by R Allen · Cited by 151 — THE LIFE, EXPERIENCE,. AND GOSPEL LABOURS. OF THE Rt. Rev. RICHARD ALLEN. Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is
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___Excerpted, and images added, by the National Humanities Center for use in a Professional Development Seminar___ Richard Allen THE LIFE, EXPERIENCE, AND GOSPEL LABOURS OF THE Rt. Rev. RICHARD ALLEN Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace. Š Ps. xxxvii. 37. PHILADELPHIA, 1833. ________________________________ EXCERPTS PREFACE. A GREAT part of this work having been written many years after events actually took place; and as my memory could not exactly point out the exact time of many occurrences; they are, however, (as many as I can recollect) pointed out; some without day or date, which, I presume, will be of no material consequence, so that they are confined to the truth. Could I but recollect the half of my trials and sufferings in this life, with the many meetings I have held, and the various occurrences that have taken place in my travelling to and fro, preaching the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to Adam™s lost race, they would swell this little book far beyond my inclination, and weary perhaps those into whose hands it may chance to come; and as I have been earnestly solicited by many of my friends to leave a small detail of my life and proceedings, I have thought proper, for the satisfaction of those who (after I am dead and in the grave) may feel an inclination 10 to learn the commencement of my life, to leave behind me this short account for their perusal. RICHARD ALLEN. ______________________________ was born in the year of our Lord 1760, on February 14 th, a slave to Benjamin Chew, of Philadelphia. My mother and father and four children of us were sold into Delaware State, near Dover, and I was a child and lived with him until I was upwards of twenty years of age, during which time I was awakened and brought to see myself poor, wretched and undone, and without the mercy of God must be lost. Shortly after I obtained mercy through the blood of Christ, and was constrained to exhort my old companions to seek the Lord. I went rejoicing for several days, and was happy in the Lord, in conversing with many old 20 I

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2 experienced Christians. I was brought under doubts, and was tempted to believe I was deceived, and was constrained to seek the Lord afresh. I went with my head bowed down for many days. My sins were a heavy burden. I was tempted to believe there was no mercy for me. I cried to the Lord both night and day. One night I thought hell would be my portion. I cried unto Him who delighteth to hear the prayers of a poor sinner; and all of a sudden my dungeon shook, my chains flew off, and glory to God, I cried. My soul was filled. I cried, enough for me Š the Saviour died. Now my confidence was strengthened that the Lord, for Christ™s sake, had heard my prayers, and pardoned all my sins. I was constrained to go from house to house, exhorting my old companions, and telling to all around what a dear Saviour I had found. I joined the Methodist society, and met in class at Benjamin Wells™s, in the forest, Delaware State. John Gray was the class-leader. I met in his class for several years. 30 My master was an unconverted man, and all the family; but he was what the world called a good master. He was more like a father to his slaves than any thing else. He was a very tender, humane man. My mother and father lived with him for many years. He was brought into difficulty, not being able to pay for us; and mother having several children after he had bought us, he sold my mother and three children. My mother sought the Lord and found favour with him, and became a very pious woman. There were three children of us remained with our old master. My oldest brother embraced religion, and my sister. Our neighbours, seeing that our master indulged us with the privilege of attending meeting once in two weeks, said that Stokeley™s negroes would soon ruin him; and so my brother and myself held a council together that we would attend more faithfully to our master™s business, so that it should not be said that religion 40 made us worse servants, we would work night and day to get our crops forward, so that they should be disappointed. We frequently went to meeting on every other Thursday; but if we were likely to be backward with our crops we would refrain from going to meeting. When our master found we were making no provision to go to meeting, he would frequently ask us if it was not our meeting day, and if we were not going. We would frequently tell him, fino, sir, we would rather stay at home and get our work done.fl He would tell us, fiBoys, I would rather you would go to your meeting: if I am not good