Rankin, Thomas

Rankin, Thomas a somewhat noted minister of the early Methodist Episcopal Church — one of Wesley's general assistants — was born in Dunbar, Scotland, 1738. He was religiously trained by his parents. and, at an early age, expressed the desire to become a minister of the Gospel. After the death of his father, he formed bad acquaintances, and gave himself up to worldly amusements. When he was seventeen years of age, Dunbar was visited by troops of dragoons, among whom were a number of devout Christians, who held meetings morning and evening. Young Rankin attended, and was deeply impressed. He afterwards removed to Edinburgh, where he came under the personal influence of Mr. Whitefield, and was decided to devote himself to Christian work. With this purpose in view, he prepared to enter the College at Edinburgh. Circumstances, however, occurred which prevented his taking a collegiate course; and, by the advice of a friend, he sailed for America, to engage in a commercial enterprise. Wearying of this life, he was glad to find himself once more in Scotland, breathing a more congenial religious atmosphere. Shortly after his return, he met a Methodist minister, who saw the unsettled condition of his mind, and invited Rankin to visit, with hinm the different Methodist societies of the North. He was even prevailed upon to preach, though he consented with great reluctance, and was so dissatisfied with himself that he was often well-nigh resolved to attempt it no more. While in this state of mind, he listened to the preaching of Wesley, and from that time hlad the most intense admiration for him. After a great spiritual conflict, he sought Wesley, and related to him his experience of the two preceding years. Wesley advised him to persevere in his religious work, and so removed his doubts that he expressed himself willing to be known everywhere "as a poor, despised Methodist preacher." He was regularly appointed in 1761 to the Sussex Circuit, and in the following year to the Sheffield Circuit. At the next Conference, he was appointed to the Devonshire Circuit. In 1764 he became assistantpreacher in the Cornwall Circuit. In 1765 he was appointed to spend a part of the year in the Newcastle and a part in the Dales Circuit. In 1766 he was stationed upon the Epworth Circuit, and, upon request of the people, was returned the second year. In 1768 he was appointed to labor again in the west of Cornwall. In 1769 he was sent to the London and Sussex Circuit, and also travelled with John Wesley on his preaching tour through the kingdom. In 1770 he accompanied Wesley to the west of England, and everywhere their labors met with great success. In 1771 he was once more stationed with his friends in Cornwall. While at the conference held at Leeds, he met captain Webb, lately arrived from America. Wesley had become greatly dissatisfied with the management of the American mission, and, when the question came up before the conference, intimated his desire to send Rankin as general superintendent. The appointment was made; and he, together with George Shadford, sailed for America in 1773. Soon after his arrival, Rankin called a conference, the first ever held in America, July 4, 1773, at Philadelphia. Asbury had been previously appointed and sent over as the general assistant of the societies in America; but as Rankin had travelled several years longer, he took precedence over Asburv when he reached here. Besides, the displeasure of Wesley against the American work had probably led him to select for the place a man who could claim superiority over Asburv. Rankin, therefore, held the place of 'general assistant" while here, and presided at the conferences which convened while he was in America. He was stationed at New York and Philadelphia alternately, and remained in this country until 1778, when he again appears at work in England. He visited, while here, many of the churches then within the territory klnown as the Philadelphia Conference, and would probably have remained, had not the Revolutionary struggle made his stay ill-advised. Immediately after his return to England, he was stationed at London, where he lived two years. In 1783 he asked to be made a supernumerary; and after this date he lived quietly in the English metropolis until his death, May 17,1810. He was buried in City Road, near Wesley. He was a truly pious man, but too stern and uncompromising to succeed as a leader; and he failed in this country to be of any especial service to Asbury, whom he was intended to assist. He never wavered in difficulties and trials and showed a truly heroic spirit in the hour of need. His irregular education had probably as much to do with his inconsistencies of conduct as his natural propensity to the severe aspects of life. See Stevens, Hist.of Methodism, i, 239; and his Hist. of the M. E. Ch. (see Index); Bangs, Hist. of the M. E. Ch. (N.Y. 1838, 2 vols. 12mo), i, 77-124; Wakeley, Lost Chapters (see Index); Sprague, Annals of the Amer. Pulpit, 7:28-34.

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