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LATE SENIOR BISHOP OF THE METHODIST EFISCOPAL CHURCH.
BISHOP M'KENDREE was born in King William County, Virginia, July 6, 1757. We know little of the events of his early life. He joined the patriots of the Revolution, and attained, it is said, the rank of adjutant in the army. During a season of remarkable religious interest in Virginia, in 1787, he became seriously concerned for his soul. Twelve hundred members were added to the Church on the Brunswick Circuit, which included the place of his residence, under the preaching of Rev. John Easter, a man of note in those days. M'Kendree, who had before been deeply impressed with religious convictions, says:
"My convictions were renewed. They were deep and pungent. The great deep of the heart was broken up. Its deceit and desperately wicked nature was disclosed, and the awful, the eternally ruinous consequences, clearly appeared. My repentance was sincere. I became willing, and was desirous to be saved on any terms. After a sore and sorrowful travail of three days, which were employed in hearing Mr. Easter, and in fasting and prayer, while the man of God was showing a large congregation the way of salvation by faith, with a clearness which at once astonished and encouraged me, I ventured my all upon Christ.
In a moment my soul was relieved of a burden too heavy to be borne, and joy instantly succeeded sorrow. For a short space of time I was fixed in silent adoration, giving glory to God for his unspeakable goodness to such an unworthy creature.”
From this happy change he passed on to higher experiences. The doctrine of entire sanctification was then preached, perhaps more faithfully than now, by our ministry. He received this great truth, and resolutely sought to attain its experimental knowledge. "Eventually," he writes, "I obtained deliverance from unholy passions, and found myself possessed of ability to resist temptation, to take up and bear the cross, and to exercise faith and patience, and all the graces of the Spirit in a manner before unknown."
He subsequently became impressed with the thought that it was his duty to enter the itinerant ministry. He hesitated, however, at the responsibility of the work. Conflicts profound and most harassing followed; at last, driven by his feelings, he visited his friend, Rev. Mr. Easter, and travelled some time the circuit with him; but again hesitating, he retreated to his home, resolved to resume his secular pursuits. He found no rest there, however, and finally gave himself to the Virginia Conference, and was appointed by Asbury to Mecklenburgh Circuit. He writes:
"I went immediately to the circuit to which I was appointed, relying more on the judgment of experienced ministers, in whom I confided, than on any clear conviction of my call to the work; and when I yielded to their judgment I firmly resolved not to deceive them, and to retire as soon as I should be convinced that I was not called of God, and to conduct myself in such a manner that, if I
failed, my friends might be satisfied it was not for want of effort on my part, but that their judgment was not well founded. This resolution supported me under many doubts and fears—for entering into the work of a travelling preacher neither removed my doubts nor the difficulties that attended my labours. Sustained by a determination to make a full trial, I resorted to fasting and prayer, and waited for those kind friends who had charge and government over me to dismiss me from the work. But I waited in vain. In this state of suspense my reasoning might have terminated in discouraging and ruinous conclusions, had I not been comforted and supported by the kind and encouraging manner in which I was received by aged and experienced brethren, and by the manifest presence of God in our meetings, which were frequently lively and profitable. Sometimes souls were convicted and converted, which afforded me considerable encouragement, as well as the union and communion with my Saviour in private devotion, which he graciously afforded me in the intervals of my very imperfect attempts to preach his gospel. In this way I became satisfied of my call to the ministry, and that I was moving in the line of my duty."
His next appointment was Cumberland Circuit. At the following Conference (1790) he was sent to Portsmouth Circuit, and the year following to Amelia Circuit. When this year's labours were closed, having served four years in the travelling connexion, he was elected and ordained an elder. His appointment from this Conference was to the Greensville Circuit, and he was placed in charge; that is, he had the direction of the ministerial work performed on the circuit. Mr. M'Kendree had already taken a position among the preachers of his day, that, considering his short
period in the work, was most creditable to him. A short time in the ministry was sufficient for his fellow-labourers to discover and acknowledge his noble earnestness and superior abilities as a preacher of "Jesus and the resurrec tion."
Mr. M'Kendree remained at his post till the General Conference was to assemble in Baltimore, in November, 1792. At that time all the preachers in full connexion were considered members; now only delegates are elected to represent the mass. This Conference possesses considerable historical interest, from an attempt made by one of the members, Mr. O'Kelly, to restrict the power of the bishops in the work of appointing preachers. Mr. O'Kelly was a very popular preacher, who had been presiding elder for a number of years in the southern part of Virginia, and had greatly ingrafted his scheme in the affections of the people, and the younger preachers in that portion of the State. The scheme, after three days spent in strong debates upon its merits, entirely failed. The failure of the project was immediately followed by the withdrawal of Mr. O'Kelly and quite a number of his friends, among whom was young M'Kendree.
It appears, from a conversation with Mr. M'Kendree, reported in "Smith's Recollections," that the character of Bishop Asbury had been shamefully misrepresented to him by Mr. O'Kelly, and that on this account he obtained leave to travel with the bishop, and, indeed, made it the condition of his remaining in the itinerancy. It is quite needless to say that an intimate acquaintance with the beloved bishop created a confidence and friendship which each succeeding year cemented the more surely, till death, at last, separated them for a few years. His continuance
with the bishop was short, for in a few weeks he accepted an appointment to Norfolk and Portsmouth Stations, which were that year united together.
From this time Mr. M'Kendree devoted himself diligently to a comprehensive examination of the rules and discipline drawn up by Mr. Wesley, and adopted at the organization of our Church. This examination convinced him that it was particularly adapted to evangelize all por. tions of the country, and was agreeable to the government and regulations of the primitive Church. From this time forth none used their influence and talents to preserve the government as it was more than he did.
His stay at Norfolk was not long; for Bishop Asbury removed him to Petersburgh, which place he occupied to the close of the Conference year. As the bishop went south on his annual tour, for the year 1794, he took M'Kendree with him to fill a place on Union Circuit, in the South Carolina Conference. Here he remained only one year, for at the next Conference he was appointed to Bedford Circuit, in the bounds of the Virginia Conference. At the commencement of the third quarter he was removed to Greenbrier Circuit, in the midst of the Alleghany Mountains; and at the end of the same quarter he was transferred to what was called the Little Levels, on the Kanawha River, and the farthest extremity of the Virginia Conference. Surely this was itinerancy in such a manner as would frighten many of his followers in this day; but such was the zeal of the preachers then, that they delighted in the most self-denying labours.
His name is found on the printed minutes of 1795, as appointed to Botetourt Circuit. He was in charge of four circuits, and travelled three months on each one of them