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study, and has taken its place, deservedly, among the
standard writings of the Church. The biography by his
son gives a clear outline of its contents, and the work itself
is well known to most of our readers, so that we need do
nothing more than express our opinion in regard to its
merits. It has the same points of excellence that distin-
guish all Mr. Emory's writings clearness of arrangement,
fairness of statement, soundness of logic, and conciseness of
expression. Nor does it lack pungency of satire and
severity of rebuke; and these are combined with deep
feeling in the remarkably eloquent passage at the close of
the volume. On the whole, this tract, considering the
time of its publication, the subjects of which it treats, and
the effects which it produced, may be regarded as one of


the most important publications that have appeared in the
history of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

A posthumous tract on episcopacy exhibits Dr. Emory
as the defender of the Church against assaults from with-
out. Incomplete as it is, it does no discredit to its author ;
there is enough to show that he was master of the subject,
and would have disposed of the controversy satisfactorily
had he been allowed to complete his design. The latter
and better portion of the tract, containing a partial ex-
amination of Dr. Onderdonk's "Episcopacy tested by
Scripture," is, in our judgment, as far as it goes, the ablest
answer that has yet been given to that ingenious but over-
rated production. The high Churchman's weak points
were clearly perceived by Bishop Emory, and he attacked
them with great weight of metal and directness of aim.

At the Conference of 1824 Mr. Emory was elected
Assistant Book Agent, with Rev. Dr. Bangs as senior ;
and in 1828 he was elected Agent, with Rev. Beverly
Waugh as Assistant. In the language of his biographer,
his " connexion with the Book Concern, whether it be con-
sidered with reference to its influence upon that establish-
ment and the Church at large, or its influence upon the
development of his own character, must be regarded as
one of the most important periods of his life." The chap-
ter on the Book Concern in his biography, while it in no
respect depreciates the services of others, shows that the
present commanding position of the establishment is mainly
to be attributed to Dr. Emory.

The Publishing Fimd originated with him. Its origin
and objects are set forth in his admirable address to the
Church and its friends in behalf of the Bible, Tract,
and Sunday-School Societies of the Methodist Episcopal


Church ; and though its results have not fully equalled
the expectations at first cherished, they have sufficed to
evince the sagacity of the measure. The MetJiodist Quar-
terly Review also owes its existence to Dr. Emory, who
commenced the publication of its first series in 1830.
Most of the original articles, up to 1832, were from his
pen, and some of them were written with distinguished

A comprehensive sketch of the history of the Book Con-
cern, from the pen of Bishop "Waugh, is given in the " Life
of Dr. Emory." From that outline, and the more extended
account in Dr. Bangs's History, vol. iv, we learn that be-
tween the years 1823 and 1828 there was a great expan-
sion of the business of the Concern, to meet which a build-
ing was purchased in Crosby-street, and a printing office
and bindery established on the premises. During this
period Dr. Emory was junior Book Agent. But "this
extension of business had not been accomplished without
an increase of debt, and although there was now greater
energy in the institution to effect its discharge, it may well
be doubted whether this result would not have been wholly
prevented by the system on which the business was con-

The debt of the establishment in 1828 was $101,200 80,
two-thirds of which sum was at interest. Its nominal assets
amounted to $456,898 30, of which only $59,772 28 were
in fixed capital, cash, and notes receivable ; the remainder
consisting of stock on hand, and accounts, mostly for books
sent out from New- York on commission, from which im-
mense deductions had to be made in order to anything like
a true estimate of their value. Indeed the agents estimated
the real capital of the establishment at only $130,002 02,

