To set forth his services, would bring in the history of the church in one of its most eventful periods. The scheme of this book, however, allows only a line where a biographer would not be faithful to his trust without giving a chapter.
In the General Conference he wrestled with the
champions from all sections, and. not to his discomforture. He expounded and defended with signal clearness and vigor, by pen and from the pulpit, the polity and doctrines of the church. He ranked with the mighty men of valor in the times when there were giants.
He is the oldest, effective member of the Virginia Conference, and is the Presiding Elder of the Richmond District. Age and years of service have smitten his body with disease; time has not marred his pleasing and intellectual features.
Dr. Lee son of Abraham and Elizabeth Lee, was born Petersburg, Virginia, on the 30th of April, 1808. His mother, daughter of James, and Elizabeth Wheless, was born and grew to womanhood near the town of Enfield, Halifax county, North Carolina. His father, son of Nathaniel and Elizabeth Lee, was born in Prince George county, Virginia. He was younger than his brother, Rev. Jesse Lee and older than his brother, Rev. John Lee, who were among the earliest of American Methodist preachers, and the pioneers of Methodism in the New
England States. His paternal grand-parents were among the very first persons to join the Methodist societies in the State of Virginia; certainly south of the. Rappahannock river; as they embraced religion and joined society
in the Spring--April--of 1772, when Robert Williams made his first tour after landing at Norfolk, in the Spring of that year. The Rev. Devereaux
Jarratt, an evangelical Protestant Episcopal minister, entered heartily into the plans of Mr. Williams, and those who came after him; and as he could not open his church to their ministrations, by reason of the yet unspiked canon on its pulpits, he fitted up his barn as a preaching place, and for a few years it was on the regular plan of Methodist preaching places. But it was, we think, during the Revolutionary War transferred to the residence of
Mr. Lee; and continued on the plan of for perhaps thirty-five or forty years, until the death of Mr. Lee, and his two sons, Jesse and John, when the' church, then and now known as Salem, was built and became the home of the society until this day. On the last visit of the subject of this sketch, to his venerable grandmother, in the Summer of 1827, he
well recollects the old pulpit chair, in which Asbury, Coke, Garrettson, Hull,
Jesse and John Lee, and their contemporaries, had all stood; and of his own emotions when kneeling before it in private -prayer, he thought of the great and holy men who had from it preached salvation through the Crucified.
He was converted under the ministry of Rev. William A. Smith, on Sunday night, April 1st, 1827, and joined the church, on Sunday after, the 8th. He was appointed leader of a class of venerable old mothers in Israel, in a few weeks afterwards; in the month of August he was licensed as an exhorter; and in the same month ventured to take a text, and tried to preach. In November, after examination before the Quarterly Conference in Petersburg, he was recommended to be received on trial by the Virginia Annual Conference, and was received with twenty-two other young men, at the session of the Conference in Raleigh, N. C., in February, 1828. His first appointment was to Campbell Circuit, with Joshua Leigh as preacher in charge. His second year, 1829, was in charge of Washington and Plymouth, N. C.; in 1830, Newbern, N. C.; 1831 Prince Edward, Va.; 1832, Brunswick Circuit; 1833 Elizabeth City, N. C.; 1834 in Portsmouth, Va.; 1835 Trinity, Richmond, Va.; entered on his work Sunday, March 2d. On the night of June 20th held a prayer meeting .in the basement of the church. After midnight the house took, or was
set on fire, and was entirely destroyed. He remained among his people, preaching as he could, and arranging to rebuild the church. He accomplished this, and after the work was advanced, in November he went by sea to Charleston, S. C., intending, for the benefit of his health, to spend the winter in St. Augustine, Florida. The breaking out of the Indian war in Florida hindered him, and he remained in Charleston until January, 1836; and after a stormy passage of twenty-three days reached Norfolk, when the Conference had nearly completed its business. He was surprised to find the Conference had purchased the "Christian Sentinel," a paper started in Richmond in 1832, and that he was to be its editor. He had been a frequent contributor to its columns since its origin, and he supposed this induced the selection. The Conference had no right or power to appoint an editor ; and his name stands on the Minutes as colleague of W. A. Smith, at Trinity Church. The church was finished in June, 1836, and he preached one of the. sermons at its dedication. It was sold some years after, and turned into a theatre. He thinks himself peculiar, that, as a Methodist preacher, he built a theatre. The first paper that ever floated his name at its head was issued on the 4th of March, 1836. He continued to edit the paper until April, 1837, when his health was so feeble he resigned; and then, until February, 1839, he travelled through the Conference as a means of restoration. In 1839 he was unanimously re-appointed to the paper ; the General Conference of 1836 had recognized and adopted it as one of the church papers. He remained editor until the Southern General Conference of 1858, when he resigned to enter the pastoral work. In November, 1858 he was appointed Presiding Elder of the Norfolk District. The war drove him from his district, the day the Federal troops entered Norfolk, May 10, 1862.
At the Conference, November, 1862, he was appointed to Centenary Church, Lynchburg, Virginia, and was continued as its pastor until November, 1865, at Danville. Thence he was sent to. Granby Street Church, Norfolk, where he remained until November, 1867. In
1868-69, at Union Station, Richmond; November, 1869, appointed to Richmond District. In 1874 Presiding Elder of Petersburg District. In November, 1877, returned as Presiding Elder to Richmond District.
He was a member of the General Conference of 1811, in New York, at which the church was divided. A member of the General Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, 1845, at which the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was organized ; and has been a member of. every General Conference of the church since its organization. He was chairman of the Committee on Itinerancy at each session from 1850 to 1866, inclusive, and at the sessions of 1870 and 1874 chairman of the Committee. on Episcopacy.
On the 10th of July, 1834, he and Miss Nancy Mosely Butler, of Elizabeth City, N. C., were united in holy wedlock; and on the 22d of November following she passed away from earth calm, tranquil, and happy, leaning upon the true and faithful promises of the Beloved.
On the 30th of November, 1836, he was again married to Miss Virginia Addington, of Norfolk, Virginia. She bore him nine children, six sons and three daughters. Two of these died in infancy, and one in early womanhood. Four sons and two daughters survived her. Her youngest child was nearly fifteen years old at the time of her death; her youngest daughter has married and died since the death of her mother. Mrs. Lee died suddenly, in the absence of her husband from home, on the 19th of March, 1872.
About 1834, a volume, made up of contributions to the " Christian Sentinel," in 1832, entitled "Advice to a Young Convert," was published on the recommendation of the Virginia Conference. In 1847, "The Life and Times of Jesse Lee." In 1854-'5, "The Great Supper not Calvinistic." Finished, but not published, a work on "Infant Baptism;" "Distinctive Baptist Principles ver. as Distinctive Bible Principles. "The Dispensation of the Spirit." Of lesser works, "A Tract on Confirmation. " On the Final Perseverance of the Saints." Of reviews : " Calvin and Servetus." "The Life and Writings of Arminius." "Pulpit Hermeneutics." " The Restoration of the Jews." "John's Baptism." Of miscellaneous writings: "The Shoemaker of St. Austell." "A Dream of Wealth." "A Letter from an Infidel." "The Two Mothers; or, the Mischiefs and Miseries of Making Bills," &c., &c.
Sketches of the Virginia Conference, Methodist Episcopal Church,
South. by Rev. John J. Lafferty Richmond, Va., Christian Advocate
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