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The Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury - Volume 1


Elmer T. Clark

THE place of Francis Asbury in American history is secure. In Washington there stands a noble equestrian monument of the great Circuit Rider which was unveiled and presented to the nation by the President of the United States, who said on that occasion: “His outposts marched with the pioneers, his missionaries visited the hovels of the poor, that all might be brought to a knowledge of the truth. . . Who shall say where his influence, written on the immortal souls of men, shall end.

It is more than probable that Nancy Hanks, the mother of Abraham Lincoln, had heard him in her youth. Adams and Jefferson must have known him, and Jackson must have seen in him a flaming spirit as un­conquerable as his own. . . . He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.” And Bishop Hamilton declared at the same ceremony:

"He said, 'I must ride or die.' He printed the map of his ministry with the hoofs of his horse."

At Drew University there stands another memorial in bronze, depicting the man and his horse. Several American cities and towns, and numerous streets are called “Asbury.” Many artists painted him in various moods and at different periods in his career. Across the land hundreds of churches and thousands of individuals bear his name, and notable institutions have been named for him. In stained-glass windows in many places the wor­shiping multitudes look into his blue eyes. In England his boyhood home has been designated as a notable site of history to be preserved by the Corporation which knew him as a lad.

Asbury was one of the greatest explorers of the American frontier. He was more widely traveled than any other man of his generation, and was known by more people. He was the welcome visitor in thousands of humble homes, and such notables as Washington, Meriwether Lewis, Ramsay, Rembert and Calhoun of South Carolina, Gough of Maryland, Bassett of Delaware, General Russell of Virginia, Governor Tiffin of Ohio, Lieutenant Governor Van Cortlandt of New York, and a multitude of others were numbered among his friends. For nearly fifty years he had no home save the road, and but a few months before his death he told a British correspondent that his mailing address was simply “America”; any postmaster would know that “the man who rambled America” would in due time pass that way. More than sixty times he crossed the eastern mountains; his annual circuit stretched from New England or New York

x Introduction

to Charleston; his total mileage was more than a quarter of a million. As the bearer of a moral culture and its civilizing consequences to the frontier settlements of America, Francis Asbury has no peer in history. ç He and his circuit riders went into every new community and nearly every log cabin in the wilderness; they were never more than a few weeks behind the earliest pioneers In their saddlebags they carried the fundamentals of civilization—the Bible, the hymnbook, and religious literature of a varied nature. They brought news of the outside world. They fought intemper­ance and every form of wrongdoing; and they made godly, law-respecting citizens out of people who might otherwise have been ruffians. Asbury preached a gospel of personal salvation, as did all others in his day. Our modern social problems and the so-called “social gospel” did not exist. But on nearly every page of his Journal there is evidence of his keen social conscience, and his message bore fruit in social betterment.

Asbury was the educational pioneer of his day. He has long been credited with having established the first Sunday school in America. His preachers, most of whom had little formal education, were required to preach annually on education. Furthermore, they dotted their wide cir­cuits with schools. As early as 1780, as will be noted in the Journal, a plan was drawn and money given for a school in North Carolina, although it was not opened for several years. In Virginia, Georgia, Kentucky, and both the Carolinas, Methodist schools were established; and the General Conference which organized the Church also founded a degree-conferring college in Maryland.

"How many institutions of learning, some of them rejoicing in the name of Wesleyan, all trace the inspiration of their existence to the service and sacrifice of this lone circuit rider !" exclaimed President Calvin Coolidge. Across the years Asbury's successors have established hundreds of schools and colleges in practically all the states. Many of these were suspended when the progress of public education, learning from the preachers, rendered them no longer necessary; but they blazed the way and laid down the challenge to the states. More than 150 of them are in operation today, and some of these are among the greatest in America.

In 1789 Asbury was instrumental in starting a publishing house which today is the world’s largest religious publisher. In the same year he started a periodical which, under different names and with some lapses, has con­tinued until this day. At once books and papers began to pour from the presses in a stream which has been constantly increasing in volume for more than a century and a half and is today far greater than it has ever been. He may almost be said to deserve the title of American Publisher Number One.