myself, I like to see you striving yourselves to be good.fl Our reply would be, fiThank you, sir; but we would rather stay and get our crops forward.fl So we always continued to keep our crops more forward than our neighbours; and we would attend public preaching once in two weeks, and class meeting once a week. At length our master said he was convinced that religion made slaves better and not worse, and often boasted 50 of his slaves for their honesty and industry. Some time after I asked him if I might ask the preachers to come and preach at his house. He being old and infirm, my master and mistress cheerfully agreed for me to ask some of the Methodist preachers to come and preach at his house. I asked him for a note. He

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3 replied, if my word was not sufficient, he should send no note. I accordingly asked the preacher. He seemed somewhat backward at first, as my master did not send a written request; but the class-leader (John Gray) observed that my word was sufficient; so he preached at my old master™s house on the next Wednesday. Preaching continued for some months; at length Freeborn Garrison preached from these words, fiThou art weighed in the balance, and art found wanting.fl In pointing out and weighing the different characters, and among the rest weighed the slave-holders, my master believed himself to be one of that number, and after that he could not be satisfied to hold slaves, believing it to be wrong. And after 60 that he proposed to me and my brother buying our times, to pay him sixty pounds gold and silver, or two thousand dollars continental money, which we complied with in the year 17Š. We left our master™s house, and I may truly say it was like leaving our father™s house; for he was a kind, affectionate, and tender-hearted master, and told us to make his house our home when we were out of a place or sick. While living with him we had family prayer in the kitchen, to which he frequently would come out himself at time of prayer, and my mistress with him. At length he invited us from the kitchen to the parlour to hold family prayer, which we attended to. We had our stated times to hold our prayer meetings and give exhortations at in the neighbourhood. 70 I had it often impressed upon my mind that I should one day enjoy my freedom; for slavery is a bitter pill, notwithstanding we had a good master. But when we would think that our day™s work was never done, we often thought that after our master™s death we were liable to be sold to the highest bidder, as he was much in debt; and thus my troubles were increased, and I was often brought to weep between the porch and the altar. But I have had reason to bless my dear Lord that a door was opened unexpectedly for me to buy my time, and enjoy my liberty. When I left my master™s house I knew not what to do, not being used to hard work, what business I should follow to pay my master and get my living. I went to cutting of cord wood. The first day my hands were so blistered and sore, that it was with difficulty I could open or shut them. I kneeled down upon my knees and prayed that the Lord would open some way for me to get my living. In a few days my hands recovered, and became accustomed to cutting of wood and other hardships; so I 80 soon became able to cut my cord and a half and two cords a day. After I was done cutting, I was employed in a brick-yard by one Robert Register, at fifty dollars a month, continental money. After I was done with the brick-yard I went to days™ work, but did not forget to serve my dear Lord. I used oftimes to pray sitting, standing, or lying; and while my hands were employed to earn my bread, my heart was devoted to my dear Redeemer. Sometimes I would awake from my sleep preaching and praying. I was after this employed in driving of wagon in time of the continental war, in drawing salt from Rehobar,

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4 Sussex county, in Delaware. I had my regular stops and preaching places on the road. I enjoyed many happy seasons in meditation and prayer while in this employment. After peace was proclaimed I then travelled extensively, striving to preach the Gospel. My lot was cast in 90 Wilmington. Shortly after I was taken sick with the fall fever and then the pleurisy. September the 3d, 1783, I left my native place. After leaving Wilmington, I went into New-Jersey, and there travelled and strove to preach the Gospel until the spring of 1784. I then became acquainted with Benjamin Abbot, that great and good apostle. He was one of the greatest men that ever I was acquainted with. He seldom preached but what there were souls added to his labour. He was a man of as great faith as any that ever I saw. The Lord was with him, and blessed his labours abundantly. He was as a friend and father to me. I was sorry when