Life of Rev. James O'Kelly - Christian Church in the South - Restoration Movement

James O'Kelly identifies the divisive Apostolic succession by Northern, Monarchy defenders opposed to American Liberty in Religion especially in the South. A kingly institution was established in the Methodists in early America even though it was opposed by English Methodists. This effort to force radical changes into America's religions continued to divide well into the twentieth century. Vestages of the rule of the few over the many may still contaminate what Harold Bloom called "the distinctly American Religion."

W.E.MacClenny, Ph.b. Reprint 1950 Cushing-Malloy

John Wesley against the enthusiasm such as at Cane Ridge


O'Kelly Before His Withdrawal-Quotations From Different Writers--After the Withdrawal-Misrepresentations-False Accusations-- O'Kelly in History To-day--Quotations from Recent Historians-O'Kelly as His Own Witness-Letters-Difficulties in His Way.

In this chapter it is the purpose to show,

first, in what esteem Rev. James O'Kelly was held previous to the Baltimore Conference of 1792 by the Methodists, and to do this we will give several quotations from his contemporaries.

Second, we will note what was said of him at the time of his withdrawal, and for some years thereafter. Here we will end the misrepresentations, and evil speeches made against him and his work.

Third, we will give quotations from later Methodist writers and historians, to show that the earlier Methodist historians were sadly mistaken in the pictures they gave of the man. We do not condemn any one, but facts will stand for themselves, and the reader may determine for himself what is the truth of the matter.

In studying these bits of history there is an old maxim, the truth of which has impressed itself upon me with great force. It is this: "Circumstances alter cases." Up until 1792 there had been no fault found with O'Kelly and his work. Everything he had done bore the stamp of approval. He was always a power in the field, and one of the bright and shining lights. Let [189] us see what some of the Methodsts have put in print, and left as a heritage for the present and future generations.

One writer says: "James O'Kelly had long lived on the border between Virginia and North Carolina as a circuit preacher and presiding elder. His infuence swayed the ministry and people on both sides all along the line. He had been a devout and zealous man, an eloquent preacher and a strenuous Methodist, a tireless laborer, and an heroic opposer of slavery, and enforced the anti-slavery law of the church."

His firm opposition to the institution of slavery is one reason why we always believed he was of Irish and not of American birth

Mr. Asbury says in his "Journal," volume 1, page 387: "Brother O'Kelly gave us a good sermon from the text,'But I keep under my body, and bring it under subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway' (1 Cor., 9:2 ), on April 5, 1764, at Ellis's Chapel, Sussex County, Virginia." On page 384 of the same volume Mr. Asbury says: "Brother O'Kelly let fly at them (about slavery) and they were made mad enough."

Francis Ausbury

This was what James O'Kelly and all Bible Believers in the Restoration Movement Were Fighting Against

Note: Contrary to the freedom brought by men like John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and later by men like Thomas Campbell,

the Anglicans who had to become "Methodists" because of the Revolutionary war promoted a central denominational organization going beyond the Methodists in England and restoring the High Church or Living Church of Catholicism.

The "head" bishop (Francis Ausbury) held absolute power with a handful of men. Once a decision was made about a field preacher or evangelist, that person had no right to appeal.

James O'Kelly loved the freedom of the South which violentely rejected any effort to extend a new "king" over them. Unpatriotic men couldn't grasp it.

This High Church would move on into the Disciples in the north with an attempt to control the evangelists through a missionary society. James O'Kelly's greatest contribution was to hold a "Boston tea party" and show that men of courage could begin to restore Christianity under the umbrella of freedom from popes and bishops.

His influence was felt everywhere in the section in which he had labored so long, for one writer says: "He was one of the most commanding men of the itinerancy and preached at the Baltimore Conference of 1792, from Luke 18:5, "and the power of the Iord attended the word." This was on Sunday afternoon before the "Right of Appeal" was lost the first of the next week. Another writer says: "Mr. O'Kelly had [190] been stationed almost continuously for ten years in Virginia, and presided over a large district of circuits in the connection. It could therefore not have been for personal reasons that he urged the "Right of appeal from the bishop to the conference." Another contemporary says: "He was very useful and had much infuence in his section." He is described as being "laborious ministry, a man of zeal and usefulness, an advooate for holiness, given to prayer and fasting, and an able defender of the Methodist doctrine and faith, and hard against slavery in private, and from the press and."

