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were the principal Methodists in the place. He was
referred to one of the large manufacturers of the village,
as the landlord said, "the richest man in the place," who
lived not far off in a splendid mansion. He walked to
the house, and found the lady of the "richest man" at
home. Having introduced himself as a Methodist preacher
on a journey, he stated that he designed to remain in the
place over Sabbath ; and, preferring to stay with some of
the brethren than at a tavern, he had called to see if it
would be convenient for them to accommodate him. She
said, with common civility, she would send to the factory
for her husband. He soon came, and showed, by his
haughty and forbidding air, that he felt he was the " chief
man of the village." The bishop again stated his object
in calling, and, after sitting some time without receiving a
reply, arose to depart, when the man said, "I suppose we
can let you stay." The bishop replied, "If it is convenient
I will ; but if not, I would not be a burden."
" O," said the man, " I guess you can stay."
The bishop, who by this time had taken the measure of
his host, and more to test his hospitality than save his pence,
said, " I have a horse at the tavern ; if you have a barn and
feed I will bring him."

" "We have hay," said the man, " but no grain."
" Well," said the bishop, " I can bring grain from the
tavern, if your hay is good."

" It is good enough for your horse," was the quick reply.
The man returned to his factory, and the bishop went to
the tavern, bought the oats, and brought the horse and put
him in the barn. He spent the remainder of the afternoon
and evening without being favoured with much of the
society of " mine host " or his lady. When he came to



182 ELIJAH HEDDING.

retire for the night he was shown to a small attic-room, in
a wing of the splendid mansion, with two beds in it, with
three apprentices just from the factory for room-mates, and
one of them for a bed-fellow, all of whom seemed to par-
take of the spirit of their master, and treated the bishop as
unwelcome and an intruder. He felt ere this quite inclined
to remove to the tavern, but a disposition to see the end
prevailed, and he remained. In the morning his host said
to him, " There is to be a love-feast at the church ; maybe
you would like to go."

" Certainly," said the bishop ; and they proceeded to the
church. He had been seated but a few moments in the con-
gregation when the preacher came in and took his seat in
the altar. His host went and spoke to him, and the bishop
perceived that he was directing the preacher's attention to
himself. The preacher, rising up hastily and opening
wide his eyes, exclaimed, so as to be distinctly heard in the
house, "It's the bishop! It's the bishop /" It need not
be stated that the bishop was invited to take charge of the
love-feast, and preached the morning sermon. The service
being over he left the house ; and his host, evidently morti-
fied and chagrined, walked for some distance by his side,
when suddenly, with a half- vexed and half-fawning tone, he
exclaimed, " Why did 'nt you tell me you were a bishop ?"
The bishop simply said, " I am but a Methodist preacher,
and entitled to no more civility or attention than the hum-
blest of my brethren." His host pressed him with suppli-
ant earnestness to stay to dinner, but he preferred to dine
elsewhere.

His labours for the first eight years of episcopal service
were very arduous. His extensive travel and frequent
preaching, besides presiding in more than fifty Conferences,



ELIJAH HEDDING. 183

and making the appointments of the preachers, together
with the care and responsibility continually resting upon
him, seemed to him more than his health and strength could
sustain, and he seriously meditated resigning his office at
the General Conference in 1832. He would not, however,
take so important a step without consulting with his
brethren, the delegates from the New- York and New-
England Conferences. They expressed it as their unani-
mous opinion that he ought wholly to relinquish the idea
of ever resigning the episcopal office, or of discontinuing
the exercise of it at any time, unless under some imperious
dispensation of Providence compelling him to do so.
Yielding to their advice, he continued to attend to his epis-
copal duties with accustomed zeal and faithfulness.

