It may have looked like an insignificant beginning when 19 persons from the common walks of life stood up on the campground belonging to Isaac M. Chesbrough near Pekin, New York, on Sunday morning, Aug. 26, 1860, three days after the organization of the Free Methodist Church, and formed the first class by answering the questions asked by Benjamin T. Roberts from the newly adopted Discipline.
While the numbers were few, the principles they represented were great, and back of the principles and back of those individuals stood the Lord Almighty.
Those were stormy days, and the persons who took their stand amid opposition and persecution were men and women possessed of strong determination, unwavering faith, unyielding courage and holy zeal, and they were not to be deterred from carrying forward their God-given work by anything that might be put in their way.
The question might be asked: In looking over the time that has passed, and considering what has been done, and the sacrifices that have been made, have the steps taken by our fathers in organizing the Free Methodist Church been justified? We would answer: Yes, 1,000 times, yes!
It is not with a feeling of boasting that we point to the character we bear as a church and to the work we have accomplished, and are doing, but with deep humility we recognize the hand of the Lord in superintending the work and in leading us along.
Amid great opposition, bitter persecution, severe hardships, and struggle and sacrifice, the Free Methodist Church has cut her way through this unfriendly, ungodly world, overleaping every obstacle and surmounting every difficulty, until today she stands an acknowledged power in the religious world.
When we consider the unpopular issues for which she stands committed; when we regard the tremendous forces with which she has had to contend; when we contemplate the fewness of her numbers and the meager material resources at their command; and behold her exerting such a wide influence today, we can but feel that she has been supported and guided by the hand of the Great Eternal.
Through great sacrifice and commendable zeal, she has not only extended her borders in this country, but she has taken the gospel into the regions beyond, and the conference in Africa, and the work in Japan, India and other countries are testimonials to her aggressiveness, her revival spirit, and to her sacrifice.
So far as actual numbers are concerned, in comparison to the membership of the great churches about us, we may appear to others as a very insignificant affair; but when we remember what each member stands for, the church may be larger than it appears. It is not to be wondered at that we do not grow faster. The wonder is that we exist at all.
By her faithfulness in preaching the gospel, she has raised up a standard of righteousness that commends itself even to the ungodly.
The standard of Bible salvation has been held up before the people, and the church has maintained her rank as a holiness church, whose pulpits have sounded forth the glorious doctrine of entire sanctification and whose pews have responded with the glad amen of endorsement.
In all these years, no preacher among us has been under the necessity of joining any holiness association that he might have liberty to preach a full salvation. No member has ever been obliged to go elsewhere for the privilege of testifying to the cleansing of the blood of the Lord Jesus.
Our church has always had an open door for those of other churches who have been strapped and hindered and not permitted to enjoy soul liberty, and many are those who have taken advantage of this privilege and received help of the Lord who never joined our ranks.
While the first conference that was held in Rushford, New York, in October 1860, was composed of but 14 preachers and the same number of laymen, today are a thousand godly preachers proclaiming full salvation in the United States, Canada, Africa, India, Japan, the Dominican Republic and in other places, besides the large number of local preachers, evangelists and other workers. These workers, ordained and unordained, are all telling the same story of deliverance from the power of sin and Satan.
Whenever you find one of these Free Methodists, you will discover that he bears the same brand as do all the others. He is in favor of Bible holiness and opposed to iniquity of all kinds.
They all stand out before the world with a definite object in view — to spread scriptural holiness and to break down the works of the devil.
The poor are given a hearty welcome and are at liberty to occupy the best seats in the places of worship. By a fundamental law of the church, all the pews must be forever free. This is in marked contrast to the practice of many churches where those who are unable to rent pews are compelled to remain outside of the audience room until a certain hour when the pewholders are supposed to be in their places. Then the poor are given the seats that are left, and, in this matter, they must advertise their poverty every time they go to church.
In the work of the ministry and labor of love, the Free Methodist Church has not forgotten the orphans, the aged and the downtrodden, and she has opened rescue homes for the unfortunate, orphanages for the poor children, and homes for the aged.
Those who were opposed to our church in the beginning prophesied that it would soon run out — and it has, and is still running, and purposes, by the grace of God, to continue to run out until the globe is girdled with salvation, and the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ.
J.T. Logan was a Free Methodist elder from New York who served as this publication’s editor from 1907–1923 and from 1927–1931. This article ran in the Aug. 9, 1910, issue that celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Free Methodist Church.