Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Methodist Clothing & Character

I've been reading from Indiana Circuit Rider Days and found pages 75-76 interesting to compare to our time. I'm retaining the spelling as found online, but trust you will get the gist of it:

The preachers with fev/ exceptions, came to the con- 
ference cloathed in home-spun, and all of them except 
a few who lived along the Ohio river came to the con- 
ference on horse back, and most of them were seedy 
when they arrived. ''Many had come from a month's 
tussle with the ague, and some of them kept up the 
shake habit every other day during conference." Dur- 
ing the latter part of the conference session a resolu- 
tion was introduced requesting that the preachers re- 
turn to the original plainness of dress, and that they 
be requested to wear either the round breasted or plain 
frock coats. The reason for this resolution, was the 
fact that John S. Bayless having married a well-to-do 
woman of Vincennes, had come to conference wearing 
his wedding suit, which was tailor made and in the 
height of fashion; the pants tight with narrow falls; 
the coat was "pigeon tailed" and the hat a stove-pipe, 
the whole giving the wearer a unique appearance in a 
Methodist conference of that period in Indiana.^""' But 
more and more after this conference the preachers 
dressed as they pleased, though this motion was passed 
without a dissenting vote, and a few years later a 
similar resolution was introduced, and passed. 

One of the important parts of a Methodist confer- 
ence's business is the examination of character. Not 
only were those just entering the conference examined, 
in this regard, but each year the characters of every 
member of the conference had to be "passed." Espe- 
cially were those, who were up for admission into full 
connection, given a careful examination. One case 
which came before the conference of 1839 was espe- 
cially interesting. The young man under considera- 
tion was William J. Forbes, who was just closing his 
second year as a probationer, and therefore if he was 

found deserving he might be admitted. The committee 
on his studies gave a very complimentary report. He 
was good on everything, and very good on several. 
Finally the Presiding Elder, under whom he had been 
traveling, reported that this young man was a very 
good preacher, and the people liked to hear him. He 
also reported that he read a great deal and understood 
what he read, but he said, no one is converted under 
his preaching. At this juncture up jumped James 
Havens, and asked, "Does he make anybody mad?" To 
this the Elder replied, "O no ! He is a sweet tempered 
man, everybody loves him." "Then Fm opposed to 
him," said Havens. "A man under whose preaching 
nobody is converted and nobody made mad is not fit for 
a Methodist preacher." In spite, however, of James 
Havens' opposition Forbes was admitted, for, said the 
Bishop, "A young man that reads a great deal and 
understands what he reads and preaches well, and that 
everybody loves, is a safe case."''*' 

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