ASBURY AS A PREACHER.
      Edited from Chapter X of
     Francis Asbury: The Prophet of the Long Road

     By Ezra Squier Tipple
ASBURY AS A PREACHER.
Edited from Chapter X of
Francis Asbury: The Prophet of the Long Road. By Ezra Squier Tipple
As Editied by One Methodist.
ONE METHODIST VOL. 4 NO. 5 January 2002

Due to the length of this article, this journal will not assume the same format as the others.

'I preached' is the entry which most frequently appears in Asbury's Journal. And why not? That was his business. He was a Methodist preacher, with equal emphasis on both words. Ecclesiastically, for twenty-five years after he began to preach, he was nothing else but a preacher. Not until he was forty years old did he administer the ordinances of the Church, for not until he had been ordained at the Christmas Conference in 1784 did he feel that he had the right to baptize or to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But he had no doubt of his right to preach. When on one occasion a 'church minister' inquired who he was and whether he was licensed, 'speaking great, swelling words' and forbidding him to preach, 'I let him know,' Asbury said, 'that I came to preach, and preach I would. I told him I had authority from God. I began to preach, and urged the people to repent, and turn from all their transgressions, so iniquity should not prove their ruin.' The inscription in Baltimore erected to bear witness to his remarkable life makes record that he 'with much zeal continued to "preach the Word" for more than half a century.' Preaching was his master-passion. He left his native land, he denied himself the joys of home life, never marrying, just that he might preach. He was only about fifteen when he began 'to venture a word of exhortation'; three years later he became a local preacher. In 1766 for nine months 'he went through Staffordshire and Gloucester in the place of a traveling preacher,' and the following year he was 'admitted on trial' for the itinerant ministry as a preacher. En route to America he preached many times on shipboard. Storms did not deter him, for when it was very windy he fixed his back against the mizzen mast and 'preached freely on those well-known words, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."' He preached on landing in Philadelphia, and thereafter for forty-five years scarcely a day passed that he did not preach, sometimes three times a day, occasionally five times, often under trying conditions, frequently in the midst of perils, but always with definiteness of aim and unfailing devotion to the supreme purpose of his ministry.

'I preached' is the entry which most frequently appears in Asbury's Journal. And why not? That was his business. He was a Methodist preacher, with equal emphasis on both words. Ecclesiastically, for twenty-five years after he began to preach, he was nothing else but a preacher. Not until he was forty years old did he administer the ordinances of the Church, for not until he had been ordained at the Christmas Conference in 1784 did he feel that he had the right to baptize or to administer the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But he had no doubt of his right to preach. When on one occasion a 'church minister' inquired who he was and whether he was licensed, 'speaking great, swelling words' and forbidding him to preach, 'I let him know,' Asbury said, 'that I came to preach, and preach I would. I told him I had authority from God. I began to preach, and urged the people to repent, and turn from all their transgressions, so iniquity should not prove their ruin.' The inscription in Baltimore erected to bear witness to his remarkable life makes record that he 'with much zeal continued to "preach the Word" for more than half a century.' Preaching was his master-passion. He left his native land, he denied himself the joys of home life, never marrying, just that he might preach. He was only about fifteen when he began 'to venture a word of exhortation'; three years later he became a local preacher. In 1766 for nine months 'he went through Staffordshire and Gloucester in the place of a traveling preacher,' and the following year he was 'admitted on trial' for the itinerant ministry as a preacher. En route to America he preached many times on shipboard. Storms did not deter him, for when it was very windy he fixed his back against the mizzen mast and 'preached freely on those well-known words, "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us; we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God."' He preached on landing in Philadelphia, and thereafter for forty-five years scarcely a day passed that he did not preach, sometimes three times a day, occasionally five times, often under trying conditions, frequently in the midst of perils, but always with definiteness of aim and unfailing devotion to the supreme purpose of his ministry.