' a



we suppose, of course, exclusive of its debt. The commis-
sion system of business gave rise to a vast amount of credit
to a multitude of persons throughout the land ; and had it
continued, this credit must have gone on increasing from
year to year. No skill or industry could, under these cir-
cumstances, have paid the debts of the institution and kept
up its capital. The inevitable alternative must have been,
either the curtailment of the business or the destruction of
the Concern. Dr. Emory proposed the bold, but necessary
measure of an entire revolution in the mode of doing busi-
ness, and suggested to his colleague the abolition of the
commission system, and the adoption of one founded on the
principle of actual sales for cash or its equivalent. In the
language of Bishop Waugh, "The two great objects which
Dr. Emory aimed to accomplish were, first, the extinguish-
ment of the debts due from the Concern, and second, the
actual sale of the stock on hand, and especially that part
of it which was daily depreciating, because of the injuries
which were constantly being sustained by it, in the scat-
tered and exposed state in which most of it was found.
The ability, skill, diligence, and perseverance which he
displayed in the measures devised by him for the accom-
plishment of these objects, have seldom been equalled, and
perhaps never surpassed by the most practised business
man. His success was complete. Before the meeting of
the General Conference he had cancelled all the obligations
of the institution which had been so opportunely intrusted
to his supervision. He had greatly enlarged the annual
dividends to an increased number of Conferences. He had
purchased several lots of ground for a more enlarged and
eligible location of the establishment, and had erected a
large four-story brick building as a part of the improve-


ments intended to be put on them, for the whole of which
he had paid. It was his high honour, and also his enviable
satisfaction, to report to the General Conference, for the
first time, that its Book Concern was no longer in debt."

Such were the immediate results of Dr. Emory's agency.
We have one word more to say of it. The energy, effi-
ciency, and method which he infused into all the opera-
tions of the Concern remain to this day. He has left his
mark upon it. His admirable plans had only to be carried
out to place the establishment beyond the reach of ordinary
contingencies. His able successors have done their work in
his spirit, and developed the resources of the institution to
an extent formerly unhoped for ; so that it has stood the
ordeal of an immense loss by fire, and of a long period of
commercial distress, without even shaking ; and to-day it
is, to the best of our knowledge, the second, if not the
greatest, book-making and book-selling establishment in

During these years of public labour, Mr. Emory's char-
acter was constantly assuming more and more command-
ing proportions to the eye of the Church, and it was the
opinion of many that he was destined to be her leading
spirit. At the General Conference of 1832 he was elected
bishop. His career in the episcopacy was brief, but bril-
liant. The appointment was hailed with joy throughout
the connexion. Great expectations were indulged; and
we believe that in the three episcopal tours which he was
allowed to make, they were entirely satisfied. His powers
as a presiding officer were tried on the last night of the
General Conference of 1832, when he occupied the chair,
and gained the admiration of the delegates as well as of
the immense concourse of spectators, by the dignity and


firmness with which he discharged its duties. Dignity,
indeed, was part of his nature, and it could not forsake
him. " I hurry nothing, but endeavour to keep strict order,
and every man close to business," was a statement, by him-
self, of his method of doing business ; and admirably did he
carry it out. Nor were his labours confined to the Con-
ference sessions. In the intervals of those bodies he was
always travelling, preaching, writing, and planning for the
advancement of the great interests of Christianity and of
the Church. The cause of education, especially, lay near
his heart. His share in the organization of the New- York
University, the Wesleyan University, and Dickinson Col-
lege, evince the interest that he took in general education.
In addition to this he drew up the outline of a plan for an
education society in the Methodist Episcopal Church,
which he designed to aid our ministers and others in edu-
cating their sons. But his efforts for the improvement of
the ministry deserve more than a passing notice. Though
the education of its ministers had always been an object
with the Church, its plans for that purpose had always
been defective, and were imperfectly carried out. Soon
after his election to the episcopacy, Dr. Emory devised a
course of study for candidates for deacons' and elders'
orders, in which, with his usual discretion, he did not
hazard everything by attempting too much. In due time
the course will doubtless be greatly enlarged, and its
natural result will be an elevation of the standard of
ministerial knowledge among us, corresponding, partially
at least, with the general advance of society. In some
sections of the country the movement will be more rapid
than in others ; but we have no doubt whatever that the
Church will ultimately settle down upon the plan of our


British brethren, or upon some better one, for the theologi-
cal training of its candidates. We have no doubt, either,
that Bishop Emory foresaw this result, and would have
hastened it had he lived.

