To Mr. Francis Asbury, February 25, 1791.
My dear brother, sensing that my time on this earth may not be long (indeed, it may be that by the time this letter reaches you I will myself have reached that distant shore), I am moved to release the burden of my heart for the people called Methodist who will come in the last days.
You know that we have disagreed on the matter of Bishops in the now former colonies. Yet I have come to accept that it may be necessary to have strong leadership in a country destined to be spread over a vast expanse of land. Otherwise our travelling preachers might come Independent of each other and the Spirit worketh best communally. Yet you know my experiences here in England, where the Episcopacy has oft become an obstacle to the Gospel.
May there never come a time in your fellowship when your Bishops would lord it over the people called Methodists! Nevertheless have I learned to trust the Spirit to move His people to His desired destination, although it oft takes time. One day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. God is never slack concerning His promise. He will always renew His people. At first it might be a little cloud out of the sea, like a man's hand. Yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.
The Bishoprick will not alway be right, but neither shall the preachers and plain men. We must believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. We are every man prone to think we are right, and here we must remember the words of Gamaliel, that if counsel or work be only of men, then God will surely bring it to nought. Or contrariwise, if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
So perhaps it is best alway to work within whatever Church, until they finally force you into the field. At times it seems inevitable that a Bishoprick or Institution will lose sight of Primary things. Dare I think that there would come a time when the people called Methodist would become timid with regard to such a vile Institution as slavery? Or God forbid there come a time when the Bishops might not endure the sound faith which was once delivered to the saints.
The call of the Methodist thus will always be to reform the nation and especially the Church, even if that Church be the Methodist. In such a time as this, we still only plant and water. Only God giveth the increase.
I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen God forsake His righteous. Be patient. Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God, who never faileth. He will get His people where they need to go.
As for me, the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. And what I have discovered best of all is, God is with us!
Your affectionate friend and brother,