I had to leave West Jersey, knowing I had to leave a father. I was employed in cutting of wood for Captain Cruenkleton, although I preached the Gospel at nights and on Sundays. My dear Lord was with me, and blessed my labours Š glory to God Š and gave me souls for 100 my hire. I then visited East Jersey, and laboured for my dear Lord, and became acquainted with Joseph Budd, and made my home with him, near the new mills Š a family, I trust, who loved and served the Lord. I laboured some time there; but being much afflicted in body with the inflammatory rheumatism, was not so successful as in some other places. I went from there to Jonathan Bunn™s, near 110 Bennington, East Jersey. There I laboured in that neighbourhood for some time. I found him and his family kind and affectionate, and he and his dear wife were a father and mother of Israel. In the year 1784 I left East Jersey, and laboured in Pennsylvania. I walked until my feet became so sore and blistered the first day, that I scarcely could bear them to the ground. I found the people very humane and kind in Pennsylvania. I having but little money, I stopped at Cæsar Water™s, at Radnor township, twelve miles from Philadelphia. I found him and his wife very kind and affectionate to me. In the evening they asked me if I would come and take tea with them; but after sitting awhile, my feet became so sore and painful that I could scarcely be able to put them to the floor. I told them that I would accept of their kind invitation, but my feet pained me so that I could not Library of Congress Sayer/Bennett, General Map of the Middle British Colonies, in America, 1776 (detail)

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5 come to the table. They brought the table to me. Never was I more kindly received by strangers that I had 120 never before seen, than by them. She bathed my feet with warm water and bran; the next morning my feet were better and free from pain. They asked me if I would preach for them. I preached for them the next evening. We had a glorious meeting. They invited me to stay till Sabbath day, and preach for them. I agreed to do so, and preached on Sabbath day to a large congregation of different persuasions, and my dear Lord was with me, and I believe there were many souls cut to the heart, and were added to the ministry. They insisted on me to stay longer with them. I stayed and laboured in Radnor several weeks. Many souls were awakened, and cried aloud to the Lord to have mercy upon them. I was frequently called upon by many inquiring what they should do to be saved. I appointed them to prayer and supplication at the throne of grace, and to make use of all manner of prayer, and pointed them to the invitation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who has said, fiCome unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I 130 will give you rest.fl Glory be to God! and now I know he was a God at hand and left not afar off. I preached my farewell sermon, and left these dear people. It was a time of visitation from above. [M]any were the slain of the Lord. Seldom did I ever experience such a time of mourning and lamentation among a people. There were but few coloured people in the neighbourhood Š the most of my congregation was white. Some said, this man must be a man of God; I never heard such preaching before. We spent a greater part of the night in singing and prayer with the mourners. I expected I should have had to walk, as I had done before; but Mr. Davis had a creature that he made a present to me; but I intended to pay him for his horse if ever I got able. My dear Lord was kind and gracious to me. Some years after I got into business, and thought myself able to pay for the horse. The horse was too light and small for me to 140 travel on far. I traded it away with George Huftman for a blind horse, but larger. I found my friend Huftman very kind and affectionate to me, and his family also. I preached several times at Huftman™s meeting house to a large and numerous congregation. I proceeded on to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I found the people in general dead to religion, and scarcely a form of godliness. I went on to Little York and put up at George Tess, a saddler, and I believed him to be a man that loved and served the Lord. I had comfortable meetings with the Germans. I left Little York and proceeded on to the State of Maryland, and stopped at Mr. Benjamin Grover™s; and I believed him to be a man that loved and served the Lord. I had many happy seasons with my dear friends. His wife was a very pious woman; but their dear children were strangers to vital religion. I preached in the neighbourhood for 150 some time, and travelled Hartford circuit with Mr. Porters, who travelled that circuit. I found him very useful to me. I also travelled with Jonathan Forest and Leari Coal.