Any sketch of the character or life of Bishop Hedding
would be very incomplete without a notice of the trials
through which he passed in the performance of his official
duties, from 1836 to 1841. These were years of threat-
ening excitement, that affected many of the Northern and
Eastern Conferences, arising from the doctrines and meas-
ures of abolitionism. For some reason it became his duty,
more than of any of his colleagues, to have the charge of
those Conferences where ultra measures on the agitating
subject were attempted. This may have arisen from the
fact that he had an extended personal acquaintance with
the members of those Conferences, and could therefore keep
a salutary check on any plans that might prove destructive
to the peace and unity of the Church ; or, it might be that
his known prudence and good judgment, sustained by his
ability as a presiding officer, were supposed to be a sure
guarantee that he would not suffer the cause of God to
be jeoparded by any rashness in the leaders of the agita-



184 ELIJAH HEDDINO.

tion. It would have been ground of thankfulness to him,
if he could have been excused from the painful labours,
through which duty required him to pass, in these five
years of fearful excitement. But he was the last man to
yield the post to which duty assigned him. Many things
contributed to distress his mind in these troublous times.
Some of those who led the agitation were his old and inti-
mate friends ; and it grieved his soul to see those with whom
he had laboured for years in intimate fellowship and peace
embracing sentiments and advocating measures that he
fully believed would injure themselves, as well as hurt the
cause of God ; and he was pained to be compelled to re-
monstrate with them, and to warn them of the evil that he
saw inevitably following their course. He dearly loved the
Church, and his heart sickened as he saw the devastation
produced by the alienations, suspicions, and hostilities
among brethren, through the intemperate discussions that
were had on the disturbing subject. He became himself
the object of attack : for doing what he believed to be his
duty, and what the interests of religion imperatively re-
quired, he was loaded with reproaches, and slanders. Some
of the leaders of the agitation followed him from Confer-
ence to Conference, and, by publications and harangues,
called in question the integrity of his sentiments, and im-
peached his administration as tyrannical and oppressive.
Undaunted, he swerved nothing from the line of duty. To
the young and deceived he was patient, forbearing, and
paternal in his counsels ; to the intractable and obstinate he
was decided and prompt in his warnings ; and after a few
years he had the happiness to see the threatened storm pass
by, and the satisfaction of knowing that his faithful admin-
istration had proved effectual in restoring harmony to the



ELIJAH BEDDING. 185

troubled Churches. It was a favourite plan of his oppo-
nents, during this agitation, to attempt in various ways to
embarrass him as presiding officer ; but all their attempts
were promptly met and frustrated. The crafty were often
taken in their own net. One of many instances of the kind
will be given : He had stated in a public address on dis-
cipline, that it might be the duty of a bishop, in case a
majority of the members of a Conference should embrace
erroneous or heretical doctrines, or become addicted to any
sinful practices, and therefore could not be impartially
tried in their own Conference, to transfer a portion of them
to some other Conference, where they could be fairly tried.
A member of a New-England Conference, who soon after
left the Church and embraced the wild vagaries of a
modern delusion, introduced a preamble and resolution for
the action of the Conference, which, having stated the doc-
trine as taught by the bishop, went on further to say : "And
whereas many of the preachers in the Southern conferences
are so far connected with slavery, and are slaveholders,
that they cannot be impartially tried in their own confer-
ences for any violations of the discipline on that subject,
therefore, Resolved, that Bishop Hedding be respectfully
requested to transfer such preachers to Northern conferences,
where the discipline in their case may be impartially ad-
ministered." He immediately saw the mischievous design
of the resolution, and, rising from his chair, said: "Well,
brethren, if you are prepared for the resolution, I am ready
to put it. But you must bear in mind, that if we transfer
men from the South to the North, we must also transfer men
from the North to the South, to fill their places. We now
need a preacher in New-Orleans, and the first man I trans-
fer will be brother R , the mover of the resolution.



186 ELIJAH HEDDING.

Are you ready for the question?" A motion was imme-
diately made to lay the preamble and resolution on the

table, and the friends of brother R were glad to vote

for it ; and it was carried by a unanimous vote.

Christian magnanimity, that would not allow him to cher-
ish resentment for any injury inflicted on himself, was a
noble trait in the character of Bishop Hedding. He could
not but feel the smart, but he forgave the offender. His was
the spirit of his Master, who, with a liberal charity, was ever
ready to say of his opposers, "They know not what they
do." He showed this magnanimity toward his brethren of
the New-England Conference at the General Conference in
1840. That conference, as much as any other, had attempted
disorganizing measures, and, by resolutions and votes, had
implicated and endeavoured to embarrass his administra-
tion. He believed that the most of its members had seen
the error of their course, and at this General Conference
interposed to prevent any censure being cast upon them.

