Origin and Early History of the Congregational Methodist Church
Congregational Methodist Church
Rev. S. C. McDaniel
C-O-N-G-R-E-G-A-T-I-O-N-A-L -- M E-T-H-O-D-I-S-T--C-H-U-R-C-H.
REV. S. C. McDaniel.
Jas. P. Harrison & Co., Printers & Publishers, 1881.
(Note: This table of contents has been added by
the transcriber in order to help you navigate through the document and was not
part of the original transcription)
Table of Contents:
Dedication, Preface, Introduction
Chapter I thru III
Chapter IV thru IX
Chapter X thru XVII
To all lovers of the Doctrines of Original Methodism, Believers in Ministerial equality, and advocates of Republican Government in Church as well as State, this little book is dedicated by The Committee.
No apology is necessary for the appearance of this volume; Church history is always an interesting subject of study. Had the history of the Congregational Methodist Church been written fifteen years ago, much which now is perhaps forever lost to posterity would have been preserved.
Twenty-seven years after the organization of the Church but few of the first actors were left on the stage, and the passing years had greatly diminished the store of recollection of those who still remained. This, added to the natural weakness of human memory, and the great political, civil and social revolution through which our section had passed during the last quarter of a century, rendered the effort to trace the events of 1852 in l879 exceedingly difficult.
The great age and feeble health of the Chairman of the Committee (Rev. H. Phinazee), caused him to decline writing this history, for which he was better qualified than any living man, except, perhaps, Rev. J. F. N. Huddleston.
At the solicitation of brother Phinazee, I agreed to undertake the task of compilation in pursuance of the design of the Georgia State Conference.
. For some time after it had been arranged that I should do this part of the work, I found myself unable to start far the lack of information of the inception of the movement. This, however, was soon supplied by a number of good brethren who were actors in the movement.
In the progress of the work, however, I was destined to meet more formidable difficulties.
One serious impediment in my way was my inability to learn anything definite as to the start of the Church in the State of Alabama. Again and again I sought light on this point--in every known way, and through all discoverable channels-but all to no purpose, for I was eventually obliged, after delaying the completion of the work some weeks, to close my labors without any history of the original movement in Alabama.
Another serious trouble met me when I came to treat of the Convention of
the Churches, which met in 1855. Although there was doubtless a full record of
its proceedings kept, all my efforts to find such a record were utterly
unavailable and I was obliged to depend on the few survivors of that body to
furnish details of its proceedings, am with these I was forced to content
Thus circumstanced, my task has been a difficult one—beyond what I had anticipated—and, by the blessings of god, good health and strength, and the assistance of many of my good brethren, I eventually completed by task, such as it is.
I am fully aware of the many imperfections of the work for which I have no other apology to make than simply to say, it is the best I could do under the circumstances. At the hands of a charitable Christian public I expect no unkindness; ability to write a better book, I have no quarrel for them.
In order that this history may be better understood, a short introduction is thought to be necessary.
The publication of the articles in The Congregational Methodist ended in the spring of 1880, and the design was then to have the work put in book form without any delay; but no definite action in this particular having been had by the Georgia State Conference, the matter was delayed until the meeting of that body in the fall of that year. At that session such arrangements were made as would secure the publication of the book before the sitting of the General Conference in May, 1881.
"In writing the history, I was desirous of showing the changes which have been made from the first organization until the present; and not having one of the original books of Discipline, I made inquiry among my brethren for one, and found it exceedingly difficult to find, but eventually I was kindly furnished one by brother George W. Todd, of Mississippi; and believing that very few of those little books are now to be found, I have, upon consultation with brothers U. C. Fambrough and James G. Phinazee (who are assisting me in the publishing of this book), concluded to add, as an appendix to this book, all that part of the original book of Discipline which has been in any manner changed from the organization of the first church to the present tine. The appendix contains all the first twenty-one pages, except the "Advisory Rules," which in that book were placed between the articles "Terms of Membership" and "Of Offences." The remainder of the book contains the "Advisory Rules," the twenty-five Articles of Religion, including the note to be found at the bottom of 39th page of our present book of Discipline, and as marked at the close of the XXIII. Article of Religion. In addition to these the little book had a form for administration of the Lord's Supper; one for the baptism of infants; one for the baptism of adults; one for ordination of Elders, of Elder's credentials, and closing with the resolution as copied in Chapter VIII of this book.
This much of the book is given in order that the old landmarks may be preserved. The whole of it is not included in the appendix, because it would be increasing the cost of the book without increasing its value.
It has been thought best to bind the book in cheap binding, so as to put it within the reach of all, but to print it on the very best paper to be had in order that it may be preserved, and, if necessary, rebound.
It is hoped the book will give satisfaction.
The causes which led to the organization of the Congregational Methodist Church, like the origin of all great movements, are involved in mystery to same extent; some of them, however, are known to those who witnessed the first organization, and will here be treated of.
