Wesleyan Conference, French
Wesleyan Conference, French.
Under this head we propose to give a statement of the spread of Wesleyanism across the English Channel.
I. Origin and History. — Methodism had to struggle hard and long to obtain a home in France; but the efforts of many years were at length crowned with success. As early as 1779 Methodism found its way from Newfoundland to Jersey, one of the Channel Islands opposite, France. Some soldiers in a regiment from England to Jersey, being Methodists carried their religion with them, and a small society was formed. They applied to Mr. Wesley for a preacher, and Robert Carr Brackenbury, Esq., a wealthy layman who could speak French, was sent by Mr. Wesley to help the cause there. In 1785 Dr. Coke visited the island, and in 1.786 Adam Clarke was appointed to the Norman Islands to assist Mr. Brackenbury. In 1787 Mr. Wesley spent a fortnight on the islands, preaching and exhorting from house to house. The people assembled in the evenings by hundreds to hear him.... Mr Wesley foresaw that Methodists from those islands, having such frequent intercourse with France, would soon take their religion there also. In. 1790 the Rev. John de Quetteville and Mr. John Angel visited some of the villages in Normandy; and finding small congregations of French Protestants, joined them, and began by giving personal experiences of conversion. This awakened sympathy, and the people desired information.
William Mahy, a lay preacher in Guernsey, was sent, and was ordained in 1791 by Dr. Coke to preach. He commenced his labors at Courcelle. Dr. Coke then went on to Paris, taking with him Mr. De Quetteville and Mr. Gibson; and there hired a room for a month near the Seine. Dr. Coke was then offered a suppressed church in Paris for £150, which would hold two thousand persons. This will show the low state to which religion had then fallen. Infidelity was rampant, the priests had all been killed or banished, and any pastors remaining did not favor the new religion. The opposition to Mr. Mahy broke down his health, and ended in his premature death. Dr. Coke soon found that Paris was not favorable to Methodism, and retired. Seed was sown in several villages in Normandy, which was not allowed to die; but the Revolution following so quickly on these efforts arrested further progress then.
In the history of Methodism in many places, when one door is closed, Divine Providence opens another. So it was in France. For years, religion in every form had been nearly extinguished. The war with Napoleon Bonaparte had resulted in the capture, by England, of thousands of French prisoners; and eleven large ships of war formed the prison homes of those men in the river Medway. In 1810 the Rev. William Toase began to visit the ships and speak to the soldiers. He was heard gladly; and began to preach and distribute French Bibles, and converts were the result. In 1811 Conference appointed Mr. Toase a missionary to the French ships in the Medway. These soldiers were ultimately, after 1815, returned to their homes, and they took their religion and Bibles with them; and so the way was prepared for the renewed introduction of Methodism. This time it was to be permanent; and although it has had a slow and struggling existence, yet the statistics will show that it has survived, if it has not extended largely.
After the peace of 1814, some evangelists again commenced to labor in Normandy; but the return of Bonaparte from Elba caused them to flee for safety, leaving a small society of fourteen members, which was increased to twenty-five during the year. After the battle of Waterloo and the return home of prisoners, the Rev. William Toase went to France, and had Richard Robarts and Benjamin Frankland as his colleagues. In 1818 Charles Cook followed them. He studied the language, and so thoroughly interested himself in the people that for forty years he devoted all his time, strength, and energy to promoting Methodism among them.
He is considered the chief founder of Methodism in that country, giving not only his own life, but the lives of his two sons, to the same work, both of whom are as well known in America as in France. Mr. Cook became a doctor of divinity; and when he died, in July, 1858, Merle d'Aubignd wrote concerning him, "The work which John Wesley did in Great Britain Charles Cook has done, though on a smaller scale, on the Continent." The English Conference of 1824 appointed Mr. Cook to commence a Methodist mission in Palestine; but the difficulties being so great, and funds not available, Mr. Cook did not leave France. He preached his first sermon in that country in December, 1818. The first district meeting was held in April, 1820, when there were present five preachers-brethren Toase, Olivier, Hawtrey, Cook, and Henry de Jersey. The first love feast was held the week after the district meeting, and it proved to be an occasion of much good, and was long remembered.
Up to the year 1832 the progress was slow and discouraging; but the surrounding circumstances sufficiently accounted for that state of things. The Conference of 1833 sent the Rev. Robert Newstead to give the mission a new start, and the members were nearly doubled the first year. In 1834 James Hocart joined the mission, and he has since devoted his whole life to the work. He still survives; and at the English Conference of 1880 he made a powerful and impressive appeal on behalf of the extension of Methodism in France. In 1835 Matthew Gallienne joined the mission; he devoted many years of valuable service to the cause, and his son is at the present time tutor in theology of the young men preparing for the ministry. The reinvigorated mission soon showed signs of the new power infused into it. Robert Newstead found in 1833 a total membership of one hundred and eleven; in eight years just one thousand were added. Eight years after came another Revolution and the overthrow of the monarchy, which, followed by increased difficulties in conducting religious worship, soon resulted in the loss of nearly three hundred members. Peaceful times followed, and Dr. Cook lived to see the number of ministers raised from 4
to 30, and the members from 29 to 1446-progress which would have been thought small in any country excepting Catholic France.
