John McClintock.

Sketches of eminent Methodist ministers online

. (page 12 of 26)
Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 12 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

where the itinerant's voice had never been heard. During
these six years he travelled usually not less than one hun-
dred miles a week, and preached one or two sermons each
week-day, and three sermons on the Sabbath.

An instance of his resolution to overcome difficulties, and
his perseverance in prosecuting his work and meeting his
engagements, occurred while he was on Fletcher Circuit.
As the winter approached, and the country became very
muddy, in some places frozen and in others not, his horse
became lame and unable to proceed, except at the risk of
his life, and to the injury of the beast. Unable to procure
another horse, and unwilling to fail in his appointments,
he went round the north part of the circuit, a distance of
one hundred and fifty miles, on foot, in two weeks, preach-
ing once or twice daily, and with his feet wet most of the
time, and his boots torn by the ice and frozen mud in the
roads and swamps. He often spoke of this pedestrian en-
terprise in later years of his life. " I lived through it,"
said he, "but the exposures and hardships I endured I
have never recovered from to this day."


The year that he travelled Bridge-water Circuit was one
of the severest of his ministerial life. The circuit embraced
thirteen townships, and he preached in each at least once
in two weeks. He had hardly passed round the circuit,
before there appeared indications of a powerful revival. So
deeply were the people interested, that soon he was often
driven to the barns and groves, that they might be accom-
modated. So absorbed were they to hear the word, that
the scattered population would collect, even in harvest
time, on horseback or on foot, for ten and fifteen miles
around. At this time, when, as he once described it,
"There was the greatest prospect of a sweeping revival
that I have ever known," and when his own heart beat
high with hopes for the success of the word, he was stricken
down with disease. His first attack was dysentery in a
malignant form, and so severe that most of his friends
concluded that he must die. The good man of the house
where he lay sick, without his knowledge, went thirty
miles for the Presiding Elder to come and attend his
funeral. But the disease took a favourable turn, and he
had nearly recovered, when he was smitten down again
with rheumatism. The complaint was very violent, and
for six weeks he could not turn himself in bed, and most
of that time could not stir hand or foot. It was four
months before he could walk across his room. The effects
of this disease remained with him ; and for nearly fifty
years the rheumatic pains were constantly reminding him
of the long and painful hours he then suffered. To increase
his affliction, the enemies of religion took opportunity,
during his sickness, by slander and opposition, effectually
to stop the work of God that had so prosperously begun.

Bishop Hedding was a master in the English language.


He was noted for the correctness of his pronunciation, the ex-
actness of his definitions, and the integrity of his sentences.
He always gave preference to pure Anglo-Saxon words. His
thorough knowledge of his mother-tongue doubtless con-
tributed greatly to his reputation as a preacher, or as an
expounder of the law and discipline of the Church. He
laid the foundation of this knowledge while he travelled
Hanover Circuit. When a boy at school, he had been put
to the study of English grammar, and compelled to commit
to memory certain lessons ; but he says, "I understood noth-
ing of the system, and felt the inconvenience of my ignorance
very seriously for the first three years that I travelled, and I
determined if possible to overcome it. Having no one to
teach me, and being unable to remain in the same neigh-
bourhood more than two or three days at a time, I bought
a copy of all the different books on grammar that I could
find, and went into the study of it thoroughly." For three
months he made no new sermons, but preached his old
ones, and omitted all other reading. He carried his books
on grammar in his saddle-bags; and early and late, at
every opportunity, he gave his chief attention to their
study, until, at the end of that time, he came to understand
the whole system.

No sooner had he finished the grammar, than he began
and read through, in course, and studied carefully, Perry's
Dictionary. This dictionary was, at the time, the standard
of pronunciation and definition in most of the colleges and
schools. As he read it through in order to correct any
errors in pronunciation, or in the application of words to
which he was accustomed, he marked such words, wrote
them off, and committed them to memory. He did the
same thing with Perry's list of Scripture names ; and he


says, "I found it very beneficial." A few years later, when
Walker's Dictionary came to be the standard, he did the
same with it, noting wherein they differed. Still later, he
applied the same study to Webster's. As the result of this
application, he could tell at once how any word was spelled
and pronounced, and the nice shades of definition given to
it by either Perry, Walker, or Webster.

