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Faith in the old Methodist Way

Discussion in 'The Church Forum' started by rockytopva, Mar 30, 2022.

  1. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    I came to faith in the old Methodist way and exactly the way George Clark Rankin 150 years before me. I have heard the difference between the Baptist and the Methodist is that the Baptist do not believe in backsliding but the Methodist practice it. For this cause I do not recommend any particular denomination and also miss these type services.

    From the book "The Life of George Clark Rankin" located at
    George Clark Rankin. The Story of My Life Or More Than a Half Century As I Have Lived It and Seen It Lived Written by Myself at My Own Suggestion and That of Many Others Who Have Known and Loved Me

    George Clark Ranking was born in 1849 in East Tennessee and became a preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (which would later form into the UMC). Mr. Rankin would move and spend the rest of his years in Dallas, Texas. A good life! Here are some excerpts from his book...

    ...Excerpts...

    CHAPTER III
    An Old-Time Election in East
    Tennessee, and Else

    In the earlier days, long before the railroads ran through that section, East Tennessee was a country to itself. Its topography made it such. Its people were a peculiar people - rugged, honest and unique. I doubt if their kind was ever known under other circumstances. Hundreds of them were well-to-do, and now and then, in the more fertile communities, there was actual wealth. Especially was this true along the beautiful water-courses where the farm lands are unequaled, even to this good day.

    Among them were people of intelligence and high ideals. No country could boast of a finer grade of men and women than lived and flourished in portions of that "Switzerland of America." Their ministers and lawyers and politicians were men of unusual talent. Some of the most eloquent men produced in the United States were born and flourished in East Tennessee.

    Those evergreen hills and sun-tipped mountains, covered with a verdant forest in summer and gorgeously decorated with every variety of autumnal hue in the fall and winter; those foaming rivers and leaping cascades; the scream of the eagle by day and the weird hoot of the owl by night - all these natural environments conspired to make men hardy and their speech pictorial and romantic. As a result, there were among them men of native eloquence, veritable sons of thunder in the pulpit, before the bar, and on the hustings.

    But far back from these better advantages of soil and institutions of learning, in the gorges, on the hills, along the ravines and amid the mountains, the great throbbing masses of the people were of a different type and belonged almost to another civilization. They were rugged, natural and picturesque. With exceptions, they were not people of books; they did not know the art of letters; they were simple, crude, sincere and physically brave. They enjoyed the freedom of the hills, the shadows of the rocks and the grandeur of the mountains. They were a robust set of men and women, whose dress was mostly homespun, whose muscles were tough, whose countenances were swarthy, and whose rifles were their defense. They took an interest in whatever transpired in their own localities and in the more favored sections of their more fortunate neighbors. They were social, and practiced the law of reciprocity long before Uncle Sam tried to establish it between this country and Canada.

    Who among us, having lived in that garden spot of the world, can ever forget the old-fashioned house-raisings, the rough and tumble log-rollings, the frosty corn-shuckings, the road-workings and the quilting-bees? And when the day's work was over - then the supper - after that the fiddle and the bow, and the old Virginia reel. None but a registered East Tennessean, in his memory, can do justice to experiences like those. No such things ever happened in just that way anywhere on the face of the earth except in that land of the skies.

    Therefore, the man who even thinks of those East Tennesseans as sluggards and ignoramuses who got nothing out of life is wide of the mark. They had sense of the horse kind; and they were people of good though crude morals. No such thing as a divorce was known among them. It was rare that one of them ever went to jail in our section; and, if he did, he was disgraced for life. I never knew, in my boyhood, of but one man going to the penitentiary and it was a shock to the whole country.
     
  2. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    The spiritual transformation...