From the above we infer that many of the charges brought against him a few years later were without even the semblance of truth, and that many exaggerated and farfetched conclusions were drawn in regard to his motives.

Before the last link was broken that bound him to Methodism, Bishop Asbury sent messengers to him telling him that he was his "right eye, right hand, and right foot"; [ O'Kelly's Apology, Chap. 18, verse 2.] thus showing in what esteem he was held by the bishop. Would he come back, he was all right in every respect. Dr. Thomas Coke's esteem is expressed in his letter to Mr. O'Kelly from Wilmington on May 4, 1791, already quoted.


From these quotations, and others previously made, the reader can make up his mind about Mr. O'Kelly's standing in the Methodist connection before 1792.

Rev. James O'Kelly's "Right of Appeal" was lost at a late hour on Monday night at Otterbein's Church in [191] Baltimore. On Tuesday morning a letter was received from Mr. O'Kelly and some of his supporters

informing the Conference that they could no longer sit among them, because the "Right of Appeal" was not allowed.

A committee was at once appointed to reconcile the seceders, if it were possible. As we have seenthey met and utterly failed to accomplish the desired end. He and his associates remained in Baltimore for a day or two longer, to see if an injured preacher could get an appeal from the bishop's appointment.

Dr. Thomas Coke said in the final interview "That (the Right of Appeal) can not be granted."

James O'Kelly left the city. He was followed by messengers from Bishop Asbury telling him the words quoted above. He would return only on one condition, that would not be granted. Messengers were sent from Mr. O'Kelly and his associates to Mr. Asbury, proposing a compromise. This was in vain, for the Bishop would not grant it. From Piney Grove, in Chesterfeld County, Virginia, they sent their formulated wishes to Mr. Asbury at the Petersburg Conference of 1793, and they received this answer: "I have no power to call such a meeting as you wish. If, therefore, 500 preachers should come on their knees before me, I would not do it."

This again shows that the authority of the Methodist Cburch seemed to lie in the word of one man.

Mr. O'Kelly then began to plan to organize a church on what he believed to be the Bible plan. Let us now l see what was said about him. The reader will observe carefully what a change one act, with the purest and most unselfish motive, and a few years work, brought about. [192]

One writer of the time said: "There was little doubt that James O'Kelly's spirit was tainted with ambition." To this we will agree, if the right construction be put on the sentence.

He was very ambitious for a free and untrammeled church,

and to see all men on the same footing in religious as well as civil matter He wanted to put the government of the church on the same basis as that upon which the civil fabric rested; that is, on a democratic, instead of an autocratic basis.

It was said to be the opinion of an English lawyer, a man of infidel principles, who, strange to say, admired the Methodist Church (government polity), and witnessed with many regrets the O'Kelly schism, advised R P. Jesse Lee and many other leading ministers to make O'Kelly a bishop, for," said he,

"if you will let him share the dreaded power with Asbury, he will no longer fear it,"

and another writer, commenting on this, seemed to think that the lawyer was nearer right than wrong. From the bits of history we have been able to collect, it appears that he was not contending for power, but for the greatest freedom to all. He was striving to adhere to the original plan of Mr. Wesley, and the English Methodists,

while Bishop Asbury was trying to depart from it, for the Methodists of England as we have shown, have never had bishops.

John Wesley (1703-91) Larger Print

Our contention is, as facts seem to abundantly justify, that Mr. Asbury was very ambitious to be himself at the head of a great system of autocratic church government in America, even if it were withthout precedent in the annnals of Methodism,

and was condemned by John Wesley.

Bishop Asbury, in his "Journal," soon after the [193] secession, wrote as follows:

"James O'Kelly has told a tale of me which I think it is my duty to tell better. He writes Francis ordered the preachers to entitle him bishop in directing their letters.' The secret truth of the matter was this: the preachers having had great difficulties about the appellations of Mr. and Rev., it was talked over in the yearly conference, for then we had no General Conference established. So we concluded it would be by far the best to give each man his official title as deacon, elder, and bishop. To this the majority agreed.

