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spirit. Early on the succeeding Sabbath morning the

Life of Bishop Emory, by his eldest son, p. 26.


family prepared to go to love-feast, expecting that, as
public preaching did not commence until an hour or two
later, John would not follow until some time after. He
himself, however, proposed to accompany us, and on the
way introduced the subject of religion to a pious relation,
Richard Thoinas, but without disclosing the real state of
his feelings. This was, however, sufficient to induce Mr.
Thomas to invite him to attend the love-feast. To this my
brother assented, provided he would obtain permission of
the preacher. But before he had an opportunity of doing
so, the preacher presented himself at the door, and stated
that none but members of the Church need apply for
admission, the house being too small to hold them. This
was an appalling stroke to him, and he said to his cousin,
"You need not apply, for they will not let me in." But
this good man, believing that God was at work, succeeded
in procuring admittance for him. The house was quickly
filled, and the exercises commenced, and soon the mighty
power of God was displayed. My sister and myself had
secured seats near the door. But few had spoken, when
our attention was arrested by a voice which sounded like
our brother's. We gazed at each other, and said, "Is it
he ?" (for we were entirely ignorant, as yet, of all that had
passed, and had not the least idea of his being in the
house:) "Yes," we said, with eyes streaming with tears
of joy, "it must be his voice," for see him we could not.
With intense interest we listened, while he there, in the
most solemn manner, called upon God and angels, heaven
and earth, and the assembly then present, to witness that
he that day determined to seek the salvation of his soul.
He then sunk upon his knees, and thus remained during
the love-feast, calling upon God for the pardon of his sins.


After public preaching the same humble posture was
resumed. Many prayers were offered up for him, and
much interest manifested. A circle was formed around
him of those who knew and felt that their God was a God
of mercy, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin. All
of a sudden he rose from his knees and seated himself;
and with such composure and sweetness as I never wit-
nessed in any, before or afterward, declared that he felt
peace and comfort, that all was calm.' "

This was on the 18th of August, 1806. From that time
to the day of his death, his Christian convictions, faith,
and hope, remained unaltered. The strong character of
the man was shown in this as in all things. He knew not
how to vacillate.

He was admitted to the bar in 1808, and opened an office
in Centreville. Such was the public confidence in his
capacity and integrity, that, young as he was, business soon
began to flow in upon him. But the young man's mind
had received another bent new impulses were given to
him from above, and he felt that he must obey them. He
resolved to abandon his profession and devote himself en-
tirely to the work of the ministry. " It was on the 9th of
October, 1809," he writes, " that I made a covenant on my
knees, wrote and signed it, to give up the law, after much
reading, prayer, and meditation, and on the 10th I did so,
though my father was very unwilling." This act, and the
spirit that animated it, will afford a clew to his entire char-
acter. It was not so great a thing in itself, this mere giving
up of good worldly prospects to become a preacher of
Christ ; if that were all, we might say that he had done no
more than many others ; nay, that he had done less. It is
not so great a sacrifice, after all, for a man of any elevation


of soul to throw aside trifles for realities; a man altogether
worldly and selfish might not understand such an act ; but
for a noble spirit, the far greater sacrifice would be to crush
its heavenward tendencies, and suffer them to be trampled
in the dust, by ambition or avarice, in the great highway
of life. But the significance of the act lies in this, that the
conflict, in the bosom of this youth of twenty, was not
merely between worldliness and self-devotion, but between
the high claims of a duty whose voice of authority he had
implicitly obeyed from his childhood, and which had grown
with his growth until it was interwoven with every fibre of
his being, and the higher claims of a destiny newly unfolded
to him and foreign from the early plans and training of his
life. He revered his father as a wise and good man ; nay,
he loved him with an affection that had not been weakened
by severity or alienated by unkindness, for he owed every-
thing to his father's love ; he had been used to look up to
him for advice, and to render the ready obedience of a
dutiful son; and now, in the great turning-point of his
career, he was called upon to disobey ! That little lawyer's
office in Centreville was the scene, night after night, for
months, of a mighty struggle. Often have we contempla-
ted it thus: It is his duty to preach. He feels the fire
within him, and he cannot extinguish it the flame of love
to God and man. And yet it has not free course ; some-
times he even thinks it is dying away, and he longs to give
it vent in its natural channels. The world lies before him
in its wickedness. Men are rushing toward the precipice
of destruction, and he knows that God has made his arm
strong to pluck them from the awful brink. He sees moral
evil, in its varied forms of malignant power, battling with
the right and the true ; a warrior's spirit is in him, and he


