CHAPTER XXVI. Church in a Cabin
In the fall of 1842 our Illinois Conference was holden in Winchester, Scott County, September 14th; Bishop Roberts presided, and I was continued on the Jacksonville District. The reader will indulge me in saying a few things about my own immediate neighborhood. When I settled here in 1824, there was no society nearer than five miles on Rock Creek, to which place my family had to go for circuit preaching and class-meeting every Sunday, if they attended anywhere. There was in my immediate settlement but one single member of the Methodist Church, besides my own family. This member was a widow lady, a very fine woman, and I think a consistent Christian.
The country was entirely new and almost in a state of nature: we had no churches to worship in; nearly all the citizens lived in newly-built cabins. We thought we would open our cabin for preaching, and did so, and invited the neighbors to come and hear the word of God, and worship with us. I formed a small class of about twelve, including three of my own family, and we kept circuit preaching in our humble dwelling for fourteen years, during which time our little class continued with various successes and depressions from year to year. Sometimes by emigration we increased considerably, and then, when these new emigrants would select homes for themselves, and move off, we would be reduced almost to the number with which we started.
About this time my wife's health was very poor, so that entertaining preaching every two weeks, and class-meeting every Sunday, became a little too much for her strength. I determined to build a church; but how was it to be done? The society was small and poor, the citizens outside of the society were comparatively poor, and not friendly to the Methodists; but I determined to build a house to worship God in, and accordingly I opened a subscription, had trustees appointed, gave a lot of ground to build the church on, and subscribed one hundred dollars toward its erection. But when I presented my subscription paper to neighbors round, there were many objections and excuses; some wanted it for school purposes as well as a Church; some said if I would make it a Union Church for all denominations, they would then help, but they would not give anything if it was to be deeded to the Methodist Episcopal Church. To these objections I answered, No, friends; a church should never be a school-house; and as for a Union Church, I never knew one built on this principle but what became a bone of contention and created strife, and ended in confusion; that a church should always belong to some religious denomination that would take care of it, and I was going to build a church for the Methodists; if they would help me I would thank them; and if they did not see proper to do so, I would try without their help as best I could. Our help amounted to but little, but we commenced, and finally succeeded in building a neat little church, twenty-four by thirty feet, which cost us about six hundred dollars, of which I had to pay about three hundred. I struggled hard, and sometimes thought my load was too heavy to get along with, but my creed was never to back out unless I found myself wrong.
Shortly after we finished the house, Brother Heath, now of California, and Brother H. Wallace, of the Griggsville District, Illinois Conference, were our circuit preachers, and it pleased the Lord to pour out his Holy Spirit upon our congregation and settlement generally, and we had a glorious revival, resulting in about forty conversions and accessions to the Church. I then thought that the use I had made of the $300 in building the church, was the best investment I had ever made in all my life. We called the house "Pleasant Plains Church."
Long since our little church became too small, and we have enlarged it so that it is now thirty feet by fifty. Our society increased so that a division has taken place, and another very respectable church has been built a few miles off, and the two societies number near one hundred and eighty members, and the time is not distant when another church must be erected a few miles south of the old stand. See what the Lord has done for us, under all the forbidding circumstances that attended our little history in the last thirty years. Praise the Lord!
I beg leave here to say that the first church, as far as I know, ever built in Sangamon County and Sangamon Circuit, was on Spring Creek, six miles west of Springfield. It was really a log-cabin, about eighteen feet by twenty, with a log partition cutting off a small part of it for a class-room. Here was one of the oldest classes ever formed in Sangamon Circuit. In this little house the society met and worshiped for many years; and, on the lot donated for the church and burying-ground, the circuit erected a large and comfortable camp ground, and many, very many, glorious camp-meetings were held here, and I may safely say that hundreds of souls were born into the kingdom of God on this consecrated ground; and many of those who sung and shouted the high praises of God on this ground have long since fallen victims to death, and are now employed in singing praises to God and the Lamb, around the throne in heaven.
This camp ground was called "Watters's Camp Ground." He lived near it, but years gone by he left the Church militant for the Church triumphant above. This spot is sacred to me, as several of my children were converted on it, and many of my best friends in heaven, as well as on earth, were converted here, and we have sung, and prayed, and shouted together, and I have a strong hope that we shall shortly sing together in heaven, and this singing and shouting will last forever. Amen.