We cannot refrain from narrating a novel and prompt
way in which he settled a dispute between two members
of the Church while he travelled Barre Circuit. In one of
the societies on this circuit there were two brothers who had
married sisters, and who were related to a majority of the
members in the society. A dispute had arisen between
them respecting some property, creating much bitterness
of feeling, not only between themselves but other members
of the Church. He determined, if possible, to effect a
reconciliation and settlement, and to restore peace. For
this purpose he called the society, about thirty or forty in
number, together. Seated between these men, and the
wife of each beside her husband, he began to talk over
with them the matter in dispute. Soon one of the men
charged the other with a lie. Immediately they both
sprung to their feet to fight, and the women and many
others present began to scream* Mr. Hedding, rising at
the same time from his seat, with each hand seized a man
by the collar, and, being stronger than either, held them
apart. He then began to lecture them on the wickedness
of their purposes, reminding them that they were kindred,
and members of the same Church, and what a reproach
they were bringing upon themselves and the Church, and
how they were sinning against God. After he had some-
what calmed their feelings by his lecture and exhortation,


kneeling down, and pulling them on their knees beside him,
and still holding each by the collar of his coat, he prayed
earnestly and fervently for them. When he had finished
praying, he moved the man he held in his right hand and
said to him, "Now you pray." The man obeyed, and, con-
fessing his sin, and asking God and his brother to forgive
him, poured out his soul in supplication and tears. Mr.
Hedding, moving the man he held in his left hand, then
said to him, " And now you pray." He too, with crying
and full confession of guilt, also asked God and his brother
to forgive him. They then rose up, and Mr. Hedding said,
" Now shake hands, and love one another as brethren, and
let us hear no more of this difficulty as long as you live."
They embraced each other and made mutual pledges of
affection and faithfulness, and the whole society imitated
their example. This peremptory and new method of settle-
ment proved effectual, and these men lived for some years
after, and died on terms of fraternal and Christian fellow-

The General Conference of 1804 so altered the boundary
line between the New-York and New-England Conferences
that Mr. Hedding became a member of the latter Confer-
ence. He continued a member of that body until the time
of his election to the episcopacy, in 1824. During all these
years he filled, with distinguished usefulness and accept-
ance, either the appointments of presiding elder or stationed
preacher. In 1807 and 1808 he was in charge of the New-
Hampshire District. Here he had long rides, much work,
and poor pecuniary support. The newness and rugged-
ness of the country, the want of financial organization on
the circuits, and the poverty of the people, made it one of
the hardest districts in the Methodist connexion. The first


year he received for his services, besides a small amount
for travelling expenses, four dollars and twenty-jive cents!
"With this he was expected to find his own horse, cloth-
ing, and books, and to travel not less than three thousand
miles, and preach not less than three hundred sermons!
Yet such was his zeal in the cause of his God, and his
readiness to give himself to advance it, that, without a
murmur or complaint, and with great cheerfulness, he
took the same district, and with the same prospect, for
the following year.

Mr. Hedding held a very sacred place in the affections
and confidence of his brethren ; yet truth requires us to
say that once, though only once, he was the subject of a
formal complaint, made against him at the Conference.
The charge was of so grave a character as to deserve a pass-
ing notice. On one of the circuits of the New-Hampshire
District there resided a doctor of medicine, a man of much
shrewdness and talent, and a member of the Church. He
came to Mr. Hedding with a written charge against one
of the preachers of the circuit, requesting that a council
might be called to try him. The charge was superfluity
of apparel. The specifications were, first, the preacher
wore silver knee-buckles in his small clothes ; second, the
preacher allowed his wife to wear a mourning veil, on ac-
count of the death of some relative. The doctor alleged
that these were great grievances to himself and wife and
other members of the society. Mr. Hedding told him that
these were small matters, and all he could do would be to
advise the preacher, for peace' sake, to leave off the buckles
and use strings, and the wife, for the same reason, to leave
off the veil. Having done this, he supposed it would be
the end of the matter ; but when he arrived at the follow-