Such contributions give Francis Asbury a lasting and unique place in the history of the New World.

Introduction xi

Asbury’s Early Life

It has been pointed out that John Wesley’s intemperate attack on the American cause in his Calm Address to the American Colonies cost the great founder of Methodism his influence in the New World.’ Francis Asbury inherited that influence. He became the organizing genius and virtual father of American Methodism, and “the second man in Methodist history,” as Dr. James Dixon called him, second only to John Wesley himself. Wesley’s greatest biographer, Tyerman, regarded Asbury “with an almost equal veneration,” and declared that “if the reader wishes to see his monument, we invite him to step within the living walls of the present Methodist Episcopal Church of America, and there, while survey­ing the grand edifice of spiritual order and beauty, we ask him, as the inquirer in St. Paul’s Cathedral is asked, to ‘look around.’ "

His Journal and Letters and the annotations thereto cover his entire career except sections of his early life in England and his last days follow­ing the end of his record; and while no interpretative biography is here intended, there seems to be need for information covering these sections3 even though it covers ground already familiar to informed students.

Elizabeth and Joseph Asbury were poor but godly parents whose home was open to the preachers and whose hearts were turned seriously to religion by the death of a small daughter, their only other child. Francis was sent to school at Snails’ Green, a mile away from the family home on Newton Road; and he was so apt in his studies that he could read the Bible at the age of six or seven years. The schoolmaster was a tyrant, how­ever, and the boy’s formal education ended when he was thirteen years old. For a few months he was in service in the home of a prosperous but irreligious family, and then he became an apprentice at the Old Forge nearby.

His immediate superior at the forge was a Methodist named Foxall. The work was of the manual sort, and all biographers have pointed out that the muscular strength developed by the hard labor admirably equipped Asbury for the tasks which were later to face him in the American wilder­ness. He also became an intimate of the superintendent’s son, Henry Foxall, who in after years became a rich iron merchant in America and built and named the Foundry Church in Washington, reminiscent of the forge in England and the business in which the donor had prospered. Bishop Francis Asbury dedicated the noted premises in 1810.

The Asburys attended the parish church at Great Barr, which was a chapel-of-ease to Aldrich, and also All Saints’ Church in West Bromwich.

1 Lewis, Francis Asbury, 11.

2 Tyerman, Life and Times of John Wesley, III, 250.

3 A sketch of Asbury’s life after he closed his Journal at Granby, South Carolina, on December 7, 1815, will be found at the end of the present work.

xii Introduction

At the latter the young man heard the famous Edward Stillingfleet, who sympathized with and participated in the Wesleyan Revival. Among the parishioners was the rich and pious Earl of Dartmouth, who was a friend of Selina, Countess of Huntingdon, and whose seat at Sandwell Hall was open to the evangelical preachers like George Whitefield and Howell Harris, who were patronized by the Countess. Asbury himself has pointed out that he heard many notable preachers such as Ryland, Talbot, Mans­field, Hawes, and Venn.

Young Asbury naturally heard of the Methodists through Foxall and others, and with his mother’s consent he attended one of their services at Wednesbury. This town was the scene of the bitterest persecutions which Wesley and his preachers had endured, and a large society developed there. It was embraced in the Staffordshire Circuit and under the ministry of Alexander Mather, who was to become the second president of the British Conference after the death of John Wesley. Asbury was most favorably impressed by the singing and the extemporaneous nature of the prayer and sermon.

Among Asbury’s other intimates during the period were William Emery, Edward Hand, Thomas and Jabez Ault, James Bayley, Thomas Russell, and Richard Whatcoat, all of whom are mentioned in Methodist annals.4 He was converted while he and young Emery were praying in the old barn at the Asbury home. In a matter of weeks he was reading the Scrip­tures and giving out the hymns in the women’s meeting to which he ac­companied his mother, and soon he was exhorting. At the age of eighteen he became a local preacher and delivered his first sermon while standing behind a chair in a cottage near Manwoods, a quarter of a mile south of Forge Mill Farm, a house erected in 1680 by a great-uncle of Dr. Samuel Johnson.