In 1840-41, Alton Station, that had been attached to the Lebanon District, Charles Holliday presiding elder, was attached to the Jacksonville District, N. Hobart in charge. In the fall of 1842-43, N. S. Bastion and C. J. Houts were appointed to Alton. Our quarterly meeting came off in the dead of this winter; and although it was bitter cold weather, we had a good congregation, and Divine power was present to heal. Many were converted and deeply penitent, and we found it necessary to protract the meeting. Mourners, in crowds, came to the altar for the prayers of the Church. Right in the midst of our revival, the keeper of the Eagle Tavern took it into his heart (not head, for that was nearly brainless) that he would stop our revivals; so he proclaimed that he was going to have a splendid free ball the next evening at the Eagle Tavern, and dispatched his runners and ticketed nearly the whole city. Among the rest he sent me a ticket to the church, where we were having a very good meeting. Just before the congregation was dismissed I rose in the pulpit and read my ticket to the ball, and then announced that I could not attend the Eagle Tavern ball, for the reason that I was going to have a Methodist ball in the church the same evening, and requested the whole congregation to attend the Methodist ball, and get as many more to come with them as they could; that my invitation they might consider as a free ticket; that I was sure we would have a better fiddler than they possibly could scare up at the Eagle Tavern. The thing took like wildfire. The wickedest persons in the congregation electioneered for the Methodist ball, and cried out shame on the tavern-keeper. When the evening came, after all the drilling and drumming of the tavern-keeper, he could not get ladies enough to dance a four-handed reel. He succeeded in getting two little girls and some men, and these mean fellows had well-nigh danced the children to death. Our church was crowded to overflowing. That night the arm of the Lord was made bare, and the mighty power of God was felt through the numerous crowd. Many came to the altar as weeping penitents, but rose therefrom with triumphant shouts of "Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth, good-will toward men."
I now beg leave to relate an incident which occurred at this meeting; I will do it as delicately as I well can. Among the crowd that came to the altar there were many women, and among them two good-looking, well-dressed young ladies, who were deeply affected; it seemed as if the great deep of their hearts was broken up. I was informed that they were under ill-fame, and an old sister in the Church was so disturbed about them that she wanted me to drive them from the altar, for fear we should be reproached and bring down persecution on the Church. I told her to be quiet, and let them alone, "For," said I, "they must have religion, or be lost forever." But the old sister would not rest; she ran to Brother Bastion and told him. He was a very sensitive man. He came to me and whispered, telling me they must be ordered away directly; it would ruin our meeting and stop the work. I begged him to let them alone. "Now," said I, "brother, on the other side of the altar there are a dozen men that, in all probability, are guilty of as base conduct as these young women; why don't you go and drive them from the altar? Do let them alone. Do you go and talk to the men, and I will attend to these females; they must not be driven from the altar of prayer." But two of our old, squeamish sisters, when I turned away from Brother Bastion, renewed their importunities with Bastion, and, while my attention was called to regulate the congregation, Bastion went and ordered these two women from the altar. They retired away back to a vacant seat and sat down, and wept bitterly. As soon as I discovered what was done, I followed those women to their seats, and talked with them and encouraged them, saying, "Although you may be rejected by mortals, God will not reject or spurn you from his presence. Mary Magdalene had seven devils, yet Christ cast them all out; the man in the tombs had a legion of devils in him, but Christ dispossessed them all." They asked me to pray for them. "Yes," said I, "with all my heart," and we knelt down and prayed. It seemed as if their hearts would break with the sorrow and anguish they felt; and then, to punish those sensitive old sisters, I went and made them come and pray for them, and before we closed our meeting one of them professed to be converted, and I have no reason to doubt it. The other left the house weeping. She never returned to our meeting. Perhaps she was forever lost on account of this uncalled-for rebuke.
The next time we opened the doors of the Church, to take in members, a number came and joined. This young woman, who had experienced religion, advanced to the foot of the altar, but would not come and give me her hand. I saw she wanted to join, but was afraid, not having confidence to do so; and she said, afterward, she thought the Church would not receive her. I went to her, took her by the hand, and asked her if she did not desire to join the Church. She said, with streaming eyes, "Yes, if the Church can possibly receive me, and grant me the lowest seat among God's people."
