200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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Three Wesley busts and miniature chapel. Right to left: bust by Enoch Wood, 1784; standing figurine, bust and chapel, early l9th century.Nationalism, bumptious and sometimes blasphemous, characterized the newborn United States of America, which styled itself the "new order of the ages." And this "new order" was beginning with remarkable energy to realize its geographical destiny by sending settlers into the western wilderness.

These citizens of a budding land bowed to no one. When Methodist Bishop Thomas Coke, an Englishman, made a statement that sounded as if he thought himself superior to the American-born preachers, one of the latter retorted, "We think ourselves equal to Doctor Coke and to Doctor Coke's king."

Bishop Thomas Coke (1747-1814). Engraving by J. Cochrane, London, ca. 1860.For a time even the King of kings was in disrepute. Ethan Allen, leader of the Green Mountain Boys, and Thomas Paine, author of the pamphlet Common Sense, which helped call forth the Declaration of Independence, promoted a religion devoid of sin, a kingly Savior, and salvation. But when the French Revolution carried ideas similar to Allen's and Paine's to the extreme of denying the existence of God, Americans backed away from the brink of atheism and settled for a nationalism with distinctly religious overtones.

This nationalism recognized the importance of having God-fearing voters--persons so aware of the pervasive ravages of sin that they would support a government strong enough to govern but limited in its power to undercut individual liberties. Such voters were one product of the evangelistic efforts of the Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical movements. Yet these movements had not been organized to meet political needs. Their primary purpose was to lead persons from an awareness of sin to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

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