Free Methodist Women in the South Part I

During the 1890s and early 1900s numerous women wrote to The Free Methodist to share reports about their local congregations or the evangelistic crusades they were leading.

Mrs. J.E. Beasley and her husband were active in establishing a Free Methodist society in Hazelhurst, Mississippi in 1894. Map from nationsonline.org

Over the next few posts, I’ll be republishing ministry reports from women who lived and ministered in the southern states.  Their stories are remarkable, and they should be allowed to tell their stories in their own words without my summary.

February 7, 1894 Hazelhurst, Mississippi

Husband and myself are in meetings most of the time. It means so much to expound a pure, full Gospel to people who have been blinded so long by false teachers. There are churches all over the country with large memberships, but they are filled with pride and formalism, with a tobacco-soaked ministry at the head. There is no vital godliness perceptible. It grieves my heart to see so many professing the religion of Christ and yet denying his power to save from sin. But I do praise God that he is enabling us to lead some out of darkness into his marvelous light, and from the power of Satan unto God. I thank God that he has willed we should establish Free Methodist societies in this country, and I pray that it may be the means of spreading spiritual holiness over these lands. There never was a country more in need of Bible salvation than this one. We have a class of thirty-six, all dead indeed until sin but alive unto God and ready to work for the salvation of others.

Husband began a meeting last Sabbath and will continue during the holidays and close with watch-night services. We have had wonderful manifestations of Holy Ghost power and God saves and sanctifies souls right in the midst of the strongest opposition. I am so glad that while the devil is powerful our God is all powerful and more than a match for the enemy on every occasion. Bless his most excellent name! His people can, by complete surrender and obedience to him, always come off more than conquerors. My trust is in him who never lost a battle. I love God with all my heart and expect to work for him. I want his Spirit which is sharper than a two-edged sword to search the inmost recesses of my heart daily, because if we have not the Spirit of Christ we are none of his. It means everything to be Christlike, but glory to his name, we have the promise that his grace is sufficient.

We are progressing rather slowly but what is being done is no daubing, but a clean, thorough work for the Master. Fashions tobacco and secret societies, the three greatest evils of the age, all are given up when God’s truth is brought to bear upon them. I am glad there are always a few who will accept the truth and take the narrow way. A Free Methodist church is being built three miles from this point; expect to have it ready for dedication in a couple of months. Brother Day, our chairman, will dedicate it and hold a meeting for us. I feel that God is going to raise up a holy union, a royal priesthood, right in this southern country, and we shall realize that where sin abounded grace does much more abound. I know that Jesus is always on the giving hand and I am asking him to give us souls for our hire. I praise God that while the devil rages without, our souls can bask in the sunshine of his love. I want to defeat the enemy and rescue souls from the burning. I realize the only way to Heaven is by the way of the cross.

Mrs. J.E. Beasley

July 8, 1895 Virginia, Missouri

I am glad to have the privilege of telling what the Lord has done for us. My mother and sister and myself have been endeavoring to endorse and advocate the principles of Free Methodism in this part of the country; have stood alone as members for seventeen or more years. In the month of April we held meetings for three weeks. God sent us to help and souls were converted to God-more than twenty in number. Five professed the experience of holiness. We held a quarterly meeting at this place June 7-9, 1895. Our elder Brother C. Mattenley came filled with the spirit of love. He administered the word in power and the ordinances fo God’s house in humility. He baptized twelve adults by immersion and eight children by sprinkling.

Eliza Witherspoon was a Free Methodist evangelist in the Southern Missouri and Arkansas Conference from the mid-1890s through 1912. The map reflects her official ministry appointments in the conference. Virginia, where her 1896 report originates, is in the mid-left of the state.

We have organized a Sabbath-school and much interest is manifested in the work. Praise God. Five of the brothers who were converted used tobacco, but they have given it up and are praising God for the deliverance therefrom. The sisters remove the flowers and feathers from their bonnets, jewelry and other needless adorning, saying, “I’ll take the narrow way.” We have a class now numbering twenty-nine souls and the good work goes on. A sister came to our home yesterday seeking a clean heart. God gave her the grace sought for and she returned home rejoicing to know her heart was cleansed from all sin. “God keep each one” is my sincere prayer. “Thy way, O God is in the sanctuary; who is so great as our God? Thou art he that doest wonders.”

Eliza Witherspoon

The updates by Southern Free Methodist women will continue in Part II.

One thought on “Free Methodist Women in the South Part I

  1. My favorite line is so apropos today:

    It grieves my heart to see so many professing the religion of Christ and yet denying his power to save from sin.

    Amen Sister Beasley!

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