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Wesley in Wales and Ireland.
churches, chapels, and roadside inns, Wesley, at Builth and other places, took his stand in the open air, immense congregations making surrounding woods and mountains echo, as they sung :
"Ye mountains and vales, In praises abound;
Break forth into singing, Ye trees of the wood,
Attending a service in the Welsh language, he wrote: "What a curse was the confusion of tongues! and how grievous are the effects of it! All the birds of the air, all the beasts of the field, understand the language of their own species. Man only is a barbarian to man, unintelligible to his own brethren!"
At length, Wesley, accompanied by Robert Swindells and the Rev. Mr. Meriton, set sail, and, on March 8, arrived in Dublin, where they found Charles Wesley meeting the society, the members of which made so much noise in shouting, and in praising God, that, for a time, Wesley was unable to obtain a hearing.
Charles returned to England. Wesley spent the next ten weeks in Ireland. These were long absences, to which the leaders in London objected; but Wesley's almost prophetic answer was, "Have patience, and Ireland will repay you." 1
Wesley's first business was to begin preaching at five o'clock in the morning, "an unheard of thing in Ireland"; his next, to inquire into the state of the Dublin society. He writes: "Most pompous accounts had been sent me, from time to time, of the great numbers added; so that I confidently expected to find six or seven hundred members. And how is the real fact? I left three hundred and ninety-four members; and I doubt if there are now three hundred and ninetysix." This seems to be a reflection on his brother; but was there not a cause? Ten days later, he remarks: "I finished the classes, and found them just as I expected. I left three hundred and ninety-four persons united together in August; I had now admitted between twenty and thirty, who had offered themselves since my return to Dublin; and the whole
1 Moore's Life of Wesley, vol. ii., p. 130.
1748 number is neither more nor less than three hundred and Age 45 ninety-six." He adds: "Let this be a warning to us all, how we give in to that hateful custom of painting things beyond the life. Let us make a conscience of magnifying or exaggerating anything. Let us rather speak under, than above, the truth. We, of all men, should be punctual in all we say, that none of our words may fall to the ground."
At Philip's Town, "a poor, dry, barren place," he found a society, of whom forty were troopers. At Tullamore, he preached to most of the inhabitants of the town; and at Clara, to "a vast number of well behaved people, some of whom came in their coaches, and were of the best quality in the country." At Athlone, he writes: "Almost all the town appeared to be moved, full of good will and desires of salvation; but I found not one under any strong conviction, much less had any one attained the knowledge of salvation, in hearing above thirty sermons."
At Birr, he preached "in the street, to a dull, rude, senseless multitude." A Carmelite friar cried out, "You lie! you lie!" but the protestants present cried, "Knock the friar down"; and Wesley adds, "it was no sooner said than done."
At Aughrim, he heard "a warm sermon against enthusiasts"; and, to the same congregation, preached another as an antidote. Mr. Simpson, a magistrate, invited him to dinner; and he, and his wife and daughter, were the first at Aughrim to join the Methodists.2
These and other places were soon formed into a circuit,
In Dublin, the Methodists had two meeting-houses, one in
Conference of 1748.
endeavours to obtain a freehold site, for the erection of a chapel of his own. On the 15th of March, he wrote to Ebenezer Blackwell as follows: "We have not found a place yet that will suit us for building. Several we have heard of, and seen some; but they are all leasehold land, and I am determined to have freehold, if it is to be had in Dublin; otherwise we must lie at the mercy of our landlord whenever the lease is to be renewed."1
Some time after, the freehold site was obtained, and, with Mr. Lunell's munificent assistance, the first Methodist meetinghouse in Dublin was erected in Whitefriar Street, and was opened for public worship in 1752.
Wesley returned to England at the end of the month of May, and on the 2nd of June, and three or four following days, held, in London, his annual conference. The number present was twenty-three, including about half-a-dozen clergymen, three stewards, some local preachers, and Howel Harris.
At the opening of the conference, it was agreed that there would be no time to consider points of doctrine, and therefore that the attention of those present should be wholly confined to discipline.
