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Age 55

acquaintance. His wish was realised. He remained two years, and then returned in the autumn of 1759.7

Anxious for the conversion of the poor Africans in Antigua, Nathaniel Gilbert proposed to John Fletcher, recently ordained, to return with him ; but Fletcher declined the proposal, on the ground that, in his own estimation, he had neither "sufficient zeal, grace, nor talents" for a missionary's life in the West Indies; and, moreover, he wished "to be certain that he was converted himself before he left his converted brethren, to convert heathens.” 2 Failing in this, Mr. Gilbert turned evangelist himself. He fitted up a room, placed a pulpit in it, and was soon branded as a madman for preaching to his slaves. Meantime, his brother Francis returned, and assisted him in his labours; a society, at St. John's, was formed; and Methodism, in the West Indian islands, was fairly started. Nathaniel Gilbert died in 1774, eleven years before the appointment of the first Methodist missionaries to Antigua, leaving behind him a Methodist society of about sixty members. “On what do you trust ?" asked a friend. “On Christ crucified,” was the quick response. "Have you peace with God?” He answered, “Unspeakable." “ Have you no fear, no doubt?” “None,” replied the dying saint. “Can you part with your wife and children?” “Yes. God will be their strength and portion.” Thus died the first West Indian Methodist. His wife soon followed him. His daughters, Alice and Mary, had victoriously preceded him. His third daughter, Mrs. Yates, died an equally blessed death, His son Nicholas, for years, was a faithful minister of Christ, and, in his last moments, was a happy witness of the power and blessedness of gospel truth. And, finally, his brother Francis, his faithful fellow labourer, returned to England, and became a member of the Methodist class led by the immortal vicar of Madeley; the first class-paper containing four names, and four only,John Fletcher, Mary Fletcher, Francis Gilbert, and George Perks; while, as late as the year 1864, Fletcher's clerical successor, in the Madeley vicarage, was the great grandson of Nathaniel Gilbert, and testified that he had

1 Methodist Magazine, 1780, p. 330. ? Benson's Life of Fletcher; and Methodist Magazine, 1854, p. 58.


Age 55

reason to believe that no child or grandchild of the first West Indian Methodist had passed away without being prepared for the better world; and that almost all of them had been even distinguished among Christians for their earnest devotion to the Divine Redeemer. “Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thou mayest make princes in all the earth” (Psalm xlv. 16).

On February 20, Wesley preached, to a crowded congregation, in the new meeting-house at Maldon, where, amid much opposition, Methodism had been introduced by Mrs. Denny, who died a few months after the place was opened.?

Returning to London, he retired to Lewisham, to write his sermon for the Bedford assizes. This was preached, in St. Paul's church, on Friday, the roth of March, from the text, "We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ,” and was published at the request of William Cole, Esq., high sheriff of the county, and others. The sermon is a remarkable production, full of bold thoughts, and fiery eloquence. The judge, Sir Edward Clive, immediately after the service was concluded, forwarded an invitation to Wesley to dine with him; but, having to be at Epworth, a distance of a hundred and twenty miles, the night following, he was obliged to send an excuse; and, at once, set out, amid a piercing storm of wind, snow, sleet, and hail ; and, by almost continuous travelling, sometimes on a lame horse, and sometimes in a post chaise, reached Epworth on Saturday night at ten, having, on that day only, travelled ninety miles of execrable roads, in seventeen hours; and yet, he tells us, that he, a man fiftyfive years old, was nearly as fresh at the end of his journey as he was at the beginning. The next day, he attended the morning and afternoon services in his father's church ; after which he took his stand in the market-place, and, in the midst of wintry winds and wintry rain, preached to an unflinching multitude, collected together from all the country round about. The day following, March 13, he “preached in the shell of the new meeting-house," and then set out for York.

Wesley was now on one of the longest journeys that he ever took, extending from the 6th of March to the 21st of October

1 Methodist Magazine, 1843, p. 1033.

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following. Where was his wife?

Where was his wife? We cannot tell. Let us follow him.

After visiting York, Leeds, Manchester, and Bolton, he preached, on Easter Sunday, at Liverpool, and never "saw the house so crowded, especially with rich and genteel people, whom he did not spare.”

