Imatges de pÓgina

pelled to take up. He still, however, preached, prayed in his red jacket, and distributed Wesley's little books, with as much zeal as ever; for which he was cursed by the ensign of his company, and thrust into prison.* In a few days, however, he was set at liberty, and went on hewing stones and preaching salvation, many being the seals which God set to his fervent and powerful ministry. Afterwards Nelson was fully devoted to the spiritual work, and laboured with great


Let us here step aside, and gather an instance of an eminent lay preacher, Captain Scott, converted under the plain but searching ministry of the devout Romaine, who, though a church clergyman, greatly encouraged this zealous servant of God in proclaiming the everlasting gospel of the blessed God. In the hall of Lady Huntingdon, Romaine was preaching on one occasion from the words, "I am the way," when Captain Scott was present. The message was exactly suited to the case of the soldier; and God, who in his good providence had brought him to hear it, by the power of his grace made it effectual to the salvation of his soul. From that time commenced the happy change, for which hundreds, who have been called under his ministry, have had reason to bless God. He retained his military profession, though his altered conduct exposed him to many annoyances in the army. As he was marching through Leicester with his regiment, he opened his commission as a minister of the Lord Jesus; and wherever he was stationed, he boldly preached the gospel in his regimentals. Whitefield invited him to his London pulpits, "to bring his artillery to Tabernacle rampart, and try what execution he can do here." Romaine greatly encouraged him to persevere in his course, and advised him to accept the invitation of Whitefield. A tremendous storm of thunder and lightning burst over him as he entered London; which he regarded as an indication of the divine displeasure. He, however, came to the Tabernacle, where an immense crowd was assembled to hear the redcoated preacher. The sight of the vast audience completely unnerved him; his utterance failed; his tears flowed fast; and it was some time before he could recover himself. At length he became composed; and preached with such power and acceptance, that for twenty years he was one of the most popular supplies at the chapel. After a while, he sold his commission, quitted the service of the King for that of Christ, and became a burning and a shining light. Here a long catalogue of names might be given, but our limited space forbids. They were of the same stamp. They had not graduated in colleges, but they had learned profoundly in the school of Christ. They were not acquainted with the classics and mathematics, but they were truly and deeply learned in the experimental knowledge of salvation. They were invested with no episcopal ordination, but they had a commission from heaven. They were sent of God; they were anointed with a divine unction, and they were clothed with power. We value learning, and we respect a lawful authority, but they are nothing compared with the high and holy qualifications of these holy men.

These instances serve but to show how the revival called Methodism spontaneously provided its agents and labourers, and how God graciously

The Coronet and the Cross. † Ibid.

owned the conjoint labours of the regular ministry and of lay agency, causing them to act and re-act on each other in the multiplication of mutual blessedness. Sometimes an earnest lay preacher springs from the labours of an ordained minister, and sometimes an ordained pastor is the result of the plain, simple ministry of a lay preacher. In either case and in both, God is glorified, the truth is spread, and souls are saved.

While lay preaching was conjoined with the regular ministry in the general diffusion of Methodism, it was often made the sole agency for introducing it into neglected districts, and has been a most important means of perpetuating it, especially in the numerous villages and hamlets of Britain. How often when a devout and humble lay preacher has changed his residence to some part where Methodism had no existence, has he introduced it there. His first concern, after placing his furniture in his new abode, has been to set up an altar and a tabernacle for God, by opening his house, or fitting up his workshop or his barn for worship; and then, beginning the work of evangelization there by lifting up his own voice, has formed a class which has become the nucleus of a flourishing society, which has ere long expanded and strengthened until it became the head of a circuit, and the centre of a wide sphere of operations. It would be an interesting task to trace how in this way Methodism often struck its roots in distant soils, and became ramified through the length and breadth of the land. Much, indeed, was done by the direct missionary exertions of the "Round-preacher," as he scoured counties, with his faithful pony and indispensable saddlebags, in his monthly excursions. But much was also accomplished in the extension of the cause by the colonization of the local preacher; for he blew his ram's horn in every new locality where Providence cast his lot; and often became the pioneer to a fresh district or continent whither the circuit preacher followed, and found at once a home, a welcome, a praying people, and a prosperous field of exertion.