Events now moved rapidly. Asbury was still a blacksmith, but he says that he traveled widely through the region and preached several times each week. In 1766 he left his work and took the place of an ailing itinerant for nine months in Staffordshire and Gloucestershire. During this service he was rebuked gently by the “assistant” or preacher in charge of the Staffordshire Circuit, W. Orp, because of certain alleged neglect.5

The following year he was admitted on trial as a traveling preacher and appointed to the Bedfordshire Circuit. Other assignments followed regularly: 1768, in full connection and appointed to Coichester; 1769, Bedfordshire again; 1770, Wiltshire. Up to this time it appears that Asbury had never attended a conference. But he had served well and made many friends.

See Briggs, Bishop Asbury, ch. ii.

See the letter from W. Orp, May 23, 1766, in the Letters; also The Methodist Magazine, 1831, 189—91.

Briggs, op. cit., 23. But see note on the first entry in Asbury’s Journal.

Introduction xiii

Asbury seems to have had a sweetheart at Great Barr, named Nancy BrookeS and Dr. Tipple said that their romance was broken off by his mother.7 The message that he sent to his “dear heart” in a letter to his mother seems to indicate that she took offense because he left abruptly without seeing her, although he tried to do so.8 He apparently treasured his memories of her and declared that “what once befell me in England” was the first cause of his life-long celibacy,9 although in later years he men­tioned other reasons.

The fact that Asbury was held in affection by those among whom he ministered is attested by letters from his parishioners at Whitchurch and a preacher who in 1768 had served the Staffordshire Circuit on which Asbury’s parents lived, but who at the time of writing was stationed in London.10

Such was the twenty-six-year-old man who attended the Bristol Con­ference in 1771 and answered, “Here am I, send me,” when John Wesley declared, “Our brethren in America call aloud for help."

Francis Asbury was five feet and nine inches tall. He was a slender man, with bright and piercing blue eyes and a lofty forehead with flowing fair hair; his voice was clear and full, his presence dignified and commanding. It surprises many people to learn that he had a preference for light blue clothing.11 He was a deeply serious man, though he had his moments of levity. His Journal is ifiled with references to his illnesses, and he suffered prolonged sickness on more than one occasion. Asbury was in general a robust and healthy man, and the fact that he traveled constantly and en­dured incredible hardships for nearly fifty years is proof enough of his strong constitution.12

Building the Church

Francis Asbury holds first place as the builder of American Methodism. Others were in the New World before him and more followed him, but to this day none rivals him as the supreme factor in establishing the church and enabling it to sweep the land in the face of manifold difficulties. He has never had a peer in American Methodist history, just as John Wesley has had none in Britain.

His greatest contribution was his successful insistence upon the principle of itinerancy, which he learned from Wesley. This was undoubtedly the

Tipple, Francis Asbury, the Prophet of the Long Road, 316. 8 See Asbury’s letter to his parents, October 26, 1768.

See the letter to his parents June 7, 1784.

'° See the letter from his four parishioners on August 27, 1771, and the letter from the Rev. John Allen on January 20, 1772, in The Methodist Magazine, 1831, 194—96.

See his letter to George Roberts on June 6, 1801.

12 For descriptions of Asbury see Tipple, op. cit., 302—7; Briggs, op. cit., 3; Stevens, Memorials of Methodism, 145.

xiv Introduction

secret of Methodism’s amazing success during the frontier period. As the Journal reveals, he had been in the country only three weeks when he dis­covered the preference of the preachers for the city, and with prophetic insight he discerned that this would mean failure for the evangelical move­ment. So the new arrival did not hesitate to rebuke his superiors and seniors. They did not want to leave the cities, but he would show them the way! He desired “a circulation of preachers, to avoid partiality and popularity !“ “I am fixed,” he wrote, “to the Methodist plan, and do what I do faithfully as to God. I expect trouble is at hand. This I expected when I left England, and I am willing to suffer, yes to die, sooner than to betray so good a cause by any means.”