ing Conference lie found the doctor had forwarded a bill
of charges against him, signed by himself and wife, for re-
fusing to administer discipline. The doctor's letter was
read to the Conference, and they, without debate, voted to
dismiss it as unworthy of notice. This was the first and
last complaint ever made against him at Conference.

On the 10th of June, 1810, he was married to Miss
Lucy Blish, of Gibsum, New-Hampshire. He became
acquainted with her when he travelled the Plattsburgh
Circuit, in 1801, and they corresponded occasionally to the
time of their marriage. Their long life of happiness and
prosperity in the married relation is a sufficient evidence
of the wisdom of his choice.

Some estimate can be formed of the position of Mr.
TIedding in his own Conference, by the votes given him
for a delegate to the General Conference in 1812. He,
with one other, Rev. George Pickering, received every
vote but one that was given. When the tellers announced
the result of the balloting, Mr. Asbury, with characteristic
good humour, remarked, " It is well these brethren lacked
one vote, or we should know they voted for themselves."
This was not the only expression of their exalted opinion
of his merits given by the Conference. At every subse-
quent election of delegates, to the time when he was
elected bishop, he in no instance lacked more than two
votes of the whole number given.

Mr. Hedding was always ready to show his sympathy
for, and to give his counsel and influence to promote, the
temporal welfare of the Churches under his care. He
showed his zeal and ability in this respect by his suc-
cessful efforts to remove the financial embarrassments of
the Churches in Boston in 1815. Both the Churches in


that city were held by one board of trustees, and were
over eighteen thousand dollars in debt. The mortgages
by which this debt was secured were already due, and the
payment was demanded. The members of the Church
were generally poor, and were in great distress and con-
sternation, expecting every day that their houses of
worship would be taken from them. Mr. Hedding and
his colleague, Rev. D. Fillmore, turned on every side for
relief, but apparently in vain. In this crisis of their
affairs he applied for aid to a noble-hearted member, and
the only one of much property in the Church. This man,
who was largely engaged in business, offered, if Mr. Hed-
ding and his colleague would find purchasers for the pews
yet remaining unsold in the churches, to the amount of the
debt, that he would take the notes of the purchasers, pay-
able in such labour or merchandise as each could best pay,
and he would himself advance the money to pay the mort-
gages. Doubtful of success, and yet determined to do all
in their power in so difficult a work, these two men began
the task, and unremittingly, from morning till evening,
they traversed the city for some months, calling, not only
on their own members, but on members of other Churches,
as well as on those not members of any Church. To their
great joy and surprise they succeeded. A day was
appointed for the people to come and bid for the choice
of pews and give their notes. The noble man who made
the magnanimous offer, gave his check for the amount, the
debt was cancelled, and the anxious Church had a day of
thanksgiving and rejoicing.

Although he did not consider it a virtue to wear a dress
of canonical shape, and had no sympathy for such a
spirit of Pharisaism, Mr. Hedding always advocated and


