George Peck.

Sketches and incidents, or, A budget from the saddle-bags of a superannuated itinerant online

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Online LibraryGeorge PeckSketches and incidents, or, A budget from the saddle-bags of a superannuated itinerant → online text (page 1 of 19)
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Cincinnati :



R. P. Thompson, Printer.

Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year 1S43, by
G. Lane & P. P. Sandford, in the Clerk's Oilice of the District
Court of the Southern District of New-York.

5 . -


In order to give the following sketches
a slight aspect of unity, the author has
adopted an arrangement which he hopes
will not detract in the most scrupulous
estimation from the general veracity of the

Though adapted to the Sunday- School
Library, it is chiefly designed for the ad-
vanced youth of the church ; and the
author would not dissemble that, in his
matter and in his style, he has studied
to meet the wants of this interesting
class. While our denominational litera-
ture abounds in standard works for adults,
and includes an excellent series for Sunday
schools, it is comparatively destitute of
such productions as have been furnished
to the youth of the Calvinistic portion of


the religious community, by Robert Philip,
the Messrs. Abbot, &c. The present pub-
lication, though of a widely different cha-
racter, will be acceptable, it is hoped, to
the same class of readers. Perhaps its
more fragmentary form may serve its ob-
ject. The author has sought to convey
in these sketches important lessons, and to
excite an affection for the character and
institutions of the church. A few of them
have already been extensively circulated
in the religious prints. The interest which
they have thus excited has encouraged
their publication in the present form.



Introduction 7

Old Jeddy. There's Rest at Home 9

Wesley's Character 18

A Vision in the Wilderness 28

Children of Religious Parents 35

The Duel 42

Bishop Asbury 51

Presentiments 58

Anecdotes of Jesse Lee 63

The Moral Sublime 71

The Converted Dutchman 76

Dr. Coke 81

Progress in Piety 86

Black Harry of St. Eustatius 94

TheWayofLife 102

Origin of Methodist Economy 113

Adaptation of Methodism to our Country 120

The Hospitable Widow and the Tract 126

My Library 131

Mighty Men 142

Jack and his Master 151

Religious Cheerfulness 155

Too Late 161


It pleased God early to honor the writer
of these pages with a place in the itinerant
ranks of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
His travels have been extensive, imposing
a little hard service, and affording many
interesting recollections. It has been his
happiness to know many of the fathers who
composed the first itinerant band, the legio
tonans (thundering legion) of the American
church. Infirmities have compelled him
to retire from the field; his war-horse
sleeps under the sod of a distant prairie,
and his shattered trumpet gives but a
feeble and occasional note. His saddle-bags
remain. They hang in his study before
him while penning these lines ; he can
never part with them. They are fuller of
reminiscences than ever they were of any-


thing else, and if God will, he wishes them
placed under his head as a pillow when
dying. To beguile the tedium of re-
tirement and illness, he has written the
following sketches, chiefly incidents of
ministerial life. As they were written they
were deposited in his old saddle-bags until
they accumulated to a considerable budget.
They are now brought forth and presented
to the reader : if they should afford him a
lesson of warning or consolation, if they
should produce one impression which
shall survive the grave, the writer will be
rewarded and thankful.



u There remaineth, therefore, a rest for the people of
God:'— Paul.

I was preaching one Sunday afternoon in the

door of a log cabin in the village of P , to

a congregation which filled the house and the
front yard. When about half through the ser-
mon,! observed an old negro riding alone toward
the house. He dismounted, fastened his horse
to a tree, and took his stand among the throng.
The tears soon trickled down his furrowed
cheeks, and it seemed impossible for him to
repress some hearty exclamations. At the con-
clusion of the service he presented himself with
profound reverence as my guide to Colonel M.'s,
nineteen miles distant. It was my next ap-
pointment, and having just arrived on the cir-
cuit, I needed some guidance. I had already
preached three times and rode twenty-three
miles that day, and proposed to Jedediah, or
Jeddy, as he was called, to tarry till the morn-
ing ; but he replied that his master, the colonel,


insisted upon seeing me that evening. " Do
go, massa," said Jeddy, " for no massa preacher
be there for four months." I mounted to start,
but Jeddy's horse was found too lame to return.
The late rains had swept away a bridge on the
only road, and rendered it necessary to take an
indirect course through a boggy prairie, in order
to cross the stream nearer its head. The horse
had sprained one of his legs in a quicksand of
this prairie, but Jeddy insisted on returning on