longs to stand in the thickest of the fray. The life of a
man is before him, and he longs to fill it with good deeds.
His vision embraces even other and further scenes. He
recollects not only how nobly great souls have spent them-
selves in life, but how nobly, too, they have triumphed in
death, and he looks forward to the hour, when, after his
work is done, he too shall achieve that final victory. He
is ready to go ! But he looks even beyond the grave, and
there gleams before his spirit-vision the crown of eternal
life, all radiant with gems immortal souls saved through
his instrumentality stars that are to shine forever in his
coronet of glory. He must go, though all the world oppose
him. But let the world speak. It tells him of his talents,
and the brilliant prospects before him wealth, distinction,
a high name among men. It tells him of the poverty, the
obscurity, nay, it even dares to say, the shame that must
come upon him if he change his course. More forcibly, it
tells him that he has mistaken his way, and that he can be
more useful as a weighty citizen or honest statesman than
as a wandering preacher. Is this all ? These petty sophisms
cannot deceive him ; his eye is too keen for that. Not that
he is unambitious ; but that he is all too ambitious to limit
his undertakings to so narrow and temporary a sphere. If
this be all, then the struggle is over. But, ah ! the real
conflict has yet to come. His very virtues are in arms
against him. His filial love is pointed, an enemy's weapon,
against his own bosom. His long habit of obedience binds
him with chains of iron. His father's judgment he has
always trusted, and can he pronounce it incorrect now?
Certainly it is not altogether unreasonable ; his health is so
feeble that he has to relax his studies, and he needs the
comforts of home, rather than the toils of a circuit. Can


we wonder that he was sorely tried 2 Could we have blamed
him for a different choice ? Blame him we might not, but
he would assuredly have blamed himself. Had John
Emory yielded to his father, his integrity and honour
would have been fearfully shaken ; thereafter he could not
have trusted himself. But his integrity and honour remained
unshaken then, as they did in all after time, forming the
very basis of his manly character. The decision was made
according to the dictates of his conscience, and even then
virtue was not without its heavenly witness and reward.
"The moment," says he, "I entered into this covenant
upon my knees, I felt my mind relieved, and the peace and
love of God to flow through my soul, though I had before
lost almost all the comforts of religion ; and ever since I
have enjoyed closer and more constant communion with
God than before."

After passing through the various offices of class-leader,
exhorter, and local preacher, Mr. Emory was received on
trial in the Philadelphia Conference in the spring of 1810.
A few years sufficed to establish his reputation for preemi-
nence in the qualities of a true Christian minister. Young
as he was, his dignity, sanctity, and weight of character,
soon became matter of common knowledge. His discre-
tion, too, was that of riper years; but it was not the
discretion which stifles zeal. He was in labours abundant ;
no proper work was drudgery to him. In 1812 the
bishops called for volunteers for the West; young Emory
replied, " Here am I, send me." But his wisdom, ability,
and acquirements were more needed at home, and the offer
was not accepted. In a few years his health began to fail ;
but his zeal in preaching and study knew no abatement
except from sheer necessity. " As he travelled from place


