Monday, January 2, 2012

Francis Asbury 1745-1816

Francis Asbury was born in 1745 to a poor family living near Hampstead Bridge in England. His mother and father were among the first converts of John Wesley founder of Methodism. His parents became Christians after the death of his sister; Asbury's only sibling.

His mother chose to surround her remaining child with the Scriptures, prayer, and the joyous singing of hymns. She graciously opened her home to Christians whom she felt would be a good influence upon her cherished boy.

Asbury declared: 
“I abhorred mischief and wickedness, although my mates were among the vilest of the vile for lying, swearing, fighting, and whatever else boys of their age and evil habits were likely to be guilty of. From such society I very often returned home uneasy and melancholy.”

Francis was often ridiculed by his peers for his strong principles and convictions. Furthermore, his peers mocked him for the many Christians who were to visit his home. Methodism was considered a crazy new religion and adherents to the faith were often persecuted. He experienced cutting insults from his peers who jeered at him with taunts calling him “Methodist Parson.”

Francis asked his mother keen perceptive questions concerning Methodism when he was thirteen years old. At his mothers request, a friend of the family took Francis to Wednesbury, England to attend a Methodist service. Asbury experienced Methodism for himself and was impressed by the spontaneity of the service.

“This was not the Church but it was better. The people were so devout, men and women kneeling down, saying 'Amen.' Now, behold! They were singing hymns, sweet sound! Why, strange to tell! The preacher had no prayer book, and yet he prayed wonderfully! What was yet more extraordinary, the man took his text and had no sermon book: thought I, this is wonderful indeed! It is certainly a strange way, but the best way.”

Asbury and a Christian friend were praying in the loft of his father's barn when he gave his life to Jesus Christ trusting Him as Savior and Lord.

He felt a strong call to participate in the fulfillment of Christ's Great Commission.

Although he continued to work as a blacksmith's apprentice; at the age of seventeen he became an itinerant preacher traveling throughout his neighborhood.

At the age of twenty, Francis Asbury began ministering full-time; preaching in a circuit in Methodist churches throughout England.

John Wesley called for Methodist preachers to emigrate to America. On August 7, 1771, he answered Wesley's call and chose to immigrate to America at the age of 21.

Wesley boldly proclaimed, “Our brethren in America call aloud for help!” Francis Asbury chose to answer the call affirming the Scripture, “Here I am send me.”

Francis Asbury was chosen to become one of two Methodist superintendents when he arrived in America. His title was changed to “bishop” while serving in a leadership capacity in the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was under his leadership that Methodism grew in the young fledgling nation. Asbury's life and conduct as well as his message defined the role of a Methodist itinerant preacher.

Go into every kitchen and shop; address all, aged and young, on the salvation of their souls” became the motto to which he aspired. At his urging, other Methodist preachers followed in his footsteps.

He became a 'circuit riding preacher' who traveled throughout America on horseback. He preached in the open air, homes, meeting houses, camp meetings, conventions, and spiritual revivals.
Francis Asbury spent his life spreading Methodism throughout the young nation. As an itinerant preacher, Asbury traveled constantly for forty-five years and traveled nearly three hundred thousand miles throughout the nation. He traveled throughout the country mostly on horseback and crossed the Appalachian mountains more than sixty times. Francis Asbury followed in the footsteps of his Lord and Savior of whom the Scriptures declare “foxes have homes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to rest his head.” Asbury had no home of his own and found shelter wherever his Lord would lead.

There were 300 Methodists and four ministers in America when Francis Asbury arrived on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean of the young nation in 1771. Methodism spread to every state in the Union in 1816 when he died. He preached more than 16,000 sermons and ordained over 4,000 ministers. There were more than 214,000 Methodist in America when he left the shores of America to step into the shores of heaven.