We started into the prairie, but had not got
far when I perceived that, owing to the wet
state of the ground, we should not, at Jeddy's
pace, reach our destination till the next morn-
ing. But, though slipping and tugging at almost
every step, the good-hearted negro's large eyes
gleamed with delight at the thought that he had
induced the " massa preacher" to accompany
him. I directed him to mount behind me : he
seemed astonished at my kindness, and looked
at me in silent amazement, but at last yielded
to my request. By a little familiarity he became
quite communicative. I led him into a recital
of his whole history, particularly of his Chris-
tian experience. It was related with evident
sincerity and deep emotion ; the tears frequently
flowed from the old man's eyes, and I could not


restrain my own ; we wept together like chil-
dren. Though jogging along in no very inte-
resting plight, I felt that St. Paul's language
was not inapplicable to us — God " hath raised
us up together, and made us sit together in
heavenly places in Christ Jesus."

When we had passed the first nine miles, the
night was falling fast, and, what was infinitely
worse, we began to falter among those patches
of quicksand so frequent and so dangerous in
some of the western prairies. After plunging
into a number of these, Jeddy dismounted, to
relieve the danger by lessening the burden of
the horse. We had not gone twenty rods fur-
ther before the poor animal sunk above his
knees in the mire, and only extricated himself
by the utmost violence. Though accustomed
to greater difficulties, the fatigues of the day
had so affected me that I began to show less
courage than the poor slave who guided me.
Dismounting, I leaned wearily against my horse,
and expressed a disposition to return rather
than risk the perils and fatigues of the remain
ing distance.

" No, massa," replied Jeddy, " be not dis-
couraged, there be rest at home for you."

There was something either in the tone of
Jeddy's voice, or my own mood of mind, which


gave the expression at once a double sense.
" Yes," I involuntarily exclaimed, " thank God,
there is a home for us, Jeddy, where the weary
are at rest."

" yes, massa," said the old labor-worn
negro, as the tears started in his eyes, " me
often tinks of dat — me hopes to get dere some

" There is rest at home" — the sentence gave
me new energy, and has often done so since,
in many a harder trial.

We jogged along, but ever and anon were
struggling in the bogs. Wearied at last, we
sat down on a small protuberance of the prairie,
too fatigued to proceed.

" How old are you, Jeddy ?" I inquired.
" Seventy-three, massa ; me be getting to-
ward dat ' home,' massa."

" Have you a wife, Jeddy ?" " Yes, massa ;
but me know not where she be : former massa
love not God, and sold her far away." " Have
you children ?" " Yes, massa." " And where
are they ?" " All gone, too, massa, me know
not where. But we all served God, massa,
and hope to meet in dat home where be rest."
The tears started afresh in the old man's eyes.
I could inquire no further. My feelings over-
powered me. What, thought I, are my suffer-


ings compared with those of this poor, sorrow-
stricken servant of my Master !

" There is rest for us at home," said I invo-
luntarily, and motioned to proceed. It was
very dark, the rain was falling, and my horse
limped with lameness. I was compiled to
lead him by the bridle the remaining ten dreary
miles. Through rain, and mud, and quicksands,
we plodded on, nerved against them all by the
thought which ever recurred with refreshing
influence to my mind, that " there was rest for
us at home." At last the glimmer of a distant
light fell on our course. " Dat is home, massa,"
exclaimed Jeddy, with ecstasy.

So, I have often thought since then, gleams
the light of hope over the valley and shadow
of death to the Christian pilgrim.

