The flash of the powder was seen by many at the camp; at least the light. When the powder flashed, down fell Sargent; there he lay a good while.
Peter Cartwright- Backwoods preacher (2)
A Character story about sincerity.
Peter Cartwright was a circuit preacher for the Methodist Church in the United States in the first half of the 1800's. Because of the primitive conditions of the unsettled country, he and others faced difficulties with disease, exposure, hunger, and, as we saw last time, antagonistic mobs. They got little pay. Peter once wrote, "When I started as a traveling preacher, a single preacher was allowed to receive eighty dollars per year, if his circuit would give it to him; but single preachers in those days seldom received over thirty or forty dollars, and often much less."
Once on his travels homeward he faced a problem. "By the time I reached the Ohio river, opposite Maysville, my money was all gone. I was in trouble about how to get over the river, for I had nothing to pay my ferriage. I was acquainted with brother J. Armstrong, a merchant in Maysville, and concluded to tell the ferryman that I had no money, but if he would ferry me over, I could borrow twenty-five cents from Armstrong, and would pay him. Just as I got to the bank of the river, he landed, on my side, with a man and a horse; and when the man reached the bank, I saw it was Colonel M. Shelby, a brother to Governor Shelby, of Kentucky. He was a lively exhorter in the Methodist Episcopal Church, and an old acquaintance and neighbor of my father's. When he saw me, he exclaimed: 'Peter, is that you?'
'Yes, Moses,' said I, 'what little is left of me.'
'Well,' said he, 'from your appearance you must have seen hard times. Are you trying to get home?'
'Yes,' I answered.
'How are you off for money, Peter?' said he.
'Well, Moses,' said I, 'I have not a cent in the world.'
'Well,' said he, 'here are three dollars, and I will give you a bill of the road and a letter of introduction till you get down into the barrens, at the Pilot Knob.' You may be sure my spirits greatly rejoiced!"
Circuit preachers also faced the trials of false teachers. This true story is about one such man.
"There was here in Marietta a preacher by the name of A. Sargent; he had been a Universalist preacher (one who taught everyone is a child of God and goes to heaven no matter what you believe about Jesus), but found such a motley gang, he thought-and thought correctly too- that they were proper subjects for his imposture. Accordingly, he assumed the name of Halcyon Church, and proclaimed himself the millennial messenger. He professed to see visions, fall into trances, and to converse with angels. His followers were numerous in the town and country. The Presbyterian and Congregational ministers were afraid of him. He had men preachers and women preachers. The Methodists had no meeting-house in Marietta. We had to preach in the court-house when we could get a chance. We battled pretty severely. The Congregationalists opened their Academy for me to preach in. I prepared myself, and gave battle to the Halcyons. This made a mighty commotion. In the mean time we had a camp meeting in the suburbs of Marietta. Brother Sale, our presiding elder, was there. Mr. Sargent came, and hung around and wanted to preach, but brother Sale never noticed him.
Sunday night, at our camp meeting, Sargent got some powder, and lit a cigar, and then walked down to the bank of the river, one hundred yards, where stood a large stump. He put his powder on the stump, and touched it with his cigar. The flash of the powder was seen by many at the camp; at least the light. When the powder flashed, down fell Sargent; there he lay a good while. In the mean time the people found him lying there, and gathered around him. At length he came to, and said he had a message from God to us Methodists. He said God had come down to him in a flash of light, and he fell under the power of God, and thus received his vision. Seeing so many gathered round him there, I took a light, and went down to see what was going on. As soon as I came near the stump, I smelled the sulphur of the powder; and stepping up to the stump, there was clearly the sign of powder, and hard by lay the cigar with which he had ignited it. He was now busy delivering his message. I stepped up to him, and asked him if an angel had appeared to him in that flash of light.
He said, 'Yes.'
Said I, 'Sargent, did not that angel smell of brimstone?'
'Why,' said he, 'do you ask me such a foolish question?'
'Because,' said I, 'if an angel has spoken to you at all he was from the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone!' and raising my voice, I said, 'I smell sulphur now!' I walked up to the stump, and called on the people to come and see for themselves. The people rushed up, and soon saw through the trick, and began to abuse Sargent for a vile impostor. He soon left, and we were troubled no more with him or his brimstone angels."