to place, some profitable book was his constant companion.
And while Christian courtesy and pastoral fidelity made it
alike his duty and his delight to mingle, at proper times,
in social and religious converse with the families which
entertained him, no false delicacy could induce him to
appropriate to man the hours which should be devoted to
God, nor to descend from the dignity of the minister to
the gossip of the newsmonger. When the claims of hospi-
tality and friendship were satisfied, he would betake him-
self to some retirement, to prosecute more uninterruptedly
his course of mental and religious improvement. By
this means he doubtless lost some popularity with those
thoughtless brethren who seek in their minister the boou
companion, rather than the ' man of God, thoroughly
furnished unto all good works;' but, like a wise master-
builder, he was laying deep and out of sight the founda-
tions of a character, which became afterward at once an
ornament and a defence to the Church. Indeed, the
course which he pursued had already secured to him a
high character among his brethren. There is still pre-
served, among the archives of the Asbury Historical
Society, the memoranda which Bishop Asbury made,
about this time, of the character of the preachers as
reported at Conference. The record in Mr. Emory's case
is as follows : 1811. ' John Emory classic, pious, gifted,
useful, given to reading.' 1812. 'John Emory pious,

gifted, steady, ' "*

From 1813 to 1820 he filled the most important pastoral
stations in the connexion, such as Philadelphia, Baltimore,
AVashington, &c. In 1813 he was married to Caroline
Sellers, whose beautiful life adorned his for only two years,

8 The remainder is illegible.


as she died in 1815. In 1816 (the first year of his eligi-
bility) he was elected a delegate to the General Confer-
ence ; and of every subsequent General Conference until
his death he was a member, except that of 1824, when,
being in a minority on a question of Church politics, in
the Baltimore Annual Conference, to which he was trans-
ferred in 1818, he was not elected a delegate. In the
early part of 1817 he made his first appearance in print as
a controversial writer. Bishop White, of the Protestant
Episcopal Church, had published in the Christian Register
an essay, entitled, "Objections against the position of a
personal assurance of the pardon of sin, by a direct com-
munication of the Holy Spirit." The doctrine thus assailed
being one of the distinguishing tenets of Methodism, and
one the preaching of which had been a source of great
prosperity to the Church and consolation to her members,
Mr. Emory came forward in its defence, in two pamphlets,
being "A Reply," and "A Further Reply," to the above-
mentioned essay. These were noticed in a review of the
whole question by Bishop "White, with which, it is believed,
the controversy terminated.

In the following year, while residing in Washington, he
had again to enter into controversy. Some articles
having been published by a Unitarian preacher, of the
name of "Wright, in the National Messenger, of George-
town, D. C., assailing the divinity of Christ, Mr. Emory
replied to them in several communications to the same
paper, under the signature, "An Observer." These articles
were afterward published in a pamphlet form, with the
title, " The Divinity of Christ vindicated from the Cavils
and Objections of Mr. John Wright," together with a
few numbers on the same subject, by the Rev. James



Smith, whose memory is still cherished in the Church
for his superior talents as a metaphysician and an
orator. It is said that the publication of these essays
had a powerful influence in arresting the growing
popularity of a dangerous heresy in that part of the

In the discussion of the important ecclesiastical ques-
tions which agitated the General Conference of 1820, Mr.
Emory took a distinguished part, and established a name
second to none in the Methodist ministry for skill in debate
and wisdom in counsel. He took special interest in the
missionary operations on which the Church was then
entering, and wrote the report in favour of the Constitu-
tion of the Missionary Society which was adopted by the
General Conference.

At the same Conference Mr. Emory was chosen delegate
to the British Conference, in order to open more close
relations between English and American Methodism, and,
especially, to settle certain difficulties which had arisen
between the preachers of the Methodist Episcopal Church
in the Canadas and the Wesleyan missionaries in those
provinces. He executed this delicate mission to the entire
satisfaction of all parties concerned ; and, by the dignity
and urbanity of his manner, his Christian meekness, his
unaffected piety, and the remarkable ability displayed in
his speeches and sermons, he left a strong impression in
favour not only of his own personal character, but also of
the Church and nation which he represented, in the minds
of the British Methodists.

It is well known that the period from 1820 to 1828 was
a time of great agitation in American Methodism. Vari-
ous attempts were made to modify the constitution of the


Church, some of which were made by wise and judicious
men, on sufficient grounds. But then, as ever, in critical
and reformatory periods, there were to be found hasty and
ardent men, with impulses stronger than their judgment,
and zeal far beyond their knowledge, who, under the guise
of reformers, were really revolutionists. Mr. Emory took
a conspicuous part in all these controversies, and did
perhaps as much as any other man, if not more, to save
the Church from the injuries which many of its ignorant
friends were in the way of inflicting on it. A few pages,
then, may well be spared to a brief account of his share in
the doings of that stirring time.