Methodism in America was originally a kind of missionary Church, and in its earlier days the "itineracy" was the life-blood of the whole system, and, as the people were looked after by the pioneer Methodist circuit-rider, more on the fashion of sheep without a shepherd than otherwise; and as there were but few regular churches and fewer church houses. and the people in many instances as migratory as their teachers, who changed fields every year, there was not much government, except such as operated on the preachers themselves, and as they made very light demands on the membership for pay. it was very natural that as they did all the work and frequently without any considerable compensation, the membership should readily accord to them the right to govern the Church. For a number of years, about the beginning of the nineteenth century, there was but one Bishop in the whole United States, and he received only sixteen dollars a quarter for his salary, and the rest of the clergy fared about the same way and it will not astonish anyone to know, that whatever Bishop Asbury did in governing the Church was never complained of by the laity. As early as 1816, however, the clergy began to controvert the propriety of the Bishops having the right to appoint the Presiding Elders, and in 1820 the General Conference, at Baltimore, passed
a resolution authorizing the Conference to elect the Presiding Elders. Joshua Soule was at the same Conference elected a Bishop, but declined to serve on account of the passage of said resolution. Bishop McKendree, however (not being present when the resolution passed), went into the Conference and induced the suspension of said resolution for four years. This and kindred questions continued to excite the Church until 1828 when it resulted in the formation of the Methodist Protestant Church. which was composed mainly of the dissatisfied members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. This organization differed from the one from whence it originated mainly in two features, viz: it had no Episcopacy, and allowed lay representation in its Conferences. But as time rolled on, the world advanced, and experience proved eventually that other important reforms were needed to fully adapt Methodism to a thickly settled and advancing country.
About the year 1850, Rev. Lovick Pierce, then one of the leading spirits in the M. E. Church, South, wrote a series of very strong articles, which were published in the Southern Christian Advocate, on the subject of public worship, in which he showed the absolute necessity of abandoning the old style of week-day preaching on circuits, and the necessity of Saturday and Sabbath preaching. He met stout opposition from the pen of the venerable Allen Turner and others, and thus the minds of the laity were directed to this matter. The investigation on this point led to the discovery of another defect in the governmental economy of the M. E. Church, South, which appeared to have been entirely overlooked up to this time, viz: the degraded station which local ministers were obliged to take and maintain in said Church. Although a great deal of the work of the Church was done by them, they were neither allowed to exercise any governing function over the thousands of converts who annually were brought into the Church through the instrumentality of their labors, nor to have any voice in saying who should govern either their converts or themselves. This truth, perhaps, was to a greater extent operative in the production of the Congregational Methodist Church than any other one thing. It is true the originators of this Church were opposed to Episcopacy, and opposed to the government of the Church being entirely in the hands of the clergy; they also objected to itineracy as a system in any form as being inoperative, cumbersome and unnecessarily expensive. But the great sun and centre of their system was the desire that there should be no artificial, unscriptural and hurtful distinction among the watchmen who had been placed as sentinels on the watch-tower of salvation by the Great Captain of the armies of heaven and earth.
In the early part of the year 1852, there lived in middle Georgia, and
principa11y in Monroe county, several prominent local preachers belonging to the M. E. Church, South, among whom were Rev. Hiram Phinazee, then a little less than fifty years old; Absa1om Ogletree, near the same age; J. F. Wetherbee, some few years younger, and J. F. N. Huddleston and W. H. Graham, then young men, perhaps about thirty years old. There were also in the same section of country a number of laymen, distinguished for their intelligence and high-toned demeanor, as we11 as their piety and generosity. Among the latter may be enumerated Mick1eberry Merritt, W. L. Fambrough, Robinson Fambrough, John Ham, Jackson Bush, William A. McCune, John E. Pettegrew, James R. McCord, David Ogletree, E. White, Robert Walker, S. F. Speer, J. W. McCord, John Goodrum, and many others. Of the ministers above named, all were active and laborious workers, remarkably successful in their efforts, They were traveling to the various churches in their section, and regu1arly on the Sabbath days preaching the Word, and large numbers were converted under their preaching, and revivals sprang up in different places. Soon the fact began to attract attention that, although these good men did most of their work in the revivals, the circuit-rider must needs receive the new converts into the Church and baptize them, while those under whose ministry they bad been awakened and converted, stood by with folded hands, without even a voice as to whether the applicants should be received into the Church or not.
This proved an excellent eye-opener to the intelligent laymen, who began to notice and comment on this peculiar and not very admirable feature in their Church government, and the airing of this part of the polity of the M. E. Church, South, by the laity, excited in the minds of the local ministers a spirit of inquiry into their own positions and thus the ball began to roll, and the more they looked into the matter the more they felt the urgent necessity of some sort of reform.