admired simplicity and plainness of dress; and he con-
tended that members of the Methodist Church, whatever
their standing in society, ought to be so attired. Perhaps
we cannot better give his views on this subject than by
relating in his own words, from memory, an incident that
occurred while he was stationed in Boston : " A lady
called on me one Monday morning in Boston, and said she
came to offer herself to join my Church. She was very
gayly and expensively dressed. On inquiry, I learned
that she was the wife of a wealthy merchant in the city,
and niece of Ex-Governor Hancock; that she had been led
to seek the Lord from reading Wesley's sermons, which she
found in her kitchen, and which belonged to a domestic
who was a member of our Church. She had been the
day before to hear me preach, as she said, to see if I
preached as Wesley preached ; and, being satisfied that I
did, she wished to be one of his people. I told her there
would be an opportunity to join the Church on the follow-
ing Sabbath, but that she ought to know well the char-
acter and manners of the people before she joined. 'I
perceive,' said I, ' that you are very gayly dressed, and our
people are a plain people; moreover, our rules require
plainness in all who unite with us, and, if you were to con-
tinue to dress as you now are, it would give great offence
to the Church ; and you should consider this.' She said
she had read our Discipline, and made up her mind to
conform to it. On the following Sabbath she presented
herself to be received, attired as neatly as I ever wish to
see any one, joined the Church, and lived for several
years, till her death, a devout and consistent Christian."

The first religious and family paper, published under
the patronage of the Church, was established by the New-


England Conference. Mr. Hedding was among the origi-
nal movers in this work, and was one of the committee
appointed by the Conference in 1822 to take measures for
its publication. Being the only one of the committee
residing in or near Boston, the greater part of the labour
devolved upon him. "With characteristic zeal and pru-
dence he attended to his duties, and Zion's Herald soon
made its appearance.

The General Conference in 1824 elected him a bishop.
The circumstances attending this election reflected great
credit on himself, and the successful manner in which for
nearly thirty years he discharged his official duties, shows
the good judgment of those who voted to raise him to the
office. It is but the truth to say that the election of a
bishop at that time depended on a party vote. Each
General Conference from 1812 to 1824 was much agitated
by the discussion of the subject popularly known as "the
Presicling-Elder Question." So much interest was taken
in this question that it divided the Conferences into
two parties, and naturally affected the general elections ;
one party, chiefly from the South, contending that the
presiding elders should be appointed by the bishops, and
the other advocating their election by their respective
Annual Conferences. Mr. Hedding was of the latter
party. He first appeared, with prominence, in the dis-
cussions on this subject in 1816, and again in 1820. A
contemporary says of him : " As a disputant he was self-
possessed, clear, candid, and convincing." He made so
favourable an impression on the minds of his brethren
who agreed with him on the subject in controversy, that,
in the latter year, they nominated him as their candidate
for election to the episcopal office. The state of parties


was such at the time, that had he consented to the nomi-
nation, there is scarcely a doubt but he would have been
elected. Li vain, however, they urged him to consent.
He peremptorily declined.

At the General Conference in 1824, the state of the
work requiring the election of two bishops, he was again
put forward by his friends, and nominated for the office.
Although disinclined to allow his name to be used, he did
not feel at liberty so positively to refuse as he had done at
the preceding Conference. He was elected. The vote sur-
prised him, and, rising in his place, with much embarrass-
ment he stated to the Conference that he doubted whether
the state of his health, and his views of the great respon-
sibilities of the office, and his sense of personal unfitness,
would allow him to consent to be ordained. He would,
however, take time to consider the matter; and retired
from the Conference. While walking in the rear of the
church where the Conference was in session, meditating
on the nature of his position, and praying for direction in
the path of duty, he received a message, signed by the
secretary of the Conference, that immediately gave decision
to his mind. This message was the copy of a resolution
offered by two prominent Southern men that he knew were
leaders on the opposite side to himself in the prevailing
controversy, and passed unanimously by the Conference.
It expressed their sense of his fitness for the episcopal
office, and also a request that he would consent to be
ordained, and not allow any feeling of unworthiness to
prevent him from obeying the voice of the Church. After
receiving this testimony of the unanimous wish of his
brethren, he could no longer hesitate, and was ordained
bishop on the 28th of May, 1824. From this time forward



he occupied a prominent position in the councils of the
Church, and increased every year in the esteem and affec-
tion of the ministry and people.