James O'Kelly giveth all the good, the bad, and the middling of all our church to me. What can be the cause of all this ill-treatment which I receive from him? Was it because I could not settle him for life in the South District of Virginia? Is this his gratitode? He was in the district for ten years as a presiding elder, and there was no peace with James until Dr. Coke took the matter out of my hands. After we had agreed to hold a General Conference to settle the dispute, and

behold when the General Conference by a majority went against him he treated the General Confereece with as much contempt almost as he had treated me, only I am the butt of all his spleen. The reader who has followed the story thus far can make up his own mind as to who was right, and who showed the contempt.

We come now to the charge that has done James O'Kelly and the Christian Church, South, more harm than anything else that has ever been written against them. It is this: "James O'Kelly and the Christian Church were Unitarian in sentiment." We have de-[194] voted a special chapter of this work to the refutation of this charge, and so only make slight reference here to show how quickly the sentiment of men may change..

Rev. Jesss Lee says, for one thing: "He denied the distinct personality of the Holy Trinity.

He affirmed that instead of distinct PERSONS fill the Godhead, the terms Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were only intended to represent three offices of one glorious and Eternal Being."

Another writer said: "It was a favorite expression of his that God was Father from eternity, Redeemer in time, and Sanctifier forevermore." Says Dr. Lee: "It was enough to make the saints of God weep before the porch and the altar, and that both day and night, to see how the Lord's flock was carried away captive by that division."

On the 26th of May, 1792, in the Greenbrier Conference, held at Rehoboth Chapel, Sinks of Greenbrier County, Virginia, (now West Virginia), says Rev. Stith Mead:

"When we met in conference we mere all examined hy the bishop as to our confession of faith and orthodoxy of doctrine agreeably to the accuracy of Wesleyan Methodism.

On a closer examination it was discovered that two of the preachers composing the present session of conference, namely John Lindsay and George Martin, coming from their district where James O'Kelly was presiding elder, had imbibed heterodox opinions from him tending to Unitnrianism.

All the conference was now requested by Bishop Asbury to bring forward all the Scripture texts they could recollect to prove the personality of the Trinity, and particularly the Holy Ghost, at which time these [195]

Old Rehoboth M. E. Church, Near Union, W. Va.

Built in 1785 and deeded to the Conference to remain their property as long as grass grows and water runs. The oldest church west of the Alleghany Mountains. A typical mountain church, where, in 1792, the Conference met mentioned by Rev. Stith Mead, and the discussion about the Trinity took place.

preachers recanted their errors in the doctrine that were retained in the Methodist fellowship." [ Bennett's memorials of Methodism in Virginia, page 307] It is a question of serious doubt, even if the ministers named held views contrary to those of the Methodists of the time, whether they imbibed those views from James O'Kelly.

A later historian writes as follows: "The most potent cause for the failure of O'Kelly's plan was the heresy which his system contained. This was the taint that corrupted the whole schism: His: Unitarian errors allowed no Savior to be offered to the people, and, destitute of that vital and central force, his church was soulless and its name a falsehood.

But the motives of the leaders seem to have been as devoid of purity as their system was of truth. Here again refer the reader to the chapter in this work entitled "The Alleged Heresy of James O'Kelly and the Christian Church is disproved," for an answer to this charge.

All these things were said about a man 'whose views on theology are not questioned by the most scrutinizing of to-day, and who had the manhood to stand up and say what he believed was right and what was wrong, and who had no idea in his mind but to save sinners by "pointing them to the Lamb of God th taketh away the sin of the world." We think the chapter mentioned proves begond all doubt that these charges were basely false. But we will call some of the best Methodist historians of modern times as witnesses that the charges were without any foundation in fact. The later Methodist writers look through the clear glass and [196] see things as they are; and their eyes are not blurred by prejudice as were those oof the earlier writers. Hear what they have to say.