I lived to see this woman in other and after years, and with firm and unfaltering steps she lived up to her profession, and thoroughly redeemed herself from degradation, in the estimation of all who knew her. Now, dear reader, think of it. Did Christ reject the woman taken in adultery, or the woman of Samaria at the well, or any other poor wretched sinner, male or female, that ever came to him with a broken and contrite heart? Think of the significant words of the poet,
"None are too vile, who will repent.
Out of one sinner legions went,
The Lord did him relieve," &c.
It is a little singular why men, and women too, should feel such sensitiveness concerning females of ill-fame more than they do in relation to men; especially when they make efforts to reform their lives and live religious, but it is so, though I cannot see any just reason for it.
This conference year, 1842-43, was a memorable one in many parts of our beloved Zion. Jacksonville District shared largely in revival influences. Several hundred were soundly converted, and over five hundred joined the Methodist Episcopal Church in the bounds of the district. We not only had the above-named revival in Alton, but Brother Bird had a prosperous year on the Carrollton Circuit; Brother J. B. Houts considerable prosperity on the Whitehall Circuit; Brother Grubbs had a fine revival in the Jacksonville Station, but perhaps it was a jubilee to the Winchester Circuit, under the labors of Brother Norman Allen, and those that worked side by side with him pretty near the whole year.
Naples, a beautiful little town on the east bank of the Illinois River, was one of the appointments in the Winchester Circuit. The citizens were kind and friendly; but, with a few exceptions, they were very wicked, and had long resisted and rejected the offers of mercy; but at a protracted meeting gotten up and superintended by Brother Allen, this wicked little town was awfully shaken by the power of God; many tall sons and daughters of dissipation were made to quail under the power of God. From day to day, from evening to evening, they crowded the place of worship, and, with unmistakable signs of penitence, prostrated themselves at the mourners' bench. The cries of the penitent and the shouts of the converted were heard with awe and wonder by the wicked multitude that stood around. Deism gave way, Universalism caved in, skepticism, with its coat of many colors, stood aghast, hell trembled, devils fled, drunkards awoke to soberness, and, I may safely say, all ranks and grades of sinners were made to cry out, "Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved?" The cries of penitents were not only heard in the church, but in the streets, in almost all the houses, by day and by night. Many were the thrilling incidents that attended this revival in Naples. More than one hundred were converted, and joined the Church, and the whole face of the town was changed; and although some of them fell back into their old habits of vice, yet many of them stood firm as pillars in the house of God. The subjects of this revival were from the child of ten or twelve years to the hoary-headed sinner that stood trembling on the verge of the grave.
Before this meeting closed in Naples, which was crowned with such signal success, our quarterly meeting commenced in a little town in the same circuit called Exeter. There Satan had long reigned without a rival, wickedness of all kinds abounded, and what made it the more deplorable, the wickedness of the people was sanctified by a Universalist priest or preacher, who assured them all of eternal salvation in heaven, irrespective of their moral conduct here on earth. I have thought, and do still think, if I were to set out to form a plan to contravene the laws of God, to encourage wickedness of all kinds, to corrupt the morals and encourage vice, and crowd hell with the lost and the wailings of the damned, the Universalist plan should be the plan, the very plan, that I would adopt. What has a Universalist, who really and sincerely believes that doctrine, to fear? Just nothing at all; for this flesh-pleasing, conscience-soothing doctrine will not only justify him in his neglect of duty to God and man, but gives fallen nature an unlimited license to serve the devil with greediness, in any and every possible way that his degenerate, fallen soul requires or desires.
A few years ago I had a neighbor who professed to be a confirmed Universalist. He contended with me that there was no devil but the evil disposition in man, and that there was no hell but the bad feelings that men had when they did wrong; that this was all the punishment anybody would suffer. When this neighbor's father lay on his dying bed, (a confirmed Universalist, professedly,) there was a faithful minister of Christ believed it his duty to visit this old Universalist, and warn him of his danger, and try to awaken his conscience, if not seared, to a just view of his real situation. The minister, however, failed in his faithful attempt and well-meant endeavors; for the old man, then on his dying pillow, was greatly offended at the preacher, and told him he did not thank him for trying to shake his faith in his dying moments. This neighbor of mine, and son of this old, hardened sinner, was greatly enraged at the preacher, and cursed and abused him in a violent manner. A few days after the demise of the old man, he, in a furious rage, began to abuse and curse the preacher in my presence, and said,
"D----n him, I wish he was in hell, and the devil had him."
