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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.1 In 1754, he wrote the following to Wesley.
CC 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,
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.
2 Methodist Magazine, 1797, p. 569.
Conference of 1754.
"BRISTOL, March 30, 1754.
DEAR SIR,-I received your letter, and rejoiced to find, that you are 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,
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
1 Christian Miscellany, 1849, p. 115.
1754 what places, public services were held.
The following is a with the exception
Ja. Jo.19 Ja. De. 12 C. Hor.14
CHAP. 6 WESTMR.7
Jo. Jon." Ja. Deav.12
T. Mi. 22 W.Rob.19 R.Swin.1 Jo. Jon." Ja.Row.26
Wapping. ' Sad
NOTES:-1 Foundery. 2 Spitalfields. Snowsfields. ler's Wells. The chapel in West Street, Seven Dials. Days of week. John Fenwick. 10 Robert Swindells. " Joseph or John Jones. 12 James Deaves. 13 Perhaps James Jones. 14 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. 23 Deptford, Thomas Mitchel. 24 John 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
Wesley's first Visit to Norwich.
merely, but for four. With the exception of a single line 1754 being substituted for a plainly ornamented border, the follow- Age 51 ing is a copy:—
"To him that overcometh will I grant to sit down with Me on My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne."
March 25, 1754. Otw!! Higginbottom. J. H.
On the 8th of July, Wesley, though still in enfeebled health, set out, for the first time, to Norwich, accompanied by his brother, by Charles Perronet, and by Robert Windsor. The whole city was in an uproar respecting the infamous conduct of James Wheatley. The mayor was employed in taking the affidavits of the women whom Wheatley had endeavoured to corrupt. The people were so scandalized and exasperated, that they were ready to rise, and tear the poor wretch to pieces. For four days, the Wesley brothers remained, in retirement, at the residence of Captain Gallatin, transcribing the "Notes on the New Testament." On the 14th, Charles ventured to preach in the open street, and the congregation was "tolerably quiet, all things considered." Five days later, his brother returned to London-being so seriously unwell as to necessitate his again taking the advice of Dr. Fothergill. Charles continued at Norwich some weeks longer. His congregations became large; and, on one occasion, he had three magistrates and nine clergymen among his auditors. He received the sacrament from the hands of the bishop; and took a lease for seven years, of a large old brewhouse, to serve as a place for preaching. A little society of eighteen members was instituted. Wheatley's people were furious and abusive. The city swarmed with papists, antinomians, and Socinians. The opposition was fierce, and, in some instances, brutal; but Charles Wesley was thoroughly aroused; became
as courageous as ever; and preached with amazing power, and with great success. Methodism was now fairly started in the city of Norwich,
On his return to London, Wesley was ordered, by Dr. Fothergill, to repair to the Hotwells, at Bristol, without delay. He did so; but such was his restless activity, that, within three weeks, he started on a preaching tour to Taunton, Tiverton, and other places. On September 5, he held the quarterly meeting of the Cornish stewards at Launceston. At Plymouth, he preached in the new chapel, recently erected, but which, though three or four times the size of the old one, was not large enough to contain the congregation. On September 10, he got back to Bristol, "" at least as well as when" he left it. In eight days, he had preached eight times, besides travelling, visiting, and meeting his societies.
He now spent three weeks more at Bristol, during which he opened the first Methodist chapel at Trowbridge, a chapel built by Lawrence Oliphant, who, while a soldier, had been converted under the preaching of John Haime, in Flanders. Wesley writes: "September 17.-I rode to Trowbridge, where one who found peace with God while he was a soldier in Flanders, and has been much prospered in business since his discharge, has built a preaching house at his own expense. He had a great desire that I should be the first who preached in it; but, before I had finished the hymn, it was so crowded, and consequently so hot, that I was obliged to go out and stand at the door; there was a multitude of hearers, rich and poor."
About the time that Wesley preached at the opening of Trowbridge chapel, Samuel Bowden, M.D., bespattered the Wiltshire Methodists by the publication of a satirical poem, entitled "The Mechanic Inspired; or, the Methodist's Welcome to Frome," dedicated to Lord Viscount Dungarvan. A few of the first lines of this scurrilous production will suffice as a specimen of all the rest:
“Ye vagabond Levites, who ramble about,