« ZurückWeiter »
1753 Age 50
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 :
"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.
66 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
1753 Age 50
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,
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." "
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
1 Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., P. 7.
Conference of 1753.
inward and outward holiness so strongly and closely as they ought. Many of the Methodists having lately married with unbelievers, it was resolved, that those who did this in future should be expelled from the society; and, that it should be a general rule, that no Methodist should marry without consulting the most serious of his brethren. It was ascertained, that sabbath breaking, dram drinking, evil speaking, unprofitable conversation, lightness, and contracting debts without sufficient care to discharge them, extensively prevailed; and it was determined, that none, who hereafter were guilty of such things, would be permitted to remain members of the society. Some of the married preachers were suffering great hardships, through no provision being made for the sustenance of their wives; and it was agreed that, in future, preachers ought to be careful in marrying "hand over head;" that they ought first to consult their brethren; and that, if they neglected this, they must not take it amiss if left to provide for themselves and their wives in the best way they could; and that, if they did consult with their brethren first, and still married wives without anything, they must be content to return to their temporal business, and again become local preachers. The circuits were twelve in number, namely-London, Bristol, Devonshire, Cornwall, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Leeds, Haworth, Lincolnshire, Newcastle, Wales, and Ireland; and the preachers appointed to supply them, including the two Wesleys, were thirty-nine.1
The conference being ended, Wesley proceeded to Birstal, Haworth, Keighley, Heptonstall, and Todmorden; preaching, in three days, ten or eleven sermons, and meeting the societies, till his voice began to fail, though at Birstal it had been sufficiently powerful, and so exerted, that those who sat in John Nelson's windows, at a distance of a hundred yards, heard every word he uttered. Writing to his friend, Mr. Ebenezer Blackwell, on May 28, he says: "The harvest has not been so plenteous for many years as it is now, in all the north of England; but the labourers are few. I wish you could persuade our friend" [probably his brother] " to share the labour with me. One of us should, in anywise, visit both the
1 Minutes (edit. 1862), p. 717.
1753 Age 50
north and Ireland every year.
On his way to London, Wesley paid his first visit to the town of Leicester. He writes: "June 10, Whit-Sunday:After dinner, a gentleman who came from Leicester, eight miles off," [Markfield] "invited me thither. About eight I preached there, in a place near the walls, called the Butt-close. The people came running together from all parts, high and low, rich and poor; and their behaviour surprised me; they were so serious and attentive, not one offering any interruption."
Soon after this, a society was gathered, and was placed under the care of John Brandon, a dragoon, who subsequently became one of Wesley's itinerant preachers; and an old thatched building, in Milstone Lane, which had been successively used as a tithe barn, a theatre, a riding school, and a coal depot, was now turned into a Methodist chapel.
Wesley reached London, after a four months' absence, on the 12th of June. A month later, he started for the Isle of Wight, where one of his preachers had been already labouring. Calling at Portsmouth, he writes: "I was surprised to find so little fruit here, after so much preaching. That accursed itch of disputing had well-nigh destroyed all the seed which had been sown. And this vain jangling' they called 'contending for the faith.' I doubt the whole faith of these poor wretches is but an opinion."
The society here mentioned was not Wesley's, but one belonging to the preachers of the Countess of Huntingdon. Immediately after this visit, however, a small class was formed by Wesley's itinerants, one of the members of which was John Mason, an orphan child now approaching manhood, and who, in 1764, became an itinerant preacher, and died in peace in 1810.
Leaving Portsmouth, Wesley, after a three hours' voyage, landed at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight; which he says "as far exceeds the Isle of Anglesey, both in pleasantness and
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 168.
Ibid., vol. xiii., p. 318.