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" Our worthy M'Kendree preached one of his soul-stir-
ring and heart-searching sermons to a large congregation
for that country. It was a time of power and love a soul-
reviving season ; and some shouted aloud for joy. To this
meeting many came from far some on foot, others on
horseback ; but on Sunday, the 20th, (June,) the congrega-
tion was gathered under the trees, where a stand and a few
seats had been prepared. Those who had no seats stood
or sat on the ground. M'Kendree preached one of his in-
genious and overwhelming sermons, from Jeremiah viii, 22.
He took hold of the doctrine of unconditional election and
reprobation, and held it up in its true character. His
arguments were unanswerable ; and such was the divine
influence attending the word, that he carried the whole
congregation with him. The very place appeared to be
shaken with the power of God. The people fell in every
direction."

This meeting resulted in much good. The work in
Ohio, from a variety of causes over which the circuit
preacher had no control, had been for some time in a lan-
guid state ; but from this meeting they wer,e roused up to
a redoubling of their diligence, and the cause began to
prosper. But this is not an isolated instance of M'Ken-



WILLIAM M'KENDREE. 79

dree's success. His approach to the quarterly meetings
was hailed by both preachers and people with delight, and
the spirit of revival seemed to follow in his footsteps.

At the close of M'Kendree's second year on the western
work it had become greatly enlarged ; seven new circuits
had been formed and added to the district, and the district
itself divided into three, M'Kendree still presiding on the
one including the most of the State of Kentucky.

The mere handful of members, scattered here and there
in the settlements, now numbered at least eight thousand,
having increased more than five thousand in the two years.
The little Conference of twelve members had more than
doubled its numbers. No small part of the impetus which
had been given to the western work was through the
preaching and superior wisdom of M'Kendree, as the pre-
siding elder.

The Conference of 1804 met at Mount Garrison, in Ken-
tucky. It was the design of both the bishops to be present,
and they set out for the West by the way of Pittsburgh,
Bishop Asbury in the advance. He was taken down
with bilious fever in Green County, Pennsylvania, and so
severe was his affliction that Bishop Whatcoat, when he
came to him, was compelled to remain and nurse him for
more than a month. After his sickness they started on
together, but the riding of less than a hundred miles con-
vinced Bishop Asbury that it was impossible to go on.
Bishop Whatcoat, therefore, proceeded alone, but did not
reach the seat of Conference until it was adjourned. The
Conference had met, and placed M'Kendree in the chair,
where he had presided with a dignity and efficiency simi-
lar to that which marked his course when it became his
regular duty.



80 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

It is quite impossible to give a circumstantial account of
the labours of M'Kendree in the West. It is probably
enough to say concerning his regular employment, that he
gave great efficiency to the presiding eldership. He did
not simply as much as his fellow-labourers expected of him,
as belonging to his office, but he was in labours more
abundant than any one of them. At the Conference of
1805 he was removed to the Cumberland District. This
district lay between the Cumberland and Tennessee Elvers,
and west of the mountain ranges, and was composed of
eight circuits, one of which was in the State of Illinois.
The work of the Lord continued to increase in every direc-
tion. The year following the missionaries penetrated into
Missouri.

In the summer of 1807 M'Kendree resolved to visit these
new fields of labour, and started off in company with two
of the preachers. They crossed the Ohio River from the
lower part of Kentucky, into the State now called Illinois,
but then forming a part of the great North-west Territory.
The place where they crossed the river was near the pres-
ent site of Shawneetown. Hence they proceeded west to
Kaskaskia, upon the Kaskaskia River, preaching at every
place where they could find any people to listen to the
word of salvation.

The journey had its difficulties ; but when the work of the
Lord prospered the travellers counted all their losses and
sufferings great gain. They had to encamp in the woods
almost every night; cross many rapid and dangerous
streams, where the horse had to swim with both rider and
baggage ; but a season of prayer, and communion with
the Most High, made them quite forget their toil and ex-
posure. It is said that after Mr. M'Kendree had preached,



WILLIAM M'KENDREE. 81

with his usual ability, at one of his appointments, a gentle-
man said to him: "Sir, I am convinced that there is a
divine influence in your religion ; for though I have resided
here some years, and have done all within my power to
gain the confidence and good-will of my neighbours, you
have already many more friends here than I have." Mr.
M'Kendree spent some weeks in the two States, and then
returned, much encouraged, to his district.

