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the Conference for 1800, says: “The settlements in Kentucky were rapidly enlarging and being filled up, and all the Western preachers that could be spared were taken for that work; so that only three were left for all the Holston country. New River, Holston, and Russell Circuits were united, under the care of John Watson and John Page, while James Hunter was sent to Green. One preacher only (William Lambeth) was all that could be, or that was, afforded to the Cumberland or West Tennessee country, while there were seven in Kentucky. Regarding the facts connected with the early history of the Church in these different sections, and seeing the manifest advantages given to the Kentucky settlements, the reader would naturally expect to find Methodism there greatly in advance of what it was in the other sections. And this was the case for many years; but the precedence thus gained was not well sustained, and in process of time, the others not only overtook, but, in many important respects, outstripped their early favored sister. A close inquiry into the reason of this, prosecuted with a cool, philosophic pen, could reveal facts, and the operation of principles, important to Methodists everywhere, and through all time.”
We may not be able to discover the partiality shown to Kentucky, to which allusion is made in the extract we have quoted. We have always accepted the opinion that the comparative wants of the work in each Episcopal District were duly considered by those who had the oversight, and that the best distribution was made of the talents and laborers to be employed; nor does it belong to our purpose to institute comparisons between the Church in Kentucky and any other portion of our priceless heritage. We rejoice in the success of Methodism anywhere. It is our common inheritance; and in Holston, Tennessee, and Kentucky, it claims, under God, a common parentage, and has been bequeathed to us by the same noble men. The names of Haw, Ogden, Poythress, McHenry, Burke, Page, Wilkerson, Ward, Ray, Kobler, and others, are equally dear to them and to us; and if, in the Holston Conference, Methodism has met with fewer antagonisms than in Kentucky, and been more successful, it shall be our glory and joy.
The decrease in the membership, to which we have referred, cannot be justly attributed to any single cause, but to a combination of causes. The generally received opinion, that the decrease during this period may be traced to the emigration from the State, is not sustained by the facts. Between the years 1792 and 1795, we had no material increase in membership; and yet, during this period, we had no emigration from Kentucky. The expedition of Gen. Wayne into the Indian country was not made until the summer of 1794, nor was the treaty of peace made until the following year; and hence the North-western Territory was not opened to emigration previous to that date. Whatever influence emigration from the State may have exerted on the welfare and numerical strength of the Church, subsequent to 1795—and we readily concede that, between that year and 1800, as well
as at later periods, it was sufficient, in the midst of extensive revivals of religion, to produce a declension of numbers-certainly the apparent want of success, while largely indebted to this cause, cannot be confined to it. We also readily admit that, before the close of the past century, in some places, large societies were entirely broken up, and in others, only portions were left, by removals from the State. We have already seen large bodies of Methodists from Kentucky settled in what is now the State of Ohio, in the Mad River country, "and also on the Big and Little Miamis;”* so that, notwithstand
; " ing the success that crowned the labors of the preachers, and the hundreds that were brought to the saving knowledge of the truth, through their instrumentality, yet, in their annual exhibits, they often showed a decrease of membership in their respective fields of labor.
In Marion county, in the neighborhood known as Thomas's Meeting-house, we had one of the most flourishing societies in the State. The land around it was fertile, and many influential families from Virginia had settled in the vicinity, and became members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
From a letter we received from the Hon. Charles A. Wickliffe, we learn that, “about the year 1800, a considerable emigration of Roman Catholics from Maryland came into this neighborhood, and bought out the residences of many members of the Church, who sought homes in other portions of the State,
and in Indiana.” By this means, a large extent of territory, where Methodism had been fostered and flourished, passed from our hands; and, at the present date, is one of the strongholds of Roman Catholicism; while Protestant Christianity, in any of its forms, though favored with a ministry distinguished for their zeal and devotion, and a membership, though small, yet influential, has found it difficult, in the same,community, to do more than maintain a feeble existence.
To the Church in Kentucky it was a source of unspeakable pleasure, that, while their societies at home were being thus depleted, they were sending forth into the vast field beyond the Ohio hundreds from their Communion, by whom Methodism would be planted, and beneath whose fostering care it would flourish, and put forth “its leaves for the healing of the nations."
Another cause of the decrease in our membership during this period, is to be found in the influence exerted by Mr. O'Kelly. While the injurious effects of the step that he had so unfortunately taken, for a while arrested the prosperity of the Church in Virginia and North Carolina, the evil that he wrought was not confined to these sections, in which he had previously attained such popularity as an evangelist: its pernicious results reached the farthest limits of the Church in America, immediately following his secession. For several years, a decrease in the aggregate membership is reported in the General Minutes. In 1795, when his power was at its height, and he was spreading desolation
throughout the Church, the decrease reached six thousand three hundred and seventeen-which was more than one-tenth the entire membership of the Church. Kentucky had chiefly been settled by emigrants from Virginia, and the infant Church in the West became involved in the controversy. Some of the prominent preachers were beguiled by its teachings. We have already seen James Hawone of the first two missionaries—embracing the views of Mr. O'Kelly, and carrying with him almost the entire corps of preachers, and many of the members in the Cumberland Circuit, which lay partly in Kentucky. The infection reached the central and northern portions of the State, and threw many of the societies into confusion and strife.
Whatever may be the beneficial results of religious controversy, when it involves the vindication of the doctrines of the Bible, certainly no good can follow from a discussion between religionists who accept the same great axioms of Bible truth, and differ only upon questions of minor importance. In controversies of this kind, the passions are much more likely to become inflamed than where the issue is in reference to great evangelical questions. The strife in which many of the societies became involved very naturally produced ill-feeling, and turned away from our Communion hundreds who had been blessed by the teachings of our fathers.
There is still, however, another cause for our want of success during this period: the legislation