I was received about midnight at the log
cabin, wet and weary, yet as an angel of God.
The table had been spread with everything
good the house could afford for my refreshment.
After many congratulations, a prayer and a
song of praise, I laid me down to rest. Rest,
thought I, what a sweet word ! Never did I
feel its significance more than in the slumbers
of that night, sweetened as they were by beau-
tiful visions of that better land where " there
remaineth a rest for the people of God." The


phrase of my aged guide wove itself into all my
dreaming thoughts, and yet with such effect as
not in the least to disturb my repose. At one
time I thought I was reclining my head on the
breast of a seraph, and dying — nay, it was fall-
ing asleep in Jesus — pervaded from head to foot
with the most delicious sensations — a feeling
of profound repose, which I never felt before
nor since. At another I was gliding in the air,
up over the hills, down into the valleys of
heaven, without touching the soil, and wrapt in
an unimaginable ecstasy — an ecstasy intense,
and yet strangely tranquil. At another, I was
sweetly sleeping under a leafy tree near one of
its streams, on whose margin all varieties of
flowers were bending and blushing, as if at the
reflection of their own charms ; and though
asleep, yet it seemed that my eyes were open,
drinking in all the indescribable scenery, while
music, slow, sweet, and subdued by distance,
flowed like a soft breeze of the south over my
charmed spirit, and ever and anon a seraph
glided by, smiling with unspeakable love, and
uttering as he passed, " Rest thee, brother" and
leaving behind him a very wake of fragrance
like the odor of June roses. These were fan-
tasies, but how sweet were they !

I rose the next morning with the freshness


of youth, greeted by the sweet and ever-varying
notes of a mocking-bird, which had perched on
a tree over my chamber.

Ten years had passed — years of much labor
and sad changes in my history — when I had
occasion to visit a much more remote frontier
settlement. I preached in a log school-house,
to a congregation gathered from within twenty
miles around. At the close of the discourse, a
Mr. M. introduced himself to me as the son of
my former host, Colonel M. The colonel had
emancipated his slaves, and during a long pe-
riod of sickness was converted, and died, it was
believed, the death of the righteous. The son,
indulging the characteristic propensity of the
family, had advanced with the frontier line, and
the old colored servants, unwilling to disperse,
had accompanied him, and were settled about
him. One of them, he said, was not expected
to live from hour to hour. We went immedi-
ately to the sick man's cabin ; it was surrounded
by colored people, weeping like children for a
father. On a bed in a corner lay the dying
man. I approached to address him ; his lan-
guid eye kindled, and in a moment there was a
mutual recognition. It was old Jeddy. Need
I tell the reader the effect on myself and on


the dying African 1 Leaning over the bed, and
taking his hand, I asked, " Do you remember,
Jeddy, the boggy prairie at ?"

" O yes, massa ; dat precious night," he re-
plied, gasping for breath.

" Your pilgrimage is most ended. There's
rest for you at home, Jeddy."

The old saint had not forgotten the phrase.
His dying eye kindled anew, and in broken
expressions he responded, " Yes, bless de Lord,
massa, me most dere, me most home ; me poor,
old, weary servant, very weary, but going
home, going home." Tears of gratitude and
joy expressed still more fully his thoughts.
When he had nearly lost the power of speech,
he continued to utter this phrase, and his last
words were, " Rest — home !" He died about
eleven o'clock that night, and I have no doubt
that by the midnight hour he had passed through
the " everlasting gates," and was hailed by se-
raphim amid the " excellent glory."

Often, while drooping under the fatigues and
diseases of those wild regions — often, in laying
my head on my saddle, to spend the night in
the forest, have I recalled the phrase of Jeddy,
" There's rest at home." There has been a
spell of power in these words which no labor
no peril, has been able to dissipate.


Minister of God, wandering to and fro, with-
out a resting place, to seek the lost sheep of
the house of Israel, art thou at times weary ?
Dost thou long for a home and repose ? Do
thy little ones die in thy absence, and are their
graves scattered in the land ? Cheer thee, bro-
ther, thy home is above, and a rest remaineth
for thee there.