    "Grandfather was kind to me and considerate of me, yet he was strict with me. I worked along with him in the field when the weather was agreeable and when it was inclement I helped him in his hatter's shop, for the Civil War was in progress and he had returned at odd times to hatmaking. It was my business in the shop to stretch foxskins and coonskins across a wood-horse and with a knife, made for that purpose, pluck the hair from the fur. I despise the odor of foxskins and coonskins to this good day. He had me to walk two miles every Sunday to Dandridge to Church service and Sunday-school, rain or shine, wet or dry, cold or hot; yet he had fat horses standing in his stable. But he was such a blue-stocking Presbyterian that he never allowed a bridle to go on a horse's head on Sunday. The beasts had to have a day of rest. Old Doctor Minnis was the pastor, and he was the dryest and most interminable preacher I ever heard in my life. He would stand motionless and read his sermons from manuscript for one hour and a half at a time and sometimes longer. Grandfather would sit and never take his eyes off of him, except to glance at me to keep me quiet. It was torture to me." - George Clark Rankin

    George Clark Rankin was then sent to Georgia after his grandfather could no longer care for him. With his belongings in a satchel he had a Colt's navy pistol of a large make. It was an old weapon, and what under the sun I wanted with it is a mystery to me to this good day. I reached the station in time to catch the eleven-o' clock train. I purchased my ticket and boarded the car for the first time in my life. I had one lone lorn fifty-cent piece left in my depleted purse, and that was the sum and substance of my finances for the rest of the trip. As the train whizzed along I looked first at the people and then through the window at the country and thought over my journey and what was to come of it. At nine o'clock we reached Dalton and disembarked. I had never been in a hotel. I saw one not far from the depot and went to it. I asked the clerk what he would charge me for a room that night and he said fifty cents. That was exactly my pile! I called for the accommodation, but before retiring I told him I wanted to leave very early the next morning for Spring Place and that I would pay him then, for no one would be up when I would leave. He smiled and took the silver half dollar. I went to my room, and solitude is no name for the room I occupied that night. After a while I fell into a sound sleep and awoke bright and early the next morning. It was not good daylight. I arose and hastened downstairs, and there sat the same clerk whom I had the night before it had never dawned on me that a hotel clerk sat up all night. I thanked him for his kindness and bade him good-bye in regular old country style.

    It was not long until I was in the road and making tracks across the country to where my uncle lived. It was in 1866 and the marks of Sherman's march to the sea were everywhere visible. The country was very much out of repair and all around Dalton the earth was marked with breastworks. Every hill showed signs of war. Much of the fencing had not been restored and here and there I could see blackened chimneys still standing. After I had gotten out a few miles I stopped and took that old pistol with its belt and scabbard out of my satchel and buckled the war paraphernalia around my person on the outside of my coat. Just why I did this I cannot explain. I must have looked a caution in my homespun suit and rural air trudging along that highway with that old army pistol fastened around me. In going down a hill toward a ravine from which there was another hill in front of me I met two men horseback. They spoke to me and eyed me very curiously, but, strange to say, I could not tell why. Why would not men eye such a looking war arsenal as that? There were two others riding down the hill in front of me, and as the first two passed me they stopped and looked back at the others and shouted: "Lookout, boys, he is loaded!"

    [​IMG]
     
  3. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    In the course of an hour I was at my uncle's. He was surprised to see me, but gave me a cordial welcome. The first thing he did was to disarm me, and that ended my pistol-toting. I have never had one about my person or home to this good day. And I never will understand just why I had that one. A good dinner refreshed me and I soon unfolded my plans and they were satisfactory to my kind-hearted kinsman. He was in the midst of cotton-picking and that afternoon I went to the field and, with a long sack about my waist, had my first experience in the cottonfield. We then would get ready for the revival occurring that night…

    After the team had been fed and we had been to supper we put the mules to the wagon, filled it with chairs and we were off to the meeting. When we reached the locality it was about dark and the people were assembling. Their horses and wagons filled up the cleared spaces and the singing was already in progress. My uncle and his family went well up toward the front, but I dropped into a seat well to the rear. It was an old-fashioned Church, ancient in appearance, oblong in shape and unpretentious. It was situated in a grove about one hundred yards from the road. It was lighted with old tallow-dip candles furnished by the neighbors. It was not a prepossessing-looking place, but it was soon crowded and evidently there was a great deal of interest. A cadaverous-looking man stood up in front with a tuning fork and raised and led the songs. There were a few prayers and the minister came in with his saddlebags and entered the pulpit. He was the Rev. W. H. Heath, the circuit rider. His prayer impressed me with his earnestness and there were many amens to it in the audience. I do not remember his text, but it was a typical revival sermon, full of unction and power.

