Amanda Smith the Colored Evangelist

Amanda Jane Berry Smith died, on February 24, 1915. She was born into slavery on a farm in Long Green in Maryland, USA on January 23, 1837. She was the oldest daughter in a family of thirteen children. Her father was able to buy his freedom, with funds raised by selling products he made in his spare time. He then continued raising funds until he had purchased his wife and his five children born in slavery.

Amanda was an enterprising young lady. She taught herself to read by cutting out large letters from her father’s newspapers then asking her mother to make words for her to read. “I shall never forget how delighted I was when I first read: ‘The house, the tree, the dog, the cow.’ I thought I knew it all.”

Amanda’s parents were devout and the father read the Bible to his family each day. Amanda was converted at the age of 13, during a revival at a Methodist Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania.

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Her own words were that she was “a poor coloured servant girl sitting away back by the door” when a young white women entreated her with tears to accept Christ. “I was the only coloured girl there, but I went. She knelt beside me with her arms around me and prayed for me…”
She felt the Lord’s touch at her conversion. “I went to get up, but found I could not stand. They took hold of me and stood me on my feet. My strength seemed to come to me, but I was frightened. I was afraid to step. I seemed to be so light. In my heart was peace, but I did not know how to exercise faith as I should. I went home and resolved I would be the Lord’s and live for him. All the days were happy and bright.”

She married at the age of 17, but her husband, although ‘religious’, turned out to be a drunkard. He joined the Union Army during the Civil War and never returned. She later married James Smith, a deacon in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who also became indifferent to things spiritual. But Amanda’s faith kept growing.

A sermon on holiness by a Presbyterian evangelist, John S Inskip, was indeed a “second blessing” to her. Gone were her fears of ‘white people’. “I would rather be black and fully saved than white and not saved”, she said.

She began to preach. Invitations came from across the United States – and even England. “In 1876 she was invited to speak at a Keswick Conference”, then to Scotland, India and Burma. She was not, emphasises one biographer, a feminist or an agitator for women’s ordination. “The thought of ordination never once entered my mind, for I had received my ordination from Him who said, ‘Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you …”

Smith became a legendary personality in her own time. This was achieved by her published works, mostly as letters to such periodicals as Wesleyan/Holiness, Methodist Episcopal, and African-American Methodist, from the 1870s until her death. Her book “An Autobiography: The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist: Containing an Account of Her Life Work of Faith, and Her Travels in America, England, Ireland, Scotland, India, and Africa as an Independent Missionary” was published in 1893 and sold widely.

Amanda Smith died in 1915 in a suburb of Chicago, where she had spent her last years heading up an orphanage for black children. She was 78 years of age.

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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Luther Burgess Bridgers and the Sweetest Name

Luther Burgess Bridgers was born in Margaretsville, North Carolina, on February 14, 1884. His family attended the local Methodist church where Luther’s father taught a Sunday-School class. The family moved to Georgia … and by the age of 17 Luther had begun preaching.

Whilst studying at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky he met Sarah Veatch and married her.

He was ordained as a Methodist minister and then came invitations to conduct ‘revival’ services across southern USA. He also did mission work in Belgium, Czechoslovakia, and Russia.

In 1910 – at the age of 26 – while in Kentucky conducting a two week series of evangelistic services, he was at the peak of his popularity. Just at the close of those meetings a long distance phone call came in the dead of night to tell him that a disastrous fire at the house of his father-in-law had taken the lives of his wife and three sons.

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And Luther Bridgers wrote a Gospel song …
There’s within my heart a melody

Jesus whispers sweet and low:
“Fear not, I am with thee, peace be still,
In all of life’s ebb and flow”
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus –
Sweetest name I know
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go.

At the age of 30 he was appointed General Evangelist for his denomination – and married Aline Winburn. He pastored in Georgia and North Carolina before retiring in 1945 in Gainesville, Georgia.