Mr George P. Smith, in his life of Bishop Francis Asbury, says: "The positive old Irishman had been too long in control of things in his section to submit to another's dictation, and a separation between the two view inevitable. There, was, however, nothing in O'Kelly's motives which seems to have been censurable. He merely thought the arbitrary course which a bishop might take ought to be anticipated and provided. From this we may infer that Mr O Kelly was pleading the cause, not so much for his but for the future, and if we take this view

we will see that his proper place was beside his friend Thomas Jefferson,

who was doing so much at this time on the same line in the affairs of state. He saw the seed being planted, and thought what the harvest might be, and with a prophet's eye he laid himself aside and plead for what he thought would be for the greatest good to the greatest number

From another point of view, he is prepared to say that the influence of James O'Kelly is not seen and felt in the ranks of the Methodist Episcopal Church today. We find one of their best historians of modern times writing as follows: Impartial history requires us to say we nd no evidence of the heresy alleged against James O'Kelly--

that he was unsound on the Trinity and hastened his secession for fear of being brought to trialL An error so radiant must have worked out in him and his followers striking manifestation, but none such appear. The [197]

few preachers and people who continue to represent him, represent so far as known a sound doctrine and experience.

The trouble was governmental, and not doctrinal, and in the later adjustments of Episcopal Methodism, occasion could hardly be found for its recurrence." (Bishop Holland N. McTyeire's History of Methodism'.)

Another says: "There is little doubt that a man so bold and confident as O'Kelly would hestitate to give expression to his doctrinal views," and in this research nothing has been found that would indicate that he held anything but the most orthodox views. If he said or wrote anything to the contrary its production has been challenged in vain.

These last quotations were written after the controversy had been ended for many years, and gives the true version of the whole matter, as all people of unbiased minds are compelled to see.

While he was in the minority, yet the measure for which he contended and worked so hard to establish has, in modified form, woven itself into the government of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and in some sections of the country it has been carried out almost entirely. Even in Virginia the Methodists are gradually working toward the same plan of government.

James O'Kelly was accused of trying to mislead the people. We will call the accused and let him answer for himself. We will give some letters from his pen to former friends, written about the time he "seceded." We believe that these will show that, instead of trying to mislead the people, he was a truth [198} seeker, and was willing to lay self aside in order that truth and right might prevail.

The following is the substance of a letter from a Republican minister to an Episcopalian minister:

"Dear Sir: The following lines are addressed to you, for the purpose of investigating a subject important in its nature, and painful to me in its effect. That there has been a division in the Methodist Church, and this division was produced by the despotic principles of government, existing and increasing in that Church, are facts not to be denied. That pacific measures were used by the aggrieved party to obtain a reunion, is a fact which their petitions, and addresses, doth abundantly prove. When these facts came first to my view, I used all the candor and discernment I possessed in the investigation of the subject. And truth obliged me to believe that the complaints were just, and that the cause of the division was sufficient to justify the effect. The sentimental division naturally led me into the division, for the doctrine then exhibited to us was,

'If you are dissatisfied go out.' Therefore, unconditional submission, or a separation, was the only alternative. One would have thought, as we could not agree together, parting might have ended the dispute; but alas! we have found it quite otherwise.

"For no sooner had we turned our backs, than a flood of abuse, calumny, and cruel slander came pouring forth after us as a furious flood ~ From the groundless reports that soon spread,. and increased, one could hardly forbear thinking that a lying spirit had gotten among the prophets. But I long resisted the thought, [199} and strove to believe that these reports originated in mistake, and not in willful misrepresentations. But the moment I cast mine eyes on that vile assertion in the minutes of your last General Conference, saying, 'A few indeed, who were as great enemies to the civil government under which they lived as to our discipline, have left us,' etc., I was shocked at the saying, and supposed I had entertained a better opinion of the members of your conference than they were deserving of. And you, sir, being a member of that conference, I view you as having a hand in that infamous slander. And now, you are pleased to offer no better apology than, 'If the cap fits them, let them wear it.' On which I would remark, that your perfidious insinuation is false. The cap, as you are pleased to call it, does not fit us as descriptive of our characters; but as an unequivocal design to slander us.

And as you are pleased to make the civil government under which we live, a part of the controversy between us, I will here present you with a few observations on that subject.