    At its close he invited penitents to the altar and a great many young people flocked to it and bowed for prayer. Many of them became very much affected and they cried out distressingly for mercy. It had a strange effect on me. It made me nervous and I wanted to retire. Directly my uncle came back to me, put his arm around my shoulder and asked me if I did not want to be religious. I told him that I had always had that desire, that mother had brought me up that way, and really I did not know anything else. Then he wanted to know if I had ever professed religion. I hardly understood what he meant and did not answer him. He changed his question and asked me if I had ever been to the altar for prayer, and I answered him in the negative. Then he earnestly besought me to let him take me up to the altar and join the others in being prayed for. It really embarrassed me and I hardly knew what to say to him. He spoke to me of my mother and said that when she was a little girl she went to the altar and that Christ accepted her and she had been a good Christian all these years. That touched me in a tender spot, for mother always did do what was right; and then I was far away from her and wanted to see her. Oh, if she were there to tell me what to do!

    By and by I yielded to his entreaty and he led forward to the altar. The minister took me by the hand and spoke tenderly to me as I knelt at the altar. I had gone more out of sympathy than conviction, and I did not know what to do after I bowed there. The others were praying aloud and now and then one would rise shoutingly happy and make the old building ring with his glad praise. It was a novel experience to me. I did not know what to pray for, neither did I know what to expect if I did pray. I spent the most of the hour wondering why I was there and what it all meant. No one explained anything to me. Once in awhile some good old brother or sister would pass my way, strike me on the back and tell me to look up and believe and the blessing would come. But that was not encouraging to me. In fact, it sounded like nonsense and the noise was distracting me. Even in my crude way of thinking I had an idea that religion was a sensible thing and that people ought to become religious intelligently and without all that hurrah. I presume that my ideas were the result of the Presbyterian training given to me by old grandfather. By and by my knees grew tired and the skin was nearly rubbed off my elbows. I thought the service never would close, and when it did conclude with the benediction I heaved a sigh of relief. That was my first experience at the mourner's bench.

    As we drove home I did not have much to say, but I listened attentively to the conversation between my uncle and his wife. They were greatly impressed with the meeting, and they spoke first of this one and that one who had "come through" and what a change it would make in the community, as many of them were bad boys. As we were putting up the team my uncle spoke very encouragingly to me; he was delighted with the step I had taken and he pleaded with me not to turn back, but to press on until I found the pearl of great price. He knew my mother would be very happy over the start I had made. Before going to sleep I fell into a train of thought, though I was tired and exhausted. I wondered why I had gone to that altar and what I had gained by it. I felt no special conviction and had received no special impression, but then if my mother had started that way there must be something in it, for she always did what was right. I silently lifted my heart to God in prayer for conviction and guidance. I knew how to pray, for I had come up through prayer, but not the mourner's bench sort. So I determined to continue to attend the meeting and keep on going to the altar until I got religion.

    Early the next morning I was up and in a serious frame of mind. I went with the other hands to the cottonfield and at noon I slipped off in the barn and prayed. But the more I thought of the way those young people were moved in the meeting and with what glad hearts they had shouted their praises to God the more it puzzled and confused me. I could not feel the conviction that they had and my heart did not feel melted and tender. I was callous and unmoved in feeling and my distress on account of sin was nothing like theirs. I did not understand my own state of mind and heart. It troubled me, for by this time I really wanted to have an experience like theirs.

    When evening came I was ready for Church service and was glad to go. It required no urging. Another large crowd was present and the preacher was as earnest as ever. I did not give much heed to the sermon. In fact, I do not recall a word of it. I was anxious for him to conclude and give me a chance to go to the altar. I had gotten it into my head that there was some real virtue in the mourner's bench; and when the time came I was one of the first to prostrate myself before the altar in prayer. Many others did likewise. Two or three good people at intervals knelt by me and spoke encouragingly to me, but they did not help me. Their talks were mere exhortations to earnestness and faith, but there was no explanation of faith, neither was there any light thrown upon my mind and heart. I wrought myself up into tears and cries for help, but the whole situation was dark and I hardly knew why I cried, or what was the trouble with me. Now and then others would arise from the altar in an ecstasy of joy, but there was no joy for me. When the service closed I was discouraged and felt that maybe I was too hardhearted and the good Spirit could do nothing for me.
     
