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Past and Present
My First Colleague - A Character


Among the various relationships that subsist among men, whether civil, social, domestic, or ecclesiastical, none is more peculiar than that which exists between ministerial colleagues in a Methodist circuit. There is something like it, perhaps, in the “joint pastorship” which sometimes, though rarely, takes place in other communities. It is a relation calculated to afford each other a great deal of pleasure and assistance; or a great deal of pain and annoyance, if not injury. The former, if they are congenial spirits and good men, as they generally are; and the latter, if they are the reverse, whieh is sometimes the case with one or the other. No doubt my brethren have had much to bear with in me; I have certainly had something to bear with in some of them. But generally they were good and amiable; men from whose society I derived both pleasure and instruction, as well as spiritual profit.

Among them all, however, none are recollected with more pleasure, than my first colleague.. Not only because he. was the FIRST, but because he was perhaps the most amiable. Indeed*, he was a general favourite, a sort of pet, wherever he was known. This, together with a kind of child-like simplicity in the man, led to his being almost universally designated by the endearing derivative of “Johnny.”

A strange, though amiable specimen of humanity he was, surely. He was a native of that u green isle of the sea, which has given birth to so many ’distinguished men. He was from the County of Wexford; and although a man of intelligence and much refinement, he had not wholly thrown off the peculiar brogue of that province—this being invariably substituted by God. ”This made with wind in his mouth. This Irish accent, with a certain sharpness or shrillness of voice and quickness of utterance, joined to a style peculiarly terse and laconic, made his colloquial and public discourses very remarkable, and, to a stranger, even laughable. He was known to throw a whole company into a burst of laughter, by asking the Lord, in his usually hurried manner, as a grace at table, to “bless the productions of the land, through Jesus Christ!” A comprehensive request you will say, though short. What added to the laughter-provoking quality of what he said, was the exuberant flow of wit and humour, especially the latter, by which hi£ spirit ’was characterized. He was innocent and playful as a child, yet no trifler. His was the true Christian cheerfulness-. He was a man deeply devoted to God, very faithful in his work; and for many y'ears enjoyed the blessing of “ perfect love.”

I shall never forget tec warm fraternal greeting I received from him when I came to his help in the old circuit; or the pathos with which he took his leave of me, at the end of four months, when he took his departure for the Conference* I was to remain alone with the sheep in the wilderness ; and he was about to gallop off and meet his brethren. We had met On horseback in the road; I moved slowly and sadly onwards towards my appointment for the evening, I involuntarily turned my head to catch another glance of him and his travelling companion, and observed that he had wheeled his horse around, and waving his hand he pronounced the words “Farewell, Johnny!” with a tenderness that broke up the flood-gates of emotion, and I went on weeping. Oh, he had been kind to me. We had long rides, hard labor, md hard fare, with little pay; but then we met once a fortnight ( and heard each other preach alternately. And his more than brotherly kindness, sprightly conversation, with his shrill and animating exclamation—“Fine times! fine times!”—comforted me much! No wonder, therefore, that I felt on parting with him.

We were destined to meet and labor together again. It was far, far from our former field of united labour; a land of mountains, and rivers, and forests, comprehending a wide extent of country, peopled by an hospitable class of persons, among whom we labored with much satisfaction; and where we saw some glorious displays of the saving power of God.

When I first saw my friend, he was unmarried, and what would be called young, tall, and graceful. At my second appointment with him, he was married, and his wife was one of the most kind-hearted Christian ladies I ever had the happiness to know. Their home was a paradise to me, a lonely wanderer.

I might tell many queer things of this amiably eccentric man, but a few must suffice. He was distinguished for the use of texts appropriate to the time, or occasion, some of which were odd enough. In the spring time you would have heard him—for he was a great lover of nature and viewed it with a poet’s eye, and listened to its voice with a poet’s ear—you would have heard him, I say, dilating on the goodness of the Creator, in sending another vernal season, from—“Thou renewest the face of the earth.” In this sermon, trees and woods, and lawns, and birds, and beasts, and flowers, were all brought to perform a conspicuous and useful part He seemed to act on the maxim that there were "Books in running brooks Sermons in stones, And good in every thing.”

At a time when there was a great commotion in the country because of a bill brought into the legislature, to place all who were not British-born subjects under great civil and social disabilities, called the “Alien Bill,” he lifted up his voice and reminded the people of a still greater danger they were overlooking—their being “strangers from the covenant of promise, and aliens from the common-wealth of Israel.” At the exciting periods of election, he was wont to urge with pathetic earnestness the apostolic admonition, u Wherefore, the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure.

He was a great admirer of “Thompson’s Seasons,” and at the appropriate time, often in that poet’s words, he did not forget to remind the husbandman, in his usually rural circuits, of the bounteousness of a gracious Providence in giving them another “golden harvest.”