The Conference of 1807, which was held in the town of
Chillicothe, Ohio, elected him a delegate to the ensuing
General Conference, which was to be held in Baltimore,
in May, 1808. It was then that his labours in the West
closed, and it may be well to glance at the increase of the
Church during the time in which he was connected
with it.

The field of labour had grown from one district into
five, and it now reached from Natchez on the south to
Marietta on the north, from East Tennessee on the east
to Missouri on the west. Instead of having only eight
men, as at the beginning, to stand up and proclaim
the gospel, as many as sixty-six were proclaiming the
glad tidings to the western settlements; and not a few
of these were men of strong minds, who have since
occupied important positions in our Church. The mem-
bership increased in the same ratio; less than three
thousand names were enrolled when he entered on the
work, but now there were more than sixteen thousand.
And there was something quite as encouraging as this;
the work, mighty as it was, was seemingly but com-
menced, and they could even then, with some certainty,
prophesy that this region was to become the stronghold

of Methodism.

6



82 WILLIAM M'KKNDRKK.

The General Conference of 1808 was one of much im-
portance, especially as having provided for the regular
delegated Conference, and imposed the restrictive rules
which are now part of the constitution of our Church.

The death of the venerable Bishop Whatcoat, and the
absence from the continent of Dr. Coke, left Bishop Asbury
alone to superintend the whole work. He was himself
growing too old for the performance of much labour, and
it was evident to all that some assistance must be given
him in the exercise of his yearly toils. At first a motion
was made to restrict the presiding elder's office, and elect
seven additional bishops ; but this was lost by a large vote.
The effort was then made to secure two bishops ; but at
last a motion prevailed to elect and consecrate only one.

When Mr. M'Kendree came to the General Conference
he was unknown to almost all the younger members, both
by name and reputation. He had been so far removed
from the centre of the work that he had to some extent
become a stranger to most of the eastern preachers, and
they were not in the least aware of his magnificent powers
as an orator and divine. Indeed, his elder brethren, who
had not heard him for seven or eight years, were hardly
prepared for the improvement he had made during his
self-denying labours in the West; but on the Sabbath
before the election for a bishop was to take place, he
was appointed to preach in the morning at the Light-
street Church.

Bishop Asbury, who was present, was heard to say that
the sermon would make him a bishop, and his prophecy
was true ; for on the 12th of May, the day that the resolu-
tion passed to elect and consecrate an additional bishop, he
was elected. The number of votes cast was one hundred



WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

and twenty -eight ; of those Mr. M'Kendree had ninety-
five, the remainder being divided between E. Cooper and
Jesse Lee ; it was the largest majority by which any
bishop has been elected, except Bishop Asbury. He was
consecrated to the office of bishop, or superintendent of the
Methodist Episcopal Church, on the 17th of May, 1808, in
the Light-street Church, by Bishop Asbury, assisted by
Rev. Messrs. Garrettson, Bruce, Lee, and Ware, who were
the oldest and most prominent elders in the ministry at
that time.

Bishop M'Kendree immediately entered upon the duties
of his office with that zeal and diligence which had exalted
him in the eyes of his brethren ; and Bishop Asbury felt
himself greatly relieved, both in the active duties and
responsibilities which had been resting upon him since the
death of Bishop Whatcoat. Bishop Asbury remarks, in his
journal: "The burden is now borne by two pair of shoul-
ders instead of one ; the care is cast upon two hearts and
heads."

For the first year of Bishop M'Kendree's exercise of the
episcopal office he was almost continually with Bishop As-
bury, who introduced him to the work, the Conferences,
and the preachers. Their route took in nearly all parts
of the United States, and a part of Canada, and required
them to be moving in all seasons of the year. They visited,
prayed, and preached, from Maine to Georgia, along the
sea-coast ; on the north and west they skimmed along the
lakes, the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers ; and in the inte-
rior their steps were known among the damp swamps, and
rich prairies, and magnificent mountains of the Alleghany
ranges. The roads, in the best seasons, were but poor in
the wet seasons miserable. They lodged sometimes in the



84 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

houses of the rich, but quite as often in the log-hut or cabin,
and not unfrequently they camped out in the woods.