I stopped him short by saying, "Pooh, pooh, man, what are you talking about? There is no hell but the bad feelings that a man has when he does wrong, and no devil but the evil disposition that is in man." Thus answering a fool according to his folly.
"Well," said he, "if there is no hell, there ought to be, to put such preachers in."
"Now, sir," said I, "you see the utter untenableness of your creed, for a man, even in trying to do good honestly, draws down your wrath, and, in a moment, you want a hell to put him into, and a devil to torment him, for giving you an offense, and for doing what no good man ought to be offended about. But God must be insulted, his name blasphemed, his laws trampled under foot, yet he must have no hell to put such wretches in, no devil to torment him. Now I would be ashamed of myself if I were in your place, and let the seal of truth close my lips forever hereafter."
Although he was confounded, he still clave to his God-dishonoring doctrine, waxing worse and worse, till it was generally believed he was guilty of a most heinous crime.
But to return to the narrative. From the first sermon in Exeter, at the quarterly meeting, there were visible signs of good, and although the weather was intensely cold, yet our Church was crowded beyond its utmost capacity. The power of God arrested many careless sinners, and waked up many old formal professors of religion. There was a large company of young unfledged Universalists who came to look on and mock; and so ignorant were they, that they did not imagine they would run into any possible danger of taking these "Methodist fits," as they called the exercises that were going on. There were two sisters, young ladies, carried off with the soul-destroying doctrines of the Universalists, in attendance. In pressing through the crowd, I saw one of them was deeply affected, and weeping. I went and talked with her. She saw her wretched condition. I invited her to go to the altar with the mourners; she consented, and I led her there. I talked and prayed with her; she was deeply engaged. Her sister did not know for some time that she was at the mourners' bench, but presently some one told her. At this she flew into a violent rage, and said, at the risk of her life, she would have her out of that disgraceful place. I happened to turn my face toward the door, and saw her coming; the house was very much crowded; some tried to stop her, but she rushed on. I rose and met her in the crowded aisle, and told her to be calm and desist. She made neither better nor worse of it than to draw back her arm and give me a severe slap in the face with her open hand. I confess this rather took me by surprise, and, as the common saying is, she made the fire fly out of my eyes in tremendous sparkling brilliancy; but collecting my best judgment, I caught her by the arms near her shoulders, and wheeled her to the right about, and moved her forward to the door, and said, "Gentlemen, please open the door; the devil in this Universalist lady has got fighting hot, and I want to set her outside to cool." The door was opened, and I landed her out with this assurance, that when she got in a good humor, and could behave herself like a decent lady ought to do, then, and not till then, she might come in again. I then closed the door, and set a watch to keep it to avoid further disturbance.
I had hardly returned to the altar when the young lady I had led there rose and gave us a heavenly shout, and then another, and another, till five in rapid succession raised the shout. It ran like electricity through the congregation; sinners wept, quaked, and trembled, and saints shouted aloud for joy. Thus our meeting continued for a number of nights and days, and many souls were born into the kingdom of God. The whole country around for miles came to our meetings, were convicted and converted, and great was the joy of the people of God. Over one hundred professed religion, and nearly that number joined the Methodist Episcopal Church.
There was a gentleman in this place who had been very wicked, a noted gambler, by the name of W----t; he was an esquire. He got under serious concern for his salvation, and sent for me; I went and prayed with him. After talking with him a little he got up deliberately, went to his desk, took out his cards, stepped to the fire, and pitched them in, making a whole burnt-offering of them. Shortly after this he found peace, and was, as I believe, soundly converted to God. He seemed to have the innocence and simplicity of a child. He was very zealous for God, and gave great promise of doing good. He had a brother-in-law and sister in Nauvoo, among the self-deluded Mormons. His sister professed to have the gift of tongues, and his brother-in-law the gift of healing all manner of diseases, and the interpretation of tongues.