His funeral texts were usually striking and appropriate, though sometimes unusual. I knew him to preach the funeral sermon of a strong-minded, intelligent old Methodist lady of many years standing, from the inspired testimony to Abigal, the wife of Nabal: “She was a woman of good understanding.” Our second field of joint labor was not less than fifty miles long; and it was often a puzzle to the friends to know where to find us in an emergency. A highly respectable member of the church had died, the mother of a Captain S-, but neither of us could be obtained to attend to the funeral. However, one of Br. B’s appointments falling in that neighborhood the following Sunday, and there being an infant to be interred (for all which it was customary to have a sermon) he disposed of the case of both, from the appropriate words—“The great and small are there”—that is, in the grave.

He turned everything to good account. The circuit last referred to was intersected from end to end by a wide and rapid river. This was a never failing source of poetic allusion and pleasing illustration.

His prayers were characterized by simplicity and child-like confidence. Oh, it was a comfort to hear him pray—or rather, to join with him in prayer. They were beautifully appropriate, especially his domestic ones—his prayers in the several families. He had an uncommon faculty of ingratiating himself with the children (for these he had a great fondness) and servants, of learning their names, every one of which, and all their circumstances, were remembered at a throne of grace. His scripture lessons were short, wisely selected, and well read. He prayed in his own, and the families of those with whom he stopped, three times a day; and at noon the obligations to Divine Benevolence were duly acknowledged for the mercies of the day, and for the remaining half at night. Nothing could disturb his equanimity, or ruffle his temper. The striking of the clock while he was praying, has been known to be taken notice of by him, and to furnish food and materials for devotion by reminding him of the flight of time. Apropos, of interruptions in prayer I have a story to tell;—when he and I were appointed to the 0-Circuit, we found ourselves planned for two Sundays in the month, at 10 A. M., in the village of St. A’s. We had no church in which to worship at that time; but had to hold our meetings in a school-house, directly across the way from the “English church.” Their service began at eleven; and they rang their church bell just one quarter of an hour before their service began, to summon the worshippers. It fell to my lot to go to that place before my colleague; and on the first occasion, just as I was in the middle of my opening prayer, the hell, almost over my head, began to ding, dong, at a rate that distracted my thoughts and made my head ache. In fact, it in a great measure spoiled my meeting throughout, as it did several times afterwards. After coming out, I learned it had been the same annoyance to our predecessors, But, on coming round again, I learned that Br. B. had expressed no sense of annoyance with it; but that he had made good capital out of it, mixing it up in his prayer with fine effect.

Although on account of his great simplicity of heart and manners, he might have been thought by some, as bad men erroneously are generally by those wanting in penetration themselves, to be deficient in judgement, yet he was most judicious, as the successful management of all his circuits indicated. Many of his aphoristic laconisms were fraught with the pro-foundest wisdom. I can remember his breaking in on a censorious conversation among a lot of preachers of inferior grade, in which they were animadverting on the proceedings of some of the leading members of the Conference in no very guarded terms, by saying, “Brethren, we must uphold our great men. Mind I tell you, if we put them down, we put ourselves down.” This remark, every person of reflection will perceive, embodied the soundest practical wisdom. If we disparage those on whose talents and eloquence we depend, under God, for the defence and propagation of the cause, by whom shall it be upheld? Yet this sort of infatuation has more than once appeared among the professed lovers of Methodism. He was no disorganizer, though he was incapable of being an oppressor.

There is a story told of his administration which, though I cannot vouch for its authenticity, is in keeping with the expedients to which his singular genius would resort in difficult emergencies. As the story runs, there was in one of our hero’s earlier circuits a member of the church who was no credit to the cause among those who were without; and a constant source of turmoil and irritation to them who were within. Yet he was so guarded and adroit, and so well acquainted with the loop-holes of our ecclesiastical laws, that all attempts to get him out had failed, under these circumstances “Johnny” one day, after this person had been exhibiting some of his improprieties, tried his hand upon him. Said he to him in the presence of the class, “You are a disgrace to the Methodist Society!—you are a disgrace to the Methodist Society!” On which the person started up in a pet, and exclaimed, “Then take my name off the class-book!” This threat no doubt, he thought would subdue the preacher. But he had mistaken his man. Said the preacher, with his sharp, shrill voice, and with one of his polite bows, “Thank you, sir, I will! I will!” And suiting the action to the word, he drew, his pencil across the name. The disturber, though sorry enough, could not complain, for he had requested it; and the society was delivered from an impediment to its prosperity. On one occasion the credit of the cause required that a certain man and his wife should be publicly “read out of society to avoid prosecution, he did not specify any crime, but said he laid them aside u for want of goodness.”

We might have mentioned that he was a great peace-maker; and his preaching was often made to tell powerfully against censoriousness, contention, and railing. A friend of mine heard him on this subject from the 9th verse of the general epistle of Jude. “Yet Michael, the archangel, when contending with the Devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee!” In preaching on which he noticed;  1. The character of the disputants; 2. The subject of controversy; and 3. The manner in which the disputants severally demeaned themselves.” The Devil “railed,” but Michael only said "The Lord rebuke thee!” Enough has been said to show reason why I love and reverence my first colleague.


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