Thus stubbornly did he stand against those who presumably knew America better than he did. In the end he won, and the Conference adopted a time limit of six months for the preachers, with three months for those in New York. Under this rule they rode the eastern seaboard and con­tinued everywhere, until the words “Methodist circuit rider” became and remained a part of the American vocabulary. Not otherwise could they have kept up with the advancing frontier. They were responsible for the amazing growth of Methodism in America. They moved with the pioneers everywhere, and their Church far outgrew the population and outstripped those which had been established a century or more before the Methodists came.

Asbury was called a dictator, and in a sense the charge was not wholly unfounded. When Dr. Thomas Coke came to ordain him and set up the Methodist Episcopal Church, Asbury insisted upon a democratic election, but he did not administer in democratic fashion. Had he done so, he might have averted some misunderstandings and schisms; but his church would not have spread to the Father of Waters and grown from 1,000 to 200,000 members in his lifetime. His control of the preachers and their appoint­ments was the main element in this success, and he could not have exerted such control and escaped the charge of tyranny.

But if he was a dictator, he exercised a benevolent dictatorship. He loved his preachers next to God. He accepted the same small salary, en­dured the same hardships, lived the same life, and traveled more than any of them. He asked nothing of them that he did not impose on himself; and they knew that if he sent them on hard rounds, he had already made harder rounds and would make more. There were little rebellions, but they came to nothing. The schism led by O’Kelly was serious at first, leading even McKendree away for a brief period, and it gave the church a temporary setback; but when the Methodists numbered ten million souls, the O’Kellyites had grown not at all and had barely been able to survive.

If Francis Asbury was a dictator, he learned the art from John Wesley; and his dictatorship saved Methodism and built it into the largest Protes­tant body in all the land. )

Introduction XV

Asbury’s Journal

For more than a hundred years the great church which Francis Asbury built neglected his writings; his letters were never collected and his famous Journal, the basic document of the church, became unknown to two generations of people. In 1951 the National Historical Publications Com­mission of the United States Government included Asbury among the sixty-six great Americans whose works the body recommended for proper editing and publication, along with Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Lin­coln, and the other immortals of the land. That recommendation was accepted by two Presidents and both Houses of Congress.

Then world Methodism moved in the matter. In September, 1951, the World Methodist Council at Oxford, England, acting unanimously on a report of its affiliated International Methodist Historical Society, en­dorsed the preparation of a Standard Annotated Edition of the Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury, and the implementation of the resolution was turned over to the Association of Methodist Historical Societies in the United States.

Following the example of John Wesley, Asbury opened his Journal on the ship which carried him to the New World. He continued it until he could no longer move unaided; and the pen fell from his faltering fingers at Granby, South Carolina, on Tuesday, December 7, 1815, three months and seventeen days before his death. From his Letters it will be observed that he expected what he had written to constitute something like a history of the Methodist movement in America during the early period.

He was well aware of his literary shortcomings and took the most care­ful steps to ensure that his Journal would be in the best form when it was published. To this end he enlisted the aid of some of the outstanding Methodists of the day in selecting and editing the material to be preserved. Just what was eliminated we do not know, but much was undoubtedly discarded. A glance at one of the documents written by his own hand will show that extensive editing was necessary to cast his manuscripts in proper form.

The first publication of any part of Asbury’s Journal consisted of extracts which were printed in the Arminian Magazine. This publication, fashioned after the periodical of the same name started by Wesley in England, was launched by Asbury and John Dickins in Halifax County, North Carolina, in 1788. The first volume appeared the following year, and there was a second in 1790; both were printed in Philadelphia under the editorship of Dickins, who thus became the first publishing agent of American Methodism. The periodical was then discontinued, to be re­vived in 1818 under the name of the Methodist Magazine.

In the first volume of the Arminian Magazine Asbury published an

xvi Introduction

extract from his Journal covering the period of August 7, 1771, to Febru­ary 27, 1772. In the second appeared the Journal from March 26, 1772, to April 14, 1773. These extracts are of considerable interest because (1) they contain the full names of most of the persons who are referred to by initials only in the Journal which was published in book form thirty years later, and (2) they contain numerous passages which were omitted from the three-volume Journal which first appeared in 1821. Reference is made to these hereunder in the explanation of the method of the present work.