The following extract from Bishop Asbury's journal con-
tains a lively picture of the situation and thoughts of these
two devoted and talented servants of God : " My flesh
sinks under labour. We are riding in a poor thirty-dollar
chaise, in partnership two bishops of us ; but it must be
confessed that it tallies well with the weight of our purses.
What bishops ! Well but we have great news, and we
have great times; and each Western, Southern, together
with the Yirginia Conference, will have one thousand souls
truly converted to God. Is not this an equivalent for a
light purse ? And are we not well paid for starving and
toil ? Yes, glory to God !"

The General Conference of 1812 met in New- York, and
was composed of members from eight Conferences of men
whose Christian character and talents had placed them fore-
most among their brethren. The growing state of the field
seemed to call for an addition to the superintendency ; but
after a full interchange of thoughts it was considered best
to let the subject rest as it was. Bishop Asbury had been
meditating a visit to his native land ; but at the suggestion
of his brethren he relinquished the idea, and remained at
his post in the itinerancy as efficiently as his age would
allow.

Within a month after the adjournment of the General
Conference, the United States declared war against Great
Britain, and the hostilities occupied the minds of the people,
greatly to the injury of the work of the Lord. Bishop As-
bury continued, however, to attend the Conferences, in
company with his colleague, upon whom devolved by far
the greater part of the labour ; yet the presence and coun-



WILLIAM M'KENDREE. 85

sel of the senior was at all times a source of the highest
gratification. The bishops pressed on together, both east
and west of the mountains, and to the south, where the
work was rapidly extending. So great was their energy
and activity, that in the tour of the year 1812 they trav-
elled over six thousand miles in eight months, attending
the sessions of nine Conferences, and assisting at ten
camp-meetings. This was herculean labour, especially
if we consider how poor were the facilities of travel in
those days.

The year 1813 was marked with much distress along the
lines between the Canadas and the United States, on account
of the war, and it aifected the societies to some extent. But
it did not stop the progress of the work elsewhere, and the
bishops were pleased to see that there was a great increase
in the members for the year. Bishop Asbury continued to
grow weaker, and the more duties fell upon the shoulders
of Bishop M'Kendree, of whom he spoke in terms of the
highest eulogy.

The summer of 1814 found the bishops quite inefficient.
Bishop Asbury was seized with inflammatory fever at
Bethel, in New-Jersey, and for a while his life was de-
spaired of. For twelve weeks there was no record in his
journal, yet he was able to take up his itinerant course,
and be at Chillicothe, Ohio, by the latter part of August.
His progress, however, was by slow stages, and with much
pain.

In the "West he found Bishop M'Kendree confined to the
house, having been thrown from his horse, and so badly
injured that his usefulness for the whole season was de-
stroyed. This derangement, however, was but a temporary
one, and as soon as. the bishops were able they passed on



86 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

for the South, and presided at the South Carolina Con-
ference.

From this time forth the labour of the superintendency
was confined principally to Bishop M'Kendree, for Asbury
never recovered from the sickness of which we have spoken.
"His countenance was fallen and pale; his limbs trem-
bled, and his whole frame bore marks of decay. Indeed,
there was something in his appearance which, while it
indicated a 'soul full of glory and of God,' struck the
beholder with an awe which may be better felt than
described."

But he was generally at his post, and would be found at
the Conference, taking his accustomed seat, and preaching
one sermon ; but beyond this his labours were few, except
the judicious counsel from his lips. The administration of
Bishop M'Kendree was highly satisfactory, both to the
preachers and the membership, and he had already ac-
quired high standing in his office. His energy and self-
sacrificing spirit animated those around him with the zeal
which is necessary to the itinerant minister. His splendid
preaching talent was a model for their own ; and his clear,
cool judgment, was a worthy example of the manner to
rule in justice and wisdom.

