Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Rediscovering an Easter Methodism; Relighting Our Matches

This is an extended excerpt from the Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, Chapter VII “Primitive Methodism”

My business was to preach, meet the classes, visit the society and the sick, and then to my books and study; and I say that I am more indebted to Bishop M'Kendree for my little attainments in literature and divinity, than to any other man on earth. And I believe that if presiding elders would do their duty by young men in this way, it would be more advantageous than all the colleges and Biblical institutes in the land; for they then could learn and practice every day.

Suppose, now, Mr. Wesley had been obliged to wait for a literary and theologically trained band of preachers before he moved in the glorious work of his day, what would Methodism have been in the Wesleyan connection to-day? Suppose the Methodist Episcopal Church in these United States had been under the necessity of waiting for men thus qualified, what would her condition have been at this time? In despite of all John Wesley's prejudices, he providentially saw that to accomplish the glorious work for which God had raised him up, he must yield to the superior wisdom of Jehovah, and send out his "lay preachers" to wake up a slumbering world. If Bishop Asbury had waited for this choice literary band of preachers, infidelity would have swept these United States from one end to the other.

Methodism in Europe this day would have been as a thousand to one, if the Wesleyans had stood by the old land-marks of John Wesley: but no; they must introduce pews, literary institutions and theological institutes, till a plain, old-fashioned preacher, such as one of Mr. Wesley's "lay preachers," would be scouted, and not allowed to occupy one of their pulpits. Some of the best and most useful men that were ever called of God to plant Methodism in this happy republic were among the early pioneer preachers, east, west, north, and south; and especially in our mighty West. We have no such preachers now as some of the first ones who were sent out to Kentucky and Tennessee.

The Presbyterians, and other Calvinistic branches of the Protestant Church, used to contend for an educated ministry, for pews, for instrumental music, for a congregational or stated salaried ministry. The Methodists universally opposed these ideas; and the illiterate Methodist preachers actually set the world on fire, (the American world at least,) while they were lighting their matches!

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