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ESLEY began the year 1754, as an invalid, at the
he commenced writing his “Notes on the New Testament,”“a work,” says he, which I should scarce
ever have attempted, had I not been so ill as not to be able to travel or preach, and yet so well as to be able to read and write." With the exception of the time prescribed for his taking exercise on horseback, two hours for meals, and one for private prayer, he spent sixteen hours a day on this the greatest work which he had yet attempted. For a few days, his brother assisted him in comparing the translation of the evangelists with the original, and in reading Dr. Heylyn's Lectures, and Dr. Doddridge's Expositor. In ten weeks, his rough draft of the translation, and the notes on the four gospels, was completed.
He now returned to London, and, retiring to the village of Paddington, he spent nearly the whole of the next three months in writing, with the exception of coming to town on Saturday evenings for the purpose of taking part in Sunday services.
Thus half of the year 1754 was spent in needed retirement, and in comparative silence. After an intermission of four months, Wesley preached, for the first time, at Bristol, on March 26. On Easter Sunday, he preached a sermon in West Street chapel, Seven Dials, which was the means of the conversion of Alexander Mather, who then, for the first time, saw and heard him, but afterwards became one of his chief counsellors. A month later, he preached to a densely crowded congregation, in what had been Sadlers Wells theatre; and, with less or more frequency, in other places in the metropolis until Whit Sunday, when he once more took the evening service at the Foundery; but writes, “I have not
Methodist Magazine, 1800, p. 545.
recovered my whole voice or strength ; perhaps I never may ; but let me use what I have."
In this way were spent his convalescent months of enforced retirement. Wesley found it impossible to live a life of inactivity.
Whitefield was off to America, having embarked in the month of March. Where Charles Wesley was employed we have no means of knowing. Of Wesley himself a few glimpses will be obtained in the following extracts from letters written during his seclusion.
Three days after his arrival at Bristol Hotwells, he wrote as follows to his friend Blackwell.
BRISTOL, January 5, 1754. “DEAR SIR,- If I write to my best friends first, I must not delay writing to you, who have been the greatest instruments, in God's hands, of my recovery thus far. The journey hither did not weary me at all ; but I now find the want of Lewisham air. We are (quite contrary to my judgment, but our friends here would have it so) in a cold, bleak place, and in a very cold house. If the Hotwell water make amends for this, it is well. Nor have I any place to ride, but either by the river side, or over the downs, where the wind is ready to carry me away. However, one thing we know,—that whatsoever is, is best. My wife joins me in tender love both to Mrs. Blackwell, Mrs. Dewall, and yourself.” 1
A fortnight after this, Whitefield addressed his old friend thus.
“ LONDON, January 19, 1754. “DEAR MR. WESLEY,—“As my embarking for America seems to be very near at hand, your question must necessarily be answered in the negative. However, I thank you for your kind offer, and earnestly pray, that, wherever you are called to labour, you may find the work of the Lord prospering in your hands. I did not know, that there was any demur between you and those with whom you have been for some time connected ; and I am sure, God is my witness, that I want to draw no man from them. People, money, power, are not my objects. We have blessed seasons here ; the glory of the Lord fills our new Tabernacle. I hope you find your present illness sanctified. That is a sign of special love. Adieu, I am in great haste. But with greater love, I subscribe myself, dear Mr. Wesley, yours most affectionately in our common Lord,
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 169.
Whitefield's Works, vol. iii., p. 61.
1754 Age 51
For four years past, Henry Venn had been curate of St. Matthew's church, in Friday Street, London. Twelve years before, he had entered St. John's College, Cambridge, where he was reckoned one of the best cricket players in the university. His last game was in 1747, in a match between Surrey and All England, and was played a week before his ordination. As soon as it was over, he announced his intention not to play again. His friends asked him why. He answered, “Because I am to be ordained on Sunday ; and I will never have it said of me, 'Well struck, parson !'” He now began to read Law's “Serious Call”; kept frequent fasts; and abandoned his gay companions. In 1754, he wrote the following to Wesley.