Most dear and tender friends: 
Whose I am, and whom under God I desire to serve; to build you up in holiness and comfort hath been through grace my great ambition. This is that which I laboured for; this is that which I suffered for: and in short, the end of all my applications to you, and to GOD for you. How do your souls prosper? Are they in a thriving case? What progress do you make in sanctification? Both the house of Saul grow weaker and weaker, and the house of David stronger and stronger? Beloved, I am jealous with a godly jealously, lest any of you should lose ground in these declining times: and therefore cannot but be often calling upon you to look to your standing, and to watch and hold fast, that no man take your crown. Ah! How surely shall you reap in the end, if you faint not! Take heed therefore that you lose not the things you have wrought, but as you have begun well, so go on in the strength of Christ, and give diligence to the full assurance of hope to the end. 
Do you need motives? 1. How much are you behind hand? Oh, the fair advantages that we have lost! What time, what sabbaths, sermons, sacraments, are upon the matter lost! How much work have we yet to do! Are you sure of heaven yet? Are you fit to die yet? Surely they that are under so many great wants, had need to set upon some more thriving courses. 
Secondly, Consider what others have gained, whilst we, it may be, sit down by the loss: Have we not met many vessels richly laden, while our souls are empty? Oh, the golden prizes that some have won! While we have folded the hands to sleep, have not many of our own standing in religion, left us far behind them?

Thirdly, Consider you will find little enough when you come to die: The wife among the virgins has no oil to spare at the coming of the bridegroom; temptation and death will put all your graces to it. How much ado have many had at last to put into this harbour! David cried for respite till he had recovered a little more strength. 
Fourthly, Consider how short your time for gathering in probably is? The Israelites gathered twice so much manna against the sabbath as they did at other times, because at that time there was no manna fell. Brethren, you know not how long you have to lay in for. Do you ask for marks, how you may know your souls to be in a thriving case? 
First, If your appetite be more strong. Do you thirst after GOD and grace, more than heretofore? Do your care for and desires after the world abate? And do you hunger and thirst after righteousness? Whereas you were won't to come with an ill-will to holy duties, do you now come to them as hungry stomach to its meat?

Secondly, If your pulses beat more even. Are you still off and on, hot or cold? Or is there a more even spun thread of holiness through your whole course? Do you make good the ground from which you were formerly beaten off? 
Thirdly, if you do look more to the carrying on together the duties of both tables.
Do you not only look to the keeping of your own vineyards, but do you lay out yourselves for the good of others? And are ye filled with zealous desires for their conversion and salvation? Do you manage your talk and your trade, by the rules of religion?

Do you eat and sleep by rule? Doth religion form and mould, and direct your carriage towards husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants? Do you grow more universally conscientious? Is piety more diffusive than ever with you? Doth it come more abroad with you, out of your closets, into your houses, your shops, your fields? Doth it journey with you, and buy and sell for you? Hath it the casting voice in all you do?

Fourthly, If the duties of religion be more delightful to you. Do you take more delight in the word than ever? Are you more in love with secret prayer, and more abundant in it? Cannot you be content with your ordinary seasons, but are ever and anon making extraordinary visits to heaven? And upon all occasions turning aside to talk with God in some short ejaculations? Are you often darting up your soul heavenwards? Is it meat and drink for you to do the will of GOD? Do you come off more freely with GOD, and answer his calls with more readiness of mind? 
Fifthly, If you are more abundant in those duties which are most displeasing to the flesh. Are you more earnest in mortification? Are you more strict and severe than ever in the duty of daily self-examination, and holy meditation? Do you hold the reins harder upon the flesh than ever? Do you keep a stricter watch upon your appetites? Do you set a stronger guard upon your tongues? Have you a more jealous eye upon your hearts?

Sixthly, If you grow more vile in your own eyes. Do you grow more out of love with men's esteem, and set less by it? Are you not marvelous tender, of being slighted? Can you rejoice to see others preferred before you? Can you heartily value and love them that think meanly of you? 
Seventhly, If you grow more quick of sense, more sensible of divine influences, or withdrawings. Are you more afraid of sin than ever? Are your sins a greater pain to you than heretofore? Are your very infirmities your great afflictions? And the daily working of corruption a continued grief of mind to you?

I must conclude abruptly, commending you to GOD,and can only tell you that I am
Yours in the Lord Jesus, 
The Arminian Magazine, II
(Philadelphia, 1790), 251-54

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