Aged pilgrim, art thou bending over thy staff,
like the patriarch " seeking a better country ;"
do thy aged limbs tremble on the way ? Be of
good courage, the difficult heights before thee
are the " Delectable Mountains." Struggle on ;
thou art on the threshold of thy home : there is
rest for thee there.

Afflicted saint, is it thy lot not to do, but
suffer the will of thy Lord ? Art thou weary
and weak, and in pains ; are weeks or months
of languishing before thee ? " Trust thou in the
Lord for ever," for thy "light afflictions" are
" but for a moment," compared with the " rest
that remaineth" for thee. Suffer on, the end is
at hand, when thou shalt " enter into his rest."


" A prince and a great man in Israel. 11 — David.

I have known few men who had greater
ability in the discrimination of human character
than Judge M., — an ability which he had ac-
quired as well by extensive biographical reading
as by the study of life.

He had been reading Southey's Life of Wes-
ley. " It is a most interesting production," said
he, " but very unsatisfactory. Its style is a
specimen of pure and vigorous English, and its
materials are singularly rich, even romantic,
but it lacks unity, and the final impression is
vague. Some of the sketches of Wesley's
1 helpers,' as they are called, would adorn the
romances of chivalry ; but I have received from
the book no definite idea of Wesley himself."

I found, nevertheless, that the idea he had
received, however indefinite, was not too fa-

Watson's pungent and eloquent critique on
Southey had just appeared. I sent it to him,
accompanied with Moore's Life of Wesley.
While reading them, he frequently sent to my
library for other publications which were re-


ferred to by these writers, particularly the works
of Wesley, Gillies, Whitefield, &c. On return-
ing them, he expressed the interest he had felt
in their perusal.

" I have never before," said he, " given so
much attention to an ecclesiastical subject.
Wesley's character is itself a study. To one
who has not examined these works I should
hesitate to express fully my estimate of him.
He equaled Luther in energy and courage,
while he excelled him in prudence and learn-
ing. He equaled Melancthon in learning and
prudence, while he surpassed him in courage
and energy ; and there are few of the excel-
lences of both the Wittemberg reformers which
were not combined and transcended in his indi-
vidual character.

" He possessed in an eminent degree one
trait of a master mind — the power of compre-
hending at once the general outlines and the
details of plans, the aggregate and the inte-
grants. It is this power which forms the phi-
losophical genius in science ; it is indispen-
sable to the successful commander and the
great statesman. It is illustrated in the whole
economical system of Methodism — a system
which, while it fixes itself to the smallest
locality with the utmost detail and tenacity, is


sufficiently general in its provisions to reach
the ends of the world, and still maintain its
unity of spirit and discipline.

" No man knew better than Wesley the im-
portance of small things. You recollect that
his whole financial system was based on weekly
penny collections ; and it was a rule of his
preachers never to omit a single preaching
appointment, except when the ' risk of life or
limb' required. So far as I can judge, he was
the first to apply extensively the plan of tract
distribution. He wrote, printed, and scattered
over the kingdom, placards on almost every
topic of morals and religion. In addition to
the usual services of the church, he introduced
what you call the band meeting, the class meet-
ing, the 'prayer meeting, the love feast, and the
watch night. Not content with his itinerant
laborers, he called into use the less available
powers of his people, by establishing the depart-
ments of local preachers, exhorters, and leaders.
It was, in fine, by gathering together fragments,
by combining minutiae, that he formed that
powerful system of spiritual means which is
transcending all others in the evangelization of
the world.

" It was not only in the theoretical construc-
tion of plans that Wesley excelled ; he was, if


possible, still more distinguished by practical
energy. The variety and number of his labors
would be absolutely incredible to me with less
authentic evidence than that which corrobo-
rates them. He was perpetually traveling and
preaching, studying and writing, translating and
abridging, superintending his societies, and ap-
plying his great plans. According to one of
these authors, he traveled usually jive thousand
miles a year, preaching twice and thrice a day,
commencing at five o'clock in the morning ;
and in all this incessant traveling and preach-
ing he carried with him the studious and medi-
tative habits of the philosopher. No depart-
ment of human inquiry was omitted by him.
' History, poetry, and philosophy,' says he, ■ I
read on horseback.'