This brother, in his zeal for God, was impressed that he must go to Nauvoo to convince his brother-in-law and sister, and all the rest of the Mormons, that they were wrong. I tried to dissuade him, knowing they were artful and cunning, and adepts in practicing frauds and religious jugglery, and that he was just in a state of mind to be deceived, without any experience of the devices of the devil, especially of his power to transform himself into an angel of light; but, despite all my remonstrances, go he must, and go he did; and, as I predicted, they were ready for him. They told him that he was just right as far as he had gone; that the Methodists were right as far as they had gone, and next to the Latter-day Saints alias Mormons, were the best people in all the land, but they had stopped short of their grand and glorious mission; that they were afraid of persecution, and had shrunk from their duty; that if they had followed the light they would have taken the world, and that the best and holiest men and women among the Mormons had been members of the Methodist Church. They told him if he would join the Mormons and live faithful, that in a very little time he would have the gift of tongues, and the gift of healing, so that by faith he would raise the dead as did the first Christians. The fatal bait was gulped down; they took him to the river and ducked him; and when I last saw him he was in daily expectation of these, great gifts. I told him he would never receive them; and he promised me if he did not, he would leave them. What has become of him I know not, but it is probable he is at Utah, and has fifteen or twenty wives.
I will name another incident connected with this revival. There was an interesting young man, well educated, and gentlemanly in all his conduct, from some of the Eastern states. He boarded at a house I frequently visited. He was serious; I talked to him, and he frankly admitted the real necessity of religion, and said, for his right hand he would not lay a straw in the way of any person to prevent him from getting religion; but he said he was not ready to start in this glorious cause, but that he fully intended at some future time to seek religion. I urged him to submit now; that in all probability he never would live to see so good a time to get religion as the present. He admitted all I said, and wept like a child; but I could not prevail on him to start now in this heavenly race.
As our meeting was drawing to a close, I was uncommonly anxious to see this young man converted, but I was not permitted to see it. Some little time before we closed the meeting, a messenger arrived for me to go to another town where the work of religion had broken out, and they greatly needed ministerial aid. The day after I left this young man he was taken violently ill. His disease was rapid, all medical aid failed, and he was shortly given over by his physicians to die. He sent post-haste for me to come to him. I hastened to him, but never to the last moment of my recollection shall I ever forget the bitter lamentations of this young man. "O!" said he, "if I had taken your advice a few days ago, which you gave me in tears, and which, in spite of all my resistance, drew tears from my eyes, I should have now been ready to die. God's Spirit strove with me powerfully, but I was stubborn, and resisted it. If I had yielded then, I believe God would have saved me from my sins; but now, racked with pain almost insupportable, and scorched with burning fevers, and on the very verge of an eternal world, I have no hope in the future; all is dark, dark, and gloomy. Through light and mercy I have evaded and resisted God, his Spirit, and his ministers, and now I must make my bed in hell, and bid an eternal farewell to all the means of grace, and all hope of heaven; lost! lost! forever lost!"
In this condition he breathed his last. It was a solemn and awful scene; mournfully I turned away and wept bitterly. I never think of this scene but with mournful feelings. God forbid that I should die the death of such a one! But how many are there that have lived and died like this pleasant young man; approve the right, but choose the wrong; put off the day of their return to God; wade through tears and prayers of ministers and pious friends; till they make the dreadful plunge, and have to say, "Lost! lost! lost! forever lost!" O, sinner, stop and think before you further go! Turn, and turn now.
I hastened to Winchester, where the brethren had rallied, and were engaged in a glorious revival of religion. They had sent off for Brother Akers, who had been with them several days, battling successfully for the cause of true religion, and was made the honored instrument of much good to many souls. I met Brother Akers between Jacksonville and Winchester; he was compelled to leave for his regular field of labor. When I met him, he exclaimed, "One woe is past, and behold, another cometh!" The Campbellite preachers, and many of their members, had rushed into our meeting, and tried to hinder or stop the blessed work by drawing our people into foolish controversy. Brother Akers had used the artillery of truth very successfully against this false form of religion. To this he referred when I met him as he was leaving and I was hastening to the field of battle.
