« ZurückWeiter »
1758 At Minulla, he found the papists unchanged, -retaining the Age 55
same bitterness and thirst for blood as ever, and as ready to cut the throats of protestants as they were in the former century. He left the place at four o'clock in the morning, riding a horse without either bridle or saddle. At Ahaskra, four fifths of his congregation were papists. At Athlone, a few eggs and stones were thrown. At Coolylough, he held the quarterly meeting. At Limerick, he met Thomas Walsh, “alive, and but just alive," three of the best physicians attending him, and all agreeing that, "by violent straining of his voice, added to frequent colds, he had contracted a pulmonary consumption, which was now in the last stage, and consequently beyond the reach of any human help.” Here Wesley held his Irish conference, fourteen preachers being present.
At Clare, his congregation in the street consisted of “many poor papists and rich protestants." At Ennis, “nine in ten" of those who came to hear him were papists. In an island near Limerick, he preached to thousands seated on the grass, row above row. Here he overstrained himself, and next morning began spitting blood, and, for a week, was laid aside. Rest, however, and "a brimstone plaster, and a linctus of roasted lemon and honey," so far restored him, that, in a week, he resumed his ministry at Cork, and interred James Massiot.
Here, and in the neighbourhood, he remained a month, making a short excursion to Kinsale, where he had a large congregation of soldiers; and to Bandon, where he preached in the shell of a new meeting-house, the foundation of which had been laid only a fortnight previous. On August 8, he set sail, and three days afterwards arrived in Bristol.
A couple of letters, written during this Irish tour, and addressed to Mr. Blackwell, may be interesting.
“CASTLEBAR, June 5, 1758. “DEAR SIR, I have learned, by the grace of God, in every state to be content. What a peace do we find in all circumstances, when we can say, 'Not as I will, but as Thou wilt !'
“I have now gone through the greatest part of this kingdom : Leinster, Ulster, and the greater half of Connaught. Time only is wanting. If my brother could take care of England, and give me but one year in Ireland, I think every corner of this nation would receive the truth as it is in Jesus.
They want only to hear it ; and they will hear me, high and low, rich and poor. What a mystery of Providence is this ! In England, they may hear, but will not. In Ireland, they fain would hear, but cannot. So in both, thousands perish for lack of knowledge.
“I hope you find public affairs changing for the better. In this corner of the world, we know little about them ; only we are told, that the great, little king in Moravia is not swallowed up yet.
"Till near the middle of next month, I expect to be at Mr. Beauchamp's in Limerick. My best wishes attend you all. “I am, dear sir, your affectionate servant,
“BANDON, July 12, 1758. “In a week or two, I shall be looking out for a ship. You people in England are bad correspondents. Both Mr. Downing, Mr. Venn, and Mr. Madan are a letter in my debt; and yet, I think they have not more business than I have. How unequally are things distributed here ! Some want time, and some want work. But all will be set right hereafter. There is no disorder on that shore. I remain, dear sir, yours most affectionately,
“JOHN WESLEY.” 1
The assembling of Wesley's conference of preachers made his return to England a necessity.
The conference was opened, at Bristol, on August 12, and continued its sittings until August 16. Besides the two Wesleys, and Mr. Okeley, there were thirty-four preachers present. Fourteen were proposed as candidates for the itinerant work. Samuel Meggot was declined, until he had had further trial; and also William Darney, until he ceased "to rail, to print, and to sell wares without a licence.” Thomas Briscoe, or Joseph Jones, was to be Wesley's travelling companion during the ensuing year; and Michael Fenwick was recommended to return to business. It was agreed, that many of the preachers were wanting in seriousness; and that, in future, they must be watchful in not conforming to the world in their manner of conversation ; and also, that they must fast, as far as health permitted, every Friday. “You must,” said Wesley, “do one of three things; either spend time in chitchat, or learn Latin or Hebrew, or spend all your time and strength in saving souls. Which will you do?” The response was, “The last, by the grace of God.” Kingswood school
· Wesley's Works, vol. xii., p. 173.
was again in difficulty, and the question was discussed, “Shall Age 55 we drop it?" Answer, “By no means, if a fit master can be
procured.” It was found that Wesley's publications had not been diligently recommended ; and, to promote the sale of them, it was agreed to allow one person in every circuit (if he desired it) ten per cent commission upon all he sold. It was asked, if Nicholas Manners had said, “I want no more grace for a year and a day.” The reply was, “Ask himself. If he has, and will not be convinced of his fault, let him be publicly disowned." Another question of some importance was, “Ought any tickets to be given to children?" Answer, “Not to the unawakened; it makes them too cheap.” To preach most profitably in the morning, it was recommended frequently to read and explain half a chapter in the Bible; and sometimes to read and enlarge upon one of the tracts in the "Christian Library.” Except once a year, none but members of the bands were to be admitted into lovefeasts; and, in order to purge the bands, and leave none in them but those living in the enjoyment of conscious pardon, it was resolved, that each assistant, at the next quarterly visitation, should take two or three sensible men with him (either preachers, stewards, or leaders), and should closely examine every person in the band societies, and expel all, even if it should be two thirds of the entire number, who were not exercising the faith by which a man is justified and finds peace with God. Such persons might be fit for penitential classes, but were not for the private bands.