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6 December, 1784, General Conference sat in Baltimore, the first General Conference ever held in America. The English preachers just arrived from Europe, Rev. Dr. Coke, Richard Watcoat, and Thomas Vasses. This was the beginning of the Episcopal Church amongst the Methodists. Many of the ministers were set apart in holy orders at this Conference, and were said to be entitled to the gown; and I have thought religion has been declining in the church ever since. There was a pamphlet published by some person which stated that when the Methodists were no people, then they were a people; and now they have become a people, they were no people, which had often serious weight upon my mind. 160 In 1785 the Rev. Richard Watcoat was appointed on Baltimore circuit. He was, I believe, a man of God. I found great strength in travelling with him Š a father in Israel. In his advice he was fatherly and friendly. He was of a mild and serene disposition. My lot was cast in Baltimore, in a small meeting-house called Methodist Alley. I stopped at Richard Mould™s, and was sent to my lodgings, and lodged at Mr. McCannon™s. I had some happy meetings in Baltimore. . . . Shortly after I left Hartford Circuit, and came to Pennsylvania, on Lancaster Circuit. I travelled several months on Lancaster Circuit with the Rev. Peter Morratte and Irie Ellis. . . . February, 1786, I came to Philadelphia. Preaching was given out for me at five o™clock in the morning at St. George™s Church. I strove to preach as well as I could, but it was a great cross to me; but the Lord was with me. We had a good time, and several souls were awakened, and were earnestly seeking redemption in the blood of Christ. I thought I would stop in Philadelphia a week or two. 170 I preached at different places in the city. My labour was much blessed. I soon saw a large field open in seeking and instructing my African brethren, who had been a long forgotten people and few of them attended public worship. I preached in the commons, in Southwark, Northern Liberties, and wherever I could find an opening. I frequently preached twice a day, at 5 o™clock in the morning and in the evening, and it was not uncommon for me to preach from four to five times a day. I established prayer meetings; I raised a society in 1786 of forty-two members. I saw the necessity of erecting a place of worship for the coloured people. I proposed it to the most respectable people of colour in this city; but here I met with opposition. I had but three coloured brethren that united with me in erecting a place of worship Š the Rev. Absalom Jones, William White, and Dorus Ginnings. These united with me as soon as it became public and known by the elder who was stationed in the city. The Rev. CŠ BŠ opposed the plan, and 180 would not submit to any argument we could raise; but he was shortly removed from the charge. The Rev Mr. WŠ took the charge, and the Rev LŠ GŠ . Mr. WŠ was much opposed to an African church, and used very degrading and insulting language to us, to try and prevent us from going on. We all belonging to St. George™s church Š Rev. Absalom Jones, William White and Dorus Ginnings. We felt ourselves much cramped; but my dear Lord was with us, and we believed, if it was his will, the work would go on,

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8 waited on Dr. Rush and Mr. Robert Ralston, and told them of our distressing situation. We considered it a blessing that the Lord had put it into our hearts to wait upon those gentlemen. They pitied our situation, 220 and subscribed largely towards the church, and were very friendly towards us, and advised us how to go on. We appointed Mr. Ralston our treasurer. Dr. Rush did much for us in public by his influence. I hope the name of Dr. Benjamin Rush and Mr. Robert Ralston will never be forgotten among us. They were the two first gentlemen who espoused the cause of the oppressed, and aided us in building the house of the Lord for the poor Africans to worship in. Here was the beginning and rise of the first African church in America. But the elder of the Methodist church still pursued us. Mr. JŠ MŠ called upon us and told us if we did not erase our names from the subscription paper, and give up the paper, we would be publicly turned out of meeting. We asked him if we had 230 violated any rules of discipline by so doing. He replied, fiI have the charge given to me by the Conference, and unless you submit I will read you publicly out of meeting.fl We told him we were willing to abide by the discipline of the Methodist church; fiand if you will show us where we have violated any law of discipline of the Methodist church, we will submit; and if there is no rule violated in the discipline, we will proceed on.fl He replied, fiwe will read you all out.fl We told him if he turned us out contrary to rule of discipline, we should seek further redress. We told him we were dragged off of our knees in St. George™s church, and treated worse than heathens; and