When I got to the meeting, I found a blessed work in prosperous progress. It really seemed to me that the Campbellites, and especially their preacher, were as restless as fallen demons. They tried to draw off our laboring members into vain and hurtful debates; and instead of encouraging mourners to seek on, they tried to confuse their minds, and throw doubts and difficulties in their way; and all round, and in the congregation, they were busy in this way, to confuse the minds of the people, and draw them off from seeking God. At once I saw through their plan, and the bad effects of such a course, if permitted to be carried on. When, at our first coming together after my arrival, I forbade all controversy of this kind, and told our brethren they must not indulge in it any more, and said to all that were opposed to the glorious work in progress, if they did not like it they must and should desist from entering into debates about it in the congregation, the most of the Campbellites desisted, or slily opposed; but their preacher continued boldly to provoke debate. He rudely attacked, in the time of our altar exercises, one of our local preachers.
When I was informed of it, I went straight to him, and told him he must not do so. He said he was a free man, and would do as he pleased. "Now," said I, "Mr. S., if you do not desist, and behave yourself like a decent man ought to do, I will have you arrested as a disturber of our religious order."
He said that all this work was wrong; that it was undue excitement, and it was his duty to oppose it; and he would like to attack it at head-quarters, and just then and there to debate the question with me.
"Now, sir," said I, "if you think to provoke me to condescend to turn aside from carrying on this glorious work to debate with you, the evil spirit that prompts you does but deceive you; for it seems to me it would be like loading a fifty-six to kill a fly; and if you don't like the work and our meetings, go away and stay away; your room will be better than your company."
I nonplused him considerably, and measurably silenced his batteries, but he was very restive. At length the power of God arrested some of the members of his Church. A very fine and meek woman in their Church, who had been baptized for the remission of sins, but never felt any evidence of her acceptance with God, and was not satisfied with her condition, became very much affected, and wept bitterly on account of her unconverted state. I went to her, at the request of her husband, who, though not at that time a professor of religion, had been raised by Methodist parents, and was friendly. I asked her if she was happy.
She said, "No, far from it."
I asked her if she was willing to go and kneel at the altar, ask God to bless her, and give her a sensible evidence of the pardon of her sins.
She said, "Yes."
I started to lead her to the altar, when one of her Campbellite sisters took hold of her, and said, "What are you going to do?"
She said, "I am going to the altar, to pray for religion."
"O," said the other, "you have religion. You were baptized, and in that act of obedience your sins were all washed away; and you ought to be satisfied with your religion, and not disgrace your Church by going to a mourners' bench, among the deluded Methodists."
She replied, "I know I was baptized for the remission of sins, and you all told me that in this act of obedience to Christ I should be forgiven, and be made happy; but I know it is all a deception, and false, for I know I have no religion; and I am determined to seek it with these Methodists, for if I die as I am, I must be lost forever."
"O," said the Campbellite lady, "you must not go."
I then interposed, and said to the lady, "Let her go. She shall go to the altar if she wants to;" and I accordingly led her there. She dropped on her knees, and shortly afterward her husband kneeled at the same altar, with the great deep of his heart broken up; and they never rested till they were both soundly converted to God, and were enabled to sing,
"How happy are they, who their Saviour obey,"
with a zest which they had never felt or enjoyed before.
The work of God went on with great power, and the slain of the Lord were many. Presently, in going through the congregation to hunt up the wounded sinners and lead them to the altar, to my great astonishment and surprise I found my Campbellite lady, who tried to prevent the one I had led to the altar first, sitting down with her face in her hands, and her eyes suffused in tears. She was much agitated. I laid my hand on her shoulder, and said to her, "Sister, what is the matter? Have these deluded Methodists got hold of you? or have you got a Methodist spasm?"
She screamed right out, and said, "God be merciful to me, a poor, deluded, Campbellite sinner!"
"O," said I, "will not water save you?"
"O, no, no," she responded; "I am a poor, deluded sinner, and have no religion, and if I die as I am must be lost, and lost forever. Will you pray for me?"
"Yes," said I ; "but now you must go to the Methodists' despised mourners' bench."
"With all my heart," said she; and I partly led and partly carried her there, and if I ever heard a poor sinner plead with God for mercy, she was one.