"I would, in the first place, ask if you know what kind of government we live under? And how it was obtained? Wesley, in his circular letter, observes that we are partly governed by congress, and partly by the provincial assemblies. This is a truth, which naturally leads the mind to inquire how these legislative bodies are raised, and from what source their authority is derived. The answer to these interrogatives is easy:

They are raised by delegation, and derive their legislative authority from the sovereignty of the people, to whom they are constitutionally bound. [200]

"Such a government by representation is a government out of society; and the constitution by which the legislators are bound to the people speaketh on this wise: 'The legislative, the judicial, and the executive departments of the government shall be separate and distinct.'

"With this view of our civil government, I demand of you to point out that part of our conduct to which you allude, when you published us enemies to civil government. One might be led to think from reading that sentence in your minutes that your discipline was so like our civil government that whoever opposes the former must be an enemy to the latter. Let us therefore proceed to the business of comparing them together.

"I have already observed that the civil government is by representation; this is granted by your General Conference. Our rulers there mentioned are not only elected, but reelected and all from the highest to the lowest are amenable to the people. Iet us take a view of your church governrnent, as formed, and repeatedly revisited by conference.

"There wo find that the bishops, president elders, elders, deacons, and common preachers, are none of them properly the delegates of the people; but they are the rulers of the church. You will allow, sir, that the General Conference is not raised by election in the church.

Neither do they consider themselves accountable to the people, because they do not derive their legislative authority therefrom.

Indeed, your people are not allowed to complain, nor point out to each other [201] what they believe to be defects in the government; for this brings them under the character of being disorderly members, who are sowing discord.

"I have often asked who the preachers were accountable to for their conduct. The answer was: 'To God.'

From this I infer that they (as a legislature) are accountable to no human power;

and if so, no human creature ought to trust them.

There does indeed appear a kind of election and responsibility in the conference, but what is that to the people?

We find the General Conference composed only of traveling preachers,

therefore the members of the church and the settled ministers are out of the business. The election that appears in conference is a thing in show, and not in reality. An election respects two things; first, the choosing of members into the body, and, secondly, the choosing officers out of that body. 'Tis absurd to suppose that an elected body has a right to elect members into itself, and this is the only show of an election to be found in receiving members into the conference.

"And even in this election the bishop holds his negative (veto), which negative he also hath in the choice of all the officers. Therefore, there is DO proper election in the church, nor the appearance of it, but what the bishop hath his negative upon. Elections under such restrictions deserve not the name. The governors of the Methodist Episcopal Church not only come into office without being elected by the suffrage of the people, but continue in office, so long as they please to walk by the rules themselves have made, and whenever they please to change their conduct, they can change the laws. [202]

"These, sir, are the principles of your constitution;

and (they) are as essentially different from the principles of your civil government as a government over society is different from a government out of society.

Moreover, there appears another important difference between our civil government and yours. For your laws of discipline are not only made by a body of men who are accountable to nobody, but are judged and executed by the same hands. The legislative, judicial, and executive departments of our civil government, are separate and distinct, whereas your government is fully consolidated, because every part is inseparably united in the same hands.

'From these remarks it must appear that your discipline is as incompatible with our civil government as a government by assumption compared to that by representation.

"There is another subject, still, that deserves a serious thought, which very thought creates sensation in my breast. That is to say, we have purchased this liberty government by representation at no less price than the blood and lives of thousands; some of whom died in the hospitals, others on the road--and numbers fell in the field of battle with the English! What suffering of body and mind they passed through before the awful hour--who can describe?

"There is one thing of importance they have done for us, 'they have freed us from despotic negatives, and British tyranny'; and have left us, sealed with their own blood, the valuable legacy of civil and religious liberty, a liberty guarded and preserved by representation [203] ; and this is the government the General Conference is pleased to charge us with being enemies to. Groundless charge; cruel slander--the very offspring of your spurlous eplscopacy.

"The leading characters in the grand synod are Thomas (Coke) and Francis (Asbury).

The one from the north of England, since the American revolution;

the other (Francis) came over from the land of monarchy, before the Revolution, and I believe both are British subjects (in their hearts) to this day.

What excellency is there to be found in those men, beyond others, that conference must bend to their caprice? Is it the country from whence they have emigrated Or is it the government under which they were educated ? Or what is it that renders them so illustrious in the eyes of the conference? Can it be the principles of despotism they have brought with them? Or -the arbitrary manner in which they have been known to conduct the business of the government in the church?