Many years after his election, when the excitement from
ultra doctrines and measures made him the subject of
attack, Bishop Hedding was often charged with holding
sentiments favouring the system of American slavery.
But one of his official acts in 1826, when the subject of
slavery did not agitate the Church or country, will at least
clearly exhibit what were his views respecting slaveholding
in the ministry. As near as memory serves we give the
account of it in his own words :

" The General Conference in 1824 voted that the bishops
should appoint a delegate to the "Wesleyan body in Eng-
land in 1826, and we met in the spring of that year to make
the appointment. When we assembled it was found that
one of our number was unable to attend. The four bishops
present proceeded to nominate the delegate. Two of them
named an eminent man of the South, who was known to be
a slaveholder. The other two, of whom I was one, objected
to the appointment of this man on the ground of his per-
sonal connexion with slavery, alleging that it would em-
barrass him as a delegate in England, and would give a
precedent to the promotion of slaveholders to office, and,
at the same time, nominated another distinguished minister
who would be free from such objections. The two bishops
who had nominated the man from the South refused to
yield their nomination, or to concur with ours, because, as
they contended, slaveholding should not be a bar to any
office in the appointment of the Church. In this state of
things, neither side being willing to yield, and being equally
divided in our choice, we agreed to adjourn till the follow-


ing year, when the absent bishop could meet with us. The
next year we all met, and it was found that those of us who
had been together the year before remained of the same
mind. The other bishop was unwilling to take the respon-
sibility of giving the casting vote, and after two days'
delay decided that we had not authority to make the
appointment in 1827, since the General Conference voted
it should be done in 1826, and we adjourned without
sending the delegate."

Bishop Hedding, though a man of eminent prudence,
and averse to controversy and dispute, had, nevertheless, an
opinion that, at proper times, he was ready to express on
any question that involved the well-being of the cause of
Christ ; and he feared no personal reproach or opposition
when he believed it would be beneficial to interpose his
judgment and counsel to arrest the imprudence of party
zeal, or to maintain doctrines and measures calculated to
preserve the integrity of the Church.

Lay delegation in the Conferences was a greatly agi-
tated question in some portions of the Church about the
time of his election. In the Pittsburgh Conference
many of the leading members were in favour of such
a measure. When he attended its session, in August,
1826, finding such intense feeling on the subject as to
threaten the disruption of the body, he addressed them
in reference to the matter, warning them of the evil of
some of their measures, and exhorting them to modera-
tion and calmness in their discussion of the agitated ques-
tion. For this address he was publicly attacked and mis-
represented, and, as the bishop believed, to the injury
of his character and influence, and to the hurt of the
Church, Having sought in vain for reparation in the


same paper where the attack and misrepresentations had
been made, he called the attention of the General Confer-
ence to the subject in 1828. The committee on episcopacy,
to whom the matter was referred, after hearing the state-
ments of the delegates from the Pittsburgh Conference and
the bishop's own statement of the address, as recollected by
himself, declared that the writer of the offensive publica-
tion "had injuriously misrepresented Bishop Hedding, and
that the address of the bishop was not only not deserving
of censure, but such as the circumstances of the case ren-
dered it his official duty to deliver."

Bishop Hedding was remarkable for the gentlemanly
simplicity of his manners. He conceived that the highest
praise which he or any man could receive was the testi-
mony of being & faithful, approved, and successful Method-
ist minister. He shrunk from the idea of superior claim,
or making pretension to superior privileges, because of his
office. Wherever he travelled among strangers, though
always ready to avow himself a Methodist preacher, he
never introduced himself as a bishop. This often led him,
greatly to his amusement and sometimes to his inconveni-
ence, to discover that some men who would be patronizing
and condescending to the preacher, could be servile and
humble to the bishop. We venture to narrate an instance
of this kind. Travelling with a horse and sulky, on one of
his long rides from Conference to Conference, he came, on
Saturday afternoon, to a manufacturing village near the
western part of the State of Massachusetts. As was his
custom where he knew no private member of the Church
in the place, he went direct to the stationed preacher's, and
found him absent. Next he went to the public-house, and,
while his horse was feeding, inquired of the landlord who


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 12 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26

Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 12 of 26)