When it was known that Mrs.---, a Campbellite, was at the mourners' bench, it awfully shocked some of her fellow-members in that watery regiment. She was in such an agony and such good earnest, I almost knew it would not be long till she found the blessing, and while I was leading some other convicted persons to the altar, the Lord powerfully converted this Campbellite heroine. She sprang to her feet, and shouted over the house like a top, and she fell directly to pulling and hauling her Campbellite friends to the Methodist altar, exhorting them to come and get religion, and not for a moment longer to depend on water for salvation, but come and try the Methodist fire, or the fire of the Holy Ghost, and the way she piled up the Campbellite friends at the altar was sublimely awful. After she had got a great number there, she took after her preacher, and exhorted him to come and get religion, "For," said she, "I know you have none," but he resisted and fled. Several of his members' children had obtained religion, and several more were seeking it. He then started a meeting in his own church to draw off his members and others from the Methodist meeting, and if ever you saw a water divinity grow sick and pale, it was just about this time. Things were so cold at his church that the little effort soon failed. There were over one hundred and twenty professed religion and joined the Methodist Church during this meeting, and, according to my best recollection, thirteen of them were Campbellites.
And now let me say, my little experience and observation for many years goes to establish the following fact: Whenever and wherever the ministry and membership of the Church live faithful, and keep alive to God, and enjoy the life and power of religion, they can bid an eternal defiance to all opposition, schism, divisions, ceremonial diversities, and all the false prophets that may arise can never stop, to any great extent, the heavenly march and triumphs of true religion; but when we have a formal, negligent ministry, that wish to substitute education for the power of faith, and our members begin to ape the world, or even other proud and fashionable Churches, you may depend upon it that, like Samson with his eyes put out, we shall make sport for the Philistines. For however education may be desirable, and however much the progress of this age may demand an improved ministry, especially an improved pulpit eloquence, I would rather I have the gift of a devil-dislodging power than all the college lore or Biblical institute knowledge that can be obtained from mortal man. When God wants great and learned men in the ministry, how easy it is for him to overtake a learned sinner, and, as Saul of Tarsus, shake him a while over hell, then knock the scales from his eyes, and, without any previous theological training, send him out straightway to preach Jesus and the resurrection. When God calls any man to preach his Gospel, if he will not reason with flesh and blood, but do his duty and live faithful, my experience for it, God will qualify him for the work if he never saw a college.
Perhaps I may say a few things right here that may be of some little benefit to my brethren in the ministry. You know these are the days of sore throats and bronchial affections among preachers. Some have laid the predisposing causes to coffee, and some to tobacco; some to one thing, and some to another. Now, without professing to have studied physiology, or to be skilled in the science of medicine, I beg leave, with very humble pretensions, to give it as my opinion that most cases of these diseases are brought on by carelessness and inattention of public speakers themselves. I had, for several years previous to this great revival of which we have been speaking, been greatly afflicted with the bronchial affection; so much so that I really thought the days of my public ministry were well-nigh over. This revival lasted near five months, through a hard and cold winter. I preached, exhorted, sung, prayed, and labored at the altar, I need not say several times a day or night, but almost day and night for months together. With many fears I entered on this work, but from the beginning I threw myself under restraint, took time to respire freely between sentences, commanded the modulation and cadence of my voice, avoided singing to fatigue, avoided sudden transitions from heat to cold, and when I left the atmosphere of the church, heated by the stoves and breath of the crowd, guarded my breast and throat, and even mouth, from a sudden and direct contact with the chilling air, or air of any kind, got to my room as quick as possible, slept in no cold rooms if I could help it, bathed my throat and breast every morning with fresh, cold water from the well or spring, wore no tight stocks or cravats, breathed freely, and, strange to tell, I came out of the five months' campaign of a revival much sounder than when I entered it. The only medicine I used at all was a little cayenne pepper and table salt dissolved in cold vinegar, and this just as I was leaving a warm atmosphere to go into the cold air or wind; and although several years have passed since, I have been very little troubled with that disease, and can preach as long and as loud as is necessary for any minister to be useful. Keep your feet warm, your head cool, and your bowels well regulated, rise early, go to bed regularly, eat temperately, avoiding high-seasoned victuals, pickles and preserves, drink no spirits of any kind, and there will be no need of your ever breaking down till the wheels of life stop, and life itself sweetly ebbs away.