Besides discipline, the conference also discussed doctrine. When in Dublin, four months before, Wesley had been drawn into a controversy by Miss H —, on the doctrine of perfection. The lady complained, that some of his preachers placed the doctrine “in a dreadful light; one of them affirming, that a believer, till perfect, is under the curse of God, and in a state of damnation"; and another saying, "If you die before you have attained it, you will surely perish." Wesley replied to this in a long letter, dated Dublin, April 5, 1758, in which he repudiates such sentiments. He admits, that young men " may have said these things, but their doctrines
1 Methodist Magazine, 1780, p. 223.
were not his. To settle the matter, he brought it before the 1758 Bristol conference as follows:
Age 55 Question.—“Do you affirm, that perfection excludes all infirmities, ignorance, and mistake?
Answer.-“We continually affirm just the contrary.
l.—“Do you say, 'Every one who is not saved from all sin is in a state of damnation ?'
A.-“So far from it, that we will not say any one is in a state of damnation, that fears God and really strives to please Him.
Q.—“In what manner would you advise those who think they have attained, to speak of their own experience ?
A.—“With great wariness, and with the deepest humility and self abasement before God.
2.-"How should young preachers, especially, speak of perfection in public?
A.-"Not too minutely or circumstantially, but rather in general and scriptural terms.
l.—“What does Christian perfection imply?
A.—“The loving God with all the heart, so that every evil temper is destroyed, and every thought, and word, and work springs from, and is conducted to the end by the pure love of God and our neighbour.”
It is a curious fact, that, while Wesley and eight other preachers were appointed to the London circuit, Charles Wesley had Bristol wholly to himself; three preachers, however, having charge of the adjoining country, under the technical denomination of the “Wiltshire” circuit. This shows, that Charles had now substantially relinquished the itinerant ministry, and had made Bristol his principal place of residence. The circuits into which the United Kingdom was divided, were, including London and Bristol, thirteen in number; one of these, however, being “Wales," with two itinerants, and another “Ireland,” with ten. “ Cornwall” had seven ; “Staffordshire” two; “Cheshire” three ; “ Leeds," "Haworth,” and “York,” had eight; “Lincolnshire” three; and "Newcastle" four.1
From the above condensed account of the proceedings of the conference of 1758, it will be seen, that Wesley was exceedingly anxious, and, in fact, resolved, at all hazards, to maintain the purity of his preachers and societies. societies," he asked, “in general as godly, and as serious, as
“ Are our
1 Minutes of Conference (edit. 1862), vol. i., p. 711.
1758 the old Puritans? Why should they not? What means can Age 55
we use to effect it?” Then follows the answer, to “enforce family discipline," and to “closely examine the state of every soul, not only at stated times, but in every conversation.” 1 In accordance with this was a laconic letter, which, at the beginning of the year, Wesley wrote to Mr. Merryweather, of Yarm.
“ LONDON, January 16, 1758. “MY DEAR BROTHER,—No person must be allowed to preach or exhort among our people, whose life is not holy and unblamable; nor any who asserts anything contrary to the gospel which we have received. And, if he does not own his fault and amend it, he cannot be a leader any longer.
“ I am your affectionate brother,
“JOHN WESLEY." ? The day after the Bristol conference closed its sittings, Wesley attended a performance of Handel's "Messiah" in Bristol cathedral; and, on August 21, set out on a tour in Wales, from which he returned to Bristol on September 2. Here he spent a considerable time, with the Rev. John Fletcher and other preachers, in discussing the doctrine of Christian perfection, and wrote down the general propositions in which they were all agreed.
On October 2, he started for London. At Bradford he met the stewards of the Wiltshire and Somersetshire societies. At Warminster, he preached in a good man's yard, his congregation being numerous, and consisting of "saints and sinners, rich and poor, churchmen, quakers, and presbyterians.” “Some disturbance,” says he, “was expected, but there was
The whole assembly behaved well ; and, instead of curses or stones, we had many blessings as we rode through the town for Salisbury.” Strangely enough, this was Wesley's first and last visit to the town of Warminster. Some time afterwards, however, a class was formed; and, amid the bitterest persecutions, held on its way. Men would often enter the preaching house, and remain, during the whole service, covered with their slouching hats, cursing the preacher and his friends, and even smoking vile tobacco. Sometimes
1 Minutes of Conference (edit. 1862), vol. i., p. 713.
? Methodist Magazine, 1826, p. 463.