The principle was reiterated, that, wherever they preached, they should form societies. They were to visit the poor members of society as much as the rich. Every alternate society-meeting in London, Bristol, Kingswood, and Newcastle, was to be kept inviolably private. At the other meetings strangers might be admitted with caution. It was thought, that they were in danger of making too long prayers, and it was agreed that, though exceptional cases must arise, yet, in general, they would do well not to pray in public above eight or ten minutes at a time. Directions were given to the assistants to guard against jealousy and envy, and against despising each other's gifts. They were to try to avoid popularity, that is, "the gaining a greater degree of esteem or love from the people than is for the glory of God." They were to examine the leaders of classes, and were to send to the Wesleys a circumstantial account of every remarkable
1 Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 158.
1748 conversion, and of every triumphant death. Assisted by the stewards, they were, every Easter, to make exact lists of all the members in each of the nine circuits into which the societies were divided, and to send the lists to the ensuing conference.1
In addition to these matters, there was another debated, of great interest and importance. Five years before, Wesley had published his "Thoughts on Marriage and Celibacy," in which, to say the least, he strongly commended a single life. His brother Charles was now courting Miss Sarah Gwynne, and wished to marry her. Charles writes:-"How know I, whether it be best for me to marry, or no? Certainly better now than later; and, if not now, what security that I shall not then? It should be now, or not at all." This was sound sense. Charles was now forty years old, and, like a wise man, he concludes, that he must either marry now, or never. Before he left Ireland, he communicated his intentions to his brother; and, in the month of April, he rode to Shoreham, and "told all his heart" to Vincent Perronet.2 Difficulties existed. Among others, there was his brother's tract. The Conference of 1747 had agreed to read all the tracts which had been published, and to make a note of everything that was thought objectionable. The Conference of 1748 was about to meet, and, of course, had a perfect right to review and to revise the "Thoughts on Marriage." The question was introduced, and the result of the discussion upon Wesley's mind may be found in the following sentence from a manuscript in the British Museum, which, though not written by Wesley, was corrected by him. "In June, 1748, we had a conference in London. Several of our brethren then objected to the Thoughts on Marriage'; and, in a full and friendly debate, convinced me, that a believer might marry without suffering loss in his soul." This was a great point gained. Charles's courtship proceeded; and, in April, 1749, John writes: "Saturday, April 8.-I married my brother and Sarah Gwynne. It was a solemn day, such as became the dignity of a Christian marriage." A stranger said, it looked more like a funeral than a wedding; but Charles remarks,
1 Minutes (edit. 1862).
2 C. Wesley's Journal.
"We were cheerful without mirth, serious without sadness; 1748 and my brother seemed the happiest person among us."1
A few days after the conference was closed, Wesley and his brother proceeded to Bristol for the purpose of opening Kingswood school.
Kingswood school! a sacred spot, surrounded with unequalled Methodistic memories; once one of the homes of the Wesleys and their friends; the place of not a few remarkable revivals of religion; an academic grove, whose scenery was at first beautiful and inviting, and from which have issued many of the most distinguished ministers that Methodism has ever had, and not a few highly accomplished scholars, whose names stand honourably associated with the legal and other high professions, and with England's chief seats of learning; an upretending edifice, with associations to which no other Methodist building (except the Broadmead meetinghouse in Bristol) can make pretensions; for above half a century Methodism's only college; to the end of life one of Wesley's favourite haunts; the alma mater of scores still living, who will always love its memory; a homestead in which Methodism lingered perhaps as long as was expedient; and which, since Methodism left it, in 1852, has been a place of discipline for young thieves and vagabonds, a reformatory for youthful criminals, whose presence in public society was a nuisance and a curse, and yet whose minds and morals were most likely to be improved, not in a prison, but in a school.
We have already seen, that Wesley built a school at Kingswood in 1740. Myles, in his Chronological History, says, that the school opened in 1748 was the old school "enlarged;" and that, though the school commenced in 1740 was intended for the children of colliers, yet, for some years, several of the Methodists in other places had sent their children to be educated here.3
This was an encroachment upon Wesley's original design, but one which he had no disposition to resist. Besides this, he found it necessary to make some provision for the education of the children of his preachers. Their fathers
1C. Wesley's Journal.
9 Page 12.