  4. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    After we went home I tossed on the bed before going to sleep and wondered why God did not do for me what he had done for mother and what he was doing in that meeting for those young people at the altar. I could not understand it. But I resolved to keep on trying, and so dropped off to sleep. The next day I had about the same experience and at night saw no change in my condition. And so for several nights I repeated the same distressing experience. The meeting took on such interest that a day service was adopted along with the night exercises, and we attended that also. And one morning while I bowed at the altar in a very disturbed state of mind Brother Tyson, a good local preacher and the father of Rev. J. F. Tyson, now of the Central Conference, sat down by me and, putting his hand on my shoulder, said to me: "Now I want you to sit up awhile and let's talk this matter over quietly. I am sure that you are in earnest, for you have been coming to this altar night after night for several days. I want to ask you a few simple questions." And the following questions were asked and answered:

    "My son, do you not love God?"

    "I cannot remember when I did not love him."

    "Do you believe on his Son, Jesus Christ?"

    "I have always believed on Christ. My mother taught me that from my earliest recollection."

    "Do you accept him as your Savior?"

    "I certainly do, and have always done so."

    "Can you think of any sin that is between you and the Savior?"

    "No, sir; for I have never committed any bad sins."

    "Do you love everybody?"

    "Well, I love nearly everybody, but I have no ill-will toward any one. An old man did me a wrong not long ago and I acted ugly toward him, but I do not care to injure him."

    "Can you forgive him?"

    "Yes, if he wanted me to."

    "But, down in your heart, can you wish him well?"

    "Yes, sir; I can do that."

    "Well, now let me say to you that if you love God, if you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior from sin and if you love your fellowmen and intend by God's help to lead a religious life, that's all there is to religion. In fact, that is all I know about it."

    Then he repeated several passages of Scriptures to me proving his assertions. I thought a moment and said to him: "But I do not feel like these young people who have been getting religion night after night. I cannot get happy like them. I do not feel like shouting."

    The good man looked at me and smiled and said: "Ah, that's your trouble. You have been trying to feel like them. Now you are not them; you are yourself. You have your own quiet disposition and you are not turned like them. They are excitable and blustery like they are. They give way to their feelings. That's all right, but feeling is not religion. Religion is faith and life. If you have violent feeling with it, all good and well, but if you have faith and not much feeling, why the feeling will take care of itself. To love God and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, turning away from all sin, and living a godly life, is the substance of true religion."

    That was new to me, yet it had been my state of mind from childhood. For I remembered that away back in my early life, when the old preacher held services in my grandmother's house one day and opened the door of the Church, I went forward and gave him my hand. He was to receive me into full membership at the end of six months' probation, but he let it pass out of his mind and failed to attend to it.

    As I sat there that morning listening to the earnest exhortation of the good man my tears ceased, my distress left me, light broke in upon my mind, my heart grew joyous, and before I knew just what I was doing I was going all around shaking hands with everybody, and my confusion and darkness disappeared and a great burden rolled off my spirit. I felt exactly like I did when I was a little boy around my mother's knee when she told of Jesus and God and Heaven. It made my heart thrill then, and the same old experience returned to me in that old country Church that beautiful September morning down in old North Georgia.

    I at once gave my name to the preacher for membership in the Church, and the following Sunday morning, along with many others, he received me into full membership in the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. It was one of the most delightful days in my recollection. It was the third Sunday in September, 1866, and those Church vows became a living principle in my heart and life. During these forty-five long years, with their alternations of sunshine and shadow, daylight and darkness, success and failure, rejoicing and weeping, fears within and fightings without, I have never ceased to thank God for that autumnal day in the long ago when my name was registered in the Lamb's Book of Life.
     
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  5. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    Camp Meeting in Virginia around the old, Methodist Episcopal Church South mourners bench! Dear to me is this chapter of the book because I experienced so much of the wonderful things the author talks about in this work! The Life of George Clark Rankin and beginning on page 239...

    I passed my examinations and that year I was sent to the Wytheville Station and Circuit. That was adjoining my former charge. We reached the old parsonage on the pike just out of Wytheville as Rev. B. W. S. Bishop moved out. Charley Bishop was then a little tow-headed boy. He is now the learned Regent of Southwestern University. The parsonage was an old two-and-a-half-story structure with nine rooms and it looked a little like Hawthorne's house with the seven gables. It was the lonesomest-looking old house I ever saw. There was no one there to meet us, for we had not notified anybody of the time we would arrive.

