Peck, George

Peck, George D.D., a noted minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the pioneers in American Methodism, and a most valued leader in the literary department of this branch of the Wesleyan body, was born in Middlefield, Otsego County, New York, August 8,1797. His parents were from Danbury, Connecticut, descendants of sturdy Puritan stock. His mother was gifted with a strong mind and possessed great force of character; she was eminently pious and devotional which constituted her a remarkable woman in her religious and social influence, and enabled her to give all her five sons to the Methodist ministry. His father was a Methodist class- leader, and to the time of his death a devoted Christian. Under these genial influences George united, in 1812, with the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1816 he commenced his useful career as a Methodist preacher, being then only nineteen years of age. He traveled circuits till 1821. and that year he took charge of Paris station, and the two following years of the station at Utica. So rapidly did the young, gifted preacher advance in his earnest pulpit efforts and devotion to the work, that he was appointed, in 1824, presiding elder of the Susquehanna District, which large district embraced all the territory contained in the Wyoming Conference previous to the General Conference of 1868, and nearly as much more now within the bounds of the Central New York and Genesee Conferences. The same year he was elected delegate to the General Conference, and he was chosen a delegate to every General Conference since, except the last, during his lifetime. Early in his history the youthful preacher was drawn into controversy, and soon gave evidence of special talents in that direction. In 1825 he was challenged to a public debate by a Unitarian preacher at Kingston, Pennsylvania; so decisive was the victory in favor of tie young champion of Methodism that his opposer was completely vanquished. One year afterward he accepted a challenge to write in a Universalist magazine, which event led to his first appearance as an author. In 1835 he was elected principal of the Oneida Conference Seminary. His uniform, well-balanced, strong mind, combined with the great interest and enthusiastic devotion he felt in the cause of education and the establishment of this young, promising seat of learning, peculiarly adapted him to fill successfully this new, honorable sphere of usefulness. After four years of trials and labors as the head and controlling spirit of this now so well-known school, he determined to return once more to the active duties of the ministry, and was again appointed to the eldership of the Susquehanna District, the early field of his achievements and triumphs. In 1840 he was elected editor of the Methodist Quarterly Review, which position he filled with honor and credit to the Church for the period of eight years. Under his able management the Review took its place among the first literary journals of the country, commanded the esteem and favorable criticism of the most erudite and cultivated scholars, and exerted a benign and salutary influence even beyond the pale of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1846 the New York Central Conference appointed Dr. Peck delegate to the great General Convention of the Evangelical Alliance in London, and in that extraordinary meeting the doctor took a leading and prominent part in the deliberations. In 1848 Dr. Peck was elected editor in chief of the Christian Advocate and Journal, published at New York, and he served the Church in that distinguished position for four years. It was during this period that the great political debates took place which at one time threatened to convulse the country into anarchy and rebellion. Being naturally averse to exciting political discussions and exhibitions of violent partisanship, and not liking the animus of the controversy on such subjects, he declined a re- election to the editorial office in 1852, and returned to his early home and the scenes of his early ministry in the beautiful Valley of Wyoming, where he was cordially received by his many friends. He was successively made preacher in charge of Wilkesbarre, Scranton, Providence, and Dunmore, and presiding elder of the Lackawanna District and Wyoming District. He was superannuated in 1873, and died May 20, 1876. In Church and Conference Dr. Peck was always eminent and useful, whether as counselor or advocate. The faithful discharge of all important trusts committed to him insured for him a high position in the Church. He was conservative, but at the same time eminently progressive. Says one of his contemporaries: "I view him as one of the most remarkable men of our times — one whose genius and piety are indelibly stamped on the ecclesiastical polity and wonderful growth of the Church — whose wise counsels and herculean labors are interwoven in its development for the past fifty years. His whole life has been distinguished