200 Years of United Methodism
An Illustrated History

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The Message and the Means

Representative samples of early American Love Feast tickets.The message preached to the new citizens of the United States of America had monarchal as well as democratic overtones. Preachers told their listeners that only by yielding themselves to Jesus Christ, the King of kings, could they escape the wrath to come and find salvation for their souls. They were not asked to vote but to submit or go to hell. Yet the message had stirring democratic notes as well. All alike were sinners, from the president to the former peasant. And all alike had received sufficient grace from God to make it possible to turn away from sin and find salvation through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Theological questions were few in the early days of the Methodist, United Brethren, and Evangelical churches. No one then debated the authority of the Bible; they preached the Bible, reserving their debating skills for the one theological question that mattered: predestination. Leather purse for Love Feast Tickets, American, early 19th century.Had God picked some persons from all eternity to be saved and others to be damned? No, thundered the followers of John Wesley. The United Brethren said bluntly, "No preacher can stay among us who teacheth the doctrine of predestination." So United Brethren, Evangelical, and Methodist preachers taught what Captain Webb had taught, "that Jesus Christ tasted death for every man, and that in virtue of it, a measure of grace was given to every man to profit withal, and consequently that man is free to choose or refuse."

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