Societies and Churches

Society Of Friends

The Society of Friends, whose peculiar tenets were brought to this country, by the peace loving William Penn, has about ten spacious Meeting Houses for worship, in this city, and many others in the immediate vicinity. Their first place of worship was at Kensington; afterward a building was erect at the comer of Second and Market Streets, which was finally removed, in 1808. The Society was divided, by a small secession from their members, by a part, who styled themselves "Free" or "Whig" Quakers, who erected a separate house of worship, at the comer of Fifth and Arch Streets: this occurred during the Revolution, and was prompted by a desire, to take, on their part, an active stand, in favor of the principles of Independence. Another division has occurred, within a few years, which has ranked the Friends, into two classes, throughout the whole country one of which is denominated "Orthodox" and the other, "Hicksite," from the improvements, and peculiar preaching, of Elias Hicks, deceased.

As citizens and as a religious body, the Friends (or Quakers) have no superiors, if they even have equals; their course is marked, by a peculiarly correct deportment, studying neatness, without ostentation; they ardently pursue all the solid Improve' menu of the mind, and reject everything frivolous, and unnecessary.

They keep a strict watch over the moral deportment of their Members, and study to accelerate their advancement, in every laudable undertaking.

Marriages are contracted, with the consent, and approbation of their regular Meetings, and solemnized before the whole congregation. Their Poor are always provided for, by the Society and they never become a public charge, if they have a good standing in the Society.

Their peculiar tenets may be found, in the Theological works, of William Penn, Charles Fox, and other distinguished writers, of their times; men, not surpassed by any, for meekness and deep knowledge of the Sacred writings.

Society of Methodists

The success of this sect in America is almost unparalleled, they probably, at this time, outnumber any other. About 1766 Philip Embury, a local preacher arrived in New York; assisted by Captain Webb, of the British navy, he formed a small society. About the same time, Mr. Strawbridge, also a local preacher, settled in Frederick county Maryland, and formed a small society there. In 1769, Joseph Palmer and Richard Rankin, two regular Methodist Missionaries arrived. In 1773, the first Methodist Conference was held in Philadelphia, numbering only ten itinerant ministers, including three English Missionaries; at that time the church contained 1,160 members. During the Revolution, all the Missionaries returned, except Francis Asbury. The operations of the Gospel at this time, were much restricted, and most of the Episcopal Churches were shut, for want of ministers. In May, 1783, the Methodist Conference sat, at that time the Society consisted of about eighty effective travelling preachers, and 13,740 Church members. The General Conference minutes for 1838, exhibit the following condition of the Society; Five Bishops; Twenty-eight Conferences; Three Thousand One Hundred and six itinerant preachers; Two Hundred and sixteen superannuated ministers; 5792 local preachers; and 686,574 Church Members.

Their ministers are steady to their purposes, nothing diverts them from their duties; and wherever settlements are extended, there their ministers are found, preaching the gospel; and the gospel is now preached by them, west of the Rocky Mountains.

Wherever the English language is spoken in America, the country is laid out in districts and the districts into circuits; and appointments are annually made for each circuit.

Methodist peculiarities have everywhere been spoken against, by those who know the least of them. The membership is divided into classes, one is appointed as a leader; these leaders meet the preacher, at stated times, to consult on the welfare of the Church, under their care; these classes are not arrangements for confession: nothing is ever said in class-meeting, that could offend the most delicate ear; but these, with all other private meetings of the Church, are intended, as means of Grace, calculated to instruct the ignorant, strengthen the weak, to reclaim the backslider, and to build up believers: nor are their private, meeting so exclusive, but, that any well-disposed person may, on admission, have admission into any of them.

As to their Doctrines, they preach Free Salvation, by Faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. They often declaim against extravagance and superfluity in dross, and needless ornaments and recommend to their hearers, the propriety of giving to the poor, or to the propagation of the Gospel, rather than indulging in needless ornaments: but, uniformity of dress has never been obtained among the Methodists. As faith cometh by hearing, and many sinners never go to Church to hear the Gospel, occasionally Camp Meetings are resorted to, in order to bring them under Gospel influence; and although some may misbehave at these meetings yet, many who go to scoff, return home to pray.

It may now be said, emphatically, that the poor have the gospel preached to them. As high as their standard of Christian morality is and as strict as is their discipline, it is none other than is found between the lids of the Bible, which they take as their guide, in faith and practice.

The Methodists attend much to Sunday Schools and wherever practicable, Children are collected, and not only taught to read, but are also taught their duty, towards God and man: and at this time, in our city, there are nearly Fifteen Hundred private members of the Church, engaged as superintendents and teachers, in Sunday Schools, having perhaps, near Ten Thousand children, under instruction.

The Methodists have many Missionary Societies, by whom, considerable sums of money are raised, and appropriated towards maintaining ministers to preach the Gospel among them: They have many Missionaries in foreign lands, viz: Africa, South America, &c. And as they believe, the savages must be Christianized, before they can be civilized: They have many Missionaries among them who have been, more or less successful: These Missionaries are upheld, at an expense of above $100,000 per annum.

Indeed, the Methodist system is one great Missionary concern, which maintains between three and four thousand Missionaries, and their families, with no other funds than the freewill offerings of their members, and their friends, except about $2,000 per annum. The proceeds of the chartered fund, and the profits of an extensive Book Concern, begun without capital of from 15 to $18,000 per annum. These sums added together, and divided among between three and four thousand itinerant Ministers, will give each one, about as much as will annually, purchase him a hat.

The whole number of members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, in the United States, is now, 728,625, without including those in Canada. The total increase, from Dec. 1837, to 1838, was 59,572.

In 1816, the colored Methodists of this city, withdrew from this Society, and placed themselves under the government of their, own color.

More information may be obtained, by consulting Bucks Theological Dictionary, on the Methodists Discipline; the latest edition may be found, at the Methodists' Book Store, North Fourth Street, below Arch St.

St. Johns' Church

This splendid edifice is situated upon Thirteenth Street, between Chesnut and Market. It is one of the finest specimens of Gothic architecture in the city. It is built in imitation of marble. The interior is decorated with some fine Scripture paintings, by Monachesi, and overhead dependent, from the opposite sides, are representations of the Angels' proclaiming the glad tidings of eternal truth. The altar is one of great magnificence having been recently brought to this country, from Rome. When lighted up so rich are the appendages that it presents to the eye, the splendid appearance of solid gold.

The sanctuary is very capacious and beautiful, occupying the entire front, facing the audience. It is enclosed with a magnificent railing, running the entire length of the sanctuary. Behind the altar is a fine painting, in fresco, occupying the entire niche, representing the opening of "Seven Seals." Either side of the sanctuary are also decorated, with appropriate Scripture paintings. On the right and left are entrances, for the bishops, priests, and others, who administer the services of the sanctuary. The Rostrum is constructed upon wheels, and is placed in front of the audience, immediately preceding the entrance of the preacher.

In the front of the organ, there is a large and beautiful painting, by Otis, being a copy from West's celebrated painting of "Christ Healing, in the Temple."

The Gothic windows of this Church, present a solemn scene. when the wax candles are shining, as they are, of (variegates) stained glass, of every hue and color imaginable; There is connected with the Church, a good School, and an Orphans Asylum, kept in the Gothic Mansion, on Chesnut Street.

This beautiful Church is one of the most splendid in the country. It will probably contain about 2,000 persons, and is generally, filled four times every Sabbath. It cost over 70,000 dollars.

 

 

History of Philadelphia


Source: A History of Philadelphia: With a Notice of Villages, in the Vicinity, Printed and published by Daniel Bowen, 1839


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