Our conference this year, 1843, was held in Quincy, Adams County, Illinois, September 13th. Bishop Andrew presided. This was the only annual conference that Bishop Andrew ever presided in with us. The Illinois Conference was now large, and there were some men of fine talents among us. Bishop Andrew presided with great acceptability, and had, among our preachers, many fast friends. At this conference we elected our delegates to the ninth delegated General Conference, that was to sit in New York, May 1st, 1844. P. Akers, J. Vancleve, J. Stamper, N. G. Berryman, and myself were elected, which made the eighth General Conference that the brethren saw proper to send me to, to represent their interests and the interests of the Church generally. Up to this General Conference, there were thirty-three annual conferences, beside Liberia. Seventeen in the old Eastern boundary, and sixteen in the Western division. The seventeen Eastern conferences had a membership of 599,322; of traveling preachers, 2,400. The sixteen conferences in the Western division had of members, 550,462; of traveling preachers, 1,862. Total membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, 1,171,356; total traveling preachers, 4,282; total increase in members in four years, 276,287; of traveling preachers in four years, 774.
It will be seen from the foregoing statistics, imperfect as they are, that the Methodist Episcopal Church, as one branch of the great Protestant family, prospered in these United States without a parallel in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ, since the apostolic age. Only think of it; in despite of all the imperfections that attach to human institutions, the apostasy of some of our ministers, (and it is a mercy of God there were not more,) the backsliding of many of our members, the schisms created by O'Kelly, Hammett, Stillwell, and the self-styled Protestant Methodists, the True Wesleyans--hush! O, mercy, save the mark!--in about sixty years, more than a million of members had been raised up and united in Church fellowship in the Methodist Episcopal Church; and this, too, by a body of uneducated ministers. Perhaps, among the thousands of traveling and local preachers employed and engaged in this glorious work of saving souls, and building up the Methodist Church, there were not fifty men that had anything more than a common English education, and scores of them not that; and not one of them was ever trained in a theological school or Biblical institute, and yet hundreds of them preached the Gospel with more success and had more seals to their ministry than all the sapient, downy D.D.'s in modern times, who, instead of entering the great and wide-spread harvest-field of souls, sickle in hand, are seeking presidencies or professorships in colleges, editorships, or any agencies that have a fat salary, and are trying to create newfangled institutions where good livings can be monopolized, while millions of poor, dying sinners are thronging the way to hell without God, without Gospel; and the Church putting up the piteous wail about the scarcity of preachers. And now, in the evening of life, at the dreadful risk (dreadful to some, not to me) of being called an old fogy, and pronounced fifty years behind the times, I enter my most solemn protest against the tendencies of the Methodist Episcopal Church to Congregationalism, for it seems to me wrong that the ministers of God, Divinely called to the holy work of saving souls, should leave that sacred work, and go and serve tables; wherefore, let the Church look out competent and well-qualified lay teachers and officers for our literary institutions, who can build them up just as well as preachers, and make "a scourge of small cords," and drive these buyers and sellers out of the temples of learning, editorships, and agencies, into the glorious harvest-field of souls. No man, or set of men, in the same sacred sense, is called of God to these institutions and offices, as they are called of God (if called at all) to preach the everlasting Gospel to dying sinners that are so fearfully thronging the way to hell. Christ had no literary college or university, no theological school or Biblical institute, nor did he require his first ministers to memorize his sayings or sermons, but simply to tarry at Jerusalem till they were endued with power from on high, when, under the baptismal power of the Holy Ghost, should be brought to their remembrance all things whatsoever he had commanded them.
I will not condescend to stop and say that I am a friend to learning, and an improved ministry, for it is the most convenient way to get rid of a stubborn truth, for these learned and gentlemanly ministers to turn about and say that all those ministers that are opposed to the present abuses of our high calling, are advocates for ignorance, and that ignorance is the mother of devotion. What has a learned ministry done for the world, that have studied divinity as a science? Look, and examine ministerial history. It is an easy thing to engender pride in the human heart, and this educational pride has been the downfall and ruin of many preeminently educated ministers of the Gospel. But I will not render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but will thank God for education, and educated Gospel ministers who are of the right stamp, and of the right spirit. But how do these advocates for an educated ministry think the hundreds of commonly educated preachers must feel under the lecturcs we have from time to time on this subject? It is true, many of these advocates for an improved and educated ministry among us, speak in rapturous and exalted strains concerning the old, illiterate pioneers that planted Methodism and Churches in early and frontier times; but I take no flattering unction to my soul from these extorted concessions from these velvet-mouthed and downy D.D.'s; for their real sentiments, if they clearly express them, are, that we were indebted to the ignorance of the people for our success.