we were determined to seek out for ourselves, the 240 Lord being our helper. He told us we were not Methodists, and left us. Finding we would go on in raising money to build the church, he called upon us again, and wished to see us all together. We met him. He told us that he wished us well, and that he was a friend to us, and used many arguments to convince us that we were wrong in building a church. We told him we had no place of worship; and we did not mean to go to St. George™s church any more, as we were so scandalously treated in the presence of all the congregation present; fiand if you deny us your name, you cannot seal up the scriptures from us, and deny us a name in heaven. We believe heaven is free for all who worship in spirit and truth.fl And he said, fiso you are determined to go on.fl We told him Š fiyes, God being our helper.fl He then replied, fiwe will disown you all from the Methodist connexion.fl We believed if we put our trust in the Lord, he would stand by us. This was a trial that I never had to pass through before. I was confident that the great head of 250 the church would support us. My dear Lord was with us. We went out with our subscription paper, and National Archives Dr. Benjamin Rush

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9 met with great success. We had no reason to complain of the liberality of the citizens. The first day the Rev. Absalom Jones and myself went out we collected three hundred and sixty dollars. This was the greatest day™s collection that we met with. We appointed a committee to look out for a lot Š the Rev. Absalom Jones, William Gray, William Wilcher, and myself. We pitched upon a lot at the corner of Lombard and Sixth streets. They authorized me to go and agree for it. I did accordingly. The lot belonged to Mr. Mark Wilcox. We entered into articles of agreement for the lot. Afterwards the committee found a lot in Fifth street, in a more commodious part of the city, which we bought; and the first lot they threw upon my hands, and wished me to give it up. I told them they had authorized me to agree for the lot, and they were all well satisfied with the agreement I had made, and I thought it was hard that they should 260 throw it upon my hands. I told them I would sooner keep it myself than to forfeit the agreement I had made. And so I did. We bore much persecution from many of the Methodist connexion; but we have reason to be thankful to Almighty God, who was our deliverer. The day was appointed to go and dig the cellar. I arose early in the morning and addressed the throne of grace, praying that the Lord would bless our endeavours. Having by this time two or three teams of my own Š as I was the first proposer of the African church, I put the first spade in the ground to dig a cellar for the same. This was the first African church or meeting house that was erected in the United States of 270 America. We intended it for the African preaching house or church; but finding that the elder stationed in this city was such an opposer to our proceedings of erecting a place of worship; though the principal part of the directors of this church belonged to the Methodist connexion, the elder stationed here would neither preach for us, nor have any thing to do with us. We then held an election, to know what religious denomination we should unite with. At the election it was determined Š there were two in favour of the Methodist, the Rev. Absalom Jones and myself, and a large majority in favour of the Church of 280 England. The majority carried. Notwithstanding we had been so violently persecuted by the elder, we were in favour of being attached to the Methodist connexion; for I was confident that there was no religious sect or denomination would suit the capacity of the coloured people as well as the Methodist; for the plain and simple gospel UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries Rev. Absalom Jones

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10 suits best for any people, for the unlearned can understand, and the learned are sure to understand; and the reason that the Methodist is so successful in the awakening and conversion of the coloured people, the plain doctrine and having a good discipline. But in many cases the preachers would act to please their own fancy, without discipline, till some of them became such tyrants, and more especially to the coloured people. They would turn them out of society, giving them no trial, for the smallest offence, perhaps only hearsay. They would frequently, in meeting the class, impeach some of the members of whom they had 290 heard an ill report, and turn them out, saying, fiI have heard thus and thus of you, and you are no more a member of societyfl Š without witnesses on either side. This has been frequently done, notwithstanding in the first rise and progress in Delaware State, and elsewhere, the coloured people were their greatest support; for there were but few of us free; but the slaves would toil in their little patches many a night