"As to their literature, if we may judge from their publications, there appears no great display of wisdom therein. Their journals are, for the most part, insipid. They are partly filled with violent attacks on personal and public characters--these are no marks of learning. Their kind of discipline may (perhaps) answer better to the north of this, where the British armies were long suffered to plunder the honest patriots.

"But when they came to exercise their felonious practices in Virginia, they were sent back in the degraded situation of prisoners; and I hope that British policy will always meet with the like repulse from our [204] Virginians that the British power has done. Your Bishop Asbury has complained in my hearing that he had more trouble in governing the Virginians than all the connection besides. It is not our superior wisdom, nor ignorance, that renders us so ungovernable;

but our invariable determination to stand fast in our civil and religious liberties, 'wherein God hath strangely made us free.'

"Whatever you may think of me, my spirit, or manner of writing, is a matter of indifference with me. You are not situated as I am, and can not feel as I do. Only put yourself where I stand, charged with a crime of the deepest dye; a crime of the most enormous magnitude; which, if believed, is calculated to entail infamy, and disgrace on posterity! But, why am I thus treated ? Is it because I oppose a government not only arbitrary in its principles, but arbitrary and cruel in its operation, which cruelty we should feel were we not sheltered under the wing of that government whieh you say we are enemies to/

"Our European brethren know, as the Jews did, that it is not lawful for them to inflict punishment; therefore, hope to influence the civil rulers against us. But heaven be thanked, your influence with them is but weak. The ministers of your conference may flatter themselves and, like the ostrich, suppose they are sufficiently hid from public view, when only their own eyes are covered, but our judicious men can see that self-created dignities, such as your bishops boast of, must have originated in pride and vainglory! And if they can not free themselves from the principles of [205] their education (as some noble English brethren have done) they had better return to the land of their nativity, where kings and bishops reign.

"Ah, no! The secret is, they have left a land of cruelty, where they were governed and not the governors. They had to flee the tyranny there they wish to inflict here.

"I shall now take my leave of you, and until you are more careful of innocent characters, more attentive to truth, and show more respect for the sacred Scriptures --I bid adieu. T. H.

"I would add, in England such episcopal dignity hath no existence. The pulpits of the Episcopal churches are not accessible to such men. Were they to offer to exercise episcopal authority there, the Holy Sea would overflow, and they would be rejected as impostors. This they know." (Chapters 22-26 of O'Kelly's Apology.)

He writes as follows to his friend of former times:

To Dear Brother Nicholson, Local Preacher:

"O my brother! Alas my brother! I beseech God to grant you a share in every blessing of the everlasting covenant. O brother, the heart knows its own bitterness! I am too often giving way to the overflowings of a full heart. O the heart-breaking thoughts! The Methodist preachers who stood together like soldiers are now afraid of each other, as you told me last evening you feared me. Fearful prelude to a universal decline or a fearful separation! Find out the cause, search for the Achan. One there is in our camps, and [206] if the lot justly falls on me, cast me away and there will be a calm. But be sure, before God, to give me justice. I am not given to ehange. A Methodist I am, and how can I change ? The elders of the North, not knowing what to accuse me of, make me their table laugh, still I am loth to go away.

What have I done? Overturned government? What? The Council--not Methodism. I only say no man among us ought to get in the Apostle's chair with the keys, and stretch a lordly power over the ministry, and the kingdom of Christ. 'Tis a human invention, a quicksand, and when my gray hairs may be preserved under ground, I may be remembered. We ought to respect the body before any mere man.

A consolidated government is always bad.

We have published that we believe a General Conference to be injurious to the church.

District conferences have lost their suffrages; men of wit will leave the traveling connection.

Boys with their keys under the absolute sway of one who declares his authority and succession from the Apostles --these striplings must rule and govern Christ's Church, as master workmen, as though they could finish such a temple. People are to depend upon their credibility.

