300,000 miles on horseback, from the Atlantic to the Appalachians, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, for 45 years, he spread the Gospel.
This was Francis Asbury, Methodist Circuit riding preacher who was born AUGUST 20, 1745.
When the Revolution began, he was the only Methodist minister to remain in America, refusing to return with other Anglican ministers to England, stating:
“I can by no means agree to leave such a field for gathering souls to Christ as we have in America.”
Preaching over 16,000 sermons, Asbury’s leadership resulted in the Methodist Church in America growing from 1,200 people to 214,000 with 700 ordained minsters.
In 1785, Asbury broke the Methodist movement away from the Episcopal Church, forming its own denomination.
This had tremendous political impact, as Episcopal members of Virginia’s Assembly now no longer had a majority.
When a vote was taken the next year, the Episcopal Church lost its position as Virginia’s established State Church, thereby allowing other denominations to be treated equally.
Francis Asbury befriended Richard Bassett, a signer of the U.S. Constitution, who converted to being a Methodist, freed his slaves, paid them as hired labor and rode joyfully with them to revival meetings.
Methodist Bishops Francis Asbury and Thomas Coke met with newly elected President George Washington in New York, delivering the message, May 19, 1789:
“We…express to you…our sincere congratulations, on your appointment to the presidentship of these States.
We…place as full a confidence in your wisdom and integrity, for the preservation of those civil and religious liberties which have been transmitted to us by the Providence of GOD…
Dependence on the Great Governor of the Universe which you have repeatedly expressed, acknowledging Him the source of every blessing, and particularly of the most excellent Constitution of these States, which is at present the admiration of the world…”
Bishop Asbury continued:
“We enjoy a holy expectation that you will always prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion – the grand end of our creation and present probationary existence…
We promise you our fervent prayers to the Throne of Grace, that GOD Almighty may endue you with all the graces and gifts of his Holy Spirit, that may enable you to fill up your important station to His glory.”
On May 29, 1789, President Washington wrote a reply:
“To the Bishops of the Methodist-Episcopal Church…
I return to you…my thanks for the demonstrations of affection and the expressions of joy…on my late appointment.
It shall still be my endeavor…to contribute…towards the preservation of the civil and religious liberties of the American people…
I hope, by the assistance of Divine Providence, not altogether to disappoint the confidence which you have been pleased to repose in me…in acknowledgments of homage to the Great Governor of the Universe…”
“I trust the people of every denomination…will have every occasion to be convinced that I shall always strive to prove a faithful and impartial patron of genuine, vital religion…
I take in the kindest part the promise you make of presenting your prayers at the Throne of Grace for me, and that I likewise implore the Divine benediction on yourselves and your religious community.”
In 1799, Francis Asbury ordained the first African-American Methodist minister, Richard Allen, and dedicated the first African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Unveiling the Equestrian Statue of Francis Asbury in Washington, D.C., 1924, President Calvin Coolidge stated:
“Francis Asbury, the first American Bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church…made a tremendous contribution…”
“Our government rests upon religion. It is from that source that we derive our reverence for truth and justice, for equality and liberty, and for the rights of mankind. Unless the people believe in these principles they cannot believe in our government…
Calling the people to righteousness (was) a direct preparation for self-government. It was for a continuation of this work that Francis Asbury was raised up.”
“The government of a country never gets ahead of the religion of a country. There is no way by which we can substitute the authority of law for the virtue of man…
Real reforms which society in these days is seeking will come as a result of our religious convictions, or they will not come at all. Peace, justice, humanity, charity – these cannot be legislated into being. They are the result of a Divine Grace…”
Coolidge continued about Francis Asbury:
“Frontier mothers must have brought their children to him to receive his blessings! It is more than probable that Nancy Hanks, the mother of Lincoln, had heard him in her youth.
Adams and Jefferson must have known him, and Jackson must have seen in him a flaming spirit as unconquerable as his own…He is entitled to rank as one of the builders of our nation.
On the foundation of a religious civilization which he sought to build, our country has enjoyed greater blessing of liberty and prosperity than was ever before the lot of man.
These cannot continue if we neglect the work which he did.”
“We cannot depend on the government to do the work of religion. I do not see how anyone could recount the story of this early Bishop without feeling a renewed faith in our own country.”
Self-Educated American contributing editor, William J. Federer, is the bestselling author of “Backfired: A Nation Born for Religious Tolerance no Longer Tolerates Religion,” and numerous other books. A frequent radio and television guest, his daily American Minute is broadcast nationally via radio, television, and Internet. Check out all of Bill’s books here.
If you haven’t yet, invest in one or Bill Federer’s latest books
- Change to Chains: The 6000 Year Quest for Global Control
- Miracles in American History: 32 Amazing Stories of Answered Prayer,
- Prayers & Presidents – Inspiring Faith from Leaders of the Past
- America’s God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations