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When the independence of the American states was acknowledged by the British Government, and peace was established between the two countries, Mr. Wesley received from Mr. Asbury a full and particular account of the progress of the work during the war, and especially of the division which had taken place, and the difficulties he had to encounter before it was healed. He also informed Mr. Wesley of the extreme uneasiness of the people for want of the sacraments; that thousands of their children were unbaptized, and that the generality of the members of the society had not received the Lord's Supper for many years. Mr. Wesley having seriously considered the subject, informed Dr. Coke of his design of drawing up a plan of church-government, and of establishing an ordination for the Methodists in America. But being somewhat timid in taking so new a step, and to which some would strongly object, he took time for further consideration, and suspended the execution of his plan for more than a year.
At the Conference held in Leeds, in 1784, he declared his intention of sending Dr. Coke and some other preachers to America; and Mr. Richard Whatcoat and Mr. Thomas Vasey offered themselves to accompany the Doctor to America, and to remain there; and the offer was accepted. Before they embarked Mr. Wesley made an abridgment of the common prayer-book of the church
of England, and desired Dr. Coke to meet him in • Bristol, to receive fuller powers for the important
mission upon which he was going. The Reverend Mr. Creighton, a clergyman in connexion with Mr. Wesley, and who officiated at Mr. Wesley's chapels in London, was also invited to Bristol. The Doctor and Mr. Creighton repaired to Bristol accordingly: with their assistance, Mr. Wesley
ordained Mr. Whatcoat and Mr. Vasey presbyters for America. Afterwards he ordained Dr. Coke a superintendent, or bishop, giving him letters of ordination as such, under his hand and seal.
This part of the work of preparation being finished, Mr. Wesley gave Dr. Coke the letter, of which the following is an exact copy, which was to be printed and circulated in America :
BRISTOL, Sept. 10, 1784. l, Mr. Asbury, and our brethren in
North America. 1. By a very uncommon train of providences many of the provinces of North America are totally disjoined from their mother-country, and erected into independent states. The English Government has no authority over them, either civil or ecclesiastical, any more than over the states of Holland. A civil authority is exercised over them, partly by the Congress, partly by the Provincial Assemblies. But no one either exercises or claims any ecclesiastical authority at all. In this peculiar situation some thousands of the inhabitants of these states desire my advice; and in compliance with their desire, I have drawn up a little sketch.
2. Lord King's Account of the Primitive Church convinced me many years ago, that bishops and presbyters are the same order, and consequently have the same right to ordain. For many years I have been importuned from time to time, to exercise this right, by ordaining part of our travelling preachers. But I have still refused, not only for peace sake, but because I was determined as little as possible to violate the established order of the national church to which I belonged.
3. But the case is widely different between England and North-America. Here there are
bishops who have a legal jurisdiction ; in America there are none, neither any parish ministers : so that for some hundred miles together there is none either to baptise or to administer the Lord's Sup. per. Here therefore my scruples are at an end; and I conceive myself at full liberty, as I violate no order and invade no man's right, by appointing and sending labourers into the harvest.
4. I have accordingly appointed Dr. Coke and Mr. Francis Asbury, to be joint superintendents over our brethren in North America: as also Richard Whatcoat and Thomas Vasey, to act as elders among them, by baptizing and administering the Lord's Supper. And I have prepared a liturgy, little differing from that of the church of England, (I think, the best constituted national church in the world) which I advise all the travelling preachers to use on the Lord's-day, in all the congregations, reading the Litany only on Wed. nesdays and Fridays, and praying extempore on all other days. I also advise the elders to admi. nister the Supper of the Lord on every Lord'sday.
5. If any one will point out a more rational and scriptural way of feeding and guiding those poor sheep in the wilderness, I will gladly embrace it. At present I cannot see any better method than that I have taken.
6. It has indeed been proposed, to desire the English bishops to ordain part of our preachers for America. But to this I object, 1. I desired the Bishop of London to ordain only one, but could not prevail. 2. If they consented, we know the slowness of their proceedings; but the matter admits of no delay. 3. If they would ordain them now, they would likewise expect to govern them; and how grievously would this intangle us? 4. As our American brethren are now totally
disentangled, both from the state, and from the English hierarchy, we dare not intangle them again, either with the one or the other. They are now at full liberty, simply to follow the scrip. tures and the primitive church. And we judge it best that they should stand fast in that liberty, wherewith God has so strangely made them free.
JOHN WESLEY. Possessed of this letter, and every other credential and direction that was thought necessary, the Doctor and his companions embarked and crossed the Atlantic. .
Upon looking over his Journal, an extract of which was published by him, it struck me that I should defraud the reader of both pleasure and profit, if I did not insert what he wrote on his voyage, and when he landed in America. It gives a very interesting view of his manner of spending his time, while confined week after week upon the mighty waters, as well as manifests great piety, ardent zeal, and a sweet and comfortable state of mind. And we see in this journal, that his chief studies in the ship were such as more immediately related to the business upon which he was going, namely, the propagation of the gospel, and more especially the formation of a new episcopal church. Hence we find him reading the lives of those most eminent missionaries Francis Xavier and David Brainerd, and Bishop Hoadley's Treatises on Con. formity and Episcopacy; and we find him making some use of his observations on the Bishop's Treatises, when he preached at the ordination or consecration of Mr. Asbury to the office of superintendent or bishop of the Methodist episcopal church in America. And in the latter part of that sermon, when he gives the picture of a true Ciristian bishop, he seems to have taken some of his ideas from the characters of Xavier and Brai. nerd. Occasionally, however, we see he unbent his mind, by reading the works of Virgil. But while he thus followed his studies, as if at home and in his chamber, we find that he and his companions diligently exercised the ministerial functions among those on board, during the whole of the voyage. And I am the more disposed to insert his Journal, and to make these observations upon it, as it may be considered as a specimen of the way in which he employed himself, and the spirit which he manifested in the many long voyages which he took in more than thirty years. But I will detain the reader no longer from hearing the Doctor tell his own tale.
DR. COKE'S FIRST JOURNAL
September 18, 1784. AT ten in the morning we sailed from KingRoad for. New-York. A breeze soon sprung up, which carried us, with the help of the tides, about a hundred leagues from Bristol by Monday morning. St. Austin's Meditations were this day made no small blessing to my soul.
Sunday, 19. This day we intended to give two