The year 1816 opened graciously, for peace was restored
to the country ; and although the religious world had not
yet recovered from the calamity of war, yet the prospect
was encouraging that a general revival of religion was
about taking place. It was, however, a year marked in
the history of our denomination as one of grief, for it
marks the death of the great and holy Asbury.

None felt this loss more than Bishop M'Kendree but
not because of the additional labour imposed upon him :



WILLIAM M'KENDHEE. 87

tliis was slight, as it only lacked a month of General
Conference, when the vacant post could be filled. It
should be mentioned also that Dr. Coke had died on
the 3d of May, 1814. This left the whole responsi-
bility of the episcopacy resting on Bishop M'Kendree.

The General Conference of 1816 met at Baltimore, and
found the Church with only one bishop, and his health
greatly impaired, although he was still able to perform the
duties of his office. Bishop M'Kendree opened the Con-
ference with an address, in which he set forth the general
state of the work, and the necessity of making some addi-
tions to the superintendency.

The committee to whom the latter portion of the
address was referred, reported with promptness, and
recommended that two additional bishops be elected
and consecrated. Accordingly, on May 14th, the Con-
ference proceeded to an election, and Enoch George, of
the Baltimore Conference, and Robert R. Roberts, of the
Philadelphia Conference, were elected, and in due time
they were consecrated, and entered upon their work. It
is only necessary to state, that the new bishops were
men whose piety, talents, and particular qualification for
the office were well known, and who received the confi-
dence of the whole Church. Their subsequent course, as
long as they lived,- showed that the Church had acted
wisely in their election.

The General Conference had established the Mississippi
and Missouri Conferences, making the whole number
eleven, and these under the care of three bishops. It had
again been urged by some that it would be for the best to
divide the work and appoint a bishop to each portion, but
the majority were in favour of the itinerant superinten-



88 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

dency ; and the bishops arranged their labours so that eacn
one of them would be present at each Conference at least
once in four years. Therefore we find the bishops pursu-
ing this plan, as far as their health and other existing cir-
cumstances would allow.

As we have already stated, the health of Bishop M'Ken-
dree had begun to fail. The severe toil of the eight years
that he spent in Kentucky had slowly but surely been
working on his constitution, and now it was seen that
his labours must be restricted to some extent, for he was
no longer able to render that efficient service which the
Church so much desired ; yet he moved about from Con-
ference to Conference as his strength would allow, giving
by his presence a new impetus to the work in every direc-
tion. His colleagues were both active and zealous, and
the government of the Church was administered with
fidelity. The Conferences were attended with punctuality,
and the union, peace, and prosperity of the Church were
generally secured and promoted, while their services were
highly appreciated by the Church.

In the fall of 1818 Bishop M'Kendree set out for the
"West, in company with Joshua Soule, the book-agent,
intending to pay especial attention to the extreme western
Conferences and the Indian Missions. He was very weak
indeed, but he pushed forward with his accustomed energy
until he grew so feeble that he was compelled to make a
halt. His affliction was very sore, and lasted a considera-
ble period ; but as soon as it was possible for him to pro-
ceed on his tour, he went, pressing on through a host of
difficulties that would have disheartened any other man.
He was so weak as to be compelled to move very slowly,
and he had to be lifted from and into his wagon. At one



WILLIAM M'KENDKEE. 89

of the Conferences he had to be taken from his bed and
supported by two of the preachers as he performed the
ceremonies of ordination.

He continued passing southward till he was at the last
station in his journey. On March 5th he preached in
New-Orleans, to a large audience, from one of his favourite
texts, " God is a spirit : and they that worship him must
worship him in spirit and in truth." His stay there was
short, when he turned his face to the North, that he might
fill his engagements to meet a part of the western Confer-
ences. As he was coming northward he sent the following
letter to the editors of the Methodist Magazine. It graphi-
cally describes western itinerant life at that period :

" CAMPED IN THE CHOCTAW NATION, April 17, 1819.

" On the first day of last November, I sank under the
affliction which was pressing me down while in company
with brother Soule, in the State of Ohio.

