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T the commencement of 1755, Wesley complied with the
wish of his old friend, the Rev. James Hervey, and began a revision of Hervey's greatest work, which, soon after, was published, in three octavo volumes, with the title “ Theron and Aspasio ; or, a Series of Dialogues and Letters upon the most important and interesting subjects.” Wesley's revision, however, was not to Hervey's taste. The manuscript of the first three dialogues (which make 129 printed pages) was sent, and was returned "with a few inconsiderable corrections.” Hervey was not satisfied with this, and told Wesley, that he was not acting the part of a friend unless he took greater liberties in literary lopping. On Wesley promising that he would, the manuscript was a second time submitted for the purpose of being pruned. Wesley's alterations were now of a more important character; and Hervey was much dissatisfied with the excessive as he had been with the insufficient parings. Wesley's work was ended. He was not again consulted. He had revised only 129 pages out of more than 1300 ; but even that was more than he got thanks for doing. Hence the following, which Hervey addressed to Lady Frances Shirley, to whom the book was dedicated.
“WESTON, January 9, 1755. “... Mr. John Wesley takes me very roundly to task, on the score of predestination; at which I am much surprised. A reader, ten times less penetrating than he is, may easily see that this doctrine (be it true or false) makes no part of my scheme ; never comes under consideration ; is purposely and carefully avoided. I cannot but fear, he has some sinister design. Put the wolf's skin on the sheep, and the flock will shun him; the dogs will worry him. I do not charge such an artifice, but sometimes I cannot help forming a suspicion. If I live to do myself the honour of writing again to your ladyship, I hope you will give me leave to relate the whole affair, as it stands between Mr. Wesley and myself." ?
1 Wesley's Works, vol. X., p. 305.
On the ist of April, Wesley set out, from Bristol, on a 1755 three months' journey to the north of England. Birmingham Age 52 is described as “a barren, dry, uncomfortable place. Most of the seed,” he writes, “which has been sown for so many years, the 'wild boars' have rooted up; the fierce, unclean, brutish, blasphemous antinomians have utterly destroyed it. And the mystic foxes have taken true pains to spoil what remained, with their new gospel.”
At Ashbourne, in Derbyshire, he formed a society of eighteen persons, one of whom was “Miss Beresford,--a sweet, but short lived flower," who, two years afterwards, exchanged earth for heaven.
At Hayfield, Wesley was the guest of the Rev. William Baddiley,—a sort of second Grimshaw,-a clergyman, who had formed a number of irregular societies, and who had committed the audacious act of employing laymen to assist him. A few hours before Wesley's arrival, Mr. Baddiley's favourite daughter died, and it was Wesley's task to bury her, and to preach to such a congregation as could scarcely have been expected in the Peak of Derbyshire. In the course of his sermon, Wesley had occasion to refer to the text in Ecclesiastes, stating that there is "a time to dance," and observed, “I know of no such time, except it be a time analogous to that in which David danced before the ark.” “Be careful,” he added, "that you don't dance yourselves into hell.” This gave great offence to some of his auditors, who had dancing proclivities; and, as if to defy the itinerant parson, a dancing master was immediately engaged, and a school opened for teaching Mr. Baddiley's parishioners the art of gracefully tripping, on light fantastic toe, the downward path to the place of horrors with which Wesley had dared to threaten them. The dancing was in an alehouse. The alehousekeeper had an only child, whom the fiddling and the dancing exceedingly distressed. The child cried, and said, “I'll not stay here : I'll go home.” He ran into the fields, and, being asked by some one whither he was going, answered, “ Home.” At the next dancing party, he was put
1 Methodist Magazine, 1779, p. 375.
1755 for safety into a back kitchen, but escaped, and, when disAge 52 covered, was found dead in a neighbouring river.
From Hayfield, Wesley proceeded to Manchester, where he wrote as follows to his friend Blackwell,
“ MANCHESTER, April 9, 1755. “DEAR SIR, I have another favour to beg of you,—to procure Mr. Belchier's leave for me to enclose my proof sheets to him. Mr. Perronet sends them down to me in franks; then I correct and send them back to him. The next week I am to spend at Liverpool; toward the end of the week following, I hope to be at Haworth. God has blessed me with a prosperous journey hither, though the roads and the weather were rough.”?
There can be no question, that the above relates to the proof sheets of his “Notes on the New Testament,”-sheets now in the possession of Mr. Bate, of Sittingbourne, and which have been kindly lent to the present writer.
