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publishing “The True Wesleyan”, a magazine that was truer to Wesley’s teachings than the church from which he had withdrawn.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

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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

Blind Helen Howarth Lemmel Turns Our Eyes

Helen Howarth Lemmel was born in Wardle, England to a Wesleyan Methodist pastor and his wife on November 14, 1863.

Twelve years later the family migrated to America. Helen lived briefly in Mississippi before settling in Wisconsin. Helen’s singing ability soon became evident, gaining her a reputation as a brilliant singer, even studying private voice in Germany for four years. She traveled widely throughout the midwest during the early 1900’s, giving concerts in many churches.

In time, she married a wealthy European and taught voice at the Moody Bible Institute and then at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles. When she became blind her husband abandoned her, which was just one of the many heartaches Helen struggled with during midlife.

A brilliant singer and musician, Mrs. Lemmel’s remarkable literary abilities were also widely recognized. She composed more than 500 hymns and poems and also authored a very successful book for children, ‘Story of the Bible’, and composed many musical pieces for children. She continued her musical and literary pursuits until her death just 13 days before her ninety-eighth birthday.

One day, in 1918, when Helen was aged 55, a missionary friend gave her a tract entitled “Focused.” It contained a statement that had a profound impact on her. “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full into His face and you will find that the things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”

“I stood still, ” Helen recalled, “and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but nonetheless dictated by the Holy Spirit.”

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face,
and the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.

Helen’s new hymn was published in London, England in 1918, in the form of a pamphlet. Four years later, it was included in a collection of sixty-seven of Helen’s songs, titled Glad Songs. This year at the Keswick Bible Conference in northern England the hymn was introduced and became immediately a popular favourite. It has since been included in most evangelical hymnals and been translated into many languages.

Those who knew Mary in her later years tell of her joy and enthusiasm. Though living on government welfare in a sparse bedroom, whenever asked how she was doing, she would reply, ‘I’m doing well in the things that count.’ Mary was always composing hymns but she had no way of writing them down so she would call friends at all hours and get them to record her lyrics before she forgot them.

Helen had a small plastic keyboard by her bed. There she would play, sing and cry. “One day God is going to bless me with a great heavenly keyboard,” she’d say. “I can hardly wait!”

Helen died on November 1, 1961, in Seattle, Washington, almost 98 years of age.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at www.donaldprout.com. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.