The Journal passed through many later hands. On one occasion all or part of the manuscript was lost; in a letter to Ezekiel Cooper on October 4, 1798, Asbury declared that he had left his “long lost manuscript journal” with Mrs. Betsy Dickins, widow of the recently deceased John Dickins.

Probably Dickins and his wife were the first editors. Dickins was edu­cated at Eton and London, drew the plan for the first Methodist school in America, edited the first Discipline in the present form, edited the Arminian Magazine and its successor, the Methodist Magazine, and was the first book editor and publishing agent of American Methodism. He was well qualified to serve as redactor of his chief’s literary remains.

Asbury paid a hundred dollars to a second and unknown man who corrected his papers.’3

Then Thomas Haskins worked on them. He was a notable Methodist of the period, a member of the Christmas Conference in 1784, whose diary now reposes in the Congressional Library at Washington. His wife was Martha Potts, the granddaughter of Mrs. Rebecca Grace of Penn­sylvania, who entertained Washington and his officers when the army was encamped at Valley Forge; she refused the marriage proposal of Benjamin Franklin because of his religious beliefs, or lack of them, but at his re­quest she sat by his bedside when he died and pointed him to “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”14

Others who assisted Asbury with his documents were Joseph Lanston, Dr. Henry Wilkins, and Mrs. Ann Willis. Lanston was a preacher of prominence and the spiritual father of Henry Willis.

Dr. Wilkins was born in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1767, the son of Joseph Wilkins, who was a pioneer Methodist in Anne Arundel County before he moved from Annapolis to Baltimore. Dr. Wilkins was the editor of a book of family remedies entitled The Family Adviser; or, A Plain and Modern Practice of Physic; Calculated for the Use of families Who Have Not the Advantages of a Physician, And accommodated to the Diseases of America, To Which is Annexed Mr. Wesley’s Primitive Physic. This book passed through several editions and had a large circulation among Methodists and the general public. It contained a preface addressed “To

13 See letter dated June 26, 1801.

H See Journal note under June 23, 1776.


the Members of the Methodist Episcopal Church” and signed by Coke and Asbury. Dr. Wilkins was the host of the sick Bishop McKendree at his home north of Baltimore when John Wesley Bond’s messenger brought news of the death of Asbury.15

Ann Willis was the cultured widow of Henry Wiffis, the first preacher on whom Asbury laid ordaining hands, the daughter of Jesse Hollings­worth, a leading Baltimore merchant, and a sister of Francis Hollings­worth, the final transcriber of Asbury’s Journal.16

Francis Hollingsworth was the last editor through whose hands the Asbury documents passed. He prepared the prefatory statement, “Notice of the Transcriber,” and sent the material to the press. He lived near Baltimore and was a member of a prominent Methodist family. That he had the cultural ability to edit the Journal is brought out by a statement in the Journal of Bishop Beverly Waugh under the date of November 25, 1825:

I called in the afternoon to see Mr. Francis Hoffingsworth, a man of ec­centricities, but possessing a mind highly cultured. He was the particular friend of the late venerable Asbury. I found him sitting by his table upon which his Bible and spectacles were laid. After some conversation relative to his health, he remarked that he saw clearly that he was afflicted. He had not read the Bible as much as he should have done; that such had been his fondness for literature that he had been too much occupied in examining Greek, Latin, French, and Spanish works.17

Asbury and Hollingsworth met at York, Pennsylvania, on June 29, 1815; and the bishop made this entry in his Journal: "I sit seven hours a day, looking over and hearing my transcribed journal; we have examined and approved up to 1807. . . . I have buried in shades all that will be proper to forget, in which I am personally concerned." Asbury had pre­viously printed the extracts from his Journal up to 1780, and copies of this edition are in the Library of Congress and at Westminster Theological Seminary. It has been said that an “extension” of that extract was printed later, but such has never come to light. In Hollingsworth’s “Notice of the Transcriber,” which is included in this work, it will be seen that he did not see the published extract of Asbury’s Journal but confined his work wholly to the period following 1780. He points out that Asbury’s manuscript