On the 15th of April, Wesley paid his first visit to the town of Liverpool, where he spent the next five days. is,” says he, “one of the neatest, best built towns I have seen in England : I think it is full twice as large as Chester; most of the streets are quite straight. Two thirds of the town, we were informed, have been added within these forty years. If it continue to increase, in the same proportion, in forty years more, it will nearly equal Bristol. The people in general are the most mild and courteous I ever saw in a seaport town ; as, indeed, appears by their friendly behaviour, not only to the Jews and papists who live among them, but even to the Methodists. The preaching house is a little larger than that at Newcastle." He adds: "every morning, as well as evening, abundance of people gladly attended the preaching. Many of them, I learned, were dear lovers of controversy ; but I had better work-I pressed upon them all 'repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.''
Wesley's description of a town, now, in point of size, the second city in the kingdom, is not without interest. We have before us a map of Liverpool, published in 1754, which represents the town as merely skirting the Mersey ; while Everton and other places, now engulfed in the vast Liverpool
Methodism in Liverpool.
population, are represented as somewhat distant villages, sur 1755 rounded with fields and woods. At that period, there were only Age 52 three churches-St. Nicholas's, St. Peter's, and St. George's ; and two of these had been built within the last half century.
The first Methodist preaching place in Liverpool was a room in Cable Street, which was small and inconvenient. A society being formed, a piece of ground was purchased for the erection of a chapel, -the same as the site of the present Pitt Street chapel, and here was built the meeting-house, which Wesley describes as being a little larger than the Orphan House at Newcastle. The neighbourhood was unoccupied and dirty. At the front of the chapel was a large pool of water, through which the Methodists had to pass by the help of stepping stones.' Nearly forty years after the time of Wesley's first visit, the chapel was flanked by a large brickfield; and Adam Clarke, who was then the resident preacher, describes his house as being “neither in hell nor purgatory, yet in a place of torment.” “But where is it?" asked his friend. “You must go," answered the warmhearted Hibernian, “down Dale Street, then along East Street, and when you are up to the middle in clay and mud, call out lustily for Adam Clarke."?
One of the first worshippers in the first Pitt Street chapel was a diminutive tailor, whose Christian name was Timothy, and who had a spouse as great corporeally as he was little. Timothy's wife helped to maintain his family by washing, but this was the only sense in which she was a helpmeet to him. She hated the Methodists, and did her utmost to make the life of poor Tim a scene of purgatorial misery. The little tailor, however, continued faithful; and one night, when he had gone to chapel, his persecuting queen engaged the services of a number of ragged boys to assist her in driving a herd of pigs into the Pitt Street meeting-house for the purpose of disturbing its congregation. Again and again the pigs were got to the chapel door, but as often they revolted, to the termagant's great vexation. Finding her toil fruitless, and seeing a seat, at the entrance of the chapel, vacant, she
? Manuscript, by Alex. Bell.
1755 seated herself, and, for the first time, listened to the ministry Age 52
of truth. She was convinced of sin, and went home in deep distress. On poor. Tim's arrival, he was much surprised to see his wife ‘in tears, and asked the reason of such a phenomenon. She related what had happened ; Tim found it difficult to believe that the change was genuine ; and yet so it was, for, henceforth, she became a sincere penitent; she soon found peace with God; and was as valiant a champion in the service of her Saviour as she had ever been in that of Satan. For sixteen years, she lived the life of a faithful Methodist, and then died happy in God, and went triumphantly to heaven.
From Liverpool, Wesley went to Bolton, Todmorden, Heptonstall, Haworth, Keighley, Bradford, and Birstal, at which last mentioned place his brother met him. The next few days were spent in reading together, “A Gentleman's Reasons for his Dissent from the Church of England,” the author of which was a Dissenting minister at Exeter. Wesley writes: “It is an elaborate and lively tract, and contains the strength of the cause ; but it did not yield us one proof, that it is lawful for us (much less our duty) to separate from the Church. In how different a spirit does this man write from honest Richard Baxter! The one dipping, as it were, his pen in tears, the other in vinegar and gall. Surely one page of that loving, serious Christian, weighs more than volumes of this bitter, sarcastic jester."
The reading of this treatise was a preparation for the chief business of the ensuing conference, which began at Leeds, on the 6th of May. Wesley says: “The point on which we desired all the preachers to speak their minds at large was, * Whether we ought to separate from the Church.' Whatever was advanced, on one side or the other, was seriously and calmly considered ; and, on the third day, we were all fully agreed in that general conclusion,—that, whether it was lawful or not, it was no ways expedient.”
Manuscript, by Alex. Bell. We have a list of all the Liverpool Methodists in 1759, with their occupations, and places of residence, from which it appears that there were, at that period, 121 members, meeting in five classes, of which the respective leaders were Robert Jones, Enoch Norris, James Edmunds, Thomas Hodgson, and Thomas Beck.