The Committee on Itinerancy, to whom is intrusted the
examination of the records of the several Annual Confer-
ences, made a report, in the preamble of which they ac-
cused the New-England Conference, for the four years
preceding, of being "disorganizing in their proceedings,
and to have pursued a course destructive to the peace,
harmony, and unity of the Church." When the question
came for the adoption of the report, and it was probable
that it would be adopted, Bishop Hedding, forgetful of the
reproach which the hasty action of that Conference had cast
upon him, with an earnest apology or plea in its behalf,
prevailed on the General Conference to lay the report on
the table.

As a presiding officer in the Conferences, Bishop Hed-



ELIJAH BEDDING. 187

ding had no superior. His knowledge of business, and his
thorough acquaintance with the rules that govern deliber-
ative bodies, qualified him in an eminent degree for the
duties of a president. An instance of this was given while
presiding at the session of the General Conference in 1840.
A motion, in which considerable interest was felt, was put
by him, and the vote declared to be a tie. He was called
upon to give the casting vote, but declined, saying, that
though he had no objection to express his opinion on the
question before the conference, in a proper way, he did not
believe it lawful for a bishop to vote in the General Con-
ference. This declaration created some astonishment, and
the more as it had been done by other presidents, in other
cases. But he went on to give his reasons, from analogy,
so clear and convincing, that not a member of the body
doubted the correctness of his decision.

He regarded the election to the episcopacy as an elec-
tion to office, and though, in the nature of the case, not
properly an office for frequent change, as many inferior
appointments, yet by no means requiring the continuance
of the incumbent when health or other causes called for
resignation. "With such views, and suffering much from
acute or chronic disease, he often consulted with his breth-
ren on the propriety of resigning his office, and, at different
times, even to the last General Conference he attended,
intimated to that body a doubt if the state of his health
would justify them in expecting him to do effective ser-
vice, and a readiness to resign. But the Church had too
high an opinion of his worth as a counsellor, and too
grateful a femembrance of his faithfulness in all the trusts
she had confided to him, to think for a moment of allow-
ing him to resign ; and, at different General Conferences,



188 ELIJAH HEDDING. '

when he referred the subject to them, voted that he should
be expected to perform such service only as he should
judge his health would permit him to do. He continued,
however, an effective bishop, presiding in Conferences,
fixing the appointments of the preachers, and giving,
orally or by letter, such official counsel as the functions
of his office required, to within a short time before his
death.

As the several primary rays of light in proper combina-
tion form a pure white, so the happy union and propor-
tion of his many noble qualities gave to Bishop Hedding
a completeness of character. From whatever point he is
observed whether as a man, a Christian, a minister, or a
bishop he seems entire and without fault. "His mind,
naturally clear and discriminating, had been well-matured
by reading and study, by intercourse with men, and by a
large and well-improved experience. He was possessed
of great simplicity and sincerity of manner, a peculiar
and confiding openness in his intercourse with his brethren,
that at once won their confidence and affections. At the
same time, his natural dignity and great discretion made
him an object of reverence as well as of affection. His
great shrewdness, and his almost instinctive insight into
the character of men, guarded him from becoming the
dupe of the crafty and designing. His heart was as true
as it was large in its sympathies. His brethren never in
vain sought his counsel or his sympathy. The soundness
of his views upon the doctrines and discipline of the
Church was so fully and universally conceded, that in the
end he became almost an oracle in these respects ; and his
opinions are regarded with profound veneration. As a
theologian and divine, his views were comprehensive, logi-



