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1753 Age 50
At Davyhulme, he found, what he had never heard of in England, a clan of infidel peasants. He writes: "a neighbouring alehouse keeper drinks, and laughs, and argues into deism all the ploughmen and dairymen he can light on. But no mob rises against him; and reason good : Satan is not divided against himself.”
In the Manchester society, he found seventeen dragoons, who had been in the same regiment with John Haime in Flanders; but they utterly despised both John and his Master till they came to Manchester, where they were “now a pattern of seriousness, zeal, and all holy conversation."
At Chipping, when he was about to go into the pulpit of his friend, the Rev. Mr. Milner, a man thrust himself before him, and said, “You shall not go into the pulpit ;” and by main strength pushed him back. Eight or ten noisy men joined the belligerent, and Wesley thought it best to desire Mr. Milner to read the prayers himself.
At Kendal, he preached in the chapel used by Benjamin Ingham's society; but was disgusted at the people coming in and sitting down, without any pretence to any previous prayer. They let him sing the first hymn solely by himself; but God spake to them in His word, and in the singing of the hymn after the sermon most of them united; while the greatest part of them followed him to his inn, and conversed with him till he went to bed.
He now made his way to Scotland. Dumfries had two of the most elegant churches he had ever seen. Glasgow he took to be as large as Newcastle. The students of the university wore scarlet gowns, reaching only to their knees, very dirty, very ragged, and of very coarse materials. Here he was the guest of the Rev. John Gillies, the minister of the College kirk, at whose invitation he had come. Mr. Gillies was now preparing his Historical Collections, which, in the year following, he published, in two large octavo volumes. Wesley spent nearly a week with this devout and distinguished
He assisted him in his “ Collections,” preached in his kirk, and seems to have been the means of introducing a novelty in the public worship of the Scots—the singing of hymns as well as doggerel versions of the Book of Psalms. At all events, on the first day of his visit, he observes : “ After
the sermon, Mr. Gillies concluded with the blessing. He then
The friendship thus commenced with Mr. Gillies was con-
“O when shall I get that Divine elenchos you mention, in my own soul! The other day I fasted and prayed all day in the fields; but a body of death still cleaves to me. I fear I have not yet the gift of the Holy Ghost. I know not what to do. I sometimes think I should be happy to be in some wilderness in America; to forget and be forgotten; to have none but God to converse with ; digging for my daily bread. But is not this desire of solitude a vain thought, unless I could fly from my own vile and wretched self? O that the Lord would show me what it is that separates my soul from Him, that it might be destroyed, and, that I might know, He is my God in Christ! This, this is all I want. Dear Mr. Wesley, continue to pray for your most unworthy, but affectionate brother and servant,
“ JOHN GILLIES.”2
i Whitehead's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 273.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1797, p. 512.
Such was the religious experience of the author of the “Historical Collections of the Success of the Gospel," at the very time when that important book was being published.
On leaving Glasgow, Wesley proceeded direct to Newcastle, preaching on the way at Berwick and at Alnwick. He reached the latter town on April 25, the day on which those who had finished their apprenticeship, during the previous year, were made free of the corporation. This was done by the young fellows having to walk through a bog, purposely preserved for the occasion, and which took many of them up to the breast, and even to the neck in passing.
Sixteen or seventeen, during Wesley's visit, thus waded their way to Alnwick dignity through Alnwick dirt. The Alnwick society had been split asunder by presbyterians, of whom good Jeannie Keith was one. Wesley writes: “a few violent presbyterians had, at length, separated themselves from us. It was well they saved me the trouble ; for I can have no connection with those who will be contentious. These I reject, not for their opinion, but for their sin; for their unchristian temper and unchristian practice ; for being haters of reproof, haters of peace, haters of their brethren, and consequently of God.”
While at Newcastle, Wesley presided at the first general quarterly meeting of Methodist stewards that was held in the north of England. He also preached in a chapel recently erected at Gateshead Fell, the second chapel built for the Methodists in the neighbourhood of Newcastle.
Wesley left Newcastle on the 7th of May, and, after preaching at Durham, Stockton, and Robin Hood's Bay, came, two days afterwards, to York, where he met with a rough salute, and preached in a room “hot as an oven.”
On May 22, he met his conference at Leeds, there being present, besides himself, two clergymen, Grimshaw and Milner; twenty-five itinerant, and sixteen local preachers.