" After a sore affliction, I left the neighbourhood where
I had been confined, in a very feeble state, and travelled
about one hundred miles, and continued to speak occasion-
ally, so that I have visited New-Orleans, and partially
attended to the Churches in this State. For a few weeks
I have gained strength considerably. It is the opinion of
my physician that I should go to the North for the estab-
lishment of my health; and having a favourable oppor-
tunity, I set out in a little wagon, from brother Gibson's
last Monday, in company with brothers J. Lane and
B. Edge.

"We have camped near companies of drunken Indians
been disturbed to see their situation, and incommoded
with their visits during the night; but never injured or



90 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

insulted ; but mercifully preserved so far through our difii-
cult journey, and from night to night blessed with the
privilege of camping peaceably in the woods a situation
very favourable for contemplation. "We expect to reach
the settlements eight days from this, at our rate of travel-
ling. I intend, if the Lord will, to attend the Ohio Con-
ference next August. I would be with you in ]STew-York,
if I could ; but here I sit, at the root of a tree, near the
line between the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, writing
to you, while brother Lane is boiling ham and making tea
for dinner. Some of our company were much alarmed
last night by the sound of drunken Indians ; but it proved
to be fear where no fear was. We rested peaceably in the
woods near an Indian hut.

" This is the fourth day since I commenced writing this
letter, and I have progressed as time and strength would
permit. We have lain in the woods every night, except
one rainy night we were taken into the cabin of a slave
belonging to an Indian, and were comforted. It has been
a journey of difficulties; but no serious obstruction has
happened to us. The Lord is merciful and good to us.
My best love to Bishop Roberts, and respects to all. We
expect to reach white settlements next Saturday, if the
Lord permits. Yours affectionately."

The opening of the General Conference of 1820 found
Bishop M'Kendree at his post, but in much weakness;
however, he opened the first session with reading the
Scriptures, singing, and prayer, as usual. After the open-
ing services he informed the Conference that, on account
of his weakness and ill health, he would not be able to
discharge the duties of chairman, but would take occasion



WILLIAM M'KENDKEE. 91

to assist his colleagues in the responsible business of the
sessions, as his health would permit. At a subsequent
session he presented an address, in which he called atten-
tion to those subjects which he thought claimed especially
their attention. The Conference took every possible occa-
sion to show him their sympathy and respect, which was a
source of no small consolation to him, and he properly
expressed his gratification for these manifestations of
regard and love.

The number of Annual Conferences was now increased
to twelve; these were divided between the two other
bishops, Bishop M'Kendree, as we have seen, being
released from effective labour. His colleagues entered
upon their work with much zeal, and Bishop M'Ken-
dree was not backward in lending them all the assist-
ance in his power. He had the missionary department
especially assigned to himself, in which he took a deep
and absorbing interest; and by his intimate acquaint-
ance with all parts of the work, was very able to direct
the means and energies of the missionary society to the
right points.

His bad health did not keep him from visiting the whole
work. During one season he would be found in the East-
ern and Middle States ; shortly afterward his steps could
be found about the western and southern waters, passing
along slowly, visiting many families, conversing freely
with them on religion, and supplicating the throne of
grace in their behalf. Now and then, especially on the
Sabbath day, he preached to a crowd who sat rejoicing to
be the hearers of the word as it fell from his lips. He
paid special attention to the West, for he felt himself more
identified with that portion of the work than any other, it



92 WILLIAM M'KENDREE.

having been his field of labour when he was elected to the
episcopal office.

The General Conference of 1824, at Baltimore, found
Bishop M'Kendree present, and conducting as usual its
opening ceremonies with singing and prayer.

No less than five new Conferences were set off by this
General Conference, increasing the labour of the bishops
very materially. The committee on episcopacy, therefore,
in presenting their report, recommended that two new
bishops be elected and consecrated; and the Conference
elected Joshua Soule, of the Baltimore, and Elijah Hed-
ding, of the New-England Conference. Bishop M'Ken-
dree was able to preach the consecration sermon, and act
as the officiating bishop in the consecration.

The Committee on Episcopacy also proposed the follow-
ing resolution, which passed unanimously :



Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 6 of 26)