The Devil in John Street


WHEN in 1776 the British Army captured New York City, John Street Church, being within the British lines, disappeared from the Conference Minutes as a regular appointment, and the church became isolated from the rest of American Methodism after the Battle of Long Island. The membership declined from two hundred to sixty during the Revolution, as many of them were Loyalists and left for Canada or England, while those who remained were staunch Americans. Services were continued under the pastorate of Samuel Spraggs, and the congregations during this period were large, in spite of the waning membership, because so many other city churches were closed during the British occupation.

The British officers were respectful to the church and its members, though none of them were helpful to the work as Captain Webb had been during the period of its organization. But the common soldiers were not so respectful, as they probably realized better than their officers that the members still remaining in John Street were sympathetic with the Colonial cause. They often stood in the aisles with their hats on, while the service was proceeding, and sometimes descended to practical jokes.

On one occasion, however, the officers themselves made mischief. It was Christmas Eve and the congregation were in the midst of a service commemorating the Saviours birth, when a party of masked men marched up the aisle. One of them was dressed to represent the devil, with cloven feet and a long forked tail. The service stopped and the chief devil walked up the aisle to the altar. A member arose and with a cane knocked off his satanic majestys mask when lo! there stood a well-known British colonel. He was held until the city guard arrested him.

(This is an article taken from the book entitled “One Hundred and One Methodist Stories” by Carl F. Price and published by the Methodist Book Concern.)

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