He died in Atlanta, Georgia, at the age of 64 on 27 May, 1948.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Orange Scott forms the Wesleyan Methodists

Orange Scott was born on February 13, 1800 at Brookfield, Vermont. The eldest of eight children, he grew up in Vermont, USA, in an “extremely poor family”. He had little schooling; 13 months in all! Nor did he have any “Sunday” clothes … so he never went to church.

But at the age of 21 he attended a camp meeting at Barre, Vermont, was converted, and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. (That branch of American Methodism had ‘bishops’, hence the word ‘episcopal’ in the name of the denomination.)

He was licensed as a local preacher in 1822. He was the presiding elder of the Springfield district, Massachusetts, from 1830-1834 and of the Providence (Rhode Island) district in 1834-35.

Before long Orange Scott was “a successful revival preacher.” Then he took a pastorate which gave him time to study – “his grammar and spelling book lay on the table beside his Bible and commentary.”

Scott was one of the most popular preachers of New England. He was not afraid to be controversial and his powerful voice was used to great effect. He “set the New England circuits afire with his eloquence”.

Then came the clash … for Scott believed in the abolition of slavery and was active on that cause in 1837. The Methodist Episcopal Church opposed him. At their general conference they even accused him of being “a reckless incendiary” or a “mental incompetent”!

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Orange Scott eventually severed all connections with his church (though not until 8 November, 1842) – and with some like-minded friends began publishing “The True Wesleyan”, a magazine that was truer to Wesley’s teachings than the church from which he had withdrawn.

On 31 May, 1843, Scott presided over the formation of a new denomination with the assistance of two others – the “Wesleyan Methodist Connection”, as it was at first called, at its first general convention at Utica, New York. Today the Wesleyan Church continues to hold high the banner of holiness, evangelism and missions.

Those early revival days relied much on camp meetings, where travelling preachers, rousing music and long meetings were the order of the day. In 1831 Scott compiled a compendium of hymns titled “A New and Improved Camp Meeting Hymn Book”, testifying to his active involvement in that camp meeting movement.

Evangelical, Arminian in theology, and gracious in demeanour, Wesleyans everywhere thank God for the courage and wisdom of Orange Scott. He died of consumption in Newark, New Jersey on 31 July, 1847 – at the age of 48.

“Let all our ministers and people keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of perfectness, and there is nothing to fear!” Such are given as being among his dying words.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Hester Ann Rogers Inspires Women to Holiness

Hester Ann Rogers was born on January 31, 1756, in Cheshire, England.

Her father was a Church of England clergyman who died when she was nine years of age.

Confirmed – but not converted – four years later, young Hester continued in spiritual rebellion until Mr Simpson, the new curate, appeared at their local church. He was – horrors! – a ‘Methodist’! And when he preached on John 6:44 Hester “wept aloud … ran home … went upstairs” and there, upon her knees, commenced her pilgrimage to the cross. She attended Methodist meetings – much to her mother’s disgust – and was soon truly converted.

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On 19 August, 1784, she married James Rogers – a Methodist preacher – and became a class-leader and personal worker herself. James was Wesley’s resident assistant and Hester was Wesley’s housekeeper toward the end of his life.

Her Memoirs and Letters became ‘best sellers’ in early Methodist circles. Her emphasis on ‘entire sanctification’ did much to popularise that particular doctrine. The Methodist notion of holiness involved an experience, subsequent to conversion, where a person’s commitment to holy living is accentuated by a touch from God. Hester claimed this experience and called it the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”. The term did not have any of the Pentecostal connotations which would become prevalent a century later, but spoke of a cleansing of thought and deed, leading to ‘full salvation’.

Because of the influence of her writings, Hester is counted as one of the leading women of the early Methodist movement.

When John Wesley died, Hester and James were at his bedside. “We have come to rejoice with you,” she – or her husband – said, “you are going to receive your crown.”

Three years later – on 10 October, 1794, aged 39 – shortly after giving birth to a son, she too, went to receive her Heavenly reward.