Asbury was from conviction an itinerant preacher. Some men enjoyed the distinction of long pastorates. Storrs was forty-four years in Brooklyn, Cuyler thirty in the same city, Albert Barnes thirty-seven in Philadelphia. Comparatively little of Asbury's life was spent in the cities. His voice was heard in many places. When he reached New York he found Boardman and Pilmoor playing battledoor and shuttlecock between that city and Philadelphia, and wrote in his Journal, 'My brethren seem unwilling to leave the cities, but I think I shall show them the way.' Ah, he did show them the way indeed! Again he writes: 'I remain in New York though unsatisfied with our being in town together. I have not yet the thing which I seek, a circulation of preachers, to avoid partiality and popularity. However, I am fixed to the Methodist plan.' With what fidelity he followed the 'Methodist plan' the world knows. His annual journeys took him more than six thousand miles a year, and wherever he went he never failed to remember the command, 'As ye go preach.' It is estimated that he must have preached nearly seventeen thousand sermons, and these were delivered not in great churches, as a rule, but wherever he could obtain a hearing.

The comfortable places to preach were the exception, so much so that he notes them in his Journal, as, for example: 'a good meetinghouse, with a glass window behind the pulpit, so that we can see to read without raising a shutter and receiving all the wind that comes.' More frequently he preached in houses and barns, 'Billup's barn,' 'Walker's barn,' 'in Philip Cummin's kitchen,' and a thousand other houses. Then there were chapels where he held forth regularly on his rounds-Barratt's, Garrettson's, Lane's, Saint George's in Philadelphia, John Street in New York, Light Street in Baltimore. In what a variety of places he sounded the trumpet of the Lord!-'in a tavern,' in a 'wreck of an old Presbyterian meetinghouse, 'under an arbor near the church,' 'Culpepper courthouse' (it was here he 'heard the good news that Britain had acknowledged the independence for which America had been contending'); in an 'old meetinghouse belonging to the general Baptists,' 'Swanbury in sight of the sea,' 'in a tobacco-house, 'in a close log house, without so much as a window to give us air,' 'in a paper mill,' 'in an orchard,' in the 'poorhouse,' 'in the playhouse,' 'in the Dutch church,' 'in Coxe's Fort,' in the 'Episcopal Church,' in the 'meetinghouse of the Separatists,' 'in a small grove where we had a green carpet of nature's spreading underneath, and an umbrella of variegated leaves over us,' 'the market place in Albany,' 'at the new African church,' 'upon the banks of the Banister River,' 'Love's church, which has glass windows and a yard fenced in,' 'at Cawles's ironworks,' 'Doctor Lawrence's store,' 'in the barroom, and had life and liberty,' 'in a log cabin, scarcely fit for a stable,' 'in the elegant courthouse in New Lancaster,' 'from his carriage. On one occasion he stood in one of the windows and preached as he says, very loud to a large congregation outside; on another, in the door of the public house, with about half of his congregation outside.

He was on the watch every moment for a chance to preach. Preaching was his life. It mattered little whether there were many or few to hear him, he would deliver his soul, and pass on. God was his judge. He was not seeking for popularity. So we find him preaching 'behind the barracks, to a number of soldiers and others,' at the Ferry, 'at the gallows to a vast multitude,' again at the execution of a criminal, and yet again 'from a wagon at the execution of the prisoners'; 'at Widow Bond's to black and white, rich and poor.' Once at Tarborough he found a fire had been made in a small apartment of the courthouse and supposed the room had been ready for preaching, but discovered that it was for a dance instead. The dancing was soon stopped, and soon Asbury 'had a serious congregation to hear.' His congregations were usually serious before he had been long preaching. This was characteristic of his life and his preaching-the solemnity of living. A young man once asked Grotius for advice and was given this precept: 'Be serious.' Asbury was always serious. He had a sense of the humorous, and sometimes indulged in a play on words and other forms of pleasantry. Boehm gives several instances, and a certain playfulness of spirit is occasionally seen in his Journal, but the gravity of life and the judgment possessed him and colored all his sermons.