" Wesley, like Luther, knew the importance
of the press ; he kept it teeming with his pub-
lications, and his itinerant preachers were good
agents for their circulation. And here [opening
one of the volumes] is a sentence addressed to
them on the subject which indicates his cha-
racter : — ' Carry them with you through every
round ; exert yourselves in this ; be not
ashamed, be not weary, leave no stone un-
turned.' His works, including abridgments and
translations, amounted (if I estimate rightly) to


about two hundred volumes. These comprise
treatises on almost every subject of divinity,
poetry, music, history ; natural, moral, meta-
physical, and political philosophy. He wrote
as he preached, ad populum, and he may indeed
be considered the leader in those exertions
which are now being made for the popular
diffusion of knowledge.

" Differing from the usual character of men
who are given to various exertions and many
plans, he was accurate and profound. He was
an adept in classical literature and the use of
the classical tongues ; his writings are adorned
with their finest passages. He was familiar
with a number of modern languages ; and I
consider his own style one of the best exam-
ples of strength and perspicuity among English
writers. He seems to have been ready on
every subject of learning and general literature.
As a logician, he was remarkably clear and

" He was but little addicted to those exhila-
rations and contrarieties of frame which cha-
racterize imaginative minds. His temperament
was warm, but not fiery. His intellect never
appears inflamed, but always glowing — a se-
rene radiance. His immense labors were
accomplished, not by the impulses of restless


enthusiasm, but by the cool calculation of his
plans, and the steady self-possession with which
he pursued them. I like that maxim of his —
1 Though I am always in haste, I am never in
a hurry.' He was as economical of his time
as a miser could be of his gold ; rising at four
o'clock in the morning, and allotting to every
hour its appropriate work. ' Leisure and I have
taken leave of each other,' said he. And yet
such was the happy arrangement of his employ-
ments, that amid a multiplicity which would
distract an ordinary man, he declares that
' there are few persons who spend so many
hours secluded from all company as myself.'
The wonder of his character is the self-control
by which he preserved himself calm, while he
kept all in excitement around him.

" He was a contrast to Whitefield. White-
field was born an orator. The qualities of the
orator made up his whole genius ; they were
the first mental manifestations of his childhood,
but were pent up in his heart, a magazine of
energies, until kindled by the influence of reli-
gion, when they broke forth, like the fires of a
volcano. He was a man of boundless soul.
He was a host of generous sympathies ; and
every sympathy, in him, was a passion. This
was, perhaps, the secret of his eloquence. The


Athenian orator said that action was eloquence.
Perhaps antiquity has given undue authority to
this remark. The pantomime is not eloquent ;
but strong passion always is, and always would
be, had it the expression of neither hand nor
feature, but the tremulous tones of the excited
voice coming from an unseen source upon the
ear. There is no eloquence without feeling.
Even the histrionic orator must feel — not affect
to feel, but, by giving himself up to the illusion
of reality in ideal scenes, actually feel. White-
field's whole Christian course showed the pre-
valence of mighty feelings.

" Whitefield was no legislator : he acted en-
tirely without a system. Here was his great
defect. Had he combined the contriving powers
of Wesley with his own effective eloquence, it
cannot be doubted that he would have occupied
the high place of the latter, or, at least, a simi-
lar position in a separate sect holding the tenets
of Calvinism. His powers of address were
much more immediately effective than Wes-
ley's ; and if they had been applied to the es-
tablishment of a well-organized system, as were
Wesley's, the result would have been immense.
He moved like a comet, dazzling and amazing
the world, but leaving scarcely a trace behind
him. Perhaps his capital fault was his sepa-


ration from Wesley. He was certainly never
designed by Providence to scatter so ineffectu-
ally his vast powers.

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Online LibraryGeorge PeckSketches and incidents, or, A budget from the saddle-bags of a superannuated itinerant → online text (page 1 of 19)