|Beautiful Belmont, Part 29 -- The Methodists.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 28 -- The Horse Race.
The religious revivals of the Methodist Episcopal denominations in the mid-nineteenth century held many interesting features for an inquisitive boy. To the staid, sturdy, practical Scottish Presbyterian, many of the conversions to that church -- made under a spirit of such religious excitement -- were considered inappropriate. It was truly surprising to witness some of them, made in a frenzy of intense religious fervency. Shouting and screaming at the top of their voices from the mourners' bench was a frequent spectacle. Penitents knelt, ordinarily in front of the pulpit, while the members prayed, sang, and shouted around them as others, out among the audience, urged them to go forward, under the penalty of an eternal punishment in an actual yawning hell of fire and brimstone to which they were sure to be consigned unless they repented. Women fainted frequently, and the sobs, shouting, singing, praying, weeping, and exhorting all went on at once, producing, at times, total confusion. In later years, refinement and education virtually eliminated such scenes. However, this denomination now is one of the most prosperous and influential in the land. It has always been intensely loyal to the country, and was a great support to Abraham Lincoln during the war, causing him to exclaim in his darkest hour, "God bless the Methodist Church."
As a young boy attending just such a revival meeting with my father -- who went to services at the Methodist Church in Martins Ferry -- I witnessed the following: The mourners' bench was pretty well filled, the meeting was one of great excitement, and the minister was exhorting from the platform back of the railing in front of the pulpit. He was attacking -- in unmeasured tones -- infidels and infidelity, urging the folly of dying under the belief of such a doctrine. He gave as evidence of this, a story of the death of the infidel Captain Ethan Allen, which he claimed to have read about in a religious periodical. The minister said that when that celebrated commander of the Green Mountain Boys in the war of the Revolution was about to die, his only daughter came to his bedside and asked, "Father, you have taught me one faith, and my mother, who is a Christian member of the church, has taught me another. Now, which shall I believe and follow, your teachings or my mother's?" The old hero replied, "Believe your mother's, my daughter," and so he died.
At this moment the minister, with flushed face and flashing eye, pointed his finger directly at Samuel Faris, who, with his friend Mr. Topping, was sitting in the seat in front of Jacob Van Pelt, my father, and me, and some three seats back from the front, and said, "And if you will stop talking there, Mr. Faris, I will tell you more about it." Faris had whispered something in the ear of his companion, while the minister was talking, and the latter had noticed his movement. He could not have overheard what Faris said, for I could not do so, although I was almost touching him. When publicly named in this way, Faris arose, and in a calm voice, enquired, "Will the gentleman state from what periodical he obtained that statement?" The minister cried out in great passion, "Shut up, sir! Shut up!" "I desire to say," said Faris with great calmness, "that the periodical from which the gentleman obtained his statement is not a periodical, but a novel entitled, Ethan Allen, Or, The Captain of the Green Mountain Boys. I desire to state further that Captain Ethan Allen never had a daughter. He died childless."
At this juncture all was confusion and uproar. The minister sprang over the short railing and made his way rapidly toward Faris, exclaiming, "If you will not shut up, I will shut you up!" Jacob Van Pelt took the arm of Mr. Faris and quietly said, "Mr. Faris, you must leave the church. This is causing too much disturbance." "Certainly," said Faris, "I will go with you," and they walked to the door together. The minister tried to get at Faris, but was prevented, though he followed to the door. Pretty soon the minister came back down the aisle, and with a face full of victory, began singing a hymn in a loud voice.
The meeting continued to a late hour. Faris was arrested the next day, brought before Squire James Bane, and fined five dollars for interrupting the religious worship. Faris, an educated gentleman of considerable ability, was technically guilty of the charge, but there would have been no interruption had it not been brought on by the conduct of the minister. This was the judgment of Jacob Van Pelt, my father, and many other dignified members of the church.
Pioneer days produced characters more rugged and perhaps coarser than do our refinements of today, and in handling masses then, methods were necessarily different.
See next entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 30 -- The Society of Friends.
For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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