Asbury never preached topical sermons. There was no touch of sensationalism in his discourses, except the sensationalism of terrible reality. His views of life and the sacredness of his vocation will explain his style and method in preaching, and especially his ceaseless activities. One is impressed with his fidelity to his opportunities.

I spent part of the week in visiting from house to house. I feel happy in speaking to all I find, whether parents, children, or servants; I see no other way; the common means will not do; Baxter, Wesley, and our Form of Discipline, say 'Go into every house.' I would go farther, and say, go into every kitchen and shop; address all, aged and young, on the salvation of their souls.

He could not afford to miss an opportunity. The blood of the slain would be upon him. Therefore when he takes shelter in a house from the rain, he talks and prays with a poor woman; therefore he rides to Germantown to see aged Mother Stell, and sister Lusby, although he could hardly walk or talk, for he must needs speak to the women of the house about their souls; therefore when musing in his own mind how he could spend the morning of a certain day, he concluded to call the family into the room and address them pointedly, one by one, concerning their souls; therefore one day, having a desire to be doing good somewhere, he was led to speak to a woman unknown to him, whom he urged to pray three times a day, and received her promise with tears; therefore in whatever house he entered, private or tavern, he prayed and talked, that being, as he declared, a par of his mission. He was after souls wherever he could find them. The zeal of the Lord consumed him.

So when he spoke or preached it was with burning intensity. Terrible earnestness was characteristic of his preaching. His manner in preaching was awesome and terrifying. His journal is prolific in such impressive characterizations as : 'I delivered a close and awful discourse'; 'I was very alarming, seldom, if ever, have I felt more moved'; 'sinners, Pharisees, backsliders, hypocrites, and believers were faithfully warned'; 'I preached long, and perhaps a terrible sermon'; 'I was enabled to give a close, alarming exhortation on the alarming and awful times'; 'it was an awful talk, and the people were alarmed; let them look to it'; 'it is our duty, whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, to declare, that if they die in their sins they can expect nothing but hell and damnation.' His sermons were the result of good sense and sound wisdom, delivered with great authority and often attended with divine unction, which made them as refreshing as the dew of heaven. Many of his texts were of a nature to strike terror in the hearts of his hearers, and they were meant to do this very thing. Asbury was not like a general watching a dress parade, but as one in the forefront of the fray. He was engaged in stern business. Self-complacency, indifference, unrighteousness were implacable foes, and he used heavy guns and large ammunition, such as:

And it cam to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees: that say in their heart, The Lord will not do good, neither will he do evil (Zeph. 1:12)
. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder (Matt. 21:44).
Then whosoever heareth the sound of the trumpet, and taketh not warning; if the sword come, and take him away, his blood shall be upon his own head (Ezek. 33:4).
And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this, the judgment (Heb. 9:27).
For behold, th day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall (Mal. 4:1-2).
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God (Psa. 9:17).

These, and others of like portent, formed the ground of appeal to the fears of men. Knowing the terror of the Lord, he persuaded thereby. What a distance w have come from that kind of preaching! Sinai no longer belches forth flame and fury. His sons in the gospel have grown to be milder-mannered men! The time element played an important part in Asbury's preaching. With him it was always now, with a tremendous emphasis. He was an itinerant, he might never pass that way again, therefore he seized the moment to urge an immediate decision. He declares his purpose 'to preach present conviction, present conversion, and present sanctification.' Once at the end of a tiresome journey, he writes, 'After a little rest, I cried, "Now is the day of salvation,"' a text which he frequently used, as also this other: 'And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light!' (Rom. 13:11-12). This sense of the importance of immediate decisions gave an urgency to his appeals which was well-nigh irresistible. He would not be refused, for the time was at hand when judgment might begin. With relentless insistence he demanded that his hearers 'choose this day whom ye will serve.'