Hester’s testimony was widely circulated and impacted many women in the following century, who were inspired by her devotion to the Lord and depth of personal encounter with Him.

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com

Susanna Wesley Raises Children to Change the World

Susanna Wesley was born Susanna Annesley, the youngest of 25 children, to a nonconformist minister in London, in January 1669. At age 13 she forsook her father’s nonconformist views because she did not believe in dissent, and became part of the Church of England. At about the same time Susanna met the man who would become her husband. Samuel Wesley changed his surname from Westley when he too left the nonconformist ranks and returned to the Church of England. The couple met at the wedding of Susanna’s older sister, Elizabeth.

After Samuel graduated from Oxford in 1688 he was ordained as a Church of England minister and he promptly married Susanna, then 19 years old (he was 26).

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Samuel had a problem with money and spent his life in debt, even when he moved to Epworth and received a good salary. There he turned his hand at farming and proved so ineffective that he increased his debts rather than reduce them. In later years Samuel was even thrown into debtor’s prison, but was rescued by Susanna’s appeals to the Archbishop of York.

For the first nineteen years of married life Susanna averaged one baby per year, totalling 19 with the birth of baby Kezia. Eight of her children died in infancy and a daughter was permanently crippled due to a maid’s accident.

To add to Susanna’s challenges, apart from the children, the debts, a fire that destroyed their home, and her strained health, her husband abandoned her for six months over her refusal to say “Amen” when he prayed a blessing on King William III, William of Orange, who Susanna thought to be an illegitimate pretender to the throne.

Her last two sons, John – born in 1703, and Charles – born four years later, became the two of the most famous preachers of English history.

In 1709 the family endured its second inferno when the rectory in which the family lived caught fire. Susanna heroically saved the lives of her two infant sons, John and Charles. John later referred to himself as “a brand picked out of the fire”.

Susanna’s educational methods were clearly defined, strict and effective. She was also a devoted mother, intent on giving personal time to each of her children, each day. She was particularly intent on teaching her children spiritual truths, for which John and Charles Wesley’s later ministries owe a great debt.

Among the strictures imposed by this disciplinarian mother, the children were taught to cry softly, to eat what they were given, and never to raise their voices or be noisy at play. Susanna used physical punishment, but her children could avoid it if they confessed their faults.

Her children valued her care as a mother and it is said that when John was only seven years old he advised that he would never marry “because I could never find such a woman as my father had”.

When Samuel hired a curate to preach while he was away, Susanna found the sermons so unsatisfactory that she began the practice of reading sermons to her family on a Sunday afternoon. In time she had up to 200 people coming to hear her read, with Samuel’s disapproval.

Susanna spent her life with ministers. She was first a minister’s daughter. Then she married a preacher. And she then raised children who became outstanding preachers.

Susanna’s husband, Samuel, died in Epworth, where he had pastored for 38 years, on April 25, 1735 at the age of 72. Susanna lived with various of her children and survived Samuel by seven years, dying on July 23, 1742.

It is interesting to note Susanna’s strength of personal resolve. Her father had stood for his right to believe a dissenting principle, in the face of the organised church. His daughter caught that right to hold personal conviction in the face of opposition.

She chose her own religious direction at age 13, contrary to her father. She resisted her husband’s demand that she honour a King who she could not respect. She persisted in her personal piety and faith despite all challenges. And she raised sons who resisted the taunts of fellow students when they set up their own religious club on campus.

Susanna’s life was hard, with the burden of a large family and her husband’s debts. Yet her faith in God and faithfulness to God, especially in her vocation as mother, educator and spiritual instructor to her children, paid dividends for which the world is thankful. None of the failings of those around her caused her to fail in her own life purpose.

Oh that there were many more like her!

For more information on Susanna Wesley see the post: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/susanna-wesley-ministrysusanna-wesley-ministry

Find hundreds of succinct Church History posts at: http://chrisfieldblog.com/topics/ministry/church-history

This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com