ELIJAH HEDDING. 189

cal, and well-matured. His discourses were an example
of neatness, order, perspicuity, and completeness. He
had a most tenacious memory. His mind was richly
stored with incident and anecdote, as well as with all
kinds of the most valuable knowledge, collected from
books, from observation, and from experience. His con-
versational powers were of a high order the events of
the past seemed to start up from their lurking places, and
come forth with all the freshness and life of recent occur-
rences. There was often with him a genial sprightliness,
humour, and wit, and a keen sense of the ludicrous, that
macle him a most companionable friend. Yet his cheer-
fulness never descended below the purity of the Christian
character, or the dignity of the Christian man. His, too,
was a most liberal and catholic spirit. He toiled long and
hard to build up the Church of his early choice; and his
affections were deeply wedded to that Church ; but they
were not exclusive. He felt a kindred sympathy for
Christians of every name, and felt, too, that he was with
them a common partner in the kingdom and patience of
Christ Jesus. His nature was too noble, his heart too
large, and his views too broad and enlightened to admit
of his being cut off from sympathy with the common
brotherhood of the Christian faith. Yet he felt that God
had appointed him to his sphere of labour, and it was his
highest joy to pursue it."*

The first acute attack that proved the premonitor of
approaching death was on the 28th of December, 1850.
From this time, for more than fifteen months, "his decline
was gradual, sometimes relieved by favourable indications,
and at other times accelerated by sudden and alarming

Quarterly Review, January, 1853.



190 ELIJAH BEDDING.

steps." His intellect, notwithstanding his intense and pro-
tracted bodily sufferings, remained clear and vigorous to
the last. " His conversation during the last months and
weeks of his life was heavenly and edifying beyond de-
gree." To different brethren in the ministry who were
privileged to visit him in his last sickness, he often spoke
of his love for the Church, of the sufficiency of the atone-
ment, and of his joy and confidence as he trusted in it
alone for salvation. He spoke of heaven, and of his
assurance that he was going thither. He exhorted them
to preach Christ while they had life and strength. The
nearer the final moment approached, the brighter seemed
his prospects of the glorious world to which he hastened.
Almost the last uttered sentences of the victorious Chris-
tian minister and bishop were, " Glory, glory ! Glory to
God ! glory to God ! glory to God ! Glory ! I am happy
filled !" He died on the 9th of April, 1852.



* *



oljn



CHRISTIANITY did for the Rev. JOHN FLETCHER all that it
can do for an inhabitant of this earth. It fulfilled in him
every precept of the decalogue, and every beatitude of the
sermon on the mount. Whatever the gospel makes a duty
he performed, whatever it promises as a privilege he
enjoyed. In life and death he may have had a few equals,
but no superior throughout the Christian age. His life was
like the sea of glass in the Apocalypse, and his death like
the same sea " mingled with fire."

He was born at ISTyon, in Switzerland, Sept. 12th, 1729.
Like every boy that has ever grown to manhood, he was
frequently in imminent peril. At one time he was prac-
tising the art of fencing with his brother, who nearly killed
him by a thrust of his sword, which split the button on the
point of it, and entered his side. At another time, he fell
from a high wall, and was barely saved by a bed of mortar
which broke the violence of his fall. Once he was swim-
ming in deep water, when a long hair-ribbon, becoming
loose, twisted about his person, and nearly drowned him.
One evening, in company with four others, he foolishly
swam to a rock five miles from the shore, where they all
nearly perished, not being able for some time to raise them-
selves out of the water. At another time he was carried



192 JOHN FLETCHER.

by the rapids of the Rhine a distance of five miles, when
his breast struck one of the piles that supported a powder-
mill, and for twenty minutes he floated senseless under the
mill. Mr. "Wesley believed that the preservation of his life
among the piles was a miracle wrought by the power of
angels. It was at least a manifest instance of a special
providence, which, when human wisdom and strength can
do no more, "keeps our soul in life." And who can dis-
tinguish this from a miracle ?

Mr. Fletcher was educated principally at the University
of Geneva, where his uncommon abilities bore away prize
after prize from young gentlemen who were nearly related
to the professors. Having accomplished the usual course,
and gained the honours of the first class, his father wished
him to enter the ministry. From his childhood he had
secretly desired the holy ofiice ; but about the time of leav-
ing the university, he changed his mind in favour of a
military life. His parents remonstrated, but he persisted.
He had learned to tremble at the thought of touching the
ark, and preferred the dangers of the camp to the responsi-
bilities of the Church. His parents were grieved and
refused their consent. He started for Lisbon, and procured
a commission in the Portuguese navy. A few days before
the ship sailed, a maid, while serving him at the table,
spilled the hot tea on his foot. The ship left without him,
and was never after heard of. How much the Church is
indebted to the blunder of an awkward girl ! Yet,

" There 's a Divinity that shapes onr ends,
Rough-hew them as we will."

