Saturday, March 02, 2013

This Week in Texas Methodist History   March 3

Mary Sherwood Helm Wightman Warns Niece Against Methodism, March 6, 1853

Although Methodism claimed more adherents in the Republic of Texas than any other denomination, it was not universally respected and admired.  The Protestant Episcopal Church (Anglican) was particularly strong in Matagorda County and at least one of the members of that church had nothing good to say about Methodism. 

Mary Sherwood Helm Wightman (1807-1886) lived in Matagorda County from 1829-1841.  She and her husband were part of an immigrant group from New York.  They founded the town of Matagorda and owned a salt works and agricultural land.  Mary taught both a civil and a Sunday School, making her one of the pioneer educators in Texas.  

Matagorda holds the distinction of having the first Protestant Episcopal Church in Texas, and Mary Sherwood Helm was one of its main supporters.  In 1841 the Helms moved to Kentucky where Mr. Helm died and Mrs. Helm remarried.  In 1884 Mary S. H. Wightman published Scraps of Early Texas History.  The book contains very interesting first person accounts of Texas, Native Americans, the Texas Revolution, and so on.  It also contains much religious dogma including a letter to a niece dated Mar. 6, 1853 in which she criticizes her niece’s new religion—Methodism.  Here are some excerpts:

. . .In the (Episcopal) litany. . .we pray to be delivered from heresy and schism—from those who are in error and are deceived; for all who are distressed in mind, body, or estate.  I hope the books I have sent you, have the tendency to restrain you from warming up your devotions by “strange fires.’

Be it remembered that if you go with the multitude, under some circumstances, you may become a Papist, or even a Mohammedan, without looking into the reason, history, and evidence of these things, but the Methodist system is such that they are bound to remain ignorant: they are made to believe and feel that they are more holy than others, not by their fruits, but by their feelings, and why, say they, should they examine any further, “Their religion is good enough for them.”  . . .they are required to spend all the time that can be possibly spared from their daily vocations in attending the various meetings—class, prayer, quarterly, protracted—sometimes for eight weeks.  And should a young man wish to read to become a preacher, they chalk out his work from month to month, with such poison as to confirm every erroneous notion he has imbibed from his former teaching.
Scraps of Early Texas History is available at Google Books.


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