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That, to save us from the doom impending,
To our depth from Thy great height above.
My true Peace and Saviour, be Thou near me,
Be Thou near me to direct my way;
Thus prepare me for the evil day.
That, herself in patience still possessing,
find e'en woes to be a blessing,
SPITTA. Lyra Domestica.
EVANGELIST AND BISHOP OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCII
ROUND John Wesley clustered a number of
noble and earnest men, who, under God, owed
to his preaching their spiritual life, and who devoted themselves to the publication of the glad tidings in connection with the Methodist movement. FRANCIS ASBURY was one of these. He was born at Hempstead Bridge in Staffordshire, on August 20th, 1745. He was very early under religious impressions, and loved the means of grace, an evangelical ministry, and edifying books. But a new experience filled his soul at the first Methodist meeting he attended. The fervent and extemporaneous prayers, the hearty singing, and the impassioned discourse—so different from the service to which he had been accustomed—astonished and attracted his soul. He there realized a new happiness in the faith of Christ, and desired to make others possessors of his joy. He was thus led to hold prayer-meetings, and to address the people who attended them. With rare self-possession, ready utterance, scriptural knowledge, and earnest elo. quence, he became, at seventeen years of age, a popular preacher, and was associated with the Wesleyan evan
gelists. During five years he took regular circuit work, and held forth the word of life to “wondering, weeping thousands."
In August 1771, he went to the Conference at Bristol. He was then twenty-six years of age, in the fulness of his youthful strength and Christian zeal. He went there a missionary in spirit. He had been for some time cherishing the wish to go to America, and on the appeal of Mr. Wesley for volunteers for the transatlantic mission, offered himself willingly to the work.
On the 4th of September he embarked along with a colleague, Mr. Richard Wright. Eight weeks were occupied in the voyage ; but Asbury, while busy as opportunity offered in preaching to the sailors, was nursing his grand purpose ; and, by reading, meditation, and prayer, preparing for the work which, with single aim, great self-denial, and unfailing fidelity, he was to prosecute for the rest of his life. From that aim he never looked, that self-denial he never lessened, that fidelity was unto death. One of the largest Churches in America, and millions of new-born souls in its membership, bless the memory and the name of Francis Asbury in their thanksgiving to the God of salvation for the gifts and graces of that evangelist.
The period of his arrival was critical in the history of the country. Events were ripening fast for the Revolution. The colony was about to become an independent country. It was critical in the history of the Church. The great revival under Edwards, the Tennents and Whitfield, had lapsed into a decline,-all the more sad that it had been the fruit of strife and discord.
A new movement was needed, and God raised up the men..
They were such as were able to guide the Church in times of revolution, and pioneer its agencies and blessings among the wide-spread settlers in the succeeding period of peace. The Methodist preachers bore a great part in this revival of evangelism and extension of Christ's Church. The first society was formed in New York in 1766, and the first church opened in 1768. In 1769, the first band of missionaries from Mr. Wesley— Messrs. Boardman and Pilmoor-landed in Philadelphia. Their labours were much blessed ; but it was in Francis Asbury that American Methodism found its grand apostle. With clear discernment he laid his plans, and always acted on a most expansive evangelism. “I have nothing to seek,” he said, “but the glory of God, nothing to fear but his displeasure. I have come to this country with an upright intention, and through the grace of God will make it appear.
I am determined that no man shall bias me with soft words and fair speeches; nor will I ever fear the face of man, or know any man after the flesh, if I beg my bread from door to door; but whomsoever I please or displease, I will be faithful to God, to the people, and my own soul.” This was a noble profession in the outset of a long career, but it was sustained by all his conduct. It was the spring of his whole course. He did not come short of, or fall below, his lofty purpose. The character and life of the pioneer bishop are in those early confessions.
His first circuit was Philadelphia and its neighbourhood; but he was only four months there, when he was summoned to New York, where the societies had been left in confusion by Wright, his colleague on the voyage, who had sailed for England. Asbury was a thorough
Wesleyan, and sought at once to carry out the regulations of the society. Mr. Wesley soon perceived that he had a true representative in his missionary, and in 1772, appointed him superintendent of the societies in America. This was most judicious, and prepared the way for the fuller episcopate with which Asbury was to be afterwards invested.
No Conferences had as yet been held; all business was transacted at the quarterly meetings. It was time, however, that the higher assembly should be convened. This was done in Maryland, while Asbury was there. The discussions were useful to the preachers, and to the proper discipline of the societies. Hitherto, there was no administration of the sacraments at the Methodist churches. Sealing ordinances were received at the hands of Episcopal ministers. The work of the missionaries, of whom there were only ten in 1773, was preaching and social edification, which continued to increase in their hands. Mr. Asbury was the soul of the movement, and became thoroughly devoted to his sphere. Several of his colleagues went to England during the war, as they felt they could not be loyal subjects of a monarchy, and labour in a revolutionary country. But Asbury adopted America as his field and home. He said, “I can by no means leave such a field for gathering souls to Christ as we have in America. It would be an everlasting dishonour to the Methodists that we should all leave three thousand souls who desire to commit themselves to our care; neither is it the part of a good shepherd to leave his flock in time of danger; therefore I am determined, by the grace of God, not to leave them, be the consequence what it may.” Mr. Wesley thought proper to