It was thus that Methodism was extended so early to America and the West Indies. Some time prior to 1766, Philip Embury, a local preacher, and a batch of emigrant Methodists had landed at New York. But they, alas, had so far given up their profession, as to become cardplayers, when another family arrived from Ireland, amongst whom was "a mother in Israel," to whose zeal in the cause of God they were all indebted for the revival of the spirit of piety amongst them. Soon after their arrival, this good woman ascertained that those who had preceded her had so far departed from their "first love," as to be mingling in the frivolities and sinful amusements of life. The knowledge of this painful fact aroused her indignation, and, with a zeal which deserves commemoration, she suddenly entered the room where they were assembled, seized the pack of cards with which they were playing, and threw them into the fire. Addressing Embury, she said, "You must preach to us, or we shall all go to hell together, and God will require our blood at your hands." He tremblingly replied, "I cannot preach, for I have neither a house nor a congregation." "Preach in your own house first, and to our own company," was the reply. Feeling the responsibility of his situation, and not being able any longer to resist the importunities of his reprover, he consented to comply with her request; and, accordingly, preached his first sermon in his own

hired house, to five persons only. This, it is believed, was the first Methodist sermon ever preached in America. From this time they gradually gathered strength, till they were able to rent a room in the neighbourhood, of larger dimensions. Here they assembled for mutual edification, Mr. Embury continuing to lead their devotions, and to expound to them the word of God.*

Soon after this, Captain Webb, who almost immediately after his conversion became a lay preacher, and after preaching the gospel with great zeal and success in Winchester, Devizes, and other parts of England, landed in America, and joined the little band at New York. His rank in life, his military costume-in which it seems he preached -his dauntless resolution, his fervent spirit, would, in a thoughtless and dissipated population, succeed much more in arousing attention than regular ministrations, however plain or eloquent. Accordingly, his preaching "drew many to the place of worship; and the room where they assembled soon became too small to accommodate all who wished to hear. Sinners were awakened and converted to God, and added to the society. These, continuing to walk in the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,' were much strengthened and comforted; while others, who beheld their godly conversation, were convinced of the power and excellence of their religion." It was not long before a good-sized chapel was erccted, called after the venerable founder of Methodism "WESLEY CHAPEL," and crowds attended the ministry of the earnest but simple-minded lay preachers.

Many months did not clapse before the work extended to Long Island, where Captain Webb fixed his abode. Here and in New York he continued his labours with great success. "He preached in various places in Long Island, produced great awakening amongst the people, and prepared the way for the formation of societies. His love to the Saviour and the souls of men carried him to Philadelphia, and he became the means of laying the foundation of a great work of God in the famous Quaker city.

"Much about the time these things were taking place, another agent from Ireland, Robert Strawbridge, began to preach in Maryland with equal success. He settled, it seems, in Frederick County in that State, and at first commenced preaching in his own house. These labours were soon enlarged, and, like his contemporaries in the work, he extended his evangelical exertions to various parts of the country around. The success attendant on these efforts obliged our evangelist to turn his attention to the erection of a place of worship, which he accomplished at Pipe Creek, and which passed under the name of "The log meeting-house.' This first Methodist place of worship in Maryland became famous in its history, and several of the early Conferences were held within its 'log' walls.

"It was in the midst of these first and desultory labours of Mr. Strawbridge, that one of the earliest and most eminent of the native American ministers became acquainted with the way of salvation. FREEBORN GARRETSON met with Mr. Strawbridge at a friend's house in his own neighbourhood; and this incident seems to be the first link in a chain

* Dr. Bang's History of America, vol. i. pp. 47, 48.
† Dr. Dixon on Methodism in America.

of events which led that excellent man to become one of the most honouredand successful pioneers in this great work."

Thus Philip Embury, Robert Strawbridge, Captain Webb, and the "mother in Israel," mentioned before, instrumentally, laid the foundations of one of the most numerous, well governed, pious, and useful Protestant churches in the world: and the powerlessness of the instruments must lead all to acknowledge that this is indeed "the finger of of God."* It was not until about four years after this that Messrs. Pilmoor and Boardman were sent by the Conference to take charge of the work-the former to labour at Philadelphia and the other at New York; when they found societies already organized, and a third chapel erected, capable of containing seventeen hundred people, and Mr. Boardman's (writing a few month's after his arrival), says it "could contain only about one-third of those who came to hear, the rest being glad to hear the word outside."