15 Smith, Recollections of an Old Itinerant, 266—68; Paine, Life and Times of Bishop McKendree, 182.

16 Warriner, Old Sands Street Church of Brooklyn, 76; Roberts, Centenary Pictorial Album.

17 In his Centenary Pictorial Album, 56, Roberts says that the inscription at Hollings­worth’s grave states that he “died on February 4, 1826, age 32 years and six months.” He would thus have been only twenty-eight years old when he completed his work on the Journal, and only thirty-two when Waugh visited him. Miss Annie P. Dalton of Baltimore thinks that Roberts probably mistook the date of birth, 1773, for 1793, and that Hollingsworth finished the Journal at the age of fifty-two.

contained numerous errors of chronology and mistakes in the names of persons and places, and expressed the fear that his editorial work was not always correct.

Having undergone the scrutiny and revision of the numerous persons above-mentioned, the Journal, including the previously printed extract up to 1780, was published in 1821 by Nathan Bangs and Thomas Mason, the Methodist publishing agents at New York. It was reprinted in 1852 and again reprinted about two years later without date.

But before the first edition was published, there was another episode in the history of Asbury’s documents.

At the Baltimore Conference in March, 1817, Bishop McKendree presented the matter of a biography of Bishop Asbury, to which the con­ference responded by naming a committee to carry the plan into execution. The committee, composed of N. Reed, S. G. Roszel, J. W. Wells, W. Ry­land, and Dr. Henry Wilkins, employed Samuel K. Jennings, M.D., who had been president of Asbury College at Baltimore, to prepare the volume. The unpublished manuscript of the Journal, other papers secured by Bishop McKendree from Hollingsworth, “one small package sent from the west by Mr. Thomas L. Douglass,” and twenty-five letters were turned over to Dr. Jennings as materials for the biography.

In 1818 Jennings outlined his plan orally to the conference, and it was “favorably received.” The following year he reported further progress, and in June of that year he delivered a manuscript of 269 pages to a special committee which had been appointed to consider it. This committee read the document twice and unanimously decided that it was not worthy of publication. This episode led to an unfortunate controversy. Dr. Jennings contended that the material delivered by him to the committee was not a finished biography of Asbury but a collection of notes and data from which a biography was to be prepared, and he charged the committee with prejudice because of his Reform principles which later led him to become one of the founders of the Methodist Protestant Church. The arguments for the committee were published in the Methodist Magazine (1831, 82—94), to which Dr. Jennings’ supporters replied in the appendix of his book An Exposition of the Late Controversy in the Methodist Episcopal Church (230—47).

Dr. Jennings reclaimed his materials and declined to deliver them again to the committee, and the final disposition of his manuscript or notes is not known. He returned the Journal, letters, and other materials to the committee. A number of the letters had been secured by John Emory, who later became a bishop; and his papers were deposited in the Emory Collection at Drew Theological Seminary. The manuscript Journal was burned in a fire which destroyed the publishing house in 1836. The Journal of Jesse Lee was lost in the same fire.

Introduction Xix

Editorial Method

The above history of Asbury’s Journal largely determined the method employed by the Editors in producing the present work. They were not dealing with original manuscripts but with printed materials which had already been edited by several persons. Numerous alterations had ad­mittedly been made, and there were numerous admitted inaccuracies. Asbury had little formal education, and his written documents had literary crudities and grammatical errors. His published letters were care­fully edited. It was not possible to print his original work, and the Editors were not concerned about adhering exactly to the work of Hollingsworth.

The purpose has been to produce an accurate and readable edition of Asbury’s Journal, never deviating from the bishop’s words and meaning but without perpetuating the chronological, biographical, geographical, and grammatical errors which appeared throughout the earlier transcrip­tion. In this the Editors followed the advice of experts in the field, especially the officials of the National Historical Publications Commission.

It will be recalled that Hollingsworth mentioned the fact that he found certain chronological errors in Asbury’s manuscripts. These were indeed numerous. All the dates in the first edition of the Journal were carefully checked with Fitch’s The Perfect Calendar for Every Year of the Christian Era (Revised Edition, 1930), and it was discovered that more than three hundred mistakes were left by Hollingsworth in the first volume alone. Most of these were corrected in the second edition published in 1852, an indication that further editorial work was done after Hollingsworth. Many of these errors remained, however, and they were corrected without footnotes in the present work.