by devoted love to the Church, and unswerving loyalty to honest convictions of truth. Young preachers have ever found in him a friend and counselor — one to whom they could look as a 'father in Israel.' I have for the past twenty-five years mingled with all classes of professional and business men in our valley, but I have never yet heard one word of censure from preacher or layman against Dr. Peck, which fact I esteem as the highest tribute to his manly Christian character." As a preacher, Dr. Peck ranked among the foremost and ablest pulpit orators in our country. The symmetrical structure of his mind. and his analytical powers, were of the highest order, combined with a clearness of perception and convincing force of unerring logic. Whenever the strong powers of his mind were brought into full play on a subject, and he felt the heavenly unction on his sympathetic heart, the effect of his preaching was overwhelming. His public labors included a period of sixty years. It thus appears that he entered the Methodist itinerancy in time to test his consecration and integrity by pioneer exertions requiring the heroism of the fathers. He "endured hardness as a good soldier," on very large circuits, with no railroads or steamboats, in the new and uncultivated regions of the states of New York and Pennsylvania, traveling immense distances on horseback, through forests, and in the midst of wild beasts and rude people, preaching in log shanties, schoolhouses, barns, and groves, all without a murmur, and taking his appointments without being consulted, and in the most unquestioning loyalty. He had therefore original experience in the great circuit system to prepare him for any other work to which he might be called. When stations were demanded and cautiously conceded, and George Peck was one of the younger men called to fill them, he was found to have the habits of devotion and study which they required. His library had grown (one can hardly tell how) to be large and valuable, and he was master of its contents. The progress in available scholarship which ministers of other churches made with tuition, he made largely without. He preached two or three sermons every Sunday to the same congregation, with fresh research and elaborations, characterized by thorough originality and great spiritual power. He was besides a faithful pastor. He had marked success in revivals, and fully equal success in the nurture and edification of the Church. As a presiding elder he shrank from no hardships of travel or labor or discipline, and rendered available marked executive ability in every department of official responsibility. As an educator he promptly qualified himself to teach in studies nearly as new to him as to his students, and when he resigned the principalship of the seminary, he with unimpaired zeal pushed forward the enterprises of learning in the Church, and gave to young ministers the guidance and help of his large intelligence and ripe experience. In the most responsible editorial chairs of the Church he held with a firm hand all the historical positions of Methodism, and advanced every Christian enterprise in the true spirit of progress. When by reason of age he found his strength failing, in a calm, dignified manner he resigned the effective relations, and gracefully accepted superannuation. When complicated diseases gathered in strength upon him, he laid him down to die with the same composure and dignity which characterized his most difficult life-labors when in health. The humility so marked in his history was more conspicuous, mellow, and tender as he approached the cold river. The faith which gave him a lifetime near the cross made him a conqueror in his struggle with the last enemy. Dr. Peck's published works are, Universalism Examined (1826): — History of the Apostles and Evangelists (1836): — Scripture Doctrine of Christian Perfection (1841; abridged 1845. and revised in 1848): — Rule of Faith (1844): — Reply to Bascorn (1845): — Manly Character (1852): — History of Wyoming (1858), a work which received high commendations not only in this country but in Europe (see North Amer. Rev. July, 1858, p. 280; Lond. Athencumn, Aug. 28, 1858, p. 260): — Early Methodism within the Bounds of the Old Genesee Conf. from 1788 to 1828 (1860), of which the North Amer. Review says that "it has the charm of romance, together with the edifying qualities of religious annals:"Our Country, its Trials and its Triumphs (1865). Dr. Peck was literally a "father of ministers," having left two sons and two nephews in the pastoral work in his own Conference, and one daughter, Mrs. Rev. Dr. Crane, of the Newark Conference. See Ladies' Repository, 1871; Pulpit and Pew, 1871, p. 90 sq.; Northern Christian Advocate, 1876, June 22; Life and Times of Geo. Peck, D.D., written by Himself (N.Y. 1874, 12mo); Conable, Hist. of the Genesee Conf. ch. i, § 4, 7, 8. 9; ch. iv, § 3 and 53; Meth. Qu. Rev. Oct. 1874, p. 693-696.

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