It was determined that, in future, the conferences should be held at London, Bristol, and Leeds, by turns. As a testimony against the corruptions of the Moravians, it was suggested, that it might be proper to reprint Wesley's “ Letter to the Church at Herrnhuth,” with some additions, and a dedication to the count. It was resolved to behave towards Mr. Ingham
Original Letter from Wesley to Whitefield. 167
with all tenderness and love, and to unite with him when he 1753 returned to the old Methodist doctrine. The predestinarian Age 50 preachers having done much hurt to the societies, it was agreed—“(1) That none of them should preach any more in our societies. (2) That a loving and respectful letter should be written to Mr. Whitefield, desiring him to advise his preachers, not to reflect (as they had done continually, and that both with great bitterness and rudeness) either upon the doctrines, discipline, or person of Mr. Wesley, among his own societies; to abstain himself (at least when he was among Mr. Wesley's people) from speaking against either his doctrines, rules, or preachers; and not to declare war anew, as he had done by a needless digresssion in his late sermon.”
In accordance with this resolution, Wesley addressed to Whitefield the following letter, which, up to the present, has been unpublished :
“ May, 1753. “ MY DEAR BROTHER,—Between forty and fifty of our preachers lately met at Leeds, all of whom, I trust, esteem you in love for your work's sake. I was desired by them to mention a few particulars to you, in order to a still firmer union between us.
“ Several of them had been grieved at your mentioning, among our people (in private conversation, if not in public preaching), some of those opinions which we do not believe to be true ;-such as “a man may be justified and not know it;' that, 'there is no possibility of falling away from grace;' and that, 'there is no perfection in this life.' They conceived, that this was not doing as you would be done to, and that it tended to create not peace but confusion.
They were likewise concerned at your sometimes speaking lightly of the discipline received among us, of societies, classes, bands, and of our rules in general, of some of them in particular. This they apprehended to be neither kind nor just, nor consistent with the profession which you at other times make.
“ Above all, they had been troubled at the manner wherein your preachers (so I call those who preach at the Tabernacle) had very frequently spoken of my brother and me, partly in the most scoffing and contemptuous manner, relating a hundred shocking stories as unquestionable facts, and propagating them with diligence, and with an air of triumph, wherever they came.
These things I was desired by all our brethren to mention. Two or three of them, afterwards, desired me, in private, to mention further, that when you were in the north your conversation was not so useful as was expected ; that it generally turned not upon the things of God, but on trifles and things indifferent,-that your whole carriage was not so serious
as they could have desired, being often mixed with needless laughter,and that those who scrupled any levity of behaviour, and endeavoured always to speak and act as seeing God, you rather weakened than strengthened, intimating that they were in bondage, or weak in faith.
“ I am persuaded you will receive these short lines in the same love wherein I write them. That you may prosper more and more, both in your soul and in your labours, is the hearty desire of, my dear brother, “ Your affectionate fellow labourer,
JOHN WESLEY.” This is a fine specimen of brotherly fidelity. Whitefield was misrepresented. Wesley has endorsed his copy of this manuscript letter with the words, “He denies all ;” and this is partially confirmed by the following extract from a letter written some time before, and addressed to Mr. M
'LONDON, March 10, 1753. “ MY DEAR MR. M-,-I have preached at Spitalfields chapel twice. Both the Mr. Wesleys are agreed. Let brotherly love continue! I do not like writing against anybody, but I think that wisdom, which dwells with prudence, should direct you not to fill Mr. Wesley's people (who expect you will serve them) with needless jealousies. I hope to see the time, when you will talk less of persons and things, and more of Him who is the common head of His whole mystical body. This, and this alone, can make and keep you steady in yourself, and extensively useful to others. I am glad you know when persons are justified. It is a lesson I have not yet learnt. There are so many stony ground hearers, that receive the word with joy, that I have determined to suspend my judgment till I know the tree by its fruits.
“ I am, etc.,
“ GEORGE WHITEFIELD." I
At the same conference of 1753, it was asked, “ Does every one know the exact time when he was justified ?" Answer : “It is possible he may not know what to call it, when he experiences this; especially if he has not been accustomed to hear the scriptural doctrine concerning it. And the change then wrought in some may not be so sudden, or so observable, as it is in others. But, generally, wherever the gospel is preached in a clear and scriptural manner, more than ninetynine in a hundred do know the exact time when they are justified.”
It was agreed, that they had not preached concerning both
i Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 7.