Coke Thomas, Lld
Coke Thomas, Ll.D., first bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born at Brecon, Wales, Sept. 9, 1747; became a gentleman commoner of Jesus College, Oxford, in his 17th year, and after his graduation had charge of South Petherton parish, Somersetshire. While there he came under the influence of Methodism, and the increased fidelity and earnestness of his ministry excited so much opposition that he abandoned the place and joined Wesley, whom he equaled, if he did not surpass, in itinerant ministerial labors. In 1784 Wesley consecrated him a bishop for the Methodists in America, and in the same year he presided at the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Baltimore, Md., and consecrated Francis Asbury a bishop. If we except some local consecrations in the Moravian settlements, Coke was the first Protestant bishop of the Western hemisphere. For many years he visited Ireland annually, and presided in its Conferences; he was repeatedly president of the English Conference; he traversed England, Scotland, Wales, and America throughout his long life. He was especially the "foreign minister" of Methodism. His stature was small, his voice feminine, but his soul was as vast as ever dwelt in a human frame. Though he became the first bishop of Methodism in the United States, he found not in a diocese coextensive with the new republic room for his energies. He was continually contriving new measures for the extension of the Gospel. His plans, had he been a man of ordinary, abilities, would have entitled him to the name of fanatic; but he was one of those rare spirits whose greatest conceptions and schemes are the legitimate products of their energies. He crossed the Atlantic eighteen times at his own expense. To the end of his life he had charge of the Methodist missions throughout the. world. He founded the negro missions of the West Indies, which have exerted an important influence on the history of those islands. They included 17,000 members at the time of his death. He not only visited his missions, but spent almost the whole of his patrimonial fortune in their support, preached for them, and begged for them from door to door. The missionary spirit was with him "as a burning fire shut up in his bones;" and during his life it was not deemed necessary to organize a missionary society among the Wesleyans, for he embodied that great interest in his own person. When a veteran of almost seventy years, he presented himself before the Wesleyan Conference as a missionary for the East Indies. The Conference objected on account of the expense, but Coke offered to pay the charges of the outfit himself to the amount of $30,000, and so prevailed over all objections, and embarked with a small band of laborers. He died on the voyage, May 3, 1814, and was buried in the sea; but the undertaking succeeded, and the Wesleyan East India missions are the result. It has been justly asserted that, except Wesley, no man was ever connected with the Methodist body who contributed more to extend the blessings of Christianity. His colleague in the episcopacy of the American Church would not allow of even this exception; "a minister of Christ," said Asbury, when the news of his death arrived — "a minister of Christ, in zeal, in labors, and in services, the greatest man of the last century." Wesley used to say that Coke was a right hand to him. Withal he was a voluminous writer, publishing A Sermon on Education, 1773; An Address to the Inhabitants of Bristol, 1782; his ordination sermon at Baltimore, 1784; and many other sermons on the Divinity of Christ, The Witness of the Spirit, and three funeral discourses on the deaths of Wesley, Rev. Mr. Richardson, and Hester Ann Rogers; four sermons on the Christian Ministry; A Discourse on the Seventh Chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. He also issued An Address to the Societies in England on the Settlement of the Chapels, 1795; An Address to the Weepers, on a pamphlet of William Hammet, of South Carolina; Letters to the Societies, in reply to Rev. Melville Home, 1810; Life of Wesley, prepared jointly with Henry Moore; History of the West Indies, in 3 vols. 1808; numerous reports and addresses on the missionary cause; Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, 6 vols. 4to, completed in 1807; and, subsequently, Recent Occurrences of Europe considered in Relation to such Prophecies as are now fulfilling or remain yet to be fulfilled; and the Cottagers' Bible, with reflections at the end of the chapters for family reading. See London Review, Oct. 1860, art. 3; Drew, Life of Coke (New York, 1837); Etheridge, Life of Coke (Lond. 1860); Sprague, Annals, 7:130; Benson, Life of Coke (N. Y. 8vo); Stevens, History of Methodism, vols. 2 and in passim, and Hist. of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 4 vols. passim.