    Think of taking a young bride to that sort of a mansion! But she was brave and showed no sign of disappointment. That first night we felt like two whortleberries in a Virginia tobacco wagonbed. We had room and to spare, but it was scantily furnished with specimens as antique as those in Noah's ark. But in a week or so we were invited out to spend the day with a good family, and when we went back we found the doors fastened just as we had left them, but when we entered a bedroom was elegantly furnished with everything modern and the parlor was in fine shape. The ladies had been there and done the work. How much does the preacher owe to the good women of the Church!

    The circuit was a large one, comprising seventeen appointments. They were practically scattered all over the county. I preached every other day, and never less than twice and generally three times on Sunday.

    I had associated with me that year a young collegemate, Rev. W. B. Stradley. He was a bright, popular fellow, and we managed to give Wytheville regular Sunday preaching. Stradley became a great preacher and died a few years ago while pastor of Trinity Church, Atlanta, Georgia. We were true yokefellows and did a great work on that charge, held fine revivals and had large ingatherings.

    The famous Cripple Creek Campground was on that work. They have kept up campmeetings there for more than a hundred years. It is still the great rallying point for the Methodists of all that section. I have never heard such singing and preaching and shouting anywhere else in my life. I met the Rev. John Boring there and heard him preach. He was a well-known preacher in the conference; original, peculiar, strikingly odd, but a great revival preacher.

    One morning in the beginning of the service he was to preach and he called the people to prayer. He prayed loud and long and told the Lord just what sort of a meeting we were expecting and really exhorted the people as to their conduct on the grounds. Among other things, he said we wanted no horse- trading and then related that just before kneeling he had seen a man just outside the encampment looking into the mouth of a horse and he made such a peculiar sound as he described the incident that I lifted up my head to look at him, and he was holding his mouth open with his hands just as the man had done in looking into the horse's mouth! But he was a man of power and wrought well for the Church and for humanity.
     
  6. rockytopva

    rockytopva Well-Known Member Staff Member

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    George Clark Rankin also mentions the old circuit rider Robert Sheffey, in which whose life the Bob Jones University made a movie now over 350,000 views…



    The rarest character I ever met in my life I met at that campmeeting in the person of Rev. Robert Sheffy, known as "Bob" Sheffy. He was recognized all over Southwest Virginia as the most eccentric preacher of that country. He was a local preacher; crude, illiterate, queer and the oddest specimen known among preachers. But he was saintly in his life, devout in his experience and a man of unbounded faith. He wandered hither and thither over that section attending meetings, holding revivals and living among the people. He was great in prayer, and Cripple Creek campground was not complete without "Bob" Sheffy. They wanted him there to pray and work in the altar.

    He was wonderful with penitents. And he was great in following up the sermon with his exhortations and appeals. He would sometimes spend nearly the whole night in the straw with mourners; and now and then if the meeting lagged he would go out on the mountain and spend the entire night in prayer, and the next morning he would come rushing into the service with his face all aglow shouting at the top of his voice. And then the meeting always broke loose with a floodtide.

    He could say the oddest things, hold the most unique interviews with God, break forth in the most unexpected spasms of praise, use the homeliest illustrations, do the funniest things and go through with the most grotesque performances of any man born of woman.

    It was just "Bob" Sheffy, and nobody thought anything of what he did and said, except to let him have his own way and do exactly as he pleased. In anybody else it would not have been tolerated for a moment. In fact, he acted more like a crazy man than otherwise, but he was wonderful in a meeting. He would stir the people, crowd the mourner's bench with crying penitents and have genuine conversions by the score. I doubt if any man in all that conference has as many souls to his credit in the Lamb's Book of Life as old "Bob" Sheffy.

    At the close of that year in casting up my accounts I found that I had received three hundred and ninety dollars for my year's work, and the most of this had been contributed in everything except money. It required about the amount of cash contributed to pay my associate and the Presiding Elder. I got the chickens, the eggs, the butter, the ribs and backbones, the corn, the meat, and the Presiding Elder and Brother Stradley had helped us to eat our part of the quarterage. Well, we kept open house and had a royal time, even if we did not get much ready cash. We lived and had money enough to get a good suit of clothes and to pay our way to conference. What more does a young Methodist preacher need or want? We were satisfied and happy, and these experiences are not to be counted as unimportant assets in the life and work of a Methodist circuit rider.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2022
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