Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties
Including Personal Reminiscens of Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902

Capacity for Work

Page 118

Cartright accomplished a wonderful amount of work during his ministry - more than any of our modern presiding elders of the present day, while his salary was scarcely $100 a year, and more often less than more. He always contended for the Methodist usuages - the campmeetings, class meetings, prayer meetings and love feasts. When Methodism began to throw off these meetings the church was shorn of its strength and was a Sampson in the hands of Deliah. In these early days its members always looked forward to a quarterly meeting with delight as a season of refreshing fro the Lord. But how is it now? It is rather dreaded. The elder comes and reads a sermon that he probably borrowed from Talmage, or if he didn't, it would have been better if he had, for the congregation would have had a better one. At the close of the sermon then comes the tug of war; the preacher announces that it is necessary to raise about $15 for the elder, and when the congregation seems to have its mind in a suitable frame to take the sacrament, the struggle for the $15 begins. How many $1 men, the preacher asks, are in the house. After that, how many 50c. men, and then how many 25c. men. If it still lacks a little the steward will wait on the congregation and gather up the fragments, that nothing may be lost, says the preacher, and the result is that it requires all the talent the preacher in charge has to raise the elder's claim, well knowing that his next appointment depends on his ability to raise money for the elder's one sermon, while the early father spent about a week for one-fourth of what he got. I speak this not in a spirit of criticism or fault-finding, but as a real fact that exists. Cartright appeared to have the spirit of prophecy and to see in the future what has come to pass. The church as lost its power. The bishops have sounded the alarm - " the church lost thousands of members last year." What is to be done? Let a voice from the grave of Cartright answer: "Return to the old paths, do they work over, lest thy candle stick be removed out of its place." The Methodist church, in its primitive state, was the gospel to the poor. In all of our large cities the poor have to take a back seat in the church. "Do thy works over." Pardon this digression. The only apology we make for this style is that we feel like it, and, like Carrie Nation, only do it because those in authority refused to speak out.

When Cartright first started out as a preacher, a single ma was allowed to receive $80 a year, if his circuit could raise that much, but he seldom received over $30 or $40, and this, with a few presents and wedding fees, was all he got. He traveled eleven circuits and twelve districts; received on probation and by letter 10,000; children baptized, 8,000; adults, 4,000; funerals preached, 500. For twenty years of his ministry he preached as often and 400 times, which would make 8.000 sermons. Nor did he have his sermons written. In the last thirty-three years of his life he averaged four sermons a week, making in that time, 6,600; total, 14,600. He was a great man for camp-meetings and prayer meetings. He was converted at a camp-meeting, and in his early ministry lived in a tented grove from two to three months in a year. He said: "May the day be eternally distant when camp-meetings, class meetings, prayer meetings and love feasts shall be laid aside in the Methodist churches."

Cartright was never afraid to rebuke spiritual wickedness in high places, as the following instance will illustrate: While a member of the Legislature he was invited to take supper with the Governor. They sat down to the table, and the Governor was going to pass the dishes when Cartright said: "Hold on, Governor, ask a blessing." The Governor blushed, stammered and excused himself, and then asked Cartright to ask the blessing. The preacher did so, and then gave the Governor a lecture about a man of his high position eating without offering thanks to the Giver of the supper. No doubt the Governor never sat down to a meal after that without thinking of the rebuke.

Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors