Throughout the Methodist movement in eighteenth century England and in the early Free Methodist movement divine healing was not uncommon. In many of the accounts I’ve read it seems to be more prevalent with women than men, or at least women wrote about their healing experiences more than men did. Perhaps this is due in part to Methodist and Free Methodist women placing a stronger emphasis on personal experience and narrative devices as a way to share their faith than their male counterparts. As historian Phyllis Mack notes in her book Heart Religion in the British Enlightenment, eighteenth century Methodist women used personal narratives and testimony in their sermons more than their male counterparts. This appealed to the masses who could see their own flaws and similarities through the narratives of women evangelists.
You can see this appeal to personal examples in the ministries of all the women I write about on this blog (Clara Wetherald, Ida Gage, Emma Ray, Eliza Suggs and Mariet Hardy Freelend). Out of all the women I research only two women’s writings transcend personal experience—Freeland and Wetherald. Freeland was a regular contributor to both The Free Methodist and The Earnest Christian. Her writings often appeared in the original articles section of The Free Methodist— a section that was often dominated by male writers and dealt with heavy theological issues. It was rare to see her write in first person, unless she was sending in a report on the ministry work she and her husband were doing in the Dakota Territory.
Thus, her article “Where are the Nine?” is even more important because she writes about her own divine healing experience, something she rarely refers to in other work. While some women like Ida Gage or Free Methodist missionary Clara Leffingwell chose to make healing a central focus of why they went into ministry, Freeland downplays the experience. As you’ll see in the following article she uses it as a sermon example. Always the preacher and scholar first it is used to make a point and relate to a Biblical passage.
“Where are the Nine?” by M.H. Freeland
“Where there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?”- Luke xvii.17.
This question came to my mind with great power last night. Only one, and he was a Samaritan, of the ten lepers who were healed, returned give glory to God. The question, as it came to me seemed to say, “Is it not so in these days?” My thoughts went back nearly thirty years to the time when I first heard that Jesus was actually healing people now in answer to prayer the same as he did when on earth. Some of the Syracuse pilgrims came to the far-famed Bergen camp meeting and testified to his healing power. Some heard glad news and began at once to prove its truthfulness. I always believed he was able to do it, but hardly understood that to it his will to heal the body as well as the soul, when that would glorify him most. It is twenty-eight years last June when on the Bergen camp ground that I first felt the healing touch. I had taken a severe cold on the ground and was threatened with inflammation of the lungs. Jesus helped me look to him and the blessing came all over me like a shower bath. The perspiration started from every pore, and the witness came that I was healed.
Many, very many, times since have I felt the healing power of Jesus on my body. But for this I should, undoubtedly, have finished my work on earth long ago. Twenty-four years ago last August I was brought very low will chill-fever, but was raised to health of mind and body in answer to prayer. In a few instances I have been led to remedies and realize that through the blessing of God, they have been efficacious. Once I was led to say I would never take any more medicine, but soon saw it was not a scriptural position and abandoned it. It means much to always be able, as Christians, to discriminate between the precious and the vile, in doctrine, experience and practice. I am seeing more and more that God wants his people to hold on to their inheritance and not be frightened out of the blood-bought rights by any of the scare-crows of the enemy. I see I have been too much like the nine who returned not to give God the glory. And has it not been so with others also? Shall we begin to honor God with our testimonies, upon the important question of physical healing? When Professor Tyndal gave the challenge a few years since with reference to the healing of the sick no one felt called of God to answer it. But God is meeting the challenge the instances of physical heating have been multiplied in all the churches and God’s truth is being vindicated. Glory to his name! As I look over the Free Methodist Church I can see many who have been identified with it from the beginning who are alive in answer to prayer according to positive facts. Others have crossed to the other shore, who toiled for the Master years longer than they would, but for being healed in answer to prayer. Many in the East know what a low place my husband was in six years ago, but God has raised him up, in answer to prayer, to a state of health, where he endures toil and exposure in the work of God as well or better than ever before. We will return and give God the glory. Amen.
Sioux Falls, D.T. – The Free Methodist November 21, 1888
One thought on “Preaching Divine Healing in Nineteenth Century Free Methodism”
Interesting, I found this while looking for information on J B Freeland, chairman of the Free Methodist Church in Sioux Falls, Dakota Territory. I have a letter he wrote in July, 1887, certifying an individual to officiate as a local preacher for one year, with stipulations.