Scripture quotations were likewise checked, and numerous mistakes were found. These were also corrected without comment when possible.

The names of all persons and places which were referred to by their initials only were inserted in the text when they could be identified. An interrogation () was added when identification was highly probable but not actually established.

Mention has been made above of the differences among the extracts which Asbury published in his own lifetime in the Arminian Magazine. These concerned the names of persons and places as well as several sen­tences which were omitted from the text as published by Hollingsworth. Inasmuch as the magazine extracts antedated the first printed Journal by thirty-two years and were evidently inserted by Asbury himself, the Editors have in general followed the magazine in the matter of the names, and they have included the omitted sentences in brackets.





IN the month of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-one, I embarked in England for America; at which time the memoirs I have written of my life commenced. As I considered my station on the American continent, in the order of Divine Providence, as a situation in which I should frequently be exposed to censure and jealousy, I thought it highly expedient, for my own satisfaction and the confirmation of my friends, to keep an impartial diary of my intentions, resolutions, and actions, as a Christian and a minister, that I might have, through this medium, a constant and reasonable answer for mine accusers. From the nature and design of the work, it must have in it many things both unpleasing and uninteresting to curious and critical readers; and perhaps some things exceptionable even to those who enter into its spirit, and read it with affection. In keeping a journal of my life, I have unavoid­ably laboured under many embarrassments and inconveniences; my constant travelling, the want of places of retirement and conveniences to write, my frequent calls to the pulpit, my extensive epistolary correspond­ence, and my debility, and sometimes inability of body, have all been in­separable from my station in the Church, and so many impediments to the perfection of the account of my labours and sufferings in this country. The first volume of the extract of my journal was published, many years after it was written, under the management of others, it being out of my power to attend the press, or even to read over the copy before it was printed :* several inconveniences attending that volume will be avoided in this.

For many years I did not determine to publish a second volume of the extract of my journal: but the advice of my friends, and the prospects of my approaching dissolution, have determined me on its publication.t

As I have had no certain dwelling-place in America, my manuscripts have frequently been exposed to be lost and destroyed; but, by the per­mission of Divine Providence, I have collected them together.

The Methodists of late years have become a more numerous body,

* This volume, now reprinted, was corrected by the author.

t This determination was not carried into effect, except one small number, which is now republished with the corrections of the author.


consequently more obnoxious to their enemies. The Scripture is fulfilled even amongst us, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” Some, who were for a long time our confidential friends and fellow-labourers, are now become our most inveterate foes, and have written and published books against our characters, government, and discipline. And as I am considered the most ostensible character in the Methodist Church in America, I have frequently to bear the greatest weight of their invectives. But impartial readers will not, I am persuaded, give an implicit assent to the assevera­tions of those who may be under personal resentment against the body, or individuals, without duly considering the possibility of their being in­fluenced by self-interest, jealousy, or prejudice. And as I have been (under God and my Brethren) the principal overseer of the work in America, and have constantly travelled from the centre to the circumference of the Connexion, I flatter myself that reasonable men will acknowledge that I have always had an opportunity of obtaining better information relative to the true state of the whole work than any other man could possibly have. Would it not then be highly injudicious to prefer a history of Methodism, written by men of small and contracted information, (and apostates from its principles,) to such a history of its progress as will be presented to the public in my journals And, if I may be credited, I can declare, that in the critical and delicate circumstances that I have been necessitated to stand in relative to the characters of men, I have never knowingly deviated from the principles of that sacred charity which obligates us to treat each other with all possible tenderness.

If I have injured the character of man, woman, or child, in journal representation, I have done it inadvertently, and sincerely ask their pardon. In stationing the preachers I have known no man after the flesh; but have, to the utmost of my power, endeavoured to keep an eye to the glory of God, the usefulness of the ministry, and the benefit of the people. I have at tempted to give a simple narration of facts in the integrity of my heart, and in the fear of God.