.At this time, Rev. Dr. McCare1l Peurifoy was on the Forsyth circuit, Rev. John E. Wardlaw on the Jackson Circuit, and Rev. John C. Simmons the Presiding Elder. This excitement was greater within the bounds of these two circuits than elsewhere. The circuit-riders and the Elder were not well pleased with the turn the tide of affairs were taking, and began to apply their correctives like the
old advocates of blistering in the shape counter-irritants, by gravely intimating that the "least said" about these imperfections in the machinery of the M. E. Church, South, would be the easiest mended; and that unless the ministers desisted from the too free use of their tongues, they might find their authority to preach taken away, and that the laymen, unless they should become more prudent in their expression of their dissent to the high Episcopacy of their Church, would find themselves outside of the pale of the Church.
But such threats were but idle words to such men, am they heeded them as little as did Daniel the mandate of the king against prayer, and were as careless of the threatened harm as were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego of the rage of the monarch when they refused to fall down and worship the golden image which Nebuohadnezzar, the king, had set up "in the plain of Dura."
Early in the year 1852, the feeling of dissatisfaction referred to in the second chapter of this history, became so manifest and public that it was evident some kind of action was about to be taken, the circuit-riders on the Jackson and Forsyth works--doubtless believing harm would result from any separate organization, strove hard to avert it. The Presiding Elder of the district also added his most earnest endeavors to preserve the unity of the M. E. Church, South, by preventing organization. But the die had been cast, the purpose of the men moving in the matter was not a mere whim, to pass away like the morning cloud. It was not dissatisfaction growing out of individual wrong; it was a deep seated, firmly rooted and fixed dissatisfaction with the very foundation stone of their ecclesiastical economy. And the solemn alternative was presented to them of forming a Church government of their own, with which they might be satisfied, or of living for the balance of their lives under a church government with which they never could be contented. And although it was painful for these good men thus to sever themselves from a Church in whose doctrines they most "steadfastly believed," and from brethren and sisters with whom they had lived so long and so lovingly; yet upon their knees, with hearts uplifted to the Great Head of the Church, they felt it to be their duty, to sever their relationship to the M. E. Church, South, and with them the voice of duty was ever heeded.
Accordingly on the 8th day of May, 1852, a meeting was bad at the house of Mickleberry Merritt, in Monroe county, Georgia, for the purpose of organizing a Church. At this meeting there were but few present save those who took part in that meeting. At this late period it is impossible to state exactly all who did then cast in their lots with the "little flock" there assembled; perhaps a majority of the actors in that scene have passed away, while those who remain are scattered abroad over the earth, and from the loss of the records or minutes of this meeting and the frailty of the human memory, the full history cannot now be given. This is to be regretted for the reason that to those who shall come after us, especially will it be of the greatest interest to know all the particulars of this small beginning. The meeting was not so large as had been anticipated--some who had intended to take part in the movement had, from an unknown cause, changed their minds-and when the hour of decisive action came were not there. Like Gideon's army the little company, by the application of the severest tests, had been lessened until all the feeble of purpose and faint-hearted had been left at the rear; and it was only those who had been found worthy to defy the flames of persecution who stood at the front with purposes set, hearts fixed and ears deaf to all other sounds save that of the call to duty, that gathered round the cradle of the infant Church to catch the first impress of its features, as the wise men of the East gathered at the manger to see the beauty of "The Babe of Bethlehem."
The meeting organized by calling William L. Fambrough to the chair, and requesting Rev. H. Phinazee to act as secretary. The exercises of the meeting were opened with prayer led by Rev. Wil1iiam H. Graham. The names of the following brethren were then enrolled by the secretary as the membership of the infant Church: W. L. Fambrough, Rev. Hiram Phinazee, Rev. Absalom Ogletree, Rev. W. H. Graham, Robinson Fambrough, Jackson Bush, John Flynt, James M. Flemming, George W. Todd, Mickleberry Merritt, and Travis Ivey. The meeting adopted a preamble and sundry resolutions, drawn up by Rev. Hiram Phinazee, as the basis of their action, and then adjourned.
The preamble and resolutions adopted at this meeting are probably not in existence; at all events I have been unable to find them. This is greatly to be regretted, because what these good men then committed to writing as to their desires and intentions, would be exceedingly interesting to us, and much more to future generations. The venerable secretary of that meeting, who drafted these expressions of the feelings of the meeting still remembers the substance thereof. The preamble set out the inefficiency of the itinerant system, as then practiced, of large ciruits and generally week-day preaching at country churches, declaring that the preaching to walls and benches wou1d never evangelize the mass of the people. 2. The danger of a government where the whole power was in the same hands. 3. The impropriety of depriving the people of a voice in their own government. 4. The unscriptural character of the invidious distinctions made by the laws of the M. E. Church, South between the itinerant and local divisions of their ministers. 5. That there was no reason to suppose these features of the government of the M, E. Church, South, would be changed soon, if ever.
And the resolutions declared the intention of those taking part in the meeting to establish a Church whose doctrines should be exactly Methodistic, but whose government should be in accordance with our civil institutions and their own ideas of propriety. Thus declaring to the world and their former brethren the motives of their conduct they weighed anchor, and spread to the breeze the sai1 of THE CONGREGATIONAL METHODIST CHURCH.
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