He formed a plan, also, for training the local preachers,
which, with an argument for the four years' course of study
for the travelling preachers, is set forth in his excellent
address to "the Preachers within the Virginia, Baltimore,
Philadelphia, New-York, New-England, Maine, New-
Hampshire, Troy, Oneida, and Genesee Annual Confer-
ences," published before he commenced his third and last
tour. He attended all these Conferences but the last two.
Nothing of unusual interest transpired at any of them
except the New-England and New-Hampshire, where the
first Conference difficulties on the subject of abolitionism
arose. His conduct there was marked by his usual judg-
ment and firmness. Subsequently he prepared the episco-
pal address to those Conferences, signed by himself and
Bishop Hedding ; and whatever opinions may be held as to
his views of abolitionism, none can deny that the subject is
therein treated with a master's hand. As for slavery itself,
that "root of evil," as he characterized it, his views were
well known; abolitionists themselves never held it in
deeper abhorrence. The Troy Conference of 1835 was
the last which he attended.

"It was in the midst of engagements like these, and
when in the possession of more vigorous health than he
had enjoyed for many years previously, that Bishop Emory
was suddenly taken to his rest. On Wednesday, the 16th of
December, 1835, a day memorable for the great conflagra-
tion in New- York, and for the excessive cold by which its
ravages were accelerated and extended, Bishop Emory left


home for Baltimore, in a light open carriage, about six
o'clock in the morning, being then before day. About
two miles from his residence he had to descend a hill
nearly a mile in length. The carriage was seen, it was
said, about the dawn of day, passing by a tavern near the
top of the hill with considerable velocity; but nothing
further was noticed, until, about twenty minutes after, the
bishop was found by a wagoner lying bleeding and in-
sensible on the side of the road, about two hundred yards
below the tavern. He had, it would appear, while the
horse was running, either jumped or been thrown from the
carriage, and had fallen with the back of his head on a
stone, which fractured the skull. He was immediately
removed to the tavern ; medical assistance was promptly
summoned, but the case was at once pronounced hopeless.
Those of his afflicted family and brethren who were in the
neighbourhood repaired to his dying bed ; but the nature
of the injury, while it rendered him insensible to their
sympathy, happily freed him from the pain which would
have required it. In this state he lingered till the even-
ing, when, at a quarter past seven, he expired.

" Upon receiving the melancholy intelligence, the trus-
tees and stewards of the Baltimore city station requested to
be permitted to superintend his interment. Accordingly,
under their direction, the body was conveyed to Balti-
more, where the funeral sermon was preached, on the
ensuing Sabbath, in the Eutaw-street Church, by his old
and tried friend, the Rev. Alfred Griffith, from 2 Samuel
iii, 38 : " Know ye not that there is a prince and a great
man fallen this day in Israel ?" His mortal remains were
immediately afterward deposited in the vault under the
pulpit, where they lie beside those of the venerated


Asbury, of whom lie had been so able a defender, and so
faithful a successor.

" The news of this sudden bereavement spread a gloom
throughout the vast connexion, over which Bishop Emory
had presided for a period, sufficient, though brief, to assure
them of the greatness of the loss they had sustained."

A glance at a few of the prominent points of Bishop
Emory's character will close this brief sketch. His integ-
rity no man ever doubted. It was written upon every
lineament of his strongly-marked countenance ; it spoke in
every word that fell from his lips ; and it was manifest in
every action of his life. Known and read of all men as it
was, it is almost superfluous to commemorate the honesty
of John Emory. Ambition could not tempt it ; difficulties
could not shake it ; gold could not bribe it. He adopted
his opinions cautiously, because he would receive none
without the fullest assurance of their truth; and when
they were adopted, he maintained them manfully, because
he believed them to be true. It mattered not to him who
was his opponent. Except that his modesty and tender-
ness of feeling were wounded by the trial, his opposition
to Bishop M'Kendree was as vigorous as it would have
been, if, on the same subject, he had been contending with
a junior preacher like himself. ]STo disputant could be
more thoroughly upright in the conduct of a debate than
he; sound and legitimate reasoning he would employ
against any man, sophistry he never deigned to use at all.
He never committed the fatal error of maintaining a good
cause by bad arguments. His was not that flexible con-
science which bends with circumstances. And though he
was prudent, as we shall see, almost to a proverb, we do
not believe that an instance could be found, in his whole