My intention is, as much as possible, to remove every hinderance out of the way, and to give no occasion for offence to any man. But if, after all, my attempts prove unsuccessful, I can, in the approbation of my own heart, and in the company of my old, faithful, and constant American friends and brethren, through the medium of my journal, look back upon what God has wrought, and say, “Hitherto the Lord hath helped.” We can thus comfort and console ourselves with the past lovingkindness of the Lord; and the years in which his right hand hath been bare, will thus, to us, be rendered more delightful.

I had thoughts of leaving my manuscripts to the executors of my will, to be published by them after my death, but found, upon reconsideration, that their contents respecting persons and things were of such a nature

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that no person could do it so well as myself.* Should my life be spared, the volumes will be brought forward in course. As soon as one is disposed of, another will be put to press, until the whole is published.


* The greater part of the journal which follows was left in manuscript, but revised under the author’s inspection as far down as the year 1807. See the Notice of the Transcriber.


THE name of the venerable author of the following journal will create for the work so deep and enduring an interest, in the hearts and minds of those for whom it was more especially prepared, that it becomes proper the transcriber should give some account of the manner in which he con­ducted the work of transcribing, so that those who are concerned may have satisfactory assurances of its genuineness. The ill health by which Bishop Asbury was so much of his life a sufferer; the crowds in which he was too often compelled to live in the west and south; the succession of visitors he thought it his duty at all times of leisure to receive; his ministerial labours; and, above all, the constant occupation of mind which the important concerns of a Church, so great in membership, so widely ex­tended and rapidly increasing, necessarily occasioned, left the first Superintendent of that Church few means of rendering his journal more perfect. The transcriber has not attempted to improve it by giving his own for the author’s. Some things in the original work he has taken the liberty of leaving out of the transcript; but there are not many of these, and they are most of them in that part of it which the bishop himself examined during his life. The transcriber not unfrequently found a confusion of dates; and sometimes, as he thinks, a mistake in the names of persons and things, more especially in the author’s geographical notices of the districts through which he made his annual tour; the emendations, in this last particular, are not, it is to be feared, always correct. In places where the author has left, by inadvertence, a sentence unfinished, a thing not un­common, the transcriber has always tried to supply what was wanting; and where hurry has occasioned evident mistake, as is the case in a few instances, he has ventured upon correction; but he is not sure that in every attempt he has been successful. To those persons yet living, who had, by habits of intimacy with Bishop Asbury, become acquainted with the peculiarity of his conversational and epistolary manner of expressing himself, the style of the present work may not be so pleasing; because it is not so exactly the style they expected—not so decidedly the bishop’s. But they must recollect that the author’s intention in keeping his journal was, to make a faithful record for posterity; and the transcriber never forgot that its value, in this respect, would be better understood and more highly appreciated by those who can only know the author by his work. The abruptness of sentence in its beginning or its break—the sudden light flashed upon a subject by a suggestion conveyed in words few and strong; the names, descriptive as painting, he was wont to bestow upon persons

xxiv Notice of the Transcriber

and things—all these live only in the memory of his surviving friends; and with them must pass away; but that which is of more importance—the identity of Bishop Asbury in the commencement, the continuance, and wonderful increase of Methodism in this country, will give a perpetuity of interest in the record here offered which nothing else can give. The transcriber would not, however, have it supposed that he has entirely de­parted from Bishop Asbury’s style; on the contrary, he presumes he has been enough observant of this to satisfy most readers, inasmuch as the bishop himself, when he examined what had been transcribed up to 1807, altered but once, and then not much. The public may rest assured that the work is the author’s: but here the transcriber must be permitted to speak in the first person. When I give this assurance, I must be understood to mean from the year 1780 to the end of the journal; the original manu­script of all that preceded that date, I never saw: I only know that when printed it did not please the author. The journal of Bishop Asbury might have been better. I once ventured to express my unavailing wishes to him that he had left out many of the uninteresting incidents and travelling notices we find in it, and had put in more of the deep reflections and acute remarks on men, books, and passing events continually afloat in his powerful and observant mind; and that, for the sake of his brethren in the ministry who should follow him, he had made the skeletons of his sermons more perfect, and had added many more. His reply, uttered with much feeling, would have satisfied every candid mind that it was by no ordinary effort so much had been done.


March 28, 1821