In 1852 France was organized into a separate conference, and affiliated with England. It had then 17 preachers and 776 members. France was divided into two districts; and in 1853 Jean Paul Cook joined the mission as a catechist. He has since been one of the most devoted and successful of its pastors. There were then only nine circuits in all France. It had long been under consideration to make the older missions of Methodism self- sustaining, while at the same time the Missionary Society in London desired to be relieved of the management of its operations, and thereby give the French people greater facilities for useful and extended operations. The Rev. Dr. Beecham, one of the general secretaries, assisted in completing the arrangements; and with the presence and sanction of the Rev. Dr. Chas Cook, the Conference of 1852 adopted the recommendation of the Missionary Committee, and France has ever since managed her own agencies, care having been taken for the maintenance and security of Methodist doctrine and discipline, while the operations may take a wider scope. Two years after the change, eight more preachers were at work and three hundred members added to the society. The largest number of members ever recorded in one year was in 1870, when they were reported at 2049. Then came the Franco-German war and the Commune, which caused a loss of over two hundred members throughout the country. In 1880, owing mainly to the want of financial support — all the societies being poor — the total membership is only 1789, being about one hundred less than at the end of the last war. Many special efforts have been made during the period of the present republic to encourage and advance Methodism in France. Ten thousand dollars a year more would give the cause an impulse such as it has never had before. There is more eagerness shown, by both men and women, to hear the Gospel and read religious books than ever before. The Rev. William Gibson, A.B., has for some years been using his utmost efforts, chiefly in evangelistic labors; but what is one in so great a city as Paris? There is a bright day dawning for Methodism in France if only the small sum named could for a few years be guaranteed to aid the work. The Rev. Dr. Jobson, Rev. William Arthur, A.M., and other leading Methodists from England have rendered some help; but such help guaranteed for three or five years would work wonders at the present time. Doors are open everywhere for preaching the Gospel; and for some years the preachers have continued their labors for only a bare pittance for food and clothing. The French Conference owns a newspaper and a book-room; but both are languishing for want of patronage. In no country in the world, not even Ireland, have there been greater obstacles in the way of making progress than have existed in France; but now financial help is all that is required to make Methodism in France a great power for good.
II. Statistics. — The following table will exhibit the numerical progress of French Methodism:
Year Ministers Members 1814 --- 14 1815 --- 25 1816 3 35 1817 4 30 1818 4 29 1819 5 31 1820 5 54 1821 4 39 1822 5 63 1823 5 68 1824 4 119 1825 5 120 1826 6 135 1827 5 113 1828 6 126 1829 4 123 1830 5 97 1831 6 911 1832 7 111 1833 9 134 1834 11 233 1835 14 464 1836 14 505 1837 14 533 1838 16 605 1839 18 731 1840 20 946
1841 20 1111 1842 21 1118 1843 22 1157 1844 21 1211 1845 21 1185 1846 22 1002 1847 23 972 1848 19 896 1849 16 775 1850 18 755 1851 17 813 1852 17 776 1853 19 898 1854 25 1098 1855 25 1090 1856 23 1178 1857 23 1130 1858 30 1446 1859 26 1436 1860 27 1480 1861 30 1509 1862 28 1586 1863 24 1522 1864 28 1606 1865 31 1658 1866 30 1699 1867 29 1890 1868 30 1979 1869 35 1985 1870 36 2049 1871 36 2049 1872 28 1916 1873 32 1867 1874 27 1857 1875 34 1918 1876 36 1883 1877 37 1905
1878 29 1888 1879 28 1853 1880 29 1789 1889 25 1833
III. Literature. — The French people are, on the whole, much more educated than many nations to whom the Gospel has been sent. Infidelity and popery in their worst forms have been the chief sources of opposition to the spread of vital godliness in France. From an earnest desire to instruct the people, when preaching has been forbidden, about a dozen preachers belonging to the French Conference have made free use of the press to enable them to spread divine truth; and although the sales of some of the books have been but small, yet their very existence, copies having found their way into public libraries, has often proved a source of defense, and in other ways have been helpful when the living voice might not be appealed to.
Dr. Charles Cook issued seven publications. A volume of Christian Songs, of nearly 400 pages, ran through eight editions in his lifetime: — a Letter to the Editor of the Evangelical Gazette of Geneva (8vo, 24 pp.).: — The Life of Mrs. Mary Fletcher: — Journal of Hester Ann Rogers: — Aphorisms on Justification: — The Love of God to a Lost World, a reply to a brochure by Dr. Malau and Wesley and Wesleyanism Justified.