He returned from Lisbon, accepted a commission in the
Dutch army, and immediately set out for Flanders; but



JOHN FLETCHER.

before he reached the camp, the war was suddenly closed
by the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle. From that time he dis-
missed all thoughts of a military life, and thus in the provi-
dence of God, he who was designed for the service of the
Prince of Peace was not permitted to become " a man of
blood."

Soon after he laid by his sword his " unfleshed sword,"
as the savage word now goes he went to England, where,
under the tuition of a Mr. Burchell, he studied the English
language for eighteen months, and mastered it so thoroughly
that Mr. Wesley thought no foreigner ever wrote it with
greater purity and elegance. After this, he became a
private tutor to the two sons of Mr. Thomas Hill, in Shrop-
shire. It was during his connexion with this family that
Mr. Fletcher first heard the Methodist name. Mr. Hill
went to London to attend parliament, and took with him
his family and young tutor. As they rode through St.
Albans, Fletcher, who was on horseback, happened to
meet a poor woman, who engaged him in religious conver-
sation. The incident detained him for a long time behind
his company. When he came up they inquired the cause
of his delay. He answered that he had met with a poor
woman, who talked so sweetly to him of Christ that he
r could not get away. "I shall wonder," said Mrs. Hill,
" if our tutor does not turn Methodist." " Methodist,
madam," said he; "what is that?" She replied, "They
are a people who pray day and night." "Then," said
he, " by the help of God I will find them, if they be
above ground !"

Shortly after this he took the vows of God upon him for
a life-long service. He had indeed feared God from child-
hood ; but it was not till the twenty-fifth year of his age

13



194 JOHN FLETCHER.

that he experienced that great spiritual change which the
New Testament describes as a " new birth," a " new crea-
tion," a "passing from death to life," and a calling "out
of darkness into his marvellous light." The Scriptures
clearly mark this as a new era of a man's life, an event, an
epoch in his history, as distinctly defined as the commence-
ment of civil manhood is defined by the laws of civilized
nations. The account of this divine renewal we have from
his own pen, but it is too long to be inserted in this brief
sketch.* It is sufficient to say, that after many strong cry-
ings with tears, much fasting, and much reading of the Scrip-
tures, and many conversations with devout men, he rose from
the dark land into light and joy. But the light was like the
first faint rays of the dawn, and the joy was little more
than the bare relief of a heavy heart. He prayed most
devoutly that he might not be deceived as to the reality of
his conversion. The prayer was soon answered. One day,
while lying prostrate on the floor, his faith grew into a
vision of Christ on the cross, and as he looked, he cried
from the overwhelming joy of his heart :

" Seized by the rage of sinful men,

I see Christ bound, and bruised, and slain

? T is done, the martyr dies !
His life to ransom ours is given,
And lo ! the fiercest fire of heaven

Consumes the sacrifice.

He suffers both from men and God,
He bears the universal load
Of guilt and misery !

See Benson's Life of Fletcher a piece of spiritual biography of un-
rivalled excellence. The late Dr. Fisk said he was more deeply indebted
to it than to any other uninspired book.



JOHN FLETCHER. 195

He suffers to reverse our doom,
And lo ! my Lord is here become
The Bread of Life to me \"

From that time he doubted no more. The darkness was
past, and the true light shone with no dubious ray. He
now began a life of unceasing mortification, and, as he
afterward confessed, of unjustifiable austerity. He never
slept while he could keep awake. He spent two whole
nights in each week in reading, meditation, and prayer.
He lived entirely on vegetables, and ate only enough of
these to keep him on his feet. This severe treatment of
himself he afterward regretted, as it injured his health and
laid the foundation of future disease. Besides this, he said
to Mrs. Fletcher, "When the body is brought low, Satan
gains an advantage over the soul. It is certainly our duty
to take all the care we can of our health. But at that time
I did not seem to feel the want of the sleep I deprived my-


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Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 13 of 26)