to confess their faults to one another, and pray for one another that they might be healed. Those early Methodists met to confess their faults; we meet this day to declare our virtues. If we are to accept every thing that is said in the class-room, the people of this day are much better than those of that time. It must have been a touching sight to see a band of five or ten persons meet together, and each one speak plainly, freely, the real state of his heart, with the several temptations and deliverances since the last time of
meeting. They could do it then, and pray over each other's faults, and guard each other's reputation, and help build each other up. They did not pick motes out of their sisters' and brothers' eyes and hold them up as beams for the gratification of a perverse generation. They did not proclaim to saints and sinners the faults and missteps of their erring brethren, but rather prayed that they might be healed.
The early Methodist Societies suffered from lack of competent pastors to take charge of the rapidly growing flocks. Mr. Wesley wished every thing to be done in accordance with the rules of the Church of England. The Bishops of that Church refused to ordain ministers for a work so foreign to that in which they were engaged. Therefore, instead of appointing pastors, assistants were appointed to take charge of the flocks. These assistants began to preach, and such was the power of their work that Mr. Wesley, though at first opposed to their preaching, was compelled to bow to the will of God. It was quite natural that at times ignorant and misguided men would take charge of flocks, only to lead them astray.
The question of dreams and visions and shouting and loud noise during services early came up. At the beginning of his ministry Mr. Wesley was inclined to look with great favor upon the efficacy of dreams, visions, and shouting; but after years of experience with those whose religion was in their mouth or feet, whose conversation with God usually took place in sleep, and whose lives were at variance with their profession, he in a measure opposed such demonstrations.
In writing to Mr. Maxfield, one of his ministers, he used these words: "I dislike several things: (1) The speaking or praying of several at once; (2) the praying to the Son of God only, or more than to the Father; (3) the use of improper expressions in prayer, sometimes too bold, if not irreverent; sometimes too pompous and magnificent, extolling yourselves rather than God, and telling him what you are, not what you want; (4) using poor, flat, bold hymns; (5) the never kneeling at prayer; (6) your using postures or gestures highly indecent; (7) your screaming even, so as to make the words unintelligible; (8) your offering people will be justified or sanctified just now; (9) the affirming they are when they are not; (10) the bidding them say, 'I believe;' (11) the bitterly condemning any that oppose, calling them wolves, etc. I dislike something that has the appearance of enthusiasm, overvaluing feelings and inward impressions, mistaking the mere work of imagination for the voice of the Spirit, expecting the end without the means, and undervaluing reason, knowledge, and wisdom in general." I have given Mr. Wesley's exact words to show that these faults crept in at the beginning of Methodism. To-day we ought to look back and smile at the errors that were committed a hundred years ago. These errors caused trouble in the infant Church, and fanned the flame of indignation from the Church of England and its blind followers. Time fails to speak of the mobs and their terrible dealings with defenseless women, infant children, and old men; of the property destroyed, and reputation cast out as evil. Even the Church of God, so
called, lent a hand to these atrocities, and men ignorantly supposed that they served God and honored their country by persecuting so mean a sect. "But God was in the distance," ordaining that these very afflictions should make firm a denomination that should by its enterprise light up a dark continent, and spread the good news of great joy to the distant isles of the sea. Afflictions only bound the members of the infant Church in one bound of love. One trouble after another arose; but a way of escape was always provided, and a table was spread in the presence of their enemies.
In conclusion I will only call attention to these facts: The Methodists were driven out of the Church. Methodism was established for missionary purposes; it was founded for the benefit of the poor who could not enter the fine Churches and feel like men; it was founded for those who desired to flee the wrath to come; it was founded in the interest of knowledge, and no one is a true Methodist who looks down upon education, and thinks the softest way to heaven is up the lane of ignorance and superstition. It was not founded for the benefit of preachers or Bishops, but for the glory of God. No one can be a true Methodist who bows down to such fallen beings. It was not founded for the glory of class-leaders, stewards, trustees, and dignitaries who push themselves forward, thereby quenching the Spirit of God and hindering the progress of the Church; but it was founded for poor, humble, fallen man, that he might learn the way to heaven and teach it to others.