Jean Paul Cook, besides writing most interesting Letters for many years past in the New York and the Western Christian Advocate, has issued separately, Organization of Sunday-schools (1847): — Life of Charles Cook (1862,264 pp.): — Letters on Peter (a pamphlet of 30 pp.) and The Days of a Young Child who Loved the Savior (12mo, 30 pp.).
Henry de Jersey, who began to travel in 1819, and who toiled long in the vineyard, published in 1837, The Life of John Nelson: — Letters on Sanctification (12mo, 150 pp.): — and the Life of the Rev. John de Quetteville (1847,304 pp.). His son, the Rev. Henry T. de Jersey, has also issued two small publications.
The venerable John de Quetteville may be considered the father of the French Methodist press. He was accepted by Mr. Wesley as a preacher to the French in the Channel Islands as early as 1786, and he devoted nearly sixty years of his life in promoting Methodism among the French people. He published the first hymnbook for them; but the date of the first edition is uncertain. A Collection of Methodist Hymns, in French, was first published in London in 1786, the first year of Mr. de Quetteville's labors as a preacher, but it is attributed to Mr. R. C. Brackenbury; so, also, is another and larger collection issued in 1799. Mr. de Quetteville prepared and issued a new edition of the hymn book in 1818, in various sizes. In the same year he translated and published in French John Wesley's Sermon on the Truth of Christianity. He afterwards issued French translations of other sermons by John Wesley. He translated the Life of William Brarnmell into French, and published it; besides which he was for thirty-four years the editor of the Methodist Magazine, in French. The Rev. Matthew Gallienne became the editor after Mr. de Quetteville.
Francis Farjat, who served the ministry from 1842 to 1856, published a volume of 150 pages, 18mo, on the Spirit and Tendencies of the Christians called Methodists: — also a small volume, Notice sur Louis Jaulmes: and a Biography of Mademoiselle Marie Temple (18mo, 60 pp.).
L.F. Galland, who began to itinerate in 1861, issued a pamphlet appeal of 90 pages: Know You the Truth of Christianity.
Matthew Gallienne, who began to itinerate in the French Conference in 1835, published in 1868 a Collection of Hymns for Sunday schools, edited conjointly by himself and Mr. Handcock. He also issued, for four years, a monthly periodical called Le Missionnaire, which would have done much good had it been patronized. As the editor of the French Methodist Magazine, Mr. Gallienne rendered great and permanent service up to the time of his death.
Philip Guiton, who has now been forty years in the ministry, published, in 1846, Histoire du Methodisme Wesleyan dans les Iles de la Manche: — in 1864 he published a French translation of Rev. William Arthur's Tongue of Fire.
William J. Handcock, who traveled many years in the French Conference from 1838, published in French a Summary of the Laws, Organization, and Discipline of the English Methodists, in 1858, a pamphlet of 50 pages: also An Exposition of the First Epistle of St. John, in 1861.
James Hocart has devoted forty-six years to the itinerant ministry in France. He has published five sermons on special occasions — namely,
Faith: the Indispensable Condition to Success in the Ministry: — The Good Fight, preached at the ordination of Henry T. de Jersey in 1863: — The Christian Pastor: — Purity of Heart and The Young Servant of Christ Encouraged. He has also revised a new edition of Mr. Wesley's Sermons.
John Wesley Lelievre has translated and published in French Mrs. Phoebe Palmer's Way of Holiness: — and Faith and Its Effects: — also a small book, The Death of the Just.
Matthew Lelievre published in 1865 the Life of John Louis Rostan, the French Missionary, which has recently been translated into English by Rev. A. J. French, A.B., and published at the Wesleyan Conference Office, under the title of the A pine Missionary. He has also published, in French, The Life of John Hunt, Missionary to the Cannibals: — The Life and Work of John Wesley, a valuable biography, which has been published in English, also, at the Conference Office: — also a Life of Paul Lelievre (1868,133 pp.).
Luke Pulsford, who has now completed forty years of itinerant work in France — commencing his labors in 1841 — has published a Harmonized Collection of Tunes and Chants for Three and Four Voices: — also a Collection of the Proper Names in the New Testament, dedicated to the fathers, mothers, and children.
John Louis Rostan, the Alpine missionary from 1834 to 1860, published Christian Perfection Explained from Scripture. This was translated into English by a lady, with the title The Path Made Plain.. He also published an essay on Class-meetings and Christian Experience. William Toase, one of the apostles of French Methodism, published several Sermons in French: — Memoirs of Mrs. Elizabeth Aarive: — and Rev. Richard Robarts, one of the first missionaries to France: — also Account of the Wesleyan Mission in France: — and Among the French Soldiers. He was sixty years a preacher.
IV. Presidents of the French Conference. — Charles Cook, D.D., six years; Matthew Gallienne, twice; Pierre Lucas, twice; James Hocart, twelve years; Luke Pulsford, twice; Emile F. Cook, A.B., twice; Jean Paul Cook, A.B., twice; William Cornforth, twice-the first in 1852, the last in 1881. (G. J. S.)