From Manchester to Liverpool, he was accompanied by Francis Okeley. Okeley writes: "during our stay in Liverpool, which was ten days, Mr. Wesley preached morning and evening, to crowded auditories, consisting of all sorts. There is here a large, commodious room, built for the use of the Methodists, but not quite finished.” He proceeds to tell how they dined at the house “of one Mr. Newton,” little thinking, that the same Mr. Newton would develop into the renowned John Newton, vicar of Olney. One of the Liverpool Methodists, at this period, was an old woman, who lived upon Wavertree Green, and was known by the name of “Dame Cross." To obtain a livelihood, she kept a school, but was extremely poor. She was a staunch churchwoman; and had a high veneration for gowns and cassocks, and for those who wore them ; but was withal a happy and devoted Christian. One day, John Newton called upon her, and finding her surrounded by a flock of fowls, he asked, “ Dame Cross, are these fowls yours ?” “Not one of them,” the octogenarian answered, “they are all my neighbours'; but I save all my crumbs and scraps for them ; for I love to feed them, for the sake of Him who made them.” 2

On March 28, Wesley set sail for Dublin. When about eight miles from Liverpool, a boat overtook them, bringing him letters from London. Some of these earnestly pressed him to return to the metropolis, but, while consulting his travelling companions, the wind changed, and the boat left, and he had no choice but to proceed to Ireland. He arrived in Dublin on March 31.

Here he spent nearly a month. He found, to his great annoyance, that the five o'clock morning preaching had been discontinued ; and that self denial, among the Dublin Method

1 Methodist Magazine, 1863, p. 1101.
2 " Memoirs of Rev. John Newton," second edition, p. 256.

1758 ists, had been a thing almost utterly unknown since Thomas Age 55

Walsh had left the island. Rigorous discipline was indispensable, for the Irish “people in general were so soft and delicate, that the least slackness” was ruinous. He preached to an unstable people on the character of Reuben. He held a covenant service; and set apart a day for fasting and for prayer. He “met all the married men and women of the society, and brought strange things to their ears respecting the duties of husbands, and wives, and parents."

Francis Okeley, Wesley's present travelling companion, was fifteen years his junior, and, like himself, had been educated in the Charterhouse school, London. In 1739, he became B.A. of St. John's college, Cambridge ; and was the intimate friend of the two Wesleys and their associates. His intention had been to become a minister of the Church of England ; but, because the Moravians had ordained him deacon, the bishop refused to ordain him priest; and, to the end of life, he officiated in the Brethren's congregations. He was now Moravian minister at Bedford; but kept Wesley company during the whole of his Irish tour, and even went with him to his conference, at Bristol, in the month of August following To some extent, he was infected with the Moravian lusciousness then so common; but he was also a man of much learning, of great piety, and of a catholic and Christian spirit. He was well versed in the old German divinity,—was an immense admirer of William Law,--the translator of the life of Jacob Behmen, and the visions of Hiel and Englebretet,--and a strong advocate of the doctrine of universal restoration. He was a frequent and valued correspondent of the Gentleman's Magasine, and the author of other works besides the above mentioned. He died, at Bedford, in 1794.2

On April 24, Wesley and Okeley left Dublin, on an excursion through the Irish provinces. At Edinderry, Wesley preached, under the castle wall, to a large congregation, which some of the quakers had used their utmost influence to prevent assembling. At Portarlington, he "was much con

1 Minutes of Conference (edit. 1862), vol. i., p. 711.

? Gentleman's Magazine, 1794, p. 574.

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cerned for his rich, gay hearers." At Mountmellick, most of 1758 the protestants of the town were present, and many papists Age 55 also skirted the congregation. Bitter contentions, however, had well-nigh torn the society in pieces. At Tullamore, a large number of protestants, many papists, and almost all the troopers in the town attended. At Drumcree, he opened a new chapel, “built in the taste of the country ; the roof thatch, and the walls mud.” At Terryhugan, he found a room built purposely for him and his itinerants, "three yards long, two and a quarter broad, and six feet high; the walls, floor, and ceiling mud; and the furniture a clean chaff bed”; but even in this mud-built hut, he found it true,

“ Licet sub paupere tecto

Reges et regum vitâ præcurrere amicos." All the inhabitants of the village, with many others, were present at the morning five o'clock preaching, including a poor woman, brought to bed ten days before, and who walked seven miles, with her child in her arms, to have it baptized by Wesley. At Newtown, he addressed the largest congregation he had seen since he came to Ireland. At Belfast, he preached in the market-house; and at Carrickfergus in the courthouse. At Larn, his pulpit was a table, and his congregation nearly all the inhabitants of the town, both rich and poor. At Lurgan, he was taken to see the house which an eminent scholar had recently erected for himself,—"part mud, part brick, part stone, and part bones and wood; with four windows, but without glass in any ; of two storeys, but without a staircase ; on the floor three rooms,—one three square, the second with five sides, and the third with more." "I give," says Wesley,

a particular description of this wonderful edifice, to illustrate the truth—There is no folly too great even for a man of sense, if he resolves to follow his own imagination."

At Coot Hill, he had “a tolerably serious congregation in the open street." At Granard, he preached in the barrack yard. At Edgeworthtown, his congregation was genteel; but at Longford, where he preached in the yard of the great inn, " the rudest, surliest, wildest people" he had seen in Ireland. At Newport, all the protestants of the town attended. At Hollymount, the churchyard served him as a preaching place.

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