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began publishing “The True Wesleyan”, a magazine that was truer to Wesley’s teachings than the church from which he had withdrawn.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

Cotton Mather and the Salem Witch Trials

Cotton Mather was born on February 12, 1663, in Boston, USA, to Increase Mather. He was grandson to Richard Mather and John Cotton, thus his first name, Cotton.

He was to become a leading Congregational minister of Boston’s Old North church, the most celebrated New England writer of his day, and one of the founders of Yale University. Altogether he wrote about 450 books!

His scientific papers won him “a coveted election to the Royal Society of London in 1713” – indeed his studies in inoculation “may be said to mark the beginning of preventive medicine in the Western world” (Who’s Who in Christian History, page 461). He persuaded Zabdiel Boylston to inoculate against smallpox and supported the unpopular inoculation even when his life was threatened.

These days, however, he is remembered mainly for the role he played in the infamous Salem witch trials when teenage girls began accusing various folk in the community of being witches. As a result 20 people were hung and about 200 imprisoned. And Cotton Mather wrote in defence of these proceedings.

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The whole process began when four daughters of a Boston mason, John Goodwin, complained of sudden pains. Mather suspected that witchcraft may be the cause, particularly suspecting an Irish washerwoman named Mary Glover. His book “Memorable Providences Relating to Witchcraft and Possessions” (1689) outlined his beliefs on the matter.

When a court was set up to investigate the situation, three of the five judges were from Mather’s congregation and were influenced by Mather to respect what was called ‘spectral’ evidence and the confessions of the witches.

The number of those who confessed increased, prompting Mather to conclude that a veritable army of devils had been sent against them. He preached on August 4, 1692, that the Last Judgement was imminent. On August 19 ex-minister George Burroughs was executed by hanging, on Gallows Hill. However, Burroughs successfully quoted the Lord’s Prayer, which was thought impossible by a witch. Mather insisted on the execution, because Burroughs had been found guilty at trial.

Mather’s involvement in these proceedings mired his reputation and takes focus from his many worthy achievements as a man of God impacting the culture of his day.

An interesting comment in his diary reveals something of the Puritan zeal in those days. He tells us how the Lord helped him preach for three hours at a young people’s meeting – despite the fact he only had one hour for preparation. “And a good day it was!” he adds (Prophets of the Soul, by J. Gray, page 25).

His religious leadership and political influence continued in the spirit of his forefathers, to advance learning and education and to make New England a cultural centre. He hoped to become president of Harvard, which did not happen, but was one of the moving spirits in the founding of Yale.

Cotton Mather died on 13 February – the day after his 65th birthday – in 1728.

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