From the continent of America we pass to the West Indies, and it is remarkable that so early as the year 1760 the gracious influence of this revival extended to the West Indies, and through it the sable slave was introduced into the liberty of the sons of God. The honoured instrument in this instance was no other than Nathaniel Gilbert, Esq., the speaker of the House of Assembly. This gentleman, being in England for the recovery of his health, was induced to attend the ministry of Mr. Wesley, and through it was brought to the knowledge of the truth. Returning to Antigua full of the love of God, he began to teach both the negro and the white man the way of salvation. His labours were blessed of God, and about two hundred persons were united in church fellowship. On the death of Mr. Gilbert, the coloured people were without the supervision and care of a minister or leader; but two black women met the negroes, and got the people together every night for prayer and religious converse, until the providence of God sent them a spiritual guide and shepherd. John Baxter, a ship carpenter of the Royal Dock at Chatham, was sent by government to Antigua, and, being a member and a local preacher in the Methodist body, collected the scattered members and took them under his paternal care. In a letter to Mr. Wesley, written in 1768, he states, "The work that God began by Mr. Gilbert is still remaining. The black people have been kept together by two black women, who have continued praying and meeting with those who attended every night. I preached to about thirty on Saturday night; on Sunday morning to about the same number; and in the afternoon of the same day to about four or five hundred. The old members desire that I would inform you, that you have many children in Antigua whom you never saw. I hope we shall have an interest in your prayers, and that our Christian brethren will pray for us." It was eight years before a missionary was sent, but John Baxter fed this flock of Christ in the true spirit of Methodism-combining his toils in the dock-yard with his vigilant pastoral attention and his labours for the welfare of souls, and with such success that about two thousand persons were united in church fellowship.t

Time would fail to speak of a Brackenbury, a Dawson, a Carvossa,

* Dr. Dixon on Methodism in America.

Jubilee Volume.

a Bourne, a Clowes, a Halkyard, and a host of others in our own denomination, and in the sister branches of Methodism. Many worthies of this class have recently gone to their rest, and many thousands of others are still labouring in the field of action; their works are too well known to require extended mention, but a future generation may collect and memorialize their deeds, and show what God hath wrought by their instrumentality.

Among these there are men of all grades in station, talent, and acquirements. There are humble labourers, industrious mechanics, thriving tradesmen, prosperous manufacturers, and merchant princes. The dust of the mill and the mine may cover the raiment of some, and titles of distinction adorn the names of others, but the deepest poverty does not degrade the office, and the most exalted are honoured by it. There are men, too, of rude speech and slender acquirements ; and there are others of gigantic intellect, classic attainments, refined taste, and stirring eloquence, whose powers of reasoning and speech would grace the forum and the senate, and render them fit to guide the councils of a nation. All these varieties have in Methodism their spheres of action and their modes of usefulness. If the one attracts the humbler classes by his homely diction and his impressive fervour, the other can interest the intelligent by his enlightened expositions, edify the refined and educated by his clear and conclusive reasoning, and pour the light of truth on listening multitudes of all classes. Every man has his proper gift of God, and every one divinely called to the work, may minister in some degree to the edification of the church, which is the body of Christ. Nor are the Methodist bodies alone in this usage at the present day, as among the Independents, Baptists, and others, lay preaching is admitted; and many of their pious and faithful pastors in small towns and villages, are compelled, like Paul at Corinth, to labour with their own hands for the bread that perisheth.

What, then, is the conclusion to be drawn from the arguments and facts before us? Is the lay ministry a thing to be despised and set at nought? Is it to be accounted as an excrescence which has grown up and luxuriated in an impure atmosphere, and a rank but spurious piety? Is it the creature of wild enthusiasm, or the offspring of Providence and the ordinance of God? To every calm, thoughtful, and unprejudiced mind, there can be, we believe, but one opinion. We have seen that in every age of Old Testament history, a lay agency was employed by God in the most spiritual functions-the ministry and prophecy included; and at times called into special activity to rebuke a slumbering church and reform a corrupted nation. We have seen that in the primitive times of Christianity a lay agency, in connection with the Apostles themselves, was extensively employed by the Holy Spirit in the diffusion of the Gospel and the planting of new churches. We have seen that the ancient church in subsequent periods, even when decline and apostasy had begun to set in, still recognized, though with a fainter and more faltering testimony, the ministerial agency of the laity. We have seen that the Reformation in the sixteenth century brought with it a partial restoration of the primitive practice; that in the days of the puritans the practice had a still fuller recognition, and a more extensive prevalence. But with the great revival of religion in the rise and progress of Methodism, it sprang up as an essential element of

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