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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
Hedding, Elijah, D.D.
a bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was born at Pine Plains, N.Y., June 7, 1780. Trained religiously by a pious mother, he was converted on the Vergennes Circuit, Vermont, in 1798, and in 1800 was licensed to preach. His early labors in the itinerant ministry were full of toil and privation, and he often met with fierce persecution; but powerful revivals followed his ministry, especially in Vermont and New Hampshire. On the 16th of June 1801, he was admitted on trial in the New York Annual Conference, and appointed to Plattsburg Circuit; in 1802 to Fletcher; in 1803 to Bridgewater Circuit, New Hampshire; after which his work as a preacher lay wholly in New England. In 1807 he was made presiding elder of the New Hampshire District. The country was mountainous, newly settled, and poor; and Mr. Hedding's whole receipts for the first year were $4.25, besides his traveling expenses. In 1808 he was elected a delegate to the General Conference held at Baltimore. A plan for a "delegated" General Conference was discussed by this body, and at first rejected; a rupture seemed imminent, but a reconsideration was brought about, largely through Hedding's influence, and the plan was finally adopted. In 1809 he was appointed to the New London District, and in 1810 he married. In the ten years before his marriage he traveled 3000 miles a year, and preached nearly every day. His pay for this time averaged $45 per annum. "The circuits were large, often requiring three to five hundred miles to complete one round, and this round was completed in from two to six weeks, during which a sermon was to be preached and a class met daily; and often three sermons and three classes to be attended on the Sabbath.
The journeys, too, were performed on horseback, through rough and miry ways, and through wildernesses where no road as yet had been cast up. Rivers and swamps were to be forded. Nor could the journey be delayed. On, on, must the itinerant press his way, through the drenching rains of summer, the chilling sleet of spring or autumn, and the driving blasts or piercing cold of winter; and often amid perils, weariness, hunger, and almost nakedness, carrying the Bread of Life to the lost and perishing. And then, when the day of toil was ended, in the creviced hut of the frontier settler, the weary itinerant, among those of kindred hearts and sympathies, found a cordial though humble place of repose." "For twenty-four years before his election to the episcopacy he received his annual appointments at Conference, and prosecuted the duties assigned him on circuits, and stations, and presiding elders' districts. The fields of his labor lay, after the first few years, wholly in the New-England States; and when the New-England Conference was separated from New York, he became identified with that work. In the introduction and establishment of Methodism in New England-itself one of the most romantic, as it is perhaps the best recorded portion of Methodist history-he was an active and most: efficient agent, and in its stirring scenes and forlorn but heroic labors he spent the flower of his manhood; and upon it, no doubt, he left the impress of his own great spirit, which remains his noblest and most enduring monument." From 1808 to 1824 he was a delegate to every General Conference, and was always eminent in. influence and power at the sessions of that body. In the "Presiding Elder Question" at the Conferences of 1820 and 1824, he stood with those who favored the election of presiding elders by the Conferences; but his; zeal in the cause never degenerated into rashness, or became liable to the charge of disloyalty. In 1824 he was elected bishop.
He accepted the office with great reluctance, and filled it with the most distinguished ability and acceptance for 26 years. "In the exercise of the episcopal functions he developed rare qualifications as a pre-siding officer, and especially as an expounder of ecclesiastical law. The soundness of his views upon the doctrines and discipline of the Church was so fully and so universally conceded, that in the end he became almost an oracle in these respects, and his opinions are regarded, with profound veneration. As a theologian and divine, his views were comprehensive, logical, and well matured. Not only had they been elaborated with great care, but the analysis was very distinct; and the successive steps were not only clearly defined in the original analysis, but distinct even in the minutiae of their detail. His discourses were after the same pattern — an example of neatness, order, perspicuity, and completeness. From the year 1844, age and increasing infirmities compelled him to seek relief from the heavy burden of labor he had previously preformed, and his visits to the Annual Conferences became less frequent. Yet his labors and responsibilities were still very great. He was almost incessantly sought unto by ministers in almost every part of the United States for counsel and assistance, and for information upon points of ecclesiastical law and in the administration of discipline." In 1850 he had a severe attack of acute disease, but he partially recovered, and lingered, after suffering severely, until the 9th of April 1852, when he died in peace and triumph at his home in Poughkeepsie. His intellect suffered neither weakness; nor obscuration to the last. "About three o'clock in the morning, a change took place betokening the near approach of death. Early in the morning his sufferings: were great; his extremities were cold, and his death agony was upon him; but his intellectual powers — consciousness, perception, memory, reason, were unaffected. Several Christian friends witnessed his dying struggles, and the glorious triumph of his abiding faith. The Rev. M. Richardson came in, and inquired whether his prospect was clear; he replied with great emphasis, ‘ Oh yes, yes, YES! I have been wonderfully sustained of late, beyond the usual degree.' After a pause, he added, ‘ I trust in Christ, and he does not disappoint me. I feel him, I enjoy him, and I look forward to an inheritance in his kingdom." A full account of the labors of this great and good man will be found in the Life and Times of the Rev. E. Hedding, D.D., by D. W. Clark, D.D. (New York, 1855, 8vo; reviewed by Dr. Curry in the Methodist Quarterly, Oct. 1855); see also Stevens, History of the Methodist Episcopal Church; Sprague, Annals, 7, 354; North American Review, 72, 349.
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Hedding, Elijah, D.D.'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/h/hedding-elijah-dd.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
the Fourth Week after Epiphany