until midnight to raise their little truck and sell to get something to support them more than what their masters gave them, but we used often to divide our little support among the white preachers of the Gospel. This was once a quarter. It was in the time of the old revolutionary war between Great Britain and the United States. The Methodists were the first people that brought glad tidings to the coloured people. I feel thankful that ever I heard a Methodist preach. We are beholden to the Methodists, under God, for the light of the Gospel we enjoy; for all other denominations preached so high-flown that we were not able to 300 comprehend their doctrine. Sure am I that reading sermons will never prove so beneficial to the coloured people as spiritual or extempore preaching. I am well convinced that the Methodist has proved beneficial to thousands and ten times thousands. It is to be awfully feared that the simplicity of the Gospel that was among them fifty years ago, and that they conform more to the world and the fashions thereof, they would fare very little better than the people of the world. The discipline is altered considerably from what it was. We would ask for the good old way, and desire to walk therein. . . . I bought an old frame that had been formerly occupied as a blacksmith shop from Mr. Sims, and hauled it on the lot in Sixth near Lobard [ sic] street, that had formerly been taken for the church of England. I employed carpenters to repair the old frame, and fit it for a place of worship. In July, 1794, Bishop 310 Asbury being in town I solicited him to open the church * for us which he accepted. The Rev. John Dickins sung and prayed, and Bishop Asbury preached. The house was called bethel agreeable to the prayer that was made. Mr. Dickins prayed that it might be a bethel ** to the gathering in of thousands of souls. My dear Lord was with us, so that there was many hearty Amen™s echoed through the house. This house of worship has been favored with the awakening of many souls, and I trust they are in the kingdom both * This church will at present accommodate between 3 and 4000 persons. [footnote in original] ** See Gen. chap. 28. [footnote in original]

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11 white and colored. Our warfare and troubles now began afresh. Mr. C. proposed that we should make over the church to the conference. This we objected to, he asserted that we could not be Methodists unless we did, we told him he might deny us their name, but they could not deny us a seat in Heaven. Finding that he could not prevail with us so to do, he observed that we had better be incorporated, then we could get any legacies that were left for us, if not, we could not. We agreed to be incorporated, he offered to draw 320 the incorporation himself, that it would save us the trouble of paying for to get it drawn. We cheerfully submitted to his proposed plan. He drew the incorporation, but incorporated our church under the Conference, our property was then all consigned to the Conference for the present Bishops, Elders, and Ministers, &c., that belonged to the white Conference, and our property was gone. Being ignorant of incorporations we cheerfully agreed thereto, we labored about ten years under this 330 incorporation, until JŠ SŠ was appointed to take the charge in Philadelphia, he soon waked us up by demanding the keys and books of the church, and forbid us holding any meetings except orders from him, these propositions we told him we could not agree to. He observed he was elder appointed to the charge, and unless we submitted to him, he would read us all out of meeting, we told him the house was our™s, we had bought it, and paid for it. He said he would let us know it was not our™s, it belonged to the Conference, we took council on it; council informed us we had been taken in, according to the incorporation, it belonged to the white connexion. We asked him if it could™nt be altered, he told us it two thirds of the society agreed to have it altered, it could be altered. He gave me a transcript 340 to lay before them, I called the society together and laid it before them. My dear Lord was with us. It was unanimously agree to by both male and female, we had another incorporation drawn that took the church from Conference, and got it passed before the elder knew any thing about it. This raised a considerable rumpus, for the elder contended that it would not be good unless he had signed it. The elder with the Trustees of St. George™s called us together, and said we must pay six hundred dollars a year for their services, or they could not serve us. We told them we were not able so to do. The Trustees of St. George™s insisted that we should, or should not be supplied by their preachers, at last they made a move that they Library Company of Philadelphia Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, under construction in 1804 to replace the original church founded by Richard Allen in 1794

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