The fact that he was an itinerant preacher had this other effect also: it made him both simple and direct, and also lengthy. The way must be made plain, the truth must be comprehensively set forth. There must be no possibility of a plea of ignorance. He dealt therefore with fundamentals. When he went to Georgetown in 1785, 'I told my hearers,' he writes, 'that I expected to stay in the city but seven days; and that I should preach every night, if they would favor me with their company, and that I should speak on subjects of primary importance to their souls, and explain the essential doctrines taught and held by the Methodists.' His doctrine to set before his hearers the gospel in its fullness often led him to preach at length. He seldom took less than an hour. He mentions numerous sermons two hours long.

I was led out and we were employed until nearly twelve o'clock at night. Upon the whole, I believe we were speaking about four hours, besides nearly two spent in prayer. About six we began exhortation and prayer, and about midnight laid ourselves down to rest.

Whatever time was needed was taken, people paying in those days small heed to the slow-running sands of the hourglass. Preachers then had more than thirty minutes in which to wake the dead, if they needed it. Sermons in those days were not judged by the clock or measured with the yardstick, but by effects and results.

Asbury was a good sermonizer. He knew how sermons ought to be made and how they should be preached. His comments on sermons and preachers were keen. Hearing Rankin, he found him 'wanting' as a preacher. After listening to an exhortation of Isaac Rawling, which he thought 'coarse and loud enough, though with some depth,' he gave him proper advice, which, fortunately no doubt, 'he seemed willing to take.' Again: '---as usual, made a mighty clatter in the pulpit about Noah's ark.' 'Afterward went to church and heard J. Cromwell, an original indeed-no man's copy.' On another occasion he wrote concerning this same Cromwell: 'He is the only man I have heard in America with whose speaking I am never tired; I always admire his unaffected simplicity.' Of another he remarked: 'He uses a few pompous, swelling words, which pass for something great among shortsighted people, but are not calculated to do much spiritual good.' Of still another preacher: 'I heard Dr. - blow away on "This is the day that the Lord hath made." He makes a strange medley of his preaching; though he tells many good things, yet, for want of some arrangement of his ideas, all appears to be incoherency and confusion.' He is no whit less severe with himself, however. 'I roared out wonderfully'; my mind was shut up, and I had no power to speak to the people'; 'bore a feeble testimony for nearly an hour'; 'I raged and threatened the people, and was afraid it was spleen'; 'I preached and stormed a great deal,' are some of his comments on his own public work. He doubtless did have his 'hard times' like all preachers, ancient and modern. There were times when he would not even attempt to preach: 'I chose not to preach while my mind was clogged by business with so many persons and on so many subjects.' The marvel is, when one remembers his long and continuous journeyings, the thousand burdens which he carried wherever he went, the exacting demands upon all his energies during all his waking hours, the inability to find quiet places for meditation where he was entertained, that he could preach with any effectiveness whatsoever. Yet he did. The denominational progress which was made in the first half century was due largely to preaching, and indeed, to his preaching.

Early Methodist preaching had several characteristics which account for its immeasurable power. The preachers believed themselves called of God, and as a result were in deadly earnest whenever they discoursed. Believing further that they were to be, as Wesley urged, -men of one book,' they lived in the Book, accepting it as a divine revelation, and their sermons, therefore, were biblical through and through. The prayer element also vitally entered into Methodist sermon-making, Methodist sermons, and Methodist preaching. Asbury prayed much. When he did not pray enough the outcome was disastrous: 'Talking too much, and praying too little, cause me to feel barrenness of soul' But it was not for lack of prayer that his sermons did not go well. No one of his colleagues prayed more than he did.

One who was intimately acquainted with Asbury and heard him preach frequently, said, 'Asbury was the only preacher who preached to his text. He never preached from it, as many do who select a passage as the mere theme of a discourse, the discussion of which would be as applicable to an axiom of Coleridge as to the text, but he would start a proposition, and in its elaboration, would come directly to the text. With him proposition, argument, illustration, incident, everything was either immediately drawn from or directly connected with the subject of discourse.' That is high praise. To go straight to the heart of a text, is not that the highest art of preaching?