These things are so; I know what I say; I am able when called upon to answer it. I am a friend to Christ, to his church, but not to prelatic government. If you will carefully read the bishop's address to me and others of the preachers who opposed the late proceedings, there you will find the heavy reflections--and the very manner of the new constitution. But unless you look over and over it 'tis hard to understand. My [207] dear brother, farewell, reject me, all of you, and let me feel the sneers, the frowns of strangers. My days are few among you, when the members reject me I drop my journeyings. I am, etc.,

(Signed) James O'Kelly To Jesse Nicholson, Portsmouth, Va.

The second letter is addressed to Col. Hollowell Williams, of Currituck County, North Carolina, a member of the North Carolina Convention of 1776, which framed the (Constitution of North Carolina, a leading Methodist. It is as follows:

"No doubt you have heard I had resigned my place in the conference.

I protested against a consolidated government, or any one lord, or archbishop, claiming apostolic authority, declaring to have the keys.

Thus our ministry have raised a throne for bishops, which being a human invention, a deviation from Christ and dear Mr. Wesley, I cordially refuse to touch.

Liberty is worth contending for at the point of the sword in divers ways--monarchy, tyranny tumbling both in church and kingdom--while our preachers are erecting a throne for gentlemen bishops in a future day, when, fixed with an independent fortune, they may sit and lord it over God's heritage. I speak in the fear of God and feel for the dear people.

District conferences are nugatory [invalid], having given up their suffrages.

Our preachers, so powerfully influenced by a few wise men, part located, have voted away their own liberty; no appeal for an injured man. The preacher sent hath [208] sole power to receive or reject whom he will;

if a sinner is by him admitted to the sacrament, members are subject to commune with him, and accounted acursed if they depart.

What I say I am able to make appear in the spirit of meekness with fear. I am still a true man and know what I say. If I would hold my peace and stay at home I might have during my life £40 per annum. Would I do as others wish, I might have peace and cash. I can do nothing against the truth, nor can I turn my mind as a man can his coat. I had rather suffer with my own people.

(Signed) JAMES O KEEI.Y.

The third letter is given in his Apology, and is a Letter of Address to the Methodist Christians.

"James, the least, and elder brother, by the mercy of God, and not of man, unto the members of the Methodist E. Church, greetings: Grace, mercy and love be multiplied unto you all, in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.

"After you have read and considered the contents of my writing, I hope you will do me justice to the best of your judgment.

"You will find that the preachers are striving to support their government and power, at the expense of my character! It would be needless to repeat the trifling reports respecting my obstinacy, self-will, etc. But they have gone as far as to charge me with dishonesty, saying: He wronged a person in the purchase of land, and a mill--O cruel slander! I solemnly declare, I gave the man his asking for the land, and paid him [209] gold to oblige him, when paper money was a lawful tender. This I did before asked, and a word of dispute never passed. The old mill was valued, at his request, and I paid the valuation before the money was due, and took in my last bond. All this I am able to prove.

"I expect these things have been sounded in your ears. They say I am a man of a divisive spirit, and a party was what I had in view from the first. In this I am wronged also; as my letters can testify, if they were brought forth. Yes, my former letters can witness that I was ever warmly opposed to a division. Some say that I declared I had rather lose an arm. I have been provoked to speak, but I dare not say that I ever spake that; but if I did, I spake as I thought--no doubt. I think I have no need of former letters nor the testimony of those who have heard me speak against a separation, but my conduct will prove this. I continued among you, in love and friendship, as long as I possibly could after leaving conference. But you shut your doors against me, and drove me from your union, what more could I do?

"This is not all; I am ready now to be with you in love and church communion, as ever: Think and let think. Is thy heart as mine ? Gl ive me thy hand. If love is denied, I call for the ordinance of justice. Never condemn a person before you have heard both; for he that is first in his own cause, seemeth right, but his neighbor cometh in and searcheth him out. If your prejudice is too strong for your judgment, then I had rather appeal to Cresar.

You are taught to mark [210] them that cause divisions,

but let your teachers state matters fairly, and finish the text,

'Mark them that cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned,' etc.

"I am not the cause of the schism in the body, which word signifies cut, or cleft; neither do I teach false doctrines; nor do I wish to be divided from you: only give me liberty of conscience.

