Death of Francis Asbury

On this date, March 31, 1816, Francis Asbury, bishop of American Methodism died. He had preached his last sermon just a week earlier.

One of Asbury’s greatest strengths was organization. He created districts of “churches” that would be visited by circuit riders. It is reported that he himself preached about over 16,000 sermons, or at least one a day, and traveled about 270,000 miles, or 6,000 a year and ordained  4,000 preachers. According to Methodist statistics, when he arrived in American, the Methodists had 10 preachers and 600 members. As he died, almost 45 years later, they had 695 preachers and 214,235 members.

Constantly Abiding

On this date, March 30, 1942, Anne S. Murphy died. She was born in East Liverpool Ohio which is only fifteen minutes from where I grew up in Hookstown Pennsylvania.

She is known as the author of the wonderful song, “Constantly Abiding.”

There’s a peace in my heart that the world never gave,
A peace it cannot take away;
Though the trials of life may surround like a cloud,
I’ve a peace that has come here to stay!

Refrain

Constantly abiding, Jesus is mine;
Constantly abiding, rapture divine;
He never leaves me lonely, whispers, O so kind:
“I will never leave thee,” Jesus is mine.

And Can it Be

On this date, March 29, 1788, Charles Wesley, brother of John and author of around nine thousand hymns died.

Nine thousand hymns. Wow.

Some of my favorites by him include “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing,” “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Jesus, Lover of My Soul,” and “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.” The song “And Can It Be” speaks to me every time that I read/sing it.

And can it be that I should gain

An interest in the Savior’s blood?

Died He for me, who caused His pain—

For me, who Him to death pursued?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Amazing love! How can it be,

That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

From Sea to Shining Sea

On this date, March 28, 1929, Katherine L. Bates died. A daughter of a Congregationalist, minister, she was a poet and songwriter. Her most famous work, published in 1895, was the patriotic hymn “America the Beautiful.”

She said that her first draft of “American the Beautiful” was jotted down in a notebook after her trip of Pikes Pean in Colorado. She said, “when I saw the view, I felt great joy. All the wonder of America seemed displayed there, with the sea-like expanse.”

The first verse of the original poem.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the enameled plain!

America! America!

God shed His grace on thee,

Till souls wax fair as earth and air

And music-hearted sea!

 

The first verse of the song as we sing it today.

O beautiful for spacious skies,

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the fruited plain!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

And crown thy good with brotherhood

From sea to shining sea!

The mind is its own place

On this date, March 27, 1667, English poet and theologian John Milton published what became his great work, titled Paradise Lost. It hasn’t been until recent years that I picked it up and read sections, and it is absolutely fascinating. At times it is challenging to read, but worth the effort. Here are several quotes.

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven..”

And after hearing the lies from the serpent, Eve is convinced that the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil will be a source of enlightenment and virtue.

Greedily she engorged without restraint,

And knew not eating death;

Here I stand

On this date, March 26, 1521, Martin Luther was cited to appear at the Diet of Worms. This is where he would ultimately be asked to recant his writings and his sermons. When the trial was concluding weeks later and when asked to recant, his response is noteworthy.

“Unless I shall be convinced by the testimonies of the Scriptures or by clear reason … I neither can nor will make any retraction, since it is neither safe nor honourable to act against conscience.

Here I stand. I can do no other.”

Be the Change

On this date, March 25, 1807, the Slave Trade Act was passed. This is the Act that after twenty years of dedication, hard work, and the fiercest of commitment, Wilberforce led the Commons to vote in favor of abolishing the slave trade.

William Wilberforce not only led the fight that eventually abolished the slave trade, he led a lifelong campaign that changed the culture of the world.

Asbury, preacher of 17,000 sermons

On this date, March 24, 1816, Francis Asbury preached his last sermon. He would die a week later.

He attended a Methodist Conference when John Wesley asked for volunteers to go to America. Wesley ended up selecting Asbury. 

When Asbury arrived he developed circuits and rode five thousand miles a year preaching. He distributed thousands of pieces of literature, preached seventeen thousand sermons, ordained three thousand preachers, and founded five colleges, becoming America’s first Methodist bishop. 

He is buried in Baltimore Maryland in Mount Olivet Cemetery.

Death of Johann Werrstein

On this date, March 23, 1754, Johann Werrstein died in Amsterdam. He is not as well known today as others, (I for one don’t know much about him) but he was a significant Swiss theologian and Bible scholar. He was accused of error by the individuals of the Reformed community but was respected by the Arminians among whom he taught Biblical languages and philosophy.

Fly from the wrath to come

On this date, March 22, 1758, Jonathan Edwards died in New Jersey as a result of a smallpox inoculation. Educated at Yale, he is often recognized to be one of America’s most important philosophical theologians and a great intellectual thinker and writer. Known for his involvement in the first great awakening, one of his most famous sermons is “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” which was preached at Enfield Massachusetts on July 8th, 1741. I visited this location when I stopped to visit the grave of David Brainerd.

This is the conclusion of his sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

Therefore let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the Wrath to come. The Wrath of almighty GOD is now undoubtedly hanging over great Part of this Congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: Haste and escape for your Lives, look not behind you, escape to the Mountain, least you be consumed.

I was able to visit the grave of Jonathan Edwards on March 23, 2011. It is located in Princeton NJ.