The Bible furnished Asbury not only his texts but also the substance of his discourses. 'Arose, as I commonly do, before five o'clock in the morning,' he once said early in his ministry, 'to study the Bible. I find none like it; and find it of more consequence to a preacher to know his Bible well than all the languages or books in the world, for he is not to preach these, but the Word of God.' He knew his Bible thoroughly, reading it through frequently, and poring over its pages daily for spiritual illumination and exegetical material. It almost passes understanding that a delicate, suffering man, traveling incessantly, burdened with the care of many churches, writing many letters, praying much, could give so much time to the reading of the Bible. But the Book of God was his delight, and his sermons disclose this fact. They abound in Scripture quotations, their phraseology is flavored with the sacred dialect of the English Bible, biblical illustrations are numerous. He always preached as one who knew not only the form of revelation, but the heart also. He had found the way to the inner shrine of the mystery and dwelt there, and from that holy place declared the oracles of God.

One may quickly discover what he preached about from a perusal of his Journal. There will be found references to thousands of sermons, the texts of which are given in about seven hundred instances, and outlines in one hundred and seventy-five. The study of Asbury's texts and outlines is a very interesting one. Of the outlines eleven appear in the first volume, covering the years 1771-1786; eighty-seven in the second volume, 1786-1800; and seventy-seven in the third volume, 1801-1815. While Asbury was very much at home in the Old Testament, only forty-one are from that portion of the Bible, and sixteen of these are from Isaiah and the Psalms. From the New Testament he takes one hundred and twenty, twenty-four from the Gospels, eleven from Acts, eighty-one from the Epistles, and four from the Apocalypse. About this same ratio holds where he names his texts, but does not give his method of treatment. He seems not to have followed any plan in the choice of texts. Naturally, he used the same text more than once, some texts very often. Now and then he makes use of the same text on successive days or several times within a short period, and then again months or years later. In Philadelphia in 1809 it was recollected that he had preached on the same subject in the same place in 1771. He had a custom of taking texts from the portion of Scripture which he was reading at the time, and it is easy to discover from his Journal when he was reading First and Second Chronicles, for example, or other scriptures, but he seldom made use of such texts the second time. There are exceptions of course. He was peculiarly apt in the choice of subjects and texts. Hearing that peace had been confirmed between England and America, he says, 'Believing the report to be true, I took some notice of it while I treated on Acts 10. 36, at brother Clayton's near Halifax, where they were firing their cannons, and rejoicing in their way, on the occasion.' In time of drought in Kentucky he preached from 'If the Lord shut up the heavens that it rain not,' etc. To soldiers, 'And the soldiers came and inquired, and what shall we do?' Boehm relates that he was often startled when he heard him read his text and announce his theme, at his power of adaptation, and gives this incident: 'At a certain place where he was expected they announced him in the newspapers to preach on a special subject. He know nothing of it before his arrival, and that was just before the service commenced. To their astonishment he read his text, "I speak not by commandment, but by reason of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love."'

He was very careful in his observance of Good Friday, Easter, and Christmas, and preached sermons appropriate to those occasions. Such entries as these are common in his Journal:

Being Easter-day, I preached at the Manakintown on Colos. 3. 1-4, with some freedom. This being Good Friday, I preached from these pathetic words of Christ, 'Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.' Being Christmas day, I preached from 1 Tim. 1. 15: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.' My spirit was at liberty, and we were much blessed, both in preaching and class-meeting. Hereto the Lord hat helped me both in soul and body, beyond my expectation. May I cheerfully do and suffer all his will, endure to the end, and be eternally saved.

Two years later, in 1777, he uses the same text for his Christmas sermon, and on many occasions through his entire ministry. It was his favorite text, for in at least two places in his Journal he so calls it. One can almost hear the noble preacher exult in his possession. He knew by a blessed experience the truth of the message committed to him, Jesus Christ a person Saviour from all sin. This is the imperial theme of his long ministry, salvation in Jesus Christ - "The great salvation,' as Bishop Asbury was fond of characterizing it.

