Life of a traveling evangelist

Daily Reading for November 15 • The Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and Francis Asbury, 1816, and George Whitefield, 1770, Evangelists

Friday 5. The rain is over; the clouds scattered and gone; and nature smileth again. I only mourn the oppression I cannot remove. . . .

Tuesday 9. The weather is temperate: my mind is much pained. Oh! to be dependant on slave-holders is in part to be a slave, and I was free born. I am brought to conclude that slavery will exist in Virginia perhaps for ages; there is not a sufficient sense of religion nor of liberty to destroy it; Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, in the highest flights of rapturous piety, still maintain and defend it. I judge in after ages it will be so that poor men and free men will not live among slave-holders, but will go to new lands: they only who are concerned in, and dependent on them will stay in old Virginia.

Wednesday 10. I have some peace and some pain of heart. . . .

Tuesday 22. We had news from the assembly, that the American ambassadors were rejected at Paris. A report prevails that the French were about to invade England with one hundred and fifty thousand men. The British can raise two hundred thousand militia, and two hundred thousand regulars; there may yet be most desperate times—worse than in Julius Cesar’s day. My mind is in peace. We have winterly weather: more snow after much rain this day: thank God I have where to lay my head, a little reading and winding of cotton that I may not be quite idle. . . .

Friday 25. Was a gloomy morning to me: nothing but the thoughts of death agitated my mind. It oppresses my heart to think that I live upon others and am useless, and that I may die by inches.

Sunday 27. A solitary day to me, neither preaching, reading, writing, nor conversing.

Monday 28. I was employed in revising my journal. I am like Mr. Whitefield, who being presented with one of his extempore sermons taken in short hand, could not bear to see his own face. I doubt whether my journals yet remaining will appear until after my death; I could send them to England and get a price for them; but money is not my object.

Tuesday 5. My fever was very light last night. I received a most loving letter from the Charleston conference; there is great peace and good prospects there. I hope to be able to move next week. I have well considered my journal—it is inelegant; yet it conveys much information of the state of religion and country. It is well suited to common readers; the wise need it not. I have a desire that my journals should be published, at least after my death, if not before. I make no doubt but others have laboured: but in England, Scotland, and Ireland, and those kingdoms which have been civilized and improved one thousand years, and which are under such improvements, no ministers could have suffered in those days, and in those countries, as in America, the most ancient parts of which have not been settled two hundred years. Some parts not forty, others not thirty, twenty, nor ten, and some not five years. I have frequently skimmed along the frontiers, for four and five hundred miles, from Kentucky to Green Brier, on the very edge of the wilderness; and thence along Tigers Valley, to Clarksburgh on the Ohio. These places . . . yet abound with wild beasts. I am only known by name to many of our people, and some of our local preachers; and unless the people were all together, they could not tell what I have had to cope with. I make no doubt the Methodists are, and will be, a numerous, and wealthy people, and their preachers who follow us will not know our struggles but by comparing the present improved state of the country with what it was in our days, as exhibited in my journal and other records of that day.

From The Journal of the Rev. Francis Asbury, From August 7, 1771 to December 7, 1815, vol. 2 (New York: Bangs and Mason, 1821); entries taken from February and March, 1798.

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