life, of his sacrificing the true to the expedient. In the
early stages of the presiding-elder question he incurred the
imputation of radicalism by his bold advocacy of what he
believed to be a necessary change ; and in its later days, he
was liable, in the eyes of some, to the charge of inconsist-
ency, because he opposed the excesses of persons with
whom he had before been partially connected. In both
cases he knew the risk he was running ; in both he made
up his mind as to what was right, and unflinchingly pur-
sued it.

Another striking element of his nature was strength of
will. He manifested it, even in his boyhood, in obeying
the call of God to preach the gospel, in opposition to the
wishes of a revered and beloved father. We have seen
that the parent was unbending : he found the son worthy
of the sire in this same iron trait, which he manifested, not
merely in the decision, but in adhering to it through two
whole years of gloom, in which his father refused to hear
him preach, or even to receive letters from him. What a
weight to rest upon the young itinerant, in addition to the
cares inseparable from his new position! "It would,
doubtless," says his biographer, "be an instructive and
affecting lesson to peruse the private diary which he kept
at this period." It would, indeed, have proved a precious
relic ; but even without it, we can appreciate the firmness
of his conduct in this early day of trial, and his subsequent
history showed a full development of this powerful element
of character. Nor could it ever be mistaken for obstinacy,
that " stubbornness of temper which can assign no reasons
but mere will for a constancy which acts in the nature of
dead weight rather than of strength, resembling less the
reaction of a spring than the gravitation of a stone."


Knowing the purity of his own intentions, confiding in his
own judgment, and perceiving his superiority to most of
the men around him, he was rarely to be found in that
miserable state of suspense which seems to form the com-
mon atmosphere of men of muddy brains and feeble wills.
It was surprising to see how such men would fall back and
clear the way for his coming. It was known that he was
a wise and thoughtful man ; but if it had not been known,
also, that his will was not to be baffled, he never could
have attained the power over men which he possessed.
The great secret of heroism lies, indeed, in this strength of
will. A man may be as honest as the day and as clear-
headed as Lord Bacon ; but if his will be imbecile, he will
be thrust aside in the day of trial by men of far humbler
pretensions. One Mirabeau, in a French revolution, is
worth a score of Neckars. We are no idolaters of mere
energy of mind, and yet we are too well assured of the
immense power it confers on its possessor not to honour it,
when we find it combined with inflexible integrity and
directed to noble objects. In Bishop Emory it was ex-
hibited not only in that promptness of action which we
call decision of character, but also in that well-sustained
steadfastness which is perhaps more rare consistency.
No one doubted that when the time came for action he
would be prepared ; no one expected to find the deed of
one day nullified by that of the next.

Many strong men keep us in constant fear lest they
should make some false step. When in possession of
power they are watched by a thousand anxious eyes.
With unimpeachable honesty and Koman firmness, they
are so destitute of prudence that their power is wasted
in the endless strifes which they excite by the wayside,