Another text which he makes use of with almost the same conspicuous frequency sounds the same lofty, joyous note: 'Men and brethren, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you feareth God, to you is the word of this salvation sent' (Acts 13. 26). This was the central doctrine of his preaching, salvation as gracious gift. Late in his life, the last year of his journeyings, he gives an outline of his sermon on this text

In Asbury's Body of Divinity, repentance, conversion, and regeneration had their places and were faithfully preached. Sanctification was a constant theme. At one time he laments that he has not preached it oftener, at another he vows to touch upon it in every sermon, and throughout his entire life he is constantly longing for more of the fullness of God. In preaching concerning sanctification he sometimes used the text: 'Be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless,' outlining it thus: '1. In justification we have peace; 2. In sanctification we are without spot; 3. In perfect love we are blameless; 4. Wherein we must be diligent.' On the same page of the Journal where the above is found there may be seen another outline, which gives an admirable idea of the way Asbury handled texts and subjects. The occasion was a quarterly meeting, the text, 'Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood' (Acts 20. 28). 'After showing to whom the charge was given I proceeded to enforce the subject thus: 1. Take heed to your spirits; 2. Take heed to your practice; 3. Take heed to your doctrine; 4. Take heed to the flock: (1) Those that are under deep conviction, (2) Those that are true believers, (3) Those that are sorely tempted, (4) Those that are groaning for full redemption, and (5) Those that have backslidden. I then urged the motives to this duty.' Knowing the preacher, you can almost hear him as he importunately, passionately urges them to 'take heed.' Asbury always felt that preaching was serious business. Before him always was the judgment. The day of the Lord was drawing hear. The time of reckoning was hastening on, when every man must give an account of the deeds done in the body. It was an 'awful day' to Asbury, as real as his own birthday. In all his preaching it was formidable and frowning like some gigantic cliff. Whenever he preached before judges, as he frequently did, like Wesley he preached on 'The Great Assize.' In New York he writes, 'In the evening I was enabled to preach with power, on the awful subject of the Judgment.' With what solemn sense of responsibility he must have unfolded, as he swung perennially around his great circuit, the revelation which came to Saint John:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.

Death, judgment, heaven, hell, immortality, eternity were terrible realities, and were faithfully portrayed. After death cometh the judgment, but before death there was hope for every man. 'Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty,' was the God-given appeal ever upon his lips. He preached the fall of man, by original and actual transgression, sinners being altogether born in sin; lost as to strength, and wisdom, and righteousness. But he never failed to portray at the same time the character of Christ, the only Saviour, in Deity, in his humanity, suffering, resurrection, ascension, and mediation, or to unfold the gospel method of salvation.

The effects and results of his preaching were seemingly variable, especially upon himself. Whenever in his Journal he mentions having preached, he usually writes down a diagnosis of his own feelings, or describes the effect upon the people. 'I had very little life in preaching to a few deal souls'; 'the Spirit of the Lord came among the people, and sinners cried aloud for mercy'; 'there was a divine stir in the congregation'; 'a melting season'; 'had a heavy time'; 'a dry time'; 'a dull time'; 'a free, open time'; 'an awful time'; 'a time of comfort'; 'the people felt the word'; 'a warm sermon, at which many were offended'; 'there was a shaking'; 'I left my hearers as I found them-blind'; 'O how different was it from the effect produced on Tuesday last, when discoursing on the same text!' 'all death! death! death!' are sample of his impressions and sensations. It must not be forgotten in any estimate of Asbury as a preacher that he was ill almost continuously throughout his life, and seldom without pain. At times he was so weak that he had to be carried out and placed upon his horse, and, when the day's journey was at an end, lifted from the horse and carried into the house. Scarcely a day passes that he does not make some mention of suffering. He glories in tribulations. He speaks of sickness as a cross given him to bear. He actually rejoiced in this, for thus he bore in his body the marks of the dying of the Lord Jesus. What tempests of concern swept his soul! What understanding of woe drove him forward, what experience of the amazing mercies of God urged his aching feet! 'If we could but see by faith the danger to which poor unpardoned sinners are continually exposed,' he cries, 'if we could but have a realizing view of that unquenchable fire into which they must be plunged, dying in their present state, how could we rest day or night from using all possible endeavors to prevent their eternal damnation?' What were sufferings, what hardships, what unceasing toils, when souls were perishing, and from the bottomless pit the cries of the lost were ever rising? His heart was fixed, and pain was naught, for since Christ had been wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities, he also would die daily that men might be saved. Asbury's preaching is inseparably connected with his many illnesses, his deep melancholy, his mercurial temperament, and his fervid mysticism.