When Paul wrote, he had no view of the Methodist E. government,

nor doth his words condemn those that forsake it;

but the Scripture government and doctrine was his standard. The cry is, 'He hath no business among our people.' What, have no business among mine own children in the Lord and Master's family, where I have spent the prime of my life ?

"In the beginning of our distress, I was not only comforted and eneouraged by Thomas (Coke), but awfully warned to stand against the proceedings of Francis (Asbury) at my peril. (This letter was from Wilmington, Del., and has already been quoted.)

"As there is no evil in the letter I have inserted, let no evil be thought of it. I write in self-defense, not to hurt the character of Thomas; neither can it hurt him. I have other letters which might give some light, but God forbid I ever should discover such meanness or wickedness as to do things through strife or vainglory.

"Some time past I saw a letter written by a learned person (not in the church), to an Episcopal elder. I observed the following sentences' viz: 'If Cr. Coke and Asbury are bishops (as they say) by regular order [211] and succession, I ask whom did they succeed? You will say they succeeded Wesley. Was he a bishop? No. How then can they be bishops by succession? But how about regular order? Regular order is something done according to law. Bishop in England is a title of honor and nobility, seeing they have a seat in the House of Lords. A bishop nominated in England by regular order needs the king in person. Was this the order of your two bishops ?'

"The learned Dr., by deriving, or rather driving, the word overseer up to the Greek by a strange kind of backward etymology, hath found one word that he thinks may appear to favor episcopacy. The word is from epi, super, and skeptomai, or the Latin video: which, being interpreted, is super video, to look over,' as elder, presbyter, overseer. No superior order is found there.

"Finally, brethren, I am drawing to a close. To the best of my judgment, I have given you (as to the substance) a faithful account. To which, if you request it, I can affirm, and produce the testimony of others, who believe as I do, and will affirm to the best of their judgment, as to the substance of those facts. My character is now fully tried, and powerfully strained, but not grazed; for they can not prove one evil against me. God hath showed me what is good; and I have striven to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly. Thus, my character will appear with double luster, and be established forever. He that diggeth a pit for his brother, will be in danger of falling in, as the case of Haman and Mordecai will show. [212}

"I am thinking in what manner my exalted brethren will answer what I have written, when conscience must speak in them. Perhaps they may judge that silent contempt will be the best policy; or pick at particular words, and sneer; or darken counsel with many words of theirs. If my opponents write at all on the subject, that will answer any good purpose, we sincerely desire that they may attempt to produce vouchers from the Book of God, to prove their episcopal dignity and legislative authority.

"The lay members are not the people that gave the offense, or caused the separation. You have no voice in forming your own government, but receive whatever your ministers will impose; nor dare to condemn a given law. I remember you in love; I write in tears; I pass by your houses in sorrow; I am as you are; you have not injured me at all. I desire union with you-- think and let think. How cruel for us to be separated by the voice of tyranny! I cordially despise slavery in every sense of the word; but thee I love.

"Thine as ever,


Beginning his work at a time when such poisonous arrows were thrown at him as we have seen in the course of this chapter, we begin to see what Rev. James O'Kelly and his associates had to encounter in order that they might place themselves and their constituents in the proper light before the world. Nor were these the only obstacles they had to encounter. The whole country at that time was to some extent [213} tainted with infidel and atheistic opinions. One man, in writing of these times, expressed his opinion and said that the nineteenth century would see the end of Christianity, as it seemed that the whole country was swept by infidel and atheistic doctrines. Many leading men in the pulpit had like fears.

Mr. O'Kelly and his associates were in a new and sparsely settled country, education was not general, there were few newspapers, and very few postroads, and travel was slow and very expensive. They had handed in their resignations to a much larger body, and one to some extent established in the minds of the people, and now they had to begin their work as proselytes. It was a mammoth undertaking, and one that would have daunted any but hardy pioneers in a new country. In addition, they were all poor people and hardly to be reckoned with in the financial world, and while money is not a requisite to one's personal salvation, yet it is a means to an end in religious work, as well as in any other, and without it progress is very slow. The history of the organization proves this.

On Restoration Principles with Photos
And Thomas Jefferson with Photo
Life of James O'Kelly - MacClenny Ch. XVII with Photos

Kenneth Sublett

Restoration Movement

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