“ LONDON, March 21, 1754. “DEAR SIR-As I have often experienced your words to be as thunder to my drowsy soul, I presume, though a stranger, to become a petitioner, begging you would send me a personal charge, to take heed to feed the flock committed unto me. If you consider the various snares to which a curate is exposed-either to palliate the doctrines of the gospel, or to make treacherous allowances to the rich and great, or, at least, to sit down satisfied with doing the least, more than the best, among the idle shepherds,-you will not, I hope, condemn this letter, as impertinently interrupting you in your noble employment, or think one hour lost in complying with its request. It is the request of one, who though he differs from you, and possibly ever may in some points, yet must ever acknowledge the benefit and light he has received from your works and preaching; and, therefore, is bound to thank the Lord of the harvest, for sending a labourer among us, so much endued with the spirit and power of Elias; and to pray for your long continuance among us, to encourage me and my brethren, by your example, while you edify us by your writings. I am, sir, your feeble brother in Christ,
“ HENRY VENN." 2
One of Venn's acquaintance, at Cambridge, was Mr. Samuel Furley. He it was who recommended Venn to read Law's “Serious Call,” which led to his adopting a new mode of life. Furley was still at college, and was only twenty-two years of age. Like Venn, he also wrote to Wesley for advice, and received the following answer.
1 Life of Rev. H. Venn.
“BRISTOL, March 30, 1754. 1754 DEAR SIR, I received your letter, and rejoiced to find, that you are
Age 51 still determined to save yourself, by the grace of God, from this perverse generation. But this cannot possibly be done at Cambridge (I speak from long experience), unless you can make and keep one resolution, to have no acquaintance but such as fear God. I know it may be some time before you will find any that truly bear this character. If so, it is best to be alone till you do, and to converse only with your absent friends by letter. But if you are carried away with the stream into frequent conversation with harmless, good natured, honest triflers, they will soon steal away all your strength, and stifle all the grace of God in your soul.
“ With regard to your studies, I know no better method you could pursue, than to take the printed rules of Kingswood school, and to read all the authors therein mentioned, in the same order as they occur there. The authors set down for those in the school, you would probably read in about a twelvemonth ; and those afterwards named, in a year or two more : and it will not be lost labour. I suppose you to rise not later than five ; to allow an hour in the morning and another in the evening for . private exercises; an hour before dinner, and one in the afternoon for walking; and to go to bed between nine and ten. I commend you to Him who is able to carry you through all dangers, and am, dear sir, your affectionate brother and servant,
" JOHN WESLEY.” 1
In the fourth week of the month of May, Wesley held his annual conference. He writes : “The spirit of peace and love was in the midst of us. Before we parted, we all willingly signed an agreement, not to act independently of each other; so that the breach lately made has only united us more closely together than ever.”
The breach, here referred to, was the withdrawal from the itinerant work of Samuel Larwood (whom Wesley buried two years afterwards), Charles Skelton, John Whitford, and one or two others, who had become dissatisfied with the itinerant plan, and with their position as mere evangelists. Wesley hoped that the evil was ended; but it was spread more widely than he imagined, as will be seen hereafter.
The appointments of the conference week will throw some light on the state of Methodism in London, in 1754; and it may gratify the curious reader to see a copy of the plan for the week beginning May 20, and to learn how often, and in
i Christian Miscellany, 1849, p. 115.
1754 what places, public services were held.
The following is a Age 51 literatim copy from Wesley's manuscript, with the exception
of the figures for the appended notes.
NOTES :- 1 Foundery. ? Spitalfields. 8 Snowsfields. 4 Wapping. 5 Sadler's Wells. & The chapel in West Street, Seven Dials. 7 Westminster. 8 Days of week. 'John Fenwick. 10 Robert Swindells. "1 Joseph or John Jones. 12 James Deaves. 13 Perhaps James Jones. 1 Christopher Hopper. 15 John Edwards. 16 Charles Wesley. 17 Deptford, Charles Perronet. 18 John Haime, or John Haughton, or John Hampson. 19 William Roberts. 20 Christopher Hopper, or William Roberts. 21 Joseph Cownley. 22 Thomas Mitchel. Deptford, Thomas Mitchel. Wesley. 25 Thomas Walsh. 26 Jacob Rowell. (See Methodist Magazine, 1855, p. 224.)
We thus find seven preaching places in London, of which Sadler's Wells theatre was one; sixteen preachers were employed, and thirty-seven sermons preached during the week the conference held its sittings.
The writer cannot refrain from giving another Methodist curiosity belonging to 1754. In his nearly complete set of society tickets, many are remarkable; but one, issued in the present year, is without a fellow. The ticket was given, by John Hampson, senior, to Otiwell Higginbotham, a man of considerable property, who lived at Marple, near Stockport, and, evidently, was intended to serve, not for one quarter