How may Asbury be ranked as a preacher? Was he a great preacher? John Dickins felt that he had effectively disposed of the charge of ambition often urged against Asbury when he said if Asbury had been ambitious, he would never have had men for traveling companions who, in the popular estimation, preached far better than he did. Benjamin M. Adams told me that Miss Mary Garrettson, the accomplished daughter of Freeborn Garrettson, in whose home on the Hudson Asbury was a frequent and welcome guest, said it was always noticed that Bishop Asbury in his pulpit ministrations prayed better than he preached. On the other hand, Henry Fowler, in The American Pulpit, published in 1856, says: "Of all Methodist preachers, Bishop Asbury stands at the head, if, indeed, he does not rank first in importance, of all American preachers." Likewise, Philip Schaff, in his introduction to Lange's Commentary on Matthew, ranks Asbury among the eloquent preachers of America.

Lednum relates that he often said he had raised up many a son in the gospel who could outpreach him, but never one who could outsing him. Early Methodism produced many mighty preachers. Jesse Lee was a powerful preacher, so was Nicholas Snethen, and William McKendree, and George Roberts, and Ezekiel Cooper. Was Asbury also an unusual preacher? Boehm, Asbury's traveling companion for a longer time than any other man, thought so. 'It has been supposed,' he writes in his Reminiscences, 'that he was an inferior preacher, though superior as a governor. But this is a mistake. I have heard him over fifteen hundred times. His sermons were scripturally rich. He was a well-instructed scribe, "bringing out of his treasury things new and old." He was a good expounder of the Word of God, giving the meaning of the writer, the mind of the Spirit. He was wise in his selections of texts. There was a rich variety in his sermons. No tedious sameness; no repeating old stale truths. He could be a son of thunder and consolation. There was a variety both in matter and manner. He was great at camp meetings, on funeral occasions, and at ordinations. I have heard him preach fifty ordination sermons, and they were among the most impressive I have ever heard.' This is expert testimony. One who has listened to fifteen hundred sermons from any man has earned the right to an opinion.

He sometimes disappointed the expectations of his hearers, and deliberately too. 'The people thought I must speak like thunder to be a great preacher,' he said; 'I shall not throw myself into an unnatural heat or overstrained exertions.' He was not one to strive for effects, but for results. He was ardent, enthusiastic, with glowing lips and a throbbing heart. It is interesting to hear him characterize his own style: 'Now that my mind is in a great measure lightened of its load of thought and labor for the Conference, I feel uncommon light and energy in preaching: I am not prolix; neither am I tame; I am rapid, and nothing freezes on my lips.' Was Asbury a great preacher? If a mind acted upon by the Holy Spirit, if a heart suffused with spiritual passion, if a life surcharged with gospel dynamics-if these, flowing into speech as molten iron is poured into prepared forms, constitute a preacher great, then Asbury was a great preacher. If to speak with authority as the accredited messenger of God; to have credentials which bear the seal of heaven; to have a voice keyed to the theme of the centuries; if when he lifted the trumpet to his lips the Almighty blew the blast; if to be conscious of an ever-present sense of God, God the Summoner, God the Anointing One, God the Judge, and to project it into speech which would make his hearers tremble, smite them with terror, and cause them to fall as dead men; if to be and do all this would entitle a man to be called a great preacher, then Asbury was a great preacher.


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