Selected Readings from Francis Asbury’s Journal

Francis Asbury
Francis Asbury

Sunday, November 14, 1784 – I came to Barratt’s chapel: here, to my great joy, I met these dear men of God, Dr. Coke, and Richard Whatcoat, we were greatly comforted together. The Doctor preached on “Christ our Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption.” Having had no opportunity of conversing with them before pubic worship, I was grealy surprised to see brother Whatcoat assist by taking the cup in the administration of the sacrament. [ED: Apparently Asbury was unaware that Whatcoat had been ordained by Wesley on September 2.] I was shocked when first informed of the intention of these my brethren in coming to this country [ED: To ordain Asbury and make him co-Superintendent with Coke]: it may be of God. My answer then was, if the preachers unanimously choose me, I shall not act in the capacity I have hitherto done by Mr. Wesley’s appointment. The design of organizing the Methodists into an Independent Episcopal Church was opened to the preachers present, and it was agreed to call a general conference, to meet at Baltimore the ensuing Christmas; as also that brother Garrettson [Freeborn Garrettson] go off to Virginia to give notice thereof to our brethren in the south [ED: O, for the want of e-mail!]

Sunday, December 12, 1784 – At The Point my heart was made to feel for the people, while I enlarged on, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” etc. I was close and fervent in town at four o’clock. A young man pushed the door open while we were meeting in society; he was carried before a justice of the peace, and committed to jail, but he was bailed out.

Friday, December 24, 1784 – We rode to Baltimore, where we met a few preachers; it was agreed to form ourselves into an Episcopal Church, and to have superintendents, elders, and deacons. When the conference was seated, Dr. Coke and myself were unanimously elected to the superintendency of the Church, and my ordination followed, after being previously ordained deacon and elder, as by the following certificate may be seen. [ED: There follows in his journal the words of his ordination certificate signed by Thomas Coke.]

Francis Asbury
Francis Asbury

Monday, January 3, 1785 – The conference is risen, and I have now a little time for rest. In the evening I preached on Ephesians 3:18, being the first sermon after my ordination; my mind was unsettled and I was but low in my own testimony. [ED: Apparently, Asbury didn’t much like his own sermon!]

Tuesday, January 4, 1785 – I was engaged preparing for my journey southward. Rode fifty miles through frost and snow to Fairfax, Virginia, and got in about seven o’clock.

Wednesday, January 5, 1785 – We had an exceeding cold ride to Prince William – little less than forty miles, and were nearly two hours after night in getting to brother Hale’s.

Sunday, January 16, 1785 – Although there was only a probability of my coming, a few people met at Doby’s store, where I preached with some life, on John 3:19-21.

Tuesday, January 18, 1785 – Brother Willis was ordained elder at Carter’s church; the Lord was with us in this, the sacrament, and the love feast; and all was in life.

Sunday, February 6, 1785 – Yesterday some were prevented from offering their children to God in baptism by a zealous Baptist: to-day brother Willis spoke on the right of infants to baptism; our opposer soon took his leave.

Tuesday, February 8, 1785 – I observed this as a day of abstinence. I preached and administered the sacrament [ED: something Asbury would have been unable to do prior to his ordination a month and a half before]; held a love feast – our friends were greatly comforted. Here I plunged four adults, at their own request, they being persuaded that this was the most proper mode of baptism. [ED: Methodists are not opposed to immersion; we only believe the amount of water doesn’t matter. So we will do immersion baptisms for adults, as Asbury did here.]

Hopefully, this gives you a flavor for Asbury and what his life was like in the months after his ordination. We’ll return to his Journal in later posts.

Next time, we’ll examine growing tension between the Americans and the aging Mr. Wesley back in England. The pledge of loyalty to Mr. Wesley made at the Christmas Conference will go by the wayside.

(Source: “The Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury: Vol 1, The Journal”)

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