METHODISM, EPISCOPAL, IN THE 'UNI TED STATES.
1. The Methodist Episcopal Church.
Small, indeed, the beginnings, but steady the growth and mighty the present stature, of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Figures gathered nearly two years ago (the latest accessible) make the total ministry and lay membership of the church at that time 2,925,629.. The same authority (Methodist Year Book, 1901) makes the total value of church and parsonage property $145,759, 844, or in round numbers, at the present time, $15o,000,000 for these two items alone.
(1) Introduction to America. This is certainly a sizable tree. From what sort of a seed did it spring, and how did it get rooted? A young Irish carpenter, Philip Embury, is believed to have de livered what may be fairly called the first Alethod ist sermon in America, to a congregation of five persons in his own humble house in New York. He had been licensed as a local preacher among the followers of Wesley in Ireland, but had made no move religiously during the six years of his residence in the New World, until stirred thereto in 1766 by the strong exhortations of a fellow im migrant, Airs. Barbara Heck. The start proved to be timely, and in the order of God. The num bers soon increased, a more commodious room was hired, and the excitement rapidly spread. Early in 1767 another Wesleyan local preacher, Capt. Thomas Webb, of the British army, recently appointed barrackmaster at Albany, hearing of the struggling society at New York, hastened to its aid. A stone chapel, the first Methodist meeting house in America, was dedicated October 3o, 1768, and soon crowded with hearers. Thus the move ment grew.
(2) Francis Asbury. And now most natu rally the eyes of the little company looked for aid to their great father over the sea. Wesley being appealed to sent a couple of preachers, October, 1769, and eight more came in the five years follow ing, but none of them stayed long or were very successful except Francis Asbury. His name is the greatest in the history of Methodism on this side of the water. Dr. Leonard Woolsey Bacon, writing "A History of American Christianity" this year, says of him : "It may reasonably be doubted whether any one man from the founding of the church [meaning the Church of Christ] in America until now has achieved so much in the visible and traceable results of his work." Though
only a peasant boy, without education, he proved to be a general of consummate ability, invincible energy and wide-reaching plans. He kcpt the preachers on the march, and wonderfully aroused the people. Under his wise guidance Methodism passed through the troubled years of the Revolu tionary War without a check to its progress, and in 1784 there were 15,00o members, 84 itinerant preachers and probably not less than 200,000 at tendants on worship.
(3) Independence Gained. The Methodist Episcopal Church, strictly speaking, in its dis tinctive organized form as an American institu tion, began in the closing week of the year i784. Up to that time the Methodists here had been an offshoot of British Methodism, more or less sub ject to the control of its founder, John Wesley, and the societies which had been established were in no proper sense a church. This inchoate and unsatisfactory condition of things had been en dured with exemplary patience, though not with out agitation, until the securement of the inde pendence of the republic. This brought matters to a crisis. Wesley took the right steps. He clearly discerned the signs of the times and be lieved he had the guidance of the Spirit. He dis patched his right-hand man, Dr. Thomas Coke— having first, in connection with two other presby ters, ordained or set him apart as general super intendent or bishop--to arrange mattcrs. The American Methodist ministers assembled in con ference at Baltimore, proceeded, in accordance with the counsel of Wesley, to form themselves into an episcopal church, with superintendents or bishops, elders or presbyters, and deacons, the episcopal office being elective and the elected bish ops being amenable to the body of ministers. Coke and Asbury were unanimously elected first incum bents of the office. General rules were adopted, twenty-five Articles of Religion, abridged by Mr. Wesley from the thirty-nine of the Church of England, were accepted, a variety of minor regula tions were passed, and the shaping of the new ec clesiastical edifice was, for the time, finished, with remarkable oneness of spirit and great practical wisdom.