The constitution of the Methodist Episcopal Church
sprung from the brain of no system-builder. The bishops
said truly, in their notes to the Discipline, that " the whole
plan of Methodism was introduced, step by step, by the
interference and openings of Divine Providence." In obe-
dience to this principle, the presiding elders' office was
fully instituted by the General Conference of 1Y92, which
vested the power of appointing them solely in the bishops.
Doubts arose at an early period in regard to the propriety
of this last provision, and finally there arose a large party
in favour of making the office elective. Mr. Emory fell
into the ranks of that party, and exerted himself actively
in behalf of the proposed change. At the General Con-
ference of 1820 it was found that part of the bishops and a
large number of the members of the Conference were in
favour of the modification ; but as there was still a pow-
erful opposition, it was proposed by one of the bishops "to
appoint a committee of conciliation, to consist of six, one-
half on each side of the question, and to be appointed by
the presiding bishop. This was agreed to, and accordingly


done.* The hope of a happy adjustment seemed now to
brighten almost every countenance. The committee went
to work. They conferred with the bishops. They con-
sulted among themselves ; and at length, with the concur-
rence and approbation of two-thirds of the episcopacy,
they unanimously recommended to the Conference the
adoption of the following resolutions, viz. :

" ' Resolved, &c., That whenever, in any Annual Con-
ference, there shall be a vacancy or vacancies in the office
of presiding elder, in consequence of his period of service
of four years having expired, or the bishop wishing to
remove any presiding elder, or by death, resignation, or
otherwise, the bishop, or president of the Conference
having ascertained the number wanted from any of these
causes, shall nominate three times the number, out of
which the Conference shall elect by ballot, without debate,
the number wanted ; provided, when there is more than
one wanted, not more than three at a time shall be nomi-
nated, nor more than one at a time elected; provided,
also, that in case of any vacancy or vacancies in the
office of presiding elder in the interval of any Annual
Conference, the bishop shall have authority to fill the
said vacancy or vacancies until the ensuing Annual Con-

" ' Resolved, &c., 2dly. That the presiding elders be, and
hereby are, made the advisory council of the bishops, or
president of the Conference, in stationing the preachers.'

"These resolutions, after an ineffectual opposition on
the part of a few individuals, were passed by a majority
of more than two-thirds of the General Conference."

The committee were, Ezekiel Cooper, Joshua Wells, S. G. Roszel,
N. Bangs, W. Capers, and J. Emory.

EMORY. 117

This result was received with universal joy; the long
dispute, it was thought, was ended forever. But these
pleasing dreams were soon dispelled by the announcement
that Mr. Soule, who had been elected bishop a few days
before, but not ordained, had declared, in writing, that if
ordained, he would not carry these resolutions into execu-
tion, because he believed them to be unconstitutional.
This was carrying matters with a high hand ; it was
nothing less than a claim of power on the part of the
bishop " to arrest the operation of resolutions concurred in
by more than two-thirds of the General Conference, and
by two-thirds of the episcopacy itself." In his conduct on
this occasion, Bishop Soule gave a fair indication of the
high-episcopal-prerogative doctrine, or rather sentiment,
(for it has no logical coherency to make it doctrine,)
which he has ever since maintained. Mr. Soule offered
his resignation, which was accepted by the Conference.
But his views were supported by Bishop M'Kendree, for
whose character and opinions there was almost universal
reverence. The resolutions, therefore, were suspended for
four years.

In Mr. Emory's view, the presiding-elder question, as it
was called, sank into insignificance in comparison with this
new claim of an episcopal right to veto the acts of the
General Conference. It was now the question whether
the episcopacy or the General Conference were to be
supreme. Without entering into an account of all his
labours on this point, it is enough to say that the bishop
subsequently disclaimed all intention to exercise such a
power ; nor has it, or anything like it, since been assumed
or claimed by any bishop of our Church.