instead of being treasured up for great emergencies. Not
so Bishop Emory. He disobeyed his father, it is true ; but
not without foresight on his own part, and wise counsel
from his friends to fortify his decision. Afterward he was
proverbially a prudent man. Dr. Bangs says, " that he
was always desirous to have his errors corrected before
they should be exposed to the multitude for indiscriminate
condemnation." This combination of discretion and firm-
ness is so strongly marked, that we should be tempted to
illustrate it at length from the biography before us, did our
limits allow. It must suffice for us to point to his success
in his very first station, where his remarkable prudence
fully justified the reply of Bishop Asbury to some who
doubted his qualifications for the post, " Never mind, he
has an old head on young shoulders ;" to his conduct in his
delicate mission to England ; to his defence of the institu-
tions of the Church ; to his management of the Book Con-
cern ; and, lastly, to his performance of episcopal functions.
We have traced him through the whole of this career, and
found him often placed in circumstances of perplexity and
even of peril, but never once have we found his firmness
shaken or his discretion at fault. "We are aware that this
is high praise, and that some have tried to impugn his
conduct, in certain instances, as indiscreet, to say the least ;
but we are firmly convinced that in no case, even the most
difficult, could he have done less than he did without sacri-
ficing that steadfastness of purpose which he would have
died sooner than relinquish. He could not have been
more discreet, even in appearance, without being less firm.
But there have not been wanting those who considered his
very caution a fault ; and we have heard him charged
with a morbidly scrupulous care for his own reputation.


A newly published book was once under discussion in the
presence of one of our living bishops, and several errors,
evidently the result of carelessness, being pointed out, the
bishop remarked, " Brother Emory would have worked his
finger-nails off before such inaccuracies could appear in a
publication of his." The remark was no exaggeration.
No man could be more conscientious as an author than
John Emory. So great was his anxiety that all his com-
positions should be finished, that we have known him, after
correcting and recorrecting until his manuscript had be-
come the plague of the compositors, to make free with the
proofs to an alarming extent, and sometimes to throw down
whole paragraphs and pages after they had been set up.
Shall we call this a fault, and thus sanction that lazy confi-
dence which enables some writers to utter their crude
thoughts in careless language, to the disgrace of the Church
and the injury of good letters ? By no means. Rather let
us praise the sternness of principle which governed the
man even in such matters, and the prudence which caused
him so anxiously to strive for correctness in all things.
The UmcB labor is not so common that we can afford to
stigmatize it as a weakness.

Such were some of the prominent traits of Bishop
Emory's character. Less known, of course, were the
strength and tenderness of his affections. How touchingly
beautiful are the letters written to his mother, at the time
of trial to which we have referred ! How carefully he
avoids any allusion to his father's course, and how tenderly
he speaks of him afterward ! The opinion seems to have
gained ground, in some quarters, that he was cold and
repulsive; and some, observing the stern severity of his
manner in the performance of public duty, have judged


that his heart was formed in the mould of austerity. Those
thought differently who knew him well. In the account,
given in his own language, of his wife's death, every word
is fraught with feeling; and never was there. a nobler ex-
pression of human love than is found in the closing passage
of a letter to his mother-in-law on that mournful occasion :
" I think, sometimes, that I could brave death to see her
only." The letters to his family and near friends, espe-
cially in times of sickness, trial, or death, literally breathe
the spirit of love.

But there was some ground for the opinion that he was
not remarkably affable ; certainly he was not as accessible
as he might have been without any detraction from his
dignity. This remark, however, can only apply to his
business intercourse with others. "When he gave himself
to the enjoyments of the social circle he was delightfully
easy ; there, and there only, did his heart find its full play.
His friendships, too, were sincere and steadfast, and they
could not be otherwise in a nature of so much depth and
constancy as his. His biographer tells us that " his heart
was too warm and generous not to seek some kindred spirits
with whom to hold sweet converse ; though even with these,
his most unreserved intercourse never descended to anything
unbecoming the Christian or the minister." "We think it
may be said, in addition to this, that he was not communica-
tive even to his best friends. He was not accustomed to in-
dulge the entire heart in the gushing flow of sympathy ; his
soul did not utter itself, as some men's do, in all its fulness;
nor did he " delight in the detail of feeling, in the outward
and visible signs of the sacrament within to count, as it
were, the pulses of the life of love." His affections were
always under the control of his judgment.


To attempt a regular analysis of Bishop Emory's mind,
is a task to which we dare not address ourselves. No man
can trace his history and read his writings without perceiv-
ing that accuracy was one of his highest aims. This re-

Online LibraryJohn McClintockSketches of eminent Methodist ministers → online text (page 9 of 26)