Whatcoat, Richard

Whatcoat, Richard a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born in Quinton, Gloucestershire, England, Feb. 23, 1736. He enjoyed the influences of an early religious education; was converted Sept. 3, 1758; and was immediately placed in official positions: by the society at Wednesbury, where he resided. In 1769 he entered as a probationer into the itinerant connection of Wesleyan Methodist preachers, then under the superintendence of Mr. Wesley. He preached extensively through England, Ireland, and the principality of Wales; and was selected by Mr. Wesley to aid in, the organization of the Methodist Episcopal Church in America. He was ordained in September, 1784, by John Wesley, assisted by Dr. Coke and Mr. Creighton, as deacon and elder; and, accompanying Dr. Coke, landed in America Nov. 3,1784. From the organization of our Church at the Christmas Conference until his election to the office of a bishop, he discharged, with the exception of three years, the duties of presiding elder, "which, in those days especially, required labors and privations of no ordinary character, as both the districts and circuits were large, the people in general poor, and the calls for preaching numerous and often far apart." At the General Conference in May, 1800, such was the health of bishop Asbury that he thought of resigning; but the Conference, in order to relieve him, elected bishop Whatcoat, he having a majority of four votes over Jesse Lee. Boehm, in his Reminiscences, says, "I witnessed the excitement attending the different ballotings. The first, no election; the second, a tie; the third, Richard Whatcoat was elected." The same authority gives a momentary view of the ordination Sabbath. "Sunday, the 18th, was a great day in Baltimore among the Methodists. The ordination sermon was preached by Rev. Thomas Coke, LL.D., in Light Street Church. Crowds at an early hour thronged the temple. The doctor preached from Re 2; Re 8: 'And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write, These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive,' etc. After the sermon, which was adapted to the occasion, Richard Whatcoat was ordained a bishop in the Church of God by the imposition of the hands of Dr. Coke and bishop Asoury, assisted by several elders. Never were holier hands laid upon a holier head. In those days we went 'out into the highways and hedges and compelled them to come in.' That afternoon Jesse Lee preached in the market-house, on Howard's Hill, from Joh 17:3: 'And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.' The Lord was there in a powerful manner; several were converted." From the time of his election as bishop until he was disabled by sickness and debility, he traveled regularly through his vast diocese, which extended over the entire continent, preaching almost every day to the people, visiting the annual conferences, sometimes in. company with his venerable colleague, bishop Asbury, and sometimes alone, discharging his responsible duties with marked satisfaction to all concerned. In 1806 he met the Baltimore Conference in company with bishop Asbury, and at the adjournment of Conference traveled through the eastern shore of Maryland towards Philadelphia. His last sermon was preached in Milford, Del., on April 8. — He had "finished his sixth episcopal tour through the work after his consecration," says Dr. Phoebus, his biographer, "or near that; and, after great suffering, he got an honorable discharge from the Captain of his salvation, and by his permission came in from his post which he had faithfully kept for fifty years." He took refuge at the home of senator Bassett, Dover, Del., where he died, "in the full assurance of faith," July 5,1806. He was buried under the altar of Wesley Chapel, in the outskirts of Dover. Bishop Asbury, some time after his death, visiting the place of his sepulture, preached his funeral sermon from 2Ti 3:10. In the course of his sermon he declared that such was his unabated charity, his ardent love to God and man, his patience and resignation amid the unavoidable ills of life, that he always exemplified the tempers and conduct of a most devoted servant of God and of an exemplary Christian minister. Bishop Whatcoat was not a man of deep erudition nor extensive science; but he was thoroughly acquainted with Wesleyan theology, and well versed in all the varying systems of divinity. As a preacher his discourses were plain, instructive, and highly spiritual. His distinguishing trait of character was a meekness and modesty of spirit which, united with a simplicity of intention and gravity of deportment, commended him to all as a pattern worthy of their imitation. Laban Clark said of him, "I think I may safely say, if I ever knew one who came up to St. James's description of a perfect main-one who bridled his tongue and kept 3 subjection his whole body-that man was bishop Whatcoat." See Minutes of Annual Conferences, 1867, p. 145; Stevens, Hist. of the M. E. Church, 2, 157, 166, 168, 182, 284, 295. 496; 3, 38, 75; 4:64,113,169, 184, 283, 501; Bangs, Hist. of the M. E. Church, 2, 93,184,185; Boehm, Reminiscences, p. 35; Phoebus, Memoirs of Bishop Whatcoat, etc. (N. Y.1828), p.101. (J.L.S.)

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