But if Mr. Emory stood up manfully in opposition to



what he believed to be an unauthorized claim of episcopal
power, he was no less useful as a defender of the episco-
pacy itself in a subsequent day of trial. It is hard to
realize, now, the dangers which menaced the Church dur-
ing the memorable years of the so-called radical contro-
versy. But shall we consider the danger to have been
trifling because the Church triumphed? Because the
noble ship came out of the storm with every mast, and
spar, and rope unharmed, shall we say that there was no
tempest? Bather let us adore the Power that rides upon
the whirlwind, and give due praise to the gallant pilots,
who, under his protection, withstood its fury. We should
j udge of its fierceness, not by what the result was, but by
what it might have been had there been no capable steers-
man at the helm. Who can say but that the desire of
change, always a powerful one, and at that time intensified
into a passion in some leading minds, would have spread
through the Church with revolutionary rapidity, and con-
vulsed it from one end of the land to the other, had it not
been arrested in its inception? "There never was a
period," says our author, "in the history of American
Methodism, which required such prudence in counsel, such
firmness in action." Ungrateful, indeed, would it be to
forget those who then stood up in defence of our noble
institutions; and our right hand shall sooner forget its
cunning than we refuse to honour their names and com-
memorate their deeds. We have no desire to exalt one
man unduly above another, but we hardly suppose that
any will find fault with us for giving the foremost place
among the champions of the Church out of the itinerancy
to Dr. Thos. E. Bond, Sen., of Baltimore, whose "Appeal to
the Methodists," published in 1827, by its luminous expo-


sition of our system of government, especially with regard
to the itinerancy, by its forcible arguments in defence of
that system, and by its eloquent appeals to the best feel-
ings of the Methodist community, produced a powerful
effect, both in confirming many wavering minds and in
preventing the sophisms of the malcontents from leading
others astray. This pamphlet, with the " Narrative and
Defence," forms part of the history of the controversy.
While Dr. Bond was thus acting the part of an able attor-
ney-general, the wisdom and firmness of Rev. James M.
Hanson, with whom rested the responsibility of the admin-
istration in Baltimore in those perilous times, erected a
defence of another sort, no less legitimate, and perhaps no
less effective, against the assaults of the innovators. But
while these brethren had the danger, and the honour, of
fighting the battle in the very district where the enemy's
chief strength lay, their efforts were called forth by local
circumstances, and some general defence of the Church
was needed which should vindicate the fame of her found-
ers, and set forth, before all men, the true principles of her
organization. It was reserved for John Emory to do this
work. He did not interfere in the controversy until the
demand for his services became urgent, and then he inter-
fered effectually. The " Defence of our Fathers," designed,
primarily, as an answer to Mr. A. M'Caine's "History and
Mystery of Methodist Episcopacy," took a wider view of
the subject than was necessary to refute that malicious
production. Mr. M'Caine went far beyond his associates
in violence and effrontery. No calumny was too foul to
find currency through his means, if it would only serve his
purposes of defamation. An honourable character formed
no defence for the living against the shafts of his malice ;


the grave itself was no sanctuary for the venerable dead.
His soul had not honour enough " to bless the turf that
wrapped their clay ;" it could only find utterance, over the
tomb, in a hideous howl of slander. But there were many
who knew little of the men whom he traduced or the events
which he misrepresented: and, in the absence of other
information, the very boldness of his assertions gained them
credence for a time. " At the instance of some who had
taken the deepest interest in the existing contest, Mr.
Emory undertook to expose the falsity of his statements
and the fallacy of his arguments." In a very short time
the "Defence" appeared, and although prepared so hastily,
amid the laborious engagements of the book agency, it
fully sustained the reputation of its author, and, what is
more important, triumphantly vindicated the fame of the
founders of the Church. The work at once produced a
great sensation ; friends were delighted, foes were alarmed.
It has since been made a part of the preachers' course of

Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 8 of 26)