by Greg Baker
“Francis Asbury came to America to preach religion. He had no idea that he was preparing men the better to take part in a great liberal movement, the better to take advantage of free institutions, and the better to perform the functions of self government.” President Calvin Coolidge spoke these words on October 15, 1924 at the unveiling of a statue of Bishop Francis Asbury in Washington DC.
Sir Francis Asbury was seen as a founding father even though he never participated in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, fighting in the Revolutionary War, or the forming of the new U.S. government. Rather Sir Francis Asbury gave his life to sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the middle of one of America’s greatest conflicts.
President Coolidge, like our founders, believed that “our government rests upon religion,” because they understood in order to have a free government the people would have to be governed from within. In the same address in Washington Coolidge stated, “There are only two main theories of government in the world. One rests on righteousness, the other rests on force. One appeals to reason, the other appeals to the sword.” Sir Francis Asbury, along with George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards, brought the Gospel to the nation of America. They taught the Word and its righteousness. They built the very foundation that was necessary for the nation to survive self-governance. They gave true freedom that a free government could be built on.
In Asbury’s lifetime he rode over 5,000 miles every year and preached every other day. He ordained over 4,000 ministers and preached over 16,000 sermons. When the Revolutionary War broke out in America, Asbury was encouraged to come home to England for his safety. Asbury declined to come home saying, “It is not a part of a good shepherd to leave his flock in a time of danger. Therefore, I am determined by the grace of God, not to leave them, let the consequences be that it may.”
And Sir Francis Asbury did stay and would later found the American Methodist Church, known as the Methodist Episcopal Church. He would also become an important voice in the early abolition movement. He even met with President George Washington personally on the issue. Asbury told the President that it made little sense to found a nation on freedom then enslave a large percentage of the population, and asked him to sign a petition to end slavery. Though President Washington declined, Asbury maintained a relationship with President Washington. Asbury regularly would send him letters and sermons, many concerning the issue of slavery. Washington would later free his slaves in his will. Many believe it was the multiple conversations with Asbury that motivated him to do so.
Sir Francis Asbury gave his life to the Church and to spreading the teachings of Jesus Christ to all those in America, including our president. His life greatly impacted our nation. By leading people to Christ, who offers true freedom, he helped build a foundation that allowed this experiment of a republic to prosper. If America is going to continue to prosper it will need more believers like Sir Francis Asbury, who are willing to lay down their lives to spreading the good news to all people. This nation’s foundation has been and only can be on the Church of Jesus Christ.